Posts Tagged ‘Walden’

Labor Day Fishing

September 2, 2019

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Canada Geese Keeping Me Company

Time is but the stream I go a–fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains. 

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

On this second September morning, I still find the west Texas world comparatively cooler than what I knew during August. I found a shady spot again at a playa around 8:00 this morning, and again found the carp cooperating. I managed to land three of them, and lost two more. After two hours, I decided to call it quits when I caught a channel catfish the size of my hand.

Sitting in the shade in a comfortable lawn chair, I felt gratitude for a world that seemed to slow down where I sat. I chose to leave the national news alone, knowing it would most likely be more of the same–an avalanche of frenetic reporting on the same catastrophes and national embarrassments that I’ve know far too many years now. In the nineteenth century, Thoreau expressed dismay for a country that was living too fast when he was writing his Walden manuscript:

It lives too fast. Men think that it is essential that the Nation have commerce, and export ice, and talk through a telegraph, and ride thirty miles an hour, without a doubt, whether they do or not; but whether we should live like baboons or like men, is a little uncertain.

Today I found comfort in reading an article the theologian Paul Tillich published in The Saturday Evening Post back in 1958. His assessment of the American culture was that we had become a people, driven by an industrial society and recent technological advancements, in a frenzied horizontal direction. We were driven to work harder, faster, and produce more and more. He opined that we had lost our vertical sense of depth and no longer thought about the deeper issues of life that matter.

Robert Pirsig, in his celebrated work Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, wrote that our national conversation, thanks to mass media, had gotten out of control, like a mighty river flooding its banks and running shallow, silting up with debris of no lasting value.

The Chautauquas were pushed aside by faster-paced radio, movies and TV, and it seems to me the change was not entirely an improvement. Perhaps because of these changes the stream of national consciousness moves faster now, and is broader, but it seems to run less deep. The old channels cannot contain it and in its search for new ones there seems to be growing havoc and destruction along its banks. In this Chautauqua I would like not to cut any new channels of consciousness but simply dig deeper into old ones that have become silted in with the debris of thoughts grown stale and platitudes too often repeated.

William Powers, in his book Hamlet’s Blackberry, warns that we will never achieve depth in our thinking if we are all the time distracted by our smartphones and tablets. Jumping from link to link, like a bird flitting from branch to branch, we find ourselves in a state of perpetual distraction, and never pause to reflect over the better elements of our lives. Two mornings of fishing have helped ease my mind as I’ve felt the stress growing due to a major presentation I am scheduled to make in exactly two weeks. Every day I work on this presentation, but thanks to the last two mornings of quiet fishing, I’ve found myself in a better state of mind and creativity to focus on the task that is coming on very quickly.

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The Carp were Active again this Morning

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Using my Size 13 Boot for Scale

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And then . . . there were the Little Ones

Thanks for reading.

 

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Morning Coffee with Dave & Thoreau

September 26, 2018

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The heroic books, even if printed in the character of our mother tongue, will always be in a language dead to degenerate times; and we must laboriously seek the meaning of each word and line, conjecturing a larger sense than common use permits out of what wisdom and valor and generosity we have. The modern cheap and fertile press, with all its translations, has done little to bring us nearer to the heroic writers of antiquity.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

This morning’s reading connected in several ways with the assignment I just released for my online course in Classical Judaism. I am asking my students to read arguments from Samson Raphael Hirsch, Samuel Holdheim and Abraham Geiger, three rabbis who benefited from both traditional Talmudic scholarship and a modern secular university education. Their upbringing taught them to focus with precision on the Hebrew texts from antiquity and then later to pursue a university education and listen to their contemporary world. In their arguments, they sought to translate the heart of Judaism to the current culture in which they found themselves living and responding.

Translating requires a round trip between here and the world of the ancient text. Martin Heidegger, in his translation of Presocratic fragments, once argued that before we do any translating, we must first translate ourselves to what a document says, what it means.  We have to hear with accuracy the language of antiquity before we can return to our own time and nurture that word in today’s world. Many who have read the past have failed to listen and open themselves to the message of the past. And avoiding that message simply means they carry none of it into today’s world.

