Looking for Buried Treasure and Family Ghosts With A Cup of Tea? Meet the Curious Cox Curator of Orange Valley: the Eco-Cultural Green Knight of Bermuda!

Seared into the heart of the Bermudian landscape – into the brackish bosom of its Devonshire peat marshes — lies the buried treasure of an old sea captain – a magical, awe-inspiring sea chest wrested from the depths of Davy Jones’ Locker –  half-ghostship – half-house.

Docked alongside a pier of dry-stone walls – Hidden from view by a profusion of wild palmettos and cedars and evergreen fiddlewood trees—–this well-pressed twin-masted chimney structure with two-storied shuttered riggings and two centuries-old cedar beams across its hallway-like-foredeck neither lists today from hurricane-slashing barnacles or subtropical dry rot upon its hull – but rather this bewitching “house ship” is cocooned within a protective casing of the old sea captain’s making – ‘the jeweled fruits of his labor’ after years of sailing – many a citrus-flavored, life-extending plant traded from British Guiana, parts of the Caribbean and various ports of call on the Atlantic seaboard – known locally to all as “Orange Valley”.

Fate had once brought me here eleven years ago as an American expat but now here I was resolutely returning to present its curious owner, John Cox, the great-great-great grandson of Capt. William Cox — with a Green Knighthood Award – the First of its kind in the World – for thirty plus years of selfless acts of eco-cultural chivalry.

Entering thru the Front Room – one is immediately received by both the warm smile of its casually garbed curator and the rhythmically hospitable tick-tock behind him -Capt. William Cox’s prized possession – his mahogany-made 18th century grandfather clock brought over from London, England – one of a series of catenated ‘eco-links’ to the soul of the house.  Indeed there are ten clocks throughout the home and according to Mr. Cox “some work, some are beyond laboring, and some sit quietly, suspended in their own time.”

And to my right – not far from the drawing-room – I am greeted once again by the portrait of the mysterious Capt. William Cox himself – his eyes  still dazing upon the well-preserved and lovingly displayed dining accoutrements of holidays past – including his own pink and silver French tea set still scented by orange pomanders – whilst other paintings seem to bob and weave throughout the house – alternating between wind-blown ships of sail and pastoral settings of a Bermudian-like Eden – a chilling reminder perhaps of the great hurricanes of 1839, 1899, 1926, 1948, 1987, and most recently Hurricane Fabian of 2003.

Indeed, neither the charm of Mr. John Cox, nor his tenderly cared-for limestone-hewed home and woodland gardens that constitute ‘Orange Valley’, show any signs of weary-worn decay during these past eleven years nor have they lost their priceless ‘eco-cultural lustre’ – that harmonious union between human culture and ecological sustainability. To put it sociologically – there is a unique bond between the Cox Family’s ethical community practices of past and present with its own well-managed attendance of its natural ecosystem and the conservation of its unique biodiversity here at ‘Orange Valley’ – ever mindful of the climate, and the weather patterns, and the many generations to come.

Perhaps that is why the Family Ghosts love it here so – Three ghosts to be precise.*  The first spectral inhabitant to be noted for its whimsical hauntings is that of Mary Robinson Cox, first wife of Capt. William Cox, who died of pneumonia at the young age 41 in 1806 whilst her husband was away trading salt for sugar and molasses in the West Indies.  It is she who loves to hover around the first floor of the house – sometimes settling in the guest bedroom (formerly the original kitchen) conjuring up aromatic herbal brews and at other times, she is seen sailing thru the front hallway perhaps looking to welcome home her husband’s invisible footsteps. Next in line is Laura Cox, the spinster daughter of Capt. William Cox, who died of palsy at the premature age of 51 in 1861 and is now a lively Patroness ghost of her once beloved Rose Garden which had lain derelict for years but has been carefully restored.  And then there’s eccentric Aubrey Cox, the grandson of Capt. William Cox, who died of an anxious heart at the precipitous age of 67 in 1928 and who never ever tires of looking at the magnificent grounds below him from his tidy upstairs bedroom window in the back of the house.

I have often thought that ‘Uncle Aubrey’ is a ‘frustrated ghost’ – confined to his boxed-in quarters – having to grudgingly look from afar at his great-grand nephew’s (John Cox’s) splendiferously inviting outdoor afternoon tea party spreads from beneath a decidedly somber-crusted window sash – where splashes of colorful chinaware dancingly interplay with light and laughter happily bee-buzzing around a quizzical cone-shaped ‘buttery’ next to me – another architectural wonder unique to Bermudian culture – a not-so-long ago reminder of the days when household plumbing, electricity, and refrigeration was not a commonplace feature of Bermudian life.

