Posts Tagged ‘Turvey’s Corner 63050’

New Image Added to Turvey’s Corner 63050

August 7, 2020

This early August morning has been delicious. I entered the studio early for what I absurdly label “executive time.” While reading Zola’s The Masterpiece, I lingered over the lyrical depictions of the artist and lover’s excursion to Le Havre. Zola painted the northern French landscape with a luscious brush, describing sun, atmosphere and lovely rolling hills. And as I read, the sound of a lawn mower in our neighborhood transformed me back in Proustian fashion to my childhood August mornings, waking up and lying in bed lazily in High Ridge, Missouri. We had no air conditioning in the house so we slept with our bedroom windows open. And as I lay there, I would listen to the sounds of a distant lawnmower, children shouting as they played outside, the voice of a radio broadcaster on KXOK, the popular St. Louis AM station.

The visitation was a warm one, stimulating me to return to the manuscript of Turvey’s Corner 63050. Going through files of my art work from years gone by, I came across the watercolor posted at the top of this blog, and decided to insert it into one of the chapters I’ve recently revised.

The chapter now reads as follows:

Winter in Turvey’s Corner 63050

Early morning polar winds snapped through the narrow valley of Turvey’s Corner, a Missouri town still sleeping through the harsh winter. George Singleton emerged from the Terra Lounge bar with his snow shovel and leaned forward into the frigid air. Overnight winds had hardened the drifts across the walkway and he felt the sting in his cheeks as the wind cut across his face. As he bent to his task, a loud cacophonous whistle from a Frisco Railroad F9 diesel signaled its approach to the crossing, half a block from the tavern, and George felt beneath his boots the vibrations of the thundering freight cars as they rolled by. Assorted box cars and rusting reefer cars crawled through the town, the bells continuing to clang with lights alternately blinking at the crossing.

Turning his head, George looked back up the empty street to regather his thoughts. It was a sixteen-degree December morning in Turvey’s Corner, and his mind was numb to the possibilities of anything memorable happening on this particular day. The Korean Conflict was two years behind him, the 38th parallel over 7,000 miles away. But Randy, his first-born son, not yet a year old, slumbered in a dark bedroom on the second story above. These thoughts caused George to smile in the face of the frozen morning, forgetting the stiffness in his lower back.

George had just opened a new chapter in his life. Striving to put the madness of the war conflict behind him and determining not to return to the shores of the Mississippi River in southeast Missouri to resume the impoverished tenant farm life that had raised him, he set his compass toward St. Louis in search of a better life. For two years he had served his country overseas. Now returning, he wondered if his country, his government, really had anything to offer him. The Missouri motto he was forced to memorize in the country school salus populi supreme lex esto (let the welfare of the people be the supreme law) never penetrated to his center of belief. Convinced of the need to provide for his own welfare and that of his new family, he came to Turvey’s Corner, invested the army pay he had sent home to his folks for two years in this tavern property, and was determined to make it work.

Turvey’s Corner, population 582, was situated on Highway 30, twenty-three miles southwest of St. Louis. Historic Route 66 lay a few miles north of town but was beginning to deteriorate with the arrival of Interstate 44 that bypassed the once thriving midwestern towns. George was O.K. with that, however. In the army he had lived a life surrounded by hordes of men in close quarters. He was ready to carve out a livelihood in a town that time would likely forget.

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It’s time to turn my attention to a pair of commissions I’ve been working on for awhile now. Tomorrow (Saturday) I’ll return to Palestine to work in The Gallery at Redlands for the day and evening.

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.

So Great a Cloud of Witnesses

July 27, 2020
Hank and Randy at Caprock

I have decided to go ahead and post a pair of stories I’ve been incubating for quite some time now. The draft is still rough, but the ideas are in place. This continues my Hank & Randy cycle for the Turvey’s Corner 63050 collection of short stories . . .

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Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.

Hebrews 12:1 (King James Version)

Looking up, Hank noticed that Randy had put down his coffee cup and had a small volume open and was reading by the fire light. “What are you reading?” he wanted to know.

“Translating, actually. I still carry my little Greek New Testament in my pack because I like working the language.”

“You quit the ministry. Do you still believe all that stuff?”

“Not all of it. But much of it still rings authentic. And then there are other parts, like what I’m reading tonight that really stimulate my imagination. This is from Hebrews 12. The image is a race in a stadium filled with spectators. The spectators are “heroes of faith” mentioned in the chapter before, people who suffered hardship but still believed in what they were doing. The author writes that the one running the race is being cheered on by all those heroes of faith who have gone before. It’s supposed to give one courage and confidence living out this life as an arduous race.”

