"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.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Scriptures according to the Tea Party--part 1

Translated the way God intended it
  • "In the beginning, we founded this country, and it belongs just to us and people who believe like us."
  • "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil because of my assault rifle, and the fence we build to keep unwanted people out."
  • "To everything there is a season, a time for us to rule the country and take it back from unbelievers."
  • "Fox and Rush are a lamp unto my feet."
  • "Suffer the little children, especially if they're poor and not white. No money or food or schooling for them."
  • "I am not ashamed of the gospel that gives me power to take over the country and make everyone believe like us, or be shouted down or deported."
  • "God is love, and we get to say who he loves and who he hates."
  • "Blessed are the white, right wing fanatics, for they shall shout down all moderation." 
  • "Vengeance is  mine because I am God's appointed."
  • "Woe unto you journalists and liberals, for you don't agree with us, and you'll be cast into to book burning."
  • "Render unto Caesar--especially the military, but never for poor people."
  • "Turn the other cheek  to put them off guard before you blow them away with your assault rifle."
  • "Go into all the world and make them believe like us, and invade them if they don't or have oil."
  • "The poor you shall have with you always, and we intend to keep it like that. Just let them do our lawns."
  • "I am way, truth and light, and there's no room for discussion or compromise since we are always right."
  • "Let a woman keep silent,  except for Palin and Bachman." 
  • "Death to the infidel...uh, ooops."

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

London's moved!

Talk about continental drift!
Talk about the need to require geography in college.
Did you know the English have invaded Germany for once, and renamed Berlin as London?
Yep and the UCO paralympic group is going to need to learn to speak German.

Check the image on the UCO website:

Monday, February 27, 2012

Classic weekend

KCSC's donor appreciation reception, Susan's production, was  down at theTasting Room on north Western Sunday afternoon. Whew, busy weekend. We need to move that way--I made five trips in four days.

Here's some background music.

Gridiron guffaws

The program cover to the annual OKC Gridiron show
"Friends, breathe this big of aroma:
Something always happens in Oklahoma.--Ancient Gridiron proverb

Journalists making fools of themselves, on purpose, for fun, and for scholarships for Oklahoma college journalism students--roasting news makers since 1928 and raising more than $500,000 for scholarships.

That's the Gridiron show and we attended Saturday night, at the Lyric Theatre in the Plaza District.
I enjoy it because of the political satire, and because I know so many of these people from working with and for the press here in Oklahoma.

Satire and music and costumes...hard to beat, and this year to the theme of "Hee Haw" (you can tell with that theme that many of the actors and much of the crowd is on the upside of 50--Hee Haw is ancient history--, but not all).

Best acts to me was the spoof on Garth Brooks singing "I've got friends" about his lawsuit at Integris. It got lots of laughs, and it's clear Integris didn't have any friends in the audience. The satire about Edmond was also rich, for those of us who live here and know, no matter which publication says so, it ain't perfect.

The cast's portrayal and comments on the current bunch of Republican presidential candidates were skewered correctly, a little more balance this year for a show that is always tougher on Democrats. ( I do wish they'd been more onto Mary Fallin as governor, but then, she is sort of boring anyway.)

Regardless, Bill Perry has Clinton dead on, for a thousand laughs always, especially advising Herman Cain,  Billie Rodley is a hoot as Hillary, and Bart Veugels' Obama is clever and fun. Some are almost professional singers and dancers, and most are just good old Okies having fun for a good cause.

I hesitate to mention any of them for fear of leaving out. I obviously have favorites, including some ex-students up there, and veteran  retired reporters (but you know who you are).

It's enough to be said about the quality of the show, the untold hours of writing and rehearsing, and the quality band, that virtually every state politician and candidate comes to be sure and be introduced one of  the three nights the show is running.

These people are so much fun. It's a side  of the press more people should know about. A great night. Thanks folks.

PS. And I didn't know it until the next morning, but I lost my phone while there. Panicked. Finally figured out it may have been at gridiron. Then about 11 am Sunday, I get a phone call from the UCO police. Gridironers found it, and dropped it off in Edmond for me. Thanks!

UCO in the Persian Gulf

Former student, Lt. Cdr. Steve Curry, in shades and UCO T-Shirt.
Aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, 5K run on the flight deck in the Persian Gulf.
I was aboard almost a year ago. Go Navy!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Much Ado about Reduxion

Live music prelude to Much Ado at Reduxion
I cried and I laughed.

