Dunga Brook Diary

The rural life through the lens of an iPhone and notes from the field…

Archive for central new york

Country Life, 3.1.17


Country Life

These are the ghosts of the wild tomatoes that (each summer) rise from the loam and take over my yard. The pig jaw is from my neighbor’s carcass pile. Out here, that’s a thing. 

The picnic table they rest on is a nice pallet that the very same neighbor let me take home in the back of my truck. The pallet picnic table is held up by two junk-store sawhorses that cost me less than 5 bucks. I live in an old farmhouse (gussied up in navy blue and a red metal roof) made cozy upon my arrival by a top to bottom renovation. 

Yes, Virginia, house-poor is definitely a thing. 

LA was my base for over 20 years before this- I miss my friends and my salary and my hairdresser, but not much else.

Besides, this middle of nowhere life gives the most unusual gifts- bones and broken china and musket balls that rise from the muddy hills at the first thaw, a laboriously slow Spring that gives birth to furious pink peony blooms, a too brief Summer that passes in a swoon of greens and swirling blue skies, Falls that arrive with a riot of ripe vegetables and trees all gussied up in crimson and golds, and the winters… those old man winters…with bony white charm and eyes full of menace…one minute gifting lovely snow flakes and the next, slapping with ice…but mostly he’s toothless and doddering and by March, April, May, he’s well overlong with his stay. 

I’ve met lot of nice friends out here, all artists and poets and musicians, all outliers. 

When I first arrived, I dated the two-horse town lawyer (a most respectable gent) and followed him up with a crazy young crazy lover who came but almost didn’t went. 

I’m good now, I’m good, I’m good, I repeat with the wind as it howls down the tired old hills to knock at my windows like a ghost who’s not sure if they’ve been missed. 

I’m good now, I’m good, I’m good, I repeat while he huffs and he puffs but he can’t blow this old house down…anchored as it is with a lovely stone foundation from the 1820’s and a lot of dollars from heaven.

A Pink to the Atmosphere

Winter arrives…the temperatures drop, winds begin to howl, there’s a pink to the atmosphere, heralding, perhaps, a coming storm. I’m ready for a wall of snow. I’ve been waiting for the winter of all winter’s ever since I moved to the Northeast. Five years, I’ve been waiting. I’d be lying if I said that I haven’t enjoyed these mild winters, but something deep inside cries for a tempest. 

Winter. Happy happy. Joy joy. 

  It’s Monday. 

A blustery blustery Monday. A blustery January Morning and all I want to do is sit on this leather couch underneath a Pendelton Indian blanket and sip my maple creamed coffee and stare at the Christmas tree. Yes, it’s still up. And listen to the wind. It comes and goes, gale force then a rumbling sort of silence. A faraway sound like the ocean when you’re inland about a mile.

I grew up on the ocean in Florida. I know the sound of gale force winds, of the ocean rumbling far away. This small house in the middle of nowhere, perched in a valley surrounded by fallow fields, this place is my island in a vast ocean of snowy sound. 

Henry, the rooster, crows. Not so much a cock-a-doodle doo but something more visceral, commanding and desperate at the same time. Irritated yet hopeful. Forlorn yet energized. It’s more like Er-er-er-Errrr. 

Bella is not here, she’s with her mom. Chevy’s asleep, curled tight for warmth. 

Bella’s dad is wrapped in a wall of blankets upstairs. He’s not a morning guy. 

We’ve been together for awhile now, three winters to be exact. He looked at me last night over the table of a tony Utica restaurant and said, I never thought we’d be together three years later. It’s true. We weren’t meant to last a weekend. But here we are, together in the middle of nowhere, winter’s claws tightening around us.

  He of the unlined face, the rebel outlook, the jalopy car, the beautiful daughter not yet five years old. How does he connect with me…LA woman, world traveller, rural greenhorn, dreamer, artist, mother of a man closer to his age than not? 

It’s a mystery. We let it be a mystery. 

Like the weather. 

Yesterday it rained, there was an epic rainbow.  Spring sang her siren’s song, we knew better to believe her but still…

 This then is frozen Monday. The wind howls, the cock crows and I’m staring at the giant Christmas tree in the den that absolutely must come down. 

