Two Faces

How do you assess the quality of the candidates for the US Presidency? Naturally, you listen to what each one says, and listen between the lines for what is not being said. Same goes for what they do and don’t do. And you look for character: for empathy, courage and general decency. I’ve done all that, and I’m super happy that Joe Biden is President-Elect.

I also look at faces. I see things there. I don’t care about bone structure that may produce what many people label as “handsome”. I don’t care about hairstyle or a waddle under the chin. I do look for softness, a sense of the skin gently moving rather than looking like a rigid mask. I think we all need to be moved by life while remaining strong, much like well-rooted grasses waving in the wind.

I look for balance, a general verticality and symmetry. A head askew must put a lot of pressure on the neck … and the soul.

I look for soft eyes, open to give and receive – eyes that seem large and blend into the rest of the face. Eyes that are open rather than enlarged slits.

I look for a face that is alive as opposed to dead, one that breathes and leans toward the future, rather than to the past. A dead face is so sad to behold … no joy and no sorrow.

I watch the lips. Do they sweetly lie above and below each other or press tight for victory? Is the mouth languidly horizontal or curled up on one end? Do the words sound like a melody or a dog barking?

Smiles are nice. Do they ever happen on this face? If so, is it a smile of union or divide, of brother and sisterhood or conquest? And … if benign, does the smile linger past the immediate thought?


Faces can change over time, and I don’t mean the inevitability of aging. Faces can mellow. Faces can rediscover the joyous lines of childhood. Faces can turn toward other faces and see who’s there.

May it be so.

Day Thirty-Eight … Cameron Lake and Missoulan Friends

The whole family was having fun on the rocky beach of Waterton Lake, with the somewhat smoky view down into Montana still spectacular.  Nona found some cool rocks, a couple of them with a heart shape imprinted.  She took a sharp stone and carved messages on a few of the tablets, such as “Live. Love. Laugh”.  “I’m hoping people walking on the beach will find them.”  What a marvelous idea.  The boys and Lance were skipping stones and in general hanging loose.

It was time to head back to the camper and the family left the beach before me.  As I roamed over the stones, here came a family: mom, dad and their daughter, perhaps 20-years-old.  I couldn’t resist saying something silly, so I looked at dad and said “How about if you and I have a race, swimming to the end of the lake?” [7 miles!]  Dad laughed.  I conveniently forgot to mention that I couldn’t swim.  Anyway, we stood there blabbing about the mountains, the trails and other good things.  I talked about myself too much but these folks laughed easily at some of the stuff I said.  That made me happy.  I told them about Jody dying last November and that I had written a book about her.  Theresa (mom) immediately said that she’d like a copy.  Emily and Kevin seemed keen too.  Oh my, I was happy some more.  I had new friends – from Missoula, Montana.  We agreed that the next night I would come over after supper for a visit, with a glass of wine a possibility.

Early the next afternoon, Lance started driving up the steep highway from Waterton townsite to Cameron Lake.  I remembered the first section of road.  In the early 70’s, some Prince Of Wales Hotel employees created the PWSJMA, which, as I’m sure you’re aware, means the Prince of Wales Slow Joggers Memorial Association.  I created the “Memorial” part.  I was actually quite proud of my contribution.  Many evenings, the group of us would run (jog, walk, totter …) onwards and upwards to a big rock on the edge of a pullout.  As far as I know, none of us ever died.  Yesterday, I kept looking out the window, searching for that rock.  My goodness, did we really run that far?  I must have been a man of steel!

We were all in the van, with Nona in the front passenger seat, Jace and me in bucket seats midway, and Jagger and Jaxon goofing around in the back.  I thought of my dear wife Jodiette, and of our travels with the family in 2011 and 2012.  Jody was always in the front, and Nona at the back.  I looked at the back of Nona’s head and saw Jody instead.  It was lovely.  It was loving.  I was sad.  How I miss my wife.

Up at the lake, Lance and the young guys decided to rent a canoe.  While Nona was doing her thing somewhere nearby, I strolled onto another rocky beach and saw three familiar human beings – my friends from Missoula.  I was happy to see them.  They were happy to see me.  How can it be that I’d only known them for less than a day?  Such comfy folks.  We talked about mountains, I guess.  The topics didn’t matter.

