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The Storm by Ellen Rice
There is something enlivening about watching the ocean during a storm. Its immense, fathomless power was in my thoughts throughout the days I worked on "Indian River Inlet -- The Storm."
Every time I walk the beach or cross the inlet bridge during a storm, I find kindred spirits doing the same -- illegal parkers pulled over on the side, surfers, photographers and awed gazers on top of the bridge, and more still below, walking, surfing or photographing, the grandeur is almost impossible to capture on film. Even the day before Hurricane Isabel was predicted to make landfall here, many were out on the bridge and walking the beaches, photographing, video taping, looking out to sea, lips tightly closed and eyes squinted against the stinging sand. But Isabel here wasn't nearly as intense as a bad nor'easter. We were blessed.
"The Storm" is my second painting of the view from the now "old" inlet bridge, and its surrounding beaches and bays have found their way into many of my works. I love this place in all its moods and seasons. There are so many happy memories of fishing, surfing, swimming, treasure hunting...
Personally, my first memory of the inlet is as a teen in the early '60s riding over the bridge on a motorcycle and being awestruck by the natural beauty sprawled all around me. Later, I would cross the bridge many, many times with husband and son on regular excursions to the Delaware State Park Beaches on the inlet's north side and Fenwick Island. It was before the days of shower houses, vending stalls and crowds.
My late husband surfed and played volleyball. My son fished with a toy pole and plastic fish, sometimes a string and safety pins, finding wondrous treasures in the sand and tidal pools. I swam, played ball and studied the play of light on the clouds and sea, wondering how to capture its majesty in paint. We went rain or shine usually stopping at Grotto's Pizza on a roundabout way home. Those days are some of my happiest memories.
Years later, the beaches surrounding the inlet would become the site of surf fishing excursions with friends and almost daily hunts for shipwreck treasure -- coins and other artifacts from the 1700s wreck of The Faithful Steward and countless other ships lost at sea along this small but often treacherous bit of shoreline. Today, I cannot view the scene from the bridge without thinking about the beach's history.
The Faithful Steward's cargo of coins is responsible for the north side of the inlet being called "coin beach." It wrecked on a shoal north of the inlet during a severe nor'easter with "heavy seas" that probably would have looked much like those painted in "The Storm." Deep bottomed Colonial ships did not fair well in such conditions. The inlet currents are among the strongest inlet currents in the world.
I'll end here with a few thought-provoking words from James McIntire, an adult survivor of the wreck. His words say much about the Colonial spirit which founded and built our great country.
"I stood on deck to view the fading shore. I was leaving my native home forever; I was leaving the companions of early times; I was leaving the hills, the plains, the groves, the streams, where I had wandered a thousand times, and when it had been my childish employ, to stand, to gaze, to think and be happy.
But I changed the course of my thoughts. My parents, my brother and sisters were in my company. I, therefore, could not have mourned the absence of my near kindred. I was a youth of 22 just emerging into complete manhood and active life. I was, therefore, a suitable person to seek the wilds of America. The picture indeed was fair.
I saw in imagination beyond the bright expanse of water which lay before us a country where the banner of freedom waved proudly; a country where heroes lived; where genius expanded to full perfection; where every good was possessed. I saw, or thought I saw, another paradise, a new and flowery land, such as mortals can never see, such as mortals can never enjoy..."
James McIntire lived well beyond the day The Faithful Steward wrecked a short distance off the cost of Indian River Inlet. He was the only survivor of his family but the founder of generations to come -- Americans all. The above words were spoken by McIntire at a family reunion and recorded by a Pennsylvania newspaper many years later.
I hope you enjoy "The Storm" and have perhaps gained a better understanding of our nation's and coast's rich history.