Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Last Post from Noxubee

(Above:  Fiber Vessels made during my art residency.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Time has certainly flown by here at Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge.  This art residency has been so successful on many levels ... including productivity!  A lot of neglected and "found" yarn was zigzag stitched into cording from which nearly forty fiber vessels were stitched.

(Above:  Me at the provided work table where yarn-made cording and fiber vessels were stitched).

The provided accommodations and heavy work table were ideal!

(Above:  Selection of vintage Hi-Straw.)

Every one of the fiber vessels included some of my recently acquired stash of vintage, acrylic raffia.  These twenty-four yard skeins of Hi-Straw, Swistraw, and Strawtex were donated to my stash from another bidder who regularly attends Bill Mishoe's auction.  She had no use for them.  They date from the 1960s.  They add a bit of sparkle to my zigzag stitched cording and a bit of additional stiffness to the fiber vessels.

(Above:  The monthly meeting of the Golden Triangle Quilt Guild.)

I was invited to share my work at the Golden Triangle Quilt Guild.  These ladies were so very welcoming ...

(Above:  Show-and-Tell at the Golden Triangle Quilt Guild.)

... and talented.  This was only one of the fantastic quilts shared during Show-and-Tell.

(Above:  Members of the Golden Triangle Quilt Guild at Oby's restaurant.)

Several of the members go to dinner after the meeting.  They invited me along ... to Oby's restaurant, an iconic Starkville hang-out.  If it weren't for this quilt guild, my Monday Power Point presentation at the Starkville Area Art Center would have been a bust.  Only four other people came ... but more than a dozen quilters showed up!  THANK YOU!

(Above: The Oktoc 100th anniversary festival)

I was also invited to the 100th anniversary festival for the Oktoc Garden Club.  Held in a former church which was later a schoolhouse and is now a community center, the festival included a professional bluegrass group and a selection of members' quilts draped over the green-painted, wooden pews.  The music was terrific (and I'm really not that much of a Bluegrass fan!) There were so many homemade cakes that selecting a slice was difficult.  The vintage quilt hanging on the back wall was raffled off.  Tickets were only a dollar a piece.  I bought five but didn't win! LOL!  

(Above:  Me in my rain gear!)

Yet most of the time, I've been out walking on the trails and unimproved roads at the Refuge.  Even while it was raining, I was enjoying nature.  My military issue rain poncho came from Bill Mishoe's auction.  It had never been used.  Steve insisted I bring it along.  Yes, I looked rather ridiculous in this gigantic, olive green thing that could easily have doubled as a personal tent, but it did keep me dry and reduced the chill from the wind! 

(Above:  The locked gate at the end of Roberts Road.)

While the Refuge only has a few, rather short trails, it has miles and miles of "unimproved roads".  Many are blocked by a locked gate which makes them perfect for walking ...

... over metal grate bridges ...

... and downed trees.  I've walked on various roads all over this refuge ... Cedar Grove Road, Keaton Tower Road, Smith Field Road, Goose Pen Road, Roberts Road, White Cemetery Road, John White Road and several others which might have names ... but I've either forgotten or never knew!

(Above:  A giant pine tree that fell across four power lines.)

Last Saturday morning, a giant pine tree fell across four power lines in the Refuge's "work area" (which includes the bunk house were I am staying.  I thought I was stuck behind the downed lines without even a cup of coffee and would be there all day and into the night.  But, there was a driveway around the mess and the response time had the situation fixed inside of a few hours!  Frankly, I was amazed that power was restored so quickly.  There are lots of hard-working people around here ...

...including the Refuge's fire team.  Various areas are selected for prescribed burns.  The low intensity, controlled fire remove the underbrush and make way for ...

... new growth.  This photo was taken only a little more than a week after the prescribed burn.  

I've also been walking near plenty of great fishing spots.

I even saw a catfish being caught!

One day I walked out to the Youth Fishing ponds.  The turquoise gleaming water in this stocked pond indicated that catfish might live here too.  Catfish farming is really big in this area of Mississippi.

Beyond walking, I've been kayaking too but mostly just out enjoying nature, feeling creatively replenished, and taking pictures with my iPhone.  Below are some of the images I like best!

