Friday, January 27, 2012

Row Row Row Your Boat

attribution unknown (sorry)

row row row your boat

gently down the stream

merrily merrily merrily merrily

life is but a dream

This is a math question: what do you notice about this children's song, written in 1853?

Strictly speaking, based on simple math, here is the answer: You get four merrily's for every three row's.

Which is to say, four rewards for every three efforts.

Now what are the implications of such a simple message, one we so effortlessly sing to our children? And is this something I might consider and use as a construct for my own efforts?

For example, this week:

Row #1: It's been a bear of a week (no offense, rob-bear). I've been sick, a stubborn virus that's had me miss work, miss my writing group, miss pilates, miss everything. Plus, I have not just this one but three unexpected medical problems. No long term worries, but I feel sick and I feel vulnerable.

Row #2: Money's tight. Tighter than it has been.

Row #3: I have an incredibly hard job. I hear and see things that cause me pain: the first hand effects of poverty and culuration and neglect and abuse that have happened to adults when they were children and children who are still children.

Three row's and four merrily's:

Merrily # 1: I'm sick but nothing's life threatening and I don't live in an oppressive country like Iran. Surely these are merrily's.

Merrily # 2: JB has cut back her work hours but in doing so she will be able to spend welcomed and deserved time in her studio. I welcome the challenge of making money stretch. We're still better off than so many, and tight doesn't mean scarce.

Merrily #3: My clients have serious circumstances but I have seen changes and successes and effort and growth. Slowly, sometimes in the smallest ways with the smallest steps, but I've had a part in this and it feels great. And what I have learned is irreplaceable.


An extra # 4 merrily! A free merrily for my efforts. Now what might that be? Well, for starts, I get to be a writer. I get to write a novel and this blog and silly poems and heartfelt stories. You don't worry so much about being bored or alone when you are a writer or a painter or a photographer or a jeweler because you have something to keep you company and to bring you to timeless passion. That's a definite 'merrily', my fourth and free one.

You get 4 merrily's for every three row's. Worth remembering? I think so.

love kj


  1. KJ for every three negs in my life I have one hundred positives! I need at least a hundred to balance the ones I writing+ untill a year ago I couldn't write, so that counts for twenty (that is how many years I wished I had been blessed with that ability like everyone else) my children+ they count for at least a million.......Hell I guess I'm covered for the rest of my life:-)
    I like your blog KJ, you are a gentle soul, that is a gift to be greatfull for!

  2. What a wonderful post! So many wonderful insights! Such an interesting way of framing your experiences.

    Sorry you're ill; that's never fun. But I am glad it's nothing life-threatening.

    Now, about a Bear of a week. That's a week when everything goes well. Lots of food, good clean water, lie in the grass, smell the flowers, play with other critters, and not have to worry about wolves or coyotes. (Of course, I'm writing from a Bear's perspective.) Given recent developments on this blog, I would suggest that you've had an "emily rabbit of a week."

    Blessings and Bear hugs!

  3. I am sorry you are ill dear and your planned visit will have to be postponed ( I heard that yesterday from our dear friend in a little chat conversation)
    I like this post and yes I always have 4 merrily's for every 3 rows, but there are times , I must say seldom but sometimes it seems like you are just rowing................
    But fortunately there are more merrily's in my life at this point.

    Now you get well soon dear so I can be "merrily"about that OK?


  4. sorry to hear you are so ill. sending lots of chicken soup healing.

    love the way you have interpreted this children's rhyme. and love that picture too. a great perspective.

  5. Get well soon so you can be merrily going about your business again, kj. Can sympathize as we have all been afflicted here by something considerably less than merry :(

  6. Super, insightful post, kj! I love how you used Row Your Boat for inspiration...very creative.

    I'm sorry you are sick; it makes everything seem worse. I'm glad you battled out of the doldrums and counted your merrilies...they are far more numerous than recounted here, you know.

    I hope you feel better soon...if you want to talk, you know I'm here...xx

  7. Kj, You don't know this, but this song has always been my secert weapon aganist panic. I actually believe the song when it says life is but a dream. I never thought about a row being a negative and I think it is positive.
    This song saved me when I lived with a friend who was dieing of aids. I sang it all day and at night when I could not sleep.
    A very powerful song!
    I am sorry you are sick, glad it is not serious. Be well soon.
    As for money, when it's tight spend a little on something you don't need, a little trick I learned long ago and it always works, loosens up that tightness.

  8. P.S.I beleive the song (a longer version) comes from Lewis Carroll, but I could be wrong.xoxo

  9. annie, not lewis carroll, though he did emulate the song in one of his poems. It has been suggested that row row row may have originally arisen out of American minstrelsy. The earliest printing of the song is from 1852, when the lyrics were published with similar lyrics to those used today, but with a very different tune.

