"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.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Ukraine, again invaded--the Cold War II

I painted this and wrote this article back in March, before the Russian militarists and their dictator KGB Putin, put 15,000 Russian troops and tanks  on the border, sent separatists, missiles to shoot down innocent civilians, and started the second Cold War
I don't care what we say, it has started. But as with all "Cold" wars, people suffer, and the people of Ukraine suffer, and more than one there read this blog.
Here's the link: Invaded again, blood and bars

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Oklahoma heat

Oklahoma Heat, watercolor, 7 by 7, 300# d'Arches
I drove south yesterday on the backroads as much as possible, starting at Newcastle, Blanchard, Dibble, Washington, looking for something to photograph. Not much at midday, just lots of hay bales, metal buildings, and houses on the edges of suburbia to Norman, Moore, OKC...I tried to come up with a new word, combining suburban and rural, but Rururbia and Subural just didn't work. It's out there someplace, in between.
Where it was however was 103 degrees under a bright sun. Not a lot of traffic, and I suspect most people were trying to stay indoors. Much of the color is gone from the landscape, except for the trees and greenery along the creek bottoms. I saw lots of cattle and horses, little more than shadows actually, sweltering away, trying to beat the heat in the shade of whatever trees were available. 
Oklahoma heat.

Stifling summer, IV--Of fiction and coincidence

Stifled this month by illness--actually infection, surgery and wound recovery, fiction became medicine in July.
Coincidence? Serendipity? I don't know, but instead of my usual diet of  good non-fiction, three novels and several short stories took my mind away from the science and facts of my daily existence.
First read was "One Hundred Years of Solitude" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.   The first sentence is a killer, but afterwards I don't know: "Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice."
This famed South American author died recently and I was mortified that I'd never heard of him. He's know for "inventing "magical realism," and stories of common people. 
Unfortunately, as I posted on Facebook, I just don't get it. I am intrigued by his journalism background and want to read some short stories, but this book  frankly became boring and just dragged on. I gave up about two thirds of the way through. And will return. 
The book gets mixed reviews, many agreeing with me, but  my former student Farzana "Farzie" Abdul Razak, now of New York City, gives it five stars, and she's just deeper than I am, I guess.
Second novel was a quick and enjoyable read because it's the return of a favorite. Anne Hillerman's first novel "Spider Woman's Daughter" follows in the footsteps of her late father Tony Hillerman, who wrote mysteries set in the southwest and Navajo nation. 
Hillerman was Okie born, a journalist who worked in Oklahoma City, and then moved to New Mexico where he eventually started his famous novels, featuring Navajo Tribal Policemen Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee. His daughter brings them back to life, and weaves incidents from her father's stories into her award-winning narrative. I'm back home.
The third novel, just finished, is someone I should have read a long time ago, and the author was recommended by Farzie and others. Neil Gaiman's "American Gods" is a long one, built around the them that the old gods and magic of our immigrant ancestors die in America for lack of believers. Gods don't take root here.
Speaking of coincidence, this quote leads a chapter: "America has invested her religion as well as her morality in sound income-paying securities. She has adopted the unassailable position of a nation blessed because it deserve to be blessed; and her sons, whatever other theologies the may affect or disregard, subscribe unreservedly to this national creed."
The coincidence, serendipity? It's by Agnes Repplier, in "Times and Tendencies," another author I never heard of.  I looked her up, and she was an essayist who died in 1950. She was Catholic.
Her words echo the chapter we're discussing tonight in "Falling Upward," by Fr. Richard Rohr, that our should-detox group is using Sunday night. I wrote about this book  earlier this month, as one of the most important in my life.
Fr. Rohr's words: "Our problem now is that we seriously doubt that there is any vital reality to the spiritual world... . For postmodern people, the universe is not inherently enchanted, as it was for the ancients. We have to do all the "enchanting" ourselves. This leaves us alone, confused and doubtful... . This is the burden of living in our heady and lonely time, when we think it is all up to us."
Do you think that is coincidence? I do not.
Fiction is often more "real' than science.
The fourth book of fiction was one sent three years ago by my friend Jeanetta Calhoun Mish who operates Mongrel Empire Press, formerly of Norman and now of Albuquerque. 
"Blackjacks and Blue Devils" by Jerry Wilson has 14 stories "rooted in the red dirt and blackjacks of central and Western Oklahoma," where he was raised. The stories and images about poverty, despair and hope of Okies from the land runs up through the 1992 Irag war helped center me. It's been sitting on the shelf waiting and opened at the right time.
Good medicine and truth in fiction.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Old one

