The Boathouse

The Boathouse  –  34 x 28

After climbing down those long steep steps from the bluff
and peeking around inside the room below
we have climbed up again
to the top floor of the boathouse.

Last fall I was invited by Anne Vose to join her on the porch
and take an artistic measure of the historic structure.

While she and Pat sat in rockers outside
solving all the problems of the world
I explored the world of wonders within.

I talked, in The Changing Room painters notes,
about the way the water reflects the sunlight back up
into the room and bounces off the differing surfaces.

Up here, another level above the ocean,
the angles are longer and sharper
so they jut straight up into the corners
of the veridian stained rafters
and then ease down to those luscious wooden walls
to nestle softly on the antique weavings of carpet and chintz.

And that light engages with every one
of the deep rich colors inhabiting this chamber.

Those stairs rippling through the old glass in the back window
are echoed in the black and white photo framed alongside.
The robin’s egg blue that was once the only color
on the glider’s frame repeats on the inside window frames
then fades into a pale sage green on the mouldings’ exteriors.

The deep red of the oriental carpet
is straight out of my Barok Red tube of Old Holland Paint,
and the hunter green might as well have a fox running out ahead.

And then there are the faces…
the teasing visages of the man carved in the table
and the pastel of the flirtatious flapper.

Like the shiny dots of sunlight
around the edges of the porcelain
there was a glisten in the corner of her eye
when Anne recounted the day the pilings were
being repaired and one whole side of the boathouse
collapsed into the harbor.

Not only can you trace the depth of the family’s roots
through the objects in this room
but you can understand the core feelings
of love for this vintage island treasure
in the emotional telling of that tale…

right up until she gets to the part
where she chuckles and says…

not…
one…
single…
plate…
nor cream pitcher…
or teacup…

was so much as nicked by the calamity.

That’s what I call a
prevailingly powerful karma.


The Changing Room

The Changing Room  —  20 x 24

Come along with me
as we go back in time

to a boathouse in a harbor
in what they call the shoulder season,
those weeks between the chaos of summer
with traffic and tourists and hot muggy sunburns,
and the first frosts of the winter to come.

You arrive at the top of a very high bluff
with a vast harbor spread out before you.
Then you climb down
and down
and down
two very long flights of white washed steps
then across the wooden planked dock …

To he Vose Boathouse
an historic architectural wonder
built directly in the Edgartown Harbor.
The family received a letter of approval from the war department
in 1899 (it hangs on the wall today) for it to be built there
and nothing says Vintage Vineyard like this space.

We will begin our painterly tour
with a peak into that first door you come to
just through the dock gate
on the bottom floor
into what I have called
the changing room

The lovingly maintained wooden doors,
with their inlayed repairs for repurposed hardware,
line two walls with small locker rooms
that each have windows framing
expansive views of the harbor
and out across to the tiny island of Chappaquiddick.

The light bounces softly across the water
and lays like a butterfly on the kid glove surfaces
of that weathered wood
then sparkles off of the lacquered canoes
and the worn ochre of an oar.

But my favorite part
is that there are spaces in between each floorboard
through which you can see the iridescent sea beneath.

As the sun slants in the October morning light
the colors below are breathtaking.

From the classic canoe
to the sweeping parsons bench
there is something solidly New England here.

It was so quiet when I was working there
that the only sounds were the gulls cawing overhead
and the gentle lapping of the wakes as the working fisherman
motored their way out past the boathouse out to sea.

I can picture it now…
in a family filled summer
with the noises of
children wriggling into swimsuits
and parents toting wicker baskets
which the grandparents have stuffed
with picnics and rainhats…

and through the years
and all of that chaos
and glee
I can feel the boathouse
enfolding them all
like a great big
cedar wrapped hug.


Study for Nightwatch

Study for Nightwatch  –  12″ x 24″

ow that first warm sunny day
when you understand that winter has
at least one more round in her
but damnation you are going
to clean out a garden bed…any bed.

On just such a day last March
we both huddled in our warmest fleece,
Herself putting her boots up in the sky chair
and myself blowing the cobwebs off of my weeding bench,
we passed a lovely hour or two
warming old bones in the afternoon sun.

