a list for curing what ails you

Golden Sails by Elly MacKay

Golden Sails by Elly MacKay


1. a bus ride in a snow storm
2. hot water with fresh squeezed orange juice and honey
3. noodles. always noodles.
4. pocket size hand-bound books
5. neighbourhood farmers markets
6. pear and ginger jam spread on homemade bread topped with thin slices of goat gouda
7. waking up to scones
8. 2 year old dance parties
9. foot rubs
10. the way he wonders about everything
11. beautiful music in bakery forts
12. laughter
13. the company of friends who just let you be
14. sleeping in
15. drawing pictures
16. listening to this. on repeat.
17. spending hard earned money on things that people’s hands have worked hard to make.
18. a long walk on rainy streets in another town
19. chocolate + mint
20. getting back up again, even when it feels like the world keeps knocking you down.
21. losing yourself in a story
22. leaving.
23. returning.
24. the tenderness of sleep.

steppin’ out

i’ve been busy this last little while, lost in a flurry of art-making, trying to push myself a little more, stretch out of my comfort zone a little farther, commit to more goals and opportunities to show and share the things that i make.

this past weekend i was invited to be an artist in the Artisan Village at Shelter Valley Folk Festival. it was a good learning experience for me…a chance to meet and connect with a new community of people…another step in clarifying for myself why i do what i do and where i fit in this funny world…it was humbling and affirming and, well, pretty tiring too.

i decided this year to try to put myself and my art out there in the world a little bit more. if i am honest with myself, then i would admit that i have never really pushed myself artistically to see what i am truly made of. i have coasted on “good enough”. i have a lot of ideas i have never acted on. i have spent more creative energy supporting other peoples art-making than i have exploring my own. and i don’t want to keep living that way. i know that my best living, my best art, will happen when i am perched on that growing edge…when i am taking risks and stepping out…my richest creative work AND my bravest people work, will come when i am most alive in myself.
i know this.
so i am trying.

part of this process for me is going after opportunities to show what i do. there is a lot for me to learn about myself and my art that i believe i can only learn by letting it out into the world, facing the vulnerability that comes with that, learning to sit with those fears and insecurities, trusting affirmation and encouragement when it comes my way…

it scares the shit out of me sometimes.
but i’m trying to do it anyway.

so…all that said…

this Friday, September 7, is the launch of Gallery In The Truck ,a very cool week-long initiative as part of Artsweek here in Peterborough. Gallery In The Truck is a mobile gallery running out of the back of a U-Haul, that will be parked in different locations around the city over the course of next week. I am one of 10 artists who will have their work in the truck. Check out the website, or Facebook, to find more info on when and where the truck will be located.

then, on September 18th, there is the opening of the Inaugural Little Red Hen Exhibition at the brand new Gallery In The Attic, located in downtown Peterborough. this new gallery space promises to be home to many inspiring new ventures, and i’m excited to be a part of it (again, you can find out more info by checking out their website or looking it up on Facebook).

this is just a start, i know.
but a beginning is a beginning.
stay tuned for more shows and opportunities to come out and share in the art that i’ve been making. thanks for the cheerleaders that help me believe that my ideas are worth pursuing.

life is fleeting.
let’s live it well.

http://galleryinthetruck.wordpress.com/

http://littleredhengallery.wordpress.com/

photo courtesy of Gallery In The Attic

Crabbuckits and itchy bones

there’s always a million reasons to say no.

excuses are plentiful. strong arguments for why-not-to aren’t hard to come by. few will blame me if i just don’t bother.

it’s easier, you know…

but

what if i just said yes this time?

what if i dropped the excuses? focused energy on why i should, why i could, what good would come if i did? where would i be if i just stepped out and went for it?

life is short, you know…

……

it was tuesday night. i’d spent the day rolling dough and pouring coffee in the darling village bakery. i had a looming deadline of an art show fast approaching and nothing prepared. i had things i could be doing. you know – stuff. important stuff. practical stuff. stuff stuff.

