Born of the Earth

Published on 6 July 2023 at 23:37

Medium: Watercolor

Date: 2007 - 2023


This art piece is a long time coming. It outlines several chapters of my life story. I therefore invite you to read in the hope that somehow you will feel the origin of my soul.

Heritage and Vision

I followed my mom when she said, “I love the earth, to walk on it, to look over it in the far distance.” She said, “Every rock is alive, each plant has a soul.” She raised me on the myths of the indigenous people who had owned our Minnesota land, the Sioux, Dakota, and Winnebago. I had “Indian blankets” and pictures of braves on horseback and visions of “The Happy Hunting Ground” on my wall. We read James Fenimore Cooper’s “The Last of the Mohicans” before going to sleep. We lived for years in a black tar-papered chicken house on the earth without electricity, plumbing or trees. I wanted to name our home Black Swan Hall, but mom wanted The Good Earth. When I was 5 years old, I saw New York City in a movie of party girls drinking champagne under chandeliers. I fell in love with New York. To live that life became my goal.


When I was 7 years old, I took the opportunity to earn money to make this dream come true. Mr. Murdinger, who managed many farms including our own, asked my brother, who was 9 years old, to hoe thistles and how much he would charge. “50 cents an hour,” my brother said. “No, too much,” said Murdinger. I was a small 7-year-old but piped up, “I’ll do it for a quarter.” I got hired. My brother said, “How can you work so cheap?” A bus ticket to New York was what I planned.


Much of what I have learned about life for me, I learned in the next 10 years working on the earth in the cornfields, hoeing thistles, and cockleburs, jumping up to detassel corn and stooping to pick up fallen corn and cutting greens to feed the pigs and chickens. I worked the corn row by row back and forth to the ends of the field and returning. I thought I would never finish to the ends of the fields.

Experience taught me to keep going. I learned, “A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step.” I got to know tiny bugs and insects in the field, to play channeling water through the mud in spring, and to slip safely over the frozen snow in winter. While I worked, I told myself long stories. I kept several stories going at once so I could always pick up the next chapter that fit the day. Enjoying the beauty of the earth, of the fields and their growths, walking on the warm, thirsty earth in summer and skating over the dense snow in winter, I entertained myself.


On that bright morning in June, just before I joined the Army, I took a walk in the field. It was almost one hundred years to the day since my great grandfather enlisted in the Civil War. The air was cool and crisp, and the corn had grown to a height of eight inches. As I breathed in the clean air and felt the soft, moist earth beneath my feet, I was enveloped by the freshness and fragrance of the field. I noticed that the thistles had been eradicated by defoliants, and DDT had eliminated many of the insects, except for the mosquitoes. It was a perfect day, yet it was both an end and a beginning. The end of my life as a boy born of the earth and the beginning of my life as a man of the world.

Even now, after all these years, I can still feel my roots deeply embedded in the ground. My body once felt as strong as an elephant, but today I have been living in New York for over 50 years, still drawn by the glamour and champagne that captured my imagination so long ago.

Add comment


There are no comments yet.