And never wanting to deny his guests a moment of light delectable humor along with his perfectly presented organic almond cake and Bermudian-strengthened high tea, are — Mr. John Cox’s very own freshly prepared cucumber sandwiches with an eco-twist – brilliantly disguised orange nasturtium flowers squeezed into bits of triangular-baked bread servings that are commonly mistaken for bits of wild caught salmon by his gullible guests!  And as is required of the author of ten culturally rich historical books including “Life in Old Bermuda”, “At Home in Early Bermuda”, “Bermuda Lore”, “A Tale of Two Houses”, and “Lords of the Marshes” — one is never left bored or abandoned by the fanciful floodgate of stories of this raconteur’s repertoire.  And these stories, much like their annotated footnotes, are neither inseparable nor inconsequentially delineated from Bermuda’s unique ecosystem.  Indeed, the biodiversity of plants within these stories allows us to step into the past right into Bermuda’s golden era of sailing.  They often offer ‘green’ clues into Bermuda’s role within the context of the British Empire – and still others the status of the Cox Family itself.

And it is this Cox Family collection of plants that make Orange Valley what it is – a priceless outdoor ‘eco-museum’ – artfully complimented by Mr. John Cox’s decorative collection of fine Royal Sevres porcelain inside the home – each of which seems to have transported with it a superstitious tale of its own.  And in addition to the impressive array of fruit trees on the property – mandarins, sweet oranges, sour oranges, limes, lemons, guava, grapefruit, pears, peaches, pomegranates, mammy apples, large bananas, dwarf bananas, loquats, red figs, shaddocks and Surinam cherries – AND – one large black mulberry and one smyma fig – there is a maze of exotic trees to bedazzle the first-time visitor:

1)   There is the Royal Poinciana Tree, also known as “The Flame Tree”, or “The Flamboyant Tree”. It is a native of Madagascar and the world’s most colorful ornamental tree.

2)   Then there is the Indian Rubber Tree, a native of southeast Asia, first planted by Capt. William’s son in 1847 that marks the original carriageway to the house.

3)   Then there are the Coffee Trees native to subtropical Africa and southern Asia – No “Starbucks Coffee” needed here!

4)   And finally, there are the rare Black Ebony Trees, native to Africa, India, and Asia – known today for their variety of attributes in making fingerboards and keys for musical instruments.  Note that ‘Ebony’ is the Greek word for “Fruit of the Gods” and wands made of ebony were thought to have magical powers and drinking goblets made of ebony were considered an antidote for poison that could be used to ward off evil intent.

In closing, I am reminded of a taunt once aimed at me as a teenager by a high society friend out in west Texas upon my arrival at her new family home.  She had just moved from Los Angeles for the third time and to use the nautical vernacular, her boast  “knocked me down a peg” for she and her daddy had “never lived in a second-hand house”.   I had no answer at the time, having been, up-to-then, an insular 13th generation American living within the same 200 mile radius of the Eastern seaboard.

But I hope you, my eco-savvy reader, will now appreciate my rapid advancement in the ways of articulate etiquette – noting both the beauty and the history – AND – the ecological magic – that makes ‘Orange Valley’ an eco-cultural wonder and not just some ordinary half-spun ‘second-hand house’.   But above all, I must personally thank Orange Valley’s remarkable steward, Mr. John Cox, today’s recipient of Cherlton’s Green Guide’s “Green Knighthood Award” for his fearless and unflinching support, maintenance, and documented dissemination of Bermuda’s eco-cultural connections and traditions in the face of today’s ‘Bluetooth’, fast-paced, modern world of sentimental-swatting cyber gnats,  ‘Tick’ video games, and Mosquito iPods.  (For more information, please refer to my new encyclopedic eco-website at www.cherltonsgreen.com)

How metaphorically eco-appropriate then is the fact that the placement of Orange Valley’s lone silk cotton tree, first planted by Capt. William Cox two centuries ago, still firmly stands as the centerpiece of ‘Orange Valley’ – the oldest of its kind on the island – a much misunderstood tree by the casual passerby of Bermudian yesteryear.  Known elsewhere in the world as the ‘kapok’ tree, the ‘sacred tree’ or ‘the tree of life’, this fabled tree was first worshiped by the Mayans and later venerated by generations of other indigenous peoples of Central America in the centers of their plazas and villages.  To those who believe, this supernatural tree wards off evil (and time itself) and its mythical branches hold up the heavens and its roots extend to the underworld – and rarely, if at all – is this tree ever cut down – even if it happens to be in an inconvenient spot and in the way of human traffic.   So it is that the secret of the buried treasure of an old sea captain lies faithfully here.

