Freedom & Forgiveness

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Veil Nebula

It has been three months, give or take, since I wrote My Story on this blog and went through the experience of processing that event from twenty years ago. Still, it mystifies me that we can hold memories and experiences in our hearts and minds for so long and not be able to see them clearly until through a process of heart-work and attention, can achieve a moment of clarity, seeing ourselves as we truly are. While it feels like a very heavy weight has been lifted from my perception of myself in my life, it is still a great mystery to me: why do we hold secrets from ourselves and others and why are we afraid of vulnerability?

I may never know the answers to those questions, and it may be that part of my journey on the Earth is to explore those ideas with myself and others. I feel a shift happening in my course of work on the Earth; I still feel that teaching is my purpose, but I am wondering if it is time to start teaching in a different way, forum, or circumstance. I am choosing not to worry too much about it and let it all unfold.

Since I started writing here, almost four years ago, so much has changed and so little has stayed the same: many moves, changes of fortune and circumstance, friends, love, and discoveries. Thinking of the person I was when I wrote that first post from Maine, when I had just ridden the park loop bus around Acadia and had decided to stay and live in Maine, I am happy for her, and happy for me. So much processing over so little time coupled with so many beautiful and sometimes heart-wrenching experiences. I think of ice skating, and watching the first snowstorm of my life fall outside my windows whilst watching every episode of Six Feet Under. I think of drying flowers on my porch, en masse, and later drying so many more flowers in the ante-room of my studio at the Tool Barn, both projects related to sharing beauty with other people. I think of the Halloween parade in Northeast Harbor, and Dan’s barn, Lisa’s cabin on Cranberry Island, and Sam’s small paradise on Islesford. I think of the one room schoolhouse on Islesford that I almost taught within, and the many wonderful girls I met this past year. I think of giant fish made out of paper, and sculptures made out of junk, and the woman I taught at Haystack who built her broken back out of brass and copper. I think of all the people that I met, and how much I miss them. I think of all the people I love here in Austin, and how much I missed them.

Life is like a seesaw in so many ways: most of the time we are aiming toward a peaceful level of equilibrium, but life’s many feathers of fortune fall on either side, shifting us slowly (or quickly) up and down. It is a matter of balance, as it is constantly shifting out of balance. Like the seesaw, it’s all about riding along, moving upwards and downwards, watching the trees and bushes blur, smiling at the person across from you, and trying not to bump your butt too hard if the other one jumps off, or if you push too hard and end up thumping against the ground.

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Be Honest

What a loaded phrase.

What a practice. Can we, any of us, be truly honest with ourselves and with others?

“If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.” – Virginia Woolf

Lately, I have been trying this out: this idea of being myself. I now understand that who we are, or what is important to us, is shifting almost constantly and therefore, our expressions of such self will also shift and change. For most of my young life, I felt like I should portray myself in one way, and hide everything else. I think I learned this from my mother, and from growing up in an immigrant family where success means everything and feelings are swept under the rug, or into the corners of coat closets.

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I have some strange health problems, that probably started when I was sixteen. I inherited a strange genetic immunodeficiency disease, most likely from my father’s side, that is named gammaglobulinemia. It manifests in many ways, mostly in my predilection for infections and constant arthritic-like pain in my hands, wrists, and hips. During my senior year, I had to take a rest cure for almost six months, and spent my days watching movies and eating scrambled eggs, wondering what would happen. During that time, the illness expressed itself in its most intense form to date, but here and there, it pops up, as if to remind me of my own delicate nature. I forget, or shove away, my actual nature almost on a daily basis, as if putting forth a calm and strong and independent persona will chase away the inconsistencies, the weaknesses, the sadnesses, the things about myself that I am afraid of.

