Working in the Studio, with Camping still on my Mind

Coffee has a special taste of a frosty morning, and the third cup is as good as the first.

John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley

Cowboy Coffee at Beaver’s Bend State Park, Broken Bow, Oklahoma

Sunday at home has been cozy, with last night’s storms extending into a dark and cool day all day today. Finishing my second reading of John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley has put me in a docile frame of mind, and now I’ve turned to my first reading of Cannery Row. After the first dozen pages, I believe this will be a keeper as well.

Reading Travels with Charley while enjoying my final cup of Cowboy Coffee

We returned home three days ago, but my heart and imagination are still in the Oklahoma wilderness. It was hot every day–93 degrees and humid, and apparently too warm for the trout waters. I had several strikes on dry flies, but hooked nothing, and for the first time there, never saw another fly fisherman catch anything either.

Evening Hole, my favorite place for stalking trout
New commission in progress

At the time of this writing, I have at least eight paintings to complete to satisfy the wishes of patrons. The initial plans are already laid out and I am simply moving from one to the next, grateful that I love watercoloring and always find myself getting lost in every new composition. I have been taking today’s very slowly as there are a number of areas where I could lose the painting quickly.

Time spent this morning over coffee and Steinbeck yielded this gem from Cannery Row:

The word is a symbol and a delight which sucks up men and scenes, trees, plants, factories, and Pekinese. Then the Thing Becomes the Word and back to Thing again, but warped and woven into a fantastic pattern. The Word sucks up Cannery Row, digests it and spews it out, and the Row has taken the shimmer of the green world and the sky-reflecting seas.

All day long, while painting in the studio, this passage has simmered in my consciousness. For as long as I can remember, “word” has meant much more to me than just a single building block for a sentence. From seminary days learning Greek, logos has consumed my attention. I always appreciated the writings of Martin Heidegger, arguing that “word” refers to the “gathering together,” the “organizing dynamic” of life as we encounter it.

Whenever I experience an artful day, I look for the Word, for the organizing principle of what is going on about me. I love the challenge of making art because I am called upon to organize elements and design something the eye can recognize and appreciate. On this particular day, painting a house that means a great deal to a patron, I wonder about the people who inhabited the structure, what kind of stories sprung from the neighborhood, what sounds and smells were encountered on a daily basis–all kinds of details engaged my imagination as I worked.

And speaking of work, I need to return to it. Thank you for taking time to read me and about the things happening in this part of the world while a virus continues to hover about our surroundings. Stay safe.

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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