Life and Living Music and Art

Once Upon a Tiger

Hey there!
When my wife and I were about to be married in 1976, I commissioned a talented Kentucky wildlife artist, Jon Henson, who happens to by my nephew, to paint a tiger, my fiancĂ©e’s favorite animal, as a wedding gift. At the time, Jon, about fifteen or sixteen years old, had already created some remarkable pieces of art. When I offered my request, he said, “Well, I usually paint ducks and geese, but I’ll give it whirl.” He did so and I am in awe of the image to this day. It hangs above my desk as we speak, stalking my every move. Isn’t it amazing how a great work of art can inspire one to truly appreciate many of the common things in life

I was touched several months ago learning of Nadia, a Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo and the first animal in North America to contract the Covid-19 virus. It’s important to keep our facts straight. Covid-19 is a recent strain of a viral pathogen that has been around a long time. The human plague we call the common cold is from a Coronavirus strain as is the new Covid-19 virus with all its variants and countless other strains affecting both humans and animals.

So we have always known that tigers can kill a person. Here and now, it’s the other way around. People can kill tigers with their Covid disease. In fact, according to a report on January 27, 2021 from, a seventeen-year-old Siberian tiger called Nastasja, kept at the Boras Zoo in southwestern Sweden was euthanized due to Covid-19, the infection having spread from a zoo employee attending the animals. Also another tiger and a group of lions in the same building have shown symptoms with at least two other confirmed cases.

True enough, the Bronx Zoo tiger, Nadia, recovered as have several others but that is not the point. Tigers and Lions are majestic creatures as are the other species in the animal kingdom. But do you know who else is majestic? You are, and every member of your family. I am and all the members of my family. Project that globally. Humans, the proverbial caretakers of all the animals, are truly as majestic as all other mammals.

In Genesis 1, verse 27, the Bible claims that we humans are made in the image of God, the Creator of all. Yet, look what Covid-19 has done to us. As of right now, March 8, 2021, Covid has claimed the lives of over 2-and-a-half million people since it started the Summer of 2019. The United States has lost over 520 thousand lives since our first death in early 2020. Who is to blame? That’s likely an inappropriate question with no good answer, but we humans like assess blame. We could blame God, which is usually referred to as an “act of God.” But blaming the Creator does the created no good in assessing blame since we created beings are perpetually at the Creator’s disposal. We are powerless to change that.

We can blame the Coronavirus, which is as futile as trying to blame God. The virus is just doing what it was created to do which is to hang on to life anyway it can. It’s too bad that the virus fulfills that role by planting itself into the bodies of humans and animals, many of which will die. So, maybe no one is to blame. No one can be held accountable to the existence of Covid-19, though that has been tried but without any real validation.

What we humans can be blamed for, though, is not following the guidance of the people who understand how to exist in a pandemic. Doctors, scientists, and those who specialize in learning what things to do and not to do to keep the spread of Covid-19 at bay, to limit the number of cases and therefore to limit the number of deaths. If we willfully choose to not listen to them, we who cause more spread and more deaths are to blame.

We are almost there. With three vaccines, we are so close to being immune to that which can kills. Let’s do everything we can to make it happen quicker. Let’s listen to the specialists. That means not only must we hear them, but heed their admonition to do the hard things to keep Covid from spreading.

When I look up at my tiger on the wall, I would be devastated if someone were to take a knife to that canvas and destroy the image. If I can keep that from ever happening, I would do it. There’s not a whole lot of difference in that and quelling the Coronavirus pandemic.

Bye for now!


Every Home Had A Hearth

Hey there! How’s it going?

My family recently spent several evenings watching the Hogwarts wizard series Harry Potter. JK Rowling, author of the original story, excels in creating mind pictures of nostalgic thoughts in an old dude like me, as do the subsequent movies.

In one of the movies, it dawned on me that, at Hogwarts, most every room in the castle has a fireplace or two, which, regardless of what is happening in the story, whether it be gushy or gory, the scene is heightened or softened by a roaring fire on a hearth. (One of her main characters even reveals himself to Harry in the smoldering embers of a dying fire trying to come back to life.)

