A Spirit Balanced on the Edge

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Bene vixit bene latiti

Having just returned from another Haystack weekend, this one punctuated by instructional time and seeing friends and delicious food and kinetic jewelry and assemblage sculptures, I am sitting here, on a cool spring night, thinking about the hidden things and secret places. photo 2

Artists at Work – MeCA

When I was in middle school, my brother played a lot of little league baseball, and despite my lack of connection to the game, I would attend all of his games and wander around the ballparks eating purple sno-cones. (Purple was my favorite color and flavor). I remember walking through dusty patches of ground, kicking at the sprouts of bermuda grass desperately clinging to life amidst the parched nature of East Texas summertime, I remember my red All Stars, and I remember how the grape syrup would leak out and around the waxed paper cone that held the ice and cover my hand with sugary sweetness: the stickiness would linger until I could find a bathroom in which to wash my hands. photo 4

A New Machinist’s Box

One afternoon, as the baseball games played on in the background, I found myself standing and staring down into a storm drain: one of those giant square openings in the ground that are covered in a cast iron grate with many square shaped holes. At the bottom, I noticed something glimmering in the Texas sunshine. I sat, then squatted, then lay on my young belly, All Stars pointed straight out, jeans collecting dust and dirt as I gazed intently downward. At the bottom lay something golden, that I was sure of. Always the fan of a challenge, I unlaced my shoes and tied my two shoelaces together to see if they would reach the bottom. They did, but no closer to my goal was I until I went to one of the snack stands and secured a paper clip from an obliging ballpark worker. Slowly, carefully, with much focus, I hooked the golden ring onto the bottom of the paperclip and edged it up, through the grate, and into my young hand. photo 1

The Beauty in the Simple – Copper Embossed with Miscanthus

Here was a golden ring, wide, a man’s ring to be sure, with a clear stone in the center. Its surface was brushed and dinged, as if it had traveled quite a distance and been smoothed down by silt and water and the innards of pipes. I put it in my pocket, and later the drawer in the bathroom that held mysterious treasures, and occasionally I would pull it out, look at it carefully, and hide it, again. photo

Ineffable

Many years later, as a lab assistant at a biotechnology company, I became friends with a person who came to work on Halloween with a purple tshirt on. The tshirt had a black P made with electrical tape and he had blackened his eye with shoe polish. When I asked him what he was, he answered, matter of factly, “A Black-Eyed Pea”. This was the beginning of a friendship that included motorcycle rides on a thin-bodied Harley Davidson painted with iridescent flames, camping trips in Austin, Mexican restaurants in downtown Houston, swing dancing, road trips through the deep South, visits to gem and jewelry shows, and my first experiences making jewelry. My friendship with this person introduced me to city life and all its hidden places: a coffee shop in Houston named Not Su Oh, dances at the Last Concert Cafe, midnight picnics in the gardens of the Contemporary Arts Museum, hula hooping at Stubbs Cafe, following music through Pace Bend Park to find a man with an envelope full of strips of psychedelic magic, and people with patios full of pots of baby peyote cactus. photo 3

Swoon at Space Gallery in Portland, Maine

Mere months ago, I reconnected with that friend after an absence of several years; in fact, we had not spoken to each other in probably twelve years. He called me during my last few days of living in the tiny house, and as we spoke, his voice transported me back to those days when we spent so much time together. I remembered his kitchen and making pasta in his stainless steel pots, his velveteen couches, his old Mustang with the hood pins, our visit to fortune tellers in New Orleans, and him teaching me the basics of jewelry making at a small bench in the corner of his living room. I remembered us making a ring together dotted with sunstones, three in an offset row. In fact, it was he who had the ring I had found all those years before appraised, only to find that my ballpark treasure was a solid gold ring set with a large diamond. photo 5Now, after many of life’s twists and turns, and the holding on to curios and treasures that help us mark time, but mostly help us remember the hidden and secret moments, I am struck by how important those little things are, those signposts that help you remember moments in your lover’s bed when the only thing that existed was the two of you and the rain outside and the brass bell cast in sand that lay on the bedside table, or the box covered with peeling paint and filled with prisms that was given to you solely because you asked for them, or the old mirror from India your father brought to you when you were five and you have held so many times in the same place that the enamel has worn off as if to mark the place your thumb belongs. These are the hidden places, the secrets, the markers that bear no explanation except as memories for ourselves. photo 1 How do we know what is valuable and what is transitory? How do we know what is treasure and what is trash? We, as the magpies that we certainly are, cherish these tiny, priceless, useless, beautiful things. They make up the palimpsest of our lives: layers and layers of love and loss and memory and change. We collect, we gather, we hold up to the light: we categorize and place, carefully. We make a puzzle picture of  a life, decorating it was we go with baubles: with strange and lovely secret things. photo 4

If Not Now, When? If Not You, Who?

Assemblage Sculpture 

Found Objects, Glass, Copper, Paper, Epoxy, Beach Stone

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Another Rainy Day…

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“If only there could be an invention that bottled up a memory, like scent. And it never faded, and it never got stale. And then, when one wanted it, the bottle could be uncorked, and it would be like living the moment all over again.”