Now, back to family doings.  The guys were off, smiling into the wild blue yonder.  Nona and I wandered down the lakeside trail and stopped at a beachette.  We sat down.  We talked about how we each had traumatic experiences in swimming pools.  We watched the canoeists from Longview head way down Cameron Lake.  Later, we strained to see the little canoe shape, wanting our loved ones to be safe.  Mostly though, Nona and I sat there in silence, comfortable.  A woman came by to cuddle Ember.  Another woman and her young daughter walked past us on the beach.  Ember didn’t like them for some reason.  Lots of barking.

That evening, I walked over to site A2 and saw Kevin sitting at their picnic table.  A bottle of red wine was also in place.  Emily and Theresa soon joined us.  We talked about how Theresa and Kevin met.  Emily told me what she was doing in college.  All of them were missing Elyse, the older daughter, who lives near San Francisco.  It was natural.  I had fun.  I do hope I see the Finnegans again.

After darkness had come visiting, I got up to leave.  I hugged Theresa.  I hugged Emily.  I looked at Kevin and we decided to hug with a laugh.  I waved goodbye, turned towards the home camper, and felt my eyes moisten.

Oh, what wonders can appear in the space of a day.  Lucky me.


All I wanted to do was buy some sheets and pillows.  Sleep Country delivered my new bed today but I hadn’t acted on accessory purchases.  Actually, the bed’s not for me.  It’s for my guests Renato and Geraldine, who are coming to live in my home while I roam the continent on various adventures.

I had been thinking Walmart for the extras.  Gotta save a few bucks here and there.  But as I drove into London today, I realized that I wanted my visitors from England to have the good stuff.  So I opened the Sleep Country door and walked in.

From a distance, a woman in her 60’s said hello.  A real hello.  As we talked about bedding, I felt a great peace wash over me.  This wasn’t about sheets.  Johanna was just sitting there … being.  We talked about Vancouver, where she’s from, and where I’m heading to in August.  But this wasn’t about walking in Stanley Park or strolling down Robson St.  My goodness, what was happening here?  Her stillness became mine.  Lovely.

Johanna said that there’s nothing she wants to achieve.  She’s done that.  Her daughter urges her to get out into the community and attend events, meet people.  But Johanna feels no need to do that.  She wants to be with her family, loving them.

Johanna told me that many angry people walk into her store.  They want service, they want product, they want to pay and go.  I saw sadness in her eyes as she shared this with me.  After awhile, when we had discussed the different qualities of duvets and the merits of bamboo sheets, we didn’t have much to say to each other.  Words were necessary for the transaction but we didn’t need many to be with each other.  I asked her if she would like a copy of the book I wrote about Jody.  No, she didn’t want one.  And her choice to not receive our story was so very peaceful for me.  Johanna has written her own story in the many moments of her life.

I came
I bought
I melted

Pressing Down and Allowing to Rise

The hand is a wonder.  It can contract and force, putting pressure on your world, making things happen.  Or it can open, palm up, letting a small bird light upon it.

And so goes energy.  Do I really want one without the other?  If I kept the fist tight throughout my life, or if my hands always reached to the sky, is that true to life?  I think not.  There is a time for action and a time for contemplation.  The two need each other, I believe.

There was a time in my life when doing dominated me.  I wanted to be an accountant, a social worker, an artist, a real estate agent, a life insurance agent and a teacher.  I strove for excellence.  I studied.  I stretched.  I pushed.  I made noise.

More recently, I’ve allowed myself to open to a vastness that falls around me, like a gentle rain.  I’ve let myself not know.  I’ve turned to the quiet.

There is indeed a place for both.  Right now, as I reread all the e-mails and blog posts I’ve written about Jody over the last year, Spirit opens me and love flows out beside the tears.  There is space around the words, helping me see how deeply I’m connected to you.  But the yang of that yin is my need to create a result … called a book which I hope will reach people near and far, a book which will show love and be a bridge to more love in the world.  I need to know about font styles, font sizes, line spacing, paper quality, the use of blank space, per unit cost, timelines and shipping realities.

