Day Nine … Resonating In My Heart

My day began with slight miscalculations.  I’m staying near Kamloops, BC on August 1 and 2.  Since Kamloops is directly west of Edmonton, I figured I’d spend the night of July 31 in Alberta’s capital.  I could sit in the West Edmonton Mall for a few hours and drink in the aura of rampant commercialism.  However, truth be told, Kamloops is directly west of Calgary.  So skip the mall and revel in the beauty of the Icefield Parkway between Banff and Jasper … gorgeous mountains on all sides, complete with a few glaciers.  I can’t wait.

Laundry time yesterday morning.  Real showed me the washer and everything looked straightforward.  So around went the clothes.  Then the drier.  As I reached for a Bounce sheet, I had the niggly feeling that I hadn’t put anything of a similar nature into the washer, such as detergent.  Sadly, I was correct.  My T-shirts  and shorts were very wet and still stinky.  So back into the washer they went.

I like my brain, even when I forget stuff, like standing in the basement wondering why I’m there.  I mean, who wants a totally efficient mind?  If I was focused all the time, there wouldn’t be any room to contemplate life, death and the universe.

In the afternoon, I went to see Taiko drummers at the Japanese Garden in Lethbridge – eleven women and one man who smashed the heck out of the skins atop two-foot-high wooden drums which looked like giant teacups without the handles.  The fellow especially gave it his all.  His whole body moved to the rhythms of his sticks.  Wide stance, trance-like facial expressions, small Japanese words slipping out of his mouth.  I couldn’t take my eyes off him.  The women were in their 40’s to 60’s, I’d say, and you could see the exhaustion on their faces at the end of a piece.  All sorts of rhythms from the different drummers.  Quiet tappings that grew into thrusts of power and back again.  I was gone into the music.  Thank you, Taiko folks.

And then there was the peace of the garden.  Gently curving paths. Gently curving grassy slopes.  A reflection pond hosting pagoda statues.  A four-foot-high copper gong that I rang with an oiled horizontal post.  Then I held the gong for a couple of minutes until the vibration died.  Sweet.

A family of five came towards me on the path.  I’d guess they were from India.  I asked them If they’d like me to take their picture.  “Of course.  Thank you.”  After I had done the deed, the girl of about ten smiled at me .. so fully, so lovingly, so much beyond the usual contact we have with each other.  Like the drumming, the outside flooded the inside.  Thank you, young lady.

I had a nice talk with the hostess at the visitor centre.  When I was about to leave, she asked if she could hug me.  So we did … for a long time.  Just holding – no tapping or crushing.  Lovely.

Veronica, Real and I went out to dinner at Luigi’s Pizza and Steak House in Lethbridge.  Our server was a nervous young man.  He tried describing the daily special but all he could manage was “chicken filet”.  Veronica told him, “Luigi’s has such a big menu.  It must be hard to keep track of it all.”  When he walked away from the table, I gave her the thumbs up.  That’s just what the world needs: compassion.

Back home again, Veronica and I sat for a bit on the deck.  We talked of the last hours of her mom Joan and my Jody.  Of letting go.  Of telling them that it was okay to go.  Wanting to be alone with our loved one as she died.  Four moist eyes embraced our loves in the dark of the evening.

Then it was time with Real and Veronica’s two dogs.  Luigi, a furry little white thing, lay in my lap, purring with my petting.  Riggs, a British bulldog, occupied my other hand with rubs.  So here and so now.

Today, I’m visiting my sister-in-law Nona’s dad Gordon in a nursing home before Scarlet guides me to Calgary.  I’m staying with my friend Isabelle and her husband … Bruce.  I don’t know.  Two Bruces in one house?  Could be trouble.

How I met Isabelle is another story.  Tomorrow.

Day Eight … Folks Just Like Me

I often see myself as unusual, not of the norm, a little too silly for some.  Just plain different.  Looking more closely, though, we’re all pretty similar.  When I taught blind children, it was so easy to fall into the trap that they were really different from other kids.  After all, they can’t see.  And seeing stuff is a big part of my life.  But as I got smarter and looked more carefully, those young non-see-ers wanted the same things that their classmates did – to be loved, to be included, to make a mark and thus say goodbye to invisibility.

