"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 watercolor, metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Monday, December 31, 2018

State of the blog nearing a decade--Even North Korea

Almost 10 years of blog traffic, note--started in May, 2009, not 2010
Even someone from heavily censored North Korea took a chance and clicked on this blog this year!
People in more than 150 countries have done so, and I've lost count.
Every year I've wondered about the future of this endeavor, probably more this year than ever as my life and focus have radically changed.
In fact, it marked the first time since it began in 2009 that I missed two months without writing.
My life, since retirement, has focused  more on watercolor painting that writing--both are hard work but writing well takes much more time, for me, and while I'm still deep down a journalist, I'm more interested in becoming a visual storyteller.
It's reflected in how the blog has changed--once heavy on writing, then photography, it's now more a forum for my art work, combined with words.
This coming year may see the end of the blog as I try to merge it with a art website, but I'm technologically challenged. We'll see--but I need a better place to promote and sell what I do. I think.
But every year I recap what has be on the blog, so here goes. The question has always been, why do I bother, especially on something that makes no money? Journalism drives me, I guess.

Traffic, posting  facts--
  • 275,000+ page views since 2009.
  • Highest  monthly traffic--May, 2014--7,896 (May have been hacked by Russians--serious)
  • Lowest monthly traffic--May, 2018--638 
  • 2,077 posts since 2009--all but one or two by me
  • Most posts in a month--August, 2009--76
  • Fewest posts in a month--April, May, 2018--0
Posts per year--
  • 2018 --149 (counting this one)
  • 2017--158
  • 2016--137
  • 2015--136
  • 2014--276
  • 2013--252
  • 2012--203
  • 2011--134
  • 2010--292
  • 2009--339 (started in May)
  •  Totals--2007 posts in 2,948 days
Post with most traffic--"All aboard for Bartlesville," May, 2010
My most popular posts all seem to refer to trains. "All Aboard" may be click bait.

Audience facts--
New countries with audience I know of this year--Yemen, Morocco, Turkmenistan, Zimbabwe, plus some from "Unknown region," in the EU.
This doesn't include all from the flag counter on my blog which I started using only a few years ago. I don't check the blog everyday, and therefore miss some, I guess.
North Korea? Checking the Flag counter showed me that visit sometime this year.
Below are the countries by continent that I had record of. (ignore the x'es, I was trying to keep up and write about them).
Then below are the multitude of ones on Flag Counter I didn't have.
Four notes.
  • First, some of them are not independent territories, but still have individual flags, which is the Flag Counter.
  • In addition, some are countries, that I missed.
  • Third, I'm pretty good at geography, but there are places here I can't locate off the top of my head, and some I've not heard of. There's work to do in 2019, for a while at least.
  • There are only about 168 countries in the world, so the flag counter adds territories, etc. I wonder about people who find this blog, what they think, how they find it, why so many in Russia find it interesting, and m
Traffic by Countries

Total Pageviews by Countries

Graph of most popular countries among blog viewers
EntryPageviews
United States
155003
Russia
17280
China
12927
Germany
12680
Ukraine
12474
France
10041
United Kingdom
3959
Canada
2268
Poland
2102
Turkey
1505

Africa--Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Togo, Ghana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Nigeria, Tunisia, Gabon, South Africa, Mali, Mauritus, Mauritania, Cameroonx, Zambia, Mozambique, South Sudan, Senegal, Benin, Angola, Botswana,   Zimbabwe--27
Asia--Russia, China, Taiwan, Cambodia, S Korea, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, India, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Kazahkstan, Azerbaijan, Japan, Mongolia, Armenia, Georgia,  Nepal, Uzbekistan, Macau, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Burma (Myamar), Turkmenistan-27
Caribbean--Caymans,  Sint Maartin, Trinidad and Tobago, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, The Bahamas, Anguilla, Netherlands Antilles,  St. Kitts and Nevis, Bermuda-11
Central America--Panama, Guatemala, Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador-5
Europe--UKx, Isle of Man, Francex, Spainx, Germanyx, Italyx, Switzerlandx, Monaco, Czech Republicx, Polandx, Croatia, Greecex, Macedonia, Netherlandsx, Icelandx, Norwayx, Swedenx, Denmarkx, Finlandx, Latviax, Lithuania, Estonia, Belarus, Ukrainex, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Austria, Sloveniax, Belgium, Irelandx,  Bulgariax, Turkey, Portugal, Luxembourg, Slovakiax, Albania,Slovenia, Leichtenstein, Montenegro-42
Indian Ocean--Maldives, Seychelles-2
Mediterranean--Maltax, Cyprus,-2
MidEast--Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, UAE, Kuwait,Qatar, Bahrain, Palestine, Lebanon, Oman, Yemen-, Syria-14
North America--US, Canada, Mexico-3
Oceana--Australia, New Zealand, Philippines, Indonesia, Guam, New Caledonia, Fiji, Samoa-7
South America--Colombia, Peru, Chili, Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Bolivia, Paraguay-12
Unknown Region-EU
Total -152 countries

