Drugfree Overnight

Another fine concert yesterday evening and another late night, what with the subway ride home to my hotel.  I dabbled on the Internet for thirty minutes or so but then it was time for sleeps.  I thought I did my usual pre-bed routine but I missed one crucial thing: taking my sleeping pills.

I’ve been on Trazodone and Lorazepam for many years.  I didn’t handle the stress of teaching very well.  It was common for me to get no sleep at all on Sunday evenings, so scared was I about the tasks of the week.  So my doctor first prescribed one pill and later she added a second.  They’ve helped a lot.

The stresses after retirement just changed their tune.  I was caring for my dear wife Jody as she declined towards death.  The pills remained.  Now I’m officially a retired human being with greatly diminished worries.

So … last night.  I just forgot.  The few times this has happened before, I’d be awake again within the hour and trudging to the medicine cabinet for relief.  This time I slept for about four-and-a-half hours.  How is this possible?  A cold turkey event and still my brain slowed into slumber.

Here I am post-shower and pre-breakfast.  I feel a bit rough but the shower helped.  Now what do I do?  Wisdom suggests that what I experienced overnight was the worst of it all as I contemplate weaning myself off those little round things.  I could try skipping the Lorazepam tonight to see what Trazodone by itself can accomplish.  Later I could cut those pills in half, and then … nothing.  No pills.  Me.  Bruce Kerr.  Sleeping medications have been part of me for so long.

I want this.  I want to be free.  I don’t want to be dependent on anything or anyone.  I want a loving relationship in my life, but the word I see there is “interdependent”.  Can I let the pills go?  “Yes” is the quiet answer that rises to the surface of my mind.  Most likely with considerable discomfort but really I don’t know if that’s true.

I want to be healthy
I want to live a long time
This is one piece of the puzzle
Here we go


A Toronto Day

I’m living in an exquisite hotel room, all white and maroon, with a rain shower (square 7×7″ head) that I love standing under.  I’m sitting on the comfy couch, tapping out the words while the downtown sun splashes through the sheers behind me.  I have a sanctuary.

Yesterday I had fish.  I went to Ripley’s Aquarium to see a lot of swimming life.  The best scenes for me were:

  1.  A huge cylindrical tank of small fish, all hovering in mid-water until some unknown leader suggested a course change and the school responded
  2. One little fishy person who seemed to tread water, sitting vertically in place, its mouth doing deep breathing exercises
  3. A gaggle of blue eels, wrapped around each other, with each head looking shockingly like a human face, complete with a variety of expressions
  4. Standing in a tube with sea creatures meandering by to my left, my right and above.  For a long while, I stood in place, waiting for a toothy shark or the flat mass of a manta ray to pass right over my head
  5. The “Ray Bay”, a huge aquarium full of rays.  Some would approach the wall of glass and climb straight up, their undersides apparently revealing a big smiling mouth

I rode the subway here and there, remembering my daily trips from home to the downtown campus of the University of Toronto.  90% of my fellow passengers were connected – that certainly wasn’t part of my memory cells.  I reminisced about how I used to watch people by gazing at their reflection in the window beside me, and I followed suit.  Such stealth!

I was also jolted by the speed at which most people walked … definitely a sprint.  Oh yes, and then there’s escalator etiquette.  Stay on the right side if you want to stand, and watch the flow of humanity beat you to the destination.  A fellow told me yesterday about climbing a narrow escalator in a Toronto mall, just room for one person at a time.  He had chosen to stay still.  The woman behind would have none of it, apparently.  It must have been an effective body check as she squeezed past him.  (Sigh … and no thanks)

One subway station had two large posters that saddened me:

Don’t want to make eye contact?  Read a subway poster

Thinking of suicide?  There is help.  Let’s talk

My second concert in two days was a pretty loud affair, featuring four brilliant musicians: lead guitar, bass guitar, piano and drums.  I enjoyed seeing them express their craft.  But I wanted more quiet stories about life … my definition of folk music.  The highlight for me was when a woman joined them on stage and sang of a place – Aille, I think – and the love that happened there.  The song and the voice were haunting.  It was far and away the highlight of the concert for me.

