Tag Archives: Esme Kenney

Like so many others

The last time we were renovating, we were relatively new to this house, busy with elementary school kids, eager to create a home for them that would grow with them.  I catalogued those renovations back in the spring of 2008.  Looking back to those posts and a host of others before and after on this lowly old blog, there is one small and constant voice in the comments section. (before I realized that there were comments!!)  Just the one.  I don’t think many people were reading my early efforts really.  But Esme was.

Es was a dear friend of my kids.  They bookended her in age and the three of them spent countless hours together.  I wrote about losing her in this blog post from March 2009.

http://www.amybogard.com/2009/03/

Today is the somber anniversary of that loss, a loss that rippled through a community in ways still being navigated.  It’s been 12 years.  Madeleine made the journey home from Columbus today and we met up at Spring Grove Cemetery to pay homage to a young life ended too soon.  There is a tree there, planted in Esme’s honor and we made our way to it.  I remember when the tree was first planted, Es’s dad Tom would personally hand carry big buckets of water over to it to make sure it had enough.  So many trees in Spring Grove.  He wanted to make sure this became a tree for the ages.  It has.

There is something about the time in which we find ourselves just now – this pandemic – which has peeled some layers of vulnerability back on all of us.  My kids, now young adults, may finally be able to look at what happened to Esme from a slightly broader perspective.  Perhaps they even feel some company in grief, now that we find ourselves surrounded by it.

It is miraculous to stand amidst the boughs of this amazing weeping cherry and think of how much we have all grown over time.  How much stronger we all are.

We can bear so much now, with love in our hearts, and the perspective of time.

This nation has lost 500,000 people.  Like the virus that has us all at a stand still, grief rides the air and it can seep into everything.  No one is left untouched.  Perhaps we will support one another in grief and learn to live and love in kinder ways, I do not know.

This tree has created a perfect ‘sit-spot’.

What happened to Esme was a random and strange thing – a strike of lightning in a way.  Violence against women is – and always has been over the ages – rampant,  with some women more at risk than others.  In every family, and for every young friend who loses someone – that loss shapes the lives of everyone touched in their lives.

This cannot be over-stated.

Sometimes when I consider the grief in the wake of this pandemic, or in the epidemic of missing or murdered indigenous women,  I think of Esme and of the affect her loss had on our lives.  None of us were ever the same.  We still grieve.  And while we were her friends and we loved her dearly, we weren’t even her family.  I think of the hundreds of thousands of families, and loving friends, who’ve lost someone this year and I know a bit of the road ahead.

Grief is a prickly thing.  We all navigate it differently.  But grief, much like birth and death, is something we share as human beings.  And while the way through this journey of both grief and more broadly of being human is very personal, there are some tried and true paths which seem well lighted.

The gifts of music, art, nature, poetry and friendship (even if distanced just now) can be a bit of a healing balm through the tears.  It is our only option really, to seek beauty through sadness.

Jack played a concert for his old haunt the Riley School of Irish Music, where folks who’d watched him grow up, were treated to a show of what makes him tick musically. Music has been his path over these years and I am so grateful for it.

We have not been without our rough times after the loss of Esme.  Life is life, yes?  But our kids never really went through a stereotypical stage of teenage rebellion as they were sort of catapulted into the realities of the world at a much too early age.  The two of them have the most tender hearts, in part because of a Big Loss at such a young age.

We have a choice when we experience loss.  We can either harden, or deepen.  With the tools of art, music and kinship, we can choose to deepen (perhaps not right away, but eventually).  As painful as it might seem at the time, deepening is better than hardening, yes?

This time of year is normally fraught with a bit of tension.  The Irish music and dance arenas are on full throttle and we can tend to bottle up or bury the sadness of years past.  This is ok, and a very human thing to do.  We mark this anniversary in our own private ways most years.  This year though, we are at a strange collective standstill and are given a small gift of space.  A moment of silence to work into grief a bit, our own and that of the community at large, locally, nationally, globally.  Let us not harden.

Let us grow, even with dark shadows at our heels.  Let us deepen.

I wish you all peace.  Through the grief of the age.

 

****this is public post also available at my Patreon Page.  If you’d like to support my work and writing over there, the link is this: https://www.patreon.com/amybogard

Taking stock and shifting gears

My work life has always had plenty of branches, and lately those branches have reached beyond the scope of our nest and into the world a bit more.  I’ve not been so studio centered so there is not as much solo art being made, and this blog practice continues to shift into the land of longer, more convoluted stories of What’s Happening Here.  All of this being so, it’s an exciting time in the work sphere, and beyond so I’ll catch you up to speed on where things are.

As you may know, I juggle many jobs.  The most important one being that of Parent.  With my teens not quite driving but still busier and busier by the day, we spend a lot of time running around to various school, music and dance related activities.  Jack is branching in his work as much as I am in mine.  Between his classical and Jazz studies at school and his Jazz and Irish music duties outside of school, he is constantly playing music.  This past weekend we both played at the Museum Center’s Celtic Lands Festival.

