Time to Rhyme

Perhaps you remember it. 

Grade four, English composition as it was known then.  The curriculum included a section on poetry -- the rhyming kind -- the kind that has a delightful rhythm as well as those wonderful words that sound the same, like "blue" and "true", and "come" and "some".  I loved those words and the way you could string them together to tell a little story.  It  became something I really liked to do. 

My earliest introduction to such poetry, without a doubt, occurred one Christmas Eve. I listened to Clement C. Moore's "T'was The Night Before Christmas" which was first published under a different title on December 23, 1823, and read to children all over the world for almost two hundred years. Later, it became a joy to study classic poets like Robert Frost and William Blake in English classes.  Since then, I've gotten a big kick out of scribbling lines that rhyme, and making up little poems for people who inspired me and events that moved me. 

One day when George and I were doing a little shoreline fishing, I watched him quietly tying weights on his line, baiting his hook and casting into a lake that was framed by the early beauty of a summer day.  It was an idyllic moment and excellent fodder for a simple little rhyme.  I give you, then

The Angler's Companion                                                     
He flicks his line into the lake,
(It seems to suit him well),
And settles back into his seat
To watch the waters swell.

The rumpled brim of fishing hat,
The tackle box of gear
Are all the tools he needs to make
The worries disappear.

And I with book and pad and pen
Look out across the pond,
At trees and marsh and lily pads
And everything beyond.

The sun is therapeutic
And the crickets sing to me,
And sometimes deep inside I wish
A poet I could be.

Or possibly a painter
With brush and easel too.
I'd capture all the beauty of
The greens and whites and blues.

But maybe there is value
Just in drinking in this scene,
Of living in this moment
And in feeling this serene.

And looking up from written word
I see him check his line.
He mirrors all my thoughts about
This day that is so fine.

Contented with the here and now
We fish and read and write.
An angler and a thinker
Side by side from dawn 'til night. 

"And a Little Child Shall Lead Them ..."

There's something wholesome about the process of making a pie.  Something Norman Rockwell-ish.  The simplicity of the crust -- just lard, flour and a bit of liquid -- the delicious filling, the pungent aroma while it's baking.

And every time I make a pie, I think about my daughter, Jen.

She was just nine years old when she marched home from Girl Guides one day and announced that she intended to make a pie to earn her baking badge and she needed my help.  My shoulders slumped.

A pie, I thought dejectedly.  Why a pie?  How could I tell her I was lousy at making pastry?  In fact, I didn't have a clue.  As a young wife, eager to impress my husband, I baked him a pie that he later, with gentle affection, referred to as a hockey puck.  My pastry skills were nil.  I was a spectacular failure at pies.  He told me to stick to cookies.

My sister-in-law was a pastry expert.  Her pies were heavenly.  Her crusts were flaky and tender.  She told me it was the simplest thing in the world to make.  I hung my head.  I couldn't do it right.

"You're on your own, Jen," I finally blurted out.  "I have no idea how to make decent pastry."

Jen was unfazed.  She always did love a challenge.  I learned early on to never tell her something  can't be done.  She would often parrot her dad's line, "If they can put a man on the moon, they can (you fill in the blank)..."

So out came the Crisco and the flour.  Her little hands flew into the bowl.  She barely touched the pastry mixture before rolling it expertly, plopping it in the pie pan, adding the filling, and adjusting the top crust.

"See Mom?  It's simple.  Just don't handle it much," she said with Martha Stewart confidence.

And you know what?  It was the most delicious pie we had ever eaten.  Her dad beamed.  Jen grinned.  I was amazed.

Today, my pie making skills have vastly improved.  Every time I roll out the pastry I hear her voice.  That little voice.

"You can do it, Mom, it's easy."

Spot On

If you're like me, you notice little things about people -- like habits and mannerisms and nuances.  It's always been something that amuses me.

One of the things I've noticed lately is how we humans embrace and protect our own personal spaces.  Take for example my exercise class. 

Three times a week, a group of about 15 genial ladies gather in a local church hall to stretch and tone -- or as my brother says, "stretch and moan!"  We come from all walks of life, and our fitness levels are pretty much all over the map.  But the main thing is, we like the workout and each other, so we show up faithfully.

Our fitness instructor mentioned it in class.  She said, "Do you ever notice how each of you claim your own spots and take the same places week after week?"  It was true.  A petite blonde with a terrific figure was always in front of me.  A high school acquaintance occupied the spot to my right.  A new friend with a knack for line dancing was always on my left.  And I took the middle.

All around me, the same ladies claimed the same spaces.  If one of us changed positions, we were all thrown off.  It just wasn't the same.

I've noticed a similar territorialism in churches.  Certain families and individuals occupied the same pews week after week.  Rarely did anyone change spots.  In fact, it isn't done.

Even the parking lot at the grocery store is not exempt.  Every week I nose the car into the same spot in the same area right beside the cart corral. There's a method in my madness, though.  That way I don't have to remember where I parked the car! 

As a species, we humans seem to gravitate toward the familiar.  We buy the same groceries, prepare the same dishes, watch the same TV shows and call the same friends on the phone.  We check the same websites, read the same papers, follow the same rituals, and think about the same things.

So what would happen if we messed with the status quo?  How would others take it if we changed things up a bit?  I decided to try it.

One morning I took up a different position at fitness class near the window, rather than in the middle.  "Wait a minute!", one of the other ladies exclaimed.  "You're in the wrong spot.  You're supposed to be in front of me!  I knew something was different!"

I smiled and returned to my "default setting", much like a computer program.  And you know what?  Maybe that's what's happening.  We've gotten comfortable with our "settings" and so we just return to them every time.

Just so you know ... as you read this, you're in my spot.

A Day on the Bay

We both agree.  There's nothing like a beautiful day out on Lake Erie. 

And being "boat people", my husband George and I like to take advantage of any sunny, calm weather to get out on the water and relax, doing what we do best -- he fishing, me reading my book.

It starts like this:

He:   "Pretty nice day out there."
Me:  "Yup."
He:  "Could be a good day on the lake."
Me:  "Yup."
He:  "Did ya' wanna go fishin', did ya?"
Me:  "Yup."

End of discussion.  I pack the lunch.  He packs the rod and tackle box.  We start the car.  Heaven, here we come.

It's a short, scenic drive to the small picturesque village where the boat is docked. The main street leads directly downhill toward the marina, revealing a breath-taking vista of the lake and distant Long Point stretching out on the horizon like a beckoning, crooked finger.

It is this first glimpse of the water that tells us everything we need to know -- wind direction, water conditions, activity in and out of the harbour.  It is also the heady drug of anticipation that fuels our optimism and heightens our sense of adventure.

Out on the bay, I recline in the sunshine on the bench seat, book propped up on my chest, legs thrown over the seat back, feet hanging off the edge.  George, meanwhile, pulls up a folding chair and drops his line in the inky blackness of the water.  He baits and casts and reels.  We both revel in the quiet beauty of our surroundings.

Overhead, gulls swoop lazily.  Clouds billow and disperse.  Sunlight produces diamonds sparkling on the surface of the water.  All is quiet, except for the sporadic sound of another boat in the distance and the rhythmic slap of water against the pontoons.

If you believe in a spiritual energy field generated by "Mother Nature", on days like this, you just want to heed that call, and "come to Mama".