Let There Be Light

I was on a New York City ferry in September, looking up at the Statue of Liberty. I was moved … and I wondered why. Perhaps it was the immensity of the woman or the history of immigrants arriving in America. Yes, and there was more. She was holding her torch high – proudly and serenely.

I think of other torches in my life, especially in 1988 as a runner came by on the way to Olympic Stadium in Calgary, Alberta. We the crowd were ecstatic in our cheers. Another light was held aloft. I knew there was something immensely special here.

Then there was another Olympics – 2010 in Vancouver, B.C. The stadium glowed with thousands of candles as kd lang sang the Leonard Cohen anthem Hallelujah. I could feel the grace of it all through my TV screen.

The scale of all this light is huge but I’ve also felt the magic on a person-to-person level, sometimes in a simple church. A lit candle at the end of a pew transfers its glow to other candles waiting further along. We receive and then we give.

***

If we’re willing
We shine

Space

I spent years in the Rockies, hiking the trails above treeline and others deep in forests.  Long views were everywhere.  I had room to move, rather than some of my employment situations, where it felt like I was wearing a large cardboard box over my head.

Lately, my room to roam has been walking the fairways of Tarandowah, the golf course I love.  So sweet to be immersed in that world.  But are there other possibilities in Southern Ontario?

Heading west from Belmont today, I was imagining another golfing journey.  I know my route – south on Belmont Road, east on Yorke Line, cross Dorchester Road, cross Imperial Road, cross Whittaker Road.  But today I found myself turning left on the gravel of Whittaker, just to see what was there.

Well, I knew that further on was Lake Whittaker Conservation Area.  Jody and I had been years ago, but I couldn’t remember what it was like.  Lakeshore trail, I guessed.  Woods, meadows.  As I approached the park gate, I was pretty blasé.  Guess I’ll go for a walk.

But then …

Past some bushes, the lakeshore was revealed, as well as a hundred Canada geese floating serenely.  And their calls echoed above the trees.  I paused.

Then the woods.  Corridors of fir trees, with the late afternoon light slanting through.  I gasped.

Later, waist high grass in the fields, escorted by golden larch trees.  Everything shining.  I simply stopped.

My mind was large
My heart was open
My world was free

Day One … Riding On The Wind

I’m off to Western Canada and to all the joys that await me.  I’ll be sitting in the living rooms of many fine people.  But not until Friday.  Before I get to Henry and Louise in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, there’s a big chunk of Ontario to meander through.

I left at 4:15 this morning to give me lots of time to reach the Chi-Cheemaun ferry that runs between Tobermory, Ontario and Manitoulin Island.  My first adventure was in the dark near Lucan.  Two baby raccoons scampered onto the highway, their four eyes shining in my headlights.  They must have been terrified to see those two big white things.  I slammed on the brakes and watched as my sudden friends threw themselves back into the ditch.  Someone behind me in a big vehicle was following too close and came within a couple of feet of crushing my bicycle ta-pocketa, who was hanging from a rack behind Scarlet’s trunk.  Oh my.  Thank you Jody, and other blessed beings for keeping my bike and me safe.

Up the Bruce Peninsula I floated at the speed limit.  Pass me if you need to.  I’m tired of going fast in life.  Such beauty all around me.  More and more coniferous trees until the water revealed itself in Tobermory.  I didn’t get much sleep last night so coffee and breakie was a relief.  And then, in a newly alert state … “Wow.  I’m on a road trip.”  Out and about.  Neither here nor there.  Following my nose, not to mention my map.

As the ferry left the tip of the Bruce Peninsula, I leaned over the railing on the top deck and found myself in a conversation with a lovely woman named Lori.  She and her two kids are on a vacation from Kentucky.  Lori is so hoping that they all get to see the Northern Lights.  Yes, may you see the shimmering green sheets in the sky.  Lori is also determined to get her son and daughter away from their “devices”, to have them gaze in awe at the water, the lights, the meadows and the trees.  To just stop, look and listen.

I told Lori about my wife Jody, about her presence in the trees and about the book I wrote about my dear one.  She was happy to receive a copy, and wiped away a tear or two.  Then it was family lunch time in the cafeteria so we said goodbye.  During the last few minutes of our talk, I became aware of another entity, one that was hovering nearby.  A single seagull followed us on our voyage.  For at least 45 minutes, I didn’t take my eyes off him or her.  The birdacious one sometimes came as close as five feet, checking me out with his right eye,  Then he’d swoop down towards the water.  After that he’d wheel high above the ship, but always returned to be nearby.  There were about 15 people on my high deck and perhaps 30 on the one below, but aside from a kid or two, no one seemed to notice our local acrobat.  Texting, reading, talking … all good things, but the curled wings working the winds was mostly an unseen miracle.  Such a loss of the present moment.

Maybe I’ll be an athlete gull in my next lifetime.  I sure was taken with this virtuoso flier.  It felt like there was a link between the two of us.  I know, you could say that he just wanted food, but I’m sure it became clear after a minute or two that I didn’t have any.  And still the seagull stayed.  I was glad.

Within ten seconds of the announcement asking us to return to our cars, my friend was gone.  Just poof!  Oh, the mysteries of this physical life.

This is fun.  I hope I have Internet access every day during the next six weeks so I can tell you what my eyes see and my heart feels.  Tomorrow I venture along the north shore of Lake Superior, visit the monument to Terry Fox, who fought so hard to run across Canada for cancer research, and finally lay down my head in Thunder Bay.  See you then.

