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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Monday, July 31, 2006

The Quiet Game

I’m writing from Holland State Park on (where else but) the Lakeshore of West Michigan. The morning sun is trying to peek through a stand of White Pines, and I suspect by the time I finish this post it will crest the green steeple tips and be in my eyes. I'll hurry....

A few weeks ago, after writing so much about camping, we bought a nice pop-up from a private owner at a price that would make my father smile. (The pop-up has AC—which would make him laugh!) I took a day or two to fix the few minor issues that made it such a bargain, and, I must say, it looks great. I slept like a log last night. It’s been well over ten years since I woke up in a campground.

I don't remember campgrounds being so quiet. It’s after 8:00AM. I've been up for over an hour—taken a shower, etc...and so far, on the twenty-some occupied campsites in my view, I see only two other people awake: a man (zig-zagging a clothesline from tree to tree across the back of his site) and a zombie-like women heading toward the showers. Make that three—there goes a guy on a bike. Everyone is pleasant enough, but no one is talking. It’s as if we’re all playing the “Quiet Game.”

You know what the Quiet Game is, right parents? You’re the only adult in charge of a bunch of kids. You were either roped into the duty or volunteered the stint as a “fun parent” (or good uncle or aunt). Things are going well for a few hours, but without knowing it your patient parental supervision slipped into permissive tolerance (which is not the same thing),and then without warning your tolerance has reached its limit. It’s as if the incessant laughter, gleeful singing, and all the chatter in between has been steadily dripping into an imaginary glass balanced precariously on your head. You gently take the brimming glass in your hand and say with a fragile smile,
“I know... let’s play the Quiet Game.”

“There’s no such game!” pipes your most challenging charge.

“Oh, yes, there is. It’s the simplest and hardest game of all.”

“How can a game be simple and hard at the same time?” asks the second in command of the pecking order.

“Well the rules are simple, but the winning is hard—in fact, it might be way too hard of a game for kids your age.”

“No it’s not. We can do it.” They all chime in. “Tell us the rules. Tell us the rules.”

As the adult in charge, you then make up some rules. If this is a new concept to you, here are the one’s I developed years ago. “The rules are: No talking or touching; No laughing out loud or tickling; No clapping, snapping or causing sounds of any kind. Each of you must be totally quiet for as long as possible. The person who loses first has to sit in silence or he can’t play in the next round. If there are still more than one 'winners' after ten minutes, we break the tie by seeing who can quietly tell the most “sounds” they heard during the round. [Higher value may be given to sounds that they wouldn’t have heard had they not been very quiet.] Then we play round two. Ready? We’re going to start in ten seconds.” At this time, you begin counting backwards from ten and refuse taking questions. You then enjoy ten minutes of concentrated silence.

Properly conducted, this is an intriguing game. I was always amazed at how observant children of all ages become. Their ears perk up at a cricket’s chirp. Their questioning eyes are amazed that not all birdsongs are alike. After a few rounds, you’re blissfully unaware of the “tolerance glass,” but it’s empty again, and you can return to patient parental supervision (which is less subject to the "fed up" cycles of permissive tolerance.)

The Quiet Game was born of necessity (i.e. the need for sanity), but it is not a punishment. My kids loved it (and I’ve heard them creatively implement it now that they are adults). The game is a wonderful tool for teaching a discipline we all need to develop (regardless of our age).

We must never lose the ability to pause, to seal your lips, to not utter the thought that comes to mind, to study the countenance of those around us, to momentarily know the meaning of mute… to be still and know that He is God. (Psalm 46:10) Take a moment for some quiet today....

In the past few minutes, the campground has awakened a few doors at a time. A dozen or more people have strolled by on the path. They’re not dressed in the normal sense of the word. It looks like they told their wrinkled shirt and shorts, “Hey, I’m going to the bathroom. If you want to come along, grab on.”

The ones returning from showers look a little more put together. Those on bikes are bright-eyed. But coming or going, everyone is still quiet. Glances glance; eyes glint; shy smiles fleet in passing. It’s the Quiet Game at its best, but I suspect the final round is nearly over.

