Warm Thoughts Following the Retreat to the Wilderness

February 13, 2017

finished-2

Pleasurably Wrestling with Heidegger’s Being and Time

There are times when thought elbows her way through the underwood of words to the clear blue beyond.

Henry David Thoreau, Journal, December 12, 1837

After an arduous week of school chores, I lit out of town late Friday afternoon for my three-and-a-half-hour drive into the country to stay in my favorite getaway spot. I truly believe my heart rate changes the moment I drive up to this place, and my breathing comes easier. Words cannot encapsulate what I felt as I spent Friday night, Saturday and Sunday in the quiet of this remote countryside.

I managed finally to finish my reading of Goethe’s Faust, loving every line of text. After that, I turned to Heidegger’s Being and Time, and this book is always a struggle for me, but I believe worth the trouble. I turned to this book because I was smitten with Thoreau’s words that I read from his journal while I was in the midst of this weekend withdrawal. I see Thoreau and Heidegger both as lovers of words, their origins and their possibilities. Hans Georg Gadamer testified that Heidegger could trace the etymological “arteries into the primal rock of language.”  Heidegger said that “language is the house of being.”

Among the many facets of language, one element that intrigues me is the elusiveness of thought when we try to attach words to it.  George Steiner, in his introductory book on Heidegger, wrote: “The letter kills the spirit. The written text is mute in the face of responding challenge.  It does not admit of inward growth and correction.”  In Faust I found the same message this weekend: “The word dies when we seize the pen.”  I always find myself halting when I try to describe the sensations I experience when I’m deeply moved by the printed text.  And so, I labored over Being and Time, enjoying what portions of it I could understand.

Returning to my self-portrait, I managed to finish it Saturday evening, and put it on facebook. The response has been overwhelming, so I guess I did O.K. with this effort. I’m wondering whether or not to enter it into competition as shows are rapidly approaching this spring.  There also seems to be interest in limited edition giclee prints. Perhaps I’ll go that route.  I’m still contemplating.

finished

I’m feeling warm thoughts this evening, because I’ve received word recently of a new gallery opening and the prospects of my having a one-man-show there in the not-too-distant future.  I’ll release details if this opportunity actually materializes, and it appears that it will. I’m extremely happy with the possibilities, and already have a number of new paintings in my head, waiting to be born. I cannot thank my dear friends enough for all the encouragement and inspiration they provide. This weekend could not have been more pleasurable.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Retreat to the Country

February 11, 2017

“Let me say to you and to myself in one breath, Cultivate the tree which you have found to bear fruit in your soil.”

Henry David Thoreau, Journal

Blogging from my phone is ponderous, but I wanted to share with my readers and friends a delicious slice from my weekend retreat. I’ve read ravenously from Thoreau and Heidegger, churned out pages of journal scribblings, and finally completed my “selfie” painting on location that I’m titling “Heidegger’s Hut”.

Thanks for reading.

A Satisfying Return to the Studio Tonight

February 6, 2017

tripp-1

tripp-2

Die Zeit ist kurz, die Kunst ist lang. (Time is too brief, though art’s forever.)

Goethe, Faust

The soft darkness and stillness of this night welcomed me back to my abandoned studio. There have been too many lengthy lapses in creative activity, thanks to school-related tasks that have driven me far from my element, and I chafe at the realization that the “system”, while crowing about “what’s best for the students” never considers the value of an instructor’s personal enrichment. To me, the development and enrichment of the instructor is by far the best gift to offer students.  Way back in 1995, The National Endowment for the Humanities granted twenty-five of us the last of the Teacher-Scholar Awards (Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America” killed the program). The award was a one-year funded sabbatical leave of absence, grounded in the philosophy that teachers are better for their students when they are granted time off for educational advancement, scholarly study or personal enrichment. In twenty-eight years, I am glad that I had that one year to re-tool and re-think what I was trying to do in the classroom. I am aware that many are quick to retort that teachers have summer vacations, but that didn’t begin happening to me until two years ago–I always taught both semesters of summer school, hence no summers off from the classroom. I have been a year-round teacher until recently.

But that’s not why I’m pausing to write this night!  I was fortunate to finish tomorrow’s classroom preparations with enough of an evening before me to re-enter my studio and resume work on two abandoned watercolors. I believe I have finished the still life of the doorknob and Indian corn.  I only needed about an hour to stitch up some details on that large painting that had annoyed me. As for the smaller one of myself in the chair, I’m getting closer to finishing it out as well.  I’m still working on me, as well as the objects surrounding me, and feel that I need one or two more sessions in the studio before I can call this one complete. I am particularly fond of working on the small composition because it was born in the cozy quiet of the store I so love to inhabit when I can get out of the city for a weekend. Every time I peer into this picture, I feel myself back in the store, back in the quiet, back in the cozy embrace of a good life.

