Note to readers: What follows is the blog I composed one week ago on the laptop at the island, but was unable to post (no Wi-Fi access):
T U E S D A Y
Man is the artificer of his own happiness. Let him beware how he complains of the disposition of circumstances, for it is his own disposition he blames. If this is sour, or that rough, or the other steep, let him think if it be not his work. If his look curdles all hearts, let him not complain of a sour reception; if he hobble in his gait, let him not grumble at the roughness of the way; if he is weak in the knees, let him not call the hill steep. This was the pith of the inscription on the wall of the Swedish inn: “You will find at Trolhate excellent bread, meat, and wine, provided you bring them with you!”
Henry David Thoreau, Journal, January 21, 1838
The morning was cool and breezy, and I dozed until 7:00 a.m. Pulling on my wading boots after breakfast, I walked eastward into Night Hawk Bay, entering the water for the first time. I quickly decided this was not a good idea. I could see redfish activity, far out beyond the grass beds, but decided not to wade out so far from shore that I could no longer see my boots. I had read enough about sting rays that I knew I did not want to disrupt my residency on the island by getting stung and having to call for medical help and thus losing a day or two. From where I stood there was only a sediment bottom visible to my eyes, with nothing to see but blue crabs scurrying away.
Returning to the station, I plugged in the gas-powered generator for the first time and brewed my first batch of Starbuck’s coffee. I then sat gazing westward across the waters from the front porch, wrote in my journal, and occasionally looked up at the paintings from the first two days arranged along my outdoor workbench. Finally, my two cups of coffee were drained, and it was time to go to work.
Passing between the dormitory and the electrical control room, I spotted a lovely composition between the buildings, framed up perfectly: the house on the first island north of me, backed by a large, dark forest, complete with a dock leading to the water, and a sprawling view of its green property, the lagoon, and then my own property replete with wildflowers and cacti. The clouds were piled high above and I began work on a small painting that I knew was going to take longer than the drybrush studies from the day before.
Soon after beginning my pair of Albrecht Dürer studies in the front of the station, I spied just off my east shore a man in waders in the water, away from his anchored boat, stalking. I retrieved the field glasses that Bobby Duke left on my conference table, and looked intently at the stalking fisherman, waiting, waiting, waiting, always surveying the water. Suddenly he casted. He was using a spinning reel, and was catching nothing. Though I am a fly fisherman and he was a spin-cast fisherman, we were both descendants of the same ancient Christian sect—the Coenobites. (I stole this pun from Thoreau’s Walden. For anyone unfamiliar with the pronunciation of the sect, it sounds this way: “See? No bites!”)
When I lie down to sleep tonight, I will be at the half-way point of my residency. I have not been lonely at all, and the time has evaporated quickly. I am on my third day now. The social media has had people chatting with me throughout each day, and every morning I have awakened to a backlog of messages. The blog has done very well too. Tomorrow the media group will arrive at the island sometime after 9:00. I have already met one of the contingency, Captain Jay Tarkington. He came out yesterday to work on the electrical problem and showed me how to use the gas-powered generator. He is also a professor at TAMUCC, taking seriously his scientific research as well as his educational theories. And Bobby Duke will probably come with the group tomorrow. Dinah Bowman plans to come as well. Dinah carries a plethora of fresh ideas with her and is always inspiring me. Because of all these newly-found friends, along with my host of friends on social media, I don’t know what loneliness is this week. This has come as a very refreshing surprise. When asked by acquaintances if I feared being alone, my answer was No. I expected solitude, and I am getting it. But I certainly do not feel alone. Well-wishers are sending their greetings, encouragement and warm sentiments around the clock, and I love them all for that.
Art History has been surging through my veins as I’ve painted out here. Andrew Wyeth’s compositions and vignettes, Albrecht Dürer’s drybrush grass studies and quotation about wresting art from nature, Motherwell and Matisse with the open door series, Richard Diebenkorn as I worked on my cloud portrait yesterday and laid down the horizontal bands on the lower border of horizon, lagoon and land. For several years now, I have read art history for the pure pleasure of it, instead of for purposes of preparing lesson plans. I love the notion of art history serving me in this capacity, feeding my imagination and creative eros as a visual artist.
I blink my eyes, and the residency is half-finished. I’m delighted that I have completed ten watercolor studies already. Perhaps I’ll have twenty by the time I leave this place. At any rate, it was my goal from the beginning to crank out a body of work worthy of this stay.
Before closing, I’ll post a few pictures of friends on the island. The great blue heron began on the edge of the lagoon, but has been landing closer and closer to where I sit on the porch. The swallow is nesting on five eggs above one of my doors. On the second day, she stopped flying away every time I passed by. I guess she is used to me now (perhaps I have a gentle, calming spirit after all). The jelly fish is the reason I’m glad I chose not to remain in the water for very long this morning.
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.