"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Tick, tick, tick

I've just called Roz Miller and my wife and I have congratulated her as the new chair of the mass comm department at UCO. She said I wasn't through until midnight. No, I'm through now, as of 5 pm. Imagine, no chair of a department for seven hours! Heavens, the micro-managed world of higher ed will grind to a stop? No, no one will notice.

Refreshed by an expedition into deepest West Texas, where my granddaughters Erin and Abby let me help them paint a lemonade stand in Amarillo, and then a night of liquid and more celebration with my brother Jerry and his wife Cathrina in scenic Lubbock, I find my blood pressure down, my grieving over 19 years as chair subdued, and my hopes for a future invigorated.

"The moving finger writes and having writ moves on, nor all your piety nor wit, nor all you tears wash out a line of it..."

Here's to more adventure...

Zen and the art of painting a lemonade stand

Artists Erin and Abby Bell, and Terry

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Lemonade stand

Do you remember?

The hot days of summer, the great idea of making money, talking your Mom into buying and making some lemonade, getting some paper cups, and a bag of ice, and scrawling a sign on some paper, setting up a card table by the curb with the sign on the front, and...

sitting....some of your friends would come by, and pedal home to get five cents or a dime or whatever to come get a cool drink. Meanwhile you're sitting out there in the hot sun, and that lemonade sure looks good, so you just have a little, and your brother or partner has some too. And since traffic is slow, you better have a little more. A couple of adults come by and fork over the cash, remembering when they'd done the same.

After a few hours, well, the lemonade is gone, aqnd after repeatedly counting the proceeds of a few nickles each, and the idea of being in business isn't all that hot. But boy was it fun getting ready for it. Remember the excitement?

It all came back today as I was helping granddaughers Erin and Abby Bell paint their lemonade stand. I'll show you a picture when I get it downloaded. It's got a couple of big lemons on it, a lemon tree, two bells with bows. Their stand, built by their dad, looks like Lucy's booth in peanuts.

We had a great time painting the thing. The girls are excited. They say their menu will be lemonade a quarter, and cookies a quarter.

I can hardly wait.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Fajada butte, Chaco Canyon

Morning light, watercolor

Where the Anasazi sun dagger clock is which precisely measured the sun's equinoxes, solstices, and movements of the moon 1,000+ years ago in northwest New Mexico. Then the people vanished, but the Navajo say the ruins of the great masonry houses are not vacant. And they are not, if you have camped there.

That's brewing in my coffee pot

Round barn

Arcadia, watercolor, plein aire

Monday, July 27, 2009

Sweet land of Liberty

Liberty Faye Clark

with Derrick and Terry, and with Terry

I have had many honors, but nothing matches having a granddaughter named after my mother, Francis Faye Culp Clark!

Artist statement

Clark at Chimayo, N.M.

Sketch by Susan Clark

Summer thoughts

Backyard bench


What is better than to sit on a bench in the backyard and listen to the mockingbirds, or the buzz of the insects, or to hold a child or grandchild, and talk about the wondrous world?

Winter thoughts


The deep snows and the big red barns of the north central states are mythic icons of America, deep inside us when we think of winter, and home, and peace, and quiet.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Harry Potter and the power of imagination!

Just back from seeing the new Harry Potter movie, with my wife Susan and stepdaughter Alexx, and I'm still entranced.

I've been a fan since the first books and movies came out, and yes, I've read them all. What a success story on all levels. A former welfare mom and author now richer than the Queen, and a story about a picked on boy who becomes a success in a classic story of good against evil. And magic, what a perfect kids' story for all the kids in the world, no matter how old we are.

These movies have great special effects, but the special effects are not the most important. The narrative and acting is, and the special effects enhance them, not overpower them. As we sat through the stupid previews, everything as special effects, from monsters to cartoons to the themes of the end of the world...nothing worth watching. We breathed a sigh of relief when the distinctive music of the Potter movies came on.

Isn't it great to believe in magic? There were as many senior kids as young kids int he audience. How can you not love Quiddich, or want to ride that train through the English countryside to Hogwarts?

The books and the movies are separate pieces of art, but both cling together and bolster them. We all have our favorite characters, and it's no secret that mine is Hermoine, Emma Watson. I'm in love.

