"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, January 31, 2015

Of time and mortality

My grandmother, Cuba Jon Miller Clark Reasor, once commented that she didn't want to outlive her children. Unfortunately, her oldest and my Dad, Terrence Miller Clark, died of a heart attack before her in December, 1973.
I found this old photo today, cleaning out a closet, of her and me at Dad's gravesite in Fairlawn Cemetery in Comanche, Ok, where he was also born. I do not remember the trip, but I recognize the old twisted tree--so fitting for Dad's artistic character-- that was next to his grave, and the irises at its base. 
The tree is long gone, and so are the irises now, but I dug some up before that happened, and they're transplanted in my front yard...reminding me always of mortality and family.
 Grandmother is gone, and so are Dad's four brothers. I was so thin and young. Time and mortality.

A rainy, poetry day

There is work to do, but...
"In which window did I remain..."
Outside my window the birds seem to frolic
 in the first rain in a long, long time.
Their reflections on the wet sidewalk flutter
from tree to ground seeking food--
Junkos, wrens, blue jays, cardinals, doves
squawking, cooing, chirping, 
joined by squirrels busy  gathering acorns
or running from limb to limb.
Our cats are fascinated, and then bored,
being cats on the floor stalking or fighting each other.
Water, like time,  drips from the eaves and branches.
There is work to do--
writing due Monday, a storage closet half cleaned, 
still messy on the floor but...
First a cup of coffee, a trip to the bookshelf...
Poetry calls, and
Pablo Neruda answers
with his Book of Questions...

"En que' idioma ca la lluvia
sobre cuidades dolorosas"
In which lanuage does rain fall
over tormented cities?"

"Hay dos comillos mas agudos
que las silabas de chacal?"
Are there two fangs sharper
that the syllables of jackal?

"Y no naufragan los veleros
por un exceso de vocales?"
When they stow too many vowels
don't sailing ships wreck?

"Puedes amarme, silabaria,
y darme un beso sustantivo?
Can you love me, syllabary,

and give me a meaningful kiss?
Un diccionario es un sepulcro
o es un panal del miel cerrado?
Is a dictionary a sepulchre
or a sealed honeycomb?
En que' fentana me cquede'
mirando el tiempo sepultado?
In which window did I remain
watching buried time?
O lo que miro desde lejos
es lo que no he vivido aun?"
Or is what I see from afar
what I have not yet lived?

Now, there is work to do....

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Meeting mania and mediocrity

Thanks to a tweet from a highly successful former student of mine @ZackNash posting this previous writing of mine, I am compelled to reprint, and add items. He keeps it posted on his desk.
Meetings have proliferated in higher ed and elsewhere since I wrote this years ago. They are one of the main reasons I'm glad I'm no longer even quasi-administrative. I've heard tales of this on campus at UCO, and can assume it's true elsewhere--of deans and others having five, six or more meetings a day.
That's insanity--it's inefficient, controlling, and a waste of money, time and talent. How can anyone be a leader, be creative, be smart, be energetic, or even be healthy. Or get any really productive work done?
In fact, our university emphasizes health and wellness. But that would mean a moratorium on meetings, and many fewer. Excessive, unnecessary, and long rambling meetings are guarantees of poor mental health.
It also emphasizes leadership, but extensive meetings are the antithesis of leadership--they suffocate the opportunity for leadership.
Consider the great ones--Jesus, Jefferson,  Churchill. Remember their meetings? No? Oh, today? Maybe if you can't name some great leaders, its because they're swamped in meetings and you never get to see or hear them.
If someone demands excessive meetings, that person is usually not a leader, but a micro-manager. Excessive meetings mean mediocrity.
In addition in this wonderful digital age in which we live, there is more and more paperwork, more and more trees being killed by multiple copies of extensive forms and reports nobody is really going to read, but just sit on a shelf to meet arcane rules and  policies.
So here's what I wrote back when we were merging two departments almost 10 years ago as advice to leaders:
Meetings and other Headaches
  • Be skeptical of paperwork and meetings.
  • Avoid meetings and committees.
  • Meet deadlines that affect your people.
  • Ignore all the paperwork, meetings and deadlines that you can.
  • Keep meetings short.
  • Meetings, like speeches, get worse and waste more time as they get longer.
  • Most committees are a waste of time, manpower and money. So are most reports.
  • Get to the point in speaking or writing.
  • Mid-level managers primarily require reports, meetings and committees to justify their jobs. Of course they think they’re important.
  • The more reports, committees and meetings people attend, the less efficient they’ll be as leaders.
  • Strong leaders keep them to a minimum.
  • Simplify all paperwork and forms.
  • Have two types of meetings: brief, agenda-ordered business and informational; and less formal ones that allow complete participation.
  • Start meetings on time, with an advance agenda. If you can’t do that, you’re wasting everyone’s time.
  • People who show up late to meetings are rude and disrespectful. 
  • So are people who don't start meetings on time, and end them on time.
  • In a meeting, let everyone have their say, but don’t condone personal attacks and keep them on agenda.
  • Every meeting should have a summary statement of accomplishment. It helps achieve goals and shows why the meeting was worthwhile.
  • Watch people getting off an airplane. That’s what it feels like when a meeting is over. What does that tell you?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Writer's prayer

