Archive for April, 2020

In the Morning Stillness . . .

April 27, 2020
Bust of Democritus

I find it to be the height of wisdom not to endeavor to oversee myself and live a life of prudence and common sense, but to see over and above myself, entertain sublime conjectures, to make myself the thoroughfare of thrilling thoughts, live all that can be lived. The man who is dissatisfied with himself, what can he not do?

Henry David Thoreau, Journal November 23, 1850

Waking before 5:00 this morning turned out not to be a bad thing, after all. When I realized lying in bed that I was not able to return to sleep because the thought processes were moving quickly, I grinned, remembering Carlo Marx in Kerouac’s On the Road: “You can’t stop the machine!” So I rose from my bed, entered my studio of dreams, and after writing out a few random thoughts in my journal, opened to Thoreau’s Journal and found those words posted above.

I have always enjoyed Thoreau’s love of wordplay in his writings. Here, he expresses that he doesn’t want to “oversee” his life, but rather to “see over and above” it and eventually render it “the thoroughfare of thrilling thoughts.” I have decided to read for a second time the very engaging biography written by Robert D. Richardson Jr., Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind. This was one of the texts assigned to me in 1992 when I attended the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar at Oregon State University. I can’t believe that twenty-eight years have passed since lingering over those pages.

My lifestyle has changed profoundly since returning to my home nearly a week ago. My first love in life has been quality time in the studio reading, journaling, making art and cultivating the life of the mind. I frequently did that all day long if no appointments beckoned, and during my two months in west Texas due to the coronavirus precautions, I lived mostly that lifestyle.

Returning to this neglected house that I spent very little time in since 2017, I decided it was time to clean it up (never my strong suit). So . . . for the past six days I have devoted only the morning hours for this meditative life (I am going to devote an entire blog post to that idea later) and then I turn my attention to this dwelling place the rest of the day before retiring to a restful and relaxing evening. What a difference that has made.

Every morning I have tried to balance my attention between reading, writing, journaling, creating at least one small drawing, and then watercoloring. This morning I made another attempt at a brand for my new character Hank. This may turn out to be my next watercolor, I haven’t decided yet.

As I have repeatedly told my friends, I do not draw nearly enough; I just dive stratight into the next watercolor, not even attempting thumbnail sketches or compositional decisions. I am trying to change that. So, for the past six days I have made at least one small drawing during the morning. Here are a few more:

Several months ago, while visiting our favorite barbecue place in Dickens, Texas, I began a watercolor of the sprawling vacant land separating the barbecue joint from the businesses further down the highway.

Because Thoreau in his Journal kept rhapsodizing about the colors of the weeds, I found this watercolor abandoned some time ago and decided to go back to work on the ground cover. Within minutes, I was lost in the heart of this 18 x 24″ picture plane. As I worked, my mind continued to surge, and now I’m going to post what I recorded in my journal as I stopped continually to write out what I was thinking while painting:

I have moved to the window of Eudaimonia Studios. Dawn has broken, a rosy-fingered dawn. A Homeric dawn. Like the women of The Odyssey who weave exquisite patterns daily I am now weaving the dry grasses of Thoreau’s land of wonder.

*Dark Sepia Albrecht Durer watercolor pencil

*Blackwing Matte favored by Steinbeck as he wrote his drafts

*Papermate Mirado Classic from the H-E-B grocery

*Studio Series 4H

*Size 8 Silver Black Velvet Script brush

This is my choir of blended voices singing their Ode to Autumn. I have moved to the window to look out at the neighborhood waking up in the early light. Taking out a selection of pencils, I settled on the Dark Sepia Albrecht Durer watercolor pencil made by Faber Castell. And I began doodling in the massive patches of weeds. Drawing, shading, rendering callibraphic lines, smudging, very subtly weaving in and out among the strands of weeds. Getting lost in tiny focused areas. Thinking of my ninth-grade art teacher Mr. Scucchi. Hearing his voice again as he drones on and on with theory that I understood little of in those days, but somehow remembered his words and now understand and explore their dimensions. Lines, shapes, relationships, paint quality, positive and negative space, tonality. I am exploring these elements of design now that I understand.

Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Andrew Wyeth. Mr. Scucchi continued to urge: “Look at the grasses in Christina’s World. Look at the Jackson Pollock drips and swirls. See all that calligraphy? Look at the Willem de Kooning slashes. See that freedom? Cut loose! Don’t be afraid. Explore. Be an artist without apology.”

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.

Murmurings in the Pre-Dawn

April 26, 2020
Early Sunday Morning in the Studio

Every spirit builds itself a house. And beyond its house a world. And beyond its world a heaven. Know then that the world exists for you. Build therefore your own world.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I awoke to my world much earlier than planned this morning–4:45. By 5:30 I realized I was not getting back to sleep. The machine of the mind and imagination was in overdrive, as always seems to happen soon after waking. So I rose, postponed the coffee till later (in case I get sleepy and return to bed), but then things began to happen as I read from Thoreau’s journal, November 16, 1850. What an amazing movement of the mind he experienced on that day. I’m choosing to share the best of it with my readers:

In literature it is only the wild that attracts us. Dullness is only another name for tameness. It is the untamed, uncivilized, free, and wild thinking in Hamlet, in the Iliad, and in all the scriptures and mythologies that delights us,–not learned in the schools, not refined and polished by art.

What an insight by a young man of only thirty-three years of age! I am embarrassed to admit that the Iliad did not come to mean anything to me till I was nearly forty, and that was only because I repeatedly read Thoreau’s comments about the epic in the pages of Walden. Because I can read Greek as he did, I was astonished when I purchased the volume from the Loeb Classical Library and began translating. It was only then that I found abiding treasures in those pages.

And Hamlet–it was not until three years ago that I finally read the text with profound enrichment. It was my third time to read the text, but the testimonies of Harold Bloom (I miss him so much!) turned me to the work and I am ever so grateful now for that experience. But wow, Thoreau, at thirty-three. already knew the richness of those “wild” works of literature.

Several paragraphs later, on the same day, after rhapsodizing over the sounds of birds, and musing about setting a compass for life’s journey, Thoreau then wrote something that made me laugh out loud:

Somebody shut the cat’s tail in the door just now, and she made such a caterwaul as has driven two whole worlds out of my thoughts. I saw unspeakable things in the sky and looming in the horizon of my mind, and now they are all reduced to a cat’s tail. Vast films of thought floated through my brain, like clouds pregnant with rain enough to fertilize and restore a world, and now they are all dissipated.

How many times has that happened to me? When I was at my teacher’s desk, reading something profound from a literary muse, and trying to record the floating fragments of related thought in my journal, when suddenly two students shouted, arguing over who was the better contestant on American Idol. Or the summer’s day I sat on my parents’ carport reading a passage from Emerson and suddenly tried to record a transient idea of my own in my journal. And my brother at that moment burst out of the house to tell me something “profound” he had just heard Rush Limbaugh say on the radio. I recall a professor once telling me how he looked out the window of a plane at the mountain ranges below and felt a wave of transcendent gratitude. Then the passenger next to him said, “You know, if we could open that window, I could piss on the world right now.” We could write entire books on just that subject of how an inane act or word dynamited a moment of splendor for us.

And then finally, this:

My Journal should be the record of my love. I would write in it only of the things I love, my affection for any aspect of the world, what I love to think of. I have no more distinctness or pointedness in my yearnings than an expanding bud, which does indeed point to flower and fruit, to summer and autumn, but is aware of the warm sun and springs influence only. I feel ripe for something, yet do nothing, can’t discover what that thing is. I feel fertile merely. It is seedtime with me. I have lain fallow long enough.

Notwithstanding a sense of unworthiness which possesses me, not without reason, notwithstanding that I regard myself as a good deal of a scamp, yet for the most part the spirit of the universe is unnaccountably kind to me, and I enjoy perhaps an unusual share of happiness. Yet I question sometimes if there is not some settlement to come.

