Pre-dawn Moments with the Muses


I who sail now in a boat, have I not sailed in a thought?
Henry David Thoreau, Journal

Rising at 5 a.m., one hour before my scheduled time, proved to be extremely difficult. I fought off every urge to return to my bed to get one more hour of sleep. Though I did not feel great physically, I really believed down deep that it was important to have at least an hour to myself before entering the classroom. Thirty minutes passed before I finally found my footing in the Journals of Thoreau. Every time I awaken with that feeling of uncertainty about what I am doing with my life, I find an affirmation in the writings of a great soul, on this occasion, Thoreau:

The hardest material obeys the same law with the most fluid. Trees are but rivers of sap and woody fibre flowing from the atmosphere and emptying into the earth by their trunks as their roots flow upward to the surface. And in the heavens there are rivers of stars and milky ways. There are rivers of rock on the surface and rivers of ore in the bowels of the earth. And thoughts flow and circulate and seasons lapse as tributaries of the current year.

As I lingered over his words, I thought of my own life as a river that flowed eventually south into the Texas Laguna Madre, settled there awhile, and then reversed its course back to the metroplex where I now try to share my vision while down there. The river is a marvelous metaphor for the life of the mind. How many times could we describe our individual selves as rivers of ideas, each of us pushed on our unique course by a passionate heart that pumps that energy throughout our bodies? Or better still, could each of us not represent a single tributary, branching from the same source and pushing on our individual odysseys? Meandering rivers. Splintering tributaries. All of us beautiful in our own way. For about half an hour this morning, I enjoyed the flow.

Taking up the pencil, I decided to push my experiment a little further down the river. I am still exploring the possibilities of indenting the paper surface with a dried-up ballpoint pen as a stylus, and then rubbing soft graphite and blending stumps over the top, to see if I can render the semblance of grass and flower patterns. I posted this morning’s example above.

Just before leaving for school, I took last night’s painting outdoors, peeled off the masquing and brushed away the grains of salt to see what lay beneath the mess:

Lower Left Corner of Watercolor in Progress

Lower Left Corner of Watercolor in Progress

I believe that with a little tweaking, I can turn this blob of color into a bed of firewheels and assorted wildflowers from the Texas Laguna Madre.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.


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