Archive for the ‘The World Beneath the Surface’ Category


A toy sailboat made by Bosun Boats is what first inspired this painting, #11 in the watercolor series, “The World beneath the Surface.” The story behind the painting is one of loss and discovery, and of recovery and celebration. At first, I simply imagined that some small sailor boy had lost his little boat on the beach.

After the boy had given up searching for it and gone away, the beach lay deserted for a while before a group of Root people happened along. Those fellows were hastily chasing after a faster-footed seagull. The gull ran straight toward something that lay half-buried in sand and seaweed. There the gull stopped suddenly and waited, but not for long. The Root people caught up quickly.

When they saw what had to be an abandoned sailboat, they shouted happily and thanked the gull. With small amount of effort, they pulled away seaweed and dug the vessel out of the sand. It took some teamwork to carry the boat, more so due to a low tide, but they managed to reach the shoreline and launch successfully. The gull waded in after them and stood waiting in shallow water nearby.

The gull watched with interest their growing eagerness to depart. With greater patience than they could manage, the gull stretched his wings and waited; he continued studying their antics and plucking at his plumage, and he listened to their chatter about loading on board two silver coins and some keys on a ring.

The gull was mindful that he had done his job well, though he credited himself cautiously, for he knew that beaches are all full of bounty. Beaches do give up stuff, but they take away more than they give, and they’ll steal a sandal right off of anyone’s feet! The gull remembered seeing one of those, a sandal, but he hadn’t given a thought to its usefulness until now. The camp guard at Piroot’s Cove, who naps a lot, could put a sandal to good use, the gull determined.

He decided that he had given the Root people more than enough head start. Their little sailboat had disappeared between the waves; so, he took to the air then, and flew off after them. It was a matter of security; he was just doing his job, he felt. He had a seagull’s natural talent for beachcombing with his bill. He was good at it, good at bringing luck to these friendly little people, who come topside practicing to be pirates. Real pirates aren’t friendly. Anyway, unlike a gull, these little people wouldn’t, or couldn’t, steal a crumb of bread even if their life depended on it! Begging is another matter, one barely allowable only to gulls and homeless critters.

Upon returning to the cove, the Yellow-Footed Seagull found that the sailboat had arrived safely well ahead of him. He landed and took up watch from atop a rock that reads: “PIROOT”S COVE…KEEP OUT!” As their name for this place suggests, and as the graffiti on the rocks plainly tell anyone, a high level of secrecy surrounds their business here.

On that same rock is a drawing which bears amusing resemblance to himself, the gull notices.—his portrait, perhaps? The gull knows who did that; the one responsible is resting on the blanket next to the wine bottle. I shall reward him with a nice thong to lie down upon, the gull muses to himself.

A full moon has risen over the water. The dusk of evening gathers and deepens. Two “piroots” on the dock have secured the sailboat. Along a trail that rises above their heads, scatters of lights flicker softly. Moving downward along the winding pathway a third piroot carries a light toward his friends on the dock. Behind him, midway up the trail, two fellow piroots are seated at a campfire. On a level above them where the camp guard lies resting on a blanket, coins lay strewn about. Other things they’ve collected while combing the beaches include a cocktail umbrella, wrist watches, sea shells, sand dollars, a doll hat, a dog collar…a broken chain, sunglasses, necklaces, earrings, bracelets, pendants, keys, lockets, rings, etc.. The driftwood washed in with the tide. The wine bottle and soda cans had been dropped by some careless passerby, a snooping topsider most likely.

A message to the likes of them is on a different rock. Skull and bones have been drawn there, and a happy face, too, along with this handwritten reminder to ward off snoops: “LET NO MAN MEASURE PIROOT’S TREASURE!”

That is well and good, but who couldn’t help noticing such brash displays and try to inventory all the goodies? The little tree at the top of the picture, for example, has no leaves to show off, but it does have “tree rings.” Rings of gold, platinum, and even silver hang from its branches!

Little Root People consider themselves naturally lucky, not to say that having a gull for mascot hasn’t helped their chances for good fortune. They know that their Earth Mother always provides for them and for all creatures, including Topsiders. They live in balance with the earth and each other, and for them, we are all one on this blue marble spinning through space. They tell stories around their campfires, and they sing songs.

“Wild or tame, we’re all the same!” they sing….

“We’re all the same, too,” cry colors of the rainbow; “we blend all together into the same light!”

“Yea!” sing the piroots, “Let your light shine! Shine wildly over deserts, but tamely into hearts, and bestow all the gifts that heaven imparts.”

“Yes!” they reply, “Mind you to watch for our reflection in all that you see—on land, in the air, or upon the sea!” Wild rose red, tame apple green; we’re in this together, that’s plain to be seen.”

“We’re all the same, too,” cry raindrops low in the clouds, “Give us a moment and you will see—we become one when we replenish the sea.”

“Yea!” sing the piroots, “We are all one spirit in the waters; we may fall to be seasoned or rise to be softened up, before pouring ourselves out into somebody’s cup.”

