The Sacred Morning

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.


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