Caprock Enchantment

Good morning, friends. West Texas temperatures are dropping, and it appears that we will experience some winter weather over Easter. This morning I finished a first draft of my continuing Hank saga and wanted to post it before starting my next painting to illustrate it. I anticipate some changes to the story while painting, but decided to let you in on a sneak preview. Thanks always for reading.

Hank felt rested tonight. After packing his gear to depart Dallas this morning, he made a last-minute decision to invest some of his money in a bus ticket. Hopping a Greyhound at the downtown terminal, he rolled westward for hours, dozing in his seat most of the way. Getting out in Abilene, he then thumbed a pair of rides further west on Interstate 20, getting out where state highway 84 branched northward into the caprock escarpment. Once the territory began taking on the look of western movies, Hank decided to get out where there were no towns, trek off the highway several miles, following an arroyo back between a pair of plateaus. Dropping his backpack, taking off his hat and gazing across the afternoon terrain, Hank welcomed the caress of the cooling west winds in his face. He was glad he decided to leave his suitcase with Uncle Leo. The backpack carried all he needed for travel, and Dallas, for the meantime, could be his homing site. Leo seemed lonely, and Hank felt a need to check in with him from time to time.

October was cool in west Texas, but not yet cold. Hank decided this narrow place nested between two cliffs would make a nice bedroom for the night. Time to make a fire. Gathering clumps of dried grasses, he fashioned a small bowl and lined the bottom with cotton balls soaked in Vaseline that he kept stored in 35mm film cannisters in one of his backpack pouches. Then we walked about, gathering small sticks and dried branches and a larger chunk of wood that may have once been a fence post. Hank was glad he had packed a hatchet left behind by old Philosopher Bob back home. He made quick work, chopping the fence post down to several chunks.

While Hank was wandering and gathering, his mind continued to recall snatches of conversation from yesterday’s time with Reverend Elton. Conversion. Hank was startled that the minister regarded him as thoughtful, perhaps philosophical. As a parting gift of goodwill, Elton handed Hank a small volume of Emerson’s essays and encouraged him to read them thoughtfully while on the road. Before falling asleep on the bus, Hank read the following from Emerson’s Nature:

To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society. I am not solitary whilst I read and write, though nobody is with me. But if a man would be alone, let him look at the stars.

The fact is this: Hank has always been alone. But reading the Emerson passage made him realize for the first time that solitude was not a scourge when he was on the road or under the stars; it was a scourge in Turvey’s Corner, where he felt that he had never fit, not at school, not at the gas station, not at church, not even at gatherings among friends. Hank was solitary, and now it was alright.

Laying his gatherings down in a pile beside the nest, Hank opened one of the pouches of his backpack and drew out a magnesium rod. Bending over the nest and striking the rod with his Bowie knife, he watched sparks shower into the nest until the cotton balls combusted. Blowing on the small flame while sheltering it with his hat from the west Texas evening winds, he kept feeding dried grasses, then the small twigs, and then carefully stacked the chunks of fence post.

The minister’s voice again was in Hank’s ears: “Hank, I really believe that you are about to embark on a life-changing odyssey. I don’t know if you’ve read or taken an interest in Homer’s Odyssey. It might mean more to you when you’re thirty than twenty-one. At any rate, Odysseus, after being away from home ten years because of that bloody war, spent the next ten years of his life on an odyssey, a journey if you please, trying to find his way back home, to Ithaca. High school students don’t generally find the work very relevant, but the older we get, the more we realize that our life is a journey seeking our genuine home, the center of the self. It is a journey of self-discovery. I believe all humans have that restlessness in their souls, but few act on it. It seems to me that you are now acting on it; you are setting out on a journey away from your temporal home into a land of dizzying freedom, with no one to talk to but yourself, and whatever great minds from the past you care to visit through their writings. Away from the clatter of meaningless gossip you hear among your daily peers, you now can enter the great Silence of the West, gaze into the stars at night, and with no appointments or deadlines, determine just exactly who you are and what you want from life. My advice to you is, don’t come back till you reach Ithaca.”

Once the fire was well underway, Hank pulled out his canteen and coffee pot, poured in the water along with the ground coffee, placed the pot on a flat stone in the fire and waited for the mixture to come to a rolling boil. He also fished out a can of Beanie Weenies picked up at a small grocery in Abilene, poured the contents into a camping pan, and set it in the ashes to warm. After ten minutes, he then poured a little canteen water down the spout and around the inner edges of the coffeepot to settle the grounds to the bottom.

Under the chandelier of stars in the west Texas sky, Hank tasted the best coffee he had ever brewed, and sat back in the darkness, listening to coyotes yipping in the distance. Though several miles from highway 84, he could still barely hear the noise of an occasional truck droning along. Solitude. Supper was finally ready.

In the embrace of the caprock night, Hank continued pondering the ideas brought forward by Pastor Elton.

_____________________________________________________________

I’m feeling a genuine renewal, working daily on this Hank story and finding new ideas to paint. Today I plan to begin the 8 x 10″ watercolor illustrating the draft of the story posted today. I hope you are enjoying the story, and look forward to sharing the painting as it takes shape.

When you get the chance, please check out my website at http://www.davidtrippart.com

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

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