"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.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Quakeahoma--shaken and stirred--a lament

Location of today's big one, three smaller ones, and blue dot disposal wells.

Earthquake Central...It rolled the house about 5 am two days ago...a rumble coming through the trees and then a crack and more, waking the entire area, doing damage. A 4.3 earthquake. Thirty minutes later there was another one, over 3. Since then there have been about eight more throughout the day. The epicenter was about three miles from here. There have been more since, including news of a "re-activated" fault in the area.
Oklahoma is the most seismically active state in the country, other than Alaska. The year is setting records for 4+ quakes and more.
Severe damage near epicenter
Everybody knows why, but nothing is being done, because our government officials are owned the the perps--energy companies.
The once key to the oil boom was "fracking," pumping water deep into the earth to free oil. But then the water had to be disposed of, so they began injecting the water into wastewater wells back into the earth. Oklahoma has many small faults, and this water pressure has obviously spurred these quakes.
Of course the government officials and oil companies deny it, but scientists here and around the country know it is the case, having plenty of research to back it up, as do most people in the state. 
But, pardon the pun, our leaders and owners have had their heads in the sand.
Perhaps now, something will be done, as the puppet governor and corporation commission seek ways to postpone any significant action. They may no longer be able to. Nothing illustrates what I called the two Oklahomas years ago. There's the relative prosperous urban, and the slowly declining rural.
As long as the quakes were hurting poor people in relatively unpopulated, low-vote areas, the big dollar, big city boys and girls could ignore them. Now however, we'd made national news, and quakes are affecting the voting centers. Articles in the mainstream media are now reporting this.
Oklahoma's wastewater injection wells
We are a three industry state--energy,  military bases and ag. And one industry is in deep trouble. Gasoline prices tumble with the price of oil, energy companies are laying hundreds of employees off. In spite of declining revenue, our government "leaders" cut taxes this year, and now the state budget disaster will harm thousands in the next year. They euphemistically call it a "Revenue Failure."
We need a different kind of quake--it'll probably take deaths. Ironically, what could also change things is if a big quake damages the oil hub at Cushing, shutting off oil across the country. That will bring down the state economy even more. 
Government leaders and chamber of commerce PR types  brag about "The Oklahoma Standard," but the reality is a looming disaster caused by not facing facts and acting on them, because of political pressure and corporate ownership.
In the meantime, there will be more and more quakes, more and more damage to houses and businesses, more and more government "studies" and "committees" and postponements, more and more industry denials.
How long until this shaken state's population gets stirred enough to do something about it?

(Thanks to information and help from The Journal Record, photo from NewsOK)
 


Of time and the blog--2015's favorite posts

Looking back, here are my favorite posts from 2015. In many ways, Coffee with Clark is a diary, a daily or weekly journal.
Regrets include many ideas and experiences I just didn't get around to, including not enough posts on our England Scotland trip. This blog could be a full time job--there are so many stories to be told. 
But..here's a sampling. Click on the links.

January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December

Of time and a blog...another December

"Blogging takes time," one of my students said this year.
Yep, and as I think back on this seventh December of blogging for me, and the posts I've been postponing, or never got around to, I'm amazed Coffee with Clark has lasted this long.
This is the 134th post this year, and the 1,630th since the blog began in May 2009. The blog faltered this year, with fewer posts than usual, but that's still an average of about 20 a month over 79 months.
Coffee with Clark milestones this December:
  • More than 200,000 page views since I began.
  • 139 countries with readers --Kyrgyzstan, and Botswana clicked in this month.
I think it proves I'm still a journalist, because it doesn't make money...it's something I do because I want to--having an itch to write, and  because professionally I'm teaching blogging. 
The vast majority of it has been original content, essentially an old-fashioned newspaper column, but with color, photos, videos and more--without guest bloggers.
Certainly over time, it has changed, along with me. There are more visuals now, less lengthy writing, and more art work. I told Susan yesterday that  it's easier to paint something and post it with a few words, than to do all the research necessary to produce an intelligent written blog post. An example--this post took almost an hour.
Cases in point are two more I want to do today, if I have time--and I've been putting them off. One is an article about our earthquake crisis. Part of that is because I avoid politics, and the issue involves politics. Another post is our visit to see the First Folio of Shakespeare in Norman yesterday.
You just can't post photos and spout off...as a journalist, accuracy of facts is essential to me.
Anyway, this December's page views were the most since August. Told you it fluctuated. Here are the stats.


