Archive for October, 2018

I Live in Two Worlds

October 31, 2018

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Cutting, Tearing and Pasting

And at 4 in the morning wrote 500-words again, with the admonition to “Keep it moving.” Thank God for work!

Jack Kerouac, Journal entry , Friday, April 29, 1949

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Shakespeare and Descartes

While meeting with my artist friends last night over dinner, we discussed new directions we are taking with our art. I resolved yesterday that I was bringing collage back into my body of work. I have been restricted to watercolor in recent years because of the higher-end art festivals requiring us to display a single, unified genre. I understand that. And my “signature” is in the body of watercolors I have put together over the years. But during those years, I have never ceased to pursue academic subjects in my reading, drawing and collage endeavors. And so, this weekend, at the Genny Wood Art Show & Sale in Bullard, Texas, I am adding an extra bin to my booth which will feature collages of Shakespeare, Kerouac, Tillich, T. S. Eliot, and a host of luminaries in the fields of literature, philosophy and theology.

It has been a joy in the studio recently, tearing and cutting papers and materials and combining drawing and watercolor and manuscript fragments into my compositions. I am able to live in my two worlds as I make art while at the same time reading, journaling and pursuing new ideas from my heroes of literature. Jack Kerouac has held my attention the past few days, so today I will turn my attention to collages bearing his images.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

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Shifting Gears

October 30, 2018

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A Moment with “Kevin and Marc in the Morning”

I am back at my own desk at home this morning, preparing for my Logic class, but my heart is still beating in Palestine. The weekend was filled with great moments, as I enjoyed my new friends, Kevin Harris and Marc Mitchell, while they hosted the Hot Pepper Festival. Spending the entire Sunday in the old country store was also a profound blessing, especially watching the deer come out in the evening to graze. Yesterday was a labor intensive Monday, as I rearranged the gallery yet again and took down all my art work in the lobby of the Redlands Hotel. Weekday morning hours in the gallery are always electric, as “Kevin and Marc in the Morning” pulsates just twenty feet to my right, in the same gallery. The fellows surprised me by calling me over to the microphone twice this time. I never know what will happen when I sit at the broadcast table with them. I wish everyone could experience firsthand the dynamics of a live radio broadcast.

Now it is back to my other job–teaching Logic at Texas Wesleyan University, the institution that has been so good to me since the year 2000, providing adjunct contracts that help keep my mind sharp. Nietzsche wrote of the dual forces of Apollo and Dionysus that work in our psychological makeup, with Apollo representing order and Dionysus providing spontaneity (many like to speak of left brain/right brain issues). With my art and passion and overall lifestyle, I have been closer to Dionysus, often feeling more disorganized and undisciplined than creative. Yet, Apollo has had his say in many of my life skill disciplines as well, and most particularly, teaching Logic, with all its inflexible structures.

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This morning I will introduce the Traditional Square of Opposition, credited to Aristotle. I particularly enjoy this part of the semester, and appreciate the positive attitude of this semester’s students.  And of course, a ton of grading will be waiting for me once I return home from class. But . . . by bedtime, all of this will be completed and tucked away. Meanwhile, I continue to seek quality in the day.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Another Buddhist Monastery Morning?

October 29, 2018

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2:17 a.m.

This happens often when I spend my nights in the country at my favorite hideaway—I’ll retire to bed around 8 or 9:00 and find myself awake at this mystical/magical/meditative hour.

Waking in the midst of yet another night, I lay in the quiet darkness and could not stop thinking about the enchanting day I spent yesterday at this place. Having slept late into yesterday morning, I made the decision to spend the entire Sunday here and not make the fifty-minute drive to the gallery. Sundays in the gallery usually are spent completely alone; hardly anyone comes into the Redlands Hotel or gallery on Sundays. I manage to get plenty of work done then, but this time I just wanted to let the day drift by slowly with reading and contemplation.

