A Painting, a List and a Road Trip


Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose by John Singer Sargent, 1885-86, 68.5″ x 60.5″

Some days I sit down with my eyes closed and dream of times long ago.  I think of Charles and what we were doing on a particular day or time. . .

August 1997.

I had never heard the term “bucket list” in 1997.  Maybe it didn’t exist then.  But the concept did.  It must come from the phrase “to kick the bucket” meaning to die. . . A list of things one must do before one kicks the bucket.

In my head I had a list of “must-dos before I die.” One of them was a “must-see” painting by American painter John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) – the magical Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose (1885-86).  I remember first seeing the colorful image of nature and childhood innocence projected on a screen in a college art history class:

Two young girls lighting Chinese paper lanterns in a haunting pink and lavender flowered twilight.

I dreamed of being one of the girls.

When I discovered the painting was coming to the United States from the Tate in London in the summer of 1997, I had to find a way to go – it was on my list!

I had to convince Charles we should make the nine hour and thirty-nine minute drive to see it.  I knew I could.

The painting was in the exhibition Uncanny Spectacle: The Public Career of the Young John Singer Sargent at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute (The Clark) in Williamstown, Massachusetts – the pastoral New England town with leafy trees and luscious lawns in the midst of the magnificent Berkshire Mountains.

Thirty-five Sargent paintings were in the exhibition including the notorious portrait of Madame Pierre Gautreau – Madame X.

Road trip. Mountains.Museum. Madame X. Charles was convinced.

We made it to Williamstown in record time and after a full night’s rest we drove to The Clark museum.

I felt like I was stepping into the pages of a fairy tale as I walked into the exhibition and the painting’s warm glow.

Memories: Of Libraries, Books and Ice Cream

icecreamspoononbookEvery day something jogs my memory of Charles and I’ll wonder what he’d think of this or that. Yesterday it was libraries (books) and ice cream. We shared the love of those two important staples of life and couldn’t get enough of them!

We first met face to face in a library and of course, library research was vital to the writing and publishing of Charles’ memoir, Border Crossings: Coming of Age in the Czech Resistance.  

When many questioned our move into Detroit’s Cass Corridor almost 16 years ago we snapped back, “It’s within walking distance of the main branch of the Detroit Public Library!” And today if Charles was living he’d be delighted to know that even closer is Source Booksellers, a neighborhood indie book store that stocks a carefully selected collection of books including his story.

Charles mentions the importance of the two staples (his school and home library and a local ice cream shop) as part of his idyllic pre-world War II childhood in what is now Slovakia.

On Libraries/Books:

“My reading skills increased, and by the end of third grade—June 1936—I had read all of the books in the little school library. Then I started reading my father’s books, which required greater literacy; I had to read them twice to understand them better. I was incredibly impressed with a history of Bohemia, which had its beginnings in the year 400 A.D., and learned of how its culture and Christianity had come from the Mediterranean.”

On Ice Cream:

banska-bystrica1cr“When Mother traveled to Bañská Bystrica, a nice little town, I enjoyed accompanying her.  She would take me to an ice cream shop and buy a ‘crémeš’ – a cream pie with ice cream.”  Over 60 years later Charles looked for that shop when we visited Bañská Bystrica.

In the course of writing Border Crossings many scoops were eaten to celebrate the completion of a chapter or even a paragraph! And sometimes scoops were eaten when the writing got tough! We often lamented the absence of an ice cream shop in the neighborhood. Though it certainly helped to keep our weight down.

So what happened yesterday that made me think of Charles, libraries (books) and ice cream?

Yesterday at the Grosse Pointe Public Library branch where I work, one of our librarians had the vision to combine those two important staples of life – LIBRARIES and ICE CREAM. She invited an ice cream truck to serve free delicious treats to our patrons at the LIBRARY.

treatdreamscr2And if Charles was still living he’d be delighted to know where that ice cream truck come from? From Treat Dreams! The wonderful new ice cream store with a branch in OUR neighborhood. A store that stocks “lovingly created” innovative ice creams with the motto: “Peace. Love. Ice Cream. Treat Dreams!”

Perhaps, they’ll decide to do what I’ve read another ice cream maker considered – Create LIBRARY FLAVORS! How about Li-berry pie and Sh-sh-sh-sherbet? Or would you prefer Malt Whitman or Gooey Decimal System?

Any other suggestions?

