Tag Archives: garden

Churning and Reconfiguration

“It is in your power to withdraw yourself whenever you desire.  Perfect tranquility within consists in the good ordering of the mind.  The realm of your own.”

~Marcus Aurelius – Meditations

There are days when I forget there is a raging global pandemic and that the United States is on the brink of losing grip on it’s democratic principles.  I am fortunate in this regard.  I live on a little acre, in a gentle village, mostly surrounded by nature.  At least that is how I frame it when I am at home.

“To know fully even one field or one land is a lifetime’s experience.  In the world of poetic experience, it is depth that counts, not width.  A gap in a hedge, a smooth rock surfacing a narrow lane, a view of a woody meadow, the stream at the junction of four small fields – these are as much as a man can fully experience.”

~Patrick Kavanagh

I am fortunate indeed.  And so I share a bit of it here with you on this blog.

In spite of an autumnal hinting in the air, the garden still produces in beauty and food.  I follow close behind with camera and paint box.

There are many mysteries to unpack in a little box of colors.  We should all have one, to better understand the world in which we find ourselves.

It is good practice, I think.

To follow the colors and shapes of one season into the next is to find ourselves in a maelstrom of change.   And couldn’t we all do a bit of finding ourselves in the world right now?

I think of color matching as a form of chromatic meditation.

From the vine into the sketchbook…..

And of course into the kitchen.

We continue to marvel at how our little accidental garden has come together so unexpectedly this season.

The garden comes together yes, but I feel like falling apart.  Not completely, of course.  There are many things here (just right here) that are wonderful, this is true.  But there are significant things in the broader world at large giving me pause that I work through bit by bit these days.

Politics in this country continue to go back in time.  Sadly I know I have people in my sphere for whom this feels like a good thing.  My so-called “pro-life” leaning acquaintances who vote Republican, merely to get pro-choice laws reversed.  And yet, they seem to forget that abortion rates were lowest ever under President Obama, while the lives and well-being of people already born slide back into the realm of understood inequity.  How is this “pro-life”?  I do not understand it.

On a broader scale, climate change continues to wreak havoc and it just doesn’t seem to be getting the attention it deserves in the world,  in our country in particular.

It does no one any good to obsess over these concepts on the global scale, only to freeze in terror on the personal.  And so I do not.  I do what I can with the garden, in the voting booth.  (Have you registered to vote?  It’s imperative for our survival, I think)  I stay informed, to the best of my ability, while also attending to my inner world where art and music and magic reign supreme.

I head outside to clear my head and I pay attention to the specific color of brown found on a receding fern.

I replicate it’s delicious color.

I think it needs more blue actually….

“Light is the mother of color.”

~Alma Thomas

Just over a week ago I was informed that my flagship Travel Journaling class, held each summer in Taos, New Mexico (cancelled this past summer due to the covid-19 crisis) could possibly go forward in June 2021…. but at half capacity due to regulations surrounding the pandemic.  Suddenly my “staff” (read, spouse and dear friend in support of this work) found themselves crunching numbers to see if this is indeed even doable.  As it turns out, with a small price hike, it is doable, even though I may have to turn a number of folks away or grant them space on a wait list. ( I was to have a full and bustling class this next year…..)

Like so many others I know in a variety of work-realms, I find myself questioning the very nature of what I do.  And it’s not just the pandemic which has me pondering the imponderable.  I wonder about all the flying I do (which to be fair, isn’t much compared to many, but shouldn’t we all be doing our part?)  I wonder about nurturing and admiring the very ground beneath my feet instead of traipsing round the world looking for beauty.  I have a couple of book ideas brewing where I focus on just this one little acre and all it has to offer.

“These are the fruits of my reverence, This is a love story.”

Obi Kaufman

I spend more and more time alone to think about it all.

“Nowhere can a man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul.”

Marcus Aurelius

I could really use an agent or an editor or someone interested in getting these thoughts out into the world outside of this blog.  I am not sure how to find one.  I do know that I will just keep writing, and submitting and see what happens.  If for no other reason than to settle my spirit in these troubled times.  Perhaps someday, someone will take notice.  (Like this lovely blogger!)

In another world, before this one, I was to travel to Ireland with a fellow artist and dear friend for a month’s residency in that land of magic.  The month was to be October.  We should be on the road just now.  Here we are below, in Antigua last spring.  While we were working separately there, we came together for some meals and mayhem along the way which was a blast.

Julie Persons and myself with the lovely and captivating personality of Claudia. Both Julie and Claudia make the world a better place with their presence in it.

One thing we share in our work is a deep sense of play.  I miss that.

Alas, our residency is canceled due to the pandemic.  For now.  We shall see what the coming years hold.  We allow grief for what could have been while also making room for the Big Griefs at hand in these unexpected times.  We will get there eventually, we hope.  We have come to expect the unexpected.

As for me, I continue to root down.  And grow the seeds which are planted here.

I’m a bit out of practice in the painting department, outside of a badger now and then – week to week – and that is ok.  I’ve ordered a little phone-holder tool that might help me share some of my process via video and perhaps that might enliven my social media game a bit in the coming weeks.  I don’t know.  (And whether I care for social media is another post entirely!)

It has thankfully begun to rain here, sorely needed after weeks of dry.  We are grateful.  I am going to go play some pipes out in the “back room” which is falling down and due for a rebuild any day now.  I am grateful for the distraction.