  (The chart shows the blog started in May, 2010, but that's an inaccuracy caused by the blog host, blogspot. Can't figure it out.)

                                  Year-by-year post totals   
2015 to date--135: December--24
2014--276: December--33
2013--252: December--39
2012--203: December--2
2011--134: December--15
2010--292: December--9
2009--339: December--47
(Note--most blogs start off strong, and then sort of fizzle out. While mine has fluctuated, I'm proud it is still going, and being read. Thank you.)

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Year's end, or...

End of day, of year, or...5.5 by 8.5 watercolor
Last painting of the year, as the light fades.

Silhouettes of the past, and future 
form a landscape
where there are no roads,
only choices made and choices to make.
We like to think of destinations
but the journey ahead
is indistinct as the gloaming.
Tis a time of melancholy and malaise
Of hopes and uncertainty,
And as the sun goes down
or comes up,
we take another step...

Monday, December 28, 2015

Why America needs characters, not cookie cutters

"We have become a tamed people."
                                                --Sean Prentiss
I read to explore, to learn, to get new ideas, to marvel at the power of words, to be inspired, to be prodded, to be angered, to think, to imagine, to discover, to travel,...the verbs go on...
My books are marked up--underlined, starred, words circled, phrases boxed, marginal notes made. My books are as varied in subjects and genres as my interests. 
When I read....
I keep discovering books and authors and worlds I didn't know about, and at my age, and as a repentant English major, I know I should have been more aware. Every visit to a bookstore opens my eyes. Every book read opens doors to more books and authors.
So much to read, so much to write, so much to find.
So it is today as I'm reading "Finding Abbey, The search for Edward Abbey and His Hidden Grave" by Sean Prentiss. I'm about a third of the way through and am reminded why Abbey, an iconoclast, a Western Thoreau, and people like him are so important.
We live in a politically correct world that is trying to standardize everything, from school tests, to college syllabi, to housing and clothing styles, to restaurants and politics and unbridled corporate materialism--cookie cutters.
Abbey fought against that. He was a character, and as I get older and more comfortable with myself, I too don't want to be a shallow copycat. Being a character is fun...
Even teaching has changed to where I try to provoke my students' thinking, to teach them to adapt, to follow their passions, to stand out as individuals. 
Wish I had earlier.
Here are a few of my marked words from Prentiss's book:
  • "America needs Abby's ideas now because we're stuck in a slow slide to the suburbanization of our lives. We've tamed everything from our land, to create those hollow suburbs, to our voices, where we talk and write in whispers so as not to offend our neighbors, to our actions, where we sit behind desks hour after hour, day after day, waiting for someone, anyone, to do something to shatter the routine. But nobody does. We have become a tamed people... ." 
  •  "I don't want answers.  Answers don't solve questions. Only searching does. The wandering, the wondering, the exploring." 
  • "We focus on how much our economy has grown rather than focusing on how we have grown as a people. Our focus is on consumption, not lifestyle or overpopulation." 
  • "Recently, everything has become normal, routine, repetitive, monotonous. As if I have morphed into middle age simply by accepting a job. I've got a house, a garage, a mortgage, a lawn to mow, a slew of house repair projects. This is not who I am."
  • "Wilderness? Wildness? Gone. Replaced by an urban cage." 
 America needs characters, not cookie cutters.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

End of year reading, piling up

Five books beckon this month, piling up the reading list in a year-end flourish.
Two others have Oklahoma subjects. One includes stories  about the South by one of the best writers in the country. One is a self-discovery book and another I discovered today. 
I've read more than half of one, and breezed  through two of them because they're books of short chapters and you can bounce around, and thus pretty well read them.
With 23 books read so far this year, I figure I can count those two to boost me past my goal of two a month.
The Oklahoma books
I recently found and bought a book I wish I’d had the idea for, "The Main Streets of Oklahoma--Okie Stories from Every County," by Kristi Eaton. It's full of quirky interviews and facts from every corner of the state, some with photos. Some are county seats, but others are small towns barely on the map.
 I was pleased that four of the chapters featured community newspapers--my love: the Sayre Record and Beckham County Democrat, Garber-Billings News in Garfield County, Seminole Producer in Seminole County, and Cordell Beacon in Washita County. Each of the publishers is interviewed.
The other Oklahoma book is Barbara James Fretwell's novel, "Cimarron Crucible," set in a fictional town int he Panhandle about a woman running a newspaper. It starts with the disappearance of a small girl, and that has stopped me from reading yet, but I'll get to it. I have a hard time reading anything that has to do with harm to a child. But I love newspapers and the Panhandle.

