Through the Front Door Week 20 of 2020

On the lawn in fr ont of the County Library, Springfield CO


Seven years lie between my sister and me.  Her first seven years was lived against the backdrop of World War II.  Growing up with turmoil, anxiety, and uncertainty: a father far away across the sea. I showed up after the war was won, growing up in a climate of confidence and optimism. It was more than a simple matter of years that made Linda my “big sister.” By the time she was seven, she knew more about life than I did at fourteen.

Springfield 1953 ages 7 and 14

She has influenced my life in so many ways.  My love of horses came from her, as did a love of books, a love of salted lemons, and those fat dill pickles that came in a sealed bag and cost a dime.

When I think of my sister, I always think of her hands. They are marvelous hands. Not the limp, long-fingered hands found in magazines, but hands broad across the palm with strong fingers that are deft, dexterous, and nimble. Hands that have a life of their own. Hands that can do anything.

Those hands made shadow puppets on the wall of my bedroom and told me stories when I was four and frightened by the thunder cracks of summer storms.

Those hands played the piano. I still see them moving with certainty across the black and white keys; the broad palms reaching through an octave. In the twilight, before dinner, I played on the floor listening as she practiced Paderewski’s “Minuet in G Major” and Debussy’s “Girl with the Flaxen Hair”. Those pieces belong to her forever.

Those hands held me upright and ran behind me when I learned to ride my bicycle.

And then there were the animals. Her hands have always engaged with animals. They milked goats, groomed horses, collected eggs from cranky hens, scratched dogs behind their ears, played with cats, and rescued baby birds.

I could go on and on: a full celebration of my sister requires reams. This has to be posted today, on her birthday, and so is only the smallest of sketches; a miniature inked with the smallest of pens. 



Playing the Artist

So, I open my front door one morning and a fairy grandmother is standing on my porch with a question. Given what I know in my elderhood, if not my dotage, what gift would I give myself as a teenager to carry forward throughout my life.

This is how I would answer today and maybe tomorrow as well. If there is something that I really want to do, then do it although you have no talent and less skill. Along the road, never compare yourself to anyone else.

In fourth grade, art class was every Tuesday and Thursday morning. My assigned seat was next to Bob Standard (Yes! I still remember his name, although I can’t remember the name of my first date.) Bob had red hair, a mass of freckles, artistic skills and over the top. He was drawing fully rendered 3-dimensional illustrations, while my best output was stick figures. Comparing my work to his work, I decided once and for all, that I was not an artist, could never be an artist, and never would be an artist.

       In college, I discovered “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” by Betty Edwards.  This book was written from the point of view that anyone can draw, and that learning to draw was simply a matter of perception and learning to how to “see” what one is looking at.  After completing the exercises in the book, my drawing skills expanded way beyond simple stick figures.  Sadly, the need to study for finals took me away from my artist explorations.

Housebound, I have returned to artistic endeavors and I am having a lot of fun!  Some days, I sketch with paper and felt-tip; others, I use Adobe Illustrator. Will you ever see my work in a magazine advertisement? No: neither will you see it hanging in a museum, nor will it auction for a thousand dollars.

My skills are limited: they always will be.  But day by day, the imaginative ways in which I can use these limited skills is expanding day by day.