Golf Balls

When I was a kid, I’d often show up at the Don Valley Golf Course in Toronto.  At 6:00 am on Saturday mornings.  Juniors could tee off starting at 7:00 and meanwhile I had a job to do – replenishing my dwindling supply of golf balls from the flow of the Don River.  I had so much fun getting so wet.

Decades later, Jody and I enjoyed walking by the Oldman River in Lethbridge, Alberta.  Lovely trees in the river bottom, a golf course beside and always the flow of water gurgling nearby.  I didn’t need to find golf balls but I did it anyway, much to my dear wife’s amusement.  And the joy I felt when a white treasure winked up at me from the fallen leaves!

Yesterday, it was pouring buckets but I wanted to walk the fairways and rough of Tarandowah Golfers Club, a spiritual home of mine.  I put on rain pants and my trusty winter coat.  In the parking lot sat three lonely cars, one belonging to the ever hopeful pro who stood patiently in the clubhouse.  He knew about my shtick:  “Enjoy your walk, Bruce.”

Off I went into the stiff breeze and the barrage of raindrops.  I was just so happy!  I sauntered down the middle of the first fairway, all alone in the world.  Behind the first green, the grass falls down to a creek.  That’s where I needed to go.  I searched amid the long leafiness, seemingly without success.  Then a small white object appeared, tucked into its nest of grasses.  And – no more than a foot away – another ball made my acquaintance.  Joy times two!

I have a system, no doubt set in place to massage my ego after a round of 112 at Tarandowah.  When I’m walking, and not playing, I par a hole when I find one ball there.  Two balls is a birdie, no balls a bogey.  So par for the entire course is having my pockets bulge with 18 of the little darlings.  My record has been 22 under par (40 balls)  which would equate to a score of 50 in the real game of golf – eight strokes better than anyone has ever accomplished.  I’ve told a few golfers about my clubless exploits but they all seemed unimpressed.

Wow – it was getting wet out there, but happily I was three under par after four holes.  Now for the gem:  The fifth is a long uphill par four with a farmer’s field bordering it to the right.  The soil was gooey, the pondlets were several, the shoes squished at nearly every step.  But look what I found!  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, … 33 golf balls poked their dimples at me.

Many a time, I thrust my forefinger into the mud and pried out the prize.  Some wiping on my rain pants and into the pocket it went.  As you might suspect, my coat has big pockets, and as I finally trudged back to the clubhouse, I looked like a squirrel with its cheeks full of nuts for the winter.  But there was nobody around to see my personal vestige of loveliness.  Oh well, I knew I was glorious … complete with mud smears, coated hands and wet everything, despite the rain protection.  I was just so dirty … so wild … so strange.

The grand total?  43 balls, which represents a new standard for all golfers to aspire to.  I expect any moment now that my doorbell will ring and TSN/ESPN/CNN will come calling.

New

I sat with “Trevor” for a few minutes yesterday.  He’s a Grade 6 student at South Dorchester School.  I looked at him and wondered if he could create something new in the world.  Then I asked him.  “I have a challenge for you.  Think up some way that people could be happier.”

Trevor didn’t look at me like I was crazy.  He just looked at me … thoughtfully.  Then he said, “I’ll work on it.”  And I know he will.

What if each of us considered what we could add to this place, rather than merely wanting all our desires to be met?  What if we could focus on the level of consciousness we present to others, rather than just checking off items on our bucket list?  What if we committed to living in accord with our highest values?  It’s possible.

Long ago, in my travels as an itinerant vision teacher, I came upon a classroom teacher named Patty.  Every morning, she’d write a “Thought for the Day” on the board.  I liked a lot of them, but then one day …

You were born an original
Don’t die a copy

Whoa!

That one hit me hard and it’s stayed with me over the years.  “Original.”  Something new on our planet.  Yes.  I can do that, and so can each of us.  I doubt very much if I’ll ever invent something that makes our lives easier, but would I really want to do that anyway?  “Easier” is nowhere near the top of the mountain.

