"Rainy Days and Mondays" (a diptych) - mixed media on yupo, each 8" x 8". Inquiries. Available at the Olive Stack Gallery.
When I grow up, I might want to be a farmer.
Farmers have cows, dogs, automatic feeding stations, TRACTORS (ooooooooh what fun!) and stacks of wood to be reclaimed by roaming artists. They also have the most gorgeous views AND they are allowed to tromp through the mud.
Nothing is wasted. Thank goodness. Because the scrap heap was a joy for a prior artist who needed metal to weld, and the lumber pile was another Christmas morning for me! I am giddy with press (cabinet) doors and odd pieces of hardwood piled in the studio waiting to be painted.
I asked Bridget how much one of these calves weighed...take the Red Friesian (a highly desirable breed) on the right in the photos. Bridget is not a fan of the technical details, so answered me (tongue in cheek) with "4 pounds" The head farmer in charge cleared that up later (more like hundreds of pounds) but we had a great chuckle and "4 pounds" is now my answer for everything, including how many acres of land are on this incredible farm and how many layers of wool socks are needed for a farm hike.
There was coffee at the end, along with biscuits (cookies) and treats, including a Penguin candy which is my new favorite (move over, wine gums! I love these Penguins, too!) and the warm joy of a turf fire in the heating stove. We simply must visit a bog together this trip, dear reader!
Top it all off with a lift on a tractor, a hike up the paddock road and the opportunity to twirl in a field, and there you have the ingredients for a halcyon day. Sigh. Ireland - it's what dreams are made of.
The gallery was busy with customers picking up copies of the coloring book and asking for autographs. Now most of them said these were for their grandchildren, but I suspect more than one will be unable to resist sitting down to color a few pages themselves. Santa would approve.
Before settling in for the evening, I couldn't resist a frozen stroll about the streets, gazing into beautiful shop windows.
"Abstracted Feale" (a triptych) - mixed media on yupo, each 8" x 8". Inquiries.
Day three and I was up early and off on the first of many whirlwind adventures across the beautiful country of Ireland. Neither wind nor rain nor spilled Irish coffee shall deter me from touring!
Twelve hours of zipping along from one adventure to another. I am still catching my breath, but let's get started, shall we?
To my great delight, one of the first stops was my most favorite place, the Kerry Bog Village. Owner John was as welcoming and wonderful as ever, with warm Irish coffee and cake in my hands before I could blink. My favorite donkey, Bubbles, was out to pasture with the horses, but I met a new love, Dolly the pony. Also a new Irish Wolfhound pup who was all playfulness and kisses. We toured the newest edition to the village, an authentic shebeen (an illicit bar during the famine) which was moved from its original home and reassembled piece by piece at the bog village.
We pulled over along the highway to scramble up a slope to see old train tunnels in the mountainside. Then views of the Dingle Peninsula when we faced the other direction. The slick slope became a slip and slide, which was not in our original planning. Fortunately, Damian's touring vehicle is like a magic handbag and contains everything a person could need. More wine gums, anyone?
Down the winding roads in the rain we sped. The rain stopped just in time to climb this 2,000 year old fort, where the wind nearly shoved us over the edge! It was worth every heart-racing minute to catch the views from the top. Read more about Cahergall Stone Fort here.
Fast forward to the 1800's and the only cathedral not named for a saint. It was gorgeous. To understand why Daniel O'Connell is so revered by his countrymen, click here.
There was a lovely lunch in here somewhere. Next to a warm fire. Perfection.
Then we sped off for an experience that only happens in Ireland. For John at the Kerry Bog Village had mentioned a sculptor we should visit. We didn't know the man's address or even remember his name, but Damian Stack managed to find the man's house many towns away and we stopped in like we had an invitation. Which we did not. Alan Hall saw us pull into his driveway, came out of his studio, told us to go on into his house and wait for him. Where he promptly gave us a tour, served us coffee, regaled us with stories of art and international politics, posted for photos, showed us his own brilliant headstone (which he pre-carved for himself), gave Damian a piece of art he'd admired and sent us on our way 90 minutes later. Now if strangers showed up at my house wanting coffee and a tour, I'd be dialing 911! But Alan was the most congenial of hosts, and I was once again mesmerized by the kindness and community of the Irish.
