Archive for the ‘Hank’ Category

It is Now “Hank and Randy”

May 14, 2020
Hank & Randy

“Collect call from Hank Shelton, will you accept?”

“Yes.”

“Randy?”

“Hank! Is that really you?! Where the hell you calling from?”

“Lubbock, Texas. Can you believe it?”

“Jesus! How’d you get so far away?”

“Long story, and this call’s gonna cost you already.”

“Are you alright?”

“Aw yeah. Things are good. I just wanted to hear a friend’s voice. I’m all by myself still. How ‘bout you. Seminary treatin’ you right?”

“I dropped out.”

“What?!”

“Yeah. And Debbie and I are through too.”

“No!”

“Yeah. Lot’s changed since you left.”

“Sorry.”

“Don’t be. I think this is gonna be the right thing.”

“Hang in there, buddy.”

“Hey, Hank.”

“Yeah?”

“Call me back in a couple days, promise. After 5:00 when I’m off work.”

“O.K., sure.”

“I wanna come out there where you are.”

“Really? You’re kidding!”

“No, really. I need a change. Bad.”

“You’ll hear from me, promise.”

“Thanks for calling, pal. I’m gonna tie up some loose ends here and get ready to hit the road, so call me. We’re gonna raise some sand!”

After weeks of traveling between Lubbock and Arlington, Texas and working on this house daily, I was struck with a new idea yesterday to continue my Hank saga. Enter Randy Singleton, Hank’s friend since second grade.

In answer to friends who have asked “Who is Hank, really?” my reply is that Hank has been a combination of my life and my friend Wayne White since second grade. Thanks to Facebook, we found each other a few years ago after being separated since high school graduation. Since then we have camped together, fished together, and sat up all night telling stories. Wayne still lives in Missouri, so I don’t see him nearly as often as I wish. But he also keeps a blog (https://ramblingsofafarrier.com/) and we stay in close touch.

My stories and paintings hit a snag recently, not only because of this move back and forth between two cities five hours apart, but because I ran out of steam with Hank always being alone and my having to create interior monologues. I knew he needed a companion. So . . . I am now introducing Randy and will attempt to flesh out their separate identities as they prepare to join each other on the road.

The painting posted above is of Wayne and me, camping. I created it a couple of summers ago. I already have plans for the next painting of the pair of characters for the story, but I have yet to start that actual painting. Hopefully, it won’t be long. Since yesterday I have written three brand new stories of this pair, and plan to launch them soon, after some more editing.

Thanks always for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

In the Morning Stillness . . .

April 27, 2020
Bust of Democritus

I find it to be the height of wisdom not to endeavor to oversee myself and live a life of prudence and common sense, but to see over and above myself, entertain sublime conjectures, to make myself the thoroughfare of thrilling thoughts, live all that can be lived. The man who is dissatisfied with himself, what can he not do?

Henry David Thoreau, Journal November 23, 1850

Waking before 5:00 this morning turned out not to be a bad thing, after all. When I realized lying in bed that I was not able to return to sleep because the thought processes were moving quickly, I grinned, remembering Carlo Marx in Kerouac’s On the Road: “You can’t stop the machine!” So I rose from my bed, entered my studio of dreams, and after writing out a few random thoughts in my journal, opened to Thoreau’s Journal and found those words posted above.

I have always enjoyed Thoreau’s love of wordplay in his writings. Here, he expresses that he doesn’t want to “oversee” his life, but rather to “see over and above” it and eventually render it “the thoroughfare of thrilling thoughts.” I have decided to read for a second time the very engaging biography written by Robert D. Richardson Jr., Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind. This was one of the texts assigned to me in 1992 when I attended the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar at Oregon State University. I can’t believe that twenty-eight years have passed since lingering over those pages.

My lifestyle has changed profoundly since returning to my home nearly a week ago. My first love in life has been quality time in the studio reading, journaling, making art and cultivating the life of the mind. I frequently did that all day long if no appointments beckoned, and during my two months in west Texas due to the coronavirus precautions, I lived mostly that lifestyle.

Returning to this neglected house that I spent very little time in since 2017, I decided it was time to clean it up (never my strong suit). So . . . for the past six days I have devoted only the morning hours for this meditative life (I am going to devote an entire blog post to that idea later) and then I turn my attention to this dwelling place the rest of the day before retiring to a restful and relaxing evening. What a difference that has made.

Every morning I have tried to balance my attention between reading, writing, journaling, creating at least one small drawing, and then watercoloring. This morning I made another attempt at a brand for my new character Hank. This may turn out to be my next watercolor, I haven’t decided yet.

As I have repeatedly told my friends, I do not draw nearly enough; I just dive stratight into the next watercolor, not even attempting thumbnail sketches or compositional decisions. I am trying to change that. So, for the past six days I have made at least one small drawing during the morning. Here are a few more:

Several months ago, while visiting our favorite barbecue place in Dickens, Texas, I began a watercolor of the sprawling vacant land separating the barbecue joint from the businesses further down the highway.

