Archive for March, 2020

Resuming the Hank Chapter for Turvey’s Corner

March 31, 2020
Hank on the Road

There was only one firm spot in my world at that moment, one solid, endurable thought: I did not wish to go on the way I had been going.

Peter London, Drawing Closer to Nature: Making Art in Dialogue with the Natural World

This new painting has been in my blood for days, and finally I have a start on it. It marks the continuation of my work on the Turvey’s Corner 63050 series I began in 1999. The subject focuses on Hank as he leaves Turvey’s Corner in search of meaning for his previously sheltered, uneventful life. The quote above from Peter London could well have been authored by Hank himself late that night in the filling station when he decided he was leaving town in the morning.

Hank is my alter ego. I left home in 1972 to enter college, in that day feeling just as lost and rootless, and I never returned to my hometown to live. Hank, according to my Turvey’s Corner series, leaves home after a short time studying at the community college and working nights in the filling station. As he hitchhikes along Route 66 he senses a Presence watching over him. High on the hill overlooking him, I am going to place an Osage warrior on an Appaloosa mount. Osage Indians massacred the first settlers of Turvey’s Corner in March 1800. The spirit watching over him now is the spirit of the Native American, of Homer, of John Muir, of any wandering mendicant seeking a place to anchor his life.

As the coronavirus continues to keep us close to home, I am pleased to have a sense of purpose in working on my art. One day I am confident that I will re-enter our community, and when I do, I intend to have a large body of new work to put in my galleries and festival booths. If there is any upside to this Shelter-at-Home lifestyle, it is the freedom to pursue my art with no appointments or expectations binding me.

Thanks for reading and please check out my website

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.


Putting Out Fresh Bread

March 30, 2020
Sunday Morning Watch

Good morning. The lovely Sunday morning sun bathes my bedroom with a glow that exceeds description and my spirit feels the warmth, though outside temperatures have dipped into the 30’s. Something wonderful has happened and I feel compelled to send it up the flagpole of my blog. The reader is not compelled to salute. Because of a resolution about a week ago to post an occasional sermon revised from my past, I considered posting one of about a dozen that are ready to go online. But today I have changed my mind, wishing instead to share thoughts that visited me this morning. Rather than posting something revised from the past, I wish to put out fresh bread. For those interested, I have new paintings in progress, but they are too sketchy and vague to put on the blog this early. I look forward to sharing them when they come together a little better.

Mornings are sacred to me, just as Thoreau rhapsodized about the “wakening hour.” And this morning, though the blog may be a meandering ramble, I want to share the visitation.

I have written in the past that I was in the Protestant ministry long ago, a congregational position that lasted eleven years. Not long after I left the ministry, I entered the field of education, and remained there another thirty years. Now in my third year of retirement, and especially in this time of Sheltering at Home, I luxuriate in a time of introspection, and am writing new chapters of my personal memoir.

What I want to share this morning is this daily practice I have held since autumn of 1972. In my Baptist Student Union days, we called it Quiet Time, a practice of beginning every morning in seclusion, poring over a worthy text, recording thoughts in a journal and expecting an oracle. In the days of the ministry, I was soaking the biblical writings; mornings since 1985 have found me grazing from a multiplicity of sources. I still remember the first time I tried this, on an October morning in 1972, seated at the edge of a forest, looking out over a lake, reading from my Bible, recording notes in a spiral notebook, and feeling a Presence that was affirming and encouraging. It colored the rest of that day, and now, 48 years later, I can still testify that a morning spent in quiet solitude and meditation potentially sets the stage for a more positive day.

For those of you who have followed my blogs, you see the quotes from what I’m reading during my morning watch. This morning (maybe because it’s Sunday, I don’t know), I opened my Greek New Testament to The Letter of James and spent about thirty minutes lingering over the words of the first chapter. A few observations I now wish to share . . .

In the opening verses of this letter, the author encouraged his congregation to be steadfast in trials because of their potential to build character–“that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” The word translated “perfect” is telos.  We recognize from the root words such as telegraph, telecommunication, telescope, etc.—the idea of extending to a goal. Aristotle used this word to depict the goal, target or end of every living being. The nature of being alive is this primal drive onward toward completion. Aristotle believed the end was in the beginning. The destiny is already potential in us.

I was also intrigued by the Greek word translated “complete”. The word could be rendered as complete in all parts, entire, sound. The Latin equivalent is integer. Reading this verse reminded me of the conclusion of the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Hebrew Bible. A jaded old man, convinced that life was full of vanity (empty), concluded his treatise by exhorting his readers to fear God and keep his commandments, “for this makes one complete.” At my current age, I am more absorbed with thoughts about my own life’s purpose and what is involved in being a whole person. I suppose that all of us reach for some peg on which to hang our entire identity, and speaking for myself, I finally acknowledge that art has always been at my core, accompanied by my own pursuit of academics with a deeper understanding of the religious dimension. The life of the mind has helped shape the contours of my art.

