(IV) A Mother’s Loss: GRIEF

It’s very hard still to describe accurately what intense grief causes.

Now that we’re talking about it, I remember some visualizing I did about coming back to life and it was this…

I saw that I was kind of on plateaus I had climbed to, pulled myself up to from a very foggy bottom. There was almost always a rope bridge to cross, there was nothing about the trail leading to the new level place that did not involve fear and danger. But then I’d be there. And realize I had got there. And look back and see the place I had been, below, and that I was no longer in it.

It was an enormously pleasant, rewarding thing to see. Most of the time for especially the first two years I didn’t think I was leaving the insanity at all or getting better, yet was on some level very determined to be fully functional again.  It’s very hard still to describe accurately what intense grief causes. It’s different than depression. It’s different than sadness. It’s different than a deep neurosis or psychosis. It’s grief and has it’s own defining and I still can’t describe it well. It’s very out of body, very like being on another planet, a loss of normal references, information, history.

I wasn’t sure I’d write Edith’s Story at all. But you know, John, it was a new place for me that put me where other human beings have gone before or are going through now, and for that reason I thought well damn, record it.

When I decided to write that story it was in part to remember my child and in part to forgive myself for some of my very bad parenting.

Edith’s Story is published in The Gandy Dancer & Other Short Stories.


Part 4 of 4

[NOTE: A Google search yields no mention of Trevor Paul Sparhawk, nor can I find any record of his traffic fatality in NYC archives – although I may need to dig a bit deeper. If anyone reading this knew or knows of or has any information about Trevor, his life and/or death, PLEASE email me at oops.john@gmail.com]

(III) A Mother’s Loss: THERAPY

All of a sudden I start to paint a child, about 7 or 8 or 10. And of course my head’s already at war, pretending there’s no significance. Oh just a child. I think I’ll make it a little girl. Feeding one of the birds on the steps. But all that’s crap because it’s not just a child and not a little girl it’s my son, and there he is.


[From a letter addressed to South African painter, Jolande Hesse]

“I would like to suggest something, which has taken me a long time to discover about painting and I would like to pass on to you.

It is possible, in creative work, to change and alter realities. It’s useful as a fundamental source of experimentation, but can go beyond that into the realm of self-fulfilling prophecy. Not too many years ago I was doing a great deal of traveling, living rough, and all my things were stored on the other coast. I was heartbroken over the separation. I started a painting of a wonderful big studio with me in it, in a fabulous bed, with everything I owned and missed around me, including the spirits of friends and animals. Studio and Spirit Dreams was the result. Afterward I ended up moving into several very similar places. The painting was cathartic.

Sixteen years ago when my son died I was swamped in grief. I have literally been unable to paint him at all. Only this past week I started a painting (without knowing where it was heading) of a wonderful garden island paradise, filled with birds and insects, flowers, sailing ships, a jeep, beautiful skies…then suddenly at the end of my brush my son appeared in it, and it was his. It is, in truth, the way for me to picture him still growing up with all the delightful things around him that I would have wanted him to have, to play and explore. It has certainly produced a great deal of emotion in me to paint it, which has turned from tears to delight in short order. And a sense of making something right over which, gone so wrong, I had no control. I’m suggesting this in part because . . . of your own story. You are new to painting, and wonderful at it. Instead of years usually wasted in developing technique that is ultimately discarded in favor of originality, you went right in with your heart in your hand, and it’s wonderful to see. I suggest you consider this skill as a playground for your imagination, to use in a way that will liberate you, and the subjects you paint, even more.

Artists have it in them to absorb and feel the depth of despair of life, and also to walk, with the viewer’s hand in ours, to imagined wonders that resonate with hope.”


The memories of my son always lurk, hover. Sometimes surface, sometimes a surprise arrival. wHOOOOOSH! I still cannot fully resolve the experience in me. I don’t know why. Maybe it never leaves anyone. But I want to somehow conquer the despair, to end the despair.

I get fairly trembling if I go into it all. And that scares me because it led me to a very bad place when he died, those first couple of years, not any place I want to go again.

So I’m back in the gallery painting on the landscape. I know it’s lacking. I’m adding some interesting things but there are still big open spaces I don’t know what to put in, make it more, make it better.

All of a sudden I start to paint a child, about 7 or 8 or 10. And of course my head’s already at war, pretending there’s no significance. Oh just a child. I think I’ll make it a little girl. Feeding one of the birds on the steps.

But all that’s crap because it’s not just a child and not a little girl it’s my son, and there he is.

So I’m getting very shaky and starting to cry, thinking what the hell am I doing to myself. And then I thought if I make it right maybe that’s precisely what I’ve needed to do. I haven’t been able to paint him at all. So I make myself keep at it until the form is right. I add a big Labrador. A jeep. Now he’s got a dog and toy. And the animals. And the garden, and off in a wild place with a wide open sky. And the bird, the hawk I started painting two days ago is really a sparrowhawk, wings spread, soaring, and Trevor’s on the steps under the sparrowhawk.

Trevor’s Treasure Island


I started thinking today that I’m not entirely pleased with the way I’m painting, almost as if everything I’ve done up until now is not right, or wrong, or off, or problematic. I end up with colors on the brush I don’t want, and then work and work on it and suddenly there’s a combination that’s so right it makes me cry.

I’m also doing essentially the first portrait of Trevor. He’s not the center of the painting but an important part. He’s a young boy on this strange bit of land, he is leaning forward feeding crows. I know much is coming from my subconscious. Without specifically planning it he appeared under a large protective sparrowhawk. It was going to be only a large sky and landscape, and there are massive flowers front and center, then I kind of started creating a treasure island, for Trevor, and oh God the things that have come into it, birds and emotions and sailboats and a jeep and more birds and dragonflies and crashing waves and trees and it’s getting very Hieronymus Bosch-y actually now I write this out.

I have likely studiously avoided delving very deep into anything, imagining I’d return to shaky ground. It’s so interesting to have you to write to, I swear. It helps me understand myself.

But the problem with not delving is a run of superficiality, which I don’t care much for either. I kept painting, saying, it’s not beautiful, it’s not beautiful….and then there’d be a start of something that worked, that was.

I think I may be having some rush of feeling to put everything in it that didn’t get done, know what I mean? It’s some kind of completing thing. I worked hours on Trevor. I wanted the physical to be just right, he’s leaning forward, in curiosity not a boy’s mischief. I want it sweet. There’s not much detail on the face and may not be, it’s the posture that says it, the position of the hands and legs. It sure is a major challenge of portrait work, and I’m about to start yours. There is so much in an expression, so much subtlety to get right so that it is what I want to say, unmistakably. And I am finding much fault with myself. It’s not flowing.

Well, I’m obviously consumed with all this. I will eventually have a breakthrough, because that’s the way it happens. If I can let it all sort of play out by itself it will paint itself.

The central flowers were initially on stalks, a very crowded base of leaves and stalks, and late today I set them all free as if they’d taken off in the wind. Some metaphor.

I’m sorry to be so preoccupied. Bless your heart for listening. And how I love thinking of you with the straightforward, wholesome work with feral creatures and big open skies.


I suddenly began to re-work a portrait of Trevor I started in 1996 and it was not good then. I have had the past two days of fluent emotional peaking and am finally getting into it in unexpected ways. It’s very different from the way I normally paint.

Trevor was born February 27th, 1972 and died January 27th, 1996.

I will say this for being a parent which I can only guess at with my own or other parents but I have the feeling it’s universal, which is that there is never a day that goes by that you don’t think about your child. This may be very good for me, the portrait is evolving into something remarkable. And I am trying not to burden it with, and in the process free myself from, all the weighty memories.

And two hours later, okay. I’m okay. I didn’t go nuts or die. I started something likely very important, or it drew me in.


The painting of Trevor is getting fascinating. A great challenge, and very good to see. The act of painting is taking over. I’m inventing a face I don’t think I ever saw, with a slight beard, JH inspired likely. Trevor and the royal Princes could all be kin, he looked like a skinnier version of Harry. I’m working on your portrait too and the one of me and the cats.  Good painting going on.


