Ink Art Gallery

O how I miss art studios, art galleries, art museums, and monthly art walks. COVID-19 drove everyone indoors and our social society had to find other ways to enjoy the arts. With America slowly opening back up again, we can finally (and safely) return to the places we love, like, art galleries.

My insanity jumped out of the window after days of being indoors. My iPhone recorded me spending more time on Pinterest than any other social media app. I couldn’t help myself. All I wanted to do every single day was make something from scratch. I developed an interest in building Fairy Gardens, creating vintage postcards from scratch,  pastel coloring, and even making soap. Now I’m trying to take on mixed media art journaling. I’m BORED, sue me!

I snuck out of the house to Fernandina for a taste of outdoors and window shopping. It felt good to be a couple miles in one direction from Fernandina Beach and a couple of miles in the other direction from the Fernandina Marina. A lot of the stores (and restaurants) were closed, but the art studios were open. Thank God! I usually go to Art on Centre, they display some of the best local art. Expensive, but well worth the price. I make sure to bring my Nikon on days when I visit.

This time though ,I fell upon Ink Art Gallery. It is a small studio with a few local artists who create and sell their works right on the main street. Along with selling watercolor and oil paintings, the gallery also takes part in selling items created by other locals. For example, they sell soaps, clay jewelry, bracelets, stones, sage, photography prints, candles, and other things all made by other creatives in the area.

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My favorite part is the boho-themed atmosphere. The colorful carpets, wooden chairs, the hanging greenhouse plants, bean-bag chairs, and the magnificent floral-garland wall. Of course, it’s something you would definitely see on Pinterest. I don’t know how I missed that.

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I didn’t spend much time in the studio because I was running out of time to get a jump on beating traffic to get home. I can’t wait to revisit the gallery to take more photos of their beautiful workspace. Hopefully, COVID-19 will move on to another planet so that I can get back to immerse myself in the world of art once again.

Great Makeovers for U.S. Road Rest Areas

I remember traveling at a young age, and we would pull into a rest area for restroom breaks. They were the absolute worst places to go but, when you got to go, you got to go. Often times you go into a rest area, and the bathrooms look like something from the pilgrim era. The entire restroom smelled like a port-o-potty exploded. Sanitation was beneath passing. Honestly, I couldn’t see how the state would allow this.

In the coming years, though, I’ve seen a significant change to rest areas. I would think the improvements would only extend to making the restrooms more pleasant, but rest areas makeovers are doing so much more. It was my thought that rest areas represent the state. Think about it, travelers and tourists go to a rest area in Texas. If the rest area is filthy, they may assume the worst about the state in general. It sounds unlikely, but humans often judge a book by its cover or generalize because of one little thing happening. It happens.

Now, these rest areas are being built with so much more to offer now. They aren’t just a place to get an overpriced soda and a quick place to potty. They come equipped with hiking trails for dogs, jungle gyms for kids, museums, libraries, game rooms, and other stuff to entertain people while they break. The rest stop I visited in Arkansas had a library and a museum displaying Arkansas as the world’s leading source for quartz minerals. A rest stop and visitor center at the Texas state line had an entire boardwalk you could walk on and catch alligators and other wildlife in the preserve.

Where in the hell was all this when I was little? The most we could get out of rest areas back then playing with rocks outside the building sat at picnic tables that were covered in bird poop, and boring brochures desperately displaying the vacation hotspots of the state. Now rest areas are a bed short of a hotel.

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I am glad that the rest areas have made big changes since I was young. Tourism is everything to any state or locality. It would be wise to improve first impressions.

Original Beauty of the Twin Bridges

I’ve lived in Jacksonville, Florida, my entire life, and I’ve always known the bridges there to be pretty because of the different colors they’re painted. Every couple of years, the bridge undergoes a makeover for a new fresh coat. I didn’t mind it until I started truck driving. I drove through other cities besides my own, and I see bridges in their original form, and they seem fascinating than the painted dolls back in my city.

Recently I drove across the Twin Bridges (aka The Bi-State Vietnam Gold Star Twin Bridges) in Kentucky. From a distance, I could see how vintage-like they appeared, and it blew me away. In my imagination, they looked like time portals that would take me back to a different time when I drove across them. The closer I got to the bridges, the more excited I became. It felt like the same feeling I got every year when my mother would drive me across the Dames Pointe Bridge for my birthday.