I'm still amazed that this butterfly let me get close enough for this shot!

Even the Noxubee Refuge's mud provided excellent visual compositions!

Driving to some of the more distant Refuge's unimproved roads took me passed usual area housing ...

... often surrounded by glorious, white wisteria.

The overall shot is nice ... but so is the detail!

Like this cypress tree!  The whole is gorgeous ...

... but so is the detail.  Having the time to slow down, watch sunrises and sunsets, investigate nature, walk down rarely visited roads, and think about a way of life that is so different from the one I chose are the reasons why I so love an art residency.  These are the days and weeks that recharge me.  I am very grateful to the Friends of Noxubee, the non-profit arm to the Refuge, for returning this program after the pandemic! 

Where else could I see such a colorful lily pad ...

... or chase butterflies?  THANK YOU!

Thursday, March 16, 2023

A Trek into the Wilderness and Good News from Home!

(Above:  Another glorious sunrise at Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Since arriving as the artist-in-residence at Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge, I've walked every listed trail ... some multiple times!  Yet, I was told that there was once another trail accessed from the western side of the refuge off of highway 25, down a country lane called Keaton Tower Road (read:  unimproved road ... or just gravel).  The trail hasn't been maintained in years.  It's in the "wilderness" area of the refuge, a large section of hardwood trees, swamps, and the meandering Oktoc and Cypress creeks.  Unbelievably, I found a tiny, green dotted line on Google Maps.  So, off I went to hike through the woods!

(Above:  Entry into the wilderness.)

Keaton Tower Road ends in a flat, dirt circle with a sign restricting any further motorized vehicles.  The path looked wide and very promising ... and was until I came to the place at the far end of this photo.  Then, only a narrow path existed.

The path was beside wisteria overhanging the muddy water of Pete Slough.

It continued beside clearly water.  I consulted Google Maps ... because the tiny, green dotted line was on the opposite side of the creek ... which was way too wide and deep for me to easily cross.

Pushing aside briars and grapevines and small trees, I went further along the creek's edge ... finding places that looked as if they might have been the former trail.  I came upon this broken and overgrown, man-structure.  Surely, this wasn't supposed to be a crossing.

Further along, I found this downed tree.  While I'd scrambled over other tree trunks on my "undefined" wilderness trail, I wasn't above to try crossing here!


Thankfully, I found this foot bridge.  It had a label.  It was an Eagle Scout project back in 1997.  It looked sturdy enough despite the odd angle ... and I crossed easily.

For about a half hour, I tried going forward ... often consulting Google Maps just to see if I was moving in the direction of the tiny, green dotted line.  From the looks of my iPhone's screen, the trail was once a nice five or six mile loop.  At this point in time, it would be more than an adventure and not something I should do.  My mind raced with a comic scene:  Refuge rangers trying to call my husband Steve back in Columbia to explain that I idiotically got lost in the wilderness.  Funny ... but only if it didn't happen!  I turned around.  I couldn't retrace my own steps but I found the creek, then the footbridge, and finally my car!

It was beautiful though.  The root systems of downed pine trees were amazing, and I saw all sorts of vegetation and insects.  I used my new Merlin bird ID app to record tweets.  It felt wonderful to be in a place few have ever been.  This is one of the best reasons for an art residency!  At the end of this post are some of the photos I took during the day!

(Above:  Approaching sunset.  View from the Goose Overlook.)

Another reason for truly enjoying every art residency is the fact that I have time for sunrises.  Here at Noxubee, I'm often on the Goose Overlook for sunset too.  There's something very special about slowing down enough to notice daily miracles.

(Above:  Composite image of the three artworks headed to Estonia!)

In the meantime, Steve has been back in Columbia "holding down the fort".  This entailed assisting with an important opportunity.  About two months ago, I was contacted by the Art in Embassies Program and asked to lend three pieces for the Ambassadorial residence in Tallinn, Estonia.  Large Stained Glass LXXIV, Lancet Window CCXXIII (St, Martin's Cross), and Lancet Window CCXXXII were selected ...

... expertly wrapped by a professional shipping crew ...