(From a much earlier posting, but still true, after all these years; 
desperately needed as it has been more than a week between written words. )

Help me write today. Help my scribbling in a notebook be legible, but most of all let it be legible from my heart, my emotions...

Let the words be true, even though truth is sometimes dangerous to those you love and live with and know...but not to my soul...

Let the words be real, and let them reach beyond me to others who read them...to me first, of course, but let what I write matter...

Let what I right touch people--make them cry, make them laugh, make them angry, make them think, make them feel...as I have when I wrote the words...

Let me choose the right words for my emotions and senses, so that they can sense them too...

Let the anguish and the joy of thinking the words, of choosing the words, of crafting the words, of fearing and loving the words, show in what I write...

Let both the written and the unwritten words, the lines and the unwritten lines and the in-between the lines, speak loud and clear...

I love words...let it show to those who read them...

Monday, January 19, 2015

Dreams and questions

In the middle of the night
you awake, from a nightmare
or a strange dream
about journeys and people
long dead or distant,  
jumbled together, making no sense.
Why has your subconscious
riddled your thoughts with memories
long forgotten or submerged?
Is there a message here
or is it just because you
care too much, or not enough?
Or is there a reason at all
other than a reminder 
that there is more to life
than flesh and blood and the present?
And that there are no answers
but just more questions
some that make no sense.

An "old one, watercolor

An "old one," in Martin Park, 5 by 8 watercolor

Sunday, January 18, 2015

I knew I'd been to church

St. John's Episcopal Church, Dubuque, Iowa
When I saw it from the outside, I knew I was going to church
 When I walked inside, I knew I was in church.
Four weeks ago today, I went to St. John's Episcopal Church in Dubuque, Iowa, with my youngest son Derrick, and my granddaughter Liberty, while Naomi stayed home with Barrett, who was sick.
The church is old--founded in late 1834, a little more than a year after the town was established, the oldest town in what is now Iowa. I'm not sure when the building was erected, but the sponsorships under the stained glass windows dated from the mid 1880s.
I'm not a"high-church" person, raised among fundamentalist Texans and Okies, but I felt immediately at home.
First, when you walk into that church, you feel peace, and are hushed by the architecture--a far cry from our  modern churches here that look more like movie theaters or strip mall stores.
I know, I know, the church is the people, not the building, but if that is so, why do we still talk about "going to church"?
I'm sure not familiar with all that liturgy stuff, but the worship service did get me to thinking. Our fundamentalist traditions  and habits are nothing more than liturgies. I'm not being critical, but observant, having been enriched by new experiences.
And in this hour more scripture was read than I've ever heard in one service, and more emphasis was placed on communion than I think I've ever seen. Instead of the focus being on somebody's sermon, the emphasis was on the Word, and communion. We participated in communion, not merely took it. Derrick, who studies such things, says this is typical, compared to our more recent populist cultures and religions.
Another practice that makes me nervous when visiting somewhere is when people all get up and come around to greet you. Here it was simple. "Peace be with you," was the greeting, with a smile. What do we need more than peace?
That, and having your granddaughter set beside you in an old oak pew, next to your son, under beautiful stained glass windows, and the magnificent sound of an ancient organ? 
No, it isn't perfect...the church membership has dwindled, though there were plenty of parents with young children scattered among the old timers. And it's struggling to pay its bills, like keeping it heated for $100 a day. It was cold outside--below freezing, and this was a warm winter day in a city on the Mississippi River across from Wisconsin and Illinois.  
But you hear church bells downtown on Sunday morning. Around the corner and down the street is the towering steeple of St. Mary's Catholic Church, seen behind the top photo on the right, one of 11 Catholic churches in this city of perhaps 70,000 people.
Like it, this building speaks and enhances the glory of faith, and inside the people and the liturgy did what I think worship is supposed to do--bring you into contact with eternity and give you peace. 
I knew I'd been to church.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