“When I was a kid, I always thought my aunts and uncles who already died were looking down from heaven, approving or disapproving of what I did. I like the picture you just gave—ancestors cheering us on and encouraging us.”

“That’s what I’m feeling right now. Since I quit the seminary, Paul Tillich and Karl Barth have stayed with me. I still read them a great deal, especially Tillich. I can identify with a lot of what he went through, though my own troubles seem microscopic compared to his. Still, I draw strength from his example. Then of course, there are other writers who are not theologians that give me plenty of encouragement and reason to believe—Emerson, Thoreau, Hemingway, Kerouac—I love them all and wish I could have known them in real life. But I really do feel their presence when I read what they’ve left behind.”

“I can identify with that. I wonder if we’ll still feel this way when we get old.”

“I wonder that too. I just hope I don’t get too mentally lazy and stop reading and imagining as I get older.”

__________________________________

Randy drifted slowly in and out of consciousness throughout the morning. It was his fourth day in hospice, and though he was unaware of how long he lay there, he knew he would drift away before too much longer. Judy, his only love, sat to the left at his bed and Hank, his lifelong friend, was seated on his right.

Eighty-three years. A satisfying sojourn. Few regrets. A myriad of memories worth embracing. In fact, Randy did nothing else but re-visit memories for four days now. The pain in his chest was minimal and breathing not very difficult. The drugs numbed his body, but his mind felt keen. The refrain of memories that occupied him the most included the west Texas caprock campouts, complete with campfire, coffee and soul-searching conversations.

Randy wondered why he had held fast to theology throughout his years. He never would pastor a congregation. He dropped out of seminary without completing a degree. Yet the life and writings of Paul Tillich had held the center of his broad reading and musing throughout his years. From the day he dropped out of seminary, he had fed on a steady diet of Emerson, Thoreau, Hemingway, and Kerouac, among other essayists, poets, and novelists. But he always came back to Paul Tillich, the German theologian expelled by Hitler from German universities. The Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary faculty in New York City came to his rescue, arranging for his passage to America. At age forty-three, the frightened scholar would arrive on New York shores to begin a new chapter in his life that would last the remaining three-plus decades of his life.

Randy had always felt he found a kindred spirit in Tillich, though the man had died a decade before Randy even learned of his life and work. As the energy slowly ebbed from Randy’s body, he felt the warm kiss of Judy on his forehead. “I love you, Randy. I always have.” Hank squeezed Randy’s right hand. “Love you Pal.” Randy tried to whisper: “Hell of a ride,” but was not sure if the sound passed from his lips.

Though his eyes were closed, Randy could see clearly where he was now—on an enormous crowded ship pulling into a harbor. The statue of liberty loomed overhead as they glided by. How unusual to be surrounded by a throng speaking a cacophony of European languages. On the shores, thousands of people were thronged, waving in a frenzy, welcoming the refugees on board. Sadly, Randy had not arranged for anyone to meet him. As he flowed with the travelers off the boat and onto the land, he watched with an aching heart as men and women embraced, children leaped into the arms of parents, and joyous clamoring rung out across the frenzied city.

But suddenly, he saw a thin man in a gray suit pushing impatiently through the crowd, gesturing at him. Paul Tillich? Randy was incredulous. He had seen dozens of photos of the Prussian scholar in books he had read and collected throughout the years. And now, Paul Tillich was eagerly fighting his way through a crowd to greet Randy?

“Randy, my dear Friend!”

“Professor Tillich?”

“Paulus, please.”

“You know me?”

“Of course!”

“How? You died ten years before I even heard of you.”

“Such a naïve lad! So. You didn’t really believe what you told Hank by the fire that night when you shared the words from Hebrews 12?”

“You know about that?!”

“Of course. Out here, we don’t have limits! I wasn’t the only one watching and listening that night. Let’s go. Emerson, Thoreau, Hemingway, and Kerouac are waiting. I left them in the café to come get you. We have plenty of things to talk about . . .”

Judy and Hank wiped tears from their eyes. “At least he went peacefully,” was all Hank was able to say.

“Yes,” replied Judy. “I wonder what he was dreaming there at the end. He seemed happy.”

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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.