Yesterday I experienced a parade of humanity.  Here they are:

Eleanor (Jody’s aunt)
Cam (Eleanor’s son and Jody’s cousin)
Veronica (Jody’s late aunt Joan’s daughter and Jody’s cousin)
Real (Veronica’s boyfriend)
Fernando (Real’s friend)
Frank (Jody’s uncle)
Shirley (Frank’s wife and Jody’s aunt)
Carey (Frank and Shirley’s daughter and Jody’s cousin)
Pierre (Carey’s husband)
Taylor (Carey and Pierre’s daughter)
Taylor’s boyfriend (I’m sorry that I’ve forgotten your name)

Eleanor – Presented me with assorted foods and a warm smile, as well as showing me where Jody sat in the family farm’s kitchen as a 15-year-old.  I loved sitting where Jody did.

Cam – Smiled when I was enjoying a flavour of Mike’s Hard Lemonade that I hadn’t tasted – pink.  He loves hunting.  I don’t.  So what?

Veronica – She of the smiling Buddhas adorning her home.  “Life’s too short to hold grudges.”  As she and I were leaving Carey and Pierre’s place, she approached her Uncle Frank and said, “You’re not getting away without a hug.”

Real – Loves riding his Harley and is a member of a biker club that stands for integrity and non-violence.  In the pub, I asked him to sing, and he replied, “Only if it’s a Frank Sinatra tune.”  He has a beard and wears a biker jacket.  I couldn’t grow a beard for the life of me and favour t-shirt and shorts.  So what?

Fernando – Another biker club member who laughed with us as Veronica and I resurrected memories of Jody and her mom Joan over a steak sandwich (her) and nachos (me).  He was comfortable sitting beside me.

Frank – I sold real estate with Frank in the 80’s.  Well, he sold real estate – I “prospected” and dreamed of sales and listings.  Last night, he talked of family, of how important his wife, children and grandchildren are to him.

Shirley – Had a mischievous little smile on her face most of the evening and actually used that very word to describe Jody as a kid.

Carey – The lady of the house who cried when she talked about Jody.  As kids, they stole neighbours’ flowers and placed them under their family’s power mower so there’d be a flower shower upon start up.  I saw photos of the miniature Christmas scenes that she creates all over her house during the holidays.

Pierre – Is a night supervisor on a oil rig in Kuwait for six months of the year – 28 days on and 28 days back home.  Temperatures can reach 44 degrees Celsius … at night!  I couldn’t do that.  He can.  So what?

Taylor – She laughed at a few goofy things I said.  I liked her immediately.  As a young adult, she seemed totally comfortable with all those older folks yapping away.

Taylor’s boyfriend – (Okay, Bruce.  Let go of trying to remember his name > But a person’s name is important > I know, but you can appreciate him just as much without knowing it > All right)  He joined into the conversation, especially enjoying his talk with Pierre about oilfield adventures.  When I was leaving, he looked me right in the eye and said that he hoped we’d meet again.  He meant it.

We’re all the same height when we’re lying down

Elton John

Day Seven … 1975 and 1324

I roamed around Lethbridge yesterday in Scarlet.  Many of my musings were about my first wife Rita.  We were married for seven years and divorced in 1985.  And on August 9, I’ll be visiting her and her husband Dave near Vancouver.  I’m so glad that we’re still friends.

I think it was for two years (1975-1977) that Rita and I slept on a single bed in a residence room at the University of Lethbridge.  Now that’s true love!  We worked hard, training to be teachers, and laughed a lot.  We had great friends in the residence and out.  I remember setting up a table and having meals on a stairwell landing.  I remember shooting the breeze in the cafeteria, and sometimes having profs sit down to chat.

I roamed University Hall yesterday and reminisced.  The U of L is a long, dramatic building set into the coulees – hills that slope down from the prairie to the Old Man River 300 feet below.  In the winter, with a dusting of snow, the coulees past the far shore looked like people sleeping under blankets.  Cool.  I remember Rita and I sometimes not leaving the university for a month or more when it was super cold outside.

