It All Began With Chicory


I do not like to explain my work. Call it shyness or not wanting to appear vain or not wanting to come off as an obnoxious artist going around being too deep about their work. But this one, this one I'd like to talk about a little because today my country is causing me to wax nostalgic.

I was a little girl, around 12 years old, when my friend, Tamara's, mom drove me home to my mom's house in Joppatowne. When almost there, she pulled over to the side of Trimble Road. She did not say why. She got out of the car and told me to come with to look at something growing on the roads' shoulder. Chicory. This woman pulled over, for no other reason, but to teach me about a plant, one that I have seen a thousand times before, a weed. It was a tall, dark green, woody-stemed thing, with lovely blueish-purple flowers, that thrives in bad soil and is put into coffee by weirdos in the South. I knew what chicory was. All my young life, walking by this weedy plant, I had no idea that it was useful. I was in awe. I wanted to know what every other plant, and animal, and thing on this Earth was after. I still do.

Often I think about that moment. How it changed my course. How if Mrs. Thomas didn't pull over that day, things would be different. How everything and all of us are connected and create meaning for each other. I think about it when I'm talking to children at the Museum. I am in awe of this too. Am I steering the course of others?

This painting, "It All Began With Chicory", tells that story. A weed on the side of the road, the desire of one generation to pass along knowledge to another, the crossing of cultures, the connection of us to this Earth, and the culmination of all those things to make me want to be a naturalist, to teach, and to leave the world more beautiful than it was when I entered it.

We are not perfect. That would be boring. But in the words of our President,

we can all be better. We can think about how what we do affects the lives of others. We can strive to understand and appreciate our world beyond our own neighborhood. We can be better, because we have to be.

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© 2020 by Magan Ruthke

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