Wednesday, September 12, 2007

excursion-north again

We drive north out of necessecity. A day with obligations, and we try to wedge a sense of frivolity between the hours. Shopping for a pair of black suede shoes imported from Italy, a lunch in a tiny Vietnamese café, a drive to one of Vermont’s jewels—The Shelburne Museum—where we want to see a particular exhibit that deftly combines necessity and frivolity, a show hanging twenty-five contemporary chandeliers, twenty-five ways to look at light, humor, and grace.

We succeed in forgetting we’ve had to work on this day. Electra Webb’s love letter to folk and decortive arts—the generous benefactress and mastermind behind the museum-- weaves through preserved historic Vermont buildings highlighting eco-design to the National Monument steamboat The Ticonderoga to her own personal collection of Corot, Matisse, and Degas. We circle through the chandelier exhibit suspended in the Round Barn, gazing at a huge mobile-like installation inspired by Calder and mesmerized by a fifteen foot confection based on a classical Empire-style fixture made modern by the use of three-thousand carefully strung golf balls.

The air is soft outside, a wind off Lake Champlain and gray, scuttling clouds. The flower gardens are still in bloom, our favorite an allée of multicolored zinnia. I’d forgotten about zinnia this year, and failed to plant any. Caleb says that he likes the flowers best when viewed from faraway, and through a slight squint. In that way, it’s like looking at the Matisse hanging in Ms. Webb’s re-fabricated New York apartment diningroom.

Audubon is at the end of my hike across the musuem campus. In the Vermont House, a perfectly maintained relic of Vermont stone and wavy glass, twenty-four of the sixty Audubon prints in the collection hang. We look at southern ducks and little birds perched in magnolia trees. The color is fine, and the lively expressions of the birds make me think I’ve walked by chance into a private aviary. The only difference is that the rooms are quiet, just like it’s grown quiet outside, our particular autumn silence. While the air outside is full of cicada and cricket-song, the birds have gone south leaving us without their chatter and laughter.

As the museum closes, we stand briefly beneath an obscenely laden apple bower and steal apples, biting into the soft, aromatic flesh that is both tart and sweet as the light begins to fade into evening.


No comments: