Archive for 1820’s farmhouse
Winter is hard, my dears. Waiting is agony. Until you apprehend the story. The beauty of spring and summer in the northern climes depends on time ticking ever so slowly. Soon enough, the first bud, the first bee, the first peeper in the thawing pond. If not for these endless days we’d lose our wonder at what is coming…You know what is coming…how spring sashays and summer swaggers…even now, in the stillness, you know it well. XO, V
April 6th at 5pm, opening reception at Cherry Branch Gallery, Cherry Valley, NY.
“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.”
Leaving LA after 25 years felt like the right thing to do. LA was a pit stop, a very complicated, very expensive pit stop on my journey through life.
On the road from LA to NY, I followed my son in his truck and took iPhone photos through my truck’s windshield. Mostly of his tail lights.
I’m an old hand at leaving. But this cross-country move was different, I was uprooting someone else’s life.
Connor was off to college in the fall and somehow I’d justified it in my mind that moving the day after he graduated from HS in LA would be the best timing for both of us.
I didn’t cry during our going away party, I didn’t cry as we packed, when we drove away, as the hours and the miles across the deserts and mountains ticked by.
Across the plains, the skies were a cathedral of thunderheads, rainbows that went straight up and down, lightning that streaked sideways.
I took photos through my truck window of those things, too.
We landed in central New York to renovate an 1820’s farmhouse that I’d bought, sight unseen, from a post of Facebook.
As my new life began to take shape in the summer before Connor left for university, I took photographs of everything.
By the time the old house was renovated, Connor was at school and I had taken well over 20,000 photographs.
And I had carpal tunnel from uploading and editing all those photos but I couldn’t stop- the beauty of the land surrounding me was astounding.
I cried at night because my arm hurt so bad but the tears were different from the tears that I cried as I followed his red tail lights into those storms, heading east.
Those were tears of joy, realizing what a fine young man he had turned into, a brave soul, ready for adventure, a young man who faced the open road with open mind and heart.
My show at the Cherry Branch Gallery is a celebration of central New York and the life one can find in the middle of letting go.
“No one ever died from sleeping in an unmade bed.”
Dunga Brook Diary, 2/28/13
Yesterday, I sat with Kristen, the gallery director at Cherry Branch Gallery. Prepping for my show, we were scouring each and every picture I have uploaded to FB in the past year and a half, she’s picking her favorites and categorizing them.
There are about 7 folders of pictures so far, my favorite being the “I can’t live without” folder, loaded with pictures that make her sigh, close her eyes and drop her head in exhausted ecstasy. There are a lot of pictures to look through. She might just be tired.
When I see my photos through her editing eyes, I can see we are going to have a kick ass show.
One thing I don’t have many of are “people photos”. This is Margo, my neighbor, making sausage in her kitchen last summer, you can’t see Tim who is half-naked with a tattoo across his shoulder’s that reads, “Grace”. Margo is in this lovely white Grecian gown that looks like it cost about a dollar but you could take her anywhere.
Kristen would drop sigh, drop her head and close her eyes at this photo, too, but she hasn’t seen it yet. When she does she will drop into the folder “special effects” because I photoshopped it. She will ask me to find the original. She likes purity.
And I will. But I couldn’t resist photoshopping it last night, Margo is a work of art.
A big hug and XO to you, Kristen.
“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”
~John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America
County Highway 19 and a tiny slap of Bukowski…plus Dunga Brook Diary in which I confess my Dream of being an iphone Ansel Adams…
“I loved you like a man loves a woman he never touches, only writes to, keeps little photographs of.” ~Charles Bukowski, Love is a Dog from Hell
Dunga Brook Diary, looking back, spring/summer 2011…
I bought a farmhouse that I found on Facebook.
I bought a farmhouse that I found on Facebook named Dunga Brook, the original homestead of a 2,000 acre dairy farm built in the 1820’s.
I bought a farmhouse with an acre of land, in a place I had never heard of, for $10,000, because of a post on Facebook.
Why did I do this? Because , because, because, because, because…
Because, I was on Facebook. Because back then I had that much money in the bank. Because I was without ties, because I was over my career in fashion, because I had a number one and only son who was going off to college in August, because if I didn’t do something drastic I would lose my mind when he left, because I had 25 years in LA under my belt (because 25 of those years had been spent wishing I was somewhere small town USA else), because, basically, I had to.
I wrote a poem once with the line, “the tragic leap is the only dance-step I know…”. Melodramatic, yes, but what I meant was, I don’t do things in half-measures. All in or all out.
My moves aren’t predicated on logic, wisdom, reality, time and space continuums, obligations, duty, society…when the voice inside my head says, “its time,” I dance.
So, when Tim Giblin, a man I barely new from an LA poetry class, posted a picture of a farmhouse on Facebook somewhere in New York on an April morning in 2011, I bought it.
Dunga Brook was for sale by owner and Tim, who lived next door, wanted someone he knew to be his new neighbor.
