Sailing with Vinnie:  Chasing the Horizon

So fellow travelers, a while back I wrote about a creative adventure involving some Van Gogh inspired art for a good cause.

Sailing with Vinnie the final version.

A few of my friends commented on my project; one thing led to another and soon I was signed up for several paint events with various groups of friends at a local art studios.

One session held at a small independant studio session had a distinctly different atmosphere from the Van Gogh fund raiser, which was held at a locally owned franchise studio. The concept of creating a painting in a casual setting was the same but participants could choose different paintings. The supervising artist walked around our stations giving us simple step by step directions for our chosen artwork. We shared snacks and beverages, chatted about our families, concerns about current events and joked about our not so artistic abilities.

This last bit was one thing our studio host was quick to turn around. She would point out elements in our paintings that worked well, giving simple suggestions and encouraging each person to step back and look at their painting from a difference perspective. She gently reinforced the intention of working on different paintings is to minimize self-judgments and comparisions with others.

We judged ourselves anyways.

Why do we demean our creativity so definitively? Artistic endeavors do not have to produce  a masterpiece every time. Not one of the great artists through all the centuries could do that. Where is it written we have to be good at art to enjoy making it? We cut ourselves out of too many opportunities to try something new expectations of mastery.

Still, I understand the tendency to be overly critical.

I always end up tinkering with my work afterwards until enough of the “not quite right” spots are “good enough.” 

This scene from the recent painting class sat on my easel at home for a couple of weeks until I adjusted a few little details that nagged at me. One of the Adirondack chairs looked awkward, there were some areas in the water where the color was off and a smudge along one of the tree lines that needed “erasing”.  Thank heavens for the forgiving nature of acrylic paint. 

It’s been a little surprising to find how much joy I feel while painting. When my daughters were young I gave myself the gift of taking art classes for a few years. The busyness of life slowly encroached on my creative time and my art supplies were packed away for close to a decade. Coming back to the easel now I find, awkward smudges aside, the “masterpiece” syndrome holds less power over my process. Trusting my instincts of how a painting feels as it unfolds helps me tune out the voice of my Inner Critic. When my work looks right to me it is “good” art. Inspired by the pieces I accomplished in the past few months, I’ve been grabbing little snippets of time to work on an unfinished landscape left over from my summer art class days many years ago.

So now there is a stack of blank canvases in my art corner and the long days of summer vacation about a month away hold the promise of creative horizons yet to be sailed.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Sailing with Vinnie, part two

So fellow travelers, the painting from last week’s little art adventure has been perched on an easel nagging at me to reconsider it’s merits.

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Those iconic Van Gogh swirls are harder to achieve than they look.

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Vincent’s famous Starry Night 

The studio which hosted the fundraiser I attended offers an SOS event once a month. Save Our Stuff is a free session where participants of previous events can bring their paintings to rework them.  It’s scheduled during the last week of each month.

I’m not that patient.

So yesterday after work, I pulled out brushes and paints, then got to work.

Acrylics are easy to fix because even darker areas can be covered by a new layer. Still, reworking the swirly sky (which to me looks more like kindergarten roses than stellar Van Gogh astronomy) meant either completely repainting the sail or working meticulously around it.

I mentioned I am not that patient, yes? I’m also not that steady of hand. Yet I did manage to leave enough of the sail when repainting the sky. Then, using dinner as a distraction, I managed to wait for it all to dry enough to retouch edges and details before adding the ode to Van Gogh sun.

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While this fix feels better to me, it still feels unfinished. Maybe Vinnie and I have some additional collaborating to work on. We’ll see where our little boat takes us.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Sailing with Vinnie

So fellow travelers, just a little artwork from a fun “Painting with a Purpose” event celebrating Vincent Van Gogh’s birthday.

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Raising funds for the PwP artist’s grant program seemed a fitting way to honor him. Artists struggle to make a decent livelihood, in fact, Van Gogh sold only a few paintings in his short lifetime. He died by his own hand never knowing he would become one of the most famous and recognized artists of the next century or that his unique style would inspire painters of early modern art or that his use of color and techniques would influence artists for decades to come.

