My Luminous Window on the World

Day after rain, Shauna Orchid

My Luminous Window on the World

Far far away on the other side of our country….(though for years there were many things to love in my Brooklyn)….the rampant effusion of flowers to fill the eye and heart was satisfied only by long, hazard-filled, grimey subway trips to mossy walled, early NY Romanesque style architecture: protected hot houses, orangeries, botanical gardens. Or there were museums or picture books…or painting my own.

Lily Bouquet at WindowTropical flowers were non-existant in shops, or scarce, or a king’s ransom. A standard 5 stem bouquet of yellow daisies, a single sunflower or Easter lily were barely within the budget. Then a miracle discovery of the Flower Market, in the West 20’s I think, wood boxes & metal stands filling block after block. And the dizzying morning glory of walking through those heavenly cropped fields, the intoxicating aromas, the brilliant colors. By noon, thousands of shoppers and walkers and every other marker but perhaps a single lavender petal, a curled and spotted white lily bloom left abandoned on the hosed down cement sidewalks, had vanished from the stage of that theatrical city, a life emptied. But the Flower Market was still a long haul from home and required a pre=dawn start up, and was really (despite the possible mind-blowing feast) a costly journey after all. I knew it was there. Having seen and walked it I could still picture it from afar.Table Tops, Bouquet and Orchids

Then I moved.

These photographs are from the current, seventh garden I’ve made to live inside of since coming west. I’m getting better all the time and this one’s a doozie.

Orchid and Books, Window    Last week Safeway tossed their over-ripe bouquets into an accessable dumpster; my garden is having a fresh bloom of Spanish lavender; the huge Bird of Paradise has ten new budding stalks ~~which I’ve learned will thrive and open when cut; my African Violet is a constant purple thrill; and a spectacular old perfumed orchid which has been in my outside studio for a month (til the overnights dropped to the 30’s) and last night I brought it inside. It has been ufurling brand new blossoms, up to four open, three buds to go and perfumes the whole bungalow.River Nile Begonia, Shauna Orchid, Window

They crowd my tables by my window. I am thrilled to sit within inches of all this. The compulsion to share this seizes me every minute of the day and night. I want to give you a look and I encourage you to do the same which is to fill your own landscape to more, more more. (PS, in the background on the right here, the ruffled green leaf with the red edging is The River Nile Begonia, and really incredible.)

As Sir Mick Jagger said, “Anything worth doing is worth over-doing.”
Let the good times roll.

Light through Shauna OrchidBird of Paradise Window

For Fall


I slept tucked in this place beneath the golden eagle’s nest high above Garrapata’s cliffs, seeing them sail out, brilliant yellow, and drop behind a gray sunrise mist on currents invisible to me, descending straight to the ocean’s foam green surf.                     That was fifteen years ago.                                                            Yesterday I saw them again.      Sparhawk~ October 2015


THE FINEST STORY IN THE WORLD, and the Contstant Delight of Rudyard Kipling


and The Contstant Delight of Rudyard Kipling

I waltz in and tango out of Rudyard Kipling’s stories, always intrigued, unfailingly pleased. I’m just doing the dance this week on his pages of short stories: “The Kipling Sampler”, copyrighted 1892-1910 by RK himself, then “By arrangement with Mrs. George Bambridge of Doubleday and Co, Inc.” (I’m not making that up), through 1957 which is the year of the volume in my hand;  pages totalling 223, which are fragile and yellowed in this friendly slim volume that I have carried through very nearly my entire life beginning with teen me of the meritorious ’60’s. The decade was you know, in retrospect (amazingly) (improbably) something to brag about. Even inciting nostalgia. And if for nothing more than this said of my generation: We were readers. And by God but we had writers to read.
The Kipling Sampler contains 8 short stories including the thrilling “Mowgli’s Brothers”, “The Tomb of His Ancestors”, other favorites; 18 Poems including “Gunga Din”, “Mandalay”, and “If~”; “On Travel: An Englishman in Yellowstone Park”, telling of his 4th of July visit to Livingstone; and an extract of his novel, “Kim”.