Perhaps my uniqueness can revolve around the present moment, and all the ones to follow.  Right now, what can I bring to the table?  Well, this particular Right Now finds me tapping the keys of my laptop in a Tim Hortons coffee shop.  I’m not talking to anyone, other than the fellow I gave my order to.  What can advance the world’s happiness as I sit here?  Well … I can simply wish people well.

You are loved
May you have peace
May you touch others
May you feel the sorrows of those around you and let your heart quiver in response

As I complete this blog post, and ready myself to leave the restaurant, maybe there’s a kind word that will escape my lips and land in someone’s heart.  We’ll see.

Part of my uniqueness shows up in the meditation hall on retreats.  After a few days of settling in, I can feel my heart opening, offering love and peace to those nearby.  I don’t think I fill the room … but perhaps someday.  “Come on, Bruce, other people do this too.”  Of course, but it is a gift I’ve been given.

My newness may mostly show up in group meditation but my environment is full of more traditional venues – classrooms, diners, libraries, my home, other people’s homes, on the trail, in the public washroom, sitting on a bench.  Folks come by.  What can I offer?  Quite a bit, I think.

And as for you, Trevor, I welcome your words.  See you on Tuesday.

You Shine in a Very Lovely Way

Another day, another concert for me.  Hugh’s Room, an iconic folk music venue in Toronto, has reopened after financial trouble.  Saturday night was a gala fundraiser, featuring fourteen excellent musicians.  Being in the small hall was like coming home.

There were gentle songs and raucous songs, and everything in between.  I was happy.  Then Laura Smith stepped up to the microphone.  I’d say she’s in her sixties.  And here’s what she has to say in “The Blues and I”:

Everything is moving
So why am I standing still
Looking for a star?
Let there be a star …
Guiding me

The words are lovely but Laura onstage is inexpressible.  Her face has the hollows of an older person.  The eyes reach out, warm and wet.  The mouth holds the words gently.  The voice soothes.  But the whole is infinitely greater than the sum of the parts.

When Laura began, all of me stopped.  Only one other time in my life has a person filled the room like this.  She was a teacher at the Insight Meditation Society in Massachusetts.  And Laura was right there with her.

I said hi to Laura after the concert.  She smiled.

***

Wow.  There’s nothing to say.  The written word doesn’t get the job done.  You’d have to be there and listen.

Only twice in my life.  Has a human being of such transcendence ever come your way?  I think you’d remember if they had.  In fact, I know you’d remember.  Inside your head, you would have heard …

Oh my God!

Close

I went to a concert at Koerner Hall last night.  Two violinists, two cellists and two violists.  The ticket said that I was in Row AA.  And was I ever!  At the very front, virtually in the middle.  About ten feet from the performers.

It was astonishing.  I saw fingers smash against the strings … and then caress them.  I saw glances between musicians, and smiles.  I heard the worlds of Brahms and Tchaikovsky in sound surround.  It was all so vivid, so immersing.

***

I thought back to the Three Tenors performing in Toronto’s Skydome.  Jody and I paid nearly $100 per ticket (unheard of!) and took our spots way up high on the far side of the stadium.  Mr. big Pavarotti was reduced to Mr. tiny ant.  Several times during the performance, I pulled my eyes away from the JumboTron.  No way was I going to watch TV at a hundred bucks a throw.

Decades later, I’m a regular at the Cuckoo’s Nest Folk Club in London, Ontario – capacity about 60.  To hear Jez Lowe sing his ballads right in front of me, with the passion of the songwriter, is transporting.

***

I have many hobbies.  One is wandering down residential streets, looking at the furniture on the porch.  If two chairs sit there, I hope that they’re right next to each other, so the unknown occupants can hold hands.  Alas, there’s usually a sturdy patio table in between, or maybe just a swath of blank space.  Hands can’t reach that far.

***

Speaking of hands, many couples stroll my way, and so very few of them are holding each other.  Oh, there might be a brush against the other’s thigh every so often, but no real contact.  The exceptions include young and old who swing their arms together gaily, or reach the other hand over to hold the back of their lover’s, or just gently press the soul into the flesh.  I like that.

