Archive for the ‘Coffee’ Category

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.

 

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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.

 

Responding to the Muse on Sundance Square

June 13, 2014
Early Morning Plein Air Attempt of a Monumental Bronze Clock

Early Morning Plein Air Attempt of a Monumental Bronze Clock

In order to make art, we must first make an artful life, a life rich enough and diverse enough to give us fuel.  We must strive to see the beauty in where we are planted.

Julia Cameron, The Sound of Paper

We are not on this earth for long.  Part of what a midlife crisis is about is figuring out what gives you pleasure and doing more of that in the time you have left without asking for permission or a financial or emotional subsidy from anyone else.

Howell Raines, Fly Fishing Through the Midlife Crisis

Last night in downtown Fort Worth was restorative to my weary soul.  I enjoyed the sounds of people milling about Sundance Square, enjoyed my late-night coffee, read my book, and scribbled in my journal with utmost serenity.  Suddenly, I was drowsy and knew it was time to go home and retire.  Passing by the Haltom Jeweler’s clock that I had painted as part of my downtown composition a few years ago, I wondered why I had never sketched the clock en plein air.  It seemed that the Muse whispered that question into my ear, and the matter was settled.  Arriving home near midnight, I set my clock for 6:00 a.m., having checked the Weather Channel app on my phone to note that the morning was expected to be about 71 degrees.

When the alarm sounded, I made quick work of showering, dressing and “breaking my fast” (Thoreau’s favorite expression).  I was on the road by 6:48, and seated beneath this monumental bronze clock by 7:18.  I sketched and painted exactly one hour, and stopped, strolled into Starbuck’s, and enjoyed my morning coffee with this piece lying before me on the table.  I’m not sure if I’ll work further on it–plein air, to me, is strictly for gathering information, learning on the fly.  The experience will remain with me and inform my future work.

I am so grateful that I listened to the muse and followed my bliss this morning.  Sitting at the Starbuck’s table and reading Julia Cameron’s The Sound of Paper, I came across these words:

I am more than my circumstances, more than the cage of my environment.  There is a dignity inherent in making art, a filament of largesse and generosity, a connection to something better and brighter than myself.

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.

 

 

He’s No Longer Here

March 18, 2014
Fishing Memories (22 x 28" framed watercolor)

Fishing Memories (22 x 28″ framed watercolor)

When the neighbors hammered the padlock off the deceased man’s fishing shed, they peered inside the darkened room with sadness at the world of memories their dear friend had left behind.  Guarding the assembly from its high perch, the kerosene lantern called to memory nights spent on the Mississippi River dikes, waiting for catfish that would find their way to the Griswold skillet. The Canada Dry crate was the old fisherman’s stool for the nightlong vigils.

Bass fishing featured the Garcia Mitchell open-faced reel and the vintage wooden plugs for the area lakes and ponds.  In his retirement years, fly fishing took over, and the old man delighted in the long road trips in his Dodge pickup to the Colorado Rockies where he would not be heard from for weeks at a time.  The battered suitcase was his lifelong road companion, as was the dark leather knapsack that he bought from an old leathershop on the dusty streets of Athens during his European excursions.

The old man had not been heard from for more than a week, and the inquiring neighbors were saddened to enter his home and find him in his final resting place–his favorite recliner in the small front room of his ramshackle house.  His cup was still half-filled with the Dining Car Coffee he relished throughout his years working on the Frisco railroad.  Now, only his possessions remained to tell his life’s story.

I’m gearing up for a three-day art festival this weekend: Art on the Greene in Arlington, Texas.  I brought back from the Bowman Gallery in Portland my large framed fishing still life watercolor that I plan to install as a centerpiece to my booth display.  Greeting cards of the painting have just been printed, and posted above is the text I just composed that will appear on the back of the 5 x 7″ cards.  I wanted the painting to tell a story, so this is the one I just pulled together.  The story is one that I’ve carried in my consciousness for quite a few years now, wishing that I could write a novel or short story around the old man’s life and travels.  At any rate, I have a small piece to put on the back of a card.  I love watching patrons reading the backs of my cards when I’m selling out of an art booth.  It shows me that they have imagination and interest that go beyond just the images of the art work.

Thanks for reading.  I still have quite a bit to assemble and pack tonight.  The show is just a matter of days away.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

A Quiet Weekend–Quality Time to Listen to the Sages

February 1, 2014
Relaxing and Sketching at the Dallas Museum of Art

Relaxing and Sketching at the Dallas Museum of Art

[James] Joyce served my purposes then and now.  If you have taken on the adventure of modernism as I have–and the history of it–there have to be a few prophets to help you when you get discouraged.  You go back to them for reinforcement.

Robert Motherwell, Collected Writings

His soul had arisen from the grave of boyhood, spurning her graveclothes.  Yes!  Yes!  Yes!  He would create proudly out of the freedom and power of his soul, as the great artificer whose name he bore, a living thing, new and soaring and beautiful, impalpable, imperishable.

