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

In The Dark

“When things fall apart, consider the possibility that life knocked it down on purpose. Not to bully you, or to punish you, but to prompt you to build something that better suits your personality and your purpose. Sometimes things fall apart so better things can fall together.”

-Sandra King

Mid-tide at Clifton Dock, Northeast Harbor

There is a quiet in the air here, a solace of a sort. A feeling in the wind, especially at night, that soothes the soul after another day. The air is close but comforting, cold as it wraps around your face and body as you walk home. The stars, glimmering above, ever slightly changing with each passing day, twinkle down on a bewildered face each night as I stroll.

Seven Moons Passing – Susan Seddon-Boulet

When I first moved here, all three weeks ago, the quiet was an intimidating force. There was a huge part of me who, having spent my whole adult life in cities, was used to the white noise hum of cars passing by, of planes flying over, of doors closing and opening, of people talking and yelling to each other. I was used to the comforting noises of a city: the noises that let you know that the city is humming along to itself, the subway running beneath your feet as buses stop at bus stops, people getting off and on.

The first night I was here I noticed the quiet, and I noticed it even more as each day passed. During the first two weeks that I lived here, I suffered the feelings of loneliness and isolation quite intensely. Not knowing what to do, I took walks and made phone calls, sat in my house and knit shawls and gloves. I sat here, and wrote my thoughts down on digital paper. I looked out the windows at the quiet street, at the glowing windows of neighbors’ houses, and wondered….

Could I do this? Or shall I turn back?

A week ago at night, I left the studio when it had just become dark and walked to my favorite perch: Clifton Dock. I sat on the gang plank and watched tiny snowflakes fall around my face, the first of the year. The tiniest flakes, so soft in air so warm that they melted before they hit the ground, but yet, were there, swirling around my face tilted up toward the sky.

Walking through these quiet streets, especially at night, when I am alone and left to my own devices, has become a source of incredible, almost indescribable joy to me. When I walk up South Shore Road from Clifton Dock and pass all the beautiful, old summer houses that remind me of the houses in “The Great Gatsby” or “Sabrina”, and I look at their darkened windows and wonder where their owners are and what they are doing, I can dance, skip and spin down their road and no one can see me but the birds, the houses, and the trees.

I have never felt this sense of peace before in my life: my sense of self has always been full of many stressful emotions, at least as long as I can remember, anyway. I feel things very deeply, hence the large tattoo of an anatomical heart on my left arm declares to the world that I am one delicate, sensitive soul.

But once the loneliness faded, which it did, sometime last week, the sense of peace swooped in and took over. I spoke with a friend last night who is, hopefully, embarking on the next phase of her life in another, very different part of our country from where we grew from girls into the women we are now, and she made me laugh because she realized that her new town only has one coffee shop. I laughed because my town has no coffee shop, even though sometimes I wish that we did. Sometimes I wish we had a diner here, just a place to have food if you felt like going, a place like The Brick in Northern Exposure. But I digress….

One of my favorite teachers, who taught me my first skills in jewelry making, all those years ago, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, when I was fresh out of university and freshly married, twenty three years old and knew nothing, told me once that “perfection is a glorious accident”, so this morning, when I read the quote above, I realized, of course, that he was right.

Is this place perfect? No, of course not, but it is so close. Granted, I have no car right now, so that is a challenge. Granted, the winter has not really started and I have no idea what is heading toward me. Granted, I have been here for only three weeks, and your feelings on a place ebb and flow just like the tides that come in and out down at the dock. But…..

Lately, I have been surrounding myself with nature and with art. Without my daily walks, my days feel strangely off, as if something is missing. During these daily walks, I look at things and take photographs. Yesterday, I took this one…

Inspiration comes from the strangest places…..

Last night, I was working on earrings that were inspired by my walk down Sargent Drive the other day: one is inspired by lichen on rocks and the other by grasses growing along granite boulders. Today I will go in and start making some bracelets inspired by the shapes of the pilings in the photograph above. I have my first show in two weeks and am aiming to be ready….it is difficult to look forward and realize that this is what I want to do with my time, all the time, that there is nothing that has made me happier than the process of finding a voice in metals that has come over the last few weeks, in the dark, in the solitary time.

Northeast Harbor Fleet in Autumn

Texas Nights

Mesquite Root Chandeliers

It rained all day today, and the night was cool and muggy. Texas fall nights, quiet time, knitting with a dog at my feet…

““The eastern sky was red as coals in a forge, lighting up the flats along the river. Dew had wet the million needles of the chaparral, and when the rim of the sun edged over the horizon the chaparral seemed to be spotted with diamonds. A bush in the backyard was filled with little rainbows as the sun touched the dew.
It was tribute enough to sunup that it could make even chaparral bushes look beautiful, Augustus thought, and he watched the process happily, knowing it would only last a few minutes. The sun spread reddish-gold light through the shining bushes, among which a few goats wandered, bleating. Even when the sun rose above the low bluffs to the south, a layer of light lingered for a bit at the level of the chaparral, as if independent of its source. The the sun lifted clear, like an immense coin. The dew quickly died, and the light that filled the bushes like red dirt dispersed, leaving clear, slightly bluish air.”

from Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry