Ripples

This grave stone sits in a little depression. Snow swirled throughout the evening, leaving ripples around its base, which is how I discovered it the next morning.

Stone…ripples…

Maybe it’s my glass of bourbon on a Friday night, or maybe I’m inherently sentimental, but isn’t that an apt metaphor for all of us?

We marvel at the ripples growing on the pond,
but forget the stone which drops from sight.

Because the one thing I’ve learned from visiting old cemeteries is that within a short time–a few decades, perhaps–grave markers lean and tumble, or become chiseled by time and fade. Sometimes even the sage reclaims the rented soil of our remains.

But those ripples, spreading outward, left by the impact of our life,
ah, those large and marvelous rings…

The Dying Light

Palace of the Forgotten

Palace of the Forgotten

Birdsong and leaves beyond the panes
promise forever, and my blisters ache
with joy, hard-won.
Stew from the kettle, birthed
from the well, satiates my destiny.

But the magpie have fled the toppled poplars,
and my dreams are but patina
bleached in the sun.

Even the sage I mocked with toil
forgets my name.

 

A war on which holiday?

War on Thanksgiving

The War on Christmas.

It’s a common complaint which echoes in the minds of those who feel the traditions of the holiday have been trampled by the boots of political correctness. “Never mind that Americans hold many diverse beliefs,” they say (and for a long time, I was a vested member of that chorus); “America is being undone by the degradation of those very traditions which gave us a national identity.” I understand those arguments all too well having been raised in a conservative, military town. Yet, the last time I looked, Christmas was doing just fine in America.

Barely have the Halloween decorations been unpacked when stores also begin clearing isle space for that jolly fat man and his assortment of colorful baubles. The lonely faux wreath dangling on a hook above neatly stacked boxes in the middle of the isle is a dead giveaway. But how about that other holiday? The one right between Halloween and Christmas, the one granted a measly half an isle behind the discounted sale items? The one we are supposed to celebrate together, as Americans, and be thankful for the abundance which fills our lives?

Oh, there’s a war on a holiday this time of year, but I fear too many have missed it: the war on Thanksgiving. After all, now retailers open for Black Friday sales right after Thanksgiving dinner (you can skip doing the dishes!). And, for those who wish to avoid unsightly fisticuffs at the stuffed toy isle, you can gleefully max out your credit cards from the comfort of your worn recliner (which, you suddenly notice, can also be replaced with one click of a button). Cyber Monday, hell yeah!

While many fear the boots of political correctness, I guess for me, I fear the boots of crass commercialism and it’s manipulation of American society. And, so I drew this cartoon.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope you find peace.

Relentless, She

She layers silence like blankets on the cold hills,
stills the reeds with a whisper and reaches tendrils
whitely into my dream. Relentlessly she pulls,
popping joists and bursting aggregate until the field around me
tickles my beams,
and my dreams yield from survival
to reabsorption.

When the clouds roll inAn abandoned home miles from nowhere, photographed with an Hoya infrared filter

 

Hidden Homestead

I stopped at an overgrown county road, the kind where wheel ruts disappear into tall grass. There was room at the juncture of this county road and the small highway I had been travelling on, so I pulled off and parked. It was June, and although there was a stop sign at the entrance to the route, I dared not drive on it. Catalytic converters can touch off fires, even on cooler days like this. Instead, I snagged my camera, locked my vehicle, and trekked over the rise and down into a little valley.

As is often the case where I live, my efforts were rewarded. Nestled among the sage was an entire homestead comprised of at least two separate homes, a barn, and several utility buildings. The spot lacked any official warning signs, perhaps it was so remote and hidden that none were needed, so I deemed it safe enough to explore.

This image, which I call Troubadour of the West, was taken with a Hoya infrared filter. I need to revisit this spot, perhaps this winter, when snow burdens the rafters and smooths out the fields. Or, certainly before some idiot drives down that lane, sparks a fire, and destroys all these lovely, old bones of the past.

Troubadour of the West

My Halloween Cartoon

Here’s my Halloween cartoon for this year. It runs in tomorrow’s Omak Chronicle. I got to thinking, with all the free-flowing partisan vitriol around us, maybe these two dead souls should rise again…

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Wanting Zombies

The Creative Spark

The Idea

Creativity.
Magic.

Is there any difference? Not to obfuscate the two, but in the presence of a wizened Creative, the uninitiated are mesmerized. Crowds gather, eyes widen, and coins relocate to new zip codes. Creativity is magic, and is perhaps one of our species’ greatest powers. But it is elusive, mysterious to most, like sacrosanct murmurs from shadowy figures. And it’s coveted, enough so that huge corporations invest in trainers, special speakers and workshops, ever-yearning to see creative geniuses puff into existence after eight hours of scripted activities.

Yes, creativity can be learned, so if you consider yourself a particularly insipid creator, there is hope. But I fear we have misread this particular part of the map, wandered off the torn edges past the sea monsters, and out into the shadows. Creativity is the mind’s ability to connect unrelated information and transform it into a cohesive, new reality. It is a way of life. Or maybe this works for you: Creativity is the babbling fool who wanders the woods, lifting huge leaves in search of the toad’s lost checkbook. (Looking for some valid interpretation for that image? That’s your job, not mine…)

My point is, creativity evolves through active, life-long learning and the building of mental connections via curiosity. The fact that we marginalize creative endeavors in our schools as “electives”, substituting in their place dry skill sets derived from some corporation’s wish list, is damaging. And the fact we later try to implant creativity into employees, many whom now consider themselves as “unimaginative”, is nonsensical (the Logical Song, anyone?).

I’m an Art teacher. Before that, I was an English teacher. I swapped tweed jackets with elbow patches for paints and palettes because that’s where I saw real growth in students and substantial improvement in their thinking skills. As an English instructor I was under pressure, like so many of my colleagues, to customize most English lessons for standardized tests, and to systematically prioritize analytical voice over creative expression. After all, according to politicians, test scores are the measure of a school’s competency.

Bullshit. I read the map correctly. I didn’t learn to love language because I diagrammed sentences and wrote endless reams of analytical essays. I grew to become a competent thinker and creator because I was challenged by stories and artwork full of passion and humanity, creative works which challenged accepted norms and posited alternate realities.

Creativity is magic, not some pill to swallow with bottled water at an office in-service training.  And those murmuring shadows? They’re telling you that you have that magic, too. Just hop off your log and peek under a few leaves yourself. You might just find something deliciously absurd.

It’s still kind of sharp, though…

The first quarter of school is almost over. I’ve just endured a week of modestly moderated lunacy referred to as “Spirit Week”, and now I feel just like this pencil.

Before I became a teacher, I worked for many years in the so-called “real world.” For a time, I hauled and installed modular office systems for an office supply store, forty hours per week, fifty weeks per year. I was firmly ensconced in the ranks which claimed teachers had it easy, that long summers off, punctuated with every federal holiday imaginable, wasn’t a real occupation. Then I earned my degree.

Never was I as exhausted after twelve months of installing panels and hauling credenzas as I am after teaching an entire school year. Twenty-two years after I left the ranks of those “real-worlders” I can honestly say that teaching is one of the most rewarding, bone-sapping, brain-numbing occupations one can join. I may feel like this pencil right now, but in actuality, I have so much more inside. That’s my mantra, anyways, my motivational bible verse: Brad 54, verse 23: Give until thy youth is spent, and arid is thy mind.

How long until June?

I need a break