James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

By the time Friday afternoon arrived, I was thoroughly beaten down and discouraged from a grinding, thankless week in school.  I drove straight to the Dallas Museum of Art, convinced it was time to repay myself for enduring what I endured.  As soon as I entered the sweetness of the Edward Hopper Drawing exhibit, I knew I had entered a sanctuary.  Finding a padded bench, I sat for a few minutes, exhaled, then drew out my sketchbook and began working on thumbnails of Hopper’s figures.  Figure drawing has always been my Achilles heel, and I was determined to stay away from the comforts of architectural rendering and just stick with the human figure, trying again and again and again, until I had filled a page.  Long before the page was filled, I knew I had been restored.  So, I went on and filled a second page, then later began a third.

Going next to the museum café, I ordered a Starbuck’s coffee and sat sipping it while enjoying the view of downtown Dallas through the enormous windows.  Once the coffee was drained and a few more notes scribbled into my journal, I wandered upstairs and drifted slowly through the dark galleries of Central and South American Art.  Before I knew it, the time had arrived for the museum to close.  I headed for a warm home, restored and satisfied.

Rising today after a good night’s sleep, I determined that I was just going to sit, read, scribble in my journal, and think.  It was Saturday, and for the first time in weeks, it seemed, there was nowhere I had to be.  Why not just make a day of it?  After several years, I finally completed my reading of The Collected Writings of Robert Motherwell.  This is not to say that I am a slow reader, or that I did not enjoy this artist’s mind.  On the contrary, I cannot read Motherwell quickly, because he makes me pause, again and again, ponder, take notes, cross-examine, and shake my head in wonder.  What a marvel of an artist, philosopher, writer and romantic!  I was truly saddened when I turned the last page, and seeing Appendix A, realize that I had completed the volume.  I did not just read from this book today–I also read several more chapters of Edward Hirsch’s The Demon and the Angel, Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Mary Ann Caws’s Robert Motherwell: With Pen and Brush, and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay “Circles.”  And of course, I continued to sketch.

The communion of this day was the sweetest I have known for awhile. I wholeheartedly agree with Motherwell when he testifies that an artist needs some prophets to offer encouragement now and then.  And my greatest encouragement as an artist comes from the “dead men”.  I chafe every time I hear someone scoff at those who draw inspiration from books instead of from live company.  Frankly, I do not find myself surrounded by the likes of Hopper, Wyeth, Motherwell, Emerson, Tillich, et al.  And those men (to me) are not dead, but encourage me daily in this enterprise.  Every time I find myself second-guessing my abilities or strategies, I return to the volumes and the museums and listen and view what these men have to teach me.  They are finer than any graduate school I have had the privilege of attending, and I shall forever remain grateful for the ways they have enriched my life and given me hope and encouragement.

As this Saturday night draws to a close, I am holding out hope that Sunday can offer more of the same.  I would cherish a full weekend, bathing in the aura of the arts.  This has been a true delight.

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.

No Slant of Light, but an Excellent Beginning to the Day

December 29, 2013
Breaking the Fast

Breaking the Fast

There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labor. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God.

Ecclesiastes 2:24

I retired to bed around 10:30 last night, after watching the St. Louis Blues prevail over the Chicago Blackhawks in an epic come-from-behind-three-times battle (I am a hockey fanatic).  I was surprised to wake up at 7:14 this morning, and further surprised that there was no slant of light coming through my bedroom window.  In fact, as I write this now at 11:47, there has been no sunlight at all in my space throughout the morning, just cold, overcast winter light.  We have a cold front approaching Arlington, Texas and temperatures are supposed to hit a hard-freeze tonight.

After breakfast, my thoughts shifted toward this New Year, and I began to scribble out resolutions in my journal (always a sacred moment for me).  And then, I settled in to read the Book of Ecclesiastes in its entirety.  I want to do this every year at this time, but seldom get it done.  But this morning, I read the entire text and am profoundly moved by the message.

Reading fron Ecclesiastes

Reading fron Ecclesiastes

Throughout the years, I have rarely found another who has read this great book, and the few who have read it seem to write it off as “too depressing.”  The book has never struck me that way.  In the text, I hear the tired voice of an aged ruler who had been successful in administration and the acquisition of wisdom and wealth.  In his closing years, he concludes that “all is vanity.”  In his tone, I hear that constant refrain: “What is the point?”  I am not depressed in hearing that. I am intrigued.  I love that honest question that cuts to the core of our souls.  If we’re going to die, then why do the things that we do matter?

I’ll probably pick this up again in the blog, but it is nearly noon, and I knew at bedtime last night what I wanted to paint today.  As Qohelet (the Preacher in Ecclesiastes) observed, we should experience good in our labor.  This is a gift.  I am grateful for that gift.  I love life.  It is too short.  Art is long.  And now, I wish to give myself back to making art.  The morning read has been very satisfying, my heart is lifted, and I have found a sense of calm and contentment, even without that slant of light.

More later.  Thanks so much for being there to read me.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.