THE IMPORTANCE OF STAYING AWE INSPIRED- From Godfrey

Worzel here- Down home on Wharf Street, always random, season of the year rarely an issue, we enjoy the brief and spectacular “Irish Sunset'”, a term that Godfrey coined. For perhaps five minutes at eve the wending street of heritage brick buildings is washed in a brilliant orange glow.

The worn out grass and trees of the tent camp below our window are lit the most vivid green. Campers pause, look skyward and west cross the harbor.The cops and by-law officers relax. The young woman serving tables in the corner patio bar rests her tray, shares delight in the beauty until the boss barks her back to work…

Folks eating in the cool, dark sushi-bar miss out. Even the silvery fittings on the carriage horses’ harness glint in the light as she waits at the cross walk. City workers cease banging trash cans. Leaning from my window, I cannot hear “10 Men”, a lost soul who paces the waterfront most days shouting- “I am 10 men, I am the federal Government!”….IO Men is there, relaxing on the park steps, ever present plastic cup in hand, basking in the peace of “Irish Sunset”…

Time waits for us, despite all we remain awe inspired.

Wrote Godfrey on the subject- From the age I could waddle, nappy dragging behind, Grandma swung me to the sky, I was cherished and held, I loved how the baking in her warm cottage smelled, her songs as she worked, stepping out in her old frock to dance, never cranky or tired. Ma complained, “She is a drunken old sot” But she spoke in rhyme, taught me to stay awe inspired…

I keep a worn photo of the long past elders, deep in my suitcase where it stays flat and dry, they said Grandpa had scars inside, deep where no one can see. A limp in one leg, mild disrespect for authority. He was a fisher- job in itself awe inspiring, he took us out when I was big enough to float, set nets and bait lines. “Go when wind and tide tells you”, Godfrey, never turn your back on the swell, always respect the sea”. Grandpa said little else, yet never took a day on the water for granted, wisdom that awe inspired me.

Stocky legs deep in wet grass he stands, dappled back steaming dry after summer shower, he is wary. Eight years old, carrot in hand I am walking out to my new pony. He need not worry, for the hand that holds the treat, wiped clean on my shirt, will never hurt him.

The glossy coat I keep brushed free of dust and burr, will give way to winter guard hairs and fuzzy whisker.The adventures we share as I warm cold hands neath thick mane, bed the pony down in clean deep straw…awakens the poet growing in me, carries us places that inspire and awe.

I grew up believing in staying awe inspired- “Given to woolgathering, Godfrey,  I regret will amount to nothing”. Twas written in a letter sent from school to my old Ma. I strolled home most days,seeking treasure along the hedge row, from a distance could hear Ma shouting, and the music when my sister Alice played the piano.

I left home for vagabonding, was once left on my own with a heavy iron anvil, and two angry cats in the same box. Was on a remote track, with nebulous shade from one of those odd trees rooted in rock. We had lightened the load of the traveler’s horse drawn wagon, to spare him a uphill pull, feeling his oats Paddy took off at a trot, leaving me with the cats and anvil for to walk.

In my hitching career, was once picked up, the same day by three separate chaps named Verne in same make of car, a brown sedan. Never so welcome was the distant speck of gold, came Heidi, who drove a yellow Bongo Van.

Without question or qualm Heidi stopped, drove myself, the cats and anvil, following tracks and signs of horse to where they finally ended at our camp riverside. Inspired, and in awe of gypsy life, she stayed a month with us, befriended a horse who disliked everybody, down the Rakaia River they would ride.

For she grew up dreaming of being a hippie, defying, horrifying the parents who named her Heidi…Good on ya Heidi, long may you seek the wild mushroom, glean the wisdom from stream side plants, long may you live in joy and awe inspired, and on the bluffs of East Sooke may you dance.

Some thoughts from Godfrey..

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HE WROTE A SEA SHANTY- For Sandy

She was a Coleopterist..indeed, I pondered, how Godfrey would enjoy this mornings obituaries, which in his passing I adopted his hobby of reading. “Where ere I wander, said long ago Godfrey, I can find a paper with an obituary.”The life stories, the pathos, the love, and adventure, to the obits to learn I turn”

Yet oddly, he sat quiet, over the paper this summer morning, had not touched his “Sandwish”of four types of toast, rye on top, layered with marmalade, was idly stirring his tea, which Godfrey never did, considering it bad luck. “I knew this chap in the obits, he nodded to me, briefly, long ago, he was a scholar and a hippie..

