"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.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Autumn journey

Where I walk, Hafer Park, Edmond
There is beauty in mortality

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Reflections on a final port of call

I asked if I could open the urn, and the funeral director said yes. I was in the visitors center-headquarters of the Santa Fe National Cemetery, and I'd come to bury my favorite uncle, Michael Henry Clark. I carry his name as my middle name, and I believe he and his oldest brother and my dad, Terrence, must have been the closest of all the five brothers from Comanche, Oklahoma.

They opened the small black box and I reached inside to touch the clear plastic bag that held the sandy-white chalky remains of the old sailor. I did so, and shut the urn. I don't know why. I just did. The last time I'd touched Mike was to say goodbye at the veterans home at Walsenburg on Memorial Day.  We'd spent the day together, telling stories, eating, me wheeling him around in his wheelchair.

Last week we went up the hill to bury him. After reading the obituary I've posted earlier, and reading Psalm 23, I made the following remarks.

We gather here in sadness and loss to celebrate and honor the life of Michael Henry Clark.
While we mourn, I know there’s a big reunion at a bar in heaven where Mike and his four brothers are laughing and swapping stories again.
I prefer to think of Mike like this, of the many stories that he told and the many stories of ours that we all know and can laugh about.
Mike brought travel, stories and laughter to us all.
I have pictures of me in diapers being held by him in his WWII Navy uniform, of him teaching me to punt a football, of camping. Growing up in Albuquerque, my brother Jerry says there was always excitement when Uncle Mike was coming—he brought gifts and stories and we had midnight breakfasts just to keep listening. In the last 10 years I can tell you stories of him picking up hitchhiking veterans and pueblo residents, and many more retracing these years.
I know you have many more than I do, having known him as his adopted family who adopted him.
Isn’t that a great gift to us all?
Remember his big toothy smiles, large Clark ears and nose, easy laughter, Depression era toughness and stubbornness as he taught generations of young people or stocked his pantry with enough food to feed the US Navy, as he navigated life, a sailor docking his ship in Santa Fe.
As a friend told him, “Mike you couldn’t have found a better place to park your magic carpet.”
Stop a moment and think of one of those happy memories and stories, and laugh with him one more time…..
When I last saw Mike on Memorial Day, he said to me, “Terry, live every day.”
Mike Clark did that.
Now his remains are just across the road from his apartment of 32 years. He didn’t care where he was buried but I told him earlier it had to be here…where the sound of the bells of St. Francis Cathedral and taps at 9 p.m. will touch his grave every day.
He always said to me, “You couldn’t have come at a better time. You’re home.”
Mike is home.
On the last day of his life, we chatted away in the afternoon, and he told me to tell Jo and Lynn and Mon how much he missed and loved them. Later he watched the World Series and was being put to bed, chatting away, and probably flirting, with the nurses.
They sat him down on the edge of the bed. There was a sound, and they laid him down and he was gone.
When I’d call every week, he’d always say, “Don’t forget me.”
We can’t forget you, Mike.
Santa Fe is just not the same without Mike Clark. We miss you.
Saludos, sailor.

God, thank you for Mike Clark. Comfort us with the many good memories of the years we knew and loved him. Amen.

The next morning I went up the hill again to take photographs of the resting place of his ashes.
Graves of those cremated at Santa Fe National Cemetery, with Santa Fe Baldy and the Sangre de Cristos in the background,t he view Mike could see from his apartment across the road. Mike's temporary marker is the closes name tag five right of the orange marker.
Mike's ashes final resting place, the temporary marker at right.

Michael Henry Clark
U.S. Navy
WWII Korea
Sept, 4, 1922
Oct. 24, 2011

And what is eerie about this, as I post it, my blog music starts playing Ravel's Ports of Call.

A sailor's final port

The old Indian waited until the rest of the people had moved off from touching the small black box urn that held the ashes of Michael Henry Clark.

The committal center at the Santa Fe National Cemetery
The small crowd of about  50 people had gathered at the Committal Center at the Santa Fe National Cemetery at 2:15 p.m. Nov. 10 under clear, but brisk November skies. Across the road, over rows of white-gray gravestones marching in military precision, you could just see the apartment where Clark,  who died Oct. 24 at age 89, U.S. Navy combat veteran of both WWII and Korea, had lived for more than 30 years until last November.
The view from the committal center, toward Mike's apartment, light adobe about center near top of hill,
with the great blue hulk of the Sandias in the background.
They came to pay their respects to him, mostly the many members of the  Romero family that had adopted Clark, and he them as a family, including Jo Webb, his long-time girlfriend and her daughter Lynn. Also there was his best friend "Mon" Moneno, who had helped care for him so much up until he had to move a year ago from the apartment to a veteran's home in Walsenburg, Co., and other Santa Feans,  people who knew him and had worked with him. They sat in folding chairs facing the urn, and gathered behind them, thinking about this life-long friend who brought laughter and stories and adventure to their lives.

And the old Indian, Candalario Lavato of Santo Domingo pueblo, and his wife, a Tesuque Indian.

After brief comments by a nephew, the three blue uniformed U.S. Navy sailors of the honor guard took over. Beforehand, two of them greeted the vehicle that brought the urn and the flag with stiff salutes, and marched it up the small hill to a table in front of the crowd.

Then they crisply unfolded the flag and held it over the urn, sunlight streaming through the red white and blue. The third member of the guard played taps. The two then refolded the flag, carefully creasing each fold, until it was complete. White-gloved salutes followed, every detail planned and foreordained.

One marched to the center, turned on a dime, approached Jo Webb, sitting in the center of the row of chairs, knelt down on one knee, and presented her the flag.

