"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons 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.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

"Cowboy" poetry, and pages of a year half gone

"Greasy corrals"
"After awhile the hills wrap
around you, hold life secure:
the rock, hawk and oak tree...."
One of the books I've read these first six months came into my hands in April, written by a California poet and winner of the Wrangler Awards for  best poetry book of the year at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. Wrangler Awards

"Old Men"
"So much needs not to be said.
Old men grin with their eyes,
save breath with a look...."
I'm a judge in the non-fiction category, and the "pay," is getting to see all the new books, and then attend the shindigs at the museum and meet the authors. His book is the seventh I've managed to digest in these last six months, the year half gone today.


 "Old Words"
"There are places to save
things, spots out of the way
of traffic, dusty cubby holes
for lost loves and ...
"One day, we clean house
to find all the old words
are now meaningless...
I'd met John Dofflemyer before, when he won another Wrangler in 2009 for Poems from Dry Creek, so I didn't want to miss out on this book. He's a genuine California cowboy, so he writes about the land and people in a haunting way that captures the West, and my spirit. Since 2005, he and his wife Robbin have a blog, Drycrik Journal. It has her photography and his poetry, and you'll enjoy it.


"Under Oaks"
..."that I wear the dust
of where I've been
upon my flesh
and in my lungs...."
The new book is Proclaiming  Space, Award winner and though I told him the first book really spoke to me, he said he was happier with this one. It is deeper,  with four sections, "Proclaiming Space," "Waiting to be Served," "Out of Doors," "and "Elegies." In it he delves into lives past and present, and even into the insane politics of the time, though it's not a political book. I get the impression all of these poems come from his observations on his ranch, whether he's working, or just contemplating the pasture growing. 


"Snakes in the road"
...A man can endure
only so many squeezes, so many crosshairs
before he begins to step around insects,
and spiders, avoiding the snakes in the road."
And I note influences from other poets, like one of my favorites Robinson Jeffers, and also Ezra Pound, who he does quote from in the book. One echoes Williams Carlos Williams "Red Wheelbarrow, "So much depends on a red wheelbarrow...."

"Physics"
"So much depends
on soil--"
There are too many favorites of mine among the more than 100 poems about hay rakes, cattle, snakes, wars, mortality,  the seasons, Christmas, Cowboys, cattle and poetry and more to do more than give you these few lines. 

"November"
"...we are oaks with acorns at our feet,
long-limbed sycamores dancing naked
in the rain--no time to be discrete."
Hope these excerpts  whet your appetite, and you go to his blog and hook up.
The Dofflemyers
"To Hell in a Handbasket"
"Hear the hatred rattling in the grass?
Old war babies crying in their sleep, still
believing they had a say and glad
to have a black man now to blame....
"The rock doesn't care anymore, rivers
laugh off the mountains, but the deserts
remember every word in our heads..."
"Usura-Contra Natura"
"...beyond the grasp of governments and time,
beyond the baited traps of the same insatiable
perchmates: Mrs. Greed and Mr. Power."
"Visiting the Future"
"Mule packers, horse lovers
wearing outdoor eyes--
who've caught God
drooling at his easel
on every horizon...." 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Old, and youthful, and 108 on the country list

About the time I give up on gaining readers from more countries, I get a surprise, as I did this week, when somebody in Honduras clicked on the blog, the 108th country to have had readers.
The country is old, "discovered" by Columbus on his fourth voyage, and occupied by Spain in 1524 when Cortez arrived from Mexico.
Honduras first gained independence from Spain in 1821, and was part of the First Mexican Empire for two years before it became part of the United Provinces of Central America. It became completely independent in 1838.
About the size of Tennessee, it has about 7.7 million people. It's got a two party system, but like many countries has gone through civil wars and military rule. It also served as a staging base for US forces when Reagan got us involved in the Nicaraguan problems. The main problems facing the country now are because of its huge young population, with 30 percent  between 15 and 24. This has lead to lots of gang violence, with an estimate of more than 30,000 gang members. 
I've had a really good student from Honduras, and my uncle Louis spend his last years retired there at the beach town of Tela.
The flag symbolizes the short-lived attempt at union in the Republic of Central America in the 1890s--of Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and El Salvador. There is always hope for more peace and freedom, so it's good to have a reader from there. In Central America, I have had readers also in Guatamala, Belize (formerly British Honduras) and Costa Rica.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Paula Deen and African-American food

