Aging and Loving

Shelton Hall, Old Town Palestine, Texas (still in progress)

I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wandering awed about on a splintered wreck I’ve come to care for . . .

Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

We have not yet been home a week from our Colorado excursion, but already I find myself firmly set in the daily schedule of my usual life divided between Arlington and Palestine, Texas–a life we had escaped last week for a few days. Daily, I re-open journal pages and sketchbooks from the Colorado hiatus and review the many photos taken, not wanting those memories to fade . . .

Always when traveling, I pack several books, never sure exactly what is going to hold my attention while vacationing. This time I took Martin Heidegger’s Poetry, Language, Thought, Larry McMurtry’s Comanche Moon, my Greek texts of Homer’s Odyssey and my New Testament, and Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Every day on the deck of our Brookie Cabin, I found time for journaling, watercoloring in my sketchbooks and reading from Heidegger and Dillard. PIlgrim at Tinker Creek I have read twice, but the text is so rich I continually find myself re-reading passages that though highlighted had been pushed down the corridors of fading memories, needing refreshment.

I have posted above the passage that knocked the wind out of me (as if breathing at 8,000 feet wasn’t difficult enough already). Annie wasn’t very old at the time she wrote that, but the depth of feeling seized me then, and of course seizes me much more at my current age.

I’m never sure how to address this issue of aging, but these are the things on my mind this morning: First, I have been aware of a sedentary lifestyle for decades, but lacked the inititative to do anything about it. Reading books and making art and driving long distances are not acts that improve physical conditioning. Weight gains and aging finally drove me to hire a personal trainer, and for several months in the gym, I’ve experienced the Greek αγωνία as muscles have been stretched and torn. I gratefully realized the improvement last week when in the stream fly-fishing, that my footing had much improved over the slick rocks underneath and my stamina was better wading upstream against torrential currents. Scaling the hills back to the cabin also came easier. So yes, I am much grateful to Inner Strength Fitness for pointing me in the right direction, healthwise.

But of course, there is no reversal for aging. The longer I live, the more I realize how much I love life and want to suck out its marrow, as Thoreau expressed in Walden. I am not living a life of regret over past decisions, but I do regret the feeling of doors slowly closing on the road ahead. My watercolor posted above, nearly complete, depicts a subject that has pulled at my sentiments since the 1980’s–an America I knew as a child in the 1950’s that is slowly vanishing from our landscape, but not my memories. I call my company Recollections 54 because it points to my birth year along with the decade that shaped my earliest impressions. The city of Palestine is replete with these relics from the past, and I’m grateful now to possess a gallery in what I know to be the best part of that town–the historic Redlands Hotel, built in 1914 and still maintained with pride and dignity. But as I continually survey the aging buildings and properties about me, I feel the corollary of my own life that continually resists entropy.

Tomorrow I will return to Palestine and The Gallery at Redlands, hopefully complete this watercolor, then begin a new composition, picking out yet another of hundreds of its monuments from the past. We have exciting events on the horizon in Palestine as we continue to pump new life into its art scene. Next month will witness the return of Wayne White, my “Hank” hero from the short stories I’ve been writing for a book to come out sometime in the future. On Friday night August 20 at 7:00, Wayne will team up with fellow Gallery at Redlands artist Stacy Campbell to host our “Gallery Talk.” Few people can “slap it around” better than Wayne and Stacy when it comes to discussing art and humor. You won’t want to miss that event. And then the next day, Saturday August 21 will be our third “Art Walk” that will take in over a dozen businesses in downtown Palestine from 10:00-3:00. At 7:00, our concluding summer concert event will feature Carson Jeffrey. A number of Palestine creatives have pooled their enthusiasm to pump up the fine arts in town and I’m proud to play a part in the events.

The morning has stretched into the afternoon already. I plan to spend the day in Studio Eidolons to see what I can cook up next. I hope to write you from The Gallery first thing tomorrow.

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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