Posts Tagged ‘James Thurber’

Daily Life of the Mind

March 31, 2015

Cluttered Corner of one of my Studio Spaces

Cluttered Corner of one of my Studio Spaces

Sentences are strewn around like forgotten laundry, images are piled up like last week’s dishes. Lyrics end like the half-opened magazine on the bathroom floor.

Kit Rachlis, describing Neil Young’s songwriting

My daily life of the mind falls somewhere between James Joyce’s Ulysses and James Thurber’s The Secret Life of Wallter Mitty. I wake up, expecting a mantra, and it usually presents itself politely somewhere between the shower and kitchen. As the day unwinds, visual and auditory stimuli come tumbling in and insert themselves into certain mental niches, attempting to give some kind of shape and meaning to my day. I assumed all my life that all people live that way day-to-day, but now I think maybe not. I find this amusing (sometimes) because I think there would be some who think that a public school teacher does the same thing every day and experiences the same routine–walking the halls and standing in front of classes spewing verbiage. Not me–there are too many things clattering around inside my mind looking for a place to find meaning. The jumbled picture posted above is probably an accurate visual record of the kind of mind I carry about on a typical school day. It is unfortunate that the work area of my desk looks similar to that.

Continued Work on the Gas Station

Continued Work on the Gas Station

Today was art history–Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. As I moved the students through the theories of these artists, especially Paul Gauguin and Paul Cezanne, all I could think of was the gas station watercolor at home awaiting my return. Several Gauguin and Cezanne observations were waiting to be put into practice once I got back to my life’s passion.

When the late afternoon sun cast its bright light through the windows on the north side of my studio, I put Eric Clapton’s Backtrackin’ LP on the turntable (old Slow-Hand turned 70 yesterday!) and cranked up the volume. Leaning over the drafting table, I found myself overflowing with gratitude that Clapton at 70 and I at 60 are allowed to continue doing what we love to do most–create art. As I began chipping away at this composition, my mind drifted back to images, smells and sounds that I knew when I was growing up in smaller towns. Grown men coming to work everyday to do what they had been trained to do–pumping gas, checking oil, changing tires, providing basic engine repairs. I heard in my memory those clanging bell cables announcing a car’s entrance to the pumps. I heard once again the clunk of Coke bottles dropping in the vending machine chutes. I saw the cigarette and candy machines inside hte office and heard the ringing of the cash register and the thump of the cash drawer flying open. Throughout the day, the hypnotic highway noise had its way of dulling the senses in the hot, drowsy summer air. I remember the smell of gasoline, oil and grease. I could close my eyes and see once again the grimy red shop towels hanging from the pockets of the mechanics and grease monkeys, and could hear once again the slamming of the car hood after the oil and radiator were checked. Nearby the air compressor hissed, while tools and tire irons clanked loudly as they were dropped to the concrete. Walt Whitman could write a poem “I Hear America Singing.” I can still hear the gas stations singing in middle America.

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.