A few weeks ago, I chose to do something different. I chose to go to a good doctor and to talk to people about how I feel on a daily basis. It is a huge change for me: previous to this, only those closest to me knew about my feelings of being in my body. Very few people know that I experience chronic pain that limits the way my body moves and feels in space. I took a chance recently and spoke about it, and realized, just as a I realized last winter, when I shared my life story with close friends in Maine, that those who care about you don’t hate you when you express weakness, but rather, they see you as more human, more like them. Today I sat in the woodshop and talked about my friends with another friend and talked about how I have an autoimmune illness and that’s why I feel sensitive a lot and have been going to to doctor a lot since the fall. My friend sat there and asked me, “so…your bones hurt all the time?” And I explained it: how my wrists, hands and hips hurt constantly. He told me that it was strange that someone who works with her hands so much has so much pain, and I told him the truth, that activity is one of the only things that helps with it. He said, “well, I suppose you would have given up on it a long time ago if it was the other way around.” I smiled and said, “well, I wouldn’t have been able to give up on it.”

I supposed there are great risks in the opening of the heart. What happens if people lean into you too close and pierce it, sometimes not in an act of malicious vengeance but just peering too close-in? I spoke with a studio-mate the other day about divorce and its long-lasting implications, and about how I feel at peace with it all finally, as if it happened a long time ago, a time I can’t really fully identify with anymore. She told me that her divorce is still taking its toll, ten years later. So we agreed that all of us experience loss, grief, decisions and their implications, in different ways, and no way is wrong or right.

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I feel like being honest and opening my heart, perhaps for the first time, is a great form of risk-taking, but it conversely feels empowering and creates a sense of confidence that I don’t think I have felt before. It’s a feeling as if my old pair of LL Bean shearling boots are on my feet all the time and that my toes are safe and warm inside sheep-y softness. Of course, self-doubt remains. Questions are tossed in my mind that range from: will they like me? What is wrong with me? Why am I so odd?

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I suppose, here, at the age of 35, living in my beautiful little house in Austin, Texas, that I am finally identifying with my special-ness, something that I was afraid of because I grew up in such a way that taught me that expressing my nature was wrong. But now, in baby steps, I am seeing that, what other people have said to me for years, might be true. Maybe I am an okay person.

Two weeks ago, I was eating a goodbye breakfast at Magnolia with my friend Martha: she was moving to Houston in anticipation of moving to Washington, D.C. One day she will be an ambassador. Anyway, I ran into a friend who I hadn’t seen since I left Austin years ago. This friend and his wife and soon-to-be baby moved into my old house in Hyde Park after it worked out so that I could offer them that little place for the same rent that I had paid. They still live there, and he was very vocal at how thankful they are to have it. His daughter lives there, too. A tight fit in that small house with periwinkle kitchen walls and a veggie garden in the back.

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The Veil

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It was a pack of cards with optical illusions printed on both sides, it was a stamp of a skeleton, it was a book about a mysterious girl with a colorful cover, it was a gilded leather jewelry box. It was memories: the memories of times gone past, of another life, of being oh so much younger. Held onto for years, they were tucked in the corners of old trunks and the shelves of bookcases.

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Moving, packing, sorting, organizing: de-possessing. Communing with all of the things in this cabin in the woods: holding each item in my hand and examining where it came from, who brought it, what it meant over the passing of time and asking myself, honestly, whether it had a place in the house anymore. For most things, surprisingly, the answer was yes. Over the past few years, I have done a really good job of shedding the errata, the flotsam of life defined as possessions.

What does it mean to let it go? It is a phrase that we often utter ourselves or hear others utter in terms of life and its myriad experiences. Let it go, we say, not really knowing what that may mean to others or to ourselves. This week is the beginning of spring, although you wouldn’t know it here on the coast of Maine where snow seems firmly planted in our landscape everywhere you look, but nonetheless, Friday is the spring equinox and the beginning of the sun’s warmth beckoning the living things back out from under the ground, under the snow. Shortly, Persephone returns to us and her mother will celebrate by giving us flowers and leaves again. Shortly, the days will become much longer and we will be able to celebrate the feeling of the warm air on our shoulders.