I wanted to tell the artist how her performance had moved me.  At the break, I looked for her and saw that she was engaged in conversation with the pianist the whole time.  After the whole shebang was done, I sought her out again.  She was talking at the bar to a woman who had sung a song with the band during the second half.  And they kept talking.  I kept standing in the background.  I wanted to thank the Aille inspirer but I didn’t want to share my appreciation with the other person being there, because that woman’s performance didn’t reach me.  How strange.  I was determined to contribute to the first lady without diminishing the second.  How much of my desired contact was the ego speaking?  I don’t know.  Finally, as they continued chatting, the voice inside me said “Let her go, Bruce.”  So I did.  And off into the night …

David Francey

Off I went on the subway last night to the first of my three concerts at Hugh’s Room, a small folk music venue. One of my musical heroes – David Francey – was the reason for the evening.  I was given a table for one tucked into a corner at the back.  I had a great sightline to the stage and “back” was actually pretty close.  I arrived really early because I had made a dinner reservation.

As people started coming in, I looked at them.  Almost all couples (sigh) and hardly anybody as old as me (no sigh).  Lots of laughing, lots of hugging … the room was bright and sweet.  I sat back in my little alcove and smiled a bit.  The universe was flowing along as it was meant to do.

A couple maybe in their 60s took their seats at the table in front of me.  She was on the left and he on the right.  I didn’t see them touch.  As David began singing, the gentleman leaned his head way to the right.  At first, I concentrated on maintaining the tiny window I was left with, but later I let in the distance between man and woman.  I urged them closer in my brain but that was not to be.

At intermission … how wrong I was.  My unknown friends shared large smiles.  He put his arm over her shoulder and she rubbed that arm lovingly.  And so my persona as keen analyst of the human condition frittered away.

In front of these two was a waist-high wall.  Beyond that towards the stage, the seating was lower so all I could see of those folks was their heads.  During the break, I saw a grey-haired fellow right at the front, looking ahead.  A woman was leaning the back of her head against his back.  How lovely, I thought.  Just the type of relationship I enjoy observing.

How wrong I was.  It was a trick of the eye, my view of this couple.  In fact, they weren’t a couple.  They weren’t even at the same table.  She was leaning forward, talking to her friends.  Gosh, a fellow can only be wrong so many times.  Can’t he?

And then there was David’s music.  He creates word pictures that any human being can relate to … all the emotions that bubble up over the course of a lifetime.

The joy of youth, as revealed in the song “Paper Boy”:

And my feet flew in the morning light
Racing the dawn as the sky grew bright
And everything in the world was right
When I was a paper boy

The angst of teenage passion (“Broken Glass”):

Saw you standing in the cafeteria line
I’d have given the world just to make you mine
Saw you at your locker, in the high school hall
And it didn’t take a minute for my heart to fall

The loss of love (“The Waking Hour”):

She was once my heart’s delight
My need and my desire
She was my day, she was my night
My water and my fire
And I was once the same to her
When we still walked together
But the heavy heart at the waking hour’s
Expecting heavy weather

Thank you, David, for your humanity
And the same gratitude for my fellow audience members

On The Rails Again

Well, not quite.  It’s 10:16 am and my train for Toronto leaves at 11:00.  I’m an early bird in the London Via Rail station and wireless is working.  It’s a two-hour trip and I’ve decided to sit at the window with my laptop on top of my lap, and just record what I see and what I think about it.  Sort of stream-of-consciousness.  I bet it’ll be fun!

Only about ten passengers waiting and it looks like all of us are attached to our electronics.  No meditators in sight.  Outside, it’s a sunny day with some fresh snow.  Should be a February wonderland as we float over the fields and through the woods.  See you in an hour or so.


Okay, it’s me again.  We’re rolling across farmlands lightly dusted with brilliant snow, just east of London.  The flags are flapping madly … guess that will mean major wind chill between the towers of downtown Toronto.  My search for deer has begun.  Hope springs eternal.


I think of Jody’s words:  “I am all trees, Bruce.  I welcome you everywhere.”  And here’s a woodlot with bare branches reaching to the sky.  All trees.  My wife.  I can see through the lot to the field beyond.  I love vertical things.  They remind me of Spirit.


The train’s whistle seems far away.  Takes me back to my childhood, sitting on the porch of grandpa’s farm, listening to his stories, while a steam locomotive crosses right to left a couple of miles over the fields.  How easily I slip into the past.


We’re stopped in Woodstock.  Three old railway cars painted orange are on a siding, welcoming visitors to the city.  Murals include rolling fields, an ancient locomotive, and animals wearing sunglasses peering out from their train windows.  Very cool.