***

On the subway, some folks will stand rather than take the empty seat beside me.  Others will sit down, and our bodies are in contact for the rest of the ride.  I’ll take option two.

***

Life erupts all around us, sometimes with joy, and sometimes sorrow.  Or it flows like honey.  May I always face the action, and move towards it, where the sweetness (or bittersweetness) lies.

 

Wandering Up and Down

I walked twelve kilometres yesterday, through the parkland by Toronto’s Humber River.  All was green.  I meandered past tennis courts and fire circles, wooded slopes and wide lawns, with benches a-plenty for sittin’.  And I went slow.

All sorts of folks came my way.  Unless they looked supremely grumpy, I said hi.  Only three people gave me a sincere hello back.  I wonder if I look dangerous.  Or maybe it’s just the big city mentality, perhaps “Someone who says hello wants something.”  Oh well.  I wasn’t going to let the prevailing responses besmirch my day.

Near the end of the journey, I parked my bod in the lounge of the Old Mill Inn.  Lots of nice stonework and comfy chairs.  I found myself facing the portrait of a severe young man.  I asked myself whether he ever smiled in his earlier life.  I sure hope so.  I sipped my glass of white wine and read sports articles on my phone.  Sort of a mixed metaphor but I don’t mind.

Off again, this time to the mysteries of Bloor Street.  The sidewalks were full of all and sundry, enjoying the spring sunshine.  But I was fading.  Was it the wine, or the long walk, or my continued movement away from sleeping pills?  My head beat out a nasty rhythm and my legs were declining towards the asphalt.  “It’s okay, Bruce.  You’re off these pills and there’s no going back.”

My walking plans fell apart and I stumbled towards a subway station.  Fifteen minutes later I was slurping coffee in a Tim Horton’s, watching outside folks scatter under a sudden thunderstorm.  I was happy to be dry and sad to be vacant.  Coffee completed, I continued to stare out at smashing raindrops.  How would I stay awake at the concert?  So … another twelve ounces of Dark Roast.

Koerner Hall was only a three-minute walk from Tim’s and the rain had faded when I poked my pounding head out the door.  Inside the gorgeous concert hall, I awaited the presence of Rosanne Cash.  Slowly my brain cleared and I was ready for tunes.

Rosanne’s voice filled the space with sweetness, accompanied by the guitar runs of her husband.  One song especially hit home:

We’re falling like the velvet petals
We’re bleeding and we’re torn
But God is in the roses
And the thorns

I left The Royal Conservatory of Music with “500 Miles” on my lips and a skip in my step.  All deficits were in the rear view mirror.  Until, that is, I got to my home bed-and-breakfast.  Head banging again and a troubled caffeine-laden sleep.

So it seems to me this morning that life is both A and B
Despite my efforts to call it A
I guess I can live with that

Pride

It’s supposed to be a bad thing but I felt it big time yesterday and I’m happy about that.

It’s been a grind getting off sleeping pills.  My weaning is now into Week Seven and I’m proud to announce that I haven’t had any for the past seven nights.  But, oh, the fuzziness!  One night recently, I must have woken up ten times … but magically tottered back to sleep soon after each one.  Overall, a lot of recent dullness in my life.

So yesterday morning I raised myself up and floated through the morning in a light stupor.  I also think I was suffering from food poisoning.  But I was scheduled to volunteer at South Dorchester School in the afternoon and I love those kids.  Mid-morning, I was leaning towards the comfort of my bed but later roused my cells enough to get in the car and head to school.

I arrived at lunch recess and walked towards the Grade 6 portable.  Tiffany, the teacher, was nowhere to be seen so I plunked myself down in her rocking chair and sat in the darkness.  Almost immediately came the message from within:  “Go home.  Rest.  The kids will do fine without you.”  Which is, of course, true.  Kids can have fun wherever they are.

