Posts Tagged ‘Colorado’

Colorado Decompression

July 18, 2022
No, I am no longer There. Yet “There” is still “Here”

What a beautiful day. More than ever I realized how much I liked wandering alone. I described my day to Bill Tweed, but as I did so, I realized that I couldn’t do it justice. A day like that can’t be shared; that must not be what they are for. There was no reason for anyone else to be interested. Maybe they are like dreams in that sense. It was a walk only, not an adventure. Writing about it might resemble writing about gardening more than writing about climbing. Contemplative writing, landscape writing, the experience of peace . . . I need here to take on this problem, which possibly can’t be solved, although really every human experience should be legible.

Kim Stanley Robinson, The High Sierra: A Love Story

Settled back in my home on Sunday morning, I still have the Colorado mountain mystique wrapped about me like a comfortable robe. But reading Kim Robinson above reminds me that I cannot encapsulate the experience in words, no matter how deeply I reach into the well of words. But I sit here comfortably in my Studio Eidolons, surrounded by books, paintings, my journal, and the memories. And that is enough.

Colorado watercolor titled A Van Gogh Moment. 11 x 14″ framed. $150

I painted this from the view above where I was reading the book on the cabin deck. As I looked up and admired the flowing stream, a fisherman ambled by and I took his picture with my phone. His blue jacket and broad-brimmed light-colored hat reminded me of the Van Gogh painting below. I decided, Why not give it a try? I’m glad I did. Yet another memory preserved of a perfect getaway.

The Painter on the Road to Tarascon, Vincent Van Gogh

I’m glad I have a few days respite before I have to jump back into a moderately heavy art calendar. It feels good to rest and reflect for the day.

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.


Winding Down this Memorable Mountain Escape

July 17, 2022
Trying to Figure How to Finish out this Aspen Composition

There must have come a day when granite first peeked out of some broken metamorphic rock and looked up at the sky.

Kim Stanley Robinson, The High Sierra: A Love Story

I have been away from social media awhile (which isn’t a bad thing). We went nearly a full day without wi-fi access up here at 8200 feet. Nevertheless I continued to find a good balance between painting and reading. I had not heard of Kim Stanley Robinson, but reading his latest book has felt like a blast of clean, scintillating alpine air, comparable to reading Annie Dillard or my friend and naturalist Clarry Hubbard, retired journalist from the Wall Street Journal. I try to avoid covetousness when reading such magnificent words describing one’s experiences in the mountains and forests. Rather than write about the past ten days, I have spent considerable time in a shady spot, sighing deeply and drinking in these deep draughts of mountain air.

Soaking up precious words from Kim Stanley Robinson

I have hit several snags on the aspen watercolor experiment, and am already thinking of the next one and how to improve. When working over layers and layers of masquing, I often inadvertently blot out the highlights so necessary when looking at aspen leaves. I chose to take an Xacto knife and prick the paper in particular areas to get those highlighted leaves back. I have studied Winslow Homer’s techniques of blotting and scraping to recover highlights, and I believe I have another trick up the sleeve to accomplish that. But it is Sunday and the stores are closed in this small town, so I’ll have to wait till tomorrow to pick up the necessary supplies for that. I want to get back some of the lighter washes around the perimeter of this painting that I lost with my layering attempts. If none of this works out, then I already have the next painting to consider.

After today, we have only one full day left to enjoy this cool weather and high altitude. I recall about ten years ago our last day in Colorado when staying in Almont where I fly-fished the Taylor River. It was mid-August, and I had to report in a couple of days to my school district for another week of those mandatory, irrelevant Inservice meetings. We rose at dawn, the temperature was 32 degrees. By evening we had arrived in Lubbock and it was 110 degrees. Same day. Disgusting. I have had the joy this past week-and-a-half of waking to mornings where I had to don a flannel shirt, and still find it too cold to sit out on this cabin deck with my coffee. I do love it so!

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.

