Singing Voices

I went to a concert last night featuring Judy Collins and Garnet Rogers.  Judy was a folk music icon in the 60s and Garnet sang beside his brother Stan on many a stage in the 70s.  Both have thrived as performers ever since.

Garnet opened the evening with several songs, great stories all.  That’s what I usually glom onto but yesterday it was the voice.  Garnet has a deep baritone. The Aeolian Hall has renowned acoustics.  And the sound guy was brilliant.  The result was my mouth opening in wonder as Garnet sang.  The vibrations coursed through me.

Soon it was Judy’s turn and she picked up right where he left off.  Her glorious soprano reached towards the vaulted ceiling.  And her face was so soft as she sang.  Once more my whole body was silent as the melodies enveloped me. Time stood still.  I stood still.

The grand finale was a duet … Garnet and Judy singing Stan’s “Northwest Passage”.  Such an anthem of exploring northern Canada and the interior spaces of a human being.  Stillness squared.

Thank you for the music.

Not Too Bad

I study words.  I study the way people speak.  It’s a strange hobby but I like it.  In the spirit of glasses being half full or half empty, I look for how I want to express myself face-to-face or on the computer screen.  Life has its share of suffering for all of us but I wonder if our words can uplift the world.  Of course they can.  We simply have to choose.  Even in the heat of the moment we can enhance or diminish.

Today I’m reflecting on phrases that are termed double negatives.  Not just one deficit thought aimed at our fellow man, but two.  Let’s take “No problem”.  That phrase is meant to be a positive but there’s something subtly sinister hiding under the surface, I think.  How about “Good” as an alternative?  That feels better.

Here are some other word groupings that can invade our psyches:

1. Not insignificant
2. I do not disagree.
3. I can’t hardly believe …
4. Less unhealthy cigarettes
5. There is hardly no worse challenge.
6. I am not, no way, ever going to help her.
7. Congress decided not to refuse to delay the vote …
8. I’m not saying he isn’t honest.
9. I choose to not allow negativity to seep away at my soul.

Am I just talking the rules of grammar here?  No.  I choose to put positive energy into the world and therefore I’m vigilant about the words I use.  May I never be hypnotized by convention.

Waiting

In an hour, I’ll walk into a restaurant for my second date with a lovely woman.  We had great fun the first time and no doubt tonight’s conversation will be well punctuated with laughs and smiles.  That’s certainly what I want in life.

Here I sit, bathing in uncertainty.  That little smile comes back to my lips again.  Perhaps we’ll become a couple, perhaps not.  Both are fine.  It’s possible that she’ll come to Cuba with me in three weeks – possible but unlikely.  But hope springs eternal.  I’ll have a wonderful time down south whether I’m alone or walking beside a companion.

This feeling in the moment is sublime, actually quite sweet.  I’m just sitting with the unknown, open to whatever the universe will provide.  There’s big space inside me.  My taps on the keys are slow and gentle, sort of a caress.  I’m in the library, sitting across from a young couple who are speaking in a language I don’t know.  They’re tender with each other, in tone of voice and facial expression.  It fits well with my reverie.

How come I’m not nervous?  I don’t know but it works for me.  Whatever happens tonight, I’m back in the game of relationship.  I’m moving towards a future of being with, doing stuff together, holding hands.  It’s time.

Jody is right here, cheering for me.  Thank you, Jodiette.  Life truly goes on.

Two Men

I was having breakfast at a restaurant this morning and the TV monitor on the wall facing me showed Washington, DC.  There were uniforms, a band, fluttering flags … one of which was Canadian.  Our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, was visiting Barack Obama.

The two of them strode to the podium.  They stood still, not speaking.  The sound was off but I knew what was happening: the band was playing our national anthems.  I was moved.

First of all, it was just two human beings who stood before me.  Each doing their best in life to be happy.   Then it was two men, not puffing out their chests and uttering a Tarzan call, but instead being in the moment.  Then it was the leaders of two nations, with all the responsibility and heartaches that this entails.

I was glad to be watching.  I felt a part of it.  I’m no less nor more than the brothers I saw.  And I say “brothers” knowing that the two leaders have policy disagreements, differing personalities and divergent histories.

Justin and Barack walked over to a small crowd of onlookers who stood behind a flimsy barrier.  They walked down the line, shaking hands with young and old.  I smiled.  I also gulped.  My brain created a memory of Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas.  1963.  Smiling faces greeted a smiling president as his motorcade proceeded down Elm Street.  The rest is history.

Many times in my future life, I will stand beside another person.  May I be present for the humanity near me, glimpsing the beauty within, thanking my lucky stars that I am not alone.

What’s True?

On my way into London, I pass two parked semi-trailers, a kilometre apart.  They’re both advertising the same hotel in Ingersoll, Ontario.  The first one announces that you’re only 25 minutes from soft beds, yummy food and the pleasures of a spa.  That time just doesn’t compute in my brain.  The second one says you’re 10 minutes away.  That seems about right.  But there the two of them sit, one truthful and the other clearly lying.

How often do I assume that a sign, a newspaper article, or a radio news item is accurate?  Often.  Seeing or hearing it somehow makes it legitimate in my mind.  I don’t have the energy nor the time to delve deeply and find out if the truth is being spoken.  I just go along.

A celebrity says X, and does so with a convincing tone of voice and facial expression.  Is the truth sometimes Y?  No doubt.

The Canadian history textbook I studied in high school said nary a thing about how white people often treated natives poorly.  All was fine as the dominant culture spread west, apparently quite heroically.

In Canadian politics, the party in opposition invariably is critical of the governing party’s policies.  Rarely do you hear about good ideas being acknowledged as such.