I could feel my hands pressing down on the arms of the chair, preparing for an exit.  But the rest of my being wanted to stay.  “But what good will you do?  Maybe you’re not dizzy but you’re somewhere in the ballpark.”

“Oh, be quiet.  I’ll give what I have to give.”  And so I did.

Good things happened in the afternoon:

1.  I talked to the girls’ basketball team and told them that my ecstatic happiness after their win must be because I love them, and want them to be happy.

2.  Several times, I accompanied various kids to the art supply room, where they found colourful construction paper and plasticene for their projects.  Many thanks came my way.

3.  While I was waiting for one group of kids to find their stuff, a teacher came up to me and asked “How are you?”  I thought for a millisecond and replied with the truth:  “I’m happy.”  One young lady chimed in with “Mr. Kerr, you’re always happy.”  I smiled.

4.  I scoured the school for empty cardboard boxes, bugging this staff member and that, ending up with two big ones and one small one – perfect for the creation of dramatic sets.

5.  One girl, after some running frustrations in PE, declared “I am nothing.”  I let her know, forcefully, that she was something, and a very special something indeed.

6.  Four boys were hunched down inside a playground hut, practicing their recorder pieces during an outdoor Music class.  I applauded at the end, and one fellow reached his ball cap towards me, for a tip no doubt.  I reached into my wallet and found four coins – two dimes and two nickels.  Into the hats the money went.  Their first professional performance!

7.  I watched the kids pass the baton during relay practice.  I did very well as a corner post, managing to stay vertical the whole time.  What a thrill it was to have sprinting 12-year-olds blowing by me at full speed.

8.  I watched from a distance as a boy and girl sat together way out there on the playground grass, playing their recorder duets.  Sweet.

9.  I read to the kids from a diary written by an aboriginal residential school student.  Such hard words to read, and for the kids to hear.  Children identified only as numbers.  Having to say white man’s prayers while any expression of their own religion was punished.  Not being able to talk at meals.

10.  During the end-of-the-day “Shout Outs”, I applauded a girl who was on yesterday’s victorious basketball team, but couldn’t play because of a concussion.  She was a great cheerleader, and dealt with the feelings of loss that no doubt came up.

***

Ten reasons to get out of bed
Because the world needs me (and you) even if we’re not 100%

Pride before a fall?  Maybe.
But what’s a bruise or two in the course of a lifetime?

Team

On Sunday evening, I stood in Maple Leaf Square with thousands of other Toronto fans.  Inside the Air Canada Centre, the Leafs were battling the Washington Capitals in a National Hockey League playoff game.

When Auston Matthews scored for the home team, we went nuts, waving our white flags and jumping up and down.  I was so happy.

But that joy pales in comparison to yesterday afternoon.  I was watching the Grade 6 girls from South Dorchester School play in the finals of a basketball tournament.  The score was 9-8 with about two minutes left.  “Monica” was well outside the foul line when she launched a ball skyward.  A sweet touch on the backboard and then nothing but net.  Ecstasy coursed through my arteries and veins.  I stood and cheered.  After a few close calls at the other end, the whistle blew and there was a mass of hugging 12-year-olds.

The difference was love.  I know those youngsters as human beings and I care deeply about them.  Oh, I say I love the Leafs but we all know that’s a junior version of a very fine thing to feel.

The image staying with me is all the jump balls that were called.  Two girls would have their hands on the basketball and wouldn’t let go.  Sometimes they’d be rolling around on the floor, still hanging on.  Go South Dorchester!  You girls are fierce.  I loved seeing your energy – pushing the ball up the floor, falling down and getting up, missing a shot and keeping your head high.  Wow.

My wish is that twenty years from now, when you think of yesterday, the first thing you’ll remember is your teammates – how you hung in there together, patted each other on the shoulder when things were bad, high fived each other when things were good.  You gave it all for your friends.

So this is what walking on air feels like.