Old one, 5 by 7 watercolor, 300 # deArches
This painting, comes from this photograph, and I don't remember where I saw it...got me to thinking about old ones, old people, old tires, old trees. Thus the watercolor.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Real...religion, and ...

Are you real?
As I've told you, our "soul detox" group Sunday night, people trying to de-toxify their lives from much of the false religious "Thou Shalts" and "Thou Shalt nots " of modern day divided  Christianity, is studying Fr. Richard Rohr's "Falling Upward--a Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life."
Sunday we were discussing a chapter on necessary suffering, and this passage hit home to me, including Jesus' words in Matt. 16:25--"Anyone who wants to save his life must lose it."
Rohr: "...there is a necessary suffering that cannot be avoided, which Jesus calls "losing our very life, or losing what I and others call the "false self." Your false self is your role, title and personal image that is largely a creation of your own mind and attachments."
"It will and must die in exact correlation to how much you want the Real."

This reminded me of even more potent "Scripture," though I had the wrong reference, until a friend found it for me:

“Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.'

'Does it hurt?' asked the Rabbit. 

'Sometimes,' said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. 'When you are Real you don't mind being hurt.' 

'Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,' he asked, 'or bit by bit?' 

'It doesn't happen all at once,' said the Skin Horse. 'You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.” 
― Margery WilliamsThe Velveteen Rabbit

Sunday, July 20, 2014

'Watch where you put your words'

Thinking about speeches and writing in higher education, government, military, politics, 24-hour broadcast news and opinion coverage, sports commentators, and preachers--and how their many words show how fake the speakers  are, how witless they are, and their low opinions of their listeners, employees and citizens.

  • “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words."--Matt. 6:7, Jesus
  • "When elders speak, they need very few words to make their point. Too many words,...are not needed by true elders...If you talk too much or too loud, you are usually not an elder."--Falling Upward, Fr. Richard Rohr
  • "Watch where you put your words... .language is a virus..."--American Gods, Neil Gaiman
  • "If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out."--Politics and the English Language, George Orwell
  • "Brevity is the soul of wit." --Hamlet, Shakespeare

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Polka dots are back

My fashion sense has been awakened as I note more and more polka dot dresses and garb this summer adorning today's women, of all ages.
I admit, and I'm not sure where it comes from, maybe a long ago crush, but I have a polka dot fetish.
So I thought I ought to find a photo to illustrate this post, and I did.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Stifling Summer Sickness--III (Warning)--