Image at the top of Michael W. Twittu's blog, "Afroculinaria,"  and the open letter to Paula Deen
I think the controversy over Paula Deen's comments has been overblown and has reached the arena of media grabbing audience, rather than discussing meaningful issues.
But this blog about Afro-American cooking, an open letter to her, really captures what we should be about as Americans. Read it. Open letter to Paula
Better yet, if you're a "foodie," follow that blog.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Thoughts on the Court and "DOMA," politics aside

I don't write about politics here---plenty of that to go around elsewhere.
But my "sister-in-law" Jennifer Henry wrote something about common human decency on her blog today, Jenniferuns is 51. It reminded my of manners and lessons of how my mother taught me to be respectful of people, regardless of skin color. Jennifer's blog isn't about politics either.  
Jennifer is one of the most upbeat, accepting, non-judgmental people I've ever known. Her thoughts on the Supreme Court decision about the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act" reminded me of my Mom's example.
I think you should read Jen's comments. Jennifer's blog

June travels to Africa and Wyoming

When you're stalled, you need to travel, and I'm there now, staring at maps, dreaming. My reading, writing and painting have  withered this spring. Usually priding myself on at least a book a month, and averaging more than that, I looked back and realized I hadn't really read anything since February. There were four books read by the end of that short month, and while I'd started a couple, they also lay stalled.
Then Africa and Wyoming came calling with two books read this month.
Early this month I was wandering through a bookstore and found a new book by a favorite
author, Paul Theroux. He's captivated me because he travels, he writes, and he prefers trains, and I've read his books about South American, Asian and African travel that way--The Old Patagonian Express, The Great Railway Bazaar, Dar Star Safari.
No wonder The Last Train to Zona Verde grabbed me, his "ultimate African safari" I finished it recently, and there's a hitch..he usually travels by beat up bus. He's my age, facing my issues of mortality, and traveling alone from South Africa up through sparsely settled Namibia and corrupt bereft Angola, and it's not a pleasant trip. Here's a side of truth and poverty you can't imagine, of rich government officials rolling in oil money while their people starve. 
Theroux is an expert at telling the stories, and showing the lives of common people, not the stories of tourism brochures. A couple of phrases will give you the sense:
In Namibia, --"it seemed like a place fighting for survival"
In Angola, the nightmare of poverty and corruption and suffering from long wars, he notes wildlife is extinct.--"Angola is perhaps a lesson in wasted time."
Still, it was not depressing, but a journey you wanted to survive, with him, and find out how it ended. Here's a link of him discussing the book.  African book


My paperback doesn't have a color cover
But I needed more friendly territory, and I've found it every Sunday night on A&E channel, with the series, Longmire, set in Wyoming, but filmed in my beloved New Mexico, at places I easily identify.
I learned it was based on a series of books, written by Craig Johnson, and ordered the first of the books, The Cold Dish, a week ago. I've finished it, and feel so at home, with an author who knows the contemporary West.
The main character, a rural sheriff, isn't as handsome as the Gunsmoke Matt Dillon look-a-like who stars on TV, but the TV has the mood and action down straight, and the book is real in its portrayal of people, Western humor, cultures, weather and landscape.
Here are the links to the author and the TV show:
Craig Johnson Longmire TV
Interesting fact I learned writing this. The sheriff drinks Rainier beer. Headquarters of Mount Rainier National Park is at the town of Longmire. Ah, an author's mind.
One phrase that shows you the author really knows his subject, about aged pickup trucks parked around the Red Pony bar:
"in Wyoming, even pickup trucks have personal space."



Sunday, June 23, 2013

Watercolor lessons, quotations for life

Frank Francese's brilliant watercolors, photo taken at OKC workshop
I'm convinced lessons on art apply to life, and Frank Francese's watercolor workshop was more proof in four days at IAO, part of my "art month." Here are some vibrant paintings and colors I saw, and vibrant thoughts I heard, from a great painter and teacher. Frank's website

Here's some of what he said:
"Use any color you want."
"If you draw every day, it'll improve your painting"
"If you don't draw a value sketch, you don't know how to finish a painting."
"Keep it simple and direct."
"Don't finish every area. A painting is like a symphony with highs and lows."
"Think in shapes, not lines"
"You can't have light if you don't have darks."
"Use big brushes."
"The first application of color is the best."
"A lot has to go right to make a good painting."
"If you over plan, you plan to fail. If you don't plan, you will fail."
"A line locks you into the shape." 
"The only way to get rich color is put the color on wet and wait on the paper."
"If someone says you can't do it, try it."
Workshop photo of one of Frank's brilliant paintings
"Do what you want to do. It's not life or death. Have fun."
"Leave the edges vague to draw the viewers' eye into the painting."
"You really never know what's going to happen in watercolor. You can predict some, not not all."
"Saying less lets you say more."
"Cows are like cars and people. They come in all shapes. and sizes."
"People are just shapes. They're carrots." "Paint the gesture of the body. Put the head on last."
"Have fun with people."
"When in doubt, leave it alone."
Drop some color in just to see what it will do.
"What happens in the foreground dictates what happens in the middle ground."
"Paintings don't have to make sense. They just have to look good."
"Let the brush do the work for you."
"If you have an idea you want to try, try it."
"Don't get too painterly. Get in and go."
"It's a difficult workshop. "
"You don't learn, unless it's difficult."

