Holding Your Head

During the year that Jody was ill and dying, her head started tilting more and more to one side as she lay in bed.  How strange that I can’t remember which side it was.  But I know I did my darndest to straighten her head some, so she could eat and drink.  We had a tiny pillow to support her jaw.  I would stand behind my dear one, place a hand on either side of her head, and lift … as gently as I could.  Often this hurt Jodiette, and I withered in response.  Sometimes, though, all went well.  I paused as I felt the weight of my wife’s head in my hands.  Those moments were magical.  Such a precious object to be holding.  A timeless moment.  And such a responsibility.

When I think of expressing love towards someone’s head, I think of kissing first of all … surely one of the great pleasures in life.  Kissing on the lips is such an expression of romantic love.  But kissing on the cheek is sweet as well, whether or not there’s romance in the air.  Such a pure thing.

Once in awhile, I’ve been moved to brush a fellow human’s cheek with the outside of my first two fingers.  Oh my.  Especially to do this in silence, with eye contact.  “You are beloved to me,” so says my hand.  Words couldn’t add to the intimacy.

And then, of course, there’s looking deep into the eyes of another.  Not in the general vicinity of their eyes, but way down into the pupils.  Unimaginable treasures reside in there, especially if we’re willing to hold that gaze with our companion.  Awe emerges.

I’m glad we all have heads.  They’re lovely receivers of delight.


Nothing In My Fingers

I’m written 380 posts in Bruce’s Blog but it feels like I’ve dried up.  Here I am right now creating a post about not being able to write a post.  And that’s not what I want to do.  I don’t want to delve into whatever’s happened to my writing … I want to write – about stuff that’s important to me.

This can’t be the end, can it?  Have I exhausted all topics that interest me?  I sure hope not.  But all writers hit the wall sometimes, don’t they?  And sitting with my silent laptop on my knees for an hour just isn’t it.  Maybe I should watch TV (but I don’t want to).

The voice inside is saying that 380 is a pretty good number, that within all those posts is enough food for thought to please anyone.  But what about the future?  Maybe I’ll go somewhere tomorrow that moves me to communicate, or someone will say something that I just have to share with the world.  But apparently not tonight.

No apologies.  But some regret.  I’ll say goodnight.  I hope we get to talk soon.


An hour ago I sat down with my laptop to write a blog post.  Couldn’t think of a thing.  Fifty minutes later I gave up.  “Read your Stephen King novel, Bruce.  Nothing to say tonight.”

Brian’s dad gave David a strained smile.  There was sweat trickling down his cheeks and standing out on his forehead in a galaxy of fine dots.  His eyes were red, and to David he looked like he had already lost weight … Mr. Ross now had one arm around his wife’s waist and his other hand clamped on her shoulder … David then realized that it wasn’t sweat trickling down Mr. Ross’s cheeks but tears … He realized that he was shortly going to be crying himself.

I’ve spent most of my life not crying, willing my face to stay dry even in the most despairing situations.  All that changed when Jody died.  I’ve cried for my wife most days in the 14 months that her body hasn’t been with me.  Often this happens in the car when I’m alone, remembering Jody’s hand in mine as we floated towards London.

Lately I’ve been crying because I’m lonely and finally ready to look out into the world for a new love.  I go out for meals with friends, partake of a weekly yoga class, and talk to the staff at World Gym.  I contribute.  But so often when I get back home, the tears come, both for me and Jody.

Oh so strangely, my eyes may moisten at the simplest moments.  Why do I start crying when I see:

A mom and young daughter walking up steps towards their front door?

A couple holding hands on the street?

A most likely homeless guy looking for handouts by the left turn lane?

A symmetrical tree looming ahead?

A driver trying to enter the flow of traffic and no one letting them in?

An Asian golfer being interviewed on lpga.com and struggling to express herself in English?

A two-storey house at night, with a light shining from an upstairs bedroom?

9000 fans cheering in a London hockey arena?

Hardly anybody singing “O Canada” at that same game?

Person after person walking downtown with head tilted to their Smart Phone?

An obese woman shuffling down the sidewalk?

Three teenaged girls laughing and poking each other in the mall?

A man sitting alone in the library, tucked into a good book?



Is there something wrong with me?
Or is there something right with me?

Women Golfing

I’ve loved golf for most of my life.  I remember as a kid hitting balls into a field on my grandpa’s farm.  And then blissing out when a nine-hole course opened up a few farms down the road.  I’ve had trouble breaking 100 but there were always a few shots each round that leapt off the sweet spot of my clubface and arced towards the green.