The South
One book essentially read already is Rick Bragg's "My Southern Journey." Bragg is a heavyset Alabama boy who has worked for the New York Times, winning a Pulitzer. His best is "All Over But the Shoutin'" about his mother. This book is a collection of his short articles in "Southern Living" magazine and elsewhere.    My Southern heritage makes this a scrumptious read--about common people  and their lives.
Discoveries
I found Elizabeth Lesser's "Broken Open--How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow," on my wife's table, and she can't remember where she got it. I wish I'd found it years ago--it speaks honestly to me and anyone about recovery.
Today, while judging this year's  non-fiction books for the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum's annual Wrangler Awards, I came across "Finding Abbey, The Search for Edward Abbey and His Hidden Desert Grave" by Sean Prentiss. 
Abbey, a Western Thoreau, has been a hero for me for more than 20 years, introduced by a favorite student at OSU. Anyone who loves the Southwest knows his value. I've only started this book, and am grabbed by the author's narratives and spirit. Published by the University of New Mexico Press.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

If you want something--give it...thoughts for America

Reflecting at the looming year's end, on thoughts from the first year of the blog, way back in 2009, with revisions especially for this time in American materialism and fear- and hate-filled politics--

"Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure-- pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return." –Luke 6:38
1. If you want love
2. If you want mercy
3. If you want generosity
4. If you want friendship
5. If you want peace
6. If you want success
7. If you want rewards
8. If you want admiration
9. If you want to be liked
10. If you want silence
11. If you want gifts
12. If you want to get along
13. If you want happiness
14. If you want humanity
15. If you want humility
16. If you want humor
17. If you want respect
18. If you want honor
19. If you want trust
20. If you want maturity
21. If you want preparation
22. If you want organization
23. If you want thinking
24. If you want spontaneity
25. If you want energy
26. If you want fairness
27. If you want privacy
28. If you want time
29. If you want scholarship
30. If you want timeliness
31. If you want listening
32. If you want participation
33. If you want attendance
34. If you want up to date
35. If you want cooperation
36. If you want excellence
37. If you want high standards
38. If you want enthusiasm
39. If you want trustworthiness
40. If you want passion
41. if you want hard work
42. If you want learning
43. If you want money
44. If you want professionalism
Or

43. If you want hatred
44. If you want insecurity
45. If you want arrogance
46. If you want backbiting
47. If you want insincerity
48. If you want arguments
49. If you want fears
50. if you want contention
51. If you want anger
52. If you want empty flattery
53. If you want stinginess
54. If you want mistrust
55. If you want backstabbing
56. if you want gossip
57. if you want selfishness
58. If you want disrespect
59. If you want laziness
60. If you want criticism
61. If you want dishonesty
62. If you want accusations
63. If you want racism
64. If you want sexism
65. If you want bias
66. if you want discrimination
67. If you want griping
68. If you want contempt
69. If you want rudeness
70. If you want wordiness
71. If you want tardiness
72. If you want lying
73. If you want lack of preparation
74. If you want disorganization
75. If you want excuses
76. If you want tardiness
77. if you want inconsistency
78. If you want low expectations
79. If you want arbitrariness
80. If you want boring

Storm a'coming

"Storm a'Coming," Today's watercolor, 5.5 by 8.5
On the Great Plains, you can see the weather coming. 
Rural people know how to read the sky, the changes, the dangers, the blessings. We sit in our urban homes, read the internet or TV radar maps and forecasts, the horizons obscured by buildings and traffic. 
I love the  weather maps...they tell me what I would  already know if I lived in a ranch house where, as Willa Cather put it in "Death Comes for the Archbishop," Elsewhere the sky is the roof of the world; but here the earth was the floor of the sky."