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The owners of the Gallery at Redlands own this property where I am privileged to spend weekends when the Redlands is completely booked. They come out to their ranch to feed livestock daily, and I always enjoy moments visiting with them. But yesterday was different; they had more time on their hands, and stopped by for a visit on the veranda that extended for quite a stretch. The conversation inspired me so much that I wrote the rest of the day in the journal, fleshing out the ideas we discussed. They are just as inspired as I with the possibilities now for an art culture to take root in Palestine. With the arrival of the radio station in the gallery and the enthusiasm of the personnel there, I was able to see during the weekend’s Hot Pepper Festival the possibilities now awaiting all of us. We have decided to launch an art festival next fall for the very first time in Palestine. I’ll be discussing more of this in the months ahead.

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As evening descended, I sat motionless in the rocker, hoping for deer to come and visit. I wasn’t disappointed. Looking way off across the pastureland to my right, I saw one, two, three, four, then five deer emerge from the edge of the forest and slowly make their way out into the pastureland to graze. Turning my head back to the yard in front of me, I felt a jolt like electricity flashing through me—a deer was standing thirty yards directly in front of me. She had stepped out from the shadows of the trees behind the barn. As I continued to watch her, a second one then materialized out of the darkness. Then a third. A fourth. A fifth. A sixth. And as I continued to watch, I then saw silhouettes of more in the shadowed woods—seven, eight, nine and ten. I continued to sit still for about fifteen more minutes, watching all of them, grazing, suddenly jerking their heads up and standing erect, ears out, listening, then lowering their heads to graze, then heads up again—a continual rhythm of eating and watching for potential danger. Then, as if following a signal, one exited stage left, followed by the next, then the next, and in less than a minute they were all gone. I then looked out over the pastureland, and all the deer out there had vanished as well. The moment had passed.

Crossing a bare common, in snow puddles, at twilight, under a clouded sky, without having in my thoughts any occurrence of special good fortune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration. I am glad to the brink of fear. In the woods too, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period soever of life, is always a child. In the woods, is perpetual youth. Within these plantations of God, a decorum and sanctity reign, a perennial festival is dressed, and the guest sees not how he should tire of them in a thousand years. In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life,—no disgrace, no calamity, (leaving me my eyes,) which nature cannot repair. Standing on the bare ground,—my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space,—all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all . . . 

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature 

Most of yesterday was spent on the veranda reading slowly and taking observational notes from Philip Kapleau’s The Three Pillars of Zen. Fifty-four pages into the text, I find myself very absorbed with this practice of zazen, having already become acquainted with it from occasionally teaching World Religions at TCU and Texas Wesleyan University, and reading Natalie Goldberg the past couple of days has once again brought these ideas to my attention. I cannot honestly say that I have spent time seated in the lotus position, and have yet to spend time counting my breathing, but I am intrigued at the Buddhist writings concerning enlightenment, and these writings convinced me to stay here at this country retreat for an extra day yesterday. Now, having risen at this hour, I have a few more hours to spend with these writings before driving to the gallery to join my radio friends.

7:25 a.m.

Smooth Rock 93.5 FM is in full swing with the “Kevin and Marc in the Morning” show underway. Kevin Harris and Marc Mitchell are always in good spirits when I see them in the studio, and this morning is no different, though they were stretched considerably by the weekend’s festivities. It has to be rough rising before daylight on Mondays when you have hosted a huge weekend event. The Hot Pepper Festival is in the books, and I’m sure they feel no regrets over its success.

And so, this is Dave, along with Kevin and Marc wishing you a splendid day as we send out our greetings from The Gallery at Redlands and Smooth Rock 93.5 FM, live from the historic Redlands Hotel in downtown Palestine, Texas.

The Calm

October 28, 2018

The white cups were placed in front of us. I took a sip. The black blend cut off the top of my head.

