Posts Tagged ‘William Butler Yeats’

Things Fall Apart; The Center Cannot Hold

February 17, 2015
Musing Late into a School Night

Musing Late into a School Night

“It is not the fault of abstraction that few people can really think abstractly, any more than it is the fault of mathematics that not many people are good mathematicians,” a modern logician tells us, adding that correct abstraction is one of our most powerful, necessary, and efficacious modes of thought. It is a form of emphasis, as A. N. Whitehead said, of expressing what one wants to without being involved in everything else.

Robert Motherwell, 1950

Days and days have passed without my posting to this blog, as a tempestuous world of details, deadlines and appointments has swirled about me with little-to-no respite. As the hour draws late into a school night, I am pleased that tomorrow’s promises have been met and I am not yet sinking into sleep. In this comfy chair, I enjoy this serene moment, this gift, this opportunity to hear classical music playing softly with the lights of my study turned low, a cup of hot tea steaming and a volume of exquisite reading open in my lap. I snatched tonight’s blog title from a 1921 poem of William Butler Yeats that I have always loved: “The Second Coming.” When life swirls about me the way it is now, I frequently know that sinking feeling of a center no longer holding, and details flying away from the tidy files and compartments where they had been formerly placed.

For over a week now, I have scribbled countless words across the pages of my journal and plucked myriads of notes from the strings of my guitar when not tending my daily duties of the classroom. And all of these endeavors have felt sublime. But my mind has never strayed from a dogged desire to understand my centre, my archē, my Grund. I have resisted posting to the blog, I suppose out of fear that these words would be interpreted as whining, complaining, or musing over some kind of winter of discontent. This is not what is happening to me. What I am feeling is not despair, just a desire to know, a compulsion to understand. Maybe it is something that comes with age, I don’t know. All I can say is that I find these thoughts intriguing and cannot dismiss them, nor do I want to. I find more satisfaction these days reading the queries of restless minds seeking to know more intimately this precious mystery of life, and at the same time seeking ways to express these notions more creatively. Through music, through painting, and through writing, I still reach for these sublime heights, and am grateful to know this urge, this procreative urge, as Whitman would have it. The past week has been filled with studies of Leonardo, Michelangelo, Dürer and Grünewald in art, along with William Carlos Williams and Walt Whitman in poetry and Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and Neil Young in guitar work–all of this has been soul stirring for me. Sometimes I wish I could walk away from the daily appointments, retreat to the mountains or a monastery for a few weeks and just let my thoughts explore these mysteries without interruption. But that is fantasy.

I’ll bring this to a close now, hoping I haven’t planted the notion in some of my readers to send mental health experts to my door. I think I’m fine, just not yet satisfied, still searching, still wondering–but very happy to have the strength in me to search, still.

Thanks always for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am never really alone.

Sweet Friday Night Winter Solitude

January 9, 2015
Painting Friday Evening in a Wintry Cold Studio

Painting Friday Evening in a Wintry Cold Studio

Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, the melancholia, the panic fear which is inherent in the human situation.

Graham Greene

I did manage to escape into the cold garage studio for a little while this evening and chip away at this watercolor that has been hanging around for awhile now. I added some rust-stained washes to the screen door backdrop, and then spent the rest of the evening texturing the white frame of the screen door, trying to reproduce the scratches, knicks and stains that show the multi-layered history of this door and what it endured in someone’s home. Before stopping for the night, I also reworked the wooden floor beneath the apples, in an attempt to make the masqued areas look more like scratches and indentations in the wood surface.

Now I’m back inside my warm home, glad that it is Friday night, and even more glad that an open weekend stretches out before me. I’m in the mood for reading, writing and reflection–in a word, solitude. I’ve been re-reading sections of Anthony Storr’s Solitude: A Return to the Self and Rollo May’s, The Courage to Create. The week in school has been a spastic one, and I took personally the line from the William Butler Yeats poem that I recorded in a blog earlier tonight, concerning the frenetic pace of society that consistently manages to flit past “monuments of unageing intellect.” Without apology, I do not choose that path. To me, worship is pausing to accept the quiet gifts offered in the center of this quick-paced life on earth.

Perfect Evening for Writing and Reflection

Perfect Evening for Writing and Reflection

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember. 

I journal to celebrate solitude.

And I blog to remind myself that I am not really alone.

Sailing to Byzantium

May 30, 2014

Ovilla, Texas Barn

Ovilla, Texas Barn


That is no country for old men. The young

In one another’s arms, birds in the trees

—Those dying generations—at their song,

The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,

Fish, flesh, or fowl commend all summer long

Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.

Caught in that sensual music all neglect

Monuments of unaging intellect.



An aged man is but a paltry thing,

A tattered coat upon a stick, unless

Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing

For every tatter in its mortal dress,

Nor is there singing school but studying

Monuments of its own magnificence;

And therefore I have sailed the seas and come

To the holy city of Byzantium.

. . .

William Butler Yeats, “Sailing to Byzantium”

Forgive me.  I am not a trained literary critic, so my comments on texts may not fit mainstream published interpretations.  However, I am a bona fide lover of literature, a lover of the printed and spoken word.  I delight in lingering over language, believing that revelation is always possible.  As I’ve been painting this sign-covered barn, these words from William Butler Yeats have been washing over me in successive waves.  No doubt some of the reason is due to the recent passing of beautiful Maya Angelou.  Incidentally, I did read her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” at the opening of yesterday’s Philosophy class.  And yes, I choked on the final stanza, as I always do.  Her words flood me with uncontrollable emotion.

Funny–in years long past, I have wrestled and fretted over this William Butler Yeats text, was required to teach it in senior English, and always felt unable to “get it.”  But now it speaks to me soothingly as I come to peace with my own aging, and feel a serenity when I linger in the presence of unaging monuments erected in days gone by.  This well-preserved barn from Ovilla, Texas, clothed in advertisements by companies–many of  which no longer survive–whispers a presence to me during silent moments as I gaze upon it.  The barn still stands in quiet majesty, though many of the companies advertised exist only in the memories of aging intellects.  Thus, I experience that dual feeling of presence and loss as I look upon this subject.

I have had difficulty finding quality time to work on this painting since the end-of-year procedures at school are taxing my daily hours, leaving little time in late afternoon to paint.  But when I do enter the studio, I feel that I have sailed into the holy city of Byzantium.  The fading northern light of these spring afternoons provides a warmth and comfort to me, and bending over these watercolor compositions leads me into a sublime realm.  The Waxahachie plein air experience begins tomorrow and will run non-stop for a week.  I am anticipating a rich experience of painting in the open air once again.

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.