Wednesday, November 15, 2017

There Goes the Neighborhood

All around me there is construction going on..........or perhaps better put, DEstruction.  When I moved here twelve years or so ago the neighborhood was, how shall I put it?......well, pretty slumlike.  Eastport had not yet been discovered as a seaside attraction.  The town was mostly boarded up and many of the houses on the verge of falling down.  Eastport's location, far out to sea on the Canadian boarder, was the last outpost.  It was the farthest you could go and still be in the US.  The sardine industry that was once the reason for its existence was gone.  The fishermen who hung on earned a very modest living lobstering or fishing.  The house where I live was almost the last outpost going north.  Dog Island, now a wealthy  "suburb" for summer people, was wild with fields and woods.  I used to walk the dogs there, tripping through the underbrush to the cliffs above the ocean.  Now, I still walk the dogs there, but I feel more like I am in Beverly Hills.  The computer world has made it possible for wealthy business people to live anywhere, using their computers to run the corporate world. The houses are huge, their grounds are manicured.  There is little evidence of the acres of Lupine that bloomed there in the spring.  I won't say it isn't pretty because it is.  Some of the trees have been allowed to remain if they fit the landscaping.  There are man made ponds and trellises, flower gardens.  The beautifully cultivated vegetable gardens are surrounded by electric fences to keep out the deer.  (Don't get me started!)  I still miss the old Dog Island, though, and that end of Water St where it was wild.

This morning I took some pictures of the activity around my house.  The influx of the wealthy is no more evident than right outside my windows.  I couldn't really capture the atmosphere with a few snapshots, but there is construction everywhere.  The old houses are being completely repaired and modernized.  Additions, huge windows, and decks are growing out of the sides and roofs.  Foundations are being dug or replaced.  Those that have been completed are unrecognizable.  My own house, once the nicest in the neighborhood, is fast becoming a blight (particularly my chicken house and yard).  I moved here when it was almost a ghost town and I felt at home.  Even though I wasn't born here and therefore seen as "from away," I felt as if I fit in, partly because I was in a subgroup called the artists.  The polarization that has taken place since I've been here and my lack of contact with the art community has left me unattached.  I don't fit.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Chicken Stew

In another probably futile attempt to save money, I have been cooking my meals instead of buying ready-made frozen packages. I once spent half my time cooking......I was fat and very interested in eating. Now I find it quite distasteful, time consuming, and unrewarding. I have a lot of cookbooks, though, and am trying to work up some interest in new cuisine. So far the best thing I have made was an apple pie, which was delicious and I ate it in two sittings. In a concerted effort to make this venture more successful and less fattening I peruse my collection of recipes. This is what I came up with yesterday. It's a bizarre stew made from chicken, ham (which I omitted), green pepper, onions, sweet potatoes, tomato sauce, pineapple and pineapple juice, apples, and bananas. It's seasoned with chili powder and cinnamon. Go figure...........It was edible, luckily, since I will have it for four or five days, but hardly worth the effort. All that slicing and chopping and browning and boiling, all those dishes and cans, mixing and sauteing, all that garbage in the trash, all the leftover apples (not another pie) to deal with, not to mention that my refined palette would have preferred frozen Chinese heated in its own container for six minutes in the microwave.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

The Non-meaning of Art

I have no idea how this picture got here.  I thought I had tried everything to no avail......actually the picture was part of a facebook post I wanted to copy here.  Oh well, I can re-iterate what I said there, though the reason I tried to copy it was that I found it so poetic and wonderful.  Now I will have to say the same, or close to the same thing, in a less inspiring way (I'm being sarcastic about my writing style but dislike emoticons on my blog).  Anyway, the crux of the matter is that this painting, no matter how banal, brought back many happy, though bitter-sweet memories.  Before I lived here in Eastport, I used to bring a bunch of students here for painting workshops.  I knew of the town because of Diana, who owns the house behind me here.  When she bought the house I came with her to see it.  I loved the place and had the idea of giving painting workshops here.  Diana was happy to let me use her house as base camp for my students, and so began many years of summer sessions.