Then there’s computer golf.  I have lots of courses on my laptop and sometimes on the screen I hit it straight and long.  Oh, I have a rich fantasy life.

And of course there’s watching the pros play on TV.  Many exciting down-to-the wire finishes.  Over the years, though, I’ve lost interest in seeing the men play.  Everyone seems so businesslike, so serious.  Nary a smile to be seen.

It’s not like the women are completely opposite to this but still a lot of the female players show their personalities … saying hi to people in the galleries, congratulating a competitor for a great shot, flashing the teeth when all is well, and even sometimes showing a rueful smile when the ball goes out of bounds.

I love women.  Men are fine but in general women are easier to talk to.  Okay, that’s a big stereotype but there’s some truth in it.  On the Ladies Professional Golf Association tour (the LPGA), there are many pretty women, and many nice people.  That’s what I want to see … genuine human beings.

The LPGA season starts tomorrow in the Bahamas.  I’m so taken with a young Canadian golfer – Brooke Henderson – who’s kind, intelligent and attractive.  I want her to do well as she starts her professional career.

The little voice in my head tells me that I’m wasting my time and energy when I wax poetic about women players such as Brooke.  “You have a spiritual life, Bruce, and you’re here on Earth to spread love around, not to walk the fairways at tournaments and watch highly skilled players do their thing.”

The larger voice points to something sweet on the golf course.  The sport mimics the great journey of life … 18 holes of ups and downs.  I want to see the joy on the golfers’ faces, and the sadness when things are falling apart.  I want to see kindness, determination and acceptance.  I want to see life.

I enrolled yesterday in the “LPGA Fantasy Series”, where I pick a team of professional golfers and get points based on how well they do in the real tournaments.  I don’t care about the prizes.  I care a bit about winning the series, as I compete with a few thousand other fans across the world.  But I can handle finishing near the bottom of the heap.  I’m thrilled that I picked players who strike me as being lovely humans.  I’m also happy that so many countries are represented on my team: Canada, USA, Italy, South Korea, Paraguay, Scotland and Spain.  The world community.

All this makes me happy, even though I know that comes from within.  And a happy Bruce touches people.  So thank you, golf, and thank you, women players.  May we all hit it straight down the middle, and be gentle with ourselves when the ball ends up in the rough.

Lying On The Bench

I wrote yesterday about Gabriela and her determination to finish the 1984 Olympic Marathon.  As I was typing, I didn’t think once about my own marathon experience.  How strange.

Sometime in the early 80’s, I ran the Calgary Marathon … well, part of it.  Around mile 21, I hit the legendary Wall.  My breathing was still good, but my leg muscles gave up.  They clamped down, harder and harder.  I slowed to a trot, then a shamble.  And then the vices tightened some more.  I stopped in the middle of the road.  When I tried to get going again, I couldn’t walk.  No Olympic heroics here – I was at a standstill, a thoroughly painful one.  And the sadness descended.  How I wanted to complete a marathon.  But it didn’t happen that day.

I trained hard in early 1985 in preparation for the Vancouver Marathon.  I took the bus from Lethbridge, Alberta and was ecstatic when I stepped onto the downtown streets.  I had lived in Vancouver twice and I was thrilled that part of the route followed the seawall in Stanley Park.

The night before the run, there was a carbohydrate loading meal for the runners … plates of spaghetti piled high.  I looked around at my fellow athletes, some of them elite and some just ordinary folks like me.  All those smiles, all that pent up energy, all those months of training now in the rear view mirror.  I was part of something big.  I was proud of myself.

The next day, probably at 8:00 am, hundreds of us were crammed into a downtown street.  Someone fired a pistol and we were off.  I made sure not to go out too fast and soon I was settled into a good rhythm.  People were cheering us from the sidewalks.  Volunteers reached toward me with full cups at the water stations (really Gatorade, as I remember).

Up ahead in my mind loomed mile 20 and the dreaded Wall.  Would my legs say no?  When I got there, they piped up with “Let’s keep going, Bruce.  This is fun.”  So I did.  The breathing was getting a bit laboured and the muscles were moderately tight.  As mile 20 yielded in favour of mile 21 … 22 … 23 … 24, I realized that I only had two more miles to go.  I also realized something else: my chest was hurting.

“Hey, Bruce.  It’s only an inconvenience.  It’s not like you’re having a heart attack.”  Well, I wasn’t so sure about that.  Oh, how I wanted to see that finish line, to accomplish something truly exceptional.

4:12.  As in four hours and twelve minutes.  My arms were up, the crowd was cheering, and I was done.  Actually, very much done.

