I know, I know, it has been a long time and I don't blame you if you
have forgotten me. I have missed the writing so much, but time
just evaporated for me this year. Maybe too many squirrels, too
many pressing issues at the gallery, huge changes to make there which
have been very involved, too much Facebook also, which is easy to spend
too much time with, but it does help me sell my work. But here I
am like a bad penny which just keeps turning up...and not only that but
I want to sell you something. This is the latest I have ever
gotten out my T-Shirt information. This year's Save the Turtle
Tee is of a nest full of Leatherback Turtle Hatchlings emerging.
It was time to pull out my "vintage" oil paints along with those
given to me by my old business partner, John Thompson (the Jon in
SanJon). Isn't it nice to call old stuff, vintage, kind of like
wine. This year's painting was done with oil paint. This Sea
Turtle is one of our rarest with nesting count measured each year in
hundreds instead of thousands, largest up to 2000 pounds and 8
feet long, travel the furtherest, can survive the coldest temps,
dive deeper with dives up to 3000 feet, than any other Sea
Turtle. We have in recent years had at least one nest and
sometimes up to 4 nests, but this year, since I decided to feature
them in my painting, we did not have a Leatherback nest on our beach.
is the painting close up and one from which you can also order prints.
Prints will be 4:3 ratio, (that would be, for example 12 x 9 in.
on 13 x 19 paper. Larger prints are available. I also do
framing if you are here
Below are the T-Shirt choices. Try to quickly return order information since I am running so late.
So once again I am asking you to consider purchasing one of my shirts
which are fun to collect. If you get enough you can get a quilt
made out of all your collection. I have been very happy with the
printing for the past 2 years, with the authentic silk screen done the old fashioned way with
many different screens to get the colors done. The color is much more lasting. Please check out
the styles (the Sleep Shirts were a very good addition last year and
the fabric was very soft and comfy feeling). I am going to try to
add a long sleeve shirt for the youth this year because I have some new
customers who live in snowy places and need the sleeves. Let me
know quickly your choices as I need to get the orders in a couple of
weeks so that people can have them before Thanksgiving. It is
much appreciated revenue for the gallery. I will next week, I
promise, catch you up, and there is tons to catch up with.
and October threw us lots of curves which accounted for
me not getting the information on the T-Shirts to you. First my
computer failed and I was without for about 3 weeks while Bruce tried to revive it, then find time to rebuild
it, -then most disruptive even before the
hurricane, our well failed us. That means we didn't have any water
in the house even though we had power. Temporarily we
were able to hook a line up to the
neighbor's source, so we can exist with running water through the house.
Matthew, a most unwelcome visitor, forced us to
evacuate 3 days, and then to spend another week cleaning up debris from
So legitimate excuses, but I think the loss of my camera was the
biggest deterrent. I don't do well with new technology.
I am still using Bruce's camera and he is using one my brother,
Mike, gave us, (too complicated, he said, then quit using it years ago), but I don't shoot with the spontaneous great joy
I experienced when using my old camera. It is very hard to get to
focus and by the
time it settles in to get the focus and distance locked in, the animal
already gone, and I am shooting a photo of the grass. Enough
whining. I am going to share with you our very interesting
experiences with Hurricane
Matthew gave us notice, and we saw the many possible tracks
wandering around our way. Only days before did we get the word
that it would definitely head in our direction, with a chance of direct
overhead pass. We had the threat
from Hermine, but just some hard showers, and a bit of wind and that
was all with that one. Some of our Nor'easters are comparable.
Matthew was worse. It was mentally very hard...it was downright
scary. What do you do
when the realization hits you that you might loose everything you own.