Footnote: Legend has it that my own 8th great-grandfather, Thomas Cox, first arrived at Virginia before sailing up the coast to New Amsterdam and marrying Elizabeth Blashford on April 17, 1665 at Maspeth Kills, Newtown, Long Island. His marriage is the oldest marriage license on record in the state of New York – given by the First British Colonial Governor of New York, Sir Richard Nicolls.  Thomas Cox’s middle son in turn, was John Cox – my 7th great-grandfather – and John Cox’s nephew in turn was Colonel John Cox, Assistant Quartermaster to General Nathaniel Greene during the American War for Independence – and his grandson, in turn, was John Cox Stevens, the Founder and First Commodore of the New York Yacht Club.  Hence, there’s more to the ‘Cox’ surname than one would think at first glance.

*Special Note: There is the distinct possibility of a fourth ghost lingering around Orange Valley – that of Capt. William Cox’s own mother-in-law! For the present-day Coxes of Bermuda all descend from Capt. William Cox’s second wife, Mary Ann Dill, whom he married on October 16, 1806. Interesting enough, Mary Ann Dill, was the daughter of another enigmatic mariner, Captain John Dill of Devonshire, a time-honored member of the ancient ‘Dill clan’ of Bermuda, and his psychic wife, Christiana (Love) Dill – whose preternatural gifts of ‘second sight’ are as legendary as the number of times she has been seen floating over the various family estates in which her present-day descendants live.

Summer Fun: Rescuing the Earth by Re-evaluating Junk or The Joy of Eco-cycling Your Way Thru the Best Flea Markets in the World!

For me, summertime means a series of flea market adventures.  Numerous books have been written on the subject and others eulogize its bounty of second-hand offerings in ‘Shabby Chic’, ‘Thrifty Chic’, ‘Vintage Look Collecting’, and ‘Flea Market Decorating’ tips along with copious notes on ‘Behind-The-Scenes Treasure Hunting Secrets’.  And along with the explosive growth of  eco-chic outdoor flea markets across the USA, Europe, and now globally around the world comes a flood of trendy articles on ‘eco-renovating’ and ‘eco-accessorizing’ your home with old flea market finds and exotic craft work. But amongst all this ‘flea-bitten’ obsessive literature, I still have yet to find one critique that colorfully addresses the paradoxical joy of culling thru unusual time-worn objects of flea market junk in order to rescue one’s own personal junk from being thrown out – another words – the joy of being both environmentally responsible and artistically creative by combining eclectic junk materials found at flea markets with your own well-worn, imperfect junk at home.  And in the process creating your own masterpiece of cultural second-hand treasure – an “eco-makeover gift”.

But what constitutes an “eco-makeover gift”, you ask?   A little homework, yes, a few magazines to energize your imaginative juices, yes, but above all – a sharp shopper’s eye for discerning under-rated and over-looked junk.  Hence, the best way to start is to make a list of small to mid-size objects that you currently own around you that you consider hopeless – either out-of-date or out-of-place or just badly damaged or perhaps missing a part or section.  The key here is that you are hesitant to throw it out – just yet.    That’s good – your instinctual knack for conserving is working fine!  Next, check with your local library or your local bookstore and the internet as well for a few “Do-It-Yourself” and “Ready Made” magazine issues and ‘simple lifestyle’ type magazine issues such as “Country Living” and “Living Crafts”.

Next, whilst looking thru the many picture pages of these magazine issues, see if any of the home objects on your ‘misfit’ junk list have potential worth that you may have not considered before and then consider the range of flea market possibilities that might do well in conjunction with your own items which would give them added value.  If you can make this connection, you have then made – theoretically-speaking that is – an “eco-makeover gift”.

These are but a few examples of my favorite handcrafted “eco-makeover gifts”:  1) a vintage lamp assembled of odd and end saucers and teacups accumulated from home and my local flea market 2) a ‘geeky’ serving platter and teenage table top covered with old computer keyboard buttons, typewriter keys, scrabble tiles and misplaced domino pieces collected from home and my local flea market 3) decorative paper table runners, garlands, and posters and photo frames made from discarded easy-to-recycle children’s books, science fiction novels, and old college text books found at home and used book markets and 4) curios of one-of-a-kind hats, necklaces, pillows, napkin rings, and coasters made from stitching recycled linens and woollen sweaters together with a stockpile of lost buttons, pins, earrings, key chains, cuff links, and broken wrist watches from a myriad of flea markets and my own home.