A walk in the park, healing water

Spring Creek which flows through Martin Park in OKC is a primary source of life for the wildlife and fauna within this urban sanctuary, making it a sanctuary for humans also.
I was drawn to the gurgling gentleness of its flow, or the reflections in the quiet water. Life slowing down. 
And then, reminded of how fleeting our lives are, and insignificant compared to Nature, I caught my shadow looking down from a bluff over the creek. Life as fleeting as our shadows.

       Sanctuary and shadows

A walk in the park, sanctuary with the "old ones"

One of the "old ones"
A beautiful, unseasonable January day...the kind that makes you glad you live in Oklahoma.  
Yes winter weather can be bitter with north winds and ice and more, but....
It never lasts long, and almost forces you outside. Such was today, sunny, temps in the 60s. A north breeze, but still, only a windbreaker or sweatshirt needed.
So I turned off my phone, social media and all, heading to Martin Park  (see the web page for lots of photos) (for this Facebook link) in northern Oklahoma City. It has been a while, and I found the expanded parking lot packed, with the 144-acre park attracting lots of people of all ages--from babies in strollers with parents, to kids, teens, and to us "old timers." 
The city is making huge improvements to the park, from a playground, new trails and more. And in spite of the crowd, you can still find a few trails less traveled, and drink in the scenery, think, and enjoy nature...the only distraction the constant noise of the nearby turnpike, but at least you  can't see the traffic, and there is quiet. I passed one fellow who called the place "healing." It is.
Where aging isn't ugly, but beautiful
Another old one
The park--a wildlife sanctuary, and a sanctuary for humans too-- has always been an important treasure for urban livers, but as more and more  development surrounds it, it is even more important to our sanity and life, and the crowds show it. Along the way I took a few photos, and then realized I was photographing either the oldest trees, or quiet water, or of quiet places in Spring Creek which flows through the park, abundant in turtles, fish and waterfowl.
I guess I identify with the old ones, gnarled and wrinkled with age, but distinct individuals, weathering time and still living. Where aging isn't ugly, but beautiful. And the hope and peace of still water.
They're also testaments to how beautiful this country was before man covered it with concrete and traffic.

And out of death, comes life

Quotes to think about, "piss" and "stupider"