I descended from the main level 6 down a stairwell that held the ghosts of dinners, and pulled on the door to section D4, our old sleeping place.  Locked.  Protected from intruders and my memories.  I went into a lecture hall … yes, I remember.  And sat in what’s left of the cafeteria.  Hi, Rita.

Where to next, Bruce?  How about the home that Rita and I bought in 1978 (for $48,000!)  It was a lovely two bedroom sanctuary with white metal siding and a great shade tree in the backyard.  1324 7th Ave. South.  I held my breath as I rounded the corner a block away.  And there was my old friend, now adorned with a bright red front door, which looked great.  I parked on the street by the side of my no-longer-home, just like I did every night 35 years ago.


Another pleasant interlude.  Ray just came in from the yard and we got talking.  For some reason, he referred to himself as “nonchalant”.  Being the shy type, I thought of not sharing the following, but the imp in me couldn’t resist.  “Have you ever thought, Ray, about what a chalant person is like?  I’ve roamed the world and never come across one yet.”  (Smile from Jody’s uncle)  Okay, enough said, which will definitely be my stance on September 12 when I begin that long silent meditation retreat.  But I regress …


I walked up the front sidewalk and knocked on that red door.  Dad and I had installed it long ago.  I had attached the big wooden 1 3 2 4 numbers that adorned the siding to the left of the door.  Oh, what a handy fellow I was!

A young man opened the door.  I smiled and told him my story.  He smiled back and invited me in.  I met his wife and went on about Mom and Dad visiting Rita and me from Ontario, and Dad and I building the cedar fence to enclose the backyard.  Dad was the brains and I was the brawn.  Hmm … or maybe Dad was both the brains and brawn, and I hammered a few nails.  I recollected Rita and I sitting in the cozy living room.  I told the young folks that I had planted the Russian olive trees that graced the side yard … trees which now showed personal growth from 3 feet to 20.  I loved the few minutes in my old home.

I walked outside and strolled towards our fence.  I put my hand on a board and remembered my father.  “You did a good job, Dad.  Thank you for being here with me.”  Some tears.  I was a pretty good son to Mom and Dad but I could have been a lot better.  “So forgive yourself, Bruce.”  Yes.

Quite the journey …these lives of ours.  I’m glad I’m along for the ride.

Day Six … Scenes From The Plains

I wound my way from Weyburn, Saskatchewan to Lethbridge, Alberta yesterday … and so did Scarlet.  We saw magical things, and some less so.

1.  A line of power poles stretching to the horizon, unobstructed by trees, the wires dipping gracefully between each

2.  Oxbow creeks, where the stream winds back and forth in tight curves, like a ribbon lying on a table.  No hurry to get anywhere.

3.  Coming over a rise and looking deep down into the river valley, enjoying at least 200 brown cows spread over the meadow beyond and the hills above

4.  Passing old weathered barns and homes of grey boards, some listing to the left or right and others with rooves about to collapse in the middle

5.  Newly painted yellow lines down the middle of my two-lane roads, often smeared by drivers of questionable consciousness.  Sadly, I thought weeks ago that such displays were the marks of inconsiderate Ontarians only, to discover that Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta have their share of people wanting to be noticed.

6.  Being lulled by the straight roads only to snap alert when a lake to my right seemed to rise up in gentle folds.  Huh?  Turns out it was a blue field of flax.  For a moment there I thought I’d been transported into an alternative universe.

7.  Seeking out the traditional wooden grain elevators that I used to know and love.  They’re tall rectangles, usually with what looks like a small house growing out of the top.  And always the name of the community proudly displayed on the side.  Now it’s mostly vertical cylinders of cement stuck together with some lattice work of metal on top, reaching for the sky.  (Sigh)  I love tradition.

8.  Bugs splattered all day on my windshield, effectively neutralizing the quality cleaning job I had done in Weyburn.  Just part of the landscape.

9.  Fingers of grey reaching down from the background blue, tempting the earth with rain

10.  Giant shredded wheats scattered  far and wide in the fields, making me long for a late breakfast

And then … after Medicine Hat I started scouring the horizon for my beloved mountains.  “But, Bruce, you can’t see mountains from this far away.”  Well, hope springs eternal.  I used to be good at telling the difference between mountains and clouds, but I seemed to have lost my touch yesterday.  Closer to Lethbridge, I gazed at the downward progression of the sun slightly to my right.  I was so looking forward to the sunset.  Go, sun, go!  Near Taber, I glanced to the left, and there they were … I even recognized Mount Cleveland and Chief Mountain!  “Hello, dear ones.  I’m back.”

