It’s a dreary, drenched grey Saturday, and my work is at a standstill. The next stage on the piece I’m building involves the band saw, which is in another building, and apparently I missed Chris (the studio manager) this morning, to see about using it. My car is still loaded with the beater, which is rattling alarmingly and blocking my rear view when I drive, so, other than a short trip earlier into town to buy food, I’m not inclined to go anywhere. And the studio is all set up for a production run of WSW paper that didn’t get finished Friday, so I can’t really start much new till that’s done. I straightened up my stuff, put two kinds of flax and some kozo to soak for later in the week, and right now I’m beating a half-pound of abaca and recycling a half-pound of flax and kozo sheets in with it. (I made them last week, and didn’t like them after they air-dried, though the sheets mixed with abaca were great and I kept those. Already the green and brown-dyed kozo fibers have disappeared into the pulp).
So, I thought I’d show you more of the ‘hood, though it’s hard to photograph. It’s kind of eerie around here, even when it’s sunny. Right across the road from WSW is one of several ‘rail trails’ in the area, walking paths where old railway lines used to be during the area’s cement-production heyday. The other two trails I’ve been on are more like park paths, wide and well-used; I haven’t seen anyone else on this one. It’s a narrow cinder line cutting through wild growth, with lots of deadfall and a small, dubious bridge midway that has a couple railroad ties missing. You’ve got to tick-proof yourself before venturing in (and I must be getting good at that; I’ve been regularly leaving the trail to tromp through the woods and so far, haven’t picked up any at all, thanks to the fact that I’ve reconciled myself to slathering on deet). The trail is a narrow, artificially level pathway; the mountain rises steeply on one side, and drops just as sharply down to Route 7, the road into Rosendale, on the other.
What’s eerie is what you pass: the old mineshafts hacked brutally out of the small mountain’s face, a great many of them, all overgrown and filled with water. You suddenly realize the mountain must be hollow, that the thick woods and great huge tumbled mossy boulders are merely a sort of skin on a honeycomb.
At one place, there’s a low line of mist that crosses the path, no matter the time of day. I first saw it at five in the afternoon; it’s not like the early morning mist in the Smokies; it doesn’t rise, just whispers past, keeping to a level height, then tumbles slowly down to the roadway. It’s quite, quite cold when you walk through it. I followed it a short way to its source; it’s emanating from a deep fissure in the rock, maybe another shaft, collapsed. It’s as though the hollowed mountain is emitting a sigh of lament. I’m both disturbed and fascinated by it, and that, eventually, will be good for my work in some way. Likewise, the rape of the mountain is so apparent, so absolutely violent, but now, a hundred years on, it’s softening, rounding, being taken back by the flora. It’s beautiful, horrible, interesting and eerie.
And, though they must be as plentiful as the ticks we’re sternly warned about, I haven’t seen a single deer since I’ve been here. Not one. Just a few big-winged hawks floating silently through the trees, and this guy:
Oh, and on another planet (Chicago), I’m in this show, paired with Jen Thomas. It opened yesterday. (Many thanks to Regin Igloria, curator).