Tag Archives: Eastsound WA

Way Beyond Wind Chimes: Kinetic Sculpture

9 Oct

This summer when I visited on Orcas Island, Washington, my sister took us to see a remarkable outdoor art gallery. The artist, Anthony Howe, works primarily in stainless steel, though he also uses copper and other mediums, some of which can be seen in his tiny indoor gallery. Many of Howe’s sculptures – I’m not certain that’s the correct word… “mobiles” perhaps, or “glorious wind chimes” might be better – hang from trees, and I had seen his work around town – my sister actually owns one – and been intrigued. I hadn’t realized, however, that he also has a fantastic outdoor Sculpture Garden with his non-hanging pieces and that people are free (literally, at no cost) to come and visit his fascinating works and experience all that his art has to offer.

I wish I could capture the movement. I love this piece – the spins, the swirls, the ballet…

Many – if not all – of his pieces have movable parts and his breezy location on the side of Double Hill with a fantastic view of Eastsound Bay is perfect to show off his art to the fullest. The movable parts are also “musical”, and it was never silent in the outdoor gallery due to the tinkling, spiraling, or blowing bits of metal on metal.

This kinetic gallery not only makes art physically accessible to people, but it also serves to introduce those who perhaps do not see themselves as art-lovers to a world where art and science collide. It pleases artists and engineers alike. It is impossible to see the moving, spinning, bouncing pieces without finding something to admire.

Imagine all of the little bits spinning and twisting.

It was a fantastic hour of discovery for my kids. They learned to see themselves in new ways – through mirrored, movable mosaics, for example – and they saw how science and art can come together to give us magical and memorable moments.

If you are unable to visit Orcas Island and the Howe Art Gallery in person, never fear! His website is easily accessible and gives a full description of his works, history and philosophy. It also contains many photographs of his art and gives contact and ordering information. http://www.howeart.net

We could hardly drag Boo away from it. Either she’s a great art-lover or a little egotistical. Or perhaps it just works perfectly for both.

This photo doesn’t do it justice. I think of this piece as a sailing ship for fairies. Sailing through the air, of course. It also reminds me of the movie Time Bandits.

Bubbles? Or legs?

He flies through the air with the greatest of ease.


Sine indoor pieces.

Again, not a great shot, but I really liked the shadows…


Orcas Island Pottery

21 Aug

One of my favorite places to visit on Orcas Island is Orcas Island Pottery. This place is unique, creative, and truly fabulous. I remember coming here as a child with my mother. I would stand and watch Julia Crandall as she worked on her potter’s wheel. I loved the way she threw the clay onto the moving stone; the way her hands formed the lump into something recognizable and beautiful; the way she’d move her fingers to subtly change the pot; the way her fingers, wetted, orange, and dripping, lent validation to every mud pie I’d ever made.

A sign hanging inside one of the buildings.

Truly, she was a queen to children everywhere who had ever tried to form something – anything – worth keeping in the world of pliable playdough, clay, or sand. In my memory, at least, she was a small woman, her graying hair perpetually in a bun (I may be wrong about the bun, but that’s how I see her!) her hands always working. In a small town, everyone knows everyone else’s car…but hers was especially recognizable with her “Pots 4 U” license plate long before the days of abbreviated text messages.

It is her granddaughter now, who owns and runs Orcas Island Pottery. As her website describes it, she threw her first pot at age five, learning everything about the art of pottery from her mother and grandmother. She employs several permanent potters and guest potters from all over the country and world. The quality and beauty of their work is outstanding.

The woods are “Lovely, dark and deep”.

It is, however, their location – right on the ocean front – and their method of displaying their work that takes your breath away. Even the drive to the studio and store is magnificent – a meandering, shadowy journey through mossy old-growth evergreens and ferns. I used to walk part of this road every week on my way to piano lessons. I remember making the walk last as long as possible – whether trying to delay my lesson or enjoying the woods, I cannot say for certain.

There are many pottery places on Orcas Island, and I have not visited them all, but I freely admit that I am biased towards Orcas Island Pottery not just for my memories of the place, but also for the creativity which is evident all around you the moment you draw near. This originality is seen in their road signs, in their displays – both indoors and out – and in their encouragement of children – as seen in the whimsical and magical treehouse which everyone, old and young alike, are allowed to visit. Make no mistake, this treehouse is built to keep parents sane – and pottery safe, perhaps? – giving people of all ages something to do at the pottery store.

