Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Emerging from the Darkness

August 21, 2017

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I had to record this spectacular experience.  Once I saw the first bite taken out of the sun, I was mesmerized and moved my journal to the shade of an umbrella table on the back deck. I sketched the sun going through its diminishing stages, then as it was reduced to just a sliver in the sky, I dashed out into the street to photograph the crescent moon patterns in the shadows of the shade trees. Finally the darkness descended for 2 1/2 minutes, the world cooled down, dogs barked, children in the neighborhood screamed, crickets and katydids chirped, all the street lights clicked on, and I felt myself shudder.

Now the light has emerged, I’m going to catch up on some needed rest, and return to my Texas home. I will report to work Wednesday morning.

Thanks for reading.

Waiting for the Sky to Darken

August 21, 2017

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Reading at dawn on the deck

In proportion to his force, the artist will find in his work an outlet for his proper character.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Art”

Good day, fellow blog readers/friends. It’s been a long stretch since I last posted something on this page. I’m completing the most amazing summer vacation I’ve ever experienced, and still growing accustomed to the retired life. I’m spending my last day in my home town of High Ridge, Missouri, waiting for the solar eclipse. My parents live in the seventy-mile wide “path of totality”, so I’ll be fortunate to view it from the back deck, atop a neighborhood hill, with no trees blocking my view of the sky.

No, I will not be taking or posting photos; I’m not a real photographer, did not purchase proper equipment, but at least secured the right kind of glasses.  The event is still two hours away, so I have decided to try and post a blog with meaning.  My Jeep is packed, and I’ll give traffic a few hours to clear the freeways before driving back to Texas in the real darkness of night.

Texas Wesleyan University opened today with the first day of classes.  The university was kind to me when learning that I would miss my first day, being 660 miles away to view this phenomenon.  On Wednesday I will deliver my inaugural lectures, my second scheduled day of classes.

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I am deeply happy to say I believe I found my real self in Colorado this year during my extended stay.  I did not generate the same quantity of art that I did on my previous year’s visit, and I didn’t even fly fish with the same intense frequency.  But still, I found a quality in living that I haven’t known consistently for many, many years. And when I did take time out to sketch or paint, I felt a deeper sense of contentment. Above, I have posted a couple of sketchbook pages of my drawings and journal musings while sitting on the deck of my rented Rainbow Cabin at Riverbend Resort in South Fork, Colorado

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With only a few days left before departing Colorado, I finally took a shot at watercoloring en plein air this massive boulder positioned between my deck and the South Fork of the Rio Grande. I didn’t finish the work, but at least I enjoyed working on it as my Colorado experience drew to its close.

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A beautiful brown trout

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Big Meadow Lake, early in the morning (where I caught the brown trout)

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Rainbow trout caught out of South Fork

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Sam the “camp cat” asleep in my lap

Today is also the first day of school for Martin High School, where I retired from my 28-year teaching career June 3.  Last week the teachers returned for a week of Inservice meetings.  Over the past years, I wondered if I would feel rudderless when this moment arrived.  I don’t.  When I enter the lecture room at Texas Wesleyan University Wednesday, I have only one hope–that I will still have the energy and enthusiasm that I felt ebbing away the last several years of my teaching tenure.  I earnestly hope that I can recover that; the students and university deserve it.  And I want to give it.

I look forward earnestly to my return to the studio, as my art has laid dormant for weeks now, though my mind has surged daily with ideas and my imagination continues to crank out compositional opportunities. I guess I’ll find out soon enough if I still possess that energy.

The summer has been magnificent, I feel rested, and I’m happy beyond words to be retired. I’m looking forward to witnessing my first solar eclipse; I was unaware and lacked curiosity when it last came in 1979. This path has not crossed the St. Louis region since July 7, 1442, and will not pass this way again until 2505. I planned this visit since summer 2016 when I read Annie Dillard’s account of the 1979 eclipse in her book Teaching a Stone to Talk. I was numbed by her account, and determined on that day that I would not miss the next one.

