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

28 October, 2012


The Beatles (remember them?) once sang:  "I don't care too much for money, money can't buy me love."

It was just around the time of the release of that record (we called them records in those days) that colour television sets came on the market and we could no longer see the world in such a black and white manner.  We know, of course, that love and money are not mutually exclusive...It is perfectly possible to have both. All that is required is an understanding that the two are not necessarily connected.

We are the wealthiest when we have love in our hearts!

Personally though, I'll take a liberal dollop of legal tender mixed in with all my "love" diet recipes.  It is the ingredient that binds, so to speak.

26 October, 2012


In the above spectacular photo, fishermen just south of Southampton formed an almost perfectly-spaced line just off the east bank of the Saugeen River this past weekend.

Measuring a fine specimen

While the river was shoulder-to-shoulder with hundreds of  fisher persons from all over Ontario, the Lake Huron Fishing Club (LHFC) and Steelheaders moved 50 adult Rainbow Trout in a "live tanker" up the Saugeen River to spawning beds.  It is a commendable spring-and-fall ritual.
During the spring, the volunteers move salmon up-river and, now, in the fall, they do the same with rainbow trout.  According to sources, the fishing on the Saugeen this year is the best in over 20 years -- thanks to the dedicated volunteer members of these organizations.

There ya go, me beauty!
Details of each fish are individually documented for the government.  They are measured and a scale sample is taken.  Fertilization in the hatcheries is generally 70 to 80 per cent while in nature it is only approximately four per cent.

Not every fish taken has sperm or eggs because they are too young.  These "green" fish are subsequently placed in two portable tanks, one for females and the other for males, and taken to sites further up the river to tributaries where the water is cooler and more conducive to the development of sperm.

Regardless of weather conditions, anglers will be out in droves on the Saugeen again this weekend.

23 October, 2012


School in Dresden attended by my parents and their son, demolished
 in 1960s. 
I have been involved in research recently that has impressed upon me just how much our education system has changed in the past 100 years.  No question that the school that my parents attended at the turn of the 20th century was not as much fun and as exciting as the schools enjoyed by their great grandchildren in the 21st century.

You only have to look at vintage news reels to see that our parents' and grandparents' generations suffered a tawdry, monochromatic education, dismally devoid of colour and imagination.  It is not too surprising that many students dropped out before ever making it to high school.  Of course, apprenticeships were readily available in many vocations in those days and economics were also a factor...Out of necessity, young people (boys in particular) were required to start making a living for themselves as soon as they were physically able.  School start times were also adjusted to accommodate farm kids who were required to work in the fall harvest.

Punishment and discipline were high on the agenda too.  Not learning math or neglecting homework often resulted in teachers administering the strap for insubordination.  If work was not up to standard, students were actually failed and held back a year...Just ask me!  I failed a grade when my father passed away during my first year in high school...An embarrassing  and belittling experience that haunts me to this day, forever carrying the stigma of the "dummy" label.  There was a certain regimentation too and the old school in Dresden (see photo above) that both my parents and I attended was no exception.

Extra curricular activities were virtually non existent.  The biggest "social" event of the school year was the annual commencement exercises.  An activity highlight was "track and field day" held in October of each year.

During elementary years, boys were assigned to one side of the school yard, and girls the other.  Heaven help anyone who ever strayed beyond that invisible dividing line. Students also had separate entrances at the back of the school.  Upon graduation (moving up) to high school on the second storey, boys and girls were privileged to use the same front entrance to the school as a first exposure to co-ed, co-existence in the society that awaited them.  For most kids, it was a rite of passage -- an "I have finally arrived" sort of thing.  Teachers, of course, had their own private entrance.

