"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.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Turning the pages of the first half of 2012

"One Hundred Years of Marriage" by Louise Farmer Smith (See the previous post) is book 12 of those read as the first half of the year comes to a close.  I thought I was behind, on one a month, but no. It's been an interesting reading
The two most previous books I've read are "Repetitions" by Doris Cohen about reincarnation,  and "Mack to the Rescue," Jim Lehrer's satire set in Oklahoma, with a one-eyed assistant governor who reminds me of George Nigh, and a whacko governeor who reminds me of Frank Keating. I know I'm late started reading these, but it was signed by the author, bought at Full Circle Book Store. http://www.fullcirclebooks.com/ Neat use of place names, for anyone who knows Oklahoma.  He makes up a couple of places, but I only found one error--aint' ever gonna be a Walmart in Waurika.
Just before that, I've read "Sagebrush and Paintbrush" about Charles Russell by Nancy Plain. I bought it in Fort Worth in the spring, visiting with my brother and the watercolor show at the Amon Carter. It's really a children's book, but I stll learned from it. And I bought and red the museum book with the show, "Romance Maker" by Rick Stewart, about Russell and showing the watercolor paintings. What you do learn though is that no printing can approach the grandeur of the original art.
About the same time was "After Custer," by Paul Hedrin, the winner of the Wrangler Award at the Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, that I judged in nonfiction. The Oklahoma connect is that it's printed by the OU Press...and I've mentioned it in my current story on the OU Press in Oklahoma today, "Pressing On."
Here's the lead: "Custer was dead, and Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull and Morning Star were desperate." Paul Hedren's Wrangler-Award winning book, "After Custer, Loss and transformation in Sioux country. The Oklahoma connection--published by the OU press. Great reading. Makes you sad and ashamed of what white people did to the Indians in the name of "civilization."

Why did your mother say "Yes"?

When I opened the mailbox the other day, there was this package, hand addressed to me, with the same delicate handwriting on the return, from a woman in Washington, D.C.
Inside was a paperback book "One Hundred Years of Marriage," and a handwritten note from the author, Louise Farmer Smith, a native Oklahoman.
Her note explained that we were meeting because of Jeanetta Calhoun Mish, publisher, poet and friend whose books from Mongrel Empire Press  I've reviewed here before.
Farmer's book, a novel in stories, is set in Oklahoma and springs from two questions she asks in her note to the reader: "What was your father thinking the night he proposed? Why did she say yes?"
What fuel for the imagination. 
She starts in 1960 and goes back in generations of the same family into the 1800s before returning to 1979 in the last of six stories--a Michneresque structure, complete with a family lineage chart.  You can see more about it at Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/One-Hundred-Years-Marriage-Stories/dp/1468173758
Farmer, a descendant of pioneer dugout dwellers in Oklahoma, is an author with degrees from OU and Yale, says these are fiction, but the characters are such real Okies, you know she knew people like them. It's all the more real because of her detail of Oklahoma landscape and college town.
It's not a happy book, nor sad, but raw and realistic, sometimes disturbing because it's so real about ordinary Okies, their matches and mismatches, with humor offsetting some of the darkness. I think one reason it jars me is that all our families have had versions of these dramas somewhere in our lives. I was captivated  at the first story, "The House After It Was Leveled--1960." It's narrated by the oldest college age daughter about her mother going through menopause. Consider the first sentence: "I looked like the four of us might eat supper without talking about Mother's condition, ....," You have to keep reading, don't you?
A couple of favorite phrases from that first story:
"Dust swept up from the new flowerbeds and swirled around the foundation of the building. I hoped from the bottom of my heart that she would pour out everything."
"At night I law awake, noticing how our house sounded. ...but now the house itself made a kind of wheeze every once in a while like it was remembering the time before it was level."
I'm halfway through, and I admit, I have to catch my breath after each story. The stories remind me of the old black and white photos of families through the years, but with flesh and emotion oozing out of them.

