Old Yeller

I was just a kid when I sat in a dark theatre to watch the 1957 film Old Yeller. I didn’t have a dog but I could feel the love between Travis and the yellow retriever. Old Yeller was a stray who ended up saving the family from an angry mother bear, a cow, a hog and a wolf (not at the same time!) The wolf bites Old Yeller on the neck, and the beloved dog contracts rabies.

To protect the family and other folks, mom brings a rifle out to Travis and Old Yeller. Travis kills his own dog.

I would have been around ten when I saw the film. I don’t remember being devastated about the ending … but clearly many people were.

Disney Plus shows Old Yeller, and a post on the Facebook fan page has brought lots of response. My take about many of the posters is they think crying is bad, dangerous, to be avoided at all costs:

Never want to see it again because of the ending

Umm … no thank you. Once as a child was enough for a few lifetimes.

I refuse to watch it again because the ending made me cry so much.

I can’t watch this while I’m pregnant. I cry too much.

My heart is still scarred from the book. Jesus, not a chance. That movie messed me up when I first saw it when I was like 6. Never again.

We were shown it at school when I was a kid. Imagine a whole gym full of 6th and 5th grade kids and teachers crying.

I don’t wanna cry …

***

So here we are as human beings
Some of us feel so much
Some of us shut it down

Tears show weakness
Tears are a blessing
There’s no right or wrong about this
Just people in their infinite variety

Lost!

I was up at 6:00 this morning, if “up” means rising on my elbows in bed, swirling between conscious life and sleep. I wanted to go for breakie at the Belmont Diner, and then on to school to say silly things to kids.

I reached over to the nightstand for my glasses … and they weren’t there. Odd. Somewhere in the night, I remembered sweeping the comforter over my snoozing body, and there was a faint recollection of nudging something.

No problemo. I dropped to the floor and scanned the usual spots where glasses have been known to descend. Nothing.

“Look harder” said the Bruce voice. I expanded my search, including the narrow space behind the nightstand, and unlikely distances under the bed. Nope.

You’ll be happy to know that these gyrations were all accomplished in the nude. My bedroom window was right there, and my body was well lit, but surely there wasn’t anyone out in the field walking their dog in the dark.

My heart rate climbed. A sheen of perspiration appeared on my forehead. I got up and roamed around, purposefully.

In good time, I discovered that all of these yielded a “No”:

-on top of the nightstand
-in the drawer of the nightstand
-on top of my dresser
-on the raucously coloured comforter
-under said comforter
-under the sheet below
-on the kitchen counter
-on the living room couch
-on the patterned living room rug (crawling and brushing with my hand)
-across all available surfaces in the bathroom
-inside the bathroom cupboard
-on the washer and drier
-in the den (hadn’t been in there for a day or two)

Such was the descent of my mind. And the wanderings of my naked body. (Lights were bright in the den, which faces the street. I didn’t care.) Visions of days with only sunglasses came to my fuzzy eyes. Having a neighbour come in with 20/20 to scout the premises. Etcetera.

I was speeding up and revisiting unlikely locations. Breathing fast and shallow. Scurrying.

And then I stopped. “Bruce, go have a shower. Maybe that’ll help you think more clearly, and erase from your mind the probability of aliens having landed.”

Oh … the deepest sigh. Before hitting the spray, I decided to make my bedroom more presentable. I carefully pulled the sheet tight over the pillows, and then did the same with the comforter.

Then I shook my head. “What’s to become of me …?”

Moments Shared and Passed On

I went to a lovely concert last night at the Cuckoo’s Nest Folk Club in London. Singing and playing were Liv and Braden, better known as Tragedy Ann.

I had met this marvelous couple two years ago, as they graced the stage of the London Music Club. That evening I felt our conversation in my heart, and I’ve carried them with me ever since.

Yesterday I saw Braden and Liv in the hallway before the music started. There were hugs and many light words.

I sat in the front row, way to the side of the massed instruments and the two singers. Early on, Liv was introducing a song inspired by The Velveteen Rabbit, and by “a book we were given”. I smiled back two years. Within the walls of the London Music Club, I had given them a copy of Jodiette: My Lovely Wife, the book I had written about my dear wife Jody. She died of lung cancer in 2014. “Is she talking about Jody’s book? Nah … must be some other one.”

Except it wasn’t.

