You know how silly school boys can be, eh b’ys?
As a bay-boy scholar, I was among the silliest. Once, because of our naughtiness and ensuing fit of tittering, Teacher nearly ran out of classroom corners to stand us in.
Teacher read a poem to begin her class … well, the first line anyway —
“There is no Frigate like a Book…”
Four nit-witty little boys cut their eyes at each other and chanted, “Frig it, frig it, frig it, frig it.”
Teacher heard and pointed to a boy and a corner until each of the room’s four corners contained a scruffy, unlearned urchin nose-in to the wallboard.
I listened to the rest of Emily Dickinson’s poem with my forehead jammed against the wall and staring at my sneaker boots’ toes —
“There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away…”
Time increased my stature if not my good sense. Nevertheless, I grew to understand Emily’s poem. For frig sake, I gained a berth aboard Emily’s poem …
… assuming a poem, while not quite a frigate, can be the going-ashore boat towed behind.
Dawn Baker’s “Fogo” [Pennywell Books] is her latest frigate.
Like a youngster who has hove aside his iPad, I flopped on the living room rug to read. My portly-gentleman contours spreading like a bow wave, I set sail.
Shame on me. Although once coerced into visiting the far and foreign Sandwich Islands, I’ve never been to Fogo Island.
Good thing Dawn Baker launched a frigate.
An interrogative aside: When publishers and authors “launch” books, do they have Emily Dickinson’s poem in mind?
I’ve read Dawn’s text and studied her illustrations. Not with a trained analytical eye, but, more like, with the eye of a sea-farer leaning over the gunnel idly watching the waves.
This thought came to mind: Fogo is some clean.
For instance, there’s no rubbish — not even a speck of dirt — on Sandy Cove Beach, nary a shrivelled strand of kelp for visiting Shorefast artist Katherine to include in her painting.
If I’ve counted correctly, there are only three gulls in this book. Two of them fly in the vicinity of an ochre-painted fishing stage erected on a rocky foundation.
And you know what?
Okay, I admit what I’m about to say stems from the un-evolved brain cells that once upon a poetry reading caused a silly bay-boy scholar to say, “Frig it, frig it.”
The rocks and the stage roof in Fogo are some clean. There’s not a single splotch of gull whoopsie in sight.
Fogo is a children’s picture book. Dawn Baker wouldn’t want some … some little girl’s silly brother, let’s say, making naughty comments about gull whoopsie while they read.
Even farther from Dawn’s mind, I’m sure, was the possibility of … of some little girl’s grandfather — a silly old man of questionable wit, let’s say — attempting jokes about the lack of gull whoopsie.
Beware though. Dawn Baker’s book promotes Fogo’s natural wonders without a word of caution.
Keeping in mind Emily’s frigate metaphor and an erstwhile bay-boy scholar aged — matured? — to his dotage, consider the following possibility.
The Flat Earth Society of Canada has declared that Fogo Island, “specifically the rocky outcrop known as Brimstone Head,” is one of the four corners of the earth, a headland at the edge of the world.
If what the Flat Earth crowd say is true, what do you s’pose would happen if a frigate attempted to sail beyond Brimstone Head?
For frig sake, here there be Dragons, eh b’ys?
Dawn Baker’s illustrations are painted in clean, bright primary colours. In many cases, she has drawn with ruler-straight lines.
For which I thank her.
Because — unbeknownst even to herself, I bet — she has painted a picture of me — a picture of me as I looked half a lifetime ago.
I’m in the art gallery of the Fogo Island Inn. I’d like to think I’m standing in Gwyneth Paltrow’s tracks.
I stand with my hands in my pockets gazing at a painting of a Rodney. My hair is thick. My moustache doesn’t have one grey bristle. And — here’s where I want to hug and squeeze Dawn for her bold straight lines — my stomach is as flat as Granny’s washboard.
How do I know it’s me in Dawn’s painting?
Aside from the fact that she’s painted my spitting image, Dawn — bless her psychic noggin — has given me the grey sweater-vest that — in a previous life — I wore for 30 years as a school teacher.
Get yourself a copy of “Fogo” and a couple of youngsters and embark.
Thank you for … for sailing, I s’pose.
Harold Walters lives in Dunville, Newfoundland, doing his damnedest to live Happily Ever After. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org