Tag Archives: Family


Earlier this week it snowed in Seattle. We woke to clear blue skies and an outdoor world blanketed with an inch or two of bright white powder. My daily walk down the driveway to get the newspaper became one of discovery: the yellow witchhazel fluffs each wore a snow hat, same for the rhody leaves.

Animal tracks on the pavement led into the woods. Who knew this was a bunny crossing?

bunnytracksI was seeing my old familiar walk with fresh eyes. So exhilarating.

Seeing with fresh eyes is one reason I love hanging out with my almost-three-year old grandson. The world is new to him. On a walk around an ordinary San Francisco city block he discovers seedpods and leaves and various ornamental details. He pays attention to everything. When the MUNI tram goes by, he notices the paint scheme (he particularly loves the polka dot MUNI). He watches the sidewalk, too, and points out letters he recognizes on the public works cement vaults signage. He finds other lines in the cement that are perfect to jump between.

I understand that our adult brains, in the interest of efficiency, stop noticing familiar details. I have walked down our driveway at least 1,000 times. I guess it makes sense to tune out. But what wonders await when I tune in.

This week my sister Kate Harvey McGee was visiting so we could work on our book, SQUEAK, which is slated to come out from Philomel in 2019. I create the black and white part of our illustrations, first painting in gouache resist, then scanning, and reworking in Photoshop.

8-9mouseK I send my files to Kate for coloring. Kate works in Photoshop, too.

Kate lives near Philomath, Oregon, and we usually work through email. So it was fun to sit in the same room and kibitz, and to be able to print out our efforts and take a look together.


Something about printing out triggers the fresh eyes thing. We hung the print on the wall and kept returning to look at it over the next few days. Pretty soon we were adding post-its: “rounder mouse butt,” “shadow plant” etc etc.

Kate and her partner Scott were also in Seattle because we had a family event to celebrate – our niece Maia is now engaged to Chris. So we were all thinking about how it is to fall in love. It’s related, isn’t it, to seeing with fresh eyes?


Remember when you first met the person you love most deeply – and that wonder of discovering him or her?

I wish Mai and Chris all the best – and for the rest of us, here’s to seeing all the world with fresh eyes.








Through a Child’s Eyes


A couple of weeks ago my husband, my daughter, my son-in-law, my grandson and I all took a trip to Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, to visit my husband’s family. I was thrilled to go – not only to meet all the new little grandnieces and grandnephews (in Spanish, I’m called “Tia Abuela” – Aunt Grandma!) but to do so with my daughter and her family in tow. The world is a whole different place seen through the eyes of a five-year-old, and that’s why being with Mary and Jackson is such a pleasure. Watching her look at him with delight, and watching him look at the world with wonder – well, there’s nothing better.

I’ve never seen much of note in Hermosillo – it’s not a beautiful old Mexican town, certainly not a World-Heritage site like some of the colonial towns in southern Mexico. There’s a pretty cathedral and a plaza with a bandstand. There’s a government office that’s been fixed up and looks like it might fit in to a tourist town.  But I’ve always thought of Hermosillo as Tucson South – strip malls, flat-roofed businesses, failing infrastructures, barren desert – not the moist, green landscape I’m used to in the Pacific Northwest. So when I go, I only care about seeing family (well, that and eating the wonderful food they put before us while we’re there!) But aesthetically, no, I’ve never seen anything I’d call exciting.  Hermosillo passes before me in a blur.

On the other hand, what you see above are the lists Jackson made of “Special Things” he saw. The long list was made on the drive over to Kino Bay – about an hour away from town, due west through the Sonora Desert to the Sea of Cortez. The short list was made during a quick car ride through the center of town.  Jackson has all the markings of a good writer – a sharp eye and desire to record what he is witness to. He keeps his head up and his eyes open.  I’m not going to explain everything on the lists – let some of them remain a mystery to you. But I can testify to the fact that he saw them.  If I told my students, “Write a story with five things on these lists,” I bet they could come up with some doozies. I made a copy and have it near my computer now – it reminds me that good writers always see the world with fresh eyes.

Below is a slightly more legible account – I was transcribing as we rode around, and we hit a LOT of bumps, so the handwriting is wobbly:

Around Town: 1. Crazy blue car. 2. Yummy food. 3. Fountain of mountain goats. 4. Blue truck with flames. 5. Palm trees. 6. Double long truck. 7. Dollar sign $$. Ostrich.

List of Special Things on the Way to Kino: 1. Buzzard on a light pole and two more on the grass. PAJARAZOS! 2. Heron 3.Vermillion flycatcher. 4.Cactus bush. 5.Mountains. 6. White rocks that say “I love you.” 7. Millions of orange trees. 8. Flying hawk. 9. Saguaros. 10. Seagull on top of a cactus. 11. Beach! 12.Shapes in the clouds. 13. Dead cow.

Vermillion Flycatcher

Vermillion Flycatcher

Zopilote (Buzzard)

Zopilote (Buzzard)

Orange Grove in the Desert

Orange Grove in the Desert

Kino Bay on the Sea of Cortez

Kino Bay on the Sea of Cortez

Shells on the Beach at Kino

Shells on the Beach at Kino

I’m going to keep the photo below as my new screensaver. It was taken in the plane on the way down to Mexico. This one reminds me that all a writer needs is a pen.  And a napkin.

Trip to Hermosillo 01-13 Jackson Drawing