(Warning, continued: Coffee with Clark is not a political column and rarely deals with politics because there is so much bs and whining out there that it's useless to add any more. Nobody is listening, nor cares. No opinions are going to be changed. I avoid politics as a subject except on those times when it crosses into my expertise, media--which is unfortunately often these days. Still, I generally hold my tongue, unless something really raises my ire. And then I've found the best way to deal with that is through parody or sarcasm or humor. I am a journalist and can't help it, because my entire experience and training makes me almost instantly skeptical, to where I challenge everything, whether in religion, culture, advertising, media, or politics--what politicians say, government officials --at any level--tell you. 
I have a built in BS-Detector, I want facts, and can easily spot bs, pr, and the biases and opinions that such like try to bilk the public with, regardless of political viewpoint.  I shudder when I see so many propaganda techniques uses in politics, by "public servants" deluding the public with trigger words and labels. I am particularly upset that so many people buy into those unthinking delusions. The terms "liberal" and "conservative" are so overused and misused that they are meaningless. 
The terms "liberal" and "conservative" are so overused 
and misused that they are meaningless.
The same goes for people and media who cannot separate opinion from fact as at Fox or MSNBC and much more cable cacophony. The Wall Street Journal and New York Times are "conservative" and "liberal" on their editorial pages, but deliver solid, factual news and information. Not to be able to tell the difference is ignorance. To label media "liberal" is an unthinking reaction to propaganda, especially since most media are owned by big corporations dedicated to the bottom line, and thus "conservative." If American media in general has any one overriding fault it is of being boring and irrelevant--which at least Fox is not. At the same time, many of the same blind believe  all journalism and journalists are opinionated, that they try to slant all the news, and that journalism is dying. Those people really have no perspective of history and role of journalism in this republic, or the scope and diversity of media in our society. Would someone, instead of blindly spouting what they've unthinkingly accepted,  just please ask, "Which 'media' are you talking about?"
Like an infection, they've needed time
to fester before coming to a head.
Next, Coffee with Clark also rarely discusses religion, for many of the same reasons already mentioned. The older I get, the more I've come to realize the importance of spirituality over religion. I believe Jesus came, not to set up a religion, but because religion wasn't working for the average person, and he wanted people to have a relationship with God, no matter what they called the Spirit. I also know that spirituality is much bigger than this western workaholic, Calvinistic, either-or, capitalistic society we live in. 
One size does not fit all. I am particularly proud of my four children, who, raised in a good fundamentalist household, each have their own diverse religious and spiritual beliefs. None of them believe like me, and I am pleased, though we share much. If that's true at home, it's true around the world. God--Spirit--is too big for any one specific kind of narrow-minded church house, or any one country, people, or set of beliefs. If not--God-Spirit--cannot be truely God as creator of the universe. Spirituality around the world takes many forms and involves the entire creation. I'm influenced in this by what I've learned by Native American beliefs and more. But what really sets me off is how little of the Beatitudes I see in American "Christianity," and much of the same religious hypocrisy Jesus preached against and tried to do away with.)
So, after chewing on this for two weeks, and reading Job in the context of what is a relatively minor, if stifling, illness, be aware that politics and religion, will come up, as I write. Like an infection, these thoughts needed time to fester before coming to a head. And as with most drug warnings, the warning may be longer than the dosage instructions, and this one has been rewritten and edited numerous times.)
(Side effects: If this is a "rant," it is just part of the warning for the dosage of the next posts on this blog, as I recount this stifling summer of sickness. 
If you don't like it, or think I'm crazy, or lost in sin, or whatever, just blame it on all my meds.  You're probably right. Especially since the most powerful medication I took has been a large dose of mortality. Read again the first part of this warning.)
The most powerful medication... has been a large dose of mortality.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Passages--my children

Four children
Scattered like stars
around the skies... .
Each in their own universes
gleaming with inner light.
All different, but akin
to Genesis.
Not light years apart
but gene years close
in spite of journeys
in time and space.
Germany, Colorado, Texas, Iowa.
I watch in wonder and tears,
overflowing in thanksgiving.
Mortality and immortality.

"Stifling" summer sickness--II

"Stifling." The word has new meaning this summer, and not because of the heat. 
What follows is not a complaint. Not whining. I am blessed and fortunate in many ways, but it has been a stifling summer. I'm not feeling sorry for myself, but I've had a lot of time to think. I write this on a day we were supposed to be leaving York for Edingburgh. Here we sit in an Edmond coffee shop, reading and writing and thankful for progress on a unseasonably cool, rainy day.
I know many people to whom the following list would seem a blessing, especially my good friend Faith Wylie, wonderful and courageous co-publisher of the Oologah Lake Leader, valiantly fighting lymphoma. I'm indebted to her husband John for keeping us up today on Facebook for her progress.They're an award-winning couple putting out an award-winning newspaper in a tiny town, the best of Oklahoma journalism. When you have friends like them, you are blessed, and healthy in ways that really matter.
But, I don't get sick,  andwas pronounced "in good health" after my physical five weeks ago. Yet in the past two months, I've seen more doctors and taken more medicine than in the past three years. 
"Stifling." And yet a time of thinking and evaluation, about self, family, spirituality, religion and politics in my country.
I dealt with this humorously earlier in my post about My Old Truck, but that was before the old thing started really costing money, and I almost lost my sense of humor. 
Lesson--Change the oil often, because once you get behind, or start neglecting the old thing, its problems will accelerate.
Consider the list below, as a prelude to another drug "warning" and posts.  Ignore the first six if you wish--they were medical events this spring and early summer.
Every event from number seven on has helped fill my life in the past four weeks or less.

