The most influential person in your life

I have a new book coming out! It’s entitled, A Jar of Water—New and Selected Poems. Some of the selected poems in the book were included in a small print run I self-published some time ago. Some of the poems are new. In addition to the new poems and many subtle word changes to some of the writing, the biggest difference between the two collections is the book cover. The original cover was a painting done by my Aunt Dotsie (Lorraine Woodside) depicting a pastoral scene of the Santa Teresa Hills in Santa Clara Valley before it became known as Silicone Valley. The new cover is also an oil painting—this one created by my middle son, F. J. Anderson. It’s a waterscape of a breaking wave, his favorite subject matter.
It was difficult to change the cover because my Aunt Dotsie was the single most influential person in getting me to write poetry. Not that she was a poet herself—rather, it was her challenge in writing verse that led to my writing.

Aunt Dotsie was a superlative artist. She created hundreds of beautiful pieces—landscapes, portraits, still lifes, water scenes, and a host of other subjects. She photographed her work and kept the images in a big binder. She had the idea to write poems to go along with her paintings and then publish them in book form.

However, the words did not come easily.

So she asked me to write poems for her.

She would call me and invite me over to show me particular paintings from her binder, taking meticulous care to explain what she was thinking regarding each piece of artwork. Over a cup of tea (or a glass of wine—she liked rosé), we would laugh and talk, mostly about her life growing up in the fertile orchards of Edenvale, the great times spent in Capitola by the Sea, and of course, all the current and past family members.

I still cherish those visits.

After time spent together, I would take photocopies of her paintings home with me, stare at them for a while, and begin composing the poems that I thought best captured the essence of her art.  It was a fun and rewarding process, one that we repeated many times over many years.

The result was A Jar of Water.

Here are a couple of the poems I wrote for her. Read the words and visualize what the image looks like on canvas.


The flowers are there,
They are not invisible,
I just don’t see them.
The translucent screen
Of time
Hides their view.
But I know them.
Their white petals
Surround the sun,
Wave in the breeze
And smell of pollen.
I painted them
When I was young.
Pretty things
That touched the canvas.
Stems springing to light
Bursting with life.
Clearer now


She learned to walk
She learned to carry
Baking soda for the masa.
Blankets, canned goods and kindling,
Older now, bigger things,
Little sisters, baby brothers
Buckets of water, sacks of flour,
Kerosene for the lanterns
And pallets for the floor.
But always the fruit.
Lugs and lugs of fruit.
Apricots, peaches, pears
Cherries, plums, prunes,
Hoisted on the beds of trucks
Beside the earthen tracks
In the orchards of Edenvale.
A lifetime of burdens carried.
None heavier
Than the flowers today.
what happens when water meets land

My new book, A Jar of Water—New and Selected Poems, is available in both paperback and Kindle editions.

Who is the single most influential person in your life?


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