Friday, February 18, 2011

I smell like a Gypsy.....

....and its great, every little bit of me is smoked with wood fire.
I have not been camping on this drizzling, cold and windy day. But I have kept remarkably warm inside and out.
It was pizza day in Madeleine's kindergarten. Each Friday a parent volunteers to keep the fire going in the outdoor pizza oven whilst the wee ones go for their time in the woods. Today twas me.
Madeleine has been so excited. I have done it once before and each week she has asked me to do it again. Last sunday she hung a piece of paper over her bed, and every morning she had drawn a little green cross on it to count down the days to today. Her excitement has been a joy to share and a realization on my part on how important it is for her, and me, that I come to spend time there. It too, is a wonderful opportunity to share in the kindergarten and get a little birds eye view( or a little robin's eye view to be exact) of the unfolding of a morning in Madeleine's life there. I come away always wanting to be there more.

The oven is built cob style and sits in the baking house, an open wooden structure that has stood its test of winds and rains and held strong. On one side its filled with wood for burning, picked from forest paths or cut by and brought by children, staff and parents. On the walls, pieces of wood that have twisted and turned naturally in a way that is beautiful and been collected and brought by one or another over the years. Then there are benches set out for little ones and whoever comes to share the meal.
Its a kind building with ever open arms come wind, rain or shine and a warm hearth never cold for long.

When I arrived this morning, there was a silver pot in the the oven. When we pulled it out we found fleece was in it being dyed in Lichen and having sat in the warm embers of yesterday's fire. It had done its work and dyed to a yellow tone. One of the kindergarten assistants is a fiber artist, who makes natural dye. One particular day, she showed me a basket of her wooly treasures. What a richness of color, all wools dyed with plants from the woods, often collected with the children. It was a treasure basket indeed, and made me want to use nothing but natural pigment in my own work somehow. ( a thought not lost, and a goal for some point in the road)

I am so deeply contented to sit by any fire. This is a happy job for me. This one holds more than heat though, there is a little magic to be had there, and to witness too. Little children all between the ages of four and seven come and go from it like butterflies with helping hands or news to tell or little things to show that they have made in the wood. Great spirited expressions at each part of the lighting process and the choosing of the logs to burn next. And every now and then, another little warm hand slips into mine with a smile and a hello that would melt any heart.
Maddy was beside herself with excitement at my presence, and what seemed like utter satisfaction that she was to have me there all morning. Soon though she found her play and fluttered off with the rest of them.

Circle time comes then, where there is greetings and welcoming of the day by all the children and staff, lovely irish songs were sung, that jog my memory to my early school days, airs and old words of my mother tongue come floating back to me as I hum along.
All is quiet after circle. They have gone to the woods for their walk, another little adventure to be had.
This quiet time is when I hear the sparks, the crackle, the sounds of warmth and the smells of wood around me, in the wet from the rain and the sizzle in the fire. Quietude!
A little robin visits each pizza day, fat and wise with his choice of trees to build his nest. I have brought my crochet and worn my coat with big pockets, enough room for my ball of yarn to turn whilst I make my rounds and it pull through. I lean back with a big breath and work away.
I am making yet another hat, a pink one for Spring. I see Maddy's winter hat getting heavier and hotter in this weather, soon I think it will itch in the woods from sweat and heavy wool against her forehead. This one is in a lighter merino, its a beret shape, which seems more spring.

A little help with cleaning inside and then it rains gently and there is a change to the air and the sounds. I hear voices in the distance, they are on their way back. I think of the seven dwarves returning from the mines, but I am no snow white and these are butterflies are they not?,  newly popped from their silk cocoons. In all their colorful raincoats they return ready for pizza, with twig puppets and dragonflies made with sticks and fleece, rushes and lichen.
Madeleine all smiles and at my side ready for baking with her friends.

