My Sister Melissa

Here’s a photo from a couple of years ago of my youngest (of three) sister, Melissa. This was at Seaside, near where our father lived. I had taken her son, Fergus, out, on rented boards (soft-tops; quite embarrassing) on a previous visit, she and her husband, Jerome, coming from Illinois, Fergus from Seattle. On this trip the fun seemed too much, and she and Jerome just had to also surf.


Quite competitive. Quite a bit of fun. The last time, before this, Melissa and I surfed together was at Swamis, 1975, or so, when Trish and I lived in Encinitas. After the session, she asked, “So, now are we going to lay out?” “What? No. I don’t lay out. No. There’s things to do.”

Here is what my sister does. This is a drawing she did at my request, illustration for a short story. And, as with too many things, she sort of worried too much about it. “Just draw it.” “But, what about…?” “It’ll be great.” “You sure?” “Positive.”



The second drawing… I’m trying to remember; I don’t think it was for me. In pulling it up on the computer, I’m stunned, amazed even, by Melissa’s ability to capture the… I mean, look at the feet, the hands. Never really go for skeletons.

But, here’s the thing: I got a group text yesterday afternoon from another sister, Mary Jane, that Melissa, who has been battling a variety of cancers, is in the hospital. “…The Doctors are talking about radiation to her brain. Please keep her in your prayers.”

Now, this is one of those weeks where Trish talked me into going to Mass. Yeah, there are a lot of issues not worth going into on how we’re both converts, about what we do and don’t believe, about how one goes from bad Seventh Day Adventist to bad Catholic (this is me, not Trish), but, with the ringer off, and the phone there mostly so I could check the time (and maybe what the buoys were doing), just waiting for the Saturday Evening Mass to begin was, probably, an odd time to get this kind of news.

Prayer. Prayer? Trish, who has her own prayer chain (yeah, I’m on it, whatever vehicle I’m driving is also on it), when I asked, “What; am I going to change God’s mind?” said, “It’s not like that.” “Do I make a deal with God? Trade out? Trade out for what?”

Bear in mind, I have, possibly more than once, prayed it would stop raining so I could finish a paint job. And it worked. Maybe a day later, but…  I made a deal with God, several times. I should say I offered a deal.  Payment plan.

So far, battered and a bit beaten up, I’ve survived. What remains intact is a certain level of faith that there is some mysterious something that we cannot understand. Someone (on TV) ridiculed those who believe there could be an entity that hears the quiet moanings, maybe it was ‘murmurings,’ of individuals among the millions of people, the silent whisperings, the unspoken wishes. Prayers.


Here’s another drawing from Melissa. There’s a wave drawing as part of it that is mine; the girl on the beach is from a photograph of her as a young girl. It’s an illustration for a play. I never really got it. Too abstract, maybe; but now I’m studying it while I think what I can say or do to help.

Very little, really. But, if you have a prayer list, if you are someone who sends prayers and murmurings out into what we don’t at all understand except that it’s not a void, please include my sister, Melissa.

Oh, just checking this over (it’s Sunday, I should be in Sequim, painting), I got a text from Mary Jane saying our sister is ‘feeling better and eating better.’ Wow, that was quick.


New Semi-Surf-Related Art by Melissa Lynch

My sister (and realartist) Melissa Lynch sent me her newest illustrations the other day. I, of course, a little confused by the technique but excited by the images, asked if I could use them on my site.



The illustrations are titled “Troubled Shores I” and “Troubled Shores II,” and refer to the ongoing Mideast-to-Europe refugee crisis. They demand some study, and with the world-wide implications of desperate people sacrificing everything to escape violence and terror, finding greed and fear and, for way too many, death at sea; with politicians using fear and hatred as campaign strategy; with radicalized assholes killing for some perverted version of what they claim is religion but is not about any god but, rather, about more power… well, we can’t help but be caught in this.

It’s interesting that Melissa includes the Statue of Liberty. Perhaps the ‘huddled masses’ already here are… yes, the drawing has me thinking of things I was already thinking of, the consequences of whipped-up fear and hatred; but my worst fears are that there is no other America to run to.

Here’s what Melissa wrote to me:
I sent them for your use if you want to use them. No worries if not. They are mixed media, using a transfer method for the background texture, which is images from the internet about the refugees, a photo of the Statue of Liberty, and the “Raft of the Medusa” by Théodore Géricault (1791–1824). Then I drew on that background with pastel chalk. It was for my class and the assignment was to use the “Raft of the Medusa” as a springboard to react to current events. I titled it “Teeming Shores” or “Shores 2015”.

I used the same method and “appropriated” your wave illustration on an earlier piece (giving you credit of course). You might be interested in it too. If so, feel free to use it.
The Raft of the Medusa as inspiration 
Alternate process; Collage: Photo-copy transfers, Glue, and India Ink. 
* Wave background appropriated from my brother, Erwin Dence. 
Raft of the Medusa Inspired – Detail
This is a detail of a larger work which was inspired by the painting by Géricault, depicting a great tragedy. 

