Dive Deep

I met a woman today, plus her daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter.  I won’t give you details except that she had dancing eyes and a lovely smile.

Afterwards I watched myself create future worlds, centred on the dubious possibility of happily-ever-after.  I’m such a funny duck (not sure if it’s funny ha-ha or funny ooo).  But really I don’t mind my own company.  My mind seems to have a mind of its own and I’ve decided to give it free rein.

I want to be with a woman who’s spontaneous and giddy with life, and if I can’t find such a one then I’ll go with a man like that …me!  With those standards, am I willing to be alone if no one of such ilk comes my way?  Yes.

I can’t control how other folks respond to me but I can choose what I put out into the known universe.  So …

Bye bye shy
Bye bye grumpy
Bye bye woe

There.  That feels better

Boogie through my days
Welcome the yays and nays
See who stays

Joyful On The Drums

Well, it was four nights out in a row – the art gallery and then three concerts.  Yesterday evening I listened to Nagata Shachu, seven performers from Toronto showing us the art and passion of Japanese drumming.  Years ago, I’d heard a similar group blast the skies above the Sunfest music festival.  This time, though, the beat would be within the confines of Aeolian Hall, renowned for its acoustics.  Ear plugs or not?  I decided no.

Most of the artists were young adults and one in particular drew me in.  She had long black hair tied at the back, and a lovely face.  She’d crouch behind her barrel drum, hold the sticks high and then smash them down on the horizontal skin in a flurry of strokes.  One by one, her feet would lift off the floor.  But the best was that face: it burst out in ecstasy.  Shine on, my dear.

I was enthralled.  The other drummers had their own excellent energy, and one guy even donned a cheek-revealing loincloth for one of the pieces, but all paled before my girl.  (Hmm.  Guess I shouldn’t be quite so possessive.)

What are you seeing, Bruce?  Something that teaches.  And not just about music.  What if I lived my life that way, virtually all of the time?  Gosh, that would be astonishing.  To be so “out there” that I would:

Say whatever I felt like saying, knowing that I wouldn’t hurt people
Joke around if I sensed the person was happy to play
Wear a silly costume for Halloween
Sing “Do Wa Diddy Diddy Dum Diddy Doo” at the drop of a hat
Dance down the sidewalk with my loved one
Paint my kitchen red

Oh, bliss
To be thoroughly me
To be thoroughly happy

The Body Speaks

I was back to Hugh’s Room last night, this time to hear Sean McCann, formerly of Great Big Sea, a very cool Canadian music group.

One great thing about Hugh’s Room is that you can have a drink and a meal in the cozy venue.  My choices were a McCauslan draft beer and squid, more tenderly known as calamari.  It was delicious … for awhile.

As Sean rolled through his first set, and I was moving and grooving with him, I became aware of gooey teeth.  It’s one thing to have a healthy piece of spinach caught in there but squid was another matter.  I rolled my tongue over the offending spots but no go for the supreme release.  Discreetly, or perhaps not, I shoved my right hand inside and grinded away.  Nyet.  At the break, I talked to my server Lina about the angst of octopus teeth and she kindly brought me a shot glass full of toothpicks.  Over the next half hour, I used about ten of them.  The epitome of reserve, I retreated to a stall in the men’s washroom and commenced my day surgery.  Goo remained.

Not to be defeated by a sea creature, and feeling a bit queasy, I decided to get some air.  I walked outside to Dundas Street West, turned right, and ducked behind a brick wall, hidden from Hugh’s but open to inspection by the folks walking in the other direction.  A slender piece of wood emerged from my pocket and began its plunging work.  I was a shadowy figure in the shadows, clearly a druggie, or so I imagined people thinking.

Finally … success!  The coast was clear.  Thank God.

Back in the club, Sean was blasting out some anthems to the delight of the packed house.  The woman at the next table was gushing with her remembrance of the lyrics.  She would throw her arms in the air and then clasp her hands to her heart.  Two tables farther, next to the stage, a young woman in red also knew the words.  My angle to her was different – all I could see was the line of her cheek, and the curve was high, suggesting a big, big smile.  And lots of moving parts as the words poured out of her.

