Posts Tagged ‘The Shadows on the Teche’

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St. John’s Cathedral Lafayette, LA by Andrew M. Liles, from the collection of Margaret and Jeff Simon

My cousin is leaving today. He’s been here all week participating in The Shadows-on-the-Teche Plein Air Competition, a juried art competition for artists who paint outside. They arrived last Saturday and have been painting all over our area until Thursday when they hung their best pieces. Friday night was the awards ceremony. Today, Andrew goes home to New Orleans.

Andrew and I are first cousins; his father was my mother’s brother. He’s like a little brother to me. I will text or call when I am in New Orleans and sometimes we manage to get together for coffee and beignets, but this week we spent every evening together. Hours of talking and sharing and learning more about each other and the family from which we hatched.

I feel like a part of my heart has grown back, a part I didn’t even know was missing.

This was only the second Plein Air competition he’s done. By day, he’s an architect and teaches architecture at Tulane University in New Orleans. At the beginning of the week, he was vulnerable and questioning his style, but by Friday night he had sold 4 of the 7 pieces he put into the show. That feels like success. We purchased the best one, in my opinion, the painting you see above of St. John’s Catholic Cathedral in Lafayette, LA.

The most successful thing for me was claiming back the relationship I have with Andrew. We’ll both treasure this time we had together.

Margaret Simon with artist Andrew Liles at the Delcambre Seafood Market

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

Saturday was my lucky day. In the morning I received my second Moderna shot, so in 10 days I will be fully vaccinated. Today I’ve been in bed with chills, fever, headache, and nausea. I still feel lucky. This response means my body is building immunities.

On Saturday afternoon, the local historical home had a fundraiser, a Wine Walk. The event took place on the grounds and 8 different groups decorated a booth and served wine paired with an appetizer. It was fun to socialize again. The atmosphere was one of pure enjoyment. And I pulled the cork for the prize wine, a 115 dollar bottle of Silver Oak. A few people came over and asked to take a picture of the wine. Event coordinator Liz Terrell said she bought it from the locked cage at Bi Lo. Yes, in Louisiana, you can buy fine wine at the neighborhood grocery store.

Mary enjoys a glass of wine in the gardens at The Shadows.
My lucky day, prize wine.

I don’t know what occasion will be blessed by this fine wine, but if I’ve learned anything in the last year, it’s not to wait for the right time. Make today the right time.

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On Saturday, the Shadows Plein Air Competition hosted a Quick Draw.  Charlie (my dog) and I walked downtown to stalk  talk with some of the artists.

Sherri Thomas (@sherrithomas.artist) from Larsen, Wisconsin was painting the historical Mount Carmel which had been the original home of a founding family, the Duperiers.  Her first layer of paint was drying in the cool air while she added detail elements.

My walk continued and wherever there was an artist, I stopped and chatted with them.  I thanked them for coming and doing something so positive for our city.  I texted our visiting artist, Debbie, to find out where she was painting.  Her sister had come in Friday night, so they could paint together.  (This Saturday competition was open to anyone who wanted to participate; whereas, the weeklong competition was juried.)

Debbie and Sandy were on a corner with two other artists all painting the same building.  I had to stop and look and let the scene sink in.  I pass this building daily and have only thought of it as an old, dilapidated building where the Minuteman restores furniture. I had not noticed the amazing colors of the bricks or the blue doors.  I captured three of the four artists’ paintings and marvel at the complete differences in interpretation.

Debbi Myers from Oxford, MS works in watercolor.

Sandy, Debbie’s sister from Covington, LA works with acrylic and a pallet knife.

Tim Oliver won first place for his Minuteman in watercolor.

A closer view of the winning painting.

Like art, writing can take on different perspectives and interpretations.  The artist creates a mood with the setting.  The writer sets a tone.  The reader comes to the art or writing with their own perspective.  There’s big magic in all of this creating and observing.

My life is richer for having observed these artists in action, and now, I have a few pieces added to my own art collection to remember fondly this experience and the artists I met.

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“Our” artist arrived on Saturday.  From Oxford, Mississippi, Debbie is staying with us all week while she competes in the Shadows Plein Air Painting Competition. We were at ease immediately.

Debbie Myers was the only one of her art group of four to be accepted into the Shadows Plein Air Painting Competition.  But she would be the last to tell you that it’s because she was the best.  Debbie is a humble artist, even though she has been practicing all her life.

I feel such a sense of joy and wonder seeing the paintings she does each day.

Our Grandmother oak by Debbie Myers.

This competition reminds me of the Slice of Life Challenge.  It’s a daily challenge to get something down on paper each day.  And sometimes you don’t know when you start what you will end up with.  I am thankful the the SOLC is not a competition, though.

Competitions have their place, but I have watched Debbie’s stress level rise as the week goes on.  Today she has to complete and frame all her paintings for the judging.

To me, her paintings are winners. I’m confident, too, that she has grown as an artist.  She’s certainly become a new friend.

Church Alley, Downtown New Iberia.

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Saturday was a beautiful windy spring day.  A great day for a craft show.  The Shadows on the Teche hosts a craft festival twice a year.  I almost missed it.  I let the day get away from me with various Saturday chores.  About an hour before it closed, I headed downtown to check out the show.




My first stop was my friend Brenda’s booth of crocheted shawls.  I wanted to get a shawl for Sunday’s Berry Queen Hats and Hallelujahs Brunch.   Brenda had a just right shawl in bright reds and oranges.  Here I am all dressed up for the brunch.


One of the joys of walking through the craft festival is seeing and visiting with people.  I ran into old friends and made new ones.  I stopped at a pottery booth.  I was looking for a little pot to go into a wire rack I had purchased this week at an antique shop.  This little pot has a small guaranteed-to-survive-my-neglect South African succulent.












My favorite woodworker is a retired middle school principal.  He always asks me, “Still teaching?” Needless to say he is enjoying his retirement and his hobby job.  I found a perfect wedding gift from his selection of cutting boards.

The day is not complete without fresh Kettle corn.  You can smell it throughout town, and practically everyone you meet is carrying a bag of it.  Can’t resist.

The most wonderful gift of a Saturday afternoon is time to stroll through downtown, stop and take a picture of the amaryllis, and be grateful for the small things that bring pleasure.



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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for Tuesdays Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for Tuesdays Slice of Life Challenge.

Write Beside Them was the title of the NCTE panel of Donald Graves winners from the last three years. I felt so proud and privileged to be on this panel along with Heidi Weber, 2013 winner, and Emily Elizabeth Smith, 2015 winner. Donald Graves’ philosophy that the teacher of writing is a writer herself drives my interaction with my students.

On Monday, the first day back after a week long break, we had a field trip. Not usually a good idea, but I signed up for the first rehearsal spot for our play at the Shadows, a local historical home. The gifted students in grades 4-6 practice the parts and perform for first graders. They tell the story of one of the boys, Charles Conrad Weeks, his sister Harriet, and his friends Riley and Caroline who lived and worked in the home in 1840. My students look forward to this play every year.

In addition to the play practice, I led my students down Main Street to an art gallery. There they looked at local art. This is where we wrote together.

I wrote beside them. Each of us chose a painting or other piece of art to inspire our writing. I wanted to leave behind little snippets on the artwork, so I found miniature brown bags for the kids to write on. We left them next to the art pieces. When the owner walks in this morning, he will have words waiting for him.

I wrote a poem for the work in progress on the easel.

An empty frame
of color
a world,
a circus
of imagination.
–Margaret Simon

Writing and art mix well together. My students described the artwork as well as found some inner truth to express. I don’t have any of the poems to share here today, but check back on Poetry Friday.




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