OK, So I’m Writing a Book

July 20, 2020
My New Studio Still under Constsruction

Life! Life! Life! What it is to feel it and paint it as it really is. To love it for its own sake; to see it as the only true, everlasting, ever-changing beauty, and refuse to see how it might be ‘improved’ by being emasculated. To understand that its so-called defects are really signs of character. To put life into things, and put life into men! That’s the only way to be a God!”

Emile Zola, The Masterpiece

Studio time has been pleasure-filled today as I’ve returned to the task of painting evergreens in watercolor. I certainly share the sentiments expressed by Paul Cezanne long ago when he wrote “I am still learning from nature, and it seems to me I am making slow progress.” The Zola novel I’m reading has been reported to be based partly on the life of Cezanne and the quote above is from the character believed to be the artist.

Evergreen Experiments

I have accepted the invitation to address the Mansfield Art Association this evening. The ninety-minute presentation will combine a talk on our current art scene, my new projects in progress, and finally a demonstration of one of my watercolor techniques (these evergreens, if I can get a handle on them sometime today!). I have missed dearly the camaraderie of other artists, and this group I have never met before. So I’m looking forward to tonight.

Showcasing my art and my writing in the form of a published book has been a long-time fantasy of mine. But I never really took the idea seriously. Until COVID19. For months I have been satisfied with reading, blogging and making new paintings. But now, with my final art festival of the year canceled, meaning 2020 will pass without my doing a single public art event, aside from my One-Man-Show in February, I have decided I will indeed publish a book, even if I have to self-publish. As with other artist friends with whom I’ve contacted over past months, I feel that I must do something.

Currently, my work on Turvey’s Corner 63050 has reached forty-five typed pages with my watercolors as illustrations. But new characters have been born in my mind over the past forty-eight hours, and I have decided to introduce one of them now . . .

THE PHILOSOPHER

Bob Farrow (prismacolor pencil)

Bob Farrow liked to sit. And smoke. And drink. And think. The septuagenarian still had plenty of blonde woven through his hair and beard, and he struck quite a figure in the sun, seated in his old chair with nothing but time on his hands. His leisurely life came, compliments of the federal government. A Navy World War II veteran, he suffered the misfortune of standing nearby when an aircraft disintegrated upon landing, scattered shards of steel and glass in all directions. Bob spent six months in the hospital, discharged with the orders of never to lift anything heavier than twenty pounds. Since 1944, Bob fished, tinkered with small engines in his tool shed and engaged in his favorite hobbies mentioned above. Turvey’s Corner folk referred to him as The Porch Front Philosopher.

Looking up, he noticed Hank pulling up in front of his shed in the old borrowed Dodge pickup from Jerry’s Texaco, and a trailered john boat.

“Where you off to?”

Hank stepped out of the truck with a pint in hand and sauntered across the grass to sit in one of Bob’s empty chairs. “Rock of David. Things are slow at the station, so I closed early. I may just camp out overnight if the fishing’s good.”

“What’s that you got there?”

Hank handed Bob the pint of Jim Beam. Taking off the cap, Bob poked the bottleneck into his mouth and took a long pull.

“Sodie pop! If you want the real thing, it’s this.” Bob handed over his pint of Ten High.

As far as Hank was concerned, the Ten High tasted about as good as gasoline, but he just nodded in acquiescence. No doubt it cost less than half what he paid for the Jim Beam, and worth even less.

“Yer lookin’ sorta grumpy,” Bob observed. “Somethin’ happen at the station?”

“Nothing ever happens at the station. I’m just tired of all days being the same, that’s all. I thought if I got out of town a little while, things might look better.”

“We talked about this before,” Bob mused, taking another long draw from his bottle. “Yer still young, yet. Don’t worry. You’ll find yer way.”

“I guess you’re right. Anyway, thanks for the time. I want to get on the river before dark, so I’ll catch ya later.”

Two days later, Hank returned to catch Bob up on the news of his fishing. The old man wasn’t in his lawn chair, his shed was padlocked, so Hank went to the door of his small house and knocked. Nothing. Looking up, Hank noticed his old Rambler sitting in the driveway, so he knocked again. Still nothing.

Walking around to the side window, Hank shielded his eyes and peered into the dim living room. There was Bob, seated in his recliner, his head slumped forward. Hank knew.