I still have not completed my reading of Faust, because I continue to pause, underline, highlight, scribble in my journal, and muse over the power of his words. When I read this line that time is brief and art is forever, my soul feels soothed. Art for me is a sanctuary. One of the portals outside the Saint Louis Art Museum reads: ART STILL HAS TRVTH. TAKE REFVGE THERE. That quote from Matthew Arnold has nourished me throughout the years. My heart vibrates when I think of the kindred spirits I know personally who enrich themselves with creative endeavors–writing, making art, playing a musical instrument, or just reading for pure pleasure and enrichment. When we are allowed quiet evenings to engage in these pursuits, we are wealthy indeed.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Passing Through Portals

February 1, 2017

blog-door

. . . Albrecht Dürer, did after all make the well-known remark: “For in truth, art lies hidden within nature; he who can wrest it from her, has it.” “Wrest” here means to draw out the rift and to draw the design with the drawing-pen on the drawing-board. But we at once raise the counterquestion: How can the rift be drawn out if it is not brought into the open region by the creative projection as a rift, which is to say, brought out beforehand as strife of measure and unmeasure? True, there lies hidden in nature a rift-design, a measure and a boundary and, tied to it, a capacity for bringing forth–that is, art.

Martin Heidegger, “The Origin of the Work of Art”

In the darkness of the night, I trained a light on the aged door of the store where I resided for the weekend, and another light on my easel. Working in the stillness of that environment, I felt a depth of feeling and connection with my childhood overnight stays at my grandparents’ farm–nights spent lying awake, staring at the door knob and locking system dimly present in the quiet night. Musing over what lurked on the other side of that door became a lifetime fascination from me.

As I wrestle with this lengthy and cumbersome essay from Heidegger, “The Origin of the Work of Art”, and make use of his distinct vocabulary, I gather a new idea from his philosophy that my process for making art involves a struggle between my world of memory and the earth which yields up the objects I encounter. As I mingle my memories with my vision of these objects, a work of art emerges.

Painting through the night at the store, and later with re-visits and revisions of this painting, I mused over the portals of my past and the ones that lie in my present and future. Robert Motherwell and Henri Matisse wrote eloquently about “open door” motifs in their bodies of work. As I wrote in an earlier blog, I am considering a series of paintings of antique doors that I have acquired over past years, hoping that some significant ideas and symbols might emerge from these attempts.

The idea of “portal” has kept me preoccupied lately. My eye is a portal, through which passes this fascination of the ancient door allowing access into the next room, the next chamber, the next chapter. And as I move through my life, I am passing through portals, from one world to the next. This lifetime odyssey has passed through countless doors, most of them fascinating.

frame-door-cropped

And so, with a heart exhilarated with anticipation, I approach my next attempt at making art.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not really alone.

Zu die Hütten (to the Hut!)

January 30, 2017

grid-2

My Favorite “Store-Off-the-Grid”, (where I sit in the mornings and enjoy my coffee)

Being back in my home is good tonight. Mozart plays softly in the background. The hot tea is soothing. I love my writing desk and library area. But in my mind’s eye, I’m still at the “store”, my favorite hideaway when I can get out of the city. I probably posted in earlier blogs (I don’t go back and read them much) that I’ve been reading a great deal about Martin Heidegger. I have zero interest in the details of his political leanings, but am intrigued with his philosophy that includes amazing insight into art, poetry and pre-Socratic thought. And I have always been intrigued with stories surrounding the cabin he had built adjacent to the town of Todtnauberg where he frequently withdrew to study and write. He did not enjoy life in the city of Freiburg where he lived and taught in the university. He later turned down the Chair of Philosophy offered to him in Berlin, because it would prevent his frequent withdrawals to his cabin. As for myself, I’m glad to have a home in the suburbs of Arlington, Texas, four minutes from where I teach. But I love so much more these three-and-a-half hour drives out of the city to a remote spot in the country, to a dirt road where no one drives by, to a spot of absolute quiet and solitude. It is in that place that my soul has been restored repeatedly. All my life I have dreamed of such a location.

heidegger-house

Martin Heidegger’s Cabin in the Black Forest

thoreau-window

Reading Thoreau’s Journals inside the “Store”