First with the Riley School as a group.  And later, with Jack in the lead of the kids band in a kid centered concert in the Children’s Museum theater.  Seems like only yesterday, he was one of the little kids.  And being a Celtic festival, Maddie had a dance gig as well that day.  Good thing there is overlap in their cultural activities, or I’d be in the car even more!

Later that day, Jack moved on to his Jazz activities which these days includes a local gig at a place called the Blue Wisp.  He and some of his fellow musicians, the Young Lions, play there most saturday evenings for tips.  It’s great practice for all of them, and has led to some other gigs here and there for them as well.  They are a joy to watch and are consummate professionals, even at this young an age.

In spite of all of this, I was able to steal away a few hours over the weekend and attend an Owl Prowl at Spring Grove Cemetery.  I love Spring Grove.  It’s a place to sit with the spirits of those we’ve lost as well as a place to sink into the beauty of nature.  Just last week we marked the third anniversary of Esme‘s passing with a gathering at her weeping cherry tree.

I still can’t fathom that it’s been that long ago, and yet feels like just yesterday…

And so, the time spent at the Owl Prowl was pleasant, yet pensive.  The presentation portion was in the Norman Chapel of the cemetery.  I had never been inside this lovely building and felt a world away….

We did hear an owl call later, just as we caught up to the crowd where the guide was calling them with a recording.  I really enjoy owl calls.  Both those of the local varieties to be found right outside our door, like the Barred Owl, the Screech Owl and the Great Horned Owl, as well as those from farther afield…. like this guy at the zoo, a Eurasian Eagle Owl I spent some time sketching last week….

It felt really great to sit down with my sketchbook and my watercolor set and get lost in the drawing process for a couple of hours.  As you may know, I am gearing up for another visit to Taos in June with a group of students interested in keeping an illuminated travel journal.  I am looking forward to getting back to teaching this magical process, as it inspires me to capture my own life and travel adventures in my sketchbook.  Taos has a magnetic pull and a way of making connections between people that is, in my experience, rivaled only by Ireland.  A number of weeks ago I was approached by a film-maker, based in Taos, about the potential of being a part of a very unique film project…..

And so, let me introduce you to Jody McNicholas, of Walk-In Productions.  Jody is putting together a project called the Eco-Chic Retreat which you can read all about at the website.  As much as I love the idea of a retreat to Taos, or Ireland or wherever the wind blows me with my work, I know that a travel centered retreat is not always a possibility at all times for all people.  And yet, the need to back off of the daily grind, to dig down deeply inward and take stock of things is a crucial practice in this wild and wooly world of ours. Jody, and I, along with a whole basket full of talented artists, healers and makers are in the process of crafting a container for the at-home retreat experience.  The Eco-Chic Retreat will provide viewers with mini-classes in all of our various fields of self-work and exploration, such as yoga, nutrition, painting, journaling, meditation…..  It is something you can take a weekend to commit to, or simply apply a bit to your daily life.  The film will be the type of thing you get together with your girl-friends, your partner, your sisters, to encourage the self-care so many of us lack in our lives.  In so doing, we will be that much more outfitted to care for our loved ones, and our communities.  Each bit of the film will be a little bit different, owing to the differences in all of us participating in the project.  Each of us will provide a bit of what it is we teach in our classes and place-centered retreats so that you get an over-arching spectrum of skills and ideas to apply to your own life.

Jody found me and my work through the magic of google.  The convenient timing of my time in Taos for the Mabel Dodge trip is nothing short of serendipitous and I’ll be able to film my part of Eco-Chic while there.  I am honored to be a part of this amazing project and will of course keep you updated here as things progress with the film.  At this time, it looks like it will be released in the fall time frame, allowing for it to be on everyone’s holiday gift giving lists!!  I’ll keep you posted….

So yes, another spoke in my Wheel of Work.  Puppetry is shaping up.  I have learned 2 shows and have a third one to get under my belt in June.  The weeks of rehearsals are exhausting, but the performance schedule is composed of feasts and famine, which suits me just fine as it enables me to keep up with part time work at Carroll Concertinas.  And still, as if it all weren’t enough, we are in the process of renovating another area of this old house of ours.  To keep the budget in scope, we are doing a lot of the work ourselves, which is fun, but time consuming.  This house sits on an amazing bit of land, but was poorly built (as so many things were in the 50’s) and so we have been systematically rehabbing it.  In our lower level there was no insulation whatsoever which kept it cold and dank much of the year.  We’ve torn all of that dankness out and have framed in some new storage and insulation.  It’s already more pleasant to be in.  As this area continues to shape up, I can see what I want in there.  One half of the room opens out to our yard and so it is light filled and wonderful during the day.  It has a fire place too, for wintery days.  My plan is to put one of my drawing tables near the hearth so that I have a place to paint and draw, even when the weather is too cold or too hot to be in the studio….

