Archive for July, 2014

Late Night Moments with Proust

July 17, 2014
Proust Collage and French Editions

Proust Collage and French Editions

I dined with Legrandin on the terrace of his house, by moonlight.  “There is a charming quality, is there not,” he said to me, “in this silence; for hearts that are wounded, as mine is, a novelist whom you will read in time to come asserts that there is no remedy but silence and shadow.  And see you this, my boy, there comes in all our lives a time, towards which you still have far to go, when the weary eyes can endure but one kind of light, the light which a fine evening like this prepares for us in the stillroom of darkness, when the ears can listen to no music save what the moonlight breathes through the flute of silence.”

Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way

The hour is drawing late.  I have read and written since about 4:30 this afternoon.  I taught summer school from 7:30 till 12:45.  But there is no school on Fridays, and that is very good, since sleep is nowhere near at this point for me, and I am deeply stirred by these beautiful words, even in translation.  I am perpetually amazed that a French author can resonate so deeply with me, knowing that I am reading an English translation, and wondering at the same time what it must be like to read him directly in his own language.  What amazing feeling and insight!  As I read these words, I had the soulful harp music playing from Hilary Stagg’s CD “The Edge of Forever.”  The ethereal quality of this music is no doubt enhancing the kind of reading I’m doing tonight.  I am committed to reading Proust because he wrote from a perspective that we experience primal re-visitations of warm memories from our past, often triggered by some sensation of taste, hearing, touch, smell or vision.  I have always held firmly to that conviction, and love reading his work.

I have posted a small collage I did of Proust some years back, and added some photos of his early publications that were sent me last year when I placed in a Proust competition sponsored by one of our WordPress bloggers.  

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog ro remind myself that I am not alone.

 

Blogging and Loading the Dishwasher

July 17, 2014
One of my Recent Watercolors now Featured on a Coaster

One of my Recent Watercolors now Featured on a Coaster

“I’m going to go upstairs and write for a while,” became as normal a sentence as, “I’m going to go downstairs and tackle some of the laundry.”  My novel was simply one more job I had set for myself.  I cooked meals, did laundry, helped kids with their homework, and I wrote.

Julia Cameron, FInding Water: The Art of Perseverence

Tonight’s blog may come across as silly, but I am writing straight from the heart.  Yesterday I was notifed by WordPress that the day marked the five-year anniversary since I started this blog.  It doesn’t feel like five years, and I certainly never expected to gain the readership I’ve known the past five years.  All of this is still surreal.  As a teacher, I have known the pleasure of leading plenty of workshops, formerly of a pedagogical nature for English and Art teachers, more recently for watercolor enthusiasts.  I doubt sincerely that I will ever lead a “blogging” workshop, so I thought I would take this moment to share the “inside” of why I am doing this.

Years ago, I made the acquaintance (via librarything.com) of a writing professor at a college in Ohio.  I had already reached that age of taking very little advice from others, but for reasons I cannot explain, it seems that whatever she recommended, I believed her and tried it: first facebook, then the blog.  So I have you, Theresa, to thank for starting me down this road.  This was your idea, and it has proved an excellent one.  You’ll never know what all this has come to mean to me.

So, why do I blog?  Well . . . for several decades, my mind has swirled daily with more ideas than I could ever capture and package for lectures and works of art.  My inspiration comes from reading, from writing in a journal (well over a hundred volumes now), from studying the history of ideas, particularly in art, philosophy, literature and religion–and there have never been enough outlets for me to release all these things.  The blog has given me one more avenue, one more venue, for sharing.  Today I read and wrote until my head was spinning, and I realized I could not pull all these ideas together to put in a single blog, so I drafted five more blog entries (perhaps to be released later, if they ever make sense).  Today I was rocked by Melville, Goethe, Kant, Hegel, Shelley, Keats and Proust, as well as some reading in general history of 18th-century Europe.  I just couldn’t seem to slip a harness over this body of ideas, so I gave up, and decided instead to write this general confessional about why I blog.  Blogging has become as normal a habit for me as loading the dishwasher or doing my laundry.  I just do it, and still enjoy it.  And when my ideas move someone else, I am humbled and grateful.

Thanks for reading my blog.

P. S.  I posted a photo of a coaster I just had made that features one of my latest watercolors.  This is the first time I’ve taken this step.  I think I’ll have others made as well.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

i blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Poetry for a New Age

July 16, 2014
The Beginning of a Small Still Life

The Beginning of a Small Still Life

Only poetry can fill the moral vacuum and give to progress a truly creative force.  Poetry awakens and enlarges the mind itself by rendering it the receptacle of a thousand unapprehended combinations of thought.  Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world.