I rolled into the yard of Ray and Joy Doram around 9:00.  Ray is Jody’s uncle and he showed my lovely wife great kindness when she was younger.  Another reunion.  I’ll tell you about our cozy conversations tomorrow.

Day Five … R and R

Scarlet, I hope you enjoyed your day off yesterday.  You looked so content, sitting in front of Henry and Louise’s place all day.  And don’t worry about me – I had a great time, which for me means that I was with people.  Henry and Louise are golden.  The bodies look older and a little more uncooperative but the bigness of heart is right there for all to see.

In 1972, Henry was quite the joker.  Me too.  We were great roommates.  In 2015, Henry still has a surprise or two up his sleeve:

“Bruce, are you a swinger?”


“Let’s go swing.”

Henry leads me around a corner of a building in his backyard, carrying two photo albums.  And … Voilà! … There sits a big wooden swing that could rock four people comfortably.  We sit down beside each other and start looking at my friends’ wedding photos.  Louise and Henry look radiant.  I point out the ones I like, and the ones I don’t, composition-wise.  There’s a shot of Henry and Louise, his arm around her waist, in front of candles and their wedding cake, smiling at someone to the photographer’s right.  There’s a yellow curtain behind Henry’s head and the photographer made sure that the top edge of the curtain isn’t in line with the top of his head.  I’m proud of that picture.  I was the photographer.  A little bit of pride never hurt anyone, I figure.

The three of us spent a couple of hours leafing through albums.  What fun.  There’s a photo of me at a 60’s party in 1972 in Ottawa, dancing with my friend Glenda.  My hair is brown (pretty much like it is today), long and very curly.  I’m wearing hornrimmed glasses.  My tongue has emerged from its cave.  Oh my God, that’s me!

Another pic shows a lovely young girl of about 10, flowing black hair, lipstick, a long sleeveless dark blue dress, and strings of white pearls.  So pretty.  Except it was a boy.  Adam, my friends’ grandson, had dressed up for a school costume party.  Adam’s mom Paulette was apparently thrilled with his disguise and the school principal didn’t bat an eye.  I like it.

In the afternoon, Henry and I went out and about in his Dodge Ram, supposedly to pick up some garlic bread for supper, but really to talk and have him show me the homes he’s built in Weyburn, and other sights.  They included the mental hospital that recently was torn down, in favour of more community-based care.  The site was now the beginnings of a new subdivision but somehow I felt the presence of ghosts … a lot of anguished human beings.

At the grocery store, the cashier had an accent, and Henry prodded gently for her origin, a big smile covering his face.  At first the woman resisted his advances (“Your total is …”) but soon they were talking in French and she was sharing her German heritage.  Gosh, Henry is a lot like me in the grocery lineup.

Back at home, Henry saw his neighbour in the driveway, so we went over to shoot the breeze.  Nice guy, with a story to tell.  He had been driving near Weyburn when a tornado touched down.  He and his truck were on the edge of it and the two of them were buffetted pretty good.  “I was scared.”  Afterwards, this fellow saw a house that had been invaded by plywood.  Sheets of it had been thrown by the wind through a wall, the edges cutting like a knife through butter.  Gulp again.


It’s 8:00 am and I’m sitting in the living room tapping with my digits.  Louise is yawning towards me.  It’s drizzling outside.  “Henry’s out watering the garden again.”  He always says that to her during a rain.  So funny.


Last evening we had a delicious dinner of chicken, potatoes and beans, two of which were from Louise’s garden.  Plus excellent garlic bread that someone had no doubt spent hours preparing.  Not to mention two ice cream cones offered to the visitor from Ontario.  Who am I to refuse such hospitality?

It was family time.