I am today drawn in by one I have never read. I have not, all my life, stuck with collected Kipling from start to finish. He engages me variously through the years, and I don’t think he’d mind my saying so, not a bit. But I’ve always loved having him within reach of my extended paw.kiplingPortrait of Rudyard Kipling by B Sparhawk, Oil on Linen

That tale is called: “The Finest Story In The World”. Pretty compelling stuff for a writer to trip over just by the title alone. But the opening salvo was so good, so rich, I want to share it with you.

It’s part of Kipling’s magic that with a mere handful of sentences (so linked you have to return to see if you just read one or several) he gets you lasooed in and doesn’t let go until the final punctuation. I’m going to give you Mr Kipling’s first paragraph. See if you don’t agree.

“His name was Charlie Mears; he was the only son of his mother, who was a widow, and he lived in the north of London, coming into the City every day to work in a bank. He was twenty years old and was full of aspirations. I met him in a public billiard-saloon where the marker called him by his first name, and he called the marker “Bullseye.” Charlie explained, a little nervously, that he had only come to the place to look on, and since looking on at games of skill is not a cheap ausement for the young, I suggested that Charlie should go back to his mother.”

Are you hooked? Well, pages 54 to 79 of my ancient volume carries Kipling’s tale in full. Just 25 pages of something that carries you off to untold imaginings of your own at the heated end of the author’s prodding nib.

It’s a brilliant light touch with the stranglehold of a python yet all he does is  tell a story. It’s a real craft, not easy to duplicate, a joy to fall into.

Now here is the oddest thing imaginable, and part of the reason I want to tell you about this. Kipling details more of this young Charlie Mears he befriends, and the odd arrangement they come to (Charlie’s coveting a writer’s life that Kipling, older and wiser, the never identified first person is experiencing) wherein Charlie supplies Kipling with an unbelievable story he is unable to write, and Kipling pays him 5 pounds for the idea because he believes he can, himself, write it.

Charlie lets his story out in a gush (of ships and galley slaves and swashbuckling hero pirates) then piecemeal in appointed visits, and their talk is of writing and the thrill of words, and the overwhelming mystery of how the juvenile, untraveled, unread Charlie could possibly imagine any of it. The story goes on to reveal that Charlie is channeling (Kipling calls it metempsychosis) an ancient Greek galley-slave and the content comes to him in dreams and he is accurate to the point of his writing out what the galley slaves scratched in ancient Greek with their iron bound wrists on their oars!  Which Kipling trudges off to verify with an annoyed antiquarian linguist at the museum across town.  How stupendous is that!

Kipling’s character continues to pry the tale from young Charlie who is kept oblivious to the obvious that he is speaking somehow from his OWN history as a captive Greek slave on a pirate’s ship. Then Charlie, gaining confidence,  begins to spin out other past seafarer lives “half a dozen several and separate existences spent on the blue water in the morning of the world”, in fact the man’s a rare treasure trove, now appearing to possibly be an Argonaut in a previous life!!  What a find for the writer befriending him. Wow.

But this here-and-now-Charlie is as naive and petulant as a child whom Kipling must nurse along.  He dares not tell him what he suspects… because he begins to envision his own writing career into unimagined, glorious sugar plums….once the story is writ.

But here’s a wondrous strange part for me, and it fits in the peculiar category of never knowing at all where reading someone else’s words might lead all of us.

Kipling’s paying cash for the story idea allows Charlie the money to purchase unread books; he is giddy; he falls in love with Longfellow and quotes a poem’s stanza about the sea: “I remember the black wharves and the ships And the sea-tides tossing free; And Spanish sailors with bearded lips, And the beauty and mystery of the ships, And the magic of the sea.”

Now by sheer coincidence it is from one of my favorite Longfellow poems, and the very bit I memorized long ago, and in fact (I’m not making this up!) included it in my own short story, coming from the mouth of my Grandfather Alfred in the one called: “Grandpa’s Ticket to Ride” (“The Gandy Dancer & Other Short Stories”, BD Sparhawk, 2004.)
And the pirate hero of the Charlie/Kipling story is a red-head, same as my sailor Grandfather!  It’s all true. What can it mean?

And on reflection, because I’m a writer and see the construction of things and the plot and twists and turns,  I’m also thinking: Why Rudyard you sly fox you. 

