Friday, October 26, 2012

the acknowledgments page

A rare MacDowell Wolf.
Yesterday we hiked Mount Monadnock, which is apparently pronounced mon-ADD-nock, not MON-an-dock (which doesn’t even make sense, but that’s how I read it). A really funny screenwriter/filmmaker, a nonfiction writer whose parents once bought a house infested with scorpions (she had more animal stories where that came from) and another nonfiction writer, who is kind of a walking encyclopedia, but not in an annoying way.

One of the things the encyclopedia guy told us: The bald, rocky top of Mount Monadnock is not above the tree line, as it would appear. Rather, at the turn of the last century, local farmers were convinced that wolves were coming down from the top of the mountain and killing their livestock. They decided to show the wolves who was boss by setting fire to the woods repeatedly. Eventually the trees didn’t come back. Neither did the wolves.

Now there are only coyotes here. I heard them yipping eerily the other night, which should be a comforting sound of home. But as AK, who has some encyclopedic qualities herself, reminded me, East Coast coyotes have interbred with wolves and are extra aggressive.

I shared this fact with my fellow hikers. Later, someone said something about Marian and Edward MacDowell being childless, though there were rumors about various affairs each might have had. Maybe Edward made sweet love with some coyotes, someone speculated. For the rest of the hike, we imagined the MacDowell Wolves, dog-like creatures with the faces of a musician. Anytime you hear howling and piano music coming from the woods….

We climbed a rocky streambed, which gave way to straight-up rocks. From the top of the mountain, we could see for seventy miles: acres and acres of red-leaved trees, pine forests, boggy lakes and the occasional McMansion.

I’ve been reading the MacDowell Colony hundred-year-anniversary coffee table book in bits and pieces. In truth, I’m really touched by their story: Americans who met abroad and fell in love with each other and the with the idea that American music was worth investing in (a radical notion for the nineteenth century). Edward’s health began to fail shortly after the founding of the Colony, and Marian toured the country giving concerts of his music to raise money after his death, even though she had a bad back and used crutches herself.

Arts administrators and supporters get even less glory than artists themselves, but a quick tour of Colony Hall shows you that the artists, at least, know that they—like the heroes of any realm—couldn’t do it alone. The acknowledgments page is sometimes a feeble thank-you, but I just did a load of laundry in the basement. The laundry area was full of thank-you notes to the housekeeping staff, a poem titled “Doing Laundry at MacDowell” and an oil painting of a toppled bottle laundry detergent.    

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