Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Art Week Residency, Great Spruce Head Island



A new week. A new day. But somehow I am having a hard time shrugging off last week and the election. I am trying to move forward.

Winter is coming.

When I was younger this might have been the time of year when each week brought something wonderful. Starting with my sister’s birthday in October, followed by Halloween, then my birthday, it was one party after another. Festivities leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas took over school. I was in choir so we rehearsed for a Christmas program. Industrial arts/home ec was given over to a great selection of craft-making options. My brothers and sisters and I always made some top-notch presents that when we were clearing out Mom and Dad’s last home, an assisted living place we were still unearthing these prizes. That’s tells you either how much they loved junk or how much they loved us. A bit of both.

Now—after the passing of my parents, and some of my friends and peers, I’m feeling a bit melancholy about the holidays. Not exactly looking forward to them. So I have to make some new horizons, something in the distance to work toward. That’s why I applied a couple weeks ago to an artist residency.

Last June when taking our daughter to start the next chapter of her life in Portland, Maine I had this thought: I would love to visit the place where Jimmy Schuyler vacationed and stayed with Fairfield Porter and his family off the coast of Maine. I knew it was an island. The Internet helped me locate it on a map, and indeed, it isn’t too far from Portland, but sadly Google and Wiki told me that the island was no longer in the family, but privately owned. I don’t think I was serious about visiting, but the fact it was now off limits felt like a giant period at the end of a sentence. Besides dropping in on an island probably would take some logistics.

Further research brought me to information on Art Week so I applied a couple weeks ago.
Now this has NEVER happened before. I got a response within a week of applying. Furthermore, I have never received a personal message, handwritten in stationary. Basically it was the most positive, art-affirming, soul-gratifying piece of mail I’ve ever received. They not only said yes, but alluded to funding being available. Anina Porter Fuller wrote that the island is still in the family, but held as a corporation, which made sense. For over a 100 years! “I would love to share this paradise with you since you have the sensitivity to appreciate it. I’m honored to have your application.” I re-read this portion of the letter again. They want me! Such welcomed news!

Thank you Jimmy, Fairfield Porter, all the Porters for giving me hope, that horizon to sail toward. I need this so much right now—you have no idea. 

Air Canada (long story, but they WOULD NOT reimburse me for lost reservations when I was held up in MontrĂ©al) has offered a 25% discount off my next flight with them—so I’m thinking of flying into Halifax with my bike and cycling around the Maritime Islands (especially Cape Breton and the Cabot Trail) and then cycling down the coast, visiting Arcadia National Park and then meeting the mail boat out to the island for the week. Bring on 2017!

Here are some lines from Schuyler’s poem “Today”:

The bay today breaks
in ripples of applause.
The wind whistles.
Spruce and bright-leaved birch
at the edge
are flat yet plump
as letters with “see enclosures.”
A gull mews, the mailboat toots,
the wind rises and pours with a noise like water
and spills black jazz
from spiked brown seed cups of red columbine …
A sailboat scuds,
a poplar tugs at roots
in soil a scurf on rock.
Everything chuckles and creaks
sighs in satisfaction
reddens and ripens in tough gusts of coolness
and the sun smites


John Ashbery and James Schuyler vacation at Great Spruce Head Island

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