Acting – Part 1

I did it a long time ago … once.  In the summer of 1976, I was Snoopy in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.  Gosh, I loved being Snoopy.

I feel every now and then that I’ve gotta bite someone
I know every now and then what I wanna be
A fierce jungle animal crouched on the limb of a tree

I’d stay very, very still till I see a victim come 
I’d wait, knowing very well every second counts 
And then, like the fierce jungle creature I am 
I would pounce!

Pouncing was so much fun.  So was having kids come up to me at the end of the evening, wanting to hang out with Snoopy.  My only real problem with the play was turning Snoopy off afterwards.  I couldn’t do it.  Between performances and for a week or two after the run was done, I was Snoopy.  A bit pathological, perhaps, but I remember not thinking so.  I was just waiting for Suppertime.  Suppertime.  Supp supp suppertime.

Now its 39 years later.  I went to a play at the Princess Avenue Playhouse in St. Thomas two weeks ago, and a found out about a beginning acting workshop to be held all day on Saturday, March 21.  I signed up for it, just like that.  Today there was an “Art Crawl” in town, with 30 or so artists spread over 12 venues.  Back to the playhouse I went, to see photographs and paintings.  Welcoming me at the door, with passport dabber in hand, was Lesley, one of the main cogs in the Elgin Theatre Guild wheel.  Plus she’s the workshop leader.  We talked.  I reminisced about Snoopy, and Lesley told me that life in amateur theatre is like “family”.  With Jody no longer with me physically, I could use a little family.

I blabbed on about the three-month meditation retreat I’m starting in September.  She thought that would be about relationship too.  And she’s right.  I asked about next year’s playbill.  If I was to act again, aiming at the April-May play next year sounded like a good plan.  It’s going to be Calendar Girls.  From Lesley’s description, it sounded okay.

Gosh, who knows?  I’d be auditioning, but would I get a part?  The future is such a mystery.  On a whim, I asked about the February, 2016 production.  It’s to be Jake’s Women by Neil Simon, the story of an agonized writer who gets visited by lots of women from his life, past and present.

“Lesley, when would rehearsals for that play start?”

“Right after Christmas.”

“Oh.”  I get back from my long retreat around December 10.

More reflections on my future tomorrow.


I’ve often wondered about my handwriting and what it says about me.  I look back at some of my high school textbooks, and the notes I made in the margins.  Everything is sharp angles, sort of tortured-looking.  I remember being pretty happy as a teenager, except when it came to acne.  Boy, I had a case of it!  Is that what all those straight and fractured lines were about?

As an intinerant teacher of visually impaired students, at least before I had grown a laptop on my fingertips, I walked around countless classrooms with an 8.5 x 11″ lined pad of paper as my weapon of choice.  Okay, not a weapon, but I sure scribbled like a madman.  Reams of paper, with the script unintelligible to others, and sometimes to me.  I created frantic slashes of ink, afraid to miss a single salient point about the Grade 5 kid with cataracts.  Somehow, I later wrote reasonably cogent reports about said children.

Another venue for my pen-like expressions were, and still are, 3 x 5″ index cards, on which I have purported to record the collective wisdom of mankind, as revealed in a ton of spiritual and philosophic books.  Sitting in my man chair, relaxing through chapter after chapter, I knew there’s no hurry, so I expected that my handwriting would flow like the blessings of the universe.  Nope.  Instead, another type of penmanship showed up.

Despite the peace which I’ve usually felt as I’ve contemplated thoughts for the ages, my hand does not follow suit.  Too often, I cross t’s and dot i’s before the whole word has been revealed.  I have trouble with the “ng” combo at the end of words.  Recording those letters should be a graceful experience.  Instead, my hand stutters as I try to make the end of the “n” reach towards the top of the “g”.  My pen dives down rather than up, in a spasm of jerkiness.

As I near the right end of the card, I try to cram more words in, while I could just leave lots of space as I wander onto the next line.  The same when I’m nearing the end of the whole card.  More!  More!  Stuff it in.  How very silly, and worrisome, to me.  What kind of spiritual path am I on if I can’t let go with a pen in my hand?

I decided yesterday not to worry about the beauty of my script.  “Just go slow, Bruce, and see where that takes you.  Feel the essence of pen peace.”  But then I glimpse the possibility that any flow or non-flow of my writing is fine.  Let it all be there.  Be a “jerk” if that’s what your hand leads you to.  So I’ve chosen to do exactly that.  It’s all groovy, even though I have visions of a highly evolved soul and hand working in blissful tandem.  Maybe next lifetime.