Other traffic on Flag counter: Aland Islands, Andorra, Armenia, Bhutan, British Virgina Islands, British Indian Ocean Territory, Brunei, Burkina Faso,  Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cote d'Ivoire, Curaco,  Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djbouti, Dominica, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Falkland Islands, Guernsey, Guadaloupe, Grenada, Greenland, Gilbraltar, Georgia, French Guiana, Guinea-Bissau, Guayana, Haiti, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Malta, Marshall Islands, Martinique,  Mayotte, Micronesia, Mongolia, Montserrat, Namibia, Nauru,  Nicaragua, Niger, Niue, Norfolk Island, North Korea, Northern Mariana Islands, Oman, Palau, Palestinian Territory, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Congo, Reunion, Rwanda, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Helena, Saint Lucia, Saint Martin, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Saint Vince and the Grenadines, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principle, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Suriname, Sudan, Svalbard, Swaziland, Tajikistan, The Gambia, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Turks and Caicos Islands, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Vatican City, Virgin Islands, Wallis and Futuna,
Total--I don't know yet.

Last look at the Milky Way, last book of the year

Can you see the Milky Way? Probably not, anymore.
Light pollution, where night fades from our lives, is increasing around the world faster than population growth.
So I learned reading my 31st book this year, a Christmas present from sons Vance and Travis Clark, about our beloved Glacier National Park in northern Montana.
Glacier National Park, After Dark, by John Ashley, records a 30-year, 100-night project of this photographer, writer, naturalist, biologist and more.
Yes, he's been up all night shooting stars and planets and more, sometimes in -21 degree weather, in one of the last "dark places" on the planet.
He mixes science, astronomy, biology, history and Native American traditional stories and names with his fantastic photography. A deep bibliography, astronomy schedules through 2024, tips on night photography, and a plea to curb light pollution fill out this wonder of research and meticulous footnotes.
I can remember seeing the Milky Way when I was growing up. Now you have to be in rural areas, and sometimes then with binoculars. In darker areas, the stars knock your eyes out. 
It's no accident that astronomy clubs, like the one in Oklahoma City, go to the end of the Oklahoma Panhandle once a year to view the stars. I can remember watching them wheel overhead when camped out at Chaco Canyon. 
Light pollution is not just about seeing stars--it affects the lives and life rhythms of all live on this planet. 
Ashley's photography calls me back, to go again to Glacier, and to be able to see the stars, before they, like the glaciers, are gone.
A quote from iconic Doug Peacock (if you don't know who Doug Peacock is, I'm sorry) on the back cover brings it home.
Here's a snippet: "Ashley shows us how we are losing the heavens that we humans have watched and have informed our kind for millennia; artificial light pollution is erasing the night sky. And, on our radically changing planet, we will need that stellar anchor."

Where do we think we're going, anyway?

"Present Tense, " December #watercolor 31 of 31
"Are we there yet?"
"Life is a journey, not a destination," has become a cliche, it seems to me of Western culture, that we have to keep moving, going doing.
It is perhaps better than "We've arrived," meaning there's no place else, life is over.
Life is indeed a journey, almost unnoticed, as we travel through the universe on a planet zooming around a star.
We're more aware of it now, as one of our old calendar  end and a new one begins tomorrow.
But can we not just stand still in present tense and savor "being," a quality of life inherent in many non-Western cultures, as well as Native Americans?
Were do we think we're going anyway?
New Year resolutions? Sure. Plans? Sure. Hopes? Sure. Changes? Sure.
I look back at most of the watercolors I painted a year ago, shudder, and am thankful for the journeys I've had since then.
But  the best of those journeys was simply enjoying present tense, soaking up just "being."
"I am that I am," declared the Old Testament God, to people who were always on the move, worried about the past, unsure of the future. 
This may be the only instance where a "to be" verb is an active verb. Think about that, for a minute. Can our "being" be action, not passive?
We still haven't learned, that eternity is always present tense. That's an ironic statement when we are "looking forward," to tomorrow's "new year," isn't it? Our obsession with moving ahead is so ingrained. As a first born Capricorn approaching another marker on a journey around the sun, I'm very aware.
We're still asking, like we did as kids on a car on a long trip, "Are we there yet?"
Translation to "I am that I am?" "We're here."

