Posts Tagged ‘Turvey’s Corner’

Final Preparations for a Watercolor Class

August 23, 2020
Finishing Touches for Tomorrow’s Class

Tomorrow (Monday August 24) I’ll be teaching a watercolor class from 2-5:00. We’ll paint a Route 66 motel that was torn down years ago. A few seats are still available if any of you in the area would like to participate. For $55 I’ll supply all materials to paint an 8 x 10″ watercolor on stretched paper. The reference photo we’ll use is a painting I’ve done recently:

Ozark Court Motel, Stanton, Missouri

For anyone interested in attending, you will need to phone Gracie Lane boutique at (817) 468-5263 to reserve your seat. The class will be taught in the boutique building which also houses our Show Me the Monet art gallery, at 4720 S Cooper St, Arlington, TX 76017.

I have rewritten my story from the Turvey’s Corner manuscript that I hope will one day be a book. I’ll post the re-write below:

Sunday morning rays of sunshine lanced through the slits in the closed blinds of Room 18 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 New 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 once thought he was going to discard when 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 along a shore or down a dusty Palestinian street. Would he be solitary, seated in the wilderness, or thronged by a clinging crowd? Or did Randy just wish to hear as he translated the texts this morning? What would he hear? The voice of Jesus resonating in a synagogue, or speaking softly inside 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 calm voice going out over the water while disciples pulled at the oars?

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

Outside the motel, traffic was heard murmuring along Route 66 below 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 weeks as she edged closer and closer to this day—the nation’s bicentennial. No doubt Randy’s former seminary friends—preacher friends—had been wrenching themselves into a frenzy over what to preach on this Special Sunday. Randy breathed serenely, no longer trapped in that vise of psychological pressure. Still he wondered. What exactly would he have said today, standing before a congregation?

Opening his small volume, he read at leisure, allowing his mind to drift down pleasant corridors of memory as naturally as a canoe in a gentle stream. To this day he was thankful to have learned Koinē Greek. He recalled that first semester of structured recitation, vocabulary, and functional grammar. It was forbidden to purchase and attempt to read a Greek New Testament; the objective for the first semester was functional literacy. As children learn to speak their language before learning to read and understand the technical architecture of grammar, so the Professor endeavored to train his students to recognize 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 entered the lecture hall without a word, set his books on his desk, turned to the blackboard, picked up the chalk, and scrawled the following:

Sitting at his desk in the third row, Randy leaned forward earnestly and stared at the words. As if scales had fallen from his eyes, he recognized 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 fixing his eyes on their faces, 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. He was certain that he was re-living the spirit of the eighteenth-century Age of Enlightenment, Die Aufklärung. Life for him 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, years ago, Randy felt 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 was Sunday? Because it was the Fourth of July? Because the country was 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 he had always sought direction from a strong leader. His father, his pastor, his professors, and a few years ago 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 from 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 fill to capacity 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 recent sojourn had undoubtedly added more strings to his life’s instrument. No doubt this was the reason he was not attending church this auspicious morning or any morning for that matter. Virtually everything delivered from pulpits he had heard before. Indeed, he was beginning to write out such tired words in his own sermons before he quit.

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.

Turvey’s Corner was only thirty-five miles away. Randy had hoped to reach home yesterday, but the nasty rains hindered his ability to hitchhike with any consistency. The sight of the Ozark Court Motel and thought of a hot shower convinced him to stay at least one night here. Feeling refreshed and rejuvenated this morning, he decided he would step into the sunshine on this Independence Day and head back to his hometown. Perhaps Hank was already there.

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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.

Randy Seeks Out the Reverend

May 17, 2020
Our Savior Lutheran Church

Life moves on its course in its vast uncertainty and we move with it, even though we do not see the great question-mark that is set against us. Men are lost, even though they know nothing of salvation. Then the barrier remains a barrier and does not become a place of exit. The prisoner remains a prisoner and does not become the watchman.

Karl Barth, The Epistle to the Romans

It was Sunday morning when Randy got off the Greyhound bus in downtown Dallas. He did this for a reason: Hank had written him a two-page letter nearly a year ago, a week after sending the postcard. He was thrilled over the conversation he had had with a Lutheran minister, so thrilled that he wrote the man as soon as he landed in Lubbock, thanking him for what he had said, and telling him he had a friend he hoped would one day get to meet him, a fellow Lutheran minister.

Though Randy had dropped out of the seminary and abandoned the “call” to ministry, he retrieved the letter that he’d saved and recalled that that minister had also attended Concordia Lutheran Seminary. Feeling somewhat lonely as a stranger in a strange land, Randy decided he would get off the bus while in Dallas and look up the minister.

Hank’s letter said the Reverend was at Our Savior Lutheran Church on the corner of West Clarendon & Gilpin. Thankfully, the city bus station was next door to Greyhound, so Randy strolled over to look up the route that would take him to this section of Dallas, a suburb called Oak Cliff.

