The Anouk Turnock Trio

Last night at Café Fatima three musicians graced my ears.  But there was more.  I sat at a table close to the stage with the moms of two of those musicians.

Anouk has a haunting voice, revealing a layer of spirit beyond vocal quality.  Her songs were of the floating type, taking me away to worlds I now can’t remember. All disappeared in the course of the evening.

The lead guitarist melted into his instrument as fingers found the strings in aching melodies.  The standup bass player caressed his own strings as he plucked the journey of low notes.

Then there were the smiles among the three.  Notes of appreciation and laughter, at times beckoning each other to take the lead.

Anouk sang about being fragile.  Later she gave us a wandering song a capella, accompanied only by her snapping fingers.  We the audience roared our approval as the last note faded away.

Anouk’s mom beamed next to me.  She told me beforehand how proud she was of her daughter.  The mom and dad of lead guitarist Gilles sat at our table as well, only a metre from their son’s left hand.

Another couple joined us.  They’ve been married for over 50 years.  The man and I shared memories of Canada’s Rocky Mountains.  But we were home in Fatima.

The small pub was packed.  A line of people stood at the bar, cheering on their friends.  Even being a stranger, I was a part of something immense.  I was included.  I was laughed with.

A fresh version of family sat in Fatima last night:

We were together in the music

We were together with the musicians

We were together with each other


The best things in life are undercover, I think … peeking out, inviting to be unveiled.

Here’s the Burgstraat – a lovely street in Gent.  I wonder if it hides any secrets.  And will I have the eyes to see?

Hidden number one: the church

Actually it’s not really hidden.  Just turn your head way to the left or right, and voilà – the Church of the Carmelite Fathers.

“Another amazing Belgian church,” you say, as your mind proceeds towards the next stunning building.  Please don’t.  The photo doesn’t show it but the church door is open.  Come in.

Hidden number two: the sanctuary

First of all it’s dark inside but then you open the heavy door … and the world stretches to the light. All is silent.

So many faces, carved in wood or stone, beings of centuries ago reflecting on life just like you and I do.

Hidden number three: the park

Behind the church, awaiting those who meditate on nature’s loveliness, is a park. A kind volunteer leads me down corridors of the past and soon another door graces me – this time with green and blue and pink and white. I stumble a bit and let the majesty fall around me.

There are expanses of green grass and orange brick. Places to sit and love each other, places to see the mirror of you.

Hidden number four: the small

Easily missed if the brain rushes. So don’t rush. Here are the tiny things.

And so life beckons us onward …

Falling Into

There is a seduction in writing 27 days in a row.  It needs to be 28.  A “have to” emerges which does not foster the richness of living.

I woke up this morning saying “What will I write about today?”  Wrong question.  My calculating brain scanned what I know about Ghent.  It focused.  It tried.  And what it came up with was “Tourists”.  Surely I could say something meaningful about them.

As I sat in Caffè Rosario later, sipping my flat white coffee, the error of my ways washed over me.  What was needed for today’s words was a wide open sky, not a surgeon’s scalpel.

So I let go into my croissant and the people walking by.  The bell of the tram beside matched the flow of its windows.  I sank down into something comfy.  My coffee became my coffee and all was right with the world.

I felt taken by a mysterious hand, beckoned to parts unknown.  I grasped those outstretched fingers with my own.  I followed into the mist. 


It’s hours later now.  The thought just came “Who knows where we’ll end up?”  I really need to let go of some vocabulary.  There’s no “ending up” here.

What I didn’t tell you was that as the moments in Caffè Rosario came, lingered and floated away, today’s “topic” said hi.  When I got home, I even changed the title of this post from “Visiting Folks” to … something else.  Now I will change it again because the “new” topic isn’t fresh anymore.  Perhaps tomorrow it will be again.

Now … for a title that makes me smile.  How about “Falling Into”?  Yes, that will do nicely.


My life is curving … bending across the surface of the Earth as Belgium becomes my home.

I’m at home within the gracious dance as we spin with our arms held wide.  The corners of life are being shaved away, leaving just ovals.

My heart trills when a curve shows itself to me.  Close to home, a tram is sensed only by its bell … and then it sweeps past me.

I remember being on my bike and breathing into the downhill that zooms to the left, the force pushing me outwards as my body holds the balance.

The cobblestones on the Vrijdagmatkt have an ancient story to tell, laid by hand so many years ago.  There is a centre here, and a radiation.

In the morning light the pointed gables of the Baudelostraat join in the roundness.  Some wandering being says “Let’s go the long way and see what’s there.”

I stood outside this restaurant today with the owner.  Friday’s grand opening shone in her eyes. The metal rolls and the limp branches told me this could be another home.

It’s quiet here in the curving

Can you hear the music?


I have two favourite words.  The first is a popular choice I’d guess: Love.  James Taylor wrote “There ain’t no doubt in no one’s mind that love’s the finest thing around.”  I agree, James.

I venture to say that my other favourite word is the choice of no one else.  Mind you, I haven’t met all eight billion of us.


I’m not talking about cartoons.  No, there’s another meaning.  To animate has its origin in Latin: the verb “animo” means to fill with breath, make alive, encourage, embolden.  It’s to see the extraordinary in the ordinary, to bring to vision an extra layer that shines like the sun.