Energies

Well, here I am, experimenting with energies.  I used to think that I wanted to hang out in the peaceful energy of meditation till the cows come home, but I’m no longer in that spot.  I want to see what edgy feels like, what intense doing feels like, what big crowds feel like, what bantering back and forth with another human being feels like.

So then there was yesterday.  I got up early and drove to Toronto.  After taking the UP Express train downtown, I meandered over to the ferry terminal.  I spent a minute or two holding the arm of Jack Layton (or that of a statue honouring him).  I thanked Jack for all he contributed to Toronto and Canada.  It was the quiet energy of relationship.

I got off the ferry on Ward’s Island at 11:00 am.  The brunch and concert at St. Andrew-by-the-Lake Church would start at 12:30 so I had lots of time to wander.

It was clean-up day on the shoreline and many island residents were picking up garbage, hoisting branches that had washed ashore, and sorting recyclables from not.  They often moved quickly from one task to the next.  I told several of them “The earth thanks you.”  Everyone smiled in response.  Overall, it was the exuberant energy of doing good.

I walked the tiny streets of Ward’s, surrounded by quaint cottages.  Green was everywhere.  Plants poking their heads above the earth.  Wide stretches of grass.  And yellow … masses of daffodils and large forsythia bushes.  Vines hung from many homes.  Only a few residents were up and about and I said hi when they were close.  It was the slow rhythmic energy of nature.

Next I put feet to wood on the shoreline boardwalk.  I waved to the few cyclists and walkers out for a stroll.  Often V’s of black birds soared over my head.  Squirrels did their digging and bouncing along things.  It was the pulsating energy of life.

And now for brunch.  A jampacked frittata, asparagus-infused greens, a gooey Italian cake and two glasses of red wine.  Such a nourishing energy.

I had some good moments with the people I was sitting with.  Smiles about life.  When the talk turned toward local news that I knew nothing about, I just listened.  It was a happy and sad energy … happy to be with human beings and sad that I wasn’t part of their group.

And now for music.  I listened to a jazz quartet – vocalist, saxophone player, pianist and upright bassist.  The tunes ebbed and flowed as they read off each other and gave each person the chance to shine in a solo.  Making it up as they went?  Sometimes it felt like that.  It was a spontaneous and creative energy, tender and then boisterous, and then back to sweet again.

The dessert of my day was back on the mainland.  I stood with a thousand other folks in Maple Leaf Square, where we gazed up at a huge screen and waved white towels.  Inside the Air Canada Centre, the Toronto Maple Leafs were battling the Washington Capitals in a National Hockey League playoff game.  We cheered wildly for the big hits delivered by the Leafs, for the saves made by Frederik Andersen (“Freddie!  Freddie!”) and for the one Toronto goal.  We agonized as the Capitals came back to tie and then ended our season with an overtime marker.  It was the energy of winning and losing, of gain and loss, of them versus us.

***

So, I was awash in energies
And no one was better that any other
Just a human being embracing his world

Falling Short and Standing Tall

Part A

Today was the morning that I was going to change the flat tire on my bike.  I cleared some space in the garage and started getting nervous.  “You can Google it, Bruce.”  Except I didn’t want to.  I had vague memories about how to do the deed.  Years ago, I’d even done it successfully, but maybe not on the more difficult rear wheel.

I turned ta-pocketa upside down.  Check.  I moved the gear shifter so that the chain was on the smallest sprocket.  (See!  I can remember things.)  I squeezed the gear shift lever and pressed the little button, moving the brake pads away from the rear wheel.  I put on gloves, to cope with the chain grease.  Oh, what a good boy am I!  And then …

I loosened the bolt (?) that holds the wheel on the bike.  I grabbed the chain and yanked this way and that, lifting the little gears to various elevations.  (That’s what I’m supposed to do, isn’t it?)  Nothing.  Just a bunch of black goop on orange gloves.  I stared at the contraption … and couldn’t remember what to do.  I’d done well so far but my mind created a dead end.  “See what a bad cyclist you are?  Good luck on crossing the country.  You can’t even get out of your driveway.”  (Good grief.  Will someone please tell that voice to shut up?)

