Tuesday, July 12, 2011

ALONE by Cheryl Corson

I worked alone for years, weaving scarves in a bedroom I’d converted to a studio in a little house on an island in Maine. This might sound like a bad idea for an extrovert like me. The two most important people in my life then were Jim, my live-in boyfriend, and Debbie, or Deborah Young as she was professionally known, my sales rep in midtown Manhattan, and long-distance friend.

I wove as I listened to NPR, or the World Series, or cassette tapes of Robert Bly.
I wove like a human machine, beating the silk, alpaca, or merino wool yarn evenly, at 12, 15, or 18 picks per inch. My selvedges were flawless. I calculated shrinkage by percentage, to the inch, so that every scarf I shipped to Saks Fifth Avenue and Macy’s was identical.

After a few years, my boyfriend Jim ‘came out’ as they say, falling temporarily in love with his academic advisor at the college he attended in Bar Harbor. Around the same time Jim moved out, Debbie got lymphoma and died, way too soon for all concerned.
If I’d thought I was alone before, I was really alone then.

I began to work outside the house. “Working out” was what old Mainers called work outside the home for wages. That was before it came to mean driving outside the home to exercise at a gym.
I became chair of public art selection committees all over the State of Maine. Suddenly, from the same home studio my loom was in, I was using a government access code to phone artists, architects, school principals, and others all over the state and then driving, often for hours, to chair meetings where these people looked at artists’ portfolios and interviewed them for commissions.

I loved this work more than anything. So much, that I enrolled at the University of Maine to finish my undergraduate degree in case a full-time job should open up. Now I had professors and an advisor in addition to my committee members and arts council colleagues.
My time alone on the Island felt more precious, a welcome break from all the people I interacted with on the phone and in person when I drove to see them in my white Volvo station wagon, from Bar Harbor to Machais, Bangor, Biddeford, Damariscotta, Portland, Augusta, Orono and beyond.

Now, I work alone in a home studio again. It’s 27 years later, and instead of weaving scarves, I’m designing landscapes and playgrounds, writing and teaching. My clients can be wonderful, like today, when Dedra came outside when I stopped by to check on the crew working at her house. She’s had medical problems and recently retired. Her 2 acres had gotten away from her. Unable to walk well, she will need help with her gardens now.

After only 2 days, a crew of 4 men with a dump truck and a skid steer had removed every weed tree from her beds and revealed her gorgeous weeping thread-leaf Japanese maple, and the long, twisted branches of her Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick, and cleared large seating areas in the shade of her huge apple and cherry trees.

She stood there next to me and cried tears of joy. The 4 guys, Dedra and I all paused to appreciate the moment. It’s not always like this, of course, but this connection to other people, fostering their connection to the earth as well as my own, makes me not feel alone when I go downstairs to my office in the morning.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

SCENE by Sophie Strand

At first we sit in the middle of the field, sunglasses reflecting the remains of the day and small spiders propelling up the seams of our shorts. I fiddle with my bag and you lie back, flicking open your phone and bitching about the friend who failed to call.

Your hair catches on your lips and you sputter, blowing waves away in a messy kiss of air. A bug bite has appeared as a twin to a bruise on my calf. It blossoms, each rosy capillary swelling up to the surface - the skim of deeper blood.

You suggest we avoid the bugs and I agree.

"Yeah. That place by the pool, under the shade of the roof."

As we slip between red buildings, breathing in breath laced with brick, you observe that the pool is open now, its water a swarm of gnats and yellow light.

We settle on the concrete, soften our bodies against the advance of dusk by lifting our faces up to an invisible sun. It sits just below the curve of the mountain, sending out long arms of gold in farewell.

"This has been a really bad year," you say, pulling trail mix out of your satchel. You pop a peanut onto your tongue. "I forgot I had this in here."

I slip a slim cigarette out of my pack, lighting it in the shadow of my hand. It illuminates the lines of my palm before catching.

"I know," I say finally, sucking on the filter.

"Can you remember anything good? At all?" you query with your hands full of assorted nuts. The raisins, though, have been thrown carelessly into the grass at our feet.

