Luke Miller Birdhouses at the Island Heritage Trust Barn

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If I have any artistic talent at all, I get it from Dad (Mom would agree). As a boy, Dad loved to draw. I remember seeing his excellent portrayal of Lou Gehrig, framed and hanging on Grandma’s bedroom wall. Now that he’s 67 (not quite chronologically, but in all other respects), he paints marvelous birdhouses and signs them ‘Luke Miller.’

Here’s an example of a Luke Miller birdhouse:

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Those birds might look good on pants, too.

I took some of them to the Island Heritage Trust barn for the annual Wings, Waves & Woods art exhibit. You can buy one for just $50.

Floating Free of Time

Dad grew up in New York City, and he has a New Yorker’s attitude toward nature. He likes to look at it, but participate? Please. He always admired a friend who bought a Morgan horse and put it in the field behind his house just so he could look at it.

Later in life, my father got into birds. Mostly to watch them over a martini while they dart around my mother’s bird feeders.  She has a hummingbird feeder by the porch. On the bottom of a Luke Miller birdhouse devoted to hummingbirds, Dad wrote, “Legends say that hummingbirds float free of time, carrying our hopes for love, joy and celebration.”

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Luke Miller, birdhouse painter extraordinaire

Dad spent his career in banking, and with six children he had little time for art. But his style and flair always suggested an artistic sensibility.

Then there are his pants. As early as I can remember he’d wear his preppy Go-to-Hell pants to Mass on Sunday. More than once he prompted the priest to do a double-take while serving up Communion.

Don’t get me wrong, Dad is always well dressed. Always. Just the other day he and Mom and I went to The Sagamore for dinner near their home on Cape Cod. It’s the go-to spot for chicken parm and live piano music heavy on the Cole Porter.

As we passed the piano to leave, the piano player interrupted his number to say to my dad, “I like your pants.” Which I immediately texted to my siblings, who then (between giggles) tried to guess which ones he was wearing: The margarita pants? The pheasant pants? The lobster pants? Correct answer: navy blue corduroy Polo Ralph Lauren pants patterned with hunters and mallard ducks.

Luke Miller Birdhouses

A few years back, Dad started painting birds on birdhouses, first for one sister, then another, then the brothers. Mom called one day and said, “He’s getting really good.” He got inspiration from the birds in the backyard, at the hummingbird feeder, from bird guides, from the birds on the bedspread.

He got so good I started selling Luke Miller birdhouses at the Brooksville Farmer’s Market last summer. They sold out.  So now he’s introducing his new spring line, just in time for Wings, Waves & Woods.

About Wings, Waves & Woods

Spring in coastal New England is a grim affair, overcast and rainy and bone-chilling. April especially is no time to start a diet or give up smoking. April 2019 had the most rainy days in recorded history, which means we saw the world in shades of gray for a month.

But stacks of new lobster traps and the sweet sound of birdsong are signifying the coming of our glorious summer. Now that it’s mid-May, spring arrives on Deer Isle with flocks of birds from the tropics and birders from Away. From May 17-19, the towns of Stonington and Deer Isle host dozens of bird-related events, including eagle spotting, guided shorebird walks, a live owl demonstration and a boat trip to see the puffins.

And, of course, Luke Miller birdhouses at the IHT barn at 420 Sunset Rd. in Deer Isle, Maine. They’re all  nine inches high and six-sided, with birds (sometimes two) on every side. They’re varnished, so you can put them outside but you probably wouldn’t want to.

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Hummingbirds floating above time, carrying hopes for love, joy and celebration.

Dad donates all the proceeds from his birdhouses to charity, either the Franciscan Kitchen and Shelter in Louisville or Covenant House for homeless children in New York City.

Email me at [email protected] if you’d like to see more photos of the Luke Miller birdhouses. He’s been cranking them out pretty fast, and he got a big new bird book for Christmas so he’s expanding his repertoire of birds.

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The Island Heritage Trust Wings, Waves and Woods

tennis-reservation

Eight of my watercolors are on exhibit in the Island Heritage Trust barn from May 5 to May 25.  The occasion: The Island Heritage Trust birding festival, known as Wings, Waves and Woods.

Wings, Waves & Woods runs from May 18-20, and kicks off the summer tourist season on Deer Isle. It features walks and cruises to see puffins, harlequin ducks, guillemots, bald eagles, great cormorants, eiders, osprey…you get the idea.

Some of the best things about Deer Isle are the conservation lands owned by the Island Heritage Trust.

Dan and I hike most of the Deer Isle trails owned by the Island Heritage Trust. In summer and fall, Dan and I hike them nearly every day.

Then I paint them.

This year, the Island Heritage Trust sponsored an art exhibit in its barn.  My friend Carolyn Walton invited me to participate in the exhibit.

So I decided to submit watercolors inspired by the IHT conservation lands.

Before Franklin Roosevelt built the Deer Isle Bridge, the ferryboat from the mainland landed at Scott’s — hence the name, Scott’s Landing.

We often go to Scott’s Landing, and I’m often amazed we’re the only ones tramping around these 24 lovely acres. We often hike through the old fields to the sand beach, where we get yelled at by crows, watch the tide go in and out of Eggemoggin Reach and scour the beach for glass.

Here’s Dan tying his boot at Scott’s in winter.

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Bean Boot, Scott’s Landing

Deer Isle is really an archipelago connected by causeways, like the one that connects Little Deer with Deer Island. Clammers often dig for the little bivalves in the muck off Causeway Beach — also owned by the Island Heritage Trust.

Below is a painting of a November sunset off Causeway Beach.

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November Sunset, Causeway Beach

You walk a challenging mile through a mossy, ferny forest until you reach a panoramic view of Isle Au Haut, Mark Island and Penobscot Bay. Low tide exposes a wide sandbar connected to Barred Island. Frederick Law Olmsted used to own the land and wisely chose not to improve upon it. One of his descendants donated the land to the Nature Conservancy, and the Island Heritage Trust manages it.

This painting shows the sand bar at low tide. Barred Island is on the left.

Tennis

Tennis

I also painted a few new watercolors, including the lobster claw above. I stumbled across that on one of the Tennis hiking trails.

So if you’re in or near Deer Isle, stop by the IHT barn and check out my paintings of IHT lands.