Dunga Brook Diary

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

Archive for love

Shoulders, a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye

Shoulders

A man crosses the street in rain,
stepping gently, looking two times north and south,
because his son is asleep on his shoulder.

No car must splash him.
No car drive too near to his shadow.

This man carries the world’s most sensitive cargo
but he’s not marked.
Nowhere does his jacket say FRAGILE,
HANDLE WITH CARE.

His ear fills up with breathing.
He hears the hum of a boy’s dream
deep inside him.

We’re not going to be able
to live in this world
if we’re not willing to do what he’s doing
with one another.

The road will only be wide.
The rain will never stop falling.

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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.

Imagearm

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.

Image

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!”

Image

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.

Cabbages, Not Kings

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This is for my friend, Maili. Her blog is The Maili Files. She’s a wonderful chef and writer. She loves cabbages.

Oh my god, I love this guy…

Oh my god, I love this guy...

For D. D.k. Crawford…the story of Chevy’s return home.

Chevy disappeared this past Thursday as I was walking him, I had dropped his leash for a minute to look for my grandmother’s ring, which was refashioned from my grandfather’s platinum and diamond hat pin (he was a dandy back in the day), the ring had gone missing near the creek, probably broke when I scaled the walls of the creek, earlier in the day).

No ring and when I looked up from my search, no Chevy. He had disappeared into the tall grasses around us- we’ve had so much rain he could just poof, disappear. He likes to mosey off to look for fun creatures, I wasn’t too worried as he always reappears, in 10 minutes or an hour, he always comes back.

One time he flushed a deer from this very spot, he chased close to her heels as she zigged and zagged, trying to shake him. She crossed the road and jumped a fence. So did he. I could hear heavy breathing as she plunged into the woods 30 acres away. He came back ten minutes later, heaving and breathing heavy, himself.

But this time, he didn’t come back. I called and called. My son and I searched until 2am. No Chev. That night, I was lying in bed when I heard his bark, it was 3 am. I went outside and called, no Chev. I sat out there for an hour, he never barked again.

Next day, more searching, the hills and woods held no clues. We expanded miles past our home, nothing. We made flyers, we called pounds and vets. Friday at 3 am that bark again, I went outside again, called and fell silent, hoping to hear him again, I was trying to get a read on where the bark was coming from. No more barking.

Saturday morning, I was up early, walking towards where I believed the bark was from, behind Tim’s barn. My neighbor, Margo had heard it, too. No luck. All day Saturday there were false sightings. I drove for miles, handing out flyers. A woman had seen him an hour from here. Someone on the next road had heard barking.

I knew these weren’t him. He is a wanderer, not an escapee, he comes home, an hour tops, and he keeps his circle close to home, even on the trail of a deer, nipping at a deer’s heels, he will circle back in a bit when he is worn out. I was devastated. I was sure, despite the barks, he was gone.

My fear was his leash was caught and he was strangled in a panic to escape. This deep sorrow was actually, I believe, the realization of how much I love this guy, how much he has been my touchstone for the past two years of my journey into the middle of nowhere. How much I need this guy. We aren’t done, I kept thinking, please.

He is my photographer’s assistant. Every meaningful photo I have taken, save the past few days, he has been by my side. A gorgeous close up of his eye was my first test photo for the aluminum prints I have had so much success with. He is a subject in all of my photography shows. He is in every image, in spirit.

Despite being sure he was gone, my feet wouldn’t stop walking the woods and the fields he loves so much. About to give up, I gave it one more walk, an hours walk, no luck. Returning home, behind Tim’s barn, I heard a bark. I stood on a hill and looked at his barn, I texted Connor, come back, I hear him, he’s here, meet me at Tim’s barn. I scoured the barn with my eyes, calling his name. No answer. I got closer, I called and called. Is he in there? It is a behemoth of an old barn, you could lose an elephant in there.

A bark! The burdock in front of me, down the hill towards the barn rustled, shook and I called again, it shook harder, he is there! Chevron! You are ALIIIIIIIIIVE, I yelled, My baby lives!

