Monday, November 25, 2013

Making *GOOD* Time on the Road

Nancy Kelly's wonderful advice for rich holiday reading has inspired me to share tidbits for rich holiday travel as well. Pamela and I are making two trips to and from Kansas this season. As the drive is twenty plus hours one way, we include an overnight stop. We also take advantage of inspiring rest stops like Carl Sandburg's home, the house that Manly built, a replica of Little House on the Prairie, the National World War I Museum, Gettysburg, just to name a few. While some stops cost a little and last an hour or two, we never regret making the effort. As one of my friends says, "I like to make good time on the road—emphasis on good!"

Taking time to stretch our legs, our eyes feasted on beauty at the St. Louis Art Museum for nothing more than a voluntary donation. I chose to keep ten dollars for parking underground in my pocket and walk in the bitter cold because of the plentiful free parking. The added bonus was this gorgeous view of the reflecting pool in front of the museum.

While we had planned to visit a couple of dear friends (van Gogh, Monet, Millet, and Winslow Homer), the first painting that captured our attention was this ginormous painting of King Charles I by Dutch artist Daniel Martensz Mytens the Elder. This trip revealed that art is a shared experience, not just with your companion but also with friends from afar. When we spied this commemoration of his coronation, I recalled a conversation with the elementary class at Harvest Community School last week. The students are very much aware that Charles I lost his head, so they were intrigued that Carolina and Charleston are named for his son, Charles II, who managed to keep both head and throne.

Pursuing van Gogh, we came across this version of the madonna and child by Davide Ghirlandaio. The Roman numerals, MCCCLXXXIV, painted on the stairs caught Pamela's eye, and she quickly read the date as 1486. Again, I thought of the elementary students at Harvest because they want to learn Roman numerals since some books number chapters in this manner.

Monet's Water Lilies were gorgeous, and seeing someone notebooking increased my delight as I revel in The Living Page by Laurie Bestvater! We finally found three van Gogh's in a row. Pamela said her favorite is the one to her right, Factories at Clichy. Van Gogh included two tiny figures in front of the factory, hard to spot, but logical when considering how small we are beside the mechanical wonders made by our hands.

While the dancing grapevines in Vineyards at Auvers (shown clearly in this detail) tugged at my heart, my favorite is Stairway at Auvers, a painting which quivers with delight. Again, I am reminded of our school for the primary class adored this painting by the artist they call "Rainbow Man." When I texted a picture of Pamela standing beside the stairway to a friend whose children attend Harvest, her kids were amazed that we saw the masterpiece with our own eyes.

On the way to Millet, we spied greyhounds painted by another realist Gustave Courbet. We had to take a picture for our friend Eman, the ultimate dog lover. We even texted a picture of Pamela and the greyhounds to his mom. The other day, when we were walking with him to pick up lunch, we saw this cute little white dog named Lily. He could not contain his delight and said, "It's a Maltese! I love her!" As she was wearing a brown sweater, I let it flow into an impromptu Spanish lesson with the teen who had joined us. We figured out how to describe the encounter in a second language, "Veo una perrita blanca con un sueter pardo. Su nombre es Lily."

Right next to Knitting Lesson by Jean Francois Millet, we saw Girl with Mandolin by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. Seeing the mother teach her daughter to knit brought to mind the finger-knitting lessons on the porch swing at school. One student taught another, and, before long, the entire elementary class knew how to make scarves and belts. I had to take a picture of the Corot for my friend Leslie adores this artist. I tagged her once I posted the shot on Facebook.

Before reaching our final destination, we met George Washington by Gilbert Stuart, pictured on Pamela's left. Apparently, Stuart cranked out so many of these portraits that he called them hundred dollar bills! Pamela and her class has been reading a short version of his biography in Four Great Americans. How serendipitous to find his portrait on the way to Winslow Homer's The Country School, which brings to mind Understood Betsy, a book that our entire school just finished reading.

I will conclude with this collection of arms and armor from the Middle East and Far East, which remind me of the boys who spend recess imagining themselves as heroes and villains in battles, real, fictional, literary, historical, and invented. Making GOOD time is not about how fast you finish a journey. It is about making good memories, reflecting on past experiences, and sharing your discovery with friends.

We study art for its own sake! However, if you must find a utilitarian reason to visit art museums in this standardized-test-obsessed world, this article might convict you. "Students who, by lottery, were selected to visit the museum on a field trip demonstrated stronger critical thinking skills, displayed higher levels of social tolerance, exhibited greater historical empathy and developed a taste for art museums and cultural institutions."


poohder said...

Just curious how our Art Museum compares to Kansas City's?111

walking said...

The museum is wonderful, but the question is unfair for it is like asking a mother to choose her favorite child.

Nancy Kelly said...

Rich, indeed! I love reading about your travels. It's such a life, isn't it? Miss you both!