Delights: February 4 to February 10

February 4: During a cold, wet, huddled walk to my yoga class, my eyes were drawn to a piece of litter that gave me an unexpected jolt of joy. I stooped to pick it up. Yes, it was a tab that visitors receive when visiting the Phillips Collection. It was bright green, just like one of Alma Thomas’ beautiful paintings. Thinking of her joyful paintings warmed me the rest of the way.

Babbling Brook and Whistling Poplar Trees Symphony, by Alma Thomas (1976).

Bonus: This is the last of the four photos I took during my visit to the Alma Thomas exhibit at the Phillips two weeks ago. (If you’re new to Alma Thomas, as I was, see more of her work in these Delights.) Here’s what Ms. Thomas said about the painting’s inspiration, from a creek where she grew up: “I would wade in the brook and when it rained you could hear music. I would fall on the grass and look at the poplar trees and the lovely yellow leaves would whistle.” How fitting that I should find it again on my own rainy day.

February 5: St. Michaels, Maryland, is a village of 18th century houses, historic dories bobbing at the Maritime Museum dock, and random oddities (like an enormous ship’s figurehead whose bust reportedly brought good luck to 19th century Naval Academy students). It also boasts a city block of corrugated iron and coarse weathered wood where Windon Distilling Company brings forth the best rum I have ever tasted. 

In the centuries-old buildings of the town’s Mill District, we found a brewery, a winery, a cigar shop, an apothecary and our destination, the distillery home of award-winning Lyon Rum. My friends Kathy, Cindy and I sipped happily as the sun kissed the mahogany, amber and crimson colors of the rum. We bought libations for our weekend and toasted our friendship of so many years. 

February 6: At our first stop at the Blackwater Wildlife Refuge in Cambridge, Maryland, a birder kindly helped us find a nesting pair of bald eagles high in a distant tree. We didn’t need help to find our next bird. A dozen cars were parked along the side of the road, crowds clustered, and 18-inch camera lenses all pointed to the same place. Barely 20 feet from the side of the road in a tree little taller than a basketball hoop sat a tiny screech owl. She filled a small hollow, puffing her chest and displaying her rum-colored feathers. I think the Beatles could have driven by and no one would have cared. 

February 7: We have no heat, no hot water, and no rum. (I left all the bottles at the beach.) But our gas fireplace warms us and our friends have thrown open their bathroom doors for hot showers. 

Part of me likes this. Heating water on the stove to wash dishes feels like camping without the mosquitos. Having a temperature-controlled fireplace pop into life now and then offers unexpected cheer. Sponge baths makes me feel like a little girl. And falling into the kindness of friends warms our souls. (At least it will be fun for awhile!)

A warm memory of the Rum stand in St. Michaels.
Cindy, the good-luck Figurehead, and Kathy in St. Michaels.

February 8: I had chosen the wrong hiking path to the river, and my friend Lee and I were stuck at an inhospitable creek crossing. Instead of flat or gently tipping footfalls, we faced slabs of slanted rock, angled like rows of spectators leaning together to watch a climactic sports moment. We decided to turn around.

“Let’s pause a moment,” Lee said. We did. We heard the creek hurrying through the rocks and a few birds saluting the sunny day. We admired the formations. And our eyes followed hundreds of perfect black circles that glided over the creek’s mossy slabs. At first, we thought they were shadows of bubbles created by the miniature cascades. But Lee pointed to the tiny vortexes spinning where rivulets collided. We could barely see the vortexes, but their shadows were dancing and playing like polka dots scattered across a little girl’s Sunday dress. We gazed for long minutes and then returned to our hike, quietly pleased by what we had found when we could go no further.

p.s.: Lee, who reads the blogs I link to (hello, friends!) reflected on the marvel of the close look and your photographs celebrating the details. My picture here couldn’t capture the wonder of the dancing polka dots against a mossy rock floor, but I like its ambiguity. Even I wasn’t sure what it was when I looked at it again.