No, I'm not a pervert, but she is so cute, so attractive, so perfect as "the brightest witch in the kingdom." Such a know-it-all, such a friend, from her gestures to her expressions. Great acting, and full of humor and fear. It's been a pleasure to watch all the characters grow up through the six films so far. Draco Malfoy gives his best performance ever.

The last book, "The Deathly Hollows," will be split into two films, and by that time, all the main characters will have gone from childhood to puberty to adulthood, in the books and in the movies. How magically perfect. I was sad when the last book ended, because it was over. I will be sad when the last movie is out, but I've found magic in the trip.

Everybody should salute J.K. Rowling for making reading fun for kids again. I've reserved my books like the others, and shown up on release night at bookstores, and all the kids and their parents, and us older kids, show up in costumes and have a party.

Where did I get this passion? When I was a kid, my dad would take me to used bookstores in Albuquerque, and we'd buy early hardback editions from the 1920s of the Tarzan of the Apes books by Edgar Rice Burroughs. My son Travis still has these aging volumes, but I read them all and was entranced by tales of exotic faraway places in Africa and a magic creature, the ape man. I learned to love reading. The movies that followed were always disappointments. Not the Harry Potter series.
The movies are tributes to the books. I've started to reread them.

That's the power of imagination that's brewing in this muggle's magic coffee pot.

Meetings and other headaches

More journal thoughts

• Be skeptical of paperwork and meetings.
• Avoid meetings and committees.
• Meet deadlines that affect your people.
• Ignore all the paperwork, meetings and deadlines that you can.
• Keep meetings short.
• Meetings, like speeches, get worse and waste more time as they get longer.
• Most committees are a waste of time, manpower and money. So are most reports.
• Get to the point in speaking or writing.
• Mid-level managers primarily require reports, meetings and committees to justify their jobs. Of course they think they’re important.
• The more reports, committees and meetings one attends, the less efficient he’ll be as a leader.
• Strong leaders keep them to a minimum.
• Simplify all paperwork and forms.
• Watch people getting of an airplane. That’s what it feels like when a meeting is over.
• Have two types of meetings: brief, agenda-ordered business and informational; and less formal ones that allow complete participation.
• Start meetings on time, with a advance agenda. If you can’t do that, you’re wasting everyone’s time.
• People who show up late to meetings are rude and disrespectful.
• In a meeting, let everyone have their say, but don’t condone personal attacks.
• Every meeting should have a summary statement of accomplishment. It helps achieve goals and shows why the meeting was worthwhile.

Where August is cool

Photo by Clark

Cezanne and Vlaminck

Cezanne's painting in the Kimbell at Fort Worth, at top

You can sit on the bench in front of it and be astounded at the colors and how he saw things.
As one student of mine has said, Jimmy Epperson, "I cried."

And fromthe San Diego Museum of Art, two of Vlaminck's works.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Larrupin' good!

Farmers' Market in Edmond, Saturday morning! Packed with people of all sorts. chatting, shopping. Looking. Soaking up the sights and sounds and smells. Beautiful Kodachrome colors, and the smells of summer. Ummm good. My Dad used to say, "Larrupin' good."

Wouldn't it be great to live where you could go to the market every day and buy fresh produce and meat and bread, and instead of stocking up with canned and frozen goods, drenched in preservative sodium, go home and prepare dinner. That's the way much of the world does it. A small refrigerator for milk, fresh eggs, and perishables. The people I've seen who live in such places aren't fat...they walk to and from the market. The only fat people I saw in Europe were Americans.

We'd be so much healthier and slimmer. Nothing like the smell of a fresh cantaloupe, some new potatoes and yellow neck squash swimming in butter or olive oil, fresh peaches oozing flavor, tangy sweet vidalia onions, crisp bell peppers, tomatoes so big and red a slice or two makes a steak by themselves with a little pepper and salt, okra, juicy sweet corn, green beans...big glass of iced tea.

I know, my vegetarian friends are saying "I told you so," but if we had a fresh fish market like Pike's in Seattle, I'd be stopping there for a salmon filet to slap on the grill too.

Larrupin' good!

That's brewing in my coffee pot.

Dawning on me

As I wake up this morning, it dawns on me that precisely one week from today, I will wake up and no longer be chair of the mass communication department at the University of Central Oklahoma. I started as chair of the journalism department 19 years ago.

