* 2 * 0 * 1 * 9 *

Well, it's definitely time to make a decision about whether to do a letter or send postcards or hide. I was having trouble putting together an annual letter. I went to Maine for Thanksgiving to see Christie and Janet with a short stop in Boston on the way back to see Bill. I had gotten behind on a couple of my Avery titles and was indexing like a madman and the Christmas trip to New York City just kind of fell by the wayside along with the letter. So here it is January 8th and a Facebook friend said it was time to take down his cards. I'd been thinking that I might just send everyone a postcard, somewhat randomly selected from the stacks with veto power if it just wasn't appropriate for the season or the recipient(s). Marie Kondo would have been proud though she would probably have me take the whole boxes of cards and pitch them. Anyway, life continues in Alfred with too much stuff around me and too much enjoyment of having the books around, even the ones that haven't been used recently. And I decided to do up a letter now even though it's pretty late.

My traveling this past year wasn't as far-flung as in 2018. My conferences were in Seattle (ALA Midwinter), New York City (CAA), Salt Lake City (ARLIS/NA), and Washington (ALA Annual), plus Rochester and Buffalo for the regional art librarian gatherings of ARLIS/Upstate NY. The Buffalo meeting was centered at the Hotel Henry which is in the former state mental hospital next to Buffalo State. I splurged and stayed the night before and the night after the meeting. The restoration folks have done some interesting things to accommodate the hotel within the massive Romanesque revival building by H.H. Richardson.

The ALA Midwinter meeting in Seattle in January 2019 had been pretty nice. I was rooming with John and got to have supper with Tish and others. I had a red-eye flight for the return trip and got to spend a whole day around Seattle. I did some museum visiting, went up to the top of the Space Needle, walked up to the heights of the Queen Anne neighborhood and then out to UW, back to downtown, watched the sunset colors on Mount Rainier, and then to a showing of The Favourite before heading to the airport.

Robert Smithson has long been a favorite artist. I've seen his smaller works in museums and other venues over the years, including the retrospective at the Whitney in 2005 and the Floating Island which was realized the same year and floated around Manhattan for a week or so in September 2005. The ARLIS/NA conference in Salt Lake City meant that I finally got a chance to see Spiral Jetty, probably Smithson's best known work. We even got to have Hikmet Loe as our tour guide. Hikmet worked at MoMA in NYC before moving to Utah and shifting from library work to teaching art history at Westminster College. Hikmet has written extensively about Smithson and it was splendid to see it in her company. We stopped on the way to the Jetty to see the Golden Spike National Historical Park. We had a wet snow a couple nights before the tour and had a really satisfying group hike into City Creek Park the night before going to Spiral Jetty. Just a little lesson in life experiences. The Jetty tour was deeply rewarding but the City Creek Park hike the night before had been a delightful surprise, a natural treat with sunset over the city and valley.

My sister Carol had agreed to host the biannual reunion of the Maxson family. She had gone two years ago to Rhode Ialand and really enjoyed the gathering. So this year's reunion was held in October in Alfred with a couple dozen people and the Dave Clarke Five (me and my siblings). There was plenty of genealogical talk as well as just enjoyable interacting. All three of my sisters plus one were staying at my house. We all enjoyed looking at relevant stuff in the Alfred University archives which Laurie Meehan had spread around for us. The gathered included Cyrus Clarke who had "met" us via Facebook and didn't know much about his Clarke cousins since his family had moved further west by the middle of the 19th century. His great-grandfather Henry Brown Clarke built what is now billed at the oldest house in Chicago. That was pretty exciting for me since I'd visited the house quite a long time ago. It's now a house museum. I blogged about it.

My Maxson connection is on my dad's side through the wife of my great-grandfather. Not too long after the reunion, a second cousin on my mother's side sent a note that we were seventh cousins, twice removed, of Georgia O'Keeffe, the American artist that ended up out in New Mexico. He sent a simple family tree that had the common ancestor, Pieter Claesen Wyckoff, an early Dutch settler in Brooklyn. That was also pretty exciting and another blog opportunitiy.

I also did a blog post on the books that I read in 2019.

But enough of that, I guess. Alfred is pretty quiet when the students are on break. There are at least twice as many students as permanent village residents. When the campuses are in session, there are artist talks and other lectures, theater and music performances, good dance too. One of the summer exhibitions at the Cohen Gallery was "Won't You Be My Neighbor" in which an artist and a community member came up with a work that was on exhibit as the fall term started. I was paired with Sam Horowitz, a second-year MFA sculpture student. We had a wonderful time talking and creating a work. (album of pictures on Flickr) Like most of the works, it involved some audience participation. I think all of us in the show found it rewarding. Going to the cinema in the immediate area is pretty tough. Some art films are shown on campus but the selection at the cinemas in Hornell and Wellsville is limited. I was able to get to the Downton Abbey movie three times though, twice in Olean and once in Elmira. I can't help myself. I had resisted shifting from disc to streaming for Netflix but The Crown finally drove me to add streaming.

Well, I'm running out of space and wondering why I didn't just do this letter some time ago, like right after I got back from my Thanksgiving trip to New England.

We're going into a new ten-year period, a new roaring '20s. I won't say new decade since officially that starts with the one year, not the zero year. I hope 2020 brings you peace and happiness, which can come from inside or outside. In this moment of outside turmoil, it probably makes sense to work on the inside peace and happiness. So -- happy adventures of the soul and heart, and body, for 2020.

Sherman Clarke
33 South Main Street
Alfred, NY 14802

... go to Sherman's miscellany page ...