I want to respond to a passage from Adam Sharr’s Heidegger’s Hut, having finished reading the book this weekend:

. . . it is possible to consider the hut and house as talismanic for two positions decisive in Heidegger’s biography, which Albert Borgmann terms “provincialism” and “cosmopolitanism.” These positions are often considered in opposition. Tropes recur by which advocates of each position attempt to dismiss the alternative. Cosmopolitans dismiss the provincial as invidious: introvert, inbred, prone to exclusion, and reliant upon romantic myth. Provincials dismiss the cosmopolitan as deluded: bound up in abstract systems and priorities, entranced by the fickleness of fashion, setting itself and its self-appointed heroes on false pedestals. Although such polarities are inevitably caricatures, and provincial and cosmopolitan positions always remain more nuanced, their identification can be helpful.

I love it when someone writes what I’ve thought about for years, and writes it so well! For twenty-eight years, I have been a citizen of both worlds–teaching in the suburban neighborhoods of a large city and withdrawing as much as possible to remote sanctuaries. Being single, I love the privacy and quiet of my home after a day in the classroom, and when I can leave the city, I look for the quietest places in the country. My life’s work has been in the public schools full time and the universities part time. When I retire at the end of May, I’ll gladly accept the offer of a neighboring university to continue teaching part time, some of it online. I am so thrilled at this new chapter, the idea of  no longer being under contract from 7:15 till 3:15 five days a week.

My public life in the classroom has been mostly scintillating throughout the decades–I have had an overwhelmingly positive and affirming crowd of students (probably 99.8% respectful and inspiring, only the occasional “turd”). Being an educator has allowed me to remain a student for life, which is what I truly craved–I hated the thought of leaving a life of scholarship behind after completing graduate school. How wonderful to be paid to study, to learn and share daily the things that matter to me. I cannot say enough about the richness of teaching in the areas of religion, art, philosophy and literature. Life as a public educator has been very rewarding to me.

At the same time, I must confess that I am drawn to reading books like Anthony Storr’s Solitude: A Return to the Self, Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, and William Powers’s Hamlet’s Blackberry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age, along with the writings of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Long ago I came to terms with the reality that I like being alone, and crave space for such times. I have always believed that I could do my job better if I had time to withdraw and recharge my batteries. Fortunately for me, life has provided those opportunities and for the most part I have been able to avoid burnout.

At age 62, I am more sensitive to the noisy clatter of school hallways, the public school obsession to call meetings, and the growing paperwork, records and accountability demanded, often by a bureaucracy that continues to create “positions” designed for compiling data and checking boxes on reports. I have never had respect for elected politicians who pass laws governing an educational enterprise that they have never themselves understood or spent time studying. And I have noticed with disdain throughout the years that they continue to pass more laws designed to cripple the work of conscientious educators, and then use the data designed to prove that public education is faltering so they can convince tax payers that schools would be better if they were run by private businesses. I have had the pleasure to work for a district that is far better than any state or federal agency can evaluate with piles of data. And I have been fortunate to work inside of schools with administrators that let the teachers do their jobs. Real education occurs inside the classroom when the teacher is freed up to study his/her area of expertise and design creative ways to share this with students primed to learn. All thinkers know this. To sum up, I am getting out at a good time; most likely I stayed too long . . .

gridlock

Leaving the Store . . . Until Next Time

I have not been posting on the blog with much frequency of late. But after this weekend, I still have plenty on my mind, and I’m glad to have this avenue of expression. So thank you again for reading . . .

I make art to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Walking with a Limp

January 30, 2017

grid

“But now he’s broody. He doesn’t talk. He goes walking alone in the hills at night. I went out to see him and–he’s been writing poetry–pages of it all over the table.”

“Didn’t you ever write poetry, Will?”

“I did not.”

“I have,” said Dessie. “Pages and pages of it all over the table.”

“I don’t want you to go.”

“Let me decide,” she said softly. “I’ve lost something. I want to try to find it again.”

John Steinbeck, East of Eden

I am back to work after a weekend retreat to the back country. And the John Steinbeck novel is coursing through my veins this morning. I read the final two-hundred pages-plus of East of Eden while cozied up in my favorite store-off-the-grid. The dialogue above made me laugh out loud. Dessie wanted to leave her business and return to the ranch to live with her troubled brother Tom. Her business-minded brother Will was trying to dissuade her by relaying what he thought would be a troubling profile of Tom’s recent lifestyle. The grown-up sons and daughter were trying to cope with the death of their father Samuel whose passion was the glue that had held the family together:

Then Samuel died and the world shattered like a dish.