That's been the effect of Reduxion Theatre Company http://reduxiontheatre.com/ and the two performances of Shakespeare I've seen there.

In the fall, we went to see "Hamlet," put on with just seven actors in various roles at the little theater in the round on North Broadway in OKC.

You're sitting right at the edge of the stage, close enough to be touched by the actors. The closing of that play did bring tears. Friday, we went to see "Much Ado About Nothing." Eight players switching roles and costumes, bringing the Bard's genius and wordplay to life again, this time with laughter and live music.

Cover of the Playbill
More interaction with the audience this time brought my stage debut.

The cop Antonio reaches for me, asks me something, (You have to listen very closely to Shakespeare's words) intending to bring a person up on stage for questioning as potential thief in an investigation. Of the top of my head, trying to fit the Italian setting, I reply, "Si."

Up I go into the middle of the stage, and he says to me, laughing, "You're the first person who ever answered "Si." After I'm prodded and probed by the cops, I'm sat back down.

Later he's walking by in a soliloquy, and asks a rhetorical question of himself, two feet from me. I reply "Si." It cracks him up and it gets a laugh from the crowd. After the play, one audience member asked if I was a plant.

Nope. But next year... the Golden Globes or Oscars for me.

Much Ado about Nothing, for my adventure.

But Reduxion Theatre should be on your list of experiences in a revitalized OKC and energized creative landscape.

Check the website for lots more information. Next season, they're putting on Shakespeare twice, "Richard III" Nov. 1-17, and "Love's Labour's Lost," Feb 7-23. "Also Night of the Grand Guignol" Sept. 20-29, and "Tom Jones," May 9-25.

In addition, "Sense and Sensibility" May 10-26 this spring, and the Jane Austen Festival June 12-16.

 The actors will stun you as they move from one role and costume, and sometimes gender, in an evening. Theater the way the Bard envisioned it and experienced it.

Reduxion deserves Much Ado about it.
Here's music from the prelude. This was so much fun.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Shakespeare and the Gridiron

Just back from the OKC Gridiron show at the Lyric on the Plaza. last night, Much Ado about Nothing at Reduxion on Broadway. A week ago, watching nephew-in-law Sam Henry in Le Miz at Heritage Hall. Painting in Paseo two Saturdays in a row.

Tomorrow, poetry reading at Beans and Leaves, on Western. Then to KCSC reception for classical music.  Overload in the arts? No way. comments tomorrow on the creative energy engulfing our area.

In between, about 150 miles on the car this weekend.

Tomorrow, comments about Gridiron and Reduxion.

Moonrise over Taos, watercolor

9 by 12 watercolor, 140 pound d'Arches paper
Moonrise over Taos, from the Rio Grande gorge

Long shadows

Long shadows

As I drove by the park,
the breeze barely moved the now vacant swings,
and nobody sat on the park bench.
The leaves swirled across the grass
like fleeting memories--
nearby the creek trickled steadily
like the passing days.

Saturday morning, long ago--poetry

In a crowded coffee shop
on a drizzly Saturday morning
I sit alone
sipping on my thoughts
as my coffee and muffin grow cold.

My friend
must have missed our rendezvous
so I’m hungry
for the crumbs of chatter
that scatter off nearby tables
where companions
drink of each other.

“Warm your coffee up, Mister?”
asks the waitress.
Yes, but I’d rather see my reflection
in my friend’s brimming eyes
instead of the shallow, soon-depleted liquid.

She once wrote: “I know this:
the amount of time you spend
with someone doesn’t necessarily
relate to how important they are to you.”
Like caffeine, there are a few people
you can never get enough of,
because even a sip is
a stimulant for present tense.
Her absence makes me brood in past tense.

Suddenly a bell tinkles as the opening door
nudges it back and forth.
I look up to see her distinct form
silhouetted against the light,
and I exhale with relief-joy.
“How about a cup of coffee?”
I ask, expectantly, already knowing
the unspoken answer is, “Of course.”

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Leaving home, watercolor

9 by 12 watercolor, 140# d'Arches paper
How much does it hurt inside when a child leaves home or goes far away?

Travel fever

The  latest issue of Oklahoma Today is out, and it makes you just want to get in the car and go. www.oklahomatoday.com

The first attention getter was a Shane Bevel photo of a lonely rural road and big skies accompanying Editor Steffie Cocoran's opening column. Deeper inside was the story, about the "Great Western Cattle Trail" by Jim Logan, with more  Bevel photos of vast lands and vaster skies. The magazine is fortunately featuring more large photography as it did in its early years.

