Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The End

The sun was high and warm in the blue sky as the air was chilled by the rain of the night before, the river running fast and furious with run-off. Kind words were spoken, speeches made, draped sculptures unveiled. Children gathered round for many smiles and pictures taken; laughs, hand shakes of secret clubs and finally hugs to say good-bye. But this is not the end. The patina of time will skin the four figures, their footings will cure and forms will be removed. New grass will be sewn, trees and shrubs planted, benches placed. And still the end will not be found. Visitors will come and walk among the sculptures, as they become familiar images and friendly forms for those who pass them every day, see them out their windows. The sculptures will become rooted, ingrained; local residences like the tolling of the church bells. Maybe then will the end be near as history oxidizes memory as it rusts away.

Good-byes were tearful and those tears came early. Students who came for the unveiling shed them before it was over. I choked down the lump in my throat as I fumbled through my speech. That same lump welled again as I ate my last cheese pie in the kitchen I now can call home. Hugs were the gift of the day and many were exchanged. But there were many other very special gifts that passed hands before it was time to go. New friends and family were made and are now kept close through bonds that cannot be spoken. There was not a dry eye in the house as we left through the front gate one last time with a bag of food full of love to swell the heart and fatten the belly. But under those tears were smiles and bright rosy cheeks and I had an extra little upturned curl at the end of my lips with one last parting image of that little cock sent flying by my boot as he went for one last shot at the title.




Speech

These are sketches of the people. And for the people.
Sentinels of the past and beacons of the future.
They are organic and ephemeral. But like you, they are rooted and very strong.

These 4 figures are a gift from Brevard, North Carolina in the United States to its sister-city of Pietroasa. I hope they will give you inspiration each day, remind you of your friends in Brevard and help you to remember the tall strange American who came to live with you for 2 months.

Thank you to the people of this town and surrounding towns for making me feel so welcome and allowing me access to create this sculptures. I appreciate you very much. And to my friends at the school - the wonderful kids who lifted my spirits and reminded me to be a kid while I was working each day.

And to my host family - my Romanian mama and papa. For you I am so grateful. I am your son, half Romanian and will keep you in my heart forever.

I invite everyone to spend time with these figures and walk among them so that you may create your own relationship with each one and the group as a whole. I hope the sculptures grow on everyone and hold a special place in everyone's heart as the people and this place hold a special place in my heart.

Thank you all for this time I will never forget. Keep being the strong, wonderful people you are.

(Val wrote the speech with a few of my ideas and took the majority of the photos, too)




Friday, March 25, 2011

Finished



The river has calmed and its waters have cleared. Daffodils bloom in a garden I pass on my way home from the studio. I am done. The last big push is over, four figures stand tall and whole in the studio. Time to pack up and sweep the floor.

The final day was epic as it should be. After getting a fresh tank of acetylene I run out of oxygen. The welder, which has never over heated, begins to over heat at regular intervals and then…… I run out of steel. While waiting for the welder to cool down I ended up pre-bending steel by hand and dismantling a sculpture that didn't make the final cut for scrap steel; an organ donor if you will. Smaller lengths of steel had to be welded together and joints sanded to create lengths long enough to fill the gaps. One span of time waiting for the welder to cool was spent playing tag with one of the students; we kicked around a soccer ball, too, which led to a climb down into a storm drain to retrieve it.

While working on the final sculpture my pace quickened as euphoria would sweep over me, but then I would find myself slowing down, not wanting to finish, savoring the moment. While thoughts of home and my love were ever present so were these sculptures. When I arrived here last month all my time and energy has been put towards this work. Six days a week I'd toil, one day of rest for the body but not the mind. What will I do, what will become of this place when there is no more work to be had in the studio?

2,650ft of steel
Over 22lbs of electrodes
72 cut-off wheels
2 pairs of gloves
Countless apples, bananas and chocolate bars
And yes, one rooster was harmed in the making.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Hands Twisting

My time is almost up and as it is always the case it is passing by with a blur. But as I walk home every day in a studio haze I now have memories of this place. I walk by the same row of houses that on a cold snowy night a month ago they were only vague shadows against the night white sky, each with a single colorful window a glow; red blue and orange. I am familiar enough with the friendly faces that I can recognize people by the way the walk, knowing who they are even before they smile and come into view. I've even picked up the mannerisms of one kind soul I pass daily. We exchange greetings, sometimes a simple wave, other days it is a hand shake and he stands, head down, lips moving with no sound, hands twisting. I now find myself having my own private conversations, head down, hands twisting chatting away without a sound.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Counting Down

A lazy Sunday. No work to be had, I sat outside in the warmth of the shallow arched sun, the puppy curled up at my feet, fast asleep. A familiar wind blows, purposeful with its secret agenda. The signs of winter still hold fast; snow grips the high vistas and northern most slopes, trees still hide their buds. The river flows on carrying the Winter's fall off to the West. Eleven days remain until my work is to be finished.

Days are checked off and the river runs fast and furious with snow melt; dry banks now wet, water turbulent. I know how it feels.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sketches in Steel: Part II


Sketches in Steel

Before my own story gets scooped I thought I'd share the studio progress. Most of the following pictures are of the work as it has progressed so far.... I still have a lot to do. There is another pic of some of the students who have accepted me into their midst and then one shot is very similar to a photo I saw of Brancusi in a history book here, just to be cheeky.

On another note, I think one of the ever so many mystery meats is tail. I have no idea what kind of tail but the little vertebra were unmistakable.........




