Saturday, March 24, 2012

Listen my children and you shall hear

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend, "If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,--
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm."

Well no, that's not what I write about tonight. This evening the lovely Suzy and I somehow got upon childhood reading, and soon moved on to creative writing assignments. 

In my childhood, I read and reread Grimms' Fairy Tales and Aesop's Fables. I had a favorite author, Holling Clancy Holling, who wrote The Book of Cowboys, The Book of Indians, and The Tree in the Trail. I read and reread them all, and today I can nearly quote the entire story of The Tree in the Trail. I know what happened to that tree from the time it was a seedling and an Indian lad protected it from the advance of the bison, to the day when the tree crashed to the ground, as old cottonwoods will do, to the day it's heart was formed into a  yoke for oxen, still bearing the errant arrowhead.

Since I claimed the keyboard first, I have seized upon the duty, nay, the opportunity to write. In high school English class, Father James Pritchard (for I had gone to a Catholic high school) assigned his charges to write a 500 word essay on "A Piece of String." No other direction: "A Piece of String." 

His 38 students, for that was the classroom norm in the 1950's Catholic high school, wondered: where did the string come from? How long was it? Where did it go? What was it used for? And Father Pritchard responded simply, "Write an essay about 'A Piece of String.'"

Could you do that today? We didn't have the benefit of Google. But we could go to the school library and open the Encyclopedia Britannica. We could go to the store and buy a ball of twine. We could look about our own homes, our own yards and our own imaginations. Thirty-eight students wrote thirty-eight essays, and they were presented. Father Pritchard didn't care what the story was about; all he wanted was for us to stretch our imaginations, and to do it with correct grammar, correct punctuation.

But try it yourself: what direction would you go? 

Suzy spoke of an assignment in grade school from the good Sister (yes, she also went to Catholic school, so you can see why we are the way we are today, always looking over our shoulders.). Her assignment was to write about a bird family. Suzy admits she stumbled and fumbled and mumbled with a lackluster few words. And she wondered, at that tender age, what was wrong. Looking back now, she realizes that she never had much of a childhood, had to assume major family responsibilities during family crises, and didn't have time for imagination.

So what is the point of this epistle? I haven't the slightest idea; I was just inspired to write this much. Where would you take it? Perhaps you would wonder, as Suzy does, whether today's students are being challenged to stretch their imaginations, to be able to write intelligible sentences, to punctuate with any degree of clarity, to be creative in their writing. We read piles and piles of today's authors, and yes, they can challenge our intuitive thinking, but when they get to the final chapter, do they have to disclose several clues they hadn't provided earlier? Did their conclusions have any relation to their imaginative adventures in Chapters One through Thirty-seven?

Are our grandchildren going to be even more reliant than I am on "spell-check?" Would they even ever be able to (gasp!) diagram a sentence? Lord, how I remember separating the subject from the predicate, dropping the adjectives and the adverbs below the line, making sure the object was correctly addressed.

And today I can write a blog post that, hopefully, you can understand and appreciate. Today I (and Suzy equally well) can appreciate the English language with its nonsensical twists and turns, its words with the same spellings that not only pronounce differently, but have totally different meanings.

No, no photos tonight.  Just our random musing. But let me update you on Suzy's progress. Since two weeks before her surgery on January 24, she has lost 60 pounds. She is acquiring a new wardrobe, some from new purchases, some from the back of her closet. She is now eating two tiny meals a day of an expanding menu. Last evening, Suzy prepared a dinner for us of spinach, mushrooms, onions and eggs, baked to perfection. This morning, baked apple with ricotta cheese. Today we went to a celebration of life for a departed friend; from the food table we selected moist ham, shrimp, and deviled eggs for her lunch. 

And that's the status of Our Life on Wheels, as of March 24, 2012.


  1. Thanks for the update, Jerry. It's sure good to hear that you guys are doing well. Enjoy reading your musing and ramblings once again (not that you're usually rambling, in the sense you might think I mean when I said rambling, but you know...) Good work Suzy...60 pounds lost is a wonderful achievement!

  2. I didn't go to a Catholic school, but the public school in Illinois had dedicated and super teachers. My English teacher came in and wrote two words on the blackboard and we had to write an essay in class. The words were: black white. Interesting because it was during the Little Rock, Arkansas school desegregation. I choose to write about that, while others wrote about sheep, cars, race, etc. The teacher made us go through that drill often and it was painful each time.

    We are glad to hear that Suzy is doing so well. What is your schedule like for the upcoming week, other than Tuesday? We would like to stop by and visit for a while. Not sure about lunch, since I would starve on Suzy's diet.

    Drop me an email when you get a chance and we can meet up somewhere nearby your adobe.


  3. Egads...I remember memorizing that poem and having to recite it in front of the class...bad memories!
    They no longer publish the Encyclopedia Britannica in paper form.
    Remember diagramming? Honestly, that did help me learn the parts of speech. Even though I hated doing it.
    CONGRATULATIONS Suzy! Great job. Your dinner sounds yummy! Keep up the great work. ~wheresweaver

  4. I was thinking about you last night. So glad to have an up-date.

    As for writing... I was disgusted when I was told, aged 18, that my writing was immature. I had no problem with grammar, loved the precision of construction and rules. It's a different story now. I can't tell a preposition from a proposition and I write pretty much as I think .. even my speech is often more formal.

    How we change!

    I've been losing weight too ... not before time and it had better be the last time I have to do this. I've managed to dispose of about 35 pounds of fat, 65 or so to go. I admire Suzy. It takes such courage and discipline to do it her way. Sometimes I've been tempted to ask about surgery but I really didn't want to go that way.

    Blessings both.

  5. I think the string topic allowed for more creativity than Suzy's bird topic, but others may disagree. It's always good to read your blog and even better to get an update about Suzy. A 60- pound weight loss--wow, good job Suzy! I would imagine that nothing from before fits any more. I once lost 100 pounds (without surgery) but unfortunately I gained it all back. :(

  6. I definitely enjoyed tonight's blog. I loved writing all through my school years and as soon as you wrote "a piece of string" the wheels started to turn. This is the type of assignment I thrived on - bet you did too!
    So glad to hear Suzy is doing well. Congratulations, Suzy, on your progress. That is quite an accomplishment.

  7. I really love the foods Suzy is confined to for now...I could live on that stuff..Soooo glad she is progressing...and she has to be feeling lots better, too. Hope you post a photo soon....

  8. I have always envied people that can write creatively. Having been a math major, I'm guessing analytical thinking comes from a different side of the brain. :) I think I'm more of a meat and potatoes writer while others create the souffles of literature...

  9. So glad to hear of Suzy's progress. You are both meeting your new challenges in an excellent manner, no surprise knowing how you've always done this in other cases. Loved reading your blog today. Hugs to you both!

  10. Thanks for your blog on writing about a piece of string. Isn't it amazing that 38 people can write about the same topic and have 38 different stories? Kudos to Suzy.May God bless you both!

  11. I can remember writing a speech for my public speaking class in high school on transportation.. how utterly boring that was.
    As for today's youth we will just have to wait and see- crossing our fingers and toes
    You two be well and happy.

  12. Hope all is well with you both. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a kind comment.
    Cheers :)


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