Posts Tagged ‘Henry David Thoreau’

Shaking Off Post-Travel Lethargy

May 2, 2020

I paint so I’ll have something to look at. I write so I’ll have something to read.

Barnett Newman

Having arrived back in Lubbock at 2:30 a.m. recently after pulling a loaded trailer through the night, I still find myself shaking off the cobwebs of unusual working and sleeping patterns. We have been moving things from Lubbock to Arlington in stages, and at this age find ourselves lacking the energy we knew ten-to-twenty years ago. Hence another blogging hiatus.

Rising early this morning, I went into the kitchen to engage in my customary ritual of grinding coffee beans in an antique hand-crank grinder. As I cranked the handle, I envisioned that I was turning the flywheel of my imagination in hopes of turning out a meaningful sentence by the time the coffee was French pressed and poured. It didn’t happen. So I pulled a few of my recent books from the bag and commenced reading for inspiration.

In a recent blog, I shared my interest in re-reading a most engaging biography on Thoreau, authored by Robert Richardson Jr. His dedication page honors W. J. Bate “who teaches that ‘in and through the personal rediscovery of the great, we find that we need not be the passive victims of what we deterministically call “circumstances.”. . . But that by linking ourselves . . . with the great we can become freer–freer to be ourselves, to be what we most want and value.'”

Reading the dedication spurred my memory to something I read years ago from the works of Friedrich Nietzsche. In his Untimely Meditations he advanced a particular discipline of historical study that he labeled “monumentalistic.” This particular method concentrates on past heroes in order to confront contemporary mediocrity with the possibility of greatness.

My personal reading preferences shifted to biography right after I finished my doctoral dissertation in 1987. Still uncertain of my career path, and weary of the technical reading I had pursued for over ten years, I suddenly found myself curious about the lives of intellectual heroes who had inspired me through their creations. And as I read the lives of these giants, it suddenly occurred to me that they at one time had been young men no better than I. Emerson wrote it better than I, so here he is . . .

Meek young men grow up in libraries believing it their duty to accept the views which Cicero, which Locke, which Bacon have given, forgetful that Cicero, Locke and Bacon were only young men in libraries when they wrote those books.

That particular insight set me free to pursue my own path, chart my own course, carve out my own destiny. The journey has taken many detours throughout the decades, but my most recent endeavor has been to write the story of Hank and pour in as much richness as I can recall from my own personal journeys as well as those shared by my friends. Hopefully I’ll be able to create and illustrate a character who is a mirror to many of our own lives.

Traveling and moving lately has made it difficult to spend quality time in the studio, so reading has been my source of inspiration, as well as much writing. New Hank stories have been composed and soon I plan to put them out on the blog, hopefully with new paintings to match.

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.

Murmurings in the Pre-Dawn

April 26, 2020
Early Sunday Morning in the Studio

Every spirit builds itself a house. And beyond its house a world. And beyond its world a heaven. Know then that the world exists for you. Build therefore your own world.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I awoke to my world much earlier than planned this morning–4:45. By 5:30 I realized I was not getting back to sleep. The machine of the mind and imagination was in overdrive, as always seems to happen soon after waking. So I rose, postponed the coffee till later (in case I get sleepy and return to bed), but then things began to happen as I read from Thoreau’s journal, November 16, 1850. What an amazing movement of the mind he experienced on that day. I’m choosing to share the best of it with my readers:

In literature it is only the wild that attracts us. Dullness is only another name for tameness. It is the untamed, uncivilized, free, and wild thinking in Hamlet, in the Iliad, and in all the scriptures and mythologies that delights us,–not learned in the schools, not refined and polished by art.

What an insight by a young man of only thirty-three years of age! I am embarrassed to admit that the Iliad did not come to mean anything to me till I was nearly forty, and that was only because I repeatedly read Thoreau’s comments about the epic in the pages of Walden. Because I can read Greek as he did, I was astonished when I purchased the volume from the Loeb Classical Library and began translating. It was only then that I found abiding treasures in those pages.

And Hamlet–it was not until three years ago that I finally read the text with profound enrichment. It was my third time to read the text, but the testimonies of Harold Bloom (I miss him so much!) turned me to the work and I am ever so grateful now for that experience. But wow, Thoreau, at thirty-three. already knew the richness of those “wild” works of literature.

Several paragraphs later, on the same day, after rhapsodizing over the sounds of birds, and musing about setting a compass for life’s journey, Thoreau then wrote something that made me laugh out loud:

Somebody shut the cat’s tail in the door just now, and she made such a caterwaul as has driven two whole worlds out of my thoughts. I saw unspeakable things in the sky and looming in the horizon of my mind, and now they are all reduced to a cat’s tail. Vast films of thought floated through my brain, like clouds pregnant with rain enough to fertilize and restore a world, and now they are all dissipated.