Decisions are made as to what you will take with you and only a
short time to make those decisions. What
is so important that you must sacrifice the limited space of one
bagged up my children's framed photos and photo albums, not to
take, but in
an attempt to make them watertight, with the hope they could
The same with important papers. The most important papers I
put in a file
drawer and took with us. Part of the problem was I had 7
squirrels in various stages of raising at the time we first got word of
the hurricane's possible track. What to do
Then where to go? We did not want to go far away, but we
never once considered staying. We have been here 15 years now,
this is the first time we have been threatened with something that was
serious enough to warrant leaving.
of all is to photograph the house, now all boarded up, and its contents
in case we
don't find a home when we come back. Now where to go? I
have a friend who lives off-island. She called and "told" me I
was not going to stay on the island, and that I could not leave my
squirrels there, because Old Man could not fend for himself. Old
another story for another day. She said we were going to come to
house which is on the water, but their house is high on pilings, and
she felt confident that they would be OK unless the storm went above a
Category 3. There was a back-up plan for that. We would
then go to
her friend's 150 year old house which has withstood the worst of
hurricanes. So a plan was in place. Evacuation was for
Thursday beginning at 6am. Storm was to come on Friday and could
be a Cat. 4 when it got to us. Time to get serious.
Unfortunately we did not have flood insurance so if water was our
problem we really and truly could have lost everything.
As I photographed all my most precious possessions I spent some time
considering these things that are treasures for me, but probably no one
All my art pieces are special, but probably to not that many other people. Some were created by my children.
This one was done by my son, David, in high school, and was a self
portrait of himself. I had always thought it was such a creative
piece for a kid so young.
Then there is work of artists in Russia which I bought or was a gift
from the artist, while I was
there. This one was an etching of Lenin with his arm around
Tolstoy which is an interesting piece knowing their history. Also
that they came from the artists I personally met and spent time
with means a lot to me.
Then special pieces which I did myself in workshops and never did
that method again. I like to have them around to remind me
can expand into all kinds of ways if I want to do so and can learn to
of mine, and I think Bruce's, favorites of his photographs is
a shot he got when he worked for one of the Chattanooga
newspapers of some professional dancers who came to town for an outdoor evening
performance. Photographers call it an "Available dakness" shot, this was
from the film days exposed at ASA 4000.
there is a wall I was just now putting together from my friends back in North
Georgia who, through the years, gave me art as gifts; photographs of Chattanooga, an
ink piece from China from a special friend who went there to live for two
years, and special quilt pieces from quilting friends.
Hard to think of losing things with this much sentimental value.
back to the storm. On Thursday, the Mandatory Evacuation
day, I kept trying to get
hold of my friend to make sure we were still on the same page about coming to her house.
Middle of the day--still no answer. Plan was to leave by 4
as we were told to be gone by 6. Finally I got a call from her
and she said, "sorry I have not been able to call, but we are in
Seems she had gotten sick from something she ate and at 2am her
husband said, "get the cats we are leaving" so now she was in Atlanta.
She said you are to go on to friend Joy's home over in Callahan,
two towns away from our island in a straight westward direction, about
a 30 minute drive. She assured me it was OK to take the
squirrels. By this time a few days earlier, I had released 3 of the outside ones, leaving me with only 4, the 3
youngest ones and "Old Man". Old Man is 9 years old and can't be released.
I didn't know what a "Cracker House" was, but that was what I
was told, the house was...a 150 year old Cracker House. What an
The term has fallen into the disrespectful language category of late,
but originally referred to European immigrants, and their pioneering
decendants. From Wikipedia, follow this link!
They were "boasters" or those who told things in entertaining fashion or humorously, (i.e. cracking a joke).
I have heard
of Georgia and Florida Crackers, but thought it had to do with something they ate, or their style of speaking.
In the two days ahead I would learn a lot about the history of
Crackers. When we pulled up to what seemed to be the end of a
"lane" as the road had gotten smaller and once we crossed the
railroad track the road became two lanes of dirt tracks in the grass.
This is the view when we got there. Is this the
house? Where do we go in?
Getting out of the car we were better able to see the house without so
many plants to block the view. We found a door and knocked and
yelled, "Joy, we're here." One interesting turn of events was we
under the roof with two Bruces. The resident Bruce's girlfriend, her
dog and cat were already there, along with Honey, Joy's dog, and now we
added our 4 squirrels to the animal menagerie, and we two humans. We would share
space with all for the
next few days. With no weather expected that evening, it was
a time to make introductions and get to know our host and hostess.
Host Bruce is the son of Joy and they share the house with Honey.
