Posts Tagged ‘Annie Dillard’

Closing out an Intriguing Odyssey

June 17, 2017

last morning

Reading Annie Dillard at the Store

But if I can bear the nights, the days are a pleasure.  I walk out; I see something, some event I’d otherwise have  utterly missed and  lost; or something sees me, some enormous power brushes me with its clean wing, and I resound like a beaten bell.

Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

This is the first time I’ve been able to lodge at my favorite place, “The Store”, for more than a weekend.  Waking at 6:11 on my fourth and final morning, I took the leisure to enjoy a cup of coffee and read Annie Dillard as the sun pinked the eastern skies over rural Texas.  During the past two morning watches, I certainly felt some sort of affirming power brushing me “with its clean wing,” and I went to work in the gallery with a renewed sense of purpose.

last gallery

The Gallery at Redlands, 400 N. Queen St., Palestine, Texas

We don’t know what’s going on here.  If these tremendous events are random combinations of matter run amok, the yield of millions of monkeys at millions of typewriters, then what is it in us, hammered out of those same typewriters, that they ignite?  We don’t know.  Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery, like the idle, curved tunnels of leaf miners on the face of a leaf.

Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Reading Annie was a soul-stirring event again this morning.  I drove the fifty minutes to the gallery, and by the time I arrived, I knew that I wanted to begin a fourth watercolor on this fourth day.  Something inside drives me to create, to express, and now that I am retired from a full-time job, I am enthused about responding to this compulsion.

Thanks for reading.

I make art because it’s in me.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Stimulus Overload

June 26, 2016

colorado 1 (2)

First Plein Air Sketch of the Morning at Riverbend Resort

colorado 2 (2)

Beginnings of a Second Sketch

tree (2)

The present of my consciousness is itself a mystery which is also always just rounding a bend like a floating branch borne by a flood.

Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Annie sure nailed it with that sentence in describing my life. As an educator, I’ve encountered for twenty-eight years students diagnosed with A.D.D. (attention deficit disorder), and have felt that I would have been diagnosed with the same, had counselors in my own school youth been equipped with that handle. I have told friends for years that when I am home alone in the afternoons and evenings, that I want to work on a watercolor, read a book, and write in my journal all at the same time.  If I settle for painting, what should I paint? If reading, what book? If journaling, which thought do I want to explore, right now?

I awoke with that dilemma this morning, multiplied to the limits.  The Colorado morning light was crystal clear, the air was cold, Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek was lying beside my bed, my art supplies and easel were in the corner, and the journal was on the kitchen table. And I wanted to do all of it at the same time.

During breakfast with Ron and Dian Darr, friends whom I’ve known and loved since 1990, I decided to set up the plein air easel and see if I could do something with those beautiful bluffs across the highway from Riverbend Resort where I am staying. For years I have wanted to paint bluffs, and got my first real taste of a few weeks ago in Eureka Springs, Arkansas at Beaver Bluffs.  Last week, west of St. Louis, while driving back toward Texas, I saw those marvelous bluffs carved out along Highway 30 between High Ridge and House Springs–a sight I took for granted during my school years but now was just screaming to be painted.  Last year, I began a painting of one of those bluffs, and it still sits in my studio, unfinished (that’s my life–a studio littered with half-done projects).

After stopping with the first sketch above, clouds rolled up over the mountain, so I decided to begin a second one.  However, the temperatures grew quite hot as the noon hour approached, and I decided to put this second one on hold.  Perhaps tomorrow I’ll return to it.  The third pencil sketch was something I dashed out while chatting with Ron under the shaded canopy.

The day has been amazing.  I haven’t yet entered the stream to fly fish, but plan to as soon as the sun drops in the early evening.  Meanwhile I’m staring at this magnificent pine tree in front of my cabin porch–the one I sketched yesterday while mosquitoes ate me.  I have the repellent today and have already bathed my body in it.  Perhaps I’ll give the pine a try in watercolor . . .