Because Thoreau in his Journal kept rhapsodizing about the colors of the weeds, I found this watercolor abandoned some time ago and decided to go back to work on the ground cover. Within minutes, I was lost in the heart of this 18 x 24″ picture plane. As I worked, my mind continued to surge, and now I’m going to post what I recorded in my journal as I stopped continually to write out what I was thinking while painting:

I have moved to the window of Eudaimonia Studios. Dawn has broken, a rosy-fingered dawn. A Homeric dawn. Like the women of The Odyssey who weave exquisite patterns daily I am now weaving the dry grasses of Thoreau’s land of wonder.

*Dark Sepia Albrecht Durer watercolor pencil

*Blackwing Matte favored by Steinbeck as he wrote his drafts

*Papermate Mirado Classic from the H-E-B grocery

*Studio Series 4H

*Size 8 Silver Black Velvet Script brush

This is my choir of blended voices singing their Ode to Autumn. I have moved to the window to look out at the neighborhood waking up in the early light. Taking out a selection of pencils, I settled on the Dark Sepia Albrecht Durer watercolor pencil made by Faber Castell. And I began doodling in the massive patches of weeds. Drawing, shading, rendering callibraphic lines, smudging, very subtly weaving in and out among the strands of weeds. Getting lost in tiny focused areas. Thinking of my ninth-grade art teacher Mr. Scucchi. Hearing his voice again as he drones on and on with theory that I understood little of in those days, but somehow remembered his words and now understand and explore their dimensions. Lines, shapes, relationships, paint quality, positive and negative space, tonality. I am exploring these elements of design now that I understand.

Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Andrew Wyeth. Mr. Scucchi continued to urge: “Look at the grasses in Christina’s World. Look at the Jackson Pollock drips and swirls. See all that calligraphy? Look at the Willem de Kooning slashes. See that freedom? Cut loose! Don’t be afraid. Explore. Be an artist without apology.”

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.

Hank’s Quest to Recover Something Lost

April 21, 2020
My trilogy of recent Hank paintings and stack of journals

As stated before, I am on hiatus as I prepare to go on the road again. My Jeep is loaded and ready, and now I’ve given myself some leisure to read through a stack of my old journals from the past year, and relax awhile on a cool 59-degree afternoon. While reading, the imagination began flowing with a new episode from Hank’s travels. I’ve decided to share that with a painting below:

Ancestral Spirit Withdrawing

Resting on a ledge of the Caprock, Hank gazed longingly across Blanco Canyon, awestruck at the marvel of a landscape 3,000 feet above sea level where he could view for literally hundreds of miles across the Southern Plains. In that quiet expansive space he felt an ineffable Presence. Turning to Emerson’s Nature, he found the passage he had read the night before.

The greatest delight which the fields and woods minister, is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable. I am not alone and unacknowledged. They nod to me, and I to them. The waving of the boughs in the storm, is new to me and old. It takes me by surprise, and yet is not unknown. Its effect is like that of a higher thought or a better emotion coming over me, when I deemed I was thinking justly or doing right.

Looking up from his book, Hank felt affirmed by that lingering Presence. Pulling out his volume of Walden, he searched for that passage that had left him puzzled over the past year.

I long ago lost a hound, a bay horse, and a turtle-dove, and am still on their trail. Many are the travelers I have spoken concerning them, describing their tracks and what calls they answered to. I have met one or two who have heard the hound, and the tramp of the horse, and even seen the dove disappear behind a cloud, and they seemed as anxious to recover them as if they had lost them themselves.

Hank wondered what it was about this passage that tugged at him so. Readers no doubt have wondered what it was exactly that Thoreau had lost and was now pursuing as he authored this book. But what was it that Hank lost and now pursued?

Gazing across the canyon expanse, Hank came to realize what it was he had lost–the freedom to explore. As a four-year-old child, his mother let him go outside daily to explore the world enveloping him, unfettered. They lived on a country road with no neighbors in sight in any direction.

Hank obeyed Mother’s orders not to cross the road or even enter it. This gave him the western, northern and eastern points of the compass. Nothing was visible to the small boy but miles and miles of rolling fields. The small dark dots of cows could be seen in a neighboring pasture several hundred yards away. Beyond that, only distant hills shimmering blue in the summer haze. All Hank wanted to do was walk the land as far as he could, and he did, but never more than fifty or so yards in any direction; he always wanted to look back and see home. Getting lost was a primal fear at that tender age.

When the young boy turned six, two institutions took over his life–church and school. Wandering ceased, except in his mind. Confined to Sunday School and public school rooms, Hank was never “with the program.” All he wanted to do in his seat was daydream of travel, and his imagination conjured up the visual memories of those distant shimmering hills he saw when he was four.

Once high school was finished, junior college and a job took over the guardianship of his daily schedule. Until now. Seated on the Caprock, Hank now was free to track the whereabouts of the hound, the bay horse and the turtle-dove.

For the past hour musing, the Presence never left Hank. Turning around suddenly to look at the canyon ledge in the distance behind him, Hank glimpsed a rider on a horse disappearing over the horizon. Shuddering, he wondered if a stranger had been standing there observing him all this while, or if he had encountered an ancestral spirit of a Plains Indian from last century before it withdrew. What tribe of Indians roamed these Southern Plains long ago? Did they feel the same sense of wonder and belonging that he did while gazing across the landscape? Hank determined that once he got back to Lubbock, he would find the public library and search out these matters.