 

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The Bi-State Vietnam Gold Star Twin Bridges

 

 

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The Bi-State Vietnam Gold Star Twin Bridges

 

I couldn’t pull my phone out of my pocket long enough to snap photos of the rustic sister bridges. I love bodies of water too, and I’m sure the scenery of the river running beneath it was just as exciting, but I could care less about that river as long as I got the bridges. I took as many photos as I could as I drove through the bridge. The beauty of original metal and the rust taking over the exterior brought to life a greater love for bridges.

 

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The Bi-State Vietnam Gold Star Twin Bridges

 

 

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The Bi-State Vietnam Gold Star Twin Bridges

 

The average lifespan of a bridge is about seventy years, with proper upkeep, most bridges can live well past 100 years. I know that rust is the enemy of metal and that eventually, the city will have to treat the rust if they plan on using this bridge for many years to come. I can’t help but feel sad to know that sometime in the future, these beloved beauties will be coated in bright colors or twinkling lights stripping away their originality. Oh, what a world that will be.

The Morris Ansbacher Map Room

The downtown Jacksonville Public Library is one of the gems of the River City. Every floor of the library has its little world. Anything you wish to research, discover, read, or find, you can find it at this library. Through the main entrance of the building, you will find a themed art display that changes every month. There is an entire room dedicated to teens. Teens can sit on cool bean bags and read teen fiction. If they wish to get on the computer, they can do that too. If you have little ones, there is an entire floor for them to find every child book you can think of plus games and other hands-on entertainment. If you’re a college student, you can rent out private rooms for studying. It is truly the bees knees.

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My favorite room is on the fourth and final floor. The Morris Ansbacher Map Room. Yes, it is precisely that a room of maps. Maps taken from different books and other sources, framed and displayed for all to see. Some of the maps are so large they take nearly a quarter of the wall. Some of the maps presented are basic and may have come from some sort of magazine, while others you could tell may have come from some private collection.

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I once had a small collection of maps I hung on every wall of my bedroom, but this takes it to another level. As of now, I’ve been collecting maps I find in books stores, magazines (National Geographic specifically), shift stores, and craft stores. Since stores like Michaels, Hobby Lobby, and Joann are always running 50% off deals on their frames, it won’t be long before I have my own collection.

 

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Florae: Weeds are Flowers Too

Weeds are indeed the Devils of the Earth. They are resilient, durable, and, most times, annoying. I often wonder if that was the reason I created my hobby to hunt flowering weeds. I’m not sure what began the hobby, and I definitely wouldn’t talk about it amongst gardening addicts. They’d probably gouge out my eyes with their pruning shears.

Anyway, I took an interest in trying to see if weeds were as awful as we tend to make them out to be. I could compare weeds to sharks. Society (and Hollywood) created this fear in sharks making people believe that they purposely hunt human flesh when that is not the truth at all. Weeds appear as a serious problem. Yes, they are annoying. Yes, they can overtake an entire yard and are resistant tend to build resistance to weed killers. Yes, they have been around for hundreds of years, with no end in sight. I get it, but isn’t that the best part about them?

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Apart of the Liliaceae plant family

I do a lot of hiking when I can. I never really noticed weeding flowers before until I picked up this strange little hobby. Now, on my hikes, I see them everywhere. I can barely get through a decent walk without stopping to snap a photo of a flowering weed I notice. And now I have an entire collection of weeding flowers on my MacBook. ( I am not ashamed. I won’t share it with anyone.)

These weeding flowers are just like mushrooms; rain brings out the best in them. I’ve tried replanting a gorgeous weeding flower I saw growing in my neighbor’s yard. The plant didn’t last one day. I tried several times after that, and the same thing happens even though I had preserved the rootball. Strange and wondrous, isn’t it?

