There is Gold Within

The Gold Within

Prayers for he artist hands

  Our perspectives are uniquely attuned to interpretation. We see things differently than others. Our eyes are gathered in potential creation, what if I move this here, color this purple, arrange it a certain way, We are the shifters of form, of statement and speak in our Art expression of a story we want to tell through our piece.  This yearning, this sometimes compulsion, makes us all alike. If any united platform that we sublimely share is, the wisdom of knowing that all people are individuals, that there are no groups, no boxes, no generalities or character profiles that anyone has to fall into to make sense of our own world; that’s already understood. We all engage in the creative space. I attribute this understanding to many things, but my authentic understanding of this came from allowing myself to explore a variety of creative forms. I compose, am a songwriter, sing, paint and digital collage, write books with children and for myself, write community art grants and plays. All because it’s fun to explore, to learn something new, and feel my brain light up.

   A wandering poem, searching for the right words to tell me about itself is not any different than listening to a person speak. A melody or an image is an outstretched hand just waiting for us to take hold of as we move through the poetic atmospheres, coalescing the vapors, the gold within where everything is connected.

   We know that it is interwoven in a language of color and sound. We are simply the weavers, the writers, the interpreters from an already imagined creation.

   A simple illustration of how this is can be found in nature. Sunlight streams through clouds and prisms form on walls, even the color palette of primary colors of blending blue and yellow to make green are reflective of our illustration to the universe.

   On any given day in every present moment, the winds of imagination co-create a definitive expression not only materially but invisibly in the collective consciousness. We are connected and when we are in the creative space, we are home and it is where we belong. Art and literature are ways to feel connected not only to us but to the world. The process is vibrational and everything done or made creates a transmitting frequency that much like a radio signal is sent out.  I love seeing the encouragements fill the pages of blogs and pages on the interment. It reminds me that no matter your style, taste or artistic preference, we understand that this is more than a remark or commentary on a particular piece. It says, I see you and we are kindred spirits. I like what these Artists have to say.

     “Art is an avenue to express intense emotions and unwavering wonder.” I’m inspired by the lighter side of life. Through trying times, I have found myself coping through art and through creating things that made me happier. Brighter subjects that brought me back to life. Now, through my work, I hope to be able to do that for others. I want the viewer to feel the movement, energy, and life coming from the artwork. I want my art to force people to smile again. We all need a little sweetness, a pick-me-up when the world gets too heavy. We can’t be serious all the time.”                                                                                             ~ Natasha Wescot

       “Traditional art education says that people paint for a variety of reasons, but it is all about communication for me, not just the simple act of creating something which can be very enjoyable. The onslaughts of unconscious thoughts in the world are laid bare for others.  Art has life to it. Art is what we do when we have had enough.”                                                     ~ Linda Lane

“I am a portrait painter because of my passion for people. There is nothing more interesting to me than a new face. I search for subjects with whom I feel a connection. My portraits convey a fusion of my feelings for each subject with an intuitional use of color. In my portraits, I strive to reveal the personality of my subjects, intensifying them in a celebration of their existence.”                                                                                                                        ~ Stephen Bennett

“I am more interested in what I discover than what I invent.”                                                                        ~Paul Simon



Marilyn and the Maligned


marilynn stamp


  How did this trembling fragile mortal climb a mountain only to be overturned by the footlight? Is she only remembered in a pop culture gouache poster hung on museum walls? Did the barrage of paparazzi journey far too much along her poetic skin until her smile was only a mask?

   She sought in her need an occasional piece of invisible space from the multimedia Blitzkrieg, a gruesomely ignored request, leaving her overwhelmed and lonely.

   Fame has defamed the lives of many young wandering stars that all too quickly lose sight of the ground as they ascend in untrue expression. Party away their gifts, or anxiously tap dance trying to hold on to it all. And then there is this feeling of waning youth and lost desirability looming like a lonesome specter seeking misguided company.

   No one wants to fade away or melt down into the decline of diminished talent or simply become disfranchised has long been fodder for a gossip column.            

  The fresh pain of invisibility in a fishbowl is enough. Only to find that not having lived unencumbered by another’s unreasonable expectations of them is a missing page never to be returned to.

    I sadly watch others make a buck as they are assigned to tabloid vexing, distorted lies, framing my favorite stars in unfair craven icon images to gawk at in grocery lines.

   Somewhere there are parties where someone transparently sadly impresses someone with names purposefully dropped for a quick tainted kick as if speaking it would, or could ever bring him or her closer into their orb as a friend.

    They don’t know her. They don’t have an inkling of her true nature and worst of all they are making her forget that all she ever wanted from this was perform La Dame in Free Form.

   But fame is ecliptic, and can be dismally dark, little joy did it impart for in her desire for the respect she was madly enveloped in lights of exploitive lust, barely escaping with a clean heart. This is the plight of stars past and stars present, whose lives are twisted and assumed in caught moments off guard when the weight of their personality subjects them to scrutiny and with little absolution or discretion stills the wagging tongue to tell tales that rewrite history, a history maybe not all entirely accurate. 

   I am not so sure that I even should care and that curiosity is a mindset not always best pursued. It’s a wasted perusing on perfectly good paper that could be filled with a far better read than what the stargazers report.


Covenant Found by Laura Botsford


Journey along the wheel of life

What sadness breeds my heart into neglect?

