Sacred Space…

Last year around this time, I was in Westchester, Pennsylvania for a funeral. A funeral I’ve not yet fully come to accept. At times it feels like a dream from which I’ve not awakened, nor can until I’m ready. While we were there, I visited interesting places and curiously searched out memorable spaces. I found this independent bookstore called Baldwin Book Barn on the outskirts of the city, tucked into the Chester County hills. My son and I are both passionate lovers of the written page and devotees to vintage, so this was a definite go to.

When we arrived, the bookstore did not disappoint. It appeared as though we’d transferred to an alternate world. The book barn, built in 1822 with Pennsylvania stone, was replete with cozy nooks, stone walls, and floors and floors jammed pack with wooden shelves of all kinds of books. The wood burning stove added the touch that took you back to a place you’d never actually been but wish you had. It was a Christmas postcard come to life. As I went from floor to floor, I’d catch glimpses of my son standing before a book-filled shelf, hunched over a table reading, leafing through pages, or sitting on the floor beneath a tower of books. The look on his face, I’m sure, mirrored mine. One of wonder and a strange mixture of excitement and peace. The type of mixture conjured up in sacred spaces. All of this stood in stark contrast to, but in a strange way, a direct connection to what we were in the city for. The peace that engulfed me surpassed the sadness deep in the well of my interior.

I rounded a corner and a photo of a painting of a little girl spoke directly to my state of mind. She stood off the wall and connected to my spirit. The books stretched out behind her. She before them. My childhood and my present folded into that moment. That sacred moment where everything felt okay. In this instance, the experience elevated the space to one of a divine connection, a synergetic symphony where time condensed. The outside world came into perspective and disappeared at the same. I saw the whole of myself, my love for the mysterious, books, and the lives from which they emanated. My appreciation of being stepped forth into the light pointing at death serving as a reminder to live.


As a child I was a member of a denomination sponsored youth group called the Pathfinders. Now I could scour the great outdoors and all that other exciting stuff that Pathfinders did. When I got in, I was all in. I was a rough and tumble Pathfinder incarnate.

But did I really know what it meant from an organizational point of view or was I focused on what it meant to me. The point of pathfinders for the organization, I’ve since discovered, was to introduce youth to Jesus Christ; to build mind, body, and spirit in order to be able to carry out the work of the church and bring others to the feet of Jesus. I’m sure that particular cause was noble and just, but it wasn’t mine. I wanted the adventure, the adrenaline rush of the challenge of rolling in the deep with the natural world and] making my way. My heroes in the Pathfinder mindset were men like Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, Grizzly Adams, Matthew Henson, Jacques Cousteau, Marlin Perkins, and any scout in a western movie. When I wasn’t outdoors, you could often find me face deep in any book by Jack London, Jim Kjelgaard, or Edgar Rice Burrows. I was all about fully living in the face of the challenge of the natural world. There was no manufactured path for these men, only the raw space in which they blazed trails against the odds. That was the place in the church where I knew I could fit. That’s why I joined the Pathfinders.

Fast forward, I am still a pathfinder in my sense of the word. The organization made a profound impact on me. The structure, the challenges of learning skills beyond my neighborhood streets, and of course the campouts and outdoor life shaped the part of me my spirit was seeking to hone. It showed me that there is always a path present, even before one sees it in the physical world. Your path is mapped in your spirit first, then your mind lays it out. Your body follows. It’s like that in any endeavor in which you set your intent to do. Especially when that doing is unclear in terms of a set path. For example, when I received my Master’s degree in education, I knew I had only to pass the praxis to get certified, apply for a position, get the job and begin work as an educator. The path was pretty cut and dry. I’m not at all implying that teaching is a simple undertaking, but the steps to get there are laid out systematically.

