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Sandra Baker-Hinton Art Studio
26 S. 5th Street., Fernandina Beach, FL 32034
904-557-1195 cell

The seasons come and they go but without the weather change my brain does not seem to wrap itself around them.  I can look at the calendar and see that  the days have moved on into October but mental knowledge and heart felt change is not into my realm of reality.  Until that first cool Fall like day comes does it finally become a reality.  The acorns are falling, what didn't get blown down in the Hurricane, but then that jumps us ahead of the story.  Only with cool enough weather yesterday for windows open and a middle of the night call for a blanket does the realization that it is once again time for the Save the Turtle T-Shirts orders.  I will be getting order forms out to you by tomorrow.  It will be Christmas I really can't believe that.  I am also back working with a good Fine Art Printing Company, Raven Images, who can make prints on paper and on canvas of any of my paintings but before it got gone to a new home I had them scan the painting itself so the images would be first rate.  I am working on the first one now and I will add paint strokes to the surface to make it look more authentic.

This is the painting for this year's T-Shirt and I think it is one of the prettiest yet and one reason I decided to do the T-Shirts once again.  I just couldn't resist.  It is a large painting done on canvas and is 36 x 48.  It is now for sale and would make a great addition to someone's home.  It is $2800, (about $1K less than I have always priced this size and type!), if you would like to consider taking it home with you.

With September came the beginning and the end of lots of things.  The ending of life as a gallery owner; beginning a new business venture as a studio artist, -but it also meant squirrel nesting season was in full swing.  Every since Lacy disappeared we have missed having one special squirrel to come visit.  Jimbo was very special for a while then went totally wild as expected.  Little Danny Boy still comes by to ask for his daily pecan handout but he was never one to jump on your shoulder and socialize in any other way than his obsession with pecans.  Little Bit was pregnant again and I am sure the fellow up the street killed my sweet little Foxy (and probably Lacy) who was my most special current one to come visit each morning as she ran for her pecan fix, climbing up to get it, but suddenly she no longer came.  That void made me wish for a special little girl because, as sweet as the boys are, they do love you and leave you pretty quickly answering the call of the wild.  Then one day I happened to see a notice on Facebook which had been posted only minutes before, "I have this little squirrel I found on the ground, I am going to put it back down and it will die if no one wants it."  I said bring it to me, and in about 15 minutes this special little girl, Pippi, was in my gallery.  She was not this large then of course, but was a tiny little gal with her eyes still closed.  She was the only one for a while.  She would go to work with me every day and Eva Marie, of Fern and Dina's, would sometimes borrow her for a while.

I was quite happy to have just the one little girl on which to dote upon with all my attention.

We were still doing Turtle Patrol the first of September, but had only a few nests left and they were hatching off quickly.

The days went by and the Humane Society called and within a span of a few days my squirrel family had grown to two more little squirrels, both little boys. Although my intentions were to only raise the one it is hard to turn down these sweet little babies.  Pippi was older, but like most little squirrels they are all very accepting of each other.  They became instant snuggle buddies.  Squirrels are very camera shy, with the click of the shutter they start ducking and hiding.

The warm days of summer continued into those last Sea Turtle Patrol days.  Someone who had visited our beach left some unique sculptures to make our morning ride more interesting.  They must have had to look for a while to come up with this many rocks on our beach.  This empty beach across the jetty is where our pier used to stand.  We surely do miss it.

This was an especially interesting sculpture because you had to place yourself just in the right position to see it like it is in this photo.  The leg was not attached and was even sitting a distance away from the body.  It was only, visually, from this spot that it became one sculpture.  I thought that was especially clever to do it this way.  It was certainly intentional as you can see the leg is placed in a fabricated rock stand to make it stand up.

Since the very beginning of the season I had only one set of live hatchlings to photograph and they were not from the excavation but from the top of the nest left over from a second night's emergence, happening before it was excavated.  This was the only rescue to come from one of my excavations.  That is good for the turtles as that means they all got out on their own and were healthy and strong for their swim out to sea.  Little did I know that this would also be for me the last Sea Turtle of the season.  Events began to unfold quickly with the approaching super storm Irma moving toward Florida.