I think we've all been down those highways.

Then to surprise me was friend-poet-publisher Jeanetta Calhoun Mish's "Remembering Number 9" about trips down a rural Oklahoma highway in her life.  In additon to other articles, there's veteran Oklahoma journalist-writer Sheila Bright's selection of the weird and wonderful places in Oklahoma. Yep, it's the travel issue, including articles by my former student and Associate Editor Megan Rossman, and Managing editor Nathan Gunter about the new Myriad Gardens.

I recommended William Least Heat Moon's Blue Highways to both Steffie and Jeanetta. My son Travis takes a copy with him when he travels on his motorcycle. I guess I should read it again, but I'm already cooped up. after reading this issue.

"Wrapped in ribbons of sky,
 the allure of the West is unmistakable."
--Blurb accompanying Steffie's column.

 Need to travel. Need to write. Need maps. Travel fever.

No wonder I had to change the photo at the top of my blog.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Must be spring, in Oklahoma

Thunder, lightning, downpour, rainbow, strong south wind, lots of clouds, sun is out, cold front coming...
Must be Oklahoma

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Exploring creatively

St. Francis Cathedral Basilica in the snow at night, Santa Fe
9 by 12, 140 pound d'Arches paper
I hesitate to show this, but it is the product of an afternoon of creativity at Adelante Gallery in Paseo, painting and visiting with Thomas Stotts, acrylic artist.

My brother Jerry wants a painting of the cathedral for his adobe-style house in Lubbock, and I've been postponing, and trying, and failing for almost two years.

So today, I tried something different... . This is a study only, and it's full of errors, but promises too. Errors--the stars and the moon in the sky are too wet, and ran; the figures in the foreground are in the wrong place and too small, but can't be too much bigger either, and bishop Lamy's statue is too tall. Needs a little more control of snow-covered vegas in the foreground buildings, and some other things. Plusses, turquoise night sky, a la Remington and Russell, and I painted what I feel...before they were static--more architecturally accurate, but devoid of story telling and spirit.

So, we'll see, if what I learned on this will be transferrable to more than double the size. Don't know, but I'm inspired. Santa Fe is powerful for both Jerry and I, and if it is to be a successful painting, it has to not be a photograph, but more...fitting our emotions. When our uncle Mike was alive and I stayed in his apartment (up until November a year ago), I could step out on the porch and see this every night. and it figures prominently in Willa Cather's "Death Comes for the Archbishop."

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Remember your train rides?

Amtrak Surfliner, California
My oldest son, M/Sgt Vance Clark, USAF, called today, riding AmTrak Surfliner up the Pacific Coast from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara.  A beautiful view. He was thinking about memorable train rides in his life and he couldn't remember the date of one.

"Remember when we were in Canada on the steam train? He asked. "When was it?"

I pulled the date and place out of my mind immediately. " "Your Mom was pregnant with Dallas, so it would have been the summer of 1971, in Winnipeg." I asked him what he remembered. At age almost six, he could remember going to the bathroom, flushing the toilet and seeing the tracks underneath, afraid of falling through.

We chatted for several minutes, each remembering train rides, he with more than me, because in the service he's been on trains in Turkey, England, the Chunnel, France  and Germany, plus time on Amtrak from Glacier National Park to Chicago to St. Louis.

"It's amazing that you remember the train rides more than any plane rides, and they're always more pleasant," he said.

The Rock Island Rocket

Got me to thinking. Earliest train ride I can remember, just barely, is at about four or five, riding with my Dad in the Rock Island Rocket from Fort Worth, through Comanche where Granddad lived, to Duncan, where he'd pick us up. I most remember dark windows and night, wondering about the people living in the lighted homes.

Of course there was one train ride my Dad would never forget, when he jumped a freight in Tucumcari in 1932, lost his grip and fell under the big steel wheels, costing him a leg. See "My Dad had a wooden leg." But he never talked about it to us. http://clarkcoffee.blogspot.com/search?q=wooden+leg

In Albuquerque, long ago
After that, I don't know. There's a photo of Mom, Jerry and I boarding the Santa Fe at Albuquerque to go to east Texas, but I don't remember that trip. And when I got my Cub Scout Webelos badge, they packed us onto the Santa Fe at Albuquerque and took us to Lamy near Santa Fe for the ceremony.