Every ex-chair I know smiles a lot. One, Kenny Brown of History, smirks. Steve Law of Humanities and Philosophy, smirks too. Greg Scott of Political Science, just smiles and shakes his head. Jim Baker of History smiles. Jim Watson of Design smiles and laughs and talks about "new life." Steve Garrison of English beams, and says, "You get your life back." These are my longtime colleagues and friends, who are smarter than me and got out earlier.

Mixed feelings, but as I've been reminded, in spite of much satisfaction, many accomplishments, hundreds of students, being chair will not be the pinnacle of who I am. I'm not retiring. I'm ready to smile, smirk, and tell stories.

That's brewing in my coffee pot.

Glorieta mesa

Plein aire watercolor

After two months traveling, the merchants on the Santa Fe trail were only a day or so away from the end of the trail at the Plaza in the 1830s when they passed Glorieta mesa on the south side of the trail. On I 25 today, I am only about 20 minutes from the historic Palace of the Governors, where they hitched their horses and unloaded the wagons. The Mexican government had built a road from Pecos to Santa Fe, so the last leg of the two month trip from western Missouri was easier, but time was still slower then. To the north of them, where they probably spent the last night on the trail, were the Pecos mission and the Sangre de Cristo mountains, the southern most tip of the Rocky Mountains.

Time was even slower, millions of years ago when the mountains were pushed up in the Rocky Mountain orogeny, and they tilted the overlaying sedimentary rock up, exposing this cliff face at the edge of the Great Plains.

I painted this quick piece sitting on the ground at the ruins of Pecos mission, looking south, in the light of a fall morning. The chamisa are yellow, as another year passes.

That's brewing in my coffee pot.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Sangre de Cristo rain


August is almost here and in the high country of northern New Mexico, that means a "monsoon" season of sorts, when the thunderheads build up in the afternoons and the clouds drench the mountains with cold rain.

In Santa Fe, you can watch the daily drama, and some rain reaches the high desert. Much of the time however, the rain partially obscures the mountains with a veil of falling water. Even in late July and early August, the rain can dump sleet and hail at higher elevations and the temperature drops to freezing, even though it is 80 degrees or so in Santa Fe.

Granddaughter's art, and mine

Teepee, by Erin Ann Bell

Wichita Mountains shack, watercolor

West Texas

Impressions of Impressionism

An experiment in watercolor

The Impressionists intrigue me and helped lead me to Cezanne, who went beyond them and influenced cubism.

I so wish I'd studied art.

So my art education is late in life, reading and visiting all the museums and shows I can.

Yesterday I visited the Turner to Cezanne exhibit at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. Wow! I bought the catalog, but I've discovered printing never does justice to the originals in terms of matching original colors and impact. But there is much to learn there. I'd been privileged to attend the Turner exhibit last year in Washington and was stunned by his work. He, and the other great ones, always experimented, always took chances, always painted from the spirit within. their ability to see, their talent, flowed into their brushes.

I recently discovered a new artist--new to me, the late student of art, in the San Diego Art Museum: Maurice de Vlaminck. His angular work shouted at me of the influence of Cezanne, but I wasn't sure.

Now two of his works in the Oklahoma City show confirm it, along with accompanying textual material. I've seen the same influences in an American artist who painting in my beloved New Mexico, Marsden Hartley, although he's considered a modernist.

And I found another new one too, Matthew Smith, Apples on a Wicker Chair, a brilliant, emotional experiment with form and color.

As I browse through the exhibit, I'm taking notes, studying brushstrokes, composition, and finding lessons on how to improve my paintings.

The main two lessons: experiment, and be loose. Every time this journalist gets too picky about reality, he starts overworking a painting, and it dies. When I'm free and playing, as with many of my skies, I get success.

It's time to breathe, to paint again.

That's my impression. Go see the exhibit.

That's what's brewing in my coffee pot.


