The Musicians of Orchestra London

I went to a concert tonight – 25 musicians playing classical music brilliantly in an old church with a wraparound balcony.  Up until a few months ago, these folks were the core of Orchestra London.  Then city council cut their funding and now the orchestra is virtually bankrupt.  How sad that our city of 350,000 no longer has funded classical music.

These players have a motto: “We Play On.”  And they most certainly do.  When we gave them a prolonged standing ovation at the end of the evening, there were tears in my eyes, and in those of several musicians.  Plus smiles all around.  We lightened their hearts, I do believe.

I sat in the third row, right in the centre, and I saw wondrous things.  The concertmaster (that is the violinist who sits close to the conductor and plays lots of solos) was a ball of passion.  He rocked forward and back.  He closed his eyes.  His notes, full of vibrato, were wondrous to behold.  At times, it looked like he was kissing someone.  At others, he seemed to be making love to his instrument.  The flautist was just as expressive.  Her head would dip and sway as she played her solo line.  And her long silver flute, usually held horizontally, would dip and sway as well.  It was all a dance.

The violinist closest to me had the most expressive eyes.  I was behind her and to the left so I could see her eyelashes move.  She would glance at her music, and then her eyelashes would rise as she looked at the conductor, keeping to the beat of his baton.  It was lovely to see.

I played cello from Grade 6 till Grade 13.  Why, oh why, did I give it up?  Tonight I watched the cello section intently.  When the cellist dips and sways, it’s a big instrument that moves around.

All these heads in motion.  All these eyes closing and opening again.  I couldn’t think of another profession where such expression is normal.  The average teacher doesn’t move like that.  Nor doctors, executives or plumbers.  It must be so cool.

We heard pieces from Mozart (composed when he was 17!), Wagner, Bartok and Haydn – different styles but the passion remained.  At one point, one of the musicians spoke to the audience.  She talked about classical music being “transformational”, beyond words.  Yes.  I was transported tonight to a land of tone and movement.  I’m glad I was there.

Welcomed to Belleville

I had never been to Belleville before.  But I’ll be back.  People were so kind to me.

It started with a phone call weeks ago to reserve a room at the Place Victoria Place Bed and Breakfast.  This fellow Gord was so … conversational.  This is good.  I’m going to enjoy this.  And I did.

Gord and Danielle are clearly proud of their home.  Danielle’s tour was done with such pleasure.  I loved the 12-foot ceilings, the white duvet in my white bedroom, the claw foot tub and clamshell sink, plus my own private sitting room.  But it’s people who make the world go round.  I was looking for a purveyor of liquorious fluids for Thursday’s supper, and Danielle recommended The Beaufort Pub.  The woman who served me at the bar (Valerie?) clearly enjoys Belleville, and I enjoyed her roast beef cradled in the world’s biggest Yorkshire pudding.  And my barmates were happy to talk.  We covered the NHL playoffs and the sad demise of the Bulls.  It didn’t matter that I was a stranger.  Nobody gave me the “Do I know you?” look.  Just folks.

Chatting at breakfast each morning was awfully fun.  On Saturday, I wanted to write a blog about my Friday walk, which took me way east on Dundas St. to a carwash and a convenience store.  I was obsessing about the name of the carwash.  I really wanted to include that but my brain wasn’t co-operating.  Gord took off to his computer and tried to find the name.  No luck.  And none with the Yellow Pages.  Danielle and Gord were even willing to get in their car and drive over there for me, but I asked them not to.  I wanted to write my blog and then get out into the Belleville world.  So the car wash remained anonymous.  But it’s coming to me now … I’m sure it’s called “Sammy’s Shiny Sudsy Car Wash”.  Yes, that’s it.

My hosts told me about the wonders of Sandbanks Park.  I’m definitely going to experience the dunes when I come back.  And Gord helped me locate a little strip of Belleville park near Great St. James St.  It turned out to be a wild place!

Still in the spirit of “We’re glad you’re here,” on Friday evening, after the performance of Jake’s Women, a guy in the theatre’s lobby asked me if I’d like to meet the cast.  “Yes, I sure would.”  This was Phil, who I later found out was the director.  He led me into a room off the lobby … and I’m confused about what occurred next.  It all happened so fast.  I think he looked at the cast members in the room and said, “This is Bruce.”  Then all these bright faces were turned towards me, smiles and hands heading my way.  I was known.  I was appreciated.  And I was welcomed into their dramatic world.  So touching.

