Monday, November 21, 2016

Roads Taken

I keep trying – relentlessly trying – to find lighter notes, happier news post-election. So lately I’ve been reflecting on the road trip I took with my sister during our last visit with my mom. Every year – and I intend to do this every year of my whole life forever – Elizabeth and I hop in a car and go someplace. As I’ve mentioned, the one thing about Alaska that screams “Relocate!” is the one-road-north-one-road-south problem. To get anywhere new and exciting, you have to get on an airplane.

My sister and I just get in a car, and New Things after New Things appear to us. The first year, we ended up in Corning, New York, where we made glass mobiles, saw glass art, and tootled around upstate New York.

The following year, we ended up in Burlington, Vermont where we discovered Vermont teddy bears, a little bicycle ferry, and Ben & Jerry’s factory tours.
This year, we went south. Somehow, we ended up in Wilmington, Delaware at the Hagley Museum, which is actually the site of the gunpowder works and family estate of the duPont family. Everything I knew about DuPont I learned at the New York World’s Fair: “Better living through chemistry.” But I had no idea it started with gunpowder.

As one of the guides said, you can see stately homes and gardens anywhere, but you can’t see waterworks like these anywhere else. Located on the shores of a creek, the whole mechanical operation – the machine shop, the steam engine house – is powered by water, with pulleys running into several buildings.

Gunpowder production began in 1802 and was so crucial during the Civil War that Lincoln staged troops there to protect it. The duPonts only sold to the union, and Gettysburg was only about 100 miles away. Guides and displays told the story of gunpowder production, precautions, and the inevitable explosions.
I fell in love with Hagley. The grounds are so beautiful, and the mechanics of the gears and pulleys so fascinating that I came up with a new dream for myself. Hagley houses a scholar in residence. I asked if they’d ever had an artist in residence. No, they haven’t.

So this is my Next Hope. I can imagine wandering the Hagley grounds with my pencil, sketchbook, and paints. And I know this is the longest of long shots, but even that doesn’t matter because now I have a Next Hope.

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