I am having some fine metamorphosis with painting. I’ve tried a great many things in my life, and there is always a point where I understand and accomplish to a certain level and then it gets boring and I turn from it, on to the next. I note that painting is a singular experience. I am staying with it, a lifetime, and it continues to open new doors. Amazing to me. And my increased facility is actually making the experience more inviting, not less.

I spent several hours again on Trevor’s portrait today. Very pleased with the results. I still can’t stay beyond a certain point

I’m painting Trevor looking very alive and happy. It’s a good painting. Wait til you see.

Trevor Paul Sparhawk

I used to be scared of experimenting. I’d think, What if I throw some blue in there? I’d been meticulously building in one direction and was afraid I’d irreparably spoil what I’d been working on. Now I’m all gung-ho doing, and it’s incredible freedom. Turns out nothing is sacred in that insight and challenge are more important than the illusion of success by repetition.

Painting, any art, has always been like a laboratory to me when I’m doing it best. Which is why I never could bear commercial art for long, beyond earning a living and learning something new, briefly. It’s all style in preference to substance.


[Yours] . . .  is such a solid, valid observation. I’m going through exactly this with Trevor’s portrait, asking him about the things I don’t know, that I want his time on earth to be incredibly full.  He’s maybe older in my portrait of him than an age he ever reached, maybe not.  He had a beautiful little body as a child, and grown up.  I’m working on his neck and collar bone, face, eyes, background.  I was about five hours painting today, and it’s getting very good. I want no tension in his face, a laugh that’s pure joy in the presence of good company, abandoned to a near guffaw.  It presents challenges to paint, several of which I have not dealt with before. And this memorializing, it extends a life I feel. That and all the lefts unsaid. A friend told me once of his best friend who’d committed suicide, Oh God! He would have loved it now! He would have loved this decade!! which seems so true of so many.

I think of that all the time.


Painted on Trevor’s portrait about four hours or so. I’m trying to get the expression just right, the mouth.  I’ve gotten both eyes in very good shape, very pleased. More work on nose and beard. Teary of course, oh Lord. It’s impossible and wrong that he died, John. It’s so wrong.


I spent hours, all day, in the gallery working on Trevor’s portrait, and took some pictures, not sure if I got it right. Or if it’s actually finished.  I’ve become involved in the side and backgrounds, lots of flowers and vines, I am always so desperately trying to give the child bouquets.


Well, it has not been an easy go but I’m at the finish, in the vicinity. I want him immortal, John.  Then back fulsome to your portrait.  I never fail to learn so much with any painting but more especially portraits, and I will be adding that to yours.


Well, despite poverty at every turn I am buoyed by the fine work on the painting of my only child and that I will make him immortal which he was destined for and this close of reaching on his own. My little boy.


I suppose by divine purpose the portrait of Trevor will be completed tomorrow, his birthday. I spent many hours today, and had gotten the left eye as good as the right, and the rest has fallen into place and there’s not much left to go.

It has been spurts of conversation and despair and hope.

Part 3 of 4 to be posted consecutively

[NOTE: A Google search yields no mention of Trevor Paul Sparhawk, nor can I find any record of his traffic fatality in NYC archives – although I may need to dig a bit deeper. If anyone reading this knew or knows of or has any information about Trevor, his life and/or death, PLEASE email me at oops.john@gmail.com]


(II) A Mother’s Loss: GHOSTS

I couldn’t stop watching him. I think Trevor does send these children and young men to me.


I saw a young boy about ten with his dad in Safeway checking out right behind me, and in a flash got all choked up. I smiled at the boy and said it was a pleasure to see him there, and I wish you well, and a very good, fulfilling life. And smiled at his dad and said, Which I know you will have.

John, he just beamed. A sprout of a kid, nice dad who was tall and you could see the boy beginning to catch up with him in that elongated stretch kids do in growth spurts where they thin out and loom upward and you can’t keep up with clothes and sneakers or enough food. They were wonderful together, easy, comfortable. I started to cry and turned away and stopped, and a minute or two later said something lighter about the food, his basket and mine, and said goodbye. I didn’t have to say what moved me, seeing a youngster okay, well, alive. His dad knew. The country knows.


I was in Safeway this morning (jelly donut) and in line behind a young woman with her son, five. Named Malachi. Very shy. I was talking to him trying to encourage him to respond. Reminded me of Trevor so much, little shy blond child. His mother said they’d just gone through lessons about not talking to strangers, I said I was sorry he was growing up in a world like that, his mom said, It’s okay, you can talk to him, but to no avail.

I couldn’t stop watching him. I think Trevor does send these children and young men to me. Then I started to cry, tears just rolling down my face. I said to her quietly I’d lost my own child, I wanted to explain myself so she wouldn’t be alarmed but I hesitate because hearing it is alarming to any mother. The Safeway guy and bagger were so clearly moved after she’d gone, I mean I’m standing there with tears rolling down me and saying, I’m sorry, You never know when it’s going to hit, you think you’re okay then something happens and boom.


A couple of hours ago I went up to the gallery and passed a car next to Bob’s saddlery that wasn’t familiar. Young kid in the front seat passed out over the steering wheel. Frankly I thought he was dead. I shook his shoulder, he suddenly popped up, incoherent, I asked if he had overdosed on something, did he need an ambulance (I’m embarrassingly dumb), he didn’t know where he was or where he lived. He staggered out and peed over my garden then got back in his car and passed out again.  Well everybody’s gone, so I drove down the block to the ranch guards, they knew him, he comes to visit his grandfather and robs him. I asked them to call the police. No sign of law after 15 minutes so I drove to the gas station and called from there, help was on the way.  By the time I was back an ambulance (not needed) was pulling out and three sheriff’s cars and the kid up and doing perp walk back-cuffed and they know him real good. Out of jail two weeks. The sheriff said the whole family are into drugs and alcohol, the father’s a doctor, they live at Carmel Valley Ranch which is VERY pricey millionaire homes, the father keeps kicking him out, he gets arrested and bailed. 

It was upsetting. I finally cried. I figured I should have taken the keys, it would have been a nightmare with him on the road, he was near comatose. Why didn’t I bring him home and feed him coffee and eggs and give him a place to sleep it off. All I could feel was angry he was being so stupid (and stupid a long time) and kept thinking of him driving away. I did not feel protective or caring or motherly at all. But he was just a kid. I’d have felt more for a stray or hungry or sick dog.

I don’t understand myself.

When Trevor died it was five in the morning and he’d been at a friend’s house partying and was driving the friend’s car and wanted to get back home to clean up for an interview later that morning for a THIRD job he wanted and fell asleep at the wheel.  Maybe that’s the anger, or the immediate reaction Don’t Let Him Drive! and why didn’t Trevor’s friends do that. Or did they? Maybe he took the car without asking and everyone else was asleep. And I don’t know and never will.

Life is so damn interesting.

After getting myself traumatized with memories last night I find the morning has produced a sense of liberation after all.  I initially just reacted as another person, a stranger to that boy drugged up in his car. Later I transposed my son which flooded me with…way too much of everything.

This morning I feel a kind of abandonment of these years of weighty responsibility for EVERYTHING that ever happened to Trevor. I think I first saw the boy as a separate human who was making his own life and mistakes.

I’ll tell you this, John. There is never a loss from engagement. It is always a benefit even if on unseen levels. Eventually comes the new dawn.

Thank you for being there to talk to. The extent of trust and friendship between us is just enormous, I hoped shared, and means so much to me.


Speaking of children, Trevor unexpectedly came to visit just after I’d woken up a few days ago.  I probably had been dreaming of him.  We planned a breakfast, first of pancakes and then crepes.  He checked to see if we had all we needed and brought it out on the kitchen counter.  He set the table.  We were both so excited.  He was about four.  Then shortly after we planned a trip to Big Sur, the Andrew Molera park and walking along Big Sur River to the ocean.  We had to pick out clothes and stuff to put in the car.  He was about ten then.  I said if we could find an empty parking lot or back road, he could practice driving again.  He was very pleased.  A few hours had passed and he was 13.

