Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Window to the Past

The old joke is that today's newspaper becomes the lining on the bottom of the birdcage. These days, many people don't even get newsprint on their fingers reading the news.

I still love curling up in my recliner and opening my daily edition of The Hutchinson News and the weekly version of The Stafford Courier, though I also read several other newspapers online.

Even though my son loves the written word, he says he and his contemporaries will likely not subscribe to newspapers that arrive on their doorstep or in their mailbox.

And even for those who read the black and white words on a page, the daily newspaper goes into the recycling pile and is cast aside beside the coffee grounds.

So it was quite a treat to find that a Lindsborg artist studio/museum had a framed copy of one of my Hutchinson News features on the wall.

It was at the Red Barn Studio, which is run by the Raymer Society for the Arts. The museum preserves and promotes the work and memory of Lester Raymer (1907 - 1991), a Lindsborg artist who did paintings, prints, ceramics, metalwork, woodcarving, stitchery and more in the Red Barn Studio.

I interviewed Raymer and his wife, Ramona, at the Birger Sandzen Museum in 1982, so I hadn't been to his studio before. The long-ago feature was about Raymer's Christmas-time exhibit there, which featured the handmade toys the artist gave to his wife. All told, Raymer made 53 toys during a 30-year period.

As I recall, Ramona was the more vocal of the two. While Lester idly went around the room twirling knobs on the intricate toys, she was the public relations guru, touting her husband's talent.
But last Friday, his studio spoke for him. From the outdoor spaces he created to the candlesticks made from pitchforks or the chandelier fashioned from a barrel stave, his artistic look at life shined through.

I would have been on the job a little more than 16 months when I interviewed Raymer. In typical fashion, I looked at the feature posted on the wall and told Randy I should have done better. That fresh-faced 25-year-old reporter could have learned a thing or two from 53-year-old me. Maybe the older and wiser me would have been able to draw him out.

I think I would have had better luck to interview him in his own space, a place that provides a window on his creative mind.

And I was struck by something else. The museum has preserved this little tableau. It's an artist's palette still stained from years of creativity and work and an unfinished painting of a rooster. It's the scene Raymer left behind on the day he died.

And isn't that what we all hope for? We hope and pray that we'll continue to do the work that we've been called to do until our dying breath. Farmers want to keep planting and harvesting seeds. Teachers find a way to keep teaching, even if they no longer stand in front of a classroom. Mothers still mother though their children have babies of their own. Writers still write, even though their work may no longer be found on yellowed newsprint but is typed and released into cyberspace.

And we all hope the work we do and the lives we touch will still make a difference long after we're gone.

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