Someone Is Smiling On Me

I knew Friday would be a big day. It was time to register with the city of Ghent. My visa to live in Belgium was approved four weeks ago, while I was in Canada. The Belgian Consulate in Montreal attached my brand new visa to the passport and mailed it back to me in Toronto. After I landed in Brussels last Saturday, the rule was that I had eight days to register with Ghent. I tried on Wednesday but the Ghent Administration Office was closed until Friday because they were moving to a new building.

Okay, those are the details. On Friday, I put all the originals of the necessary documents in my little backpack and started walking to Woodrow Wilsonplein, the square in Ghent where the office is. Momentous. Changing countries. New city. New home.

I took a number and after twenty minutes walked up to a friendly service representative. All that happened was that I was given an appointment for February 21. The cool thing was how welcoming she was. And making the appointment was good enough to fulfill my eight-day responsibility.

There was a skip in my step as I wandered away from the office. Soon I was beside the Leie River, and a row of blue metal chairs invited me to take a load off … to celebrate. So I did. My mind was as airy as the seagulls flying by. I watched two guys on the far shore having an animated conversation. The tram whizzed by on the nearby Veldstraat. I love the ring of its bell. Folks filled the street.

I was a smiley type of guy. All was well. Why not mosey over to one of my favourite pubs – Café de Loge – for a thrilling Belgian beer? Why not indeed? I raised my bod from the chair and headed off down a marvelous curving street full of buildings that are 200-300 years old. I felt LIGHT!

Wait a minute – a little too light. I reached behind for the backpack strap … and it was not to be found. I uttered a well-known expletive and whirled around. Passport, visa, originals of essential documents – O my God, please may they be there! Around one corner, now two. The third one would give me a view of those blue chairs. I had put my backpack on the ground beside the rightmost one.

The corner of the last building, and then revealed was my backpack, sitting on top of the chair. O my God again! Somebody moved it. As my legs sped up my feet, and I was only metres away, there stood a young man. I pointed to my chest. He nodded … and smiled.

“I hoped you’d come back.” Me too. “I didn’t look inside. You’re very lucky.” Agreed.

We talked for a few minutes, after I had ripped open the pack and found everything intact. He was a nice guy, a really nice guy.

Thank you, whoever is watching over me in life. (Sigh) I am blessed.

At the Corner Store

There was an old man behind the counter – skinny, brown and eager. He greeted me like a long lost daughter, as if we both came from the same world, someplace warmer and more gracious than this cold city. I was thirsty, and alone, sick-at-heart, grief-soiled. And his face lit up as if I were his prodigal daughter returning.

Coming back to the freezer bins in front of the register, which were still and always filled with the same old Cable Car ice cream sandwiches and cheap frozen greens, back to the knobs of beef and packages of hot dogs, these familiar shelves full of potato chips and corn chips, stacked up beer boxes and an immortal Jim Beam.

I lumbered to the case and bought my precious bottled water, and he returned my change beaming, as if I were the bright new buds on the just-bursting-open cherry trees, as if I were everything beautiful struggling to grow. And he was blessing me as he handed me my dime. Over the dirty counter and the plastic tub of red licorice whips, this old man who didn’t speak English beamed out love to me in the iron week after my mother’s death. So when I emerged from his store, my whole cockeyed life – what a beautiful failure – glowed gold like a sunset after rain.

Frustrated city dogs were yelping in their yards, mad with passion behind chain link fences, and in the driveway of a peeling townhouse, a woman and a girl danced to contagious reggae. Praise Allah, the Buddha, Kwan Yin, Jesus, Mary and even jealous old Jehovah. For the eyes and hands of the Divine are everywhere.

Alison Luterman

We do come from the same world
May our faces light up in each other’s presence
May we be seen as everything beautiful
May we be blessed
The eyes and hands are here

Letters and Words

This series of photos sits above my stove, to remind me of the miracles of life. I love letters. More accurately, I love how they come together into words. Numbers don’t enthrall me so much but I do enjoy analyzing the performance stats of women tennis players.

I enjoy stringing words together … into sentences, paragraphs and ultimately stories. There is a grace to the English language which sometimes allows me to ride on her shoulder. When the thoughts flow, I am supremely happy. This is my 1,218th post on WordPress. I think I’ve made a difference here.

There have been some long gaps between posts over the last six years. Was I still Bruce during those times? Of course. Other projects magnetized me for awhile. But I’ve always come back home.

I notice that I have no interest in a diary. Even if it’s only a few folks, I want my words to touch people. Could I be happy on my deathbed if only ten people over the years were impacted by what I said? Now I’m smiling because the answer is “Yes”.

There are times of mellow union when I let go of the words. They still rise up out of my mouth but then seem to separate in the air. Love becomes four letters drifting apart, mingling with other ones that have come floating by. What remains is shining dots of light … a celestial blessing.

I have my rhythms but may I return again and again to writing. I give. I receive.


And by the way, if you want to know the subject matter of the art work, Google “rhopalocera”.