Beaver Island Sketchbook

I didn’t visit Beaver Island last year, the first time in fourteen years that I hadn’t been there for at least the month of July, so this trip was a special treat. My house, which I sold two years ago, i found had been razed and replaced by a huge two-storey job with several livingrooms and as many bathrooms.

My friends said they cried when my house came down–we had made so many memories there. I’d held numerous writing workshops, parties, and a meditation workshop there. I’d put up friends, Buddhists monks, and a medicine woman–Keewaydinoquay– before I turned my guest room into a bookstore, and after that a gallery called Beaver Island Arts. I’d learned to paint there, sold my art and books for years, met many interesting people.

But now, although my place is gone, the island with its many natural wonders is still there. Even on foot I was able to reach my favorite beaches, woodlands, wetlands, sweet grass patches, and sunset views. The last day I was offered a car, so I got to spend a perfect summer afternoon on Donegal Bay, my favorite swimming beach in the world.

And I hung out at the Beaver Island Lodge, where the owners, Ray and Nina Cole, always let me sit and paint either out on the lawn or at one of their lovely patio tables overlooking Lake Michigan and Garden Island. Several of my paintings hang inside their lovely dining room and my Lake Effects posters, both beautifully framed, welcome visitors at the front desk.

While I painted the lake, one of my favorite views, yet again (I have done it often at different times of day), a flock of wild turkeys crossed the lawn and then reappeared an hour later on the beach. I’d never seen turkeys on a beach before, and earlier that morning I witnessed another Beaver Island first for me –a pileated woodpecker.

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Radiation Day 12

I have become friendly with two women who await their own ten minute appointments in a tiny space barely containing three chairs and surrounded with fabric-covered walls. They seem to enjoy my little project which I’ve called “Same Place, New Day”: Each day I bring in and pin up a new day (like the one pictured here) from one of my Lake Effects posters. Now there are twelve, twenty-one to go.

Yesterday was A’s last day, her 33rd zap, and to celebrate, I gave her a copy of my Lake Lover’s Year book which tells how I did the little paintings she likes. But that wasn’t the only good news: she and I found out that the third woman in our little party, who has been awaiting in agony for last week’s bone scan report, does not have the much-feared bone cancer. We were all smiles over that happy news.

But this was not a good week for several of my close women friends who have suffered, among them, the loss of a beloved cat, a miscarriage, and the death of her mother. Such huge losses. We surely do ride a see-saw in this life, by turn giving support and needing it.

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Key West Gallery Hop

Harrison Gallery 825 White Street We began with this small gallery tucked away from the Duval Street madding crowd on quiet White Street. My companion, Rowland Bennett, longtime friend and librarian from Maplewood, New Jersey, and I had walked by it the day before and enjoyed peering in the window.

This time we were met in the tiny showroom by Helen Harrison, whose three-dimensional works were displayed along with paintings and photographs by others. I was drawn to Helen’s highly polished sculptures: giant fruits and other shapes which began with natural materials such as gourds or palm fronds but which now appeared to glow from within.

I also loved Helen’s studio, which we had to walk through to other parts of her gallery.Artists’ studios say so much about them–what inspires them, what’s on the walls, work in various stages. Despite my obvious lack of purchasing power–this is a pricy gallery–Helen graciously showed us everything, talked with us at length, and gave us a list of Key West galleries, at my request (my time was limited) checking off those I might like best.

Be sure to check out Helen Harrison’s work on her website:

Haitian Art Company 600 Frances Street We were walking back to the car when I spied another gallery just a block or so away with it’s corner windows full of bright primitive-looking paintings. I had to go in. This gallery was huge…room after room hung ceiling to floor with dazzling paintings, pictures sewn entirely in sequins, papier mache pieces, with prices from $75 (on sale) to (I think) $55,000 for an incredible large realistic painting hung over the entrance to one of the many small display rooms.

I preferred the passion and color of the more primitive, or folk, art, while Rowland was taken with the more controlled, finely crafted paintings. Both were plentiful. The person attending the gallery claimed it was “the largest collection of Haitian art outside of Haiti.” I believed him, especially after we were shown storerooms stacked with hundreds more canvases and informed that there was another storage area at another location stocking even more.

I was taken with this “tap tap” bus by Lionel Simonis, who was quite accomplished as a papier-mache artist, based in Jacmel, Haiti, until his death a few years ago. Check out more Haitian art on the company’s website,

Stay tuned for reviews of more Key West galleries I loved.