Morning Ruminations

My books I’d fain cast off, I cannot read,

‘Twixt every page my thoughts go stray at large

Down in the meadow, where is richer feed,

And will not mind to hit their proper targe.

Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

Rising at 5:33 on a summer Saturday morning was not in my plans. But in my waking moments, I reached for my phone and found this amazing greeting from an old friend of mine:

What a great night on the river. I was tight line fishing from the yak when I got a visitor. An otter swam right up to the yak close enough that I could reach out and touch it. He played around the yak for awhile and disappeared into the darkness. When I headed for the ramp he showed up along side of me and followed for a ways down the river and then disappeared. It was amazing.

The author, Wayne White, I have known since second grade. He is a farrier now situated on a great spread west of St. Louis, not far from historic Route 66.  Anyone who considers him/herself an outdoor enthusiast should check out his Bourbeuse River blog:

It has been my dream to join Wayne on the river for some serious fishing and exploring. He also has a penetrating artist’s eye with his camera. And it has been years since I’ve been in a boat cruising a river for fishing and sketching.

After catching up on Wayne’s exciting life style, I decided I needed to get some breakfast on the table: some coddled eggs (love those English coddlers my friend Dinah secured for me in an antique shop recently), Greek yogurt with pineapple, blueberries, buttered toast with peach jam (thank YOU, Jill, for the jam!), V-8 and coffee.

Early Saturday Morning Breakfast

Early Saturday Morning Breakfast

Breakfast was a satisfying experience this morning, but I would trade it quickly for what my friend Wayne does on his mornings:

Following breakfast, it was time to settle into my favorite chair and let a sage from yesterday prod my thoughts . . .

Go where we will on the surface of things, men have been there before us. . . . But the lives of men, though more extended laterally in their range, are still as shallow as ever. Undoubtedly, as a Western orator said, “Men generally live over about the same surface; some live long and narrow, and others lived broad and short”; but it is all superficial living. . . . The frontiers are not east or west, north or south, but wherever a man fronts a fact, though that fact be his neighbor, there is an unsettled wilderness between him and Canada, between him and the setting sun, or, farther still, between him and it. Let him build himself a log-house with the bark on where he is, fronting IT, and wage there an Old French war for seven or seventy years, with Indians and Rangers, or whatever else may come between him and the reality, and save his scalp if he can.

Henry David Thoreau, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers 

As I read the sage’s words concerning the “frontier” and one’s act of “fronting” reality, I recalled his famous text recorded later in Walden:

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

Thoreau built his cabin on Walden Pond, remarking that Harvard had taught him all the branches of learning, but none of the roots. It was time for him to front nature directly, to see if he could learn from her. This sentiment has always stirred me deep within: all formal education is secondhand; if God grant we live long after graduation, we can devote the rest of our lives to exploring this enveloping world and sorting out all these wonders that approach us, offering themselves to us. When theologian Paul Tillich was nearing the end of his life, he expressed gratitude to our country for giving him a new start after the Third Reich expelled him from German universities. He said that American universities were free, yet superficial–we study the surfaces as we survey our histories, but never get to the depths of what matters. He challenged us to restore the vertical dimension to education. This has haunted me throughout my decades in the classroom. I cannot teach a student to think, but hopefully I can challenge him/her to nurture that natural human curiosity within that desires to explore. Aristotle opened his Metaphysics with “All persons by nature desire to know.” Immanuel Kant, in his “What is Enlightenment” challenged his readers: “Sapere aude! (dare to know)”.

I resumed something started late last night–experimenting with textures by pushing a sharpened 8H pencil into the surface of the paper, and then skating lightly over the top of it with a 6B pencil, showing the creases left by the hard pencil beneath. I experimented with the textures on the shell of this crab carcass I brought back from the island last month. Then I also played with both pencils, layering them in the background tones. I still have plenty to learn from this.

Expermenting with Pencil Drawing of Blue Crab

Expermenting with Pencil Drawing of Blue Crab

My workspace is starting to pile up, so I guess it’s time to tidy up a bit, then go after the chores that are waiting for me today.



Thanks for reading.

I draw in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

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5 Responses to “Morning Ruminations”

  1. Charlie O'Shields (doodlewash) Says:

    Love reading your posts David! As well as seeing your work. Thanks so much for ruminating!!


  2. doubledacres Says:

    David thank you so much for the kind words. The coffee pot is ready and waiting on you.


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