I was hoeing away happily
when I saw something odd.

Just under the drying stalks
of last year’s hyssop
was a layer of what looked like fur.

I often throw the leavings of Finn’s coat
after her weekly brushings
out into the garden
or on top of the nearest snowbank
during the coldest months

So that was my first guess.

Then the fur moved.

Ok yes,
I screamed.

Woke Herself up actually…
and then she screamed.

Not ten minutes before
while I had been weeding the adjoining bed
I had said to Pat…
Now I’m going to be really careful because this is where
those bunnies were nesting last year.

So…the synapses fired up…
and collided.

Approaching cautiously
and much calmer now
I moved aside the covering layer of dry grasses
and peeked under the grey and white blanket of fur…

and sure enough
tiny baby bunnies
nestled in a hollow
the size of a teacup.

Oh the tenders
and gawd…
I had been hacking away
had I nicked one before the discovery ?

I tried my best to restore order to the nest
but I had removed almost all of the weedy
canopy that had made this new spot seem promising.

So, I added some leaves to the top
and found a wide wicker basket
and laid it over the nest
and offered up a prayer to mother nature for their souls

For the next two mornings I stood over the nest
and looked for signs of life.
Both times I saw the slightest rise and fall of the leaves
and the next day Kory came.

He’s helping me with the yard work and
as far as I can tell…so far
he has no fears.
Ok a slight shimmy in his step when he happens upon
a large spider…
but otherwise he’s a rock solid go to guy for wild animal taming.

Kory lifted the basket
and the leaves
and the fur
and sure enough
there were three living breathing bunnies
curled up in their teacup.

As anyone who knows me well
will tell you
they all got names.

Seeing as they were born in my herb bed
I dubbed them, Hyssop and Thyme and Vincent.
The last just in the case I had, accidentally mind you,
nicked one with the ancient Japanese weeding tool.

A few days later they were gone.

A week after that two of them jumped out of the way
of the string trimmer I was just about to swing along
the stone edging of the hydrangea bed.

Then, every afternoon for a month,
all three showed up at my new bird feeders,
which I have moved right outside of my easel window.

One of them kept lingering
later and later into the dusk
after siblings and squirrels
finches and doves
had long since gotten into their jammies
and been tucked into their beds.

On this night
as I was waiting for him
the sunset sent extra long low rays
through the bottom of the fence
and shooting across the tops of the grass.

And like that
the bunny hopped into that shaft of light
and stood completely still
for hours
keeping me company
as if he were on guard.

Then one of his ears twitched
and caught the fading light
and I saw the notch.

Now I am waiting for my sunflowers
to grow tall enough to pose
as the source of those angling rays
in the big portrait I want to paint…

of Vincent.


The Carrot Whisperer

The Carrot Whisperer  –  24 x 32

“…I believe that everyone has imagination, that no matter how mature and adult and
sophisticated a person might seem, that person is still essentially an ex-baby. And as
children, we all lived in an imaginal world…you know, when you’d be told, “Don’t cross
that wall, because there’s monsters over there,” my God, the world you would create on
the other side of the wall. And when you’d ask questions like “Why is the sky blue?”
or “Where does God live?” or all this kind of stuff…like one of the first times I was coming to
America, I said to my little niece, who was seven, I said, “What will I bring you from America?”
She said, “Uh…” and her father said, “No, ask him, or you won’t get anything.”
And Katy turned to me and said, “What’s in it?” – (laughs) – which I thought was a great
question about America.”

An excerpt from the On Being conversation between Krista Tippet and the Irish Poet John O’Donohue

Our little carrot whisperer would have asked that same question at 7.
Now she is 8 and when we see her soon
I will ask her
but mostly I like to listen.

Zoe is one of the most richly vibrant souls
it has been my pleasure to share the planet with.

Her curiosity is fueled by a Tigger-like enthusiasm.

Stealthy observation informs her empathy.

And story telling is her super power.

