Wisdom in a Nutshell

Today’s Ragtag Daily Prompt — better late than never, seeing the day is almost done — is the word COMPACT

My mind went to all these marvelous bits of enlightenment that have been squeezed into a few words. Proverbs and adages, if you will.

According to Merriam-Webster, an adage is a saying often in metaphorical form that typically embodies a common observation. They give the example: “A penny saved is a penny earned.”

“Least said, soonest mended” is a whole sermon in a nutshell. Great advice for the fellow who’s getting vexed about something and is ready to give the one who’s annoying him a fiery lecture. It’s also good advice when you’re so sure, and ready to accuse someone of some little crime. If it turns out you were wrong, you’ll be very glad you kept quiet.

Another phrase that falls in this category is, “Speak when you’re angry and you’ll make the best speech you ever regretted.”

“A stitch in time saves nine.” Also a bit of homely wisdom compacted and passed down through the ages. Likewise, “Best make hay while the sun shines.”

“People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” Be careful when you’re hurling accusations at other people because you might be just as guilty in some area — or even be caught doing the same thing yourself.

“Buy in haste, repent at leisure.” A lesson every purchaser has experienced at some point.

A more recent saying we hear is “Been there, done that.” It’s a very compact way of offering sympathy to someone who’s made a big mistake, fallen into some trap or sorrow, and looked foolish doing it.

And here’s one we’re hearing about frequently, both in brief and at length, during this pandemic: An ounce of protection is worth a pound of cure.

Book:Seniors and High-Tech

One day my husband brought home a book he thought I’d enjoy — and it did give me many chuckles, especially as I remembered our own days of learning how to operate this new-fangled device. If you’re young and tech-savvy you can read it and sympathize with computer sales & support people who must patiently explain what a byte is, how to control a mouse, or how far you should back up when your computer gives the order.

My Senior Moments Have Gone High-Tech
© 2016 by Karen O’Conner,
published by Harvest House Publishers in Eugene Oregon

My Senior Moments Have Gone High-Tech by [Karen O'Connor]

Consists mainly of anecdotes about golden oldies who take up using a computer in their senior years, these amusing tidbits have been gathered from learners, teachers, and fixers. As well as humor, the writer offers hope for those who feel their offspring are tossing them into the sea of technology without a life jacket.

Like the woman who set her mouse on the floor, thinking it should work like her sewing machine foot pedal. Or the irate fellow who ordered tech support to come out and see why his printer wasn’t working. The company rep dutifully showed up, checking things out, and asked how long the printer had been unplugged.

This reminds me of my first attempt at using our computer. Bob had purchased one three weeks previously, so he and our daughter (who worked at a computer store) were babbling in this strange language. Which made me all the more determined not to touch the thing. However, we’d been on a Family Reunion trip to Boston and I wanted to write up a long letter to his mother plus several penpals. Rather than hand-write all those pages, I typed it into the computer.

Starting with “Dear Mom, We had this great trip to Massachusetts…” I went on for eight pages giving her all the details. Then I hit PRINT. Nothing happened. I hit it again. Nothing happened. After the third try I called our daughter at work. She asked, “Are you sure it’s plugged in?”

I checked. It wasn’t. I plugged it in. Out came the eight pages. Then another eight. I couldn’t stop the thing! I unplugged it again, then plugged it back in. Out came another eight. I’m thankful my two penpals didn’t seem to mind an eight-page letter that started with “Dear Mom,” accompanied by a handwritten note of explanation on top. And when hubby got home, he showed me how to cancel a PRINT order. 🙂

My husband is talking now of updating our cell phones. Gulp! I still mourn the obsolescence of my old cell phone. It worked so well; to answer a call, you just flipped open the lid.

Anyway, I think this book would be a great Christmas gift for the senior on your list.

Summer Fun Verses

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is SUMMER FUN

Image: Jill wellington — Pixabay

Well, I’m looking out on a white world and watching more snow come down, so I’ll have to draw from memory’s pages — or scribblings. On Sunday evening I opened a tub that’s been stored away for awhile. This is my “finish and polish someday” tub. I dug through various scribblings and pulled out a number of half-baked poems to work on and post later. I’ve decided to type everything onto computer files ASAP, just to get rid of the paper clutter, and work on them as I have time.