Natalie Goldberg, The Great Spring

I always laugh out loud, reading this. I’m finally out in the rural east Texas countryside, alongside a dirt road, in my favorite retreat, an old country store/residence I’ve christened Heidegger’s Hut. The German philosopher preferred his cabin in the Black Woods of Todtnauberg over his university residence in Freiburg. It was in that remote retreat that he thought deeply and wrote his most influential works. And it us here, in east Texas, rather than suburban Arlington that I can feel a Buddhist calm.

Arriving at the store at 1:30 a.m. after an excellent day and evening at the Gallery at Redlands, I laughed to realize that it was exactly that time of morning, 48 hours before, that I woke up and began my Friday. Now I was retiring to bed, and managed to sleep clear till 10:30. I don’t regret missing the early morning this time.

Natalie Goldberg doesn’t like coffee, but I can conceive of no greater taste than my first sip of French-pressed coffee today on the veranda with the cool Gulf winds sweeping over me. I plan to spend the entire day and night at this sacred space. It’s been a long week, and a richly rewarding one, but it feels good to retreat for awhile.

Thanks for reading.

Meet Orlando Guillen

October 27, 2018

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Orlando introduced himself to me a couple of weeks ago at the Edom Art Festival, giving me his card and letting me know he would be at this Hot Pepper Festival today. I’m glad his phone number was on the card, because the 12-block city event has no map or information tent. I would never have found him because he is in Old Town Palestine across the street from one of my favorite dining places.

Orlando works in an auto body shop and fashions his art from scrap parts. I was astounded when I saw the quality and sophistication of his dogwood blossoms and branches. Palestine is a big draw during the Dogwood Festival every March, and I hope these find a home next time the crowds come to town.

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Dogwood Blossoms made from Automobile Scrap Parts

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Orlando’s Booth across the Street from the Pint and Barrel

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If anyone in the area is reading this today, and planning to attend our Hot Pepper Festival, please visit Orlando at his “Crazy Turtle Art” booth. He is located in front of the coffee shop and across the street from Pint and Barrel.

Thanks for reading.

 

Morning Coffee: The Calm Before the Calm

October 27, 2018

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Smooth Rock 93.5 FM before the Morning Broadcast

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Working on a Watercolor before the Festival Begins

Good morning to all of you, just ahead of the Hot Pepper Festival in downtown Palestine, Texas. What a beautiful day, already, bright and sunny with temperatures expected to top out in the seventies.

I awoke in the darkness, staying in my favorite store in rural east Texas. In the darkness of the kitchen I began re-reading with delight over breakfast Natalie Goldberg’s The Great Spring. The Zen-quality of her writing produced a great calm that I much appreciate on a festival day. Thanks to Natalie, I believe I am now experiencing the calm before the calm as I prepare for this festival day.

When I arrived in Palestine shortly after 8:00, I walked through block after block of vendors setting up their booths, and was so glad that this time I was NOT doing that activity (I just went through it, in the rain, a couple of weeks ago). Today I am in The Gallery at Redlands with Kevin Harris and Marc Mitchell. They are in and out of the gallery already, getting their new T-shirts out on display, and making final preparations for today’s broadcast. They are promoting the Hot Pepper Festival, and with this being their third week on the air, they can already feel the adrenaline rush of crowds building outside their “Window to the World”.  The parade is about to commence.

I am looking forward to renewing my acquaintance with emerging artist Orlando Guillen this morning. A couple of weeks ago, he introduced himself to me at the Edom Art Festival, just before the rains arrived and closed us down for good. Orlando told me he was setting up a booth, so I’ll have to go out and find him somewhere in this 12-block conglomeration of displays. Walking the streets this morning, I had the pleasure of meeting a first-time festival participant, Ashley Sturdivant. I still recall the excitement (and anxiety) of my very first art festival years ago. Ashley has a wonderful display set up and we’re all wishing her success in sales today.

