For The Love Of Stuart

“I love you in a place
Where there’s no space or time.
I love you for my life
You’re a friend of mine.
And when my life is over
Remember when we were together.
We were alone and I was singing this song to.”
(1970) “A Song For You” – Recorded & Composed By: Leon Russell

Does the name, Stuart Sutcliffe mean anything to you? Does his name sound familiar, as if you think you “should” know who he is? If you’re in the dark on Stuart Sutcliffe, don’t feel badly. Most would be, if asked.

Stuart Sutcliffe was an artist (mainly abstract paintings). In fact, as a teenager, he attended the Liverpool College of Art. While there in the late 1950’s, he met another blooming artist named, John Lennon. As friendship grew, John and Stuart found yet another love, other than artwork, in the form of music. John had a struggling band of young musicians, and asked Stuart to consider joining his group. Before you could say, The Quarrymen (One of John’s earlier titles for the band.) Stuart was playing the bass in this ragtag Liverpool crew of schoolboys. At times it was a band of three lads, other times a band of five. If you’ve ever been part of a music act, than you know this is so common of a problem.

Photo: Amazon.com Stuart, with John Lennon and George Harrison

It’s funny how things work sometimes when unforeseen events help to make other unforeseen events happen. Step 1-2-3…

Stuart was a good artist with the brush and canvas. In fact, one of his paintings sold while he was learning songs with the band-mates. Paul McCartney speaks today of how poor they were. They couldn’t even afford a tape recorder. When the proceeds landed in Stuart’s pocket, John & Paul persuaded him to buy a quality electric bass guitar with it. Feeling the pressure, he did just that.

Stuart can also be applauded for helping John come up with the name, Beatles, although it did go through a couple of spelling changes. So, off they went, playing mostly cover songs in any and every club in Liverpool, along with, surrounding villages, school and church dances, even hitting the road up to Scotland for a short tour.

Photo: All That’s Interesting – The early Beatles, with Stuart seated on the left.

Early 1960, (Two years before Ringo joined the band.) when Stuart was only 19 years old, and George Harrison even younger than that, the manager of the Beatles booked a 3.5 month residency in the red light district in Hamburg, Germany. They were contracted to play a certain amount of gigs at a club which had recently made a conversion from a strip joint to a live music club. What could go wrong, right? Well, lots did in between packing in the crowds. (Yeah, I won’t go into all that.) Because of some bad episodes, and bad decisions, the contract was cut short. However, not all things were bad, depending on who you ask.

While the lads were turning up the volume in Hamburg, Stuart met a German girl who was a shutterbug with a camera, Astrid Kirchherr, who was also an art lover. Astrid took loads of photos of the band live on stage and elsewhere. Stuart and Astrid spent a lot of time together during their stay in Hamburg. When it came time to leave Hamburg, Stuart wanted to stay. He even went so far as to enroll in the Hamburg College of Art. While there, he told his new love, he thought he might like to become an art teacher someday.

Before you could say, “I Want To Hold Your Hand”, the decision was made. Stuart left the Beatles, but gained a fiance.

Photo: AnOther Magazine – Astrid and Stuart

I know, the two don’t look too happy. But they were both artistic, so they could get away with not smiling. Frankly, I couldn’t find a photo of Stuart smiling or laughing…anywhere. I’m not sure what that says, if anything.

Of course, many will say, “Oh, wow! What a missed opportunity! This guy probably kicked himself later. He should’ve stuck with the lads and said so-long to the photographer.” Others will look at Stuart’s choice as, “Awe, how sweet. He loved her so much that he was willing to leave behind his Beatle band-mates. Instead of rolling in the dough, he wanted to roll in his his love for Astrid. How romantic.” Then there are some who will be more cynical with something like, “Yeah, it was love alright. Truth be known, he loved the art-world too much and it messed with his head. Priorities, priorities.” Paul McCartney says Stuart left for love, no matter what other sources might print. How do you see it?