Orcas Island Pottery is, most definitely, one of the wonderfully unique things about Orcas Island. Now if I could just choose what pieces to buy…and not keep buying them to give as wedding presents…I would be a happy girl. Because truly, having a piece of this pottery is like having a wee bit of the island on your breakfast table.

And so I give you a journey through the woods and onto the glorious property that is Orcas Island Pottery!

A sign along the road…

We’re here!

Sighted along the path…

I remember this Native American whale from when I was a kid!

It seems as if fairies ought to live here…

Did I mention that there’s a treehouse on the premises to keep children (young ones and grown-up ones) occupied?! LOVE THIS.

How great is this place?!

The most lovely wee doggie you’ll ever meet. Patient, persistant (but not obnoxious) and quiet.

The island in the background is Waldron.

I simply adore the outdoor displays. And yes, in case you’re wondering, they’re outdoors year-round, regardless of the weather.

The “Sale Boat” was pretty well picked-over.

A huge variety of styles, colors, shapes.


Yes, the kitty is real.

I’d like to eat rice out of these bowls!

Everywhere you look, amazing things await.

If ever you find yourself on Orcas Island…or in need of a wedding gift to buy on-line…or just in need of something marvelous for your very own, check out Orcas Island Pottery’s website. It has a nice write-up of the interesting history of the opperation as well – definitely worth reading!

Kindlingsfest 2012!

17 Aug

I recently spent a week back on Orcas Island, Washington, where I grew up. My main purpose in being there this time, however, wasn’t to see family or to wax nostalgic or even to take photographs – though I fortunately got to do all of that as well. No, my reason for going to Orcas was to attend a marvelous “conference” called Kindlingsfest. which takes place at the church I grew up in, though is independent of any church or denomination.

Kindlingsfest, the biggest event each year sponsored by The Kindlings, styles itself as a place to cultivate the “creative, intellectual and spiritual” side of a person. Here’s their web address for more information: http://www.thekindlings.com/about/. Inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, among others, whose group, “Inklings” met frequently in a pub to discuss their writings as well as be encouraged intellectually and creatively, the Kindlings group strives after the same things. Through pod casts, two “fests” a year, and other smaller events, its impossible to leave the group without a vision for how believers in God fit into the world today.

This year, the fifth annual Kindlingsfest, was the second time that I have been able to attend. As was the case two years ago when I first went, I was not disappointed. We got to hear intelligent and provocative speakers, be challenged in our faith, hear fabulous music of all styles, and schmooze with like-minded people (“schmooze” is a much more fun word that “network”, don’t you think?).

The church I grew up in, which hosts the event. My grandfather was actually a pastor in this church, many moons ago!

The Episcopal church on the island also hosts a bit of Kindlingsfest. It’s a gorgeous site and a lovely building!

Every evening there is a bonfire around which people have the opportunity to sing, read poetry, dance, etc. I read aloud a blog post from a couple of months ago, which was very fun. It’s not often that I get to read my work out loud and I love to do so!

Many different artists/singers/writers/dancers took part in sharing their craft “around” the campfire. It’s a really great part of the event, both to get to know the artists a little, but also just to enjoy yourself! Graham crackers, marshmalows and chocolate bars were provided as well…of course!

Nigel Goodwin – a unique and fabulous character – is a vital part of the Kindglings group. He heads up the “Bag End” time around the campfire each evening…and yes, he sometimes breaks into dance just because.

On the other side of the campfire – a tent to eat beneath, chat, or just hang out.

A closer shot of the campfire by day – it’s a wonderful spot.

I came away encouraged as a writer, excited for my creative future, and inspired to work in my local church to achieve some of the things we spoke about. And, of course, as always, it’s wonderful to visit Orcas Island – an inspiration in itself.
As with all such conferences, it’s always a bit of a down-fall to return to reality. However, I have at least had The Music Man performances to help soften the creative blow. Here are a few photographs to help understand the extent of Kindlingsfest 2012.

These belong in Narnia, yes?!

