Naked

My newest work is currently hanging in an installation titled “What Wild Life Left”.  It’s the brainchild of my son, Gordon Millsaps.  Gordon is a sculptor/fabricator/engineer/visionary who lives and works in Brooklyn. When Gordon first hit town, ten years ago, he found that a cabinet company nearby was discarding long thin strips of pine.  They were perhaps a little less than an inch square, and eight feet long, or more.  He gathered them up and brought them back to the rough-hewn loft where he lived, and started constructing everything he needed out of these narrow strips of wood.  He made …

India

I got a map of India so I could trace my travels, and picture the shape of it.  It turned out the trail I traveled was no more than a tiny stripe running along the edge of that map— a glimpse of the hem of the handwoven thing that is India.   I went to India to experience color.   I sat beside the Indian Ocean and watched the graceful fishing boats out on the water with their bows that rose up in an attenuated arch.  One was  lavender, sky blue and the yellow of an egg yolk.  The beach was strewn …

Adventures With Electricity

The journal entry begins : “Today I am camping in the Adirondacks.  I got to this remote spit of land led by Dick, who grew up exploring these parts.  Jim is here, too, of course, and Gordon, still on honeymoon with his bride, Su.   We are tenting in the woods along the shore of Lake Lila, beneath a 360 degree sky with no sign of anything manmade.  We started the day paddling into a creek with a lot of beaver activity.  We portaged around a couple of beaver dams to get to the back of the creek.  The whole experience …

Sleeping in Snow

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Xa3QWB1ltlh7mEDzqVL7Jf9gwvIeC7rn/view We hiked, last week, to a valley beside Cove Creek, surrounded by tall pines, some of huge girth. The ground was blanketed in pine needles and the sun was so warm we worked in sweaters to set up camp. A tornado had swept through the forest and rangers had cut trees off the trails so there were dry pine logs scattered all around, even some split wood someone had left. We put together enough kindling and firewood for night and morning fires, filtered some cold creek water and set off to explore. There was a trail that ran alongside …

December

It is the opening day of December and it feels like I’ve stepped into a distilled version of the world. Nothing is left of the trees in the pasture but their bare bones. The light melts away at the end of the day, closing me in tighter and tighter. The slanting sunlight runs up the bark of the walnut tree in long stripes just before leaving for good.   The distilled bony forest is the best for exploring. Hidden treasures appear, mostly in the form of lichens, peculiarly twisted limbs, earthbound leaves that look like wood carvings of themselves. Just …

White Man

  When I left the grid and headed up a steep and curving road into one of the folds of the Blue Ridge, the world was abuzz with tales of white male misconduct.  There was a headline case of white privilege used to mask acts of aggression against women. In social media, under the phrase “me too”, my friends, my community’s leaders, my former students, my colleagues— every woman I know— was using that phrase to make a political statement about abuse of power, intimidation and shame, and to stand strong in truth—usually long-buried truth. The other bookend to my …

Herb Jackson at the Gregg

On a breather from my studio, I set yesterday aside to see Herb Jackson’s latest exhibition, “A Door is not a Window”, curated by Lia Newman and Roger Manley, at the new Gregg Museum on the campus of NC State University. Like countless artists, my life story pivots on an encounter with Herb Jackson who, 40 years ago, figuratively picked me up out of an art trashcan, dusted me off, gave me a brief list of pithy instructions, and set me on my life’s path. I cannot imagine my life without that pivotal moment and those instructions. So, to see …

Our Angel

  In my mind, bringing my second baby home from the hospital and meeting Ophelia for the first time have merged into the same event.  Thirty one years ago Mrs. Ophelia Alexander entered my life when I called her about helping me with my children.   But really,  I have the odd sense that she was sent to us by some act of divine intervention.   My son, the baby thirty one years ago, said it was as though “we won some cosmic lottery”. Ophelia Lytle Alexander died this past week, on the same day that my baby granddaughter took …

Lost

What I remember most is the simple act of staring always at the rushing water.  This week we hiked the long tough hike to Lost Cove Creek.  That name describes it perfectly– it’s lost.  Lost from the clatter of now– where we all live. Lost in time.  So lost there are no other humans.  Lost to signal.  Tuned instead  into the frequencies of  the arteries and veins of creeks and the sons and daughters of creeks, the mothers and fathers of rivers.  I love how water seeks its own level.  Such an odd way to put into words the punch …

Reentry

I  just woke up in my own bed for the first time in a month . Yesterday morning, up at 3 a.m., I drove through the French countryside, village after village, on the slowest route I could find to the airport. The spectacular full moon hovered all the way.  I noticed a while back that if I drove in the country with my windows down I could hear cricket sounds the whole time. This morning in North Carolina, I drove to the grocery near dawn so I could have milk for my coffee.  Over and over I have forgotten I’m …