Saturday, July 11, 2009

Happy Birthday to a great son

All of my children have received a birthday poem on their birthday, a tradition my grandfather started for me at age three when I first learned to read. My youngest son Richard Patrick Ridley, one of the brightest kids you will ever meet and a great swimmer received this. I thought many of you would enjoy.

Ricky at 14

A caterpillar may view the day as the end of a path,
But to the butterfly it is the beginning of a new artistic craft,
Like the crab or lobster who too becomes far too confined,
And sheds his shell to free from the cramping bind,
Or the hermit crab who not only molts his shell,
But must find another larger shell in which to dwell,
Even the lowly serpent we almost always despise
Knows when to shed his skin or face an early demise,
Wings not used slowly wither and then die
Never to soar to new to new success ever high
My son, a lamp of learning to chase away the shadows of dark
Each year still not in motion hits or passes each and every mark,
On the 15th turns the ripe young age of 14,
A handsome, fit, and very smart young teen.
It is still too early to know how far you will be above the crowd,
But your character, manners, and goals make your father so very proud.
From the first day hooked to all manner of tubes separated from us by glass,
You have surged forward each year, each day to surpass.
Today my wish for you as you watch the wisps rising on a 14—candled cake,
That you are touched by His Grace and watched over by the Lady of the Lake.
Although I could rhyme on and on about your wins and lack of defeats,
No birthday poem could ever be complete.
Without symbols of history on the earlier day you chose to arrive
The Crusaders regained a holy site to allow Christianity to survive,
The first Europeans came ashore on your father’s adopted land,
And the stone of our linguistic roots was uncovered in the sand,
Spirituality, Adventure, and Learning—a trinity of a man’s worth
So fitting, all on the very same day of your early birth.
As you blow out the candles, your father bursts with pride,
His love, prayers and thoughts will today and always be by your side.
© Michael P. Ridley


Many people visiting the blog have asked for the complete poem; here it is. Alaska is more that a pretty face of unbelievable beauty or images of humans surviving in an unforgiving place, it is a state of mind. North to Alaska--Islands of Stability in Seas of Change will capture that state. If you enjoy the poem comments or posts are very welcome.
Come with me, beyond the seas, to the land of the Midnight Sun,
Northern Lights, glacier bays, icy peaks and mighty salmon runs,
Where a man is not judged by race, color, creed, money, or even looks,
But rather how well he sets a choker, mends a seine or baits a halibut hook.
It is known to all who visit or live there as truly The Last Frontier,
Where you know by actions at once a man’s core, there is no fa├žade or false veneer.
It’s a land of the bush pilot clawing through ocean fog and mountain mists,
No radar or tower, with one mistake and in an instance he ceases to exist,
Or the gill-netter fighting sleep, drifting toward Five Fingers Rocks,
Hoping for a full net as his boat and gear are way too deep in hock,
Or the logger in a jungle of Sitka Spruce eaten by mosquitoes and gnats,
Another tree to fall, choker to set, no time to rest or even chat,
Or the bravest of them all who is hidden by the 50 foot swells,
Lifting crab pots in a frigid Alaska Gulf ocean hell,
Or the innkeeper eking out a living in a tourist season far too short,
Hoping the reservations all come through and none will abort,
Or maybe the pipeline worker in parka shaking to his very marrow,
As the cold arctic winds blow long and hard across Pt. Barrow,
Or the Aleut with harpoon in hand not moving on an icy ridge,
Be this the day, with one toss I store another seal in nature’s fridge,
Or maybe even the tourist on a hike about to find the ultimate rush,
That sound, that rustle, that noise, is it a Brown Bear coming through the brush?
In a land where nature has stacked the deck and holds all the cards,
Where life outside the cities is never easy and always very hard,
For those who live, no matter whom or where, there is a common, admired trait,
When nature strikes, all is dropped and one rushes to save another from a deadly fate,
Contrast that with the pleasures and beauty we have in Newport Beach,
Where the values are as far from Alaska as a man could ever reach,
A man too often is faceless, honored not for character or strength of name,
But his FICO, and if not a Beamer, Benz or Rover to drive, he must hang his head in shame,
Too often judged by the skill of a scalpel for his trophy mate,
Or the length of the unused yacht in the harbor he uses as bait.
What values to you teach when a million dollar house is only a shack?
Where do you find the moral core that enables you to into adversity tack?
How do you shed the veneer that takes so much time to polish and shine?
God help you if in the material race, you begin to fall behind.
A suggestion not very novel nor even very bold,
Visit this land of human warmth and frigid cold,
Bring back visions of the Northern Lights to store,
To share with a loved one when you stroll upon Newport’s sandy shores.

Michael P. Ridley
© August 8, 2007

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Independence Day Newport Beach Style

Summer Patriots

It is far too ironic that on the day we celebrate independence from our former English liege,
A large part of Newport will be like a city under martial siege,
With police on every corner though not in riot gear and barricades on every street.
That cherished right of auto movement has been curtailed, it has met defeat.
In recent years our neighbor city further up the coast,
Thousands of celebrants turning all manner of couches and sofas into toast.
Symbols of farmers, blacksmiths or tanners behind a hedge, fence or tree,
Armed with flintlock by force to try to set us free.
The image of fife and drum and three men with bandaged head and wounded leg,
Replaced today by those gathered round the coolers, gathered round the keg,
The badge of honor goes to whomever can most and forever consume,
Or who gathers the most thongs throughout his rooms.
In 1777 it was a day to reflect, of fireworks and a thirteen cannon salute,
Marking the first Independence Day the fragile seed of democracy began slowly to take root.
In most of the country this is a day of parades, Souza, reflections, fireworks and family barbecues.
Sad, in this Golden Land of beach and sun, it is a day of too much wine, too much brew.
Any excesses you cannot blame on Washington who on this day in 1778,
Handed out rations of double rum to his soldiers who helped forge this ship of state.
A thin blue line and thin green line are poised on our border,
Against overwhelming odds to try to prevent drunken chaos and disorder,
For those summer patriots whose guzzling will not relent,
Who feel such independence is a God-given consent,
No matter how close you look at their blue and green threads,
No way will you find the slightest speck of Redcoat red.
If the summer patriots despised by Paine choose to party and not reflect,
At least accord the thin blue and green lines some honor and respect.
In the party daze remember freedom is not cast in stone nor etched in concrete,
It is more fragile than a snowflake or butterfly and in the hall of nations may quickly lose its seat.
Look only to Troy who felt with their walls alone were beyond any Greek’s reach,
Remember this short lesson history will teach,
After the celebrations of rivers of wine ran their sleepy course,
Troy was destroyed by conscious Greeks coming from their Trojan Horse.
For our rights soldiers are dying daily on Iraqi sands or in Afghan not Bunker Hills,
Party to the max, is that how one respects that sacrifice and final bill?
If for only a moment, image an army unpaid, in rags, many without shoes,
But no matter the hardship forged in the valley, their faith remained true,
They would not let go when they grabbed the lion’s tail,
No matter what, against trained English steel, cannon, and muskets they would not fail.
Each pledged one’s property and each pledged one’s life.
In countless battles many our forefathers paid the ultimate sacrifice.
So done, wave the flag with meaning and fireworks applaud with hearty cheer,
But maybe this year as you pause and reflect, use a little less wine, a little less beer.

© July 4, 2007
Michael P. Ridley
Have a safe, sane and more importantly reflective 4th of July