In chapter two of The Bird that Sang in Color, Donna sees Vincent playing a dulcimer in his room while listening to one of his favorite bands, The Incredible String Band. Several years later, she sees the above picture in the sketchbook of his that she discovered and recalls the sound of the instrument–delicate, simple, and complex at once like the person her brother was.


“Check this out, Donna.” He took out a stringed instrument I’d never seen before and said it was called a dulcimer. It was wooden, oblong-shaped with curves on either side and a fretboard down the middle. 

“Oh, that’s beautiful. How do you play it?”

“With some of them you have to hammer the strings with this little hammer thing, but some of them, like this one, you just strum while you play the chords.” He set it on his lap and began playing along to the album. 

“Why do you hold it so weird?” I said, once the song finished.

“This is just the way to hold it.” 

 He continued to play, and I longed to look up at his old paintings that used to hang on his walls, but I couldn’t, so my eyes wandered to the floor, where there was a pile of books with a deck of tarot cards on top. Mom was also into tarot cards, but she said she just read them for fun and didn’t take them seriously. I picked them up, and beneath them, there was a notebook open to a page with Vincent’s handwriting on it. Even his handwriting was artistic, like calligraphy minus the curves and frills.



This post is part of my latest blog series on the artwork that inspired the family saga, The Bird that Sang in Color. The art featured in these posts comes from a sketchbook that belonged to my brother, Vincent, which I discovered shortly after his death. It had pictures he’d drawn of himself throughout various phases of his life. This pictorial autobiography caused me to wonder what pictures I’d have of myself by the end of my life, which motivated me to live more fully. In writing this novel, I was able to share this powerful realization with the world. This novel is the third book in the Greco Family Trilogy. Each one of these family trilogy books is told from a different family member’s point of view. This one is told from the perspective of the Greco family matriarch, Donna.   

Grace Mattioli is the author of the Greco Family Trilogy books, including Olive Branches Don’t Grow on Trees, Discovery of an Eagle, and The Bird that Sang in Color. These books are available from all major online book sellers, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple Books.