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Dawn

Dawn--5.5 by 8.5 watercolor painting
"...until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts." 
                                                         --2 Peter 1:19




"Is as the light of the morning when the sun rises, A morning without clouds, 
When the tender grass springs out of the earth,... ." 
                                                         --2 Samuel 23:4

Thursday, December 24, 2015

New day coming

Coffee time, 5 by 7 watercolor

125 years ago today

Old North, from a Christmas card this year
Today, 125 years ago, what is now the University of Central Oklahoma began as the first teacher's college in Oklahoma Territory.
This is my 26th year as a professor at the University of Central Oklahoma, formerly Central State University, Central State College, Central Normal School. There's much to-do, as there should be this year about this milestone.
Prairie icon years ago
Within two years, what is now "Old North" was erected on the prairie. Many years later I actually attended my first journalism classes in the building. It was a strange circular journey in life that brought me back here to teach. The building has been closed for years now because of structural decay, and refurbishing and additions have been underway, as budgets and fund-raising allows. 
Today, except there's construction fence around her
Still, though, it is an icon for many Oklahomans. Almost anywhere you go in this state, when people hear you teach at UCO,   someone will say they went there, or a relative or friend did. They, and we, joke about the name changes, with "Central State" the most common, and usually, we just settle on "Central."
It's a good school, with many great programs, respected around the state, having grown from those small beginnings to about 17,000 students.
An earlier watercolor
All of this is, as my faculty colleagues joke, "In spite of," not being treated equally in budget allocations with other colleges in the state, and in the face of less and less state support.
But I'm proud of the place...we have great students and great alumni, and judging by their successes, I think we do great work.
I've painted "Old North" many times. Happy Birthday, UCO.


Christmas eve--beckoning

Beckoning--Christmas eve, 5 by 7 watercolor, card
When it's time...parents anticipate, knowing the time of birth is near. All thoughts and prayers focus on an event that may happen at any time. 
You've worried, wondered, wanted for months. Some have wandered. It is a time of uncertainty, hope, excitement, fear, expectation. You are helpless, dependent. Every parent can remember.
Christmas eve church services beckon across the world, bringing pilgrims and the faithful and no-so-faithful to sanctuaries, to celebrate, to anticipate one birth. There will be carols and candles, messages and masses, all seeking blessings and peace in a world that always needs them.
Take time to remember the emotions and experiences of young parents far away, long ago, alone except for each other and their God. All parents have made that journey, know that beckoning.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Shadows of a season--today's watercolor

Shadows of a season, watercolor, 5.5" by 8.5 inches
Bare limbs cast shadows these days and nights, especially as the moon nears full. Over snow, you can sense the season, imagine travel to places far away. They're the bare bones of life, creating patterns that change with each passing minute, just like our lives.

Two days 'till Christmas--Mangers I have known

Rural icon, 5 by 7 watercolor, card
I never paid too much attention to barns until we moved to Iowa years ago. In the upper Midwest, they are more than just buildings...they're essential to survival, icons and testaments to hard work, symbols of the rural life. 
Then I spent two summers on a paint crew painting them, hog houses, sheds, houses...essential every few years because of the harsh winters.
Ever since, I notice barns where ever I go, in fact, they grab my attention and imagination--Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Maine--every place where agriculture is as rich as the land. They tell me much about the people who built them, who live nearby, whose work depends on them. 
Many are in decay, and I love those too, having painted pictures of a fair share of them. They're being replaced by more efficient metal buildings, and I understand why, but the new have no history, no culture, no nostalgia like the old. Seeing a barn, visiting a barn is an adventure in storytelling.
After that summer I also vividly associate the odor of farm animals, hay, manure and more pungent odors with barns. Where there are barns, there are always mangers, feeding troughs for the animals, part of the fecund atmosphere. I have only to attend a country or state fair to be reminded...how close to the earth, to life and death we are, even when isolated in our air-conditioned cocoons and concrete streets these days. I can sense their texture, their reality.
I can't help but think about another barn, a manger, a shed, filled with  the fragrant odor of hay, livestock, manure and more. No antiseptic, sterile hospital or nurses or doctors...just birth in the face of death, building a strong immune system and character.
Such things influence you all your life, become a part of who you are, either remembered or deep inside--shaping your instincts and how you treat life and death and people. 
Ever think about what Jesus thought about when he walked by one in his dusty travels, catching a whiff of smell on the breeze?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Three days to Christmas--the longest night

Darkest before dawn, 5 by 7 watercolor, card
Solstice, the longest night, the shortest day of the year.
Not coincidentally near Christmas, a spiritual time for much of the world for thousands of years, marked and worship by the ancients, as a time of turning, of death and life again. 
"It's always darkest before the dawn," is our saying. There's not a record of early Christians celebrating Christ's birth--it took organized religion institutionalizing His teachings to do that, and winter solstice fit the bill. Easter was easier to pinpoint, having to do with Passover and Pentecost, but then institutional religion added a pagan name and observance to it--Easter.
The exact time  of solstice varies with the calender, usually around Dec. 21-22. For most of the world it is Dec. 22 this year, but it officially began in Oklahoma about 11 p.m. Monday night. There is science and all behind that if you care to look it up.
All I know is, tomorrow will be a little longer than today. The longest night signals the change, when more light is coming. 
Isn't that what Christmas is supposed to be about--light conquering darkness?