______________________________________________________

Thanks for reading, and please check out my website at www.davidtrippart.com

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Completion of “Hank at the General Store”

April 20, 2020
Hank at Crane’s General Store

The journey from the Caprock fire site to the city of Lubbock took most of the day. Highway 84 was light on traffic and even lighter on motorists willing to pick up a hitchhiker looking like he had just emerged from the wilderness. As evening encroached upon the college town, Hank decided on a quality night’s sleep in a small roadside motel south of town. A shower and clean shirt would also make him look less threatening in public.

The following morning surprised him. Late October in Texas was not what he had known growing up in Missouri. Here, a bright sun-splashed morning with a hint of autumn weather embraced him, not the biting frost he had known all his life this time of year. Crane’s General Store lay on the quiet southern border of Lubbock, the traffic occasional on the farm-to-market road stretched out front. On the south side of the store, a long stretch of cotton field lay, looking like freshly fallen snow. Hank had only read about cotton farming when in school; he had never seen one with his own eyes. To the north of the store, a lenghty stretch of land rolled out flat as a carpet, golden brown under the autumnal sun, the low horizon providing a bright azure sky with no clouds. The cool winds brought acrid smells of tractor exhaust and he saw the rusty Allis-Chalmers chugging along the empty stretch of farm land.

Inside the dim interior of the store, Hank noticed immediately the pot-bellied stove, not yet needed for winter, but already on standby. The brightly clashing colors of canned and cartoned essentials lined the tidied shelves, ready for his restocking before hitting the road again. The sight of the meat counter took Hank way, way back to Proustian remembrances of Marlin’s store down the road from his grandparents’ farm in southeast Missouri. The Marlin family lived in the back of the store, and Hank now noticed a door behind the meat counter that separated the Crane residence from the actual store. It reminded him of the residence he left behind in Turvey’s Corner less than a month ago.

Mrs. Crane (call me Annie) was a gracious soul in her late years, her silver-colored hair stretched tightly back into a neat bun, her white apron already stained from the foods she had been preparing for customers throughout the morning. Conversation with her was warm and inviting, and he learned that this store had been established during World War I, and had never been out of business, handed down through the generations of Cranes living on the southside of Lubbock. Hank had not entered a store such as this since the late 1950’s and the mental journey back into his personal history filled him with a warmth that he needed this particular morning.

Peering at the items beneath the glass, Hank ordered a pair of sandwiches to be prepared, one for now, the other to be wrapped in wax paper for later. Bologna and sharp cheddar cheese were sliced on the old white Hobart machine. The bread also was sliced from a loaf and slathered with mustard and mayonnaise. Each of the pair of sandwiches was completed with a slice of yellow onion, slice of fresh tomato from the garden out back, and some lettuce. Glass bottles of Coke were collected from the big red box at the front of the store. Hank thanked Annie for the warm moment and stepped out to the front porch.

A row of freshly painted Warmack steel lawn chairs lined the shaded portion of the store, waiting for company. Setting down his backpack, Hank settled into one of the chairs, took out one of his sandwiches, and, forgetting to open his Coke, went back into the store to find an opener on the front of the red box. Now, it was time to chew the sandwich slowly and resume his reading of Emerson from the volume of essays the minister gave him a few days ago. “Self-Reliance” titled an essay that Hank thought might be appropriate for this stage of his life’s journey.

Ne te quaesiviris extra.

“Do not seek outside yourself.” Brushing back tears, Hank leaned back, closed his eyes and paused as a wave of cathartic emotion washed over him without warning. Throughout his life, he had harbored an inferiority complex. He never regarded himself as physically attractive, he was not athletic in school and not popular either. From his early childhood, his family had lived in rural settings with no neighborhoods of children with whom to bond and play. Hank, an only child, had spent his childhood years alone, and once entering school, never really knew how to reach out to his classmates. Remaining quiet during class discussions, he listened with envy to his peers answering all questions and bravely leading out with their opinions on literature assigned. And so, to add to his physical appearance and lack of sociability, Hank harbored this notion of being intellectually inferior. Time spent working in the gas station did not improve his social condition; proprietors were mostly old men who talked and laughed with each other, while Hank stood in the background looking on. His entire life was spent measuring himself against the standard of what he saw in others, always concluding that his own spirit had been weighed and found wanting.

And now he was here, seventeen hours from his home, afoot. Why? To think, and not be surrounded by the people he had seen all his life but who never really seemed to see him. Out west, Hank was finding time, space and a feel for destiny. No longer would he have to listen to Mom asking “When are you going to make something of your life?” or Dad commenting that Hank was O.K., just had been sheltered all his life and now had no clue what to do with it. The other day, the Reverend told Hank: “God made you, and God doesn’t make junk. Read Emerson’s Self-Reliance. It’s time to start believing in yourself.”

To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men,–that is genius.

One reason Hank was ready to listen to Emerson with his whole heart came from a fact the Reverend had surprised him with in conversation: the reality that Emerson was a nominal student in school, not a class standout by anyone’s standards. In college as well, Emerson did not impress his mentors. What essentially set him apart as an American sage was this indwelling determination that he had quality to share with anyone who would listen. Hank was now listening.