Thanks for reading.

Waiting for the Morning Light . . .

August 11, 2017

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When the early morning light quietly 

grows above the mountains . . . . 

Martin Heidegger, “The Thinker as Poet”

I set the alarm for 5 a.m. and rose to a 48-degree morning in South Fork, Colorado. My lovely stay here is drawing near a close, and I am still probing this engaging poem of Heidegger’s written from his days in the Black Forest. Following a long black night’s slumber, I felt kissed by the dawn, and rose gladly to dress, put on coffee to brew, and step outside onto the cabin deck while the darkness was just beginning to withdraw.

The world’s darkening never reaches

to the light of Being.

For the first time, my attention froze on those words. Looking up at the lit sky behind the mountains, I noticed that nature’s shapes below were beginning to emerge and take on color and identity. And I meditated on this–the light gives shape to the forms below; the forms do not reach up to the light.

Reaching for my Greek New Testament, I turned to John’s Prologue (John 1:1-18) and began reading that text that I had learned to translate since my graduate school days decades ago:

The light shines in darkness, and the darkness is unable to extinguish it (John 1:5). What a thought–it is the nature of light to invade darkness, push back the darkness. The darkness does not come to the light, nor does it overpower the light. My mind raced in a dozen directions, from the wisdom shed by European thinkers during the 18th-century Enlightenment to some of my own personal, biographical memories. Light overcomes darkness. As I sat on the darkened porch, watching the Colorado landscape take shape beneath the light of the dawn, I decided to set up my plein air easel and get ready to resume the watercolor that I had sketched out the evening before. As my eye trained on the boulder and fir tree below my deck, I delighted in the rose colors appearing on the rock as the sun rose in the east. The fir tree seemed suddenly to dance in the yellow-green glory of the light cast from the sun, and I excitedly reached for my brush.

But alas, the rosy sun suddenly dissolved into a gray overcast, and the rock and tree returned to their neutral tints. I shall patiently wait for the sun to return. I want this watercolor to depict a bright landscape, not an overcast one.

Returning to The Gospel of John and laying it alongside Heidegger’s poem, I continued with delight to draw out parallels between the texts, and by the time I stopped, I had scribbled out 5 1/2 pages in my journal, sketchy thoughts waiting to be fleshed out as the day progresses.

Thank you for reading. This has been a soul-stirring morning in Colorado.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thoughts in the Pre-Dawn

August 9, 2017

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South Fork, Colorado at 5:40 a.m.

When the early morning light quietly

grows above the mountains . . . . 

(Martin Heidegger, “The Thinker as Poet”)

Rising to the sound of the South Fork of the Rio Grande flowing past my cabin window this morning, I felt the rush of gratitude again for life and beauty. Once the coffee was brewed I sat with my open journal and poured out my heart upon the pages. The pen could not move fast enough.

I love the Heidegger poem, a fragment of which I’ve posted above. I realize he left the ellipsis so he could complete his sentence with four stanzas of completed ideas, but I now wish to complete the thought with my own words.

. . . I acknowledge that the Word is already in play. (Tripp)

Heidegger argued that the Greek term logos, which we translate “word” means “to gather together.” Heidegger believed the Greeks understood the word as a cohesive, gathering force. I’ve been playing with that idea for several months now during these retirement wanderings, and have grown fond of the idea.

My simple thought for the morning is this–upon waking in the pre-dawn and looking out on the beauty of the Colorado morning, I realized that though the hour was early, the Word was already organizing my thoughts, my day, my life.

Hope that doesn’t sound too esoteric. I am filled with good notions this morning.

Thanks for reading. I have a date with rainbow trout . . .

Warm Thoughts in the Cold Dawn

August 8, 2017

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It is language that tells us about the nature of a thing, provided that we respect language’s own nature. In the meantime, to be sure, there rages round the earth an unbridled yet clever talking, writing, and broadcasting of spoken words.  Man acts as though he were the shaper and master of language, while in fact language remains the master of man. Perhaps it is before all else man’s subversion of this relation of dominance that drives his nature into alienation. That we retain a concern for care in speaking is all to the good, but it is of no help to us as long as language still serves us even then only as a means of expression.”

