Thursday, December 24, 2009

Ships in Bottles

I have always been completely fascinated by Ships in Bottles. I’m certain the very first clipper ship I ever saw was a miniature in a bottle.

I saw it at a house my parents visited when I was but a child. But to me, it was one of the most amazing things I had ever seen. I never forgot how beautiful it was with its wee sails and rigging and every detail so exact. And yes it was on a blue ocean and there in front of a window, with bright sunshine lighting the interior of the bottle, it seemed all too real. And then, of course, the most fascinating enigma of all, was “How did they get that ship in that bottle?”

And so now, for Christmas, I found a very simple kit for building a ship in a bottle and bought it for my 7-year-old grandson. Now just because I have a great love, and fascination, with ships in a bottle will not mean that he has. There is no context in his experience to give him the same fascination.

So I wrote a wee book for him with ship poems, ship-in-a-bottle history notes, and my own story of my first encounter with the ship in a bottle when I was a child. I will spare you the reading of the entire book. I only want to share with you a silly poem I wrote for his little book.


They were sailing, fast a-sailing
In a sunbeam on the shelf
Sea a-foaming, sails a-billowing
Captained by a tiny elf.

They were rum-mied up and jolly
Singing songs of sailing fame
And I could not help but want so much
To join them in their game.

To face the sea from the upper deck
And see flat waters with a curve
They call’d to me, “It is your watch.”
I thought that quite absurd.

The tiny ropes were coiled up tight
Lifesavers in their places
The main sail billowed like a flying kite
With the ocean spraying traces.

I could not stay my little hand
The sea called out to me
So I took the ship down from the shelf
To sea what I could see.

I turned it over in my hands
To have a better look
And yes, I saw the captain there,
And I think I saw the cook.

I pulled the cork out of the bottle
Looked in that porthole small
Then suddenly the bottle slipped
I saw it bump the wall.

I scooped both hands so quickly
Down near the hard slate floor
And in a nick of time I caught
And saved the Misty Moor.

Tiny voices rummied up
All danced and cried with glee
And in that careless wreckless dance
They fell into the sea.

Before I could cast my tweezers
Down the tiny bottle-neck
I saw the cook throw out life savers
And say, “Get these round your neck!”

They grabbed the tiny lemon candies
The LifeSavers that were chucked
And so managed to keep a-floating
Till with tweezers they were plucked.

I pinched their trousers in the backside
And pulled them up on the deck
And again I heard that same small voice
Muttering, “What the heck?”

So now they’re back there in the cabin
Of the tall ship, Misty Moor
And I am very grateful that
With my help, they did endure.

When ships are built in bottles
The crafting lends a charm
That will safely keep the real ship
Forever free from harm.

Later on the radio,
I heard something very odd
The real Moor was so embattled
Only help could come from God.

They said she clashed with giant waves,
Round the coast of Cull Eldees,
There was little hope she could be saved
In those rough, tempestuous seas.

But a miniature in a bottle
Made with patience and with care
Gave salvation to the Big Ship
To escape the wild sea’s snare.

Because that mini-ship was bottled
The Big Ship was safe that day,
And the Misty Moor, at nightfall
Docked safely in the bay.

2009 Roberta Smith

Hope you enjoyed the poem.

Have a Very Happy Holiday Season!!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Untitled Thoughts

Today I write recklessly thoughts as they come. Too inebriated with concern to care how my thoughts are perceived. And what I’m so concerned about is ‘my golfer friend’ (may I call him that even though I don’t know him personally), and his wife. And what concerns me most is that adultery may not be as destructive to their two lives, as the media may well be.

Digging for dirt, digging for more dirt. With all that dirt flying reporters are missing the obvious. And the obvious, to me, is that any woman who would pursue her man in anger, with a golf club, and smash windows out of his car – cares. Very much cares. If she didn’t, she would simply fill another bowl on the coffee table with trail mix and settle down to watch a little television.