there’s a tightness that comes with cold weather sinking in. and a weight to some of my days as of late. and, well, some tension/tiredness/ache from a rollercoaster year of living. yeah…there’s a pocketful of reasons for my body to be tired. and somedays i let that tiredness win. i pull out the excuses and my list of why not to, and i settle into the weariness and steep there.

tiredness and to do lists. you know?

but it was tuesday night. and life was feeling too short. and my shoulders were feeling like i’d been carrying it all around for too long. and i didn’t want to do lists. i didn’t even want tiredness. i just wanted to dance.

mhmm.

my bones were just itching to move. like they were fed up with being dragged around and wanted to let loose and stretch out and show me what they were made of. tired of being tired, i just wanted to feel really alive.

what if i just said yes this time?

yes to moving and laughing and stretching and relaxing and playing and forgetting and remembering and breathing…and living.

just say yes, girl.

so i did.

and on tuesday night, after a long day, i found myself on a dance floor with a dear friend, letting loose and letting go and finding my breath and feeling my heart (race, not break)…and i laughed and smiled and felt full of life…

there’s a million reasons to say no.

but life is short, you know…

the tuesday night dance soundtrack

k-os dancin' man

k-os dancin' man

we all have our things that keep us sane

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i take walks and dig in the garden and drink earl grey tea with a bit of milk. i read mary oliver or linford detweiler or listen to shane koyczan rant. i rearrange rooms and purge my house of things. i eat scones or ovaltine biscuits.  i wander through thrift stores. i write words. i sing along with patty griffin and dance to old al. i drive to my favorite beach. i find quiet places where i can catch my breath. i follow the sun with a picnic blanket under my arm. i sift through old things and try to find the stories. i use my hands to  make things. i hold close the people who help hold me feet to the ground.  i root through the chaos and try to find a glimpse of calm. sometimes i have to search really hard.

sometimes i have to search really hard.

i don’t give up.

when spring takes too long to come

i’m cramming the nooks and crannies of heart and head with things that remind me that rain is music on the roof; snow is a clean slate; wind brings change; and every season eventually, always, comes to an end.

1.

 Miss Mary Margaret

Miss Mary Margaret

the brilliance and beauty of Mary Margaret O\’Hara

2.

earl grey tea with a bit of milk

earl grey tea with a bit of milk

3.

the simple truths in the pages of The Camino Letters

pilgrimage.

pilgrimage.

4.

the comfort of blankets

the comfort of blankets

5.

good poetry

Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver

Cold now.

Close to the edge. Almost

unbearable. Clouds

bunch up and boil down

from the north of the white bear.

This tree-splitting morning

I dream of his fat tracks,

the lifesaving suet.

I think of summer with its luminous fruit,

blossoms rounding to berries, leaves,

handfuls of grain.

Maybe what cold is, is the time

we measure the love we have always had, secretly,

for our own bones, the hard knife-edged love

for the warm river of the I, beyond all else; maybe

that is what it means the beauty

of the blue shark cruising toward the tumbling seals.

In the season of snow,

in the immeasurable cold,

we grow cruel but honest; we keep

ourselves alive,

if we can, taking one after another

the necessary bodies of others, the many

crushed red flowers.


All You Need

The sun has come out. The sky is bright and brilliant blue. It’s February now. The days feel a bit longer. Spring seems a little closer.
I should buy myself some tulips today. Hope.

I have heard a lot of references these last few days to February being the month of love. I’m okay with that. Not because love is always easy or obtainable.
But because love is one of those things that is always worth pursuing, I suppose. A whole month devoted to finding reasons to love. Ways to love. Things/people/ideas to love.
And it seems ironically perfect to me that this month of love falls in the heart of the season that can so often feel like a struggle. Winter can wear down hard and make all sorts of things feel like work. Loving anyone, let alone myself, can feel like an impossible task.

But here we are. Here I am.
Loved. Loving. Breathing. Moving. Learning. Thanking. Blessing. Loving. Loved.