Remembering a Heroic Father

In 1935, shortly before Father was transferred to Hrachovo, near Rimavská Sobota, close to the Hungarian border, he caught a large fish, a hlavatka, in the Hron River. It was a large catfish weighing over 9 kilograms. It created much excitement in the community. People didn’t know that such large fish existed in the River Hron. Father was photographed with it, and I was with him when he cleaned it and cut into many pieces. All fathers’ friends wanted to taste it.

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”  

                                         — Robert Heinlein, Time Enough for Love, 1973

My late husband Charles Novacek loved his father Antonin Novacek and loved writing about him, too. On Father’s Day 2013 I posted “About My Father – Antonin Novacek 1896-1971″ on this blog, an essay Charles penned for a writing class.

This Father’s Day I’m posting a slightly edited document I found in old computer files — notes Charles wrote about his father while writing Border Crossings: Coming of Age in the Czech Resistance. Some of this information made it into the book, some didn’t.

As described by Charles, Antonin Novacek appears to truly be the “competent man” exemplified in literature. He could do anything perfectly or at least demonstrated a vast range of abilities and knowledge that made him a sort of “Polymath”. . . a Superman. . . a Hero.

I never met Charles’ father. Some people might think he sounded “too good to be true.” But if you knew Charles you know his father was that good and that true!

MY FATHER: Notes from Charles Novacek


World War I, 1916 – Antonin Novacek is seated in the front row, second from holding his violin

My father Antonin Novacek was a police officer.  He had substantial training in World War I, in the Czechoslovakian Legion in Russia as a POW, and the Police Academy in the new Czechoslovakia when he returned home in 1918.  Father had the strongest influence on me.  He was a nature loving horseman, he liked fishing and hunting.  He only killed animals on the overpopulation list.

He was a master carpenter.  He made beautiful, exotic furniture, musical instruments like violins, cellos, and occasionally enjoyed working on house construction.  He made shoes and gloves for all in the family, improvised clothing and coats not available to buy. He was a self-educated engineer who could produce anything he put his mind to.

At home he was a loving Father, husband, excellent cook. He learned about exotic foods from the Gypsies and learned baking by experimentation.  During war and the times when many things we’re not available Father could concoct anything.  When he was cooking he made me observe. He used to say that a good man must know how to prepare food and help his woman keep up the house.

From potato and fruit peels he fermented mash and distilled it in a device he made to produce moonshine Moravian style, ‘palinka’.  He explained that alcohol made like that wasn’t pure enough, so he had to run it through the still several times to reduce the methyl alcohol that could damage one’s eyes.

He encouraged me to read and supported my efforts to draw paint and carve with his knife.  Father would carve an animal from a piece of pine, let me observe how Imade certain cuts, showed me how to sharpen knives on a flat stone and how to make chisels from steel bars.  In the winter during the freezing night he would make a large piece of ice in the backyard by spraying a pile of snow with water and let me carve whatever I wanted.  He personally supervised my violin classes and singing.

In prison I remembered Father very much, I would ask, “What would Father do in this or that case, how would he handle the prison conditions?”

On outings in the wilderness he let me kill a hare or a rabbit, or in the river taught me how to fish.  Cleaning and preparing meat to cook was a special chore.  Father stressed many times how to wash it when there was plenty of water.  When he killed a rabbit and there was no water to wash it, Father showed me how to separate the portions of meat from the body of the animal, apply the cooking condiments, and roast the portion that was not contaminated.

He explained what to do when I injured myself and how to attend such an injury, or how to treat the horse when mounting or dismounting.  When the hunted animal wasn’t killed, Father made me kill it at once so it wouldn’t suffer.

Father made me very attentive to my Mother.  I always had to treat her with care and respect.  Discipline at home and in school was a priority.  I was made to obey Mother, my teachers and older people implicitly.  When I was facing elders (especially ladies) I had to be attentive.

When greeted I had to wait until a hand was reached out for me to shake.  I was not allowed to extend my hand first.  I had to follow the established rules without questions. I was not allowed to change any rules until much later.  I also went through a rigorous process to learn to tell the truth.  Father was straight and fair with everyone.  His son was not allowed to lie.  Later I was given the alternative to keep my mouth shut when I felt wronged.

Grand Monuments Honor Beloved Wives in India & Slovakia


Source: David Waumsley

Source: www.hiking.sk

I never forget a good love story. So when I read that on today’s date in 1631 Mumtaz Mahal (Arjumand Banu Begum) died in Agra, India, I recalled the story of Františka Hablavcová’s death in Slovakia in 1902 and here is why.


CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons, by Heather Cowper

Mumtaz Mahal (1593–1631) died on June 17, 1631 shortly after giving birth to her fourteenth child. She was the favorite wife of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan (1592-1666) of India. It is said “the intimacy, deep affection, attention and favor which the emperor had for Mumtaz exceeded by a thousand times what he felt for any other.”

Mumtaz was Shah Jahan’s trusted companion and confidant. His trust in her was so great that he even gave her his imperial seal. Despite her frequent pregnancies, Mumtaz travelled with Shah Jahan’s entourage throughout the Mughal Empire until her death.

The emperor was so grieved at the loss of his beloved wife that the following year he began work on the mausoleum in Agra that would house her body. The result was the world-famous Taj Mahal made of red sandstone and white marble. It took 20,000 workers 22 years to complete the precious architectural monument symbolizing eternal love. Named one of the Seven Wonders of the World, it’s considered the finest example of Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements from Islamic, Indian and Persian architectural styles.

Most people have heard of the Taj Mahal, but few know of the mausoleum of Františka and Dionýz Andrassy near the village of Krasnohorske Podhradie in eastern Slovakia within view of the Krásna Hôrka castle. It’s been called the “Slovak Taj Mahal” and is only one hour northeast of my late husband Charles’ birthplace in Ozdany, Slovakia (once Austro-Hungary). What these mausoleums have in common is that they both were built by husbands as memorials to their cherished wives.


Source: www.bobinsvet.eu

Small and beautiful, the Andrassy monument was built in 1904 in Art Nouveau style by Dionýz Andrassy (1835-1913), the descendant of one of the oldest and most powerful Hungarian families. He broke nobility tradition when he married the Viennese commoner and opera singer, Františka Hablavcová (1838-1902). They married in Pisa, Italy on April 4, 1866. Dionýz’s  father disinherited his son, but this changed later before his death. The harmonious marriage lasted for 36 years and after the death of his beloved wife, Dionýz built a magnificent mausoleum in her memory.

The mausoleum was completed in one year. It combines the elements of modern secession and classical features. Made of white sandstone, it creates an impression of an octagon. In front of the entrance, there is the word pax (peace) engraved on the floor with angel statues lining the sides. There are lion knockers on the bronze door, and a coat-of-arms relief with eagles and Dionýz’s motto “Non videri sed esse (Not to seem but to be)” above them.

The interior includes golden mosaics and colorful marble from all over the world. Agate-covered and marble sarcophagi are decorated with coats of arms, plants, animals, angels and portraits of Františka and Dionýz who was buried with his wife  in 1914. The altar of Saint Frances of Rome includes a mosaic picture of the saint imported from Florence and elegant works of bronze and gold. This stunning mausoleum is unmatched in Central Europe.

I visited the Andrassy mausoleum with Charles. We felt the love and the beauty. Charles particularly enjoyed the statues in the surrounding park!

One day I hope to travel to India to witness the monument of the Taj Mahal love story.

Serendipity, Two Matchmakers + a Call from Charles

Charles Novacek (1928-2007)

People often ask how I met my late husband Charles. I say it was serendipity. Being in the right place at the right time. There was a certain magic about it all. Something supernatural or as Shakespeare wrote: “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune…” (Brutus to Cassius, in Julius Caesar).

It was 19 years ago today that I first heard Charles’ voice. We had been “matched” by two women artist friends, Electra and Lula. They were patrons of the library where I was director.  Charles was taking art classes from Electra at the University of Michigan in Dearborn.

One day Lula came to visit me at the library specifically to tell me about “this man” – Charles Novacek. An artist. Born in Czechoslovakia. Great sense of humor. Spoke seven languages. Owned a house in Venezuela. Loved to travel.

Lula said Charles was also a practical man and an engineer. He had drawn up a list of specifications for his potential companion including things like “must love books, writing and travel. . . ”

I thanked Lula and told her I had no time or energy for dating. Charles sounded fascinating and exotic. But I was too busy.

As I walked away toward the biography section I realized how thoughtless my response had been. If I didn’t like Charles, I could just turn him down. So I turned around and told Lula she could give him my name and phone number. What I didn’t know at the time is that I was going to be “on a list.”

The list had three women, and by coincidence, my name ended up on the top. When Charles saw the list, and saw my name, he said he just stopped and realized that I possessed many of the qualifications he was looking for.

