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From Bill – Perhaps A Prince in Disguise

June 6, 2014
Little Pond

Little Pond

My wife, Bridget, and I hang out on a small farm just West of Nazareth that we call Little Pond. First day we arrived there, our children Sam and Anisa in tow, we walked past the little spring and the name was born. It’s a lovely spot, and on its thin, narrow edge, we planted two Dawn Redwoods that now tower some thirty, forty feet in the sky above. Look into the waters, and it’s a muck, kinda primordial, where the frogs and toads do their mysterious transformations, singing and croaking in secret code, and laying infinite numbers of eggs—a living assault on the forces of annihilation. Dragonflies and a few tiny snakes. We don’t plant things, for the most part at Little Pond, and we don’t groom it much, just a few narrow paths to take us ‘round the 32 acres. We’re letting it grow back from the farmland it once was—hilly pasture sprinkled with wild cherry, mulberry and pear trees, and a few old apple trees from what was once an orchard. It’ll take a lifetime to see the wildness return fully.

Thoreau once wrote an essay called Wild Apples:

“Every wild-apple shrub excites our expectation thus, somewhat as every wild child. It is, perhaps, a prince in disguise. What a lesson to man! So are human beings, referred to the highest standard, the celestial fruit which they suggest and aspire to bear, browsed on by fate; and only the most persistent and strongest genius defends itself and prevails, sends a tender scion upward at last, and drops its perfect fruit on the ungrateful earth. Poets and philosophers and statesmen thus spring up in the country pastures, and outlast the hosts of unoriginal men.

Such is always the pursuit of knowledge. The celestial fruits, the golden apples of the Hesperides, are ever guarded by a hundred-headed dragon which never sleeps, so that it is an herculean labor to pluck them.”

I noticed this morning, a Wild Iris, or as Bridget calls it a “Yellow Flag,” growing at the center of the pond. Alone it stood in the midst of all the green, a mystery. How’d it get there? Where did it come from? It stood chaste and elegant yet with a refined and aristocratic beauty that was delicate, voluptuous and (to my eyes) profoundly feminine. I yelled out loud when I saw her and then ducked my head a bit afraid that perhaps I’d been too rude, that I might have disturbed her reverie. What was she doing in the middle of our little pond? And how could anything be more profoundly magical?

The Wild Iris

The Wild Iris

To me, that tired and world-weary little Iris is a message of hope and truth; it’s what I try to make my work/my life all about. Unbidden, it peeps forth to shed its color and beauty in the world, and soon it will be gone. Because that’s what it does, that’s who it is.

I love the arts organizations on the South Side – like Godfrey Daniels, Pennsylvania Youth Theatre, The Bach Choir, The South Side Film Festival, Mock Turtle Marionette and others, that have miraculously grown up in our community like that Yellow Flag. Unbidden. Wild, really. I can never say enough how lucky we are that these arts organizations are still alive and productive. In these days of Factory Farming, Mono-Culture, Manufactured Food, Pesticides, Fracking, Casino Profiteering, Noisy Marketing, and Digital Invasions that allow those with the most money to manipulate our every choice, the call to preserve the small original voice, the independent mind, the diversity that makes a democracy truly powerful—is more important than it has ever been.

Touchstone is that Wild Iris. As Thoreau says: “It is, perhaps, a prince in disguise.” The “celestial fruit we aspire to bear”, the culture we are attempting to build, is hard to fully appreciate, as it is hard to fully appreciate any individual at a single moment in time, let alone the artists we’ve got here in Bethlehem and here at 321 E. 4th. Street.

Now, in June, winding up our 2013-14 Season which was so engrossing and exciting, I tip my hat to them—particularly to Lisa, Jp, and Emma—my dear co-creators; to Kyle, Mary, and Christopher; to Mallory, Jordan, and Catherine; to all who’ve helped carry on Touchstone’s mission of advancing this effort, “browsed on by fate”. “Only the most persistent and strongest genius defends itself and prevails…”

The tests are never over. It’ll take a lifetime. Stay with us; next year will be even more beautiful.

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