Honey's name had lots of references, she was honey colored, Bruce
was a Bee Keeper, making Honey a good choice of a name and then she was
sweet as honey, devoted to her momma, Joy. With
a bit of time before it was dark and weather was good there was a little
bit of time to look around and learn about this place which reminded
both my Bruce and my own remembrances of our grandparents homes.
definitely had that feel. I wish I had taken the exploring more
seriously at that time, but the tension and tiredness of the day and
leave had left us pretty exhausted. Resident Bruce, besides
being a beekeeper is a musician, singer & guitar picker of
Hambone Stumps Band. Joy who looked so familiar that a photo
jogged my memory as to why...she was a former member of The Pirate Club,
and I probably have lots of photos of her in her pirate/wench outfit in
parades and at the music events on Centre Street.
out one local, likely questionable, definition of what a Cracker House is. Think back to pre-Civil war times and
the person who oversaw the labor. He was known as The
Cracker because he was the one who Cracked the whip to
make them work harder. I will never hear the term Cracker
with the same feeling again. The Cracker House was where the
"Cracker" of the whip lived on the farm or plantation. If you
look at the house today you an pick out the changes but also see the
form of the house as it was originally. The house was either one
room or two with a dogtrot out back which led to a unconnected kitchen
which was put there to keep down kitchen fires. No kitchen in the
house lessens the chance of a house fire. The house was
surrounded by a wide spacious porch
with a low hanging roof. This house had been two rooms with a
double sided fireplace between the two. The
bedroom on the right has been expanded to the edge of the porch on that
side of the porch. A small addition on the left also but I was
not sure about that. The back porch became Joy's bedroom, the kitchen
and bath with another screened in porch added with a shed type roof
the length of the back of the house outside the basic lines of the
It was a treat to stay in such a historic place with such
can see the back porch addition in this photo. Joy was a real
plant lover and had organized a Farmers Market for
Callahan and sells her own jellies and other farm products there.
Bruce was showing us some of their honey and he said we can't
touch that one as it is ready for entry in the fair coming soon.
The big Oaks in this photo were the only flies in the ointment.
They were standing at least a 150 years old, and our major concern was whether they
could withstand the wind once again. In the middle of the
height of the storm Bruce (the Host) said, "Mom, we need to go down to
Ricky's house", which is on down the lane belonging to his sibling, Joy's other
son. It was a new house with no trees over it.
middle of the worst of the storm we ran for the cars and hightailed it
down the lane to Ricky's house. With the power gone since way
before the storm came we sat around talked and snacked with the windows
open wide and listened to the wind. Ricky is an amazing artist
who lived mostly up in the upper Midwest on a Native American
Reservation with his then wife. We were keeping in touch with
the storm through phones and computers because there was no TV even before the
storm. I actually read a book while I was there. On
Thursday the trains ran just outside the front yard frequently, but by
bedtime the trains had stopped and we would not hear anymore the whole
time we were there.
After we returned to the Cracker House we all went to bed. The
wind was still blowing but had decreased in intensity. Not too
long after laying down, we were sleeping in the living room, I heard
this big noise. I grabbed Bruce and said what was that. The
two Bruces got up and went out to see what had happened. This is
what they found. An old, old cedar tree had broken off one whole
side. There was one other tree a short distance away which had gone down but it fell on
Railroad property away from their property.
The tree had fallen in such a way that the branches extended downward
like fingers protecting the tractor underneath so that it got nary a
Morning you can see that there was no damage to the house and it lived
to tell more stories about the time Matthew came to visit.
Cedar tree survived unscathed. Perhaps the woman in the tree had
a hand it keeping it upright. Do you see her?
took all these photos on Saturday and I wish I had more time to get
more photos but we were so anxious
to get back home to see what had happened back on the island that after
we cooked breakfast from bacon and eggs Ricky brought up we quickly
packed to leave. I
wish I had taken photos of the huge fire pit which I understand is a
social center for gathering friends and fellow band members around.
We hope to be invited back for some of that. I wish I had
taken a photo of probably the only 3 holed, cypress
out-house anywhere around, as well as some of the very interesting
plants in Joys garden.
left and headed back toward the island to wait closer to the bridge so
that it would not take so long to get back on the island once the bridge was opened up to
traffic. During a hurricane the bridges are all closed once the
wind hits 39mph sustained wind speeds. We were stopping to check
friend's second home and then on the same street hung out at another friend's
house until word came that they were letting people across. I
even braved a quick dip in their very icy pool which felt good
after two days without a shower. She may have had to drain the
Finally early afternoon we were allowed to return to our homes.
