Wilmington and Whirlygigs

061 (2)Moss hanging from the trees in Wilmington

Wintering in warmer climates has always seemed like a luxury afforded to those who have homes in two places. Or, as in my case, have welcoming friends in another, warmer, city! Winter has always been a favorite time for me. As my bones have gotten older, however, I appreciate a bit of respite from the colder temperatures.

My friends, Blair and Inza, have graciously taken me in once again this year. Here to spend a few weeks in warmer weather doesn’t mean just sleeping and sunning for Bella and me. Bella gets to share her time and toys with sweet, dear Joy. Last year when I was here with Blair and Inza, Joy ran afoul of a car and her pelvis was badly broken. Nursing her when she came home from the Orthopedic Hospital in Durham was a big job for all of us. Joy has made a wonderful recovery and is every bit the wonderful hostess to Bella that her moms are to me.

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Joy and Bella resting with their toys!

This year we have taken on the challenge of making Roman Shades for their bedroom. Using the old ones for the pattern has meant that we did not have to reinvent the wheel…so to speak. Fabric with beautifully colored leaves and branches on a creamy background compliment the sunny room with high ceilings. We’ve all had a hand in making these shades which has added to the fun. Inza’s idea of using metal split rings on the back of the curtains instead of plastic ones is genius. Hot sun on the plastic rings cause them to weaken and break so this will prevent that. They are finished as of this afternoon and all but one of them is hung.

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New Shades!

Monday of this week we traveled to Inza’s hometown of Wilson. While Inza was at a meeting, Blair and I went to the Whirlygig Park in Wilson. Inza’s cousin’s Henry and Betty Lou Walston, have been crucial to the development of a place, a park, where the amazing whirlygigs of Vollis Simpson can be cared for and displayed. Simpson was born in 1919 to a farming family in Wilson County. Twelve children were born into this family, so the duties of farm life were shared by everyone. Vollis helped earn additional income for the family by learning to move houses. Maintenance and care of the farm equipment seemed to come naturally to Vollis, who must have saved each and every spare or broken part of these machines. Retiring from the house moving business in his sixties, he used all of those leftover nuts, bolts and spare parts along with the rigs and mechanics of moving houses to build enormous whimsical windmills in his yard. Wind power turns the windmill structures, which then activates a variety of other moving parts on the perfectly balanced rigs. Old road signs, reflectors, wheels and cables add color, height and whimsy to the whirlygigs. Simpson preferred to call his structures “windmills” but once an outsider began calling them “whirlygigs”, the name stuck. In 1996, Vollis Simpson was commissioned to build 3 structures for the Olympics in Atlanta. Exhibited widely, his Whirlygigs were designated as the official folk art of North Carolina in 2013 by the North Carolina House and Senate.


The restoration of Simpson’s “windmills” is done in a warehouse near the Whirlygig Park. Each piece, and every part is cleaned, then painted and restored to its colorful and intricate place on the particular whirlygig. The work is done by dedicated volunteers who, like many in Wilson, contribute time and money to making Vollis Simpson’s work accessible to everyone in this beautiful park. At night the whirlygigs are illuminated by lights that come on as you walk through the park. Landscaping, informative billboards with pictures of Vollis, walkways and covered areas make this park an accessible and beautiful place to visit.

With childlike delight I enjoyed every minute of walking among these giant moving works of art. Listening as the metal parts qently whirred and shuffled, I could feel the joy of Vollis Simpson’s soul. His art is just where it should be, among the people he loved, to be cherished and admired.

082 (3)   Two men sawing a log 

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