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Old and new - looming

Snowy Sandias at Sunset, 30 of 31 December 5 x 7 watercolor card
A new year looms before us, an old year looms in memories. 
An icon looms in my memories, the Sandia Mountains in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
I've written about them often, and painted them some. A drawing of my Dad's looms over my desk as I write this. I did so earlier this month in an earlier card: Towering Memories
Memories of growing up  with them dominating the eastern skyline loom in my past. When I see a photo of them on digital media, I often save, hoping to paint them again. Hope for returning in the future looms in my mind.
How can something past loom? If it's something or someone with powerful positive or negative memories or perceptions, it can become an obsession that looms over our existence--constructively or destructively.
But living in the past negates the present and future. The happiest people I know are those who have left the past behind, no matter how unpleasant. It doesn't loom over them.
The hope for the new year, even our New Year Resolutions,  is that what looms in our consciousness will be of beauty...like the Sandias.




Saturday, December 29, 2018

More color, more contrast--Fajada

"Fajada Sunrise," 5 x 7 watercolor, 140 lb Fabriano Artistico paper
"More color, more contrast," wrote my latest watercolor teacher, Tom Lynch, today, in response to another question.
I've been working on that recently, but I've been having trouble painting Fajada Butte, in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico.
The place is magic to me, and I've painted it before, and will again. After a couple of failed attempts at being too literal, and absorbing ideas, I tried this sunrise scene.
First attempt, today. My photo is from outside under natural light, but not satisfied with it either. I can do better. Will use different, heavier paper.

Snowfall--beauty in a gloomy season

"Snowfall," December #watercolor 29 of 31
Winter can bring dark, gloomy days and weather. "Cabin fever" sets in, feeling cooped up, drained of energy.
To me of course, "Cabin fever," conjures wonderful memories and imagination, but not enough to offset the moods of winter.
But snow does, bringing beauty and quietude, especially in rural areas--an antidote to ugliness.
"Snow as falling
so much like stars
filling the dark trees
that one could easily imagine
its reason for being was nothing more
than prettiness."
--Mary Oliver.


Friday, December 28, 2018

Winter sets in...season of poetry

Great Plains Winter, December #watercolor 28 of 31
Now comes the cold season, as winter sets in.
When you grow up on the Great Plains, where the skies are as vast as the landscape, stretching beyond imagination, with so few people, it's easy perhaps to be alone.
But not so because you treasure people more. Sparse population makes encountering other people "an event," writes my favorite author John McPhee writes about traveling in Alaska in his new book The Patch.
The Plains, and winter, and people, become poetry.
My blog friend and poet Kay Lawson Gilbert in Pennsylvania wrote this poem a few years ago, inspired by one of my cabin scenes,

"Out on the plains,
       the snow piled up.
       But inside the cabin,
       the two were warm...
       words were their clothes -
       their bodies a language
        of poetry and prose."

Thursday, December 27, 2018

A twisted history as the wreath comes down

"The last decoration, "  December #watercolor 27 of 31
It's time to take down the wreath for another year, along with the other decorations, as Christmas is past. I did that this morning. 
Instead of personal mail, also for the next 12 months, the  mailbox will be full of the usual junk mail, bills and some business items..
I wondered about the word "wreath." The first recorded use meaning a ring or garland of flowers or vines was in the 1560s.
But it's older than that, with a "twisted" history. It came from an Old English word wrida meaning a bandage or band (literally that which is "wound around." from the Proto-Germanic *writh (also Old Norse rida, Danish vride, Old High German ridan "to turn, twist," Old Saxon, Old Frisian wreth "angry,"Dutch wreed "rough, harsh cruel," Old High German reid "twisted," Old Norse reida "angry") from the ProtoIndoEuropean *wreit "to turn, bend," (the source of the Old English wrida "band", or wridan "to twist, torture," wrab "angry.")
Aren't you glad we now make it a symbol of joy and celebration, at least for a few weeks each year?

