Power

I was walking to the library yesterday afternoon when I came upon a schoolyard, of the cement persuasion. Through the chain link fence, I saw about a hundred pigeons – most of them grey, some white and a few golden brown. There didn’t seem to be any food to eat. They were simply hanging out. I smiled. They were just like us. We come in all shapes and colours and we too like being close. Really doesn’t matter what we’re doing as long as we’re together.

I was feeling all warm and fuzzy. Then, on a hunch, I glanced upwards. The fence was twelve feet high, and along the top rail sat maybe eighty more brothers and sisters. Peace evaporated as my brain sent me straight to Alfred Hitchcock’s movie The Birds, where flocks of crows terrorized a small town.

Ahh … the mind. An instant association and I’m transported from heaven to hell. It feels like I’m triggered many times a day. The past leaps up and grabs my throat. Doesn’t seem to be a very wise way to live.

I say the question is how long do I linger within the horror of Hitchcock . How quickly do I return to the beauty of pigeon heads nestling down in their feathers to ward off the cold? Let’s have it be speedy fast.

I ask myself where “source” is in my life. Is it me or is it all the events of my day? Where does my experience of living begin? What if I really get that the power is right here in this body and heart of mine? What surges of energy would be made available if I stopped feeding a good/bad analysis of my moments with people, places and things?

Woh. Bring it on.

Empathy

I listened to Stan Rogers last night.  His spirit and songs poured from the mouths of his loved ones.

Stan was a Canadian singer-songwriter who died on the tarmac of the Cincinnati Airport in 1983, of smoke inhalation.  He lives on.

Stan’s daughter Beth sang 45 Years to us.  It was a love song to his wife Ariel.  As Beth’s voice soared, I cast a few glances to Ariel, who seemed lost in love.  At the end, she told us that their 45th anniversary was a month or two ago.  Oh my.

Where the earth shows its bones of wind-broken stone
And the sea and the sky are one
I’m caught out of time, my blood sings with wine
And I’m running naked in the sun
There’s God in the trees, I’m weak in the knees
And the sky is a painful blue
I’d like to look around, but honey, all I see is you

The summer city lights will soften the night
Till you’d think that the air is clear
And I’m sitting with friends, where forty-five cents
Will buy another glass of beer
He’s got something to say, but I’m so far away
That I don’t know who I’m talking to
‘Cause you just walked in the door, and honey, all I see is you

Stan walked into the shoes of ordinary Canadians, feeling their pains and joys.  The poet helped all of us know …

1.  The Alberta Ranch Wife  (Lies)

Then she shakes off the bitter web she wove
And turns to set the mirror, gently face down by the stove
She gathers up her apron in her hand
Pours a cup of coffee, drips Carnation from the can
And thinks ahead to Friday, cause Friday will be fine
She’ll look up in that weathered face that loves hers line for line
To see that maiden shining in his eyes
And laugh at how her mirror tells her lies

2.  The Prairie Wheat Farmer  (The Field Behind the Plow)

Watch the field behind the plow turn to straight, dark rows
Feel the trickle in your clothes, blow the dust cake from your nose
Hear the tractor’s steady roar.  Oh you can’t stop now
There’s a quarter section more or less to go

And it figures that the rain keeps its own sweet time
You can watch it come for miles, but you guess you’ve got awhile
So ease the throttle out of air, every rod’s a gain
And there’s victory in every quarter mile

Poor old Kuzyk down the road
The heartache, hail and hoppers brought him down
He gave it up and went to town

And Emmett Pierce the other day
Took a heart attack and died at forty-two
You could see it coming on ’cause he worked as hard as you

3.  The Great Lakes Seaman and His Girlfriend  (White Squall) 

The kid was so damned eager.  It was all so big and new
You never had to tell him twice, or find him work to do
And evenings on the mess deck he was always first to sing
And show us pictures of the girl he’d wed in spring

But I told that kid a hundred times “Don’t take the lakes for granted
They go from calm to a hundred knots so fast they seem enchanted”
But tonight some red-eyed Wiarton girl lies staring at the wall
And her lover’s gone into a white squall

