The Folk Art of the Suwannee River

When Stephen Foster wrote the song Old Folks at Home there was no music business as we know it. Sound recording had not been invented. Yet, in the small community of White Springs Florida, a state park is dedicated to his memory.  All because Foster  looked on a map for the name of a southern river which had two syllables. He had never seen the Suwannee River, but he liked the sound of the name and changed the spelling to “Swannee” to make the meter work. How’s that for poetic license?

382Last week my husband and I camped at the Stephen Foster Cultural Center State Park . It was founded as a memorial to Stephen Foster due to its location on the Suwannee River. (Remember, the river that Stephen Foster never saw, but wrote a song about?)

The Florida Federation of Music Clubs admired Foster and obtained contributions of land in White Springs.  Later a commission  formed to direct the building of a 97-bell carillon on  property which plays Foster’s music. The park opened in 1950, almost one hundred years after Old Folks at Home was published.

Did you know Stephen Foster is considered the pioneer of American pop music? He wrote two hundred songs between 1850 and 1864.  Old Susanna and Camptown Races  are two of my favorites.  These melodies are catchy. Once you start humming them, you can’t stop!

244

During our stay we learned of the park’s mission to support folk art. What is folk art? Art that’s created by nonprofessionals.  In America, folk art might be considered blue-collar or rural art. It can be self taught, and is often functional. Quilting, sewing, and knitting are all examples of folk art.  Folk art also includes music which expresses a community’s values and identity. At the park I enjoyed meeting several folk artists who demonstrate their talent in the Craft Square.

235

Richard Darlington, a resident of White Springs, creates affordable earings and flies for serious fishermen.

236 (2)Chris Jacobs from Miami crochets broomstick lace which can be worn as a scarf.

239Marie Longo sews baby quilts for the Pregnancy Care Center of White Springs.

240 (2)A quilt top hangs on the wall of the fabric arts cottage.  Someone rescued it from a dumpster in Live Oak.  This quilt top was sewn from remnants of old clothing thought to be over one hundred years old.

Antique shops are a great place for folk art.  The Adams General Store in nearby White Springs is worth seeing. Built in 1865, the building contains unbelievable finds. But go early, due to a lack of air conditioning.

351

I can’t conclude this post without some mention of the Suwannee River. Unlike Foster, I did see it.

330The Suwannee is considered a black water river. Originating in Georgia, the river flows south through forested swamps. Decayed vegetation stains the water the color of coffee.  At Big Shoals, located outside of White Springs, a nine foot drop in elevation creates class three rapids. Here, the natural brown color of the water is more evident.

270

At age 37 Stephen Foster experienced a persistent fever which resulted in his death. He died in 1864 with thirty-eight cents to his name.  And like the deep Suwannee River, Stephen Foster’s melodies live on today.

 

 

 

The Gem of Winter Park

Summer is a great time of year to visit the Morse Museum of Winter Park, Florida.  The Morse Museum contains the most comprehensive collection of works by American artist and designer Louis Comfort Tiffany.  Exhibits include leaded-glass lamps, unique windows, and architectural elements from Tiffany’s Long Island estate, Laurelton Hall. My favorite part of the museum is The Chapel which Tiffany created for the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.

Inside The Chapel, intricate glass mosaic surfaces reflect light from a ten foot by eight foot electrified chandelier in the shape of a cross. Sitting in the chapel makes me feel as if I’m in another world. Similar to the great cathedrals of Europe, The Chapel inspires me to consider the beauty and holiness of God. I am reminded that darkness will never extinguish the light.

Stained glass as an art form reached its height in the Middle Ages. The stained glass windows of medieval churches taught the narrative of the Bible to an illiterate population. During the twelfth century in England the Tree of Jesse Window  displayed the genealogy of Christ. Pictured at the base of the tree is Jesse, father of King David. On higher branches are the kings and prophets of Judah. At the top Christ and Mary are shown. This window shared Isaiah’s prophecy: “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse and a Branch shall grow from his roots.”

As America became more industrialized during the late 1800’s and cities grew, churches sought artists who could work in stained glass.  During the nineteenth century, pot metal glass was commonly used. Craftspeople often painted this regular looking glass with enamels.

Tiffany’s windows took stained glass to a new level. His invention of opalescent glass used chemicals to create the variations of color found in nature. The result was a more realistic looking product.   Tiffany’s windows fulfilled a long-desired American goal of countering the perceived artistic superiority of Europe. He mastered the art, and by 1900 America led the world in the production of stained glass decorations. Tiffany Studios produced a range of products including lamps, pottery and jewelry.

IMG_7605 (2)

Tiffany was inspired by nature and intoxicated by color.  Winter is an example of opalescent glass from the Four Seasons panel on display in the Morse Museum.