  1. Dermatologist
  2. Rx
  3. Neurologist
  4. Physical Therapy--4 of 16 sessions. Canceled. I'll do the rest on my own, or live with it.
  5. Canceled--Neurologist. Ditto.
  6. Psychologist
  7. Family MD--Physical
  8. Regular Rx x 2
  9. Sleep Study I
  10. Sleep Study II
  11. Sleep Doctor
  12. CPAP
  13. Family MD-Visit
  14. Rx
  15. X-Rays
  16. Surgeon
  17. Rx x 2
  18. Surgeon
  19. Home Health Care--14 days
  20. Health clinic--bronchitis
  21. Rx x 3
  22. Surgeon-post op
  23. Hematologist
  24. Surgeon-post op
  25. Rx
  26. Still scheduled:
  27. Spleen scan
  28. Urologist
  29. Surgeon
  30. Canceled--Pain management MD--I can put up with the pain.
  31. Also--Multiple purchases at Rx for open wound packing supplies, gauze, tape, disinfectant soap, pads, disinfectant sprays, etc.
There's more to write, but as I teach my students, keep posts short. So there's another drug warning and at least one more chapter coming about the lessons I've learned from "stifling."

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Stifling summer sickness, Warning, I

(WARNING: All of the prescribed and OTC medications I've taken in the past few weeks come with instructions and clearly labeled "Side effects" and "Warning" sections, about side effects, mixing and matching, what not to take at the same time, dosage stuff, and so on. Check one of your Rx bottles, and you'll see.
This is such a multi-faceted warning to readers of this blog for a few posts, as I react to our ordeal with a serious infection that has stifled our summer, including canceling a long planned trip to the UK.
First, Coffee with Clark as a blog is a personal column--a very personal column in the old newspaper sense, reflecting my personal views. I am not out to convert anyone, to change your opinions. I don't really care if you agree or disagree with me. I'm writing because I write for myself, because I have to write, like to tell stories, and hope I provoke thoughts, whether about art, traveling, or any other subject. I'm a journalist...I want to be read.)
 To be continued... .

The most important book, other than...

I've just finished reading perhaps the most important book in my life, other than...the Bible.
That's quite a claim, not one I take lightly, especially to have been influenced by "Leaves of Grass" by Walt Whitman, and "The Man Nobody Knows," by Bruce Barton (1925), about the manly  Jesus. And of course there are others, including Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness," but that is more the favorite than most important.
I'll admit, my reaction is influenced by three weeks of unexpected illness and mortality, but I started reading it before then, thanks to the "soul-detox" group I'm privileged to be a part of Sunday nights.  The increased emotional and physical stress has perhaps intensified my reaction, but this is a book I've needed. I wish I'd found it 15 years ago. But it "means" more now.
Here's an except from late in the small book (I've got underlines and marks and stars on almost all 167 pages of text):
"The bottom line of the Gospel is that most of us have to hit some kind of bottom before we even start the real spiritual journey. Up to that point, it is mostly religion. At the bottom, there is little time or interest in being totally practical, efficient, or revenue sharing. You just want to breathe fresh air. The true Gospel is always fresh air and spacious breathing room."
Oh, the book? Written by a Franciscan priest in Albuquerque, Fr. Richard Rohr
"Falling Upward, A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life.
Read it. You don't have to be "Christian" to gain from it. If you are "Christian," it will challenge you, provoke you, make you uncomfortable, awaken you, perhaps anger you. You will be stronger spiritually. 
Some of my marked up pages