So, last summer,
when I asked her seven year old self
to pose with the freshly picked carrot
and she examined it for a long while
deciding it made her think of
the snowman Olaf’s nose…

I waited

Then she thought the long green
fronds looked like hair
and she curled them in an arc over her head…

and I waited

And she started a story about how that
made her feel like a queen
and she was going to take the carrot
to visit her castle…

and I waited

until the queen decided she was in a carriage
and the carrot would, therein, accompany her
and she rested it regally on her shoulder
closed her eyes
and beckoned the footman to ride on.

An artist can’t choose her Muses.

We can only sharpen our brushes everyday
in the hopes that when they are ready to appear
we can catch them on …
the whisper.


Philosopher Fisherman

Philosopher Fisherman  –  18 x 18

“When you look at some faces, you can see the turbulence of the infinite
beginning to gather to the surface. This moment can open in a gaze from a stranger,
or in a conversation with someone you know well. Suddenly, without their intending it
or being conscious of it, their gaze lasts for only a second. In that slightest interim,
something more than the person looks out.”
John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

 

My pal Alex, the philosopher fisherman, is a muse of the most mysterious kind.

He arrives unannounced, on silent feet, and rings the bell
hanging ourtside my studio door…once.
One clear ring.
And never when I am listening for it, so it’s always a gift.

He is never empty handed.
Most often a fishing pole is leaned against the porch,
with a bit of tackle,
or a turtle
or a golf ball
or the bottom shard of an old bottle…
and then we talk.

Picking up right where we left off,
even if it was a year ago,
the conversation flits about according to where his curious eyes land
or where my wandering mind does.

It can bounce around all day,
or sit solidly on something heavy for a while.
All topics are worthy of our examination
and his curiosity is contagious.

One day
during the summer he was 14
he came bearing a turtle.
“I thought you would like to paint this”
I wasn’t entirely sure,
but brought my camera out,
rather than the turtle in,
and he held it in the sunshine for me to see.

It was a beautiful creature
with patterns and colors that we studied
under the tutelage of his vast knowledge of local nature.
He and his subject were reverential
of each other and I was just there to record.

It was a while before I saw him again,
and in the interim I sorted through those photos
to see if anything connected with the brushes.

What snapped my heartstrings was his face.
The presence and the peace that was a young boy
just beginning to tip into adolescence.

I made some notes and put it aside.

The next time I saw Alex,
was a hot summer afternoon.
He had been fishing after a morning of chores
and was shirtless and sunburned with the creek
dripping off of his sneaks.

The muses struck…
What wasn’t working from that first photo shoot
was that he had been wearing very dark eyeglasses.
I asked him to pose again as now I could
clearly see all of his face.

So we found a turtle sized rock
and tried to recreate the scene.

And then another year went by.

I found myself reviewing the two sets of photos,
knowing it was time to work on this painting.
But what I had before me was a dramatic contrast.

Alex holding the turtle was clearly a young boy.
Alex holding the turtle stone was absolutely a young man.

I really labored over this one.
In the end I decided to do both,
eventually the turtle will surface.

But I had been reading the poetry of John O’Donohue,
the brilliant poet from Ireland,
and came across his writings On Beauty.
Just slayed me.

And centered me squarely on this gentle face.
The landscape of this young man
written across that brow
brimming with confidence
pale cheeked innocence fading
into those widening sunwashed shoulders.

Here is my handsome Muse
only last week
taming another wild creature
on my studio porch.

Drum on kind Sir.

 


Anna’s Woodshed

Anna’s Woodshed  –  18 x 21

Anna Kuerner and her husband Karl immigrated from their home in Germany
to Chadd’s Ford, Pennsylvania.

Together with their growing family, they farmed a hillside
which now is filled with buttercups in the spring.

I stood amongst those buttery yellow harbingers
on a warm afternoon in May
studying the wide stuccoed front porch
of their 19th century farmhouse
and noticed a break in the solid rectangular lines
of the main house.

Around back
when you first step into the kitchen
this doorway is to your left.

Through it you can see a passageway
from the kitchen
and then the window
and on into the room.

Karl built this woodshed
attached to the house
so that Anna,
who insisted on cooking with a wood fired oven,
would not have to go out in inclement weather
to fetch her fuel.