Here are a few micro-poems that fit the SUMMER FUN category:

My best effort
to join the wren
in joyful melody;
sadly my tune
just hasn’t the wings!

morning light
Venus and a sparrow
share the bird bath

moth floating
in the bird bath
no life jacket

in this wind
even the young lord’s kite
bows

The Path of a Storm

Fandango’s One-Word Challenge today is OMINOUS

Which brings me to a sobering question:
Who Can Direct the Path of a Storm?

On June 30, 1912 the city of Regina, Saskatchewan, was swathed in a sultry heat, over 100̊F by mid-afternoon. People sweated; some women at a public meeting were fainting; flags posted specially for Dominion Day celebrations the next day hung limp. At 4:30 pm folks outdoors noted a strange phenomenon: two cloud systems, accompanied by ominous rumblings, were headed their way. One was coming in from the southeast and the other from the southwest. The sky turned and eerie green; weird purplish flashes of lightening streaked across the land.

These cloud banks met right over the Legislative Building in the center of the city. There was a terrific boom as they collided and a huge grey funnel dropped from the boiling mass. Screaming and zigzagging, the twister cut a six-block wide swath northward through the heart of Regina, mowing down entire blocks of prosperous homes and rows of businesses, sucking up trees. It hit the rail-yards, bounced loaded freight cars across the tracks like tumbleweeds and later picked up the Winnipeg Grain Company elevators at the edge of town and tossed them across the prairie like they were sticks.

The citizens of Regina hadn’t seen a tornado before, had no idea what was about to hit them when the sky turned a lurid green. And no one could have predicted the tornado’s erratic path of destruction.

Who can direct the path of a storm in the affairs of men?

Reading history, I see where storm systems have arisen in human affairs. Two or more groups or movements, unhappy about the status quo and determined to upset it, move toward each other. Though they are naturally not aligned in purpose, they come together to accomplish a common goal, with each side thinking they can direct the changes that are going to be made. But there are secret agendas and other voices that factor in. These unforeseen radicals can change the course of the whole scheme – to the dismay of the initial participants.

Shakespeare, in his play Julius Caesar, gives a great example of this. Brutus and his fellow conspirators see Caesar as a ruthless tyrant and believe that doing away with him will solve their problems. Brutus, persuading his fellow senators to join in the scheme, utters the famous line, “There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flow, leads on to fortune…”

So they go ahead with their dastardly deed. At Caesar’s funeral Brutus gives Mark Anthony a chance to speak, not seeing him as a threat. Caesar was the problem; with him gone, things will go as planned. And Mark Anthony starts his discourse on a compliant note:
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears! I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.” He says that Brutus has given him leave to speak, “For Brutus is an honorable man; So are they all, all honorable men…”

Then, through crafty use of eulogy and rhetoric, he manages to paint Caesar as, after all, a benevolent ruler. By the time he’s done, he’s completely turned the crowd against the murderers. The senators, who had pictured themselves floating down that tide toward fortune, rather end up being tossed into a turbulent and bloody sea.

Rhetoric is a marvelous thing. It can persuade, get people fired up for a cause. It can also turn plans upside down. In the long run it’s iffy. Fine speeches rarely take into account all the angles, and before you know it, one pops up that no one considered.

Many a participant in some past movement, in retrospect, has wished they’d not been so swayed by the noble rhetoric and taken an honest look at all the facets of the movement. Who all was involved and what the real objectives were. They wish they’d had a better idea of where the movement was actually heading before lending their support — because where the movement finally ended up is far, far from where they expected to be.

In my next post I’ll write about the two women’s movements that came together in the late 1800s, both unhappy with the status quo, both with definite goals, and the path that the resulting tornado actually took.

WordPress Meets the Press Gang

Through the medium of WordPress, several bloggers are offering me some unusual prompt words for today. I even had to look up three of them to be certain of their meanings.
Ragtag Daily Prompt: HARDIHOOD
— boldness, daring, courage; self-confident audacity

Word of the Day: URGES
— (noun): strong desires or impulses.
— (verb): to repeatedly or insistently try to encourage or persuade someone.

