After posting the image of Hurricane Florence’s projected path, the storm shifted, veering south where it then pivoted north once more. Fortunately, I can say that the worst damage at my house was the destruction the kids left behind due to being stuck inside with no school for five days. (On the plus side, the poor weather gave me the excuse to stay in and finish work on An Uncertain Confidence which will be going on sale later next month).
However, much of the rest of the state, particularly the south and eastern portions, can’t say the same. Hurricane Florence was downgraded as far as wind speed goes to a shadow of her former self before the eye of the storm made landfall. Unfortunately, once here, she decided to stick around and stay for a while. I don’t entirely blame her. I’ve done the same.
She brought more than three feet of rain in some areas. That’s as deep as some of the local neighborhood swimming pools. Under a normal summer, this might have been welcome as we’re usually under drought conditions, but we’ve seen a lot of rain this summer. What am saying? Three feet of water dumping down on your head over a matter of days is never a good thing.
In any event, the rivers started rising. And rising. And rising, causing a few of our highways to become temporary rivers in their own right.
The crunch of gravel in between pelts of rainfall. That’s what woke me up. Dawn was still far away as evidenced by the lack of light that penetrated through the thin fabric of our tent.
Though the hour was late, my eyes were wide open and sleep would not be returning soon. Had the noise outside been only a dream? I strained my ears.
The sound of rocks being turned underfoot was unmistakable and could only mean one thing – our campsite had an uninvited visitor.
Careful to not make too much sound, I shifted while I recalled the grounds manager’s warning from earlier that day. “Make sure you put your foodstuffs in your car and lock them up at night,” she’d said. “A bear has been hanging out not too far away.”
Had we not secured it all?
The patter of rain on the tent’s rooftop increased, though a second tent frame, covered by a tarp, hung over the campsite’s picnic table. The storm wouldn’t be driving our uninvited guest away.
Or is it guests?
Her Royal Highness, who had rolled her body into a ball next to my knees snored. If something dangerous was out there, she’d know it, right? I told myself, followed by Some guard dog she’s proven to be. Still, I was glad enough for her lack of consciousness at the moment having no desire to invite any more of the wildlife’s attention than we already had with an over defensive response.
The rain continued to fall. Thunder rolled in the distance. I held my breath – and listened.
Drip. Drip. Drop. The storm began to taper off without a recurrence of the gravel’s crunch. Had our guest moved on? I couldn’t tell.
Her Royal Highness woke and went to the edge of my sleeping mat where she began to cough and make a retching noise sure to wake the other sleepers. The mountain air must not be agreeing with her tummy.
I looked at the ceiling. Tap. Tap. Would this rain ever end? I looked at the window. I hadn’t dared unzip the flap before. My husband shifted – fast asleep – oblivious to it all.
Her Royal Highness’s retching continued.
Was I willing to risk taking her outside or was I willing to sleep in a tent one more night christened with her sick-up?
Her Royal Highness moved to the tent door, facing away from the picnic area, and touched the corner with her nose. She’d cleverly managed to figure out how its zippers worked earlier in the day to the delight of our children and appeared to be willing to do so again. Perhaps the choice wasn’t entirely mine to make after all.
Hoping to hope not to bump into our uninvited guest (who’d only grown larger in my imagination by the second), I ran out with her into the night’s storm, staying close enough to grab her shoulder and force her back inside if I so much as heard a twig snap from the area on the other side of the tent. Rain soaked my shirt as Her Royal Highness stopped coughing and began to sniff around.
She took a few steps forward, squatted, turned around and ran back inside.
All that fuss for that?
I followed her in a flash and zipped the door and its flimsy protection closed once more. I huddled under my blanket as Her Royal Highness sprawled out across my legs.
Drip…Drip… The drops of water fell softer – lighter – and somehow sleep managed to find me once more.
Even so, I was the first to wake the following morning. I opened the flap and stepped toward the picnic table – sure and yet uncertain of what exactly I might find.
A box of pre-packaged brownies lay on its side with the corner of the box ripped open and much of its contents removed. While we had taken our cooler to the truck the night before when the rain began, we must have missed it under the table.
I heard my stepdad, who had camped with us, tell my boys the damage was from a raccoon. That was smart thinking on his part, I thought. The boys wouldn’t make us leave our vacation early for a raccoon. I whispered to my husband. “I heard it last night. Sounded big. Like a bear.”
I started picking up. A pile of paper plates, still in their plastic wrapper, had been turned upside down. Something had tried to open the package. I took the plates to my husband to show evidence of the visitor’s claw.
Except that’s when I noticed it was not one claw mark, but two.
Two tiny holes from claws attached to finger-shaped paws.
Paws belonging to creatures who like to wash their food.
Creatures who must like to eat their snacks on plates too and animals who had most likely experienced the fright of their night when Her Royal Highness and I suddenly appeared out of nowhere in the middle of a downpour. I guess my stepdad hadn’t told my kids a story after all.
We joked about the party those raccoons must have had that night while we spent the daylight hiking. When evening came, we made sure to do a better job of securing our belongings. We’d learned our lesson. If the raccoons did come back they would find their party hosts much less accommodating than their native surroundings.
We had a great time and thanks to all that rain the waterfalls were spectacular. Had the lack of sleep, the late night visitors, or storm put me off camping again like this in the future? Absolutely not – we’re not exactly backpacking. After all, what’s the worst that could happen?