Day Four … Rows And Flows Of Angel Hair

“And ice cream castles in the air.”  So said Joni Mitchell, a Canadian singer-songwriter.  And that was my life behind the wheel yesterday as I crossed a lot of prairie on my way to Weyburn, Saskatchewan.  The flatness of the land embraced the vastness of the sky.  Clouds billowed.  Others wisped their way across my windshield.  I was enthralled.  Sometimes, as I was rocking and rolling to my tunes, a shaft of sunlight burst through a break in the clouds to say hi.  “Pay attention, Bruce.  The songs are nice, the lyrics and melodies transforming, but look past your nose to the beauty of the world.”  So I did.

Then all those clouds would just go poof, and I was left with an empty blue sky.  Maybe somebody had called for a celestial coffee break.  First of all I was disappointed but then the blueness seeped inside. and I got to see another vastness … of the soul, of all our souls.  Compared to our daily routine of tasks and responsibilities, there’s a silence of love that falls upon us all.  The sky didn’t have little flecks of darker blue activity in it.  It was all one.

I also loved sloughs yesterday.  They’re pronounced “slew” … little ponds ringed with tall grasses and usually populated by small ducks, or so my prairie memory told me.  I started seeing the waters in southwestern Manitoba but there weren’t any birdies.  I was sad.  Where were the ducks?  And then … “There’s one!”  Happily, their numbers multiplied as Scarlet floated west.  I was happy.  I’ve been in some environments where it seems that the wildness, and all its creatures, have been squeezed out.  Not yesterday.

Then there’s the world of pumpjacks, the devices that pump oil from the ground.  They look like the mechanical beasts  from The War Of The Worlds.  Their elongated heads continually dip down towards the earth.  At one point, there was a slight rise to my right, and two of the pumpjacks were silhouetted on the horizon.  I could just imagine what was going on over there – assorted Saskatchewanians being devoured by the aliens.  Horrifying!

Did I mention yellow?   The greens and browns are usually muted on the Prairies but once in awhile a mass of canola blasts my brain.  So bright.  Another time I passed at least two miles of sunflowers, stretching to the ends of the earth.  They were all lifting their happy sunflowery faces, welcoming me to their land.  I nodded back.


Okay, how about a pleasant interlude?  I’m staying with my friends Henry and Louise in Weyburn.  It’s morning and I’m sipping my coffee.  Here comes Louise.

“I think we have enough milk for cereal.”

(Why not, Bruce?  Go for it.)

“I once put a box of cereal on the floor and stomped on it.  I was arrested for being a cereal killer.”



One cool thing about travelling is that you come across things that jolt you, things that the locals probably don’t even notice.  Such as logging trucks and “Do Not Feed The Bears” signs in northwestern Ontario.  Somewhere east of Weyburn, I saw this billboard:

Do you have a problem getting your casing to the bottom?

Truthfully, I’ve never really thought about the problem.  Things seem to be working fine.  But it’s nice that someone wants to come to my aid about such a delicate personal matter.

Now, Henry and Louise.  Henry and I went to social work school in Ottawa and were roommates.  One evening, he was clearly distraught.  “Bruce, I’m getting old.  [25!]  I need to find a woman.  [Sex is great but I think Henry was especially referring to a life partner.]  I’m going to the lounge at the Chateau Laurier to find someone.”  So he did.  He met Louise that evening and invited her to dance … and so began a waltz that’s lasted 43 years.  Wonderful.  Last night the three of us sat in a restaurant and laughed and laughed.  Love means being able to pick up with friends where you left off … in our case, in 1980.

Quite often, I forget my life.  Someone says I did or said something years ago and I have no memory of it.  For instance, I’m pretty sure that I didn’t walk around Ottawa one day with a roasting pan on my head.  I mean, really.  What fool would do something like that?  Henry told me that I used to say “Go shit” a lot.  Hmm .. that doesn’t sound like me.  Then he added, “No, you were saying ‘Gauche it’ as I was driving, as in ‘Turn left.'”  Okay, it’s coming back.  Louise and Henry also reminded me that I went to a Hallowe’en party in 1972 wearing a sleeping bag over me.  Ahh … I remember, especially the part about having trouble breathing.  My costume was actually an orange mummy bag.  I came dressed as a penis.  Think I called myself The Pumpkin Pecker.  These added details were news last night to my friends.  We laughed.

Today the three of us will see what beckons.  Scarlet gets to rest.  We’ll all have fun.

