Saturday, February 24, 2024

The Town that Disappeared


This is a view from the Pearl Street Bridge here at the Vermont Studio Center where I'm an artist-in-residence for the remainder of the month. There's a small sign on the bridge that says it's "dedicated to the Gihon and Lamoille Rivers which brought Johnson Life."

The last time I was in Johnson was during the summer of 2021. A few of us from the Vermont Studio Center were given a tour of the "extinct" town of Sterling. To get to Sterling from Johnson you go up Railroad Street, then make a left at Frenchtown. After a while, you have to go off the road and into the woods. The lost town of Sterling was settled in the late 1700’s, but by 1805 the town was annexed and then abandoned. Today, there are only ten historical markers remaining--identifying former homesteads, farms, a schoolhouse and the original Pike/Shaw Mill site and Boarding House. 

During our walk through the abandoned town, we saw the foundations of homes from over a hundred years ago. But here's what I remember most from our tour--a saucepan.

Yes, a saucepan—a simple thing--partially buried in the mud--it's handle sticking out, almost beckoning for something to come and rescue it.

All these twenty-three years later, I have lived with the image of this saucepan. The memory does not fade, but rather grows more vivid. Sometimes, I will add things to the saucepan--a family of five, a kitchen with yellow wall paper, a pot of chicken soup on the stove, a gingham apron, a grey tabby cat, a wood stove.

Creative Friends--Everyday you see things abandoned on the side of the road. You find a lost pair of mittens on a park bench. There's the shoe on the side of the highway. The historical marker covered in ivy. The grand old high school, once majestic, now abandoned, its windows broken.

Your creative prompt for this week is to think back to a memory that has always lived with you for a long time. Ask yourself why is this so. And then, I want you to tether this memory to something you are currently struggling with and see how you can fit these two images together to create something new, something only you could make. And please, go make it, before it disappears forever.

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