“So the days slipped away, as each morning dawned bright and fair, and each evening followed cool and clear. But autumn was waning fast; slowly the golden light faded to pale silver, and the lingering leaves fell from the naked trees.” —J.R.R. Tolkien
A week’s time into the hiatus from the more time consuming of social media platforms. It is surprising to me how little I miss them. The season of gratitude and a shared meal around the home table is past and we are thrust into the highlight of the capitalist calendar.
We walk in the woods. We play music and sketch.
We maintain gratitude for the littlest of things.
We tend to them with care and full presence.
Still we grieve. Also with care and full presence.
Most of all, we rest.
As promised to myself, I practice the art of slowing down, of diving into deep time. Knitting, reading, drinking tea. A gentle but firm pressure on the reset button. It is good.
“The times are urgent. Let us slow down.” ~Bayo Akomalofe
There is still *busy-ness*, as there is in life. Appointments to be kept, jobs and presentations to attend to. But it is all a bit less noisy and for that I am deeply grateful.
Here are a few of the delightful things occupying my mind, eyes, ears and heart of late….
And this one:
I look forward to a catalyst for dreaming due out in the coming months by Jackie Morris. Even the updates on the process of its creation are delicious. Consider supporting The Unwinding. (click the link, there is a beautiful video.)
A friend of my daughter’s turned her ears to a podcast….
I’ll admit to a bit of back and forth between the lovely depth and gentility of this wonderful consideration a favorite series of mine, and the live news coverage of impeachment hearings going on in my own country. Somehow, the magical world of Harry Potter seems to make more sense than the one here in the not-so-United States, especially when viewed through a blind republican lens.
Via email, I receive updates from another podcaster, Jocelyn K. Glei. Her show Hurry Slowly began as a mindful methodology toward higher productivity, but has become a meditation on transformation of spirit, so sorely needed in the world right now. In her newsletters, she collects and shares lovely links which create a rabbit warren of inspiration. Much like I do here.
Since logging off of social media, I’ll admit that the sensation of “writing for the proverbial no one” is a bit more pronounced. But I have no fear of missing out as it were. Instead, I am wondering how I might be able to do these longer breaks more often. I am glad of the gift of time.
Have you opted for some time off on the social media channels? How do you balance your online time? Are there blogs or newsletters to which you subscribe which bring you joy outside of the soundbyte realm? I’d love to know.
PS, for Mary Oliver….. coffee and rainy days indeed!! <3
I am between traveling. Home from a brief visit to Aspen, Colorado, where our son Jack is part of the Aspen Music Festival, living his musical dreams to the fullest. It is truly something to witness, one following their truest path. He is at home in music.
While he worked and practiced and performed, we took in the natural splendor of Aspen and surrounds, grateful to Jack’s wonderful hosts who took us in and treated us like family.
It occurred to me while sitting at the base of the Maroon Bells that the best people in our lives, many of the most important connections moving us ever forward and truer in our own lives, have come from a few simple things – art, music, and the pursuit of what makes our souls sing most heartily.
I think about the time years ago, sitting at the base of those same iconic mountains, when I made the decision to pursue a proper art degree upon returning home from a metalworking class I’d taken at Anderson Ranch in Snowmass near Aspen. What is it about the clear mountain air and the presence of a stately, ancient mountain which affords us such lofty notions? I do not know. But I’m beginning to pick up on the fact that if I have something to think about, I should find myself at the foot of Taos Mountain, Volcan de Agua, or perhaps those lovely iron-laden Maroon Bells to find my answers.
Aspen felt like a proper vacation after the rich and deep work done in New Mexico. While the Hub and I did sketch quite a lot in some gorgeous locations, there were often times I personally just sat and took it all in. Jackie Morris of The Lost Words fame recently stated on an episode of Folk On Footthat one of the most difficult things for her to learn as an artist was that the sitting and thinking and looking and thinking some more, are as important to her job of Artist as the pencil and paint to paper practicalities of her craft – perhaps even more so. Having not come from a background and family of practicing artists, she’s found this notion difficult in past, and has only recently begun to truly take it on board. I feel much the same.
That said, the watercolors and pencils do beckon in beautiful places, and I did make a few drawings.
Aspen is steeped in the arts, with ties to the taste and aesthetic of the Bauhaus tradition in its design and of course in the music festival itself held there each summer. Everything is better with the arts involved.
Today, just now, I write to you here fairly giddy with relief, gratitude and a sense of overwhelming possibility. I have *finally* (after literally years of frustration and hemming and hawing) upgraded my tech tools here in the studio.
