Today makes the end of my first week here at MacDowell. Honestly, if you have never done a residency, it can change your life. I was listening to Stephen, or maybe it was Larry the other day, sitting on the porch talking. Basically, about how for the longest time he could not tell people outside of this kind of creative environment that he was a poet, until he came to MacDowell. People just couldn’t wrap their heads around the idea of being a poet. Questions and issues about making a living far outweigh the simple fact that he wrote poems. It was a very profound thing to hear coming from such an accomplished guy. For a moment I likened it to Herb Vogel working at the post office and no one knowing he was one of the most important and passionate art collectors in the world. Or perhaps its like being gay and not telling your parents. I don’t know, it’s just hard to think about not telling people who you are and what you are truly about.
Anyway, week one, pretty incredible. We are celebrating 3 birthdays this week, which has been wonderful. I have to say that my favorite gesture of celebration was the song that Cynthia played after dinner last night on her accordion. I know this sounds like a setup for a joke, and I personally thought it was. However, Cynthia had written the song celebrating the birthday of a ship she was on in the Antarctica last year. The song goes on to mention the animals and the isolation of the glaciers, etc. It is probably the most moving song I have ever heard, I was honestly fighting back tears as she finished the song howling like an arctic fox. Incredible!
My week has had its highs and lows. On Tuesday I got a call from Saskia that our neighbor boy who is 2-3 months older than Ford had died of a rare brain cancer. That’s a call you don’t want to get when you are 1200 miles from home and you just want to hug your boy. But I started thinking about this during Cynthia’s song with all of the emptiness and isolation, on top of the darkness and bitter cold that life hands us sometimes. This is why music and the arts are so important, and this is why I’m here. I couldn’t cope with this without even a simple form of expression.
If you haven’t heard, they feed you an incredible amount of food here. Its like your grandmother works in the kitchen, and nothing gives her more pleasure than feeding you. It’s an endless supply of fresh eggs, locally grown food, much of it right on the property. I’m a big soup person and a fresh new soup shows up on my doorstep every day at lunch. It usually has a friend with it, in the form of a tasty sandwich or hot dish. Jiha Moon told me when she came here that she thought she would lose weight, with all of the walking that you do, but no. Its insane, but the fellowship at breakfast, and in the evening over large family style dinners is incredible. Just pick a different table every night and see where the conversation might take you. It’s inspiring on its own, so I won’t even mention the pastry chef they hired.
So all of this being said, you would think that I was not getting any work done. Between the book reading, eating, and trips to neighboring towns, I am getting so much done. I’ve made tons of sketches, drawings and even started a model for a huge sculpture I will make when I get home. I’ve really reached a moment of clarity in this place that is allowing me to think through my work in new ways. I realize with all the colorful mushrooms and deer outside my studio, that is does sounds like a dreamland. Maybe it is. At any rate, I gotta run. My BBQ pulled pork sandwich with spicy slaw and pineapple just arrived with his lunch partner, a thermos full of carrot ginger soup.