Oh, but what a beauty she was.

  

The Mr. Henry And Mrs. Valentine enjoying a stroll. This is central New York, enjoying El Niño.

imageThis is an unusual winter day, in central New York…wet and windy after a night and morning of torrid rain. We continue this winter’s pattern of unusually mild weather with spikes of freeze.

The rainbow was a nice surprise, Henry and Valentine sauntering beneath it, too.

Ah, winter in central New York…

Just over five years ago (after too many years in LA), I moved to central New York to renovate an 1820’s farmhouse that I had bought sight unseen off of a Facebook post.

Central New York. The beauty of the area, the seasons, the open spaces…brought me to my knees. Literally. It was what made of me an Iphonographer.

It was as if, so far into the middle of nowhere, I could see again.

That first winter was mild and wet, too. I wondered where the fabled heavy snows and ice storms of the NE had gone.

I remain grateful for the reprieve…as do Henry and Valentine. Their endless foraging continues unhampered by pesky ice and snow. Miller (not pictured) continues to lay eggs.

And I continue to take photos with my iPhone, unable still to use it as an actual phone..in the middle of nowhere.

Henry. Portrait of an American Rooster.

 It’s almost a year since I last visited my own website. I know I’m not the only one whose done this and it’s certainly not my first time. I’m hard pressed to make an excuse for my absence. It’s not like anyone noticed, either. Which has nothing to do with anything. Yet it does. Doesn’t it…?

I yearn for something which is why I create. It’s the engine that moves my photography. It’s why I post a photo a day on Instagram. The feedback is what I need, I guess. And while I’m not the most popular IG’r by any means, I have a core of followers and a fraction of thise followers give me what I am looking for…likes (I see your work) and comments (I acknowledge your work). My work moves some. It delights some. It inspires others. And that’s exactly what I’m aiming for each time I edit the crap out of a photo until it speaks to me. I want it to speak to you. Same with Facebook. I’ve got a lot of friends there and my goal is to delight them, daily.

This is is a portrait of Henry, my rooster. From the time he was a fluffy yellow chick to his preening magnificence of young cockhood, he’s been a daily delight. Last spring my boyfriend brought home three chicks. When chickens are babies you can’t determine their sex, at least I couldn’t…from years of obsessing over animals I know that as soon as I become a chicken master I’ll be able to…but in the beginning a ball of fluff us a ball of fluff…so all I could do was hope that one of my fluffs would be a rooster. So, from desire to actuation (new word!) sprang Henry, the American Rooster. Henry morphed from chick to this in a fairly short period of time and, of course, his evolution has been photographed.

Add Henry to my list of muses out here in the glorious middle of nowhere that is central New York.

More to come.

Perhaps I’ll go back in time and fill the missing months in with photos and musings on what the heck happened between last February and now…if I dare.

XO, V

Last day of February. Winter in full freeze. Words to live by for Northern climes.

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

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A June Peony in April

A June Peony in April

April

My peonies sleep
curled into their red roots
frozen with the ground.

I walk with what is left of winter
and discover a tiny animal, wet and black,
bereft of possibility.

It’s too close to spring to die.

William says
we need a month of sunny days
before we dig and plant.

This morning,
a hale storm threw
a million tiny pearls
onto tawny fields
that disappeared
as soon as they landed.

We wait.
We wait.
We wait.

3 DAYS LEFT to submit your portfolio to the Mobile Masters Contest!

I did it!

I love taking iPhone photos. I have had several shows in the past year and I have sold a great number of photos to a wonderful group of collectors.

But, I have never entered a mobile photography contest.

It’s like my writing.

I have written scores of poems, have read them in public, have been published online and in anthologies and have even had a publication find me and ask me to buy some of my poems…I said yes and sold 2 poems to said publication for $1,000.

Easy peasy.

But that didn’t galvanize me.

I don’t know why.

Ok, yes, I do.

A crippling self-doubt comes over me when I sit down to even think about entering a contest or submitting for publication.

My entire being shouts into my ear— YOU are no good, who are YOU? What are YOU thinking? That photo/poem etc just doesn’t cut it.

The joy of taking that photo or writing that poem is completely chucked.

Are you like this?