To be an artist, one that lives and eats by what comes from their hearts and hands, is another story. It’s the trailblazing banshee of a scout type mentality that eats by the edge of the blade, the blast of muzzle fire, and the sheer will of making ones way. I am often asked how to get there. My only honest response is there is no set path. It’s different for every person who sets out to do their curiosity’s bidding. You just have to set out and go. Make your art, do your thing, set and know your intent, and put it to the world in a faith and action beyond hoping. It becomes systematic in the discovery and formulation of what works by being honest with yourself. Realize and claim your story, unapologetically. That points you purposefully along your way. It’s a matter of heart over hardware. That truth of who you are, what you uniquely have to offer, and how, is what will connect you to your audience. When you can make and commit to that decision you will find your path.


This past weekend, I pulled up at the school to attend my daughter’s Christmas play. The parking lot was so packed I ended up parking way back in a field behind the school. On the way in, I discussed the packed house with another parent. Then a startling thought hit me. What if it was already a packed house with no seats left? I kept walking and ran into a former student. We chatted up a canned version of this is my life and departed with twin smiles. The line wasn’t too long but it was slow. I was finally there right as the time hit 7pm, showtime.

“One adult ticket” I said, handing over my card.

She entered the info and requested my zip. It didn’t go though. “That’s strange”, I said. “I just used that card.” I knew my card was good. I gave her a different zip and asked her to reenter the information. I was ready to go in. This was taking far too long. Momentarily, she shook her head again and proceeded to hand me back my card. I am not understanding what is going on here. Somewhere beside me I saw a $10 bill being handed to the cashier next to her. She passed it over to my cashier and said.

“He just paid your way.” I must have looked stunned or something because she repeated, “That guy just paid for you.” Immediately, I looked in the direction of where the guy would or should have been. There was no guy. They continued to marvel at the act, following up with wishes of Merry Christmas. I expressed my gratitude replete with repeated wows, and went in.

I enjoyed the show but much of my headspace was given to that act of random kindness and a myriad of implications. My logical mind questioned why he’d paid. My spirit lifted because he had paid. It reminded me that nothing will stand in the way of intent. I asked for one adult ticket and got it, despite my card not being accepted. For the record, the next morning, I used that card with no issues. There are so many ways to unpack this that we could do a War and Peace sized text, with room for part 3. I’ll focus on one corner of a key element for clarity.

The Inner-G.

What type of energy circulates through your life space? What do you expect? What is your intent? The inner G is the inner guide, your inner geometry; how things are shaped, sized, positioned, and angled in your mental realm of possibilities. What are the dimensions of your faith.

How could I miss a man paying for my ticket right next to me and how did he disappear so fast? I had to pull my mind out of analytical mode and just receive. It sounds like one of those mysterious angels among us tales. Maybe they’re no so mysterious, just unnoticed. And yes, they are angels – messengers reminding us that we have a part to play in the cosmic balance. The energy connected that night at the ticket booth and the milk of human kindness flowed. I am so grateful to whomever it was. Even more so, I am grateful that it is. It’s a reminder that compassion is alive and well in the family of man. A reminder that like gives birth to like. A reminder that there is an ARK of comfort in a world flooded with opposition. Acts of Random Kindness. That’s Inner G in action.

This Little Light…

This little light of mine
I’m going to let it shine
Oh, this little light of mine
I’m going to let it shine

Let is shine, let is shine, let it shine. Will you? That song might possibly have been the most potent yet underrated charge we were exposed to in church as children. I remember singing the melody each week in some part of the children’s church service. Of course the meaning that was fed to us was from a religious point of view – a shout out to the church doctrinal beliefs. It was a perfect jingle to plug into the rhythmical chords of little minds.

As I grew older, the positioning of the song shifted in my mind. Or should I say, the scope widened. It simply busted out of the walls of the church building and expanded beyond the parochial into the realm of the cosmic. The question for me, what is your light, blossomed into a thousand points of the same. It illuminated the possibilities beyond the comfort of that arena and lit up my universe. What is your light? That’s your question to answer. What brightens your space? What chases away your dark days? What gives wings to your heart? What do you project onto others that that shows them who they are, what they can be, rains a little joy in their world, or stretches a smile across their faces? When found, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

All around the neighborhood
I’m going to let it shine
All around the neighborhood
I’m going to let it shine
All around the neighborhood

Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine…


This past week I went to visit my Mother’s house. When I arrived she wasn’t there. I heard the rustle of leaves and noticed that the vestiges of Autumn’s winter preparation had gathered in drifts on her porch. Her rooftop was also nearly covered in white oak leaves and pine straw. I pulled my truck up next to the lower part of her carport, grabbed a broom, and made my way up.

