Kelley J. Leigh

Loud World. Quiet Soul. Listen beyond the noise.

Writing on the Wall


I try to write a note as each of my sons move out of the house (even if they end up coming back for seasons here and there). Here, the latest benediction to one of my sons.  For Isaac, about to head for college; a word to the one who paints the walls of life and gives voice for the rest of us.


isaacs sight

At the Heart

My third son arrived like a fog horn in a house full of whispers. As a baby in restaurant high chairs, he screamed like a baby eagle with piercing yells loud enough to jar and startle neighboring diners. His nickname was “Budge” because he wouldn’t. Ever. Budge. A late- blooming talker, he yelled and thumped and stomped. Sometimes he was a joyful and tender little toddler. Other times, he shoved and bit playmates. He would melt into loud angry sobs when we left him in the church nursery or with babysitters. In grade school, teachers routinely commented on report cards some variation of, “I don’t ever have to wonder what Isaac is thinking.”

In our family he says things others won’t. He does things nobody else would. Because he leads with his actions and words, and because for some reason all eyes turn to him in a room, often he commands the attention of groups and is involuntarily ascribed leadership. He is gifted with an ability to create impact. As a result, more often than any other son, on many ceremonious occasions my third son has caused my well-behaved church-girl’s heart to nervously pound in my chest.

Back in the early days when I cared about such things, Isaac hated to dress up for church. HATED it in a way that meant war every Sunday for weeks on end. We fought like cats and dogs about kaki pants and combed hair. He saw no purpose for dressing up — except that people were trying to look better than they really were. And honestly, he had a point. In later grade school, he tried to tell us his teacher wasn’t paying attention to him. We missed his point. So he started not coming back in to class after recess.  He did it for days, staying outside, playing, waiting to see how long it would be until she noticed.  He had several days of free play, unnoticed outside until a playground attendant figured it out. He got in trouble, but he had a point. In high school more of the same, he named broken pieces of the system in forthright and sometimes inappropriate ways. He got in trouble. But he had a point. And that’s the bottom line: Sometimes Isaac finds himself holding a lonely truth, because he usually has a valid point which the rest of us aren’t brave enough to speak.

And that has been the tight rope my husband and I have walked with our Third Son. When he speaks with his iron voice, my first default response is to bristle and demand quiet compliant relational behavior. In the process, I have often overlooked the heart of the issue. Fortunately for Isaac, my philosopher husband chooses to see life on a case-by-case basis.


After years of practice and constant failure, my life with Isaac has taught me to care more about what’s happening in the heart of my child more than worrying about people’s responses to his behavior.


Isaac graduated from high school last month.  His three brothers would tell you, Isaac makes people laugh … hard. He is a student of social behavior and a cunning wit.

Over the last couple of years, Isaac has filled mounting piles journals with sketches and poems, and lyrics, and invented languages, and short stories. He carries a Field Notes journal and pencil pretty much everywhere he goes, to capture and comment. He spent much of high school on stage, an actor affable long and lanky like James Stewart. He has dabbled in photography, public art, painting, sketching. He plays guitar and bass guitar and writes music. And as his voice gains focus, he continues to physically morph. At times, his hair has been long cowlicked and wild. These days he wears his thin curly hair with a swoop and slicked back whistle like the Great Gatsby.

The Wall

A couple years ago, we stripped down his bedroom. Isaac wanted more of a blank box than a bedroom. We pulled up the carpet, cleared the floor down to the concrete. I purchased a long repurposed unit of cubbies from a first grade class somewhere and stood it on end. The tall wall unit is now a display of old typewriters, sketches, sketch books, camera accessories, art supplies, miscellaneous old magazines and asian newspapers. A TV from the 1950’s and a turntable for vinyl records sit in the corner. The rest of his creative space consists of a tilted art desk, a chair, a bed, an area rug, and ‘the wall.’

The wall in Isaac’s room is like a constantly changing billboard; a 20 ft. x 10 ft. dynamic canvas.  The wall is Isaac’s visual voice. Over the years he has laid layer upon layer of large art expressions one on top of the other like a visual timeline of his inner world.  For spray painted graffiti projects, he puts a box fan in the window wears a gas mask. To start over with a clean slate, Isaac uses a homemade wheat paste adhesive to plaster a blank canvas of paper over old wall thoughts.

Isaacs Wall

The wall has morphed with abstract images, words, outlines, facial portraits, repeated negative space graphic images from floor to ceiling, single framed thoughts, big and picture questions. One of my favorite walls spoke with influences of Banksy or Shepherd Fairey. Currently, the wall is plastered with retro choir music he retrieved from the choir room trash can. The wall changes with his messages and moods.

The bedroom wall full of morphing art is a perfect picture of how my son lives his life.

When he leaves for college in the fall, the walls of our house will go quiet. I will miss the ever- changing color, music, and words that have filled our rooms. The leader that is my third son will take his voice out into larger spaces and speak words and ideas for the world to share. As it should be.


To the One Who Speaks for Many

May you find the answers for your soul’s search.

May you grow in your ability to see realities the rest of us miss.

May God protect your heart in the process.

And may you continue to find your voice as an artist who writes words on the

walls of hearts and minds.


isaac timelapse

 Da Vinci Quote / Image: Photo of Isaac Leigh, taken by Lucas Leigh. 

field notes

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Find more information about Field Notes journals HERE.









8 Replies

  1. Karamy

    how am I only now seeing this. and tearfully as well. I love Budge and I love your stories. Thank you.

  2. joann Gay

    Oh yes–I know this boy you write about–the young version and the older one–unique, both versions. I remember his brothers responding to the question asked them: “so describe Isaac.” “Oh, he is so funny.” And he is. But he is also a well of deep, thought out ideas–developed or on their way to development. We love him much. Gram

  3. The Isaac that I remember is of course the first picture. I had no idea what he had been since then. What a special guy, he sounds awesome, challenging, but awesome non the less! Again, I am in awe of your gift of expression. The blessing made me cry. You are so inspiring.

    1. Krist. Seems like yesterday he and Sage were heading to a little pre-school in IL, doesn’t it? So touched by your comment and grateful for your artist’s heart. Love to you and the clan. ~K

  4. Susan Mullins

    Wow! What an incredible son! What a tribute to him! I too love the blessing you gave him. He is a force to be reckoned with, a good force, it sounds like! You are an awesome mom, Kelley.

    1. Thanks, Sue. I think you have your own precious forces to reckon with as well, yes? Rooting for you, fellow boy mom. oxox

  5. Kim

    Kelley, so beautifully written…I feel like I know him just reading your words! What a creative soul…I loved your blessing to him at the end…may God have His hand of blessings on his steps ahead. And he has your beautiful smile! :)

    1. Oh my, thanks so much Kim!

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