Is there a time when we begin to wonder “How did I reach this point in life?”
I have friends who pose that question (or a close approximation) with regularity, like the making of New Years resolutions, the movement of bowels or some intermediate rhythm. Such introspection can often be driven, I suspect, by life-changing experience that is within our control (a change of state such as moving or marriage) and others that arrive from left field (catastrophic illness or accident). For multiple reasons I’m in that reflective state right now. Let’s just chalk it up to what Dr Bob calls Age and Stage.
Pivotal characters in Howard Tabor’s evolution have appeared in “A few figs from thistles…” as his “Ghosts of Christmas Past”, including one column last April on Hamish Brookes, proprietor of Shelf Life and Agincourt’s resident purveyor of books both new and used. Funny how some of these folks remind me of people I know.
“A few figs from thistles…”
by Howard A. Tabor
Apprentice to Life
In the Mediæval world, entering a craft, trade or profession was an orderly system regulated by law. Today we call it apprenticeship, but technically that was only the first step in a lengthy process that might take seven to ten years. An “apprentice” was a contractual relationship between a skilled employer and a young person who sought to learn the skills of that trade: the employer offered practical education and the Apprentice agreed to provide several years of continuing labor after achieving a measurable competency. Parents might pay for such an opportunity for their child to increase social and economic mobility. The status of “Journeyman” in some countries was achieved on receipt of a certificate of completion. And that was followed by the attainment of Master status and the ability to take on apprentices of ones own. Echoes of this Mediæval system exist today in fields as diverse as cosmetology and medicine. So, thinking about those levels of achievement—Apprentice, Journeyman, Master—I look at my own life skills and wonder my status might be.
Masters of Life, in my experience, are very few and remarkably far between. And I’m suspicious of any who make such a claim for themselves.
Landscapes and Livestock
During the last few weeks, our friend Jonathan Rutter stopped by (twice, actually) to say hello and share some of the insights gained from his recent MFA program at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art. Jonathan was in town for the installation of James O’Rourke’s memorial in the Prairie Home Cemetery in Moorhead. If you should find yourself driving on South Eighth Street, please detour through the gate and visit the site—toward the east or back edge of the cemetery and about in the middle latitude. You can’t, as they say, miss it.
While Jonathan was hereabouts we talked at some length about another, second Agincourt exhibit and especially about the show-within-the-show “Landscapes & Livestock” that will be a loan exhibit from the Tennant Memorial Gallery in Agincourt. What I had hoped might be 25-30 works, ostensibly representing a community-generated collection—the sort of grass roots point of view that resonates with a child of the 60s like me—has grown in the last few years and now amounts to more than fifty pieces, each of which will add to the story of the fictional place that is Agincourt. Today, to break my long silence and test the waters of my old self for reasons that many of your will know, I want to share the latest addition to the “Landscapes & Livestock” roster: an urban rather than a rural landscape by New York artist Edmund E. Niemann [1909-2005], a work of 1956 titled “Stop on Red” and untypical of the collection as a whole. It will be a challenge to weave it in to the story.
Wish me luck.