Archive for the ‘mountains’ Category

The Intermittent Shadow

May 2, 2018

blog falls the shadow

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

T. S. Eliot, “The Hollow Men”

Words from T. S. Eliot flowed through my mind shortly after waking early this morning. I don’t pretend to know all the nuance of this great work of his, but I know what I feel as I respond to these words. Having just come off the best art festival of my career (Artscape 2018 at the Dallas Arboretum), I have a four-day interim before leaping into back-to-back art events (Paint Historic Waxahachie from Friday till the following Thursday; Art on the Greene the following three days). I depend on gaps like this four-day respite for rest, reflection and restoration. But alas, I am constituted in such a way that when I awaken with no appointments of deadlines, I feel that I have fallen into the nadir. I have to fight off feelings ranging from listlessness to laziness.

For years I have known the reality of these cycles of ebb and flow, of repose and activity. I have understood what’s been read of Jackson Pollock in Springs, Long Island, ceasing his activity after an immense output of work. He would wander the property smoking, lying in the grasses, thinking, waiting for the energy to return. I have understood Walt Whitman’s “As I Ebb’d with the Ocean of Life,” fearing that his 1860 second edition of Leaves of Grass would fall flat and the literary public would label him as a pretender, a phony.

As for me, I just have to realize that the few days ahead are a gift for relaxing and re-tooling, not fretting over the possibility of losing my creative edge.  I tried this morning to get in some quality reading, but instead decided to resume a painting that I began en plein air recently while camping at Big Bend National Park.  It was ninety per cent completed, but I took a reference photo and decided to use the photo to complete it this morning. I posted the painting above, when it was near completion. As I worked on it, I recalled another portion of T. S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men”–

This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man’s hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.

Last night, I completed another work begun in Terlingua’s Ghost Town while I was at Big Bend. I have not been able to stop seeing in my mind’s eye the shell of the church perched on that rugged hill:

terlingua

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blot to remind myself I am not alone.

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Heaving my Spirit into the Mountains

April 25, 2018

Big Bend Santa Elena Junction upright

Mountains are giant, restful, absorbent. You can heave your spirit into a mountain and the mountain will keep it, folded, and not throw it back as some creeks will. The creeks are the world with all its stimulus and beauty; I live there. But the mountains are home.

Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

With stacks of newly-fashioned greeting cards piling on my desk this morning, I am confronted afresh with plein air watercolors from several weeks back that I never got around to blogging. Spring is always a spastic season, with art festivals, gallery shows, competitions and workshops stacked in the calendar, along with my twice-a-week college classes.

The painting posted above was done at Big Bend National Park during Spring Break. We were taking the dirt road from Santa Elena Junction back to the park entrance. Stopping at a dry creek bed, I set up my easel in the bed and looked across the desert at this colorful range of mountains and mused over the contrast between their eternity and the creek’s intermittent flows. On another day, I could be listening to the laughing brook flowing by while staring into the mute mountains. But today, only the mountains were there, waiting to be confronted face-to-face. As I painted, the winds continually swept across the valley, and in my memory, I listened to the sweet, haunting strains of Richard Burmer’s song “Across the View.”

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

In the Flow

April 24, 2018

ghost ranch upright

Plein air watercolor of Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu, New Mexico

Perhaps I feel happiest when, during the creative process, I simply let work “pour out,” so to speak, without critical intervention or editing.

Robert Motherwell

For weeks now, art work has been pouring out of me, and I’ve fallen far behind in blogging the adventures. Since my recent plein air sojourn into New Mexico, I have travelled to east Texas to plein air paint, and am now making daily trips to Waxahachie to take part in the annual Paint Historic Waxahachie event. This weekend I will exhibit for the first time at Artscape 2018 held in the Dallas Arboretum. Two weeks later I’ll be exhibiting at Arlington’s Art on the Greene. Soon, I plan to post many new images, as I have completed a number of new paintings and am currently having them reproduced in limited edition prints as well as greeting cards. Preparing for this weekend’s show while painting daily in Waxahachie and maintaining my Monday and Wednesday college classes has my head spinning, but it’s a good life.

bullard 1

bullard 2

bullard 3

Oh yes, and by the way, I’ve done other things besides paint. Fly fishing is another passion of mine. I landed fourteen of these.