How many times has that happened to me? When I was at my teacher’s desk, reading something profound from a literary muse, and trying to record the floating fragments of related thought in my journal, when suddenly two students shouted, arguing over who was the better contestant on American Idol. Or the summer’s day I sat on my parents’ carport reading a passage from Emerson and suddenly tried to record a transient idea of my own in my journal. And my brother at that moment burst out of the house to tell me something “profound” he had just heard Rush Limbaugh say on the radio. I recall a professor once telling me how he looked out the window of a plane at the mountain ranges below and felt a wave of transcendent gratitude. Then the passenger next to him said, “You know, if we could open that window, I could piss on the world right now.” We could write entire books on just that subject of how an inane act or word dynamited a moment of splendor for us.

And then finally, this:

My Journal should be the record of my love. I would write in it only of the things I love, my affection for any aspect of the world, what I love to think of. I have no more distinctness or pointedness in my yearnings than an expanding bud, which does indeed point to flower and fruit, to summer and autumn, but is aware of the warm sun and springs influence only. I feel ripe for something, yet do nothing, can’t discover what that thing is. I feel fertile merely. It is seedtime with me. I have lain fallow long enough.

Notwithstanding a sense of unworthiness which possesses me, not without reason, notwithstanding that I regard myself as a good deal of a scamp, yet for the most part the spirit of the universe is unnaccountably kind to me, and I enjoy perhaps an unusual share of happiness. Yet I question sometimes if there is not some settlement to come.

This last segment truly made me shudder. A part of me wishes I could have lived in Concord in the nineteenth century and known Thoreau personally. But I am enough of a realist by experience, and know from my reading that Thoreau did not bond easily with others. So, knowing that, I am so unceasingly grateful that he loved us enough to leave behind over four million words of publishable print, obviously believing his ideas were important enough to share with others. My heart sinks with his final word, that he questioned whether or not “some settlement’ would come, since he had received “perhaps an unusual share of happiness.” He would die eleven years later, at age forty-four. I myself have reached the age of sixty-six, and it took nearly fifty years for me to reach the point of loving my life and feeling genuine gratitude for this gift. Why have I been blessed to outlive such a gentle spirit as Henry David Thoreau, who died at an age earlier than I myself was able to find genuine life?

I have journaled since 1985 because I wished to “overhear myself” (Harold Bloom’s words) in times of being alone. I still continue that practice. But in this blog, I occasionally share my ideas gleaned daily with anyone out there who is interested in reading. So I thank you for reading.

Today is my fourth consecutive day of heavy-duty house cleaning and organizing. There remains much to do, and I suppose I have spent enough time at my desk. The light outside has come up, and I believe I am now ready for coffee. And then I shall return my attention to some househould tasks. As Emerson wrote, “Every spirit builds itself a house . . . Build therefore your own world.”

Another attempt to “brand” Hank

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.

The Sacred Morning

April 25, 2020


With my own eyes I have seen gifted, richly endowed, and free-spirited natures already ‘read to ruins’ at thirty. . . . To set to early in the morning, at the break of day, in all the fullness and dawn of one’s strength, and to read a book—this I call positively vicious!

Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo

Good morning, friends. As reported in my last blog several days back, I was going on hiatus a short while. I am starting my return and wanted to catch you up. I have some Hank stories in my mind and drafted in my journals but cannot post them just yet.

After a two-month absence, I have finally returned to my home. There is much work that needs to be done on my property, inside and out, and this is my third day working on the house, with many more days to come. In today’s blog I want to share my lifestyle, still a work in progress. The coronavirus has brought little change for me. I prefer to stay in, but in the past often felt compelled to go out and “accomplish something” for my art business. But in all honesty, the contemplative life is what I’ve always craved, and I am grateful that I can do that now without permission or apology. I feel sorry for those who feel listless because they are not fond of books and creative activities.

For as long as I can remember, I have held the mornings to be the sacred hour, or as Thoreau would have it, “the awakening hour.” When I rise from my bed, my mind within minutes is surging with ideas and I use my journal to catch them. I believe someone once wrote that journals are nets for catching wonder, or was it maps for organizing wonder? Either quote works for me.

One of my other mental mentors is the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who was actually a classical philologist. He also spoke of the necessity of giving the mornings to search out one’s own ideas rather than immediately turning to a book for second-hand knowledge. He criticized the typical philologist of his day for being unable to think without “a book between his fingers,” for merely reacting to what he has read.

So. I begin every morning over coffee writing in my journal, recording whatever is flowing through my consciousness. The result is sometimes an essay, sometimes a Hank story, sometimes nothing more than scattered thoughts. But writing has become a practice I truly love. And I pursue it daily.

After my imagination has been drained, I then turn to whatever I choose to read. I’ve been called a snob because I do not turn to newspapers, magazines, or search the Internet for stuff to read. I am proud of a personal library of quality books, well over 2,000 now. I will never read all the quality books that have been handed down as gifts from so many divines. But I can try. Today is my third day in a row to read from Thoreau’s journals. I have his complete set of fourteen volumes and intend to read every word before I die. What I found this morning inspired me to resume work on a watercolor started a couple of months ago. I was uncertain how to complete the bottom two-thirds, and have now decided to put in autumn weeds.

That delicate, waving, feathery dry grass which I saw yesterday is to be remembered with the autumn. The dry grasses are not dead for me. A beautiful form has as much life at one season as another.

