"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.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Watercolor paintings

Now framed and for sale
(sizes not counting frames)
New Mexico autumn 4 1/2" by 8 1/2"
Adobe porch, 5 " by 7"

Oklahoma barn, 10" by 7"
Pueblo Trinity 11" by 17"

Shadow of the Cross, Ranchos de Taos, 11" by 14"

Solstice sunset, 11" by 14"
Taos Dreaming, 21 1/2" by 14"

Heading for High Lonesome, 30" by 22"

Monday, April 25, 2011

A real car

My first car was a Studebaker--ahead of its time, and doomed... I visited the Oklahoma History Center Saturday with our guest, Dr. Sridhar Krishnaswami of SRM University in India. It is one classy outfit, one of four great museums in Oklahoma City. We came across this beauty. I'm in love.
When cars were cars and had character

Azaleas in bloom

Our front yard, with azaleas in bloom...those at the base of the gray brick wall of the garage in the background have already faded.

Not as good as those  gracing the front porch of the Manse of my cousin and husband, Sarah and Bob Foote of East Texas, but hey, not bad for Indian Territory.

Visitor from India

Dr. Sridhar Krisnaswami of SRM University in Chennai formerly Madras), India, talking with my blogging students last week, about journalism, media, India, politics and more. He was my host on my recent visit there. He's a former foreign correspondent for the Daily Hindu newspaper, in both Washington DC., Singapore and other places. Now he's head of the journalism program at SRM, and UCO has exchanged students and faculty in a partnership arranged by Dr. Pam Washington, dean of the college of Liberal Arts, here at UCO. Photo by Dan Smith of photo services.

For more information, see my earlier posts on my India visits.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Hi-tech, at sea

Amid all the super scientific stuff aboard the USS Abe Lincoln, I found two impressive tools.
Look at that wonderful old-fashioned wrench!
And in the welding shop...an anvil! Somethings just don't go out of style, or need.

The welding shop "nerve center."
Hawsers ready to be shot ashore to moor The Abe at Everett.
But, high tech abounds. Here are views of the medical department:
Operating room and equipment

Examination and treatment room

X-Ray--which are then zapped to Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland to be read.
"Sick bay"--not shown, the three bed ICU.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Lilies, and an old man--3

The old man was the last of his kind.
As a young buck, his back and chest and arms bulged with hard, tanned muscle, hands callused from hard work.
He had been fluently profane, enjoying the sound of words as he directed his hair-trigger temper at whoever or whatever disagreed with him. A fisherman by trade, he’d spend most of his life outdoors on long days and nights in a boat, stooped over, pulling in nets heavy with the catch. He smelled of sweat and fish.
But he enjoyed good food, wine and conversation. He also liked to fight, to get even, especially if someone crossed his brother, with whom he worked. His loyalty to family was legend in his hometown and among fishing crews. Put him together with his brother against outsiders and the brawl made townspeople wince, and smile too. Pick a fight and you’d find double trouble. Back to back, they could whip a crowd.
Their Daddy had taught them well--how to work, how to fight, how to have fun--be brave, face trouble head on, always stick together. It’s a rough world out there--love and take care family and friends. Be strong and don’t let anyone push you around.
My kind of guy.
But then something happened 60 years ago, something the old man, now almost 90, could still see as fresh as yesterday.
He remembered the first time he met the man who would become his best friend--a tanned working man with calluses on his hands himself. A builder, with ideas and a different kind of power. In three years, his friend changed him forever.
He’d spent the rest of his live trying to change others--with words, not his fists.
The son of Thunder became the Apostle of Love.
Sixty years after the friendship, he was old and alone, but no less gutsy. His hair was gray, his skin wrinkled, his hands arthritic, but his eyes and his grip and his voice still grabbed people.
Every day he could still see his friend, his brother, his comrades--all long gone. He could still see the old fishing boat, smell the fish, feel his friend’s hand on his shoulder, taste the last meal and wine, remember the tender touch of holding the arm of his friend’s mother the day he helped bury him.
Life had not been easy. His brother had been beheaded, his comrades jailed and burned and executed.
But the old man fought back a different way. Instead of profanity, he’d used his talent with words to stir people with his writing and speaking.
Even though he was stooped, he still stood up against crowds. He wasn’t afraid to be loyal and to say what was on his mind. He was so old that he referred to almost everyone as his children. The authorities still feared him, and rather than risk his followers’ numbers, just sent him off to a lonely island to get him away from the people.
But he could still see that empty tomb, as though it had been yesterday. He had outrun the others to be the first there. He went in. He walked and talked and ate and fished with his friend one more precious time. Then as the years passed, the letters the old man scrawled burst with the flavor of his friend’s life. He would never forget and made sure nobody else would either.
Have you ever wanted to tell your Mom or Dad or a loved one something after they’re gone? If you could tell them just one thing, it would be simple, wouldn’t it? Just “I love you.”
He spent the rest of his life--the guy who cursed and fought and sought revenge--he spent the rest of his life saying, “I love you.”
The old man knew the power of words because his friend’s words and life changed him. And his words about his friend, written for all to read, help keep his friend alive.
John The Apostle.
Remember him, but especially his Friend, as you read John 1:1, and John 20, when the sun comes up behind the lilies this Easter Sunday.