Bookish Moments

11:30 am today

I got home from a chiropractic appointment to find a rectangular object wrapped in corrugated cardboard sitting on the dining room table.  My friend Neal had received it from a UPS delivery guy.  The proof of Jody’s book has arrived.  And I ran away … to the next room.  “First, I need to write a blog post about last night’s Bryan Adams concert.”  As I started tapping the keys, fear descended in the moments between the writing.  “What if it doesn’t look good?  Jody’s photo on the front cover and the painting of the tree on the back – what if they’re blurry?  What if the print on the back of the page shows through the one I’m looking at?  What if the blacks aren’t really black?  What if there are typos?  Arghh!”

1:00 pm

The post about Bryan Adams is done and published.  I like it.  What to do now?  Well, stay out of the dining room.  It’s too scary to open the package and really look.  Have some lunch.  Read the paper.  So I did.  And the hot tub repair guy is coming at 2:00.  Have to talk to him.

2:15 pm

Hadn’t you better start the post about Jody’s book, Bruce?  Okay, I’ll do that.  So I’ve just written what you see above.  And discussed tub problems.

2:38 pm

My repair friend just left.  I’ve brought the cardboard rectangle to my man chair, accompanied by an Exacto knife.  Okay, that’s progress.  Shouldn’t you read what’s on the outside?  Yes, of course.  It says that the book itself only weighs one pound.  Shouldn’t it be more?  And the box looks pretty skinny.  It was supposed to be 193 pages.  The whole thing feels pretty light.  (Sigh)

Oh my goodness, I just started taking the plastic cover off the cardboard.  Then I stopped.  C’mon, Bruce.  Get the plastic off.  (Doing so)  All right.  I’ve removed a pouch with folded sheets of paper inside – “Shipping Documentation”.  Better read that.  (Reading)

Oh, look.  Blurb sent it “UPS Expedited”, as in fast.  It was shipped from Pennsylvania on February 23, and it’s here with me on February 25.  Awesomely fast.  Okay, that’s enough reading .. of the sheets, I mean.  (Sigh)

2:50 pm

(Box in hand)  Open it, Bruce!   But just peek at the front cover.  (Opening)  Oh my God!  First view is of the white spine, with black print.  It says “Jodiette:  My Lovely Wife” on the left end, and “Bruce Kerr” on the right.  That’s me!  Breathe, Bruce, breathe.  (Opening the cardboard flaps)

2:55 pm

Jody’s eyes!  So beautiful.  Looking deeply into mine, and into those of future readers.  Oh, loved wife … you’re so pretty.  (Crying)  The photo isn’t quite as sharp as I would have liked it, but such are the limits of jpeg files, I guess.  My wife shines.  Ah … the front cover is gorgeous.

And the back?  (Flip)  Oh my God again.  Kym Brundritt’s painting of a “Cosmic Tree” just glows.  It fills the space with love.  But … its background is orange, without the vibrant yellow of the original.  Maybe Blurb can shift the colour.  But even if they can’t, it’s lovely.  Thank you, Kym.

3:08 pm

Off to the Blurb website to see the photo of the painting that I submitted.  It has more yellow than orange.  I’ll keep my toes crossed that this can be fixed.  Still afraid to look at the print on the pages … Go for it, guy!  Okay.

Oh, the blacks are beautifully black.  And the Constantia font looks so good.  The white paper isn’t as thick as I’d hoped, so I can see the print on the back of each sheet some.  But that’s okay.  It’s only a bit distracting.  Oh, Jody.  It’s our book and it’s great!  Oh, loved one.  May our story reach waiting eyes.

And now I’m going to read the entire book, to see if there are any glitches.  It’s 3:23.  See you later.

7:30 pm

Well, I didn’t read the whole book.  After all, I had proofread it twice before uploading it, so I know we’re good with spelling and grammar.  I did repeat a title from one page to the next, so Blurbites can fix that.  Also, the print is nicely level at the top of each page but a bit tilted at the bottom.  Go, Blurb, go.

I went out to supper at Braxton’s, a St. Thomas roadhouse, and showed Jody’s book to Leslie, a friend of mine who’s a server there.  She liked it.  Thought the covers were awesome.  Thanks, Leslie.

I read some of the entries before my meal and after.  The book was becoming comfy in my hands, rather than the suspected bomb I worried about when it arrived.  An old friend.  Jody talking to me.  Oh, my dear.  It’s you and me, loved one.