Now I’m back in Union.  But Belleville is still vibrating in my heart.  My thanks to you all.

Jake’s Women

We’re all human beings.  We all celebrate and suffer, win some and lose some.  When I go to a play or a movie, I want to see a slice of life.  Something real.  Something that reminds me of who I am, and lets me see one more time that I’m not alone in this life.  We all experience it all.  Take the character Jake from the play Jake’s Women.  Here’s what he has to say:

“I care.  I love.  I’m miserable.  I’m angry.  I’m desperate.  I’m hopeful and mostly I’m confused.”

Aren’t we all?

For the last three evenings, I’ve had the privilege of watching life on the stage, as portrayed with tenderness and humanity by eight skilled actors.  I got to be sitting in the Pinnacle Playhouse in Belleville, Ontario for performances of Jake’s Women.  Lucky me.  Truly.

Here are the folks who acted in the play, and what I especially enjoyed about each of their creations:

Sophia Douglas-Najem portrays Molly, age 12

What a bright spirit.  There’s a scene where Molly is meeting Jake’s new girlfriend Maggie for the first time.  Maggie brought a giftwrapped book for Molly, but had been in such a hurry that she hadn’t noticed what book she’d grabbed.  When Molly opens it, we see that it’s the 1981 World Atlas.  Maggie’s all embarrassed, but Sophia as Molly looks at her with great enthusiasm and says, “No, I really need this for school because the names of the countries are changing all the time.  This is terrific.”  And Molly’s kindness shines.

After this meeting, father Jake asks daughter Molly, “What’s the absolute best thing about her?  Sophia is so present when she replies “That she’ll make us all a good family again.”  Her words hang in the air.

A few scenes later, young Molly is sitting with dad and older Molly (age 21).  They start playing a game, naming actors and actresses.  Jake suggests a couple and older Molly is faster than young Molly in coming up with the answers.  Sophia is brilliant as she tries to get the words out, showing flashes of disappointment when her “sister” gets there first.  Well done.

Judie Preece portrays Karen, Jake’s sister

Jake creates all these imaginary conversations with the women in his life, but he sometimes forgets to dress them well.  Judie shows wonderful exasperation as she rips into Jake: “Where did you find this dress I’m wearing?  This dress is not me.  Bette Midler does a concert in a dress like this.”  And Judie, facing the audience, does an exaggerated singing pose.  Classic.

Shortly thereafter, Karen is consoling Jake about his former wife Julie, who died in a car accident, and about Maggie, his current wife.  Judie lets her “brassy broad” image take a back seat as she softly says, “I’m sorry Julie died.  I’m sorry that Maggie is so unhappy.”  Then she immediately flips to “This is another good speech.  Give me more lines like this.”  Marvelous contrast.

Much later in the play, eyes wide, front and centre with the audience, Judie blasts out Karen’s lines: “You’re the star of the show, Jake.  You’re the one they shoot out of the cannon and you fly around the tent with an American flag in your mouth and all the women go crazy and faint and they take them away to hospitals.”  No lack of oomph in Ms. Preece!

Julie Bryson portrays Sheila, Jake’s new girlfriend

Jake is waxing poetic that Sheila is real, rather than the imaginary moments he has with other women in his life.  “Dimensional.  You have sides.  You have a left side, a right side, a front side, a back side.”  Meanwhile Julie as Sheila is twisting her body left and right, apparently fascinated with her dimensionality.  It’s a very funny moment.

Julie expertly demonstrates confusion and frustration as Jake appears to be talking to Sheila, but really is telling the hidden Maggie where to get off:  “You know what’s goddamn wrong.  It’s you!!”  Then all of Sheila’s angst bursts out in an impassioned speech that grabs the audience and hangs on: “You love me, you want me to move in with you but not today, later, in the future, someday, somehow, somewhere over the rainbow …”  Julie sputters so well.

