To Thine Own Self Be True – Happy New Year 2017

Musings on a new year are forthcoming. It has been almost six months since I have written here: a place that used to be an almost daily practice. But things shift, and change, and priorities, too. Change, as I said to the man in Home Depot about how to heat houses in Texas, is the only constant that we can count on.

So let’s dive in to a new year. It is 2017, which makes it my lucky (to me) 37th year on planet Earth. For as long as I can remember, 37 has been my lucky number. I can’t tell you why or where it came from, just, that as a small girl, I noticed the number 37 all over the place and began to associate it, and foxes, with luck or, perhaps, an awareness of the magical influences in my life.

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Being that it is 2017, it means that I graduated from high school 18 years ago, and college 13 years ago. That seems like an awfully long period of time, and one could, I suppose, wax and whine poetic about the passage of time, but here’s a thought: my life since those two major life events has involved travel and art and love and friends and being a grown up, all of which add up to the ineffable truth of my life: that life post education is the richness, the soup, the delicious Caesar salad with anchovies of existence. Adulthood is beautiful and fractured, delicate and stressful, colorful, moving, changing, solid, long, and, for me, quite happy. My tune has changed quite a bit since I started this project about four years ago.

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South Philly’s Magic Gardens by Isaiah Zagar 

 

I have a couple of themes for 2017. Last year I focused on having a Year of Patience, and worked on what felt right for me. For the most part, it worked out very well. I established some boundaries, I was very creative, I was inspired by and inspired many young people, I lost a great friend, gained some new ones, and reconnected with some old ones, I moved out of the city, and I thought, a lot. The themes for 2017, so far, are clarity and staying the course: in other words, to thine own self be true BUT also, check in with that self regularly because, as adults, life moves very fast and it is very easy to get in the habit of moving and working and doing so that you don’t actually know if the path you are on is the right one for you.

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Image of neurons in the brain under activity from the Franklin Institute’s exhibit “Self Reflected”

 

There are some things that I am doing this year that, I hope, will help with flying along the migrational path of these themes. I have recently become reinvigorated in the jewelry department after a couple of craft shows around the holidays, and have decided to up my game a bit and try to get some pieces in galleries that I would like to see them in. I gifted myself 10 opals to help in this process! They are beautiful, and will become two bracelets that are inspired by internal structure, structural integrity, and the warrior’s spirit.

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Some of the opals are here displayed by the stone cutter who cut them especially for me!!! Everyone should check out Mountain Song Jewelers

 

Also, I am gifting myself a plane ticket to England. I decided it was time to put up or shut up about going to England, as I have said every year since 2009 that *this* is the year that I am going to go, and then I don’t do it. This year is the year. I am flying out around the 20th of July, and will come back around the 20th of August, to start another school year with flying colors and, hopefully, much inspiration. I will see family, tour gardens, watch the ocean, go to museums, drink tea, go mudlarking, and get in touch with my roots. I will see what happens after that, but I became so excited about this the other day that I became teary-eyed and that was what cemented the decision. I was daydreaming about landing at Gatwick, getting in a black taxi-cab, and traveling through the streets of London to my aunt’s house. I was looking up and around out of the windows, watching the comings and goings of the city. My heart swelled, and I decided I would just make it work.

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Kynance Cove on The Lizard Peninsula, Cornwall, England…just looooooook! 

 

That is really it in terms of plans: jewelry-making and traveling. I want to travel as much as I can, get out there into the world and take some chances. Also, I am becoming deputized to register people to vote, and will have my Deputy Patience face on every day at school to help teachers and parents and students understand how to register and how to vote. I think it is something that I can actually do in these strange times in which we find ourselves. One question that keeps coming back to me is: what do I do? I think I have an idea, which is to wait. Wait and listen. Listen and wait. Think about the goals, and work toward them. Allow everything else to be nebulous. Stay the course, but remain flexible. Someone told me that the mark of a successful person is, when confronted with something not exactly as you would like, you make do anyway. I think she is right. She was commenting on my disappointment in a lack of plain milk chocolate bars in her store, and so I took a risk and bought one with pretzel bits in it. It was her observation that I was a successful person. I took the compliment, and the chocolate, with delight. It was delicious, by the way.

The Seer by Andy Moerlein, 2012 – sculpture of bent branches at the Hulls Cove Tool Barn

 

I was back in Maine in November for Thanksgiving, but I ended up spending about half the time in Portland with friends. We went to restaurants and bars and drove around a lot. Meg and I met a really funny Maine Guide in a gas station somewhere between Brunswick and Bar Harbor who told us he was writing a book that was a cross between Hustler, 50 Shades of Grey, and Downeast Magazine. I went to a bar called the Bearded Lady’s Jewel Box that had a magical mural painted behind the bar, and all the menus were framed in old brass thrift-store frames. I ate dumplings a-go-go and drank delicious special cocktails with things like Cymar and Frenet and egg-whites and lavender in them. I went walking with my friend Tony to Two Lights Park on a very cold and sunny day and we looked at rocks and the ocean. We were talking about relationships and people and life and memory, mostly, and we met some people who were walking their long-haired whippets along the same path as us. They remarked on the beauty of the day, and I too, was struck by the blue of the water, and the shiny brown undulating forms of the rocks at its edge.

