I wiped away the weeds & foam. / I fetched my sea-born treasures home... Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween!
Autumn creeps in slowly here at The Beach...our much anticipated crisper nights are punctuated with warm sunny days, interspersed with cool and grey days, sometimes rain, sometimes fog. Or Autumn can blow in like March's lion, swept ashore by a nor'easter's gale. The marshes slowly turn amber and the roadsides present a scarlet tumble of Virginia creeper and poison ivy. I love those first chilly nights when I go out  to see Orion hover over the black ocean or watch the Harvest full moon rise, enormous in the velvety sky. As October passes its mid-point I begin to fill my house with autumn accents mostly natural things like pumpkins, squash and bittersweet.
I dig out the orange quilts too...in quilt collecting terms orange is designated by the more charming terms"cheddar" for bright golden-orange and "pumpkin" for deeper red-orange tones; an occasional dash of "bittersweet " may be used also---it means a warm red brick color. Lucky for me, the brilliant antique oranges look great with my summer blues and white.
Earlier this month I found a wonderful used book at my flea market: Seasonal Home by Kristin Perrers; photography by James Merrell [Time-Life Books, 1998]. Lovely photos and ideas about bringing nature indoors. It's sometimes hard to store away the summer's finds---bowls of white shells and seaglass, sand dollars and starfish, the special driftwood pieces---sorting them out and boxing them up seems too final---so the book was quite a wonderful inspiration for only a dollar! Pristine condition too.

When I lugged home this old tin bowl--a baby bathinette, to use the old-fashioned term---? everyone wondered what the heck I'd use it for, but I knew the oranges of the pumpkins would contrast beautifully with the old bright turquoise graniteware. (Later I'll use it to store my yarn, for winter knitting...)
And of course I must have flowers! Deep burgundy-black dahlias from the farmers market were a great pleasure too, shown here in an antique English transferware pitcher c.1880 in the Japonesque style. It is prized for its rare orange and gilt pattern.I put it on my coffee table with a cheddar colored quilted runner and a scented candle("Farmers Market" from Yankee Candles, how could I resist? I bought "Autumn Leaves" too. Lovely!). For safety I put the candle in an old tin star-shaped cake mold, then set it on another transferware piece, this one a black & white small bowl.

Even the stairway gets Autumn-ized a bit!
A tiny pumpkin has joined the seashell display on my Pennsylvania farm bench. Note its wonderful old turquoise paint.

More pumpkins, plus colorful Indian corn set casually in early 1900s era pumpkin-glaze yelloware bowls.
And yet more dahlias from Stan-Pat Farm at my farmers market! Don't they look like an old Dutch still-life painting. Glorious colors, glorious Fall!

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Black Cats

HAPPY HALLOWEEN! I am happy to be back online after some very frightful computer problems recently....

Aren't Halloween Black Cats just the best!
I have always been a cat lover---calico or tabby, angora or smooth, sleek and black---so bewitching, exactly suited to be icons of Halloween. The other day a beautiful big black Halloween cat jumped a tall wooden fence and scampered across the red-leaf strewn street in front of my car--she was chasing squirrels, I am betting. My litle town has a very slow speed limit, so no chance of injury, just the pleaure of seeing the cat leap down so gracefully.

And what could be more evocative of Autumn and Halloween than a black cat. Every year I try to make at least one folk art cat-dolly. Above is the kitty from last year, her name is Esmeralda and she now resides in someone's private collection. I hope she is out and enjoying her second year. And this is Tabitha, my Black Cat Doll for 2009....
She is pictured here with her handmade velvet pumpkin and a tiny Black Cat whom I rescued at the flea market this summer. Tabitha was finished just this weekend and will be offered on my etsy and eBay sites. Please consider bringing her home? http://www.gonetothebeach.etsy.com/
Miss Tabitha is entirely handmade by me, using no patterns or instructions, just my imagination and scraps of fabric and antique buttons from my limitless stash. Her dress is calico, as is her body--so she is a Calico Black Cat! Her pinafore is created with a post-Civil War, c.1870 quilt block that features rare back & white mourning prints. I love the jagged edges, so perfect for Halloween.
The block is especially admirable because of the incredibly tiny even stitches that someone---maybe 150 years ago---used to carefully piece these treasured fabrics. Who knows what memories these tiny scraps inspired? You can see the stitching, in an old orange thread on this reverse photo, please use the zoom. I consider myself a fairly fine sewer and I could not begin to sew like that! My machine doesn't sew like that either.

