On being … 's wonderful

By Ingrid Sapona

Do you remember the band America? They were one of my favourite groups back in junior high. Though it seems strange to me now, though I liked them a lot, I never knew who made up the group. Of course, that wasn’t so unusual back then – just think of Chicago, Three Dog Night, even the Eagles – it wasn’t until Don Henley and Glenn Frey did solo albums that I found out they were part of the Eagles.

Anyway, last week America was playing at the band shell at the Canadian National Exhibition, which is basically a two-week long fair. I was quite surprised to see them on the schedule, as I didn’t realize they were still together and touring. Though it’s terrible to admit, I wondered whether it might just be a cover band that plays America songs. But, since band shell concerts are included with the price of admission to the fair, the price was right. So, a girlfriend and I decided to check it out.

After walking the midway and grabbing a bite, we strolled over to the band shell area. As expected, demographically we fit right in – the crowd looked like it was transplanted from my junior high, give or take 40 years. After the opening act and a brief intermission, the MC introduced the band. A moment later we heard an unmistakeable downbeat and before you could say Name That Tune, the crowd was singing along to Tin Man – one of their hits. Very quickly it was clear they were the real thing, not a cover band.

Throughout the show the crowd swayed to the music, (more-or-less) silently singing along. It wasn’t until the encore that the band did what bands often do at concerts: they continued playing the music but turned over the singing duties to the crowd. And, as is also always the case, the crowd didn’t disappoint. In unison, we joyously belted out the song.

I love when that happens. Besides just being fun to be singing alongside hundreds of others who know and love the song as much as you do, I always think about the songwriter. What a rush it must be to think that something you’ve written has moved so many people. I’m not talking about fame – after all, in the case of America, I still couldn’t tell you who wrote the songs – or residuals, which must be nice too. I’m talking about just knowing you created something that lives on in peoples’ hearts and memories for their lifetime, if not longer. That must be ‘s wonderful, don’t you think?
© 2015 Ingrid Sapona


On being … in the picture

By Ingrid Sapona

I was leafing through a magazine a while ago and as I turned a page, I noticed a full-page photo of a wide, inviting country road. While there was no one clearly visible on the road, there was the shadow of a hiker near the bottom. Anyway, it wasn’t really the picture that caught my eye so much as the heading on it, which I soon realized was the title of the article that started on the next page.

The title read:

The Road Ahead
These Outstanding Seniors are Setting Out for Futures in TV Comedy, Basketball Beat
Writing, Solar Cell Creating, Civil Rights Law, Global Health and More.

My attention switched gears as soon as I read the phrase: seniors setting out… No, the switch wasn’t an attempt to stifle a groan at the less than subtle connection between the image of the shadowy hiker and the words. What I was thinking about was something more like this: “Now why on earth would a senior want to try writing comedy?” and, “Isn’t it a bit too late to start law school when you’re a senior?”

Then, having ruled out the retirement pursuits of the seniors the article was obviously going to be about, I gazed at the now forlorn looking country road and wondered about my path in retirement. What new activities might I take up in retirement?  (I know, it’s still many years away, but if the past is anything to go by, it’ll be here quicker than I’d like!)

After a few minutes immersed in thoughts about my life path, my focus returned to the magazine and I turned the page to have a look at the article. When I saw a smaller photo floating on the page the article started on, I did a bit of a double take. That photo showed five smiling 20-somethings. It took me a moment to figure it out, but when I did, I laughed out loud. The seniors the article was about were university students, not senior citizens. Then I realized I was looking at my alumni magazine! Boy did I feel stupid…

But, that got me thinking about my subconscious mind and how quickly it made a “connection” between my life and what I thought was the subject of the article. Though I realized the connection was misplaced, I wondered how often my subconscious grinds away, making connections – right or wrong – that I’m unaware of. 