One morning in early June I received a phone call. It was an unfortunate time because I was in the process of putting my beloved collie dog down. My first husband was there to help me as we had joint custody of the dog. As I was leaving the house to go to the vet’s, the telephone rang. I hesitated, but answered it anyway. I heard an alluring male voice. Charles. He was very kind, and told me he had also lost his dog and that he would call me later. That night, and for the following weeks, we became fast friends. It was surely serendipity for me.

Husband’s Story and Students’ Thank You Inspire

bccenterlinehs1One of the best parts of promoting my late husband’s book, BORDER CROSSINGS: Coming of Age in the Czech Resistance is sharing the story with young people. Thanks, Jaime Bellos for inviting me to speak with your AP World History Class at Center Line High School (in Center Line, Michigan) about Charles’ memoir and thanks to the students for being such a great audience! It was a pleasure meeting with you last week.

Another “best part” happened tonight when I came home exhausted after working at my job and on book promotion, got my mail and found this wonderful personally handwritten thank you card from the students thanking me for telling Charles and my story. You brought me great cheer and inspire me to keep going.  


If you are interested in having Sandra Novacek speak about Border Crossings at your event, book club, or school contact her at novaceks@att.net.

And remember there’s an Educator’s Guide for BORDER CROSSINGS created by author, educator, and consultant, Debbie Gonzales.

The guide “has been crafted with the overall intent to connect readers with Charles’ emotional journey as a young man growing up in a time of historical turmoil. The lessons and activities presented in the guide are creative, intuitive, and informative, thus allowing students to consider Charles’ plight as if it were their own. All aspects of the guide have been aligned with the Common Core Anchor Standards of Reading Informational Texts, Writing, Speaking & Listening, and History/Social Studies for grades 6 to 12.”

Ms. Gonzales states “This unforgettable book distills history down to a person level, one that young people can connect with emotionally. Students will identify with Charles and his initial desires to be a regular kid, engaging in activities and interests much like their own. As the incredible story progresses, students will be shocked by the unbelievable trials Charles was forced to endure – trials that are documented through letters, documents, and pictures. In short, BORDER CROSSINGS: Coming of Age in the Czech Resistance transcends a factual study of war and geography into an experience and appreciation of a man’s soulful journey of heartfelt love for his country and her people.”

The guide is available online through www.charlesnovacekbooks.com and www.debbiegonzales.com. What a thrill to be able to introduce and share Charles’ message and story with young people!

Research Reveals Village’s Secret of World War II


Village of Kronenburg, Eifel, Germany – Five minutes from where I lived in the 1970s

I started this blog three years ago in May 2012, to promote my late husband Charles Novacek’s memoir Border Crossings: Coming of Age in the Czech Resistance.  

Charles believed most people, especially Americans (including me) know little about World War II and Czechoslovakia. For example, before the war it was a beautiful and thriving country, one of the most industrialized in the world. Their companies such as Bata (shoes) and Skoda (heavy industry and cars) flourished and exported to the entire world, and the country was rich in natural resources such as coal.

Because I have had so much to learn about Czechoslovakia, I continue to do research for blog topics and to prepare for presentations on the book. I am thrilled more documents have been digitized and released by the Czech and Slovak governments and have located additional information on the Czech Resistance, arrest records on Charles, and doctoral theses that include his sister Vlasta Jakubova and “uncle” Josef Robotka.

Recently, I was preparing for a presentation detailing Hitler’s closing of art schools in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia on November 17, 1940. I was shocked by information I found about a place I used to live in Germany in the 1970s. It relates to something I wrote in my second blog post on May 20, 2012 about that location:

“When I lived in Germany during my late twenties, I finally learned more about the war by asking questions about things I saw. There was an old bunker on the edge of my Eifel village of Baasem and remains of tiger (dragon’s) teeth at the German/Belgian border. We lived near the site of the Battle of the Bulge with a German family five minutes from the 400-year-old, medieval village of Kronenburg where it was said Nazi party leader Hermann Goring visited.”


Source: Frank Möller

What I didn’t know was that not only did Göring visit the idyllic village of Kronenburg where I loved to hike, but from 1938-1944, the village was the location of the Hermann Göring Master School of Painting.

Göring was the First World War combat pilot and “Ace” who served as the last commander of von Richtofen’s “Flying Circus” and rose to become Hitler’s Reichsmarschall; the “Second Man” of the Third Reich. In July 1941, Göring issued a memo to Reinhard Heydrich ordering him to organize the practical details of a solution to the “Jewish Question.” He is also known for his looting of artwork and cultural material from Jewish collections, libraries, and museums throughout Europe.

