Saturday, April 26, 2014

Spring Cleaning

As the weather warms up, I get to the dam more. There's lots to see: flood waters, daffodils,  herons, ducks and grebes. Spring is here!

I'm standing on the far end of the Pleasant Street Bridge looking over to the island and the dam. This was done on a Friday; normally I draw from the bridge on the weekends when there is less traffic.

Early morning shadows across the swirling flooded river. The retaining wall is barely visible on the left side of my drawing

Stranded logs and high water

High water; the island is submerged

The old millstones are embedded in the asphalt. This view is downstream over the top of the dam.

View upstream. I ran out of my brown pencil and started working in charcoal on top of it.

Yesterday, just used a graphite #2 pencil. We're looking downstream over the dam and to the houses on the other side of the Pleasant St. Bridge.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Tale of Two Steeples

Two steeples, two churches. One has a clock and a weather vane. The other is very tall and thrusts a golden cross into the sky. One is the home to perching pigeons. The steeple with the weather vane provides a resting place for starlings and robins. One church is dark, shut up and for sale. The other has been in existence in one form or another for over 300 years.

Sacred Heart, the for-sale church was caught up in legal settlements in the slow-motion tsunami of the Catholic clergy sex-abuse scandals. The doors were padlocked on Christmas Eve in 2004. Statues of Mary and Jesus were removed early one morning and the church was "de-sacralized" so it could be sold.
Sacred Heart Church steeple

I often think about these steeples as I walk over to the river to sketch.  Since Sacred Heart has fallen into disrepair I always picture in my mind the church imploded from rot, the steeple crashed in on itself and daylight flooding the sanctuary where we can see a congregation of mice, sparrows and raccoons and a tall white pine growing before the dusty altar.

The Eliot Church's steeple had developed a list over the years and had to be straightened out. I wonder how they paid for such an enormous repair?  For years, as I approached the building from Union St. I would wonder just which element in my field of view was askew. Or maybe it was I who was off kilter.
The Eliot Church steeple

I'm partial to the message of a steeple that is engaged with the local's need for accurate weather data and the clock. There's a firm foundation of faith in those observations. Sacred Heart church has the more emotional and compelling story though. It's a story of greed, anguish and a golden cross dangling in the sky… to what end? Sacred Heart is the drama queen pulling us all in some direction but it seems to be in search of a compass or a rudder. Eliot Church shaggily soldiers on with prayer flags, forsythia wreaths and a Prius parked to front, engaged but perhaps it has a more realistic entry point into the human story.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Rising Waters

The water is rising. The ice is melted. There have been substantial rains… and more is on the way. After this winter I have no sense of what the summer will be like. Whatever happens, I'll document the effects here at the river. Thank you for checking in.

 03/31/14 charcoal
This is an odd picture… This is a view over the top of the dam. A log is stranded at the lip and water cascades over it. The island is still visible on the right; the bridge can be seen at the  top of the drawing.

A few days later: the river has risen above the retaining walls. It's early morning and the trees on the submerged island cast shadows across the  black water and white foam as they hurtle downstream to the ocean.

04/04/14 conté pencil
The river level has risen a bit more. The grassy park is flooded and the water laps here the way it would at the shore. The water in the river however, makes a familiar rushing sound. I take the watery white noise for granted but there is a little something extra today. 
04/05/14 charcoal
The big logs stranded at the top of the dam might stay there all summer. I hope so. Some of them will sprout foliage and ducks will perch on them once the weather warms up. Stay tuned. I'll draw them too!

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