Exploring the far east

With my wanderlust friends I set out this past week for the great alluvial plain that is eastern North Carolina.  I hesitate to talk much about its mystery, authenticity, history and lavish southernness for fear of its discovery. We all departed at different times in our various trucks hauling our camping gear and kayaks.  Our destination was Goose Creek State Park.  We met up in a  tall forest of  pines and hardwoods on a peninsula in the vicinity of the Pamlico Sound, and set up camps. One day it had been balmy and the next it was the knife edge …

The Color of Grace

Curled up on the sofa after a hot bath I’m very happy to be home. For the past three days I’ve been camping in the wilderness near Lost Cove Creek with my two backpacking mentors, Dick and Jim. There was nothing new about the plans– same plans, same food, same equipment. But it was new territory for us, and the trails were largely unmarked.  Dick estimates that we ascended 2000 feet, slow-going with loaded packs. Ascending, my face was close to the ground, and I became mesmerized by the beauty of mosses, lichens and  fallen leaves. The hickory leaves were …

Layers

Last evening I walked down into the village to shop for groceries.  Coming back I took a different route and found myself climbing a set of stairs so steep they terrified me.  On the right was only ocean.  They were, I realized, the steps of the ancient fortress that used to guard the town.  They ascended past dozens of little homes, tucked seamlessly into the fortress walls.   I wasn’t sure if the dwellings were as old as the fortress, or just another layer of history tacked on top of the original. Reading later I discovered that the site was originally …

Negative space

Today my new eight year old existential friend paid me a studio visit.  She carried on a lively conversation, told  a few jokes, and then, very seriously asked   “so, how is your life?”  It gave me a moment’s pause.  I answered her with the seriousness the question deserved.  I told her “my life is joyous”.  End of discussion. The day before she had told me that being in her new third grade classroom felt like “being in another world”.  I guess, when you grow up with the Aegean as your background you think in those terms.  As an artist I’m …

What to pack?

The moon is coming up behind the mountains as we unpack the car.  I have just arrived on the island of Skopelos from Athens, Greece for an artist’s residency.  My boat has been met by the very hospitable people who are making this possible, including the owners of the pension where I have a little apartment.  I can hardly make polite conversation for staring at the  sight of the moon, caught in a little crease between two mountains, because it is tomato red.  Blood red.  A red glaze over an orange fire.  It’s the second day after the so-called Super …

Camouflage

Yesterday I paddled a kayak down the Edisto River for ten miles. Another pearl in my string of rivers. It was warm and bright, and bits of green,  gold and pink showed up on winter branches of  river birch and red maple. Kayaking the Edisto’s black water is intriguing. The swamps and wetlands it feeds are mysterious and had me  constructing paintings in my head. For hours I stared hard at every turn, every overhanging tree and woody structure, searching for ideas for new work. It’s a practice that imitates life. The river’s current carries me so fast I can’t …

Grier

  Sixty years ago today my oldest friend was born.  Hurd Grier Bradford, III.  I was little and don’t remember much beyond slipping into my parents’ bedroom to sneak a peak at the baby and being scolded for waking him.  We were both curly tow-heads and at first we were each other’s only playmates.  I remember when we had matching seersucker shorts, and we both stood in the middle of the bench seat of the Chevy, side by side and I claimed we were twins.  I really wanted us to be twins. Even as a baby Grier was independent, self-determined …

Inheritance

I am writing this on an empty beach at 7:30 in the morning the week before Thanksgiving,while camping on a barrier island that’s a 45 minute ferry ride off the coast of Georgia.  This is the most undisturbed spit of coastal land I’ve had the privilege to experience in the United States of America.  I can’t remember ever being in a place where there were thousands of acres of  200-500 year old live oaks, miles of palms and long leaf pines, no pavement, hardly any infrastructure and so little humanity. On foot this island seems vast.  Even with the aid …

North Carolina Summer

This has been my North Carolina summer.  Too busy to plan anything more complicated I have gone back and forth between the mountains and the coast soaking up my favorite part of the year. I could live in perpetual summer, and look askance at all those people who tell me they can’t wait for fall.  It’s the light, I think.  I like the bald bright warmth of it that illuminates all corners, but also makes for overwhelming experiences of  shadow.  I like the light when I’m floating on my back in the pool and looking up at the untroubled sky.  …