I’ve invested in a more travel worthy laptop machine for writing and photo-manipulation on the road, and even opted for a large home-base monitor when I am at my desk in the studio. Sometime today (*hopefully*) a little scanner will arrive and I’ll get that set up as well. All of this is in keeping with the plan to get more work made and into the world. Let’s be fair, I work. I work a lot. In some ways I am never NOT working. But so much of my energy was going into technical glitches and the waiting and slowness of manipulating photos on outdated technology. If I was to engage in a blog post, I needed a solid day to get it made. And so, I found myself putting off writing. I have so much work to share, but with an old scanner, my work never translated well to digital, and so it took a lot to get it tech-ready for sharing online or presenting for publication or applying for grants and residencies. With some encouragement from Vanessa at NessyPress and moral support from the Hub, I took the plunge and threw the necessary gold coins into the abyss to get the tools I needed.
It took some doing, and a few trips to the computer store and calls to the tech folks at apple, but we managed to get it sorted. And here I am, knocking out an update here in a more prompt and succinct manner. This feels sustainable. It was time for this investment.
But tech tools aren’t the only important thing, of course, merely being the vehicles by which the work is dispersed in this world. I also took a bit of time to make a traveling oil paint set up.
Watercolor is generally my go to travel companion. I have the set up I love, a little traveling “van” in which to cart it all, and it really works. Even so, I pine for the oils when I find myself in beautiful places. Our family trip to Maine, coming up later this summer, is a perfect combination of loads to do combined with plenty of “down time” to just play. That play might be on the water, catching up on books we’ve been meaning to read, or perhaps trying new recipes with one’s best friend in tiny kitchen at camp. But there is always more time, and that is when I start feeling restless, wishing I’d brought some oil paints to play with.
So I put together a handmade pochade box of sorts, crafted from an old wooden cigar box, plus a little carrier for any wet panels I may want to bring home.
The pochade box is pretty sturdy, and the wet panel carrier will do until I decide if this is something I may do again and again. All in all I spent about $20. A worthwhile investment on vacation satisfaction I do believe.
Upon returning from Aspen, I felt overwhelmed with home chores and the work needing caught up on at the shop and in my own studio. And so for the first day or so, I just painted and played music.
This practice set my head on straight and I was then able to sink into the tasks at hand. I am deeply grateful for all of it. I often think that in this day and age, it is difficult to remember to take a few minutes to breathe. To play a tune, paint a picture. There are Big Things we must tackle (did you hear Amy McGrath is taking on Mitch McConnell??), situations we must face, as heartbreaking as they are (there has to be a better, kinder, more humane way forward at the border, don’t you think?). Life is complex, and tormented at times, but it is also beautiful and simple in many ways as well. It always has been.
Next week I am off once again for my own musical adventure at the Swannanoa Gathering in North Carolina. On the one hand, this week is truly a get-away-from-it-all Brigadoon of sorts where we forget the world outside, focus on learning tunes and improving our craft and catch up with dear friends who have become musical family over the years. But on the other hand, it is so much more.
This week at music camp, and for that matter, my week of teaching in Taos each year, are a form of deep magic. Magic which in some way counteracts all of the darkness we see through our screens in this modern age. The very human physicality of coming together to play tunes, sing songs, laugh and cry together over the year’s happenings, somehow counteracts the “badness” in the news. It’s not a cure all to be sure. But it is the way many of us take respite from it all, if only for a moment, in order to get back out into the world and do the work.
Artists confront the difficult in this world. Just look online at the work of artists during WW1 who were interpreting the previously unimaginable through their paintings. I personally have taken to avoiding the echo chambers of social media for my own outrage over the state of things nowadays. But I have my ear to the ground. I support candidates who are doing good things in the world. I take to the streets as needed. I volunteer with and support the vulnerable. But I also seek joy. And beauty amidst the outrage. For if I, or any of my artist friends begin to lose perspective (and isn’t it so easy to do?) then we amount to nothing.
It is my hope to be a source of light in the darkness in this modern age. A reminder there is a place by the hearth-fire for anyone who needs a break between difficulties. We cannot do it all, let alone singlehandedly. Art and Joy, Music and Friendship, Beauty and Solitude are worthy pursuits, even in this fast paced, crowded, often seemingly ugly world. Let us make art and music.
Perhaps you know of Ginger Small, the little hamster character I have been working to pin down for a good while now. She is very, very shy, being a small creature in a big world. I have worked with a variety of incarnations of her wee physical self as a way of pursuing a sense of character for her, so that she might share her story with me in word-form, as she has been rather reluctant to do so. And I so very much would like to see little miss Ginger’s adventures become a picture book for children of all ages one day.
About a year and a half or so ago, I created a little felted version Ginger and played with her a bit in the studio. Her facebook friends seemed to really love this little three-dimensional Ginger and sent cards and gifts her way.
But all the while, this rather quiet, awkward and somewhat adolescent version of Ginger didn’t seem to match the confident, fashion-savvy cheek of a hamster that can be found in the drawings I make of her….