Here's what happens when you spill coffee on a watercolor

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Thoughts on Teaching

Journal Thoughts on Teaching, Part 1

• If you’re not a good teacher, can you be a good chair?
• Being a chair will hurt the quality of your teaching.
• Good leaders and teachers tolerate and encourage students and employees to discover their own ideas and journeys.
• Leaders and teachers who try to make everyone agree and follow them, who want to clone their ideas, are neither good leaders or teachers. They are intellectually dishonest, and weak.
• Leaders and teachers are in the people business.
• The best teachers are both popular and demanding.
• Most of your students are forgettable. Concentrate on the good ones.
• Better a C student with passion than an A student who is boring.
• The worse student and employee is a know-it-all.
• If your students can’t or don’t challenge you, you probably don’t challenge them. And you’re insecure and probably not a good teacher.
• Not all good teachers teach the same way. But all good teachers like students.
• Just being organized and prepared doesn’t make you a good teacher. But being unprepared and unorganized will make you a bad teacher.
• When you’re talking, students probably aren’t learning or thinking. They learn and think when they’re discussing, and doing and asking you questions.
• Professors who try to mold students to follow their opinions are unprofessional. Students are not to be used for political purposes.
• Faculty who are afraid of student evaluations have good reason to be.
• Good teachers never are.
• Some good students and good professors won’t get along. Don’t take sides but treat each with respect. Schedule around or substitute to avoid personality conflicts.
• Failing a student should hurt. You will hurt.
• We must teach students to think, to observe, to gather information, to analyze and organize it, and to prepare to present it.
• We must teach students to adapt.
• Spoon feeding facts to anyone is not education.
• You have to stay as up to date as possible in your discipline. Being a chair makes it harder.
• Students are entering college with declining thinking skills.
• Commencement is one of the most enjoyable days for good teachers.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Great Plains rain


Calm words

“Sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me.”
That’s simply not true, is it? Words can hurt, can break you, worse than any physical pain. But they can also boost your spirits.
That’s because words are spoken or written pictures of ideas, of experiences, and memories. And in these tumultuous times, i need words that calm me, that make me remember what is really important.
So what words comfort you most?
Let me guess. I think “Mother,” or “Mom,” or “Momma” would have to be the most common, most universal in soothing the emotions. Just by reading this sentence, you’ve triggered uncountable images and memories. It may be the last word you utter too.
What else?
Maybe “Dad.” Or perhaps “Son,” or “Daughter.”
Beyond those, here are some of mine.
“Grandad!” When I hear that, my blood pressure goes down, my face lights up. Stress disappears. All the things that seemed important or worrisome just fade.
Meadow. I see a mountain field full of green grass, speckled with wildflowers. Cool air. Quiet.
Recess. Remember those special times in elementary school. Everybody loved recess. I think adults would be better off if we still had recess and went out on the playground to swing every day.
Nap. Same memories, right?
Hum. Remember Mom humming to you in the rocking chair, trying to get you to go to sleep? Or you doing the same with your own kids?
Coo. The sound of a baby gurgling, or a Mourning Dove. Blood pressure goes down, doesn’t it?
Puppy dog. Remember how it wags its tail, chews on socks, licks you in the face, is always glad to see you?
Friend. Whose face came into your head when you read that word? Did you smile?
Speaking of smile, how can you be tense when you think of smiling—somebody’s radiant face, glowing with happiness, white teeth glistening.
Thanks. What a smile-producing word.
Joke. Hear that word, and your ears perk up, wanting to hear, waiting to laugh.
Sunset. Can you see the colors—red and orange and yellow—warm and reflecting off clouds, as part of the sky turns purple.
Home. You can see it can’t you? The place where you grew up, or where your reared your own children. Your place, your haven.
Harmony, a tune, one that’s running through your head right now, relaxing you…whether it’s Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, or Amazing Grace, or Battle Hymn of the Republic or Ghost Riders in the Sky, or Danny Boy, or….
Have these words calmed you? That’s the point.
What words are special to you?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Never just one teacher

I learned this technique for this watercolor last year from Connie Seaborne, the daughter of Bert Seaborne, in a class at OKC City Arts Center. While it is a student watercolor copying her techniques, I learned much about myself, and how to be freer with my painting.

I, a student of New Mexico and pueblos, learned much from this woman...expressionistically, impressionistically and more. It reaffirmed my belief that everyone should "sit at the feet" of as many teachers as possible.

My primary watercolor teacher is the great Cletus Smith of Oklahoma City, a talented representational artist who I identify with because of my journalistic and photographic experience.

But you always need more than one teacher, I tell my students...always find out what fresh viewpoints all the others have. It applies to art as well.

It scares me that I've really started my art career late in life. It's taken me a long time to establish my own "voice" in writing. I no longer have that much time in painting. The only hope is to learn from as many different teachers as possible.