Martin Heidegger, “Building Dwelling Thinking”

This morning, a romantic notion drove me out to the deck of this Colorado cabin to watch the dawn break, read from Heidegger and record in my journal. But once I came across the passage posted above, the 46-degree dawn convinced me to withdraw into the warmth of my kitchen, pour a second cup, shake off the chill and focus on what I believe to be a genuine oracle.

Since the second week in June, I have been mostly on the road, traveling Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico and now Colorado. I have never stayed longer than two weeks in any residence. In the Heidegger essay “Building Dwelling Thinking”, he discusses the nature of dwelling, what constitutes an architectural dwelling, how the dwelling shapes the one inside, and more profoundly the nature of language as the “house of being.” Language shapes us rather than vice versa.

During the Summer of ’17, my mind has not stopped questioning, probing the power of language and how it shapes us, the role it plays in carving out our character. In my journal I continually write, “What exactly am I?” “What word organizes my character?” “What kind of a human being am I, precisely”? Continually, I have probed language, seeking to divine the kinds of words necessary to help me understand what this is all about. I absolutely love living the retired life, but now that there is not a job to demand where I am to be and when, I am intrigued at this notion of living life and enjoying this precious Gift.

I took editorial liberties with the quote posted above, choosing to render in bold the sentence that seized my imagination, and striking out the one word I believe no longer describes today’s public discourse. For those of you who know me, I disdain most of the language that shapes today’s popular media, both televised and social. My blog is posted on a number of outlets, including Twitter, but I refuse to send 140-character tweets because one person has given that outlet its current identity, and I choose not to be identified among those participants.

I take language seriously, and I take character seriously. My precious friend Wayne White, also a blogger, shares my sentiment about the blog: we wish that readers would feel positive and whole when they read us, not visceral and angry.

So, as I close, I invite you to consider the following:

Sneering does not require depth of character or skill.

Being angry does not make you special or unique.

Cheap talk, especially insults, does not build a more meaningful life.

What exactly are you? What kind of footprint are you leaving day-by-day, as you travel this life? What do you really wish to be? What words shape you?

Thanks for reading.

 

The Silence of the Rock

August 5, 2017

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When the early morning light quietly

grows above the mountains . . . .

            The world’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.

Martin Heidegger, “The Thinker as Poet”

Every morning my soul floods with enchantment at the sight of Colorado light slowly giving shape to mountains towering above me. I snapped the picture above with my phone while walking outside. South Fork stands at an altitude of 8180 feet, and I don’t know how many additional feet overshadow me every morning as I look up in silence at these massive cliffs. Last year I tried multiple times to paint them; so far this year I only look at them in wonder, feeling something special easing into my essence.

The whispering of the South Fork of the Rio Grande below my cabin contrasts with the brooding silence of the cliffs above me. In all my years of teaching, I never felt that I was able to capture in words the dual perspectives of Heraclitus (everything moves) and Parmenides (there is only stasis). For most of my adult life I have felt these two worldviews flowing through me–change versus permanence. Long before the book was released A River Runs Through It, I have pondered these two views that Plato and many successors struggled to fuse into a harmonious world view. And now, once again in Colorado, I feel more centered in life, experiencing this flowing stream against the eternal rock.

Save for some postings on Facebook, I have shunned Internet traffic, certain that if I pulled up any news pages they would be parsing the latest tweets springing from a small mind. Life is much too large and expansive to waste time over shallow words.

My reading while in the mountains has been sparse, replaced with more time walking outside, fly fishing in the stream and relaxing with precious friends. Last night before a fire, I returned to reading Heidegger and felt moved to scribble several more pages in my journal, which then led to a blog entry. Rising this morning at 5:30, I am now enjoying another fire in the fireplace (49 degrees and wet outside) and feel compelled to explore further the writings of Heidegger. I feel at this point to say that I am fully aware of this thinker’s moral failures, but I choose to use his ideas at their best, not their worst; bad people are still capable of truthful insights.

Martin Heidegger had a cabin built for him in 1922 in the Black Forest while he was engaged in his university career. Though providing his livelihood, he disdained city and university life, and chose to spend as much time as possible in this cabin without electricity. All of his most important published writings were born in this quiet space. I have enjoyed comparing the lifestyles of Heidegger in the Black Forest and Henry David Thoreau at Walden Pond, each thinker preferring the quiet and nurture of solitude. I myself have been blessed with a store in the wilderness where I am allowed to withdraw as often as possible, and now this quiet space tucked away in the Colorado Rockies. Something precious occurs every time I step away from a life of calendar appointments and withdraw into a quiet place where the clock seems to evaporate.

Thanks always for reading.

 

 

 

What Does It Mean to Get Old?

August 4, 2017

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Big Meadow Lake, Rio Grande National Forest, Colorado

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”

I felt the urge tonight to send out a word to my readers and friends. My blogging has hit some recent snags for a couple of reasons. For one, my stay in the Colorado Rockies means struggling to find a steady Internet connection. But more importantly, positive changes have entered my life and I haven’t felt the need recently to read, write, journal, blog or make art. I have been living a quiet and very fulfilling existence since I arrived in this beautiful space.

Tonight I am enjoying the fireplace in my cabin. The windows are open to let in the cold mountain air. Outside it rains. And I’m comfortable under a blanket on the sofa, reading from Heidegger and scribbling for the first time in days in my journal. Hence, this desire to put something out on the blog.

I retired on June 3 after twenty-eight years of teaching in a public school. At this stage in my life, I am getting used to every day being as a Saturday. I no longer have a sense of weekends or a Monday morning call to work. And that is a very good thing. Even better is the sudden evaporation of deadlines and appointments.

As I reclined before the fire tonight, I thought back over my life and wondered what exactly it is now that is swinging “into its joint.” Earlier in this text, Heidegger wrote: “To think is to confine yourself to a single thought that one day stands still like a star in the world’s sky.” I wondered while scribbling in my journal what exactly served as my pole star throughout my years as a teacher. I settled on the notion that I set out long ago to live an artful life, to pursue beauty and seek ways to express it in word, in painting, in music, in friendship.

Now things are changing. My life at the moment is not clanging with the noise of calendar commitments. And I’m not under some kind of deadline gun at this point. And I’m finding it to be quite an adjustment, but one that I’m savoring with gratitude.

I apologize if this is a rambling post. I just felt the need to express this spirit of good will that I feel this evening. Thanks for reading.

 

Request for Von Rad Collage

July 31, 2017

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The Colorado Rockies are restoring my weary soul, as I’m spending plenty of time fly fishing in the streams and practicing my plein air watercolor craft. But I’ve paused to duck into a public library so I can get steady Internet access.

One of my respondents expressed an appreciation for my studies and art concerning Paul Tillich and Gerhard Von Rad.  He requested to see the Von Rad collage that one of my high school students purchased this past year. So, this one’s for you!

Thanks for reading.

Confessions from an Idiot Fisherman

July 30, 2017

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My blogging came to a skidding halt because of the spotty Internet service where I am located, at an elevation of 8180 feet. Today was my first taste of success in the South Fork of the Rio Grande, fly fishing. On previous attempts the past couple of days, I only managed to catch a few small trout–too small to keep and eat. Finally this morning, I managed to land one large enough for the skillet. But it didn’t come easily. I’m only glad there were no witnesses.

I was fishing a dry mayfly with a bead-headed pheasant tail nymph trailing 18″ behind. The dry fly could serve either as a strike indicator, or even provide bait for a trout willing to rise. This beautiful rainbow scooped my nymph off the bottom and headed out into the current. Daily rainfall has made this stream swift, murky and rather dangerous for wading. I was already in knee-deep water, unable to see my feet underneath, and in a precarious position.

