Permanent?

Tim Hortons is an outrageously successful chain of coffee shops in Canada.  The country’s caffeine needs are covered coast to coast with approximately 5000 outlets.  I can vaguely remember when there were no Tims but that was in the ancient era of teenage life.  If a town has four shops, it’s a good guess that a fifth is coming soon.

I was driving down Highbury Avenue in London this afternoon, approaching Hamilton Road.  As I slowed for a red light, I glanced to my left to see … a derelict Tims.  The familiar reddish brown brick was still there, and the high oval sign out front, but the “Tim Hortons” on the vinyl above the brick was a shadow of its former self, and the ovals were merely full of air.  Beige curtains fell down the many windows.  And weeds were taking over the parking lot.

I gaped for as long as the light was red.  This did not compute.  A Canadian icon had died a ghastly death, and my stomach churned.  Somehow our national identity felt wounded and a fear bubbled up that it could all come to an end.  “Because of a coffee shop?  Get a grip, Bruce!  Drive ten blocks and you’ll find a thriving Tims.”

As Scarlet slowly left the scene of the crime, I reflected on permanence, and how I dearly love to hold on.  The inner voice says I need safety, predictability and stationary happiness.  Hmm.  Not too likely.

1.  Bruce remembers names.  Bruce remembers everyone’s name.  Except now I don’t.  People I talked to three weeks ago are often a mystery when they reappear in my life.

2.  Bruce is a master of words.  He has such a wide vocabulary, don’t you know?  Except I now struggle mightily with the names of … containers.  I’ll look at an object sitting there on a shelf or on the floor and no descriptive label will enter my brain.  (Okay, now I’ve looked it up on Google!)  Is it a bowl, a basket, a can, a bottle, a tub, a bucket, a jar, a pail, a vat?  I don’t know!  In polite conversation, I retreat to “container”, unbeknownst to my companion of the moment.

3.   Bruce drives so well, including at night.  Ha!  Not a chance anymore after dark.  That’s when I have to concentrate so hard.  And during the day, the time is long gone when I can pass someone in moderate traffic.  I have trouble judging distance and speed.

4.  Bruce loves playing famous golf courses on the computer, creating works of art called batik, and running 10k races.  Okay, but those were much earlier versions of this man.  How did those passions float away?

All this brings me to the present moment.  What I love right now seems so solid: my work in the Evolutionary Collective; my travels to Belgium and Senegal, New York and San Francisco; my red-walled home in Belmont, Ontario; my Wednesday evenings at the Acoustic Spotlight folk music club.  Could it be that they too may crumble away into the past?

And then the ultimate:  Bruce Kerr was a boy and now is a man.  That too goes poof!  A world without me.  Maybe no me at all, anywhere.

As Bob Dylan sang …

As the present now
Will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin’
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’

The Play’s the Thing

How many times in life have I told myself something and then proceeded to do the opposite? Many! I’m so right about something and then in the next day’s breath my vision shifts. There’s a bending here, a flowing rather than a solidity. And I like that.

To supply you with an example, I received an e-mail from the Port Stanley Festival Theatre a month ago, one which waxed poetic about their summer season. “No thanks” was my response. “I have three airplane trips planned and when I’m home I want to kick back rather than stretch out for more.” Now that sounds logical and wise, right? I sure thought so.

Then was then and now is now. I’ve been sitting in the Marienbad Restaurant in downtown London, enjoying a non-alcoholic Heineken beer and yummy portobello penne pasta. Mid-yum, I glanced at my phone … and there was another Port Theatre e-mail. “Last chance!” Without a shred of thought, I started in on picking a package of six plays and what nights would work. Strangely, I was confident that concert dates between plane trips would magically appear, and they did (except for Ed’s Garage, which is on in early August).

I was on a mission and didn’t have a clue what was happening. “They’re all comedies. I hate comedies!” Here’s one about the Donnellys in Lucan, Ontario, and their murdering ways. Or a father and son smilefest. And how about a story of the pastel beauty and ridiculous situations in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia?

Here I am, the proud owner of a ticket for each of six plays, taking me to late August. If one of you wants to go to Ed’s Garage, comment after this post and I’ll send you the ticket.

Oh Bruce, I hardly know ye!

Anger

For years now, I’ve defined myself as a nice little Buddhist guy – sweetly peaceful, wouldn’t hurt a fly.  I certainly have that part of me but sometimes another version of Bruce pokes his head above the ground.

