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

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Autumn office with pinon

When the TV's blaring--it always does--and the cats want to climb on you or fight at your feet, and you need to write....
and why are you  stuck inside on a beautiful, brisk fall day anyway? 
Trying to write a monthly column, with tech difficulties to boot, then it's time to get outside, light a fire in the chiminea, smell the pinon smoke, get a cup of coffee, and at least trade the outdoor sounds--barking dogs, some bird song, and very distant traffic--for being cooped up. 
Seeking inspiration and answers for an article, pinon helps to be thinking  of New Mexico. Peace.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Books you "should" read

Dontja get tired of all these lists you find on Facebook and elsewhere, grabbing your attention as gimmicks to get clicks for advertisers? The ones that irritate me most are the ones that proclaim "The 100 books you must read," or some version of that.
I'm a sucker and click on them, and come away even more irritated. Who are these people who say you should read something or another, without regard to personal tastes, and with a narrow view of literature?
They throw in a few classics, sure, but then the last one I saw included four Cormac McCarthy Books. Really? Instead, I looked at my blog's list of favorite books, and only one was included--Heart of Darkness.
Here are some of my other favorites: Blue Highways, The Monkey Wrench Gang, The Last Running, Leaves of Grass, To Kill a Mockingbird, Farenheit 451, Death Comes for the Archbishop. A River Runs Through It. All Harry Potter, anything by John McPhee and Ray Bradbury, Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
I could add more--Huck Finn, Moby Dick, Against the Fall of Night by Arthur C. Clarke, Foundation by Asimov, 13 Days to Glory by Tinkle (about the Alamo), The Man Nobody Knows (about Jesus) by Barton,  The Old Man and the Sea, Grapes of Wrath, Tale of Two Cities, The Great Gatsby, Tony Hillerman's work, The Last Picture Show.
See, you can keep adding books as they come to mind, and I'm adding ones that are meaningful to me, are favorites, not to impress people. Yes, I'd add one by McCarthy, but not four. 

Teaching geography, and Africa

Did you ever have to take blank map quizzes when in school? I did, including filling in countries and capitals, and states and capitals--in junior high.
That gave me a sense of where I was in the world, and also probably spurred my wanderlust. That, along with the fact that Dad always had maps pinned to the walls and we subscribed to the National Geographic.
When I started teaching International Media a few years ago, I was astounded at the lack world knowledge of my upper level college students. Especially after one student identified England as Germany. So I instituted blank map quizzes--continent by continent and regions. No, they don't have to know all of the countries, but we discuss those that they should know, based on current events, news, and media significance. 
I know, I know, that is old-fashioned rote memory. There is still room for it in "modern" politically correct, buzz-word, acronym dominated trendy education. I'm a geezer who tries to stay current with technology and trends, and pretty much a non-traditional teacher. But there still needs to be some basic memorized stuff.
So far, they've done well this semester, and we've covered the Mideast,  South America, SE Asia, Asia and Europe. Coming up is Africa, and I'm trying to instill in them the size of Africa as well. You can follow all of this on the class blog, Clarkinternational.
And here's the study guide on the blog today. Did you realize the Sahara is bigger than the U.S?

Africa is really, really big
The Sahara is bigger than the U.S.