Thursday, March 10, 2011

Word



As I've walked to the studio the past few mornings things have changed. The sun has been shinning and blue skies revealed. And birds have been chirping away. I've seen few birds aside for large predatory birds and the crane, and maybe a small flock of ten or so smaller birds. But now I can hear them; chirping away each morning and being ever so diligent in their preparations for Spring.

But the word is out, another kind gentleman showed up today. I don't think he spoke a word but just held up what looked like a soap strainer, broken of course. I quickly welded it back together, trying mot to melt the thin galvanized wire rods. Two more guys showed up later but I have no idea what they were after, whatever it was I didn't have (I think they needed a cutting torch and someone to use it). So the word is out that there is some crazy American who will weld up any broken things you have laying about the house. I just hope none of my welds break, but I guess you get what you pay for… or something like that?

Lunch II

Nothing can kill your momentum like lunch. I was making good progress in the studio and decided to head home for a quick lunch to keep my energy up. I figured I could get home, eat and relax and then walk back to the studio in under an hour. Enough time to regain some strength for the afternoon push but not too much time to loose the momentum form the morning.

I get home and find my usual seat at the table and a new mystery bowl in front of me. I started to realize that maybe coming home wasn't such a good idea after all. White chunks of who knows what in a bright yellow….. sauce?
I held my breath and dug in. Not bad but I still had to stop the gag reflex. I figured out that this was what she was concocting during breakfast. Whipped egg whites with sugar with a sauce of whipped egg yolks with sugar. I'm pretty sure that there was some dairy of some kind in there and surprisingly no meat.

At any rate I figures that a bowl of that would get me through the rest of my day along with the snacks I always squirrel away. So I make my break, I grab my pack and head for the front gate. Just as my hand twisted the handle I heard the kitchen door open. I made the mistake of pausing. The Romanian language is very demonstrative. I sometimes have a hard time knowing when I'm being yelled at or that the person is very excited and enthusiastic about what they're telling me. But every kid knows when their mom is yelling at them to get back in the kitchen and finish eating their vegetables before they can go out and play.

I tuck tail and slump back in the kitchen as she lets me have it. I have no idea what she was saying but I'm sure it was on the lines of I'll die if I don't eat more and I need a good hardy lunch to make it through the day and on and on. My "real" lunch turned out to be potato and sausage soup, the same soup that had my stomach working very hard to get it out. But this batch was less dairytastic and my system handled it.

But of course I had to wait for this to be fully prepared. I watched her put a tablespoon of salt in it. That can't be healthy. Needless to say my hour lap time was way underestimated.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Routine

A bitterly cold morning but at least the sun came out to play and no new snow lay on the ground. Another day in the studio where elements of the sculpture fall into place while others fall to waste. The sun goes the snow comes, the snow comes the sun shines and then sometimes both at once.

A simple routine of walking down the familiar path to and from the studio; home to eat and sleep to the studio to work. Every now and then I catch a glimpse of myself and think how strange it is. There is a place where I can understand what is being said. The familiar faces I see every day will one day be only a memory. Where saying "hello" will not be saying "buna". That I am not a local.

But as I was working in the studio today a kind older gentleman came to the door. I assumed him to be a curious wanderer until he produced a pair of pliers with a broken handle, the fracture nicely dressed for a weld; I quickly laid a puddle of molten medal in the seam. It was one of the few times I have been able to say you're welcome, although maybe I should have said thank you....

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Round Two

Another morning of fresh snow and big fluffy flakes still coming down. After a long late morning of being lazy I was beckoned to the kitchen to eat. Nothing like a warm belly on a cold snowy day to lift the spirits and make me even more lackadaisical.

While out loading up an arm with firewood the rooster was feeling cocky. He has kept his distance, I assume because the soul of my boot doesn't feel too good across his breast. But today is a new day and I was wearing trainers. It's on!

Maybe the cold and seeing me in lightweight shoes prompted his blood to rise, whatever it was he was feisty and relentless. We went jab for jab until I decided not to hold back any more. Little cock be damned, if he wants to step up to a heavy weight bout then he can take the punishment. I've never seen a chicken fly so far, backwards. Like watching a 3-D movie in reverse. It's amazing what the toe of a shoe can do when planted squarely into the breast of a scrawny little cock.

He seemed a little dazed and for some reason didn't want to make the walk back across the yard to continue our little kickboxing session. But there is always time for another go round; I'll need more firewood soon.

Night Life

Nothing like fear and doubt to get one motivated. My time is running short and I have so much left to do. Before venturing into the studio for a late night session I was delayed by the sudden and unexpected family gathering in the kitchen. A new batch of cheese pie was piled on a plate on the table as more sweet goodies where being baked in the wood fired oven. A goat's head and various other goat parts were being passed around in a bag and I'm sure they will end up in some soup I am to eat in the future. I'll try not to think about it. But it was a cozy family gathering.

While I thought working at night would be a good idea unfortunately it looks like I might be wrong. Apparently my studio is on the path home form the bar, and the lights attract of sorts of things, one of which being a fellow whose breath was intoxicating, and not in a good way. He stumbled in, his idea of personal space was about the size of his constricted pupils, and began to talk. I deciphered some French; I think Russian, English and Romanian gibberish. He was a hugger and a check kisser, good thing I had my welding respirator on and that I swapped it out once he left, and a sneezer. The dust in the studio started a fit, which was interesting trying to dodge, as he liked to be face to face. I think he wanted me to return home with him for something to do with the Super Doom, the Internet and maybe the secrets to the hidden Nazi gold buried under the French embassy, I'm not sure and I didn't want to find out. I declined his offer and went back to work. This went on time after time after time after time. I'm not sure if he really wanted me to join him or if his short-term memory wasn't working to well. A moth to the flame.

