Ecstasy

I’m having appointments up the ying yang – fun lunches and suppers, maintenance for both of my cars, and yesterday a complete physical from my dear doctor Julie.

I was in the waiting room before being called into the inner sanctum when I decided to check e-mails on my Samsung phone.  It was just me and a young woman with her infant son.

Oh, look.  A message from the president of the Elgin Theatre Guild.

“I spoke with the director of Jake’s Women and he is coming to ETG on Monday at one o’clock to audition a child for the play.   He says if you want to be here too he will audition you too!!! 

As they say in short speak … OMG!  I’m bouncing up and down on my chair and my companion is checking me out, with a smile.  Seems to me that I had a pretty good one myself.

I had hoped that the director would give me an audition during the one week I’m home in September, between my Western Canada trip and my long meditation retreat in Massachusetts.  But now?  OMG again.

I was just beside myself.  Well, actually not, since the chair was empty, but you know what I mean.  “What’s true, Bruce?”  “I am Jake, in every sinew of my U-shaped body.”  Strangely, I’m not nervous.  I suppose the fellow will have me read a few paragraphs of something, make me stand on my head, sing a little number … Who knows?  It doesn’t matter.  In the words of a martial artist, “Just put yourself on the mat.”  So I will.  Pray for me please, if that’s your way.  If not, just close your eyes at 1:00 pm and chant “Bruce”.  Okay, you don’t have to do that either.

I’m Glad I Did It

My life has been a flurry of activity the last few days.  Not exactly in tune with the meditative fellow that I see myself as.  But it’s good.

First there was SunFest.  I wanted to dance.  There were times after my tendon transfer surgery in 2003 that I thought I’d never dance again.  Last Sunday, though, I threw my body around for three hours, spaced out over the afternoon and evening.  Fast dancing, usually surrounded by more than a hundred other revellers.  I occasionally thought of my right foot.  “Bruce, you’re putting too much pressure on it with all your gyrating!  There’s a screw in that foot, you know.  If you don’t stop, you won’t be able to walk in five years.”  Or … “Bruce, you’re going golfing tomorrow.  You’d better forget dancing at the 10:00 pm show, and rest up.  Otherwise you won’t survive eighteen holes of walking.”  Such a small, squeaky voice.

I danced at the last show, once more to the group “Five Alarm Funk”.  Go ankle, go!  I gave ‘er, joyously, and then limped to Hugo, my Honda CRV.  The next day was hot and humid on the links and the whole body suffered.  As for my golf swing, it was a thing of … (something).  But I love Tarandowah – the rolling fairways, the deep bunkers, the tall fescue grass in the rough.  Despite my pain, I knew I was home.

Yesterday I limped, but I still went out to lunch with a friend, and to dinner with another.  Weeks ago, I had e-mailed all sorts of folks, asking them out for a meal, since I wouldn’t see them again until January.  I’m now in the home stretch of social engagements, with my estimated time of liftoff for the west being next Tuesday.  I’ve loved the conversations.  I’m certainly not tired of people, but I’m tired.

All good things, these dancings and golfings and yappings.  They make me happy.  Even my feet are singing a wee little bit.

Passion for the Music

I leaned on the front of the stage at SunFest last night.  Eight feet away from me was a cellist, a member of the Ukrainian quartet Dakha Brakha.  Here’s what the program had to say about them:

Three striking women in white wedding dresses and tall black Astrakhan hats … harmonizing in mighty steel-tearing Ukrainian white voice, two band members pounding drums and the third digging into a folk-pattern-painted cello with massive abrasive energy, plus a male singer wielding accordion and trombone

Indeed.

To be so close to a woman who closed her eyes, threw her head back and sang unknown words was a marvel.  She held her cello between her knees at an angle rather than straight on.  She played some incredibly high notes and would slide her finger down for the next one, creating a mournful wail.  Again with her eyes often closed.

To see those women in their embroidered dresses, wearing many loops of large grey beads around their necks, and to feel the power of the drums … Wow.  Some kind entity allowed me to experience the driving beat and the tender ballads from a few feet away.  I’ve had so many intense moments over the last month, usually with music, and I feel my heart continuing to open and stay open.  Something is happening to me.

Dancing

Long ago I ruptured a tendon in my right ankle and ended up on crutches for 17 weeks.  Jody and I went to a New Year’s Eve party that year and after dinner I sat watching couples swing and sway on the dance floor.  I love dancing.  Jody loves dancing.  It was hard.

SunFest started last night.  It’s the world music festival in London that’s expected to draw 250,000 people to Victoria Park.  Soon after I arrived, I wandered over to the beer garden, where a group from Colombia was moving and grooving.  So were about a hundred dancers in front of the stage.  I stood just outside the fence and watched.  Most of them were young but certainly not all.  Pockets of friends grooved together.  A fellow in his 70’s dipped and dived to his wife, who moved a bit and smiled a lot.  One young woman near me gyrated in a delightfully sexual way, her purse on the ground in front of her.  The wild abandon and the sensible caution … sounds like a human being.