Note: the "d" I've typed in the above old words is actually this letter, but I don't know how to type it. It had a "th" sound: ð 



Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Christmas tree lovers

"Cat convention," day 26 of 31 December #watercolors
While we're ready for Christmas to be over, two members of our household would just as soon leave the tree up.
Whether they're fighting over who gets the prime spot underneath, playing with ornaments, trying to eat it,  or trying to climb it, Snoops and Sophie find it very entertaining.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Simplicity, on Christ -Mass

"Simplicity -- Christ-Mass," today's 5 x 7 #watercolor card
He made it simple. It was about love, in action. Nothing fancy, nothing complicated.
He was tired of convoluted religion that burdened people with regulations and judgment, excluding them and ignoring their humanity and needs, making their God more distant.
"Religion" simply means "re-tying," bringing back together, but it had become anything but simple.
He made it simple:
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." (John 13:24)
No wonder the "religious" authorities in charge of complicated "religion" hated him. Instead of rules, he simply preached love in action:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
"Blessed are the merciful, for the will be shown mercy.
"Blessed are the poor in heart, for they will see God.
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
"Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Don't you think that his love for simplicity started at his birth, which the world celebrates today...simple people, simple surroundings, reflecting a God who is very simple, "God is love."
Amazingly simple, isn't it, but yet much of the "religious" world still doesn't get it.
Consider those who want to erect the Ten Commandments on public property, ignoring his words about love, but worshipping rules and exclusion.
Consider the hate, and mercilessness, and absence of meekness, desert of righteousness, warmakers,  who "lead" our and other countries while claiming to be "religious."
Let this day remind us how much we need simplicity, in the steps of the one who was born, lived and taught simple truths about us and God.
"When Jesus went ashore, he saw a great crowd and he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd." -Matt.  9:36
Not rules. Just love. Simple. Like his birth.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Pilgrimage-Christmas Eve

"Christmas Eve Pilgrimage," 5 x 7 #watercolor card
"These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth." --Hebrews 11:13, King James version, others have "aliens, exiles, sojourners"

Where do you take or make pilgrimages to?
Isn't it interesting that in our sedentary lives where we think we own property, and indeed revel in it and are perhaps owned by it instead, forgetting that we're all pilgrims, we still make pilgrimages?
We see that especially at Christmas time, whether to family reunions or for religious purposes on Christmas eve. 
People of many different faiths make hundreds of pilgrimages a year to religious sites or down sacred trails. 
Why?
Maybe it is deep inside us that we know we are not permanent, in spite of our best attempts to hold on to time. Maybe it is because we are all seeking something better. Maybe it is because our spiritual ancestors--Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, Buddist Kukai, and more made pilgrimages.
Pilgrimages have many different levels, not just a physical or spiritual journey, but a metaphor for life itself. They've fired the imagination of writers (Canterbury Tales, The Grapes of Wrath) and artists, influenced landscapes, been important in history, architecture, society.
Some pilgrimages are tainted with tragedy--The Crusades, The Trail of Tears, immigrants trying to escape poverty and tear gassed at our borders.  Others with exploration, The Mormon Trail, or with greed, The Gold Rushes, The Santa Fe Trail.
Pilgrimage is much alive today in repeated travels of all faiths and none, exploring the importance of place and journey, or merely traditional travels to specific places and times.
Perhaps we are less fortunate than Abraham, and his offspring, both by Sarah and by Hagar, who knew they were always aliens, strangers, because they lived in tents, and moved them a lot,
"By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob...."--Hebrews 11:9
By the way, the reason the English settlers called themselves "Pilgrims" was because their early versions of the Bible used the word in Hebrews 11:13. If they'd had a modern version they'd used a different word.
One of my pilgrimages is through dictionaries looking for word origins. 
"Pilgrim" as made a long pilgrimage as a word.
"Pilgrim" was first used about 1200 A.D. as pilegrim, from Old French pelerin, peregrin-- "pilgrim, crusader; foreigner, stranger," from Late Latin pelegrinus, fromperegrinus, "foreigner" (source of Italian pellegrinoSpanish peregrino), from peregre, "from abroad," from per- "beyond" + agri,  "country, land," from the Proto-Indo-European root *agro  "field." The change of the "r" to "l"in most Romance languages  appears to be a Germanic modification. 
The English term "pilgrim" originally came from the Latin word peregrinus (per, through + ager, field, country, land), which means a foreigner, a stranger, someone on a journey, or a temporary resident. 
It can describe a traveller making a brief journey to a particular place or someone settling for a short or long period in a foreign land. Peregrinatio was the state of being or living abroad.