Thoreau journal, November 11, 1850

Resuming work now on this older unfinished watercolor

After reading and writing for awhile, I then turn my attention to making art, always my passion. I have decided to do a drawing a day, so I usually turn to that task first. Then I take up whatever watercolor I am working on. Part of my household work since returning home has involved moving my studio from the living room to what used to be my bedroom. Taking out the king size bed allowed room for two drafting tables and a utility table. When the space is tidied up, I’ll gladly take a photo and share it with you. It’s wonderful having my writing desk and a portion of my library in the same room as my studio now.

Drawing a Day

And finally, a word from my “whatever it’s worth” department: I read this quote this morning from Thoreau’s journal dated November 1850:

Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.

I laughed out loud, and am somewhat embarrassed to share this: back in my college days I wasted hours every night watching TV. A show I followed religiously was “The Streets of San Francisco.” One episode involved an African American writer who wowed the detectives repeatedly with his wise insights. At the conclusion he made a comment about “a trout in the milk.” After he left, the young Michael Douglas marveled over the old man’s depth of wisdom and expression while the aged Karl Malden just let him talk a bit. Finally, Malden said, “Thoreau.” Douglas said “What?” He answered: “Thoreau wrote that.” Malden then chided his young partner, saying if he ever bothered to read books rather than waste his time on foolish activities he wouldn’t need someone to keep him in line. How funny for this episode to be lodged in my brain thirty years later, all the time wondering if Thoreau really wrote that. Now it turns up in my morning watch!

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.

The Velvet Silence of the Night

March 5, 2020

Disclaimer: Monday I posted a blog covering several days of meaningful events, and a few hours later deleted it accidentally while trying to correct a typo using my phone. Several days later now, going back through my journal and archive of photos, I have reached a decision to take this string of sausages and try to reconstruct the pig as best I can:

My Favorite Retreat for Solitude

When I cross the porch of this old, refurbished store, I bring my whole life with me. The anxious world appears to pause in this quiet space every time I pull back the screen door and enter the dim interior to put down roots for a day or two. The philosopher Martin Heidegger retreated to his cabin in the Black Forest to do his best thinking and writing, away from the city and university. And so I find myself content in the midst of these east Texas woodlands to find peace and quiet and pursue my best work. Henry David Thoreau had his Walden, Heidegger had his Todtnauberg, and so I have my Davy Crockett National Forest and wonderful friends who have made it possible. A spirit of well-being envelops me as the night now advances. I find this a perfect setting for reading and scribbling out pages of thoughts in my journal.

Arriving late last night, I was exhausted, but still managed to relax awhile for reading, writing and reflection. Later I turned out the light and slept a deep sleep till dawn. At first light, I rose refreshed and immediately sought out my favorite rocker on the porch. The morning was chilly and windy, but that seemed to make the coffee taste better.

The Thoughtful Cup

I frequently laugh with friends over a line from the Saul Bellow novel Herzog. The aging professor Moses Herzog was described once as lingering over a “thoughtful cup of coffee.” While ruminating over my own cup, my mind gratefully returned to last night as I was closing The Gallery at Redlands. A lady, after looking through my collection in the gallery and then the restaurant, retrieved her husband, and when it was all said and done, they purchased a pair of my paintings of Sacred Heart Church that stands across the street from the hotel. I’m pleased the paintings found a home and realize it is time now to create some new works of this majestic structure.

Faith Glowing in the Storm
Sacred Heart in the Morning

Once breakfast was finished, I began rearranging furniture to turn this bedroom into a studio, taking advantage of the natural light flowing in through the French doors. For a couple of days, I have been working on a small watercolor of a Missouri mine. My friend from school days, Wayne White, sent me a number of photos that he has taken of these subjects.

Indoor Studio

After a few hours of tinkering with the painting, I decided to seek out a restaurant recommended by a new friend I met last night in the hotel after closing the gallery.

Larry Bruce Gardens

Larry Bruce Gardens is located in the middle of nowhere: 3198 County Road 4600, Kennard, Texas, but wow, was it worth the drive! I don’t recall how long it’s been since I encountered a Sunday lunch buffet as fresh and exotic as this one. Live bluegrass music played throughout mealtime and the atmosphere was just as savory as the food.

Luxurious Buffet

Returning to the store after lunch, I felt the need to walk off the meal. Rigging up my flyrod, I hiked down the hill across the road to a large body of water on the property of the store owners. It must have been a long winter, because the bass were hungry and eager. I landed 27 fish, mostly largemouth and a small assortment of panfish. The winds were up, making it difficult to work the fly line, but the fish were nevertheless more than enthusiastic to meet me halfway.

First Fish of 2020
27th Fish of 2020

The evening was spent in sweet solitude as I read a great deal from Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast and Carlos Baker’s Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story. Sitting on the porch rocker, I felt intoxicated by the sounds of the steady winds whispering through the leafy trees and the constant chirping of the bird choruses. As the light dimmed, deer emerged from the surrounding forests and moved noiselessly across the fields and the yard surrounding the store. It was a perfect world.