This work depicts myself playing in the sand as a child, a wave threatens to wipe me out. The woman in the foreground depicts my mother who passed away when I was very young, and my father, distraught with sorrow, and despair. The other women surrounding me and holding back the wave depict the many other “mothers” who stepped in to help protect and guide throughout my life; sisters, sister-in-law, step-mother, friends’ mothers, teachers, and aunts, and as an adult, my very dear friends. The wave itself, appropriated from my brother, though depicted here as a destructive force, also represents his help and guidance in my rearing, without which I wouldn’t be who I am today.

PS. “The Ragged Line” illustration was accepted to the Illinois Board of Higher Education 1 year exhibit!
I am claiming (because it’s the way I remember it) Melissa drew this to illustrate a short story I wrote with the same title. I take no credit for her talent. And, since I’m showcasing her work, here’s another, Winter At Sea:

Chasing the Diamonds; Quilted, Kenetic, Allusive

My sister, Melissa Lynch, the real artist in the family, scolded me for being in any way apologetic for my drawings. Yeah, well; I would like to be honest. If I could capture the building blocks of always-moving water, figure out how to weave a seamless shadowed/reflective/glimmering/black/white/multi-hued image I would.

realsurfersquilted 001

If I could.

realsurfersquiltcolor 001

Since I can’t; yet; I’ll keep trying.

Meanwhile, I’m still in the thinking-it-through phase of a piece I must write under the working title of: “Are All Surfers Sociopaths; or Just the Good Ones?”

Three Acts: ACT ONE- several highschool surfing buddies and I surf Swamis after school. The only other surfers out are three (also high school age) members of the Surfboards Hawaii Surf Team. On the drive home, my friends complain they couldn’t catch any (or enough) waves. I hadn’t noticed, being busy catching waves and watching incredible longboard surfing. ONE, PART 2- One of my friends (Ray Hicks, most likely) points out (I think this was the day I ripped out my pants and had to borrow a pair of Levis from Billy McLean) that, when encountering other surfers of about our age, I seem to puff out my chest. “Maybe you’re intimidated.” “Yeah; probably.” “It’s, uh, like a gorilla.” “You mean, like, primal?” “Yeah, probably.”

ACT TWO- During the last week of my job up the hill from Trestles, taking an hour and a half break during my half hour official lunchtime, some surfer (I’ve always believed he was a Marine Officer) burned me and everyone else (I still got some, but not as many as usual waves). When I checked back at my half hour afternoon (supposed to be ten minutes) break, the guy was still out, still burning surfers mercilessly. I didn’t hate him; maybe he was going somewhere sucky, where a rifle was mandatory, for a while.

ACT THREE- My friend Stephen Davis, last time I spoke with him on the phone, mostly about his upcoming trip to the Oregon Coast and the chance I might meet him somewhere (probably won’t happen); had to, (had to) mention how I fell out of favor with many members of the Port Townsend surfing crew (very unofficial) because, over-amped, I (accidentally, I swear)wave-hogged on a day almost two years ago. Two years ago. Jeez. When I mentioned this on the phone this morning with Keith Darrock, and that I’m no more a sociopath than he is, and I do have empathy, whatever that is, he had to (had to) mention his observation that I’m kind of loud and possibly abrasive (see how he was tactful about this?) in the water, and, also, incidentally, I do seem to “kind of strut in the parking lot.” “WHAT? ME? No, it’s just being friendly.” (I am laughing at this point, but, also, thinking. Is he right?) “Like a rooster. And, oh,” he adds, has to add, “You kind of stick out your chest. And…and it seems like you want to dominate (I’m adding ‘even in’) the parking lot.”

There is no ACT FOUR where I try to change my ways, get all friendly and nice; empathize with those who won’t (before hand) or didn’t get enough waves. Empathize. I did tell Keith I’d rather attempt to empathize than be one of those who didn’t get enough waves. Maybe they’ll get points toward sainthood. No true contrition. Sorry. At least not so far. But, I am thinking; and since I can’t afford professional help, I’ll have to self-diagnose.

STEP ONE-“Yes, it’s all true.” See you in the parking lot.

Melissa Lynch watercolor, “Boys on the Beach,” Featured

My sister, Melissa Lynch, texted me the other morning to tell me how annoying it is to her that I seem to apologize for my illustrations. I texted back, asking why this watercolor, which I thought was actually titled,”Boys on the Beach,” wasn’t on my site. Texts can be so easily misinterpreted, so, after a couple of confused back-and-forths, I called her.

The upshot is this: I’m a fricking genius and my stuff is incredible.

So, no more apologizing.


However, it should be quite obvious why I’m intimidated by my sister’s work. The watercolor is a commissioned work, done for a woman who lost one of her four sons. Though Melissa criticized what I thought was merely me candidly explaining my process, she did say, in reference to the piece, that she wanted to add a hint of the (stuck for a word here, don’t want to say ‘mystical’ or ‘divine,’ as they are words too easily pushed in one direction or another)… mysterious.

And she, of course, succeeded. We discussed how fear plays into art, how we each strive to replicate what we see in our minds. “Blah, blah, blah” you can quite rightly say, “it’s like poets pathetically pontificating.” No, don’t say that.

Did I say ‘intimidated?’ I meant ‘inspired.’ It’s just that my medium, and my muse, and my, um, choice of subject matter… what I go for is, what I’m striving to attain is… I’ll stop. Okay, geniusness. It’s just that… it’s just that I know better. Not apologizing, however. Thanks again, Melissa.