Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Auld Lang Syne, Robert Burns, and Paul Simon

photo courtesy of
"And there's a hand, my trusty fiere! And gie's a hand o' thine! And we'll tak a right guid willy waght, for auld lang syne." --Robert Burns

Auld Lang Syne--the signature song as one year ends and another begins. Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should old acquaintance be forgot, and auld lang syne...

Auld Lang Syne. Originally a poem, written by Scotland's famous poet Robert Burns in the late 1780s, it was popularized as a New Year's Eve song by Guy Lombado when his band used it during a live performance at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York in 1929 (source:

For us today, the original Scottish dialect is quaint: For auld lang syne, my jo, for auld lang syne. We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet. For auld lang syne. And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp! And surely I'll be mine! And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet, for auld lang syne. ('For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne, we'll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne. And surely you'll buy your pint cup and surely I'll buy mine! And we'll take a cup o' kindness yet, for auld lang syne.')

And yet the sentiments remain the same. Auld lang syne, the meaning translates to times gone by or old long ago, and rings true with messages about love and friendship of times past, important things not to be forgotten.

We twa hae run about the braes and pu'd the gowans fine; But we've wander'd mony a weary foot sin auld lang syne. ('We two have run about the slopes and picked the daisies fine; but we've wandered many a weary foot, since auld lang syne.')

We twa hae paidl'd i' the burn, frae mornin' sun till dine; but seas between us braid hae ror'd sin auld lang syne.* ('We two have paddled in the stream, from morning sun till dine' but seas between us broad have roared since auld lang syne.')

Ah, but if Auld Lang Syne is the song to close out 2014, what song should usher in 2015? May I suggest something from Paul Simon? A verse in his song, "Hurricane Eye," goes like this:

You want to be a writer,
Don't know how or when?
Find a quiet place,
Use a humble pen.

Doesn't have quite the 'ring' to it, and it isn't Auld Lang Syne. Still, I think I'll be humming a bit of this from Paul Simon for 2015, telling myself to just pick up that pen. Get those words down. That's how a writer writes. And then, by this time next year, after having continued and appreciated contact with writer friends--real time and blogging buddies--I might be able to sing, And there's a hand, my trusty fiere! And gie's a hand o' thine! And we'll tak a right guid willy waught, for auld lang syne. ('And there's a hand my trusty friend! And give us a hand o' thine! And we'll take a right good-will draught, for auld lang syne.')

How about it? Robert Burns or Paul Simon for 2015?

Or some other songwriter? Who would be your pick for inspiration in the new year? If so, what's the title/sample verse you would choose?

Happy New Year! Wishing you the best in all the year might bring.

(*source for song lyrics:

Monday, December 22, 2014

Stairs and Thoughts and Other Things

art courtesy of
Halfway Down

                                                            Halfway down the stairs
                                                            Is a stair
                                                            Where I sit.
                                                            There isn't any
                                                            Other stair
                                                            Quite like
                                                            I'm not at the bottom,
                                                            I'm not at the top;
                                                            So this is the stair
                                                            I always

                                                            Halfway up the stairs
                                                            Isn't up,
                                                            And it isn't down.
                                                            It isn't in the nursery,
                                                            It isn't in the town.
                                                            And all sorts of funny thoughts
                                                            Run round my head:
                                                            "It isn't really
                                                            It's somewhere else
                                                            Instead!" --A.A. Milne

My thoughts have turned to the stairs lately. I don't know if it's because this time of year tends to wax nostalgic or what. Memories take me to childhood traditions, family experiences, life changes and life blessings. Staircases can do that, I guess, since they play a key part in some of those memories. The curving staircase of my great-aunt's farmhouse where we had family reunions. The staircase of my youth at the bottom of which I'd sit and talk on the telephone as a teenager. The staircase even years before that at the top of which, when I was three years old, I attempted to throw a telephone book down--and bumped all the way down myself along with it. The staircase that has carried my children's footsteps up and down and now my grandkids pattering feet as well.