I’ve stopped thinking it insanity.  If anything, it’s calming for me.  I get to say and do much unsaid and undone.  Or not done.  The tragedy is that the undoing can’t happen.  I barely remember ever cooking for us.  So I’m changing that. I rather like it.  I suspect it’s also part of the children’s books writing, talking to my child.


I go to Safeway for Thomas Jefferson’s cat food. I’m in line, long stupid line, and a woman comes up behind me and calls my name.

It’s a Cachagua friend I haven’t seen in three or four years. I’m very fond of her. She’s tiny, dark, Indonesian. Her husband’s a big Irish redhead. They built a spectacular winery out there, way out past Carmel Valley, gorgeous land, successful. Four years ago her son, 18, died in a car crash on Carmel Valley Road. He drove into a tree and died at once. She and I have helped each other when we talk. I like her so much, very solid, very bright.

As we’re moving through the slow line I’m telling her about the experience with the painting. With Trevor.

Maybe they’re up there, playing together. Your son and mine.

She’s a Buddhist. Amazing woman.

Part 2 of 4 to be posted consecutively

[NOTE: A Google search yields no mention of Trevor Paul Sparhawk, nor can I find any record of his traffic fatality in NYC archives – although I may need to dig a bit deeper. If anyone reading this knew or knows of or has any information about Trevor, his life and/or death, PLEASE email me at oops.john@gmail.com]

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


Copy of Iris, Paints, Brushes outside wall  

New painting, Oil on Canvas. 14 x 11 inches

I can’t help it, I get a lot of pleasure painting the every day view of my environs. And the tools of my trade, the artifacts. I’ve got enough ego to suppose it is of some historical value to see the stuff (and sometimes nonsense) of the lusty endeavors of a lifetime of such pursuits. Here it is at its core: Aroma. Color. Texture. I cannot imagine a life not including the earthy pungent smell Damar varnish or stand oil, of halucination-worthy pigments.
No it’s not a yacht parked in the Mediterranian aglow with chunky bottomed oiled up overpaid celebrities, manicured lives and awash in Veuve Clicquot..

More a life where the dreadful spectre of eating pigment, wearing canvas, and drinking smelly flower water lurks ever.

But a good life, nonetheless.


BIG SUR ~~ 2 SEASCAPES:  (one with sky and one with rock)Ocean, Wild Sky  Wild Sky, High TidePfeiffer Beach, Big Sur  Big Sur Ocean Storm

Waterlilies under bridge Waterlilies Under the BridgeDSCF5612  Large Meadowside Calla LilyDSCF5616 Yellow Tulips in Glass PitcherBridgeside Cafe, near full  The Bridgeside Cafe

DSCF5693  Backgarden Silver Rose

SPARHAWK original paintings are available for purchase. If any of my works interest you, please email me


to inquire about availability, size, more photos, etc.

Thanks for visiting


Gene Roddenberry:
“Jump off the cliff first then grow the wings.”


I quote an actor, sailor and explorer here, from his autobiography:

(On the road, Summertime, 1977)
“I have long been both dismayed and astonished by the disparity that exists between the world known in the dreams of youth and the world we find ourselves faced with…..They never taught wandering in any school I attended….Or that of writing a book. It’s all so mysterious and~~yes~~enchanting….the free-swinging, far-rolling time when, however rough the going you have the feeling: “Fuck it! I wouldn’t swap places with anyone else for anything on this earth.”

…Sterling Hayden. From his book: Wanderer


He was one sort of big game hunter. The quarry? Robust life itself.

About hunting and hunters of animals? I don’t know your opinion of hunting animals of course. I find that I have apparently mixed pro and con in me, which I’m not sure I knew before writing this.

For instance, up until the age of ten I thought it fine to have a raccoon cap, though I surely did not literally (nor mentally) make the bloody pass from kill-and-skin to look like Davy Crockett when I wanted one to show me off in town or playground. Likewise it did not register in me that in order to get a handsome fringed buckskin shirt like Buffalo Bob (Howdy Doody’s best friend) or a suede frock like Princess SummerFallWinterSpring I’d have to bring down and skin a buck, shear off meat and bone, and sew the garment up.

Around that time my mother owned a fox stole in which two tails met somehow at the back and two fox heads met across her breasts. A furrier’s sewed-in metal jaw allowed for attaching one to the other. On some part. I’m not sure about the protocol. Such pathetically displayed foxes were certainly big middle class chic of the 1940’s and ’50’s. I don’t remember any moral repulsion in me, though I thought it vulgar and sad. I did not covet it. I did not pet it. I did not secretly try it on.

I was around nine years old being instructed on how to traverse the rapids of the Mississippi River in a canoe on an exciting voyage of two weeks. Alongside the mighty river on our second night out I watched fascinated (with the other five children) as our counsellor (by campfire) identified, ordered us safe distance from, then caught a deadlyImage result for COTTONMOUTH SNAKES Cottonmouth snake who’d set up camp before we had. She brilliantly trapped it behind its jaws with a forked stick (which she grabbed out of thin air a second after spotting the Cottonmouth) killed it with one swift sure knife swipe (drawn from her hip sheath), instructed us Missouri younguns about the placement of its organs, how to clean it, and before we reached home she wore it, having sewn it around her leather belt. I found it bloody marvelous. Thrilling.

I have eaten wild game caught and prepared by friends. I have not once (yet) in my life had to depend on hunting wild animals in order to eat in order to live. Though I’ve had some barren pantry stretches where I wish I’d known how to make that work.

I can catch little to medium fish, even large Atlantic Bluefish. And more common crab, catfish and trout. But I am not a true skilled hunter. Nor would I trust my survival skills in discovering the edible among a mushroom cluster beneath the mighty Sequoia, or coming face to face with the delightful fruit of an unfamiliar berry patch and being wise. Not even if distracted by ephemeral fields of seductive wildflowers.

So I am somewhat surprised that for the past few months I’ve grown fascinated by a group of people whose lives in the early part of the last century seem to have crossed brief or long, who learned the ways of desolate places, did depend on wild caught game, part for sustenance or earning a living or part for pleasure of the kill. In fact a number of them made a living out of leading expeditions through savage and spectacular landscapes for the restive wealthy. Every one of them interested in seeing how they might react if threatened with a horrible demise, yet surviving. Hunting as a way to test reflex and endurance and the heart’s strength.

I’m suspending judgement for the moment.  It seems to me if I go gathering a reflection of those various lives, they had developed an emotional dependence on feral experiences; on lives lifted slightly off the ground; on nights uncommonly wet or cold or days deep or high or dawn that came at them hot or dry and bloody.

Hemingway was there too, though peripheral to this particular lot. Most all of them wrote books that were, driven by empirical experience, hard to resist.
These were European, royalty:
Image result for saint exuperyANTOINE de SAINT EXUPERY ~~of a centuries-old French family. A bad student and school drop-out, he became an explorer-pilot extraordinaire adored by his country and then the world; he wrote marvelous books about being in the cockpit of the early aeroplane, spanning a clouded night sky across the dangerous Pyrenees then over endless Sahara to the civilized lights of Casablanca or Paris in honored mail-runs. French pilots, whose plane engines frequently dropped out of their planes and fell to earth, and (if they survived the landing, and if tracked by Bedouin) were captured and kept as slaves. Saint Exupery wrote about a child who lived on a far off planet with a petulant rose, sheep and volcanos (Le Petit Prince). At the age of 44 Saint Exupery was blindsided by fog-enshrouded White Cliffs of Dover on a wartime spy mission. He crashed then dropped into the sea, undiscovered until 2012.

  BERYL MARKHAM  Image result for beryl markham was two or three years old when her British father, C.B. Clutterbuck, who loved all animals, moved his family to Kenya to expand his career to Africa and set up stables to breed, train and race horses. Beryl’s mother went back to civilization less than a year later without her child. The father stayed and got famous, taught Beryl well about tame and wild things; the native children were her jungle companions, she learned to hunt with a spear, was gored by a lion, trained and raced horses, and led a life of the most stunning independence imaginable. The six foot tall, glamorous athletic blue eyed blond fell in love with airplanes and set unique flying records and wrote one fabulous book about her doings which is poetically beautiful and stirring to the core.