The feeling was so familiar. As I swept, high above the earth, memories flooded in, washing me with feelings of nostalgia. Being an ultra adventurous skinny little boy with dreams to0 heavy to lift at the time, I would sometimes sit for long spans atop that house. It was never just a rooftop. Above the hustle and bustle of the world below, I would allow my mind to soar as I squinted against the sun. I remember feeling like one of the big cats, sitting there surveying the land about me, unnoticed but with the potential to command attention at any moment I chose. I remember thinking how no one really looks that high up unless prompted. They were too busy with being in the small space around them. Sometimes, when I was bored of the aloneness, I would yell out to a passing friend in low country. They would turn and look, taking a while to spot the little brown boy on the rooftop. The response was always one of surprise and immediate change of course, running over to see how they too, could gain access to this lofty space. I would help them up and we would enjoy our perch. Their bubbling excitement always gave me a sense of accomplishment, a satisfied feeling of well being. The knowing that I had ushered them here to this space where few dared to tread, fed my soul. This space where we left fear on the ground and dreams and the imagination easily took root.

I sat for a minute on the roof with my younger self. The slate colored shingles warm beneath me, balanced out the slight chill of the sunlit autumn day. I squinted my eyes against the afternoon sun and breathed deep. The big cat was still there. My mom had come home and was pulling greens in her garden. The cars passed below, and a few people dotted the sidewalk. I was in that space again, remembering, reminiscing, replaying ideas, thoughts, and experiences from childhood to now. I took inventory of my life in that moment and realized that I had been creating the mirror all along. However big my dreams were and outlandish my imagination soared, created the mirror in which I can now look into. I can honestly say that I am becoming the reflection of that child’s dreams, the mirrored image of those possibilities. Where is your space? Where are the childhood hopes and dreams buried; the ones you had before anyone told you how and who to be by name or shame. Reflecting on those daydreams can be a mirror, an adventure packed burnt edged, fold-riddled parchment paper treasure map to the life you really want to live. Even if you’re not there, it still is. Travel back too that space. Your mind can still take you there. It knows the way. Then take a close and honest look. Is your reflection true to who really are?

The Key…

On last evening I arrived home with an armload of belongings. After a long afternoon of meetings, I was more than ready to be home and eat. At the door, I reached into my pocket to discover my house key was not there. Then I remembered that I’d left them inside. I went back to my car to get the spare. I’d used it too. They were also inside the house. My anxiety rose a bit, realizing that I would have to postpone eating the delicious smelling food sitting in the car waiting for me. The idea of sitting in the car in my driveway eating, held little appeal. I called my partner and told her the situation.

‘We’ve got a problem then.” She said way too calmly.

Then I remembered that she’d misplaced her keys about a week ago at her aunt’s house in a whole different city. She was relying on me having mine. My mind ran in a quick circle and came back with the idea that I had a spare at my Mother’s house. I called her and she said there was a key there. Hopeful, I drove all the way to her house to find that it was a key to her door. Could we not have checked this before I came? I felt like screaming the Charlie Brown yell. Auuuuuuuuugghh! I did no such thing. All the while, I was using this misfortunate event to search out gems of enlightenment. I wasn’t totally distressed. I didn’t know how I was going to get in but I did know that I would get in. Each step, however put that a little more at a distance. Mom gave me some homemade soup and hot water cornbread. I was grateful. I wanted keys.

