The Brushstrokes of Amesbury, MA

Amesbury mural by Jon Mooers

Jon Mooers mural in Amesbury

When you walk the streets of downtown Amesbury, you’re treated to the sight of large, detailed, colorful murals on the sides of some of the buildings. These amazing painted creations portraying the history and beauty of Amesbury are the work of a talented artist named Jon P. Mooers. I was awestruck by them the first time I saw them in June of 2013. I’ve had the privilege of meeting Jon and not only is he a skilled artist, he’s a great person.

Jon P. Mooers opened a gallery in downtown Amesbury over a year ago and there’s no denying his love of and passion for art. I wrote about one of his gallery events in my Accidental Wandering in Amesbury post back in October of 2013 and thanks to him publicizing that post, it was my most popular writing to date. It’s a grand thing when creative people connect and Jon’s gallery was all about supporting artists and sharing beautiful artwork with the community.

I stopped in at the gallery in the winter of 2013 and found Jon in the midst of putting up one of his window displays. If you’ve never seen his window displays, you missed something truly special. He was working busily setting up the window display and there was a light in his eyes that every artist knows from personal experience. It’s the light that comes from expressing yourself and hoping that the world sees and appreciates what you’re trying to convey. For a book signing in December he even had snow falling over a scene of Frosty the Snowman in the window! Seeing it put the biggest grin on my face and I knew he was doing all he could to highlight his gallery and let more people know about it.

Winter window Jon Mooers Gallery

Frosty the Snowman

Unfortunately, Jon is closing his gallery due to lack of sales. I always enjoyed looking at all the artwork on display and was impressed by the caliber and talent of the artists. Every brushstroke revealed what they love to create and each piece was unique, even those done by the same artist. You’ll never find beauty, dedication and heart like that in the mass-produced paintings for sale in big box retail stores. Every artist knows what it is to struggle and yet none of us can ever truly give up on expressing our creativity because it’s a huge part of our essential being.

I raise my paintbrush in huge multi-color paint admiration of Jon P. Mooers and what he did by opening that gallery in Amesbury. It’s a truly sad loss to the community that he’s closing his doors. Perhaps too many people mistakenly believed that even if they didn’t buy anything, someone else would. Speaking as an artist, I can attest that “someone else” doesn’t always exist and that it’s up to each of us as individuals to step up and support all of the arts in any way we can. Jon P. Mooers Artists Gallery and Studio did that and for that he deserves great respect and acknowledgement of the difference he made in downtown Amesbury. I certainly hope to see more great endeavors from him in the future!

Opening Doors in Amesbury, MA

Looking toward the entrance to Workspace 36

Looking toward the entrance to Workspace 36

During my visits to Amesbury, MA last week I did some things that are way outside my comfort zone including walking door to door, attending a Chamber of Commerce event for the grand opening of Wolf Meadow Farm and doing a photo shoot with Ed Justen from Workspace 36. In NY, I’m a homebody who spends most of her time writing, hanging with her daughters and chilling with her mutt. The moment I cross over into Massachusetts though, I discover a new side to myself and my strong desire to set some roots down in New England is reawakened.

The first time I walked the streets of Amesbury in June of 2013, I fell in love with the town and felt welcomed by it. I wish to share that love and return the favor of its welcome by helping the town in my own unique way. My powers of observation gain strength through my written words and I hope to make a positive difference.

On this visit to Amesbury, I was armed with my newly-printed business cards. Somehow having business cards made me feel more official, despite knowing that anyone can order business cards. My plan was to visit local businesses, explain what I do and hand out my business card. This was a very bold, ambitious plan for a girl who is more comfortable tucked off in a corner or hidden behind a laptop.

My first stop was Paws Pet Boutique on Main Street. I walked in and looked around at the expansive and varied selection of pet toys and supplies for many moments before working up the courage to approach the woman at the register. I handed her my card and stumbled through my “pitch” and I don’t blame her for looking confused. She was very nice and said she wasn’t the owner but would pass my card along. While me actually being brave enough to try was a huge victory, I felt as though I’d come off as a slimy salesperson. I have the best intentions, want to help and don’t expect payment for my Amesbury writing but that might be difficult to believe for those who don’t know me.

Inside Paws Pet Boutique

Inside Paws Pet Boutique

After Paws, I walked next door to Attentif’ Design and mustered more courage to try again. When I entered, two women were in the process of assembling a tall, narrow shelf and the owner, Kathi Gannett explained that it was for candles the store will be selling. I will be writing more about Attentif’ Design later because I adore that store and believe that it, and many other stores in Amesbury deserve more attention and patronage. I browsed a bit before explaining to Kathi what I did and handing her my card. She handed me her card in return and said I looked familiar. We concluded it’s from Facebook and she said she reads my blog and that gave me the biggest thrill!

One of the many neat displays inside Attentif' Design

One of the many neat displays inside Attentif’ Design

My stop at Attentif’ Design bolstered my spirits a bit so I continued into the next store of Parke Place Boutique. I handed the woman behind the register my card and again explained what I did. She was friendly and we chatted a bit about how winter makes business slower for everyone in town. I will be writing more about Parke Place Boutique later as well because I think these shops deserve their own individual attention even as they work together as a whole to make Amesbury the uniquely amazing place that it is.