Trusting that no neighbours were training binoculars on me, I jerked the wheel some more.  The chain teeth became a series of devilish smiles, and the goop continueth.  And then finally, the darn thing came apart.  What exactly did I do to create that result?  I don’t know but at least now I had the wheel on my lap.

Okay … grab the tire levers so you can pry the tire away from the rim, exposing the damaged inner tube, which you can then skillfully pluck out of its prison.  I pried.  The lever flew through the air, with the tire still firmly in place.  I repried and the lever reflew.

I gouged.  I grunted.  And approximately ten minutes later the tire lever was zipping off the tire like a knife through butter.  Was I approaching the world’s slow record for changing a flat?  No, there had to be other all-thumbsers on the roads of the world.

So the offending inner tube now lay on the grass.  From a place deeply dark in my biking soul, I remembered that good cyclists pump a little air into the new tube, to make it easier to push under the tire and against the rim.  Open little nozzle on the inner tube valve.  Pick the right hole on my bicycle pump for said nozzle.  Pump.  I said “Pump!”  Nothing.  No air entereth the tube.  Remove pump head from tube.  Try again … and again … and once more.  Pick up old and useless inner tube.  Pump.  Air enters.  So what am I doing wrong?!  I have no idea.  Back to the new tube.  Pump.  Nyet.  Head down between my legs.  Buddhist insights about how all of this isn’t important?  Nowhere to be seen.

Rest for five minutes.  Try again.  Air enters tube.  Can’t figure out why now and why not then.  Oh well.

I get the new inner tube pushed under the tire and use a lever to reseat the tire on the rim, being careful not to pinch the inner tube.  Gosh, what a pro!  And it worked.  Soon I was pumping happily until the tire reached 110 psi.

Then it was at least twenty minutes of greasy fiddling to get the wheel reattached to the bike.  (Please, no cyclists are allowed to read this part.)  And then … Ta da!  My bike was ready to fly.

I danced inside to put on my quirky blue jersey, heart rate monitor, sexy spandex shorts, groovy red socks, headband, helmet, yellow cycling gloves and shoes with metal pieces on the bottom (for attaching to the pedals).  Glowing with success, I returned to the garage, looking like the epitome of Joe Fitness, not to mention Joe Mechanic.  I squeezed the front tire lovingly … hard as a rock.  Then the back … … flat!  I stared once again.

So repeat the whole darn thing, with a new inner tube.  I probably cut my time in half, but I was low in the soul.

Part B

In the end, I had done it.  The tire remained hard.  I flew slowly over the landscape and returned to my home 75 minutes later breathing hard.  Just like my tire still was.  Perhaps I am a good boy after all.

 

Here and There

How strange that I haven’t felt like writing for a week.  Or maybe not strange at all.  Either way, here I am.

Lots of stuff has happened and I’ve vaguely said, “I should write about this tonight.”  And then tonight fades away in the rear view mirror.  After that, the topic seems stale.  I like writing fresh.

So what to do?  I think I’ll give you some snippets from the past seven days and then see what beckons me tomorrow.  Can I create “fresh” by doing this?  We’ll see.

***

I went to a brunch at the Belmont Diner today.  Near me at the lunch counter was a mom and her young daughter – maybe 5.  I enjoyed watching her colour and throw her hands at mom, all with a vibrant smile.  After we had eaten, “Brittany” sidles over to the chair beside me and eventually says, “You came into my classroom.”  And I guess I did, on a day a few weeks ago when I read Stanley At School to a whole bunch of classes.

My new friend bubbled away about the two plastic Easter eggs she had in front of her.  She shook the small one near my ear.  No sound.  “No surprises.”  Then the big one.  Something was rattling inside.  “Surprises!”  Opening it up, Brittany pointed out the chocolate yummies and the “hay” – little turquoise strings of plastic.  My job was to get the strings back inside so she could close the eggish lid.  I did okay, and together we got the job done, with just a few strands sticking out.  “Look!  The egg has a beard.”  So very cool.