Then, in a flash, Sheila settles down, with Julie putting in calm pauses that work: “Alright.  Fine.  I’ll go to Bedford.  If you want to go to Bedford, I’ll go.”  I love contrast.

Bill Petch portrays Jake, a writer who lives in his head

Bill’s onstage for the whole play.  Not only does he have control over an immense pile of lines, but he delivers them with marvelous subtlety of inflection and facial expression.  He’s also great with the reactions when the conversation is taking place between two other actors.  (I want to be like him!)

Bill is beautifully stunned when Maggie says she wants a separation:  “Separate for six months?”  He pauses masterfully after Maggie blasts him about not listening.  “Jake?  Did that go by you too?” ………………..  “No, I caught it.”  He was so sad, just like the audience.

Further along, Bill demonstrates how Jake as a baby coped with his mother, who tied him to his high chair.  “Couldn’t move my hands.  Couldn’t push away the baby food I hated.  I had to fight her off with my nose.”  You had to be there!

There were so many great Jake moments.  I especially liked it when Bill talks to us in the audience.  “I was five years old in a third floor apartment in the Bronx, waking up from a nap and there’s no one there.  My mother is on the fourth floor visiting a neighbor.  I’m terrified.  Why doesn’t she hear me?  Why doesn’t she come?”  I got your terror, Bill.  Nicely done.

Dianne Wilson portrays Edith, Jake’s therapist

A prickly, officious one – this Edith, and Dianne pulls her off extremely well.  Jake’s distraught that Edith doesn’t seem to have any empathy for him.  Jake: “What do you want, a tap dance?”  Edith: “Why not?  You’re unhappy if you want to be.  You’re lonely if you want to be.  It’s your choice.”

Then Edith is pleading with Jake to tell her what he really wants, and the caring shows through Dianne’s high-volume voice:  “Ask for it, then I’ll stop it … Ask for it, Jake.  Please!”

In Dianne’s hands I really felt Edith in love with her own words.  “You always have options.  That’s what life’s about … Options … Options … I love how my voice trails off … Options … Options”, as she strolls off the stage.  The audience loved it.

And then there’s the old non-verbal interlude.  Jake’s heading to the bathroom while Karen and Edith are talking about him.  As soon as he closes the door, the conversation ceases.  I then got to enjoy Dianne examining her nails and plucking a piece of fluff off the arm of her chair.

Daria Coates portrays Molly at age 21

Molly is a young woman whose mother Julie died when Molly was only 10.  Thanks to Jake’s vivid imaginings, Molly at 21 gets to meet her mom.  The joy on her face as she crossed the stage to sit beside Julie on the couch was lovely.  And then she spoke: “I have a million things to ask you.  It’s like meeting someone you’ve always heard about.  Like a movie star.  Only it’s my mom.”  (Sigh)

Julie asks about the young man who’s given Molly a ring.  And Daria as Molly melts as she talks about her new love: “Well, he’s at Yale.  The Drama Department.  I met him at the theatre.  He did a play there.”  Such ordinary words, but Daria infused them with great happiness.

But there’s more to Daria’s Molly than sweetness.  I was scared as she blasted her dad: “You bring us together after eleven years and you give us ten lousy minutes together.  What is that?  Why did you do it?  It’s so damn cruel.”  Ouch.  And then, with Daria looking close to tears, “Why didn’t you leave well enough alone?  What is it you wanted to see?”  I’m exhausted even thinking about it.  Good job.

Erica Holgate portrays Julie, Jake’s first wife

I loved seeing Erica burst onstage and throw her fury at Jake after they made love the night before (her first time): “Where were you? … Last night.  This morning.  Right now.  This minute.  How could you not call me?  How could you not want to know how I feel?”  Oh my goodness.

And then revulsion, as Jake explained their first time was 29 years ago, and had her see how old he is now: “You’re fifty-three? … and I slept with you last night?”  What fun.  But almost instantly, Julie mellows: “I do like the wrinkles around your eyes … and under them.  It gives you – character.  It’s nice.”  Have I ever mentioned that I like contrast?  Well, I do.

Farther along, joy is written all over Erica’s face.  Jake: “You don’t know who Molly is?”  Julie: (shakes her head “no”, then realizes) “Oh, God.  We had a girl.”  Such a string of very human moments.

