Man Cave New Year’s Eve
The profane never hear music; the holy ever hear it. It is God’s voice, the divine breath audible. Where it is heard, there is a sabbath.
Henry David Thoreau, Journal, June 28, 1840
After the cat woke me, I sat in silence over the Thoreau Journals, and marveled at this meditation on music. I had no choice but to take out my Martin guitar and play the Neil Young song “Looking Forward.” Fitting, as I lean into this new year. Reading on in Thoreau, I had the wind knocked out of me with this entry:
I sailed from Fair Haven last evening as gently and steadily as the clouds sail through the atmosphere. The wind came blowing blithely from the southwest fields, and stepped into the folds of our sail like a winged horse, pulling with a strong and steady impulse. The sail bends gently to the breeze, as swells some generous impulse of the heart, and anon flutters and flaps with a kind of human suspense. I could watch the motions of a sail forever, they are so rich and full of meaning. I watch the play of its pulse, as if it were my own blood beating here. . . . So am I blown on by God’s breath, so flutter and flap, and fill gently out with the breeze.
Henry David Thoreau, Journal, June 30, 1840
From my former days in the ministry, and my love of the Greek language, I recall the word pneuma, translated Spirit or breath or wind. I recall in the Petrine letters the remark that men of old wrote as they were “moved by the spirit.” That notion always stayed with me–the stirring of the wind, the breath, the spirit, as a muse stirs and gets my attention and prompts me to respond, to create.
On a much funnier and lighter note, I made a pre-New Year’s Resolution: to finish Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast before the New Year. And so I decided to read just one page, further putting off my painting in the Man Cave. And this is what I read (bear in mind that this work is an autobiography of Hemingway’s early writing years in Paris cafes)–
The blue-backed notebooks, the two pencils, and the pencil sharpener (a pocket knife was too wasteful), the marble-topped tables, the smell of cafe cremes, the smell of early morning sweeping out and mopping and luck were all you needed. For luck you carried a horse chestnut and a rabbit’s foot in your right pocket. The fur had been worn off the rabbit’s foot long ago and the bones and the sinews were polished by wear. The claws scratched in the lining of your pocket and you knew your luck was still there.
Some days it went so well that you could make the country so that you could walk into it through the timber to come out into the clearing and onto the high ground and see the hills beyond the arm of the lake. A pencil-lead might break off in the conical nose of the pencil sharpener and you would use the small blade of the pen knife to clear it or else sharpen the pencil carefully with the sharp blade and then slip your arm through the seat-salted leather of your pack strap to lift the pack again, get the other arm through and feel the weight settle on your back and feel the pine needles under your moccasins as you started down for the lake.
Then you would hear someone say, “Hi, Hem. What are you trying to do? Write in a cafe?”
Your luck had run out and you shut the notebook.
It was at this precise moment of reading that my cat (yes, the same damned cat that woke me in the pre-dawn with his sprints across my bedroom floor and into the windows, around the furniture and back out the door) jumped up on top of a pyramid of vintage suitcases I had stacked precariously in the Man Cave, knocking them over with a clatter, causing books to tumble off the edge of the table and across the garage floor. I felt like a babysitter, stuck for the entire day with a 3-year-old that will not stay out of things and leave me at peace!
O.K. Now back to reality. The painting has been serene, as I have spent most of this morning tinkering with the textures on the kerosene lamp and attempting to capture the nuances of light and grime on the globe.
New Year’s Eve Still Life
The cat continues to prowl about the Cave, yowling, knocking things over, and trying to get my attention. I feel a kinship with Hemingway in the Paris cafe with the intruder trying to talk to him:
I thought I would ignore him and see if I could write. So I ignored him and wrote two sentences.
“All I did was speak to you.”
I went on and wrote another sentence. It dies hard when it is really going and you are into it.
And so, I continue to chip away at this still life, sentence by sentence, as the cat continues to do what cats do. I wish he would just settle down and take a nap, take a bath, read a book, or something.
Thanks for reading.