***

One day at school, a group of girls were laughing beside me.  I asked “What’s so funny?”  The main giggler stepped forward and told me that she had got some ketchup packages, squeezed the contents onto her face, and then lay down, still and silent, waiting for people to find her.  I don’t know if she was with family or friends.  I just stared at her at first.  The fury was climbing up my throat.  And then it burst out …

“What?  That’s such a cruel thing to do!  When someone came upon you, they’d wonder if you were dead.  Don’t you see what that could do to a person?”  The girl giggled some more.  “You can laugh all you want but that was a rotten thing to do.”

Was I yelling?  No.  Was my voice raised?  You bet.  And that vein in my neck was probably throbbing.  Speaking out in anger is not something I’ve done much in my life but here it was.  The insensitivity towards another human being was completely unacceptable to me.

Hmm, I thought.  This is new.  And it doesn’t feel like a bad thing.

***

This morning, I walked into the Belmont Diner.  There were six guys sitting at the horseshoe-shaped lunch counter.  I cheerily said “Good morning.”  Silence.  A pause.  And then me: “Isn’t anyone going to say good morning?”  Woh.  Was that really my voice?

I realized that two of the fellows had been wrapped in a conversation, but the other four had sat there like stones.  The fury had exploded again.  Within twenty seconds, people were engaging me in conversation, and my antagonism faded to the background, but the initial spurt was vivid.

***

So, dear friends, what kind of person am I becoming?  Not all peaches and cream, for sure, but I still love peaches and I still love cream.  Bruce, antagonistic?  No way, I’ve declared.  But clearly I have that part too, lurking within.

It seems that more of me is emerging from the shadows – more love, more compassion, more energy, more anger … and more courage?  It feels right to embrace it all.

 

Fresh

Take one aspect of your life where it’s been “same old, same old” for a long time.  It’s comfortable but there’s something missing.  You’re going through the motions.  Little frustrations nip at you but you don’t seem to have the energy to make a change.  That pretty much sums up my experience at the fitness club.

Jody and I started going to this gym about ten years ago.  It was fine – a reasonable variety of machines, super low cost, friendly staff.  After my dear wife died, I simply carried on, sometimes sporadically, usually without much enthusiasm.

Yesterday, a voice inside said “You’ve been sleepwalking.  Wake up.”  So … I got my gym clothes together and set off for a workout.  I considered it an experiment in paying attention.

A staff member whom I really enjoy was at the front desk.  She was all excited about a job she’d just got at a high end pub in London.  She wasn’t sure if she’d also continue working at the club.  “Really, I feel done here.”  Could that be my voice speaking?

I thought of the many staff members I know.  They’re fine people.  A few of them have been especially kind to me.  Is that enough of a reason to stay?

This visit I really looked around.  The main room was sort of … dark.  A few machines had “I’m sick” signs attached to them.  Was I creating a reality here or was the environment just plain blah?  And so what if it was?  The most important thing is what I create, rather than what the surroundings offer back to me.

I went into the locker room to change.  The soap dispenser took several seconds to deliver a dollop to my palm.  Assuming I’m a fairly mature person, that shouldn’t be a problem.  Maybe this is all mental.  Nevertheless, I kept looking.  The paper towels wouldn’t rip properly from their machine.  Cubicle doors banged hard when they closed.  Months ago, I asked the manager to buy some little fuzzy pads for the doorjambs but she never did.

After stretching, I reached my favourite elliptical machine.  I knew it was my favourite because none of the others worked perfectly well.  That’s okay.  At least I had my own personal steed.  After pressing the start button, I realized that the intensity was too high.  My first few minutes are usually a stroll in the park, but immediately it was a grind.  Soon I got into the flow pretty well, but on the cool-down, I had to struggle rather than relaxing into the end.  Hmm.  Are inanimate objects in the habit of sending coded messages to human beings?  Perhaps.

The last couple of months, I’ve been going to a sports medicine clinic for my knee.  I’m not really worried about the joint because after all I have a spare on the other side!  This clinic is located in a downtown fitness club.  Guess I’ve been sleepwalking on that journey too but today I decided to go there and ask for a tour.  I opened my eyes upon arrival.  This is a “clean, well-lighted place”.  (A quote from Ernest Hemingway).

A smiling receptionist (who earlier in the day I had sung with as I left my physio appointment) ushered me to a little table.  Right away, another smiler approached me with her hand out in greeting.  “Jessica” made gentle eye contact and clearly had no interest in some canned sales talk.  Actually she did more listening than talking.  And there was absolutely no sense of hurry about her.  I realized that she was “seeing” me, something I deeply value.  As members walked by us, my new friend greeted many of them, and clearly each was happy to see the other.  Hmm again.