He’s No Longer Here

The quiet neighborhood was shattered by the sharp crack of three crushing blows from the ball-peen hammer that broke open the padlock on The Philosopher’s shed door.  They had just found Bob in the living room of his small house, dead, seated in his favorite recliner with a cold cup of coffee and his tattered copy of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass on the side table.  Beneath the layers of his faded beard, they thought they could detect a slight smile.  His book was opened to “Song of Myself” and he had underlined in pencil: “I am large; I contain multitudes.”  The onlooking friends mused about his seven decades and all that his life had encompassed.

Entering the dim interior of the fishing shack, they looked silently at the tangled pile of gear in the corner, and hesitated to gather it up, as though rudely disrupting the sanctity of a shrine.  There lay the Garcia Mitchell 300 open-faced reel, with which he had landed his 6-lb. largemouth bass while poking about the lily pads in a rowboat one evening on Hunnewell Lake.  He was only a teenager then.  The bait caster was still there–the one he never could seem to get the hang of, trying in vain to cast old wooden bass plugs without backlash.  His Uncle Art would just look on, shake his head, smile, and mumble through the smoke of his Lucky Strike: “Cute Kid.”  The Pflueger fly reel and vintage bamboo rod were a gift from an aged farrier in Pine, Colorado, who passed them on as a torch, noting that his fly fishing days were behind him.  The battered suitcase was from college days back in ’42, when he hopped the Frisco passenger train for his monthly cross-the-state visits to his parents back home.  And on that train, he was always served Dining Car Coffee.  And the old knapsack–he never tired of bragging on the day he talked an Athenian merchant out of that tattered leather bag for $12.  On that day, he owned the world.  

Hank stood there silently, his tear-filmed eyes surveying the stack of assorted memories, each item with its own story, clinging to its own fragment of history. It was time to take down the monument. As he removed and packed each item, Hank vowed that Old Bob’s story would not end here. Somehow, Hank and Randy would write new chapters and find ways to extend The Porch Front Philosopher’s legacy.

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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.

Sunday Morning with Randy in the Motel

July 5, 2020
Ozark Court Motel. Stanton, Missouri

Sunday morning rays of sunshine lanced through the slits in the closed blinds of Room 6 at the Ozark Court Motel. Randy lay with his eyes closed. It took a few moments before he realized where he was and what day it was. Hitchhiking had not fared well the day before. Driving rains soaked him to the skin and no one was pulling over on Route 66 to offer him a ride. Why would they? No doubt he carried all the charm of a drowned city sewer rat as he trudged along the muddy shoulder, his knapsack beginning to let in water as well. But this morning he was OK. A soothing shower the night before and a Jack Daniels nightcap ushered in a quality night’s sleep. But now it was Sunday. What to do?

His Greek Testament lay on the bedside table; he had removed it the night before, intending for it to be the first thing his eyes would see the morning after. Now he sat up in bed, stretched his limbs and reached for the small volume he thought he was going to discard once he dropped out of seminary. He couldn’t. Though he no longer congregated, he still woke on Sunday mornings feeling the need to reach for a text that had been his companion for two-and-a-half years, only now he no longer felt shackled by deadlines of term papers and Sunday morning sermon manuscripts. He could read what he chose.

But what to read? The Gospels crossed his mind. Always a good choice. But what did he want this morning from the Gospels? Did he want to see or hear? Seeing would include mental images of Jesus walking either along a shore or down a dusty Palestinian street. Would he be solitary, seated in the wilderness, or thronged by a clinging crowd? Maybe Randy wanted to hear. But what? The voice of Jesus resonating in a synagogue, or speaking softly inside a living quarters? Would he be strolling country lanes with disciples listening, or seated on a boulder discoursing? Or would he be sitting in a boat, his voice going out over the waves while disciples pulled at the oars?

Why was Randy reaching for the New Testament? Because it was Sunday? He wasn’t congregating. He wasn’t called upon to address any hearers. What did he want this morning?

Outside the motel, traffic was heard rolling along Route 66 along the bottom of the bluff. Randy was aware that he was seated in bed, alone, in the heartland of America. Today is Sunday, the Fourth of July, 1976. The country had been surging with anticipation for months as she edged closer and closer to this day—the nation’s bicentennial. No doubt Randy’s former seminary friends—preacher friends—had been whipping themselves into a frenzy over what to preach on this Special Sunday. Randy was glad not to be under that kind of pressure. What exactly would he say today, standing before a congregation?