Percy Bysshe Shelley

My summer school class closed out the Romantic unit today and will open the Victorian tomorrow.  But that doesn’t mean I have to stop reading Wordsworth, Keats and Shelley.  Sometimes I move on personally in my reading as the curriculum moves on; sometimes I lag behind, and this time I am glad to do the latter.  Today I have been enriched by Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind” and “Ozymandias.”  I also took some time to re-read the chapter covering his biography in a small book titled Intellectuals that I purchased a few years ago and have enjoyed perusing.

Once I got home to the studio I immediately went to work on this small still life that I began yesterday.  I only got to lay in the background washes on the previous day–six layers of them all told.  I had to spend a great deal of time waiting for each layer to dry (plenty of quality reading time!).  After spending considerable time working on the spine of this one volume, I’m finally starting to figure some things out–it’s not coming easily, by any means.  The volume dates from around 1756, and I was ecstatic to learn that this book (Newton’s Dissertation on the Prophecies) was on Ralph Waldo Emerson’s reading list of ten books when he entered Harvard Divinity School.  I traded a watercolor for this old volume back around 1975 when I lived in north Missouri.  The front cover is detached and the back cover has been lost.  The book also has broken in half, right down the center of the spine.  So it has no monetary value.  But I have enjoyed it as a prop for years.  In fact, I used it on a large acryilc painting I did of Nietzsche back in the late 1980’s.  I’ll post the picture if I can find an image of it somewhere–I sold the painting many years back.  

We’ll see if I can manage a decent watercolor of the book, up close and personal.  I’m working on it now as I gallery-sit as a volunteer for Trinity Arts Guild in Bedord, Texas.  The place is pretty quiet so far, so I’m able to get some quality work done.

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.

Pat Weaver–you can extract just as much philosophy from one stanza of poetry as a chapter from Kant.

Clay Boley–King James Bible stays with you longer than Living Bible because you have to work at it, you have to linger over the text to “get it.”

On my 60th birthday, I thought about the discipline of writing poetic verse, and the thrift of language.

Seated at my writing desk,looking out at the glittering lights, I strive for a sense of optimism, a feeling that as small as I am, what I am doing still matters in the scheme of things.”

Julia Cameron, Finding Water

A Day with the Romantic Poets

July 15, 2014
Pausing for Awhile with the McNeely House

Pausing for Awhile with the McNeely House

“When you become creative in any field,” [Paul Tillich] stated, “your creativity is released in all other fields at the same time.” . . . [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.

Rollo May, Paulus: Reminiscences of a Friendship

A morning spent with the British Romantic poets in a senior English summer school class fed my spirit with exquisite feelings.  We talked for a short while about Wordsworth’s sentiments when he stood in the presence of the wrecked Medieval Tintern Abbey.  Though my words probably failed me, I tried to address the dual sense of loss and presence we experience when we stand pensively in the midst of an abandoned ruin.  My own thoughts of course returned to this structure I’ve posted above–the remnants of the house where my mother lived throughout her childhood and where I visited during summers on my grandparents’ farm.  I find it difficult to describe romantic stirrings, but as the students worked on their assignments, I moved on in silence to some of the featured works of Keats: “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” “Ode on Melancholy,” and “On First Looking into Chaptman’s Homer.”  From that point I turned to a chapter on Shelley in Paul Johnson’s monograph Intellectuals: From Marx and Tolstoy to Sartre and Chomsky.  By the time I got home for lunch, I was ready for another romp in Mehville’s Moby Dick and now have passed one hundred pages in this remarkable story.  After reading awhile, I picked up the brush and worked a little more on Grandmother’s decaying house.  Then I decided to lay it aside for awhile, and began a still life, focusing on a volume I traded for back in the mid 1970’s that was published in 1756.  I have fancied for a number of years what it would be like to do a close, detailed watercolor rendering of an old leather volume.  I’m still tinting in the darkened background, and have already applied four washes of color.  It looks like I’ll be requiring two or three more washes before I can finally get down to the subject.  It’s been a good day for reading, painting and thinking.

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.

 

Enjoying the Gentle Rain of a Darkening Evening

July 14, 2014
Still Working on the Latest Edition of Grandma McNeely's House

Still Working on the Latest Edition of Grandma McNeely’s House

Why is it that there is something melancholy in antiquity? . . . The heavens stood over the heads of our ancestors as near as to us.  Any living word in their books abolishes the difference of time.  It need only be considered from the present standpoint.

Henry David Thoreau, Journal, December 14, 1841.