Turns out, you want to like your neighbors in the middle of nowhere.
I don’t think I was what he had in mind but if he was disappointed, he never let on.
That summer, my son and I had to live in a campground while Dunga Brook was being renovated. God knows we couldn’t live in her, she had been torn down by the elements (rain, snow, rain, snow, wind, rain, snow) and had been sorely mistreated by the last tenants who were, literally, squatters.
The squatters had destroyed a few of the things that the elements hadn’t yet (like the stairs to the second floor and the electrical panel in the stone basement) as a good ole country FU and goodbye.
Seems, the owner of the house had called the squatter’s closest relative, an uncle who once rented the house, and told him to deliver this message…”get out or we’ll burn the house down with you in it.” They did get out.
The KOA campground was the only place left for long-term rental that summer. I had no idea when I bought Dunga Brook that she was in the middle of the Cooperstown Dreams Park baseball summer mania.
Turns out that this little nowhere land turns into baseball central all summer long- there are baseball parks, baseball memorabilia shops, The Baseball Museum, baseball Hall of Famers are inducted out here, and the families of all the little baseballers from all over the world rent every little home and hotel room there is to be found while they pursue their mini major league Dreams in that Park.
So, into the last rental camper trailer at the KOA we went. Which thrilled my soon to be off to college son, Connor, to no end. His Dream had always been to live in a trailer.
That trailer magically led to a reconnection to my Dream. I practically grew up in a camper. My dad dragged us to every campground in the state of Florida and up the coast to Maine in back when I was a child. Camping is in my bones, my heart and my soul.
What camping meant to a shy little girl was hours and hours of roam time, commune time, Dream time with all the little creatures and plants and water bodies of the earth.
And here I was, iphone in hand, lucid dreaming in a land of such staggering beauty that I couldn’t understand what the big deal was with all that migration west . Who could leave this place?
Thanks to that migration, CNY – as compared to LA – was essentially empty, save the baseballers and their families crowded into Cooperstown Dreams Park.
Suddenly, I understood what I was meant to do with that iPhone in my hand. Take pictures. Take a million bazillion gazillion pictures of my Dream. Lay down in the grass with my face in the dirt and breathe. Look up to the sky at the clouds marching by and breathe. click. click. click.
Suffice it to say, I took over 20,000 iPhone pictures that summer while I waited for that house to be rebuilt and not one human besides my son and my shadow got in the way of a sunset, a sunrise, a crystal clear lake, a wild flower, a you name it.
By fall, I had carpal tunnel. Turns out you can’t just take 20,000 iPhone pictures, edit them and upload them to Facebook, regale everyone with the beauty you have found, the Dream you have landed in the middle of, without paying a price.
I would lie in bed at night, my right arm in the air and cry, it hurt so bad. I googled iPhone and carpal tunnel and ah ha, yes, of course.
Luckily for me, there are a lot of great people up here, that is the yummy little secret of this place.
Yes, it is in the middle of nowhere, NYC is 4 hours away, Boston, the same, the nearest Starbucks is 90 miles away (this is how a LA person views the world)…but the people who live up here are amazing, educated, brilliant, fun, artistic, earthy, gorgeous, adventurous, and exactly what I wasn’t expecting to find.
Somehow, between taking a picture of everything that did and didn’t move, I met all of them.
My carpal tunnel was cured by one of the best massage therapists I have ever met who also, to my great delight, somehow ended here. Cheryl Rosen of The Spring House Spa in Sharon Springs saved my life. Well, my arm. And a lot of sleepless nights.
This April, 6th, 2013, I have a *photography show at the Cherry Branch Gallery, two years from the day that Tim Giblin posted a picture of a little broken farmhouse named Dunga Brook on Facebook.
*Vicki Whicker shoots all her photos with an iPhone, edits them in iphoto and pic monkey and Dreams of being an iPhone Ansel Adams.
Check out this wonderful writer, Maili Halme Brocke, she has posted one of my photos and a bit about JOY http://myjoyfortheday.blogspot.com
So, its about 11 degrees out, snow on the ground, and I come home late from the art studio and, since they’ve been in the house for hours, I let the dogs out.
Chevy disappears into the night.
I call and call and call. Time passes, I wait for his scratch at the door. Now I want to go to bed. I try again but despite the cold, he isn’t coming back.
About a half an hour ago, he let me know with a distant bark that he was at Tim’s barn. An acre or so away. The ancient barn I take pictures of incessantly. That big, dark behemoth of a barn that scares me just looking at it.
The temperture is dropping. I put on my boots, coat, hat, gloves and grab the flashlight and walk into the dark. I love this dog. There isn’t any other way about it.
As I cross the field, I hear the crunch of snow beneath my boots, a billion stars twinkle in the sky, in the distance a dog barking urgently, not Chevy, probably coyote hunters.
The moon is bright, the snow is blue. I stand beside the silohs and the moon streams between them, I wish I had a camera, I don’t even have my iphone, it is insanely beautiful. Insanely cold.