The gutsy Dane, adventuress and writer KAREN BLIXEN also led me into delicious far off places. I’ve loved my hitchhike on her magic forays to the fantastic (nom de plume Isak Denisen): the spartan human kindness of Babette’s Feast; the expansive Out of Africa; the curious Seven Gothic Tales. As well as her fascinating husband, lovers, movies, articles, and through casual reference to her fellows on similar trails in the three or four decades from 1900 next on. She wed an amiable royal cousin Baron Bror von Blixen for his title and her chance for an extraordinary life. They were in their early 20’s when they moved to Africa on her money to explore, to hunt, to farm. Along with sharing the most rare sort of life in unequaled landscapes under endlessly clarion skies, providing themselves an opportunity otherwise impossible in rigid Scandinavian society, and a chance for Karen’s ingenuity and courage to bloom large, Bror soon abandoned her (and their farm) for big game, lengthy safaris, short wars, and other women. He also infected Karen with syphilis, gotten from his casual romps with native Kenyan women. The Baroness never recovered in full from the toxic, devastating cure of the venereal disease, though she never stopped loving or admiring Bror. Indeed, though the alliance was unexpectedly costly she swore she never regretted it. She outlived him by 17 years; he tragically died at 60 from a car accident in Sweden~1946; she said she missed him til the day she died.

   DENYS FINCH HATTON ~~the swashbuckling son of an Earl; his mother~~daughter of the Admiral of the Fleet Sir Henry Codrington. He was schooled at Eton and Oxford, Captain of Cricket Eleven, President of the Music Society. In 1910 Finch Hatton traveled to South Africa where, on the west side of the Great Rift Valley he bought acreage–then gave it up to a partner to manage. Denys Finch Hatton went hunting. In Kenya he was close friends to European royalty including the Honorable Berkely Cole, aristocrat, brother-in-law to Baron Delamere who ran the Kenyan white colony. Denys Finch-Hatton and Karen Blixen fell in love. After she separated from Bror, Finch-Hatton moved in with her on the coffee plantation she’d built and continued to work for its success. Denys took the Baroness on her first flight. He also taught neighboring Beryl Markham to fly a plane, brought her along on his safaris, and shared her love of Africa. Karen Blixen returned to Denmark. Markham eventually flew herd-spotting flights for Bror Blixen’s safaris; they had become close and admired each other’s unique skills with wildlife, shooting, safari organizing, and flying.

I’ve read their own words, biographies about them, their autobiographical notes on each other. I invite you to drink at this deep remarkable well of human experience. It will boost your imagination, your spirit, and your courage as it has mine. I’m not sure the order of introduction matters; leap in anywhere.

It’s BROR VON BLIXEN’s autobiography, African Hunter, [​IMG]that I’m reading now and that after already liking him a whole lot as portrayed in the movie Out of Africa by Klaus Maria Brandauer I confess to adoring the fellow again, only 100 pages into his book. Von Blixen came from a royal shooting and hunting culture in Sweden, thought of as a birthright, and a means of testing the mind’s cunning, physical skill, and durability. He prefered at least a stand-off. The animals obviously were not armed with guns. But the bullets fired (or misfired) did not always hit a mortal target yet wild prey were armed indeed with claw and tooth and athletic endurance. Baron Bror von Blixen never freed himself of severe malaria gotten from Africa, the bouts lasting his whole life never killed him. He reportedly withstood sickness and injury with an enviable constitution. Markham reported that Blixen dropped in place on the safari trail one day from malaria, unable to get back on his feet for 24 hours of convulsive fever after which he stood up and continued on his mission. He had numerous close calls with death brought on by furied elephants, vicious buffalo, violent boar, hippo, rhino, and self-respecting lions. Bror was generally loved and admired by men and women for his wit, deep friendships, good heart, and lust for adventure at any expense. Bror Blixen fell head over heels in love with Africa. He had come from a wealthy, titled family but turned from them and at 25 years old, headed (with Karen and on her money) into the dark continent to use the shooting skills, bravado, and determination cultivated by the aristocratic Swedes who had born and raised him. The irony of his death, a man who lived so dangerously stopped by an automobile in town, stunned his friends.

In 1928 the Prince of Wales first found Bror and Karen in Arusha en route to Nairobi, and ordered up a lion hunt. They developed a friendship and a common new interest in photographic and movie safaris. Bror later said getting a wild beast to come nose to nose with a camera you were holding was no less heroic than standing your ground with a gun.

Through their own writing you will not fail to see that side of any of these characters as blood-thirsty; self-involved; even sadistic. But you also need your imagination picturing the life which is a hard translate into our present day 21st Century, cosmopolitan world. They killed lions and elephants when possible, leaving the younger, lighter-weight tusked elephants and rhinos (under 100 lbs) for a later day. There were menacing man-eating lions near villages, happily hunted down and killed to stop the human slaughter, in one case over 60 residents. There was skinning the bounty to send off as trophies to delighted and grateful European nobility. And the especially handsome monetary reward of feeding the Asian aphrodisiac market for horn and tusk. They organized horseback hunting, men racing in full gallop across the Serengeti, across rocky plains after buffalo and lion (animals good in spurts but not endurance) and the speed, the roughly cratered ground, the salt sweat and saliva burst up from their horses as they hung tightly with their thighs and arms, being swatted by the odors of the trapped prey, and becoming the conquerors, hunting for murder and finding it and feeling lively from it.

It’s there for sure, no good pretending otherwise. There are other ways they could have felt life. I am not of that time or world, and excuse my slipping off it’s previously important cause to me now, because it is incidental to what draws me to them. I no longer care about the hunting. The more I read I also find them honorable and compassionate. And I need more of the other stuff of them. There were explorers like Thor Heyerdahl who did not seek to draw blood and I loved him first.

What draws me to them is this: I read each one’s story with their inclusion of bristling, chilling, dangerous discomfort. Tracking through unforgiving jungles past herds and packs of man-killers. Getting lost with no saving equipment or supplies. Making an airplane runway by hand out of dense thorny thicket in the hope of being spotted, found and saved. Crash landing their primitive planes on savage turf and only oneself to rely on, then finding a way to safety with a broken, bloodied body, and disoriented mind. Lost at sea and having only hope on which to ride safe to shore, which is somewhere, that way, maybe. Of weeks unending spent under roughest circumstances, without bathing, enough food, or water. Or out for weeks, then camping with companions, killing and staging animals for bait, preparing and eating rough cooked meat, and the jungle life altogether.

Well, read and picture it because you will not see it exactly spelled out on biographical pages, or often see an actor or actress spotted with blood, rarely looking anything less than laundered, starched and pressed. But these are the men and women who would skin a lion in the wild places, spot where they were shot to ground. Or would uproot the tusks from newly dead flesh with knife and chisel out of massive still hot-with-life creatures weighing thousands of pounds just shot between the eyes or in ear or into mouth. They got not just dusty but bloodied, the kind of detail of this particular breed of persons we might get to know more with the full picture. Karen Blixen I am guessing was a tough, imaginative, violent little broad more than the tidy, plucky cream-puff she has been played and Africa brought out the savage waiting in her, released it. I want to know her better, that aspect of her for what it might teach me. I did not think I knew her, nor any of them, not real knowing. Unless you imagine all the particulars of a life you can’t.

Or unless you live it too, in some way.

Nonetheless, it is a fascinating period seldom celebrated so much as it may deserve. I believe these lives were overshadowed by near biblical events, the dreadful horrors of WWI (1914-1918), the Russian Revolution of 1918, the Stock Market Crash (1929) and the Depression (1929-1939). History so carefully recorded disaster, not superficially or falsely, but through all that sordid angst and despair and death we fail to cast equal light on the swift and stunning growth of mankind’s freedom as the roads and skies were opened wide and conquered, lives of striking adventures were lived and written up by men and women. This makes me curious. And I suspect along with seeing the gore we need to see, to cherish, to honor, to cleave to, and search out the excitement of being alive.

The stupendous birth of flight was 112 years ago~1903~Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Thank you Wilbur and Orville Wright for your perseverance and sacrifice. You both nearly died trying to be airborne as others similarly experimenting did die. You gave the substance to human dreams of flight since the dawn of time.