That brought to mind something I had read in a guide for writers and photographers working in the tourism industry. The guide said that photos for tourism destinations should include people because that helps people picture themselves there. When I read that, I disagreed because when it comes to travel photos, I’ve always been more attracted to the panoramic vistas – the iconic photo of snow-capped Mount Fuji off in the distance, ocean swells pounding a rugged coastal cliff, and so on.

As is often the case when something’s specifically pointed out to me, since then I notice people in all sorts of tourism-related photos. Whenever I do, I silently ask myself whether seeing them has made me want to be there. Generally, I don’t find that it does. That’s not to say, however, that such photos don’t touch me on a deeper level. Often they do, but not necessarily in the way the tourism folks intended. Sometimes seeing people in a photo turns me off because they make me think I wouldn’t fit in there!

Anyway, back to the headline about those seniors. Though my mind clearly went somewhere far from the topic the article was about, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The fact that the headline immediately connected with something in me and got me thinking is a reward in itself. The way I see it, my seeming disconnect wasn’t a disconnect at all. After all, I did have an immediate connection, which is what every editor hopes when they choose a photo or write a headline.

Believe it or not, the episode reminded me of my goal with On being… For you see, though each column purports to be about some quirky incident or event in my life, I don’t really expect you to relate to the actual incidents. Instead, my hope is that every so often something I’ve written tickles something in your subconscious, causing you to reflect on your life. In other words, regardless of the picture I might paint with On being … it’s really just meant to provide you with a backdrop to project your own reflections on...
© 2015 Ingrid Sapona


On being … in uncharted territory

By Ingrid Sapona

Maybe it’s because I write, but I’ve always been interested in adages. You know, those old sayings that have been around, it seems, forever. Because the general truth is usually pretty obvious (or uncontroversial), it’s easy to trivialize adages and sayings. But, if you’re like me, every now and then something happens in your own life that makes an adage come to life in a way that vividly reminds you of the underlying wisdom. For example, if you’ve ever pulled the one right (wrong?) thread on a machine-stitched hem, causing a long stretch of it to come down before your eyes, you gained first-hand experience of the adage “a stitch in time, saves nine”. 

I recently spent a week sailing with some friends to ports I’d never been to on Lake Ontario. Though I’ve sailed for a long time, this was the longest cruise I’d ever taken. When you’re out on the water for hours on end, it’s impossible not to reflect on sailing. As with most things, technology and innovation has transformed sailing. We have conveniences that make sailing safer and more pleasurable. Auto helm is an excellent example. Not only does it free up your hands, it steers a straighter line than most skippers can for extended periods.

One of the topics of conversation that seems inevitable when you’re spending a week on a boat is the combination of courage and naïveté people must have had hundreds of years ago to board a ship for the New World. I can’t imagine the physical conditions of life on such a boat. I couldn’t help wrinkle my nose at the smell of a leaf of lettuce or a piece of fruit that had started to turn in our cooler. I don’t even want to think of what live animals on board must have smelled like!

Besides comparing the physical conditions those on long voyages endured, naturally there’s also the question of navigation. Thanks to our GPS, we didn’t even need to uncover the boat’s compass. Imagine relying on celestial navigation to cross oceans!

Modern day sailors have GPS that you can program to get you from waypoint to waypoint, and there are charts and guides that tell you what buoys to sail between and what on-shore landmarks to watch for as you approach a harbour. Because some of the places we were sailing were known to have shallow areas, we dutifully put on our depth sounder – something we normally only think to put on if we’re approaching a marina we’re not familiar with.

Though we were never out of binocular view of the shore, we wouldn’t have dreamt of setting out without a well-known reference book that covers all the ports on the lake. It has great aerial shots of different clubs and marinas. It also details what to look for (buoys and landmarks) and describes spots where it’s shallow. That book became our bible, and there were many sections we reread to make sure we knew where to pay particular attention.