Since Godfrey could remember, he listened for the singing from dockside pubs, and songs of fishers calling cross the harbor. A boyhood dreaming of long journeys by sea, thus gleaning the wisdom he could weave one day, into a shanty.

So he waited, waited patiently, for the words to come to him with the tide. Godfrey did make that long, sea journey, and met the young Sandy while hitching a ride. “Was a Volkswagen Van stopped, space was made for me, all long haired chaps named Pete, Pat, Jack and Sandy, there was more than one Sandy and each one was a hippie”.

On a gulf island road, passing hay fields  hot and dusty, in the Volkswagen Van was crammed the vagabond Godfrey, there were apple trees laden, for it was late summer, cedar split rail fences silver with age. “We stopped for chips, so good and greasy, in the islands only small village”.

Every passing person who waved was a hippie, perhaps on this island I would find my sea shanty. Godfrey notes…”On my right hind leg, just above the tattoo, is a ragged scar I once showed you. Nicked it deep on the door of the van, piling out end of the ride, only the tattoo artist asked the scars story, I told her the old tale of a great group of hippies, three of which were named Sandy”

Twas the week an old chap name of “Nixon” resigned,  allover the news were words “Liar” and “Crook”, free from such rubbish we camped on a wide bay, potatoes and porridge to cook. “I recall the damp morning, the chipped cup of instant coffee, bitter and smoky from a can, sitting on a log, talking with this kindly lad- Sandy, who drove the old Volkswagen Van.

“From a foothills town I learned came he, drifted out west, a scholar and a hippie. He encouraged me that I could write that sea shanty.

Feel the warm, oily deck neath bare feet, convey in words the fear of swells higher that our mast”. Dodge the squalls, wonder how long the run of fair seas will last”. Sing of picking weevils from the flour, eating old, cold cod tongues and rancid “Burgoo”. Smell the Tea-Tree as we fetch exotic lands, no home to long for return to…

Much as I glean from your obituary, yours was a good life, and peace be the rest of the journey old friend Sandy.

Up a narrow island road, shadows pass in summer sun, on the  split glass dash of a Volkswagen Van, dented and old, it will not get past sixty, but none of that matters, it chugs along, driven by a hippie they are not all past and gone.

In the obit photo is no trace of the youth you used to be, clean shaven, dressed rather tidy…posed neath an oak tree, “I knew him briefly, we talked of scars, and August shooting stars and Nixon…was the summer I set out to write a shanty.”.

THREE PURSES-By Godfrey

Worzel here- This gem is a favorite of Godfrey’s eccentric sister Alice, who reports, “Very true, I get to poke my brother and get him paddled for snooping all in one poem”. Alice writes- “Our olde Ma refuses to be included in your written “saga”, but has made this clear, “I will have little to leave you but fond memory, bury the purse with the torn strap beside me”, From Ma.

Rarely do I write of my dear hearted Ma, but reminded I was of her this rainy morning by someone I saw. No, it was not a rusty, dented old car, or child hiding as I used to, in the shoe department of a big, noisy store. It was not even Haggis on a restaurant menu, but a woman like Ma, three large purses she wore.

Ma carried three purses, when apparently ladies of her time were labeled “odd” if they toted more than one. I recall as a lad the three purses Ma had, one was angry, for when she rummaged for money she rummaged with curses, which was rare. Her other purse held clove scented sweets, her hands smelled of cloves and raw wool when she spit in her palm to slick down my hair.

Her brown purse had a leather strap, frayed and torn, she caught it in a car door, a firey accident soon after Alice was born. When I asked her about it, my sister Alice, slapped me about the head. “Said, no one was hurt, but for the purse, shut up and go back to bed”.

And what of the elegant lady I saw, wearing large dark glasses, a film star maybe?…Was her third purse like Ma had, a mystery?, Ma’s was knitted and bulky, gray and pink plaid, unsightly, one day Alice dared me open the purse, it took one quick peek in to reveal it, Ma carried within a great brick in a sock, lest some yobbo perhaps, wish to steal it…

Rarely I write of my sweet natured Ma, along the High Street our old car did rattle and lurch. With a swat with her purse, prod in the back, she sent me off to chip shop or church.

And even when older in the ladies wear shop, while discussing and fussing over girdle or hem, it was I, Godfrey, never Alice, left with the three purses, holding them.

Not oft I write of my beloved Ma, and when I do think of Alice and I, the children we were. Pocket knife, bills, knitting wool, change of smalls, the troubles I know now she bore, so much living, stuffed in the three purses Ma wore.