The two of them have money, and they have luxury, but what they don’t have is time in their busy lives for bonding and more importantly self-reflection. And in that self-reflection, that there is no time for, the understanding of responsible behavior to protect and uphold each other.

And because they don’t have that self-reflective time, neither can find within themselves the realization that despite what has happened, they care deeply about each other. That the livid rage stems from caring. That the heartbreak stems from caring. That the tree and the smashed window all stem from caring.

And furthermore, how can they know any of this when everyone is advising wife, that in order to preserve her good name, and her self-respect, she must leave him? And he, to preserve some slight semblance of dignity must scream from the rooftops what he has done. Neither of them need advice, review of past sins, and more advice. What they need is quiet time with their own thoughts. He needs time alone in his cave to realize the gravity of his actions, and ultimately, the realization that has not yet hit, that she is integral to his life and the well-being of both he, and his children.

Decisions need to be made, but they are decisions of the heart, and thus cannot and should not be based on society’s perception of fashionable dignity. No one, absolutely no one, knows the intimacy of another’s heart, or even their own heart, if they take no time or thought for critical examination.

I am drunk with worry. Seriously inebriated. But in this state I am a cranky drunk. Yes, infidelity is evil, no two ways about it. But one of the media persons that is all over the evils of infidelity, the lack of respect, etc. has a story of her own. She was married for a time to a great husband, a lovely understanding person, (who is still a close and dear friend), but she left the marriage because of a change in sexual preference.

So then, I begin to wonder theoretically. What led that individual to this new enlightenment? Would it be too much of a stretch for me to think that a hetero, could know this, could perceive this, have a certainty in this, without participating in a homo tryst? And if so, is that not infidelity? Or is such infidelity not considered infidelity because it is a seamless blend of a homogenous mix?
I know we have too many laws, but still we have not enough. There should be a law against all commentary of personal matters of the heart. It is every bit as necessary as a law against uncontrolled police pursuits. This is an uncontrolled pursuit and parallel in everyway to a police pursuit, that so endangers innocent bystanders, in this case, the children.

Famous or not, my golfer friend and his wife, have a right to examine, without interference, where they choose to go from here and be damned the issues of self respect, dignity, etc. in a society that thirsts more for blood than manna.

It seems to me that this harassment of their personal lives, only fuels the heartbreak they are already dealing with. In my mind, these two people, may well have hidden in all the turmoil, a deep affection that needs to grow, that needs to mature, and that needs to heal, and possibly could, if they allowed only their own hearts to advise them the path to take. But the media has buried all that in a mountain of dirty ‘good clean advice’. Even the uneducated man or woman on the street knows that in these situations, you don’t give advice. You simply listen and lend support for strength in the moment.

But in this instance, with all the advice being dished out, the divorce lawyer is too soon on the line.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sufficient for Any Season - III (conclusion)

Wounded Enough to Smile

Now all that I have told you so far is a multi-layered thing. And it is only now, in the writing of this, and in present reflective contemplation of my past, that I attempt to peal back the layers to find what drove me to be the kind of person I was.

And regrettably, if only somewhere along the way, I had done the level of inner reflection I now do, I could have done so much better. I could have been, in my youth, so much more the optimist, more the happy, more the dispenser of (sincere) smiles.

But all I can do now is discuss the experience and ponder over what might have been. A useless exercise so many will say, but if there is a story in it, I am a story teller, and I will tell the story.

And so, from that point on, rather than smiling, I took on a wounded countenance. As a teen I used my wounded countenance to flirt with cute boys. Of course it was a wounded countenance with sad, sad, eyes, and no hint of a smile. That proved to be a delicate exercise to get just right, the wounded look, without a scowl.

Now I can hardly bare to write this next sentence – in retrospect, it was such a dumb philosophy, but all I could calculate as a worthy measure at the time. The theory when it came to flirting? Make them feel sorry for you and they’ll ask you for a date. Be humble, be quiet, reserved, and act wounded.

