Saturday, November 15, 2008

Troubled Thinking: My Ball and Chain

The pause in the blog resulting from my laser eye surgery, was maybe a good thing. I think I've come to terms with why I'm having such difficulty with this project. And, ironically, the reason is the same one that made me want to apply. What got me here now seems like a ball and chain.

As long as I read the several books I have going and keep on taking notes, I'm fine. Whenever I start to think visually and viscerally, I short circuit. And, this picture represents the reason for that disconnect.

This was my field, my mother's field, my Aunt Eula's field, my grandmother Clara's field, and my great-grandfather's field. He bought this land in 1867. My grandmother was born in 1865. The cluster of trees on the far right surrounds and now encases a large rock ledge. My Aunt Grace died on that ledge one morning in 1925 when a blood clot moved and struck her heart. My parents built a shack there in the 1930s. My cousin Brenda and I played there often in the late '40s and early '50s. And, until 1969 or so, that was where all the detritus from the farm was dumped. Most of it now gone back to earth, except for bigger pieces of iron, and the glass.

To survive and keep what few acres remain of the family land, I had to sell this field last December. Right in the middle of this image, there will be a house next year. And, as far as the Art of Action project goes, I have not been able to get past this image. It, me, and my family history so clearly and strongly illustrates one of Vermont's on-going issues while causing me real pain, that I can't find my way forward. But I will keep trying.


  1. Clair, I'm so moved - what a story - makes me wish I could make it right somehow, but of course I can not and feel helpless. As one does watching someone grieve a death in the family, all I can say is 'I'm so sorry for your loss'.

  2. Elizabeth --
    Thanks very much for your comment. Just trying to find my way through all of this.

  3. What is it about houses in the middle of fields. There are a bunch of them sprouting up here on our hill, all on land sold off in parcels by the original owner whose deeds go back to the early 1800's. Then there is the ugly 2 story ranch (can they be more than one story?) that sits in the middle of an orchard, and every time I drive by it I'm irritated. And it's not even my family's land. So I sympathize with you, Clair, it is going to be hard to look at that house. Have you thought about making your project about that--looking straight on at the changes that are painful to you, and maybe some more natural transitions (seasonal, say, or land being reclaimed somehow) that bring you some pleasure and hope.

  4. Susan --
    Yes indeed. I've already a trip planned to Burlington to look at a place that might be recovered.

    But, I am actually working with an honest-to-god-for-real idea at the moment - be still my beating heart.

    Holding breath right now!