Wendy Roy portrays Maggie, Jake’s wife

An infinity of subtle tones of voice and facial expressions come from this gifted actor.  Wendy was a pleasure to watch.  Let’s start off with funny.  Maggie and Jake were reliving the cocktail party where they met.  Maggie was talking to a yuppie couple about an upcoming election: “Oh God, I haven’t made up my mind who to vote for … No, I understand the issues, I just don’t know who’s running.”  Sure it’s a funny line, but in Wendy’s hands it’s hilarious.

After Maggie has told Jake that she wants a six month separation, and has spent some time alone in their hot tub, she appears on the second floor of the set, dressed in a bathrobe.  Maggie simply says, “Can we talk for a minute?” and the vulnerability in us all sees itself in her.  Time stood still.

Towards the end of the play, Maggie’s love for Jake is in Wendy’s eyes:  Jake: “You look about ten miles away from where I sit.”  Maggie: “No, Jake.  I think we’re so close.  I swear.  I think we’re only an inch or two apart.”

And …

Jake:  “Jesus, now I have to be the Messiah.”  Maggie: “No, I’ll just settle for Jake.”


The individual performances were lovely to behold, but these actors were also so skilled in creating one-to-one relationships, priceless moments of contact.

1.  Jake and Maggie talking about the two children they lost in childbirth.  Jake: “We didn’t get any breaks, did we?”

2.  Jake looking at Julie, in response to Karen saying she’s naïve: “No.  She’s just young.”

3.  Young Molly and Maggie, getting to know each other:

Maggie: “I was a cheerleader in high school.  But I depressed everyone so they let me go.”
Molly: (Laughs) “That’s funny.”
Maggie: “It is?  Oh, thank you, Molly.  That means so much to me.”

4.  Molly, Molly and Jake sitting together quietly, the kids loving their dad, and Jake loving them right back

5.  Older Molly and Julie talking silently with great affection while Jake speaks to the audience


I had a great time
Thank you, actors of the Belleville Theatre Guild
You deserve great praise and happiness

On the Trail And At The Play

Went splorin’ yesterday afternoon in Belleville.  Gord, my host at the B&B, suggested that I walk the trail beside the Bay of Quinte, so off I went.

Near the water I came upon a semi-circular path done with small paving stones.  And there were messages of love on many of the stones, to the dearly departed.  One stone expressed love for a family member, and the one below it said, “P.S.  I miss you.”  Lovely.  The stones breathed affection, appreciation and sadness, and I got to be there, watching.

I strolled eastward on the asphalt path, enjoying the bay, the trees, the cattails and the birds.  Most people responded smilingly to my “Hi”.  It all felt good.  I walked so slowly.  I love doing that.  One time Jody and I were staying at the Riu Tequila Hotel on the Mayan Riviera in Mexico.  The grounds were festooned with flowering bushes.  We dipsydoodled along.  Around day three, I announced to my dear wife that I had a goal: for us to be the slowest couple at the resort.  All was going well until one day I spied two elderly folks ahead of us.  We were catching up!  Darn.  Lots of smiles as we passed them at a moderate pace.  Oh well.  I looked at Jody and said, “you’re my little runner up”.  (Okay, that last sentence was a lie.  Seems to me that it’s some quote from a magnificent play, full of magnificent performances, that I saw awhile ago.)

Now, where was I?  Oh yes, the Belleville waterfront.  At one point the paved track ended, but I saw a short length of chain link fence ahead.  Beyond was a dirt path, cradled by bushes on either side.  Around the fence I went, and so began at least two miles of adventure.  Soon I beheld a huge weeping willow to my left, adorned with the light green beginnings of leaves.  I went over and stood under.  Jody was right beside me.  “I am this tree, Bruce.  I shelter you.  I protect you.”  Familiar words.  I cried for my wife.

Farther along was a big marsh, again to the left.  I came past some bushes and came face-to-face with a white swan, who was paddling and dipping.  We talked a bit.  And then said goodbye.

