News on the poetry front: a recent poem of mine was included in “Through the Window, Across the Road”, a publication of writing and art made created between March and July of this year. I’ve posted it below.
Pandemic in Springtime
I awoke on top of a mountain of sadness With no place to go but down the vista was splendid and it cut, like roads winding through a valley of naked limbs Farmland smeared together through my prism of tears This is all one long run on sentence Driving down from the mountain along the edge of a jagged scream I stay within the lines and I don’t dare veer Not even for the deer Not even to stop as I pass by a pen of spring lambs Pulling with their tongues the last of last summer’s hay
What business is grass, to stain this already strained world To live so close to the earth, the warmth of the worms’ work gives you life How is Spring never closed for business? Why am I angry at air? Feel punished for breathing, for singing? All I crave between days of snow and silence Is to inhale the tang of manure as it lofts downwind from the fields.
Robins fatten up, red bellies bursting with grub The trading post of my life Fills and empties with homemade bread, seeds, masks The economies of connection banked with coins of despair and dubloons of hope, A taming of the wildness within, And a need to be seen New tulips sway in the breeze Holding a scent I cannot yet consume.
For this year’s Group Camp hostess gifts, I decided to make custom cloth face masks. I got this idea when I was at Walmart and saw a package of cloth masks for sale, which shouldn’t have been such a shock to me to see at the store. But during this entire pandemic (so far), everyone I knew was either making or buying handmade masks, and so it hadn’t occurred to me that you could simply go to the store and buy one. 🙄
The revelation—and the price—were the inspiration. I wouldn’t have thought to do this otherwise because I didn’t have enough spare homemade masks on hand. After searching the internet, I landed on this technique because it was easy and utilized things I had at home.
First, create your design. You want to make sure it’s sized to fit on the mask itself and also inside the hoop.
Don’t use printer paper like I did, because the marker bled into it as I worked and it made it harder to be precise. 🤷🏻♀️ You can see the marker bleed in the original template in the picture below.
Next, insert the organza into the hoop, pull right and trim down. Make sure to leave enough material outside the hoop in case you have to adjust or retighten the material.
Center the hoop over the graphic, raw edge up, and trace the design with a Sharpie. I used an ultra fine tip to get the detail of the island. The picture above shows the design traced into the organza.
Use the foam brush to apply Mod Podge to the organza. In this case, I wanted the words and image to be painted on the mask, so I applied the Mod Podge around it.
I had a very old container of Mod Podge, which had separated, and so was watery and clumpy at the same time. It took me several coats to get a layer that I felt the paint wouldn’t penetrate. Luckily for me it was a hot day, and the hoop quickly dried outside in the sun between layers.
Prep the canvas
It took me a while to figure out how to set up the masks in order to get a production line. I needed the masks to be stretched flat without wrinkles, and on a stiff surface.
I settled on affixing the masks to cardboard with double sided tape. These masks were a t-shirt material and so stretched easily. I attached all blanks to cardboard backing before printing.
Print All The Masks!
I didn’t have enough hands to take a picture or video of this step. Basically squeeze a small bit of paint onto the screen and use a square of cardboard like a squeegee to drag the paint across the stencil. Make sure the paint is evenly applied.
Of all the paints I had on hand, there was only one that was not water soluble, so I chose that one thinking it would last after a few washings.
I had forgotten that this brand of masks have adjustable metal for the nose bridge, so there definitely is a “top” edge. Make sure to align your graphic accordingly. I messed up and printed five of them upside down. 😬
Not bad, for my first time! It was a fun, simple, low-cost project. I enjoyed seeing everyone wearing their masks during the trip.
The only things I had to buy were masks and foam brushes, as I had everything else at home.
Hanes brand cloth masks $7.99 for 5
Foam brushes $5 for pack of 4
The hoop and organza had been previously acquired at the ReSource shop for 50¢ and $5 (lot of 50 bags) respectively. The paint was a gift from a friend and the Mod Podge is so old at this point, I should just toss it 😜.
Added up, that totals $45.54 for 25 masks, or $1.89 per mask.
Every year we take a weekend trip away for the July 4th/my birthday weekend. We’ve gone to places like New York City, Boston, Portsmouth. This year, we had planned a trip to Warren, RI. We hadn’t yet visited that state, and my requirement was to be near the beach.
By mid-June though the viral outbreaks still were not contained in New England. It seemed like leaving Vermont was too risky, so we canceled that reservation and looked closer to home. We chose Quechee, which was far enough away to feel like a trip and also touristy enough for us to go exploring.
