Monday, February 23, 2009

You can't go home again

After, during, and before Ike.

Our happy days at the beach have come to an end. On Friday, September 12, 2008, Hurricane Ike took our home and everything we had. We spent Thursday boarding up our house, and exhausted, went to bed thinking we would pack up some valuables and leave the next morning. Ike had other plans for us. At 3 am Doug woke up and looked out; it looked like water was already coming over the highway a full day before the storm was due. He decided we should leave quickly; so we drove off the peninsula on Hwy. 87 (the beach road), which was already covered in some areas with six inches of water, to a friend's house in High Island. Three hours later, people were being rescued on the beach road from floating cars and the water was higher than we had ever seen it, the surge almost surrounding High Island. We evacuated to Nacogdoches to Doug's mom's and spent hours watching TV hurricane coverage for news of our little town, Gilchrist, on Bolivar Peninsula, but we heard nothing definitive. We finally did hear that Bridge City, Galveston, and other coastal towns had been badly affected, and there were some deaths and missing people. We feared the worst.

On Sunday we headed back towards the beach; Ike took a toll on all the areas we drove through, leaving ripped and twisted metal, roofs and siding torn off, and trees broken and uprooted. There were very few cars out on the roads. We reached Winnie and were turned back from the road back home to the beach; it was barricaded and the police only let emergency crews in. We found a place to sleep at Doug's lodge in Winnie for a few nights. A friend lent us an air mattress so we wouldn't have to be on the floor. Lucky and Oatmeal (our birds) were happy to be out of the car and have a place to sleep. We had Red Cross and FEMA food later in the week.

It was Monday afternoon when we finally heard the news about our home and our town of Gilchrist; all gone, devastated, and only several houses left. It was so surrealistic, seeing the fly-over film on TV. Where a whole town had been, only a few pilings and sand remained. Our lives were now changed forever, and not by our choice.

We were homeless and not sure what to do next. Fortunately, Doug's sister Bonnie, and husband Dave, brought us a camper to stay in, complete with some food, and we got a spot in an empty RV park in Winnie. The RV park filled quickly over the next several days. Everyone ran on generators for several weeks until the electricity was restored. Our niece Emma and husband Jeremy came by with a generator and some very thoughtfully selected supplies and household goods. Finally some of the stores were repaired and opened for business; the Family Dollar and the Market Basket, and the local laundromat. We really appreciate all the kindness shown to us after Ike: phone calls, a homecooked breakfast and a shower, a place to live, help getting a generator, food and necessities. We also are overwhelmed by the generosity of Bonnie's friend Kathy, who recently gave us furniture and household items to start our lives over again.

When we finally were able to go down to the beach, it was just heartbreaking. Where our home had stood, only pilings and the foundation remained. Our beautiful palm trees were snapped off, uprooted, and bent down. The geotube was ruined, and water made a gully through our yard. We followed the debris trail for over a half mile, finding odds and ends like a few dishes, pottery tiles I had made and a few beads, rusty tools that had been ours, and parts of the siding from our house. It was the same for all our Gilchrist neighbors. Where a community of beach homes had stood, nothing much was left. We decided we could never go back there to live and rebuild. Hurricanes have ended our laid-back beach lifestyle.

Dealing with all the repercussions involved with losing a home is a nightmare. Paying mortgages for homes you no longer live in; trying to deal with FEMA and not having a straight answer (each person you talk to says you are/aren't eligible for assistance) but finally realizing after hours on the phone and filling out a ton of paperwork that its all a joke and not to expect much help; filling out form after form for insurance companies; sitting on the phone for hours trying to deal with all the red tape: none of these things are fun. It is like living in limbo, wondering when it will all be over. Unless you've experienced it yourself, it's difficult for anyone to imagine the frustration and sadness.

Over five months later we are finally moving to a new home. We're going to be farther inland and away from the coast. Lucky for us that we'll be on 26 beautiful acres, and we hope to attract birds and other wildlife. We'll miss seeing the hundreds of brown pelicans that flew daily past our beach house, the dolphins that swam up the coast, and the beautiful spoonbills and blue herons and egrets we saw frequently. I hope to be able to begin making pottery, jewelry, and glass again one day. It will all take time, money, and patience. Doug is looking forward to having a garage again too for his 76 Firebird. It needs a good restoration after the abuse it had to endure at the beach, but he's glad he still has it. I know one thing; we will really appreciate and enjoy having a home again, it will be like heaven to us!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Fused Beach Glass

These are some beach glass pendants I fused. I have been making these for almost two years and its still fun to open the kiln and see what happened to the glass after firing. I love to beachcomb, and find pieces of glass along with the mandatory shells. The glass is from every imaginable source; old coke, beer, and wine bottles, old household glass items, mason jars, decorative glass, and any place you can think of. About half of what I fuse comes out ugly or cracked because I have no way to tell if one piece of glass is compatible with another. It can get to be disappointing at times when the results are not what I hoped for or expected. The happy surprises come when I get an unexpected and unusual color and the pendant doesn't crack. Each one has its own unique beauty and no two come out exactly the same. It is also a form of recycling. Guess I just hated to not find a use for all the glass I collect. Hope you enjoy looking!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Porcelain pendants and necklaces I made

Here are a few pictures of my work. Taking pictures with my new digital camera is a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. I have a lot of practicing ahead of me to get better quality photos. Years ago I used my old trusty Minolta SLR to take film photos of my pottery, but since digital is the way to go today, I'm giving it a try.
The cockatoo is cone 6 porcelain, fired to maturity, painted with acrylics and sealed, as are the cross, the fish, and the seahorse/starfish pendants. I usually augment each necklace I make with a couple of handmade porcelain beads, to achieve a better balance and look. These pendants are formed in press molds I made from a hand sculpted original. The dolphin is hand sculpted, no press molds used, so each one comes out a little different. I make lots of other styles of beads and pendants, and will get to those later on. I'm really enjoying the process of jewelry and beadmaking; although I do miss making pottery. On my next post, I'll show you some of my fused beach glass pendants.

