A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper personal column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in more than 130 countries.-- My metaphor--Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto

Friday, November 20, 2015

Vive' Mali! And the children

Today's tragedy in Mali, religious fundamentalist fanatic Muslims, killing other Muslims, hits close to home and breaks my heart.
I was privileged to go there eight years ago, as a newspaperman on a mission from Oklahoma State University, and it changed my values. Such a poor country, but rich in tradition, history, people,  hospitality--Muslims in a democracy that loves the U.S....and wonderful children. What stands out? Adobe, dirt, smiles, hard work, the dignity of the people, and the children.
Oh, those bright white smiles? A dentist friend of mine said it was because they didn't have processed sugar in their diets.
You can read previous posts on this blog, From a Rooftop in Mali and Three years ago
I fell in love with the children...and in spite of the turmoil, I'd go back in a second, given the chance, even now. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

137 countries hitting the blog

I am always amazed when someone from a new country clicks on this blog, and it happened today, making 137 total over the six plus years I've been doing this.
The real accomplishment is that I've maintained this long, and second is the reach of the audience.The third is that there are fewer and fewer untouched countries so the pace3 has slowed down. I suppose I'll never get North Korea. But now I'm hoping for Cuba.
This new reader is from Laos. I would love to know who, why and how, and did that person require the translator gadget?
I'll write later on a continent by continent list, and yes, the flag counter at left is not up to date, because it was added only last year.
Anyway, here's the list of new countries where readers have clicked in since this time last year. And, a map of Laos and its flag. Salute.
  • 11-19-14--Samoa
  • 11-21-14--Angola
  • 1-17-15--Seychelles
  • 1-23-15--Netherlands Antilles
  • 3-5-15-- St. Kitts and Nevis
  • 3-27-15--Bermuda
  • 8-6-15--Montenegro
  • 10-17-15--Burma (Myamar)
  • 10-25-15-Bolivia
  • 11-16--Laos-15
137 total

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Force in a Fedora--pages of autumn

"My life is stained with wild plums." 
That line from the poem of the same name should let you know who you're meeting.
She is a force in a fedora.
Among my pages this fall was this book, "The Art of Digression--A Fragmented Memoir," by poet, friend, and Oklahoma character Dorothy Alexander.
These are poems and narratives about dirt, loss and love, and survival, told with wit and metaphor about her family and friends and Oklahoma people.
Dorothy is in her 80s, short, spirited and always wears a fedora, usually red.
She is a voice for the poor, the hard-working and the different who are usually ignored in our state, first as an attorney and now as a poet and publisher. 
 She says this is a book of "scraps, orts and  fragments," and from them you can piece together her fascinating life, with themes that touch us all. There's more than a hint of Woody Guthrie in some of her work.
"The west wind  blew them together and filled their pockets with dust and hope."--Wild Plums
"They heard the song of dirt everywhere." --Fractured Earth
"Our family believes that doing the chores is life."--Labor Omnia Vincit
From Western Oklahoma, she grew up in the Depression and withstood discrimination as a female attorney. She's survived sending her son to 'Nam (Read "Will Rogers Airport, 1972,") and his loss to HIV.
Still, she smiles, laughs, writes and speaks with humor and frankness and compassion for ordinary folks. And as one surviving the hard times and loss, she's an unabashed liberal and storyteller. But there are no politics here, just the populist tradition upon which Oklahoma was founded.
From "Work and Memory":
"We have to enlist the art of storytelling,
Weaving narratives of immortality that
lift us beyond the abyss over which the cradle rocks
as we amble along the dimly lit corridors
of existence until our work here is done.
"We have lived to tell the story,
and tell it, we must. Why else are we here?"
 I met her a few years ago at a poetry reading she'd organized, and she became a source for a story on the resurgence of poetry in Oklahoma. Current Oklahoma Poet Laureate Ben Myers credits her with helping him return to where he belongs.
For him, for me, and countless other writers, she is a force in a fedora.
Dorothy and Devey at the Paramount goodbye.
I bought the book at an October  going-away poetry event at Paramount on Film Row in OKC for her and her spouse Devey Napier. The place was packed with people she'd helped and influenced, saying goodbye to them as they move to Santa Fe. 
There is joy in the book, combined with an overriding sense of mortality (Read "My Mother Bites the Big Apple"). These balance the sad ones.
One of my favorites is "Lament" for a deceased nephew.  This reminds me of  Job being questioned by God--it's literature. An excerpt:
What say the waves,
the water,
the wind,
the loons?
Do they know sorrow?
Do they know how
the earth split open
and swallowed up the joy?
Does the eagle know who was taken?
Do the animals of the woods mourn?

