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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

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My Amazing Granddaughter

This picture may look posed, but it is not.
Nora is not quite three months old. I was babysitting her by myself the other night. It was a cool night so I lit a little fire to take the chill off the room. Nora is so easy to sit for, that I typically get many things done in the hour or so we are alone. I can't very well go outside to work so I try to focus on helpful inside tasks.  I had already pressed the linens, emptied the dishwasher, cleaned the windows, and with Nora's help, had folded the laundry. I was considering aphabetizing the canned goods in the pantry as a special favor for my wife when the vinyl LP of Dvorak's New World Symphony began skipping in the other room. I rose to begin Side B. 

When I returned to Nora, I discovered that she had crawled across the room, gotten a book from the shelf, and crawled back to her favorite wrap-around pillow to begin reading it. "Colors" is a brilliant exposé on the problem of gangs in our prisons and inner cities. I chose not to alphabetize the canned goods, and instead began studying the random array of beads in one of Nora's rattles. Each time I shook it, the beads landed differently. Hmmmm...

Some time later, Nora closed the book,turned toward me, propped her chin in the palm of her hand, and said, "Papa, it seems there is an indisputable connection between gang-related crime and illegal immigration, particularly in our Southwest Border States. What say you?"

"Nora, Nora..." I said, "You're much too young to worry your pretty little head about such things. You should be thinking about flowers and birds and blue skies. Are you sure you grabbed the right book?"

I went to the shelf and got a different book by the same title. She began reading it just as contentedly as she had the first. I studied her rattle for two or three more shakes, still amazed at the apparent randomness of the beads at rest. "I'll never figure this out," I sighed.

I asked Nora how she liked the second book. She simply smiled, drooled, and babbled back at me in baby-talk. When her parents and my family returned home, they did not believe my account, and unfortunately I could no longer find exposé by the same title anywhere. They thought I made the whole thing up and posed the picture. 

To me the whole ordeal, strange as it was,  merely underscored the importance of age-appropriate reading materials for infants.  What say you?

As for whether or not the picture is posed. I don't know, I didn't take it that night she was at our house. None of the above is true--except for the fact that I was babysitting Nora that night while the women went shopping (and the part about the rattle. I am often fascinated by baby toys.). It's also true that Nora does indeed love to stare at things and will cry if you take a book from her while she is "reading" it.
On a more serious note:

For those readers who know where Julie and I are right now, I had scheduled the "Nora posts" because I haven't had time to blog for a week or so, but I wanted to add this first-hand account about the oil spill in the gulf.

We have been on the beaches in Destin, Florida's Emerald Coast (Florida Panhandle between Pensicola and Panama City) with our seniors since Saturday. Heading home tomorrow. The weather's been great. The beaches are beautiful. The dolphins are as playful as ever. Blue Claw Crabs are still very sporting during night-time hunts. No sign of the oil spill here--yet!

One hundred miles to the south and west of us, however, in the most southern and eastward tips of the state of Louisiana, the oil is beginning to wash up on shore. Our taxi driver at the airport was from Louisiana, and he is heartsick about this. In our daily travels we pass BP gas stations that have no customers. I have heard nothing of an official "boycott," but it seems to be happening quite naturally, and my guess is it will continue until this mess is cleaned up.
Cities all along the coast are living on pins and needles. The sad fact is, there has been so much hype about the potential contamination of these beaches that thousands of tourists are canceling their plans every week. In other words, the financial impact of this floating river of crude has already begun even if it never makes actual contact with the coast.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

See? I Told You She Loves Hats...

My Papa K told me to tell you he is posting another picture and a silly story on Wednesday.
By for now,
Nora Paige

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Acorn Doesn't Fall Far From the Tree

We've all heard the old proverb: "The acorn doesn't fall far from the tree." We usually say it when some physical or behavioral attribute of a child reminds us of the parent.

This is my daughter Emily and her high-school-sweetheart-now-husband Keith. I don't have a date for this photo, but I'm pretty sure it is from their early years of college. They both like hats.

As you may recall from some posts back in January and February, Julie and I became grandparents when Keith and Em's little Nora Paige was came into this world. Proverbially speaking, Nora is the acorn in the title of this post. She is not a nut, nor are her parents oaks, but the proverb does hold true when it comes to hats. Nora has more hats than there are days in a week, and she is rarely seen without one. The hat in these next three pictures just cracks me up!

