Have I Left Tarandowah Behind?

1.  I moved to Belmont three years ago because I wanted to be closer to the Tarandowah Golfers Club.

2.  I haven’t played a round of golf in two years.

Put those two statements together and the answer to the question would appear to be yes.

Tarandowah is a links-style course that was created from Ontario farmland.  The British Isles are home to many courses carved from “links” land – tracts of wild grasses and sand dunes that separate farmland from the sea.  No ocean resides anywhere near Tarandowah but there are magnificent mounds of fescue grass gracing the rough, along with rolling fairways and over a hundred pot bunkers.  You see very few trees, similar to famous courses such as St. Andrews in Scotland.

I’ve long considered Tarandowah to be a home for me.  A place to walk and feel the land far more than a place to hit a little white ball, obsess over the details of my swing, and judge my self-worth by the number on the scorecard.

I’ve talked to members of the beauty I see, and very few folks seem interested.  “Aren’t the mounds behind the eighth green amazing?”  And then there’s the sublime island of fescue in the the middle of the sixth fairway.  Plus the long dogleg sweep of the par five dogleg left fourteenth.

I keep the fourteenth close to my heart.  An entire wall of my bedroom hosts a mural of the hole, viewed from behind the green.  From that spot, I can see the approach to the sixth, the faraway thirteenth at the very end of the world, and the cavalcade of mounds reaching from the fourteenth tee.  On my better days, I wake up with “Good morning, Tarandowah” on my lips.

Back problems stopped my golfing but those ills are now in the past.  Still I don’t feel pulled to play.  I don’t hit the ball very far off the tee (180 yards) and I’ve never broken 100 at my friend who disguises herself as a golf course.  But I can feel the love affair.  Walking the quiet fairways near sunset is a caress on the soles of my feet.  I love the sweep of the greens – so many dips and dives of a gentle kind.  The curves suggest a woman’s body to me.  I am often in awe.

There’s usually a breeze and it feels good as it permeates my body.  The stroll is slow as the sun declines.  The birds have things to say.  And very occasionally … there is the red fox.  Standing on the thirteenth green, I am alone in the world, far from the clubhouse.  On the mound behind the sixth tee, I turn to see ten holes spread before me.  To be on the high point of land seems right.  It’s home.

Tomorrow is a holiday in Canada – Victoria Day.  She was the Queen of England way back when.  Thank you, Victoria.  I will use your gift to walk the fairways of Tarandowah again, as the day begins its farewell.  Lovers should be together.

***

So the answer is … no.

Consciousness

The field of consciousness stands beyond time, space, or any known dimension and instead includes all dimensions, without being altered by them. The infinite field is omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient and uniquely identifiable as the Absolute … There is no “here” or “there”. There is no “now” or “then”. The totality is equally and permanently present everywhere.

David Dawkins

Alrighty then. Given this immensity, what should I do with my life?

Well, anything that my dear heart desires, while sensing that my mind is in the middle of something vast and timeless. Can I even get my head around a realm that’s beyond time and space? Not really, all that much. But that’s okay.

I have things to do in life, stuff that’s structured within minutes and metres. I better obey red lights and income tax deadlines or there’ll be trouble. But what of the rest of reality? When I’m planning the events of my day, the mind is doing certain things. However, when I’m thinking about someone I love, the mind is in a different place. A very loose place.

Perhaps I’m not just suspended in the huge bubble of everything. Maybe I am that bubble. And there’s nothing outside of that bubble.

I don’t care if I’m making any sense. The bubble is not one of reason. I’m deeply here – in the London Public Library – and everywhere as well. I’m also suspended in everywhen, rather than being tied down to May 18, 2019 at 4:35 pm Eastern Time.

All-present, all-powerful, all-knowing. Not Bruce, but the being in which we all stand. And it’s not a stillness. It’s a moving forward, a being pulled forward into the perfectly unknown. Being at home on the journey.

Could it be that on one profound level there’s no deficit, no problem, no angst? From this space, what can we humans create? What gifts will be given in the coming days? Who is it that we say we are?

It may be simple. We walk together, holding hands and hearts. We gaze into each other’s eyes. We smile.

