Morning Coffee with Dave and Walt Whitman

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In The Gallery at Redlands, Working on Whitman Collages & Greeting Cards

Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road, 
Healthy, free, the world before me, 
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose. 
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune, 
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing, 
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms, 
Strong and content I travel the open road. 
Walt Whitman, “Song of the Open Road”
Yesterday, after class, I set off for Palestine to work in my gallery and make preparations for the weekend Genny Wood Art Show & Sale. After the two-hour drive through the country, enjoying the bright sun and 60-degree weather, and filled with the ecstasies of Kerouac’s odyssey, I decided upon reaching Palestine to spend some time outdoors. I had spent too much time the past few weeks chasing deadlines. Finding a park bench beneath an enormous shade tree, I sat in the cool, took a cleansing breath, and opened my volume of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.  Reading Kerouac’s On the Road yesterday prompted me to look up Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road” today. He published this poem the year after his Leaves of Grass took flight, and the adrenaline was apparently still surging through his creative consciousness. My heart floods with good sentiments every time I read verses such as this from Whitman’s hand.
After five years of reading rave reviews of his Leaves of Grass (some of which he published anonymously himself!), he felt the time had come to publish a second edition of this collection of poems. There was only one problem–he had reached ebb tide and his creative surge had faltered. Perhaps he was still too young (first edition came out when he was thirty-seven) to realize that creative output is cyclical. At any rate, he was feeling morose and second-guessing whether or not he had genuine talent or was just over-sold with that first edition.
While walking pensively one evening along the seashore, he composed a poem that reflected his sagging sentiments of the time: “As I Ebb’d with the Ocean of Life”–
O baffled, balk’d, bent to the very earth, 
Oppress’d with myself that I have dared to open my mouth, 
Aware now that amid all that blab whose echoes recoil upon me I have not once had the least idea who or what I am, 
But that before all my arrogant poems the real Me stands yet untouch’d, untold, altogether unreach’d, 
Withdrawn far, mocking me with mock-congratulatory signs and bows, 
With peals of distant ironical laughter at every word I have written, 
Pointing in silence to these songs, and then to the sand beneath.
Whitman’s second edition of Leaves of Grass contains a number of troubled verses replete with his second-guessing. As we all know, he got over it eventually. The surge returned, and the collection of twelve poems grew to over five hundred, as he remained prolific throughout his life.
This is why I read so much biography–I want to learn all I can from these creative heroes about the dynamics of creative eros, including those barren times when the winds of inspiration have stilled, and how they addressed the problem.  At this very moment I am tired, exhausted. But not depressed, not panicky. I am confident that quality time for creating will offer itself up to me again, and that I will be ready to answer the bell. But for now, the appointments are joined end-to-end, it is the high season for art festivals and shows, the semester at the university is entering its final stretch run, and there is much demanded from me. I thank God that I am (semi) retired, have my health, and at least don’t have to answer to a Monday-Friday, 40-hour a week job. Life is much better now, and at least I can find the time to sit beneath a shade tree, read, reflect, and think about where I am going next. I have never been happier, even when tired.
Today I am packing up the Gallery to take to the Genny Wood Art Show & Sale at the Bullard First United Methodist Church Family Life Center. Today I will enjoy seeing my artist friends again as we set up, and the show will run all day Saturday. Below are a pair of photos of my booth from last year. I am hoping to make a much better display this year. Among my offerings will be collages of my creative heroes, including Walt Whitman and Jack Kerouac.
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Last Year’s Display at the Genny Wood Art Show & Sale

Smooth Rock 93.5 FM is humming along in fine fashion as I write this. I cannot describe how much I enjoy my new “roommates” as they broadcast out of this gallery, looking out their “Window to the World.” The Redlands Hotel is decorating for Christmas and yesterday began bringing decorations into the gallery and studio. The “Kevin and Marc in the Morning” show broadcasts live from 7-10 a.m. Monday through Friday. You can stream it on your computer, and even get the app for your android or I-phone.

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“Kevin & Marc in the Morning”–Smooth Rock 93.5 FM

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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