Posts Tagged ‘Maya Angelou’

Saturday Morning Unscheduled Bliss

November 8, 2014
One of my Murals in Arlington Martin High School

One of my Murals in Arlington Martin High School

All which is beautiful, even humanly beautiful, dies, except in art.

Leonardo da Vinci

Waking to a bright and cold Saturday morning in Arlington, Texas, I decided at the start to spend some time writing in my journal, and that led me back to some old journals where I re-read with surprise some thoughts written long ago and forgotten (with over a hundred volumes of handwritten journals, I wish I had devised a way to index them in order to pull up ideas I had recorded going back to 1985).  I did find this, however, written in August 1988.  I had intended to hang the statement next to a public mural I had just finished (pictured above), but forgot all about it, until now:

Most of these creative spirits have left this world, yet their legacy remains with us.  And this mural is a visual record of how they made living here more worthwhile.  Dreams, visions and inspiration for books, plays, philosophies, songs and works of art were born in environments such as this.

My Favorite Artists

My Favorite Artists

My Favorite Musicians

My Favorite Musicians

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.

On the Pulse of the Morning

May 28, 2014
Painting of a Young Maya Angelou on One of My Public Murals

Painting of a Young Maya Angelou on One of My Public Murals

On the morning of the Inauguration of President William Jefferson Clinton, I was working at Lamar High School where I taught.  Walking through the receptionist’s office, I heard the television broadcasting the Inauguration and froze in my tracks, listening to the recitation of the poem “On the Pulse of the Morning.”  I did not know Maya Angelou, but as soon as the copy of that poem hit the Barnes & Noble Store, I purchased it and tried on several occasions to inaugurate my high school Philosophy classes by reading it aloud before the students.  I seldom could finish it without choking up.  I read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and my life changed.  I cannot express my feelings for the beautiful, creative soul of Maya Angelou.

When I transferred to Arlington Martin High School, I was offered a commission to paint a mural outside the Little Theater upstairs (pictures of it in its entirety may be seen on my website under “Murals”.)  I found a photograph of a young Maya Angelou playing solitaire at a table.  I removed the cards, and placed her alongside Arthur Miller in this cafe setting.

I learned this morning that Maya Angelou has passed away.  I feel this grief profoundly.  Something sweet has passed from the atmosphere.  I’ll never find the words to describe how her pathos moved me.

Below are the words to the Inaugural Poem I heard her read on that historic day:

A Rock, A River, A Tree

Hosts to species long since departed,

Marked the mastodon,

The dinosaur, who left dried tokens

Of their sojourn here

On our planet floor,

Any broad alarm of their hastening doom

Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.


But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,

Come, you may stand upon my

Back and face your distant destiny,

But seek no haven in my shadow.

I will give you no hiding place down here.


You, created only a little lower than

The angels, have crouched too long in

The bruising darkness

Have lain too long

Face down in ignorance.

Your mouths spilling words


Armed for slaughter.

The Rock cries out to us today, you may stand upon me,

But do not hide your face.


Across the wall of the world,

A River sings a beautiful song. It says,

Come, rest here by my side.


Each of you, a bordered country,

Delicate and strangely made proud,

Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.

Your armed struggles for profit

Have left collars of waste upon

My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.

Yet today I call you to my riverside,

If you will study war no more. Come,

Clad in peace, and I will sing the songs

The Creator gave to me when I and the

Tree and the rock were one.

Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your

Brow and when you yet knew you still

Knew nothing.

The River sang and sings on.


There is a true yearning to respond to

The singing River and the wise Rock.

So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew

The African, the Native American, the Sioux,

The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek

The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheik,

The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,

The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher.

They hear. They all hear

The speaking of the Tree.


They hear the first and last of every Tree

Speak to humankind today. Come to me, here beside the River.

Plant yourself beside the River.


Each of you, descendant of some passed

On traveller, has been paid for.

You, who gave me my first name, you,

Pawnee, Apache, Seneca, you

Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, then

Forced on bloody feet,

Left me to the employment of

Other seekers — desperate for gain,

Starving for gold.