I think and smoke and watch as a cop pulls a car over, a pulse of red flashing through the chain link fence in the distance - the color of emergency.

"Making spaghetti that one time we were drunk at Jess'?" I suggest but it feels wrong.

You nod, not necessarily in agreement.

The cop is saying something to the driver. He shakes his head and then smile sternly before walking back to his car. I'd like to think he let them off with a warning. But I know that a ticket probably nips at the ashtray as the driver pulls back out onto the pavement. There is always a cost for speeding and it is often the length of the road.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

HIDING by Seraphina Mallon-Breiman

My friends associate me with ‘knowing a lot of people’. They think I’m social and outgoing and confident in these public settings but I’m not. I can be, but not without exceptional self-consciousness.

When I was younger and I was in a public setting and I would see someone who I had a crush on, or whom I felt intimidated by, or someone who simply just made me nervous, I would hide from them. I would go to the bathroom in ‘Sunflower’ and stay there longer than I needed to. I would go to the back aisle of books in the library and pretend to be thoroughly engaged with my nose in the book with the biggest cover. (Libraries are very good places to hide.) I would blend into crowds, duck behind trees, or turn the other way and begin a conversation with a total stranger in order to look like I was doing something.

I’ve hidden underneath my headphones, behind my cell phone -- texting nonsense -- and in my room with my door shut. I’ve hidden in books, in my friend’s houses, in long sleeved shirts and on iChat. I always forget I’m hiding because I’m very good at it.

“…Nineteen, TWENTY! READY OR NOT HERE I COME!” Hide and Go Seek is a game I associate with my life until I was around thirteen. In North Woods, my homeschooling group, we would play this, ‘Sardines’, ‘Tag’, or something Connor Ritchey came up with called ‘Uber Tag’. I never actually ‘hid’ from anyone in Hide and Go Seek though because in my mind I was just playing a game, a fun game that included all of my friends.

‘Hiding’ when you know you’re hiding is the most healthy way to hide I think. Myself, and the people around me however do not generally know this. We use familiar people or objects or places and we use them to escape from the things that are the scariest.

Friday, July 1, 2011

ALL I WANTED by Edith Lerner

I didn’t watch the Sound of Music until 3 days before my audition. My friend Seraphina grew up watching it and was appalled by that fact. I saw myself as a nun or a nazi, and I was excited to take part in my first school play.

Theater for me has always been comforting, I like to feel the moments of panic when a prop goes missing, and I like to know that my small insignificant role gives me the time to run like a madwoman across the theater to find it. I’ve been a shakespearean forester, a horse, a birdy-girl and even a troll, but in each one of these roles I’ve had the responsibilities of scene-changes and quick costume changes for the leads. I took those responsibilities very seriously, knowing that if I screwed up, it would be someone else that looked silly in front of the audience.

So I watched the movie, and I went to the audition. I had practiced my song a billion times, perfecting hand gestures that were dramatic but not unnatural. When I entered the room I was greeted by a tall blonde woman, who introduced herself, but whose name I immediately forgot. She, along with Mrs. Cayea and Mrs. Paetow sat in the middle of the house. The tall lady asked me to tell her my name and age and something I was passionate about. Shit, I hate that question. “I’m Edith Lerner, I’m sixteen, and I like Math.”

“Elaborate on that” she said.

“Well, I used to hate math, but now I don’t... I think geometry is cool.”

“Thank you, now you may sing. Whenever you’re ready...”

I began, and my voice was strong and clear. I did my little prance across the stage, but was shocked to notice that none of my audience members were looking. They were looking down, writing maybe. I didn’t get past the slow introduction to my upbeat show tune before they said thank you and I walked off stage.

I hadn’t wanted really wanted the lead role until that very moment. I knew Seraphina wanted it more than anything, and that would have been fine, until now. I came home and told my parents “If I get a callback, I’m going to be Maria.” There’s something about a beautiful tall blonde lady that makes you feel like you have to prove yourself. Maria, Maria Rainer. The desire to take on that role consumed me. The feeling of satisfaction that I used to get from placing a prop early, or watching a number from the wings wouldn’t be enough this time.