Which is also why I enjoy teaching...my students, present and the exceptional former ones, may not realize it, but they become my teachers...in spirit, in attitude, in fresh viewpoints, in words, in skill and talent, in inspiration.

That's what's brewing in my coffee pot.

Where my dad lost his leg

Deserted now, and he's in his grave, but he knew this view in Tucumcari. But he never talked about it, or took me by there. I wish he had.

See previous post, May 25, "My Dad had a wooden leg."

Stairway to heaven?

morning angles at Pecos National Historic Site

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Photo by Terrence M. Clark
Sketch by Susan Clark

Salute to The Vista

I want to take a point of personal privilege and salute UCO’s 106-year-old student newspaper, The Vista. The first week of July concluded 40 years in the same location, room 107 of the communications building. Generations of young journalists, many of them now working throughout the state, trained in that room, under a multitude of advisers and conditions.
The paper has moved across the building into a merged newsroom with the broadcast facilities. It will continue to maintain its editorial independence, but we’re trying to change with the times, and a shared web page will be getting more emphasis.
This is a natural follow-up of the merger of the journalism and communications departments exactly four years ago. We knew we had to try to keep abreast of changing technologies and “convergence” in the media industry. Then, as now, we can’t know exactly where we’re going, but that we’ve got to try to better prepare our students for the crazy media world they’re going to seek jobs in. As the students wrote last week, it’s a “crazy roller coaster ride.”
I’ll stop short of calling it a converged newsroom. The broadcast students don’t want to be print journalists any more than the print students want to go into broadcast, but it’s our job to help prepare them for the increasing lap over of technology. As a matter of fact, our Vista students emphasize the word “shared” newsroom, not converged.
As you know, in this last summer of me being chair of the department after 19 years, I’ve served as interim Vista adviser. That meant I’ve been back in the newspaper business, which seems an appropriate conclusion to being chair. Most of all, I am incredibly impressed with the dedication, talent, determination, independence and humor of our small staff. They’ve even taught me some of the new technology. I can “paste up” with the best of them, but InDesign is something else.
And I can say the same for the broadcast students working with Dr. Keith Swezey this summer. Small staff, tight deadlines, and complete professionalism and dedication to excellence. Both groups have deadlines on the same day this summer, Tuesday, and it gets electric and exciting in the newsroom, as all newsrooms should be.
Teddy Burch, a UCO and Vista alum, takes over this issue as the new adviser, after a committee of five faculty and staff sifted through 17 applications and conducted six interviews. You’ll find that he has a dedication to improving The Vista and serving our students and UCO.
If you missed them, I recommend you look at two articles from the July 1 issue on our web page, http://www.thevistaonline.com/, “Vista moves newsroom after historic 40 years,” and “A conversation with Dennie Hall.” Dennie was the adviser during the tumultuous 70s, and helped establish the strong tradition we have of student press freedom and excellence.
I’m proud to report that today’s students are firmly committed to that tradition. The highest praise I can give them is: “If I still owned a newspaper, I wish I could hire you all.”

Monday, July 20, 2009

Oklahoma clouds

Saturday night's thunderstorm...beautiful weather!

Places of power

Black and white photo by Susan Clark

There are places of power in the world, the kind of power that man doesn't always understand, but can sometimes sense. Jerusalem. Mecca. Everest. The four sacred peaks of the Navajo. Machu Picchu. Some become religious. Others seem to focus power and influence from beyond what we consider reality. One such place to me is the ruin of the old Spanish mission and the pueblo at Pecos in New Mexico.

I've never been able to paint it the way I feel it, despite many attempts. All too realistic for the forces of earth and sky and history converging there. Perhaps this watercolor gets close. It rises up out of the earth and the remains of the bell window are a portal unto some other world.