As the city bus droned along the residential streets, Randy re-read his year-old letter from Hank.

The minister’s name is Elton Bauerkemper and he prefers to be called Elton. I really hope you get to meet him one day. He introduced to me this idea of living “a life of the Mind.” I had never heard that expression before. And what impressed me about him was his broad scope of reading, talking to me about Emerson, Thoreau, Wordsworth, Kerouac and Ginsberg. But I’ll be he’ll talk theology with you, since both of you attended the same Lutheran seminary. Who knows–maybe you had some of the same professors.

The bus came to a stop at the intersection of West Clarendon and Gilpin. It was 12:10. Church was dismissed and he could see a man in a black clerical robe standing on the front steps of the church shaking hands and talking to parishioners as they exited the building.

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Thank you for reading, and I hope you are enjoying this story as it unfolds. If you haven’t read the background for this Dallas Lutheran encounter, the titles of previous blogs are “Church and Introspction in Dallas” (April 8) and “In the Minister’s Study” (April 9).

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Westward on the Greyhound

May 16, 2020

Here is my latest installment of the Hank & Randy saga . . . (two stories precede this on my blog)

8 x 10″ watercolor

You moved out from the city?  I don’t blame you. In a world where they can split a tiny atom and blow up hundreds of thousands of people there’s no telling where it’s all going to lead. Best to find a quiet place and do what you have to do.

From the motion picture Pollock

Oklahoma. Randy gazed tiredly out the window of the moving Greyhound bus as it cleared the small town of Vinita. Squinting across the prairie under a bright sun, he tried to visualize Hank camped beneath the stars there eleven months ago.

He pulled from his pocket the postcard saved from the day he received it.

Randy,

Oklahoma stars are winking at me tonight in Vinita. I found a stretch of wide open prairie to sleep on.

More later,

Hank

Smiling now, Randy decided it was time to read. He still had hours of travel rolling out in front of him. Taking his field pack down from the overhead rack, he drew out his tattered volume of Karl Barth’s Epistle to the Romans. This along with his Greek New Testament was all he retained from his seminary years.

The barrier marks the frontier of a new country . . . Looking up from his book, Randy mused over the barriers that had hampered him. Until now. Turvey’s Corner was virtually a town hemmed in by a Medieval wall to keep out cultural invaders. Lutheran piety sheltered him from “the things of this world” his church leaders continually reminded him. College could have been an “opening up” for him, but he simply found the Jesus People wall a substitute for the Medieval one. Once out of college, he withdrew once again into the Lutheran fortress, in fact Luther’s Wartburg castle. Inside those walls, he studied his Greek New Testament, believing he had finally found genuine sanctuary.

And then, he read Karl Barth. In that second year of seminary study, Randy experienced the equivalent of Europe’s eighteenth-century Enlightenment, Die Aufklärung, the clearing. The scales fell from his eyes, and he felt he was looking at life squarely for the first time, like Matthew Arnold’s record of the ancient Greek “who saw life steadily, and saw it whole.”

With that Enlightenment came a heavy price: a young marriage and an established profession. Randy continued reading from Barth: But the activity of the community is related to the Gospel only in so far as it is no more than a crater formed by the explosion of a shell and seeks to be no more than a void in which the Gospel reveals itself.

Closing the book, Randy leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes, recalling all Professor Kirkpatrick had shared in the theology seminar last year. Barth’s commentary, written during the first World War, “fell like a bomb on the playground of the theologians,” wrote Karl Adam. Randy sighed deeply, thinking over the ramifications of the crater left in his life by recent convictions and decisions. As he journeyed westward, he wondered, what would now fill this enormous cavity opened up in his life?

Randy recalled Hank’s final words as he was saying good-bye to Turvey’s Corner nearly a year ago. Continually citing Thoreau’s Walden, Hank shared with Randy on that final day that Thoreu walked away from his parents and friends who continually hounded him with questions such as “When are you going to make something of yourself? With your Harvard degree, why don’t you get a job? When are you ever going to grow up and take responsibility?” Hank’s words before he turned to walk toward the highway leading from town still whispered in Hank’s memory:

Thoreau moved to Walden Pond in order to clear the cobwebs that clogged the ductwork of his daily consciousness. This is the only way epiphany could happen, by entering the Great Silence. I’ll get back to you soon, my Friend.

Closing his book, Randy stretched in his seat and closed his eyes for a nap. He was entering the Great Silence, no longer afraid of the crater.

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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.

Shed the Burden and Travel Light

May 15, 2020
Leaving Town

During the work it was often as though I were being looked at by something from afar, from Asia Minor or Corinth, something very ancient, early oriental, indefinably sunny, wild, original, that somehow is hidden behind these sentences and is so ready to let itself be drawn forth by ever new generations.

Karl Barth, Letter dated September 27, 1917 to his friend Eduard Thurneysen

“If ya ask me, a fellah should be able to fit everything he owns into one of these. Ten bucks.”