The sun is now in my eyes. The girls are awake and giggling in the trailer behind me. So much for quiet. Time to rattle some pans and cook breakfast!
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(posted later in the day)

Saturday, July 29, 2006

To Paul Who Taught Me
How to Root for the Home Team

I'll never forget that night in '68
at the peak of the Al Kaline years
when we colored a paper banner with hard-pressed crayon stripes
and ran with it stretched between us on the boulevard.
I don't remember the three blocks going
nor the same walk back to our house.
I only remember we could not contain
our need to scream and run and jump in the cool October night.
So we did in clumsy exhaustion—
like George Bailey in his return to Bedford Falls—
down the middle of Gratiot from Eastgate
to Mohawk Lumber and back again
with our waxy tiger-striped banner, scotch-taped together,
as we all were on that night,
inspired by the honking of a hundred horns
and no one wondering why.
T K
May 19, 2003

It was Dad who taught me how to play baseball but my brother Paul who taught me how to be a fan of the game.

We used to play baseball all the time. Dad would load the neighborhood into our VW bus (the original mini-van) and we'd play at Huron Park until it was dark. (Not one of us was in Little League at the time. Without exception, all the kids had fathers, but Dad was the only one who took us to the park at least once a week to play baseball.)

In our small backyard, I used to pitch a rubber ball against an angled board for hours. The board leaned against the brick wall just under my sister's bedroom window. That window was well above the strike zone, but what was I thinking? I eventually got pretty good—one window at a time. (Fortunately, Mr. Nebula next door gave us all his old windows when he upgraded his house. We had six the size of Kathy's window. When they were gone, I retired from pitching. [I didn't break all of them myself; my brothers pitched-in, too. =) ]

Paul loved baseball so much that when he wasn't playing or oiling his glove, he kept stats as a hobby. (In fact, he was so good, he later turned down a job with a "bookie"—good call, Paul). When he wasn't keeping stats, he played a folding baseball “board game.” It had one of those finger-flick spinner, etc. (This was way before video games and the decline of imagination.)

Paul would play board-game baseball by himself for hours on the porch, in the car, or wherever the game was scheduled. He could not play in silence; he “announced” every play with flair. "It's a long fly ball...he's going back...back... he's on the warning track...that ball is gone!" I kid you not. Sitting on the hallway floor, listening to Paul's “radio voice” baseball games through the bathroom door was just like being there.

I wrote the opening lines of this post for Paul a few years ago when the Detroit Tigers were beginning their worst season ever. By October, they had to win their last game to avoid setting the record for ALL-TIME worst season in the history of Baseball. To their credit, they found a way to win that game. Now, four years later, they've got the best record in both leagues. Baseball is a game of streaks, quirks, team chemistry, and—dare I use the word?—luck (i.e. oxymoronic, serendipitous Providence that governs how leather-bound orbs bounce at 100 mph).

Last night the Tigers squeaked by the second-hottest team in MLB, the Twins (3-2 ). I’ve actually watched more Tiger games this summer than I have in twenty years—since the Sparky Anderson "Bless You Boys" days. I have a picture of my new-born daughter Emily from October 1984. She's wearing a Tiger hat with the World Series on the hospital TV in the background. Being a new father trumped that last Tiger championship, and because I was older and out-of-state at the time, it was just not the same as '68.

Stay tuned. I feel it coming—that Detroit Tiger feeling I had as a kid. In 1968, my dad and my brothers (and uncle and cousins) went to a game down at the old Tiger Stadium. We each bought plastic helmets with the Detroit “D” at that game. I still have mine (no surprise :)
It was the year of Denny McClain’s 30+ pitching record (though I preferred Mickey Lolich). I had an Al Kaline poster on the wall over my bed. Other great names come to mind: Norm Cash (as in “Who Needs Credit; We’ve Got Cash”), Bill Freehan, Willie Horton, Jim Northrup, and Dick McAuliffe (whose wind-blown, leaning-back batter's stance I tried to emulate).

