The First Glimpse Beyond the Veil

The oldest Egyptian or Hindoo philosopher raised a corner of the veil from the statue of the divinity; and still the trembling robe remains raised, and I gaze upon as fresh a glory as he did, since it was I in him that was then so bold, and it is he in me that now reviews the vision. No dust has settled on that robe; no time has elapsed since that divinity was revealed. That time which we really improve, or which is improvable, is neither past, present, nor future.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

View of the Laguna Madre from the Field Station

View of the Laguna Madre from the Field Station

Extending the spirit of Thoreau, I peered past a veil yesterday, not shielding an ancient statue, but one of the largest of the six hypersaline ecosystems on our planet. And I’m certain that I felt the same kind of shudder experienced by Thoreau with his first look across Walden Pond, or Annie Dillard with her first gaze across the terrain of Tinker Creek. In less than a month, I will live as a guest on one of the islands of this “mother lagoon” system and pursue my bliss of painting, observing, writing and fly fishing. I arrived home late last night, after my first escorted visit to the island, slept soundly, and today have been doing nothing but reviewing the extensive weekend notes I took from the people who were key to this new experiment.

Associate Professor Paul Zimba was the one who met me and drove me to the launch site, then traveled with me to the island.  Dr. Zimba was a research scientist for decades before taking his current post on the faculty of Texas A&M University Corpus Christi as Director of the Center for Coastal Studies. In our conversations throughout the morning, I found him to be an amazing man, taking his Bachelor of Arts degree in science, and appreciating the art history and philosophy courses he took. In the ensuing decades, he has managed to present himself as a lover of pure research, yet still cognizant of what is actually inside the test tube besides numbers and descriptive labels. He has a passion for the ecosystem of the Texas coast, constantly observing the plant and animal life that teems there, and converses about his discoveries with genuine enthusiasm. As a man who thinks outside the box, I’m proud of his vision for opening the Laguna Madre Field Station to serve an abundance of educational avenues in addition to the field studies of a handful of university departments.

Robert (Bobby) Duke is a biologist and research assistant for the Center for Coastal Studies. He was the skilled driver Paul preferred since the waters were way up from a recent 15” rainfall. When we arrived at the island, the men noted that thirty yards of one end of the island was underwater. Once we docked, the high winds knocked my hat into the water, and without hesitation, Bobby dove in, searched the bottom of the chest-deep waters, located and retrieved the hat for me, like it was something he did all the time. Bobby is also an enthusiastic conversationalist, appreciating many fields of study outside of his disciplinary home of biology. Above all, he is passionate about astronomy, and filled me with wonder as he discussed the myriads of constellations visible in the night skies above the island. Not knowing his passion for astronomy, I was recently reading portions of Thoreau and his comparison of astronomy to the discipline of classical studies. I can’t wait to flesh out this area of my research, now that Bobby has struck a nerve there.

I don’t know how to begin to introduce Dinah Bowman, the local artist/visionary who brought my name into this residency. Dinah Bowman has her own gallery ( in Portland, Texas, a small coastal town next door to Corpus Christi. Her gallery director and framer, Mike Catlin, was a student of mine during my first years of teaching, and he brought my work into the gallery, introducing me to Dinah. After I taught a pair of watercolor workshops out of her gallery, Dinah broached the subject of this Artist in Residency, which would be the university’s first, and she then worked tirelessly to help make it happen.

Dinah has her B.A. in marine science/chemistry, and her M.A. in terrestrial biology/art from Texas A&M Corpus Christi. She is a highly-skilled painter of marine life, creating rubbings as well as watercolor and acrylic works, and presents her subjects with the precision of a scientific illustrator. Her work in scientific research is so vast, that I wonder how one human can serve a dual role of fine artist and scientist so effectively. But she has done this with skill and enthusiasm for years, and one of her pieces of art now hangs in the Smithsonian.

Twenty-four hours after leaving Corpus Christi, I still feel myself vibrating from all that transpired over the past two days, and I am filled with enthusiasm, despite being sick with allergy symptoms (a nagging four-day episode now). I’ve managed to lose my speaking voice, and am wondering just exactly what I will do before my students in the morning, not having learned sign language. But that is tomorrow–I’m still very happy to be pursuing these fresh ideas today.

Thank you 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 “The First Glimpse Beyond the Veil”

  1. Xraypics Says:

    Sounds wonderful! Hope your voice returns in the morning, otherwise take a sick day and dose yourself liberally with a good malt whiskey. That’s doctors orders!


    • davidtripp Says:

      Hi Tony. The malt whiskey sounds tempting, but I may have to miss Friday due to a three-day art festival I’ve chosen to join. My first two classes have tutorials, so I won’t have to the “The Mouth.” And then, I’ve been holding back this special film for my Philosophy class. I think tomorrow will be that “special occasion.” I’ll still be able to make assignments for all the classes, and not have to speak. Always spectacular hearing from you, my Friend.


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