This sentence lingered in my consciousness all weekend while alone in the store. Painting, reading, writing and thinking sustained my spirits in the best of all possible ways the entire time, but I could not help pondering life and many of the people I know and love who share openly about these wounds that we all sustain. My closest friends know that the results of our recent election, along with its aftermath, have torn my spirit like a dull serrated knife. I find it necessary to disregard over three-fourths of facebook posts because they are talking about it–whether the posts are pro or con, the message is usually one of ugliness and hurt. And life since November has made it challenging to remain buoyant in spite of the culture that now envelops us.

But the pain I read in East of Eden is much more comprehensive, the kind of pain that punctuates lives throughout their duration. During the quiet hours of the weekend, I mused over the events of a lifetime, and how many tragedies the average individual absorbs. The video by R.E.M. returned to my memory: “Everybody Hurts.” Yet through it all, we continue to walk through this life, even if we walk with a limp. And perhaps the connective tissue that binds us as humans is the mutual regard we feel, recognizing that others hurt just as we do, and we all have the capacity to reach out to one another for support and understanding.

grid-3

The weekend has been a real gift in that it offered space and quiet for uninterrupted thought and a chance to make some decisions that needed to be made.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to express.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Studio Off the Grid

January 29, 2017

blog-2

I have just completed a weekend in the embrace of my Sanctuary, my Studio Off the Grid. Far away from the city, with much thanks to precious friends, I am privileged to take up residence in an old store with living quarters in the back. The residential section is centrally heated, but the front store room relies on a small heater. Temperatures early Saturday hovered in the thirties and it was difficult heating the front of the store where I prefer to set up my easel and paint the interior. So, much of the day was devoted to reading, writing and reflecting in the residential quarters. I had over two hundred pages left to read in Steinbeck’s East of Eden, and by the afternoon I had finished it with shudders of deep feelings hitting every mark between sadness and satisfaction.

In addition to Steinbeck, I read much about Martin Heidegger, finishing Adam Sharr’s Heidegger’s Hut and resuming my reading of Rüdiger Safranski’s Martin Heidegger: Between Good and Evil.  I also read from Heidegger’s 1934 radio address “Why Do I Stay in the Provinces?”.

Once the front of the store was warm enough for painting, I entered my studio sanctuary and resumed work on a watercolor I started a couple of weeks ago, but abandoned because I had trouble rendering the objects surrounding me. I am increasingly dissatisfied with painting from photographs, and though I cannot avoid the practice when painting myself, I found it much more satisfying to look at my actual surroundings in this store instead of copying the objects I see in the photo. My struggle between photographs and live models goes back a few winters, when I made my first stabs at watercoloring still life objects from my garage. The antique doors stored there have given me a very satisfying grounding, first in the actual garage, and more recently dragging them into my living room studio. They are worth the physical effort. The door I painted months ago in this actual store also yielded some great advantages, much more than if I had photographed the door and worked exclusively from the photo in my home residence over three hours away. The same goes with the antique objects I’ve collected over the decades: my paintings of the objects are far superior (to my eye) than objects I’ve photographed and painted. I have trouble explaining why I feel that painting from life offers benefits beyond painting from images. My problem explaining this reminds me of Heidegger’s struggle matching words to his ideas:

On a deep winter’s night when a wild, pounding snowstorm rages around the cabin and veils and covers everything, that is the perfect time for philosophy. Then its questions become simple and essential. Working through each thought can only be tough and rigorous. The struggle to mold something into language is like the resistance of the towering firs against the storm.

So now I try to wrap words around my resisting issue of making art from photographs vs. the real objects before me: I find much more satisfaction from my watercolors and drawings done from three-dimensional subjects rather than two-dimensional photos. Granted, there is much more work and anxiety involved in editing a 360-degree environment and translating the three dimensions onto a measured two-dimensional picture plane, I feel that something special emerges from that struggle. When I work from a photo, I feel that I am doing paint-by-number, merely struggling for a one-to-one correspondence from one square inch to another. When looking at a real world before my eyes with depth, changing colors, light shifts, etc., I feel that I am actually recording a world onto the paper before me. And in viewing the watercolor months and years later, that world still pulsates on the surface, to me.  This never happens with my works of art transferred from photos, even if I feel that the skill levels are sometimes higher. I don’t know that this is making sense to a reader, but it’s the best I can do for now.

Thanks always for taking time to read me.

