The Enormity of Spaces

next servicesWhen I was 19 or 20, I have forgotten which, I went on a long road trip with a college boyfriend out west, from Austin all the way to Washington state and back. We traveled through New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Colorado all in a blue Ford Taurus that looked a little more worse for wear when we returned two months after we had left.

A highlight of this trip was our stop at the Grand Canyon. Previous to a random stop in Pecos, Arizona, town of art and college students, we were, like everyone else, going to stop at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, walk along the plexiglass bridge and marvel at the sights alongside throngs of other tourists. In Pecos, we stopped in a cooperative art gallery and I started chatting with the man working the gallery that day and he told us we should go to the Toruweap entrance instead, and so, we did.

painted desertThe Painted Desert, on the way to Toruweap

Toruweap is a hidden entrance to the Grand Canyon, one accessed by driving up into Mormon country and knowing where you are going because no one will give you directions. After a few turns here and there, you end up at the bottom of a valley with a very large sign at your right telling you the road ahead is 65 miles long and only suitable for all wheel drive vehicles. We pressed on in the Taurus, and two and a half hours later, arrived at a ranger station. We were allowed in and proceeded to drive along huge, flat slabs of limestone on our way to the rim of the canyon, at which point we parked and set up our tent, and walked to the edge of the canyon, realizing that we were the only ones there.

One of my first memories of the Grand Canyon campsite was looking around and noticing the largeness of that place. Later in the day, I walked through rattlesnake infested terrain, over rocks, and sat on the edge of the Grand Canyon, looking down. At that time, only the two of us were there and we were able to experience the Canyon in a way that most people do not: it was immense, many-layered, radiating with heat in the summer sunshine. I sat there a long while pondering how deep it really was, and how I could get down there, and what would happen if I were to fall?

That night we lit a campfire and stared at the stars, thinking about the monstrously huge cliff’s edge only a few feet from where we sat. In the morning, we woke up and went walking around, looking for strange rocks and plants, narrowly missing a rattlesnake, until we saw a small, white Toyota truck with a Utah license plate parked next to one of the picnic tables.

Walking up to the truck (we had already learned to just say hello to other folks on similar journeys to ours), we saw an old man with a long white beard, eating cantaloupe and drinking black coffee, reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Now here was an interesting character, who we learned had driven in late last night for the evening and was about to head home. We sat and shared cantaloupe and coffee, and talked about the world, and traveling, and quickly said goodbye to take off to our next stop: Arches National Park in Utah.

barn windowSalsbury Cove Barn Window

That trip was many years ago now, in fact it was something like twelve summers ago. If I look outside my window today, I see fog and dreariness: the markers of Maine spring. When I was a child, we would arrive in Maine every May and every time we pulled up the driveway of our camp house, with a grocery bag of chicken pot pies, tea, and who knows what else, it was always raining. My memories of Maine in late spring always involve fog, cold, and greyness.

sculptureSculpture and steps outside the jewelry studio at Haystack

It was been awhile since I have written here: too long, as life is passing me by quickly and the events that necessitate recording are piling up inside my mind. I haven’t written since just before leaving for my Haystack weekend, and suffice it to say, I am more than thrilled that I went and had that experience. I met many incredible people, made many things, learned how to be a baby blacksmith, drank a lot of bourbon, and didn’t really sleep for three days. Not sleeping turned out to be a bad decision as it left my body quite empty and shaken up for almost two weeks!!! No longer am I a woman who can party all night and stay up all day the next day…

early morning coffee cupsEarly morning light, many coffee cups…

At Haystack, also, the Maine spring was in full force and it was foggy and cold and clammy almost every day, culminating with our last day being downright soggy, slippery, and windy-cold. There are two bridges to Deer Isle: one is a green metal suspension bridge reminiscent of something you’d find in New York, and the other is a low stone bridge made of white stones that stand out in stark contrast to the grey and brown pebble beaches, the amber and golden seaweed, the green fir trees, the blue water, the white boats.

