Making a Future; Part 5A of Chapter 1

Published on 2018-11-09

The summer of 1991 was my first experience of trying to continue my life as an artist without resources. I had a very modest inheritance from the passing of my Father in 1989, to pay my basic living expenses. Briefly, I tried to return to New York City. It was too physically demanding and I retreated back to the island. Simple tasks, like carrying groceries and walking Bear, were Herculean and devastating to attempt, especially on those days when the elevator wasn’t available. Back in Maine for the winter, I had found a small circle of friends but still felt adrift in a community of hardy fisher people, with their own mysterious social protocols, for whom I suspected a single, woman artist from New York City who spent a lot of time in bed and declined most social invitations might likewise be a suspicious mystery. It was even less socially useful that Bear was a large dog who became fiercely protective of me and our home site. 

Gradually, I fell into a routine. Survival required me to track every detail of my daily life or they would vanish from an exhausted brain. Meticulous journaling became routine. I could backtrack to find patterns in the days when my energy was at its lowest or those fortuitous days when it was high. To this day, I keep these journals, tailored a bit more each year. 

Starting with my diagnosis, as I came to terms with my new reality, I began wrestling hope from my new limitations. The days when I was bedridden, I made sketchy drawings of the relationships between color, texture, form and shape for the gardens I imagined would mature decades into the future and projected, or I drew schematics of the outcomes if the Ghost Nets were to trigger restoration work in a larger landscape- how might that work? With a little stamina and ability to concentrate, I studied large tomes checked out of the local library on ecological dynamics to better understand the processes I was trying to engage in to restore the site. Even on the days when my stamina was at its lowest, I rose from bed and ritually walked the stony site along paths that would slowly emerge at the four quadrants of the property, East, South, West, North, while listening intently to the sounds of small animals, wind and waves as I passed through the topographic dimensions, downhill, uphill and downhill again as the light shifted. Each traverse of the land took an hour. Along the way, I noted the movement of water and wind, moving rocks to slow down spring streams as they rushed to the shoreline and planning where saplings might create windbreaks and defend more clearly defined microhabitats. On the days when my spirits and stamina were high, I was tireless, working in the nascent gardens or painting in studio and photographing everything. I had always been a slow painter. Now the rate of production became glacial but as the years passed, a body of work began to aggregate.