"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Aging coffee cups

A chapter in moving

A cracked coffee mug from the Nome, Alaska, Nugget newspaper...I put it gently in the corner of one of the boxes I'm packing. It was given to me years ago by a student who interned there, at the edge of the continent, with Russia literally in sight.
Another cup is from Oxford university , a gift from a faculty member who says, "UCO and Oxford have somethings in common...we have buildings." There are other cups, gifts from graduating students over the past years, some with my name on them, some with other decorations, all in appreciation. Most of the cups are filled with memories of those students. An antique "Clark's Coffee" tin can sits on my shelf, a gift from another student, now an Oklahoma City teacher. Her fading note occupies the can, instead of grounds. A couple of antique coffee pots and a coffee grinder join the collection,
Other gifts and trinkets and memories go into the boxes as I pack to move from one office to another. There are photos of my kids, and grandkids, of former students winning awards, of photographs of some of tthem with their signatures, of photos and gifts from those students, of faculty friends and parties, of me in Halloween costumes.
An antique bottle holds some "holy dirt" from The Santuario de Chimayo in New Mexico. There's a piece of the chalk cliffs of Dover, some pieces of lava I've picked up, an antique dipper, an old powder horn with my name on it. All carry memories of miles traveled, people met.
Another box takes awards from the Oklahoma Press Association, the Journalism Hall of Fame, and others, including an FFA Honorary Farmer. In that box goes my Grizzly Gasoline sign, my Texas brick, my original metal Studebaker car logo, an antique dipper. Other gifts from faculty, like a model canoe, replicas of old cameras, a furry wolf cub toy, replica medieval chess pieces...all these follow. They're really just trinkets from over the years, meaningless to most, but part of who I am and who I have been.
I'm supposed to be packing the books on my shelves. I don't put books on my shelves to impress people, but ones I've read, one's that inspire me, gifts from special people, ones I use in my teaching, or intend to use some day. There's a copy of Conrad's Heart of Darkness, my favorite book, a gift from a favorite student; Harry Heath's history of the OSU J-School; a dear friend's book on sailing in Alaska; a Will Rogers book; several of Ed Abbey and John McPhee. These and others go in boxes, fitted one way and another--like the years--making them fit.
There are few textbooks, but books about writing--other with good writing, about photography, about editing, about leadership, about newspapers and media, and old typographer's manuals, and history. Journalists don't have much use for textbooks...Words and experiences are the textbooks we want our students to read.
The floor beings to fill up, one box stacked on top of another--the weight of words....

Ursa th' professa

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