I need to both focus and blossom, because that is the way of life.  To be in this world but not of this world, engaged and floating free, of the furrowed brow and the radiant heart.  It’s all me.

Somewhere Between One and Zero

Another unknown human being out there in the world, in the present or in the past, has this to say:

We can think of ourselves spiritually as being somewhere on a continuum between one and zero.  One is the full embodiment of the “I” separate from all things, and zero is emptiness and the unconditioned.  Spiritual practice is supposed to move us from one to zero, but it often moves us in precisely the opposite direction, back toward one.  We cannot use the strategies of one to get to zero.  The movement toward either zero or one is within every thought and action of body, speech and mind.  We are continually solidifying the hold that “I” has on reality, or we are loosening it.

Perhaps the most difficult transition is to abide within zero and leave the world and ourselves alone.  We have practiced for so long that with lightning reflexes we intervene on our behalf, observing, examining and understanding whatever resistance arises.  The energy behind this intervention suggests that something is wrong when these states of mind, thoughts or attitudes occur.  The final understanding is that there is nothing wrong with anything because it all holds the same essence.

 As we move toward zero, we will never know what the next step will look like, except that it will be quieter than the previous one.

I wonder what zero would feel like.  I guess all of the things that happen to me, the “conditions”, would not be important any more.  That sounds like a pale life from one vantage point but possibly great freedom from another. Perhaps there would be nothing or no one I’d feel separate from.  Perhaps I’d be just as engaged with life as ever but without the need to have any particular result show up.  I could do what I do, as an expression of my essence, without worrying.

It’s 11:54 am.  Linda, one of Jody’s personal support workers, shows up at noon for her 8-hour shift.  No PSW comes in for the other sixteen hours. Thirty minutes ago, I looked at the kitchen and the laundry area and thought “not good enough”.  Dishes in the sink, clean dishes sitting in the dishwasher, food stains on the counter, drier full of stuff to be folded or hung.  So I’ve scurried around, quite mindlessly, to get the jobs done.  And now they are.  But what was that all about?  Not very quiet.  Definitely holding on to something being wrong.

Strange.  The PSW’s job is to clean and cook and generally support Jody.  But I wanted the house to look good for her.  And, in line with our mystery author, there’s nothing wrong with that.  And there’s nothing wrong with me being so uptight about it.  In the spirit of quietness, though, I could just do the cleaning within a context of Being, with no strings attached.  That would be nice.  Think I’ll give it a go.

Linda’s arrived.  House looks good.

It could be that I’m at 0.8, or maybe 0.3.  But really … how silly to be even thinking numbers.  Still, I wouldn’t mind being .007.  Kerr’s the name – Bruce Kerr.


Especially now that Jody is sick, I grasp onto the little pleasures that come my way.  It’s almost like sucking my thumb when I was a kid.  I did that until Grade 5, accompanied by my teddy bear Teddy.  I remember the overwhelming sadness I felt when Teddy’s head fell off.  Soon after that, my thumb started morphing into other pursuits – showing appreciation, creative twiddling, and eventually hitchhiking.

Today, I still need my teddy.  The first one is the London Free Press sports section.  I start on the front page, looking for stories that show human beings being human.  Let’s say it’s an article about the London Knights Junior A hockey team (young guys between 16 and 20).  If the article continues on page 3, I go there to finish it.  Generally though, I start on the first page and proceed on from there in order.  A lovely ritual or a deviant rigidity?  Who cares?  It makes me feel cozy.

I also love rows of sports stats, usually printed in the tiniest of fonts.  Jody has always called this particular passion my idiotsyncrasy.  Hey, it’s okay if it is.

I have a favourite ceramic mug.  Actually, I’m looking at it right now.  It’s tall and blends from a dark blue glaze at the bottom to a delicate pink one at the top.  And it feels just perfect in my hand.  Once my coffee or tea cools down a bit, I like wrapping both hands around.  The warmth spreads through me.  Ahhh.