Back to this adorable lady---I found her tucked into a chipped old china pitcher! Just her head was peeking out! She is only 5" tall, so tiny and so sweet.
Isn't her face wonderful---especially her teeny tiny green eyes and pink mouth. When I got her home and undressed her to launder and press her pretty clothes I found out that she is signed, both with a miniscule flower on her side, a tattoo! And her pinafore hem is signed by her creator, It reads: 1990 [peace sign] Nancy Banker Markle  Brooksville Maine, handwritten in tiny black script. So, as one folk artist to another, thank you for this tiny treasure! Note too her perfect green pinafore, autumn leaves, worn over a dusty rose skirt; the pinafore or blouse is embroidered too, with three tiny orange dots that I am calling pumpkins. I had planned to have her be Tabitha's doll baby, but I find I cannot yet part with her. And so she will stay with me and be my inspiration for future Black Cats---I have named her Nan in honor of her maker. Nan will be cherished in her new home here with me at The Beach.
Wishing everyone lots of black cat good luck and Halloween magic! Enjoy that candy corn!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Autumn Blues Hearts- a preview

Hi! Just a quick look at my newest group of hearts.

They are scented with cinnamon & Cape Cod lavender....Hopefully will be on sale by Sunday, October 11, just in time for Columbus Day. [etsy &/or eBay...]

I love Columbus Day! Old-fashioned holiday, but, to me, it marks the very beginning of autumn at The Beach. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Beach Treasure: The Decoy

A few weeks ago we had a full moon/ high tide storm and the fences that protect the nesting sites of the endangered bird species were swept away or toppled. The conservation people removed the fences afterward, much earlier than usual but late enough that the baby birds were long since fledged and gone. While the fences are up we respect their boundaries and beachcombers like myself do not venture into those areas or onto the dunes. But as soon as the fences and (threatening!) signs disappear I love to go see what all has accumulated since late March.

This year I almost immediately found something quite unusual. First I reluctantly passed up the huge seine net with floats and hooks and rings, and instead combed the edges of the dunes. And there I found a wonderful decoy of an arctic tern, handmade, hand painted, made out of wood.

Now all these years I've watched the fences go up each spring and the birds arrive. To the east are the arctic and common terns; an amazing and huge flock of black skimmers nests just beyond that. To the west are least terns, so tiny, so aggressive! And dotted all around are plover nests and oystercatcher nests---rare species that do not nest in communal flocks but like the company of others.
So I'd watch and I’d wonder: How do they know to come here? How do they know that these areas are for them and that they are safe? Why that part of the beach and not another unfenced section? The fences are not really much, I am not sure the birds can even perceive them--- just some posts and orange string and those nasty signs stuck in the sand. Sooooo???

plover chick  and adult oyser catcher/fence in upper right

So now I know! Just as duck hunters attract their prey with decoys the endangered species patrol attracts our shorebirds with decoys of their own kind. Who ever knew! And who would ever guess that they use handmade folk-art quality decoys instead of something plastic or mass produced.

mixed tern flock

adult skimmers and chicks

A treasure found, a mystery solved…….

* * * *
A note about the wild birds with whom we share our beach: at the end of the summer, large flocks of terns and plovers and skimmers and gulls congregate along the shoreline. They feed on the various organisms of the tidal beach, from bugs to clams to minnows to trash, fattening themselves for their long migrations south for the winter months. They need to eat as much as possible and conserve energy
for the long and stressful flights, sometimes many thousands of miles. The birds will scurry away from humans---often in adorably perfect unison--- but they try not to fly which requires more effort. And most beachgoers either respect the birds and detour around, or simply ignore them---which is fine. But late this summer on at least two occasions I saw young children, totally supervised by careful adults, allowed, even encouraged, to chase and harass the birds into flight.
                                                                                                                                          black skimmer flock

It was appalling to me.

One set of cute little boys chased the thousands of sanderlings and plovers into fight, not once, not twice but again and again and again until the flock flew away from out beach—their home!---in fear and frustration. They would circle around and around out over the waves, panic-stricken. Yet as soon as they resettled the boys would again attack. Another time children viciously chased the gulls, yes, a hardier sort of creature, but still not deserving of being attacked by diminutive human terrors.
                                                              pre-migratory sanderlings               

At the time I did and said nothing. Since this occurred at a public beach I was too cautious to approach the parents and remonstrate or complain. But I am asking you all now---please! Enjoy the beach, enjoy a day in the sun and sand and surf with your children. But please teach those children to respect the wild creatures who also live here at The Beach.

skimmers in flight
Pls click on photos to see larger pix of my birds!