Mirror image of Frank finishing a workshop masterpiece as we watched in admiration

A watercolor artist's vibrant lessons


One of Frank Francese's vibrant watercolors.
Earlier this month, I enjoyed  a four-day watercolor workshop with Frank Francese  http://www.ffrancese.com/ (Click on his website. You'll be astounded.) at the IAO gallery on Sheridan here, courtesy the Oklahoma Art Guild. http://iaogallery.org/wordpress/ 
Frank at work 
Frank, who lives in Grand Junction, Colorado,  is internationally known for his vibrant painting style. I wanted to attend one of his workshops a year ago, but it was out of state and the travel would have been expensive. This one cost a little over $300 and there were only 11 of us enrolled, so it was informal and fun. I'm fascinated by how people create, and am always interested in how writers write, and how painters paint. There's so much to be learned.
He has a unique style. He draws sketches of all kinds of land-, sea- and city-scapes. Then he uses black and gray pens to turn them into value studies.  When he paints, he makes no  pencil marks on the paper, but paints from the value sketches, choosing the colors he wants to use.
The mirror image of Frank painting Paseo
Every way he did two demos, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. He painted beneath a mirror, so we could see what he was doing. I sat on the end of the aisle near the front, so I could stand up and take photos from all angles. Then we painted from copies of the same value sketches, and except on two complicated ones, we didn't draw on the appear. He was using full sheets and we used quartersheets. What a challenge. Then we had critiques.
What I appreciate most about his painting is the ample use of the white paper (remember, no white paint in transparent watercolor--if you don't plan for the white, you won't have it). his vivid colors, and uses of shadow and contrast. What I appreciate about his teaching, is that no matter how poor my painting was, he found something good to say about it first, and then made suggestions. 
Alas, the only finished painting shot I got was the mirror image. But Wow!
I get more than just watercolor lessons from such a workshop. I'm always paying attention to how someone teaches. I'm having fun. And I've found over and over again, that lessons from watercolor can also be life lessons.
If you're interested in watching Frank paint, here's a 30 second video of him working on that painting. 
video







"Jour"nalism, words and flags of readers

Among the early readers of this blog are people in three countries I have strong language connections with, though I am certainly not fluent in their languages, nor even rudimentary in two of them.
  “Bon jour,” say the French when greeting someone in the mornings: “Good day.” The Latin-derived French word is closest to the original Latin “diurnum” for “day.”  In late Latin, “diurnalis” meant “journal,” a daily record. As the word migrated into late Middle English as “journal,” it meant a record for travelers of the daily stages of a trip, an itinerary of the “journey.” By the late 1500s, it evolved into any daily record and was applied to periodicals.  In the late 1600s, “journalist” described a person who earned a living by writing or editing for a newspaper or periodical. In the 20th Century, it also described people working in broadcast news. All journalists provide a periodic record of events people want to, or need to, know.--Oxford English Dictionary
"Buon Giorno," say the Italians, same root words and meanings. Next door to them both, separated by the Mediterranean and the Pyrenees, the Spanish is "Buenos Dias," from the "diurnum." 
Spanish is  the language I can get by in, having grown up in New Mexico. Spanish has saved me in both France and Italy in those rare places were we found ourselves without any English speakers--once on a French train, and once in southern Rome trying to find a bus.
I won't bother you with histories of these countries, you know them. Readers of this blog in France rank sixth on the all time list of readers from 107 countries, behind the U.S., Germany, Russia, UK, and Ukraine. I usually have Italian and Spanish readers every week.
  The Spanish flag dates from 1785 with the coat of arms added later. A version of this flag's colors  flew over much of what is now the U.S. long before the Pilgrims landed, including Santa Fe. The Italian flag dates from 1797 before Italy was even unified, and became the official flag in 1946. It's hard to measure the huge Italian cultural and political influence in America. Where would we be without immigration of new blood and ideas?  The French flag dates from their revolution in the late 1700s up through 1830.
    We Americans should have a special connection with the French Tricolor, because we wouldn't have won our Revolution without the French. Yes, we get irritated at the maddening French independence and,  some say,  arrogance when the country refuses to follow our foreign policy demands. But I have little patience with those people who, ironically displaying the same self-centeredness and intolerance they criticize and demean the French for , as with the recent petty protests  by renaming something "American fries." They are as narrow-minded as they say the French are, just the opposite of what independence is supposed to be about.  Remember also that the tricolor flew over much of what is North America, including what is now Oklahoma, before Jefferson bought the Louisiana Purchase.
  It's no wonder one of my favorite paintings, which I just stood at and stared in the Louvre a few years ago, was Delacroix's 9-foot by 10-foot "La Liberté guidant le peuple," (Liberty leading the people). And now with a granddaughter named "Liberty," I love it even more.
"Bon jour," "grazie" "y saludos a sus todos."
"Liberty leading the people," with the French tricolor.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

