Archive for the ‘journaling’ Category

The Quiet Within

November 9, 2016

Alone with my Books

I force my mind to become self-absorbed and not let outside things distract it.  There can be absolute bedlam without so long as there is no commotion within, so long as fear and desire are not at loggerheads, so long as meanness and extravagance are not at odds and harassing each other. For what is the good of having silence throughout the neighborhood if one’s emotions are in turmoil? 

Seneca, On Noise

Within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at anytime and be yourself.

Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

It’s about treating your mind as you would a private garden and being as careful as possible about what you introduce and allow to grow there.

Winifred Gallagher, Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life

I am nearing the end of a string of delicious hours in the quiet of my study tonight.  My reading has been broad, but probably the best moments were spent in William Powers’s Hamlet’s Blackberry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age.  Thanks to one of his chapters, I’ve returned to reading Seneca, and tonight uncovered a lovely article written by Jennifer Bowen Hicks: “Whispered Wills and Words That Bleed: On Transparency of Thought in the Essay” (http://www.creativenonfiction.org/brevity/craft/craft_hicks38.html).

An evening like this was long overdue.  The value of the lessons from Hamlet’s Blackberry, for me, is impossible to exaggerate.  Time is too precious to spend abundantly on the Internet and social media.  As Powers argues, flitting from link to link eliminates real depth from life, from introspection.  Every four years, I manage to get pulled into election chatter, and in the final months devote what is no doubt hundreds of hours to reading articles on the Internet and listening to news outlets.  Then the election comes and goes and I come away feeling I need a serious bath, a cleansing.  On this, the day after, I have stayed away from social media almost entirely–almost.  And now I am retreating to the wilderness to find that sanctuary I have been missing.  I need to recharge some batteries and reset my compass.

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Philippians 4:8

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.

Proverbs 23:7

Thanks 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.

Afternoon Thoughts

September 5, 2016

As the sleeper hovers between consciousness and dream, a shadowy thought emerges from the twilight gloom, sharpens eventually to a silhouette, takes on color and finally assumes three-dimensional form, yet casts from itself a second shadow.

–my own words

Pausing on this final afternoon of a three-day holiday weekend, I take full delight in writing out my ideas, happy that space has been given for quiet solitude. Grateful to re-visit early scraps of thoughts hastily scribbled in old journals. Happy to re-read handwritten notes poked into dented manila folders running back to the 1980’s. In doing this, I recall a Whitman poem where he sensed a specter rising before him and gesturing toward his manuscripts, perhaps mocking his efforts. I knew of such days when I mocked my thoughts as shallow and immature. Today however, I feel little such humiliation while reading half-baked thoughts from my past. Granted, the stuff I wrote thirty years ago lacks the growth of what I am capable of composing in my older years, and why shouldn’t it? We grow up. Life files off many of our sharp, brittle points, replacing them with better-rounded, more durable surfaces. Still, it is exciting to find those occasional recorded thoughts from earlier days that still pack a punch of authenticity today. And as we continue to revisit our earlier dreams, we oftentimes find intriguing shadow-twins emerging next to them. And in these shadows we find new adventures waiting, new ideas worth exploring.

Thanks for reading.

Ruminations During a Three-Day Holiday Respite

September 4, 2016

archaic

I say unto you: one must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star. I say unto you: you still have chaos in yourselves. Alas, the time is coming when man will no longer give birth to a star.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

All good poetry is the overflow of powerful feelings . . . The imagination must learn to ply her craft by judgment studied.

William Wordsworth, Lyrical Ballads

The first key to writing is to write, not to think. . . . You write your first draft with your heart; you rewrite with your head.

Sean Connery, Finding Forrester

I awoke this morning to my blog alerting me that thirteen days have passed since my last post. That was not intentional, though unplugging for a season has its rewards, so argues William Powers in his excellent book Hamlet’s Blackberry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age. 