Then there is also this:
Antoine de Saint-Exupery: Night Flight ~ 1932,
Beryl Markham: West With the Night ~ 1934
Baroness Karen von Blixen: Out of Africa ~ 1937
Baron Bror von Blixen: African Hunter ~ 1938
Antoine de Saint-Exupery: Wind, Sand and Stars ~ 1939
Consuelo de Saint-Exupery: The Tale of the Rose ~ c.1940’s (An autobiography of their life together, by the wife of Antoinne; posthumously published in 2000; it was discovered 2 decades after her 1979 death; written in the ’40’s and hidden away by her.)

For good measure (both of which you must read):
Jack London: Valley of the Moon ~ 1913
and half a century later:
Sterling Hayden: Wanderer ~ 1963

There are of course so many more. The Europeans were typically aristocrats, the Americans were not. And such a defining and oft forgotten boon to human beings is that America was uniquely, singularly, originally to the human condition and experience….classless. It’s what’s meant by American exceptionalism. It still exists despite detracting arguments to the contrary. It cannot be said or examined or celebrated enough. You do not need credentials to become anything under the sun. Europeans, indeed all other cultures on the planet were restricted by birthplace, heredity, education, accents….all unflexible. We didn’t like it and we sailed west.

But this interesting mix, it so pleases me to discover and re-discover these unusual women and men who took off into places brightly lit and dark as pitch to better understand themselves, the times and places and planet they live on, and have~~at the very least~~one hell of a romp in the process.

On a numberless page in the start of Wanderer, American actor Sterling Hayden dedicates his book to his wife. He writes:
To Catherine Devine Hayden
Who had the heart
To join with me
And plunge
Into the Abyss
Where books like this are written
Thanks, Sterling Hayden. And those who came before you and after and the breadcrumbs you all left along the path

for the rest of us. Yum.


Copy of Copy of DSCF2378

You Are Old Father William…yet


  A Poem By Lewis CarrollFile:AAUG p52.png(an illustration by Lewis Carroll himself)

“You are old, Father William,” the young man said,
“And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head—
Do you think, at your age, it is right?”

“In my youth,” Father William replied to his son,
“I feared it might injure the brain;
But now that I’m perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again.”

“You are old,” said the youth, “As I mentioned before,
And have grown most uncommonly fat;
Yet you turned a back-somersault in at the door—
Pray, what is the reason of that?”

“In my youth,” said the sage, as he shook his grey locks,
“I kept all my limbs very supple
By the use of this ointment—one shilling the box—
Allow me to sell you a couple?”

“You are old,”      said the youth, “And your jaws are too weak
For anything tougher than suet;
Yet you finished the goose, with the bones and the beak—
Pray, how did you manage to do it?”

“In my youth,” said his father, “I took to the law,
And argued each case with my wife;
And the muscular strength which it gave to my jaw,
Has lasted the rest of my life.”

“You are old,” said the youth, “one would hardly suppose
That your eye was as steady as ever;
Yet you balanced an eel on the end of your nose—
What made you so awfully clever?”

“I have answered three questions, and that is enough,”
Said his father; “don’t give yourself airs!
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
Be off, or I’ll kick you down stairs!”

(John Tenniel’s Illustrations)

         Though youth is perpetually surprised at the flexibility, wisdom and guile of their elders, likely the lad bought the ointment “one shilling the box”, as when we are young we seek to perserve all that we do not yet have worth perserving before we’ve gotten old enough to be doing interesting things with our lives which are splendid enough to crow about.

William Hague’s 83 Year Old Father ~ Wing Walking

THE FARM CENTER ~ Carmel Valley Magic – 5 miles inland


This blog below was written over five years ago.  The Farm Center has so dramatically changed nothing about it is recognizable.  Everyone who made it beautiful, including me, has moved out.  I had a remarkable four years there. It was once all magic. There just isn’t anything left.


is a charming small magical island with more wide-open space around us than people ~~ between the ocean.  It’s half way, only miles inland, sun-filled and delightful. There’s a huge, welcoming meadow DSCF3438for walking next to the Carmel River (path next to the bridge) where Steelhead run, ducks bob. Condor, Hawks, Heron, Seagulls, Wrens, Blue Jays, Crows fill sky and tree….the ancient live oak, the Redwood, Aspen, Willow trees. Every side road is decked with reeds, flowering trees, Magnolias, Cherry, Pear, Apple, Plum. Deer roam in day and mountain lions stalk nights along the river banks.  Before heading further out to the Village for vineyards and wine tasting, before the cattle of Cachagua and just past the shopping center, is THE FARM CENTER and GRANGE.

   THE FARM CENTER Farm CenterFarm Center just before thRobinson Canyon, newis the oldest building in Carmel Valley (And Jack London Slept There)  It’s closed right now, used to be occupied by a wonderful sculptor named Paul, some of his sculptings and his gardens remain on view. THE FARM CENTER is a small group of fabulous little SHOPS just a few feet off Carmel Valley Road beyond the Safeway Shopping Center. Angels, Dancing on TreetopsIn it you will find Char ETIENNE ANTIQUES FOR HOME AND GARDEN(she also designs landscaping) with exquisite things and has a spectacular back garden to wander through.

Then DSCF4194THE HAWKS PERCH GALLERY, the only art gallery in mid-Valley and the best on the Central Coast!  And I also carry Ron Wohlauer Photographs. Run by the  EXPRESSIONIST PAINTER ~~me~~ BARBARA SPARHAWK.  I accept portrait commissions of people and animals, SIGNS of any kind made to order.  I sell my own beautiful oil paintings of Big Sur Kitchen, Rabbit Vase and PoppiesFLORALS and LANDSCAPES and PORTRAITS, WATERCOLORS, PEN & INKS, and imaginings at unimaginably low prices!  I want everyone in the world to own a Sparhawk Original.  Heron-Otter on Wind, Night Sky, Pfeiffer Beach

Next to THE HAWKS PERCH gallery is the most extraordinary. In their huge backyard gardens and fountains, a walk through will lea


Farm Center2Hthe meadow is DSCF3700BOB MATTSON’S SADDLERY.  Bob has been here over 25 years.  He’s a master craftsman with leather.  He’ll not only repair your saddle, or sell you a spectacular one for a great price, he’ll make you a belt or knife-sheath, soften up old reins, sell you a saddle blanket.  His shop is an incredible delight to all the senses, a step back in time, a feel of the world of horses before cars. SEE WHAT YOU’VE BEEG! 

THE F used to be all grain and feed and the best place to get your Levi’s.  We still get visitors looking for jeans and hay. It’s gone through a lot of transforming over the years, and it’s better all the time.  Stop in for a visit!  Worth the trip and the sun is always shining.Dawn April Facing EastFarm Center3THE FARM CENTER SHOPS, MID-VALLEY



Calla Lilies and Leaf, InteriorOriginal Oil Paintings by SPARHAWK

EXPRESSIONIST ARTIST BARBARA SPARHAWK is famous for being the only female scaffold hauling BILLBOARD PAINTER in the world in the ’70’s (mostly over Times Square) and painting the ROLLING STONE’S WORLD TOUR BILLBOARD ALBUM COVER ‘MADE IN THE SHADE’. She was commissioned to paint a portrait of WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY, JR from sittings; her work has been exhibited at QUANTICO ACADEMY.  She is the author and illustrator of a book of short stories (THE GANDY DANCER) and a children’s book (COCO NO!) with more to come! In a NY career of journalism and politics, SPARHAWK wrote evening news for CBS, ABC, FOX TV, produced ROCKANDROLLA and TALK RADIO shows for WABC and WOR; and was PRESS SECRETARY TO US CONGRESSWOMAN GERALDINE FERRARO, and family CHEF to the Beach Boys Jardine Family.  That’s the short version.




