Two stories: One About My Fabric Life, One About My Family Life

Telling My Story

At the end of last year I was asked by Brenda Smoak (via referral from friend and fellow quilt teacher, Rose Hughes) to participate in her blog that highlights a different visual artist every week of the year. It’s called Artists Tell Their Stories. We are asked to “… choose one area of your life and write about it, from your heart. Tell us what inspires you, why you do what you do… write about [your] personal experience.” The blog is filled with some pretty amazing artists and a variety of stories and experiences. I’m honored to now be a part of that group.

As with almost every blog of mine, my husband Tom interviews me first, then gets started on putting thoughts to computer screen. He is a writer after all, may as well use him to my full advantage. I then come along to add or edit as needed.

In this case, we then got Brenda’s feed-back, made adjustments, sent quilt photos, and all my various social media links. While Brenda finished the preparations and scheduling of the blog, we finished packing for our annual family island camping trip. We picked this past week to go camping because of the sunny and hot weather forecast. When the blog posted on Wednesday, we were relaxing… under a cabin overhang while more fog and yet another shower rolled past the island. So much for weather forecasts.

Please do visit Artists Tell Their Stories for this week’s post. Then maybe dawdle a bit reading about some other artists of different media. Enjoy. Next week I’ll fill you in on the progress of my next quilt, a marabou stork.

An August Hiatus

In a few previous posts of mine, I’ve finished the blog with travel photos from the cool and amazing parts of the world I get to teach at. This week, I’ll share the cool and amazing part of the world I live in.

We live in Tom’s hometown of Harpswell, Maine. It’s a town made up of a couple north/south peninsulas jutting into Casco Bay, which means we get both sunrises and sunsets over water. There are a zillion coves along the shoreline and another zillion islands of various sizes. According to a statistic I once read, Harpswell has the longest coastline of any town in the United States. Well yeah, when you start measuring all those coastline ins and outs and island circumferences! It certainly is pretty.


We have the added pleasure of living half a mile from the end of our road, which runs into the bay as a public boat launch. The view at Lookout Point is a regular morning dog-walk destination and a very convenient launch site for our kayaks. A mile across the water is a cute little island owned by friends of ours. We’ve had annual camping trips to that island for over 25 years. How lucky is that? (Scroll over and click on photos below to enlarge).



Two years ago, we (Tom, myself, and our son Sam) camped on the island, for the first time taking all our gear and provisions in our three kayaks, and staying in our friend’s small and pleasantly simple cabin. (Cabin still lifes in slide show below.)

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Our only dog at the time, Kali, was small enough to sit satchel-like in her PFD (Personal Floatation Device), in front of Tom in his kayak. She absolutely loves it and often seems to fall asleep during the paddle.



This year we decided to introduce our newer dog, Felix a “tripod” cairn terrier mix, to the kayak camping world. With only one test run sitting in front of me, he turned out to be an equally sedate (aside from a wiggly leg adjustment) kayak passenger.


Felix delighted and kind of alarmed us when, upon arrival to the island, he ran like a crazy dog over the seaweed covered rocks, his three legs happily flailing away. Both he and Kali took mere moments to naturalize themselves with smells and sand. Unfortunately, Felix seemed to have found a dead fish among the seaweed as well, rolled in and probably ate some of it as we were unpacking the boats. In the middle of the night, that snack made a re-appearance and Felix was restless and uncomfortable. He could only be consoled by cuddling with me—all 30 pounds of furry smelliness. Truly, he reeked. Since I wasn’t going to be able to sleep until he settled down, I invited him onto the canvas bunk with me. He curled into my side with a contented sigh, trying to inch his head onto my tiny camp pillow, and giving me a thankful nuzzle on my nose. By force of will, I tried to ignore the smell and finally fell asleep too.



The next day—Wednesday, our full day on the island and the day the Artists blog posted—I was planning to give Felix as good a bath as I could in the bay water, once the sun came around to our side of the island and the tide came up over the warmed rocks. We’d play in the water and splash Kali who lives for leaping at water drops in the summer (or snowflakes in the winter).