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Four days 'till Christmas--never 'alone'

"...since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses... ." --Hebrews 12:1
"They walk with us" 5 by 7 watercolor, card
We are not alone at Christmastime or any other time when you think deeply about it. We may be by ourselves, or wishing we were with others, or feeling lonely, but... .
Travel into the Southwest and visit the ruins of the Anasazi, and you can sense what we would call ghosts, but today's Native Americans will tell you those places are not vacant, but still inhabited.
We are inhabited by our genetic past, our kin and friends who have been a part of our lives. They have become a part of who we are--some are fresh memories, some are perhaps long forgotten, some never known still imprinted deep within, the way we laugh or the look of our smile, or certain gestures or talents and more than we can imagine.
In a sense, they walk with us. Everyone we have known becomes part of the compost that makes us who we are today.
It is good to be "alone" sometimes, and at others we crave companionship but as we gather with friends and families this holiday season, think about all those others who walk with us in this journey.
We miss those who have left this life, or who are far away, but we are literally "surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses."

Five days 'til Christmas--alone

Abandoned Oklahoma homestead, 10 by 13 watercolor, from a photo
Gloomy day, windy, cold, a time to remember what it's like to be alone, alone as an abandoned homestead rotting away.
There are ghosts, memories, sadnesses, regrets, all awakened when you come across such a ruin, a metaphor for broken lives.
In the midst of winter, a time of death, it is good to think about being alone. It helps you to value being with family, loved ones, friends at Christmas. 
Is that not what Christmas is all about--not being alone any more? For there to be a time of joy and togetherness, there will also be a counterpart, gloom and loneliness.
Yet as we gather, knowing we need each other, don't forget those who are alone, for whom here in Oklahoma and around the world, there is unending gloom, people who are rotting away, abandoned--for whom there is no togetherness. 
Is not what Christmas also is all about--bringing hope to those most in need? Was that not what the original "Christmas" was all about?

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Six days 'till Christmas--messages

The mailbox, 5 by 7 watercolor, card
Christmastime has always been a season of messages, beginning with a star. 
Until I started painting Christmas cards, I never thought about it much, and the number of cards and letters has dwindled over the years as families spread out and times change.
Phone calls and now Skype are always blessings, getting to hear and see loved ones far away. We take instant communication for granted and forget the power of a personal hand written message.
But I always remember cards from special people. Instead of dreading bad news in the mail, or bills, or junk mail, this season we look forward to going to the mailbox to see what messages are inside. The cards are quickly displayed  in the window sill or on the fireplace mantel. 
They're messages, visual memories of treasured people, times and places, that we too often take for granted or forget. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Seven days 'till Christmas--journeys

Christmas journeys, 5 x 7 watercolor, card
"I'll be home for Christmas" is more than a romantic song.
During any war, the desire for peace and home is more intense this season.
But for loved ones far away, in any time, the yearning to see parents, children, grandchildren and other family means journeys, or wished for journeys especially at Christmas.
We remember those, traveling home from college, or waiting for children to arrive, or missing them so much because you know they won't come up the front drive after months, or years away.
Today most travel is by plane or cars, but there was a time when long distance travel was by train ... and those memories and more are the most romantic, the most compelling if you ever experienced them.
I love all trains, and especially steam trains, and when you find people who also love them, there is a bond that goes deeper.
This watercolor of a locomotive taking on water in snowfall catches my traveling mood for the holidays. Can you hear the whistle? Can you imagine the gentle swaying of the train through the night? Consider the anticipation of arriving at some far off place and loved ones waiting for you?
Wish I could catch a train to anywhere, but especially this season, with someone waiting ....
I borrowed my idea from my Dad, Terrence Miller Clark, who did this scratch board (an ink-covered white board with the image painstakingly scratched out with a sharp knife) of a locomotive in Fort Worth years ago. I was a child and with him when he drew it in the summer, and have the sketch. Then a few years later he turned it into a family Christmas card.  The original hangs in our house--memories of journeys and miles and who I am.
My watercolor, not as good, but still from the heart, went as a card to dear friends who also love trains.
Holidays--a time of journeys for people and souls--over the miles and over the years.
Scratch board, 11 x 13, Fort Worth roundtable in snow, Terrence Miller Clark