I do remember Neysa and I boarding Amtrak in Ardmore to go to Houston, where we picked Mom up and moved her to Waurika in the early 70s. And we road the steam train out of Chama to Cumbres Pass and back years later. http://www.cumbrestoltec.com/

Cumbfres and Toltec
Since then, I've ridden Amtrak from Washington to Philadelphia one morning to meet a professor friend. Susan and I have ridden the Amtrak Heartland Flyer to Fort Worth a couple of times (taking students one time), and took the train from Rome to Florence a few years back.  In Utah, east of Salt Lake, I rode the steam Heber Valley Railroad for a short distance, riding in the caboose all the way. http://hebervalleyrr.org/

Forest Park Railroad
Most recent was a "kiddies" train, the Forest Park Railroad,  in Fort Worth two years ago, see August, 2010 post http://clarkcoffee.blogspot.com/2010/08/all-aboard.html   and I road one in Elk City  and Duncan before that.

On every one of the trips I remember the scenery outside the windows, the sounds, some of the people--pleasant, relaxing. Today I value such travel for its lack of stress. Isn't that amazing? As Vance said, the only plane trips you remember are the bad experiences.

Now I'm not a real railroad buff, but no wonder I'm attracted to old steam engines,  see October post, http://clarkcoffee.blogspot.com/search?q=Bartlesville  and prowl old depots like the one at Waurika where we owned the newspaper--vacant then but it's become a library and museum.

 I always want to climb on old steam engines and railroad cars, am captivated by cabooses, "Where's the 'boose?' http://clarkcoffee.blogspot.com/2011/07/wheres-boose.html , count the freight cars going past, attend train shows, yearn for a caboose in my back yard, look down those tracks wanting to go.

North to Alaska
And this May, the Lord willing, we'll board the Yukon and White Pass steam train at Skagway.

And with Dad's art in the house, and some of my efforts, especially Christmas cards for good friends Roy and Jill Kelsey, the pull of trains is more than just a fact.

All aboard!

My Dad's scratchboard of the turntable in Fort Worth. I was there as a kid when he drew this, and he later turned it into a snow scene for a Christmas card. So many memories
My watercolor from Neruda's poem, "Is there anything sadder than a train standing in the rain?"

Spring on the Great Plains--watercolor

9 by 12, 140 pound d'Arches paper
Rain this morning and then it cleared out with a strong south wind, temperature soaring to almost 70, and the spring-like clouds puffed up like gigantic heads of cauliflower. Yes it snowed Monday. Spring in Oklahoma?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sunset, watercolor

9 by 12, 140 pound d'Arches paper

Psalm inspired by an editor

Yeah, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of editors
I will fear no red pen; For AP style is with me
Grammar and spell check comfort me.
A table and bar await despite the scoffers;
My byline awaits, my cup will overflow.
Surely short words and graphs will bless me
And I will revel in deadlines beaten forever.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The agony, and pleasure, of writing

Multiple versions, notes, pens, paper, computer
Writing is hard work. Remember when  experts said computers would make paper obsolete? Hmph. If I can't run the notes out, run the first draft out, and mark it up and scribble ideas, I'd be stuck. Sure it wasn't a news story, which can be much simpler in structure than a magazine non-fiction piece, but...What was supposed to be a simple little 700 word story, with two weeks to write, for some reason caused me all kinds of agony--I think because there was so much interesting anecdotes, description and more that I had to pare down.

Still, right before I hit "send" to the editor, I read the piece one more time, ran spell check one more time, and found errors I would have missed if I'd just been looking at the screen.

I know, the shorter version is leaner and probably better--I'm happy with it, but wistful. I'll tell you what and where it's about when it goes to press in a few months.

I'm not complaining, because every story is a discovery of new stories and people and interesting places.
It all started with "I wonder." Then I accumulated more than 2,500 words of scribbled notes from in-person interviews and visits, email and phone interviews, email follow up with more questions, checking web pages, transcribing the notes, checking the AP style book.. Then there was lots of stewing and thinking, running phrases and sentences over in my head.

First done was the "lead," about 100 words in three paragraphs itself, written  and revised and polished, and changed again even today. Usually that makes the rest of the story easier, but this one got down to essentials. I finally decided on the concluding paragraphs Friday, and spent the weekend cutting and pasting and rearranging and making it flow.