In verse eleven of the first chapter of James, reference is made to the sun rising, also reminding me of a passage early in Ecclesiastes and Ernest Hemingway’s chosen title to his first novel. James testifies that this sun scorches, bringing to an end a rich man’s accomplishments. Reading this passage made me think of that arc we always acknowledge in the life of a person or of a nation or an era. There is a birth, an increase, a peak, then the decline, and finally the end. As I look over my own life’s trajectory, I struggle with this, wanting to be better now than ever before in what I do, yet acknowledging that many elements of my life are waning, declining. I still have trouble facing this, yet in my art and ideas, I still work in earnest, believing I can still bring to fruition something of value for me and to share in this world. At this age, I muse about what kind of footprint I am going to leave behind.

Chapter 1, verse 18 also got my attention: “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures. All of us wonder over our origin. The New Testament’s confession of God as our author comes as no surprise. But the phrase “word of truth” never really sunk in while I was reading this from my English Bible. My debt to the seminary for teaching me Koinē Greek is boundless, and since leaving the ministry I have enjoyed over the years the access to Classical as well as Homeric Greek. The linguistic work of Martin Heidegger also has fueled my interest. Thanks to his work, I now regard the Greek word logos not just as word, but as “the force that gathers.” In addition to this, the word for truth, is comprised of the root lēthe. The mythic River of Lethe was the river of forgetting. The extension of that word involved a covering or concealing. The Greek alpha in front of the root is a negation. Hence, alētheia denotes the unforgetting, or the uncovering, which resonates much more with me than the mere word “truth.” Now to translate: “We have been set forth by the cohesive force of the uncovering.” It takes some mental work and time for that to sink in, but the effort, I believe, is worth it.

And finally, the purpose of our being brought into this world is that we become a “first fruits”. In the ancient Greek world, both inside and outside the New Testament, first fruits is best translated “sacrifice.” Throughout my life, I have been stung by accusations of being selfish, self-centered, egocentric etc., and I understand those labels grounded in behavioral traits I’ve exhibited. But long ago, this word from the New Testament prevented me from wilting under those criticisms and accusations. As a teacher, one pours out his/her life daily, not only in study, but most of all in handing out the precious truths gleaned from a life of experience and study. And the daily outpouring is indeed a sacrifice, another day “spent” in service to something greater than ourselves. The same goes for the artist—with every painting, poem, novel, or song, another piece of the creator’s life has been carved away and sent out into the world. The work we do in life is a sacrifice; it takes away another part of our life and offers it to the world, hoping to leave this world one day better than it was when we entered it.

I know this is one of my “rambling” blogs, but I wanted to send out these thoughts gleaned from a Sunday morning watch.

Thanks always for reading, and I hope you’ll check out my website

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Turvey’s Corner–the next chapter

March 28, 2020

I perceive the writings herein as the pieces of a whole, each one the element of an intricate but unified design. They are the facets of a verbal prism, if you will, patterns like the constellations.

N. Scott Momaday, The Man Made of Words

On this beautiful Saturday morning, I am thrilled to announce the beginning of a new chapter on the project I’ve worked on for years–I am hoping to publish a book titled Turvey’s Corner 63050. The Missouri town is fictional as is the zip code, lying between the place of my hometown High Ridge (63049) and where I attended church and school, House Springs (63051). My series has already featured the gas station I am naming Jerry’s Texaco, and the young attendant inside whom I’ve named Hank. Like the Momaday quote above, I have been piecing stories and paintings together for about two decades now, hoping to weave a story where readers might find a space to occupy.

Attendant Not on Duty
Six Subjects in Search of a Painter

The still life above has been painted to depict the store room of the gas station where Hank sometimes spends the night after closing the store.

Hank was up late again, bedding down in the storeroom of the old filling station.  He had closed Jerry’s Texaco after the last of the Turvey’s Corner work force drifted in and out, their work in the city done for another day. Hank himself could have called it a day but was too engrossed in his college studies to pack up the books and head for his garage apartment in the next county. So, with the owner’s permission, he would spend another night in the back storeroom where he kept his cot, amidst the smells of gasoline, oil, pit grease and the grime that had built up over two generations.

The Texaco station was anchored on the first bend of the highway out of Turvey’s Corner. Interstate commerce had all but obliterated this sleepy town, and as soon as this young man graduated from the community college, he would depart as well. The local patrons had no knowledge or regard for the things that stirred the soul of this young dreamer. His volumes of Thoreau, Frost, Whitman and Twain had opened to him worlds beyond this community. And his few camping possessions stored in this back room (Griswold frying pan, stove top percolator, kerosene lantern, Maxwell House tin) were the tether that kept him bound to the wild. He would be packing up his gear in a week and leaving without notice. It was time to emerge from this cocoon and embrace the world calling out to him.

