patterns of ink
How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka
Monday, December 09, 2013
Thursday, November 28, 2013
Thanksgiving Snow 2013
©11-28-13 Tom Kapanka
Sunday, June 23, 2013
"Putting on the Ritz" and Other Eponyms
Studying the origin of a word adds to its usefulness in the same way that knowing the history of a place adds meaning to its vista. Before it was a hallowed cemetery, a famous speech, or an epic battlefield, the word Gettysburg referred only to a quiet Pennsylvania town, named for its first English settler, Samuel Gettys, and dating back well before the Revolutionary War. Likewise, most American school teachers know that Columbine is a high school in Littleton, Colorado. Fewer know that the school was named for a small flower in that region. The simpler meaning of the words Gettysburg and Columbine took on unforeseen complexity by events later associated with those words.
Like historic landmarks, many commonly-used words have stories behind them. The fact that such words typically carry their current meaning regardless of whether or not we know their stories is no different, I suppose, than a young school boy thinking Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is where he must have lived before moving to Washington DC.
After a few years with only patches of time for writing here at Patterns of Ink, I don’t mean to venture back with a professorial series on word association or the origin of words (etymology). In fact, the purpose of this post stems from the post which is to follow. I began writing a piece about my father-in-law who yesterday celebrated his 80th birthday, and something in that post triggered these thoughts as a preface of sorts.
The remainder of these thoughts about a tiny etymological category called eponyms, sometimes called “people words.” Eponyms are common words that come from a person's name. True eponyms are not proper nouns like Gettysburg, even though that geographic name can be traced back to a man named Gettys; eponyms are names no longer capitalized, like boycott which was once proper names (in this case, Charles Cunningham Boycott) but whose proper use shifted to mean something entirely else. (I realize that placing “entirely” before “else” sounds much more awkward than placing it afterwards and saying “something else entirely," but I will leave it as is for effect.) Because Charles Cunningham Boycott was once the victim of non-violent economic isolation, more than a hundred years later, such actions are still called boycotts. The word is now used with no need for knowledge of its history and is therefore a true eponym according to the Alpha Dictionary's explanation of eponyms and non-eponyms.
Charge of the Light Brigade," immortalized by Tennyson, during the Crimean War. It is modeled after the knitted wool waistcoat that British officers supposedly wore during the war.” This may explain why cardigan sweaters were the manly garments of choice for men’s fraternities and “varsity letter” clubs in the 19th and 20th Centuries.
There was once a man named César Ritz who became famous for his extravagantly decorated and furnished hotels designed to serve the upper echelon of world travelers. His last name soon became so associated with such finery that it became an adjective: ritzy. Much later when Nabisco (the NAtional BIScuit COmpany) patented a new kind of fancy cracker that could be used for hors d'oeuvres and the like, it is no wonder they chose the name Ritz. Whenever we have the desire to live like the rich if only for a night, we’re “Putting on the Ritz.”
That song, written by White Christmas creator Irving Berlin in 1929, has gained popularity through the years with the help of Hollywood’s finest, like Clark Gable and Fred Astaire. Decades later, it was given new life—literally—in Mel Brook’s Young Frankenstein and its latest cover prompted a flash mob in Moscow, where it sounds like they may are really saying "Putin on the Ritz."
Something tells me that President Ronald Reagan would never have envisioned such a sight just two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall. At this Youtube link you can spend much time watching various covers of "Putting on the Ritz.". After you've had your fill of this song at the screens and links above, come back to the subject at hand...
If a man named César Ritz had not had such fine taste in hotel interiors or if his name had been Walter Lebowski, odds are that the hotel chain of that name would not have have become a fancy adjective nor inspired Irving Berlin's song (nor even the cracker).
To the scores of Walter Lebowskis out there who may come upon this post in a Google search, I mean no disrespect to your name. The same would be true of my own name, Tom Kapanka. Ritz sounds ritzy and inspires a song, Lebowski and Kapanka do not. It's that simple. Discussing it further is probably as pointless as saying, "It's a good thing Columbus sailed in 1492, because that year rhymes so nicely with "ocean blue," and how else would we ever remember the date. Much of language transcends science--even art-- and some things are best left to the mystical realm of the unknown.
