She Loves the River

It’s true, she loves the river⠀
And it’s steady constant force⠀
The ocean is just leftovers⠀
And she prefers the source⠀

She leads me through the briars⠀
Stinging nettle, oak, and sorrow⠀
Some pain for the present moment⠀
But the rest we’ll save for tomorrow⠀

The path is narrow and overgrown⠀
If it’s even a path at all⠀
Two roads diverged and we took neither⠀
She heard the river’s call⠀

Down the bank we scrambled and slid⠀
Grasping roots along the way⠀
These roots they hold back mountains⠀
They can hold us here today⠀

Scraped and bruised and winded⠀
At last we find relief⠀
We swim and laugh and stub our toes⠀
Even blessings hold some grief⠀

My mind drifts off to the coast and its songs⠀
Why oh why am I here⠀
I followed her and would do it again⠀
But we should have brought more beer⠀

How we ended up together⠀
A mystery untold⠀
I am a pool of simple pleasures⠀
She is the mountain, faithful and bold⠀

It’s true, she loves the river⠀
And it’s steady constant force⠀
The ocean is just leftovers⠀
And she prefers the source

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Cloud Theory: 1969

Woven Recollections from the Return of One of Italy's First Surfers, 50 Years Later


I’ve long thought it would be interesting to explore combinations of longer format story-telling with my art in a more intentional way. Back in early 2019 an opportunity finally presented itself. The only problem was that it would require flying to Italy. If you know me, you know I’m not a traveler. Not like that. I can drive all night and all day on Highway One, but never make it to Italy. This rattled my program. I’d have to finally break down and get a passport.⠀

So in late 2019 I traveled to Italy with a surfer I'd only known long enough to drink two beers with. It was his first trip back to Gaeta, Italy, since 1969, and what might prove to be his final opportunity to see the country he fell in love with all those years ago. The details of his story emerged throughout the trip as we navigated the unfamiliar waters of the Mediterranean hunting for waves, and navigated the narrow streets and alleys hunting for cannelloni (a pasta dish that was common in Gaeta in 1969). We were mostly unsuccessful on both accounts. But this was more than just a trip to Italy, it became clear to me that this was a story that was meant for me to tell.⠀

Along the way I got to know this man well. During his time in the US Navy, as a lonely surfer peacefully stationed here during the Vietnam War, he was unknowingly among the first to bring a surfboard to Italy and surf upright along its shores. He wasn’t the first to surf there, and doesn’t think of himself that way, although his time surfing there pre-dates all the recorded history of surfing in Italy that I’ve come across. ⠀

But there's a lot more to all of us than any three-paragraph introduction can convey. This is my written portrait of possibly the first known surfer in Italy, and how our paths briefly merged together just before the world fell apart in 2020. This is the testimony of a life fully lived and a man facing his own twilight gracefully. This is a travel tale of two clueless Americans. This is an homage to the Italian spirit.⠀

This is the story of my friend, Dwight Harrington...

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Another Barb on the Wire

3 days. One family of 5. One campsite. 2 children lost (only temporarily). 7 miles hiked. 6 paintings completed. 3 paintings I wanted to paint but was thwarted by barbed wire. 1 global pandemic making things awkward. One long poem to show for it all...


I. Going Nowhere

Another Barb on the Wire
Hours to days
To months and soon years
We sit between these walls
Going nowhere
Slowly
Trapped in the microscope
The giant eye upon us
They locked us down
We loaded the van
A quick escape
Our desire
Another barb on the wire

II. Fair Wages

Stretching the legs
The will to live
Denied by the barrel
Of loaded guns
Pay to play
All the way
To the cemetery
A reminder that in this life
We all receive
The same fair wages
Both the great and the small
The honest and the liar
Each another barb on the wire

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Late Arrival

A Song for Santa Cruz Island

I might have been a late arrival
But I’ve been here all this time
I was here when the plates collided
I passed the bread and wine

I was here when we emerged from weeds
When the heavens gave us fire
When our songs kept our mother awake
When the rainbow held us higher

Vizcaíno saw me here in 1602
He called me by my name
The island of Bearded people it was
And to this day remains

I saw them come and plant the grapes
To sip the nectar from the vine
Prohibition shut them down
But the idea was never mine

The sheep were led to slaughter
And silent so was I
When the cotton gin reduced their worth
To diamonds in the sky Continue reading Late Arrival

Thou Shalt Not Steal

In the home where I grew up⠀
A porcelain monk lived on the kitchen counter⠀
Belly full of cookies⠀
Admonishing us not to steal⠀
Back when the house was full of sneaky fingers⠀

I saw him enter the kitchen one day⠀
30 years ago⠀
Something clearly wrong⠀
Part of him had vanished⠀
Struggling for the words⠀
To tell me that my grandpa was gone⠀
His father⠀
The pastor⠀
The preacher⠀
Thou Shalt Not Steal⠀

Fiercely independent⠀
Now 78⠀
Yet socially engaged like a teenager⠀
A calendar with no empty days⠀
Erased by a global pandemic⠀
A solitary castaway⠀
In the island of his own home⠀
In the socially distanced archipelago of our lives⠀
The dispatches from neighboring islands indicate⠀
That something was clearly wrong⠀
Talking differently⠀
Slurring words⠀
Isolation taking its toll⠀
Or a stroke of something worse?⠀