"On behalf of the President of the United States, and a grateful nation," he said, with a few other words, concluding with "Our condolences."

He stood,  saluted once more.  His final words were, "Quartermaster Clark, Shipmate."

The crowd gathered around the urn in a last attempt to say goodbye, and moved off, chatting, planning a big afternoon meal of celebration. The nephew stood there, and touched the urn one more time, when Mr. Lavato approached, dressed like everyone else against the chill--jeans and coat--except with a beaded headband. The 92-year-old WWII Army veteran, who had fought America's enemies, had worked with Clark at the Institute of American Indian Arts years ago. There the native Oklahoman Clark had helped the native American fight administrators, and as a long time teacher, was welcome at all the feast days or any other time in the northern pueblos of New Mexico, but especially that of the Lavatos.

He faced the urn, stood at attention, and quietly raised his arm to his weathered forehead, and snapped a final salute.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Church at Tecolote, NM-2

The sprits of New Mexico
Tecolote church, 2--11 by 14 watercolor, Fabriano Artistica 300 pound paper

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Psalm of the backroads--2

We are travelers, you and I
From the time of Abram
Who knew he was a stranger in a strange land
to us, who think we have permanent tents,
Rarely questioning the origin
of our hunger, our travel lust
until we get on back roads
with the windows down
the smells and sounds and sights of life
we miss in airconditioned cocoons
at home and work or on Interstates.
Here we notice you as fellow traveler
as time slows down,
as we travel in our minds and senses.
We travel miles, and years
on winding roads, up and down and around,
until we meet you on the intersection
ahead where you travel
on a road that never ends.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Psalm of the Backroads-1

When I drive through the countryside...
two lanes of asphalt unwind
before me and I find you
Around every bend,
Over every hill
there is mystery and wonder
to behold not seen before
Mirror-still ponds reflect your sky
and ripple with your breath...

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Manzanos in the morning

Pen and ink, on a steno pad, the view from the Albuquerque airport,
The great blue hulk of the Manzano mountains, stretching more than 50 miles southeast of Albuquerque are far less populated than the Sandias just north of them. On a cloudy day, looking east with the sun behind them you can barely see the streaks of snow on the highest peaks. The tall one is Capilla peak, more than 9,000 feet high, about 5,000 feed above the Rio Grand valley to the west. There's a fire lookout tower on the very top, and you can hike up there. I did so many years ago, from the other side.

These peaks captivate my imagination, and I've painted them twice, as did my Dad...but those views is from the north. On the opposite side in the foothills are Spanish land grants and small villages, and the beginning of the Great Plain, stretch all the way back to Oklahoma.  sketched this Veterans Day, waiting on a flight home from my uncle Mike's funeral in Santa Fe.  The mountains are part of the Rio Grand rift valley, thrust up on the east, while the west dropped.

Manzanos is Spanish for Apples, and when the evening sun and clouds are right, they do seem to turn red. I think Coronado and the Conquistadors of 500 years ago, homesick and thirsty marching up the valley from Mexico and El Paso del Norte, wistfully named them this, hungry for the apples from the orchards of Castillian Spain.

Mountain church

The little church at Tecolote, N.M., first attempt, 11 by 14 watercolor on 300 pound d'Arches paper, with t he clouds towering over the Sangre de Christos in the background. The next will be better

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cold front

You can tell it's coming.
The skies grow gray, the sun hazy.
Yesterday's strong south wind is forgotten.
The autumn leaves hurry to the ground in the light breezes.
The air grows calm.
In the northwest, the sky gets bluer and darker.
Ragged clouds fill the skies of the serene Great Plains.
It eases in, spitting moisture as a vanguard.
When darkness falls, you can hear its arrival.
Outside, gusts of wind whip every limb of every tree and bush.
It's time for stew and hot tea and perhaps a fire.
You go to sleep underneath a blanket
And the wind tells you it's November.
In the morning, it's clear and bright...
and crisp... cold front.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Michael Henry Clark

Funeral services for Michael Henry Clark, 89, will be at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 10 in Santa Fe National Cemetery with military honors. His nephew Terry M. Clark will officiate.
 A long-time teacher at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, he died Oct. 24 in a Colorado veterans home at Walsenburg. Well-known in many of the pueblos of New Mexico, he lived in Santa Fe until November last year when age forced his move.
A world traveler, he was born in Comanche, OK, Sept. 4, 1922. He was the fourth of five sons of Erle T. and Cuba Jon Miller Clark of Comanche.
Before joining the U.S. Navy in WWII, he ran away from home with friends hoping to get a job in Washington, D.C. and Richmond during the Depression. In the War he served as a signalman, Petty Officer second class on PC1212 on anti-submarine patrol in the Caribbean.
After the war he earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English and history from the University of Colorado. Reactivated during the Korean War, he served on LST 975 that was in the first invasion wave of landings on the beach at Inchon. He was transferred to Gen. MacArthur’s flagship, the USS Mt. McKinley, as the “best signalman in the Navy.”
He later taught high school English, history and other subjects at Espanola. He also taught at Casper, Wyo., and in Oregon. He was hired by the U.S. Information Agency to teach English to university students for five straight years in Ecuador, Libya, Iran and Mali.
He returned to the U.S. as a teacher of many subjects at the Institute of America Indian Arts in 1965. He was a member of the Santa Fe VFW and American Legion. and served in the Oklahoma National Guard as a youth.
He was preceded in death by his parents and four brothers—Terrence Miller, Lewis Watts, Rex Thweatt and Champ.  He is survived by many nieces and nephews. Rogers Funeral Home at Alamosa is handling arrangements.