An adaptation of several of my newspaper columns and radio programs about my favorite New Testament writer.

Officers and enlisted

Civilians don't think much about rank in our everyday world...official rank. Sure, we know some people have higher paying jobs, some have the power to hire and fire, but we don't have labels on our clothes designating our rank in a hierarchy  and we don't formally salute superiors or follow strict orders.

The second you step about a military base, or into a military organization, or aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, you notice the difference.

As we walked up the stairs and crossed the gangplank to the brow of the ship, our host, Lt. Cmdr. Steve Curry stopped just before boarding the ship, turned aft and saluted the flag. The enlisted people waiting for us, snapped salutes to him which he returned. We were among about 300 other "Tigers" on the ship for the four day cruise, and we soon were thankful our host was an officer. Most of the others were hosted by members of the enlisted crew.

Though they work as a team in close quarters, the line between officers and enlisted, is everywhere apparent--as you saw with the label on the door to the male officers head. Other labels in berthing areas clearly announce the area as officer country. You also saw the difference in eating areas, and officers don't have to bus their own plates.

Sleeping quarters are one example. We were bunked in a suite of six, two sinks, ample storage.
Where I slept, bottom bunk
Four of the bunks in our area--you can barely see mine behind the locker and chair on the right
Another view, of the sinks, and storage.
Enlisted quarters, three bunks in a stack s0 there's less overhead room, and there are many bunks to each area.
 I expect the only place rank doesn't matter is in sick bay and medical treatment...all are equal there.
Steve and I in San Diego. He's wearing the NWU.
You see the difference in uniforms too, obviously. On the NWU (camouflaged Naval Working Uniform), you have to hunt for rank, and if officers don't have their hats on where the rank is displayed, there aren't salutes from enlisted. But dress uniforms:
Steve Curry's dress uniform, ready for wear. Note the name tag, with the ship's logo--a Lincoln head penny.

An enlisted uniform
An officer conducting a tour on the bridge
The sailor of the year aboard the Abe, Quartermaster 2nd class Sarah Y. Degraw. She's on the bridge checking the rudders prior to departure from San Diego. Oh, while you can steer the ship and those massive rudders by punching computer buttons, most people prefer the little steering wheel at her left. Yep, smaller than your car steering wheel, for that mammoth ship. And the top ranking enlisted person on board, a command Master Chief, is also a woman.


He hated not seeing the stars, feeling the desert breeze, smelling the wood smoke, drinking spring water, hearing the birds, touching the flowers.
Instead, he was in a dark prison cell, always wondering if the next steps he heard would bring some foul food, or an executioner’s axe.
All because he opened his mouth.
When he knew something was wrong, he said so. And if you speak your mind to the wrong people, you pay the price. Even when you’re right, things just don’t always turn out right.
He was a long-haired fanatic, living on little food, preaching a fiery-tongued message as rough-edged and unbending as the craggy desert of his homeland.
His elder cousin preached differently, tenderly. But they both loved the outdoors and the poor people of their country. They were both tanned and muscular. They both had dusty feet and loved the outdoors. They loved each other too.
But his cousin’s eyes, his words, his deeds, his caring drew crowds that he’d never seen. The cousin was special. The prisoner had learned that in the river one day long ago.
But in that prison cell, he had second thoughts as depression set in. Maybe his life had been wasted. Maybe he had been wrong.  His cousin was still outside enjoying the free air. He was cooped up, wasting away.
The prisoner got a message out to his cousin, questioning, and his cousin was quick to reassure.
The prisoner didn’t hear what else his cousin told his followers, about the prisoner being the greatest preacher the world had known. But if he had, it would have helped in that prison cell.
Then one day, the steps the prisoner heard approaching his cell seemed different. The iron and wood door opened, and silhouetted in the light was not someone with a food bowl, but with an axe.
They drug him into a room, pushed him onto his knees, put his head face down on a piece of stone, and raised the axe.
His cousin heard what happened. He had the power to have stopped it. He didn’t. He had the power to bring him back to life. He didn’t.
I don’t know why.
Maybe he knew the prisoner had earned something better than the dungeon, better than the stars, better than the wind, better than the wood smoke, better than the birds, better than the flowers.
Maybe he knew that he would soon join the prisoner in violent death, and in renewed life, free from all prisons.
Think about John the Baptizer and his cousin, when the sun comes up behind the lilies this Easter morning.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The man who loved lilies--I

