Snippets from the Scrapbag

In my "spare" time, I've been writing a column for a small local paper. It's kind of an off and on thing, but I thought it might work to post my scribblings to this site. The column is called SCRAPBAG, because in days gone by, people used to keep scraps of fabric in a bag to use in mending or making quilts. So, these are little snippets of thoughts from my brain. Here are a couple of the most recent.

I call him Jim, because he reminds me of a guy I knew who could be found each and every morning standing at the local Dunkin’ Donuts, jump-starting his day with high test coffee. (I almost changed my mind and renamed him “Mike,” after the gangly Olympic wunderkind with whom he has so much in common—especially an affinity for anything water. But, well, named is named.)
Each and every morning, I see Jim standing in the middle of Lower Bear Lake or in the reedy fringe, his body perched high on stork-like legs. I like his summery suit of pale blue and white, almost like a seersucker. Ready for the office. Thin neck crooked, he peers into the depths as if contemplating the day’s assortment of pastries. Let’s see. Sunny? Bass? Hmm. Maybe too much of a tangle with that one. Then, suddenly the neck uncrooks and a sharp beak stabs the surface of the water, returning seconds later with a flapping piece of breakfast. A few quick gulps and he’s back to his musing. If I get too close, he flaps his huge wings and skims off to a more remote spot.
The past month or so has been excellent for early walks, before the day heats up and I find more excuses than I need not to get out and stretch the muscles. I, like Jim, need a jolt to get my day going. And it’s good to be out among the rest of the world, whether it’s Jim or the man who moseys along with his two elderly dogs or runners and cyclers or the little clutch of ducklings who seem a bit small for this time of year. The other day, I thought I saw a kingfisher, and a couple of deer paused on the path that leads to the house. We all paused, politely waiting for the other to pass, but I won that round and they eventually wandered off. Then, there are the smaller wonders—gossamer spider webs or a leaf that has already turned bright red or slanting rays of sunlight piercing the trees like golden fingers. I have to remember to bring my camera. Once in a while I have captured a special image to upload onto my jigsaw puzzle web site. It’s fun to put them together, recreating the moment piece by piece.
A few times this week, we’ve taken the longer bridle path through the woods. There are more ups and downs than on the lake trail and my muscles eventually feel the strain. I take comfort in the thought that I’m doing them some good. I’ve taken the time to stretch before my walks lately, which seems to make a difference. Sometimes I make a game of it, standing Jim-like on one leg to see if I can balance, but keeping close to something solid in case I topple.
It’s been a gorgeous summer for being outdoors. I’ve visited quite a few places, some purporting to be paradise, but nothing can compare to a splendid day in Northeast Ohio. I think if we could ask Jim, he’d agree.

“See? This is why I don’t want to get old.”
It was July 4, 2008, and my son and I were standing on the aft deck of a boat that was cruising along the Kona Coast of Hawaii’s Big Island. Up top, a couple of surfer dude-looking guys were scanning the ocean for a pod of spinner dolphins that had been lazily digesting their nocturnal meal of squid as they swam. The intent was to position the boat ahead of where the dolphins were moving so that we could all jump off.
On the boat were perhaps fifteen or twenty people, ranging in age from about ten to—well, me. We were all excited to see these gentle beasts of the sea up close and personal. I was especially happy to be doing it with kids and grandkids. It would certainly be an adventure to share.
A stir in the water to the left signaled that we had found the pod. Several dolphins had surfaced, some skimming the water in the traditional arc, others leaping into the air with the twisting motion that gave this particular species its name. Fascinated, we watched for a while, then the boat put on a bust of speed to get in front of them. The engine came to a halt and the signal was given to enter the water. We had been told to just lay flat on our stomachs and use our flippers. Flailing hands might scare the dolphins.
I’d like to say I gracefully eased into the water, but from a foot or so above the water, a splash is inevitable. I managed to get my mask and snorkel in place and took off after those already moving away. Head down, hands at my sides, I paddled along, my eyes shifting from side to side. Then I remembered that the surfer dudes had said to look down.
Suddenly, there they were, several feet below me, moving along like huge silver bullets. I didn’t even think to be afraid. They looked so peaceful and for sure, they weren’t interested in the rather odd shaped pink fish up above. Movement to the side of me. A trio of dolphins swam by about a yard away. I almost could have reached out and touched them. One had a neat, circular bite mark near its tail, the result, we discovered later, of an encounter with what’s called a “cookie cutter” shark. As they passed, one playfully nudged another with his nose and they all disappeared into the murky distance. Moments later, more dolphins appeared. I tried to swim after them, but of course it proved futile. My muscles are no match for theirs.Back on board, the excited chatter began. “Did you see…?” “Did you hear them talking?” Everyone had a story.
Five separate times, we were privileged to enter the dolphins’ world. I didn’t want the day to end. Which what had prompted my comment to my son.
At some point, we both agreed, everything will come to an end. The trick is to stretch it out as far as you can. So far, I’ve been blessed with the healthy genes that seem to run in my family, although I’m beginning to understand what my mother meant when she often said, “If they only knew how much effort it takes to look this good!”
Old is what you make of it. Live it to the max. Do some kind of work. Play. Laugh. Learn something new every day. Eat right. Make your body move as much as possible, even when it hurts. Read. Help somebody else. Have friends. Have faith. And hope. And love. There’s no better way.

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