“The Lord will bless you for being kind to people.” ~ Reva Hubbard
Last night as I was pouring over Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk, relishing the ancient art of vinyl album covers, something caught my eye. Tusk is an elaborate vinyl package, even among double albums. There are slips inside slips inside the outside cover. Of particular interest were the outer (or middle) slips. Instantly, it was 1979 and I was back in my tiny bedroom, sitting on the floor in front of a second-hand stereo, where I scoured the intricate collages for hours. Now, they reminded me of Peter Beard‘s work. In 1993, I came across a book called “The Adventures and Misadventures of Peter Beard in Africa” by Jon Bowermaster. It captured my attention for two reasons: 1. Beard is a fascinating artist known primarily for his collage diaries (he sometimes uses his own blood to draw on them) and 2. I’ve loved Africa since early childhood, particularly Kenya where Beard has a home called The Hog Ranch. As Tusk continued to spin its quirky pop tunes, I pulled out my copy of the book. I rifled through the pages, memories flying back to me; Beard’s friendship with Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen who wrote the autobiographic Out of Africa, one of my all-time favorite books), the sheer beauty of Africa, the shame of big game killers, the privileged life that afforded Beard such an adventure that most people, certainly most artists, could never have. And then I saw it: a photo from one of the Tusk collages. Beard made the collages for Tusk. I knew about Peter Beard before the Bowermaster book. He’s listed on Tusk’s credits. As someone who used to absorb every piece of information from albums, the connection between Beard and Tusk had been buried in my brain all these decades, subconsciously rolling around, waiting to resurface. It was a beautiful moment to reconnect with these two things I loved so much when I was younger. I hope one day I’ll have the opportunity to go to Kenya and Tanzania, roam the Masai Mara Wildlife Reserve, and wake up “at the foot of the Ngong Hills.” What a blessing that would be, but it certainly doesn’t diminish the blessings Tusk and Peter Beard have given me for decades. I’m lucky that they’ve come back home.