A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his.

Emerson was now calling out Hank in the most provocative way. In school all those years, Hank always thought his ideas were wrong and inferior because they did not match what his teachers and peers were saying aloud. Now, for the first time, he was embracing his ideas because they were his. People don’t go out on the open road with no advanced planning. But this is what Hank was doing, right now, and for the first time he was ready to believe in its value.

____________________________________________________________

Thank you readers for your continued encouragement as I work on this new Hank material. I am forced to take a hiatus for a few days . . . I’ll explain later. I hope to return soon with new stories and a new painting to continue the Hank saga.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Hank Gets a Boost

April 19, 2020
Chilly Sunday Morning with Two Slumbering Dogs

Waking to a chilly Sunday morning with the warmth of two dogs nuzzled against me, I reached for my phone and found a message from a friend that brought to a peak a heartwarming series of events beginning last evening.

After painting most of the day, I packed away Hank and my art supplies for the night and tuned in to NBC to watch the Global Citizen presentation. Throughout the entire performance, I was moved to the point of tears. Professional musicians played without the immediate gratification of a packed audience cheering before them. Medical personnel and social workers tearfully shared their experiences with people they did not even know personally as they fought against the dreaded effects of this virus. Three emcees in separate living rooms spoke only to cameras in front of them, putting out an affirming and entertaining script and conducting sensitive interviews with people around the globe united in an effort to do something wholesome for a population under siege–(all this in sharp contrast to the negative public verbal posturing that has been filling out the daily dose of coronavirus coverage–the worst possible behaviors demonstrated intentionally in front of news cameras). What fresh, cleansing water this night performance offered to us as an alternative to the daily news sewage. What a healing balm. What a display of unity. I felt drawn in and embraced by humanity. Kudos to Lady Gaga, if this was indeed your vision, and to all you others who worked so hard to make this a reality.

As I watched, I frequently reached for my journal and scrawled out observations and responses. And in the midst of the activity it suddenly dawned on me that Hank was conceived during this coronavirus, during a time of staying put in my residence. And as I daily added stories and paintings to the saga of Hank, a number of readers began to join in the chorus, giving further definition to Hank. It was then that I realized that Hank was more than just a fictional character born in the midst of the virus; he became a source of introspection as a number of people began sharing their own personal perspectives about finding one’s way in this world.

The message this morning on my phone came from Dave Shultz, my friend from Palestine, a professional photographer and like myself, somewhat of a wanderer. He has made a home in Palestine, but still owns a home in New Mexico, and the coronavirus found him trapped in New Mexico, just as it confined me to Lubbock, away from my own home. So, here is my mesage from Dave that has helped crystalize what I’ve been feeling since last night’s presentation:

I woke up at 3:30 this morning thinking about Hank. You built a character that has become very real to me. My mind just wouldn’t settle down and I finally had to get up and do some writing. I apologize for hijacking your character but I still want to share my thoughts.

Dave

I don’t see this as a “hijacking”. Rather, I am delighted every time someone else finds a piece of himself or herself in Hank. I believe there is some of all of us in Hank. And thus, this fictional character has in a sense become real. And now, with no editing, I share Dave Shultz’s contribution to the Hank series:

Hank was often asked by people he met on his journey if he was lonely. He would answer with a slow smile and tell them there was a big difference between being alone and being lonely. Some people got it and others were confused but that was always his answer. He thought about it a lot and realized some thime ago that he was never lonely when he was alone. In fact, the loneliest he had ever been was when he was with someone and wished he was alone.

Being alone was a good time to think. There were distractions but they were short lived and his thoughts returned easily to whatever he was pondering on. Today he was pondering on habits and rituals. He came to the conclusion that he did things and performed tasks out of habit but the way he did them was a ritual.

Setting up camp was a habit. The ritual came in how he did it. He always gathered wood in the last of the light and started his fire. Building the fire was a ritual. He used dried grass and bits of bark first. It would always light with a single match. Then he would add small twigs and slightly larger sticks. As soon as those were well caught, he added larger sticks. That was the fire he cooked his evening meal on and just before he crawled into his bed roll, he would build a pyramid of larger logs over the fire. They would be slow to catch and burn slow during the night. In the morning, the unburned ends of the logs radiated from the coals like the spokes on a wagon wheel and he could simply push them into the glowing embers to get a morning fire started.

Preparing his bed was another ritual. He would clear an area of sticks and rocks first. Even the smallest pebble would feel like a boulder at two in the morning. Once the ground was smooth, he would hollow out an area for his hips. He frequently slept on his side and if he didn’t prepare an area for his hips, he would wake up stiff and bruised. Not the best way to start a day. By the time he had his bed roll smoothed out the fire was just right for cooking and that was always his next task.

While he was cooking and eating his supper, he enjoyed staring into the fire but after clean up, he always sat with his back to the fire and allowed his night vision to return. The dark night sky would start to twinkle with tiny dots in a few places and with patience, all the stars would reveal themselves and he would start picking out the constellations his father had taught him as they lay togethr on the backyard grass just before bedtime.

