The Man Made of Words

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.

4 Responses to “The Man Made of Words”

  1. Margaret Parker Brown Says:

    Very thought provoking post. I feel that embracing times of uncertainty can be vexing but my personality seems to see a gold vein throughout. It can be an exciting quest. Sounds like you have one of your own. I’ll have to check out the books you mentioned. God bless!


  2. periwinkleblur Says:

    Very glad you enjoy writing as well. Was it Joseph Campbell who said we are the heroes in our own journey?


    • davidtripp Says:

      Hi! I just found this, and have the dreadful feeling that I did not see it earlier and respond. Thank you for what you wrote, and yes Joseph Campbell indeed said that, and I have always drawn inspiration from his words and lectures.


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