The legendary "voice of the Tigers" Ernie Harwell sang from my transistor radio (with its leather-like case and shoulder strap) all summer long. The Tigers went on to win the World Series that year (defeating the Cardinals). I was twelve. During the series, the halls of Burton Junior High were plastered with banners and posters. As I recall it, the final game was not played at night in prime time. I remember running home from school to watch the end of the game on our black-and-white TV. When they won, all the cars in Detroit began honking their horns.

You can imagine my brother Paul bouncing off the chain-link fences with glee as the chaotic celebration quickly spread to our neighboring suburb. We Scotch-taped a bunch of paper together, took all the black and orange crayons we could find in the coffee can of crayons and colored a striped “Tigers World Champs” banner. We promptly rolled it up and ran it to Gratiot Avenue as if people were waiting for the official news...as if it were our duty to deliver it by dark...as if two boys jumping up and down on the grassy median of a busy four-lane was just the image that night’s mayhem was missing. Judging by hundreds who honked and waved at us… it was.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Some BIG News!

I'm writing from the McDonalds in Ottawa, Kansas. It's 104 degrees with a heat index of 114. Stepping outside from AC to this kind of heat is a shock to the system (and the sweat glands). It reminds me of that summer in Kansas back in June of 1980 when the ACTUAL temp was 110 or more for over 20 days in a row. Those days in Kansas were compared to the Dust Bowl itself.

How would I remember this meteorological data? Because our wedding day was a brief oasis of joy in that record-setting heat wave.

On June 28, in a small air-conditioned church in Melvern (the same little white chapel where Julie’s parents got married in 1954), we tied the knot, stepped out into 114 degree air, and headed to our reception at the church campground in Waverly. Here's the thing... the camp building had NO AIR! We had decorated it the night before when temps had cooled down to the 90’s. Everything looked perfect when we left.

I wish you could have seen us laugh as we stepped through the door and saw the 12-inch taper candles all lying on the tables. They were still in their glass-star candleholders, and the holders were in place, but the candles themselves had gone limp in the heat of the day. When the hostess tried to stand them up to light them, they just drooped back down as if to say, "Are you kidding! You expect us to burn in this heat?" I only wish we had taken a picture of them before taking them from the tables.

Every groom will tell you that his bride looked "hot" on their wedding day, but mine really was. (Since Julie reads here, I better add that she was no hotter [in the over-heated sense] than the other 200 people in the room, but she was and is "hot" in the complimentary sense.) Two enormous fans (the kind built into the wall of livestock sheds) created an indoor breeze and helped us enjoy a wonderful afternoon with family and friends. It also helped that Tim, Bruce and Bob (from the Kings Brass) were there to liven things up like a Tijuana trio at fiesta (without them, I'm pretty sure a siesta may have been declared. As it was, we wrapped up as soon as possible and headed for Branson, MO).

Okay, Tom… so it’s a scorching day in Kansas, and it was even hotter back in 1980—you call that SOME BIG NEWS? No, that's not the news, but the this news and today's temperature reminded me of my own wedding day 26 years ago. Thanks for your patience.

Here’s the really BIG NEWS:

Keith proposed to my daughter Emily Sunday night. I’ve been waiting to write about it here, but we were getting ready for this trip to visit Julie’s family, and this was my first chance. I don’t usually write about current family matters here at Patterns, but Emily said I could tell you all about it (after all the whole Northern Hemisphere and parts of Asia [Hi, Ben] have already heard the news).

I took Keith out to lunch (secretly, at his request) on Wednesday, July 12th, and after a nice conversation (that I won’t share here), he asked my permission to marry her. That may strike some as a bit old fashion, but so was the fact that he asked permission to date her four years ago. I think Keith would tell you she was worth it both times.

One thing I will share was that he told me that on their first date he told Emily "I’m in this for the long haul." He obviously meant it. [Kim later told him that line sounded like John Deere talk to an Iowa girl—and I said, "That’s okay, Keith, better to speak in John Deere than to listen in "Dear John."]