But now I’m going to leave that and fast track ahead to one brief period of enlightenment along my long road of, for lack of a better word, stupidity. Not too many years ago, I encountered an old flame whose looks are now charred, as mine are, by gray hair, wrinkled skin, and the physical wasting and weakening ravages of time.

Now way back then, he was a prize, or so I thought, and so I looked him over and wondered what drew me to him. And immediately I realized it was his smile. His perpetual smile.

And wouldn’t you know it? Right then, in that chance meeting, so many years later, he handed me the gift mentioned in the beginning of this rant – that old familiar smile. And I felt the joy that the gift of a sincere (though somewhat foolish), smile can give. Jolted me back to the original story we discussed at the beginning of this rant.

So now I’m back in a space wavering between smiles and wounded looks. The wounded look cannot continue. I am forced to return to the original act of dispensing with unlimited generosity an abundance of smiles. Not smiles of big God grace, or movie-star pasted, or ‘see my nice teeth’ (though my new dentures are very nice indeed), but smiles of absolutely nothing more than true sincerity. Fundamentally because I have reached a point where I have nothing else to flash that will create a gift-exchange of joy equal to that discussed in a small classroom so very long ago.

And added to that, life has a fragility now that could cause it to so easily break, that it is silly to take it too seriously. And furthermore, I have so many more reasons to smile than look wounded. Because even without the beauty of my youth, and even with the pain of rheumatism and the discouragement of the sameness of routines and the bothersome chores and difficulties of each day, I have reasons to smile.

I smile now because the sky is so beautiful, the season so precious, the snow so white and fresh, and the weather all that it promised to be and more (Brr…). I smile because big scary global warming is happening, but not where I live.

On top of that, I smile because I have the comfort, security, and confidence that I understand where I once was, and where I am now. Truly, that is a reason to smile.

I smile too because compassion is no longer a happening. Try as I might, I can’t even put on a wounded look anymore. You have to be fresh and vibrant to do that.

A failing thing cannot apply a wounded look sufficient for anyone to notice.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sufficient for Any Season - II (cont'd)

The Wounded Look

In my analysis of other people, which I have been doing for a lifetime, more so than analysis of myself, I realized early on that sincerity coupled with wholesomeness has great appeal. There is no denying that. And so I returned to an examination of other facets of righteous, forever smiling, beautiful people like those depicted in my Sunday School paper.

And what I came to realize is that Godly people, (and perhaps even the un-Godly), if they are sincere in their role of a beautiful person, must, as part of that dedication to being a ‘beautiful person’, be compassionate to the nth degree. That is a necessary requirement for the ‘beautiful person’ commitment.

So in my struggle for popularity, acceptance, and joy in life, why not forget about the foolishness of smiling and instead simply reveal my need for compassion. Life is too worrisome to smile all the time, so why not put on a glum, serious face, and in doing so, buy into the compassion of the beautiful smiling people?

After all, my Father is a beautiful person, and he is compassionate when I am sad. My Mother is a beautiful person and she is compassionate when I am sad. Even my siblings, though not exactly beautiful people, become compassionate when I, for a certainty, am sad.

The bottom line is if one must smile with insincerity or foolishly, for the sake of a smile exchange, wouldn’t it be better to adopt a wounded look that invites doting compassion. And then smile with true delight while bathed in the compassion of others? Somehow, that seemed like a loftier perch than the equanimity of foolish and rather meaningless smile exchanges.

Seeking compassion, and receiving it, it seemed to me, could create a situation touching for all, and for me, only me, a dramatic saturation of joy in all my emotional hot spots.

And so, with that realization, I took on this wounded countenance. This glum look. This unsmiling look. This look that begged for compassion. And soon it became a way of life.