The process of creating stained glass amazes me.  Glass is made by mixing sand, soda, and lime. Color is created by adding metallic oxides. Heat and pressure are applied. Then after cooling, the glass is cut and placed into flexible pieces of lead and soldered at the joints.

I wrote Windows of Heaven, as a tribute to the Morse Museum and Tiffany’s beautiful art.

Windows of Heaven     

Earth fused with fire

minerals blend

amethyst stained

atoms suspend.

Colorful glass

fruit of the flame

cut into shapes

placed in a frame

Fastened together

images set

ruby and sapphire

form a rosette.

IMG_8131

Light iridescent

spectrum of grace

filling the darkness

my hiding place.

 

 

 

On Tuesday, July 4, 2017 admission to the Morse Museum is free as part of the Winter Park Independence Day Celebration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Church Built on the Rock

On the first full day of our Nova Scotia vacation we stepped onto the balcony of our bed and breakfast eager to view famous Peggy’s Cove. Except for a beacon from the lighthouse, visibility was poor.  Nova Scotia is known for variable weather. A thick fog rolled in overnight from the Atlantic Ocean. Hoping the fog would lift, my husband and I ventured out to explore the area.  The first landmark we encountered was St. John’s Anglican Church. An open door to the chapel intrigued us. Once inside, we were greeted by a volunteer from the parish who told us people of the cove have worshipped here since 1885.

IMG_4755 (3)

The paintings displayed in the chapel impressed me.  Our volunteer guide explained their importance. The first, Storm and Turbulence, features a group of terrified fisherman clinging to the sides of their boat during a terrible storm. One man points across a raging sea. The second painting, Calm and Serenity, depicts Jesus Christ walking on the water with his arm outstretched toward the fishermen. Like the biblical message of Matthew 14:25, the mural communicates the supernatural power of Christ to calm our fears.  The artist, William deGarthe lived in Peggy’s Cove for years. His work relates the dangers of life at sea and the faith of local fishermen. The deGarthe Museum in the village houses many of his works.

Our guide told us six families founded Peggy’s Cove in 1811. Lured by the rich fishing grounds of nearby St. Margaret Bay, these early settlers battled storms, fog, and jagged rocks to eek out a living from the sea.  Some say the village was named for the bay, I prefer the romantic legend about a shipwreck with a lone survivor named Peggy. The young woman fell in love and later married the man who rescued her.  People would come from miles around to listen to “Peggy of the Cove” tell stories.  “Peggy of the Cove” later became Peggy’s Cove.

IMG_6706

Besides their times of trouble on the water, the fishermen experienced hardships on land. The village sits on granite bedrock. Gardening is futile. Drilling is impossible.  For years the community obtained water through a process of collecting rainwater and purifying it with ultraviolet light. Even so, this water is not considered safe for drinking. We were advised to drink bottled water during our stay.

Due to these conditions, the population of Peggy’s Cove has decreased. Consequently, St. John’s Church has also declined in membership.  When faced with the possibility of closing the church, the few remaining members realized the unique opportunity of their location. Thousands of tourists come to the cove during the summer months to photograph the famous lighthouse and tour the quaint fishing village.

IMG_6703

Volunteers decided to open the chapel on weekdays to minister to tourists. Visitors are welcome to share their prayer requests. I felt led to submit a written request along with my  email address. A few weeks ago I received an email from one of the church leaders who thanked me for my visit and asked if I needed additional prayer support. According to his note, over four thousand visitors from all over the world signed the St. John registry in 2016. The tiny congregation is amazed at the way God is blessing their efforts.

St. John’s Anglican Church is a testimony to a statement Jesus made in Matthew 16:18.  “On this rock, I will build my church.”  You can connect with them through Facebook at Friends of Peggy’s Cove Church.

IMG_6734

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Historic Amusement

How do you feel about April Fools’ Day? Some people relish this opportunity to play tricks on others. My feeble attempts to trick others never seem to work. Maybe my tricks aren’t creative enough, or tricking people is out of my character.

When I taught school the children usually told the same falsehoods to one another. “You’re shoes are untied.” Or “A spider is crawling up your back!” If a person was caught off guard and flinched, the joker felt he or she had succeeded. They would jeer “April Fools ” and everyone laughed, except the “fool.”

How did  April Fools’ Day begin? After researching the subject, I learned that it may have originated with the Hilaria festival of the Romans.  They celebrated the first day of the year which exceeded the night. The festival honored Cybele, mother of the gods. It was a time of rejoicing. No one was allowed to show any expressions of sorrow.  The Romans considered it a good day to marry or be born. Share that with anyone you know with a birthday on April first.

The English promoted their own theory during the 1700’s.  For some, April first commemorated the day Noah sent out the first dove to look for land. The dove returned and did not bring back any proof  the water receded. This started the tradition of tricking people by sending them on “fools errands”.