Peregrinus was also used in the Vulgate version of the Bible to translate the Hebrew gur (sojourner) and the Greek parepidemos (temporary resident). These terms undergirded a central image of the Christian life. Christians were identified as temporary residents in this world whose true home was in heaven. 
I know, more than you want to know. But as I've undertaken this annual journey of daily watercolor Christmas cards, the  trip has evolved into a pilgrimage of words.
My pilgrimages increasing head for New Mexico, where on Christmas eve, tonight, hundreds of devout parishioners will make their own pilgrimages to iconic adobe mission churches. 
These thoughts, these watercolors, help make me aware that I am a pilgrim, a stranger in a strange land.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Room for everyone- Two days 'til Christmas

"No Room," 5 by 7 #watercolor card
When you're  poor, you're not entitled...you sleep outside, finding shelter where you can, no matter the weather. You don't think you deserve anything, but would appreciate a warm meal, a handout, a place that's dry. 
You're used to doing without, though you can't help but perhaps envy, or resent, those who drive by and don't care to even try to help. Have you seen the homeless along our streets? 
Mary and Joseph were poor, and teenagers, and a long way from home. They had little money, and no health care when they needed it most. I imagine they felt angry, worried, and hopeless, but certainly not entitled. They were used to doing without.
So when there was no place to stay, they found the only sanctuary they could. These were tougher people than we are today...consider giving birth in a barn, with hay and livestock, and no antiseptics or medical help, or sterile surroundings.
Do you wonder why Jesus was so focused on helping the poor, on why he could angrily drive out the rich money changers taking advantage of poor people, why he could praise a widow's mite,  why he would eat and talk and heal poor sinners, not the wealthy, warm and pompous  church goers who made religious rules to exclude people?
He knew what it was like to not be "entitled," to have self-righteous people judge you thinking you were lazy, to take advantage of you, to ignore your needs because you were poor.
The lesson of "No room at the inn," told to him by his parents formed his teaching--Good news, there is room for everyone. 

Saturday, December 22, 2018

When there should be room at the inn--3 days 'til Christmas

"Welcome," 5 x 7 watercolor card
"Welcome!" Shouldn't that be, or isn't that, the intended messages on Christmas houses and buildings this season?
In other words, "Glad to see you! Come on in."
We said that this week when friends Roy and Jill Kelsey showed up at our front door, unannounced of a visit of Christmas cheer.
We don't say "Welcome" much any more in our over-scheduled world when we need it more than ever. America is blanketed with Christmas lights,  but "gated" subdivisions, border walls and intern camps for children cry out just the opposite. 
Do we see any irony as we remember an innkeeper who told some expectant parents there was no room in his inn?  What is the spirit of Christmas about, symbolized by all those lights?
Remember the inner joy when someone made you "feel welcome" in their office, home or presence?  Just questions, about the meaning of Christmas, and a certain word, "Welcome."
Oh, we say an obligatory "You're welcome" to "Thank you," but that's not the same, as a "Welcoming" spirit.
Consider the origins of the word.
It comes from the Old English (450-1150 A.D.) wilcuma "an exclamation of kindly greeting, from earlier wilcuma "welcome guest," literally "one whose coming suits another's will or wish," from willa "pleasure, desire, choice" + cuma "guest," related to cuman "to come," from the proto Indo European root *gwa-, "to go, come." It's similar formation in Old High German willicomo, Middle Dutch wellecome.
The verb form, Old English wilcumian meant "to welcome, great gladly."
The meaning "entertainment or public reception as a greeting" is recorded from 1530. "You're welcome" as a  response to "thank you" is attested from 1907. "Welcome mat" is from 1908; "welcome wagon," from 1940.
Just thinking about the need for joy and warmth and friendship in this season, three days from Christmas, in the word, "Welcome."
More than you wanted to know? Sometimes it's good to dig into the meanings of the words we mouth without thinking.
Today's watercolor, New Mexico adobe and blue, says "Welcome to me."
Oh, "You're Welcome."