But, the book was not a nautical chart. That became very clear on day two, as we came upon what looked like outcroppings branching off a few small islands that were not mentioned in the book. A nearby larger island and the markings and depths around it were described in some detail, but not the smaller ones. We confidently continued forward, figuring our trusty guide would have mentioned any shoals or reasons not to proceed between the islands. We also figured our depth sounder would have alerted us to shallow waters. And, just to be safe, one person was on the bow, keeping an eye out for rocks ahead.

At about the time we noticed that our depth sounder had stopped working, we felt a bit of a bump. Then, before we could hit reverse, we felt a bit more of a jolt and we were stuck. Lucky for us, the bottom was kind of soft. It took about an hour, and a bit of ingenuity, but we managed to get the boat off the shoal.

We were never in any danger and the boat was not damaged, which are really the only things that mattered. But, after more than a bit of blaming the book for not mentioning the shallow water, we knew the fault was our own. The book, however useful, isn’t a substitute for a navigational chart, which would have provided enough details about the depth that even if our depth sounder had been working, we clearly would not have gone that way.

When we were safely in deeper waters, I couldn’t help smile about the fact that I now had first hand experience of what it means to be in uncharted territory. Or at least of what can happen when you don’t have a chart, which (though it isn’t quite the same in terms of responsibility) can lead to the same outcome!

You know, I have a feeling that if you live long enough you’ll have first-hand experience of the wisdom of many adages…

© 2015 Ingrid Sapona


On being … Bastille Day already!

By Ingrid Sapona

No, I don’t generally celebrate Bastille Day (though I’m open to it, as it seems a good excuse to indulge in a chocolate croissant or two, but I digress…). What’s really on my mind is the need to focus on things that remind me of summer – before it’s gone.

When we’re school-age, it’s impossible not to notice it’s summer because, if nothing else, it means a break in the daily routine. But as an adult, I’ve found that summer has a way of sneaking up on me. And, if the weather isn’t what you expect summer to bring (here that would be hot and humid), then it’s easy to feel that summer hasn’t yet arrived when, in fact, it’s mid-July already!

So, in hopes that I’ll catch that summer vibe (regardless of the weather), the past few days I’ve been thinking about all the things that represent summer to me. There are two main categories “summer things” fall into. The first category is what I think of as summer triggers – things that automatically make me think of summer, no matter when or where they come up.

The best example of a summer trigger for me is the smell of Coppertone. (Well, Coppertone Tanning Lotion, as it used to be called. I think some Coppertone Sunscreens smell like the Coppertone of my youth but, sadly, not all do any more.) Another instant “summer” trigger for me is the word boondoggle. You see, when I was in a kid, my elementary school put up a craft hut next to the playground every summer. One of my favourite crafts was weaving with boondoggle cord. You know, it wasn’t until I was in my late 20s that I even heard of that other, rather negative, definition of boondoggle! I’m not embarrassed to admit that I whiled away hundreds of contented hours in my youth “boondoggling”. (It’s been over 40 years since I’ve even seen boondoggle cord. I sure hope it’s not gone the way of vinyl records.)

The second category is things that, though enjoyable any time of year, summer wouldn’t be same without. (Mind you, road construction – though a staple of summer – isn’t in this category. Remember, I’m talking about enjoyable things.) Ice cream is the most obvious thing in this category. Whether it’s soft serve or regular ice cream, on a hot summer day, there’s nothing better. Laying back on a blanket and watching fireworks blossoming above and feeling the boom echo through your rib cage is another special summer sensation.

Then there are the songs of summer. The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” undeniably represents summer for most folks of my generation. But it’s certainly not the only song that conjures summer for me. Don’t ask me why but Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” is another one that sings out “summer” to me. In fact, I love the idea of a song of summer so much that the past dozen or so years I’ve enjoyed picking out a toe tapper that I dub my song of summer. This year I can’t decide between Andy Grammer’s “Honey I’m Good” and Walk the Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance”. (No matter what you think of these songs – or how sick and tired of them you might be – I’ll bet you can’t stop yourself from bopping when you hear either of them.)

