High-Road-Artist Blog

Dick’s Day

Written on 01/22/2018
Jeane George Weigel

I first met Dick just briefly the night before Kim and I left for Monhegan (see previous posts Monhegan and Monhegan: Getting There), having arrived from New Mexico while he was still at work. Then we went to bed early that night, since we needed to wake ahead of the roosters the following morning. Consequently we left without my having had much more than a minute to get a sense of him.

Captain Richarde

But I already knew I liked him.

So on our first night back from Monhegan we invited him out to dinner. Dick recommended a wonderful little Bistro not far from his house so we headed out into the warm June early evening…

Our orders placed, I looked up from my margarita to see Dick’s pale turquoise eyes, the sun seeming to twinkle in them, on mine.

That’s when the questions began. He was gracious and friendly, a smile carrying into his words and his eyes but, at the same time, he was quite sober. That’s when I realized he really wanted to know just exactly who this woman was who’d been spending so much time with his old friend Kim.

And it was then that I was finally able to spend a decent stretch of time with my friend’s old friend.

His allegiance to Kim and their lifelong friendship apparent, I sat up straight and took his queries seriously. We were going to get to know each other as much as possible over the table that night. I liked him all the more.

When asked what I might fancy for desert I half jokingly blurted, “An ice cream cone,” and he immediately stood, grabbed his things and said he knew just the place. We followed Dick unquestioningly and he proved worthy.

After a short drive we found ourselves on the sidewalk in front of what looked like a real 1950s ice cream take out (by “real” I mean it’s actually been there since the ‘50s—sort of like what the Dairy Queen used to be before it became the DQ).

We stood in line with all the others on that agreeable, summer evening, chatting with strangers, waiting to have some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had. As far as I was concerned this bonded us for life, Dick and I, as good as sharing our blood.

Then he invited us to spend the next day with him.

And so it began, one of my very best days ever, our day with Dick.

I won’t be able to give you much detail, like the name of this magnificent park he took us to…

… because, I confess, I was utterly under the spell of the place…

… the scent of sweet green wrapped round me like a whisper…

Remember, I was newly arrived from the desert where a searing heat wave had dug its heels in just before I left…

… so I was intoxicated by all of this luscious wateriness I met wherever I went…

… the vibrant blue of the sky, much wetter than mine in New Mexico, filled as it was with all those water molecules…

… and the sea, oh the sea! We were literally surrounded by it since Dick lives on an island, Spruce Head Island, on the mid coast of Maine…

I rode past fields filled with wildflowers! My favorite were the irises, reminding me of the Oregon coast…

… and the lupines seeming so buoyant and confident…

… evergreens stretching up to the sky…

I drank in the clean, fragrant, saltiness of Dick’s island home and let the day wash over me, soothing something deep in my soul…

… so battered and bruised have I been by the state of our world these days.

But on Spruce Head Island that day, troubles seemed so very far away…

And to share that with these two men, comfortable in a friendship that has spanned almost 60 years, was a prayer I had no idea I needed. As I write this I can still feel and smell that warm, sunlit day with its cool breezes tickling my senses…

… I hear our laughter, mingled with the old stories, sprinkled over with faerie dust…

And then, just when I was thinking he’d say it was time to head home, Dick revealed the gift! All throughout the day’s captivating meanderings, he’d had a final, special destination in mind.

Dick was taking us to the Olson house!

The Olson House. To those of you who don’t already know, the Olsen house is where Andrew Wyeth painted Christina’s World (among 300 other works he created there), just over to the left on the sloping lawn (sorry I didn’t walk over to get the perfect perspective, but I was simply too dazed to think of doing that)…

While he used his wife’s torso and head as a model for the painting, he was inspired to paint it one day when he witnessed Christina crawling across a field from an upstairs window. Christina had been stricken by polio as a child and this is how she lived.

