Monday, September 26, 2016


(Before we start, a note: I was just this morning watching a television news report on the golfing great, Arnold Palmer's death. The report replayed a clip from an interview from a number of years ago, in which Palmer recalled, with vivid, moving clarity, the moment at which his groundsman father first showed him how to grip a golf club. He was a lad of probably no more than seven or eight years old, and that intense, sparkling memory had stayed with him for more than seventy years. Quite obviously, it shaped his life. That's what this blog is all about....)

And we have yet another magical moment today. (In case you missed it, check back on The Swallows by Masami Teraoka). For many boys, magic is just what happens to us every day... This memory comes from Ron Wigginton, a painter and landscape artist whose work today (in both fields) addresses the peculiar magic of landscape; his story, as I read it, evokes the kindling of an original creative imagination. I'll attach an image of one of his paintings below.

by Ron Wigginton, 9/12/16

This moment from my long-ago boyhood only grows more vivid whenever it’s recalled. Not that I think of that event frequently, but the more I understand that it did happen, the more I feel that the path I followed and lead today was right. Did it inform me? No—rather, it appears that it defined me.

I was six when we moved a few blocks within the bedroom community of El Cerrito overlooking the San Francisco Bay. This Behrens Street neighborhood was built just before World War II and varied little in size or shape from wood frame to stucco; ours was the latter. Good-sized backyards to play Cowboys and Indians with the small gang of grammar school buddies made for great fort building and discovery. This was a time of contemplation and solitary wonderment to me… and the dawning of deeper questioning.

At seven I could roam free to walk the two blocks to Harding School. The world was exciting: vast and minute at the same time. My parents were always over-engaged in themselves, and I came to see that they were part of the mystery and misunderstanding I had of these environments. To my awakening mind it was taking a long time to get a handle on this world I was born into.

The adjoining neighbor to the north was also a mystery. A “regular” post-war family, they did things a little differently. They cooked in their backyard, and they fished in the Bay. Their stucco house was like ours, but less kept-up and maintained; dead lawn, boat in the driveway, and so on.

It was warm, probably June, clear sky, end of the day around 4:00. The neighbors were washing fresh bay salt off their small boat. Two very big galvanized buckets of half-dead sea bass in salt water from the day’s fishing were sitting in the driveway. Half-dead fish were a very big-time kid draw. Shortly, the buckets were carried down the property line into their backyard and set up on the green paint-shedding picnic table. Big lidless fish eyes stared up at us. The grownups had lit the charcoal BBQ and were bringing out plates and salads while we snuck slices of white bread.

The first big fish was hauled out and plopped on newspaper to be filleted for the fire. Its beautiful sparkling silver and blue colors were slowly starting to fade, but it was supple, slippery, and seemed to be staring at us kids gathered around: Sally Rich and a couple of other children. My view of the fish’s body held upright shifted to the serrated fishing knife that shone in the sun; poised. The point went in just behind the gills; we winced. But then, instead of blood or worse, everything froze, or appeared to slow and come to a stop. That’s when it happened…

A crystal green inverted teardrop the size of a baseball emerged above the knife from the top of the fish’s head. It moved ever so slowly until it hovered a half-foot over the body. Sound continued, dimly, movement occurred, slowly. This beautiful orb-like liquid form seemed other-worldly in its transparency and grace. It kept its perfect symmetry then began to slowly climb into the sky above us kids standing beside it. The silent form paused, showing itself so clearly; then it rose faster and faster as I watched until it was only a tiny dot in the blue sky; then gone. In awe and delight, I knew this was a wonder that would continue to astonish all of us throughout our lives. 

I snapped out of my focus and yelled, “Did you see that!”…

Nobody saw it.


Time and place roared back. The moment was past. I don’t recall what happened to the fish, the BBQ and the people. Strangely, my shock was not as much at seeing this “soul” (for lack of a better word) ascend into the heavens, as comprehending the fact that no one else claimed to have seen it. I brought this incident up a few times to that same audience, and even briefly to my mother, but then had to stop. There was just no way to talk about that moment to anyone then or for decades.

We were approaching serious Cold War years at a time when most adults had been in a real war and gone through the Great Depression. Few had a higher education and their perspectives were simple and direct. Soon, the commercial capitalistic world was filling their heads with childish advertising and ridiculous slogans and song on the radio and black and white televisions. Kids were expected to be happy with idiotic toys and music that all seemed to point in the wrong direction. Nothing really rhymed correctly, nothing spoke to nature or directed us to what might be the reality or the potential of our internal lives. The world was madly making itself into something very abstract. But then, what did I know—a seven year old boy?

Ron Wigginton, "Land and Studio," 2010, Co-polymer and dye 140# C.P. Arches, 30" x 22"

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