Friday, July 11, 2014

A watercolor struggle continues

Cathedral Basilica--Santa Fe 4 x 6
My brother has commissioned a 22 by 30 watercolor for his adobe style home in Lubbock of one of our favorite places, El Catedral Basilica de San Francisco de Asis in Santa Fe. Of course he wants a night time snow scene.  
He asked for this three years ago, and gigs me about it, as he should.
 I've started multiple times, mostly unfinished, kept them all, torn some apart, collected magazine photographs, photographed it many times myself, collected other artists' renditions...I painted a smaller one 15 years ago as a gift to friends in Santa Fe, but it was daytime, and ...well. 
Since then, I've started more times, quit dissatisfied because they lacked life, or were just architectural representations, not originals. And I've got lots of quick studies, and Christmas cards I've painted, all from memory now, very little sketching.
The problem with a bigger piece, at least for me, is that the journalist in me wants it to be proportionately correct at least, and then go beyond. So here today, thought about as I was driving down the road, is a 4 by 6 quick study--no sketching, only memory and ideas. If I could be as free on the big sheet...alas, type AAA wants to be in control. Not good.
Now I've gone back to the big sheet, trying to mark with pencil the proportions, but still intimidated. Have to work fast, big brush, and let things happen. Soon, I hope.
And, oh, here's the photo in my studio scattered with Cathedral artifacts, photos and failed attempts  I sent to my Bro to con him into thinking I'm working on it. 
Each attempt teaches me things, and opens possibilities and cures problems, but I'm well aware, too much of this will rob spontaneity from the big painting. Time to just do it, I guess. It's only paint and paper. But I work on it a little, then back away, then find another excuse to delay the struggle.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Adobe and turquoise--therapy two

Adobe and turquoise, Taos, 5 by 7 watercolor, 140# d'Arches
Painting is foremost an exercise in seeing and problem solving. Inspiration, craft, talent, sure. But after the previous post on adobe therapy, the more I looked at the painting, the more I knew it needed.
So here is the second version, with blue sky adding the necessary contrast. I like it so much I bought a mat for it today.
Santuario--4.5 by 9
And in the meantime, I found the little watercolor sketch I mentioned two days ago that I did at Chimayo' 10 years ago when leading a student trip to New Mexico. This was done en plein wire, while my students wrote and photographed around me. Great memories.
Adobe and turquoise are sacred--no wonder there is therapy there.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Healing earth--Adobe therapy

Adobe therapy--from a Susan Clark photo, 5  by 7 watercolor, 140# d'Arches
Have you been to El Santuario de Chimayo' and scooped up some of the miraculous healing dirt?
Evidence of healing faith and dirt--Chimayo'
If you have not, you probably don't believe. But walk through that adobe church and the room where the crutches and other offerings hang of those who been healed, and you might feel differently. The Santuario attracts more than tourists, as thousands of make pilgrimages to it during Holy Week.
The Santuario draws faithful pilgrims
You're entering Northern New Mexico and one of the last bastions of medieval faith. You may not have the penetents' faith, but you have to put your scientific mind on hold. You encounter a different world.
There is something about adobe, earthen vessels, dirt that is healing. Even those of us gringos touch on it when we talk about the therapy of gardening, getting our hands in the earth.
These were thoughts today when I sought something to paint, something to help healing, and chose a scene from one of Susan's photos of Taos Pueblo. That ancient civilization also knows the power of the earth. Attend Native dances and see it reaffirmed--for all their rhythm and traditions, one stands out...one foot of each dancer is always in contact with Earth Mother.
Small previous watercolor of Taos
So I started painting adobe again today. Yes, I can go get my small bottle with some of the holy dirt of Chimayo' in it. I have not painted the church other than a quick sketch, but my Dad did. But I love painting watercolors of adobe.  And with these thoughts today, I now know another reason I'm drawn to painting adobe. It's therapy in more ways than I know.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

