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Down Darby Lane

I've Look at Life from Both Sides Now*

I don’t have a lot of time to listen to podcasts or watch Youtube videos, but I make one exception. When I am using my hands – like joyfully working in my studio with a nice lump of clay – I listen to Shankar Vedantem’s “Hidden Brain” podcast.

Last week his show "Both Things Can be True" began with a description of Rubin’s Vase – the image at the left. If you stare at it for a while, you’ll see something quirky. Yes, there’s the simple black vase, but if you continue looking, a set of facing profiles appear in your vision. Vedantem says it’s possible to briefly see both the faces and the vase simultaneously (I think this may be a practiced skill).

His show that week focused on the reality that people can be both good and bad at the same time and asks the question - how can we decide which of these to accept as objective truth. Can we live with this set of apparent contradictions?

Over the pandemic years, we’ve been confronted with conflicting evidence about people in our community of friends and acquaintances. A movement of Americans, loudly demonstrating their opinions about politics, religion, and even science launched boldly onto the national scene. We witnessed the storming of the nation’s Capitol by an angry, committed mob. As COVID-19 ravages our towns, we encounter neighbors who deny the validity of the disease and express themselves by not wearing protective masks or getting vaccinated. Neighbors stop talking; judgments are passed, friendships split, families separate into warring tribes.

Now, as we face yet another holiday season with attitudes largely unchanged, I wonder if we might pause and consider how to make some peace and attempt to see Rubin’s Vase as a metaphor to help us heal some self-inflicted wounds. Let me tell you a bit about my personal experiences.

Living in a predominantly conservative, rural county broadened my exposure to people who don’t share many of my opinions. Up here, with some exceptions, we don’t talk politics with our neighbors, although bumper stickers clue us into each other’s ideologies. These clues (liberal or conservative) have an appeal to what’s termed the brain’s “Negativity Bias.” We naturally grasp what’s “wrong” with others before we recognize the positives. These interactions stay with us. We remember them and make decisions based on the negative encounter. In fact, research shows that negative personal events not only impact us as they happen they also stay with us in the future, as positive experiences generally do not.

Neuroscience explains why we embed the bad memories over the good: The human brain evolved to survive. Negative experiences signified danger to that survival. Reacting and remembering the threat was key to individual and family survival, and those genes (because they were essential) were passed along (Thank you, Neanderthals). Thus, negative events measurably cause more intense and lasting brain responses than do positive ones.

So it’s up to us to consciously choose what we embrace as ‘true’ and valuable about others. Here’s a personal example – I hired a house painter in my community who is, ideologically, a bright Red. He approaches his trade with palpable enthusiasm and commitment. It made me feel good to watch him work.

“You know, when I pack up and leave, people are so excited about how their house looks,” he said to me, “I just plain love making people happy.” My very ‘blue-self’ holds high regard for this man who definitely left me smiling when he painted my house a deep green with touches of purple – a combo he found questionable until we had the results. “I tell you,” he said with pride in the results, “I am never going to question an artist again! I think I’ll just tell folks these colors were MY idea!” We laughed together.

Living among neighbors with whom I could quickly disagree taught me a lesson about the ability to perceive both the negative and positive in people (according to my own bias). Placing more weight on the positive helps me, and those I encounter have a good experience with each other. Yes, it takes a conscious effort, but I think the rewards are worth it.

Considering that we are all a combination of the negative and positive we see in that classic image – and that we still accept Rubin’s Vase as one work of art – maybe it’s a matter of life imitating art? This holiday season, with the annual call for peace and goodwill, is an appropriate time to shift our focus, knowing we’re all flawed. Agreeing to disagree and choosing to accept the good that keeps us human.


Thanks for reading, particularly when there’s so much to do over the 2021 holiday season! I value your time and appreciate your continued attention. And thanks to Joni Mitchell for the 1969 song reflected in today's title*. I love to hear from you and I read and respond to every email - . Wishing you peace, health, joy, and hope for the future.



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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My Mountain Mystery

My book has gotten fab reviews on Amazon! I am so excited readers like the characters, the setting, the plot - minus lots of graphic violence. 

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

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Short Story Collection 

Twisted is - twisted! And Gypsy's Wedding - well, you just have to be there!  Click on the books to see more ... 

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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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