Haida Gwaii

Haida Gwaii is an archipelago of 150 islands north of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, and an eight-hour ferry ride west of the BC mainland.  It means “islands of the people”, the aboriginal Haida people.  It used to be called the Queen Charlotte Islands.  Thank goodness Canada now recognizes its native residents by name.

I’m going there – in June, 2016.  I’ll be spending eight days on a sailing ship with seven other guests and a crew of four or five.  Wow.  I’m really doing this.  Jody and I wanted to explore the BC coast together, but alas, that was not to be.  Except that Jodiette says she’ll be at my side every wave of the way.  Thank you, my wife.

I’m likely to see humpback whales, bald eagles, dolphins, sea lions, very large black bears, and maybe killer whales.  I will listen to Haida elders talk of their totem poles and their spiritual life.  I will enjoy the company of my new friends onboard.  And I will meditate on God’s vast reach on our planet.

On a trip to Haida Gwaii a few weeks ago, here are some notes from the captain:

This morning we visited K’uuna (Skedans), and as we approached we had another humpback whale on the starboard side.  We counted 100 bald eagles at Skedans Islands.

I can anticipate, plan, expect and predict … but my journey will unfold as it should.  What if I never see a humpback?  Then that’s how it is.  What if my roommate turns out to be a macho young fellow.  Then that’s how it is.  What if it rains and pours for the whole trip?  So be it.  My heart will be open.  My spirit will soar.  Whatever happens, I expect to be stunned into silence every day.

I’m so glad I’m going.

Space

We live in a nice little solar system with our local star – the Sun.  For a long time, mankind didn’t know that there were other solar systems.  Now scientists tell us that we reside within the The Milky Way Galaxy, which has between 100,000,000,000 and 400,000,000,000 stars.   And … there are about 200,000,000,000 galaxies in the universe.  Somehow that gets last night’s two-hour power failure in perspective.

My tendency is to read a paragraph and then zoom on to the next, having merely touched upon the truth therein.  Not this time.  I just reread the words above.  And I’m now going quiet, except for my fingers, and letting in the immensity.  It’s not time to get out the calculator and do all the things my busy little mind wants to do.  It’s not time for closure.  It’s time for silence, and for opening to a reality that’s just so … big.

How do I write a post when words fall so short of the experience?  Do I stop right now and call it a day?  Less is better?  I don’t know.  Guess I’ll stumble through a few more sentences that may point towards the infinite.

If material space is so huge, can my spiritual space be any less so?  And what does that mean about how I should lead my life?

Where does the universe end?  It seems like it doesn’t, and what exactly does that mean?  My small reality has always had boundaries.  What if there are none?  What is outside of the universe?  What is outside of Spirit?  What if I’m really everyone and everything, for all the moments of now that have ever been or ever will be?

Do I now just plop down into my personal pile of protoplasm and lie there forever?  Or do I engage my day, fully conscious of moving through infinite space within and without?

Yes

 

 

Human beings have lived on Earth for 200,000 years

The Earth is approximately 4,000,000,000 years old

That’s 1/200 of 1%

The Arc of Life

It was June, 1962.  I was in Grade 8.  We were playing a game of softball at lunch recess (the version that’s now called fastball).  The diamond was in a corner of the property, with the three-storey school at an angle, so that its left end was closer to us than the right.  Beyond the outfield grass was a wide cement strip that butted up against the building.

And so the stage was set for Roger Mount.  He scared me – all musclely, loud and aggressive.  I was a timid little kid, of the striking out variety.  Thankfully, Roger and I were on the same team, so I was standing near him when the moment cracked open my reality.  Roger was at the plate, waiting.  The pitcher was ready.  He zoomed a fastball over the plate, and Roger met the pitch with the sweet spot.  The ball took off, climbing and climbing towards left field.  My mouth dropped open.  The ball kept going up, impossibly high and far.  Left field was but a memory, as was the cement.  As was the three storeys of elementary education.  Finally the sphere started falling, and then it …

disappeared.

Onto the roof.  Roger had done something that most likely had never been accomplished in the history of Bedford Park Public School.  On the field there was silence as he rounded the bases.  We were in the presence of God.  Fifty-two years later, I’m still there.  Roger is right now.  Eternally.

***

Sometime in the 70s, I went to watch Jack Nicklaus play a practice round at a golf course near Toronto.  One of the best golfers in the history of the game.  And I got to be within ten feet of him, in the first row of spectators behind the tee of a par four hole.  A creek crossed the fairway left to right about 200 yards off the tee.  There was a wide stretch of fairway beyond, but then it turned sharp right and paralleled the creek till it reached the green, far to the right as we viewed it from the tee.  The kicker was that there was a row of tall deciduous trees on the far bank  of the creek, starting from the open fairway straight ahead of us and continuing all the way to the green, protecting the hole against any insane golfer who wanted to try a short cut.

Nicklaus took one look at the situation and said to his caddie, “Why not?”  He teed up a ball and pointed his body towards the green.  I gasped (very quietly – golf is a polite game).  My fellow spectators froze as well.  Jack waggled his driver, stared down the trees, tilted his head to the ball that was about to go for a wild ride, and swung.  The thwack of a real wooden club crushing a dimpled white sphere.  A climb through space as if seeking the Godhead.  Up and up and up and up and …

over the trees.

Jack’s ball came to rest on the fringe of the green.  He turned around, smiled at us, and said, “Don’t think I’ll try that again.”  His words were the only sound on the tee.  Maybe two hundred of us had witnessed the power of a deity.

***

I love the flight
I love the reaching up to God
I love the going up and the coming down