"Unfinished" journals--blank pages

Last night's journal thoughts
Lots of blank pages left in a journal,
After noble beginnings of dates, trips, titles, first inspirations
But after  a few pages
A few pages into the new year
Blank pages--pages that say "unfinished."
But maybe not.
Maybe they are finished
All that needed to be written was--
the purpose of the journal changed
the trip ended
life intruded
So that the journal is finished, served its purpose
No matter how many blank pages.
Some with fancy covers, others cheap spiral binders, carrying stories, photos, receipts, flowers, maps, insights.
Dad's unfinished oil cowboys
gambling 24 by 30
An "unfinished" painting of my dad's hangs on the wall, drawing complete, base paint and tones in place After he's been dead 40 years, it is still him.
Used journals accumulate, on shelves, or boxes or closets.
there for picking up and browsing when the mood arouses
Or when you're looking for some blank pages 
to write something like these words on
as a pondered life's passing last night.
But you don't spoil the older journals, 
They belong to an earlier present tense, to different people.
any more than you'd try to finish someone else's painting
Journals accumulate, including the bulging Paris journal
You search until you find
one that somehow is unwritten in.
Unlike a diary there's no daily pressure, 
Just the urge, the need, to write about who and where you are.
Journals are present tense
Read them years later and
the memories are alive
even if the handwriting is harder to read or fades with years.
When you quit writing, you have recorded your present
It becomes a mirror of who you are at that time
Besides, you will start and "finish" other journals
--blank pages are just the future.

(We have almost 30 previous journals in the house, some bulging like my Paris journal from 10 years ago, Some barely written in. Most about trips, but also about new years, and resolutions, and pain and milestones in life. I started searching for a blank one last night, and found this one falling apart, wherein the above poem appeared

Friday, July 4, 2014

Favorite Oklahoma places--a small cave

Quartz Mountain cave spirits, 9 by 12 watercolor
I think there is something ancestral and genetic that draws people to caves. Places of mystery, places of refuge, places of memories.
So it is with me with a small, shallow cave in the ancient granite hills of Quartz Mountain park and resort in southwest Oklahoma, another of my 15 favorite places in the state.
I've been there several times in the past 50 years, though I "discovered" the cave a dozen years ago. 
You enter a different, almost mystical, world from the surrounding prairie when you see the granite clumps rise from the  flat Oklahoma prairie. It has a long history, and prehistory.  
Mount Baldy, the tallest
The rocks are old, remnants of ancient mountains that have eroded and  been covered by sediment. They've been doubtless used by native peoples for shelter and game for centuries. With the coming of the white man, the army explored the area in the 1834 dealing with Indians. Veterans of the Texas war of independence claimed the area for Texas as Greer County, in 1852, but the Supreme Court attached it to Oklahoma Territory in 1896.  With the Oklahoma land runs in 1897, settlers mixed with Indian residents. 
Drought takes its toll
The little town of Lugert was founded in 1902, and later blown away by a tornado ten years later. In 1927, the town of Altus, 17 miles south, began building a dam on the North Fork of the Red River for water supply, and eventually the state took over, planning an irrigation district. It was the site of a CCC camp. In the 1930s it became a state park, covering about 4,200 acres, not counting the lake. The lake covered the old town.
Years of drought have reduced the water level of Lake Lugert/Altus to just 12 percent of capacity. There's more sand and mud than water, and at low water you can sometimes see the foundations of the town.
What makes the place special is the state park, where you can camp, rent a cabin, or hike, and the Oklahoma Arts Institute where high school students attend sessions on the summer, and teachers in the fall.
Quartz Mountain lodge
The new lodge (the 1955 lodge burned in 1995) is a work of rustic art itself, filled with the artwork of students. UCO used to pay the way of a few professors every year, and I was privileged to be selected for the four -day sessions.  I studied black and white photography twice, printmaking, and watercolor, with nationally renowned artists.
In addition to the art classes, the best part was meeting, sharing ideas, and partying with artists and high school and college teachers from around the state, and making new friends.
It was there that as a relatively new watercolor painter that several of us traveled to the cave, not far from the main lodge. I'd been trying to paint what I see, and the work was fair to ok, because I still get caught up in details, rather than what I feel. 
But the cave led to a break-out painting. Inside, looking out at the autumn colors, I turned out something different, something spiritual, visceral.
There are other stories, like hiking to the top of the highest mountain, 2,041 feet, in the dark with a group, to see the sunrise. The skies were daily populated by soaring vultures, who nested in some remote area up high, stretching their wings once the air warmed. We didn't go to try to find their nesting cave.
It's still wild there. Your imagination is set free,  and it's hard not to imagine native people huddling in the cave for protection against a winter storm.That's why I think my painting is free, and why it's such a favorite place.