It all feels very peaceful. I would never have imagined before experiencing Waldorf education for young children, that being around so many little ones, could be so peaceful. But it is!  I know it comes with this immense reverence too. There is a constant sense that each child is considered and cared for and such an aura of natural respect for each other which is also being constantly nurtured by the staff. There is of course a great method to this and a great deal of understanding, experience and theory that creates this space where children get to be children, to play and be entirely themselves without pressure but for an expectation of goodness amongst themselves. And through their day they are all learning all they need to learn through imitation of each other, and the staff through song and rhyme, through play and climbing and walking, communicating and really being allowed to just be in a natural state of being.
I felt like I had just come from a retreat today of at least three days of silent meditation and a large slice of mindfulness. Here I was again with all these wise folks all present and bright, with more wisdom then all their years put together. Their ability to be present and happy with each simple thing. For a while at least, no rushing about, no car seats to strap into, no shopping or banking or Mommy making phone calls or planning something or other. Just a garden by the woods, sitting, eating pizza in the rain with a great band of friends, and being very glad about it.
That sounds like a Haiku: )

xx As always Thank you dear reader

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Gentle Rebel


I am struck with such an excitement I can hardly put my finger on, its an excitement like a firefly that darts here and there pulsing with brightness. I feel so creative it is almost too much.... but not.
The art seems to come at me from all angles and many perspectives, but what can I do about it? I only have so much time.
Again, my preoccupation with a sense of limitation with time.
Being a single parent or any parent for that matter, your primary job at hand is always smiling at you in the face ready for your love and a hand to hold, all else is secondary If I try to switch that natural selection around, it simply never works for me.

My smiler is tucked up in bed now and I am here a wondering. Which do I do, get cracking on some little crowns that have been ordered or draw to my heart's content. Ach.. its Valentine's day, I shall draw and let my drawings fall off the page with enthusiasm as they seem to will these days. My heart seems set on drawing right now, and the crowns( though I do love to make these and imagine the little and big heads that will grace them, shall wait till Wednesday when I will have a work day)

A few blogs ago, I had a little knock at some of my older paths in the way that I worked, thinking I was all about the traditional and the handwork I have been so enjoying. As I sit here all I can breath in, in this energetic air is Art in all its forms, billowing, blossoming, brandishing and beckoning, calling me in a great call for self expression. My drawings are begging me to go further and find form with them, I have no idea yet how to do that. But it seems I am so very happy with yarn and wool that somehow they will combine.

Its early days yet !

Early Spring,
Stream flows
towards my door



I have been perusing my two little books of Haiku again these days. I came about Haiku in the throws of utter grief about three years ago now. A friend lent me some books of the great Persian poet Rumi and also some zen poetry( thanks again Sinead), not so much haiku but they led me there. I found that my mind was only about capable of reading a few lines of anything, but at the same time I was crying out for inspiration. I found most of what I needed in Rumi's depth. His love and understanding of being human in all its wonderment. And in Haiku, to remind me of the indescribable magic and humor that I remembered once of the present moment, of trees and grasses moving, summer morning birdsong, sun light just one way or another, or a bright face passing me by, a tea that tasted just right and even simpler still, the words the sounds, the ups and the downs of day to day mixed with my own awareness of being here and the loss of those who seemed not to be.

When one is caught in the almost indescribable shock of loosing your loved one, its as if blinkers are on to the world in this way. In saying that, there is the profound and in fact inner fortitude, a connectedness to life and death, the most valuable experience of all. A closeness to death brings such pain and understanding simultaneously. I imagine the grieving 'process', has reached some kind of completeness when you stop carrying the pain and the acute sense of loss each moment of the day. When you start to play again in abandonment of the past but with respect to what has gone by, but more like an awareness of fragility and life's strength. Each and everything has a shadow, an opposite or maybe a partner. Life and death coexist. Balance is everything. And not hanging on to either end sets you free.

I have become particularly fond now, though in my limited experience, of Issa and Basho, both japanese haiku poets. Issa is from the mid 18th century and Basho the 17th. Both write with such apparent ease and graceful understanding of this coexistence, this balance of dark and light and the impermanent nature of both. I feel quite restored by there candid clarity and sometimes humor filled three liners. I go from the richness of the persian poets like Rumi and Hafiz and some early Christian poets, to the pure simple life and if the very nucleus of a moment of life could be recorded, Haiku.

