Day Forty-One: JT

“Bruce, you’ve been on the go for weeks. Now that you’re in Toronto for a couple of days, wouldn’t it be wise to hunker down on Saturday night, watch a bit of TV … chill?”

So said voice number one. Voice number two had another opinion, however:

“Nah. Get your butt to Hugh’s Room tonight and hum along to classic James Taylor songs at the tribute concert.”

So I did.

I know Kinga at the reception desk at Hugh’s. She took one look at me and searched the list for my name.

“I’m Thomas Cruise.”

“Well, sir, we don’t seem to have a reservation under that name. You’ll have to leave.”

Alrighty then. I whirled around and walked out the door. Utterly pleased with myself, I waited on the sidewalk for two minutes and then reclimbed the entrance steps. Hand on door handle … pull … nothing! Through the glass, I saw Kinga busting a gut. After a pause to let me stew in my juices, she opened the door. Ahh … to be known and appreciated.

James wrote some stunning songs, well worth memorizing. What I didn’t know is that he struggled with depression and heroin addiction. How was he able to create such beauty amid such pain? The human spirit was alive and well in the words uttering forth from the performers. All ten of them loved JT and his music.

Here are some thoughts to live by, to be happy with, to be sad with, to be happy with again:

Shower the people you love with love
Show them the way you feel
Things are going to be much betterIf you only will

***

Just yesterday morning they let me know you were gone
Susanne the plans they made put an end to you
I walked out this morning and I wrote down this song
I just can’t remember who to send it to

I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain
I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I’d see you again

***

Well the sun is surely sinking down
But the moon is slowly rising
And this old world must still be spinning ’round
And I still love you

So close your eyes
You can close your eyes, it’s all right
I don’t know no love songs
And I can’t sing the blues anymore
But I can sing this song
And you can sing this song
When I’m gone

***

Thank you, James
You sing for us all
And we sing back to you

Day Forty: Canada

Here’s the view out my Toronto bedroom window. It’s been forty days since I’ve seen the white stuff. I’m home in Canada. Tomorrow I’ll be home in Belmont.

On my trip to Belgium, Senegal and San Francisco I encountered one Canadian – on yesterday’s flight. Pablo lives in Durham, Ontario and runs a furniture business. He was returning from Singapore, where many of the tables and chairs are made. I loved his stories about world cities. Only partway through our time together did I realize “He’s from Canada – like me.”

If you would have told me two years ago that someday I’d be absent from my country for five weeks, I’d have said you’re crazy. And yet here I am, having immersed myself in African life, enjoying the people whose languages I mostly didn’t speak. The geography was stunning but it’s the human beings I love.

And now I return to what I know. I come back to my local beloveds, to see what they have to say about life. There are so many Pablo’s to discover … and rediscover.

Especially there are the kids. I promised the Grade 5/6 children that I’d return to them on Monday, January 20 and spend the whole day at school. And I will do that, despite possible snow on the highway home.

I want to hear the ideas of 11-year-olds, and those of the regulars at the Belmont Diner. On Wednesday evening, I want to hear Ken Thorne sing his songs at the Acoustic Spotlight house concert in London. And if he does covers, I want to sing along!

I’m bringing faraway worlds back to Belmont. And the folks of my village and city are welcoming me home. The rhythms of life continue.

Day Thirty-Nine: Places to Sit

The Sunny Side Café

The Morrison Library at the University of California at Berkeley

Jupiter

The Destination Baking Company

***

I like going. I also like staying.

I like walking. I also like sitting.

I wander around Berkeley and San Francisco and eventually my feet get tired. Plus my heart wants to meditate, read a bit, and devour some yummies

Jinder at the Sunny Side Café welcomed me most mornings at breakfast with her marvelous smile. From my perch on the second floor, I could watch the chef flashing through meal creation. And after I paid the bill, the gentleman would always ask “Coffee to go?”

At the Morrison Library, I twice gravitated to a luscious red couch. I was hunkered down and cozy, with all the time in the world to contemplate the ornate ceiling. So very quiet in the room. Often I’d tap away on the phone. But then there were all those other times. As some wise one said, “Sometimes I sits and thinks. Sometimes I just sits.”

Look at those Christmas lights adorning the Jupiter patio. There are vines climbing a brick wall, heaters above beaming their goodness through the chill of the evening, and happy servers bouncing around. Plus little groups of patrons laughing the night away. As well there are the joys of craft beer and a chicken pesto pizza! All is right with the world.

Yesterday in the south of San Francisco, far from the skyscrapers of downtown, I plodded up a tippy street to find the Destination Baking Company awaiting me. Two young men smiled from the counter, and offered me the ecstasy of Quiche Lorraine. The sun was newly out after a deluge that lasted for hours. I was safe and warm. At one point, when the two guys were busy by the oven at the back of the store, I heard this:

“I love it when I bring a smile to a customer’s face”

Well said, young man. There’s lots to see and there’s lots to enjoy when you park your bum for awhile.