The trip across the bridge the marsh never looked prettier.
The greens there were amazing but the tide was high.
Relieved we did not see that much damage although lots of small
twigs and some branches, even an occasional downed tree. Usually the
ones which fall will have hollow places in them which probably were
invisible to the owners before the storm. This gave me hope our
house would be OK.
It was such a relief to pull into the driveway and see the house was
OK. Bruce's wooden shuttering had been good, but probably not
necessary but hind sight is better than looking ahead into the unknown.
The lawn was a carpet of medium brances, down through little twigs which would require
raking and piling beside the road in the next few days but that was OK,
even without water in our well.
we ran to town to check on the gallery because we knew the water had been
high in town and we had heard at one point that the water was to the
corner of 2nd Street, one short block from our gallery. I had placed all the paintings on the floor
incase windows broke out and wind came in, which might in this case have been the worst possible choice.
Next we drove by Main Beach to check out what went on there and
to see how the beach had fared. It all looked good.
park was initially closed and the gates were still locked on Sunday but
Monday was a chance to get into the park with the gates opened, and
what damage had been done there. I had already heard that the
pier had experienced a lot of damage.
Where we usually accessed the beach was now a big pond of water.
I was able to follow the road to the parking lot and access the beach.
The vast amount of Wrack was on the beach as I looked West toward
the Fort. This comes from the marsh and is the stems of the dead
marsh plants. They wash down the rivers during high water times
and is then deposited on the beach there. Eventually it will
become covered in sand and will become part of the beach. As it
decays it will give nourishment to the plants which grow there and help
hold the beach together during these times of rough storms and high
waters. An on going cycle of life on the beach.
east it was the same story. What you can't see is that the wrack
was filled with trash. I felt hopeless as to how in the world it
would ever be removed. Every form of plastic and paper products
from cups, plates, balloons, pipes, buckets, and the list goes on to
include vast amounts of Styrofoam. Then there was the wood:
pieces of docks, piers, boardwalks, boats and that is still the parts
that are still there. We (volunteers and island people) have spent hours picking up trash since
the storm and it is once again looking good. They guys will take
the heavy equipment and trucks out to remove the big stuff.
You can see that the water was all the way up to the Fort itself.
The tree in the foreground was on the beach all year a good
quarter mile down the beach.
This is my Matthew keepsake, a piece of driftwood that looks like a
bird. I will hang it on my wall with my other driftwood birds.
moat around the Fort was no longer a grassy moat but a real water moat.
It is still in there but going down to more of a puddle today.
If you use your imagination you can find lots of pretty images left by
the storm. I thought this piece of palmetto looked like a bird's wing.
I wish I had brought it home with me, but I didn't. One of
our trash pick up mornings (I was out 4 days in the first 8 days and
two of those I organized a group to go help. The citizens here are so
good to pitch in and that is the reason the beachs are back already
looking good. One fellow was out walking with his camera and I
offered him a bag for picking up trash but he said no, I am just taking
photographs of it. His photographs were pretty as he showed them
to me, but I thought it would have been more meaningful if had then put
the trash into the bag once he photographed it.
Our wonderful pier received a lot of damage. We lost some of the
end sections, and another section about a third of the way back and
also lost a lot of the Turtle Friendly lighting which was
solar powered. The big battery boxes were scattered up and down
the dunes. Brandon the shorter ranger is our Volunteer
Coordinator and is usually not the short one in a crowd but his helper
is a big guy but I can't remember who it was--we have several very tall
rangers, Lee, Rick, and Eric for instance. They have all worked
hard clearing trees from roads
and trails, opening the park back up within a few days.
is the view looking from the pier toward the West and what you will see
missing is the primary dunes which are now gone. The beach does
not look that damaged if you are not used to seeing it but when you
know the beach as we who are out there often do you know what is
This is looking then to the other side and the same thing here.
There was a fairly big escarpment which followed this beach
around the bend that you see but is now leveled and the beach goes much
further back into the dunes than before. The water is more what
it would look like at high tide before the storm, but now high tide is
a long way in toward that wrack line.