Opening his Greek Testament, he let his mind drift down pleasant corridors of memory. To this day he was grateful that he had learned Koinē Greek. The first semester was strictly recitation, vocabulary and functional grammar; the class never saw a New Testament. The objective was functional literacy. As children learn to speak their language before learning to read and understand the technical architecture of grammar, so Professor Corley wished for his students to recognize and read Greek early and dissect the grammar later. And so, Randy studied his lessons and performed the daily recitations for a semester.

On the first day of the second semester, the Professor walked to the blackboard, picked up the chalk and scrawled the following:

Sitting at his desk in the third row, Randy leaned forward earnestly and read the words instantly: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.” The Professor turned to the class and solemnly declared: “You are now reading the New Testament. In Greek.” Sitting up in bed, Randy felt waves of warmth surging through his being as he recalled that historic morning. It was as though scales had fallen from his eyes and enlightenment had dawned. His life had been marked by so few quality moments. Opening his New Testament to Mark 1:15, he read the words afresh.

The time is fulfilled. On that historic day, Randy felt that he had fulfilled his apprenticeship to elementary Greek vocabulary and grammar. He read a Greek New Testament passage with no assistance from a teacher or book. It was a new day. A new world dawned and beckoned. He had no idea then that a ministerial life, just underway, would collapse and burn in less than two years.

Now it is Sunday, July 4, 1976. The nation celebrates its 200th birthday. Randy wondered what exactly he was celebrating, if anything. What was life offering now? Was he about to pass through another portal? Again, why was he reading the New Testament? Because it is Sunday? Because it is the Fourth of July? Because the country is now two hundred years old? What was in the air for Randy? He wanted to know.

Was he reading from the life of Jesus because he needed a mentor? Someone to guide him? Thinking back over his life, Randy realized that he had always sought direction from a strong leader. His father, his pastor, his professors, and a few years ago he had that conference with Reverend Elton in Dallas. Did Randy need a mentor now? Or was it time to think for himself? Maybe his apprenticeship to life was ended and it was time to stand up, to strike forth and find new ground under his own direction. The time is fulfilled.

Rising from bed, Randy stretched and strolled across the small room to the writing table in the corner where he had placed his journal the night before. Opening it to the pages he wrote the day he quit the seminary, he found a passage he had copied from James Smart’s The Divided Mind of Modern Theology.

There are remarkable parallels between the European mood of the twenties and the English and American mood of the sixties: God seemed to have gone into hiding; religious and theological language out of the past had become wooden and unconvincing; men felt themselves suspended between a world that had died and a new world that was waiting to be born; a church indifferent to the plight of the masses was recognized as unworthy of the name Christian; the identification of Christianity with Western civilization, and of divinity with the higher elements in man, had become highly suspect; in various forms the hunger for a new world now was felt, and some understood it as hunger for a living God. In that kind of world Barth and Bultmann became theologians whose one endeavor was to find the word that would unlock the future, the word that would bring wholeness of faith and creative power by being the very truth of the living God.

It is Sunday, Randy thought. Today, churches would perhaps be filled to capacity, no doubt to celebrate a 200th birthday. Yet, Randy sensed that the ministers would still crank out those same tired sermons, their singsong voices rasping like rusty squeeze boxes, sounding out the same two-note refrain of the deadly forces that continually threaten the vitality of our church and nation—abortion and communism.

Randy replayed from memory a line he had memorized from his reading of one of Nietzsche’s early essays:

He who has but two strings on his instrument . . . does not understand those who can play on more strings. It is of the essence of the higher, multi-stringed culture that it is always misinterpreted by the lower culture . . .

Randy’s sojourn of recent years had definitely added more strings to his life’s instrument. No doubt this is why he was not attending church this particular morning, or most mornings for that matter. Virtually everything delivered from pulpits he had heard before, and indeed was beginning to write them out in his own sermons before he quit. He didn’t need to hear them again.

Randy recalled with a smile a quote he had read from his readings in the religions of India, how the Upanishad movement was sprung partly because the general population had grown weary of listening to the traditional chants of the Vedic priests “who sounded like croaking frogs in the swamps.”

America in 1976 was sounding restless. Perhaps a new world was beginning to dawn. The time is fulfilled. Randy wondered if his own odyssey was corresponding with the quest of this American nation in 1976, poised to enter a new age of Enlightenment. Where was Hank? It had been months since that night they sat at the fire, camping in west Texas. It was time to get together and talk some more. No doubt Hank had just as much weighing on his mind as Randy. Later today, Randy would return to Turvey’s Corner, having been away four years. Maybe Hank was already there.

