An old-fashioned newspaper personal column, from a curmudgeon cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, with readers in more than 125 countries.-- Sunrise on the old Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto

Monday, September 1, 2014

Where Peace Prevails on the Earth in Oklahoma

Hebrew, "May Peace Prevail On Earth"
In Noble County in Northern Oklahoma, on a historic farm, there is a peace pole.
You walk up to the front porch and on one of the polls supporting the roof is the saying in English, "May Peace Prevail on Earth." Look closer, and one another side is the Hebrew version, and the opposite side, the Arabic.
Peace inhabits the George Bellmon Centennial farm in rural Billings, settled by the parents of Oklahoma Governor Henry Bellmon. After attending the mindfulness retreat at the brick Bellmon home a quarter mile north a week ago, run by his daughters as the Turtle Rock Farm, we paid extra and spent the night for a restful, peaceful and quiet night in rural Oklahoma.
Farmhouse at the George Bellmon Centennial Farm
Though a little more than a mile east of I-35, the southern wind and night sounds drowned out the truck traffic sounds. What we hear instead were chickens clucking, guineas chattering, roosters crowing, swifts chirping away. You could sit on rocking chairs on the front porch, and enjoy the fresh air. When the sun goes down, you step out in the driveway and marvel at the Milky Way. 
Long morning shadows, rocking chairs and peace on a front porch
How long since you've sat in a rocking chair on the front  porch, sipping coffee, listening to roosters, watching wasps and hummingbirds attracted to feeders?
Pat Hoerth, who lives in the house except when she rents it out for the night, arrived to put the chickens up, and told us there were eggs in the frig for breakfast. Asked how fresh, she handed Susan four she'd just retrieved from the hen house, "This fresh."
The alpacas will nuzzle you after feeding, Susan finds out
The farm house has a completely stocked kitchen, and Susan and Christy Vincent had prepared salmon and salad for dinner an hour before, and we'd been watching the chickens and a rabbit out for their evening meals.
You can tell I had a good time--Susan photo
 Three alpacas were grazing in the pasture and would need to be fed some supplement in the morning.  After a breakfast of fresh scrambled eggs, we helped out.
Then we loaded up the car, and headed back to the Interstate, leaving peacefulness behind, but not forgotten. Soon we were suburban Sunday traffic, still thinking about the previous day's lesson from the roadrunner to us roadrunners, The Angel Had Wings.
The Centennial Farm Program through the Oklahoma Historical Society was initiated by Bellmon to honor pioneer farms in the same family for 100 years, marking the centennial of the Run of 89. Eventually his  farm was selected as well. 
Ann and Pat--Photo by Rebekah Workman
Then his daughters, Pat, and Ann Denney, returned to operate the Turtle Rock Farm as a center for sustainability, spirituality and healing. You can read their blog, including a little about our visit. They said their dad thought they were crazy, but they have the Bellmon genes for being individuals. Bellmon was the state's first Republican governor, worked with Democrats, supported busing and giving the Panama Canal back to Panama. And he spent a lot of time on his farm, where he gained his strength and peace, close to the land. 
Where Peace Prevails on the Earth in Oklahoma

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The angel had wings

I first saw it out of the corner of my eye...a flicker of movement, and then the distinctive head and beak.
Up it hopped on the porch outside the  huge sliding glass windows, taking its time, completely alert.
Then it jumped up on the wrought iron table just outside those windows, not 10 feet from where we sat, introducing ourselves.
We'd come to a historic home in northern Oklahoma last Saturday morning for a "mindfulness" retreat, which was new for me, but I knew had to do with living in the moment.
And then we we came face to face, were introduced, to a winged messenger, which is by definition an angel, from the world of living in the present. 
I'd never seen a roadrunner up close, and rarely seen one still. They're usually fast and careful to stay near undercover. This one stopped us in our journey for several minutes. It (I don't know the gender) was looking at us through the windows, as we looked back at him in astonishment. 
It may have been looking at its reflection, but our forms could surely be seen beyond the glass. It wasn't spooked, and raised the crown in top of his head a couple of times, changing poses, standing still. Its eyes were piercing. It was noble. 
It's taken me a week to mull the experience and these words over before I could write. We discussed its meaning, and I knew from the outset it was an omen. Later in the day, a colleague and friend Christy Vincent, joked, but seriously, that the messenger, the bird-angel, was appropriate--a roadrunner standing still, taking its time, to a bunch of human roadrunners. Stop and think about it. Look at all the traffic in our hurried world, and how much time you spend in a car, and tell me we're not roadrunners.
Later I described to some as having seen "God." That caused a pause. But if  you believe that god, or great spirit, or universal spirit, or whatever you name eternal life, inhabits all creation, then we came face to face with God, or at least the messenger-angel of the eternal, and it told us to slow down and be mindful of the present--not the past, nor the future.
For the record, we were at Turtle Rock Farm,  (click on this link for more stories) near Billings, in the home of former Oklahoma Governor and U.S. Senator Henry Bellmon. His daughters Pat and Ann operate the farm as a sustainability, spirituality and healing  center. That's another story coming soon. The angel photos are by Pat Hoerth.
Be sure and read Pat's account of the event on their blog, "So There's a Roadrunner on the Table" and her photos of some of us and of the retreat. 
After the five or so minute visitation--time seemed to stand still--it turned, hopped down and disappeared in the green undergrowth. The angel set the tone for the rest of the day.
When you come face to face, perhaps soul to soul, with Present Tense, "I Am that I Am," you remember it forever.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Out here there's the sky, and the clouds