... and loaded into a panel truck.  They will return in a few years!  (Thanks, Steve, for snapping these images!) I'm over the moon!  Now ... below are some of my nature pictures from "the Mississippi wilderness". Enjoy!


Monday, March 13, 2023

Wonderful time at Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge

(Above:  Selfie with Paul and Julia Graber's 1953 vintage airplane.)

The past week as artist-in-residence at Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge in Mississippi has been full of adventures and lots of unexpected fun.  First of all, I was invited to Julia Graber's farm for family pizza night.  Julia Graber is a seriously talented art quilter and JAM (Juried Artist Member) of SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) ... just like me!  Through this international organization, we got to know one another, and in 2019 Julia told me about the art residency program.  I applied and was accepted for 2020.  Of course, the entire world knows what happened in 2020!  The pandemic postponed the opportunity to 2021 and then to 2022 ... and finally now in 2023, I'm here!  It's been a long time waiting to meet Julia! 

(Above:  View to pilot Paul Graber and the earth below!)

I had no idea that in addition to farming several thousand acres of land, Paul Graber pilots his own 1953 vintage airplane.  I was treated to a great view of catfish farms, tilled soil, woodlands, and roads.  We took off and landed on a grassy strip right outside the Graber family home!

(Above:  Julia Graber cutting one of three deep dish pizzas with a pair of scissors!)

Julia's oak dining room table has enough extensions to seat nearly two dozen people.  Several children and their kids plus other guests arrived in time for absolutely delicious, homemade pizzas.  Because a rolling pizza cutter won't reach to the edge of her deep-dish pans, Julia slices with a pair of scissors.  We had a wonderful time talking about art and quilting.  Julia's studio is a real treasure filled with artwork.

(Above:  The gravel road atop Bluff Lake's north levee ... with an alligator!)

We also talked about my adventure ... walking completely around Bluff Lake.  I didn't intend to do this.  I thought I would walk to the end of the levee and return to my parked car.  The photo above shows the gravel road atop the lake's north levee.  The image was taken during my first week here.  When I saw the alligator ... a really big one ... I stopped in my tracks.  I watched it for a little more than twenty minutes while googling for information on alligators.  Believe it or not, alligators sleep for an average of seventeen hours a day.  They sleep with one eye open and part of their brain alert, never falling into a deep sleep (which might account for needed seventeen hours!) They are mostly nocturnal but also a little active in the day ... especially when coming out of their mud holes to bask in the sunshine.  In all the time I watched this alligator, it only moved its tail twice.  I gave up waiting for it to slip into the swampy water and turned back. 

(Above:  One of three BIG alligators ... the one who didn't really move while I walked down the gravel road!)

My thought was that if I returned on a grey, overcast, chilly morning, I wouldn't encounter an alligator and would get to the end of the levee.  I figured that instead of "basking in the warm sun" (since it was neither warm or sunny) would mean the alligators would be sleeping in their mud holes.  So ... I went last Thursday around 9:00 AM.  It was chilly.  The cloud cover was thick and it was almost raining.  Guess what?  I don't know the mind of an alligator regardless of my research.  I didn't encounter ONE alligator; I saw SEVEN of them.  Okay, two were tiny; two weren't more than four feet in length; but three of them were quite large!  I didn't see the first one until it moved ... sloppily slipping into the water.  It was about twenty yards away.  I jumped.  Then, the second one ... who was just a bit further down away.  It went into the swamp too.  I proceeded very cautiously, eyeing the places that these two alligators went into the water.  I tiptoed past this area ... but still looking in that direction ... so much so that I didn't look ahead ... until I was parallel to an even bigger alligator lounging by the water's edge.  The photo above shows that alligator.  It never moved.  My heart, however, almost moved into my throat!  Frozen, I didn't move either.  Finally, I took the picture above and very, very precariously continued down the gravel road. 

(Above:  The place in the trail where a creek crosses.)

At the end of the levee, I came to a fork in the road.  I didn't know where either trail went but I suspected that turning left would eventually bring me to a spot where I'd already been.  During my first week, I walked through the woods until I came to a place where a creek crossed the road.  I turned back. (By the way, all these roads are accessible to the refuge staff who have keys to the otherwise locked gates.  For the public, walking is the only way to go!)  So ... I walked on ... and sure enough, I was back at the creek flowing over the road.  I knew where I'd end up if I crossed.  I knew that if I crossed the creek, I'd add at least three more miles to my walk in order to return to my parked car.  I also knew that if I turned around, I'd have to walk by those alligators again.

