Coronavirus Chronicles, North Carolina, North Carolina Historic Sites

Town Creek Indian Mound

Yesterday Sandy and I drove south to Town Creek Indian Mound, a state historic site in Montgomery County, North Carolina. I had never been there, and Sandy had gone many years ago. Unfortunately, the visitor center with the museum and gift shop was closed, but we could walk around the reconstructed mound and buildings and a prairie had been re-established in the once groomed picnic grounds around the site.

There is a large creek running on one side and a nature trail through the woods that is easy and flat, although this time of year it was muggy and buggy. Still, it was good to go some place different and get outside. I was able to get some nice photos.

I wore a mask outside most of the time because my allergies are kicking butt.

Also, I was surprised to see that Troy and Mt. Gilead had some interesting shops in their downtown areas. I hope that they are still there post-pandemic because I’m not shopping for anything but essentials inside stores until things get much safer.

Morrow Mountain State Park is nearby and one thing that I would like to do during this time is to visit as many state parks and historic sites within a day’s drive as possible to force myself out of the house. We used to go to nearby Lake Tillery and Badin Lake about 20-25 years ago when we had an operating jet ski and friends that had places down there. There was a Revolutionary War reenactment that we participated in a couple of times in the area. That area is where the Henley side of my family settled in the 18-19th century. So I wouldn’t mind going back.

Another family connection, although not by blood, is that my grand nephew is the direct descendant and namesake of the archaeologist who directed the reconstruction at Town Creek.

Critters: I have never seen this kind of ant before.

Look out, spider!

Fungi and textures:

And us:

Coronavirus Chronicles, Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina

Lake Waccamaw, Part V

One evening we were invited to sit on the pier of some friends on the bluff side of the lake for some socially distanced drinks. This is the side of the lake that didn’t get flooded, but most of the piers were ruined. My sister and brother-in-law rented a house up here while they repaired their house from Hurricane Florence, and they almost sold the house on the water and bought a house on this side, where the bluff protects the houses. It is nerve wracking to worry about every big storm that comes in off the coast.

The whole lake is part of Lake Waccamaw State Park. The marsh grasses moving with the waves were lovely.

Sandy had supposed to return for jury duty, but the state postponed jury trials again due to the pandemic. So we stayed another day.

My plan is to come back for a week or so in late July during the time that we had planned to go to Knoxville for Convergence and to Topsail Beach. The wifi is actually better at the lake house than it is here, so I could work from there if I wanted. Late July can be really hot down there if there is no breeze, and I prefer to keep the windows open instead of turning on the air conditioning, so I might play it by ear.

So today is the last day of my two week vacation. It’s been good to be able to turn off the work email, although I did weigh in a couple of times. If I had not taken this time off, I probably would have been tied to this laptop all day every day, because of all the preparations for returning the students to campus for fall semester. Of course, the administration came up with an incredibly complicated way to deal with it, and my personal feeling was that it would have been less confusing to leave it the way it was and let the faculty members handle dividing up the class lectures. Fortunately, my department head told them that I was off for two weeks and that someone in the registrar’s office would need to handle the schedule changes. I need a mental health break and he knew it. As I’ve said many times, I work with an incredible group of people.

Tomorrow I am going to go back to my office for at least a few hours a day, isolated. I need to get back into a routine. Luckily my home is a 15 minute walk away, so I think I can manage this without having to use the public spaces much, such as bathrooms. If I needed to, I could easily do my whole job from home, really. I hope that it doesn’t come to that.

Coronavirus Chronicles, critters, Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina

Lake Waccamaw 2020, Part IV

My sister and I took a few walks beside the canal across the road from the houses on Canal Cove Rd. There are a lot of alligators in the canal these days, but I didn’t see any on the banks beside the road and none of them were huge. The lake residents don’t really think twice about them.

Lisa loves birds. There are many bird feeders around her house, and the variety of birds at Lake Waccamaw is astounding. At night you get to hear all kinds of sounds that I never hear anywhere else.

