story tarpThe Tarp, photo and all text © IreneO’Garden, 2014

To listen to this post, please click here:Caught and Released

I’ll explain this photo in a moment.

Before we set off on our rafting trip, my brother Jim gave me my first fly fishing lesson–in a parking lot, so as to narrow my focus.  A high point of the whole trip was the moment I physically understood the “ten and two” motion he described, whereupon I made two or three good casts. Both of us whooped with classic teacher-pupil joy: I caught it!

Jim said that we’d be fishing from the raft in places where the fish practically come up and shake your hand. But within the first ten minutes aboard, the Flathead River  practiced her own cast, hurling us toward a dead and deadly fallen pine. It hung low over the swirling water, its silver trunk spiked with broken branches. Given our velocity, there was nothing to do but duck as we mashed into it.

I got a honey of a scrape, but we made it through with eyes and limbs intact, only to notice when we finally dislodged ourselves that two of three fly rods had snapped in half.

As it happened, I never did get to fish —weather and other hazards intervened. I had to release the skill I’d caught for only a moment.

But such stories we netted on this trip! (More of them to come.) In the photo above, my sister Robin and nephew Don display a wonderful way to remember them. Don and his daughter Lauren invented The Story Tarp for their own camping trips. They wanted to make one for Jim, so they brought a blank tarp and a set of Sharpies and asked each of us to make a pictograph of an important incident every day. (In the upper left you can see Jim’s drawing of me learning to cast.)

Now I’m off again—this time to Canada for our beloved annual trip to the Shaw Festival where we feast on food, wine, friendship and great theatre–other people’s stories—a fascinating contrast to last week. But not as enduring, perhaps, as the stories etched in the iris of our own eyes, stories shot through fiber and marrow, bristled through fingertips, spreading over us like the massive quilt of stars. Stories swimming through us like fish–amazing to catch, a delight to release.

 

 

Safe and SoundSafe and Sound, photo © Robin O’Brien, all text © Irene O’Garden 2014

To listen to this post, please click here: Safe, Sound and Sobered

I’m back from Montana, safe and sound, but sobered both by the grandeur and the risk of the wilderness.

My younger brother Jim and his sons have trekked into the Montana backcountry for thirty years. My sister Robin and I decided to accompany them this year after the February death of our older brother John. The party was all family: three nephews, a grand nephew, grandniece and a nephew’s nephew by marriage. At 62, I was not only the eldest, but the least-experienced in the ways of the wilds.

Our trip was described as a day-long horseback ride into the Bob Marshall Wilderness, followed by a 5-day float on the South Fork of The Flathead River. I brought watercolors.

But Montanans speak a different language. The “float” was actually a rafting trip over Class 2 and 3 rapids, around spikey fallen trees, jutting logs, with portages over slippery rock “gardens.” The eleven-hour horseback ride was a piece of cake in comparison.

Many clichés sprung alive on this journey—“Between a rock and a hard place” is but one. Getting thrust off the raft was nothing compared to the panic of seeing loved ones topple into the swift chilly current. We all survived none the worse for wear, though my adrenals are exhausted.

I’ll eventually write more about this trip—either here or elsewhere. It was both the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and one of the most sublime. Experiencing the splendor of the most remote location in the Lower 48 was an exhilarating privilege, matched only by the beauty of human beings behaving at their best.

Had I known what lay ahead,  I never would have gone. But I’ll be forever grateful I did.

 

 

 

MorningShadow Morning, photo & all text © Irene O’Garden, 2014

 To listen to this post, please click here: Circadia 

 

I am procuring and organizing equipment for next Saturday’s departure to Montana where I will join several family members for a week’s journey in the wilderness. I will be out of all techno-range for the duration and wanted to let you know I won’t be posting next week. But I certainly look forward to sharing with you when I get back. Meanwhile, here’s a poem newly-hatched for you.

 

CIRCADIA

 

I wished for a day made of mornings:

its tissues of night dissolving,

world slipping over my head anew

in easy long-sleeved shadows:

 

a day repeatedly arrayed

in crisp unwrinkled promise.

As it grew limp, or sullied

or scorched, I pulled a fresh start

from the closet again and again—

pristine for each task, for each practice.

