Feeding Me

One of my favourite memories of Jody’s and my home in Union, Ontario is our bird feeders.  What joy to sit on the deck and watch the hummers hum and the finches frolic.  Since moving to Belmont, I’ve missed that.  But I brought two feeders with me – a big cylinder holding sunflower seeds and other yummies (sparrow, finches, red-winged blackbirds, mourning doves and associated friends) and a small cylinder holding nyjer seed (red finches and goldfinches).  Two weeks ago, I set up a black shepherd’s hook stand outside my living room window and hung the feeders.

Within a day or two, I had multiple winged visitors.  What ecstasy!  Especially the mourning doves.  They were too heavy for the big feeder but they loved rooting around in the grass for the spilled nutrition.  As many as five of them at a time.  Every day, I love sitting on my couch near the window and welcoming the little people.  It’s like an extended family.

But then there was yesterday, and today.  I was having guests for dinner last night so I took out the hose and washed off the patio, getting as much bird poop off the stones and furniture as I could.  Then I refilled the sunflower feeder.  During the evening, I would occasionally glance out the window at the feeders.  They were empty of birdies.

This morning the same.  I sat down to blog half an hour ago and nobody was home.  I was sad.  Missing friends.  Will they ever come back?  What did I do wrong?  And I got thinking about the rest of my life.

What is supremely important to me is loving.  Being loved is very wonderful but I have no control over what comes back to me from other human beings.  Thursday was the last day of school.  Five minutes before home time, all the Grade 6’s were standing on the playground with Mrs. Fournier and me.  I so much wanted to hug each of them but of course it’s not my place to initiate physical contact.  Kids need the room to make their own choices and at 3:25 pm, that choice could have been a little wave goodbye, or no goodbye at all.  I stood.

My eyes are wet as I remember the next.  At least twelve young human beings lined up to hug me.  Life doesn’t get any better than that.  Oh, how I wish they were my children!  And in a sense they are.

I’m still sitting by the window.  A few minutes ago, a lone goldfinch perched outside for a bit, and then left.  And one mourning dove is meandering through the grass shoots.  So someone has come back.  It’s not the flurry of wings that came my way days ago, and that’s fine.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Just a Glimmer

Well, I woke up this morning [Sunday] and that feeling of immense space was still with me.  How about that?  I felt some energy moving down my body, towards my stomach.  A very quiet energy.  The moments were there and there was nothing to add to them.

The morning cold was bearable but my body really turned it on in the p.m.  No nose breathing that I could discover.  And I was zooming along the 401 at 110 kph.  Those two facts would normally have completely dominated my consciousness.  But not today.  There was a subtle current of ok-ness below.  Scarlet was going so fast but I was very slow inside.

The space would often close in just as my nose did, sometimes as a car changed lanes right in front of me.  But the stillness kept edging back into my drive.  Sweet.

Now I’m watching the Nashville Predators battle the Pittsburg Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final.  In the spirit of doing something about my problems, I’m shoving gobs of mentholatum up my nose.  But still precious little breathing.  And then there’s my stomach again – not a pain but a fine awareness down there.  It’s as if my body is helping me recenter myself, again and again.

And now the softness is gone and I’m my closed nose again.  Still I think of nasally normal moments in my future.  Will I be able to access yesterday’s peace at will when my body isn’t distracting me?  Maybe.  But it seems to me that I can create other distractions pretty easily.

And so what if I’ll often be able to reach an open state of being?  How can that better the world?  Assuming that I’ll be able to do this (without effort), perhaps other people will resonate with the same energy.  Maybe our minds will be so calm that our doing becomes a blessing.

Then again, all these musings could be so much horsepucky, the meanderings of a deluded one.

***

Shortly after the reference to horsepucky, I’d had enough vertical life and went to bed.  Where I slept for the next twelve hours, nose and all.  I’m up now and the spaciousness is gone.  Well, let’s see.  Maybe I’m wrong.  I’ll go searching.  But searching isn’t it.  That’s just more effort.  Peace is as clear as the nose on my face or it’s not there.  No.  Nothing.  But that’s okay.