Saturday Mountain Musings

July 16, 2022
Watercolor sketch from this location last year

While birds symphonically sound the tranquility of a sun-splashed mountain slope, the stream below murmurs softly behind the curtain. Sipping coffee, I continue to gaze at the deep amber hues of the stream shallows with the scattered shadows of rocks beneath the rippling surface. Always the mute monumental presence, the enormous boulder, clothed in the morning rose-colored sunlight, rests beneath the shadows of the sheltering spruce.

From my morning journal.

With three days remaining in our Colorado vacation, I am actually ready for the journey back home, and back to our normal family life. This is new to me. In past years it seems we always squeezed out five-to-seven days of vacation time, and on the first day I was already feeling the pressure of getting everything into the vacation time that I wanted to do. This has been a twelve-day sojourn, and the stretch of days has seemed perfect; everything we’ve wanted to do has happened with plenty of rest time in between the day trips. As for my personal interests, I’ve been saturated fully with reading, writing, watercolor sketching and fly-fishing. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. I feel genuinely restored and ready to return to our home.

I couldn’t resist

Last evening in Crested Butte, we found this lovely bookstore, offering a warm, inviting atmosphere for browsing, sitting, and enjoying coffee from the adjoining shop. I purchased this engaging book from a celebrated author I confess I hadn’t heard about. Sitting and reading the first five pages set the hook, and I knew what I would be reading religiously once I leave these beloved mountains behind in a few days. I cannot describe my love for the mountains in summer, the cool temperatures, the clean-smelling atmosphere, and the lovely, calming quiet.

My makeshift mountain studio

Yesterday was a full day of travel to Crested Butte (2 hours, 45 minutes one way), returning near midnight after leisure strolling, shopping, coffee-sipping and dining in the historic part of that town. While sitting and translating from Plotinus, it eventually dawned on me what to attempt next with my aspen watercolor experiment. I had reached a standstill yesterday, and the time away was good for regaining perspective. I’m glad to return to the painting today, as well as Plotinus.

Thanks for reading. This Saturday morning has offered a promising start.

I make art in order to discover

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

The Early Colorado Light

July 13, 2022
6:00 a.m. view from the Brookie Cabin deck

When the early morning light quietly grows above the mountains . . . .

The word’s darkening never reaches to the light of Being.

Martin Heidegger, “The Thinker as Poet”

I rose at 6 a.m. to a 46-degree Colorado morning, and stepped outside to drink in the magnificent morning mountain light. Heidegger’s words whispered to me in the silent air, and I once again offered thanks to be alive, to be granted the gift of drinking in this vista. Mornings like this are what I’ve reached for since my years as a college student. Whether we call it Quiet Time, Executive Time, or anything else, I am grateful for mornings with quiet and space where I can just breathe, reflect, read, write–do all the things I love to do in the Quiet. Every morning of this six-day mountain stay has given me this gift, and I’m thankful that another six days still await.

In recent years, I have read of Heidegger’s cabin built in the Black Forest in 1922 where he enjoyed his own quiet, and wrote all of his significant works. And I understand fully his preference for the mountains in the small village of Todtnauberg than the university in the city of Freiburg. I myself have enjoyed the relative quiet of places like the east Texas store where I’m granted a stay whenever I can get away, and of course, my annual journey to southern Colorado to enjoy the Rio Grande National Forest. And though Palestine, Texas is considered a city with a population of 18,000, I find the Redlands Hotel and our ground-floor gallery much quieter and soothing than the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. Above all, I am thankful for this full retirement at last.

This is my first Colorado vacation where I no longer have a syllabus pending or an inservice waiting. For the first time, I am not sitting here with that gnawing annoyance of a school schedule lurking on the calendar. Before retiring from high school teaching, I was concerned that my lifestyle of scholarship would end. It didn’t, but I wondered if that was because I was still teaching part-time at the college. Now, I know that my scholarship is not grounded in a teaching schedule. During this Colorado vacation, I have found time to study in Latin, and for the first time in my life, I’ve actually been writing sentences in Greek in my journal scribblings. My companions have been William Carlos Williams, Annie Dillard, Norman Maclean, and of course Martin Heidegger over these past six days. So apparently, my lifestyle of study has not diminished, and for that I am grateful as well; I actually have MORE quality time for these pursuits.