You can see that the water made it all the way to this dune which had
been a lot further back than water had been before. It did not
wash away the grasses and small shrubs as they held their ground and is
why we protect the dune plants so fiercely.
water line which is noticeable is this handicap ramp down to the beach
from the pier. You can tell by the pile of wrack that the water
was up into this part of the pier. It would have been something
to see if it had not been so dangerous to be here.
the storm left and we were so very lucky. Once again we bit the
bullet and got a real reprieve as the storm dropped from a Cat. 4 to a
Cat. 2 just before it got to us and it also veered to the East so what
we got was mild as to what it could have been. Where we are on
the map is the furthest West I believe than any other part of the
coast line. If you look at the longtitudal map you will see that
we are as far West as Ohio and Orlando. What also helps us not be
hit by these storms, not saying it can't happen, is that the Gulf
Stream swoops Eastward away from us and in essence its driving weather pattern pulls the storms
away from us. Every time I say that I want to say, wait while I
knock on wood. The sky was filled with mare's tails formed by ice
crystals falling from the clouds.
My sweet little Danny Boy the only one of my squirrels which I still have
in the house besides Old Man who will always be here. I took him
to work with me after we got back and were open but only one day
because he likes to just play all day with only a short nap. He
does entertain himself, but he is a curious little fellow, exploring
everything he sees. I hear a crash and it is, what are you into
now Danny Boy? So from then on I left him at home with Old Man to
baby sit him. They get along fine but there is a pecking order.
This is another butterfly painting I am working on and which I took
with me in the car throughout the hurricane. I had worked on it
for 4 weeks and I valued that work enough not to want to take the
chance on losing it. Bruce had also considered driving his car
but we didn't know about traffic as we were asked by the city and
county leaders to only take one car when we left. Many of Bruce's
tools were in his car so leaving it behind would be a loss of capability while off island. This
got me to thinking about my tools. What could I not do without?
I made a quick trip to the gallery to take my paintings down thinking wind damage and broken windows, (not
a good decision but it turned out OK) and to pick up my boxes of paint and my
best brushes because these would be so expensive to replace, I would never be able
to recover their loss because they represent probably what is a
lifetime of watercolors, and a lot of expensive acrylic and now oils.
This painting is done with oil as was the last Turtle Trot
Painting. So I took my tools off island with me.
is work I have gotten done on it since back in the gallery. This
will have lots of butterflies buzzing the plants the next time you see
it. It does have some pink poppies which have grown up right of
center since this was done. Then this past week I had to pull off
to prepare for a show in which I was the Featured Artist in a gallery
in Neptune Beach down in the Jacksonville area. I did get to work
on it for a couple of hours day before yesterday but then yesterday I
had to get myself ready to go down to the reception. The show is
at First Street Gallery in Neptune Beach (just next to Jacksonville
Beach) a block off the ocean. A really interesting gallery.
I did get to participate in the rescue of this beautiful turtle.
This is a hatchling version of a turtle I had experience in a
former time 4 years ago when I had rescued a female adult one from
the ocean. This one was also on the wrong side of the island for
it to survive. This is known as a Diamondbacked Terrapin which
makes its home in "brackish water" which means it is both fresh and
salt water mixed. I wanted to release it in the same place i had
released the adult. The reason these turtles get on the beach
side is that the female likes to lay her eggs in a sandy dune like area
which on a narrow island is not that far away but the body of water
nearest it is the ocean. Is is easy to see how they can turn up
in the wrong body of water. The patterns in this particular
subspecies of the Diamondbacked are so very interesting as each is
different from the other, even those which are opposite and most
similar, yet still different. So as an artist I find this an
amazing design and totally appreciate nature's creativity.
The first morning we were allowed back to the beach by the park was Tuesday. So Amy and I
were the second ones to get to drive down the beach and see how it had
fared. We were to pick up trash. We decided to catch the
sunrise from the pier area before going on back to the shop area to
pick up the beach buggy.
We thought the clouds were going to hide it but finally it popped through giving us a nice start to the day ahead.
A close up as Amy picks up some trash, shows you a bit better the
amounts of Marine Debris there was and more washing in every day.
We were just looking and talking about how the beach had changed.
