This has not been an easy day. Waking up to a dark, rainy morning does not crater my spirits, though that was the climate that greeted me at 6 a.m. and stayed throughout the day. No. Today was a day that brought me into contact with two students knocked down by serious medical issues. As a teacher, I know that I have stayed above the fray of meddling–I do not get emotionally involved with my students’ personal affairs. From my first day, twenty-seven years ago, I have felt that caution to stay away from the personal stuff–pour as much passion and intellectual material into their minds on a daily basis as possible, but do not try to be a father or big brother or guidance counselor to them. I have been consistent. But for the first time that I recall, I have spent an entire day inside this school building, fighting back tears, bitter tears. These students are too young to bear what has been dropped onto their slender shoulders. And I cannot even begin to know what their parents feel, because I am crushed beyond help as I write this.
Once school let out, I felt the need to shake off this heavy week, and decided to return to the Kimbell Art Museum in Forth Worth. The rains had brought cool winds, and I felt my tensions elide as I sat behind the Kimbell, sketching the Henry Moore “Figure in a Shelter” bronze that quietly anchors the outside corner of the museum.
After the sketching period soothed my spirits, I turned to one of my Robert Motherwell books, and read his comments about one of his favorite poets, Stéphane Mallarmé:
Sometimes I have an imaginary picture in mind of the poet Mallarmé in his study late at night–changing, blotting, transferring, transforming each word and its relations with such care–and I think that the sustained energy for that travail must have come from the secret knowledge that each word was a link in the chain that he was forging to bind himself to the universe; and so with other poets, composers, and painters.
Just this morning, as I was ironing my shirt for school and listening to a DVD over the life of Frank Lloyd Wright, I thought of Wright’s analogy between the composer and the architect, how each symphony was an edifice of sound. As I sat on that back deck and mused over the synergy between all the creative souls on this earth, my eye drifted over to Isamu Noguchi’s “Constellation” in the sculpture garden below.
It was nearly time to go inside for the 6:00 lecture on the contributions of Noguchi, so I gathered my books and went inside. Unlike many museum lectures, this speaker was stunning. Alison de Lima Greene, curator of contemporary art for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, delivered her lecture titled “Isamu Noguchi: Between Measured Time and the Vastness of the Universe.” Her scholarly erudition was first rate, and her skillful use of words kept me on the edge of my seat. Halfway through the lecture, the lights suddenly went up, and security instructed us to move directly to the underground shelter, as a tornado warning was in progress. I did not know until then that an underground tunnel connected the Kahn and Piano buildings of the Kimbell Art Museum.
Once the storm passed, and we were allowed to return, I would have had the perfect excuse to exit the lecture. But the thought never entered my mind. Returning to my seat, I listened to the second half, equally as engaging as the first. I would drive across several counties to listen to this scholar lecture on any topic concerning the arts.
Driving home later, I felt good for the first time today, and am fortunate that this evening’s opportunities were afforded me. Twice this week, the Kimbell has provided a respite for troubled days. I tried twice today to pull some troubled souls out of the waters. In the end, I needed to be pulled out as well, and I’m thankful that spiritual healing was offered. I want to close this chapter with some words from Emerson’s Nature that Frank Lloyd Wright never tired of sharing:
Every spirit builds itself a house; and beyond its house a world; and beyond its world, a heaven. Know then, that the world exists for you. . . . Build, therefore, your own world.
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.