Not suprising, the media has also participated in April Fools’ jokes. In 1957 the BBC featured an article about Swiss farmers picking crops of spaghetti. It resulted in a flood of requests for spaghetti plants.  By the way, did you know donuts come from seeds that look like little cheerios?

April Fools’ Day can be a stress reliever if the humor is harmless and doesn’t focus on ridiculing others. What’s your opinion?  Leave a comment.

 

 

 

If Walls Could Talk

If you like architecture and history, Savannah is the place to go. Although I’ve lived in Orlando for 27 years, I finally made a trip to Savannah last December.  A great place to visit is the Massie Heritage Center.  Built in 1856,the building was originally Massie Common School, the oldest public school in Georgia.  The school operated for 117 years, until it became a museum in 1978.  Children still learn here. The museum is a popular place for  field trips. Travel back in time with me to a classroom in the year 1872.

img_8393

Walking among the empty desks I wonder what it was like to see the classroom in operation.  I imagine rows of children sitting in their seats…

Quiet children of course, feverishly writing multiplication tables on their slates with chalk. The smiling teacher, sitting calmly at her desk, overseeing her brood…. Everyone doing what they are asked to do… except for one student, usually a boy of course. The teacher, who does not tolerate idleness, asks the slug to stand. She places the notorious dunce cap on his head in order to publicly embarrass him. Wearing the cap, he perches on a high stool at the front of the classroom. She wants him to see that all the other children are working. She also wants the class to know that she means business.

img_8389-2

Who is this guy, anyway?

I awake from my daydream and continue to observe the details of the classroom.

img_8395-2

George Washington’s picture hangs on the front wall. Boys and girls, let’s not forget the Father of our Country. He’s watching you too, so you better do your best.

Side note: When I taught elementary school, I had a picture of George in my classroom, but it creeped out the kids. After many of them complained, I took it down. Too bad, he might have made a positive contribution to their development.

In the 1800’s rules didn’t only apply to students. On the teacher’s desk I picked up a handout, “Rules for Teachers in 1872”. Some are written below.

  1. Each day teachers will fill the lamps and clean the chimneys. What does that mean?  The kerosene lamp has a chimney?
  2. Each teacher will bring a bucket of water and a scuttle of coal for the day’s session. And I thought I had it ba’d whenever I had to buy school supplies for the class.
  3. Each teacher will make pens for the students by whittling the nibs. Is this a foreign language? What exactly is a nib? Thank goodness we had pencil sharpeners and some were electric.
  4. Women teachers who marry or engage in unseemly conduct will be dismissed. That leaves me out since I’m married. I’m not going to try to define “unseemly conduct.”
  5. The teacher who performs his labor faithfully and without fault for five years will receive an increase of twenty-five cents per week, providing the Board of Education approves.  I get it. In many ways, it’s the same today.

A plaque attached to the front of the teacher’s desk read,

“WHAT YOU ARE TO BE, YOU ARE NOW BECOMING.”

I guess that just about says everything…

img_8391-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Do You Look for in a President?

img_7800

Have you decided which presidential candidate you will vote for on election day?  What qualities do you think make a good president?  I examined each candidate according to my own criteria to make my decision.

First, a good president needs to care. He or she must listen to the people he or she serves.  Second, a good president should be trustworthy. Someone you can count on to fulfill the duties of the job. Our president must be a good communicator, since they speak on behalf of our nation. America needs a strong leader who can take appropriate action if our country is threatened.  Temperament is also important. Our president must be able to handle the pressures of the office under stress. As top executive, the president needs to choose competent people for his staff. He or she must be a good delegator of responsibility.  Since our nation is head over heels in debt, we need a leader who will not waste taxpayer dollars. Finally, the best presidents are those who have overcome challenges in their past. They are fighters who do not give up easily.

After considering all of the above qualities, I believe my dog, Buddy, would make a terrific president.

img_5145Buddy cares. He listens to my problems after a bad day.  He can be trusted to come when I call his name. Buddy is a great communicator. He whines when he’s sad and wags his tail like crazy when he’s happy.

Buddy barks whenever he feels threatened. He’s never bitten anyone, but he has the capability to. As far as temperament goes, he’s sweet and calm.

Buddy is a great delegator of responsibility.  When he’s hungry, I feed him. I even pick up his poop for him.

Buddy would never put up with wasteful government spending. He makes sure every crumb I drop is put to good use.

As many of my friends know, Buddy has overcome challenges. In 2013 he suffered from paralysis in his hind legs due to a herniated disc. After surgery, and physical therapy he regained his ability to walk. Buddy is a fighter.

Buddy is my candidate for president. Oh,  I forgot, he’s not on the ballot this year.

Write in?