Day Three … Terry and the Monsoon

I started my travels yesterday with a visit to the Terry Fox Monument near Thunder Bay.  A long and winding road carried me past orange cliffs and stands of birch trees to the top of a hill.  With leafy lawns to the left and right, accented by picnic tables, I walked out into the open, with a 20-foot statue of Terry facing west, hobbling along on his one good leg.  On the walls beneath Terry were lots of writing carved into the stone.  I didn’t read them.  I sat on a low wall and gazed up at the man.  Terry ran about 25 miles a day for 143 days, starting from the east coast of Canada, to raise money for cancer research.  He had to stop near Thunder Bay when the cancer overwhelmed his body.

My eyes were wet behind my sunglasses.  Thank you, Terry.  He was a Companion of the Order of Canada because he wanted to “improve our country”.  And so he did.  And so do we all, with the little kindnesses we show each other, with letting someone else go first, with putting an arm around a friend.

I watched the folks who joined me on the outlook over Lake Superior.  One cyclist took off her sunglasses and wiped her eyes. Some folks, though, didn’t even look at Terry.  They came for the view.  Most people hardly glanced at the statue, but spent minutes reading the various messages.  Only a few lingered with the young man, no doubt imagining his pain and determination.  I wanted everyone to “be with” Terry, to let his humanity touch theirs, but that was not to be.  And it’s okay.

When I want to meet people, and there’s a couple or a group, I’ve discovered a surefire way to do it … ask them if they’d like me to take their picture.  At the monument I asked, and only about half of the people said yes.  I was sad that the others didn’t choose to record their closeness with loved ones.  “I don’t like having my picture taken.”  “No, we don’t need one.”  Okay.

For the folks who said yes, I had to sit on the stone floor to get both them and Terry in the photo.  Several people were amazed that I did this.  I don’t know why.  It just seemed like a natural thing to do.  No one left out.  We had good conversations.  One of the women I met lives three kilometres from me, in Port Stanley.

On the road again.  Somewhere north of Thunder Bay, I saw a storm greeting me in the distance.  I switched Scarlet’s digital display to temperature – 28 degrees Celsius.  Then the rain … intermittent wipers, regular wipers, fast speed wipers.  A logging truck leaned a little on a gentle curve, with the water leaping off the logs.  The temperature gauge started dropping and didn’t stop till it had reached 21.  During all this, I was listening to songs on a CD that a friend gave me years ago, including “Language of the Kiss” by The Indigo Girls.

“Oh the fear I’ve known, that I might reap the praise of strangers and end up on my own.”  Yes, I have felt that.  The wind blew and the wipers frantically swept the rain away.  I was alive, so very much.

As the storm said goodbye, I drove on, fixated on the temperature gauge.  22 … 24 … 26 … 28.  There was something about returning to the previous state of being that I liked.  Actually, the physical world so often offers me symbols that help me live my life.  I’m glad about that.

A dead black bear cub lying on the gravel beside the road.

A fruitless search in countless marshes for a moose sighting.  I know they’re there and maybe that’s good enough.

Slurping a chocolate walnut waffle cone in Vermilion Bay, followed shortly thereafter by a hunk of chocolate walnut fudge.

The corridor of asphalt through stands of welcoming pines near Kenora.

Waiting and waiting for the Prairie to say “Hi” west of Whiteshell Provincial Park in Manitoba.

And then …

A jolt of lightning touched the twilight horizon to the west, turning the length of a horizontal cloud a brilliant orange.  I turned south towards Steinbach as the storm hit.  Wipers on high right away.  Couldn’t see the ditch.  Barely saw the middle yellow line.  Slower and slower. Tailgated by some two-eyed monster.  And I was happy (really).  I was so engaged in life.  I knew that my guardian angels would see me through.  The Frantz Inn was on Highway 62, east of Steinbach.  All I saw ahead was darkness.  Had I passed it already?  I pulled off onto a gravel road and stopped.  A phone call to the hotel revealed that I had a kilometre to go.  And so to the parking lot.  Gas gauge reading = 0.  “There you go, Bruce.  Yesterday’s fantasy came to pass.”  I raced for the lobby and was immediately soaked.  After the paperwork, I ventured back out to get ta-pocketa off the trunk rack and into my room.  Since there was a lull in the liquid action, the task was accomplished sweatlessly.  Thank God.  As I re-emerged from the building to get the rest of my stuff, the hurricane had recommenced.  I threw my body into Scarlet.  And there I sat, for at least half an hour, as the rain threatened to destroy the windshield.  But I was safe.

