Sniffing and Sharing

I’m sitting in the lobby of a hotel near Toronto airport, letting my newly emerging cold be there.  I have some saline stuff to spray into my nose and some intestinal fortitude to move way past “poor me”.  How strange life can be.

I want to talk to you in Cuba.  I’ve heard that the Internet at Memories Paraiso Azul Beach Resort is sporadic, and that it’s only available in the lobby.  So what?  My strength training has shown me that determination can go a long way.  So you’ll be hearing from me.  Is it unwise for me to promise?  Maybe. But I’ve been unwise before.  It could be fun to go down that road again.

I want to describe what I see on the outside and on the inside.  I want to tell you about cool people I meet.  About dancing in the disco and on the beach.  About Michael Jackson.  About waiters, maids and gardeners.

Time for bed.  Wake up call at 2:00.  Taxi at 3:00.  Fly at 6:15.  Oh my, I’m really doing this.  Tell you all about it tomorrow or Saturday.



Golf Lessons

Yesterday I had my first golf lesson in years.  Today I became a member of Tarandowah Golfers Club in Avon, Ontario.  What did I learn?

1. “Too weak, too inflexible, too old” are just words and need not rule me.

2. Taking the cost of the membership and dividing it by the number of rounds I expect to play in 2016 is an inaccurate way of assessing value.

3.  Old swing thoughts, gleaned from books, have taken up residence in my head.  They may be wrong.  Such as moving farther away from the ball if I’m hitting shots off the toe of the club.

4.  “I belong to a golf club that is stunningly beautiful” is valuable beyond measure.

5.  I can control the swing with my mind.  I can hit off the “sweet spot” of the club without moving my feet back.

6.  I can find other golfers who see the spiritual side of the game, and are willing to talk about it.

7.  “I hit the ball low and to the left” is not a guarantee of the future but rather a description of the past.

8.  Just as I’m surrounded in the gym by well-muscled young men, I will see many excellent golfers at Tarandowah.  Comparisons are irrelevant.

9.  I have the power to put my need for greater distance on the back burner as I focus on the sweep of the grass and the “just right” meeting of club and ball.

10.  I can contribute to the well-being of other members … as a golfer and as a human being.


Follow your bliss

Cuba Bound

On Friday morning at 6:15 am, I lift off.  Well, the plane does, but I’m going along for the ride.  There’s so much I’m looking forward to:

1.  Watching the clouds in their infinite display, plus the land of the Earth way down below

2.  Being on the bus from the airport in Santa Clara as we pass through towns and countryside, plus the 48 kilometre causeway leading to Cayo Santa Maria

3.  Leaning over my balcony at the Memories Paraiso Azul Beach Resort, saying “Ola” to the folks walking on the path below

4.  Reading Ken Wilber and Michael Murphy from the comfort of my lounger on the white sand beach

5.  Dancing down the shoreline at regular intervals

6.  Spending mornings being good to myself: meditation, strength training, cardio and yoga

7.  Spending late evenings at the disco, dancing by myself in an allegedly wild and crazy way

8.  Grooving to the shows at the theatre, especially Grease and the Michael Jackson tribute

9.  Talking to folks from around the world about life and love

10.  Hopefully finding Dorelys, the maid whom I enjoyed talking to last time

11.  Laughing with my servers, and with the woman who serves up delicious smoothies

12.  Going on my one and only excursion – an all day catamaran journey

13.  And most of all … being in a symphony of moments


Here comes the unknown, unbidden and unusual

My Golf … Yesterday

I couldn’t take it any longer.  I had to drive to Tarandowah and walk the fairways.  Since the temperature was 5 degrees Celsius, I didn’t think I’d have company.  But there were five cars gently reposing in the parking lot.  Golf is such an addiction.

I walked into the clubhouse and said hi to Dave, the pro.  I remembered him and he remembered me.  I told him how I loved the course, how I had given up on golf being a part of my future, and how I was going to turn that around.  Now that I’m strength training and doing yoga, why can’t I have a smooth and powerful swing?  What will help is the lesson I’m having on Tuesday with a golf pro in London, a session that may be the first of many.  I’m not letting my favourite sport go.

Something was bubbling up inside me.  It was love of the land that is Tarandowah.  I had to get out there and walk.  Dave said that would be fine.  Not many players today.  (No doubt.)  So outside I went to the first tee.  I must have stood there for five minutes.  I was home.

I walked slowly down the fairway, pausing here and veering there.  The top of a mound in the rough beckoned me so I lingered there as well, gazing out at the beloved hole, plus its neighbours.  And no exaggeration with the word “beloved”.  These holes are my friends.

