Kids’ Play

There’s nothing like the annual Christmas play in elementary school.  Today I got to watch a practice.  How marvelous to see children be children.  I tried to imagine adults doing all the cool stuff I witnessed.  Sometimes the imagining was a stretch.

One young lady has perfected “Bah humbug!”  It wasn’t just her face, which was a contorted mask of fury.  Her whole body got into the act, crouching down in a spasm of scowl.  I just had to applaud.  Sure wouldn’t want to meet her in a dark alley.

Three elves, two girls and a boy, were doing their conversational thing.  The fellow kept extending his ball of greenery towards the nearest girl.  Mistletoe!  She cringed and backed away from him, fending off the offending amour with her arms.  Then he did it again … and so did she!  Ahh, the battle of the sexes.

And soon there were grandma and grandpa, expecting holiday mail.  At the end of the scene, the darling couple exited the stage with their twin canes, slow and bent over as I hope I never am.  (Good luck on that, Bruce)  How strange to see 10-year-olds hobbling along in pain.  My brain just couldn’t make sense of it.  Good acting.

Next was the mailman, striding onto a long white box which doubled as a slippery sidewalk.  Down she went in a heap, slip-sliding away.  Letters and presents tumbled every whichway.  Pure slapstick fun.

Also, what would a Christmas play be without reindeer?  Eight of them lined up on the box, with antler heads proudly displayed.  Arms were flying in the air and mouths bellowed the good and bad.  What a motley crew … and immensely lovable too.  You should have seen them all hopping off at the end.

My favourite moment was when a young girl was pleading with someone  – I think the mailman.  Hands in prayer position … imploring, begging.  So good.  Soon to be followed by another girl, crying her eyes out, in the best tradition of drama.  Angst always gets me.

I smiled a lot
I clapped
And I wished that more than a few of those kids were mine
Maybe next lifetime

Leaping

I was driving to school this morning on a country road. At one point, I was vaguely aware of a cornfield to my right, full of old, yellow stalks. Suddenly a deer comes out of the corn and leaps the fence, clambering onto the road. I slammed on my brakes and saw the doe pass by about fifteen feet in front of my bumper.

“Oh my God, I could have killed that beautiful animal! How could I live with myself?” My mind zoomed back forty years to another country road, in Alberta, and the sickening sight in my rearview mirror of a red fox flying through the air. He died on the asphalt and I was undone in grief.

“Do no harm, Bruce.” That’s been a mantra of mine for many a moon. Killing a living being, even unintentionally, is a gross example of harm, but so is ignoring someone at a party or not opening a door for a struggling senior.

There was the beauty of the being bounding over the fence. There was the sacredness of life. There was blood and ruin in my mind. There was transcendence of our earthly fetters. There was love. Thoughts mingled and twisted. All springing from a single moment in time.

Part of me doesn’t want to soar on the wings of ten seconds here, ten seconds there. “It’s too tiring.” A wiser Bruce, however, says to feel it all … because all will come my way.

We leap
We fall
We leap again

Ten Dollars

I’ve written before about my hobby: picking up garbage on the sidewalks and gutters of Belmont.  It makes me happy.  Today I left home for the Diner on Main Street a half hour early since I knew there’d be an aftermath from Sunday’s Santa Claus Parade.

I was right.  I picked up about 130 cigarette butts on my trip south, plus assorted candy wrappers … and one complete chocolate bar!  My goal used to be to find lots of butts, sort of like a sports event.  Now I’m older and wiser.  The goal is zero.  However, today it wasn’t meant to be.

On the return journey, I found that the northerly citizens of Belmont were just as prolific as the southerly ones.  I was in mid-stoop when I caught a glimpse of a mauve rectangle ahead, nestled against some wet leaves in the gutter.  My eyes widened.  It was a ten dollar bill.  On previous trips, I’d stumbled upon a quarter here, a dime there, but this was verging on the miraculous.

The thought came … find the owner.  Okay, now how exactly am I supposed to do that?  Knock on a few doors, have folks check in their wallets and purses, and figure out if they’re short a ten spot?  Ah … no.