Here’s what we DO know. Beyond, “Love, love me do…” if you live long enough, you find the richness, and the depths of love. If you live long enough, you’ll discover love changes everything. It can change your outlook, your scope on life, your plans, and priorities. Love defined is a mystery, really. For me, love is like a powerful current, an undertow beneath the surface unforeseen, undetected by sight. Love can donate a kidney. Love can empty out all self-awareness. Love can give away life for the benefit of another.

Could it be, Stuart left something he loved for something he loved more?

“‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” – Alfred Lord Tennyson

Jesus defined love in John 3:16, “For God SO loved the world, THAT He gave his only begotten Son, THAT whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting (eternal life after physical death) life.” (emphasis mine)

Notice the “action” love takes in that passage.

Somehow, in someway, love is linked with loss. It is like a clipping of the wings that we have grown accustomed to since birth. When a parent holds a newborn in their arms for the first time, suddenly there is a shift. Inwardly, we declare, “I will do whatever I must do to give you a good life.” In a strange way, in that moment, we put “self” on the shelf.

I, for one, have failed at love many times in my life, especially as a younger individual. Yet, life has taught me that when true love is exercised, one does not mind cutting off part of one’s “self”. Stuart Sutcliffe, all of 19-20 years old, may have understood this.

Unfortunately, Stuart and Asdrid had very little time together. In 1962, while in art class in Hamburg, after complaining of headaches and sensitivity to light, he collapsed and passed away. After an autopsy, the cause of death was listed as a Cerebral Hemorrhage. In a twist of fate, it was yet another unforeseen event for Stuart Sutcliffe.

Astrid was asked to be an advisor on a 1994 film, “Backbeat”, which focused on the Beatles early years in Hamburg, which included Stuart and Astrid. She kept her toes in the love of photography all of her life.

In May of 2020, Astrid died after a short illness at the age of 82. She lived alone.

Be ready for the unforeseen. The instructions were left with love in fuel for the race.

“He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love Me?’ Peter was hurt because He said to him the third time, ‘Do you love Me?’ And he said to Him, ‘Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend My sheep.'” – John 21:17 (NAS)

I Almost Couldn’t Bear The News

“When I know you know baby, everything I say
Meet me in the country for a day
We’ll be happy and we’ll dance
Oh, we’re gonna dance our blues away…”  (1972)  “Listen To The Music”  Recorded By:  the Doobie Brothers  Composer:  Tom Johnston

Someone very wise once told me that you never are really sure what you’re praying for when praying for your children.  Usually it becomes more clear in retrospect of a life event.

Megan is my middle daughter, now 30 years old.  I have written of her before, so forgive me if part of this post sounds redundant.

Out of three daughters, Megan is the one most like me, in various ways.  My girls are precious to me, and Megan is the one who aligns more closely to who I am.  It could be because when she was a toddler and pre-schooler, I was Mr. Mom for a few years.  When Tabitha, her older sister (2 years older), went on to kindergarten, Megan and I spent lots of solo time together.  In fact, the solo time lasted two of her young years.  Although she lives in Buffalo, NY now, and I live in Dallas, Tx where she was born, we do still have a special bond.  It’s always apparent when she comes home for a visit.

Megan hug April 1st 2017

Megan was a child actress before she turned singer & recording artist.  Megan has racked up a mound of accolades in upstate NY for the last 12 years.  The bands she fronts have been news worthy and award-winning.  (Currently you can see some of her videos when you look-up Grosh, or Grosh Band.)  She’s on stage about as much as she sleeps each week.

Meganfest

MEGAN-BROWN in Artvoice June 23rd 2016

Photo:  Megan in Artvoice Magazine, June 2016.

Exhaustion and burnout can be an issue if not careful in that business.

So, enter kayaking and camping.  We didn’t do either of these things for outdoor activities when she was a kid, but she always wanted to.  She and a small group of close friends often rough-it out in the beautiful countryside of the southern tier of New York State, or northern Pennsylvania.  With kayaks and tents loaded up, they always manage to find these areas of serene landscapes to unplug and get the fingernails dirty.  Last weekend, they chose the gorgeous hills of the Allegheny National Forest.  Megan always takes pictures for us.  (Why am I hearing the whistle of the old Andy Griffith Show theme song?)