Friday, September 25, 2015

A present in the mail...good Oklahoma reading

I'm published. Well, sort of.
Friend, poet, publisher, teacher and activist Jeanetta Calhoun Mish sent me an autographed copy of her new book today, "Oklahomeland," a collection of 12 of her essays.
I've read some of these essays, and been privileged to first read others. They're about the arts and the land, and the book, dedicated "for my Oklahomies," is published by Lamar University Press in Beaumont, Republic of Texas.
The cover art is also Oklahoma. Jeanetta wrote: "For the cover and the title, thanks to the anonymous graffiti artist who painted Oklahomeland on a wall in the Plaza District in Oklahoma City."
That is also so Jeanetta, a Wewoka girl  who sponsors writing workshops, conducts the creative writing program at OCU, leads Labor Day events for working people and writes and publishes poetry and essays in her business, Mongrel Empire Press.
I first met her years ago at the Western Heritage Awards at  the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum where her poetry book, "Work is Love Made Visible" won the Wrangler. Since then it's been a pleasure become friends, to review many of her books and become friends with many of her authors, mostly Oklahoma poets. 
Oh, and me published? She asked me to write a blurb for the back cover. I'm more than honored.
Here's the blurb:
"Oklahomeland welcomes you to the real Oklahoma, the Oklahoma not of a musical, but of sweat-stained people, of a raw land and emotions. Jeanetta Calhoun Mish is foremost a story-teller whose compelling narratives and imagery entice you into caring as much as she does.  You can take a walk with a little girl and her Grandpa or drive down a rural highway, always connected with the land. Even the more "scholarly" subjects are conversations told with passion and fire, whether about Woody Guthrie or lynchings in her hometown. It's fitting she chose a quote from another writer of much emotional power, William Faulkner for the title of the essay, 'Like a Fire in Dry Grass,' for when Mish writes about Oklahoma's people and causes, she is also like a fire in dry grass.--Terry Clark, Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame"
But to really grab you, here is the opening  of the essay "This Oklahoma We Call Home"--"The 8mm film is grainy now, with the passage of forty years, but, for me, the moment it captures never fades. A dark-headed girl in a cotton summer dress, maybe five years old, walks across a blooming pasture, side by side, hand in hand, with... ."
Here are the arts essays: "Who/What? Oklahomans/ Writing"; "A Review of Woody Guthrie's House of Earth"; "Two New Working-Class Poetry Collections"; "'Culture Warriors'"; "Meditative Presence: The Photographs of Craig Varjabedian"; "A Review of Linda Hogan's Dark, Sweet"; "Looking for (Ralph" Ellison."
The Oklahomeland essays: "Western Civilization"; "This Oklahoma We Call Home"; "Remembering Number Nine"; "Broken Branches"; "Like a Fire in Dry Grass."
Now, go buy and read the book. You'll know you are home.


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Equinox--where you can travel in time

Fajada Butte at dawn

Equinox--I always think of Chaco Canyon, having camped there a few  years ago on a personal pilgrimage. You travel 25 miles off the paved road in northern New Mexico, back in time. 

Actually, you travel back into time on those special days. 

I camped there one spring equinox, and about froze to death, but I'd do it again...to be alone, to see the stars, to see the universes glowing in the campfire coals, to write that poetry.

Silhouetted against the night sky is the bulk of Fajada Butte, where the old ones built the "sun dagger" on top of it a thousand years ago to accurately measure equinox and more, their guide to the seasons and life and the powers of the universe.

What follows is from an earlier post.

Camping at Chaco Canyon, watching time move in morning shadows on equinox
The sun blinds you, driving due east or west, morning or evening. You can almost feel the earth move under your feet, each day this September as the sun inches due west or east. It's not moving, but we are.
As urban dwellers, as citizens of the age of science, as people removed from nature, we may not notice, other than the inconvenient glare in the windshield or rear view mirrors early and late in the day.

Our media will announce the official start of autumn, but we miss the point that our ancestors, and those still in tune with the earth, know well.
Equinox--the day the night and day are of the same length, the slow tilt of the earth's axis that will bring the end of the planting seasons, the start of the harvest seasons, the coming of the cold seasons, the preparation for another year's "end."
Many people will gather at ancient sites like Stonehenge in England and Chaco Canyon in New Mexico to observe the day, to relive rituals lost in time, trying to retouch our instinctual past, and something more.
There is something powerful about the day, about those sites, that transcends science, but we've largely forgotten it the more removed we are from the physical world as we dwell in air conditioned cocoons. Perhaps, like our appendix and shortened tail bone, there is a vestigial element in our memory that calls out to us. I hope so.

'You can see time there, time moving, shadows moving up and down sandstone cliff faces'
Having camped in  Chaco on more than one spring equinox, I know you can see time there, time moving,  shadows moving up and down sandstone cliff faces. Those ancient "Anasazi" measured and marked with great accuracy over the years-- in feats of patience and civilization--the movements of the sun and moon. 
It may have been of necessity for an agricultural society, and it almost surely had religious significance. When you're that close to nature in  everyday existence and survival, the earth and universe are certainly alive and spiritual. You know who you are and how small you are. At night there, watching the stars wheel across the sky, you can almost  feel the earth move beneath your feet. 
You are not in charge of the world, or your life, but just a small part of it, and it's best to honor and respect that universe.
You can still feel that power at Chaco, and  dwell on what we "civilized" people have lost with science, as you watch the sun "come up," on equinox here in Oklahoma and elsewhere.