Below I am linking a few things making me think more deeply just now, helping me stay sane, keeping me hopeful.  I hope you will check them out as well.  Stay safe.  Stay sane.  I shall write to you from a different world in the coming days.  Stay tuned……

“I wish you a kinder sea.”      ~Emily Dickinson

This podcast, and all the supplemental stuff along with: https://accidentalgods.life/

This lovely conversation with a long time fave musician and a guardener I’ve long admired along the way…. (there is also a conversation with Mary on the Accidental Gods podcast to be found here.  It’s lovely.)

The work of Mac Macartney (also interviewed by Accidental Gods but he’s been on my radar for a time now.)  Here is just one TED talk…..

The notion of soil as the harbinger of life.  We have to save the soil….

Some hope that one person can make a difference……

And finally, if you need an escape, which will also provide you some things to think about in this world now…. Go read the work of Signe Pike. 

 

 

 

 

 

Genius Home

It seems an age ago that were in Maine.  Coastal time, cool, crystalline lakes, like a dream.

We are now back in our own home, land locked here in our river valley, tending to house and garden, both needing upkeep, updates.

We always know when we have returned firmly to Ohio…..

As Billy Collins’ poem above alludes, there is a certain kind of genius which accompanies basic household chores of care.  This damned pandemic affords us the opportunity of time, if not inclination, to attend to matters here at home.  And so we do.

A bit of harvesting.

And a few things still growing along nicely.

I’ll give the autumnal plants a head start this week I think.  And put other plants to sleep for a time so they might come back to us in the dead of winter.  Beauty in dark times.

This begonia has been through the wars. Originally a cutting gift from my friend Vanessa, it was eaten by deer one year, but eventually bounced back and needed a new pot this year.

I am a haphazard gardener at best, but I am pleased with the results of our efforts this year.  The back garden, fenced during the first fitful, anxiety filled weeks of the lockdown, seems to be holding up.  Keeping the deer at bay.

I am grateful.

The dahlias have put on a show this year.  Somehow they had survived my stashing them in the garage last autumn where they overwintered successfully.  Surprisingly.

They are a constant delight.

My great-Auntie Nancy passed away the day we were on the road home from Maine.  She lived a long life, and did not suffer in the end, which is all anyone can ask for really.  When we attended her funeral, masked and out of doors, I took a posey of my dahlias and some sunflowers too, to place on the grave of my beloved grandparents.  Life has a way of marching on.

Note the dates. My grans, married for 64 years, died within just 3 days of one another. My grandmother, who married at age 16, used to quip about my grandfather, “Why Herbie? Well, he practically raised me.” I can still hear her say it in her quintessential Butler County drawl.

Last week I added another digit to my age line.  It was a quiet day really, a few hours at the concertina shop, take out from a local brewery and a zoom call with some artful and inspirational friends.  It was lovely. I even received some gorgeous flowers.

My mom gifted me the innards of a new Traveler’s Notebook for my birthday. (I made the cover myself from a scrap of leather from the shop.) I am interested to see how this journal system works for me as my own sketchbook practice has shifted in recent years.  When I “go sketch”, I am actually painting and use good paper in good sketchbooks.  But for the day to day, I like to have a workbook to capture ideas, quotes, poems, drawings, lists and etc.  Also a date keeper, not that there is much of a schedule these days.

Perhaps this little book will help me get organized as we do some serious household renovation and reorganization in the coming months.

I already have lists going, and some quotes.  Tunes I must work on……

This is my new half-set of uilleann pipes being crafted by Mickey Dunne in Limerick, Ireland. I think they are a thing of beauty indeed. Though honestly I am not sure quite what I have gotten myself into!  As Louise Mulcahy said in a presentation she did yesterday hosted by Southern California Pipers Club, perhaps it’s just the “medicinal sound of the drones.”  I’ll be sure to post here when I receive my beautiful new instrument!

“Don’t focus on the limitations, focus on the possibilities.”

~Liam O’Flynn (via Louise Mulcahy’s recent research)

Tomorrow morning we bid adieu to our friend Ari, the ‘little red dragon”, or “the wee man” as I sometimes call him.  He’s heading back to my sister’s where she is settled into a full time position as a nurse at a hospital near Louisville, Kentucky.

We will miss him indeed, but we also know there is much work to be done around here and it might best be done with only  the one aged dog along for the ride.  (Plus, he is missed dearly by his proper steward.)

Thankfully, our Little Miss Charlie doesn’t climb steps and mostly sleeps the days away, so she will be the perfect dog to weather the coming months with us as we turn the house upside down a bit.

It is a good time to nestle into a great feathering of the nest so to speak.  My travel journaling work – for now at least – is non-existent for obvious reasons.  I keep the art-wheels oiled here with a few side projects but a bit of a domestic re-design will be my creative project for the time being.   In recent years we found ourselves with an empty nest, the kids fledging to adult lives of their own.  My travel journal business  was where my energies flowed and I never really found the time to re-group here at home.  For now – this year at least – all of that is at a standstill.  Like many others, I am finding it difficult to concentrate on the usual things, and so I’m going to just take full part in this collective pause.

I’ve felt for a long while that the speed of things in this world is too much for me personally, it’s just tragic that it’s taken a pandemic to slow things down even just a bit.  With this slowing down has come an opportunity to take stock, decide finally what to do with the old “back room” which has been falling down around us for a few years now.  It’s time to rebuild. We have engaged a builder to begin in autumn sometime.  There will be much shifting and cleaning and decision-making and things will be topsy turvy.  Construction and reorganizing has a way of affecting every corner of the household and knowing this, we are taking the opportunity to reconfigure the whole place.

It’s time.  Getting our home organized and making a little oasis around here will help us bring more peace to the world outside of our home.  Of this I am sure.  To seek beauty in a dark world is important work.  Sometimes, that starts at home.

