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Artist's spirit lives in her Ti home

TICONDEROGA In Vermont, we live in an old Victorian built in 1868. Were not alone there, ever. Inhabitants of the past century, who've abandoned their mortal shells, remain. Although, on an ethereal plane and not always visible to the naked eye, always their presence is felt. Perhaps because their imprint was somehow ingrained during physical occupation of the place but, more than likely, they just have unfinished business in their old home or love it too much to leave altogether. I could go to the town clerks office and dig into who they were in real life but why should I? After all, its who theyve become to us over the past decades that matter. We just share this old house with them, thats all. Now, were tenants in a more modern house in Ticonderoga, too. Were only renting, but, as with all places, we strive to make it ours by redecoration, alone. The illusion is almost possible. I mean, after the initial territorial claim, assumed at the exchange of rent money for a key, doesnt everyone try to convert the nest into a place that resonates on an intimate level with the Self? Well, in our case, like in Vermont, we get the feeling that were sharing quarters with the spirit of a formerly living being. One whos slipped the surly bonds of Earth and touched the face of God as John Gillespie McGee wrote. On her own terms, that is. Her name, in life, was Jane Parmley. Mrs. Ralph Parmley. Evidence of this womans passion remained for us to find. Nobody has lived in this house since her death but there are cards and letters, hundreds of cookbooks, recipes and baking utensils, photos and furniture from different eras, delicate curtains and harsh linoleum, drawers and cupboards filled with the odds and ends of a widows life. Theres a bottle of Old Crow in a big, old blue suitcase. A sewing machine and every sort of thread and needle one might imagine. Clues to what made a woman tick are in every corner. But the real finder of fact comes from her life's work her paintings. The tangible legacy of her first love, Lake George and local rural scenes! Whatever this long-dead woman was...a writer of thank you letters and receptor of multiple birthday cards, seamstress, drinker of hard liquor, great chef and lover of a very handsome man immortalized in black and white pictures...she was, above all, an artist. One capable of feeling the beauty of this Ticonderoga, portage route among cascading waters. Tis survived much and lives now between a thready pulse and a rugged heartbeat. Is this status quo because of the consistency of omnipresent ghosts of the past that wont leave? Why would they want to? Could Heaven be nicer? Not if her canvases are truth itself. New arrivals, to any burg, should be so lucky as to find hundreds of oil paintings stacked unceremoniously on the premises. Such a grand introduction to the breathtaking beauty of lakeside panoramas or the coziness of an abandoned barn. So many images of dusty roads leading into leafy forests or autumnal crispness hint at where the artists heart has been; where she was always going in her long lifetime. Unpeopled are those paths into the woods and only the painter knew where they ended. Or did she? Maybe they all lead back to this home where she shared love with the man of her dreams, Ralph Parmley. These captured scenes somehow have passed from the appreciative eyes of a woman well never meet to the translation on canvas well always cherish. Oh, we see it all, in person, on our evening walks, yet when we return to this elongated house, surrounded by manicured lawns, our appreciation of Tis inherent inner life is just as tangible because of the paintings left behind. Her life? Her loves? Her passions? Theyre all at our fingertips, even as she is a dominant character beneath our new roof. Thank you, Jane.

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