I keep a pile of blank paper slips handy while pursuing my daily activities of conversing with friends, watching TV, reading, working my way through puzzle books, and wandering through cyberspace. On most days, I dump one or more scraps covered with scrawls and scribbles into the miscellaneous section of my inspiration notebook. Today I am randomly sharing several random additions to that random file.
I just finished a page-turner of a novel by Kristin Hannah, a book I am surprised I even read. The Great Alone is set in the wilds of Alaska, a geographical area to which I am rarely drawn. The story was absorbing and the setting breathtaking. One character pointed out a bald eagle’s nest that weighed a ton. I subsequently learned Alaska is home to 30,000 bald eagles, the largest population in the United States. An average bald eagle nest measures 4-5 feet in diameter and 2-4 feet in depth. The adult eagle pair adds 1-2 feet of materials each year, bringing its weight to a ton or more. By the way, the largest recorded bald eagle nest was located in Florida at a weight of three tons.
I also jotted down a charming expression from another interesting novel recommended by my sister: The Forgotten Room by Beatriz Williams, Karen White, and Lauren Willig. I have never encountered this idiom – “it blew the dots off my domino,” but I like it. I am just waiting for the right adventure to describe in domino-dot-blowing terms!
I have no recollection of the television program from which I gleaned this passing reference, but I do have a Post-it bearing the note: “Chopsticks,” 16-year-old girl. I was in for a surprise when I went a-googling. I have heard “Chopsticks” played many times on many pianos in many settings by many people whose repertoires contain this little ditty, but I have never heard it referred to as a waltz for the piano. It is indeed a waltz; in fact, the original title was “The Celebrated Chop Waltz.” A 16-year-old British girl, Euphemia Allen, wrote it in 1877 as her only song. Her brother was a music publisher who instructed his sister to compose a piece with two-part harmony, in which the player would hold both hands in a vertical orientation with little fingers down and palms facing each other and would strike the keys with a chopping motion. I myself have never played “Chopsticks,” but the scene in the 1988 movie Big, during which Tom Hanks and Robert Loggia “play” the tune by dancing on the keys of a huge toy piano on display in FAO Schwarz, remains one of my favorites.
I work my way though all manner of word puzzles. I am not really a crossword fan; most of my clue-solving leads to quotations of some kind. And, of course, I am forever recording many of those resulting words of wisdom. Recently I copied two sentiments that seem to echo each other. “There is no failure, only feedback,” can be construed as rather tongue-in-cheek, I suppose, but I like the kernel of truth it contains. Although it is normal to wallow in the negativity of abject failure, it is much more beneficial to focus on errors of action with a learning attitude. Personally, I have always learned much more from my failures than from my successes. And Oscar Wilde’s pronouncement that “experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes,” dovetails nicely. I discover many instructive truisms in my puzzle books, when I eventually manage to solve them!
I have no idea where I found this little tidbit about the “invention” of potato chips, but I have a scrap of paper outlining just how it happened. In 1853 at the Moon Lake Lodge in Sarasota Springs, New York, a chef named George Crum became irritated when the diners complained that his fries were too thick. To teach them a lesson, he began slicing the potatoes paper-thin and frying them so heavily that they could not be cut with a fork. Happy customers added extra salt and voila: the forerunner to Mikesells and Pringles was born!
When a friend visited a while back, she enthusiastically described her latest experience with the literary programs in which she involves herself. Her group applied the principles of the adult spelling bees so popular these days to the kids in the juvenile detention center in her county. As part of Project Jericho, the group organized a spelling bee based on The Giver by Lois Lowry, which the young people had read in their classes at the center. With the winners receiving a pizza party, the entire event was deemed a success.
The final random scrap of paper to be shared holds my recent most favorite bit of conversation. In true 21st century style, my niece-in-law shared her daughter’s latest expression of wisdom on Facebook. In my opinion, we should be listening to the innocent beauty expressed by our children rather than the ugliness spewing from so many adult lips. I totally embrace this joy-of-life expression from the four-year-old: “I have a lot of party energy! It’s in my veins!”
There, I have pruned my random file. As I return to the TV, my puzzle books, my current library book, my friends, and the internet, I am wishing all of us a little “party energy” in our veins!
Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.