However, clouds moved in instead. By the time we realized something had gone wrong with the weather forecast and considered cutting our adventure short and heading home, it was too late. The wind had picked up and the swells were higher than Tom would have liked for escorting his family—with loaded boats, two dogs, and no spray skirts to keep water out of the kayaks—over a mile of open water. Ever since becoming a Registered Maine Kayak Guide, Tom thinks more about these things. Oh, and it had started to rain. And was getting foggy.


Did I mention the dead fish beginning to drift ashore with the incoming tide? It happens sometimes (like once a decade), schools of fish called “pogies,” usually caught as bait for lobstermen, get too numerous for the inlets of the bay to support them. They run low on oxygen and start to die. Dead fish use up more oxygen in the decomposition process, and things just get worse from there. Tom started to notice another smell on top of our dog’s odor, and we had to watch them like hawks to make sure they didn’t enjoy the many more dead fish now on the beach.


Once we accepted that we were stuck on “The Rock” until our planned departure in the morning, we settled into the the card games and Mastermind which are also part of the camping tradition.We like to read a lot, and that could still be done under the cabin overhang. A fire was made between the raindrops to cook kabobs, and Felix settled down by my legs this time for our second night of odiferous cuddling.


We woke to pea-soup fog. We had to leave early due to other appointments, and could not wait for the fog to lift, a safer option when there are lobster boats moving around. But my Maine Guide Tom had his portable fog-horn and compass. As it turned out, the rising sun made for a good “landmark” to aim for. Once we got past the floating dead fish, it was smooth paddling, and even a bit magical in the empty quietness of the fog.


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Last year, we missed our annual camping trip because of the busyness of our short summer season. This year we made the time for it because we realized how important those few days are. Our kid has gone from toddler to college student visiting that island, three generations of dogs have rolled in and dug nests in the course sand. Regardless of deadlines, obligations, and mowing the lawn, we needed to make this trip a priority this year. And we did. And this time, it’s the unpredictable weather, dead fish, and smelly dogs that will make the memories.



12 thoughts on “Two stories: One About My Fabric Life, One About My Family Life

  1. I LOVED being on vacation with you and your family today as I viewed the photos and read your narrative. This post really cheered me up today. Your dogs are so adorable. Thanks for sharing this trip and for reminding me that it is essential to take time to soak up nature and make time for shared family activities.

    PS the photo of the two kayaks in the fog with the sun is fantastic.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely read! Wonderful to have the photos alongside your words, Susan. Felt like I had a bird’s eye view of your trip. Loved the last image of the kayaks disappearing into the fog/sunrise…just gorgeous!


  3. I’m taking your class next June 2017, and can’t wait to see your part of the country now that you shared your trip. I live on the west coast in a fishing village town called Gig Harbor. Your area looks more rural and natural.


  4. Oh. My. Gosh!!! Such a lovely blog from my very favourite quilt artist!!! I too am a kayaker/canoeist and have ventured into the wilderness so truly appreciate these photos and your experiences. Oh, and I’m a dog lover too, even when they have rolled in yucky stuff. So thank you for starting my day off with this gem of a blog. More please!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I just love your blog. You make me feel as if I’m right with you. Thank you for sharing so much of your life, your quilting techniques and inspiration. Only thing that I miss out on are all your photo slideshows. (Only, haha) I can’t view your slideshows on my iPad. ☹️ Are there any workarounds that any one knows of?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Love it! Dogs will be dogs! Our two are rather bigger than yours and hate the canoe, too big for the kayak…. which hasn’t been out in a while… and as we tend to go to national parks to canoe, we can’t take the dogs anyway, all to the good! I know what it’s like to be caught out in the rain in the canoe on a lake too, luckily not for too long or we would have had to bail out all the way back… the foggy morning is just mystical, and such a great break away! Than you for sharing, I really enjoyed your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. There’s something to be said for life in the slow lane. Doggies and smelly stuff just seem to go together. And your hot pink “thing” looks very comfy. Thanks for the mini-mental vacation.

    Liked by 1 person

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