Archive for the ‘Coffee’ Category

Restful Reminiscences in the Midst of Calendar Frenzy

May 23, 2018

Starbucks chilling

The Cafe–always a respite for those driven by creative forces

After reading the first chapter of Sarah Bakewell’s At the Existentialist Cafe, my heart is “strangely warmed,” to borrow the words of John Wesley when hearing the reading of Martin Luther’s commentary on Romans.  The above picture was taken last week, the day before I left for St. Louis to join my friend Wayne White for a three-day primitive camping/fishing adventure. I’ve chosen not to photograph my current setting, though it is also outside a Starbuck’s in a different city.

My mind is still at a whirl, and sitting at this cafe table to sip coffee and scribble in my journal is about the only way I know how to cope with the turbulence (a good turbulence this is, I wish to add).

I have been on a day-to-day chase through one art appointment after another. A couple of weeks ago, I finished a week of a plein air painting competition in historic Waxahachie, Texas.

waxahachie 2 framed

One of three paintings submitted for competition

The same day I turned in my paintings for the plein air competition, I headed back to my home in Arlington forty minutes away to set up for a local Art on the Greene art and music festival.

art on the greene booth

Arlington’s Art on the Greene 2018

The day after the three-day festival ended, I drove an hour south to demonstrate in watercolor for the Lake Granbury Artists Association.

Granbury demo

Set Up for the Painting Demonstration

The morning after the Granbury demo, I drove to Texas Wesleyan University to collect the final writing portfolios from my Humanities classes, then spent that day and the next grading all the portfolios as well as the final exams for my online Logic class. I then submitted the grades to the registrar and left the following day for my drive to St. Louis. I don’t recall a more pleasant ten-and-a-half-hour drive across Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri. The windshield time was soothing, the sunlight was warm and strong, and all I could think about was how fortunate I was to have the time off to leave the work calendar behind.

Wayne White and I have known each other since second grade, but drifted apart after high school, and found one another again thanks to Facebook. Several times we have connected over the past years to camp, fish, and just sit to enjoy quality conversation. Both of us love John Muir, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, and spend hours discussing what we read from their legacies. I anticipated a delicious break from the frenetic schedule of appointments I had recently endured.

Wayne pouring coffee

Wayne Pouring the Camp Coffee

Our adventure this year took us to the Silver Mines recreation area near Fredericktown, Missouri. Wayne has already posted a delicious blog of our time there. You can read him at https://ramblingsofafarrier.com/ and admire his photography covering our excursion. He is ten times the photographer than I could ever dare to be.  And he is unparalleled as a camp cook, preparing everything in Dutch ovens and skillets, right down to his biscuits-made-from-scratch. And his camp coffee from a percolator always tastes better than what I get out of my modern kitchen appliances.

breakfast 2

We enjoyed three days and two nights that included fishing, hiking, photography, plein air painting and yes, hours of uninterrupted conversation about things that matter to us. We also endured three major thunderstorms, though our tents kept us dry inside. And somehow, Wayne always managed to keep a campfire going through the downpours, and his spirit never turned soggy with the environment. That is one of many things I will always admire about his character. Emerson must have had Wayne’s temperament in mind when he wrote that “nature wears the colors of our spirit.” Constant rainfall ruins most people’s camping experience, but it did not diminish ours, and I have to credit a great deal of that to Wayne’s ebullient attitude when out in nature.

Wayne cooking painting 1

Day Two: Wayne cooking breakfast while I try to capture the moment

breakfast 1

Plein Air watercolor sketch of breakfast in progress

I would be lying if I said that I fished all day, never got a bite, but it was still a good day. When I don’t succeed in fishing, I am pissed. But I can honestly say that if I paint all day and turn out nothing but lousy paintings, it is still a good day. I enjoy every moment at the plein air easel, or in the studio at the drafting table; I can never say that making art was a lousy experience, even if the product fails consistently. So, all of this to say that I have no judgment on the quality of my camp paintings; I just had a sublime series of thoughts and emotions the entire time I tried to make the paintings.

