When I was a wee little tow-headed child I had two particularly favorite books that I made my parents read to me as often as possible.
The first is Winken, Blinken, and Nod, by Eugene Field. The first part of the first of 4 stanzas goes like this:
"Winken, Blinken, and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe --
Sailed off on a river of crystal light,
Into a sea of dew."
Full text of this nursery rhyme can be found here.
The second was "The Owl and the Pussycat,"by Edward Lear, which starts like this:
"The Owl and the Pussy-Cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat:
They took some honey, and plenty of money
Wrapped up in a five-pound note."
Full text (and pictures! and a short bio of the author! and an explanation of what a runcible spoon is!) can be found here.
Which gets me thinking - why were my 2 favorite books about boating, and posed in the form of nonsense verse?
The books were very tall and skinny and had hardbound covers and colorful pictures. The rhythym of the language comforted me, and the clever strangeness of the words interested me, I suppose. Let's face it, one was written in the 1800's, and the other was written in the, uh, 1800's, when people knew a lot of big and strange words that they sprinkled generously into not only their own adult conversation, but ladled liberally over works for children as well.
That era was one of excesses in language, decorating, fashion, and place settings. It was the age of bustles and petticoats and potted plants and runcible spoons, of large moustaches and long beards and elaborate hairdos and piano shawls and high-button boots and fish tongs and pickle forks, none of which are in vogue in this supposedly pared down and purposeful world.
Who has time to tell the difference between a red wine glass and a white wine glass or a champagne flute or a brandy snifter, when one has e-mails to attend to and answer in order that our self-esteeem issues and sense of self-importance remain well-fed?
Who is going to take the time to diagram a sentence or have Bible verse or poetry reciting contests when one needs to find out who's on Oprah and when TomKat's baby is going to be born or what the this season's latest "black" is, in order to have bits and pieces of "news" for superficial conversations at the virtual water cooler?
Why bother swathing your home in comfort and frippery by adorning dark corners with fanciful lamps in the shape of naiads and dwarves or bedecking your bookshelves with frilly paper edging, when someone is calling on the cell phone and it just might very well be the most important thing that's going to happen to you all day?
Sigh. Someone should do these things...
Someone should, before we loose the ability to focus on one thing or one enjoyment or one pursuit for more than thirty seconds.
Someone should, before we forget how to spend time doing nothing but enjoying what's around us.
Someone should, before we are subsumed entirely into a whirling vortex of electrical impulses that affix our brains into a permanently Pavlovian signal and response mode, forsaking careful thought for rapid reaction and considered wit for superficial productivity.
Which leads me to think that it seems that it's time for me to be the "someone" and take another boat ride, in which I do nothing but let the time go by and sense the waves as they rock my wee vessel from side to side and wait for the sun to set and think of nothing at all except Winken, Blinken, and Nod and an oddly matched pair of anthropomorphized lovers.
And leave the cell phone on shore.