Edmond Car show, Liberty Fest...What a treat

68 photos on this link

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Lessons from watercolor painting

Great Plains rain...6" by 9"
Art is always a teacher, if I'm willing to learn. I'm drawn to watercolor because the type-A personality in me, the perfectionist, is seeking liberation from the urge to be responsible for everything, to control outcomes.
I learn from watercolor lessons that apply to living, as well as painting, and certainly about seeing. I wish I'd gone to art school, and been able to study and paint with my Dad. But the times are long past for that, so I try to make do with what I've been privileged to learn and attempt over the past 13 or so years.
 There have been some successes, and a lot of failures, but they've all taught me, and kept me either humble or happy, or both. Discouragement has been frequent, but somehow, I've not quit trying. I do know I could be so much better. Some of that improvement comes from reading, especially my periodic notes in a journal. Here are a few.

  • A failure isn't a failure if you learn from it.
  • You can't control everything, so don't try.
  • Being tight negates creativity, art and life.
  • Light is much better than dark.
  • My skies are the best, because I'm most loose, and free, when I paint them. I love skies. Lesson?
  • Diagonals command attention. Straight lines are boring.--in art and life.
  • The contrast of light and dark, warm and cool, gives the most impact. Life without contrast is dull.
  • Painting is problem solving, and solving those problems takes your mind off all other problems.
  • I know how to compose--the trick is to compose and then let creativity take over. Composition is truth--creativity is spirit. Jesus said to worship in spirit and truth.
  • Wet into wet gives the most unpredictable, the most lack of control, the most creativity, the most freedom.
  • It's taken a long time to develop my writing voice, but even thought it was gradual and sometimes unconscious, it didn't just happen. How can I expect my watercolor voice, style, to just happen? 
  • My best paintings--Christmas cards--are good because they're fast and loose. They're impressions from my mind, not a photograph, therefore they're my style. I forget that the bigger the painting. Quit trying to live a life--live today.
  • The cards are instinctive illusions of reality, as is all art. Quit worrying about details and paint instinctively. Live instinctively.
  • What are the connections between my writing and watercolors? There are if I find them. I see the connections between my photography and painting.
  • I've ruined a lot of paintings with over attention to small details, especially in foregrounds. You don't like people who pay too much attention to small details in life and work, so quit.
  • Homer and Turner and Russell used anything that worked in their paintings. They didn't care about rules, or expectations. They were secure in themselves and honest, and successful. People who aren't secure in themselves and aren't honest, aren't successful.
  • Painting is best when you're having fun. So is life.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Geezer Comedy at Toyota--the quotes

Geezer A--"Institutional Survivor" cap. 
Geezer B--Moved here from Virginia.
Setting--Customer service area at Fowler Toyota in Norman

 A: "The wife likes to rearrange the bedroom every year. About the time I get used to it, she changes it. When you get up in the middle of the night, I have to stop and think where the bed is."
B: "Could be dangerous."
A: "Yeah, I don't want to sit down on a table and knock over a lamp."

B: "You retired?"
A: "Yes. I was a chaplain in the Air Force and then a pastor. Tried to get hired here  in nursing home management. Told me my MA degree meant I was overqualified, and besides, I wouldn't be around long enough. You?"
B: "Yes, after 27 years in the Army. Wife didn't think it was fair, so she retired. Then she started pawing the ground, went back to work. They didn't give her a raise, but a fancy title."

A: "You from around here?"
B: "No, moved here from Virginia 7 years ago because the wife wanted to be near the kids. I came out to hunt housing.    But I saw a house in a place called Rivendell. Wife has read Tolkien three times and likes the name. I'm lobbying for a double wide on 20 acres. We live in Rivendell."
A: "You sure are easy to get along with for a former military man."
B: "I am...after 50 years of marriage, I've learned to say 'Yes, Ma'am.'"
A: "I know. We've only been married 43 years, but you learn to go along."

A: "The world is full of grumpy people."
B: "Yes, too bad. I wake up every morning on the green side of dirt--made it through the night. It's a good life."

A: "I look like a cadaver and it took me a hell of a long time to get this way."
B: "When you bump into things, you learn where they are."
A: " I have a lot of fun with this hat. People look at it and don't know whether to talk to me or not."

