Sharing with you things that are on my mind...Maybe yours too. Come back to Wrights Lane for a visit anytime!

29 October, 2009


I came home late this afternoon with a Tim Hortons coffee for Rosanne. Not too surprisingly, she was fast asleep in her recliner chair.
"Rosanne...Rosanne," I said with no response.
"Rosanne!...Rosanne, wake up!" I tried again. "I've got a coffee for you."
Without lifting her head, and eyes still closed, she mumbled with a thick tongue: "Leave me alone just now. I want to finish this little bit of a dream I've got left...ZzzZZzzzz."
Must have been a good one.

28 October, 2009


My friend Richard Latam of Aylmer passed away at the St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital on Sunday, October 25, in his 71st year.  Deepest sympathy to Richard's wife Pat; daughters Cheryl, Laurie and Kelly; 10 special grandchldren and eight great-grandchildren.    


After I posted the previous Wrights Lane item the other day (What Have We Done To Ourselves?), in which I more or less lamented the decline of religion on the world stage, I was reminded of something written 167 years ago by none other than one of my literary role models, Old Humphrey.
"Old Humphrey" was the non-de-plum of George Mogridge (1787-1854) of London, a prolific writer who was frequently published by the London Religious Tract Society in the 1800s.  I was introduced to the works of Old Humphrey through a book "Thoughts for the Thoughtful (1842)" which belonged to my grandmother Harriet Perry (Peck) when she was a teenager.  Old Humphrey had a colourful turn of phrase and would be considered a homespun religious writer in his day.  He wrote very much as people talked in those days and his style makes for wonderful study.  He specialized in short essays and never failed to effectively make his point, generally by relating a story within a story. 

The old Banner of Ulster cited Mogridge's "winning simplicity which characterised the subject(s) of his sketch(es); and the lessons taught are such as must command the attention and respect of every Christian mind and heart."
I have referred to Humphrey's work before on this site, recently in an item about "finger-post" roadside signs and choosing the right direction in life and another post on the metaphorical use of  "whetstones" to sharpen relationships.  Oddly enough, many times when I re-read what I have written, I wonder if I am actually channeling him.

It would seem that Christian commitment, or lack of same, was an issue for Old Humphrey even in his day.  Here's what he wrote on the subject in "This World, Or The Next?"

"There are many people in the world who like religion, and who love religion; but then, much as they like and love it, they like and love the world a great deal more.  So long as we like and love religion less than the world, we cannot fully enjoy its comforts and consolations. 

"There are thousands who would be seekers after the happiness of heaven, if they could do so without foregoing the pleasures of earth.  This world first, and heaven after, would do very well; but, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God," is too hard a command for them.  For them! -- Ay! it is too hard for any of us, unless God's grace has made it easy.

"Now, how does this matter affect you and me?  Are we choosing our own plan, or God's plan?  Are we obeying our own will, or God's will?  Have we made up our minds, come what will, to run after pleasures of a world which passeth away?  Or are we resolved, at all hazards, to seek after the joys of a world that endureth for ever?"

26 October, 2009


I should not do so much thinking and delving in to certain issues facing us in today's society.  More often than not, I end up perplexed because I am not capable of resolution. 

My sleep last night was interrupted by two unsettling fact-of-life realities:  1) the advent of "artificial intelligence" and 2) the reality of a "post-Christian era".  In some strange way, the two may be related in that we are responsible for allowing them to happen.

ISSUE #1:  When I fire up my computer each morning, I never cease to be amazed by how much "thinking" that little grey box of electronics is starting to do for me.  In fact, I rely on it at least a dozen times a day for information of all sorts.  Amazingly, this complicated algorithm apparently processes about three billion other Google searches daily, and all within split seconds.  "Data mining" as it is called, has crept up on users of computer search engines around the world and it is really quite mind-boggling.