Two weeks of high school are now in the books, and the three-day holiday weekend respite has been delicious so far. From the moment I walked out of the school Friday afternoon, my mind has been seething with memories of the past two weeks of classes–all of them invigorating. In the philosophy and art history classes, I’ve been employing Nietzsche’s model of Apollo vs. Dionysus, which he set forth in his 1872 work The Birth of Tragedy. In this work he argues that the creative life is a constant struggle between the forces of Apollo (order, structure, reason) and Dionysus (chaos, spontaneity, passion). As an artist I have grown to appreciate that attempt for balance over the years. I have posted quotes above from Nietzsche’s novel as well as Wordsworth’s theory of poetry and the excellent lines from the motion picture Finding Forrester. All creative attempts embody a shaky counterbalance of order and spontaneity, and I for one like to lead out with my passion, then let reason clean it up subsequently.

For the past several days, I have experienced a series of delightful explosions in my philosophy and art history classes as we have explored the thought and creations of the ancient Greeks. I have studied this material throughout most of my life, and believed I had it organized in a logical (boring) way in the form of “lesson plans”. But the students’ questions and my serious responses never follow the lesson plans, and I find that delightful, always. And I’m confident that many of the students do as well.  After all, the questions are theirs. Nevertheless, there remain those students who prefer to have everything laid out in logical order so they can study their material, write their essays properly (boring) and take their tests (boring) and see their scores (which to me are always imperfect indicators of their excellence in thinking). My sentiments are about as subtle as a freight train, yes?

So . . . I am using this three-day holiday to clean up my lesson plans and present a more orderly package next week. Meanwhile I will continue to explore this Apollo/Dionysus balance. I just finished reading The Poisonwood Bible, a very sobering and deeply gratifying experience in thoughtful reading. My favorite character is Ada, a crippled teenager with deep thoughts, who experienced healing later in life.  Her creed was expressed as follows:

Tall and straight I may appear, but I will always be Ada inside. A crooked little person trying to tell the truth. The power is in the balance: we are our injuries, as much as we are our successes.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to find out.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

 

Altar Building

August 21, 2016

altar

My Favorite Room on this Planet–a Sacred Space

Emerson knew there was “an innavigable sea of silent waves between us and the things we aim at”.

Robert D. Richardson, Jr., Emerson: The Mind on Fire

Sunday is a day set aside for worship by many. Personally, I feel that I worship far more frequently than weekly. Nevertheless, throughout this day, I’ve been building an altar in preparation for tomorrow morning when school begins for the 2016-2017 term. I could easily say that the altar preparation began when I left the last day of the Spring term. But it would be even more accurate to say that this altar has been under construction for decades. I don’t know when I first thought I would actually be an educator by professionI signed my first contract in 1985 when the University of North Texas offered me an adjunct post, teaching Introduction to Philosophy. It was then that I knew for certain how I wished to live out the rest of my life.

Tomorrow I meet my sections of Advanced Placement and Regular Art History, three ninety-minute classes total. I’m gratified to see a roster filled with familiar names–students I have already had in Regular Art History, Philosophy or A.V.I.D. When I see their faces, I will experience a homecoming of sorts. And knowing they chose this elective class gratifies me even more deeply. I hear many teachers express that they want to be liked, and of course I know that feeling. But far more satisfying to me is the idea that these students trust me.  They chose to return because they trust me. And I trust them. That is why I feel so much potential for good as we enter this relationship for a second year. Two of these students entered my classroom last week when I was setting things in order. I can’t explain what I felt when I saw them come through that door. I had no idea how much this summer I had missed their enthusiasm and positive contributions to the classroom environment. And now tomorrow, I get to see them again, and begin a new chapter in this odyssey.

Altar building. A teacher invests a great deal of time and effort, assembling material for the day’s learning, enters the room and tries to set the materials afire. It doesn’t always work. Sometimes the match is wet and won’t strike. Sometimes the match ignites, but the material isn’t combustible. Sometimes the match ignites, the materials flame up, but the students are looking at their phones and don’t notice any of it. There is so much that can go wrong, even when one spends hours, days, indeed a lifetime preparing for the Event. But there is so much that can go right. And that thought is what keeps us coming back.