Later things opened into a meadow, where I noticed a white thing on the ground.  Turns out it was a plastic sheet, and a big one, maybe fitting a queen bed.  “Well, we can’t have that sitting there among the beauty.”  So I picked it up and kept walking.  Soon I came upon “a good industrial landscape” (a quote from David Francey, a Canadian singer-songwriter).  There was a large cement foundation but only one wall standing.  And the top of the wall wasn’t a horizontal line, but instead the broken shape of a rounded mountain.  Sticking out of the top were long pieces of rebar, flowing every which way, like the arms of a dancer.  Cool.

I found an old road and followed to the left.  There was traffic ahead.  It was the east part of Dundas St.  As I got closer, I saw that my way was blocked by more chain link, supplemented by barbed wire.  My heart moved higher.  As worry started to take over, I glanced to the right and saw a dirt path that took me to the highway.  Gosh, I think that someone is looking after me.  Always.

I hauled my white blob across Dundas, wondering where I would deposit the sheet.  But my answer was right in front of me – a pink garbage can by the vacuum station of a self-serve car wash.  In she went.  Across the street was Mr. Convenience.  I was ready for food.  I went inside and picked up representatives of Canada’s four major food groups – SmartFood cheesy popcorn, honey peanuts, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Gatorade.  Yum.  I sat down facing some old cattails and ate meditatively.  I was having fun.

Heading back towards downtown, I strolled into McDonalds.  Since Canada’s fifth food group is Smarties McFlurries, I decided to participate.  I sat beside a couple who looked pretty down-and-out.  She hadn’t taken care of herself over the years and dearly missed her deceased parents.  We had a good talk.  At one point, I looked out at the parking lot.  And there was a young woman, sitting on a low cement barrier, head down, crying.  Then she lay down, still crying.  A woman came over and sat beside her.  Sometimes she talked to the girl, and sometimes just sat with her.  It was very beautiful to see.  But the crying continued.  I had finished my ice cream and told my new friends that I was going to walk out there and see if there was anything I could do.  They told me that I shouldn’t get involved, that the girl might hurt me.  I smiled, but I knew I was going over there.

First I phoned 911, worried that the girl might hurt herself.  The dispatcher told me that she was well known to police, was mentally unstable, and often didn’t take her meds.  She wasn’t a danger to herself or others.  “A lost soul.”  Well, lost souls deserve to be found.  I walked over as the Good Samaritan was getting ready to leave.  We talked a bit.  And then I asked the girl if I could sit down beside her.  I didn’t sense any response through the tears, either positive or negative.  So I sat down.  I tried saying a few things to her, and then realized that wasn’t it.  My meditation practice has taught me that the most powerful giving is “being with”, without judgment, and without speaking.  So we sat together for about twenty minutes.  I wasn’t pushing love out to her, but love was flowing.  At the end of that time, she asked for some money.  I gave her some.  She got up and walked over to Subway.  Fare thee well, my dear.


Wow, that’s a lot of words, and I haven’t even told you about Jake’s Women.  I enjoyed the second night as much as the first.  Seeing Bill play Jake on night one, I had questioned my ability to do the job he was doing, to memorize all those lines and to wander with such grace through the emotional spectrum that is Jake.  Last night, I let that go.  I sat there enjoying the story and celebrating the actor and actresses who made their characters real – human beings that I’ve met in my life.  I realized that I can be Jake.

There were some scenes that may bring me to tears onstage.  Is it okay for an actor to cry?  What if I can’t stop the tears when I’m supposed to deliver a funny line?  Lots of I don’t knows.

Jody and I didn’t have kids.  We decided to focus on travel.  That decision is one of only two things I regret in my life.  The other is that Jody died so early, at age 54, and that we can’t hold hands anymore.  As for the kids, my favourite scene in Jake’s Women comes at the end of Act 1.  His wife Maggie has just left him, wanting a six-month separation.  Jake sits on the couch, head down.  And along come two versions of his daughter Molly, one at age 12, and the current Molly, age 21.  They sit beside him.  The love they all share is front and centre.  Jake puts his right arm around young Molly and his left one around older Molly.  They sit quietly … and fade to black.  Oh my.  I have so much wanted a daughter.

In Act 2, there’s a scene in which Julie (Jake’s wife who died in a car accident) and Jake kiss.  “Goodbye, Jake.”  Oh my again.  Thinking of my darling Jody, how can I not cry?  I miss her so.