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Display of Emerging Artist Ashley Sturdivant

We have a splendid day before us. As I write, the parade has just begun, and I am listening to Kevin and Marc’s live commentary on the floats passing by. I’m delighted that The Redlands Hotel has invited me to display my art out in the lobby of the hotel in addition to what I have inside The Gallery at Redlands.

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My Lobby Display

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“Kevin and Marc in the Morning” covering the Parade Live

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Marc Mitchell, sporting the new T-Shirt on sale today

The Red Fire Grille, across the lobby from The Gallery at Redlands, will be serving lunch on this auspicious day, from 10:00-2:00. The food here is fist-rate.

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The Red Fire Grille

After eighteen months of displaying out of The Redlands Hotel, I am still making the most precious friendships. Wade and Gail Thomas, owners of the gallery, are always there for me and unfailing in their encouragement and enthusiasm. Jean Mollard, owner of the Redlands Hotel, has welcomed me into this home-away-from-home since day one, and always introduces me to guests as “our Artist in Residence.” Kevin and Marc bring such energy to this place with their radio presence, but in addition to that, they are amazing men whom I am so proud to call “friends.” Conversations I have enjoyed with them in just the past three weeks have been life transforming.

Yesterday, I met a local writer, Jan Johnson, currently writing a work of fiction set in Palestine, drawing on her years of experience in this environment. Always, I feel so enriched when given the opportunity to converse with a writer, and I invite you to check out her work at http://www.janicejohnson.wordpress.com.

I’ve been at this laptop too long, and my coffee cup is empty. It is time to get back out into the booths and meet more artists. So, until next time, this is Dave signing off at the Gallery at Redlands along with Kevin and Marc in the Morning at Smooth Rock 93.5 FM, located in the beautiful historic Redlands Hotel in downtown Palestine.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Early Dawn: In the Gallery with my Radio Roommates

October 26, 2018

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The Gallery at Redlands and Smooth Rock 93.5 FM

400 N. Queen St., Palestine, Texas

Waking and rising at 1:30 a.m. was not in my weekend plans. Sheer exhaustion drove me to bed at 8:00 last night. Since the Redlands Hotel is completely booked for the Hot Pepper Festival this weekend, I am afforded the opportunity of spending my nights in that old general store/residence that I have come to love so much. It is an hour’s drive out of Palestine, and remotely located on a dirt road. When I drove on to the property last night, three deer stood in front of the store to greet me.

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The Old General Store

This morning is one of those rare occasions for me to spend time in The Gallery at Redlands while my new roommates broadcast the “Kevin and Marc in the Morning” show on Smooth Rock 93.5 FM., just across the room. As I write this, they are already setting up shop in the broadcast booth. Their show airs from 6 to 10 weekday mornings. You can stream them live on https://www.smoothrock935.com/

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Kevin and Marc are both professional musicians. Marc’s band “blindpursuit” will be live in the studio this morning. Later today, the activity will increase as vendors arrive to begin setting up their booths in the streets outside. The festival will cover twelve blocks downtown. Kevin and Marc are promoting the event and will broadcast on location from 10:00 to 1:00 Saturday.

Last year, I set up my booth on the street. This year I have decided to stay inside the gallery, and the Redlands Hotel has invited me to extend my display into the hotel lobby.  I spent yesterday re-configuring the gallery to accommodate new work I have brought in, and today I’ll work in the lobby, setting up Pro Panels and hanging additional pieces.

Sorry to make this brief, but we’re crazy-busy today. Thanks for reading.

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View of the Gallery with Marc Broadcasting

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View of the Gallery with Kevin Broadcasting

Morning Coffee with Homeric Heroes

October 24, 2018

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Reading often Bleeds over into Collaging

Morning brings back the heroic ages.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Years ago, seated at a Border’s Book Store coffee bar and reading Thoreau’s “Reading” chapter in Walden, I came across these words and jotted them into my journal:

How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book.