The workshops were popular, and over the years grew to the point where I rented two cabins on the water to use.  Still, the memories remain in place, at Diana's.  There were at times as many as twelve of us sleeping in her three-bedroom house.  She kept her own bedroom, but the rest of us made nests where we could, including in the closet (usually my own privilege).  After breakfast each morning we loaded our  painting gear in cars and drove to a location chosen by me earlier.  I set up my easel and demonstrated in front of my rapt audience.  This was accompanied by my hopefully amusing teacherly banter.  Afterwards, everyone staked out a nearby spot and set up to spend the day painting.  I roamed from easel to easel bestowing pearls of painting wisdom and offering technical criticism and advice.  At the end of the afternoon we packed up and went back to the house, where we lined up the new paintings for critique.  Fortified by glasses of wine and snacks, I rambled on about each work.  Then we gathered around Diana's big table and ate dinner.....someone would have cooked something, someone washed dishes.  As the teacher, I did not concern myself with those details.

Later, I began doing workshops in other, fancier locations with mostly different students.  They were never the same.

Anyway, the painting above made me think of those days because I painted the same subject with one of my loyal students (she became a good friend).  Although the painting was nothing special, it represents those days for me.  It was a lousy time of my life (I faxed my divorce papers to my lawyer from the local newspaper office during one of the workshops), but the intensity of my life then spilled over to the experience.  Everything was clear and bright and important.  Art was everything to me and the all-encompassing concentration I put into it was fraught with significance and an intensity I have not otherwise experienced.  That intensity has lost its immediacy, but it hasn't really diminished much. 

I was talking with one of my very limited number of friends the other night about what made art important.  My claim, as it has always has been, was that its importance lies in the fact that is has no meaning outside of itself.  Trying to sell it by applauding its relevance to other aspects of life and education is to me to diminish what ought to be its shining contribution to mankind....its utter meaninglessness.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

This is Sally, my best friend for most of my childhood.  We met when we were both entering third grade.  My family had just moved to Bangor and somehow Sally was given the task of showing me the way to my new school.  Her house was in sight of mine, and we became inseparable in short order.  In those days children were not supervised the way they are today.  We were turned out in the morning and left to our own devices.  Our days were full of fantasy.  We reinvented ourselves daily as we roamed the neighborhood as cowgirls, or mothers to our dolls, wives to our cowboy idols.  We had a stable full of stick horses, a saloon with a stage in Sally's garage where we put on shows.  We sang and danced, played the ukulele.  Our territory was limited only by the distance we could walk or bike.  The stream where they now have white-water canoe races was part of our playground.  We hopped from rock to rock over the rapids as carelessly as if it were a mud puddle.  We explored vacant buildings, built doll houses out of cardboard boxes.  In the evenings the neighborhood kids often played hide and seek, or red rover, or even badminton...in the middle of the street.  Our only rule was to go home when the streetlights came on....or later when the paper mill whistle blew at nine o'clock.

Because our high school divided the students into "college" and "business" sessions, Sally and I were in different sessions and began a slow and eventually complete separation.  As we grew up, our paths went in different directions and we lost touch.  Nevertheless, we shared our childhood in a very profound and lasting way.  It strikes me as impossible that Sally is dead while I go on.  Even though we lost touch, there was always a sense that we were living parallel lives.  I'm sure she felt the same way.........that I was always there in the background as she was in mine.  Her obituary described her life as happy and conventional in the way we thought our lives would be.  It's comforting to me that that was the case.  I can't say that I will miss her because what I have of her is still just as it was.  She's only gone to me in the same way that she was gone when she became a cheerleader, a wife, a mother.  Rather than feeling sad, I feel that I have witnessed a soft passing.  I'll think of it as her last gift to me.