The Park

A few weeks ago I proclaimed myself the Poet Laureate of Kingsville–this column was written to justify my crowning:


As the self-appointed Poet Laureate of Kingsville, it is incumbent upon me to write some poetry about Kingsville before my title is taken away. That, along with some encouragement by my Writers’ Group (19 years and holding), I have decided to (try to) entertain you with a little of my prose poetry. It is resplendent (good word, eh?) with memories of our beloved Lakeside Park, a gem back then, a jewel still.


The Park


We used to run down the stairs

(my sister and I)

near the Pavilion at the park—

There were two sets of steps side by side

That converged at the top–

We would race down, and

I always won ‘cause I was older and my legs were longer.


We would walk out on the wooden planks

That made up the boardwalk

That seemed to go halfway into Lake Erie

It really didn’t, but it seemed to…

We would change into our bathing suits at the “Change House”

*After walking over the old stone bridge with lanterns guarding each end

And wade into the lake without fear.


There was roller skating at the Pavilion then–

I remember watching from the sidelines,

hiding behind the big stone pillars

The constant breeze from the lake coming in the paned windows,

held open at the top by a rusty hook and eye,

hovering over the screens that were ever on guard,

keeping out the biting bugs and stinging bees.


The lake sometimes smelled briny, sometimes of fish, always of adventure

It was warm in the summer, washing away the sand we had collected on our wet bodies

from the white-washed beach,

where we buried our toes in the hot sand to reach the cooler earth.

We loved to feel the sun on our bodies, the water washing away the heat,

And sometimes we stopped to watch the dazzling fairies

as they sparkled across the water.


A freighter would sometimes float by,

noiseless because it was so far away

While the buzz of motorboats filled the void.

There was always laughter, voices chattering, babies crying–

Picnic food fixed by attendant moms,

balls and baseball gloves brought by hopeful dads

to play on the open diamond at the bottom of the hill.


The rough barked trees were huge then,

sweeping the sky with their leaf laden branches–

And people—there were lots of people:

Dressed for summer–the men in loose white pants and short sleeved shirts

undone to the waist; the women in pastel pedal pushers and sleeveless blouses.

We were all happy: the adults in spite of their worries–

The kids, haphazard in their merriment….


There were no thoughts of the future–

Beyond the day in the sun at the park.


*(I have a cherished painting of that bridge painted by a local artist, Kevin Lucas, in a place of honour in my living room now.)

The park is called Lakeside Park in Kingsville, Ontario, on Lake Erie.


Published in: on July 21, 2017 at 8:41 pm  Comments (7)  

Picnic On!


Okay, I saw an ad this morning about buying back to school supplies. This morning was Saturday, July 1st. Canada Day. Two days after the kids got to call it quits for the summer. One day for the teachers. Seriously? No time for summer? I want to lodge a complaint right now—especially because it cuts into that favourite activity of mine and Yogi Bear’s—pick-e-nicks, or as the more serious among us say, picnics.

I like the summer when the weather co-operates—when it is nice and sunny, and you do not feel the temperature on your skin. It is neither too hot or too cold; too cool or too warm; too windy or too rainy. It feels like, well, it feels like nothing. And it is on these “nothing” days that a picnic is just the right summer activity. Of course, I have a book to call on to enhance the experience. My mother did not need a book to pack up the perfect picnic—she knew exactly how to do it, and exactly what to serve. Her fried chicken will live on as one of my favourite memories ever—it was crispy and juicy and quite simply the best fried chicken ever. No other piece of fried fowl will ever compete. I, on the other hand, am somewhat domestically challenged, so of course, I turn to a book for advice and inspiration.

The book is called “The Picnic” by Marnie Hanel, Andrea Slonecker, and Jen Stevenson. There is no beating about the bush here, the book is named for its subject—with absolutely no pussification (my word for no pussy footing around, in case you were wondering.) I think they chose the simple title for three reasons—it was much shorter than the authors’ names; it does not imply its subject, but conveys it without being too cute; and the illustration on the front of the book is really quite gloriously summery and worth every dollar of the four I paid for it.

The contents of the book are broken into just a few chapters called “From Basket to Blanket”; “Bites”; “Sips”; “Salads”; “Plates”; and “Sweets”. But what really enamoured me with the book was the philosophy laid out in the Preface: “Picnics are a silver bullet for summer entertaining—they take the stress out of parties and leave only the fun…. (and) bringing the party to the park makes it possible to gather any number of people, with less effort than it takes to find a restaurant to accommodate a large group.” But here is my favorite part: “Picnics require a lot less fuss than hosting a party at home…since you can forget about cleaning the house or washing a single dish.”

There are quite a few recipes in the book which I find all well and good, but what I found really fascinating was some of the quirkier advice and hacks. Like the two-page listing of 99 Ways to Use a Mason Jar. Some of the uses were no brainers: utensil caddy, dip dish, shot glass, toothpick holder, olive oil jar, butter keeper, and nut jar. Some were more exotic: caviar cooler, chopstick holder, citrus zest keeper, saltcellar, and mortar. Some were sporty: badminton boundary markers, spin the bottle bottle (a sport of sorts) and firefly catcher. Other uses were more whimsical: charades clue holder, moonshine distillery, message in a bottle bottle, time capsule, and small hat. For the life of me I do not understand how a mason jar can be a small hat. That use has me totally stymied. My favourite use they listed though is hummingbird bath. Really? A hummingbird would use a jar for a bath? Who knew?

They also provide us with the “definitive packing list” which includes all those things that make “you ready to picnic on a moment’s notice”. I come from the “take only what is necessary” school of picnicking. Marnie and Andrea and Jenn (the authors) obviously come from the “be ready for anything” school—which my husband John belongs to when it comes to camping (he takes everything and anything “just in case”—and you would be surprised how many times we have had “just in case” scenarios.) Anyway, I digress.

A picnic to me occurs anytime you have a plate of food and eat it outside. Barbeques, cook-outs, wiener roasts, camping, and even taking your evening meal outside are all under the purvey of picnic. As is picking up a takeout bucket of chicken with all the fixings and finding a picnic table at Point Pelee or Lakeside Park, or even your own backyard. Summertime is for living easy, and what could be easier than having an impromptu picnic on the back porch with your loved ones?

Picnic on!

Published in: on July 5, 2017 at 4:46 pm  Comments (7)