KEVIN SLEPT THROUGH IT- The 57th Wisdom of Godfrey

Worzel here- The #50 bus comes along oft in Godfrey’s story- it runs the main city corridor here, he and I rode the bus often, Godfrey considered it a “Microcosim of the whirled”. I saw it as a red and white lozenge dispenser that spewed me out at rides end somewhat tattered round the edges. Only Godfrey could find wisdom on that wayward bus, and he did…

He was industrious for a committed Vagabond, my friend Godfrey, enjoying outdoor work, providing beets were not served or cultivated on the job, he always asked. Thus Godfrey was usually employed places that did not require an interview, and paid cash end of day. This odd, late summer, before heading south, he rode the #50 bus every morning, to join a crew painting a lighthouse.

“We are painting a lighthouse”, he wrote Beatrice. Out on the Fort Rodd Cape, high above the sea, I stand on scaffolding, wind up my kilt and scrape. Every morning Kevin, in same shirt and baggy shorts, (He works with us), races down the sidewalk for the #50 bus. He sleeps all the way, slack jaw agape, no matter how crowded the ride, I give him credit, Kevin sleeps through it.

There is oft loud quarreling about us on the bus one must endure, the smell of Egg breakfast, reek of stale alcohol in excess, riding the bus complaing because your life is a mess, freeloaders begging a ride at the door, in the early morning morass, see Kevin in the third row, oblivious in snore.

There was paint to be mixed, fish to buy on the docks, their were tourists Godfrey spied aground on the rocks. Kevin slept through it.

Kevin slept through the whales and seals passing, below the high lighthouse we were painting, slept till knock off time end of the day, Kevin slept the whole jolting ride from town, slept through Vinnie falling from the lighthouse all the way down. Kevin slept through free pizza on Friday, he slept while old Harry doled out our pay.

Kevin was asleep when old Harry paid him twice- he shared with the rest of us who rode that #50 bus. Kevin once asked of me,” Have you always been a poet?, Godfrey?. .”Indeed yes, I told him, since I was a boy” I have always slept, Kevin replied, a hobby that I truly enjoy”.

Kevin was asleep when the #50 bus, careened off the road suddenly, avoiding stray cattle, hitting lightly up against a tree. Builders tools, potatoes, cold coffee rained down on me, we carried Kevin out unhurt, using my kilt as a stretcher, and set him still asleep in the shade on the dirt.

Years later, Kevin wrote- “Yes, I remember Godfrey, and recall the wisdoms he taught me”. “I slept through my youth, woke on the #50 bus, wearing  lop sided name tag of a greasy hardware store, I awoke at 24. “We were painting a lighthouse, Godfrey insisting there was poetry all about , in the waft of seagull’s wings, the kelp beds at low tide, the morning sun climbing up the lighthouses side..he taught me to look beyond beets to the poetry in all of us, “For in this life we all ride a #50 bus”.

Finally awake, I took pen in hand, and oft am inspired on the path to Fort Rodd Cape, the lighthouse I never painted still stands vigil oer the strait. And warm days for memories sake, will find me napping in its shade, our names can be seen there, etched tiny in the paint, beginning now to fade, Vinny, Teresa, Godfrey, Harry, Kuldeep, Kevin…September, 1983. Although I slept through it, was Godfrey made sure they included me.

THE 57th WISDOM OF GODFREY STATES- We all ride a #50 bus called Earth, we all have a story, this Kevin taught me. “Only the sun and moon and stars can look down and choose to judge us”. For in this life we ride the same #50 bus”.

THE PERPETUAL SPRING OF MRS BENTLEY- from Worzel

Our young vagabond friend- so full of Godfrey,  Hawken, had come full circle home to Winnipeg for the summer. Saving for Ireland, his next big adventure. I had received a packet of fragile drawings, and story from his old school mate, Dr “Twinkle” Wembley- Fadge, who had read excerpts from “The Collected Wisdom”, Hawken was still too shy to share this story- still working it out …I hope he will not mind my telling.  

Yes, I went to school with Hawken, in Mrs Bentley’s 5th grade class, she made him sit front row, furthest from the door and where he could not see out a window. Kids worked on Hawken, Mrs Bentley did not intercede, he wore his fair hair long, faded flannel shirts, and Hawken oft shared with me the books he loved to read.

Mrs Bentley was an elderly, old school prairie teacher, she read us poetry, napped at her desk all morning. Every day in deepest winter, she had us draw a spring picture. She had two dresses, for spring yellow roses, the other red wool, in retrospect I wonder if she drank now and again , oft befuddled, wearing only one stocking, the only boy  who did not guffaw at teacher’s farts was quiet Hawken.