When I got back home, I thoroughly checked both my vehicles to see if a spare was there. Nothing. Then I called the locksmith. They had no one to come out. Called another. The price to come out was outrageous. I told him to come on. I called my Dad to see if I had forgotten that I’d given him a spare. Nope. He then proceeded to help me feel worse about paying the locksmith that amount of money to get in my house. I just wanted to get in. I checked every door and window, hoping that I would have occasion to nevermind the locksmith. At least I know how secure my house is now. I could see in through a window. The warm glow of a lights. The cozy furniture just waiting for me. My cat Kosmo, just staring like he knew I’d messed up. Why couldn’t he just open the doggone door. So close yet so far.

The locksmith arrived and in less than five minutes, I had parted with an unintended chunk of dough, but I was in my house. All of my keys were right where I’d left them. I eventually sat down to eat, not even bothering to reheat my tepid food. It wasn’t until the next morning when my dad called and eventually said.

“Yeah man, we don’t realize how important keys are.”

Then I got it. Key’s are important. So simple, yet so profound. Keys are the key. The means by which we gain access. They open doors to where we want to go, do, have, and be. Our abilities are keys. Our resources are keys. People in our lives are keys. Our mental attitude is a key. Our knowledge is key. Ha, I’d pay for that revelation. I had paid for that revelation. It was a reminder to mind how I tended my keys. Those people, talents, and resources that open doors to our goals are of utmost importance. They grant us access to the life we want to live. Take great care how you handle your keys…or you’ll be standing outside of your possibilities at the mercy of someone else to let you in. And that can come at a great cost.

When I Think of Home…

Years ago, in Colombia, South American the first time, I was on the ride of my life in terms of using my acquired skills, creative and otherwise. It was a whirlwind of celebrity status activity. Back home I used to tell my partner that I felt like a corvette stuck in the slow lane. In South America, I was moving into full throttle. I’d found my lane. On a particular day in conversation with my son in his senior year, he asked if I missed home. I hesitated then answered…

“I miss you guys.”

The conversation proceeded. After I hung up I gave some serious thought to the question and my hesitance when asked whether I missed home. Strangely enough, I felt like I was home. What is home and what does that mean truly? Is home where the heart rests or revs? Perhaps, considering that, home is a duality. On the one hand it is the place where we find solace, comfort, and protection from the outside world with our lockable doors and closable windows. It is the place where we can curl up and sleep, away from the hustle and bustle of the world at large. We live there but…can we truly live there? Before the pandemic, a general handful compared, made their living from home. Most had to go out into the world to have their living made. Home was safe and removed. We can’t just stay there and truly live. Can we…

The other idea of home is nearly the polar opposite. We speak of the eagle being at home on the wing or some adventurer at home on the open seas. That is where they feel truly alive. Where they make their imprint upon this life. Where legacies are churned out and history is written in blood, sweat, and years. That notion of home is where, like what Ray Charles said, We let it do what it do. It’s what pumps the blood running hot in our veins, opens up our nostrils and makes us raise our head to the heavens in the joyful throes of applying our abilities to the world stage. But can we live there…fully? If we remained in that space, adrenaline pumping, eyes glossy with the need for more, we would surely burn out. We would wear ourselves to a frazzled fanatic, crash and burn out like boxers who stay in the ring too long, or rappers who don’t realize it’s time to pass the mike.

Home, then, is not just a place, but an idea of an ideal. A balance between spaces of operation. We need the safe space and the hairpin curves in order to glean the most from what this life has to offer. When I was in South America, and had that conversation with my son, my engine was humming, running with rpms tapping the right side. I was wide open, testing the road. I felt so alive. I was home. However, I know I couldn’t live in that whirlwind of activity. I’d burn out. Back at home in Alabama, I’d felt that corvette in the slow lane feeling too long. I felt there was not enough room to spread my wings. I was turning into gel. The key to fit the ignition of who we are is found in the right combination of the nest and the wing, to find the harmony between our ways of being. To weave them together in a tapestry that we can wear with impunity is where we find our unique rhythm. Instead of being slowed, pushed, prodded, and carried along by the whims of the world, invest some time into tuning this life…your life. It really can take you where you want to be. Let’s go home.

This Art Life…(thou art with me)

“Are you still doing the art thing?”