This ends our brief lesson on eponyms, which is merely a preface to a single part of a future post
Monday, June 17, 2013
A Kansas Rainbow...
I will say, however, that I was in Kansas yesterday, making a brief stop at my wife Julie’s folk’s house for the night. It is from this place near Waverly, that I have learned nearly all I know of Kansas and heat and horses and the struggles of farmers through the 20th Century. I have stood in the place where the picture below was taken for thirty-five summers in a row, since the summer of 1978 when I first flew from Michigan to Kansas to visit Julie.
It was in the summer of 1980 that we were married here, a summer that saw temperatures exceed 110o F for the entire month of June. On our wedding day, June 28, the temperature was 114o F. When we arrived at our reception, a large but not air-conditioned building, dozens of candles, not yet lit, were lying flat on the tables, wilted in the heat, holding their 12” tapered shape, their wide end still secure in the star-shaped glass candle holders, but otherwise limp and unable to be stand tall for lighting. We removed them from the tables. I wish the photographer had gotten a picture of that sad sight, soon forgotten as our guests arrived, fanning themselves with our wedding programs. It was hot …. But I digress…
(You, Tom, digress? Never…)
The point I was making was that I had all of those dry, hot, and callused Kansas images in mind when I wrote “Parched,” and then yesterday, for the first time in my 35 years of visiting here in Kansas, a passing rain fell leaving behind only damp grass and this rainbow. It is only the second rainbow that I’ve seen in several years. The other one was last September at our school (seen here). I’m not a mystic, and I won’t attempt to add anything to the beauty of this rainbow, but I immediately thought of “Parched” and that Scripture itself tells us that the first rainbow was a promise from God, formed at the end of Noah’s epic struggle. I suppose that is why rainbows always inspire such hope… hope that the storm has passed and bright days lie ahead.
Monday, April 01, 2013
Thoughts about April First...
Years ago, when I was teaching in Iowa, the bell rang to begin class, and a young man come up to me discreetly standing between me and 24 students. Jack was funny guy capable of pranks, so when he whispered, “Mr. K, your fly is down.” I said, “Yeah, right… ‘April Fools’ Ha Ha…” His eyes widened, and he whispered it again so earnestly that I stepped into the hall and came back in with a wink and a nod in his direction. It was not a joke. He just nodded as if to say, “Gotcher six,” and kept the matter to himself, sparing me much embarrassment. That was almost twenty-eight years ago. The young man went off to college, graduated, got married, and became a chaplain in the Air Force (a position he still holds to this day). Thank you, Jack, for not taking advantage of a teacher on a day that would have excused it.
With that as a backdrop, let me tell you about something from yesterday that prompted this post....
Yesterday, my whole family was together for Easter Dinner: our three daughters, two sons-in-law, two grand-children, Julie and me. It was nice.
Julie being from Kansas with plenty of KU fans in her family and me being a big U of M fan, the afternoon NCAA conference game was an event we’d been looking forward to. During half-time, my daughter Emily was looking through some old pictures. She and her mother are gathering photos for Natalie’s graduation Open House) While I was getting ready for the second half to start, Emily handed me these old photo-booth pictures.
And there in all the hub-bub,
Dad is just sitting there in disbelief that we talked him into that curtained booth in the penny arcade at Cedar Point. Grandma rode the Blue Streak roller coaster that day (It says so on the back of the photos. She lived to the age of 99, and was adventurous right up to the end.) In the last frame, Mom is trying to give Dad a kiss. The whole trip to Sandusky was a lark. We hitched up the old Apache pop-up camper and spent the night at the campground on the point. We left in such a hurry that we forgot to bring a camera, but this strip of photo-booth pictures captures the spontaneity and laughter that a regular camera would have missed. There is not one corner of a frame that tells anyone this was a Cedar Point in 1978, but they are four wonderful blinks in time.
I was truly blessed to come from such a home.
Sunday, March 31, 2013
My Mom Used to Sing This Song to us When We Were Kids...
I know it has nothing to do with the reasons we celebrate Easter, but my mother knew fun songs for all the holidays, and it was never an issue in our home to sing seasonal favorites that were incongruous with the sacred themes of Christmas and Easter. She had a good voice and loved singing at the piano (as I have written here before), but I suppose her truest gift was the abandon to break out in song a cappella whenever one came to mind. She used to sing this as we died hard-boiled eggs at the kitchen table.