I ended with three versions of it--from 100 words to long, to acceptable. Now it's the editor's job. Whew.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Painting Saturday

Next Saturday, afternoon, Adelante Gallery, Paseo, I'll be painting watercolors. come visit, see, talk,.http://www.cynthiadanielwolf.com/featured_artists/terry_clark/terry_clark.html

Poetry to take your breath away

The muse runs deep and rich with blog friend and poet K. Lawson Gilbert of Pennsylvania.
Her most recent poem, "N.C.'s Studio" takes my breath away in its richness.
You must read it.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Devon tower, sunset

Devon tower, at sunset from Edmond, watercolor, 9 by 12, d'Arches 140 pound paper
I saw this scene tonight, heading downtown OKC and Paseo, I-35 in the foreground. Painted
 before Susan attacks it with my Dad's pastels. The Devon Tower towers over everything, and can be seen from more than 40 miles away. We drove downtown after Valentine dinner at Paseo Grill. Literally awesome.

Cabin fever, watercolor

"Prairie home, " today's work--9" by 12," 140-pound d'Arches paper
Cooped up by winter cold and lack of travel. Spurred by looking at maps, which are so seductive to the imagination, and by thinking about the miles on the car, and on me--oh for the wide-open spaces.

New car bug-aboo

To buy or not to buy: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to endure
The whims and chances of increasing miles
Or to take a plunge into increasing payments
And by signing give up? To wonder: to choose;
No more; and by choose to say we end
The heartache and the thousands of natural doubts
That flesh and future is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To wonder, to choose;
To choose, perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The War on Math and Science

Did you know America declared war on math and science in this century?

That's the title of one of the chapters in Friedman and Mandelbaum's book, "That Used to Be Us."

If you thought we were emphasizing math and science in our schools as all the politicians keep preaching, this title grabs you and makes you say, "Huh."

But I kept reading,  I realized words don't mean anything. Action is reality. (James2:17 for a Biblical bent, which essentially says "Faith without works doesn't exist."

so what are they talking about?

Math--the huge national deficit which began to grow after 2000. Vice-president Dick Cheney saying "deficits don't matter," and politicians wanting to cut taxes. That's war on math. It won't work for you and me--let's go charge everything and then take a cut in pay--and it isn't working for our country.

The war on science--politicians--including Oklahoma's own wholly owned puppet of energy companies Jim Inhofe--claiming that man-made climate change is a hoax. I'll admit, climate change isn't all the fault of fossil fuels, but to deny what most scientists int he world document is criminal or ignorant. Ever notice how much warmer it is in cities than the country during summer? Why? Concrete, and people. that's man made climate change. Science.

Now everybody agrees the deficit is the problem, and it's fair to debate how remedy that. But to delude ourselves that we can do it by cutting revenue without cutting spending is  to live in fantasy.

To deny that we must do something to help remedy the problems of climate change is also.

America is in trouble because our actions don't match our words.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The pages of constant change

I'm reading Friedman and Mandelbaum's book, "That Used To Be Us" about "How America fell behind in the world it invented and how we can come back."

It's one of those slow read books that make your brain hurt. A chapter a night is about all you can take, because it's heavy food that takes time to digest.
On top of that, since so much depends on education, I keep comparing what they're saying being disconnected to the functioning of higher education, especially at UCO, and realizing how many people know this, but more alarmingly, how many people don't get it, or won't get it, or don't care. I'm referring to the need of creativity and leadership versus a system that demands lots of forms and standardization, with more and more rules coming down everyday.  Consider this comment from a business CEO:  "More and more, innovation that happens from the top down tends to be orderly but dumb. Innovation that happens from  the bottom up tends to be chaotic but smart."

Other points  I underlined: "So sometimes you need to inject chaos into the classroom." ""Challenging the status quo is the most critical thing," for employees if a company is going to survive.

At any rate, it's been five years since Friedman wrote the landmark "The World Is Flat, "and there's been so much change since then. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oM2BguxRSyY
The authors say the merger of globalization and the IT revolutions (specifically the mobile IT revolution) is what America is not adapting to. Consider this  from one of the book's chapters about education:
"In 2005 Facebook wasn't even it it. It had just started up....'twitter' was still a sound, the 'cloud' was something in the sky, '3G' was a parking space, 'applications' were what you sent to college, and 'Skype' was a typo."  And the iPhone didn't exist. They write about one new businessman: "His head office is an iPad."

