"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.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Unfinished pages in a drought

Hoping for rain, 8 by 10 watercolor
Drought. It sneaks up on you, and then dries up more than just the physical landscape--your mind, your soul, your creativity.
Just because you start a book, doesn't mean you have to finish it. That excuse helped me a little early this month when I was feeling sorry for myself for not reading enough during the last half of last year. I pride myself on trying to have read at least a book a month, but it seemed my mental drought of the last six months of the year matched the drought Oklahoma and the country is in. My reading, blogging, writing and painting dried up.
Scrounging through the house this week for books soothed my parched air somewhat as I counted nine unfinished books.
I got bogged down in Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!  I shouldn't feel too bad--I mean page long sentences just war me out.
Then there were Stephen Hawkin'gs Illustrated Brief History of Time and The Universe in a Nutshell. I tried, really tried, but I just can't keep up with that level of thinking. Some of it made sense, and I could read a few pages at a time. But then he'd write something that I just couldn't understand.
There were a couple of sorta New Age books, Counter Clockwise and On Becoming an Artist by Ellen Langer. Some good ideas, but somewhat dry and a little too out-there for this skeptical journalist. One paperback book  I picked up was L.L. Barkat's Rumors of Water, thoughts on creativity and writing. I scanned a few pages, underlined a few passages, and thought "Nothing new here. I've wasted my money."
'When you're in a drought you have to keep looking for water, or you won't find it.'
I started rereading and old paperback of Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes, and I will probably finish it, when the mood strikes, some dark and stormy night.
At year's end, I was reading Bernard DeVoto's Across the Wild Missouri, about the American fur trade, and I will finish it. It's a old hardback 1947 First Edition that my Dad owned, and I'd just never picked it up. Lots of photographs of the art of the time, showing and telling about a short time in the rapidly disappearing frontier American West.
The lessons are--some books you just can't read, some are too deep, some are not worth reading, some are just too far-fetched to devote serious time to. And two are worth finishing.
When you're in a drought you have to keep looking for water, or you won't find it..
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For the record, I did read six books the last half of the year, adding to the 12 I read the first half. I'll tell you about those soon. Here's the link on two I wrote about in the middle of my drought-stricken October, refreshed only by a trip to the aquifer of New Mexico:
http://clarkcoffee.blogspot.com/2012/10/an-oasis-for-spirit-in-lifes-desert.html. Here's the link to the watershed of 12 read during the first half of 2012:
http://clarkcoffee.blogspot.com/2012/06/turning-pages-of-first-half-of-2012.html

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