Now it’s a tunnel feeling.  The land is sloping upwards on either side of the tracks.  My nearby horizon is filled with the silhouettes of deciduous trees and sumac bushes.  Sculptures against the sky.


A Brantford residential street floats by.  Some fine old homes, large and small, facing the daily schedule of trains.  Do the residents become oblivious to the noise?  How well would I deal with transient eyes evaluating my porch and yard?


Now we’re parked at the station.  A high metal freight car sits to my left.  Suddenly my train starts reversing madly!  Faster and faster.  My mind knows that this isn’t happening but my heart’s not convinced.  Finally the track to the left is clear as the freight train pulls ahead.


I yearn to write about wildlife spotted but alas, nary a wolf or chipmunk so far.  The truth wins.  Maybe there’ll be no outside creatures on this trip.  A huge part of me wants to see life out there.  But you can’t always get what you want (so says Mick).


A highway parallels us.  The cars are going faster than the train.  I want it to be the other way around.  I want to come first!  But another part of me is welcoming the way it is.  I wonder how many facets of me there really are.


There’s a field of yellow school buses.  Just think of all the kids those vehicles have transported over the years.  And so many of those children are now adults.  So many stories in those lives.


Now we’re in an industrial park.  Big trucks backed up against loading docks.  A huge pile of broken concrete slabs.  Rectangular buildings that all look the same.  And a tall rectangular smokestack that looks like it’s from a science fiction movie.  No human beings in sight.


Onwards from Oakville to Toronto.  I pass lots of backyards full of kids’ toys, a few covered swimming pools, back porches for talking.  Here’s a schoolyard with remnants of snowmen.  Parking lots full to the brim.  An American flag draped over the railing of a deck.  Now fancy condos, more vertical than horizontal.  A sleeping golf course drizzled with snow.  Back to industrial and pastel graffitis, such as “Loser Shop”.  Huge earthmoving machines with their massive buckets … and I realize I don’t even know what to call them.  Steam shovels?  Front end loaders?  Clearly, I would be left far behind in any construction conversations.


The friendly announcer says we’re ten minutes away from Union Station in Toronto.  Time to shut this post down.  Thanks for being here.  It has been fun.

Personal Training

I worked out with my trainer today.  Marcin pushes me a lot and this afternoon was no exception.  We’ve decided that I need to be “fierce”, absolute gritting-the-teeth determined to complete all the reps.  I seem to growl inside towards the end of most exercise sets.  And I’ve never experienced myself as a growler.  At times since Jody’s death, I’ve let myself fall into “poor me” … a woefully weak energy and lack of engagement with life.  Strength training brings me back from that malaise.  Today Marcin wanted me to do bicep curls with a 45-pound bar.  I tried the first rep and nothing happened – the bar stayed at my waist.  I was appalled.  Marcin, however, was unperturbed.  “I’ll help you get the first one up.”  And he did.  Then I got going, with the occasional wee bit of help from my very fit friend.  “I’m doing it!  How is this possible?”

I’ve had enough of comparing myself to others and finding the composer of these posts wanting.  So Marcin and the other well-muscled gents in the gym are on their own path of development.  I’m on mine.  Sure, he assisted me some with that bar, but look what I did – 45 pounds.  Not so long ago, I thought 20 was an achievement.  I want to be strong.  When I’m 80, I want to be mobile.  I’m on the way.

Meditation brightens the moment, often with a sublimely peaceful energy.  Lifting weights also focuses me on the present, but with a completely different energy.  I’m so happy that I have both in my life.


I’ve decided to create some vacations for myself.  Two months ago, with no lovely woman in my life, I decided to go to Toronto for three days … alone.  No sense in just sitting at home and sighing.  So tomorrow morning, I’m riding the train, then staying in a hotel downtown, then going to three folk music concerts over the next few days.  There’s no way that I’m going to relegate adventure, discovery and joy to the past.

So off I go.  I love the window seat, looking out at the world without having to watch for traffic.  Searching for deer in the fields that lie far from any road.  Watching for the treasures that show up in backyards and industrial sites.  Other worlds.  I hope someone cool sits down beside me and that we have a groovy conversation about life.  And the train can be my vehicle for all this wonder.


I’ll let you know about tomorrow when tomorrow is done.

Jodiette Fifteen Months Later

My dear wife Jody died in November, 2014 and here we are in February, 2016.  How I still miss her.  I remember our walks, our talks and our cuddling.  I remember her wonderful smile.

