Last autumn, we popped in a little batch of garlic lovingly sent to us from a dear one in Maine. The garden out back was to be a long term project of building soil and perhaps constructing a fence some time in the coming years.
With the arrival of these uncertain pandemical times, we opted to speed the garden up a bit. There is no energy quite like the fight/flight/flee level energy of anxiety. The fence went in around the fledgling garlic plants, and they didn’t seem to mind. A few other things have been popped in here and there as well and now it’s all just doing what first year gardens do. Which isn’t a whole lot to see. But the soil is developing, there are worms and other creepy crawlies attending to the work at hand and the plants that can grow, do.
We learn along the way about how to grow food, breaking down the dense clay of our modern day ignorance. Baby steps, I say.
And suddenly, just like that, we have a lovely crop of garlic bulbs which we can cook with in the coming months, saving a few to do it all again next year.
I’ve repurposed a bit of old fencing to allow the bulbs to cure.
That’s one pre-trip chore down….. now, back to work!!
“A nomadic bird, Snowy Owl relocates when the weather changes. In January 2012 rising numbers of Snowy Owls started migrating in mass numbers from the Arctic to many parts of the United States. One leading researcher described the migration as ‘unbelievable’. Another researcher called this the most significant wildlife event in decades.
Owls have been seen in indigenous cultures to be predicative of weather changes, and Snowy Owl is now showing us that as the Earth evolves we, too, must move and flow with the changes.
Snowy Owl blended in with the snow of the Arctic but stands out in contrast in more southerly environments. One message we can interpret from this is that as the Earth changes we need to come out of hiding and be seen. If you found comfort in blending in with your surroundings, the goddess energies, the feminine, might now be asking you to stand out and make your strengths known. It is time to share what is bubbling up from deep within you, to show up and be seen and heard.”
~Sandra Ingerman and Lyn Roberts – Speaking With Nature
Spring has sprung here in Ohio. I arrived back only a few days ago, and today must get back into the world properly, spending a few hours at the shop and pursuing a shadow-box style frame for an plants-themed art project due quite soon.
(pssst. Here’s the start of that project, begun in Antigua…..)
I’ll admit, I miss Antigua and it’s garish semi-tropical plant life. And I miss my garish semi-tropical self as well. In spite of the language barrier and the “foreignness” of food and drink, air and sounds, I felt so well adjusted down there. Even with being “in charge” of things, hosting two separate groups of artists. It was a lot to be sure, but I slept well and my anxiety was low. I felt unfurled and properly relaxed, even in the midst of Semana Santa chaos and the weight of responsibility in my work.
Looking back and attempting to find a pattern, I realized that part of this was the time I spent in my garden before leaving for Guatemala. It was time spent tidying up a bit here and there and crafting gentle boundaries for the deer to allow some growth to happen in the plant-life and trees. There truly is nothing so grounding as digging in the dirt. So far, these boundaries are holding and things are bursting forth in splendor indeed.
Another important piece of the puzzle I have come to realize is that I didn’t spend very much time checking in on the social media outlets while down there. I had too much to attend to really. I’d post a bit on IG which posts automatically to FB and then occasionally I’d drop a sketch or so onto twitter with a hashtag or two. I know that in this day and age, it’s part of my job and part of how I sell the work that I do so that I can do more of it.
This is all well and good of course, as we do live in a modern world. But some of us, those who live close to the bone when it comes to mental health, must walk a careful balance when it comes to such temptations. It can be all too easy to get hooked on who likes what has been posted, who might perchance redistribute it in someway or comment on one thing or another. It can be all too easy to spend inordinate amounts of time looking at the work of others, while one’s own ideas wither and die beneath the surface of it all.
Social media makers have crafted a system that keeps us glued to our screens more than we should be and upon arriving back home, I melted back into those old habits. I’d be lying if I said I don’t enjoy reading and reacting to comments on my own work, as well as the engagement with the work and words of other artists and writers. But I realize something has to shift…..
The nice thing is, I pay attention to these trends in myself and could feel the anxiety creeping back into my bones. Though I had a good balance with the social media work while I was away, upon returning home to familiar territory I could feel the internal quandary of “not-good-enough” and comparison with everything else on the internet – that sense that I am never, ever doing quite enough to keep up with the rest of the world. Even as I enjoyed catching up with it all on some level. All of this is a bit ridiculous, I know, but there it is.