On this stormy
creek flooding
weather heavy day…

I’d say there’s a special kind of love
in that gesture.

PS- Pat requested a second blog post today. It’s been a tad stressful here and she says that these posts make her happy. So, here ya go Babe. Love, me.


Our Lady of the Dunes

Our Lady of the Dune  –  24 x 28

Ahhhh…the Vineyard.

This majestic spirit watches over Lucy Vincent Beach.
If you were standing there now
and turned around
you would see nothing but the ocean.

As I write this here in my Pennsylvania studio
it kinda sorta feels like that ocean
is being wrung out of a beach towel
directly over our heads.

A train of tropical moisture has been parked
over much of the east coast for days
and two blocking pressure systems have squeezed that train
into a narrow pipeline through central PA.

Many of you may be right in that pipe with us today
and I hope you are safe. Our Little Conewago Creek is
thinking about big time flooding and with more storms in the pipeline
we’ve been  carrying treasures and trinkets up to higher ground.

Only 50 feet away, the studio is a full story higher than our
creekside log cabin, so I am writing this from my studio office
where it is more or less higher and a tiny bit drier.
My haven of creativity will be our home until the waters recede.

And, if those muses can all come together
and summon up some powerful
positive karma…

We will be on that beach
and bowing to this goddess of
goodness and light
in a very few days…


Tashmoo Morning

Tashmoo Morning  –  30 x 48

Only last night
I got a text from Katie saying…
“Miss driving with you. And Ted”

Ted Meinelt was a very special person
for both of us.

So, to keep his memory alive
Katie and I began a tradition
of going on…Ted Drives.

There are no rules,
plenty of snacks,
sometimes bags of knitting,
and always an unexpected adventure.

We started out by honoring Ted’s unique
knowledge of the island and its’ history
by taking each other to places off the beaten tracks.

Katie took me on a walking tour of
the MV African-American Heritage Trail sites
in and around Oak Bluffs.

I took her into the creepy
corners of the old Marine Hospital
before it began the renovation
to become the home for the MV Museum.

Like Ted had done for us,
being both Muse and Mentor,
we were in search of subjects to paint
and island stories to learn.

We are both older
and braver now
and our explorations
have become a bit more challenging.

On one of our trips last October
we got out the map
and decided to head for a spot
on the northern shore.

It was a dark and stormy day.
One of those island days when
there is no space between the sky and the sea
and the clouds sit right down beside you on the road.

Our first destination was to find
the hidden coves of Lake Tashmoo.

Now the road out there is
a sandy trail of solid ruts
some of which could easily
have swallowed small children
and large volkswagons.

I’m talking 16 wheel drive.

Narrow enough in spots that
we were pulling our elbows in
even though the windows were closed.

This goes on for what feels like
three months or three hundred miles
but eventually you do come to a clearing
and then the backs of a scattering of houses
whose fronts face the ocean…

and then this.

From the town beach
looking back across the choppy lake
and deep into a thick bank of fog.

Though later in the day,
when we followed yet another very long
and spiderweb lined trail,
we were pleased to arrive at a
wide open grassy plain filled with sunshine…

the only bright spot on Lake Tashmoo beach
that morning
was the happy smile
of my navigator.

Next time Katie…
it’s your turn to drive.

 


Spindrift

Spindrift  –  20 x 22

Rope
and boats
on the sea.

Remember that spinning loft ?
All those woven fibers.
This painting started out to be about the boat.

Behind that cross of knotted rope
is the hull of a whaleboat
suspended from the rigging
along the side of the Charles W. Morgan
come to rest in the harbor
of the Mystic Seaport Museum.

The muses wanted to tell
a different story.
Distill the elements
down to the three..

The rope
the boat
and the sea.

I found a Yankee Magazine video…

of the historic modern day voyage
that the MS Museum made possible in 2015.
Like a freshening breeze,
it takes us onboard the ship
for an upclose look at what it takes
to get her under sail.

And what I saw…
Rope.
Thousands of yards
of Rope.

HUZZAH !
to all who invested
time and treasure
to bring this magnificent
vessel back to life.