I would like to be able to buy great artwork. Since I teach various art history classes, the list of paintings and sculptures that I would like to posses is extremely long. At the top of my list would be Turner's The Fighting Temeraire, Constable's Salisbury Cathedral, and Monet's Water Lilies. But alas, I have resigned myself to reproductions.

Then over a year ago, my wife and I moved into a subdivision that features lakeside lots. Well, the lake isn't large as lakes go. Actually, it is more like a very large pond. The development features condominiums, moderate priced housing, and what they call executive homes. We live on the other side of the lake from the executive homes in one of the moderate price homesteads. We spent most of the first year decorating the inside of our new home.

With the arrival of the following summer, we worked to beautify our yard-especially our backyard that goes down to the lake. As I worked under the blazing sun, we would pause to rest and would notice that the people living in the huge house across the lake from us were also fixing up their backyard. As we slaved away, they did also. Have you ever noticed that sometimes those with all the money lack good taste? It is that way with our neighbors across from us. The house surely set them back close to a million dollars. As we toiled bringing beauty and good taste to our humble backyard, they too strived to add beauty to theirs. However, while they possess lots of money, they lack taste. For example, along their property line a couple yards from the water's edge, they have added more than a dozen white plastic swans. Right. It looks like a single file march of polyvinylchloride swans across their back yard. I couldn't believe it. We were nicely landscaping our lot with scrubs, trees, flowers, and statues of Buddha, an Easter Island Moai, and a statue of St. Francis, and they were adorning theirs with plastic swans. We have provided them with a lovely view of culture and good taste. In return, they provided us a row of plastic swans.

With time, we both finished our backyards and settled back to enjoy our work. However, late one night after working on my computer, I slowly crawled into bed. I was beat and exhausted. As I settled my head into the pillow, I glanced out the window and noticed the house across the lake. You wouldn't believe what I saw. Those plastic swans all lined up for an aquatic march were electrified. They had lights inside their plastic guts. However, much to my delight, all that I could see were lights along the lake. The lights from the swans not only lit up the property-line but also cast yellow reflections rippling across the lake. It was truly beautiful-almost awe inspiring. As I lay there, it reminded my of Van Gogh's Starry Night Over the Rhone. I couldn't believe the beauty of that moment-it was as if Van Gogh had just placed that painting outside my window for me to enjoy. I went to sleep pleased with my new artistic acquisition. It isn't often that you can turn plastic swans into a Van Gogh.

A couple weeks after acquiring my own Starry Night Over the Rhone, I had to acquire a new electric toothbrush. Returning home with my new dental assistant, I plugged it in to charge the battery. This particular brand has a little light that flashes indicating that it is charging. The directions said that it would take 12-15 hours to charge it fully. So, I brushed my teeth with the partial charge and went to bed. I glanced over at my Starry Night Over the Rhone and thanked my unwitting neighbors for their gift to me of great art.

As I settled in for a night of rest and renewal, I noticed a strange light in the bedroom. I turned toward the bathroom and realized that my electric toothbrush was blinking its signal indicating it was charging. However, it reminded me of distant lighthouse at night warning sailors not to come too close to shore. I smiled to myself and thought, it doesn't get better than this. I have Starry Night Over the Rhone and my own lighthouse. Life is good.

Now, if only I could get someone on the lake to get a great sailing ship like Turner's The Fighting Temeraire, I would finally arrive.

This article appeared in the Dixon Telegraph on 10/15/04