Unaware of the impending weather, these little guys with their mischievous ways would determine my fate for the next serious episode in my life.

When it became clear that Irma was going to impact us in some significant way I had to choose whether to go or to stay, even though a mandatory evacuation means you are supposed to "go" and was in effect.  I had at that time 5 squirrels including Old Man.  Bruce had committed to going to an evacuation shelter in Callahan to maintain communications to Nassau County's Emergency Operations Center as part of ARES, (Amateur Radio Emergency Services).  I had meant to go with him, however no wild animals were allowed, and even domestic animals had to be housed in another building.  Can you imagine Old Man sequestered with a room full of dogs.  He would never have recovered mentally.  I had a couple of invites to stay across on the other side of the river, but both were on the water.  Because staying alone with all my big trees around me was not appealing, I decided to go stay with my sister on the North end of the island.  And so a plan was put in place.  Sister Susan, and I decided to weather out the storm together, which worked out well except for a few hitches.  Bruce had left on Friday to the shelter for the impending hurricane and I was left to make preparations here at home. 

Bruce had boarded up the house and thankfully a painting sale gave us the security of having some money to store in supplies.  The house was stocked with water and food if an extended period without power should be the case, I was ready.  I spent Friday and Saturday getting the house cleaned up, bags and food for the stay ready to go, and trying to think of what to weather proof inside the house, what to take and all those critical things.  I arrived at my sister's on Sunday afternoon, a drive of about 5 miles but it seemed like the preparations were for a much longer trip.  When I got there we backed the car in as far as it would go up next to her garage door, knowing that her driveway would flood to a certain degree, and we proceeded to get all the babies moved inside with their hurricane store of food.  I had acquired a new squirrel on Friday from a lady who found her in her garage.  We knew she had been without food and water for at least 24 hours, maybe longer.  I named her Irmie.  She was the first of the hurricane babies to come.  Light as a feather it was not long before she quickly regained her body weight.  So we were set to wait out the storm to come. 

Storm prognosticators had kept moving the track further West which meant we would not be hit as hard as originally forecast.  However with this massive storm it was impossible to say anything which would be an absolute.  As it turned out the storm went up just inland from the Gulf Coast and on to the panhandle of the state which was good for the West Coast and for decreasing the overall power of the storm, but still it was rougher on us than we were hoping.  Sunday afternoon after I arrived, Susan and I piled up in her bed and watched 3 JAWS movies in a row in preparation for rising water.  The storm was to move into the area later that evening.  That was the last power Susan was to see at her house until Monday, a week later...well except for a brief two hour period the day after the storm which was only a cruel tease.  Monday morning with daylight we could begin to see what had happened during the night and was still happening with wind strong enough to make white caps in the front yard. 

The winds from the storm increased all Sunday.  This followed a week of wind from a Nor'easter which had already blown the waters in, building up along our shore and up the rivers causing a lot more inland water than ever before in many areas.  We were surrounded by water.  However, the house in which I had originally meant to go ride out the storm would have meant that my car, even though it would have been parked on what was considered high ground would have been ruined by the high water.  My instincts had guided me in that decision.  My car was older but very low mileage and in perfect condition.  Because of the age it would not have been replaceable with the same quality by insurance.

The wind had really been hard during the night.  More so than I was aware as part of what had awakened me from a troubled sleep had actually been a tornado, which had torn through just four houses up the street.  Across the street on the house under construction, the roofing sub layer which had been finished  was almost all blown off.  And yes, that is the construction site port-a-let laying in the water in front of that truck.  That made us feel good, (not!), about wading in that water. The wind died down somewhat but was still blowing very hard and the rain was still pelting down..

With daylight and some relief from the torrential rains I could see what to me was a startling sight just across the dune beyond the neighbors house across the street.  It was high tide and that is the ocean with mountainous swells making visible salt spray just beyond those sea oats on top of the dunes.  What would have happened if that water had been a few feet higher and the already compromised dunes from storms the previous year and the recent Nor'easter had given away?  The next time you decide to take a short cut across the dunes or decide it is OK to play in them even though the signs say not to, this is the reason.  Those dunes are extremely fragile, all that is there to protect us from the raging ocean at times like this.