The currently trendy painting studio franchises may be better known for merriment than masterpieces yet there is a good measure of merit in encouraging people to have fun with art. Everyone at the event I attended left smiling and laughing with their own unique interpretation of a sailboat navigating the waters under a Van Gogh inspired sky. I called mine “Sailing with Vinnie.”  Look closely you might see him soaring free.

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Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Three Birds Blue

So fellow travelers,  last week a run of unseasonably warm weather had me out on the birding trails well ahead of season.

 I recognized the chirrup of a song I usually do not hear until Spring has sent Winter well on its way. Looking up I spotted three bluebirds sitting on a wire, taking in the afternoon sun.

Bluebirds, in  February

And not just, one but  three!

A rhythmic dance of words emerged as I took mental pictures to help me sketch later on:

Three birds blue

On a wire

Puffed up chests

Sunlight bathed

Hawk cries high

Sudden flight

Farewell friends

Spring still sleeps

Snow must melt

I will wait

Your return~~~

Winter is back in full force now. Lake Effect snow rushing in ahead of a roaring cold front with  64 mph. Brrrrrr. I’m hoping my three friends are hunkered down in a safe spot til this storm passes. Seeking sanctuary. A sign of the times.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Treasure Hunt Hidden Talents

So fellow travelers, it is said the first shall be last. Truth at least for the initial post I wrote while in Portland a few weeks ago. It required me to recognize the depth of change  and emotion I had not processed over the past year before I could put words to virtual paper.

The main reason we went to Portland in 2014 was to see Favorite Oldest Daughter and Favored Son In Law, who had moved there earlier that year. From the moment I landed at PDX the city caught me off guard, drawing me in with it’s quirky charm, relaxed vibe and phenomenal food experiences (one does not eat meals in Portland, one has edible experiences, at least I do)

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The patio at the Tin Shed, which after Portland’s food courts, is my favorite place to eat

When we returned the next year, I was fully prepared to find the charm  was just first time visit magic. Again, the I  was delightfully surprised. By the end of our second trip, my husband and I were set on the idea of relocating to the area when we retire a few years down the road. So this year, with both daughters now living in Portland it was the experiences I shared with my family that became my focus.

One Saturday while my husband went to the rock climbing gym with our older daughter ThaiRockclimbingEdit                                                                              Favorite Oldest Daughter rock climbing in Thailand

I went to a bird sketching workshop at the Portland Audubon Nature Center with our younger daughter. She found the class shortly after she moved to Portland and it sounded like a perfect fit for Team Loonatics.  I hit several art store sales to stock up on the supplies we would need, making sure to hand carry the essentials in case our checked luggage wandered off to a random destination (it didn’t, but I know better than to take chances with anything I absolutely need to have when I arrive on a long trip.)

Jude Siegel, the artistleading the workshop, was a vivacious and skilled instructor.  She lead our small, diverse group through several basic drawing exercises, designed to teach us to really see what we would be sketching.  She worked on shapes, proportions, perspective and then moved onto color mixing. We worked with watercolors, a medium I have always found challenging yet her tips and demonstrations gave even novice artists the confidence to dive in and start creating.

During our lunch break, my daughter and I found a shady bench outside where we sat to eat and talk about her new plans for college. Last spring she transferred to Portland State University’s Honors Degree program after finding the curriculum at TUJ did not offer enough to hold her interest.  It had been a tough for her to leave Japan. She still talks about how much she misses living there and had looked into other colleges in Tokyo hoping to find a course of study she was interested in. Listening to her perspective, I had to notice how much she had grown and matured in just one year.

We spent several more hours, working away at our new found skills.

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At the end of the workshop each participant shared their work and Jude asked us to talk about what we had learned. Her one caveat was we not speak negatively of our artwork in anyway. Each person spoke honestly of the challenges and everyone’s experience of the process was slightly different.  Yet we all came away with a feeling of success and everyone expressed a desire to continue working with what we had learned.

It was the time spent, learning something new, just two birders stretching our creative wings that I will treasure and remember every time I take out my little paint set and work on a new painting.

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Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

 

 

Art Show

So fellow travelers, our high school has display space in one area for student art work with rotating exhibitions through out the year. It is a space I visit often during the week, taking a few moments to appreciate the awesome pieces on display each month.

