Thursday, April 29, 2010

Telling Stories Through Barn Windows

New England's barns inspire me. Despite having similar basic designs, each one tells a story about what happens inside of it, the animals and people it houses and the seasons it endures. Some are the pride of yuppie families from big cities, others are functional parts of a farm passed down through generations of rugged farmers. Regardless of their condition or creed, old barns capture the story of their surroundings.

Like a young boy unable to take the entire beach with him, settling only on a lone sand dollar, I collect barn windows. Better than a picture, these windows act as a tangible homage to the buildings they once belonged to. Rummaging at flea markets, hunting at dusty antique malls and asking retired farmers if I could pick apart their collapsed barns, I am on the lookout for unique windows that remind me of New England.

A barn tells a story about the land it rests on. A photo depicts a similar narrative about a unique setting.

Feeling like Samuel W. Francis, the genius that combined the spoon and the fork into the spork, I sat on my bed taping pictures to an old window. Organizing the photos as I would a blog post, the window framed a story, more coherent and insightful than a standard print.

Scrapers and sandpaper remove flakes and loose paint from the windows.

Coats of water-based lacquer protect the old paint and keep it in place, ensuring that the window will keep its story intact.

Tucker working on a window.

The glass is scraped to remove years of paint, lacquer and dirt.
Epoxy anchors the glass panes to the frame.

No two windows are alike and each narrative of photos is printed once. The windows add context to the collection of photos, conveying a coherent story. I envision a window filled with images of food overlooking the kitchen and another window hung in the den acting as a portal to the Maine coast. I will share these windows on my blog and they will be available for purchase.

Here are some more links,
Telling Stories with Barn Windows (Picasa),
Windows (ART).

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Feels like Summer

Twilight transitioned to a cool, starlit night as a group of microbrew-lubricated men gathered around a ten foot high pile of miscellaneous wood like a group of soccer moms waiting to run through the doors of a Saks semi-annual sale. Adhering to an unspoken rule, they waited, smoking cigarettes and taking swigs from solo cups, until the architect of the soon to be engulfed tepee slowly and deliberately made his way towards the pile. Clutching a solo cup and lighter in one hand and an old New York Times in the the other, he marched over to the pile with a grin known to many trick-or-treaters.

Thirty foot flames quickly illuminated the apple orchard and thirty or so people headed towards its heat like like Midwest bugs towards a light. Laughing and chatting, small groups of friends subconsciously experimented with their appetite for heat, eventually creating a twenty foot radius around the fire.

Intrigued by the promise of friends, Weber Grills, kegs of local beers and the beauty of the Maine countryside, people from around the Northeast descended on a small orchard in Limerick, Maine to celebrate a friend's 40th birthday, or as the title of the invite called it, turning 14 for the 27th time. Bringing camping gear and their meat of choice, the partakers eagerly set up shop in the rows of trees early in the afternoon and embraced the late April day with the same gusto as rednecks at a NASCAR race.

Red toes and leather sandals.

The sun lingered in the sky overlooking the farm like a parent picking their kids up from a party, nursing the proposed five minutes into an actual fifteen just to see the laughs and smiles.

The orchard and barn serves a sculpture workspace for Sandy Macleod during the day.

Comforted by the sun and the smell of budding fruit trees, people hooted and explored the rows of apple trees, marked by the occasional kinetic sculpture. Cheeks and noses turned pink as the season's first sun caught overzealous minglers off guard.

The kabob assembly line, accelerated by beverages and a sinking sun.

The last glimmers of sunlight.

A well loved apple grinder.
A one log fireplace in a bedroom above Sandy's studio.

Joe the birthday boy and Sandy, the host of the party.

I love the color red.

As the fire's heat subsided and the solo cups emptied, people meandered back towards the house and the comfort of leftover potato salad, more beer and cold shrimp kabobs. I yawned and stretched, shivering in my shorts and LL Bean mocs. It felt like summer.

Here are some more links,
Feels Like Summer to Me (Picasa).

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Playing in the Woods

Holding my Swiss army knife in my right hand and pulling down with my left, I sliced through the topside of the bending maple branch. Making little headway, my arms tired and I let go, dropping six inches to the ground. "I can't believe mom dulled my knife, she never does that to yours," I yelled in frustration to my younger brother, Tim, stacking seven-foot tree sections in a tepee formation some fifty feet away. Tim had no scars on his hands, mine looked like a pair of RRL jeans.

"Let me see yours," I said motioning to the small red knife in his hand. Thumbing the blade open, I avoided the bandaids on my index finger and rubbed the blade. "Yah, yours is much sharper. I am almost nine and mom wont let me have a sharp knife," I chirped like a senior complaining to the coach when a sophomore gets the start at homecoming. Tim said nothing and kept pulling the bark off a freshly cut sapling.

Walking back to the tree, I jumped up and hung on like Stallone on the cover of Cliffhanger. With a downward yank of the pocket knife, the small branch cracked under my weight and I fell to the ground with an accomplished grin on my face. Holding the knife in one hand and the branch in the other, I jumped up and dragged my prize back towards our recently conceived tepee.

Popham, Maine.

Without the luxury of abundant neighbor kids and the infrastructure afforded by suburban playgrounds, my brother and I wandered aimlessly through the hundred acre woods that surrounded our house. Shooting slingshots, dirtying clothes, playing like cowboys and Indians, and making forts and dams, we passed our time in the forest.

Small Point, Maine.

A decade and half later, I still venture into the woods when restless and frustrated. Trading in my LA Lights for Danner Hiking boots and Vibram Fivefinger running shoes, I explore the woods at 22 with the same youthful exuberance I did at 8-1/2.

North Belgrade, Maine

Western Maine.