Here are some favorites

3 haiku of Issa first

softly folded fawn
shivers, shaking off the butterfly
and sleeps again

Moon, plum blossoms
this, that,
and the day goes

"The Peony was as big as this"
says the little girl
opening her arms

Now great Basho

I like to wash the
the dust of this world
In droplets of dew

The moon:
I wondered around the pond
All night long

Butterflies flit....
that is all
in the field of sunlight

And here is one of my extra special favorites, that has been surprisingly comforting!!!

Since my house burned down
 I now own a better view
 of the moon rising

Thank you dear reader : )



Mandala is a sanskrit word meaning circle, and has been used by hinduism and buddhism as an artform and as a way of meditation practice for thousands of years. I have been working these paintings with this in mind, but also allowing the drawings to unfold themselves without too much of a framework. I have stuck to some basic rules, a circle for starters, and have attempted to be aware of what I am doing but not necessarily controlling it.  
Since last winter I have been looking at the drawn diagrams and microscopic images of cells in the body and other organic forms. I have been fascinated by the shapes and patterns therein and have used these as a map really for the way I am drawing now.

 detail: Winter Mandala
Winter Mandala

Detail: Winter Mandala

These maps are traversing each other now and new and exciting landscapes have simply grown. I am certainly not the first artist to do this kind of cellular observation. Miro is one, and many newer work that I have come across these last years. Science and art have come together more and more in harmony then one might imagine.
I am so enjoying it as a practice though in itself, looking so deeply than coming up to surface and allowing my hand to move in whatever way it will. It feels fitting and profound to be making Mandalas. The circular form for starters which seems to be at the core and this intense looking in. As my hand moves across the page it feels as if I am painting a kind of cosmos without a whole lot of effort, the way you dance when you just feel like it. 
I have spent much time both in art college and out of it, staring closely at things in analytical drawing and observational drawing. This seems a mighty move for me and somehow I access a part of myself that is exceptionally happy to spend hours making these shapes and watching what comes. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Cant I have it all please.....

....and a full heart? 

I wonder...........

 And what is all? everything and nothing maybe; )

I find myself fantasizing a bit these days as I work my crochet or draw in my circles, about work and play and homes and land and travel and more and more and more, till I remind myself again for the umpteeth time that having it all comes from somewhere bright inside me. Success surely must be measured by my happiness and the happiness of my daughter. Can I keep that as my measure of Peace then?
And that I think I want beyond that, it a mere reflection, of firstly my forgetfulness of the power of the present moment, and secondly a creative pursuit of the immensely broad imagination.
Instead of laying back into the ever open arms of desire unfulfilled, dreaming of things I want, places I want to be, people I want to see, extracting my very essence from the moment of being right now, I could be here now. I could take a chance that its unfolding beautifully and is good. And it is rich in doing so, rich with experience.
Full living seems to happen with a deeper sense of being in the now. Thats where all the energy is.
I think I am seeing what I am believing.

This nowness and new focus is becoming increasingly helpful with such things as crochet patterns and perhaps I could be ready to take on some flat pack furniture too, even after such terrible past defeats.

What always seemed a mystery to me, like how one sits through a pattern- rows of numbers and symbols to decipher and decode, now seems like an attractive pursuit. the old human preoccupation with order in the chaos I persume. A lot of joy too though, of gradual work that unfolds beautifully from your hands. The enormous satisfaction of completing something or even simply realizing you have learned something. To work through stitches and understand, to feel your hands turn over with yarn and hook, working in spirals and rows feels like I am doing what I should have always done. I Think of my fourth class teacher Mrs McKenna who taught me to crochet at nine years old, and how I took to it and couldn't put it down, and my grandmother who always had her hand to something, the tablecloths of my great grandmother who loved to crochet, knit and sew and read tea leaves with a black cat snuggled on her hip keeping her warm where arthiritis hurt her. Its all there, in here and out there, a cosmos, a web, a weave, an ancestry, a body of work and life. Some order in the chaos of what was. I will keep up my free form crochet but am harmonizing with good directions. I am also thinking to enjoy the mysterious in all its forms is a good plan.

