Sweet Island is a project I did for a group show at Washington Street Art Center in Somerville, Massachusetts. Everyone participating in the show submitted ideas, and the ideas were picked at random and assigned to each artist. My assignment was to make a map to an imaginary place. This was perfect for me! I knew right away I would draw the map the same way I draw maps for when I'm biking or driving somewhere.
I always find it useful to make a map of where I'm going to really understand what to expect along the journey. This is a bit tedious and cumbersome in today's GPS navigation world, but I find making these maps give me a clearer understanding of where I'm going, and I have a better chance of remembering the route for future trips.
For Sweet Island I drew roads and landmarks that came from my imagination and my past. It was fun connecting the real with fiction and finding the fabled everlasting taffy at the end. I think the journey to Sweet Island would be adventurous and terrifying.
Sweet Island 1, 2017 © Traverse Day Robinette
Sweet Island 2, 2017 © Traverse Day Robinette
Sweet Island 3, 2017 © Traverse Day Robinette
Sweet Island 4, 2017 © Traverse Day Robinette
Sweet Island 5, 2017 © Traverse Day Robinette
Midland, 2012 © Traverse Day Robinette
Bicycles have always been a major role in my life. I remember vividly the day when I learned how to ride a bicycle and the feeling of freedom that it instilled in me. As I got older I started to do the next logical thing with a bicycle, I started building jumps and flying through the air. As a teen I fell in love with the world of BMX. This form of freedom caused me lots of pain with two ACL surgeries - one on each knee. In my early 20’s I became conscious that I no longer wanted to put myself at risk of being injured. Biking was my life. All my friends rode BMX and it was how I identified who I was. I rode bikes, I was a biker. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever given up in life. To this day I still have dreams of riding BMX. When I moved to the Boston area my love for bicycles was rekindled with the need to get around town. I started commuting to work and school and loved biking all over the city. The feeling of freedom returned.
In 2012 I got the idea to visit my family in Michigan by bicycle. After looking at a map I devised a way for me to bike all over the state of Michigan and reunite with my family. Being frugal and wanting to try something different I decided on taking the bus from Boston, Massachusetts to Bay City, Michigan.
The bus ride was a humbling experience. I was on the bus for over 24 hours and had very little continuous sleep. On the bus there were all walks of life on a journey. We all existed for a short time together moving in the same direction.
My bike route was Midland to Clare, Clare to Lake City, my aunt and uncle gave me a lift from Lake City to Traverse City, Traverse City to Gaylord, Gaylord to Alpena. I didn’t have GPS in 2012 and used a Michigan road atlas and drew out smaller maps of my daily routes for quick reference. It was amazing to travel to the end of a page in the atlas and then turn the page.
Ocean Field, 2012 © Traverse Day Robinette
I passed many farms as I rode. Farmers were cutting and bailing hay in their fields. It was hot and dry with puffy white clouds floating across the sky. Some of the fields I passed had rolling hills that reminded me of waves in the ocean. I stayed mostly on back country roads, and there were long periods of no cars and I was alone on the road.
Sleeping Hawk, 2012 © Traverse Day Robinette
Of the many sights to see, road kill was present throughout the whole journey. I saw deer, birds, raccoon, possum, and snakes. All the animals I saw looked to be unharmed and were merely taking a nap in the warm summer sun on the side of the road.
Road Study, 2012 © Traverse Day Robinette
Cloud Study, 2012 © Traverse Day Robinette
Long Rapids Road, 2012 © Traverse Day Robinette
The road I was traveling on turned to dirt and was dirt as far as I could see. There was an older man mowing his front yard and I pulled over to ask about the road. The man turned off his riding lawn mower and introduced himself as “Albert Laflech.” This introduction took me aback because I’ve never met anyone who says their first and last name upon introduction. I followed his lead and said my first and last name. Albert said “Robinette, I know some Robinette’s.” I have never met anyone who knew of my last name before and here I was in the middle of nowhere and this man knew of my family. I asked Albert how far the road was dirt before it turned paved again, Albert said, “About 3 miles.”
My meeting with Albert was at the beginning of Long Rapids Road and my way into Alpena. Once on the dirt road the going was very slow. With my bike loaded down and my skinny tires, I kept sinking into the dirt. It took me a solid hour to go 3 miles. Once on pavement, I dismounted my bike and knelt on the road and kissed it.
