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10 March 2017

Mom’s Australian Hat from her visit in 1992

the passing on                                                                                                                                  from one generation to another
an object
a beloved object
my mother gave me                                                                                                                      too many objects
I wear them
I remember her
but there are so many
Is any one special
was any her favourite
no way to know

Today’s your birthday, Mom. I wish we could celebrate together.

Love,                                                                                                                                           Pamela


1 March 2017

I remember.  The final day I had with you Mom.  1 March 2011.  I was there when you opened your eyes, looked at me and your grandson Nathan and then closed your eyes forever.  A few days earlier you had asked me if you were dying.  I said yes and that everything was taken care of, you could go in peace.  And you did.

Yesterday I got out your blue jean jacket with the patches from one of your trips to Africa.  You sewed all the patches and embroidered the outline of the African continent on the back of the jacket.

Mom's Africa Jacket

                     Mom’s Africa Jacket

I live surrounded by you.  Whenever I go out, I open up the drawers with your jewelry and choose something to wear.  Bracelets, necklaces, so many to choose from.

You are always with me and will be forever.

With love,



no writing for this blog for months

not that I’m not thinking about

my mother

my family

my brother

my sister, who recently died of cancer

my nephews

my sons

What is taking up all of my writing thoughts, time?

my father

working on a novel

based on events in his life

events I never knew about

events that appear in documents

as if he were a stranger

I am still trying to get to know him

45 years after he died Lon Hutchison young man

Let me write about Jim’s cousin, Li Anping, who lived in Beijing. How long have I known him? Forever more or less. How many ways has he helped me? Many, but one stands out.

An Ping at a family luncheon September 2015

Anping at a family luncheon September 2015

Over ten years ago I suffered from dizziness – making my everyday life difficult. When I got out of bed some days, nothing obeyed gravity, including my own body. The dizziness occurred off and on for years. Stress related but something more. I went to many doctors and clinics in several countries. With no success.

While visiting Beijing in 2002, Anping took me to Dr. Gu’s clinic. A small somewhat dark place – full of large machines – and people hooked up to them. Some of them jerking from electrical charges. The scene was somewhat off putting, but I trusted Anping. Besides nothing else had worked.

Dr. Gu sent me to a nearby hospital for what? Everything was written in Chinese characters so I had to go with Anping and assume all would be well. Anping does speak English but doesn’t know all the technical terms.

I got a scan of my head. I brought back the picture of my neck and head to Dr. Gu. Anping translated. Dr. Gu pointed to certain regions of my neck and head. His diagnosis: blockage in my neck by calcium deposits, leading to not enough blood circulating in some areas of my brain, affecting my sense of balance.

Dr. Gu started treatment right away, hooking me up to one of those large machines that give small electric impulses. He told Anping I would need several months of treatment. I was about to leave Beijing in two days, but decided I would come back some time and give it a try.

Long story short, I returned the next year, 2003. I went five days a week for several months to Dr Gu’s clinic for electronic acupressure treatment while teaching nearby at Beijing Foreign Studies University. I even continued during the SARS epidemic when everything was shut down. When Dr. Gu had to shut his clinic due to the government policies enacted to stop SARS, one of his assistants brought a portable machine to a hotel near our apartment for my treatment to continue.

The dizziness ended and has never returned. Thank you Dr. Gu. Thank you Anping!

Family Luncheon Beijing, September 2015, An Ping on right, standing next to his wife Zhilan

Family Luncheon Beijing, September 2015, Anping on right, standing next to his wife Zhilan

And thank you Anping for so many wonderful luncheons with Jim’s relatives in China. Thank you for your interest in keeping Jim and myself in touch with China and Jim’s relatives. Thank you for your suggestions for excursions and places to visit in China. Thank you for your big smiles whenever we got together.

Li Anping died 20 November 2015 in Beijing, age 79.

We’ll miss you Anping!

7 October 2015

Dear Friends,

I am reposting the blog below about SIEV X that I posted in January 2014.

Recently I returned to the SIEV X memorial and walked and read each post. This Sunday 11 October 2015 there will be a protest against the incarceration of asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru Islands, instead of bringing them to Australia for processing and resettling.  The struggle for human rights goes on.  JOIN US!


In my last blog, I asked when does a death become a tragedy?  Death is a normal event. When is it a tragedy?  What does it depend upon?  The relationship of the deceased person to you?  The age of the deceased?  The circumstances of their death?