My next painting for Turvey’s Corner will feature Hank hitchhiking his way out of town. As he begins this odyssey, his mind will be preoccupied with the roots of Turvey’s Corner. In March 1800, Osage warriors massacred the family who built the first cabin in this town (this historical record can be researched under the massacre at House Springs, Missouri). As Hank hitchhikes, he feels a presence watching, and imagines an Osage warrior overseeing his odyssey with approval, knowing full well the trials of a new beginning.

Between the cities of High Ridge and House Springs is an outcropping of rock, where U. S. Highway 30 was carved out of the hills. My new painting will use this composition of the site that I painted years ago.

High Ridge Bluff

Hank will be at the base of this rock, his thumb out hoping to hitch a ride. On the hilltop I will place an Osage warrior looking down at the traveler.

During this time of staying indoors due to the scare of the virus, I’m excited to be working on the next chapter of my project.

Thanks for reading, and please check out my website:

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Making Art while the Calendar is Frozen

March 26, 2020

These things I shall remember by the way, and often they may seem to be the very tale itself, as when I was living them in happiness and sorrow. But now that I can see it all as from a lonely hilltop, I know it was the story of a mighty vision given to a man too weak to use it.

John G. Neidhardt and Black Elk, Black Elk Speaks

Kiowa Looking over Ransom Canyon
Crow Warrior Surveying
Bell Rock, Sedona, Arizona
Bell Rock Revisited
Bell Rock Vistas
Meditatons Below Bell Rock
Leaving the Promised Land
Twilight Wanderings

I have decided to treat this Stay at Home directive the same way a farmer responds to wintertime when nothing is to be planted, or rainy season when he cannot get into the fields. There is always something to do. When art festival season is at high tide, I always complain that I cannot find quality time to make art or frame art. That excuse has now been eliminated. The coronavirus season has ordered me to stay put and find creative ways to spend my days. I hope you enjoy seeing what I make.

Thanks always for reading and please check out my website

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Finding my Way Back

March 26, 2020
Quality Moments for Reading, Recording and Painting

There is Spiritual Power in our speech. The First Worker blew His breath into the first human. He created and made him breathe and so there is Spiritual Power in our speech. Be careful in how you speak.

Baaannile (Direction of the Path of the People), White Owl

White Owl, delivering his wisdom to the Crow tribes, has struck a deep chord within me this morning. In the midst of this Stay At Home directive that has confined me to the hearth, I have tried largely to avoid the reckless waste of words tossed over the air by alleged leaders of this country–people who were appointed to their positions because of the trust that they were mature and wise. Some sound decisions are being made, I believe, but much of the rhetoric, political posturing and showmanship I can do without. Words are precious and pack much power, but diminish exponentially when used for carnival barking.

My former student, Eric Tiner, lives among the Apsáalooke (Crow) in southern Montana where he has found a rich life and work. He has graciously sent me this book handed down by White Owl, and in recent days, my soul has been replenished by words from this sage’s reservoir along with words from N. Scott Momaday and the Kiowa traditions. Not only have these wise men granted me new visions for subject matter in painting–they have also filled my journals with fresh vistas of thought.

Working on a Pair of Watercolors

Most of Wednesday was spent in my makeshift studio, working on a pair of watercolors (one of a Kiowa subject, the other a Crow). As I worked, I listened on YouTube to a pair of engaging documentaries of the life and work of our famous American illustrator N. C. Wyeth, father of Andrew Wyeth. N. C. has arrested my attention over this past year as I have learned that he was a lover of books and ideas and these were the motive power behind his magnificent paintings. As I have previously written, I have deeply appreciated the rich writings of painters including Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newmann and Mark Rothko, but I find very little in common with their Abstract Expressionist syles of painting. Now I seem to have landed in the embrace of a kindred spirit who loved books and representational painting as I do. Those who know me personally are aware that I have a deep-seated attachment to Andrew Wyeth’s art. However, I deeply resent a public remark he made in an interview that he believed his father wasted too much time reading Thoreau and Emerson. And so, though I am more attached to Andrew’s techniques and subject matter, I am much more attached to N. C.’s written words that express rich profoundness of thought.