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Allie Brown and Riley Carlucci

Once a year, during the last week of school, an entire wing and lobby are converted into gallery space for the senior art show.It’s become one of my favorite moments of the year.

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Each senior who has taken classes in the art program is given a display area and I love watching their portfolios unfold.  Reading their individual artist statements is fascinating.

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Kylie Fischer

There’s a gallery reception one evening during the show and it’s not uncommon to over hear parents murmuring comments of astonishment at their child’s accomplishments

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Marisa Madonna

Naturally, there are pieces which speak to the angst and challenges of teenage years

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Anna Davis

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Katie Doyle

and pieces given to flights of fantasy

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Brihanna Drake

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Austin McClaskey

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Carl Livingston

For a week, the long hallway is filled with color

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Brad Krahl

and texture

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Courtney Hines

 

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Jenny Boden

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Danielle Johnson

and artistry reaching beyond the young years of these graduating students

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Mike Morris

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Sarah Hamilton

and my own spirits rise with hope for this future generation of creative spirits.
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Claire Shonyo

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Art Class in the Sky

So fellow travelers,  the sky has been a wonder this winter.

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Whether I’m  lingering longer on our daily walks because of milder temperatures or there is some atmospheric magic afoot, most days have offered breath taking views. It’s impossible not to be inspired by what I see at day’s end.

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I recently treated myself to an impromptu painting class, a Paint and Sip event at a favorite independent coffee house. Attending meant I was supporting two local businesses while indulging in my love for really good coffee and artistic exploration.

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I used to take art classes in the summer. It was a way to take time for myself when our daughters were toddlers. Over the years my art supplies got tucked away or used for school and girl scout projects.

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My finished version of the “Northern Lights” project we created that evening.

The one night art session was so rewarding, I decided to start dabbling again, so in addition to fresh paint and blank canvases, I’ve been collecting images with my phone camera to study and use as references.

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This sky greeted me when I left work today.

Being part of a supportive creative community has empowered me to follow the whims of my creative impulses. I’m not going for a masterpiece, I’m going for experience. I am experimenting, having fun and gleaning some inner contentment along the way.

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A study of clouds, in acrylics;  playing with textures and shades. 

Of course there’s a haiku tucked among the clouds of the sky gallery I’ve been visiting.

Sunlight colors clouds
Ev’ry day new sky paintings
Gratefully received

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Tonight’s gallery: a blaze of colors and tantalizing tree forms .

 

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

What does it mean to be creative?

So fellow travelers, some thoughts on creativity.

Author Jon Katz, recently posted a piece in his blog about the importance of creativity. He framed the topic with the issue of taking time to be creative and focuses on the struggle of women’s creative expression.  His post got me thinking. He makes valid points regarding women putting off creative expression being related to society’s marginal attitude towards creativity. I would add this is as true for men who would benefit equally from creative expression yet push it aside in the pressure to achieve worldly success. His message, “You don’t have time not to be creative” is universal.

From the responses to his post on the CGBF* page he hit a few chords. One of Jon’s best traits is his willingness to accept differing opinions provided they are not shrouded in hostility or personal attack.  Those parameters are what make the CGBF a reliable haven for creative exploration and allows for some lively and thought provoking dialogue.

I added my own comments, something along the lines of my own growth allowing me to see creativity in many forms.  I listed examples of teachers, dog trainers, computer programmers being creative in their own way. For many people “living (their) life in a meaningful way” may not take the form of a poem, painting or photograph. When a bio engineer creates a better prosthesis I see this as creativity from a different perspective. Still, some sliver of discomfort begged attention.

It was his opening reference to “hobbies” and “painting a watercolor on vacation once a year or so,” which stuck with me like a stinging nettle. For many years, working full time while raising two daughters afforded me very few hours for creative exploration. This is not an excuse; it is reality. There are no more than twenty four hours in every day. During those years when the girls were young, scrapbooking, which definitely comes under the category of a “hobby,” became my main creative outlet.

Were those scrapbooks less of a creative expression because they are seen more as a craft project than art? The question itself points to the way in which “arts and crafts” activities are marginalized. Here’s where the line between “creative work” and “art” begins to draw itself in the sand. Certainly I did not consider my scrapbooks  “art,”  even though the time I spent creating beautiful pages built around memories was every bit “an essential expression of (my) spirit” as if I were writing poems about or painting portraits of those moments.