Thursday, December 17, 2015

Eight days 'till Christmas--sacred places


Taos Pueblo, 5  by 7 watercolor, card
Where are your sacred places and why? Regardless of religion or beliefs, I think most people have some, especially as we grow older. 
They begin as special places and sometimes grow over the years in significance. They're based on memories, on events, on traditions, on cultures, perhaps even on genetics and barely understood instincts. Other living things apparently have them...witness the migrations of insects as small as Monarch butterflies to larger wildlife--birds, animals, fish and reptiles for breeding.
For humans, special places grow over years and centuries, especially with oral traditions, and dramatic geography or resulting architecture or more. Sacred implies spiritual as these places take on more than just a physical existence or presence. They become places where the the division between physical and eternal is thin.
Most sacred places in the world are old--Stonehenge, Easter Island, the Pyramids, Machu Picchu, Asian Temples, Temple Mount at Jerusalem, Mecca, The Vatican--places that were built because the land itself  was sacred and demanded attention and remembrance.
There are other places in all cultures I believe, when you visit them, that have become sacred on their own--have you been to Gettysburg? To the USS Arizona memorial? To the Normandy American Cemetery? To the Vietnam Wall? To Wounded Knee?
In nature, the mountains, the high places, the remote places became sacred also.
I see all that my New Mexico, where the Anasazi and their kin found sacredness in the landscapes and spirituality of all creation.
It is especially so for me both at Chaco Canyon and at Taos Pueblo--the oldest continuously occupied place in North America, the centuries old adobe and people still so in contact with the elemental sacredness, and their imposing sacred mountain.
In this season that is supposed to be sacred for one religion, let us respect all religions, beliefs  and  peoples who have sacred places and times. They are a part of our very existence.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Nine days 'till Christmas--Snow


Blanket of memories, 5 by 7 watercolor, card
As snow often blankets a busy, noisy world into a landscape of stillness and quiet, consider that our best memories of this season called Christmas are like a warm, comforting blanket.  
Like solitude on the Great Plains, underneath a big sky, as the flakes come down, you pause and enjoy. Are not our  favorite memories the same, transforming our mindscapes, softening the edges and unhappiness of the past with beauty and calm when we need it most?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Ten days 'till Christmas--home

Home for the holidays, 5 by 7 watercolor, card
The holidays...when family members want to be home. I remember reading the letters of my uncles in a faraway war, longing to be home always, but especially at Christmas, the closer it got. Forever after, Christmas time was special, filled with memories of home, of family members. 
It's true also when you or your kids go off to college, or the military or around the country and world--when do you want to hear them the most. When your parents are gone, when other loved ones have died or are no long part of you, when do you think of them the most? At Christmas, when they're not at home. It can be a lonely time, watching twinkling lights, shadows from a Christmas tree, favorite ornaments, sacred hymns and carols--all that breathe the world "Home."

Monday, December 14, 2015

Eleven days 'till Christmas--Adobe thoughts

Adobe sanctuary, 5 by 7 watercolor, card
Adobe, handmade of earth and straw, foot-thick or more walls, deep windows, stout wooden vigas supporting a flat roof, the earth reflecting the sky and sun, multicolored through the day, cool in the day, warn and snug in the night and winter, shutting out wind and noise and cold. 
A corner fireplace with pinon wood crackling away. Earthen sanctuary from turmoil and the plastic,  changing world. The odors and feelings of who we are...from dust we came, to dust we will return, and in between, comfort and peace fitting the season called Christmas.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Twelve days till Christmas

Stardust...5 by 7 watercolor, Christmas card
Science says we're made of the same stuff as stars, and while that is true of physics and chemistry of the biologic elements in our bodies, is it not also true of the spirit? We are literally part of all creation, of the universe.
On the Great Plains and in the West, or in rural areas, there's the sky, and at night, the stars. For thousands of years they've beckoned humans, helped us create stories, inspired art, fired our imagination, fueled our hopes, spurred our wonder. There's a yearning to touch them--they're metaphors and more of life, physical and spiritual.
Is it any wonder that a star is the symbol of the time we now call Christmas? We are home. Stardust.