You, the Turk, the Arab, the Swede, the German, the Eskimo, the Scot,

You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, bought,

Sold, stolen, arriving on the nightmare

Praying for a dream.

Here, root yourselves beside me.

I am that Tree planted by the River,

Which will not be moved.

I, the Rock, I the River, I the Tree

I am yours — your passages have been paid.

Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need

For this bright morning dawning for you.

History, despite its wrenching pain

Cannot be unlived, but if faced

With courage, need not be lived again.


Lift up your eyes upon

This day breaking for you.

Give birth again

To the dream.


Women, children, men,

Take it into the palms of your hands,

Mold it into the shape of your most

Private need. Sculpt it into

The image of your most public self.

Lift up your hearts

Each new hour holds new chances

For a new beginning.

Do not be wedded forever

To fear, yoked eternally

To brutishness.


The horizon leans forward,

Offering you space to place new steps of change.

Here, on the pulse of this fine day

You may have the courage

To look up and out and upon me, the

Rock, the River, the Tree, your country.

No less to Midas than the mendicant.

No less to you now than the mastodon then.


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.

Mornings that Begin with Watercolor are Better than Those that Do Not

August 23, 2013
The Pulse of the Morning

The Pulse of the Morning

The horizon leans forward,

Offering you space

To place new steps of change

Here, on the pulse of this fine day . . . 

Maya Angelou, “On the Pulse of Morning” (Inaugural Poem delivered 20 January 1993)

I did not find it arduous to rise this morning before daylight, shower, and enter the studio.  The prospect of bending over this watercolor before driving off to school was an inviting one, and I found the morning silence velvety and sweet.  I could still hear those words of Maya Angelou that arrested me on that historic morning over twenty years ago, and was grateful for the memory.  Her poem is part of the mantra that aids me in “believing” when I begin each new school year.

I’m beginning this watercolor on the light side, laying down colors that I hope will reflect that scalding hot day in Fort Worth when I took the photo of the Sinclair station.  Later, I’ll try to put in the dark cool shades of the trees and building, hoping to build a good, vibrant contrast.  The only thing I had time to do this morning was work on the gas pump details, block in the hot, sunny background, and begin the red lamp post.  Suddenly it was time to head for the campus.  Today is the last day to get my classroom ready for Monday’s arrival of students.

I’m glad to be “out in front” of my class content, so I can spend the next few days getting my heart ready for this next chapter.  I’ve tried lately to spend more time in the evenings reading, reflecting, scribbling in my journal, and of course working on the watercolors that are still scattered, unfinished, across my studio.  The balancing act begins next week, and I’m determined this year not to fail in my full-time job as an educator, nor to neglect my painting.  Hopefully, the two areas will feed off of each other as they have in good days of time past.

Painting in the Morning Before Reporting to School

Painting in the Morning Before Reporting to School

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I feel that I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

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.

Public Murals in a Local High School

February 17, 2012

Arlington Martin High School Little Theater Mural

Since I have  been unable to pick up the watercolor brush for a few days, I decided to post a few of the eight public murals I was privileged to design and paint at Arlington Martin High School, where I teach full time.  This is on the second floor, outside the Little Theater.  I painted it sometime in the late 90’s over a 17-day span one summer.  I was given total license as to subject matter.  I chose as an interior the Trent River Coffee Company I discovered on vacation that summer in New Bern, North Carolina.

I chose my favorite heroes of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  I was inspired by the murals inside the Barnes and Noble cafes I was seeing in those days, with writers sitting around the tables, conversing.  I chose my favorite philosophers, poets, novelists, playwrights, painters and musicians to fill this environment.  Most visible from this perspective are Maya Angelou, Arthur Miller, Bernard Shaw, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse.  I must admit that I did harbor somewhat of a communion with them as I worked on this, particularly on one of my 18-hour days.  Spending that much uninterrupted time alone on a large scale work tends to do those kinds of things to me.

I may post some additional images in the days ahead.  I hate to let this blog languish during the hiatus when nothing new is being created and I’m buried in grading and lesson planning.  Times like this are certainly low moments in my life.  I look forward to the day when space returns to create.

Thanks for reading.