The middle-aged veteran tossed the field pack down from the shelf of the Army/Navy Store. Randy caught it and was surprised that the twisted mass of green canvas and wagging straps wasn’t heavier than it appeared to the eye. The retired soldier climbed down from the ladder and stood there silently at attention as Randy examined the merchandise.

Feeling the cold stare from the pale blue eyes of the warrior, Randy nevertheless sensed the disciplined patience of a man well seasoned, and took his time looking over every compartment, every buckle and stitch of the pack. No one else was in the store, and there was no hurry. Randy needed to be sure he was selecting the right gear for the journey waiting ahead.

“I’ll take it. I need to look at some mess gear as well. And a sleeping bag.”

Hank had phoned collect less than two hours ago. Already Randy Singleton had determined he would leave Turvey’s Corner to join his lifelong friend. Would he be coming back? Maybe, but hopefully not for a long time. The town no longer felt like home as he had moved away to attend college six years ago, and upon graduation, chose to live in St. Louis nearly an hour away. Being married to one not from here, there had been little reason to linger any longer in Turvey’s Corner.

Randy was no longer the young idealist that left the small town in 1966. At college five hours away, he had experienced a profound, existential loneliness. It was not just that he was separated from his parents and homelife; something much more debilitating crippled him–that feeling of being lost in an unfamiliar world seemingly unaware of him and harboring no regard for his achievement or failure.

Then the Jesus People embraced him. This West Coast movement that Midwesterners derided as “freaks” enveloped his small, rural state college campus like a warm quilt during those gray winter months, and Randy for the first time in his life felt accepted and regarded by a large number of peers.

After two months of nightly prayer gatherings, praise meetings featuring live acoustic guitar and enthusiastic singing, Bible study rap sessions, and coffee house leisure, Randy accepted the “call” to serve Christ. Suddenly his college studies paled in interest; he only wanted to pore over the Scriptures. His life had in every sense converted–he was on a radically different couse than he had ever known before.

Graduation came quickly, it seemed. The four years were a blur, and suddenly the Jesus People evaporated, many of them migrating further East, some quitting, most graduating and scattering to the winds to find employment. Suddenly wihout a community, without a support group, Randy was alone and directionless. Again. He held in his hand a college degree with a teacher’s certificate, but felt no inclination to enter a classroom and collect a monthly minimal paycheck. There had to be something more.

Returning to Turvey’s Corner, Randy determined that he did not want to be a teacher come fall. So what else could he do? Sitting up late one night with his boyhood friend Hank, the possibility of seminary study came up. Having been raised Lutheran, he was aware of Concordia Seminary in the St. Louis region an hour away. Why not? More schooling didn’t seem such a bad idea. Better than going to work as a schoolteacher.

Concordia was a campus that seemed to have more regard for Randy’s welfare than the state college he had endured before. Had it not been for the Jesus People, he would not have felt any depth of concern for his well-being. This was different. Support groups abounded. He never felt alone, and in his second semester he met Debbie, a secretary in the Office of Admissions with southeast Missouri roots. Her lifelong dream was to be a minister’s wife. The small-town chemistry between the two seemed solid, and ten months later they were married.

Then came the earthquake. In the third and final year of seminary study, a profound change came over Randy. He didn’t feel comfortable confiding in anyone what was happening, but in June 1972, Randy knew for certain that he would not be entering the ministry. When approached for ordination, he quietly said “No” to his elders. Debbie was shakened to the foundations. For years she had embraced dreams of church life, of social engagements, community organization, and Lutheran practices. She dreamt of children nurtured in a Christian home and a loving pastoral husband. Suddenly, Randy was saying “No.” Why? Everyone asked. Randy wouldn’t answer.

Tomorrow would be September 27. Randy was buying supplies and would board a Greyhound bus in the morning to roll toward the Southwest and renew aquainance with Hank. And maybe he would be able to talk about this.

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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.

It is Now “Hank and Randy”

May 14, 2020
Hank & Randy

“Collect call from Hank Shelton, will you accept?”

“Yes.”

“Randy?”

“Hank! Is that really you?! Where the hell you calling from?”

“Lubbock, Texas. Can you believe it?”

“Jesus! How’d you get so far away?”

“Long story, and this call’s gonna cost you already.”

“Are you alright?”

“Aw yeah. Things are good. I just wanted to hear a friend’s voice. I’m all by myself still. How ‘bout you. Seminary treatin’ you right?”

“I dropped out.”

“What?!”

“Yeah. And Debbie and I are through too.”

“No!”

“Yeah. Lot’s changed since you left.”

“Sorry.”

“Don’t be. I think this is gonna be the right thing.”

“Hang in there, buddy.”

“Hey, Hank.”

“Yeah?”

“Call me back in a couple days, promise. After 5:00 when I’m off work.”

“O.K., sure.”