Ah, darlings, so good of you to come. I am so very glad you were able to attend my showing. Please help yourself to a glass of cheap wine located at the bar in the back of the gallery. There is also a platter of cheese circulating around here somewhere. I’ve even used the fancy toothpicks with the colored tape on them.
Before we get started, I would like to express as special thanks to Helen Jones of Journey to Ambeth for inspiring today’s event, an event I have entitled How to have Fun with Prisma.
For my first piece, I decided to start with the lighthouse at Cape Lookout, NC. The North Carolina coast is also known as the graveyard of the Atlantic, and for good reason. The shifting sands of the outer banks have ruined many a ship, not to mention we enjoyed more than our fair share of piracy back in the day.
There are at least six coastal light stations you can climb along the shore, but the lighthouse at Cape Lookout is one of my favorites.
Here, I’ve tried to capture the importance, as well as the strength, in providing light to others.
For my next piece, I chose to focus on one of North Carolina’s many lakes. I decided to go in a more impressionistic brush, as there is nothing quite like the rainbow of colors that dance across the sky as the sun sets over still water.
The figure in silhouette coming from the pier walks with confidence, and yet takes up only a small portion of the composition. The figure has plenty of room for growth. A flag flies high but is limp. Like the figure, it too is proud but requires a strong wind or other unseen support to reach its full potential.
It is a piece about the beauty of age and the promise of the future.
Keeping with my theme of water, I have a piece entitled Two Boys and the Sea. The sea in this piece is detailed in tones of red and white rather than the traditional coastal color schemes. It challenges the viewer to reconsider preconceptions.
In it, one boy stands boldly, ready for the onset of the incoming wave, while the other runs away leaving footprints deep in the sand.
There is fear of the unknown in this piece, but there is also joy and acceptance. It all comes down to perspective.
This next take on the ocean highlights the ever-changing nature of the sea. Each slight variation of color has been highlighted in curvature.
The colors in this piece are faded as if this moment in time has already be relegated to nostalgia and memory.
A dog leaps into the waves while the other figures watch on.
This is a piece about noticing the small details and living in the moment as it reinforces how fleeting those moments can be.
Finally, for my last piece, I broke away from the themes of water and the great outdoors.
The dog is alert as shown by the open eye and perked ear, although the sprawled position on the floor would suggest she might not be for long. The rainbow hues and frantic brush strokes suggest she has been revitalized by her recent journey, yet at the same time, the subject is clearly exhausted from the travel.
This is a piece that reinforces the refrain (for at least one weary traveler): be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.
About the Artist
While I do appreciate the nuances of composition, color selection, brush thickness, and stroke in art, I am in no way, shape, or form, a professional painter, photographer, or art critic.
I simply just wanted to share some of my recent photos and had way too much fun with a new phone app.
I hope you enjoyed your free virtual cheese and wine and thank you for your continued patronage.
“There is no sincerer love than the love of food” – George Bernard Shaw
“Why did you decide to stay in Raleigh?” It is a question my dad periodically asks, hoping that I might one day see the error of my ways and move closer to him. I like to counter, you can always move here. “I just don’t get what you see in it.” As a recently elected official in a town more than a hundred miles away, I understand his local pride is running particularly high at the moment, but when this conversation comes up, I always want to respond, I don’t get what you don’t.
Raleigh has grit (and not the dirty kind)
(Image: Joule Cafe‘s stone ground grits paired with a White Russian)
One such is Ashley Christensen, a nationally recognized chef (and 2014 James Beard award-winning Best Chef: Southeast) who purchased a one time Piggly Wiggly and repurposed into not one but three outstanding restaurants.
It knows how to innovate and making best use of local resources
(Image: Joule Cafe‘s apple-filled, griddle-less hot cakes – proving even pancakes can be made better with a little imagination)
Raleigh is home to more than ten colleges and universities without including the various institutes of higher learning less than twenty-five miles away in Durham or Chapel Hill and many are known as much for their academic programs as their national championships.
(Image: Calavera’s beef empanada with strawberry margarita)
One of my favorite things about Raleigh (though the food is a close second) is the series of trails that make up the area’s greenway system.
You can spend hours either on foot or by bike surrounded by nature and protected from the summer sun under a canopy of trees. Raleigh is nicknamed the City of Oaks for a reason. There are also gardens, public parks, and a network of creeks that constantly inspire exploration.
If nature isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other interesting places to visit around town including museums, civic landmarks, exhibitions as well as sporting events and performances. There are also dozens of tours (such as the food tour I where I took these photos), free concerts, and festivals.
It is a melting pot of culture as well as technology
(Image: Garland‘s Asian-inspired chicken in a turmeric-yogurt sauce with chili cucumber salad and beer from one of the 10+ local breweries)
Today Raleigh has a population just under a half million people. If you include the sprawling areas that make up Raleigh’s suburbs that number is closer to one million.
However if you ask people where they are from, it is uncommon to meet someone who was born here. Instead, a large portion of the population is like me. People who came to the area and simply fell in love with it for any number of reasons.
At the end of my food tour, our group was fortunate enough to meet the owner, Kim Hammer, of Bittersweet, a dessert and drink bar. As she told us about her store, its regular clients, and the services she offers, it was obvious that the restaurant was more than a job. It was her passion.
In addition to providing sweets, she also regularly offers champagne classes encouraging everyone not to horde the bottle, waiting for an event to celebrate which may never come, but to instead occasionally drink a glass just because it is Thursday.
It is people like this who make Raleigh, my kind of town. I hope that if your travels ever take you this way, you stop by and sample it yourself.
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