As I have felt my strength returning to me in the past few days, I have appreciated the stamina of my eyes and mind to read, think and write once again. And now, it feels good to get out and walk in the open air (where there are not other people nearby) and feel strength returning to my body. Before this virus scare, I always felt compelled to travel and network for the purpose of increasing the visibility of my art. But frankly, I prefer the more sedentary life, and always had this inborn fear that I was being “lazy” when devoting large blocks of time to my studies and my art. This beginning of 2020 has been most unusual, as it has marked the first time in over thirty years that I have no teaching contract of any kind, and now the Stay at Home directive essentially tells me to stay in. I have read the remarks of many who are frustrated that they cannot get out and find a social life or enjoy shopping, but frankly, I have appreciated very much this respite. The life of the mind is rich enough for me, and I relish this gift.

Last evening I felt good enough to get out and walk, and decided to pack a folding chair, fly rod and good book as I made my way to the nearby park where a large playa has spawned a population of catfish and carp. I eschewed the classical manner of fly fishing, choosing instead to tie on to my leader a small strike indicator bubble and a size 18 treble hook dangling 12″ further. Three pieces of whole kernel corn were spiked onto the treble and I slung the bait out into the center of a finger of the playa, laid the rod at my feet and let the evening winds carry the line along, coming to rest about a foot from the bank. Nothing happened, as expected, but the evening winds whispered among the leaves of the shade tree overhead, and I felt very much alive and thanful. Opening N. Scott Momaday’s The Man Made of Words, I turned to my bookmarked spot, near the finish of this magnificent book. Reading and glancing up at the bubble every few minutes, I found myself soon immersed in Momaday’s world, and was surprised at one point to look up and see the bobber dancing all about. The carp was heavy for my light-weight fly rod, and bringing him in took awhile, as I didn’t want him to break off the fragile leader. His gold and green glistened in the sunset and I took a moment to admire and photograph him before returning him to his home. He sure was a stout fellow, and disappeared in a flash when I let him go.

A sturdy carp taken on a flyrod

This Thursday morning is bright and sunny in west Texas. I am choosing again to stay inside for the day. There is plenty to keep my imagination occupied, and I’m glad to start the day by sending these words and pictures to you.

Thanks for reading and please check out my website at

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Sermonizing while Sheltering-in-Place

March 24, 2020
Enjoying a Fire while Staying at Home

I have stayed away from the blog as I was feeling poorly the past week. I am happy that my symptoms are nearly gone, but still choose to stay in, considering the strange world we have suddenly inherited. The past week has been given mostly to reading and sleeping–mostly the latter because my eyes couldn’t take as much reading as I’ve been accustomed to do. But now that I’m feeling better, it’s been good to return to thinking and writing. I’ve also begun work on a new painting, and will gladly share it when there is more progress to show.

Now retired, I look back and acknowledge that my years in public education have given much more back to me than I was ever able to give to my students. A wonderful student of mine from the 1990’s reached out to me recently, sharing that she had been enriched from a sermon I posted several years back. In time I will probably repost that sermon, but have responded to her generous words by re-writing a half-dozen of the sermons I delivered about a decade ago from a Unitarian pulpit.

Having said this, I feel the need to offer the following disclaimer: I felt a welcoming presence in the Unitarian congregation because I was free to share my deepest, innermost thoughts about the religious dimension. There was no creed to chain me and I have felt a wholeness and blessedness since the days I met that congregation long ago. Prior to the Unitarian connection, I was ordained and served for nearly fifteen years congregations of the evangelical persuasion, and persuasion is a good word to describe them. I no longer crumple under their expectations, nor do I ever wish to inflict that upon my hearers or readers. So I say to you directly: if my expressed thoughts bring good will to you, then I am deeply grateful. But if they offend, I have no desire for debate, and take no joy in wounding someone’s sentiments. I ask nothing from my readers whether it be praise or rebuke. I am choosing to put these occasional meditations on the blog knowing now that there is at least one that has been touched. When she wrote me last week, she expressed that she never appreciated feeling manipulated. That is my sentiment exactly–I never respond well to a blog that I feel is being manipulative of its readers, and never wish to fall into that trap myself.

Thank you always for reading, and I hope I bring you peace and goodwill.

The Courage to Create

          On a pre-dawn morning I stepped out into the velvet, lavender darkness and drank in the delicious October cool.  The skies were brimming with crystal-bright, silent affirming stars, and that vaulting firmament overhead was so deep, so vast.  And meanwhile down here below—a quiet stillness of sleep still enveloped my entire residential block.  Only a few scattered yellow lights burned in the neighborhood windows.  It seemed that I was the only thing moving across that front lawn and out into the vacant street.   The world seemed so vast, so dark.  I felt small, lost in an expansive, enveloping cosmos.

            But of course, it was a school morning, so naturally, I was conflicted.  In one ear, I could Robert Frost muttering: “The woods are lovely, dark and deep.  BUT I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.”  Can’t stop now!  Gotta get to school!  Gotta run off a test! 

            Fortunately, I have two ears.  So while Robert Frost was snarling in one, Henry David Thoreau was rhapsodizing in the other: “The morning, which is the most memorable season of the day, is the awakening hour.  . . . Morning is when I am awake, and there is a dawn in me.”[1]  So, I paused in the predawn velvet and felt a genuine, deep-seated gratitude.  I worshiped. 

            I am much different, now as an older man, than I was as a curious child, or as an exploring adolescent, or as a developing university mind.  Having been brought up in the church, I was acquainted with the biblical writings, but they did not reach out to me then as they are capable of reaching me now.  An example I choose today, since I am following a creation theme, is the opening creation story in Genesis, the first book of the Hebrew Bible.  These writings are believed to have originated from a Priestly tradition, so they are quite rhetorical and liturgical in their original language.  (The English isn’t half-bad either.)  Let me read a few verses from it now.  I am taking this reading from the Jewish Study Bible:

            When God began to create heaven and earth—the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweeping over the water—God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.  God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness.   God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night.  And there was evening and there was morning, a first day.  

On my blessed pre-dawn morning, as those words rolled across my consciousness, I felt a deep gratitude, a genuine benediction.  I was on my way to school, and it was morning, the first movement at the top of the day—another day to create.  Another day to make life significant.  And I do not know the source of this prayer, but the words came to me long ago, and I can never forget them:

“Who art thou O Lord, and tell me, what am I?”  Those words again sounded out their refrain in the darkness of that particular morning, and for them I had a reply.  I am a man, created in the image of a God whose very idea overwhelms me, overpowers me and inspires me to explore life and respond creatively.  I believe God created people to be creative and thus reflect the image of God in this world.

A moment ago, I read the first day of the Priestly creation account.  Let me skip down now to that crowning sixth and final day of the creation cycle recorded in Genesis:

And God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.  God blessed them and God said to them, “Be fertile and increase, fill the earth and master it; and rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and all the living things that creep on earth.”

God created the human being in his own image.  Catholic theologians like to quote that term from the Latin Vulgate, the Imago Dei—the image of God.  Just what exactly is this Imago Dei?  What does it mean to be created in the image of God?  What is it, to be like God?  The answers to that have been manifold over the centuries, but let us take a fresh look now—as we read the initial words of this creation account, how do they identify God—what is he doing?   “In the beginning God created.”  This is a God to whom the first thing mentioned is that he creates.  He creates a wonderfully complex world, and then he crowns it with his creation of humans.  And the words testify that God makes people in his image—people made in God’s image reflect God’s image as often as they create.

Watch a child in the nursery with a pile of blocks before him, and what will that curious child do with those blocks (once he finds out they won’t fit in his mouth)?  He’ll stack them, or arrange them, or fiddle with them.  He will explore their possibilities.  From the days of our curious infancy, we begin to create.

So, to sum up—we’ve reflected this morning about a glorious world, and the confession of a God who has created this world, and has created people in his image with the curiosity and the drive to be creators.  Now let’s move on to the center of this meditation: “The Courage to Create.”  I wish now to address courage—the courage to create. 

Why is it a fearful thing to create?  What do we mean, when we say that it takes courage to create?  Well, fundamentally, the act of creation is futuristic.  When we create, we are stepping into the future, which is the unknown.  The ominous note sounded in the Genesis story we just read a moment ago relays a world enveloped in darkness, a void, described as the deep, or as the abyss.  And God moved into that void and began to arrange.

The abyss for us is the unknown, the future that is dark.  As we live, and create, we are always moving into that unknown.  I am going to quote now from the eminent American psychologist Rollo May, and some of you will recognize echoes from the ideas of Martin Heidegger:

“We are called upon to do something new, to confront a no man’s land, to push into a forest where there are no well-worn paths and from which no one has returned to guide us.  That is what the existentialists call the anxiety of nothingness.  To live into the future means to leap into the unknown, and this requires a degree of courage for which there is no immediate precedent and which few people realize.”[2]

Now, do you notice, when people get involved in any kind of discussion involving “creativity,” that the words that arise from such conversations are words such as “talent, skill, gifts, genius,” etc., but not “courage”?  Talent, skill, gifts, genius—call these what you wish, but I am going to gather them up and put them under the category of “virtues.”  And before I began reading Paul Tillich and Rollo May, I looked at courage as just one of many virtues, alongside of love, faithfulness, skillfulness, etc.  Courage was just one more virtue among a catalogue of virtues.

Listen now to the argument of Rollo May: “Courage is not a virtue or value among other personal values like love or fidelity.  It is the foundation that underlies and gives reality to all other virtues and personal values.  Without courage our love pales into mere dependency.  Without courage our fidelity becomes conformism.