The examples I gave were from my own life – my friends and family members.  Each death had a meaning – an impact on me and many others.  Only one death, because it was preventable, that of my friend Tausi who died of stigma attached to HIV/AIDs, did I describe as a tragedy.

Another criteria for tragedy is numerical.  If there are many preventable deaths, is that a tragedy?  What if we don’t know personally any of the people who died?  Do we experience their deaths as a tragedy?

On 20 October 2001, in international waters off of Australia, a small, very overcrowded fishing boat sank.  This boat was not being used for fishing.  This small boat was transporting 400 desperate people, mostly women and children, who were trying to get to Australia to seek asylum.  The boat was labelled SIEV X – Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel X.

353 people drowned – 146 children, 142 women, 65 men.

The drowning of 353 people jammed onto the small fishing boat called SIEV X is a tragedy.  Although it happened over 12 years ago, SIEV X is a continuing tragedy for Australians.

SIEV X is a tragedy that is burrowing away inside the heart and soul of this very large, mostly arid continent and country.  The response that ignored the tragedy of  the deaths of SIEV X is a tumor that is silently growing.  Some people in Australia are trying to excise it, but many are feeding it, helping it to grow bigger and bigger.

The mainstream media and political parties in Australia feed the growth of this ugly tumor.  They categorize  as “illegals”, the asylum seekers, most of whom are fleeing for their lives and have a genuine claim, according to international conventions signed by Australia.

As a huge continent with a population of about 23 million, enjoying one of the highest standards of living on the planet, politicians and media have again and again whipped up fear of  the “others”, who are supposedly planning to invade and take over Australia – much as the Europeans did to the original indigenuous Australians over 200 years ago.

Opposed to this fear mongering, thousands of Australians are bringing people together to expose and destroy this tumor burrowing deep into the social fabric.  One of the most splendid and inspiring examples of this positive response is the SIEV X Memorial, which acknowledges a profound tragedy that affects us all.

SIEV X Memorial sign Canberra Australia

SIEV X Memorial sign Canberra Australia

I first discovered the SIEV X Memorial by accident.  After a picnic in Canberra, Australia, I walked around Weston Park. I saw a number of white poles, similar to Aboriginal memorial poles, on a hillside overlooking Lake Burley Griffin.

SIEV X Memorial, Lake Burley Griffin in background

SIEV X Memorial, Lake Burley Griffin in background

Each pole has a unique painting, a plaque with the name and age of the person who drowned or “unknown” on it and a second plaque with the name of the group in Australia who painted the memorial pole.

I looked carefully at each pole – 353 for the people who died when the SIEV X boat sank  in October 2001.

I walked the entire 400 metres reading each plaque, overwhelmed by the pain of this tragedy. At the same time  I was encouraged that thousands of Australians throughout the country participated in creating the SIEV X Memorial.

SIEV X memorial, Canberra Australia

SIEV X Memorial, Canberra Australia

If you live or visit Canberra Australia, be sure to visit the SIEV X Memorial in Weston Park.  SIEV X is not listed in the free tourist booklets  or on the Canberra website. You can find out more information at

SIEV X Pole commemorating death of a child, age 2

SIEV X Pole commemorating death of a child, age 2

On the high speed train (300 km per hour) in China … passing landscape divided into small plots for agriculture… in the cities everywhere cranes and high rise cement apartment buildings going up and highway construction.. no visible sky or clouds just grey overhead – combination of pollution and mist.

High speed train equipped with stewardesses, fold down trays as on airplanes, large windows, toilets, hot water (boiled for tea, instant noodles), stewardesses with carts of snacks and drinks for sale (non alcoholic), dining cars with pre-prepared meals to microwave.

High Speed Train 70512

So many changes so fast in 5-10 years from dingy ordinary trains filled with people smoking and spitting, sunflower seed shells lining the floor. Trains leaving from dingy, rundown stations… to super high speed trains in purpose-built shiny clean train stations with huge signs advertising all kinds of goods to buy..

High Speed train station 70521

How does this feel for the ordinary person in China to have so many changes so fast in just 10 years or even less? Everywhere development which means high speed technology, wifi, smart phones, fancy cars, more pollution, traffic jams, bright lights so that even shabby buildings look like fantasies at night

Zheng Zhou: fancy railroad station with many many tracks, thousands of new cars lined up but no factory in sight. Everywhere cranes, the entire sky line, cranes upon cranes (not birds) hanging over high rise apartment buildings under construction

What is like to live in a society with so many physical changes? What does it mean for families, culture, ethics? Just get more goods, more high speed trains, more shiny stations? and more and more grey grey no sky days?