“I wanna come out there where you are.”

“Really? You’re kidding!”

“No, really. I need a change. Bad.”

“You’ll hear from me, promise.”

“Thanks for calling, pal. I’m gonna tie up some loose ends here and get ready to hit the road, so call me. We’re gonna raise some sand!”

After weeks of traveling between Lubbock and Arlington, Texas and working on this house daily, I was struck with a new idea yesterday to continue my Hank saga. Enter Randy Singleton, Hank’s friend since second grade.

In answer to friends who have asked “Who is Hank, really?” my reply is that Hank has been a combination of my life and my friend Wayne White since second grade. Thanks to Facebook, we found each other a few years ago after being separated since high school graduation. Since then we have camped together, fished together, and sat up all night telling stories. Wayne still lives in Missouri, so I don’t see him nearly as often as I wish. But he also keeps a blog (https://ramblingsofafarrier.com/) and we stay in close touch.

My stories and paintings hit a snag recently, not only because of this move back and forth between two cities five hours apart, but because I ran out of steam with Hank always being alone and my having to create interior monologues. I knew he needed a companion. So . . . I am now introducing Randy and will attempt to flesh out their separate identities as they prepare to join each other on the road.

The painting posted above is of Wayne and me, camping. I created it a couple of summers ago. I already have plans for the next painting of the pair of characters for the story, but I have yet to start that actual painting. Hopefully, it won’t be long. Since yesterday I have written three brand new stories of this pair, and plan to launch them soon, after some more editing.

Thanks always for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Hank at the General Store

April 16, 2020
?

Good morning, blog readers. I’ve been away from posting the last few days, working on a new segment of my Hank series. I am posting the story below with a painting I did from my days staying in the residence of an old general store. It has inspired me to create such a story for the Hank cycle. The new painting I am creating to illustrate Hank sitting and thinking in front of the general store is still very undeveloped and not ready to put on view. As it shapes up, I will be posting the progress of it, and most likely editing this story further.

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The journey from the Caprock fire site to the city of Lubbock took most of the day. Highway 84 was light on traffic and even lighter on motorists willing to pick up a hitchhiker looking like he had just emerged from the wilderness. As evening encroached upon the college town, Hank decided on a quality night’s sleep in a small roadside motel south of town. A shower and clean shirt would also make him look less threatening in public.

The following morning surprised him. Late October in Texas was not what he had known growing up in Missouri. Here, a bright sun-splashed morning with a hint of autumn weather embraced him, not the biting frost he had known all his life this time of year. Crane’s General Store lay on the quiet southern border of Lubbock, the traffic occasional on the farm-to-market road stretched out front. On either side of the store, long stretches of farm and pastureland lay out flat as a carpet. The southern stretch, a cotton field, looked as though it were covered in freshly fallen snow under the autumnal sun, the low horizon providing a bright azure sky with no clouds. The cool winds brought acrid smells of tractor exhaust and he saw the rusty Allis-Chalmers chugging along the barren field north of the store.

Inside the dim interior of the store, Hank noticed immediately the pot-bellied stove, not yet needed for winter, but already on standby. The brightly clashing colors of canned and cartoned essentials lined the tidied shelves, ready for his restocking before hitting the road again. The sight of the meat counter took Hank way, way back to Proustian remembrances of Marlin’s store down the road from his grandparents’ farm in southeast Missouri. The Marlin family lived in the back of the store, and Hank now noticed a door behind the meat counter that separated the Crane residence from the actual store. It reminded him of the residence he left behind in Turvey’s Corner less than a month ago.

Mrs. Crane (call me Annie) was a gracious soul in her late years, her silver-colored hair stretched tightly back into a neat bun, her white apron already stained from the foods she had been preparing for customers throughout the morning. Conversation with her was warm and inviting, and he learned that this store had been established during World War I, and had never been out of business, handed down through the generations of Cranes living on the southside of Lubbock. Hank had not entered a store such as this since the late 1950’s and the mental journey back into his personal history filled him with a warmth that he needed this particular morning.

Peering at the items beneath the glass, Hank ordered a pair of sandwiches to be prepared, one for now, the other to be wrapped in wax paper for later. Bologna and sharp cheddar cheese were sliced on the old white Hobart machine. The bread also was sliced from a loaf and slathered with mustard and mayonnaise. Each of the pair of sandwiches was completed with a slice of yellow onion, a slice of fresh tomato from the garden out back, and some lettuce. Glass bottles of Coke were collected from the big red box at the front of the store. Hank thanked Annie for the warm moment and stepped out to the front porch.

A row of freshly painted Warmack steel lawn chairs lined the shaded portion of the store, waiting for company. Setting down his backpack, Hank settled into one of the chairs, took out one of his sandwiches, and, forgetting to open his Coke, went back into the store to find an opener on the front of the red box. Now, it was time to chew the sandwich slowly and resume his reading of Emerson from the volume of essays the minister gave him a few days ago. “Self-Reliance” titled an essay that Hank thought could be appropriate for this stage of his life’s journey.