Having finished my morning coffee, I am ready now to resume my watercolor experiment with aspen trees as my subject. And Paddington has suddenly decided that I need help with this blog. I’m not finding it easy tapping these laptop keys with him in my lap.

Paddington, always making everything his business. He needs a job.

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.

When it Rains, Inspiration Arrives

July 12, 2022

We never come to thoughts. They come to us.

Martin Heidegger, “The Thinker as Poet”

As one grows older one sees the impossibility of imposing order on the chaos with brute force. But if you’re patient there may come that moment while eating an apple when the solution presents itself politely and says “Here I am.”

Albert Einstein, quoted in the film “Why Man Creates” written by Saul Bass and Mayo Simon

Colorado gave us rain most of the day, forcing me to stay inside the cabin, or at least on the deck. Before the rain arrived, Sandi offered to drive us on an extended road trip over the Silver Thread. We managed to get ten miles past Creede before . . . (wait for it!) . . . a sleet storm overpowered us! So, we turned around and headed back to our cabin in South Fork. Before the rain, I rode along as a passenger, admiring the vistas, especially the aspen trees.

Since the year 2000, when I first visited Colorado, I was smitten by the sight of aspen trees, their glittering, shimmering round leaves blinking through the mountain atmosphere. And those white tree trunks against the dark forest interiors! Over the past twenty years of Colorado visits I have tried to solve the pine trees in watercolor, and still feel I haven’t arrived. But I was always befuddled, wondering how to render aspens. As Sandi drove this morning, the idea finally arrived. Thinking of Heidegger and Einstein, grateful for the visitation of inspirations, I spent the day inside the cabin contemplating how I was going to paint my first stand of aspens.

After taking ten photographs and adjusting them for my composition, I decided to begin with (I don’t know what this is called) negative painting or painting by subtraction. I penciled out the aspen outlines, then used my masquepen to block the trunks and branches. Later, I poured some of the masque solution onto a saucer and spattered with a toothbrush my first layer of “white” aspen leaves.

Nightfall has arrived. Tomorrow, under natural light, I will apply my first wash of light sea-green, sprinkled with salt and stale bread crumbs. When dry, I will spatter more masquing fluid. Once that is dry, I will apply a darker layer of aspen green. Dry again, then a new spattering of masquing, followed by a yet darker color, etc. I tried this method for the first time in the summer of 2015 when I was doing my Artist-in-Residency for Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi. While on a spoil island in the Laguna Madre, I was reading Heidegger’s “On the Origin of the Work of Art” and was inspired by a quote from the Northern Renaissance artist Albrecht Dűrer:

For in truth, art lies hidden within nature; he who can wrest it from her, has it.

Sitting on the island my first evening of the residency, I read that statement and contemplated the cord grasses growing in the shadows of the research station where I was residing for a week. Recalling the appearance of Albrecht Dűrer’s watercolor of tall grasses, I puzzled out the technique of multiple layers of masquing and watercolor washes.

Now, seven years later, I’m ready to try it again on the Colorado aspens. We’ll see how it turns out.

The day has been filled with gods (I believe Emerson wrote that), and I am grateful to have been alive to experience the visitations.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover (especially today!)

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Sunday Morning Richness

July 10, 2022
Coffee and thinking before reading, always
Reading from the Greek Testament

Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest awhile.

Mark 6:31 (Jesus advising his disciples after they had finished a lengthy preaching and healing tour)

Morning colors are always amazing here
My 1st Colorado watercolor sketch
The start of my second watercolor sketch
A portion of my morning journal

At 10:13 tonight, I finally pause in the darkness of the Colorado night, sitting outside on the Brookie cabin deck, enjoying the 62-degree temperatures and the cup of hot tea Sandi just brewed and brought out to me. The south fork of the Rio Grande is filling the night with its own conversation, and the soothing sounds of the stream remind me that I’ll be sleeping soon.