Kayaks PA The lakes and streams are crystal clear, and cold.  With an oar in one hand, and a camera in the other, I love getting to see her kayak perspective.

Kayak 2 PA

Honestly, can’t you just smell the pines and feel the cool breeze rising off the calm waters?  Yeah, me too.

At night they circle the campfire, laughing at each other’s stories, and roasting s’mores over the open fire.  Usually, it’s the wee hours before everyone hits the tents and rolled out sleeping bags.  Ah, youth.

Early last Sunday morning, Aug 2nd around 5 o’clock, while nicely wrapped in their sleeping bags, the piercing quietness of the forest suddenly was shattered by the canvas-shaking roar and snorts of a loud animal in the camp.  Everyone jumped a couple of inches off the ground by the unexpected wildlife just a few feet from the tent stakes.  Peeking out from the flaps of the tent opening, Megan saw something huge and hairy hovering over the food supplies by the now quenched campfire.  Someone turned a flashlight on the enormous growling mass of a creature to find a extra large black bear.

Black Bear Wiki

Photo:  American Black Bear (Wikipedia)

The flashlight in his face didn’t disturb him one iota.  Then someone began to yell and scream at the hefty bear with hopes of frightening him away.  The vocals fell deaf on his slightly rounded ears.  About that time, someone, probably the drummer, had the idea to grab a couple of metal chairs, and beer bottles, and proceeding to clang them together in a sharp ruckus sound for the bear’s fear factors.  No doubt the sound echoed throughout the hills with an ear-shaking frequency.  Still, the bear did not flinch.  Not one eyelash was batted.  It seemed an 18-wheeler could hit the big wall of black hair and he would’ve only be slightly annoyed.  Fright began to turn in the minds of Megan and friends as their bear-banishing choices came to an end.  In cases like this, experts say to flap your arms way up in the air while growling and yelling as you jump up and down to make yourself look bigger than you are.  For some reason that is the best way to scare-off a bear, and other wildlife.  However, no one was brave enough to try it as close as they were to the massive beast.

Nothing they did worked to spook the animal away because he was laser-beam focused on a nylon backpack full of all the ingredients for s’mores.  That’s right.  Inside were graham crackers, marshmallows, honey, and chocolate bars.  He tore into the tough nylon exterior of the pack, as if it were rice paper, and began to chow down, cardboard boxes, plastic wrappers and all.  Nothing that they could do, percussion, scream, or shine on him mattered.  His mind was in tune with one thing…his sweet-tooth.  Interestingly enough, right next to him was a cooler full of hot-dogs, deli turkey meat, and cheese.  I am sure his nose picked up on the scent of the meat and cheese, but even so, the sugar in the backpack was his priority.  THANK GOD!  Finally, the brute of a beast knocked over a cooking kettle next to him and with a dart, he ran off with the makings of s’mores.  The key was…he frightened himself.  His own, “fear itself” shook his core.

I told Megan if that had been a mama with her cubs looking for food, they all would be dead in the woods, far from civilization.  (It was just the dad in me adding that tidbit.)

alone calm faith light
Photo by Garon Piceli on Pexels.com

Yep, sometimes when you pray for your kids, you often don’t know just what you are praying for until after a life & death event occurs.  The Everlasting Arms searches the prayerful heart while holding the future in His hands.

In this strange and spooky election year, full of rage, riots, fires, loud voices, along with a frightening pandemic, we can choose to be the bear, or we can choose to be the kids with noise-making talents.  Personally, call me Yogi.  With all the distractions of our uneasy, restless times, I shall not be moved.  My choice is to stay focused of the life, liberty, and the sweet pursuit of happiness our founding fathers placed in a bag just for me and my descendants.  I will NOT be distracted from it by all the noise-making.  My choice is to stand on what I know to be true in my heart, that core which turns me to the east or west, north, or south.  I will keep my nose in that bag of treats from 1776 and disregard all else that attempts to woo my attention.

