Wednesday, May 16, 2012

ROBIN MACARTHUR
































what can you tell me about the building and decoration of your house? 

Our house has been an ad-hoc creation that seems to reflect the stages of my life to a T. It began with a small, one room cabin I built with my dad when I was sixteen. It was breezy and full of salvaged windows and sat on crooked stumps and piles of rock. I would go there to drink wine with friends and sleep with boyfriends and write poetry and smoke cigarettes by myself. It was perfection. At twenty-five my boyfriend (now husband Ty) and I were living in New York but wanted to have a place to return to for all seasons of the year, so we added on another small rectangle that was insulated. It was still funky--the electricity came from a two-hundred-foot extension cord that ran through the woods, the windows were old breezy single-panes, and there was no running water, just an outhouse and a stinky bucket under the sink. Also perfection! We spent a summers and a few winters there, then moved to Philadelphia. At twenty-nine we decided we wanted to have a baby and that we wanted to raise that baby in the woods on the land where i was born. So addition number three: this time with a septic system and real electricity and some double-pane windows. We just got a dishwasher, which makes our house verifiably bourgeois. 


can you tell me about your writing and reading?  
Books. I love books, and read probably six in a month. I have an MFA in fiction writing and though I usually devour fiction, the last four months I've been after much more lyrical things, tied to what's real. My favorites right now are Rebecca Solnit's A Field Guide to Gtting Lost, Megan Mayhew Bergman's Birds of a Lesser Paradise, Terry Tempest Williams' When Women Were Birds, and poetry, which I've been reading a lot of: Gary Snyder and Sharon Olds and Mary Ruefle, at the moment, all of whom feel like old friends who crawl into bed with me when I curl up to read. My favorite poem right now is Olds' New Mother, which if you've ever given birth, (which I'm about to, for the second time), might mean something to you. "The first time you're broken, you don't know you'll be healed again, better than before."


how does music fit into your life?  tell me about your relationship with your grandmother and her music.  what music are you currently listening to?

Although I have many musician friends for whom music is the thing of their lives, it's not at all like that for me. In order to rid myself of the anxiety of wondering how I can make room for all my passions, I've starting thinking of my life as a quilt of sorts, which is, fittingly, a very feminine art form. Say, a log-cabin design, with repeated colors and patterns. Music is one of those patterns and colors in my life. Playing it around the house might be a deep gray color--I was raised in a family of folkies and so banjo and guitar around the wood stove feel like a cat purring on one's lap. Performing is the bright red one--the time when I get to don tight jeans and cowboy boots and eye-liner and leave my daughter with my parents and stand up under lights and feel radically young again. The rest of my life is quite earthy and domestic--a vegetable garden, mothering, cooking, writing from home during naps. For those reasons I desperately need those splashes of Red Heart Red. 


My grandmother, Margaret MacArthur, lived in the farmhouse up the road from our cabin and made a career for herself as a touring folk-singer. She was also a mother of five who grew a huge vegetable garden, baked twenty loaves of whole-wheat bread a week, and filled her cellar with canned goods each summer. Her life was a rich, tangled, idiosyncratic blossoming quilt too, and for that I'll always be grateful to her for paving the way. 

I'm currently listening to the music of friends, most of whom live in faraway cities. I miss them and being around communities of musicians, so I keep finding myself listening to their tunes: Birdie Busch, Sam Amidon, Jack Ohly, Soltero, Dr. Dog, The Buried Beds...I could go on. 

has motherhood changed you and if so, how?

Both in every way and not at all! Motherhood has taught me a whole lot about patience and generosity. And I feel it's taken my heart, whose petals used to be a bit on the closed up side, and spread them wide open. But in other ways it hasn't changed me at all; I still do and love all the same things I did and loved before she came into my life. I still write, make music, perform. And I actually do all of that with a lot less anxiety; I'm assured that my life will have meaning whether or not my art is ever successful, which is radically comforting.

describe a typical day for you.

My daughter's in school three mornings a week. Those mornings I basically spend hunched over my computer. If we're in the middle of a Red Heart album, or playing shows, I spend a lot of time doing promo and booking gigs etc.. If we're not, that time is writing time for me, which is the most delicious gift I know. In the afternoons I romp about this land with my daughter--exploring woods and creeks and seeking out my family, who can usually be found nearby weeding berry patches or driving tractors or fixing things. The other four days a week I do the same--romp and explore outside of the cloisters of my mind entirely. Which is the other best gift I know.

current favorite recipe?  pregnancy cravings or aversions?

I'm a one-dish fan, since I have an aversion to a kitchen full of unwashed dishes. I therefore love soups: lentil and tuscan white bean are my standby faves. I also love kale salad with toasted almonds and feta. I would eat that all day. I just realized this all sounds unbearably healthy; thanks to the taste preferences of my husband and daughter, I shake it up with quite a few hot dogs. 

what makes you happy? what makes you sad?

The indomitable spirit of my daughter makes me unbearably happy. As she and I like to say to one another, "It's just too much! I just love you too much!" Spending time alone also makes me happy. Without those punctuations of time where I can sit and think and write and create I go crazy and get flustered and turn sad. Which I guess answers your next question. The state of the world also makes me unbearably sad. Which is one of the reasons I decided to have children; I needed a way to not sit around being sad all the time. 

what are your idiosyncrasies?  what makes you you? 

It might be better if my husband answered this one, but I'll try. My grandmother, the folk singer, has a heart-shaped pink bathtub jacuzzi-style bathtub in the upstairs bathroom of her muted, antiques-filled 1803 farmhouse. That bathtub has always exemplified, to me, the wonderful idiosyncracies of her untamable heart. I have a claw foot bathtub, which is not at all radical, but in my heart I still dream of being a hairdresser in a trailer in the desert somewhere, and that dream is essential to my understanding of what makes me me. 

12 comments:

onesilentwinter said...

i loved reading this and thank you for sharing it. her home is lovely, a layers of moments and experiences filled with art and textures!

greenemama said...

love this, such a great post.

textilepractice said...

such a thoroughly alive house.
great intreview.

JudyB said...

Simply lovely.

Jennifer Finn of Imogen Lovely said...

beautiful. I love her paintings.

Sarah said...

Oh! Thank you for that woman's life as log cabin quilt image. That was just exactly what I needed to hear today.

woodbird said...

love seeing our place through your eyes, liane. thanks for that gift!

Jennifer Shingelo said...

Wow, what a gift! I just recently joined my husband's band to help him out and was having anxiety over fitting all of my creative pursuits in...now I have the quilt image and can relax...thank you.

Diana Sudyka said...

Wonderful interview. I love her perspective on balancing the different aspects of her life. Thanks for sharing.

coco said...

hi, i see great atmoshpere in this post. love it.

desha peacock said...

I've spent a few lovely days drinking tea and wine in this cabin. Seeing Robin's home on your blog, reading her words about her family - all of it makes me smile. Robin is one of the most creative gals I know, thank you for sharing this personal and very authentic side of her.
Desha

nexian android said...

love this, such a great post.