Snowbound!

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High Ridge, Missouri

For Convers, looking back was the authentic experience; nostalgia made people and places real. . . . According to Wyeth idiom, nostalgia was another word for “home feeling.”

David Michaelis, N. C. Wyeth: A Biography

N. C. Wyeth got it right when he defined the word “nostalgia”. The word is Greek, and occurs repeatedly in Homer’s “Odyssey”. It refers to the desire of Ulysses to return to the home he missed so sorely after all those years away. I experience those feelings frequently, and managed to land in the town of my boyhood just before the snowstorm hit. Having gone two successive Texas winters without a sign of snow, I am delighted always to land somewhere during the winter season to see this kind of landscape. My recent Thanksgiving and Christmas trips to St. Louis occurred between snowstorms, and I saw none of it.

I am re-posting my recent painting of the Catholic church near my gallery in Palestine. Yesterday’s photo was taken in the evening under incandescent light, and I don’t like the dirty yellow cast the lighting creates. I placed the painting out in the snow this morning, and got much purer light on the surface to take this photo:

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Palestine, Texas

I would like to say that I am painting en plein air, because I now have two snowscapes in progress, looking out the patio window into the back yard and across my sister’s neighborhood. But I am inside, protected from the 25-degree Missouri temperatures. Nevertheless, though protected from the weather, I am looking at the live landscape instead of a photo enlarged on my laptop. And as I paint, I recall some of the words from Whittier’s “Snow-Bound” poem that I have enjoyed throughout my years. Back home, I own a nineteenth-century volume of Whittier’s verses, including this one. I have to be careful opening that volume, not wishing to break the spine or the brittle pages:

Clasp, Angel of the backword look 
      And folded wings of ashen gray 
      And voice of echoes far away, 
The brazen covers of thy book; 
The weird palimpsest old and vast, 
Wherein thou hid’st the spectral past; 
Where, closely mingling, pale and glow 
The characters of joy and woe; 
The monographs of outlived years, 
Or smile-illumed or dim with tears, 
      Green hills of life that slope to death, 
And haunts of home, whose vistaed trees 
Shade off to mournful cypresses 
      With the white amaranths underneath. 
Even while I look, I can but heed 
      The restless sands’ incessant fall, 
Importunate hours that hours succeed, 
Each clamorous with its own sharp need, 
      And duty keeping pace with all. 
Shut down and clasp with heavy lids; 
I hear again the voice that bids 
The dreamer leave his dream midway 
For larger hopes and graver fears: 
Life greatens in these later years, 
The century’s aloe flowers to-day! 
John Greenleaf Whittier, “Snow-Bound: A Winter Idyll”
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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