As a child, one of my favorite destinations was my Aunt Margaret’s house.  Margaret was my father’s older sister and my godmother, as well as an artist; not only an artist in the sense of being a fabulous painter (which she was) but in life itself. She loved and celebrated life and saw everything through a child’s eye.

 

Tall ship off Galveston

Tall ship off Galveston- Margaret Hynes

 

On our visits to Aunt Margaret’s house, we would start our journey on the Bayou south of Houston by driving to Galveston County Park; a landscape filled with white-washed wood pavilions among a canopy of oaks with white-washed trunks with arching branches draped in beards of Spanish moss. My sisters and I would chase each other barefoot on the cool St. Augustine grass until Dad launched our boat, an old mahogany Chris Craft named Shanita. We would then climb aboard and nestle into our favorite spot for the cruise up river to Aunt Margaret’s house. We would watch until we rounded the bend and spied the smoke rising from the BBQ being prepared for the afternoon. Arriving, Dad would beach the boat on the oyster shell bank and we would all hop out, bounding across the wide grassy lawn to my aunt’s back screen door, letting it bang loudly behind us, Aunt Margaret’s loud one-of-a-kind laugh greeting us all.

 

 

image 2

Flow blue watercolor study- Margaret Hynes

 

 

I would immediately begin exploring her house, filled with old flow-blue china, artifacts and ancient houseplants propagated from kitchen seeds and the nearby woods. I would always find my way back to her studio, a space filled with light and infused with the aroma of turpentine and linseed oil. Her paintings of ducks, schooners, and her orchids abound, leaning against the walls and sitting on easels, both finished and unfinished. She would always find me here and would suddenly forget all other guests to sit with me and draw. We would draw nothing of meaning; often, dinosaurs, whales and ships, but at the time they were my masterpieces, as grand as all the paintings of that room surrounding us.

 

 

Flower 1        Flower 2

Orchids – Margaret Hynes

 

After dinner, we would go on walks; sometimes to see the lioness that lived in a cage at a house down the lane, or skip shells on the bayou. But at the edge of her broad lawn, towards the great steam cloud that drifted from the power plant somewhere behind the woods, was a road, not just any road, but the remnants of the Old Galveston Road. Here, we would stroll down the overgrown shell path with her old Dalmatian at our side through the swamp to where the old wooden Galveston Bridge had long ago burned into the bayou. Aunt Margaret would patiently point out birds, turtles, wild orchids, and an occasional alligator nest. To a young boy, it was a wild and ancient place.

 

Small Sketch 9_14Sketch of boy on creek- Margaret Hynes

 

I have no pictures of that house. It’s now gone, lost to the strange phenomenon of the land sinking into the Bayou when the ground water was drained by a growing Houston metropolis; subsumed by the very swamp and jungle that my aunt so cherished. Aunt Margaret is gone now as well. I was fortunate to be with her the week she passed, at 94, surrounded by her paintings and flow blue china. She was happy, for she had lived a life where her eyes saw so much beauty in so many things. I have just a few of her paintings. They mean a lot to me, telling so many stories. I also have the watercolor kit she gave me when I graduated high school. I still use it to this day, trying every bit to channel her remarkable eye for beauty and her love of life in everything it touches.

 

image

Well used watercolor kit, a gift from Margaret Hynes