Recalling that Thoreau’s favorite book of all time was Homer’s Iliad, which he read at least once a year in Greek, I went to the shelves and picked out this volume:

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The Loeb Classical Library features the original texts on the left pages with the English translation on the facing pages. Grateful that my seminary training included Koine Greek, I found Homeric Greek a little difficult, but still doable. I read the opening seven lines of this epic, and immediately understood why Thoreau loved a book that I thought was rather dull in English translation. The Greek text revealed many layers of meaning that I had never encountered before. Suddenly, I knew the sentiment of the poet John Keats when he stayed up all night reading from the “deep-brow’d Homer”–

Then felt I like some watcher of the skies

            When a new planet swims into his ken

John Keats, “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”

I purchased the volume and have used it countless times in my years teaching Humanities at Martin High School and Texas Wesleyan University. In the spirit of Thoreau, this epic poem truly opened a new chapter in my life.

Rising before daylight this morning, I resumed reading The Iliad, having opened the volume last night and regretfully closing it after midnight, too sleepy to continue reading.

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Frequently while reading, images float through my consciousness, and I am inspired to push the books aside and take out scissors, X-acto knife, glue stick, stencils, templates, pencils, tech pens. The top of my desk is suddenly cluttered with layers of cut-outs, papers and books as I enter my playground of drawing, collaging, scribbling in the journal–all the while hoping that something good will emerge.

Iliad card

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Coffee House Musings

October 22, 2018

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Collage Building in a Local Coffeehouse

After a few hours of scribbling in my journal, and concluding that nothing I wrote this morning was worthy of a blog, I then went into my computer files to look over years of writing that I have preserved, and found a story I wrote years ago about my late Uncle Paul. I revised it thoroughly, and decided to put it up on the blog. I hope some of you will find something positive in it, as the story continues to take on new meaning for me.

Uncle Paul’s Legacy

Boarding Amtrak on a chilly October afternoon in Fort Worth, I embarked on the sixteen-hour journey to St. Louis to pay tribute to my Uncle Paul who had recently passed away.  He was ninety-one.  His ashes would be interred at the Indian Creek Cemetery in rural Jackson, Missouri.  There was a memorial scheduled at a local funeral home. Sitting in coach and rolling late into the night, my heart began to overflow with vignettes of Paul’s legacy.

Uncle Paul was one of thirteen siblings born to tenant farmer parents in southeast Missouri.  Educated in a one-room schoolhouse until he was old enough to work the fields, Paul did the things farm boys did in those days until World War II came calling.  Finishing his service, he chose not to return to his humble southeast Missouri roots, and instead moved to the West Coast in search of a better life.

Paul landed a position with Greyhound Lines, and stayed with the company twenty-five years, promoting to supervisory status, and choosing to work night shifts so he could have sufficient quiet and space to pursue his real interests—writing and story-telling.

Extending the Mark Twain/Will Rogers tradition, Paul developed a love of humor and stories covering country life.  He carefully researched the history of rural Jackson, Missouri, recorded his personal memories, listened in on the reminiscences of others who grew up there, and carefully committed these stories to print after telling and re-telling them to anyone who would listen.

Growing up, all I knew was that Uncle Paul was special.  On the rare occasions that he made the excursion from California to Southeast Missouri, all the Tripps would gather to greet him, and sit in the living rooms until late at night, drinking beer, listening and laughing as he spun his humorous tales and smoked his White Owl cigars.  Personally, I felt that I was re-living the days when people gathered to listen to and laugh at the humor of Mark Twain.

By the time I grew into my teens, the Uncle Paul events had transferred from the indoor parlors to wiener roasts along the banks of Indian Creek.  My Uncle Bus and Aunt Bea lived in a ramshackle house on the banks of the creek, and Paul chose to roost with them every time he came home.  There was one problem–Bea and Bus were early risers and preferred retiring to bed early.  They came to resent these all-night parties.  As the years wore on, they began leveling their protests, but Paul had a tin ear.

