Feeling Like a Brown Leaf

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The summer has been a disappointment. We feel like curling on the ground with the brown leaves and letting the wind blow us into the next season.

We are a sentimental, old fool; it’s true. We had hoped for so much from the soft, slow summer months — new thoughts…old friends…and the family gathered ’round for eight weeks. Imagine the work that we could get done — we would repaint all the shutters, we would lay up a new stone wall, maybe we could even build a gypsy wagon, which we have been planning for years. Instead, the family couldn’t sit still long enough to gather around, let alone get anything done. The children are all growing up — with agenda of their own. Practically every day there was a new train to catch. In the comings and goings, we couldn’t keep track of who had come and who had gone. We had to go around the place after midnight and check to see which rooms were occupied.

We had no new thoughts. And so our old ones — left too long on the table — turned a bit sour.

And now, here we are back in Annapolis. It was here that it all began. It was here that we were born in what seems like a very long time ago.

And in our 18th year, we set out into the big world, off to college. Then, we saw ourselves in a Norman Rockwell painting. It is a portrait of a young man and his father. They might be midwestern farmers. The older man is sitting on the running board of his pickup truck, if we recall correctly. His hands are hard. His face is sunburned and creased from years of fieldwork. He has a look on his face of pride, with a touch of sadness. His son is going off to college.

Back then, we were the son. Bright eyed…we stood up taller than we were, with an expectant smile. We did not know what would happen when we got out in the world, but we were sure it would be something good. And whatever it was, we were ready for it.

But now the world has made its tour of the sun nearly 40 times. And now we have taken a new place in the portrait. Now, we are the father.

It is at times like this that we see the merit in modern art. You can look at globs of paint or bands of color and see nothing. It is as meaningless and empty as a presidential speech. It has no more effect on us than herb tea.

Norman Rockwell spent his career painting pictures that helped people understand their own feelings…pictures that enriched their own experiences and celebrated their own lives. But the art establishment branded him an “illustrator,” a sentimental one at that. Real artists, they said, were doing art for art’s sake, not for the sake of the bourgeois public. Real artists were putting swiggles, smears or daubs of paint on the canvas. They were doing “innovative” and “creative” work. If they were hideous and grotesque; well, that’s what life really is!

You can laugh at modern art. You can’t take it seriously. Rockwell, on the other hand, is almost too serious. We turn back to the painting and can barely stand to look. We see every line, every worry and every regret on the old man’s face — in our own mirror. For now, we have come to Annapolis to take our own boy to school. Today, he registers at St. Johns College.

You may wonder, dear reader, what this has to do with making money. We don’t know. Maybe nothing. We know it has something to do with spending money; have you seen a recent college tuition bill?

Maybe it has something to do with making money too. But we will have to stretch to find a connection, and we don’t have time for that this morning.

Bill Bonner [send him mail] is the author, with Addison Wiggin, of Financial Reckoning Day: Surviving the Soft Depression of The 21st Century.

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