Inside Parke Place Boutique, Amesbury, MA

Expertly arranged racks in Parke Place Boutique

I only visited a few stores because in each one I was filled with butterflies and extremely nervous. I didn’t really want to make a pest of myself either. I’m not exactly sure if I’m going about achieving my goal of helping Amesbury, MA in the right way or not but I do know that I’m not about to give up!

Spring on Wings

American Robin. Photo courtesy of National Audubon Society

The local forecast for the next 10 days is calling for snow, highs in the 20’s and lows in the teens and single digits. An unwelcome change from the past few days of bright sunshine and mild temperatures in the high 40’s. For a brief moment everyone thought that spring had arrived early, but alas winter isn’t over yet.

Driving home yesterday I did see some signs of hope though and they came on bird wings. Namely the wings of the American Robin. On my drive through Massachusetts I saw numerous robins flying about and several of them nearly dive bombed my car. It’s entirely possible they’re year-round residents of MA, but I prefer to believe that they’re coming back because they sense the arrival of spring. I certainly don’t remember seeing them on any of my previous winter drives and I definitely don’t see them in NY until spring is near.

So as I hunker down, dress in layers and snuggle under multiple blankets for the next several days, weeks, whatever, I’ll take heart in my memories of seeing those lively, red-breasted thrushes flying in little flocks and swooping at my car. Spring comes in on the wings of returning birds and I welcome it with open arms and full bird feeders!

The Ducks of Amesbury, MA

Ducks upon the water and ice of Powwow River

Ducks upon the water and ice of Powwow River

My attempt to “sneak attack” New England and avoid a winter storm by not publicizing my visit this week…failed miserably. When I left my home, there were blue skies and the promise of sunshine. The moment I got on the thruway and headed east though, Mama Nature got wind of my plans and up came a fast moving burst of snow, freezing rain and overall blech that I ended up driving right along with from Syracuse on. A trip that usually takes five and a half to six hours took 8 hours thanks to awful driving conditions and the rush hour traffic of 495 in Massachusetts.

Despite the winter weather obstacle that I will just expect from now on, Jazzmin and I arrived safely at the hotel and have been enjoying ourselves. The sight of all the snow everywhere when I pulled off the expressway was overwhelming! I knew all about the multiple storms that had been hitting New England but seeing it in person, and quite often not being able to see over and around it was quite another matter! The milder temperatures are melting a lot of the snow and that’s creating tons of huge puddles everywhere that have “nicely” washed off the undercarriage of my car several times.

Yesterday afternoon I headed into my favorite New England town of Amesbury, Massachusetts. I was planning to spend some time at Workspace 36 bouncing some ideas off Ed Justen, the owner. When I got there and saw Ed was momentarily absent, I decided to head out and take some pictures. I went immediately to Powwow River Falls because I can’t seem to resists its pull. Navigating the sidewalks to get there was quite an exercise! Some of the snow had been mostly cleared from sidewalks but there’s just so much white stuff, there’s no room to put it anymore. I managed pretty well with my winter boots on and if you want a workout like no other, walk some snowy, half-melted, slushy sidewalks for the ultimate toning leg routine!

Once at the falls, I took a few pictures and walked further up the sidewalks along the river. I soon came upon a surprising number of mallard ducks that have decided to stay in Amesbury. There were a few ducks in the water during my last visit, but this time there seemed to be quite a bit more. As I walked up toward the top of the path and occasionally paused to take pictures of the mill building I’m using in my book, a group of people behind me started feeding the ducks. I suddenly found myself in the path of countless mallard ducks all waddling, flying and scrambling to get closer to the food.

The mallards beginning their move toward the food.

The mallards beginning their move toward the food.

One of them even perched on the fence to quack at me for a few moments, wondering why I wasn’t throwing bread in her bill before she flew off to join the others

I made my way slowly and carefully along the path because I didn’t want to startle them too much. They continued down while I went up and I was certain they’d be content being fed for a bit. I paused at one point to take a picture and turned around to find one lone female mallard still following me. She eventually turned back around but I admired how hopeful and brave she was.

The lone brave duck.

The lone brave duck.

I reached the top of the path, took a few more pictures, and then headed back down toward the falls. On my way back I was quite surprised to see an army of ducks marching my way. I imagine they assumed since the other humans ran out of food, I must have more. Well, I didn’t.

So back I went, slowly and carefully through the mallard ducks as they quacked, flew and waddled around me. I’m sure they were upset I didn’t have food for them but I was actually quite amused and happy that they were all clambering to me. Sometimes it’s just nice to feel noticed even when it’s a gathering of ducks. It reminds me that I’m an important part of the universe and not someone that’s easy to ignore and dismiss. Sure, the ducks probably saw me as a potential walking bread dispenser but the point is that they saw me. I’m not as invisible as I sometimes think I am. Amazing the wisdom I learned from a multitude of mallards in Amesbury, MA.

Be still, listen and look

Look closely...