They were old friends and you can’t be lonely with so many old friends to share your evening. He would seek out and visit Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Draco, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor and note their position in the sky. Then he would find the three constellations whose brigthest stars (Altair, Deneb and Vega) from the Summer Triangle – Aquila, Cygnus and Lyra. Sleep always came easier when he had a clear view of the summer sky.

Hank would take off his boots and place them close to hand before he slipped into the bedroll and as he lay smiling at the stars, he felt a peace he never felt in a city. He knew if he were staring at a ceiling instead of a sky full of old friends he would be longing to be exactly where he was now. He would sleep well and dream of trails unmarked by any boot prints other than those behind him.

Thanks, Dave Shultz, for extending Hank’s story, and thank you readers for always following.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Hank at the General Store

April 16, 2020
?

Good morning, blog readers. I’ve been away from posting the last few days, working on a new segment of my Hank series. I am posting the story below with a painting I did from my days staying in the residence of an old general store. It has inspired me to create such a story for the Hank cycle. The new painting I am creating to illustrate Hank sitting and thinking in front of the general store is still very undeveloped and not ready to put on view. As it shapes up, I will be posting the progress of it, and most likely editing this story further.

______________________________

The journey from the Caprock fire site to the city of Lubbock took most of the day. Highway 84 was light on traffic and even lighter on motorists willing to pick up a hitchhiker looking like he had just emerged from the wilderness. As evening encroached upon the college town, Hank decided on a quality night’s sleep in a small roadside motel south of town. A shower and clean shirt would also make him look less threatening in public.

The following morning surprised him. Late October in Texas was not what he had known growing up in Missouri. Here, a bright sun-splashed morning with a hint of autumn weather embraced him, not the biting frost he had known all his life this time of year. Crane’s General Store lay on the quiet southern border of Lubbock, the traffic occasional on the farm-to-market road stretched out front. On either side of the store, long stretches of farm and pastureland lay out flat as a carpet. The southern stretch, a cotton field, looked as though it were covered in freshly fallen snow under the autumnal sun, the low horizon providing a bright azure sky with no clouds. The cool winds brought acrid smells of tractor exhaust and he saw the rusty Allis-Chalmers chugging along the barren field north of the store.

Inside the dim interior of the store, Hank noticed immediately the pot-bellied stove, not yet needed for winter, but already on standby. The brightly clashing colors of canned and cartoned essentials lined the tidied shelves, ready for his restocking before hitting the road again. The sight of the meat counter took Hank way, way back to Proustian remembrances of Marlin’s store down the road from his grandparents’ farm in southeast Missouri. The Marlin family lived in the back of the store, and Hank now noticed a door behind the meat counter that separated the Crane residence from the actual store. It reminded him of the residence he left behind in Turvey’s Corner less than a month ago.

Mrs. Crane (call me Annie) was a gracious soul in her late years, her silver-colored hair stretched tightly back into a neat bun, her white apron already stained from the foods she had been preparing for customers throughout the morning. Conversation with her was warm and inviting, and he learned that this store had been established during World War I, and had never been out of business, handed down through the generations of Cranes living on the southside of Lubbock. Hank had not entered a store such as this since the late 1950’s and the mental journey back into his personal history filled him with a warmth that he needed this particular morning.

Peering at the items beneath the glass, Hank ordered a pair of sandwiches to be prepared, one for now, the other to be wrapped in wax paper for later. Bologna and sharp cheddar cheese were sliced on the old white Hobart machine. The bread also was sliced from a loaf and slathered with mustard and mayonnaise. Each of the pair of sandwiches was completed with a slice of yellow onion, a slice of fresh tomato from the garden out back, and some lettuce. Glass bottles of Coke were collected from the big red box at the front of the store. Hank thanked Annie for the warm moment and stepped out to the front porch.

A row of freshly painted Warmack steel lawn chairs lined the shaded portion of the store, waiting for company. Setting down his backpack, Hank settled into one of the chairs, took out one of his sandwiches, and, forgetting to open his Coke, went back into the store to find an opener on the front of the red box. Now, it was time to chew the sandwich slowly and resume his reading of Emerson from the volume of essays the minister gave him a few days ago. “Self-Reliance” titled an essay that Hank thought could be appropriate for this stage of his life’s journey.

Ne te quaesiviris extra.

“Do not seek outside yourself.” Brushing back tears, Hank paused as a wave of cathartic emotion overtook him without warning. Throughout his life, he had harbored an inferiority complex. He never regarded himself as physically attractive, he was not athletic in school and not popular either. From his early childhood, his family had lived in rural settings with no neighborhoods of children with whom to bond and play. Hank, an only child, had spent his childhood years alone, and once entering school, never really knew how to reach out to his classmates. Remaining quiet during class discussions, he listened with envy to his peers answering all questions and bravely leading out with their opinions on literature assigned. And so, to add to his physical appearance and lack of sociability, Hank harbored this notion of being intellectually inferior. Time spent working in the gas station did not improve his social condition; proprietors were all old men who talked and laughed with each other, while Hank stood in the background looking on. His entire life was spent measuring himself against the standard of what he saw in others, always concluding that his own spirit had been weighed and found wanting.