Soft Venom

I was having dinner tonight at Wimpy’s Diner in London, savouring one of my favourite meals: Philly Cheesesteak.  Lots of beef, roasted veggies, melted cheese, coleslaw and ciabatta bun all decided that my mouth was an inviting target.  I agreed.  But a couple of tables away, there was trouble in River City.

I was reading on my phone about a 16-year-old girl named Jade who has a chance to make the Canadian Women’s Soccer Team for the upcoming World Cup.  I was enthralled with her spirit.  The energy near me in the restaurant was another thing.  A man’s deep voice kept inching into my consciousness.  There was a staccato forcedness as he talked to his female companion.  I couldn’t quite catch their topics but complaining seemed to sum up his presentation.  She said very little in reply.

More troubling was how he treated the young waitress.  It wasn’t blatant, where someone like me needs to confront him.  No, it was more subtle, but the intent was clear:

You’re not really a person.  You’re a thing, an object getting in the way of me
receiving and enjoying the perfect meal I deserve.

My serving friend was shaken, and more than once.  “Why weren’t certain options available on the menu?  The food was … (enter any negative term that comes to mind).  The service was … (ditto).  I’m upset about all this.”  The waitress returned twice with altered plates of food.  No thank you’s were to be found.  There was a low, rumbling grumpiness that wouldn’t go away.  The fellow seemed skilled in halting his barbs just before the onset of abuse.  Actually, though, I don’t think that’s true.  The series of calmly spoken digs at her accumulated to emotional violence.

I chose not to speak to him.  I chose to send love to her.  In retrospect, I should have included him in that love.  I didn’t talk privately to her about him but I did joke with her when it was time to pay the bill.  I told her about a time when I wasn’t paying attention as I had the machine in hand.  I thought I was doing my PIN number but instead I was at the tip part of the procedure.  Just before I clicked yes, I looked down in horror to see that I was about to leave my server $11,000!  Tonight I told the woman standing in front of me that I just couldn’t afford that with her.  We laughed together.

Did I make any difference tonight?  I’m clear that the answer is yes.  Not a confrontation in the spirit of defending the well-being of a teenager.  Not an empathy session with her.  But yes … a contribution.

The Play’s the Thing

How many times in life have I told myself something and then proceeded to do the opposite? Many! I’m so right about something and then in the next day’s breath my vision shifts. There’s a bending here, a flowing rather than a solidity. And I like that.

To supply you with an example, I received an e-mail from the Port Stanley Festival Theatre a month ago, one which waxed poetic about their summer season. “No thanks” was my response. “I have three airplane trips planned and when I’m home I want to kick back rather than stretch out for more.” Now that sounds logical and wise, right? I sure thought so.

Then was then and now is now. I’ve been sitting in the Marienbad Restaurant in downtown London, enjoying a non-alcoholic Heineken beer and yummy portobello penne pasta. Mid-yum, I glanced at my phone … and there was another Port Theatre e-mail. “Last chance!” Without a shred of thought, I started in on picking a package of six plays and what nights would work. Strangely, I was confident that concert dates between plane trips would magically appear, and they did (except for Ed’s Garage, which is on in early August).

I was on a mission and didn’t have a clue what was happening. “They’re all comedies. I hate comedies!” Here’s one about the Donnellys in Lucan, Ontario, and their murdering ways. Or a father and son smilefest. And how about a story of the pastel beauty and ridiculous situations in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia?

Here I am, the proud owner of a ticket for each of six plays, taking me to late August. If one of you wants to go to Ed’s Garage, comment after this post and I’ll send you the ticket.

Oh Bruce, I hardly know ye!

Lighthouse

I talked so much yesterday about people walking by, and not much about the band I went to see – Lighthouse, all fourteen of them.  Started by Skip Prokop and Paul Hoffert fifty years ago, back then there were two keyboards, a lead guitar, a bass guitar, two violins, a cello, a double bass, a trumpet, a trombone, two types of saxophone, a drum set … and a lead singer.  No one had heard of such a thing.  And Toronto was home.

