This painting and the previous one make a sort of diptych - the view from Dave's screen door at dusk.

The note for the previous painting mentions the enchantment of twilight, but I suspect something else was at work. I call it the Oklahoma Effect, and it has happened to me whenever I've driven across the state. A few hours on the Oklahoma highway induces such a sense of endless, rootless desolation that whatever particular things I see when I stop - weeds, fence posts, someone pumping gas at a service station, birds on a wire, chunks of gravel on the side of the road - feel wonderfully and miraculously actual and present. Dusk maybe just reactivated the effect.

The phenomenon of seeing unexpected depth of beauty in everyday things reminds me of something Joan Acocella recently wrote in the New York Review of Books:

"When critics speak of a writer's ear, this often carries a political implication, of the democratic sort. They are talking about writers (Mark Twain, Willa Cather) whose world, by virtue of being humble, would seem to exclude beauty and music, so that when the writer manages to find in it those riches, the world in question - and, by extension, the whole world - comes to seem blessed."

When that thought is enlarged to include the visual arts - landscape painting, for example - it articulates as well as anything my primary motivation for pursuing art: to attempt to cultivate and to share that kind of insight, that kind of discovery.

The underlying principle expressed by Acocella might be called "the gospel of beauty" - a term perhaps coined by Walt Whitman but most famously taken up by the early 20th century poet Vachel Lindsay, who didn't mean quite what I mean by the term. Lindsay did, however, wander the United States for a few years trading poems for food and lodging. I learned of him after I started my own project of aesthetic itinerancy. Apparently there was an American type called "the gentleman vagabond" - some mainly wanted to see the world in an unencumbered way; others were more intent on sharing something with others in ways that made more sense in the context of the road or of journeying.

Lindsay wrote a book about his vagabonding called "Adventures While Preaching the Gospel of Beauty." For years I took encouragement from the very fact of the book's existence, its great title. What he actually wrote, when I finally got around to reading it, had an opposite effect. Maybe we can all be forgiven for preaching now and then, but not to the point of eclipsing dialogue, which is the essential thing. Especially if one is on a journey.

Later note:
I think I was too hard on Vachel Lindsay here. It seems that in his actual traveling he was admirably ecumenical, egalitarian, and open to whatever and whomever he encountered. In his writings, though - both the tracts he distributed along the way and the accounts of his wanderings that he published - he seems wedded to a rigid program, a truth he's figured out in advance and wants to press on others. Consequently the people in his narratives come across as types or props, 2-dimensional characters who either validate or reject or patiently tolerate his agenda. This seems to defeat the purpose of the journey, miss the transformative value of the road: What might emerge that I hadn't expected? The creative process, after all, is about trusting in the new meaning that can emerge from engagement with the unknown.