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Early Morning Colorado Musings Over Coffee

June 26, 2016

tree drawing

Experiencing the present purely is being emptied and hollow; you catch grace as a man fills his cup under a waterfall.

Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Something spiritual and exciting floods the atmosphere in Colorado.  I rose at 5:09 yesterday morning, and 5:05 this morning, unable to sleep any later. The world outside is already filled with bird choruses, the South Fork of the Rio Grande is never quiet as it flows over the boulders below my cabin, and I cannot picture a better morning than one spent in the halo of my desk lamp with a cup of coffee and Annie Dillard’s writings, waiting for the light to break.

Plein air painting, fly fishing, reading and journaling are on my mind while I spend quality time here. Yesterday was busy with driving the final six hours to this destination, unloading, moving into my cabin and getting into the river.  The water is way up from what I’ve been used to in years past, as the snow melt is still underway and daily rains have added to the flow. Entering the stream proved difficult and treacherous, as I managed to slip and fall headlong already (an early baptism), but did manage to bag a beautiful brown trout, while missing three additional strikes. I would have photographed the trout, but I had returned to the cabin to change clothes and dry out the phone (which fortunately did not die) and deliberately left the phone in the kitchen. On my second stream visit, where I managed to stay on my feet, I found plenty of trout action, and the Caddis hatch was so thick in the air that I dared not breathe with my mouth open.

I forgot to pack Off! mosquito spray, so the sketch above had to be done hastily while mosquitoes ate away at my face and neck. By the time I got a can of spray, it was nightfall, so I plan to bathe in the repellent today before going out for my next plein air attempt. The Colorado light is so crystal clear and enchanting, with sun bathing the mountains and stream, that I feel intimidated to sketch it. I’m tingling with excitement as I think of this day’s prospects.

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.

 

Tearing Off and Beginning Again

August 23, 2015

imageTo fend off the crowd, Stoics believed, it was essential to cultivate inner self-sufficiency, and Seneca returns to this notion over and over. Learn to be content within yourself, to trust your own instincts and ideas. Those who achieve this autonomy, he argues, are best able to enjoy and make the most of their outward lives. They thrive in the crowd because they’re not dependent on it. 

William Powers, Hamlet’s Blackberry

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

Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

The photo above was taken early Saturday morning in the back of my darkened classroom, and it became a sacred space for me. Nearly three months of summer solitude and quiet are about to end as I enter the public classroom arena in the morning and write the first page of a new chapter for all of us. I’m choosing the title above because I have torn off and discarded a number of teaching points I have grown to love over the years, replacing them with some new ones.

This latest book I’m reading Hamlet’s Blackberry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age has seized my attention and held it like no other in recent years. Not only am I appreciative that the author got my attention of how social media can drive one’s personal agenda, I am glad now to seek a more satisfying lifestyle that balances my quiet solitude with the demands of a social business schedule. The summer has furnished an excellent training ground for the quiet side of my life, and tomorrow I’ll find out just how successful I am at balancing the tumult of daily school with the quiet of my study. I find such attractive sweetness in the lives of Emerson, Thoreau, Annie Dillard and Aldo Leopold because I imagine them to have found ways to balance their quiet inwardness with the demands of business. I see them as very positive role models for anyone who wishes to pursue creative exploits.

I did fight for some painting time in the studio this day before school begins. Here is a 20 x 24″ beginning of the same Laguna Madre painting that I completed a couple of days ago. I want to explore the serpentine countour of land in the foreground as I did in that very small watercolor.