As we talked, I counted many smiling conversations happening near me.  And there were a lot of folks here to exercise.  I listened to the energy in the building and it was happy.  Jessica was happy.  Gosh, I was getting happy.

At one point, I said “Okay, sign me up.”  Jessica looked over and said something like “Really?”  There was an amused and quizzical look on her face.  I had sensed into the truth of this place.  This could be home.  I didn’t need the grand tour or pricing options or a long list of benefits.  I knew.

I had my tour.  I signed on the dotted line.  I clutched my free gym bag and water bottle to my chest.  All of that was fine.  But Jessica’s care and the glowing passersby did the deed for me.

I had walked in the door at 6:55 pm.  I walked out at 9:00.  Towards the end of the evening, something that Jessica said made me wonder, and I had to ask the question “Was your shift over at 7:00?”  >  (Pause)  “Yes.”

I intend to pass all this goodness on to the people I meet here.  Naturally I want to get fitter but more than anything I want to create a new community for myself, to contribute to the members and staff every time I walk in the door.  It’s a fun thing to do.

The Hip … A Step Forward

It’s intermission time at London’s Aeolian Hall. I’m here to see The Strictly Hip, a tribute band for Canada’s great rock group The Tragically Hip. It’s been decades since I’ve been to a rock concert (other than dancing to Five Alarm Funk at Sunfest) and here I am in the front row.

Straight ahead of me, fifteen feet away, a young man wields an impossibly long bass guitar, his head bobbing and weaving. The lead guitarist plays some incredible licks with a macho flair that has the girls swooning. The drummer is brilliant. Still, the star of the show is the Gord Downie lookalike, complete with cowboy hat. I can barely make out the words but he’s belting out the hits as folks wearing Hip t-shirts move their bods in front of the stage.

Sometimes I close my eyes and feel the pulse of the drum in my heart … it moves right through me. The guitar runs, the deep bass parts and Gord’s strident vocals flood me with the juice of life.

***

And now it’s later. A little girl is jumping up and down by the stage and Gord reaches down to shake her hand. She bounces giddily back to her seat. The way ahead of me is crowded with dancers. A couple slow dances for a slow song. Friends jump straight up and high five for the fast ones.

I don’t know the songs but clearly just about everyone else does. I don’t feel like dancing and I wonder if that’s because of my recent ankle and knee problems. I take a second to poop on myself and then that smallness magically disappears.

I’m loving the energy in the room but then a thought comes: this group surge is nowhere near what I feel when I’m online with members of the Evolutionary Collective global community. That energy bubbles up from within. Tonight’s source is the wild band in front of me and their songs – some raucous and some tender. The truth is that I don’t need rock concerts to expand. Just give me a few open-hearted folks and I’ll bring forth love. A subtle and yet immensely powerful surge.

I continue to change in the world. Old versions of me are honoured and included in what’s emerging. Thanks, Gord and friends, for being on the journey with me.

Tomorrow?
A delightful mystery

Next year?
Perhaps a Bruce I can’t even imagine

Bring it on

A Natural Exit

When I drive into London from Belmont, I usually take the 401, our Southern Ontario freeway, which has a speed limit of 100 kph (about 60 mph).  After ten kilometres or so, I’m ready to take the Wellington Road exit.  The ramp goes straight for maybe a kilometre, and then around a slight bend is a 50 kph (30 mph) sign.

As I veer off onto the ramp, I lighten the pressure on my gas pedal and gradually decrease to the 50.  I sense I’m in a natural rhythm of blending with my environment.  It feels good, like I’m flowing from one chapter of my life to the next.

Other drivers disagree.  Usually I’m tailgated on the ramp and the crowd of cars behind sometimes reaches double digits.  Once a fellow swerved onto the paved shoulder to get by me.  At the 50 kph sign, a second lane appears, with traffic lights shortly thereafter.  If the light is red, a vehicle or two has time to blast by me on the left and then slam on their brakes.  If it’s green, a convoy flows past, with most of them then flashing into my lane, since lots of us are turning right at the next light.

I let myself feel the pressure of the tailgating, and my fear.  It’s definitely a part of life.  But it’s very sweet to maintain my flow in the midst of impatient drivers.  I’m the source of my actions, not them.  Overall, the whole thing is a meditation and I’m pleased that I choose to experience it regularly.

***

I ask myself if I’ll have the same grace as I leave this planet.  Will I let myself feel the body diminishing and the mind clouding?  Will I let the words of William Shakespeare linger?

