Paint Schoodic

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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Meanwhile my paints are languishing in the van

The forest primeval, ticks, and open-toed sandals.
My granddaughter demonstrates the importance of wearing Wellies to tick avoidance.
I’m in Rensselaer County, NY, at the home of my oldest child. This lies in that strip of New York that’s on the east bank of the Hudson, in the eastern Berkshires. It is often mistaken by non-New Yorkers for Massachusetts. I’m here because there is a large, open kitchen and all three of my daughters are present. That means plenty of hands to help me with last-minute rote work for Saturday’s wedding.

Julia has an ant problem. Ants are creatures of habit, and the mere presence of a new house sitting on their ancient pathway won’t deter them. When we built our first house in the woods, we had ants and snakes in abundance. Did our frontier ancestors constantly battle ants in the kitchen along with the more palpable dangers of wildcats and bears?

Ants are famous for their work ethic, a subject of some discussion as I slump into exhaustion. “More Mary, less Martha,” my kids tell me. The bride is a line cook at Olive Garden. She and I compared our capacity for repetitive, boring work by spending hours assembling favors. She’s faster than me.

My sons-in-law made me 24 maple tree cookies for the centerpieces.
I’m pretty tired, but my task list is steadily shrinking. That means I drive into Albany later to get glamorous, although my favorite activity with my daughters—a pedicure—is out due to my incisions.

Rensselaer County is in Ground Zero for ticks. The disease that made them famous was first identified in Old Lyme, CT, just about a hundred miles from here. Ticks are everywhere here and more numerous than anywhere else I visit. To give you an idea of the scale of the problem, almost every artist I know who works in the Hudson Valley has had Lyme Disease or one of its hideous cousins.

Part of a huge dog pack waiting to be spraypainted.
My grandchildren spend a lot of time outside in the woods. They’re assiduously checked for ticks every time they come inside. It’s sweet to watch their father hose them off in the shower, carefully checking them for parasites.

Wellies are the best protection against ticks, but I’m stuck in sandals until the incisions on my feet heal. That means no walking in the spring woods and careful tick checks.

Scottish shortbread wrapped in the groom's family tartan. It's a meeting of the clans.  
I’ve heard that the explosion in Lyme is based partly on our “slicing and dicing of the forest,” but if you actually live in New York or Maine, that’s laughable. The forest is back in the northeast with a vengeance as agriculture becomes less economically feasible. Rebounding also are the white-footed mice, deer and other animals who host ticks. 

In many ways, New York and New England are reverting to the forest primeval. We don’t know if our frontier ancestors had the deer tick problem that we do, but combined with a lack of indoor plumbing it would have been downright exasperating.

Tomorrow, I collect the flower order and deliver the tchotchkes (and the check) to the wedding venue. Meanwhile, my watercolor kit is sitting in the van untouched. Oh, well. There’s a season for everything, and this week’s season is for wedding prep.

It's about time for you to consider your summer workshop plans. Join me on the American Eagle, at Acadia National Park, or at Genesee Valley this summer.

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