Sketchbook/Journal Experimenting

Sketchbook/Journal Experimenting

This morning, while reading something completely unrelated, my mind drifted to drawing, and I’m glad I closed the book and let the imagination run. This is not something I’ve been taught or read in any art manual–I have always balked at drawing landscapes in pencil, because I could not solve the problem of lightly colored grasses against darker backgrounds. I had solved that issue in watercolor through masquing, but could not think of a way to render light grass blades against darker ones in pencil. Recalling that I could impress shapes into paper with a hard pencil (6H or 8H) and then skate over it with a soft lead pencil, I wondered if I could take a ballpoint pen that had run dry, and use it to press lines of grass into the paper, and then drag a soft pencil over the top of it. The sketchbook/journal page above shows my first attempts. Turning to another sketchbook, I then worked more deliberately and got closer to where I want to go:

Combining stylus indentions with soft graphite drawing

Combining stylus indentions with soft graphite drawing

To get this effect, I used an empty ballpoint pen for the impressions into the paper, then skated over it with a 6B pencil and rubbed some of it out with a paper blending stump. Finally, I drew in darker grasses, first in 6B, followed by a #2 pencil and then finally a 6H. I’m getting closer to what I want to accomplish.  Too bad I have to break this off and return my attention to tomorrow’s first day of classes.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

The First Glimpse Beyond the Veil

May 17, 2015

The oldest Egyptian or Hindoo philosopher raised a corner of the veil from the statue of the divinity; and still the trembling robe remains raised, and I gaze upon as fresh a glory as he did, since it was I in him that was then so bold, and it is he in me that now reviews the vision. No dust has settled on that robe; no time has elapsed since that divinity was revealed. That time which we really improve, or which is improvable, is neither past, present, nor future.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

View of the Laguna Madre from the Field Station

View of the Laguna Madre from the Field Station

Extending the spirit of Thoreau, I peered past a veil yesterday, not shielding an ancient statue, but one of the largest of the six hypersaline ecosystems on our planet. And I’m certain that I felt the same kind of shudder experienced by Thoreau with his first look across Walden Pond, or Annie Dillard with her first gaze across the terrain of Tinker Creek. In less than a month, I will live as a guest on one of the islands of this “mother lagoon” system and pursue my bliss of painting, observing, writing and fly fishing. I arrived home late last night, after my first escorted visit to the island, slept soundly, and today have been doing nothing but reviewing the extensive weekend notes I took from the people who were key to this new experiment.

Associate Professor Paul Zimba was the one who met me and drove me to the launch site, then traveled with me to the island.  Dr. Zimba was a research scientist for decades before taking his current post on the faculty of Texas A&M University Corpus Christi as Director of the Center for Coastal Studies. In our conversations throughout the morning, I found him to be an amazing man, taking his Bachelor of Arts degree in science, and appreciating the art history and philosophy courses he took. In the ensuing decades, he has managed to present himself as a lover of pure research, yet still cognizant of what is actually inside the test tube besides numbers and descriptive labels. He has a passion for the ecosystem of the Texas coast, constantly observing the plant and animal life that teems there, and converses about his discoveries with genuine enthusiasm. As a man who thinks outside the box, I’m proud of his vision for opening the Laguna Madre Field Station to serve an abundance of educational avenues in addition to the field studies of a handful of university departments.

Robert (Bobby) Duke is a biologist and research assistant for the Center for Coastal Studies. He was the skilled driver Paul preferred since the waters were way up from a recent 15” rainfall. When we arrived at the island, the men noted that thirty yards of one end of the island was underwater. Once we docked, the high winds knocked my hat into the water, and without hesitation, Bobby dove in, searched the bottom of the chest-deep waters, located and retrieved the hat for me, like it was something he did all the time. Bobby is also an enthusiastic conversationalist, appreciating many fields of study outside of his disciplinary home of biology. Above all, he is passionate about astronomy, and filled me with wonder as he discussed the myriads of constellations visible in the night skies above the island. Not knowing his passion for astronomy, I was recently reading portions of Thoreau and his comparison of astronomy to the discipline of classical studies. I can’t wait to flesh out this area of my research, now that Bobby has struck a nerve there.