Second Morning

Retiring to bed for an exhausted, heavy sleep, I awoke surprisingly at 5 a.m. and could not shut down the thoughts surging through my mind. I thought of Carlo Marx in Kerouac’s On the Road shouting in the darkness: “You can’t shut down the machine!” So I rose from my bed, and after a “thoughtful cup of coffee” on the porch, moved my studio outdoors and returned to work on the abandoned Missouri mine, eventually finishing and framing it.

Studio Moved Outdoors
Finished the Missouri Mine

Meantime he was working harder than he had ever worked in his life, often until three or four in the morning, Then he would fall asleep, his head feeling like a frozen cabbage, only to jump awake again a few hours later, with the words already stringing themselves into sentences, clamoring to be set down.

Carlos Baker, Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story

The past couple of days have been heavenly as I have moved back and forth between painting and reading/thinking/writing. From the drafting stool to the rocking chair, from the plein air easel to the writing desk. Back and forth. Painting, reading. Drawing, writing. Drafting, thinking. The rhythm I find very satisfying.

Hemingway searched for his one true sentence.

John Nash searched for his governing dynamic.

Thoreau searched for the hard bottom of reality.

And I continually search for an aesthetic, a style, an identity to my own creations.

Hemingway once wrote that “a writer is an outlier like a Gypsy.” I suppose all of us who strive to create question ourselves: are we outliers? Solitary, yes. Unconventional perhaps. As for myself, I can honestly say that during these years of retirement I have enjoyed a life on the road, a perpetual journey, an odyssey. While traveling, I have enjoyed changing perspectives that have prevented me from rutting, from becoming mired in sediment. Life has remained multi-faceted like a rare gem. And in that I have found perpetual delight.

Thank you for reading and please check out my website www.davidtrippart.com

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Musings over 30 Years of Journaling

August 2, 2019

“What are you doing now?” he asked. “Do you keep a journal?” So I make my first entry to-day.

First page of Henry David Thoreau’s journal, dated October 22, 1837 (twenty years of age)

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Preparing for Fall Semester (but first, I want to blog!)

The serene five-hour drive from Dallas/Fort Worth to west Texas early yesterday morning  avoided the triple-digit temperatures and rejuvenated my soul. Stopping at my favorite town of Thurber (population 5), I decided to treat myself to a lovely sunrise and leisurely breakfast at the Smokestack Restaurant. It was a little after seven and they had just opened.

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The Ranch Boss Breakfast Sandwich

While driving from Fort Worth to Thurber, I scanned YouTube on my phone for something interesting, and decided to listen to what people had to say about journaling. Having practiced this for over thirty years, I wanted to know what seasoned creative spirits had to say about this practice of journaling and how it shaped their lives.

I was not prepared for what came up–young people (by my standards, under thirty) who had been journaling for thirty days were posting about how it changed their lives! Post after post encouraged the listeners: journal ten minutes every day for a month and see what happens! Finally pulling over for breakfast, I discontinued the YouTube search and may resume it in the future. I still wish to hear from someone who has journaled longer than thirty days. On this note, I have decided to add my 2¢ worth, confident that thirty years of my practice might offer readers more than a one-month experiment. And if any of you readers and bloggers practice journaling, I would love to hear your perspectives on this. I just don’t meet many people who engage in this.

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My Journals, Still not Organized

I seem to recall that Emerson, by the time of his death, had accumulated 286 volumes of journals, filling an entire bookcase. I never set a goal for myself, and last time I counted, I had around 140 volumes going back to 1985. At any rate, it was 1985 when I began this practice and I haven’t stopped, nor do I anticipate doing so. I began my journals, believing they would feed my classroom performances, helping to shape lectures for the courses I taught.  But they have grown far beyond that; the journal has been a companion for life, going with me everywhere, and my daily lifestyle has included the journal, whether I am working at my desk, sitting in a coffee shop, or taking a trip. Daily, scattered ideas are scribbled in my notebooks as naturally as pausing for a bite to eat.

I choose not to compose a list of “Top Ten Reasons for Keeping a Journal”, but rather will share some of my ideas based on what I have experienced. To begin with, what exactly is the journal, for me? The journal is a map for organizing wonder. I honestly wish I had kept a journal since I was old enough to write, because from the start I have been a dreamy child. As the oldest among my siblings, I was four years old when my brother was born, and Mom was then too busy doing housework and taking care of the baby to entertain me. My recollection of that age is going outside to play. We did not live in a neighborhood, I had no playmates save for my imagination. All I had was the wide open wilderness enveloping me from the moment I stepped out that door, and it was enough. There was a paved road on one side of the house; I was not permitted to go there. On the other three sides were sprawling land as far as the eye could see, no other house in sight. I still remember a particularly chilly morning when the wind whipped through the fringes of my Davy Crockett jacket, making a whispering noise that I believed was a cosmic voice trying to tell me something. I listened, and continue listening to this day.

Bernard Berenson’s recollection of his own childhood in his Sketch for a Self-Portrait is a mirror of my own:

In childhood and boyhood this ecstasy overtook me when I was happy out of doors. Was I five or six? Certainly not seven. It was a morning in early summer. A silver haze shimmered and trembled over the lime trees. The air was laden with their fragrance. The temperature was like a caress. I remember–I need not recall–that I climbed up a tree stump and felt suddenly immersed in Itness. I did not call it by that name. I had no need for words. It and I were one.

