“Clementine” photo by Matheu Bertelli
“Clementine” photo by Matheu Bertelli
“Clementine” photo by Matheu Bertelli

At the top of a 49-foot pine, Clementine was able to see the entire land. She held tight, but never in fear. This was her place. Quiet, removed. Room, with a view. A warm breeze tousled her red hair across her freckled face. She squinted. She breathed in the scent of pineapple. Her arms warming in the late sunlight. Below, the land stretched away.

My beautiful land. And this, the center of the world.

Sierras to the East. Great valley to the West. Her town to the South. Its buildings sparkling white. Beyond, cemetery stones stretch out in bright rows…

It was once a great farming country of tobacco and wheat. The gentle, rolling landscape of Maryland. It is full of the colors of American history. It is not a gaudy, over-the-top landscape like California. It is a settled place of oak and sun-dried hay, of old farms and fields. Fields that still remember the blood of revolution and the war between the states.

For 27 summers and winters I was of this place. I raised two of my three children there. Here, I began to think about landscape painting because of it. …

Complacency Can Kill You

The sun peeked over the morning hills. Manny Panbroke’s coffee maker was hissing and sputtering coffee into his cup. A fine, reassuring sound, he thought. Manny rustled the newspaper at the table, glancing over his shoulder at the kitchen door. Try to keep the sounds down, he thought. This was his time alone.

Manny checked the want ads first, though he was now retired. He skimmed the obits, then settled on the feature section. Archaeologists analyze artifacts uncovered while a basement was being dug. The house is number 88. On his street!

The find led to…

Photo by Luke Braswell on Unsplash

Begin now, wherever and whenever you are. Begin to create elegance. Begin to spread it. To seek it out. To bring it to life. Begin to show it. Begin to be elegant.
As civilization declines into a common madness of banality, how will we fight the decline? Join into the decline? Why not?
After all, everyone is doing it. Everyone is dressing down, dropping manners, and rejecting civility.
Being civil is a central part of the word and the concept of civilization.
Manners? Say the word to anyone right out of high school and you risk ridicule or dismissal. So old-fashioned you are!
Is practicing…

Robert Lewis as a boy, photo by his mother

The beautiful, timeless monotony of my early childhood came to an end one day. My mother, to my utter amazement, enrolled me in bible school.

I never knew why she did this; there was no history of religious training in our family. We had never gone to church. The only church I had been in was when my grandfather was doing some carpentry on his church. I had accompanied him there.

Enrolling me in bible school was the result of some spontaneous religious duty. This was my suspicion. …

ra“Mountain Water” photo by Robert Lewis

Chapter Nine of Water through Fingers: Haiku on the High Sierra Trail

I reached down to drink.

Cold stream, shadow overhead.

― water through fingers.

A BELL OF MINDFULNESS RINGS IN THE AIR. It chimes the moment our attention wanes, the instant we drift into a waking sleep, unaware of what we are doing. Watchful, this unstruck bell seeks a wavering, unfocused mind. This is its favorite place to strike. Here is the perfect place to let loose a vibrating tone. The tone, a seed planted by an omnipresent hand, may bloom in an instant.

The bell ringer is ever…

“Bonsai” photo by Robert Lewis

Chapter Eight of Water through Fingers: Haiku on the High Sierra Trail

The big ice melted.

Ten thousand years it polished

its granite tombstones.

THESE MOUNTAINS ARE OLD. No one can tell how old. 3 million years. 80 million years. Closer to us is the Ice Age. The big ice scoured the mountains for thousands of years. It carved out valleys, scooping out the space between the peaks, and grinding down the granite.

A glacier resembles a frozen, slowly-flowing river. But it is not a river. It is more like a slow-motion tsunami. Pushing everything in its path, boulders, stones…

Photo by Robert Lewis

Chapter Seven of Water through Fingers: Haiku on the High Sierra Trail

We fall back in sage,

exhausted, steamed in the sun.

Wake up! cried the hawk.

THERE ARE MOMENTS IN LIFE when all feels well. We call it a feeling of well-being. Bright sunlight coming through closed lids as a little sleep lulls you is one of those moments. All the conditions are right. Just tired enough, nothing pressing to do, no distracting pain, no hunger. You sit back. You close your eyes. You let the sun warm your face. Hear the sounds of birds. The buzzing of bees…

“Out of the Canyon” photo of Bill Lewis by Robert Lewis

Chapter Six of Water through Fingers: Haiku on the High Sierra Trail

This aged foothold,

this strewn and tangled pathway,

goes straight to the heart.

IF THE SUN CAN SMILE it is smiling on us now. It drapes our weary shoulders with a bright warmth. A monarch beknighting his servants. It is mid-morning as we struggle our bodies and our packs up the trail. The trail has turned upward, leaving the long canyon. In the canyon, a small river called Kern has made its way for centuries. …

“Mt. Whitney Camp” photo by Robert Lewis

Chapter Five of Water through Fingers: Haiku on the High Sierra Trail

The camp stove perks.

Spoons rattle in breakfast mugs.

Little stones tumble.

IN A BIG PLACE LIKE THIS our human presence is a small intrusion into the greater peace and rhythm. The little things we do and the small sounds we make get swallowed up in the volume of space between here and there. In the distance, a small tumbling tells us of falling rock. We look to see but the place is too big and the sound bounces in such a way that one can never be…

Robert Lewis

Paint outdoors, write indoors, and think about how crazy this world is inside and out.

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