Y’all come back sometime …

Learnings

Well, look at this.  My fingers are caressing the keys again.  It’s been over a month, most of which I’ve spent in silence.

A little smile just broke upon the shore of my mouth, and with it a realization: I don’t give a hoot about how good this piece of writing is.  Ha, ha ,ha!  This is delightful.  The words will come, and along with them sentences and paragraphs.  Some people will like it … some won’t.  All is well.

Ah, hah.  An intruding thought.  “But Bruce, if you’re not all tied up about the quality of your work, then that work should be better.  And that’s good.”  Well, dear person that I am, that may be true but the depth of it all is “Who cares?”

I discovered some things during my meditation retreat.  And I don’t mean a cognitive understanding, but rather a full body, down-deep-in-the-heart variety.  Something that rattles my bones and leaves me both spent like a dishrag and bountiful as a mountaintop.

1. “What you contemplate, you become.”  My first memory of contemplating love was one evening in 1974, sitting under a big tree in Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Park.  I had just seen a performance of Jesus Christ Superstar in a stone church downtown.  Perhaps for two hours, I sat there and rocked back and forth in a … trance?  Something magical was percolating through me.

Since then, I have largely contemplated love and peace in my life and I believe that I’ve become that type of person.  It doesn’t mean that I’m never critical of others but I return to the Buddha’s urging to “Begin again.”  The peace returns.  The thoughts once again flow to the goodness in the world, and my part in that.

2.  “There are two types of suffering: the type that you can’t do anything about and the type that you can.”  Partway through the retreat, we had green beans at lunch.  They were long so I cut them in half.  They were also a little hard.  I have arthritis in my right thumb.  I prepared my hand for its bean-stabbing motion and sallied forth, except that I wasn’t strong enough to pierce the veggies.  I pressed harder and had some success, managing to get a few beans airborne, but it hurt.  I stared in wonder.  And then I started laughing.  Somewhere along the line, I’ve begun accepting the pains of life, and have decided not to add stuff.  Such as:

What’s wrong with you?

You’re getting old.  Maybe you’ll die soon

This isn’t fair!  You’re a good person … this shouldn’t be happening

3.  Mr. Buddha told us that life consists of four pairs: Gain and Loss, Pleasure and Pain, Praise and Blame, Fame and Disrepute.  During the retreat, I got to experience all eight.  I’ve started to see, way down deep, that I can be the nicest guy, with the best intentions in the world and a rigorous fitness program, and life’s plate will still offer me helpings of loss, pain, disrepute and blame.  So be it.

***

On we go in life.  It’s really a fine adventure

Root Canal

Moments keep showing up in my life, ones that I want to write about.  Such as the astonishing movie I saw Monday about a Tibetan family’s pilgrimage to the sacred Potala Palace.  Or yesterday afternoon, when I started my volunteer work in a local elementary school.

This morning I told myself to get writing.  Start with Tibet and then move on to Belmont.  But I decided to eat breakfast at the Diner and then mosey over to the elliptical at Wellington Fitness.  “That’s okay, I’ll get to those stories after this afternoon’s root canal.”

Sure.

Here I sit, ready for the Toronto Raptors basketball game, feeling like lukewarm poop.  I’d say my pain is at 4 on the scale of 1 to 10.  Not bad, but there.  Also I’m lightheaded, fuzzy, flat.  So how can I bring forth the joy of seeing the pilgrimage or laughing with those kids?  I want to talk about those things but if I tried right now it would be concepts, tepid words, nothing bringing forth the “Oh My God” freshness of those moments.

Instead, my head says two things:

1. Don’t even write.  You’re too weak.

2. Speak from your current experience.  It’s the best thing to speak of.

Okay, I choose number two.

***

You can’t even string words together, Bruce.  (Yes I can.  See above)

What if I felt this vagueness 24/7?  Would I still be able to being forth Spirit?

