The town is right near a place I used to go for flute lessons, Oberlin. My flute instructor, Michel Debost, lives in Elyria, which is just up the road a piece.
I found Debra's gallery right where she said it would be, across from the scenic railway station. And scenic it was!
The moment I came around the corner of the building, I saw this:
I love a town that gets handed pythons and makes pythonade.
Catching a quick snapshot of her handmade python was Debra, our hostess for the night, and owner of Elements Gallery.
|She's pretty, isn't she? Oh, wait a second....|
|There she is!|
Much laughter and hilarity ensued. Mrs. G and I oohed and aaahed our way up the stairs and inside. Debra and her darling husband Stephen have this fantastic gallery/shop/studio where he throws pots (that's where you put the clay on a wheel and spin it and magically it becomes a cup or urn or mug or whatever, not where you toss a pot into a wall and it crashes into smithereens).
Debra etches her tiles. I'm sure that's not the right term, but she puts these incredibly complex, detailed patterns and things onto flat tiles (and other things too), and glazes them and puts colors on them and all that fancy awesome art stuff. And then they sell it.
|Debra explains her approach to art, running a gallery, and life.|
|Part of the back room of the gallery. That is one big roll of bubble wrap!|
|Dad and daughter working on some mugs.|
We were starting to get kind of hungry, so we walked over to The Seraglio, a shop/gallery owned by a totally sweet Turkish man named Muffit. Pronounced "Moooo-FIT." Not "moooo-FEET." I asked why the party was happening, I was told that Muffit and his lovely wife just wanted to have a party for the neighborhood artists, business owners, councilpeople, etc. I was so taken by all these wonderful folks.
|One of THREE courtyards at La Seraglio|
Muffit made deeeelicious beef kabobs and chicken on the grill, there was fresh hummus, baba ganouj, pita, rice, cucumber/yogurt salad, cucumber/tomato/onion salad, and a wickedly awesome pasta with a very spicy garlic sauce. Wine flowed freely, and for dessert? HOMEMADE BAKLAVA. It was decadent to an extreme I'm not sure I've experienced before.
Sadly, I did not remember to take any photos inside, but apparently the building used to house a bookstore with an upstairs reading loft. The spiral staircase to the loft is enclosed by A TREE TRUNK. With a door. You open the door of the tree and walk up the spiral staircase inside the (faux) tree. It's so cool, and I can't believe I can't show you. Sigh.
There are such stories to tell you! I met a tall, gorgeous woman who not only was a Councilwoman, but makes Fairy Gardens!
I met an older man who owns a B&B by a waterfall with his wife. He is the oldest vegan I've ever met.
Then there was this one elderly woman everyone deferred to was sitting near us who wore an "I <3 Peninsula" pin on her ball cap. I found out later she was Peninsula's citizen of the year, and had been town librarian. She said that since Peninsula was an old canal town, they used to have mules that would get roped to the barges in the river and they'd tow the boats through the locks. Her grandfather had a barn which housed the mules. When she was a girl, she found a bunch of tiny little horseshoes, and thought they were for baby horses. Her grandfather then told her the stories of the mules that had once lived there.
It was an explosion of amazingness. Everybody had a story. Everybody sparkled (in a non-stupid-vampire way). There was music, laughter, hugs, food, drink, and more laughter.
Finally, Mrs. G was starting to wilt after a LONG day of driving (a long month, really), so we wended our way out. Debra rode in Mrs. G's car with her (her husband wanted to check the kiln, so he drove their car separately), and I followed along. Mrs. G is very law-abiding when it comes to driving.
We arrived at Debra's Palatial Country Estate a mere 15 minutes later. (Can't you hear the capitals?)
We were greeted by a flying pig (of which I also have no picture), and her three delightful dogs.
|This is Lily, the dog that liked me. The others were not so sure.|
Her home was the home of artists. Sculpture, paintings, books, funky furniture, many mysterious doors, cool odds and ends. There was a beautiful mural on the stairway walls and ceiling, done by one of her daughters. One of my favorites was a door painted by a daughter.
Isn't that lovely?
We sat on the couch with the dog, chatting, laughing, pausing, pondering. We talked about kids, husbands, life, death, the Universe, books, art, education, wine, and Kitty Gigantica.
One thing I noticed about Mrs. G. that I didn't expect: her voice. Have you ever watched Sex and the City? You know Samantha, the sex-crazed one? If you've ever heard the actress speak (when she's not being Samantha), you'll marvel at her soft, gentle voice, as opposed to the pushy, aggressive, tough-girl voice on the show. With Mrs. G, it's kind of like that. Her online voice is so spunky and witty and edgy that her sweet, gentle voice was a real surprise. I've even heard her online videos, and in person? It's like her voice is made of that loopy, scrunchy yarn that some scarves are knitted from. It wraps around you ... like a cuddle from a favorite aunt. She was so fun, insightful, and open to new experiences.
Debra is a marvel. She's raised two daughters, homeschooled both, and is a prolific artist. She talked about "the art of business" and the beautiful community they have there. Oh, and she's wickedly funny.
I don't know what they thought of me, but I was pretty honored to be there with those two ladies.
We all went to bed (including the three dogs and all the chickens), dreaming out-in-the-woods dreams.
The next morning, I woke to the sound of her puppies clattering on the old wooden floors, and followed my nose to the coffee. My mug was one of their handmade ones, and Debra also made me "a glass o' pink," which was a smoothie (in a Vitamix blender, no less) made from strawberries, blueberries, banana, yogurt, and fresh pineapple. There were also muffins, but I wasn't quite ready for food.
Soon, it was time for Mrs. G to hit the road, so we gave hugs all around, and drove off (Stop Sign, LEFT, Stop Sign, RIGHT), and I drove home, my head full of new people, ideas, art, community, and stories.