Before the break, I was thigh slapping and singing.  Afterwards, something was wrong.  Nausea grew.  I tried letting it be there, like a nice little Buddhist guy would.  Quite something when occasionally I would be all right with the pain.  Even okay with it continuing for as long as it was happy being there.  But then there were all those other times.  “This is bad.  This must end.”

My oomph was gone.  Neighbours rose to their headtops in bliss.  I rolled into a ball.  “Don’t vomit on this nice tablecloth, Bruce.”  Thankfully, I didn’t.  But “this isn’t me.  I’m zestful and vibrant and over the top.”  Except when I’m not.  “Okay.  This is also me.”

The pain eventually led me to drastic action.  Trusting that no one was watching, I pulled up my sweater, undid my belt, let down the fly a bit and replaced my wooly garment.  Ahh.  Or at least a lessening of the pressure.

At the end, folks rose in a standing ovation.  I slumped.  “But you’re always one of the first to stand, Bruce!”  Goodness gracious.  Will you please be quiet?  I’m having a different drummer day.

I feel some better today, just a little sickly.  No more beer for awhile.  And in the spirit of scientific investigation, down with squid and up with salad.  How about that, Bruce body?





I like the way the French folks say it … koo-rawj’.  I need to be that.

When I was choosing the colours for my new condo in Belmont, Ontario, I don’t remember being brave.  I wanted red, blue, yellow, green, teal, purple and reddish brown walls, and that’s what I got.  Some people love it, some decidedly not.  No problemo.

The inside of the front door, however, gave me pause.  My original plan was cream, to match the baseboards.  But day after day I’d look at that door with unease.  No, cream was not it.  So red lives there now.  And I feel a surge of energy from having leapt out of beigeness.

Last night I went to Hugh’s Room to hear Jez Lowe, a British singer-songwriter.  What a sweet guy, full of stories about coal mining men and women, and usually sung with a twinkle in his eye.  I loved his song “The Bergen”, about a woman waiting back in Norway for her love to return from a sea voyage.  But the Bergen sunk off the coast of Scotland.

Sleep, why wake me with these dreams that you bring?
Dreams came to me where I lay
Deep the melody the wild waves sing
My love is far, far away

 Pity the heart, the wild waves part
My love sails the bonnie barque the Bergen

I tried to remember a song of his that used to thrill me, about a gold rush and the speaker’s partner being swept away in a flood.  Jez told us that he wanted to do one long set rather than have a break.  Hmm.  No opportunity for a request.  Except … right now!

“He’s just finished a song, Bruce.  The applause is fading away.  Ask him!  But nobody else is saying anything.  So what?  Do it.  Okay.”

“Jez, will you sing the one about the gold rush?”

“Gold rush?  I can’t remember.”

“The one where his partner died in a flood.”

(?) … … Oh.  I didn’t write that one.  It’s called “Farewell to the Gold”.

“Yes, that’s it!  Will you sing it anyway?”  (Laughter throughout Hugh’s Room)

The song is such an anthem for us humans who deeply want something but it always seems to elude our grasp.  I’ve never heard it sung live and last night was no exception.  (Sigh)

For it’s only when dreaming that I see you gleaming
Down in the dark, deep underground

A bit later in the evening, Jez introduced a song about a guy who was always a pain in the ass to his friends.  Then he looked at me, smiled, and said “Sort of like this gentleman here.”  I raised my arms in the bliss of acknowledgment.

At the end of the evening, Jez announced his final song.  I loved his music and his spirit so I knew what I was going to do as the last chord hung in the air.  I stood and clapped.  Since I was up front, I couldn’t tell if the folks behind me were joining the standing ovation.  It didn’t matter.  Jez Lowe had captured me and he deserved to be appreciated.

On we go in this life of ours

Artsy Fartsy

That’s what an ancient friend of mine used to call herself.  Kath was an art student at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta.  A very nice person.

Yesterday I got to explore some of this world at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto.  I showed up for the “Mystical Landscapes” exhibition.  There must have been 100 paintings created by masters such as Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, Emily Carr, Lawren Harris, Georgia O’Keeffe and Bruce Kerr.  (Wait a minute … that last guy doesn’t fit.  Must be an interloper.)