My car had a only a few inches before it would have been harmed, even backed to the max.  My sweet sister had taped the tail pipe closed for me just in case it rose any higher.  I was still pretty handicapped from the broken leg as I hobbled around her house looking for a telephone signal.  Miraculously my phone was still able to get some kind of weak reception when no one elses would.  We were keeping it charged with the car charger downstairs in her garage, which had about 2" of water.

Some of the damage from the tornado up the street.  As Alan, our fellow storm refugee, found out as he waded up the street after things calmed down and the wind and clouds lifted.  He took my camera as I was unable to wade or walk that far.  Mr. Paul's house which had received damage from last years storm once again had the siding stripped from its sides from the tornado.  Power lines were down with two downed power poles.

The roof from the house next door to him had lifted off and was now in the street.  Fort Clinch State Park begins where the pavement ends.

This house is the second house down from Fort Clinch State Park's southern boundary.  A nice, but now severely damaged one.  This same tornado had moved across the island and had downed a big 1500 foot swath of trees inside the park area which runs parallel behind this street.  It is still a mess of twisted tree trunks there but some of the trails have now been reopened normal activities have mostly resumed in the park.  The damage to our Sea Turtle final 3 nests was total; however, we still had a successful Sea Turtle season with a final nest count of 40.  Our girls had laid early and high for a good season with higher than normal egg count in most of the nests.  The Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch had only one nest survive and it was too damaged with water probably to hatch, with a count of 39 nests washed away during the storm.  The remaining nests all over the state had a high mortality rate.  The Archie Carr Refuge, which has the most Sea Turtles laying there than anywhere else in the state, lost a quarter of its total Loggerhead nests and half of it's Green Turtles by the time it was all over.  Greens lay later in the season than Loggerheads.  The good news is that several of the nests they thought were lost did end up hatching and some of the Momma Loggerheads came back to lay even more nests.  The Greens have also came back to lay another 500 nests so far.  So it would seem the turtles have a way of making up for these losses.  It will be interesting to see how the overall stats stack up with previous years when we attend the yearly meetings in the Spring.

On Monday as the winds subsided, and people began to venture out of their homes to survey the damage, my phone began to receive messages of baby squirrels found which which had blown out of their nests.  Through some miracle, they managed to survive the horrible rain and wind onslaught from the night before.  Many squirrel moms were found dead, dying trying to protect their young.  This was tiny Stormy who was found in a pile of debris by Melissa.  She waded through thigh deep water to get her to me.  I slept with Stormy on my chest because she needed to stay warm enough without electricity to survive.

The next day Bruiser showed up to become her heating pad.   With Bruiser his whole nest had blown down.  Inside his carefully constructed nest he had been totally protected.  The person who found him initially tossed the ball of Spanish Moss aside thinking it debris.  They had heard a chirping sound but just thought it a nearby bird.  The next day as their dog started stiffing the ball of moss and the chirping really got loud they realized there was a baby squirrel inside.  When the rescuer waded the still over knee deep water to bring him to me I made the statement that this was the fattest little squirrel I had ever seen.  He was like a roly-poly ball, probably an only child whose mother had given him all her nourishment.

Calm had finally entered our watery world, but the very slowly receding water still left us stranded another day.  Stores of ice laid in for the storm kept the squirrel milk cool enough to keep feeding the ever increasing band of squirrels I had acquired.  Wednesday afternoon I received a call from one of the Park Rangers whose mom had found a baby squirrel.  So I said bring him on.  My very spotty telephone service had let me miss a lot of messages via Facebook about squirrels, but I had about all I could handle, and would have been hard for me to turn them down.  Nervous Nellie was a special case.  She was terrified and wanted nothing but to hide in a towel and be held.  Even though she was about as large as my older squirrels and already had her eyes open, she was still nursing and was hungry.  I tried her in with the squirrels more her age but she was very frightened of them.  Then I laid her down in the babies basket while I fed them little ones.  As I laid them back into the basket she seemed to have no problem with letting them cuddle with her.  Nellie became the nanny for the babies, never leaving the basket, only becoming visible, when I got her out to feed.  By Wednesday afternoon the water had receded enough to drive through but it still meant wading to get to the house.  I continued to stay at my sister's until Bruce could come help me with my ever growing  menagerie of squirrels and my debilitated left leg.  The prospects of going home to the mess there was not what I wanted to face alone.  It was Wednesday night before Bruce was able to leave his shelter duties.  Through neighbors I had been assured that although the tree debris was substantial, there didn't seem to be any damage to our house. 