J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis present a kind of an overarching theme of the Kindlings. This, in case you were wondering, is Farmer Maggot’s corn field.

Malcolm Guite was the main speaker – and yes, he also played guitar a wee bit! He spoke on the topic, “Crabbed Age and Youth Cannot Live Together?” He was not only inspiring but also just plain fun.

Jason Carter was one of the featured musicians. He plays the Harp Guitar…fascinating and fabulous.

My daughter – who plays french horn – was thrilled to see a french horn in a rock band!

Camping on the Beach: Part Two

27 Jul

My last post was about camping on the beach, and it ended with a promise of more stories to come. Well, here you go…

When we camped down on the beach a huge part of the fun was being in control of our food. Not so much WHAT we ate – our mom’s still were the ones buying the food, so the menu wasn’t totally up to us – but WHEN we ate was up to us, and that was great fun. This was, of course, an activity not dependent upon the clock, but rather upon our appetites…which would be roaring, no matter what the actual time was.

I’m pretty sure we cooked hamburgers, kept cool in an ice chest, over a long-handled grill kind of thing – the kind that you hold over the flame and it has two sides to it so you can flip it over part way through, eliminating the need for yet another utensil. We might have done hot dogs, though I’m not sure, because mostly what I do remember about eating on the beach was breakfast. I am certain we had s’mores – after all, what campfire is complete without them – but even that pales in comparison to my memory of breakfast.

My mama, down on our beach, circa 1985, using the exact kind of hamberger grill I’m talking about!

So…breakfast. My friend had several pet geese and so she had offered to bring eggs along with a handy dandy cast iron skillet. We woke up early, the summer sunrise being our alarm clock, and began the serious duty of making scrambled eggs. I greatly dislike fried eggs and always have, so I remember insisting on scrambled. I’m not sure which one of us broke the eggs into the pan, but I do know that both of us looked down at the orange duck egg yolks with a great deal of trepidation.

Despite the fact that K was the one with the geese, she must not normally have been the one to cook them. Neither of us realized that the yolks of goose eggs are always much more orange than the yolks of chicken eggs.

“They’re really…weird looking,” one of us said tentatively.

“Yeah,” the other replied. “Like, too orange.”

“Do you think they went bad overnight?”

“Do you think they might…make us sick if we eat them?”

She looked at me, and I looked at her, and we both decided that eggs – scrambled or otherwise – weren’t on the menu, after all.

The eggs ended up in the outgoing tide and we had something else for breakfast. I know, I know. Silly, but there you have it.

My grandma loved picnics on the beach.

One of my other favorite memories of sleeping on the beach was waking up in the middle of the night one time and finding that, while we had been careful to place our sleeping bags above the high tide line, the tide hadn’t been as careful in sticking to its assigned position.

“Ummm…K?” I poked her awake, noticing in the moonlight that my sleeping bad had a couple spark holes from the night’s campfire.

K did not want to be wakened. I poke her again, talked a little louder. “Ummm…K, you have to wake up, the tide has risen.”

She sat up and, sure enough, saw as I had seen that the driftwood log at our feet – upon which our feet actually rested – was the only thing keeping the ocean from our sleeping bags. There, smack on the other side of the log, not six inches away, was the sea.

We dragged our spark-marked bags further up the beach and settled back down to sleep, trusting to the tide and God that we’d be dry.

We were.

Eastsound, WA

K and I weren’t overly adventurous, we weren’t particularly brave, nor were we very good at outdoor living…but none of that mattered…we had a fantastic time, we felt independent and mature, we were growing up.

My sister and her friend, when they slept on the beach, would build an outhouse out of driftwood logs, stuck upright in the rocks. They’d make rafts of roped-together driftwood, and actually succeed in making them float. One time, they were out rowing – in a boat this time – so far in the water that an Orca – aka, Killer Whale – breached not 15 feet away from them. Talk about wanting your camera. They would cook fantastic meals and never throw away their eggs.

Our friend Becky, on the raft she and my sister made. I was so impressed.

But we younger girls, in our nightgowns and melted sleeping bags, had just as much fun as our older siblings…just closer to shore, and less fancy.

