We walked a lot. Along a moonlit stream accessed from the parking lot of a mental hospital. Wooded paths discovered by motorcycle.
In late October we decided to camp out at a 'rustic' camping spot marked on a state forest map found archived on the web. We arrived at the end of the access road to find that it terminated into a heavily rutted logging road. A brief exploration on foot confirmed that the campsite was there, about a quarter mile ahead. An hour later and we were unloading firewood out the camper and lining a mud trench behind the vehicle. Backing out and leaving felt like a wonderful idea. Thanks to Paula's ingenuity of well placed logs, rocks and curtains (oh God, my original interior Westfalia curtains . . . ) The Dumpster managed to extract itself after some unseen scraping and bending. Paula began referring to the Westy as 'The Dumpster' at some point during that trip. It was actually fairly tidy inside. Pnut was referring to the exterior shape and that fact that it felt as if it would just overwhelm itself at any moment bounding downhill on country roads. As with most observations like this her gut was right. It did weigh nearly 4,500 lbs between its steel bulk and various added contents. Which isn't so bad until you consider that it sits on 14 inch wheels. Most small passenger cars use 15 or 16 inchers now. Even on mildly steep roads it handled like a wet diaper.
Following the wake of the rustic camping incident our adventures stayed closer to home. Shortly after arriving in Vermont Pnut rented an apartment in a dilapidated building about 500 feet from a set of active train tracks. A couple of times a week we would head out on long walks down the track bed to access hiking trails. Paula would take her small digital camera to snap a few close-up shots of tree stumps, roots, boulders, or freight cars along the way. Later we'd fire up the computer and look at the photos like unwrapping presents.
At some point Paula started collecting railroad fishplates or sleeper pads, er . . . these:
A year or so later we got to know a local sculptor who had lived in the area his whole life. He mentioned that he had always seen potential in the RR plates, but just never figured out what to do with them. Searching the internet at the time, I was only able to find a couple of artists that had gone beyond experimenting with them. The plates have severe limitations. They're made of 1/3 to 1/2 inch thick cast steel. That mostly means that they're shockingly heavy. And hard. What I have seen made out of them are smallish table sculptures that weigh nearly 50lbs, functional anchor points for structures and a massive multi-ton sculpture of a bull that's decided to bury itself by stubbornly sinking into the earth. Every one of these creations are welded together. Pnut doesn't know how to weld. Thankfully, neither do I. She wound hemp through their cast holes. Wired car parts to them. Eventually she started winding wire through the holes to create a hanging system. She used them as little canvases. Little 6 X 10 inch, eight pound canvases. Pnut had found her talisman. Soon an entire world would reveal itself through this medium. These little plates unlocked a flood of design instincts in Paula that continues to stun and inspired us both to this day. Just writing about it is enough to tweak my body into sweaty anticipation of what might be brewing in the concrete floored workshop humming below my feet.