"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.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Poetry of time

A tattoo of time on the arm of one of my favorite students, Lauren Vargas, taken at coffee this holiday season. This is living poetry.

The touch of a pen on paper sends messages both ways.

When you paint a copy of art, 
you begin to understand what the artist went through in creation.
Is this true in writing? In music?

Age means your feet hurt after walking on brick streets for hours.

How do you cheat age?
  • Make love to a beautiful woman
  • Exercise and eat well
  • Spend money on grandchildren
  • Play ring a-round-the-Rosie with grandchildren
  • Read
  • Travel someplace new
  • Watch the backyard birds


When bad things happen--the antidotes:
Do something good to reassure yourself of humanity.
Remember your loves.
Watch children have fun.

I find much poetry depressing.
It stretches the mind.
I keep wondering how did the poets write it.
I'd like to be inside their heads. 
But then the words come from inside their souls.

My bare footprints vanish 
when the next wave washes up on the beach
Be sure to feel the sand 
between your toes
 and enjoy your footprint.
A woman's delicate
 barefoot print
 in wet sand
 breathes of mystery and sex

Maybe writing poetry is a child of being
 alone
…and in love

I must write to be who I am.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Four hawks at year's end

"Hawks do not share," wrote Hemingway in A Moveable Feast of Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of Scott Fitzgerald.
I thought about those words this week when three hawks in three days crossed my paths, but then I came home to study another one, carved of wood just inside my doorway.
The first three hawks were wild red tails, and their appearances within a mile of the house could not have been coincidence, now that I think about it. I was walking in the almost vacant woods of Hafer Park in the afternoon, when the first one spooked me as I rounded a bend.  It launched from an oak tree behind a cedar tree, and I saw the broad tail as its long wings lifted it up. I must have interrupted dinner, as it disappeared into other distant trees, away from my sight.
As I was driving home from work the second day amid light traffic, another hawk swooped from the trees in Hafer Park, landed in the middle of four-lane Bryant Ave. 50 yards ahead of me. Its talons grasped a recently road-killed squirrel, and in seconds its powerful grey wings grabbed the air, lifting it to safety and dinner.
Yesterday I was rounding another bend in the park, and I saw the tips of grey wings lifting up out of the creek bottom, 100 feet ahead. I was downwind and watched the raptor perch on a bridge railing. I just stopped and watched as it turned its almost red breast into the warming sun and sat. Moving gingerly between the trees, I got to within about 25 feet. Without camera, I just watched, silently,  before moving on. I figured it had snared a mouse down by the water and had finished dinner. I didn't want to interrupt.
No, I thought, they don't share food or company, though they've adapted to urban growth better perhaps than humans. They're quiet predators who literally earn their living every day. I'm glad they're present so close to home, in the trees of a suburban park.
When I walked in the door, I saw the  sculpture of the red tail from Indian artist Earl Eder I bought a few years ago in Santa Fe. It's remarkable for they way the bird matches the grain of the wood. But this bird shares with me, and now I know the others do too--a spirit of being free and aware of the little things in life.
I thought about those hawks, walking in the park again today, of how their spirits, their sharing awakened this almost dormant blog and the end of another year.
Hafer Park--The path to the spirit of hawks



Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving glue

I sat in the Santa Fe apartment one Thanksgiving a decade ago, watching out the window as the gray skies turned white with snow obscuring the Sangre de Cristos.
It had been a dark year and I'd retreated to my Uncle Mike's home, where it was warm and friendly, if lonely. I yearned most for phone calls from my far away children, and the conversations, while brief, added to my Thanksgiving for a sanctuary, for hope, for acceptance.
Isn't it strange the images and memories that come to us on Thanksgiving? While I remember few as a child growing up, I have an aquifer of them from the time I began my own family...and most are joyful, though tinged with sorrows and regrets as the years pass.
Each of you have similar memories...I can recite a few, because they run together the more there are. One, in the rolling corn-stubble fields of eastern Iowa, my wife and first born son dined on a pheasant I'd shot that day. It was stringy meat. The decorations in the big two-story farm house and love were wonderful.
Another, the entire family, including in-laws and more, packed up and rented a cabin, kitchen and all,  at Red River New Mexico, splitting the costs, dining while snow fell outside.
For several years my brother, wife, and his children trekked from West Texas to visit and play games and dine. The cousins played and laughed.
When those visits ceased, Thanksgiving lost some of its splendor for me. It would become a day of sadness and thoughts of time passing.
Later, our southern Oklahoma home became the center for gathering around a round oak table, and photos were always taken, a big smiling crowd of all ages. But we didn't take enough, because as some died, we wished we'd taken group photos every year.
I don't know the memories my children have of the gatherings, but I'm sure they are richer than mine, and I cherish what they have. Now their families are making their own memories, of which I'm a small part, as scattered as they are. I also cherish the brief moments I have with them on these holidays, remembering the earlier ones.
Now as I gather in other in-laws' homes, and the family prayer is said, naming people I don't know, I garner new memories of graciousness and joy. And one year, the prayer included petition for my first-born son who was then serving in Iraq.
But I miss my trips to Santa Fe, visiting with my uncle. Now the falling snow will be on his grave in the National Cemetery across from the window where I watched not so long ago.
Thanksgiving and its memories are a glue that holds me together. I am thankful for much, and especially the memories.




Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Secession Senility, or if Texas secedes

I'm a Southerner and a Texan and believe in secession. The Constitution doesn't prohibit it. Texas may have a right to secede.
But.
Grant's armies were the answer to secession in the 1800s.
Today, these narrow-minded knee-jerk sore election losers in several states petitioning for secession should be granted their wish...one that they'd immediately regret. Oklahoma and others would benefit.
Suppose Texas--or any other state--were to secede and we let them go?
Take Texas, for instance. The effects there would dwarf the damage to those petty states that don't have its resources.
All US military bases in Texas would be moved to Oklahoma and elsewhere...San Antonio would be one-fourth its size. El Paso would be a suburb of Juarez. The list goes on.
It would also save Social Security and Medicare, because Texans would no longer be citizens of the US, and they'd forfeit their benefits which the rest of us would inherit. It would  streamline the US government by requiring fewer politicians in the House and Senate and the serving bureaucrats.
"There's no telling what would be in that tamale."
 Texas, now without a state income tax, would have to institute an income tax to finance a military and road repairs, schools and subsidies to its farmers, if nothing else.
Texas would no longer be protected by the US military, which means Mexico would invade, beginning at the Juarez suburb of El Paso, and control at least half of the country before the remainder could raise an Army. Texas would be flooded with more drugs than now, because the US Coast Guard would not be in the Gulf.
The airports (DFW, Houston, etc)would have to shut down until Texas developed its own FAA and trained air traffic controllers. Thousands of teachers and hundreds of schools and universities would have to be cut because of the loss of federal aid. The population would shrink because thousands of federal workers would flee the state to keep their jobs.
Sure, Texas has enough oil to finance a government, but before it got the structure in place, roads would crumble, no aircraft could land. Prescription drugs would not be protected until Texas initiated its own FDA. Without the agriculture department, meat and vegetables and other food would not be regulated, so there's no telling what would be in that tamale. And all those bank deposits wouldn't be insured by the FDIC.
And if Texans did figure all this out, what would happen when part of the state decided to secede itself...the right of partition being a part of the current Texas Constitution?
Texans couldn't travel to what remained of the USA until its government issued passports, and the US recognized it as a separate country. If the US didn't recognize it, we'd build a border fence around it, and blow all the bridges across the Red River, setting up security checkpoints, guarded by the US Army.
Without recognition, all college and pro teams would spend the entire seasons playing each other. How many games could Houston and Dallas play each other each year and still keep an audience? Talk about income loss. OU would never lose to Texas again, or the Thunder to the Mavs.
Say, this is starting to sound pretty good.



Friday, October 26, 2012

Thanks to students

I learn more from my students than they do me.
Told Sam Philbeck I was impresses with all his posts in blogging class--60 so far this term.
He asks if I use the blogger ap for iPhone.
Didn't know about it but I do now!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