NEXT POST: Wounded Enough to Smile

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sufficient for Any Season - I

1. Beautiful People

Today I’m thinking about a story told by my teacher (when I was in first grade), and a fascinating story it was. A story about something we all have in abundance. That caught my full attention because in my childhood the only thing we had in abundance was ‘want’. Want of money, want of food, want of warm clothes, and want of enough coal for the long winter.

And more surprising, the something in the story, though precious, was meant to be given to others fast and furiously, yet it could never be depleted. Because always as much as one gave away, the same, or more, would be returned. And the exchange, whether giving or taking, would bring much joy. How amazing is that!

Obviously, ‘This is either a new fairy-tale, or a pretend situation similar to the trick of my Dad pinching my nose and playfully extracting it between two fingers and putting it in his pocket. A story, like the extracted nose trick, that requires me to pretend something is real, that isn’t real.’

Pretend or not, the answer was eventually revealed, and the answer, of course, was ‘a smile’.

I was a wee bit disappointed but still I smiled at the story and so did my classmates and as we glanced (and smiled) at each other, for one quick moment the joy that the story promised for ‘the exchange’ was felt. True to the tale, but the recompense rather short-lived. And so I began to give much thought to the worth of smiles.

And that is when I noticed that in Sunday School papers there were always children who ceaselessly smiled. Children with ruddy glowing faces and great broad and beaming smiles.

I envied their beauty and could only think it was because they were wrapped in pure thoughts, silver notions, and God-possessed grace. The orphan child’s face, the forgotten waif’s, the thin hungry child – all of them – depicted with beaming beautiful smiles. It mattered not that they faced such obstacles. Regardless of their many trials, they peeked at me from those pages with optimistic delight. I guess if you have enough discipline, self-confidence, and righteous grace, it is not possible to be ruffled by want or cruel misfortune.

And so I envied their happiness. I envied their happiness when they had reasons to be happy. But I envied even more the individuals who were happy when they had so little to be happy about. It never occurred to me that their flat world of printed and color-washed sketches was too vastly separated from my reality to even have relevance.

I reveled in their glowing faces and broad smiles that made them so stunningly beautiful. That is what I wanted as well – to be that beautiful. So I tried desperately to clone the personalities revealed in the stories that surrounded them. I tried to clone their purity, grace, patience, forgiveness, and staunch self-confidence in their own righteousness.

But it was not so easy. Classmates taunted me for my valiant goody two-shoes efforts. Even my teacher became impatient, as did my parents and siblings, with this great and wonderful righteous thing I was trying to do.


And so, before long, I had a different take on the perpetual glowing smiling face. I was still a pre-adolescent when I realized that life is not something to be taken that lightly. Life is a struggle. A struggle to do well in school. A struggle to make friends. A struggle to feel good about wearing hand-me-downs, that are neither fashionable, colorful, fresh-looking, or warm. All of these obstacles added up to too much embarrassment and degradation for me to pass around smiles all day long without reservation.

Furthermore, as time passed, I met too many people that smiled too much. There was the nurse my Mom knew whose face was forever flushed with an ironic smirk-smile. A smile that deviously attempted to mask her distaste for all of life and the inhabitants in it.

And there was the Sunday School teacher that smiled too much in an attempt to clone wholesomeness beneath a private wealth of sins. And there was the School Bus driver that smiled too much in an attempt to always look professional (I guess). And there was the man and his team of perpetual smilers who walked the streets shaking hands and knocking at doors for several weeks in order to gain support for a local upcoming election.

There was the half-wit in town sweeping the sidewalks and perpetually smiling at some nonsensical nothingness. There was the neighbor who smiled all the time but in all things was such a failure because his smile was a cover for all he did not understand about finances, farming, or the seriousness of life. I began to think they were a bunch of fools. Foolish people smile all the time. People too foolish to realize life is serious business and all applications of it, serious as well.

Obviously, with these observations, I could only conclude that the value of a smile is both overstated and overrated, and so it quickly became a shabby accessory in my books.


Cont’d: Next Post: The Wounded Look