At the end of the evening, I got to meet the cast.  Wow!  I’m running out of writing oomph here, so I’ll save that story for tomorrow morning.  It’s a lovely one.

One of the cast members asked me if I would write a review of the play and their performances.  Sure, I’ll do that.  Also tomorrow morning.

As for today, it’s more walking, a beer at the Red Lion Pub, and a rendezvous with a love story.

On The Train And At The Play

So off I went yesterday, taking VIA Rail from London to Belleville, a trip of 6 hours including a stopover in Toronto.  I found my precious window seat and introduced myself to my neighbour.  I’ll call him Trevor.

We talking about lots of stuff, including our interest in Buddhism.  Trevor and I compared notes about the retreats we’d been on.  Very cool.  He mentioned a book that sounded familiar.  The author started with an historical incident, in which Chinese troops were chasing Tibetan refugees who were fleeing their country for Nepal, and wove a tale of adventure and morality.  “It’s called _____________,” Trevor said.

“I have that one on my Kobo.  Haven’t read it yet.”  And our discussion continued.  Only after a minute or two did I clue in to the fact that I was sitting beside the author.  My small voice said, “Golly gee.  I’m talking to a famous person.”  Happily, that voice closed its mouth almost immediately.  We were just folks, Trevor and me, chatting about our love of words.  It was fun.

Later, as we said goodbye, Trevor and I exchanged books … his about nineteen human beings who were “cast adrift on an ice floe”, mine about my dear wife Jody.  At the Bed and Breakfast in Belleville, I read snippets of reviews about Trevor and his story:

“A triumph of a novel … [Trevor] has pulled off a masterpiece.”

” _______________ is up there with the best work in the genre … This is gripping stuff.”

What a blessing to have spent time with Trevor.  But truly, what a blessing it is to spend time with anyone.  We all glow, even though with some of us, the body is currently hemming it in.


“The play’s the thing.”  Would you believe I just made that up?  No, I didn’t think so.  It was time for the first of three performances of Jake’s Women at the Pinnacle Playhouse.  I walked in the door, showed a woman my Internet ticket for last night’s show, and she walked off into another room.  “I’ll be right back.”  When she returned, she was carrying three real tickets wrapped in a little piece of notepaper.  I opened the note and read:

“Hi Bruce,

Read your blog.  Glad to have you here.  Enjoy the show(s).  See you after.

The Cast of Jake’s Women”

Awesome!  I cried out in joy in the lobby.  Another woman approached me and I showed her the note.  She had seen it before.  Her husband had written it.  “I know who you are,” she said, smiling.  Oh, this is a good time.

I sat in the front row and watched Jake’s every move, every subtlety of mouth and hands, of tone and pause.  He was magnificent.  I was happy for him.  And the woman playing his wife Maggie so deeply inhabited her role, it was a joy to see.


It’s Friday morning.  After a yummy breakfast, I’m in a sitting room, cheerily tapping away.  I’m so glad I’m here.  After a day of meandering around downtown Belleville, strolling by the Moira River, and perhaps getting lost in the trees of Riverside Park, it’ll be time for round two of Jake’s Women.  I’m ready.

Jody’s Books Are Here!

It’s 4:05 pm.  I just got back from a day of errands in London.  Something was different about my front door.  There was a little white rectangle sticking to it.  From Purolator.  There are 17 boxes waiting for me at their office in St. Thomas.  And I can pick them up after 5:00.  Did I mention that it’s 4:08?

Oh my God!  Jody, your books are here.  My dear wife.  The story we shared is going to reach people … whoever wants to read it.  I’m so happy, and so sad that you’re not here to share this with me.  Except you are here, and always will be.

“Yes, I certainly will always be with you, dear man.  I’m happy that people are going to read about us.  Maybe we’ll show them some things about living a life, about loving another person.  I love you so much, Bruce.  I miss touching you.  I miss holding hands.  But we’ll be together again someday, husband.  We will walk a different path and we will walk it together.”

Yes, Jodiette.  We will.