While making coffee this morning, I began translating the 6th chapter of Mark’s Gospel from my Greek Testament. The text came alive, and I found myself scribbling several pages of personal observations concerning his effect on the synagogue audience as he spoke in his hometown of Nazareth on the Sabbath. They were astounded. The 1st chapter of Mark records the same audience reaction in Capernaum, noting that he spoke with authority and not as the scribes. The Nazareth audience was astonished for different reasons: they knew his family, his roots. And the wisdom with which he spoke far transcended what his townspeople had heard before. I have been intrigued with Mark’s Gospel since the 1970’s, and since I began reading Harvey Cox’s When Jesus Came to Harvard, I have been translating this Gospel with fresh eyes, avoiding the stacks of notes taken during seminary and pastoral days. What intrigues me about Mark’s Gospel is that he frequently registers the audience astonishment, but never tells us what Jesus actually said.

I have opened this blog post with the passage above where Jesus invited his disciples to retire to a “lonely place” after they had returned from a preaching tour, exuberant with their success, but no doubt tired. The Synoptic Gospels have always fascinated me with the rhythms of Jesus three-and-a-half year itinerant ministry from town to town. He frequently withdrew from the public into a solitary place to re-charge, to re-calibrate, to re-center. The Greek word translated “lonely place” is the work often translated “wilderness.” The word was used of John the Baptist’s domain in the trans-Jordanian region where he dwelt in isolation. The wilderness motif has engaged me ever since my studies in the Gospels along with Henry David Thoreau’s book Walden. Throughout my professional life and now even in retirement, I still periodically withdraw “to the wilderness” to re-focus what I am doing in my own life. These two weeks we’ve set aside to spend in Colorado are part of that plan. I love my life and everything I do. But I also love those opportunities to break away from the weekly cycle and go to a solitary place, hide the calendar, and do what I wish.

As to the pictures posted above, I have attempted two watercolor sketches from the view of this Brookie cabin deck, looking down toward the stream of the south fork of the Rio Grande. The first is just a rough, quick sketch; the second I may try to develop into a more serious painting tomorrow, we’ll see how I feel about it when I look on it with fresh eyes.

The final picture is of the journal I began this morning on the deck over a cup of coffee. Since it is Sunday, I had this urge to translate from my Greek Testament, and I pasted a photo of Karl Barth in my journal, as he still inspires much of my work these days. I took that picture after dark, so the lighting is rather strained.

Thanks for staying up with me. I hope to have more to share tomorrow.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Warm Thoughts in the Cold Dawn

August 8, 2017


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


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.




A Past Worth Remembering

October 11, 2016


Wayne’s Bluff


David’s Bluff

number three (2)

Ron and Dian’s Bluff

And so it is with our own past. It is a labour in vain to recapture it: all the efforts of our intellect must prove futile. The past is hidden somewhere outside the realm, beyond the reach of intellect, in some material object (in the sensation which that material object will give us) which we do not suspect. And as for that object, it depends on chance whether we come upon it or not before we ourselves must die.”

Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way

Preparing for the upcoming Edom Festival of the Arts has put me in a satisfying frame of mind. Sorting through stacks of watercolors has floated abundant memories toward the surface of a resistant consciousness–resistant mostly due to fall semester industry.  Most of these memories have been most welcome–memories spanning the splendid summer of 2016.

Pulling three watercolors of bluffs from the stack, I have chosen to name the first one after a friend of mine known since the second grade.  Wayne and I have recently re-connected, thanks to Facebook, and have spent some quality time on Missouri rivers kayaking and fishing. I miss him during the months I live in Texas, as he still resides near my home town in Missouri.

The second bluff I have given my own name.  The memory of that post-Thanksgiving morning of 2015 when I was driving through the rain still stays with me.  The memory is mostly comforting.  At any rate, I enjoy looking at this composition as the location is only about four miles from where I lived throughout my youth.

The final painting I did en plein air while vacationing with my friends Ron and Dian Darr in South Fork, Colorado.  I worked on three paintings in this genre outside their travel trailer as we ate and visited together.  Every time I look at this painting, I recall how delicious times are when spent in conversation with these two kindred spirits.

When I sit in my booth in Edom this weekend, I’ll be looking at these works, feeling gratitude for the generous hand life has extended to me.

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.

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.