An amazing story

Consider 2.5 million people divided people in 13 scraggledy colonies.  Largest City, Philadelphia, 40,000. New York, 25,000; Boston, 15,000; Charleston, 12,000. England had probably 7 million people, the largest military and navy in the world. What an amazing story. Today's population of the USA--317 million. United Kingdom, 64 million.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Memories of a favorite cousin

Carolyn thanking me for a Christmas present.
How can you measure what people mean to you, when they've been a part of you since before you can remember?
I don't know, and this morning's phone call from my cousin Sarah Beth Foote about the death of my cousin Carolyn Gee Wilson just made me more aware.
There are old black and white photos of us together when we were babies. As young kids on our vacations,  I can remember playing mud-pies and stuff in her backyard. There are some faded color photos and slides when we were pre-teens and perhaps teens. I can remember walking  down to the corner store for candy, or driving to a drive-in for Dr. Pepper on hot summer days in Silsbee.  
1945 cousins--Charlotte and Carolyn Gee, Sarah and Charles Lutrick, and me. Grandad Ezra.T. Culp in background.
Years later
I went to her wedding, and have visited her husband's grave with her.  She was always slight, almost frail, but strong and good inside. When I attended her mother's funeral (my Mom's sister) several years ago, another cousin showed up drunk, and Carolyn threw him out. A few years ago during a dark time in my life, I visited and she and I drove around looking for old Culp homesteads. We went out one night in Beaumont to eat and dance. How far back does this cousin family go? I'll always be "Terry Mike" to them. 
The Gee sisters, 3 years ago, the way I'll always remember Carolyn and Sandy.
The last time I saw her was three years ago at a family reunion in East Texas, and an evening meal at a Mexican restaurant. Since then she dwindled to about 70 pounds and lived in a nursing home.
She was five months old when I was born, and had what most folks would call not an easy life. She and Larry were never rich--in fact had very little, but they were happy together and raised three good children. She's the second Gee sister to die this year. Her younger sister Sandy was murdered in April, and that was traumatic, even with a cousin reunion in Austin a week later, that Carolyn couldn't attend. We knew Carolyn was fading, and her death is not traumatic, because she's in a much better place now. But it is still, well...just deep. She is special.
I wanted to go to the funeral, but because of an discomforting illness can't make it. But I will be there in spirit, and I will somehow visit your grave, my cousin.
Three of us are now gone since this reunion three years ago at cousin Sarah Foote's. Carolyn, second from left, Charles, third from right, and Sandy, kneeling at right.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Turning the pages of the first half of 2014

After a slow start in reading this year, June was a reading month, almost all of it fiction.
In last month's post, I forgot earlier this year I'd read Several Short Sentences about Writing, by Verlyn Kinkenborg, the definitely-not-a-text-book  I'm now using in my classes and writing workshops, most recently with the Oklahoma City Writers group.
You can tell when I have read a good book
Any time a writer tells you to forget everything you've been taught about writing, he's bound to be on to something. This  former columnist for the New York Times, "The Rural Life," is just so sensible. You can tell by the way I've marked a couple of the pages up, how full of ideas and inspiration I found it, both for my own writing, and for teaching.
But June has been a month of fiction. When visiting my daughter, son-in-law and grand kids, the Bells, in Amarillo a month ago, I "checked" out a big book from the shelf in their garage.
I'm late reading this, but Douglas Adams' books all gathered in a compilation, beckoned.
So this past month I read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; The Restaurant at the End of the Universe; Life, the Universe and Everything; So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish; and Young Zaphod Plays it Safe.
I didn't finish the last one, Mostly Harmless, until this month, so it becomes the second book of July, after reading Job the night before. More on that later.
Adams "science fiction" is revolutionary, and humorous, and certainly full of satire and irony about the human race. Great wordplay. His bring to 11 books in the first half of 2014.