“The challenge to me was to do justice to her extraordinary conquest of a life which most people would consider hopeless,” he wrote, according to mentalfloss.com, 15 Things You Might Not Know About Christina’s World.

I thought it fitting to include this lovely portrait of her sitting in the front door of the house she shared with her brother, Alvaro, the house in which I stood.

I was told by a docent that Wyeth loved the leaves that would fly in through the front door in the fall, so when the Farnsworth Museum bought the house, they commissioned an artist to sketch them in.

It was heart-stirring to be in this place. It felt hallowed, sacred…

… I tip-toed through the rooms that had been the paintings I knew…

… recognizing scenes from pieces I’d studied in art school…

… witnessing the reason for this title, Room After Room, and understanding  it for the first time as I stood gazing at what Wyeth had seen…

… room after room…

That I didn’t get a photograph looking back at the closed blue door almost haunts me, but I did at least collect this little piece of it…

Wyeth enjoyed a 30 year friendship with the Olsons, Alvaro and Christina, who gave him free reign to ramble across their land and throughout their family home seeking inspiration…

… they even gave him the use of an empty third floor room to utilize as a studio.

From it he could see the front slope of the Olson property all the way out to Muscongus Bay beyond.

Wyeth said about the house, “I just couldn’t stay away from there…It was Maine.”

Photo courtesy of katyelliott.com

His friendship with the Olsons lasted until Alvaro and Christina died one month apart in December 1967 and January 1968. In fact Wyeth is buried right there alongside them in their family plot.

The house itself was built in the late 1700s by Captain Samuel Hathorn II. In 1871 it was substantially altered by Captain Hathorn IV and was eventually inherited by Christina and Alvaro Olson from their mother, Katie Hathorn, a descendant of Captain Hathorn.

After the death of the Olson siblings, the house went through several owners each of whom, it seems, felt it important to save. Finding an entity that would be able to manage the needed repairs and then maintain it, took  just over two decades.

And so, eventually, the final owner was able to donate it to the Farnsworth Art Museum in 1991. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995 and designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2011, per Wikipedia.

After departing the spirit-stirring experience of the Olson house, I suddenly became aware of my body again and realized I was both hungry and thirsty. Dick said he knew just the place…

… it was close and it was perfect. He took us to a little place called The Slipway, closed now for the winter, where people were digging clams beneath us…

And I have to say I had the very best margarita of my life sitting there above the bay. In a plastic cup!

But despite all the time I’d spent in Maine, I hadn’t yet met Dick’s wife, Erika, because she’d been traveling in Europe visiting family. She returned home just in time before we left.

Erika and Dick run a B&B in their home, Erika’s B&B by the Sea. She is an excellent chef and I hear the guests rave about her breakfasts, which I don’t doubt having sampled her delicious cooking.

And Dick also offers guests tours of mid coast Maine either by car or sea (Dick owns numerous vintage boats and cars that he’s painstakingly restored–a whole other story, among several, that will have to wait until my next trip to Maine to be told).

But now this story is coming to an end because my time to leave Maine had arrived. So we shared a lovely last night with Dick and Erika, and with Sergio…

Sergio has lived his own “extraordinary conquest of a life,” to use Wyeth’s words. And he holds a deep connection with Dick. Maybe one day I’ll tell you about it.

… and then it was my turn to surprise Dick: He’d taken us to the Olson house because he knew Kim was a painter so he thought it would have special meaning for him. But until we sat down to enjoy one last meal together, he had no idea that I was an artist too. I wish I’d had my camera to capture his look of astonishment and glee.

The next morning it was time to reverse my journey, leaving Dick and Erika’s on a deliciously drizzly day…



… stopping one last time at the delectable Moody’s Diner …

… for a good, hot breakfast to sustain me during my trip cross-country…

… ah, NYC, it’s good to see you again…

… and Albuquerque, good as well…

… but no matter the journey, it is always, always so good to be…

home…

Love to you all,

Jeane

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