Riardo Just Out Of Reach

The family has headed into Riardo to poke around. I’m in my room. Another life opportunity.

One reality is that my body isn’t working right. Coughing, tired, some dizzy, vague nausea. It’s nothing spectacular but it’s there. When I go into figuring out mode, I see the 35 degree Celsius heat, the amazing quantity of food I’ve been eating, the “new to me” foods I’ve been eating, and … beer. I especially suspect that last one, even though I enjoy a brew at home.

So, what is bigger and what is smaller? This morning after breakfast, as the crew were planning for the day, I realized I could do something unusual for me. I could rest. I could say no to the streets of Riardo, the ancient buildings with bricks of volcanic ash, the open-air ristorantes. I love venturing forth into new life, meeting new people, gazing in wonder at the previously unknown. But that love need not define me, need not put me into a box of identity. This morning I simply chose differently. Sleep came upon me … and then I awoke.

I gazed up to a sublime curving of light coming through the wooden shutters. I lay in a cathedral, a flow of beauty far larger than physical ills. So I sit, feeling the woes of the body, seeing art on the ceiling, waiting for the family to return.

It is enough.

Roma

It slowly sinks in: I’m in a majestic city, an entrancing city.  Some buildings have been in place for 2000 years.  I think of the people who walked where I walk, who looked out of the windows above me.  I think of the Colosseum as I stand beneath it in the evening, its arches glowing with golden light.  So peaceful, and yet the same place where thousands cheered the upcoming deaths of human beings as lions ripped into flesh.

Everything feels so “big” here – from the towering buildings with their balconies and flower boxes, to the thousands of people filling the squares in the relative cool of the evening, to the long span of history.  What I’ve enjoyed most is the countless sidewalk cafés full of human beings, especially the ones on narrow cobbled streets.  Cars will fit their way through, with pedestrians moving closer to the walls to allow passage. No one seems bothered by the volume of vehicles and people.

I love watching folks walk hand in hand, whether it’s romance or a mom holding her daughter.  I love the hugs I see, the occasional public kiss, the smiles that seem to be everywhere.  And I love being together with Lydia, Jo, Anja and Curd.  We go ‘sploring together as a family.  Yes, I’m been adopted by these fine Belgian folks.  I’m included, which is a wonderful thing for a guy who lives alone.

Often we’ve been on the “hop on – hop off” tourist bus, up on the second floor.  Huge windows and an open sky show me the world.  I love the delicate details of the architecture and the flow of humanity below.  At our stops, I have a few minutes to really look at the human beings passing by.  Some are lost in their ear buds but most seem engaged with this rich environment.  I study the faces and ask myself what their lives are like.  Just as textured as mine, I’m sure.

Here are some more images:

A family of four arranging themselves for a selfie in a cobbled square – the two little girls giggling

Our waiter Luigi engaging us with great spirit in English, and then presenting us with a complimentary dessert of sweet buns and whipped cream.  He also offers us a free bottle of wine if we come back.

Standing in line with a woman from Los Angeles, reflecting on the beauty of Roma, as well as the smog and freeways of LA.  We laugh a lot.

Watching an artisan use pliers to turn a tiny tube of metal into a girl’s name and then attach it to a maroon leather bracelet.  One of the Grade 6 girls near Belmont in Canada had asked me to bring her back a bracelet from Italy.  I’ve kept my word.

The glow of sunset behind Mussolini’s palace, silhouetting two winged charioteers

Pressed together with hundreds of folks to get a view of the Trevi Fountain.  The sheer mass of humanity was overwhelming.

The blessed silence of being inside the Pantheon, an ancient church filled with sculptures and paintings from long, long ago

Sweat pouring off bodies in the 33° Celsius heat as we all choose to be out and about in such beauty

***

How can it be?  In just two days, Rome has become my favourite city.  Somewhere ahead of me, a lovely lady will present herself into my life, and we will walk hand in hand through these sacred streets and lift a glass of wine to each other in a café.  Ciao!

 

 

Jet Lag and Alcohol

What a teacher it is to cross six time zones. My body was basically saying “I don’t like this stuff!” Indeed.

I left Toronto at 6:00 pm on Sunday. Seven hours later, I was landing in Brussels, Belgium. I’d bought a cool pink flight pillow but I still couldn’t lay myself down to sleep. Trying to sit up straight and meditate didn’t work either. I decided to launch myself into a book about Rwanda. That basically kept me going till breakfast on the plane.

At 8:00 am on Monday morning, there were Lydia and her daughter Lore waiting for me as I passed through customs at the Brussels Airport . An hour later, we were sitting in their dining room in Nukerke. The world was my oyster. I was home.