[That's Keith holding Nora on a table with their little Schnorky "Winston" on the floor. That's Mom and Nora below.]
I will be taking a brief sabbatical from Patterns of Ink. These are very busy weeks in my real life, and right through the first week of June, I have very little time (day or night) that is not already scheduled for school-related duties. Don't get me wrong, the last few weeks of school are wonderful from nearly everyone's perspective, but they bring a whirlwind of activities and events that leave little time for much else.

I know I cannot truly cut off my time at Patterns of Ink, but I'll not have time to write much for the next couple weeks...so for the next few Wednesdays and Sundays, I'll just share some new pictures and brief anecdotes the way some folks do on Facebook. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

The Voice of Summer

It's been a busy week, and I know longer live in the immediate Detroit area, so forgive me if this news is a couple days late.  On the radio Tuesday morning, I heard the voice of Ernie Harwell.  It was a tribute of some kind, but I didn't hear until Wednesday that he had died at the age of 92. I was thinking about it as I went to bed, and in those strange early-morning hours when our subconscious sorts out life, I was either dreaming or thinking about him. I wasn't really thinking about the man Ernie Harwell as much as his voice, which for the first half of my life was the voice of summer.

Oh, I’d seen Ernie's face several times on TV through the decades, but it was his voice that was an old friend. If he had called me on the phone, I would have known him within a few words of greeting. There are probably hundreds of thousands of Detroit Tiger fans who know exactly what I mean. It was Harwell’s never-changing voice that filled the summer soundtrack of my life (from roughly the time I was five to about age forty-five).

I  remember hearing ballgames in the background from my grandparent’s front porch, from my neighbor's patio, from various houses as I delivered papers, and from different blankets in the distance on the beach. As a teenager, my brother Paul always had the game on his transister radio no matter what else we were doing. Even when I lived in Iowa in the 80's and 90's, I discovered that my car radio could pick up WJR at night. Don’t ask me how it traveled 700 miles, but on some nights at a particular spot in the park near our home, I could sit in my car and hear Ernie calling the game. It was magical…as if I had drifted back in time. I did this often in the late summer of 1984, those months before the Tigers won the World Series. If I was fortunate enough to catch a game on TV in those years, they were covered by George Kell and Al Kaline, whose voices had the same power to make me feel like I was not so far from home. But I have heard far more Tiger games in my life than I have watched on TV, and that's why Harwell's voice is so fixed in my mind.

To be honest, I am not a huge baseball fan. I rarely sit in front a TV glued to a game. It’s a background sport to me (until a team I care about is in a pennant race). On certain summer days, however, baseball has an ambient quality no other game can match—especially when heard on a radio. It takes me back to summer days of long ago. The crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd, and Ernie Harwell’s voice chatting away from a little box at the end of a picnic table—the score may have mattered in the moment, but in hindsight it is secondary to the sound effects themselves.

I mentioned I heard Harwell's voice this morning in my head. It wasn't a dream so much as an early-morning memory before I woke. Here's the scene I recalled:

I was dozing off on a blanket in the shade of trees at a place called Marysville Park, just south of Port Huron. It would have been the summer of 76,77, or 78, because I'd been working midnight shift at the Ford Vinyl Plant—hence the nap on the blanket at noon.

The centerpiece of that park for over fifty years has been this old steam locomotive. As I lay on the blanket, I could hear children’s voices and the hollow metallic echo of their feet stomping in the coal bin of the train, and I remembered the many picnics long-past when my brothers and I would have been among those kids. Between that train and me, were three tables pulled together with my Uncle Bob's family and our family getting ready to sit down and eat—and somewhere in the distance someone was listening to the tiger game. There was a cool breeze coming off of the St. Clair River, and I had pulled the edges of the blanket around me. I must have looked like a giant cocoon there on the lawn, but between the sounds of children in the distance, a dozen familiar voices nearby, and Ernie Harwell’s folksy tones filling the air between, it was an unforgettable sliver of time—how else could it have blown like a dandelion seed to the part of my mind that dreams?
Part Two of "Four in Corduroy" coming this weekend.

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