And the sun has come out. The sky is bright and brilliant blue. It’s February now. The days feel a little bit longer. Spring seems a little closer.
I should buy myself some tulips today. Hope

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winter offerings

sun setting on snow, day after christmas
sun setting on snow, day after christmas

I feel like it has been a long time since I’ve written an email like this. And maybe that’s true. For a handful of reasons, I chose to slow things down a bit here at Blackbird Studio this past fall. I am learning – often the hard way – that this work, this life, is a precarious dance. A fine balancing act between putting myself out there and nurturing myself in here. Learning when to stretch and when to rest; how much to give to others, how much to care for self. I know that I want to have the heart and the ambition to be able to create, both for myself and with others, for a long time still. But it is still a journey of learning what that means, what I need, in order to be able to do that well.

foggy first day on a lake of rice in a new year
foggy first day on a lake of rice in a new year

All that to say, this past fall was a season that moved at a bit of a quieter pace. Or maybe more accurately, a more introverted pace (which can be noisy and busy, just in a different way!). I spent a lot of hours getting lost, in the best way, in my own art making – something I haven’t carved enough space for in seasons past. And I was blessed with some great opportunities to create with people outside of the studio walls – through projects like Culture Days, Shelter Valley Folk Festival, and with my gracious friends at Hospice Peterborough.

elbow to elbow art making
elbow to elbow art making

And while the slower season was good and necessary, I am really ready and excited to have the warmth and creative energy of others come and share the studio with me again. And by others, I mean YOU!  I’ve put together some workshops for the next couple of months – you can find all the details by clicking on the Up and Coming link under the Workshops tab at the top of the page. We’ll be offering the always popular Painted Floorcloth workshop again, as well as trying out a new 6 week series called Be Where You Are. I hope you’ll find something in the mix that inspires and intrigues you. I am always open to new ideas and suggestions, so if there is something that you have been aching to learn or try – or if you’ve got a group of friends who would like to come and book a private studio workshop session – then please drop me a line.

art underfoot
art underfoot

If you would like more information, or want to sign-up for a workshop (or two!) contact me at info@blackbirdstudio.ca

One of the most rewarding parts of this work is when I hear from you. I love to hear your feedback and your stories. I am honored when you take an interest in this work; when you tell me that somehow, some part of it has connected with some part of you.

Thank you, as always, for coming along for the journey.

Be well.


come and be.
come and be.

wonder women

group felting piece

group felting piece

a week or so ago i was honored to spend a couple of hours with the wonder women. it’s been a while since we’ve gotten together to create, and it always feels good to be in their company.

this time i came to them, and carted along a big tub of wool roving and enough felting needles to start a small war. i had pre-cut circles out of shrunken sweaters – we used that as our base, and then with sweet creativity and great gusto, we played.

there were a few pricked fingers, a lot of big laughs, and – i’m pretty certain – a wonderful and delighted satisfaction by the end.

i just finished stitching the circles together today, and suspended the finished piece from a branch i picked up on my last visit to the magical beach.

i think it’s quite charming, really. collaborative art-making at its simplest and finest.

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IMG_2709

how did we get to today?

rae bike

with some grunting and stubborn resolve

i pulled my bike out of hibernation in the basement

this morning.

i rode into the wind,

found my way to the farmers market,

felt the creaks in my knees,

sailed really fast down a hill

and felt like a kid again.

thank you god for bicycles.

time lost and found

I sometimes teach classes on writing, during which I tell my students every single thing I know about the craft and habit. This takes approximately 45 minutes. I begin with my core belief—and the foundation of almost all wisdom traditions—that there is nothing you can buy, achieve, own, or rent that can fill up that hunger inside for a sense of fulfillment and wonder. But the good news is that creative expression, whether that means writing, dancing, bird-watching, or cooking, can give a person almost everything that he or she has been searching for: enlivenment, peace, meaning, and the incalculable wealth of time spent quietly in beauty.

Then I bring up the bad news: You have to make time to do this.

This means you have to grasp that your manic forms of connectivity—cell phone, email, text, Twitter—steal most chances of lasting connection or amazement. That multitasking can argue a wasted life. That a close friendship is worth more than material success.