Wayne cooking painting 2

The final morning: again, Wayne cooks and I paint

breakfast 2 painting

On the final morning, I attempted a watercolor sketch of the base of a tree on our perimeter. Once Wayne began cooking, I rotated the easel 180 degrees, and attempted to capture his craft at the fire. On both mornings of breakfast preparations and painting, we were in a campsite soaked from the deluge of the night before. Wayne labored over a wet cooking area, managing a fire while I worked hard against the humidity, painting on paper that was constantly dotted with raindrops falling from the leaves overhead. Still, we both managed to laugh at our predicament and our spirits remained high.

cliff painting easel

cliff painting 2

cliff painting gear

Before breaking down our camp, we hiked down a steep hill into the bottom of a gorge to see the dam and the swollen St. Francis River raging by. I set up my easel, and refused to paint the true color of the muddy water below (it looked like raw sewage). Overwhelmed at the sight of the massive cliffs and forests across the gorge, I chose to edit this sketch, painting only about one-third of the vertical dimension of the bluff. I wanted sky, trees, rocks and water in the painting and could not accomplish that without severely diminishing the size of the foliage and rocks to fit them on the page. After my attempt to capture the essence of what was arranged across the gorge from me, I then enjoyed sitting on the cool boulders in the shade, scribbling in my journal, and watching Wayne far below, moving up and down the trails taking photographs of the spectacular views. I encourage you to check out his blog and see his magnificent work.

Both of us brought books to the camp, along with our journals, and enjoyed conversation over those.  I want to share now something I had read from the Journals of the Romantic painter Eugene Delacroix. Wayne and I had plenty to say over this:

(from Sunday, July 14, 1850): Today, Sunday, I may say that I am myself again: and so it’s the first day that I find interest in all the things which surround me. This place is really charming. I went this afternoon, and in a good mood, to take a walk on the other side of the water. There, seated on a bench, I started to jot down in my notebook some reflections similar to those I am tracing here. I told myself and I cannot repeat it to myself often enough for my repose and for my happiness (one and the other are but a single thing) that I cannot and must not live in any other way than through the mind; the food that it demands is more necessary to my life than that which my body calls for. 

Why did I live so much, that famous day? (I am writing this two days afterward). It was because I had a great many ideas which, at this moment, are a hundred leagues away. The secret of not having troubles, for me at least, is to have ideas. Therefore no effort is too great if it gives me the means of bringing them into existence. Good books have that effect, and above all certain ones among those books. The first thing to have is health, to be sure; but even in a sickly condition, such books as those can reopen sources through which imagination can issue forth generously.

I have said it in other blog posts: the life of the mind is what has saved me throughout my existence. When circumstances were dire, my ideas saved me, buoyed me. And yes, my ideas come from reading as well as observation and the efforts to make art. I suppose one of the reasons I blog is that my 130 volumes of journals scribbled over the years, along with the preparations and lectures delivered over the past thirty years of teaching, are still not enough in themselves. I continue to seek other outlets to express what is in me.

Now, I am fifteen hours away from that geographical region, but the sights still fill my mind’s eye, and returning to the reading of this book about the existentialist cafe experience, I recall Hemingway admitting during his early Parisian years of writing that he could not write about Michigan until he was in Paris, and couldn’t write about Paris until he was in Cuba or Key West.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when feeling alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

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Flushing the Agenda

January 27, 2018

blind blog

I hate to seem greedy—I have so much

to be thankful for already.

But I want to get up early one more morning, at least.

And go to my place with some coffee and wait.

Just wait, to see what’s going to happen.

Raymond Carver, “At Least”

Carver’s poetic words were what my soul needed this Saturday morning. I’m in The Redlands Hotel in Palestine, my favorite home-away-from-home. My only gallery appointment is Sunday afternoon, so I’m in the building, with my phone if anyone needs me, but it’s so luxurious to sit in this lovely apartment space on the second floor and feel all the cares and anxieties of the world roll off my shoulders.

I’m still under the weather (as are most of my friends) with this lousy congestion that just won’t go away and stay gone, even with help from physicians. And outside, it is cool and rainy and dark–a perfect day for indoors, coffee, books, and a smart phone that is my link to whomever needs me.

For my blog readers, I just have this to say–I have a number of blog posts in the hopper that I am still revising before sending them up the flagpole, thank you for being so patient, those of you who look forward to reading and knowing what is going on in my corner of the world. Despite my illness, many things have transpired over this past month, and so many good things are in progress that I really look forward to sharing on this page. All I can say is Soon (I hope).

Thank you for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

Warm Satisfaction

November 29, 2017

txwes

Third-Story Library Carrel, Texas Wesleyan University

There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better for worse as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance”

It took longer than it should have, but I finally reached the time in my life where I found myself happy with where I am. Friedrich Nietzsche wrote of three broad ways of interpreting history, and his “monumentalist” approach was the one I adopted long ago–seeking role models for inspiration in the hopes that excellence could be pursued. Throughout my years of teaching, I was the perpetual student myself, reading all I could on the lives of individuals who inspired me in the arts, literature, and public life. Finally, I’ve reached this special place where I feel I can pursue an artful life and do as I choose without permission or apology.