The tradition of hiding Easter baskets in our house was equally welcome, a tradition that my siblings and I continued in our homes with our own children. It occurred to Julie and I yesterday, that it was the first Easter in 28 years that we did not make baskets. It's been an unusual year, but perhaps the tradition will pick up again.
A few years ago, I found this "Eggbert" record in an antique store--not the 45 RPM version in this video, but another version on a small-hole 78 RPM red record. Now all I need is a record player that plays 78 RPM. Haven't had a record player for years (and one with that speed for decades).
Saturday, February 09, 2013
where creeks and ponds and puddled mud once lay
in meadows draped in a purple haze
of cocklebur in bloom. Gone are the days
of soft, dark loam when just as spring's begun
the plowshare sliced from morn to setting sun.
Too long the wind and weathered walls
have whispered in the empty stalls
of barns and whined at windows in the night
where just beyond in the flickering light
a shadow prays…as another sighs,
and with calloused hands against their eyes
they plead again in soft steadfast refrain…
“Ours, O, Lord, yes ours… please send our roots Your rain.”
©Begun 1-26-12;/ completed 2-8-13
I realize that this poem comes out of nowhere and doesn't fit the season or the recent events around me. I found a draft of it in a file on my external hard-drive today. It was just a bunch of lines that I did not recall even starting until I read them again. The date on that file was January 26, 2012. So the thoughts had sat there undisturbed for over a year, and then as I read them today, I remembered where they were going with it and finished them. Like so many things I write, if not properly read aloud, the lines run-on, but I trust the images come through. It happened to fall into a sonnet of sorts.
Two summers ago, while visiting Julie's folks in Kansas in July, I was in the car with my father-in-law. Many farms in that part of wheat contry still have the remnant of a barn with gaps between the boards that let in light and wind, but they are typically still maintained by someone no longer living there.
I saw rolling hills of cocklebur and said something about the purple cast they gave the landscape. My father-in-law told me the weed was an invasive species that takes over acres and acres of pasture, leaving them unfit for crops or livestock. He pointed out that the fields I was admiring were once good farm land but had gone feral many years ago. I had heard that term applied to wild animals (like cats found in abandoned houses) but never to land, and it made me ponder the farmer's plight: even in the best of times he struggles to keep the growing things he wants from those he doesn't--to separate the wheat from tares, so to speak. He knows that, left alone, the weeds win. That much he expects as part of life and Eden's curse. But there are other times, times of drought, when even the daily struggle of separating good from bad is lost for lack of rain, and in such times he is reminded of his total dependence on God. This is hard for farmers because they are problem solvers who believe hard work gives hands their worth.
But I mostly left the time and characters vague to take the notion of being parched beyond dry land to a sort of personal, spiritual drought. This latter image needs no season, and like the farmer's plight can only be solved from above.
The refrain at the end is a variation on a line from Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89) I first read the poem entitled ‘Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend’ over 30 years ago, and though I cannot say I'm an avid reader of Hopkins, his earnest plea for rain and personal restoration has come to mind at various times of "drought" through the years.
Saturday, January 26, 2013
Found after Half-a-Year...
I had put this object in that box at 6:00 PM, June 29, 2012. How could I possibly remember that exact point in time?
Just a few weeks before that date, all the teachers had been asked to turn in their keys and remove their classroom belongings by June 20th. With the help of dozens of parents and students, the classrooms were empty and four storage units a half-mile away were packed from floor to ceiling. The task took three days, but we met the stated deadline, and we were trusting God to direct our path between then and September. There is no earthly way to explain the peace and good spirit that the staff had as we stepped into the summer of 2012, but never did we better understand I Peter 5:7, "Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you." I will admit, however, that the school was sadly quiet for the next nine days as the office staff packed and wrapped up the loose ends of the 2011-2012 school year.
On that last business day of the school’s fiscal year, Friday, June 29th, the office staff had offered to stay and help me pack what little remained, but I assured them I was almost done and could roll out my last boxes on a kitchen cart. That final hour was quiet until the custodian stepped in to remind me he was scheduled to lock up and code out at 6:00. He and I were the last to leave the building that night, and it felt strange not knowing when or whether ever I would return.
