SWEET SMELL OF LIVING

‘CUPBOARD’/gunther

March 11, 2019

By Arthur H. Gunther III

thecolumnrule.com

(also on Facebook)

     A very long time ago, a young fellow staying overnight at his grandma’s house would get up before his brother so he could put one of those small, individualized cereal boxes on the kitchen table. There might be just one package of raisin bran, and he wanted it.

     Every memory of that brings me back to 14 Ternure Ave., Spring Valley, N.Y., and age 5. The home itself, a charming federal/mixed style built in the early 1900s by the Haera family, was inviting for its comfort, and my grandmother made it even more so with her homemade treats.

     She kept ingredients, especially spices, in a tallish cabinet at the top of the cellar stairs, where the small cereal boxes were also tucked in. You could not open the cabinet without a whiff of cinnamon, all spice, etc. Just getting near the top of the stairs was enough to make your insides warm in anticipation of something tasty.

      Actually, in hope of something more: assurance that life could be safe and secure, with accomplished living ahead. Grandma made it so.

     Recalling that cabinet today — its fragrance — renews that assurance.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com

 

NOT YET, ANYWAY

March 4, 2019

By Arthur H. Gunther III

thecolumnrule.com

(also on Facebook)

     On the South Mountain, in Pomona, N.Y., named for the goddess of fruit, there came in 1711 Nicholas Concklin, a descendant of an English family arriving in 1637. Nicholas bought 400 acres and began the orchards that continue today. Looking toward the rise from South Mountain Road, you can feel the magical pull on your soul. The view is magnetic over the apple trees and old family barn. It makes you linger though the speeding vehicles of “progress” push you to the side of the road.

     You can feel the strain that hit so many farming muscles over the generations, lifting the endless rocks in tilled soil, the wind hitting your face as it swirls in the valley as if a small tornado, the sweet smell of spring and the fruit tree budding.

     Harvest time brings its own emotion, reinforced by what a father/mother saw, a grandfather/grandmother, those forebears in the early 20th, the 19th, the 18th   centuries. Endurance, though change has proven inevitable.

     In the 1936 Broadway play written by South Mountain resident Maxwell Andersen to help save the High Tor cliffs from quarrying, the Indian in greatcoat who is the wise man of the story notes that there is nothing made by succeeding land owners  “that will not make good ruins.” This has been true as all America continues to develop in its manifest destiny, certainly in once-rural Rockland County where Pomona lies.

     Yet, as sure as fruit matures from the pink and white blossoms that are the underpainting of South Mountain Road’s  beauty, the “ruins” are far off, “progress” so far unable to bulldoze the leprechaun-like magic of South Mountain Road, from the Concklin Orchards at state road 45 to the drop of High Tor at state road 9W.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com 

     

THE COLOR EVERYTHING

‘FLAG,’ acrylic on canvas/Gunther

By Arthur H. Gunther III

thecolumnrule.com

(also on Facebook)

     The flag of the United States of America is a sacred cloth consisting of a field of 13 equal horizontal stripes of red alternating with white, with a blue rectangle or “canton” proclaiming (since 1960) 50 states. The stripes recognize the original British colonies that declared independence. The flag is a bold and dynamic statement that conjures up images of sacrifice, pride and patriotism as well as protest as inimitable to the republic as was the Boston Tea Party.

      Indeed, no American flag could have been raised on Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima, World War II if it did not represent both unity in cause and difference of opinion. We are all one, and we also are free to be independent, as per the rights of humankind.

As Lincoln said, “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” It is our differences, and the tolerance of such, that grow the national family. We can walk hand-in-hand as different people.

    If you were to take the red, white and blue of our American flag heritage and add the God-given hues of the original dispersed, displaced Native Americans, the original enslaved African Americans who gave the South its economy, the original Chinese and other Asians who built our railroads, the original Sicilians and other Italians and the original Russian and other Jews who crafted the garment industry, the original Latinos who populated and grew Texas, California and elsewhere, the original people this and original people that — if we took all these and added them to the whites who landed at Plymouth Rock and those in our manifest destiny — the Germans, the Irish, the Swedes, the French, the whoever, what a flag of color that would be. And it is.

     We have long added those colors; we have been doing so every day since the beginning of a unique nation born in both dissent and union. Our flag  is that of constantly gathered humanity in the republic, a sheltering, protective cloth of many colors.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com

     

THE BARNS THAT BUILT AMERICA

‘BARN IN NYACK’/gunther

February 18, 2019

By Arthur H. Gunther

thecolumnrule.com

(also on Facebook) 

    The thing about barns is that many of us have a thing for them.