What's "perking" in my coffee pot...literally

Literally,  in my uncle Mike's old coffee pot...Real coffee.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Landing on the beach, almost, and 107 countries

No, this isn't "photoshopped," but a real jumbo jet landing at Sint Maartin
"Sint Maartin" read the statistic of a country of a new reader of the blog this month. I thought it was a typo. It wasn't. It's less than half an island in the West Indies, owned by the Netherlands, and someone on that island clicked on this blog, marking the 107th country to have readers here.
The photo above, that I pulled off the Internet, is meant to catch your attention, because the runway is so short that jets actually are this close to the beach landing and taking off. I read somewhere that people have been blown off the beach by the jet blast, but I haven't confirmed that.
Sint Maartin is the smallest and southern portion of the island known as Saint Martin, and French is spoken on the other side. Dutch and English are official languages here.
The island has a long history, discovered by Columbus on his second voyage in 1493. Since then it's gone back and forth between Spanish, Dutch and French control, the Dutch settling in 1631, a base for its trade between Brazil and New Amsterdam (now New York). After the abolition of slavery on the plantations by the French and Dutch in the 1800s the island dwindled  until the mid-Twentieth Century saw the boost of tourism as a duty free port.
Sint Maartin became an "island territory" in the 1980s, part of the Netherlands Antilles, and in 2010 a "constituent country." Today about 40,000 people live in the country, and 36,000 on the French side, and tourism is the major economy. On the French side naturally, the flag is the French Tricolor. But Sint Maartin has its own flag, bearing its coat of arms.
The Princess Juliana International Airport requires the low approach over the Caribbean, and it handled more than 1.6 million passengers and 100,000 aircraft in 2007. There have been no accidents. I'd like to land there and blog away.  Another view:

Solstice dawn and days missed

Dawn at Chaco Canyon
The longest "day" of the year, when time, the sun "stands" still--the literal translation of "solstice,"  
as the sun begins its journey toward shorter days. This marks also the end of an unintended  three week "blogcation," the longest interruption in writing in the five year history of Coffee with Clark.
It is appropriate to show a photo of one  of the places of power in the world,
one of my places--Fajada Butte in Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. Atop that 300-foot sandstone land mark is a "sunmark"--where the Anasazi more than 1,000 years ago erected  stones  to form a "sun dagger" to accurately record the solstices, equinoxes and even moon cycles. It probably had to do with planting seasons, and more, with religious rites. 
We increasingly urban folks mark the first day of summer or other seasons on a calendar, but are so out of touch with nature and the universe that  seasons don't have as much meaning as they used to. For us, "time flies." Time may not have stood still with multiple ideas that were "meant-to-have-been" blog posts, but weren't. Even this one is difficult, but like an eventual shaft of sunlight between rocks, there are more stories to tell. 
Alas, vibrations from the increased traffic far below Fajada, and the years, have shifted the rocks, even with restoration by Park personnel. So today's solstice didn't quite hit the mark.  I can not imagine the knowledge and patience it took to build a site like this, or the ones at Mayan and Inca sites, or at Stonehenge. Years were required.
The only way to see Fajada at dawn is to camp there overnight, 26 miles of gravel road off the highway in northwest New Mexico. It's cold, but so worth it. At night, you can see the stars move overhead, actually sense the earth moving. And as the shadows climb up and down the sandstone cliffs at down or sunset, you can see time.
so in the time that's flown by these last three weeks, there were going to be posts on Reduxion Theatre, on Frank Francese's watercolor workshop at IAO, on the 40th Prix de West art show, on music at Paseo, on freelance writers, on the 107th country blog reader, and more. You can't "catch up" in time, but you can get glimpses of the past, at Chaco, and in words, soon.