What a precious volume I hold.  May it reach far into people’s lives.

Lap Dance

Jody and I went to hear Bryan Adams at London’s Budweiser Gardens last night.  My dear wife was deep within my heart as I walked in and sat down.

Jody loved, and loves, Bryan.  As “Heaven” rolled over us, I realized that my darling girl was sitting on my lap.  I reached around and held her thighs, just above the knee.  My wife and me.

And love is all that I need
And I found it there in your heart
It isn’t too hard to see
We’re in heaven

Then we were rocking to one of our favourites – “Summer of ’69”.  Jody’s hands were way up high, punching the air.  Oh, that smile!  And how we loved to dance.

Standin’ on your mama’s porch
You told me that it’d last forever
Oh, and when you held my hand
I knew that it was now or never

But Jody was just warming up.  Bryan found a lady in the audience who was willing to dance in the spotlight to “If Ya Wanna Be Bad, Ya Gotta Be Good”.  And my wife was just as nasty as she turned to me, snarling and pointing to my chest.  Oh my.

I’ll give you what you want, boy, but let’s make it understood
If ya wanna be bad, ya gotta be good

And more of the same with “The Only Thing That Looks Good On Me Is You”. Go, Jodiette!

The only thing I want
The only I need
The only thing I choose
The only thing that looks good on me … is you!

For many years, Jody caressed me with a Bryan Adams song.  The title says it all – “Everything I Do (I Do It For You)”.  And she did.  Jody loved me so much.  Bryan started.  I held my hands over my heart and cried.

Look into your heart, you will find
There’s nothin’ there to hide
Take me as I am, take my life
I would give it all, I would sacrifice

Near the end of the concert, as the anthem “Straight From The Heart” began, Jody’s hands were flying, palms forward.  I placed my hands over hers, and our arms swayed to the music.  Just the two of us.

Give it to me straight from the heart
Tell me we can make another start
You know I’ll never go
As long as I know
It’s comin’ straight from the heart

May there be another start for us, Jodiette, just beyond the horizon.  I love you.

Ah, For Just One Time

I went a tribute concert last night for Stan Rogers, a Canadian singer-songwriter who died from smoke inhalation on a plane in 1983.  As the brochure said, “Stan Rogers touched the lives of countless people.”

Stan wrote about ordinary Canadians … fishermen, farmers, factory workers, lovers, explorers, displaced East coasters who went west to work in oil refineries.  He told the story of an aging housewife, gazing at the wrinkles in her mirror but dreaming of “Friday at the Legion when she’s dancing with her man”.

Five passionate musicians stood in front of me, recreating Stan’s stories with their mouths and fingers.  And we in London’s Aeolian Hall responded with our voices held high, blasting out the choruses so the walls trembled.

Ah, for just one time I would take the Northwest Passage
To find the hand of Franklin reaching for the Beaufort Sea
Tracing one warm line through a land so wide and savage
And make a Northwest Passage to the sea

And then it was over.  Time to leave.  Or perhaps not just yet.  Do I say hi to the performers or let them have their space?  “Be a decent person, Bruce.”  But really, what does that mean?  As Jack singer and guitarist walked off the stage and started down the aisle where I stood, I knew this moment’s version of decency.  I smiled.  He smiled.  I shook his hand.  “I enjoyed your music.”  Contact, of the most lovely kind.

Further down the aisle, Brad singer and guitarist was talking to an audience member.  To brush past or to linger?  I’m sure you know.  Brad had enchanted me with his singing of one of Stan’s lesser known tunes – “White Squall”.

But I tell these kids 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

“I loved your singing, especially on ‘White Squall’.  Thank you.”  Two smiles.

The concert hall was three flights of stairs up from the street.  A narrow stairway.  So it was a very slow process having all of us move towards the outside world.  Just before I reached the top of the stairs, I saw a little room on the right, with a snack bar.  Leaning against the counter was Paul singer and guitarist, waiting to be served.  There was no thought, just an abrupt change of direction.

Bruce:  “Thank you for your music.”

(Smile in return)

Paul:  “It’s Stan’s music.”

Bruce:  “Yes, but really it belongs to all of us.”


Down the stairs.  Off into the night.  Happy.

Me or You?