Can it be that you had some story in your head with the cast of characters, and some composition of the plot and fancies of where it might go but couldn’t make it go there…..and look what you did! You went and invented Charlie, and never did more than the outline of that story but still you turned it into a tale worth keeping and telling, and named it “The Finest Story in the World”.

Which is likely the emotion you woke from sleep feeling it must be, aha.

But trying to get it onto paper never worked right. Now this discovery of mine of you adds so much wonder and happiness to my knowing the man, and increased admiration.  What a damn clever fellow.  Oh I wish I’d known him. We could sit at a country campfire for endless talk, or opposite at a railway’s gas-lit dining car table with cream-colored linen and weighted silver over a fair meal and stiff drinks of an evening; or catch sunrise on a midnight’s hike, rounding a trail’s bend into a wide open space that led downhill to the longed for destination and we hadn’t stopped talking for hours.  Maybe days. 

I can (and have) exhausted even the best of friends with my enthused descriptions and tales.  But I have the feeling Rudyard and I would never run out of steam and only rest long enough to eat or drink or have a few winks then pick up where we left off.  How I wish I’d known you in the flesh.  And, I think it’s fair, that despite your generous gifting of so much pleasure to the world, to discover from “The Finest Story in the World” that you turn out to be a thrifty man who would never let even a convoluted delight go unexplored.

For the full of Kipling’s short and marvelous tale, go here:  “The Finest Story in the World”

SPARHAWK OILS ~~ New Paintings



Done Late Summer 2015

                  Magnolias, Bucket, Cat, End of Day                    

COPY ONE, Magnolias, Bucket, Cat, End of DayCOPY 2, Magnolias, Bucket, Cat, End of Day                        Oil on Canvas  20 X 20





Water Bucket, Sundown, 2COPY ONE, Water Bucket, Sundown, 2COPY 2, Water Pail, SundownOil on Canvas  20 X 20  




Despite the dreaded California drought (and all the politics that caused it) there’s a marvelous profusion of flowers this summer on the central coast.  The Magnolia Trees, the meadow blossoms, the constant surprise of what’s down the block or around the corner or at the edge of a field and my arms filled with all I see on excursions into what’s around me, brought home. It’s always more than any simple vase can contain so I head for the buckets and watering pails, eyes lit and heart aglow. Enjoy the waft.


I’m not sure where this came from, one of those paintings that seem to produce themselves. 



11 X 14 oil on canvas



   …I seem also to be going back over paintings with a new thought, a change in tone, an altered shadow.  In my youth I remember thinking it sacrilege to touch a painting again once considered FINI.  I can’t remember the origins of such a prejudice.  It may be, with a change of heart, that I care less about my own ferocious dogmas ~~ having seen that doesn’t seem to lead anywhere pleasing. Maybe my soul’s getting a lighter touch.  The first two are brand new, the third is something effusive threatening to get out of hand but I think I stopped in the nick of time…..


Oil on Canvas, 20 X 20 inchesMagnolias, Blue Bucket, Cat Nap 20X20 fullMagnolias, Blue Bucket, Cat 20x20 Nap flower DETAILMagnolias, Blue Bucket, Cat Nap DETAIL FlowersMagnolias, Blue Bucket, DETAIL Cat Napping, detailMagnolias, Blue Bucket, Cat Napping. 20X20

Lovely Magnolias blossoms and their leaves crowding into a sweet old tin bucket in a big open room. The sleepy eye of a wily cat watching your every move as you enter the room.


Oil on Canvas ~ 11X14 inchesSea Birds Lifting From Sandbar, 11X14 inSea Birds Lifting From Sandbar, 11X14

Seabirds nestling on the low tide’s exposed sandbars on an overcast late morning, in flight, in commerce, in life.

3.  EFFUSIVE BOUQUET ON THE SEASIDE, OUTSIDE, MOON Oil on Canvas 24 X 30 inchesEffusive Bouquet at Seashore, Outside, Night-24X30Effusive Bouquet, Night, Seashore, center DETAIL 24x30Effusive Bouquet, Night, Seashore, 24X30 Vase DetailEffusive Bouquet, right top DETAIL

A bouquet that just kept growing despite any thought of fitting into the dear little glass vase.  It all kind of grew, on to a gentle seaside, outside, and maybe a moon shine going on….

All of these original oil paintings shown here are available for purchase.  In addition, many SPARHAWK paintings are available as cards and posters, prints, and on clothing, bags, and throw pillows! through the remarkable  Australian REDBUBBLE site which duplicates my work. Please Visit STORE in the menu above for that link.

Thank you for stopping by, please come again, any inquiries gladly responded to from


 I Remember Brooklyn. And My Son.  And The Tall Ships. JULY 4 ~1976 ~America’s 200th Birthday.billofrightstallship

I haven’t written this out before and I can’t figure why it suddenly popped back into my mind with such clarity except that it was one sure memorable Fourth of July.

It’s been a lot of years since 1976. Thirty-nine years. If I whirl into the past to that time (for that is the sensation: one of rapid flight through a huge and disorderly picture book) a frenzy shapes it all, that desperado overlord of young motherhood in Brooklyn demanding more of a day than could possibly be managed. Reflecting back on that, I may excuse myself for being out on a major roadway, late afternoon, Fourth of July in a crowded New York borough without having thought what on earth I was thinking to have done something so dumb. If any New Yorker had not left town in July they had certainly left the house by now to follow the siren song to terrific holiday fun. Well, my answer is simple. I usually did what had to be done without evaluating the consequences. I had gone out for the money. Now heading back to the neighborhood after a long day in Coney Island, my little boy in tow. I’d taken him with me so I could get sign painting jobs without having to hire a babysitter. It’s the kind of thing I’d be chucked in the hoosegow for these days for child abuse, as Coney Island was seedy, sticky, dirty, dangerous. Trevor was four years old and I’d been doing this since he was newborn. I was a distracted bohemian poor excuse for a mother who sometimes had to be asked by friends or strangers if I’d remembered to feed my son that day or why he was missing his socks or told that redheads need to have a hat in the summer sun. I treated him a lot like I treated myself which was a bit rough and a bit badly. That day however I had gotten us hot dogs and French fries and root beers before leaving the amusement park, which made me feel rather proud of my brilliant parenting skills. We were stuffed and happy. I had even added ice cream cones because I’d earned a nice piece of change painting a mural on the front of Big Jimmy’s Jumpin’ Shootin’ Gallery (hit the ducks, five shots for a dollar). Trevor sitting next to me. (The prosecution rests.)

I must say I cannot help but marvel at the monumental contrast in every aspect of today’s motherhood with 40 years ago. Parenting, if done singly, sure was something you did alone those days in a big city. I never got offered a seat on the subway during my pregnancy. One time I got robbed by a teenaged girl in the local grocer’s when I was seven months on with her threat of a beating to ”make that baby come out in the store” if I didn’t fork over the $20 bill in my hand. The shopkeeper, a friend! looked the other way. And I worked every day, until labor started. I was up a ten foot ladder painting a mural in the Westbury Long Island Music Fair lobby five hours before giving birth after a frenzied trip to Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan. (I got paid early, it covered the bill of $150; thank you, Don Gilman).

And I will never forget one day racing like an engine on fire to a billboard painting job in Brooklyn….I had just dropped Trevor off at the lower Manhattan babysitter. The sign painter shop owner had a firm rule, one minute late and you didn’t get sent out on the job ~~ you got sent home. The taxi I could ill afford sped across the Brooklyn Bridge but was soon halted in its tracks by some son of a bitch I cannot forgive who’d chosen that morning to kill himself by leaping in the waters far below. Traffic stopped, sirens blared, nothing moved until the emergency was surrounded. By the time I got to the job I was three minutes late. I blamed the jumper, cried out that it would make the headlines in all the papers, believe me! and please give me the day’s work I need it, please! But the boss glared steely-eyed at me and said, Hey. Nobody told you to have a baby. Get lost, go home. I did.