The distraction of misdirected compassion in all too many moments that are either lost or left out in the open for a heartless thief to steal is my greatest battle
To fend off the harsh with words from wounded wings is not my desired shatel
Oh Lord, give me a steadfast heart imbued with a clear calm mind That I may not worry anxiously or fret with somberness
Rather that I am a Joy that sings from the flames.
Caress in me a gentler response made of thy words and ways to defend humanity’s greatest gift, kindness.
Remove from me all negatives, cleanse and rid my life of fire trails
For my chalice now is surely strong and tempered well by the mortar of the consecrated ages of this soul
My Lord, do not abandon this intercessor
Rescue me from the very gloom that I’ve fought so hard to eliminate.
Do away with the fortress of my self-righteousness in the name of love.
Have me remember that all who receive the morning’s first sun will rise together as one ray of golden rebirth rising out of our fallen stardust in simpatico fandangos of mellifluous melodies sung
That I may receive evenings indigo air and sleep peacefully after a day well done. Harken to me over and over again until that which I’ve denied of my soul is the very bread of life fully blended into a fine meal, ground whole, and sound

Where reason and kindness become the communion of a covenant found


She Journeys

New Stories edited with Spice – she-journeys-cover_pe

   She Journeys is a collection of short stories of the divine feminine spirit as she mysteriously appeared in the many lives of a man who sought love for centuries in search of a great love. She might be playing at Valentine’s Lounge, caught up in a reverie of romantic calling, or in a cross Atlantic night of love, tenderly unfolding in a communion kiss.

“I lay still until the next point in time
What I understand is that love is total commitment
A boy follows the call
But a man won’t waste a woman’s time”
– She Journeys by Laura Botsford
Cover Painting by Billa Bozem

Personal copies for sale with inscription ~

The Time it Takes

Personally I felt the shift begin when Covid first hit in March. Poets and writers alike have come alive with words of inspiration and a return to home.

August 9th~2021

    I have a bounty of inner worlds that I’ve scribed into journals. Volumes of thoughts and feelings, dreams and scenes from days well thought and dreamy that I keep in boxes that now are dusty by the years of storage. It is my last year here in this home in the delta, and I want to write another one, one page every day.


   The pandemic hit us in 2020, many of us are hanging on, trying our best to make things as normal as possible. I see my family, still don’t visit friends or travel, and though I wear a mask and am fully vaccinated I hesitate again to go out into the world because of the Covid variant.

   My cupboards and closets are slowly being downsized or packed for the anticipated move to Conway to live closer to my children, and those little adorable grandchildren that I long to be a part of their everyday life.

    I feel certain consternation though in the midst of this activity, as if I am slowly letting go the home I’ve known for 40 years. Memories are sneaky things; they appear in objects as you pack or discard. My mother is over my shoulder as I wrap the same pieces she once held to give to me. Did she feel this too, this sense of a fading dream life, an excitement for a new one, a better one that isn’t so isolated?

   Rosa is helping me with all this, and my children are coming labor day to gather and claim their things and pieces they want to claim. I feel my life becoming staged like I am in set design mode for the move. I look at wallpaper and pull up the listing on zillow of Rhi’s old house where we will move to, adjusted in my mind where my furniture will go best. I pick out wallpaper and paint to make it our own, which right now is somewhere between a Ballard magazine and an eastern medication space of repose and enlightening whimsy.

    I make lists and schedules to ease the transitions’, knowing full well that it will all be changed in the flow of it. Such is life. In the quake and sands shifting moment by moment I know in my heart that God is leading me home.

Path Home

Betty Gay’s Chicken and Dumplings

Her eyes were brown with an ebullient twinkle that winked occasionally when she spoke in wisdom quips. “You can only do the right thing, the next best thing is always the right thing,” Betty said breaking out in a little laugh that defied any impending difficulty. “Are you willing to let her get away with that? ” she asked.
“With what, a harsh and narrow opinion of the world at large? She doesn’t know the larger world, she’s never been there, traveled, or gone past the Greenville bridge; how could she know?” I always thought it was odd that people had such sure opinions of life-based only on their rural perceptions. Including myself, I wasn’t sure of new thoughts of places until I visited them and got to know them better. People see their lives through their own experiences and not having had many different ones how could they ever be in a place of understanding?
“One can only fit in a keyhole if one is willing to take on the shape of the key, the slight bumps and gaps that fit into the hole to turn the lock might be too big, too wide, or too new ain’t going to get it.” She folded a cup of chicken stock into the flour, careful not to overwork it, added a little salt and a bunch of pepper. She rolled it out with a floured rolling pin, on a dusted counter of all-purpose flour till it was an eighth inch thick, and began to cut it in diagonals.

“People are like dumplings, all different sizes but when they are put into the soup they make something all together tasty in the same pot.”

“So I see, people are the sum of the soup they came from?” I laughed, pleased that I got her metaphor, and happy to spend some time with this great lady who was making time to teach me the culinary tradition of chicken and dumplings.“Now we set them out to dry for ten minutes, bring the pot to a boil, then pull them apart slowly, stretching them to the max, and then drop them in one by one.” Her skill was exacting with a quick flair that rivaled Julia Child. I marveled at how they puffed as they popped up in the rolling broth. “Let them boil for 10 minutes then add the chicken.” She had cooked the chicken earlier, boned and shredded it in long strands. The succulent scent lingered in the kitchen with mouthwatering homeyness. I felt a kinship with her, a family bond growing, and for the first time a real feeling of belonging in this new world I was living in.
“Get involved, maybe a church or a club of some kind to join?” she suggested.
“Yeah, maybe so.” I was raised Lutheran, my grandparents were devoted Lutherans and my great grandfather on my Dad’s side help found the Swedish Lutheran church in Minneapolis. We went to church sometimes, Sunday school as young kids, had been baptized and confirmed, but on regular church Sundays we stayed home. Dad was a scientist by nature, quantum physics and Einstein was his go-to. Mother wasn’t comfortable in groups, she was a private person who believed faith was a personal relationship with God. It was all about how one lived their lives and treated each other.

