Tag Archives: essay

An Assessment

photo by Sylvia
photo by Sylvia

“What do you do?” he asked with wide-eyed anticipation.

“Well, I straighten the living room every morning and clean the kitchen several times a day. I take the puppy out every hour, which is no small task because there are 32 steps per trip. I go to the grocery store and contemplate my purchases of milk, peach iced tea, pop tarts and cereal, hoping it reflects nothing upon my mothering skills. I take pictures of sunsets and pine cones and random leaves in the rain. I laugh with my teen-aged children and find myself wanting to shellac them in place to this very time when I know where they sleep and they’re warm in my house. I write little snippets of thoughts that I don’t call poetry but sometimes can be seen as poetic. Every evening, I listen for the train and it brings me comfort. I share jokes with my husband and miss him when he’s working away from us. Sometimes I make scrambled eggs for breakfast. Occasionally I draw on rocks or cut butterflies out of white paper. I drive with the windows down and Tom Petty playing in the background. I drink coffee with generous amounts of sugar and milk. I clean the bathrooms and don’t particularly enjoy that task although I don’t mind running the vacuum as much as I mind doing the laundry.”

Glassy-eyed and frightened, he walked away.

If I’d have said, “graphic designer” would that have told him what he wanted to know?

End of an Era

photo by Sylvia
photo by Sylvia

After offering ice cream, cotton candy and
wooden roller coaster rides for over 100 years,
the small amusement park saw its last summer season.
There was a look of cheerful hopefulness accompanied
by dilapidated distress in every building, in every
stone walk, in every exaggerated, macabre clown smile.
Defeat was reflected in our gait as we left the park at sundown.

My thoughts as I photograph a wall

photo by Sylvia
photo by Sylvia

I am struck by the teal color of the wall and the texture of galvanized steel. I am moved by the glint on the screw and remember learning it was called a “philip’s head”. Thinking about my husband Philip, I wonder how his flight was to San Francisco. Recalling the seafood we ate in California on our last trip, I contemplate what to make for dinner. While deciding to drive to the market for shrimp and walking away from the wall, I notice an older woman staring at me quizically.


photo by Wolfgang Stearns
photo by Wolfgang Stearns

I want to be an open vessel for otherwise unthought thoughts;
a tranquil glass of tequila, ready to be injusted and enjoyed.
A single rain drop or snowflake or tear stain or puddle splash;
content to have had one moment in the sun.
I want to be the echo of swallow calls in a cave;
light refracted from window to wall;
diamonds reflected from stilled waters.

5 Things

lilly pad art

Five things that make me smile

1. Water lillies (because I don’t often see them and their beauty surprises me every time)

2. The movie Bottle Rocket (because I wish I had a yellow jumpsuit)

3. Irony (because in its truest form, it can be hugely entertaining)

4. Goldfinches (because they zip about in a chattering way and I wish I understood their language)

5. A passing Karmann Ghia (because someday I will learn to drive a stick)

Value your talent

photo by Sylvia
photo by Sylvia

On a brilliant summer day in a beautiful and artful city, a gentleman walks along a red-bricked street. Passing a small boutique, his gaze is arrested by the most enchanting, exquisite bow made of satin ribbon. This bow would be a perfect addition to his daughter’s birthday gift. Elated at his luck in finding this intricate adornment, he walks into the small shop.

“How much is the bow in the window?” he inquires from the young man approaching.

“The bow is $50.00,” comes the reply.

“What?! I’m not going to pay $50.00 for a 10 cent ribbon!” shouts the man.

“Ah, no problem sir,” says the young clerk.

He moves toward the window and with one quick jerk of his hand and wrist grabs the satin bow and whips it once into the air. Immediately, the bow becomes undone. As he holds out the long, straight, gleaming ribbon to the gentleman, he says simply, “Now, you may have it for 10 cents.”

This story was passed on to me almost 30 years ago by my
beloved Commercial Art instructor, Ray Coia.


photo by Sylvia
photo by Sylvia

It’s 9:00 in the morning in my steel city, 3:00 in the afternoon where you are; where Columbus set sail for the new world.
What are you doing today?
Are you drinking your afternoon café, as I sit sipping from a chipped cup at a gritty south-side coffee house?
Are you writing words in your notebook? Are you sketching scenes or pushing stray thoughts around on napkins?
Have your blue eyes turned murky grey with age?
Or do they still match my own?
Would I know you if you walked in the door right now?
Would I want to know you?
I would like to be smoking the Spanish cigarettes you smoked the last time we met. The sweet smell of tobacco forever firing nostalgia straight into my senses.

How I love to smoke, even though I don’t smoke.

Things I love (an incomplete list in no particular order)

photo by Sylvia
photo by Sylvia

pine cones
laughing with Philip
watching birds fly
the smell of old books
soft blankets
morning cup of coffee
jewelry with exotic stones
soft white rice
sunday mornings
the moon reflecting on the water
BellaDonna following me from room to room
books about art
the smell of pencils
a new notebook
the forest
rainy nights
the sound of geese
creamy lipstick
the smell of spring
blue hydrangeas
spicy perfume
acoustic guitar
the blue light of dawn
glass marbles
a pot of rosemary
white cake
collage art
the smell of a simmering breakfast
gin and tonic
1967 Shelby Mustang
a worn side chair
steamy cup of tea
tree branches
a walk in the woods
the sound of a distant train
fresh black pepper
friends on a porch
afternoon nap

A Gratitude List of 12 random days


photo by Wolfgang Stearns
photo by Wolfgang Stearns


Day One — Today I’m grateful for my family. I’m grateful for my husband, for our apartment with the views of the river, for my warm safe bed.

Day Two — Today I’m grateful for my work. I get paid to pick colors and move images around on a page. That’s amazing, and I am so grateful for this.

Day Three — I’m grateful that I have good friends. I’m grateful I live in a beautiful city.

Day Four — I’m exhausted. I’m not feeling grateful. I’m feeling spiteful. Should I start a spiteful list?

Day Five — I know I’m supposed to pick something to be grateful for even though I don’t want to. I’m on day FIVE and I’m feeling done with this exercise. I am an ingrate.

Day Six — I’m grateful that I take Lexapro. Clearly, I should be taking more.

Day Seven — I’m grateful for my family. Also, I like chocolate.

Day Eight — Today I yelled at a guy in a parking lot who was sarcastic with me. I should have let it go.  It wasn’t important. I’m grateful that I didn’t slap him.

Day Nine — I’m grateful that my kids are really nice people. Most of the time. My kids are teenagers and they do things that teenagers do. I’m grateful that I don’t want to give them up for adoption. Most of the time.

Day Ten — I’m grateful I can say “I’m sorry” when it matters.

Day Eleven — I’m grateful for strong black tea and pumpkin scones.

Day Twelve — I’m grateful for the sparrow that visited the table yesterday while Neve and I ate Brioche at a cafe.