August. The Woman, The Horse, The Dog, The Birds

New Painting  Oil on Canvasboard 9 X 12 inches

The Beach Day


The Woman, The Horse, The Dog, The Birds, The Sand, The Ocean,

The Sky

The Roses, Hummingbird, Frog, Blue Glass

The Roses, Hummingbird, Frog, and Blue Glass
New painting, oil on canvas, 10 X 20 inches

Roses, Hummingbird, Frog, Blue VaseBeautiful SPARHAWK Paintings and Drawings are available on



The Splendid Australian Firm that Reproduces all my work

Dawn Music of the Hindu


   Many years ago I read a bit of Hindu thinking on DAWN and never forgot the ancient philosophers addressing daybreak. It was, if memory serves (as the loaned out book is long gone and the loanee long forgotten):

Vibration comes from many places in many forms. And it plays an enormous role in all the functioning of the planet~~its creatures and all living things. Music of the spheres is not a made-up thing of fancy.

THE BIRDSONG OF DAWN sets up vibrating air waves. These vibrations are drawn in by plants, and that song results in movement, the flow of sap and energy inside the plant. It is this which begins and produces growth.  Life would not exist without it.

My meadow and the river bank it borders is home to a thousand feathery lives. It occurs to me that the rapid air beating of the hummingbird’s wings must have a powerful effect on a flower. A rush of oxygen. Vibrating sound. Being milked of nectar. I may start experimenting, singing to plants.

There’s been a lot of study on the idea leading various places. But it remains a lovely, stimulating thought that may set some vibration going in the reader’s brain next waking at sunrise. A song is worth letting in for a co-mingle. A rose is a rose is a rose. But a garden is never simply a garden.

(Bird with diagram: futurity.org.) (blue/green bird photo credit: sodahead.com) (Bird of Paradise: hawaiipictures.com)

39 BIRDS OF PARADISE, New Guinea, Cornell U.

The Birds of Paradise, New Guinea Rain Forests

Nice to report something genuinely spectacular a university is backing. (Link just below, lots to see, and you can download the bird songs!) In my search for the care and feeding of the plant, Bird of Paradise, I accidentally uncovered a thrilling quest by Cornell Lab scientist Ed Scholes and National Geographic photographer Tim Laman who explore creatures which are so uniquely formed, their behavior so startling, it challenges the imagination.

Click on the link below, then hit ‘INTRODUCTION’ on the top of their webpage, and watch the short video. There is a lot more, too. And all this is a special feast for photographers. What equipment! If you’ve got a cat or dog in the house, watch them when the bird calls sound…..


 Cornell Lab scientist Ed Scholes and National Geographic photographer Tim Laman. 8 years and 18 expeditions to New Guinea, Australia, and nearby islands.

The Art of Precession & Earning a Living, Buckminster Fuller Plus


Talk about Precession. My large and splendid cat Thomas Jefferson spent the better part of the last 2 days sleeping in the closet. It’s large with no door, but I anxiously searched house & garden for him before finding him there. Everything seemed okay with him but for this out of character seclusion.  Well, five minutes after the meteor did not hit planet Earth, roughly 11:27 AM, PST this morning, (that is, the expected one, not the one aiming for Putin), my large and splendid Thomas Jefferson sauntered forth and took over the house again. This cat’s got the feet of elephants.  Read on.



I saw a >beautiful bird< this morning on a blog I followhttp://johnhayesphotography.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/limpkin_d3x2032-as-smart-object-1.jpgand got briefly lost in the rippled water, which led me to what produces the ripple which turned up Buckminster Fuller on the subject, via a quote from a California foot specialist.

It appears to be primarily sensing in advance of an event, and in communality with an event. One example given is that elephants, (whose feet provide keen sensitivity to vibration), moved up into the hills 3 hours in advance of a tsunami. Precession. What a fine thing to learn and practice.

This excerpt is from Dr McQuaid, lightly edited by me……

“I am telling you about precession because the power I am explaining operates not only in nature, but in our everyday lives. Precession is also functioning on a sociological and economic level. Most people have never heard the word precession before, but learning about it can change your life.
      One of my favorite authors and mentors is the late R. Buckminster Fuller. He wrote extensively about human nature and specifically the role mankind plays in the universe, (and that…) only one in 10 million people can comprehend the significance of this natural law.”

Which led me to a really fascinating discourse by Buckminster Fuller himself. The site author (Synthesense) notes that this came to Fuller at a time when he was broke and had suffered a great tragedy. It is touching for that, but more…. a very rich read:

Buckminster Fuller….From a fascinating site called >>Synthesense<<

He(Fuller) conceived of a force that actively helps and assists those who use their individual talents for the greater good of the greatest number. He named this phenomenon; “precession”. He explains it as follows:

“The big question remained: how do you obtain the money to live with and to acquire the materials and tools with which to work? Since nature was clearly intent on making humans successful in support of the integrity of eternally regenerative Universe, it seemed clear to me that if I undertook ever more humanly favorable physical-environment-producing artifact developments, that did in fact improve the chances of all humanity’s successful development, it was quite possible that nature would support my efforts, provided I was choosing the successively most efficient technical means of doing so. Nature was clearly supporting all her inter-complementary ecological regenerative tasks-ergo; I must so commit myself and must depend upon nature providing the physical means of realization of my invented environment-advantaging artifacts. I noted that nature did nor require hydrogen to “earn a living” before allowing hydrogen to behave in the unique manner in which it does. Nature does not require that any if its inter-complementing members earn a living.
Because I could see that this precessional principle of self-employment was a reasonably realistic probability, I resolved to adopt such a course formally.
I assumed that nature would “evaluate” my work as I went along. If I was doing what nature wanted done, and if I was doing it in promising ways, permitted by nature’s principles, I would find my work being economically sustained and vice-versa.

Buckminster Fuller


At the very least, we might start by going barefoot. And never feeling alone. And observing house cats. Happy Valentine’s Day.

Heron-Otter on Wind, Night Sky, Pfeiffer BeachSparhawk Oil Painting and Drawings Available at Wonderfully LOW Prices! Many posted here still available in The HAWKS PERCH GALLERY. Email sparhawk@barbarasparhawk.com


John Hayes, Photography

Synthesense” Website

Dr.Matthew McQuaid

THE HAWKS PERCH GALLERY of the Central Coast

The Hawks Perch Gallery, entrance, Carmel ValleyWelcome to


Hawks Perch Trademark

only 6 miles in from the coast


Hawks Perch Trademark



Looking Inside Carmel Valley Hawks Perch GalleryCome on in! Look! Buy! Have a great time. Small, original oil paintings of florals start at $125. Pen & Ink drawings for $25 to $150.

Inside Carmel Valley HawsksperchCommissioned portraits of animals start at $500. People portraits at $1500. Landscapes range from roughly $150 to $785.  Used paperback, hardcover & art books from $1. to $25. And other interesting stuff…jewelry, t-shirts, old tins.

and Ron Wohlauer Photographs

T  H  E     H  A  W  K  S     P  E  R  C  H

Inside Carmel Valley GallerySo much to see! Portraits of people and animals, florals, and lovely CARDS of Sparhawk Paintings (photographed by Nola Barnick)

Card Rack Up - Dec 2011Mahalia Poppies, Gallery Wall Carmel ValleyTHE HAWKS PERCH CV FACING BACK STUDIOBig Sur Kitchen, Rabbit Vase and PoppiesDRAGON FLY IN LOST GARDENCalla Lilies and Leaves, InteriorHeron-Otter on Wind, Night Sky, Pfeiffer Beach

Carmel Valley Gallery chair, The Hawks Perch3 years in Big Sur, now a bit north, still the best, comfy chair for respite and viewingFacing Back Window, the Hawks Perch Gallery of Carmel Valleygorgeous scenery in every direction

White Iris

New Studio Palettethe instigator

Used Books, The Hawks Perch, Carmel Valley Gallery, Sparhawksplendid old books for sale


Beautiful Hand-Made Oil-Painted EXPRESSIONIST SIGNS ON WOODUSED BOOKS SIGNHawks Perch Trademark, the MermaidOPEN sign, Carmel Valley gallery, The Hawks Perch, Sparhawk

In Truth This Garden is My Home sign, Sparhawk Gallery, the Hawks PerchLA VIE EN ROSE, Sparhawk sign on woodthe HAWKS PERCH, Gallery highway sign, Carmel Valley Road

Flower Sign and Cart, Big Sur Hawks Perch Gallery

Dexter Lives Here sign for local residents, Carmel Valley, the Hawks Perch

Sparhawk in BeretEl Hawko in el Beretto

COME AND WALK THROUGH, LOOK AROUND, SIT AND TALK, BUY A PAINTING, DRAWING, ORDER A SIGN, A MURAL, COMMISSION A PORTRAIT,    OR JUST TO SAY                                                                                HELLO.