She returned to church services when a young pastor arrived who wove everyday life with spiritual and biblical understanding, something she could resonate with that applied to her life, not ancient stories. Dad thought much of the real;y interesting things had been deleted by the churches to control the common man and institutionalize divisions; he believed that nature and life itself is where God truly lived. Their fellowship was with their neighbors and Jesus was a teacher. I felt the same and my spiritual roots were found in Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet. Leo and I had programs for our wedding and Gibran’s prose on Marriage was on the cover.
You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.

Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.

But let there be spaces in your togetherness,And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another, but make not a bond of love:Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.

Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.

Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf

Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,

Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.

And stand together yet not too near together:For the pillars of the temple stand apart,And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.

Our music began with a hymn, We Gather Together, I wanted the community to be a part of our ceremony and I felt this was the best way to bring us all together to start our lives off together. It was a first in the Portland Methodist Church. We had a candlelight service with candles in the windows. It is the only time I remember the windows being opened a bit. The evening April air filled the room with a sweet spring fragrance and gently flickered throughout our unity candle ceremony. It was a blend of traditional and our modern-day that we treasured. Pastor Kilgore wouldn’t allow contemporary music but after some determined input by Dorothy Young as to how it was our wedding and not his, he agreed to her playing the sheet music of Longer Than by Dan Fogelberg.

Eatable Stones
How far along the stones of memories stay before they are cast away downstream, replaced with others, and become a different bank? Depending on rain, or exploring footsteps that walked their shores to kick or skip away, stones with genie lamps, stones with the fools gold of promise unrequited, stones shaped like hearts that fell at our feet. Everyone I ever met is in this, and every odd dumpling I ever made is a part of my soup. Sit down, enjoy for all are welcomed here.

*Excerpt from Northern Bell, a Memoir of living in the South in the 1980s by Laura Botsford

Sharecroppers Daughter

Now in a Kindle ebook

Delta My Home

Sharecropper’s Daughter on Amazon and Kindle

    The life and times of a young girl growing up in the rural south as the daughter of a sharecropper in 1949. Penny comes of age through hard times, her love and talent for cutting horses and taming her first love; Smith who is heir to the Silver Leaf Plantation her family works for.

         Billy also has books at home and would be happy to autograph them for you too. email:

sharecropper's Daughter Front cover

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Oasis in the Delta

Good Morning Darlin’


It is a usual morning. Leo sings in the bathtub arranging songs to his liking. His beautiful bass tenor rings out in the house. “Oh my darling, I love your pretty face and the way you look tonight, my baby love, ooo baby love.” He strings tunes together into one song like a Broadway overture with a flair for the unexpected. His repertoire moves from Eric Clapton to Diana Ross to Los Lobos, ” Para bailar la bamba Para bailar la bamba se necesita una poca de gracia Una poca de gracia para mí para tí yay Arriba  Arriba.”  I love how he can wake up so alive and full of energy. He gives me lots of hugs in between tunes and treasures that I am safe in bed as he takes care of taking care of us. Days go by and they all add up to how much he loves us even if he doesn’t like his job, he goes there for us.

He goes to the medicine cabinet to get his deodorant. “Good morning señor speed stick,” He says in his best Speedy Gonzales voice. It’s a show every morning beginning at 5:30 am. The kids and I have front row seats and if we can manage to not become fully conscious throughout it and just consider it as a radio in our dreams, we manage to sleep on a little more before we have to get up. It’s an art. Something I learned to do when I had children. I keep half an ear and brain open to the house while the other side of my brain sleeps. Practicing this to perfection took a few years of ears on, ears off until I could seamlessly sleep on between songs.

He doesn’t like breakfast, and as long as his clothes are where they are supposed to be. I don’t have to get up. Which is a good thing for I am a night owl and 4:30 comes pretty close to my usual 11:00 or midnight muse writings. Of all the times of the day after 10:00 is even quieter than grass growing. There is a kind of silence that only farming country offers. The toils of the field are put aside and surrendered to sleep. Even exhaustion dissipates and lifts into the air only to await the nightly trains to sweep it all down the track until morning. There is darkness everywhere with only a few scattered street lamps. The sky expands with so many stars whose splendiferous light sparkles with clarity that I can feel them. “Esplendoroso!” exclaims our Mexican field hands, their beauty not passing them by.

Daylight is different in farming country. People are up well before the earth has time to see the first glimmers of the constant sun. I wonder if the sun what it would say when it moves towards Dixie land. “Yep, I won’t have to worry about those folks getting up. They are already jumping into trucks and tractors to see if the cotton has bloomed if there is enough water running into rice fields safely within the exacting laser designed levees like chocolate licorice ribbons.

When we first farmed and Rhiannon was just a baby my favorite time was the morning. Leo would pick her up and gently lay her beside me in bed. It was like getting a Christmas present every sun up. We would sleep cozily next to each other as crop dusters and grain trucks buzzed outside. The city has nothing on this dawn activity. There are combines on the road and farmers scurrying to get to their fields from the oasis of our little town on a commute that feeds and clothes the world. As a suburban lake child growing up in the North I took for granted the food and the cotton summer dresses I wore, never knowing just what went into the making of them.

There is so much that goes into growing a crop. Those scenic pictures of endless fields of green one sees on a calendar is the romantic and idyllic vision of long hot days of hard work. The soil is tilled down to the hardpan, the rows are drawn in straight mounds, which is a feat of expertise for anyone who has ever run them. I tried to once and it looked like a tipsy trail of wiggles. Then, the seed has to put in just so, carefully calibrated so as to have moisture and just enough room between to grow. There is fertilizer, weed controls to keep it from being choked out by random mare’s tails, pesky morning glories and such. Sometimes it’s not enough and some afternoons the kids would go with Leo, while he walked through the rows pulling them out one by one by hand. Dustin and Rhiannon would play in the runoff irrigation water pools reminiscent of that scène from Woodstock, wallowing, and splashing in the muddy runoff across the turn rows. The laying of heavy aluminum pipes for irrigation along the turn row takes time and patience to hook the rusty 10-foot pipes to together. Then there is checking wells to see if they are still running at all hours of the day and night, making new sets to redirect the translucent life’s blood of any crop on a new line of irrigation. This was back before we had pivots and poly-pipe was still being invented, laying metal pipe was the only way to get water into the field. Back-breaking, dusty enough to choke the air right of your lungs.

