Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Western Wisdom

I know this is an art blog. So why is there an old picture of a cowboy on this post? It's someone close to our hearts around here...Hopalong Cassidy, one of my husband's favorite cowboys.

My husband's grandfather was a real-life cowboy. His son, in turn, spent his childhood in the western lifestyle, working on ranches, riding horses and carrying a gun. Hearing all the stories from these men, my husband devoured as many Hopalong and other cowboy books as he could find as a kid. They were all easily 40-50 years older than he was at the time, but he enjoyed the stories, the adventures,..the heroes.

It's hard to believe it's been nearly 100 years since cowboys in books and later on the silver screen captured the imaginations of a generation of girls and boys. The stories were straightforward and the lessons clear - be honest, brave, responsible, work hard and help your neighbor. Oh, and be polite to ladies.

I did not grow up reading about the classic cowboys, but I was a devoted fan of those who appeared in the movies and on TV in later years like The Lone Ranger and Gene Autry...and of course, James Arness. I liked him so much that when we moved to Missouri, my main concern was that "they might not have Gunsmoke". For kids like me, Matt Dillon (U.S. Marshal, not teen idol) embodied all that was courageous, honorable...and handsome.

Recently, I stumbled across the list below from a Hopalong Cassidy promotional website and decided to print it and frame for my son's room. It will go perfectly with all of the western ephemera that he will surely inherit from his dad -- felt hats, Zane Grey books, Red Ryder BB gun, etc. But I realized how true the advice is and how we've somehow lost our need to rise to these standards. Sadly, they seem outdated. But I long for a day when we might return to teaching our children thoughtful principles like this.

So, here's to a simpler time, at least in our imaginations. When a publicity company would even think to print and distribute a "creed" like this -- and the public would actually buy it...and follow it. Here's also to timeless concepts such as right and wrong and thinking of others before yourself. What could be so bad about all that?

Hopalong Cassidy's "Creed for American Boys and Girls"

1. The highest badge of honor a person can wear is honesty. Be mindful at all times.

2. Your parents are the best friends you have. Listen to them and obey their instructions.

3. If you want to be respected, you must respect others. Show good manners in every way.

4. Only through hard work and study can you succeed. Don't be lazy.

5. Your good deeds always come to light. So don't boast or be a show off.

6. If you waste time or money today, you will regret it tomorrow. Practice thrift in all ways.

7. Many animals are good and loyal companions. Be friendly and kind to them.

8. A strong, healthy body is a precious gift. Be neat and clean.

9. Our country's laws are made for your protection. Observe them carefully.

10. Children in many foreign lands are less fortunate than you. Be glad and proud you are an American.

Friday, May 13, 2011

My Symphony

Since I've been busy with spring deadlines, I haven't taken time to blog. My artist friends seem to be taking a break from online activity, too. We must all be holed up in our studios painting away!

However, I wanted to write briefly to share the activity going on outside the studio, in the yard around our farmhouse. We had an especially wet spring this year in southern Missouri. The weeks of rain and subsequent flooding were destructive, but the abundant water has been a boon for the flowers.

Foliage and flowers are more vibrant when freshly spritzed with rainwater. The shrubs and perennials seem more lush than usual, after weeks of daily watering.

I'm not a particularly whimsical person. In fact, my practical side sometimes gets in the way creatively. However, when it comes to flowers, I'm positively imaginative. To me, flowers always look like they're doing or thinking something. Even those confined to vases or draped over tables never look static. Rather, they appear to be engaged in conversation, bending toward one another as if to share a secret or show affection.

But because of all the rain this year, what used to seem like a conversation to me is more like a symphony. Waiting for flowers to bloom this year was like sitting in a grand hall, waiting for musicians to begin their performance. First, March and hyacinths, like the principle oboe directing the intonation with a single A note...

Then followed by the swirls of random tuning in different registers -- the bleeding heart, lilac, sun-kissed jonquils, tulips and delicate violets.

At some point mid-April, everything gets quiet before the big reveal...the iris and peonies wait until just the right moment...

Then it begins, usually with the spider-wort (which is actually much friendlier than the name suggests)...

Flowering shrubs of all kinds, fences overflowing with honeysuckle and the billowy, soft peonies. On clear evenings when the setting sun filters the light, the scene is so richly painted.

Of course, living here in Missouri, the woods are never far away, so the wildflowers join in over the fence row, taking their turn to bloom, as if on cue.

I know, you're thinking...if you're imagining music in the yard, you just might be spending too much time alone! True! But if you're a person for which solitary tasks are necessary, flowers are great company.

Of course, it won't be long before the harmony in May turns into a rave of weeds and bugs in July, but I'm going to enjoy this peaceful time of year while it lasts.