Two quotes by friends caught my eye this week, and made me think. I think they will you too.
Fellow blogger and friend Alan Bates of Tulsa, a natural gas professional, amazes me with his blog, Yogi'sDen. I envy his consistency in publishing and his many varied interests. We also share a New Mexico background. Check out Yogi'sDen for photography, and lots of interesting content. I appreciate that he rarely delves into politics.
 His headline on a post this week grabbed my attention:
"A piss poor job of it."
Now you just have to read something like that, and I began scanning his comments, which were all about the oil and gas industry and the falling gasoline prices. Having often thrown sarcastic barbs at the energy companies, I loved and laughed at his conclusion: 
"I am starting to hear again the old saw about how the energy companies control the price of oil and natural gas and products such as gasoline.  All I have to say is that if that is true then:
"We are doing a piss poor job of it."
The second quote came from my friend and former student Heide Brandes @HeideWrites on twitter. Her blog is http://www.heidewrites.com/ This energetic woman is making a living as a freelance writer, and as a professional belly dancer.
We were taking recently, and she was commenting on how intolerant the country has become. Essentially she was  exasperated and worried because people of different political views won't even listen to those who differed with them, or even consider that there might be more than one view possible. 
Discussing media (Having been attacked on social media for just writing for Reuters about an event someone didn't like) and social media, she said something about there being no room for compromise but outright hate--not just in Congress, but on the Internet. She said  adults ought to be mature enough to at least be polite and listen, but it's getting rarer.
Her comment:
"It's amazing, with more information out there, we're becoming stupider."

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Just a simple signature

Road to Taos, 8" x 10", oil
It's been more than 40 years since the signature of "TMClark" has been applied to an oil painting,
This was my first oil, and when I finally signed it, I had many different feelings.
"I hope Dad likes it." "I wish I could have studied art with him."  "There's so much to learn." "I'm just learning as I'm going, and have no idea what I'm doing." "In a couple of years, I'll consider this crude and be embarrassed by it."
Dad was the real artist. Art was as essential as breathing. He could draw almost before he could walk. For the record, Dad died in December, 1973. His finished and unfinished work hangs in our house and my studio room. He never got a degree, but was always learning. I'm fortunate to have many of his notebooks and books, with his graceful handwriting (something I didn't inherit) to study from.
I'm thus intimidated by oils, having tried  20 years ago, but never pursuing them. I took up watercolor years ago at the prodding of my first wife, Neysa Barnes Clark, because my Dad, Terrence Miller Clark, hadn't done much of it. His work with pencil portraits and oil landscapes dominated. His son, Terry Michael Clark sure won't try portraits, but he's become comfortable with watercolor.
Thanks to the prodding of my wife Susan, and others, I finally ordered oils, and sat down--no stood up, as I always do to paint--through the past week to paint. First order was to find something that spoke to me, not something that others wanted painted. I found a photograph taken when we were heading to Los Alamos a year ago, although digitally altered for contrast and color. 
So I went back to what I know...landscapes, composition, and a passion for New Mexico.
Lots of experimentation here that accomplished artists would laugh at I'm sure. Techniques that are sloppy. Amateur use of color. And so forth. But I finally got to something that is close to my vision, not a recreation of one of my Dad's compositions, or techniques. 
Do I like oils? Not sure. I love the smell of oil paints, but I'm comfortable with watercolor. Oils are harder work, even if they're more forgiving. I'm not comfortable, yet.
When I finally started to sign it, putting that "TMClark" on it brought back more memories and experiences than you can ever know. 
It's just a simple signature. But there's nothing simple about it.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Vive la France, Liberte!

Liberty Leading the People, Delacroix, The Louvre
When we visited France and The Louvre, my favorite painting is the gigantic Liberty Leading the People, by Delacroix.
It so captures the independent spirit of the French, and when narrow minded Americans criticize that country for not always agreeing with us, I am angered. We would not be free  today if it were not for the French in the Revolution, and they would not be free today except for us in WWII.
We are brothers in freedom and blood.
And today, I hurt because of the atrocity in Paris, attacking a very symbol of that freedom, a magazine, the free press, known for attacking "anything that moves," say the French. Those terrorists killed people, but they cannot kill freedom.
I pause, and can only salute the French and their flag. 
Vive la France!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A blog and #clarkclass--staying up-to-date

