Friday, August 31, 2012


What, precisely, gives reality its significance? Does it come from its firm stake in the present tense, or its unfalteringly firm demand for attention to a deadline? We all know when we’re out of milk for our tea or coffee, we need either to go to the store or manhandle a cow or a goat.  Let’s not waste time on that.  The present is now, right? It is real, yes? It is over again and again now.  We try to capture living and being in the real moment through practice; whether by meditation, exercise, art, or the occasional adventure.  Ah, adventure: the unknown and the unplanned, by definition. It happens without expectation.  It lives and breathes without tenses.  It casts itself out like a net reminding you of dreams you almost forgot, or perhaps neglected a while ago.  Dreams are moments that may not be now, but are perhaps, less burdensome because they are not relegated to real time.  They are dreams.  They travel with you everywhere.  Even in your car on the way to buy milk.  Are you giving them enough space to live with you in all their tenses? Sometimes, it feels like there is a membrane between real time, so called reality, and our creative explorations.  Take time to mingle them.  Let them dance together.  You do not have to close yourself off from one to accept the other as REAL. 


Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Trope (n.) from the Greek, tropos: a turning.

The persistence of living things to turn towards the light and warmth of the sun is astounding. Even under the threat of March’s dizzying bi-polar tendencies, the daffodils are pushing through. Dare we say that spring is here? The crocuses are saying yes, it is. So, is the beloved redbud. Do we worry about them? Well, yes, we do. They say that only death and taxes are inevitable. We beg to differ. The blades of dark green hyacinths have been forcing themselves through the topsoil since February. Global warming we chime? Maybe, but do any of us regret the splashes of color that dot our landscape as we muster the stamina to get through winter?

When next you try to understand the sanity of anything complicated: whether it be the tax code, Medicare, the Republican national debates on television; trust the reliability of life to find its way out of the dark, to turn towards the sun and explode with its own creative and inherent dash of beauty. It’s always there for us. We hesitate: flowers don’t. So, keep in mind that we trope too. The Barn Swallow is here to offer companionable light for all who are in need of a turn. Photos courtesy Steve Jorstad.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

blog award

We are delighted to have received the Liebster Blog Award from lovely Trace of Soewnearth.

The Liebster Blog Award originated in Germany and recognizes up and coming bloggers. It is meant to showcase those who have fewer than 200 followers. (Liebster means "favourite" or "dearest" in German.) This is done in the spirit of pay-it-forward. In accepting this award, the recipient agrees to:

• Thank the person that gave them the award and link back to their blog

• Copy and paste the award to their blog

• Reveal the 5 blogs they have chosen to award and let them know by commenting on their blog

We are so pleased to receive such an accolade and therefor we pass this honor on to the following wondrous blogs and bloggers:

Happy new year to all of you from all of us, at this gallery at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We hope to see you in 2012!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

let there be light

A farmer and amateur photographer in Canada is in love with firefly light. He has tried to capture it using traditional methods of slow shutter speeds and excellent equipment, much like an astrophotographer who sits for hours capturing the light from distant stars through his telescope. However, his first attempts didn’t really leave him with the right impression, so he wracked his brain for another method. 

Now, during those weeks of summer when thousands of fireflies come out from their burrows in his fields, he lies in the grass for hours alongside huge pieces of photographic paper on dark nights and watches as the fireflies expose the paper dot by dot, impression by impression. The results are fascinating and beautiful. We can only imagine that they look like photographs of the night sky.

Light is not only beautiful, but also very informative. Physicists have identified the composition of every planet in our solar system by the nature of the light each emits. Different elements, when heated, give off different colors within the known spectrum. Sulfur, magnesium, cadmium, copper, methane, carbon; their light quite literally identifies them. Any good potter knows exactly what happens to the elements of their glazes when fired in the kiln. Color is chemistry. So in December as you celebrate with sketches of light on bare branches, on laurel wreaths, or on swaths of pine and cedar, remember the fireflies. As you set your holiday tables and admire the colors of your favorite plates in candlelight, remember the planets. Color and light are both inspiration and identity.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

joy is not made to be a crumb

“Joy is not made to be a crumb,” writes Mary Oliver.  And yet, there is joy to be found in the smallest of things. 

