The Color of Your Heart

(Written for my art students at Howard Street Charter School, 2012)

The color of your heart is deep and wide–

It gathers all around me

And fills my days with laughter rich

And teaches me to be

More colorful myself, spilling all

My deepest hues

(Those I tend to hide inside)

Instead of showing them, like you.

Together we can paint the world to

Create a masterpiece

Of love and harmony and then

Our world can be at peace.


Some of Us Crawl

“It is legitimate to crawl after the wings are broken.” William Stafford


To have wings is to have hope.

So much like a bird,

hope soars overhead, urging

us all (those of us broken and hopeless)

to look up; look out of ourselves.

But it seems too easy to look in

and see the ragged absence of wings.


Though some of us do crawl.


I crawl, dragging myself forward.

The shadow in my path, gone first,

then returning.

I look up–

There is a surge of joy in me!

To see hope like this is to see the future.

Anarchy of Love

There is disorder:

No one can understand why we are loved

when we are so unlovable.

Love flows unceasing, nonetheless.

It is deeper and wider and more permanent

than anything we can fathom.


A lawlessness of love governs:

where there is unkindness,

there is forgiveness;

free of judgement, love comes down

and surrounds each one of us–

whether we are ready or not.


There is a wildness in this love–a wideness and permanence

that grows around each of us and so softens the brambles of our humanity.

In The Unraveling

Thread that binds us

is impossibly strong;

we are more closely knit

than we can fathom

(even if we do try

to deny this often).


Seams sometimes split;

some places need

more mending and tender

care. In mending, time

has a strengthening way

of altering the original.


Sometimes in the unraveling

we find and follow

the thread that binds us;

it’s then we see how

strong we are and what

we have been together.

Post-It Note

I’m in my 7th month working at a job I really enjoy: selling jewelry and stringing pearls for Olufson Designs, a jewelry store in downtown Corvallis. This gig began as a part time job working at their silver shop on Madison Avenue in the front retail shop of the TOBY POMEROY company (where the BEST jewelry is created by Brandon, Brandon, Hank, Toby and Les). Just before I started work, I was told that Les’ dog Tawny had recently died. “Oh,” said, “I’ll paint her portrait for you.”

In my efforts to tidy up at the shop, I found an old wooden platform that would make a perfect canvas for an Australian Shepherd named Tawny! For Les’ birthday I finished the painting. Overall I was happy with the results: I included a bird (Les, his wife and his 3 year old are avid bird watchers) and Les’ favorite strand of pearls from the Olufson’s Jewelry store). Most importantly, I was able to include the “snaggle tooth” that Les’ sister Elisa insisted be in there! It sounded like Tawny’s most recognizable feature. Les kept the painting in his work office where he at first said it made him feel sad, but now makes him smile.

Just yesterday, Les passed on one of the best stories I’ve heard in a long time; one that makes my heart melt to a warm liquid consistency.

As I was putting my son to bed, he had some Post-It notes and he asked, “Papa, what are these yellow papers for?” I told him they were made for people to write things on that they wanted to remember. His son replied, “I want to remember Tawny Pup.” So he drew a picture of a dog with a big tooth and we posted it to his bedroom wall.

Then Les told me the best news! He and his son were in the work office together when his son noticed the painting of Tawny.

“I miss my Tawny Pup,” he said as he reached over to touch the snaggle tooth.

He recognized his dog in my painting! It makes me ridiculously happy to know that what I painted can convince a three year old that it is his former dog, and maybe bring back some sweet memories of his beloved canine family member. Knowing that Tawny (as a visual image) won’t fade away in the early memory of this boy is what really matters to me. It’s what my work as an artist is about.

Baritone Ukulele


It’s time for me to tell this story–about the broken baritone ukelele, Buddy the Australian Shepherd and the artisan acoustic instrument shop on 2nd Street in Corvallis.

Just about one year ago, when I was wandering the streets of Corvallis looking for dogs to befriend, short of funds and a job, I found myself on 2nd Street. Since I had never before entered Troubador Music I decided to go in that day. The small container garden out front, mixed with the mysterious and thrilling wood and rosin smells coming from inside as I opened the door, immediately welcomed me.

Imagine a working violin shop: beautiful, well-loved instruments hung above the front counter at about head-height, a large open space which doubled as a showroom and intimate venue for evening concerts, musical sounds in the form of ‘plucks’ and ‘thumps’ coming from a back work room. That is Troubadour Music.