We stayed at this cute renovated library in the center of town. There’s a mini fridge and microwave but no stove. A fireplace inside and a fire pit outside. It was surprisingly light and airy, with lights and mirrors strategically placed to make it seem big. The windows though have light blocking curtains if you, like Dan, need an afternoon nap.
It’s a short walk to the falls, where we saw many people sunning and swimming—one family actually diving from the rocks into the roiling water, which was too nerve-wracking to watch for long.
While most folks enjoyed the falls, it was too crowded for our taste. We discovered more private swimming upstream. If you walk the town green past the community garden, you’ll see some mown paths that lead to the river’s edge. We snuck into one of those and climbed the muddy bank down to the water, which was warm, still, and shallow. Perfect for me!
We could hear muffled voices of people on the other shore playing golf, but they were screened from us by shrubbery. It was relatively private and calm there. So while it’s not technically a beach, it gave me the sunny water access I craved.
The green itself is a wonderfully peaceful place, well maintained and spacious. There’s a gazebo and also a small playground nearby. We saw folks walking their dogs, jogging, and relaxing with a book there. We went down at night to watch the fireflies once and then on the 4th we drunkenly watched a bunch of folks light off fireworks there.
We brought a cooler and a dry bag with drinks and food, since we weren’t sure what would be available. We ate out of the cooler for breakfast and snacks, mainly. Here are three restaurants we ate from and recommend. I am especially glad that we could find delicious local food that had vegetarian options.
Angkor Wat– we ordered take out our first night from this Cambodian/Thai place in nearby Woodstock. Dan asked them to make my meal very spicy, and 🥵🥵🥵 they did not disappoint! There was enough to breakfast on leftovers.
Mon Vert Café – we ate in the upstairs, which was deserted (while outdoor dining was packed) at this farm to table café. There was a lobster roll on the specials board, which I couldn’t resist and don’t regret. The menu is lengthy and there’s something for everyone.
Simon Pearce – fancy birthday dinner was amazing, with delicious locally-sourced food, great service, a long wine list, and atmosphere galore. Low lit candles bouncing off copious amounts of glass and windows that opened out to the roaring falls.
Woodstock’s downtown is a cute, compact and very walkable retail space. The merchants had sidewalk sales and the streets were crowded with visitors, some wearing masks, some not. We got to watch a very brief parade as well. There were some really great shops, so if retail therapy is your thing, this is a good day trip. We went into so many that I don’t recall all the names. But here are two that we liked:
Yankee Bookshop – very well stocked with the latest titles, and interesting catalog and bookish sidelines.
Who is Sylvia– a vintage clothing shop that Dan’s friend Jess runs. She was there and we got to visit a bit too.
Raptors and forest walk
Neither of us had been to VINS before, so decided to check it out. It is a nature center with trails, a raptor rehabilitation center and a canopy walk, all of which incorporates sculptural art pieces and informative signage. I learned a bunch.
I have mixed feelings about zoos because I don’t believe that animals should be kept in cages for our enjoyment, but I do also appreciate being able to learn about the natural world this way. 🤷🏻♀️ For this reason, I approached the raptor enclosure with some trepidation.
There, I got to see birds up close that I would never have seen in the wild (I’m not much of a birder) and learn about each species. There were owls, falcons, turkey vultures, and eagles. Each bird had a story that told why it was housed there. All of them were too injured to release into the wild, and most had injuries that were caused by human interference: car accident or shotgun.
As cliche as it sounds, the bald eagles were stunning up close. I left with a greater appreciation of the raptor enclosure because of the wildlife rehabilitation.
What we really came to experience though was the forest canopy walk. This is an elevated series of wooden paths about 50 feet above the forest floor. It felt safe, even for someone with some height anxiety like me.
I appreciate how much art is incorporated into the entire nature center experience, which is carried through into this area as well, with a couple giant metal bird sculptures. We skipped climbing the treehouse because they were limiting the number of people at a time and there was a long line of mostly kids waiting to enter. There will be a next time. after descending, we walked along some trails.
We did other things too, of course: played games, read, walked the town center, went to the antiques mall, and looked out over the gorge. There was, quite surprisingly, lots of ways to fill the time.
There was a full moon that weekend. We were on holiday, and we needed this kind of slowdown where we could be away from the news and be in nature together. It was not a bad way to turn 45.