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Seeing the mug

Bette’s Ocean View Diner

I think of

my mother

Bette Hutchison Silver


I am the connection

of every member

of our family

to my mother

Bette Hutchison Silver (date 1996?)

I am becoming

the connection

to my father


Constructing that connection

began seven years ago

after my mother’s death


Discovering documents

hidden in her attic


Researching online

to write

a book

that is and is not

the story of my father


So remember

through me

you are connected

and ever shall be



Welcome to feedback on my book of poems and drawings, Silence Spoken.


I am enjoying reading your poems and I like your sketches very much. You have experienced so much in your life. Your words are an eloquent expression of your suffering, joy, awareness and appreciation of the natural world. The book is very attractively designed and printed. Congratulations on publishing it!

Anne, Kansas City, Missouri, USA

You can purchase Silence Spoken at (discounted price) or on Barnes and Noble or Amazon.  Thanks!

Below are comments from people who have read my book of poems and drawings, Silence Spoken, available on

Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 11.44.14

The poems I liked best are those set in Venezuela, describing aspects of the environment and the sea and those set in Beijing capturing the impact of rapid change – for good and bad, especially “Observed:Beijing”.  It’s what I felt when in China, but succinctly and eloquently expressed.  I enjoyed the whole book, for what it expressed and also for what was left unsaid, or merely hinted at.

Mary, Canberra, Australia

Thank you very much for your awesome publication.  Sketches look lovely & will enjoy browsing too.

Khalida, Blue Mountains, Australia

There is another side of you, a contemplative one that I would not have guessed.  I am no poet and so can’t comment on the poetry but I like the sketches.

Anita, Canberra, Australia

2. Ink Tucacas Sea 3 web

I just browsed through it and your art work is powerful.  I especially like the brush painting from Pakistan. But then your “essentials only” style on Langata, Nairobi, Kenya is so spot on. I’ve read some poems too, but you know me, the art is so immediate.

Sheila, Berkeley, California, USA

Thanks so much for your book of poetry and illustrations!
It is really lovely.  Keep creativity alive!

Margot, Berkeley, California, USA

3. Pak Karkoram 772 webKarimabad, Pakistan

I have looked through it and read several random poems and David has spent much more time with it. We both are enjoying looking at these snapshots of your life.  Your drawings give life to your travels.

Linda, Baldwin, Kansas, USA

I am enjoying reading your poems and I like your sketches very much. You have experienced so much in your life. Your words are an eloquent expression of your suffering, joy, awareness and appreciation of the natural world. The book is very attractively designed and printed. Congratulations on publishing it!

Anne, Kansas City, Missouri, USA

7. Ink Nairobi Person webMan walking, Langata, Nairobi, Kenya

The poem Somewhere, snagged my eye. A knee jerk response to seeing my birthday near the bottom of the page. Reading it through I can only say, thanx for the birthday present.

The poem, Fishing at Sunset, I was timeported to Elk California doing that same such thing using carpenter’s line with old spark plugs on the end for weight. Holding the line for the twitch of the rockfish that might be dinner or dining on smaller fish if it slips the hook.

David, Baldwin, Kansas, USA



Cleaning house

expecting guests



under the bed

in the closets

Drawings from

Beijing China





Ink Drawing fish 228

Ink drawing bamboo practice 227

Ink Drawing Crabs 226

Oakland California



Lake Merritt

Ink Drawing Oakland port 239

Lake Merritt Pen drawing 232

Mendocino California




Mendocino 243

Shidu China


train tunnel


Shidu ink drawing

Drawings saved

yet lost

to memory

If no one sees them

do they exist?


How is it that

I have been drawing

and writing poems

most of my life

and yet

I don’t remember

I keep them

but don’t show them

to anyone

Did I draw that?

Did I write that?



•   •   •   •   •   •   •   •  •


Before finding more and more drawings and poems, under the bed, in closets, in cupboards, I recently published a selection of poems and drawings, entitled Silence Spoken. Available on 

Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 11.44.14

Could I live like this?

