Posts Tagged ‘Riverbend Resort’

In the Great Silence of these Distances

August 8, 2018

Riverbend Resort

Last Week

starbucks

This Morning

The month-long Odyssey has been an abundant blessing, moving across Texas, New Mexico and Colorado. Though I have moved on from the mountains, I still feel their call rising within me. This morning, situated in the city, I have moved into the interior, into the Cave, which is fitting, because time has arrived for me to devote the remaining two weeks to university preparations involving intense study and the creation of necessary documents for three courses.

I will also be focused on commissions I have in the hopper, so watercoloring will also be part of my daily diet. I cannot conceive of anything more rewarding—a life of the mind each morning, and the creation of art each afternoon.

As I work, images from Colorado still flood my inner vision, both of mountains and of wild critters that visited me daily.

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The Mountains Called out to Me, and I Answered

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A Friend Recently Called me Saint Francis

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I Still Hear the Birds Conversing about the Deck

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This One Appeared Curious over what I was Reading . . .

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. . . and This One Spent Three Days with Me as I painted

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For the rest of my years, I’ll be grateful for the memories of this month-long Odyssey, as I am this morning grateful for this gift of teaching university students. In two weeks, I shall open the next Chapter, and commence the challenge of inducing young minds to embrace new ideas from Judaism and Logic at Texas Wesleyan University. Since the year 2000, this small private institution has embraced me as I have explored with my students ideas contained in the New Testament, Old Testament, World Religions, Logic, Ethics and the Humanities.

Life is much more comfortable for me now than it was when I first began my own university studies. I no longer feel the anxieties associated with having more questions than answers. After all these decades, I still have more questions than answers, but it is O.K. I hope I can pass on the wisdom to these new students that I read in the letters from Rilke to a young poet:

You are so young, so much before all beginning, and I would like to beg you, dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. 

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Resuming the Commission this Afternoon

After a three-week hiatus, I am also returning today to complete this promised commission. Throughout my travels, this image has continued to compost in my mind’s eye, and I am enthusiastic to pick up the brush and resume work on this engaging subject.

Time to go to work. Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

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Colorado Splendor

August 4, 2018

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A New Little Friend

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Follow your genius closely enough and it will not fail to show you a fresh prospect at every hour.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

My friend Dian Darr, who is part of this Colorado excursion, gave me a gift of a plaque with the above quote from Thoreau engraved on it. When I return home, it will be placed in front of me at my desk to view every time I sit down there to work. Thank you, Dian!

The windows of the Brookie Cabin have been left open every night, which has made for some bone-chilling mornings. Today was not an exception, with temperatures dipping to 48 degrees. I rose at 5:55, took a quick shower and donned clean clothes, and intended to sit at the table to read and write for awhile, but I made the mistake of looking out the cabin window:

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Tree Filled with Lights!

When my eyes were dazzled by the sight of this tree in the brilliant light of the mountain sunrise, I immediately remembered a line from Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, relating a story of a girl blind from birth that had had a special surgery allowing her to see for the very first time:

“When her doctor took her bandages off and led her into the garden, the girl who was no longer blind saw “the tree with the lights in it.”

I immediately put on a fleece hoodie and went out onto the porch to attempt to paint this tree of lights.

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Taking Advantage of a Bright 50-degree morning

And speaking of painting, allow me to jump back in time. I just have to post this picture of what happened to me last night as I worked to finish my second attempt at a pine tree, this one in the late afternoon light:

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My Second Attempt at the Pine Tree

As I was finishing this pine tree painting, birds began to crowd each other at the feeder that hangs from the corner of this deck. I decided to put some of the sunflower seeds along the rail of the deck beside me, figuring that after I went inside for the evening, one of them could gather up those seeds.  Well, this one couldn’t wait:

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I believe this bird is an Evening Grosbeak, judging by the illustrations in a bird book I’ve consulted. He was only 18″ from my left shoulder as I painted! I looked directly at him and took this picture with my cell phone. He stayed almost thirty minutes, gobbling up every single sunflower seed that I had spread along the railing.

