Sunrise at Toad Hall is a glorious event. One does not become bored with it. There are days of rain or gray mist when it is blurred like a hand run across a chalk drawing. In the Summer it can be so brilliant it cuts straight into your soul. At this time of the year, on a sunny cool Winter morning like today, it can be like a drop of pure paint pigment on raw shot silk.
It is little wonder I am a home body when one is lucky enough to rise and set their days on the sea. Yet, I am always a solitary creature. Though my days are often mixed with animals between Puss and the dogs, the endless birds that visit here and the occasional chicken I am want to keep.
When I began to return to drawing and art more consistently I started to feel the rhythms even more of this storied place. The rise of the sun, the smell of the bright sharp sea and cry of the gull is punctuated by the strong first rush of the coffee brewing. The dogs go out, sniff and rut about, trying to decipher the movements of the night inhabitants of fox, coyote, raccoon. Puss, in her feline way, strolls about and perches in the image of French Belle Epoch posters, making art at every resting place. The wave hits the shore. The bird cries out. The breeze makes a song of the dried leaves and tangle of now bald bittersweet, long stripped of its Autumnal jewels.
The coffee is done. The final perk has called us all back in. Puss, more dog like in her obedience than her canine companions, rounds us all up and in we go. The dark rich coffee is poured into the cup. One can't help but hold up the cup to catch the steam as it rises above the windows, the sea and cloud and sky showing off in the background. To the studio!
We quietly shuffle down the hall, after all we are early risers and must consider the slumber of others. At the end of the long hall awaits the studio, one the main bedroom of the house. I have made a sort of apartment down here. Much like the boudoir of the old French, where one could gather friends for intimate talks on soft sofas drinking rich chocolate and discussing politics or fashion with just the hint of a bed behind the screen. I have no such gatherings. It is Puss and dogs and me. The coffee cools on the desk, I draw away with occasional dreaming out the large window. Puss is perched and silhouetted in the sun on my desk. The constant companion to my creation.
When the art has been done and the drawings spent, I take my walk. The paths of wood and shore, salt marsh and open field round here lend themselves to a good ramble. I am alone now, no animals save those wild beasts in the tree and field. The quiet hush of solitude punctuated with the white breath in and out and woven with bird song. I often stop at the beach which, in the Summer, is dotted with friends and neighbours little sailboats. Here the yacht club meets. The terminology has the grandeur used mostly tongue in cheek by we of the point. There is no clubhouse merely a beautiful strip of sandy beach with a wooded clearing perched on top bounded by an open field. Pic-nics on lawn or sand, or seeking shade under the trees are norm in the Summer here.
Now, empty of its boats, save a few upturned and pulled far from the hungry sea, it is all mine. The gulls and waves my companions as I have a perusal of the days "treasures". The cool sand sifts through my fingers. The soft round turn of the stone, and a bit of sea glass might be found. Shells, endless shells, pile and collect up. They are indeed treasure to me, and are a continuing changing art installation on the window sills, counters and open spaces of Toad Hall. The finest treasures found free among the drying seaweed.
Back home there are books and sofas upon which to lounge, windowsills to place plant cuttings to dream of the coming Spring. There are even fresh tomatoes from the plant brought in before the first frost, happily giving up its fruit and growing on in the sun of Toad Hall's tall windows considering it an eternal June.
A day in the life. Boring for most, I am certain, but full enough for me. Yes, for a home body introvert, Toad Hall sets the rhythm and tone of one's day. In many ways we are kindred spirits, a bit weathered, often cool and quiet, but happy to share their gifts to those willing to make the trip down the long tangled road.
The sun sets and another day is done. A quiet life is a good life.
I lived as a 1950s housewife for three years. Click below to see that project.
Donna Davis is a painter and printmaker living by the sea. Her work deals with women, history, the seashore, and moments in time. Follow along to see the process behind the product.