download and print this installment as
(you will need Adobe Acrobat reader to open this file, you can
it here free)
1b: marked by a foreboding of death or calamity
2a: able to see into the future
Merriam – Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition
I am sketching the ruins of my
favorite Mission, San Juan Capistrano. Set against an azure sky
against the distant Laguna Hills, its adobe walls reflect the sun
of a calm California afternoon. Only the crows disturb the quiet,
perching on the crosses, trading irreverent insults across the
Ruins of Mission San Juan Capistrano, Bill Puryear, Photographer
Painters set their easels in the
arched cloisters to catch the afternoon light and a photographer
poses his Contessa in the ancient courtyard. Curious tourists
meander, imagining the day two centuries ago when the earth shook
and the church collapsed, fatally trapping forty worshippers under
The sun-drenched stones of the Roman
Forum must look like this. Why do ruins enchant us? Tintern Abbey,
Delphi, Glastonbury, Angkor Watt, Mayan Temples - why do they all
have such compelling beauty and power? I stand aside from time for
Time is waiting for me when I get
back to the hotel and get the phone call - severe tornadoes have
swept wide swaths through Tennessee killing more than fifty. The
final toll is not yet known. My beloved Wynnewood is destroyed,
along with the venerable cedars that shaded it for two centuries.
Last month’s Almanac dismissed
February as a mess - sodden and glum: but is she revengeful
as well, to wreak such retribution on us? I have now to eat my
words -‘a change is good as a rest’ and regret invoking Sam
Johnson’s ‘Change is not made without inconvenience, even from
worse to better.’
Did my picture of Tom Spencer’s tree
at Castalian Springs direct the funnel to it? And as to the
‘primitive man who sought … the recesses of his cave’, a homeowner
was pictured this week installing a precast concrete cave in his
back yard. All mere coincidence, of course, but uncanny. We are
not superstitious like the Scots, who considered fey folk as
These ruins are not beautiful. When
I finally saw it for myself I felt a part of my soul twisted out.
A journalist friend, Marjorie Lloyd, describes her impression:
“When we went out Tuesday night, thinking we were covering a fire
and then got to Castalian Springs, I told Julie (her editor) it
looked like Armageddon with the orange-red sky and the slashed
trees everywhere. And then the people started wandering down the
A rescue worker searching the ruins
reaches to pick up a doll from the wreckage. Then it moved - a
nine-month old child, who had suffered only scratches, but who had
lost his mother.
Wynnewood After The Storm – David Wright, Photographer
Wynnewood was a Stagecoach Inn on
the old Walton Road from Knoxville to Nashville until 1825. When
the route moved south of the river, it became a popular mineral
springs resort. Northern and Southern troops took turns camping
under its trees during the Civil War and Jesse James signed its
Its location commands a view across
the creek where the salt licks attracted buffalo. They came in
their thousands, trampling and pawing the dirt for a quarter mile
around. This in turn attracted the Indians, who came to hunt them
and then the French market hunters, who came to exterminate them.
Long before recorded history an Indian village with temple mounds,
enclosed by a parapet and watch towers, spread across the valley.
History fills this place.
Mr. George Wynne was the last of the
family to occupy the home. Before he moved he showed me a faded
old letter from a neighbor girl, my grandmother Mary, inviting
young George to come and take dinner with her and her family the
following Sunday. I lean close against the logs silvered by two
centuries and smell the fragrance of time.
No more will I sense the calm beauty
that surrounded me as I turned into the old road at Castalian
Springs and saw spread before me the peaceful meadows along Lick
Creek, leading my eye over the plank fence and through the cedars
to the old inn.
Wynnewood Over Wildflower Meadow, Bill Puryear, Photographer
John O’Donohue writes, We turn
the mystery and strangeness of our world into our private
territory. We make a home out of the world. It is only when
something goes wrong that we are hauled back to the edge. Quite
abruptly the familiar map has melted and territories that were
sure ground an hour ago don’t exist any more. ... It is only when
a hammer does not work that you suddenly realize it is a hammer.
While we can participate in
beauty, we can never possess it. Our sleep of unknowing is often
disturbed by suffering. Abruptly we awaken to the devastating
realization that the givenness of things is utterly tenuous. Even
mountains hang on strings.
The survivors of the earthquake in
California found no beauty as they lifted the stones from their
family members. The ruin must have been just as grotesque to them
as are the mangled trees, toys, and plastic trash scattered below
Wynnewood today. Yet beauty survives today at Capistrano.
San Juan Capistrano – Bill Puryear, Artist
Wynnewood presents the artist with
several challenges, foremost being its long, striated, horizontal
frontal axis, facing north and perpetually in shadow. I have
always found it a difficult composition to paint, but now I must
try. Returning from California late Wednesday night I am up
painting by sunrise Thursday, signing the canvas at sunset
Perhaps two centuries from now
people may be able to experience Wynnewood as I have. A painting
is but an icon of its beauty, which lives now only in memory.
Beauty is free and will not be chained by appearances of reality,
for Beauty is reality, and appearance but its shadow.
Wynnewood – Summer 2007 – Bill Puryear, Artist
1. John O’Donohue, Beauty – The Invisible Embrace, New York,
Art In The Garden - A Garden Party to
Benefit Cragfont – Castalian Springs, Tennessee, 5-8 PM,
June 14th 2008 – Music in the beautiful gardens at their
peak of bloom, with wine, hors d’oeuvres and sales of fine
art by Southern Light Artists – Joel Knapp, Frank Gee, Bill
Puryear, David Wright and guest artist, Wanda Choate.
A proofed, numbered and signed limited
edition of Oil Giclees of the 12x24 painting, Wynnewood –
Summer 2007 is available from the artist at a price of
$600 framed, $450 unframed. All proceeds, net of costs of
printing and framing, on orders received prior to April 30,
2008, will go to the Wynnewood Restoration Fund.