From the song Velveteen:

There’s a tree
Not too far from home
Waving leaves like it knows me

I know such a tree. I wrote about it, and about hearing Jody’s voice there, hours after she died. The bare branches trembled.

I’m waving to you, Bruce. I shelter you. I protect you. I’m here, husband. I will always be with you, cheering you on.

And from Tragedy Ann’s Facebook page just now:

We had been tweaking Velveteen for a long time before starting to perform it live. Inspired by a story read to us as children and a book given to us as adults, we wanted to touch on the nature of lifelong love, loss, and doubt.

Thank you, my friends. We move each other throughout our days and years … you and you and you and you and me.

Building

I wonder why I’m here. Or maybe I don’t … I know I’m here to love. I’m here to enhance the juiciness of life. I’m here to open my palm to everyone I meet.

It’s such a journey – from infant to senior, from me to we, from scared of you to embracing you.

The two of us … what shall we build together?

I enjoy the story about the traveler in the middle ages who happened upon a large work site in the center of a village. He had been traveling for many days, and he was eager to talk to anyone who would engage with him.

He walked up to a worker at the site and asked, “Sir, may I ask what you are doing?”

The worker scowled a bit and said tersely, “I am cutting stones.”

The traveler decided he would find little conversation there, so he moved on to another worker. When he asked the same question, the worker paused for a moment and explained that he was cutting stones so he could support his family.

He had a wonderful wife and two small children who depended on him to provide them with food and shelter. They chatted about the project and the village for a few minutes, and the worker turned back to his large pile of stones.

The traveler moved to a third worker and asked the same question: “Sir, may I ask what you are doing?”

The worker put down his tools, stood quite tall, looked the traveler in the eye and said with a warm smile, “I am building a cathedral. It will be the tallest and most magnificent structure for miles around. Its beauty will delight people for centuries to come. The stone I am now working on will go near the front door where people will enter for shelter and kinship. I will probably not see the final product, but I know my work is part of something very important.”

(Lyn Boyer)

Let us lift our eyes to the Lord … to the beauty and kindness and intelligence of all who come our way. Higher and higher, to the light above the clouds.

Soaring

It’s an evening concert at Koerner Hall in Toronto, a few hours after sleeping was the order of the day. In a preview of coming attractions, a string quartet of young adults has just performed six feet in front of me. I’m in seat A12 … dead centre.

The cellist was an Oriental woman. Her fingers flew and her face glowed. I wafted back to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. I loved the faces there, in sculpture or paint, and I know one of my photos from that visit will be the woman who just sat before me. Give me a minute and I’ll find her.

No, the woman on the canvas is not Oriental, but the shining is the same. The cellist was a goddess. Her fingers flowed and her bow pressed hard on the bending strings. Her male fellows blended and surged as violinists and violist. I was smashed in the face by the music flooding towards me. And I returned the favour, bursting upon the musicians with my awe and with my love.

Her name is Zuri Wells and her instrument is the marimba, which I thought was something like a guitar. Wrong! It’s a huge wooden xylophone, with about fifty wooden bars … varnished 1×2’s. Sometimes she held two mallets, sometimes four or six. The instrument loomed over me. All that was humanly visible was Zuri’s face. Her eyes widened and then closed as the melody and harmonies broke from her hands. The passages were alternately sweet and raucous. Her face twisted in response to the accompanying orchestra. Often there was a tiny grin on her lips as she fell into the music. And right near the end, she exploded in a smile from ear to ear.

We stood. We applauded for three minutes. Zuri bowed and beamed.

Then it was time for everybody. The Royal Conservatory Orchestra played Beethoven’s 7th Symphony for we the audience. Flurries of bow. Soaring notes of all types, coming from all sides of the stage. Vibrating bodies, sometimes swaying and sometime pouncing.

The Concertmistress (the lead first violin) often made eye contact with her counterpart in the second violins, the two women nodding ever so slightly as they timed their entries into the fray. The first player often smiled as the music took flight. So did many others. Sitting in the front row, it felt like orgasm after orgasm flying off the stage. Whew. It was immense.

Quite the contrast to lying in bed, reflecting on my eyes slowly closing. I’d say both are needed in the round of life.

I Just Want To Lie In Bed

They’re up to my chin, these covers. The house is cold but I’ve cranked the heat in my room. I want to be horizontal … at 4:00 in the afternoon.