I fought my way through giant weeds to the burdock, he was their wagging and wriggling and licking my face as I unspooled his mangled leash from the base of the giant weed. Nearby was the gopher hole he’d been trying to reach.

Oh my god, I love this guy.

He dragged me to the creek, joyously flying through weeds for his first full drink of water in 3 days. And, relief.

That is the story.

iPhoneography & the black and white via Henri Cartier-Bresson

i love you

“Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again.”

~Henri Cartier-Bresson

Lately, I have been pushing myself to get better at black and white photography. A good black and white photo seems a poem compared to the novella you find in most of my color photographs. Simple is better. Clear, clean, brilliant, illuminated and ecclesiastical helps.

Here are my most recent attempts.

Best,

V

 

IMG_3509IMG_3490IMG_3519IMG_3498IMG_3515IMG_3009IMG_3505IMG_3513IMG_3506IMG_3510

The Indiana Tree For Maili

The Indiana Tree For Maili

http://themailifiles.blogspot.com/2013/04/one-bold-step_30.html

Wow, my friend Maili wrote about my journey on her blog, The Maili Files. She is a wonderful chef, a dedicated mom and a gifted writer.

As I read what she wrote about me, I could feel my heart increasing in size, like the Grinch when he hears the Whos in Whoville sing their song even after he stole all of their Christmas presents.

Well, I didn’t get my presents stolen but I have been, as she wrote, putting one foot in front of the other on this wonderful journey that I embarked upon when I bought a farmhouse, sight unseen, straight from a post on Facebook.

This is just a brief note of gratitude to Maili for following my journey and cheerleading me every step of the way.

I will, of course, return the favor and write about her journey (we are all on a journey) but it may take a bit, she is such a delicious morsel of a human that I want to get it just right.

She admits that she attempted to write about me for a few months and spent the whole day sequestered (in her pjs…shhhhhh) to get it just right. And she did. She got it just right.

So that sound you hear? Its the birds signing in the trees and baby green leaves unfurling and my heart growing three sizes on this gorgeous spring day.

SEEING DIFFERENTLY and a shutter click of brilliance from Ansel Adams

SEEING DIFFERENTLY and a shutter click of brilliance from Ansel Adams

SEEING DIFFERENTLY

“You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.”
― Ansel Adams”

Ok, come see me differently, as in totally out of my element…conducting a workshop.

Not being one who ever wanted to:

a- get married (not applicable to this workshop, but still)
b- teach (applicable)

This should be a fun time for all!

The good news for my workshop peeps?

I have had the great fortune to be taught/mentored by some of the top teaching gurus in the world– Jack Grapes, Rachel Resnick, Karin Gutman, Stephen Elliott, Paul Toussaint and many others in my loooong and storied life, so this won’t be a complete fail…Sign up NOW.

SEEING DIFFERENTLY
iPhoneography Workshop
Cherry Branch Gallery
25 Main, Cherry Valley, NY

Contact Kristen at the Cherry Branch Gallery 607-965-2089

XO,

V

The Saga of My First iPhoneography Gallery Show and A Love Letter To A Gallery Owner I Have Never Met

The Saga of My First iPhoneogrpahy Gallery Show and A Love Letter To A Gallery Owner I Have Never Met

When I was asked to have a show of my iPhoneography at the Cherry Branch Gallery, I was thrilled.

That was a year ago.

Little did I know that saying yes to that show would send me spiraling into a year filled with self-doubt and questions about who I thought I was and how the hell would I pull it off and the secret shame of knowing that I had never, not once, printed one of my images.

A full year of agony over whether what I saw on my iPhone and my Mac would be as clear and lovely and vibrant on paper and even if it was…who would care?

All the while I took more and more photos, which led me down the path of torment…which one? Which one of my 20,000 photos would make it to the show.

Can you show 100 images, should it be 20, do you frame them?