People now have money to visit all the tourist attractions, stay in hotels, go on tours, eat in restaurants. Thousands of middle class Chinese tourists at all the sights, taking selfies. Chinese tourists laugh, take photos, hike on sacred mountains – signs of enjoyment. They’re pushy at railroad stations, on the subway, etc, but usually friendly and helpful. People stare at us in the villages, but then break into a big smile when I say nihao (hello).

Grey is the colour – of the sky, of the apartment buildings, of the cement highway overpasses.

Black is the colour of the brand new mostly luxury cars: BMW, Audi, Mercedes: large sedans, wood like interior, total electronics, GPS, backing up rear view cameras, sunroofs very popular despite lack of sun. In Beijing, people in traffic jams, stand up in their cars looking out through their sun roofs

Previously life in China constricted by poverty, illiteracy, lack of access to internet… now life constricted by technology, consumerism, grey skies

Stories about Shoes


Shoe Liberation


Why do women,

especially young women

wear such stupid shoes?



Platform Shoe 1




can trip


twist an ankle

Bad for their calves



Achilles tendons


Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 15.17.58


Cannot walk properly

nor run

nor skip

nor hop

nor jump

Just take teeny tiny

hobbled steps


Comparable to foot binding

of the Chinese upper class

“Lotus foot”

Male foot fetish

My mother in law ran away

when they tried to bind her feet

Her mother pushed her feet

into shoes too small

Her mother illiterate

married into a wealthy landowning family

assumed small feet were necessary

to get married.


Walking through Kibera slum

in Nairobi Kenya

in front of me

A young woman in high heels

carefully lifting each foot

slowly putting each foot down

trying to make her way

through rocks


uneven unpaved paths


stepping over sewer water

Politely spoke to her

suggested that it would be better

to wear sensible shoes

walking through the slum

Bring other shoes if needed for her job.

Next day I saw her

wearing flat shoes.


When young

my mother tried to

feminize me

with girdles



high heels

Always the tomboy

I preferred playing

basketball or

baseball with the boys.


In later years

my mother introduced

me to super shoes




Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 16.13.44

Me and my super shoes

Bounded up and down

the hills of Kibera slum

in Nairobi,Kenya




slippery slopes

sewer water



dodgy youth

who followed me

one day.

No one could stop me

in my super shoes.


Under the overpass, Kibera

Under the overpass, Kibera


I would like to give a

Stupid Shoe Sticker

to every woman I see crippling herself.

This is why we fought for women’s liberation..

NOT to wear high heels

NOT to be objectified by the male gaze

And NOW??

Stupid Shoe Sticker


I am mystified as to why young women would spend their money on instruments of torture for their feet and their bodies.



My mom Bette Hutchison Silver (name before her first marriage was Snidow) often told me that she grew up in an art gallery – the William Rockhill Nelson Gallery in Kansas City, Missouri.

Her family was struggling to maintain themselves in the working class. Her stepfather was a butcher. Bette was an only child.

Every Saturday morning her mother, Irene Higginbotham, gave Bette Jo a quarter (25 cents) for the day. Bette Jo would ride the bus to the William Rockhill Nelson Gallery (5 cents each way) and would have 15 cents for lunch. Bette Jo would spend the entire day wandering around the gallery.

According to her, my mom barely made it through high school. She attended almost every high school in Kansas City Missouri because the family moved frequently. Every time the rent came due and they could not pay, they moved again. Bette Jo was born in 1922, so she was growing up during the Great Depression in the USA.

As far as I know, my mom had no formal art training yet she became an artist. She was a greeting card illustrator for Hallmark Cards

Painting by Bette Silver

Painting by Bette Silver

Pansies by Bette Silver

Pansies by Bette Silver

in the early days when cards were drawn and painted by hand. Most of the illustrators were young women.  J. C. Hall the founder of Hallmark Cards watched over the young women and often visited and chatted with them.

When my mom got married in 1944, my father Lon Hutchison insisted she stop working at Hallmark Cards. As a true patriarch, he insisted that no wife of his would be working outside the home. They were struggling to survive on my father’s earnings as a paper carrier for the Kansas City Star newspaper, but he would not allow my mom to work.

All of her life, my mom enjoyed the William Rockhill Nelson Art Gallery, attended all most every special exhibition, and often visited the collections on display. She also supported the Kansas City Art Institute. She worked tirelessly for several years on the annual Fireside Auction, which was a major fundraiser for the Kansas City Art Institute.