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Commelina erecta (Dayflower)

I’ve realized that flowering weeds are a great metaphor. They are strong and wild. Most of them have survived millions of years through evolution and continues to evolve. They are wild and beautiful, just like any Daisy, Rose, or Black-Eyed Susan. Perhaps that is why I began the hobby to hunt for them, to see them not as weeds but as this small power of life that thrives in places we don’t care to look. They contribute just as much to our ecosystems as any other living organism. Perhaps now, instead of seeing them as annoying and destructive, we could see them as little surviving heroes. At this point in our fight against climate change and Global Warming, we need all hands on deck to rescue our atmosphere.

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(not sure)
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Gaillardia pulchella (Indian Blanket)

 

Antique Shops: Overpricing History

When I was younger, I was like most teens thinking that shopping in thrift stores was lame and for “poor folks.” My mother took me to my first one, and good God did I get hooked. I found things in there that I could never find on the shelves of stores in the mall. You can imagine what life became like for me when I visited my first antique shop. My first real antique shop was in North Georgia, headed to Talulah Gorge State Park. I spent nearly $100 in there. It was heaven on earth to be surrounded by artifacts of history. It didn’t take long for my love of antique shops to stop short. That pissed me off.

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On my second visit to North Georgia, I tried to find the same antique shop I had found the first time. The prices were high for the items in the store. You could imagine my surprise when I found out that the store was shut down. The new owner of the store had bought the old inventory and jacked the prices sky-high. So now, instead of paying seventy-five cents per vintage postcard, I was kicking out nearly three dollars for each. What the hell? That’s a 300% increase in price!

I paid attention to other antique shops I visited and noticed the same ridiculous pricing. I understand that because an item is no longer in production or hasn’t been in production for years, but to slap an outrageous price on an item assuming that someone will pay any price for it is terrible business. The worst part is, most of the inventory in these shops aren’t antiques. They’re just items that maybe didn’t sell well through a company, for example, a tall lamp pole covered in different seashells (the most hideous thing I’ve ever seen). And for the love of God, if I see one more massive collection of Coke Cola glass bottles…

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My visit today at a rather famous antique shop in North Florida nearly made me want to start a strike. The items were beyond overpriced. They wanted five dollars for vintage postcards, twenty dollars for supposed “Free-Trade African Seaglass” beaded necklaces, and $210 for a large wooden sailboat. Like, are you kidding me?

I love antiques with a passion because they tell the story of a time I never got to live through. Not only that, but they showcase the evolution of art and design. To be simply put, it’s history! These antique store clerks are the gatekeepers to new generations, discovering another time through these artifacts. It would only be fair if they priced each item by their value and not because they want to overprice because it sits merely inside of an antique shop.

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St. John’s River: The Fish are Assholes

For the first time since I was sixteen, I have been able to enjoy unemployment. I don’t like to waste my days away, so I decided to visit all my favorite parks. One, in particular, is Baker Point Park in the fancy-schmancy Ortega area of Jacksonville. Usually, the park fills with squads of moms jogging with strollers to lose their baby fat. The park has become rather popular. If you don’t get there at the right time, the only twelve parking spaces they have been filled. Unfortunately, there is no room to park on the street or the curb unless you want to risk a ticket.

The worst visitors to the park are fishermen because they hold parking spaces for hours catching fish, or at least trying to.

I sat on the sea wall relaxing with my notebook in hand as two young fishermen pass by me to set up further down the seawall. I noticed fish jumping out of the water randomly. It was a refreshing sight to see fish compete to see who could jump the highest. The two fishermen set up camp and threw their hooks into the water.

It wasn’t until half an hour later when I found the funniest thing happening. The fish continued to jump out of the water near the fishermen’s’ hooks. The two men would reel in their lines and toss them back out where they last spotted a fish jumping. I noticed how the fish start jumping in a different area a few inches away from the hook. This kept happening over and over for another half hour. I couldn’t stop laughing every time a fish would propel out of the water near the hook as if to laugh at the fishermen yelling, “Looking for me?” Eventually, the guys packed up and left.

It truly made my whole day to see how nature outsmarted man once again. Karma must have come around to the fish eventually because a small pod of dolphins enjoyed themselves tossing fish out of the water and catching them in the mouths before diving down to enjoy their meal.