This last segment truly made me shudder. A part of me wishes I could have lived in Concord in the nineteenth century and known Thoreau personally. But I am enough of a realist by experience, and know from my reading that Thoreau did not bond easily with others. So, knowing that, I am so unceasingly grateful that he loved us enough to leave behind over four million words of publishable print, obviously believing his ideas were important enough to share with others. My heart sinks with his final word, that he questioned whether or not “some settlement’ would come, since he had received “perhaps an unusual share of happiness.” He would die eleven years later, at age forty-four. I myself have reached the age of sixty-six, and it took nearly fifty years for me to reach the point of loving my life and feeling genuine gratitude for this gift. Why have I been blessed to outlive such a gentle spirit as Henry David Thoreau, who died at an age earlier than I myself was able to find genuine life?

I have journaled since 1985 because I wished to “overhear myself” (Harold Bloom’s words) in times of being alone. I still continue that practice. But in this blog, I occasionally share my ideas gleaned daily with anyone out there who is interested in reading. So I thank you for reading.

Today is my fourth consecutive day of heavy-duty house cleaning and organizing. There remains much to do, and I suppose I have spent enough time at my desk. The light outside has come up, and I believe I am now ready for coffee. And then I shall return my attention to some househould tasks. As Emerson wrote, “Every spirit builds itself a house . . . Build therefore your own world.”

Another attempt to “brand” Hank

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.

The Sacred Morning

April 25, 2020


With my own eyes I have seen gifted, richly endowed, and free-spirited natures already ‘read to ruins’ at thirty. . . . To set to early in the morning, at the break of day, in all the fullness and dawn of one’s strength, and to read a book—this I call positively vicious!

Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo

Good morning, friends. As reported in my last blog several days back, I was going on hiatus a short while. I am starting my return and wanted to catch you up. I have some Hank stories in my mind and drafted in my journals but cannot post them just yet.

After a two-month absence, I have finally returned to my home. There is much work that needs to be done on my property, inside and out, and this is my third day working on the house, with many more days to come. In today’s blog I want to share my lifestyle, still a work in progress. The coronavirus has brought little change for me. I prefer to stay in, but in the past often felt compelled to go out and “accomplish something” for my art business. But in all honesty, the contemplative life is what I’ve always craved, and I am grateful that I can do that now without permission or apology. I feel sorry for those who feel listless because they are not fond of books and creative activities.

For as long as I can remember, I have held the mornings to be the sacred hour, or as Thoreau would have it, “the awakening hour.” When I rise from my bed, my mind within minutes is surging with ideas and I use my journal to catch them. I believe someone once wrote that journals are nets for catching wonder, or was it maps for organizing wonder? Either quote works for me.

One of my other mental mentors is the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who was actually a classical philologist. He also spoke of the necessity of giving the mornings to search out one’s own ideas rather than immediately turning to a book for second-hand knowledge. He criticized the typical philologist of his day for being unable to think without “a book between his fingers,” for merely reacting to what he has read.

So. I begin every morning over coffee writing in my journal, recording whatever is flowing through my consciousness. The result is sometimes an essay, sometimes a Hank story, sometimes nothing more than scattered thoughts. But writing has become a practice I truly love. And I pursue it daily.

After my imagination has been drained, I then turn to whatever I choose to read. I’ve been called a snob because I do not turn to newspapers, magazines, or search the Internet for stuff to read. I am proud of a personal library of quality books, well over 2,000 now. I will never read all the quality books that have been handed down as gifts from so many divines. But I can try. Today is my third day in a row to read from Thoreau’s journals. I have his complete set of fourteen volumes and intend to read every word before I die. What I found this morning inspired me to resume work on a watercolor started a couple of months ago. I was uncertain how to complete the bottom two-thirds, and have now decided to put in autumn weeds.

That delicate, waving, feathery dry grass which I saw yesterday is to be remembered with the autumn. The dry grasses are not dead for me. A beautiful form has as much life at one season as another.

Thoreau journal, November 11, 1850

Resuming work now on this older unfinished watercolor

After reading and writing for awhile, I then turn my attention to making art, always my passion. I have decided to do a drawing a day, so I usually turn to that task first. Then I take up whatever watercolor I am working on. Part of my household work since returning home has involved moving my studio from the living room to what used to be my bedroom. Taking out the king size bed allowed room for two drafting tables and a utility table. When the space is tidied up, I’ll gladly take a photo and share it with you. It’s wonderful having my writing desk and a portion of my library in the same room as my studio now.