Working at night may not be an option. Having kids come in while I'm working is a welcomed distraction; the nightlife is another matter all together.

Pillow

The other morning I arrived in the kitchen with a pillow stuffed under my sweater declaring that it is time to eat! After many smiles and laughter, and to what seemed distress from the unaware morning visitor, it was time to eat. As much enjoyment as they got out of my sophomoric prank I think it just gave them a visual goal to shot for. Now they know what my belly should look like. I just thought I was being cute.

On the way to the studio, with fresh snow powdering the trees and haystacks a heron was fishing for his breakfast in the river. Once school was let out one of the students beckoned me to come play. Alas, I had to work. He later returned with a friend and played in the studio until they tried to set a chair on fire and were promptly kicked out. No hard feelings.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Spring Recycling

Yesterday evening I sat in the kitchen waiting for my second dinner to cook, because one dinner simply isn't enough. While I'm too skinny and don't eat enough I am asked to loosen the tightly lidded jar tops, though. As I sat and watched my second dinner being prepared I found the culprit to my intestinal distress, cheese. I watched as she scooped out a bowl full of cheese from the pot on the stove, spoonful after spoonful of a white mass that looked like yogurt. This was then dumped into the pot of sausage and potato soup I was to eat, much to my dismay. I ate a bowl full of the cheese-flavored water with bits of potato and sausage at the bottom, grease on top. Needless to say when I woke at 1am trying to keep dinner down and this morning when dinner kept going down the cause of my distress was well established.

But as I sat in the kitchen that evening what I found most endearing were my hosts. They sat by the stove as my dinner was boiling down and pulled apart and old garment of some sort. Thread by thread she would pull it apart as he balled up each line, a ball of thread that would then be used to knit a pair of socks or sweater or something yet to be determined. And as they worked, my host, recently turned 77, and hostess, 74 in May, played and teased and flirted with one another as if they were teenagers. I did not need to know the words to understand. The pinching and ribbing and playful slaps and smiles are universal signs of love. I dare say he would have goosed her, I saw his eyes flash and hand flinch, but he thought better of it when he remembered my presence with a grin on my face. Spring is in the air….. even though it snowed last night..... and is snowing right now.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Big City




When I got home yesterday, after skipping two meals and being late for the third I was ready for the earful that I was sure to get. But when I walked in I got more that I anticipated. Loud passionate speaking was coming form my hostess, words I've never heard. As always I was pretty lost but then I started to recognize names of people, what did they have to do with it? Then she picked up the phone to call Dana, her daughter-in-law and our translator. Dana?! She must be really pissed if she has to call Dana to translate her frustration. Maybe she's kicking me out? Maybe I should find another place?

She hands me the phone with Dana on the other end, I take the phone to find out that my Romanian hasn't gotten much better. I have a package waiting for me in Oradea that I have to sign for. Apparently international packages can only go so far in the postal system. But like a kid at camp getting a care package from home I was elated.

The next morning I rise at 5am to catch the bus to Oradea. I'm out the door half an hour later to find a very cold brisk morning and something I've missed for days and days, stars. A clear night sky rises aloft my head in all its twinkley splendor. A clear sky means sun, sun means warmth and warmth means no more snow. As I walk the same main street along the water I join the procession to the bus stop. A friendly face walks with me although we understand little of what one another is saying.

Once the mini-bus arrives I climb on board with the few who remain. I try to pay the driver but before I can hand over my fair he hits the gas and rumbles down the road. I wisely grab a sit before one grabs me. We bounce down the roads picking up more passengers than letting off as we head to the big city. The music was an interesting mix of Gypsy Polka, Lady Gaga and Romania's version of Neal Diamond. Needless to say I had my headphones in. I watched the sun rise with the morning haze to reveal more snow.

After a brief stop to let a passenger relieve her breakfast to the side of the road we arrive in a very cold Oradea, with all its morning madness of commuters. I part ways with the bus driver man in a familiar spot, hand him a ten note where we call it even; he had his window down during the cold morning drive so he could smoke. Nothing like living like the locals.

I arrive at Adi's around 8am, he kindly gives me a lift to the Post so I can pick up my hefty package of goodies. Form there I am released to Daniel. The two of us make the few stops so that I can buy more consumables for the studio and then he graciously offers to drive me home since he has business in Bieus. But only after we stop to have a home cooked breakfast at his. I met his lovely wife, have a filling, yet light, meal and take in the thoughtful beauty of their home. Then we're off. On our way home we have a very interesting theological discussion while we enjoy the blue skies and sun.

As I type this I listen to the clump clop of a horse as it strides down the road; such a change from the tramcars, four lanes roads and busy intersections of the big city. But my mind is on more important things, like all the goodies for my hosts, students and my belly… among other things.

As for the pics, one is a teaser, another just for fun and the third is working out Romania syle

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Just a Day

Freezing rain frosted the ground as I made my walk to the studio this morning. The sky is heavy and gray, blocking the sun and keeping the snow piled along the roads. The river is unfazed as are the usual suspects who sit under cover at the roadside table and bench.

Progress in the studio is slow with long hours, but progress is progress and it feels good. I somehow slipped out without breakfast this morning and did not return for lunch. If I don't post tomorrow we will all know that I am tied to the kitchen table and being spoon fed.