Ne te quaesiviris extra.

“Do not seek outside yourself.” Brushing back tears, Hank paused as a wave of cathartic emotion overtook him without warning. Throughout his life, he had harbored an inferiority complex. He never regarded himself as physically attractive, he was not athletic in school and not popular either. From his early childhood, his family had lived in rural settings with no neighborhoods of children with whom to bond and play. Hank, an only child, had spent his childhood years alone, and once entering school, never really knew how to reach out to his classmates. Remaining quiet during class discussions, he listened with envy to his peers answering all questions and bravely leading out with their opinions on literature assigned. And so, to add to his physical appearance and lack of sociability, Hank harbored this notion of being intellectually inferior. Time spent working in the gas station did not improve his social condition; proprietors were all old men who talked and laughed with each other, while Hank stood in the background looking on. His entire life was spent measuring himself against the standard of what he saw in others, always concluding that his own spirit had been weighed and found wanting.

And now he was here, seventeen hours from his home, afoot. Why? To think, and not be surrounded by the people he had seen all his life but who never really seemed to see him. Out west, Hank was finding time, space and a feel for destiny. No longer would he have to listen to Mom asking “When are you going to make something of your life?” or Dad commenting that Hank was O.K., just had been sheltered all his life and now had no clue what to do with it. The other day, the Reverend told Hank: “God made you, and God doesn’t make junk. Read Emerson’s Self-Reliance. It’s time to start believing in yourself.”

To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men,–that is genius.

One reason Hank was ready to listen to Emerson with his whole heart came from a fact the Reverend had surprised him with in conversation: the reality that Emerson was a nominal student in school, not a class standout by anyone’s standards. In college as well, Emerson did not impress his mentors. What essentially set him apart as an American sage was this indwelling determination that he had quality to share with anyone who would listen. Hank was now listening.

A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his.

Emerson was now calling out Hank in the most provocative way. In school all those years, Hank always thought his ideas were wrong and inferior because they did not match what his teachers and peers were saying aloud. Now, for the first time, he was embracing his ideas because they were his. People don’t go out on the open road with no advanced planning. But this is what Hank was doing, right now, and for the first time he was ready to believe in its value.

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More later . . . thanks for reading and please check out my website at 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.

Westward Wanderings with Hank

April 11, 2020

Good morning. I’m thrilled to announce I have broken new ground with a watercolor of Hank enjoying coffee by the fire (written in the previous blog). The painting is underway, but there isn’t enough to show viewers just yet. However, my mind keeps wandering while painting, and so another Hank story has taken shape. I’m going to share it now–the events preceding Hank’s coffee by the fire. When we read a novel, we enjoy the linear progression of events. However, in many cases, the author did not write it that way. More often than not, many scenes were written out, and the progression was arranged before the final draft and publication. These words from N. Scott Momaday say it much better than I ever could:

I perceive the writings herein as the pieces of a whole, each one the element of an intricate but unified design. They are the facets of a verbal prism, if you will, patterns like the constellations.

N. Scott Momaday, Man Made of Words

And so it is with Hank. He only showed up in my writings weeks ago, though some of his stories were written years ago. Now I am piecing together and editing these into a narrative, all the while skipping back and forth from future to past to present. One day I hope to have a book of these stories and illustrations organized to share. Meanwhile, I’m glad to release the fragments as they emerge.

The draft of the following story immediately precedes the events I shared in Hank’s life yesterday, and the painting posted above is a plein air watercolor I did a couple of years ago in Caprock Canyon.

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Hank thanked the driver who picked him up on Insterstate 20 as he got out of the sedan in Sweetwater, Texas. Hank didn’t feel too self-conscious about his appearance, knowing he had showered and put on clean clothes just this morning before saying Good-bye to Uncle Leo in Dallas. Catching the eye of a local old-timer on the sidewalk, Hank said he just hit town and was looking for a decent place to eat.

The old gentleman said “Ya can’t beat Mrs. Lizzie Allen at the freight depot over there” he said, gesturing toward the next intersection, a freight depot at Broadway and Oak. Hank thanked the gentleman and in a few moments found himself seated at a small cafe table. Mrs. Allen not only served up the best fried chicken, fresh okra, corn on the cob, with mashed potatoes and gravy; she also sat down after pouring him fresh coffee and opened up the conversation:

Where are you off to, good lookin’? Hank realized his large backpack identified himself as transient.

“Don’t really know for sure. Left St. Louis three weeks ago and decided to see what was out west.”

“Well, if you want civilization as well as wide open spaces, I’d recommend Lubbock. Just go a little further west on 20 then veer north on 84. Pretty countryside if you like mesas and canyons.”

“Well, I think I know where I’m going now. I love your coffee. Would you happen to know how to make this over a campfire? I tried it a few weeks ago and didn’t much like what I swallowed.”