Drawing a Day

And finally, a word from my “whatever it’s worth” department: I read this quote this morning from Thoreau’s journal dated November 1850:

Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.

I laughed out loud, and am somewhat embarrassed to share this: back in my college days I wasted hours every night watching TV. A show I followed religiously was “The Streets of San Francisco.” One episode involved an African American writer who wowed the detectives repeatedly with his wise insights. At the conclusion he made a comment about “a trout in the milk.” After he left, the young Michael Douglas marveled over the old man’s depth of wisdom and expression while the aged Karl Malden just let him talk a bit. Finally, Malden said, “Thoreau.” Douglas said “What?” He answered: “Thoreau wrote that.” Malden then chided his young partner, saying if he ever bothered to read books rather than waste his time on foolish activities he wouldn’t need someone to keep him in line. How funny for this episode to be lodged in my brain thirty years later, all the time wondering if Thoreau really wrote that. Now it turns up in my morning watch!

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.

Hank’s Quest to Recover Something Lost

April 21, 2020
My trilogy of recent Hank paintings and stack of journals

As stated before, I am on hiatus as I prepare to go on the road again. My Jeep is loaded and ready, and now I’ve given myself some leisure to read through a stack of my old journals from the past year, and relax awhile on a cool 59-degree afternoon. While reading, the imagination began flowing with a new episode from Hank’s travels. I’ve decided to share that with a painting below:

Ancestral Spirit Withdrawing

Resting on a ledge of the Caprock, Hank gazed longingly across Blanco Canyon, awestruck at the marvel of a landscape 3,000 feet above sea level where he could view for literally hundreds of miles across the Southern Plains. In that quiet expansive space he felt an ineffable Presence. Turning to Emerson’s Nature, he found the passage he had read the night before.

The greatest delight which the fields and woods minister, is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable. I am not alone and unacknowledged. They nod to me, and I to them. The waving of the boughs in the storm, is new to me and old. It takes me by surprise, and yet is not unknown. Its effect is like that of a higher thought or a better emotion coming over me, when I deemed I was thinking justly or doing right.

Looking up from his book, Hank felt affirmed by that lingering Presence. Pulling out his volume of Walden, he searched for that passage that had left him puzzled over the past year.

I long ago lost a hound, a bay horse, and a turtle-dove, and am still on their trail. Many are the travelers I have spoken concerning them, describing their tracks and what calls they answered to. I have met one or two who have heard the hound, and the tramp of the horse, and even seen the dove disappear behind a cloud, and they seemed as anxious to recover them as if they had lost them themselves.

Hank wondered what it was about this passage that tugged at him so. Readers no doubt have wondered what it was exactly that Thoreau had lost and was now pursuing as he authored this book. But what was it that Hank lost and now pursued?

Gazing across the canyon expanse, Hank came to realize what it was he had lost–the freedom to explore. As a four-year-old child, his mother let him go outside daily to explore the world enveloping him, unfettered. They lived on a country road with no neighbors in sight in any direction.

Hank obeyed Mother’s orders not to cross the road or even enter it. This gave him the western, northern and eastern points of the compass. Nothing was visible to the small boy but miles and miles of rolling fields. The small dark dots of cows could be seen in a neighboring pasture several hundred yards away. Beyond that, only distant hills shimmering blue in the summer haze. All Hank wanted to do was walk the land as far as he could, and he did, but never more than fifty or so yards in any direction; he always wanted to look back and see home. Getting lost was a primal fear at that tender age.

When the young boy turned six, two institutions took over his life–church and school. Wandering ceased, except in his mind. Confined to Sunday School and public school rooms, Hank was never “with the program.” All he wanted to do in his seat was daydream of travel, and his imagination conjured up the visual memories of those distant shimmering hills he saw when he was four.

Once high school was finished, junior college and a job took over the guardianship of his daily schedule. Until now. Seated on the Caprock, Hank now was free to track the whereabouts of the hound, the bay horse and the turtle-dove.

