Beachcomber

The Ragtag prompt for today is BIRTHDAY.
Here’s my response, dedicated to everyone whose having a birthday today.

BEACHCOMBER

by Robert W Service

When I have come with happy heart to sixty years and ten,
I’ll buy a boat and sail away upon a summer sea;
And in a little lonely isle that’s far and far from men,
In peace and praise I’ll spend the days that God allows to me.
For I am weary of a strife so pitiless and vain;
And in a far and fairy isle, bewilderingly bright,
I’ll learn to know the leap and glow of rapture once again,
And welcome every living dawn with wonder and delight.

And there I’ll build a swan-white house above the singing foam,
With brooding eaves, where joyously rich roses climb and cling;
With crotons in a double row, like wine and honeycomb,
And flame trees dripping golden rain, and palms pavilioning.
And there I’ll let the wind and wave do what they will with me;
And I will dwell unto the end with loveliness and joy;
And drink from out the crystal spring, and eat from off the tree,
As simple as a savage is, as careless as a boy.

For I have come to think that Life’s a lamentable tale,
And all we break our hearts to win is little worth our while;
For fame and fortune in the end are comfortless and stale,
And it is best to dream and rest upon a radiant isle.
So I’ll blot out the bitter years of sufferance and scorn,
And I’ll forget the fear and fret, the poverty and pain;
And in a shy and secret isle I’ll be a man newborn,
And fashion life to heart’s desire, and seek my soul again.

For when I come with happy heart to sixty years and ten,
I fondly hope the best of life will yet remain to me;
And so I’ll burn my foolish books and break my futile pen,
And seek a tranced and tranquil isle, that dreams eternally.
I’ll turn my back on all the world, I’ll bid my friends adieu;
Unto the blink I’ll leave behind what gold I have to give;
And in a jewelled solitude I’ll mould my life anew,
And nestling close to Nature’s heart, I’ll learn at last . . . to live.

Of Chemicals and Consumers

Fandango’s prompt today: CHEMICAL

I wonder if this word, for most of us, doesn’t bring up negative connotations? We have a love-hate, relationship with the things. Like the old English song about the wife, “You can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em.”

Pollution of land, air, sea, and body — this all stems from chemicals, right? They’re keeping us alive longer and at the same time making us more sickly. We want our strawberry ice cream to be pink, our blueberry jelly to be blue, our white flour to be white. Which means we are, by default, consuming dyes and bleaches.

Even with death, we prefer the chemical version. When my birth mother died here in Saskatchewan the family opted to have her cremated. Our family doesn’t really do death and funerals well, so the children opted against having a viewing, so there was no cosmetology used. But I was coming from Quebec and my sister from Alberta, and neither of us had seen her for a good while — in my case it was over fifteen years — and we wanted one last goodbye.

So the funeral home prepared her for viewing that morning. When my birth father heard that I was going to view the body, he decided to go, too. We got there and looked down in her in the coffin they’d put her in, and she looked…well…dead. Her skin tone starting to degenerate in the way dead skin does.

My Dad was okay with it and so was I. He patted her hand and said his good-bye. But I made the mistake of saying in front of my sister, “I guess this is what the Bible means when it says, ‘From dust thou art and to dust though shalt return’.” And my sister burst into tears.

If given a choice, most of us prefer attractive to plain, enhanced to reality, bleached white paper to the natural colour that would come off the rollers in paper mills. But we fuss about pollution and climate change. Over the years we’ve come up with a delightful — at least to the employed — alternative. Companies in North America have shipped their manufacturing jobs to countries where pollution control and worker safety concerns barely affect the product or its cost.

We buy cheap; pollution, wages — or lack of — and safety issues are someone else’s problem. What’s not to love?

The trade deficit, you say? Forgot about that. (Thankfully my own country, Canada, has natural resources to sell, so our deficit isn’t so bad at present.) Immigrants flowing in the front door while jobs are flowing out the back could be an issue, too. However, I’ve heard some people emphatically deny that there’s a lack of jobs for the incoming crowd.