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the Mysterious 
Albert Einstein

As I ponder being a full time Mom, an artist and crafter, a teacher maybe too, living in the smoky mountains of North Carolina or the foothills of the french Pyreenees, I wonder can I have it all, and decide to enjoy the wonder, now. And maybe having it all is loving what you have. Its quite beautiful here you know: ) and who knows what will come from now. xxx

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

First day of Spring

After a trip to galway, first day of Irish Spring with dear Madeleine. A bag of new yarns acquired and memories coming back to me as I crochet along these days.
Memories of first stitches and little hands finding my way, finding rhythm, even harmony in what seemed a discordant world. xx

I have not spun all my yarns?
Only winter's are done.
A web is always to be worked
A golden spider weaves in golden silk
I must remember that

Now, in me it seems
Living in me, in and out of my suitcases and baskets too, I have found her a home
That needs to be brought out to the dewy morn and the bright sun.
Wools, yarns and ribbons, some dust that settled.
There is me, at eight years old,
and fabric made from a hook and my hand.
A smile that is all my own.

I am returned like Spring
Or like fire that is set in an old place, to bring life back to the house.
Crackle and flame and dance
Tears fell on new material, made by my joy to work
and to spin
My words
My pencil moves from word to circle to color in ink, to hook and yarn.

Is there no stopping me?
Good, I am alive then.

I picked up my daughter from school
she roared at me for taking her from the swing
She roared her way into Spring.
Like the river with last nights rain, on its first day out.
Like Stravinsky's Rites, hard and deep she wailed till we both cried and let go of the banks
like rivers glad of some rocks to mould.
She moved and I too moved by her face soften.

Are we not already old from this?
How many times round?
No, you would think such hurt would age you
But cup your hands in the stream to wash away tears
wash your face in the cool, and you begin again
Webs form from the rocks to the hazel branches where jewel drops are between the lamb's tails
They reflect us all in the forest
worked round and round and in and out and round again
They show me
there is work to be done
A fire to make, bread to bake,
love to open every door with golden light beaming
To a room, where a child will learn to hook her yarn through another's hands again.
To make her own fabric.

Irish Spring!!!( and not the funny soap my american friends are always on about: )

Today is the beginning of Spring in Ireland, it is marked by Brigid's day. It was also called, in more ancient times, and still is, Imbolc. I walked to the woods this morning, to the sounds of Winter's small birds singing themselves into Spring. I imagined them from their bare branch views, pushing there downy chests out in full spirit of this dawning sun. What little survivors they are. Whilst I ooohed and awwwwed at the frosty trees sparkle and the  brilliant blue skies of the cold snap, they just about held on with all their tiny might. 

The sun even felt warm, it was a brilliant golden disk as I wandered to the opening. The first part I call the Cathedral, great tall oaks on either side that stand majestic and divine like. The stream called me in and with water brimming up to the edge of my wellies, I wandered up it. Brown river water, gushing with last nights rain, but singing too. The Little lamb's tails are hanging now from their branches of the hazel. They are my indicator. Since I was wee I have waited for them each year. Yes, Spring is here. 

Below is a poem I heard not long ago, I think it was on the radio about Christmas time. Its by Brendan Kennelly, a wonderful irish poet.
It fits in with my ever seemingly deepening theme of all things impermanent ( unintentional as it is, it seems all I can write about), it also is about right for a new start.

Love to you all dear readers. xx E

Begin Again

Begin again to the summoning birds
to the sight of light at the window,
begin to the roar of morning traffic
all along Pembroke Road.

Every beginning is a promise
born in light and dying in dark determination
and exaltation of springtime
flowering the way to work.
Begin to the pageant of queuing girls
the arrogant loneliness of swans in the canal
bridges linking the past and the future
old friends passing through with us still.

Begin to the loneliness that cannot end
since it perhaps is what makes us begin,
begin to wonder at unknown faces
at crying birds in the sudden rain
at branches stark in the willing sunlight
at seagulls foraging for bread
at couples sharing a sunny secret
alone together while making good.

Though we live in a world that dreams of ending
that always seems about to give in
something that will not acknowledge conclusion
insists that we forever begin.