I don’t know how to begin to introduce Dinah Bowman, the local artist/visionary who brought my name into this residency. Dinah Bowman has her own gallery (http://www.dinahbowman.com/) in Portland, Texas, a small coastal town next door to Corpus Christi. Her gallery director and framer, Mike Catlin, was a student of mine during my first years of teaching, and he brought my work into the gallery, introducing me to Dinah. After I taught a pair of watercolor workshops out of her gallery, Dinah broached the subject of this Artist in Residency, which would be the university’s first, and she then worked tirelessly to help make it happen.

Dinah has her B.A. in marine science/chemistry, and her M.A. in terrestrial biology/art from Texas A&M Corpus Christi. She is a highly-skilled painter of marine life, creating rubbings as well as watercolor and acrylic works, and presents her subjects with the precision of a scientific illustrator. Her work in scientific research is so vast, that I wonder how one human can serve a dual role of fine artist and scientist so effectively. But she has done this with skill and enthusiasm for years, and one of her pieces of art now hangs in the Smithsonian.

Twenty-four hours after leaving Corpus Christi, I still feel myself vibrating from all that transpired over the past two days, and I am filled with enthusiasm, despite being sick with allergy symptoms (a nagging four-day episode now). I’ve managed to lose my speaking voice, and am wondering just exactly what I will do before my students in the morning, not having learned sign language. But that is tomorrow–I’m still very happy to be pursuing these fresh ideas today.

Thank you for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

No One Suspects the Days to be Gods (Emerson)

March 5, 2015
Fresh Snowfall at Dawn

Fresh Snowfall at Dawn

As you learn to follow ideas along, to process those ideas into music or paintings, you start to realize that the issue whether you are talented enough or good enough is no longer relevant. Following your ideas and creating art is just what you do.

Ian Roberts, Creative Authenticity

With pure joy and anticipation, I awakened without an alarm at 6:50. Last night I had already been notified that there would be no school today, due to icy road conditions. I greeted the dawn with a heart brimming with joy and could not make the coffee or get into my favorite reading chair fast enough. While cozied up to Annie Dillard’s Living By Fiction, I looked up in thought, and realized I was gazing at a cluster of leaves dangling in morning sunlight just outside my living room window. I couldn’t stop admiring the organic pattern of the cluster against the bright wintry sky, and suddenly recalled stories I had read yesterday of how Leonardo da Vinci and Henri Matisse focussed on a single leaf or cluster of leaves, and then did studious drawings and painting of the design. My watercolor supplies were nearby, so on impulse I pulled out the basic tools, and, sitting in my reading chair, sought to render quickly and repeatedly what I was staring at outside my morning window.

In a few moments, the sun faded, the leaves lost their illuminative quality, and the moment was gone. I also realized, as the sun was devouring the freshly fallen snow, that by mid-afternoon, only water would be standing in my backyard. This reminded me of what we discussed in yesterday’s A. P. Art History classes while studying the Dutch Baroque still life paintings and the vanitas theme. The seventeenth-century Dutch, with their newfound wealth, were accumulating property faster than ever before in their history. Yet their sober-minded Calvinist culture reminded them that material goods pass away like the morning cloud, as does life.

The vanitas them in Dutch still life painting is named after a famous passage from Ecclesiastes 1:2 — Vanitas vanitatum dixit Ecclesiastes.” (Latin Vulgate), translated: “‘Vanity of Vanities!’ says the Preacher.” This biblical book meditates on the passing away of all things connected to this physical world.

This Pieter Claesz painting is replete with objects depicting the passing of time, loss and death. The newly-rich Dutch Calvinists were painfully conscious of this. However, when carefully assembling a collection of possessions and then rendering them into art, they found a way to relay the story of the one who possessed all this, long after s/he exited the earth’s stage.

I took this opportunity to explain to the students the ground of my own passion for rendering watercolor still lifes. Projecting the image below, I urged them to try and memorize every object in the assembly before moving on to the next slide.

