Sunday, November 9, 2014

Le fruit de l’Espirit

"l'amour" | 8" x 10" | Mixed Media on Canvas

Almost a decade ago, I was traveling with friends through the south of France, researching for my novel, The Honeylicker Angel. We stopped at a massive, open-air flea market near the Sea. I could have spent all day there, picking through boxes of photos, running my fingers through bowls of buttons, shrugging on vintage jackets. I still have two of the treasures I bought that day. Well, now just the necklace.

The other treasure was a bit inexplicable at the time: a window valance made of burlap. The bottom edge was scalloped in wine-colored stitching, and the images embroidered across it depicted women circa the 1920s, frolicking in bucolic farmland.

I never hung the valance in a window. Over the years, I kept rediscovering the piece in my basket of fabrics, unsure what to do with it—even whether to keep it.

And then. I bought a set of small canvases and envisioned them with sky-ish blue backgrounds as if they were windowpanes. Maybe with a dash of red the color of Mourvedre—and then I remembered the fabric. I pulled it out and stretched it across the floor. I got out my scissors, cut a knick, and ripped off the first figure. The burlap tore into marvelous, rough edges. All of a sudden, I could see the paintings: the women and animals adhered to the canvases as individual vignettes like windows to history, each with their individual story. Finally, the valance would have not just one window, but many.

I knew words were waiting, too. And they would be in French to honor the fabric’s origins. One day, walking by the almost-finished paintings, I thought of the words we often see during the holiday season: love, joy, peace—some of the “Fruit of the Spirit.”

Voilà. I looked up the translations in French. The paintings had their words, and the series had its title: “Le Fruit de l’Espirit.”

May these fruit and their power extend through all the seasons. May they be the windows through which we see our lives and those of others. 

l’amour, love
la joie, joy
la paix, peace
la patience, patience
la bonté, gentleness
la bénignité, goodness
la fidélité, faith
la douceur, meekness
la temperance, temperance

You can view the full set of paintings at Fine Art America, and they are on exhibit through the end of 2014 at Art Presence in Jacksonville, OR

Friday, October 10, 2014

We can read!

March 2015 update: This piece was published on Dare to be Fabulous, where you can read it in its gratitude-filled entirety!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

31 Days of Poetry and Painting

This year, I participated in the annual Poetry Postcard Fest. The idea: you write a new, spontaneous poem on a postcard and mail it to a person on a given list. You do this for 31 days, working your way down the list. They do the same. You give. You receive. 'Twas fun.

I decided to sketch my own postcards, too: "draw-without-looking-at-the-page" kind of sketches. Like the poems, I created the images in minutes--no edits, no copying over. I enjoyed the rhythm and some of the results. Here are my top ten...or at least the 10 I uploaded! The front image is followed by the poem I composed on the back.

If you feel inspired, join up next year!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

For Sylvia, Leaning into Her Life

A low-res image transferred from a slide--
my only known record of this piece.
It was the grad-school apartment of my dreams: the second story of an old brick residence with silver radiators, gorgeous molding, and the only balcony. I wrote my thesis poetry on that balcony, in the humid Greensboro evenings, feet up on the railing. When it got too dark to write, I’d return inside and paint by clip lamp.

During my second year in the writing program, all of the tenants in my building were women. Below me, lived a fellow student poet. Above me, an undergrad cellist. Across the hall, an uptight saleswoman, and below her, the most interesting of us all: Sylvia. No one knew exactly what Sylvia did, nor her exact age. Plastic surgery had probably occurred. She dressed in mid-century clothing, and we guessed she was in her late sixties, though she dyed her hair jet black and teased it into an immobile beehive. Every weekday evening, just after five, she took the bus back home from her unnamed job. Often, she would emerge from her apartment an hour or two later, with a fresh smear of red lipstick, carrying a patent leather purse and wobbling on heels down the swath of steps below the wide front stoop. From my balcony perch, I found myself holding my breath, hoping that she wouldn’t fall.

One night, I took my trash out to the dumpsters behind the building, where it was always dark enough for murder. I passed Sylvia and said “hello.” She said “hello” back. I dumped my bag and heard it thump—twice. Strange.

I headed back around the hedge-lined side of the building and almost tripped over Sylvia. She had been the second thump; she’d fallen stomach-flat on the walk.

“My nose, my nose, my nose!” she chanted, her hands flapping at the space around her face.

I helped her up. “Are you OK?”     

“Is it bleeding?”

I could just make out a middle glisten between her bright black eyes.

Sounding congested, she replied, “I had a nose job years ago, and I landed full on it! I’ve come up that path a thousand times, a thousand times!”

I helped her to the front stoop and into her apartment. I’d never been inside. She headed for her bathroom, and I noticed that our places were mirror images of each other. But her hallway was hung with empty frames—old gilty ones of varying thicknesses and quality. Above them hung the only filled frame: a portrait of Sylvia.

I froze. I felt goose bumps lift from every pore as I remembered a dream I’d had the night before. I had dreamt of her hallway—that I’d never seen—lined with the empty frames I was gaping at now.

And that very afternoon, I had come inside from my balcony to escape the heat and paint. Strains of a Bach cello suite filtered through the ceiling. I pulled out a large sheet of paper, and something new happened: with my first dozen strokes of black paint, there was Sylvia, leaning forward and looking down like she did when descending stairs, always wary of falling. I added a quick patch of cadmium red for her sweater. Done. I stood back. I’d been painting women for years, but never a particular woman. Never a recognizable one. I called my downstairs neighbor, fellow poet, to come up. The minute she walked in, she said, “You’ve painted Sylvia.”

And now, there I was, helping the woman I’d painted into my car, driving her to Moses Cone Hospital.