A: "My sister and I haven't got along. A year ago she wrote me a letter telling me her counselor told her not to be in contact with her. So I didn't, until recently. I sent her a card, saying we weren't getting any younger, and I'd hate to die and not be reconciled. She called me and cried.
B: "Tell her to get a different counselor."

B: "I get along with the dogs better than the kids. We've got eight grandchildren, son in Austin, daughter in Atlanta. The three girls are in tournaments, so wife's going down to hang around the house with whoever doesn't have a tournament."
A: "We've got five grandkids, and they're all busy this summer."
B: "That's good. I support all these grandcritters as long as they outside doing something. Kids are supposed to go outside and get muddy and throw rocks and break something. Not sit inside on these electronic games."

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Conversation between Geezers at Toyota--Prologue

"You here waiting on your wife's car too?"
"Yes, getting it patched up."
Sometimes treasure falls into your lap when you least expect it, or in this case, in my ears. Sitting in Fowler Toyota at Norman this morning, for my Rav4's 30,000 mile physical, I was trying to read, sitting at a table near the free coffee.
I'd seen this gray haired old geezer earlier, wearing a black Veteran's style ball cap with little  pins on it and gold lettering. Neat gray mustache, glasses, flowery shirt, khaki shorts, white tennies, sitting in the corner, reading a book.
I shoulda known I was in for a treat when he walked by to get coffee. I always look at Veteran's caps, to see which war, which ship, things like that. His gold type read, "Institutional Survivor" across the crown. Underneath, it  read "Leave Me Alone."
Not being intrusive, I didn't even introduce myself. I wish now I had. Trying to read and mind my own business, I'm interrupted by another old geezer  in a t-shirt, green ball cap, green shorts, grey tennies, coming up and loudly starting a conversation with him--oblivious to the cap's message--about their wives' cars. From the knees down, you'd not tell the difference. White, slender untanned legs. White socks pulled up around their angles.  I don't really pay attention at first, annoyed like I am when people talk loudly on cell phones in public places, trying to impress other people with how important they are.
In fact, I picked up my computer, my bag and book, and moved a couple of tables away. To no avail. You could hear them all over the room.
Then it got interesting. Pretty soon, I was smiling to myself, and  trying to type everything they said, and moved back closer to where I could hear.
The treasure of a brighter day was dumped in my lap, listening to the back and forth banter of the two men as they got acquainted.
Twenty minutes later, after I'd sat and typed away, looking out the window so they wouldn't think I was eavesdropping, the buzzer vibrated, and my car was ready, and I reluctantly got up to leave. For a rare time in my life, I was sorry it didn't take longer so I could have enjoyed more of the conversation between geezers at Toyota.
Next--Comedy between Geezers at Toyota.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Green pastures, still waters

Green pastures, still waters...Eastern Oklahoma County--Clark photo
 This evening was one of those times when you need solitude and quiet and peace, but security too. Time to look around and inside self, time to be thankful for blessings, time to enjoy  beauty, time to consider mortality,  time to reflect on life's journeys, past and present. The more faults you have, the more mistakes you've made, the more of these you need, knowing that you won't pass this way again, and you need help to breathe deeply of what matters, and to live life as it should be lived.
When you can't tun your mind off and slow down, when you need stillness inside, I remembered  a fellow traveler  who long ago wrote from his heart these same thoughts...
"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousnessfor his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

Barn, again

The Years Go By, 11 by 14, 300 pound d'Arches paper
This was my fourth try of the old barn I photographed last summer in eastern Oklahoma County. Finally switched to good paper, and that makes a difference...and I learned more about color.
Here's the inspiration:

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Internationally speaking

I find blogging fascinating, the longer I work at it--more than three years now--because of the reach of digital media. people in more and more countries keep logging in, finding something of interest. It underscores to me how international English is as a language. But Oh, I'd like to know what attracts them in those far-a-way places.
But I'm also mystified that my top audience post is "All Aboard for Bartlesville" http://clarkcoffee.blogspot.com/2010/10/all-aboard-for-bartlesville.html with more than 1,100 hits followed by "All aboard" http://clarkcoffee.blogspot.com/2010/08/all-aboard.html with 900. Most popular recently has been my "Memorial Day among the Gravestones." http://clarkcoffee.blogspot.com/2012/05/memorial-day-stories-amid-gravestones.html
Most readers come from the US, followed by Germany, Russia, United Kingdom, in that order, all with more than 1,000 page views. Rounding out the top ten are India, Netherlands, Slovenia, Ukraine, France and Canada.  Fascinating.
Anyway, here, by geographic region are the places my readers have come from, in no particular order.

  • Europe--Poland, Denmark, Ireland, Sweden, Germany, British Isles, Spain, France, Italy, Finland, Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Isle of Man, Luxemborg, Switzerland, Georgia, Turkey, Romania, Slovenia, Portugal, Estonia, Netherlands, Serbia, Austria, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovnia, Latvia, Greece, Belgium, Estonia
  • South America--Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico
  • Mideast--Saudia Arabia, UAE, Israel, Kuwait, Iran, Iraq, Qatar, Cyprus,
  • Asia--Japan, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangledesch, South Korea, Thailand, Azerbaijan, Armenia
  • North America--US, Canada, Mexico
  • Africa--Nigeria, Egypt, Algeria, Gabon
  • Oceania--Australia, Philippines, Taiwan, Indonesia 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Unreadability blogging book rant

Horrible typography. You can't read this at full size

  • If you saw a book with tiny white sans serif type in reverse on bright green and red and blue, you'd assume the authors and printers knew nothing about readability, right? Right. And if it were a how-to book, you'd question their expertise any anything else--if they don't understand basic readability. Right? Right! 
  • Coming soon on blog, I'll be switching to Wordpress, 'cause Blogspot on Goodle is static and monopolistic. So today I bought two books. One was "Wordpress for Dummies." A good book. But, then there was this flashy one on the newsstand. 
  • ...If you're considering blogging, don't buy "The Bloggers Book" with a CD in it. Published by the English. Ok...but these fools may know the Internet--which I now question, but they know nothing about typography---yep, 8 point sans serif white on weak green or bright red or yucky orange, etc. Other text is hard to read 8 or 9 point sans serif. Organization is awful, hard to follow.
  • Finally, I've blown $29.99 on this, already found errors in graphics, etc. And being English they spell emphasize "emphasise." Makes me glad we won the Revolution. Now if we can teach them readability. Oh, yes, I intend to email them this, but you could too. But the 5 point type is probably hiding their email...can't find it.
  • You gonna hear from me. At least what I spent is tax deductible. www.imaginesubs.co.uk/icr
  • And if you click on that link to subscribe, you have to have a pass code to get in, which you get in finally big sans serif type on the back page of their lousy book

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Flight of fancy...to Skagway