Equally astounding, the other day I read a report noting that computer speech recognition is approaching human capabilities, and that this capability seems to require 0.01 per cent of the volume of the brain -- the analogy suggesting that modern computer hardware programs are fast reaching a magnitude as powerful as the human brain.  Some researchers have even gone so far as to suggest that artificial intelligence may in fact eventually eliminate the human race, and humans would be powerless to stop them.  Far-fetched science fiction?  Maybe yes, maybe no.

In reality, we humans are responsible for extending ourselves and creating a phenomenon that was predicted some 50 years ago by I.J. Good who wrote of an intelligence explosion.  Good suggested that if machines could even slightly surpass human intellect, they could improve their own design in ways unforeseen by their designer, and thus recursively augment themselves into far superior intelligences.  The prospect of that happening is now very much a possibility.  We have reached a point of no return.  How smart is that?

ISSUE #2:  I have always held to the theory that we are called to be stewards of a good creation, not spoilers.  In so doing, we must distinguish between two rational methods of reasoning.  The one, science, follows the nature of things and proceeds by demonstration.  But when we turn to matters beyond the material realm, or implied by their existence, we have "probable reasoning" as described by Rev. Dr. Joseph McLelland, professor emeritus at McGill University.  In fact, the later encompasses the most important things -- our values, our emotional and our psychological life. 

Modern society is sometimes called post-Christian because the Church has lost its place as arbiter of social norms and quasi-official  religion of the Western world.  Clearly, we now live in an increasingly pluralistic world, with values derived from science or economics.  Rather than simply lament the passing of the good ol' days, we must face the situation head-on and think through our faith in light of the new challenges.
Here again we have contributed to the demise of our once cherished religion through arrogance, complacency and ignorance.  As before, I ask:  "How smart is that?"  Is reversal a possibility?
I'm too dumb to know the answers to any of this.  I am smart enough, however, to fear the possibility that ultimately we will be responsible for our own undoing.  Maybe I should check to see if Google has some answers!

20 October, 2009


Updated Saturday, October 24/09

The monthly meeting of the Dawn Township Historical Society on Wednesday evening, Oct. 21, at Rutherford, turned out to be another book signing opportunity for me.  Response to an open invitation to the general public from the Kent County/Dresden area was most gratifying and I was amazed at the number of old school classmates, family friends and acquaintances who turned up to hear me speak and to purchase copies of my books.  Society President Lillian Steele (above) shared a laugh with me during a break in the meeting. 

I was privileged to be asked to be the guest speaker at the monthly meeting of the Dawn Township Historical Society meeting Wednesday night (Oct. 21).  It was another "going home" of sorts for me. 

The society has been working for the past five years on a massive project that will trace the history of this small southwestern Ontario pioneer community in Lambton County.  A $25,000 grant from the Trillium Foundation has been a proverbial shot in the arm for a dedicated group of volunteers from the area.

The old township of Dawn was victim of municipal amalgamation several years ago and is now designated as Dawn-Euphemia Township, north of  Dresden and south of Petrolia.  The combined population of the township is only 2,190 and students from the area attend secondary school in either Dresden or Petrolia, both of which serve as local service centres for residents.

In addition to the former Dawn Township, Camden Gore, Dresden, Dawn Mills and Croton are being included in the history, due to be published soon.

The historical society meets in the Rutherford fire hall, just a stone's throw from the site of an old chicken barn on the farm of Pat Johnston where we used to play hockey and a "sand lot" across the road that was the scene of many baseball wars back in the good old days.  

The old familiar landmarks are gone now, but one thing remains the same -- the spirit of the people of Dawn. 

17 October, 2009


...and the Queen(ie) of Fairy Lake
I walk only 100 yards from my home to pay daily visits to the Queen of Fairy Lake.

Her Royal Highness is a beautiful snow-white Mute Swan that I have named "Queenie" because she is so wonderfully majestic. Queenie cruises the waters of Fairy Lake like a schooner, leaving behind a perfect wake as she surveys her domain and tolerates a following of ducks that are always careful not to invade her immediate space. 