Children in my old hometown spent a good 12 years going to the same continuation school with primary grades on the first floor and senior grades (high school) on the second.  This may account for why so many of us have a special feeling for our old schools.  Kind of like our second home, in a way.  We spent almost half of the first years of our life walking those familiar halls of learning.  A place where our minds and personalities were formed, for better or worse.  By my rough calculations, I figure that I and my dad each walked 7,200 miles over the Sydneham River Bridge, to and from the same school in our formative years.
It is interesting too that there is a good possibilty that at some point in time I actually sat in the same desk as my mom and dad during their days at school some 35-40 years earlier. The photo to the left shows school desks that were common in the first 40 years of the 20th century.  They were bolted to the floor, so there was no moving them around.  Note the intricate iron frames and oak wood seats, backs and desk tops with ink-well holes for ink bottles.  Stock pens with replaceable nibs and fountain pens were the allowed writing tool of the day....No such thing as today's ball-point pens which came on the market only in the mid 1940s.  Penmanship was actually a mandatory course on the curriculum.

Slate board and slate pencil.
When my mother and father went to school (1905-1915-'16) paper was at a premium and not readily available.  "Scribblers", when available, were reserved for higher grades.  Each child actually had their own slate board to write on and to do arithmetic calculations. Slates and slate pencils were very handy (see photo to the right) in the early grades in particular.  Children were able to write on the boards, show their work to the teacher, and make corrections without wasting paper.  You could just wipe old work off your slate with a cloth, hand or shirt sleeve, and start all over again; hence the expression: "starting with a clean slate", so often used in conversation today.  Slate boards made it easy for teachers too.  With old work erased, all they had to do was move on to another lesson.  Not a bad idea then, or now too for that matter!

Just imagine how many trees could be spared today by re-introducing slate boards to the education system.  Guess we won't hold our breath on that one...!

Remarkably, schools in the first half of the 20th century turned out many brilliant minds and top scholars, so don't get me wrong.  There were redeeming features.  There will be a few (like me) reading this post who were virtual products of that very system; so I choose my words carefully.

18 October, 2012


I have fun following the curmudgeonly astronomer Jonathan Cainer.  There are times when he makes absolutely no sense at all and there are other times when he is eerily close to the mark. He was talking about people's life stories the other day and he struck a chord with me.

Just think about it for a minute.  We all have amazing life stories to tell, if only we were so moved.  Some publishers would no doubt reject many of our life tales because they feel that they are just not believable enough.  Other publishing brain trusts may determine that some of our stories are beyond belief, perhaps better portrayed as fiction.

Of course, certain aspects of our life experiences would require selective self-editing and may not bear repeating publicly.  But that's another story, right?

For some of us, there have been so many uncanny coincidences and inexplicable developments in our life stories.  Even with all the nuances and details accounted for, we still find it hard to explain exactly why and how some things have happened to us.

Once we simplify some of those details, it all starts to seem faintly miraculous, doesn't it...Great stories that most of us will ultimately take untold to the grave with us, and that is a shame.

But you know what, if you are reading this post, your story is not finished yet.  What miraculous next chapter is just around the next corner for each and every one of us?  Exciting thought, isn't it!

If I were a publisher today, I'd love to hear all about it...Keep your pencils sharp dear friends.  You may yet have a best seller on your hands.  Keep living the tale and adding exciting new chapters as you go!

Make your life story a long and good one.

16 October, 2012


After writing yesterday's post about the depressing four consecutive
Sun piecing through clouds and branches of
towering pine tree in our front yard.
"dreary, wet fall days" we had just experienced in Southampton, I could not help but keep repeating in my mind the hauntingly delightful and promising words from the ever-popular Broadway show "Anne": "The sun'll come out tomorrow.  Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there'll be sun!..."

Finally, full sun this morning revealed colors
of autum on our street.
Well, sure enough, this morning we had sun ever so hesitantly finding its way through thick, gray clouds that had hung overhead for almost 100 hours.  As the warm rays continued to penetrate and open up the heavy cloud cover to a clear blue sky, I swear I could hear a heavenly crescendo piercing the fall air: "...Tomorrow!  Tomorrow!  I love ya.  Tomorrow you're always a day a way."