And now he was here, seventeen hours from his home, afoot. Why? To think, and not be surrounded by the people he had seen all his life but who never really seemed to see him. Out west, Hank was finding time, space and a feel for destiny. No longer would he have to listen to Mom asking “When are you going to make something of your life?” or Dad commenting that Hank was O.K., just had been sheltered all his life and now had no clue what to do with it. The other day, the Reverend told Hank: “God made you, and God doesn’t make junk. Read Emerson’s Self-Reliance. It’s time to start believing in yourself.”

To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men,–that is genius.

One reason Hank was ready to listen to Emerson with his whole heart came from a fact the Reverend had surprised him with in conversation: the reality that Emerson was a nominal student in school, not a class standout by anyone’s standards. In college as well, Emerson did not impress his mentors. What essentially set him apart as an American sage was this indwelling determination that he had quality to share with anyone who would listen. Hank was now listening.

A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his.

Emerson was now calling out Hank in the most provocative way. In school all those years, Hank always thought his ideas were wrong and inferior because they did not match what his teachers and peers were saying aloud. Now, for the first time, he was embracing his ideas because they were his. People don’t go out on the open road with no advanced planning. But this is what Hank was doing, right now, and for the first time he was ready to believe in its value.

________________________________

More later . . . thanks for reading and please check out my website at www.davidtrippart.com

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Caprock Enchantment

April 10, 2020

Good morning, friends. West Texas temperatures are dropping, and it appears that we will experience some winter weather over Easter. This morning I finished a first draft of my continuing Hank saga and wanted to post it before starting my next painting to illustrate it. I anticipate some changes to the story while painting, but decided to let you in on a sneak preview. Thanks always for reading.

Hank felt rested tonight. After packing his gear to depart Dallas this morning, he made a last-minute decision to invest some of his money in a bus ticket. Hopping a Greyhound at the downtown terminal, he rolled westward for hours, dozing in his seat most of the way. Getting out in Abilene, he then thumbed a pair of rides further west on Interstate 20, getting out where state highway 84 branched northward into the caprock escarpment. Once the territory began taking on the look of western movies, Hank decided to get out where there were no towns, trek off the highway several miles, following an arroyo back between a pair of plateaus. Dropping his backpack, taking off his hat and gazing across the afternoon terrain, Hank welcomed the caress of the cooling west winds in his face. He was glad he decided to leave his suitcase with Uncle Leo. The backpack carried all he needed for travel, and Dallas, for the meantime, could be his homing site. Leo seemed lonely, and Hank felt a need to check in with him from time to time.

October was cool in west Texas, but not yet cold. Hank decided this narrow place nested between two cliffs would make a nice bedroom for the night. Time to make a fire. Gathering clumps of dried grasses, he fashioned a small bowl and lined the bottom with cotton balls soaked in Vaseline that he kept stored in 35mm film cannisters in one of his backpack pouches. Then we walked about, gathering small sticks and dried branches and a larger chunk of wood that may have once been a fence post. Hank was glad he had packed a hatchet left behind by old Philosopher Bob back home. He made quick work, chopping the fence post down to several chunks.

While Hank was wandering and gathering, his mind continued to recall snatches of conversation from yesterday’s time with Reverend Elton. Conversion. Hank was startled that the minister regarded him as thoughtful, perhaps philosophical. As a parting gift of goodwill, Elton handed Hank a small volume of Emerson’s essays and encouraged him to read them thoughtfully while on the road. Before falling asleep on the bus, Hank read the following from Emerson’s Nature:

To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society. I am not solitary whilst I read and write, though nobody is with me. But if a man would be alone, let him look at the stars.

The fact is this: Hank has always been alone. But reading the Emerson passage made him realize for the first time that solitude was not a scourge when he was on the road or under the stars; it was a scourge in Turvey’s Corner, where he felt that he had never fit, not at school, not at the gas station, not at church, not even at gatherings among friends. Hank was solitary, and now it was alright.

Laying his gatherings down in a pile beside the nest, Hank opened one of the pouches of his backpack and drew out a magnesium rod. Bending over the nest and striking the rod with his Bowie knife, he watched sparks shower into the nest until the cotton balls combusted. Blowing on the small flame while sheltering it with his hat from the west Texas evening winds, he kept feeding dried grasses, then the small twigs, and then carefully stacked the chunks of fence post.

The minister’s voice again was in Hank’s ears: “Hank, I really believe that you are about to embark on a life-changing odyssey. I don’t know if you’ve read or taken an interest in Homer’s Odyssey. It might mean more to you when you’re thirty than twenty-one. At any rate, Odysseus, after being away from home ten years because of that bloody war, spent the next ten years of his life on an odyssey, a journey if you please, trying to find his way back home, to Ithaca. High school students don’t generally find the work very relevant, but the older we get, the more we realize that our life is a journey seeking our genuine home, the center of the self. It is a journey of self-discovery. I believe all humans have that restlessness in their souls, but few act on it. It seems to me that you are now acting on it; you are setting out on a journey away from your temporal home into a land of dizzying freedom, with no one to talk to but yourself, and whatever great minds from the past you care to visit through their writings. Away from the clatter of meaningless gossip you hear among your daily peers, you now can enter the great Silence of the West, gaze into the stars at night, and with no appointments or deadlines, determine just exactly who you are and what you want from life. My advice to you is, don’t come back till you reach Ithaca.”