There is so much to love and admire about Fall: the leaves, obviously, the bright and shiny gourds, and the light which appears whiter and clearer than in Summer.  But, the small should not be ignored. 

Like, the acorn, for example:  Such a humble round kernel of hope.

Winnie the Pooh’s Piglet ate nothing but “haycorns.”  He was small, and easily afraid.  It wasn’t the leaves that were leaving which scared him, but rather, the new ones come to replace the old.  Pooh’s Piglet ate acorns: small buds of promise for large, sturdy trees.   He was a tiny creature living on potential.

There is virtue in small creatures. 

Lao-Tzu wrote,
“…Inside there are things. Hidden! Obscure!  Inside there are essences.
These essences are very real;
Inside them is proof. “

Proof, like the acorn, of hope and greatness. 

Do not ever despair of being small or of relishing tiny tasks, like planting bulbs or picking apples. 

Do you not dream of a world of possibility every time you plant a bulb in fall and dream of color six months hence?  Do you not admire that unstoppable will for transformation?

May we recommend a blog, tastespotting, with the best looking recipes for acorn squash?  Oh, my, oh my, good. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


“I read that blind children, in a room painted deep blue, became more tranquil, at ease, as if what they could not see their way to, informed them… “  —Mark Doty. 

What a lovely concept: Maybe we should all practice going into unfamiliar rooms with eyes shut and see whether we might guess the color on the walls. I bet many of us would be surprised how often we get it right.  We “feel” a great deal more than we often realize or readily accept. 

Those of you who were in the countryside during the earthquake recently may have noticed that the cicadas, the crickets, and even the birds in the trees all stopped making their noises about thirty seconds before the quaking started. It was rather remarkable. The birds felt it from the tops of branches. 

And now, with all the rain we’re getting, it might be nice to ponder the lotus blossom. Mary Ann planted seeds in our pond at The Barn Swallow a couple of years ago, and they spread like crazy. This is their season! Huge pink blooms are opening every morning: tall and so utterly majestic coming out of the bottom muck of a pond. It’s amazing to see something so huge and seemingly unreal come out of that mud in total splendor. Very inspiring.  If you get a chance to come by and visit us, you must go see them.  It’s well worth the trip. Once you see them, you won’t question why so many of the ancient gods were born from this bloom. Next time your feet get stuck in the mud, just feel the soft pink of their petals.  Let it inform you. 

Here’s another poem for inspiration:

Not Poor

We are not poor.  We are just without riches,
we who have no will, no world:
marked with the marks of the latest anxiety,
disfigured, stripped of leaves.
And yet, if our Earth needed to
she could weave us together like roses
and make of us a garland.

For each being is cleaner than washed stones
and endlessly yours, and like an animal
who knows already in its first blind moments
its need for one thing only—

To let ourselves be poor like that—as we truly are.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Saturday, July 9, 2011

simple pleasures

"The best things in life are nearest: Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet."
--Robert Louis Stevenson

Lately, here at the Barn Swallow our hearts and minds have been drawn to the simple pleasures of life, and of summer here in Albemarle. We thought we'd make a list. If you would care to add to it, please do. 
Take time to think about the little things that make you happy. 

Clutching your favorite mug with both hands.

Caressing the cornflowers on the side of a dusty back road.

Eyes widening for a flawless stem of Queen Ann's Lace.

The perfect poem read aloud on a starry night.

A Bob White resuming his call after a thunderstorm.

Eyeing a glass of homemade lemonade as you peel off your garden gloves.

Unwrapping a fresh bar of soap.

Walking out for any reason with a basket on your arm.

Here's a simple recipe from Mary Ann:

Lavender Lemonade
First make a simple syrup.
Boil 1 1/2 cups of sugar with 2 1/2 cups of water. Add 15 to 20 stems of fresh lavender.
Remove from the heat, place a lid on top and let it cool.
Add 2 1/2 cups of water and 2 1/4 cups of fresh lemon juice.
Then, strain out the lavender.
Serve with lots of ice, sliced lemon, and a few more sprigs of lavender.
Add honey or more sugar to taste.