When it was springtime in rocky Galilee, the young carpenter loved working outdoors in the warm sun.
He worked hard, alongside his father, building strong muscles in his back and arms and legs, the tools wearing  calluses on his firm hands. His tanned skin glistened with sweat as he worked bareback at midday, but the breeze that swept up the hills from the little blue sea below cooled him. He could see the fishing boats down there, with their sails furled as the crews cast their nets.
He treasured the outdoors, noticing everything…the rocky soil, the fertile fields, the sparrows singing after the long winter.
And the blooming lilies.
When he and his father would take a break, he’d sit down, take a swig of water from a pottery jug, and enjoy the moment, the scenery, wiping his brow. Then he’d bend down and  pick one of the lilies blooming near his feet, bringing it close, smelling its sweet odor under his long Jewish nose.
It was so good to be outdoors after being cooped up all winter. Spring was his favorite season. It lifted his spirits, made him glad to be alive…the season of rebirth, of life, of birdsong…of hope…of lilies blooming in the fields.
For 30 springtimes he soaked up the sun and countryside, and scenery and sounds and smells. The tastes of wine and weddings, the laughter and tears of hardworking people, poor people. You can’t live in such rugged country with rugged people and not love beauty, not forgive, not be compassionate, not be inspired. To be reminded every springtime about what is really important.
He relied on that practical experience to become an excellent teacher, a master of imagery and practical, yet inspirational, teaching. He once told his students:    
“And why do you worry about clothing?
“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”
     But one spring day, just three springtimes later, only 80 miles south of his beloved Galilean hills, the birds ceased singing and the warm sun turned dark with the smell, not of lilies, but of cruelty.
He must have thought about the Galilean rocks and the fields, and the boats and the sparrows. I know he missed the beauty of the blooming lilies as his blood trickled down his arms and back and feet. No wonder he felt forsaken.
But the sparrows sang again, and his friends fished again, and ate and drank wine, and found rebirth and hope all over again…
Because of him…one spring morning not far from Galilee.
Remember him, the man who loved lilies and life…
When the sun comes up behind the lilies this Easter morning.
--Matthew 6:28,29

(An adaptation of one of my earlier newspaper columns and radio programs)

What a "mess" at sea

It takes a lot of food and space to feed the crew of the USS Abe Lincoln, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You read the stats of the amount of food in earlier posts. Here are some photos to go with them.
Loading Poptarts and more in San Diego

More groceries
Some of the day's milk supply
Part of one of the kitchens
The salad bar in wardroom three for the officers...the fresh fruit is available 24 hours a day

Part of the buffet in the officers' third wardroom
and more...

And if you're there before 7 am, the cooks will fry you eggs or make omelettes, etc.
Wardroom 3--where we ate everyday. Two others were closed because the airwing was gone.
One of the mess areas where the enlisted sailors eat.
Does that whet your appetite? We had lobster one evening---no wonder the crew likes Tiger cruises...special food for special guests. Let's see, that means almost 4,000 lobsters that day. Mmmm.

Oh, the most important area of the wardroom, to me at least:
Coffee keeps the Navy afloat, says my uncle Mike, a WWII and Korean War combat Navy veteran.
 And that's what's brewing in my coffee pot, today.

Next, sleeping quarters, sick bay, shaft alley, and the wide wake of the Abe Lincoln, plus a surprise or two.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"Saltwater flush"

Everything on the USS Abe Lincoln is labeled. it has to be.
"Saltwater flush" caught my eye on the pipe leading from the toilet in the male officers' head.

All the wiring, all the pipes, all the doors are labeled in several ways. And there are maps of the deck layout everywhere. They have to have them, or you'd easily get lost.
This was the map on the wall near our bunks. It's deck 2, which is one below the flight deck, I think. Yellow spaces are bunk areas. The large blank area in the middle is the hangar deck, which means we had to go down or up ladders and through hatches to get from our births near the bow, to the hangar deck to near the rear of the ship where we went down mor ehatches and ladders to the wardroom where food and coffee was always available.
This is a door with labels. I don't understand most of them, except  02 is for our level of births, and 33 means your're fairly close to the bow. the higher that number, back to 255 the farther aft you are.
This is the most important door that I left out of the door post earlier. In the middle of the night, you have to get up and go down a narrow hall and use your hotel type magnetic key to get in here to use the toilet with the "Salwater flush" lable Also the showers.
The narrow hall between sides of the ship, off of which was thedoor to our quarters, and which also lead to the most important door, "Men's head."