Whew.  Life in Manitoba is lots of fun.  I mean that.  May I be so vividly alive for the rest of my life.

Day Two … NBD

It was a long day – 12 hours on the road – but miracles beckoned me left and right.  Small, dark blue lakes with expanses of white lilies.  Two Mennonite women riding their bicycles in long flowered skirts, one with a helmet over her bonnet.  Towering slabs of vertical rock, turned pink in the early evening sun.  Life was so big.

And then there was Bruce Mines, a tiny town on the north shore of Lake Huron just east of Sault Ste. Marie.  I thought it was pretty special that they’d named a place after me.  And there’s a sign for Bruce Bay!  Gosh, I’m everywhere.  Even though I couldn’t see any further evidence of Bruceness as I drove through, my rich fantasy life kicked into gear.  What if there’s a Bruce National Bank?  Or “Get your oil changed at Bruce’s!”  Or  Bruce’s Family Restaurant.  I bet they were all hiding just a block off Main St.

Along the north shore of Lake Superior, with its grand vistas and mini-islands, the road swooped, dropped and climbed.  I could feel my body move with Scarlet as we floated along at the speed limit – 90 kph (55 mph).  I got very excited when I looked in the rear view mirror to see a semi-trailer pounding down the slope behind me.  Every 10 kilometres or so, there was a passing lane but meanwhile friendly drivers were on my tail.  I decided to not let them dictate my well-being.  On I went at 90.  Then the passing lane, and the semi would blast up the hill beside me, its huge white mass blocking the entire world to my left.  I loved the power, the speed, the impossibility of that beast roaring past me.  Up and up and up.  I tell you, I just about had an organism!

Then there was my bladder.  I had neglected its needs when I stopped at Pancake Bay for a decadent chocolate peanut butter waffle cone.  They had only one size – huge!  Anyway, there I was motoring towards Thunder Bay with a liquid problem – one was building up and the other was running out.  The arrow on my gas gauge was moving towards the E.  Meanwhile I was discreetly pushing my thighs together.

I reckoned in White River that I had lots of gas and could just zoom on through.  The sign said 85 k to Marathon and Scarlet told me I had 107 left.  Piece of cake.  Surely no self-respecting retired person would stop at the station in White River.  C’mon, Bruce … push the envelope.  So I pushed, in one respect, and contracted in another.  Then another sign – 60 (compared to 80).  More squeezing.  Gosh, this was turning into an heroic quest.  Later it was 25 and 40.  I had visions of 10 k left, 5, 1, and even limping into Petro-Canada on my last fumes, with Scarlet coughing to a stop only feet away from the pump, with the nozzle just able to reach the gas tank.  Ahh.  What would I do without fantasy?  The truth was that the digital display read 18 when Marathon and I united.  That’s okay.  I had fun.

I have to admit that my first stop at the station wasn’t for gas.  I stood at the appropriate spot for quite a long time.  It would be indelicate of me to share the details so I don’t think I will.

This morning, I’m visiting the Terry Fox Memorial before winding my way through the woods of northwestern Ontario to emerge on the Prairies at Steinbach, Manitoba.  I’ll let you know all about it tonight or tomorrow morning.  I hope you’re enjoying my journey.  I sure am.

P.S. 1 … Nothing But Driving

P.S. 2 … 83 seconds, while pales in comparison to my 130 seconds achieved just off the I-75 in Michigan in 1990

Day One … Riding On The Wind

I’m off to Western Canada and to all the joys that await me.  I’ll be sitting in the living rooms of many fine people.  But not until Friday.  Before I get to Henry and Louise in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, there’s a big chunk of Ontario to meander through.