OMG, it is so dismal.

Well, today is different.

Thanks to Paul Toussaint’s gentle reminder, I sent a portfolio link off to an actual iphoneography contest.

I wrapped my head around creating a special account on IG just for this purpose.

And not just any contest.

The Mobile Masters Contest.

The biggie.

Wish me luck!

Here is the link to my online portfolio:

http://instagram.com/vickiwhickeriphoneography

February in Upstate New York

February in Upstate New York

Here’s a link to my normal IG account (if you consider being inundated by iphoneography normal):

http://instagram.com/vicki_whicker

ONLY DAYS LEFT TO ENTER CONTEST Mar 2nd
WINNERS REVEALED AT SANFRAN MACWORLD EVENT Mar 26th
CLICK LINK TO ENTER> https://gum.co/PROOF/special

The objective of this is to showcase the world’s top 48 artists who are breaking new ground in mobile image discovery and invention.

The mobile platform has leveled the playing field allowing amazing work to emerge from the most unexpected places. Thus ALL levels are welcome, from novice to pro, to submit work for inclusion.

The resulting eBook and Show hopes to prove that Mobile Photography has become a distinctive new movement in the history of the art form.

Over 3000 dollars in prizes and many exposure opportunities for the winning artist.

Easy to Enter. No images to upload or long forms to fill out. We are not judging just one or 2 of your images, instead submit your complete ePortfolio Link like a Flickr Set or Instagram feed.

Your work will be seen by 6 very notable judges. 3 from the traditional fine art photography side and 3 well know Mobile artist. The winners will be announced on March 26 at the Macworld/iWorld Expo Mobile Masters Workshop.

Enrollment for this Event is now open, see Mobile Masters website. http://bit.ly/mmproof

Deadline is March 2nd, 2014

Margo gets published! Modern Love

Margo gets published! Modern Love

Margo is my neighbor and my muse. We live in the middle of nowhere so it is nice to have a neighbor and a muse all rolled into one. I started photographing her as soon as she moved up here, she is breathtakingly beautiful. What I didn’t know is that she can write like a house on fire. And she has stories to tell. Oh, the stories she has to tell. One day she handed me a manuscript and I read one line. The first line. And I knew right away, this girl can write. Each week we sit down and write together for an hour. We do this three times a week. Each time I am blown away by her brain. Amazing. Never sat across from a writer like Margo. Wow. I always count my blessings out here, there are so many things I appreciate and Margo is at the top of the list. The Modern Love essay that was posted in the paper today is just the tip of the iceberg. Can’t wait for the book!

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/27/fashion/recalling-painful-lessons-in-forgiveness.html

Dunga Brook Diary: A Year of Seeing Differently

In March, 2011, Tim, an east coast “friend”, posts a picture on Facebook – a little white house – with a question: “Who wants to be my neighbor?”

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I type…“How much?”

He responds, “$34,000 for an 1820’s farmhouse.”

I don’t hesitate, “I do. I want to be your neighbor.”

Dunga Brook was a 2,000 acre dairy farm in her day, but by 2011 she has no electricity, no water, a leaking roof and a failing septic system.

I offer $10,000.

It’s accepted, immediately.

In Gelson’s, I bump into an old boyfriend and tell him the news.

“You’re moving to a house you bought sight unseen off of Facebook? In the middle of nowhere? A place you know nothing about? To live next to a guy you barely know?”

“Yes!” I say.

“Man, Vicki…you have big swinging balls!”

All my friends think I’m crazy.

Strangers ask, “How can you be so brave?”

I say, I’ve been ready to leave LA ever since I got here and now that my son, Connor, is off to college, my GET OUT OF HELL-A ticket has finally been punched.

They don’t know that I hide from sunshine, that I hate Santa Ana’s, that the Pacific turns me cold, that my heart has been broken a million times in a million ways by LA, that I have finally been flattened by grief…my mom, my dad and my grandmother all having recently passed.

I fail to mention that I never thought Connor would graduate from high school, much less get himself into college. I fail to mention that by moving cross country, I am, in effect kidnapping him- no more sharing.

If I can just have him for one more summer, THE last summer, I might be okay.

I’m not brave at all-  but I am crafty.