I was a bit staggery but no big deal.  And no, I didn’t need a massage from one of the volunteers, nor a dip in the hot tub.  I went into some room, changed into my street clothes, hoisted my backpack and walked back out into the sunlight.  I don’t think anyone noticed my unsteady gait.  “Nothing wrong with you, Bruce.  You just finished a marathon!”

I still had three hours before my bus left for Lethbridge, so I decided to explore some of my favourite downtown streets.  In my earlier youth, I had loved strolling down Granville, Robson, Burrard.  Except on that late afternoon in May, 1985, there was no strolling to it.  My chest was banging, my breathing was so heavy, and I thought I was going to fall down.

Up ahead, somehow detected by my blurry eyes, was an empty bench.  I stumbled and flopped onto it.  I was lying on my back … dying, as far as I could tell.  Commuters rushed by and I knew it was true – death was near.  There was no replaying the 36 years of my life, just this great sadness amidst the heart pain.  I was saying goodbye to Jody (my then girlfriend), to other loved ones, and to my life.


Someone was leaning over me, asking if I was all right.  I said no.  “I’m taking you to the hospital,” said the cab driver.  Minutes later, I was on a stretcher in the Emergency Department of St. Paul’s Hospital.  That building was my home-away-from-home for the next two weeks.  As you can tell, I lived.  Turns out I had an inflammation of the walls of the heart called pericarditis.  A month later in Calgary, doctors sent a little camera through a vein, from my groin into my heart.  The verdict?  No permanent damage.

I am so blessed to be alive thirty years later, to have made a contribution to many people’s lives in the time between.  I do believe I’m on this planet for a purpose.  And may that become ever more clear to me.  Just no more running, please.



Since getting home in December from my long retreat, I’ve started lifting weights.  I want to be strong.  My hours of meditation in Massachusetts were often sublime, often other-worldly peaceful.  But doing the chest press at World Gym is bringing something else out of me.

Marcin, my personal trainer, tells me that I need to “explode” on the push and then go slow on the release.  I tried exploding but it was more like a little sparkler catching fire.  Until a few days ago.  Something inside me ramped up.  My lips set tight.  I almost growled.  “I’m doing this!”  And today I did it some more, with a fierceness that I didn’t recognize.  Talk about the yin and the yang … meditation and determination, both lighting up the present moment.

Way back in my brain cells, I remembered a woman staggering to the finish in an Olympic marathon.  The awe from long ago seeped into today.  So I Googled, and here’s what I found:

Gabriela Andersen-Schiess is a former Swiss long-distance runner who participated in the first women’s Olympic marathon at the 1984 Summer Olympics.  Though living in Idaho and working as a ski instructor at the time, Andersen-Schiess represented Switzerland in the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

Fourteen minutes into the 1984 Olympic marathon, Joan Benoit began to pull away from the rest of the pack.  She went on to win in a time of 2 hours, 24 minutes, and 52 seconds.  Twenty minutes after Benoit finished, then 39-year-old Andersen-Schiess entered the stadium.

The crowd gasped in horror as she staggered onto the track, her torso twisted, her left arm limp, her right leg mostly seized.  She waved away medical personnel who rushed to help her, knowing that, if they touched her, she would be disqualified.  The L.A. Coliseum crowd applauded and cheered as she limped around the track in the race’s final 400 meters, occasionally stopping and holding her head.

While the effects of her heat exhaustion were plainly evident, trackside medics saw that she was perspiring, which meant that her body still had some disposable fluids, and let her continue her march to the finish line.  At the completion of this final lap—which took Andersen-Schiess five minutes and 44 seconds—she fell across the finish line.  She finished 37th, ahead of seven other runners.

Oh my.  You can see Gabriela on several YouTube videos.  Infinitely beyond the chest press but really they both have the same incredible intensity.  I think we humans need to express some of that.  And we need to be moved to tears sometimes when others stretch themselves, as thousands of folks were in that California stadium 32 years ago.

Love Entrancing

I went to a movie last night … The Danish Girl.  It’s the story of a young man in Copenhagen who knows that in his soul he is a woman.  He becomes Lili – emotionally, spiritually, and then physically.  The critics are raving about Eddie Redmayne in the title role but I was overwhelmed with Alicia Vikander as his wife.

Here’s what the Palm Springs International Film Festival had to say:

“In The Danish Girl, Alicia Vikander delivers a superb performance as Gerda Wegener, the wife of transgender pioneer Lili Elbe,” said Film Festival Chairman Harold Matzner.  “She projects so much love and pain as she goes on a journey with Lili during an era when there was no precedent for it.  Gerda’s own transformation as a character speaks to the story’s themes of courage and self-acceptance.  For her astonishing screen presence and masterful performance, we are delighted to present Alicia Vikander with the 2016 Rising Star Award.”