To this day, I never see a goose egg without thinking of the beach, without feeling slightly sticky from dried salt water, without remembering how my feet would squelch in my wet shoes as we hiked up and down, back and forth, with load after load of all the paraphernalia we deemed necessary to a good night’s camping on the beach.

Important stuff like toilet paper.

And nightgowns.

Yes, There is a Fourth of July in Bangkok

3 Jul

You know that elementary school joke: “Is there a Fourth of July in England?” Of course there is! It’s just that it’s not Independence Day for them there the way it is for us in the US of A.

I’ve spent holidays in some unique places. Thanksgiving in Tunisia (let’s just say there was no turkey for dinner), several Christmases in West Berlin, Easter in Paris, and The Fourth of July in Thailand.

Spending your country’s independence day in a different country is bizarre. You feel patriotic and guilty, both at the same time. Kind of like when I traveled to the USSR in high school and all I wanted to do was chew gum…and I hate gum. It was this tenuous connection to the USA – something that made me feel American…as if I needed reminding when all around me was the Cyrillic alphabet, furry hats, and borscht.

When the Fourth of July rolled around in Bangkok the summer of 1989, all of the American ex-patriots were invited to the American Embassy’s front lawn for a down-home American picnic, complete with hamburgers, hotdogs, corn on the cob, and ice cream. There were games, too: three-legged races and tug-of-war. And, at the end of the day, fireworks.

Let’s just say that the American embassy in Thailand doesn’t have a very big fireworks budget.

But, that being said, that afternoon and evening stand out in my mind as one of the most memorable Independence Day celebrations I’ve ever had. Being away from home made home all that much more special.

But I think the best Fourth of Julys were spent on Orcas Island, growing up. Their budget – supplemented by tin donation cans at every island store all summer long – was a million times larger than the Thai embassy’s. Orcas Island had – and still has – the best fireworks I’ve ever seen.

When the sun goes down, round about 10:00 at that latitude, the people of the island – along with a gazillion tourists – line Eastsound Bay and wait patiently for the show to start. Out on tiny Indian Island (only slightly less unpolitically correct than its former name, “Jap Island”) – with fireboats floating at the ready – the pyrotechnics are about to begin.

Now, Orcas Island is an upside-down horse-shoe shape, and Eastsound Bay is at the top of the inner part of the “U”. All around the bay, then, is island and hills – big hills – hills which would be called mountains around here in Minnesota.

Indian Island is an itsy-bitsy island just at the head of the bay, which can be reached at low-tide if you’re booted up and keep a wary eye on the rising tide so that you don’t get stranded. It’s the perfect spot for fireworks, as any accidental fire is contained on the island, and you have this amphitheater surrounding it with space for hundreds of viewers, both on land and by sea.

So, picture this: you’ve shimmied across a narrow rock path to get to your favorite place on the beach. In the dark, no less. And now you’re sitting on a promontory, hearing the local YMCA campers singing campfire songs at the top of their lungs (the sound traveling across the water), hearing waves lapping a few feet away, and watching the star-strewn sky for the explosion of fireworks.

There are probably 25 boats out on the bay, sitting quietly at anchor. Occasionally the sound of laughter or popping of champagne corks comes faintly toward you, but nothing too obnoxious.

Then comes the first burst of color, the BOOM of powder, and the echo of it all ricocheting off the mountains.

Explosion after explosion, reflected on the water, in our eyes, in our hearts.

Now THAT, my friends, is how to spend the Fourth of July.

Happy Birthday, America.

Oh, the irony! 23 years after I spent the summer in Thailand, my husband went there for a few days and took the next several shots. Needless to say, the hotel across the river had a much larger fireworks budget than the US embassy…

The Gnome House

27 Mar

The Gnome House, Deer Harbor, Orcas Island, Washington.

In case I haven’t mentioned it often enough, I live in Minnesota. My parents and sisters, however, live in Washington State. It’s a total drag being so far away.

When we had very small children, I suffered some serious parental-location jealousy pangs when my friends would talk about going to Grandma’s for Sunday lunch, or spending the weekend at Mom and Dad’s or, worst of all, dropping the kids off at Grandma’s while they went out with their husbands for dinner or even for a WHOLE NIGHT!!!

Yes, I was jealous. Still am sometimes.