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Let it go….let go all of the stuff that is holding growth, feeling, evolution back. That pack of cards went into the fire, that stamp went to the growing free pile, the book went to the library. Such magpies are we: holding on to shiny objects, putting them up on shelves or in drawers to be gazed upon during the dark moments. What does it mean to really glean from our lives those items that have meaning and purpose, and to slough off that which doesn’t? Does it mean we are losing or gaining ourselves? Does it mean that we are better at the growth, or worse at the remembering? Does it mean we shall find ourselves at some future date wondering where that bit or bob went? Possibly, but after all, it is just stuff. You can’t take it with you, as the other popular saying says.

Spring is a natural time of cleaning, sorting, and developing better habits for the warmer days. It is a time of reckoning with oneself and with the earth as we witness the huge shift that is happening beneath our feet and around our heads. It is an antsy time: a time of intense preparation, hesitation, and promise.

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Where are we all going on this tiny blue planet hurtling through space? What will happen to us in this new year, after the beginnings of it have been so slow and so cold and so dark? The only thing I know is that I don’t know: I feel like I know less as I learn more about this game of life we all are lucky enough to play.

Lately, I have been trying to appreciate something about the place in which I live each day: mostly I notice the mountains that I can see from my front garden: the dooryard, as it is called here. In front of me each morning is a line of graceful, arced mountains that are dotted with trees that appear black and stand out of a uniform field of white. Behind them, during the day, the sky is either white with snow or blue with sun. At sunset, the sky transforms into a pink-purple-salmon wonderland that casts the roll of those mountaintops in beautiful relief. The lake at their base is beginning to melt: the ice is going out, again, as they say here.

As we all make this grand transition, again, as our axis posits us in greater exposure to our central star, my goal is to remember something simple, something about being in the present moment, something that goes something like this:

“Nothing is absolute. Everything changes, everything moves, everything revolves, everything flies and goes away.”

Frida Kahlo

At the End of a Grand Year

Chinese Lanterns

(On my birthday, we had only two, but it was still beautiful)

Frida necklace13“Pies, para que los quiero si tengo alas para volar?” – – – Frida Kahlo

2013, lucky 13, was a year of great changes and growth. It was a year full of walking and ice skating and driving around my new home of Downeast Maine. It was a year of new friends and a new life, of teaching art to children and adults, of becoming a craftsperson full time, of, in general, adjusting and changing and adapting to this place that adjusts and changes and adapts as the seasons switch and the days appear and disappear, ever different, no two the same.

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Last night, while yet more snow fell and the skies looked ominous and grey-orange in the lateness of a December night, I spoke about how I felt that the winter here is more beautiful than the summer. My friend who I stood with, in the dark, said that he cannot really appreciate one without the other, implying I suppose that the contrast between the seasons, the starkness of this place, is what inspires the wonder and awe that I feel when finding myself on a porch at night with sleet and snow pelting my curly hair.

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Last year’s first snow, magnified on my windows

“I like it when I take the controls from you, and when you take the control from me. I really am a lucky man…” says Bill Callahan in his song, Small Plane, one of my favorites of his and a perfect song for the last few days of what was a huge year for me.

Jordan Pond January 5Ice-scape from Jordan Pond

A year ago, I lived in a beautiful but cold apartment that sat up above a quiet street in Northeast Harbor, Maine. I named it the House that Floats, and soon after, I moved into The Caravan: the tiniest house in Northeast Harbor. I packed my life into a space that is less than 350 square feet, and made a life there by planting flowers and vegetables, sewing, and making jewelry into the wee hours. It is a house with few doors and no closets: it is like living on a very small ship, with everything battened down into its appropriate place.

early morning coffee cupsEarly morning coffee cups at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts

Soon I will move into a new place, and I am not sure what its name is yet, only that it is a very blank slate in a very new town. I realized whilst walking around it the other night that I have no furniture at all anymore to put inside it: no table, no bed, no anything at all save a workbench, a sewing machine table, a cabinet and a bookshelf. So I suppose I do have some things, after all. If I have learned anything from life, it is that our magpie nature dictates that we fill our spaces in no time, and no doubt, the new house will fill up quickly with what I consider to be beautiful things. I decided a little while ago that one of the gifts of all the transitions over the last few years is that I get to decide what and who comes in my door, that this life is mine to create in beauty to the best of my ability.