March is a new month as time ticks by and even with the lack of sun the days seem to stretch on into the evening just a little longer. Snow drops bloom in a garden, Spring is coming.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Tired Eyes

Icicles hang form the eves and a light intermittent rain falls. The sky is low and gray keeping the cold air down and the sun away. I have never seen the air so calm, so placid. Never a breeze blows and the smoke from chimneys wafts up in a lazy vertical line to meld with the low haze over the village.

Tedium in the studio added to the dreary day outside; the repetition of line after line of steel in tight little spaces. But forms are becoming solid, negative spaces solid with line.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Food Wars

Yesterday was a welcomed relief as the sun broke free and began the pre-spring melt. But today the grey has returned along with the cold, and the food wars continue.

Sunday is a day of rest and no one works. The town itself is quiet and little moves along its streets except the faithful on their way to church. I have had a lazy morning as I rest and prepare for the work ahead. With little energy lost in my activities there is need for little energy gained. Breakfast was bread with my last reserve of peanut butter, Nutella and jam. I ventured into the kitchen a little later for a cheese pie and another baked good. This however did not go over well.

Around 1pm she ventured into my room telling me to come, eat! When I wasn't in her kitchen promptly she came back within minutes and demanded that I come, eat and didn't leave until I was following her out the door.

When I got to the kitchen she had laid out a bowl of mushroom soup (the same mushroom soup that has been sitting out since yesterday), a bowl of dumplings with a yogurt like cheese to go with it and bread, of course. She left me to eat as she went into the bedroom. I quickly dumped the soup back into the pot. When she came back out only after a minute or so I acted like I was spooning down the last bit of it and mopping up the leftovers with a piece of bread. She asked if I wanted more and I politely declined. It went over well. I guess in Romania it is pretty common for people to down an entire bowl of soup in mere seconds. I tried to convey that I really like the dumplings but had to insist on no cheese. She wasn't happy. I was, the dumplings are too good to cover up with anything. She did insist on me eating and eating so I did; three servings of dumplings then half a jar of home preserved peaches for desert. The peaches are very tasty, just halved and pitted then thrown in a jar with whatever preserving juice, skin included. All of which comes from what they've grown and what she has made. And none of which is made with any meat, especially rooster.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Forecast

I was told that there would be a break in the weather and that maybe Winter would relinquish its grip here. It is nice to know that no matter where you go and no matter what the cultural or language barriers are some things will always be the same, weather forecasts are rarely right. I woke up to six inches of snow on the ground and it continued to snow the rest of the day. It was fun watching the mothers come to pick their kids up from school and the mom who brought a sleigh; her son flopped down, belly first, and she pulled him home. I've yet to see any snowmen, or snowwomen for that matter, but I have seen evidence of many a snowball thrown.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Excerpt from Letter

The notion of home is interesting during this trip. If home is where the heart is than home is with you. I have packed up my life into two backpacks and headed to a foreign land. I accepted the invitation and honor to come but it was not my choice of destination. I came to do what I know and adapt what I do. I came blind in the ways of customs and came with almost no knowledge of this place. But I am resigned to lay my head wherever it may rest and make the unknown my home.

I walk the same path to work everyday, turn left out of the front gate, right across the bridge, then left after the bridge to the studio. I retrace those same steps home for lunch and then back again to the studio. Once I close shop for the day I make a small detour and turn right after the bridge to get on-line at the mayor's office. I take in the same sights and sounds, say hello to the same people I pass. I visit the same tiny market. I have a place to rest, a place to work and a few places to play. There are no trails to hike or bike, no theater, no store to rent DVD's, no TV for that matter. A certain amount of personal freedom has been lost as I have been tethered to others.

It is strange to up root and plant in a place so off my personal radar, to call home something so unfamiliar. To try and let go of everything I am accustomed to and yet still try to find myself in my work and keep a sense of myself so that I may live.




Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Reasource

The snow continues to fall, slowly gaining ground and covering everything with white and consuming the air with cold. The sky is heavy and gray and the nearby hills are obscured by the ever present haze.

Breakfast was a treat this morning. Fresh scrambled eggs and cooked bacon. Yes, cooked bacon and that annoying cocks spawn will not live on. I have discovered that not only do I not eat enough but also I do not eat fast enough. I think the fact that I use a fork is unfathomable each mouthful is too small. I wonder if I am being cleverly deceived. I rarely see my hosts eat and when they do it is a mere snack ( I wonder if I am getting the best of the food while they eat the dregs). But if not I think I have found an untapped resource. Romanians need to be introduced to the competitive world of competition eating; loads of food in big mouthfuls eaten as fast as possible before it spoils. I think they'd climb to the top in mere minutes, just as fast as it would take them to eat fifty hotdogs.

I have become accustomed to my time here. I have been asked to travel and see other cities and places I always decline. My time is short and precious. As I need as much time as I have available to work I also wonder if it is fear that keeps me here, fear of breaking out of my pattern and losing more time trying to step back into it. But I also take the example of my hosts. They have no car, no horse and wagon, no tractor. They head to church on the Sabbath and I see them at the front door of neighbors. I assume that they leave during the summer months to harvest. But they seem content to keep their circle of travel to as far as they wish to walk. I know that they are only one illustration of the people here but I will live by their lead.