All this fireplace stuff reminds me of my childhood. I grew up in rural farm country in the 1950s, which means that many of the houses in which I romped and lived, including my birthplace, were heated by either natural gas or electricity. For the young adults in those days, the statement “That’s progress!” was a mantra to bolster the idea that changing with the times was an admirable progression from the past into the future. As noble a thought as that is, I believe, however, it is good to put it into proper perspective.

Thinking back of other homes from the distant past, such as my grandparents’ homes and their parents’, brothers’ and sisters’ homes, I believe I could also make a case for the statement “Progress may also be regressive in some ways.” All the old folks’ homes had hearths, and the fireplace was one of the main centers of their family lives, a by-gone feature due to progress that may bear re-evaluation. Is it possible that American families have lost vital connectivity these days since we don’t need hearths anymore?

When I came along, my Dad’s parents still lived in the very house where they raised up in their eight children on an eighty-acre farm. The family began with their first daughter, my aunt Jo, born in 1911. The central focus of the house was a huge multi-hearth fireplace with a single flew expelling smoke from three hearths through the center of the roof. Every room had its own fireplace, its own access to the heating source. My grandest memories were, after Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day meals, everyone retiring to one of the three rooms to enjoy the afternoon by one of the three fires. All those wonderful memories were solidly implanted into my being by people gathering around the hearths.

It is eye-opening that progress, as necessary as it is, may consequentially cause crucial necessities from the past to disappear–things we may forget, but, also, things necessary for humanity, and consequentially, in some way, must be replaced. The hearth stands for that replacement of such necessities, especially in family togetherness. Before my grandparents’ generation, a house without a hearth was unheard of, even in warm climates. Every house had one. They were a means of existing and surviving, and the fires on the hearth brought families to life.

So What? Should we put fireplaces back in every house as a primary source of heat? No. That’s impractical and hardly feasible. Most fireplaces now are mainly for novelty and show anyway since they are not necessary for existence. It isn’t the hearth that must be present in every home, but the positive things that hearths brought about in families in a by-gone world. The following are just some vitals I thought of that must not go away in families.

Security is one of those necessities. The positivity of warmth and shelter from a cold and oftentimes hostile outdoor environment enables and encourages family members toward a sense of security in each other. The inner strength from the by-gone fire on the hearth heightened those feelings to euphoria. So many of today’s families fail to foster children in their homes. Fathers and mothers, challenged on every side with negative experiences and unhopeful outlooks, unfortunately pass fear and distress on to their closest of kin, their kiddos. That must be changed in some way so that the kids, in adulthood, look upon their home as a refuge of strength and safety rather than a disdained place to be avoided.

Togetherness is another vital need. A common problem among families is that many are splintered and disjointed. Modern lifestyles tend to pull family members apart rather than closer together, causing people, who should be close, to be aloof from each other. A warm house is appealing and families tend to join each other around a fireplace, or a virtual facsimile thereof, because of its common draw to fellowship.

Necessity for the common good is another. In order for a fire to exist, the family had to work to get the necessary wood for fuel. My Dad said he and his brothers would get out in the cold winter with their Dad to cut firewood. Looking back on the back-breaking work that was necessary for their family to survive the winter set in motion a work ethic that enabled him and our mother to more than adequately provide for us kids. That made him feel good. We live in a time where families are entitled and our children grow up sometimes believing everything is a handout. An important principle that fathers and mothers need to instill in their children is that nothing is free. There must be sweat and toil for survival.

Love and Affection, a fireplace commodity, are as vital as the air we breathe. All of the above necessities revolve around one basic principle: Love each other. My grandparents’ families had huge struggles with each other, children and parents alike, but I realized as I got older the depth of love they had for each other. Love is a hearth principle. Sounds like ‘harsh principle’ doesn’t it? Well, sometimes love is harsh. But people around a hearth know that even if harshness happens, when they get back together, it’s not ‘harshness’ but ‘hearthness’ that rules the moment. As Apostle Paul says, “Love never fails!” (1 Corinthian 13:8)

Truer words were never spoken.

By for now!