Since I was considering selling my hard-earned Blue Lion Mountain Dulcimer (I’d been playing Mountain Dulcimer for more than 20 years) I decided to ask about their consignment policy. Selling it would pay my living expenses for one month.

I had a lovely talk with Kent (the owner) and the kind sales associate; both gracious and helpful.

Then I had a sweet interaction with Buddy, the elderly Australian Shepherd lying on the floor at our feet. When I stood though, a catastrophe occurred. The baritone ukulele hanging above the counter met my up-coming head and bounced to the cement floor. Many emotions bounced across Kent’s face. He told me it was beyond repair due to the broken inner body. I couldn’t stop from calculating how long it was going to take me to pay for this instrument, especially since I was already having trouble paying for just my rent. Of course I was crying.

“Wait,” Kent said thoughtfully, “you were giving love to my dog when this happened. I don’t want you worry about this. In the bigger scheme of things, love is more important than money or this instrument.”We went on to talk for nearly an hour about potential jobs, including teaching English at the nearest Community College (where Kent sometimes teaches poetry).

I left that day exhausted by the event. I spent much of the following year thinking about this baritone ukulele but my energy was spent looking and trying work that suited me. I didn’t come any closer to paying for that instrument and it weighed heavily on me. My dulcimer hadn’t ended up selling, so I kept it at home with me and played it occasionally but found little joy in it since my chronic pain interfered with the playing.

My walks still took me past Troubadour Music and I frequently saw Kent and Buddy enjoying breaks outside together. Each time I’d cringe inside and remember the feeling of that ukelele hitting the concrete floor. Two weeks ago I formulated a plan: I’d leave my dulcimer as a gift for Kent. He’d be able to sell it eventually or use it himself. I set aside the perfect time and dropped it off. Tears came a little as I reminded the sales associate about that earlier baritone ukelele falling day. She told me that Kent wasn’t there, but that maybe I should reconsider. I didn’t need to pay for the broken instrument. But I was insistent and I left my name and phone number and a note explaining the gift.

Later the same day, Kent called to thank me. He invited my dog Pearl and I to visit he and Buddy at the shop any time. We have since met on the sidewalk near Toubadour Music and Pearl and Buddy instantly appreciated each other. Kent reached in his pocket, found two small treats, one for Buddy and one for Pearl. Before giving them to each dog, he kissed the treats (a trick known to increase the value of the food).

Now my walks down 2nd Street are more pleasant again. When I think of that baritone ukulele hitting the cement, I don’t feel like crying anymore.

Home: Continuing the Walk, 2

Once we pass the US Post Office, Pearl’s feet usually pick up the pace because, 1.) she thinks we must be going to the city dog park and/or 2.) we are getting close to Robnett’s Hardware store, and everyone knows that’s where you go to get home made dog treats! Robnett’s img_0790is another city landmark and the building shows its long history. Inside, the best feature is the ceiling height rolling ladder, to reach all the important items stored on the top shelf. The well-worn wood shines with smoothness and the metal casters roll easily across the vintage wood floor.

But before Robnett’s and before the city dog park is Bob’s Mirror and Glass, where Bob recently installed my car’s new windshield. It’s also where Cami the blue heeler used to live and work with her family. I was lucky enough to meet her and become her friend during my “lots of time/not enough work” ramblings around 2nd Street. She was tough customer (her owner told me right away that she didn’t always make friends easily), but we became fast friends and eventually, my dog Pearl even got along well with her. Cami is one of the working dogs I painted last year and her portrait now hangs on the wall of the business. A couple of months ago, Cami’s young owner learned she hIMG_7288ad late stage cancer and only had a little bit of time left with him, so he’s extra grateful for the portrait. Just yesterday I stopped in to see how Cami was doing. I took Pearl with me in case there was bad news and the owner needed some dog-comfort. Immediately Bob motioned to me to look behind the counter: a very small blue heeler puppy greeted me! “Her name is Mya,” he told me. There is something very special about a blue heeler pup. Pearl recognized it right away and was tender and kind. Mya kept her distance, but was clearly interested in making friends. “Pearl is the first dog Mya has met outside of her immediate family,” the owner told me. I left feeling hopeful about Mya, Pearl, and the world in general. Life has a way of keeping on.