Daphne du Maurier in Rebecca

Let’s talk about rain; Maine is truly a rainy state. After spending most of my adult life in Austin, Texas, land of almost desert-like plants and a serious lack of rain due to a ten year drought, when I moved away from Texas and to Philadelphia I had forgotten that these things called umbrellas existed. The first few times it rained, I was trapped outside sans-protection, and became soaked. Since living in Philly, I’ve adjusted and now have my own umbrella, striped with color, naturally, that, hopefully, travels with me on rainy days, protecting my head.

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I moved to Maine almost a year ago, in the midst of a bold and warm and sunny summer. I lived in a giant tent built in the basement of my parents’ house and spent most of my days there as I was very ill with shingles. Sometimes, I ventured out into the garden or down the road to the lake to swim. The summer was golden and light and even the breeze off the ocean was warm.

This year, however, is a rather wet year. As I sit here, at this moment, in the morning, having finished one cup of coffee and needing to get to work, I am listening to the rain fall, again, on the deck, off the picnic table, off the eaves. I am wondering if my plants will ever grow big and bushy with all this rain, all this lack of sunshine. I have to say that the consistent rain, interrupted here and there by sun, is rather similar to the wintertime darkness and absence of my favorite star.

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People say here that you must take Vitamin D to deal with the lack of light, and I think they are right. It is hard for me to understand how the sun can come out so few and far between; this is a place in which you feel so lucky and excited about sunny days that it’s as if everyone is outside all day long, soaking in sunshine with the knowledge that tomorrow, it may be grey and windy, rainy and cool again. Like today.

Yesterday was one of those days and I spent the whole day outside building a fence of peabrush. I am in the midst of a garden transformation, taking the blank slate which is the yard of my little house, and building an outdoor sitting space and green screens and veggie patches and flowerbeds. After all day in the sunshine, my shoulders and back were bright red and warm, I felt the strange chill of sunburn, I sat outside on the deck at night and looked at the few stars peeking through the thin, wispy nighttime clouds.

The parking lot next to my house is large and full of spaces demarcated by white lines. There is a yellow painted path, newly dubbed the Yellow Brick Road, that shows you how to walk down the steps to the water. At night, there are no streetlights and if you stand in the middle of the lot, staring upward through the power lines and beyond the trees, a whole world, a patchwork quilt of stars opens up before your eyes, each and every night. To the Northeast are mountains, silhouetted slightly against the nighttime sky, and everywhere you turn your head are more stars, clustered together and far apart, shining, twinkling brightly. Over the ocean rises the Moon, when we are lucky enough to have her, and she sits happily in the eastern sky as the nighttime passes.

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Last night, I lay about in my bed, curled up under a down comforter, flannel sheets and a woolen blanket, reading Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, and imagining the scene set in the book, the scene of Manderley and its grounds and its epic loneliness, emptiness, romantic desolation, as set here, in Northeast Harbor, amidst the mansions of old wealthy families, the cold hallways set with beautiful artworks and conservative wooden furniture upholstered in salmon and off white silk, the kitchens larger than most houses I have lived in, empty for months, populated only for weeks. In the winter, I can pretend they are mine, or partly mine, anyway, and now have to realize that, just as the de Winters in the book, in the summer, the houses, and their ghosts, must awake. Are there creatures like Mrs Danvers in the houses in Northeast Harbor? Are there skeletons in closets and banshees wailing at the gates? As old rock walls begin to pitch and break apart, as pink paint peels off walls and old sinks rust, what happens to the families within? The people…who knows all the stories?

Such a spookiness and a subtle fascination, this rainy place full, now, almost, of its summer population, its summer people, summer not residents. Soon, the streets will be filled with people, Billionaire’s Island in full swing, mostly hidden behind heavy wooden doors, and behind leaded glass windows. Sometimes, I can see a glimpse of this old-fashioned life out of a mid-century novel, by catering parties in those beautiful kitchens, holding delicate antique china, staring out at the ocean from the patio, but most of the time, the wonder comes at night, under the covers, thinking about what it would be like to really live in a house like Manderley.

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Photodiary — The American Museum of Natural History

There are very few things in life that fill me with greater joy than a visit to a museum in good company. This museum in particular transforms me from a 31 year old woman into a very excitable girl. Walk with me…

Leaves Turning in Fall Sun – Upper East Side of Manhattan

Stone Bridge around 77th Street – Central Park

Tree Roots in Central Park

Fish Guts Treated with Photo-reactive Colours

Scorpion Carapaces

Tiny Spiders in Alcohol

Red Spider in the Spiders Alive! Exhibit

Spiders Alive! was a good exhibit, but didn’t have too much new or exciting information about the creepy crawlies that I didn’t already know, for the most part. However, there were many tanks of the amazing arachnids and many pretty pictures.

Peacock Spider – my favorite

Wolf Spider

Orb Spider

Orange Spider whose name I have forgotten

Ladybird Spider

Diorama of a Chipmunk Nest – don’t you love dioramas?

Hall of Biodiversity

The Hall of Biodiversity is my favorite part of the museum. When I walk into this darkly lit room, I transform into a giddy little girl, so excited to see pressed flowers in frames, fish swimming through the air, acorns on a string, blown glass jellyfish and cast brass bacterium. Nowhere else can you take a turn around one room and walk through the Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus and Species of most creatures on Earth. In my dreams, I would have a house that looks like the Hall of Biodiversity…a seemingly living, breathing account of life on Earth, how it relates and how it has changed.

Don’t you want to visit? Maybe you should.