I still recall the day Aunt Bea put her foot down and swore there would not be a wiener-roast this time.  “We’re turnin’ in early tonight—no wiener-roast.”  By mid-afternoon, cars began pulling into the driveway.

–Why’s everyone comin’ here?

–The wiener-roast.

–Oh no!  There ain’t no wiener-roast tonight!  I said so.  Where’s Paul?

–At the store buyin’ wieners and buns.

–No, no!  We’re not havin’ a wiener-roast!

Children were dragging up driftwood and tree limbs from creekside for the bonfire.

–Stop draggin’ that stuff up here!  There ain’t no wiener-roast tonight!

Coolers of beer were hauled out of car trunks.  Folding lawn chairs appeared, arranged in ranks around the pile of timber.

Get that shit outta here! There ain’t gonna be no wiener-roast!  Do it somewhere else!  We’re goin’ to bed!

Paul squirted lighter fluid on the timbers, produced a match, and the blaze went up.  Bea yawned.  Bus mumbled that it was getting dark and time for bed.  People dragged up chairs.  Children cut tree limbs to support wieners and marshmallows for the roast.  The guitars came out.  Music filled the air.  Beer bottles clanked. The wiener roast was on.  And soon Paul would be holding court.

Around 2:00 in the morning, all grew quiet.  Having had his fill of cold beer, Paul was out of stories.  People were dozing in their lawn chairs, having pulled blankets and sleeping bags over them.  The guitars had stopped.  Scattered, intermittent conversations were still softly emerging.  At one point, Paul turned to me.  I was seventeen and in awe of him.  “You have a good vocabulary,” he observed.  I was startled.  “You should write.  There aren’t enough people writing these days.  People want stories.  You can provide them.  You have a good vocabulary.  You should write.”

Drawing out his wallet, Paul removed a folded piece of paper.  That strange lighter-fluid smell emanated from the slick paper as he unfolded a “Xerox copy” (remember how those smelled in the mid-1970s?) of a check in the amount of $75 he had been paid by a West-Coast magazine for one of his stories.  “There’s money in this,” Paul mumbled, “but you’re too good to write this kind of stuff.”  Looking up from the check, I could not contain my amazement: “Seventy-five dollars for a funny story?”  “Not funny; a scrounge story.  I wrote it in one night in the office while on shift at Greyhound. You know—the story of the boy coming out of the country and screwing the high-society girl.”

I knew Paul was full of stories.  I knew he had the gift to deliver humor before a live audience.  What I didn’t know was that Paul wrote stories for porno magazines and collected good sums of money over the years.  “You don’t need that,” he advised me, “You have much more going for you.  You should write, and write about things that matter.”

That night beside the fire I experienced a teachable moment.  Forty-three years later, as Amtrak carried me back to Fort Worth late in the night, I continued to think about that intimate conversation.  Relatives that took Paul with a grain of salt remarked that he was only about himself, his stories, his need for an audience, his practice of holding court.  But I remember the night Paul turned his attention on me for a few minutes and delivered a life-transforming Word, an Oracle.  Paul, I never forgot that moment.  Thank you for your compliment, for your encouragement.  I love to write.  I have found ways to weave this passion into my teaching profession, am proud to have been published a few times, still enjoy keeping an old-fashioned journal and now love to weave words and put them on a blog.  And I am grateful to have readers the same way you were grateful to have listeners.

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.

Morning Coffee in the Wet Wasteland

October 19, 2018

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Waking to yet another cold, wet, dark Texas rainy morning, my first thoughts were recollections of James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man being read to me via audiobooks as I drove on yet another long business road trip yesterday. I’ve posted these words before, but they are always worth repeating:

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.

The serenity I felt as I drove for hours yesterday, listening to this book of abundance cannot be overstated. The theme that resounded the most with me yesterday was that notion of living a life alone. This morning, I opened the volume to a couple of texts that jarred me yesterday while driving:

He was alone. He was unheeded, happy and near to the wild heart of life. He was alone and young and wilful and wildhearted, alone amidst of a waste of wild air . . . 