“The word courage comes from the same stem as the French word coeur, meaning ‘heart.’  Thus just as one’s heart, by pumping blood to one’s arms, legs, and brain enables all the other physical organs to function, so courage makes possible all the psychological virtues.  Without courage other values wither away into mere facsimiles of virtue.  . . . In human beings courage is necessary to make being and becoming possible.”[3] 

And courage does not mean the absence of despair.  Rollo May has written eloquently that courage is “the capacity to move ahead in spite of despair.”[4]  Our celebrated inventor Thomas Edison once testified: “Oh, I admit I had such times of discouragement and despair that I ached to give it all up.  But something kept me going.  I guess it was faith—the kind you have when you are young and don’t know any better.”  It takes courage to create.

Right now, when I talk of human creativity, I am not talking about creating paintings, or designing buildings or publishing novels or musical composition.  I am talking about the fundamentals of creation in which all of us take part as members of this human race: when we make daily decisions we are creating, in that we are shaping our lives.  And as we create our daily lives, we are shaping our environment; we are taking part in building our communities.  When we educate ourselves, we are creating our intellects.  When we make moral decisions, we are creating our character, and making a contribution, not only to this immediate community, but to history as well.  As written by the American poet bard, Walt Whitman: “The powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.  The powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”  Just imagine now: What could your verse be?

I could talk forever about the dynamics involved in the daily creative process, but I will choose just one from our biblical text.  We read at the beginning of how God divided the light from the darkness.  That is the first dynamic mentioned in this creation story—when creating the world, God first divided the light from the darkness.  There is so much that could be said in interpreting that line.  But here is what I am doing with it.  I’m not going to talk about the light and darkness in terms of good and evil, or truth and ignorance.  I understand and respect that Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and countless others have done just that, and they had their personal reasons, as well as the particular environments they addressed in their day.  Perhaps many of you also here this morning have interpreted the cosmic light and darkness in that fashion, as good and evil, or truth and ignorance. 

What I am seeing, in this choice of words, is one of the methods described in the creative action.  God creates by separating light from darkness.  He creates by dividing, discerning, and arranging things, putting them in their respectful places.  And so do we practice that in our everyday lives—we sort things; we arrange things.  We divide.  We parcel.  And so I see in this text the light and darkness as two halves making up the reality, with both having their place.  Both have their time, and it is not simultaneous.  The light separates from the darkness.  Day separates from the night.  There is a time to “make hay while the sun shines,” and there is a time to say “now I lay me down to sleep.”  There is a purpose in the day cycle and the night cycle.  They both have their value.  So I choose light and darkness in this meditation as representing two conflicting elements laying claim to our attention at the same time.  We can only deal with them alternatively, not simultaneously.  One of those will simply have to wait—it will be handled. 

Years ago, when preaching occasionally at a Unitarian Church, I enjoyed the portion of the morning worship when a retired psychology professor led us in meditation. In his guided remarks, he reminded us that right now we relax.  There could be other things right now striving for our attention, and they are important, but for now it is okay to set them aside and come back to them later.  The power we have as creators is learning to deal with matters as we see fit, this one now, that one later.

Jesus told a frustrated Martha in one of our New Testament stories that she was “distracted over many things.”  He reminded her that only one thing was necessary right now, and she had the power to choose that one thing.  The other things would follow in their time.

With our closing thoughts, I direct attention now to these words in the biblical text: And there was evening and morning—a first day.  There it is—the first day.  Every day is a first day.  Every day is a first movement.  Every day invites another chance to create.  Rollo May reminds us that “we are living at a time when one age is dying and the new age is not yet born.  . . . To live with sensitivity in this age of limbo indeed requires courage.”[5]

There is a passage in one of the early New Testament church letters testifying that we are God’s workmanship, created for the purpose of good works that improve life.  And such a work requires courage—it takes courage to create.  I encourage us all this morning to live deliberately, and cultivate our fundamental virtue of courage.  Let us go forth into our rich and varied lives and cultivate that courage to create.

[1] Henry David Thoreau, Walden and Civil Disobedience: Authoritative Texts Background Reviews and Essays in Criticism (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1966), p. 60.

[2] Rollo May, The Courage to Create (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1975), p. 12.

[3] May, Courage to Create, p. 13.

[4] May, Courage to Create, p. 12.

[5] May, Courage to Create, p. 11

Thanks always for reading. I shall continue posting art as I create it. And occasionally I would like to post a sermon. Again, my only hope in these endeavors is to inspire not to manipulate.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.


March 16, 2020
Outdoor Fireplace at the Cabin

But the next day you know it’s no use; you know that if you went home there would be nothing there, just the empty land and a lot of old people, going no-place and dying off. And you’ve got to forget about that too.