Down yonder is the bayou, the big Bayou Bartholomew, whose good fortune for us was to run right through our land up at the Kitrel place. Days, when the rain was scarce as a month of Sundays and the sun moaned like melting wax in a cloudless sky, the only refuge for our crops depended on the relift from the bayou up it pumped noisily  through the metal cylinders, bursting forth it’s murky waters in a flush of milk chocolate through the pipes that seeped through its holes into the rows. The earth sopped it up as it took hours sometimes before you could see the water standing in the rows,  watered out and sufficiently nourished.

It was not at all the Calendar portrayal of farm life as I imagined. My sweaty Romeo covered in dirt, machine grease and water, came home every day from the fields with an appetite and a longing for a cool bed or couch. I was worried for him, I was proud of him, I missed the man I fell in love with who now worked 16 hours a day and had little time to play.



Re-blogged with Chapters two and three of the ongoing story of the Glittersmith.

  Chapter 1 ~Tattoos and Tales

Dedicated to Babe, who without his presence in my life, I would not have known how to “Trip the Light Fantastic, nor, “Dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free.”

A Glittersmith is one of those people that you meet, who offer much in the way of adventure, explores undiscovered spaces with joyous abandon, and unpredictability sit on the edge of your seat for the whole ride. They are-a fan-my-brow fabulous person who walks with angels and magnificent misfits; yes that is a Glittersmith. I have only met a few that had that kind of influence on me, where I was swept up into their personality of their childlike spirit – followed willingly in their shinning smiles, and quirky ways like a child follows a butterfly as far as she can until it flies to high to see.

I met Paul Smith…

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Glittersmith cover

Chapter 1 ~Tattoos and Tales

Dedicated to Babe, who without his presence in my life, I would not have known how to “Trip the Light Fantastic, nor, “Dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free.”

A Glittersmith is one of those people that you meet, who offer much in the way of adventure, explores undiscovered spaces with joyous abandon, and unpredictability sit on the edge of your seat for the whole ride. They are-a fan-my-brow fabulous person who walks with angels and magnificent misfits; yes that is a Glittersmith. I have only met a few that had that kind of influence on me, where I was swept up into their personality of their childlike spirit – followed willingly in their shinning smiles, and quirky ways like a child follows a butterfly as far as she can until it flies to high to see.

I met Paul Smith in 1969, three months after I graduated from high school, and moved to San Francisco. If there had been a soundtrack playing at the moment as he walked in the door, it would be this.

These Foolish Things ~ by Billie Holiday

A cigarette that bears a lipstick’s traces

An airline ticket to romantic places

And still my heart has wings

These foolish things remind me of you

A tinkling piano in the next apartment

Those stumbling words that told you what my heart meant

A fair ground’s painted swings

These foolish things remind me of you

You came, you saw and you conquered me

When you did that to me

I knew somehow this had to be

The winds of March that make my heart a dancer

A telephone that rings, but who’s to answer?

Oh, how the ghost of you clings

These foolish things remind me of you

The scent of smoldering leaves, the wail of steamers

Two lovers on the street who walk like dreamers

Oh, how the ghost of you clings

These foolish things remind me of you

How strange how sweet to find you still

These things are dear to me

They seem to bring you so near to me

The sigh of midnight trains in empty stations

Silk stockings thrown aside, dance invitations

Oh, how the ghost of you clings – These foolish things remind me of you

It was one of those captivating, soul kindling moments. I was sitting at the kitchen table at the sisters Leslie and Liza’s house, when their dog Nutritious began to bark. I never knew why they named him that, maybe because he was a healthy German Sheppard, but knowing Leslie, she probably like the syllables all strung out in a sharp set of three when she called his name, Nu-tri-tous.

Outside the door, climbing to the second story, I heard a booming theatrical voice.

“Nutritious! I hear you boy, is that you! It’s me, you remember me.” The sisters looked at each back and forth at each other, trying to recall the voice. “That’s that older guy we met in the park when we took Nutritious for a walk,” said Leslie. “Oh yeah, I remember,” Liza said, and went to open the door.” In came this guy in his late thirties, put his hand out for Nutritious to sniff, and patted him briskly on the head. “You are a good boy, Nutritious, you remember me, don’t ya boy; yeah we played Frisbee in the park.”

“Hi, Paul, it’s been awhile since we saw you, we only met you once in the park, and how did you know where we lived?” Liza asked, rather blown away he was standing in their apartment.

“My friend Bob, told me he dropped you off somewhere on this block. I just walked up to this door and opened it, thinking it might be yours. When I heard Nutritious barking, I knew it was the right one,” Paul said, quite proud of his navigational sixth sense.

“Come in and have a seat, I’ll make some coffee,” Liza told him. She led the way down the long hall that ran through the duplex. Paul followed and stopped for a moment. When our eyes met, I smiled as he came into the kitchen, and sat across from me.

“You look like an angel,” he said.

“What?” I’m just Laura, not an angel, but thanks.” I laughed, a little embarrassed by his forthright – no holds bar remark. He was clearly one of those people that said the first thing that comes to mind without a filter.

“No really, you are glowing,” he said.

“Hmm, must have been something I ate,” I said, trying my best to shift the focus with humor away from me. He laughed; the sisters laughed, and the three of them began to catch up from where they had left off, which was 3 months ago.