“Hear, hear!” the piroots shout, gleefully. “We’ll drink to that!” And they do. More than once they do. Long before wild flames of their campfire shall die away; one by one the candles will dim and extinguish themselves. By then, the party of five will have all fallen asleep in their own laps!

The camp guard had awakened in the stillness of a starry night. Lying very still on his blanket, he tried not to wriggle against the sand pebbles that were pushing against his backside. Feeling utterly amazed that he was looking up to the heavens, he said to himself, softly, “This is really what going topside is all about!”

His outstretched arm felt something soft and rubbery. By the light of the moon, he could determine its shape, and it looked like it had to be a sandal. A sandal! Where had that come from, he wondered? How did it get here? It never flew….No, but it was flown here, maybe.

“The gull!” he almost shouted. —a gift? He wondered. He rolled over onto the sandal then. He lay quite still, still wrapped up in his blanket, and he let out a long, pleasurable sigh of relief.

“Thank you for the sandal, Gulligan!” he whispered, finally.

“You’re welcome,” the gull answered back, from somewhere.

The camp guard’s eyes sprang open for a moment, then shut again tightly when he heard, “I thought that this was what going topside was all about!” He looked around then, but Gulligan was nowhere to be seen.

“Eyes must shut tighter to hold back a tear,” said the gull.

“Gulligan, you are in my mind again, aren’t you?”

“What do you think, little piroot?”

“I think, wild or tame, we’re all the same,” the camp guard replied. A long silence ensued, lasting a minute or so before the gull said, sternly:

“Don’t get all nervous; I heard you! But do we have to be all the same all the time—both the same right now all night long? Dawn comes early for us who have to work for a living!”

“Okay,” the piroot said. “Good night, Gulligan.”

He had wanted to say, “Why don’t you just try ‘winging it’ through life, like me?” but he couldn’t. Then, for the first time he imagined that he had actually heard Gulligan laugh, and that was what made his going topside worth everything in the world!


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Have you ever wondered where your pet disappears to after being let outside? Housecats, especially, can vanish and stay gone for the longest time. My cat, Vinnie, for example, has mastered the art of disappearing, not that I blame him for what he has learned from Missie, a mischevious, stray cat in our neighborhood. Missie adores Vinnie. She has become his constant companion; however, she is not to be found anywhere unless she is ready for it. Her roamings are her own; but, seldom will she stray too far from her kittens or from Vinnie, either.
Rootling Bros. Circus, is painting #10 in the watercolor series The World Beneath The Surface. The picture shows two of Missie’s kittens performing before a crowd of Root People. The ringmaster holds a toy mouse on a string. Two cyclists pass by holding hands, and a rootwalker preforms his skills above the crowd. A four-car rooterscooter, carrying eight Root people, takes a dive out of a tunnel. (A rooterscooter is what we Topsiders call a rollercoaster.)
Vinnie, my cat, lays quietly resting on a ledge above the entrance, or lobby, to Rootling Bros.Circus. Opposite him is a geranium in full bloom. In the lobby below, a small boy sits quietly all alone on a toadstool. Opposite the boy, two Root people and a bartender are conversing at the Root Beer Bar. A large circus poster looms over them, and adjacent the bar are two tunnelways. One tunnelway has stairs going down; the other has stairs going up, to the Rooterscooter, and a clown stands there peeking out attentively at the little boy.
Now, I ask you, has no one in this scene noticed Vinnie? How can he seem to be invisible admist all of this circus activity? You know the answer…. it is because he wants to.

Vinnie knows what you know: that cats can do what they please and get away with it and get rewarded for it! Meaning, surely he will get petted a lot and praised too much for returning home safely, he knows.
Yes, Vinnie knows what he is doing, the same as he knows what his master is doing.
So, what is his master (that’s me) doing?
Why, I am up there…at the house on the hillside…standing sockfooted at the open door and yelling my lungs out, calling: “VINNIE!–HERE VINNIE…VINNIE! HERE KITTY KITTY KITTY!!”
Another hour passes slowly, and I continue to worry. Should I go looking for him, I wonder? I know that he and Missy like to hang out under the shade of that maple tree, but, no, I won’t go there this time. I have things to do…he’ll  tell me all about it soon after he returns home.

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People frequently ask what inspired the creation of this series, The World Beneath the Surface. It started with this single, pen and ink drawing that I had done for a companion workbook to my novel Light of the Tittle.

The workbook, It’s A Colorbe’s Life! is a lavishly illustrated study containing 100 pages of spiritual exercises for recovering the lost child within. The illustration below is titled “The World Beneath the Surface.” It means to suggest that readers and viewers, alike, go on an inward journey in their quest for self-discovery and healing.Drawing Beneath the surface

Below this drawing, you will see the first painting in the series The World Beneath The Surface. It is titled “Visitors!”

Each painting will be accompanied by a short story, one descriptive of Root People and their life beneath the surface.

Of course, the Root People are very much aware of us, the snoopy ones. They call us the “Topsiders.”