Happy New Year Three-and-a-half Months Later

Hey there.

I know you are probably thinking “Why has it been so long since your Happpy New Year Post?” and yes I could come up with excuses but, suffice it to say, I’ve been very busy and now I’m back! Wow, what a difference it is since January 19, 2020! On that day, the United States of America–the place where I wrote about in my New Year’s Day post, “the land of the free and the home of the brave”, on that third Sunday of the new year–was COVID-19-free.

The next day the first Coronavirus case was detected in Washington State, and on February 1 there were 8 cases reported, with no deaths. On March 3, our great nation found 122 cases with 7 deaths, and by mid-March we were staring at 2,726 cases with 54 deaths. By the end of March, we were just under 150,000 cases and over 2000 deaths. Today, April 11, 2020, the total of cases at the beginning of today was 459,165 with 16,570 total deaths. Think of all the loss and heartache the above scenario has caused.

Additionally, our citizens are doing things we would never have thought possible in a million dreams: Quarantining our families in our homes; unable to go to work; our kids can’t go to school; limited recreation; we can’t visit our sick family and friends in hospital; we can’t even go into a Walmart through a door of our choice; and I could go on and on. Happy New Year indeed!

So what, FD? Well, my ‘so what?’ is the Seven Vital Lessons we must take away from the Coronavirus experience.

1. Respect your situation! Don’t think for a second that humans are off the hook for dealing with the situations life hands us, just because they may be hard or out of the ordinary. A corollary to that is ‘Take care of your business! Like Aretha Franklin sang in her song titled RESPECT, “Take care, TCB!” right before her backup singers cranked up ‘sock-it-to-me’ over and over. (TCB=Take Care of Business) Business is a metaphor for life. Never take life for granted , since yours just may be the one you’re giving up.

2. Hold the people around you close. Though the humans closest to you may bug you the most, your first order of taking care of business is within yourself, and it’s hard but crucial for your family. A typical personal dynamic is to get away from the house, ie., the kids, the spouse, the pets, or whatever. That is why not getting to go to work because of the pandemic is so tough. The pandemic doesn’t allow for ‘getting away’, since the whole concept revolves around the adults in the house stepping up and being the adults! Duh! That means embracing and interacting with a family in need because it is family–now the hard part–and loving it!

3. Promote the concept, ‘we will survive individually and together.’ There are no fail-safe positions. We win or not, and the risk of losing is hardly palatable. So we turn to a positive attitude, one that says ‘regardless of the situation, we will make it.’ It’s like the M. Night Shyamalan movie Signs. Mel Gibson’s character was the opposite of a positive role model, but his kids changed that dim picture he had of himself to one of hope: A hope that they used to overcome an extraterrestrial foe, which they did.

4. Show deference to a higher power than yourself. In other words, let faith in something, or someONE bigger than you help you to cope with what is happening. I hope you have a faith in something or someone that is bigger than you are. I was raised to believe in God and his Son, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I can’t imagine my life, especially when being tested with trials beyond imagination, without my Lord. You may have a totally different concept of someone bigger than you, but whatever it is, stop and think about how necessary a higher power is for all of us.

5. Have courage to step out and do the out-of-the-ordinary. When I was in the United States Navy Band, I toured with a big band that regularly played for Sparky Anderson at Cincinnati Reds Riverfront Stadium. I had to go out with a huge lollipop singing The Candy Man, a feat not suitable for any human, but I did it. Every time the Reds won, but what a price to me. It didn’t matter. The Reds won and the band got to sit up in the press box with the big Whigs. When you do your job, regardless of its personal cost, that is what is important. Just do it!

6. Show up, rain or shine. We all have to do our part in this pandemic. I look at the jobs of first responders, doctors and nurses and, of course, our leaders in the federal and state governments, and I am awed at how stressed they must be, but yet they keep doing it. They get little time away from the front lines of this pandemic and yet they keep doing it. Why? Money? Power or prestige? No. It’s their jobs. Not the job they get paid to do, but the job they feel the need to do. What a marvelous example of showing up, rain or shine.

7. Give thanks!

Bye for now.


