Moving On… my country idyll draws to a close

by Alden Cole on April 17, 2016 · 0 comments

“Life becomes easier when you learn to accept an apology you never got.” – Robert Brault

Tree&HouseWPThe Summer of 1981 was the last summer season I lived in the country. And what a summer it was! I was living alone, earning a decent salary working five days-a-week for the publishing house of Samuel Weiser in Cape Neddick twenty-five miles away, devoting much of my free time to playing house and making art. I had the run of a quaint old cape house on the side of a hill with a massive pine tree looming over the house (see the photo at left to get an idea of the size I’m talking about) that belonged to my older cousin Emily who lived just down the road, and with whom I spent most of my free social time, a commodity with which I tended to be somewhat misery that summer, a period of deep and unsatisfying reflection on the big questions which have haunted many a lonely wayfarer: “Where did I come from? Where am I going? Why Am I Here?”.

JupiterWPJupiter • liquified oil paints on 36″ diameter panel • the verso of the panel painting immediately below: Pan’s Garden • provenance unknown

At left and below are a series of paintings that had their beginnings, middles, or endings during that six-month period when I was living in the country by myself, from April 1981 to the end of September; aPan'sGardenWP time before I had learned to accept those apologies I never received from my family. It was also a time before I understood the truth of another of Bob Brault’s pithy sayings: “Better you don’t search for who you are until you know who it is you want to find.” I hadn’t yet figured out that no matter where I went, there I was. I was in the uncomfortable solitary phase of discovering who I wasn’t, an interesting process which I’d never taken the time to explore in any depth while living in NYC with the multiplicity of distractions that had increasingly taken their toll on my health and my psychological well-being.

IslandEyeWPIsland Eye • liquified oils on gold surfaced canvas ca 14″ x 18″ • provenance unknown

The time spent with the Weiser’s, both on-the-job as well as off-hours – particularly Betty Lundsted Weiser (1939 – 2001), who became one of my severest critics, and well as one of my most ardent boosters – proved unsettling to my cherished illusions of who and what I was. The good news however was the stimulating effect of working with both Don and Betty closely, which proved professionally challenging – to my eternal benefit – teaching me the joys and sorrows of team playing, a sport I had never learned to participate in at Thornton Academy, during my four naive years there, competing with myself, trying to prove that I was as good as my older brothers who had preceded me, leaving behind their memories to which I was compared, and marks of popularity to which I aspired, without any particular success.

WatchfulWPWatchful aka Eye of God; Eye of Mystery • oils on masonite panel 48″ x 48″ – collection of Sharon Gold, Hawaii

And so the summer of my discontent passed. Even though a system of running water had finally been installed in my country retreat early that summer, facing fall I considered the options for the winter ahead, knowing my quaint but drafty habitation had no practical heating system. I was still welcome to stay in the home of my parents down the road a piece, even though I had distanced myself from them during the summer, and preferred not to return to that living arrangement after the freedom of living on my own. The other option was to move in with cousin Emily and her younger brother Joseph for the winter, which, though not ideal, was potentially doable and preferable to living under my parent’s roof yet again.

PeterMaxTributeWPTribute to Peter Max • oil on canvas 40″ x 60″ • collection of Sharon Gold, Hawaii

In early September Betty Weiser asked what my plans were for the winter. After apprising her of my country options, she proposed a third: moving into one of the winterized summer cottages just across the road from the office. Intrigued by the idea, I had the common sense to realize this was the best option. Despite the fact that I was going to have to start paying rent for the first time in over two years, I was going to be spared a Maine-winter commute, which persuaded me of the idea’s validity. In early October I moved into one of the three cottages across Ocean Drive from the Weiser estate, and a whole new phase of my life opened up.

BlueChristus72Blue Christus • liquified oils and white pencil on canvas ca. 24″ x 14″ – collection of Diane Kirkup

Little did I know it at the time, but when I removed my locus operandi from Dayton to Cape Neddick that fall – temporarily I thought, expecting to return to the country in the spring – I essentially severed my connection to living in the country. A series of unfortunate family events, including the death of Emily’s brother Joseph in the fall, precipitated a falling out with the lady who had been such a good friend to me. Early in 1982, Emily let me know that she had bequeathed the property I had been enjoying, hoping it would be mine one day, to her nephew Albert; so I would need to remove the remainder of my possessions left on the property by May. Shocked, I slowly adapted to the new reality that in the spring, instead of leaving my winter rental and returning to the country for the warm season, I was going to have to make other arrangements. Once again Betty Weiser stepped up to the plate by encouraging me to bail out of my shell of increasing isolation and get more social, possibly by moving into Portsmouth NH. And so it happened. Portsmouth became the next “city of my dreams” and my life took a sharp but slow turn for the better; a new chapter had commenced which eventually led me to Philadelphia.

YinYang#1WPYin/Yang #1 * oils on canvas 21″ x 35″ • collection of Sharon Gold, Hawaii

…to be continued

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: