Contemplation and Composting

My 'Classroom.  A Theater of Dreams

My ‘Classroom. A Theater of Dreams

No one can get anywhere without contemplation.  Busy people who do not make contemplation part of their business do not do much for all their effort.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

For anyone who reads this, I greet you on this Sunday afternoon, wishing you the best of all possible days.  I’m happy beyond words to shed the last of my lingering frailties from my recent week-long illness.  I did manage to get back to class the last three days of this past week, but felt wiped out after the first class of each day.  It has taken so long to feel fully functional.

Currently I’m working on a commission promised some time ago, and don’t feel comfortable posting the in-progress work online.  I will probably post it when it is completed and delivered.  I finally got down to business on it yesterday, meticulously drawing out all the details (it is an architectural piece).  Today I am chipping away at it, waitng for momentum to catch.  So far, it isn’t happening, but I’m patient, feeling good and confident.  The movement will come when it comes.  Meanwhile, I’m alternating my concentrated painting and detailing with readings from Robert Henri, scribbling in my journal, and just thinking in a relaxed mode.  Outside I can see the bright sunshine and a day building toward 70 degrees, but I don’t feel the compulsion to leave the work table and dash outdoors.  All this has been good.  I am just grateful to have a full weekend without scheduled engagements.

I posted a photo of my classroom, because this year it has been a beautiful place to spend my workdays.  No doubt I have posted in the past much grousing on this blog about the wingnuts, details and paperchase deadlines constantly flung at us teachers, but I don’t want to give the wrong impression–every class this year is filled to overflowing with beautiful, eager, receptive young minds, and they have been my life’s blood through an otherwise impossible and difficult school year.  As long as I am surrounded with intellectually hungry students, then the real joy of education blossoms daily, and I do indeed enjoy the teaching, the interacting.  I always have.

I wanted to post the Henri quote about contemplation, because that is at the heart of my lifestyle when I am at my best.  Granted, I often tilt to the sedentary excessiveness, and do not find delight in that.  But when the thinking is good, the reading is good, and the writing is good, I enjoy life to the max, and I am deeply grateful today for the space to pursue precisely this.  I like to consider the composting metaphor alongside the contemplative posturing.  “Composting” I got from Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones.  She writes of our life experiences forming an intellectual compost heap over time, a veritable rich source for writing and expressing our sentiments artistically.  Throughout my life, I have drunk deeply from the springs of theology, philosophy, literature and art history.  In the spirit of Robert Henri, I have stuck with the call to “join no creed, but respect all for the truth that is in them.”  And at this stage of my life, I am still combing through these treasures, searching for some kind of style, some sort of meaning, some kind of artistic identity, not for the museums, not for fame, not for wealth, but simply for the sake of accomplishing something sublime while I’m living out my life on this planet.  Responding to the call of Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, I want to create something beyond myself, something much greater than myself, as all generations of creators before me have managed to do.  I don’t want to be the first stage of an ebbing tradition.  Whitman wrote that “the powerful play goes on” and we are invited “to contribute a verse.”  I just want to make a contribution that matters.

Creeds and schools in abeyance,
Retiring back a while sufficed at what they are, but never
I harbor for good or bad, I permit to speak at every hazard,
Nature without check with original energy.

Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

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3 Responses to “Contemplation and Composting”

  1. Xraypics Says:

    Quarter to six seems late still to be in the classroom, (I presume that’s pm?) But it looks a comfortable and pleasant place to be – much nicer than the stark classrooms of my youth. But I know what you mean abut hungry minds. Teaching has been the joy of my career till now. Tony


    • davidtripp Says:

      Good afternoon, Tony. That was a.m. School begins @ 7:35 here,and I like to get into the room for quiet reading before anyone else shows up. And yes, education is a genuine joy. Our Texas legislature tries anything within its means to suck the joy out of education, but there are those among our ranks that refuse to allow it. When students are ready, teachers will emerge. And my willing students have always allowed me to thrive. I owe them so much.


  2. Leave it in the drawer | Says:

    […] you leave there is, as Natalie Goldberg puts it, work that needs to compost, ferment, break down, and grow again. And there’s a companion drawer in the mind where the […]


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