There were lots of games in a cupboard and even some movies and books.

But then along came the holidays. My friends would talk about having two Thanksgiving meals in one day. About 6 Christmas celebrations, about having to drive here, there, and everywhere just to make all the relatives happy.

And suddenly living hundreds of miles away from my family didn’t seem so bad any more.

At least, that’s the silver lining I chose to find in it all.

Outside the front window.

We do our best to get out to the Pacific Northwest as often as possible. Or we meet half-way at my Aunt and Uncle’s in Colorado for reunions (thanks, Aunt Sandy!). Strangely, no one seems to want to come to the prairies of Minnesota. Go figure.

This looks like a wood carving, doesn't it? But actually it is a pine cone we found out back - I have never seen one like this - don't even know what kind of tree it's from, but it's so cool!

You might think that when we went out to Washington over Christmas that I spent every possible minute with my family…and you’d be mostly right. HOWEVER…I also took advantage of “dropping off the kids” for a night or two…after all, when I can never do that, do you blame me?

So many little fun things inside the house.

So, as I posted about in January, my husband and I went to Vancouver, B.C. for two nights, but we also spent another night sans children when we were on Orcas Island. We stayed at a quaint, marvelous, cozy, fun, picturesque, fabulous little cabin called The Gnome House. With a name like that, how could I resist?

We took the kids with us the first night, because we knew they’d love it, too.

No matter how you feel about plaster Gnomes...this house is wonderful!

The Gnome House is located in Deer Harbor, Orcas Island, Washington. It is owned by long-time islanders and it has marvelous off-season rates! It has a woodstove but also electric heat – so it’s cozy, no matter what. It has a small kitchen with basic pans and such, a hot tub, two beds – both double, and comes with a beautiful drive around Orcas Island just to get you there.

It is so worth the stay and I’d totally go again – and recommend it as well! (There is a two-night minimum…though two nights is, of course, not enough!!)

I’ll let the pictures tell most of the story…

My sister and my kiddos - upstairs in the Gnome House.

The view down from the balcony.

The stairs and kitchen - where my husband made us a marvelous dinner of salmon and noodly stuff with mushrooms and bacon...yum!

A close-up of the log supporting the stairs - true island driftwood.

The kiddos - peeking out from their bedroom.

It's good to be small. Our youngest slept on the slelf...and LOVED IT...and the other two slept on the mattress which IS the whole room in their room just off the stairs...and I'm not sure why I didn't remove the wadded up sheets...sorry!

More wadded up sheets. Oops. But the wall is wonderful!!

Fun little touches everywhere - the top of the stairs; the second bedroom.

Everywhere you look...funness.

The window above the double bed.

The double bed upstairs.

Yes, there's a hot tub behind the house. But, of course, that's not what you noticed at first when you saw this picture, is it? We called this the Lord of the Rings gazebo. Not sure any other name is possible.

It's pretty cool. Upside down trees...in case you were wondering.

The side of the Lord of the Rings gazebo. Yes. We played LOTR inside of it.

The roof from the inside. Very, very neat-o.

So...ready to book a vacation?


A Quiet Corner of Orcas Island

31 Jan

I have to begin with an apology! I am SO SORRY that I incorrectly listed Ruth Hendrick’s blog address. Here is the correct address for you all to enjoy! http://rutheh.com. Ruth, thank you for letting me know and for your patience. After all, it’s you who taught me how to properly do a link on here…though a proper link does no good without a proper address. Bother.


There is a place on Orcas Island which I am very fond of, odd though it may seem when you hear what it is. Yes, you may be thinking that there are MANY places I am quite fond of on Orcas, but places like the beach and the mountain go beyond fondness and reach the degree of obsession.

This place I am speaking of is not a place I am obsessed with, though I am, well, intricately connected with it. Doomed, even. Though not, most likely, to this exact place.

What the heck am I talking about?

Mt. Baker cemetery.

A beautiful memorial at the cemetery...with beach stones, shells and leaves.

Mt. Baker cemetery is located on – surprise! – Mt. Baker Road, and it affords a beautiful view of the mountain for those who are spry enough to enjoy it.

Think about that for a moment.