Sermon to self

More thoughts from a journal:

• Have fun.
• Make time for hobbies and life.
• Travel to get new ideas.
• Stay away from the computer.
• Read something every day.
• Remember Bob Illidge—or any best friend who has died, especially when stress gets too high.
• When stress tops out—walk outside and hear the birds and look at flowers.
• If you’re stressed, go watch tropical fish at a pet store.
• You have faults and weaknesses. Know them. Allow for them. Work or delegate around them. Joke about them.
• Why are you in a hurry? Usually, because you tried to do too much in too short a time, or because you procrastinated. Your results and blood pressure will show it.
• Truth comes from informed discussion at a bar, watered by “a little something.”
• Poke fun at yourself.
• The books on your office shelves should be there because you use them, or have read them and treasure them, or because they were gifts. If you need books to impress people, you’re pretty shallow and are fooling no one, especially those who do the same thing.
• Who are your favorite authors? If you don’t have any, why? You need their wisdom and words and knowledge. If they’re your favorite, there’s a reason. They give you words and ideas to help you cope. They’re like individual mentors.
• Reward yourself by concentrating on what you enjoy.
• Don’t let the groundwater run dry. Invest in yourself.
• Plant flowers. Give money to beggars. Who made you special?
• You can’t lead, or teach, or write, or speak, or paint without making time for yourself.
• When you’re gone, how would you like to be remembered? Will that be the case? If not, whose fault is that? Whose responsibility is it to make it true? What are you doing about it?
• If you don’t think this matters, walk through a cemetery.
• Collect the cards and notes and gifts people give you. Once a year go through them to reassure yourself of your worth.
• When you lie, you hurt yourself.
• Smile most of the time.
• Exercise both your mind and body.
• Give stuff away.

Another path

Dream home...watercolor

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Dinner in Mali

Are you hungry, did you eat well? This is the meal for most people in Mali, and it's much more common around the world than all the food we ate that makes us fat.

That's what's brewing in my lean coffee pot


"He was interested, not interested in being interesting."
George Clooney on Walter Cronkite

On the Great Plains

Watercolor--How can you grow up out here and not love the skies?

"Elsewhere the sky is the roof of the world; but here the earth was the floor of the sky. The landscape one longed for when one was away, the thing all about one, the world one actually lived in, was the sky, the sky!" --Willa Cather in Death Comes for the Archbishop

Thoughts on communication

Part two of snippets from my journal on leading a department

* Words matter. Choose them carefully.
* The leader who speaks rarely is often the most listened to.
* When you talk a lot, people quit listening.
* Keep sentences short. Use bullets. Except when you want to fake something, obscure it, puff it up so administrators can’t tell what you mean and will approve it because they think it sounds impressive.
* Avoid cliches in speaking and writing. They indicate a lack of original thought. If you use cliches, you haven’t thought enough, so it is better to be quiet than to use them.
* Educational jargon is bullshit.
* Read Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language.”
* If a conversation has too much sugar in it, there’s not a lot of protein in it.
* No matter what you say, some people will take it wrong.
* You can’t please everyone. Get over it.
* Not everyone will believe you are sincere, no matter how hard you try, no matter what the facts are.
* It’s ok to say “I’m sorry” or “I’m wrong” or “I don’t know.”
* Say “Thank you” a lot.
* Learn how to keep your mouth shut.
* Why argue? You don’t win.
* Make eye contact, smile and greet everyone you meet in the halls or on campus.
* If you can’t say or read a sentence in one breath, it’s too long. Stop and breathe.

The great sentence searches

"A SOAKING June rain is blowing sideways through the meatpacking district of Manhattan, pummeling umbrellas and already grim retail sales. Above the cobblestone streets, in her Balinese-inspired living room-cum-office, Diane von Furstenberg is stretched like a cat on the couch, coolly gazing beyond the Buddha statues and glass terrace doors at the rain"--New York Times, by Stephanie Rosenbloom

One of the techniques I use in teaching writing is the "great sentence search." I make my students find a sentence or two that just jumps off the page, one where you can tell the author had fun writing it, one that when they were through made them say, "Yeah, that's it!" with the satisfaction of creation and triumph. Most of my students don't know good writing from poor writing, because they don't read much, and they have to be exposed to good writing if they're going to improve. As I think back over my years teaching, all of my students who are good writers were copious readers.

Such are the two sentences from today's NY Times business section.

You can tell the writer had fun writing a sentence (even if they sweated blood over it before it was done), when you have fun reading it, and say to yourself, in the worlds of my last mentor and friend, Harry Heath, "I wish I had written that."

That's brewing in my coffee pot.

Mountain home

Watercolor card

Where it's air conditioned outside all summer; where you need a fire at night; where the mountains keep your spirits up; where the forests muffle the sounds of civilization, but not life; where the far horizons fire your imagination; where people are visitors and not crowds; where God is everywhere; where you can breathe free, and think, and write, and paint.