From the front row, I gazed out at two original members – Paul on the far side on keyboard and Ralph Cole right in front of me playing lead guitar.  Ralph looked like my dad and dressed like my dad, in a turtleneck and a conservative suit jacket.  But he rocked unlike any 75-year-old I’ve ever seen!  He made that guitar wail as he pulled the strings to the side and then launched into a flurry of runs.  His face contorted as decades of onstage work came through.  Dan Clancy, the lead singer, told us that Ralph hasn’t missed playing in a Lighthouse gig for the entire fifty years!

Paul beckoned to the crowd with one hand and smashed some notes on the keyboard with the other, as he blasted out Sunny Days with his fellows, to the roar of the crowd.  At one point, just after receiving an award from Mayor John Tory for Lighthouse’s service to music in Toronto, Paul cradled the microphone and thanked generations of Canadians for loving him and his friends.  Clearly it was mutual.

At the back of the proceedings sat a drummer, a young man.  He seemed out of place until I found out who he was – Jamie Prokop, the son of founder Skip Prokop.  As Skip was dying a few years ago, he had two requests: that the band continue to play the songs he wrote, in hopes that they would touch a new flow of young people; and that Jamie take his place at the drum set.  Both have come true.  The furious beat goes on.

I don’t even remember what the final song was, but almost all of us were standing and dancing.  The boys in front of us were loving it.  Over 1100 souls shared joy last night.  The energy in Koerner Hall was immense.

So it was over.  Did we all file out like sheep, us to the back of the hall and the performers to backstage?  No.  I think everybody in the band came forward to shake our hands.  The front row works quite well for that.  I looked into the eyes of Don, Ralph, Dan, Jamie and Paul, one after the other, and thanked them for their music, and for their delight in performing.  Ralph held my hand an especially long time.  Thank you, dear compatriot of my dad.

If Ralph can be so deeply Ralph at 75, surely I can be deeply Bruce at 70

Watching All the World Go By

“Lighthouse is a Canadian rock band formed in 1968 in Toronto, Ontario. Their sound included horns, string instruments, and vibraphone; their music reflected elements of rock music, jazz, classical music, and swing.”

I have proof in my pocket that “included” is really “includes”. In an hour, I’ll be in the front row of Koerner Hall, listening to them rock the house.

I’m sitting on a bench on Philosopher’s Walk, a path I strolled, also in 1968, as a University of Toronto student. Such great memories of open windows at the Royal Conservatory of Music – the tones of violin or voice drifting down. I look up to a glass balcony where I will no doubt be standing at intermission, looking down to a bench once occupied.

People in all their human flavours are moving left to right and right to left before me.

***

Eight runners just zoomed past: young adults, mostly in blue shirts and black tights. Their mouths were little O’s and the heavy breathing sounded synchronized. They were giving ‘er, one of the best parts of life, I’d say.

Now a little boy dressed in yellow, and in a stroller, leading his mom up the path. I say “Hello”. He gives me a sweet smile while she turns away. There is such yinning and yanging in this life.

To the left, just off the path, a grey-haired man gazes at a small sign, in the presence of fourteen trees. It’s a memorial to the fourteen female engineering students who were murdered in Montreal in 1989. His female companion lingers back on the path, looking impatient.

As I type, I hear a woman’s voice coming in from the right. She’s crying. I looked up to see her passing in front of me, laughing with her boyfriend. It’s so easy to get it wrong in this life.

Here comes a portly fellow with three friends. He points to Varsity Arena. “I used to play hockey in there. Our music department team was called the Gustav Mahlers. We were terrible.” The friends smile. Mahler was a Czech composer at the beginning of the Twentieth Century.

I look up. Folks in fancy clothes are on “my” balcony, many of them drinking wine. I’ll share a room with them in a bit. They’re physically above me but we’re all charter members of the human family.

Time to go in. I’ll see you at the break.

***

As I walk to the front of the Royal Conservatory building, a trumpet sounds from above. Windows then and now.

***

I look down from the balcony, down to the twilight trees, down to an empty bench. The CN Tower shines blue in the distance. A couple walk the path hand in hand. All is well.

We Can Change the World

Pie in the sky?
The musing of a fool?
Irrational and irrelevant?

Perhaps not

***

Everyone must leave something behind when he dies . . . Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die . . . It doesn’t matter what you do, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away.

***

It’s the outsiders who change the world.

***

A socially accepted or cultured person can never change society. By change it means something that society has never imagined before.