laboriousA Laborious Mosaic

This past year has taught me a thing or two about beauty, and about cultivating a beautiful life. I have done my best to keep moving forward in this new place, this place in which many people have been for years. I still feel very, very new here: a feeling only amplified by the choice to try a new town on the same island. My newness is exposed almost daily as I remark on sea smoke on the ocean, or ice on the branches of trees, or on the discovery that a good winter coat really saves you in the cold days that seem to be with us with full force. Tonight we go down to 0 degrees, and over the next few nights, to much below that as we enter January. As far as I remember, January was the coldest month, last year full of ice skating on fierce winter days, and that by February everyone is ready for the bitterness of winter’s chill to be over, only to realize that at least two months lie before us before the warmth returns. February, as one of my friends said, is when everyone goes crazy for a while, just dealing with being in the middle of it, rather than at the magical beginning, or the slushy end.

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But, I am getting ahead of myself. Here we are, on December 30th, one short day away from a new year. I am sitting in a beautiful old house in Bar Harbor, housesitting and catsitting for friends who are out of town. I am eating pasta alla carbonara and drinking French wine that I bought from the folks who run the restaurant that took all my time and energy this past summer. I am thinking about what I want for the new year, what I am grateful for from last year, and what to do on the very important last day of 2013.

2667_1127644710456_1297271_nPlanting strawberries: another life (2007)

I have a few habits for New Years Eve; I clean my house very well, I take out all the trash, I pay all the bills, I sweep the dust out of the door. I light candles and eat good food and try to reach the people that I care about. I think about resolutions in a realistic way, as far as what I can really do with my time in the new year. This year I am resolving to be more organized in my business and teaching, and to believe all the compliments that people give me in order to be helpful and keep me going on this path. I am trying to let go of some fear and terror that has held me back for a few years in the hope that it is only a roadblock put in place by my survival skills and instincts. Fight or flight has no place for me here in my new home: this is a place of peace and forgiveness and acceptance of differences. This is a place where people help each other.

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Last night, during another long conversation, a friend and I spoke about the North Pond Hermit and other Maine characters of special significance. A friend of mine who used to live here was complaining the other night about how anti-social everyone is: how everyone stays home and expects others to come to them, about how everyone entertains themselves with various projects. I agree that it is a different sort of place in that way: we all are here for some reason, and I think that reason has something to do with peace and solitude, with creativity and independence, with being away. It is hard sometimes to communicate with people who do not wish to live here about the power of being away here, away in a small community of independent spirits, who occasionally gather together over dinner or a fire. Is it escapism living here? Sometimes I wonder about that, wondering if it is a sense of escaping the external world into a world of your own making. Sometimes I wonder if that is bad, or good, or neither. There is a power in creating your own world, and there are few places where you really can do that; in most places, I think the external forces are so strong that you are challenged to create an inner world at all, much less one that can influence and forge your external world in a meaningful way. There are so many people here who do so many things: small things that add up to a very rich and full life. Some people might think that life too quiet, and that, I suppose is why there are so few people here. Another friend said a few months ago that the beauty of this place is that there are so few people, and the ultimate downside is that there are so few people.

viseReliquary of the Heart

Is it a place of contrasts? To be sure. Is it a place of introspection and quiet? Again, to be sure. Is it the end all be all? Most certainly not, but I am beginning to wonder if there is a place like that at all, or if life, is, indeed, what you make it.

Egon Schiele Landscape 1913Egon Shiele, 1913 —

I pasted this to the front window of my house. Each day as I stared outward, the landscape reminded me of this painting.

So, here we are, sitting on the cusp of a new year. Tomorrow night, during the new moon, we will all listen and watch as another year ends and one begins. My prayer for the new year is that we spend more time noting the present, thinking about the future, and are less hemmed in by our past.