Mementoes in my journal
One of the highlights of any trip that always stick in your mind afterward would be the unexpected, unplanned adventures, no matter how brief or small. Such is was for us a month ago when we walked out of security at the Juneau, Alaska airport and asked where the small plane area was.
We'd just walked off the Alaska Airlines jet from Sitka, a 21-minute flight at 7 a.m. Our travel agent had booked us on a small plane fight with Air Excursions to Skagway that morning at 11, so we'd arrive in time to board the Yukon Whitepass narrow gauge railroad about 12:45 on one of my must-do trips. So we'd been up at 4:30 in Sitka to get ready, drive to the airport, drop off the rental car, and be on time for early boarding. We knew it was going to be a tiring day with so much packed into it. We had no idea what an adventure was ahead.
We walked up to the Air Excursions counter--one of three or four small plane counters at the Juneau airport, and asked the woman if we could make the 8 am flight instead of the 11. I stress about close connections, and we were flying blind since we'd not been here before. I'd been told that Skagway was small and there was no problem, but... .
Juneau flight line, walking to our plane
She checked with the flight, the load and finding if there was still room,  checked our baggage,  writing our name on a pink tag that was stuck to each bag, after it had been weighed.  We sat down in the small waiting area, and watched the clock tick past 8 to about 8 15. Then this young handsome guy walks in with a smile, introduced himself as Tyler, and said "Let's go." No security, just through the doors and out on the tarmac toward several small planes. I thought we were headed to one of the larger ones, but no, we kept walking, toward several small single prop, low wing Piper Cherokees, reflected on the rain wet concrete.
Boarding the flight to Skagway
We went to the last one, and he climbed on the wing, opened the door for us and Susan chose the back seat, clearly nervous. Behind her the plane was stuffed with boxes for freight. I got to sit in the front seat beside the pilot.
Chatting away, he put on his headset, tested the engine, and rolled out on the runway we'd landed on in the jet not long ago. Off we went, into the cloudy sky for about a 40 minute flight to Skagway (The ferry ride back in two days would take five hours). As we climbed into the sky, behind us the Juneau airport stretched, and an Alaskan Airlines jet was rolling down the one runway.
I could tell Susan's tension, and a little of mine too, but soon the scenery and view just took over. Tyler apologized for the cloudy weather because he couldn't show us all the glaciers, and after getting up to about 2,000 feet, dropped down to about 1,500 feet below the clouds for a smooth flight...one he probably makes every day in almost all kinds of weather.
Watching his gauges--we were doing about 140 knots (150 or so miles per hour). At the low altitude you could see so much. As always, the scale and immensity of Alaska just overpowered my senses. I tried to treasure each of these few minutes in a small plane, and would do it again, just for the plane ride and looking at the stunning land. We were flying below mountains, drinking in views that were magnificent, but hinting of so  much more.
Soon Skagway appeared in front of us, only a few blocks wide, with a runway on one side beside a river and steep mountains on another...a cruise ship docked near the mountains. I'm so glad we didn't take a cruise ship, for we would have missed this short trip of a lifetime.
Then he nosed the plane down, and the runway grew in size as we got nearer. I was reminded of videos of planes landing on aircraft carriers in WWII, but this was safer, and longer. Then we crossed the end of the runway, landed and taxied back to the terminal.
Climbing out of the plane, our baggage was unloaded from the nose area, we snapped a picture, and loaded memories beyond measures.
Hope you enjoy part of our flight....

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Father's day musings

Dad's art surrounded us, including our beds
I can't remember my Dad not painting or drawing, but time has erased most specific memories, and I'm thankful for black and white photos from the old family albums. As I get older I'm more thankful for them, and also realize that Father's day is also about your siblings. My brother Jerry and I are six years apart, and we've grown closer as the years go by, in spite of geographic distance. Our parents are long gone, but we have Dad, and Mom, together. I think there needs to be a Brother's Day.
I've misplaced a couple of photos that are important to me...my Dad looking through the hospital window at me, and one of Jerry and I doing dishes. I don't know that Dad was a very good Dad, when it comes down to it, though we were well provided fort...he was very selfish, temperamental, a consumed artist. There were no excuses. People would just say, "Oh, he's an artist." Now as a father, I hope I've been a better father, and I've tried to be, and will be more remembered fondly by my children. I do know that genes run deep, and I've helped impart the same spirit of independence and backbone I earned from Dad, and Mom. The main lesson I would pass on to fathers is, "You have no more important job than being a father."
A rare photo of my Mother and her Dad

When the world was young, in Dallas

Favorite pix of two brothers

At the cabin in the Manzanos

We had fun

Art was part of our lives


Clarks--Erle Thweatt, Terrence Miller, Terry Michael

Dad, Jerry and I at his college graduation at LCC
Coming full circle, Dad and Vance Conrad Clark, at Whitesboro, Tex., a long time ago.