I knew that experience from age four. As an adult, I read the same sentiments in Emerson’s Nature:

The greatest delight which the fields and woods minister, is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable. I am not alone and unacknowledged. They nod to me, and I to them.

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Site of the Old Homestead

The house we lived in at that time burned down long ago, and nature has reclaimed its property. Last winter I drove to the site and took these two photos. Beyond these trees the open landscape from which I drank as a child might still be there, but I did not get out of the Jeep to trespass and see for myself. Sixty years later, I still listen for that voice daily, and enthusiastically record what I hear.

The journal, for me, is a tool for capturing the inner dialogue that drives me daily. Thoughts evaporate quickly, and recording them in writing makes it possible to return. I frequently pull journals at random from my shelf and peruse what I have written, and am astonished time and again to read thoughts I don’t recall thinking and writing. Many of these ideas remain precious and are worthy of recall.

My journals are replete with quotes from what I read or hear daily (and I am meticulous in using quotation marks and documentation to insure I will not later read someone else’s words as my own–a practice I have kept since my doctoral studies). And, since childhood, I have been unable to read texts without dialoguing with the author from my own experience. Thus, my journals capture these interior conversations carried on daily. Living alone for several years now, I believe firmly that they have kept me healthy. Solitude for me is not a scourge. I still recall words from the film Shadowlands: “We read to know we’re not alone.”

While listening to the YouTube talks, I frequently heard the encouragement to write out whatever is on your mind, even if it is anger and frustration. I disagree sharply with that practice; negativity is the last thing I want to read when opening an old journal. If I wished to ingest anger, all I would need to do is tune in to some cable news network or AM radio talk show. For journals, I want to preserve only the worthy, edifying words (and I hope to God that is what I’m doing on my blog). If I need to unload poison from my consciousness, I resort to what Julia Cameron refers to as The Morning Pages. That practice involves writing three pages as quickly as possible to get all the junk out of the mind, and then throwing them away. The Morning Pages are where I put my negativity, and then it goes to the trash. Journals, for me, are for storing treasure to unearth in the future as needed.

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My Current Journal

For two years now, I have used the journal pictured above, and I absolutely love what it provides. It came from Little Mountain Bindery, and was a retirement gift from Sandi Jones, my all-time soulmate.  As you can see, it is durable. It floated downriver a considerable distance after I capsized a kayak two summers ago. As I chased after it, I witnessed a sight similar to that in the film Dances with Wolves.

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The inside of the binder holds a pair of Moleskine notebooks, and includes a pair of pockets for storing small papers as needed. Every time I fill one of the Moleskine’s, I remove it and replace with a new one. Because I like to go back and read recent entries, I usually do not remove the filled notebook until I am about halfway through the second. When I’m on an extended trip, I always carry an extra pair so I never run out.

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Returning to an Old Practice

Above, I have posted a pair of very old journal entries. I told my sister recently that I was dissatisfied with the quality of my journals of late. Her response was: “Running out of words?” I still laugh at that one. What I tried to explain was that in former days I combined sketching with journaling and still believe that my journals from those days have far more quality than the ones of late. So, I am trying to move more in the direction of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks in hope of producing some kind of hybrid “sketchbook/journal” in my daily practice. More on that in another blog.

Returning now to the words of Thoreau’s first journal entry: The question “Do you keep a journal?” was put to him by his mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson. When Thoreau replied “No”, Emerson inquired “Why not?” In response. Thoreau began his first journal at twenty. By the time he died twenty-two years later, Thoreau had poured out over four million words of publishable print. I am still inspired by that story.

So, I close by completing the first entry from Thoreau’s journal, following Emerson’s question and his response:

To be alone I find it necessary to escape the present,–I avoid myself. How could I be alone in the Roman emperor’s chamber of mirrors? I seek a garret. The spiders must not be disturbed, nor the floor swept, nor the lumber arranged.

The Germans say, “Es ist alles wahr wodurch du besser wirst.” 

The translation of Thoreau’s closing remark is: “Everything through which you are bettered is true.” In looking back over my life, I believe with all my being that the journal has bettered my life, and the practice of daily recording is true.

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.

 

Thoughts at the Morning Fireside

February 8, 2019

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Except for the occasional square dance, no one had any entertainment except the exchanging of experience that occurs in storytelling. So it was, no doubt, in rural places throughout the centuries; then, there was no media–now, it seems, there’s no life.

Larry McMurtry, Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

A sweet morning indeed, when temperatures outdoors are twenty-five degrees and I have nowhere to go until evening. I don’t get to burn enough fires in fireplaces during Texas winters–some winters never get cold enough for a single fireside experience. So this morning I consider a luxury.