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.

 

 

 

Sensing the Splendor of Georgia O’Keeffe

April 18, 2018

canyon rock

Plein Air Watercolor of Canyon Rock, Ghost Ranch

Mountains are giant, restful, absorbent. You can heave your spirit into a mountain and the mountain will keep it, folded . . . the mountains are home.

Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

I sensed the mountains calling out to me last week, and blogged that I was going to respond. Two days after the blog, I was in Taos, New Mexico, for the first time. The Goji-Berry Farm outside Taos provided a wonderful place to stay.  The cabin available was built in the 1880’s and the English artist Dorothy Brett resided there. The cabin next door was the one occupied by Georgia O’Keeffe at one time.  I felt a genuine stirring deep within, realizing I was visiting this area ninety years after Georgia O’Keefee first arrived.

The watercolor above I painted en plein air at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, O’Keeffe’s residence wonderfully preserved. The hike up the ridge was a steep one, and the icy mountain winds made the thirty-nine-degree day feel worse than it actually was. I managed to find a spot behind a large bush that partially shielded me from the blasts, and worked on this 10 x 8″ watercolor for about forty-five minutes.

As I worked, I understood Georgia’s sentiment that she felt she had come home at last. There was an intimacy I felt as I gazed into the facades of the ring of mountains around Ghost Ranch, and the huge sky filled me with a depth of wonder I could never capture in words.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Tying up Some Loose Ends

April 11, 2018

palestine bank painting

Recently Completed Watercolor of Historic Bank in Palestine, Texas

When the early morning light quietly

 grows above the mountains . . .

            The word’s darkening never reaches

                        to the light of Being.

            We are too late for the gods and too

                        early for Being. Being’s poem,

                        just begun, is man.

            To head toward a star—this only.

            To think is to confine yourself to a

                        single thought that one day stands

                        still like a star in the world’s sky.

Martin Heidegger, “The Thinker as Poet”

A long, yawning gap stretches out between this morning and the occasion of my last blog post. But I have not been yawning. Life has been very pleasing, but packed with activity, all of it meaningful to me, but boring to post on a blog. I have had the thrill of teaching my college classes, conducting a watercolor workshop, giving private watercolor lessons, chatting with artistic colleagues, and spending extended weekends in Palestine working out of The Gallery at Redlands.

I regret to say that it will be probably a month before I spend another weekend in the gallery. This time of year is when my calendar suddenly explodes with art festivals, watercolor workshops and competition exhibitions. I have no free weekend to do gallery work until the midst of May. The painting below will soon be exhibited in the downtown Fort Worth Public Library for the Society of Watercolor Artists Annual International Exhibition.

redlands finished oxbow

Old Town Palestine

I posted the Heidegger poem above, because I still feel the draw of the mountains since leaving Big Bend National Park last month. I have been looking closely at the tightening calendar, scouting for a gap to return to a mountain range somewhere and take up once again the thrill of plein air painting the glory and the light and the atmosphere which they radiate. That time has come. By the time many of you read this I will be already en route to my next adventure, seeking scenes of beauty to capture on watercolor paper and journals. I have ached for this moment, though fully enjoying all the social events I’ve known the past weeks.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

El Despoblado

March 18, 2018

el despoblado

Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth, that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning; that there is always another dawn risen on mid-noon, and under every deep a lower deep opens.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Circles”

Today I wait for a plane to take me back to the suburbs where I will thrive only if able to sustain a life of the mind. I return from a week spent in the open country. I believe that El Despoblado could be translated “open country.” That is one of the descriptive titles of Big Bend National Park, a site that I have just visited for the first time in my life. Throughout the past week, canyons have overpowered me, embraced me, enfolded me, deeply delighted me. I was privileged to visit Caprock, Palo Duro and Big Bend over the past seven days. I believe that this is the best Spring Break I have ever known in all my decades of school employment.