Omigod if I frame them, how will I frame them? Can I clip them to a wire and forget the frame? And why owhyowhy did I ever say I would do this, say yes to this childhood dream of mine, to have an ART SHOW in a GALLERY!

Then 2 months before the show the inevitable happened.

I dropped my Mac on my kitchen floor. From a great height. The floor is a radiant heat floor made of concrete. Dropping it did that thing that dropping a Mac does…the world went all slow motion as it floated to the ground and a voice (not my own) inside my head was screaming, mnooowwahhnooooo!

I was in a fugue state for the next three days as my hard drive died. It was a slow decline at first. The first sign was my beloved iPhoto wouldn’t open. OMG! ARTSHOW!

I kept trying, pushing buttons and restarting (a no no, we learn) over and over in a panic.

I was in deep denial.

The nearest Mac store was an hour and 15 minutes away. I just kept watching the wheel go round. Yes, I called to Apple hot line, which is not, by the way, the Mac Magic line- they do not have super powers and they always present with the obvious…”you should have backed your computer up”.

Yeah and I should have been born rich and important, perhaps a few inches taller…and YOU Apple Genius are anything BUT!

Anyway, long story short, I went to a local computer guy who pulled what he could off of my hard drive and I got a new hard drive from Apple (thank you Vicki for the extended Apple Care) and then spent the next 2 months pulling photos out of recovered files in the hopes that I was getting the original photos and not the iPhoto’d or instagrammed photos or corrupted photos. It was a mess.

But I pushed on, my April 6 deadline loomed.

All is well that ends well, as they say, and in the end (with the extreme help of Kristen, the gallery manager) I gathered about a thousand pictures, then narrowed it down to 33 pictures. This was an ordeal in itself that I can’t relive right now. I’m still tender.

But this missive is about a hero, this is a love letter to a gallery owner I have never met.

James Geras.

The James Geras of Geras Tousignant Gallery in San Fransisco.

https://www.facebook.com/GerasTousignantGallery?fref=ts

My day job is wholesale director for Beekman 1802. The Fabulous Beekman Boys have fans all over the world and they should, they are wonderful, tireless supporters of farmers, human rights, sustainable living, diva-like lamas, baby goats and all lovely living things.

One of those fans is James Geras and he became my client when he decided to share Beekman 1802 products with his gallery clientele at an opening.

In our back and forth I discovered that he is a photographer, a high-end photographer who sells his prints to collectors for thousands.

Desperate, I told him about my gallery show in Cherry Valley and asked for advice about printing, hanging and framing. As if I could afford anything he was going to tell me.

Well, he got it, not only did he get it but he was a fountain of information, immediately sending me ideas for hanging pictures for next to zero dollars…he sent links to catalogs, web pages, pictures of ways he had hung up photography exhibits elegantly and on the cheap.

He was wonderful, a dream come true, an amazing person, like some fairy godbrother that the Universe blessed me with!

And, he turned me on to his printer which was the turning point in my search for resources. This printer was above top-notch, fast and they printed on metal, which, until I saw a print of mine on it, I didn’t know I needed but indeed I needed very much.

James Geras, I LOVE you!

But there is more.

Not only did he help me with the printer who made my show a resounding success but he called the gallery before my show went up and bought a piece AND he sent me opening night flowers!

WHO DOES THIS?

An Angel, that is who.

I will never ever forget his generosity.

James Geras has an open invitation to visit and stay at Dunga Brook. Forever.

Of course, The American Hotel might be more fun and right in the middle of the haps in the middle of nowhere.

But even if he doesn’t stay with me, I will pick him up at the airport (an hour and 15 minutes away…a hop skip and a jump away from the nearest Apple store) and give him a personal CNY tour.

He is really something.

XO, Vicki

Dunga Brook Diary: A Year Of Seeing Differently
April 6- May 5
Cherry Branch Gallery
25 Main Street,
Cherry Valley, NY 13320 / 607-264-9530

Art In The Palm Of Your Hand and a lesson from John Burroughs

Art In The Palm Of Your Hand and a lesson from John Burroughs

“The lesson which life constantly enforces is ‘Look underfoot.’ You are always nearer to the true sources of your power than you think. The lure of the distant and the difficult is deceptive. The great opportunity is where you are. Every place is the center of the world.”~ John Burroughs

Today, I am packing my car with 7 boxes filled with 33 of my iphoneographic images printed on metal and heading to the Cherry Branch Gallery in Cherry Valley.