Once the fire was well underway, Hank pulled out his canteen and coffee pot, poured in the water along with the ground coffee, placed the pot on a flat stone in the fire and waited for the mixture to come to a rolling boil. He also fished out a can of Beanie Weenies picked up at a small grocery in Abilene, poured the contents into a camping pan, and set it in the ashes to warm. After ten minutes, he then poured a little canteen water down the spout and around the inner edges of the coffeepot to settle the grounds to the bottom.

Under the chandelier of stars in the west Texas sky, Hank tasted the best coffee he had ever brewed, and sat back in the darkness, listening to coyotes yipping in the distance. Though several miles from highway 84, he could still barely hear the noise of an occasional truck droning along. Solitude. Supper was finally ready.

In the embrace of the caprock night, Hank continued pondering the ideas brought forward by Pastor Elton.

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I’m feeling a genuine renewal, working daily on this Hank story and finding new ideas to paint. Today I plan to begin the 8 x 10″ watercolor illustrating the draft of the story posted today. I hope you are enjoying the story, and look forward to sharing the painting as it takes shape.

When you get the chance, please check out my website at http://www.davidtrippart.com

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

In the Minister’s Study (continued)

April 9, 2020

Hank was intrigued. Conversion? Where exactly was this conversation with the Reverend going?

The minister continued: “Jesus said, ‘Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.'”

“Yeah, I’ve heard that all my life. But I never got what it means about becoming as little children. And no one ever explained it, I guess assuming we all knew what that meant. But I never did.”

“I’m not sure your preacher or Sunday School teachers knew or even thought about it either. I’m suspicious that folks are more comfortable memorizing and quoting scripture than studying its message. I never really gave this scripture much critical thought myself until my Professor of Theology told us one day: ‘You future clergymen are so obsessed with converting souls when you should be converting minds.’”

“O.K., there you go again. I’m not following you when you talk of conversion, implying that I’m experiencing such a thing right now.”

“You said you’ve read Thoreau. You should consider also reading Emerson, who was Thoreau’s mentor, along with Wordsworth, a major influence on Emerson. All three of these divines argued for the primacy of the child’s innocence and sense of wonder. It seems that adulthood as well as formal education succeed in driving the innocence and imagination clean out of a child as he matures. That is unfortunate, the loss of wonder, of curiosity, the brimming of the imagination. Wordsworth wrote that the child is father to the man. I believe that. And I concur with Einstein when he argued that imagination is more important than knowledge.”

“Well, you’ve given me quite a load to think about, and I appreciate it. Pardon me for saying it, but you don’t strike me as the typical man of the cloth.”

“That’s probably because of the climate of my generation. In the fifties and sixties, we were generally suspicious of authority and enforced conformity. It seems to me that your generation is more comfortable with rule-following. Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs—I think I learned more genuine theology from them than I did from Concordia Seminary.”

“You went to Concordia? I’m from St. Louis!”

“I was aware of that, but not sure that you—a Baptist—knew of my seminary and its theological persuasion. My Germanic heritage has made Lutheranism an easy fit for me generally, though I’ve been more sympathetic to the critical historical methodology the Germans have been infamous for applying since the eighteenth century. I sense that the general trend many refer to as ‘modernism’ is going to split the seminary pretty soon. I’m only glad I’m no longer there to take sides.”

“As a Baptist, I never heard mention of what you call modernism.”

“That’s not my label. Those who are suspicious of it, wishing to cling to traditional, conventional church standards use that word. If you haven’t gotten into it, you probably will if you stay inside the church life. I will go on record to say that, though I still consider myself a legitimate Lutheran in faith and practice, I owe a great debt to the outspoken minds of the fifties and sixties. My position is this—if you don’t understand the issues of existentialism, then you don’t really understand the twentieth century. But I guess that’s for another time, if you and I continue these chats.”

“Well, I do plan to leave in the next day or so. But I really believe I’ll be back, after I’ve had some time to digest what we’ve talked about today.”

“I hope you do come back. And if you do, please visit our church. I think you’d get a kick out of our organist, Linda Sterner. She’s probably got hurt feelings because I came down hard on her last Sunday for playing out of a Baptist Hymnal. I just feel that their chosen hymns lack the foundational depth than the ones Luther composed. But Linda is a free thinker and reminds me much of myself when I was clawing my way through the sixties. I did notice her carrying a volume of Ginsberg poems with her Bible a couple of weeks ago.”

“Well, thank you again, Elton. I believe I best be on my way.”

“It’s been my pleasure. Let me say one more thing, if I may: You say you are going on the road because you have not yet had a life. You complain that you haven’t traveled more than forty miles from home. I’d like to point out to you that the philosopher Immanuel Kant never traveled more than forty miles from his hometown either, yet his powerful ideas shifted the course of Western thought. Though not a traveler, he was fond of geography and read books on travel. Lecturing as Professor of Philosophy, he held his students spellbound, blending natural history, literature, physics and astronomy into his philosophical discourses. He truly lived a life of the mind. And I’m convinced that you are ready to convert now to that kind of a life. No doubt your travels will enrich you, filling you with new stories and insights, but Emerson reminded us that ‘though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.’ Whatever you do, just don’t stop reading, don’t narrow your interests, and please never stop questioning. Your greatest resource in your life’s odyssey is the imagination and curiosity you carry in your own mind. Never sell that short. And I wish you good fortune.”