In a small world

G’Day, Mate

Caravan Park

Alice Springs





Squared off

Nothing out of place

No extra space

Sparse trees

asserting their identity

because they are

so few





Beyond clean

Burly men with tattoos

No shoes


In the laundromat


Years ago

in a red Honda Civic

our traveling memorial

to a relative

who died of cancer

flat tire

Highway 1

California Highway Patrol

Get off the road

Don’t care how


Working class trailer park

on an inlet beach

Blaring country music

Mock drag racing

Souped up motorcycles

Dragging into

the long




open fires

long stares

as we set up

our small tent

at sunset



Sunset 3 Kulgera web 50763


How do we keep family

with us

through geography

through belief systems

through property

through money

Or today



digital photos



How many homes today

have printed photos

old family photos

family photo albums?

What will happen to family photos

in the future?

Will everything be online?

Will people look at their

family photos?

Every day I pass by

my family on shelves

next to my kitchen cupboard.

Old photos

When was the last one taken?

Over five years ago

The oldest one?

Not sure but

there is a photo of my

paternal grandfather

who was shot and killed

or so the family lore goes

by a jealous husband

somewhere in Oklahoma.

So that would have been


Sometime in the 1920’s?

Then the photo of my father

With his sister Margery

and brother Jack

could be older.

My father born in 1907

He looks to be about 10 or 11

in the photo.

Family lore has it that he left

home at 13 and rode the rails

From Oklahoma

to San Francisco.

Photo of my brother Lon

with his wife Olivia and

our mother Bette Silver

in Mazatlan, Mexico.

Photo of Jim with his

older sister Erica

mother Hsiao Li

father Michael Lindsay

in Oxford England, 1947.

Photos of me as a baby, 1946

held by my mother

Bette Jo Hutchison

and my maternal grandmother

Irene Higginbotham.

Photo of my sons Nathan and

Gabriel with their cousin Lawrence

in Kansas City

Date? Maybe about 1989?

Can I name all the places

the photos were taken?

Kansas City, Joplin, Missouri

Tulsa, Oklahoma

Oxford, Lake District, England

San Francisco, Pajaro Dunes,

Yosemite, California

Beijing, China

Islamabad, Pakistan

Caracas, Venezuela.

Not all the family is present.

Not all the places are listed.

Family on the shelves in my kitchen, Canberra, Australia

Family on the shelves in my kitchen, Canberra, Australia

Losing someone from your life, be it parent, child, sibling, friend, colleague, or mentor affects each one of us.

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?  What they achieved during their life time? The circumstances of their death?

Losing my mom two years ago was one of the greatest losses of my life.

The other deaths were  of close friends – Tausi in Kenya, Angel in California, Claudio in Venezuela –  and my mother-in-law Hsiao Li Lindsay in China.

Nasra (left) Tausi (right)

Nasra (left) Tausi (right)

Of the four, Tausi was the youngest.  She died of HIV/AIDs at a time when most people in Kenya were in denial.  As Mandela once said, people with AIDs often died of stigma, even when treatment was available.  When Tausi died, her own family was in denial and treatment was generally unavailable in Kenya.  Her death reverberates with me as a tragedy.  She was young , talented, a mother of two – a very special warm person. If she had been diagnosed and received treatment in time she could have lived. We miss you Tausi.




Then there was Claudio –  a very exceptional person – a musician in the Venezuelan National Orchestra in Caracas — a humanist and role model for everyone who knew him.  Claudio lived a wonderful full life, although it was cut somewhat short by cancer.  We miss you Claudio.



Pamela, Angel, Margaret (his wife) in their kitchen in the Mission District, San Francisco, California , probably sometime in 2000

Pamela, Angel, Margaret (his wife) in their kitchen in the Mission District, San Francisco, California , probably sometime in 2000

Angel was another exceptional person.  He was an activist for working people and human rights all his life.  Angel was a community organizer in the Mission District of San Francisco, a leader in early childhood education for all and an all round exceptional, warm human being.  Angel lived a very full life and left it peacefully.  We miss you Angel.




Hsiao Li Lindsay, my mother-in-law

Hsiao Li Lindsay, my mother-in-law

Hsiao Li Lindsay died four years ago at the age of 93.  She was a heroine in the modern history of China.  She and her husband Michael Lindsay were in the underground opposing the Japanese occupation of China, which began before World War II. She wrote a wonderful book about her life in those years Bold Plum.  She lived to see Bold Plum published 60 years after she first wrote it.  She died surrounded by her family in Beijing.  We miss you Hsiao Li.