15 October, 2012


If there is anything that I hate more than a dreary, wet and windy day in October, it is four consecutive dreary, wet and windy days in October..  It doesn't help that Rosanne and I are at different stages of struggling with bouts of pneumonia.
Make it a quick one, Lucy!
At the best of times, fall is the most depressing of the four seasons for me, but this is ridiculous.  Enough already!  I've had it up to my over-stuffed sinuses!

In the old days you might say that we have "walking pneumonia".  We're able to be up and about (most of the time), but most of the time why bother.  Sleep is a better option, providing you can stop coughing long enough.

Yesterday (Sunday), with plans to attempt to go to church, I got up at the usual time, showered, shaved and -- subsequently tossed in the towel.  One look out the window convinced me that I was making right decision.  It was just not a fit day outside for man nor beast.  Even Lucy needed gentle persuasion to venture off our back porch step in order to perform her routine morning duty.

The rest of the day I rotated prone positions on my recliner chair and the couch.  Rosanne continued to be a permanent fixture on her recliner, moaning, hacking and coughing her way around the clock.  At about 4:30 in the afternoon I reached the point where I'd had enough.  "I need some fresh air in spite of the weather,"I reasoned.  "I need to see people.  Maybe some Tim Horton's coffee will help liven us up."

You could shoot a cannon down the main street of Southampton...Not a soul to be seen, which was not a surprise to me, given the kind of day that it was.  The parking lot at Tim Horton's was vacant and there were no customers inside.  "Just one of those off days," commented the young pony-tailed clerk with a yawn.  "Except for breakfast, it's been quiet like this all day.  People are staying home where it's dry, I guess."

Just one of those days, to be sure.  But God help me, not four in a row.  I'd check the weather report for the next couple of days, but in truth I simply do not have the energy right now.  I'd rather just make it through today and rely on the philosophy that "tomorrow will be another day" -- and take my chances.

Henry Wadsorth Longfellow kind of hit the nail on the head with the following poem written in the mid 1800s:

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the moldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.

My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the moldering Past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast
And the days are dark and dreary.

Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.

Thanks Henry.  I think we all needed that!

12 October, 2012


I have talked and written frequently on the subject of death.  It is an area in which I have had more experience than I would have liked but it is, nonetheless, unavoidable in all of our lives and will most certainly catch up with every one of us in the end.

Someone once said:  "It's not that I'm afraid to die -- I just don't want to be their when it happens."  That is probably how many of us feel, but the fact remains, death is as much a part of life as life itself.  Every family faces death at one time or another.  Death reminds us of how tender and fragile life can really be.

Death can take the form of a reward for a life well lived.  It can also be a blessed release from a devastating and debilitating illness or the ravages of old age.  Death is hardest to take for loved ones when it comes unexpectedly and prematurely.

I am thinking especially of an acquaintance, my same age, who died in an unthinkable plane crash this past weekend.  What must his family, in particular his widow, be feeling and thinking at this very moment.  It hurts the heart to even speculate on such personal losses.

If we are religious, we can gain a degree of solace from The Book of Ecclesiastics:  "To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven; a time to be born and a time to die."  It also says in another chapter:  "The day of death is better than the day of birth."...Try wrapping your mind around that one, if you can.

Regardless of the circumstances, it is fair to say that we are all the same in one lament when a loved one passes away.  We are left with things unsaid and things undone.  We experience knawing doubts.

There is a lesson here for all of us...We should be more open and forthcoming with our feelings.  We should not save them for another time and place because another time and place may never come.

The specter of death reveals our relationships to be our most precious possessions.  I'm sure that virtually everyone reading this post has lost count of the number of times they've met people who have expressed deep regret over things they wish they had said before a grandparent, parent, spouse, sibling or friend, passed away.  They cannot change what was, but without fail their regrets have fueled a healthy resolve to say what needs to be said before it is too late -- to clear away hurt feelings, to express deep emotions, to connect in profound ways with the ones who mean the most to them.