Connor’s dad says nothing when I tell him the news.

He knows I’m crazy.

Years ago, when I left him, he stood in the driveway of our Pacific Palisades home pointing at the Cape Cod we lived in and the BMWs we drove, yelling, “Look What I Give YOU!”

What I wanted was to heed the voice in my head that whispered, “go for love, not the money”.

From then on, Connor travels between us. We co parent, we co exist, we co operate.

But there are cracks in my veneer.

I design shoes that I hate for companies that I can’t stand. I try every anti-depressant as advertised in Vogue magazine. I seem to have a thing for booze and for 27 year olds. I make really great friends that I never ever see.

Months before I buy the farm, I buy a car, but not a car, I buy a truck. I buy a giant silver truck with all-weather tires, gps and 4 wheel drive.

May 2011, I see Dunga Brook for the first time…Central New York…forests, streams, lakes, ancient farms, red barns in all stages of collapse and skies that are actually…blue.

I stay with my Facebook “friend”. His 1890’s farmhouse has no running water, no heat. The closest Starbucks is 120 miles away.

On Mother’s Day, a baby goat is born. Because Tim is masquerading as farmer, he has to drive to the nearest neighbor for help. The toothless local pronounces the baby sound and we share a glass of fresh goats milk in celebration.

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My summer plan is to hire Connor to renovate the house. He’ll be too busy to miss LA, he’ll make money and he can keep his eye on the gypsy crew that I’ve hired.

This plan sucks. It is impossible to get him out of bed, driving to the job site he is despondent.

“You’re building your future,” I tell him.

Two weeks into it, the chief gypsy texts me a picture.

“This is what he does all day,” is the caption.

It’s Connor. He wears a sleeveless t-shirt, his work boots are tucked into his jeans, there is a baseball cap over his eyes, the work gloves I bought him are still on his hands, not a speck of dirt.

Connor is  in the shade of the pine tree that I was advised to chop down but still can’t, its too perfect, it knows things.

Dunga Brook’s siding is ripped off, her windows are torn out, the gypsies are a blur of activity inside of her.

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Connor is sound asleep.

At first, I’m pissed. “I’m paying you!”

Then I’m sad.

My great idea is his worst nightmare.

He belongs back in LA with his life-long friends.

Why did I whisk him 4000 miles away?

I fire him.

Then we take off in my truck, we discover dirt roads, we eat at every diner we can find, we four-wheel drive, we laugh and bicker.

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He is my pilot, I hang out of the truck with my iPhone, snapping away, there is just so much beauty.

That fall, when I drop him off at college, we hug goodbye and he says, “best summer ever, mom.”

The renovations drag on, we work without plans, permits or budget, I worry endlessly that we are tearing her down and won’t be able to put her back together.

To keep sane, I spend money. Each design decision is a battle between eh- and all out — all out wins, hands down, every time.

And, I roam the country roads solo, taking photos, nothing is ordinary.

Each night, I update Facebook:

An iPhone photo of an Amish buggy parked by a shed:

Perfect fall day, an Amish man mows a lawn. You know that smell? A poem in every breeze.

An iPhone photo of silver cornstalks:

It’s so beautiful, I could fall in love with just about anyone.

By the time we finish, 8 months have passed, all my money is gone and the gypsies have decamped.

When a February storm hits, my house keeps me warm. I have built the perfect little snow globe.

Spring 2012, a gallery asks me to have an iPhoneogaraphy show.  While writing my artists bio, I realize that my childhood dream of being an “artist” has finally come true.

It took a lot of “crazy” to make this happen.

Connor calls to tell me, he’s not coming back for the summer, he’s going to rent his own farmhouse and he has a real job to pay for it.

I’m in a panic, if he doesn’t return now, he will spin off into the world on an ever expanding arc away from me.

I stand in the driveway yelling, “You have to come back, look what I built for you!”

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But, that voice speaks up, it says- “Isn’t he your son? Isn’t your job done? Let him go…he is free to roam.”

In June, I shoot Connor a selfie- I’m next to that pine tree, Dunga Brook’s red roof gleams, she’s wears a fresh coat of paint …And you know what?

She looks pretty damn sexy…for an ole farm girl…out in the middle of nowhere.

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