Your Daily Word Prompt: RECONDITE
— Difficult or impossible for the ordinary person to comprehend, as a DEEP subject
— Referring to something little known or obscure
— Hidden from sight. Concealed

Fandango’s FOWC: SCUTTLEBUTT
The original meaning of this word has provided the track for my train thoughts this morning.
Scuttlebutt: a ship’s water butt – a cask holding the day’s supply of fresh water. And since this was where sailors gathered to drink and exchange gossip, the word eventually included the gabfest that went on around the scuttlebutt.
The old oaken cask (scuttled butt) has been replaced by the office fountain or water cooler and the term has come to mean “gossip and rumors that circulate.”

THE ADVENTURES OF JOHN SMITH

One day my great-great-grandfather John Smith sat visiting with his youngest son, Moses, and John was telling Moses what happened when he was nine years old that shaped his entire future. Fortunately for me, Moses’ youngest daughter happened to overhear the conversation. A few years ago I able to track down this long-lost relative, in her late 90s and still of clear memory. She shared this story with me:

As a nine-year-old boy John was walking down the street in an English city – he thought it was London – when a couple of sailors from the British navy grabbed him and hustled him onto a ship in the harbour. This was one of the press gangs that worked the English port cities, kidnapping boys and young men to serve on the ships. John must have been a husky lad; I can’t imagine they’d grab a puny little guy who might not survive the rough sea life.

So who was this lad and what were his origins? Was his name actually John SMITH, or did the sailors tack that label on him, possibly to deflect inquiries? From info on his death record, John was born circa 1828. Young boys in those days likely weren’t so informed about their family history or even their location – perhaps he’d never even been to school. Was he from a caring home, or were his parents down-and-out sorts? Maybe he was an orphan, just a street urchin that happened to wander too near the port? Was John’s father a Swedish sailor, or why does my DNA show that I have 9% Scandinavian ancestry when I find so little in my known family tree?

If our children go missing, it’s a tragedy. Did John’s family search for him? Was he hidden from the authorities – or did any authority ever check on ship’s crews or search for missing boys and young men? After all, press gangs operated with the collusion of the Crown. I try to imagine the recondite lives these fellows lived as captives of the British Navy: the possible abuses, the hard labour, primitive medical care, rickets and scurvy, wild storms, dim prospects of deliverance. I have to admit I’m living in one of the best eras ever.

For the next four years gr-gr-grandfather was held on that ship, working as a cabin boy, never allowed to set foot on shore. I can picture him gathering around the scuttle-butt with the other sailors, hearing their tales of the sea, of exotic ports, of ships that went down in storms. Did John have a natural hardihood, or was he terrified in this new setting? I’m sure he had the urge many times to escape this forced servitude and find his family again – if he had any – but he was never allowed ashore.

When he was fourteen the ship docked in Halifax harbour and somehow John managed to escape. He told his son Moses that the sailors turned the ships guns on him as he was fleeing, but he made it into the woods and hid there in the forest until the ship sailed away. From Halifax he made his way to southwestern Ontario and worked as a labourer; in time he managed to buy a farm near Listowell. To the best of my knowledge, he never again had contact with any family in England.

Around 1855, when he’d have about twenty-seven, John married Ruth Dobson, a young woman from a very religious home. Her parents were John & Ruth; her brother Jonathan grew up to become a well known Methodist preacher. Ruth called herself a Methodist and John listed himself on all the Ontario censuses as an Unbeliever. Their oldest daughter, Mary – my great-grandmother – was born in 1856. Their oldest son, William, apparently became a policeman in Toronto. Mary, as Mrs Sam Vance, moved west and lost all contact with her Smith relatives.

Oct 19, 2020:
My dentist’s office just called about my appointment tomorrow. Can’t just walk into the office now, must wear a mask, etc. Yes, my activities are being restricted and everyone is fearful of COVID – and who knows what the economy will do? Scuttlebutt has it that a vaccine is in the works, but may take awhile yet. Yes, these are uncertain, fearful times – but as I let my thoughts drift back through the years to young John, hiding in the woods near Halifax, totally alone, with only his own hands and hardihood to provide for him in this new land – I can’t complain about my lot!

So I’m sitting here this morning enjoying my coffee, playing with these new words, and wondering about my DNA results – all because “John Smith” acted on his urge to escape and jumped ship in the Halifax harbour circa 1842. Hope you’ve enjoyed hearing great-great-grandfather’s story.