Fine Line

A fine layer of wind blown snow coats my jacket as I walk the dark street home, flakes are big enough to make out their pattern. Dinner is a bowl of fresh bean soup. As I sit on my usual stool at the small kitchen table I watch my hosts attend to their task at hand. They are taking the milk from their cow and skimming the thick layer off the top to be stored in a familiar container for cream. Then pouring the milk through cheesecloth into various containers for later uses. I watch all of this earnestly and with a certain curiosity as I enjoy dinner. Then I realize the very beans that I am eating I had seen this morning. Only then they were in my hostess's apron and then being sorted on the kitchen table. Beans grown in their garden, picked by hand, shucked and dried.

Their communion with the land is so different and foreign to me. Land is worked; sued and reaped. It sustains life and will forgive us our trespasses. But the land sustains my soul and for that I cherish, preserve and try to protect what is given to the people.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011




Turning

The weather here seems almost as oppressive as the communist government was. A light snow still falls but still amounting to little. I had feared that the sun had forsaken this place but I found it only partially obscured by the clouds. It is cold. Wet.

My stomach has finally turned. I have tried not to think about the fact that I eat the same soup for days; the same soup that sits on the counter and is heated and cooled over and over. Hot water is sometimes used to clean dishes and never soap-that I've seen, at least. Dirt prevails. Three weeks in is still pretty good and as long as I can force off the insistence to drink the fresh milk or eat the salami to settle my stomach I'll make it through. The chocolate is pretty good here and that always seems to help; a cure all. I guess my stomach is too spoiled with all those crazy health codes.

Another day in the studio, repeating lines over and over. Solid forms begin to take shape. One of those forms will be sacrificed, five will remain. A simple sketch stands tall in steel line. I move one day closer.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Lunch

I have finally been able to post some pictures on the blog. They are all a bit random and kind of dumped on but at least it's a start. Hopefully from now on I can add pics to all my posts.... if I have any to add, that is. At any rate ther are now some visuals to go with the words.

Snow was still falling this morning but little came of it. The sky never cleared and all is gray and wet. Smoke stacks are working hard and the higher hills still show winters cold touch of white.
I have managed to eat the amount of food that is good for me today. I think she has given in. Or at least for the time being. After a brief foray in the studio I headed home for a quick workout and lunch. As I waited for the soup to heat I snacked on salami and bread while my hosts brought in the wheel barrel full of dried corn. They used what looks like a bike pedal to rake the kernels of the cob. The kernels are feed for their live stock and the cobs fed the fire. A different lunch environment than I'm used to. And I wonder if that fed is going to fed me at some point.....?
Lunch was a warm bowl of vegetable and chicken soup. Or as I like to call it "rooster" soup. A sly smile snaked across my face as I spooned it down thinking of that little cock out int he yard.








Sunday, February 20, 2011

Cultural Snow

The snow has fallen. To little surprise. A large ring encircled the full moon a few nights past and what was falling last night was fiendishly clever, not snow but not quit rain. The snow is fluffy and wet. Hanging to the trees and covering the ground where it can but melting on the roads and running to water on the slopes.

A heavy grey mist hangs low over the village. Only a minutes walk out into the fields the mist swallows the sight of the village leaving little trace that is still there. Only the occasional sound would penetrate the grey; the cluck of chickens, the barking of dogs, cars on the road above and the gobble of a lone turkey.

Yesterday I was able to make a trip into Bieus by the good graces of Dana, Abraham and Bianca. A strange culture shock ensued. Bieus is a large city, at least much larger than Pietroasa, with all that you would find in a city. I saw no horse drawn wagons, loads of cars, people every where, noise, smog, the city life. We shopped in an open air market then went to the super market where I saw Apple Jacks (in a bag not a box, however). A twenty minute drive down the road, only because the roads are so bad, and I'm back home living by simple means. Woodstove for heat and cooking, outhouse, the majority of food made fresh and from ingredients grown or raised by those preparing it. While people right down the road are downloading You Tube videos and watching some guy try to sing a Lady Gaga song on Romania's Got Talent. And all the while I'm just trying to understand the language and convince my hosts that I'm full.

Rooster

As my hosts live the simple life I am living on a farm. The usual assortment of farm paraphernalia can be found around the house, in the barn and leading to the fields out back. There is the cat for mousing, the cow for milking, the dog to protect the chickens and yes, chickens. With chickens comes a rooster. Their rooster hates me. And the feeling is mutual.

Imagine Napoleon's shorter cousin. This rooster is half the size of the hens but he is always immaculate. His feathers are always clean and shinny; every one of them in perfect alignment, while the hens are covered in mud. There is even a much larger rooster among the order but the sawed off little runt rules them all.

He likes to go for the surprise attack. Once my back is turned he runs across the yard and leaps, flapping his wings and kicking and picking at my leg. With the convenience of farm life wood is split in the same yard that the chickens are kept. The rooster must think he is safe but I am not a farmer. I have no qualms with putting his neck on the chopping block. I'm sure I could convince my hosts that it was a freak accident, that he jumped right as the blade fell. You can always get another rooster. He is so scrawny though I doubt he would yield much meat.

He is either a good reason to not eat chicken or a good reason to eat more chicken. Many a time at dinner I have thought of him as I've spooned down big bowls of cooked chicken. And I have found that the rooster is no match against a size twelve boot……..

Bacon

Have I mentioned the food here? One morning I slipped past the sentries and made a mad dash to the studio, skipping breakfast after a large, heavy dinner the night before. I knew this was a mistake, I half expected my host mother to come after me with a rolling pin and chase me back home. But little did I know what I was getting myself into.

When lunch rolled around I made my way back home and into the kitchen were I found a very unhappy woman. I sat on my tiny stool, tucked my legs under the table, all the while with a mischievous smile on my face. She was not amused. She pulled out bread, onions and……. how do I describe it?