Needless to say, this is very distressing for my writing students. They start to explain that they have two kids at home, or five, a stable of horses or a hive of bees, and 40-hour workweeks. Or, on the other hand, sometimes they are climbing the walls with boredom, own nearly nothing, and are looking for work full-time, which is why they can’t make time now to pursue their hearts’ desires. They often add that as soon as they retire, or their last child moves out, or they move to the country, or to the city, or sell the horses, they will. They are absolutely sincere, and they are delusional.

I often remember the story from India of a beggar who sat outside a temple, begging for just enough every day to keep body and soul alive, until the temple elders convinced him to move across the street and sit under a tree. Years of begging and bare subsistence followed until he died. The temple elders decided to bury him beneath his cherished tree, where, after shoveling away a couple of feet of earth, they found a stash of gold coins that he had unknowingly sat on, all those hand-to-mouth years.

You already have the gold coins beneath you, of presence, creativity, intimacy, time for wonder, and nature, and life. Oh, yeah, you say? And where would those rascally coins be?

This is what I say: First of all, no one needs to watch the news every night, unless one is married to the anchor. Otherwise, you are mostly going to learn more than you need to know about where the local fires are, and how rainy it has been: so rainy! That is half an hour, a few days a week, I tell my students. You could commit to writing one page a night, which, over a year, is most of a book.

If they have to get up early for work and can’t stay up late, I ask them if they are willing NOT to do one thing every day, that otherwise they were going to try and cram into their schedule.

They may explain that they have to go to the gym four days a week or they get crazy, to which I reply that that’s fine—no one else really cares if anyone else finally starts to write or volunteers with marine mammals. But how can they not care and let life slip away? Can’t they give up the gym once a week and buy two hours’ worth of fresh, delectable moments? (Here they glance at my butt.)

Can they commit to meeting one close friend for two hours every week, in bookstores, to compare notes? Or at an Audubon sanctuary? Or a winery?

They look at me bitterly now—they don’t think I understand. But I do—I know how addictive busyness and mania are. But I ask them whether, if their children grow up to become adults who spend this one precious life in a spin of multitasking, stress, and achievement, and then work out four times a week, will they be pleased that their kids also pursued this kind of whirlwind life?

If not, if they want much more for their kids, lives well spent in hard work and savoring all that is lovely, why are they living this manic way?

I ask them, is there a eucalyptus grove at the end of their street, or a new exhibit at the art museum? An upcoming minus tide at the beach where the agates and tidepools are, or a great poet coming to the library soon? A pond where you can see so many turtles? A journal to fill?

If so, what manic or compulsive hours will they give up in trade for the equivalent time to write, or meander? Time is not free—that’s why it’s so precious and worth fighting for.

Will they give me one hour of housecleaning in exchange for the poetry reading? Or wash the car just one time a month, for the turtles? No? I understand. But at 80, will they be proud that they spent their lives keeping their houses cleaner than anyone else in the family did, except for mad Aunt Beth, who had the vapors? Or that they kept their car polished to a high sheen that made the neighbors quiver with jealousy? Or worked their fingers to the bone providing a high quality of life, but maybe accidentally forgot to be deeply and truly present for their kids, and now their grandchildren?

I think it’s going to hurt. What fills us is real, sweet, dopey, funny life.

I’ve heard it said that every day you need half an hour of quiet time for yourself, or your Self, unless you’re incredibly busy and stressed, in which case you need an hour. I promise you, it is there. Fight tooth and nail to find time, to make it. It is our true wealth, this moment, this hour, this day.

– Anne Lamott

anne-lamott-0410-m ( from Sunset.com , with many thanks to darling Lesley who shared it with me on   this beautiful Sunday morning. These were good words to wake up to.)

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Words + Photos + Credit

Unless otherwise noted, all original photography and text are property of Raechelle Kennedy. If you see or read something here and feel inspired to share it somehow, please be considerate and give the artist (me!) credit, or even better, drop me a note and make sure I don’t mind.
Thank you!

Here + There

Secondhand Sainthood and the gift of losing it all – Topology Magazine, December 2015

Ten Things Made – Topology Magazine, December 2015

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