Leslie was a radiant beauty with long blonde hair, and turquoise eyes, flipped her hair off her shoulder, and said. “The last time I saw you, you were going back to Redondo Beach to be in a play or something?”

“Yes, the Community Theater to do Kismet with my friends Bob and Charlene. You have a good memory. Yeah, man, we wrapped that play up last week, and I thought I just come to the city to see you two again. My sister lives over in South San Francisco, so I’m visiting my nieces and nephews too,” he said in the friendliest of manner, as if he had known them for years.

“I love the theater! You are an actor then?” I asked him, keenly interested in anything he might have to say. He was charismatic in a spunky, full of life – envibing way; with a garland of the soul kind of laugh that peeled through the apartment in staccato jazz rhythm. It was infectious; I found myself laughing too, for no reason other than the joy of meeting a uniquely interesting person.

“Well, recently I am, since I got out of prison.” He added the prison, as if it was nothing; it could have been the words military, college or circus. He began rolling a Bugler cigarette, quite expertly as he went on talking. “I was in San Quentin for a parole violation, and while I was there, I got involved in an acting group. I loved it! Fuck, yeah, it was so much better than getting high, and doing all that crazy shit I use to do, that I just stuck with it when I got out. My friends Bob and Charlene invited me to audition for Kismet and I got the part of the genie.”

“Prison, eh?” I was totally curious now; he didn’t seem like the criminal type. “What were you originally in for?”

“I use to be really wild. I partied, and took all kinds of drugs. I was always getting stopped and searched so I already had a bad reputation around the town. I didn’t have much money one night to buy some drugs so one night, when I was already fucked up; I broke into a drugstore through the sky light. Well I found a couple of bottles of Seconals, and put them in my pocket. I’m not greedy, just wanted a few to have, and then I noticed that there was an old fashion ice cream counter in there. I went over and made myself the biggest chocolate sundae, with bananas, cherries, and nuts – whip cream all over the top; man it was fucking delicious! I was sitting on the floor behind the counter when the police came, and hauled me off to jail for breaking, and entering, robbery of drugs and eating their ice cream. He laughed out loud. That catchy laugh was bounced around us ladies like a ball, getting louder and sillier by the second.

“They sent you to San Quentin for that?” I asked him.

“Well, no I had been in other places on, and off since I was in my 20’s, mostly for drugs, parole violations, like going to Mexico. Once you’re in the California system, it’s hard to get out. When I was sixteen, I ran away from home. That was the first bust. My dad thought it would straighten me out to be in a reformatory. Those places are awful for kids, so I ran away from there. Well, parents couldn’t get back their kids once they were served with time, so rather than turn me in, my folks dyed my hair, and sent me off to Pennsylvania to live my Aunt. They put me in a car with a friend of my dads who he’d met as a sign painter at Universal studios; a kind of Sheikh of sorts.”

“A Sheik?” I asked, this story getting better by the minute.

“Yeah, that’s what my dad called him, the Sheik, because he always wore a turban. Well anyway, they dyed my hair black so I would look like his son. We rode all the way in his 1935 Lincoln K, and since he had an accent and I didn’t, I wasn’t allowed to speak in public for being found out. He just told them I was deaf and dumb if anyone tried to talk to me.”

“That is far out.” My mind was filled with the image of this scrawny fair complected kid stained in shoe polish, just riding around with an East Indian man across country in a big Lincoln.

“Yeah people thought we were royalty or something weird. It was all right until we went through Texas on a hot day, and the dye started dripping down my face. I had all these black streaks down my cheeks and shit, and they just thought the Sheik was some kind of pervert, and stayed clear of us,” Paul laughed. “It was awful. I was wierded out by the whole trip. But, I’ve been pretty weird since I was born, always restless, running away and reckless shit. My mother said when I was three, she was giving me a bath,for just a split moment, turned around for something, and I jumped out of the bath tub, and started running down the street bare bold naked.”

I pictured him running full out, arms wide out, scurrying like a wild goose down the sidewalk, free as a natural born citizen of the coolocracy; honking to his own tune in blue note jazz; yeah this guy was born to run.

“It was pretty funny I’m told, my mom went running down the sidewalk yelling my full name… Paul Richard Smith, you come back! I stayed with my Aunt for around six months until I turned seventeen, then I joined the Navy… spent some time in Okinawa. I don’t talk much about that. It was pretty boring but I got these great tattoos.” Paul said, lifting up his shirt to show us his two bluebirds on his chest. He rolled up his sleeve revealing a hula dancer that had turned into a freakish woman with drooping eyes, and a shedding grass skirt; her Lai was melded together, looking more like an iron necklace than flowers.

“What do the bluebirds represent?” I asked him, genuinely interested.

“If you see a bluebird, it means you are close to land, in the Navy they can also mean if you are shipwrecked you would definitely be rescued, or some shit like that,” he laughed.

I took in this poetic metaphor as if I had traced his soul within my own to mean that all his life he had been running, running not away, but running with his own spirit to an undetermined place in the world, seeking a refuge of belonging with someone he was destined to meet. He was out on his own island of bodacious bizarre, fresh as a clap of thunder, wild as loose feather in a fourth of July parade, rules and regulations baited him into rebellion, and no man or any woman was greater or lesser than he.

I said nothing. I knew him. I knew that life can cause one to move in directions that may be wrong, too man wrong turns but seeks to touch that which ferociously breathes in oxygen to keep its own fire alive.

It was getting late, and I felt I might be intruding on their own reunion so I went next door, where I slept on Hal and Sherry’s porch. It wasn’t too long after I had settled in to my bunk cot in the 4 x 6 foot room and started reading my Bible. I was reading the passage where Jesus raised the young girl from the dead. “Talitha cumi”, which means damsel, arise, when Paul knocked on the door.

