Renewing the Watercolor Rhythm While Slowing Things Down

Resuming Work on the Fort Worth Sinclair Station

Resuming Work on the Fort Worth Sinclair Station

We’re in such a hurry most of the time we never get much chance to talk.  The result is a kind of endless day-to-day shallowness, a monotony that leaves a person wondering years later where all the time went and sorry that it’s all gone. . . . The Chautauquas were pushed aside by faster-paced radio, movies and TV, and it seems to me the change was not entirely an improvement.  Perhaps because of these changes the stream of national consciousness moves faster now, and is broader, but it seems to run less deep.  The old channels cannot contain it and in its search for new ones there seems to be growing havoc and destruction along its banks.  In this Chautauqua I would like not to cut any new channels of consciousness but simply dig deeper into old ones that have become silted in with the debris of thoughts grown stale and platitudes too often repeated.  “What’s new?” is an interesting and broadening eternal question, but one which, if pursued exclusively, results only in an endlesss parade of trivia and fashion, the silt of tomorrow.  I would like, instead, to be concerned with the question “What is best?,” a question which cuts deeply rather than broadly, a question whose answers tend to move the silt downstream. . . . Now the stream of our common consciousness seems to be obliterating its own banks, losing its central direction and purpose, flooding the lowlands, disconnecting and isolating the highlands and to no particular purpose other than the wasteful fulfillment of its own internal momentum.  Some channel deepening seems called for.

Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

A heartfelt thanks I extend to those of you who “missed” me, and inquired about my welfare during this recent blog silence.  At the peak of the Texas summer inferno, my air conditioner drain got clogged, and the condensation backed up, soaking my carpet in two rooms in the back of my home.  I had to wait in line (a week) for an available plumber under my home maintenance policy.  So . . . I had to close the blinds to my studio windows to keep out the sun, and refused to watercolor under artificial light.  A week of mandatory back-to-school meetings also kicked in, so my time has been taken every day this past week.  Now, the plumbing problem is fixed, the A/C is running cold and dry, my blinds have been re-opened, and I returned to painting yesterday afternoon, early this morning, and late this afternoon.

Anyone following my blog entries knows I have come across a restored Sinclair gas station on McCart Ave. in neighboring Fort Worth.  I began this full-size watercolor, but only had it drawn out when the plumbing problem began, and the school meetings called me back into service.  I’m painting faster now, not because of any deadline, but because I have been frustrated, laying the brush down for a week.  I feel that I am recovering a rhythm lost a week ago.  And I am enjoying this renewed vigor in painting, immensely.

As to the quote I posted above from Robert Pirsig, there is much linguistic poison I could spew on this blog page, but I choose not to do that.  I was forced to sit for hours this week and listen to “experts” tell us why our public schools are not up to standards.  I have never been convinced by statistics and interpretations spun by those who spend no time in the classroom, yet every year, I am forced to sit for hours and listen to them pontificate.  This year was no different.

At the foundation of my educational philosophy is the conviction that there is no royal road to education, no shortcuts, no such thing as faster, smarter, more efficient.  Technology will not educate our students faster.  We learn by acquiring details, and then composting, reformulating, pushing it back out in writing and oral discourse, debating and re-evaluating it, revising, and pushing it out again.  All of that requires time.  There is no short cut.  Thinkers are grown over the years, not in six-week grading units.  I myself am still growing my intellect, refining my discernment, practicing and criticizing my own writing and discourse.  My pledge this year, as always, is to take the students where they are, and do my very best to push them further down the road, engaging in that arduou process, so that they leave my class smarter and more polished than they were when they arrived.  The numerical values used to quantify the excellence of my students’ achievement I will take with a grain of salt.  They are not statistics, they are real people, with real life issues, and an inborn drive to grow.  I will not stand in their way.

My greatest rewards during the swirling maelstrom of meeings this past week were those stolen moments of genuine conversation with enlightened colleagues, over books, ideas, and genuine wishes to continue what we started at the beginning of our careers.  These moments we were able to have in spite of the regimentation of the week’s mandated meetings.  These moments we had because we wanted to discuss issues that matter in education–real issues involving real classes, real students, and face-to-face daily encounters.

School doesn’t begin till Monday, but I’m ready.  And I have pledged to myself that I will not stop painting with the commencement of the new school year.  I have an early-morning appointment with my drafting table.  The supplies are laid out and ready.  I’ll see what I can do on this painting before I head back to my classroom to spend another workday.

Watercolor in Progress in my Studio

Watercolor in Progress in my Studio

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I feel that I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

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8 Responses to “Renewing the Watercolor Rhythm While Slowing Things Down”

  1. Playamart - Zeebra Designs Says:

    ha! good luck painting before school hours! i could never do that, because i would look up after being in never never land and realize that i had ten minutes to get to school before classes started, and i lived a half-hour’s drive from town!

    i admire your dedication!

    the painting is looking great!

    z

    Like

    • davidtripp Says:

      Hello there! I did manage to get up before first light and chip away at this thing, and loved it. I don’t have classes till next week, and yes, it will be difficult doing this sort of thing, seeing that classes start at 7:35. My 8:00 arrivals this week have made early painting possible. And I only live 4 minutes from my campus.

      Like

      • Playamart - Zeebra Designs Says:

        four minutes! oh you are very lucky!

        i still remember those break-the-speed-limit drives thru the flatlands of the delta!

        z

        Like

      • davidtripp Says:

        For nine years, I drove 40 minutes to school, through the morning rush-hour commute. Now that I’m where I am, I have no clue why I put up with that distance and aggrivation for so long!

        Like

      • Playamart - Zeebra Designs Says:

        ja! my drive was through the alluvial flatlands of the mississippi delta.. it was a beautiful drive, and it helped separate home life from work.. by the time i reached school, home was ‘behind..’ and by the time i reached home, school was behind!

        it’s great that you’re so close, however, and that it fits your lifestyle now!

        Like

      • davidtripp Says:

        Yes, this fits my lifestyle–the 40-minute commute was through two cities. Ugh. Now that I live in the burbs, I at least don’t have to fret while cruising along residential streets.

        Like

  2. Barbara Tyler Says:

    Last week at the YMCA I spoke with a mother and her two children about the upcoming school year. One of the first things out of a bright, eager 6th-grader-to-be was an intense fear of the STAR tests.
    I agree comepletely with you about education. It does seem that those in the higher eschalons of education are so busy thinking of “new” ways to teach that they fail to see the root of real problems and issues facing students today. In a recent interview for a teaching position, at least half of the questions I answered had to do with discipline. I kept wondering if administration and policy makers fail to see that most of my potential job as a teacher deals with keeping the peace rather than teaching, we as a collective society have failed our children and will continue to do so.
    As for the eager girl looking toward 6th grade with trepidation, I assured her she would do just fine on the STAR and wished her a fun and happy year. What else can we do for her but remain positive and be encouraging…great teacher qualities that, hopefully, can’t be taken away.

    Like

    • davidtripp Says:

      Barbara, thank you for that! You belong in education. I wish I could have stated those matters as well as you. Those of us “in the trenches” know how complicated all this is, far beyond the studies and statistics floating down the pike that “supervisors” think will improve what we do. I wish you all the best as we move together into this next term.

      Like

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