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Paintings and drawings

Drawing of Afghan women by Latifa


piled up in a corner

Art reflecting life

In Berkeley

In Afghanistan

In San Francisco

Ink sketch of San Francisco by Pamela Collett









In a refugee camp

All originals

Drawing by Afghan girl, Nafisa, age 13, in a refugee camp

All true statements

in different styles

Different mediums

Different lives

By different artists

Will they survive

Will anyone remember them

And what they sacrificed?


I place my computer

in its purple jacket

Carefully on the floor beside the art

out of the way

I must have a clear path at night


the secret to a long life is

hold on to the handrail

Do not fall

on your way to the toilet

with the nightly insomnia of age

And you sometimes sleep walk

Keep the path clear


Hold on to the hand rail

even when there is none



San Francisco Sunset, from Oakland Shoreline Park


What have you




after three weeks

in Oakland California?


Can you live in two places at once?

Can you accept a divided life,

bringing together past and present?

You thought you had to place your allegiance

with only one

with Australia

after struggling to accept and be accepted

You evaded and avoided

the other country because of your politics

and the comfort level you had achieved

living in Australia


Returning to the USA


by your mother

to distribute her ashes

on the beach at Pt. Reyes

according to her last wishes

And to help your friend Martha

in the momentous change

from an academic life

to so-called retirement

Where should she live?

Where would she accept

and be accepted?


You returned to Oakland, California

for three short weeks

Getting a snapshot of the lives

of past friends

and current family

After initial culture shock

living in a smaller space

with less autonomy

more people

more stress

more cars

more people

you settled in

Found a pace

and a space that suited the current you

You can be both

Just like you have two passports

You can incorporate both

the past and the present


Returning to Australia

on the bus ride

from the Sydney airport

back to Canberra

looking at

clouds upon clouds

that I lack words to describe

rolling hills

gum trees with grey-green leaves

I am calm and comfortable

I embrace my life here

without turning my back

on previous lives in the USA


Brindabellas, near Canberra, Australia

Celebrating! My mother is floating somewhere in the Pacific Ocean where she wanted to be. She wrote her wishes down and we followed them.

My mother Bette Jo Hutchison Silver died 1 March 2011 in her bed, in her home at 623 Greenway Terrace, Brookside, Kansas City, Missouri. I was there. She had asked me the day before if she were dying. I said yes, and reassured her that all was well.

            Bette Jo Hutchison Silver (date 1996?)

Just before she died she opened her eyes, looked at me. I smiled and told her I loved her, gave her a kiss and she was gone. My son, Nathan Collett, was with us. Her grandson, Lawrence Andre, and his son Henry had said good-bye earlier that day.

My mom left written instructions that she was to be cremated and her ashes spread at Pt. Reyes National Seashore, north of San Francisco, California.   When I lived in the San Francisco Bay area, my mom and I frequently visited Pt. Reyes. One time, we backpacked up a steep hillside to Sky Camp and camped out together in a small tent.

When my nephew Lawrence found out about her wishes, he asked me to wait to distribute her ashes until he could come to California. So I brought her ashes to Oakland, California and set up a small altar to her.


Me in Oakland California with altar to Bette Hutchison Silver

Lawrence lives in Mission, Kansas, just outside Kansas City, Missouri. When my mother died, I was living in Nairobi, Kenya. I moved to Canberra, Australia in 2014. My mother’s ashes waited patiently for us in Oakland, California.

Finally, eight years after her death, we did it. In March 2019, I came from Canberra, Australia. Lawrence with his son Henry came from Kansas City. We met in Oakland, California. On Saturday 13 March 2019, we drove to Pt. Reyes National Seashore.


Bette Hutchison Silver altar at Limantur Beach Pt. Reyes National Seashore


Lawrence Andre and me at Limantur Beach with Bette’s ashes

A blue sky day, warm and windy at Limantur Beach. I read poems and tributes to my mom from family and friends. Then we opened up the box, took out the bag with her ashes and waded into the sea. We took turns throwing handfuls of her ashes into the Pacific Ocean. I threw one handful for my friend Martha. The wind carried the ashes up in an arc, then they dropped down into the ocean.

Opening the box with Bette’s ashes, me, Henry and Lawrence Andre


Me, Henry, and Lawrence wading into the ocean at Limantur Beach

Lawrence suggested that we fill the box that had held her ashes with sand and objects on the beach, including a sand dollar, part of a crab shell, and some small rocks. Now the altar honoring Bette Jo Hutchison Silver is back on the shelf in Oakland, California. Inside the box are memories from our day at Limantur Beach.


We remember you Bette.

We miss you!


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



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.

26 Nov 2012, written on the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit)   

going from Oakland  to  San Francisco, California

HSFD Pamela Head to HEad

Overwhelmed with words

My eyes stinging

My memories escalating

Moving from east to west

Oakland to San Francisco

And the people


The beautiful maimed people

Where do they all come from?

•   •  •

How is it possible

Moving through time


Dental school

Still there

Red haired about to graduate

Young man from Phoenix

Still there

•   •   •

Thinking only in poetry

Reworking the past

Re reading poetry

By a witness turned communist

Turned artist

•   •   •

Cole Street looking dingy

Quaker resistance reminder

Closeness of people in the tram

Not a Nairobi matatu

different feel

clean, orderly

full of disconnected people.

•   •   •

Older Chinese man

Chattering in my deaf ear

Nodding yes

Of course

You’re right

Then he said Mau Mau

When I said Kenya

I turned around

Tried to hear

Did he really say

Mau Mau?

How could he know?

Did he know?

Then he said something



You mean Kenyatta?

Not a Mau Mau

installed by the British

He nods his head

in agreement

Thanks me and gets off

at the next stop.

•   •   •

Passing through

On the tram

Barely sensed the slickness of

San Francisco

Capitalism gone mad

Capitalismo salvaje

Per Chavez

Everything branded


Most people

Including me

Wearing black

and in a hurry.

•   •   •

Pushed back tears

A grieving of intensity

not anxiety

And everywhere

the homeless

few but not

far between.

•   •   •

On the BART

African gent

plaid jacket

light brown leather


of uncertain age

like the man himself

stuffed with paper

and maybe his lunch

Sitting next to a young woman

draped over the seat

bare smooth pink

arms and shoulders

though it’s foggy chilly.

She’s all in black

with huge purple

hoop earrings

and chartreuse sneakers.

•   •   •

Everything in motion

Always moving

Now choosing one place

out of four continents

to live

Bringing memories to

a new place

with few memories

Friends but not close

•    •   •

Disrupting a small

space full of stuff

from my mom.

Will she travel

with us to another


She always loved to travel

until the end.

Her ashes still

in Oakland

Going to Pt Reyes

Some day.

•   •   •

Why write words

no one can read?

Why be a poet

unless it’s necessary

and for whom?

How can I be a poet

If I don’t

talk to myself?

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