Tomorrow morning, I’m getting on a train and going to Belleville for four days.  When I get back, I’m going to write an e-mail to the 300 folks who have been with Jody and me since she was diagnosed in November, 2013.  I’m going to ask them if they would like a book.  It’s free.  I’ll pay for the postage.  And I’ll suggest that, if they want to, they donate some money to their favorite charity in memory of Jody.

But today is today.  I don’t know how many of you are out there in cyberworld, but if you would like a copy of Jodiette: My Lovely Wife, e-mail me at and give me your address.  Our story is your story.

Okay, it’s 4:17.  It takes about 20 minutes to get to the Purolator office.  Maybe I should get organized, get goin’, get Jody’s books!

Oh my.

Krishna Das

When I was telling you about qi gong yesterday, and the beautiful male voice that sent me crying, I didn’t mention that the singer was Krishna Das.  I wonder why.  He’s an American who met with a guru in India back in the 1970’s and was overwhelmed with the love glowing from him.  Soon thereafter, Jeffrey Kagel became Krishna Das.  After his guru died, Krishna felt alone and lost in the world, and descended through the realms of depression and drug use.

Eventually the love that is Krishna Das, and is all of us, emerged and greeted the world through the singing of kirtan – call-and-response chanting in Sanskrit that speaks the names of God.

When I got back from Massachusetts, I watched Krishna on YouTube and was transported again deep within my heart.  I ordered CDs and a DVD from Amazon and they arrived today.  If you would like to experience the Spirit of the man, I’d recommend that you listen to “Sri Argala Stotram / Show Me Love” on YouTube.  It’s on one of my new CDs and I played it on our stereo system a few minutes ago.  The piece artfully blends the Hindu words with “I Want To Know What Love Is” by Foreigner.

Listening to this is not just blissing out.  As Krishna’s voice goes deep, I feel the love, not only for Jody, but for all of us.  Our struggles, our imperfections, our kindnesses.  All worthy of love.  I’ve just finished melting again.  Lots of tears.  And I think of the lyrics:

I want to know what love is
I want you to show me
I want to feel what love is
I know you can show me

Christine was a woman I met before the silent meditation retreat started, and we talked after it was over.  She was grasping for what the retreat meant to her, and I was doing the same.  I found myself saying, for the first time, “I come to retreats to love people.  That’s all.”  I’d never been brave enough to tell anyone.  And it’s true.  When I hear the women’s voices repeat “I want you to show me,” I know that I have a part to play in showing love on Earth.  I’m not sure how that will unfold over time, but unfold it shall.  A good thing to do in life, I’d say.

Jody’s Day at IMS

During my retreat at the Insight Meditation Society last week, yogis had the opportunity to pay for a meal in honour of a loved one.  I chose lunch on Saturday, April 11, the second last day of the retreat.  And there it was on the white board at the entrance to the dining room: “Lunch is offered ‘for my wife Jody’.”

When I arrived at IMS, I signed up for the job of bell ringing for each lunch.  I would stand near the serving area, gong in hand, beside three lineups of silent yogis.  After the cooks had placed all the food on tables, one of them would take a tiny xylophone and hit three notes.  She would then nod to me, I would hit the gong with the little wooden baton, and all of us would bow.  As retreatants came forward to take a plate, I would set off on a journey through the IMS buildings, ringing the gong loudly so that no one would miss their lunch.

On Saturday, April 11, after pausing several times that morning to see Jody’s name on the board, I lifted up the gong and baton and walked towards the dining room, telling myself not to cry.  I stood stationary for three or four minutes while I waited for the cook’s notes.  “Don’t cry, Bruce.”  Oh my, how silly of me.  But I held things together throughout the experience, and replaced the gong on its stand.  Then I walked into the coatroom and cried for my darling wife.  How I miss my Jodiette.

Later in the afternoon, from 3:00 till 4:00, I went to the optional daily qi gong session (pronounced “chee”) in the meditation hall.  I’d say 80 of the 100 yogis came every day.  Qi gong is a Chinese movement art, gently uniting us with heaven and earth, and with all of life.  Franz, our leader, had opened his soul to us.  We were much blessed.  This would be our last session, and Franz had a surprise.  Halfway through the hour, he mentioned that we would now link together the 18 qi gong movements … to music.

