Gorilla House LIVE ART: March 6, 2013

Ryan 33 House 17 Ryan 8 House 25 Ryan 14 House 22b Ryan 18 House 20I had no choice but to paint Ryan last night.  Losing Ryan has left an open wound for the community that paints every Wednesday down at the Gorilla House.  Aptly, one of the themes was LIFE.  I painted LIFE.

Photo Credit: Wendy Lees

Photo Credit: Wendy Lees

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From Le Petit Prince par Antoine de Ste.-Exupery, these words…

But he did not answer my plea. He said to me, instead: “The thing that is important is the thing that is not seen…”

“Yes, I know…”

“It is just as it is with the flower. If you love a flower that lives on a star, it is sweet to look at the sky at night. All the stars are a-bloom with flowers…”

“Yes, I know…”

“It is just as it is with the water. Because of the pulley, and the rope, what you gave me to drink was like music. You remember– how good it was.”

“Yes, I know…”

“And at night you will look up at the stars. Where I live everything is so small that I cannot show you where my star is to be found. It is better, like that. My star will just be one of the stars, for you. And so you will love to watch all the stars in the heavens… they will all be your friends. And, besides, I am going to make you a present…”

He laughed again.

“Ah, little prince, dear little prince! I love to hear that laughter!”

“That is my present. Just that. It will be as it was when we drank the water…”

“What are you trying to say?”

“All men have the stars,” he answered, “but they are not the same things for different people. For some, who are travelers, the stars are guides. For others they are no more than little lights in the sky. For others, who are scholars, they are problems. For my businessman they were wealth. But all these stars are silent. You– you alone– will have the stars as no one else has them–”

“What are you trying to say?”

“In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night… you– only you– will have stars that can laugh!”

And he laughed again.

“And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me. You will always be my friend. You will want to laugh with me. And you will sometimes open your window, so, for that pleasure… and your friends will be properly astonished to see you laughing as you look up at the sky! Then you will say to them, ‘Yes, the stars always make me laugh!’ And they will think you are crazy. It will be a very shabby trick that I shall have played on you…”

And he laughed again.

“It will be as if, in place of the stars, I had given you a great number of little bells that knew how to laugh…”

Love Your Boys

I’m thinking that sometimes we are pretty hard on boys.  You know, the old nursery rhyme and such…

Lawn Mowing

From Wikipedia, the original version…

In the earliest known versions, the first ingredient for boys is either “snips” or “snigs”,[7] the latter being a Cumbrian dialect word for a small eel.

The rhyme sometimes appears as part of a larger work called “What Folks Are Made Of” or “What All the World Is Made Of”. Other stanzas describe what babies, young men, young women, sailors, soldiers, nurses, fathers, mothers, old men, old women, and all folks are made of. According to Iona and Peter Opie, this first appears in a manuscript by the English poet Robert Southey (1774–1843), who added the stanzas other than the two below.[1] Though it is not mentioned elsewhere in his works or papers, it is generally agreed to be by him.[8]

The relevant section in the version attributed to Southey was:

What are little boys made of made of
What are little boys made of
Snips & snails & puppy dogs tails
And such are little boys made of.

What are young women made of
Sugar & spice & all things nice[1]


What are little boys made of?
What are little boys made of?
Slugs and snails
And puppy-dogs’ tails,
That’s what little boys are made of.

What are little girls made of?
What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice
And everything nice,
That’s what little girls are made of.[1]

Today, I am just so grateful for my son and know that the world would be so different without him.  I pray that all parents…and teachers…and women…will do their best to let their boys know that they are not all about snails and slugs.

Unofficial music video for the song “To Just Grow Away” off of the new album “There’s No Leaving Now,” by The Tallest Man on Earth (out now via Dead Oceans). Footage is from the 1969 short film, “A Day with the Boys,” by Clu Gulager.

To Just Grow Away

We’re melting ruby hearts
a confusing trade
to burn the ore
to shape a blade
then to swing it low
beginners fate
to lose a skin
to just grow away
Like a rain, to help a river
but a river so hard to please
but I’ve grown to see the diamonds
you’ve thrown in just for me
We spent so many nights
just gathering stones
the silver tears
old sapphire bones
all the copper leaves
then dreamt, now true
look how they find their path
to cut right through
Like a rain, to help a river
but a river so hard to please
but I’ve grown to see the diamonds
you’ve thrown in just for me
Look when your hopeless child will figure
there are moments when hope’s not
only real when flagging far down a road
with an armful broken arrows
and no hand free for the bow
your kid will lose a battle
but your ways
will let him go
I lose my wish to drown
and aimless flee
what you’ve thrown to lose
is still right here with me.

More from The Tallest Man On Earth:


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Justin Townes Earle: Rooted

We took in a workshop and a Main Stage performance with Justin Townes Earle.  His work smacks of memory as I recall times spent listening to Guthrie.  After some time with his lyrics and with his melodies, one becomes deeply connected with his story.  It creeps into everything.  He doesn’t have to narrate anything.  The music is raw.  I think he’s a brave musician.

When he did say something, it evoked a huge response inside of me, particularly when he introduced the song, Mama’s Eyes.  To paraphrase,  he said that it was his Mama who raised him as a young boy.  It was his Mama who raised him as a young man.  He explained that she didn’t do such a great job.  And then he said, “But, you see, it wasn’t her job.”