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Thanks for reading my blog.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Zwischen den Zeiten

May 28, 2020

Good day, blogging friends. It was a long drive home yesterday and I was wiped out when I hit the sack last night. Waking early this morning, I immediately went about a number of tasks that needed to be done in the house, but Hank and Randy were on my mind, and the following story played out as I worked. Finally sitting down to the computer I spilled it out, so here’s how it’s looking at this time. Thanks always for reading, and thank you so much, all of you who have been posting comments. I’m thrilled that people are actually reading this. I managed a little time today to work on the accompanying watercolor as well, so here it is, still in progress . . .

8 x 10″ watercolor in progress

The night seemed to grow quieter in response to Randy’s remark on having plenty to chew as he sounded the religious depths of his life. The coffee was doing its work, soothing his tired spirit as he gazed into the fire, watching the yellow-orange sparks drift and disappear into the night sky. Pulling an index card from his field pack, he read to Hank what he had written on it:

The understanding of history is an uninterrupted conversation between the wisdom of yesterday and the wisdom of tomorrow.

“This is from the preface of the first edition of Barth’s commentary on Romans. I wrote it on an index card and kept it in my study carrel at the seminary where I could look up at it every day while studying. Finally, I decided to memorize it and keep it as a sort of mantra. Once I quit seminary, I decided to begin keeping a journal, and the card is now a bookmark. I’m forced to confront it every time I open the journal to write something. More than ever, I’m feeling a connection with the past—past writers anyway—and I’m trying to join my ideas to theirs to see if I can come to some kind of understanding of what’s going on in my life.”

As he listened, Hank felt an inner stirring of something unresolved. “You know—I think I’m going to start keeping a journal. I’ve never met anyone before you who actually did this, though I’m always reading about writers from the past who kept journals as a lifestyle—Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Twain. Nobody I know does that today, except now you. Soon as we get back to town, I’m gonna pick up a spiral or something and start volume one. I really believe we’re gonna find plenty to write about on this little adventure of ours.”

Randy reached for the urn and poured a second cup of the cowboy coffee, tasting better as the night unfolded. “Sometimes I wish I had started the journal earlier in life, but frankly I don’t really think I had anything worth recording till the stuff of the past year ruptured my plans. I’ve been struggling lately for something to read that makes me feel there is some kind of hope. On the bus yesterday, I found this from Barth’s Romans:

He is the hidden abyss; but He is also the hidden home at the beginning and end of all our journeyings.

“You know, Hank, I had this fairytale image of God planted in my consciousness from the time I was five years old when my folks made me go to church. The image really didn’t change much from those years till last year, even though my intellect allegedly grew in all other areas of life. When things started falling apart last year, I found myself questioning everything including whether God actually was there. I really feel this quote from Barth nails it—God is like an abyss, hidden. But I’m actually feeling like I’ve found a home in this life, some kind of refuge, though I am now on the road and without an address.”

Hank sat up straight. “Randy, the two of us are on parallel tracks. For both of us, a past life has crumbled and something new is trying to emerge.”

Randy nodded with enthusiasm. “Hank, I believe we’re living between two worlds, between two eras, Zwischen den Zeiten as Brother Barth would have said. The Jews between the Testaments conceived a rupture between the present evil age and the age to come, the ‘olam ha-ze and the ‘olam ha-ba. We now dwell in a Zeitgeist that I have no use for. I want to know the Arcadia I believe Thoreau found at Walden. The Indians that roamed these plains must have felt this about the land before the Europeans came and took possession of it. Every time I encounter a barbed wire fence, I want to cut it with wire cutters. You know, from Mexico to Canada, cowboys used to run cattle without barriers save for gorges and rivers and of course the Indians.”

Hank nodded in agreement. “I like the sound of that.”

“Hank my friend, your collect call may as well have been John the Baptist crying out like a voice in the wilderness. I was so ready for a new direction. Thanks for reaching out and bringing me here.”

Ten more minutes passed with neither of the two speaking. The coffee’s buzz had worn off and lethargy was taking over.

Randi pulled his sleeping bag from the straps that held it to the field pack, unrolled it, pulled off his boots and crawled inside. Hank did the same.

“Good night old Friend.”

“Good night Pal.”

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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.

Black Medicine under the Night Skies

May 26, 2020
8 x 10″ watercolor barely underway

Good morning, blog reading friends. Right now, I’m sitting up in bed with my Cowboy Coffee (my usual morning ritual). I’m going to have to go on the road again, so this story will be paused for a short while.