Look closely…

Throughout my life, I’ve learned the benefits of being a silent observer. When you close your mouth and open your eyes and ears, you learn a lot about the world around you. When you quiet your mind and calm your spirit, the world opens up to you in new and beautiful ways.

My ability to be still and listen proved to be an especially wondrous trait during my recent visit to Florida. I was walking one of the trails at the Weedon Island Preserve in St. Petersberg when I had a rather adorable encounter. I’d just stopped to read one of the signs throughout the trail when I heard a rustling in the tall grass and palm fronds behind me. My first thought was that it was a squirrel because I’d already seen several during my visit. As I turned and peered into the grass though, I realized that the creature was much too big to be a squirrel. As it rustled around and emerged from the grass, I was overjoyed to see that it was a nine-banded armadillo!

Armadillos might very well be as common as squirrels for residents of Florida, but to me it was one of the neatest animals I’ve ever laid eyes on. I watched the little guy snuffle around in the underbrush digging for bugs and took several pictures with my phone and my normal camera. I stood very still as I watched him and not another soul came along the path the entire time he and I were in close proximity. Eventually he ambled right up to the path within two feet of me and strolled across, unfazed by my presence. Inside I was jumping up and down that he’d come so close to me, but on the outside I was still and calm…while wearing a huge grin on my face.

There he goes, strolling right by...

There he goes, strolling right by…

He eventually disappeared into the brush on the other side of the path and I knew I’d seen what I was meant to see while walking that path. I imagine my smile was bright enough to light up the gray, cloudy day and perhaps made the people I passed later on the path wonder about my sanity, but I didn’t care. I’d opened myself to whatever amazing and positive experiences Florida had to offer me and nature had happily delivered in the form of a peaceful encounter between a quiet girl and a friendly armadillo.

Is it really love if…

sunlight snow

I went to the store yesterday for some groceries and the moment I walked through the door I was greeted by the sight of big displays of roses, boxes of chocolates, card and over-fluffy red and pink stuffed animals. As today is Valentine’s Day, the displays didn’t surprise me, nor did the number of people milling about the displays.

My girls are my Valentines and I love them and know they love me without any special holiday. Watching the men and women searching through the flowers, cards and candy, I shook my head. Is it really love if you’re out at the last moment, scrambling for the perfect gift to make your loved one happy? Does buying something sparkly and expensive or taking your mate out to dinner on an over-commercialized holiday mean that you really love them? Is it really love if you only remember to express your love when endless advertisements and heart-filled displays bombard your senses? Love is an all the time thing, not a one-shot deal.

Last year on this day I wrote a poem entitled “Love is Deeper” and posted it on my Corbin Creations blog. Rereading it today, the sentiments still hold true and they always will. I’m re-posting it here and hoping that all your days are special and filled with love in its many forms.

***

Love is Deeper – 2/14/13

Boxes of chocolates
Bouquets of flowers
Love is deeper.
Sparkling trinkets
Folded paper cards
Love is deeper.
Plush stuffed animals
Brightly colored balloons
Love is deeper.
Written words of rhyme
Melodies in song
Love is deeper.
Wiping a tear away
Enfolding in embrace
Love grows deeper.
Interlocking fingers
The soft brush of lips
Love grows deeper.
Sharing in laughter
Evoking a smile
Love grows deeper.
Listening and hearing
Offering understanding
Love grows deeper.
The cry of a newborn child
Holding a swaddled babe
Love is endless.
The coldest of nights
A breathtaking dawn
Love is endless.
A sky full of stars
The moon gazing down
Love is endless.
A light in the darkness
Unfaltering friendship
Love is endless.
The love of a child
The loss of a parent
Love is eternal.
An unbreakable force
The tie that binds us
Love is always.

 

Same girl, different place

Me and my Kia Soul rental car

Me and my Kia Soul rental car

I’m still not quite refocused from my recent trip to Florida but as a writer, there’s always something I can ramble about. I discovered some interesting things during my visit to the “Sunshine State.” Among these discoveries were that it isn’t always sunny (unless you drive south out of the stalled cold front) and that no matter where I am, I’m always the same girl. I am an explorer, an investigator, a woman with an insatiable curiosity about the world around me, both past and present.

Much of my exploration was in this part of Florida

Much of my exploration was in this part of Florida

My plans for this vacation were to soak up the sunshine, do some swimming, relax and walk along the beach picking up shells. The inclement weather prevented me from doing many of the things on that list but by driving south to Sanibel Island, I was finally able to enjoy the sun, warmth and shell collecting. I didn’t do that until my final day there but the days before that were full of new and amazing adventures that expanded my mind, opened my heart, awakened my spirit and introduced me to new animals.

A new path to explore!

A new path to explore!

The armadillo I met on that path.

The armadillo I met on that path.

While my trip did not go as I planned, I believe it went as it was intended to and that I traveled exactly where my destiny and the powers that be wanted me to. My awareness of the world around me has greatly increased and I’ve received fresh inspiration for all my creative talents. I did not bring the Florida warmth back home with me but I have the memory of it to keep me company during the last few months of winter as I get my hands into fun, new projects!

Hanging out in a mangrove exhibit

Hanging out in a mangrove exhibit