I loved gazing into the deep bunkers.  I’m so glad that there are over a hundred of them on the course.  On the green, I revelled in the dips and dives and imagined my putter navigating them with ease.  Guess you could say I have a vivid imagination!

On I strolled, pretty much in heaven.  Behind a mound near the fifth green, I found a spot where I could put down a chair, nestle into my book while listening to the birds and the nearby golfers.  And no one would see me from there.  I figure I’ll leave that experience for the warmer months, but fear not – I will sit there.

I walked all eighteen holes, experiencing eighteen companions.  Often I was astonished by the beauty.  I knew that I wanted this in my life.  As I left the eighteenth green and meandered towards the clubhouse, I realized that I was going to become a member at Tarandowah, not in some vague future but before I leave for Cuba on Thursday.  Will my lesson(s) give me the confidence that I’ll find people willing to play with me on this difficult course?  Yes.  I’m going to walk these fairways for years and years.  Happiness is …

My Golf … The Course

Can you fall in love with a piece of land?  I say yes.  For me, it’s the Tarandowah Golfers Club near Avon, Ontario.  Years ago, the farmers who owned the property decided that they wanted to build a championship golf course there.  They recruited a British golf architect, Martin Hawtree, to create a masterpiece in rural Southern Ontario.  And Martin came through.

Tarandowah is a links course, which usually means a track by the sea with dry fairways, deep pot bunkers, wild fescue grass in the rough … and wind.  My home way from home has all that, except for waves lapping on the shore.  It’s an environment of the heart for me.  For the first time in my life, I’ve found a course where I love every hole.  All eighteen of them have character, the sense of a unique place in the world.  And there aren’t any condo developments surrounding the fairways … just more farm land.  The content thrives within a context of peace, lingering and birds on the wing.

I would love to get to the point where the score matters not.  Walking on the land does.  Hitting some shots that fly off the clubface and touch the sky.  Finding the out-of-the-way spots between fairways, high points of land where I can see much of the journey through the front and back nines.  A relationship to the earth.

I think of the sixth hole, a honey of a par four with an elevated tee and a big mound of fescue in the middle of the fairway.  That’s not a mistake.  It’s an opportunity to see that life throws us lots of curve balls.  A fine drive that ends up in six inches of grass.  A hard fairway that turns a “down the middle” drive into a sideways bounce, plopping my ball into a deep sand trap.

I yearn to find companions who will join with me in seeing the beauty of the holes before having thoughts about the golf swing.  People who will pause in wonder on the tees before smacking the little white ball down the fairway.  Folks who love Tarandowah … and may the score rest where it does.

I yearn to be a member out there near Avon.  To come to the course as the sun rises.  To just sit near the 13th green, way out at the far end of Tarandowah, letting the beauty in.

There are over a hundred deep bunkers.  What if I wanted to spend time in each of them?  Was okay with my ball bouncing into the creek that pops its head up all over the place?  Smiled after my final scorecard count was 120?  Would that be golf?  I think so.

My Golf … The History

Why fight it?  I’m passionate about golf and have been ever since I was a teenager.  In terms of my current spiritual life, the tendency of Buddhists like me is to think in terms of “ascent” – opening to ever more rarified forms of consciousness.  But “descent” is another possibility – seeing the transcendent in worldly activities, in experiences of the body.  Both approaches contribute to my well-being.  So here I am once more descending into golf.

My passion for the game has been under wraps for a few years but I can feel it re-emerging.  For the past few days, I’ve been reminiscing about my past golfing life, and how I’ve seen the sport as symbolic of life’s journey.

As a kid, I spent a couple of weeks every summer on grandpa’s farm near Dunsford, Ontario.  I remember teeing it up near the lane and trying to reach a fence maybe 120 yards away with my drives.  I don’t think I ever succeeded but I sure had fun, even though I lost a lot of balls in the grain.

A few hundred yards down the road was a nine-hole course – the Dunsford Golf Club.  I spent so many hours walking those fairways alone, hitting the occasional shot that felt so pure, so effortless.  I was becoming a human being.

Back home in Toronto, I discovered the Don Valley Golf Course.  Juniors could play early in the morning.  Even earlier, as the sun rose, I usually was scouring the banks of the Don River in search of golf balls.  Once, I walked onto the 18th tee, a par four, having consumed 84 strokes in my round.  A bogey five and I would break 90 for the first time in my life.  The river crossed in front of the green.  After my drive landed fine in the fairway, I stood over the ball.  I was nervous.  Put the ball into the drink and there’d go the milestone achievement.  Instead I swung smoothly and watched the ball soar onto the green.  Two putts later, I had an 88.  Never since have I broken 90 … but the future beckons.

