“Life isn’t long enough to do all you could accomplish. And what a privilege even to be alive. In spite of all the pollutions and horrors, how beautiful this world is. Supposing you only saw the stars once every year. Think what you would think. The wonder of it!”
I was just on the top of Flying Mountain with a friend, staring down at Somes Sound and out over the sea to islands beyond. Staring up and out at clouds, one could see layer upon layer of water vapor stretching out to infinity in colours of blue, white, grey, gold, and lavender. The wind blew up the sides of the mountain, pulling copper-colored oak leaves off the trees and buffeting them up and over the granite ledge, up and over our heads as we watched them float. Sitting and staring out at the water below hurtling by as the wind pulled the surface into peaked waves, while, as we sat in a patch of sunshine, everything was warm and almost still.
Being very lucky, I have spent a portion of almost every day lately being a Flaneur, or visual explorer of my new home, this beautiful island of Mount Desert. Another friend told me, a few days ago over dinner, that I was personifying the spirit of writers and artists from Paris from earlier in the century by spending so much time just walking and looking. Imagine my delight in reading about the Flaneur and discovering that photography is also an integral part of the leisure of walking with the intent to observe and note one’s surroundings. To be sure, part of the meditation of walking, of perambulation, is the keen sense of observation, of noticing as many birds, leaves, trees, rocks, etc. as possible and recording them in your brain for the mere moment you catch them. In that moment of saying: I see that crow as it sits on the branch, you forge a small memory and are present in that moment, with that crow and that branch on that day. While yes, the moments are fleeting, the process is deep and valuable.
I have now lived in my little house that floats above the street for exactly two weeks. It feels like I am just now settling in, although I am still thrown off by the furniture of someone else. I am used to a house that is wholly mine, wholly created by my desire to find weird old things, furniture that is comfortable and interesting to sit on, with my pictures on the walls. Here, I have some elements of me but they are on or about someone else’s things. So, it is a transitional place.
I am struggling with all the transitions, all the newness of the present time, but know that it is fleeting and dynamic as is everything else. I know now to forgive myself when I feel lonely or out of place, as that is just part of the process of adjusting to a new town and new people and, ultimately, a new me. A new you is a scary prospect, especially when there is such a personal dedication to that idea.
Sometimes, I feel very alone, and that aloneness I think is scarier because I don’t intend to change it for a while. This choice, this time living here, is about finding myself in the sea of life. About cultivating and creating a life dedicated to artworks and quiet time and time in the woods and by the sea. It sounds simplistic because it is simple: that is the idea. The simplicity of sitting on a picnic table by Somes Sound and then going to the studio to make a pendant inspired by the way the light looks sparkling on the water; that is what this time is about.
A friend told me last night that it is amazing that I got what I want, a place and time to be creative all the time, and that I am enjoying it and doing it. Be careful what you wish for, I always say, because you almost always get it. I wished for this life, and now that I have it, I am spooked by it sometimes. I am spooked by the peace around me, by the niceness of strangers, by the love I feel for this small town, by the love I feel for cooking, for writing, for metalsmithing and knitting and walking and driving around. I have no idea how to cultivate this life for the long term, but have to trust that I will be able to somehow.
I have been looking into the lives of other strange girls, like Vali Myers and Tasha Tudor, and wondering where they harnessed the bravery from that let them lead their lives the way that they did. Did they just find it one night, late, alone in bed or on the porch? Did it come to them early in the morning over coffee or at the kitchen table? Where does the confidence in a sense of self come from? Maybe you just keep going, one foot in front of the other and not worry too much?
Worry is one of my guardian spirits: she is always there, creeping around in circles around myself. In some ways, I welcome her in that I think she has helped me make wise decisions, but sometimes she dominates the thoughts too much and I wonder where Temperance and Confidence are. Perhaps they take a lot of day trips, mini-vacations, and visit me only intermittently. Perhaps I need to create a home that they think is theirs, so that they stick around more and Worry can take some of those day trips out into the country.
My dream is to buy some land sometime next spring (Spring 2014), I hope, and start to build a little house for me and some spaces for gardens and animals. Maybe there will already be a house or a barn there. I wish to invite people there, but that it will always be my place. I don’t know if it is the sadness that is lingering around the sidelines of my mind lately, or the transition into the stillness of winter, but I really feel that I require my own place, a place of space and quiet that will always be mine. When I think of this, the risk of being the witchy lady who lives at the back of a field somewhere, with chickens and alpacas and vegetables and flowers, I worry: what do I think about that?
Eccentricity is this tricky knife’s edge of being true to yourself coupled with a need to not just do things because they are weird and people will take notice. Eccentricity is saying my weirdness is ok, and this is me and always has been so there is no point in suppressing it for a sake of comfort. I feel like, for the first time in my life, I am being true to myself and doing less and making more. I feel very shy around others and am hesitant to express myself in words. Making something, drawing, cooking, is much easier. Writing is much easier: if I could write to everyone then maybe I could actually speak and say what needs to be said, but I think if I started communicating via letters or passenger pigeon that might be a bit odd. I have to work on my tongue-tied nature, that spirit of Worry always there, always saying, “is that the right thing to say? What will they think if you say that?”.
I have been writing of myself lately as if I am a spider molting an old shell, a new one forming in the harshness of cold air and sunlight. I feel like the shell is starting to harden, toughening up here, loosening there, allowing new joints to move and swivel around, but that I am not ready just yet. I am still very delicate and my sense of things very tenuous: as if maybe, now, I can reach out and grasp onto certain things and know them, but that the majority is still yet to be discovered.
A new phase of life, indeed. Life in a Tasha Tudor place where I work with ladies who are jewelers, fiber artists, potters, midwives, yoga teachers, moms, spinners, and who store and can food for winter and order organic vegetables by the pound from local farmers to make organic sauerkraut. A place where the pace is slow but yet the days pass by fast. A place where no matter how cold it is outside, the inside of the studio is warm and I can wear tank tops while forging copper and melting silver into beautiful things. A place where my heart is loosening, slowly, and allowing my own happiness to form without the need to martyr myself to others. A place where boats come from Canada and drop off fresh fish in Maine, where old Victorian houses sit in small towns overlooking still shores in the late autumn.