Here there had been dunes which obscured the view were now gone
and the water had gone back into the dunes well beyond the beach front
in this area and with it had carried tons of garbage. We visually
marked this area and returned last Tuesday to clean it up a bit.
day we came back with a buggy full as we could pack it of garbage light
enough for us to pick up. As the tide rises here on that first
day out that was still bringing more and more garbage filled wrack.
This seems to have stopped now, somewhat, but it will always come
and especially during the winter. Amy and I plan on continuing
at least one day
a week and we will be doing the same then, a buggy full of garbage that
in within the weeks time. That is why it is called Marine Debris.
It is not just garbage left on the beach as some is, but mostly
garbage which washes in from somewhere else, fishermen, cruise ships,
other islands, and people who release balloons. In spite of all
the cleaning we have done, I still found almost 20 separate balloons or
balloons strings scattered in the Marine Debris. Who knows from
whence they came it could be a far away as your hometown or as close as
our town too.
debris was, of course, larger than it was possible for us to handle. Amy
looks like a little girl as she is dwarfed by this huge plastic
container of some sort. It was still there today but is partially
buried in the sand. It had the strong smell of oil.
We will have some very interesting driftwood once it all settles down and the wrack goes away.
There were two of these types of trees one on the ocean front and one on the beach side.
this was a really interesting shaped piece of wood as the roots
actually grew into each other. It too was starting to become buried in the sand. This often happens with the Live
Oaks. I have one in the front yard which has a branch like this.
I can't really tell which was the part that originally grew out of
Without people the birds have taken over the pier. It appears
hundreds of birds are enjoying the cat bird view they have of the food
Here you see the new hammocks just installed before our former Park Manager
left the park. Ben really wanted these hammocks. They were
on top of the escarpment above the beach area and now they are part of
the beach itself.
view up the river has very much changed with many dunes gone and the
areas around what is left flattened. It will build back up,
sometimes it is quickly, other times slowly. The beach has an
amazing ability to heal itself.
the man taking his garbage photos i can see beauty in what nature has
left. Just the patterns formed with the pieces of marsh plants
which form the wrack just by the way the water left it as if it combed
it to lay the sticks straight in the patterns it formed.
Buzzards were here and there doing their job of cleaning up those who
did not survive which mostly seemed to be pelicans. However Amy
did find a dead Mink in the area where we had seen our mink so
hopefully that was not the little fellow in our photos. Oops one of those things you will still get a photo of.
The load of garbage we brought back that first day. The dumpster
was already almost full but by our next day on Friday it was empty and
waiting for more Marine Debris.
Time to release our little Terrapin. New life and new hope for
the world of nature. The water runs from the middle of the park
from springs, runoff from rain and is glamorously called "The Mosquito
Ditch" by the park people. Here it ran into the salt marsh which
ebbs and flows in this spot where it flows underneath the road through
a culvert. On the other side it forms a pool and when the tide is
out it is filled with minnows trapped in the shallow runoff. A
good place if it can avoid the big gator which has been near there for
the past four years. I think it showed up just about the same time I released
the first turtle here.
We place her on the sand and she sat for a few minutes showing us her ability to blend in with her surroundings.
Once she realized the water was near she took off at a fast pace...(we don't actually know it was a she)
and in seconds was in the water and really blended in there with the bottom.
home I am still receiving lots of help from this funny little guy who
has to check out everything new or just inviting for a curious little
fellow. He loves for the bags to come in from the grocery store.
He gets into them all to see what has come in to eat.
Next day out Ramona and I really over did it...and that I mean
literally. Ramona has not been able to come back for another day after
that very long morning from 7:30 until 11;30. I should have not
pushed so hard to pick up stuff but it was hard to drive by anything we
could pick up and leave for another day.
the Sunday after this
Friday I went out by myself and I rode the West end of the park and it
is looking good. I picked up some of the trash our helpers from
Friday left and some other light weigh trash and had a pretty good
load. Then Amy and I went back out on Tuesday and brought in
another very large load. But the first quarter of the East river
beach is looking good also. We did not have time to go any
further that day. Today was another day where I went out by
myself. I went the whole way from the Fort to the South Boundary
of the Park. It was, except for the big stuff, as clean as it
ever is. It will all eventually get back to normal and our
pristine beach will return, partially from natures ability to right
itself, and also from those humans who care enough to make the effort
to help it along and try to pick up that part that was man made litter.