RecycleArt

IMG_6653_2Somewhere along the Maine coastline, you will find Nervous Nellie’s Jams and Jellies.  It’s home not only to some great and inventive jams and jellies, but also to the sculpture of Peter Beerits — an artist who creates interesting pieces out of discarded odds and ends.

The area around Nervous Nellie’s is chock full of Beerits’ work, including pieces organized into an entire Old West town, complete with jail, general store, and a saloon with card players.  The artwork has a certain fascination to it, because Beerits obviously can see through the current condition of an object to its ultimate, artistic realization — where a rusted top of an outdoor grill becomes the shell of a tortoise, or an old washtub serves as the legs of a goat.  It’s all quite in line with Michelangelo’s purported statement that his sculptures were always there, lurking inside the block of marble — he just was able to see them, and then could chop and smooth away the unnecessary stuff.

It’s cool to see what most of us would consider to be junk reused, and reimagined, into interesting pieces of art.

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I Won’t Watch It

Kish and I were driving home yesterday, so we missed the TV news coverage of the awful shootings in Virginia.  We therefore didn’t see the footage of the killer gunning down two innocent people, for reasons no one will be able to explain.

We listened to the radio, though, and heard the sounds of the gunshots and the terrified and anguished screams of the witnesses — and that was bad enough.

Whatever other twisted grievances and chilling fantasies may have motivated the killer to commit a cold-blooded murder of a reporter and cameraman on live TV, it’s obvious that a desire for public attention was one of them.  I won’t give it to him, nor will I have my sensibilities jaded and perverted and corrupted by watching something so horrible.  I’m not going to look for his Facebook page, or read his “manifesto,” either, nor am I going to put a picture of him, or his criminal deed, on this post.  Consider it my little protest against publicizing the evil actions of a sick, depraved mind.

There’s a serious journalistic ethics question lurking here:  if you are a TV news program, do you broadcast the footage, which plays into the killer’s desires and potentially might lead to copycat actions, or do you decline to do so, knowing that some of your viewers might change the channel to a station that takes a different approach?  I can’t fault those outlets that broadcast the footage, on a “just report the facts” rationale, but I can applaud those networks and programs that declined to do so.  Journalists are part of society, and as a society we have an interest in discouraging murderous acts by disturbed individuals.

We live in a weird world, where ethical questions arise that wouldn’t even have been possible in an earlier, less technological age in which “social media” didn’t raise the possibility that every criminal could also become a celebrity.  Sometimes, as in the case of the Virginia shootings, it’s a truly ugly world.  I’d rather not dive into that ugliness.

Home

At what point do you suppose that you first grasped the idea of “home”?  I imagine it was one of the first concepts I ever understood, and probably one of the first words, too.  It was a specific, physical place, to be sure, but it was a lot more than that.  It was where the most important people in your life lived, and you developed happy feelings that you associated with the special combination of that place and those people and your things — the sense of where your life was centered, and of being where you belonged.

And as you grew up, and your family moved from one house to another, and went on vacations together, the concept of “home” became even stronger, because you realized that your home was not just one place, but could change from one city to another even as you left your friends and favorite places behind, and was more than just the temporary location of your Mom and Dad and brother and sisters.  And after such a move to new place, when the settling-in process finally ended, at some point you thought to yourself that your new house had become less strange and “finally felt like home.”

IMG_6833The home-shifting process continues, for many of us, as our lives proceed and we move through college and venture out on our own.  At some distinct point the concept of “home” morphs from the place where your parents are to the place where you and your spouse and your family have established their own lives.  The legal concept is called domicile — the location where you have established a permanent residence to which you intend to return, whatever your temporary movements might be.  Courts trying to determine domicile evaluate evidence like where you are registered to vote, where you pay your taxes, and where your kids go to school, that seek to capture, to the maximum extent that bloodless legal “factors” can, the emotional element of having found a welcome place where you have sunk down roots.

Those of us who have been fortunate enough to have grown up with a solid sense of “home,” with the warm, deep feelings of belonging and physical security and personal value and countless other attributes that come with it, can’t fully appreciate how having a home has shaped our lives and personalities.  And we can’t really imagine what it must be like to grow up without that essential emotional and physical center, or to someday lose it entirely and become “homeless” — a powerful and terrible word, when you think about it.

Yesterday, as Kish and I drove back from a vacation on the coastline of Maine, the pull of “home” became irresistible, and what was supposed to be a two-day drive became by mutual agreement a 17-hour, roll-in-and-unload-after-midnight rush to get back to our little center of the world.  And when we finally made it, and were greeted by a small, happily barking dog whose tail was sweeping the floor like a metronome set at maximum speed, we once again were reminded of what “home” is really all about.

Thanks, Alfred!

When you’re staying in a strange, rural area, and you pass an old, gabled farmhouse, and happen to look up and see the unmoving outline of a woman backlit against a third-floor window, what thought comes to mind?

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Psycho, of course!  Even though there’s no Bates Motel sign to be seen, you’re subconsciously scanning the landscape for a knife-wielding Anthony Perkins clad in an old-fashioned full-length dress.  No steaming hot shower is ever completely comfortable when you are in the immediate vicinity of such a scene, is it?  And that slashing, stabbing Psycho soundtrack music helpfully starts playing in the back of your mind to add to the creepiness factor, too.

l’m sure there’s a perfectly good reason why a woman would be up in the third floor of a house, framed against the window.  Maybe it’s her favorite place to watch TV, or maybe that precise spot is where cell phone reception is inexplicably the strongest.  Or maybe it’s just a rotting, maggot-infested corpse kept there by a deeply disturbed murderer with a Mommy complex.

Thanks, Mr. Hitchcock!

Let Us All Be Heroes

The story about the three Americans who stopped a terrorist on a European train is a ray of sunshine in an otherwise dismal news period.  It reminds us that, in a world of big governments and big corporations, individuals who seize the initiative can still make a crucial difference.

The three Americans — one from the Air Force, one from the National Guard, and one a civilian — were middle school chums who were traveling on a train from Amsterdam to Paris when they saw an Islamic terrorist begin shooting.  The airman, Spencer Stone, rushed at the shooter, tackled him, and was slashed by a boxcutter before his friends Alec Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler joined him in subduing the shooter.  The authorities believe their courageous, selfless actions prevented another deadly terrorist incident, and the three Americans were decorated by a grateful French government.

I cannot help but wonder how I would react if I were put in such a situation and whether my instinct would be to duck and cover, or to act.  I’d like to think it would be the latter — with luck, we’ll never be put to that test — but it’s nice to know that there are still people out there who have that impulse.  We would like to think that, in the right circumstances, we could all be heroes.

In The Midst Of The Mist

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We took the mailboat run out to Isle au Haut yesterday.  After we started the trip a dense fogbank rolled in, moving toward us like a living creature and then finally enveloping our small craft in its damp, blank embrace on our return journey.  It was like being in a dream, with small islands silently sliding in and out of the thick mist and bobbing lobster buoys adding the only dabs of color to the monochromatic scenes.

House Unrequited

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In one of the pretty neighborhoods around Blue Hill, Maine, this derelict structure stands, cheek by jowl with some lovely, well-kept, carefully manicured New England homes.  Its roof and front porch have been partially caved in by the fall of an enormous branch that has never been removed, its windows are boarded over, and its yard is choked with huge weeds.

Why?  Our host said that no one in the neighborhood knows for sure — but something happened to make the house’s owner hate this house, and maybe the neighborhood, too.  For 20 years, he said, she has let the house slowly decay, rejecting offers to buy it, paying the property tax bill in the nick of time, so that the decay could continue until the house looks like . . . this.

What could cause someone to let this once tidy wooden home slide into ruin, and maintain such strong feelings for decades?  It’s a fascinating topic for conversation, of course, and maybe a Dickens novel or two.  Whatever it was, this poor house is paying the price.