Friday, July 10, 2015

The Good Girls Meet Folk in Nova Scotia

The Eastern shore of Nova Scotia is similar to the Puget Sound area. Photo © by Judy Wells.
The drive from Halifax to Liscombe Lodge was a learning experience for this newcomer to Nova Scotia, thanks to our genial and well-informed driver, Jason Brown.

Liscombe Lodge
The land reminds me of a flatter version – no snow-capped mountains or volcanoes – of Washington State’s Puget Sound. Roadsides are filled with evergreen trees through which you get glimpses then panoramas of lakes, sounds, inlets, bays, necks, rivers, streams and brooks.

En route along the Eastern Coast of Nova Scotia. Photo by Debi Lander.
Architecturally, houses bring New England fishing villages to mind with saltbox, cottage, four-square and the occasional Victorian house thrown in. Wood piles and lobster traps are stacked everywhere.

Weather wise, like both, grey, misty, spitty and foggy with brief, very brief, glimpses of sky. Winter had come late and hard and spring is about a month behind the mid-Atlantic States. Rhododendrons, lupine and an assortment of wildflowers dot the greenswards. Rivers and streams rush from frequent rain.

Instructive, also, was our education in pronunciation.

Musquodoboit became “Musk-a-dob-it.”

Antigonesh became AN-tee-GA-nish.

Ecum Secum was EEK-uhm SEE kuhm.

Barry Colpitts' house was a "must stop" spot. Photo © by Judy Wells.
Debi Lander found a "ride" to try. Photo © by Judy Wells.

Eager to reach the lodge where we should have slept last night, we resist the temptation to shout “Stop!” at every good photo-op. Until I spy the resplendent cottage and yard of folk artist Barry Colpitts.

“I have to see this!” I yell.

Amazing whirligigs and statues filled the yard with wonder and whimsy. Brightly painted critters, sayings and images make the walls of his house a static theater. Life-sized Jesus, a woman walking a lobster on a leash, a pony-sized spotted cow with a bird perched on its tail that Debi tried it out.

"Driving Slowly to Heaven."

I had fallen in love with “Flying Slowly to Heaven,” a standing whirligig with spoons for wind catchers, Satan on top and Jesus driving a passenger below, when Barry comes ambling down from one of several workshop storage sheds.

We introduce ourselves, express admiration for his work and learn he had been at the craft for more than 20 years.

“You want to see more?” he asks.

Did we!

A tall, quiet man, Barry leads us up a hill behind his house. As each shed door is opened, more wonders appear. A fanciful bird chair, its brightly colored avians in twittery, flittery movement around Barry as he sits on the remarkable throne.

Barry on the Bird Chair. Photo by Debi Lander.

In another, standing figures – men, women, angels, Mounties – stand like multi-colored totems.

Patriarchal figures with arms open emerge from what used to be oxen yokes.

A standing spotted cow/pig-like critter with shark-like teeth glares.

Barry shows us the "Hand-clap Dance.
The Hand-clap Dance features jigging dancers that move as you clap spiked palms that radiate from the center pole.

Finally, behind a door with a “Warning, cover your wife’s eyes” sign, is the Birdman. His head is an owl, his shoulders and torso geese. His feet are giant chicken legs and where a tiny chicken head is, well, you can imagine.
The "Birdman."
“I usually plan these all out but I didn’t expect this,” Barry said, reddening ever so slightly.

I ask the price of a small piece, a yellow cat with a blue bird on its back. $45 Canadian, $40 U.S. Then I focus in on what I really want, “Flying Slowly to Heaven.”

Not for sale. Nothing outside is for sale. Hard, never changing rule.

As we drive away, me with the cat bird on my lap, I mutter, “If I’d had enough time and enough money, “Flying” would be mine.”

Maybe. Maybe not. That’s the real wonder of genuine, impelled-by-an-unknown-force-to-create folk artists like Barry.

Lobster, chowder and soul-filled art. I like this place.

***POSTSCRIPT: After this was posted, I e-mailed Barry in care of Black Sheep Gallery (he doesn't have a computer and the gallery is nearby) and asked the owner if she would let him know how much we appreciated his work and hospitality. 

Thanking her for delivering the message, I added that if he ever changed his mind about "Flying" I really was interested. Several days later she replied and said Barry would sell it!  

"Flying" now has pride of place on my coffee table. 

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