Showing posts from April, 2019

My Dad, Robert Sinclair Swanson, Jr.

     Today would be my father’s birthday.    I think about him all the time but today I’ll share him with you. He and I go back a long way together. Dad made friends easily--wherever he went he soon became a regular. It only took two visits to a new coffee shop before the waitresses greeted him by name and had coffee waiting at his table.      The managers of the Quick Mart where he bought his morning paper invited him to a baby shower for their daughter. Many people would make excuses and most men would hand the gift buying over to the wife, but not Dad. On his own he went to a baby shop and bought two little blue outfits--he knew she was having a boy--and had them nicely wrapped with a blue ribbon. Then he went to a Christian bookstore for a card.      “I want a card that’s Christian but not too Christian,” he told the clerk.      “I don’t know what you mean,” she said.      Dad said, “I’m a Christian. The person I’m sending this to is not. I want to let her know

Happy Earth Day, Happy birthday, Taurus!

Earth Day and the First Day of Taurus fall together.  I draw lots of cows but I've never done a bull, so I turned to Ferdinand, the bull who only wanted to sit and smell the flowers.  Here's what  Wikipedia says about this masterpiece written by Munro Leaf (I've always loved that name) and illustrated by Robert Larson. "In 1938, Life Magazine called  Ferdinand ' the greatest juvenile classic since  Winnie the Pooh '  and suggested that 'three out of four grownups buy the book largely for their own pleasure and amusement' ". [1] The article also noted that Ferdinand was accused of being a political symbol, noting that "too-subtle readers see in Ferdinand everything from a fascist to a pacifist to a burlesque sit-down striker". [1] Others labelled the work "as promoting fascism, anarchism, and communism". [4] The  Cleveland Plain Dealer "  accused the book of corrupting the youth of America" while  The New York Tim

Why Tonight Is Unlike Any Night

Today is good Friday and the first day of Passover. When these two holy days come together I think back to my daughter, Jessie’s, first year.  I hadn’t given much thought to her religious education; I was just trying to sleep through the night. But it was a big question. Jessie had a Jewish father, Arthur, and a Christian mother, me.  Arthur had very little religious upbringing and I had taken some time off from church after wrestling with some of the issues in my evangelical background. Up ’til that point our biggest conflict had been what to say at our wedding; so—no Father, Son and Holy Ghost, but we did say the Lord’s Prayer.  Arthur said later he loved hearing all his -our-friends speaking aloud for us. So it wasn’t exactly a conflict, but I wanted to know more. I needed to learn something about Judaism. Where to start? My friend, Linda, invited me to visit her parents in Florida to celebrate Passover, a holiday I didn’t know much about. Her mother taught me to mak

All Nature Sings

April 6th is the birthday of Charles Burchfeld, (1893-1967) watercolorist and personal favorite of mine.  Just as in the hymn my title comes from, he makes nature sing.  One thing I miss living in the city is the music of the crickets in late summer. When I look at this painting, "Insect Chorus,"  it almost tickles my ears. Here's another favorite. I find everything about dandelions charming-- their sunny yellow mop heads, their delicious greens, their name--Teeth of the Lion.  I love them despite--or maybe because of--their reputation as a weed. Many flowers lose their appeal when they go to seed but that's when the dandelion comes into his glory. I've tried but I can't capture those delicate little seed parasols in pen and ink. Mr. Burchfeld certainly did. Last week I wrote about green and my ambivalence toward lawns. I mean, I like a lawn but I have no interest in having one and I'm not sad that I live in the c

Somebody Else Loves Dandelions

  Last week my friend, Bobby, reminded me that dandelions provide food for our friends, the bees, especially early in the spring. The bee; that tiny creature who works so hard and does so much that she’s the symbol of industry and productivity all over the world. I’ve looked at a lot of bees this week, both photographs and drawings, and I can’t blame the artists who give them smily faces.  Close up, they're pretty terrifying, like alien monsters. But form follows function and those big blank eyes, the six legs, the weird mouth and the fuzzy body are a perfect machine for making sweetness. Thank you, bees, and not just for the honey.  Think of something you love to eat and ask if a bee had anything to do with it.  Apples, peaches, coffee, almonds, strawberries….CHOCOLATE. They  all come from plants that need pollinators and that would be the bees. Wouldn't you think we’d take good care of someone so important to our well-being?  We haven't. The bees are in 

A Few Thoughts On Green

Saint Patrick’s Day and the wearing of the green has gone by but green is still on my mind. Little glimpses of jade and chartreuse are popping up in my neighborhood. And I’m reminded of everything that green promises and provides. “Green is the prime color of the world, and that from which its loveliness arises,” says Pedro de la Barca, but not everyone agrees. The first time I saw Vermont in the summer I was stunned by the green of those hills. It was beautiful, but overwhelming. When Georgia O’Keeffe was first married to Alfred Steiglitz they spent summers at his family home in Lake George.    She did some great work there, but she wasn’t inspired. “It’s so green,” she said and it wasn’t a compliment.    It was the open expanses of the Texas plains and the earth tones of New Mexico that really excited her.    And I think it was something beyond color; it was seeing the earth’s bones.    Greenery covers everything. Remember what I said in my blog post, A Letter to my Hips. In