Thank you, bear.  Thank you for the personal application at this time in my life.  Most of all, thank you for obeying your Creator by not caring if my daughter was five feet from you while stuffing your cute face.

Speaking frankly, the bear necessities can be rediscovered in fuel for the race.

 “Let a man meet a bear robbed of her cubs, rather than a fool in his folly.”                – Proverbs 17:12 (NAS)

 

Field Of Depth

“Kodachrome
They give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day, oh yeah
I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So mama, don’t take my Kodachrome away…”  (1973)  Kodachrome  Written & Recorded by:  Paul Simon

Many moons ago I was a photography enthusiast.  Actually, I still am, just not a practicing one anymore.

Around 1983, one of my co-workers was selling his gently used 35mm Canon AE1.  I never had a serious camera before, just happy with an Instamatic and Polaroids, but always wanted one.  It didn’t take long in life to discover I had a photographer’s eye and really wanted to dive in.  When he realized I was interested, he sold it to me for a little bit of nothing.  I made out like a bandit on that deal.  I guess I have taken a few thousand shots with it through the years.  These days it sits in my old dusty camera bag…in a closet I rarely use.

Lens - Canon AE1

My photo albums can testify how much I love real film, not to mention the scads of containers of photos stored away.  They are just visual moments in time documented for future eyes.  Recently, a fabulous photographer encouraged me to pick up the camera once again.  A big thanks to Darren across the pond at The Arty Plantsman.

Once I became an owner of a great camera, a telephoto lens and a telephoto zoom lens was added over the years.  All-in-all it adds up to some great shutter adventures.

If you’re new to a 35mm camera, one of the first things to learn is the focus of your subject in the viewfinder.  In the scope you find uneven lines to mesh together for a sharp focus of the subject targeted.  So vital.  Line up the focus lines and click away.  (I love the sound of the shutter.)  The field of depth can be tricky, but it can be mastered.  Let me show you some old pictures of mine to give some visual examples.

Below, notice the tight focus of the bee hovering over the blooms at the renowned Ft Worth Botanical Gardens in Ft Worth, Texas.  (Theses photos are from the mid 1980’s, so the color has faded with age.  However, I’m sure you’ll get the picture. :>)

Lens - Bee Long Focus

For the photographer, what I’m about to explain is simple common knowledge.  I focused sharply on the bee visiting the blooms, but when I “focused” on the bee, the background became “unfocused”.  Notice the leaves and branches are blurry.  It’s okay for a shot like this and frankly, it’s expected.

However, when I focused more toward the middle of the field of depth, and not closing up on a bee, all becomes focused.  See what I mean?

Lens - Bee Long Focus Dallas Arboretum

If Pinocchio came to my house I could zero-in on his nose, but it would leave the rest of his face out of focus.  Isn’t it true, sometimes in life we do tend to focus on lies, deceit, and untrustworthy words?  Panning back, one can always view the larger picture.

Here’s another example from my old Karate/Kickboxing days.  (I used to break concrete for martial arts demonstrations in another life.  Patio concrete slabs at Walmart were less than a dollar in those days.)

Lens - Long Focus Karate Demo

Notice the tight, sharp focus centering on the concrete slabs atop the mason blocks.  Yet, the back of the heads, in the foreground, are very much out of focus.  If I had focused on the back of the gentleman’s head on the right, then the stage area would be hazy in the field of depth.

One of my faults is a tendency to be a newshound.  With all the jarring frays in the American political world of late, I find I must walk away and focus on other things.  I guess you might say I need to fix my eyes elsewhere for a more pleasant subject in my mental viewfinder.  Simply put, I need to adjust my field of depth.  Do you ever feel that way?