Even way back then, I loved watching the professionals play.  I’ve stood behind Jack Nicklaus on the tee in Toronto and Calgary, watching the ball continue to climb.  One time I stepped on Gary Player’s ball, happily in a practice round.  I’ve seen the majesty of St. George’s Golf and Country Club in Toronto.  More recently, I’ve followed women pros as they navigated the rolling fairways of my hometown London Hunt and Country Club.  Usually in a blissed-out frame of mind.

Golf is in my genes, I guess.  A resonating part of my life for so many years.  Yes, it’s been underground for awhile but you can’t keep a good sport down.  On I go into a journey of rediscovery.

Home In The Arena

I made it to Erie, Pennsylvania in just under five hours.  The US customs guy told me to enjoy the game.  Just what I was planning.

After a brewski and sandwich at the Erie Ale House, I walked towards the arena.  Just like in London, fans were streaming in from the side streets.  People were excited.  I sure was.  I couldn’t wait to sit beside Erie fanatics and tell them I was from London.

And that’s what happened.  I sat beside John and Sharon from Jamestown, New York.  Just in front of me was Sondra, a cowbell-ringing season ticket holder who was taking in the game with her husband.  All four of them were decked out in bright Erie Otters jerseys – red, yellow and white.

I told my cross-border friends about Canadians singing the American national anthem on Friday.  Her response?  “We always sing ‘O Canada’ at the games.”  (Almost all of the teams are Canadian.)  So I decided to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” two nights in a row.  An awesome quartet led us in the songs but we five gave ‘er too.  Great fun.

My companions razzed me about the London Knights always getting favorable calls from referees.  I told them I was deeply sorry that Erie would be relegated to second place after London whipped them.  Back and forth with the banter.  Most importantly, back and forth with the smiles.  When Erie was struggling in their own zone, Sondra would yell “Get it out!”  Naturally I countered with “Keep it in!”  Oh we laughed.

Erie scored the first goal.  All around me Erieites leapt to their feet and poured out the contents of their lungs.  I sat and gave a good pout and in return was offered a high five … which I accepted.

Then London scored!  I too was up like a shot, cheering and waving.  I looked around at my neighbours.  Most were smiling at me.  I didn’t want to be an ugly Canadian but I did want to celebrate.

Erie’s arena seats 6500, smaller than London but at least equal in energy.  How they love their team.  The Otters beat the Knights 4-2 last night, scoring an empty net goal in the last few seconds.  Erie Insurance Arena erupted in an orgasm of delight.  I just loved being there.  Human beings caught in the throes of joy, at least about 6480 of them.

This afternoon, I drive those same five hours back home.  Am I disappointed we lost the game?  Yes.  Does it matter?  No.  People matter and I met some great ones yesterday.


I was driving into the big city yesterday to work out at the gym when I realized that our local junior hockey team, the London Knights, was playing in the evening.  These young players, ages 16 to 20, were battling the Erie Otters for all the marbles.  The two teams were tied at the top of the Ontario Hockey League standings with only two games left – last night in London and today in Erie, Pennsylvania.

“Go to the game, Bruce.”  Okay, who am I to argue?  Except that I figured all 9000 tickets would be gone.  I’m so glad that, even though my pessimistic voice has its time, I usually don’t agree.  So … I found a parking space within a block of Budweiser Gardens (Magic!) and strode towards the box office.  My hostess, after conferring with her computer screen, said, “We have one ticket left, sir.”  Oh my goodness!  I took it with considerable glee.

Hours later, there I sat in the arena heavens, not caring at all that I was miles from the action.  I was in the building and that was enough.  I wanted to experience  all those folks cheering for the home side.  I wanted to feel the energy, win or lose.

Before the opening faceoff, a gaggle of little kids trooped onto the ice for the national anthems.  As their leader swept into conducting, the children started “The Star-Spangled Banner.”  Off key and loveable.  And then … the voices stopped.  The young’uns either got too nervous, forgot the words, or something.  Silence.  But only for a few seconds.  What happened next will stay with me for the rest of my life.  I would say that a few thousand of us Canadians picked up the melody and ran with it.  We sang our neighbours’ song.  No Canada/US good/bad silliness.  Just kind people who didn’t want to leave the kids hanging.  Truly a wow.

The game was stunning.  And London won!  I sprang from my seat at every London goal.  Joy flooded the arena.  Ahh.

And now there’s one final game, tonight in Erie.  If the Knights win, we’re league champions.  If we lose in overtime, we’re still champions.  If Erie wins in regulation time, they’re the top of the hill.