Thoreau always found difficulty finding hearers or readers when he attempted to translate his favorite book, Homer’s Iliad, the Greek text which he read annually, to his contemporary Concord environment. I find myself struggling as well when I try to talk to someone else about what I’m reading from a culture that is not Texas 2018. That is why I am grateful for dinner and conversation last night with Kevin Harris, one of the DJs for Smoothrock 93.5 moving into this Redlands Hotel. He and Marc Mitchell, both with backgrounds here in small town Palestine, Texas, have absorbed a broad worldview with their broadcast professions, and have a sensibility that goes beyond “radio talk.” They probably don’t realize how much they have helped me revise profoundly my caricature of a broadcaster. Both men yesterday displayed for me an empathy for human experience that I don’t see enough in my everyday world. Over dinner, Kevin and I were able to discuss ideas that matter to us, and that we believe are very relevant to life, even though we live in a world that appears too fast-paced and distracted to focus on fundamental values. How enriching to have a conversation over dinner that ranged over the fields of art, philosophy, religion and contemporary culture. So, to my favorite Redlands Quartet–Jean, Mike, Kevin and Marc–thanks for inviting me into your Palestine world.

The gallery is quiet this Wednesday morning, save for the soft sounds of Smoothrock 93.5 now wafting across this space. I have plenty of college grading to do, so I’m glad to be in a space where I can work.

Thanks for reading. (“And now, this is David Tripp signing off from the Gallery at Redlands, and sending you a wave from Smoothrock 93.5 FM, situated in the historic Redlands Hotel in downtown Palestine, Texas!”)

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I bog to remind myself I am not alone.

 

Morning Coffee with Dave & Thoreau

September 22, 2018

dave & henry

I learned this at least by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live that life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Thirty years ago, I would not say I was suicidal, not even close. But there was that stretch of months when trying to go to sleep at night, that I really didn’t care if I woke to see a new morning. Life then was not good from a number of angles, and I really didn’t have anything to anticipate with gladness as one day stumbled into the next. I had not yet signed a contract to begin work as a full-time public school teacher, and was supporting myself by doing adjunct work at Texas Christian University and full-time work as a campus police dispatcher. I did not own a car in those days. I worked long hours at two jobs, and either walked or took a city bus to where I needed to go.

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Early Sunday Morning, by Edward Hopper

Walking to campus one sunny autumn Sunday morning, I crossed Berry Street, and looking at the row of store fronts that were closed on Sunday, my recollection of this Edward Hopper painting came to mind. I went straight to the campus library, and checked out a book of his paintings, and, as Sunday would be a very slow day with only two campus police officers on duty to patrol the entire university, I was guaranteed eight hours of mostly radio silence. I read the entire book, scribbled out pages of musings in my journal, and the more I looked at Hopper’s solitary paintings, the more I thought of my life at that time. I was conflicted with those emotions that the theologian Paul Tillich identified as “loneliness and solitude”, the cross as well as the glory of being human.

Crossing Berry Street again at the end of my shift, and on my way back home, I mused over how this Fort Worth street on Sunday looked very much like Hopper’s New York street from 1930–shuttered and silent. And the twin sensations of “loss” and “presence” filled my soul to the extent that once I returned to my apartment, I took out my journal and began pouring out the feelings that had surged through my consciousness on this particular day.

It was on that Sunday that I determined I would turn my life around. I had no idea what waited before me in the years ahead, but I bound myself with a promise that I would not allow anything to strip me of my dreams, of my ideas. Two years later, as a high school teacher, when I finally got around to reading Thoreau’s Walden for the first time, I came across the text posted at the top of this blog, and realized that it was time to put some foundations beneath my dreams. I decided to stick with public school teaching, but would also take out my sketchbook, my paints and my brushes, keep filling the journal with daily musings, and seek a quality of life that would transcend the trappings of a daily job. If I would be privileged to live that long, I would retire one day with sufficient benefits to pay my bills, and continue this search for meaning without the albatross of a 40-plus hour work week dragging me down.

Life has never been better for me than it is now. The days are filled with gods, as Emerson once wrote. There is time to read, time to reflect, time to write, and even time to put out a blog of my sentiments. There is time to paint, time to travel, and time to spend with precious friends. And, as teaching has always been my passion, I am afforded the privilege of doing that, but in a reduced capacity. No longer do I have those five day work weeks with hours beginning at 7:35 and extending till 3:30, and then having to take all that work home with me and stay with planning, preparation and grading till bed time so I can repeat the next day. I did it for twenty-eight years, and complained plenty, but I loved the classroom dynamics that made the drudge part tolerable. But now, life is so much fuller and I fully love this daily gift of exploration and possibility.