And now, back to this morning . . . After painting about an hour, I accepted the Darr’s generous invitation to have breakfast with them in their cabin nearby. After breakfast, we drove to Beaver Creek Reservoir to see if we could catch some trout for dinner. It was then that I realized that I had mistakenly packed all three of my fly reels to ship back to Texas! So . . . Plan B.  I decided to try the spinning reel with a casting bubble to throw dry and wet flies into the water. It worked!

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Trying out a Casting Bubble and Dry Fly

This beautiful rainbow rose to the surface and gobbled up an enormous dry fly of a grasshopper. Ron and I alternated between Parachute Adams dry flies and Copper John nymphs and managed to catch our limit.

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Fishing with my Buddy Ron Darr

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Proud of our Catch!

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It has been a spectacular day in Colorado. I’m not ready to return to Texas, but will have to leave here eventually.

Thanks for reading.

Morning River Mystique

July 26, 2018

 

When the early morning light quietly grows above the mountains . . . We are too late for the gods and too early for Being. Being’s poem, just begun, is man.

To think is to confine yourself to a single thought that one day stands still like a star in the world’s sky.

Martin Heidegger, “The Thinker as Poet”

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View from Brookie Cabin

July 26, 2018

The fifty-two degree Colorado morning was a chilly one with all the cabin windows open and the mountain breezes coming through. I rose at 6:56, showered, made French press coffee (pinon blend tastes so delicious in the mountain air), and prepared a three-egg omelet with asparagus, red pepper, onion, bacon jerky and shredded mozzarella. At 7:56, with breakfast over, I stepped out onto the cabin deck to view the meadows separating my cabin from the stream. My eye was filled with delight, seeing that the grasses were artistically woven with contrasting strips of amber sunlight and teal green shadows.  Beyond them, the stream laughed gently. I pulled on waders, boots, gravel guards and belt, then joined together my four-piece fly rod, attached the reel, and threaded my line through the guides.

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Tying on a Parachute Adams dry fly and attaching 18” of tippet with a Micro Mayfly nymph, I picked up my net and shoulder bag and hiked my way to the stream below.

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I felt the serenity I know all-too-well from reading Ernest Hemingway’s “Big Two-Hearted River, Part II.” I could just as well have been Nick, happily hiking along the stream, surveying the flow and listening to the birds that filled the trees and bushes along the trail. Carefully stepping among the slick rocks in the stream bed, I slowly made my way out to where the water was flowing along a narrow channel between boulders and a fallen tree. Stripping the line from my reel, I flicked the dry fly and trailing nymph out into the current and watched it glide by as I mended my line and took out the slack. There seems to be a calming Zen rhythm to fly casting, and it didn’t take long for me to feel that I had meshed with the flow of the stream.

After a dozen casts, the dry fly suddenly disappeared beneath the surface and I hauled back sharply on the rod. The heavy throb at the end of the line indicated that a trout was on. He fled to the tree, and I managed to pull him away. Next he darted downstream, and I turned him back. As he rocketed out of the water, the sun reflected off the golden sides of a 12” brown trout, a nice sturdy one. Several somersaults later, he finally drew close enough for me to slip the net under him. I wet my hands, removed the barbless hook from his jaw, photographed him lying next to my flyrod, then gently placed him back into the water and watched him dart into the depths and disappear.

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The story would repeat about fifteen more times, with some of the trout escaping after a brief flourish, and one heavy one breaking my line as I tried unsuccessfully to keep him out of the fallen tree that was damming up the stream. Unfortunately, I never got to see him, as he stayed deep and pulled violently on my line. No matter. All of today’s trout were released and I took only memories from the stream.

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Three hours later, I decided the morning was spent. Selecting a large boulder, I sat down and drew out of my small shoulder bag a slim volume of Pre-Socratic fragments that I love translating from their original language. Selecting perhaps the oldest fragment of Western thinking, I translated a line from Anaximander, a sixth-century BCE thinker from the island of Samos:

From where things have their origin, they must also pass away, according to necessity. for they pay penalty for their injustices, according to the ordinance of time.

