The following column....

I wrestled a bit with this week's column. I won't be a bit surprised if some of the newspapers might consider it advertising and refuse to run it. Oh well.

But, there is much that is beautiful in our area. I just don't think many people see it! I always appreciate when somebody wakes me up to an aesthetic pleasure I have not previously noticed. I notice the red berries on the Red Splendor. I haven't always. Others notice other things.

Wildlife photographer Bruce Flaig moved into our area a couple of years ago. I am thankful to him for waking me up to the great variety of birds in our area. This morning, I heard a new bird call--a sort of cooing--I had not heard before, and at the same time noticed a little mahogany brown bird with a white stripe flit around on the bark of the oak in my front yard--almost as if it were some sort of woodpecker. It never sat still long enough for me to get a good view of it. But I wouldn't have noticed the bird call or the little brown bird at all if I had never been exposed to Bruce's enthusiasm for the birds we have right here.

I have appreciated art more since I have realized that the artist's role is to awaken the senses of his audience. Last year, after seeing the paintings in Europe of flat farmland painted by the Flemish masters 100s of years ago, I can home with a different view of our flat farmland here in Minnesota. They found something beautiful in it, why can't I?

The world is full of beautiful things I still do not appreciate. For example, I haven't yet been able to endure opera. Perhaps some day I will. I don't like Beethoven. I don't like raw oysters on the half-shell.

But I have come to enjoy the weeds in the ditch, after long wishing they were mowed, and prime rib dipped in raw horseradish has become a recent unlikely favorite.

If we let our interests calcify into prejudices we die an early death. The enthusiasm of others for things we don't understand must have some foundation. We might attempt to discover the charm they see in their hobbies and interests before showing disdain. There is much buried treasure yet unearthed, and clues abound.