Saturday Morning Musings with Thoreau

Preparing to Paint, while reading Thoreau and Listening to Music

Preparing to Paint, while reading Thoreau and Listening to Music

Of what manner of stuff is the web of time wove, when these consecutive sounds called a strain of music can be wafted down through the centuries from Homer to me, and Homer have been conversant with that same unfathomable mystery and charm which so newly tingles my ears?  These single strains, these melodious cadences which plainly proceed out of a very deep meaning and a sustained soul, are the interjections of God. . .  But ah, I hear them but rarely! . . . The clear, liquid notes from the morning fields beyond seem to come through a vale of sadness to man, which gives all music a plaintive air.  It hath caught a higher pace than any virtue I know. . . . What then, can I do to hasten that other time, or that space where there shall be no time, and these things be a more living part of my life, — where there will be no discords in my life?

Henry David Thoreau, Journal, January 8, 1842

It was soothing to awaken on a Saturday morning without an alarm at 8:13 a.m., to shower, prepare a hot breakfast and enter my garage studio before 9:00.  I continued arranging the fly fishing still life that I began assembling late last night while playing a tape of instrumental music similar to the kind I heard played live in Creede, Colorado many summers ago.  The strains of music took me back to that day filled with wonder, and then when I sat at my drafting table to read some more pages from Thoreau’s Journal, I was moved by the serendipitous nature of what I read, and now post these words to introduce my blog.  I’m still amazed that a twenty-five-year-old Thoreau thought and wrote in this manner.  In my own senior years, I am continually stirred by the wisdom of this young, active mind.

Yesterday my Philosophy class was visited by a lecturer possessing an electric spirit who earned his Ph.D. in Hegel’s philosophy.  He spent more than an hour discussing with my students the contributions of Hegel’s comprehensive system, and as he spoke, I continually felt the stirrings of ancient breezes from Asia Minor and Greece, as well as the hum of contemporary ideas that we as a class had explored over the past several weeks.  I cannot put words to these stirrings, but music comes close.  Like chamber music, these strains swept gently through the corridors of my soul, and have remained with me, throughout last night’s activities and on into this morning.  Experiences like this I call a Gift, I can think of no better word.  I do not feel that I did anything to deserve such a visitation, but I am grateful for this Gift in ways that defy description.

Thoreau’s final sentence reads like that of a twenty-five-year-old, to me.  When I was much younger, and in the pastoral ministry, we always searched for some kind of evangelical revival, or awakening, sometimes even resorting to methods to induce such experiences.  I reached a point where I confessed that I could not make these kinds of peak experiences happen, I just have to accept them when they come, and since those years, they have come with ever-greater frequency, it seems.  I cannot make the wind blow, but I can adjust my sails to catch it when it does blow.  This I try to do with my own daily habits of reading, journaling, creating art and always trying to think on transcendent matters.  Yes, I have a job and deadlines to meet always, but I’m finding in these later years that these promises can be kept more easily by applying some discipline to the daily schedule and creating space for what others might call “down time” but I prefer to call “solitude.”

I hope some of what I wrote made sense.  It’s time for me to move on to making art . . .

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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4 Responses to “Saturday Morning Musings with Thoreau”

  1. coreyaber Says:

    You seem to have/run a really awesome philosophy class. I really enjoyed philosophy in high school-I had a brilliant teacher. Its been interesting to look back and trace how the different parts of what I learned at different times come together. I imagine your students will do the same. I think of your point about adjusting your sails, and recall when I decided not to pursue academia (I was seriously considering British History, which was my major in college, again with a brilliant inspiring professor). Not focusing at that time allowed all sorts of disparate elements to coalesce over the years to be processed further and come out through art, literature and design, three fields that enhance and require receptivity. Thoughts to pursue further on my own blog…Good post. Thanks for writing it.


    • davidtripp Says:

      Corey, your words and your prolific artistic output have stirred me the past couple of years. Thank you for posting such an affirmative response. I’m thrilled to hear of your synthesis of these diverse strands of learning from your past. Like Tennyson’s “Ulysses” we can acknowledge that we are a part of all that we have met. I’m proud to know you–thanks so much for introducing yourself to me when you entered the blogging world.


      • coreyaber Says:

        Thank you for saying so. I wouldn’t have started blogging if I hadn’t found yours. The still life arrangement you’re starting looks really interesting. A nice mix of lines and curves, hard and soft surfaces.


      • davidtripp Says:

        Thanks for looking, Corey. I’m fascinated with exactly the same elements you brought up. I’m crazy about replicating textures in watercolor, though I seldom get what I want in my endeavors. The curves on this piece have taken quite a lot of my time today, but I’m determined to stay with it.


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