Painting the National Mood: “Blue Crab” (Optimism)

"Blue Crab" Can you see him?
“Blue Crab” Can you see him?

A defining characteristic of Americans is their optimism. As a nation of immigrants, perhaps optimism was necessary to leave everything you knew and set out on a hazardous journey to who-knows-what. We can imagine that the pessimists stayed behind, assuming any change would be a change for the worse.

I spent over a week painting somber, stormy scenes: a lonely willow whipped by the wind and a lightening storm over the bay. The government shutdown and various scary portents loom overhead. But perhaps my American optimism kicked in-or I should say my immigrant optimism, since grandpa Czaja (illegally) immigrated here from Poland around the turn of the century.

I often wonder how a nineteen year-old had the courage to leave friends and family forever and how he found the strength to work, buy a small farm and raise eight kids. I am told he never learned English and Pop didn’t learn English until he entered first grade. By the time I was aware of such things, Pop spoke English just fine and I didn’t know any Polish (except for a few profanities the old Polish men used so we kids wouldn’t understand them.)

I spent Monday failing to paint a salt marsh. Oh, I painted and revised and painted some more, but it simply sucked, so I threw it away. I didn’t want to paint a steamy, inhospitable salt marsh, but I was fascinated with the salt marsh’s…flatness. When I first arrived in Florida from hilly New England, a Floridian asked me what I thought. What I thought was “Flat, swampy, dead-looking.” I later found out salt marshes were not dead at all, but teeming with life, more life per square foot than the lovely pastures back home.

So I painted “Blue Crab.” He is in a salt marsh and it is flat, but it is sunny and the water is blue and maybe I’d like to put my kayak in here and explore around a bit.

When I was in Catholic High School I asked the history teacher what the difference was between a liberal and a conservative. The nun said, “A conservative wants things to stay the same and a liberal wants things to change.” “Oh, I told her, “I must be a liberal then.” Because as an optimist, I think: “If things change they will get better.”

Painting the National Mood: Seeing Through

Painting the National Mood: Heat Lightening

My Gallery


  1. there’s 2 ways poles function,They love you or they hate you.The ones that just came over are the sweetest people in the world.When the Magyars came over in 56 they were real doesn’t take long for them to step in line and pick up on american racism…”those lazy charna schuingen”

    1. I have come to believe that everyone is prejudiced-that is they make quick judgments based on appearances. Racism is a belief that your race is superior to all others. I don’t think many people actually buy this, but a significant minority do!

      In our town we were the last ones off the boat so we were the peons until the Sicilians came. Then Poles didn’t like Sicilians. They said they were in the Mafia and didn’t treat women with respect. Not sure who last one off the boat is now, but they’ll have to go through same mess, I imagine.

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