I make art in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not really alone.

blog-3

blog-4

Most of the Time, Alone is Good

January 19, 2017

store-pic

me.jpg

me 2.jpg

Now there are clouds above—

The moon conceals her light—

The lamp dies down.

It steams. Red light rays dash

About my head—a chill

Blows from the vaulting dome

And seizes me.

I feel you near me, spirit I implored.

Reveal yourself!

Oh, how my heart is gored

By never felt urges,

And my whole body surges—

My heart is yours; yours, too, am I.

You must. You must. Though I should have to die.

 

Goethe, Faust

With a comforting fire in the fireplace, and my homework completed early this cold night, I am finding solace in a new watercolor that is taking me far outside my comfort zone. I have never painted myself in watercolor or oil. Ever. (Disclaimer: OK, my friends point out my fly fishing paintings of myself.  However, those are 3-inch tall figures in hats with the face turned away–hardly portraits, more like toy action figures). But the selfie I took with my phone a couple of months ago in one of my favorite spaces far from home kept drawing me to attempt this. So here goes. (And thank you, Wade and Gail, for letting me know such sublimity in that “sacred space”!).

My reading over this past week has grazed from several pastures: Steinbeck’s East of Eden, Goethe’s Faust and Heidegger’s Being and Time. I don’t know why I did this, but all day long this song has been stuck in my head, R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts.” On impulse awhile ago, I pulled up the YouTube video and watched it, and the music and visual really knocked me down. I’m not calling these feelings despair or depression. But something heavy weighs on me tonight, and I just want to find a way to get it out.

Today in philosophy we wrapped up a three-day unit on the Pre-Socratics. An early fragment from Anaximander states that anything that comes into being by necessity will pass away. Students seemed to grab that message, and one by one, I heard voices expressing how difficult it is to cope with the feeling that something has been lost. I recall Thoreau in Walden expressing the following:

I long ago lost a hound, a bay horse, and a turtle-dove, and am still on their trail. Many are the travelers I have spoken concerning them, describing their tracks and what calls they answered to. I have met one or two who have heard the hound, and the tramp of the horse, and even seen the dove disappear behind a cloud, and they seemed as anxious to recover them as if they had lost them themselves.

Quiet evenings like tonight are good for my soul, especially when I need to flush out the debris of bad sentiments. Working in my art studio often cleanses me, and I’m just glad that I had the space for such activities tonight.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to cope.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog when I need assurance that I am not alone.

 

The Quiet Zone of the Morning

January 16, 2017

knob-outside

Painting During the Morning Hours

. . . Samuel rode lightning on top of a book and he balanced happily among ideas the way a man rides white rapids in a canoe. But Tom got into a book, crawled and groveled between the covers, tunneled like a mole among the thoughts, and came up with the book all over his face and hands.

John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Thnks to Steinbeck, I could not retire to bed until about 1:00 this morning. This book is scratching me in mental areas that have not been scratched in years, and I could never sufficiently express my gratitude for such engaging ideas. I must confess that I have always read more like Tom, which explains why I am trying, yet again, to understand the philosophy of Martin Heidegger as recorded in Being and Time.

Though retiring to bed rather late, I did manage to rise at 8:30 without an alarm (For nearly three decades now, I have detested those 6:00 alarms yanking me out of the sack in order to report to a 7:35 class on normal workdays). I showered and broke my fast as rapidly as possible so I could light a fire and resume my reading of Steinbeck over coffee for nearly an hour, as soothing jazz played in the background (I so love music playing as I read and write!).

fireplace

Ah, the Warmth and Intimacy of a Fireplace!

After an hour of Steinbeck, I returned to the drafting table and immediately got up to my elbows in the watercolor that I resumed yesterday. Like Tom in reading, I also burrow into the details of painting, pushing constantly at new ways to apply the paint. I spent about an hour scratching with brushes and pencils on the corn and the burlap around it. Last night, late, I worked over the textures of the door above (somehow I managed to paint the masking tape residue in places, and my technique worked!) and am happy with the way the overall painting is beginning to form. I was deeply dissatisfied with this piece when I stopped work on it over a week ago, and have had it displayed across the room from me so I could gaze at it repeatedly, day after day, and try to cope with the shaping of the composition. At this point, I am feeling some satisfaction, and I like that–I do indeed hate to lose a painting. Sometimes I just need time to “compost” as I gaze at the work critically and try to determine where it is failing.

heidegger

Another Crack at Heidegger’s Being and Time

And finally, thanks to YouTube, I’m getting some help, listening to excellent lectures on Being and Time. This morning I listened to the first of a series of 28 lectures delivered at University of California Berkeley by Hubert Dreyfus in 2007. Thanks to him, some of Heidegger’s concepts are beginning to become clear to me. Reading Heidegger’s Hut by Adam Sharr warmed me with its ideas about working in a solitary place, away from the workplace. Now, I wish once again to try and understand this thinker’s difficult philosophy.