Many Nazi leaders including Heinrich Himmler, Joseph Goebbels, and Albert Speer  were guests of Göring’s in Kronenburg. In the Deutschlandfunk of May 9, 2014, Frank Möller states, “the swastika flag flew from the church tower [in Kronenburg] and Göring invested in the village where he had large paintings and tapestries created for the New Reich Chancellery in Berlin and his private home of Carinhall.”

© Carschten / Wikimedia Commons, via Wikimedia Commons

Today Kronenburg is called “a refuge for artists and those seeking relaxation with a sense of history and nature.” How ironic that Kronenburg’s history shows that while the Nazis closed the art schools in Czechoslovakia in 1940 that their own school of painting was thriving in Germany’s Eifel.

I am curious to know what information future research will uncover!

Lilacs — Sweet Scent, Sweet Memories


Syringa josikaea, Source: Sten Porse

“A lilac tree, I said. It bloomed every May around the time of Mama’s birthday. Papa was a romantic, he would stand under the tree and sing songs of lilacs and love to her. The memory is so vivid in my mind. I can almost smell the lilacs now.”     

                                                        —Laura Hillman, i will plant you a lilac tree

May is a marvelous month.  Not just because Charles’ birthday is on the 11th, but because lilacs are in bloom all over the world! The name “lilac” comes from the Persian word meaning bluish.

The dark green and shiny leaves, pale violet/blue blooms and fragrant scent are forever in my memory and always bring me good cheer.

The first spring Charles and I travelled to his home region in Slovakia (formerly part of Austria-Hungary), we inhaled the aroma of lilacs as we drove through the countryside.

Charles told me how his mother Maria was an admirer of a much-loved lilac species native to the Carpathian Mountains in Hungary, Romania, and western Ukraine.

She told him shepherds carried the lilacs with them along the silk route to Istanbul.


Syringa josikaea

Charles recalled his mother said this lilac was named after a member of the aristocracy, but didn’t give a name. In my research I discovered the species Syringa josikaea. It was named around 1830, for Rosalia, Baroness von Josika, a botanist who had found the plant growing in Transylvania and brought it to the attention of the scientific community.  It is known as the Hungarian lilac and has bluish-purple fragrant flowers. I believe this may be the species Maria liked.

I have many favorite lilacs, but don’t know their origin or species. Many of the lilacs are not even alive. They are song titles, book covers and titles, subjects of paintings and perfume fragrances, postage stamps, colors of paint or in wallpaper and even the last name of a male classmate in high school:

AERIN Beauty “Lilac Path” Eau de Parfum

“Green Grow the Lilacs”- a play about homosexuality on the frontier and a folk song of Irish origin recorded by such people as Fess Parker/Disney’s Davy Crockett, Johnny Cash and June Carter, Tex Ritter, The Originals (recorded for Motown) and Harry Belafonte.

House on Prague Street by Hana Demetz – An autobiographical novel based on the author’s wartime girlhood in WW II Czechoslovakia. The book cover is a house surrounded by  lilac trees.

i will plant you a lilac tree: a memoir of a Schindler’s list survivor by Laura Hillman

http://www.internationallilacsociety.org/ – A lilac in every garden. . . the world over!

“Lilacs in a Window,” a painting by Mary Cassatt (1880)

mysteryatlilacinnThe Mystery at Lilac Inn by Carolyn Keene – Nancy Drew mystery #4

Rochester, New York – Lilac Capital of the World


What are your memories of lilacs? Please share them!

Lifelong Learning + Freedom of Expression: Art + Book in a Detroit Neighborhood

University of Michigan 2015 Semester in Detroit

University of Michigan 2015 Semester in Detroit students (SID) students. Source: SID Facebook page

“Freedom of expression is an inalienable human right, necessary to self-government, vital to the resistance of oppression, and crucial to the course of justice.                      —American Library Association Policy 53.1.12 

Two of the great lifelong learning resources in the Detroit “Cass Corridor” neighborhood where my late husband Charles lived (and I still do,) are Source Booksellers, a local indie bookstore and the University of Michigan Detroit Center, a satellite of the University’s Ann Arbor campus.