4.  The Nova Scotia Fisherman  (Make and Break Harbour)

Now it’s so hard to not think of before the big war
When the cod went so cheap, but so plenty
Foreign trawlers go by now with long seeking eyes
Taking all where we seldom take any
And the young folk don’t stay with the fishermen’s ways
Long ago they all moved to the cities
And the ones left behind, old and tired and blind
Won’t work for a pound, for a penny

In Make And Break Harbour the boats are so few
Too many are pulled up and rotten
Most houses stand empty, old nets hung to dry
Are blown away, lost and forgotten

***

Thank you, Stan
We hardly knew you
And now we know you

Thank You

I was walking down Weston Road in Toronto an hour ago. On my left was a familiar funeral home, and here came an elderly gentleman through the parking lot, wearing a suit, tie and dress coat. Assuming he was an employee, I called out “Hope you don’t have to stand out here for long!” He looked at me funny … but came closer.

“I’m looking for 1273 Weston Road.” I glanced across the street and saw 2056. “You’re not really close. Here, I’ll look it up on my phone.”

Google Maps, I praise you. Within thirty seconds, I showed the screen to my new friend. He needed to drive past Lawrence, past Jane, and then watch for his destination five blocks later. How marvelous that technology helps me give.

The well-dressed gent put his hand on my shoulder, looked me way deep in the eyes, and said “Thank you.” I smiled in return. “You’re most welcome.”

***

I was walking down Bloor Street half an hour ago, on the way to my favourite library. A fellow wearing a turban was taking a box out of his truck. As he turned towards a store, the sheet perched atop the box fluttered away. I watched it zoom forwards on the sidewalk and then make a sharp right turn past a parked car. “Come back,” I muttered. On command, the paper exited traffic and renewed its relationship with the sidewalk, coming to rest at the base of a garbage can.

I pumped my legs purposefully and plucked the sheet from the cement. Yay! Truly an athletic move. I whirled around to find the delivery guy gone. “He’s in the cab.” I walked briskly to the passenger window to see that the truck was unoccupied. Another whirl left me with a row of businesses to choose from.

Hmm.

Seconds later, the guy emerged from a doorway just ahead, looking away from me towards the last known location of the sheet. I came up to him from the side, holding aloft the precious documentation. The fellow’s eyes widened, he burst into smile and accepted my gift. “Thank you.” We bowed to each other.

***

Two simple words, anointing us both

Follow Me

Two weeks ago, a young man approached me in the Grade 6 class with a book to share. “Ned” held a volume of transcendent paintings called Imagine A Night. As I leafed through the pages with him, I was transported to another land, that of the imagination. Suitably equipped with my smartphone, I zoomed to Amazon and ordered. On Monday it arrived.

Today, as the kids were silent reading, I sat on a counter and came upon …

Imagine a night
When snow white sheets
Grow crisp and cold
And someone whispers
“Follow me”

The painting showed bare winter trees, and a snowfield which blended into a room full of white beds. A young man walks through the night, holding a lantern. A girl rises from sleep and beholds the glow.

Follow me

All was silent in the classroom. Eyes roamed over secret stories. I fell into the lantern, opening to the mystery.

Who do I follow?

Ego me pronounced that I follow no one. Broader me saw the silliness of such rigidity. I bring my own flavour to the world but I’ve also been taking notes on other lives for decades. I stand on their shoulders.

Here are my influences:

1. My dad (Archer Kerr) … a gentle man who loved making kids laugh

2. Arnold Palmer … a championship golfer who played the game with passion, and treated everyone like a king (or queen)

3. Yo Yo Ma … like me, a cellist – one who made my heart soar as he caressed The Swan

4. Cam Clark … my best friend since Grade 10, whom I can always laugh with

5. Jim Bailey … a social work instructor who showed me the oomph of living far more than he taught me counselling skills

6. Adele Zezza … she of the beaming love to her daughters, and out into the world

7. Johnny Haslam … my boss at the Prince of Wales Hotel. Always a smile, always a helping hand for this young man of 20

8. Sally Armstrong … a meditation teacher who looked way inside me and saw goodness

9. Jody Kerr … my dear wife, who glowed when she said “husband”, and loved me through my foibles (still does)

10. Patricia Albere … who sees me and shares her vision of a mutual world with all who have ears to hear

***

Quite a crew of inspiring folks
I followed
They led
I lead

Words Tumbling

I woke up many times last night.  I don’t know why.  Each awakening was accompanied by a spill of words.  The thought came to write all of it down but sleep kept taking me back in.  When my alarm said hi, I knew that something special had happened, but the details were lost.