Nearby, two fellows were talking on the sidewalk.  I held up the bill, looked at one of them and said “Would you like this?”  And from what deep recess of my mind did that thought come?  I know I’m altruistic, but still.  The gentleman laughed and replied “No way.  You deserve it.  You’re the one picking up litter.”  Okay, point taken.  I returned the smile and placed Sir John A. Macdonald in my back pocket.

As I finished my walk home, that little piece of plastic money weighed me down.  “You don’t deserve it, Bruce.  It’s stealing.  Give it to charity.”  And other mumbo jumbo.  Finally I just accepted its presence in my life.  It’s a gift from the ether.  Some unknown force wants me to have ten dollars.  I need to accept it with grace.  By the time I put key into lock, the money was truly mine.

I think of other gifts, especially people’s kind words and deeds.  “Put them in your back pocket too, Bruce.  And say thank you.”  Hmm.  Good advice.

 

The Santa Parade

I couldn’t help myself last night.  I just had to dress up like Charles Dickens for the Belmont Santa Claus Parade.  It was full regalia: dress shirt and tie, top hat, long dress coat and a red scarf (courtesy of the TFC soccer team).  Oh, and I used spirit gum to develop an instant moustache, a black handlebar jobbie.

I walked down Main Street to the staging area an hour before the departure time, coming across various gaggles of humanity.  Each time, I announced myself as Charles Dickens, arrived earlier in the day from England, and asked if there was a parade happening soon.  Most people laughed and joined in the fun.  One couple playfully directed me to the wrong end of town.  A few folks just stared but that’s okay.  I guess I was an abrupt shock.

Down at parade central, I joshed with kids and adults, many of whom I knew, as the rain began.  It would last for the next hour.  My task was to walk beside the Belmont Diner float, handing out mini-chocolate bars.  Based on my parading two years ago, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to keep up.  Kids deserved their five seconds of eye contact.  So my bag was plum full of tasty treats.  I felt “like a peddler, just opening his pack.”  Strength training here I come.

As our cavalcade spilled onto Main Street, there were the kids … hundreds of them on the route.  One bar for each small human, and a huge mustachioed smile.  “Merry Christmas!”,  “God bless us everyone”, and other assorted holiday greetings.  I mentioned to the adults that they’d get chocolate if they were under 15, and many of them happily volunteered that they were.  The ones who spoke up got a bar.  Why not?

I told a few kids that hidden beneath the plastic wrapping of their treat was a lovely piece of broccoli.  Pained faces, until I corrected that to chocolate, “which as we all know is one of Canada’s four major food groups.  By the way, the other three are also chocolate.”  So … many smiles.

I saw lots of kids I knew, and received several hugs from children who could see beneath my disguise to the Mr. Kerr within.  I only forgot one name and awkwardly looked at the boy for a few seconds after “Merry Christmas”.  I was sad that I couldn’t remember his name.  After all, he was in the class where I volunteered last year.  But that’s life.  Perfection is not me.

I was so happy to see people, young and old, who are part of my life.  And they were happy to see me.  Belmont has been my home for two years and now I belong.  What a sweet feeling.

As someone wise once said
“Home is where the heart is”

Two Statues

First of all, for those of you who read yesterday’s post, Willie signed at 4:55!

***

I’m a Buddhist. I feel it in my bones. Mr. Buddha was a smart guy. He saw that life is not only pleasure, praise, gain and fame. It also has its fair share of pain, blame, loss and disrepute. And we humans can embrace it all.

On my back patio sits a cement Buddha, about a foot-and-a-half tall. His eyes are closed, his head is bowed … perfect repose. I used to look at my friend a lot, but not very much lately. I wonder why. I still meditate about four times a week, adopting the same pose. Sometimes I reach a deep peace, or rather a deep peace comes upon me. And often love bubbles up: for my friends, for all of us human beings, for life. It’s very soft and quiet.

On an end table in my living room sits another Buddha, this one in polished stone, an inch-and-a-half tall. His head is up, his eyes meet mine, his smile includes and his belly rounds. I like him more than my friend who’s just shed his mantle of snow. Hmm.

A few weeks ago, I experienced an orientation to the work of the Evolutionary Collective. It was in Asheville, North Carolina. I got to be in the physical presence of some fine folks whom I had previously only known online. I sum up the experience with one word: “eyes”. We really looked at each other. We talked to each other, often within a sublime space of love.

