Mary Magdalene — who was not a reformed prostitute, at least on any scriptural authority — was the first person to see the risen Jesus. She didn’t recognize him at first but when he spoke her name she knew who he was.  She addressed him as Rabboni — beloved teacher.  When she tried to embrace him he said, according to most translations, “Don’t touch me,” though I’m told the original phrase, in the Greek of John’s Gospel, is closer to “stop clinging to me.”  This brief moment, recounted in a few matter-of-fact lines in John’s account, is ground zero of the Christian faith — marking the first appearance of Jesus resurrected in the flesh to a human witness.  One tends to parse its every detail for significance.


Thomas Kinkade, who painted the image above, died yesterday at the age of 54.  It has been claimed that 1 in 20 homes in America has a Kinkade image of one sort or another — a print, or something on a plate or tea towel.  Kinkade hawked his work on QVC and commercialized it in every way he could think of.

It has also been claimed that his work is junk, but it’s not junk.  Its draftsmanship is serviceable, its painterly qualities are mediocre but professional — good enough to serve his purposes, which are emotional.  He called himself — actually trademarked himself as — the “Painter Of Light”, and he used light to summon back the feelings of coziness that a home or a garden can give, with the immediacy those feelings have in childhood.

Kinkade associated light with his Christian faith, using it as a symbol of warmth, welcome and comfort in both his secular and religious paintings.  He had a special fondness for Christmas scenes.

Kinkade’s talents and aims were modest, but in the very narrow territory he staked out for himself, he was an artist worthy of respect.  His gift reveals itself in that brief twinge of nostalgia, of remembered enchantment, we feel when we first see one of his more successful images — before our critical faculties dismiss it as second-rate, or before it becomes part of the furniture.


In 1973 I won a contest run by George Plimpton for the New York Yankees. You had to write a short essay explaining why you wanted to play baseball in Yankee Stadium — the prize was getting to play baseball in Yankee Stadium, one exhibition inning before a real game against a team of former Yankee stars. We got to suit up for a practice with Plimpton — I wore an old uniform of Thurman Munson’s, then a current Yankee star — on an off-day in the stadium. (This was the old stadium, before it got remodeled.) I fouled a lot of balls off into the stands, where they banged around and echoed among the empty seats. It was thrilling.

In the exhibition game I faced Whitey Ford on the mound — he was lobbing his pitches in underhand — and grounded out to Mickey Mantle, who was playing first. That was also thrilling. Taking the field (to play left field) I was amazed at how much space there was out there and gained a new respect for the vast amount of ground a good outfielder can cover.