Tuesday, August 16, 2016


Through the empty branches the sky remains.
It is what you have.
Be earth now, and evensong.
Be the ground lying under that sky.
Be modest now, like a thing
ripened until it is real,
so that (he)* who began it all
can feel you when (he) reaches for you.
-Rainer Maria Rilke
             translation by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows 
Book of Hours, II 1
                                                                                     *My parentheses
Dearest Readers,
Portland to Peacham, May 2016

Driving from Portland to Peacham this Spring was a 3,100 mile cross-country race home. I was outrunning the inevitability of a limited number of years left on this planet, and feeling the need to churn out the artistic questions about this love affair I have with the trees, forests, and the Green Mountains of Vermont–my ancestral home. This is the place where my great grandparents arrived from Ireland, escaping the Potato Famine of the 1840’s and the oppressions of life under English colonial rule. Some fought in the American Civil War a decade or so later, 
Peter Fagan-16th Vermont Infantry-Grand Army of the Republic
and most are buried in the same town of Rutland Vermont where they first put down roots, raised families, and where I spent the later years of my childhood. I am grateful to them for taking the risk of immigrating to a new land and making this place their home. 
Bridget Hickey Dunn

Margaret Conlon Fagan

Patrick Fagan in Civil War uniform

Thomas Dunn
Because of the Dunns, the Conlons, the Fagans and the Hickeys, I’m sitting in my 2nd floor bedroom scanning a vast sky over a lush green Vermont forest brimming with the inexorable creation and destruction that is the wildness of Nature.
My window view of sky above and forest  below at sunset
It is in me too. I fit into this landscape. My mind is the mind of the land interwoven with the continuous  progression of generation, growth, decline, death, decay, and regeneration. Outside my window is a cathedral. I stop, look and listen.
The Mother Hole-West Rutland Vermont 2012
If you remember, dear readers, I have in recent years burrowed myself a tunnel into the earth to satisfy my itch to claw into this Vermont-y-ness. I descended on a hand-lashed ladder, and I climbed out.
The Thinking Place-Peacham Vermont 2014-2015

More recently I fashioned a womb-like stick hut in the field outside my window. I cleared, I dug, I sawed, and wove the branches into a quiet thinking place. My friend Cynther added the leafy boughs.

Today the burrow is filled in, and the hut dismantled and rearranged into a pile of branches that has been home to hummingbirds, white throated sparrow and the ubiquitous, resourceful ground hogs.

Home is place, culture, memory, an old homestead, family, a community of friends and neighbors who help each other out, living gently and reciprocally on the land.

I call my road here in Peacham “the Hall of the Ancient Mountain Maples”. They too are weathered and stalwart. 

I feel the wind in my thinning hair. I walk and walk and walk my gnarly feet across the dark brown earth.  I turned 70 last week. 

Sunday, July 31, 2016


Before the fix
Dearest Readers,
 Last time I told you the story of a painting called "Grace", named after that amorphous gift from out of the blue that arrives without warning, perhaps undeserved, but definitely welcomed as an answer to my painterly conundrum of what to do next. She is done. This painting. Completed. I am content after ten years of carting this big girl around with me.
Before the fix
Last time I blogged and whined about the intensity of its eye motifs, and the cheezy-ness of that dripping tear. All gone. No more worries. I quite simply, (timidly at first) toned down two of the eyes as a test.
One of the eyes after the fix
Another eye after the fix

I covered them with white paint to match the background, and quickly ragged it off. Then I brushed some back on, then off, then a lesser amount on, then I walked away, out of the studio. I kept returning during the evening taking sneak peaks. A few days later I shared these baby steps with my stalwart "Art Crit Group" from Atlanta via FaceTime on my iPhone. "Keep going," they said, "pick a few more to soften here and there".

I waited a few days, then last Saturday morning in bed a realization welled up that a gradual muting of the eyes in the lower half of the piece made sense with the arrival of Grace from the upper half. I plunged ahead, dabbing and erasing, covering and partially revealing. It worked! I even brightened the elements in the upper half.
Final painting after the big fix

The eyes now rest easy within the picture plane.
Add caption

I even painted over that pesky teardrop that spoke of sadness with a cudgel. I took a full view photo, and several details. Funny, the closeup of the central melancholy eye revealed a hint of the underlying tear. It was still visible beneath the new dabs of acrylic! 

This time I had no doubts. The tear must go in favor of a subtler image. I am at last content. My hope for you, dear viewer, is that you can experience this painting now in any way you like.

Revised brighter detail