Which brings me to the dilemma I see in North America today: should consumers insist on buying items produced here in our own countries and pay the price — pollution control, wages, company pensions, and public safety costs included? Which means doing with fewer choices and a LOT less stuff. Or shall we continue to support overseas production and let those countries deal with the consequences? (And keep on borrowing from international money lenders to cover trade deficits.)

A person’s answer may well depend on what income bracket they are in.

And I have wandered far off the prompt topic of chemicals.

As I type this, I have bun dough rising in a warm spot. Yeast is a bacteria, not a chemical, so I can’t exactly call dough rising a chemical reaction. But the effect of warm cinnamon rolls on the human palate could maybe be explained as a chemical reaction.

Risks in Writing

My response to Fandango’s prompt for today: DANGER

Writing, as we all know can be fraught with hazards.
There are PLOT HOLES and SAGGING MIDDLES.
Our CHARACTERS may lack depth or interest.
The editor may say, “TOO MUCH LIKE one we just published.”
A reader may give us a BAD REVIEW even when we’ve done our best.

And there are editorial errors like
MUDDLED PHRASES and WANDERING MODIFIERS
that keep us from getting our message across.

I just finished a series of three cozy mystery books, written by A.G. Barnett. The series is subtitled, “A Brock & Poole Mystery.” Books in this series are:
#1. An Occupied Grave
#2. A Staged Death
#3. When the Party Died

These are police procedural mysteries, not so much danger and high tension like writer Charles Todd’s books, but quite satisfying in regard to plot and likable, believable characters. However, the editing in the first two books leaves something to be desired now and then. For example:
“He stood, looking down at the man that was waving his arms theatrically about him, arms folded.”

Edit #1: a person man is always a who.
Edit #2: Move that wandering modifier back where it belongs and snip a bit:
“He stood, arms folded, looking down (he was really tall) at the man who was waving his arms theatrically.”

The writer was quite inclined to switch to pronouns, so there were times during the first two books where I had to stop and think, “Who does he refer to?”

I’ve written an example to illustrate what I mean:
Roddy has a little monkey and he loves to climb trees. He calls him Timbucktu but he has a bad habit: he never comes when he’s called. When he’s being really stubborn he offers him a banana and he usually comes right away and grabs it.

I was happy to see that by the third book Mr Barnett, or his editor, had caught on to this problem and cleared up most of the confusion.

More Examples of Wandering Modifiers

We watched the avocets poking around in the pond with their long beaks through our binoculars.

Driving by in the car, the falling snow sifted down onto the shrubs around the abandoned house.

And one of my all-time favorites in the Muddled + Mystified Dept:
A social assistance recipient, providing information to her case worker about her two newest dependents, wrote, “According to your instructions, I have given birth to twins in the enclosed envelope.”

WHAT BRINGS THIS TOPIC TO MIND?

In the course of emptying book cases and moving books around, I came across a thin paperback written by Saskatoon columnist Bill Cameron. The title of this sort-of-memoir:
A Way With Words: A Light-hearted Look at the Agony of Writing.
©1979 by Bill Cameron
Published by Western Producer Prairie Books, Saskatoon, SK
I really enjoyed reading it, though it may be out of print and unavailable now.

Mr Cameron points out to wannabe writers that the biggest danger is not saying what you mean. He gives a number of humorous examples showing how reporters and others have strayed from Say-what-you-mean clarity. (To keep things straight, I’ll post his comments in green.)

This snippet from a tourist brochure gives visitors to SK a curious picture of travel here:
“If you pull off the highway…and the first car to pass waves and the next one along stops and chats, you’re in Saskatchewan.”

“Cars that wave? Cars that stop and chat! And all this time, I thought it was the people of SK, not the automobiles, who are friendly.”

According to Cameron, this once-upon-a-time General Motors press release “set off chuckles and cackles all over the newsroom.”
“Some 800 employees…were furloughed for a short re-tooling period.”

“I presume furloughed is a weasel word for laid off. More important, I hope it was the factory which was re-tooled, not the workers.”

Even the universe is somewhat amiss, according to one news item:
“Ranging in size from dust particles to giant comets, interplanetary space is full of debris.”