I knew the drill. Stay up till it was bedtime in the new place. I set a goal of 8:00 pm. A quick calculation left me with an awake time of 32 hours. I was determined to meet that goal. My previous record of staying awake was 34 hours, a struggle that left me pretty much delerious. Would that be my reality this time as well?

As the day progressed, and we were out and about on errands, so did the fade accumulate. The head is heavy and the mind is slow. The vision blurs a bit and it was fascinating to watch the disintegration. Did I do something bad? Not at all. In fact, I was doing what needed to be done to get Bruce back as quickly as possible.

I thought of folks who fly to Australia, crossing 14 time zones or so. How do they do it? I guess they’re willing to take on the discomfort for three days or more.

I went to bed at 9:00 pm (!) on Monday night, scared that somehow I wouldn’t be able to sleep. Ten hours later, I woke up – a little tired and a lot refreshed. There! I did it. What a good boy was I. I was all set for the remaining eighteen days of my vacation.

There are problems you can’t control and then those you can. Tuesday evening we went to Lydia and Jo’s friends’ place for dinner. There was a festive mood among us six, and Kurt was the perfect host, continually refilling my wine glass after my last sip. I concluded that resistance was futile, that I deserved a night of excellent food and drink.

Wrong.

This body of mine hasn’t consumed much alcohol during the past few months. It was into a sweet rhythm and our dinner was a major jolt to the system. I was inundated with marvelous flavours and aromas but going with that flow was seductive.

I woke up Wednesday morning with a thorough hangover … dull in the head, exhaustion and bouts of nausea. Death warmed over. I slept for two hours in the afternoon in preparation for another evening out. As I stumbled around in my mind and body, I said a simple “no” to such excess. It’s not what I want my life to be about. If I’m to serve people, I need open channels to my heart and mind. Clarity, not cloudiness.

Dinner approached in a fog. I smiled at my new hosts and attempted conversation. I drank water. I ate small portions of food. And then, during dessert, my mind came back to say hello. “You know what I want, Bruce. Please give it to me.” Okay, from now on I will.

Today is Thursday and I am “normal” once more. Hallelujah. There is much living and giving to be done.

Nook

It was time to get my hair cut this morning since I won’t be seeing my hairstylist in Mount Brydges, Ontario for the next five weeks. Pop’s Barber Shop, complete with the traditional candy stripe barber pole, sits on Main Street, Black Diamond, Alberta. I showed up before the shop opened and spent a few minutes reading the historical sign beside the building. The old blue structure had been moved from nearby Royalties around 1950. Royalties once was the home of 5000 folks dependent on the emerging oil industry. Today its population is zero.

Past the sign, I was vaguely aware of some bushes. A closer inspection revealed a little path. It was an alley that I so easily could have missed. Entering the greenery, what to my wondering eyes should appear but a wooden bench, hidden from the street.

I sat down.

A place of peace, adjacent to the madding crowd … or as madding as four people passing by can get. A semi-trailer roared along Main Street. Only its stack was visible to this hidden one.

A place of sanctuary, untouched by the rushing, the to do lists, the lives lived with pressured purpose. I loved the respite from the hustle and the bustle, but steps away it was available to me if I wanted it.

The cave or the marketplace? Which beckoned more vividly? In the waiting for shorn hair, I chose the resting. In the next hour, I was back with the flow of people. Both have a place in my life.

Now the sheltering bushes
Now the sidewalk and stores
And now … ?

Michelle Revered and Detested

Coco Gauff is a 15-year-old tennis player who reached the fourth round of Wimbledon before bowing out to Simona Halep, formerly the world number one. I watched her press conference after the match. I marvelled at how well she spoke. Her words flowed and there was a quietness inside that reached out to the audience.

Michelle Obama tweeted congratulations and Coco was clearly touched by her gesture. “I’ve looked up to her for a long time. She’s such a role model.” Yes, for me too. A girl and a woman share grace, sweetness and also tenacity. Companions of the spirit, decades apart. Both so out there in the world, visible to the scrutiny of the assembled masses.

Just now, I looked up Michelle’s book Becoming in the Kindle Store.  I read some reviews.  What an education.  Here are some samples:

***

I believe I always loved Michelle Obama.  Her grace and dignity always seemed to come as a gift from above.  Her spirit is so incredibly deep and strong.

Slow and boring and self-boasting

***

It’s a wonderful, heartfelt, true story of HOPE in a world gone far too cynical.

Full of misleading statements and untruths

***

She’s open, honest and forthcoming.  Fantastic read.

