This morning, Vermont reminds us that April is a crazy month here, just as it can be in Chicago. A wet snow greets us this morning, the ground a pretty dusted white. Beautiful, big puffy snowflakes, mountain show Todd calls it. Yesterday I had a hawk kill a pigeon and eat it outside my window, which I thought was a sarcastic farewell sign from Vermont. Today, the snow feels like a farewell benediction, which I prefer to the hawk. 26 hours until departure.
Yesterday started to feel sad, with people saying again and again, Oh, you’re leaving tomorrow! Two weeks went by so fast! Thankfully, we are not the only people departing. Three other people will be taking the shuttle at 8:45am tomorrow morning. Still, it feels incredibly bittersweet. So many great people, so much work done, so much work still to do.
I finished my work study yesterday, so that I could have my whole day today to play and work. In the afternoon, I played with more poems about Chicago, trying to soak in the flavor and experience of Canaryville and Back of the Yards in the early 1900s with three generations of Strohmaiers and Eisens. I listened to the audio of my interviews with mom from 2010 when I was collecting stories for Matt and Ashley’s wedding gift.
At breakfast I hounded Luke Elwes, the painter from England, and asked him if we could sit with him at lunch. I had read through his website and found out that he met Bruce Chatwin in the 80s before he died, and I wanted to talk to him about that experience. We had many pleasant conversations with Luke over the past two weeks, but for some reason it felt like we hadn’t seen him for days. At lunch I asked him a slew of questions about travel and painting. Bruce Chatwin came to Luke’s first show in London, and Luke had already read Songlines and been to Australia himself. He has also hiked (not mountain climbed) for a month through the Himalayas and Tibet, and he’s been to various parts of Africa. He loves painting the dessert, so he has gone several times to Morocco, and we both raved about the beauty of Namibia’s Skeleton Coast. He is a remarkable painter, and you should check out his website and his amazing watercolors.
One of the best aspects of the VSC is the comraderie and conversation at mealtimes. Everyone comes back together after productive (or not) and quiet (or not) time in their studios. There’s this energy to chat and see how everyone’s work is progressing, to delve deeper into knowing people and their work with more clarity. It’s such a wonderful balance of respect for work time and need to take social breaks and eat. That being said, Todd and I ditched everyone for dinner, since there wasn’t really a vegan option, and we had a quick date night at the pub in town.
Last night was Open Studio night. After dinner, everyone walks from building to building to see the artist’s work. They can leave their door open if they don’t mind people coming in, or if they don’t want people to see their work yet, they can leave their door closed. I can’t begin to describe the varieties of styles, techniques, mediums, colors, and sizes of the work people are doing. I am in awe of the quality of people’s work, of the evolution of their work even over the past two weeks. Walls are no longer white, but full of done (or drafted) works, paint drips on the walls, and the studios feel alive with work. How fantastic to see everyone’s work up close and to talk to them about how they make their work. I took so many photos to show people the variety and the talent here. After two hours of walking from building to building, we walked back to our studio, cleaned up, and called it a night.
So, today, the last full day here at VSC. The snow has already stopped in the past half hour. I might visit the Life Drawing studio one last time. I have quite a list of poems that I want to draft up today if I can. I’m trying to squeeze out every last drop of the day. At some point, Todd and I will pack up our studios and our bedroom. Tonight there is a writer’s reading in the comfy Mason library, as we’ll all share some of the work we’ve done these past two weeks and work we’ve done prior to VSC. It will be a nice cozy way to wrap up the time here.