Daddy's Christmas Angel

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

U.S. Route 1, the End and the Beginning

US 1, the Beginning ©Allison Sikes

Within the last two months, we have visited the end of US Route 1, mile 0, in Key West, Florida and the very beginning of it in Fort Kent, Maine where the bridge crosses the St. John River into Canada. There is something special about seeing both ends of an historic passageway north and south in our country. Sometimes, despite its many traffic lights, we use US 1 for an alternate highway as it parallels I-95 in Virginia.

The highway is truly historic with a beginning in the 1920s, nearly 100 years ago. It is the longest north-south highway in the United States. The sign at Fort Kent indicates it has 2446 "original miles". Wikipedia says it runs 2369 miles. Much of it was built along the fall line, and it connects many of the major east coast cites, including Richmond, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York, Boston, and Miami.

US 1, the End ©Mary Montague Sikes

The End sign in Key West is far less dramatic than the beginning in Ft. Kent. However, there are other signs in Key West with significance, including Cuba being only 90 miles away. It is also the southernmost point in the U.S. Ft. Kent is close to being the northernmost point in the continental United States.

Interesting to have visited both during the past few weeks. Wonder how long it would take to drive the route from beginning to end?

Friday, June 30, 2017

Living in the Present, Still Cherishing Our Past

"Sunset over the Water" ©Mary Montague Sikes
For many years, people have come to our little town looking for old houses, buying and renovating them. They love the history attached to the buildings that trace back to the turn of the 20th Century, and earlier, and want to be part of it. Some of them enjoy sharing that history with the community and are willing to showcase their homes when various opportunities arise. That scenario is true in many little towns across our country.

Looking at the old homes started me thinking about the people who once lived in them and the ones who live there now. Those people were and are special. They possess memories we need to cherish. Years ago, people honored the elderly in our societies. The young looked up to them and valued their ideas and wishes.

The old will die out and their thoughts and memories will be lost. A few years ago, a friend of mine made a project of going to the homes of some of the elderly and recording her interviews with them. They were World War ll veterans, an early female pilot, fishermen from the rivers and bay, and many more. What a thoughtful and beautiful project.

Long ago, my mother's neighbor pointed out to me that the area would soon change, that most were elderly and soon would be gone. I was in disbelief at what she said. Of course, she was right. In the next several years, all the homes in the neighborhood were filled with young families, and the old had vanished.

As I look at the historical houses, I think of the need to live in the present and value everyone--young, old, and in-between. I remember to take a deep breath and enjoy every sunset. I remember we should live in the moment and strive to enjoy it.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Loving Animals, Books, and Children


 An Artful Animal Alphabet, my first published children's book, has been released. What a thrill it is to hold this bright hardcover edition in my hands.

Because I've worked for many years teaching children to love art as much as I do, I suspect this book is greatly inspired by their work and their excited enthusiasm. It is also inspired by the love of animals I have witnessed in my own three daughters who grew up rescuing and protecting them.

We once had a baby blue jay sheltered in our garage for a while. We've had multiple stray feral cats. One daughter had a special little dog that she loved dearly for many years. Some of the animals in my book were inspired by photos taken of the unusual creatures two of them saw and photographed on visits to Tasmania and Australia several years ago.

Each animal has a little story to go with it. My hope is that someone will expand my stories or make up their own tales to go with each of the 26 paintings in my book.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Returning to Mary Washington College

Brompton ©Mary Montague Sikes
So many memories followed me as I returned to Mary Washington College (now the University of Mary Washington) for homecoming. We lived in Fredericksburg, Virginia, location of the college, when I was growing up. Our home was on the other side of the block from Sunken Road where so many died during the Civil War. As you drive along it, that road still feels sad today.

Brompton, home of the president of the university, was known as Marye House during the Civil War and served as headquarters for Confederate General James Longstreet. It later was used by the Union Army as a hospital.

For the reunion, Brompton was a happier place. It was the lovely site of  the president's welcome reception on the lawn.

Willard Hall ©Mary Montague Sikes
Later that evening, I made a little talk to one of the reunion groups and reminiscenced about my first college room in Willard Hall. I had three roommates and all of them were horseback riders who took advantage of the riding program offered by the college. I wasn't a rider, but I loved listening to all their stories when they returned, dust-covered, to our room, Willard 313. This year, I longed to go inside the dormitory and check out our old room, but, sadly, it wasn't open to the public.

My talk was at Kenmore Inn, a location where my boyfriend (now husband) and I sometimes dined when he visited me at the college. The Inn is located not far from historic Kenmore, a place, as a child, I hurried past on the way to and from school. I feared the ghost of Fielding Lewis would suddenly appear, riding his white horse.

Kenmore Inn Entrance ©Mary Montague Sikes


Pathway to Brompton ©Mary Montague Sikes
Fredericksburg is a beautiful city, so full of history. The campus grounds of the University of Mary Washington are still beautiful. Those grounds attracted me to attend the college all those many years ago. Now, I love seeing them when I return.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Light, Love, and Sculpture in Key West

Seward Johnson sculpture in Key West ©MM Sikes
When we landed in Key West, Florida last week, the first thing I noticed was the difference in the light there. The water, foliage, and even the animals have a very Caribbean appearance. The water and clouds reminded me of my Media General painting that sold at auction earlier this month. That painting was based on photographs I took while visiting islands in the lower Caribbean.

Seward Johnson sculpture ©MM Sikes
I also was amazed once again by the life-size pieces of sculpture on the roof that greet arriving visitors to the Conch Republic. I wonder, but didn't ask, if they, too, are by the prolific artist, Seward Johnson, who entertains tourists with his delightful creations on view outside the Art Museum by the docks. He has changed the one in front of the building and now has the sailor kissing the nurse after the WWII popular photograph. An earlier one at that location was of dancers from a different period of history.

Johnson sculptures on the airport roof ©Mary Montague Sikes
Seeing the Johnson sculptural renderings makes a visit the Key West worthwhile. I didn't go inside the Art Museum this time. However, I will never forget "The Boating Party" that Johnson fashioned after the famous Renoir painting.
His fantastic sculpture was on view at the museum several years ago. It was a perfect example of light, love, and sculpture.