I am sad that Thoreau only lived to be forty-four. Now, twenty years past that point, I am thankful to have been given those extra years as a bonus, and promise not to take days for granted as I did when I was younger. Building foundations beneath the castles of dreams has turned out to be a rewarding task.

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.

One Final Commission Before Christmas

December 22, 2015

fly fishing watercolor photoshoppedTime is but the stream I go a-fishing in.  I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is.  Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains.  I would drink deeper; fish in the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars.  I cannot count one.  I  know not the first letter of the alphabet.  I have always been regretting that I was not as wise as the day I was born.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

The first days of the holiday have been busy, but I finished my final commission for Christmas and now am ready for some r ‘n r.

Thanks for reading.

Extracting Art from the Land

June 5, 2015
A Quiet Moment Before the Last Day of School

A Quiet Moment Before the Last Day of School

But I retained the landscape, and I have since annually carried off what it yielded without a wheelbarrow. With respect to landscapes,–

“I am monarch of all I survey

My right there is none to dispute.”

I have frequently seen a poet withdraw, having enjoyed the most valuable part of a farm, while the crusty farmer supposed that he had got a few wild apples only. Why, the owner does not know it for many years when a poet has put his farm in rhyme, the most admirable kind of invisible fence, has fairly impounded it, milked it, skimmed it, and got all the cream, and left the farmer only the skimmed milk.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Today is the last day of school. Grades are being finalized, reports submitted, textbooks inventoried, classrooms cleaned, debris carried to the trash, and of course my mind is hours south of here. I am not looking across a classroom of desks, but across an expanse of the Gulf to the distant, shimmering horizon. As I put away the art history texts, I don’t see the masterworks of the centuries, but watercolors of foliage, sand and water, waiting to be born.

This morning, before the students arrived, I drew my tattered copy of Walden from my bookbag, a volume that has traveled the world with me since I purchased it at Oregon State University in 1992, and turned to the passage posted above. In every plein air encounter, I think of these words, and the humor of silently drawing off something from the land while no one else has an inkling of what I am doing. With all the talk we hear of our plunder of non-renewable resources, I at least know that I am not taking anything from the land that I survey, nor am I leaving any trash for someone else to pick up when I walk away. The encounter is always quiet and serene, and the only thing that changes going forward is my life. Tennyson said it well:

I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!

I am preparing to take all the students of last year with me into the future, and soon I will add the Laguna Madre to my personal constitution. And hopefully, art will continue to be made.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Measure Twice, Cut Once

January 3, 2015
Poring Over the Still Life on a Saturday Morning

Poring Over the Still Life on a Saturday Morning

My Center of Focus Recently

My Center of Focus Recently

I have frequently seen a poet withdraw, having enjoyed the most valuable part of a farm, while the crusty farmer supposed that he had got a few wild apples only.  Why, the owner does not know it for many years when a poet has put his farm in rhyme, the most admirable kind of invisible fence, has fairly impounded it, milked it, skimmed it, and got all the cream, and left the farmer only the skimmed milk.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

My life will change drastically with the opening of the Spring semester next week.  Today has found me drifting about my house and studio with no deadlines, no appointments, and a wonderful sense of a “clockless” lifestyle.  Much of my time in the garage studio (and my, is it cold out there today!) has been spent staring at the apples and galvanized pail and screen door that I have arranged for a still life in watercolor.  The pail was given me by a dear friend long after it had outlived its usefulness (the bottom is completely rusted out), and the apples are going to provide a bright, stark contrast once I lay in the colors, hoping I can match their brightness.  If any of you are wondering about the microphone base on the right, that is compliments of my “southern engineer” training–it prevents the screen door from crashing over on top of me.  The door is sitting atop an antique table so I can get a better angle on it from my drafting table.

