Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom (And Whimsy)

Posted on May 17, 2023 under Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom with 4 comments


Climb every mountain


Woah, the games people play now,

Every night and every day now,

Never meanin’ what they say now,

Never sayin’ what they mean.

Games People Play – Joe South


They seem to happen with regularity these days. A sight, a sound, a smell or a song can trigger something in the brain that takes you back in time, in many cases, decades.

I was out for a Sunday stroll a few weekends ago. No. This was not my infamous walk to the landfill for which I received a lot of good-natured ribbing. In the sports vernacular, there was a lot of “trash talking”.

Some of you have already deduced this but yes, I am in training. Many of you have seen me on the highways and byways lately, toting my backpack and strutting along with my walking poles. This coming Sunday, I will be hopping across the pond, arriving in Paris the following morning. I’ll grab another flight to Biarritz in southern France and take a train the following day to St. Jean de Pied Port, the starting line for the Camino. Yes, I am going to do the Camino for a second time. A few people who know that I’m going have expressed surprise that I would want to put my body through an 800 km walk at my delicate age, putting up with blisters, aching muscles along with snoring and farting in ofttimes crowded hostels.

Until you’ve done the Camino, you couldn’t possibly understand. It is much, much more than a physical challenge. It is good for the heart, the mind and the soul. It can’t be overstated the simplicity of a long walk. It’s one foot in front of the other taking in all that nature has to offer. It’s quite simple. The title of my 5th book sums it up quite nicely: “Eat, Sleep and Walk: Stories From The Camino”.

Back to the stroll. Two Sundays ago, on a glorious morning, I walked the School Road loop. That doesn’t mean a damn thing to my faithful readers who don’t have the good fortune to live here in paradise. It’s not a particularly long walk (15km) but there are some good hills which help prepare a person in small measure for the mountains on the Camino. As I was approaching School Road, I noticed off in the distance, a massive pile of gypsum. A few minutes later, I stopped at a bridge with a gurgling brook underneath. It was time for a snack break. Of course, I had to check both sides of the bridge to see if there were any fish hanging around. We used to play a game with our children called “Pooh sticks”. The kids would toss a stick into the water on one side of the bridge and then run to the other side to watch it emerge. Can there be a simpler game?

As I sat there eating my peanut butter sandwich, I thought about the mountain of gypsum. I had this overpowering (childish) urge to take the road up to the quarry and climb to the top of the pile – an adult version of “King of the Castle”. Surely you remember this childhood obsession to see who could stand on a pile of snow, dirt or sand and gloriously claim that you were indeed the king of the castle.

With warm sun caressing my face, I closed my eyes and let my mind wander to a simpler time when all of our games were organic and unorganized… and didn’t cost anything. “Oh, God. Len is about to drift off into one of his bouts of nostalgia.” You’re damn right I am. I’m 71 and flights of fancy are perfectly acceptable and normal.

I tried to recall as many games as I could and came up with a few that you might recall.

“Skip a rope, skip a rope,

Oh, listen to the children while they play,

Now ain’t it kind of funny what the children say,

Skip a rope.” (Henson Cargill)

Just about every Easter, someone in our large, unwieldy, baby boomer family would receive a skipping rope as a gift. Good Friday always seemed to be dark and rainy, but Easter Sunday was invariably sunny. After returning from mass, we would gorge ourselves on easter eggs and chocolate bunnies and then run out on the street to “skip a rope”, toss around a tricolored sponge rubber ball, swivel our hips (like Elvis!) with a shiny, new hula hoop or play a game of hopscotch. We played a lot of hopscotch back then. Marking the pavement with chalk was a rite of passage.

“Red rover, red rover, send Billy on over”. For the uninitiated, Red Rover was a game comprised of two teams, each forming a chain by holding hands. Team 1 would call over a name to the opposing team. That player would have to run across and try to break “the chain”. If they were unsuccessful, they would have to join that team. However, if they were successful, they would get to bring back with them one of the two people from the broken link.  Aren’t you glad you had this refresher?!

Tag, British Bulldog and hide- and- go- seek were also staples.

For those of us lucky enough to live close to a forest, building a fort and eating spruce gum was the ultimate escape from reality.

“Can it be that it was all so simple then?

Or has time re-written every line?

If we had the chance to do it all again,

Tell me, would we?

Could we? (Hamlisch/Bergman/Bergman)

There is little doubt that many of us grew up in a much simpler time and many of us lament the fact that our grandchildren might never enjoy these simple pleasures. “Would we? Could we? That part of my youth I would happily revisit.

I’m not going to suggest that parenting was easier in the 50s and 60s but when it came to play, children of our era were unceremoniously tossed out of the house. The outdoors was our playground, and we were left to make our own fun. There were no schedules, no coaches or referees. We just had to figure it out on our own, a precursor to problem solving as adults.

“I’m the king of the castle and you’re the dirty rascal”.

Have a great weekend.

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