Thanks for your interest !!!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Living at the Beach

Life at the beach can be wonderful about 99% of the time. Seeing the pelicans, seagulls, shorebirds, and the beautiful view of the Gulf on a daily basis has been a great experience. I moved here in 2000 and have also suffered the downside of living through several major storms and Hurricanes Claudette and Rita. It has become a feeling of love/hate/fear for the beauty of nature vs. the destructive power of nature.

I was so excited to move to my new beach front property and set up my studio in my 40 X 40 ft. garage, but first I had to hand-shovel the six inches of sand and shells which had been deposited by a previous hurricane. This was no easy task; I went out and bought the best wheelbarrow money could buy. I really did get my money's worth out of it since then. It took a week of steady work to remove all the sand, wash off the cement slab, and clear out junk left by the previous owner. Then, thinking of how to best protect my kilns and pottery equipment, I hired a handyman named Darrell to build a 2 ft. high deck inside part of my garage. He did a great job, but somehow it turned out to be a third smaller than we had agreed on. Guess he ran out of enough profit money and decided to stop there.

The movers I hired were locals recommended by my realtor. This was the move from hell. Between car-breakdowns they had, me having to bail them out from jail for possession of pot, and the psychotic fits of drama between the mover and his girlfriend, the truck finally made it to my new place. They hired a couple of guys to help with unloading the truck. The mosquitoes were the worst they had ever been in years, and just about drove the guys insane. They begged to just quickly unload and come back the next morning to move the boxes to the correct rooms, so I let them pile everything in one room, stacked to the ceiling. Guess what? They never came took me 6 months to unpack. But I was happy, for I was now "living at the beach"!

My next step was to locate an electrician to wire my garage for lighting and my kilns. A local man I got to know recommended Doug, who later became my husband. My bird, Lucky, fell in love with him and couldn't wait to jump on his shoulder every time he came by to work on the wiring. Doug and I got to be friends and would spend our free time in the garage/studio. I made my pottery and he worked on his hot rod, a 1976 Firebird. After two years, we got married in a small ceremony on his Mother's picturesque lake. His sister, who had just become a minister, performed our wedding.

We had his boat to go riding in and spend time looking at alligators in the bayous, and observing spoonbills, herons, and egrets in the wild. We were also involved with remodeling projects, going to car shows, and enjoying living at the beach. Then Hurricane Claudette came.

It wasn't a big hurricane as hurricanes go. But it blew out the side of the studio, letting in the Gulf of Mexico and another six inches of sand. Our yard was totally under water, and the driveway washed out into the highway. It took months of hard work to get things back to a little bit normal. We borrowed a tractor and pushed a lot of the sand out of the studio, and I again got to hand-shovel a good bit of it out. Our roofs were damaged and we had to get new ones, on both the house and studio. Everything we owned was now rusted badly. The Firebird got a salt-bath and needed restoration. The other two cars later rusted underneath.

Doug needed back surgery after all that work. We began to be a little fearful of the after-effects of storms and hurricanes. But gradually we resumed loving "living at the beach".

September 24, 2005 brought Hurricane Rita to the Gulf Coast of Texas. We prepared the best we could for it, boarding up windows, packing and moving the more precious of our possessions, moved the Firebird away from the area, and I got what I could packed, tarped, secured in the studio. Since Rita changed course several times in a few days, we were unable to go to relatives on higher ground; even everyone inland was evacuating. So we packed up and rode the hurricane out with some friends in the area. When we were finally able to return home, our studio/garage was gone, blown down. Rubble was everywhere; broken pottery, kilns, shelves, equipment and tools, glaze chemicals, just tossed all over. Of course we were lucky, we still had our house. After 2 days our water came back on. We had no electricity so had to run on a generator for 3 weeks. It was 90 degrees at 9 in the morning, and I had to salvage what I could out there. It was several weeks of backbreaking work to clean muck off everything and get it dragged into the downstairs; the rest got loaded on a trailer and taken to a storage facility.

Today our SE Texas area shows signs left from Rita. Blue tarps are still on roofs, piles of rubble that used to be buildings are still scattered across the area. And we try to relax and hope that there will be no more storms or hurricanes for a while. Its hard to forget when I look out at the surf everyday and remember how the water once surrounded my house, leaving muck in its wake. Living at the beach is not always nirvana.

So thats how I got involved with making jewelry. I simply don't have the room to do work on a large scale for now. We have hopes to one day rebuild what we lost, but then again, maybe we should just move somewhere safer. Except where would that be, when I see tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, wildfires, and tornadoes on the news everyday? I guess life has no guarantees!