Memories of Bette as artist continue in our house in Canberra. We have some of her work on display on our walls. Check out the photos in this blog.

Painting of a baby by Bette Silver

Painting of a baby by Bette Silver

I miss you Mom!

Mazatlan Seascape sketches by Bette Silver

Mazatlan Seascape sketches by Bette Silver


Mazatlan Landscape Sketches by Bette Silver

Mazatlan Landscape Sketches by Bette Silver


Painted rocks by Bette Silver

Painted rocks by Bette Silver

Where to begin?

Coming back to Mazatlan, Mexico, but not, as in every other visit, to enjoy, to go to the beach, to relax.

This time to try to make sense of a senseless event – the death of my younger brother Lon Hutchison.

Lon had been living in Mazatlan for about 15 years. His wife Olivia died 5 years ago. He was very close to his stepdaughter, Josefina and to her grandmother Lupita.

One evening, 5th of May 2014, Lon got on his bicycle to run an errand. Lupita and Josefina were in the house. They waited and waited but he didn’t return. Josefina got a phone call that there had been an accident. Lon had been hit by a city bus and killed.

Even though I am here, even though I have spent the past week with Josefina and Lupita trying to do the paperwork related to Lon’s death, I still cannot believe it. I go through each day as if I were living someone else’s life. Here I am – listening to Lupita and Josefina and sharing stories about Lon. But Lon is not here.

We miss you Lon.

Informal altar to Lon, Olivia and Bette Hutchison Silver, July 2014, Mazatlan Mexico

Informal altar to Lon, Olivia and Bette Hutchison Silver, July 2014, Mazatlan Mexico


Our Street 10947

What is happening in Nairobi, Kenya and other very fast growing expanding cities in East Africa and beyond?

The place where I stay, Langata, provides some clues… What was an urban forest, Ngong Forest, not so long ago, has been taken over by apartment buildings and large houses, filling up the land with cement, leaving no space for trees, gardens, parks, or children’s playgrounds.

Behind the apartment where I stay there is an undeveloped open space. No one is allowed to build there because of a natural gas pipeline underground.

The open space is used for parking cars, hanging clothes, raising chickens and sakuma wiki, a local staple, a green leafy vegetable.

Children play in the rubble, the dirt and grassy areas. I sometimes drag a folding chair outside, sit with a book and a glass of wine – just to be outside and watch the clouds.

Home Made church near our apartment building, Langata

Homemade church near our apartment building, Langata

Not far from our building is a homemade church, made of corrugated iron. On Sundays it fills up with people singing and praying, amplified by a generator.

Further down the road, at the end of the paved section is yet another homemade church – also of corrugated iron sheets but painted.

Church near the end of our street, Langata

Church near the end of our street, Langata

At the end of the road are two Maasai manyattas where people live traditionally, driving their cattle, sheep, goats and donkeys into the forest and the grassy areas next to the cemetery daily then bringing them back home to their enclosures for the night.

Sheep and goats coming back to the Maasai manyatta

Sheep and goats coming back to the Maasai manyatta

When I am bored and tired of computer-based life, I walk to the manyatta and play with the children. Yesterday we played Skip to My Lou… skipping together in a long line, singing the song slowly, pausing, then speeding up. Everyone laughed. One tiny boy started crying because he couldn’t keep up with us. So I took his hand and we went at his pace.

Manyatta next to Cherryville apartments, Langata

Manyatta next to Cherryville apartments, Langata

Sketch of the Manyatta from balcony of the apartment building

Sketch of the manyatta from balcony of the apartment building, Langata


Last week, dirt and rubble were brought in by huge trucks, then graded to make a road through the area that is still not developed.

Yesterday a team was surveying the road. Soon houses and apartment buildings will fill up all empty space.

And the remnants of Ngong Forest?

Women carrying wood, trees chopped down in Ngong Forest

Women carrying wood, trees chopped down in Ngong Forest

Disappearing daily as people from Kibera, the nearby urban slum, cut down trees to sell for firewood, hollowing out the forest from the inside out.

Ngong Forest going...going..

Ngong Forest going…going..

Soon Ngong Forest will be no more.

Pile of cut trees Ngong Forest

gone…. trees cut down in Ngong Forest

Soon the Maasai manyattas will be no more.

All will be large houses, apartment buildings, concrete and cement.


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