This present state of “semi-retirement” fits me better than any stage I’ve known before. I love teaching at the university three mornings a week, and though I don’t have to, I choose to rise at five on the mornings I teach (four hours before class time) so I can enjoy quiet reading and writing. This is one of those mornings. After all these years, I still love pursuing academic study and writing. Later today, I’ll enter the art studio and see what I can create visually.

I have designated the third floor library at Texas Wesleyan University as “Luther’s Tower”, because since the year 2000 (when I was teaching at night) I chose to cloister myself in one of the private study carrel rooms so I could look out the window across the city of Fort Worth and the south side neighborhoods and enjoy my study time. My memories of the winter holiday season were always the best because of the cold (yet, Texas this year still has 70-degree November days!), the early nightfall, and the feelings of Thanksgiving and Christmas in the atmosphere. In this carrel, I have relished the study of biblical literature, humanities, philosophy and ethics. I cannot describe the joy I know when there is quality time to read, to think, to compose my thoughts, and then write it all out.

I’m happy this time of year because the art festival season becomes more festive, and I’m anticipating with gladness this weekend’s show at The Sons of Herman Hall in Dallas. When I return home after classes this morning, I’ll go straight to the garage and begin making decisions on how to trim my booth with lighting and holiday attire, and how to stock it with my art inventory. For this show, I have a number of new pieces coming out for public viewing and sale, and I always love seeing the new on display.

The university semester will end next week for me, and I’ll enjoy a month off between semesters, and I’m thankful for that as well. I’m grateful for this gift of life and for quality time to pursue things that matter to me.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

A Weekend to Reset

October 27, 2017

gallery redlands

New Photo of Me Working in The Gallery at Redlands

This weekend, I’ve chosen to escape the whirlwind. I won’t bore you readers with all the details of the week, preparing for my Genny Wood Show in Bullard, Texas next weekend and then the opening of my “American Railroad Odyssey” show the following weekend in The Gallery at Redlands.

Dave Shultz is an amazing photographer, and was kind enough to come into the Gallery and shoot this photo yesterday. I have been an admirer of his work since March when I came into this Gallery, and only last week finally had the pleasure of meeting and visiting with him. I could spend a week in conversation with this Renaissance Man, and we’d never run out of material to discuss. He will be in Palestine for several months, but I already wish it were several years. I’m attaching the link to the page he attached to the website of The Redlands Historic Inn, featuring our new gallery:

http://redlandshistoricinn.com/artgallery.html

I have chosen to take this weekend away from the Gallery and Palestine, needing some down time. I have a new train watercolor in progress and may work on it this weekend, but I haven’t yet decided. Right now, I’m cloistered in a Barnes & Noble Cafe, loving this new Leonardo da Vinci biography by Walter Isaacson and catching up on some journal time. If I go silent for the rest of the weekend, it only means I am enjoying the quiet, and promise to return when next week.

My shipment of coffee mugs arrived and I’m happy that ten of them sold on the first day. There are still plenty more in stock, and if they all sell, then I’ll just order more. I have priced these at $15 plus shipping.

20171019_104852

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Warm Thoughts in the Cold Dawn

August 8, 2017

COLD COLORADO

It is language that tells us about the nature of a thing, provided that we respect language’s own nature. In the meantime, to be sure, there rages round the earth an unbridled yet clever talking, writing, and broadcasting of spoken words.  Man acts as though he were the shaper and master of language, while in fact language remains the master of man. Perhaps it is before all else man’s subversion of this relation of dominance that drives his nature into alienation. That we retain a concern for care in speaking is all to the good, but it is of no help to us as long as language still serves us even then only as a means of expression.”

Martin Heidegger, “Building Dwelling Thinking”

This morning, a romantic notion drove me out to the deck of this Colorado cabin to watch the dawn break, read from Heidegger and record in my journal. But once I came across the passage posted above, the 46-degree dawn convinced me to withdraw into the warmth of my kitchen, pour a second cup, shake off the chill and focus on what I believe to be a genuine oracle.

Since the second week in June, I have been mostly on the road, traveling Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico and now Colorado. I have never stayed longer than two weeks in any residence. In the Heidegger essay “Building Dwelling Thinking”, he discusses the nature of dwelling, what constitutes an architectural dwelling, how the dwelling shapes the one inside, and more profoundly the nature of language as the “house of being.” Language shapes us rather than vice versa.