On my meditation retreats, I was always encouraged to avoid eye contact, to leave people alone so they could deal with their issues. And these were silent retreats. Within them, I felt love for my fellow yogis but couldn’t express it outwardly.

I revere the tall statue
I adore the short one
They’re both fine fellows

Nylander

If you’re a Toronto Maple Leafs hockey fan, you probably know all about the saga of William Nylander. He’s a flashy skater and scorer who’s refused to sign a new contract, wanting more money than the team is willing to give him. If he doesn’t sign or get traded by 5:00 pm Eastern Time today, he sits out the rest of the season.

Thousands of words have been written about Nylander by professional sports journalists … and now it’s my turn.

I love the Leafs like I loved them in the 60’s. “Willie, come back!” sings in my soul. For the first time in years, there’s a “my team”. Part of me thinks I should always elevate my consciousness above “us versus them” but there are times when cheering on the Leafs makes me so very happy.

I remember how much I enjoyed players who spent their entire National Hockey League career with one team. There was Henri Richard in Montreal and Steve Yzerman in Detroit. I’m hoping that Willie wants to be one of those players. There’s a sense of place, of being part of a long hockey tradition, of loving the home fans and being loved right back. Willie, would you like that?

I fear that money is more important to Nylander than being a Leaf. The potential for Toronto winning the Stanley Cup multiple times in the next decade is right before our eyes. But perhaps dollar signs shine brighter. If that’s true, it makes me sad. Yes, we need enough money to get along in life, plus to have some neat experiences. But surely the difference between $8 million and $7 million a year doesn’t guarantee larger happiness. I know that hockey players retire around age 35, and they need to plan for their future after being a professional athlete. But Willie … come back.

Think of being revered by countless Torontonians and Canadians. Think of lifelong friendships with your teammates. Think about being a part of Stanley Cup history.

Please …

Coffee Shop

I’m sitting in a Tim Hortons in London, gazing at the span of humanity before me. People-watching is so much fun.

Across the way, two guys and a girl, all seniors I’d guess, are having a grand old time. They’re probably setting a world’s record for laughs per minute. I can’t quite hear their topics of conversation but it seems like they’re not laughing at anyone. It’s more like they’re chuckling at life. Every so often they greet someone in line so these folks must be regulars.

Off to my right, another old guy sits alone. He’s wearing a grey plaid beret, plus a scowl. Wow, does he look unhappy. His arms are crossed and he’s looking down. Such a contrast to the laughers nearby. I ponder going over and talking to him, but leaving him alone and wishing him well feels like a better plan. So that’s what I do.

I look at the teenager who served me half an hour ago. Her face is pretty, when you think of Hollywood. It’s buried, however, under a white coat of makeup. And there’s a paleness about her spirit too. She filled my order with the contact of a robot. I felt like a “thing” in her eyes. Still, I also wish her well. May she discover what’s truly beautiful in our world.

Now a young guy sits down with the laughers. Green ball cap, camouflage jacket, heavy growth on his face. F-in this and F-in that. Complaining about someone or something almost continually. The smiling ones adjust and smile some more.

I switch seats to watch the parade of cars at the drive-thru. Faces waiting in line:

A young man at the wheel, passenger seat empty, an elderly woman in the back. What does that mean?

A 60-something woman wearing a bright red coat, surgical mask tucked under her chin. What could this story be?

A blue Dodge Ram truck looming above me, with two bearded fellows talking loudly to each other.

A teenaged girl driving her mom, I suppose -the young one gesturing in the air and the old one smiling.

A black SUV climbs the curb. Inside, there’s a grey-haired fellow with a black coat and sunglasses. I look to see if there’s an earpiece.

And beyond the drive-thru lane is the traffic on Wellington Road. The flow of human beings, slowed only by red lights. I’m in the midst of us and it’s a pleasure to be here. Home is not alone. Home is with you.

Couple Love

I went to another house concert last night.  It was folk music – the songs of stories.  I listened to marvelous lyrics and voices … and I watched love unfold.