I barely remember the short trip, just that she offered me $5 for the favor, and I refused—and then she refused to let me wait for her. She smiled, hand to nose, and waved me off.

Though I saw her coming and going over the next academic year, we didn’t mention her fall. The next spring, I moved. I never saw her again.  


A dozen years after that brief time in the South, I found myself attending a school of supernatural ministry in northern California. That is another story altogether. I attended because I had heard the curriculum incorporated art into its spiritual practice. I studied in the prophetic art track and began doing spiritual “portraits” of fellow students and eventually at the annual conferences. When I left, I created my own prophetic art curriculum.

I had completely forgotten the piece that started it all: my portrait of Sylvia. It wasn’t until I was going through old slides recently that I found her portrait. When I held that slide to the light, the hubris of my early twenties returned—how I had thought I was completely different than Sylvia because I worked in the esoteric world of poetry and never had a nose job. Now I see that we both know what it is to fall headlong into our lives, to break back open what we hoped had healed.

But here’s the strangest thing I didn’t see until just this moment, right as I’m thinking I’ve brought this story full circle. These days, I write standing in the stairwell of my little loft. If I stand part way up my stairs, I can use the half-wall bookshelf at the top as a stand-up desk. Resting my eyes, I turn and look down my hallway. A few months back, I hung half-a-dozen empty frames on the wall. Though I’ve seen similar decor many times since the night I stood in Sylvia’s apartment, I know the idea formed while waiting for her wipe the blood from her nose. Waiting for myself to paint my own life portrait as a writer and artist.

The realization makes my legs shake. I sit down on a stair, somewhere between the top and the bottom, between my understanding and my complete lack thereof. I lean against the wall and smile.

Here’s to us, Sylvia. May the angle of our leaning be sweet.  

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Monday, June 9, 2014

Monday, June 2, 2014

Nadirs & Zeniths

Nadirs & Zeniths
Sunol Foothills

I walk up the curving road,
past vineyards and paddocks.
The straight, dawn light cuts
through rain-wet trees.

I remember someone I’d just
met the last time I walked here,
long ago. Someone I could barely
see in the glare of the new. 

The morning collapses into contrast: 
chiaroscuros of telephone pole,
shaggy ancient olive trees,
many-handed cacti.

Only far from her zenith can the sun
make such angled work of light.

The question comes,
sudden as a puncture:
Do we choose the wrong one
so we can be right?

All the world briefly
shrinks to this question
before the sun magnifies it.
Shatters it.
I stop beneath an oak. In the bowl
of a field stands a blond mare.
The dawn side of her shines,
the other waits in blue shade.

I decide: sides are for fences.
Brightness does blind.
Beginnings only follow
ends and storms.

But I am willing to be wrong.
I step from the graveled shadow
into the sun. The wise light
hits me with a fist of yes. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Eyes of the Heart: Prophetic Art

My article on prophetic art appears in the Summer 2014 issue of CFN's The Voice magazine. To read it, click the image or click here.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Monday, April 21, 2014

The “I” of Morocco

Roofline of the Fez Medina, Morocco

For Ali, who explained my name to me

In Arabic, my name means I.
Ana this, ana that.
I am called everywhere,
but I am not meant.

So I surrender to the collective self—

I in the souk selling oranges
                  with their leaves on.
I in the café filled with men
                  wondering at a woman.
I in the tannery lifting skins
                  through vats of urine.
I in the child kicking a faded ball
                  down a Medina street.
I in the man pointing to a pastry
                  with a bee stuck in sugar.
I in the petit-taxi holding out
                  a creased hand for coins.
I in the woman rubbing cheese
                  onto squares of fry bread.
I in the singers with blank faces
                  on the brink of desert.
I in the shepherd telling the sheep
                  his dreams.

Now, the world turns ana—

I am the river running beneath
the ancient city
over mountains,
to the sands.

I am dunes, pink in evening.
I am the sky above them as night falls.

The sky—wider than lives,
spacious enough to hold every hand
and turn each finger to a star
that points all I’s home.

Sunday, March 30, 2014


Happy Poetry Month! In celebration, here is a little poem that appears in the April issue of the Jacksonville Review. (Click the screen shot to see a larger version.)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Of Danger and Beauty

My essay "Of Danger and Beauty" won a 2014 Best Travel Writing's Gold Solas Award: Adventure Travel

View the published article at Wanderlust & Lipstick.

Following are my own photos of the trip: 

Dawn View of the Dead Sea from the Masada

Shoreline of the Dead Sea with Thermal Pools

Dead Sea Salt Formations

Kibbutz Bomb Shelter

Canyons for Camping

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

"Compassion First," Indeed

Calling artists near and far! What if a piece of your art could help rescue a victim of sex trafficking? It can. “Artcert,” an annual art auction and concert, will be raising money this year for the relief organization Compassion First.

“From numbers to names,” Compassion First “provides life-giving solutions to child sex-trafficking survivors.” They are “specifically committed to serving in countries that do not already have a strong, Western, nongovernmental organization (NGO) presence in the area of anti-trafficking work.”

Interested in contributing to this vital cause? Artwork needs to be dropped off/received by March 10th at: Living Waters Church, 2200 Roberts Road, Medford OR, 97502. (Office hours: Mon-Wed, 9-12 and 1-4)

For more information, contact Kim Butcher at

On a related note, I’ll be teaching a prophetic art workshop called Eyes of the Heart. A portion of the proceeds from the workshop will go toward the Anthem students at Living Waters Church, who will be traveling to the Indonesian branch of Compassion First to help rebuild the shelter for girls saved from sex trafficking.

Come spend February 22nd discovering prophetic art. Not only will you be stepping forward into your own creative destiny, you'll also be helping young girls step into theirs.

You can register through the Eyes of the Heart link at