Thursday, June 17, 2010

Jen's Necklace and a New Bit of Art

Just a short posting before I move on to popular request I am posting the original Jen Crossley necklace I purchased from her in Australia. Isn't it a beauty? Loved the etched metal and little window and was touched by her choice of "friend" for the house "password". Thanks so much Jen!!

And my latest "Dolls for Big Girls" creation using artist Judy Wise's techniques. This little pony is about to be shipped off on a voyage to a new home!!

I'm still struggling to find a balance between a full time job, teaching and creating art. Art is where I want to be, but, at the same time, the mortgage has to be paid, health care is a necessity and the recession has not been kind to artists. I envy those who have the time to fill their spare hours with art, but as I grow older I find that I have less and less energy and I can no longer burn the candle at both ends without serious consequences to my health. This year has been tumultuous and I need some down time to ponder on where life will lead me next. So many things left to do in my bucket list....I can feel the wind of change coming along and am ready to furl my wings and let it take me to my next adventure....Thanks to all of you who come back to visit despite the gaps in my posts. I appreciate your emails and comments more than you know.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Chincoteague - Land of Mist and Ponies

From the time I read Misty of Chincoteague when I was about 9 years old, I have wanted to visit the wild ponies of Chincoteague Island. Legend maintains these ponies are the direct descendants of Spanish ponies that swam to shore from galleons that were wrecked on the treacherous shore of Assateague Island. I was fortunate enough on this trip to Virginia to have the time to take the two plus hour trip north to the islands on the eastern shore of Virginia. For the second time, I traversed the 14 mile Chesapeake Bay bridge, complete with two, one-mile tunnels under the bay. For a claustrophobic like myself, that is a bone-chilling proposition that results in a rapid heartbeat and a death grip on the steering wheel. But oh so worth it to travel on a bridge over the ocean, for there is little shoreline in sight and you feel as if you are sailing across the sea in your car! The day began with low grey clouds and a mist over the water, hiding the horizon, creating an other-worldly feeling that I could see the end of the earth. Easy to see why the ancient sailors thought they would fall off the edge of the earth if they dared to go too far.

When I arrived at Chincoteague, I headed straight for the Assateague/Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. The first question I asked at the gate was, "where are the ponies" to which I received a vague, "umm, you can sometimes see them up the road on the right". I couldn't wait. I drove quickly up the road. In the distance, I saw.....three ponies. I thought that must be the strays and continued up the road. No ponies. Those three ponies were to be the only three ponies I saw all day. And by the time I realized that was my photo opportunity, they had vanished.

But I was NOT disappointed. Because this refuge has birds. A wonderful variety of my favorite animal and many that I had not seen before to add to my life list of bird sightings. The first sighting of a group of Snowy Egrets just barely visible in the mists. Stalking their prey in the water, sometimes running after something in the water looking silly trying to move those long legs quickly.
Beautiful terns graced the air currents, almost hovering in one spot as they rode the wind.
A Ruddy Turnstone posed briefly for me (below).

A juvenile Forster's Tern explores his new world (below).

Along side the road, a Little Blue Heron searches for dinner (below).

Suddenly, I began to hear the sound of waves crashing on the beach and I follow signs to the ocean, hoping for a chance to put my feet in the Atlantic Ocean proper (a much more inviting ocean to put your feet in as it is sooooo much warmer than the Pacific in Washington State). The beach is crowded with sun bathers and the sun breaks through the clouds to wrap them in a blanket of warmth and tanning rays. I love the fragments of shells on the beach. So much more than the perfect shells in the stores. These shells have a story to tell of journeys through stormy seas and rough beach landings and becoming a meal for a passing seagull or two.

And yes, I dipped my feet into the Atlantic.

And the waves crashed about me...

But my time is passing quickly and I can't take a long walk down the beach to look for sea glass and wampum clams and other flotsam as I would have liked. I hike back to the car and continue my journey around the island, stopping and hiking the short trails as I found them. And I was rewarded at every turn by local wildlife. This small swallow stopped long enough for me to snap a photo.

A small, pale grey squirrel was busy on the side of the road.
The island was exquisitely beautiful.