I’ll make up names for the stars of the show, and no, I don’t mean the performers.  Lillian and Mike are our hosts.  Most Wednesday evenings, they open their home to all who have ears to hear.  While the musicians were playing last night, this lovely couple sat close to each other, touching.  They held hands.  I think we should all do that.  Every so often, I’d sneak a glance over to them, and a tiny smile would show up on my lips.

Each week, Todd plays a first set on the keyboard.  His fingers float and caress.  After a few creations, he asks us to welcome “the amazing” Erica, she of the haunting voice.  Often at the end of a song, she’ll lean over and kiss the side of Todd’s head.  I’m sure that Lillian and Mike were in the background, nodding.

Jake’s voice has deteriorated.  It’s raspy.  I never heard him when the flow was sweet, and that’s just fine.  Last night, in the third set, he joined the evening headliners for a rendition of Comfortably Numb from Pink Floyd.  Jake didn’t hold back:

There is no pain, you are receding
A distant ship smoke on the horizon
You are only coming through in waves
Your lips move but I can’t hear what you’re saying
When I was a child
I caught a fleeting glimpse
Out of the corner of my eye
I turned to look but it was gone
I cannot put my finger on it now
The child is grown
The dream is gone
I have become comfortably numb

As Jake gave us his all, I caught a fleeting glimpse of Julia.  She was beaming at her hubby and soon joined in with a delicate harmony to his melody.  The room fell into the beauty of it all.

Love lives
We take turns, you and me
One with the top line, the other with the bottom
So deeply in tune

Cozy

6:30 pm

AccuWeather is calling for ten hours of snow overnight.  Right now it’s freezing drizzle.  I’m sitting in my den at the front of the house, watching for snow signs in the streetlight.  I’m eager for the storm and so very thankful that I’m safe inside.

I think back to forty years ago, in the mountains of Manning Park east of Vancouver, British Columbia.  A group of us had rented a chalet for a few days and the snow was coming down hard.  A fire kept us warm and the windows looked like a Christmas card.  After dark, we ventured out to the neighbouring chalets, singing carols to the occupants.  We smiled and they smiled.  What a great memory.

Tonight, though, I don’t want to be out and about.  I’m curled up on my love seat with a marvelous book – Wonder.  It’s the story of a 10-year-old who has a deformed face.  His spirit, however, is just fine.  And he’s starting to draw people in.

I’ll keep watching the streetlight and will tell you when there’s some action up there.

8:15 pm

It’s starting!  Essentially horizontal snow.  Oh, bring it on!  So far, the street is still black but I have great faith that white is on its way.

11:30 pm

Snowflakes still dipping and diving in the light … but very little on the ground.  (Sigh)  I want inches blanketing the road.  Blizzard, wherefor art thou?  It’s time to lay my head on the pillow and dream of a white world on the awakening.  Goodnight.

8:00 am

Boo.  Just a skiff of snow, with patches of grass showing through on the lawn.  The street remains black.  What happened to my blessed blizzard?

Once I sat with these thoughts for a few minutes, I realized that I don’t need the outside world to do what I want it to do.  I can bring forth “sanctuary”, “nestling down”, “coziness” whenever I choose.  Now, as I look over my backyard, I see a delicate painting … a covering of white sprinkled with strands of green.  It’s beautiful.  It’s home.

Together

It was towards the end of French class this morning.  Many kids had completed the assignment and free time beckoned.  A girl came up to me and suggested that I start up Duolingo, the French app on my phone which is helping me prepare for Senegal, where I’ll be with children who only speak French.  Duolingo is très cool, announcing my successes with a little trumpet blast.

I sat on the edge of a table with a girl on each side.  They often chimed in with the correct answer to a question, and sometimes pressed the screen to make my word choices for me.  A little bit of me thought “Wait a minute.  It’s my app. I’m the one who has to learn this stuff.”  But that melted away like the first snowfall of the season.

The three of us were together.  It didn’t really matter what the topic was – studying French would do nicely.  Beyond the task, we were simply having fun, and enjoying each other’s presence.  Other than a few comments about the French terms, not a word was spoken.  Words weren’t needed.

The girls were eleven.  I’m sixty-nine.  No problem.  Just human beings wanting to share a few moments with other human beings.