The leader of the band told the group to “Get down!” and 200 legs obliged.  Then it was hands to the sky.  So wonderful to see all those upraised arms – full self-expression.  I stood there fascinated.  All that energy.  All those smiles.  What life should be about.

After the Colombian folks were done, I meandered down the paths of crafts booths, knowing that I would make my appearance on the dance floor a bit later.  One of the kiosks held some marvelous creations from Bali, Indonesia.  And there it hung on a wall … a wooden plaque hand-painted, revealing a human being in full lotus meditation posture, one leg tucked into the other.  And in vibrant colours were the seven chakras, or energy centres, in the body.  Actually, the crown chakra is above the head.  I just stared, and brought out my MasterCard.  My heart danced.

Speaking of which, it was time to head back to the beer garden, and to the music of Five Alarm Funk, nine guys from Vancouver sporting a drum set, three guitars, bongo drums, saxophone, trumpet and trombone.  Hmm … guess I missed somebody.  The music was loud, raucous and so very danceable.  So we did.  I found myself next to a young woman and her boyfriend.  I heard “Hi, Mr.Kerr.”  Ten years ago, she was an elementary student at the school where I taught a blind child.  It was weird and yet wonderful to dance my heart out next to her.  Little kids grow up.

For awhile I threw my arms everywhere, but as the folks packed in tighter, my movements became vertical.  I tried moving my feet in a spastic sort of way but I had to stare at them to keep from crushing someone else’s foot.  When I mustered up the energy, I bounced for a bit, arms flopping at my sides.  Finally, my bodily organs told me to calm down or my days on the planet might be numbered.  Come to think of it, my days are numbered, bouncing or not.

I sweated and strained and joyed in living.  The folks around me were mostly young and radiant, but there were two fellow grey hairs off to my right.  Thank you, God.  Thank you, Jody.  Thank you, O powers of the universe, for letting me dance again.  It’s such a part of me.  And hey, maybe during SunFest 2035, it’ll be me and my walker showing those young’uns a step or two!

Johanna

All I wanted to do was buy some sheets and pillows.  Sleep Country delivered my new bed today but I hadn’t acted on accessory purchases.  Actually, the bed’s not for me.  It’s for my guests Renato and Geraldine, who are coming to live in my home while I roam the continent on various adventures.

I had been thinking Walmart for the extras.  Gotta save a few bucks here and there.  But as I drove into London today, I realized that I wanted my visitors from England to have the good stuff.  So I opened the Sleep Country door and walked in.

From a distance, a woman in her 60’s said hello.  A real hello.  As we talked about bedding, I felt a great peace wash over me.  This wasn’t about sheets.  Johanna was just sitting there … being.  We talked about Vancouver, where she’s from, and where I’m heading to in August.  But this wasn’t about walking in Stanley Park or strolling down Robson St.  My goodness, what was happening here?  Her stillness became mine.  Lovely.

Johanna said that there’s nothing she wants to achieve.  She’s done that.  Her daughter urges her to get out into the community and attend events, meet people.  But Johanna feels no need to do that.  She wants to be with her family, loving them.

Johanna told me that many angry people walk into her store.  They want service, they want product, they want to pay and go.  I saw sadness in her eyes as she shared this with me.  After awhile, when we had discussed the different qualities of duvets and the merits of bamboo sheets, we didn’t have much to say to each other.  Words were necessary for the transaction but we didn’t need many to be with each other.  I asked her if she would like a copy of the book I wrote about Jody.  No, she didn’t want one.  And her choice to not receive our story was so very peaceful for me.  Johanna has written her own story in the many moments of her life.

I came
I bought
I melted

Spirit in the Afternoon … Spirit in the Evening

I’m in Toronto this weekend to draw closer to God, Spirit, Essence, Love … whichever word you choose.

After lunch yesterday, I headed to the Tibetan Canadian Cultural Centre on Titan Road.  How did I know it was there?  Well, the hotel I was staying at displayed The Toronto Star at the front desk, and the Weekend Life section’s front page had an article entitled “Hometown Tourist: Tibet”.  We readers were directed towards the best of Tibetan culture, religion, restaurants and shopping.  And I found myself directed to Titan Road for the 80th birthday celebration of the Dalai Lama.  Someone is taking care of me.  And I bet her name is Jody.

