Half-light – the time of soul-sense

“Later on, again I saw the stars rushing in that great sky-arc, their pathways subtly changing over time, subtly changing tonight even as I gaze upward. I think of my place along those paths, and as I think I understand that it is no wonder that the ancients thought the earth was the center of all things. Even when one’s thoughts consider those things farthest from the self, those things impose themselves upon the self in a very physical way – an implication, an assertion. No other beings but us can know these things… To lie on the dock at 1am, the water lapping (piles softly swaying) at languid fingers, touching them with such immediacy even as light a billion years old breaks the plane of these wet eyes. A prayer offered to God. No, it is no wonder to me that the ancients thought themselves the center of all things.”

“Half-light – the time of soul-sense. It is muted sense, muted movement, and muted knowledge. When the world falls away to an edge; we are on it and in it, but at a moment of unknowing. How can we yet remain? Oh, to strain, to stretch! To allow that great letting occur, where our selves, our identities of self, are removed from our references, from our knowing. This is the pure spirit. What has happened?” – from A Mnemonic of Longing, an unpublished essay, 2002-2009.

Images from digital photos taken between May and August 2001.

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It was a record, that flaming consumer…

“And the fire was always there with us as well; its cast of gray ash strewn about as a memory of the night past. Here and there on the ground lay also the print of a known foot, the circumference of a bottle, the twisted remains of a cigarette butt. It was a record, that flaming consumer: constantly fed and ever needing more, never totally gone out.”

“The bricks keep it contained, except on those special, pagan nights. Over the years they have become fragile, having seen the fierce flames that flash for three months and then fade for nine many times. The dune now cradles the fire pit in its sandy palm; nature allows us to knead that surface and turn it over with toes and rakes for another day. All the while smoke signals the call over the waters and the trees…” – from A Mnemonic of Longing, an unpublished essay, 2002-2009.

Images from digital photos taken between May and August 2001.

Disembodied Desire: “when the taut nerves mock the numbness of the mind”

“…the themes of alienation, absence and desire …all of this seems so far removed from the place where I’m talking from that it saddens me, and somehow makes me feel obsolete…kind of dead, elegantly wasted (?). I’m not talking about some slippage from reality but rather some absence of destination, a random lingering, an objectless longing.” 1

“…those blank days, mild and hazy, which melt enamored hearts into tears, when they fret with some vague, twisting pain, when the taut nerves mock the numbness of the mind.” 2

“Disembodied desire. It’s really a constellation of factors, a convergence, I guess. It happens when phenomena stack up right there, at the margin of your consciousness. Then, suddenly, it comes. All that is needed is that particular scent, the angle of the sun, your own freshly dried skin (still supple from the wetness), that old song; it has all been said before. These things usher in a yearning, a hoping. It’s a call from the past, something you’ve lost or, to be honest, something you’ve never really had. You don’t know what it is anyway, but that feeling, that sweet aching is almost enough – almost enough to make life feel right. To feel as if you’ve been called, to feel as if you’ve been wanted, to feel as if you’d been in the right place and had known it – had felt it – at the time. When that song comes on, when the night is just right, it is all there so close to the surface. Ah, but when you reach for it, it disappears! It is as if the exact cognitive mechanism used to focus in on that feeling, or time, or place, causes the very same thing to rush away. There must be some inverse relationship there: the farther you are from logically apprehending the shadowy image the closer you are to the essence of it. When you set up for a closer look even the sense you seemed to have of what you wish for flees from you. It is a small surprise then that wishes can take on such mythic proportions.” – from A Mnemonic of Longing, an unpublished essay, 2002-2009.

1) Robert, Jimmy. Self-Portrait. Appeared in Tema Celeste 96, March/April 2003, page 76.
2) Baudelaire, Charles. From the Francis Scarfe English translation of the poem Cloud-dappled Sky, 1857.
 
Images from digital photos taken between May and August 2001.

A Submission to Delights

“A constant comfort of that place – apart from the foliage, springing paths, and multitude other charms – was my mug. Handcrafted and ergonomic, it felt then as it does now: a real weight in the hand – substantial, truthful. It declares by its heft the worth of what it holds. It is heat, a vessel security blanket, a confirmation of time. And of course I carry the time with me physically even now as I use the mug emblazoned with the O and the X (hugs and kisses from the past to the future) almost every day. It reminds me of 2am munchie runs and awesome weekend breakfasts, of wind swept evenings and overcast middays. Its circle pleases me and my mouth conforms to it easily – a submission to delights.” – from A Mnemonic of Longing, an unpublished essay, 2002-2009.