Larry McMurtry has provided plenteous food for thought. His grandparents were pioneers settling Archer County, Texas, and by the time he came along, Archer City was still quite small, there was not yet radio, and the only entertainment he knew after chores was listening to the adults tell stories. I connect with this easily, because this is similar to what I knew growing up. My family had radio, and I listened to programming throughout the day. Television did not come till I was nearly school-age. But I do recall the visits to the grandparents on both sides of my family, at farms in southeast Missouri. Mom and Dad had eleven siblings each (children in that generation were farm hands), and so anytime we visited in the country, all the kinfolk would gather round (most of them had continued to reside in the country, though Mom and Dad moved two-and-a-half hours north to St. Louis). Stories passed around the living room circles, and I still remember the constant chatter and laughter. Sometimes we children got bored and went out to play. But hours were still spent listening to these stories.

I still love a good story, and my closest friends still delight in exchanging them. To this day, I would still choose the company of those who like to share life stories and meaningful memories over the ones who wish to rant over political, current or religious issues. I spend little time tuning in to news on radio or television, because I have been fed up with the anger and resentment for years. I am grateful for the life that has been given me, for every good experience worth remembering, and every good conversation I have encountered.

This evening will be my privilege to take part as an Academic Decathlon judge for the interviews. My task will be to listen to high school students answering questions about their individual life experiences with family and school, along with their dreams and life goals. Each will have a chance to tell his/her story, and I for one will be an enthusiastic listener. And as I hear these stories, I will recall with gladness the best parts of what I was privileged to experience in over three decades of classroom encounters.

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.

Morning Coffee with Dave & Thoreau

September 26, 2018

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The heroic books, even if printed in the character of our mother tongue, will always be in a language dead to degenerate times; and we must laboriously seek the meaning of each word and line, conjecturing a larger sense than common use permits out of what wisdom and valor and generosity we have. The modern cheap and fertile press, with all its translations, has done little to bring us nearer to the heroic writers of antiquity.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

This morning’s reading connected in several ways with the assignment I just released for my online course in Classical Judaism. I am asking my students to read arguments from Samson Raphael Hirsch, Samuel Holdheim and Abraham Geiger, three rabbis who benefited from both traditional Talmudic scholarship and a modern secular university education. Their upbringing taught them to focus with precision on the Hebrew texts from antiquity and then later to pursue a university education and listen to their contemporary world. In their arguments, they sought to translate the heart of Judaism to the current culture in which they found themselves living and responding.

Translating requires a round trip between here and the world of the ancient text. Martin Heidegger, in his translation of Presocratic fragments, once argued that before we do any translating, we must first translate ourselves to what a document says, what it means.  We have to hear with accuracy the language of antiquity before we can return to our own time and nurture that word in today’s world. Many who have read the past have failed to listen and open themselves to the message of the past. And avoiding that message simply means they carry none of it into today’s world.

Thoreau always found difficulty finding hearers or readers when he attempted to translate his favorite book, Homer’s Iliad, the Greek text which he read annually, to his contemporary Concord environment. I find myself struggling as well when I try to talk to someone else about what I’m reading from a culture that is not Texas 2018. That is why I am grateful for dinner and conversation last night with Kevin Harris, one of the DJs for Smoothrock 93.5 moving into this Redlands Hotel. He and Marc Mitchell, both with backgrounds here in small town Palestine, Texas, have absorbed a broad worldview with their broadcast professions, and have a sensibility that goes beyond “radio talk.” They probably don’t realize how much they have helped me revise profoundly my caricature of a broadcaster. Both men yesterday displayed for me an empathy for human experience that I don’t see enough in my everyday world. Over dinner, Kevin and I were able to discuss ideas that matter to us, and that we believe are very relevant to life, even though we live in a world that appears too fast-paced and distracted to focus on fundamental values. How enriching to have a conversation over dinner that ranged over the fields of art, philosophy, religion and contemporary culture. So, to my favorite Redlands Quartet–Jean, Mike, Kevin and Marc–thanks for inviting me into your Palestine world.

The gallery is quiet this Wednesday morning, save for the soft sounds of Smoothrock 93.5 now wafting across this space. I have plenty of college grading to do, so I’m glad to be in a space where I can work.

Thanks for reading. (“And now, this is David Tripp signing off from the Gallery at Redlands, and sending you a wave from Smoothrock 93.5 FM, situated in the historic Redlands Hotel in downtown Palestine, Texas!”)

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I bog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

Morning Coffee with Dave & David Henry

September 25, 2018

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Behind the Desk at Gallery at Redlands

To read well, that is, to read true books in a true spirit, is a noble exercise, and one that will task the reader more than any exercise which the customs of the day esteem. It requires a training such as the athletes underwent, the steady intention almost of the whole life to this object. Books must be read as deliberately and reservedly as they were written. 

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Before leaving for class this morning, I read chapter three of Walden, titled “Reading,” by David Henry Thoreau–yes, that was actually his name on the birth certificate, David Henry. While a student at Harvard, he decided that Henry David was more euphonious, so he changed his name, to his parents’ chagrin.

