Posts Tagged ‘Big Two-Hearted River’

On the Pulse of the Morning

March 10, 2013

In the Man Cave with Winslow Homer

Here on the pulse of this new day

You may have the grace to look up and out

And into your sister’s eyes,

And into your brother’s face,

Your country,

And say simply

Very simply

With hope—

Good morning.

Maya Angelou, “On the Pulse of Morning,” (Read by the poet at the Inauguration of William Jefferson Clinton 20 January 1993)

I thought it appropriate to open Daylight Saving time with these immortal words, remembering how I shivered the morning I listened to May Angelou deliver this poem.  My body clock, of course, is not adjusted to this.  Retiring to bed around 2:00 this morning, I awoke without an alarm at 7:58, feeling that it was actually 6:58, but got up anyway.  The Man Cave is chilly, requiring a heavy sweater and plenty of coffee, but I like the lighting now, and I am immersed in Winslow Homer watercolors of fishing subjects.  He was an avid fly fisherman and I love his watercolor renderings.  I have decided to pursue some fishing compositions, and have gotten some encouragement from a friend on this.

This morning, I am using two of Homer’s watercolors as a reference, still trying to find my own sense of vision and composition (yesterday I quoted Proust, speaking of one who wrote with a “watercolor touch”.  I’m seeking a watercolor touch in painting as well as writing, still).  I am looking at two Homer compositions, one of a boy whittling, and I’ve chosen to put a cane pole in his hand instead.  The other is a young boy and girl standing in the sunlight, fishing.  Hopefully, I’ll have enough completed on this pair of 8 x 10″ sketches to post for any of you interested in looking.

The reading has been delicious up to this point.  In addition to reading Maya Angelou’s poem in its entirety, I have continued what I began late last night–Ernest Hemingway’s “Big Two-Hearted River.”  Knowing what I know of Hemingway’s life when he wrote that short story, I find these words particularly striking:

He felt he had left everything behind, the need for thinking, the need to write, other needs.  It was all back of him.

There have been several moments like that in my own personal odyssey.  I take comfort in reading these thoughts from another’s hand.  I have always believed that Henry David Thoreau moved to Walden Pond to clear out all the cobwebs and debris in the duct work of his consciousness–a Harvard degree that did not translate into a job, a school teacher stint that didn’t work out, whispers about his accident in the woods that burned off 300 acres of prime Massachusetts forest, and the general sentiment of those around him that he was an idler.  I am convinced that moving to Walden Pond allowed him to flush out all that negative debris so that epiphany could take place.  I read those same sentiments into the mindset of Nick Adams as he backpacks along the road, leaving the remnants of a burned-out town behind him, heading to the river.  He is moving toward epiphany.

It has been a few years since I read the texts of two of my treasured volumes on Winslow Homer: Watercolors by Winslow Homer: the Color of Light and Winslow Homer: Artist and Angler.  I took them off the shelf this morning, and have spent this entire first part of the day immersed in them, along with Hemingway and Angelou (oh, and also the voice of Garrison Keillor on cassette–a real American treasure with wonderful homespun stories!).

I guess that’s about all for now.  The Man Cave is providing nice support for what I’m trying to do.  More later, I hope.

Thanks for reading.

A Day More Proustian than Warholish

March 9, 2013
Acrylic on Canvas in Martin High School Library

Acrylic on Canvas in Martin High School Library

My Spring Break should have started yesterday at the end of school, but I believe it actually began tonight at 7:03.  That was when Something Happened (I love that title from the Joseph Heller novel, and loved the novel–it should be read by every man over 40).  Now I feel a real Break, a real potential for cleansing, for enlightenment, and am glad to have enough “juice” in me to stay up awhile tonight and try to record some meaningful thoughts.

Among the plethora of books I’m trying to read at the same time (such a bad habit), there is included the Andy Warhol Diaries.  Geez, the man can be so vacuous!  It’s been reported that he suffered dyslexia, and therefore didn’t write.  The Diaries  are actually transcribed from daily phone calls he made to Pat Hackett.