As I walked towards the centre, I saw families gathered under the trees, many of them dressed in Tibetan dresses and robes.  Happy faces in the shade.  Colourful prayer flags were strung between the branches, and were lifted by the breeze.  At the entrance stood two eight-foot prayer wheels, which folks were turning clockwise.  The adults tended to rotate the wheels slowly but when it was the kids’ turn, the symbols on the cylinders blurred in the spin.  Both were perfect expressions of God animating our world.

Inside, after a few minutes of looking around, I came to the conclusion that I was the only non-Oriental person present.  And it was a good feeling.  Not once did I feel excluded.  I sat down with hundreds of others to hear Tibetan music and listen to speakers, all in a language I didn’t understand.  It still felt like home.  A woman had graciously offered me a chair near her family.  Later in the afternoon, there was a buffet spread out on a few long tables, and people started lining up, including several monks in their red robes.  A woman approached me and in English invited me to join the line.  She had such a big smile.  I couldn’t help return it.  One male server kindly warned me about the sauce I was about to glob onto my noodles.  “Very hot.”  So I took just a bit, still enough to attack my innards for a few hours.  Oh well.  When in Rome …

I wandered around the room, looking at the homemade posters on the walls honouring the Dalai Lama.  Many of them were done by kids.  Here’s a quote from His Holiness:

The planet does not need more “successful people”.  The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds.”

Amen.

***

Last night, I sat on the steps of the Metropolitan United Church in downtown Toronto, becoming friends with Andrea and David.  Hundreds of us were waiting for the doors to open.  Krishna Das had come to lead us in two-and-a-half hours of Sanskrit chanting.  We sang the names of God in a huge sanctuary framed by tall stained glass windows.  Krishna would sing a line such as “Om Namo Bhagavaate Vaasudevaaya” and we would send it right back to him.  Just as earlier in the day, I didn’t know what the words meant, but the speaking of them touched the core of me.  As we chanted, I was often lost in love.  Sometimes the music sent my arms and legs into spirals and rhythms.  At other times, I was perfectly quiet, head bowed, just listening to the choir.

Where did those hours go?  I don’t know.  Strangely, I didn’t feel the urge to pee, or to shift my bottom on those hard wooden pews.  Lost in a lovely space.  And Jody was right there with me.  Thank you, Jodiette.

At the end, many people, including David, walked up to the front to say a word to Krishna.  I saw David wait patiently as Krishna talked to other people first.  And the man of the hour was so gracious … smiling, hugging and posing for photos with his new friends.  The Spirit is alive in him.

“The man of the hour”?  Well, that’s really not right.  In the afternoon and in the evening, each of us – male or female, young or old – was the person, not of the hour, but of the moment.  Such a huge family.

High Five

I went to the celebration of Canada’s birthday yesterday, in a leafy and meadowy riverside park in London.  Here were my highlights:

1.  As I sat in front of the stage grooving to a 13-year-old girl belting out the tunes of Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra, along came a white version of Star Wars’ Darth Vader.  He was on a unicycle, pushing his young son in a stroller.  A tall post came up from the vehicle, with our Canadian flag flapping madly as the pair of them zoomed by.  Then they returned to listen to the young diva.  I was awestruck.  He had such presence, such a shining light among thousands of spectators in their lawn chairs.  The gentleman was creating vivid memories for the boy.  Well done.

2.  As the next act came onstage, with their high-energy beat, up walked a skinny guy wearing baggy bluejeans, T-shirt and a glittery green hat, complete with flashing lights.  He wasn’t a handsome man.  But oh, could he dance!  Didn’t give a hoot about being the only dancer or about the huge glom of onlookers.  The big smile on his face said it all.  And that’s what makes people beautiful, I’d say.  Well done.

3.  A muscular man in a white T-shirt rushed towards Cheryl Lescom, the last act of the night.  They talked briefly.  His little boy was lost.  And the pain was everywhere on his face.  Red-shirted volunteers sprang into action as Cheryl announced the disappearance.  Five minutes later,  a young woman in red appeared near the stage, holding Dalton on her hip.  She bounced him gently and talked to the young missing one.  Soon dad was sprinting to the front for a reunion.  Tears hung nearby.  Well done, everyone.

4.  Cheryl Lescom, a blues and rock singer, blasted out her songs for a good hour.  It was great to see someone move her body all around as she sang – a woman probably in her 50s with some meat on her bones and a passion for great lyrics and the power of the voice.  “Proud Mary”, “Me and Bobby McGee” and “The Hippy, Hippy Shake” rocked the park indeed.  Well done.

5.  10:00 pm.  Fireworks that took my breath away.  Huge circular explosions of colour, twisty ones heading diagonally into the heavens, and an rip-roaring finale created thousands of clapping hands.  Jody was beside me, oohing and ahhing with her husband.  “Oh Bruce, they’re so beautiful.  Thank you for bringing me.”  “You’re most welcome, Jodiette.”  I cried.

Five to remember