I didn’t really develop a love for reading till college, when I took reading the Bible more seriously. In those days, I believed that God would speak to me if I read the Bible with a spirit of expectancy, and so I developed a disciplined plan of daily reading in a meditative state, waiting for God to speak. Years later, I broadened the scope, believing that inspiration can strike from virtually any written source, if the reader expects such an encounter. So I read now more than ever before, and I  am very seldom disappointed. I am not sure if this is a Zen saying, but I have always liked the sound of it: “If you walk in the mist you’ll get wet.” And so, I read, and  expect. This morning, like most mornings, I was not abandoned. I recall Heidegger writing: “We do not come to thoughts; thoughts come to us.” And so, Thoreau’s words were read as seriously by me as they were written by him. And I was visited by a host of ideas that put a spring in my step for the rest of the day.

After class, I decided to load some large paintings and head for The Gallery at Redlands in Palestine, Texas. I was excited to see what had happened while I was away last weekend, with the radio personnel moving in their gear. I had been sent pictures of the gallery window, and was anxious to see inside the studio. Once I arrived and looked about the gallery, I came to an agreement with the others that the temporary wall I put up to separate the broadcast booth from the actual gallery was not such a great idea–it restricted the view through the gallery, from lobby window to showroom window. So, we took down the wall, opened up the space, and I then set about the task of rearranging paintings and re-configuring the gallery space.

We have added Ian Watson to our gallery circle. Ian was my student back in Lamar High School days. He took a keen interest in the Abstract Expressionist painters, reading biographies of Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, as well as the collected essays of Barnett Newman. Over the years, he developed a color field technique and has recently emerged as an artist, with his first solo show in Amarillo last summer, and now he is having work accepted into galleries, ours included. I am looking forward to seeing a feature article on his work coming out next month in Accent West, a magazine published in Amarillo.

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A Pair of Ian Watson’s Acrylic Canvases Behind the Desk

Today I finally got to meet Marc Mitchell of Smooth Rock 93.5 FM. He brought me up to date on what is happening with the station. The first live broadcast should be next week, hopefully October 1. With 50,000 watts, their signal will extend across seventeen counties in east Texas. Anyone outside the broadcast area will still be able to stream the broadcasts on the Internet. The broadcast booth is nearly complete, and the view from their “Window to the World” is fabulous. Our excitement continues to build with their arrival.

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Broadcast Booth Near Completion

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“Window to the World”

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View of the Broadcast  Booth from my Desk

Thanks for reading. 🙂  . . . Until next time, this is David Tripp signing off from The Gallery at Redlands and Smooth Rock 93.5 FM, broadcasting from the historic Redlands Hotel in downtown Palestine, Texas!

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Morning Coffee with Dave & Thoreau

September 22, 2018

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I learned this at least by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live that life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Thirty years ago, I would not say I was suicidal, not even close. But there was that stretch of months when trying to go to sleep at night, that I really didn’t care if I woke to see a new morning. Life then was not good from a number of angles, and I really didn’t have anything to anticipate with gladness as one day stumbled into the next. I had not yet signed a contract to begin work as a full-time public school teacher, and was supporting myself by doing adjunct work at Texas Christian University and full-time work as a campus police dispatcher. I did not own a car in those days. I worked long hours at two jobs, and either walked or took a city bus to where I needed to go.

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Early Sunday Morning, by Edward Hopper

Walking to campus one sunny autumn Sunday morning, I crossed Berry Street, and looking at the row of store fronts that were closed on Sunday, my recollection of this Edward Hopper painting came to mind. I went straight to the campus library, and checked out a book of his paintings, and, as Sunday would be a very slow day with only two campus police officers on duty to patrol the entire university, I was guaranteed eight hours of mostly radio silence. I read the entire book, scribbled out pages of musings in my journal, and the more I looked at Hopper’s solitary paintings, the more I thought of my life at that time. I was conflicted with those emotions that the theologian Paul Tillich identified as “loneliness and solitude”, the cross as well as the glory of being human.

Crossing Berry Street again at the end of my shift, and on my way back home, I mused over how this Fort Worth street on Sunday looked very much like Hopper’s New York street from 1930–shuttered and silent. And the twin sensations of “loss” and “presence” filled my soul to the extent that once I returned to my apartment, I took out my journal and began pouring out the feelings that had surged through my consciousness on this particular day.

It was on that Sunday that I determined I would turn my life around. I had no idea what waited before me in the years ahead, but I bound myself with a promise that I would not allow anything to strip me of my dreams, of my ideas. Two years later, as a high school teacher, when I finally got around to reading Thoreau’s Walden for the first time, I came across the text posted at the top of this blog, and realized that it was time to put some foundations beneath my dreams. I decided to stick with public school teaching, but would also take out my sketchbook, my paints and my brushes, keep filling the journal with daily musings, and seek a quality of life that would transcend the trappings of a daily job. If I would be privileged to live that long, I would retire one day with sufficient benefits to pay my bills, and continue this search for meaning without the albatross of a 40-plus hour work week dragging me down.

Life has never been better for me than it is now. The days are filled with gods, as Emerson once wrote. There is time to read, time to reflect, time to write, and even time to put out a blog of my sentiments. There is time to paint, time to travel, and time to spend with precious friends. And, as teaching has always been my passion, I am afforded the privilege of doing that, but in a reduced capacity. No longer do I have those five day work weeks with hours beginning at 7:35 and extending till 3:30, and then having to take all that work home with me and stay with planning, preparation and grading till bed time so I can repeat the next day. I did it for twenty-eight years, and complained plenty, but I loved the classroom dynamics that made the drudge part tolerable. But now, life is so much fuller and I fully love this daily gift of exploration and possibility.