Let me digress, there is a room off the kitchen that I have come to fear. It is a root cellar of sorts. Two refrigerators sit in the room but are hardly used. The widow is left open and the cold air is sufficient enough to store food. The room is filled with canned goods. Mason jars line the walls on row after row of shelf. From time to time she we'll appear with a plate full of freshly baked, sweet goodies; homemade donuts rolled in confectioners sugar, iced ginger bread. But also from this room come mysteries in dairy and meat.

Today's mystery was what appeared to be fat back. A long slab of hide. The top was clearly skin; yellowed and wrinkled by time. Underneath was ¾ of an inch of grey white fat followed by a thin line of a burgundy. Followed by another ¾ of an inch strip of fat. The bottom was, what appeared to be, leather. Leather that is dry and worn; thin but I had to saw through it with a knife (yes I tried it).

I thought I was being punished. I sliced the onions (small onions, home grown, of course) and ate them with the bread I was supposed to eat the hunk'o'hide with it. To my surprise the onions and bread are a nice combo. Fortunately she heated it up some soup so I was able to pass on the fat jerky for the time being. But not for long.

The slab of flesh was brought back out and they insisted I try it. I cut off a small piece, to their amusement and in my mouth it went. It is what you would imagine, greasy and salty with that chewy constancy that almost dissolves in your mouth. If I could have spit it out I would, but as they watched I choked it down with contorted revulsion and said "NU!", hands waving, head shacking. Romanian bacon, raw, who knew. Who needs the FDA.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Laughter

Laughter trumps any language barrier.
As I was having dinner, many bowls of strange new flavors, a woman from down the street wandered into the kitchen. The exchange that ensued between my hosts and her had us all in tears. I have little understanding of what exactly was said but with all the smiles, laughter and hand gesturing I couldn't help but join in. By the end we were all wiping our eyes and holding our sides, gasping for breath and red in the face. Everyone should laugh that hard at least once a week.

I have 1,958 feet of steel in the studio. Approximately 140 feet of that is now standing up on base plates; twisted, bent, curved and crimped. Welded and tacked, taking shape. Students wandered in and out all morning, in between classes and while on break, until school let out and they headed home. I watched them run by while in P.E. class and walk across the street to the mini-mart for lunch. All the while taking in what I can to put back in the sculptures.

There is a greater world at large out there but I know nothing of it. No T.V., no newspapers, limited internet. I eat in the same kitchen in the same chair day in and day out. My time here is an immersion. I wake in a foreign land to a foreign language, eat the cuisine of the culture, walk the same street past the same village houses to the studio to reflect everything I have seen, smelled, tasted and heard. Take it all in and let it all out in steel lines. It is an immersion of culture and art, one and the same.

Night Vignette

A full moon rises in the deep of the clear night sky. Smoke lays low over the village like a warm blanket. Shadows tall and squat move along deserted walls as cars pass by. Dark silhouettes stand in the street. A bell rings, rings as a kid rides his bike in the blue night light.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Just a Day

Everyday I walk along the river to the studio on frozen ground. Hoof prints from yesterdays ferrying are hard in the frozen mud. It is the same path I walk back on only now the ground has thawed and the mud cakes to the bottom of my boots.

I watch people cook over a wood fired stove and use the cold of the outdoors as a natural refrigerator as they watch TV. And the cars that pull up to the local store to see a woman get out wearing the same style of clothing that were worn many, many years ago while working the farm. The horse and cart ride by the sign advertising prepaid cell phones.

Today I arrived in the studio to find three gifts. One is the gift I find everyday, a fire in the stove warming the space. The second is a small puppy, boisterous and warming himself by the same fire and finding corners to relieve himself. And the third is knowing that I am on the right track. What I accomplished yesterday seems to be working. Now I can start repeating the lines again and again.

The sky is heavy with grey clouds. A temperamental sky, one day blue and sunny, the next oppressive and cloud cast. My hosts have eased in their desire to fatten me up (or at least resolved that I can not eat that much food) and have turned their attention to my wardrobe. They think me to be cold all the time and that my clothes are inadequate. Knitted socks, leather boots, a warm vest, have all been put in my hands as offerings of warmth (down jackets and thermal underwear are apparently not understood by them. But the knitted socks are a nice touch).

The wee puppy is trying to sleep. The cheese pie in his belly is probably helping the cause. I don't think he will be too happy with me once I crank up the grinder……..

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Lines

The day has come where I can start taking the graphite lines off the wall and redrawing them with steel in space. I spent thebetter part of the day working in the studio. Students would wander in and out while they were on break or in between classes(apparently they were very anxious to come see the progress that I was making in the studio.... as am I).

Once I closed up shop I wandered back home at a slow pace. I tread over a cobble stone street and meandered down the main road that traces the course of the river. The sun was setting behind a low bank of clouds on the horizon. Kids rode by on their bikes as people met on the street to talk of the day.

Pietroasa is a curious little town. Stuccoed homes with tiled roofs line the road along the river. What used to be a promenade lay in ruin almost in the waters of the river's edge. Trash management is not a strong suit here but the place is charming. The large fortress like doors of the homes will open and you never know what it is you'll see; a manicured lawn and garden, or remnants of a farming life, that is perhaps still thriving. Doors open to horse drawn wagons or sporty German engineered cars. They drive down the same roads as the tractors hauling wood or corn stalks and the same road the Shepard harries his flock of sheep.