Oh Maine, you beautiful place, you. Two Lights State Park, Cape Elizabeth, Maine.

 

Maine water is the deepest blue, so clear but yet so cold and deep: like a sapphire that stretches and moves out to the horizon, dotted by boats, glinting in the sun. I miss Maine, and decided at that moment, that I’d like to be there, again. As my friend Carolyn has said, it looks good on me. I miss the people, the ocean, the trees, the seasons, the natural beauty, the enveloping environment, the quiet, the peace of it. I know now that nowhere is perfect, and I know now that I love Texas at its heart and soul, and I love Maine, too. Over the last few weeks, I have realized that I could work with and teach refugee and immigrant children up in Maine, in Portland or Lewiston-Auburn, and keep working on the mission that I started eleven years ago, as a baby teacher, at the young age of 25. Little did I know then that I would end up, 11 years later, an art teacher at a girls’ school, aiming to inspire a sense of art, of criticism, of laughter, of bewilderment, of creativity, of capacity, and of resilience in a band of young girls, embarking into their own adult world. Their world seems different than mine was at the age of 18, but perhaps it truly isn’t. I suppose I will have to ask them in almost 20 years.

I could write about my critiques of our current political situation, of the current political situation in Texas, but I won’t today. Perhaps later. For today, this is simply a forecast and a casting of wishes like dandelion seeds out into the ethers for a new year. Here we are. Hope *is* a verb, as I have learned, and clarity is my mission. Stay true to myself, and remember to have a lot of fun. Human connections, art-making (which this semester includes puppets!), and food with friends are what stave off the cynicism and the despair that creeps in at our society’s edges. Hold it at bay with sword in hand!!! Whatever your sword is, wield it with love not malice. To win, we stay peaceful and present and we bring light into dark places, understand that each day is new, that nothing is permanent, and that our friends are what help us mark the passage of time, not things, or money, or calendars. These are my wishes for our new year. Happy happy to you. May all your wishes come true, allowing for the almost certainty that what you wish for will change.

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I Believe In You

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Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark, 
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks 
Within his bending sickle’s compass come; 
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, 
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
   If this be error and upon me proved,
   I never writ, nor no man ever loved. 

Sonnet 116

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Tonight, I watched the sun set over the ocean. It spread lavender and navy and peach and magenta red light out over the horizon and washed the clouds, bathed them in color. I looked up at the clock and noticed it was 7:15: we have already lost a full hour of daylight. I noticed one branch of maple leaves was bright red against the remaining green ones stretching up to the roof of my building. This morning, I woke up to a breeze blowing through my windows. I had kicked off a blanket last night and woke up cold: it was a fall morning.

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Life is a constantly changing mystery; but if you start to pay attention, the good floats to the top, until it’s all you want to see.

 

 

Frozen, and Friction-Free

“Do you have skates yet?” a voice said over the phone, while I was sitting and polishing silver at my table at the craft fair.

“It’s funny you should ask that, because I was just shopping for skates the other day, and was planning on getting some this week!”, I said, smiling.

“Well. We should get you a pair. I am going to come and get you and then we are going to go skating!”, he said.

I smiled, and said, “yes!”.

Sonja Henie Skating

I was wearing a green dress with blue and pink striped tights, a beautiful but crazy jewel-toned scarf my friend Seze made me years ago, and the requisite cowboy boots: not your typical ice-skating outfit. In fact, my friends who stood there chatting and eavesdropping on my conversation said,”you are going to go skating in that beautiful dress?” They also said, “it would be perfect! You out there on the ice, with the fabric floating around you as you skate!”

Studio shot of woman wearing ice skates

So. I called him back and asked him to go my house and pick up corduroys and a better shirt, and he told me he’d dig through his attic and find something. It is the small battle of two stubborn people, two people used to running their own show, trying to figure out how to do things together….I pull, he pulls, one of us wins. He did, and when I climbed into the truck, he informed me that we had clothes enough for five people and that I had to wear everything, all at once.

Man putting on ice skate on woman's leg

Pulling off the side of the road, at the edge of Acadia National Park, near the closest to Bar Harbor entrance to the Carriage Roads, he disappeared into the woods, through the trees to the edge of the beaver pond, frozen two inches thick with ice that been consolidating for the last week or two. A few days ago, we stopped at the same spot, and he grabbed a cordless drill from the floorboards and we went and measured the ice; then, too thin, but yesterday, perfect. I could see him, crouched at the ice’s edge, lacing up his skates as I waited for a moment when no cars came by to take off my green dress, braving the cold air with my almost naked body, naked save my tights and undies and socks, pulling an old striped wool sweater over my head and warm pants over my tights, laughing at myself as the air whipped around my body, blowing my hair all about my head as I adjusted the scarf and zipped up my jacket over my new, skate-friendly outfit.