***

One smile has the power to …

Calm fears
Soften stone walls
Warm a cold heart
Invite a new friend
Mimic a loving hug
Beautify the bearer
Lighten heavy loads
Promote good deeds
Brighten a gloomy day
Comfort a grieving spirit
Offer hope to the forlorn
Send a message of caring
Lift the downtrodden soul
Patch up invisible wounds
Weaken the hold of misery
Act as medicine for suffering
Attract the companionship of angels
Fulfill the human need for recognition

Who knew changing the world would prove so simple?

***

Love people who hate you. Pray for people who have wronged you. It won’t just change their life … it’ll change yours.

***

The world is changed not by the self-regarding, but by men and women prepared to make fools of themselves.

***

I’m just tired of feeling like the way things are is the only way they can ever be.

***

Burn so bright that the world comes to life.

***

No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.

***

I’m not a Starbucks guy. I’m a Dunkin Donuts guy, but I like to pay for the coffee of the other folks behind me in line. It typically costs me less than $10, and makes the other people feel good, but more importantly, it makes me feel so good, and random acts of kindness change the world, one person at a time.

***

When you are told “You cannot change the world”, it is because you are already doing it.

***

Help young people. Help small guys. Because small guys will be big. Young people will have the seeds you bury in their minds, and when they grow up, they will change the world.

***

I believe it’s time that women truly owned their superpowers and used their beauty and strength to change the world around them.

***

We have to raise the consciousness. The only way poets can change the world is to raise the consciousness of the general populace.

***

Kids really have a lot more power than they think they have. They have the power to change the world. And they should know it.

***

You have a mind. And you have other people. Start with those, and change the world.

***

It’s hard to tell the truth
When no one wants to listen
When no one really cares
What’s going on
And it’s hard to stand alone
When you need someone beside you
Your spirit and your faith must be strong

What one man can do is dream
What one man can do is love
What one man can do is change the world
And make it young again
Here you see what one man can do

***

Age, gender, sexual orientation, appearance, personality, money
Do not matter
Do something you love

Hands

Today I took the ferry to Toronto Island for a brunch and concert at St. Andrew-by-the-Lake Church. The pews were facing each other as we started in on our frittata and greens. The woman beside me was probably in her 80s and had the most beautiful white hair. I told her so. Then I looked down at her left hand.

The skin was pale, the wrist tiny. The veins were scarcely visible. I was reminded of the word “alabaster” without really knowing what that means. Her forearm had me recalling fine china. It was a work of art. There was no thought about how wonderfully functional hands are, just the beauty of the shape. I turned quiet.

I sat in the front row to hear thirteen woodwind and brass musicians. I was only three feet from a young clarinetist. I asked her if I was too close. She smiled and said “No”. My new friend often had solos. During her fast runs, I gazed at her fingers flying over the keys. When she played a trill, one finger bounced up and down. I watched her digits spread and then come together. I watched the long bones of her hand appear and disappear. I stared.

Towards the back of the ensemble stood a woman playing the double bass (a really big violin, sort of). Her fingers held the bow so gracefully, and her hand twisted subtly as the bow caressed different strings. The fingers of her left hand almost smashed down on the strings to create the notes, and then would rotate as her vibrato gave us a rich, wavering sound.

Hands in motion, hands at rest. Thank you, God, for creating such wonders.

And now there are mine, tapping away on the phone to make meaning with you. Think I’ll set this device down for a minute and take a look.

Hmm. I know these hands. They’ve been with me for quite a while. I know the veins. I know the scar on my right wrist and smile at its origin. I see where Jody’s wedding ring used to be. Four years ago there was an empty groove in my skin … all gone now. And I do love the long bones.

***

Quite the art gallery – my hands, yours, everyone’s. I think they deserve applause.

The Old and the New

The Toronto subway is such a teacher. I was heading to a concert at the Royal Conservatory of Music tonight when people appeared before me. Foremost were three young adults – two women and a man. One woman especially was immaculately dressed. Her rich green sweater was adorned with a gold pendant. She took selfie after selfie of her and her friends. The smiles looked plastic to me. The other lady was majorly preoccupied with her hair. She brushed back this and twizzled that. Our modern life doesn’t require mirrors. A smartphone will get the job done nicely.