So we had a nice talk on Wednesday, but the hardest part was that Julie and I had to keep his plans a secret until he proposed, which turned out to be four days later. Keith was thoughtful enough to let both sets of parents in on the fun Sunday night. Here’ s how it went:

Keith and Em went to Lake Harbor Park just north of Maranatha, where Mona Lake connects to Lake Michigan. It’s one of their favorite places to picnic and hike. Just before they crossed over the dune to the lake, Keith called his dad’s cell phone at 7:00PM sharp and let it ring once. That was our cue to go to a predetermined picnic table tucked off by itself in the trees at the end of the trail.

Amy (Keith’s mom) had everything we needed to decorate the table in a picnic basket they had gotten as a wedding present: white linen, formal stemware glasses, sparkling grape juice, chocolate covered strawberries, etc. and Keith had three red roses in a vase. It was perfect. We took some pictures and then we took off. Several minutes later they finished their walk, which just happened to be at the picnic table.

"Oh, look, Keith," Emily said, pointing into the trees at the table, "I’ll bet someone is going to propose there. See… now that’s a romantic idea." She had no clue; she was only doing the same "hint-hint" routine that Keith has been enduring for several months. Her actual hope was that something would happen before her birthday in October. What Em didn’t know was that Keith had gone beyond "hint" mode and had entered into the "action" phase. When he walked toward the setting, she told him to get away before the couple came back. Then he took her hand and guided her over to the table.

Keith laughed when he later told us, "For all her hinting, she sure wasn't ready for the real thing. She just kept saying, ‘Nuh-uh…nuh-uh,’ literally pulling back until I sat her down at the table." He took a small ornately bound book from his cargo shorts pocket. In it he had written "their story," and he read it one page at a time from when they first met right up to that very moment. (That's six years—with over four of them as a couple...it's a long story.)

She sat watery-eyed across from him as the reality settled in. On the last page, he crossed to her side of the table, got down on one knee, and said the last lines of the book from memory. That was the part where he asked to marry her. She said "yes," and he pulled out a small box from his other pocket. (He’d been carrying the book and the box all day—even as Emily took him to a store after dinner to "walk him past" a half-caret diamond on sale just an hour before. He simply said,"I don't have the money to get that right now.") From the box he took a one-caret princess-cut diamond solitaire that totally blew her away—since it was far more that she ever dared "hint" for.

(Tempted as we were to spy on these storybook moments, we didn’t see any of this, of course. They told us about it later. When I get a chance I'll try to post some pictures of the event taken by a tattooed, shirtless, total stranger who was barbecuing chicken across the way. When he used up the film, he congratulated them and gave Keith the disposable camera his father had left with him.)

Both families were waiting at the iced cream shop at Maranatha. It’s a big "lodge-type" room, and we occupied the couches by the fireplace. At about 8:30PM, two happy 21-year-olds came into the place all smiles. We took lots more pictures, and then they sat on the big hearth and told the story from their different perspectives.

Emily was tearful a couple times but mostly elated! Keith was happy, too—especially that it was a total surprise. We sat and visited for a couple hours. [Thanks, Dave and Amy, it was great.] This year will have many similar gatherings with the two families and one really big gathering (to be announced) that we trust many of you will witness for yourselves.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Fan

When I was a kid, our family bought its first fan at E.J.Korvette's department store on the corner of Gratiot and Twelve Mile in Roseville, Michigan. Much could be said about this store. Local legend had it that it was so named for “Eight Jewish Korean Veterans.” I never doubted its truth. Korvette's was also where my Mom bought her wigs—but that’s another story. And it was at Korvette's that I made my first successful ascent UP a DOWN escalator.

Why might a boy do such a thing? The same reason Hillary climbed Everest. Because it's there! At any rate, there at the top of the escalator, as if a reward for my achievement, was the FAN section of the appliance department. Dozens of fans filling two sides of an aisle, each proudly blowing ribbons and streamers in my face. Oh, how I wished we had a fan like one of those.


We had a fan at home. Dad made it from a forced-air furnace blower someone was throwing out—one of those huge “hamster wheel” designs. It had no switch—just a plug Dad stuck on the end of the old wire. This was Dad's way of keeping us away form the intake as we turned the thing on.

Dad's fan was so powerful it would blow Mom’s area rugs and small furniture across the room. Sometimes it would vibrate out of position in the night, and we’d hear things blowing over in the dark living room. Dad would get up to check it out, and on his way back to bed he’d say, “Now that’s a fan!”

