CHRIS BATTAGLIA

Thoughts

Relational Study #001 - Part 1 of 3

“Everything here was in profusion and the best of its kind.” - H.D. Thoreau, Maine Woods

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I watched my wristwatch break as soon as I pulled away from Haystack. This timepiece, a grey, rubber, sports watch - branded with worn-away HBO Comedy Festival logos - unhinged itself (randomly) as I unhinged myself (regretfully) from two intensive weeks woodworking in Maine’s mid-coast.

In this moment of sadistic grace, I laughed - aiming particularly at the cosmos. It happened while rounding the turnout away from thickly-wooded dirt road, hidden among spruce and pine forest, leaving the granite bedrock of Deer Isle.

Haystack Mountain School of Crafts has horrible cell service, and very controlled (“limited”) WiFi, siloed exclusively to the tiny library at campus entrance. I enjoyed both of these limiting factors, temporarily excommunicating me from the outside world. Here, the Atlantic pressed gently against the rocky shore, at the bottom of a grand, wooden staircase - the main arterial facilitating the most transit between points, splitting the grounds but forcing engagement with one another. The off-grid feeling enhanced Haystack’s intent of being a place for artists to make, create, and immerse into craft.

The above quote from Thoreau seems fitting for the Haystack experience. Not only are the grounds nestled in Maine woods, but everything truly was in abundance: the limitless food (read: cookies and coffee), the evening stars, the verdant pine trees, the faculty artists, and the students of craft. Every human on site at all times bore some talent, bringing many layers of depth to their conversation, their art, and their practice. It truly felt like every moment straddled the line of being too good; too unbelievable. 

 Lupines in full bloom, on side of the highway, during the annual  Lupine Festival .

Lupines in full bloom, on side of the highway, during the annual Lupine Festival.

And thus, there is no need for a timepiece, when all of your studios, meals, and evening programming are met with the ringing of a bell at the center of the landscape. The schedule followed this course every day:

  • 8am-9am: Breakfast
  • 9am-12p: Studio
  • 12p-1p: Lunch
  • 1p-4:30pm: Studio
  • 4:30pm-6pm: Poetry + Writing Workshop
  • 6pm-7pm: Dinner
  • 7:30pm-830pm: Evening Programming (Artist Presentations)

At the end of the evening presentations, the studios then remained open 24 hours (sorry, Metals, your damn curfew), and many resigned to the shop or the studio to continue to throw on their wheel, turn on the lathe, illustrate, or forge steel late into the night.

During these two weeks, I thought a lot about the first couple weeks of June, and attempted to remain present as best I could. In the morning, especially at the start of the program, I woke between 5 - 6a, inspired to reflect and process the days by journaling before the rest of the group rustled from sleep. Doug shared with me his exercises in mindfulness just the week prior, as we spoke into the wee hours of night at his new home in Quincy, MA.

At present, I realize the past month has been a study in relational development, beginning with a college reunion, continued by a recharging and bachelor weekend in the mountains, propelled to highest ground at Haystack, and resolved through the 75th birthday of my grandmother and return to “civilization.”

When Boston College hosted its reunion weekend, I noticed a lot of regression, both socially and alcoholically. It was a grand time, celebrating our collegieate time together by reliving various levels of inebriation, social over-committing, and largely underwhelming meals and provisions.

 Photo: Sean Meehan, me in my chef whites at the 5 year reunion. Thank you BC for your exquisite culinary education program!

Photo: Sean Meehan, me in my chef whites at the 5 year reunion. Thank you BC for your exquisite culinary education program!

It was great to see so many peers in the formative environment from which we burst forth into the world, but it felt like a zoo most of the time just trying to interact with those you sought to engage. Nonetheless, it was both energizing and exhausting participating in the weekend, and an important study in old friendships - nearly a decade old, now - and finally becoming more familiar with newer ones.

Which leads me to Doug.

 Doug at Mount Washington, Pinkham's Notch, NH. March 2016.

Doug at Mount Washington, Pinkham's Notch, NH. March 2016.

Doug has a fascinating system for tracking days, thoughts, and mindfulness. He provided true New England hospitality at his home in Quincy. Having just moved there, he tells me the move was prompted by a conversation we had a few months earlier, sharing coffee on a Sunday morning, gazing at the White Mountains. When he asked why I moved to Maine, I relayed that I longed to live in a place where I wanted to wake up, rather than travel to it on the weekends.

 The view that inspired a move. North Conway, NH. 2016.

The view that inspired a move. North Conway, NH. 2016.

Now, months later, he moved apartments again, landing in a building on a river, his living quarters looking directly over the water and at the Boston skyline. A train track enters frame on the farthest left of one’s peripheral, headed straight for the pastel pink of the 5:30am dawn light. We sat sipping home-roasted coffee on the balcony. Doug enlightens me on his ways to document his days, feelings, tracking introspection and meaning-finding in a way that clicks like never before.

And with a couple sunny-side eggs, graced with a little bit of fresh thyme and salami, I embark on Maine once more.

to be continued...

Linked:

Haystack: http://www.haystack-mtn.org

Deer Isle/Stonington Lupine Festival: http://www.deerisle.com/wp-content/uploads/pdf/2016-lupine-schedule.pdf

Sweet Maria's Home Coffee Roasting: https://www.sweetmarias.com