How is it that while in Antigua I could practically feel a proper book pitch bubbling together just under the surface while upon returning home find myself back in the sludge- swamp of insecurities that so marks my day to day? How can ideas be so clear and firm on one day in one place, only to scatter to the wind when “real life” gets back into gear.
“It is time to share what is bubbling up from deep within you, to show up and be seen and heard.”
A dear friend of mine, who shares my deep love of metaphor and signs, shared the owl quote from above with me yesterday as I was writing up the post about this latest journey. How was she to know that tecolote (just one of the many Spanish words for “owl”) had featured prominently in our time in Guatemala? So prominently in fact that I picked up a mask of owl to bring a lovely burst of color to our front entryway….
Not so very long ago, in autumn, I made a painting with owl which was shown in winter at the local art center. My friend and I decided that perhaps this was just the beginning of my journey to “showing up and being seen and heard” properly, which is at once scary and exciting. That even then, tecolote was talking to me.
I long to burst forth with so many ideas that I’ve literally had for decades but I find I always have time for every-thing and every-one else, while setting aside my own work in the process. It’s classic avoidance behavior and I am guilty as charged. And so, with this in mind, I logged off of two of the largest time-sucks in the social media realm – facebook and twitter. For now I shall leave instagram on so that I can post pictures there and announce when I share a blogpost. But I am carefully monitoring even that. My intention is to write a bit more here on the blog. Sketch more. Allow the disparate ideas to trust me to bring them to light in their own way, in their own splendor.
Gardens must be tended. With each journey to far away lands, I learn more about how better to tend to my very own garden, both literally and metaphorically. I’d love it if you drop me a line here now and then, and let me know what you think as I sink my roots into deeper soil. I’ll admit I do still enjoy a nod from outside myself now and again.
I do not know how to make a “real” book pitch. I have 11 years of writing on this blog and I am told it is of value and worthwhile. And so perhaps I shall spend some time reading my own writing and sampling that to send off to agents and publishers. So far, I have only really been sending off illustrations here and there. If I were to state it clearly, I’d love to see a little published book with my thoughts and sketches of my reacquaintance with the country of Guatemala. A little book that might inspire others to dig into the wildness of their own past and see it bloom through new eyes. I do not know. I only know, I must do a better job of trusting in my own vision, instead of always permitting myself to view the world through the vision of others. *
*don’t worry, I will still keep track of things which make my heart sing and I will always share them here. The world is too filled with beauty to spend all one’s time narcissistically navel-gazing. 🙂
The other day on NPR I heard that *strangely*, the world’s collective attention span is getting shorter (I know, *gasp!*) I know this to be true for myself and it’s another reason for paring down my social media usage. Here’s to trusting one’s own vision and forging forth on longer term, deeper projects – and bringing them to fruition. I’d love to know if you are doing something similar in your own relationship to social media, and how you find and keep that balance.
Across the arc of a number of seasons, we have had the difficult and expensive task of removing some trees who had lost the battle with time or the emerald ash borer and who might be a danger to our house if a brisk wind were to kick up. I have been asking the land what it needs ever since.
This little patch of land carries on and begins the path to recovery via nature’s vigilant first responders, the fungi. It is magnificent to see them crop up just where they are needed. I merely observe.
One of the trees which seemed to be asking for a place here back in spring time was apple. It all seemed like a grand experiment back then, which perhaps it was – for due to deer and other challenges to those early flowers and fruit we harvested a mere two apples.
I watched our little trees grow in spite of the challenges they faced, and wondered if what fruit they were yielding might yet be left riddled with worms as the gentlemen at the nursery were so keen to tell me. It is a risk I’ve been willing to take.
One day the apples let me know they were ready to come inside by nearly tumbling into my hand when I checked on them. And so I brought them in and pondered their beauty for a couple of days.
They were so beautiful and as their were only two, I decided to paint their portrait for posterity. For who knew what would lie within.
I gently peeled and cored the apples, gathering every last juicy morsel from them. I’ve never been so thankful for apples.
As luck would have it, they were nearly spotless! And I felt a deep sense of pride in them.
I made a pie crust (mine is an all-butter sort, my favorite, though tricky to pull off if you lack any patience) and cooked up the apples with a combination of a number of recipe-like ideas. Mostly simple – things like a bit of sugar, cinnamon, freshly ground nutmeg. And put the two together into some mini pies……
They baked up beautifully and are now awaiting our after dinner treat time. We are not, generally speaking, dessert eaters. But I think for tonight we may have to indulge.
I must figure out a different fencing situation for next season to further protect my young trees from the mindless suburban deer who seem to have nothing better to do than wreck ones gardening dreams. But for now I am thrilled to have had even a small (intimate, really) harvest to bake into some delectable delights to savor.
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.
We thought we had made it through to the other side.
The piled up, well and often used coats and woolens lying around have been tucked away into the closet to await next winter. Pollen has begun to hinder the morning’s runs and flowers are bursting forth all over the landscape with enthusiastic springtime abandon.
Lambs are being born at our friend’s farm, and green grass for them to nibble is growing strong. We have had the first official pass with the lawn mowing tractor.
Neighborhood friends have come back to play in the shadowed corners of the yard, quiet, sweet and quite shy, but willing to make friends if we let them.
Even the ever so flighty cherry blossoms have been on full display at some of the more flowerful places around town.
And then some storms came. With much wind, buckets and buckets of rain. And we awoke to a blanket of thick sticky snow weighing down our springtime lightness.
I couldn’t help but admire it’s loveliness, much as I am over snow as a phenomenon for the season. Springtime has it’s own slant to the light in the sky and so the snow has a more lively crystalline quality to it than it does in the depths of winter.
The daffodils seemed to be requesting a do over, with their cheery faces leaning back into the soil.
The forsythia blooms, just recently opened are feeling a bit droopy and sad with this cold snap and the weight of the snow. I wonder if a few more blooms are still behind these…
The farmer’s almanac did say that we were in for at least one more good snow before we really could settle our bare toes back into the grass and the bubbling creeks without getting too very cold. And they have been spot on all winter long. This too shall pass.
And then we can continue to get on with the busy-ness of spring.
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….
There’s quite a bit to report here at Chez Bogard. First off, as it is Tuesday, I’ll start with what’s up In The Garden. The biggest news by far is that just yesterday evening at an unnecessarily dramatic Amberley Village Council meeting, a new ordinance was (finally!!) passed that officially permits the keeping of backyard chickens in the village. A few people had chickens already as the law was vague and stated ‘no farm animals’, listing other animals by name…. but not chickens. So they’ve legally been flying under the radar for some time now. But there was a need for clarity and boundaries in this matter as more and more young families are moving into the village and keeping chickens is quite in vogue these days. In spite of a few rather stressed out folks crying ‘fowl’ and fear mongering, there was overwhelming support for the new ordinance and chickens are now welcome in the village. I am already plotting my coop plans…. (the above photo is from the AWESOME website, Backyard Chickens .com. You know where I’ll be lurking in my virtual free-time!!) I’m thinking a ‘green’ rooftop for our coop….
Next In The Garden is more news on the Amberley Community Garden. The deer fence is in place.
And we have begun digging in our little plots, making room for plants. My plot-neighbor and new friend Natalie Wolf and I are going to do one more good tilling before planting (technically today is the final frost date so although I feel a little behind, I’m really not… I hope!) The other day I pulled out the grassy clumps that were trying to re-root themselves and I added some Posey Power in to enhance the soil a bit since this is a new garden. My puppet boss, Kevin has given me a few tomato seedlings, and I plan to get a few more from a fellow coffee hound up at Pleasant Perk. And I have seeds. These I purchased at our local Civic Garden Center, and a few, Hollyhocks actually, are a gift from Rachel over at 6512 and Growing. (One of my favorite blogs to visit, as I have said time and time again.) Soon my little plot will hopefully be growing with good things to eat….
It’s been a funny thing all this garden and chicken related hubbub. All I really wanted was to have a few chickens for eggs and to grow some stuff to eat. I like being outside. I like the idea of eating food that came from a little plot of earth that I have worked with my own hands. But along with these things has come an unexpected benefit and that’s a sense of community here in our little village. I’ve made some friends through this process of law changes and garden building. I feel more tapped into what’s actually happening in my neighborhood. I feel a little more rooted here than I ever have. Large, woodsy lots and quiet older neighbors can make for a sense of isolation, which is not a bad thing. In fact, the quietude is why we moved here. Quietude and green space for two people who spend a lot of their working hours at home. But with the chicken drama and the availability of a community veggie plot, I feel my relationship with this village is balancing out to one steeped in community. And I like this a lot. As much as this gypsy soul loves to roam, I am so glad to be feeling rooted in place more than I ever have.
This last week hasn’t been all spent digging in the garden. I’ve also managed a few things in studio. I created a design for my dear friend and awesome singer-songwriter Kim Taylor to use on a new t-shirt. I’ll let you know when they are available for sale. Kim is in the process of making a new album which is very much like birth. More news on that as it progresses!!
Even though I have jobs to attend to, kids to look after, gardens to tend and chickens to advocate for, I’ve been trying to spend as much time as possible keeping my art pump primed. A month from today I leave for Taos, NM to teach the travel journaling workshop and to film my segment of the Eco-Chic Retreat project. I know I can’t do this off the cuff. I need to be working in my own sketch-journal in a rich way in order to guide others on their journey into their books. Last year was my first time teaching an intensive, site-specific workshop and I was bowled over by how intense it was. As prepared as I was, I hope to be even more so this year so that the teaching process doesn’t wear me down to a nub as it did last year. I am so excited to get to know this new group. we start lead up classes next week to begin prepping blank books and getting to know our watercolors and such. It’s going to be a rich next couple of months.
I will leave you today with an image of a little painting I did the other day. It’s oil on panel, inspired by an image of a storm rolling into Dublin Bay. For someone not used to oil paints, I surprised myself with this one. It’s a nice little painting. And sometimes, to make a nice little painting is just enough to set the day right.
It’s no secret that I love animals. I’ve always had many pets and drawing them has been a way of understanding them better. Studying how they are built and how they move helps me to see them more clearly. This ideally and eventually leads to better drawings. I’ve always had a somewhat romantic notion of what it would be like to have a small farm with a few sheep, some chickens, maybe some ducks and a pony…. but I am enough of a realist still to know that this not in the cards for me, at least not right now in my life. That doesn’t stop me from admiring farmers and their farms, reading books about far flung farms both current and in the past and finding farmy animals to doodle when I have the chance.
Last summer during our regular trek to Maine, we discovered a little farm stand in the Lakes region we go to belonging to Winterberry Farm. This farm, and it’s farm stand is run by a woman named Mary Perry and her 3 kids. It’s tremendously beautiful and lovingly cared for. We went there almost everyday to get our greens for the day, to buy a pie and to stock up on jams and honey to bring back to Ohio when it was time to leave. Winterberry was simply enchanting and it’s recently been in the news up in Maine for Mary’s work in preserving her farm as farm land forever. You can read about that process here. I am looking forward to going back to Winterberry to spend more time and do more drawings this summer…
In lieu of a true ‘farm’ to call my own, I’m instead focusing on the patch of green we are fortunate to have here and learning about how to best care for it. This week In The Garden, I’m trying to figure out what to grow in my little plot up at the community garden. What makes a perfect veggie garden? What are the best things to grow in order to eat them all winter long. I’ve never preserved food in any tangible way beyond freezing it and this shall be the year to learn. I have a few blogs that I read as beacon’s on my gardening journey. My favorite is 6512 and Growing. Rachel’s sense of humor combined with her knowledge of all things earthy make growing a garden and enjoying what you grow seem totally doable. What are your veggie garden favorites?
While the sunshine warms the plots up the road at Amberley Green, things here in our little gully get shadier and shadier. It’s a juicy time of year when you can just about drink the air. That’s not likely to change again til maybe September. Ya gotta love some Ohio River Valley humidity. A dear friend originally from Ohio but now living in Denver came back for a visit recently and remarked that she’s like a raisin who plumps back into a grape when she’s back in Ohio. The moisture here is really wonderful…. until it’s in the 90’s…..
I have a few new gifts in the garden thanks to a friend of mine who’s garden is well tended and bursting with extras. Some Solomon’s Seal. And a couple of Jack-In-The-Pulpits to hide in and among the crazy big ferns.
This week I attended a composting presentation held at a local park. We got a new compost bucket for the kitchen and a sweet magnet for the car. I didn’t learn anything that I didn’t already know, but was inspired to ramp up compost production a little bit by perhaps making a second pile and turning it a little more often. With the new veggies to feed, I will be needing it!
We have tons of critters that share our green space. There is the endless parade of deer who like to eat anything we plant which I find really annoying. But then there are these little wild rabbits who are very brave and seem to really like the dandelion stalks. This I like. Chomp away little bunny friends!!
Some of these little guys come close enough to the house for me to get a peek for a minute to make some sketches…. until they spot me and take off running.
Thank goodness for cameras to capture source photos….. I’ll leave you with a little drawing….