I told you everything was labeled.
Including fire hoses
Including gauges like this...
Mind boggling isn't it? 20 decks, 1,097 feet long, 257 feet wide, on every deck. Size, science, people and pride.

Monday, April 18, 2011

"My taxes are too high!" Thoughts.

My taxes are too high, preach the politicians, trying to help their rich cronies and corporations who financed their way into office and  who greedily want to pay less than their share.
I was grumbling about those taxes as I got up in the morning, turned on the tap and out flowed clean, safe water, ready to drink or brush my teeth. I opened my refrigerator and poured milk, passing government health standards for purity, into my cereal, which also meets government standards for health and nutrition. I brushed my teeth with toothpaste guaranteed to be safe by the same tax-financed government.
No dysentery from the water, milk, food, or toothpaste.
I complained about my high taxes as I took vitamins and medicine, all guaranteed to meet government standards and do what they were prescribed for, by government-licensed pharmacists, on orders of government -licensed physicians.
No snake oil making wildly inflated claims, or witch doctors using hocus-pocus.
I whined about my high taxes on the way to the grocery store in heavy traffic. I stopped at several intersections, regulated by traffic lights installed by the government. The streets were paved and repaired with tax funds. Unseen storm and sanitary sewers were built with the same funds. My government-licensed car and its various parts met government standards, and the gas I put into it had passed government standards for quality. The government insured the insurance on my car for financial responsibility. I, and almost all drivers, carried a government license in my pocket certifying my ability to drive.
I was griping about my taxes as I  bought canned goods, vegetables and fresh meat…all inspected and meeting government standards for quantity, cleanliness, and purity.
No cows’ heads butchered three days ago hanging in a hot, open market with flies buzzing around.
Overhead, I saw jet liners coming into land, all regulated by the tx-supported federal government, with controllers trained and paid by the same government.
On the way back home, I thought about those high taxes as I saw a line of yellow buses unloading lines of children at a public school, where they’re guaranteed a government-financed education from teachers who meet and surpass government qualifications for ability, education, knowledge and character. Students with handicaps, special mental needs, and from all classes and races and religion were welcome, thanks to the government.
No schools taught  by just anyone who shows up, teaching anything that comes to mind, or a political viewpoint, or schools just for the rich or privileged who could afford private schools with emphasis on maintaining exclusionary classes and races and religions.
I thought about those taxes when I stopped at the pharmacy and saw elderly people on fixed incomes buying medicines they couldn’t afford, thanks to the government’s Social Security and Medicare programs. I saw a lot of poor people lining up with food stamps to buy groceries to feed hungry children.
I thought about my taxes as I zoomed down a government-financed Interstate at 70 mph, crossing several state lines in 10 hours, in spite of heavy truck traffic, all meeting federal safety standards for equipment, load and driver training. Government-trained police patrolled the highways, insuring safety and order, and help in times of emergency.
No dumpy little roads that may not be passable, with checkpoints at every border, maintained by dangerous armed guards who may not let you pass even if you have the right papers. No armed thugs to hijack you and leave you for dead.
I thought about my high taxes as I stopped in a tiny town in a remote desert, far away from home, and put a letter in the mail box, knowing it would be delivered 3,000 miles away within three days, without being ripped open and read at will, and delivered whenever, if at all.
I thought about those taxes when I saw firemen responding to a house fire, with an ambulance and police cars already at the scene. When I got home, I turned on the lights, meeting tax-supported standards for safety and quality.
I thought about those taxes when multi-million-dollar U.S. Air Force jets zoomed overhead. Each fighter burns $1,000 of jet fuel an hour.  My taxes won’t even pay the salary of one pilot.
And despite terrorism, there’s no war in the streets, or fear of an invader cutting my throat, killing children, raping women, throwing people in concentration camps.
I thought about those taxes as I passed a tax-funded national cemetery, filled with row upon row of white graves.
Overhead the American flag waved in the breeze, free as I am.
My taxes too high? Who are they kidding? Not me.

"Down the hatch," or up for that matter

Hatches between bulkheads and decks
Between the 20 decks and at various places along the decks of the 1,000 foot+ length  Abraham Lincoln, are more watertight hatches than I can count. The hatches between the decks can be sealed  when needed. The hatches along the decks are sealed behind you with a lever every time you go through it--"Dog that hatch," I heard one sailor say.

Climb up and down those ladders and through those doors every  day, and you get a workout.
Between decks
Steve Curry's cousin Jim Isbell on his way to dinner. I'm right behind.
I don't know about these kind, and I didn't try to go down it either.
And definitely not this one.
But I went up this ladder and through that hatch every day.
This is the largest I saw, at the rear of the ship onto the fantail. Inside is where they repair and test jet engines for the aircraft. To test them, they open both doors and start the engines so the jet blast goes out to sea. Notice it can also be made watertight.