If you are an insomniac, this book will definitely help that.  A real snoozer.

***

I truly believe many young girls will read the book and know
they can live with honor like you.

A shallow-minded patting on the back

***

I applaud her and the book.  It brought tears to my eyes
and deep appreciation for the Obamas.

Poorly written, silly comments in bad taste.
This is not a good book for a lady to read.

***

Mrs. Obama opens up and gives us a real look into her heart and mind and experiences in a way that is authentic and original.

Worst piece of crap ever

***

Amazing read.  Mrs. Obama is a treasure and her honest, thoughtful words and a dignified grace make me realize just how special a person she is.

What a joke.

***

Michelle Obama, thanks for being such a great role model while you were in the White House … championing exercise and good food for children and speaking your mind with grace and courage.

The lies, the misleading statements and poppycock drama to get you feel bad or believe something that is not true

+++

The message for me is to keep speaking my truth,
knowing that some people will like it and some won’t.
The source of my well-being does not lie within them.

Standing Out or Blending In?

I’ve been reading an article on leadership, specifically on leaders being attacked emotionally.  Woh … I cringe at the thought of being the target of abuse.  Too scary.  Surely I’d run away, hide in my house, play it safe.  But that leaves such a bitter taste in my mouth.  I know I’m up for more than that in life.

I tell myself that I want to contribute to people in a big way.  For that to happen, surely I need to be visible, not just an anonymous giver.  To be naked in the world, the beauty and warts right there for all to see.  Going towards rather than away from.

The authors are Harvey Jackins and his son Tim.  Here are some of their very pointed thoughts:

It is almost part of your job as leader to make mistakes.  Part of your job as leader is to keep trying new, difficult things, to keep stretching yourself enough that there is a chance of error.  (Who, me?  Yes, me.)

An attack is not an attempt to correct mistakes … The effect of attacks is always to destruct, to restimulate [trigger egoic patterns] … and to generally disrupt the functioning [of the community].  (It sounds like an attack is a deliberate attempt to injure rather than an assertive way to deal with an issue.)

Almost always, being attacked is an indication that you are doing something rather well.  (So, am I committed to pursuing a dream that will benefit humanity … or not?  Is my stand worth the flak that likely will come my way?)

Almost always it has fallen to the person who is the object of the attack to handle the attack.  That is a mistake.  (You mean I have to be brave, to be “out there”, even if I’m not the one being attacked?  Answer: You don’t have to.  You can choose to.)

Anyone you have seen working hard for years to benefit many people deserves for you to hold off that bit of restimulation, and take a stand for them, for yourself, for the community and our work.  (So, I’ll be strong enough to resist being triggered by the attack on another and therefore me reliving past fears.  I’ll be strong enough to stand tall for my set-upon colleague.  Answer: Yes.)

We do not allow anyone the option of attacking someone.  You have the option of giving up that behavior or you have the option of not being part of this community.  (Straight shooting.  Not peaceful co-existence.  Not live and let be.)

Do I have the cojones to say to someone attacking myself or another “That’s it!  No more.  We will talk later.  Back off!  You don’t get to behave that way, no matter what happened in the past.  Maybe there is a problem.  Maybe there isn’t.  We will figure it out.  But you don’t get to treat anybody that way.  I wouldn’t let anyone treat you that way.  You have to stop, now.”?  (Okay, here’s where the rubber hits the road.  Do I speak up in the face of myself or others being demeaned, disparaged, insulted, stepped upon … or remain suppressedly silent?  Hmm.)

Most organizations have attacks going on frequently, and it’s always disruptive of the organization.  It always limits their effectiveness because much of the time people are too upset by the attacks to actually do the work they’re in the organization for.  (Hmm again.  What a waste of time.  What a waste of the precious human energies that are eager to do good.  Let’s change this.)

Stand up
Speak up
Grow up

A Tale of Two Doggies

Melly is a tiny white bundle of energy, maybe two years old. Ember is a black Cocker Spaniel who’s a lot slower, no doubt due to her nine years on the planet. They’re quite a pair. It looks like Melly rules the roost, what with her yappy barking, but Ember has a quiet dignity that isn’t shaken by the young pup.

Years ago, Ember and I had an extended conversation under a Montana tree while the rest of the family were hiking up to Hidden Lake. Doggie and I wanted it slow and easy. We had lots of time to talk about life.

Although I met Melody when I was in Alberta two years ago, she treated me like a stranger when I showed up for Jaxon’s high school grad a month ago. Just to be clear, strangers are to be yelled at and bitten. It took four days for Melly to calm down and start treating me like a decent human being.

