Morning Coffee with James Joyce


Happily Back in the Gallery this Morning

Towards dawn he awoke. O what sweet music! His soul was all dewy wet. Over his limbs in sleep pale cool waves of light had passed. He lay still, as if his soul lay amid cool waters, conscious of faint sweet music. His mind was waking slowly to a tremulous morning knowledge, a morning inspiration. A spirit filled him, pure as the purest water, sweet as dew, moving as music. But how faintly it was inbreathed, how passionlessly, as if the seraphim themselves were breathing upon him. His soul was waking slowly, fearing to awake wholly, It was that windless hour of dawn when madness wakes and strange plants open to the light and the moth flies forth silently.

James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Well, I wish it had been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon. To get this out of the way quickly–a slab leak flooded my house this past week, and so I have not been able to blog for all the time demanded for shutting off the water, removing soaked carpets and pads from several rooms and shop vacuuming water off all the floors, consulting a plumbing company, and then dealing with insurance adjusters. With no water supply, I fled to the country, and have so missed this wonderful hideaway that dear friends have always made available to me. It has been about fifteen months since I last stayed here, and so this morning was the most serene I have known in an entire week. Coffee on a porch outside a vintage store (the residential part is where I have been privileged to reside) has been a soothing balm, a total contrast from the events I fought all last week.


Morning Coffee in my Favorite Hideaway

Without an alarm, I still woke before 7:00 a.m., just as the dawn was breaking over these east Texas skies. I couldn’t brew coffee quickly enough, wishing to dress and get out into the morning sun. The colors embroidered across the grasses danced between the warm yellows and cold blue-greens. I understood Cezanne’s perpetual frustration at not being able to capture that scintillating vibrancy on his canvases.  This has eluded me in watercolor as well. But still I search . . .

I am writing this at night now, having spent the entire day and evening in The Gallery at Redlands. It has been a satisfying day, visiting with patrons and Palestine friends. I also managed to catch up on all the college work that piled up while I was fighting the flooding issues back home.  I will be unable to post tomorrow, as I will return tonight to the place pictured above in the country where I am completely off the grid. Even the cell phone service is shaky. But that is OK. I need the quiet.

I have often wished I could describe the delicious sensation of waking after a successful night’s sleep the way James Joyce recorded it (posted above). The zone between deep sleep and wakefulness is a realm where creativity is frequently spawned, for me. I welcome it.

An enchantment of the heart! The night had been enchanted. In a dream or vision he had known the ecstasy of seraphic life. Was it an instant of enchantment only or long hours and days and years and ages? 

The instant of inspiration seemed now to be reflected from all sides at once from a multitude of cloudy circumstance of what had happened or of what might have happened. The instant flashed forth like a point of light and now from cloud on cloud of vague circumstance confused form was veiling softly its afterglow. O! In the virgin womb of the imagination the word was made flesh. 

James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

In 1988, I read for the first time James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I was working 9-1-1 for the Fort Worth Police Department, and there were long stretches in some of the night shifts when calls were few and far between. Being tethered to the headset and computer, a dispatcher/call-taker cannot get up and move about. So, during those slack hours, I chose to read. This book was truly a revelation to me, a remembrance of my religious and artistic childhood, two sides that would not reconcile. No man can serve two masters, it has been said. For years I was an artist. Then for years I was a minister and divinity student. When I worked for the police department, I was neither. Reading this volume caused me to sit straight up in my chair most nights on the console. By the time the volume was finished, I knew what I was going to do. I was going to be a teacher, and seek to be an artistic one at that.

And now, thirty years later, I still think back over those night shifts, and over the delicious Joycean mornings waking to a world of wonder and brilliance. I wish all people could know and experience this level of beauty.

oxbow2 painting

Palestine’s Oxbow Bakery

I am proud also to announce that this watercolor found a home tonight. It has been a splendid day and evening.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

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2 Responses to “Morning Coffee with James Joyce”

  1. Sandra Conner Says:

    This was a truly enjoyable article. I am jealous of your “hideaway.” It sounds perfect.

    I also understand the constant pull of ministry and art, sometimes going in different directions. I’m a minister and a writer, and I’ve been so very grateful that I’ve settled into a life that allows me to be both at the same time. Writing inspirational/instructional books and inspirational fiction and poetry allows me to pour the spiritual truths in me into my art with no conflict. Occasionally, I run into a situation that requires more earnest work to bring the two together, but not often. It’s a blessing I don’t take lightly.

    And I relate totally to the creativity unleashed in the very first moments of waking from sleep. I often tell my creative writing students to expect and be prepared for a wealth of creative ideas to come to them at that time — both for new works as well as for solving problems within a work in progress. I personally have two novels on the market right now that were born in those dream-like states — half awake,yet half asleep — with no restrictions on my imagination and creativity.


    • davidtripp Says:

      It sounds like you have truly found your niche, and that unfortunately is rare among humanity, it seems. I am very glad for you. I have had two weeks of household maintenance issues that have taken me off my game. But fortunately, the plumbing has been prepared and I can get back to a normal routine. I feel that those waking moments of the morning are the most important parts of a daily cycle, and really hate it when things get in their way. It’s good that you have found your rhythm. Keep creating!

      Liked by 1 person

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