N. Scott Momaday, House Made of Dawn

As I was finishing House Made of Dawn, I recorded the above statement in my journal because of the way it arrested my thinking. Home. Since retirement in 2017, I have mostly lived the life of a drifter, frequently choosing not to remain in my house where I live alone. The travel, the friends, the adventures and the new stories have all combined to fuel my imagination and my art. And I would not have traded those experiences for anything. I have been fortunate in living the dream.

Currently we all live in a world that has completely morphed beyond recognition. I was not at home when the virus scare finally captured the national attention. And it happened that three of the people among whom I love most had included me in their plans to get away for a few days, renting a cabin in Broken Bow, Oklahoma. So, here we are, away from the cities and neighborhoods, with no appointments or sense of clock time, enjoying a large fire we’ve built in an outdoor fireplace, and sharing meals, stories and all-around good moments.

Relaxing Dinner with Friends

I packed my art supplies for plein air work while away at this cabin, but the weather is cold and very wet, with rains filling up most of the days and nights. Outdoors it is comparatively dark, so I laid aside the art supplies and balanced my quality time between books and fly fishing.

Evening Hole at Beaver’s Bend State Park, Broken Bow, Oklahoma
Nice Rainbow taken with a Dry Fly

The weather is windy, cold, wet and frigid for fishing, but that tends to keep the crowds down. My favorite spot (Evening Hole) is a pretty good trek upstream from where I am able to park, but the area was thinly enough populated that I found plenty of room (more than thirty feet of distance from other fly fisherman) for open waters. After landing one pretty rainbow, I was bone-chilled and ready to leave the frigid stream for the cabin, friends and fireplace. I will say though that few things (to me) are more delightful to witness than a nice rainbow rising to snatch your dry fly from the surface of a moving stream. That image is what has remained with me during this stay.

Thanks for reading, and thank you Sandi, Ron and Dian for another lovely memorable time together, away from the city life.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Searching for the Recipe

March 13, 2020
Fourth Beginning of a Ransom Canyon Composition

He was alone, and he wanted to make a song out of the colored canyon, the way the women of Torreón made songs upon their looms out of colored yarn, but he had not got the right words together.

N. Scott Momaday, House Made of Dawn

This Native American sage just painted with accuracy and grace my perrenial dilemma as an artist. In painting, in writing, in arranging music, I frequently marvel at the complexity of composition, and very seldom attain the splendrous vision my eye or inner ear senses.

When playing my guitar, I constantly reach for the correct chord, only to hit upon a diminshed form that jars my ear. When writing an essay, I can fumble with a paragraph of sentences for an hour and come away with a mess comparable to a ball of yarn tossed by a generation of cats. And now more recently, with my fourth attempt at a canyon composition, my eye delights in the arrangement of hues and contrasts across the cliff wall, yet the colors on my palette never seem to combine for the composition I seek.

Please reader, do not misunderstand–I am not depressed or upset as I write this. I merely approach the creative task in a spirit of worship, seeking to pour out my soul in response to profound beauty encountered in this physical world as well as the underlying world of Ideas. And as I work at this, my soul wells up in gratitude for feelings experienced during the effort, even if the final product falls short of the expression I sought.

My work, my art, my journal pages, my blog–all my contributions are abstractions, distortions, fragments, ostraca scattered across my life’s memories. But my delight always lies in the trying. And right now, the canyons of west Texas and streams of the Oklahoma mountains are calling out to me.

As for the painting started above . . . not today. This morning once again finds me on the road, stopping at a Starbuck’s to send out this missive via wifi. I often feel like Eddie Albert from Green Acres, climbing up a utility pole in Hooterville to make a phone call. But there it is . . .

Thanks always for reading. I hope to send pictures soon of painting attempts adjacent to Oklahoma trout streams.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

The Next Show Draws Near

March 11, 2020
Return to Ransom Canyon

To be an artist is to live suspended above the abyss between recognition and artistic value, never quite knowing whether your art will land on either bank, or straddle both, or be swallowed by the fathomless pit of obscurity. We never know how our work stirs another mind or touches another heart, how it tenons into the mortise of the world.

In our own culture, obsessed with celebrity and panicked for instant approval, what begins as creative work too often ends up as flotsam on the stream of ego-gratification — the countless counterfeit crowns that come in the form of retweets and likes and best-seller lists, unmoored from any real measure of artistic value and longevity. How, then, is an artist to live with that sacred, terrifying uncertainty with which all creative work enters the world, and go on making art?