I went to see a movie yesterday – Two Days, One Night.  It hit me hard.  The story is about Sandra, one of 17 employees at a small factory.  She is returning to work after a period of depression, and I guess her job performance isn’t back up to snuff yet.  The boss met with the other 16 people and held a vote: Lay Sandra off and give the 16 a bonus of about 1000 Euros each or keep Sandra and forget the bonus.  The result?  14-2 in favour of the money.  At closing time on Friday, Sandra and her friend meet with the boss and convince him to hold another vote on Monday morning.  Sandra has the weekend to approach each of her fellow employees and ask them to vote to keep her on.

This is life in all its rawness, and realness.  How do you compare the value of someone losing her job (with the family likely having to go on welfare), with the stories of many other people who are just getting by?

One family saving for their kids’ education, a second one wanting a new patio, a husband and wife at war about “the right thing to do”, a man in tears as Sandra approaches him, horribly guilty about having voted for the bonus … it’s all on the screen.  Plus Sandra’s decency – her tears when someone says they’ll vote for her on Monday, and her gracious “I understand” when another person says they need the money.  And then there’s her courage, knocking on door after door, not knowing whether she’ll be hugged, hit or ignored.  Such grace.

I sat in the theatre watching the largeness and smallness of human beings.  All part of the tapestry.  All to be honoured.  And yet … may we be large.


Categories – Part 2

Given gibberish in old WordStar files, to the rescue came Martin, my computer guy.  He recovered the contents, converting the files to Word and placing them on my laptop hard drive.  Yay!  As well as the phrases and sentences, the files are full of random symbols.  I’ll have some major editing to do.  That’s okay.

So … all those full categories were from the 1980’s.  Thirty years later, in addition, I have five inches of piled white 3 x 5″ index cards, crammed with quotes, plus 464 pages of thoughts I’ve inputted into Word.  All of this random.

“What do you want to do, Bruce?”  And the answer comes swiftly:  “Before I die, I want to put all these quotations into categories, adding and subtracting subjects as a reflection of me as a 70-, 80- or 90-year-old, rather than the WordStar youngster of 35 that I was in the era of big blue binders.  I want to publish the results through Blurb and somehow get the books into the hands and hearts of people who will appreciate them.”

So there.

How many pages am I talking about here?  The one binder that I still have is 248 pages.  So double that to include the resurrected contents of the missing binder … 496.  Add the 464 pages in Word, and then whatever five inches of index cards would amount to – 200 pages?  So … drum roll please … that comes to 1160.  The maximum number of pages that Blurb allows for their trade books is 480.  Therefore to do all this would take three volumes of “Transformational Subjects”, averaging say 400 pages.  Whew!

A few questions seem to be poking out through the vines of my mind:

1.  Who would I give these books to?  How would I find folks who’d like to read about one bloke’s take on life?

2.  For close on forty years, I’ve plucked quotations from books and articles without writing down who the author is.  So if I self-publish this potpourri of wise thoughts, am I going to have hundreds of people suing me for using their words without permission?  (Wow, that sure sounds paranoid.  Or maybe true.)

3.  Do I really want to spend a large portion of the next five years pulling all this material together, arranging it to my liking, designing the books and publishing them?

4.  If I don’t share these perspectives on life with whomever wants to hear them, why exactly have I been poring over index cards for four decades?  Have I done all this just so I can get a little more evolved?  I don’t like that.  I see my job as being a contribution to people near and far.  How can I keep all this stuff hidden?

Time to sit quietly, Bruce, and think.

I want to publish these ideas
I’m willing to be sued
I want to leave something behind when I die

Do it, Bruce

Categories – Part 1

It all started back in 1973.  I had just moved to Vancouver and was hanging around used book stores.  I found myself gravitating to the “Religion” section, with an emphasis on “Eastern”.  I bought a book called The Importance of Living, written in 1937 by Lin Yutang, and was enthralled.  Many more purchases followed.

At some point, I began to write down quotations that resonated with me.  And I’ve never stopped.  By the mid-1980s, it was time to computerize all these little pieces of paper.  Jody and I had bought a desktop computer (no laptops then) plus the WordStar word processing program.  I started typing.  Many months later, all the insights I’d collected were on my hard drive.  I backed them up on 3.5″ diskettes.