Take the Tylenol, Bruce.  (No, at least not with this level of pain.  How about if I let myself experience exactly what’s here?)

Do some people, not in pain, feel this way throughout their lives?  I suppose.  How can they possibly conjure up love, joy and peace?

It’s getting worse.  It’s now a 5.  (I don’t think so.  You’re making it up, just so you can get some drugs into your system)

Oh … here comes a headache.  (So?)

I figure, as I move towards my 70s, that physical pain will become a larger part of my life.  Maybe not.  But if it does, and my strength, endurance and flexibility decline, should my contributions to the world also diminish?  (No)

The game’s coming on.  Wrap it up.  (No.  I’ll keep looking to see if there’s more I want to say)

Maybe you should write about the Tibetan family and all those Grade 6s tonight.  Just keep going.  (No.  Heroism not required.  I’ll get to those topics when I have more energy)

You just counted the number of points you talked about below the asterisks.  It’s nine.  Why don’t you stop at ten?  (That’s silly.  It’s not a sporting contest.  Stats don’t matter.  Just look a bit more – a few more important things to say or not?)

Not.

Gone In The Brain

Somewhere in my sheath of WordPress posts is one that detailed a memory loss.  I couldn’t remember what year it was, how old I was and where my new condo was.  It happened after I worked out on the elliptical at Wellington Fitness.  The doctor said something like “transient short-term amnesia”.  I actually can’t remember the term.

Well … here we go again.  Maybe I should just copy the earlier post.

Another elliptical afternoon, after a long absence due to surgery.  I rode the horse for an hour and did quite well for an out-of-shape human.  I was tired at the end but nothing extreme.  I tried to remember my friend at the front desk.  What a lovely human being – so full of life.  But what was her name?  After a few false starts, “Karisa” finally came to me but I wasn’t sure of the spelling.  And let me tell you, Bruce does spelling.

I’m still struggling with the name of another friend at the desk.  I think it’s Tracy.  Oh my.  Where oh where has my lovely brain gone?

After my elliptical session, I went back to my locker to get my yoga mat.  Couldn’t remember the combination.  I’ve had that lock for twenty years or so but no correct number came.  I spun and spun.  And now, hours later at home, I still can’t remember it.  Finally, Marcin, my trainer, cut my old friend off.  Later I went to Canadian Tire to get a new one and you’ll be happy to know that its combination is 36-38-32.

Before the big cutoff, in a pique of sadness and panic, I went to the front desk and talked to Karisa.  She had heard my story before.  She encouraged me although I don’t remember what she said.

Back to my locker to try a new combo.  Nope.  Then back to a bench near the front desk.  Karisa came out to sit beside me.  She encouraged me again, but again I can’t remember what she said.  But she’s my friend and that’s what matters.  I told her that this was a very special moment.  To be present when my brain couldn’t remember details.  To feel the sadness and let it be there.  To know that in the grand scheme of things, I’m okay.

When this happened to me in the summer, I was planning to go to Michigan the next day to watch a women’s golf tournament.  But my passport was in the safe and who knew what the combination was?  I woke up the next morning with 99-72-36 on my lips.

Now the next morning is tomorrow.  I already remember 99-72-36.  It’s the dead padlock combo that escapes me.  Maybe my pillow will provide as the sun rises.

Hey, this writing is pretty good so I must have intact brain cells.  I’ll take what I’m given.  And how very humbling this life is.

 

 

Actually It Doesn’t Suck

Jody and I bought a vacuum about twenty years ago and it’s served us well.  A couple of weeks ago, however, I didn’t serve it well.  There was lots of construction dust in the house and some tiny wood chips.  Not so tiny as it turned out – I plugged the machine really well.  Finally, with the help of a broom handle and my industrious neighbor Borot, the obstruction was destructed.  “Clear at last, clear at last” (with a nod to Martin Luther King).