Relationships, even the most loving, have occasional rough spots.  We assume that people we love know that we love them, even if we've had disagreements and tense moments.  It is so easy to forget that when there is nothing of profound importance left unsaid, relationships tend to take on a glorious aspect of celebration.

A deep, natural drive to connect with others lies at the heart of what it means to be human.  We need not wait until we or someone we love is seriously ill.  By taking the time and by caring enough to express our feelings, we can renew and revitalize our most precious connections before another day passes.

Take it from someone who speaks from experience.

07 October, 2012


Home of my birth on Sydenham Street in Dresden.  A water
 colour painting of how I remember it, circa 1945.  Note:
original front door key, inset.
I was talking to a group recently about memories in the context of things that are seen as opposed to things that are unseen.  The point being that things that are seen are transient and the things that are unseen are eternal.

It was with a degree of surprise that I learned that a number of others knew exactly what I meant and the majority related it to memories of the home in which they grew up.  I don't mind saying that there was comfort in being in the company of kindred spirits on this particular occasion.

With self-admitted resolve, I mentioned that the sad reality of visits to old homes is that they change.  They do not look the same and they do not feel the same.  They are not our homes any more -- they belong to someone else.

But you know what, no amount of paint, structural changes and landscaping can ever change our fond memories and what remains in our hearts of the home in which we grew up -- of the home we shared with loved ones, of the home that was our adolescent refuge from a world we had yet to understand, of the home where we could just be comfortably ourselves.

Indeed, places change and people change, but the memories that are etched on our hearts are indelible.

I was born and raised in an old brick home on Sydenham Street in Dresden, built by my grandfather Wesley Wright in 1878.  Both sets of grandparents (Wes and Louise Wright and Nelson and Harriet Perry) died there, as did my mother and father.  When my mother Grace passed away in 1994, I had no choice but to sell the property with mixed emotions.  The new owners have done a wonderful job of remodelling the century home and I am happy that they have taken pride in much needed upgrading and renovations.  In essence, they have made it their own, as it should be.

I have been back to Dresden numerous times in the past 18 years, but I now purposely avoid Sydenham Street.  I passed by it again just two weekends ago.  In fact the surroundings at the corner of Sydenham and North Street (Highway 21) had changed so drastically from what I remember that I was well on my way out of town before I realized that I had passed the old intersection.  I did not turn around and go back.

I resist the impulse to "see" the house as it is today.  I prefer to cling to the "eternal" memories of my old home as it was -- our comfortable front porch where we spent so many summer evenings drinking ice tea and visiting with neighbors and family, my bedroom where I listened to Lux Radio Theatre, Jack Benny, Amos and Andy, Hockey Night in Canada, and Detroit Tigers broadcasts on my Northern Electric table radio when I should have been doing my school homework, the living room where my father roled back the carpet to allow me to pound nails into the hardwood floor when my mother was out for the evening, the lingering smells of my mother's pot roast dinners, the large back yard where I played catch with my dad and grandfather Perry and helped tend to a substantial vegetable garden; the laughter, tears, times of prayer, Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving family gatherings.  A place where my imagination and sense of creativity was allowed to develop quietly and freely, unencumbered by the influences of the outside world. 

I can, and do, visit often, however -- in my mind and in recurring dreams too.  I imagine the old home on Sydenham Street as being unchanged with the passage of time.  It continues to be the home of my youth, even though I do not live there anymore and someone else does.

I now live in what may well be my last home and, be it ever so humble, I love it just as much as that first grand old place on Sydenham Street in Dresden.  With all its cracks and blemishes, it is me.  It is my contentment.  There is no place I would rather be at this stage of my life.   It helps to have Rosanne and Lucy there too.