This little Ginger was far more quiet and bookish and chose to mostly stay at home nestled in the embroidery basket practicing the art of divination with tiny Tarot cards. It is not lost on me that this side of Ginger is really the tender side of myself…
And so, as we must never push a shy creature too very far out of her comfort zone, I crafted a couple of rounds of paper doll versions of Ginger for the Halloween and Christmas holidays that year. Her friends were thrilled!!
This version of Ginger didn’t feel so shy with masks to hide behind.
Felted Ginger, being a bit of an introvert, continued to make friends one by one, choosing a more intimate exchange of thoughts and ideas.
This went on for a good while. Whenever I had the chance, and an idea came to me, I would catalog Ginger’s adventures in illustrative format. I love doing this best of all. I know I have shared some of these adventures with you over time….
Then, just the other day, I was catching up on the blog writing and workly adventures of one of my favorite writer/illustrators, Jackie Morris. Jackie’s work is such as I hold to be True North in what I like to find in books-with-pictures. My kids have grown up with her imagery captivating their imaginations, as well as my own. She has written and illustrated many gorgeous books and you can see them all here: http://www.solvawoollenmill.co.uk/jackie-morris-books. Her latest book, Something About a Bear, is due out quite soon and I for one can’t wait to get my very own copy. I may even treat myself to an actual signed copy from the site above, all the way from Wales!
While perusing Jackie’s lovely blog, I came across a sweet video of her reading her new book aloud to a small bear critter named Mary, who was, I came to find out, born in the pages of this book. Jackie’s friends at Celestine and the Hare made a felted version of the little spectacled bear in Jackie’s book and I dare say this little felted version of the bear has taken on quite a personality!! I love reading about her and hope she finds herself in the pages of a book all her very own at some point. She is a delightful little bear and you can see her often these days in the recent posts by Jackie on her blog.
Sweet Mary, her friend a Snow Leopard and their collective adventures had me glancing across the studio to my own little felted critter, wondering if maybe, with a little more hand work from me, the felting needles and some extra wool, 3dGinger might decide to venture out into the world a little more for her own adventures.
And so I took her off the shelf and got back to working on her….
I felted some more brightly colored wool onto her which plumped her up a bit. After all, one of the nicest things about hamsters is their plumpness! I updated her ears and added a proper tail – the tail being one way to tell a hamster creature versus say, a mouse, or a gerbil.
Soon, a more grown-up, less awkward Ginger emerged….
And while felting as an art form is not something I’d say I’m destined to do as my Life’s Work, I would say this updated version of herself has turned out rather sweetly.
She still is the sort that likes to hang out amidst cups of tea, paints and quietude….
But she has also found there is much she likes to do. Like going to the aquarium.
Enjoying a climb in the garden.
Or sitting by the brook where flowers lean in for a drink. Don’t fall in, Ginger!!!
Ginger, like my own self, very much likes to spend time amongst the faery folk. She visits them at their hut where she drinks honeysuckle tea and discusses lofty and otherworldly ideas.
I have heard tell that the faeries enjoy her company as much as she loves theirs.
Like all of us small creatures, Ginger occasionally ponders Beings larger in scope and more powerful than her little self.
One day, she would very much like to go to Ireland. But for now, she is content with nestling into shamrocks available to her closer to home and listening to the Irish music that so often graces this place in which she resides.
This upcoming winter, Ginger and I are going back to Taos, New Mexico. Most times when I go to Taos, Ginger is off finding her own adventures as I don’t have much time amidst teaching a workshop. But she does manage to rest and have a little fun on her own.
On this next trip, however, I will not be tied up in teaching. I have been given the great gift of time and space as a Writer-In-Residence at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House for a couple of weeks in January. This will require a little financial finagling with time off work at my Day Job and the coverage of some travel costs. But Ginger and I will figure it out together. I have a few ideas on how to make it all work and Mabel’s has graciously given me a place to stay, a small stipend and a solid meal each day I am there. I am truly honored and humbled to have received this gift.
I’m so excited that I stumbled across Jackie’s little bear Mary, who in turn inspired me to revisit the three-dimensional version of Ginger whom I have now nicknamed 3dG. Thank you Jackie and Mary! It’s such a miracle to be able to check in on the week to week processes of artists via the internet and to have the opportunity to build a character here myself, as well as share my day to day, week to week, month to month…. (year to year!) processes here too on this little blog-place. I am thankful to all of the artists and writers out there who have kept their blogs as I have over the years. They (we!) are a gift to the world at large I believe.
When visiting my son at his new grown up apartment at school yesterday evening, my newly invigorated and courageous Ginger climbed up onto a globe in the shape of the whole world. She told me she rather feels “on top of the world” since getting through this most recent patch of growing pains. We shall see where her adventures take us.