Don't Like Plymouth? You haven't met Nancy.
|Nancy makes stuff.|
I have a very good friend (several, in fact) who spend a lot of time complaining about the people in this town. Small minded, they say. Too conservative, they say. Not friendly, they say. Uptight. Blue-blood. Republican. (GASP!) Yes, there are those people. So what? Anyone who complains about this town hasn't met enough Nancies. Let's talk about Nancy Carroll.
First of all, I don't really know Nancy all that well, and yet I know her completely. We have never really hung out, but we're like totally BFFs. I run into her sometimes at dawn on the waterfront, and we stop to talk. She is out walking, by herself. We talk about didjeridoos, ukuleles, and nose flutes. Nancy is an artist. We laugh about something, really hard. I tell her that she lives on a pedestal in my mind. She is one of the Very Special People. I don't even really know Nancy. But I totally know Nancy.
So... I don't know... Nancy is somewhere in her late 60s, 70s maybe? Age is irrelevant. Nancy is one of the youngest people I know. Nancy is an artist. She carves 6-foot-tall cabinets in the shape of nuns. Well, just one cabinet that I know of. The nun cabinet just inside Nancy's front door has a scowl on her face. If you lift up the top of the nun's head, inside is a little square compartment with zebra print fur and broken mirrors. If you reach to open her cabinet, you have to pull on two white, old-fashioned enamel faucet knobs. The nun has knobs. But that's not all she has. You pull the nun's knobs and she opens to reveal pink lacy drawers. Three drawers, actually. They have stuff in them. Music bursts out; it's the can-can of course. The nun wears one red high-heeled shoe.
Nancy entered the convent when she was 18. She was an only child. Her dad had just died. Her mom was alone, and the Mother Superior told the young girls to say goodbye to their families, because they would never see them again. That same nun later told Nancy that she was full of nothing but pink fluff. Nancy had been the president of her high school class. No one tells Nancy she's pull of pink fluff. Nancy left the convent.
Well, then eventually Nancy got married to a nice man named Chuck. Had a nice daughter. Had a nice career in education. A school social worker, maybe? I don't really know her all that well. But I know she gets people. She loves people. She helps people. She loves the herring that swim 1,000 miles from Nova Scotia to spawn in our Town Brook every year. She advocates for recycling. And she makes stuff. Lots of stuff.
Nancy makes paintings, and she posts pictures of them on Facebook when she's not posting videos of herself playing didjeridoo and nose flute. Nancy posted a painting about a month ago, a wild collection of dots and circles, all fluorescent. I wrote, "Nancy, that is amazing! May I buy one?" "Yes," she wrote. "I'll make you one!"
I wanted it. Here's why. Nancy is a gifted artist. (Nah, no such thing as gifts. She worked at it.) She has carved lobster boats, skeleton keys, giant luscious, seductive cross sections of red peppers, an asymmetrical coat rack in the shape of three asparagus spears. (Have my coat, PLEASE!!!) Buildings in town. Rough brush strokes that are specific and full of light and life. Her hands are precision tools. But guess what? I had heard that Nancy has Parkinson's now.
|You don't say "no." You do the art you CAN do. |
So she changed her art. She started making bright, happy, fluorescent stamp collages using found objects. Milk bottles, blocks, tree limbs, pen caps, I don't know. Dip them in paint and they all become stamps. The paintings are GORGEOUS. She said that the paintings remind her of neurons. To me, the paintings are music. They are what I see in my head when I play Charlie Parker solos and Irish music jigs and reels. I wanted a painting for my very own. Hope, beauty, persistence, endurance, and effing hard work. That's what those paintings say to me.
Nancy never gave up. Nancy keeps making. Nancy plays "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" on her nose flute. I don't even like baseball, but she can take me anywhere she likes. I barely even know her, but I really know her.
So here's what I have to say to you: You don't like this town? You haven't met Nancy. Here. Here's Nancy.
|There's the lobster boat. Look. |
|Nancy made these. Me and Nancy. |
We hardly know each other. We really know each other.