    Interesting intepretations, from WiKi: lyrics have often been used as a metaphor for life's difficult choices, and many see the boat as referring to one's self or a group with which one identifies.[2] Rowing is a skillful, if tedious, practice that takes perfection but also directs the vessel.[3] When sung as a group, the act of rowing becomes a unifier, as oars should be in sync for the progression of a rowboat. The idea that human beings travel along a certain stream [time] and suggests boundaries in the path of choices and in free will.[4] The third line recommends that challenges should be greeted in stride while open to joy with a smile.[5] Some have questioned the song's implied necessity to row one's boat downstream. This may in fact be a commentary on the paradoxical nature of time's arrow with respect to man's free will in a universe of materialistic causality.

    The final line, "life is but a dream", is perhaps the most meaningful. With a religious point of view, life and the physical plane may be regarded as having equivalent value as that of a dream, such that troubles are seen in the context of a lesser reality once one has awakened. Conversely, the line can just as equally convey nihilist sentiments on the meaninglessness of man's actions. Philosopher George Berkeley said it: a life is just a dream, one of God's many. With or without God, "life is just a dream" expresses the idealistic side of the non-decidable mind-body problem, of which the materialistic side, the "American" sense of reality, is the other: the naive view that the brain through the senses perceives reality "as it is".


  10. wander, aw thank you, chris. you are a lucky man to recognize your many blessings. as for me being a gentle soul, yes a gift, but i can kick ass too! :^)

    rob-bear, been a hell of a week, really. i could hibernate.....

    thank you mim xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

    yes, marianne, sometimes we row and row and row and row. and row and row. if i decide to add one merrily for every one, hell, i'm way ahead! and i'm thinking i should just decide to do that! xo

    thanks, suki. i heard this take a long time ago. i hope you are well; i'm recovering but man i've been sick!

    well said, caroline :^)

    marion, i do want to talk! ♥

  11. annie, i don't see 'row' as a negative, but effort yes. i love hearing how the song saved you; i do that too, hum it as a mantra. your 'little trick' is super. loosen up the tightness. what a great phrase!

  12. I think of it as a decision about what to focus on. My guess is that if you try, you can always find plenty of merrilies in your life. And I'm saying that in the midst of a weekend that feels like rowing!

  13. have I told you lately that I love you and I think you're a genius?
    This is one of my favorite posts! I should have read it before I posted my gloomy one ;P

    So great!

    merrily merrily merrily is going to be okay.


  14. My post was about the row row part and no merrily- not feeling merry right now. Your words make me feel better though! Love ya and hope you are well soon.
    ps there is a place for us in heaven working with such tough kids- I know there is.
    wordveri: nearsnot---LOL

  15. Kj, Wow, that was the longest most researched reply to a comment ever :-).xoxo

  16. dunno, cs, when i'm down i'm down and even ice cream fails me

    lo, well, i happen to love you too so that is very mutually merrily dandy. fingers are crossed every which way

    you and me, joss ♥

    i'm quite the intellectual, aren't i, annie? :^)

  17. Love your merrilies. Counting my blessings is something I do daily.
    So many of them are so blatant. And I too do a job similar to yours and doing it and hearing what I hear reminds me daily how damn good I have it. It could be way way worse.
    Hope you are over your sicks very soon. (I got my flu shot today)
    Learning to make money stretch is good exercise! It stretches your imagination. (I just found out I can save $20 by ordering my medication at Target rather than Care-mark! How about THAT!)
    And you are so so right, drawing and painting are keeping me alive, probably extending my right brain memory usage for years to come (I hope, I hope)...well it will be something I can do even if I do lose my memory eventually, so there, another merrily!
    thanks for sharing yours today.

  18. Love it, Lynn! You are a beacon!

  19. Love this for more reasons than one, of course. Renee and I used to discuss the pros and cons when the bats were visiting and while it was difficult to think of many pros, we used to laugh when I told her "consider the alternative". I told her as well that when everything was truly overwhelming I was never afraid of letting anyone else down, but petrified of losing my sense of more pros than cons. And the abundant Universe has given me so many pros - you among them - that I would be the most ungrateful creature alive if I don't recognize that.

    And no, we didn't break the code, somehow after I told them in several languages that I thought they were abusing the users, something must have rung true, because first they opened the door - although I cannot get into the moderation page still - then they put back my photos, and somehow managed to reverse the line breaks, but I had to rescue my blog reading through my email addresses which fortunately were someplace else - and before I sign off from this book, here is the address:

  20. allegra, i'm impressed that you managed to communicate with a human being at blogger. i consider that a major feat.

    reading your comment, i feel regret that you and renee and i did not have the opportunity to banter together. i know renee is pleased we have found one another in true friendship. you understand the magnitude of the loss, allegra. it is a common secret language.

    welcome back to the land of the blogs. i will take the time to copy paste blog and email addresses.