And that, as my mom says, is all the news that’s fit to print.  We, like everyone, continue to adjust to The State of Things.  We do the best we can.  Being gentle with ourselves and each other.  Following our noses as to how best to proceed.

How are you all doing? I’d love to know…..

Prickly territory

This evening I was walking the lone, remaining dog up the drive.  She doesn’t care for a long walk really, being fully deaf and mostly blind, but she does still like a good ole sniff along.  I spied some neighbors walking by.  A mother and adult son by the looks of it.  They were thick into conversation, and looked up just in time to wave to myself and little Charlie from afar.  And I got to thinking about the silverish lining of these strange and grief-full times in which we find ourselves just now.

Today would have been Full Day One at the Swannanoa Gathering and to be quite honest, I have been a bed of ready tears since the day before yesterday.  I had texted my friend Peter on Saturday about the snacks and tunes and books-on-tape we might have shared along the drive south together on Sunday if we had been able to actually go.

Then Sunday morning, the waterworks really began as there were videos available from the Celtic Week Staff (only temporary, so click *here* for now, but not forever…) to wish us all well as we weather this heartbreaking non-time.

Thankfully the weather here locally was remarkably reasonable so I went for a hike and a little bicycle ride with the Hub and tried not to think about what we’ve lost this year.

It didn’t work.

I still had a good sob in the bath upon returning home, in spite of a day well spent in good company.

Grief is a funny country.  It doesn’t follow the rules of polite society.  It’s prickly territory.

Having had a dance with griefs big and small over the years, I figured, let’s just dance with it again and see what happens.  As I communicated with all of my favorite summer and musical soul mates we talked of how fortunate we all are to have one another, if but from afar.  To have this music in our lives to give us strength in hard times.  We are all sad not to be together this year, but we are all hopeful that we will persevere toward better times.  We know what we have here.  And we are grateful.

So for now we work on our craft, learning new tunes, new instruments maybe.  We weather this grief, personally, collectively. We know our loss of this week together is just one small loss in the Grand Scheme.  But we grieve anyway.

There are plans to gather online in coming days, weeks, months, as best we can and we solider on with the help of our loved ones who seem to know how hard this is.

Case in point, I was drawing late this afternoon and heard the distinct sound of Irish music coming from outside.  And wouldn’t you know, my Hub, knowing how difficult this has all been on me had set up a little ‘beer tent’ in the back yard in honor of Swannanoa.  It’s the most thoughtful thing.

I think about that mother and son from my neighborhood and wonder if he, as a young person, is perhaps stuck at home unexpectedly with his parents in this wild, pandemicly charged time.  Might they be getting to know each other in new and unexpected ways?  I do not know.  But maybe.

Small, unexpected silver linings in what is indeed a very dark time in the world.

As for me, I’ve seen more of my garden this year than in years past and I am glad of it, even if it means the work I do in the world will not look as it has in the past, at least this year.  Even if it means my adventures have been tamed for the season.  I am glad of the time here at home, fraught as it has been with worry about The State of Things.

Do I wish I were with my musical mates this evening down at Swannanoa?  Yes, of course I do.  But instead,  here I am in a different sort of time, trying to make sense of things as they are.  Blooming where I am planted.

****if you haven’t listened to Dolly Parton’s America podcast, you should*****

In a couple of days we will make the quiet drive to Maine.  Stealing away like thieves in the night.  Before departure, I’ll get the garlic out of the ground for the season, and engage a neighbor to water the rest of the plants while we are away.

I’ll admit to be a bit anxious about the journey.  There are no plans to engage anyone or anything once there, besides our extended family.  We know how fortunate we are to even have this option of ‘away time’.  And this is another prickly level of things.  To allow grief for the things in our lives that aren’t happening this year, and joy for the things that are, amidst the complexities of the world at large.

We must make space in our hearts for all of it.  To be at once missing wistful tunes in misty mountains outside of Asheville while also making fervent calls to government representatives.  To doodle gentle creatures  while gardening as if our lives might depend upon it.  Perhaps they may yet.  We mustn’t lose our capacity for complexity in these times.  We must remain richly invested in all of it.  The good when we can find it, the difficult when it confronts us, the grief-ridden – especially as a collective of human beans.

In a long ago chapter of our early days together, we were faced with a number of long deployments due to Tony’s work in the Navy.  Fortunately, these were in peaceful days and the dangers were relatively few.  But nevertheless, the separations were difficult.  I used to have a system of whining about it all that gave space for the grieving without wallowing in it.  A couple of days of feeling pitiful, with allowances for ice cream for breakfast, an extra bottle of wine or what have you.  And then, I’d wipe my tears, and get back to the job at hand.  The time eventually passed, possessing its own arc and way.  This pandemic is a bit like a long and terrible deployment I think.  We have no idea how long it may last.  I think it’s vital to let ourselves whinge a bit now and then about the waves of losses that have come in the wake of this thing.  To be a bit weepy for a day or two in the midst of it all is far better than to armor up completely under the guise of “being strong” or feeling like our small griefs do not count when others have lost so much more.  Armor is not good for an open heart.

I hope y’all are keeping safe and sane in these difficult times.  We will get through.  Together.  Seek joy where you can.  Lean on one another.  Send letters.  Have a good sob in the tub now and then.  But don’t lose faith all together.

PS:

Here’s one more lovely thing as well.  I am ever so grateful for music.

Joy of being

“In today’s rush, we all think too much… seek too much… want too much… and forget about the joy of just being.”

~Eckhart Tolle *

I don’t know about y’all, but I’m feeling the rush and pull of a return to normalcy which I’ll admit, I am not quite yet in favor of.

“Normality is a paved road: It’s comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow.