Friday, December 21, 2018

Chaco Solstice - 4 days 'til Christmas

Chaco at solstice, 5 x 7 watercolor
The stars are aligned, including ours. The moon is full. 
In the Anasazi "ruins" of the Southwest, including Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, all the buildings were aligned vertically and with the points of the compass.
They knew because they watched and studied and measured the heavens 1,000 years ago.
We have separated ourselves from the cosmos, trading the milky way for neon lights so we can barely see the stars in a world devoid of dark.
Chaco's pictograph of the 1054 nova
The star we read about this season? Probably a nova, an exploding star, such as the one they observed and painted by a forgotten artist on their sandstone cliffs in 1054.
These are not  "ruins" either... the spirits of the people still inhabit them. If you've ever camped there, you know, because they harnessed the power of the universe to build and thrive.
If you've camped there, you can almost feel the earth move beneath your feet and watch time as it passes, shadows sliding up and down the cliffs, and the stars wheeling overhead.
They measured and recorded all of this by observation over the years, setting up a rock calendar of the sun and moon's movement atop Fajada Butte.
They would have know what today was, its significance, just as other "primitive" peoples did even long before the Anasazi.
Of course we're too "civilized" for that, barely noticing the changes, other than it's the shortest day of the year.
No wonder the magic of solstice is gone, and Christmas merely a worship of materialism, rather than the eternal.

See also:
Solstice Dawn
When the Sun Stands Still

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Turning the pages of 2018

So of my 2018 reads
What have you read this year?
My unofficial goal is one a month, though reading goes in spurts, with several going at a time, so  I've finished 30 in different genres. Same as last year.
You can see what the first 12 books were here:
Since then, there have been 18.
Most recently finished, The Patch, by John McPhee, my favorite living writer, a series of essays, purchased this week from Best of Books, Edmond, where I buy most of mine.
Yep, non-fiction, which is my usual preference, as a journalist. Here the others are.

Non-Fiction, eight more this second half of the year, in no particular order:
  •  The Seven Storey Mountain, Thomas Merton's  autobiography of faith.
  • Mountains of the Mind, Robert MacFarlane of Cambridge U., who has become my second favorite living writer, much like McPhee.
  • The Rings of Saturn, W.G. Seabald, walking tour of England, thanks to MacFarlane's twitter book club readings
  • Atlas of a Lost World, Craig Childs, Travels in Ice-Age America.
  • Heart of the Land, Essays on the last great places, edited for Nature Conservancy.
  • America's Railroad, Robert Royem, guidebook to Durango and Silverton RR.
  • The Traveling Feast, Rick Bass, on the road with his heroes.
  • Rum Curious, history and tasting guide, Fred Minnick and Martin Cate
Poetry, runs in spurts. One weekend in particular, at the Oklahoma Festival of the Book, I bought three from Oklahoma friends Ken Hada and Dorothy Alexander, and Susan brought home two others as gifts that day.
  • Bring An Extry Mule, Ken Hada
  • The Art of Digression, a Fragmented Memoir, Dorothy Alexander
  • Leaving My Father's House, Alexander
  • The Big Red Book, Rumi
  • Selected Poems, Rainer Maria Rilke
Fiction
  • Depth of Winter, Craig Johnson (Longmire)
  • November Road, Lou Berney
Art
  • Country Landscapes in Watercolor, John Blockley
  • 150 Watercolor Workshop Lessons, Tom Lynch
Underway
  • Fiction-Becoming a Warrior, by friend and colleague Moose Tyler
  • Fiction, Stonewall, John J. Dwyer, historical
  • Non-Fiction, Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann
  • Non-Fiction, Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon, Ghiglieri and Myers.