Working as a special education teaching assistant for our local school district allows me the luxury of an extended summer vacation, something most working mothers do not have. It is a gift of time I consider worth the smaller paycheck. One of the things I did for myself was to set aside enough money to take summer classes, so over the years I explored everything from birdwatching, backpacking and orienteering to knitting, drawing and painting. I always had good intentions of continuing my art time beyond summer, but once we were back in the throes of daily life, consistent time for artwork took a back seat. So yes, I was “painting on vacation once a year.”  To feel like that kind of creativity somehow doesn’t count points to the “falsehoods” we have been taught to tell ourselves about the value of what we chose as creative expression.  Those falsehoods start terribly young too.  I always feel a tremendous sadness when a student tells me they can’t fit art/photography/woodshop/creative writing/culinary arts into their schedule. I have been known to undermine the best efforts of counselors by showing kids a way to shift course loads so one of those classes can fit.  I am such a rebel.

One gift of becoming a member of the CGBF was the opportunity to have a place where I could share the results of my renewed creative interests.  I started taking photos of more than family events and “we were here” vistas, then I took photo classes to challenge myself to improve. When my commentary on the posted work grew longer or generated clever haiku, with some gentle nudging from fellow members I realized I had enough to say to consider starting a blog.  Now, two years later not writing is no longer an option. I hope I am becoming a better writer in the process too.

So there’s the crux of the matter.  It comes down to what we tell ourselves about being creative. If we believe we should only be creative if our stuff  is good enough to be called art, we will not fell compelled to find the time to be creative. If we just give ourselves a chance to take the first steps of creative expression and turn a deaf ear to the voices of judgement. both internal and external, soon we will find “don’t have time not to be creative.”

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*the Creative Group at Bedlam Farm can be found on Facebook.  Our contributions can be viewed by the public. Come visit and be inspired to be creative.

 

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

 

On the Road to friends and high places: Part Two Connecting Threads

So fellow travelers, our fiber farm adventure has reached a literal and creative high point at St. Mary’s on-the-hill.

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View from St Mary’s on-the-hill :  Christ the King Retreat center, a haven of peaceful, comfortable accommodations where many of us have stayed during various Bedlam Farm Open House Weekends adventure.

Beth has family ties to this center, so we received a warm welcome and a generous opportunity to take photographs of the antique embroidery exhibit.

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 I should have taken better (or more accurately any notes) notes on the specifics of these pieces.  I do remember these pieces date back to the 19th century and were created by young women attending one of the sister’s schools in New York City. Although I was not raised in the Catholic church, I grew up in a very Catholic neighborhood in New York and felt some connection to these amazing works of art knowing they had graced various churches in the city of my childhood.

The exhibit showed in careful detail the process from concept, to sketches, precise color patterns, then final crafting and included many samples of the practice pieces students were required to complete before working on a designed piece.

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From a distance, some of the stitching looked like it had been hand dyed, the graduation of color was so subtle.  Close-up views revealed the effect was created by many tiny stitches.

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Such patience and attention to detail amazed us, each piece a magnificent example of discipline and focus.

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I found myself wondering what thoughts and feelings filled these young women’s minds as they stitched in meditative silence. It was truly a gift to spend time with these sacred creations.

As we headed back outside and saw a sign for goats we knew this peak experience was not quite over. We walked around to the goat pens by a small barn and were delighted by two weeks old kids romping on hay bales undr the watchful eye of their mothers and one very handsome Dad.

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Momentarily distracted by some distant bird calls, I walked along the fenceline away from the quiet crowd and captured this handsome fellow at work.

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Listening intently for a few moments, I was able to pick out the distinct call of a yellow warbler in the trees lining the hills.  Thinking of the somewhat early timing for this migrant turned my attention the need for us to head over towards Cambridge soon. I looked up and saw Beth walking towards me. Great minds ( and empty stomachs) think alike. We agreed it was time to make the short drive over the hills to hit the Round House for Lunch.

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To be continued…….

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready

 

 

Lessons of the Crow

So fellow travelers, when I returned home from my recent road trip a package greeted me which I enthusiastically tore open to find……

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Yes, Indeed, this is a crow themed handmade potholder.