All this leaves me with a healthy skepticism and a commitment to another source of truth … the intuition that lives within us all.

 

Tanning

I’m going to Cuba in three weeks.  My skin is white.  Down in the Caribbean sun, I prefer that it be brown rather than red.  So off to Kokomo’s I went this morning.  I stood up for five minutes in the Monster bed.  I plan on doing the same every two or three days until I step on the plane.

I’m aware of the health issues but I also remember when Jody and I arrived in the Dominican Republic years ago.  Our first day, we walked a long ways on the beach, wearing shorts and T-shirts.  Jody had missed a spot near her bra strap with the sunscreen and she was in agony for the next few days.  I don’t want to go through that.

As a teenager, I didn’t like my body and certainly wouldn’t expose my virgin flesh on Toronto Island’s beach.  I was even afraid to lie out in the backyard with the neighbours’ windows looming.  So white I was, except for my forearms and lower legs.  But then there came an invitation to spend a long weekend at my friend’s cottage.

Rick had a older sister, age 17, who was gorgeous.  Oh my.  She was going to see my overall whiteness.  Something had to be done.  And the 1960s version of Instatan was my answer.  I snuck the tube home from the drugstore and gooped it on liberally in the privacy of my bedroom.  “Gosh, my feet are white.  Get those toes!”

How did I survive that weekend?  My body was orange and streaky.  Each toe had a little ridge of tan surrounded by a deep paleness.  For variety, my face was red, a condition that had nothing to do with the sun’s rays.  I can’t remember Rick’s sister ever making eye contact with me.

From the age of 20 till 27, I spent most of my summers in the Rockies.  By then the tanning lotion had worn off.  I adopted a new strategy to get the girls.  Hide your whiteness with turtleneck shirts.  It didn’t matter how hot it was.  I was up to my neck in fabric.  One time, a girl yanked down my collar to see what was underneath … the whitest of skin.  (Sigh)  I was a scared little adult who yearned for the brown beach muscles I saw in the ads.  But somehow I still had friends.

Two decades later, I was a member of the London Cycling Club.  And lo and behold, the culture there was deeply tanned faces, forearms and calves.  And I’ll leave the rest of the body to your imagination.  I was in the “in” group, finally.

Sadly (or happily) I now have returned to my roots – a longing for darkness.  And I’m going to honour that request.  Cuba will be graced with sleek brown muscles (courtesy of Kokomo’s and strength training), not to mention gaily coloured Speedos.  I tell you … I’m the whole package.  Nobody’s going to kick sand in my face!

And from Jody: “Bruce, you’re so strange.”

Double Words

I like words.  Today I’m liking words which have two very different meanings, while keeping the same spelling and pronunciation.  Homonyms.  I find the contrast fascinating.

1.  Conviction … being found guilty or being committed

2.  Ball … a fancy dance or an object to throw

3.  Race … a person’s physical imprint or a competition among runners

4.  Pupil … a student or part of the eye

5.  Organ … a musical instrument or part of the body

6.  Volume … how big something is or how loud something is

7.  Date … a day of the year or a rendezvous with romantic potential

8.  Mass … how much something weighs or a religious ceremony

9.  Cataract … a waterfall or an eye problem

10.  Staff … people who work for an organization or a walking stick

***

The thing is … we human beings often look at an object, a person or an event in one particular way.  It means this.  But what if it could also mean that?  Something completely different from our usual perspective.  What if we were open to discovering the infinite amount of thats in life?  Would we not be enriched?

Withdrawal

I’ve been telling myself for the last two days that I won’t write another post until I’m feeling better … but here I am anyway.  I’m weaning myself off the sleeping pill Lorazepam and it’s a tough go.  But having been on the medication for years, why would I expect any different?

I’m faded … dull … not Bruce.  And yet of course this experience is an aspect of me.  My meditation practice has taught me to sit gently with whatever life offers, even when my brain is refusing to work.  Wait a minute – how exactly have I been able to write these two paragraphs?  Perhaps it doesn’t seem like much to you, but to me it’s verging on a miracle.

My recent strength training has focused on being “fierce” and I’m doing my best to bring that quality to my withdrawal from the drug.  Yesterday, the woman who greeted me at a local natural health store told me it might take months for the effects of leaving Lorazepam to subside.  Months!  Fierceness blew up in my face as depression took over.

Today I’m not depressed, just mightily sleep-deprived.  I’m having trouble keeping a conversation going with anyone.  The thoughts seem stuck along with the words that exit my mouth.  And I’m crying a lot.  Without a logical reason, it seems.  And yet what’s logical about sadness?  I’ve cried for a beautiful tree, for Jody, for a new pro basketball player in London who sounds like a nice guy, for a golfer who hit a beautiful shot on TV, for the waitress who called all of her patrons “my dear” this morning.

My body’s not working right in a number of ways.  I’ll spare you the details.  A physio appointment this afternoon, a doctor one on Friday.  Heck, why don’t I toss a psychiatrist into the mix, just for fun?  No, don’t worry, I’ll not be needing a shrink.  I’m rolling through a time of “less than”, and in the big picture it doesn’t matter that I don’t like it.  What does matter is that freedom from sleeping aids is in my future.  Jody, in our daily talks (It’s okay if that’s outside of your reality), says “I’m proud of you, husband.  You can do this.”  And I will.

I guess there are many people who live perpetually in the fog I feel.  How sad.  We’re meant to be vibrant beings who touch each other in many ways.  I fully intend to be back there soon.  For the time being, however, I’m being as gentle with myself as I can muster.  That makes me dully happy.