I did manage to get the trout close enough to slip a net under him. But stupid me decided not to spend money on a tether to keep the net attached to me. It slipped from my hands and began floating swiftly downstream. Thinking myself a quick thinker on my feet, I steered the trout into the floating net, like sinking a basketball through a hoop, and began pulling the trout and net toward me. But the trout slipped out of the net. Again, I steered him into the drifting net and began to pull on them both, and again, he slipped out. Finally, I managed to get my hand on the trout, and watching the net float away, I decided not to dig in my pouch for the forceps, but to remove the nymph from his upper lip by hand. Once I completed this rather quickly, I then noticed with despair that my dry fly had hung into my shirt. Now, with one hand on the trout and the rod under my armpit, I pried the fly loose from my shirt with my free hand. Tossing the fly rod toward the bank, I then began stepping and stumbling as rapidly as I could downstream to retrieve my floating net. I had to plough through about a hundred feet of stream before I reached the net, and then clumsily dropped the trout into the net like tossing a doll into a wastebasket.

Wading to shore, I drew out the stringer from the bib of my waders, attached the trout, dropped him into the water, and tied the rope of the stringer around a tree. Then I had to go upstream about a hundred feet to retrieve my flyrod. Stupid is as stupid does. Again, I’m so glad no one watched this slapstick debacle. The trout has been cleaned and is now in the refrigerator, but I’m not sure when I’m going to serve him up.

Thanks for reading.

Respite

July 25, 2017

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Our moods do not believe in each other. To-day I am full of thoughts, and can write what I please. I see no reason why I should not have the same thought, the same power of expression, to-morrow. What I write, whilst I write it, seems the most natural thing in the world; but yesterday I saw a dreary vacuity in this direction in which now I see so much; and a month hence, I doubt not, I shall wonder who he was that wrote so many continuous pages. Alas for this infirm faith, this will not strenuous, this vast ebb of a vast flow! I am God in nature; I am a weed by the wall.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Circles”

I still remember how liberated I felt back in 1989, when a professor pointed out Emerson’s sensitivity to the natural ebb and flow of the creative lifestyle. From that day forward, I pursued that theme, reading it in the poetry of Walt Whitman and the interviews of a number of twentieth-century painters. Long ago, while in the ministry, I knew that parishioners were deceiving themselves if they thought they could live in a state of perpetual revival. Mountains require valleys. In my years of teaching, the topic continually came up–how can one sustain a high level of creativity? In my opinion, one cannot. Life moves in circles. We require intake if we are to output. We must inhale in order to exhale. We must rest in order to exert. The ocean ebbs and flows. These rhythms are natural and inevitable.

I don’t think I’ve ever knowingly tried to cheat the natural order. Today on the radio, I listened to discussions of people taking amphetamines in order to sustain creative exploits for up to 72 hours without sleep. I have always been alarmed at that thought. In my years as a graduate student, I recall drinking coffee and swallowing No-Doz tablets in order to stay up an entire night typing a paper to meet a deadline. But I believe I always returned to my bed the following evening. I never thought it possible to sustain beyond that.

As to the rhythm of creative eros and stagnation, I truly believe that physical rest is a factor. So why am I writing this now? Because I’m exhausted–sleep deprived, heat exhausted and travel weary. But . . . my air conditioner at home was finally repaired this afternoon.  So, I sit in this Barnes & Noble Cafe, waiting for the house to cool (it was 91 degrees inside today) so I can get home and experience some quality sleep. Soon I’ll travel to the Colorado Rockies, and I just want to get my physical and spiritual self back on a good track before I begin the new trek.

Above, I have  posted the watercolor that I began yesterday, and completed this morning. It is now in transit to its new home out east, and I’m delighted that the patron is happy with it (glad also to have the job finished before making my next journey).

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when feeling alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.