And my sister absolutely loves cats. Her two cats are like children to her, and they have great personalities, both very, very different. She can take Rascal outside and hold him, and he doesn’t try to get away. He will try to slip out the door, though, so you have to watch out for him. When you pick him up, he melts into your shoulder. Sissy, on the other hand, is tiny and shy. It takes a few days for her to accept you.

She, along with a few others, takes care of a feral cat colony down the road at a cabin that is seldom occupied. It used to host Friday night potlucks on the pier for the community, and a gardener continues to keep the plants blooming all over the pier. Now there are three mother cats and four kittens that we know of. Lisa found a home for one kitten that didn’t seem to belong to the colony, but the others are too wild.

There really is nothing like gaining the trust and friendship of a feral cat.

Coronavirus Chronicles, Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina

Lake Waccamaw 2020, Part III

My sister’s house is a short walk or swim away. They have a beautiful place with their two adorable cats and a pier and a pontoon boat. One morning they pulled up in front of our house to take us for a ride. It was the first time that all thoughts of the pandemic left my mind for a long time.

It rained almost every evening and one storm produced two rainbows. We could see the end of each rainbow. One faintly ended on top of the pier and it is hard to see here but I tried to capture it. It was so close!

The other developed a few minutes later and spanned the sky, ending in the lake past the piers. You could actually see the colors reflected on top of the water. I wonder what is down there?

I thought that the texture of the hard rain hitting the lake was striking, also.

Coronavirus Chronicles, Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina

Lake Waccamaw 2020, Part II

I believe that it was Saturday when Sandy and I spent time sitting in the lake and on the shore. The little fish kept nibbling at our legs and when one tried to go up my bathing suit I gave it up. I got a bit of sunburn despite sitting in the shade of the bald cypress trees. Every now and then I walked out in the water to the end of the pier next door to cool off. The water is high from all the rain right now, but it doesn’t get over your head for a long ways out.

Coronavirus Chronicles, Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina

Lake Waccamaw 2020, Part I

We are lucky that we still have the option of staying at the family house at Lake Waccamaw. Everyone thought that Hurricane Florence had finally done it in, but my cousin’s wife, who has lifetime rights to the property, sunk some money into fixing it back up. She replaced the appliances and the mattresses and the furniture, for the most part. It still has a problem with flooding, being that it sits directly upon a cement slab in the ground. In fact, there was minor flooding there a couple of weeks before we got there.

So, instead of going to Ireland, Sandy and I spent a week at the lake. We got to spend time with my sister and brother-in-law, which was fun and good for my soul. We brought a ton of food because I vowed not to shop at the local stores because of their lax co-vid attitude, and we got take-out from Dale’s twice. The rest of the time we ate at the house or my sister and brother-in-law fed us. Fed us extremely well!

I was delighted because the beach had not been cleaned up for a while after several big storms, so the driftwood picking was good. A turkey vulture must have had a fight, because I got a couple of really big feathers that are in good enough shape to make quills with. There was also a lot of plastic to be disposed of, sadly.

Unfortunately, I still could not break out of my artist block. I started to put together a collage, then the wind picked up on the porch and I put it away, never to bring it out again. The idea is still with me, though. I read a lot and took some really great photos. Sleep continued to be elusive for multiple reasons and I will take a mattress pad with me next time I go, which could be in a few weeks.

To be continued, with more photos.

Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina

Lake Waccamaw Spring 2019

Here’s a quickie post of our Easter weekend at Lake Waccamaw. It was very stormy on Friday with a couple of tornado warnings nearby. Of course the weather cleared up on the day we left. As usual, the birds amused me and I saw a pileated woodpecker. You can see some of the damage on the piers from Hurricane Florence last September. My sister’s house is repaired and livable again. As they began doing the repairs, they found less that needed to be done. That’s pretty unusual. The fact that the house is uninsulated helped – no moisture sitting in the walls to grow mold in. Still, it was a big repair job and much of the furniture was ruined. Now it is nice again.

My cousin’s house is still standing, but it needs to be torn down.

art retreats, book arts, dyeing, Mixed media art, North Carolina, North Carolina beaches

Ancient Wisdom


A couple of weekends ago, Susanne, Sandy, and I went to Topsail Beach for a long weekend. Sandy hung out by himself mostly while Susanne and I took a workshop with Leslie Marsh and Kim Beller called Ancient Wisdom. We stayed at the Jolly Roger Inn and Pier. The weather was a bit chilly and cloudy and it rained really hard one night but we got out on the beach a little. We had oceanfront rooms and that was nice.