Like you, I’ve seen love masterfully presented in many films, but nothing like this.  And for me it’s not about how good an actress Alicia is.  She so thoroughly becomes Gerda that it’s her love doing the speaking.  She continues to treasure her husband as Einar becomes Lili.  She sees their sexual intimacy floating away but doesn’t stop adoring another human being.  Gerda calls her partner “Lili” as she kisses her cheek.  Her face is magical.

I’m going to buy the DVD when it comes out so I can play four or five scenes over and over, to remind myself what loving is.  Many are the times when I felt the same reverence coming from my dear wife Jody to me.  I just need to be reminded … often.

May I again experience the astonishing caring that Gerda gave to her loved one.

Horror No More?

Stephen King is my favourite author.  Yes, he’s a horror guy, but he’s also a master of character development, making them so real that I fall in love, even with the bad guys.  They too have a pilot light of goodness.  Books of terror, such as The Shining and Pet Semetary, have always been enthralling for me as well as scary.

Yesterday I started King’s novel The Regulators.  In the first hundred pages, the occupants of vibrantly coloured vans are terrorizing the residents of a suburban street.  They’ve already killed a man, a woman, a boy and a dog.  Despite all this, I loved reading about the dynamics of the neighbourhood … who’s doing what.  Who’s saying what about whom.

I slept poorly last night.  I’m still pretty dopey.  Stephen, did you have anything to do with this?

I see myself as a spiritual person.  Am I moving towards letting go of the 6:00 pm news, gossip in the coffee shop, and perhaps Mr. King’s depictions of murder?  As for the author, I read fiction and go to international movies to see life vividly displayed in front of me.  I want real people feeling real things.  I want stunning moments between two people.  I want love, sadness, anger … the full meal deal.

No, I’ve just decided.  I won’t stop reading Stephen King.  There are too many “ah hah” moments within those pages, where I recognize humankind, and pause to consider my world view.  To consider what’s important in my life.  To learn.

Bring it on, Stephen.  Teach me.



Are they just lines or is there a hidden glory within them?

1.  A Circle

No beginning, no end.  But doesn’t everything start and later stop?  Perhaps not.  What if there is an essence within me that’s been there since before my parents’ eyes twinkled at each other?  And will be there after the cremation oven warms me up?  And what if there’s nothing I can do to make that essence show up … because it’s always there?  I just have to listen for it.  Nowhere to get to.  Just living in the circle.

2.  A Horizontal Line

No one better and no one worse, despite the kindness and the meanness in the world.  No looking up to someone or looking down at someone.  Young and old.  Male and female.  Physically attractive and plain.  Just folks, all doing their best to be happy.  All to be loved.

3.  A Vertical Line

Being upright in life, neither leaning to the left or right, towards indulgence or asceticism.  Balanced.  Moral.  Not needing to be propped up by any external person or thing.  Unshakeably kind and appropriate.  Doing what I say I’ll do.  Speaking the truth.  Standing up for myself and others.

4.  A Curved Line

Honouring the risings and fallings of life.  The golf ball soaring off the clubhead and then falling back to the earth.  The growing of energy and beauty and the later diminishing.  The climbing of self and the returning to source.  Strong and weak.  Happy and sad.  Embracing the rhythms.

5.  A Triangle

Three people, all loving each other.  Sometimes feeling revered, and sometimes feeling left out.  Opening to relationships beyond me and mine.  Feeling the strength and stability of deep friendship.  Letting the other two take centre stage for awhile.


The power of mathematics is often to change one thing into another
To change geometry into language

Marcus du Sautoy

To Cuddle

Such a great word.

I was sitting in the Family Circle restaurant this afternoon, having lunch with my friend Renato.  He went outside for a smoke and I sat at our window table, watching the snow fall on Wellington Road.

Three women were in the booth behind me.  I thought I heard “cuddle”, one of my favourite words.  So I listened some more.  “I wish we could fall asleep with my head on his chest.”  Oh my.  How lovely.  The conversation wasn’t about sex.  It was about being close.  There was sweetness and some sadness in the voices.  There was a tenderness shared with friends.  It was a privilege to witness this.

How I miss holding Jodiette’s hand as we walked through life.  How I miss rubbing her feet as we sat on the couch watching a movie.  How I miss spooning in bed.  The best moments.  Quiet ones.  Just you and me.

I know that I’ll have cuddling in my life again.  I wish it was today.  Maybe it will be next week, next month or next year.  I’ll smile at the touch.  And cry.