      Barns are America. Well, they are also Germany, the Netherlands, the British Isles, Spain, varieties almost anywhere in the world. In the United States, with its Yankee, English, prairie, round, Dutch, bank and other barns, you see the history of the nation, its decades and centuries, its progress toward manifest destiny and, most of all, the incredible diversity of the people.

     They built the barns with post and beam, with native timber, rough hewn. They built the nation with the learning of their foreign forebears and the acquired spirit and shared lessons of the new world. They used Native-American construction ways as well.

     Both have endured, these barns, these people because as with barn styles the purposes may be similar but perhaps not the style. All can stand proud.

     Barns are instant nostalgia, their worn red color or nature’s coat after so much time pulling us back to simpler times though we forget the before-dawn labor that lasted past dusk.

     Today, people recycle barn post and beam, the side planks, too, for houses most beautiful but perhaps way too grand for the old farmer or the dairyman. 

     Passing by in the passing parade that is America’s generations we the people momentarily drop the pulse rate, lower the blood pressure as we glance over at the barns that built us. We are home again, if only for a quick moment.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com or on Facebook Messenger.

 

 

LIGHT DEFINING LIFE

Light emerging from Edward Hopper’s childhood birthplace/room in Nyack, N.Y. (Gunther photo)

February 11, 2019

By Arthur H. Gunther III

thecolumnrule.com

(also on Facebook)

 

     Imagine being born into light, not necessarily spiritual though it cannot be denied. The first opening of the child’s eyes, then awakening each morning into young adulthood with strong, white/yellow luminescence bathing the room, moving along the walls, onto the bed, a life of its own as the sun rises.

     This was the daily world of Edward Hopper, the famed American realist painter born July 22, 1882, in Nyack, N.Y.

     The son of a village shop owner and a mother who was artistic, the young Hopper was uncharacteristically encouraged to be creative, to draw, his parents simply insisting that he attend an art school that would prepare him for a living in illustration.

     But the young Hopper, who would hatch himself from long gestation to give the world such classics as “Nighthawks” and “Early Sunday Morning,” did not enjoy the working world. 

     Doubtless he was always thinking back to the utter brightness of his childhood room, the magnificent Hudson River light shooting up Second Avenue through two front windows to awaken him to dreams not yet realized.

     The man who said “… what I wanted to do was paint sunlight on the side of a house” was swaddled, then reared and always infused with light. He gave us that visibility in his extraordinary paintings.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com or Facebook Messenger.

     

‘LINE, FORM, COLOR’

‘JOURNEY’/gunther

February 4, 2019

By Arthur H. Gunther III

thecolumnrule.com

(also on Facebook)

     You do not have to be a painter to appreciate line, form and color. They are part of the staff of life — not staples like grain — but humankind does not live by bread alone.

     “Line,” for example, is how we view the world, in a vertical or horizontal or angular way. It defines our taste in clothes, houses, other people, art, how neatly we keep our penmanship in a straight row, probably whether we yearn to live in a city high-rise or the wide expanse of the countryside. Line helps us choose our cars, tools, partners.

     “Form” is related to line because it is an extension of it, the 3D of it. We unconsciously and then in learned ways choose form for taste, need, to make us purr in relationships — all that, as in painting, to give depth, substance, the yin/yang of breathing, living our lives.

   “Color” is sun itself on line and form, also as in a piece of art. It is the spotlight, even in black and white, officially not color but life is full of nuance, and there are few absolutes. Who is to say there is no blue in black, no yellow in white, no sunlight in a seemingly mundane existence? There is color to be found.

     So, line, form, color, all part of the staff — the necessity — of living.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com or Facebook Messenger.

‘All was right in his world’

‘MOONLIGHT’/Gunther

January 28, 2019

By Arthur H. Gunther III

thecolumnrule.com

(also on Facebook)

     Amidst the world’s troubles, a reassuring sight on a train: A busy mom, returning with a three-year-old from a trip to Gotham, him jabbering away, calling for “Mommy, Mommy” as she checked her smart phone. He tugged at her jacket, too.

     As in time memorial, the young have pulled at mom, the invisible umbilical cord still connected, the nurturing of human nature. Reassurance is what the child wants as he/she calls out “Mommy.” There must always be an answer.

      And there was on this train. It was obvious that the little fellow had enjoyed his day in New York but that he was also wound-up, fidgeting and tugging a bit extra, Mom noticed, instinctively pulling from her bag of necessities and tricks a book. Down went the smartphone and out came one of many, many, many books about children and the moon. “We will read,” said mom.