I’ve mentioned my man chair before in these posts.  It’s a green upholstered Lazy Boy.  (And I just remembered that it’s featured in my photo for WordPress.)  I love pulling the lever to get the footrest to push out and the head to go back.  I get my knees up and prop my book against them.  More bliss.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been sleeping on a foam pad next to Jody’s hospital bed.  I lay a flat sheet on the pad and cover myself with a second sheet and a blanket.  Then I arrange things by my neck just so.  The edge of the top sheet has to curl back over the blanket so the sheet is what I feel.  Since the sheet and blanket are loose at the bottom, I then throw my legs into the air, so the covers fall over my toes.  When I bring my legs back down, I’m snug as a bug in a rug.  Yum.

That’s all the symbols of soothing I can think of right now.  I’ll let you know if other ones float down upon me.


They just stand there.  No goals, no fears, no deficiencies.  Just perfect in the moment, every moment.  When I need a reminder to simply be, I look at a tree.

A bit east of us on Bostwick Road (Home Road), a very tall deciduous tree welcomes me every time I pass by.  The diameter of its trunk must be five feet.  Part of me wants to know the type of tree it is, but alas, naming things is not one of my strong suits.  And actually, it’s not even an alas.  My friend big guy opens me up when I linger a moment.  His or her name could be Bob or Carol or Ted or Alice … no matter.  He just is.  The fact that he looms so high above me is fine.  There’s no sense of better or worse, bigger or smaller.

Another friend hangs out on the east side of Highway Road as I venture north to London.  On a slight curve, his leaves and branches spread wide, falling at the edges down towards the earth.  Not so lofty, this fellow.  But just about perfectly symmetrical.  The balance draws me in, and in my moments of awareness, I say “Hello, lovely tree.”  He or she smiles back.

In 1969, 1974, 1975 and 1976, another tree helped me keep going.  I was working those summers in the superheated laundry building of the Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta.  The sheet mangle was just about mangling me, with sweat usually pouring off my brow.  When the dizziness and exhaustion came, I looked out one of the windows to gaze upon a straggly pine, gnarled by the wind.  It was slightly uphill to that tree, and I knew that just past it, the ground sloped down to a view of Waterton Lake and the surrounding mountains – a vista for the gods.  I knew that something marvelous was just beyond my physical sight, and the laundry tree was my conduit for touching it.

Listen to the trees, Bruce.  Listen.

A Course in Miracles

This work was published in 1976. An “inner voice” dictated the content to a psychologist named Helen Schucman.  Although it’s Christian in tone, many have said that the Course points toward universal wisdom.  I’ll let you be the judge of that.

Here are some quotes:

I am responsible for what I see
I choose the feelings I experience
And I decide upon the goal I would achieve
And everything that seems to happen to me
I ask for and receive as I have asked

Nothing real can be threatened
Nothing unreal exists
Herein lies the peace of God

I rule my mind, which I alone must rule
At times, it does not seem I am its king at all
It seems to triumph over me
And tell me what to think
And what to do and feel
And yet it has been given me to serve
Whatever purpose I perceive in it
My mind can only serve
Today I give its service to the Holy Spirit
To employ as He sees fit
I thus direct my mind
Which I alone can rule
And thus I set it free
To do the will of God

There is no more self-contradictory concept
Than that of “idle thoughts”
What gives rise to the perception of a whole world
Can hardly be called idle
Every thought you have
Contributes to truth or to illusion
Either it extends the truth
Or it multiplies illusions

What would you see?
The choice is given you
But learn and do not let your mind
Forget this law of seeing
You will look upon that which you feel within
If hatred finds a place within your heart
You will perceive a fearful world
Held cruelly in death’s sharp-pointed bony fingers
If you feel the Love of God within you
You will look out on a world of mercy and of love

Reality brings only perfect peace
When I am upset
It is always because I have replaced reality
With illusions I made up

The world that seems to hold you prisoner
Can be escaped by anyone
Who does not hold it dear

When you have learned to look on everyone
With no reference at all to the past
Either his or yours as you perceive it
You will be able to learn from what you see now

Seek not outside yourself
The search implies you are not whole within

It is your thoughts alone
That cause you pain
Nothing external to your mind
Can hurt or injure you in any way
There is no cause beyond yourself
That can reach down and bring oppression
No one but yourself affects you
There is nothing in the world
That has the power to make you ill or sad
Or weak or frail
But it is you who have the power
To dominate all things you see
By merely recognizing what you are

Only your mind can produce fear

You will fear what you attack

No one who loves can judge
And what he sees is free of condemnation

The real world is attained simply
By the complete forgiveness of the old

Teach only love
For that is what you are

When you meet anyone
Remember it is a holy encounter
As you see him you will see yourself
As you treat him you will treat yourself
As you think of him you will think of yourself

Is it an evil to be punished or a mistake to be corrected?