Unfortunately subsequent vacuuming sessions were fraught with disappointment, and tiny objects remaining scattered on the carpet.  Virtually no suction.  So off to McHardy Vacuum I trundled.

A helpful young gentleman replaced an interior filter and I was good to go.  Almost.  I mentioned to the fellow that I had another problem.  I couldn’t detach the long wand from the beater bar so I could use the hardwood floor attachment.

“Here, I’ll show you how.  You press this button, turn the wand and wiggle it past the little knob inside.”  Which he proceeded to demonstrate.  “You try it.”  I did.  The wand didn’t.  His turn again … easy as pie.  My turn … depress that button for all I’m worth, grunt a lot, twist like hell – nothing.

The rhythm of watch and learn repeated itself several more times.  The wand wasn’t feeling detached in my hands and neither was I.  I was thoroughly absorbed and obliterated emotionally.  “Breathe, Bruce.  Think nice Buddhist thoughts.”

Finally, in a pause that refreshes, I thought this stuff:

1. I have arthritis in my hand.  I can’t press like I used to.

2. He’s 21.  I’m 67.  Easy for him.  Impossible for me.

3. Let the vacuum go.  Donate it to Bibles For Missions.  Buy a new one.

So … I’m now the proud owner of a Panasonic jobbie.  Lime green and black.  Goes with my bathroom, although I’m likely to use it elsewhere as well.

Gosh, I am what I am.  My body is what is.  And I like the whole thing.

Where Have I Been?

I don’t know.  Somewhere that doesn’t honour the written word.

“But you love writing.”  Yes I do.

“But as someone in your childhood world said, ‘The proof of the pudding is in the eating.’  How can you say you love something if you never do it?”

I wouldn’t say “never”.  It’s been a month, or maybe six weeks.  “Pretty close to “never”, I’d say.  What don’t you just get your rear in gear and be like Nike?”

Okay.

***

In the months following Jody’s death, I gave myself little gifts.  One of those was a Jackie Evancho DVD called Awakening.   I didn’t watch it … until tonight.

Jackie has a voice for the ages.  On “America’s Got Talent” she blew the world apart with classical gems such as “Nessum Dorma”.  I remember the energy coursing through me.

So tonight I set myself up for ecstasy.  After all, this is Jackie Evancho.  I had to love the singing and the songs.  There can’t be any other response.  Except there was.

1. The video quality was poor.  Blurry.  And on medium and long shots of Jackie, little white horizontal lines would flicker on her face and arms.

2. Most of the songs were dull, with very little potential for lifting me up.  One reviewer likened it to elevator music.  There were beauties:  “Think Of Me” from Phantom of the Opera, “Made To Dream” and “Say Something”.  But pretty much I was flat in response.

“Oh, Bruce.  Something’s wrong with you.  This is the most beautiful voice you’ve ever heard.”  I agree that Jackie sang sweetly, but where was the soul?

3. I don’t think Jackie was totally “there”.  It didn’t seem like she loved most of the songs.  Her smiles were small.

***

I should be writing
I should be loving this DVD
I should be happy all the time

Nonsense

A Long Dry Spell

It’s been twenty-four days since I’ve done WordPress clicks.  Not so long ago, I faced a similar, if shorter, dilemma.  I just didn’t want to write.  I’m tempted now to look back and see what I expressed last time, and not to repeat myself.  But that would be silly.  I’ll just say what’s true in the moment.

I’ve been busy doing this and doing that, going here and going there, watching electricians, plumbers and bricklayers doing their thing.  But none of that is an excuse.  And I really don’t need an excuse.  I’ve simply done what I’ve done.  My small brain says that it’s better to write but a larger perspective allows all of life to unfold.

I’ve had nothing to say.  And in the times when that’s not been true, I haven’t had the oomph to say it.  Both are beyond the realms of good and bad, I feel.

I’d like to write that today’s post marks a resurgence in Bruce’s interest in communicating online, that I’ll return immediately to my rhythm of blogging about every two days out of three.  But that would be dishonest.  I simply don’t know what will draw me tomorrow.