If Queenie is in a good mood she will glide over to our vantage point on the bank and give my dog Lucy a couple of playful, not-so-mute "honks" just to establish her supremacy over the water she plies.  Customarily, dogs are not swans' best friends. 

Fairy Lake is actually an oasis of quiet, natural beauty with a perimeter trail that for the most part is a well-kept secret, even locally.  It is difficult to believe that a little more than 100 years ago Queenie's domain was an industrial site where Isaac Bowman and Henry Zinkan built a tannery just above the northern bank of the lake.  The tannery grew to become Southampton's major employer, until fire completely destroyed it on July 31st., 1900, throwing 100 employees out of work.

Houses, including ours shown in the Wrights Lane masthead, were eventually built on the site which was appropriatley named Tannery Hill.  When I was digging out a couple of large tree stumps last year I uncovered several pieces of tanning bark and burnt leather strips from the old tanning factory.  Other remnants from the fire are on display in the Bruce County Museum and Culture Centre which is located on the opposite side of the lake.   A large iron wheel that had been part of the hulking machinery in the tanning factory was retrieved from the bottom of the lake in 1983 and stands as a monument at the foot of the hill just below our property.

This kind of history fascinates me no end.  Just about as much as a certain regal swan that makes Fairy Lake her home.

Pieces of century-old burnt tanning bark and leather unearthed in backyard dig

Tannery machine wheel was retrieved from Fairy Lake 85 years after historic fire

Mirror-like reflection of fall sunset over Fairy Lake

Nature trail circumvents Fairy Lake

Even Lucy likes exploring the Fairy Lake trail

12 October, 2009


There's no better time than Thanksgiving Day for sharing some old black and white photos of my girls with readers of Wrights Lane.  They're kind of fun shots that bring a smile to your face, like this cute one "Huggin' Cousin" that shows my daughter Debbie putting the squeeze on her cousin Teri.  To see more, click

07 October, 2009


We are seeing a lot of the colour orange these days, due primarily to the arrival of the fall season and the celebration of Thanksgiving.

While the colour orange has different symbolic meanings, individual reactions to it seem to vary widely.  The other day my 16-year-old grandson, Joshua, offered what I think is a relatively unique impression of  "orange".

Commenting on his Facebook site, Josh said that he had just recently become aware of the colour orange and to him it seemed to have "a sense of goodness about it."  For someone his age, Josh is a pretty deep thinker and not at all afraid to express his feelings  -- a refreshing trait, to this grandfather's way of thinking.

In a way, I think I know where Josh is coming from and I will never look at the colour orange in the same way again.  Generally though, orange has been looked on as a power colour and one of healing.  It is said to increase the craving for food and is primarily associated with vitality and endurance.

People who like orange are usually thoughtful and sincere, according to colour expert Emily Gems.  She also points our that wearing orange during times of stress, or shock, can help to balance emotions. 

But a word of caution for Josh in all of this:  Orange is also the colour associated with the Sacral Hara Chakra (sexuality and reproduction).  Don't get to like orange too much just yet, Bud!

When you're feeling kind of orange, temper the mood with some blue...It's a "cooling" colour! 