(I'll have photos soon when I work out some computer issues)

Plain View

The grey clouds have moved in and a light snow flits on a gentle breeze never seeming to touch the ground. I am wandering the streets of Pietroasa contemplating Pietroasa itself. I have been told that it compares to a third world country, that the people are poor. This is not what I find and I find such statements based on cultural ignorance and an arrogance bred by a TV nation. It is true that you will not find a Starbuck's here. Nor a McDonald's or KFC. I do not know about the socioeconomic background in Romania or what resources the infrastructure has available to it. But what I have found is a very generous and welcoming culture, a generation of a by gone era that sees no need to move into modern times. A life style lived that has worked and prospered for centuries. I also see the younger generations moving along with the rest of the modern world while keeping the old world tradition alive. Live simply is more than just a trend here or a novelty. Here are people rich with a cultural history and where tradition is a way of life. This brings me to today's story.

As I was walking two boys motioned me to join them in the horse drawn cart they were riding in (one of whom had a DVD in his pocket that contained an application for his home PC and the driver was repeatedly answering his cell phone). Why wouldn't I get into a homemade wagon driven by complete strangers in a foreign land where I do not speak the language? So I jumped in and off we went. We rode through fields on rutted, muddy, rocky roads where I promptly lost my Klean Kanteen as it must have bounced right out of my backpack. Snipe hunt kept coming to mind. But it was beautiful, nonetheless: open fields with hay stored for the winter in large free form stacks. The surrounding mountains covered in snow. As the wind picked up the clouds moved out and the sun was set to shine.

We made our way to the next village to pick up hay, as it turned out. After much teasing and high jinks we loaded the hay and rode back to Pietroasa on a much more comfortable cart, where, I found my Klean Kanteen (not after the horse stepped on it or perhaps the wagon rode over it, of course). Once back in Pietroasa, after more language lessons, we unloaded the hay at their local farm. I was then shown all their sheep and rabbits and invited in for freshly made cheese pie.

During my brief stay here I have been witness to many an intimate moment between friends and family. Welcomed in so unabashedly to a kitchen as I were one of their own.

And once I was back in the kitchen of my hostess the usual high jinks were in store. I do not eat enough. Apparently small children eat more than I do. And because of this I will be the death of my host mother. All of this I surmise not through verbal but body language: she throws her head back, eyes closed, dismissing my inadequate diet with the flick of her rest. Then her head slumps back and an arm cross her chest in dead repose.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sorry

Hold tight everyone, I will have everyone up to date with my journey very soon. I am having some computer problems at the mo but hope to have them fixed shortly. I have plenty of pictures and stories to share. Stay tuned in. Thanks for the following.

"Same bat time, same bat channel"..... or something like that....?!*

Friday, February 11, 2011

Started

Just to let everyone know, I am taking pictures and I hope to post as many of them as I can very soon. I am having some issues with internet access and am unable to post pics at the mo. But it is a beautiful spot.

I have started work in the studio. Just the basics. For anyone who has tried to cut plate steel you will know what my day has been like. 3/8inch thick steel being cut with cutoff wheels on a 4 1/2inch grinder. But 23 cutoff wheels later I now have multiple mounting plates. That's right, more than one and deer don't have six legs. But as I was drawing on the walls of my studio(white washed plaster: think Italian fresco) an idea sat firm. A gift to the people should be for the people; a reflection of their beauty and strength. For them to see themselves as a work of art. An introduction of the highest esteem.

It is strange that as I worked, the studio had an unfamiliar smell. The smell of steel is somehow different; the cutoff wheels, too. Even the grinder had a foreign feel as is moaned in my hand.

But as I was working(wearing down cutoff wheels more than steel) students from the school would wander in to see what all the noise was about. It is nice to think about the sculpture from fresh eyes. I have a vague idea of the final outcome; they do not. What a surprise it will be when all the work I am doing now is simply a means to mount the fianl sculpture(s) to a footing. Engineering. That the pile of steel still on the floor will be something organic, sinewy lines repeating for volume.

I have made friends with a few 5th graders. They have taken to teaching me Romanian and have been very helpful. I, on the other had, have been teaching them "knucks" and acting like I am in 5th grade(the basement is a big hit). But some of the students have taken a keen interest and I have showed them some of my work. It was the least I could do after they plyed me with candy. And we all get plenty of exercise boxing around the town monument after school.

The students have a great spirit about them. Full of energy and relative innocence and full of knowledge and learning ability.

Today is the first day that the clouds have rolled in. Rain began to fall, light as it was. The mountains are covered by mist and/or heavier precipitation. The clear night sky and bright stars are veiled.

I'll leave with this. My hostess is still trying to teach me Romanian, although she knows little English. When first we met she said, "Hoowdy Doody." And today she greeted me with, "Pre-Madonna" as my arrival in her kitchen was of an hour unbecoming to her. All with many smiles of course. Smile.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Decided

I have decide what the gift to Pietroasa should be. After spending some time in the studio and having students come in and out in large groups to see this strange American an idea solidified and now it is time to break out the tools and begin work.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Humility

Often life of the "artist" is romanticized. I, myself, have often been guilty of this; the romance of travel and inspiration. But creation is a toil of the body and soul and of the hand; a laborious drive like living off the land. Not to be mistaken as a mere whim.There is a hard reality to romantic fantasies.
It is curious that those who have so little give so much, while those who have so much give so little and with a price to pay for what they give.
But I have been given yet another wonder. My first deer sighting! Only a glimpse. A silent doe caught off guard by my presence as I sit on the foothills of the Transylvania, over looking the vast flats that stretch out to the West.
I spent my morning and early afternoon wander the hills that cradle the small town.
Upon my lazy return lunch and another Romanian lesson were waiting. Again, I have little idea of what I was eating but it was good. A cheese pie was the side with potatoes and some sort of soup as the main course.Cheese pie is simply cheese baked into a flat bread of sorts. All home made, of course. And all very tasty. My host mother, as she likes to call herself, preceded to give me my days lesson. She would speak, I would try and repeat what she said, not having any idea as to what I am saying, she would laugh in exasperation, and I would smile form the exhaustion of my own ignorance. All and all. pretty enjoyable. Although, I wonder what is being said and what I am eating? She does smile a lot........