That’s the most asked question when I run into someone I haven’t seen in a while. Either they don’t know what to say for conversation or they actually see my art making as a phase, a thing I did. Something I picked up and put down like a decision between a can of dole pineapples in place of the real thing. Or like a magazine I pick up to stare at in the checkout line just to put down when I’m next up. This manner of viewing art and artists is all too common and at times, exasperating. In most cases our expertise, skills ,and laser like use of imagination is reduced to hobby status, or worst yet a relished pastime. Yes, there are those who practice art as a hobby or did it as a pastime, just as there are those who sing in the shower or play around in the kitchen. But then there are those of us who are called. I won’t fully unpack that word since I’m choosing blog over book.

I’ve answered the call that so many of us hear with clarity at a time when our lives are less complicated. Only to lose touch beneath the cacophony of social expectation. I’ve, at times, struggled, to make out the distinct yet faint voice of that thing that bids me to make marks on paper, canvas, or stage. To sculpt the future in the present and personify the past. This calling leads me beside still waters and restores my soul. It’s so much than what I do. It’s who, what, where, why, and how I am. To present an alternate and sometimes cooperative view of living and being in this world is part and parcel to being an artist obedient to the raging calm. That calls for a being that is both fluid and stolid in varying degrees. A person open to designing against the grain or seeing beyond the scene without undue concern about how they are seen. A man or woman who is still a hair’s breadth away from the child within and in constant conversation with the God of their choosing and the devil of their devising.

The word art is much like the word life. It is alive and shifting, ever growing, and morphing into more of itself. Those of us who saddle up and take the ride are prone to the same. Whether it be on cloth, film, page or stage, to deny that calling is to deny who and what we fundamentally are and exist out life as a truth that is not ours. Some may call that a lie. For me it was purgatory. No, I will never tell you that every moment is glorious and sunshine and rainbows, but I can paint them when I choose. Even in the challenging times, I remind myself that I get to do this. Heaven is just on the other end of my brush tip or pencil. And yes, hell is never far behind. That is the conundrum that is the art life. It is what keeps the pendulum swinging, just as the negative and positive firing of neurons keeps us kicking in this space.

Yes, I am still doing the art thing. Just as the engineer is still doing the engineering thing and the doctor doing the doctoring thing. We are just as valid and must see ourselves as such. The art thing feeds the soul. It is something most people don’t give conscious thought to as a profession. Art is the salt and spice of life that is noticed mostly when missing. Never mind the lack of understanding up front. That is a part of our calling, to inform, shed some light, sometimes by exploring the darkness. By doing, we give permission to do. So in being called, I know there is someone, something doing the calling. There is a path for us. It may not be a crystal stair but it’s there. Even when I walk through valleys covered with the shadows of death, I will not give up for anything that comes against me. Will you art with me? …Yes, I am smiling.

The Human heART

A few years ago I went to a train terminal in Chicago to go hear Korey Wise speak at a venue further south. I bounded up the steps to the second tier. As I rounded the corner a young man sitting on the railing asked whether I could spare some change for him to get a bite to eat. I reached in my pocket and handed him the few bills I had. He thanked me as I walked to the entrance. I swiped my Ventra card and nothing happened. I swiped it again and more nothing. I was confused and a bit agitated. I tried again and looked around to see the young man staring at me. I stared at the card as though my eyes would activate it. Finally, I went around the corner to the attendant to ask for assistance. She informed me that my card was disabled and that I’d have to return to where I got it to have the problem fixed. Now I was really frustrated as I was on a timeline. As I reached the steps to go back down to street level, the young man approached me with dollars in his outstretched hand. I looked at him, apparently with a question mark on my face.

“Take this back so you can get you can get on the train. I saw you trying to get on and you didn’t have enough money. I don’t want you to miss your ride because of me. You can have this back.”

I took a breath and swallowed, so moved by this brother’s actions. “Nah bruh, that’s yours. There’s something going on with my card. I gotta go get that straight. You keep that toward your food. Thank’s though.”