I am sad that Thoreau only lived to be forty-four. Now, twenty years past that point, I am thankful to have been given those extra years as a bonus, and promise not to take days for granted as I did when I was younger. Building foundations beneath the castles of dreams has turned out to be a rewarding task.

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.

Morning Coffee with Dave & Friends

September 11, 2018

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Early Morning Solitude

. . . I was reminded of the lapse of time. I grew in those seasons like corn in the night, and they were far better than any work of the hands would have been. They were not time subtracted from my life, but so much over and above my usual allowance. 

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Yesterday afternoon, I found a break amidst all my grading and college prep work, and returned to the studio, finishing a commission that I’ve already posted several times, and then began re-working this plein air sketch I began in west Texas a couple of weeks ago. Sitting on the back bumper of my Jeep, I looked across the barren landscape and painted this amazing horizon, then quickly sketched in the railroad embankment below, but never painted the line itself or the gravel banks. Today, I tried to enrich some of the colors and shadows of the trees and horizon, began work on the railroad embankment, and then determined where the 8 x 10″ boundary should lie. Tomorrow I plan to return to the studio after my morning class, and will take a fresh look at this to see if it requires any more attention. It felt lovely to pick up the brush again.

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Return to the Studio

My early morning reading today began in The Gospel of Mark where I had in a previous blog remarked on the Parable of the Sower. In the same chapter is a brief discourse on growth that I was thinking about yesterday while painting that small watercolor. As I painted, I thought about my past, and the number of silent years required to grow in artistic ability, sensitivity, and intellectual matters. When I was college-age, I envied professors of fifty years and older, because they seemed so well “seasoned” in their thinking and in their art work. When talking with them in earnest, they would usually smile and say something like, “Be patient, stay with it, results will come in time.” It took decades for that to sink in. In fact, it wasn’t until my last few years of teaching that I heard myself mouthing those same words of advice to impatient high school and college students. Yes! Deeper, more mature matters require extensive time to compost, to develop, to flower, to bring to harvest. There is no royal road, no short cut to Quality.

The amusing part of this morning’s reading is that it began with one book, the Bible. Within thirty minutes, all these other volumes were sought, opened, read, notated, and now I am attempting to describe this refreshing morning on the blog. The cumulative moments that go from one book to half a dozen books remind me of earlier days, either composing sermons for the pulpit or writing papers during my Ph.D. seminar years. And I love it! I love the pursuit, the process, following the thread, seeing where the idea is going to lead. The reading and thinking themselves are an Odyssey. Recently I was reading about sowing seed, and now the idea comes up again, from The Gospel of Mark, 4:26-29:

. . . as if a man should cast seed into the ground; and should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of itself: first the blade, then the ear, after that the full grain in the ear. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.

The above I have posted from the King James Version. This morning I read the same passage from my Geneva Bible which preceded King James by about fifty years. I enjoy struggling with the English of this era:

Alfo he faid, So is the kingdome of God, as if a man fhulde caft fede in the grounde,

And fhulde flepe, and rife vp night and day, and the fede fhulde fpring and grow vp, he not knowing how,

For the eaerth bringeth forthe frute of her felf, firft the blade, then the eares, after that ful corne in the eares.

And affone as the frute fheweth it felf, anone he putteth in the fickel, becaufe the harueft is come.

After years and years of effort in education and the making of art, I am delighted to bring some of this to harvest. The classes at the college make me feel warm inside, because finally I am pouring out matters of the heart that have taken me most of my life to grow and water and now disperse. And as for the arts, I am so blessed that three galleries have welcomed my work and finally I have enough art festivals and shows annually where I can send out my creations.

Years ago, a gentleman was in my home, and seeing the size of my personal library, he made the observation: “It doesn’t seem fair that you have hoarded all these books and put them inside a private residence. They should be ‘out there’ for others to enjoy.” I thought that was an odd assessment, and still do. I thought my response made sense, that those books were what grew me intellectually, and being a teacher, I was daily going into the classroom and attempting to pour their wealth into the minds of students. I still think of his words, and my response, which seemed to be met with indifference. But, there it is. Throughout the decades I have loved studying, thinking, writing and attempting to put the best of my ideas out there for others to read. And so also with my art–I have created a large inventory of work, but it is in the galleries and festivals, not hoarded inside my home like a private collection. And then, this blog–I write daily because I have to; it is in me. And my hope remains that whatever ideas I share will play a part in making this world better than it was the way I found it. I hope that the footprint I leave is one that can point the way for others.

And so, I close with these words from my beloved muse, Paul Tillich:

The most intimate motions within the depths of our souls are not completely our own. for they belong also to our friends, to mankind, to the universe, and to the Ground of all being, the aim of our life. Nothing can be hidden ultimately. It is always reflected in the mirror in which nothing can be concealed.

Paul Tillich, The Shaking of the Foundations

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.