Early morning hope
Multiplied and divided
Early morning hope
Multiplied and divided
A haiku from a fan of fall:
Sauna blast of heat
No way to welcome season
Of cool and colour
Ah, it is that time of year again. The beginning of a new year. Heard some broadcast people talking on CBC radio the other day, and one of the talking heads declared that Labour Day weekend in Canada is really the start of our new year, not January 1st. I tend to agree. There seems to be promise in the air, a new determination of not starting over but starting afresh. I feel a slight nostalgia that the manmade end of summer is here, but since autumn is my favourite time of the year, the nostalgia is not one of yearning for the warm days of summer, but merely melancholy over the passage of time.
Of course one cannot ignore the fact that school starts up again this time of year– bringing with it another kind of newness that we can never forget. Even if our school days are behind us, our memories of those days seem impermeably intact. I loved school and I hated school. I am sure most people had this relationship with what is often referred to as “the best years of our lives.” If we were honest, they could also be the worst years of our lives—but it was in this institutionalized setting we learned not only to read and write, but that while life is sometimes not always fair, sometimes it is. And that is a life lesson that has proven true over my decades on this earth.
The words of the song ‘School Days’ written and published by Will Cobb and Gus Edwards were first recorded in 1907 by Byron G. Harlan. They were also sung by Bing Crosby in 1939, Buddie Rich in 1960, and made their last kick at the can in 1982, but not before they were sung in the dulcimer tones of Tiny Tim, and recorded by Oscar Peterson and Johnny Mercer. The words still ring true even if they are somewhat antiquated:
“School days, school days
Dear old golden rule days
Readin’ and ‘ritin’ and ‘rithmetic
Taught to the tune of the hickory stick…”
Cursive writing seems to no longer entail the old practice of weeks perhaps months of perfecting just the right way to form an “o” and I believe the hickory stick has gone the way of the dinosaurs (as it should). I looked up hickory stick, and to my innocent mind I thought at first that it referred to the infamous black rubber tipped pointers teachers often used to get our attention focused on what was written on the board or a map of the world. But no, “hickory stick” referred to a “paddle”.
In my day (it scares me that I am now old enough to have “a day”) the strap was the preferred choice of punishment, but I guess a hickory stick or paddle was the thing to be feared in the days of yore. I believe this form of punishment has rightly been eliminated from our curriculum. I have always been a proponent of “spare the rod” and do not believe it “spoils the child.” I remember one son of mine being put on “garbage duty” as punishment for some indiscretion at school and thinking that the punishment neatly fit the crime.
I have a few regrets from my school years—I wish I had spent a little more “quality time” on math and science, but since they did not come easily to me I tended to avoid them (which meant I dropped them as soon as I could) and concentrated on the subjects I could excel in/at by writing essays. Guess it paid off to some extent. (You can be the judge as to the extent.)
If I derived nothing else from school, the gift of reading truly made the years of drudgery worthwhile (grades 6-11). Even though I did not totally enjoy school during those years I learned a lot. My senior years of high school and the education I went on to receive after that were lubricated by the (sometimes hard) lessons I learned during the earlier years. I have respect for learning and consider myself a life-long student, so even if I am no longer in school it has left its marque on me.
So, I say to all teachers: Take heart. Even those students who are struggling, not studying, or seem to be more interested in anything but school are learning your lessons. And students: it is a new year—you have a new and fresh chance. To the rest of us: Never stop learning.
Happy New Year!
Going to the fair
With lofty expectations~
The wind in the trees
Speaks of the coming autumn
Breath of fresh cool air.
Last day of August
Fall whispers entice; Still a
Glimmer of summer….
Just a note: at the end of this column (the one I write weekly for the Kingsville Reporter) I mention the Harrow Fair which takes place in a town about 8 miles from my hometown of Kingsville–my father used to take my sister and I when we were little.
It is the last week of August working its way into September, and though summer is not my favourite season (because of the outlandish humidity) there are some things I will miss. The waning days of summer will eventually give way to the cool crispness of autumn, but before that happens we still have the opportunity to say our fond farewells to long days of light, waking up to birdsong, and a general laziness that the weather seems to encourage.
For your pleasure, (and admittedly mine too) I Googled “end of summer quotes” and this is what I came up with. These 10 quotes were put together by Jessica Sandhu under the title “10 Quotes to Soften the End of Summer Blues” in the online Elephant Journal. They barely need an introduction:
So many memories in these few words: sleeping on a screened porch; good food fresh from the garden or stands or outside markets; exuberance defined as fun; lazy days; happiness for no reason other than it is summer; and sadness at summer’s decline.