“Nonsense. If space was full of debris there wouldn’t be any space, and Armstrong and Aldrin could have walked to the moon.”

An editor must read the news article carefully before committing it to the printer. As this Canadian Press headline from the 60s demonstrates:
“Alberta Catholic Women’s League delegates passed resolutions calling for tighter legislation against abortion and pornography at the group’s annual convention.”

“To suggest, as this does, that abortion and pornography go on at the annual convention…not only doesn’t say what the writer meant; it’s close to slander.”

Then there’s the famous one about Yogi Berra…a line that has been picked up by more than one gag writer since its original appearance.
“After he was hit on the head by the pitched ball, Berra was taken to hospital for X-rays, which showed nothing.”

I understand there are grammar checker programmes available now that will go over our writing and zero in on these zingers. Have any of you others bought one already? I’ll think I will be ordering one shortly. 🙂

God Made This Day For Me

by Edgar Guest

Just the sort of weather
and just the sort of sky
which seem to suit my fancy,
with the white clouds drifting by
on a sea of smooth blue water.
Oh, I ain’t an egotist
with an “I” in all my thinking
but I’m willing to insist
that the Lord who made us humans
and the birds in every tree
knows my special sort of weather
and He made this day for me.

And the breezes from the eastward
blowing gently on my face,
and the woods chock full of singing
till you’d think birds never had
a single care to fret them
or a grief to make them sad.
Oh, I settle down contented
in the shadow of a tree
and tell myself right proudly
that the day was made for me.

It’s my day, my sky and sunshine
and the temper of the breeze—
here’s the weather I would fashion
could I run things as I please.
Beauty dancing all around me,
music ringing everywhere,
like a wedding celebration—
why, I’ve plumb forgot my care
and the tasks I should be doing
for the rainy days to be
while I’m hugging the delusion
that God made this day for me.

From the book Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest,
©1934 by the Reilly & Lee Co

My response to the Ragtag Daily Prompt: SUBLIME

A Skunk, by any other name…

The Word of the Day Challenge yesterday was IMPRESSIONABLE — and I missed it. I had a nice response figured out, too, but we took a trip to Moose Jaw to visit relatives and I didn’t have time to post it. Oh, well…my thoughts will keep for another day.

A fog blanketed the land yesterday morning when we started out, rather unusual considering how dry it’s been, but after an hour or so we were able to leave it behind us and enjoyed lovely warm sunshine for the rest of our trip. We had lunch with my sister, then stopped at the Public Library, and later visited with Bob’s cousin and wife. A good day!

The Word of the Day prompt this morning is: MEPHISTOPHALIAN

A huge word I will never have much use for, especially seeing it’s fictitious. Nevertheless, a bit of education never hurts, so I looked it up in Merriam-Webster online. Their definition:
Mephistophelian:
– of, or pertaining to, Mephistopheles
– wicked; fiendish
Mephistopheles:
– a chief devil in the Faust legend from the 1500s
Faust:
– a magician of German legend who enters into a compact with the devil
Faustian:
– of, relating to, resembling, or suggesting Faust
– especially: made or done for present gain without regard for future cost or consequences

Though I’ve never heard the word before, I’m too familiar with the concept. I’m sure every human being has been guilty at one time or another of doing something for present gain regardless of future consequences. For example, so-called little white lies get you off the hook at the moment, but you’re in for it when the person finds out the truth.

When you look up a word with Merriam-Webster, they kindly give you a list of several other words listed before and after the one you’ve looked up. Curious, I clicked on two of those other words, and discovered:

MEPHITIC:
– having a foul odor
MEPHITINE:
– of, or relating to…
Skunk.2nd

Bingo! Now here are words I can throw into a conversation from time to time, because we have seen indications of mephitine activity around our property.

If I get a whiff of skunk, now I can say, “There’s a mephitic odor lingering about our yard this morning.”
Or, “There’s evidence of mephitine harrassment in the night. Some predator got a deterrent drench.”
Or maybe, “Judging from the mephitine vapour wafting over the road, Monsieur Moufette has met his Waterloo.”
(Mind you, “met his Waterloo” has likely been branded as a cliché, along with “bit the dust.” I think “He’s toast” is still acceptable.)
But if I did make such high-brow statements, most of my friends would ask for a translation. So I might as well say that someone hit a skunk on the road last night.

