I miss Bob Ross. I used to watch him paint a new painting in thirty minutes every Saturday on PBS. The list of colors of his paint would scroll across the bottom of the screen: titanium white, phthalo green, phthalo blue, prussian blue, midnight black, dark sienna, Van Dyke brown, alizarin crimson, sap green, cadmium yellow, yellow ochre, Indian yellow, bright red. Such exotic names. Such living colors.
Remember? He would just take a blank canvas and start brushing color on it. Soon there would be happy clouds, evergreen forests, snow-capped mountains, bubbling streams, wind-tossed waves on lakes or oceans…and over here lives a happy little squirrel.
Week after week, he would create a full landscape, narrating a story about a cabin or a farmhouse, and completely draw you in. It was total entrancement for thirty minutes. It was so peaceful in that world he created. I miss that.
So today I took a thirty-minute walk in my neighborhood on a Bob Ross kind of day. I just needed to stretch my legs and soak in the crispness of a picture perfect autumn day in midtown Omaha. I headed out the door, turned left on Webster Street, walked up the hill and down to J. E. George Blvd., turned south toward Underwood, pushed the button so the light would change and I could cross Underwood safely to walk down the west side of Memorial Park, then turn east to head to Happy Hollow Blvd. and walk by the creek north to home. It was just about thirty minutes.
A sweet yellow Labrador retriever was resting on the phthalo green lawn of a titanium white house behind its midnight black iron fence. He didn’t respond to my “Hi Pup!” or my hand claps, but he seemed happy to be soaking up the sun in his restful position.
On I walked past a neighborhood family of young boys tossing a Van Dyke brown football back and forth with their dad. Perhaps the Huskers should come over to this neighborhood to recruit, because those two caught every pass thrown their way. There was no wind to alter the arc of those effortless passes that dad threw.
Continuing on my journey, I passed a sweet older couple walking a puffball of a dog that could only have been made by a blend of ochre and brown off Bob’s palette. He had the happiest expression on his face and was a size that could have fit in Bob’s shirt pocket like that little ground squirrel he featured once in a while.
Down the walk I went and came across a mom with two little girls whose hair was styled in the bob cut so popular when me and my sisters were young. I couldn’t not comment about how cute they were and it made their mom smile. Ebony was the color of those bob cuts.
I turned off the walk a bit farther down to walk through the grass still green with the rains we have had. I was attracted by the crimson red crabapples on a grove of trees and wondered if they were the ones I needed to make my jelly. Alas, they were not. But as I left their company I came across the neighboring grove of honey locusts whose leaves were changing already to the ochres and Indian yellows of fall.
And walking on through an aromatic stand of evergreens which made me think of Christmas trees, I trailed through the faded glory of cannas already touched by frost. Their guardian ranks of marigolds and salvia were still glorious in the yellows and oranges and reds and violets that carry us through the summer. Soon they will all be gone, but on this day they blazed in the glory of the sun.
And just like Bob could always spin the tale of someone who lived in that wood or on that farm, as I crossed the south end of the park and looked up toward the stark white of the memorial on the top of the hill, I spied a wedding party posing for photos on the curve of the walk up the hill. There was the white of a beautiful dress in the shadow of the trees, surrounded by the dark suits of gentlemen and the dark purple dresses of the ladies. What a beautiful day for a wedding! I think that’s what Bob Ross would have seen as he brushed those colors on the canvas.
And walking back up the trail toward home on Happy Hollow, I listened to the last of the cicada song, much weaker now than the loud symphony they give us in the summer. And I heard the sound of younger and fitter steps coming up behind me so I moved over to let the jogger go by, not changing my pace. I’m sure I saw and heard much more than him as his earbuds were in and his eyes were dead forward. Too bad for him! He missed the young boys who were playing down by the culvert in the creek streaming slowly by down in the hollow. He also missed the bright yellow flowers blooming on the vine that covered the dull green fence that is there to keep us from tumbling down the engineered terraces along the walk. He missed seeing the little holes the squirrels had dug to bury acorns and such other delicacies that get them through the winter.
Just like the thirty minutes I used to spend with Bob Ross, thirty minutes walking in the neighborhood today invited me into a story of beauty in a small space. In a very large world, Omaha is a small place. In the urban sprawl of Omaha, Dundee-Memorial Park is just a corner. But in my corner of the world today was a phthalo blue sky with happy cirrus clouds and Indian yellow leaves and bright red crabapples and every other color on that list.
It was a Bob Ross kind of day and for thirty minutes, there was peace and it was mine.