~Vincent van Gogh *

For those of you who follow my online doings, the noise of the world has gotten to be a bit much for me personally and I have opted off the social media channels until further notice.  While we cannot and mustn’t turn our backs on a troubled world just now – the news of things as they are happening in real time – we CAN turn down the noise of it all online in order to dig deeper into what is really happening out there, what can actually be done, and how we feel about it all.  Sure one might get a chuckle now and then over on the socials, but true reality is a bit more difficult to find.  And so I seek it in deeper wells.

I’ll be honest, I needed a break – have done for a good long while now.

And so I am taking one.  Officially.  I am hopeful it might be longer than the usual month off which happens now and then in normal times.

I celebrated this returning to myself, this coming home really,  by building a fire last night.  Humidity is creeping back up as of today, but in recent days past, the magic of a cool summer night’s mystery has been in rare form.

We are grateful.

We wear a crown of midsummer and watch the garden flourish.

“With life as short as a half taken breath, don’t plant anything but love.”

~Rumi *

While not everything planted will be in top form this season, the garden’s beginnings give me hope for better days.

I suppose if necessary, we could live off of pumpkin and swiss chard alone, if we had to eventually.  Perhaps not all is lost.

Life carries on.

Birds nest.

A great June greening gathers further in.

“We must not allow the clock and the calendar to blind us to the fact that each moment of life is a miracle and mystery.”

~ H G Wells

The daily post continues to be a source of great day to day joy.  Today we received the long anticipated “Views from Quarantine” zine project from Ireland-based artist and child-art psychotherapist Simone Westerkamp (also long time friend and musical pal).  This zine is filled with offerings Simone gathered from artful friends and family scattered around the globe.  We, Tony and I, are thrilled to have been a small part of it.  In this era of grief, sadness and strife – in epic proportions, to be sure – beautiful small things are a keen reminder of the scale and importance of our own humanity.

“Never regret anything you have done with sincere affection; nothing is lost that is born of the heart.”

~Basil Rathbone *

The summer’s slowing, with my yearly work offerings no longer viable, affords a delicate space for quiet wonderment.  There are Rainier cherries now at the market once more, which I love.  When I can settle my brain and nerves down enough, I am drawing more in this in between time and space.  I am grateful for these crumbs of validity in such tumultuous times.

I’ll admit I am not ready to re-enter the rat-race.  I did not belong to it in the first place.  This I must remember as the traffic time into my part-time work begins to once more give me pause.

We have our sights set to venture home to Maine later in July. (God willin’ and the creek don’t rise, as they say)  Once there we will keep ourselves to ourselves, which we normally do anyway, and I promise we will do this all safely.  I look very much forward to cuddle piles of hugs with my god-child and her sister, and our dear friends, their parents.  Even as introverts, we are missing the humanity of a normal social existence.  I am counting the days.

This is a strange new world we live in.  Some people seem to be carrying on like nothing has changed, like it is an insult to their American-borne freedom to be asked to wear a mask in interest of the safety of others.  Most near and dear to me of course, continue to be diligent and do what is necessary to keep things safe for everyone.  We live life in the day to day just now.  Plans are difficult to commit to with things changing so fast in real time.

In the end, time will tell.

As for us, we soldier on.  Listening to books, reading books, doing puzzles, keeping to the work online as needed.  Tonight we go to meet East-Coast cousins arriving new to town.  Socially distant, of course.

Take care of each other, get hugs when you can.

More soon……

****some of the quotes above (*)  have been saved over time from a wonderful offering on the Book of Faces called Ravenous Butterflies.  Go give em a follow if you are currently riding the waves of the socials.  They are a bright light on a dark platform.

Attending

“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.”

~Mary Oliver

It’s funny to me, my own internal cycles of inward-facing versus outward-facing; of intense productivity versus steeping an idea for a time.  The notion of developing something a while and then, at the proper juncture, sitting down to implement that development into something real in the world, something which was once just an inkling in the outer reaches of my mind’s eye.

These cycles are no less apparent in my relationship to the online world.  In the midst of this pandemic, and that amidst a country further mired and deeply more into trouble, I have once again, like so many I know, fallen into the trap of too much information and too much time on the standard culprits.  It is time for a break.  I’ve learned that I do not need to pull a Lorde and burn up my social media presence, rather I simply need to pull back into my own sphere for a bit to recalibrate.

“This is the first, the wildest and the wisest thing I know: that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness.”

~Mary Oliver

A good while ago, knowing the news wasn’t going to get any better anytime soon, I removed Facebook and Twitter from my phone (always a wise move even in the best of times) but it’s not enough.  There must be a balance to these things.  A balance of being informed but not inundated, of monitoring where my attention falls.

I have heard it said that what we do with our days is what we do with our lives.  I believe this to be true.  And so we must decide what we want our lives to be.

“Attention is the beginning of devotion.”

~Mary Oliver

There is a lot to take in just now.  Heartbreaking news from every corner of the globe, but also breathtaking beauty in our gardens and new ideas to pursue in our imaginings.  Neither of these things should outweigh the other.  We must pay witness to the tragic, yet not dismiss the miraculous, however small or fleeting it may be.

None of us are any good to anyone if we become mired in the unreal world of social media.  My goal personally is to read more deeply about the issues at hand – about this pandemic and it’s long term challenges.  About how the rest of the world is viewing our country (and the UK)  just now in the wake of recent, racially motivated murders.  I’ll investigate ways to look keenly at my own inherent biases and consider how to best navigate them and change from within.  (Here are just two things for a start:  The Groundwater Presentation and The 1619 Project .)

We are in tumultuous times to be sure.