If you have any Oklahoma connections with rural life, with working people, with everyday life,   with growing up and growing old, you will find yourself or family or friends in these pages. 
I met her because of my friendship with Jeanetta Calhoun Mish, another Oklahoma poet-publisher I've been pleased to read and review. As I get older, I'm more and more enriched and amazed at the talent and energy--the force--of Oklahoma's resurging poets and other artists. 
You can buy the book at Villagepoet1@yahoo.com. 

"Tick, tock, paint the clock"

The years go by, at Old North--16 x 20
That's what the flyer said a couple of weeks ago, arriving in my mailbox from the Max Chambers Library here at UCO.
The fundraiser cost $45, and would be held at Paint Your Art Out in downtown Edmond. It obviously referred  to our iconic Old North clock tower on campus, the first higher education building in Oklahoma Territory, erected in 1893. 
I bit, especially since I've painted watercolors of it in the past, and it promised wine and snacks.  And I thought it would be neat, since this is UCO's 125th year.
But this time would be different--using acrylics, something I'd never done before. I was one of 33 people who showed up Friday night, and discovered the outline of Old North already drawn on the canvasses. We used Styrofoam plates as palettes.
Paint Your Art Out painting the clock
Teacher was Jay Tracy, working the crowd step by step through a new painting, with a finished one as model. He's witty, patient and good.
Of course Clark had to do his own thing, having asked to bring my own brushes, and with a previous scene in mind ahead of time. I shoulda followed the crowd and listened to Tracy because I'd learned more though. Acrylics may be water based, but the similarity to watercolor ends there.
Very early view of Old North which inspired my art
Anyway, never much for instructions, I plunged ahead and managed to turn out a painting, which is full of faults, including perspective that is off. But I, and the crowd had fun...lots of laughter and camaraderie.
Paint Your Art Out and other versions are springing up around the metro, but I'm impressed with owners Ben and Renee Deakle who were the first to do it here, starting in 2009. They gracious hosts and  offer classes and other activities, so click on  their website above. 
I think this shows a real hunger for people in this modern, fast paced, too serious and sad world to come together, have fun, and be creative. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Magic in the pages of October

I found magic in the pages of October, ideas affecting my life and art...another reading spurt, completing four books in four genres--poetry, fiction, self help and spirituality--though the last two could be combined.
Biggest find and pleasure was "Big Magic," by Elizabeth Gilbert. Gilbert gained fame for the chick book, "Eat, Pray, Love, "which I haven't read. But the sub title on this new one grabbed me, "Creative Living Beyond Fear."
The book is full of personal anecdotes, and stories about people overcoming and being creative. I bought my copy from Best of Books in Edmond.
For me, the first part of the book and the closing pages are the most powerful. In between there are gems, but it's padded a little with too many stories perhaps, some needless repetition, and some borderline preaching, rather than just advice and truths.
But some of those truths, overcoming fear that defeats creativity:
  • "...I believe we are all walking repositories of buried treasure
  • "We all know fear is a desolate boneyard where our dreams go to desiccate in the hot sun."  
  • "...if you can't learn to travel comfortably alongside your fear, then you'll never be able to go anywhere interesting or do anything interesting."
The chapter on "Permission" is one of the strongest, and I have more marks here than anyplace else--especially when writing about education  There is poetry here when she writes about her mother (pages 84-85).
Excerpts from near the end:
  • "Creativity wants to flip the mundane world upside down."
  • "We toil alone, and we are accompanied by spirits"
  • "Only when we are at our most playful can divinity finally get serious with us."
The other October books that awakened emotions and ideas, for future posts:
  • Friend, poet and force  in a fedora, Dorothy Alexander's  "The Art of Digression, A fragmented Memoir";  
  • Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh's , "Peace is Every Step, the path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life"
  •  English journalist Paula Hawkins' "The Girl on the Train," a psychological thriller, listened to part of it driving across the wide opens during fall break, and finished at home in print.