Why is it, anyway, that so many cemeteries are located in beautiful spots? Perhaps it’s to give the visitor something else to think about for a little while. Something to comfort them with its permanence.

Every single time I've visited Grandpa and Grandma's grave, I've also visited Baby Bott.

Until about 15 years ago, the cemetery was surrounded by forest, giving it a secluded, cozy feel. Now most of the trees are gone, ever since Buck Park, an outdoor recreation park including the world’s largest (at least at the time it was built) skateboard park is now its closest neighbor. As unpleasant as that may sound to some of you, it’s actually not all that big –nor is it crawling with saggy-bottomed teenagers. It was built to give the local kids a good place to hang out after school…after all, when you live on an island, the options are limited.*

An old island resident. Was he here for the Pig War? (More about that in a future post!)

My grandparents are buried there and I used to go with my mother, every Memorial Day, to pull up weeds and tidy up their graves. They died within a few months of each other when I was 4 years old so I don’t remember them too well, but we’d go there and Mom would talk about them and we’d listen to the peacocks across the road and Mom would pull the weeds that grew among the flowers planted on the gravesite.

My grandparents. Imigrants to America from Scotland, they loved island living. I guess I come by it naturally.

No, it was not creepy. It was not scary. It was natural. I get so irritated when I hear my kids talk about “creepy graveyards”. No! It’s not a yard for graves! It’s a nice, attractive place, full of history and stories and beauty! It’s a place for memories. Not suggestive and sinister legends.

Okay, I’ll get off my soap-box now.

Just a neat old marker.

I used to ride my bike there frequently of a summer evening when I was growing up. I’d say “hi” to Grandma and Grandpa – sometimes even staying awhile to voice my frustrations – and then head home, coasting down Mt. Baker Road, zig-zagging up the hill to Buckhorn, and peddling into our garage, now the only part of our old house you can see from the road due to a domineering fence the current owners built clear around the half-acre lot.

Grandma and Grandpa Fraser.

I’ve been tempted to knock on their door and ask if I can see the house – they’re the same people who bought it from my parents 25 or so years ago. But I’ve never dared. I’m not sure I could bear it. Truly, I think the memories and the emotions would overwhelm me and I’d bawl like a baby right there in the familiar-yet-not-quite-right foyer.

I had a swing in my room, hanging from the beams of the cathedral-ceiling, which bonked you in the head if you were foolish enough to play beneath it and forget that it hung there. And there was a loft with hot-pink carpet which, due to the non-breakable rules of nature, was stifling hot in summer but was still a great place to pretend or hide with a good book.

There was a loft above the kitchen and dining room, too – where my mother had her sewing room and two guest beds and you could look over the edge and drop things on unsuspecting people in the living room below.

Not that I ever did that.

Another life remembered. What would he have thought of blogging?

That was where my father built my doll house one year and I was banned from climbing the stairs for the entire month of November and into December, right up until Christmas Eve. I tried to identify the mysterious sounds that emanated from that sacred place and I did, correctly, though I never could have imagined how wonderful it would turn out to be.

Mom stored her canned goods up there, too. Beans, tomatoes, peaches, pears, jams, applesauce, sometimes even salmon. I’d play grocery store up there, and “house” and I could play with Mom’s button box and watch her create beauty out of yards of cloth.

Yes, there are a lot of reasons I couldn’t bear to return to that house, couldn’t bear to see other people’s stuff in MY HOUSE.

My grandparents built the house – from plans they found in a Better Homes and Gardens magazine. The same grandparents who now live a few miles away, in Mt. Baker Cemetery. Well, reside. I suppose that “live” isn’t the right word.
Though, to be sure, their memory lives on.

Apple picking just down the road from our house on Orcas. From left to right: my sister, me, Grandma, Mom, my sister, Grandpa

* A note about Buck Park: a few years ago, when it was still pretty new, I visited it with my sister. My favorite thing there was a signboard that I dearly wish I’d gotten a picture of. It said, in chalk for easy updating:
Broken arms: 7
Broken legs: 2
Broken pelvis: 1
Broken ankle: 9
Broken hearts: one
How I wanted to give that girl a hug! Not so much that I was worried about her heart, but I loved, loved, loved, that she included that in the list. Truly, a writer in the making!

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