Sunday, January 3, 2010

Great Leap Forward

Finally Yellow Bird is taking off as a writers/artist’s retreat and sculpture park. I currently have two artists in residence, a barn ‘gallery’, and some new installations of my own. (See And with the help of the Lebel family - Daniel, Audrey, Neko and Luca, wwoofers extraordinaire - the whole site is being repaired, restored and generally made ship-shape, especially the orchard, the barn and the garden. I have identified the sites for three cosy cabins, the first one using the rough-hewn 9’ x 15’cedar frame of an existing shed (called the ‘garage’ because of its pre-1964 use), with an unusual bowed roof. And we are recycling wood from the demolished house, and standing dead trees in the woods, into stacks of fuel for the new woodstove.

The last few weeks we have spent creating things and mending them. The first makes afresh, the second works with a shape already given. Each has its own particular satisfaction. The first explores the unknown, brings into being. The second traces the contours of the given, with a view to restoring, even improving it. We repaired a cheap bench once imported as a kit from China, relaunching it with recycled heart of pine slats that will last indefinitely. It was easy to imagine, with Plato, that it now more closely participates in the ideal form of the bench.

When you get into the groove of mending things, it is astonishing how many of the things we live with need our help, and how we shield ourselves from noticing this. This phenomenon is ‘writ large’ when you inherit a dilapidated farm, but I suspect it is generally true. We dream of getting ahead of the game, but is that really possible? And if we include unfinished plans and projects, the fractal nature of incompleteness is surely incontestable. I have about five books currently on the go: suppose I completed all of them – what would the writing landscape look like then? My guess is that there would be another five germinating in the compost bin of the brain. But what follows from this is not that there is no point in finishing these books (because the category of the unfinished will be replenished), but that I (at least) need to convert that frustration into the creative tension of an active ongoing process.

There have been set-backs. The truck spreading gravel on the connecting road got stuck in the deep mud. So too did the wrecker sent to rescue it. Finally an old army truck with winches etc. pulled the other two out. (See image.) The whole convoy only pulled out long after dark. And the jury is still out on Waldo, the new goat dog. Buddy disappeared in October, and I was assured that two year-old Waldo, a Great Pyrenees, had been raised with goats. A real goat dog runs with the goats protecting them day and night. Waldo however likes human company. A final 10 day goat-sequestration experiment will decide which way he will go.Newsflash: yesterday two new kids were born into freezing weather, dying hours later. Their mother licked them, but I think she knew they were doomed. 150 days after the pleasures of August, who would have known where it would lead. I bought straw bales to provide a nest, but … I am told heat lamps might have saved them.

All the mending, clearing and re-arranging sets the scene for the next phase, of art and intellectual creativity, residencies etc. With Rohan Quinby’s help, we launched the YB series of workshops/seminars Thinking Without Boundaries with Time and the Image in November, and then in December we had an inaugural exhibition at Wild Goat Gallery, with Daniel and Audrey Lebel, Paul Littlehales, Joel Beaupre, and William Kooienga.
Plus two of my own installations, and a new Floating Gallery. [See next blog]

Non-profit status is being applied for, and Margaret Pearson’s generous support is continuing.

This morning (Sunday) I helped Luca measure up rafters for his tree-house, keeping watch over the Peace Circle. We saw a red fox, a flock of plump iridescent blue turkeys, white-tailed deer high-tailing it through the woods, and we released Waldo from his captivity with the goats for a spot of galavanting on the newly frozen lake.

Life goes on.