      As instinctively, the little one cozied up next to her and listened as mom described another young person’s fascination with that far-off object, of which dreams are made and to which mothers across the globe shoot a string of words that come back with such soothing cadence that no three year old can resist falling asleep. Maybe some adults, too.

     And that’s just what the little boy did, his face buried in mom’s lap once again.

     All was right in his world.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo. com or thecolumnrule.com

48 RUE DE LA …

January 21, 2019

By Arthur H. Gunther III

thecolumnrule.com

(also on Facebook)

     It is Paris, 48 rue de la … “Madeleine?” “Paix?” The street name does not matter. No. 48 does, that appartement not far from the street artists, who are ubiquitous. Umbrella left on the door handle for walks that take you everywhere, abstract paintings on the panels from the last young artist to live in hope at 48. This is Paris. This is art. This is a stirring of the soul.

     It may all be over in a year, the “artist” moving on through that tough tunnel of reality to a staid existence, earning the cash for  “adulting.”

     But for a time, dreams and the rushing of blood, each red cell telling you have the stamina to do it, to make it. 

      By day, you are at Montmarte or la tour Eiffel. By night, along the Seine. You watch people, you draw them in charcoal. You hear the street sounds, you inhale the scents, you get the rhythm. It all shows in the line, form and color of the evening palette. You paint until dawn.

     You are young. You are full of possibilities. Paris, or the metaphor of the place (so you can be elsewhere), welcomes your search for identity, fertilizes your dream with the elixir of hope.

     Few will stay long at 48 rue de la … . The gifted might buy a studio with their success, but they are not many.

    No, the return trip awaits the majority, moving on to what life does, what it brings.

    Whether you go to Paris, whether you paint or write or day dream, the hope is that for a time anyway, you tarry at 48 Rue de la … .

     

MORE THAN JUST THEM APPLES …

January 14, 2019

By Arthur H. Gunther III

thecolumnrule.com

(also on Facebook)

     My grandmother in Spring Valley, N.Y., was a wonderful apple pie maker. In September particularly, she and my grandfather would take a country drive on meandering roads to Pomona where the Concklins offered a new crop of apples so fresh that the skin would still snap when you bit into them. If my brother or I were with them, there would also be the free apple from the bushel basket slid way back on a wooden floor trod since who knows when. Some cider, too, with your own glass jug refilled on the spot.

     The ride back to the village was always calm, serene, with nearing-fall wafts of turned-color leaves, little traffic, the 1950 Plymouth hugging turns on McNamara Road, my grandparents quietly talking as Craig and I sat in the back, swallowed up by old-fashioned big seats.

     Back home, my grandfather would take some of the apples, washed first in the old kitchen sink, out to his garage, the one with a wooden floor with its own history of long use, oil dripped from cars, planks heated by summer sun. A special smell that is recalled forever, a key to memories.

     Gramps would carefully peel the apples in a manner that would make an army sergeant on KP watch proud. Very little waste, his special knife — always kept in the garage — separating the skin as he twisted the apple, one long peel dripping into a basket, the contents later fed to the birds.

     My grandmother, this nana of German heritage, would take the apples, add sugars and spice and whatever secrets from the old country that were passed on and mound the fruit in her own crust, a bit of sweetness added to make it have a slight butter-cookie taste.

     It wasn’t long before the pies baked, the fragrance so inviting and reassuring that a youngster felt very safe and happy. A window shelf for cooling awaited, and we did too. It seemed an endless one.

     Combined with ice cream and coffee for the adults, we all dug with satisfaction into the finished product on a late-summer afternoon in my old hometown.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com

     

THE TREE OF OPTIMISM

 

LAKE ANTRIM/gunther

January 7, 2019

By Arthur H. Gunther III

thecolumnrule.com

(also on Facebook)

     The tree stands alone, but there is enough evidence in the fog that others are in the background. It is sturdy, seemingly well-rooted, still with leaves and in a field of  pleasing color. Of optimism, this photograph.

     A metaphor, perhaps, for durability in turbulent, uncertain times when roots cannot always be planted, when there may be no one to have your back, when color is reduced to a limited spectrum chosen by the few.

     Yet the tree survives and promises continued growth despite pessimism, for it is the opposite.

     The fog is thick and does not suggest a quick retreat. And that may be to the good, the fog a reflector for the infinite variety of color keeping the tree company.

     Cozy, too, such a scene, for the invitation is to sit a spell, to chill, to forget the commute, the to-do list, the endless appointments. 

     Sunday in the park with a tree. Optimism.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com