I’m alone in our home now.  And I’m just getting comfortable with the words “my home”.   Every morning and every night, I stand in front of a photo of Jody that I took in Quebec City in 2008.  We’re in a restaurant and she’s looking at me with love.  Now I moisten the index finger of my right hand and press it to her lips.  “I love you, Jodiette.”  And the answer comes, “I love you, Bruce … very much.”

We still talk  every day and no doubt some people wonder when I tell them that.  It’s okay.  We all have our own perspective on what’s real.  “I’m here, husband.  I want you to be happy.  It’s time to find a new love.  I’m cheering you on.”  With my wife’s urging, I’ve signed up for the dating website Zoosk.  I’ve had one date with a happy woman and we’re going out to dinner next week.  Time will tell.

I don’t cry for Jody every day.  I’d say it’s about two out of three.  My eyes fill with tears when the moment beckons.  The timing is unpredictable.  Many times, instead of getting choked up, a little smile crosses my face as I think of my dear one.  We had our joys, we had our problems, and always we had our love.   Thank you, Jodiette, for staying with me, for continuing to love me.

New chapters will reveal themselves and Jody will journey through them with me.  I’ll be able to give myself fully to whomever emerges as my future love without Jody looming over the new relationship.  But my wife will be with me always.

I was in Wimpy’s Diner a couple of days ago for breakfast.  Kelly is a waitress there and we had a good talk.  I had given her a copy of Jody’s book.  She told me that her young daughter saw Jody’s picture on the cover.

“Mommy, her very beautiful.”

After Kelly told the girl our story, the wise one said, “Her more pretty now that her an angel.”

Thank you, little girl.  You’re so right.



Jane Siberry

I listened to Jane Siberry at the Aeolian Hall in London last night.  She’s a Canadian singer-songwriter who goes her own way.  She has refused to adjust her songs so they’ll be more commercially acceptable.  She’s raised money for her own record label instead of bowing down to the profit-first demands of corporations.  It’s quite the breath of fresh air just reading this.  More so when she walked onto the stage.

Jane sings of love and Spirit:

I love you, yes I do
I love everything about you
I love how you laugh in your sleep
How you smell of roses when you weep
I love your style
your wide-open prairie smile
Hide not your light under a bushel


Marjorie works the diner
At the five and dime
Making sure that no one feels alone
She’s famous for her kindness
And her Solomon’s advice
But if you saw her on the bus
You’d not look twice


Oh darlin, only touch the things that turn you on
Let whatever makes you dark and dull and drained be gone
Even if people criticize you and say you’re wrong


The heart is worn on her sleeve.  Sometimes, the midst of a gorgeous tune and lyrics, Jane started talking to us, in a stream-of-consciousness fashion.  She laughed a lot.  At one point she said, “I guess you’re used to a break.”  She usually pushes on through to the end.  A woman who’s totally herself … no apologies, no arrogance, no pretense.  It was lovely to see.

Jane was embarrassed to talk about us buying a CD at intermission.  Still, she offered us an “ambassador CD”.  “Give it to someone who might be interested in my music.”  Buy one, give one.  So cool.

There was no announcement of the last number.  Jane just said something like “That’s it.”  After we absorbed this message, almost all of us rose for a standing O.  It was well deserved.  Once the applause had settled, she simply said “I’d like to do an encore.  None of this going offstage and then coming back on.”  So she sat down at her piano and gave us more of her soul.  Easily remembered, this Jane Siberry.

Behind The Bus

Wharncliffe Road is in London, Ontario.  It’s a busy four-lane street with no left turn lanes for a stretch of eight blocks or so.  Many years ago, I sold life insurance and was on Wharncliffe every working day.  After getting stuck several times behind cars that were turning left, I created a rule: “Stay in the right lane.”  It worked pretty well, except for the occasional bus making its stops.  Being an upwardly mobile young businessman, I learned how to zip back and forth to avoid all pausing vehicles.

I became a driven (so to speak) salesman, looking for every advantage on the road and elsewhere.  No wonder I needed medication for high blood pressure.  Go, go, go!  Be better.  Push.

