My bucket list
I HAD MY FIRST argument around the age of three – with my paternal grandmother.
It went on for several weeks. I understood clearly that one and one made two; two and one made three; three and one made four, and so on. When we reached nine, though, Sarah Moore could not convince me that nine and one made ten.
I insisted that nine and nine made ten.
Many nights I drifted off to sleep crying as she soothed me in her rocking chair. One night, we both fell – bruggadung! – out of the rocking chair.
My grandmother finally settled the issue one day while we sat at the lunch table. She placed a black-eyed pea in front of me and asked: “How many peas do you see there?” I said: “One”; she added another pea, and I : “Two”; and another and another.
With nine peas on the table, she paused, and with that wry smile on her face, she asked: “How many peas do you see?” I replied: “Nine”; whereupon, she put nine more black-eyed peas on the table – all at once – and inquired how many I now had. That settled our argument until she passed away at 87 in 1972.
This little 200-word excursus is what Caswell Franklyn calls “anecdotal fluff”.
It’s the stuff that constitutes essay writing; and I don’t mean the essays fifth formers write in school. When you write essays for publication, contrary to what some people think, you don’t have to arrive at any point. You can roam far and wide. Arriving at the point is for the news reporter.
I pointed out that to a talk show caller who criticized me a few months ago for writing “foolishness” about a stray dog that came to our home back in January 2008. What will he say when I get around to the morning at Browne’s Beach when I saved a lowly honey bee from drowning as the waves lapped the shore?
I find Barbadian politics boring. The debating in the House of Assembly over the past decade has been disappointingly watery. Many MPs seem bored. It forces you to playback in your head the days of Tudor, Crawford, Brancker, Smith, Adamses, Barrow, Walcott, Forde, Blackman, to recall a few.
And in any event, the newspapers are full of competent political commentators so I look elsewhere for my topics. When a happy conjunction is found of something interesting to the writer and of significance to the reader, then writing becomes emotionally rewarding. I suspect that reading does, too.
Back in 1913, a writer named Carl Van Doren explained the essay like this: It may be any length, breadth, depth, weight, density, colour, savour, odour, appearance, importance, value. He noted that the essay may be as fastidious as a collector of carved emeralds or as open-minded as a garbage collector. Nothing human is alien to it.
It can even contain some fluff at times.
My friend Roxanne Gibbs recently handed me the opportunity for a series of new essays by way of an invitation to email her my “bucket list” as she prepared an article for BARP’s magazine 50Plus. A bucket list, if you don’t know, is a list of things you want to accomplish before you kick the bucket.
It’s pretty easy to see why Roxanne picked on me – after all, at 72 I’m no spring chicken!
After a few hours, I sent her my list, in the order of importance:
1. To see a Barbados where people invent things and create services, making us less dependent on tourism and borrowing.
2. To see a more environmentally-conscious Barbados.
3. To learn another language, preferably Mandarin or Cantonese.
4. To see medical breakthroughs against Alzheimer’s, AIDS and cancer.
5. To write a memoir: I already have the title, Talking To The Tradewinds.
6. To return to the piano.
Each item will, hopefully, become an essay before I kick the bucket.
• Carl Moore was the first Editor of THE NATION and is a social commentator. Email: [email protected]