 

We must pay attention to everything.  Closely.  It is what artist’s do really.

 

“Instructions for living a life.  Pay Attention.  Be astonished. Tell about it.”

~Mary Oliver

One of the pitfalls of social media is the old “if a tree falls in the forest” concept.  If one is not on facebook lamenting the latest lunacy from the white house, is one really informed or engaged at all?  My answer is “yes”, perhaps even more so.

So while I may appear to disappear into the folds of my own little world here, you can be sure I am keeping up with the broader context.  I might seem to be hiding in the garage making stop motion videos, or getting lost in an imaginary world where animals wear clothing.  But rest assured, I am quietly staying informed.  Engaged.  We all just need a break sometimes.

A time in which to grieve the horrendous loss we are experiencing as a collective, to bear witness to ongoing atrocities in our “perfect union”, and yes, a time to weep at the beauty of the blooming of a simple spring flower.

Turns out we DO have white peonies in our yard after all! But we can still share some pink peonies with our gardening friends.

“Attention, without feeling, I began to learn, is only a report.  An openness – an empathy – was necessary if the attention was to matter.”

~Mary Oliver

I wonder and worry as to whether I’ll ever get back to Ireland. (And with that, how to get delivery of my new pipes due in October as well….) As a small prayer of hope, I planted some fuschia in a pot in the back garden. I am told the hummingbirds will like it. And maybe the bees too. These can be found all over Ireland in hedge form. Little fairy jewels on display. And I love having them around here at home.

These Gifts

There are quiet gifts arriving daily here at our lowly little acre.  A baby oak seedling I have been stewarding in the last year or so made it through the winter and has wee buds of life bursting forth.  My good musical friend Emmanuel found this little tree in a setting that mightn’t have let it grow and asked if he might dig it up for me.  I said yes and so the little seedling arrived and I have crafted for it a home here and the rest has been up to it.  It seems happy.  I am grateful for friends who see the world like I do.

Ferns are coming up.  They are a bit like big-footed teenagers romping through the house.  Taking up too much space, yet gorgeous in their unfurling.  We have some to share if you would like them.  They love shade, and spreading out.  Much like human teenagers actually.  Just send me a message if you would like some.  we can have a socially distant digging party of sorts.

A number of weeks ago, eager for spring, I took a few cuttings from the willow tree we planted last year, which is thriving (don’t worry, I humbly asked permission first).

These spindly little cuttings quickly made roots and are now forming proper trees in various places in the yard.  Getting trees to grow is a big goal of mine here, having lost so many in recent years.   I look forward to helping these little trees become big trees in the coming years.

In the veggie garden, plans are afoot to attempt what’s called a “Hugelkultur” which is basically a little mounded garden space which increases ground space as well as makes way for the organic matter necessary to feed hungry plants.

My beloved hawthorn tree, which is thriving, has spring buds upon it.  She seems really happy to be the mother hen of this new protected garden space and is relieved of the old armor we kept on her trunk to keep the destructive deer at bay.  We are all breathing a bit easier now, in spite of a pandemic.

a few bits and bobs have gone into the ground and I visit a few times daily to see how we are faring.

But garden gifts aren’t the only ones quietly arriving day to day here at Chez Bogard.  The post has been a blessing as well.  Some of my more trusty penpals have taken to the postal waves to comfort one another in these strange times and thankfully, this has included me.

I’ve received belated birthday gifts, hand painted seed collections,  long missives with the hopes and dreams of a pandemic age.  I’ve sipped the gifts of exotic tea bags and read articles from far flung periodicals lovingly snipped and sent along.  And just yesterday, party flags arrived to welcome the new deer boundary.

Firstly, my artist friend Michelle who is hunkering in Sheboygan WI sent me 50 snapshots of her view of Lake Michigan near her home.  50 snaps for 50 years of my own life.  She is a talented gift giver.  For my 40th, it was pebbles in a hand crocheted bag.  I still treasure them.  I’ll admit, these in their beautiful blueness took my breath away and made me a little weepy.

Gifts such as these make my heart soar.

Letters come, big and small, sometimes bearing other gifts beyond words within, like tea and seeds.  But often the words are enough.  The two above are from two separate pen friends.  Both know I adore the natural world.

Other gifts will keep on giving long after arrival.  These pumpkins will be tested on the Hugelkultur this year.  I love the little drawing on their seed pack.  One of a kind.

And the flags, well the flags were a request actually.  I have had them in my living room and now I have a few sets for my garden – the new living-room as it were.  They are part prayer-flag, part party-flag.

Joyfulness is a form of prayer.  I adore them.

Joy in a time of sadness.

They are crafted by my soul-sister in Vermont, @complimentcoins who makes little bits of love and kindness to sow into the world like seeds.

Some of her little coins are on order to send to my beloved pen friends around the world.  We could all use a bit of love and kindness just now, don’t you think?

There is much news that needs attention paying to it just now.  But a big one for me is the notion that the federal postal service is in question here in our country right now.  This is a long time coming as the service has been saddled with rules and restrictions that have caused their budget to be out of balance in recent decades.  It’s a long and complicated thing which I don’t truly fully understand.  But one thing I do understand is that the timing is crucial.

As we face this pandemic, we also stare down what is likely the most vital election our country has ever faced.  Voting by mail simply must be an option this fall in the face of uncertainty at best, and a second wave of the virus at worst.  And sure enough, those in power would like to defund the post office by October.  Just in time for the election.

We must be diligent.  And let our representatives know how we feel about this.  Via post, ideally.

