Thoreau Got Into My Kitchen

Still Adjusting the Edward Hopper Composition

Still Adjusting the Edward Hopper Composition

The fickle person is he that does not know what is true or right absolutely,–who has not an ancient wisdom for a lifetime, but a new prudence for every hour.  We must sail by a sort of dead reckoning on this course of life, not speak any vessel nor spy any headland, but, in spite of all phenomena, come steadily to port at last.  In general we must have a catholic and universal wisdom, wiser than any particular, and be prudent enough to defer to it always.  We are literally wiser than we know.  Men do not fail for want of knowledge but for want of prudence to give wisdom the preference.

Henry David Thoreau, Journal, May 6, 1841

While cooking breakfast early this morning, I opened Thoreau’s Journal on the kitchen counter and resumed reading while waiting for eggs and potatoes to finish.  What I read above put me in a tailspin that lasted most of the morning.  I forced myself to sit at my writing desk for hours and stay with this text, while cross-indexing with texts from Ralph Waldo Emerson and Paul Tillich.  The more I read and wrote, the more my head swam, and it was all invigorating and good.

Looking back over the past quarter-century of my own life’s odyssey, I was immediately aware of many zigzags that threw into bold relief a number of troubling failures.  And now I am glad that I didn’t dwell on those thoughts very long.  What eventually soothed my soul was the reality that over the past three-and-a-half decades, I maintained a steady course in education, navigating through three degrees, followed by a lengthy, unbroken teaching tenure.  The one constant throughout those decades was the pursuit of education, the desire to know more, to explore more, to be more.  The world has been confusingly complex, and many decisions made were not good ones, yet many of them were.  Beneath this flux of history, I now am convinced that there always remained an anchor to keep me in the center.  Paul Tillich believed that “if you know one thing completely, it serves as a center–like a magnet around which iron filings coalesce–for all your other knowledge.  Then what you learn about anything else will fall into pattern.”

Emerson, in his “Self-Reliance”, compared one’s zigzagging through life to the tacking of a ship:

There will be an agreement in whatever variety of actions, so they be each honest and natural in their hour.  For of one will, the actions will be harmonious, however unlike they seem.  These varieties are lost sight of at a little distance, at a little height of thought.  One tendency unites them all.  The voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks.  See the line from a sufficient distance, and it straightens itself to the average tendency.  Your genuine action will explain itself and will explain your other genuine actions.  Your conformity explains nothing.

Reading further in the Emerson essay, I came across these healing words:

The force of character is cumulative.  All the foregone days of virtue work their health into this.  What makes the majesty of the heroes of the senate and the field, which so fills the imagination?  The consciousness of a train of great days and victories behind.  They shed a united light on the advancing actor.  He is attended as by a visible escort of angels.

I could not have asked for better timing.  I was wearied and scarred by the close of the recent school year.  Tomorrow I begin the first day of two semesters of summer school, and I am now ready more than ever.  In addition to summer school, I am building my first online university course in Logic.  There is so much out in front of me right now to learn, but thank heaven I am ready and hungry to pursue these matters.  I just needed the voice of a sage to give me assurance and guidance.  What a gift this day has been.

Besides working on my courses for Logic, English IV, Advanced Placement Art History and Philosophy this day, I have also given further attention to this watercolor posted.  I decided to complement the yellows on the shadowed side of the house with some plum and lavender washes of color.  I also deepened the contrasting darknesses of the windows and door.  Finally, I turned my attention to the foreground, and taking a size 12 round brush, stroked line after line after line in dark violet to give shadows to the weeds.  Once that dried, I dipped my fingers in some of the neutral color mixes on my palette and left my imprints all over the weedy lawn.  Now I’ll let it all dry and figure out what to do next.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am never really alone. 




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11 Responses to “Thoreau Got Into My Kitchen”

  1. lifeofawillow Says:

    i like this post 🙂


  2. scottchan0809 Says:

    This is a very beautiful picture.Do you drew it by your own? If yes, you must be a genius of painting and you must teach me


  3. Playamart - Zeebra Designs Says:

    i might have mentions ‘comments ago’ that i once named a cabin on the lake ‘walden’ (in mississippi..) people asked, ‘did you sell your cabin to the waldens?’ i was baffled; how could people not make the connection?

    enjoy your students and your time in the teaching/mentoring role – that’s what gives you the reserve to retreat to solitude.. in contrast, solitude gives me the energies to relate to and interact with society! i’m on my way to guayaquil for meetings and then for a ten day immersion w/society….

    don’t forget to ponder the sun’s placement on the day of the solstice!



    • davidtripp Says:

      Nice to hear from you and that cool story. Too bad Walden University does so much advertising today–it’s what people think I’m referring to when I mention that great book. Enjoy your meetings. So far, summer school is rejuvenating for me.


  4. denisebushphoto Says:

    Love your watercolor style … and the red roof!


  5. BJR Says:

    I love it the painting! The colors you added made it look more aged and “in the past”.., for want of a better phrase right now. It’s amazing what shadows do for for a painting…and in our life, also. We don’t always like them!…they are sometimes daunting to face and walk through, but they make our characters better and more complete.In other words we learn from them. It takes the dark of night to make the stars’ light shine, you know.

    I, too, find I need solitude to face activity. I can take only so much “noise of life”…and then I find I need the quiet where I can reflect on what’s transpired. (Some of it is the result of illness, but a great part is also “me”) That is when my best art comes forth. More out of my heart…instead of my mind.

    Sounds like you have a lot going for you. Congrat’s! One step before another is how a great journey is walked.


    • davidtripp Says:

      I appreciate you comments very much. Today has been a noise-filled day, but I’m finding some quiet in the night, and like Robert Frost, am becomeing “acquainted with the night.” 🙂 I hope you’ve been able to enjoy your creative times of late.


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