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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.

Charles Burchfeld, Insecty Chorus

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.

Charles Burchfeld, Dandelions

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 city where they're cared for by someone else.

Our home in Vermont was surrounded by a lovely rolling lawn. It was pretty but my father insisted that it be perfect. How can you enjoy something if all you see is what's wrong with it?

Dad abhorred the dandelion. That most enjoyable pleasure of summer, blowing the dainty wisps into the wind, was strictly forbidden. I think a few dots of yellow enhance the green but he said one little yellow head led to a multitude and soon all was lost. He declared war and we were all enlisted. Pulling up dandelions was everyone's mission.

Dandelion killer

There's an art to the task; you don't just pull up the flower, you have to take this wicked looking tool, especially designed to kill the dandelion, dig down beside the strong, deep root and pull it up whole.

Years after that house was sold I went to church with Mom and Dad. The preacher told this story; There was a man who hated dandelions so much that he funded a study at Texas A&M to eradicate them. After years of exhaustive research the scientists had to report that dandelions are indestructible and will always be with us. “We suggest you learn to love them.” Mom and I fell out of the pew laughing. There’s another hymn I love—and I put its latin translation, “Credit curas venti” in some of my etchings; It’s “Give to the Wind thy Fears.” Whenever I sing it I picture taking a perfect globe of a dandelion and blowing away the seeds. That’s one of the forbidden pleasures of my youth. But wait—that metaphor doesn't work. Those tiny little seeds will land and take root and grow and spread—not what we want our fears to do. Instead, blow the dandelion and see the seeds as good will; hopes, dreams, kind words—give them to the winds and watch them grow.


April 12, 2019

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