Archive for August 2010

Trapped in a Vacation Place

August 23, 2010

Before I left Tucson for our summer trip to Cape Cod, I pledged to some of my friends that this time I would take a real vacation. And Cape Cod is a perfect place for that — isn’t it? A true vacation land with plenty of the opportunities for having fun: going to the beach, art festivals, or outdoor music performances; visiting art galleries, bicycling, or dining at the restaurants with an ocean view. President Obama seems to think so too! He and his family are vacationing over here lately — not on the Cape, but on the very near island Martha’s Vineyard that offers much more privacy than the Cape. The Vineyard is well known as the celebrities’ vacation spot and it is accessible by boat or by air only. This island is so close to the Cape that some people can even swim to it. Not me! I, as most people who do not own a boat or an airplane, can get there by ferry. However I will not attempt to go there this week — let the Obamas have their vacation.

For me coming to the Cape is not really a vacation adventure, but more like a homecoming.

Cape Cod is the place where I made a home for myself in this country. Falmouth, Woods Hole, North Falmouth, Mashpee, and Hyannis are especially dear to me. I rooted here after my emigration from Poland. Here both of my sons were born (in this blog, I will call them Taurus and Leo — according to their Zodiac signs), and this is the place where they grew up. Here I became a naturalized American, and here also I faced my big challenges of becoming a writer — first for the Cape Cod Times and later for the Cape Cod Life. Consequently, the Cape became a true home for me. My bonds with this area, I dare to say, are even stronger than the bonds with my native Poland.

Our house here has its own long and complicated story plus plenty of peculiarities. It is a very unique house — there is no house like that around. “Oh, really?” one might ask. Yes, really. It was designed and built mostly by the hands of two people, who were deeply in love. The house was a part of their great dream. But the lovers abandoned that dream of togetherness and went their separate ways. Their love died, but the house remained and stood strong.

With time passing, the house has grown and changed just as our life has changed. For me, especially during the hardship of single motherhood, that house became a good, protective friend. It became my Tara!

More years passed and another big change faced the house — Taurus, Leo and I flew far away from it, and each flew in a different direction.

I followed my “call of the Southwest” and settled in Tucson, Arizona. Since then, the house has changed its meaning for me, but not its importance. Today it is like a book, or rather like a living diary. Looking at almost anything in this house feels like opening a page of that diary. It is absorbing, and it is time consuming.

Driving by familiar places is similar. Oh, here is the Falmouth Hospital where Taurus and Leo were born, and here is the North Falmouth Elementary School where they made their first steps in formal education. Oh, and here is the Silver Beach where they built their sand castles, and here is the Megansett Beach to which in later years they bicycled with their friends — free and happy! And there are so many “oh, here!” places like the Falmouth High School where they became young adults. That goes on and on… I become wrapped in nostalgia and start to feel ancient.

“Hey,” I say to myself in an attempt to shake off this mood, “you are supposed to have fun — go to the beach!” I try to remind myself about that pledge of having a vacation here. But is it really possible? I look around and can almost hear that ‘person-house’ talking to me: “You should trim the bushes,” and “How about fixing that door?” And the house continues, “Alicja, the deck was not stained for almost two years!” and “When are you going to get rid of the poison ivy?” So I became anxious and even angry.

Why is this house so demanding? Actually, it always was, but this summer is even more demanding, because it needs extra care and attention. It does not want to give up its status of being HOME and to become a secondary house. It does not want to be rented for another winter season and serve some strangers. It fears those changes. It fears being sold. In a true reality I know that those fears are really mine.

What I am discovering this summer is that it is not so easy to become a vacationer in the place that I invested myself so strongly and have so many memories. I guess I have to practice vacationing! So today I am going to the beach.

Before I go however, I would like to thank those of you who subscribed to my blog, and those who wrote your supportive comments. Thanks to you, the Internet is not as dark and as impersonal a place for me as it was before. After all, is it not indifference that writers fear most? I do. So I am happy to have you there!

Many thanks again, and here are three photos for you from my North Falmouth.