The steps to the upstairs of our house have seen many feet. Big feet, little feet. Old feet, young feet. Happy feet, stomping feet. Ours is an aged country house (though the country around it now isn't so much country anymore), built in 1935. Steep and narrow, the steps ascend at the back of the house behind the kitchen. Awkward placement, it would seem, but that's how old Mr. Meyer built it for his bride-to-be all those years ago. I know this because of the day when I was a young mother and a strange car pulled into the driveway. Out emerged an elderly man accompanied by a younger driver. In the backseat were two women, their respective wives it turned out. Upon answering the knock at the back door, I heard the younger man say, "I have someone here you might like to meet." At which the elderly gentleman said, "I am Leo Meyer, and I built this house."

What a treasure. Questions about my house that I'd pondered could be posed and answered. Hands that dug the basement, erected the walls--and fashioned the steps--gestured over things that had changed, things that remained the same. The sweet wife, now wizened but once a beaming bride, who toured what was once her home and who whispered, "If you find any money, it's mine."

A few years later, I learned that we were only the fifth owners of this house--and the two families that followed the Meyers before we came along each had a set of twins. Twins, in this house, times two! One couple with twin girls. The other with a girl and a boy. Imagine the antics up and down the steps in those years. Then came the couple that sold the house to us. The years march by just like the many times feet have marched up and down the stairs.

And I wonder, did any of the children in those years sit in the middle of the stairs and just 'be'--listening and imagining and pretending? How did the stairs help form their view of life and give them a boost up to their futures? Roald Dahl once commented, "I do have a blurred memory of sitting on the stairs and trying over and over again to tie one of my shoelaces..." What are the memories of the children who traipsed these stairs?

What are the memories of children who've traveled your stairs? What are your memories of stairs? And aren't words like steps--links to places, connections from past to present and future, a starting place and a help to a destination? Steps--and words--support, launch, propel, nurture, serve and lift. And on occasion give our imaginations a place to pause and be reignited.

Here's to that special stair that can do all those things!

May your holiday celebrations be blessed this year with much joy and peace--and with those quiet moments that help you reflect and recharge. Happy wishes to all.

Friday, December 5, 2014

For the Writer's Survival Kit: Humor, Along With 10 Quotes

photo courtesy pixabay
"From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere." --Dr. Seuss

Times, they are a-gettin' busy. Speeding up, with more and more details needing attention. It's time, I'm thinking, for a little humor. Never hurts to slow the pace for a minute and, well, laugh. Or chuckle. Or simply smile. After all, wisdom says "A cheerful heart is good medicine" (Proverbs 17:22).

With that in mind, I share with you the following, in the hopes that it will at least bring a smile to your face as you embark on what might be a busy month for you, too.

1. "Someone asked me, if I were stranded on a desert island what book would I bring...'How to Build a Boat.' " --Steven Wright

2. "I was reading a book, 'The History of Glue'. I couldn't put it down." --Tim Vine

3. "The telephone book is full of facts, but it doesn't contain a single idea." --Mortimer Adler

4. "From now on, ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put." --Winston Churchill

5. "If the English language made any sense, lackadaisical would have something to do with a shortage of flowers." --Doug Larson

6. "Listen up, Internet: there is no 'h' in 'wacky.' Got that? THERE IS NO 'H' IN WACKY.' Thank you." --Dave Barry

7. "Practically everybody in New York has half a mind to write a book, and does." --Groucho Marx

8. "Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good." --Dr. Samuel Johnson, to an aspiring writer

9. "Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time." --Steven Wright

10. "How old would be if you didn't know how old you were?" --Satchel Paige

Yes, I believe what Mark Twain said: "Humor is mankind's greatest blessing."

And this, from Bob Hope: "I have seen what a laugh can do. It can transform almost unbearable tears into something bearable, even hopeful."

In our household, when my husband faced retirement after nearly 35 years of teaching, I only had one thing to say: "As long as you keep me laughing, we'll be okay."

He has and we are. After all, from there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere.

Is humor important to you, too? Any humorous lines you care to share?