Fishing Memories

Fishing Memories

After a moment, I then projected this story I composed:

He’s No Longer Here 

When the neighbors hammered the padlock off the deceased man’s fishing shed, they peered inside the darkened room with sadness at the world of memories their dear friend had left behind.  Guarding the assembly from its high perch, the kerosene lantern called to memory nights spent on the Mississippi River dikes, waiting for catfish that would find their way to the Griswold skillet.  The Canada Dry crate was the old fisherman’s stool for the nightlong vigils. 

Bass fishing featured the Garcia Mitchell open-faced reel and the vintage wooden plugs for the area lakes and ponds.  In his retirement years, fly fishing took over, and the old man delighted in the long road trips in his Dodge pickup to the Colorado Rockies where he would not be heard from for weeks at a time.. The battered suitcase was his lifelong road companion, as was the dark leather knapsack that he bought from an old leathershop on the dusty streets of Athens during his European excursions.  

The old man had not been heard from for more than a week, and the inquiring neighbors were saddened to enter his home and find him in his final resting place—his favorite recliner in the small front room of his ramshackle house.  His cup was still half-filled with the Dining Car Coffee he relished throughout his years working on the Frisco railroad.  Now, only his possessions remained to tell his life’s story.

The notion of memento mori, to me, does not have to be limited to death; the sentiment of loss can also be tied to a loved one who has moved on. Another still life of mine attempts to relay that story:

Moving On

Moving On

And here is my story:

The young man was up late again, bedding down in the store room of the old filling station.  He had closed the place at dark, but was too engrossed in his college studies to pack up the books and head for his garage apartment in the next county.  So, with the owner’s permission, he would spend another night in this shack, amidst the smells of gasoline, oil, pit grease and the grime that had built up over two generations.  The Texaco station was anchored on historic Route 66 in an obscure town east of Amarillo, Texas.  Interstate commerce had all but obliterated the sleepy town, and as soon as this fellow graduated from the community college, he would depart as well.  The local townspeople and patrons had no knowledge or regard for the things that stirred the soul of this young man.  His volumes of Thoreau, Frost, Whitman and Twain had opened to him worlds beyond this community.  And his few camping possessions stored in this room (Griswold frying pan, stove top percolator, kerosene lantern, Maxwell House tin) were the tether that kept him bound to the wild.  He would be packing up his gear in a week and leaving without notice.  It was time to emerge from this cocoon and embrace the world that was calling out to him.

This day, though not yet half-over, has seemed to be filled with gods. The quiet time and space for reading, reflecting, writing and making art has been a soothing balm for my own weary soul. This Gift has been easy to embrace.

Thank you for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Reaching for the Purple Crayon

March 2, 2015
An Attempt to Color My World

An Attempt to Color My World

The mind fits the world and shapes it as a river fits and shapes its own banks.

Annie Dillard, Living By Fiction

With these words, I drifted off to sleep around 1:00 this morning, knowing I would have only four hours of less-than-quality sleep. Nevertheless, when I rose at 5:00, I had Annie’s words still in my heart, and reached for a children’s book that I did not discover until only a few years ago: Harold and the Purple Crayon. I felt my pulse quicken as I re-read the text of this young lad creating his own environment, and I then determined that this would be an artful day. I would go forth and color my own world. I have a great job, I believe in what I do, and a wonderful perk of teaching is the daily invitation to create quality in life as you pass in and out of the classroom.

Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself. I have been as sincere a worshipper of Aurora as the Greeks. . . . The morning, which is the most memorable season of the day, is the awakening hour.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

By 6:00, I was seated in the back of my darkened classroom, delighted with the cold, wet winter pre-dawn, and reminded that two winters ago I sat in this same place at the same hour and read Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. Stirred by the remembrance of Hemingway’s cold mornings spent in the rooftop Parisian apartment where he worked at perfecting his craft, I went to work on the first draft for this daily blog.

Once the students arrived around 7:30, the work day began, and it was a quality one for me. In A. P. Art History we looked at the Dutch and Flemish Baroque, focusing on Rembrandt and Rubens, then in Regular Art History we resumed our study of Leonardo da Vinci. I continued to draw new ideas concerning these creative spirits, not only from my own studies but also by well-placed queries from my engaging students. Together we worked at coloring this day.