Even then, his spring pictures were vivid in color and detail, he drew the brown revolting city slush at thaw, rush of Grey-lag geese over muddy fields, he drew the post office at Crocus Hill, drew a shiny new seed drill.

Mrs Bentley never hung Hawken’s art work on display, and though she did not pick favorites, dismissed as rubbish, the little boy’s dream to live out side one day.. “Doomed to social failure”, this young nipper said she, to his parents on visiting day.

Hawken worked on his spring picture, as all about him set to bicker. Father claimed- “It’s his name- Hawken for his uncle who left home at 17. Never called or wrote those 3 years in between, whacked him with the fry pan, did my aunt Marcia Mae, when he strolled in asking, “Whats for supper?, like he had never been away”.

Ma griped- “His hair is long because of you, swung him high and bonked his head, left a long scar, and Hawken only two”.

Grandma added- “He will knock out those expensive teeth, hopping a moving train”. “He will wash his flannel shirt, in a bus depot sink and put it back on damp again”. “I will wield the fry pan, should Hawken at 16, ask for a Volkswagen Van”.

Grandpa, (whom everyone ignored), thought, “I wish I’d had a teacher, such as Mrs Bentley, all you need to learn is found in art and poetry, history, myth and maths, courage and colors, how to work, love and get along with others”. A poem memorized you have forever, and perpetual spring too, in painting or picture” . .

Hawken read, over and again “Kon-Tiki”, he understood “Thoreau”, followed the sea path of the yacht “Dove”, and “Peace Pilgrims” epic journey..draw a spring picture, no mere tulips in a vase for Hawken, much to the dismay of Mrs Bentley. She loved poetry, set us verse to memorize- “Francisco Pizzaro”, “The Flower Fed Buffalo.”

“When your poem is set to memory, she said, draw a spring picture”. Closing her eyes, head on a book of sonnets she would snooze, until the final bell rang, or someone had to ask if they could wee. “Recite the poem first”- firm in this edict was Mrs Bentley.

Then came an early spring morning, cold and dark, snow on icy tar, and Mrs Bentley slipped, alighting book laden from her old car, fell hard. It was Hawken kneeling in the slush, holding teacher’s hand, flannel shirt for a comfort where she lay, talking softly, he never said of what, until help came, and took Mrs Bentley away …

“Our substitute held a math book up, asked how far along we were, “I told her, don’t bother, while we memorize “Fort Frontenac”, put your head down and nap, we will then be quiet and draw a spring picture”.

“The janitor cleared out the desk of Mrs Bentley, young Miss Avis, across the hall watched sadly. Lesson plans she never used, some faded valentines, ancient gift of cheap perfume from student long forgotten. They found last a thick, brown envelope, marked Hawken. All the spring pictures he thought she threw away, all the multi-colored skies and ducks and tractors she would not tack to the wall. Mrs Bentley, ever the mystery kept them all.

“I was only about ten, wrote Hawken, but I understood this thing, I knew that when in peace did Mrs Bentley pass- it would be, for her, into perpetual spring”

HOMELESS ROMANTIC- From Godfrey

   A gem from one of Godfrey’s last known journals…365 Odd Thyme Stories…enjoy.

Five things were predicted at birth for me- Godfrey will never drown, he is destined to wander, he will dislike beets.    Love will always find Godfrey, yet never to stick, Wise Woman Gypsy Sarah  kept the 5th to herself- “He will be all his life, a Homeless Romantic ”

“My dear old granny, when born I, well she loved a wee tipple”. “When only a Bub, she showed me off in the pub, I was chuffed neath the chin, given stout in my bottle, was spoiled on sweets and handed about” “Old Liz behind the bar reckoned, “With those eyes he will be, a Homeless Romantic no doubt”

“Ma called me a ” Wee Hoon”, as alone in my room, I immersed myself in ” The Sonnets”. “In dreams I wandered beet free, lonely moors, misty beaches, and hills for the love I had lost…lost cross the cold Atlantic”  “For she was of wealth, and I was  poor, a manure seller, and stable lad, was just a Homeless Romantic”

“My sister Alice once told me- “To impress the girls I dare, you to stand on the Septic Tank, and pluck out your nipple hair”. “I was old enough to have one or two, so I did”. “Well, the girls I fancied chased me away, with beets on a pointed stick” “I went roaming afar not long after, twas a Homeless Romantic”.