 

But seeing what I sacrificed

for the sake of enterprise:

the slanting satin afternoon,

the tulle of twilight, the silk-bodied moon-

I cast off my wish and dance,

wrapped in the aprons of time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EphemeralEphemeral, photo & all text © Irene O’Garden, 2014 

 

Am deep into my large writing project–hence I offer you the little koan above, which  recently appeared in my notebook.

 

If you’d like more this week, I’m happy to say The Cookie Crumbles, a short piece of mine, was published just yesterday in Midway Journal–you can read it here:

Also, poet/travel writer Kristin Maaffei has posted an interview with me today on her blogsite, Not Intent On Arriving. Read it here and explore her world as well–

As always, thanks for keeping me writing!

 

 

RootDanceRootDance, photo & all text © Irene O’Garden 2014

 To listen to this post, please click here:Root Truth

Look closely. You can actually see my guilt woven into this nest of roots. It’s been so long since I last repotted my houseplants that a botanical welfare agency was bound to track me down, charge me with neglect and cart them all away.  I did consider giving them to someone more attentive, yet see how this orange clivia offered a blossom of patience and forgiveness, even as she sat atop this perfect root replica of her pot.

So with relief and pleasure, I set to it yesterday.

One gift of physical labor is the embodiment of metaphor. My thoughts from this pot were obvious—dwell on your roots too long, you run in circles and take up all your growing space.

But as I worked with various roots— hairy, lumpy, milky, airy—truth came up my hands.

We associate roots with the stagnant past, but they constantly seek the new—new water, new nourishment, new exchanges.  They are the probing present, which sustains the past. And the future as well.

Every July we think about our family and our nation’s roots. It’s good to remember they need repotting occasionally as well. After all, root is a verb.

Publication News:

Am very proud to say that some of my wedding signs are included in the Style Section of the NY Times this week!
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/06/fashion/weddings/a-relationship-where-marriage-is-freedom.html?ref=fashion&_r=0#

 

 

 

Heavenly MarmaladeHeavenly Marmalade, photo and all text © Irene O’Garden 2014

To listen to this post, please click here: Fleet Perfection

At today’s end, I will have completed my calligraphic marathon.  Signpainting yielded to lettering on muslin for our annual Poetry Trail.  Visitors will arrive later to film a promo in my studio—more about this another time.

The following little experience happened during the intensity. I wrote it on the spot and mailed it to my sister Robin the next day. May you notice such a moment of perfection and drop a line to one who made it possible, thereby creating another moment of perfection.

11:08 pm. So,  I am finished with a stimulating, exhausting day in the studio, big deadline, good work accomplished, much learned, much to forgive and absolve in my work, and I can work no more. 

I grabbed a hummus wrap at 5 which fueled 5 hours of work, but now at 10:30 I’m hungry. John’s coming in on the midnight train, so it makes sense to eat. 

Hmm. Leftovers in the fridge don’t appeal. But I have that aged gouda, some crusty bread, some olives. A glass of red wine. A lovely, simple ancient meal. 

But wait! Yes, there’s some left. Enough for a handsome scoop in a little dish—and what perfection it is.

My sister’s wondrous rindy marmalade. Can you taste it with this flaking cheese? Bracing wide nuggets of bittersweet orange, superb with the olives. Food that revives. Oh, yes.

I had the privilege of talking with her on the phone as she made this batch. She said, “I have to go now,” after stirring as we talked. “The marmalade is singing.” 

It is singing still.

 

 

 

Thank youThank You for Coming, lettering, photo & all text © Irene O’Garden, 2014

To listen to this post, please click here:Gleefully Distressing

Enjoyed my immensely challenging project last week, designing and painting 18 signs for the stunning country wedding of our Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney and Randy Florke, his partner of 22 years.

After stylist Phillip Montanez showed me an old Presbyterian Church sign as inspiration, I was off and running: custom-designing letters, arranging layouts,  measuring, measuring, measuring–a process interesting and arduous as play rehearsal: learning the moves so you hit your mark when the time comes.

Getting to paint is like performing at last. How I loved making big letters!  Like cast sizes in the theatre, most lettering and art these days has to be so small.  Who has money and space for big canvases? Who can afford a big cast of actors? A narrow sorrow of our age is such miniaturization of artistic expression.

It was fun seeing words shape under my hands, watching how shading changed them. I never thought I’d be tickled painting a restroom sign, but creation holds constant surprises.  These were like letters from childhood, in more ways than one. 