As I drove back to Union, my mind exploded.  “Go to Erie tomorrow, Bruce.”  But there won’t be any tickets left.  (Sounds familiar.)  “Drive the five hours there.  Get a hotel.  Go to the game!”  I bet you can see where this is leading.  There were a few single tickets left.  Check.  The Albion Hotel, just a few blocks away from the Erie Insurance Arena, will welcome me.  Check.  I’m all gassed up.  Check.

Within half an hour, I’ll be on the road.  I love it.  Tomorrow morning, I’ll tell you more about my epic quest.  Much fun.

Jody’s Clothes

My dear wife died in November, 2014.  That December, I walked into our closet with the finest intention of getting her clothes out of the house.  I lasted half an hour.  I kept finding articles of clothing that I loved seeing Jody wear, many tops and pants that I’d washed with tender loving care.  So I walked out of that closet.

Then there were fifteen months of co-existing with Jody’s clothes, trying to block their presence from my mind.  That didn’t work.  A glimpse here, a glimpse there … a memory here, a memory there.

A few days ago, and again today, I began again.  Still a few tears but it was easier.  I slowly folded each of Jody’s things and laid them in large transparent bags.  They gazed at me from within.

Jody loved colour.  Right now I’m looking at a pair of funky pants in a jungle motif.  The greenest of leaves and the reddest of orchids interspersed with lions, tigers and leopards – all looking quite fierce.  Jodiette was in her element wearing this explosion of energy.  And here are soft flannel jammies, adorned with sheep brimming with wool against a pastel blue background.  Even when she was sleeping my beloved was a fashion statement!  Finally for your inspection is a vibrant top that looks like a patchwork quilt.  No pastels here.  Instead there are deep shades of purple, pink and green, with strands of material standing up beyond the surface of the garment, highlighting gay flowers.  Oh my wife.  That’s so you.

This afternoon I took five full bags to Goodwill.  It makes me smile to imagine the expressions on women’s faces when they find Jody’s treasures.  They’ll wear them well.  My dear one is happy.

Beyond The North American Norm

I sat in a theatre this afternoon watching Michael Moore’s latest film Where To Invade Next.  It wasn’t about war and keeping the world safe for the American way of life.  Instead Michael visited Italy, France, Finland, Slovenia, Portugal, Iceland, Norway, Germany and Tunisia in search of best practices – things that those countries are doing well.

Often, when Michael was sitting with a business leader, government official, educator or just plain folks, he’s tell them how things are often done in the USA.  In those moments, the movie was a study in astonishment.  I very much enjoyed looking at the quizzical facial expressions.

Here are some highlights:

Italy – Employees get eight weeks of paid vacation plus generous wages, and work fewer hours than we do.  When the owners of a factory were asked why they don’t keep more of the money for themselves, one of them replied, “Why would we want to be richer?”  They were committed to the happiness, and thus productivity, of their workers, who typically go home at noon for a two-hour lunch.

France – Elementary students eat three-course meals in the cafeteria.  When Michael showed a few of them photos of a typical American school lunch, their pained expressions said it all.  Plus no Coca-Cola, thank you.  The kids were happy with their water.  Lunch takes an hour and is also an opportunity for teaching the value of balanced nutrition.

Finland – There’s virtually no homework in the schools, no standardized testing, and a commitment from staff members to teach the children how to be happy.  School days are relatively short, with the students encouraged to explore interests and socialize with their peers.

Slovenia – University is free, even for foreign students.

Portugal – Drugs have been decriminalized and the focus is on rehabilitation for the users.  Police officers talked about the importance of human dignity.

Norway – In one prison, inmates live in cottages and wear their own clothes.  In a maximum security facility, the culture promotes caring about each other.  Prisoners working in the kitchen have access to knives, and no one seems concerned.  Guards don’t wear guns.  “Talk is our weapon.”

Iceland – Women are well represented among government and business leaders.  In the aftermath of the country’s economic collapse in 2008, the bankers whose actions precipitated the crisis were convicted of crimes.  No bailouts.  Many jail terms.

Germany – The Holocaust is remembered, not swept under the rug.  Public art includes replicas of notice boards with anti-Jewish messages, such as requiring Jewish folks to sit only on the yellow public benches.  Discussions are held in classrooms, acknowledging inhumane Nazi actions.

And … in one of the countries, the young people receive sex education focused on relationship, giving and receiving pleasure, and on effective birth control.  Michael suggested the possibility of abstinence.  The female teacher didn’t see the value of that choice.


It was a jolt of a film, dissing various forms of ethnocentrism in favour of people-centrism.  A you and me world.  I like it.