There was nothing wrong with the preening. Still, it seemed like such a symbol of “me” and the supreme importance of what you present to the world. It feels like we’ve been walking down this road for a long time.

The return trip presented me with another cultural icon – the ear buds. After entering a subway car, I sat at right angles to a fellow deeply immersed in his music. I must have been too close, for he soon moved two seats farther away. The recipe for happiness is clear: push Beethoven or Iron Maiden into your eardrums and create an island for yourself. Go away rather than go towards.

Narcissism and separation. Am I missing something here or are these lousy representations of well-being? There must be another way.

Just before the concert was to start in the Temerty Theatre, I felt the call of nature. An usher directed me down the hall, where I came upon a bathroom sporting both the male and female symbols. Was that the handicapped room? A quick scan revealed that this was the one and only washroom. Inside were five totally enclosed cubicles, and the sinks were being visited by both male and female hands.

I smiled at my companions and marvelled at how I was having a hand-washing conversation with women for the first time in my life. This was novel, fresh, simply new. We were striding into the wilderness instead of following a well-worn path. And we were having fun. Together.

I vote for breaking new ground with other human beings. Who knows what magic can happen when we climb up to the summit and gaze upon the vista revealed? Let’s find out.

What I Learned

I just spent five days with eighty open-eyed people.  I was blessed to be in their presence. I knew that I wanted to describe how our time together touched me but I didn’t see the words appearing.  I still don’t.  So allow me to stumble forward into the unknown.

“How am I doing?”  It’s a question that’s haunted me for decades.  It’s so symbolic of my belly button gazing, of looking within, of analysis and evaluation.  At times during the seminar, all of that floated away.  There was service and love, a direction of energy that was out into life, rather than coming from the outside in.  The lowered head in anticipation of incoming danger went on vacation.  The head was high, looking levelly into the eyes of my fellow travellers.

Then all that goodness disappeared.  And then … I was able to locate it again.  I had had an interaction with Patricia, our teacher, in which she asked me a question I couldn’t answer.  I panicked, and blurted out something that sounded halfway reasonable.  Was I touching whatever was just emerging?  No.  I was smashing into a wall that seemed to hide “the right answer”.  No cheese down that tunnel.  I collapsed inside, grew smaller in the badness that I’ve so often chosen as a companion.

The release came as I saw Bruce as a very hard and very small squash ball, sitting on a pillow.  The pain wasn’t inside me anymore.  It was over there, ready to be observed.  In the watching, I came back.  I lost maybe two hours, which is a marked improvement over two days.

The next thing was that I wanted to talk about the process.  I’ve had a couple of coaching sessions with one of the members of the Evolutionary Collective, and she was at the seminar.  I sought her out and told of the journey.  The “going toward” rather than the “turning away” was a revelation.  The mouth opening and disclosing instead of staying jammed shut.

Then there’s the experience of rhythm.  I’ve had this naïve thought that someday I’ll graduate from my pain, and will be this totally together human, emitting a stream of love at every moment – no challenges, no interruptions.  Ha!  Good luck.  Partway through our togetherness, one of the teachers was experiencing a feeling of separation from Patricia.  I had seen this woman as a shining light, and I still do, just not one who’s swimming in perfection.  If she sometimes trips upon the path of life, surely I have the space to do the same.  I can accept my periods of smallness and find my way back to a largeness that touches the world.  Superman … no thank you.

The rhythm of being also showed up in our daily movement sessions.  In one exercise,  we were being “moved” by our partner.  She would flick my wrist, and I had three choices: to let my arm nudge back in response; to exaggerate that reaction – throwing my arm up and staggering backward; or to resist the touch.  Refusing to be moved was so painful.  Refusing to let another influence me.  What remained was a totally right and totally alone piece of armour.  No give.  No take.  No life.  How the body teaches!

The word isn’t just “influence”.  It’s mutual influence.  Despite my moments of rigidity, I’ve often felt the gifts of others coming towards me.  On the weekend,  I saw more clearly that I influence them as well.  Such a long life before I started to let that one in.  I go into the future, perhaps two steps forward and one back, fully capable of giving in a way that allows receiving.

I matter
I love
I act
I change the world