Then Brittany launched into her counting skills.  After a bit, we were doing it in unison (70, 71, 72 …) with each of us watching the other person’s mouth form the words.  How wonderful that a short young person can create such joy in a taller, older one.

***

Thursday evening was momentous.  For the first time in at least ten years, I didn’t go to bed with a sleeping pill in my mouth.  With the help of my pharmacist, I’ve been weaning myself off the nasty little things.  Thursday was the beginning of a new two-week pattern – “Nothing, half, nothing, half …”  And I was scared.  What if I got no sleep at all?  How would I survive that?  Well of course I would, but I didn’t have to.  I awoke amazed after seven hours of shuteye.  How could that be?  Chemicals going into my body for maybe 4000 nights and then sleeping well without them.  Thank you, o powers of freedom.

Last night was the second “nothing” experience.  Surely it would be a piece of cake.  Surely the first night would be the worst.  But not so.  I struggled to get four hours.  After Thursday, I told myself to forget the schedule, that I was already free, with never a Trazodone to enter my body again.  But a wiser voice let me know that I needed to stick with the program, to be nice to my mysterious physical existence.  I’m glad I listened.

***

After school on Wednesday, I drove to New Sarum to see the Grade 6 girls play basketball.  I volunteer in their class.  I took a seat on the stage of the gym and waited for my friends to arrive.  And here they came.  Some of them saw me, smiled and came right over to sit in front of and beside me.  And there we chatted as two other teams took the floor for the first game.  It was special for me to sense that I was important to many of those young people.  Makes me wish I had kids.  I would have been a good dad.

The next day, at recess, some of the girls and boys wanted me to see the fort they’d built at the far corner of the schoolyard.  I was ushered into an airy wooden structure and offered a seat on their padded bench.  All seemed pleased that my weight didn’t collapse the thing.  I got to sit there and smile about the private space they’d created for themselves.  It was a privilege to be a guest.

***

On Good Friday, I went for a bike ride.  Sunny and warm.  Eight kilometres in, as I approached Harrietsville, I got a flat tire.  Boo.  I had to be back at 1:00 pm to go with my good neighbours Sharon and John to a gospel music concert in Kitchener.  As I stared at ta-pocketa’s plight, I realized that I’d forgotten how to change a tire, especially the more difficult back one.  “But Bruce, here you are preparing to cross Canada on your bike next year and you can’t even change a tire?”  Yep.  That’s true.  So humbling.

I started walking my bike and saw from the cycling computer that I was going 5 kph.  A quick calculation revealed that at this pace I’d return to my doorstep at 1:05 or so.  Good enough.  So on I went.

My trip home was sprinkled with sadness.  Probably 80 vehicles passed me.  Many no doubt thought it strange that here was a man walking his bicycle.  Did they wonder if I had a flat, or whether I was injured?  The net result was that no one stopped to see if I was okay, and maybe to offer me a lift home.  At least 15 pickup trucks came by.  Plus several vans, although I don’t know if they had room for ta-pocketa and me.  I felt sad that this particular slice of society didn’t respond to someone in need.  Oh, I wasn’t hurt, and with enough walking I would make it home just fine, but still …

***

Happily, I arrived home in time for my neighbours and me to join other folks on a bus leading to the Collingsworth family – mom, dad and four young adults (a son and three daughters).  Could they sing!  And the thousand of us in the audience were moving and grooving (some on the outside, some within).

The star of the show was mom Kim.  She sat at the black grand piano and blasted us with her virtuoso playing.  If only you could have heard “How Great Thou Art”.  During the fast parts, she was bouncing on the piano bench, head back in ecstasy as she belted out the words while her fingers flew.  And the best was watching her daughters nearby as Kim played.  Here was a mom expressing herself with every fibre of her being, and the girls were loving her for it.  They smiled, they nodded, they stared at their mother.  And all was well.

***

1100 words?  Cool.  Just a few more now:

The banquet is laid out every single day
How delightful to partake