Historic Flatiron Building in Fort Worth, Texas
I have been as sincere a worshipper of Aurora as the Greeks.
Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Aaron Copland plays “Appalachian Spring” as I sit up late on a Friday night, with a desire to think, to write, to be. The day started beautifully at 6:00 a.m., with no school to go and teach. I love the three-day weekends of summer school. I sat in my living room and watched through the open blinds the dawn breaking across my backyard while I re-read chapter two of Thoreau’s Walden,“Where I Lived, and What I Lived For.” I love his salute to Aurora and the beautiful meditations about the dawn being the heroic age–that all intelligences awake with the dawn. The chapter marked a delicious start to the day. Following Thoreau, I then turned to Proust and to Melville, reading for well over an hour before rising to enter the kitchen and make breakfast. Following breakfast I worked a long time in the watercolor studio, mostly finishing up abandoned work that had piled up the past couple of months.
To begin this delicious night in my darkened studio, Marcel Proust delivered beautiful images in Swann’s Way. The young narrator is smitten by the sight of a girl with a fair complexion and azure eyes. The mere sight of her overpowers his eyes at the same time the hawthorns are flooding his senses. He cannot separate the beauty of the two. How many of us still recall those first instances of romantic love and how we lost all bearings? What a marvelous gift it would be to set such a profound experience down in prose as Proust managed to do.
In Moby Dick, after 120 pages, Captain Ahab finally emerged into view, and what a powerful force his presence exerted on his surrounding environment. Like the solid bronze of Cellini’s Perseus, he towers above his ship and crew, the mere sight of him with no accompanying speech evoking a sense of genuine awe from the narrator. His aggressive gesture toward second mate Stubb rattled the otherwise stalwart officer, leaving the bemused fellow wondering what it was exactly that evoked such a fear from him.
With sadness, I resumed reading a biography of Jack Kerouac by Tom Clark. I read the book several years ago, then lent it out and never got it back. So now I’m reading a newly purchased copy, re-highlighting, etc., and of course, am very surprised at how much of the content I have already forgotten from the first reading. The details of Kerouac’s migratory life always leave me with the same kind of disturbed thoughts that I get from reading about Hemingway: these men had such a passion for disciplined writing that always drives me to find another gear to crank out work, no matter how tired or discouraged I may become in my own life and work. They truly induce me to work even harder in my research, thinking and writing. But the misery of both these men brings me to such overwhelming sadness. I’m glad I never mixed alcohol with my life’s work—I am not able to identify with that problem on a gut-level. But the despondency, the self-doubt, the second-guessing—that kind of a hell I have known all-too-well, and don’t like to visit or re-visit. And it hurts deeply every time I read these details in their life’s work.
This afternoon, I was deeply moved, listening to a trio of thirty-minute lectures from The Teaching Company. I have been so fortunate to receive a number of these lecture sets, first in VHS and later in DVD, from a number of dear friends and occasionally from one of those “can’t miss” sales that the company offers. One lecture was from Daren Staloff (“Hegel—History and Historicism”), and the other two from Daniel N. Robinson (“The Idea of Freedom” and “Human History as the Unfolding of the Ideal: The Hegelians”). The lectures prompted me to draw out a volume placed in my hands earlier this year by our remarkable school librarian, Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. Anyone familiar with this volume is no doubt grinning already, but I am actually getting enough from the text to stay with it. Hegel’s mind was Faustian in the way he incorporated and excerpted virtually everything he studied throughout his lengthy life, and then fashioned all that knowledge into a comprehensive system. His mind reminds me very much of that of Paul Tillich, with that interdisciplinary drive, and of course I have always wanted to be that way. So, tonight I also spent some more time working over Hegel’s text and recording observations in my journal.
Last night I took out my Latin grammars and workbooks and resumed a project I started in 2003, but abandoned on three subsequent occasions. Eleven years later, I still cannot read Latin, but love and respect the language and am now finding myself devoting some summer evenings to working on my vocabulary and grammar exercises, and pulling out occasional texts from one of my Loeb Classical Library volumes as well as my Biblia Sacra Vulgata. Tonight marks my second consecutive night working in the Latin text. I had always hoped I could work this language as I do the ancient Greek, but alas, I took many semesters of Greek and it stayed with me fortunately. Latin was never available in the schools I attended. I love the line from Byron’s Beppo:
I love the language, that soft bastard Latin,
Which melts like kisses from a female mouth.
All of tonight has been given to reading, note-taking and writing. I did manage today to finish a number of watercolor projects that had been abandoned over the past months. Above, I have posted my finished product of the historic flatiron building on the south side of downtown Fort Worth, Texas. I don’t know why I had laid it aside for so long, but now I’m glad it’s finished and has been delivered to the Weiler House Fine Art Gallery.
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.