Constructing my own Narrative

church hotel 2

“Early Sunday Stroll” No. 3 of the Turvey’s Corner 63050 Series

There was no culture, you know, in Spoon River,

And I burned with shame and held my peace.

                                . . . and pray for another

Birth in the world, with all of Spoon River

Rooted out of my soul.

Edgar Lee Masters, Spoon River Anthology

For the past week, I have spent every day chipping away at this watercolor of the view along Palestine’s N. Queen Street that passes between the Sacred Heart Catholic Church and the Redlands Hotel (the Gallery at Redlands is on the first floor of the historic hotel).  Along with my painting has come a surge of reading and writing.

Earlier this year I purchased Julia Cameron’s It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again. This book encourages the recently retired to compose their memoirs. While working on mine, I decided to re-shape the narratives of my memories into fiction stories to accompany the paintings I am working on for my new project Turvey’s Corner 63050. This series is my own autobiography in paintings and reworked fiction narratives. The painting above is the third of this new series.

While working on my stories, and reading for inspiration, I struck gold this week, mostly from Rich Karlgaard’s Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement , Edgar Lee Masters, Spoon River Anthology and Larry McMurtry, Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen: Reflections on Sixty and Beyond. 

Karlgaard wrote that late bloomers are natural storytellers. He added: “In our personal lives, we think in stories, talk in stories, communicate in stories, and dream in stories.”

It’s safe to say that the default mode of human cognition is narrative. We instinctively make reason out of chaos and assign causality to all the random events that make up our lives. Stories help us do that. . . . We impose a narrative structure on otherwise random sequences of events until they cohere in a way that makes sense to us and that we can manage.

Reading these words set off a firestorm of creative eros within me and I found myself pouring out my memories on the pages of my journal and then reshaping them into fiction narratives. Opening the Spoon River Anthology, I  began reading the lengthy Introduction by John E. Hallwas and found with delight the following testimony of the editor who discovered Masters and published his work in his own magazine:

But it was left to Edgar Lee Masters to take all this, or as much of it as suited his purposes, and fuse it and shape it into an artistic creation. . . . He saw and knew his Spoon River so well that when he came to write it out of himself, with his personality added to what he saw and knew, he wrote the life of man everywhere, or at least everywhere in America.

William Marion Reedy, Reedy’s Mirror, November 20, 1914

For the past twenty-four hours, I have found it difficult deciding between painting and reading Spoon River Anthology. So much of the testimony matches up with experiences I have known growing up in my part of the midwest. In the weeks ahead, I hope to continue adding stories and paintings to the blog as I probe this new venture. While working on this, I feel the presence of others looking over my shoulder and affirming my efforts, namely the great writers Thornton Wilder, Sherwood Anderson, Sinclair Lewis, William Faulkner and Garrison Keillor. Hazel also watches . . .

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Hazel, my favorite Jack Russell Terrier, overseeing the blog

Number 1

No. 1 in the Series

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No. 2 in the Series

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

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2 Responses to “Constructing my own Narrative”

  1. Frank Hudson Says:

    I was led here by WordPress’ algorithm associating this post with the latest in my series of Spoon River Anthology. When I ran into SPA this summer I was totally captured and found it almost too emotionally effecting.

    I’ve read a few of your other posts, and see some similarities at what I’ve done with my old age and how I prefer to spend my days. I can barely paint a barn wall myself, but I’ve spent three years encountering various words (mostly poetry) and composing and playing purposely varied music to combine with it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • davidtripp Says:

      Frank, I am excited to read of your forays into Spoon River and finding the power of the poetic word to give artistic shape to life. I hope we can continue some kind of a dialogue over these matters. I still have not finished Spoon River Anthology, and hope to get it done this fall. I have a number of deadlines beginning to crunch into my quality time, but I still hold out hope.

      Like

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