Transitioning Home Again

It is interesting that shortly after coming home from this 5 week sojourn throughout mainly the United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth has passed on. It would have been interesting to have still been there during this time of mourning, to experience a country honoring the passing of such a long time figurehead. Versus the disrespect Gorbachov received in his.

I really wish to thank you for following me on this journey, and for writing back your comments. So much more personal than posting to social media. I mean I did begin emailing these travelogues way before there was social media. For some of you this may not be as old school as sending out postcards from far flung countries, but I really felt like I was writing to you as friends, family and supporters. And you responded in kind, very kind and supportive in fact. For this I thank you…

And here we go, back to the NYC grind, back to the subway, driving in traffic, making doctor’s appointments and managing the bills. Oh and there is work too. I actually came back a day early so that I could attend the Marquis Studios annual Fall Bear Mountain back to school professional development day. Thankfully I mainly slept on the 8 hour flight back, and enough the night before to make it through the day despite waking up at 4:00 in the morning since arriving back.

I do really want to continue figuring out a future for these missives on the road. Another project to add to the list. For now they will live on my website, available to those who seek them out. https://michelebrody.com/category/travel-blog/

One of the first things I did besides get an appointment with my chiropractor, is invest in a pair of Dansko shoes. My poor feet started to feel better immediately. They are a bit heavy for my taste, but after the torture of walking around Venice in pain, it beats trying to walk around NY and the studio in the same pain. I have also been rolling my feet over a frozen water bottle like my friend Courtnay recommended.

As a last Hurrah for this Summer of 2022 travelogues I thought I would share a few items that did not quite make it during the timeline while I was actually traveling.

  1. The night the lights went out:

I have often mentioned Lili during my time abroad. We first met at the MASS MoCA residency in 2017. Since then we have remained friends in and around NY. I believe she applied to Hospitalfield after she learned about it from me, and we were both accepted for the summer of 2020, which obviously was delayed until this summer. We met in Edinburgh after I had been traveling throughout the UK for a week, and she was attending a week-long residency on the west coast of Scotland. Lili missed her first train, so we had limited time to visit a few galleries right by the train station. Once we did get on our own train to Arbroath we commandeered a 4 seater with a table to spread out my UK map and discuss our future travels after Hospitalfield. She really wanted to iron things out early on, so we spent the morning and evening of our first day pouring over the map and possible routes. When we looked up and saw the almost full moon rising in the sky. I suggested we climb one of the towers to take a look from the top of the turret. We had to use the flashlights on our phones to find our way up the curving stairs. I told her I took a look up there earlier during the day and it was safe. On our way down though, she said she saw a car driving away and that we should turn off our flashlights. We did, but when we got to the hallway we saw that all the lights had been turned off. And the doors had been shut to the library where we had been working. We were really confused, and Lili was starting to get a little creeped out, on top of the fact that the house itself was already giving her bad vibes. We were trying to find our way to the light switch when all of a sudden we heard someone shushing us. We heard shhh   shhhh   shhh. Where was it coming from? Then realized it was my phone. Somehow I had accidentally pressed some button that started making my phone shush us. That I could understand, but what really baffled us even more, was that we could not figure out how to make it stop. It is a pretty new phone that I got hoping to use it with a digital sim card, which was a total flop of an idea, since being a new phone that I was still paying off it was therefore locked and unable to accept a foreign sim card. I still don’t understand how to even turn the darn thing off. But the non-stop shushing sound was out of this world and turning the phone off seemed the only way to stop it. We were too freaked out to just figure this out. So we just turned the sound off. We had started a group chat with all the other residents and asked where everyone was, and who shut out the lights. Finally Lucy, the Executive Director wrote back that she did in order to save on electricity. So she was the one in the car that drove away. She lives in a lovely house right next door. At least that part of the mystery was solved, but we still never figured out the source for the shushing.

2. For the rest of our time at the residency we supported each other in the print studio, bought a food processor together to chop up veggies for dye and plants for pulp. We were the early risers in the group, and often went out to catch the sunrise at the cliffs or up in the observatory. I would serve tea and off we would go. While traveling together after finishing up at Hospitalfield, we finally decided to first go to the Isle of Butte to see the Mount Stuart House and gardens, which was a sort of bust, way too ostentatious and overblown for our tastes, but were quite satisfied with our trip to a set standing stones. It was a total fluke that the two of us had matching luggage, right down to our Hospitalfield tote bags. I think I already described our walk through the cow pastures and poop to feel the ancient powers of these mythological stones buried deep in the earth and time. The next day we lugged our luggage through a soft rain and down the hill to take the ferry and then a train to Glasgow. Going from the countryside to the city. From Neolithic stones to contemporary art. From a cosy seaside airbnb house share to the blandest house rental possible. We spent the ferry ride digging into the Haddock Smokie we had been carrying around since leaving Arbroath. As usual I prepare us both a tea with honey from Hospitalfield bees. Once in Glasgow we made our way to the Burrel collection. What an incredible place. I never knew about it before. So opposite of what we experienced while at the Mount Stuart house. Reminded me of my Aunt’s collection, but in a much larger scale. An impressive array of objects and art from Babylonia to Egypt, China, Japan, Medieval and 19th Century Europe. What was most spectacular was how the Museum was situated in a park surrounded by trees, with loads of windows as a backdrop to the sculptural objects. My one critique is the language used in the labels. They sounded rather condescending to us in their descriptions of the work and their connections to living with the family of Lord Burrel. We both felt there was little attention paid to writing to the diversity of the 21st century.

3. Studio Visit with Tim Collins and Reiko Goto Collins

Upon learning that I was traveling in the UK, Patricia Watts of EcoArtSpace e-introduced me to Tim and Reiko who live and work in Glasgow. It was a blessing to visit their studio building on the outskirts of Glasgow and see their garden and current projects, especially listening to their piece Plein Air: 

A plant-driven synthesizer https://www.meakusma-festival.be/artist/plein-air/?fbclid=IwAR2xSrkiG1g8rGgqtpLFFTTFQRg8_W6pmldfuiPF53dNubS6g3DyDVGEs7o

Tim and Reiko were so gracious with their time and support, they even offered to drive us to purchase some sushi that we were craving for dinner and then drop us off at the train. But when I realized we had limited time, Reiko took charge, grabbed our luggage and ran with us to the platform. We made our train with 2 minutes to spare. 

4. Marking September 11th

On this day I will be collaborating with Wenting Zhang of Tea Arts and Culture to present a tea sharing and writing program about Migration inspired by the Monarch Butterfly at the New York Botanical Garden. This will also mark the last day of my Weaving Tea Stories Table as part of the garden wide exhibition: Art of the Table: https://www.nybg.org/event/around-the-table-stories-of-the-foods-we-love/artist-designed-tables/

As we honor the tragic memory of this day, I am reminded of the uneasiness I felt when I walked out onto Canary Wharf in London to come upon an unfinished structure that reminded me all too much of the fallen Twin Towers. A feeling that never quite left me as I made my way from planes, to trains, through exhibitions to crowded platforms and tight spaces was the question of Safety. In this mid to post pandemic climate I gave up the use of my mask early on. The strangest feeling was walking through the airport and boarding the plane maskless. While on the Venice water taxis it was mandatory, and just coming back the mandate on the subways was only just lifted by the Governor. Thankfully I never contracted COVID, but plan to get the third booster as soon as I can, along with my flu shot. We soldier on, as the British say. And so I take from these memories of free wheeling travel the awareness of mindfulness and look forward to sharing more in the future. 

All my best,

Michele

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