Norman Rockwell’s Thanksgiving

It’s Thanksgiving in America. This is meant to be a day of thanks for the blessings we’ve enjoyed for the last year but it’s more a day of food and football. Tomorrow, as folks will spend the day buying a bunch of stuff they probably don’t need and can’t afford.

A Norman Rockwell painting we are not.

This painting is called “Home For Thanksgiving.” It was featured on the November 24, 1945 cover of The Saturday Evening Post. That was 77 years ago today.

The young man and his mother were real people. He was freshly home from the war and helping his mother with chores he likely would have hated doing in the Army Air Corps. Kitchen Patrol or KP duty probably didn’t seem so bad in the warmth of his mama’s kitchen.

Rockwell paid them each $15 to sit for the portrait. I read once that they owned the local dairy in their Vermont small town and that the young man was Rockwell’s milkman.

This painting was donated to the Eugene M. Connor Post 193 of the American Legion in Massachusetts many years ago. But they didn’t know it was an original and left it hanging in a hallway for decades. When someone offered $500 for what the Legion thought was a print, they took it to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Massachusetts for appraisal.

After learning they owned an American treasure, they loaned it to the museum for display and safekeeping.

Just last year, the Legion sold it at auction for $4.3 million. This hefty sum went into a trust and interest earned will help pay bills and fund future repairs for the Legion.

It’s a beautiful slice of Americana and I like how it illustrates a nation transitioning from wartime into peacetime. Something so everyday like peeling potatoes probably felt almost luxurious to the soldier and his mother who had suffered untold sleepless nights in his absence.

Her relief is palpable.

Gratitude would have been the only thing that mattered in many households across the nation that Thanksgiving. Our soldiers were headed home. Life was returning to a new normal. Life was good.

Wherever you are in this world today, I hope life is good. Happy Thanksgiving!

Durango

Of all the places we visited in Colorado this summer, Durango is the one I truly hated to leave.

The climate was pleasant and the town is the rare combination of charming AND prepared for guests. There’s a ton of opportunity to get outside and plenty of places to be entertained and engaged.

This southwest Colorado town was founded in 1880. It has a rich railroad history and is near Mesa Verde National Park which I enjoyed immensely (aside from the snake).

The Animas River cuts through town and there’s a River Walk that gives you a beautiful place to view the water while getting some exercise.

The historic downtown district has a host of restaurants and cute shops including some great used bookstores. We had a few delicious meals here too.

My friend was especially thrilled to find that the local humane society runs a thrift store. It was a nice one too, arranged more like a boutique than a traditional thrift store which always seem a little too messy.

This area is blessed with charm, beauty and so much opportunity for exploration I regretted not scheduling more time to enjoy it.

I’m already plotting a return trip next year. This time, I’ll be with two friends and I’m hoping to find a good Airbnb in Durango to use as home base while we adventure.

Isn’t it wonderful having a place to look forward to exploring?

Angel of Pineola

Yesterday I showed you pictures of this pretty little church in Pineola, North Carolina. What I didn’t tell you is that it was raining sideways when we arrived and that we had to wait it out to snap a few pictures.

While we were sitting in the car, I glanced over at a shelter house on the church property and could see what appeared to be an angel praying.

I sat there for a while before asking my friend if she could see it too. Haha. I sort of didn’t trust my own eyes!

Turns out, it is a larger than life angel carved from wood. The artist took great care in the details including the texture of her hair and wings.

I was fascinated by her and overcome with wonder at why she is here. She is simply sitting at the edge of this shelter house surrounded by picnic tables and a grill. It’s like someone put her there temporarily and forgot to come back for her.

It made me both sad that she’s seemingly being neglected in this spot and spectacularly happy that she exists in the first place.

These small discoveries are the reason why I keep exploring. You never know what you might find!

