“No kind action ever stops with itself. One kind action leads to another. Good example is followed. A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees," said Amelia Earhart.I found this quote in my Foundation for a Better Life e-mail when I returned home from our wonderful visit to Vermont and the gracious arms of elizabeth bunsen and her Be, Dream, Play family. How perfect it felt, as e.b.'s invitation to share the weekend with her clan has opened so many doors, and illuminated so many creative and spiritual horizons. A new and deeper friendship for sure, but perhaps other roots as well.It's so difficult for me to share in words how exquisite our weekend in Vermont was, so I'm going to add my photos to the excellent words penned by my partner (a writer), Jack.Life Among The Artists In Vermont
By Jack Riepe
© Copyright Jack Riepe 2007
The prospect of taking a road trip with Leslie (Stiffie) appeals to me any time. In fact, I had been thinking about a fall ride (top down) along the Blue Ridge Parkway, with visions of a gourmet picnic basket (pate, baguette, exotic fruit, and champagne) on the back seat and a wool blanket tucked around Stiff in the front. The purpose of this trip would be to take in the fall colors, rifle the wares of antique dealers, and skirt certain death on the curves of the Parkway.
Naturally, I jumped when Stiff said, "It's road trip time." The destination, however, would be Vermont and the objective was to view artists in their natural habitat. Those of you who think an artist's habitat includes a huge plastic ball which they run around in are misinformed. We were going to visit Elizabeth Bunsen (the famous e.b.), at her invitation, in a compound on the shores of Lake Champlain.This neck of the woods was far from strange to me, as I lived in Lake Placid (across Champlain in New York's Adirondacks) for 18 years. I was delighted to be heading back at the nicest time of the year when clouds of carnivorous insects had already expired. e.b.'s compound is more of an artist's palette on the edge of the lake, where the blue of the sky blends with that of the water, dotted with bursts of color that are flowers surrounding the two houses. e.b. put us up in the guest house (well, her folks' house), where most of the windows overlook a bay on Lake Champlain. e.b.'s home, which she shares with her husband David, son Boone, dog Luna, cat Byz, and two parakeets, is a cozy nook of art, mysticism, and Vermont woodworking skill. Every corner is home to artwork, books, unusual rocks, flowers, music, stained glass, and crystals.We met e.b. on a country road by the ferry that brought us across the lake. Based on Leslie's buildup and previous description, I expected e.b. to be standing several feet above the ground, and the obvious source of all sunlight and oxygen on the planet. I really didn't know how she would fit in the car. Furthermore, I was convinced I should keep my mouth shut before she realized I was nothing but a snake oil merchant from Jersey City.
She was wearing a flowing skirt that billowed in the breeze, and handed Leslie a bunch of flowers that she had just picked. Literally. e.b. just picked these herself from the garden of somebody's house... A perfect stranger no less. "It's all right," said e.b. "I waved my hand over the spot and new ones instantly sprang up where these were." Despite being 11:30am, e.b. insisted we go to a local winery. This suited me just fine, and I sampled 238 varieties of Vermont wine made from local blueberries, acorns, and plant shoots. It was quite good, and we spent three hours discussing art, philosophy, travel, art, politics, economics, art, cheese, family, and art. On her 27th glass of a vintage called, "No Regrets," e.b. started to confide in us. "There's something I want to tell you," she said, like a conspirator. "It's positively scandalous, and I've never told anyone." I perked up around this point in the conversation. I figured she either had someone buried in the lawn or was about to drop something very juicy. "I want to tell you why I'm in love with the colors I use," she said. What passes for scandal in Vermont is page 39 in the farm news down here.
Shortly thereafter, we met her son and husband. Boone is the prodigy type of kid that calls to mind the young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. One of his paintings recently sold for $1,150. The kid's picture is routinely plastered all over the local press. Something he painted apparently healed the sick or lowered the interest rate. e.b.'s husband David is a Vermont Renaissance Man. A master woodworker, his shop holds a collection of wood, ranging from cherry to Spanish cedar, and from American walnut to exotic Asian types. He casually described an exquisite small table he's made of solid curly maple as "something to do." In addition to building most of their house, Dave has an affinity for restoring Mercedes automobiles, and has a Corvair convertible tucked away in a garage. He also knows his way around a kitchen and flips a mean flapjack. I mentioned that I build things too (okay, once, and it turned out screwy), that I fix things (not fix but alter), and that I cook (true).e.b.'s studio is the confluence of color and light, a mixture of art and eastern discipline, and the epicenter of her world. To many artists, the word "studio" is synonymous with "gallery," where art is converted into revenue. I saw e.b. flog revenue out into the street. The studio is where she creates, and helps people understand the creation process. For me the creation process on this trip began with a chorus of "singing bowls," glass vessels played by massaging their rims with a suede wand. e.b. and David have a full range of these and can be persuaded to play them from time to time. There are also Tibetan singing bowls, that are made of metal. I was entranced by the sound and e.b. presented us with one of the Tibetan ones. The wind whipped in off the lake on our final night, and the temperature dropped. David built a fire in the stove. The conversation covered a hundred things, and I was delighted to learn that David is an aficionado of old movies. We ran through our favorites and found many in common. I opened the windows before climbing into bed to let the weather in. The wind ruffled the flag on the pole outside, and the shivering halyards of two dozen sailboats at anchor make the most marvelous wind chimes. I got up two or three times during the night just to listen. At dawn, it was quiet as the wind had dropped. The sight of sailboats in the bay reminded me of another dawn overlooking a similar body of water, in Maine, on the other side of this same New England. In less than an hour, we'd be in the car heading home without disturbing our hosts. I ate in the best places... I met the the best people... And I had the best of times. Yet the image I remember best, is Stiffie's face in the rearview mirror, smile edged with tan, eyes behind her sunglasses, lost in conversation with e.b.
West Chester, Pa.*I went down to the dock at sunrise on Sunday morning as the first morning light hinted at pink, but nope. No pink sky. I guess we can all see that the muse was missing from this photo.