His stomach filled, a ham sandwich wrapped in wax paper from Mrs. Allen tucked neatly inside his pack, and instructions on how to make cowboy coffee, Hank was ready now to head up Highway 84.

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More later. Thanks for reading, and please check out my website at http://www.davidtrippart.com

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog knowing I am not alone.

Caprock Enchantment

April 10, 2020

Good morning, friends. West Texas temperatures are dropping, and it appears that we will experience some winter weather over Easter. This morning I finished a first draft of my continuing Hank saga and wanted to post it before starting my next painting to illustrate it. I anticipate some changes to the story while painting, but decided to let you in on a sneak preview. Thanks always for reading.

Hank felt rested tonight. After packing his gear to depart Dallas this morning, he made a last-minute decision to invest some of his money in a bus ticket. Hopping a Greyhound at the downtown terminal, he rolled westward for hours, dozing in his seat most of the way. Getting out in Abilene, he then thumbed a pair of rides further west on Interstate 20, getting out where state highway 84 branched northward into the caprock escarpment. Once the territory began taking on the look of western movies, Hank decided to get out where there were no towns, trek off the highway several miles, following an arroyo back between a pair of plateaus. Dropping his backpack, taking off his hat and gazing across the afternoon terrain, Hank welcomed the caress of the cooling west winds in his face. He was glad he decided to leave his suitcase with Uncle Leo. The backpack carried all he needed for travel, and Dallas, for the meantime, could be his homing site. Leo seemed lonely, and Hank felt a need to check in with him from time to time.

October was cool in west Texas, but not yet cold. Hank decided this narrow place nested between two cliffs would make a nice bedroom for the night. Time to make a fire. Gathering clumps of dried grasses, he fashioned a small bowl and lined the bottom with cotton balls soaked in Vaseline that he kept stored in 35mm film cannisters in one of his backpack pouches. Then we walked about, gathering small sticks and dried branches and a larger chunk of wood that may have once been a fence post. Hank was glad he had packed a hatchet left behind by old Philosopher Bob back home. He made quick work, chopping the fence post down to several chunks.

While Hank was wandering and gathering, his mind continued to recall snatches of conversation from yesterday’s time with Reverend Elton. Conversion. Hank was startled that the minister regarded him as thoughtful, perhaps philosophical. As a parting gift of goodwill, Elton handed Hank a small volume of Emerson’s essays and encouraged him to read them thoughtfully while on the road. Before falling asleep on the bus, Hank read the following from Emerson’s Nature:

To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society. I am not solitary whilst I read and write, though nobody is with me. But if a man would be alone, let him look at the stars.

The fact is this: Hank has always been alone. But reading the Emerson passage made him realize for the first time that solitude was not a scourge when he was on the road or under the stars; it was a scourge in Turvey’s Corner, where he felt that he had never fit, not at school, not at the gas station, not at church, not even at gatherings among friends. Hank was solitary, and now it was alright.

Laying his gatherings down in a pile beside the nest, Hank opened one of the pouches of his backpack and drew out a magnesium rod. Bending over the nest and striking the rod with his Bowie knife, he watched sparks shower into the nest until the cotton balls combusted. Blowing on the small flame while sheltering it with his hat from the west Texas evening winds, he kept feeding dried grasses, then the small twigs, and then carefully stacked the chunks of fence post.

The minister’s voice again was in Hank’s ears: “Hank, I really believe that you are about to embark on a life-changing odyssey. I don’t know if you’ve read or taken an interest in Homer’s Odyssey. It might mean more to you when you’re thirty than twenty-one. At any rate, Odysseus, after being away from home ten years because of that bloody war, spent the next ten years of his life on an odyssey, a journey if you please, trying to find his way back home, to Ithaca. High school students don’t generally find the work very relevant, but the older we get, the more we realize that our life is a journey seeking our genuine home, the center of the self. It is a journey of self-discovery. I believe all humans have that restlessness in their souls, but few act on it. It seems to me that you are now acting on it; you are setting out on a journey away from your temporal home into a land of dizzying freedom, with no one to talk to but yourself, and whatever great minds from the past you care to visit through their writings. Away from the clatter of meaningless gossip you hear among your daily peers, you now can enter the great Silence of the West, gaze into the stars at night, and with no appointments or deadlines, determine just exactly who you are and what you want from life. My advice to you is, don’t come back till you reach Ithaca.”

Once the fire was well underway, Hank pulled out his canteen and coffee pot, poured in the water along with the ground coffee, placed the pot on a flat stone in the fire and waited for the mixture to come to a rolling boil. He also fished out a can of Beanie Weenies picked up at a small grocery in Abilene, poured the contents into a camping pan, and set it in the ashes to warm. After ten minutes, he then poured a little canteen water down the spout and around the inner edges of the coffeepot to settle the grounds to the bottom.