There will be plenty to unpack from this ancient oracle, but this morning, one particular idea stood out—the necessity that whatever comes into being will pass into oblivion. At age sixty-four, I think of this much more now than I did twenty years ago. I am grateful that I have been given the gift of appearing on the world’s stage to do my performance and then exit, hoping that what I leave behind will be more good than bad.

Every time I am given this precious gift of standing in a mountain stream on a chilly, sun-splashed morning at an altitude surpassing 8,000 feet, my mind returns to the reading of A River Runs Through It. One of my favorite passages involves the Reverend Maclean seated in the woods after fly fishing, and translating from his Greek New Testament the Prologue to the Gospel of John. I did this last week while seated in a lovely library at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico.  For anyone not familiar with the New Testament text, I encourage you to meditate on it, particularly the first five verses. In A River Runs Through It, Reverend Maclean discusses with his elder son Norman the significance of the passage and how it can be related to the flowing mountain river and the eternal rocks beneath the surface. Every time I pause beside a mountain stream to read, or wade the channels in search of trout, I am struck by this thought of rocks from the basement of time lying quietly beneath the flowing, restless waters of the stream.

Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. 

Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

Thanks for reading. My time in Colorado surpasses words to describe.

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Two Splendor-Filled Colorado Days

June 29, 2016

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Poets talk about “spots in time,” but it is really fishermen who experience eternity compressed into a moment.

Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

A cool, hard-driving mountain rain has driven me back indoors after a day and a half of fly fishing and plein air painting.  So, I’m going to record some of the wonders that have come my way since my last posting.

I rose early yesterday morning to see a group of men standing in the stretch of waters below my cabin, casting spinning reeels in all directions with lures flashing so large I could see them at 100 yards. They talked so loudly I could hear every word from inside my dwelling.   I had planned to enter that space myself, but realized it would be awhile before the area settled down.  So . . . making coffee, I sat at my kitchen table and did some necessary tasks–rebuilding my tapered leader that has taken a beating over recent years. The nine-foot leader had been chewed down to about five feet.  Finding some 3x tippet, I spliced three more feet onto it, then added another two feet of 5x tippet to get the leader back to its desired length.

Hearing the continuing clattering conversation of the three clowns below who were catching nothing, but slashing the hell out of that stretch of water, I decided to make some decisions while sorting through my flybox.  I tied on an elk-hair caddis dry fly, rubbed flotation fluid into its hackles, then added another 18″ of 5x tippet, tying it onto the bend of the hook, and finally tied on a bead-headed Copper John nymph.

Out on the porch, I pulled on my waders and boots, and seeing that the men were still busy thrashing the waters, I decided to hike 200 yards downstream where the river was deeper, darker, and much swifter.  The wading proved treacherous and arduous, and I hadn’t forgotten the soaking I took last Saturday when I tried to navigate these waters.  I did manage to work a couple of decent stretches of stream, managing only a couple of strikes on the dry fly, which I missed, having too much slack in my line.

Finally, the last man left my preferred stretch, so I waded slowly upstream to a marvelously wide, sun-filled flat stretch of shallow riffles.

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The voices of the subterranean river in the shadows were different from the voices of the sunlit river ahead.  In the shadows against the cliff the river was deep and engaged in profundities, circling back on itself now and then to say things over to be sure it had understood itself.  But the river ahead came out into the sunny world like a chatterbox, doing its best to be friendly.  It bowed to one shore and then to the other so nothing would feel neglected.

Norman MacleanA River Runs Through It

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It took very little time to land three brown trout, all of them under ten inches, but I was thrilled to see them all take the dry fly.  Though the fish were small, the waters exploded every time they took the surface fly.