Not long ago, I had a real issue with my 20-something step-daughter.  We first met about four years ago.  She lives hundreds of miles away making it a bit difficult to have a thriving, authentic relationship.  Over a Facebook post, harsh words were spoken.  Attitudes, which were hidden, suddenly bubbled out into the raw open.  It was a hurtful event.  (Much like political hearings on Capitol Hill.)  At first, I focused on the words said, words typed, and tried with all my might to keep from judging her too harshly.  Unfortunately, I already had.  What I needed to do, and eventually did, was to avoid focusing on the words, but also make efforts to step back to get the entire picture inside the frame from a different camera angle.  When accomplished, I was able to adjust my lens for a broader view to the point where the up close and personal issue, which involved me, became less of the subject in the field of depth.  In that way, the view of the world will always develop much better after possessing.  It’s an art, don’t you think?

Lens - Film Developed

Photo:  Chay Garciavia Pexels

While tell you this, I was hit with a biblical hammer.  The parable from Jesus, concerning the Good Samaritan, captures much of the same idea.  Here is my layman’s modern paraphrased version.  PG13…Suitable with the exception of extreme violence and nudity. (LOL)

A poor traveler was beaten, stripped, and robbed by a gang waiting behind the rocks on a path in rugged desert area.  They left him half-dead.  Soon, a priest came down the same road, saw the distressed wounded traveler and made it a point to look the other way.  In doing so, he went to the opposite side of the path to avoid him.  Not long after that, a Levite approached.  (A Levite was one who lived in the temple in Jerusalem, born to serve in the daily duties of temple business.  Much like a monk or nun.)  He too, quickly looked the other direction to avoid the traumatized one in need and walked around the naked, wounded traveler while fixing his gaze on the road ahead.  A Samaritan man (From a geographical locale called Samaria in mid-Israel.) came down the same road and saw the poor guy.  He had pity and compassion on him as he considered his terrible ordeal.  Although the victim was left naked, bloody and unable to walk, he immediately gave him first aid as he bandaged him with what little he had.  Then he, not caring if he soiled his own clothes, picked the bleeding man up and placed him on his donkey.  Not long afterwards they reached a small hotel.  He booked a room, taking care of him throughout the overnight.  The next day, he found the wounded man was still in no condition to travel.  He left him bandaged in his bed.  Before leaving, he gave the hotel clerk a generous amount of funds.  He instructed the clerk to take care of him.  He went on to tell him to supply whatever needs might arise concerning the unfortunate man.  He let it be known he would reimburse him for whatever expenses rose above the money offered when he returned from his trip.  (Ref. Luke 10:35-37)

Honestly, volumes have been written about the application of this parable.  There is so much taught from the tale.  As Jesus shared this parable, He was showing the true heart of God and what kind of heart God can place within each of us who are willing.  The “holier than thou” clergymen were focused on where they were going, their schedules, and their own concerns.  When the two “men of the cloth” saw the poor, broken traveler, they chose not to focus on him, just like the back of the heads of an audience at a Karate demo.  Although the victim was right there in their foreground, for them the idea was to keep the vision of him, and his needs, contained in a blurry haze of forgetfulness.  The Good Samaritan had a schedule to keep as well.  He was also focused on where his destination was, his clock, and the distance ahead.  But when he saw the beaten, bloodied traveler, compassion caused him to think to himself, “There but for the grace of God go I.”  Suddenly, he adjusted his lens to a sharp, clear focal point on the needs at hand.  His new focus allowed him to see clearly what needed to be done for this stranger who owed him nothing.  His new focus delivered a bias for action.  You might say, he chewed his gum and walked at the same time.  It’s clear, his field of depth changed as he refocused.

After I am dead and gone, my three daughters will be going through my photo albums, my plastic tubs of Kodak prints scanning some forty+ years, as well as boxes of snapshots I felt were important to keep.  When they do, they might learn far more about what my true focus was in life.  Hopefully they will discuss my authentic field of depth.

Focusing on the subject of need isn’t always easy, but it will add to your personal field of depth.  The viewfinder is always located in the mixture of fuel for the race.

“Let us fix (focus) our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:2  (Berean Study Bible Version)