I’ve traveled this road all my life⠀
And so did my father⠀
Miles on our odometers until the math became meaningless⠀
Never expecting to find him at the end of the road⠀
Beneath these parting clouds⠀
No longer driving⠀
Not even moving⠀
In his chair⠀
Eyes rolled back⠀
His face lifted to the heavens⠀
Feet still on the ground⠀
But getting lighter with each labored breath⠀

911⠀
Caught before he drifted off⠀
3 more weeks in the hospital⠀
Confined to his little room⠀
A castaway once again⠀
He’d build rafts out of medical equipment ⠀
And attempt to set sail to freedom⠀
Always thwarted by the tide of nurses⠀
As he floated down the corridors toward the exit⠀

He’s back home now⠀
In the house where he raised his children⠀
But at any moment⠀
I brace for the news⠀
That he’s built a raft out of old family photos⠀
And managed to sail away⠀

We hope his sailing days are done for now⠀
His final voyage a long way off⠀
But when it finally comes⠀
And his home is left empty⠀
As that porcelain monk ⠀
I will remember⠀
That there is nothing⠀
No illness⠀
No hardship⠀
Nor even a global pandemic⠀
That can steal our joy⠀
Or our hope⠀
Or our love⠀

Hold on to what matters⠀
And say to the thieves that try to take it all away⠀

Thou Shalt Not Steal

New Every Morning

It’s not every day you wake up to find the world around you burned to the ground while you were sleeping. Loved ones passed. Nothing lasts. It was too much to ask.

And yet here we remain… unanswered.
Our voice in the darkest night… unanswered.
Our screams out on a hill in the wind… unanswered.

The promise of a new day just isn’t out there.
Circle the earth six times,
You won’t find it on the seventh either.
It’s not hiding behind some sage mountain peak.
It’s not ordained in the words of the wise.
It’s not contained in the wisdom of fools.
It doesn’t dwell in the houses of the holy.

It’s not the circumference,
It’s the center.

It’s within us.
It’s the breath in our lungs .
It’s what fills our empty cups.
It’s the morning coffee that hasn’t yet been ground.
It’s our cat that ate the rat and left its remains on our doorstep.
It’s our car that doesn’t run.
It’s the leak in the roof.
It’s the drip drip drip.
It’s our kids that think we speak like a leaking faucet.
It’s our wives that wonder when we’ll get around to it.
It’s the creak in our bones as we grind them into movement.

If it weren’t for those things that are still to be done, these bones would grind back to dust and be gone.

Each new morning brings its own beautiful troubles that wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for those that call them our own. As long as we are here, we are still here.

New Every Morning.

The End of the West

It’s the end of the west
It’s the setting sun
It’s a train-wreck that’s only just begun

It’s a crowded bar
It’s the law of the land
It’s illicit activities obscured by hot sand

It’s a war at sea
It’s the first shots fired
It’s victory in sight, though not the one desired

It’s a shift in the wind
It’s an outgoing tide
It’s the last man standing as the captain died

It’s a history lesson
It’s the name of the street
It’s a blank stare from the strangers we will never meet

It’s childhood freedom
It’s only in jest
It’s just getting started but it’s the end of the west

Painting the California Coast: Volume One

A Collection of Artwork And Notes from the Field


By Matt Beard
Published by Noví Albion Publishing
15 years of Artwork and Exploration.
One book.
196 Pages.
150+ Paintings
Hardbound


I worked on this book for over a decade. After years of slowly working toward my long term goal of painting the entire California coast, I realized that it was going to take a lifetime, and even then I would never be truly “finished”. But hey, even though there will always be more work to do, I have already painted a wide range locations in every coastal county of the state and so I finally released a large collection of my favorite pieces in this first volume of my life’s work.

But it’s more than just a book of art. Every painting has a story to tell; fences hopped, encounters with friendly locals, battles with nature itself while attempting to paint out on the edge of a cliff in the wind and against all better judgement. These are the stories of real places. They can’t always be told through art alone, and they certainly can’t be conveyed in a gallery show (who reads anything in a gallery?). To put it simply, this book is, without a doubt, the fullest expression of the artwork I’ve created over the last 15 years. I hope you all dig it.


Consider picking up a copy of your own while they are still available here: THE BOOK

In the meantime, you can check out the Foreword and Preface, re-published straight from the pages of the book below...

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Our Good Fortune

Even though she was royalty
We continued to stare
At the lines
Around
Her blue eyes
And at the
Shape of her
Trembling
Lips
That encircled
Her delicate mouth

Meeting her was
Our good fortune

She showed us grace
And mercy
We did not
Earn

Little did we know then
Just how good
The Queen would be to us

Or just how difficult
Fortune can be
For those
Who have received it

The Sea Before Dark

Hovering over the water
Weightless over the face of the deep
The storm rides silently off to the hills
To darken the eyes of the cattle
And drown out the country music

The light that remains
Clear and unfiltered
Falling from above
Reveals an orchestra of liquid geometry
At once carnal
Yet also divine
Each note the offspring
Of a passing storm
With the laws of fluid dynamics

We’re drawn to the symphony
The melodies ring beyond the hall
To the cliffs high above
Calling us to a quick dip in the sea before dark

But once inside the concert hall
We’re swept away in a mass movement
Of salty sweat and black leather
Nearly drowning in the mosh pit
Bruised, bloody, and broken

From there we glimpse the orchestra more clearly
Four awkward teenagers
And a mountain of noise
Who allowed these kids to take the stage?

It is here that we learned this law of the sea-
It’s always bigger
Than it looks from above