Uncle Pat & Aunt Bobbie
This weekend my family traveled to lower NY to pay our respects to my Uncle Patrick. Pat was married to my dad’s sister Bobbie (also my godmother) for over 50 years. When I was being treated for scleroderma as a youngster, my dad and I stayed with them once a month because my pediatric rheumatologist was located in nearby White Plains. When we visited, they always prepared spaghetti and meatballs with salad and Italian bread for dinner. During that time, they had three big dogs whom I loved: Thumper, Rocky, and Willy. Pat battled Parkinson’s late in life, and at the start of the pandemic succumbed to the disease. In addition to Bobbie, he leaves behind two daughters and and a son, five grandchildren, his brothers Paul and James, two brothers-in-law, five nieces and nephews, five grand-nieces and nephews, and many others. He was a NYC cop and firefighter, and early in life served as part of the US Naval Reserves.
On Saturday morning, we attended a funeral service in his honor. We then had a family lunch at Four Brothers in Mahopac, and paid our respects at his gravesite in the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne. Many fond memories were shared of Pat, from childhood antics with his siblings, to driving his Corvette with Bobbie before they were married, to taking the grandkids on fishing trips and car rides with his ever present cigar, and taking his father-in-law, brother-in-law, and others out on various walks into the woods up in Shushan, NY (occasionally ending in him leaving them to bravely find their own way back to the family home).
Many of us hadn't seen each other in decades, so we took a group photo together before departing.
The night before Pat's service, my parents and I stayed at The Abbey Inn in Peekskill. This site has historical significance in the Dunscombe family. My great grand-aunt Margaret was a nun (Sister Mary Michael) and spent much of her life at the St. Mary’s Convent, which is set at the top of a Fort Hill overlooking the Hudson River and Bear Mountain. My dad traveled to the convent to meet her as a little boy in the 1950s. The community has since relocated, and the former site of the convent has been acquired and converted to a hotel. It was very meaningful to stay there and walk the same halls as one of my ancestors.
From my dad:
When I was very young, perhaps three or four, our family drove up to the Peekskill, New York area to visit my Grandaunt Margaret. Margaret was the sister of my Dad’s father Cecil, and was an Episcopal nun at St. Mary’s Convent whose religious name was Sister Mary Michael. At this time Margaret would have been about seventy-two years old. I remember being somewhat frightened of her because she wore the full black and white habit including head gear that looked like it had wings. I still have a nice little note she wrote to me some years later recalling the visit which included a picnic. Margaret died in 1973 at age eighty-seven after a remarkable life that included time as a missionary in the Philippines and some time as a prisoner of the Japanese during World War II. She also wrote and illustrated an unpublished novel based in the Philippines which I have the manuscript for.
The "Cornerstone Room" (former sanctuary)
Dusk on the grounds
The Highlands Ballroom (former convent chapel) and inn details
My last day of work was on the 16th, and I just had my first week completely left to my own devices! I'm trying to get a lot of the important stuff out of the way first: registering for classes and submitting grad school paper work, signing up for Mass Health, doing a deep clean of the apartment and donating things we don't need, planning a couple of family visits coming up, and doing some thinking about wedding plans. But I did reserve a day last week to get back on the saddle with drawing. It felt great! I'm now returning to the fishing scene I had started with back in 2017. Comparing these two panels, can you see a bit of growth? The one on the right I photographed in 2018. I feel like I've learned so much in terms of style, composition, and inventing images out of my head.
Going back to the last day of work, it was incredibly bittersweet as expected. I spent the days leading up to it conducting some virtual trainings and documenting a lot of the paperwork stuff I'd been handling for future reference (nothing too interesting – mostly dense material like sending employment contracts and creating competency-based interview feedback forms). On my last day it was a race against the clock to tie things off before losing access to my email account, like discussing the fate of my 401k, recording my remaining PTO time for my personal records, and cleaning out my inbox once and for all. It's surprisingly hard to let go of the vast number of documents I've referenced for years and projects I've chipped away at, even though I am excited by my next career steps.
In the afternoon, my colleagues set up some pastries, berries, and bubbly out on the deck at work and we had fun reminiscing and enjoying some long-awaited time in person and not in front of a screen. There is a common practice of wearing "animal print" (prints with literal animals) on our team, and without consulting, my manager and I both wore outfits with birds printed on them. One of my coworkers composed a number of beautiful (and funny!) haikus for me which I read aloud. My manager gave me a felt pennant of a gold sunrise to symbolize new beginnings, along with a red lightning bolt pin, a symbol of the Polish pro-choice women's marches (half of our coworkers are based in Warsaw and we discussed the movement in a recent team meeting). The group gifted me a custom book stamp ("From the Library of Hannah Dunscombe") and beautiful bound book from Etsy that collected photographs from my time at work and library due date cards filled out by hand with well wishes.
I spent the following day pasting in a box load of additional work photos and memorabilia that I had stored up, so much so that the book is now practically bursting at the seams! Assembling all of those memories and preparing myself to treasure the happy times for years to come was such a lovely way to balance out my sadness of leaving behind some of the greatest coworkers I've ever had the pleasure to work with.