Ukrainian Easter Eggs

The local library here hosted a Pysanky workshop this weekend. This is a Ukrainian egg decorating technique that uses dye and wax. They tend to use traditional folk designs that are intricate and colorful.

Our instructor has 39 years of experience with this mind boggling art form because her Ukrainian grandmothers taught her beginning at a young age. Her skills and patience are admirable.

We were first given egg shapes on paper to sketch our designs in pencil. Crayons were used to experiment with the palette and inspiration came from books and an assortment of eggs she had on display. Once we had our ideas together, we chose an egg and were armed with a lit candle, block of wax and a little tool used to draw on the egg with the wax.

Given my obsession with sunflowers last summer, it was logical to do something with a sunflower pattern. Not only is the sunflower the national flower of Ukraine, it’s a captivating example of how imperfections can be beautiful. I strolled through three sunflower fields last summer and my favorite flowers were the ones that were flawed.

Here’s my egg.

It is incredibly flawed and the sunflower imperfect but I’m still quite proud of how it turned out. I love the palette I chose and the design too. The execution leaves a lot to be desired as working with wax on a real egg shell is one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done.

All the same, I managed to get it done and had fun in the process. It now is in a place of honor on my bookshelf, a pretty reminder that enjoying the creative process can be as rewarding as the outcome. Also a reminder that perfection is overrated and that imperfections can be beautiful.

I suspect and hope that this was not my last attempt. I will count on trying it again someday.

Here’s one more view of her gorgeous eggs.

Here’s something about imperfections from last year. I wrote about sunflower fields here, here and here. I would recommend finding one near you this summer! If you get a chance to try a new kind of art, I recommend you do that too!

Sistine Chapel Experience

Dayton is currently hosting an exhibition called Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel.

Michelangelo was an Italian sculptor, painter, poet and architect who created many iconic works of art during a period we call the High Renaissance. One of his best known commissions is the interior of the Sistine Chapel in Rome which he competed during the early sixteenth century.

The ceiling is a shallow barrel vault at 118 feet long and 46 feet wide. In other words, it is huge and it is covered in absolutely gorgeous art. The paintings tell stories from the Book of Genesis including God’s creation of Adam, David conquering Goliath, Noah’s family and many others that were less familiar to me.

I studied Michelangelo in a college art history class but that was many years ago so I felt like a clean slate, learning as my audio tour covered the Biblical stories, the works of art and their relevance to a sixteenth century audience.

My favorite was this depiction of Ezekiel who has turned quickly to look behind him when he is interrupted. He was engrossed in his reading and evidently didn’t appreciate the disruption. We giggled because this seems so relatable to any bookworm trying to read in public. Essentially, this is me in the lunchroom at work.

The exhibit consists of images of each painting printed on life sized posters that line the walls.

It’s shocking to me to think that someone actually painted these enormous creations on a ceiling while lying on scaffolding over a period of years. About four years, to be exact. I keep thinking that I would be tired of the color scheme or my own choices after just a few months. Devoting years to the same series on a ceiling would be exhausting. After all, it’s not like painting on the ground where you can easily take a step back and view your work.

Perhaps I’ll see the real thing someday but, for now, this was something fun to see close to home.

If you go, there are a few things to know. The audio tour gives in depth stories behind each work while signs at each painting give the bare details. Those audio scripts are interesting but long so it will take hours to get through if you listened to every one.

The exhibit is located in an old Elder Beerman store at Fairfield Commons Mall. They seriously lack adequate signage to get you there. Look for the seemingly abandoned anchor storefront on the second level of the mall. There are signs on the door when you finally get there but they aren’t visible from across the parking lot.

The vacant store is cavernous but they chose to use a fraction of the space. So the posters are packed in the space, almost touching. That means there are clumps of people everywhere and social distancing isn’t really a thing. If you’re nervous about crowds and illness, this may not be the place for you.

All the same, I enjoyed the experience and am glad I went. It is a traveling event and will be leaving Dayton soon. Get the details at their website.