I entered Mackinaw State Forest and saw the moon rise between the trees of a swamp. A flock of birds - one hundred strong - flew over me and traveled for a short distance in the direction I was heading. I felt that I was flying with them.
The sun had set and on the other side of the forest I stopped for a quick break. I looked down and saw a Monarch Butterfly lying motionless on the shoulder of the road. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I picked up the butterfly and put it in my pannier. I continued my ride and dusk settled in. I raced by a field where I spooked some deer and they sprung to life and bounded through the field, again for a moment in the direction I was heading, I felt that I was running with them.
I stopped again to put on a layer and turn on my lights for the temperature was dropping and light was fading fast. When I opened my pannier, the butterfly was awake and after a few moments took flight on the night breeze. I smiled as I watched it fly away.
Kathy, 2012 © Traverse Day Robinette
Soon I was riding along the Thunder Bay River. The moon rose high into a clear night sky and the stars shown bright. This moon was almost full and in a few days’ time it would be a “Blue Moon.” About this time, I could no longer feel my knee hurting (it had been sore for the past day and a half), and I got a second wind and felt that I could keep riding all the way into the morning. As I came closer to civilization more cars were passing me, and a few came too close for my comfort. I started pulling completely off the road to ensure I wouldn’t be hit for it was totally dark now and the country roads didn’t have street lights. I was even chased by some dogs, it was scary at the time, but maybe they just wanted to run with me and be free.
Thunder Bay, Lake Huron, 2012 © Traverse Day Robinette
All my aunts and uncles were checking in with my parents following me on my journey. I was alone on the road but my family was with me the whole time. The last part of the journey was from Gaylord to Alpena and I arrived at my grandparents well after dark. I had been in the saddle for 13 hours and covered 94 miles. I was famished and ate three peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and two veggie burgers. I was finally home.
Spring Tulips, 2011 © Traverse Day Robinette
Nahant has been calling me for some time. I remember my first trip out to the island; I knew instantly, I had found something very special. A twenty minute bike ride and a short hike, and I feel completely transported away from the city. I love looking out to sea and not seeing land. Strangely enough, it is both peaceful and comforting. Every time I visit the island I learn something new about it, I see something I have never seen before.
Our muscles burned as we raced down the causeway. This may have been the fastest I have ever gone on my bike.
40 Steps, 2016 © Traverse Day Robinette
40 steps, a place where friends leap from the rocks and swim beneath the ocean’s surface.
Plant Study, 2016 © Traverse Day Robinette
Rock Study 1, 2016 © Traverse Day Robinette
Grass Study 1, 2016 © Traverse Day Robinette
Tree Tunnel, 2016 © Traverse Day Robinette
The Lookout, 2016 © Traverse Day Robinette
We talked about the future. Biking and surfing are all that matter.
Grass Study 2, 2016 © Traverse Day Robinette
Rock Study 2, 2016 © Traverse Day Robinette
Wolf Pit, 2016 © Traverse Day Robinette
I was walking home one evening and fell into a pit in one of our neighbor’s fields. There in the pit, to my surprise, was a wolf. I was terrified and so was the wolf. The walls of the pit were confined, and the floor was deep below the surface. I backed up against a wall, and the wolf did the same at the other end of the pit. The distance between us could be crossed if I reached out my hand. All night we shared this pit. In the morning some men found me and pulled me out. They shot the wolf.
Upside Down Bird, 2016 © Traverse Day Robinette
After Thanksgiving my family sets up our Christmas tree with our hodgepodge collection of ornaments. One ornament is a life-like bird with real feathers. I’m unaware of its origin, but we hang it on the tree every year.
I decided one year to place the bird ornament on the bird feeder in the backyard. There was a small flock of birds around the feeder, and when I went outside they all fled for refuge in the surrounding trees. The ornament has wires extending from the feet. I wrapped the wires around one of the posts of the feeder, and then I walked back inside the house. From the window my family and I watched as the birds returned.
The birds kept their distance from this strange new bird on the feeder. Slowly their chirping grew louder. The birds became restless, flying around and hopping between the trees. Birds started circling the feeder, and one brave cardinal swooped in and hit the ornament. The ornament that was attached to the post did not fall off, but instead fell forward and was now hanging upside down on the feeder. The imposter was revealed and chaos spread amongst the birds.