Ways of Seeing

One recent summer evening, a group of friends gathered on our front porch. As we caught up with each other’s lives, one of us posed the question, “Given the present global challenges, how do you maintain hope?” I immediately knew my answer: I switch dimensions. These past two pandemic summers I have taken morning walks around Bristol Village, admiring the gardens and stretching my limbs to start the day. The phone in my pocket provides access to a camera, so it is easy to capture a lawn covered with purple violets or a blossoming rose as I stroll by. I soon found myself fascinated with the...
I have a recurring nightmare. Set in a landscape of my childhood, my family’s ancestral Florida lake house becomes swallowed by rising water. I’m stranded on the dock as water rises all around me. I awaken filled with anxiety, about being swallowed by something that I can’t control, the fear of being surrounded by unknown depths and darkness. For the past year or so, a similar feeling has crept into my belly as I watch the Green Mountains enter drought. The forest pathways I walk daily are dusty, the garden is so parched it seems her thirst can never be quenched. What once felt like abundance...
My mother called being a part of a conversation “getting a word in edgewise.” I never had trouble doing that, maybe because I was the oldest of five kids. Never, that is, until after COVID-19. I spent more than a year living alone, not seeing or interacting with others. Everything was internal as I accessed my memories and worked on my memoir. I was looking deeply into my past, taking all the time I needed. After a year of that, the pace of normal conversation seemed like I was walking on my horse and everyone else was galloping. In fact, when I could be with others, the conversation went so...
When I entered college, a science class was required. I chose geology. Biology, chemistry and physics had been included in my high school education, and I had no plans to become a scientist. (I was going to be a writer!) Also, the geology course description temptingly promised field trips into the Vermont countryside. It turned out to be a great course, and I began to learn a lot about Vermont’s history from the ground down. Actually I learned about geology all over the world, although the local region was the focus for our investigations. Most people have, at some point in their lives,...
I sometimes have a lot of time to think while I’m at work. When you spend seven or eight hours scraping paint, your mind is free to wander, and lately my mind has journeyed from the lead in the paint I was scraping to other inventions that, like lead in paint, turned out to be bad ideas. Lead paint was used for centuries. At some point someone experimented and put lead in paint and found it helped paint dry faster, stay on longer, and kept it from fading. What a great innovation — the lead made the paint work better! It wasn’t until the early 20th century that people discovered the lead in...
When I sat down to write this column, I have to admit that I really struggled to decide what to write about. There’s so much going on in the world one doesn’t even know what to start with sometimes. As I thought more about it, though, and talked with friends, one of my friends mentioned that one of the things I do in much of my writing is try to pull things that are usually invisible to the surface — to make the invisible seen. When she said that, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. In some ways, my training as a border historian comes into play for this column because one thing that I always...
I can’t get enough of young Black female athletes standing up to powerful forces in the media, in their athletic organizations, and everywhere else. My generation of women and marginalized genders has had it up to here with being bullied by coaches, teachers, sports commentators, and the public at large. I watched when gymnast Kerri Strug competed after a severe injury in the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996. I remember feeling bewildered by the praise heaped upon Strug’s coaches, who, if memory serves, were said to be “strict and perfectionist” not “abusive and controlling.” Of course these...
Several friends and I quietly admitted to each other that the pandemic has been an affirming personal experience. The spaciousness of this past year was a gift. There was time to act, time to ponder, time to gaze. Technology became a tool for connection. I visited with folks in their personal spaces without leaving my own. I attended concerts and workshops and performances around the world and interacted with people I otherwise would never have met. I read and discussed books. I meditated with a circle of close friends. Among the joyful surprises of this year was finding new ways to engage...

SAS CAREY PLACES a Black Lives Matter sign by her home after getting her daughter’s perspective on their importance.
In 1969 I adopted a biracial daughter. Though she has not searched for her heritage, she has always believed herself to be half African American. Jasmine was born in Vermont and grew up in Addison County, graduated from Middlebury Union High School and the University of Vermont, and then left for our country’s largest cities to live amongst far more diversity. When Jasmine and I drove around Addison County this month, she felt encouraged by Black Lives Matter signs. She did not always feel at ease and acknowledged here and feels that her treatment was the tip of the iceberg for how other...

A BABY RABBIT in the writer's garden.
In my painting studio, next to the window, hangs an image from an old art calendar that my mother passed on to me: Albrecht Durer’s 1502 drawing of a young hare. I use this drawing when I teach. Kids love it for its realism (and cuteness). Adults marvel at both Durer’s technique and his ability to observe and then, with precise brushstrokes and drawing marks, capture what he is seeing. As teacher, I talk about the marriage of art and science during the Renaissance, and about the practice of quietly observing nature and drawing directly from life, taking time. It’s a strange thing — and folks...

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Addison County Independent