It was a delight to visit my youngest son, Terry, in Minneapolis for a week of vacation last week. Terry was also on vacation and had just reached the point of being fully vaccinated. He wanted to take advantage of his new status by visiting some places in the city after being cooped up in his single rented room for over a year. Terry’s firm sent everyone home after the virus put three of the firm’s partners in the ICU. They are still largely working from home.
One of the places we visited was the sculpture garden. This is a large outdoor garden with weather resistant works of art. The best known piece and my personal favorite is the Spoonbridge and Cherry by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. Oldenburg was born in Sweden but moved to Chicago when he was 7. Van Bruggen was born in the Netherlands in 1942 and moved to this country in 1978 after marrying Oldenburg. Both were sculptors and often collaborated. Oldenburg is still living at 92.
The Spoonbridge and Cherry fountain-sculpture was inspired by a novelty item Oldenburg had collected in 1962, featuring a spoon resting on an “island” of plastic chocolate. From this the artists envisioned a gigantic utensil as a fanciful bridge over a pond. In considering Minnesota as a site, they compared the spoon’s raised bowl to the prow of a Viking ship or a duck bobbing in a lake. Van Bruggen added the cherry, a personal symbol recalling happy moments in a childhood clouded by World War II.
I thoroughly enjoyed looking at this sculpture. It just made me smile. I wanted to walk up over the bridge handle of the spoon as it spanned the water beneath but of course didn’t dare. I imagined the spoon bowl as the prow of a great Viking ship and thought with pride about the swedes who had largely founded the state of Minnesota. Mostly I enjoyed the fact that the cherry never slipped down the spoon on which it rested, but remained suspended in air.
What caught my imagination the most, however, was the fact that Van Bruggen had added the cherry to remind herself of happy moments recalled from a childhood clouded by World War II. Born in Groningen in the Netherlands in June of ’42, she would have been about 3 and a half when the war ended. Still I imagine she had memories of the terrible fighting there. Groningen was the scene of a terrible battle just before the end of the war. So close to the German border, the German forces made a terrific effort to hold on to Groningen. 100 Dutch citizens lost their lives. 270 buildings were damaged. There would have been years of rebuilding in Van Bruggen’s childhood and teen years. One can only imagine her memories, yet she chose to remember cherries in order to recall happy moments in the midst of tragedy.
We get to choose what we will remember. Of course some of us are haunted by difficult, sometimes terrible memories in life, but choosing to remember the good is very useful way of neutralizing the bad. I wonder what cherries have been a source of hope in your world in this past year.
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12: 21
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