Next, I needed to organize these thousands of ideas.  So I created my categories, an effort to make the world’s wisdom (or my view of it) accessible.  Here were my A’s:

5     Abiding, Standing, Resting, Stillness / Motion
10   The Absolute
15   Accepting, Letting, Allowing / Resisting, Rejecting, Analyzing, Judging
20   Action, Doing, Expression
30   Always Already, Prior To
37   Anger, Upset
38   Animation, Life, Aliveness
39   Annihilation / Survival
43   Appropriate, “Right”
55   Attention
75   Awakening, Being Awake / Being Asleep, Dreaming
77   Awareness, Sensitivity, Being Conscious, Listening, Hearing
78   Awe, Wonder

Perhaps some explanation would be appropriate.  “Always Already” refers to a state of being spiritually awake, one that we don’t need to reach for.  It’s within us at all times, waiting to be uncovered.  “Annihilation” points to a letting go of a sense of “me” or “mine”, while still acknowledging that I need to navigate through the challenges that society presents.

The task then before me was to plug each quote into a category, or maybe more than one.  I called them “Transformational Subjects”.  I don’t know how long that took, probably more than a year.  What I was left with was two huge blue binders full of thoughts, each page cradled within a clear, yellow-bordered page protector.  I remember asking Jody if she would buy me page protectors for my birthday.  She did.

Sometime in my past, one of the binders disappeared.  So sad.  Just now, I looked through the one I have left … 248 pages of double-spaced vibrating words.  When Jody and I eventually bought Microsoft Word, I used to wonder how I’d convert the old WordStar files.

Last fall, I found all the diskettes, but when I inserted them into the disc drive of our desktop computer, all I saw on the screen was gibberish.  WordStar was long gone.  What intense sadness.  Why, oh why, had I done all this decades ago?

The story continues tomorrow.


I started one day a month ago but I couldn’t handle it.  I stopped.  And this morning I began again.

I know that I need to get Jody’s clothes out of the house, but it’s hard.  So many memories of my darling wife enjoying her bright ensemble.  One of the first items I looked at was Jody’s wedding dress.  What a fine day that was … June 25, 1988.  My sister-in-law Nona said that I could put the dress in storage, but that didn’t feel right, and it still doesn’t.  I’m going to give all of Jody’s clothes to Goodwill.  Right now, I’m looking at a 24×36″ poster of my lovely wife that’s hanging on our family room wall.  She’s beautifully wrapped in the dress and veil.  But all that whiteness is not the woman I love.  “Let go of my clothes, Bruce.  They’re not me.”  Okay, Jodiette.

My favourite photo of Jody is of her sitting in a Quebec City restaurant, looking at me.  She’s wearing a short-sleeved top, with horizontal stripes of light and dark blue.  When I found it hanging in our closet a month ago, I held it to my chest and cried.  “Let it go, Bruce.”  So I did, folding it gently and adding it to the pile in a huge clear plastic bag.  Sigh.

This morning, I made an agreement with myself to work on Jody’s clothes for an hour.  I kept my word.  But now I’m exhausted.  An hour in a closet … remembering, crying and packing.  Also marvelling at the beauty of Jodiette’s tops and pants and dresses.  The colours of the rainbow, reflecting my girl’s embracing of life.  How I miss you, dear one.

I held a scalloped green-turquoise-black dress, adorned with glitter.

“You’re so pretty in these pretty clothes, life wife.”

“Thank you, husband.”



A diligent young student lived across the river from his Master.  One day the student sent an inspired enlightenment poem to his teacher, proudly announcing “Sitting still upon the purple golden lotus, the eight winds cannot move me.”  In response, the Master wrote the word “fart” across the poem and sent it back.

Full of indignation, the student rushed out of his house and ordered the ferry to take him quickly to the other shore.  Outraged, he felt he deserved an apology.  When he got to his Master’s door, he found a note saying “The eight winds cannot move me, and yet one fart blows me across the river.”  Deflated and humbled, the young student realized how blinded he was by his so-called spiritual “attainment”.

As recounted by Kittisaro, in Listening to the Heart, written by Kittisaro and Thanissara

[According to the Buddha, the eight winds are gain and loss, pleasure and pain, praise and blame, and fame and disrepute.]

It’s so easy for me to fall into the trap of seeing myself as special, evolved and wise.  After all, I’m now an author, right? …  Just so much blather.  Not at all what is true.  I choose to let go rather than puff up, to float rather than press, to smile at the heavens rather than wave my arms.

False modesty?  I don’t think so.  Those words aren’t even in the realm of my being.  All I have to do is look in your eyes, and hold my gaze there for a bit, to see that we’re the same, you and I.  The same wants, the same beauty, the same essence peeking out from behind our worldly clothes.