Haystack is a crafts school that was build in 1961 outside the village of Deer Isle, Maine, and sits on the edge of the ocean, on a small bay that is dotted with the fir covered islands so common to Downeast Maine. If you walk down to the bottom of the steps that run the length of the studios, and lean against the railing, you will see birds fishing and swimming in the water before you, some moorings, some lobster buoys, a large island draped with golden and amber seaweed, and many smaller islands laying long and flat along the horizon. If you sit down there at night when the wind is blowing, you will hear the banging of the cleats of the flag against the metal flagpole, and hear loons call their eerie song to you. You will see the nightlights passing through the wooden slats that make up the deck and stairs, and perfectly frame a pair of windy, Arthur Rackham trees that grow up out of the beach and against the bottom railing of the deck. These are the trees that became part of the top of the box that I worked on most of the weekend. The box is made of copper and bronze and a 100 year old lockset with key, copper rivets, and epoxy that covers a piece of paper from an old newspaper, asking the question: what shall we do with our daughters? What shall we, indeed?

treesInspirational Trees

box topDo you see them?

Haystack helped me understand something about myself: that I crave the night spaces, the dark times, and that I like to work uninterrupted by others. I can work with others, as long as do not have to interact with them very much. The first night at Haystack I experimented with tools like the hydraulic press and their very fancy rolling mill and their many daps and dapping stumps and made a really beautiful, tiny vessel that looks, almost, like an autumn leaf.

vesselLate night fold forming experiment

The night spaces at Haystack are what are special: the coolness of nighttime, the sounds of the wind rustling the trees, the glow of orange and white lights out of studio windows. The sound that the sliding door made when I opened and shut it, knowing no one else was there, was immeasurably gratifying. Opening the studio door early in the morning and seeing the blue morning light cascading through large windows, casting the anvils, the tables, the lights, the walls in an eerie, silvery light. The smell of that studio reminded me of my old studio in Austin, but much, much colder, as if the environment that surrounded us on all four sides penetrated the walls, becoming part of the building itself.

studio instagramLate night, empty studio

haystack benchWork space

heat patinasExperimental heat patinas on paper-thin copper

heat patinas 2Detail

etchingsExperimenting with salt water etching

And that is, of course, my experience of life in Maine, that we are literally drawn into and become part of the landscape, and it of us. It is impossible to not be affected by and to effect the landscape, whether it be your footprints on old leaves whilst walking in the woods on a rainy day, or whether it simply be the memory of the way the birch trees with their white and black trunks look in contrast to their lime green new leaves. The landscape is burned into your mind, your heart, your soul, and becomes tied to its ever changing daily face, no two days the same, just like us.

When Haystack Weekend was over, and I was left completely exhausted after not sleeping the last night at all: I was blacksmithing til dawn and then just powered through to work on the box until crashing for about ten minutes at 9:30, my friend and I drove home along the windy roads of Downeast Maine, in the rain, talking about people, laughing about the weekend: making a wrong turn at one point, we ended up almost in Penobscot. The roads from Blue Hill to Deer Isle wind and wind, twist and turn around houses old and new, showing bushes bursting forth with spring color, lobster traps, old cars, hidden in the woods sometimes are even older houses, stone walls, and other mysteries that stay half hidden as the seasons keep rolling by.

It is hard for me to understand that in a few short days it will be the 1st of June, and that I have lived in Maine now for almost one year. I started writing here at the end of August of last year, and have watched the seasons change from summer to fall to winter to spring and soon, it will be summer again. Time keeps marching by, keeping its own pace, and we are simply swimming through, bearing witness to all the changes, small and large, planned and surprising.

boxThe box

An Exhalation…

“Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country.”