I consider myself a spiritual fellow.  No doubt I would be moved to tears by all of the works.  But not so.  Only about five paintings hit me.  The rest were too brownish, dark or complex for my eye and soul.  Naturally, that’s just me.  Joe sitting beside me probably saw transcendence where I saw none.

I’ve collected quotations over the past three decades, but usually didn’t write down the name of the author.  Same thing here.  I can’t remember who painted some of the creations that touched me.  Oh well.  Not important.

Exhibit number one was vivid red hills in front of a misty sun, with circles of light emanating from the centre.  So simple.  So red (my favourite colour).  And the power of those circles!  I thought of passion and the possibilities of contributing to my fellow man and woman.

Next was a crew of black coniferous trees against a bright yellow sky.  Such a contrast.  I thought of one of my two favourite words – animation – and how the yellow brought everything alive.  I would like to be that yellow.

Then there was a pastoral background, replete with woods, fields and a meandering river.  The foreground, however, showed a long building with a sandbagged entrance and two soldiers wearing gas masks emerging.  A sickly yellow cloud hung above it all.  Death colouring life.

I do remember one artist’s name – Lawren Harris.  His triangular mountain, plastered with a huge angular glacier, reached to the sky.  Such a symbol of the world beyond the physical.  I was lifted up.

Finally a night streetscape, with twin lines of lights receding into the void.  There was the suggestion of trees to the right and a looming office building to the left.  A bit scary, but not really.  Nature and civilization hanging out together.


After supper, I went back to the AGO to hear Ross King talk about Claude Monet.  He was so funny, not at all like my stereotype of art historians.  Ross told us about Monet the person.  He wanted people to be happy when they looked at his water lily paintings.  His vision was to have six-foot-high images wrap around the walls of an oval room.  And after his death, it happened.  Waydago, Claude.


Next lifetime, I’ve decided to be a master


I’m zipping along beside fields and woodlots, on the train from London to Toronto.  I feel like doing a real time reflection on the sights flowing past my window.  So here goes:

1. Slowly pulling away from downtown London.  The backside of one business is tortured with coils of razor wire, reminding me of horrifying war movies and the real human beings who were imprisoned within such monstrosities.

2. Searching for St. David’s in Dorchester, a school that I loved visiting as an itinerant vision teacher.  I fear that I’m on the wrong side of the train and gaze over the heads of the folks to the right.  But there’s nothing.  I missed it.  I’m a wee bit sad since I love glimpsing familiar places, even if only for a second.

3. It’s a cloudy day and so the spectacular fall colours are muted.  I’m disappointed.  I yearn for the brilliance.  It reminds me of the guy who came to my home a couple of days ago to calibrate my new TV.  He said that manufacturers set up their TVs to really pop in showrooms – neon greens and whites full of blue.  It sells the product but creates an unreality, with precious little play of details.  I decide to take my trees as they come.

4. Orange traffic signs piled against a fence – One Way, Slow, Detour, and a whole bunch of arrows pointing every which way.  It’s such an image of the frantic life … “Go here.  Now go there.  Do this.  Don’t do that.”  No thanks.

5. Seeking interesting stuff.  Having an agenda to find the next stimulus.  “How about, Bruce, if you soften those eyes of yours and just let things appear?”  Okay.  Who cares if I write about six sights, or twenty-six?

6. Here comes a circular water tower – white at the top, then a pinched in blue section, followed by a white bottom.  Seems to be a uniform design throughout Southern Ontario.  I’m reminded of the Belmont water tower.  My new home sits nearby.  Whether I’m returning from the north, south, east or west, there’s a beacon above the trees.  “Welcome home.”

7. A street of houses facing the tracks.  What must that be like?  Would the people there really be able to tune out all the noise?  Please give me quiet.

8. Stopped at the Brantford station.  Rows of tracks.  Houses over there past the fence.  Part of me wants movement, change … but the bigger part just lets everything stay put.

9. A young woman in the seat in front of me is playing with her hair.  All I see is her left hand, with ever moving strands of hair passing between her fingers.  It’s very beautiful.

10. The field beside tilts and rolls.  Where corn used to be are now marvelous curves, sensuous like a woman’s body.  I’m aroused.

11. Towering cliffs with tiny people on the top ledge.  I want to be them, casting myself into a view full of reds, oranges and yellows.  Do they want to be me, on a journey to distant lands?

