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Down Darby Lane

A Gift that's Wrapped in You

Self-Portrait, My Grand Papa, Frank Darby

I remember being a child in sub-zero Christmases in Minnesota – my little brother and me hiding in our bedroom while the adults – grandparents and mother – fetched 'Santa's gifts' from the attic and spread them beneath the tree. It was easy to feel excitement, gratitude – first to the Santa we once believed made a personal visit and later to adults who made our Christmas wishes come true.

Even now, as an elder, I remember those thrilling seasons of opening wrapped presents and the magic of decorated Christmas trees that lit up our lives in the cold north. And at the same time, I've found my focus shifted. This Christmas I'm thinking about different kinds of gifts we receive – ones we inherit from birth families but still have to open to fully appreciate. Let me explain.

When I was in my late 50s, I discovered a natural ability to sculpt with clay. I'd tried to paint and dabbled with other artistic endeavors but wasn't really successful or engaged in the process. But sculpting in clay and casting in bronze just lit up my life. I enjoyed my time, accepted some failures, and persevered – knowing I'd only get better. I remembered that my grandfather, who worked for the Chicago Northwestern Railroad his entire life, would sit in his easy chair and draw little portraits in pencil for me. It wasn't a hobby or an artistic discipline for him – responsibilities in his little house prevented such self-indulgence – but he was a born artist. And I believe my own, newly discovered talent was a gift from his lineage.

I broadened my thoughts about family inheritance, unraveling the thread in my own. I have a daughter with a beautiful singing voice, another who teaches art and shows her work, a son who is a master glass blower and runs a center for working artists. And, looking back on my own working life, I was an actress, a vocalist and a journalist and writer for decades. Though I never recognized those endeavors as talents or gifts, I now know they are something special that runs through my family – likely for generations.

I researched the validity of talents being passed along through generations – was it strictly practice or genetically inherited? Had I asked this question 40 years ago, there would have been no definitive answer. But today, not only has genetic science expanded its understanding of the influence of genes, that information is literally at the tip of our fingers with a good-old Google search.

Brainiac brain scientists have been delving deeply into the topic of genetics. First, to look at influences regarding heritable diseases and developing some life-saving medications and measures and then to verify if or if not, talents also reside in our genes. It turns out they do.

My kindergarten version: We all have 46 chromosomes with sections we call genes. Each has strands of genetic information that determine our features – like hair and eye color, susceptibility to certain diseases, allergies, and, yes, special abilities such as an affinity for music, or art, or sports, among other human traits.

For example, researchers have identified chromosomes (oops, another explainer – these babies are inside our cells and form our genes) that relate to musical abilities. A location (loci) on a specific gene (Chromosome 4, for those of you demanding more detail) appears to be dedicated to music – singing and music perception. Chromosome 8q gets credit for perfect pitch, 12q enables music memory, 17q provides music memory, and (get this) choir participation.

Bronze Camel - by me

The same is true for other traits, talents, physical appearances, vulnerabilities, and strengths. Of course, just being a vessel of genes that drive the development of individuals doesn't mean they'll ever emerge or be fully realized. Practice is a necessary component in any artistic achievement – without it, the talent remains dormant. And, yes, people without the associated genes can also excel in the arts or any creative endeavor.

But the science of genetics has expanded to the point that parents can get a genetic map of their children to help guide their education and interests. Undoubtedly this microscopic reading of potentials may also be used for less positive motivations – kind of a science fiction mind exploitation for evil intent (yet another human potential).

For those of us too ancient to have suspected we inherited certain abilities, well, we missed that boat. I thought my interest in the arts was no more than playing – wasting time on a rainy day. The same was true for music, with the exception of learning to play an instrument. However, being a viola player seldom leads to a paying gig – my mistake! I didn't realize that writing as a news reporter was tapping Chromosome 16q – I thought it was a low-paying, fun job. And, most importantly, I had no idea I could awaken some long-dormant ability to become a sculptor, now, at age 76, wanting 20 more years to joyfully manifest a gift from my grandfather, Frank Darby.

I wonder, what about you – what's sleeping on a gene? What might you have inherited along the line of ancestors and passed to your own children? It's a joyful revelation to think most of us have talents to discover at any age.


Thanks as always for staying with me – I know that this time of year, many of us are on overload. But you are enjoying the season, wherever you are. Be well, stay safe, find someone to hug!

This week's opportunity to download a FREE Cozy MYSTERY novel is only a click away! My very highly rated cozy mystery book "The Song of Jackass Creek" is among the selections. It's a great season to cozy up with a book - and free is even better!


Friends and Readers,

A note about most of us, for better and worse, in the Arts. I think we long to share our thoughts and creations - and without you, we are lonely. Imagine, you wrote a beautiful piece of music and no one but you (and perhaps your cat) ever got to hear it. Or painted a picture that no one else but you ever saw, or wrote a story that no one but you read. Sharing is everything for people in the arts and your support is fundamental to the continued creativity of all artists. So, Thank you! 

Hey! Check out this awesome article by popular columnist Ed Goldman - it's about moi! Also subscribe to his clever, witty and smart blog!  

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If you are fond of 'cozy' mysteries please read The Song of Jackass Creek. Check out Reviews HERE.

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Sample Amazon Reviews

This is an excellent writer!

Darby Patterson is truly a talented writer. She describes this little town sweetly without boring the reader with unimportant detail, and her descriptions are vivid. She also develops her characters fully through conversation and action so the reader becomes acquainted with the main players and can form pictures of them early in the book. Her characters' thoughts, interactions, and past activities combine to portray the culture of Redbud throughout the story, and the story itself is creative and holds surprises along the way. I too hope Ms Patterson continues to share her talents with us!

Sondra Jensen

Awaiting the next installment

An invitation to linger in this vanishing part of California which has so much history is writ on every page of this book. I've visited places like Redbud with a creek burbling in the background as gentle breezes sough through the pines and cedars. I've found them quaint and rich with fascinating local lore and history. Jesse, as publisher of the local weekly is very nicely sketched, the authors background as a journalist comes through clean and clear in developing him. This small California mining and logging town scrabbling to hang on, I liked very much as a setting. I wouldn't mind sitting down with Jesse and having a beer and help him solve his next mystery. The test of a good book is whether you'd be willing to read it again, later. This book passes that test and I can't wait for the next installment.

Jack Howard


Please let this be the first of a series!

Wonderful book; adult without being ‘R’ rated, complex story and well developed characters. The people of ‘Redbud’ ring true and, as a native Californian, the lumber, real estate and politics are spot on. I hope this is the beginning of a series because the author has created characters you want to know better.

D. Holmes

My other passion
Sculpting for bronze - See more HERE
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