Thursday morning we packed up and headed home.  Lots of tree damage and what appears to be grass is really a yard totally covered with twigs and leaves blown off the trees.  Lots of work ahead.  Our neighbor across the street was really wonderful and spent most of the afternoon assisting in getting the front yard under control as the piles of tree limbs began to grow along side the street.  John is the pastor of the Church of Christ on 14th Street and one who puts his message of love and caring for others into his actions.

My new neighbors recently constructed plastic fence miraculously was able to get by without a scratch.

Very large tree limbs were broken off everywhere in our yard, but except for one non important tree in the front yard, we lost no other trees and nothing damaging had hit the house.  We lost a lot of the immature acorns which gave me concern for the future food source for our squirrels.

It is hard to know where to start when the debris field is so huge but first order of business was to get the boards off the house as they make the house dark as a tomb inside.

Sweet little Bruiser was still like a tackle on a football team so his name was fitting.  He was as sweet as he was chubby.

Feeding time at the zoo was always a challenge.  Everyone wanted to be the first to get out for their much loved milk.  Pippi, our first, was easy to spot from the others with her very gray fur compared to the others with its more reddish brown tones.  We have quite a large gene pool going in our yard.

It was a relief to see that my two outside squirrels, Little Danny Boy and Little Bit had made it through the storm without harm.  Little Bit was a nursing mother so it seemed she had been able to keep her babies safe through the storm.  I searched the yard to make sure that there were no little ones down in it.

They do so love their milk when they are little and would eat until they popped if you let them.  Weighing them almost daily helped determine the correct amount for a feeding.

Bruiser in all his glory...quite a handful...literally.

Back to the park to survey the damage there.  We had lost half and sometimes all of another set of the major dunes.  With the tide out the beach is very wide.  Shells of the largest size I had seen on our beach had washed in so it was a sheller's paradise.

The river side had really lost a lot of dunes, but the debris on the beach was not nearly the massive amounts of the previous year with Matthew.

With seven little squirrels I finally turned my bathroom floor over to them as I cannot stand to leave them confined.  I put the open animal carrier the older ones slept in and the open basket in which Nellie, Stormy, and Bruiser slept all in the floor.  The second night I came in to check on them and when I lifted the very soft blanket cover off the basket I found all seven had decided to snuggle up together...what a mess of squirrels.  Tiny little Stormy is somewhere in that blend.

Pippi is on the end with her gray fur and the little one in the middle is Irmie I believe.  They learned climbing skills on the towel bars as I pinned towels in place on which to practice.

The Turtle Trot had been canceled because of the approaching storm, but a less formal one was put together a few weekends later so that the tradition would live on, especially since this year's was to honor one of the great losses of last year to our local turtle world with the death of Doug Stuber, one of the sweetest and most knowledgeable men on the Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch team.  My painting is held high over the heads of the Team's members assembled for the run.

My new studio has given me much more time to be productive and the paintings are being produced with a number of them involving Sea Turtles.  The new space has given me time to actually put together a series of paintings involving different kinds of Sea Life.  This one of emerging Leatherback babies was started pre-Irma and finished after the storm.  It is only 12 x 12 inches but has a lot packed into it..

Shortly after the storm another Nor'easter blew into town.  It still seems unreal that the pier we loved and used so long is now no longer part of this view.  Piles of sea foam are churned up by the wind; shellers and sharks' teeth hunters are out in full force trying to find a new treasure washed in by the rough seas.