– Anais Nin

schieleLandscape – Egon Schiele 1913

IMG_2342Spring Shadows at Compass Harbor, Acadia National Park

“O thou with dewy locks, who lookest down
Thro’ the clear windows of the morning, turn
Thine angel eyes upon our western isle,
Which in full choir hails thy approach, O Spring!

reflectionReflections, Northeast Harbor

IMG_2330Tools and Toys from the Tool Barn, Hulls Cove

IMG_2336Beech Tree in Early Spring, Compass Harbor

IMG_2347Birch, Box and Block

“The hills tell each other, and the listening
Valleys hear; all our longing eyes are turned
Up to thy bright pavilions: issue forth,
And let thy holy feet visit our clime.

benchTools for Creativity


chainChain, Northeast Harbor


“Come o’er the eastern hills, and let our winds
Kiss thy perfumed garments; let us taste
Thy morn and evening breath; scatter thy pearls
Upon our love-sick land that mourns for thee.

harborNortheast Harbor in April

IMG_2334A Dream, disguised

IMG_2337Birch Bark

rocksRocks, Northeast Harbor


solderingHeat & Oxidation

“O deck her forth with thy fair fingers; pour
Thy soft kisses on her bosom; and put
Thy golden crown upon her languished head,
Whose modest tresses were bound up for thee.”

– To Spring – William Blake

duskDusk, Northeast Harbor


“It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it.”

– Anais Nin

Three Weeks

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”

Edith Sitwell

Pemetic Trail, Acadia National Park

Last night, I helped some new friends throw a benefit party for their 17 year old daughter who is taking the huge leap of moving to Italy for six months, all on her own. We decorated the Neighborhood House, a huge old building dominated by flying buttresses of darkly stained wood and semi-Tudor looking windowpanes, a large stage, a room with couches and a fireplace, another room with a wrap-around window seat and a fireplace, and a few porches thrown in for good measure. Strung in the buttresses are many white Christmas lights, and along the dark paneled walls are sconce lights: both of which you can dim.

Hamilton Pond, Norway Drive (and my fingertip!)

We set up tables and chairs and I put many tiny red chrysanthemums into old glass bottles. Teenagers covered the tables with white paper, set candles inside jam jars and decorated the tables with fir boughs and tiny pine-coned branches that wrapped, perfectly, around the jam jars and the bottles with flowers. We set up a kids’ room with coloring pages and chairs and comfy pillows and made sure there were games in the closets. I watched as my new friends cooked for 100 people: no small feat. I watched as antipasto plates, bruschetta, pasta, salad and tiramisu all came out of that kitchen; all made with love by 4 people for 100 people in their community who loved that girl and wanted to send her to Italy for six months, maybe more.

The Old Dairy Barn, Norway Drive & The Crooked Road

I did my best to help where help was needed: pouring wine and running errands, grabbing bottles of wine and tiny boxes, setting up the silent auction, wrangling little children hiding in corners and making sure they all ate something. I made luminaries with sand from the beach at Clifton Dock and taught three little girls how to use a barbeque lighter to light them without lighting the bags on fire. As we finished, the youngest said to me, “I want to light a bag!” and so, that wonderful spirit of pyromania is born.

Lichen and Reindeer Moss on Tree Branches

I ran home and raided my cabinets for jam jars and tea lights and whatever else would be useful. I tried to stop my friend from working too hard at her own party by taking wine bottles out of her hands to serve people so that she could visit. I bussed the tables and re-organized the silent auction as it got steadily messier throughout the evening. I occasionally stopped and visited with people, including a strange woman who is writing a book on inappropriate baby names, met some neighbors, saw my landlords and met their grandchildren, who, earlier, I saw driving their minivan across the driveway and it reminded me of kids in Texas driving trucks as soon as their feet could hit the peddles.

Seal Harbor, Incoming Tide

At the end of the night, though, was when it happened. There was a kindergartner in attendance, and her name was Olive, and earlier we had played that age old game of lifting her up in the air and tossing her a little bit before catching her and plunking her down on the ground: we did this four times. This was apparently the key to her heart, because at nine o’clock when the dancing started, she came up to me and started shrieking, “Conga Line!”. And so there we were, a 32 year old woman and a 5 year old girl, failing at starting a conga line during Blind Melon’s “No Rain”. And although we failed at a conga line, and I after a while let go of her little shoulders so that she could dance with other little kids, I looked around and realized that a year ago, I was living in a place that I had a lot of ill feelings about, and right now I was dancing in a darkened room, under a disco ball and red and green lights with a group of 20 near-strangers and I was the happiest I had been in who knows how long. In that moment,  I felt part of this community and I had to turn away from the person I was talking to just for a minute and look at the ceiling because I started to tear up at the thought of it.