This morning, I had spread out my yoga mat in the living room and was spreading out my body in various contortions. As I leaned forward in an attempt to kiss my knee, a tongue brushed the back of my ear. I was pretty sure it wasn’t Lance. Instead it was my newfound friend Melly, seeking contact. Twenty minutes later, a larger being, this time black, took up residence at the back end of the mat. Ember rubbed up against me. Doggie affection times two.

My canine companions sometimes loll around on the living room floor. Occasionally they come over for a pet. Mostly though, they wander over to Lance or Nona for loves. Such an ultimate letting go for me. Come close when you want to. Stay away when that feels right. I’ll be fine either way.

Goodnight, my dear four-legged ones.

Mesmerica

There are IMAX movie theatres, where the show is projected onto a huge dome ahead and above. Then there’s Mesmerica, which I experienced today. The six of us sat in our tilted chairs as computerized patterns of light blended with fanciful music. The creator, James Hood, wanted us to experience an altered state of consciousness … and happiness.

There were moments of transcendence. Peacock feathers vibrated above me. Giant discs of light slowly descended, morphing as they fell. It felt like God was embracing me.

On one arm of the journey, a beam of bluish light wound its way through a forest of deciduous trees, over this branch and under that one. I joined in the search, for what I don’t know. The seeking was soft and sweet.

The explosions of colour throughout the hour felt so new. Mr. Hood let his mind open, and fresh air clearly rushed through. What appeared before us just didn’t exist a year ago. What majesty to bring something unknown into being.

Beyond the openmouthedness of it all was the swirl of disorientation. The constant flow of the images brought me to a swoon. I bet I closed my eyes fifty times during the hour. I needed those respites for centering. A wee bit of me felt guilty for missing some of the display but I was happier when I was taking care of myself. The heavens were being revealed above but there was also a heaven inside to be embraced. And the patterns of light found their way through the eyelids and into my heart. All was well.

Tyrrell

Lance, Jace, Jagger, Nona and Jaxon

An ancient fish – thirty feet long and weighing as much as three elephants

A 71-million-year-old dinosaur.  Check out the teeth.

Our tour guide, plus some folks on the left

I arrived in Longview, Alberta last night to see my brother-in-law Lance and his family.  This morning we were up bright and early for the three-hour drive to the Royal Tyrrell Museum.  We were immersed in the paleontology of long ago creatures, especially dinosaurs.  The above four photos all depict ancient ones.

I could give you the science of it all but that wouldn’t be as cool as goofing around.  It’s astounding how old these creatures are … so many millions of years.  What’s not astounding is how much I like having fun.  I revel in doing strange things just for the joy of it.  At one point, the family came upon a mummified dinosaur.  It was protected by a rectangular glass cage, and a yellow line on the floor eighteen inches from the structure asked us to stay back a bit.  I decided to put my toes on the line and see if anyone would walk between me and the glass.  Ahh … the study of human behaviour!

Two adults and nine kids made the journey between.  I was hoping the numbers would be zero.  Jace, Jagger and Jaxon saw me standing strangely and came over.  Once I revealed my strategy, their toes joined mine.  I guess our lineup was intimidating because no more “trespassing” ensued.  Yes, it was a goofy thing to do, and yes, it made me happy.

When I was in Alberta a few weeks ago for Jaxon’s high school graduation, I arrived as a stranger to the family’s little white dog Melody.  For four days she barked at this bad guy and nipped at my ankles.  Then she gave it a rest.  Yesterday, Melly yapped at me for half an hour before concluding that I was okay.  Good news for my skin and vital organs.  I told Jace that I’d “slipped her a ten” to get her to leave me alone.

This morning Jace asked me if I was going give a ten dollar bill to anyone else.  I laughed.  But as we strolled the Tyrrell, I decided to play.  I folded a ten spot in half and subtly slipped it into Jace’s hand.  A minute later, he returned the favour, with all the smooth grace of a drug dealer.  We were having fun.  Then I sat on a bench near a woman.  I think she was cluing into what we were doing.  So I reached over and put the ten dollar bill into her hand.  We smiled together.  “Give it to somebody else.  You can have the experience of receiving and then giving.  And so can the next person.”  She nodded.  She stood.  She walked over to a dad, standing close to his daughter.  She started talking.  I walked away.

That ten dollars hopefully travelled throughout the Tyrrell Museum.  Maybe its journey was brief, ending in an opened wallet or purse.  But perhaps it went on for hours.  I’ll never know.

I’m smiling now as I remember the giving.  Priceless.