Day Thirty-Eight: Size

I was walking home to the Y in Berkeley last night when I came upon a football field. Young people were running laps and throwing frisbees in front of bleachers that could seat hundreds. Floodlights brought the scene alive. I assumed this was a college … but then the athletes seemed younger than that. Beyond the goal posts was a huge white building. Off to the side were others. As I continued on the sidewalk, there was a sign: “H Building”. Woh. What is this place?

Between the field and the street were letters carved into a low cement wall. They were partially obscured by bushes but I got the gist – “Berkeley High School”!

Here’s what the Internet told me:

Berkeley High School is a comprehensive four-year school serving approximately 3000 students. BHS is unique in that it is the only public high school in a community of over 100,000. Drawing from a diverse racial, ethnic and socioeconomic population, students embrace a broad spectrum of people and ideas.

A high school with more people than my hometown of Belmont in Canada! Oh my God. I tried to imagine what such size would mean for teens battling self-esteem issues. Would belonging to an immense community come easily, or would many students feel lost? What would lunch in the cafeteria feel like?

I welcome “a broad spectrum of people and ideas” but would I be able to find these folks? Would I be willing to speak up in the presence of the masses or would I retreat into my cave?

Naturally I don’t know what the culture of BHS is like. It could be marvelous. It probably is. I’ll likely never find out. Tomorrow I’m homeward on the big bird.

I love discovering the new … and wondering how I’d be in the middle of it. Seems to me that lots more newness is coming my way. Bring it on.

Day Thirty-Seven: Tiburon and Soucouta

I took the ferry from San Francisco to Tiburon yesterday. It’s fair to call the scenery spectacular. Broad vistas across the water, the greenest of islands, the Golden Gate Bridge twinkling on the horizon, the sun lighting our way. A seagull journeyed with us, hovering above the ship in search of yummies. And the breeze filling my soul.

In Tiburon harbour, I gazed up at monumental homes clinging to the hills. Just now, I asked Google about the average house price in town … $2,300,000 US.

As I wandered down the main boulevard towards the public library, it felt like ultra chic suburbia, adorned with wondrous trees and plants. It seemed like one long strip mall, with modern façades of warm colour. There were many consulting firms and financial services companies. People walking by averted their eyes, except for one engaging woman out walking her dog. She waxed poetic about the Italian restaurant whose menu I was perusing.

I strolled up a hilly street past lovely homes in rich tones, homes that blended in so well with the cliffs and open views back towards San Francisco.

Everything seemed dramatic, splendiferous … and actually surreal. It felt like being inside of the old TV series Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

It didn’t feel like a home, even though there are no doubt countless residents who feel Tiburon is the best place on Earth to live. Good for them. As I felt into this supposedly idyllic world, what came through was the feeling of money and not relationship. Quite soon I wanted to leave and eventually the ferry obliged.

***

On the way back, I thought of Soucouta and Toubacouta in Senegal. Most Westerners wouldn’t call the environs beautiful. There’s nary a patch of green and buildings are composed of cement blocks. There’s lots of garbage on the ground and lots of noise in the air: roosters, donkeys, goats, screaming birds, evening drums and spiritual leaders calling the faithful to prayer.

Soucouta is plain, brown, smoky and oceanless. But the people smile and say hi. (“Cà va?”) Folks gather together and tell stories. Like residents of Tiburon, they probably spend too much time on their cell phones but in Senegal I feel the flow of family, and everyone is invited. “Veuillez vous joindre à nous pour le déjeuner.” (Please join us for lunch.)

I respect the town of Tiburon
I love the village of Soucouta

The Trees

A friend asked me to post photos of the three necklaces. They all ooze with life.

My goal was to spend no more than $20.00 Canadian for each of them. I ended up averaging $21.00. I’ll take it.

Day Thirty-Six: Rinzin

I was on a mission. Three girls in Belmont, Canada asked me months ago if I’d bring them back something from San Francisco. They all wanted the same thing: a Tree of Life necklace. I said yes, in the spirit of rewarding people who speak up, who politely ask me to do something.

About two weeks ago in Senegal, I sat with a couple who mostly live in Berkeley, California – where I am. They told me where I’d find street vendors who’d sell these necklaces. So cool to get directions from so far away.

The Evolutionary Collective conference ended on Sunday, and yesterday I set off to find three gifts.

This is the third time I’ve been to Berkeley. I like staying at the YMCA. Each morning, on the way to my favourite breakfast spot, I pass a lovely shop offering Tibetan treasures. It was always too early for them to be open but yesterday my timing was perfect. And who knows, maybe a Buddhist tree of life would be hanging somewhere.

In I walked, to be greeted by a jolly Tibetan soul – Rinzin. In the span of multiple lifetimes, I think he’s been around the block a few times. Rinzin welcomed me with his entire heart and soul. At the top left of the photo I took of him, you may be able to make out the Dalai Lama. My new friend is the person one to the left.

I could feel it: there’s something for me to buy in here. There was a sweetness hanging in the air.

I asked about a tree of life. He wasn’t sure, but went searching. I was absolutely fine with him finding nothing. But lo and behold, he came back with an object of exquisite beauty. I felt a “yes” … such a deep yes that this pendant would be around a girl’s neck in a week or so. I stood there staring, stunned at the silver trunk and leaves of tiny white stones.

