What To Do Instead

Al Murtz was a folk artist… more of an outsider artist… no, more a guy who liked to paint on things.

My good pal Max Milo introduced me to Al. We visited him in Baldwin, MI, where his house was surrounded by every object imaginable, each painted by Al. Never a canvas. Always an object.

One time,  Doctor Scholl’s truck tipped and out spilled thousands of insoles. Al had them gathered up and dropped off at his place where he painted each one.

Hundreds of bright yellow railroad spikes with red-painted smiley faces on top greeted you in front of the house.

When a leak appeared in the roof, Al put an upturned rowboat over the spot, the boat painted all imaginable colors. In the back he had placed upright a set of bed springs, each painted, monoliths to something.

We asked Al’s wife why he did this every day, all day. She shook her head and said, “He likes to paint.”

What To Do Instead
Out here, the paint stays
between my fingers–a boat,
a long afternoon, this wide
and generous landscape.
I like the smells: grass, yellow,
the insides of old hats, rain,

the rot of logs and leaves.
I wonder about church.
I’d like to paint the pews.

I like every afternoon, how
the morning empties and opens
and birds and light come into it,

how the color moves north or
veers into my neighbor’s yard.
And I like where my hand goes

when the brush takes it across
a board or broken dinnerware,
a light bulb, shoes, baseballs,

those dinner trays there beside
the bicycles, or these stumps.
When I’m out here, it’s quiet

and the wind moves across my hands.

–Jack Ridl

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Visit Roan & Black and Cabbages & Kings to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.

Click here to subscribe to receive Jack’s poems and news in your inbox.

Click here for Jack’s entire collection, In Time — poems for the current administration.

Click here to watch Jack’s TedX talk.

And, of course, click here to visit ridl.com, check out what Jack’s been up to, maybe say hi!

 

12 thoughts on “What To Do Instead

  1. Jack: thanks for this and all of the others . . . . Below, fyi . . . Best, David

    *The State of American Democracy: Oberlin, November 15-17; Denver, tbd; Los Angeles, tbd; Atlanta, tbd *

    *The goals*are to: (1) clarify the historic, legal, and policy origins of our present situation and (2) develop a post-2020 agenda to repair and strengthen democratic institutions that are now under direct assault. To that end, we are organizing four national meetings starting with one in Oberlin November 15-17 followed by others in Denver, Los Angeles, and Atlanta. From these conferences, we will commission authors to write a blueprint for democratic reconstruction as the foundation for the hard work of educating, mobilizing, clarifying, persuading, enacting, and solving the big issues of our time, particularly building a clean-energy economy, reducing economic inequality, and stopping the “sixth extinction.” We do not intend to create a permanent organization, but rather a fire brigade that helps in our present emergency

    We are non-partisan, believing that both liberal and conservative viewpoints are necessary to building a decent and durable future. Our focus is on the deeper causes and long-term structural issues underlying our predicament, not the crisis of the day. Our primary concern has to do with the political and legal rules that structure our system of government and set guardrails (i.e. enforceable, fair, common standards) for the political process. We believe that democracy is worth defending and is capable of self-improvement. We also believe that a healthy and robust democracy is a requisite to developing effective responses to climate disruption and other major challenges.

    *Sponsored by*Oberlin College, the Alliance for Sustainable Colorado, the Schwarzenegger Institute and The Fowler Center (Case Western University), the Democracy Alliance, the Democracy Collaborative, the Center for Earth Ethics, The Union Theological Seminary, the Cleveland City Club, the Volcker Alliance, the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, the National Wildlife Federation, Faith-in-Place, 350.org, the Capital Institute, WorldWatch Institute, and representUS.

    *Confirmed participants: *

    ·Jonathan Albright, Columbia University

    ·Akhil Reed Amar, Yale Law School, author of _America’s Constitution_.

    ·Col. Andrew Bacevich, U.S. Army (ret), Professor of history Emeritus, Boston University, author of multiple books on U.S. foreign policy.

    ·Rev. William Barber, founder of Moral Monday (NC).

    ·AriBerman, author, _Give Us the Ballot._

    ·David Daley, author, _Ratf***ed_ on Gerrymandering.

    ·Tim Egan, /New York Times /columnist, author of _The Worst Hard Time_.

    ·David Frum, writer, commentator, consultant

    ·Karena Gore, Union Theological Seminary.

    ·Pam Karlan, Stanford University Law School.

    ·David Karpf, George Washington University.

    ·Robert Kuttner, founding editor, /The American Prospect/, author.

    ·Gara LaMarche, Executive Director, Democracy Alliance

    ·Ryan Lizza, Staff writer, /The New Yorker/

    ·Jessica Tuchman Mathews, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

    ·Jane Mayer, /The New Yorker/ and author of _Dark Money_.

    ·Dan Moulthrop, CEO, The City Club of Cleveland (Moderator)

    ·Paul Pierson, Political Science, University of California, Berkeley.

    ·Sir Jonathan Porritt, UK, OBE author.

    ·Josiah Ober, Historian, Stanford University.

    ·Diane Ravitch, author of _Reign of Error_ (not confirmed).

    ·Bill Ritter, former Governor, Colorado

    ·Ganesh Sitaramin, Vanderbilt University Law School, author of _The Crisis of the Middle Class Constitution_.

    ·Gus Speth, author, founder of the NRDC, former Dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

    ·Vikki Spruill, President and CEO, Council on Foundations

    ·Zeynep Tufekci, University of North Carolina and /New York Times /op-ed page.

    ·J. D. Vance, author of _Hillbilly Eleg/y/_.

    ·Terry Tempest Williams, writer, feminist, and activist.

  2. Ooooh…is this another new one?? Not seeing it was published anywhere. I like…. that’s a prompt 🙂

    >

  3. Love, love this. I went to a few of the readings at Hope with friends of mine, Ray and Alice Andrews, and have long been a big fan of your poetry, but just recently stumbled upon your website. This poem made me want to write again, for the first time in a long time. I love the soft, peaceful feel of it.

    • What could make me gladder than to know that a poem has welcomed you back
      to writing. It’s so important to discover that writing is a place where
      all kinds of wonders happen!
      Thank you for telling me this. One writes and wonders. To know this
      landed with you this way is an uplift to this heart.

  4. To feel the wind move beneath, above, beyond one’s art is part of what makes art-making a lively-hood. I dance to feel the wind beneath my feet. I ride horses because they are embodied wind and power and magic. I understand this man and his paint. Thank you for the wise introduction.

    • Al would have LOVED you. He may have painted your alive face and smile, but you
      would have laughed as he did.
      And oh was it a joy to be with you on the Red Dock. !!!!!
      XX

  5. And my response to that last line that I should not be reading during work time (except that I am losing my mind with the half-finished nature of everything around me at the start of the school year) – is that I look up to the clouds in the window above me and think, “I’m the only one holding myself captive.” “Out here the wind moves across my hands,” you wrote. There’s a choice I need to be making; to let the wind move and choose that freedom over the concerns of details we have invented for ourselves. Thank you for the inspiration!

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    • And yet it isn’t easy. Those such as Al had nothing flooding ’em as you do.

      But I do hope for you to feel the wind amidst it all.
      LOVE

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s