Under the chandelier of stars in the west Texas sky, Hank tasted the best coffee he had ever brewed, and sat back in the darkness, listening to coyotes yipping in the distance. Though several miles from highway 84, he could still barely hear the noise of an occasional truck droning along. Solitude. Supper was finally ready.

In the embrace of the caprock night, Hank continued pondering the ideas brought forward by Pastor Elton.

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I’m feeling a genuine renewal, working daily on this Hank story and finding new ideas to paint. Today I plan to begin the 8 x 10″ watercolor illustrating the draft of the story posted today. I hope you are enjoying the story, and look forward to sharing the painting as it takes shape.

When you get the chance, please check out my website at http://www.davidtrippart.com

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

In the Minister’s Study (continued)

April 9, 2020

Hank was intrigued. Conversion? Where exactly was this conversation with the Reverend going?

The minister continued: “Jesus said, ‘Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.'”

“Yeah, I’ve heard that all my life. But I never got what it means about becoming as little children. And no one ever explained it, I guess assuming we all knew what that meant. But I never did.”

“I’m not sure your preacher or Sunday School teachers knew or even thought about it either. I’m suspicious that folks are more comfortable memorizing and quoting scripture than studying its message. I never really gave this scripture much critical thought myself until my Professor of Theology told us one day: ‘You future clergymen are so obsessed with converting souls when you should be converting minds.’”

“O.K., there you go again. I’m not following you when you talk of conversion, implying that I’m experiencing such a thing right now.”

“You said you’ve read Thoreau. You should consider also reading Emerson, who was Thoreau’s mentor, along with Wordsworth, a major influence on Emerson. All three of these divines argued for the primacy of the child’s innocence and sense of wonder. It seems that adulthood as well as formal education succeed in driving the innocence and imagination clean out of a child as he matures. That is unfortunate, the loss of wonder, of curiosity, the brimming of the imagination. Wordsworth wrote that the child is father to the man. I believe that. And I concur with Einstein when he argued that imagination is more important than knowledge.”

“Well, you’ve given me quite a load to think about, and I appreciate it. Pardon me for saying it, but you don’t strike me as the typical man of the cloth.”

“That’s probably because of the climate of my generation. In the fifties and sixties, we were generally suspicious of authority and enforced conformity. It seems to me that your generation is more comfortable with rule-following. Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs—I think I learned more genuine theology from them than I did from Concordia Seminary.”

“You went to Concordia? I’m from St. Louis!”

“I was aware of that, but not sure that you—a Baptist—knew of my seminary and its theological persuasion. My Germanic heritage has made Lutheranism an easy fit for me generally, though I’ve been more sympathetic to the critical historical methodology the Germans have been infamous for applying since the eighteenth century. I sense that the general trend many refer to as ‘modernism’ is going to split the seminary pretty soon. I’m only glad I’m no longer there to take sides.”

“As a Baptist, I never heard mention of what you call modernism.”

“That’s not my label. Those who are suspicious of it, wishing to cling to traditional, conventional church standards use that word. If you haven’t gotten into it, you probably will if you stay inside the church life. I will go on record to say that, though I still consider myself a legitimate Lutheran in faith and practice, I owe a great debt to the outspoken minds of the fifties and sixties. My position is this—if you don’t understand the issues of existentialism, then you don’t really understand the twentieth century. But I guess that’s for another time, if you and I continue these chats.”

“Well, I do plan to leave in the next day or so. But I really believe I’ll be back, after I’ve had some time to digest what we’ve talked about today.”

“I hope you do come back. And if you do, please visit our church. I think you’d get a kick out of our organist, Linda Sterner. She’s probably got hurt feelings because I came down hard on her last Sunday for playing out of a Baptist Hymnal. I just feel that their chosen hymns lack the foundational depth than the ones Luther composed. But Linda is a free thinker and reminds me much of myself when I was clawing my way through the sixties. I did notice her carrying a volume of Ginsberg poems with her Bible a couple of weeks ago.”

“Well, thank you again, Elton. I believe I best be on my way.”

“It’s been my pleasure. Let me say one more thing, if I may: You say you are going on the road because you have not yet had a life. You complain that you haven’t traveled more than forty miles from home. I’d like to point out to you that the philosopher Immanuel Kant never traveled more than forty miles from his hometown either, yet his powerful ideas shifted the course of Western thought. Though not a traveler, he was fond of geography and read books on travel. Lecturing as Professor of Philosophy, he held his students spellbound, blending natural history, literature, physics and astronomy into his philosophical discourses. He truly lived a life of the mind. And I’m convinced that you are ready to convert now to that kind of a life. No doubt your travels will enrich you, filling you with new stories and insights, but Emerson reminded us that ‘though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.’ Whatever you do, just don’t stop reading, don’t narrow your interests, and please never stop questioning. Your greatest resource in your life’s odyssey is the imagination and curiosity you carry in your own mind. Never sell that short. And I wish you good fortune.”

