Author Archives: valsivilli

About valsivilli

I Paint - I do other things, too, but mostly I paint and I tell stories and then sometimes I write music. But really, mostly I paint.


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I am painting Bumble Bees because Barry and I have been living with a tribe, a nest, a colony of Bumble Bees this past summer. They have taken to living beneath the thresh-hold of our back door. I have written a short story. I hope you like it.

Barry and me and our BUMBLE BEES:

Directly beneath the back door of our house lives a colony of bumble bees. These bumble bees forage all day long out in the world for pollen and nectar, I suppose, and collect it on their bodies.  I probably should google this fun fact, but I am not in the mood to look at my phone. Regardless, these bees, they have made a home.  And the home that they made is inches from the bottom of the door that Barry and I use every day, many times a day. The strangest thing about this tribe of bumble bees – not sure if ‘tribe’ is the correct term, probably more like ‘hive’, I mean they are bees for crying out loud – anyway – these bees have decided that this active, noisy, busy place, is their home. It seems to me that they easily could have chosen a location at a higher elevation.  For crissake, they can fly! They don’t actually need to be 18” from a cement patio, underneath a wood staircase, beneath the threshold of the door to our kitchen.  But they did and they do and I think I know why.

Barry, he talks to the bees. Maybe he just chats, possibly sometimes in his head, like a telepathic kinda communication. But I think he possesses a direct line of communication to these bees. I know this because he told me and I choose to believe Barry when he tells me stuff – truth or lie – I just choose to believe it. It’s easier on my brain and my general sense of well-being to believe that he is not fibbing, or making things up, or evading the truth – so I just believe him. Easier.

So, when I expressed my concern about these bumble bees, he said, “Leave the bees alone, they are my friends, they like it there.”

Okayyyy…. But really?

And then he said. “They won’t bother you. They don’t sting.”  Okay, for this I consulted google. And, yes, they sting. So, maybe that was not a total lie, but just simply some misinformation or a diversion technique. The basic idea here is that bumble bees will only sting if they feel their nest is threatened.

Ok, I got it.

So, because these bees never go into the house, even if the door is left wide open – which is weird but true –  we are allowing them to stay. Well, except for that one time when an overly protective member of this bee tribe, I mean hive, possessing a severe case of unjustified paranoia that I might attack the nest, which resulted in Mr. Bee dive bombing me and me falling back onto the corner of the cement slab – except for that one incident, these bees seemed to have learned that we, are not a threat to their nest.

They don’t follow us into the house. They don’t threaten us or swarm us. They usually do not dive bomb us.   Granted, they buzz quite loudly and are always very busy flying around collecting pollen.  But not once, all summer long, has one stung either of us. It’s as if they know that if they do, their nest would be destroyed.  That they would have crossed that invisible line. It’s as if they know – actually KNOW – that stinging one of us would be the destruction of their nest. So, they just do not cross that line.

It’s now August. Our bumble bees are very active. We all have lived together for months with only one incident and no real injuries – well except for that huge purple bruise on my left thigh. Yet the future survival of this hive is uncertain. I am not convinced that one of our ‘bee friends’ wouldn’t sting one of our ‘human friends’ just because they don’t speak ‘bumble bee’. Christ, my son is severely allergic to bee stings!  What are we thinking?

But I do know that they respect us, are thankful for the use of the threshold, but have created very clear boundaries surrounding their right to life. They seem to know us somehow. They must have been watching us. Certainly, they must have created many nests in other locations around this property.  They probably witnessed Barry vacuuming up the wasp nest or the yellow jacket nests. It seems that Barry only speaks bumble bee, not yellow jacket or wasp.

Because they have decided not to sting us, not to venture into the house and most importantly, they have made friends with Barry, for the forseeable future, these bumble bees will live with us, busy and noisy little buzzers that they are, we will continue to live with them. THE END

A Righteous Old White Lady

“Nevermind if you think an angry black man is scary …  try dealing with an old white lady when her food order gets screwed up – now that’s scary.”

Incorrectly recalled quote posted via Instagram, tagged to me, her mother, by my 25 year old daughter currently living and working in Philadelphia.

When I get angry I am certain that it is justified. I think of myself as righteous, speaking to power, taking down the man, confronting injustice. Granted it’s mostly when my food order gets screwed up, or when someone is smoking outside an open window while I am eating my lunch, or when someone is at a red light that just turned green and they are still texting, or a cop pulls me over for no apparent reason. It’s always an irritating inept activity that interrupts the illusion of my potentially perfect day coupled with the expectations that we should all do our best all the time.

Like I said – righteous. The scary black man part of the quote was totally lost on me – it was all about me – the scary old white lady.

As a white woman in this world – having been young up until just recently, by the way – I am fully immersed in the illusion that by speaking up I can actually make a difference in the limitations of my fellow human’s activities. If someone is following my car too closely on the one lane road that leads up to my house, I have been known to stop my car, get out and full out tirade on the rudeness and ignorance of such an act. Screaming inconsolably stuff like: “Not only are your headlights blinding me, but there are animals everywhere! Do you know how many deer I have hit on this road? I am not going to kill an animal just because YOU are in a rush! SLOW DOWN! Get off my ass!” Stuff like this. As a young white woman, most of the time, the driver was rendered speechless. As an old white woman, they seem to just want me to die, disappear, evaporate – like some irritating tick bite or bat flying around the house. The response is very different as an old white woman as opposed to a young white woman. Although, if I were a black man – or a black woman for that matter – or just simply just a man (I like the word ‘man’ and ‘simple’ in the same sentence – sorry, knee jerk reaction) 911 would have been called after my license plate was recorded, and I would have been arrested of course assuming that the driver behind me were an old white woman. Because, y’know, that would have been really scary, a violation of an old white woman’s almost perfect day.

What I have come to love about that quote is that, as an old white lady, I am merely a demographic. I am not just an old lady, I am an old WHITE lady. This fact speaks volumes about how people of color have become more viable, more powerful.

This scary old white lady has come to be more ‘woke’ – although I am not totally comfortable using that word, it does feel correct just about now – I have become more and more aware of how race and circumstance effect our behavior.

As an older woman, I am also keenly aware of how I am perceived differently than when I was young. As a young woman, it was difficult to speak to power without being looked at as a sexual object, and a little ‘cute’. Like ‘ok honey,’ whatever you think – that kind of thing. Although I recall, more often, a heightened level of engagement that I do not experience anymore. As an older white woman, when I have almost any interactions, the perception of the lack of my sexuality has become palpable. Almost as if there were something in their heads saying, “she must have been hot when she was young”. Although not sure how much of that is just me. Conversations become tainted by our obsession with youth, as if youth is something to honor in and of itself. We are living in the illusion that being young and sexual is being alive. Now that I am no longer ruled by sexuality, I feel as if I have been freed by the limitations that youth and sexuality had placed upon me. I recently heard a quote on NPR – yes I am one of those old white, righteous ladies that listen to NPR – “If you are lucky, you get to age.”

When we stand up for ourselves we should all expect not to be arrested or shot. We all should expect a perfect day here and there, and not simply the illusion of a perfect day. Hopefully this might happen more often and for more of us regardless of our whiteness, non-whiteness, or for that matter, our age.


Val Sivillli on view : 2/16 – 3/16 at RVCC Art Gallery !

Heejung Kim and Val Sivilli – RECENT WORKS:

is on view at Raritan Valley Community College until March 16th 2018 at the RVCC ART GALLERY located in the COLLEGE CENTER

 HERE for Map of basement of the COLLEGE CENTER where the Art Gallery is located.

HERE for link to Interactive Campus map.

HERE for a driving map to RVCC.

GALLERY HOURS: Mon: 3 -8 , Tues: 10 – 3 , Wed: 3 – 8 , Thurs: 10 – 6 , Fri: 1-4

I would be happy to meet at the gallery any afternoon during the week if you let me know you are coming.

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