I grabbed a white index card and my trusty pen.  Lying on my back, I waited.  And more tumbling came out.  Throughout the day, I took little moments of repose and just watched.

So here it is: a selection of thoughts from somewhere splendid, somewhere unknown.  There’s no sequence to it.  And no “sense”, if you mean explainable.  I’m not sure what it all points to, but that’s okay.  Mysteries are fun.

***

Home is where the heart soars

Underneath and beyond

Sinking into love

Ribbons of light

Floating on the river

Words fall away

Underneath it all

The light of a single candle

Opening into the abyss

Mouths open … waiting

Actually not

The snake climbs the tree

The eyes of the young ones

Dancing in the night

Wandering in the world

Clouds above … pain below

Under the wings of freedom

An appetite for the luscious

The pond … everlasting

Falling through air

All through the night

I want me

Here we go again

Listen to the world

I am me … you are you

We fall from the sky

I sing upon the sands of time

Darlinka

Underwear king … of you I sing

The anthem of the world

I love you, my dear lovers

Falling into space

All together now

The wonder of the world

Unknown together

A volcano spurting

Love embraced in a robe

Over and under … above and below

Wings abide

The pulsing … the falling … the slipsliding away

Hands out … palms up … forever

Nothing and no one and nowhere

Aren’t you ready yet?

Floating upwards on a wind

Arms wide open … heart wide open

Love them all.  Light the world

One and for all

All that I want is here

What loosens?
What falls away?
What remains?

Human beings throughout the ages

What is the love that is here right now?

Holding on ever so gently

A universe of young minds

***

Well … that’s a whole bunch of stuff
Wash over me, dear words

Praise

There were about twenty of us tonight on an internet call of the Evolutionary Collective Global Community. I enjoyed practicing 1-1 with one of those folks, assigned randomly by some computer. And then the group had about ten minutes at the end for sharing.

“Tessa”, a woman that I had met in Asheville a couple of weekends ago, started speaking. I never know what people will say, but usually their words come from deep down in their experiencing. What a treat to be on the receiving end of such realness.

Well … “receiving end” indeed. Tessa began talking about me (!) She mentioned the deep love that I show in these internet gatherings. (Gulp) She told the group about my love for my dear wife Jody, and the book I had written for her. (Gulp again)

I wanted to avert my eyes away from the cast of rectangles that lay before me. I wanted to hide. But I decided not to. “Just look, Bruce, and listen.” Tessa had moved on to talk about someone else but I was still writhing and sighing, writhing and sighing, within her words.

My small brain had its typical response: “You’re not that great, Bruce. Actually, you’re quite ordinary. You’re a nice guy, but nothing off the charts.” Plus “Don’t let your ego run roughshod here, my friend. You’re not exactly the next incarnation of Jesus. Get a grip!” Or “Tell them about the times you’ve been mean to people. They need to hear that stuff too, you know.”

Thanks for the feedback, small brain. But what’s true here?

1. I’ve very rarely been purposely mean to anybody. In fact, I can’t think of the last time I did that.

2. I’m extremely unusual. I’m likely more spontaneous than 99% of the population. I love the word “silly”, and “weird” is a pretty good concept too.

3. My love for my fellow man is immense. I am deeply compassionate towards those of us who are suffering. I want each one of you – family, friend or “stranger” – to be supremely happy.

I don’t often get praised so directly. I don’t have much practice in dealing with it. Perhaps I should simply accept it with grace and return to loving the next person who comes my way.

Yes, that would be a fine thing to do.

1:59

That’s the time I meditated this afternoon … hour and minutes, not minute and seconds. The time doesn’t matter. The space does.

I’ve meditated a lot over the past eight years and it’s sure contributed to my life. These days, however, eyes open beckon far more than eyes closed, talking far more than silence. Still, quiet times in my chair are a blessing.

I only got five hours’ sleep last night, and usually that’s a red flag that meditating won’t work. Oh well, I decided to give it a go.

