A chilly Georgia morning

Now that I’ve completed over 100 illustrations¬† for my book, I’ve decided to start adding pen-and-ink drawings to the blog, too. I hope you enjoy these new “doodles!” ~1meps

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Original illustration by Margaret Meps Schulte

Lucky kingfisher

With temperatures in the low 30s, the folks of St. Marys stayed inside today. They even closed the schools, just in case there was ice on the roads (there wasn’t). So when I set off on my bicycle this morning, there were more animals than people.

A chorus of birds serenaded me from the trees as I headed north from the boatyard. Then I turned west on the North River Causeway, pedaling across a small bridge and through golden marshes at high tide. Across the river, the Spanish moss-draped trees were full of big white blobs — egrets, huddled against the cold. To the south, a single great blue heron skimmed the surface of the water.

Farther along, I heard the distinctive chattering call of a kingfisher. I looked up just as he ended with a loud “SQUAWK!” A hawk had swooped down out of the trees, intent on attacking the small, noisy kingfisher. He failed, and the kingfisher zoomed past me, announcing to the world that he would live another day. The hawk circled back into the trees, disappointed.

The rest of the animals on my route were silent; even the dogs who usually charge their fences to bark at me were affected by the cold. I hardly recognized the one who is usually the most vociferous — he just looked at me and wagged his tail in cold, silent solidarity. The rest of the canines, the lucky ones, were inside their owners’ warm homes.

Original illustration by Margaret Meps Schulte

Needy kittens

I passed a house with a sign that said, “But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me,” and a few doors down, two tiny feral kittens sat on the sidewalk. They were poor and needy creatures, too cold and hungry to even run away.

By the time I arrived at the library, I was thoroughly chilled. I was glad to spend the entire day in that quiet place of refuge, writing and drawing. Silent, like the kittens, but sheltered and grateful.

Good things come to those who wait

About ten vendors were set up at the St. Marys Community Market last Saturday, in 40-degree temperatures. Most of them were selling honey and handicrafts. The name “community market” should have tipped me off — there was only one produce vendor. There’s a huge advantage to such a limited selection; I was able to get all my shopping done in five minutes!

It seemed silly to ride my bicycle all that distance without spending a little more time in town, so I took myself to a nearby cafe for breakfast.

The only problem was, all the tables at the cafe were full. To kill some time while I waited, I walked into the adjacent art gallery. That was where I met Cindy, who was sitting at the sales desk, painting miniature houses.

We started chatting, and I mentioned that I was from Seattle. Hearing that, she lit up like a Christmas tree — Cindy grew up in Seattle, 50 years ago. She was overjoyed to have someone to talk with about the Pacific Northwest.

She arrived in St. Marys many years ago, in a move that was intended to be temporary. Her husband’s job was associated with the nearby submarine base when “peace broke out,” she says with a wry laugh. Because of the job, the family had to stay in St. Marys for years, instead of returning to Seattle. When they finally divorced, Cindy still couldn’t leave — by then, her children had met and married local people. Meanwhile, out in Seattle, her mother, father, and brother passed away.

Cindy told me how she longed to see the pink sunsets on Mount Rainier again and ride a Puget Sound ferry. She described the Pike Place Market in the 1950’s, exploring the labyrinthine lower levels as a child. She and her family had spent time on Camano Island, camping near Utsalady Point and nearly buying a house there.

As she reminisced, Cindy told me that she’d even written to Starbucks, begging them to open a store in St. Marys. “Whenever I sit in a Starbucks, I imagine Mount Rainier through the window,” she told me. “It takes me back there.”

I lost track of my reason for stepping into the gallery, which was to wait until a table opened in the cafe. I lingered, talking with Cindy for over an hour. When I finally tore myself away and sat down for breakfast, every table was empty. I had the place to myself to think about Cindy’s story and her fierce homesickness for the Pacific Northwest.

The definition of an expatriate is a person who lives outside their native country. Is it possible to be an expat without even leaving the country?

Cindy’s story is proof that it is. The culture of St. Marys is completely different from that of Seattle, and she can never go home again. But with three children and many grandchildren in this part of the country, all she needs is a Starbucks to be reasonably happy.