12. A station called Aldershot.  It appears to be in the middle of nowhere, no homes or businesses in sight.  Just a whole bunch of railway cars.  How strange – a place with no sense of place.

13. Piles of glittering silver junk, fronted by a green metal fence flooded with unknown graffiti.  I don’t know how to make sense of it all.

14. Poking above the fall trees are blocky hotels.  Such a contrast.  I like both, usually not at the same time.  I’ll take action, please.  And now serenity.

15. Twenty minutes from downtown Toronto.  Feeling the pull away from the here-and-now, towards completion of the task … proofreading, pressing Enter to launch my words into the universe, packing up, walking into my next world.

See you there

Actually It Doesn’t Suck

Jody and I bought a vacuum about twenty years ago and it’s served us well.  A couple of weeks ago, however, I didn’t serve it well.  There was lots of construction dust in the house and some tiny wood chips.  Not so tiny as it turned out – I plugged the machine really well.  Finally, with the help of a broom handle and my industrious neighbor Borot, the obstruction was destructed.  “Clear at last, clear at last” (with a nod to Martin Luther King).

Unfortunately subsequent vacuuming sessions were fraught with disappointment, and tiny objects remaining scattered on the carpet.  Virtually no suction.  So off to McHardy Vacuum I trundled.

A helpful young gentleman replaced an interior filter and I was good to go.  Almost.  I mentioned to the fellow that I had another problem.  I couldn’t detach the long wand from the beater bar so I could use the hardwood floor attachment.

“Here, I’ll show you how.  You press this button, turn the wand and wiggle it past the little knob inside.”  Which he proceeded to demonstrate.  “You try it.”  I did.  The wand didn’t.  His turn again … easy as pie.  My turn … depress that button for all I’m worth, grunt a lot, twist like hell – nothing.

The rhythm of watch and learn repeated itself several more times.  The wand wasn’t feeling detached in my hands and neither was I.  I was thoroughly absorbed and obliterated emotionally.  “Breathe, Bruce.  Think nice Buddhist thoughts.”

Finally, in a pause that refreshes, I thought this stuff:

1. I have arthritis in my hand.  I can’t press like I used to.

2. He’s 21.  I’m 67.  Easy for him.  Impossible for me.

3. Let the vacuum go.  Donate it to Bibles For Missions.  Buy a new one.

So … I’m now the proud owner of a Panasonic jobbie.  Lime green and black.  Goes with my bathroom, although I’m likely to use it elsewhere as well.

Gosh, I am what I am.  My body is what is.  And I like the whole thing.

Where Have I Been?

I don’t know.  Somewhere that doesn’t honour the written word.

“But you love writing.”  Yes I do.

“But as someone in your childhood world said, ‘The proof of the pudding is in the eating.’  How can you say you love something if you never do it?”

I wouldn’t say “never”.  It’s been a month, or maybe six weeks.  “Pretty close to “never”, I’d say.  What don’t you just get your rear in gear and be like Nike?”



In the months following Jody’s death, I gave myself little gifts.  One of those was a Jackie Evancho DVD called Awakening.   I didn’t watch it … until tonight.

Jackie has a voice for the ages.  On “America’s Got Talent” she blew the world apart with classical gems such as “Nessum Dorma”.  I remember the energy coursing through me.

So tonight I set myself up for ecstasy.  After all, this is Jackie Evancho.  I had to love the singing and the songs.  There can’t be any other response.  Except there was.

1. The video quality was poor.  Blurry.  And on medium and long shots of Jackie, little white horizontal lines would flicker on her face and arms.

2. Most of the songs were dull, with very little potential for lifting me up.  One reviewer likened it to elevator music.  There were beauties:  “Think Of Me” from Phantom of the Opera, “Made To Dream” and “Say Something”.  But pretty much I was flat in response.

“Oh, Bruce.  Something’s wrong with you.  This is the most beautiful voice you’ve ever heard.”  I agree that Jackie sang sweetly, but where was the soul?

3. I don’t think Jackie was totally “there”.  It didn’t seem like she loved most of the songs.  Her smiles were small.


I should be writing
I should be loving this DVD
I should be happy all the time