It's not a gloomy book, but a disturbing one. Consider this conclusion, quoting a businessman, "Once all the technology is evenly spread, "all the old-fashioned stuff will start to matter even more....the only advantage you can have is the human self....How good is your school system?,,,"The technology everyone will have."

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The greatest generation?

My friend Jim Baker, UCO history prof emeritus and scholar of WWII, hates the term "The Greatest Generation" being applied to just the WWII vets.

Priceless footage. Everyone should see this. A piece of History that we should never forget.
Stirring footage of Civil War vets reunion @Gettysburg .
(It's not over until a little after the stats are shown)

What will they name after me on campus?

If you look around campus, you see people's names on buildings, and inside some of them, rooms named after people. I particularly like the Virginia Lamb living room. I have no idea who she was, but its a nice legacy, a peaceful room that's meant to be enjoyed in private or in a small group, though it reminds me whatever buildings are named for someone, they'll soon be forgotten too.

We name buildings after ex-presidents here, but in not too many years the following generations will pay no attention to those names at all, because they have no experience with the individuals. The Pharaohs of the Pyramids met the same fate. Take Murtaugh Hall for example. See what I mean?

But it got me to wondering if I'd ever have a room named after me at UCO. I once thought they might name The Vista newsroom after me, but that isn't going to happen, given campus politics. I do believe classrooms should be named after great teachers, but that isn't going to happen either. You have to be a donor or an administrator or a politician to get something named here.

So I came up with a list of possible rooms they could name after me, and some other people on campus. First thought was the bathroom in the communications building, because I did spend a lot of time in there. But then I realized they're be a lot of competition for naming bathrooms on campus, because so many are full of....

Well, maybe I could get the pond named for me, but all the trash floating in it, the carp, and geese droppings make it too appropriate for so many other people on campus.

They could actually name most of the large mirrors on campus for those "senior" faculty members with outsized egos. Non-tenured faculty and staff would not be allowed to use them.

Perhaps a sidewalk? Possible, just like they name stretches of highway and bridges after people and most of the people traveling by have no idea who it is. Can you see the little sign? "The Terry M. Clark Memorial Cracked Sidewalk." Well, maybe not.

How about parking lots? Or stairwells? Seating areas? the list goes on.

I'd already like to name some of the ever-changing paperwork after people. There's the IPP, plenty of other stupid acronym-anonymous forms, the assessment plans, endless "rubrics" trying to make us all cookie cutters. I think every form should be named after an administrator, so that we could cuss them specifically, rather than generally. Besides, it might make them a little more thoughtful in designing them.

But back to what I want named after me. I know, a fire hydrant. Think about it, and bring your dog.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

What are your foundations?

I grew up where foundations lasted longer than the people who made them. Never much thought about it, just took them for granted.

Some of the ruins, and foundations, of the Pecos Pueblo, east of Santa Fe
In the arid Southwest, especially New Mexico, we'd visit Indian ruins where you could see the crumbling rock walls of buildings set in place hundreds of years before. The climate helps preserve them. In more recent times, I've camped at Chaco Canyon http://www.nps.gov/chcu/index.htm  amid ruins at least 1,000 years ago.

I came across this photo of the ruins at Pecos. http://www.nps.gov/peco/index.htm I always wondered about the people who lived in those rooms so long ago, and I wonder more now about the people who put those stones together. I wonder what they thought, how they talked, how they lived. I know they had a different sense of time than us, that they were tougher than us without electricity or central heat, or running water.

Yet they put in place stones and foundations that outlasted them, and will outlast us. Some would call it primitive, but it was not. Much, especially the Anasazi, was precise and oriented with the heavens.

Ruins at Chaco Canyon, New Mexico
Started me thinking about foundations in humid Oklahoma and Texas, where I've seen rotted or termite -eaten boards sitting on the ground, and crumbling concrete or concrete blocks serving as foundations sinking into moist earth.

Archaeological digs on the east coast can barely recover traces of early white settlement...the foundations are gone, sometimes no more than mounds of earth.

Have you lived in a house where the foundation cracks, or sinks, or decays? Then you  get bugs and rot and slugs in the house. We're luck today we have building codes---yes it costs more, but at least, especially with slab floors, there are standards to prevent foundation decay.

But other foundations are crumbling...personal, social, and political, in this country and elsewhere. Religious and political turmoil here at home are common with others around the world.  I know...I disagree with many of my kinfolk, and as long as we can respect each other and still disagree, but even argue--we're ok. But when we can't the foundations of our country crumble, as they are now

The foundations of civility in disagreement, of compromise for  the common good, of listening to people.