A Poster in a Window on Market Street, Philadelphia

I looked around and saw teenagers being nerds and dancing to silly songs, and little girls in party dresses spinning each other around, and parents who were drunk and happy to be so, and a whole group of people who were there just to celebrate and send off one of their young ones to the next phase of her life. Watching them, I was so happy to be in a place that felt like home, after so long; a place where, if I want to, these people will take care of me and I them, where I will belong.

The Northeast Harbor Fleet

I walked home to my apartment, and went for a walk and danced and skipped through the streets, so happy that I could dance and skip through the streets and no one would see. I stared up at the stars and saw the faithful arm of the Milky Way that streaks North-South across the sky every night that it is clear enough to see. I walked out to the shore and stared at a lighthouse and realized…

It is amazing what three weeks can do. Home.

The Shelf Above My Bed

A Winged Heart – – – Neckpiece currently under construction

La Vie Revee des Anges

The process of Keum Boo

Last night was a funny night: I spent all afternoon and evening in the studio, struggling with Keum Boo…only to find out that the way I had learned it was using different material than what I have. So, armed with a smidge of frustration, I went out for a walk in the dark.

It was snowing, ever so lightly, as I walked. I went down to the marina, and up the dark road that leads away from the harbor, all the while staring up at so many stars and one arm of the Milky Way that was white in the night. I wandered down the dark stairs that go up from the harbor to the police station parking lot; I hadn’t thought of the fact that the stairs would be dark, too, and had to move very slowly, tap-tapping my boot ahead of me as I went.

As I walked, I couldn’t figure out what was bothering me. The music on the headphones was helpful in letting things out, and I realized that I was processing the transition that I am experiencing. I was remembering Philadelphia, remembering the hardness of that place, and finally am now starting to let it out, let it go. It is very hard and a scary thing to let go of the guard you have had up for over a year and a half: my guard wall started to be built even before I left Austin, when I was steeling myself for the move, and only increased in size and depth as time passed in that new city. By the time I left Philly, the castle walls and moat were so deep and thick as to stop even myself from seeing beyond them. But now, they are starting to crumble, and when they do, it makes me  take deep breaths, think for a minute, and keep walking.

I went to bed at a reasonable time, and woke up this morning refreshed and inspired to have a day dedicated to art. It is strange as today is election day, a day I always pay attention to but do not participate in because I am not able to vote (being a non-citizen). In that vein, I am usually very politically charged but have decided today to step away from that and go out into the woods, and to the library, and then, to the studio.

One of the more interesting things that I have been doing over the last couple of days is gathering photos for my dream house in the country, collecting snippets here and there, looking at new blogs like Wit + Delight (which I love love love), and thinking about the way I wish to make my little house. I haven’t thought of things like this in a long, long, time, and I feel wonderful to be back to thinking about creating and cultivating a life of beauty in this place.

Early this morning, I stepped onto my newly glassed-in porch, felt the boards move beneath my feet and could almost feel roots growing out of my feet down toward to the ground, anchoring me here. I stretch my body every morning as part of my greeting to the day, stretching my arms and legs up and out, but this feeling was different: it was as if I was a long, tall tree with branches going up and large, strong roots growing down.

Last night, during my walk, I visited my favorite tree in town which is in the garden of a huge, old summer house on the water.

My favorite tree in summer…now it is quite different

“Nothing that had happened in the past could be taken away. This was an amazing gift. The past was done and over and settled; you couldn’t get it back, but still, whatever good you had gotten from it, spiritually, emotionally, would be yours for your lifetime.”

Nancy Werlin