Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sea Wish

Another Magpie Tale

     I picked my way along the beach gingerly.  I loved the sound of the waves and the brief glints of sunshine reflecting from the water.  Even the seagulls' raucous calls evoked a feeling of nostalgia.  But the rocky beach hurt my feet.  The smooth sandy shores of my childhood were far away.  Sighing, I tried to make the best of this new coast.  I saw some quite attractive rocks as I tiptoed along.  Driftwood stacked itself in twisted fortresses higher up the beach.  The giant kelp splayed on the shore was, well, interesting. 
     I was walking closer to the water's edge, looking for smoother ground, when a vigorous wave caught me by surprise.  The frigid water swirled around my ankles, then retreated.  I looked down and saw a shell between my feet, half buried in the gritty sand.  It looked like a beauty.  I picked it up, found a dry log to perch on, and tried to rub the sand off the shell for a better look.  Washing it in the surf would have been more efficient, but I was not about to touch that cold water again. 
    The shell was unbroken, with more color in it than any I had seen so far that day.  After I had removed most of the dirt, I started to polish it with the edge of my shirt.  The shell grew warmer and warmer until I had to put it down, sucking on my fingertips.  Maybe the cold water would be useful.  But before I could stand up, a plume of steam burst from the end of the shell.  When the steam blew away, it revealed a small, scaly creature standing pompously on the driftwood.
     "What is your will, oh . . ."  He coughed out a series of bubbles.
     I forgot all about my burned fingers.  "Are you a genie?" I asked.
     "A genie?  Hardly.  I am," he said, making a complicated bow, "a sea sprite."
     "Do you grant wishes?"
     The sprite sighed.  "You get straight to the point, don't you?  Yes, I must grant you one wish before I can return to my shell."  He shivered in the breeze.  "Perhaps you had better hurry and ask."
     "Can you give me anything I want?"
     He preened a bit.  "I generally provide satisfaction."
     "Could you introduce me to my true love?"
     "What's your type? Fins, flippers, or tentacles?"
     "Never mind.  Would world peace be within your power?"
     He looked confused. 
     "Okay, how about lower gasoline prices?"
     He raised a slimy eyebrow.  "Would that involve more offshore drilling?"
     "Sorry.  How about gold?  I've heard there's lots of gold in seawater."
     "In molecular form."
     "I can't spend that.  Maybe a year's supply of salt?"
     "It would be heavy without the water to carry it."
     I thought about it for a minute.  "What sort of wishes do you usually grant?"
     "The wishes of sea creatures, of course."
     "And what do the denizens of the deep desire?"
     "Most have simple wants.  Chain dogfish usually want to go for a walk.  Nurse sharks ask for more patience.  Anglerfish are generally happy to have someone to listen to their stories.  The sea squirts will sing 'If  I only had a brain' all day, but I can always distract them with a good gill cleaning."
     "And the less simple wishes?"
     "Squid just want to be published.  They squirt ink everywhere in their excitement.  What a mess!  And don't get me started on dolphins."
     "So, you prefer simple, sea-related wishes?"
     The sprite nodded vigorously, and shivered again.  "Yes, and I'll grant you yours if you grant me mine."
     "I'm not a sprite!"
     "No, but you have hands.  I wish you would toss my shell back into the water.  It's too dry up here."
     "Oh, I think I can handle that."
     "Then, what is your will, oh friend of the sea?"
     "I'd like a nice salmon dinner.  Um, cooked, please."
     He looked at me quizzically, then shrugged.  "Very well.  You shall receive it after returning me to my home."
     Steam appeared again, sucking him back into the shell.  When I heard a small pop, I knew it was sealed, just like one of my mother's canning jars.  I did my best softball windup, and threw the shell as far as I could.  "Good luck with the dolphins," I called.
     Looking down, I saw another small cloud.  When it cleared, I saw a mother-of-pearl plate, piled with steamed herring and krill, covered in a light sauce of zooplankton.
    "Thanks," I called, and sighed again.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I have no arms to take up
against misfortune's darts.
When waves crash,
and whirlwinds sling sharp shafts,
I etch a grim grin on my tough facade
and retreat, recoil,
shrink deep within my shell
alone with echoes of the troublesome sea,
more strident than the storms outside.
Shaken, aching,
I stir up squalls long past,
spin showers into cyclones,
and drown again,
ensnared in my own shield.

The barnacle that's anchored
on the boulder's solid side
learns to weather scathing storms,
awaits the soothing tide.

And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.  Helaman 5:12

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Keep Your Eye on the Ball


Or, Strange Things People Say at
Kids' Baseball Games

My boys have been playing baseball, America's pastime, for a few years now, and it is an educational experience.  I learn another rule or two each spring.  I've also learned some lingo, standard phrases for encouraging young players.  Like most jargon, if you take it out of context, it sounds pretty weird.  Some phrases add a rather violent undertone to a basically civilized contest.  For example:

Good eye!  (When a batter does not swing at an unsuitable pitch)  This refers, I suppose, to the one that's kept on the ball.

Good cut!  (Used to encourage the batter when he has swung and missed)  Is he chopping wood?  Like the term "strike," I think this is an odd way to refer to a lack of contact.

Way to get a piece of it!  (For a foul ball)  How many pieces does it take to accumulate a whole ball?  Or is that a piece of the windshield that just shattered?

Eat it.  (Used by fielding players when a runner's advancement is not worth stopping)  It is a bitter pill, when my son is the catcher and has a true desire to put everyone out.  But when the fielders aren't prepared, he just has to "eat it."  I hope it doesn't hurt his teeth.

Watch the ball hit the bat!  Of its own accord?  People really say this.  But it doesn't work that way.

Protect the plate.  This phrase must come from baseball's cousin, cricket.  The cricket batter's mission is to prevent the ball from knocking down the wicket, so an attitude of protection is appropriate.  Does home plate need the same sort of care?  It does not get it.  Many young batters begin their turn by beating the plate with their bats.  A poorly pitched ball might hit the plate, too, but a batter with a "good eye" will not stoop to stop it.  If given a good pitch, the batter should keep the ball from passing over the plate by knocking it away.  If he does, his next objective is to run around the bases, return to home plate and step on it.  I hope I never need that sort of protection. 

Being too literal-minded, I cannot bring myself to say most of these things.  But I heard a new one this year that might work.  Toward the end of the season, one of our coaches was able to distill his advice into one succint instruction: 

Be smart.  What can we say more?