Kennebec Highlands, Maine.

Prindle Mountain, Washington.

Other than maybe a Bruce Springsteen Concert, few places could could jointly host Choco-wearing Trustafarians from New England and Cabela's-outfitted deer hunters from the rural Midwest like the woods do. Regardless of their political standpoints on the duration of the waiting period to own an assault rifle or eagerness to pack their bowel movements out in plastic bags, they are drawn to the woods in a similar way. The woods are special.

Here are some more links,
Trees (Picasa),
The Woods (ART).

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Mainer Named Ed

At twenty-eight, Ed sold his farm in Massachusetts and moved to Maine in search of cheap land, large woods and ample pasture for his cows. Over the last fifty-nine years, Maine has changed a lot, and Ed little. Measuring time not by decades but by eras of women, Ed's twice divorced and currently lives with a special lady friend of ten years. He has grown to love his adopted home and developed a thick accent. Since bottling his first jar of milk in 1952, one year after moving to Maine, 34 dairy farmers on his street have boarded up shop, sold off their stock and left for the convenience of the suburbs. Ed stays fast, feeding his deep love for Maine with all of the food he can muster.

Driving down a frost heaved road a half hour north of Skowhegan, I stared blindly out the window of a Subaru Outback, watching the treeline cut the sky like a band saw. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a short, bearded man, sawing small a small tree. Pushing my face up against the window to get a better look, I blurted, "Spencer, did you see that guy? We may have to turn around..."

Over the whirring of a Stihl chainsaw, I gingerly approached the old man. To make the interaction more transparent, and avoid an, "Are you lost?" I held my camera in plain view. Muffled by 87 year-old ears and fixated on making precise cuts in the downed limb like an ADD thirteen year-old dissecting a video game level, Ed didn't hear me until the third time.

"Hello Foster, nice to meet you, I'm Ed. You can take my picture, but is it okay if I sit for a while and rest?" his mouth moved like a nutcracker, masked by a 25 year-old beard. Stiffly, but with the look of familiarity in his movements, he set down the chain saw and walked towards the half-filled tractor bucket. For the next thirty minutes, we talked cows, Maine's beauty, and beards.

Ed fighting the good fight after 59 years, two wives, hundreds of cows, multiple chainsaws and a handful of safety pins in Maine.

"I let it grow wild, like me" he said as if informing a waitress at a diner about how he likes his eggs cooked. 25 years ago, Ed stopped shaving his beard. "I was hoping by now it would be down to here," he motioned to the bottom of his sternum with a chop of his hand, "but it just stopped growing a while ago." Impressed by his commitment, I pointed out that his was far more impressive than mine.

Ed's chief means of transportation, other than his slew of mid-century tractors, is this late sixties VW Bug.

After hundreds of cows and nearly six decades of making milk, Ed sold his last cow a year ago.

When his second wife wanted to move closer to her children in Virginia, he stayed with his cows and happily signed the divorce papers. Ed has conviction. Favoring the harsh idealistic life over the compromised, he wears old clothes and works with his hands.

As I walked towards the car after shaking Ed's hand one last time, he yelled, "You should move to Alaska, even though they have that woman senator that killed that moose. It sounds like a good place."

Inspired by his wild beard and commitment to the land he loves, I responded, "Maybe I will, Ed, but I don't think you can make milk there," with a smile.

Here are some more links,
"I let it grow wild, like me" (Picasa),
Side of the Road (ART).

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Changing Seasons: My Last Spring

"I hate that sadness in your eyes,
But Angie, Angie,
Ain't it time we said goodbye?"

My headphones echoed as I sat on a wooden bench bequeathed by some wealthy couple in hopes of getting their underachieving offspring accepted to college. Focusing the lens on the edge of the tongue, I took a second look through the viewfinder and tossed my dirty white buck in the air.

The shutter of my camera thwaapped like an automatic Nerf gun as the buck hung for an instant, suspended a few feet above the recently exposed grass and then awkwardly flopped back down. What started as a means to pass time seven seasons ago, grew and evolved into a defining part of my life. At first, I waited to tell my friends and family of my new crush, deliberating until the spark caught and I knew it wasn't another one of my many short lived and often unrealistic excitements.

Something was different. Maybe I was mature enough to stay committed for more than a few weeks, or maybe I had found something that fit my intense and stubborn personality. Telling myself it was both, I dove in like an eight year old into Karate classes, hoping that one day I too could chop bricks in half and wear a black belt.

As the seasons marched on, I muscled through the slow and enjoyed the best, leaving my aspirations of business school and board meetings behind like a beleaguering ex-girlfriend. Motivated by a new passion that fueled my curiosity and confident in the success of my new experiences, I started acting on more impulses and seized opportunities with the disregard of a love-struck teenager.

Before I knew it, a few coincidental activities became routine and I was captivated by something that I never knew existed a year before. I enjoyed the security of finding strength in something created by passion and creativity, yet available to only a few.

As the situational end of my relationship with Maine and the free time necessary to work on photography and write for my blog marched forward two posts a week at a time, I slowly started to realize how fortunate I am to have had them. Like with any tasty beverage, I didn't realize how good it was until the last sip.

I waited and rationalized like the inevitable end to a serious relationship. "Tomorrow the sky will be brighter and the grass greener," I told myself a few dozen times after the last hope of winter died early in March. Finally, on Tuesday, I packed a lone British Walker White buck in size 13 into my pack along with my Canon 5d Mark II and biked to school. Sitting by myself on the wooden bench, turned on Angie by the Rolling Stones and pulled out my camera.

"Come on baby dry your eyes
But Angie, Angie,
Ain't it good to be alive?"

Here are some more links,
Changing Seasons (Picasa),
Changing Seasons (ART).