We’re surrounded by ordinary moments.  How can we breathe life into them?  Take a bus for instance.  In Canada I was used to a sign that said “Out of Service” – not open for passengers.  Yesterday I saw one in Ghent that said “Pauze” – approximately the same I imagine.

Pretty basic stuff.  Nothing really to notice … until you glance at the graphic: a steaming hot cup of coffee.  The driver is taking a break, and enjoying it.

There is a blessing in the sky if we have eyes to see.  It’s not just blue and clouds.  No, it’s blue … and a fairy princess who slowly drifts away.

I love it when my mouth drops open without being prompted to do so by my brain.  There is wonder here, a majesty, a feeling of being dressed up in your finest.

It’s possible to see inside things, to fall into their essence, to unite with a mystery hanging out there in the mist.

Our fingers grow longer when we reach to touch the unknown, when we don’t compare this moment to a previous one, when depth appears in what many see as flat.

The moments of awe are sitting beside us, waiting for our approach.  Some very large being wants us to come along for the ride.  Something is here that’s always available, something that feels like home.

Let’s go find it.

Where Does Love Go When We Die?

Kobe and Gianna

He was a star NBA basketball player.  “Words can’t describe and it doesn’t do any justice to who he is and how he impacted the sports world.”

She played on her middle school team.  “She was fiery and stubborn.  She knew what she wanted and fought to get it.”

Together they died in a helicopter crash … father and daughter.

“Kobe was known to gush about her tenacity as a player.”  “Bryant often said his daughter’s passion for basketball rekindled his own love of the game, especially after his retirement.”

In a letter to Gianna’s mom, best friend Aubrey spilled forth her love: “I hope that in the midst of your intense sadness you catch a glimpse of joy in who the daughter that you created and raised was.”

Kobe and Gianna loved each other till the words faded away.


We don’t know much.  We can’t see the “after” and we can’t easily behold beyond the world of objects and time.

I say solid stuff is just the beginning.  We love flowers and poems.  It feels like they’re bridges to something so soft and pass-through. 

Love migrates, I think, leaking out of our decomposing shells and roaming worlds shapeless and shining.  And maybe returning to abide awhile in a loved one’s basketball or ball cap or in a favourite DVD.

When two go at the same time, perhaps there’s vibrating together in some netherland, spanning the rainbow, sitting quietly without bodies getting in the way.

Love continues and celebrates in ways that our tiny heads can only point to.  Let’s just close our eyes and smile.  Gianna and Kobe are here, there and everywhere, sharing the mellow moments with all who come close.


I think of people who work in office cubicles all day, staring at their screens, only seeing the tops of other employees’ heads as they pass by.

I think of packed downtown streets full to the brim with humans in a hurry to get somewhere, their heads tilted down to smaller screens.

I think of a living room full of partygoers – some group conversation of negligible topics and the occasional person sitting off to the side.

Loneliness is alive … and ill.

We need together, not alone.  We need connection.

I imagine four hands.  I wonder what they can do together.  On the surface they look the same but look closer … their particularities are distinct.  Each is magic in the world.

I see them at the piano.  The thrill of a melody well played.  The sweetness of harmonies down below.  Two hands lead and two hands follow.  Then, just for fun, they switch.  All in the wonder of musical union.

See the hands

Feel the piece

Come close

Yes or No

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth

Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I …
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

Robert Frost

Robert knew he had to make a choice.  The uncommon path lured him.  He followed.  And there’d be no going back.

Five years ago I was on a hiking trail near the Canadian Rockies.  That day two human beings came to a fork in the road.  They also made a choice, unusual in modern times.  “And that has made all the difference.”

Lydia was one of those people.  She lives near Ronse, Belgium and was on vacation with her family.  Bruce was the other.  He was visiting his wife Jody’s brother and his family.

We met and said hi.  We stopped walking.  We started talking … and continued for an hour.  I learned that Lydia and her friends sponsor children in Senegal.  She showed me photos of the kids and a very cool video. 

Lydia mentioned that at Christmas many of the sponsoring folks were going to Toubacouta to spend time with the young ones.

And then she stared at me for a very long time.

Ahh … the moment of yes or the moment of no.  And what will become of us if we say yes?


Lydia’s yes: “Would you like to come with us?”

Bruce’s yes: “Yes I would.”

We could ask what it was about Lydia’s life experience that caused her to invite a stranger to accompany her halfway across the world.  The same about Bruce, whose bubbling up “Yes” came from somewhere beyond the mind.

But let’s not.

I’ve been to Senegal three times with Lydia and her family and friends.  We return in July.  I’ve visited Belgium probably six times … and now I live here.

Who would have thought a dirt path could lead to such miracles?

I shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence

What Will I Do in a Place Like This?

What will I do in a place like this?

Lie on the cobbles and watch the sky open

Slalom through the willows, my arms wide

Talk to myself of the world’s wonders

Stand alone, arms dangling, heart at rest

Welcome all who come by

Who will I meet in a place like this ?

An old man with no English and a huge smile

A teacher holding hands with three little kids

Gulls hanging high above the Leie

A five-year-old girl with eyes that see the centuries

The next love of my life

When will I come to a place like this?

At daybreak as the world wakens

When my spot on the bench feels my arrival

When hunger of a different kind gnaws at me

When my feet tell me to

As the lights of evening shine on us all


And …

Why does my heart soar in a place like this?

The Lievekaai in Ghent