The altar has been prepared, and I’m praying for fire.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

Drawing Slows Things Down

October 5, 2015

image

With drawing, you really slow it down.
Juliette Aristides, Lessons in Classical Drawing

The weekend was a whirlwind, with sixteen hours of driving to and from Corpus Christi, then rising at 6:00 this morning to resume classes at school. Though exhausted to the bone, I would not have traded away my weekend. The shrimp boil at the Laguna Madre Field Station brought out many people, and I enjoyed meeting so many new friends during the afternoon.

Approaching the Island

Approaching the Island

Partying on the Island

Partying on the Island

Though I returned today to a stressful grading deadline, I managed to get through the chores, and this evening to slow things down and resume drawing. One of my new friends at the Laguna Madre gave me a handful of shells from the shores of the island, and I was thrilled to sketch one of them on Sunday morning before leaving to return to Arlington. Tonight, while listening to an instructional DVD that came with Aristides’s book, I appreciated her soothing opening words about how drawing slows things down in our frenzied world, and I cleared away a spot on my desk, adjusted my lights, and got out the new assortment of shells and drawing materials.

We find many ways to slow down our world. If I could split my life into several pieces, I would be reading a book, writing in my journal, working on a drawing, and watercoloring–all at the same time. Tonight, I decided it will be drawing, and the hours have already become sweeter.

Thanks for reading.

I draw in order to slow down my world.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Preparations for a One Man Show

July 27, 2015
Looking out over the Gulf of Mexico before sunrise

Looking out over the Gulf of Mexico before sunrise

All poets and heroes, like Memnon, are the children of Aurora, and emit their music at sunrise. To him whose elastic and vigourous thought keeps pace with the sun, the day is a perpetual morning.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

I knew today was going to be a full and busy one, but set my alarm for 6:00 a.m. so I could walk to the Gulf and look over the waters before sunrise. I took this quiet opportunity to scribble in my journal and read from Thoreau’s A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. The hour proved to be a perfect beginning to what would become a very satisfying day. Lately I have given much thought to how we as humans are a driven race, whether we are striving for wealth, attention, intellectual growth–we tend to push and push and push. Reading Thoreau haunts me, because I perceive in him a quiet soul, a soothing kind of presence. I think there is much we could learn from him. When I get back home, I may need to pull some volumes from my shelf and revisit some of the ancient Indian, Japanese and Chinese writings I have collected, but haven’t read in quite a number of years.

Portfolio for One Man Show

Portfolio for One Man Show

Returning to the house in Portland where I am staying as a guest, I laid out my portfolio to see one more time this collection of thirty paintings and drawings of the Laguna Madre. Nineteen of them were done on site, the remaining ones in my studio after the residency. I am happy that the entire collection was chosen for the show which will tentaively run the last three weeks in October at the Texas A&M University Corpus Christi library. A second, larger show will follow in March at The Art Center of Corpus Christi. I will be scrambling to add works to that show, as this upcoming show has claimed 100% of the paintings and drawings completed up till now. But I am more than happy to rise to this challenge.

After we made decisions on matting and framing the collection, Dinah Bowman made a suggestion that I have longed to do for years: selecting three of my pieces (two watercolors and a drawing) she asked that I write in pencil a journal or blog entry on the pieces, in the negative areas. She will then frame them with the texts showing along with the art work. She wishes that my show emphasize that I journaled and blogged, in addition to painting, and that these disciplines fed off each other while I was on the island. I have never had the guts to frame and display pieces combining images and texts, and am delighted at her suggestion. Traveling to a nearby Starbucks for an iced coffee, I spent the rest of the afternoon drafting my entries, and then writing them on the three pieces.

Combining artwork with journal entries

Combining artwork with journal entries

The day has been long, but invigorating. I’m delighted to engage in this level of creative business in the Corpus Christi community.

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.