#clarkclass blog--http://clarkclassUCO.blogspot.com
By @Okieprof on twitter
Staying up to date in this business--journalism or professing--has always been a challenge, but perhaps never more than now with such rapid change in technology, culture and more.
So it is that my UCO Twitter for Journalists/Media class, hashtagged #clarkclass, has now has taken on a life of its own, in its fourth or fifth intersession incarnation. And this year, I started a blog for the class to post assignments and speaker comments.
I started the class in response to professional journalists advising us they all used twitter. Not knowing anything about it, I bought one of those "Dummnies" books, and figured to give it a try.
What I have discovered has been astounding, as "twitter" changes, with more and more articles and research happening every day, affecting not just journalism, but life and many other businesses--along with other social media.
The class fills quickly to 24, because it's "trendy," but also because it covers only 10 days, and there's no high-priced textbook.
The reputation has spread, because I bring in talented professionals from different fields. I have music majors, business majors, technology majors, plus advertising, PR, broadcasting and standard journalism students.
Bringing in these speakers helps keep me up-to-date and enthused with new learning and discovery, and I learn with the students--which is the best kind of education. A colleague complimented me the other day for being "an old dog who can learn new tricks." Woof!
If you'd care to follow along, with the amazing comments from my speakers, they on the class blog, #clarkclassUCO  http://clarkclassUCO.blogspot.com. After each speaker we "debrief" and each students gives a comment. They're listed. 
The class is also rejuvenating...this is the most fun I've had teaching in a long time.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The years creep by, the past fades

Birthday journey, 6" by 14" 140# paper, on my Dad's old oak art table
Birthday. Just a profound word. Day of joys, days of celebration and remembrance, a day of a continuing journey. My mother spent her 71st birthday in the hospital, and died three weeks later. My dad died a month short of his 60th birthday. I know of people who didn't live that long. 
Every day I'm reminded by something to be thankful. There's no time for being negative, with so many blessings in the world. Sorrows, regrets, guilt, tragedies, missed opportunities, sins? Of course, but they are like steps in the sand that fade with time and wind. It's not Jan. 5 here yet, but elsewhere in the world it is.
We trod many paths, and it seems we are alone, but we are and are not. The painting doesn't show the ghosts of people now gone, of friends and families and relatives and loved ones  who have influenced each step. The future is a mystery, waiting the next step.

Birthday thoughts and old photos

Finding another trove of old black and white photos yesterday in the garage brought back memories and questions as another year starts and another ends as a birthday approaches.
Never before seen--two small 1" by 2" photos of my dad Terrence Miller Clark as a junior in Comanche, OK high school, 1930-31.
 Then some of me through the years.
No caption necessary

With uncle Rex after the war, in Fort Worth
With Mom, Jerry and uncle Mike at Grand Canyon
On Sandia Base, Albuquerque, cloud covered Sandias in background
And some of the people responsible for it all, Mom, Francis Faye Culp Clark, and Dad
In Taos, 1950s
Erle Thweatt Clark,Comanche, OK

Dad, grandmother Cuba Jon Miller Clark Reasor, and husband Worden, New Mexico

When the sun comes out

Shadow of the Cross, Ranchos de Taos, 11 by 14 watercolor, 300# d'Arches
After days of cold, gray, wet and unsettled weather, we awake to a north wind but clearing skies. Yes the temperature drops, but spirits rise with dawn. The sun comes up, casting shadows not seen in days, and personal shadows disappear  with hot coffee and a warm fire in the fireplace.
On the plaza at Ranchos de Taos in northern New Mexico, remnants of snow slowly melt atop the adobe walls of Saint Francis church, and the rising sun in the chill mountain air casts a fleeting shadow of one of the bell tower crosses on  its earthen walls.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Oklahoma January

Oklahoma January, 11 by 14 watercolor
I took a black and white photo of this old abandoned Oklahoma farmstead a long time ago, in Jefferson County. It can be bleak here when the sun doesn't shine, as the whole country turns gray, and what sparse color there is fades, making landscapes even more bleak.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Oklahoma New Year's ice

Oklahoma ice, 9 by 12 watercolor
This was supposed to happen today here, and didn't, though the skies are gray and wet, thankfully above freezing. But south and west of here in Oklahoma and Texas, people aren't so fortunate. I painted this perhaps a year ago, and of course it hasn't sold--who wants a reminder of this kind of weather? Still, this was an important painting for me--minimalist, impressionistic, and lots of free brushwork and imagination liberated from inside my controlling nature. Happy New Year.