“I was wondering if you had any rolling papers and might want to smoke a joint? I’ve got some pretty good weed,” he said with his eyes twinkling like a sprite.

“I don’t smoke pot. I am already pretty trippy on my own and it just messes me up,” I told him truthfully. It was the 60’s, and all my friends did drugs of some kind or another. I was accustomed to the curiousness’ of this procurement to not indulge as they did. My choice was born out of reason mostly. Why spend money on drugs, when one barely has food? Why put something into your body that might affect your future children’s well being? Why start some-thing that might cause so much hardship in a relationship as it had done in my family with alcohol? It didn’t make sense to me. But most of all, why seek spirituality through any other way than simply living ones’ life as joyfully as possible? I think I came into this life all ready up for doing just that.

“I see you are reading the Bible, those back pages don’t have anything on them, and maybe I could use one of those?” he said as a utilitarian answer to needing papers.

“I think that would be kind of sacrilegious don’t you?” I told him then laughed.

“I don’t think God will mind.” Paul said, there aren’t any words on that page.

I thought about it, and decided that I since I had little to offer to this new friend since I was living on a tiny back porch, pan-handled, and sold underground newspapers to eat in China town for 3.00, why not share? I tore half the back page out and handed it to him.

“Thanks, God will put a star in your crown for that.” he said genuinely appreciative.

“You really are a pretty good actor, aren’t you?” I observed with a keen sense of character that I had developed over my short years of just watching people. “You have a smooth way of convincing people of things they wouldn’t normally do.”

“I can usually find a way round things, it’s how I survived all these years.” He inhaled the doobie and blew a smoke ring. “See it’s a halo.”

“That’s what happens when you smoke the Bible,” I said dryly. “So where do you go from here Paul Smith? Do you have plans for the rest of your life?”

“I don’t know, I’ll get a job, maybe as a screen painter here in the city. I have a trade. I learned some things in prison. I was an assistant to the prison’s coroner for awhile too. That was far out. He was this old Italian Doctor, real nice man with a thick accent. One time we were dissecting a body and I had my thumb on one of his main arteries, and felt it beating. I told him that I thought the guy was still alive, I can hear his heart beating. He picked up a scalpel and wacked the artery off and threw the heart in a pan, announced … “The heart, she beat no more.” I was horrified! Fuck, it scared the shit out of me! Then he told me I was just feeling my heart beat as I was pressing on the artery. That was to weird for me. Shortly after that I took up learning how to screen paint in the prison shop.”

Paul had a fulminating way of speaking that cursed for exclamation points, hummed in between sentences like a motor waiting to take off, and laughed out whole paragraphs. It was fascinating to watch him speak, it was as if his hands were separate thoughts that led his stories, always a beat in front of what he going to say next. His head would shake a little from side to side first when something mischievous, or saucy was about to be said, with a twinkling look of, look-what-the-cat- brought-in smile. If one was laughing, he’d chime in with his staccato laugh, milking it for as long as you both could go.

“So what’s your plan, Laura? I guess you’re working right?” he asked.

“I just got here, I’m looking for a job, but no one seems to be hiring anyone like me without experience. I’d like to get off this porch and find a place of my own soon, I don’t like being dependent on the “kindness of strangers.” Something will turn up soon, as sure as there is a heaven.” I smiled certain of that. Paul gave me a fatherly pat on the head.

“Oh, I’m sure it will, there’s always room for a beginner somewhere. Hey look, it stopped raining!” he jumped up in the air exuberantly, giggling like a kid, running out to the back balcony outside the porch door. I followed him to the railing where we both stood in wondrous rapture of the double rainbow that appeared in the sky over the south end of San Francisco. “That’s good luck you know, double rainbows are magical,” he said. It was more than that to me; it was a sign.

A funny thing happens when the pieces fall in place, everything gets clear, and the air is elevated into a rhythmic swirl of awesomeness. Paul inhaled the last of his joint, carefully snubbing out the end to put in baggie for later.

“Well it’s been nice talking to you, I’d better get back to my sister’s house, my nieces and nephews are going to want to say goodnight to me before they go to bed.” This ex con had a heart it seemed, one that was longing for a more domestic life style.

“Goodbye Paul Smith, I hope to see you again, it’s been nice talking to you,” I sincerely told him.

My new independence from my own family had left me with a little lonesomeness that was born out of fledgling wings. It’s not uncommon, everyone goes through this phase, but a world of strangers can hardened the edges if one isn’t careful to find friendship with the arabesque beautiful ones along the glitter highway.   I shook his hand goodbye, and noticed a star and a crescent moon burned off, the ink faintly visible in the shape. When I was in school, I signed my named in lower case letters with a star and a crescent after my name. It was the same spacing, the same direction of the moon and I couldn’t help wonder at the coincidence of meeting this man, called Paul Smith.

Chapter 2 ~Saved by a Cricket

Life leads us away from each other and then back again when the time is right. Paul picked up his back pack and turned to me.

“Well the stars are coming out; I better get back to South San Francisco to my sisters, so she won’t worry. I hope to see you around angel lady, nice meeting you.”

“Nice meeting you too, yeah, come back again.” I told him, hoping he really would; he was such a curious character that I wanted to hear more of his stories.

It was my vocation just to be and see what happened. I was traveling the streets of San Francisco, checking out stores and restaurants for jobs, writing and observing. I stopped on Market Street, revived from my earnest search for employment fresh as the yellow and white daffodils that bloomed in the gypsy garden carts on my way to Union Square.

How sweet is the bustle of 18 years of age? How new and fascinating the faces were to me, however weathered or broken. Their working days gone, old men, well beyond their present age, some sat in Union Square waiting for a hand out to buy another bottle of wine. Above the lonely din hovered one man in particular sitting alone on the stone casement, a distinguished looking man in his mid 50’s, though his clothes were ragged his stature still clung on to something upright. I immediately felt a great sadness from him that needed attention, so I sat beside him.