Chasing the sun down winding roads toward the sea to catch the sunset over the water...I wish you could stand here with me, in this brilliant moment - swifts rushing homeward, sun falling behind wild mountains, wind and rain lashing our faces, a feeling of hush and awe and gratitude pricking my eyes with tears. This place, these people. There aren't words.
Today was just a tiny glimpse into the months of preparation, collaboration and coordination required for a small town to pull off a mammoth undertaking like this month-long holiday event. There is so much love in the people behind this. It is the best kind of art.
As you follow along on this Irish adventure and find yourself smitten with Listowel, you might be wondering feverishly how on earth you'll stay connected here once December ends...have no fear! Follow the local happenings (including recent pics of all the fabulous holiday windows) by subscribing to the Listowel Connection.
Day one was a flurry of activity (between breakfasts) as Olive worked on the gallery's holiday window in preparation for the lighting ceremony this evening and holiday shoppers in December.
I did manage to unpack my art supplies and gesso some boards. I'm pretty sure my sleepy self couldn't paint anything worthwhile, so gesso was just about my speed.
The morning of day two I dashed outside to grab some sunrise photos. Holiday music is being broadcast throughout the streets this month. And wait, was that Bob Marley? Indeed.
There was a bit of light snow on the roads along the way. A dusting of Christmas, better than a red carpet welcome.
Waiting for me in the flat is a copy of Christmas in Listowel, a coloring book collaboration with illustrations by Olive Stack and story by yours truly. It is the first time I've seen it in print, and it is a beauty. An auspicious beginning, and a real honor to work on a project like this with Olive.
The shops in Listowel are all decked out with holiday decorations following the theme of the Lartigue Monorail and Listowel's North Pole Express (more on this later). A wonderland of coordination among the local businesses. I am already delighted. When it stops raining, I'll head out and get some photos. Um, oh yes, it doesn't stop raining here. I'll just grab my raincoat then, shall I?
My bags are unpacked and the water is boiling for tea. But first, a pause to put my feet up and enjoy window theater, the best seat in the house with views of shopfronts and of the hustle and bustle of Listowel. The lights are just coming on, shop owners are unlocking the doors. Day one is unfolding.
Gelli plate prints, acrylic on dish wrap paper.
There is a push and pull to packing for a long journey. In my head, it is not dissimilar to the pushing and pulling of creating a well-composed painting. We strive for a balance between too much and not enough. And yet, where I feel most alive is when I risk taking too little, trusting the universe to provide exactly what I need, knowing deep in my psyche that I cannot possibly anticipate everything.
I am taking less on this trip to Ireland. Less on my back in this backpack, less in my suitcase. Less in my head. The benefits of having traveled here before are many, but this one, the knowing a little better what to expect, allows my thoughts to freely wander elsewhere and to enjoy the journey more.
This time I shipped ahead (from Jacksons, an art supply store in the U.K.) a plethora of art supplies. But again, I didn't over plan. There will be things I am missing, but it will push me to create with what is there, to be present, to push boundaries. Because what is the point in traveling so far just to recreate what I already have at home?
The universe conspires with me this day, as I finished the last pages of Mark Nepo's Seven Thousand Ways to Listen just in time to leave. And how perfect, this part: "So being here involves more than just reacting to the things that come at us. It requires that we initiate a love affair with all that calls to us, seen and unseen; that we run with open arms into questions and moments of living as urgently as we do burning buildings to retrieve who and what we love." I run with open arms into this journey. Surely it is no secret that I am wildly in love with Ireland.
There are nearly five weeks stretching before me. It feels bountiful. A feast of time and exploration. But this I know: I will wring every second out of every day, because time is a fickle wench who races by and laughs at me when I turn and see that she is gone. Right now, this moment, as I board for the final leg which will land me in a misty, verdant landscape at 6 am, I will enjoy the thought of days and weeks of adventure and delight and the magic which only Ireland, only Listowel and its inhabitants, can bring. Sláinte!
"Give Voice to the Fire" - mixed media on aquabord, 16" x 20". Ready to frame, or can be leaned against a wall upon a shelf. Available on Artfinder.