It wasn’t so much the wind-tunnel effect of this industrial “blower” that bothered my Mom. After all, it did help cool down the house. What embarrassed her in front of company was the looks of this thing-- with its huge, grimy motor, exposed belt, pulleys, etc. What could she do to get Dad to see the need for safer fan?

Well, I don’t know if it was a strategy on Mom’s part, but in May of 1968 my little brother Jim was born, and that summer Dad decided to buy a real fan—with covers over the blades and everything—one less capable of blowing a toddler head over heals (much less the other dangers involved).

So when I heard the news that we were getting a fan, I told Dad about the cool display at Korvette's. He appreciated the tip and announced a "family outing"—a purchase of this proportion was right up there with buying the Plymouth Fury II a few years before, which happened to be the car we all piled into to head for Twelve Mile.

When we got to the store, I did not go UP the DOWN escalator—such a thought would never occur to me while shopping with Dad. He had the strictest store protocol known to retail. His aversion to buying things in general was second only to his fear of buying something we broke. On the rare occasions we kids shopped with him, we walked behind him, arms close to our sides as if passing through a maze of WET PAINT signs.

The second-floor fan display was a gauntlet of streamers just as I’d described. We each stood facing a fan saying "ahhhh" toward Nirvana, as a cheerful salesman approached Dad to explain the features. “Features on a fan?” you might be wondering. Why, yes, features galore. Things we take for granted now used to be demonstrated like new inventions to customers who gathered around in amazement.

"This baby oscillates [If it weren’t for fans, we would not know that word.] This one tilts and oscillates. This one has three speeds forward and one in reverse. It comes in cool aqua or silver ice. Do you want three blades? Four or five? You want a fan that turns-on with a knob or one that turns-on with a row of push buttons? Like this deluxe model. Nice, eh? [We didn't know it then but the word deluxe would soon lose all cachet and fall off the face of the retail planet. Someday this will be true of the word digital.]

“HIGH” mode was the key selling point for Dad. Oh, other features factored in—“I notice this one’s cord is a foot longer than that one. I like that”—but after years with a furnace blower in the living room, it was “HIGH” that would sell Dad on a fan, and the salesman read his mind.

“This one is an inch wider for greater stability in “HIGH” mode? Push that red button, Son, and see what happens."

I looked at Dad. He nodded, and I pushed the red button. It was the first time I had been near a fan when turning it on. From safe behind a metal grill, the gentle breeze ramped up to an authoritative hair-blowing stream, while showing a level of restraint we’d not experienced in a wind machine.

This fan weighed and cost twice as much as the same size box fan would today, but Dad bought it. He liked the power. I liked that it was controlled by a row of colored buttons.

Dad rigged the new fan up in the screen window of the dining room. It wasn’t as powerful as his furnace blower, but it was louder—it sounded like a crop duster taking off in the living room. I still have hearing loss in some decibel ranges from standing in front of the fan talking into it so my words sounded all “choppy.” We used to do that for hours when nothing good was on TV.

(Note: Mom called the space at the end of our living room a “dining room” for ten years in hopes of someday having a dining room table to put there. She had her Duncan Phyfe, of course, but that was in the basement still needing chairs, and her "dream" by then had switched to an Early American set she'd bookmarked in an Ethan Allen catelog. Once Jim grew out of his high chair, the seven of us could no longer fit around the Formica kitchen table with the chrome legs and matching chairs [that had shiny vinyl seat pads with splits in them and torn corners that scratched our bare legs]. It was then that Mom finally got her maple dining room set. She was thrilled, and we were happy for her, but I was older and recall less about the day the table and chairs arrived than I do of the night we brought home the new fan.)

Nowadays, with air conditioning, fans are less essential for survival, but they’re so cheap most households have several for various reasons. I’ve probably bought more than a dozen fans in my married life—not one was demonstrated by a salesman before purchase. When they give out, we just get a new one. Like so many of our low-cost goods in a "throw-away" world, they're cheaper to replace than to fix.

