Saturday, August 13, 2011

August 13-Birthdays, Friends, the Sky and A Well-Rutland Vermont

Dearest Readers,

This is what my lunch and dinner looked like on my birthday–two meals of non-nutritiously delicious Dunkin chocolate-chocolate donuts and coffee. Breakfast was coffee and a short stack of blueberry pancakes with real maple syrup. I had a sugar/caffeine buzz most of the day, so I stayed in bed reading Rebecca Solnit’s “A Field Guide to Getting Lost”, recommended by Atlanta photographer Laura Noel as a must for the rest of my road trip.

The big Ah-ha on this journey around the country has been how uncomfortable I am with really letting go, and daring to be lost. Alone, I am often like a boat beyond the shore, especially in the Southwest and Northwest USA. So big, so empty. So few signs posts. Trusting the map, letting go of the need to identify the river I am crossing, or what might be around the bend. No one except Etta James is in the passenger seat. No one can read the map for me. I drift through landscapes in the general direction of my next location. The GPS makes mistakes. I will not travel the fastest route. She speaks the truth as best she can. Mostly she is right.

Today, cousins once, twice, three times removed converged on Rutland Vermont to celebrate my first cousin Moira’s 90th birthday. This is a shot I took of the family picture in disarray before the pro-photographer ushered me onto the altar at Christ the King Church to join the group. Moira is front and center in the light blue dress. I am honored to be a part of the gene pool. We are a smart, creative, humorous bunch of New Englanders who have migrated all over the nation, pulled back to this town to celebrate a generous life well lived.

On Thursday I took a short drive over the Green Mountains on paved and dirt roads to Ripton, VT to visit Atlanta friends Ginger and Ralph Birdsey who have a summer place there. Robert Frost lived in Ripton too. This is their house designed and built on the footprint of a previous barn. They have created an artist and writer’s heart cave inside, carved out of the woods. It’s a joyful refuge for thinking, writing, painting and conversation.

Here we sit in the center of the space upstairs. (Downstairs is the studio.)
We are Ralph, Ginger, Etta, myself and Renee Wells on the couch. Renee is an arts advocate for the disabled who consults with the likes of the Smithsonian, MOMA, the Whitney Museum and others from her phone in this town.

Here are three paintings Ginger did the previous day. She is working on images of carnivalesque winged beings with the heads of barn owls who haunt her imagination.

I have become aware of the mostly turbulent sky in Vermont. The Great Lakes affect the weather here. They send us streams of clouds that spend the day forming and reforming above our heads. Sky is a living being in this state, not a backdrop.

Conversely, I visited a hand made well, discovered beneath the Town Hall Center in Middlebury, the former site of a family home. The hole is deep, and narrow, and lined in cobblestones with a collar of brick at the top. A black pool of water is visible in the profundity of its depth.

Finally, I learned that Christina Viscu of Nashville has relocated to Europe and will not be in Nashville when I arrive in early September. So, here I am handing her Hand-to-Hand glove artwork to the postal attendant at the Brandon Vermont post office. Her only comment as the picture was taken was “bizarre”. The customer in line ahead of me snapped the pic.

Summer unwinds. School in Vermont begins August 22nd in most places. I will resume the road trip that day.

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