For the past hour musing, the Presence never left Hank. Turning around suddenly to look at the canyon ledge in the distance behind him, Hank glimpsed a rider on a horse disappearing over the horizon. Shuddering, he wondered if a stranger had been standing there observing him all this while, or if he had encountered an ancestral spirit of a Plains Indian from last century before it withdrew. What tribe of Indians roamed these Southern Plains long ago? Did they feel the same sense of wonder and belonging that he did while gazing across the landscape? Hank determined that once he got back to Lubbock, he would find the public library and search out these matters.

______________________________________________________

Thanks for reading, and please check out my website at www.davidtrippart.com

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Completion of “Hank at the General Store”

April 20, 2020
Hank at Crane’s General Store

The journey from the Caprock fire site to the city of Lubbock took most of the day. Highway 84 was light on traffic and even lighter on motorists willing to pick up a hitchhiker looking like he had just emerged from the wilderness. As evening encroached upon the college town, Hank decided on a quality night’s sleep in a small roadside motel south of town. A shower and clean shirt would also make him look less threatening in public.

The following morning surprised him. Late October in Texas was not what he had known growing up in Missouri. Here, a bright sun-splashed morning with a hint of autumn weather embraced him, not the biting frost he had known all his life this time of year. Crane’s General Store lay on the quiet southern border of Lubbock, the traffic occasional on the farm-to-market road stretched out front. On the south side of the store, a long stretch of cotton field lay, looking like freshly fallen snow. Hank had only read about cotton farming when in school; he had never seen one with his own eyes. To the north of the store, a lenghty stretch of land rolled out flat as a carpet, golden brown under the autumnal sun, the low horizon providing a bright azure sky with no clouds. The cool winds brought acrid smells of tractor exhaust and he saw the rusty Allis-Chalmers chugging along the empty stretch of farm land.

Inside the dim interior of the store, Hank noticed immediately the pot-bellied stove, not yet needed for winter, but already on standby. The brightly clashing colors of canned and cartoned essentials lined the tidied shelves, ready for his restocking before hitting the road again. The sight of the meat counter took Hank way, way back to Proustian remembrances of Marlin’s store down the road from his grandparents’ farm in southeast Missouri. The Marlin family lived in the back of the store, and Hank now noticed a door behind the meat counter that separated the Crane residence from the actual store. It reminded him of the residence he left behind in Turvey’s Corner less than a month ago.

Mrs. Crane (call me Annie) was a gracious soul in her late years, her silver-colored hair stretched tightly back into a neat bun, her white apron already stained from the foods she had been preparing for customers throughout the morning. Conversation with her was warm and inviting, and he learned that this store had been established during World War I, and had never been out of business, handed down through the generations of Cranes living on the southside of Lubbock. Hank had not entered a store such as this since the late 1950’s and the mental journey back into his personal history filled him with a warmth that he needed this particular morning.

Peering at the items beneath the glass, Hank ordered a pair of sandwiches to be prepared, one for now, the other to be wrapped in wax paper for later. Bologna and sharp cheddar cheese were sliced on the old white Hobart machine. The bread also was sliced from a loaf and slathered with mustard and mayonnaise. Each of the pair of sandwiches was completed with a slice of yellow onion, slice of fresh tomato from the garden out back, and some lettuce. Glass bottles of Coke were collected from the big red box at the front of the store. Hank thanked Annie for the warm moment and stepped out to the front porch.

A row of freshly painted Warmack steel lawn chairs lined the shaded portion of the store, waiting for company. Setting down his backpack, Hank settled into one of the chairs, took out one of his sandwiches, and, forgetting to open his Coke, went back into the store to find an opener on the front of the red box. Now, it was time to chew the sandwich slowly and resume his reading of Emerson from the volume of essays the minister gave him a few days ago. “Self-Reliance” titled an essay that Hank thought might be appropriate for this stage of his life’s journey.

Ne te quaesiviris extra.