An oasis for the spirit in life's desert

New Mexico, especially for me, northern New Mexico, including Santa Fe, is an oasis for the spirit, and while it is not possible to detail even in a few photographs or words the creative energy of this last week, two events were among my many highlights.
I got to tour the darkroom and studio of landscape photographer Craig Varjabedian in Santa Fe. I met him thanks to poet-publisher-friend Jeanetta Calhoun Mish and wrote an article for The Gazette on his show at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum last year. And lunch with him was great, and we discussed his forthcoming book.
Now the book is out, Landscape Dreams, A New Mexico Portrait, in honor of New Mexico's 100th anniversary as a state. I bought it, of course, and he inscribe it to me. And the joys of touring a black and white darkroom in a quiet Santa Fe neighborhood, courtesy of his partner Cindy Lane. a review of the photos and three essays, including one by Mish, later.
http://www.craigvarjabedian.com/
Then we stopped at Collected Works bookstore and noticed that poet Jimmy Santiago Baca was going to read from his new book, The Lucia Poems, about his three-year-old daughter. So we bought the book, and attended the reading Friday evening.
We first discovered Baca years ago at a workshop in Albuquerque. He's an ex-con Chicano who taught himself how to read and write in prison, and has become the voice of the underdog, the oppressed, the poor. It was an omen to me that we should have this chance again.
The treat was that he had his entire family there, including Lucia, who hopped on the stage with him and enlivened the crowd with her comments and gestures, along with Baca's storytelling. While she can't read yet, she's practiced her writing and signed the book along with her father, after the reading.
Reading those poems now was all the more powerful since we've met her and have her signature, along with her father's.
These poems are full of hope and happiness, but they're not Pollyanna poems, because Baca weaves in the contrasts with poor and oppressed people and children around the world in our time of war and dismay. But that's for later, with a review and snippets.
http://www.jimmysantiagobaca.com/


All I know is that my soul and spirit always finds a rich oasis in a small, arid corner of the world with newly discovered springs of life you never expect.
Oasis in the desert--Lucia and her daddy Jimmy Santiago Baca signing books in santa Fe.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Finding life on Mars

One day soon, Curiosity will wheel around a mound of rock and come camera to face with life on Mars.
The life form will have been waiting for it to arrive, and greet it in English, "What took you so long to get here? Why are you surprised?"
The images beamed back to earth will cause consternation, not excitement. Scientists will have to rethink the universe. Religions will have to rewrite sacred texts and modify their beliefs.
For there, sitting in the middle of a desert, surrounded by artifacts from Earth, will sit a single man, pounding away on an old pre--electric typewriter. Sheaves of paper will be scattered about.
He'll not have on a space suit, because he's able to breathe the atmosphere and survive. He won't be a ghost, but there will be something "unearthly" about him, because there will be no evidence of food or water, and yet he'll continue to thrive.
Most of all, he'll just sit there, furiously typing away, full of enthusiasm and gusto, because he gets to write all the time.
It's not by accident that Ray Bradbury died on this planet, shortly before Curiosity landed on another planet. The Martian Chronicles are fulfilled.


Dr. Seuss at the "debate"


I will not, will not
watch this snot,
I will not, cannot
avoid the pot--
What they say
is so much whey
I will not, will not
join the lot
I cannot, cannot
buy the plot.

I tried, I tried
to stay away
But couldn't bear
not to hear
what they say
and how they play

Tis finally the season
for a little reason
Not the blather
and all the lather
from all the nuts
with their "buts,"
Can we have just a little
sanity with all the spittle?

If it goes right or if it goes wrong
we know the press will take the prong
Blame the media
or even expedia
but don't admit
you're a twit

Double, double, toil and trouble
Witches' brew for the bubble
Get me the pliers
To pull out the liars.
Why do you bother
to say one thing and mean the other?
Is this a debate
to make us relate
Or just a show
with  lots of blow?

It’s late, it’s late
And I won’t wait--
If that’s a debate
I’d like a rebate.

I want to whine
but the fault's not mine
they're out of time
and I want more wine.

Who is this fellow Clark?
That he thinks he's a lark?
You don’t need to hark
As he tries to make a mark--
Just don't go with him to the park
in the dark




Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Traveling in Time, Meditation

When you look in the eyes of a child, and the eyes of grandchildren, you travel in time. 
My recent trip to Missouri to see youngest son Derrick, his wife Naomi, and granddaughter Liberty Faye and new grandson Barrett Bryderick brought that home to me.
Speeding down  truck-crowded Interstate 70 in central Missouri near the end of a long day, my thoughts were on the textures and colors of an early fall landscape as another year swept swiftly by, like the mileposts on the side of the highway.
But when you arrive at the destination and pull onto the back roads, you slow down and so does everything else, especially when you move into the world of young grandchildren. Theirs is the world of "Now," of books and games and coloring books and food and naps and picnics and walks and swings in the park, and crying when things don't go right.  As long as there are loving parents, tomorrow and being in a hurry don't exist.
I watch my smiling son, eyes full of wonder,  lying on the floor on a rug with his son, six weeks old, turning his head to his father's voice. Now I know whey we still all like to sit down on the floor to read or  watch TV or just get in a different position. It's more than comfortable...it takes us back in time to when we were trying to life our heads, learning to turn over or crawl, before we were trying to take those first steps that would eventually separate us from playing on the present-tense floor most of our lives. 
Traveling back in time, I can remember when each of my children were there. Traveling forward in time, I know the next time I see the grandchildren, they will have grown. 
Before long, I will have to head back home down that hurried Interstate, to the world of tenses, because the future intrudes. But for a while, I travel in time to the world of "Now," where past and future are not separate, but joined in the eyes of children and grandchildren.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Questions for professional bloggers