During the Summer of ’17, my mind has not stopped questioning, probing the power of language and how it shapes us, the role it plays in carving out our character. In my journal I continually write, “What exactly am I?” “What word organizes my character?” “What kind of a human being am I, precisely”? Continually, I have probed language, seeking to divine the kinds of words necessary to help me understand what this is all about. I absolutely love living the retired life, but now that there is not a job to demand where I am to be and when, I am intrigued at this notion of living life and enjoying this precious Gift.

I took editorial liberties with the quote posted above, choosing to render in bold the sentence that seized my imagination, and striking out the one word I believe no longer describes today’s public discourse. For those of you who know me, I disdain most of the language that shapes today’s popular media, both televised and social. My blog is posted on a number of outlets, including Twitter, but I refuse to send 140-character tweets because one person has given that outlet its current identity, and I choose not to be identified among those participants.

I take language seriously, and I take character seriously. My precious friend Wayne White, also a blogger, shares my sentiment about the blog: we wish that readers would feel positive and whole when they read us, not visceral and angry.

So, as I close, I invite you to consider the following:

Sneering does not require depth of character or skill.

Being angry does not make you special or unique.

Cheap talk, especially insults, does not build a more meaningful life.

What exactly are you? What kind of footprint are you leaving day-by-day, as you travel this life? What do you really wish to be? What words shape you?

Thanks for reading.

 

Closing the Weekend on a Kerouac Note

February 7, 2016

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1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
2. Submissive to everything, open, listening

Jack Kerouac, “Belief and Technique for Modern Prose”

Before closing out my weekend with some quality reading before the fire, I felt the compulsion to work on a second Kerouac collage, finishing it just moments ago. My studio felt good once again, and though I had a splendid time out on the road, I am happy to be back in my own domestic environment.

studio

Thanks for reading, and enjoy your coming week!

No Need for a Cruel Month

February 7, 2016

sunrise archer city

APRIL is the cruellest month

T. S. Eliot, “The Waste Land”

This opening to T. S. Eliot’s poem has always given me pause, wondering what was so cruel about lilacs blooming and the climate of April in general. To me, February was always the cruellest month. January, like the Roman god Janus, looked in two directions–ahead to new possibilities as well as backward in retrospect. The new year is still exciting as January unfolds. A spring semester offers a new beginning. January has many advantages. By February, often the world has gotten colder and darker (to me, anyway), and the newness of the year has already faded. I just always thought February had natural depressants imbedded, and I have frequently regarded it as the cruellest month.

Escaping to the country this weekend was my answer to a frenetic schedule and general weariness and inertia I felt settling into my bones. Archer City and its remoteness offered respite. One of my early visits to this town was for the re-opening of the Royal Theater (setting for The Last Picture Show).

royal theater

At this event, I watched Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” performed by a local theater troupe. Since that night, I have thought of Archer City every time I have read “Our Town”, feeling that it had much to compare with Grover’s Corners.

Nice town, y’know what I mean?

Nobody very remarkable ever come out of it, s’far as we know.

Residents no doubt would say the same of this city, had it not been for a man named Larry McMurtry. His more than fifty novels and Pulitzer Prize have cast a long shadow across the north Texas consciousness. And now, he also possesses the 2014 National Humanities Medal, awarded to him last September by the President at the White House. Sarah, the lady with whom I visited yesterday, was priviliged to attend that ceremony as part of the media corps. I am posting the link of local coverage of that momentous event.

http://trailblazersblog.dallasnews.com/2015/09/president-obama-honors-larry-mcmurtry-in-elegant-white-house-ceremony.html/

The 29-degree morning that greeted me probably came as a shock to sleeping Archer City, as the forecast called for lows in the upper 30’s. Retiring to bed before 9:30 last night probably meant that the hotel bed was more comfortable on the second night. Waking several times in the darkness, I finally rose at 6:55, refreshed, and smiled at the rosy-fingered dawn on the distant ridge, happy to know that the lovely sight did not have to foretell a tragic day as it did in Homer’s Iliad. Perhaps February will not be a cruel month.

Breakfast will be served a quarter mile down the highway at Lucky’s Cafe, and I haven’t decided yet whether to drive or walk the distance (I walked last evening for dinner, but it was 46 degrees then). For now, I plan to enjoy this Spur Hotel with its coffee, and settle in for some quality reading during this quiet Sunday morning.

Thank you for joining me.

I make art in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

 

Saturday Morning in an American Diner

February 6, 2016

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. . . shuffle the old file cards of the soul in demented hallucinated sleep . . . 