“It’s a nice day, are you enjoying the music?” I asked him as the Jazz band began to play.

“I am, I’m hungry though, can you spare some change?” He asked seeing me as a golden opportunity to beg. I passed over his question as if he hadn’t asked at all.

“My name is Laura, what is yours?”

“My name is Anthony,” he said, surprised that I would even care. I felt he had once been someone special; he still carried himself well and spoke with an air of intellect, which only those educated in the art of conversation can facilitate.

“I bet you once had a job, what did you do for a living?” I asked.

“You mean before I came to this disarrayed lifestyle of wine and begging?” He said sardonically about himself then went on in a kind of euphoria with a sudden clarity that even surprised him.

“Once I worked for Disney when I was twenty. I was a cell painter … I painted the bluebirds and the haunted trees.” His eyes wept silently, streaming in sea turtles tears of a life laid ruin in the wake of temperance lost. “I was married and had two children but they left me long ago,” his voice trailing off into a heavyweight of irrepressible remorse.

Around the corners of his mouth were hints of a smile that he must have used many times over once. I thought about how he was the one of the first who made branches move with wicked unrepentant grasps, tear at snow white as she ran fearfully through the forest. I saw twittering birds that flew all around in the balance of sweet air; the sun shining up to him as he painted in the cells with liquid promise. His eyes must have been glimmering with enthusiasm as he blended the colors, knowing that many children, years from now would see what he created. His life was all ahead of him, dancing with the pictures that once filled his life with tumescent joy but now his only hope was to quit drinking.

“There is always hope. There are shelters and programs in the mission where they can help you find a new beginning.” I told him.

“Yes I stay at one but it is not enough for me. I am just getting by, waiting for release; something to live for again,” he replied.

“How about giving it to a higher power, get a sponsor and the rest will come along, it’s up to you.” I patted his shoulder and gave him ten dollars. “Use this for food please, get something to eat, not another bottle of wine, just one meal.”

“Thank you.” He wiped away another huge tear that streamed in a river from his eye to his chin, then he looked into the blue sky as if he were reading his life up there, searching for a cloud just to take him home.

I was just about to leave when a lively jazz band of street musicians began to play ‘When You Wish upon a Star’. We sat  peacefully together in a happier place as I sang along. “It makes no difference who you are.” I inwardly thought about how we all encounter a forest that either lurks to snag us with its scraggly pointed branches, or chose to be wondrously courted with loving welcome in a cricket’s song, ever allowing the stream of constant light to flow through us as we paint our cells in to make a story that is cherished. We sat quietly for a moment in the serendipity of our encounter. I saw him as he truly is inside and sang along with the song.

“If your heart is in your dream

No request is too extreme

When you wish upon a star

As dreamers do

Fate is kind

She brings to those who love

The sweet fulfillment of their secret longing

I hugged him good bye, looked up at the sunlit sky, hopefully wishing on a unseen star for Anthony, and that he would hear Ol’ Jiminy Cricket singing for him, and maybe,  just maybe… like a bolt out of the blue, fate would step in and see him through, because; “When you wish upon a star, it makes no difference who you are, anything your heart desires will come to you.”

Chapter 3 ~The Heart Wonders

I moved out of the sister’s porch a few weeks later, having had enough of shared space and handouts. Met up and moved in with a new boyfriend, who was a runaway with fake ID. He’d been on the streets since he was thirteen. Wes, if that was his real name, had well honed street skills for a kid. I spent a month with him in North Beach in a ratty hippie hotel just to get out of the sisters porch. We were still selling papers, pan handling and getting free meals at Morries Dinner because Wes washed dishes there.

One day after one of his New York Style hamburgers, I was heading back to my hotel room in North Beach, and passed a short round woman with shoulder length sandy brown hair. She walked by me and slowed down, then turned and called out to me.

“Hey!” I turned and said, “Hello.” She approached me with a smile and went on to say, “Do you need some clothes?” I was taken aback, as I had been waiting on a box from home with some of my better clothes that Mom was sending and they hadn’t arrived yet. “Yes, I do. I want to find a job, but I don’t have anything that looks nice enough for an interview.” The woman had a sweet kind of Brooklyn accent, which tried to be boisterous but really came off more exuberant than brassy.

“My name is Katy, I’m a seamstress, and have a shop with all sorts of clothes that I collected shoes too, why don’t you come over and see if there is anything you would like.” She quickly added, I’m not a weirdo or anything, I just want to give you some clothes.”

“I do need some clothes, and you really mean it don’t you?” I had to ask, just so I could check out her vibe one more time. It rang true.

“Oh yeah, I am sure you can find something to wear. It’s just up the street.” I followed her up the block and we came to a shop that was in a basement. She unlocked the green door and we walked down the stairs into a room filled with clothes, shoes and material. Her sewing table was spread out with a party gown she was working on. “I do mending and alterations too,” she said.

“This is for a fancy debutante type who lives on Nob Hill.” She laughed like a flock of songbirds in the morning, loud and twittery. “Go look around and see if there is something you like that fits.”

There was shelf after shelf with racks from floor to the ceiling, all sizes, and all styles, some new and some used. “I pick things up at the Salvation Army or Goodwill if I like the piece or the pattern and sometimes redesign a new outfit out of the old, and sometimes I just get things for people that might need something to wear, like you!” She grabbed a sweet empire dress with tiny blue flowers on a chocolate brown background made of manufactured silk. It was lovely, delicate and tasteful with long sleeves that belled slightly at the wrist and handed it to me. “This looks like it will fit.” She loaded my arms up with skirts and blouses and found some leather flats and sandals for me. I was overwhelmed with her generosity. “This is to much, I won’t be able to pay you for all this.”