Thanks to technology, by use of my phone I have been able to send a few snapshots of what I encountered this past week. Once back in the suburbs, I will perhaps have these myriad sensations sorted out and be able to post something commensurate to what I feel right now. Meanwhile, I sit and mentally, emotionally compost these rich experiences.

Thanks always for reading.

Entering the Canyon

March 13, 2018

Tripp at easel

To be old means: to stop in time at

that place where the unique

thought of a thought train has

swung into its joint.

Martin Heidegger, “The Thinker As Poet”

Spring Break has arrived. And after a few days of rest and catching up on postponed details, I managed to find myself at Caprock Canyons State Park. For me, it was the fullness of time. For about a week now, I’ve been reading a collection of seven Heidegger essays under the title Poetry, Language, Thought.

heidegger

The section posted above comes from his opening poem, one that caught my eye last summer while vacationing in Colorado. Just as much time has been spent on these poetic verses than on his extended essays. The reason I like the line posted above is because I feel that thought has slowed down for me during these senior years, now especially since I only teach two days a week at the college, and am covering courses I’ve taught for decades. Finally, I am afforded quality time to savor ideas and synthesize topics, with no pressing deadline, and without a log of five subjects swarming around my head like angry hornets. As a result, quite a few train cars have naturally swung into joint, aligning with idea trains that I’ve assembled throughout my life.

plein air

In his seminal essay “The Origin of the Work of Art,” Heidegger discusses the process of art being created as a result of an arena of conflict between earth and world–earth representing the raw material that is there, and world representing everything we humans bring to the earth as we enter this arena of conflict. The result is that art emerges in this nexus of conflict, with the earth refusing to yield willingly, and our world continually finding ways to work the elements of the earth. I experienced this exhilarating feeling last evening as I stood at Caprock, surveying the horizon and attempting to capture some of it on paper.

The child is father of the man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.
(Wordsworth, “My Heart Leaps Up”)
There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore;—
Turn wheresoe’er I may,
By night or day.
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.
(Wordsworth, “Ode: Intimations of Immortality”)
For years, I have read Wordsworth with deep-seated joy. But as I worked yesterday evening on this plein air watercolor sketch, I realized that I do not share the sentiments of the words above that were playing through my soul. Yes, my childhood has fathered my present condition, but no, I cannot say that I no longer feel the soothing richness I knew as a child playing outdoors alone at age four, with the wind caressing my hair, the sand blowing and sticking to my arms, and the sounds of the breeze rushing through the canyon. I am just as much stirred by these natural delights as I was as a child, and pray that the feelings never ebb.
Thank you for reading.
I make art in order to discover.
I journal when I feel alone.
I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Mixing Plein Air Painting and Fishing

June 30, 2016

Tucker Pond thursday (2)

Here we find ourselves, suddenly, not in a critical speculation, but in a holy place, and should go very warily and reverently.  We stand before the secret of the world, there where Being passes into Appearance, and Unity into Variety.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The Poet”

Today marks the second time this week I tried to paint en plein air while fishing in a Colorado mountain pond.  This time I clipped a small bell to the end of my rod so I could stare at the landscape and try to paint, merely listening for the occasional strike.  As it turned out, it was a good day for fishing as I managed to land seven rainbows.  The painting was a tad more difficult as I began with the sun drenching everything before me beautifully, then, within thirty minutes, the skies darkened, the landscape lost all highlights and shadows and intensity of color, and the temperatures dropped into the upper thirties.  And then it rained on us.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed the experience of trying to capture what lay before me.

When I began this work, the dead tree in the heart of the composition was almost white against a brilliant forest, and the sagging limbs looked like the ribcage of a skeleton.  So I used my masquepen on it, which is tricky at this altitude–the fluid bubbles out of the steel nib uncontrollably, and I had to scribble fast and loose with it.  Then when it was time to replace the lid by inserting the pin into the nib, that proved difficult because the fluid continued to dribble out of the nib; there was no stopping it.  Then, when the skies darkened, the dead tree all but disappeared into its surroundings, taking on a dull warm gray.  I chose to keep it bright against its background and tried to keep my colors intense, though they were no longer so in the reality that lay before me.  Such are the experiences of doing plein air in the midst of a living environment.

I hope that what I’ve just written hasn’t come across as negative.  The day was beautiful even if the weather and environment didn’t pose still for me.  When I gaze into the glories of mountain scenery I cannot help but wonder what I ever could have done to deserve such a Gift.  Emerson got it right; this was a holy place and I felt nothing short of reverence as I stood enveloped in it. I’ve always said my favorite past times were fishing and plein air painting.  This week has marked the first time I have tried to do both simultaneously.  And it was a joy.

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.

Finding the Seam

March 6, 2016

Finding the Seam

My Watercolor from Several Years Back

I admit that this is highly unorthodox, but I’m going to post the talk I’m planning on giving before the Samaritan Sunday School class at the First Methodist Church in Arlington, Texas later this morning (hoping that none of the class members will find and read this in advance). This is a class of adults that I came to love deeply about twenty years ago when I was asked on a number of occasions to speak before them.  They even invited me to attend a weekend retreat at Lake Murray Lodge in Oklahoma, serving as a conference speaker.  The memories of them have always been rich, even though we drifted in different directions over the past decades. Recently they found me again and invited me back last Sunday.  Today I will close out my series with them.  Thanks for reading:

Finding the Seam[1]

          Good morning. The title of this morning’s meditation is “Finding the Seam.”  I shared with you last Sunday that my mind has already surged ahead to summer, that I have already booked a cabin in Colorado so I can pursue my passion of fly fishing for wary trout.  I only regret that I still have twelve weeks of classes to endure.  Once that final bell sounds, I will experience escape velocity.  I’ll begin by visiting Mom and Dad in St. Louis, but only for a short time.  I believe it was either Benjamin Franklin or Mark Twain who once remarked that fish and house guests begin to smell after three days.  So I’ll only trouble my parents for three days.  Then I’ll point my Jeep west for a nice, extended over-the-road trip, Jack Kerouac-style, to pick up, as though it were a hitchhiker, a life that I dropped off a few years back.

I recall the words of the author Robert Travers, snickering at the reputation of the frustrated artist, and identifying himself as an unfrustrated fly fisherman.  I don’t think I have ever been a frustrated artist, but I do know that I regard myself as an unfrustrated fly fisherman. It was not always so.  In my redneck days of rod-and-reel river fishing, I heard people say that if you spend the beautiful day outside and never catch a fish, it’s still been a good experience, imbibing the beauty of the outdoors.  Well, I knew that for me that certainly was not true.  If I fished all day and got skunked, it sucked.  But once I converted to fly fishing all that changed profoundly.  There is a ritual that comes with rigging up.  I used to want to jump out of the vehicle, and get my line into the water as quickly as possible. I always wished that I could have the rod-and-reel ready and baited up, and that I didn’t have to drag a tackle box and folding chair and minnow bucket and stringer and lunch pail and all that stuff down to the river’s edge.  I just wanted to catch fish and catch ‘em fast.

Fly fishing, for me, was a revelation, an entrance into a new world.  Indeed I’ve heard some speak of fly-fishing as reverently as religion.  In fact, Norman Maclean opens his famous book with this hook: “In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing.”[2]  I have to testify in all seriousness that Colorado fly-fishing always restores my weary soul.  I take my time, rigging up the fly rod, tying on tippet and flies, pulling on waders and boots, all the while sensing the river rolling by as it has for millions of years. And then, to approach the river, survey its dynamics, and step into the stream—at that point, I feel my breathing change and sense that my heartbeat has settled down. And yes, if I fly fish the entire day without a hit, it’s still been a most magnificent day to be alive, outside, and away from the daily routine.

Ever since I read the book by former New York Times editor Howell Raines titled Fly Fishing Through the Mid-Life Crisis, and then saw that marvelously engaging film based on Maclean’s novella titled A River Runs Through It, I knew I was missing out on something spectacular in this life.  Even in high school, when I read Ernest Hemingway’s two-part short story “Big Two-Hearted River,” I knew I wanted to hold a fly rod in my hand one day, and step into a mountain stream.  It would be different from what I had known as a child growing up with a cane pole and later a rod and reel.       
Over the past decade, every time I stood in a stream, beneath the shadows of a Colorado canyon, Emerson’s words from his very first book would come whispering back out of the atmosphere to soothe  me, as he wrote: “the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or parcel of God.”[3]  Drawing from another Emerson metaphor, I can testify that when I enter that place, I cast off my years like a snake does his skin, and remain forever a child.  In the river I find perpetual youth.  In the river, I return to reason and faith.

As I listen to the sounds of water rushing over and around the rocks, past my boots as it cuts through the banks, I hear Maclean’s words coming back to me: “Eventually, all things merge into one and a river runs through it.  The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time.  On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops.  Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.”[4]

Now, when one steps into that swift stream, the casual eye will see only a large volume of water surging past.  But there is so much more going on, as anyone observing long enough will come to realize.  The water is running past in channels, or separate lanes, if you please.  Some of those lanes are flowing faster than others.  And oftentimes you will notice that there are pockets of water that are hardly moving at all.

What the fly fisherman is looking for are the seams dividing those channels.  More specifically, the fly fisherman is looking for the seam that separates moving water from still water, or at least the swifter water from the lazy current.  The trout, you see, are lined up in the slower lanes, where they can just hang out with as little effort as possible, and they have their noses in the seam, watching the swift current carry the insects by.  The fly fisherman drops his fly in the seam and lets the current carry it down the lane, past those lines of fish, in hopes that the fly looks real enough that one of them will dart out and take it.

Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau are institutions of American literature, but few people really know what these nature writers are doing. Their school of thought is called New England Transcendentalism, and it urges that for every physical element we perceive, there is a higher, corresponding truth.   And that is where I am going with this morning’s remarks about fly-fishing in mountain streams.  This morning’s topic is about that seam that divides the forces, the fault line separating the dual channels.  There are several modern thinkers I wish to share with you this morning who had intriguing ideas about these seams we find in life.

Paul Tillich, early in his life, published a book titled On the Boundary.  His “boundary” is the same as the “seam” I’ve just been discussing.  The boundary is what separates opposing forces—it’s the seam that separates opposing ideas.  It is the seam that not only divides the camps, but appears to hold them together in tension.  Tillich found that boundary cutting through his religious traditions, his university responsibilities and his daily tasks.

In Friedrich Nietzsche’s masterpiece Thus Spoke Zarathustra, he described the human condition as a rope stretched over an abyss, between the beast and the person of excellence.  The actual life is the journey across that rope, a dangerous on-the-way, a dangerous across, a process and not a destiny.  Life is that narrow seam, cutting through the abyss. On one side are the traditions and on the other are the discoveries. We keep threading the path, one step at a time, between the standards and the experiments.

Karl Barth, a contemporary of Tillich, and likewise indebted to Nietzsche, used the same imagery when he described his life as a dialectical theologian.  He said he had to walk a narrow precipice and keep moving so he would not be in danger of falling to one side or the other.  He was describing the extreme party positions of his day, between the Protestant Liberalism of the late nineteenth century, and the Neo-Orthodoxy of the early twentieth.  Barth testified that the challenge lay in threading the seam between them, always moving forward.

What is that fault line?  What is that junction in the midst of the dualism?  Where are the seams in your life?  Well, I’d like to take the time to point out a few possibilities for thought this morning.  In his first book The Birth of Tragedy, Friedrich Nietzsche argued that there was indeed a seam in the human spirit, but not a division between soul and body as Plato and all his descendents assumed.  Taking his lead from ancient Greek theater, Nietzsche said the two patron gods Apollo and Dionysus personified this dualism, with Apollo representing our reasonable side and Dionysus portraying our passionate side.  Apollo was the tradition and Dionysus was the exploration. These sides are not to be equated with good and evil, by any means.  Nietzsche urged that either extreme was unhealthy.  In the centuries following Greek theater, Aristotle himself urged that all forms of extremism are wrong; the healthy human soul should seek the Golden Mean, another nice synonym for the seam, the fault line that passes between the extremes.  It is easy to see the two sides of reason and passion in our individual makeup.  One side of our makeup is given to order, to rules, to convention, to propriety.  The other side explores the drama, the new, the adventure, the creative impulse.  Neither side can yield a fullness of life.  Regimentation is no way to live life in its fullness, but neither is recklessness.

Another seam that could be found in personal life, if I may draw from the world of basic mechanics, is that line separating Intake and Exhaust.  As human beings, we require nourishment as well as exercise, intake as well as output.  And in our everyday social lives, we take steps to take care of ourselves, and we also find opportunities to reach out to others in our circle.  Throughout my life, in the workplace, and among my circles of friends, I’ve seen many suffer from a dreadful imbalance, and I certainly have suffered it myself.  Exhaustion occurs when you spend all you have in personal resources to prop up others, and neglect your own basic needs.  I still remember the first time I heard the word “burn-out.”  It was used by NFL head coach Dick Vermeil, when he abruptly retired from coaching the Philadelphia Eagles after a Super Bowl loss.  He had been driven like a locomotive, sleeping little, skipping meals, and even keeping a cot in his coaching office instead of going home at night to his family.  Finally, he collapsed in exhaustion and retired.  In his press conference, he described his personal life as “burned out.”

Then there is that other extreme—the individual who lives only for the self and develops a kind of spiritual autism.  When people are elderly we sometimes use the word shut-ins to describe a lifestyle that no longer leaves home, and experiences no one coming in to check on welfare.  They turn in on themselves and eventually their world is just an internal world.  Likewise there are those who in younger years find ways to close themselves off from meaningful contact.  Many times they are diagnosed with clinical depression.  Some are brutally honest and say they just don’t like people and prefer to be left alone.  At times they can degenerate into suspicion and paranoia.

I have often in the past held up Jesus of Nazareth as a prime example of one who poured himself out in the service of multitudes, but balanced it with retreats into solitude where virtually no one knew where he was staying.  He avoided the exhaustion by taking quality time to pay himself and revive.  You could count on it.  If the New Testament record testifies to his spending an entire day teaching, arguing, healing and resolving disputes between parties, you could then find him in absentia the following day.  He is in a mode of prayer and meditation.  In solitude he regains his focus and determines what to do next in his ministry.

Another seam that I would like to address this morning was brought up last Sunday, and that concerns what lies between the individual and the social dimensions of our being.  I once heard a psychology teacher defining introvert and extrovert in the following way: the introvert knows the self and stands confidently in that identity, whereas the extrovert depends on others to define his or her identity.  Some people are more private, so they may be referred to as introvert, whereas others are more gregarious and are therefore deemed as extrovert.  But the human being functions in solitude as well as corporate activity.  And as a teacher I’m just as concerned with one extreme as the other.  Parents are understandably upset at a son or daughter that comes home and broods, choosing to withdraw from family and friends.  Other parents are equally perturbed at the child who comes home with the cell phone perpetually in the line of vision, knowing it’s going to stay there for the duration of the night.  Because, you see, some teens are terrified at the thought of being alone.  If no one out there is talking to them, then they have become meaningless.  And Tillich testified that the fear of becoming meaningless is one of the gut-level anxieties that plague the modern consciousness.

And finally, the seam dividing Time from Eternity. While living for two years, two months and two days in a cabin beside Walden pond, Henry David Thoreau penned these words:

Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains.[5]

That makes my heart flutter.  In the sixth century before Christ, two pre-Socratic philosophers argued over whether the essence of life was time or eternity. Heraclitus said “You cannot set foot in the same river twice.  All things flow; nothing abides,” while Parmenides argued that time is only illusion; there is only Eternity, there is only Being.

