Hypergraphia is a condition that causes people to transcribe their thoughts uncontrollably. I don't suffer from it in the clinical sense, but I may be borderline. My blog is the cyber-wall where I spray paint my thoughts for all to see. By the way, if you came here directly through blogger --if your page has no yellow frames and no pretty pic of me in the top left corner -- you may want to visit my main site at www.hypergraffiti.com, where you can read this blog and much much more.


I'm Trudy Morgan-Cole, a writer from St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada. My books include "The Violent Friendship of Esther Johnson," "Esther: A Story of Courage," and "Deborah and Barak." I'm also a married mom of two, a teacher in an adult-ed program, and a Christian of the Seventh-day Adventist kind. I blog about writing, reading, parenting, teaching, spirituality, and shiny things that catch my eye.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Where There is No Vision, the People Manage

When I was a child, my mother used to have visions. No, she didn't go into trances and report back messages from God for His people. Instead, we would plan a family outing or event, and if it went wrong or didn't go as planned, my mom would say with a sigh, "I had visions of us ..." And she would go on to describe how the event had played out in her mind, contrasted with what had actually happened.

I guess we all do this. I know I do. I set out to do something, and there's a whole vision in my head of how it's supposed to work out. Sometimes the reality matches the vision pretty accurately. Other times it differs sharply -- maybe for better, maybe for worse. I don't think we'd accomplish much if it wasn't for this kind of vision -- a dream of how things could be, or should be. You couldn't plan a party, a vacation, a career, a life if you couldn't envision the outcome. I've always been fond of the KJV translation of Proverbs 29:18: "Where there is no vision, the people perish."

But I also remember from childhood that my mom used to seem very let-down when the thing she "had visions of" didn't live up to the vision. And this taught me another important lesson: don't get too attached to your visions. Reality is its own thing, with its own curious and difficult shape. I've seen people so married to their "vision" of how things should be that they miss instead the lovely and interesting thing that is. I still have visions, but I'm trying to learn to sit lightly with them.

While we were in England on the houseboat, the children sat down one day and made up a cake recipe. It wasn't bad, as child recipes go; they've done enough baking with me that they pretty much know what goes in a cake, they're just vague on amounts and proportions. They decided that when we got home, they would bake the cake and throw a party for all our friends and family to welcome us back home from England. Their plans got more and more elaborate and I could see my two budding visionaries cooking up quite a picture of this gala event.

I enjoy a party as much as they do, so while recognizing that their plan would need some modification, I agreed in principle. We got home on Sunday, and Wednesday of this week was Regatta Day, so I said we'd have a barbecue on Regatta Day, and the kids could bake their cake, and we'd throw ourselves a welcome-home party.

I guess I should digress here and explain about Regatta Day for those who aren't Newfoundlanders, but I can't get into too much detail because it would just be too arcane and bizarre to grasp. I'll try to keep it simple: this is an annual civic holiday centred around an outdoor sporting event (the Royal St. John's Regatta, oldest continuous sporting event in North America, 188 years and counting) which requires good weather to proceed. The Regatta is not just a boat race but also a huge carnival/festival on the shores of Quidi Vidi Lake, with booths set up to sell food, games of chance, etc. On a good Regatta Day, there can be as many as 40,000 people around the lake, a few watching the races and the majority just having a good time.

Did you get the part about the weather? Remember that we live in a place where the weather is capricious and completely unpredictable. If Regatta Day isn't a good day, then the races--and everything else, including the civic holidays of thousands of working people in St. John's -- will be postponed to the next day. So on the morning of Regatta Day, you wake up and turn on the radio to find out if you have the day off or not.

This can be a challenge if you want to plan, say, a backyard BBQ for Regatta Day. You have to make plans and invite people in advance, but you make your invitations with the disclaimer, "Come over Wednesday afternoon -- if the Regatta goes ahead Wednesday."

I made the calls, disclaimers and all. Struck out with a few -- some friends are out of town, some had other plans for the day. Christopher's best friend was at summer camp and Chris was pretty disappointed about that. But our plans kept unfolding. I had visions of a sunny, warm Regatta Day afternoon, the yard full of kids playing on the swingset and in the treehouse while grownups sat around the deck chatting and admiring my beautiful scrapbook of pictures from our trip to England. The kids presumably had similar visions, except that theirs were louder.

Showers were in the forecast for Wednesday. Jason and I lay awake at 6 a.m. listening to the radio coverage from the boathouse at Quidi Vidi. "The Regatta Committee have been in there for some time now ... they may be close to a decision ... I hear some applause from inside...." It sounded as though the next announcement was going to be that the reporters saw puffs of white smoke coming from the boathouse and a new Pope was chosen. But no. They came out and announced that the Regatta was going ahead.