“Pay me? Oh no my dear, this is for free.”

“Thank you, but I want to repay you.” I told her folding the clothes into a paper bag she’d gotten out for me to put them in.

“Just think of this as a day that God spoke and someday return the favor to someone else in need. The Bible says that if you cast your bread upon the waters, it will come back to you. I say, If you cast your bread upon the waters, it will come back stuffed duck.” Katy led the way back up the stairs to let me out and gave me a huge bear hug goodbye. “Take care dear and good luck finding that job.”

“Thank you Katy, this is really a welcomed turn in my life; I appreciate your kindness and will never forget it.”

I didn’t just walk home, I floated, and it was like I was in a bubble filled with friendship and human kindness. It was an emotion new to me, coming from a complete stranger.

I got a job at Indian Imports, hired by a lovely man in a white suit named George. It was the perfect for me, as I was surrounded by silks, tapestries, beaded bags, and exotic jewelry. There were wind up toys that magically brought laughter to everyone that played with them as the whirred and chimed, danced and played music. Luxurious rugs of rich colors wafted with an organic hemp scent greeted me as I walked upstairs every morning to tidy the toys, baskets, and far eastern oddities on their shelves. It became my true living room, the home of my longing and refuge. To be surrounded by beautiful things is uplifting, even when one doesn’t own them. I could admire their beauty and daydream of the exotic hands that fashioned them into being from so faraway. Indian Imports was one of the first American business’s that bought from independent artisans abroad to help better their economic standing and provide a living for their families.

Wes and I went separate ways, and I left the North Beach Hippie Hotel and moved into what we called back then a Wino Hotel off of Market called The Jessie. It was run down but functional, with clean sheets, and a measure of decent people who were just down on their luck either by happenstance or demise. I saw an opportunity for peaceful coexistence with myself and these strangers that I was surrounded with. We were loners, all eking out a measure survival in the Jessie Hotel that was owned and tended to by the Sikhs.

The fundamental beliefs of Sikhism, articulated in the sacred scripture Guru Granth Sahib, include faith and meditation on the name of the one creator, unity and equality of all humankind, engaging in selfless service, striving for social justice for the benefit and prosperity of all, and honest conduct and livelihood while living a householder’s life. Sikhism emphasizes simran (meditation on the words of the Guru Granth Sahib), that can be expressed musically through Kirtan or internally through Nam Japo as a means to feel God’s presence, and to have control over the “Five Thieves” (lust, rage, greed, attachment and conceit). Hand in hand, secular life is considered to be intertwined with the spiritual life. Sikhs also reject claims that any particular religious tradition has a monopoly on absolute truth.

I liked living in the Sikhs hotel. The air of sandalwood, and ethereal flutters of India filled me with an exotic peacefulness when I entered the lobby where incense was always burning. My body melted off the frantic and disconnected rhythms of the city streets as I inhaled the sandalwood and was greeted with their smiles. The rooms were nine dollars a week. Yep, I said that right. I believe that they were offering a safe refuge for us poor folks, a kind of ashram more than running a successful money making business.

Their white clothes and turbans elevated the atmosphere in the once elegant but now dingy hotel; their peaceful smiles tinged the room in a blue aura. I passed the woman in white, wife to one of the Sikhs with her long ebony hair wrapped up high on her head carrying linens through the antiquated hall on my floor. She nods and smiles openly with recognition of me in a manner that warms my being with belonging. I opened the door to my room where the welcoming site of fresh linens on the bed lay neatly folded for me to change. She has done much more than changed the linens; for there is white light and friendliness left in the room so precisely that I can almost hear temple bells.

I sat in the old rocking chair that I positioned in front of my open window. The curtains billow gently in the breeze like spirits. I rock with their rhythm, slowly breathing in the late evening ambiance of the city. I want to tell the story; this microcosm in the poorest part of town is a movie of real people in the throes of their lifetimes all seeking shelter together in an old hotel. We huddled misfits in emotional splashdown whose days are numbered by a boom of developers moving into the area, are buying up old buildings to be torn down and their dusty pasts transformed into a twentieth century livelihood leaving us all to where, we do not know. These old hotels are a refuge from the streets, at 9.00 dollars a week; we can have a home and a bed, a measure of respectability and shelter from the storms that were inked on the parchments of our hearts.

Just across the street from me is a new office building being built that dwarfs us in its futuristic structure, making me feel that the Jessie is an apparition more so from another time, a portal of a past that we are moving through and the Sikhs are the gate keepers that are easing us all into its transition.

I close the window as it is getting late and crawl into my bed with the squeaky springs, look up to the ceiling medallion that holds the old pendant Edison bulbs. This was once an elegant room with flowered wallpaper that was a radiant blend of vibrant colors and flourished with gold motifs, which now are faded and slightly torn like an old scrapbook. I wonder what kind of people slept here and what adventures they were on.

My neighbors are men mostly, they are poor, alienated, and down on their luck. One morning as I was leaving for work, a drunk sloppily propositioned me. I told him I wasn’t interested and humored him by saying that he might have more luck down in the mission district. He was about to grab my arm when another man came out of his room dressed in an old navy tweed sports jacket, a white shirt with an ascot. He looked like a foreign language professor, or perhaps a literature professor in his early thirties; he was most dapper in a destitute kind of way. In a loud, aristocratic voice, booming out from down the hall, announced in no uncertain terms. “Unhand her good fellow!” The drunk turned in much amazement as did I at the turn of century vocabulary. “I said, let her go, just because we have little money or position in life doesn’t mean we can’t have dignity and respect for others.” The man became ashamed, mumbling I’m sorry, and went off staggering down the hall.

“Thank you, you are a true gentleman,” I said earnestly.

“You are welcome, dear lady; I hope your day is met with better encounters.” He walked down to his room and I never saw him again.