Monday, April 23, 2007
At last, it's spring.
Finally, the sun has come out in New Hampshire - after the terrible lashing we received last week when the nor'easter blew in and brought the place to a standstill. Days of high winds and driving snow/sleet/rain downed trees and powerpoles, closed roads and airports, flooded huge rivers and left a wake of sludge and devastation. We had an 8-hour power outage and a car breakdown all at once - which left us trapped in an increasingly cold apartment, putting on layers of clothing, reading by battery lamps, eating cold food and listening to the sleet slapping against the windows. Notorious New England weather which, I suppose, is worth experiencing - once!
The moment the sun emerged, just a couple of days later, spring erupted - as if it had been hunkered down waiting impatiently for its moment. Suddenly there are sprawls of jubilant daffodils leaning and beaming towards the light. Trees are budding and breaking into leaf. One has burst into blossom. And tulip leaves bursting from the soil so fast one swears one can see them growing.
We celebrated by heading out for walk along the canal stream and woodland trails of Mine Falls Park. Oddly, when we came to park the car in what had always been a rather grungy and derelict old industrial backwater of Nashua's mill district, we were assailed by, of all things, the moan of the bagpipes. And there was the piper, standing alone outside one of the formerly abandoned buildings which, it quickly become apparent, had been transformed into a thriving arts centre and was having a great big celebratory event.
Try to keep me out! I was inside like a bullet - to be greeted by very nice, homely ladies standing behind a refreshment table laden with dips and cheese, crudite and drinks. There were galleries in all directions - vast expanses arrayed with masses of highly enthusiastic art. No, I won't be calling The Australian Art Collector with any exciting new discoveries, although there were a couple of highly-priced gems outstanding amid the masses of mediocre mixed media. But there was no shortage of refreshments. Tables groaned with goodies all over the place - cakes and cookies, crackers and dips...hospitality which really made up for the art.
There were six separate exhibitions in the show - and many more scattered around the town, accesible by a shuttle, I discovered. It was an "Art Walk" in which people didn't actually walk.
One room was full of the most excellent basketweaving. I praised the weaver, noting that she had mastered the fine and complex art of classic Indonesian basketry. She was amazed. She had no idea of the background of any of the designs. How odd.
In another room there was a warm overcrowding of furniture and projects complete and pending - large screen panels, collages, bolts of fabric, baskets of dressed soft toys and some extremely quaint vanity objects - hand mirrors and hairbrushes with Scrabble pieces and rhinestones glued to them. As I walked around examining things, a massive woman heaved herself from a chair in the corner and moved to the centre of the room where she flopped down on a couch - the spread of her body taking up most of it. I hadn't noticed her amid the distraction of objects and furniture but now I greeted her and observed that she was one of the most immensely fat women I had seen, with very unkempt hair. And there she was, like a vast overwintering bear in her den of strange creations. Suddenly I felt as if I had stepped into a Fellini film.
She turned out to be very personable, albeit with some questionable artistic practices - dismembering fine old books and making collage-type restructures of them. "Librarians don't like it," she said. I didn't either.
Out into spring sunshine again, we set out on our familiar towpath walk, happy to see the understorey forest growth budding out amid the still stark and wintery trees. Chipmunks chirped, blue jays squawked, fish marked the spot against the current in the canal and several slider turtles came swimming along, less shy than they seem to be later in the season. It was on the low trail by the Nashua River that evidence of the flooding remained. Great lakes of crystal water lay in the glades, some of them with exquisite floating layers of autumn's leaves. In many places the trail was all but impassable and we picked out way gingerly through thick and muddy layers of river silt. Our shoes were a mess. But there was a large, only partially-melted snow pile up near the road and we shuffled around in it merrily, having found the perfect shoe-cleaner. How very New Hampshire.