Well life was like that, it just was, hardship was the juice sluicing the day’s tempo. I was on my own and there were more brutal edges than easy rides and you had to invent your pleasures out of thin air and take a good time where you found it. I still had hours of work ahead of me once we got home and I knew it. The thirty minutes or so that the car trip took was going to be the only relaxing part of the day I’d get and maybe (if lucky) see bed by midnight. It was warm and sunny that July Fourth, a beautiful blue skied prettiness in the air. Everyone not heading out to Coney Island for rides, dancing, beach fun and nighttime fireworks was heading into the city for the spectacular light and sound show NYC really knows how to put on. This was a special year, a very special year: the 200th Birthday of America, 1976.

For months, each day brought a new story about what was in store for us, most of them about The Tall Ships. It might have been the first of the tradition that became a yearly event. We’d all heard about the massive American flag that had been specially made for the event, to hang from the cables at the top of the Verrazano Bridge, across the center facing the water (rather than road traffic) to welcome the sailors. A week ago it was finished and delivered, and they’d hauled it into place. Some tricky job that high with something so huge. To everyone’s shocked amazement, within minutes of hanging it high, the winds up there shredded the flag to ribbons. Small flags on the guy wires were substituted. But we all knew whose birthday it was for the newspapers and radio and TV reported on all the human stories, the events planned, the politicians attending, the best place to see fireworks and ships, details were non-stop. New York was doing it up royal with a year of preparation leading to this Bi-Centennial Birthday.

Well there we were, mother and son in my beat up old Chevy heading back home and getting into thicker and thicker traffic and going slower and slower. We were on the Belt Parkway, which is a fabulous road I know and I adore. It hugs the river at the outskirt edge of Brooklyn, passing under the beginning earth-bound span of the Verrazano. You’re never far from the water. There’s a slim and pretty run of land between the road and the river that’s got grass and flowers and park benches and paved sidewalk, well used by a pleased public. For most New Yorkers, schedules prevail and stopping to smell the roses does not, so it was a road you could travel often without really being aware of its form and style and charm. The Belt Parkway was certainly not the center of anything, it was just a link to more important places. Nobody had reason to suppose that this part of Brooklyn might be included in the July 4 festivities.

Well as I said traffic slowed to a snail’s pace and that finally turned to a dead stop. We were next to the Verrazano Bridge, a beautiful span of architectural genius that was briefly the longest suspension bridge in the world; it connects Brooklyn and Staten Island. It was right there. As for the roadway, we were bumper to bumper as far as you could see in both directions, absolutely packed with only a couple of inches between the cars. Then suddenly The Tall Ships were there! Right in front of us!!

NEW YORK, NY-- Gloria, of Columbia.  Tall Ships from around the world anchored  south of the Verrazano Bridge on Tuesday, May 22, 2012 in preparation for Fleet Week, which begins on May 23rd.  The photographs were taken from The New York Water Taxi's Special OpSail 2012 Tall Ships Tour, to which the Wall Street Journal was given a complimentary pass. Credit: Andrew Hinderaker for The Wall Street Journal Slug: NYSTANDALONE

NEW YORK, NY– Gloria, of Columbia. Tall Ship

Apparently, The Tall Ships had gone up the Hudson in parade formation, sailed past Manhattan, come down the Narrows and were passing under that perfectly beautiful Verrazano right before our eyes. It was unbelievably stunning. Sailboats and clipper ships from all over the world appeared, broad spotless canvas whipped by the wind, white water bursting up alongside restored and ancient wooden bows as their underbellies sliced through the river and it just took your breath away. America’s red, white and blue flew from every mast. It made your heart stop. It overwhelmed the senses. The Tall Ships were vast and brilliant and blazingly heroic and nobody could get enough of them.

You just could hardly believe what you were seeing. For miles and miles cars had come to a standstill. New York City’s reputation would have called for ear shattering horn blowing at the traffic jam, furies of shaking fists, hurled epithets, donnybrooks and murder. Instead there was an absolute, total, complete, compliant silence.


Not one horn blew. Not one voice raised up. Radios were stilled. One by one, all of the people parked unexpectedly on the jammed up Belt Parkway shut down their motors. You could hear the wind move around you! The sound of water thrown against the river barriers! In New York! And a kind of mass phenomenon began to happen. I’m willing to bet no New Yorker had figured anything like it yet it started spontaneously and went on universally taking in every single person on that road. It was impossible. It was miraculous.