 

 

Clean RestroomsRestrooms, lettering & photo © Irene O’Garden, 2014

 

Certainly there were frustrations—difficult surfaces, erratic spacing, my own infractions of perception, but flaws and all, I liked these humble, old-fashioned signs. They seemed alive and full of feeling. Yet one thing remained to carry out the vision. I would have to distress them.

It was scary and contrary to take sandpaper and rasp to the first of the sweet shiny letters. But the difference in feeling was remarkable.

 

Reserved for Family            Reserved for Family, lettering & photo © Irene O’Garden, 2014

Soon I was whacking away at them, knowing every crush and curl made them subtler, gentler voices that seemed to issue from our past. Reminders we need not fear a little distress after all.

 

 

 

 

Barn Lounge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beer Truck

 

 

Restrooms

 

 

 

 

My happiest moment came Saturday afternoon, as I went to drop off the last of the signs. Following computer navigation, I was about to turn onto their lane, when I was stopped by an Exit Only sign. Nice, I thought. Fits right in.

 

 

Exit OnlyExit Only, lettering and photo © Irene O’Garden, 2014

 

 

Only then did it strike me that I had made it.

Here’s hoping you’ll take on a project you’re not sure you can do, and end up gleefully surprising yourself!

 

Joy “Joy, According to Mary Cassatt” Photo & Calligraphy© Irene O’Garden 2014

 

This is a week of Big Callig– I was recently asked to create the piece above for the Garrison Art Center  to honor Tracy Strong , Gold Star Honoree at their 50th Birthday Gala and I was also commissioned on Saturday to design and hand-paint 18 wooden signs for a wedding this Saturday (!) So alas, all my words must be painted, not written this week.  But I am thinking of my dear readers, and hope you are feeling the love, the life and the joy!

 

Rose voiceRose Voice, photo and all text © Irene O’Garden, 2014

 

To listen to this post, please click here:June Apology

 

A poem newer than this bloom–7am today:

 

 

 

I wanted to write you,

yet am I lost

in the voices of roses.

 

I wanted my pen,

not the coaxing touch of peach,

the goatsbeard’s palomino mane,

the sticky resins of fertility.

 

I wanted to write you

of things more important than spring,

but my words are webbed in petals,

scattered over the fields

like daisy and bedstraw,

caught in the purpletipped clover.

 

I cannot gather or release them.

I cannot write or speak them.

I am lost in the voices of roses.

 

 

 

Dr. Maya Angelou

Dr. Maya Angelou, iPad art and all text © Irene O’Garden, 2014

To listen to this post, please click here:Spirit Uncaged

I just wanted to look at Dr. Maya Angelou’s face awhile, so I drew her.  Those shining eyes. That impish mouth. That joy.

Glance at the breadth and depth of her creative explorations and you know she was woman after my own heart–memoirist, actress, singer, dancer, essayist, activist, producer, professor, poet. And though she bore a lifetime of scars, she was Dignity personified–a walking reminder to continually pull yourself up by your own bare feet even if you have no bootstraps.

Some years ago, I was privileged to hear her speak. The sound of her voice was like caramel, if it, like chocolate, came in bittersweet: a rich pour that seemed to flow from a vast ancient amphora of ancestral wisdom, prompting love, tolerance, forgiveness.

And I acutely appreciate her reflections on aging. I’ll direct you to the first twenty seconds of the Master Class she did for Oprah, though of course the entire event is well worth watching.

It’s hard to believe this mighty presence no longer dwells among us. But her spirit will continue to do so. It was uncaged decades ago.

 

A bit of  news:  I have mentioned here how pleased I am to have a poem in  A Slant of Light: Contemporary Women Writers of the Hudson Valley. I was just notified that the book has now received five prizes–get a first edition while you can!

A Slant Of Light

 1st Prize: 2014 USA Book Awards for Anthology

The 2014 da Vinci Eye Award for book cover artwork: part of the Eric Hoffer Book Awards. (Amy Cheng is our cover artist.)

Finalist in the 2014 Beverly Hills International Book Awards for Anthology

Finalist in the 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards in the category: Women’s Issues

Finalist in the 2014 International Book Awards sponsored by The American Book Fest in the category: Chick Lit/Women’s Literature

 

 

 

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