Perhaps a person could put up a sign?
WARNING:
To all who wander around in the twilight bent on mischief. There is a risk of annoying one of the crepuscular creatures that pass through this yard. If you do, you may well receive a severe mephitine drenching.
(Squeezing in the RAGTAG daily prompt for today: DRENCH)

That ought to make tricksters think twice.
Skunk

 

Two Kinds of Friends

Thoughts
by Sara Teasdale

When I am all alone
envy me most,
then my thoughts flutter round me
in a glimmering host;

some dressed in silver,
some dressed in white,
each like a taper
blossoming light;

Most of them merry,
some of them grave,
each of them lithe
as willows that wave;

some bearing violets,
some bearing bay,
one with a burning rose
hidden away.

When I am all alone
envy me then,
for I have better friends
than women and men.

From The Collected Poems of Sara Teasdale
Last renewal 1937 by Sara Teasdale Filsinger
Published by The Macmillan Company

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A Mile With Me
By Henry van Dyke
1852 — 1933

Oh, who will walk a mile with me
along life’s merry way?
A comrade blithe and full of glee
who dares to laugh out loud and free
and let his frolic fancy play
like a happy child, through the flowers gay
that fill the field and fringe the way
where he walks a mile with me.

And who will walk a mile with me
along life’s weary way?
A friend whose heart has eyes to see
the stars shine out o’er the darkening lea,
and the quiet rest at the end of the day.
A friend who knows and dares to say
the brave, sweet words that cheer the way
where he walks a mile with me.

With such a comrade, such a friend,
I fain would walk till journey’s end
through summer sunshine, winter rain,
and then — farewell, we shall meet again!

My response to the Ragtag Daily prompt: FRIEND

Ten Days in the Rear-view

I know I haven’t been posting for awhile, but when ten days have crept by since the date of my last post, it’s high time to cease this indulgence of “just don’t feel like it,” and write something.

It’s not that I haven’t felt like writing. As the various prompts have come in, I’ve mentally written different articles and stories, but so far these have remained cloudy images in my mind. Maybe soon I can get some of them down. Too often I’m fighting with a sense of futility, that nagging doubt of “Who cares?” that besets us all from time to time.

The weather has been very mild lately. The chill of early October has given way to temps of 10 (50F) to 20 (70F) which is what we’ve had today. Nice day for a walk. this afternoon Bob and I got our flu shots, so we should be protected from the flu this winter.

I’ve done some piecing blanket tops for the Sewing Circle this past week, and read some second-hand children’s books that I picked up at Value Village. Proof-reading them with the thought of donating some to our parochial school’s library. For those who are interested in good children’s books, we’ve found a couple by Alexander McCall Smith that are very suitable:
The Mystery of the Missing Lion (2013) and Akimbo and the Crocodile Man (1993)

For those who are interested in adult fiction with a Christian flavour, I can recommend Sweet Tea and Southern Grace by Glenda Manus. In this first book of the series the main character is a 45-year-old bachelor pastor in the South dealing with various issues in his parish. The story has some similarity to Jan Karon’s Mitford series, but a shorter read.

Fandango’s prompt for today is ABSTRACT.  I’m thinking now about Thankfulness, an abstract quality or emotion. We’re happy when good things come our way; we’re relieved when troubles don’t come our way. Then sometimes our thankfulness does a look-in-the-rear-view thing. My arms and hands, especially my thumb joints, have been affected by arthritis these past few days, which makes me thankful for all the times when they do function without pain.

When you stop to think of it, when we have arms and hands that work, fingers that obey the impulses our brain sends along, we have two invaluable pieces of equipment. How much do we think about that fact until this “standard human equipment” suddenly gives us grief?

Here’s another take on ABSTRACT. I came across this quote earlier today, it seemed rather profound, and I thought, “A perfect response to the prompt!”

“Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

Qualifying factor:
The truth of this quote depends on what music you’re listening to.