Screened-in porch thoughts

Montford Inn, Norman, across from the screened-in porch.
How long since you've sat on a screened-in porch, gently rocking in a porch swing?
Susan on her birthday
Listening to mockingbirds and thrushes, hearing the wind in the willows and other trees?
Sipped iced tea in a mason jar, with fresh-picked mint, cold to the touch and tongue?
Watched the clouds drift across the sky and the first stars come out?
Heard the lonesome moan of a locomotive whistle not too far away?
Enjoyed the air-conditioned-free breeze rustling the bushes and caressing your face?
Lounged in a robe, remembering a dramatic dinner, and savored good red wine?
Wondered at the fire flies drifting by, and remembered catching them as a kid?
Felt time slow down. and memories flood your senses?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Ray Bradbury, and my trip to Mars and beyond

I went to Mars as a teenager. And I drank dandelion wine and watched tattoos move over a man's body. My imagination never returned to earth.
Bradbury was a character and geezer, a
brother in imagination.
That's because my tour guide was Ray Bradbury, who died today at age 91.
His series of stories in "The Martian Chronicles'' (1950) was a Cold War morality tale of events on another planet commented on life on this planet. It has been published in more than 30 languages.
And I was mesmerized by his 1984-ish novel, "Fahrenheit 451" (1953) about book burning and thought control. But as a teen, I thought I was just reading stories.
Years later as an adult, I've increasingly relied on his writings to teach writing and living. I see the same dangers in higher ed and our country toward cookie-cutter micromanagement and control that he so aptly wrote about.
I use his book "Zen and the Art of Writing" in my classes. I show YouTube videos of him talking about writing, and dissing going to college. A favorite quote: 
"I hate a Roman named Status Quo! Stuff your eyes with wonder, live yourlife as if you'd drop dead in 10 seconds. See the world. Its more fantastic thanany dream made or paid for in factories. Ask for no guarantees, ask for no security,there were never such an animal. And if it were, it would be related to the greatsloth which hangs upside down in a tree all day every day, sleeping its life away. To hell with that, shake the tree and know the great sloth down on his ass."
I've referred to him on this blog before, and my students know. Most recently, one, Andy Jensen,  gave me a gift of a lifetime, a signed copy of Fahrenheit 451. And in later years, I also learned Bradbury idolized Edgar Rice Burroughs and the Tarzan books. I read those before I read him, thanks to my Dad taking me to used bookstores. No wonder we're brothers in imagination. My son Travis, also a Bradburyite, now has those old books.
It's inaccurate to label him a science fiction writer, because he wrote so much more. He suffered a stroke years ago, and couldn't type, but he wrote every day, dictating stories on the phone to his daughter. In the last few years he's come out with other books of short stories, and I've eagerly snatched them up. They've continued to take me on trips far beyond Mars. Here's the official website: 

Life is like coffee


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

D-Day--snug in my crib

The blood of freedom
It is now June 6 in England, and in 1944, momentous history was about to occur at daybreak, as people were sleeping here.

While I was snug in my crib in Dallas, Texas,  68 years ago, men were dying so I could sleep safe and free.
It was still June 5 here, but at 6:30 a.m.  June 6 in the English Channel, on the coast of Normandy... and you can read about it in the history books and online.
Their blood spared me the fate of much of the world which believed that all people should think alike, that free thought and expression are dangerous, that people are supposed to be subservient, that individuality and differences in beliefs, religions, races, languages is suspicious and should be squelched by force, that the might of military makes anything right, that individuals have no rights.
American Cemetery at Normandy
What is frightening is that many people in the world, including fanatics here in America, still believe that way. If D-Day means anything to us as a free people, we will  respect the rights of others who differ from us, encourage free thought and expression. Our vows should be written in the blood of those men who served on that day, 68 years ago.


Monday, June 4, 2012

Reflections of Alaska, part three

The human imprint is reflected in Alaska, mainly to give perspective to the huge landscape.
Lonely duty. Coast guard station at tip of Admiralty Island. Man is small.

Fishing boats at Sitka

Our plane to Skagway, from Juneau

Skagway, cruise ship at right, runway at left.

Skagway museum, mountains reflected in window

Cruise ships at Juneau

Cruise ship coming into Skagway

Passengers on Ferry out of Skagway

The Gastineau Channel passage south out of June, from top of Mount Roberts

My favorite, reflections out of Skagway morning.