Bonus: Speaking of beautiful close looks, visit An Embarrassment of Riches for Manja’s best photos from February 2021. I particularly love the patterns of the waving water in the second and third images. 

February 9: Stepping off the windy trail and into full sunshine, I lifted my face and savored the warmth of our sudden proto-spring. I had just glimpsed a cluster of white Lenten Rose blooms and the day seemed perfect. Others apparently agreed. In a town full of dog walkers, joggers and errand-runners (like me), two people chose to sit placidly on a curb-side bench facing the sunshine. Perhaps they awaited the school bus. I’d prefer to think they were old friends who were drawn outside simply to soak in these surprising hints of spring. 

A cold beach walk on Sunday morning. Definitely not spring. And no surfers today!

February 10: At her request, I carried the quilt downstairs and placed a corner in my friend Jennifer’s lap. “I want you to see this,” she said. “I’m so proud of it.” Jennifer then explained her goal: to use only the small, tight pattern of a jewel-toned border fabric for the center squares, without repetition. 

I expected to find fifty patches cut from fifty different parts of the fabric and sewn into hubs of wheel-like patterns. But when I crawled along the quilt and lowered my nose to her stitches, I suddenly understood: she had taken the same repeating six-inches of border fabric and, by cutting triangles from different places and angles, had created fifty unique centers. As I studied each square, my astonishment grew. The harmony of each composition, along with the precision of her cutting and sewing, yielded fifty designs that easily could have earned its own fabric print. The entire effect was mesmerizing. 

We had just been talking about how, in the performance of classical music, greatness requires the melding of technique and artistry. As I gazed at Jennifer’s work and touched the quilted swirls, I felt I was in the presence of exactly that.

In this photo, you can see the tiny repetition in the printed border from which Jennifer extracted her squares.
Here is a sampling of the center squares. Take a close look at the variety. And I just love the interplay of wheels and diamonds.

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13 thoughts on “Delights: February 4 to February 10

  1. That exquisite quilt gets a Maine “Wowsah!” Loved seeing more of Alma Thomas’s work. Hope you have heat now!


    1. Hi, Laurie. I’ll be sure to send Jennifer your big Maine compliment. (She’s originally from Newfoundland, so she might speak your language just a bit :-).)

      Glad you liked that last bit of Alma Thomas. I need to click on my own link from the post a few weeks ago to watch the Phillips’ videos about her and her work. A little artistic heat! (Because we have no heat yet, but Virginia is blessing us with 60 degrees today! Thanks for your good wishes.)


  2. So many delights this week! Thanks for sharing another of Alma Thomas’ work. St. Michaels looks an interesting place to visit…and as for that quilt! Gosh!


    1. Thank you! Jennifer will be so pleased by your reaction. (Jennifer’s work pairs nicely with Alma Thomas, I now realize.) And St. Michaels was fun — I’ll need to return again!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. How lovely that my last February made it into your Delights! 🙂 Amazing quilt, and rums, and black hole creek! But why are you without hot water and heating? Temporary, I hope. Sending warm thoughts. Ohh, and that Beatles-trumping owl!!


    1. Your February collection continues to delight me, so I thought I’d spread the joy. Heat and hot water has returned to our house at last. (Thanks for the good wishes.) I did like falling into the arms of my friends, though!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What fun we had! Thank you! Your words put the memories to music.


    1. Oooh, I like that phrase, Cindy: “your words put the memories to music.” Fun, indeed, and more to come!


  5. I love the detour you took with Lee – and the poetic moment & memories shared. Sometimes it pays to get a little lost.


    1. So well said. I’m often focused on the next thing — and fail to savor the moments in front of me! Getting lost (if we can bring a playful spirit) can be the perfect antidote to hurrying…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve learnt from my kids to cherish these “adventures” … it’s taken me many years to do so as I am impatient & goal-driven by nature

        Liked by 1 person

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