But is this really a wise way to lead a life?  I’d say not.  Today I experimented with another choice.  I was on Wharncliffe, naturally in the right lane.  Up ahead I spied a bus and my hands contracted on the wheel.  My index finger lurked over the left turn signal.  Somewhere inside, though, there was a quiet “No”, and my digit returned to the wheel.  The bus was slowing, with its right turn signal on.  I nestled in behind and came to a stop.  My lips were pursed, protesting such unusual behaviour.  Isn’t faster the way to go?  “No” again.  I scanned the sidewalk for the number of bus boarders.  “No” once more.

Mr. or Miss Bus Driver pulled away from the curb and we were off again … at a sedate pace.  There were no cars coming up in the left lane.  I could easily have moved over but I chose not to.  Slow as it goes.  No tailgating either.  And then we were coming to a stop again.  This time my heart was pure and calm.  We’ll get there when we get there.

And so our journey together unrolled until I turned off on Duchess Avenue.  Bye, you calm bus.  Hello, you calm Bruce.  Nice.


Blinds Down

Here I am in the St. Thomas Public Library, plunked down in my favourite chair.  Across from me are five windows fifteen feet high.  I love looking out at downtown.  Except I can’t right now … five translucent blinds are pulled all the way down.  I see the vague basics of the heritage building across the street but the brick is a mystery to me.  Two men are in chairs in front of those windows and I’m choosing not to intrude, not to raise the blinds.

There’s a flatness inside of me.  I like long views.  I like expansiveness rather than feeling I’m inside of a cardboard box.  The world outside is tantalizingly close but its rich details are lost.  Now I’m looking inside some more.  I’m sad.  I want the light to shine in, to touch me.  I’m sitting quietly as I type, feeling the contraction.  On one level it’s all okay.  It’s just the phenomena of life saying hi.  But it’s not the phenomenon I want.

I love window tables.  I love sidewalk cafés.  I love the sun on my face … and on my food.

During my long meditation retreat in Massachusetts last fall, we had a late afternoon sitting in the hall as the sun was falling to the horizon.  More tall windows.  One day, I was thrilled to feel the sun as I sat with my eyes closed.  It slowly moved across my body, increasing in intensity, plateauing and then declining.  And then it was gone.  Ahh … like the journey of life.

A few days later, I had just sat down, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the sun.  Another yogi walked over and closed the blind.  I was devastated.  However, my Buddhist training had taught me to let people be, unless what they were doing was hurting others.  I couldn’t say that the closing of the blind was damaging me.  But I was sad.  Most days thereafter, one yogi or another would close that blind.  Only occasionally would the light and heat touch my eyelids.  (Sigh)

Little darling
I feel that ice is slowly melting
Little darling
It seems like years since it’s been clear

Here comes the sun
Here comes the sun
 And I say, it’s all right

Singing and Crying

I love golf.  I love women’s professional golf.  Yes, the women are pretty but more importantly they let themselves be human beings on the course.  Many of them smile, celebrate and interact with the fans.

Last week I learned of an event that started in 2014 and is played every two years: The UL International Crown.  Women pros have a world ranking system.  In July, the four best female golfers from each of the best eight countries will compete against each other near Chicago.  If the Crown was held today, the countries would be South Korea, United States, Japan, Taiwan, England, Sweden, Thailand and Australia.

There’s never been a competition like this in professional golf, where you get to represent your homeland.  In the men’s game, there’s the Ryder Cup every two years in which teams from the United States and Europe face off.  In the alternate years, the President’s Cup pits the US golfers against “International” pros, who come from countries outside of Europe.  But apart from the Americans, you don’t hold the banner of your own land.

I read about the inaugural edition of the Crown, which was held in Maryland in 2014.  On the first day, on the first tee, the four Australian golfers stood next to the team from South Korea, and the two national anthems were played.  Soon thereafter, competitors from Thailand and Spain heard their own beautiful music.

Karrie Webb from Australia sang “Advance Australia Fair”.  Good for her.  In a foreign country, surrounded by hundreds of fans, and by no means a professional musician.  It was expression, not performance.

Belen Mozo didn’t sing the Spanish national anthem.  She cried.  I saw the video.  How lovely.

During the competition, flags were waved, cheers were cheered, golfing compatriots were hugged, smiles were beamed, more tears were shed.  The videos blew me away.

I decided last night to be a part of this in 2016.  So I’m going to drive from Union, Ontario to Chicago (about eight hours) on July 20.  I’m staying in the Super 8 Motel in Gurnee, Illinois for five nights.  And I’m going to be walking the golf course with the competitors for four days.

Bring on the joy.  Bring on the anguish.  Bring on the music.