I hear faraway voices in the b and b. They’re like whispering ghosts. Above the sheets are my hands, tapping away on this phone. Ten minutes ago I was asleep, and I feel like returning to that realm.

I don’t want to do anything important. I don’t want to do anything. I don’t want to resourceful, creative, compelling, determined, effusive, sensitive, brilliant, strong of mind. I just want to flop, and so I’ve done.

At the moment other people are thoroughly optional. In fact, I’m glad they’re not here. I’m glad I don’t have to do battle with a wool blanket. I’m glad there’s no conversation that I have to hold my end up of. I’m glad my toes are warm and wiggly.

On a whim, I can open a flick on Disney Plus. Yay for smartphones! I just tried on Captain America for size but the guy’s got far too much energy for me. Besides, I can’t be bothered pulling on such a tight-fitting costume.

Make a contribution? No. Inspire the next generation? Forget it. Just leave me alone for awhile. Looking out the window, I see a Canadian flag. That’s fine. Don’t ask me to be patriotic, political or even vaguely interested in the nightly news. I’m too busy vegging.

A gaggle of birds just flew by. I hear the dullness of distant planes going up or down at the Toronto Airport. Where’s everybody going? Why don’t they just hunker down like me?

Okay … perhaps that’s enough of a comatose ramble. I’m still horizontal. I’m still happy here. I’m slow and easy.

Goodnight all

Lifeguard

Christie Blatchford was a miracle, an outspoken columnist for all four Toronto newspapers over her career.  She died yesterday from lung cancer.

I remember reading her in the Toronto Sun.  Right now, this quote fits her perfectly:

I can’t remember what you said
I can’t remember what you did
But I will always remember
How I felt when I was around you

Christie opened my eyes.  She showed me a powerful woman, a powerful human being, a straight shooter.  She touched thousands of lives.

I don’t want to be Christie Blatchford.  I want to be more fully Bruce Kerr.  Still, there was so much to admire … and so many people who revered her:

Blatchford passionately championed crime victims, Canada’s soldiers, Canada’s athletes – particularly Olympians – and publicly obsessed over law and order issues.  In court, sitting in the front row, she would be relentlessly grabbing at tissues, weeping as she chronicled evidence of child abuse and neglect.  And then she made readers weep when reading her account of the injustice.

In 1977, a copy editor at the Globe made changes and cuts to her sports column without consulting her, and the next day she called the rival Toronto Star.  She started writing for the Star soon after.

[In Afghanistan] she demonstrated to all of us that there was no place too remote or austere for her to live with us in, no situation too dangerous, no Canadian soldier too rough or crude for her not to win over with her unique directness, toughness and impeccable common sense.

[Christie] It was scary, so raw and important at the time, that nothing else will really match that experience.  I loved being with the soldiers.  I loved the fear.  I loved the excitement, the whole thing.

Blatchford connected with people in her stories in unconventional ways.  In some cases, she would hug them and befriend them beyond the confines of journalism.  At one extended trial, a witness became so attached to her that he reached out to clasp her hand for support as he nervously walked up the aisle to testify.

She would frequently help young reporters, all the while exhibiting her renowned profanity.

She was a model for knowing how to put your faith in your truths and not worry about the backlash, not worry about how people respond.  She was unafraid and unapologetic about her views.  It was inspiring for me.

She sparked visceral response.  Nobody was on the fence about Christie.  They either loved her or hated her.  She was never about the middle ground.  She had the most consistent moral compass of anyone I’ve ever encountered.

She took flying lessons.  She was a lifeguard, played basketball, ran marathons.  She was tenacious in everything she did.

I once signed a book for Christie Blatchford. and on the inside page I called her my hero.  She read the scribbled words, turned to me and rather succinctly told me to piss off.  Only she didn’t use the word “piss”.  Then she hugged me.

***

Thank you, Blatch.  You done good

Large Family

I like being on FaceBook. I like watching movies on Disney Plus. Last week, I saw a way to unite the two … naturally the Disney Plus Facebook page.

I’m already on the Evolutionary Collective page. There are about one hundred folks doing this work (EC Core and EC Global – and I realize that most of you don’t know what that means. Another time.)

My second group appears to have 109,000 members. That’s a step up, at least in quantity. As I lay in bed last night, I asked myself what it means that I’m a part of something so immense. I noticed that lots of folks have posted, talking about some movie or asking questions of the multitudes. So … why not me? I’m good at asking questions.