Canadian goose and goslings.
And a Great Egret looking for food.
A Cattle Egret with his brightly colored bill looking for a mate.
And finally, as I was leaving the refuge, I found the three original ponies I had seen in the morning and quickly took their photo before I lost the chance to prove there are, indeed, wild ponies on Chincoteague (actually, smart ponies, they stay in the part of the island not accessible to visitors...)

As I left town, I investigated the few stores still open, late on a Sunday afternoon and snapped a shot of Misty as she plays with geese, a memorial to the pony who made this island famous.

Soon it was time to leave and head for Hampton to get ready to fly home to Washington the next day. This is an amazing area of the country. Sparsely populated, ruggedly beautiful and teaming with animal life. I hope to return for the wild pony roundup one day, but for now, this is one more item on my bucket list I can cross off.

Sunday, June 06, 2010


After teaching for two days, Tory and I jumped in the car and decided to spend a day exploring a bit of our history at Williamsburg, just a short physical distance away, but once inside, miles away in years...200+ years, to be sure. Some of my ancestors were in Virginia at this time and I am excited to see how they lived. I can't imagine leaving the relative safety of your home to take a dangerous voyage by ship to reach a land with few amenities and many risks, to make a new home and life for yourself. I wish I knew what motivated the move to the new world.

We were greeted by history at the gate and instantly moved into another age. Even the modern bathrooms had a historic twist. Many of the buildings are reproductions, but some date back to the original settlement times and everywhere there is evidence of a time when art and necessity went hand-in-hand as the isolation of the new colony required that most things be made by a skilled artisan. And what things they made.

We approached the Governor's Palace first. The original palace burnt to the ground not long after it was built at a tremendous cost to the settlement and the King. The ornate gate set the tone for an amazing tour.

High ceilings with crown moldings and wainscoted walls grace the interior.

A display of weaponry in the foyer was there to impress citizens of the might of the Governor and the King, who selected him.

The walls were covered with gilded, embossed leather that looked like metal with a fine patina. The cost was so great for the walls, that it was written into a bill to ensure the cost would be covered.

The colors were brighter than I expected - bright sea green and sky blue. I had always pictured colonial times in shades of sepia and burnt umber. But from the gardens to the home interiors, color abides everywhere. The rooms had fancy wood stoves and hand-carved moldings.

The carpet is an exact copy of an original made for the palace at the time it was built. Aren't the colors amazing? It would easily fit in a modern house today.

Look at the amazing crown molding and carved additions to the window trim.

Outside were beautiful gardens framed by covered walkways. A perfect place to shelter from the hot Virginia sun on a summer day.

Who knows how old these carved initials are and whose love they declared for the world...

To the rear of the palace were formal English gardens fully in bloom.

After we finished the tour of the palace, we headed to the shoppes and demonstrations of colonial crafts. First stop was the bookbinding shop where they continue to craft books with beautiful leather covers, marbled paper and gilded pages. Just to see the tools used to make the books was amazing. I was disappointed they were not actively creating books, but the shopkeeper was happy to explain the antique tools and how they were used.

We passed many folks dressed to the times, which added to the feeling that we had stepped back in time.

In the blacksmith shop, we were treated to a demonstration of iron forming by fire and bellows.

My personal favorite was the silversmith's shop. I could have moved right in. What an amazing array of tools and how I longed to run my hands over them and use them to create something beautiful!

Meet Paul Revere....a bit south of Massachusetts, but ready to ride and call warning that the British are coming...

The apothecary shop was amazing and beautiful...full of glass and mysterious names, exotic mixtures and tools that looked like they came straight from the Inquisitor's dungeon!

The day went by so quickly that there was still much to be seen when we realized we were starving and the taverns would not be open for dining for another hour. We hopped back on the bus for a bite to eat before traveling to the Folk Art Museum, housed in a reproduction of the first mental hospital to be built in the States. From little more than a bare cell where patients were chained to the wall, to a time when the patients were treated more humanely, it was amazing to see how patients were treated before modern medicine. And the the Folk Art Museum was amazing, crammed with carving, fine metalwork and ceramics and pottery of the time. Unfortunately, we had little time to explore this amazing place and I will have to mark it down for future exploration.

Sadly, we had to head for the hotel as we were out of time this day. What a rich history we have in this country and I was glad for the opportunity to explore a small bit of it. On to Chincoteague in my next of the missing ponies and abundant waterfowl.