So instead of waiting to shop at the end of the year for that perfectly labeled, monogrammed and personalized holiday gift – start now, this summer, and save money, (and your own garbage disposal) and have fun creating your own gifts by eco-cycling your way thru the Best Flea Markets in the World – and don’t be surprised who you might meet next to the table full of hand-me-down toys – for Santa Claus has gone green and is now ‘flea-ing’ as well!



Buenos Aires – San Telmo Flea Market at Plaza Dorrego


Sydney – The Rocks Flea Market


Bruges – Bruges Flea Market

Brussels – Place du Jeu-de-Balle Flea Market

Ciney – Brocante Fair

Waterloo – Waterloo Flea Market


Ottawa – ByWard Market

Saint Eustace (near Montreal) – St. Eustace Flea Market

Toronto – Dr. Flea’s Flea Market

Vancouver – Vancouver Flea Market


Beijing – A) Panjiayuan Weekend Flea Market

B) Hongqiao Market


Copenhagen – A) Norrebro Flea Market  B) Israels Plads Flea Market  C) Gammel Strand Flea Market  D) Fredericksberg Flea Market  E) Lyngby Flea Market F) Kongens Nytorv Arts-and-Crafts Flea Market


London – A) Portobello Road Market B) Camden Lock Market C) Camden Passage Market D) Petticoat Lane Market  E) New Calendonian Market or Bermondsey Market


Tallinn – Balti Jaama Turg


Lille – La Grande Braderie de Lille Flea Market

Nice- Cours Saleya Flea Market

Paris – A) Marche aux Puces de St.-Ouen Porte de Clignancourt B) Le Jules Valles Market C) Le Marche Serpette  D) Porte de Vanves


Berlin – A) Die Nolle @ Nollendorfplatz B) Museum Island Flea Market  C) Mauer Park Flea Market D) Moritzplatz Flea Market E) Arkonaplatz Flea Market F) Strasse des 17.Juni Flea Market

Munich – A) Theresienwiese Flea Market B) Auer Dult Flea Market & Crafts Fair @ Mariahilfplatz


Athen – Monastiraki Flea Market


Budapest – Esceri Flea Market


Goa – A) Anjuna Flea Market B) Mapusa Friday Market


Dublin – Blackberry Fair Flea Market


Tel Aviv – Jaffa Flea Market


Alba – Mercantino di Torino

Arezzo – Arezzo Flea Market

Florence – Mercato Delle Pulci Flea Marketd @ Piazza Del Ciompi

Lake Maggiore – Borgo D’Ale Flea Market

Milan – Cormano Flea Market

Rome – A) Porta Portese Flea Market B) The Underground

Turin – Carmagnola Flea Market


Tokyo – Ameya Yokocho or Ameyoko


Singapore – Sungei Road ‘Thieves Market’


Puerto Vallarta – Puerto Vallarta Flea Market


Tangier – Casa Barata Flea Market


Amsterdam – A) Albert Cuyp Market B) Waterlooplein Flea Market  C) Noordermarkt Flea Market


Krakow – Sunday Flea Market @ Plac Targowy Unitarg; Warsaw – Kolo Flea Market


Lisbon – Feira Da Ladra


Moscow – Izmailovo Souvenir Market


Barcelona – A) Placa de la Seu Flea Market B) Mercantic Flea Market

Cap de Creus (Catalonia) – Cadaques Market

Madrid – El Rastro Flea Market


Bangkok – Chatuchak Weekend Market


Istanbul – A) Sahaflar Carsisi B) Grand Covered Bazaar C) The Egyptian Bazaar D) The Arasta Bazaar


Montevideo – ‘La Feria de Tristan Narvaja’ Flea Market


Dubai Flea Market


CA – Alemeda – Alemeda Flea Market

Long Beach – Long Beach Antique Flea Market

Pasadena – Rose Bowl Flea Market

San Francisco – Alemany Flea Market;

San Jose – San Jose Flea Market

FL – Daytona Beach – Daytona Flea & Farmers Market

IL – Chicago – Maxwell Street Market

Wheaton – All-Night Flea Market

IN – Shipshewana – Shipshewana’s Flea Marke

MA – Brimfield’s Outdoor Antique Show

NY- New York City – A) The Antiques Garage B) Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market C) Brooklyn’s Flea D) GreenFlea

TX – Austin – Austin Country Flea Market

Canton – First Monday Park

127 Corridor – Jamestown, TN – North Covington, KY –  Gadsden, AL – World’s Longest Outdoor Market and Yard Sale – Covers 630 Miles and 5 states

Spring Is In The Air! – As Well As Handcrafted Soap, Artisanal Tourism, & A New Breed of Eco-Cultural Entrepreneurs!