And what of the studio?  I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the idea of a studio.  Especially my studio space, which is lovely to be in, about half of the year.  The room goes unused a lot with all of the work I am doing outside of the house and due to weather extremes.  It also has some serious issues which we will need to deal with sooner than later.  A leaky roof, birds in the rafters…. you get the picture.  Part of this shift in my work is the idea that I don’t really need a dedicated space that much anymore.  If I can carve out a drawing/ painting station in our new family room, and have an embroidery/knitting nest on the couch, I am left with needing just a small wax table set up in the studio space.  I’m looking to tidy it all up a bit.  Organize my books onto our new shelves downstairs, make the studio more of a breezy sunroom to be used when weather permits.  After all, that’s what it was built for.  It’s time to get rid of the fireplace out there that is the cause of the roof leaking and part of the reason it gets so very cold/hot depending on the season.  The room has served me well over the years, but I can see it now as needing a little day bed for napping, should the opportunity present itself.  My work is happening in all kinds of arenas right now and that doesn’t seem about to change.  And I don’t think I want it to.  As exhausting as it all is, it’s exciting and I love every bit of it.  Though I am trying to carve a little more time out for painting and drawing.  That’s where my heart is…..

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“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

– Margaret Mead.

There is not a whole lot I can write about the photos you see here.  These are images of Jessie Henson’s magical work of art, aptly named Stardust, installed this summer at Cincinnati’s new School for the Creative and Performing Arts building in honor and memory of Esme Kenney.

Not quite a year ago, a very small group of us gathered to try and figure out how we might possibly go about honoring Esme’s memory, while attempting to begin the healing process among her close knit community of family and friends.  Over coffee, we threw out some ideas.  About the kind of art we were thinking about.  About the ways we might raise the type of money we might need (it turned out to be double our estimate!).  About how to maintain Esme’s spirit and light throughout the process.

Everything from Jessie’s heartfelt, gorgeous proposal and artist’s statement, to a series of amazing concerts which carried the bulk of the fundraising seemed to be laced with a synchronicity completely beyond our control.  We simply woke up each day and got it done. (I say that from a fundraiser’s perspective!)  As an artist, I am honored to have watched Jessie navigate the process of creating such a large scale public work of art.  I know it has not been easy.  But it’s done.  And it’s stunning.  Congratulations Jessie, Lisa, Elaine, Randy, Jen, Kim… everyone involved in making this sculpture a reality.

Below is my favorite shot from Jessie’s pictures.  In a matter of days, these halls will be bustling with the student body of SCPA.  Esme’s friends often wondered how they could leave the old building and head to the new one without their dear friend.  This is how.  Her light and spirit are now part of this spectacular new facility.  For that I am grateful.

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These past few days have been filled with thoughts of Esme.  Last weekend my son Jack and I went up to Detroit with a group of fellow musicians to compete in the North American Midwest Regional Fleadh Cheoil. (and Irish Music Competition)  Unlike Jack, I was only there to compete in one small thing, and yet I was terrified.  I am not one who enjoys being on stage, let alone being judged.  But I go and participate because I like what leads up to it; the rehearsals and figuring out as a group what exactly we will play.  That part of it is fun.  The going on stage part is not.  Most of Jack’s schoolmates seem to take being on stage in stride and show no signs of stage fright or pre-show nerves.  This was not true for Esme.  Cut of the same stage-going cloth as I, she was always a bundle of nerves before a show, and a puddle of relief afterwards.  And yet she always performed just fine.  She’d get up there and do what needed to be done.  I thought of her a lot in the hours leading up to our little band competition and once up on stage, I took a deep breath, and did what I had to do.  It went fine.  We did our best, and I was happy I had made the effort.  We got 3rd out of 3, alas, but we got rave reviews from the crowd!  As a side note, my Jack won the mandolin and banjo competitions, but his best showing was in Fiddle.  A third place out of a huge field of talented kids.  He was thrilled!

Upon returning home from the Fleadh, we hit the ground running this week with concerts and graduation.  Esme was ever present at all of these events.  Many of them were her events where she should have been playing.  She was missed sorely by those of us in the audience, her classmates, and of course, her family.  In the midst of it all I have been embroidering a small quilt square that will go to my favorite local fabric store, St. Theresa’s Textile Trove, where it will join many others like it in a quilt for Esme’s family.  It is a huge labor of love and I can’t wait to see the finished product!  I am proud to be just a small part of it. My square is called Esme Early Bird.  She was always the first one up at our house when she visited.

At SCPA’s graduation performance, Esme’s spirit was with us all as we held a beautiful moment of silence before the ceremony, and quotes from her blog graced the speeches of some of the Seniors.  Tears have been close to the surface for me and even though I just got back from Detroit, I am hitting the road again tomorrow for Rochester to see Kristin before her baby arrives.  It will be wonderful to see her and spend some pre-baby time with her, but it will also be great to get a few hours of solitude in the car to gather my thoughts about things, maybe have a good cry, and simply be alone.  I am happy to know the need for balance and to seek it, without too much drama.

Kim’s song Days Like This was on a popular television show last night and so has been rolling around in my head.  The lyrics have a bit that goes “days like this, yeah, you think about the ones that went before you.”  I do think about them.  Knowing the people I have lost in recent years, only makes loving the ones still with me that much more poignant.  I am really missing lost loved ones, especially most recently Esme and my dear friend Mia.  But I am grateful for the gifts they continue to give in spirit.