If you're planning a party on the day of a holiday that is contingent on the weather, the one thing you'd think you could rely on would be good weather for your party, right? Wrong. When the Regatta Committee decides the races (and thus the holiday) will go ahead, they're thinking of one thing: wind. If it's going to be too windy, the pond conditions won't be good for rowing. If it's going to be flat calm, they don't much care whether it's cold, warm, sunny or rainy. Sure, the 40,000 people on shore might care (especially those who paid for concession booths) and the rest of the denizens of St. John's might care (especially those hosting BBQ's), but that's not the committee's primary concern.

The races went ahead. My co-workers on the Murphy Centre Teamsters rowed to a respectable third-place finish in their race. It was, by all accounts, a fine day for rowing races; in fact, a new record was set on the women's course. But it was pouring rain the entire time. Not much fun for the fairgoers down at Quidi Vidi, or the people losing money on the concession stands. Or people who had visions of a lovely outdoor party.

We were already striking out on many scores -- most of our friends with children were away, so we only had one family coming with kids and they were all girls -- Christopher was disgusted and threatened to boycott the party. We had too much food on hand for the people who were coming so I made phone calls urging everyone to come around suppertime so at least the food would get eaten. And there was clearly going to be no outdoor play or sitting around the deck while burgers sizzled on the BBQ. Real life was not matching up to the vision.

We went ahead with preparations. The kids and I made the cake -- I gave some guidance in the area of amounts and proportions, and they did the rest of the work. I finished scrapbooking our trip photos so people could look through them. And about 5:00, guests began to arrive.

The rain kept coming till about 6:00 -- it stopped just in time to allow Jason to do some BBQ'ing without getting drenched. Some of his family who were in town visiting dropped by, then the friends-with-kids came (and Christopher did not barricade himself in his room, but played relatively well with the girls), then some of my family. We sat around our living room instead of the deck, and the kids played in their rooms and in the rec room, and most of the food got eaten, and there was much laughter. After supper the kids went out to play in the still-damp yard for awhile. Eventually some guests went home, and our kids went to bed, and we ended the evening the way I knew it would end. We sat around the living room with the people I find most entertaining in the world -- my parents, my Aunt Bernice and cousin Jennifer, and my friend Sherry -- talking and laughing and telling stories till it was time for them to go home and us to go to bed.

So our Regatta Day BBQ didn't quite match my vision, nor the kids' visions of what our welcome-home party would be like, but a good time was had by all anyway. Visions are great -- I wouldn't get a thing without them -- but it helps to know when to lay them aside and step boldly forward into the reality we are given, even if it's soaking wet.

I loved everyone's responses to the "Humped Pelican Crossing" sign I posted the other day! Unfortunately, nobody got anywhere close to the right answer, and if I had to give a prize for the most creative response, that would be tough! Just in case you wondered (and, unlike my dad, you didn't Google it), a Pelican crossing is a Pedestrian Light Controlled crossing -- the kind where you push a button to make the "Walk" signal come on, and the "Humped" refers to the presence of a speed bump. Not nearly as interesting as some of the suggestions people came up with!!

By the way, if anyone's looking for book reviews, I have updated Compulsive Overreader with reviews of the books I read on my holiday (not all of them, but some that I thought review-worthy). Check it out!


Anonymous Katrina Stonoff said...

Sounds like fun. But I want to hear more about the Regatta.

And...ahem...you didn't mention how the cake turned out.

1:49 PM  
Blogger TrudyJ said...

The cake was great. Very chocolatey. Chocolate batter with chocolate chips and chocolate icing. They are children after my own heart.

The Regatta is quite the event. When I was growing up my family never went to it -- too crowded, too chaotic, etc. And as we're not sporty we had no interest in the races. For my husband, however, going to the Regatta (for the games, etc., not to watch the races) was a part of his childhood, so after we married I got into the custom of going. This year was the first year I actually knew some people who were rowing so I had more of an interest in the racing aspect of it. But the element of a holiday that you don't know whether or not you have until you wake up in the morning, is definitely the most unique part!

2:07 PM  
Anonymous Lilith Adams said...

Trudy - i so LOVE your site and you write in such an interesting and entertaining way.

There is an annual regatta here, at Henley-on-Thames and as we happened to be in the area on the first day, this year, we decided to visit.(We had lunch further down the river to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary). Not sure about the dress code at your regatta, however, over here it is a VERY dressy affair and i spent much time people watching - lots of post frocks and HUGE and elaborate hats. http://www.hrr.co.uk

I understand how you feel about your visions altho' i tend to call them "expectations" and i have learnt from experience that expectations can lead to disappointment so tend to just let things happen nowadays.

xx L

2:48 PM  
Blogger TrudyJ said...

Oh, I've heard of the Henley Regatta -- the St. John's Regatta, while ancient and famous by our colonial standards, is MUCH more downmarket -- no dress code, everybody and his dog (literally!) attends. I think even people who normally dress up for events would dress down for the Regatta as it's seen as a very casual day at the races!

I did think of the word "expectations" as being a more literal expression of what I meant, but my mom's "visions" have such a permanent place in my memory I had to use that word.

3:18 PM  
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8:05 AM  

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