Profile Response: Denise Bell and Chris Sykes, Hulbert OK


HWWLT Logo on yellowChris Dykes’ father was a high school teacher on Tulsa’s south side – the white part of town – when 1970’s era desegregation prompted the school system to shuffle their student mix or face a court-imposed system. A high school in the poor, black, north side of town was turned into a magnet school. Chris’s dad switched to Booker T and spent the rest of his career teaching philosophy and advanced English to students willing to travel the extra miles for a rich education.

img_8355About the same time he purchased an acreage on a creek outside of Hulbert. Chris spent weekends and summers up in the woods and streams. His father retired to a small cottage on the property with a central wood stove, encircled with books.

Meanwhile Chris became a librarian at the Tulsa Public Library reference desk. One day, Peggy Herbert, a semi-star of the 1950’s and glamorous Tulsa native approached the reference desk. After she left, a homeless man asked Chris to use a railroad atlas. Unbeknownst to Chris, his dad watched both interactions. Afterward. the philosophy teacher told his son, ‘You treated them both just the same.’ img_8351

“Our libraries are the most important institution we have; more important than the church.” But Chris kept getting nudged up. “As a male I got a career path, but I only wanted to answer questions.” So he left the library, travelled Europe and worked a variety of literary and sports-car related jobs. Then he returned to Tulsa and discovered Denise Bell in a bookstore.


The couple spent more and more time at the farm. They started a business growing lavender and built their own house beyond Chris’ dad. “Lavender is romantic, but hard work. It’s all done by hand.”

img_8353Denise Bell is a reserved woman, self-contained in presentation and movement who enjoys working with her hands. Eleven years ago she discovered knitting. “Knitting is math; it’s all about the pattern you build and counting.” Denise knits fine lace with thin thread; nothing like our conception of knitted sweaters. She is a master who teaches specialty classes all over the country. The couple abandoned lavender for Lost City Knits, an online business of exotic yarn. Their recent book, Ultima Thule, is a delightful mash-up of Shetland lace pattern, stories of the Highlands, and coffee table photos of the breathtaking Scottish landscape. Chris rose from the table to fetch the lace Denise is working on at present. Suddenly Denise is standing, bobbing, pointing out the delicate pattern. She catches herself. “I ought to stop talking.” Her excitement for knitting is palpable, contagious. “I am besot by it.” I marvel and applaud her enthusiasm.


How will we live tomorrow?

img_8357“Have the answers gone south in the past week? I have a prepared answer and its negative. How will we live tomorrow? With more information and less wisdom; more isolation and less connection.

“But we have a bicycle tourist who opens himself to anything and that flies in the face of my answer.” – Chris

“As a woman I am more worried about the future. This has deteriorated in the past ten days. Because we live remote, our encounters are limited, so we can control them. I do hope that we swing back to acceptance, not tolerance, of others in our society.” – Denise


About paulefallon

Greetings reader. I am a writer, architect, cyclist and father from Cambridge, MA. My primary blog, is an archive of all my published writing. The title refers to a sequence of three yoga positions that increase focus and build strength by shifting the body’s center of gravity. The objective is balance without stability. My writing addresses opposing tension in our world, and my attempt to find balance through understanding that opposition. During 2015-2106 I am cycling through all 48 mainland United States and asking the question "How will we live tomorrow?" That journey is chronicled in a dedicated blog,, that includes personal writing related to my adventure as well as others' responses to my question. Thank you for visiting.
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