As I wait in line to get on the ferry from Hyannis to the Vineyard, a wild-haired, sweating woman man-handling a stroller complains that I’ve placed my bags in front of her, blocking the line. It is certainly by mistake as I am simply trying to relieve my numb hand from the bag that I had over-packed–again. I apologize, pick up my bag with the non-numb hand and proceed to the end of the serpentine line.
I think about how my life was not long ago. I was that woman with two kids under three and strollers and bottles and diapers and loose hair and sweat. It made me very grateful that I was out of that phase of my life–noOKt to give the impression that I don’t sweat any longer (I’m actually considering botox under the armpit). I’m merely pointing out that as much as my life at any particular moment seems like it defines me, sooner than later, a bend in the road deposits me in entirely different territory.
Looking at the past from this vantage point makes me see its fleeting quality. This leads me to the famous and familiar and inevitable, “if only” thoughts. “If only I had been more relaxed when the kids were that age,” “If only I had been better at this, or that…or crawled around on the floor more or built more things with wood or listened to more classical music.” I was thinking of all of this as I waited in line for some of the worst coffee I’ve ever tasted.
Back in my seat I continue to think about how easy going I am. Now that my kids are older and less dependent, I’m very laid back. I smile subtly as I give myself a mental pat on the back for making it out of the baby phase with most of my hair. “Excuse me.” I feel a tap on my shoulder. “Your bag is blocking the aisle.” A chubby middle-aged man nods his head in the direction of my feet. I never realized it but I hate when people interrupt me with their petty problems when I’m having very deep and reflective thoughts. I pull the bag closer and he goes on to his chubby family. I kind of think they look like bears. They are the pear-shaped family. I’m not against bears or pears but it makes me think they probably think kale is an Ivy League school.
I find myself in line again and then in the back of a cab that smells like wine and dogs and pine trees. I see that the pine tree smell originates from the air freshener swinging back and forth like a pendulum from the rear view mirror. It doesn’t help the dog smell. I check my phone, which has been oddly very quiet. This is unsettling and I’m sure it’s because of the poor connection. Nope. All bars are fully present and they are obviously taunting me. I flip through texts, emails, all the rest. Nothing. Not even enough junk to make me feel secure. I check MapQuest to make sure the driver is following the little blue line to my destination. It confirms that he is and this leaves me with absolutely nothing else to do.
At long last, the driver rolls into the dusty, bright lot of the Grange Hall, which for three days in August houses Sally Taylor’s multi-discipline installation called “Consenses.” I feel cramped and creaky as I emerge from the air-conditioned, smelly cab into the humid, sweet tree breeze in the parking lot. The cab’s tires crunch the gravel as it leaves me. A hot, lazy dust cloud seems to land at my feet and I realize I’ve found myself in a setting that feels I’ve been transported to another time. The cedar shingles and colonial porch that wraps around the building makes me wish I’d ridden up on a horse. I think about how if I had my horse on the ferry it may have been off-putting to the pear family.
The “Consenses” sign waves welcomingly from the porch and I peer through the milling crowd to see if I can spot the golden, playful locks of my friend, Sally. Everyone loves Sally. I can’t blame them. She’s surrounded and chatting with a lady who is flapping her arms like a bird. I step onto the faded wooden porch and wade slowly into the sea of art. I reach for the tethered headphones at Chain No. 7 and they hug my head gently as Issac Taylor’s song sounds clear and crisp. His voice is gentle and soft and sad but not sad in a reckless way. I see Alison Shaw’s photograph that the songwriter was sent to inspire the song. It makes me feel lonely. I can’t stop staring at it. I want to move on to a different painting, one that doesn’t make me feel lonely but there’s something that keeps me here. I’m not a lonely person. I have a husband, kids, dogs, brothers, sisters, friends. I convince myself that I’m not lonely. I reassure myself that no one who is lonely is as busy as I am and with the exception of today, my phone is usually very active! My eyes drift back and forth between Henk Gringhuis’ painting and the photograph and Thomas Sayre’s sculpture. I pause again to congratulate myself that I find this work totally unconnected to me and I feel sad for the artists because they must be alone in their studio apartment in Soho or Cambridge creating this from their loneliness. I break away from the headphones deciding I need some fresh air.
Outside, the bright sun feels harsh for some reason. I don’t feel ready. I feel premature. My phone rings and bites at my open, raw ears. My hand digs around blindly and finally locates the “mini office.” The screen notifies me of missed calls, texts and a flurry of emails pour in. For a minute I want to go back to that painting. I want to look and touch and listen and feel. I need these senseless texts that I send or answer to push my feelings deeper, further out of reach. I need to email in a frenzy so that I grow another callous that dwarfs my emotional self and starves my soul.
The warmth of the phone in my palm comforts me. I slide the unlock bar. Thank goodness I’m not lonely.
To learn more about the exhibit and for tickets go to https://www.artful.ly/consenses