So, with feeble humor, I begin this blog in Andy Warhol Diaries fashion, and promise to do it only once:

Woke up at 8:25 this morning without the alarm.  Showered, dressed, drove to Kroger and bought basic groceries ($45.30, 4 miles).  Cooked breakfast in the kitchen.  Spent three-and-a-half hours cleaning a study that I had abandoned over a year ago (second bedroom in the house) and gathering information to file my taxes.  Watched on TV the St. Louis Blues beat the San Jose Sharks in overtime 4-3 and was glad.  Got a voice mail at 7:03.  Filled up my gas tank ($58.92) and returned some belongings to a friend ( 83 miles).  Drove home through a hellacious rainstorm.

Great stuff huh?  Imagine someone buying a book with 807 pages of that.  I just did, and I’m reading it.  To be fair, I am gleaning the occasional Pop Art history from his daily musings, but wow, I have to plow through so much vacuous verbiage to mine those facts.

And now, the actual day:

Following breakfast I settled into my comfortable living room reading chair and continued my reading of Proust (Swann’s Way).  I could not get past this story:

[Legrandin] came up to us with outstretched hand: “Do you know, master booklover,” he asked me, “this line of Paul Desjardins?

            Now are the woods all black, but still the sky is blue.

Isn’t that a fine rendering of a moment like this?  Perhaps you have never read Paul Desjardins.  Read him, my boy, read him; in these days he is converted, they tell me, into a preaching friar, but he used to have the most charming watercolour touch—

Now are the woods all black, but still the sky is blue.

May you always see a blue sky overhead, my young friend; and then, even when the time comes, as it has come for me now, when the woods are all black, when night is fast falling, you will be able to console yourself, as I do, by looking up at the sky.”  He took a cigarette from his pocket and stood for a long time with his eyes fixed on the horizons.  “Good-bye, friends!” he suddenly exclaimed, and left us.

I could not stop laughing.  To put it in context, the author thought he had been snubbed the day before outside church by Legrandin.  Now, while walking, he runs into the man again, and out comes all this verbiage over one line of a poem that is supposed to be profound, and then just as quickly, the man walks away.  No conversation.  No exchange.  Just a quick moment to pontificate, and then move on.  I laugh as I recall the many, many times this has happened in my past and present.  Not just that kind of treatment from someone putting on superior airs, but that kind of insipid advice to look to blue skies when the woods turn dark.

But the line that actually made me record this was: “in these days he is converted, they tell me, into a preaching friar, but he used to have the most charming watercolour touch.”  Ahhhh.  I spent most of the day digesting that.  I guess I’m going to adjust my goals to include some line about trying to learn to write (and blog?) with a “watercolor touch.”

Not long after Proust “tagged” me, I suddenly, while texting a dear friend, was pointed to a new direction in watercolor that had been in the back of my mind for a few days.  And after these texts settled, I suddenly “saw” what I want to do next.  But alas, it is 10:53 now, I am still in the mood to read and write in my journal, and it’s raining cats and dogs outside and the Man Cave is smelling kind of moldy.  I also don’t enjoy the garage lights too much after dark, preferring instead to let the natural light flood in through the garage door windows (or even open the door completely, weather permitting).

So instead, I post this 3 x 4′ acrylic canvas I painted as part of a series of “book covers” for the Martin High School library (where I teach full time).  And tonight, I choose to sit up late and read some more of the Nick Adams series from Ernest Hemingway, most particularly the two-part “Big Two-Hearted River.”  That has been one of my favorite short stories since high school, and though I will not be able to journey to Colorado this Spring Break to fly fish for trout, I know I will again some day.  Meanwhile I enjoy it vicariously by reading Nick’s story.

My plan is to begin this new series of watercolors tomorrow, and begin posting them as they emerge.  Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy the Hemingway canvas.

Thanks for reading.