A royal priesthood

"Bible Scholar"

While I now attend the church of the back porch, with the New York Times as sermon material, birds for a choir, and coffee for communion, that does not mean disrespect for the thousands of church goers who are sincere in their faiths and try to model their lives after what they read in the Holy Book.

Peter, the fisherman and apostle, writes that all Christians are "a royal priesthood," and I agree with Luther on this, "the priesthood of all believers." That's why I don't believe in "clergy" standing between me and God, or with special interpretative powers for the Word.

I did this watercolor several years ago of a couple in church...they are the royal priesthood.

That's what's brewing in my coffee pot.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Doggone it!

Pass the mustard!

This is too good to pass up, a headline writer's dream. Didja see where the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile crashed into the porch of a home in Wisconsin?

I hear the driver was hotdogging it around, but police are going to grill her. She probably wore her hair in a bun. If the owner was unhappy, and of German descent, he'd be a sauerkraut. I know, I'm relishing this too much.

Headline contest? Your entries?

The end of journalism?

Walter Cronkite, RIP,

As one of my twitter friends, Sandra Martin, it's too bad all the people paying tribute to him don't practice his high standards of journalism. That would be a real tribute.

Where the wind is a sermon

"Open" Communion

Abandoned Baptist church, along I-40, eastern New Mexico


Another view of Cabezon, and other volcanic necks in NW New Mexico

Friday, July 17, 2009

El alamo viejo

Plein aire watercolor

The old cottonwood at the corner of Paseo de Peralta and Alameda in Santa Fe on the banks of the Santa Fe "river"

What's really important in the world

Katherine Emerson Clark
How much fun it is to swing and laugh.
Photo by Vance Clark

Trails plowed under

Heading east from Santa Fe on I-25, on top of what was once US 66, and underneath that, the ruts of the Old Santa Fe Trail. In the distance, Starvation peak.

Trails plowed under...That's the name of a book about Charlie Russell, the great western artist, referring to the white man's settlement that obliterated the buffalo and Indian trails of the northern plains.

I think about those vanished trails every time I head to New Mexico down the latest trail, I-40, a concrete river transporting thousands of trucks a day. I once counted 20 trucks in one mile of that road. Let's see, multiply that by 500--the distance between Albuquerque and OKC, and you have 10,000 of the diesel fume-spewing monsters barrelling down the road on that stretch. That's not counting those in the truck stops or rest areas. And that's only one stretch. Multiply it by the length of I-40 from coast to coast, and all the other Interstate, and it boggles the mind.

It's hard not to compare the truck traffic to trains, but Larry McMurtry, in Roads, correctly compares Interstates to the rivers of early America.

Alongside the Interstate run their predecessors, the rail lines, carrying containers and coal, but ghosts of their former selves in terms of commerce and people. The old depots are largely vacant, haunted by memories, like the one at Tucumcari on the north edge of town. The rail yards are still there, but they're not the center of the the town any more. I-40 on the south edge of town is. I've gone back to those rail yards, wondering what kind of day it was when my future father, then 18, tried to jump a freight in 1932, and slipped and the wheels sliced off his leg and a little finger as he tried to push himself away.

I-40 has pretty well plowed under another trail, old US 66, although Oklahoma has a huge amount of the original concrete left. And the "Mother Road" of Steinbeck and Okies jogged up through Santa Fe in its early years. I've been up and down that road many times in my life, growing up in Albuquerque, and visiting relatives in Oklahoma, and coming to college here, and going back to New Mexico over and over again.

On its way to Santa Fe, the old road is plowed under by another Interstate, 25, heading south from I-90 at Buffalo, Wyo., to Cheyenne, Denver to Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Las Cruces and I 10, just north of El Paso. That Interstate has plowed under another trail, the Old Santa Fe Trail that brought Americans and their goods overland from Missouri, some though the Oklahoma panhandle, the others over Raton Pass, into Mexican territory in the 1800s.

I-25 south of Santa Fe follows another trail, El Camino Real, the royal road from the Spanish capital of Mexico City to its northern capital.

I cover in hours and minutes what used to take earlier travelers weeks and months. What will plow the current trails under?

That's brewing in my coffee pot.