Experimenting with the Masquepen

Experimenting with the Masquepen

I’ve removed the masquing fluid from the screen behind the pail.  Of course, the masqued areas are too white, but I’ll find ways to tone them down.  Since I used plenty of warm colors mixing the “stew” I’ll probably need only to drag a wet brush over the entire area to allow neutral colors to fill in the white lines.  If that is not enough to tone it down, then I’ll continue to apply washes of neutral color to remove as many of the lines as necessary.  The table top is another kind of challenge, and it’s going to take quite awhile for me to find out if my experiment will work.  I toned the table a light tan color, let it dry, then dragged masquing fluid all over the surface to simulate the ugly scratches that have accumulated on this surface over the years.  Pictured is only the first wash and masquing over the wash.  Currently I’ve already applied a darker wash, let it dry, then masked some more scratches.  I plan to continue layering washes and masquing.  Once I peel everything off, I’ll see what I have, and hopefully be close to the simulated textures of a damaged table top.  Then I’ll find ways to tweak it. I still haven’t decided on how to create the galvanized textures on the side of this pail, but it’s good to know that I have no deadlines in place here.  I’ll take it one step at a time, measuring twice and cutting once.

Another Piece of my Garage Studio

Another Piece of my Garage Studio

When I get tired of looking at my current arrangement, I need only to look to the right at the still life I have nearly finished of the fly fishing ensemble.  This is turning out to be a serene day in the studio.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am never alone.

Rising Toward a Poetic, Divine Life

December 3, 2014
Second Plein Air Attempt at Snowscape at my Parents' Home

Second Plein Air Attempt at Snowscape at my Parents’ Home

The millions are awake enough for physical labor; but only one in a million is awake enough for effective intellectual exertion, only one in a hundred millions to a poetic or divine life.  To be awake is to be alive.  I have never yet met a man who was quite awake.  How could I have looked him in the face?

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Today my Philosophy class discussed this passage among others from Thoreau’s Walden, and tried to describe what is meant by a “poetic or divine life.”  As the discussion ensued, my mind kept drifting back to this second plein air watercolor sketch I attempted as it snowed in High Ridge, Missouri over the Thanksgiving holiday.  As I walked about the property on the second day of the snowfall, my attention was arrested by this solitary tree bathed in winter sunlight with snow still clinging to some of its branches, and the expansive thaw on the ground surrounding the tree. I knew that sketching the tree’s structure would prove difficult enough, but my attention actually was on the contrast between the dead, ochre-colored earth beneath the tree and the surrounding drifts of snow.  The longer I looked at these, the more excited I grew, and I knew I was going to have to attempt to render it.  Most of my life I have looked at those beautiful Andrew Wyeth drybrush renderings of thawing snow on the Pennsylvania farmlands, and have always wanted to see this with my own eyes.  This is one of many reasons I regard this particular Thanksgiving season as a genuine gift to me.  I arrived in High Ridge in the fullness of time.

I have matted this 5 x 7″ watercolor in a white mat and enclosed it in a wooden 8 x 10″ frame with glass.  I’m offering it for $50.  This is truly a turning point for me in drybrush studies.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Conoco Remnants in Oklahoma

December 28, 2013
Sign Encountered During Oklahoma Odyssey

Sign Encountered During Oklahoma Odyssey

I long ago lost a hound, a bay horse, and a turtle-dove, and am still on their trail.  Many are the travellers I have spoken concerning them, describing their tracks and what calls they answered to.  I have met one or two who had heard the hound, and the tramp of the horse, and even seen the dove disappear behind a cloud, and they seemed as anxious to recover them as if they had lost them themselves.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Each [Presocratic fragment] is a truncated monument of thinking.  Like the torso of a river god or the temple of Poseidon at Sounion, each fragment conveys a sense of loss, of tragic withdrawal and absence; yet each is a remnant of an exhilarating presence.

David Farrell Krell, Martin Heidegger: Early Greek Thinking

Remnants of an Oklahoma Conoco Station

Remnants of an Oklahoma Conoco Station

A couple of months ago, while retreating to southeastern Oklahoma for some fly fishing and relaxation, my heart felt heaviness at the sight of this solitary Conoco sign standing alongside Highway 37 about ten miles north of Clarksville, Texas, just south of the Oklahoma border.  I parked the Jeep, took over a dozen photographs, and walked among the weeds that covered what used to be the foundations of a gas station.  As I surveyed what was left of the parking lot entrance, I couldn’t help wondering if there were still children or grandchildren of this station’s proprietor still living nearby.  What would they think every time they drove past this site and remembered what it was like to see a gas station open for business, servicing passing motorists?  As I walked about this location, musing, I thought of the statements of Thoreau and Krell, and how it feels when we are confronted with significant loss.   I was on the brink of a lovely weekend of fly fishing and painting at Beaver’s Bend State Park, but the recollection of this Conoco sign would never leave me.

