47: denise parsons

denise parsons
artist + writer

Some things never change. I look at the reel-to-reel film my father made during my childhood and see one little girl who was always center stage, laughing hysterically at her own jokes, and dancing around regularly, my sister, and then another little girl, me. I was the one off to the side watching the butterfly or seriously contemplating the beautiful mushroom I’d discovered. As an artist and writer I call upon these traits daily. I am also drawn to the visual and written observations of others and find them deeply inspiring.  Perhaps this explains how hauntingly well I related to Esther Greenwood. She knew how to tell a story.

I graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute with my Master of Fine Arts degree in the Spring of 2007 and I hold a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology. You can view selections of my earlier work on deniseparsons.com.  I currently live in San Francisco, CA, with my husband Chris, and write the blog Chez Danisse.




Nothing stays the same.
The little gallery is gone. The space on Columbus Street, near the truffle shop. The truffle shop owned by the proud Frenchman with funny shoes. He is abrupt and kind. The shop where my little brothers ate their first truffles and drank their first espressos. They wanted to know why the cups and chocolates were so small. Because when things are wonderful you only need a small amount, I told them. They nodded and sipped. It was the same day my dad drank a macchiato and kept saying it over and over again. He loved the word and saying it made him feel like Dean Martin. We saw Thiebaud’s sweets in this gallery. His son might have owned it. We also saw the work of a sculptor who shapes figures in bronze. I never remember his name, and when I do, I spell it incorrectly. He makes us think of Giacometti. The blinds are drawn. A for lease sign with a black & white photograph of a real estate agent hangs in the front window. The truffle shop is still there. I saw the Frenchman today. He was behind the counter. I could not see his shoes.

Behind the Bakery
He had hope in his eyes. There he stood, at the back door of the bakery, loading or unloading, I cannot be sure. His white t-shirt, pants, and apron hung lazily from his body. His hair lacked any sense of style and his glasses looked to have been bought several decades back. But that look in his eyes. It was reversed. As if somehow looking into his eyes meant seeing through them, and his innocence. It was entirely too intimate for this distant first glance. I looked down toward my feet, but could still feel his eyes on me. I thought of him for the rest of the day.

Portrait of George
He’s dependably jovial as we walk in the door.  We’re usually here later.  I had no idea he arrived this early.  6:30 every morning, he tells me with a smile.  Later, his table will be full, but now, it is empty.  My heart sinks a little as I watch him look longingly toward the door.  We are painfully aware of one particular empty chair.  I fear the missing party is out on a ledge, but I am too afraid to ask.  George knows.  I can tell by his stance.  It tells me our missing friend is stable, but teetering.  I do not confirm.  Long-term prognosis is something we do not discuss.  It’s not the place.  We hold our breath and tread lightly.  What I know about the man, the man we don’t discuss, is that his life has been good, and long.  He likes to share stories.  But of George, I know very little beyond his big polar bear stature, his smile, and his hello.  He radiates warmth and concern.  He is a gentle soul.  I can tell.  I do not confirm.




on the nightstand:

am loving:

  • Sitting in the park with Chris on Saturday mornings and sharing one of Dynamo Donut’s spiced chocolate masterpieces
  • Receiving my new cloth copy of Late Wife by Claudia Emerson in the mail so I can read it, again
  • Admiring feather kitchen linens (washed grey) from Herriott Grace
  • Walking to Fort Mason in the morning and looking out at the bay
  • Reading VeryShortStory on twitter
  • Planning my solo birthday trip

how does autumn inspire you?

I’ve finally discovered the beauty of shorter days.  I don’t have to wake up as early to observe the world before sunrise.

what’s one item in your autumn wardrobe you can’t go without?

I’m quite fond of my new rust colored All Stars.  They remind me of the Midwestern autumn leaves of my childhood. Although I’m breaking the rules, I must mention one more item. I couldn’t make it through autumn and most of the rest of the year without my scarves.  San Francisco requires scarves. Luckily I enjoy knitting my own.

what’s your idea of the perfect homemade autumn meal?

Roast chicken and root vegetables (Mom’s recipe) with homemade cranberry sauce

what are three constants in your day?

  • Write, something, anything, if only to articulate a minor thought, describe a moment, or capture a fragment of memory
  • Walk outside, preferably in the morning
  • Drink a strong cappuccino

Of course, this is only my perception. Chris would list a different three. He’d tell you that I must be clean, warm, and fed to function properly.

tell us about the inspiration behind these words and photographs.

Moving slowly and quietly observing is what inspires me. I can be almost anywhere. Time and space are most important. Once I’m in the right frame of mind, the world just opens up. Portrait of George is my most recent piece.

15 thoughts on “47: denise parsons

  1. Wow. Love your writing, Denise especially behind the bakery. It’s so visual. I have to check out the rust colored converse. Maybe that’s my next pair. Ciao.

  2. I can identify with looking back at childhood selves, roast chicken on a cold day (making one tonight actually!), and a Chris who keeps you warm and fed. I loved your post today – both the writing and your photos! Thank you for sharing it with us!

  3. brava, Denise. I know the first two pieces from Chez Danisse, and am glad now to have read Portrait of George. I like your writing and must applaud all these fine works.

    For some reason, I have a special connection to Behind the Bakery.

  4. A beautiful, beautiful piece. Just perfect, the writing and the photos. Perhaps my favourite part was about the little gallery that has gone. Would love to share a roast chicken meal with you at your Mum’s and then go out for a cappucino.

  5. Lovely, lovely. Oh so lovely.

    We need to meet for a capuccino (after I’m done with my coffee fast!) and knit. Although I barely know how, it just seems like it would be the thing to do.

  6. Beautiful words… those last two lines in particular… ” I can tell. I do not confirm.” And beautiful imagery too.

    Thank-you, Denise.

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