I love the lovely days of summer, when you can walk out the door and not be cloaked in the heaviness that is called humidity—a dirty word in this part of the world—turning a fine day turgid. I look forward to the clear crispness of fall but remember fondly the days when no sweaters or light coats are needed. There is lightness to a good summer day; a weightlessness, even buoyancy but it seems that we are going to have to wait for the cooler days of fall to put that bounce back in our step.
Summer is not over yet and though the first day of school is next week bringing with it thoughts of fall—we will still be in the late bloom of summer. I remember wearing fall clothes on the first day of school, and the second day reverting back to my summer wardrobe because the weather just did not call for woollens and long pants. There would be time enough for that.
Bringing the summer to a partial close in my books has always meant the Harrow Fair. It was an event I never missed as a child, and one I made sure my kids got to experience. I enjoy and bask in the busy-ness of the fair—the animals and parades, the entertainment and the pies, the artwork and culinary expertise on display, the midway with its food and games and rides. It is a festival for the senses. And of course it features my favourite fruit—the hallowed pumpkin—in all its shapes and sizes and colours.
I was born a country girl and the fair brings back such fond memories, but you do not have to be a country girl to enjoy it, you can be a little bit rock and roll too. (For those of you wondering—this harkens to the days of Marie and Donnie Osmond. She was a little bit country and he was a little bit rock and roll. (I know, what a nerd! I delight in my nerd-dom!)
Streetlight shines too bright;
Romance, mystery of lamplight–
Silky shadows gone
Remember when you were a kid and someone would say something mean to you or call you a name and when you tried to find some comfort all you would hear is the oft cited but never apropos phrase: “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me”? I am here to tell you that I believe that little ditty should be locked away and the key destroyed so it never sees the light of day again.
Seriously, “words will never hurt me”? Nothing hurts more than a sharply worded criticism, a slight that is not in any way trivial or minor, or a knockout punch in the form of a barb. Words are notorious for being hurtful, upsetting and cruel but they can also be healing, nurturing, and comforting.
As a self-described scribe, words have provided me bread, if not butter. And I know the power they have. I try to be careful with my words, particularly the written word, but I have to admit that I have said things in anger that should not have been said. Anger seems to break down our barriers and I have found that if I can keep my mouth shut when I want to lash out, the outcome is much better. I cannot always do this. Eating your words is a bitter pill to take, but it is better than letting them dissolve someone else’s psyche.
Sticks and stones will break your bones, but those bones generally heal. Harsh, harmful, and hard words hurt, and if not properly anaesthetized by a heartfelt apology they are left to fester for an eternity—or at least twenty minutes. So where did I get twenty minutes? According to an article I read over the weekend called “How Advertisers Lead Us to Do Their Bidding” by Linda Blair, twenty minutes is “the time it takes for an emotionally driven reaction to settle down.”
I am not so sure this applies directly to being unfairly attacked by words, but it could. If, after being chastised by someone we waited twenty minutes, would we be as likely to attack back? Maybe, but by then our response might be a bit more tactful than if we reacted immediately. I am not saying this would be easy, nay, in some situations it would be close to impossible, but it is something worth contemplating. And it would also confuse your attacker if you did not react immediately—which would be a reward in itself.
The article was not about hurtful words, but about words that create “the power of suggestion” and are meant to elicit a response. For example, in one study, students were given two lists of words. One list had words that suggested aggressive behaviour; the other, words that suggested politeness and patience. The students were then asked to go to a room to speak with another researcher but “in a move deliberately designed to cause frustration” that person was busy chatting. Now I am sure you can guess the outcome, but it is disturbing how we can be so manipulated by “mere” words. Those who had been “primed with the rude words interrupted the conversation”, while those who had been exposed to the “polite words waited patiently.” I am thinking that I should try this experiment on myself as I am notoriously impatient, though most of the time I try to keep it under wraps.
We are easily manipulated by words, so it just makes sense that when we are hurt by harsh words it is hard to get them out of our system. I am well aware that I am a bit of a sponge when it comes to outside factors getting in my craw and eating away at me—just watching the news can put me in a melancholy mood, as the news tends not to highlight the better side of life.
Maybe I will try the twenty minute trick, as well as guard my exposure to negative things, people, and events. If twenty minutes is the magic time needed to quell consumerism and make sure that the decision you make is “your own and rational” rather than “influenced and impulsive”, perhaps it is also the time we need to calm down from an “eventful” or “stressful” situation. Certainly something to think about….
(I do know that a twenty minute recess will not stop me from eating my precious Hostess chocolate cupcakes with the deadly white filling and swirl on top. The last one is calling me from my freezer right now and I am afraid I am going to heed its call. The good thing is that there is only one package left as I am only safe from their siren call if they are not within reach.)