Thursday, March 13, 2014


The theme of being in transit while appearances suggest otherwise has been imprinted in this blog whose subject is ultimately unknowable as a destination in mind. The railroad, with it’s stations as a symbol of a state of being, the momentum of life is perhaps the story of an eternal return of flux and contexts as contingent as life itself. No painting by the numbers, no division by forensic examination, no conclusive argument, no singularity but in multiplication.

The absurdity of the existentialist hero within the Stranger as a wayfarer has a dualism in the positioning of this role as arranged as a philosophical and  mythological counterpoint in Native American tales of the outsider who wields power by divorcement by an arms length relationship to the familiar, that sifts to nature itself as the Coyote, or more evenly distributed as a variety of shape shifting disguises, that play on appearances of the familiar as divorced from their apparent origins. A human being’s identity is far from singular as it is legion depending on it’s context and who is looking either from within or without.
Loren Eisley in the excavation of his life recalls watching his neighbor under his porch light as a secret sharer, a witness to the human condition as one in search of what remains persistent in it’s incommensurable nature ripe with similarities, while the historical world of what is written suggests otherwise.

I walked through the empty streets of Omaha on my journey West, under the blue glaze of streetlights in the wee hours before dawn, on my way elsewhere, a stranger to another’s familiarity, a role I had placed myself into as a form of faux divorcement from my own fate as written by a personal history. A lone figure sat perfectly still upon a bus bench, unmoving, as a sentinel. I sat beside him and we exchanged stories of our journeys and he offered a place to stay in his cramped studio apartment. He made a meal for us and his story was imprinted indelibly as a tattoo on his forearm, as a survivor of the Death Camp, the lone survivor of his family….
The young couple  full of hope who pulled to the side of the road on their way to a new beginning whose cheerful company and innocence struck me, even as an eighteen year old.
The ghost who appeared from the corn fields alongside the road through Grinnell, Iowa offering suggestions to catch a ride only to vanish as a car stopped. The insistence of life in the face of detachment rolled into a hunger for experience. I was that kid.

Beginnings and endings as an artifice is best encapsulated by the advice of a young woman whom I had never met until the eve of my departure, who upon learning of my “plan” to exit stage left said simply, “It does not matter where you are, it’s who you are with.”
In this journey as a teenager without a destination in mind seats itself in a dream, where I am both the protagonist and the the reader of his tale...and in the nexus of this seems to be unborn...yet to be determined at some later date beyond affirmation and denial...a reconciliation of similarities poised against the opaque nature of my own assertions.

The Tao of images, whether it is David Plowden or Ted Rose entitling his work “In The Traces", artists have a knack for freeze framing the inexpressible, whether it is the secrets of the heart or viewing the familiar as if it was never encountered. The traces..imprints.

I wrote a published, erstwhile obituary for Ted that highlighted the romance we have with life, of the remarkable suffused with looking back to remember, to reconstruct the vanished as an image and in return I received an unexpected letter from his widow that thanked me for recognizing what she saw through him as a painter of images. A sense held in the heart that is inexpressible in the historical world and yet plays against it as one writer \ photographer said.."straight and true"

What is left unsaid speaks louder than words. The painting at the top of this post speaks to me of steel and velvet, of raw mornings at dawn with the outposts of machinery set in motion to pause at the center of a universe no one can describe.

Years ago I sent a letter to a Mrs DeHartman, the author of "Our Life With Mr Gurdjieff", a tale she finished composing after her husband had passed away that recounted a journey perilous over the Caucasus Mountains, wedged between the White and Red Armies of the Russian Revolution.
What touched me was her inscription at the beginning.."I write this for you so you will not forget.."
The onset of another journey was in her reply.

What remains in the traces unencumbered by words often strikes me as miraculous and confounding at once as a poetry that all and no one in particular is the author signature in the corner, no copyright and no attributions required. It is, was and will be between the lines.

We were driving in his pickup truck across the plains of Montana, nothing to the left, and nothing to the right except open land full of waving grasses when we hit a skunk. My friend had a theory he could outrun the this a plan as a metaphor and off we went at a ferocious speed. Needless to say, the theory failed but as we stopped miles from nowhere he had a sudden inspiration and we turned onto what was two ruts cut into the dirt and grass.

We pitched and yawed, bumped and collided with the two ruts that divided a undifferentiated landscape. and there atop a hill was a small hut with railings attached to a porch as hitches and a well in front. Traces of a stage stop. We dismounted from the truck and wandered around the place, the dust, the spirit of that place of ghost journeys elsewhere. Not a home, not a destination, but a station which could have been a state of being. it was remarkably intact as a reliquary. The wind was relentless as it had been one hundred years ago, whistling through the open door and windows of this modest outpost, forgotten and yet persistent as a signpost.

Look away to an inheritance.The ghosts generated in a verdant sort of grave robbing who haunt the genetic strands that anchor us to the stories we tell.

My friend came to this place when encumbered by the stink of this or that that was not caused by striking a skunk whose stink could not be outrun.

“Be broken to be whole
Twist to be straight
Be empty to be full
Wear out to be renewed
Have little and gain much
Have much and get confused

So wise souls hold to the one
and test all things against it”

-Lao Tze


  1. Sometimes I imagine we are all "running from the stink"....that's such a great line, hope you don't mind if I use it in the future.

  2. To make matters more surreal, it actually happened. He was firmly convinced this strategy would work and advised me to roll down the window. I asked him how long he had to zoom along to make the stink vanish. He said as long as it takes. Only looking back did I realize this was a metaphor. As friends it was dangerous to have two left of center, squared wheels in close proximity. During my passage through Montana we both worked at a bottling factory. One day to kill the time we began gabbing about fast food..who had the best example of this or that...and made the decision to have a gourmet lunch. Went through three drive thu's..French fries from McDonalds fried in beef fat, a greasy cheeseburger from Wendys and topped it off with a Dairy Queen shake which caused us to be considerably late coming back which caused the skinny kid who was our foreman a considerable look of dismay. We explained our situation and he expressed his admiration by a pregnant pause than was it?
    "Great" went the Greek chorus. "Have to try that sometime" That was Montana in a nutshell. Land of the volunteer posse to round up wild dogs, justice of the peace as the local judge and jury, and dead pan surrealism in general.

  3. I can see the scene clearly. It should be written into a movie as a moment of comic relief, serving as the hidden metaphor of course.