June 22, 2011 § Leave a comment
Block Island is a tiny pear-shaped island. It is a rather exotic fruit, which floats out in the Atlantic, only 13 miles from the mainland of Rhode Island, the state to which it belongs. It is a place that I have spent many memorable summer days doing summer things with family and friends. I find myself continually drawn back there like a moth to a porch light. I don’t like it much during the height of the summer frenzy, but a visit in early June, before the mayhem really began proved to be just the right time. A dear friend and her family had rented a house on a hill for a week, and there was an extra twin bed with my name on it…at least for a Friday night.
Block Island is the kind of place where your overnight bag contains a bottle of your chosen poison and some dirty dungarees. And so I threw the appropriate affects together and hopped in the car on a shiny June morning, bound for the Block. As I boarded the morning ferry in the fishing village of Point Judith, we began our 30-minute journey. We idled slowly out of the cut where I observed the names of the offshore draggers sitting casually at dock, my two favorites being the Prudence, and the Stormy Elizabeth. The trip flew by and I before I knew it I was in the company of my very own Elizabeth and back in a place that never feels wrong. We drove round the southeast hip of the island and up to the house to drop off my bag. As I stepped out of the car and onto the lawn of the rented cottage + bungalow each of my senses was on alert. The air filled with salt and honeysuckle, the depth and potency of the Atlantic swept up in a spring bouquet. The freshly cutgrass tickling between our toes, we quickly explored, changed, and headed to Mansion beach where the rest of her people waited for us in the sand.
The day unfolded with bouts of soaking in the sun and plunging into the ocean, where we were floating in a soup of baby moon jellies no larger than green peas. We munched on lobster rolls, caught up and dozed off. Back to the place to shower and relax before dinner, I had a chance to sit and observe the peculiar house, in a most pristine setting, high on a hill. The white tower jutting from the main house had been a submarine post many years ago. Now serving as a bedroom, every element of the house seemed low key and built for comfort, island style. This was the kind of house in the kind of place that calls to your from your sweetest dreams. As I sat on the weathered bare-wood deck of the guest cottage where I was staying, I paused for a moment. I took in the view of southeast light to the right, and the northern view of the town of New Shorham extending all the way out Corn Neck Road. From my post in an Adirondack chair, I noted that the decks might have been the best part of both of these buildings, as they wrapped and turned in just the right places, the railings a perfect height for leaning. With the setting sun still warming the world I ran up and down the sloping green lawn, vowing to never wear shoes again. And for a moment I imagined a life here amidst the deer and pheasants, with Rugosa so sweetly perfuming the air.
I rinsed off the salt of the days swims and put on my dirty dungarees paired with the same shirt I had worn that morning. I joined my hosts in the main house for a drink and a story before dinner. It’s amazing how at home you can feel in a house belonging to a stranger. But there in the kitchen we laughed and shared and enjoyed. Then wandered down to town for dinner and of course some post supper imbibing. We ended up in the only venue that hosts a live band on the weekends, Captain Nick’s. We laughed and joined in as people young and old shook their frames to sub-average renditions of Dead Flowers, and Drunken Sailor, which there were quite a few of roaming the dance floor.
Safely back at the house I whipped up a gourmet midnight snack of ham + cheese sandwiches, with mayo and Dijon. After saying goodnight, I tootled across the lawn once more, bound for the comfort of my twin bed. Through the night the wind gained in strength, and the thick salty air bellowed through my open windows. The brisk June breeze made me hunker down into my rainbow comforter a bit more, as the slatted curtains slapped wildly against the window frame with each breath that the room took. I awoke early, the door to my room – not entirely shut, it also banged against its frame. There was not sunlight pouring through the window this morning, but rather it was a grey day and windy. I shut the window and ran to the loo, only to hop back in bed for a couple more hours, as there were no signs of life from the big house yet. When it was actually time to get up I stirred like a camper, stripping the sheets I had brought off of my bed and neatly folding everything back into my backpack. I put on the same clothes as the day before, and a jacket, and tromped to breakfast: bagels and Gatorade.
With the day ahead of us, Elizabeth drove me back down to the ferry, as it was time for me to go. We chatted and hugged and I told her thank you; It was a real treat. On the boat ride back it was rough, secretly I love it when its like this, with the small catamaran ferry jumping through the waves headed for the mainland again. I thought about writing a letter, but I didn’t. Instead I wrote down these things that I most remembered from being there. And I thought about how the linoleum in the bathroom was the same blue and white patterned floor as was in my family’s house years ago. I don’t think this is why it felt like home however, I think it was because of the people.