Wow, I have to say, writing about all these special “summer things” has put a smile on my face and has made me want to revel in the season (regardless of the weather). I’m sure you have a list of your own things that mean summer to you. I hope this has helped you focus on them for at least a few minutes. And, if you’re like me and you haven’t really started enjoying summer just yet, all I can say is Bastille Day has come and gone! You better make the most of these long days now – it’s gonna be Labour Day before you know it.

© 2015 Ingrid Sapona


On being … squirrel-like?

By Ingrid Sapona

A couple months ago cheddar was on sale. I like having cheese on hand and so I bought some. The block was about 12 inches x 4 inches and about one-half inch thick. When I got home I cut off about one-third and wrapped it for storage in the fridge. I put the remaining chunk in the freezer. Freezing cheddar makes it a bit more crumbly than normal, but it doesn’t impact the flavour at all.

A few weeks later I went to the freezer to get out some cheddar, but I couldn’t find it. My freezer is on the bottom of the fridge. My initial search was confined to the freezer’s top drawer because that’s where I usually put things like cheese. After a few minutes of shuffling things here and there to no avail, I noticed I had become agitated.

I was irritated for a number of reasons. The most obvious was that I wanted some cheese and couldn’t find any. I was also angry with myself for not being more organized about the freezer. I’m usually quite good about returning things to the same place, and not just because I’m a creature of habit. I put things back where I got them from because I hate wasting time looking for things, which was exactly what I was doing!

After a few more minutes I realized my only hope of finding it was to empty the whole freezer. As the kitchen floor became littered with frozen food, it soon became obvious there was no cheddar to be found. I couldn’t believe it. After one last, thorough look through the fridge, I came to the conclusion that I had either actually already used all that cheese, or I accidentally threw it out when I was clearing off the counter after unpacking the groceries.

In no time at all I fell into full self-flagellation mode, chiding myself for possibly having mindlessly consumed a whack of cheese, or, if I hadn’t eaten it, then I was angry with myself for basically throwing money out. I also scolded myself for not living up to my own standards of organization when it comes to the freezer. When I finally calmed down, I vowed to be more careful.

So, the next time I was at Costco I picked up a huge, two-pound brick of cheddar. Though that’s a heck of a lot of cheese, at least it would last for a while. It was such a huge block I figured it would be very hard to cut through when frozen, so I cut the brick into pieces before putting it in the freezer.

One day, when I pulled open the freezer, a package of rolls fell back off the top drawer. To retrieve them I had to get down on my hands and knees and use a pair of tongs. As I reached for the rolls, I noticed the package of cheddar was also down there, and so I pulled it out too. As I re-arranged the top drawer making space for the packages I had just retrieved, I cursed the damned design of the freezer and then forgot about the whole thing.

Last week I took out the cheese, wanting to defrost some. I thought it was odd that the block wasn’t cut into chunks, as I was sure I had done that before I froze it. As I cut off a hunk and returned the rest to the freezer, I couldn’t help wonder if I was losing it.

Later, when I went to use the cheese, I was surprised again – this time by how thin the piece seemed. That’s when it dawned on me that the cheese I had gotten out was the package I had retrieved with the tongs and it was the cheese I thought I had thrown out weeks before. This explained why the hunk was so thin (it wasn’t from Costco) and why it was in an un-cut block. (I hadn’t pre-cut the first block – just the oversize Costco brick.) So, mysteries solved and confidence in my sanity restored – at least for the time being.

The next day I happened to notice a squirrel running around. As I watched it, I smiled at the thought of the similarities between my storing cheese and that squirrel storing nuts. In thinking more about it, I wondered whether squirrels get angry with themselves or feel stupid when they can’t immediately find the nuts they’ve stored. I’ll bet they don’t… I suspect that behavior is strictly a human thing.

You know, from now on, I’m taking my cue from squirrels. You can bet I’ll continue socking away stuff for later. But, if I can’t find it right away, I’ll just continue on, figuring it’ll turn up eventually.

© 2015 Ingrid Sapona