The quote above I have lifted from an older post of Maria Popova’s “Brain Pickings” dated March 24, 2019. She nourishes my soul twice a week and I seldom miss reading her extended meditations. This praticular one came on a good day: I am kicking into a higher gear because I have an art festival in a little over a week. And though I love making art, I cannot help wondering while engaged in this enterprise whether or not the work is truly worthy. I have little trouble selling my pieces and for that I am eternally grateful. Yet still I muse over the quality of the art.

Palestine, Texas will kick off its annual Dogwood Festival Friday night March 20 with a V.I.P. event under the big tent across the street from The Redlands Hotel. I have been included among the artists selected to exhibit under the tent that night and all the next day. When my first spring festival rolls up on the calendar, I scramble to frame and package all the work I have created throughout the winter season. Currently I have six new paintings framed and ready that have not been offered for public view. In addition to this, I have revised and re-branded a select number of my greeting cards that I sell at events.

In the midst of this scramble to create and market new art, the ideas expressed in Popova’s quote do not cease moving within me. In fact, this morning’s scene at my writing table appeared quiet and serene. But there was nevertheless a subterranean surge of words, images and ideas flowing beneath the outward scene. The readings from N. Scott Momaday only get better, and last night I happened upon a copy of his House Made of Dawn, the first novel to earn the Pulitzer Prize for a Native American. This literary work is gripping from the very first page, and I am now about fifty pages into it. At the same time, I am continuing my sojourn through Momaday’s The Man Made of Words.

After several hours of framing, packaging, editing greeting cards and reading Momaday, the sun was high enough and temperatures reached the sixties. I had the itch to return to Ransom Canyon and begin a fourth work in plein air.

Beginning with a bluff on the left
Stopping with the outdoor work and preparing sketches for the right portion

I found the canyon quiet and peaceful despite the multitude of houses scattered over the bluffs. After working about an hour, I had done enough to the left side of the composition to shut down and head back to the house. I have several ideas for Native American subjects to place on the right side of the composition, and that is my next step. Meanwhile I have stopped at a neighborhood Starbucks for refreshment, Wi-Fi, reading and blogging.

Thanks for reading. Please check out my website at

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

The Man Made of Words

March 10, 2020
A Quiet Morning with N. Scott Momaday

Books are to be read; they are to be consumed and digested; they are to be turned over in the mind; they are to be taken seriously.

N. Scott Momaday, The Man Made of Words

Words fail to describe the serenity I sought my entire life, a serenity that seems to have found me at last. I recall a quiet and serene life as a child, but that seems to have ended once I entered the institutions of church and public school. Thrust into the company of people after spending my first five years playing outdoors alone in a home without a neighborhood, I never seemed to find the center I had known while solitary.

I sense that this blog is off on the wrong foot; I am overflowing with strong emotions currently, and am already over-thinking this blog. I know what I feel, but am unsure of my ability to convey it in words. I laugh at what I have just read from Momaday: In our time and place we are distracted by the notion of “communication”, which is perhaps inferior to expression. That’s it–I’m trying to communicate, but unsure of the strength of my actual expression. With this blog I merely send my thoughts up the flagpole, hoping readers will feel what I am feeling.

What I wish to convey is this–I perceive myself as an introvert who has lived his entire life in an extrovert-inducing environment. Church and school were always institutions to me, fraught with expectations, and the only peace I ever found in their midst was in my own quiet solitary center. The words of Hermann Hesse surface–“Within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at anytime and be yourself.” None of this is offered up as a complaint, and at age 65 I am not experiencing a winter of discontent. I am merely celebrating my first semester after thirty years of not having any kind of a teaching contract–no schedule, no grading, no accountability. This unbridled, drifting life is delicious beyond description. Every morning offers the invitation to create a new world of meaning.

My twin passions are reading and making art. This morning I choose reading, and N. Scott Momaday is taking me on a genuine odyssey of the mind. The Way to Rainy Mountain I finished yesterday, and this morning I am tunneling through The Man Made of Words. Already, his words have taken my imagination from the distant mountains of Thessalia where centaurs thrived to the plains and canyons across the American Southwest. In a few days when I get to Broken Bow, Oklahoma and thrive in the geography of the Choctaw, I will still be thinking of the Kiowa and their stories which have enriched me lately.

I am thinking about taking up the brush later today to see if I can create new stories and images of our Native American contributions. But for now, reading is filling my life with that long-sought sense of serenity. The photo I took above in the quiet room of my reading, and now I am situated in the murmur of a coffee shop crowd. My former student and friend Eric Tiner has been feeding me information about the Northern Plains Tribes with whom he currently resides. My recent forays into Native American themes in my art have been accompanied by my concerns of turning out pieces that reek of commercialism; I wish to create authentic images of this rich heritage.

The time has arrived to take up the brush and see what I can accomplish, so I’ll bring this morning’s thoughts to a close, and thank you for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.