I left at 4:15 this morning to give me lots of time to reach the Chi-Cheemaun ferry that runs between Tobermory, Ontario and Manitoulin Island.  My first adventure was in the dark near Lucan.  Two baby raccoons scampered onto the highway, their four eyes shining in my headlights.  They must have been terrified to see those two big white things.  I slammed on the brakes and watched as my sudden friends threw themselves back into the ditch.  Someone behind me in a big vehicle was following too close and came within a couple of feet of crushing my bicycle ta-pocketa, who was hanging from a rack behind Scarlet’s trunk.  Oh my.  Thank you Jody, and other blessed beings for keeping my bike and me safe.

Up the Bruce Peninsula I floated at the speed limit.  Pass me if you need to.  I’m tired of going fast in life.  Such beauty all around me.  More and more coniferous trees until the water revealed itself in Tobermory.  I didn’t get much sleep last night so coffee and breakie was a relief.  And then, in a newly alert state … “Wow.  I’m on a road trip.”  Out and about.  Neither here nor there.  Following my nose, not to mention my map.

As the ferry left the tip of the Bruce Peninsula, I leaned over the railing on the top deck and found myself in a conversation with a lovely woman named Lori.  She and her two kids are on a vacation from Kentucky.  Lori is so hoping that they all get to see the Northern Lights.  Yes, may you see the shimmering green sheets in the sky.  Lori is also determined to get her son and daughter away from their “devices”, to have them gaze in awe at the water, the lights, the meadows and the trees.  To just stop, look and listen.

I told Lori about my wife Jody, about her presence in the trees and about the book I wrote about my dear one.  She was happy to receive a copy, and wiped away a tear or two.  Then it was family lunch time in the cafeteria so we said goodbye.  During the last few minutes of our talk, I became aware of another entity, one that was hovering nearby.  A single seagull followed us on our voyage.  For at least 45 minutes, I didn’t take my eyes off him or her.  The birdacious one sometimes came as close as five feet, checking me out with his right eye,  Then he’d swoop down towards the water.  After that he’d wheel high above the ship, but always returned to be nearby.  There were about 15 people on my high deck and perhaps 30 on the one below, but aside from a kid or two, no one seemed to notice our local acrobat.  Texting, reading, talking … all good things, but the curled wings working the winds was mostly an unseen miracle.  Such a loss of the present moment.

Maybe I’ll be an athlete gull in my next lifetime.  I sure was taken with this virtuoso flier.  It felt like there was a link between the two of us.  I know, you could say that he just wanted food, but I’m sure it became clear after a minute or two that I didn’t have any.  And still the seagull stayed.  I was glad.

Within ten seconds of the announcement asking us to return to our cars, my friend was gone.  Just poof!  Oh, the mysteries of this physical life.

This is fun.  I hope I have Internet access every day during the next six weeks so I can tell you what my eyes see and my heart feels.  Tomorrow I venture along the north shore of Lake Superior, visit the monument to Terry Fox, who fought so hard to run across Canada for cancer research, and finally lay down my head in Thunder Bay.  See you then.

Love Floats By

In the late 80’s, I was a waiter at a fancy restaurant in Lethbridge, Alberta.  I was engaged to Jody and loved her very much.  But I loved another woman as well, not sexually but as friends.  Marianne worked at the restaurant too.  One night a group of us went out dancing after our shift.  And I got to dance to “The Lady In Red” with Marianne.  We were quiet together, just holding each other.  It was tender.

It’s been at least ten years since I’ve seen Marianne.  She’s married and happy in Lethbridge.  I phoned her a few months ago to tell her that I’m coming west this summer and that I’d love to see her.  Answering machine.  And in the weeks that stretched away … no response.  So I phoned again.  Answering machine.  No response.  And that scenario has repeated itself several times.

Do I let Marianne go or show up at her door?  The Buddhist in me says to let her go.  She’s on her path and it looks like it’s not going to intersect with mine again.  But then there’s the part of me that wants to thank her for being kind to me all those years ago, and wants to hang out again.  I don’t know what to do.  I’ll be in her neighbourhood for four days.  How strange it would feel to not even try.

There won’t be a resolution in my mind tonight.  I’ll just let the discomfort and uncertainty sit there … all the way to Lethbridge.  There’s no right answer to this.  My love for Marianne is still there.  Maybe her response is not important.  Maybe what goes out from me is all that matters.  What comes back is through the grace of God.