You heal a brother by recognizing his worth

You cannot know your own perfection
Until you have honored
All those who were created like you

There is no journey
But only an awakening

Your task is not to seek for love
But merely to seek and find
All of the barriers within yourself
That you have built against it

With love in you
You have no need except to extend it

Remember that you came
To bring the peace of God into the world

Why wait for Heaven?
Those who seek the light
Are merely covering their eyes
The light is in them now
Enlightenment is but a recognition
Not a change at all

Simply do this:
Be still, and lay aside all thoughts
Of what you are and what God is
All concepts you have learned about the world
All images you hold about yourself
Empty your mind of everything
It thinks is either true or false
Or good or bad
Of every thought it judges worthy
And all the ideas of which it is ashamed
Hold onto nothing
Do not bring with you one thought
The past has taught, nor one belief
You ever learned before from anything
Forget this world
Forget this course
And come with wholly empty hands unto your God

Content Analysis

When I was in teacher training, one of our profs asked us to look at scholarly articles and see if there were certain words that showed up a lot, and whether examining all those words which were frequently used created a context for the writing.  Was the atmosphere of the writing suffused with love, deficiency, joy, comparison, openness, division or any other ways of being?

Take this paragraph, for instance:

Daily training in aikido allows your inner divinity to shine brighter and brighter.  Keep the mind bright and clear as the endless sky, the deepest ocean, and the highest mountain.  Do not be calculating or act unnaturally.  Keep your mind set on the way of harmony, and do not criticize other teachers or traditions.   Aikido never restrains, restricts or shackles anything.  It embraces all and purifies everything.

I want to live with these verbs inside me: allow, shine, keep, embrace, purify

And not these: criticize, restrain, restrict, shackle

These adjectives: inner, bright, clear, endless, deep, high

Not these: calculating, unnatural

These nouns: divinity, sky, ocean, mountain, harmony, all, everything

Not these: (Actually, I couldn’t find any)


Maybe I should do a content analysis of my heart.  How about strapping a recorder to me as I wander in the world or sit in meditation?  I wonder what would come up?  Well, I have a good idea of the top sellers:

Love, kindness, compassion, empathy, peace, integrity, generosity, humour, acceptance, spontaneity

As for the formerly strong but now middle of the road:

Fear, sadness for me, frustration, laziness, pride, competition, greed

And the ones that have faded away:

Antagonism, anger, guilt, depression, boredom, criticism, jealousy, pity, repression

Just me.  Nothing special

Just Do It

To laugh often and much
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends
To appreciate beauty
To find the best in others
To leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child
A garden patch, or a redeemed social condition
To know even one life has breathed easier because you lived

The last line.  Is that enough?  That at the end of my life, just one person would have been enhanced by my time on the planet?  What if I let this be okay, rather than indulging in grand fantasies about making a difference worldwide?

And then again … I wonder what freedom I’d let in if I completely let go of contributing to the lives of other people.  Experiencing no need to have any particular result show up in my life.  Perhaps I’ll do the experiment.

I could say goodbye to “Action > Result” and say hello to merely “Action”.  If my mind wasn’t being bothered with the ramifications of what I do or say, wouldn’t that free up a lot of energy?  And what would that look like?

Just love

Just smile

Just give

Just nurture

Just help

Just look

Just trust

Just meditate

Just empathize

Just write

Just kiss

Just caress

Just persevere

Just commit

Just initiate

Just forgive

Just adore

Just cherish

Just work

Just encourage

Just mourn

Just accept

Just giggle

Just include

Just enjoy

Just make love

Just empathize

Just lead

Just hold dear

Just do things

Just celebrate

Just thank

Just move

Just dance

Just cry

Just give

Just eat

Just walk

Just think

Just speak

Just rejoice

Just act

Just assist

Just buy

Just teach

Just create

Just reach out

Just listen

Just shine

Just live