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Here

After spending the morning in Oradea tracking down the last of my supplies I have arrived in Pietroasa. My host family has supplied me with a lovely room and have taken to fattening me up. Apparently I am too skinny and need to eat........ and eat and eat and eat. Very good food. I don't know what any of it was(possibly chicken soup with a gray mystery meat still on the bone) but it was very good. So much for plant based nutrition. The home made donuts were a nice touch, too.

I really like like it here. A small quit town and the mountains right out the back door. I can easily walk to my studio where 600m of steel awaits. The store is right across from the studio so I am sure to partake in their fresh baked goods. The river that cuts through the middle of the town has a nice cleansing effect. And brings a certain amount of vigor.

I am writing this for the mayor's office; my only access to the internet. The lady who keeps watch over the offices while closed brought me a cup of tea after opening the door for me. How cool is that?! Have I mentioned how kind and sweet everyone is? Just a few days here, I can't speak the language, but I understand.

But, alas, the warmth of the tea is making my eye lids heavy. Tomorrow will be a day of exploring the woods in search of inspiration.....? or maybe just some fun..........

Monday, February 7, 2011

Seeing

I have seen what will be my home for the next two months. The tiny town of Pietroasa is nestled along a small river that cuts through the Transylvana mountains that rise precipitously from the flat out lying land. My hosts are a very sweet and kind couple. I met them on the street and with a smile and a hand shake I was warmed. Heavy thick hands, round faces creased by years of hard work and life's enjoyment showed and acceptance of me without question or concern.
I was excited to see the welding machine that I was to use. Homemade. But after inspecting the two bare wires that serve as a plug. And the bent nail as the ground, I am thinking that I do not have the fortitude to use it. I have gotten to pampered by switches and nonconducting materials. Does anyone know the R value of masking tape?
The studio is grand. Hardwood floor, high ceiling and open. Wood stove heater to help against the painless windows. I like it! I can't wait to put my mark on it and IN it as I begin whatever the sculpture is to be. The large windows that let in light might also serve as a nice viewing gallery for passers by.

I have also been introduced to Oradea. A grand city. The Old World meets the Communist Block meets the Modern. Grand, ornate buildings hundreds of years old house store after store selling cell phones and serving as a back drop to Communist era sculpture. Cell phone stores are like Starbucks; they are every where. But I hear that McDonald's in Romania is different than back home. An old cobblestone street serves as a pedestrian walk; lined with shops, caf├ęs and bars. All the latest trends walking the strip.

What I am most looking forward to is the time I'll get to explore the land up at Poiana. A parsel of land outside of Pietroasa that is even more remote and tucked into the mountains. High, snow covered vistas await. This time in the woods and time with the people will help inform my time in the studio.

And I am now the proud owner of new grinder and paraphinalia to go with it. And I'm learning more of the Romanian language as I make these purchaces. And it hasn't gotten me in trouble yet.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

In Country

I have arrived. 
After two rather uneventful flights I landed in Budapest. My luggage also arrived as I was worried that it might get pulled. I was afraid that the few bits of welding paraphernalia and some other miscellaneous items would be misconceived. I'd look like I was a terrorist, a drug mule or in the sex trade business. Or all of the above. But I walked off the plane, grabbed my bag and headed out the door to meet Daniel who drove me across the border into Romania(where once again, I was accepted into the country hassle free).

The drive across Hungry was flat, midwest flat. But not in conversation. History, politics and social aspects of the Romanian people were discussed. But as my tired eyes peered out the window as we sped along, things were not the same. The crows that picked the trash at road side had a different bounce to their step and white to begin their beaks. The many hawks seemed to be as hard and rigid as hammer and scythe as they lay watch over half frozen standing water of the many turned fields. Even the trees seemed more purposeful; the land more worn through years of human hands. Church spires rise from lean horizon like points on a time line.

I have been welcomed with open arms into the home of Adi and his family. Where kindness and warmth is in abundance, as well as, my crash course in basic Romanian phrases and cuisine. The food is good, my Romanian....... not so much.

I have yet to see the mountains of which my home is their namesake. But somehow the sky is familiar. Grey and low, hiding what will be seen and tread upon in due time. Tomorrow supplies will be purchased and perhaps my trip to the home that is to inspire will end.

Munich Reflections
Budapest

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Beginning

I figure that the best place to start is at the beginning. Like a story to unfold.
I am waiting in the airport; voices of all languages mumble in the white noise only to be interrupted by the calls over the intercom. My anxiety has subsided some as I have taken the first step towards this gift. A slightly tearful parting at the before checking in reminds me that I am well looked after. I am greatly supported as I would not be sitting here ready to embark. Here is where I can say Thank You.
What awaits is to be discovered. A clear mind. ideas kept in check.