“There was of course, my one true love, Peruvian Clementine.” “Down at the fish-shop eels slipped through her big hands, Deftly she shucked oysters, cut cod pieces thick”..”. When  Clementine threw me face down in the warm sands, my future was sealed- as a Homeless Romantic”.

“I sought hidden the poetry of vast, dirty cities, and the mountains.” Sought wisdom chalked on walls, barked out from market stalls”. “Sought it in the whisper that beckoned me within, the tent of a Palm Reader’ “I  an innocent skeptic, “She took my hand, in tobacco stained old one, told me, “you are indeed a poet, a Homeless Romantic”

“Arrested for singing neath the window of Beverly Fishleigh , wrong window, the coppers informed me”. “Beets were served on a tray, breakfast, lunch and tea”. “It was not very nice in the Reading Town “Nick”- ” I told the old judge “I’m not vagrant or nuisance, merely picked the wrong window to sing under, simply a Homeless Romantic”.

“Now at 40, I woke up with grey in my beard, oft at hostels and gatherings, young folk look at me like I am weird”, but I’ve never regretted this vagabond life, from castle grand, to moldy tent wet”. “From Ballarat, to Knockfollie’s Bridge, knees creaky in the mornings, a tad arthritic, still seeking wisdom, I remain odd, a Homeless Romantic.”

SHE WAS A CARROT PEELER; of Great Dignity- From Worzel

Ah, my fourth year spent compiling Godfrey’s story, an ever evolving memoir of myth, saga, random scattering along his paths.

I also had to tend the irksomes of daily living, like wearing shoes and running our luggage shop, which was now attracting more visitors who wished to discuss poetry than purchase a suitcase, or have an ancient satchel repaired….Today, the rusty cow-bell from our ranching days we hung above the door clanked, and into Godfrey’s Luggage, strode a Peeler of Carrots.

After a shy poke about, and spin of displayed suitcase wheel, and brief introductions she told me her story. “Oh I met up with your Godfrey, he was tilting his head, peering up at a sign- “Little Denmark Chinese and Canadian Cuisine”, it read.             “An odd looking chap, somewhere south of middle age, curious he was of dress and face. “No Pasaran Beets” said a faded sticker, over a hole in his red and black plaid suitcase”.   “He saw me staring, and as I drew near, with a side-ways smile asked, “Little Denmark Chinese and Canadian Cuisine”?, do you work here?.  With a glance from the sign to the stains on my hands and old pants that carrot pulp had made, said Godfrey, “I deduce that you, must be a carrot peeler by trade”?         “He disliked beets, I told her, but would talk to anyone of anything, I hung the “Closed” sign and we chatted neath the bug chandelier in my old buildings lobby, “He considered it something of a Vagabonds hobby”.    ” The carrot peeler   understood, told me her story. “In youth, I to were a rollicky girl, out on the road round the country I strayed, I chose love and laughter over worry for my future, for job over well paid career, I have no regrets, I peel carrots”.

Dump the sack by the sink, rinse em off, lob the knob, with peeler in hand, simply get on with the job.   “Peel clean and true, sing as you scrape till the long shift is through”. ” Carrot cake and carrot soup, carrot juice good for you, parings pailed as pig-feed, posh and pretty, carrot garnishes that curl, unheralded   she toils in the slippery bits and swill, writes poetry in private times, this carrot peeling girl”       “Now, to most, my meeting Godfrey will be perceived as of little interest, added nought of value to the turning of the world” “But as I trim, and pare and peel, I recall his quiet wisdom as we sat that autumn afternoon, neath the witch hazel tree in Bastion Square, and the words he chalked, for all to read and see on the pavement there”.      A CARROT PEELER- of Great Dignity- From Godfrey-   A kindly autumn afternoon. I saw that she saw the humor in why I saw what I did. Neath a baffling sign on a restaurant wall in the old city square.   Boldly to, she looked up, peeler in hand, one lone shred of carrot hung in her silver hair.  Damp, stained apron, sensible trousers a laborer may wear.  She toils, often griped at, grading the fish, the tomatoes,the fruit, long hours peeling carrots, unattractive hair-net, damp gum-boot. “She told me with pride- “I will never trade my carrot sink for any lonely desk or expensive  shoes and itchy business suit”    “I remember  “Little Denmark Chinese and Canadian Cuisine”‘  though it is now many years gone, no sign, any more, no restaurant   near the old witch hazel tree.” But I think of it often, when words in chalk, are left to wash clean.              I linger there, recall the words Godfrey wrote, for gone to is the Carrot Peeler, Betsy- of old Bastion Square..