Tonight was Open House. On a forty-degree rainy winter’s night, I knew not to anticipate large crowds. Three parents arrived to chat with me during the first ten minutes of the hour-long session, and that was that. Seated at my podium, I took out my draft of this blog and continued to push it along. Reflecting over a day that held plenty of creative surprises, I mused over all the people I’ve met throughout my life who hate their jobs, their daily routines. As for me, there have been some low moments over my twenty-six-year tenure as a teacher, but I can overwhelmingly testify that it has yielded a life overflowing with reward and daily creative opportunity.

Open House Night

Open House Night

Joseph Heller, author of Catch 22, began working on his second novel that would be titled Something Happened. After working on it for ten years, he had yet to finish and publish the novel, and in an interview, all he could say of the work was: “I’m about two hundred pages in, and it’s about this guy–but I don’t know much about him–I know he has a job, but I don’t know what it is, or what he does. He has this family, but I don’t really know who they are or where they live, I don’t even know his name. He just goes to work and he comes home, and that’s about all.” That interview prompted me to purchase Something Happened, and my heart cried as I read the story of this man’s empty life, and how it reminded me of so many with whom I’ve visited throughout the years–successful people who felt empty, people who learned the art of making a living, but still didn’t know how to live.

I am writing this tonight to anyone out there who finds life empty and woefully short on meaning. It doesn’t have to be that way; you have the power within your own mind to create a meaningful, artful life. You have all the resources within your grasp. You have the purple crayon.

You are more than your daily job.

You are more than a member of your nuclear family.

You are more than a resident in your surrounding neighborhood.

You are Harold, and you wield the purple crayon. Go forth and color your world as you see fit. If today was a pale, colorless day, tomorrow does not have to be a repeat performance.

It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts. 

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

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.

Ongoing Search for Creative Alchemy

March 1, 2015

I am witnessing a unique physiological phenomenon: John Shade perceiving and transforming the world, taking it in and taking it apart, re-combining its elements in the very process of storing them up so as to produce at some unspecified date an organic miracle, a fusion of image and music, a line of verse. . . . Shade’s poem is, indeed, that sudden flourish of magic: my gray-haired friend, my beloved old conjurer, put a pack of index cards into his hat–and shook out a poem.

Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire

A veritable bouquet of benefits sprouted from this snowbound weekend. Perhaps an early spring is on the way after all. I’m posting two watercolors that just sold over the past few days. I always take pleasure in selling my original work, but it is so much sweeter when I know the patrons as friends, and these two paintings now belong to two quality men who have brought much more than money into my life. Visiting with them has reminded me of my first love: seeking ways to blend disparate elements of this world into some kind of original artistic composition, an alchemy if you please. My passion for flyfishing made possible the two watercolors posted above. But there is so much more to this complex life than flyfishing.

Preparing for tomorrow’s A. P. Art History session on Dutch and Flemish baroque art spurred my return to a fresh study of Peter Paul Rubens. Already I have enjoyed drinking from the fountains of Nabokov’s Pale Fire, and when I came across the words posted above, I was reminded of Rubens’s rich tapestry of interests: the Greek and Latin language, classical philosophy and sculpture, Renaissance drawing and painting, travel, connecting with several dozen artists who were masters of various media. All this, accompanied by my privilege of writing a letter of recommendation for an amazing art student from my past, now accepted into the American University of Rome (wow, she will have access to those wonderful works copied by Rubens shortly after he became a master at age twenty-one).

I’m sincerely hoping to have some time tomorrow to return to the studio. After a weekend of listening to classical music, translating portions from ancient Greek and Latin texts, practicing some sketching of human anatomy, and reading from Nabokov, Annie Dillard and William Carlos Williams, I am ready to make some visual art. The hiatus has been too long. Fortunately I completed the last of my grading around 2:00 this morning, and feel that an albatross has been cut loose from around my neck. Hopefully, I’ll face a more positive fate than Coleridge did.