First of all it is handmade by gifted fabric artist Maria Wulf (you can see more of her wonderful work here)  I had just seen Maria at the event I was returning from.  Synchronicity.

I have a couple of Maria’s potholders, this one with Simon is perhaps my favorite.

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Although a close second is the potholder with one of the barn cats in the apple tree which I gave to my daughter, who has always wished we could have another cat.  Yes I know a cat pot holder is not an adequate substitute for a cat, however a potholder is also not a known allergy trigger. Both she and my husband are allergic to cats.

When Maria posts new sets pf her potholders I tell myself  I have enough of them.  Then again can one ever have enough art? Especially art that is whimsical, colorful and unique?  Still, there are many artists whose work I hope to add to my growing CGBF Gallery. So I try to pace my purchases.

However when she posted the crow potholders there was not one second of hesitation at my end. I sent off a message pronto  to request one because crows hold  special significance to me.

Much like music, bird calls evoke powerful memories for me.  The raucous rasp of blue jays takes me right back to hot summer days weeding my grandfather’s tiny garden in the Bronx.  If I hear the chatter of magpies and high pitched cries of seagulls , I am sitting in the bamboo rocker on a porch in Hong Kong.  Loons laughing take me lakeside in the Adirondacks.

Crows remind me of Tokyo.  They filled the trees that lined the Tokugawa Compound residental area in Meijiro where my parents lived in the late 70’s.  Every morning their harsh cacophony would wake people before sunrise. Anytime someone emerged from a house the crows found it necessary to comment.  They would taunt dogs who ran barking from tree to tree. They taunted cats too, but most felines simply continued their stoic sauntering along the top of garden walls apparently deaf to the insults being hurled from the tree tops.

We have several crows who hang around our yard.  I see them feasting on road kill, in fact we often say crows feasting on road kill is one of Central New York’s reliable signs of spring.  I hear them when I camp throughout all of New York’s wonderful State Parks.  Still, even though I have lived here for almost 40 years, it is Tokyo that comes to mind when I hear crows calling.

After I received Maria’s crow potholder, I sat with it and listened within to decipher what they say to me.  I hear many messages, about honoring ancestoral roots, flying straight and speaking one’s truth.  This correlates with the Native American totem of Crow who symbolizes the dark mysteries of creation and an ability to see through deception.

When we visited Tokyo in the spring of 2010 I noticed there seemed to be fewer crows than I remembered some twenty years ago.  Knowing  the government effort put towards creating and keeping a cleaner urban environment throughout Tokyo I don’t imagine it was a natural reduction in population.

However, the day my younger daughter and I made it out to Meijiro to walk the streets of Tokugawa Compound the crows were there, as raucous and vocal as ever.  I swear it sounded like they were hollering: ” Where have you been? Have you managed to make something of yourself? Is that YOUR kid?  You should feed her more .”

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It was music to my ears as their yakking brought back such wonderful memories.  Tokyo had changed so much in the years since I last navigated it’s busy streets. Somehow this residential section had remained relatively untouched by change, transporting me back to my late teens. We walked along the streets, I showed her the house where her grandparents had lived; I told her how the crows would chatter every time we came and went, how her uncles called them “pterodactyls.”

I suspect the crows might not be in Meijiro when we return to Tokyo this August to bring that same daughter who is about to graduate from high school to attend college at TUJ.  The beautiful quiet streets and spacious houses of the Tokugawa Compound have been leveled to make way for modern rental housing. I don’t know if the huge trees remained and I doubt I will want to go back to find out. It was grand to be back on those streets for that one day, to recapture the time I spent there visiting my family when I was in college here in New York. Now, my youngest daughter will be leaving home, traveling the same distance in the other direction to go to college.  What strange synchronicity.

Besides, I have plenty of new locations on my list to explore, both in and beyond Tokyo. I know I will be looking for the crows, listening carefully because I want to hear what they have to say.

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Editorial Postscript:  literally minutes after I completed and shared this entry  fellow CGBF member, Glenn Curtis posted a crow photo of extraordinary detail.  You can find it here along with  his timely thoughts about awareness  and the inner sanctuary of our hearts and minds.  They spoke to me with crow wisdom.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find your ready.