My blogging class at UCO will have two guest speakers in the next three weeks, Dr. Kurt Hochenauer of the UCO English Department, and Mr. Dave Rhea, managing editor, digital products of the daily business newspaper in Oklahoma City, The Journal Record. Both of these bloggers have large followings.
 Kurt is a former journalist, and also teaches a blog class, as well as maintaining his blog, Okie Funk, Notes from the Outback, a liberal blog in very conservative Oklahoma.http://okiefunk.com/
 Dave is one of the bright media gurus in the state, a grad of the Florida journalism school, and a musician as well. His blog on Social Media and its impact on business in the Journal Record is an industry standard. http://journalrecord.com/category/Social-Media/





 I've asked the student to submit questions to them ahead of time. Here they are:
Both:
·      What are your favorite blogs to subscribe to and why?
What/who inspired you to do what you do today?
·      What have you hoped to accomplish through blogging, and how have you fared?
·      What are some of the challenges you've had in blogging?
·      What have been some of the breakthrough moments you've experienced during your time as a blogger?
·      Although content is the most important part of a blog, good content doesn't always translate into a growth in audience.  What advice do you have for growing an audience?
Dr. Hochenauer,
·      How important is it to format and design your blog based on your knowledge of what the viewer will like?
·      Is it important to be an individual and post material you like or should I find material my viewers will like?
Mr. Rhea,
·      How important is spelling and grammar in regards to the legitimacy of your blog?
·      Do you think it will affect your viewership if slang and improper sentence structure is used?
·      How's your life has changed since you started blogging?
Dr. Kurt Hochenauer,
·      Where do your credentials come from, why are you qualified to blog about politics?
·      What are you trying to teach people with your blog? Are you trying to inform or simply bash people?
Mr. Dave Rhea,
·      Do you see any similarities in your music and your blogging style?
·      What is the most important thing when setting up a blog? 
Questions for Dr.  Hochenauer:
·       With the blog market saturated with entertainment-based sites,
what, in your opinion, can be done to stand out?
·      What do you see as the next evolution of citizen journalism after blogs?
Questions for Dave Rhea:
·      Were you able to balance your love of music and writing simultaneously?
·      With so many social media sites joining the fracas, how many
"links, likes and follows" is too much for a blogger/journalist any
more?
·      In your own words, what is a "positive digital identity"
·      How would you describe your own personal identity.
Dave,
·      what prompted this post about hate as an emotion?
·      How do you deal with the conflicting physiological feelings, emotions, etc... (do you read or count your breaths- pray?
Dr. Kurt Hochenauer
·      Since Oklahoma is a mostly conservative state, did you receive and criticism once your blog became popular? or even before it became popular?
·      Before becoming a professor at the University what did you do?
Dave Rhea
·      Do you alone do all of the layout and design for your blog?
·      Other than being asked to be a media advisor for the Mass Communication, have you been been a media advisor for any other organizations ?
Dr. Kurt Hochenauer,
·      Do you take a great deal of criticism due to your blog being liberal in Oklahoma's conservative political landscape?
·      What are your thoughts on the New Media movement out of Tulsa (This Land Press, etc.)?
Dave Rhea:
·      Do you feel any stress concerning audience reception when writing hot topic blogs?
·      Do you prefer writing opinion or news?
How successful was your band at its prime?  Did you play with anyone famous?
·      How did you get into media and blogging from being in a band?
Kurt Hochenauer –
·      How long have you been blogging and what are the positive effects from your blog?
·      What provoked your interest in blogging?
·      Description: https://mail.google.com/mail/images/cleardot.gifWith the blogging experience that you have as well as teaching a class on blogging what is the most important recommendation you can give to first time bloggers?
·       How big of an impact, if any, does social media have on blogging? 
·      How do you keep your subscribers interested in your longer and more specific posts?
David Rhea
·      How many people helped create this blog with you?
·      How do you advertise your blog?
·      Give us a quick overview of your career in the music business. How did your time there influence your writing career?
·      What are your top three tips for novice bloggers?
Dr. Kurt Hochenauer:
·      Do you find it hard to stay objective in your political writing, especially with the upcoming election?
·      What/who influenced you the most to start/maintain your writing career?
Both: What do you see as the future of blogs? Why do you think blogs are so effective? How have blogs changed the future of journalism?