Henry David Thoreau, bending over to drink from a flowing stream said:

Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains.[6]

Norman Maclean wrote: “Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.”

So, life as a river surges forward, cutting a path between the extremes: Reason and Passion, Intake and Output, Individual and Social, Time and Eternity.  At any rate, it moves forward, in a perpetual flowing stream, never stopping. Emerson mused that few people could look at a flowing river and not make the transcendental leap to contemplating life as a moving stream meandering along its path, enriched by the seams embedded in that contextual flow.

That is my testimony this morning.  Life’s river is comprised of many seams dividing the channels.  And in those seams are clues that offer a greater understanding of life’s choices and rich possibilities.

 

[1] Sermon delivered at Arlington First United Methodist Church, 6 March 2016.

[2]Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1976), p.1.

[3] Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature in Selections from Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. Stephen E. Whicher (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1957), p. 24.

[4] A River Runs Through It, p. 113.

[5] Henry David Thoreau, Walden and Civil Disobedience (New York: Penguin Books, 1983), p. 142.

[6] Ibid.

Home, Where I Belong

February 4, 2015
A Long Overdue Quiet Evening at Home

A Long Overdue Quiet Evening at Home

Current wisdom, especially that propagated by the various schools of psycho-analysis, assumes that man is a social being who needs the companionship and affection of other human beings from cradle to grave. It is widely believed that interpersonal relationships of an intimate kind are the chief, if not the only, source of human happiness. Yet the lives of creative individuals often seem to run counter to this assumption.

Anthony Storr, Solitude: A Return to the Self

This evening has been long overdue. I believe in what I’ve been doing lately, but must admit that the grind of nearly-nightly meetings and engagements have taken their toll. I’m glad at this early hour of the evening to have all my art history prepared for tomorrow’s classes and still some time for reading, for guitar, and even watercolor experimenting in my studio. I have been away from all this (and blogging) far too long. I guess I’m just not a social animal, though I’ve been covered up in people for a couple of weeks now. Tonight I feel that I finally got back to what I am about–not necessarily a creative spirit, but one who wants to create and explore.

Back in the summer of 2009, I was privileged with some time to study art at the Rachovsky House in north Dallas, and a book was given to me as a gift: Inside the Studio: Two Decades of Talks with Artists in New York, edited by Judith Olch Richards.  After reading the transcripts of more than a dozen interviews, I found myself intrigued with these words from Susan Rothenberg:

I start by taking a lot from intuition and then I depend on composition, on building the painting’s architecture. I use all the formal values of painting but it’s not terribly examined, I just let it come. I’m finding more and more that it’s coming out of drawing, which is new to me.

I take these words to heart, not only because I often begin my watercolors in the way she described, but because I have rediscovered drawing in the past months to be a prime mover in my decisions regarding subject matter and composition. In a funny way, this same principle has emerged in my recent attempt to play blues music on guitar. For several days now, I’ve been trying to “feel” Blues lead patterns by working on scales. Tonight my dear friend and Guitar God, Reid Rogers, opened my eyes to wondrous things with the A-minor scale, and showed me how to build a ladder.  My head is swimming with possibilities now.  Finally, an architecture to give confidence to these flailing attempts!

Working on Some Blues Scales

Working on Some Blues Scales

I’m also pleased to return to my abandoned garage studio.  I found this afternoon a stack of watercolors of subjects began a long time ago and abandoned, unfinished. This particular landscape I thought might have possibilities. I was fascinated with the portion of the Davis Mountain Range I photographed nearly ten years ago and started, hesitantly, with this watercolor. Years later now, I’m attempting to put some tree foliage at the base of the work and see if I can re-enter the composition. Baby steps!

Returning to My Garage Studio, and to an Old Watercolor

Returning to My Garage Studio, and to an Old Watercolor

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

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