A resonant male baritone voice ripped through me, singing in Hindi, I believe.  I didn’t know what the words meant.  But my being knew.  I started crying for Jody, and I think for all of us.  I moved my body and kept crying.  Sometimes I would be overwhelmed and stood still, shaking.  A few of the movements involved twisting and looking back to the left and then right.  “Oh, no.  Now the folks behind me will see me crying.”  So silly again.  For one thing, if I’m looking backwards, so are the people behind me.  But more importantly, the human beings I was with honoured each other’s humanity, however it was expressed.  They didn’t know I was crying about Jody but they accepted my tears.  I kept crying.

It was a good day, Jodiette.  You deserved every moment, my dear.

The Beatles

I went to see the Fab Four at the Port Stanley Festival Theatre tonight, a venue which holds around 100 people.  At 8:00 the lights dimmed and the soundtrack rolled … it was a Sunday evening in February, 1964 and the Ed Sullivan Show was on TV.

“And now, ladies and gentlemen, here they are – The Beatles!”  Well said, Ed.

And here they came … John, Paul, George and Ringo … guitars and drums in hand, launching into the first song.  I was in the second row and from behind me I could hear girlish screams, just like that night 50 years ago when I sat with my parents watching the music world change.  Can’t remember what mom and dad thought but I bet they didn’t like the long hair.

Soon two women in front of me were twisting and shouting.  One of them pretended to faint and flopped into the lap of the other one.  Big smile from John.  All night long my new friends moved and grooved, much to the pleasure of the band.  Actually, I moved and grooved as well, with a little less throwing of arms into the air.  What great fun.

From “She Loves You” to “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band”, we heard it all.  And we sang.  My teenage life came flooding back to me and I remembered how the Beatles’ music helped keep my self-esteem afloat, even if ravaged by acne and lack of sports prowess.  I loved the tender songs, especially “Let It Be” and the big finale – “Hey Jude”.  I loved John and his granny glasses.  I so much wanted him to sing “Imagine” but I guess he never did it onstage with the other guys.

Jody was right there beside me, rocking to the hits.  Thank you for coming with me, my wife.

Before the concert and during it some, I had fun conversations with the woman sitting to my right.  We enjoyed each other’s company.  After the final bows, though, I looked around and saw her and her husband heading to the exit.  No goodbye.  That made me sad.

So it was an evening of joyous remembrance, of letting the vocal cords hang out, but tinged with a note of melancholy.  Sort of like life.  I’ll take it.


I enjoy bowing to the statue of the Buddha, with palms together and a light heart.  The Buddha isn’t a god.  He was a human being who lived 2600 years ago, and he had some good ideas about leading a life.  When I bow to him, I say inside, “All beings everywhere”.  That’s whom I want to contribute to.  At times, other words have bubbled up.  “The God in me bows to the God in you.”  “Love bowing to love”.  In the meditation hall in Barre, Massachusetts, the Buddha sits at the front of the room.  As I enter the hall for a sitting, with 100 other yogis, I pause and bow.  It feels right.

Between the coat room and the meditation hall is a walking room, where we practice walking meditation.  The Insight Meditation Society building used to be a Catholic seminary, I believe, and there are two lovely stained glass windows of Jesus in the walking room.  At previous meditation retreats, and at this recent one, I came to stop in front of one of those windows and bow.  I sometimes worried about what other retreatants thought of this behaviour, but more and more I didn’t care.  I imagine they think that I’m bowing to Jesus.  I’m not.

The stained glass shows Jesus sitting at a table, with the disciple John to his left.  John has his right hand on Jesus’ right shoulder, and his left hand on his left forearm.  John’s head is tucked into the hollow by Jesus’ neck.  And the look on John’s face is one of supreme peace.  I’m bowing to John’s love.  And as I do, I silently say, “Love them all.  Light the world.”  And that is what I’d like to do.

Eight months ago, I wrote a blog post called “Ego Bowing”, in which I described walking a three-mile loop road at IMS and bowing to every person I met, making eye contact.  When I walked the road this time, something inside told me not to bow and not to look.  So I didn’t.  I let everyone have their space, to be with themselves, not needing to respond to another.  That too felt right.

May I bow inwardly to each one of us whom I encounter on our dear planet.