I hope you enjoy this latest installment of the Hank cycle. My watercolor supplies were delivered today, and I’m excited about beginning the next painting and promise to keep you updated.

Thanks for reading, and please check out my website at 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.

Church and Introspection in Dallas

April 8, 2020
Our Savior Lutheran Church, est. 1947

Uncle Leo invited Hank to attend church with him every Sunday he was there for his three-week stay. On the final Sunday, Hank decided it would be polite to comply. Since Aunt Hattie died three years ago, Leo continued attending church alone, and Hank finally decided that refusing his invitations was insensitive.

Having been soaked in the Southern Baptist ethos of Turvey’s Corner, Hank remembered with the least affection the compulsory ecclesiastical attendance and participation enforced by his parents. Three weeks ago, lying under the stars on the Oklahoma plains, Hank suddenly realized it was Sunday, and felt more stirred in that moment than he had ever known in fifteen years of church attendance, including revival services.

Our Savior Lutheran Church sat on the corner of West Clarendon & Gilpin, a comfortable walk from Uncle Leo’s house. Hank was not accustomed to the liturgical nature of Lutheran worship, having known a comparatively folksy environment in the church of his own upbringing. But he did take notice of the organist Linda, thinking for a moment that perhaps he shouldn’t be so quick to leave town. He had anticipated going on the road in the morning.

Reverend Elton Bauerkemper was an overweight, bespectacled minister who fired a rather sustained fusillade of verbal fire and brimstone across the seated congregation, something they seemed to enjoy. Hank himself had had more than his share of that in his own past. But there was something else about this minister’s demeanor that attracted Hank, and he wasn’t sure exactly what it was. Perhaps it was a glimmer of intellectual authenticity within his words, or maybe it was something in his eye, something that telegraphed a man sensitive to the needs of individuals. Whatever it was, Hank decided before the sermon concluded that he desired an audience with the Reverend.

Hank didn’t leave in the morning. Instead, Tuesday afternoon found him seated in the minister’s study, surrounded by an imposing library of volumes comprised of theology, biblical studies, philosophy, literature, art history and natural science. Hank was also impressed that the study featured a pair of wingback chairs, and Reverend Bauerkemper (please, call me Elton) settled into one of the chairs instead of sitting behind his desk like a judge or attorney.

“So, Hank, what’s your story?”

“I don’t really have one, that’s why I’m on the road.”

“Leonard told me you were ‘passing through.’ You worked awhile, stuck some money in your pocket, and now you’re ready to roll again?”

“That’s right.”

“So, you don’t have a story, is that your point? Are you out looking for the ‘Meaning of Life?’”

“Well, I’m twenty-five and never traveled more than forty miles from my hometown. I never amounted to anything in school and only got into junior college because I showed promise as an artist. A few weeks back, an old man I always referred to as The Philosopher died. He was ninety. Old Bob remains the most remarkable man I’ve ever known because he was full of stories, having traveled broadly before returning to his hometown to live out his final twenty years. You could write a book from the stories he shared, and now that he’s gone, there doesn’t seem to be anybody else for me to look up to, and frankly, I’m afraid of living out a boring life in Turvey’s Corner and dying with nothing to remember or repeat.”

“Hank, I’m going to be straight with you. I talk to members of my congregation in confidence three-to-five times a week. They all have the same concerns—marital issues, adolescent rebellion, financial indiscretions—nobody seems to express any kind of awareness of a life of the mind.”

“Life of the mind? Explain.”

“Have you ever read Thoreau or Emerson?”

“Thoreau, yes. Walden. Emerson, no.”

“Those men lived a life of the mind—they didn’t have to travel and raise trouble to live a meaningful life. They drew their inspiration from books, but believed that they had their own unique and personal insights just as potent as the ones written by great authors who had gone before. The life of the mind occurs when one takes reading seriously and engrafts personal insights onto the ideas read. And the more they read, the more they weave these disparate threads of thoughts, inserting their own observations as well.”

“I guess I’ve never considered that. In school, I was always among the quiet, dumb crowd, sitting in the back of the room, letting the smart ones in class answer all the questions.”

“Yes, and I’ll lay you a week’s salary that the ‘smart ones’ only knew the answers to questions raised by the teacher. Did you ever think that anyone among your class elite ever had an original thought, or even bounced the ideas of two different authors off of each other?”

“No, I didn’t. And of course I myself never even thought of any of that, until this moment.”

“Hank, I truly believe you are experiencing a conversion, right now.”

“Oh, I’ve been baptized. Twice, actually. The first time as a ten-year-old. I didn’t know what I was doing, so I did it again when I was seventeen.”

“And still didn’t know what you were doing.”

“Uh, yeah, I guess you have a point. But what is this conversion you’re talking about now?”

(to be continued . . .)

I’m getting a kick out of this chapter of the Hank saga. I promise more as it comes to light. Thanks for reading and please check out my website http://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.