I'm reading Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum's book "This Used to Be Us," http://www.thomaslfriedman.com/bookshelf/that-used-to-be-us about how America fell behind in the world we invented.

They essentially say the same thing...the foundations are crumbling.

I'm reminded of the foundations I grew up with, especially from my East Texas  mother...love your family, care for your family, be respectful of others, hear them out, look them in the eye, don't be rude, have manners, be polite, say "Yes Sir" and "Yes ma'am," don't hate.

I started thinking about this during the reunion of first Culp cousins last April in East Texas. We have many differences, but solid foundations. I know personally, that when I've strayed from those foundations, or neglected them, or ignored them my life has suffered.

Sounds like stuff from the Sermon on the Mount, doesn't it?  It really bothers me that many of these people preaching hate and discrimination and violence today claim to be Christians. They need to read the foundations--Matt. 5-7.

But this isn't about just politics or religion, it's about every foundation we have. If we're civilized, we keep our foundations strong and build on them. then they'll last. Every stone has a place, every stone contributes to the whole. Damage one, and all suffer.

And if we don't--a century ago, England was the  world's  greatest nation and civilization. It's not today. All foundations can  rot and crumble and disappear...and an arid climate won't sustain them.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Red canoe thoughts

Down the creek (river) with a paddle
A few summers ago with Susan and then Mark Hanebutt, on the North Canadian near El Reno, first day of what turned out to be a two day trip to Lake Overholser. I've since sold my canoe for lack of use and convenient places to escape. It was 15'8" long and weighed 80 pounds. Notice my Grizzly Bear paw on the bow. On the stern was an EarthFirst! decal.

Brought to mind by Ken Hada's poetry khada@ecok.edu and Duana Hada's watercolor http://rivertowngallery.com/ in "The River White," http://www.mongrelempire.org/Mongrel_Empire_Press/Poetry.html in Northwest Arkansas where there is a lot more canoe water. See my review http://clarkcoffee.blogspot.com/2012/01/rhythm-of-water-review.html 
Duane Hada, Parker Bend, Beaver Tailwater
Ken's words: 
"So much depends on red

It was a fantastic canoe trip...sometimes walking in shallow water pulling the canoe...down below the sounds of traffic. Lots of birds--owls, egrets, hawks, even two very lost Rosetta Spoonbills, turtles, and more. Having to stop after noon, tie the canoe up, climb steep banks and walk a mile to find a phone for a ride because we'd tipped the canoe and ruined a cell phone. I've notice when something unexpected or problems arise on a journey, those are the trips you remember...not where everything goes smoothly.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

How many masks to you have?

The art of African masks intrigues me. They're so honest.
The displays in the UCO Library show so much culture, imagination and spirituality.

But in America we Europeans have submerged such art, considering it primitive. Masks still exist in  some Native American cultures like the Zuni and on the Pacific Coast, cultures which are older than ours and anything but primitive. Maybe we're afraid to be honest about our masks.

The only time we're honest about our masks is around Halloween, when we figure that yes, we can have fun again. But otherwise, we hide our masks, thinking we are fooling people.

Instead we speak of "keeping our guard up," or "not letting our guard down," in our work and personal lives.

Some of our masks are physical--costumes of types of dress, offices, houses, automobiles, makeup, hair styles, jewelry--that we use to help give ourselves identity, to boost our egos to ourselves,  and to perhaps cover up who we really are to  other people. They can be harmless or superficial, and easy sources of humor, or turn into resentment and violence. What are social classes and discrimination but varieties of masks?

Our other masks are more insidious because they are attitudes and behavior--thinking we're more important or smarter or more talented or superior to others,  and hiding personal and family problems. The real problem is that they rarely fool other people--unlike Halloween or African masks--people can see right through the. Instead, our masks fool only ourselves. They become hollow parts of our false selves, grotesque art that deprives us of honesty, imagination and spirituality. It's not by accident that the word "hypocrite" comes from the Greek actors and their masks.

It's ironic and  appropriate that the African mask display is at UCO. University campuses are filled with people wearing masks, especially the faculty, administrative and academic organizations, such as faculty ranks, supposed hierarchy of disciplines and publications and academic "turf"--the ruling principle of higher ed. My Mom would call much of that "putting on airs." One staff member said to me this week, looking me in the eyes, "You've got to admit the faculty has some large egos."

What are your masks?