Adobe, Dust into dust - 5 days 'til Christmas

Dust unto dust, #watercolor card
Adobe, an "American" word, coming from the Spanish, which like much else in Spanish, came from the Moors, the Arabic... al-tub, the brick. Dirt and straw mixed with water to form bricks, stacked and harden under the glaring sun in arid areas of the world.
Dust into dust, what a metaphor...thick walls, cool in the summer heat, insulating in winter, bone of our bones. When not maintained, melting back into the earth again as do our physical bodies.
I don't know that Jesus knew adobe, but expect he did, as a carpenter, and you can read where they let someone down through the roof...flat roofs are common in adobe. It's a poor person's building material.
In Mali, I was at home because adobe buildings and stacks of bricks were abundant. In New Mexico, at Taos, I've seen Pueblo residents shaping and maintaining their 1,000+ year old walls, every year.
I've sat inside adobes, had beans and tortillas long ago, and posole in a Santo Domingo Pueblo home on a feast day more recently. Quiet. Solid. "Homey." I've seen ruins of others melting back to where they came from.
Earth. Home, Flesh of my flesh. Until you look up at the stars.


Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Shadows, and branches - six days 'til Christmas

"Shadows," 5 x 7 watercolor, 300 lb. d'Arches
Where there is light, there is shadow.
We and all creation,  cast our own shadows, darker at times, lighter at times, depending on how far we are from light sources.
As part of creation, we can also be light, or shadow in our own lives and to those around us. Are we not branches of creation, casting shadows?
Darkness only exists because there is light, and in this world today, we need to remember that more than ever.
And what better time that this season, that celebrates  the light of a star, the symbol of light coming into the world? 
"In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. ...The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world." --from John 1: 1-10


Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Light and life and love--7 days 'til Christmas

"Cabin dreams," 5 x 7 #watercolor
Days grow darker, and shorter and colder as the year nears its death.
What we need, at all times, but especially now, is light and life and love.
Cabins in the wilderness fill my thoughts and dreams... warmth and welcoming. 
Celebrations of light and life and love inside--sanctuaries from darkness in an insecure world, highlighted by starlight, hopes and memories.  

Monday, December 17, 2018

Child of the desert--8 days 'til Christmas

"Life, in the deserts," 5 x 7 watercolor
He was a child of the desert, spending more of his life there than in the cities or towns.
Three of the world's major religions began and grew from people and gods of the desert--children of Abraham, a child of the desert--Judaism, Christianity, Islam.  Why? How?
Are deserts where people find God, or does God find people in the deserts?
 Ignore the stereotype image of shifting sands of the desert. Those of us who have grown up in arid areas know the desert is more varied than that...places of stark landscapes, little water, vast skies, withering daytime heat, stunning nighttime starscapes.
People find solitude in deserts, and humility from finding how small they are in vast landscapes.
It's no wonder Islam, home on the largest deserts, including those dunes we all imagine,  in the world, have brought us must astronomy and mathematics. Out here you have time to think and observe and create.
It's no wonder that the children of Israel, exiled in Egypt and Babylon, and wandering 40 years in the desert, give us poetry and another religion.
"I cared for you in the desert, in the land of drought."--Hosea 13:5
It's no wonder that Jesus and his teaching come with insights about truth and humility.
The King James Bible did us no favor by referring to the desert as wilderness. I suppose that's because those English translators had never seen a desert.
Jesus had. Born and growing up in an arid town. 
"And the child continued to grow and become strong in spirit and he lived in the deserts until the day of his public appearance to Israel."--Luke 1:80
Walking and working in the dusty landscapes where wells were landmarks, he sought followers there, but also sought solitude, spending 40 days fasting and being tempted in deserts.
"Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil."--Luke 4:1
He knew about the deserts in people's lives, in regimented religion that preached rules and complications and ignored the freedom and spirit of living in deserts.
In the deserts, the child of the desert found not death, but life.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Thirst, and living water--Nine days 'til Christmas

"Living water," today's 5 x 7 #watercolor card
Are you thirsty? 
Winter can be a dry season, low humidity, scarce water. Watch the animals and birds, seeking moisture where they can find it.
If there is not enough snowpack in the mountains, drought will likely follow in spring because there will be little runoff.
In the West,  in other arid places in the world, you are always conscious of the need for water--living depends on it. 
In this season celebrating the birth of Jesus, a resident of a dry country, it is well to remember he knew about water and thirst.
He also knew that all people are thirsty deep inside, even if they don't know it...seeking for meaning in life, for purpose, for survival beyond the physical. Are we not all residents of a dry country?
Is that not what Christmas is really about--seeking "living water"?
"Jesus answered her, 'If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."  --John 4:10
"Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink!For the Scriptures declare, 'Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.'" --John 7:37-38