Also I did end up getting into Simmons! Three of my former managers very kindly wrote letters of recommendation for me as well, which helped me get some extremely helpful scholarships too :)
There are over a thousand forest fires currently burning in the US. Even on this farthest-East point in the US, as the winds have shifted we are seeing smog that obscures the sun and encases everything in an eery pink/orange cast. You can see in the photo of the trees on the other side of the pond that it looks like there is fog, but it's all smog.
On a more whimsical note, there has been a soccer ball stuck spinning round and round in the water flow at the base of this weir for the last month or so. Pretty impressive that it hasn't found its way out yet, even with some near flooding a week ago.
Unrelated but same evening: some moody photos from one of our back windows.
My grandfathers – both of whom grew up during the Great Depression – never paid for services they could do themselves for free (for better or worse). That continues to be a big theme in the Misura/Dunscombe family. I didn't have a professional cut my hair until fifth grade and have almost exclusively cut my own hair since high school (not recommended for people who prefer precision, but it does the job). For that matter, I've also never had my hair, makeup, nails, etc done professionally and our wedding will be no exception. Again, these are all things I can do myself ahead of time for free.
Since you can't exactly photograph your own wedding day though, we would like to hire a photographer for that. I am aware that (1) a good photographer can cost thousands of dollars and (2) I am leaving a good paying job to go back to school for the next two years, so wherever we can cut costs elsewhere counts! I've also never been in a photoshoot before but I do know how to use a camera and have photographed a number of weddings [for free]. So when thinking about any photography needed in the time leading up to us getting married, taking photos myself was an immediate "marriage" of two motivations: 'save money' and 'low-stakes practice'.
We installed my camera on a tripod, used bluetooth to make my phone a remote shutter release, and set up a timer. We took them at Round Top in my hometown, a public park that overlooks the valley and the Susquehanna River. Growing up, I spent a lot of time at Round Top hiking trails, having picnics with my family, and training during the cross country season – five years ago, Chris and I even had a pasta dinner there on the eve of my second marathon – so it felt like the perfect familiar spot. It was uncomfortably hot, sunny, and humid, but hopefully that doesn't come across in the photos.
I put some of our favorites here. And included some outtakes below.... :)
Aside from working on the script, I haven't worked on the comic in two months. That said, this has been for fairly productive reasons that I hope will result in more time to work on the comic long term. In May I shared with my employer that I planned to leave my position mid-July. I gave eight weeks of notice as I am not immediately moving onto something with urgency. However, for some time I have struggled to find genuine fulfillment in my work as a recruiter and finally reached a point where I felt ready to make a change.
My plans are still coming together, but I have a rough sense of what I would like to happen. First, I am not looking to jump into another job immediately. I plan to take some time off and evaluate when I am ready to take on a part-time position to help keep us afloat financially. I am also currently applying to an online Library & Information Science masters program. My parents each served as librarians for over 30 years, and in considering where I have found the most fulfillment in my (non-art) career thus far, it has been in organizing information, creating systems, and helping people navigate them. Once I've found a rhythm with school, my ideal part-time position might be shelving books at a local library or serving as a cataloging clerk. Outside of that, I hope to have more bandwidth and energy to devote to the graphic novel as well as some commissions that I have not been able to take on.
For a long time, I felt that I had two options for work. Either I commit to a day job that offers me benefits, a salary, and financial security, at the expense of my capacity to do art on the side. Or I resume what I had been doing before that: a part-time position with unpredictable hours, no benefits, but more time for art; essentially I saw this as assuming the "starving artist" state where one scraps together income to stay afloat. There seemed to be a third option, in which I force commissions and original artwork sales to be my core source of income, but I cannot imagine putting that much pressure on those sources of comfort and passion and living with that much risk in ever-fluctuating markets for the arts. This has become especially clear in the last year. For a while I considered whether the graphic novel was a possible exit strategy – perhaps if I could get some traction with a book, then it would justify leaving my full-time job? – but again, placing that much pressure on something that has only ever been a cathartic and personal effort just didn't feel right either.
It was only recently that I started thinking about whether there is a middle ground. Perhaps there was a profession and opportunity that would not result in 50-hour work weeks and 15 hours of commuting weekly, but with a stable salary, benefits, and a set of responsibilities that I would enjoy. I don't know why it took me so long to seriously consider libraries, but the instant I started thinking it over, I felt a shock of realization and relief and I could start to imagine other parts of my future coming together. It also feels like an opportunity to continue a family legacy that I've always been proud of.
I am very excited to dive back into drawing the graphic novel once I depart. Lately I have spent my weekends preparing materials for my grad school application and hope to have that submitted by next weekend, and then will wait and see about acceptance from there.
It is a very hard decision to resign after over five years at my current workplace, because I love the people at my current job and will miss them very much, and it means letting go of a version of my future that I had become familiar with over time. Leaving can be so bittersweet. But it is also healthy for me to feel optimistic about my future, so I'm trying to focus on embracing that.
Hannah Dunscombe is a painter and portrait artist based out of Mansfield, MA.