Friday, December 11, 2015

And where is your season's sanctuary?

My cabin, 5.5 by 8.5 watercolor
Where is your cabin, where is your sanctuary this season?
Wouldn't it be great to be snowed in, with a good fire, plenty of food and drink, good books, a loved one? No traffic or travels or turmoil to worry about, just the present moment. I think this every year on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day, when most traffic disappears from our materialistic rich and peace poor lives. 
Those who know me best, know that cabins are metaphors and sanctuaries, I've written about before: 
Where's your cabin
Cabin season 
Mountain cabin

Thursday, December 3, 2015

"Shalom" amid unending war?

"Shalom," according to Strong's Concordance, means "completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord. Shalom comes from the root verb shalom meaning to be complete, perfect and full." 
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid."
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
 

How many years have we been at war now? Will there ever be any peace?
We are the world's most powerful nation militarily. Our citizens can own guns. We have security systems in our houses. We build gated neighborhoods. The list goes on.
The U.S.A., the "United States of Afraid." Why do we not feel safe or peaceful?
The United States of Afraid
Here we are in what is supposed to be a season of "peace on earth, goodwill toward men," and there is none. The words of Jesus are forgotten, or ignored. 
One of the books I've read this year is "Peace Is Every Step: The Path to Mindfulness in Everyday Life," by renowned Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese monk who survived the war.
I had made these notes on his teachings before yesterday's horror in California. They are more pertinent than ever when he wrote them in 1990.
As upset as I've been with the terrorism in the world, and the growing fascism in America, reading this book  has helped reconnect me with Jesus' teachings. His observations help calm me and put this current insanity in some perspective. But they also teach me that inner peace amid all this turmoil, which Jesus spoke about too, comes only with work, with being mindful that only "now" matters, that you count your blessings. I have to reread these ideas often.
His teachings are so needed among Christians and people of all faiths, or of no faiths. Terrorism, refugees, war, hatred, fear, poverty, "social media," intolerance, selfishness, environmental crisis--which current event do you need? His words apply. 
Would that those spewing hate and intolerance as well as those attacking and killing innocent people would read them, and the words of Jesus,  and find "Shalom." Consider these exerpts:

Lack of peace
  • "Anyone who has made us suffer is undoubtedly suffering too."
  • "A fresh way of being peace, of making peace is needed.
  • Peace is based on  respect for life, the spirit of reverence for life." 
  • "Poverty and oppression bring war. In our times, every war involves all countries." 
  • "Do not utter words that can create discord and cause the community to break. Make every effort to reconcile."
Narrow -minded religious fanaticism 
  • "Do not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology...all systems of thought are guiding means' they are not absolute truth." 
  • "Do not think that the knowledge you presently posses is changeless, absolute truth--truth is found in life and not merely in conceptual knowledge."
  • "Do not force others, including children to adopt your views."
  • "Do not use the religious community for personal gain or profit, or transform your community into a political party."
Poverty
  •  "The wealth of one society  is made of the poverty of the other. Wealth is made of non-wealth elements and poverty is made of  non poverty elements."
Technology
  •  "When we watch bad TV, we become it." (This was written pre-Facebook, but it certainly applies."
  • "We are victims of our own telephones." (written pre-cell phones)
The environment 
  • "Everything co exists--we cannot be just by ourselves alone.
  • "The forests are our lungs outside of our bodies. The sun is our heart outside our bodies.
  •  "We are imprisoned in our small selves,  thinking only of  the comfortable conditions of this small self, while we destroy the large self."
 Mindfulness
  •    "...we think too much, and mindful breathing helps us to be calm, relaxed and peaceful. It helps us stop thinking so much and stop being possessed by sorrows of the past and worries about the future. it enables us to be in touch with life, which is wonderful in the present moment." 
  • ..."the eucharist is mindfulness--awareness..." 
  • "...walk as if kissing the earth..."
  • "Everything we do is an act of poetry or a painting if we do it with mindfulness."  
  • "By taking good care of the present moment we take good care of the future." 
  • "Do not avoid contact with suffering or close your eyes before suffering."
The Future
  • "Use the suffering of the 20th Century as compost so that together we can create flowers for the 21st Century." 
  • "The flower of tolerance to see and appreciate cultural diversity is one flower we can cultivate for the children of the 21st Century. Another flower is the truth of suffering."
It is a difficult journey, from Jeremiah's "Peace, peace, there is no peace," to finding "Shalom."