1930s silhouette figure shown from knees down wearing ice skates skating in ice sun glare

At the ice’s edge, on a large shelf of bumpy granite, I laced up my new skates, pulling the laces as tight as I could, remembering my days as suburban roller-blade champion. I was instructed to scoot out onto the ice on my butt, and then stand up. So, I did. Not falling, I held his hand and we slowly, slowly, skated out over the ice.

Skating Waiter Falling on the Ice

Clear ice, with white bubbles frozen in its surface. Clear ice, with leaves and lily pads suspended beneath my feet. Clear ice, with trees and two beaver dams poking through it. Lightly carving curves into the surface with our skates, marking that we had been there, on that ice.

Alaska. Air bubbles layered in ice.

As I got my bearings, my ice-legs if you will, he let go of my hand and I skated on my own, slowly at first, but then picking up speed as I felt more comfortable, feeling myself fly over the ice, smooth as silk under my skates. I found that if you barely turn your foot, you can spin in delicious circles and not fall. If you bend your knees, you get more power to push forward, and you can lean quite far over without the fear of falling. You can move your legs out or together and control your motion; you can skate over bumpy patches and pretend you are on a bike, cycling over gravel, using the motion of your body to absorb shock and keep going.

Frozen water

We skated to the edge of the pond and I saw flat granite pieces going down into the ice; this place must have been a quarry years ago, before the Park gained the land and absorbed it. The granite, flat as a blade, covered with lichen and mosses, its smoothness broken only by a small fir tree growing at the ice’s edge. I was struck, again, by the beauty of this place and inspired to make more beautiful things based on the beauty that I was witnessing.

Branch in frozen lake

We then skated to the opposite edge of the pond, where the darkness of late afternoon had begun to creep through the trees, casting black shadows out onto the smooth surface. There was a half moon of clear, black ice near the water’s edge, and then a cast of ice so different. It was clear that the water had refrozen there, over a bit of time, for under the surface were cross-hatched rectangles of white ice crystals, frozen under and over each other, like a basket woven of ice. Creeping together and out over one small section of the pond, looking like tiny tiles laying on top of each other, turned this way and that, out into the center of the pond. Here and there dotted with trees or grasses poking out, the white cast of ice spread before you like a road to follow, albeit bumpily, with your skates. I came back over and over to skate on that section of the pond, just to appreciate the amazing processes of nature that can happen as temperatures warm and dip at the beginning of winter.

Frost and ice patterns in a beaver pond, Greater Sudbury (Lively), Ontario, Canada

After a while of skating in huge circles and small circles, of watching someone much better at skating than I do cross-overs and figure eights, of remembering that scene in Fantasia when the faeries turn the landscape to winter, of attempting to balance on right foot and then left, of realizing I didn’t know how to stop, he said, “five minutes?”

I said, “seven!” and then he taught me how to stop.

Ice crystals on frozen pond, Bavaria, Germany

When we were finished, and sitting on that same granite ledge again, taking skates off and putting shoes on, the dusk was imminent and pensive, shrouding the trees and the pond in an almost tangible cloudiness of early winter: looking out at the trees, their colour changed from the pure green of daytime to a rusty, bronze green as the darkness imbued everything. Looking up, the sky was a blanket of silvery grey clouds, deep and close. The trees’ reflection shimmered on the frozen surface of the pond: all you could discern was a shape of a mass of trees, not the individual trees that you can see on a still day in summer. We walked back to the truck as night fell, darkness coming down from the sky to the earth as another day came to an end.

Milky sunrise over ice on beaver pond in early winter, Greater Sudbury, Ontario, Canada

We finished the day by driving along Somes Sound, gazing out at the lights of houses dotting the waters’ edge on the other side, looking at the toothed silhouettes of the two mountains that line the southern edge of the Sound, watching the trees disappear into the blackness of night.

Deep blue mountains, black water, grey sky: winter.

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Photodiary – Sargent Drive

Sargent Drive is a scenic byway on Mount Desert Island. It is one way to get from the main road to my little town of Northeast Harbor, and, to me, is the most beautiful road on the island. It is one of the reasons that I wanted to live in this town: so that I could drive up and down this road every day if I wanted to.

Where does inspiration come from?

The other morning, Monday I think it was, I awoke and it was a bright, autumn day and I dedicated the day to art. I walked the two miles to Sargent Drive and sat on a cold, granite boulder on the edge of Somes Sound for an hour or so, drawing and waving to cars as they drove by. At the end of my time there, I decided to take photos as I walked back home. All in all, 4 and a half miles, almost three hours of time, lots of great songs and wonderful photos that inspired me, tonight, finally,  to create beautiful pieces of jewelry that come from the natural beauty of this island….