On nights like these – remembering Ox-Bow and my mug of that time – I think also of drinking port with Lex up the slope behind the Inn. One late afternoon, both of us moving toward that state of mellow so frequently found that summer, we debated art and ideas. I had my prized Odd Nerdrum book with me and, in a sequence of events not without mystery and malevolence, the tome found itself flipped off the deck and down the hillside. I keep the book broken away from its cover to this day in remembrance of my time with Alex.

Photo: My second Ox-Bow mug today. I got this mug at the same time as the one I speak about in the text above, but that first mug – my primary mug, the one that I had used every day for two years – was stolen from my workplace in 2003. Now I keep the second mug as a commemoration and never drink from it. Both mugs were made by Becky Wehmer, long time Ox-Bow-luminary and an artist/educator at Waterstreet Glassworks.

Thirteen Years

I met my future wife on August 20th, 1998 in Indianapolis, Indiana. She was 16 years old. 13 years later she’s been the most important human being – other than my mother – I’ve ever known. Everything I am I owe to the grace of God she’s been to me. Everything I do – all the different hats I have to wear, every competency I have or try to have, every correct comma – I owe to her. She’s 29 today. And still freaking awesome. I love you, Alison.

Here we are in Assisi, Italy in 2005, just a few weeks before our 2nd anniversary.

Here we are in McCormick Creek State Park (near Spencer, Indiana) on our 5th anniversary.

USS Claudius Galenus (LEGO Star Trek Stuff)

I wanted to try creating an Oberth Class Federation ship and conceived of this one as a refitted/re-purposed version of the classic class of ships that operated in the Star Trek universe from early 2280s through the late 2300s. I see this particular ship (which I’ve christened USS Claudius Galenus after the famous Roman physician) as a modification of the earlier design meant to keep it in service throughout the latter half of the 2300s. Here’s more on the Oberth Class.

Below are some scenes I’ve thrown together – click for larger versions…

In Earth Orbit.

Cruising out of the Saturn System.

In the general environs of the Tarantula Nebula.

You can see more of my Star Trek stuff here:

USS Abblasen

Some Trek drawings here and here.

It’s a generational thing: my daughter looking up to Captain Picard…

A Sound of Being

“Evening often brings contemplation. The paths are quiet and fires smolder in the distance. I’m out behind the Inn again. Some people come and go, moving in the ethereal between-time, but we sit on the steps with a kind, unimposing light glinting out from within. There, the warmth of the air touches my arm as I bring my hand up for another pull on my smoke.

See how poetic that stream of consumption is as it gracefully spreads upward, as smoothly as my eye follows it, as light as my mind. Shared… a cigarette-trust between friends.

And there is just silence, but that is not to say there is no sound. There is a sound that true silence makes, a sound of being. What a precious joy now to sit and feel that silence, having grown accustomed to all the oft-unheard sounds of life embodied in it: there two girls talk quietly down by the lagoon, here the underbrush rustles with some rooting creature. Around us the sounds of the night move in close, the trees and hills settling in. Above, in the near cabins, assignations await. The studio glows, and there’s music trailing through the trees… notice the diffusion. The Inn lights lilt like ghosts greeting that twilight time, that time when the entire world is mother-of-pearl.” – from A Mnemonic of Longing, an unpublished essay, 2002-2009.

Image from a digital photo taken between May and August 2001.

Miracles: Sovereign Movements Indistinguishable From Chance

Mary, above left, was born on April 30th, 2010 in Ethiopia. Miranda, right, was born on April 30th, 2010 in Columbia, Missouri, USA.

Moving across the earth to a town just north of Chicago, through sovereign movements that are indistinguishable from chance, Mary and Miranda made their way to each other – to play, and run, and explore their world.


It was a joyful, heartening meeting. In spite of the machinations and vices that rile our world, here we see some glint of the true purpose for humanity… and we can thank God.

Photos by Matt Ballou and Melissa Lancaster.

Transpositions Feature: A Short Essay on Faith, Art and Teaching

I was recently invited to present an essay of reflections on teaching and faith by the Institute for Theology, Imagination, and the Arts at the University of Saint Andrews in Scotland. The piece has been made available online, so check it out:

Generosity of Spirit: A Perspective on Faith, Art, and Teaching

And here are a couple shots by Columbia Missourian photographer Michelle Kannan, taken during my Summer Session class this past July. I’ve never had any documentation of myself teaching before (other than audio), so the images that Michelle took are nice for me. I think they capture some of the excitement and passion I try to bring to the classroom.