I’m looking for movies on Disney Plus that portray kids as smart, kind and brave human beings. What do you suggest?

In the eighteen hours that followed, I’ve received about seventy responses. I wonder where in the world all those people live. I thank them all for making me real in the Disney universe and for extending a helping hand.

The first response I read was this:

That’s rather specific. I’m curious why. Anyways, luckily I can help. Big Hero 6, Meet the Robinsons and The Incredibles come to mind.

I volunteer in a Grade 6 class. I want to tell them “Go watch this”.

I answered a few more:

Iron Will. 17-year-old saves his family’s farm and gets the money for the college he was accepted into by racing and winning a sled dog race. Based on a true story. Highly recommend and don’t forget the tissues.

Thanks. The kids I volunteer with would have their eyes glued on a young person brimming with determination and love.

I adored the new Timothy Failure movie. Don’t judge the movie by its title lol, but it’s such a heart toucher. Had me in tears before the movie was even half over.

These kids need a heart toucher or two. Thank you.

Big Hero 6, Meet the Robinsons. And I don’t think it’s on Disney Plus but Shazam was pretty cool … kids (in their adult bodies but still kids) saving people … I loved it.

Thanks. I’ll find Shazam.

There is a short film Float … my daughter found it and habitually watches it every morning. Me being a teacher, I naturally cried, but she adores it and I think it’s very powerful in its message.

Perfect. Maybe the teacher will let me show it in class, especially since it’s short.

:::

I just watched Float. Breakthrough! I’ll ask the teacher if the Grade 6’s can watch it.

Holes. That’s if you want something more realistic. It’s about a group of kids at a prison camp and focuses on the character Stanley Yelnats the Third.

Realistic is good. Thank you.

:::

I just watched the trailer. There’s some huge power in that young boy.

I’m glad it grabbed your attention. I read the book in Grade 3 and in Grade 5 or 6 it came out. I was really impressed.

***

Mulan, Meet the Robinsons, Holes, Moana, Big Hero 6, Coco, Tangled, Queen of Katwe, Pocohontas, Pete’s Dragon (new version), Remember the Titans, Cool Runnings, The Incredibles, The Color of Friendship, Chronicles of Narnia.

Wow … that’s a lot! Thank you.

Ruby Bridges is about the first African-American child to desegregate a school in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1960. It’s a great fit for African-American history month in the U.S.

Wow! I just watched the clip from Ruby Bridges. Immensely powerful. Thank you so much. I’ll find a way for the kids to see this.

***

So …

There’s a community of support here
Generous souls from who knows where
Just wanting to help

The kids thank you

Let It Go

I can’t remember what I was doing in 2013 but clearly it didn’t involve keeping up-to-date with hit movies. I had vaguely heard of Frozen but that’s as far as it went.

Early last December, I was talking to some kids about films and admitted that I hadn’t seen Frozen. The universal response was basically “What!?” with the implication that I must have spent a fair slice of my life in a cave. Having been suitably humbled, I added a movie viewing to my mental to do list.

Later in the month, on a plane that was going somewhere, the entertainment system revealed that Frozen was an option. I jumped at the chance, but I do believe fatigue diminished the available joy. The film made no real impact.

Then there was last night. Disney Plus was telling me that Frozen was only a click away. I clicked … and sat in wonder for the next two hours. Elsa was a revelation, and so was her sister Anna. I fell in love. They were both so alive, such examples of full humanity.

And then there was the song. Elsa was seeing a new realm inside her, ready to burst. I was pretty close too.

The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside
Couldn’t keep it in, heaven knows I’ve tried
Don’t let them in, don’t let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know
Well, now they know

Now they know, Elsa. There’s no turning back after discovering a vivid, ecstatic, vibrant way to live. “Throw yourself into the world, Elsa.” And she did.

Let it go, let it go
Can’t hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door
I don’t care what they’re going to say
Let the storm rage on
The cold never bothered me anyway

Ahh yes … they will say lots of things, some of them mean, designed to diminish the outrageous happiness brimming through you. “Settle down, Elsa.” No thanks. Bring on the winds. Let them buffet me, smash me to the ground. I’ll stand again.

It’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all
It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me
I’m free

I’ve had my moments when those last two words escaped my mouth. It was real. It was a message I could trust. It was home … lying on the couch before a crackling fire.

Really getting that I’m free, now what will I do? Think I’ll watch Elsa one more time. I believe she has an answer or two.