“Do not seek outside yourself.” Brushing back tears, Hank leaned back, closed his eyes and paused as a wave of cathartic emotion washed over him without warning. Throughout his life, he had harbored an inferiority complex. He never regarded himself as physically attractive, he was not athletic in school and not popular either. From his early childhood, his family had lived in rural settings with no neighborhoods of children with whom to bond and play. Hank, an only child, had spent his childhood years alone, and once entering school, never really knew how to reach out to his classmates. Remaining quiet during class discussions, he listened with envy to his peers answering all questions and bravely leading out with their opinions on literature assigned. And so, to add to his physical appearance and lack of sociability, Hank harbored this notion of being intellectually inferior. Time spent working in the gas station did not improve his social condition; proprietors were mostly old men who talked and laughed with each other, while Hank stood in the background looking on. His entire life was spent measuring himself against the standard of what he saw in others, always concluding that his own spirit had been weighed and found wanting.

And now he was here, seventeen hours from his home, afoot. Why? To think, and not be surrounded by the people he had seen all his life but who never really seemed to see him. Out west, Hank was finding time, space and a feel for destiny. No longer would he have to listen to Mom asking “When are you going to make something of your life?” or Dad commenting that Hank was O.K., just had been sheltered all his life and now had no clue what to do with it. The other day, the Reverend told Hank: “God made you, and God doesn’t make junk. Read Emerson’s Self-Reliance. It’s time to start believing in yourself.”

To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men,–that is genius.

One reason Hank was ready to listen to Emerson with his whole heart came from a fact the Reverend had surprised him with in conversation: the reality that Emerson was a nominal student in school, not a class standout by anyone’s standards. In college as well, Emerson did not impress his mentors. What essentially set him apart as an American sage was this indwelling determination that he had quality to share with anyone who would listen. Hank was now listening.

A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his.

Emerson was now calling out Hank in the most provocative way. In school all those years, Hank always thought his ideas were wrong and inferior because they did not match what his teachers and peers were saying aloud. Now, for the first time, he was embracing his ideas because they were his. People don’t go out on the open road with no advanced planning. But this is what Hank was doing, right now, and for the first time he was ready to believe in its value.

____________________________________________________________

Thank you readers for your continued encouragement as I work on this new Hank material. I am forced to take a hiatus for a few days . . . I’ll explain later. I hope to return soon with new stories and a new painting to continue the Hank saga.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Adjusting the General Store Painting

April 20, 2020

Hello, blog readers! Today is my 66th birthday, and I’m happy to be indoors painting. I decided to go nuclear on this painting that had too little contrast for my liking. After blocking in large dark areas I’m now waiting for paint to dry so I can “play” in the shadows. I have some extensive plans to nuance the large, darker areas.

Thanks for reading!

Branding Hank

April 19, 2020

I’m too sleepy tonight to work on my Hank at the General Store painting. So I’ve decided to work on a series of pencil sketches to see if I can come up with a suitable brand for him. This is my initial attempt.

Hank Gets a Boost

April 19, 2020
Chilly Sunday Morning with Two Slumbering Dogs

Waking to a chilly Sunday morning with the warmth of two dogs nuzzled against me, I reached for my phone and found a message from a friend that brought to a peak a heartwarming series of events beginning last evening.

After painting most of the day, I packed away Hank and my art supplies for the night and tuned in to NBC to watch the Global Citizen presentation. Throughout the entire performance, I was moved to the point of tears. Professional musicians played without the immediate gratification of a packed audience cheering before them. Medical personnel and social workers tearfully shared their experiences with people they did not even know personally as they fought against the dreaded effects of this virus. Three emcees in separate living rooms spoke only to cameras in front of them, putting out an affirming and entertaining script and conducting sensitive interviews with people around the globe united in an effort to do something wholesome for a population under siege–(all this in sharp contrast to the negative public verbal posturing that has been filling out the daily dose of coronavirus coverage–the worst possible behaviors demonstrated intentionally in front of news cameras). What fresh, cleansing water this night performance offered to us as an alternative to the daily news sewage. What a healing balm. What a display of unity. I felt drawn in and embraced by humanity. Kudos to Lady Gaga, if this was indeed your vision, and to all you others who worked so hard to make this a reality.

As I watched, I frequently reached for my journal and scrawled out observations and responses. And in the midst of the activity it suddenly dawned on me that Hank was conceived during this coronavirus, during a time of staying put in my residence. And as I daily added stories and paintings to the saga of Hank, a number of readers began to join in the chorus, giving further definition to Hank. It was then that I realized that Hank was more than just a fictional character born in the midst of the virus; he became a source of introspection as a number of people began sharing their own personal perspectives about finding one’s way in this world.