Here is one link who’s action begins this week (it’s not too late)

I for one, plan to vote by mail at the earliest opportunity.  That was my original plan before all of this madness arrived as I hope to be in Ireland for October and a chunk of November this autumn.  Time will tell if I get my residency after all, and honestly that is the least of my worries in a world of so many worries just now.

If this idea resonates with you, write a letter to your senators, write a letter to your loved ones far away, and even one to those just up the road.  A hand written note or packaged gift can brighten these dark days in ways few other things can.

We small creatures must take to the postal waves and make our voices heard.  It is the only way.

Go.  Be the gift.

Ps:  you are not alone in feeling a lack of concentration in these strange times.  I really enjoyed this article about the Allostatic Load.  We will get through this.  (Charlie, this is for you.)

 

 

Allies

It’s the time of year when everything feels a bit frenetic.  The garden is growing by leaps and bounds.  I’m finding it hard to decide where to place my efforts – weed out more of those plants choking out their neighbors? Thin the greens under my new apple trees?  It’s truly a game of whack-a-mole in many ways.  And the garden isn’t the only place.

There is simply So Much Going On.  But I am reminded that this is how spring goes around here.  I have many details to attend to with regard to the Taos trip which is mere weeks away.  And always I find myself feeling behind there.  That sense of not enough time to get it all tended to.  I have one kid just recently graduated from University and about to spend the summer at a music fellowship out of state.  His worldly possessions must get from his place to ours somehow in the coming weeks. The other kid is over seas in Africa working this month (you can read about her adventures here.)  So there is the quiet noise of worry in the back of my mind.  But if I am to be honest, it’s not as great as one might think.  No more worry really than when she is just up the road at school.  This is good.

There does come a time when they outgrow the nest and must forge their own paths.  I am grateful for it.

In spite of all the goings on, with my art work, the family, our green space, I opted again this spring to take one more thing on board.  Last year at this time it was a 6 week oil painting class focusing on portraiture.  Because painting faces is scary and I wanted to learn about it and challenge myself.  I wanted to be the beginner, the non-expert, uncomfortable, making bad art – before I go out to Taos and challenge my own students to do the same.

I remember last spring feeling much the same during the arc of that painting course as I do now.  That I had taken on too much.  That I wasn’t very good at all this.  That I wasn’t enough.  It is good for the ego to sit with these feelings every so often, just so we don’t get to feeling too smug.  And so I keep tackling new challenges where I can. This spring’s challenge has come in the form of a class called Intuitive Plant Medicine.  I am only a week and a half in and already feeling overwhelmed by all of the new things to learn and consider.

I know just enough to be dangerous in the garden.  I have a green thumb by nature, actually talk to plants, believe in fairies – the works.  But I am no herbalist.  I am not a scientist prone to the Latin naming of things.  I appreciate a good metaphor and enjoy delving into the edges and hedges of things.  And lately, the edges have been those found here on our little green space.  And so I took this class, knowing I’d be flying a little close to the sun with it butting directly up to my time in Taos.

As a class we gather virtually in a wonderful online community forum, rich with beauty, and so lovingly stewarded and curated by our instructor, Asia Suler, of One Willow Apothecaries.  I find such comfort in the vulnerability and openness of my fellow classmates.  Some of them are already quite knowledgeable in the realm of plants and medicines and the like.  While others of us are new to this side of things.  For a few of us, the gorgeous onslaught of so much information has been a bit overwhelming, as written in this lovely blog post by a fellow plant intuitive.  We are learning not only the ‘woo’ side of plants, but also a lot of the nuts and bolts of basic botany.  We are being guided to find plant allies which both physically and metaphorically may have a thing or two to teach us.

For me, I had one before the class even began.  I had read Mary Reynolds’ lovely book Garden Awakening over the winter and had been spending a fair amount of time outside – really listening to what our space wants and needs.  We’ve downed a number of trees due to the ravages of the emerald ash borer beetle and age, and I could sense that we needed to pay attention.  I had been wondering, Oak? Or Maple?  I knew Willow would be placed out front by the creek.  But what about the yard?

And then, one day, I got an unexpected answer.  Apple.

Unexpected because I have never grown a fruit tree.  Aren’t they notoriously troublesome? Don’t the deer ravage their young trunks and eat all the fruit?  The idea came out of nowhere.

But I had my marching orders and I began thinking about apples.  A few weeks later, at a local seed swap, I spied what I believed were apple trees across the room and went to introduce myself.  I learned I would need more than one apple tree to promote proper pollination.  Eventually I looked all around town at expensive and chemically raised apples and was beginning to feel a bit down hearted but finally came back to the same folks I had met at the seed swap.  I bought two young trees to put in the ground and plan to raise them chemical free, which I hear is possible, unless you talk to the guys at the local garden center.  We shall see how it goes.

I’ve shielded the trees from the deer with little individual fences.  And I will keep an eye out for signs of problems.  But so far they seem really well adjusted and even have some young fruit growing.

The other ally I have from this process is an Iris down near the creek.  We have a fair number of these which grow there, blooming golden and lovely each spring.

In spite of stormy weather, which brings a force of water through our creek bed at times, these plants continue to grow and bloom, letting the rushing water wash over them and go right on by.  I feel a bit like these Irises just now.  The rush of life going by so fast, and me, just trying to root down and hold my ground in the midst of it all.