June 9, 2011 § Leave a comment
Seattle May 26 – 30 2011
FLUX, is what transported me to Seattle, Washington for the 2011 adaptation of the annual Society of North American Goldsmiths conference. This aptly named event signaling a change that is imminently fluttering on the horizon of the months that lie ahead. As I plan and shuffle and reorganize the life that I have come to know over the past two years in Providence, it is with great anticipation that I ruminate over the road trip that will comprise my summer of 2011.
Seattle was the perfect aperitif to whet my westbound appetite. It was a whirlwind trip, whisking me away from the familiar confines of RISD just as I was beginning to ask, okay, now what? With the pressures of graduate school and thesis behind me, idle time, something that sounded like nirvana two weeks ago, now seeming almost scary. This three-day excursion came at the pinnacle of transition, and getting out of dodge was the best thing that could have possibly happened. And so it was with an exhausted body and an open mind that I found myself in an unfamiliar city, on a coast that lies unexplored, yet soon to be conquered.
Saturday morning breezed in boasting an azure sky and ubiquitous sunshine. As I walked from our downtown hotel towards the water, my only expectation for the day was to visit the arboretum, a botanical garden I had heard about located a bit outside the city. Waiting to meet up with my local friend and hostess, I wandered into an antique shop just up the hill from the Pike Place Market. A bounty of treasures awaited my curious gaze as I wandered cautiously between cabinets filled with all manner of antique items. There was an enormous assortment of jewelry ranging from carved jet brooches of the Victorian era to filigree diamond engagement rings to art deco and costume jewelry. There, positioned among other medical oddities, in a tall wooden case I saw a pair of prosthetic eyes, bluish green with thick blonde eyelashes intact. These peepers perched on a small stand made of wire. Anatomically positioned, the eyes watching the customers with a glazed over aura of all knowingness.
I wandered through the market, but overwhelmed with the weekend visitors and the push and shove of walking in a crowded space, I opted to wait outside for her. “Meet me by the pig,” she had said. And it was there, that I sat for a few idle moments and listened to a three-piece string band, twanging out folk tunes in the middle of it all. We met up there and squeezed through the market once more, pouring out the other side and opting to walk along the sound towards the sculpture garden. Wandering there amidst the lupines and irises the Sera’s and Paine’s we bumped into Mark Dion’s nurse log in its long skinny green house, the Vivarium. As ancient idyllic ferns, and one diminutive spruce were born upon this dead hemlock in the forest where it once fell. Each now reaches its green tendrils towards the glass-pained roof of the structure that holds it, one man’s vision executed.
We walked swiftly now, through the city bound for a bookstore on 1st and Stewart. There Peter Miller, a close family friend of my tour guide, greeted us warmly, the tomes that fill his shop are manifestations of modern architecture and design. He sent us on a fieldtrip to a gallery nearby and wouldn’t speak with us further until we left, promising to report back. There at 3 X 10 we poured our vision over the fragility and fleeting nature of jewelry made exclusively of handmade paper, appreciating the repetitive forms for the amount of handwork that went into this undertaking. An excerpt from the artist book that accompanied this work by Kiff Slemmons:
To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee,
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.
Back to Peter Miller’s where we were received generously with smartly designed Danish glasses filled with cool white wine. The topic of conversation focused on the Louisiana Museum outside Copenhagen, as well as where we should have supper that evening. ‘You will eat at the Walrus and the Carpenter,’ he declared ‘but you’ve got to go there now.’ And so with a faint buzz we bumbled out into the warmth of the sunshine to board a bus headed for Ballard. There we dined like queens on stinging nettle soup, kushimoto oysters, and salmon tar tare, relishing each discrete taste. We spoke about the past with clarity and reflected upon the future with promise, and discussed our impending evening of cocktails and banter that lay waiting somewhere in the ether. Post feast, we made our way back to the city watching the sunset over the sound out the back window of the taxicab that carried us; the sky alight in blues, pinks, and purples – clouds and mountains illuminated by the soft hues of sundown.
As it came time for going, we departed after having said our goodbyes and I love you’s, this epic journey coming to a close on a Sunday morning. We rode an airplane – eastbound and zooming across this wide continent. I slept lightly, yet luckily awoke just as we were approaching the Rockies. As the plane paralleled the line of the mountain range I looked ahead and all I could see was the way that this land had heaved and contracted, creating these white-capped giants. My face glued to the small pane of plexi-glass, I watched as these peaks veered to the south and disappeared out of sight as quickly and magnificently as they had emerged. I continued to look, watching the changing landscape from a bird’s eye view. Soaring over the carved river channels, the salmon colored sands of the desert, and the orderly circles of green growth dispersed throughout this wide open landscape; I couldn’t help but wonder, just where down there you might be.