IF YOU’RE MAKING A SPECIAL TRIP FROM FAR AWAY, SEND AN EMAIL  sparhawk@barbarasparhawk.com Busy Fish Lady, Sparhawk Trademarkso much going on

Picasso as Popeye (no foolin)

This is Picasso as Popeye. We all need a view of a more innocent time even if this mock Popeye is not a favorite of mine. In fact, I love this picture so much I think it’s the first time in my life I have actually even liked Picasso a little.


It comes to us all courtesy a site called   Retronaut.   He’s got every decade covered in fabulous black and white photographs, signs, posters.   I’ve only begun my delve, I recommend spending some time there, it’s terrific fun.

Retronaut’s trademarked  motto  is:                                                       The past is a foreign country. This is your passport.

Oh for the days of Popeye The nicotine-stained Sailor Man, beanpoled Olive Oyl devoid of implanted anything, nasty bully Blutto, needy Whimpy, mischevious Sweet Pea. A time when defense against the world was a good right hook, virtue and love on your side,  and a 16 oz. can of spinach.

I fights to the finich

cause I eats my spinach

I’m Popeye the Sailor–man. 

Toot toot.

CHRISTMAS ART ~ now THAT’S a present!!

Just a quick note to tell visitors and friends that most of the work posted here, and on my RedBubble site, and on EBAY are for sale at very good prices til Christmas, and I can likely get anything shipped to you in time!

If you’re interested in SPARHAWK original oil paintings or SPARHAWK pen and ink drawings, shoot me an email: sparhawk@barbarasparhawk.com to make sure it’s still available and get a REALLY GOOD HAWKS PERCH VISITOR SPECIAL PRICE !!

The EBAY auctions are on my page there, where my store is called WEATHERMOUNTAIN. I’ll try to put up a link if I can figure out how, but I think if you go to EBAY and type in that name or my name you’ll find it.


She Works Hard For Her Money

She Works Hard For Her Money oil on canvas, c.12 X 16 inches

Not an easy job but with certain freedoms, certain meals, and certain cash at the end of the shift.

The place is local, badly lit (they always are), and will become her high wire act of balance and negotiation between front door, kitchen, multiple personalities, tables in wrong places, uneven floors, empty salt and peppers, no napkin on table two, and a draft from somewhere that never quits.



“This is a very personal matter, not a matter of intelligence,” the senior U.S. intelligence official said. (credit Horowitz & Miller, Washington Post, 10/10/12)

Hoo boy they got that one right. No intelligence required.

Because we’ve gone through the looking glass, pal. One hot fireball of corruption after another has been nonstop hurtling through the sky at the American population for years. None of your breaking news is news.

We all know what we’re seeing without the usual falsified investigations, made-up timelines, pretend guilty parties, pretend innocent politicians, who picked the fall guy or why ~ all of which are no doubt on their way ad nauseum. Don’t get your panties in a bunch, Congress. Nobody cares.

No one in any governing body in this country is ever going to hold anyone of their kind accountable for anything, evermore. The American population may be properly exhausted by lies, but see all politicians for what they have become. We know what you’re doing to us.

One of the officials said Justice Department officials were unclear on what steps to take after they concluded that there would be no charges against the CIA director (Petraeus) or Broadwell and that there had been no breach of national security. “What was our responsibility?”   said one of the officials. “We were in an area where we’d never been before.” (credit Horowitz & Miller, Washington Post, 10/10/12)

Of course he doesn’t have a clue. National judgement based on constitutional reference or plain logic no longer exists. Our systems of highest security are fallen to the sea. The population is the first to figure it out and the last to be officially notified. Still, it’s a rare conclusion. I mean, who’s he talking to? A country of amnesiacs?

We made the bed we lie in from histrionic celebration of power/money-mad politicians who profit from corrupting their sacred trust instead of being put in jail. Who unequivocally malign or murder their inconvenient mistresses and never stand trial. Who fail their duty to disclose flaws of candidates giving them authority great and small over the governance of 350 million people…yet still hold office. Morality is now speculative. Truth, now subjective.  2 + 2 now = whatever you like.

Mitt Romney was the wrong opponent in a 2 party system because he surrendered with only 10 percent of the vote counted. If he’s not a fighter, he’s no good to anyone. I think we’re going to see state-wide secession big time, and a population that picks where to live for the political climate not the purple mountain majesties or shining seas. Then we’ll either have a civil war or avoid one.

As for the press, your capital has been spent. WE DON’T NEED YOU. WE DON’T HEED YOU. WE DON’T READ YOU. Where’s Bob Dylan when he could be doing some good again. Oh right, he’s just another old white guy.

(Note: Barbara Sparhawk is a former speechwriter for Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro; news writer, producer, & researcher for New York’s WCBS, WABC, FOX TV, and ABC and WOR Radio, and reporter for The NY Post. She currently has an art gallery on California’s central coast where she happily produces and sells her own paintings and drawings.)

This is Dexter (Doggie Portrait)

 Portrait:      DEXTER LIVES HERE       House Sign

Dexter is a little, very young darling who’s recently been brought into a new home.

His dad wanted him welcomed.  The dad’s wife was on a trip and heading back soon. He wanted to surprise her with Dexter’s portrait at the front door. We got it done. Mom cried.

I got a visit from the whole family in my gallery yesterday, met Dexter and the Mrs., and this promised picture of the sign I painted for them on a nice sturdy pine board.

Here is Dexter in all his splendor. Welcome Home.

One more, Flowers and Moth Caught by the Wind



I did this awhile back, and it’s been one of my favorites. It’s got a nice weight of paint on it and the colors are good, and there’s a fine activity to it. If I do say so myself.

The moth is in the lower right hand corner, not too visible and definitely not in distress.  This sold, last week in the gallery.

I overheard two musicians talking about the effect of wild climate on the landscape. Of course plants love the wind, said one. Otherwise there wouldn’t be poetry.

New Paintings, September 2012

Water Lilies Disturbed by My Rowboat
oil on canvas

I was a young child and we were somewhere, I have the vaguest memory it was in Missouri, maybe a botanical garden, and invite lay at the shore, a rowboat and endless beauty curving through reeds in front of the invitee.
I was at first frightened for this fragile brilliant color that sank below the surface at every paddle’s reach and wake. But there it came, returning to its cloistered place behind us, held by an invisible complexity of roots and trails and communicating life.
The ship was low and flat and broad and green. The water dark, so dark, and sentries of high stalks, reeds bound the bank in narrow stillness inviting us in and closing up where we’d been in black green shadow.
A strong experience of youth, a hot dank, a steam of perfume, sensual in every way, and the tremble of it continues through these misty decades.


The Levitating Bather, oil on canvas

The bather has found a nestled spot near home, and has the good sense to bring a chair to view the scene and when tiring of that, the ability to fly above or into the paradise. As do we all, actually.

Basement Apartment

The Basement Apartment      Oil on Canvas  16 X 20 inches

Likely there’s some point in a life that includes renting a basement apartment, below street level, in a city. There’s an immediate intimacy with the footwear and pace of strangers, but that’s the outside we closed the door on.

Inside, cramped with selected out and preserved little bits of what we love, hanging from hooks or pinned on walls and doors are decorative clothes, a great pair of espadrilles, an unforgettable chair from a theatre production, brilliant hat boxes, a torn out comic strip that’s always funny, a stanza copied out from Housman’s Shropshire Lad, a recipe…and hot coffee and brioche. The thrill of making do may fast wear off, but it’s there, and there are adventures afoot to relish.