Conoco Recollections

Conoco Recollections

Over the Christmas holiday, I spent about a day working up this watercolor sketch from the photos I took.  It is 8 x 10″ and I tried to detail the damage on the sign’s surface as best I could.  Recently I have enjoyed working on gas station relics in watercolor.  The holiday visit with my parents was full of wonderful conversation, fattening foods, and plenty of space to work in watercolor.  I’ve had a most delightful Christmas break.

Fly Fishing at Beaver's Bend State Park, Oklahoma

Fly Fishing at Beaver’s Bend State Park, Oklahoma

Here is the painting I completed following my Beaver’s Bend fly fishing weekend.  I also enjoyed revisiting memories of this Evening Hole located in the Red Zone inside the Park.

Rainbow Trout in the Net at Beaver's Bend State Park

Rainbow Trout in the Net at Beaver’s Bend State Park

Don’t despair!  I released this beautiful rainbow trout after photographing him in my net.  He was one of several I managed to get in the net that afternoon.  All were given back their freedom.

In the Depths of the Night, a Respite in the Studio

November 15, 2013
Entrance to Edom Festival of the Arts

Entrance to Edom Festival of the Arts

Often the work we have not done seems more real in our minds than the pieces we have completed.

David Bayles & Ted Orland, Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Art Making

Another delicious night.  I was able to watercolor for ninety minutes while the velvety quiet of the night enshrouded me and affirmed the drifting of my consciousness backward over the conversations of the school day.  The philosophy class delivered again as they took turns offering their observations gleaned from the “Reading” chapter of Thoreau’s Walden.  What transpired that first ninety minutes of the school day set the tone for success that seemed to roll through the remainder of the class load.  I cannot express the gratitude that I feel for young inquisitive minds willing to strike out and find new ground for ideas.

I’m posting the watercolor sketch that I began last night and pushed along for another hour-and-a-half tonight.  In true spirit of the quote posted above, this painting is more real to me in my imagination than what I see emerging beneath my brush, but I just need to be patient, and to keep believing.  This is the entrance to the annual Edom Festival of the Arts.  The composition will be an extremely busy one, with highway signs, carved hand-made signs, arbors, potted plants, and assorted objects marking the entrance to this festival.  As I get further into it, I’ll try to find some way to harness, or unify the composition.  Right now I’m just fascinated with all the little objects crying out for the attention of any passing pedestrian or motorist.  Every year I laugh when I look at this entrance, so eclectic, so fun, so inviting.  I’m only sorry that I still have to wait a couple of weeks before getting back out there.

Well, midnight has arrived.  My eyes are getting droopy.  I have some heavy A. P. Art History to address the first two periods of tomorrow (Late Antiquity–Roman Christian art of the first few centuries).  I’m glad I got those preps finished early enough tonight that I was able to pick up the brush, even if it was for only ninety minutes.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Too Little Time for Painting Today

August 26, 2013
A Little Bit of Work on the Truck

A Little Bit of Work on the Truck

There are nowadays professors of philosophy, but not philosophers.  Yet it is admirable to profess because it was once admirable to life.  To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust.  It is to solve some of the problems of life, not only theoretically, but practically.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Good evening!  All I had time to do this evening was block in the Dodge truck, and then my light was gone.  I really don’t wish to paint under house lights at night, I have become so attached to the natural light coming in through my studio windows.  Alas, I’m having to re-adjust the hours of the day now, to allow space for doing my job.  Today was more about living an artful life than making a piece of art.  I’m not finding the adjustment easy, but will have to find a way.

The first day of school went very, very well.  Two enormous classes, and one moderate-sized one.  My two A. P. Art History classes show great promise, and I regret waiting two days before seeing them again.  Tomorrow will be Philosophy and Sophomore English.  The latter course I have never taught before, so I cannot say I am looking forward to that with enthusiasm.  But, we’ll see . . .

There is plenty of work to be done still to prep for tomorrow’s courses, so I’ll be signing off early this time.  I really hope I can hit this watercolor a little harder tomorrow.  What I feel, however, is that I will need some days to adjust to this full-blown school schedule.  One way or another, I will return to the blog with vigor, trust me.  I love communicating with you.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.