“You sure?” He questioned.

“Yup, I’m good.” I responded as I bounded back down the steps to go deal with my card issue. The entire process took me about 30 minutes or so to get the situation straightened out with my pass. I also grabbed some cash in the process and headed back to the station. The young brother was still there, on the rail.

“You straight?”, he called out as I walked toward him.

“I’m straight.” I replied as I slapped some money in his hand with a smile. “Now you can get some food for real.” He smiled, nodding his head yes. I walked away toward the gate to his rhythm of thank yous.

I didn’t get to hear Korey Wise speak that day. I was too late. However, I was right on time for where I needed to be for one of the most moving depth of the human heart experiences of my life. This young brother, who was obviously down on his luck, had actually offered me money back so I wouldn’t miss the train. Perhaps he felt for me what I felt for him when I first shared. He was willing to give up the money for my well being. I can’t actually call what I did a random act of kindness. It’s a matter of intent. I plan to share because I know how karmic energy works. Plus its heart food. There was an energy exchange in those actions between us that day that went far beyond those dollars. The cosmic calibration shook a bit on that one. And I can guarantee we were both the better from it. When we slow down enough to open our hearts in sincerity and truly connect in that real space of human compassion, we drink from the divine fountain overflowing with the unadulterated milk of human kindness. The most exquisitely valuable masterpiece ever is the human work of heART.


When I was a little fella I remember watching tv withy my family. Although I was really young some of those images are still so vivid. One particular image that made a major impression on me was the opening of King Fu, a made for television martial arts series starring David Carradine. In the opening he was walking toward the screen with the dessert sands stirred up by his bare feet. For me, that was such an awesome arrival. It was epic and humble at the same time. Oftentimes, that is how I see me journey as an artist

As an undergrad, I was told by a university professor that my “success is inevitable because this Alabama red clay is rich with the blood or your ancestors.”  That quote inspired me.  This Alabama red clay soil has been with me wherever I’ve moved over the course of my life.  Eventually it guided me back to these red-clayed roots of my curiously nomistic Alabama rising. 

Red clay was the pathway of my childhood. I’ve dyed fabrics with red clay, tinted wood, made pots, eaten it, used it as a mud mask, had mud/dirt fights, and made bricks.  This red clay that caked on our shoes, stained our clothes, and the bottoms of our feet has taken on a powerful significance as it relates to my story and ancestral unfolding.  I found that I could sculpt the unforgiving substance with water and brushes to build space on a flat surface. The clay responds very different from paints in that I mix the dry with the wet directly on the surface of the paper.  The permanence is supreme. The paper is dyed by the iron oxides in the soil. The nature of red clay gives me the feeling that I’m painting with a living substance.

“We are linked by blood, and blood is memory without language.” Joyce Carol Oates 

And that I receive as the truth that drives my work.  Iron oxide gives the clay its red coloring. Iron is the essential element for blood production. Blood is the sacred force in man and beast – the ultimate sacrificial substance, representing life itself. Blood is a charged element that symbolically marks my work. Iron is present in blood and as oxides in the clay. Iron, also present in much of my work was used in building material, tools, and shackles. Iron serves as a viable conductor.

In my upbringing saddled with the binary history of the American south, I was faced with the peculiar positionality of the “Black body” and its usage in that history. “In my work, I contend with the duality, the double consciousness, of the “black body” and the mystery of dark matter, the most prevalent and least understood matter in the universe. Having been referred to as black gold, people of color in America were flattened into the monolith of projected nuances and chattel property. Take that and butt it up against the human experience of living while driven by an ancestral spiritual connection and survival. What you get is a people with the will of the gods. My ancestors spilled their lifeblood from the womb of the mother to the altars of this southern soil. My work honors the life/clay/blood connection of past to future. My work is a conduit and I am on on this path for life. Sacrifices activate the divine. The divine is the source of re-memberance, resurrection, redemption, and restoration. My artwork operates as a sacrament on those pillars,  an invocation to reconnect to the sanctity of life. This is blood work.