And so I dig in the dirt, literally and figuratively, as my yearly offering in Taos draws nigh.  My workshop began, years and years ago, as a little evening class here in town where I shared how I take a blank book and fill it with life’s little details.  Everything from to-do lists to ta-da! (voilá!) lists, sketches and skepticism, weather reports and vacations recalled and catalogued through drawn and painted imagery.  I marvel at how far this work has come and what gifts it has bestowed upon me.  In recent years, it’s become so clear to me that this process is so much bigger than merely keeping an active sketchbook.  It is a practice in mindful meditation on what makes our hearts sing.  These books of ours are a compass of sorts.  As Frederick Franck puts it so eloquently:

” SEEING/DRAWING as a way of meditation, a way of getting into intimate touch with the visible world around us, and through it… with ourselves.  “

In class I encourage students to trust their own visual voices, to trust that the marks they make with their paints and pencils and pens are important in developing those voices.  That to be the beginner is their only job.  In the intuitive plant medicine class, I am remembering what it is like to be that beginner again as well.  I am reminded that we are enough, right where we are just now.  There is real magic in that knowing.

See me sparkle….

And a quick p.s. on the notion of Allies and Weathering the Storm:

The other night I spoke in front of our village council in favor of a new resolution which would call for specific non-discrimination language to be adopted by our village.  Vital language and a cultural tone which states, all are welcome here.  That hatred and vitriol will not be tolerated.  That this is village is filled with allies to the marginalized.  Some may be thinking that I have backed off of politics here on this virtual space of mine. And perhaps on the surface, I have.  But I am quietly paying attention.  And just as quietly, and subversively, I continue to #resist all that the White House and #45 Himself stand for.  I am planting a garden which will feed us here and there – without chemicals.  I am forging a path of beauty in the world with fellow creatives.  I am attentive to the goings on of my local government where change really begins. These are subversive acts of politics.  I believe we as a country can do better than the likes of who we’ve placed into power at the very top of things.  I’m beginning with my own back yard. 

 

Bells of Springtime

It seems many things in our little acre of land are bell shaped just now, fairly ringing with the bodacious arrival of a proper spring time. Daytime warmth coaxes and whispers to  the plants to grow and the evenings, cool again for resting before another day of more and more growing.

If one listens quietly enough, for long enough, the chiming of these little bells might be heard all around.  Small ones, tinkling near the ground, nestled and tucked under larger, louder plantings.

Other bells chime deeper, perhaps with the promise of a new backyard food source.

Some have a note so high and so sweet, only the most careful listeners might hear them.

And still others have a chime so light and ephemeral, one can’t really know if they sing the song of the mists or the breezes.  But if one listens…..

I’ve been listening.  With my trowel, moving plants around and tucking in new gifts from friends in trade.  Planting seeds and pondering plots and plans, all while these little bells ring and chime and sing all around me.

I’ve been listening with my pencil and paint brush and ink, to capture a bit of this ephemerality, and pin it’s simulacrum to my paper as best I can.

This is good practice as tomorrow I must leave my little plot of land here for a few days to lead two days of sketching with a very speical group in California.  We will visit a lovely garden and some wonderous trees as well, whose names I am eager to learn.  I am so lucky to do this work I do, encouraging folks to find the paths of their own ink lines, pencil marks and paint puddles.  It’s teaching season once again and I am glad for it.

But always I will come back home, to this little place, which is feeling really magical just now with the gardens bursting forth and the beauty of the bells in my ears.

“I am sure there is magic in everything, only we have not sense enough to make it do things for us.”  ~Frances Hodgson Burnett  

(thank you Cathryn Worrell for this gem of a quote.  You can see her Unicorn here.)

I’ll be back in a few days with tales of a land far west from here, but where friends await my arrival.  For now, I leave you with some more magic for your ears….

 

 

Where your name is spoken

Looking Westward, a drawing of mine from a few years ago…. Raven is a bird close to my heart.

What a winter we are weathering.  Not for the normal reasons which might lead to a bout of winter weariness such as darkness or the ice and snow (we’ve had little of either, though we do suffer our fair share of a seemingly endless milky-gray pearlescence, which is a nice, wordy way of saying ‘day to day dismal’.)

Instead, there seems to be a general sense of malaise in all corners, at least to my winter-wearied eyes.  The political climate of late is one I am deeply committed to keeping track of, though how to do so and still nurture my rich inner world is proving to be a bit of a challenge.  (I am up to the challenge.)  All told, through this winter’s darkness, both literal and metaphorical, I’ll admit to having had to dig quite deeply to find any light lately within my heart- physically, creatively.  Some days I have felt quite extinguished indeed.  It’s been a hard time, ‘I don’t mind tellin’ you.’  

But, I do have a few tricks up my sleeve and all is not lost, fear not!  I am back to running the local village paths once again more routinely, just in recent days, no matter the weather! This morning I awoke with the clearest head I have had in months, the cobwebs having been cleared from my seratonin-deprived brain by just a few short, but successful hard runs around my neighborhood.  I could nearly weep with joy for the returning of this source of bliss and emotional sustenance in my life.

While running has not been available to me, walking still has.  Our dogs enjoy a wee trot outside each day, provided the roads aren’t too salty for their exposed paws.  I delight in a rhythmic jaunt where I can get lost in my thoughts.

A few days ago, the sun did shine for a day. (read: a brighter milky-pearlescence).  My hub and I went to the local nature center for some sketching time.  There are all sorts of very still, very dead, yet somehow quite animated taxidermy-style animals there and we took some time to draw them.

There was woodsmoke in the air there that day, and a sweetness as well, signaling maple sugaring season.  We enjoyed learning about how our native forebears likely processed, consumed and traded the sweet, valuable maple syrup and crystalline sugar using handmade tools they gathered from the earth and adapted to their needs.  I did not take a picture.

We discussed that day of how sad things have been (how sad I’ve been) and we talked also of how mood-changing a song might be when it catches our ears just so.  My Hub found one such song called I Don’t Recall done up so very beautifully by Lavender Diamond. They have a new video….

