Historical Valentine’s

Civil War Valentine

Civil War Valentine

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Happy Valentine’s Day! “Heart of America” by Alex Schattner

Heart of America Illustration

Allison went hiking near Lake Placid, hoping to be alone with her thoughts. She had just broken up with her fifth boyfriend in three months, and was feeling sorry for herself.

“Had she given each man a real chance?” Such thoughts consumed her so much that she accidentally walked into the path of a grizzly bear.

“Is this what an unloving girl deserves?” Allison said, closing her eyes and preparing for the worst. But then…the bear spoke.

“Fear not,” the bear said, “Your true love is out there, and I will take you to him.” Allison felt she had nothing to lose. So, she jumped aboard the bears back and soon they were bounding through the forest.

At that same moment, in a Santa Fe apartment, a man named Brad awoke to find a large eagle perched on his fire escape. Brad had recently broken up with his girlfriend, too. They were planning on living together, but they couldn’t decide whose apartment to keep. This seemingly small issue, became a power struggle that ended their happiness.

Like the bear, the eagle spoke. “Rise up,” it said, “I will take you to your one true love.” So, a curious Brad climbed out his window, and on to the eagles back. Before long, his apartment was lost under the clouds.

Allison and the bear had been traveling for hours, when they came upon a family eating around a campfire.

“Might I join you,” Allison asked, while the bear hid in the bushes.

“I’m sorry,” the father said, “but there isn’t enough to go around.” Allison looked at their plates. They had plenty to share, but Allison wasn’t going to argue with them. As she turned to leave, a wind blew, and the fire’s flames shifted, setting the father’s shirt on fire. Allison acted quickly; tearing off her coat and throwing it over the father’s arm, extinguishing the fire. The father was unharmed, and very grateful.

“Perhaps we have more food than we realized,” he said. Allison took a seat, and enjoyed the fine meal, with her now-pleasant company. By nightfall, Allison was treated like family, and given an extra sleeping bag so that she may rest beside them.

Brad and the Eagle also rested that night. They landed in front of  ”Turner’s Bed and Breakfast,” outside Grand Junction, Colorado.  The place was a well-kept old house painted pink with Victorian turrets. When Brad entered, he heard two people arguing behind the check-in counter. Mr. and Mrs. Turner, he presumed.

“Did they hear me come in?” He wondered, “What am I supposed to do?”

He didn’t want to interrupt them, so he stood by the door, and focused on a nearby bench topped with teddy bears. Still, he heard the couple arguing over how to manage the inn: spend their profit, clean the rooms, manage the gift shop, etc. Eventually, Brad had to interrupt them.

“You both want the same thing,” Brad said, making the couple jump in surprise, “You both want to be in charge, but that’s only possible if you compromise.”

“Maybe you can help us,” Mr. Turner said, “We could use an impartial voice.”

“I’ll do my best,” replied Brad, and for the next hour he listened and advised. Finally, the couple agreed never to let silly problems stop them from loving one another, and Brad feel asleep totally at peace. The next morning, as he flew off, he dared to feel hopeful.

Allison shared this hope as she bid farewell to her new friends, and set off with the bear; now moving faster than ever. By mid-afternoon, both the bear and the eagle reached “Lebanon, Kansas!”

“This is America’s center,” the bear and the eagle said, “This is its heart. Here you will become whole.” The eagle began its decent, and Brad could see Allison waving to greet him. Even from a distance, he felt he could see every feature of her face, as if he had always known it.

When Allison saw Brad’s smiling face looking down from the eagle, she knew the bear had been right. All the unsuccessful relationships no longer mattered. Brad and Allison had acquired the patience, humility, and forgiveness they needed to move forward with their lives…together.

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Article of Interest: “America’s Moral Volcano” by Eleanor Jones Harvey

Can landscape paintings depict political turmoil? They did during the American Civil War.

Read here:  http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/05/americas-moral-volcano/

“Frederic Edwin Church painted “Cotopaxi” in 1862. Although it is not specifically about the Civil War, it is a landscape suffused with it.” – Eleanor Jones Harvey, New York Times

Happy Norman Rockwell Day!

“A Scout is Helpful” by Norman Rockwell

Henceforth, let February Third be known as Norman Rockwell Day, for on that date in 1894 the world welcomed America’s greatest illustrative idealist. Now, it was not I who founded this well-earned holiday, and the rules for celebrating it.  A good friend of mine learned it from his father, who learned it from his father, Willy.

As a little boy growing up in Arlington, Vermont, Willy held on to each and every Saturday Evening Post and Boy’s Life cover he could find. The walls in his room were covered in them.  It might sound a little nutty to you, but times were tough. America was still going through the Great Depression, and Rockwell’s vision of a brighter future inspired people all across the country.

When Norman Rockwell moved his family to Arlington in 1939, it was a dream come true for Willy. When Rockwell handpicked Willy to model for “A Scout is Helpful,” an image of a Boy Scout rescuing a little girl from a lake, it was the greatest moment in Willy’s life. He felt like the scrawniest of sixteen year-olds, but Rockwell saw “heroic potential in him.” When America was drawn into WWII, and Willy was drafted to the front, these words gave him the strength to fight the Axis of Evil instead of high tailing to Canada. They also hampered Willy’s sneaking suspicion that “Willie” Gillis, Rockwell’s gawky cover boy for the armed forces, was based off him.

Fast forward almost four decades, to 1978, the year Norman Rockwell died of a heart attack. Willy lost his hero. What was he going to do? And then it came to him, like a cherry on a sundae. He was going to set aside one day every year to appreciate the wacky ingenuity that makes America great. One day to see America as it should be, and not necessarily as it is. One day to see the country as Rockwell saw it.

Since then, Willy and his son have been planning trips around February Third with the goal of achieving a uniquely American experience. They tracked down the world’s largest bottle of ketchup and ate it. They traveled down the Mississippi River on a wooden raft (a la Huckleberry Finn). One year they even rode horses from Lexington to Concord, ringing bells and yelling at people the whole way down.

As the tradition became more and more finite, the four golden rules fell into place:

    1. You have to tell everyone you meet that it’s Norman Rockwell Day. “Happy Norman Rockwell Day” is preferred, but “Merry Norman Rocks Socks Day” is also acceptable.
    2. You must designate an American Ritual or challenge in which to take part. Some tried and true examples are:
      • Chop down a cherry tree, and proudly own up to it.
      • Drive a Spike into the Pacific Railroad
      • Attempt to purchase Louisiana
      • Dress your dog up like a President. (Extra points for Millard Fillmore)
      • Paint a self-portrait of painting a self-portrait.
    3. Experience must be photographed/documented in a Rockwellian Fashion.
    4. Wherever you go, you must take the road less traveled. (That was said by Robert Frost, not Rockwell, but it captures the spirit of the holiday.)

Now that’s down, and your excitements been piqued, there is just one word of caution I have. Stay close to your team. Be kind to the bossy, the weak, and the glum. There’s no fighting on Norman Rockwell Day, just lighthearted fun.

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Written by Alex Schattner (2/3/13)