–You’re a terrible man, Stevie, said Davin, taking the short pipe from his mouth. Always alone.

Long ago, in the sermon by Paul Tillich, “Loneliness and Solitude”, I found an ace I could play repeatedly throughout my life: loneliness is the injury suffered from being alone, whereas solitude is the healing balm. And since the day I read that sermon, I have unfailingly acknowledged that I, though living and traveling alone, am very seldom lonely, instead feeling solitude. I relish the space, the internal quiet, and even the frequent feeling of disconnectedness.

It does not alarm me, the feeling of being tossed headlong into the midst of an enormous, chaotic, swirling planet that seems to follow no logical plan. Reading existential writers perhaps helped me with this sentiment. But the way I see it, I am surrounded by currents of activity that sometimes include me in the “plan”, but most of the time seem oblivious that I am here. And I don’t find this threatening. Rather, I feel a dizzying freedom to follow my bliss, live the dream.

In chapter one of Melville’s Moby Dick, Ishmael muses that Providence has cast his life as a minor role between two major plays:

“Grand Contested Election for the Presidency of the United States”  “WHALING VOYAGE BY ONE ISHMAEL.”  “BLOODY BATTLE IN AFFGHANISTAN.”

As the world population, fixated on the news, chattered away about a presidential election or a bloody conflict, an obscure young fellow named Ishmael boarded a whaling ship and sailed out to sea. His odyssey, important to him, would go unnoticed by the world at large. And alone in that odyssey, he spun his story.

I have always had a fascination with a biblical passage that I’m sure most readers would pass over without a second thought. It is from The Prophet Jeremiah 1:1-5:

The words of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, of the priests that were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, to whom the word of the LORD came in the days of Josiah, the son of Amon, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign.  It came also in the days of Josiah, king of Judah, unto the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah, the son of Josiah, king of Judah, unto the carrying away of Jerusalem captive in the fifth month.  Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the womb, I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

In my studies, I have read commentators writing page after page of text concerning those final words of the LORD knowing Jeremiah before he was conceived. But what has always held my attention is the larger context: Jeremiah arrived on this planet in the matrix of enormous national and political events that would hold the attention of the population of his day. As the nation of Judah swirled in the maelstrom of the news of its day, a Word came to a solitary man in a small town obscured in the shadows of the metropolis of Jerusalem. The Word of the LORD came (“happened” is a better rendering of the Hebrew text). Something HAPPENED while the world at large chased the swirling winds of the national news.

Whether it is Ishmael tossed on the unruly waves of a boundless ocean odyssey or Jeremiah receiving enlightenment in a small town, my heart quickens when I think of solitary people engaged in large ideas even as their surrounding climate is oblivious to what is going on inside them. Yesterday as I drove, I savored the text of Joyce’s Portrait, thinking of this young self-exiled writer recalling his youth in Ireland and laying out those powerful lines of text.

When Ralph Waldo Emerson suffered the loss of his wife at a tender age, and then resigned the ministry, no one accompanied him to the docks when he sailed out of Boston harbor for a two-year European odyssey, seeking some kind of purpose to his existence. A solitary man, he finally found his voice and launched New England Transcendentalism. In later years, as he penned “Self-Reliance”, he gave us this challenge:

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.  Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events.  Great men have always done so, and confided themselves childlike to the genius of their age . . .

In those words, all of us can find hope. We have been placed on this planet and given a number of years to find our way, to seek something that matters, to pursue our bliss and offer no apology for it. And the great majority of us are destined to obscurity. The world at large is not going to read about us, talk about us, and the footprint we leave behind may not affect a large multitude, But still, we have been given this gift, this opportunity, to explore life and decide what we wish to do. As for myself, I am still enjoying this gift of adventure, and if anything I write and send up as a smoke signal offers good to others, then I am all the more happy.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone (though being alone is O.K.)