I am my father’s son
I’ve never known when to shut up
I ain’t fooling no one
I am my father’s son

We don’t see eye to eye
And I’ll be the first to admit
I’ve never tried It sure hurts me,
it should hurt sometime

We don’t see eye to eye
I was a young man when
I first found my pleasure in the [Incomprehensible]
And I went down the same road as my old man

Yeah, I was younger then
Now it’s 3 a.m. and I’m standing in the kitchen
Holding my last cigarette
Strike a match and I see my reflection in the mirror in the hall

And I say to myself
I’ve got my mama’s eyes
Her long thin frame and her smile
And I still see wrong from right

‘Cause I’ve got my mama’s eyes
Yeah, I’ve got my mama’s eyes


Good Grief!

I will preface this ‘writing’ by setting the stage.  Yet again, Peanut-the-cat is curled in the circle of my arms, watching my typing fingers, just in front of the keyboard.  Max is whining because my son has just left by the front door and I have shut the door that leads upstairs.  No proper good-byes today.

I’ve snacked on strawberries and slices of Sunday’s roast beef, having just returned from a walk with Max, over at the pond where I used to pick up a bag of garbage every day for three months. (to bring my readers up to speed on that…the place is covered with plastics and Tim Horton’s cups and packaging…it makes me sad, but I go there anyway)  I sat on the bench that overlooks the pond and just relished in the sunshine, the warmth and the reflections of clouds on water.  (Peanut’s head is moving along with my clicking finger tips…click click click. He likes it here.)  I enjoyed not thinking about anything, while sitting in the sunshine.  I was completely present to all-things-sensory and absolutely nothing was going on in my head.  I wasn’t thinking about death or lost youth.

People who think about and write about death are potentially labelled, ‘morbid’…so are people who have preselected the hymns they want sung at their own funerals.  I am pretty matter-of-fact about publicly announcing that I want my friend’s homemade salsa and good chips to be served at my wake. For this, one of my children will predictably pipe in, “That’s morbid!”

I have no fear of my own passing.  I think it’s because I believe.  But losing someone I love, that scares me silly.

It began with Jarrett, I think.  I couldn’t figure out how it was even possible that a child could die. (Of course, intellectually, I knew that children died every day…but for the first time in my life, I knew it was so.  Do you get what I’m saying?)  If I could have been in his mother’s face around the clock, I would have.  I just didn’t know how a mother could survive losing her child.  So, I sort of wanted to be there to make sure she survived.

When the lost boys started to add up…that’s when I really began to wonder about the safety of my own children.  Frank took his own life.  He had egged my house when he was in junior high.  All of a sudden, I feared that it was because he had to make reparations for that one rebellious act, that all those years later, he would end his life.  I wanted to track down the boy who threw the other dozen eggs…just to make sure that he was alright.

Over the years, I watched in disbelief as parents lost their children, too many to mention.  Even now, I lift up a silent prayer as I type…remembering each one.  Peanut slips out of my arms and plunks onto the floor.

My daughter lost Jordan.  She had a whole heap of memories and moments shared with him and in an instant he was gone.  I took a pot of purple pansies to his mother.  I sat on her couch and stared blankly.  What words are there?  From the outside, you look at the activities of the families who have lost their precious children…and they all seem so ordinary and at the same time, surreal.  Someone smiles.  Someone makes coffee.  The living continue to move through time and space, but utterly changed.  As I drove away that evening, I remembered thinking…”I believe.”  But there, in the circle of the family, there are no words.  There are only the prayers that you utter while your windshield wipers flop back and forth and the sky looks so dark.

My daughter has lost so many friends since losing Jordan.  These are all beautiful beings, filled to bursting with passion, emotion, life force…brilliant light.

I thought my daughter needed help after Patrick died.  Now I’m thinking, “Is this just me?”  She mentioned, as though she knew from a lifetime of wisdom and experience, “before the time comes around to get help, the wall will already be up.”  What is it that I can’t seem to put up that wall?

I sink madly into an empathy that I can not really feel because my children are with me.  I feel grateful every single day for the joy of the crappy days with them, as much as the joy for the awesome days with them.  Every day is a good day when your children are safe.

I think, though, that we all grieve at the loss of other people’s children.  I get sad when I hear of the civil bombardment on the streets of Syria…with the loss of so many children.  Just as it is said that it takes a village to raise children, I think that we all suffer tremendous loss when young people die.

This is a bit of disconnected writing, but it is essentially a bit of healing as well.  I’ve been following one person’s journey and I am moved beyond belief at the courage it takes for one sister to step into each day without her brother.  All of the ordinary stuff continues, but with a hugely surreal twist.

If there is one thing that I have learned from the living…and those who have lost their lives…it is that I want to take nothing for granted.  I want to treasure every one in my life and cause them to feel treasured.  I am deeply blessed.


For the past two Wednesdays, I have chaperoned for my son’s band practices at his high school.  There is such energy with these young musicians and so much hard work!  My boy plays tenor drums and marches at the same time.  Last evening the drill included a constant march for 45 minutes side to side, forward and backward, in the front foyer of the school.
He has been very sick with a hacking cough this past week, and to see him working so hard and putting out so much for his team, amazed me.  Today I’m keeping him home from school.  It is time for him to rest and recuperate.
Some years ago, I painted an art show called Pieces of Gold….a tribute to two sons, my boy and Jarrett.  There is something so special about having my boy grow up in front of me.  It is such a privilege to be his Mom!
My James

My James

Jarrett Alley

Jarrett Alley