Life and Living

Happy New Year!

Hey there.

It’s the end of the twenty-teens and now we’re on to the twenty-twenties. I was impressed with one of my friends’ posts today regarding the new year, being positive as it begins. Her premise was to use the first letter of our name and make a positive word from it. So I’ll go one step further and choose the initials of my three names.

First, “F” is for free. Ours is a free nation and in many ways we take hold of our freedom and soar. My question though is “do we fully live up to our personal potential for the freedoms we have?” I believe there persists a much too narrow view of what it means to be free. It’s akin to Plato’s Cave Allegory in which humans are chained to a cave floor facing the back wall, skewing reality into a false view of shadows of moving bodies in front of a fire projected on their wall. An enlightened person, to Plato a philosopher, frees himself from the chains, turns and walks out the cave entrance into the sun, enlightening him to true reality.

“D” is for dream. Related to getting the most from being free, I wonder if we dream big enough. Dreaming is the initial thought process for aspiring to grow and reach for the top. A baby in a crib is constantly searching for a way out. One day she looks up and realizes there is no top on her jail and she stands up to reach for the top. Eventually she gets tall enough and not only reaches it, she’s at last strong enough to pull up and escape. At first her dreaming hurts as she falls on a hard floor, but then she learns to climb down and crawl to explore her world outside the bars. Dreams make us reach. They challenge our status quo and raise questions we could never conceive of before dreaming.

“S” is for submit. I know this one may seem out of kilter with the other two. Actually, when you really consider positivism, there is no freeing or competent dreaming until one is ready, willing and able to submit.

That we exist as a free country is proof. When the people who started us decided that they had had enough, they rebelled. Not hardly in keeping with what I’ve been saying so far, eh? Think again. Yes they had submitted and submitted to the point of breaking, because their submission only helped another country whose king seemed to care little about the hardships they faced and the hard work they had accomplished for him. So, in the proper course of time, they revolted and won the war.

But did they stop submitting? No! They knew that if they won their independence it would mean, yes, finally at last, the freedom from the forced submission of a tyrannical king. They also knew that to have and hold that freedom to dream and accomplish, they would have to submit to each other. They knew that the cost of being free to dream and reach for the top would in some ways be putting the good of the whole nation ahead of their own interests.

If you don’t think that’s still true, ask all the family members of the women and men who have given their lives for our freedom this past year. Ours is not only a country of being free to dream, but one where it’s constituents are free to dream and reach for the top so they can help others to the same goal. That’s pretty positive in my book.

Have a happy 2020!

By for now.

Book by FD

Music History Is Fun II

Hi there.

Did you know that the great composer Franz Joseph Haydn was buried in June, 1809 without his head? True fact of music history.

Oh yeah, music history, that boring subject that music majors in college are required to take can be fun, and sometimes in obviously morbid sorts of ways!  

Go to Amazon Kindle. Search my name, F. D. Sutherland, and you’ll be led to my newest book, the second one in fact, A Door to Old Worlds, the second in a series for kids, adolescents and adults, about great composers and three best friends from Murray, Kentucky who are able to go back and actually live music history as it was being made.

 The three students encounter several world famous composers, including Ludwig van Beethoven, Clara Schumann, and her best friend Johannes Brahms. Plus, they get a musical experience of a lifetime.

So far, anecdotal reviews are unanimous–kids and adults love it.  Not because it’s music history, but because it’s LIVE music history! Music history that’s come alive.  

If you have Amazon Prime and Kindle you can even read it free or you can download it.  If you don’t have Kindle you can order a paperback.  Just go to Amazon and search my name, FD Sutherland. The paperback costs $5.95 and it will be delivered to your home in a short time.

By the way, the story about Haydn is true. A Doctor of Phrenology stole Haydn’s head prior to burial to study it for future enlightenment, sort of like Einstein’s brain which is still being studied. Unfortunately, phrenology proved to be a hoax but Haydn’s head wasn’t discovered for years after he died. In fact, the head was not interred with Haydn’s body until 1954, 145 years after he was buried. True story. You can’t make this stuff up.

Music history can be great fun!

Bye for now!