Last week for the third time I had a great experience in the neighborhood with students in U of M Detroit’s “Semester in Detroit” (SID) program.  SID is a program for students that participate by living in Detroit for a semester, take classes  and complete an internship with a nonprofit organization in the city.

Janet Jones, Source Booksellers

Janet Jones, Owner, Source Booksellers with Charles Novacek’s award-winning book. Source: American Express, Detroit: Making the Most of Small Business Saturday

I was one of three speakers invited by Janet Jones, Source Booksellers owner, to speak to the students at her store about the history, people and changes in my neighborhood where I was actually born decades ago.

Since it was the opening day of Midtown Detroit’s “Art X,” a 3 week festival celebrating the arts, I talked with the students about the importance of the FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION through art, literature, etc., and how as a child Charles wanted to be an artist and go to art school but during World War II Hitler closed all the art schools in Czechoslovakia and his dream was extinguished.

"Still Life at 13" by Charles Novacek

“Still Life at 13″ by Charles Novacek

I showed them an original still life painting of tulips in a vase Charles had painted at age 13. I told them how almost 50 years later after retirement at age 65 he finally realized his dream and received a MFA in painting from Eastern Michigan University. This was just a few years after he had received a BGS from the University of Michigan in Dearborn. He took many writing classes there to prepare for his goal of writing a book about his life under totalitarian oppression in Europe during World War II and the Cold War.

Charles started writing his memoir at home in the neighborhood in 2000. He died in July 2007 a few months after he completed it.  I independently published the book, Border Crossings: Coming of Age in the Czech Resistance in 2012 and it is now on the shelves of Charles’ and my neighborhood bookstore and at some of the greatest local lifelong learning resources – the University of Michigan and Detroit Public libraries where the freedom of expression is paramount.

Art, Writing & Poetry Create Comfort, Meaning & Humanity

Collage by Mark Strand. Source: The cover of "Mystery and Solitude in Topeka"

Collage by Mark Strand, artist and poet. Source: The cover of “Mystery and Solitude in Topeka” by Mark Strand, published by Monk Books.

April is “National Poetry Month,” the largest literary celebration in the world!

And today, April 11 is the birthday of Mark Strand (1934-2014), best known as a Pulitzer Prize winning writer/poet and U.S. poet laureate.

As a young man Strand wanted, however, to become an artist and studied under color theorist/painter Josef Albers at the Yale School of Architecture.

Ultimately, during Strand’s time at Yale “he decided that his talent lay in his writing, not painting.”  He eventually received a master’s degree from the University of Iowa’s writer’s workshop.

My late husband Charles liked to discuss a person’s ability and/or interest to be both painter and writer. He paraphrased one of his favorite writers Charlotte Brontë who said something like, “if one can paint it, one should be able to write it.”

Hitler’s closing of the art schools in Czechoslovakia during World War II interfered with Charles’ desire to “become an artist.” He established himself as a mechanical and civil engineer, but like Strand was “always an artist” painting and sculpting throughout his life and in retirement graduating with an MFA in painting from art school at the age of 65 and writing his memoir from ages 72 to 79.

I’ve read that Strand (like Charles) throughout his life, found comfort in art and that Strand enjoyed creating collages as Charles enjoyed painting. After her father’s death Strand’s daughter Jessica said “We weren’t religious people, but we worshipped at the foot of culture. He was always an artist.”

Strand even took a break from writing poetry in 1980 and wrote children’s books and a book of short stories.

I have never seen Strand’s collages in person or read his children’s books or short stories, but I have read his poetry and find meaning and humor in it.

Strand saw poetry as a humanizing influence in an increasingly inhumane world. In an interview with Inscape Magazine in September 2013, Strand spoke about the function of poetry in today’s society:

“It’s not going to change the world, but I believe if every head of state and every government official spent an hour a day reading poetry we’d live in a much more humane and decent world. . .

When we read poems from the past we realize that human beings have always been the way we are. We have technological advancements undreamt of a couple thousand years ago, but the way people felt then is pretty much the way people feel now. We can read those poems with pleasure because we recognize ourselves in them.

Poetry helps us imagine what it’s like to be human. I wish more politicians and heads of state would begin to imagine what it’s like to be human. They’ve forgotten, and it leads to bad things. If you can’t empathize, it’s hard to be decent; it’s hard to know what the other guy’s feeling. They talk from such a distance that they don’t see differences; they don’t see the little things that make up a life. They see numbers; they see generalities. They deal in sound bytes and vacuous speeches; when you read them again, they don’t mean anything.”