Ira “Bob” Born, the inventor of Marshmallow Peeps, has died at 98. He also invented the machine that makes the famous Easter candies. They mustn’t have been very easy to make by hand.
They came out in 1953, and I have loved Peeps all my life. Today they stir up fond memories of my family, and little pink and yellow chicks nestled in the green plastic “grass” in my Easter basket. I know it has nothing to do with the true joy and meaning of Easter–except that everything we know as wholesome, benign, and good comes to us as the gift of God.
So I couldn’t let this go without thanking Mr. Born for something sweet and pleasant in my life. I have a couple of packs of Peeps sitting on my table as we speak. And memories. I won’t let go of those.
Charles R. Knight, who died in 1953, became famous in his own lifetime as the world’s most convincing painter of prehistoric life. Among my early memories are trips to the American Museum of Natural History, and looking up at Knight’s great murals, my mind full of wild surmises for which I wasn’t old enough to find words.
I still love Knight’s work, but I’ve learned to appreciate another aspect of it–his background scenery. There are a lot of people who can paint or draw prehistoric animals. I can do that. But only a very few are able to bring us into the world those creatures lived in.
The painting above launched Knight’s career, when it was still the 19th century. The animal is Elotherium. Never mind that. The scenery which Elotherium inhabits–the longer I look at it, the realer it gets!
I could just about swear that Knight’s Elotheriums are in a real place. More than that–a place that I know. I used to play alongside a stream just like that, on Orchard Street, before they paved everything over. I climbed and skidded up and down those steep banks. I waded in that water, although it was too deep to wade all the way across. I was there. I didn’t see any Elotheriums, but I was there. If they’d come out of the woods on the other side, I’d’ve seen them.
And where would that stream take me, if I could follow it up to the top of the painting? What enchanted country would I discover?
What a gift the Lord Our God gave Charles Knight! God made us in His image, and some of us He made creators. We can only revel in it, and give thanks.
I think God knows where these places really are. He made them. Oh, for a glimpse, O Lord!
Think about it. The Lord gives us fresh, clean, cold, beautiful drinking water at no cost to us at all, gushing up out of the ground all day and night, every day and night–and what do we do with it? We pave it over!
I sometimes wonder how He can live with our ingratitude.
When I was 11 years old, my folks sent me to the YMCA camp in Blairstown, NJ, for two weeks in the summer. It upset me at first, but I soon got the hang of it.
On Sundays the camp had outdoor chapel service. The chapel was on a hilltop overlooking one of the most gorgeous views of rolling green hills and farmers’ fields you ever saw. I’ll never forget it. And the counselors’ choir sang this great old hymn, All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name. It’s been one of my favorite hymns ever since: hard for me to hear it sung without my eyes getting teary.
The hills, the fields, the cloudless blue sky of that day, and the music, are all the gifts of God.