I got a quick jump on this new sketch of my grandmother’s old house over the weekend before returning to school for the new summer semester today.  In short, it was an excellent first day, and I’m looking forward to returning in the morning for round two.  The afternoon has been exquisite with darkening skies followed by loud thunderclaps and hard, drenching rain.  It is still dark outside, and I found that dividing my time between chipping away at this watercolor and reading further into Moby Dick to be very soothing indeed.  I’m glad that I spent a good part of my vacation making my dwelling more liveable and therefore more pleasant.  It’s been a very comfortable afternoon and evening indoors.  

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.

Logic in the Shadows with Democritus Looking On

July 13, 2014
Studying Logic in the Shadows

Studying Logic in the Shadows

If we shadows have offended,

Think but this, and all is mended,

That you have but slumb’red here

While these visions did appear.

And this weak and idle theme,

No more yielding but a dream,

Gentles, do not reprehend.

If you pardon, we will mend.

William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

A retrospective look over my four-and-a-half day summer semester break is yielding up a satisfied sentiment for me as this summer afternoon stretches into the quiet midsummer evening.  Five thirty-gallon heavy-duty garbage bags are cinched and waiting at my curb for their morning pick up.  They are the refuse yielded up from two previously neglected rooms that I cleaned thoroughly over the holiday and then refurnished with heart-felt delight.  Fifteen new files of weekly lesson plans are also tucked into my external hard drive for an online Logic class this fall at the university which I will conduct for the first time.  I endured plenty of hours of sweat throughout the days in a darkened study, learning these structures well enough to manipulate into lesson plans.  My sculpture bust of Democritus looked at me out from under my study lamp with a look of bemusement, probably wondering if I could pull it off.  My acoustic guitar has been emitting melodies I have not heard in a long, long time.  Sometimes I cannot believe my own fingers are coaxing these sounds from the strings.  This too floods my heart with eudaimonia.  Melville’s Moby Dick and Hawthorne’s “Rappaccini’s Daughter” have transplanted my heart to tender nineteenth-century American affections I have not felt in awhile.  And they paved the way for me to re-open my studies of British literary romanticism in preparation for the second summer term that opens early in the morning.  And what would a holiday be without painting?  A student of mine from decades past, now an artist himself, cared enough to mail photos to me of my grandmother’s house that he found in his portfolio, left over from high school days.  And so with gratitude I begin another watercolor of one of my most cherished memories, this time with an excellent model to follow.  Thank you, Ian!  

Commencement on a New Watercolor

Commencement on a New Watercolor

This vacation has been a precious gift for which I cannot offer enough praise.  I’m satisfied with what I was able to accomplish, and still get some needed rest.  I’m ready for tomorrow.  Hopefully, the students will be able to sense a renewed teacher when I enter their arena.

Thanks always for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

Morning Muses

July 13, 2014
Soothed by the Morning Muses

Soothed by the Morning Muses

That man who does not believe that each day contains an earlier, more sacred, and auroral hour htan he has yet profaned, has despaired of life, and is pursuing a descending and darkening way. . . . The Vedas say, ‘All intelligences awke with the morning.’ Poetry and art, and the fairest and most memorable of the actions of men, date from such an hour.

Sigh.  My last creative morning of this all-too-brief vacation.  Tomorrow morning I will report to work at 7:30.  I love my profession, but love much more the luxury of arising at daybreak and having the leisure to enter the studio to pursue art, music, literature, philosophy–whatever muse is stirring on that particular morning.  By the time I get home from school, I am already partly used up, the day is already dimming, and I am fortunate to recover any kind of splendor such as I’ve known these past few mornings.  But–such is the lot of all people, except those who are independently wealthy or retired with sufficient income to pursue daily bliss.  And sadly, some of that class do not experience this kind of splendor anyway.  So, the bottom line is, I am fortunate to know how these things feel.

This morning I let Copland fill the chambers of my heart and home as I prepared and ate breakfast.  As I put away the last of the dishes, I sensed my guitar whispering its invitation to me from the back end of the house, so I responded.  Now that I have had a good morning with music (better from Copland, of course), I turn my attention to studying Logic for my fall course.  I’m pleased to be near the end of that preparation.  And then tomorrow, summer school English with the British Romantics . . . 

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.