03 October, 2009


...And all I can do is ask "why"?
Death itself does not bother me,
it's dying that has me perplexed
I have a friend Richard who is dying of cancer...It is safe to say that we all have had a friend at one time or another who was dying of cancer...Most of us have had loved ones who have died of cancer.  It is an insatiable disease that is no respecter of who we are or what we are.  It is a killer and there is no justice.
I have known Richard for more than 40 years.  We were next door neighbours at one time.  We just seemed to click.  We would give each other the shirt off our back and on several occasions came darn close to doing just that.  Our wives were good friends too.  We were plain, ordinary, hard-working people who were comfortable in each other's company -- and we had fun for a lot of years.  We shared inner most insecurities, we shared dreams, we rationalized the reality of our lives.  We were known to both laugh and to cry together.
Because of circumstances in our lives, and the distance between us, we kept in touch the past few years by telephone mostly.  The last time I talked to Richard was almost two months ago when he revealed to me in an emotional 45-minute conversation the sorry details of his cancer diagnosis.  He had lung cancer and he was not looking forward to the necessary treatment -- no one does.  He was worried that he would not be able to finish clearing a wood lot.  He always had several chores on the go at the same time -- and some of them he actually finished. 
Most of our conversation that day was devoted to reminiscences about the time we ran out of gas five miles off the shores of Lake Erie while on a fishing excursion, and the time we were delivering an old car of mine to his father who wanted to use it as an ice fishing vehicle, and a motor mount broke, spewing oil all over the engine that I had spent two days cleaning (a helpful mechanic along the way got us back on the road).  The car, a 1963 Meteor, was an absolute mess by the time we got it to Richard's father in St. Williams and I offered to give it to him at no charge.  "Don't worry about it Dick.  To me it looks like a Cadillac," he enthused as he handed me five 20-dollar bills, the previously-arranged amount.
Then there was the time Richard and I worked for three weeks refurbishing an old boat that was destined to break loose from a trailer hitch as we were hauling it to the lake for its first re-launching.  Our pride and joy ended up in the ditch, totally demolished.  Our wives called us the "bad luck Charlies".  All we could do was laugh.

Richard used to regale me with his baseball playing prowess.  One day I suggested we have a game of catch.  My first toss to him glanced off the webbing of his glove and hit him squarely in his eye.  With his eye rapidly swelling shut, I suggested we "have a beer".  He readily agreed, letting me know in no uncertain terms, however, that I should have warned him that I was throwing him "a curve". 
One evening we were out on the town when Richard's wife Pat became ill.  When we got home that evening it was discovered that a very "oozy" Pat had lost her false teeth.  I went back at midnight with a flash light and retraced our  steps that evening and found her teeth in a snow bank at the side of the road.  Again, all we could do was laugh.
Friends being friends!
As we concluded our last conversation Richard was in hysterics, relaying to Pat everything that we were saying.  I'm so glad we had that light-hearted, reminiscent chat.  For at least 40 minutes I think that Richard forgot about what was ahead of him.
I received a message from Richard's daughter this morning advising me that her dad had experienced difficulty breathing and had been admitted to hospital where they removed 2.5 litres of fluid from one of his lungs.  Tests also showed that his cancer had spread to his liver, bowels, pancreas and kidneys.  He had been placed in palliative care where they were keeping him as comfortable as possible.  It will only be a matter of days.
In the time that he has left, what can I say or do for my friend?  I don't even know if I can get to the hospital before the inevitable happens.
Sometimes instead of worrying about what to say or what to do for a dying friend, we simply should ask them what they want us to do.
I think that Richard would tell me to go on living, to enjoy every day to the fullest, to not worry about him because he is going to be okay.  He's going to be free of the body that has failed him and he will be there for me when I need him on the other side.  After all, that's what friends are for.
But, please God, why does Richard have to suffer so much as his earthly count-down begins a few months shy of his 72nd birthday?  Is this the price we all have to pay for the the reward that awaits us in Heaven?  Why, God, is this happening to my friend?...Why did it happen to my wife Anne?  Why will it happen to me, as I am sure it will?
Why?..Why?...Why?...Sometimes there are no answers to questions like this.  But we keep on hoping that someday there will be answers to the mystery of the life we live here on earth and why we have to exit so tired, so sick and so medicated, yet mercifully relieved in the end to be leaving behind all that we had worked for and all that we knew and loved.
God be with you my very good friend.  I have to trust that He knows what He is doing.  Perhaps you already know and you can explain it to me someday.
.  .
Be seeing you Richard...We'll talk again.  No more curves.  I promise!