This morning, my mind has drifted back to the poetry and legacy of William Carlos Williams, whose theory now known as Imagism was laid out in a line from one of his poems: “No ideas but in things.” Williams chose to remain in the quiet town of Rutherford, New Jersey, where he worked as a physician and created as a poet. I love this statement from his Autobiography: “All that I have wanted to do was to tell of my life as I went along practicing medicine and at the same time recording my daily search for . . . what? As a writer, I have been a physician, and as a physician a writer; and as both writer and physician I have served sixty-eight years.”
This small town physician drove from residence to residence throughout his working days, his eyes always taking in images that seemed to contain the stuff of revelation in them–a red wheelbarrow, shards from a broken green bottle, a housewife stooping outside her front door to pick up milk bottles–all of these images were recorded on prescription pads, and long after nightfall would grow into poems.
For several years I have wanted to do with watercolor vignettes what Williams did with small poems–record objects that I take in during the day that strike some kind of chord of recognition from my past. So, with this current posting, I began by sorting through my plein air sketches from the past, and stopped with this tree top in my neighbor’s yard that I painted from my garage studio view early one morning. Turning to my digital library, I pulled up this pair of rural Colorado mailboxes that I photographed last summer as my wife and I stopped alongside the highway to admire a railroad bridge and the deep gorge cut between two mountain ranges. After photographing the bridge a dozen times, I turned and my attention immediately fastened on this pair of mailboxes. I probably looked like a stooge, shooting pictures of old mailboxes when all the natural beauty of the Colorado mountains lay sprawled before us.
Twice in my life, I have lived in an isolated rural setting, and depended on a mailbox much like these to keep me in contact with the civilized world. In 1973, I worked for a summer at J. P. Coleman State Park near Iuka, Mississippi. The postmaster arranged for me to use an abandoned mailbox along one of the county roads, but it required a 3-mile walk for me to reach it from the interior of the State Park where I resided. I daily made that 3-mile walk. I was a college student on summer vacation and was blessed with a plethora of “writing” college friends that led to “something in the box” almost daily.
In 1986 I lived in rural Whitesboro, Texas, on a Farm Market road seventeen miles out from the nearest city. Again, the mailbox kept me in touch with my remote friends and working associates. While living there, I spent many afternoons in the shade of the front porch, watching the mailbox down the dirt road and the approaching mail truck to see if the driver was going to stop. Letters, packages, anything left was a “connection” with my working world beyond the horizon.
Although the sight of rural mailboxes has held my attention for years, it is only now that I pause to paint a pair. I’ve selected another photograph from my Arkansas odyssey of last year, and am considering a small watercolor sketch of that one as well.
Thanks for reading.