The Root People are at home in their cozy little niche, deep beneath a hillside tree. One topsider, a boy, is looking at a hole in the tree trunk. His sister is in the background.

#1 Visitors! 4x8 300 dpi

She runs to catch up with him. Their two puppies got there first; both are now snooping into holes and sniffing for evidence, like two detectives working a crime scene. One puppy is being observed by a Root Person!

Woof, woof, woof! (The pup sees a one-eyed shiny thing down there!)

Yipe, yipe, yipe, yup- It sees him! (Hole watching is one thing; being watched by a little man in a hole is quite another!)

Clearly, we are the observers with a better view of the cutaway hillside. The taproot of the tree penetrates down through three levels in this home of the Root People. A stairway wraps around the taproot of the tree, and it ends at the lowest level, where a stream flows through an underground tunnel. At the stream, we see two Root People disembarking a rowboat upon returning from a fishing trip. One Root Person carries a nice stringer of minnows.

We see stalactites and stalagmites in the glow of the fisherman’s lantern. Candles, too, light the steps that lead to rooms above this cavern. Along the way up the stairs, we see a large, wooden keg filled with root beer (the favorite beverage of Root People.)

In the level above the cavern, four Root People are seen dancing and singing merrily. In a room adjacent to that, two youngsters sit in study at a kitchen table. Above the well-lighted table, there hangs a large “candleier root.”  Proceeding up the stairs to the uppermost level, we pass a clothes closet (Roots are handy, ready-made hangers for lots of things.)

Two bedrooms are visible to us at the upper level; although, rooms with doors are logically connected to more than meets the eye–more bedrooms, probably. The little man who watches snoopy visitors through a telescope may be standing near a tunnel entrance; namely, the one that leads the way to Root Beer Factory, supposedly. Hopefully, it is a tunnel, and it does go there; because, the factory is our next scheduled stop in The World Beneath the Surface!

Root Beer Factory

Root Beer Factory, 14 1/2 x 29-inches, watercolor, by Glenn Lewis

The inspiration for this painting started with the wooden keg that I had mentioned previously in Visitors!

On any warm afternoon in late spring, three topsider lads like these of the neighborhood might readily appreciate a glass of root beer. Understand me,–it could be snowing on dandelion blossoms, turning the grass white, and still they would not refuse a frosted mug of root beer. What, no glass,—no mug? Not a problem! Just pour some root beer onto a snowball and dream on—see whether Earl wouldn’t trade you his English Grammar schoolbook for it!

Earl is the boy seen walking home from school; his two friends each have a bicycle, but only the new boy in the neighborhood is riding his. Corbin is walking his bike in order to keep a conversational pace with Earl.

Just about any idea is useable that will keep junior minds busy on a road well-traveled already, zillions of times. These boys, I mean, have supposedly seen everything there is to see around this dry culvert. They have counted cans in ditches and thrown rocks at bottles. They have seen a rusty old fender left abandoned to weeds. They have kicked at lizards, oil cans, and broken glass, and Styrofoam, all that and found nothing of value along the way—save some miniature, wooden barrels.

“–doll-house furniture!” one boy laughed. Earl secretly pocketed the toy things anyhow; on the chance that little Laurie Jo might appreciate having them to add to her collection.

That is only the tip of the story, of course. The rest is all about what no one is supposed to see without an artist’s permission, and that is where we come into the picture, looking to our heart’s content at what has to be a root beer factory hangout.

Three levels of “sassy-fras” activity are made visible in this cutaway scene. At the uppermost level, root tenders cut tree roots and gather them in bunches for delivery to the processing plant on the level below, where Sassafras roots are first cleaned and chopped before going into a large stone crock for Stage 1 processing. During various stages of brewing and cooling, the making of certain syrupy extracts calls for a mixture of flavorings and sweeteners; Peppermint is one (if you can believe that) and, Cherry is another. The process is watched over by a factory foreman, like the one seen standing high-up on the platform.

The syrup then goes into a series of large wooden vats all linked to a system of tubing that only bootleggers might recognize and appreciate. Carbonated water is added to each mixture; the kegs are sealed and stored in an adjacent room for curing. Another dock worker stands ready to load aged barrels for transport and delivery. As a sled load is being hauled away, we move down to the next level. Along the way, we pass a family of three root people. They are on their way up the stairs to see the foreman and ask him for a tour of the factory.

Playtime Park is on the lower level. The park is home to the famous “Root Beer Bar,” where new stories get told and old memories are sometimes the best entertainment.

Bounded on three sides by a cavernous waterway, the park offers plenty of fun for fishermen, hikers, and picnickers, alike. There are mushroom stools to sit on; there are sand pits to play in, and places for Ring-Toss competition. Visitors can take a boat ride to Craggy Mist Falls, or they can hike across bridges and go exploring.  Either way, park visitors will be delighted, and stories will get told; because, stories happen where two or more are gathered around the Root Beer Bar.  (You have just heard one!)

Now, don’t rush off just yet, my friends; we have an invitation to go prospecting…for gold!

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