Island artist duo Danielle Mulcahy and Walker Roman hit the road at the beginning of October armed with a renovated fifth-wheel trailer, all of their possessions, and art-making materials. Their goal is to make art, sell art at different venues and pop-ups, educate about art making, and live more simply, responsibly, and in the present. See more at barnyardsaintsart.com.
I looked behind our tightly packed pickup truck, back toward our trailer, thinking we forgot something, or everything. So much had been working up to this moment. It first started as a crazy idea — buying a truck, then a trailer — but now we were finally pulling our mobile art studio and house onto a ferry. I went through a mental list of my most valued possessions and I realized they were all there in tow behind us. Our big, barn-red adventure wagon. Our first home.
We had no towing experience between the two of us. I was frantically checking all mirrors as we pulled off the boat. Walker, my fiancé, was cool and collected, even while driving over the Bourne Bridge. The plan was to drive inland to my dad’s house in Rutland, where we could get ready for the next month of craft shows in New Hampshire, during prime leaf-peeping season. We weren’t completely prepared, as our solar panels had not been hooked up properly to our battery, which meant our composting toilet was not yet operational. Also we hadn’t had time to clean our water tanks before leaving, so there was no running water.
Our first stop in New Hampshire, where we would remain for a week or so, was my great-aunt Ginny’s old farmhouse in Enfield. It was another soft place to land, and we still had to figure out the solar panel dilemma. My backing-up skills were put to the test there with a narrow driveway and stone walls. After a 37-point turn and some minor lawn damage, we landed safely among golden maples, right in front of my cousin’s maple sugar house. I grew up coming to this house and swimming in Crystal Lake right down the street, as did my mother and my grandpa. I sat in the yard recalling the warm barbeques, running up and down the open fields with my cousins, and devouring blackberries when we were supposed to be collecting them for Aunt Ginny’s pies. I also recalled standing on the edge of the yard, looking through the gaps in the woods, wary of black bears. Our Papa had plenty of scary bear stories for us that kept us in the yard.
That night, Aunt Ginny pulled out a photo album with pictures my great-grandparents took when they bought the place and then renovated it. The oldest known record of the farmhouse was from 1697. We flipped through time, and watched all of the ups and down that came with fixing up a very old house. The next day I led Walker up the hay fields and over a stone wall to where my great-grandparents are buried in an old graveyard. The stone for Ginny’s husband is next to his parents, and bears Ginny’s name with a blank space for a date. We stood quiet for a bit and watched the sun glow through the old sugar maples onto the quiet headstones that clung to the hill. Through the tree line I could see the mountains looking down and observing us. Time seems to move much slower here. I found myself thinking a lot about impermanence and change. On Martha’s Vineyard, I have had this internal conversation before while watching ever-shifting cliffs and beaches, and seeking out close friendships with individuals who are older and wiser.
The forests of New England are beautiful echos of our past. When Ginny’s old photos fade, we will still find the rusted tractors sinking into the ground next to stone walls. Eventually those too will dissolve. With time and each new location, the light in our little adventure wagon is different, the sun sets on different sides, and colors outside change. Even though the inside remains the same, it feels different every time we unhitch and proudly look at our little house in its new parking spot.
“What is home?” Walker asked. Is it your belongings, a physical location, or a place in time?