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 …

Absorbing the Sea

For the weeks arching from summer into fall I have watched the sea all day long. And at night the doors were always open to the sound of it. By day the sea was the view from the studio, or from whatever restaurant I chose, or from the windows of the car.  I have looked so long, unable to look away, that it has been fully absorbed. Two nights ago, in the rain, through the murky window of a ferry close to land, I saw birds as they flew nearby, their wide breasts like the bodies of ducks. In my …

Road Trip

So far, on Skopelos I have traveled almost exclusively on foot.  It’s given me a chance to observe the plant life, the shrines in front of people’s houses, and the litter.  The plant life has been interesting.  Tiny cyclamen are popping up on banks everywhere and it is just now blackberry season in Greece.  I stop often to partake.  Much of what grows on Skopelos seems to be edible.  The road sides are thick with the anise-flavored weed that looks like dill.  A Skopelitan told me it is wild fennel.   There are huge fig trees with trunks like oak …

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 …

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 …