Main door of our house

Main door of our house

Megansett Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

At the Megansett Beach

Sunset at the Megansett Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Sunset at the Megansett Beach

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Copyright © 2010 by Alicja Mann

A Highlight of Visiting Corning, New York

August 5, 2010

The time spent driving from Tucson to Cape Cod and back (after a couple of months) is quite enjoyable for me. And I look forward to it every year. That surprises many, mainly because each trip takes several days and can be tiring. But not for me! Perhaps because I am not the one who sits in the driver’s seat, but in the passenger’s one. True, the space is limited, but I am able to feel pretty comfortable in any small space. Maybe it is in my nature, or maybe I acquired such ability through years of travels by planes, trains, and buses. Sitting long hours in the privacy of my own car is not a problem, especially since I can sit in a variety of positions (most often with my feet curled under) and read, listen to the radio or favorite CD music, think for hours while watching the passing cars and trucks, and even take some photos.

Stopping in hotels is enjoyable too. I like their comfortable beds that I do not have to make the next morning. I enjoy their clean bathrooms with piles of towels that I do not have to wash the next day, and I love long baths while trying new soaps, shampoos and skin lotions. In spite of free access to the Internet I use my lap top sporadically in those places. This allows me to postpone my dealing with any professional and personal plans, schedules or deadlines. Because of that break in time from worries and responsibilities, I am having fun! A similar feeling to what a young girl might feel when presented with an unexpected snow day – a short, fun break from school.

Usually each trip has also some highlight. This time it was a trip to Corning, New York. We went quite a bit out of our logical course to get there, and I was the one pushing for the arrival in Corning on a particular day and time. No, it was not because I wanted to visit the famous museum of glass there. It was because on the afternoon of July 22nd I wanted to be at the West End Gallery in the center of Corning. Why? Between 5 and 7:30 pm that day the gallery held an opening reception for GC Myers to honor his new, solo exhibit titled “New Days.”

GC Myers is the artist who allowed me to use one of his paintings for the design of the cover of my book Looking at the World Twice. That painting which I purchased a few years ago in the Principle Gallery of Alexandria, Virginia, always seemed a perfect fit for my essay collection, that I finally published last year. The book recently won a prestigious Glyph award for the cover design and I wanted to share this news with the artist whom, in fact, I had never met in person. We knew each other from our correspondence, blogs and art, but living so far away did not present any possibility for meeting. Departing from Tucson unusually late this year (July 19th) offered such an opportunity — if I only could make it to Corning on time! Since the visit was planned as a surprise, kissing the closed door of the West End Gallery just after the reception wouldn’t be fun at all! I also had other concerns — how would he perceive such an unexpected visit? Would I like him as much as I like his art? I have to admit, the whole thing was a bit scary.

We arrived in Corning that warm afternoon in time to check into the hotel, refresh, change clothes, and go to the Gallery without any rush. The minute I walked into that gallery, I felt at ‘home.’ The familiar images of GC Myers’ art were all around — his iconic red tree, red chairs, and clusters of small houses in red and white seemed to be telling their stories in whispers. Meanwhile the real people in the gallery were making their buzz with conversations, walking around, enjoying nicely displayed finger food, and wine. Peaceful life music poured down from upstairs.

I had no idea how to recognize GC Myers, but it was not hard to spot him in a group of people greeting him and asking questions. I waited for my chance to introduce myself and… he was definitely surprised. We both felt genuine joy immediately. That feeling dominated the entire time spent at the gallery and later at the local restaurant where four of us — Gary, his wife Cheri, my husband David and I — spent the evening dining and talking like old, good friends. The owners had to remind us about closing their place and we had to part. Oh well, the next dinner is on us in Tucson!

Lin Gardner, Director of the West End Gallery

Lin Gardner, Director of the West End Gallery

GC Myers' art at the West End Gallery

Some of Gary’s art at the Gallery

Alicja Mann and GC Myers at West End Gallery

Gary and Alicja at the Gallery

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Copyright © 2010 by Alicja Mann

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