For any of you new readers, let me introduce this. I have begun a series of short stories and watercolor illustrations I am calling Turvey’s Corner 63050. The zip code is invented, falling between the two Missouri towns of my youth (High Ridge 63049 and House Springs 63051, four miles apart along State Highway 30 west of St. Louis). The stories are loosely based on details from my past life along with my friend since second grade Wayne White (another blogger as well-https://ramblingsofafarrier.com/)

I can honestly say I don’t have a clearcut plan for this cycle. I just feel compelled to write these stories and make these paintings. Perhaps someday they could mature into a book, but for the meantime they are doing my soul a world of good. If you find anything of value in reading them, then that pleases me as well. Thank you for your interest.

__________________________________________

The pair of wandering mendicants finally reconnected yesterday in Lubbock as Randy disembarked from the Greyhound bus and spotted Hank at a nearby bench waiting for him, his backpack at his feet. Now, twenty-four hours later, they were on the caprock beneath the night skies, drinking cowboy coffee by the fire.

“Hank my friend, how in the world do you make coffee taste this good on an open fire? I’ve drunk bad coffee more times than I care to remember, you know, the stuff that burns in your chest for hours after drinking? This is really good stuff. And you cooked it in an open urn. No percolating. And it’s really smooth stuff. How do you pull this off?”

“You can thank old Lizzie Allen at the freight depot in Sweetwater. I dropped by there last year on my way out here, got a bite to eat, and this recipe for the best coffee I’ve ever made. I’ll show you how to do it. I think we should brand and market this, call it Paezhuta Sapa.

“What in hell is that?”

“Black Medicine. It’s what the Ogalala Sioux called it a long time ago.”

“Well, if you put it on a label, I think ‘Black Medicine’ will market better than whatever that other name was. Do you even know how to spell it?”

“No. But I like how it sounds.”

“When did you learn about the Sioux?”

“Oh, I’ve just been picking up stuff here and there since I came out this way. You know, I never had any interest in Native American life before. Cowboy and Indian movies were my only exposure growing up, and that Hollywood crap wore off by the time I was in junior high. But I never had an interest in the real culture of these first Americans until I watched something on Dick Cavett a couple of years back.”

“I never watched late night television. Native American stuff on Cavett?”

“He interviewed John Neihardt, the one who wrote Black Elk Speaks a long time ago. It just came out with a third edition because everybody was buying and reading it. I picked it up in paperback at Waldenbooks at South County but never read it. The only reason I brought it with me out here was because of my interest in the history of Turvey’s Corner. You know it was Osage Indians who murdered the first inhabitants of our town. Once I decided to come out this way, I decided I would try to find out more about the pre-history of this country.”

“Were you always interested in history?”

“Not really. In fact, in school I wasn’t interested much in anything, to tell you the truth.”

“That’s certainly true of me. But you always made better grades than I, and seemed to be with the program.”

“Nah. I just gamed the system, did enough work to pass.”

“Well, look at us now. Real success stories, yeah?”

“Might be. Why don’t we raise a cup of Black Medicine to the stars and chant awhile?”

“So. What exactly is your angle on this Native American quest? Reverend Elton said you were on a vision quest.”

“Frankly, I’m not too sure what that is, exactly. All I can say for now is that I have a genuine interest in their religious perspective, grounded more in their observations of nature. Church back home never really did it for me, and my friends on college campuses were getting stirred up by the Jesus People. I just thought I would get away from Turvey’s Corner and St. Louis to see what was out here under the open skies. See if I can glean words with more meaning than ‘Far out'”.

Randy laughed out loud, took another draw from his coffee cup, and looked up into the stars as Hank continued:

“Of course I don’t have all the religious background that you have. What are you now, by the way, a recycled theologian?”

“More of a re-tooled one, actually. I hadn’t given much thought to Native American religions, but I cannot honestly say that church life ever really penetrated to my inner life. College and seminary opened me up in ways that I’m thankful. But I have far more questions than answers when it comes to religion. I’m grateful that they taught me Greek and I packed my New Testament along with me. I’ve done a little translating on the bus along the way. But I’m also getting a lot from this theologian Karl Barth. I brought along one of his books, and now the Reverend has given me a second one. So I’ve got plenty to chew while we’re out here.”

Resuming the Hank Chapter for Turvey’s Corner

March 31, 2020
Hank on the Road

There was only one firm spot in my world at that moment, one solid, endurable thought: I did not wish to go on the way I had been going.