We drove down on Thursday evening and ate dinner at the Beach Shop and Grill. With that name we expected hamburgers and hot dogs but it was a very expensive and wonderful restaurant. Sandy saved us by picking up the check. He had crab cakes that were divine. I am not sure that there was any bread in them at all. Susanne and I had shrimp and grits and I think that they might now be number one on my list of favorite shrimp and grits places.

In the morning, we indulged in doughnuts from the Fractured Prune. At this point I knew that there was no hope for my diet. When we went back to the hotel room, Susanne and I walked on the beach and picked up stuff, as you do, and after we went up to our rooms this guy showed up drawing fabulous runes on the beach in front of our hotel. Our own personal installation artist.

Friday afternoon was spent cutting our windows into bookboard and wrapping the covers with plaster gauze. They had to cure overnight.

When we got back to the hotel, the artist had finished.

Then we drove to Wilmington and ate dinner at one of our favorite places: Indochine. The rumors of its demise during Hurricane Florence are not true, thankfully.

The next day was dyeing day! Leslie had eight different natural dye pots going in her backyard and we spent most of the day dipping our book pages in them. What a great opportunity for overdyeing! I have never had access to so many colors at one time so I went nuts. I could not tell you the combinations on a lot of my pages, but I used indigo on most of them. Turmeric, avocado pits and skins, black walnut, and turmeric made good combinations too. Other dyepots held madder, yellow onion skins, red cabbage (which fades to light gray) and blueberries (also light-sensitive and fugitive). Honestly, I never guessed that you could get such beautiful natural dye results on paper.

We forced ourselves to stop and paint our plaster covers so that they would be dry by the time we bound our books the last day. I cut my mica too close to the edge because I was thinking that the plaster would be covering it. Stitching it that close to the edge ripped out through the sides so i improvised. Those sea oats were picked up off the road after the hurricane, by the way; no illegal picking of sea oats happened here. I scratched and stamped circles into the plaster to honor the art work I had seen on the beach – this is still a work in progress.

That night we ate at Sears Landing in Surf City near the bridge on the Intracoastal Waterway. This is a place where I will definitely return. All the weight I lost and more came back by the end of the night.

After dinner we went to Quarter Moon Books and Wine Bar  where the three of us and Pam, a friend we met at the workshops down here, had drinks and listened to some great acoustic music by The Doug McFarland One. (He is a hoot.)

On Sunday we bound our beautiful colorful signatures with longstitch (for using as warp for weaving later) and then put the whole shebang together with coptic stitch.

We didn’t have time to do the woven binding but I drilled holes in the back cover and I am working on embellishing this book further now.

Thanks, Leslie Marsh and Kim Beller for another exquisite workshop experience! Also to Bee Shay for spending her lunch teaching a few of us to wrap stones with macrame stitching for hanging. What a sweet weekend it was.

augggghhhh, Back Forty, coffee pot posts, depression/anxiety, Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina

Saturday morning coffee pot post

Because we all need cute kitty photos right now.

Hey y’all. I fully intend to work on finishing the travelogue during the next few days. I need to do it because many of my memory cells for details left with my estrogen a few years ago, and that’s one of the reasons I love to document my trips – to revisit them later.

Right now, I am, as most women are in this nation, gobsmacked over the proceedings in Washington, D.C. This one hit so much more personally than other sexual assault or harassment accounts because of the age of Dr. Ford and most of all, the fear factor. I’m repeatedly revisiting an episode in my life that I do not want to think about at all. So many of us are.

The other MAJOR thing that shell-shocked my sister and me this week was somewhat expected, but it is a little like when you have an elderly loved one that has arthritis and other health issues but has powered through many difficulties, and then that loved one meets with an accident and dies. My sister’s home and the house that my grandfather built at Lake Waccamaw are going to be demolished due to the flooding from Hurricane Florence.