Rinzin watched my eyes widen and was ecstatic that he had contributed.

We talked about the exile of Tibetans from their homeland, and his great sadness about that. Then we both wandered off down separate aisles. I looked down and there was a shining stainless steel tree pendant. Yes again. A minute later, Rinzin pranced up with a third. All were different and all were sublime. No street vendors on Telegraph Avenue would be needed. Someone was watching out for the girls and me.

As I readied my wallet, the feeling returned: there’s something else calling me in this shop. My eyes wandered, already softened. And I came upon the banner, hanging high above the cash register. “We must try to do something good.” Yes once more. The kids need to see this. They need to feel the value of contributing. Hopefully the teacher will let me hang the banner in the classroom.

My credit card emerged but again I hesitated. Some other object was beckoning. It didn’t take long for me to discover the oval piece of coral, stained red. Its energy flew out in arrows to the curved edge of the piece. Yes, it needed to come with me as well. The smooth ruby oval was so Bruce.

And then the voice inside boomed out into the world: “You’ll be giving this away too.” > What? No way. It’s for me > “No it isn’t. It’s for life.”

Three girls will receive their necklaces next week. As for the glowing red oval … I don’t know the destination. I just know that it will reside in someone else’s home.

Ahh … the mystery
I’m not here to figure things out
I’m here to act in love
Thank you, Rinzin

Day Thirty-Five: So Alone … So Together

There was a moment in Senegal that threatened to separate me from humanity. I fought it. Then I let go into it. But it had such power to suck me down.

A group of us were sitting around. Lydia and I were the only English speakers. She’s also fluent in Flemish and French. Nano is such a cool young Senegalese woman. She definitely could be on the stage at Yuk Yuks in Paris. She dances. She throws her body around, with her arms touching the sky.

And Nano is a storyteller. She launched her into her tale with aplomb, moving every whichway, screaming her words to the heights and then dropping them to a whisper. Eyes on all sides were locked on her. And then … faces exploded in laughter as Nano bent way over.

I sat calmly, with a tiny smile. But the roller coaster ride was far from over. Six or seven more times, the onlookers rocked and rolled in ecstasy, tears appearing on cheeks.

And my heart kept falling. An intense shared experience was not shared with me. There’s no fault here, just a celebration of a woman’s hilarious adventures … in French.

I was all over the map – fine with the exclusion, hating it, rationalizing the whole thing. There was a nakedness I often felt, and a despair.

***

Yesterday afternoon, a group of us in the Evolutionary Collective explored an idea at lunch. What if we intensified our access to this inclusive consciousness by spending more time together each week online? What if we consciously moved towards a commitment to living this communion 24/7? What’s possible?

One idea emerging was to create a “text thread” among the six of us. A matrix of support for each other in real time. What if I could have pulled out my cell phone in the midst of that Nano story and shared with my “tribe” what I was experiencing? Oh my. How astonishing. Perhaps someone else in the group would read my message right then, and respond. It’s not about zooming a solution over the Internet, or fixing people. It’s about being there, in deep contact with the one experiencing something profoundly, whether it’s “positive” or “negative”.

Now wouldn’t that be a different kettle of fish?

Day Thirty-Four: Closer

Last night, the Evolutionary Collective hosted an evening in which people could join us and experience what’s it’s like to be inside this shared consciousness together. I was talking to a couple about our work. I searched for a short statement that would sum up the EC’s impact on me. And it came: Now my natural tendency is to move towards people rather than away from them. My fear of differentness has faded away, replaced by an intense curiosity about what others’ lives are like, what their passions are, their visions. I find that when I speak about my journey, things often loosen between us, and the other person goes towards their experiences and discoveries.

My favourite moments are conversations with one other person, followed by three of us, and then being alone. That preference is so bright now. It doesn’t matter the personalities, ages, cultures, situations. Just let me linger in your eyes.

And yet more folks coming together can be magical too. In our session yesterday daytime, we did a practice that deeply hit home. We were in a group of eight – two standing in the middle back-to-back, and the rest of us circled in chairs. Our teacher Patricia Albere asked us to experience the threading – the weaving – of consciousness among us, flowing through both the standing ones and the seated ones. The pair would rotate together to meet the eyes of each of us. If Persons A and B started in the middle, A would sit down after a complete turn, replaced by C. B and C went around together, then C and D, D and E … We became an organism of eight cells, blending, weaving, caressing. It was lovely. It was human beings together rather than separate, each one so vividly particular and yet also breathing in the whole.

I received a compliment last night. I sat with a couple new to this work. She said that I exuded a sweet energy. She had first noticed it when I was greeting the newcomers at the street entrance of the building. My intention was to have each one feel welcomed from the first moment they set foot in the David Brower Center. She got it then … so did he.

I did my usual squirm in response to her words but happily it faded within seconds. All that was left was a beaming “Thank you” and a peaceful space emanating from something far larger than this Bruceness. We weave together … magic emerges … it’s a mystery that need not be corralled.