Peter London, Drawing Closer to Nature: Making Art in Dialogue with the Natural World

This new painting has been in my blood for days, and finally I have a start on it. It marks the continuation of my work on the Turvey’s Corner 63050 series I began in 1999. The subject focuses on Hank as he leaves Turvey’s Corner in search of meaning for his previously sheltered, uneventful life. The quote above from Peter London could well have been authored by Hank himself late that night in the filling station when he decided he was leaving town in the morning.

Hank is my alter ego. I left home in 1972 to enter college, in that day feeling just as lost and rootless, and I never returned to my hometown to live. Hank, according to my Turvey’s Corner series, leaves home after a short time studying at the community college and working nights in the filling station. As he hitchhikes along Route 66 he senses a Presence watching over him. High on the hill overlooking him, I am going to place an Osage warrior on an Appaloosa mount. Osage Indians massacred the first settlers of Turvey’s Corner in March 1800. The spirit watching over him now is the spirit of the Native American, of Homer, of John Muir, of any wandering mendicant seeking a place to anchor his life.

As the coronavirus continues to keep us close to home, I am pleased to have a sense of purpose in working on my art. One day I am confident that I will re-enter our community, and when I do, I intend to have a large body of new work to put in my galleries and festival booths. If there is any upside to this Shelter-at-Home lifestyle, it is the freedom to pursue my art with no appointments or expectations binding me.

Thanks 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.

Constructing my own Narrative

June 21, 2019

church hotel 2

“Early Sunday Stroll” No. 3 of the Turvey’s Corner 63050 Series

There was no culture, you know, in Spoon River,

And I burned with shame and held my peace.

                                . . . and pray for another

Birth in the world, with all of Spoon River

Rooted out of my soul.

Edgar Lee Masters, Spoon River Anthology

For the past week, I have spent every day chipping away at this watercolor of the view along Palestine’s N. Queen Street that passes between the Sacred Heart Catholic Church and the Redlands Hotel (the Gallery at Redlands is on the first floor of the historic hotel).  Along with my painting has come a surge of reading and writing.

Earlier this year I purchased Julia Cameron’s It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again. This book encourages the recently retired to compose their memoirs. While working on mine, I decided to re-shape the narratives of my memories into fiction stories to accompany the paintings I am working on for my new project Turvey’s Corner 63050. This series is my own autobiography in paintings and reworked fiction narratives. The painting above is the third of this new series.

While working on my stories, and reading for inspiration, I struck gold this week, mostly from Rich Karlgaard’s Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement , Edgar Lee Masters, Spoon River Anthology and Larry McMurtry, Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen: Reflections on Sixty and Beyond. 

Karlgaard wrote that late bloomers are natural storytellers. He added: “In our personal lives, we think in stories, talk in stories, communicate in stories, and dream in stories.”

It’s safe to say that the default mode of human cognition is narrative. We instinctively make reason out of chaos and assign causality to all the random events that make up our lives. Stories help us do that. . . . We impose a narrative structure on otherwise random sequences of events until they cohere in a way that makes sense to us and that we can manage.

Reading these words set off a firestorm of creative eros within me and I found myself pouring out my memories on the pages of my journal and then reshaping them into fiction narratives. Opening the Spoon River Anthology, I  began reading the lengthy Introduction by John E. Hallwas and found with delight the following testimony of the editor who discovered Masters and published his work in his own magazine:

But it was left to Edgar Lee Masters to take all this, or as much of it as suited his purposes, and fuse it and shape it into an artistic creation. . . . He saw and knew his Spoon River so well that when he came to write it out of himself, with his personality added to what he saw and knew, he wrote the life of man everywhere, or at least everywhere in America.

William Marion Reedy, Reedy’s Mirror, November 20, 1914

For the past twenty-four hours, I have found it difficult deciding between painting and reading Spoon River Anthology. So much of the testimony matches up with experiences I have known growing up in my part of the midwest. In the weeks ahead, I hope to continue adding stories and paintings to the blog as I probe this new venture. While working on this, I feel the presence of others looking over my shoulder and affirming my efforts, namely the great writers Thornton Wilder, Sherwood Anderson, Sinclair Lewis, William Faulkner and Garrison Keillor. Hazel also watches . . .

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Hazel, my favorite Jack Russell Terrier, overseeing the blog

Number 1

No. 1 in the Series

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No. 2 in the Series

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to explore.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.