Portrait of Bette Hutchison Silver 2010

Portrait of Bette Hutchison Silver 2010


My mom was within nine days of her 89th birthday when she died in March 2011.  Her death was a tragedy to me as her daughter.  Her childhood was a struggle in a family with challenges of alcoholism, poverty and divorce.  Her adult life was one of sharing and participating in activities such as building support for the Kansas City Art Institute.  She loved to travel – to Mexico, to Africa and to Europe.  Her front porch in the Brookside area of Kansas City was open to all – for talk, games, and pot luck dinners.  I miss you Mom.

Of the five deaths, the one that seems to me to be a tragedy was that of Tausi.  Her death was probably preventable.  She died very young.

More thoughts on Death as Tragedy in my next blog.


16 October 2013

The day started in the middle of the night.

A Dream… I was having lunch with an old friend Angel Contreras, who lives in San Francisco.  I am currently in Venezuela.  I woke up.  Feeling guilty.  Our return flight next month to Australia is through Santiago Chile to see old friends.  What about my older friend Angel, recently diagnosed with cancer.  I should have routed my return to Australia through San Francisco.

Sad News… At dawn, my spouse, Jim is already awake.  At his computer.  He looked at me. He was very sad, crying,  Angel died.  I am crying and yelling…What?  How is that possible?  I dreamed of Angel.  And I tell Jim about my dream.

Angel did not die yesterday, but almost a month ago in San Francisco.  The email was just sent yesterday by his wife with the sad news.   I dreamed about Angel the same night that the email was on its way from San Francisco, California to Tucacas, Venezuela.

My day begins, thinking of Angel.  Disturbed by my dream as well as his death.  Is it possible that other, deeper connections between people exist?

My usual routine: early morning and late afternoon swims in the Caribbean Sea (avoiding too much harsh tropical sun).  Early morning already full sun. Just me in the sea.  No one but birds in sight. Even the few fishing boats gone in. The chipi-chipi (a small shell fish) gatherers will come out later in the day to sit in the shallows, digging into the sand with their hands.

Walking through the waves. Walking out far enough to swim.  Very shallow bay.  Male frigate bird with red neck pouch dives past me. A pelicans plops down on the water near by.  Two black cormorants skim the waves, flying by.

I’m thinking of Angel.  Wanting to dedicate something to him.  The frigate bird?  The palm trees?  The clouds? The grey green sea where I am alone, floating?  Nothing in sight belongs to me.  So am I free to dedicate it to Angel?

How to describe Angel? So people who do not know him will feel his warmth, his humanity which reached out to all.  His boundless energy.

Angel, an activist, was born and raised in the Mission District of San Francisco, California. Father Mexican. Mother Colombian.  Mother very tough, outspoken woman.  I never knew his father.

The Mission District is “Latino”, that is, many families from Central America and Mexico live there.  Angel was head of Mission Head Start,  a bilingual, early childhood education, community-based program.  I worked with him for several years.

Angel was an advocate of quality early childhood care for all, both in Head Start and the San Francisco School District.  He fought for justice and human rights for all people, wherever they were from.

Angel was fun to be with,  well-informed, energetic.  Angel was a jogger and a cyclist.  We shared many dinners, news updates, jokes, reminiscences with Angel and his family in the kitchen and dining room in their house in the Mission District.

Living a global life… moving from continent to continent,  with family and friends everywhere… means that, at any one time, I am isolated, separated from those I love.  I miss  sharing their lives and their passing.

I am grateful that  Jim  (my spouse) was with his mother when she died in Beijing four years ago.  I am grateful that I was with my mother when she died two years ago in Kansas City.  I am sorry that I was not with Angel and his family to celebrate his life.

Not being there when someone dies, means that I continue to assume I will see that person again, somewhere.  No, wait a minute, not true. Even though I WAS present with my mom when she died, I still from time to time think I see her.  Most recently I thought I saw her on the Metro in Caracas, Venezuela.  When the lady turned in my direction, she was a white-haired woman who looked nothing like my mother.

So will I see Angel again, somewhere, some how?  Who knows.  I hope so.

Pamela, Angel, Margaret (his wife) in their kitchen in the Mission District, San Francisco, California , probably sometime in 2000

Pamela, Angel, Margaret (his wife) in their kitchen in the Mission District, San Francisco, California , probably sometime in 2000

I dedicate my 100th post on this blog to my dear friend, Angel Contreras.

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