That’s how I remember what time it was when I wrapped the thing in paper towels. That’s how I knew it had been a half-a-year since I had seen it.
The six months seemed a blur until I pulled off the paper towels and stared down at my found treasure. It was the blue coffee mug I used for more than 4,500 days since my first week at Calvary Christian Schools in July of 2000.
My wife Julie bought it for me the week we moved to Michigan. One glance at its image and inscription and you’ll understand why she knew the then-new administrator of the Calvary Eagles needed it on his desk.
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
You all know the passage, but I’d like to share some thoughts about the first three verbs in that verse: wait, renew, and mount up.
(Luke 19:13)The second verb is renew. The promise that our strength can be renewed implies that it can also be depleted. The truth is serving others can be exhausting. Some may ask, "What about the promise in the second part of the verse that says, 'They shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Doesn’t that mean that we will never get tired while serving the Lord?" I don’t think so. Even well-trained runners are exhausted after “pressing on toward the mark.” (Philippians 3:13-15) I don’t think the word weary implies physical exhaustion as much as complete mental or emotional fatigue. In other words, being weary is not being tired from what you’re doing—it is being tired of what you’re doing. Weary is a dangerous place to be; it is dark and pathless valley cluttered with quit and overshadowed by the bad decisions of centuries past.
It is for this reason the Apostle Paul encourages us not to “grow weary in well doing.” (Galatians 6:9) He is not saying “Never tire yourself for a worthy cause" but rather "Never become tired of the cause." It is healthy to be spent at the end of a hard day or a hard week. Such tiredness is to be expected in service. It is why God created the seventh day to rest. He knows we need recovery time... renewal time. Sometimes we need a change of pace.
This pattern of work and rest, anticipation and reward, is also implied in the second part of Isaiah 40:31. If you can’t run another mile, then walk instead, but don’t stop. Don’t faint. Regroup. Refocus… ReNEW your strength... then carry on. That is what my coffee mug says. The verse implies a pattern of exertion and renewed strength.
This brings us to the third verb of Isaiah 40:31: mount up. The female bald eagle can have a 7’ wingspan and weigh up to sixteen pounds, the maximum legal weight of a bowling ball. She can also carry over four pounds of prey in her clenched talons. Assuming that circumstances have grounded an eagle, stopped it in its tracks, the most difficult part of flight is what Isaiah calls “mounting up with wings.” The hardest part is taking off, regaining momentum.
Mounting up, and up in search of the wind or an updraft takes non-stop effort—it is more grueling than graceful. There is a big difference between “mounting up with wings” and soaring. To the observer, it’s like the Olympic contrast between watching the 200 meter butterfly in a churning pool and a 700 ‘ ski jump from a snowy slope.
There are over 7,200 feathers on a bald eagle, the largest being those used for lift and thrust on the wings and maneuvering on the tail. Imagine the strength it takes to power those 7’ wings and raise the weight of a bowling ball to altitudes above 10,000 feet (over two miles up in the sky). Our favorite pictures of eagles show them soaring at that height. Wings outstretched in effortless flight—like that poster behind the coffee mug above or this one below.
From high in the air an eagle can swoop down at 35 MPH, and use the speed to regain its former altitude. As Newton put it,“A body in motion tends to stay in motion.” But from ground level… from a stand-still… “mounting up with wings like eagles” is hard work, but the hope of soaring gives strength to weary wings. Someday we may share more of the details of lessons learned and God's provision in those six months that my mug went missing, but for now let us take Isaiah 40:31 to heart. We have soared and will soon soar again, but for six months we have been in the hard-work phase. Never have so many supporters been doing so much for Calvary Christian Schools. We are waiting on the Lord, but not idly waiting. We are fully occupied, serving Him with hope and anticipation. We will not grow weary of the effort but when we need to catch our breath, we will change our pace, renew our strength, and not faint. We will press upward toward our high calling and will give Him the glory when in HIs time we soar.
With that in mind, let us turn our thoughts from the little mug on my desk toward much bigger things.
On behalf of the School Board, staff, consultants and many supporters now assisting CCS, allow me to give you a sneak preview of a billboard that you will soon see at two locations on the main highways near our school: