A Memorial Jonathan Peale Bishop

John Bishop Remembrance:

My father knew how to identify trees by their leaves and bark. He taught me that hemlocks could be recognized by the two white stripes on the underside of the needles which looked like a chipmunk, and that ironwood trees were the ones whose trunks and limbs looked like the arms of muscle-builders.

He loved walking outside, particularly around Beebe Lake to work. When I visited him in Kendal, we'd almost always go for a walk outside. One of his favorite walks was the Marginal Way in Ogunquit.

marginal way
Marginal Way

When we were children, the family used to go to parks around Ithaca and walk the trails. The one from Lower Buttermilk to Upper Buttermilk is a spectacular trail, with stone pillers and pot-holes in the stream-bed. I remember one summer day when we walked that trail and Jeremy and I swam in the pot-holes. There were a couple of places where you could slide down the stream-bed and then fall into a pot-hole. It was tremedously exciting to two little boys, and it was only much later that I realized how worried and careful my father must have been when he allowed us to do this.

My father drove me to college in our station wagon. I had a big blue steamer trunk, big enough that I could fit in it. This was in the days before suitcases with wheels. He took the back end and I took the front end and away we went up the stairs. In 2007 I took my own son to college but now I was the one huffing and puffing in back. My son didn't look back either!

My father was an intellectual to the core: he really prefered conversations about ideas to those about people. My younger brother was at Yale during the heyday of structuralism and one day all three of us were in Dad's kitchen and we challenged Josh to explain structuralism. He held a tomato in his hand and asked us to define "tomato". "It's the red thing in your hand," we said. "What's a 'hand'?" he replied. We got it: the world of words can't get outside of itself. Great fun was had by all because for an instant we were all on the same intellectual wavelength.

My father wasn't a great cook, but he taught me the first steps and I never forgot some of his lessons: first, than any left-overs can be fried with an egg for breakfast and second that "black sauce" goes with anything. "Black sauce" is made by sauteeing chopped garlic sauteed in butter and then addng soy sauce. I taught these to my own children.

-John Bishop