Oklahoma thunderhead, by David J. Holland
When you grow up in the home of an artist, walls covered with paintings and drawings, you don't buy much art. 
Years later, as I attempt to  paint, I'm still not much on buying art. I do have an art collection, mostly small works, from Native American and others you've never heard of. I've picked them up over the years...sculpture, carvings, pottery, paintings, masks, weaving.  So you know it's got to "tickle my fancy" for me to want to buy art. By that I mean, really grab my attention and emotions, and meet exacting standards I always measure against my Dad's work.
So it's no wonder I am pleased to have a painting from an artist I recently met, fellow Oklahoman David Holland. Check his web page for more info and samples of his artwork. I first saw his work on Facebook, and was instantly grabbed, because he has a unique vision, and he paints subjects that are dear to my heart, and my art..skies, and particularly, clouds. We went to see his show at Acosta Strong Fine Art at 6420 N. North Western, just north of 63th. Susan told me I needed to buy one to help inspire me.
I purchased this 5" by 7" of his recently, after viewing his work in the gallery and striking up a conversation. I wouldn't afford the big ones, and didn't really want to spend money on the smaller ones I saw--two on the website I liked were already sold. David then painted this specifically for me...saying it's the fifth time he's painted this storm.
I went to pick it up a week ago, and we got to chat  for about 30 minutes. What a treat, and what a story that I must try to tell sometime soon, hopefully in print.
He paints oils that will stun you with his vision. We agreed that perhaps you have to live in Oklahoma and the Great Plains to get the stories he's telling, because these clouds are not fiction, but part of who we are. Like me, he stands outside taking photos of clouds. 
His show, part of the "New West" show,  continues through Aug. 30. Go treat yourself. My treat is hanging on our wall. My photo doesn't catch the full range of colors  and textures, but it gives you a hint.
Here's a view from the gallery with his paintings.

Monday, August 18, 2014

A quarter century at UCO

Twenty-five years ago, I began my first semester at UCO, recently hired as chair of the Journalism Department.
Twenty-five years ago, the Journalism faculty
Tomorrow I will begin teaching students who, even though now juniors and seniors,  weren't even born then.
One of the classes I teach, "Blogging for Journalists," wasn't even possible then. There was one computer in the entire department and I had to wait a year to get a used one. There were no cell phones, no "Macs," no digital or social media, no real Internet. I taught editing, using pen and paper, and feature writing, among other things. 
Internationally, the Soviet Union was nearing collapse. That spurred all kinds of instability, especially in the Mideast, helping cause the First Iraq war when Iraq invaded Kuwait, which President  Bush, the smart diplomat, left  Saddam in power for stability. Germany was reunified.  Mandela was released from a 27-year prison term.  All of those events continue to affect us today. Look at the news.
Today's freshmen, who I don't teach, were born in 1996, when Bill Clinton was president. They were five years old on 9-11, 2001. That is ancient history.
 As with everybody, I've been through good times and not so good times, successes and failures, more and more wrinkles, changes in beliefs and attitudes and in teaching, toward people, religion, politics, culture, and teaching. If I hadn't changed, grown, I would be dead. And the challenge to me today, as a teacher, is to make sure our students learn how to think for themselves, how to challenge everything, how to adapt to rapid change--and to instill a passion for learning and their work. 
Walk across campus today, and every student has a smart phone in hand, a table or laptop computer, or both. Facebook,  twitter, texting, Instagram, Vine and more dominate. 
Here's a video that I'll show tomorrow, about how the world has changed: "Did you know?" Prepare to be stunned.
When I started, I was about the age of my students' parents. Now, I'm like a grandparent. One student wrote "I wish he were my grandfather." The pressure to be relevant--other than in the music they listen to which is impossible--is continuous, because technology and journalism is changing so fast.
But after a slump in blogging the past couple of weeks, I have to be back at it. Because, back then and now, I believe firmly, "If you're not doing it, how can you teach it?'
If you want to see how I try to keep up, check the first day assignments on the two blogs for my classes, BlogblogUCO, and Clarkinternational.
Twenty-five years...amazing.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Old photos, cabins, art and genes

The table, with a "stump sock" just above my recent painting.
My brother Jerry and his wife Cathrina coming to town yesterday for a concert was a rare and welcome gathering for the two of us. They live in Lubbock and we're lucky to see each other once a year these days.
He reminded me that I need to send him some scanned photos of the cabin our folks owned in the 1950s in the Manzano mountains southeast of Albuquerque. So today I went through the old family album, digging out old black and white photos, and sending them to him. It reminded me why I have this attraction to cabins, to painting them and dreaming about them. But that's another post.
Jerry and I and the table, 1953
While doing it, I came across a lot of photos of he and I in those same years, which I also sent to him. But one really stood out to me. We were gathered at our dad's old oak art table.
That's where I paint today, 61 years later. So here is a photo of it today, including the last remnant I have of one of Dad's "stump socks" as a rag. Dad, as I've told you, had a wooden leg--his right leg a stump at mid calf--and he bought stump socks to make the leg comfortable. I use the rag as a sort of sponge for my painting, and I think Dad, the real artist, would approve, especially since he must have cut it up for that use years ago.
61 years later, last night, me, Susan, Cathrina and Jerry, OKC