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Realizing the sinking nymph was getting no action, I clipped it off, then continued to move upstream, fishing the dry fly only.  For about an hour, I managed to miss about ten strikes, most of them large browns, because I could not strip the slack out of my line quickly enough.  The waters are still very high and fast.  The snow melt is still running its course.  I’ve never before seen so many snow packs in the mountains this time of year in Colorado.  Nevertheless, I found my time on the river very intoxicating, as I listened to the waters flowing swiftly over the smooth rocks.  The wonderful thing about the cabin where I am staying is that it is so close to the river that I hear the sounds of the rushing waters around the clock.  They soothe me to sleep every night, and greet me in my first waking moment of the following morning.

The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time.  On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words and some of the words are theirs.

Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

Today I decided to put off my river excursion until this evening and instead focus on plein air painting throughout the morning and early afternoon.  (Now that the hard rains have arrived, I question whether I’ll get to enter the river today at all.  We’ll see.)  From where I am residing, I look daily across Highway 160 at this line of towering bluffs, and am fascinated with the striations in the rocks as well as the trees that crown them.  The sky constantly shifts back and forth from deep clear blue to cloud-stuffed.  I managed three quick watercolor sketches today on 140# stretched D’Arches cold-pressed paper.  I tried to begin a fourth, because the dark storm clouds framed up a deep colorful composition along the bluffs.  However, I needed to stretch more paper, and after stretching three more surfaces, the first of the hard raindrops fell, and I had to scurry back into the cabin with all my supplies.

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The rain has ceased and the Colorado landscape is showing some light once again.  I began a watercolor sketch of the pine tree in front of my porch a few days ago, but never returned to it.  I’m going to resume it now, and see if I can get back into the stream later.

Thanks for reading.  It’s been a magnificent pair of days.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

 

 

Stimulus Overload

June 26, 2016

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First Plein Air Sketch of the Morning at Riverbend Resort

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Beginnings of a Second Sketch

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The present of my consciousness is itself a mystery which is also always just rounding a bend like a floating branch borne by a flood.

Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Annie sure nailed it with that sentence in describing my life. As an educator, I’ve encountered for twenty-eight years students diagnosed with A.D.D. (attention deficit disorder), and have felt that I would have been diagnosed with the same, had counselors in my own school youth been equipped with that handle. I have told friends for years that when I am home alone in the afternoons and evenings, that I want to work on a watercolor, read a book, and write in my journal all at the same time.  If I settle for painting, what should I paint? If reading, what book? If journaling, which thought do I want to explore, right now?

I awoke with that dilemma this morning, multiplied to the limits.  The Colorado morning light was crystal clear, the air was cold, Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek was lying beside my bed, my art supplies and easel were in the corner, and the journal was on the kitchen table. And I wanted to do all of it at the same time.

During breakfast with Ron and Dian Darr, friends whom I’ve known and loved since 1990, I decided to set up the plein air easel and see if I could do something with those beautiful bluffs across the highway from Riverbend Resort where I am staying. For years I have wanted to paint bluffs, and got my first real taste of a few weeks ago in Eureka Springs, Arkansas at Beaver Bluffs.  Last week, west of St. Louis, while driving back toward Texas, I saw those marvelous bluffs carved out along Highway 30 between High Ridge and House Springs–a sight I took for granted during my school years but now was just screaming to be painted.  Last year, I began a painting of one of those bluffs, and it still sits in my studio, unfinished (that’s my life–a studio littered with half-done projects).

After stopping with the first sketch above, clouds rolled up over the mountain, so I decided to begin a second one.  However, the temperatures grew quite hot as the noon hour approached, and I decided to put this second one on hold.  Perhaps tomorrow I’ll return to it.  The third pencil sketch was something I dashed out while chatting with Ron under the shaded canopy.

The day has been amazing.  I haven’t yet entered the stream to fly fish, but plan to as soon as the sun drops in the early evening.  Meanwhile I’m staring at this magnificent pine tree in front of my cabin porch–the one I sketched yesterday while mosquitoes ate me.  I have the repellent today and have already bathed my body in it.  Perhaps I’ll give the pine a try in watercolor . . .

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.