I hope you enjoy this latest installment of the Hank cycle. My watercolor supplies were delivered today, and I’m excited about beginning the next painting and promise to keep you updated.

Thanks for reading, and please check out my website at www.davidtrippart.com

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Church and Introspection in Dallas

April 8, 2020
Our Savior Lutheran Church, est. 1947

Uncle Leo invited Hank to attend church with him every Sunday he was there for his three-week stay. On the final Sunday, Hank decided it would be polite to comply. Since Aunt Hattie died three years ago, Leo continued attending church alone, and Hank finally decided that refusing his invitations was insensitive.

Having been soaked in the Southern Baptist ethos of Turvey’s Corner, Hank remembered with the least affection the compulsory ecclesiastical attendance and participation enforced by his parents. Three weeks ago, lying under the stars on the Oklahoma plains, Hank suddenly realized it was Sunday, and felt more stirred in that moment than he had ever known in fifteen years of church attendance, including revival services.

Our Savior Lutheran Church sat on the corner of West Clarendon & Gilpin, a comfortable walk from Uncle Leo’s house. Hank was not accustomed to the liturgical nature of Lutheran worship, having known a comparatively folksy environment in the church of his own upbringing. But he did take notice of the organist Linda, thinking for a moment that perhaps he shouldn’t be so quick to leave town. He had anticipated going on the road in the morning.

Reverend Elton Bauerkemper was an overweight, bespectacled minister who fired a rather sustained fusillade of verbal fire and brimstone across the seated congregation, something they seemed to enjoy. Hank himself had had more than his share of that in his own past. But there was something else about this minister’s demeanor that attracted Hank, and he wasn’t sure exactly what it was. Perhaps it was a glimmer of intellectual authenticity within his words, or maybe it was something in his eye, something that telegraphed a man sensitive to the needs of individuals. Whatever it was, Hank decided before the sermon concluded that he desired an audience with the Reverend.

Hank didn’t leave in the morning. Instead, Tuesday afternoon found him seated in the minister’s study, surrounded by an imposing library of volumes comprised of theology, biblical studies, philosophy, literature, art history and natural science. Hank was also impressed that the study featured a pair of wingback chairs, and Reverend Bauerkemper (please, call me Elton) settled into one of the chairs instead of sitting behind his desk like a judge or attorney.

“So, Hank, what’s your story?”

“I don’t really have one, that’s why I’m on the road.”

“Leonard told me you were ‘passing through.’ You worked awhile, stuck some money in your pocket, and now you’re ready to roll again?”

“That’s right.”

“So, you don’t have a story, is that your point? Are you out looking for the ‘Meaning of Life?’”

“Well, I’m twenty-five and never traveled more than forty miles from my hometown. I never amounted to anything in school and only got into junior college because I showed promise as an artist. A few weeks back, an old man I always referred to as The Philosopher died. He was ninety. Old Bob remains the most remarkable man I’ve ever known because he was full of stories, having traveled broadly before returning to his hometown to live out his final twenty years. You could write a book from the stories he shared, and now that he’s gone, there doesn’t seem to be anybody else for me to look up to, and frankly, I’m afraid of living out a boring life in Turvey’s Corner and dying with nothing to remember or repeat.”

“Hank, I’m going to be straight with you. I talk to members of my congregation in confidence three-to-five times a week. They all have the same concerns—marital issues, adolescent rebellion, financial indiscretions—nobody seems to express any kind of awareness of a life of the mind.”

“Life of the mind? Explain.”

“Have you ever read Thoreau or Emerson?”

“Thoreau, yes. Walden. Emerson, no.”

“Those men lived a life of the mind—they didn’t have to travel and raise trouble to live a meaningful life. They drew their inspiration from books, but believed that they had their own unique and personal insights just as potent as the ones written by great authors who had gone before. The life of the mind occurs when one takes reading seriously and engrafts personal insights onto the ideas read. And the more they read, the more they weave these disparate threads of thoughts, inserting their own observations as well.”

“I guess I’ve never considered that. In school, I was always among the quiet, dumb crowd, sitting in the back of the room, letting the smart ones in class answer all the questions.”

“Yes, and I’ll lay you a week’s salary that the ‘smart ones’ only knew the answers to questions raised by the teacher. Did you ever think that anyone among your class elite ever had an original thought, or even bounced the ideas of two different authors off of each other?”

“No, I didn’t. And of course I myself never even thought of any of that, until this moment.”

“Hank, I truly believe you are experiencing a conversion, right now.”

“Oh, I’ve been baptized. Twice, actually. The first time as a ten-year-old. I didn’t know what I was doing, so I did it again when I was seventeen.”

“And still didn’t know what you were doing.”

“Uh, yeah, I guess you have a point. But what is this conversion you’re talking about now?”

(to be continued . . .)

I’m getting a kick out of this chapter of the Hank saga. I promise more as it comes to light. Thanks for reading and please check out my website http://www.davidtrippart.com

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.