The message this morning on my phone came from Dave Shultz, my friend from Palestine, a professional photographer and like myself, somewhat of a wanderer. He has made a home in Palestine, but still owns a home in New Mexico, and the coronavirus found him trapped in New Mexico, just as it confined me to Lubbock, away from my own home. So, here is my mesage from Dave that has helped crystalize what I’ve been feeling since last night’s presentation:

I woke up at 3:30 this morning thinking about Hank. You built a character that has become very real to me. My mind just wouldn’t settle down and I finally had to get up and do some writing. I apologize for hijacking your character but I still want to share my thoughts.

Dave

I don’t see this as a “hijacking”. Rather, I am delighted every time someone else finds a piece of himself or herself in Hank. I believe there is some of all of us in Hank. And thus, this fictional character has in a sense become real. And now, with no editing, I share Dave Shultz’s contribution to the Hank series:

Hank was often asked by people he met on his journey if he was lonely. He would answer with a slow smile and tell them there was a big difference between being alone and being lonely. Some people got it and others were confused but that was always his answer. He thought about it a lot and realized some thime ago that he was never lonely when he was alone. In fact, the loneliest he had ever been was when he was with someone and wished he was alone.

Being alone was a good time to think. There were distractions but they were short lived and his thoughts returned easily to whatever he was pondering on. Today he was pondering on habits and rituals. He came to the conclusion that he did things and performed tasks out of habit but the way he did them was a ritual.

Setting up camp was a habit. The ritual came in how he did it. He always gathered wood in the last of the light and started his fire. Building the fire was a ritual. He used dried grass and bits of bark first. It would always light with a single match. Then he would add small twigs and slightly larger sticks. As soon as those were well caught, he added larger sticks. That was the fire he cooked his evening meal on and just before he crawled into his bed roll, he would build a pyramid of larger logs over the fire. They would be slow to catch and burn slow during the night. In the morning, the unburned ends of the logs radiated from the coals like the spokes on a wagon wheel and he could simply push them into the glowing embers to get a morning fire started.

Preparing his bed was another ritual. He would clear an area of sticks and rocks first. Even the smallest pebble would feel like a boulder at two in the morning. Once the ground was smooth, he would hollow out an area for his hips. He frequently slept on his side and if he didn’t prepare an area for his hips, he would wake up stiff and bruised. Not the best way to start a day. By the time he had his bed roll smoothed out the fire was just right for cooking and that was always his next task.

While he was cooking and eating his supper, he enjoyed staring into the fire but after clean up, he always sat with his back to the fire and allowed his night vision to return. The dark night sky would start to twinkle with tiny dots in a few places and with patience, all the stars would reveal themselves and he would start picking out the constellations his father had taught him as they lay togethr on the backyard grass just before bedtime.

They were old friends and you can’t be lonely with so many old friends to share your evening. He would seek out and visit Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Draco, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor and note their position in the sky. Then he would find the three constellations whose brigthest stars (Altair, Deneb and Vega) from the Summer Triangle – Aquila, Cygnus and Lyra. Sleep always came easier when he had a clear view of the summer sky.

Hank would take off his boots and place them close to hand before he slipped into the bedroll and as he lay smiling at the stars, he felt a peace he never felt in a city. He knew if he were staring at a ceiling instead of a sky full of old friends he would be longing to be exactly where he was now. He would sleep well and dream of trails unmarked by any boot prints other than those behind him.

Thanks, Dave Shultz, for extending Hank’s story, and thank you readers for always following.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Almost finished with the latest painting of Hank

April 18, 2020

Good evening, blog readers. I don’t like much to finish this latest painting of Hank. I have been fiddling with it most of Saturday, and will probably lay it aside to consider finishing on Sunday. Meanwhile I just wanted you to see it and hope you enjoy it. Thanks for reading!

Hank Slowly Emerging at the Country Store

April 17, 2020

Good evening blogging friends. I just wanted to update you with a progress report on the Hank painting which occupied me during a large part of this Friday. Hopefully I will have more to show over the weekend. Thanks for reading!