BIRDS OF FLORIDA
DAVE AND ELLEN gave us the chimes, and asked for a bird in return.
These were no ordinary wind chimes outside our Florida rental home. Their deep, soothing B-minor tone and the occasional nearby train whistle provided sweet music at Dave Chandler’s and Ellen Fernandez’s modest-looking, one-story house in Melbourne, where we stayed for more than two weeks for the second year.
Inside, the house is crammed with artwork of every description, much of it with nautical or warm-weather themes: mosaic fish, carved birds, and ceramic suns crafted by Dave, and paintings, photographs, masks, carvings, and stained glass by other artists (including a bright giclée print by Phyllis Shipley, who we visited during our stay). Dave uses found wood, broken glass, and other salvaged materials for his sturdy furniture and artwork, calling his business Upcycled Designs.
Everywhere you turn there is something interesting to look at. It’s a mix of North and South, as Dave and Ellen spend a good part of the year rehabilitating an old house in upstate New York. That’s where much of the wood comes from, as well as collections of small, antique bottles, oil lamps, and other interesting arcana, plus cacti, orchids, and other houseplants. (Dave is also a fabulous chef; the kitchen overflows with well-used pots and pans, dishes, knives and cooking utensils, and the bedroom is lined with cookbooks).
We spent many hours every day lounging around Dave’s large wooden table in the screened porch just off the kitchen, soaking up the warmth (with a few cool days mixed in), eating, talking, reading, absently bird-watching and looking for anoles, working on puzzles, dozing, and painting.
Ellen dropped by with oranges from her backyard on our second day, and when we told her how much we enjoyed the chimes, she surprised us the following morning by offering them to us, asked only for a painting of a bird in return. I quickly embraced the challenge and ended up giving them a number of choices, right up until our last day.
Here are the results, amid the other paintings I made during our stay, in the order they were painted.
Dave and Ellen chose Bird One, 4 Florida18.
In memory of my good friend Roger, known for his own exquisite tastes in music, former athlete, fellow naturalist and bird lover with ties to art and culture and Florida, who passed away the day after our return. Like many, I will miss his lively intellect, endless curiosity, and good cheer.