shed love

The next morning, after everyone had left, I went outside with my camera. Everything was painted into a perfect still-life: a bottle abandoned by the fire pit. The lanterns all bedraggled, hanging from trees across the creek and down by the field by the blueberry bush. The breeze will help them dry out and stay a while, or at least until the next storm. Bits and pieces of props: a beaded headpiece, my great-great-grandfather's 1840s telescope, the sunflowers. A woven chair that got left out in the rain. A soggy bowl of my mom's cheese biscuits, three origami puzzle boxes, the cords that Dan used to plug in the amps.

The next morning, I almost didn't want to clean up. It was all too perfect.

Before everyone arrived, Jess and I went out to a stand of birches beyond the creek to play in the sun. She wore crinoline one of three that I bought the other day. These crinolines! One with descending shelves of layered, white polka dot ruffles; one sort of tutu contraption with a cream satin bustier; the red one. Life is nothing without theatre.

Then people joined us, more and more. From England and the prairies, Toronto, Ottawa, New Brunswick, New York. The second annual Shed Workshop felt like an impossibility—how could we do the same thing again? It would be different, somehow—more expected, less special. But it wasn't. The living room was thick with cameras and laptops and heaps of gear, and we ate together. We feasted. We filled every space in the shed, talked for a while, and then I gave them assignments, and they all spilled out into the field and the birch grove and the creek and the hidden cave of bamboo leaves. I ran back and forth delivering shared lenses from shoot to shoot. Jenn Grant and Jennah Barry played on the speakers while the sun draped the most perfect light across every tree, such a perfect golden fall day. Then more people joined us, a little crowd, and we feasted again, and Grassmarket, Tara Thorne's Dance Movie, and Kim Harris played for us on the shed stage while the fire pit sent sparks high into the canopy above. All three of them made me cry, sheets and sheets of it. An inchworm wove its way from a branch to the ground and back up again as Tara and Kim sang. That night was everything.

After it was all done, and the last of the houseguests headed off for highways and airports, I didn't clean or move or cook or speak for a week. It was some kind of emotional bomb that went off, this constant state of disbelief and grateful overwhelm. How can I know these people? How is it possible that a weekend this special happens at this little house—this crooked, paint-peeled, lost and abandoned place that I found when I felt just the same—how can it be mine, any of it?

My parents are present, always, helping to make this real in the things they do. Shortbread cookies and chocolate and her homemade granola; frayed flea market quilts fixed up with new binding. My dad hustled with me to finish the dining room renovation, and teased me mercilessly when I dragged a retired lobster trap home from someone's garbage along the Aspotogan shore. Can we put some of the leftover floorboards on it! I begged him. I need something for outside.

That's the tackiest thing I've ever seen, he said, but he was smiling.

It's great. It's a lobster trap table. Please dad, please.

He looked through the pile of leftovers from the reclaimed wood we'd used for the dining room—planks from an 1840s house, as everything these days seems to be from the 1840s—and he measured, sawed, sanded, and varnished. In the end, he was pleased, but he wouldn't say so. I could tell. I love it.

He dug a spotlight out of his bottomless basement, and brought it over with his ladder to fix onto a tree. We tested it, Ben and Evan and Jess and I dancing in the yellow beam after the moon came out.


I loved gathering it all together: from tulle and feathers to paper lanterns and sunflowers, the props and small spaces that made art.

   Neil  sees Jess and I, the macro, and our damselfly.

Neil sees Jess and I, the macro, and our damselfly.


Teaching is a funny business. I don't even know if I'd call it that. It's reminding, and then prompting. They go off and choose a spot in the woods and I troubleshoot, suggest, nudge. It's some kind of translation marathon, and a devotion to occasion. And maybe that's all. The rest is made by people who show up.

 The view from  Neil's  spot in the shed.

The view from Neil's spot in the shed.

  Elan's  view: Daphne.

Elan's view: Daphne.

  Aidan's  view: Jess.

Aidan's view: Jess.

  Katie  and Aidan fool around in the bamboo cave with my crow and my wide-angle lens.

Katie and Aidan fool around in the bamboo cave with my crow and my wide-angle lens.

Next year, most certainly. The shed workshop kicks off the fall, always a season of adventure. This year, more than ever—Amsterdam, North Carolina, Vancouver. Canals and crashing warm waves and mountains. I think maybe the very best of it is right here, though. Putting on coffee in the morning, that unfamiliar but lovely scent. Everyone rolls out of beds to the kitchen and someone says Mmmm. My clothes and my hair smell like woodsmoke. As they should.