Water Lilies: Bloom as Old as Time… Literally

When I took a picture of a massive cluster of water lilies, I didn’t realize at the time that I was looking at one of the oldest plants on planet earth. How silly I feel for just simply snapping a cute photo of it and walking away as if it meant nothing. I’ve seen my share of water lilies but never took the time to admire their actual existence.

According to hardwaterlilies.net, the website states,

Water lilies are one of the oldest aquatic plants on this earth. Early lilies were huge in size with fossils showing lily pads up to four feet wide. As these plants evolved over several thousands of years they morphed to the size we see today. Evidence of water lilies have been found in european pre-ice age cave drawings and these drawings show the early types to have been of the same basic form that exists among hardy species today.

FOSSILS! Seriously? I realize that roaches are as old as dinosaurs as well so I shouldn’t be surprised to be around something that has survived all the changes the Earth has been through, but lilies are so peaceful and quiet. They just grow and bloom and float on the surface of still waters. That is all they have ever done.

 

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Somewhere  in Tallahassee, Florida

 

With the way the world is changing again (and not for the better) with the crisis of Global Warming and animals going extinct at a rapid pace, we are at high risk of losing these ancient gems just as fast. It may seem so minimal now, like who would miss a water lily? But, once it’s gone, it’s gone, and a Google Image search will be the only way future generations will ever know the prehistoric water lily ever existed.

Flying Solo and Happy

A lot of animals in nature hunt, travel and live in packs, flocks, herds, or schools. Usually, this a wonder that is meant for your DSLR camera, but I think to see an independent animal is fantastic. It’s almost symbolic of true independence. You leave the nest, and the rest of your life is dependant on you and your choices. Freedom.

I didn’t realize this until I visited Mandarin Park (for the umpteenth time) and I sat on a bench and watched a large white bird (still unsure of the name) take his precious time strolling along the bank of the pond. Naturally, I couldn’t tell his emotions as he may not have any, but he appeared so content with life. Not a worry in the world. He gazed at the semi-clear water and moved on. How nice it must be? His only concern in his world is predators and hunters. Besides that, he had all the time in the world to be… just him.

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I followed him as he continued to go around the pond. He was very cautious of my presence, but he kept on. His twig-like legs tiptoed through the grass. Every now and then he bent his body over and shoved his long beak into the soil to peck at whatever he caught sight of to nibble on. I admired his grace, his lightness.

He was the wonder to me. I thought of him long after I had gotten home. He never meant to set that example or become the symbol of absolute freedom and independence. He simply lived and became everything I wanted. On the ride home, I couldn’t help but wonder how could I distance myself from the things that feel like shackles. I want less worry, fewer clusters, less confinement. I want freedom. His freedom.

Heckscher Drive: Fishermen and Patience

If you ever drive down the long scenic road called Heckscher Drive, besides the views of massive cargo ships, fancy waterfront homes, and excellent hot spots for landscape photography, one thing that will definitely come clear to you is this highway is the honey pot for fishing. On a perfect day, every bridge or overpass you drive across, it is covered with fishermen and women. You would think it was a parade getting ready to happen except everyone is facing opposite of the street.

When I first discovered Fort George Inlet, it was quiet and calm, and no one was ever hardly there. I would sit under the overpass on the massive boulder for hours and take in the view. I’d take snacks, a book, my headphones and enjoy my Heaven away from home. Then bit by bit, every time I went to Fort George Inlet, there would be one or two fishermen in my area. I don’t mind sharing, but let’s be honest, I do mind sharing. It was my little spot, and now I had to share it with someone who clearly got the patience of a saint.

To me, fishermen are the absolute worst because they have all the time in the world. They will sit all day for the perfect catch. I would know because I was forced to watch. I never understood the sport of fishing and the excitement. To sit out there waiting for a fish to be silly enough to attract themselves to some food dangling on a hook is exhausting. I can’t tell if it’s funny or not to watch the disappointed faces of fishermen after they have sat for two hours trying to catch something and nothing comes. A waste.

I can only imagine what life lessons are created from fishing. Do you learn to be as patient in life as you are with fishing? I can’t imagine a professional fisherman with bad road rage. Either way, the only lesson I’ve learned from watching people fish is that I don’t want to waste my time with it. It’s just too much patience for a lifetime.