We had a chuckle reading this column originally published in May of 1995. In an effort to attribute the author of the poem, we learned that we aren't the first to have undertaken the task. We urge you to read the Wikipedia entry here as we did. Enjoy.
A centipede was happy – quite!
Until a toad in fun
Said, "Pray, which leg moves after which?"
This raised her doubts to such a pitch,
She fell exhausted in the ditch
Not knowing how to run.
The modern world, like the centipede, seems continually to come up against questions nobody ever thought to ask. The result, it seems to me, is often a dilemma like the centipede's.
Consider the "child-proof" bottle cap. These things turn up almost everywhere, except on liquor bottles and cigarette packages. For a long time now I've been involved in a battle of wills with the staff of Sharp's Drug Store over the question of child-proof caps. They're a good crowd, the staff at Sharp's, but you have to watch them. A friendly smile and a witty remark come with every prescription and you leave the store in good humour. Not until you get home do you remember to check the bottle and by then it is too late. Yup, another child-proof cap.
Like many of the old houses scattered through the rural countryside, this house is situated in a way that is obviously the fruit of careful consideration. The original structure was timber-framed sometime in the nineteenth century. Placed so that it nestled in a bit of a fold in the hillside, it faces southeast down the valley before it, turning its shoulder to the east and its narrow sides to the northeast and southwest respectively. What a difference between those two sides! To the southwest, where the sun streams in all winter, were windows and a door. Here in the heart of winter was light and life, the image of Easter and the Resurrection.
The opposite side of the house, the side that faces northeast, though, was as if closed against winter and its storms, closed against the assault of all the life-threatening forces of the cold and of the dark, those accompaniments of Good Friday and the tomb.
As the years passed that original structure grew and changed, its life the reflection of the life of the family that grew up within it, generation after generation. What had been a single-storey cabin shed its roof and developed a new one, high enough now to allow two bedrooms and a hallway, with a proper set of stairs leading upwards. Then, during the early years of this century, the house sprouted a new wing, built toward the hill behind, with dining room and kitchen downstairs and a large bedroom upstairs with two tiny bedrooms behind it for the youngest children.
The day started all right, I suppose, although I really do think there must be a better way to start than by getting up. But that is no doubt one of those numerous signs that this is indeed a fallen universe, so I put a good face on it. Not too good a face, mind you, lest I be caught out in my own overcompensation and stand accused of being one of those scribes and/or Pharisees who apparently were given to fasting on street corners and looking weak but saintly, which got them lots of credit in the eyes of the passers-by who were no doubt themselves rushing to the nearest kosher fast-food outlet in downtown Jerusalem. Frankly, I’ve never seen that there was all that much to fasting on street corners. If you think about it carefully and run down the list of street corners you have known, I’ll bet that fasting is about all you can do on most of them, and if you stand about fasting on street corners these days, you are more than likely going to get run in for loitering, which is not exactly what the Pharisees were doing, as I understand it. But times change.
By something after three o'clock, having already done seven impossible things but failed to get lunch, I was whistling down to Saint John for a four o'clock appointment that I knew I was going to be late for but not extravagantly late. If you are going to be really absurdly late there is no need to push so hard on the accelerator as to cause a deflection in the fire wall, but if you are only going to be awkwardly late there is rather a tendency to apply the spur to your mettlesome steed. As it was I pulled up in Saint John and was only halfway to the building before the sound of my approach caught up with me.
Something told me even then that I was going to be too late to get to the City Market, before it closed, to get the fish I said I would bring home for dinner. Then I thought of my pocketbook and the errand to the bank that I had been supposed to do before I got to my appointment so that when I emerged from the appointment I would have the needful with which to negotiate the transfer of ownership on a couple of fillets of cusk or whatever. (Why do fish get saddled with such appalling names? Cusk! I ask you, where did Adam get that one? And how would you feel about being called a flounder? We should have a Be Nice to Fish Week somewhere between the Rehabilitation of Arch Supports Week and the Slime Mold Festival Week.)
Words & Images
We moved to our farm in Sussex, New Brunswick from Toronto in 1977, only moving away in 2014.