Hanging in my home office since 1998, a pen and ink drawing by Judson Snyder reminds me of crotchety old writers who practice humanity and who have hope for the human race despite its many foibles. Ibsen we know from high school English, probably the play “A Doll’s House.” Jud Snyder we know from Rohnert Park-Cotati newspapers, especially his lovable but somewhat esoteric (meaning “I don’t know what the hell he is talking about but will pretend that I do”) columns with characters like The Hinebaugh Creek Philosopher.
I first saw the drawing titled by Jud “Henrik Ibsen sets out for his morning walk” on display at the Snyder Lane Community Center. I had just walked out of an intense bargaining session with the school district. This picture took me out of that unhappy day and it reminded me of my values: good literature, an amble in nature and people who sought justice and honesty. One could have this picture for only $120.
When I walked into my kitchen, I told my wife that I wanted that picture for a birthday present. I was and am one of those hard-to-gift husbands as I rarely want anything. Why the picture? Because I had loved Ibsen since I read “An Enemy of the People” in high school drama? Because I had known and admired Jud for more than fifteen years? Because a picture took me out of the reality and frustration of negotiating teacher contracts? Maybe all of the above.
Maybe not. Better, the picture brought me into a part of Jud’s world that I did not know. Jud Snyder, the white haired and bearded, portly, rumpled jack-of-all-the newspaper trade: writer, editor, photographer, columnist always scrambling to put out the never dying local newspaper had an unseen life. I just imagined this big man in his little car spending every spare moment putting together his paper. Suddenly, I saw a quiet and contemplative craftsman who could temporarily let the world go by as he focused on the drawing in front of him. This mini life lesson (one that I did not learn very well) reminded me that we all need time for personal pursuits and for creative outings.
On the back of the picture, a veritable collector’s item resides—Jud’s signature and a simple but treasurable message: “Dear Lanny—-We English majors always have admiration for Mr. Ibsen—-Jud Snyder Oct. 6 ’98.” Yes, Jud, this English major held Ibsen in high esteem for the same reasons that I always found you admirable. You both dealt with truth and you both had characters who fumbled around, who made a few mistakes, and who redeemed themselves in the end.