All of us, as if participants of a rehearsed ballet, were drawn from our cars. We turned our faces and bodies toward the water. We stood still and watched what nobody knew was going to be there in front of us. Sailing ships on parade. 2tallship  It seized your heart.

I got out too, and I lifted my four year old son onto the hood of our car. Mind you, we’re on a major thoroughfare surrounded by cars, all parked in place! Too bizarre. Then in hushed voice (to continue the moment’s dignity), my arm around him, I explained America’s 200th birthday, and the sweet sailing ships, and our citizenship, to the American child watching this with me.  I could see the fleeting images of miracles reflected in his eyes, adventures of his own making spread, visible, through his mind and body.

images The stillness, the whole huge emotional happy pride that thrilled everyone in their stilled cars for miles both directions that lasted a good fifteen minutes at least, maybe more. We waved to the intrepid sailors and they waved back! Then the ships passed out of view to begin the process, further down river, of negotiating their turns to come back.

Quiet continued to prevail along the parkway. There was not a single raised voice. The faces of people around me were, like my own felt and must have looked, aglow with the wonder of this, some near tears, everyone moved, thunderstruck by ourselves! By what we were witnessing!

Gradually all those New Yorkers stuck in traffic got back inside their cars. It was slow, thoughtful, even moody. Engines started up. And then as if on cue, the cars on the Belt Parkway, three lanes wide, began to move.

Trevor and I looked at each other. Pretty amazing, huh? I said. He was wide-eyed happy from it, too. He snuggled half in my lap and fell into a well-earned sleep and I put my arm around him. It was long before the days when child’s seats even existed in some fascist social engineer’s brain that now set children and parents separated on car trips. Foolishly distant, not touching not making any contact but sitting back to back! What gross horror.

But this was then, the good old days, and we were sticky and hot and tired and glued together with it all. We were both needing a good bath and change of clothes. I still had paint on me and Trevor was wearing some of the ice cream cone on his little yellow tee shirt. In truth we were wonderfully decorated for the holiday and it made me happy. It made me laugh out loud.

We picked up speed slowly along with the other cars around us. The crowded lanes began to open as we put some distance between each other and a kind of Brooklyn normalcy returned. The sun was beginning to go down enough so you could spot the first pale emerald green flicker of a fireworks spray that exploded into a huge dandelion shape over the waterway, in the sky, up ahead.

Happy Birthday, America. We will always be country ready for unexpected change, with the good people in it outnumbering the bad, and knowing who we are and knowing what we want.

And the times, and there are too many (maybe even unfairly), that I think I never got any part of motherhood right or did anything good for that little boy of mine I can pull this memory out of the mix and be warmed by it, being sure I passed something on that day, full of caring for him and what he learned and how he might grow up, the example of a tradition that I could show him and teach him, and by way of a special holiday that drew my son and me closer to each other than I’d ever thought to be making time for.

I wouldn’t swear to it, but I think I got touched by a loving motherhood that night that had previously eluded me. I picture it in the way a July 4 sparkler maybe would be held above the mom’s head in a benediction, bright jumping around happy promise lit on one end and some kind of fairy godmother holding it on the other end, saying it’s all gonna work out okay. Don’t worry, honey. You’ll be fine.

Not bad for the day’s celebration of freedom and liberty.

Happy July Four, 2015, everyone. Happy Birthday, America.



Oil on canvas, 11″ X 14 “

Were I either elephant or waterfall this would be a good way to spend the summer.

Silver Horse of Silver DawnSILVER HORSE, SILVER DAWN

Oil on Canvas, 11″ X 14″

I’ve been privileged to live in the company of some fabulous creatures.  This was outside my barn door every dawn, the occupants changing position and mood with the rising sun.  I lived in the tack room of a barn I’d converted to a studio and apartment.


Oil on Canvas, 11″ X 14″  e

I’m not sure how or why this got started in me but the longer I kept at it the more fun I was having.  I think it may be inside a cave, the lake is very shallow, and they’ve been there a good long time getting to know each other.  It’s nice and warm and there’s no hurry. Oh, and somehow the moon got in there. Unless it’s the sun.