I think about the time I was caught outside, alone, in a typhoon on a late Hong Kong night, morning really, and how I almost died from hypothermia (I embellish), my clothes were heavy with the tropical rain that came down in solid sheets when the wind wasn’t whipping it sideways. I was lost, a bit drunk from a typhoon party in a bar I’d walked out of an hour before..walked right into rain so solid that I lost sight of the other patrons and since then I’d seen no other living thing. Lightning was jagging the sky and illuminated a dead cat floating down the sidewalk, now a river around my feet…I was in mortal danger. But it was just so beautiful.
Tim and Margo (the barn’s owners and my only neighbors) are on a long trip, there is no one here in the night but me. Careful, I think, don’t fall down, there will be no one by. Until spring.
The silohs are black giants. Looking up at them and the moon, I don’t feel so alone.
Finally, I hear the sound of a dog galloping across the crunchy snow- it’s Chevy, full of burs and bursting with the joy of having such an adventure to share in the night with me.
I scold him half-heartedly.
We head home by the light of the moon.
An excerpt from Dunga Brook Diary
Dunga Brook Diary, Spring 2011
I’m sitting on my couch with the mac on my lap. Through the ripped screen door I hear the Saturday street sounds of my relatively quiet Pacific Palisades neighborhood, random bird calls, cars wooshing by, a skateboarder practicing, dogs barking in back yards looking for a way back in.
I am looking for a way out. Of LA. For months now. Years really. But especially now in the spring of 2011 because in June Connor is actually going to graduate from Pali High.
Somehow, he is pulling it off. Good for him, he did it in a most impressive underdog coming from the back of the pack way and, to top it off, he wrote a letter of introduction to the ONE college he wanted to go to that was so convincing they ignored his academic past and welcomed him into the fold.
So, here I am in a land that I don’t love (limitless sunshine, relentless fruits and nuts, dead-end career, ridiculously high cost of living, negligible love life, friends with their own lives to dig out from, etc, etc).
Here I am in my rented cottage with the ripped screen door, the missing shutters (I had to pull them down when they went sideways and dropped slats after the last El Nino), the crumbling tar paper roof and plaster facade.
Here I am surrounded by McMansions where other little cottages stood but have since been demolished in the past 15 years I’ve lived here.
Here I am facing life without Connor in a place I have been dying to get out of since the day I moved here 25 years ago when Tim posts a picture of a little white farmhouse and the caption, “Who wants to be my neighbor?”
I don’t know Tim all that well. He is a 20 liner (20 liners is the online poetry group I started with other *Jack Grapes alumni) and we’ve done a few readings together. I met him in Jack’s Method Writing class.
Tim is dark and broody, like Brooklyn used to be. A memorable writer, he’d stand like a broken fighter and mumble his assignments in front of the adoring, mostly middle-aged, mostly female, class while scratching his belly (somehow always visible), looking like he just rolled out of bed at 5pm. Hot.
Tim moved back to Brooklyn years before and I’d followed his journeys through FB posts and through his 20 liner poems. We all spilled our guts elliptically through our 20 liner poems so I knew a lot about Tim and his proclivities, just as I had to assume he knew much about me and mine.
After LA, he went to South America where he bought a nag and lived like a gaucho for a while, then he came back and bought a farm with 9 acres in central New York.
I eat up his posts of pictures of the farm still under snow in late spring, of his vegetables in late summer, of his rusted out farm equipment, all year round.
I look at that little white farmhouse that Tim has posted and it takes me about 3.5 seconds to post back, “ME”.
I don’t think “Where is it?” or “Will I like it?”
This is what I have been waiting for– this little white farmhouse in the middle of who knows where is my ticket out of LA.
..click on https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2741858938116.2133629.1006731279&type=1&l=0abb6dd66b to see my FB gallery of Dunga Brook before and after
..check back to see the story unfold, forgive misspellings, weird phraseology, wrong tenses, confusing thinking…one dreams of an editor to fall from the heavens whose sole purpose in life is to iron all of that out, doesn’t one?
(*Jack Grapes of Los Angeles Poets and Writers Collective. I met Jack at his booth at The Los Angeles Festival of Books, I knew right then that I had to study with this jolly man in the shape of a grape with the leonine head of Walt Whitman- sans the full beard and long hair. BEST DECISION EVER. He changed my life. More on Jack later, he deserves his own post, but if you have the chance to study with him, it will, as he says, change your life. http://jackgrapes.com)
Everything in life has led me to this place, this middle of nowhere, beneath the hungry gaze of a wintry behemoth.
We are ready, loaded with food, water, internet, closed cell foam insulation, a pellet stove, bags of pellets in the basement, a generator powered by a gas tank holding a months worth of gas.
Around 4pm the snow finally arrived, sideways. I turned my back to it, watched the dogs fight and shit, one more round of freedom before we hunkered down in the 1820’s farmhouse.
And now that the sun has set there is more to be unseen than seen.