I hope to spend more time thinking about where I am then where I have been or where I am going.

looking outLooking Out, Looking In

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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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

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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

The North Pond Hermit

“A poet is a nightingale, who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds.”

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Strange tales abound here: this land of woods and rugged coast, of granite and fir trees and deep, cold, clear waters. In the waters, down at the harbor, seaweed and kelp stream from buoys and docks, pulled out and pushed in by a constant flow of tides. They flow out and stand, streaming, as if they are the hair of a strange and spooky spirit, barely tethered to the shore.

This place, this land of such long winter; right now, as I type, tiny flecks of ice and snow are hitting my deck and the rain is pouring down. It is 36 degrees, and it is April 12th. Hidden in these woods are old trucks, older houses, ancient bottles, middens: the remnants of lives lived here for centuries.

If you drive north of where I live, the land becomes level again, and then downright flat. The trees are spindly and lighter colored than the fir trees that populate this section of the state. This is the road to Baxter State Park, the place with the tallest mountain in Maine, Katahdin, and one of intense, majestic beauty. As you drive west from Millinocket, the flat roadway all of a sudden becomes intensely wooded again, out and up as you drive toward one giant mountain. I was informed the other day that the reason for this is a conjunction of two small tectonic plates: one that originates from the East, and one from the West. Each brings different rock, soil, and climatic features that inform the visage of this part of the state.

But today, the story is not about the lands north of Mount Desert Island, or of Baxter State Park, but rather, of Rome, Maine, a small town about 120 miles west of where I sit at this moment, typing while listening to the ice fall from a grey, cloudy sky. The videos linked below were made by our state media conglomerate, and I find them really fascinating. Mostly what I find fascinating is the attitude of the North Pond Hermit’s pursuers: they clearly knew of a person who was consistently robbing them of food and tools and other supplies, and had known of him for a long time. They also seem to have a fondness and a fascination for him, as if they don’t understand his behaviors but don’t want to make him feel scared. Almost, they want to protect him from others and protect him from himself, protect him from what sent him into the woods thirty years ago, while also understanding that if someone has burgled his neighbors close to 1,000 times over thirty years, that there must be some sort of consequence.

See what you think: each one is about two minutes long.

I am having trouble embedding the videos, so follow this link: Hermit Captured, Part 1. After watching Part 1, you can watch Parts 2 and 3.

At the end, when you are left with that mental image of a fifty-something man who has not seen his own face in almost thirty years, who lives in the woods of Maine in a nylon tent, who refuses to leave that tent during the long winter lest he be found, who spends his days reading and meditating, think about what that would mean for you. How would it be if your last conversation with another human being was in the mid-90’s? How would it be if your neighbors were the needles of fir trees, the birds that call in summer and migrate in winter, the rush of streams and rivers, and nothing else? How would it be if you hid, and I mean, really hid, away? And then, how would it be when you were finally found?

Do you think he is sad? Happy? Both?

“There is a chivalry, here, of a sort”, said Isak Dinesen in her book, Out of Africa, and that idea plays true here in the rural towns of the middle of Maine. People protect each other: it is the culture of the place. Never are you truly alone, even if you choose to live your life as if you are. Clearly, in the case of Christopher Knight, his isolation and his invisibility were protected both by his cleverness, but also by the people who surrounded him, even though they knew nothing of him. A strange cultural element of country life is that people are allowed to be here; encouraged by the spirit of Yankee independence, there is no one way to be.

“Knight remains at Kennebec County Jail, where he is being held with the general population of inmates.

He is not under suicide watch, according to jail officials, who said they couldn’t answer any additional questions.

“I saw him a couple days ago and I was pleased at how well he was adjusting,” Perkins-Vance said. “He was more social. He actually had expression on his face.”

She said Knight has been charged with the burglary of Pine Tree Camps, but noted that other charges also have been filed. She did not specify what those charges are.

“I think this is as much of a shock to him as it is to us to comprehend what’s going on inside his mind,” Hughes said.” (Bangor Daily News)