There is an unmistakable scent in the air – from Maine’s wildflowers to Floridian orange blossoms – from California’s freesia’s to British Columbia’s lilies. It is part of a quiet revolution – a ‘soap revolution’ – taking place on bathroom and pantry shelves all across North America – not just of finely made teacup candles and freshly perfumed linens – but of organically made, eco-friendly artisanal soaps – tokens of exotic places and pristine places we recently visited or wished we had.

It used to be that Italy, France, and Spain were the arbiters of soap fashion and luxury (i.e. Savon de Marseille and Castile Soap) – going back centuries to the Middle Ages and beyond. But in the last twenty years, America has come into its own – not only in handcrafting soaps as works of art – but in promoting ‘natural’ soap-making as a small- scale, naturally-sustainable economic livelihood for individual entrepreneurs and as a cultural heritage destination for tourists attracted by the natural resources and artisanal heritage of uniquely distinctive communities and regions.

In other words, much like the mid-19th century Hudson River School of landscape painters, today’s 21st century American artisanal soapmakers now take their inspiration from the natural environment around them and in turn are creating new organic soaps that expand upon the historic and cultural treasures of their locale. Rejecting commercial soap products and many of its synthetic additives and chemicals, this new breed of eco-conscious soapmakers is leading the way to a healthier lifestyle of skin care. Indeed it was Sigmund Freud who once said “Soap is the yardstick of civilization.”

One outstanding example of this can be found right in my home state of New Jersey in a collection of handcrafted soaps based on the legendary creature of the New Jersey Pinelands – an 18th century mythical beast called the ‘Jersey Devil’. Christine Mecca’s online store introduction says it all: (We at the ‘Jersey Devil Soapworks’) “have taken the spirit of the New Jersey Pine Barrens, its pitch pines, cedar streams and sugar sand roads and combined it with all natural ingredients and fragrances to produce fine, hand-made artisan soaps. We have taken our inspiration from one of the Pine Barrens most popular legends and have tried to infuse that into every bar of soap we make.”

But eco-conscious soapmaking is more than just a means to improving our own natural beauty – natural handcrafted soap is now being used to save the very ecosystems from whence the soap was made. Uniquely marketed in 100% recycled paper boxes, BirdProject Soap, created by Christine ‘Tippy’ Tippens of New Orleans is an exemplary example of how an artisanal soapmaker can make a difference in the recovery and restoration of a region’s coastline – in this case the Louisiana coastline. Spurred on by the BP Oil Spill disaster and the disastrous effects on brown pelicans and sea turtles, this eco-conscious entrepreneur is using her handcrafted soap as a means to raising money to fund both the environmental cleanup and animal rescue efforts along the Gulf Coast shoreline. Within each of her black, bird-shaped handmade glycerin soaps is a white ceramic bird made of Louisiana clay as a ‘reminder’ of the region’s precious natural and cultural resources.

Yet there is something more to this ‘reminder’ that is intrinsic to both the popularity of this ‘soap revolution’ and today’s ‘Handcrafted Soapmakers Guild’, organized originally in Ohio in 1998. Just as artisanal soapmaker, Frank Asquith, founder of Yosemite Soap Works, is bringing the spirited waterfalls and the high spring air of the giant sequoias of the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California into his handmade olive oil soaps – and – Susan Houlihan, founder of Alpenglow Skin Care in Alaska, is now bringing the wild softness of Alaskan snow and berries of the Kenai Mountains into her handmade goat milk soaps – today’s North American eco-conscious soapmakers everywhere are distilling a bit of luxuriant sensory utopia right into their naturally made soap creations. They are inventing and re-inventing organically made soaps dedicated to an American Shangri-La – – an eco-American Shangri-La- – that gives people not only a greater sense of self, a brighter outlook on life, and a more youthful appearance – but a heightened awareness of environmental harmony. Yes, indeed, Sigmund Freud – today’s handcrafted eco-friendly soap is now the new yardstick of civilization!