Jack Kerouac, Visions of Cody

I would not call last night’s sleep “hallucinated” though the hotel bed is different enough from my own, that the new environment contributed to a somewhat restive night. Nevertheless, I awoke at 6:15 in the dark, feeling very contented, and after showering, descended two flights of stairs and crossed the street for Murn’s Cafe. While waiting for my sausage, eggs and hashbrowns, I enjoyed my coffee and tried to read Visions of Cody, but the conversation of three farmers in caps behind me kept invading the narrative, and I loved it. One of the men spoke with a voice deep and sonorous, and I couldn’t ignore his stories:

When I git sleepy drivin’ I jus’ stop ‘n take a nap or git sometin’ sweet. T’utter day, I come all d’way from Bossier City and when I got tuh Longview I wuz so sleepy. Bought four of dem jelly donuts and eat ’em. Drove duresta d’way.

Most of their talk concerned bulls and heifers. My favorite word that popped up frequently was sombitch.

Breakfast was first-rate, what I absolutely love about country diners, right down to the hand scribbled receipts. I’m in the mood to build another Kerouac collage with diner paraphernalia, but I’m more in the mood to watercolor right now.

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It is 38 degrees in Archer City this morning as the dawn finally breaks, and the wind will cut you in two if you cross the street, as you can see for ten miles in all four directions.

Thanks for reading.

 

Escape Velocity II

February 5, 2016

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My work comprises one vast book like Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past except that my remembrances are written on the run instead of afterwards in a sick bed.

Jack Kerouac, Visions of Cody

Today, I gave in to yesterday’s wanderlust. I booked my favorite room in the Spur Hotel in Archer City, Texas, Larry McMurtry’s hometown. I packed last night, and loaded early this morning, so as soon as school let out for the weekend, I pulled out of the parking lot, angling north for the two hour-plus drive to this quiet, spacious part of north Texas in Archer County.  Population of this town is 1,848 and that is just about right for me. In the cold winter evenings here, the clouds emit the most marvelous array of blues and lavendars, much like what I experienced in Colorado evenings, looking across the front range of the rockies. I tried to take a picture above, but I’m not a photographer, and there just wasn’t much light left for me to accomplish what I wished.

pound.jpg

Larry McMurtry’s famous bookstore, Booked Up Inc., has been my mecca for shopping for over a decade. Today I found a first edition of Ezra Pound’s Cantos and could not resist the sale that was running on books currently. I’m proud now to own it and read it.

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Dinner tonight in the cafe made me feel I had retreated in time to the days of Kerouac rambling the open roads across America. With this being Friday night, and a strong Catholic presence in Archer County, fish was on the menu, and the taste was just as delightful as the aroma that filled the diner.

And now, as I write this, I’m settled into my third-story corner room, overlooking the intersection of highways 25 and 79, with a flashing red light governing the four-way stop. The light flickers patterns across the interior brick walls of my room, and the swish of traffic below will probably lull me to sleep later tonight as I soak up some coveted reading.

I cannot describe the deep-seated satisfaction settling in over me, leaving the city and school behind, the noise, the deadlines, the endless prattle. Now there is no agenda. I have a stack of books on the table beside me, and a large carry-on bag stuffed with watercolor and drawing supplies. My journal is at hand, and I am ready now to settle into a quiet posture of reading, thinking, writing, drawing and painting. This quiet space has been so long overdue for me, and I am thankful to the depths of my being that the gift has finally arrived.

Thanks for reading.

The Affirming Embrace of a Saturday Morning

July 26, 2014
Coffee: the Perfect Companion in the Art Studio

Coffee: the Perfect Companion in the Art Studio

For I have known them all already, known them all:–

Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,

I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;

T. S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

July 26, 1992 marks one of the more perfect days of my earthly odyssey, especially when I measure out my life with coffee spoons.  That historic day was spent in Oregon, as I neared the finish of a blissful five-week seminar on the writings of Emerson, Thoreau and Margaret Fuller. To mark today’s anniversary, I’ve decided to begin with a cup of Hood River Coffee.  I ordered the beans from that company in Portland, Oregon, and was pleased to receive them on my doorstep yesterday.  This is only the second time in twenty-two years that I have ordered from them, but believe I’ll make a practice of it from here on out.  And today I will let the memories of Oregon, the mountains, the tall trees, the Pacific coast and the writings of those three bards flood my soul while I work on watercolor, read, scribble in the journal, and know from the heart the gratitude of feeling fully alive.

More later . . . thanks for reading.  It’s a beautiful Saturday in Texas.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not really alone.