I’ve just spent five days in the heat of Chicago, and four more of the same in Toronto.  The first was a marvelous experience of women’s golf – the top eight countries in the world and the top four players from each one, battling in head-to-head duels.  Then it was men’s tennis – some fierce matches between top echelon players.  Stunning moments in both locales, worthy of writing about.  I found, though, that all was coloured by the humidity … some physical and much emotional.  And so no words passed these fingers.

Enough for today.  Maybe more in days to come.

A Golfing Life

Okay, so I’m addicted to the game and to the beauty that is the Tarandowah Golfers Club.  And I see analogies to life as I set off with my clubs.  Eighteen holes.  A journey from infancy to old age.  Hmm.  I wonder what hole I’m on now.  How about 14?  I’ll take that. I just don’t want to be on the 18th green, facing a three-foot putt.  But none of us know when the final hole-out will come.  I best enjoy my walk on the pretty green lands.

Let’s contemplate the sweet spot.  If I hit the ball on the central area of my clubhead, it’s effortless and high and long.  Some of my moments in life are like that.  I don’t do anything … wonders just decide to surround me.  Maybe a smile, a flower, or writing this blog.  And then there are the times when my golf ball hits the shaft of the club and zooms into the rough way to my right.  Or a toe hit.  Either one feels yucky, like hitting a stone.  Away from the course, I might say the wrong thing or stumble on the sidewalk.  Perhaps I can’t remember what I went down to the basement for.  Or how about constipation?  No sweet spot there.

I’ve never broken 100 at Tarandowah.  I’ve created a personal par of two over par for each hole.  That would give me a score of 106.  Two days ago,  I finished the front nine with 49, four under my par.  Oh bliss!  I saw future golfing glory spread before me on the back nine.  Then I “birdied” the 10th … five under par.  What a good boy am I.  On the 11th, a long par four, I hit a fine drive that unfortunately wandered right, slipping into a bunker.  No sweat.  Just a little sand shot to get back onto the fairway.  All this is sort of like a perfect day at work – crossing off items from my “to do” list, saying wise things in meetings, having people smile and nod approval.  And then …

It took me six shots to get out of that trap.  My final score on the 11th was 16.  Felt like a layoff notice.

Whether heroic or devastating, the journey continues to the 18th green.  Miles from performance issues, I simply walk the fairway.  And I will continue to do so until my ball drops into that final hole.

A Beating Heart

I’m thrilled that the lot where my new home will stand backs onto a farmer’s field.  It’ll be corn this year and beans the next.  Beyond the field, the land slopes up so my horizon is dotted with farm homes and silos.    Oh my.  I love long views and come September I’ll have one.

As an expression of obsession, I showed up yesterday after sunset.  The sky was still pink to the west and the spread of clouds above me covered the world.  I was in big sky country.  Dots of farmstead lights comforted me … my neighbours were home, enjoying their cozy living rooms and kitchens.

But what’s that?  A flashing dot of red way to the north.  I contracted.  It was the same reaction as I have seeing flashing Christmas lights on a house – no!  It brought up pictures of industry, stores and a frantic pace.  That’s not what I want.  But it’s what I will have.

I watched my body and my feelings fall on the negative side.  “Just be with it, Bruce.”  And I did.  The beat was slow, maybe 40 a minute.  As I gazed northward for awhile, there came a shift in energy, just a bit at first but then a stream and then a flood.  The light was love.  It was a heart.  It was Jody.  It was all the folks that I hold dear.  I kept looking.  The speed of the city intruded a bit but then gradually faded into the rhythm of life.

As I explored the perimeter of my lot in the darkness, I discovered that at certain points trees hid the telecommunication tower.  No red.  Disappointment … glee … disappointment.  So in the fall I’ll be able to embrace the heart or let it step aside.  To see a symbol of civilization or to feel the farms.  Life will rush towards me either way.