Thanks always for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

A Good Day for Nesting

February 28, 2015
Still Grading, but in a Better Location

Still Grading, but in a Better Location

Right now, here in Paris, we have seven different nests. That’s not counting our old water mill, two hundred miles from Paris. I spend half my time rousting out, fixing up, furnishing these nesting places.

Rats’ nesting’s what it all is; can’t seem to keep myself from burrowing, digging in; always stuffing bits and pieces into one corner or another.

William Wharton, Scumbler

The Winter Wonderland! A second consecutive day,snowbound in Arlington, Texas (strangest of places for this to happen). Untold blessings have unfolded in this experience, probably the greatest was fulfilling this desire for nesting. Possessing zero skills for interior decorating, I nevertheless love the ongoing process of creating nests throughout my home. Today saw the emergence of several more reading nooks, small libraries, cozy corners with reading chairs and lamps, along with some alterations to my art studio and music rooms. Finding just the right niche for guitars, amps, drafting tables and writing desks has added to the pleasure. Though I still have this grading albatross about my neck, I find now a more suitable place to carry out my onerous task.

The stereo that has lived in the garage studio for a few years now has been moved to my living room, and what a delight I found in getting reacquainted with my old Pioneer turntable! About ten years ago, I received this second-hand turntable as a gift from my brother, and once word got out that I was saying Yes to vinyl, many friends starting unloading their collections on me, and I in turn began visiting vintage vinyl stores in Fort Worth, Arlington and St. Louis. This resulted in a shelf with a couple of hundred albums, many of which I have not yet heard. Today I put on Stephen Stills, Manassas (I have no idea who gave it to me, but I never took it out of its cover till now) and WOW! What an incredible sound! The turntable has spun all afternoon as I’ve revisited Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and a stack of Jazz albums awaits. At least I can grade to music well into the cold night.

My new reading nooks have been outfitted with Annie Dillard’s Living by Fiction and Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire. These wonderful creative spirits have provided wonderful, cozy company when I’ve taken breaks from the grading nemesis. The music studio has also provided a healthy diversion from a humdrum kind of task-driven day. The acoustic and electric guitars compete for my attention now, but that’s a good thing. So much music waits to be explored. I actually started writing a new composition of my own a few days ago and am glad to see it gaining momentum.

O.K., this has been a nice change of pace. Papers wait to be graded. 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.

A Literary Night

November 7, 2014
Writing on a Serene Friday Night

Writing on a Serene Friday Night

In the beginning was the word, the word

That from the solid bases of the light

Abstracted all the letters of the void;

And from the cloudy bases of the breath

The word flowed up, translating to the heart

First charactes of birth and death.

Dylan Thomas, “In the Beginning”

As the temperatures drop this Friday evening, I’m finding myself more in a literary mood than a painting one.  On the TV plays “Finding Forrester”–one of my favorite movies starring Sean Connery. The memorable quotes are endless as he discusses the writer’s craft:

You write your first draft with your heart; you rewrite with your head.  The first key to writing is writing.

I am taking him at his word.  The coffeepot is on.  Books are stacked next to me.  The journal is open.  Pencils are sharpened.  Soft music plays.  And I’m ready to let unbridled thought run its course tonight.  Throughout my life, I’ve spent many nights in this mode, only there was a sermon to compose, a lecture to write, or a lesson plan to develop.  What is nice about tonight is that I don’t report to my job until Monday morning–until then, I have no deadlines, no objectives.  I am free to think, to write, to compose what I feel.  I wonder now, why don’t I arrange to have more times like this?  My calendar should be under my command, not vice versa.  Maybe this is the turn, the beginning of a new direction.  I like the open-ended feel of this.

When you write, you lay out a line of words.  The line of words is a miner’s pick, a wood-carver’s gouge, a surgeon’s probe. You wield it, and it digs a path you follow.  Soon you find yourself deep in new territory.

Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

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.