A Man for All Seasons

Man for All Seasons Column final

The stars were the hardest part, he tells me, showing off the American flag he has painted on the side of a haphazard-looking shed, an agglomeration of boards, lattice and scrap plywood that sits smack in the middle of the wide, muddy space. When stencils failed him in his quest to neatly frame the nation’s firmament, he says, he used a cookie cutter to “get ’em right.”

Surprisingly, the “water shed” is as solid as the man showing me around his community garden plot at Walker Farm. He is P.J. Russell, and he resides in Providence, but it’s out here that he really seems to live. On the day I visit, the 70-year-old is in his element, walking straight and tall and projecting like a character in a Turner Classic Movie.

Russ, as he likes to be called, talks about working the soil, growing peas, tomatoes, garlic, watermelons and other things. Rotating his crops so he doesn’t exhaust the soil. Relishing the hard work he’s plowed into this 83-by-42-foot plot for a decade now.

We take the stairs to the “upper floor,” a reinforced plywood roof with gutters to channel precipitation down into industrial-size blue plastic barrels. In this offseason, if you could call it that, Russ has already collected about 200 gallons of snowmelt and spring rain to use during summer dry spells.

From the top of the shed we can see Hundred Acre Cove and its marshes. In the summer, he sees everything — sailboats, osprey and the rising green of the 20 or so plots of his Walker Farm neighbors. “I know everybody — ‘Hey you want a hamburg? You want a hot dog?’” he half-pantomimes. It is a very social place.

We head back down, past the protective boundaries of his kingdom lying in wait, rolls of wire fencing that he’ll install to keep out crop-stealing pests, some on four legs and some on two.

Russ is grinning as he picks up his saw and starts through a board. “Work” isn’t a word he uses for his labors out here in the place where life comes out of the ground and the stars shine even on the brightest days.

“Eat, play, garden, exercise,” he says. “The outside — tons of stuff to do.”

copyright 2017  Kris Craig / The Providence Journal / 2 Much Time design

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Energy

Kris Column April 2015 - I have been doing this a long time, so why is it I still find myself standing in a light drizzle in front of AS220’s black box theater having an argument with the logical side of my brain?  I came here to see a group of young local artists who were putting on an event to showcase their various talents in painting, graphic and clothing design, video, photography and music. I glance in the door and my left brain starts flashing yellow “You don’t belong here” warning messages. This is a place for kids, young adults.  I counter with the need to energize creativity, to the applause of my right brain. While I argue in my head the rest of me lets the music that’s been leaking out to the sidewalk draw me in.  This isn’t about age. This is about energy. This is about curiosity, and the things that fuel life and career. I am here to observe and to explore, hoping to be wowed or at least a little inspired. There is potential here by virtue of the young, colorfully multi-ethnic, multi-societal crowd; a crowd that is so not like mine.  Small displays of artworks line two walls. There are racks with graphic T’s and morphing videos project on a cluster of dancers. Moving freely in the center of this kinetic universe is Ninya Prince, a young student artist pursuing video and fashion design and who loves to dance. Here he does so freely, unbridled, unrestrained.  The hip-hop grows out from the center of the room, fueled by his energy and that of the crowd moving like a human wave synchronized to the DJ’s beats. A chorus rises, drowning out the artist’s own version.  I feel energized watching people being people. I shoot photos because I feel I should, with the need to capture what I’m taking in and to pass that feeling on the best way I know how.  There are newer versions of me, more subtle with their moments, filling the gaps, taking in the glow, filming the scene with video cameras and lights held up high.  I am asked about my c

I have been doing this a long time, so why is it I still find myself standing in a light drizzle in front of AS220’s black box theater having an argument with the logical side of my brain?

I came here to see a group of young local artists who were putting on an event to showcase their various talents in painting, graphic and clothing design, video, photography and music. I glance in the door and my left brain starts flashing yellow “You don’t belong here” warning messages. This is a place for kids, young adults.

I counter with the need to energize creativity, to the applause of my right brain. While I argue in my head the rest of me lets the music that’s been leaking out to the sidewalk draw me in.

This isn’t about age. This is about energy. This is about curiosity, and the things that fuel life and career. I am here to observe and to explore, hoping to be wowed or at least a little inspired. There is potential here by virtue of the young, colorfully multi-ethnic, multi-societal crowd; a crowd that is so not like mine.

Small displays of artworks line two walls. There are racks with graphic T’s and morphing videos project on a cluster of dancers. Moving freely in the center of this kinetic universe is Ninya Prince, a young student artist pursuing video and fashion design and who loves to dance. Here he does so freely, unbridled, unrestrained.

The hip-hop grows out from the center of the room, fueled by his energy and that of the crowd moving like a human wave synchronized to the DJ’s beats. A chorus rises, drowning out the artist’s own version.

I feel energized watching people being people. I shoot photos because I feel I should, with the need to capture what I’m taking in and to pass that feeling on the best way I know how.

There are newer versions of me, more subtle with their moments, filling the gaps, taking in the glow, filming the scene with video cameras and lights held up high.

I am asked about my camera and shooting style by budding photographers with questions about techniques and the business. I answer them and hope they leave satisfied, maybe sent down a path they might not have walked before. Something new can do that. A word or two, a place. Energy comes in all forms.

But it is time for me to go.

It’s misty outside, but I don’t notice over the buzz in my head.

The right side of my brain mulls snippets of possible future art and video projects I want to make, something with a heavy beat and fluid motion — and the left logical side wonders how it could have been so wrong. I leave feeling ready to work in the real world again, taking in enough power from the room to recharge my creative battery for a few more weeks.

Energy. We absorb it, translate it, transform and transfer it.

They say it can’t be created or destroyed, but it’s so much more powerful when we trade it back and forth.

copyright 2015  Kris Craig / The Providence Journal / 2 Much Time design