It’s been a productive morning, and I’m happy that so much of the day and evening remain. Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Into the Sanctuary

January 15, 2017

corn

Up-to-Date Photo of my Most Recent Watercolor in Progress

At most a city-dweller gets “stimulated” by a so-called “stay in the country.” But my whole work is sustained and guided by the world of these mountains and their people. Lately from time to time my work up there is interrupted by long stretches at conferences, lecture trips, committee meetings and my teaching work down here in Freiburg. But as soon as I go back up there . . . I am simply transported in the work’s own rhythm, and in a fundamental sense I am not in control of its hidden law. People in the city often wonder whether one gets lonely up in the mountains among the peasants for such long and monotonous periods of time. But it isn’t loneliness, it is solitude. . . . Solitude has the peculiar and original power of not isolating us but projecting our whole existence out into the vast nearness of the presence of all things.”

Martin Heidegger, “Why Do I Stay in the Provinces?” Radio Address, 1934

This three-day weekend arrived like that rare thoughtful friend. Some kind of stomach virus kept me out of school Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday I returned to school, a shell of what I normally am, and I remember very little of that day. Thursday and Friday I was just tired, still not fully recuperated from the illness. The holiday weekend offered promise of a healing balm.

The reading posted above came from a book I just acquired, Heidegger’s Hut by Adam SharrBefore purchasing the volume, I was aware that the philosopher Martin Heidegger spent much time in a cabin in the Black Forest at Todtnauberg in southern Germany. What I did not know was that he wrote from that secluded dwelling for fifty years, and even turned down the offer to occupy the chair of philosophy in Berlin because it would take him too far away from this country sanctuary. In the same year, he broadcasted the quote posted above.

When I read that passage Friday evening, I just closed the book and sighed, staring into the dark night. I had already decided not to travel over the weekend, and stay in my own suburban home so I could have three days for reading, reflection and getting back to a watercolor I had abandoned before becoming ill. The temperatures had dropped enough to warrant a fire in the fireplace, so I put on music conducive for studying and spent much of this weekend reading the Heidegger book along with primary source texts I have enjoyed in years past from this unusual mind. I am over halfway through Steinbeck’s East of Eden as well. Finally I returned to the watercolor and have posted the latest developments on it for anyone interested in seeing it. I’m experimenting more with India Ink to darken some of the background and stale breadcrumbs to add more texturing to the wood and burlap surfaces. My intention is to continue working on it tomorrow and posting the progress to this blog.

store-picMy Favorite Country Escape

rocking-chair

Porch Time at the same Country Sanctuary

In one of his rhapsodic passages about thinking and writing in the country, Heidegger wrote: “The struggle to mold something into language is like the resistance of the towering firs against the storm.” That is exactly my sentiment as I try to express how profoundly the reading of this book has enraptured my own soul.  Thoreau had his cabin at Walden. Hölderlin had his Tübingen tower. Goethe had his Gartenhaus in Weimar. And Nietzsche had his convalescent home at Sils Maria in the Austrian Alps. For decades I have craved such a “sacred space” for retreat from the work routine so I could enjoy the quiet and hopefully create something special, mentally or aesthetically. Above I’ve posted two photos of a very special place, several hours from where I live–a place to which dear friends have offered access for just such activity.

In 1985, while writing my doctoral dissertation, I fled Fort Worth and lived in rural Whitesboro, Texas in the home posted below. It was over a hundred years old, and though it had electricity, I preferred to write by the light of oil burning lamps at night and still recall the smoky smells that filled the house during those winter evenings as I worked. I still miss those days, thirty years later. Once the dissertation was completed and I graduated, I reluctantly moved back to the city to find work and have been living in the suburbs ever since. I have since revisited this home, too damaged now for an actual residence. The photos are posted below of how it looked around 2010.

dscn2454

dscn2458

My Residence in 1985

knob-1

Close-up of the Painting in Progress

I look forward to retirement at the end of this semester. Though I’ll continue to live in my suburban home, I’ll seek opportunities to flee to the country for the quiet. I’m grateful that Heidegger left behind his musings on the values of retreat.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.