We were intrigued by the biography of this project to be found on Spotify…..

“The folk delight that is Lavender Diamond originally came to life in Bird Songs of the Bauharoque,  a punk operetta inspired by the work of American painter/architect Paul Laffoley.  Vocalist Becky Stark wrote and created the piece with a friend while living in Providence, RI, and starred as Lavender herself, a winsome part bird/part human who wants peace on earth.”

Hub wondered at which point in the song she was human and which bit might find her in bird form – to which I argued, why can’t she be both?  Both, at the same time.  animal.  woman.

I’ve been pondering a great bit lately this whole notion of polarity.  Political polarity, yes of course.  But also the light vs. the shadow sides of ourselves.  The Masculine and Feminine bits too, always in a dance, yes?  And even to how we react to times of great strain.   I am intrigued (and often infuriated) by the discussion of a perceived necessity to choose one thing over another.  Why can’t we be Both.  I am both Woman and Animal.  I am Light as well as Shadow.  I enjoy tapping into both the (traditionally regarded) Masculine AND Feminine within my whole self.  When I allow this, I am more wholly alive as a total human being.  Perhaps like Lavender herself.

Music has indeed been a balm and an inspiration when Mother Nature is resting and doesn’t give us much to go on in the way of sketchable stuff.

Though if one pays close attention…..

One of my favorite flute teachers shared a song the other day which caught my ear, as songs of old often do.

It put me in mind of leggy hares to be found across the pond.  so different from our own bulky little bunnies.  so I sketched one up.

As I continue to climb out of the dark hole of my recent state, I am grateful for things which catch my ear.  The music often being the first and foremost quality of a song shared.  If I get a tune rolling round in my head, words or no, that can be a good thing.  It can, indeed, change the tone of an entire day for someone sitting rather on the edges of things emotionally speaking.

But sometimes, what catches my ear is deeper still than just a catchy tune.  Sometimes, as I listen to a newly found thing, often on obsessive repeat, (yes it’s true, and part of my charm, I like to think) the words partnering with the music to enchant the heart can act like will-o-the-wisp.  Lights in the darkness, taking me down an enchanted lane to other worlds….

This morning the lovely Lin-Manuel Miranda (you know, of Hamilton fame?) shared the music of one Ali Dineen in the form of this song in particular, which much like the Lavender Diamond song above, has a happy feel to it.  (and, turns out, Lin was one of Ali’s 7th grade teachers.  Can you imagine?)

This song led me down the proverbial musical rabbit hole of her music in general and I was not to be disappointed.  (Thank you Lin!) Little lyrical snippets pulled at my heart strings as I jogged the paths here amidst this gray, cold village here in Ohio.

“Somewhere else there were
miracles, carnivals, and a space in the air
only your bones could fill.”

Just weeks away, I am reminded by this tune, is a trip south to Antigua, Guatemala where I will sink into constant art-making for a solid week.  This makes me happy beyond imagining.  And reminds me that winter will pass.  In spite of how hard things can seem just now, personally, nationally,  globally.

“Spring it brought madness and chaos and song
the wind growing warm, the days growing long
I watched the world blow through your mind
we stooped low to pick up what it left behind
Scattered stories of our country’s childhood,
though we’re deaf to their sounds
We’re trying to stand up straight
but we don’t know what’s weighing us down.”

“go when your feet are restless
go when you hear a faraway song
heed what your bones are saying
don’t wait for your saint to come….”

“go where your name is spoken
stay when you feel like standing still
no one can guide your footsteps
so walk where you will “

So, yes, later this spring, I will travel to Guatemala, where once upon a time, my name was spoken.  I have been trying to tap into that little gypsy girl who lived everywhere and nowhere.  The me who spoke Spanish “like a native” (my mom’s words) and who seemed to feel at home anywhere.  I seem to have lost track of her over the years but I am keen to get reacquainted.  I’ve been taking a formal Spanish course locally and it’s been more difficult that I had expected.

We conjugate a good bit, which I will admit, I don’t know how to do adequately in English, in spite of my ability to speak the language here.  I am banking on a small faith that this class will warm me up to hear my name spoken on the warm volcanic breezes in the Highlands of Guatemala.  I’m told I went there as a girl when my Nana Campbell came to town.  I do not remember.

But I do remember what calls to my soul:

Music.

Art.

Stories.

Other Artists.

(we are all artists)

Thank you for reading…..

~a

ps.  do go toss a few coins into the hats of any or all of these amazing artists.  they deserve it.

 

 

 

 

In the Garden 7/1/2012

Ok, so it’s not Tuesday, my slated day for the ITG blog posts I’m trying to keep up with here, but it is a day when I have a few minutes to share, so I’ll take it.  Travel has a way of knocking one’s calendar all outta whack anyway.  Lately I haven’t a clue what day of the week it is.  I’m ok with that!!

It’s been a blistering past couple of weeks.  Thankfully, my fam kept our garden patch up at Amberley Green nice and watered while I was in NM, and I came home to the beginnings of the harvesting season…

I’m wondering if my cucumbers need to be kept up off the ground… I can build another tri-pod for them if needed.  They seem to currently like meandering along at low levels.

Basil has been the star of the show here in the early part of summer.  I’ve already made salads with it.

And yesterday I made a batch of ‘pistou’ from a recipe i found here.  Pistou is just pesto without the pine nuts.  Much of my extended family is allergic to pine nuts, so this is a great alternative.  And the jars of pesto at the grocery are about $5 each.  I’m planning to stock my freezer up with this summer delicacy to enjoy all winter long….

 What’s growing in your garden???