(Above:  Looking down at my muddy feet!)

Going from stone to stone and stepping on a few fallen branches and leaves, I crossed the creek.  Apparently, I am willing to walk further and get muddy rather than coming close to an alligator!  Thank goodness.  It took another hour or so for me to walk back to the main road, pass the Cypress Overlook, pass the Visitor Center, walk over both the dam's bridges, pass the Beaver Dam Trailhead, pass the Bluff Lake Overlook, and get back to my car.  Basically, I walked entirely around the lake ... which according to the website is some 800 acres in size!  My Fitbit logged more than 17,000 steps!

(Above:  Alligator in Dickerson Arm)

Since then, I've seen several other alligators.  I guess I'm getting more used to them because this one didn't scare me at all.  It was in the marshy area near a field for geese and herons.  I'd walked there at least four other times.  Okay, it wasn't as big as the ones I encountered by the northern levee, but I was only about twelve feet away from it.  From what I understand, alligators lurk in all the water here in the refuge.  They are well camouflaged, don't bother people who aren't bothering them, and not prone to move much during the day.  I just walked by this one ... quietly!

(Above:  Studio visit with Joe McGown.)

I might be getting more comfortable with the knowledge that I might be walking past an alligator (some that I don't even notice!), but exploring nature isn't the only thing I've been doing.  I was treated to a studio visit with Joe McGown

(Above:  Selfie with friends at the Starkville Area Art Council.  From left to right:  Juliette Reid, program coordinator at SAAC; Joe Mulrooney, volunteer coordinator for Friends of Noxubee Refuge; me; and Mary Switzer, executive director at SAAC.)

I went to the public reception for the Spring Showcase exhibit at SAAC (Starkville Area Art Council).  On Monday, March 20th at noon, I'll be presenting a Power Point lecture on my Found Object Mandalas at SAAC.

(Above:  Selfie with members of the Golden Triangle Quilters Guild.)

I attended the monthly Sit-and-Sew with the Golden Triangle Quilters Guild.

(Above:  The monthly Oktibbeha Audubon Society's Bird Walk.)

I attended the monthly Okibbeha Audubon Society's Bird Walk and learned about how serious bird watchers document their field sightings.  It was remarkable.

I've also demonstrated my fiber vessels at the Mississippi State University's Idea Shop on Main Street in Starkville.  It was fun.  One of the people attending took a great video.  I posted it separately.  CLICK HERE to access.

(Above:  Morgan Hill Prairie Trail.)

I've hiked all the trails in this refuge ... and walked down several of the roads beyond the locked gates.  Morgan Hill Prairie trail took me to a totally different landscape with a great view to the lakes.

(Above: Scattertown Trail.)

Scattertown Trail wove up and down ravines and through woodlands.

Yet one of my favorite things to do is to get up for dawn and kayak on Bluff Lake.  The broken dock is like my own, private landing place.  It is off the area closed to the public.  Early morning light is amazing and the lake is generally smooth as glass.

From the lake, this is the view back to where my dock is.  If you enlarge this photo, you'll see a white sign on a cypress tree.  The dock is just to the left.  Truly, this is a slice of heaven.

I also walked in another wooded area with signs marking the section of the refuge that is closed to the public due to bald eagle nesting.  I couldn't see the giant nest but it is nice to know that somewhere, very close by, are baby eaglets!
I walked to another branch of the lake called Doyle Arm.  There are duck houses everywhere.  Although a refuge, this is also a place for hunters.  During hunting season, I'm sure it is different than the days I'm experiencing.  There are areas only for disabled hunters and other areas for waterfowl.  There are several check stations too.
Since it is not hunting season, the check stations are closed ... but outside one were all these deer hoofs.  Why?  I haven't the slightest idea.
I've walked by several hunters' blinds but even this unique "bud" lift which apparently can move a blind from place to place.
I've also found one of the weather data stations.  Below, are some of the nature pictures I've taken.  Enjoy!