Exhaustion. The result of too many late nights and early mornings. Which are the result of a hoard of twenty-somethings camping at the house. It's been a long time since I was twenty, and the hours they keep are brutal. I am looking forward to an appropriately geriatric bedtime this evening.
This is the last blog post before I head to Ireland for a month long residency at the Olive Stack Gallery. I'll be using the next ten days to pack, repack, explain to Pongo where I'm going to be, and then maybe have some turkey before I go. Once in Ireland, I will resume painting and blogging, including some posts on the gallery blog. If you followed along with me on my last trip to Listowel (August 2016), then you will surely recognize the cast of characters! If not, you are in for a real treat. There is nothing quite like Listowel - it is a magical place indeed.
Until then, happy turkeyness to you, dear reader! Wishing you a full belly and the joy of family. I am off to drag my large suitcase out of the attic. :)
"Wind-Rider" - mixed media on aquabord, 16" x 20". Ready to frame, or can be leaned against the wall upon a shelf. Available on Artfinder.
People come and go so quickly here... (Thanks, Dorothy!) This week I had an amazing house guest, whose wisdom and experience with everything "woo woo" had me astounded and pondering. I am so grateful for the time, however brief. She also is an exceptional role model for how to age with a sense of adventure and excitement. She runs circles around me mentally and with her activities. I want to be more like her!
On our last morning together, as we sat around the kitchen table sharing our life stories, a huge flock of vultures descended upon the bank of the lake behind us. At least a dozen on the ground and another bunch perched in a tree. Ominous, large, silent. I've written before about these fascinating birds and their totem meanings, and today's vulture visit seemed directed toward me personally.
These wind-riders are masters at energy conservation - soaring on warm air thermals without beating their wings. One of their messages is personal energy management. I've been spending a whole lot of personal energy this month as I race toward my departure date for Ireland. These big beauties are telling me to conserve a little, look for easier ways, rest a bit and harness the energy of the wind and sun (sounds like a prescription for a little beach time, perhaps?)
Vultures also mean purification and new beginnings...moving on from people and things which weigh you down or do not bring you happiness. I've been contemplating a slight adjustment of course in recent days. Fine tuning some goals for next year and pondering better balance and bliss. There is nothing quite like a flock of these beasties as a resounding validation of new directions. It comes with a caution though - to think things through and to remain silent while contemplating. These birds are among the most patient of all creatures. My patience pocket is generally filled with lint. So I must cultivate my inner vulture in the coming weeks. If you see me sitting on the rooftop, peering down ominously at passersby, it is just part of my new patience meditation practice. :)
If you want to learn more about the majestic vulture, enjoy this "Creature Feature" from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
"Willa" - mixed media on aquabord, 18" x 24". Ready to frame, or can be leaned against a wall upon a shelf. Available on Artfinder.
Howling. A versatile communication tool. It is what we are called to do when circumstances drop boulders on our heads, wrench our broken hearts from our chests and drop our precious love to the hard ground. It is also what we do when we are triumphant, crushing our opponents (perhaps in a game of backgammon which has gone all road warrior) or beating circumstances when the odds were stacked against us. These are the lone howls - solitary voices expressing pain, rage, triumph or blessed survival.
There are also group howls. Now perhaps you think I've gone off the deep end this morning, but we've taken to group howling at our house. At first, it was to encourage our very quiet dog to feel free to express himself. And, with a bit of help from his housemates, he will now do this. But after a time, I came to discover how alive I felt when our voices rose together, vibrating loudly in a primitive chorus, Pongo's head raised high to the ceiling, lips pursed in his best wolf imitation. The chorus of voices together feels like drum beats, thrumming, wobbling strands of sound. My entire being zings when we howl together.
We don't actually need a reason to howl. Sometimes we randomly howl in the middle of the afternoon while looking for a snack. It changes the very vibration of the house and its inhabitants. Like sound smudging. It is also quite impossible to not be present when howling. It chases all the worries away.
Funny, I've never seen group howling listed as one of the benefits of dog ownership. Perhaps it is time to revise the brochures?
In case you are new to howling, here are a few beginning howlers to help you get started:
Jen Walls and her imaJENation