Truly, I think I’ve started painting in protest to the flaunting of obscene overdone affluence which is so drowning, so unpleasant, so removed from real feeling that I just want to puke. I’m painting scenes of more uncommon, interesting living. Some of which I live and some of which I imagine and some I recall. What people actually DO with 5,000 sq feet except furnish it badly and get lost I can’t imagine.

It’s not that I disapprove excess and style and largess and money. But I must say, I kind of adore intimate. There’s a lot to be said for simple pleasures.

There Is No Indifference Here

There Is No Indifference Here

oil on linen, 22 X 28

Awhile back, five months or so, a good friend discovered a skin cancer on her that was subsequently dealt with and healed. In the interim, I was afraid of losing her in my life. We’d known each other for about ten years through ups and downs, and as I said, she was my friend.

She’d long wanted me to paint a portrait of her but I hadn’t yet. Within a day of hearing the health threat, I started painting. It was a combo of doing something for someone I cared about, and worry of never seeing her again. It’s where I turn, to painting.

I wrote to her that the portrait was in progress, she was pleased, couldn’t wait to see it. I got updates on her progress and the good news of safe passage.

Around May, she arrived unexpectedly (lives out of state now) with her dopey husband, who tore through my gallery and studio like Grant through Richmond. The husband led the deprecations of my work in general, and most specifically the unfinished portrait of his wife, and then she joined in with him, both ignoring my effort, time, expense, and sure not the caring demonstrated.

I’m not used to that. People WANT me to paint them. My work is generally admired, people are surprised by their emotional connections, and tend to like what I do. And I’m sure as hell not used to it with friends. By the time the painful visit ended, I was gifted with homemade preserves, warned to be careful with the costly jars and make sure I gave them back.

Within five minutes of their departure I had tossed the frigging preserves in the dumpster, stormed back to my studio, wiped off the portrait and started to cover it with what’s turned into a rather nice floral.

And all the while thinking, what the hell just happened to me, what was that, what the hell happened with THEM.

And then, of course, I saw it for all it was. Indifference.

Likely it’s my least favorite human commerce. It’s a powerful weapon and most cruel, and I don’t put up with it much or often. I’ve kicked people out of my gallery if they display it and make strong efforts to defend against it, directed at me or at the work I do. It’s unkind. It’s their loss.

About a week later I started the painting above, THERE IS NO INDIFFERENCE HERE, in reaction. I’d thought about my own life, and the pleasures of simple things, the table laden with food I love, and a lovely napping cat, ocean breezes and starry nights and blooming plants, sand covered and sunburnt from my ocean. I can watch a blade of grass for hours on end. The way the sun and shadow change it, the wind talk, its smells and its relationships to what’s around it. I don’t need conventional complexities to be happy or society’s standards of abundance to be happy, and I know I’m not alone.

So I painted that. Simple pleasures, taking it all in, and no indifference toward the feast of life. Oh! What a life I lead.


Bulldog Frankie Sinatra, Ol’ Brown Eyes

Frankie Sinatra, Ol’ Brown Eyes

Oil on Linen, 12  X 12

Fine little fellow with traditional ferocious posture but not much to back it up. All sweetness and light, and named Frankie Sinatra.

I was going to put his name on a banner somewhere on the painting but decided instead to put some sheet music with Ol’ Blue Eye’s hits, an ol’ piano, and ol’ fedora on it. And, I can’t help it, the moon.

South Coast The Wild Coast Is Lonely

The south coast of California is empty/full, a hurricane on its calmest day. Once seen it is become mine. This one construction of flesh and bone and H2O particulate facing the massive power (of the very same flesh and bone and H2O) knows…it is who I am.

Ray Bradbury, RIP

Ray Bradbury: The cover of Planet Stories

(above) Cover of Planet Stories, spring, 1949 edition Photograph: Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images

Dandelion Wine, cover by Tom Canty

Ray Bradbury: A studio portrait of Bradbury taken in the 1940s

io9.com has got one of the most beautiful obituaries in tribute to a writer that may ever exist, written to American Science Fiction genius Ray Bradbury who has just passed away, at 91, author of  Dandelion Wine; The Martian Chronicles; The Illustrated Man; Fahrenheit 451;screenplay and script writer.

The author is Kip Russell, (worth looking up just for that adventure) and his stunning words say it all.

Except for leaving out that I loved him too, and learned from Ray Bradbury, the finest proponent of ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE, a national treasure for America. I’m making sure to copy it here especially for Billy Boy, and for all the grownups of today whose childhood imaginations launched them into the thrill of exquisite tomorrow.

This, from Kip Russell…….

“Somewhere in America, a boy tap-dances on a tuned segment of discarded wooden sidewalk, calling his friends to run over the hills by moonlight…

Out on the Veldt, the animals pause for a moment, as though something unseen had passed through their midst…

Somewhere on Mars, a new silver fire is burning to welcome him…

By the river, a Book stops it’s recitation for the day, to remember a fine man who wrote such fine, fine things.

Thanks be, for Ray Bradbury, who taught me that there could be poetry in prose.”

The Not Hot Plate

Okay, I’ve put this off long enough. I meant to send out an immediate warning months ago, alert my fellow man to disaster but I couldn’t bring myself to think about the damn thing past the kitchen counter. I can’t hold back any longer, it’s past bearing quietly in secret and it’s not going away.

IF you must use one, briefly, unhappily, out of necessity, desperation, for the garage workshop, for the kid away at college, or for the RV as a cooking substitute for an actual stove, DON’T BUY A HOTPLATE that wasn’t built before, oh maybe 1970. And definitely DON’T BUY ONE MADE BY BLACK AND DECKER!

In the olden days you’d see that brand on something and your breath would draw in and your eyes would grow wide with the assurance in your hand of something quality, something thrilling, something that was the high mark of the industry, it was American perfection, a beauty thing.

Black and Decker is now made in China and frankly, I’m guessing made by industrious but isolated Chinese in some remote farming village where they never heard of electricity but a factory cropped up on the side of a hill and not a single person in town knows what the hell they’re used for or why Americans want them. The eager workers just show up every day at five a.m under the cruel and watchful eye of whip wielding bosses and put the parts together and get them into boxes before committing suicide from overwork exploiting, and a llama drawn cart picks up the Black and Decker boxed hotplates at sunset and trots them into Beijing to be shipped to the idiots in the west.

I come to this fanciful conclusion after using the rotten thing for a couple of months. Here are its faults. There’s no on and off click or setting. Off is just the furthest part of the dial (must have been a contest making it decrease to left, increase to right). The red (I Am Plugged Into An Electrical Socket) light on the front stays on permanently.

And, here is the greatest infraction, after it has been on for a set number of minutes (I haven’t stopped screaming at it long enough to time it) IT SHUTS ITSELF OFF SO THE USER WON’T BE SO STUPID AS TO BURN WHATEVER THE USER PLACED IN A POT ON TOP OF THE DAMN THING IF NOT UNDER THE CONTROL OF UNSEEN FORCES IN A FACTORY FAR FAR AWAY.

Try bringing anything to a boil. Okay, if you start with hot water you can get a kettle to whistle, but forget potatoes, spaghetti, hooh hah try rice! You have to fool the machine, turn it to sort of off then back to sort of on.

At medium on the dial all the coils get red. On high, maybe one side of two coils. On low, well that’s the place for a burn. And the dial is marked unaccordingly.

There must be a chip in there that’s not just controlling temperature for MY SAFETY but is also collecting information about how often it’s used, and what is it used for, and is the user eating veggies or cooking fudge, and should the Twinkie Police send the SWAT Team to confiscate the appliance and arrest the user for attempting to get diabetes (thereby destroying the economy) by eating the wrong food and not having a compost heap. And TRYING TO CONTRIBUTE TO GLOBAL WARMING! And hurt little children within a fifty mile radius. And God knows what it’s radiating at nearby exotic snails and owls.

Sigh. The red light that never goes off may, come to think of it, actually be a hidden camera recording my every move and my regular scowling at the cute little appliance that I have willingly introduced into my private life.

I’ll put a small bit of gaffer tape over the little red light. No, there’s no chance the tape will catch fire. My Not Hot plate will shut down before I do myself harm…or anything actually cooks.