Last weekend was my Grandma’s 95th Birthday. We went over to Port Huron to gather with hundreds of people in the reception hall on the top floor of her apartment complex. The AC went out, and it was a very hot day. My uncle rounded up a dozen fans to circulate the air for more than 250 guests, most of whom were 70 or older. We “younger” folks (in our fifties) had our doubts that it would help. But believe it or not, it worked. The converging breezes were just right, and to most of the people in that room it triggered memories of modern luxury. We even had decorative streamers attached to them, blowing in celebration. I hadn’t seen such fun since I was a kid at E.J.Korvette's.

By the way, that fan we bought was a work horse for over twenty years. It's still up in my Mom's attic--works fine.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Wonder Is

Wonder is
the meadow of the mind…
where God is kind enough
to let man find and walk
the common ground of
science and conscience—
the path between
what he thinks he is…
and what he knows he should be,
a place where quiet questions
are allowed
and praise of answers
is aloud.

© Copyright 2000, TK, Patterns of Ink

Simply put,
thinking tests our grasp;
wondering tempts our reach.
We think about things
we know or hope to learn
and wonder about things
we may never understand.
While we assume
that knowledge trumps ignorance,
we dare not conclude
that certitude trumps wonder.
The opposite may be true.

Perhaps wondering is
our love language to God.
Perhaps wonder is our most
un-tampered-with form of worship.
Perhaps we never "know God" better
than when we are dizzied at
the thought of eternity
and the expanse of space;
when our hearts ache
with an unanswered "why?"
Perhaps when we feel
most lost, most orphaned, and when
His face is most inscrutable...
perhaps it's then

that crying, "Abba, Father"
most gladly bends
His holy ear.

© Copyright 2006, TK, Patterns of Ink
(To Chip and Jody at Nitty Gritty:
http://jodyferlaak.blogspot.com/2006/07/sometimes-i-wonder-why.html)

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Hope

Hopes have a secret parlor
just big enough for two
with a loveseat near a reading lamp
and a window with a view.










Hope_ is a high cathedral
where we sometimes sit alone
in the silence of the stained glass
and the certainty of stone.

Hopes and dreams that happen
are the stuff of happiness
but more enduring is the Joy
of Hope… without the “s.”

© Copyright 2003, Patterns of Ink
.
“…and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings,
because we know that suffering produces perseverance;
perseverance, character; and character, hope.
And hope does not disappoint us…” Romans 5:1-5

.
To Jim and Heather, 2003

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Contexth

Context is as important to the meaning of a quotation as the words themselves. This is true when quoting Scripture, and it's equally true when repeating daily chatter.

Every issue of Newsweek Magazine has an entire page called "Perspectives" that prints provocative quotations followed immediately by just enough context to underscore the insight, irony, or inanity of the “sound bite.” Here's an example from April 3, 2006:

"'This is humiliating for Islam ... Cut off his head.' Muslim cleric Abdul Raoulf, on former medical-aid worker Abdul Rahman, who faces the death penalty in Afghanistan for converting to Christianity." [Update: Rahman was later surreptitiously released and hasn't been seen since.]

Some things can be misunderstood if the context isn't known:

“I thoroughly thought the trough thing through, and though those are tough troughs, thinth I thought I was through, I threw it out. Thorry.” Explained the lisping owner of the small-town soda fountain who had recently changed his storefront theme from “Old West” to "1950's retro." Two hog farmers (who rarely came into town) were in search of a sturdy “slop bin” and had inquired about the missing horse trough that had been part of the front-curb décor for years.

You see? In context, that lisping line is crystal clear—thort of.

(In case you're wondering, I made up that last example. The lisping soda jerk doesn't exist, though his shop sounds like fun place for thippin' thrawberry phothphates at a "thock hop." The hog farmers, however, do exist. They're friends back in Iowa and could always use a another tough trough if you're throwing one away. Hello, Roger and Richard!)

P.S. What prompted this post was not the value of knowing the context of quoted lines (as important as that is). Actually… I had a recent run-in with spell check while typing of the word “thoroughfare,” which I muddled with the term "thru-way." I sometimes have a tough time with those "t-g & h" words.

I wood be lost without spell check.
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