I went quiet inside within a few minutes. Several times, my body slumped down and then I’d pull myself up a bit later. In the past, the falling seemed to point to a deeper opening of the heart but times appear to have changed. It felt like I was on the verge of sleep, a very peaceful sleep.

What was missing during the first hour was the upswell of love that’s become such a part of me. I was simply blissing in the peace of it all rather than feeling the sweetness of others. And there’s nothing wrong with bathing in the holy water. It’s just that I want more.

Then, as a gift, a tiny smile caressed my lips. I felt the seeping in of love … ever so slowly. It wasn’t aimed at a particular person. It just covered me like a rainbow. Energy was flowing out of me, and the falling was gone. The love was unbidden, undoing and undeniable. I was simply floating with friends on the river which I stumbled upon.

Pushing doesn’t work. Pulling’s not so great either. Something far bigger than me is doing the heavy lifting. Thank you, my mysterious benefactor.

Moving

Half an hour ago I was walking along Bloor Street in Toronto, reflecting on my current spiritual life.  And the word “current” seems right on, since things are moving inside me … in mysterious ways.

On my right was a storefront full of windows.  Inside was a series of chalkboards.  The middle message hit home:

Truly, God alone has knowledge of the Hour
He sends down the rain, and He knows what is in the wombs
No soul knows what it will earn tomorrow
And no soul knows in what land it will die

As a Buddhist, my spirituality has focused on the depth of the moment.  What do I see in this precious present?  How has time stood still in communion with Spirit?  What epiphany of love do I see in your eyes?  All is still.  All is beauty.  All is the lingering now.

There is sublime being here.  But things are also rolling … in the becoming of it all.  Where will I die, dear chalkboard?  What realm of Bruceness will I inhabit when the breath fades away?  I feel a train flowing over the landscape.  I’ve bought a ticket to … somewhere.  I forgot to ask Via Rail about the destination.

In a universe next to timelessness, nothing stands still.  Love unfolds like a red, red rose.  The future curls her fingers and beckons us forward.  Happy are we in the going.

What will we earn tomorrow?  Maybe that day will bring us gifts that we don’t deserve, and can’t imagine.  Grace may bestow them upon us.  May we welcome the blessings that are to come.

We roll on.

Poof!

I was sitting in the Bloor-Gladstone Library in Toronto yesterday afternoon, wanting to write about Thursday evening’s concert with Robert Pilon.  I whipped out my Android phone, went to WordPress and started inputting.  Sadly though, a sentence such as “I don’t know what to say about all this” showed up on the screen as “I don’t know whawhat to say abouabout all thithis.”  Wha?

Not deterred by the mysteries of technology, I went to my e-mail program and began to tell the story.  An hour later, I walked over to Hugh’s Room, where I’d later be enjoying a concert celebrating the music of Leonard Cohen.  Before the songs started up, I finished my blog post.

Perfect.  Now all I had to do was copy and paste the groovy words from Internet Explorer to WordPress.  I highlighted the whole enchilada … and watched in horror as the whole thing disappeared.  Oh my God!  That’s about 500 words of the best I had.

I furrowed my brow and began the rescue attempt:

Work, work, work
Grump, grump, grump
Work, grump, work

Nothing worked.

The despair arose in me, along with the anger, sadness, impotence and any other yucky word you can think of.  Spiritual Bruce was stuck in a poop hole.  “Maybe tomorrow morning when I fire up my laptop, I’ll find that the post has been archived somewhere.”  (‘Fraid not.  It’s now tomorrow morning and Robert is nowhere to be seen.)

As I sat there watching the musicians walk onstage, there was a shift.  There was peace.  There was a quiet voice: “This doesn’t matter, Bruce.  I get that you want your words to touch people, but don’t worry – you do that with or without words.  Tomorrow you’ll do your best to resurrect your thoughts.  It won’t be as good but it will be good.  And today’s vanishing will not diminish the whole of your life.”  Thank you, dear voice.

Well … shall we get to it?

***

Last night’s concert was a fundraiser for the Wounded Warriors organization.  It honoured Canadian veterans of combat, and first responders, who are in the throes of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  It was a privilege to be there.

Our host and entertainer was Robert Pilon.  He was the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera.  He sang in Les Miserables.  And in 2017 he loved the vets in song at the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge in France.