 

Life by the Drop

July 12, 2014
And Old Friend Waiting to be Played

And Old Friend Waiting to be Played

Hello there, my old friend

Not so long ago it was till the end

We played outside in the pouring rain

On our way up the road we started over again 

You’re living our dream oh you on top

my mind is aching,’ Lord it won’t stop

That’s how it happens living life by the drop

Stevie Ray Vaughn, “Life by the Drop”

 

I wasn’t prepared for all of today’s bonuses.  I gave myself until Sunday night to finish cleaning out my third bedroom, and actually had it finished before noon.  Now I have all my guitars, amps and unframed art work installed in that room in orderly fashion, with still plenty of room for walking about–no clutter now.  Suddenly I have a combination music room and gallery added to my dwelling.  And to top it all off, I received a phone call from a guitar buddy whom I hadn’t seen in a long time, ready to get back together and play guitars again.  We turned out to be on parallel planes, each not knowing of the other–both of us are clearing out an unused portion of our home to create more creative, livable space.  I can’t wait to see him.  He was the one who taught me to play the song posted above, one that still tugs at my heart every time I think of it.

Reid, thanks a million for the call.  You lifted spirits that were already soaring, Buddy!

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.

Coming Back Home

July 12, 2014
My Restored Study

My Restored Study

Wherever I sat, there I might live, and the landscape radiated from me accordingly. . . . The morning wind forever blows, the poem of creation is uninterrupted, but few are the ears that hear it.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Last night I finally finished the clearing out and refurbishing of the study that I abandoned about three years ago.  It took a long time to get rid of all the debris that had been stacked and piled into this second bedroom-turned-warehouse.  This Saturday morning, rising at 6:00, I gladly took possession of this space once again, and sat in the stillness reading, while the sounds of Handel’s “Messiah” wafted down the hallway from my distant bedroom.  The dawn was breaking, the light peeking through the windows was beautiful, and I was once again in my element.  In this chamber for over a decade, I saw many beautiful ideas and art forms come to life, and cranked out many pages of manuscript.  It is time for these things to happen once again in this environment.

At the time of this writing, I have finished yet another huge installment to my fall semester Logic course, have written extensively in my journal, read another portion of Moby Dick (finally finishing that New Bedford chapel sermon), did some translating from the Hebrew Bible and Septuagint (Psalm 1) and now turn my attention to clearning out the third bedroom that has accumulated debris over the past couple of years.  By the time I return to school Monday, I intend to be living in every room of this house, instead of just the front end.  It’s a good feeling.

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.

As Bach’s Concerto Filled the Sunlit Morning Chamber

July 11, 2014
John Locke Drawing/Collage

John Locke Drawing/Collage

Good poetry seems so simple and natural a thing that when we meet it we wonder that all men are not always poets.  Poetry is nothing but healthy speech.

Henry David Thoreau, Journal, November 29, 1841

Poetry is the opening and closing of a door, leaving those who look through to guess about what is seen during a moment.

Carl Sandburg

The early hours of the morning could not have been sweeter.  A few minutes after waking, I put on Bach’s harpsichord concertos and cranked up the volume, allowing them to fill up the chambers of my house while I showered, groomed, dressed, made breakfast, and then sat down to my work for the day.  A surprise visit from a couple of dear friends came later in the morning, and I realized it had been quite a long while since I was afforded such rich conversation (it seems I spend most of my hours lately commmuning with those creative spirits who published then left our earth centuries ago).  After lunch I divided my time between reclaiming one of my abandoned “junk rooms” (it is 90% complete now!) and continuing my work on this Logic course for the fall.  I am falling in love with John Locke who described logic as “the anatomy of thought.”  A few months ago (on my birthday to be exact), I came up with this notion that poetry was the discipline of language, and that I should devote more time to writing verse, composing songs, and distilling some of the ideas I have cultivated over a lifetime into smaller, more disciplined packages.  The study of logic is reinforcing that conviction, and I am finding a joy in mathematics that I never knew before (I loathed math in high school and college).  Currently, as I puzzle out the Aristotelian and Boolean squares of opposition, I am getting a kick out of analyzing categorical propositions for their truth values.  I know this all sounds dry, but it really isn’t–not to me at this moment, anyway.  It’s a whole new “Scene of Thought” to put it in Hume’s words.

I also love this “compost” idea that shows up in another Lockean quote that I put on today’s collage: “The great art to learn much is to undertake a little at a time.”  When I was a youth, I would sit in my pastor’s study, gaze across his massive library, and feel so ignorant, so under-educated.  I would often express to him in conversation that I wish I could possess a greater knowlege of the Bible.  He would merely smile and say, “Be patient.  It will come.  It just won’t come quickly.  Stay with it.”  Those words mean more to me now than they did at the time, but I still remember them, and am reminded of them now as I read pages from John Locke.  I was never a quick thinker, but a plodder.  Often I wish I could have picked up things more quickly, but I’m glad for what I’ve managed to acquire over the years.  And I’m still on that road, and loving every mile.

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.