Several Sea rescues and even a death at the island was attributed to people not heeding the red flag warnings and going out into the rough water, getting caught in a "rip tide", and carried out to sea.

We have had lots of driftwood wash ashore and great care still needs to be taken by boaters as floating logs and wood just under the surface of the water can be a real danger.

Stormy and Bruiser continued to go to work with me and the others were large enough to go outside in the outdoor cage to get ready for release.  Nellie had finally gotten comfortable enough with them to become part of the gang.

In the end I brought Pippi back in as she just felt she was special being the only child for a good while.  She was not comfortable with being just part of the gang.  When I would go out she looked small and lonely as she would be setting off to herself just waiting for someone to come get her.  

Most recently we had some of our dearest friends come for a visit.  Orie had grown up next door to us and we shared a childhood with her and her brothers since our move when I was in 4th grade.  I always try to get a haircut from her when she is around.  She worked with my Aunt Helen for many, many years in her beauty shop and I still like her haircuts best.  Helen outlasted Orie, who retired first. Aunt Helen lasted well into her 80's as a beautician. We had a great visit with Susan's daughter, Nicki, and the Grands.  This is cute little Everly getting to know our Fall Branch friends.

Since I never get into the photos I made an exception and let someone else hold the camera for a change and so that when you do see me you will still recognize me, although this was pre-haircut.

The Turtle Trot painting, "Turtle Ballet" is is the largest of the paintings I have been able to complete since moving up to Fern and Dina's Art Center/Gallery.  

"Waterways" was almost finished when I moved.  It is 24 x 36.

"Rough Seas" was a repaint of an old painting which I liked but was then totally not something I would ever sell here.  It is no longer pink.

Starting a new venture and getting my feet wet again, my first "start from scratch" painting called "Fossils", has already sold.

Using some of the same visual design with the netting I set out in a new direction with more Sea Critters and things that might get caught in a seine net pull, like we used to do when we visited Cumberland Island.  I love the colors of the Blue Crabs especially.

This is the newest to be finished, "Sunday Brunch".  Called that because Green Turtles are Herbivores and this one is selecting its next seaweed meal.  What I am doing now is taking the Sea Turtle drawings I had done for the Turtle Trot painting and am putting them into a single portrait type of painting of each of the turtles.  They will be done so that they can be sold individually or as a group that will work together, a triptych, as in the end there will be three of them.

And so the journey continues into my becoming what I have always wanted to become, but problem is getting the time to keep up.  The first 4 of the squirrels have been released.  The second batch will be harder to separate myself from as they are a bit more special in different ways.  I cannot imagine even surviving that wind and rain they survived.  I knew when the storm was coming that with squirrel nesting season in full swing there would be many, many squirrels displaced or killed during the storm.  So many babies which needed rehabbing that the numbers in the shelters were staggering and who knows how many were raised by individuals like me.  Soon the time drag of the squirrels, except for Old Man will end and hopefully soon I will have days where the ankle is not swollen and painful at the end of a day.  Maybe I can regain some of my former energy and drive.  But for now as a very wise lady once said, "It is what it is and it ain't what it ain't".  Acceptance is hard for me especially when it is physical limitations dragging me down.  

Thanks to all of you who have managed to find me at the new location.  Please come in to see me and visit anytime.  I have new photo greeting cards ordered since I was almost totally out, the possibilities are good for a successful, less stressful life with the new space as soon as I can catch up on the moving and startup expenses. The prospects promise a brighter time career wise.  At a time when life is slowing down for most I am excited about gearing up for more exciting stuff to happen.  I want to be like Loa Sprung who at 95 is still painting daily and finding new ways to express herself.  She recently said to me "have you tried alcohol inks?  I am so glad I didn't die before I discovered them" I recently bought some "alcohol inks" and will soon get to finally try them.

(Please take a moment to consider:
These photo-stories have always been offered completely free, to simply share the wonders of nature. Thousands of hours have been poured into them and it has even become necessary to enlist the services of a paid email service to send out the large numbers who now receive them. So, with the current economic situation if you are able to make a small donation to help ensure the continuation of the stories it would be greatly appreciated.)

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