Building the Altar

Morning Reading before entering Studio Eidolons

[Marshall McLuhan’s] overriding theme was that, even in a hyper-connected world, everyone has the ability to regulate his or her own experience.

William Powers, Hamlet’s Blackberry: A Practical Philosophy for Building a Good life in the Digital Age

My morning ritual involves building an altar in hopes and anticipation of a fire falling to consume the sacrifice. Decades ago, while in the ministry, I began my mornings in solitude, poring over the Bible, waiting for some kind of message, an oracle, a mantra, a direction. After leaving the ministry, the morning watch didn’t change; I just found myself reading everything I could lay my hands upon, instead of exclusively reading the Bible.

My morning watch habits continue today (Sandi and I chuckle, calling it “executive time”) with my lingering over coffee, books and journal for at least an hour before entering Studio Eidolons to pursue whatever art has my current attention. When I sit to read, I have much trouble these days deciding what to choose for the morning. Now that I have downsized my library, every volume on every shelf in every room has the utmost quality (to me), all of them crying out, inviting me to “take up and read” (something I recall from St. Augustine).

This morning I returned to Hamlet’s Blackberry, desiring to re-read the final chapter on Marshall McLuhan’s contribution to what he termed “the global village.” Long before we reached the digitally-connected world we now know, McLuhan saw it coming and had plenty to write in response. The chapter has been inspiring as I re-think all that has happened since last March–COVID, a restriction in social planning, an uptick in art commissions, and a thorough rehabbing of our house. While cloistered in our home, I have researched social media further and opened an Instagram account. Suddenly, a new portal is bringing many more people into my studio; I find it more difficult to bury myself in my art with all the distractions coming in through the digital avenues.

McLuhan’s charge that we retain that ability for introspection and cultivation of a life of the mind encourages me to continue the habits I have sustained over a lifetime–to set aside a backroom, a sanctuary, a cloister, and treat myself to quiet introspection during the morning hours.

This painting of the bison is nearly complete, so I am setting it aside for awhile so I can look on it with fresh eyes to determine what else, if anything, needs to be done before signing it. This morning I’ve decided to resume work on another bison piece, much larger, that I started before this one, but abandoned as I wished to put in a pair of bison that would be larger, more prominent. The larger painting has an enormous herd, but they are much smaller in the composition.

Baby Paddington is ready for me to join him

To make room for the crew who will install new windows in the studio, I am having to move everything away from the window wall. Baby Paddington has found the new location of his bed beneath one of the moved drafting tables. I think he is ready for me to join him, and I am certainly in the mood now to paint.

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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