I got to sit front row centre and look into the eyes of human beings first, performers second.  Robert strolled onto the stage, and from the first second I knew I was in the presence of greatness.  He had a power about him – not of force or intrusion – but of grace and love.  I couldn’t take my eyes off his face.  The eyes shone.  The smile radiated to us all.  And his spoken words were a melody.  He hadn’t yet sung a note.

Robert melted us with Danny Boy, and in an inspired duet of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah with the woman who directs the Laura Secord Secondary School Concert Choir.  Oh … how their voices blended!  Again and again, Robert let his voice soften as hers soared.  He was the star of the show, but not in his mind.

And the kids!  Choir members often spread throughout the theatre as they backed up the other musicians.  There were young women four feet away, facing me and the audience.  I beamed love at them and said words of thanks after each number.  My neighbour and I briskly applauded the teens as they filed back onto the stage.  Some of them smiled.

Jully Black loomed above me later in the program.  She’s a soulful black singer who had us embrace all citizens of the Earth.  Her eyes also spoke joy.  Then there was Dr. Draw, a young man who has embraced electronic violin music.  His melodies shook us down deep.  Sometimes he knelt close to the floor, eyes closed, lost in his world.  Stunning.

Near the end of the evening, Robert told us that he has a certain signature song.  I had an inkling … “Go, Phantom, go!”  He said that he hadn’t donned the mask since retiring from the role, but tonight was special.  Robert turned away from us and then whirled back, half of his face covered in silver.  He stood above me as a God.  When he opened his mouth, The Music of the Night spilled forth.  Robert snarled at us.  Robert loved us.  Oh my.

The songs were lovely
The voices were transcendent
And that’s fine

But the best?
The hearts were way wide open

***

How about that?  I remembered.  Thanks for listening

Light Without … Light Within

I’m so much enjoying being online with members of the Evolutionary Collective Global Community.  We often reach a consciousness together that includes all and loves all.  Really, it’s addictive to be with other human beings in this expansive way, where I look through my laptop screen and see my brother or sister.

So … I was going to a concert last night at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts in downtown Toronto.  It was a fundraising event for the Wounded Warriors, an organization committed to supporting veterans of combat, and first responders, who are walking the rough road of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

The concert started at 8:00 pm.  Our EC call was scheduled from 7 to 8.  Google Maps showed me that there was a small park across the street from the hall.  “I’ll go there, be with my friends for fifty minutes or so, and then rush to my seat.”  How strange, part of my brain said.  Sounds like an addiction to me.  And I guess it is – an addiction to loving.

I found a bench in a well-lighted area of the park.  The Selfie view on my camera showed me that there was a lot of light falling on my face.  In fact, there was a lot of light everywhere.  The buildings were aglow, especially one which had a huge mural on its side, suggesting gift wrapping paper being pulled away to reveal the treasure within.  Yes, the image was surreal.  I thought of rearranging myself to offer a more neutral background but some deep part of me said no.

Just as the call was starting, with folks from all over showing up on my screen, a fellow came up to me:

“Can you spare some change?”

I said no.

“How about $20.00?”

“No, I don’t want to do that.”

“You need to give me money.”  (A louder and closer voice)

“No thank you.”

His face contorted and he moved still closer.

I walked away … briskly.

I was carrying my phone as I escaped and no doubt the online folks experienced flashes of pavement and grass.  A minute later, I was back to my spot and my aggressive companion was nowhere to be seen.

I guess my sudden departure scared people.  Sorry, folks.  “Nicole”, our hostess for the call, asked me if I was okay, if I was safe.  I said yes, with a big sigh bubbling up.

***

Soon it was time for the 1-1 portion of the call.  As I talked to “Ben”,  my fear began to fade.  We both marvelled at all the folks who were strolling by my bench.  I worried that me holding up the phone would look like I was videoing them, but then that contraction also floated away.

Somehow, and magically, both Ben and I experienced Toronto strangers as a flow of brothers and sisters.  They were with us, not against us.  And the lights of all these buildings in downtown Toronto seeped into our collective hearts.  I was the source of my well-being.  The gentleman wanting money didn’t carry the day.  I did.  And there was goodness all around me.

Pollyanna?
Naïve?
I say no
An inclusive future beckons us