Umbrellas Over Manhattan by Dave Magee

Memory is a funny thing. It leaves room for emotional translation. Space for the undercurrent of what was and what might have been.

My first memory of meeting Dave was while standing at a community bulletin board in a favorite local coffee shop—a recently opened out-of-the way establishment that made this young (ish) mom feel more me. Even though it was a stone’s throw from my boys’ preschool, somehow I felt happily lost and tucked away the moment I stepped in. 


On this particular day, I’d consumed my coffee and packed up my computer when I noticed an intricate postcard, smaller than the other posters that read (something like): Writers in the Barn. Meet and share your stories. All are welcome.


I recall thinking two things: 




That probably would have been it for me on that topic. I was—had always been—a writer and had plenty of stories to share. But, now I was a mother too who was learning the serious business of shaping fledgling lives and was finding the endeavor all-consuming.


Mothers didn’t go to barns in towns where they were still new to “share their stories.” 


Or did they?


“Know anyone?” he asked. 


Again, if I am being honest, I don’t remember what Dave was wearing that day. But since that moment was the beginning of a fifteen year friendship—one where my mind can compilate the mix of outdoor ordinary and touch of whack that was Dave—I’m going to say he was wearing khakis, a blue fleece, and a wool cap with long pompoms and a feather protruding from it.


“Um, no well, I am a writer but…” I verbally stumbled.


“Look, a writer!” he’d said, reporting back to the gaggle of folks that always surrounded, Dave. 


I probably smiled awkwardly and started to leave.


“Did you write down the address?” Dave asked.


I nodded. And, this part I remember verbatim. I went back to the bulletin board the next day and wrote down the address, just in case on Monday evening at 6 pm I found myself able and wanting to go to a stranger’s barn to “share my stories.”


Which I did—that next Monday and a lot of Mondays for many years.  


Those evenings in the barn were creative nirvana. An eclectic mix of people, most of whom are now friends, some of whom have passed on and others that vanished into thin air. That’s what happened in the barn. You arrived, you shared, and you went back to the real world until another Monday rolled around.


People who lasted more than one meeting in the barn knew the only rule: Be exactly who you are and give the other people around the circle the same opportunity.

Sunflower by Dave Magee

That was it and it was magical.  

The routine of that time in the barn slowly (I am talking snail meets turtle meets sloth kind of pace) started to transform the rest of my week. As soon as Monday was over, I began tackling whatever muse was rattling around in my head. No subject was too small or too large. I had stacks of stories already but why not create new ones?


Dave was a lot of things to a lot of people, a soul too grand to boil down succinctly. But since his recent passing, my brain keeps trying to pinpoint: what was it about Dave?


In those early days, he was my creative whisperer. You’ve got one life; how will you use it? Though he never uttered those words directly, they were baked into every conversation with Dave.


After he got to know my family (my oldest was a frequenter of his 5 cent art lessons) he became “let’s call Dave” when there was an off-the-beaten-path project like affixing a house number to a lamppost. Dave spent a whole day helping us do just that.


When Dave and his wife moved not too long ago, my boys (all three) lugged boxes and did odd projects “in the barn.” I didn’t go. I wasn’t emotionally ready to pack-up the barn. 


Maybe that’s the thing that I will most remember about Dave.


“Being ready” never held Dave back. He just did.


Share a story. 

Make a piece of wood or metal or stone into a unique creation. 

Paint life as it appeared to him.

Encourage others to do the same.


Move on when it was his time to go.


I will miss our conversations, Dave. But thanks to you, I will always know where to find you. Your address is forever written in my heart.

A sketch of me, by Dave, writing in my favorite spot 
at So G Coffee Roasters.