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Posts Tagged ‘Henry Ward Beecher’

“If men had wings and bore black feathers, few of them would be clever enough to be crows.” 

~ Rev. Henry Ward Beecher

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The new painting shown here on the right is titled Memory of the Crow and is included in the Little Gems show at the West End Gallery which has its opening this evening.

I’ve always felt there was something special about crows, especially in regard to their intelligence. I couldn’t agree any more than I do with the words above from Henry Ward Beecher.  Especially about the cleverness of men.

But the intelligence of crows is obvious to anyone who watches them for any amount of time. This was evident to the Native Americans who held these birds and their wisdom in high esteem as part of their belief system and their mythology.

Maybe because they are always near, always in close proximity to man as they live off the refuse he creates, the crops he plants and the vermin he attracts. This omnipresence gives the crow a sense of being a constant, unblinking witness to all that happens. And maybe this constant watching breeds that sense of wisdom that some of us see in them.

It makes me wonder what the crow sometimes thinks or remembers.  How do they perceive us and what is their awareness of us? Are our good and bad times their good and bad times as well? When we  abandon a place do they feel sense of loss? Do they attach themselves in any way to us?

Or do they see it as a passing of time with us as ephemeral visitors passing through their eternal world?

Those are the kind of  questions that rise for me in this piece. Makes me wish I could talk with the crow…

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Here’s a link to a post and update from a number of years back about a crow that lived around my studio.  It also includes a version of Joni Mitchell’s Black Crow from Diana Krall– good listening on a Friday morning.

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Mark Twain's "Eve's Diary" Title Page - by Lester Ralph

There is a slate of activities scheduled tonight at the historic Park Church in my hometown of Elmira to commemorate this city’s part in an episode that Mark Twain chronicled in a very short vignette called A Monument to Adam.  It seems that Twain had made an offhand comment at one point in the late 1870’s to the then minister of Park Church, Thomas K. Beecher, who was the  brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe and Henry Ward Beecher and a favorite drinking buddy of the famed writer.  It was in the era when the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin were taking hold of the wider population and Twain, in speaking of Darwin with Beecher, joked that the biblical Adam had altogether been overlooked by the naturalist and that  he would surely soon be forgotten.  He then suggested, with tongue even more firmly planted in cheek, that Elmira should erect a monument to Adam that would keep his name alive as well as serve as a great boon to local tourism.

Much to his surprise, the idea took off locally and soon he was in meetings with bankers who pledged thousands of dollars to erect the monument and began to solicit designs from all over, some from Paris, as Twain notes.  Elmira was on its way to becoming a tourist mecca.  Or so the locals thought.

The Park Church, Elmira NY

Twain felt it was always a ridiculous idea and, in an effort to curtail its momentum, wrote a request to be read before the congress asking the federal government to erect the monument, knowing full well that once the idea was presented it would be ridiculed and would soon be forgotten.  But the representative wouldn’t read it because he felt that it was so seriously written and sentimental that they might just consider it in earnest. 

Of course, the idea ran out of steam and was soon set aside only to revived later as a short article by Twain.  Elmira never became a tourist destination, outside of the folks who come to see Twain’s gravesite.   But tonight the idea lives on again in that same church where Twain would periodically listen to the preaching of Beecher.

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