A Reflective Look at the Winter and Hopes for the Spring and Summer
STILL THROWING PAINT—LITERALLY AND METAPHORICALLY—AND STILL LOVING IT
Like a Jackson Pollick painting, this article is going to consist of lots of bright paint spattered in a random pattern of reflection, observations, art, and poetry. Furthermore this is an "all about me" post. My friend, John Nordquist, used to tell me that everything was always "all about me," and I hope this is no longer true--but it is definitely true in this article!
It is spring, although the weather might belie that perception, and I am rapidly approaching the end of my first full winter on the Island. While endings—even mini-endings—always inspire me to engage in a certain amount of reflection, I am simultaneously still actively engaged in “throwing paint”—in trying new things. Nantucket is especially open to new ventures, and it offers a plethora of opportunities to challenge one’s self by participating in community events.
Daffodil Festival is coming up at the end of the month. Already, daffodils are in bloom all over town—along every road, in gardens, perched on fence posts, and filling fields. As a long time English teacher, I think of William Wordsworth and his daffodil poems each time I pass a field of daffodils. So, here is my homage to Wordsworth and the Daffodil Festival. (The long expansive lines are a nod to Walt Whitman and the expansiveness of the festival which moves from one end of the Island to the other.)
WORDSWORTH ATTENDS THE NANTUCKET DAFFODIL FESTIVAL!
A lover of daffodils, William Wordsworth was excited to get a special invitation
to the Nantucket Daffodil Festival. After all, he had wandered “lonely
as a cloud that floats on high o’er vales and hills” in search of “A host
of golden daffodils . . .Fluttering and dancing in the breeze”
and to his surprise, they had been in Nantucket all along.
Just off the ferry, William was surprised to see golden daffodils”
adorning the car that picked him up. They “fluttered and danced,”
as venerable vehicles wound through town and out to the charming
village of Sconset. Even more surprising, Wordsworth was not
as “lonely as a cloud,”; he was part of a great parade, each car adorned
with golden daffodils “tossing their heads in sprightly dance.”
Along the margin of the ocean, people wearing Daffodils raced, tossing
their flower adorned heads until they crossed the finish line. Prizes
were given to the fastest runners and to the best decorated runners.
Wordsworth wished he had signed up to run. The day was filled
with daffodils: a Daffy Hat Contest, a daffodil art show, a children’s parade,
decorated bikes, strollers, and wagons. Faithful festival goers dressed
in daffodils for the occasion. When Wordsworth attended the Rescue Dog
Reunion, he was charmed by a shaggy sheep dog, and convinced to adopt
it. At the Festival Marketplace, he bought the daffodil commemorative pin,
a daffodil beach tote bag, the whimsical Daffy hat, and leash for his new dog.
Later, after Wordsworth returned to the English countryside, he often lay
on his couch “in vacant or in pensive mood” and his heart filled with pleasure
to think on his time in Nantucket. His heart continued to dance with the daffodils,
and he vowed to attend the Nantucket Daffodil Festival every year in the future.
Echoing Wordsworth’s wild enthusiasm for daffodils, I am entering the Nantucket Garden Club’s arrangement competition. Now you need to know that my usual approach to arranging flowers is to fill a vase with water and plop the flowers in. I am definitely not a florist, and flower arranging has never been an avocation—or even a hobby or an interest. But, Nantucket has offered this opportunity, and I will give it a try. I have chosen to do a tiny arrangement—one that cannot be any larger that 8”x 8” x 8.” The biggest challenge will be to find tiny, tiny daffodils! I have three plants with tiny daffodils, but they are blooming already, so I suspect they may be long gone by the festival. While I anticipate this being the biggest challenge, I may be wrong. I often over estimate my ability to do anything and end up with a mess.
I am writing this while I sit at my table at an Art and Craft fair. I decided to see if my art work would sell. So far, as you can see, I have plenty of time to work on this article, so clearly I am not being inundated with customers all arguing over who gets to buy each painting, but I have sold three paintings so far, and there are still three hours to go, so maybe there will be more sales. At the very least, in anticipation of this sale, I spent many mornings and evenings in my cottage/studio, and now I have a much larger inventory of work. I have 12 small paintings, 20 medium paintings, 15 larger paintings, and maybe another 20 paintings of various sizes. My next goal—to try a very large painting. So far, my paintings have all been on the small side. Maybe I will use the proceeds from this sale to buy a really big canvas.
This winter, I spent five weeks teaching math to sixth graders each morning at the Nantucket Middle School. I learned a lot! I learned that I am not a math teacher. I learned that I am not a middle-school teacher. I learned that I have NO classroom management skills. But I did have fun, met some wonderful kids, and got to know some truly fine and dedicated teachers. I also learned an important lesson—never again!
I almost tried out for a play. It is casting time for the Theater Workshop of Nantucket, and they are doing a wonderful play in the fall called “Love, Loss, and What I Wore” by Nora Ephron. It is a series of monologues about women, clothes, and memories. I would have loved to be in it, but try-outs are now, and as I have never acted before, I think I need more time to prepare. I will try out for the next round of plays though.
Nantucket is an extraordinary place. There is always an opportunity to try something new. I met a woman who quilts, so next year I will work with her to learn to quilt. I am tutoring a young man who is very talented at ceramics, so next year I will see if he will give me lessons. I want to take cooking classes at the Culinary Institute. My friend Jacquie plays the bowls, an Eastern practice that results in deep relaxation. I hope she will teach me a bit about that. I want to learn more about Buddhism, and plan to go to the Kagyu Chokor Ling Center for Tibetan Buddhism on Vesper Lane in Nantucket to learn more about it.
I think that Nantucket women often live long, healthy lives because we stay busy. We are always learning something new. There isn’t time to get old. If I am lucky, I plan to paint, to walk the beaches, to write, and to engage in a plethora of other new and exciting activities well into my nineties.
This is Pat Jones' first year living full time on Nantucket. After decades of teaching English at the high school and college level, she is now embarking on a new and challenging odyssey. Both retirement and Island life are new and exciting and occasionally daunting. In this column she will share what it is like to live on Nantucket year round. As a poet, a writer, and a novice visual artist, her metaphor for the journey is “Throwing Paint.”