Hank Gets a Boost

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.

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