Therefore, I am processing grief about my sister and brother-in-law’s loss and I am processing grief about losing the place where I go to process grief. I don’t know yet whether houses will be rebuilt on the sites. My sister had good flood insurance and the FEMA agent was very encouraging about them recovering their financial loss. The other house has never had insurance. We are all reeling.

I haven’t heard from my brother in Lumberton. I haven’t heard from Weezer. I’m not sure that I can talk about it with her yet now that my tears have started. I have always been a place person. I’m not even over selling Mama’s house yet. I will write further about Lake Waccamaw later when I have more information. I, I, I. Yes, I’m aware of all the I’s I am using. I’m aware of the other suffering in the world that is greater than mine.

In addition, there is hypocrisy and drama and devious game playing at my workplace again, despite the efforts of some to bring a unified consensus about who might be our next department head. I’m just praying that it won’t be the same kind of shitshow that happened almost four years ago. My workplace used to have a really great collegial atmosphere except for the usual couple of irredeemable curmudgeons found in every organization, but I have seen a side of people that makes me disgusted and puzzled and exhausted and unsure of what people think of me. I don’t have any faith in the higher administrators. Thank God I can close my office door, play some music and get my work done, and dream about retirement.

So there you have it. My venting is done.

There is a pumpkin in the Back Forty that I’m going to go cut off the vine and bring in. Pablocito is purring on this table – he would be directly behind the laptop if my sewing machine wasn’t there. Diego showed some spunk this morning and raced back and forth through the house and out to the porch and back. There are butterbeans to be shelled and tomatoes to be cooked into sauce.

I’m going to research small RVs and RV camping for beginners. I was planning to buy a cheap camper van from a neighbor when I got back from our big trip but I don’t think that I will now.

Solar panel installation financing has been approved but I have to find some paperwork and it may take longer to get done that I anticipated. There will have to be some rewiring in the attic, and I hope to get this done at the same time.

Next weekend I am going to the Talk Story retreat in Stamford, Connecticut to take a 2-day class with Sharon Payne Bolton and that will be a very welcome stress reliever! I took a class with her several years ago in California and it was a wonderful experience. If you ever have a chance to go to one of these events, I highly recommend it. It is a great choice for a first art retreat, although it may addict you. (This retreat was known as Art is You, but they are reorganizing and renaming it.)

Back to the travelogue, which I will backdate once I finish the series.

art, book arts, dyeing, Nature printing, North Carolina, North Carolina beaches

Zhen Xian Bao by the Sea

This past weekend, Susanne and I went to a wonderful Zhen Xian Bao book class at Topsail Beach, NC, taught by Leslie Marsh and Kim Beller. The first day we spent natural dyeing with plant materials and indigo on paper and fabric. The next day was spent constructing the book, which is made with glue, scissors, and folding. The book structure is a traditional Chinese thread book made for the purpose of holding embroidery threads, needles, and the odd bits that might be kept for different projects. Ruth Smith researched this extensively and published books about it, and it is being taught by artists in the United States now. I took a class on this structure at Focus on Book Arts last summer, which I absolutely loved. Kim and Leslie put their own spin on it by adding more layers and the natural dye/shibori element. Of course, Leslie acknowledged the instruction of India Flint in her teaching of eco-printing techniques.

The big dilemma in making this book is that you have to sacrifice some images that you might love to be on the side that is glued down. The biggest one for me was the big box that makes the base and the cover. Both sides had their charms, but I had to pick one. The other can be seen on the bottom of the lowest box when the book is opened. I thought about embellishing the cover further, but I think that I will leave it alone other than brushing some Dorland’s wax medium on it to make it a little stronger and more weatherproof.

above: unbundling, trying out cover sides and the finished cover

I added the 70% silk/30% cotton thread to every bundle. I now have some dark and bright indigo threads to add to my tapestry, once I get them untangled. One groups of the threads I laid inside a bundle made a portrait of two humans. Fortunately I was able to preserve this image in the bottom of one of the boxes near the top.

More photos of the dyeing/bundling process:

Update: I don’t do Pinterest too much – too overwhelming and I don’t need another rabbit hole. If you are into it, here’s a great board on the Zhen Xian Bao book structure.