First, I’ll be driving to Brewery Ommegang to pick up the beer for my opening reception.

How cool it that?

If I want Ommegang beer (and I do) I just hop in the car and drive through their fortress of a brewery and pick it up. Right down the road. Just like that.

When I moved to central New York, having bought my old farmhouse off of Facebook, sight unseen, I had no idea Ommegang was here.

Or Cherry Valley with its bohemian artist culture.

I had no idea Cooperstown was here with its strong baseball ethos.

I had no idea I was a mere 4 hours away from NYC (of course, I had hoped I would be a little closer), I had no idea how beautiful it is (I had hoped for that, too), I had no idea how many cool people lived up here, I had no idea one of my best friends would move up here, too…

I just knew there was a little white house in the middle of nowhere next to a man’s house who’d be my only friend for awhile- a man whom I barely knew from a poetry class in LA.

Who does that?

Heeeeyyyyy!

I also had no idea I was going to pick up my iphone and photograph my way into this place and back out into the world.

I started with the ground under my feet. Literally.

When I first arrived, I lived at the KOA campground. Because it was summer and because baseball is king out here all of the house and apt rentals had long been booked by the families of boys and girls in baseball uniforms.

Camping was the only option left. I hadn’t camped since I was a kid. Now this wasn’t roughing it but it was living in a camper trailer in a camp ground surrounded by cornfields and cow pastures.

There was a walking trail through those fields and the first thing was take my two boys (dogs) for a walk.

And the funniest thing happened.

In the back of those fields was another field, a long, low field of clover, just like the fields of clover that surrounded my childhood home.

And there I was.

In the middle of a vast sea of green under a purple and orange sky on a warm summer’s night.

The sky was a bowl above me, the clouds were glowing with the light.

I fell to my knees in wonder.

‘Look underfoot.’ You are always nearer to the true sources of your power than you think.’

I lay on my back in clover. The dogs ran free.

My eyes stung.

Was I really going to cry?

I whipped out my iphone and took a picture of the clouds and the clover and the dogs romping.

I fell swoonily in love with central New York.

(Sorry, LA. Heyyyyy. But you just didn’t do it for me. I tried. I gave you 25 years. I really did try.)

Ah, New York!

And, I wanted you to see what I see. I wanted you to fall in love with it too.

This Saturday, almost two years to the day that I found my farm on Facebook, I have an exhibit of iphone photos.

Come see!

There will be Ommegang and a wall full of what I saw at ‘the center of the world’.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Cherry Valley, NY- Cherry Branch Gallery will be hosting an opening reception for central New York artist, Vicki Whicker.

Cherry Branch Gallery, 25 Main Street, Cherry Valley, NY 13320 / 607-264-9530

APRIL 6th, Saturday, 5-7pm: OPENING RECEPTION Live Jazz with Jeff Palmer, (pre-sales 12-4pm)

 

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.4972379699741.1073741826.1006731279&type=1&l=9d1922dc22

The Fabulous Beekman Boys Weigh In On iPhoneography

The Fabulous Beekman Boys Weigh In On iPhoneography

“It seems like virtually every employee that finds their way to Beekman 1802 has creative streak that cannot be suppressed. Even the long days and hard work at a fast-growing company cannot deter.

At Beekman 1802, we love to see artists and artisans that interpret the traditional in a modern way.

Vicki Whicker’s work demonstrates that all of us have a profound tool for creating art literally in the palm of our hand.”

~Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell

http://beekman1802.com/palm-of-your-hand/

https://dungabrookdiary.com/2013/04/04/1693/

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.4972379699741.1073741826.1006731279&type=1&l=9d1922dc22

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