Eyes, look your last!
Arms, take your last embrace!
And lips, O you the doors of breath
Seal with a righteous kiss
A dateless bargain to engrossing death

Or will I vote with Dylan Thomas?

Do not go gentle into that good night
Old age should burn and rave at close of day
Rage, rage against the dying of the light

The ramp awaits
Soon, or not soon, my turn signal goes on

Energy In … Energy Out

Last Wednesday I was sitting in my bike shop, talking to my good friend and mechanic Sygnan.  He’s done so much marvelous work for me over the years and our conversations are rich.

What are you going to do tonight, Sygnan?

I’ll watch a movie at home.

DVD?

No, I have a box.

And so we began chatting about the wonders of an android box, through which just about every film in existence, including those still in theatres, is available  for home viewing.  Plus it’s legal.

My heart quickened.  I admit I was zeroed in on Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, but any movie?  What an orgy of delight!  I love love stories … bet I’ll be able to find a hundred great ones.  I love history stories … the whole past of the world will soon be laid out before me.  Night after night of watching the best in cinema.  Heaven.

Sygnan told me where to buy the android box and I headed there forthwith.  The salesman was knowledgeable and friendly and soon I was heading home with my treasure.  I plunked the valuable little device on my washer and knew that tomorrow I’d hook everything up.

Thursday was a busy day and that evening I just didn’t feel like figuring things out, so the box continued its sojourn with the washer.

Friday I had places to go and people to meet.  No time for reading long instruction sheets.

Saturday I glanced at the washer as I was heading out and thought “That’s odd.  I haven’t done a darn thing to make this happen.  Oh well.”

And then there’s today.  As I allowed my eyelids to part in the early hours, and as my brain started to put two and two together, it came to me:

I don’t want to watch endless movies

I lay there and thought deep about the person I’ve become.  My excitement as I drove from the bike shop to the computer store was an unconscious variety.  An old version of Bruce was gung ho for an old version of what was fun … prolonged sessions of absorbing the best in cinema.  Apart from my aberrant interest in the latest Mamma Mia, I don’t want to sit on my couch letting the energy flow into me.  I want energy to flow out of me … to my fellow human beings.  I want to participate with other voyageurs in the Evolutionary Collective Global Community.  I want to sit down and have heart-to-hearts with local folks.  I want to write these blog posts, every day if I’m up to it.

(Speaking of “Bruce’s Blog”, you’ll be happy to know that, on average, I’ve posted every day for the last 69.  Occasionally I’d miss a day, but in the spirit of anality perhaps, I’d double up the next day.)

So, for the remaining 38 years of my life (good luck on that), I intend to put things out there far more than drawing in movies, books, newspapers and TV sports.  And if I’m reading a book or watching some remarkable recently released musical, I’ll do so in the spirit of being nourished so that I may nourish others.

Who I was yesterday is not who I am today
Who I am today is not who I will be tomorrow
I wonder who that person will be

Letting Go

I stood in my bicycle shop today, ready to take ta-pocketa home.  My road bike has served me well for twenty years, but there have been issues.  First the practical stuff:  My bike is too big for me.  I wasn’t fitted correctly in 1997.  And then there’s the skinny road tires.  Ever since the tendon transfer surgery in 2003, my balance has been off and the tires allow precious little room for error.  Second the emotional stuff:  My few days in the Tour du Canada zapped me.  I didn’t have the bike skills for downtown Vancouver and the semitrailers whizzing by on the highway terrified me.

Ta-pocketa has been part of me for so long.  But so had the home I shared with Jody in Union, Ontario.  A year after she died, I knew that I had to leave.  It was too heartrending to sit in the family room and imagine her cooking in the kitchen.  The chapter was over, and so I moved to Belmont.  I stared at ta-pocketa this afternoon and realized that this chapter was done too.  I need to be more stable on the bicycle.  I need to diminish my fear on the bicycle.  I need Betty.

Betty is the hybrid bike I bought a few months ago, fully capable of carrying me over the gravel roads near Belmont, plus the many paved ones.  I’ve never ridden her.

“Goodbye, ta-pocketa.  Thank you for the journey.”  I told Sygnan to sell my dear friend – $1000 firm.  I placed my hand on her top tube and remembered the good times.  But those times aren’t now.  I’m older and not as able as I once was.

The future is pulling me.  I sense that it will include cycling, but a slower version, on country roads.  No hurry to get anywhere.  Just enjoying the rhythm of Betty and me.

We must let go of the life we have planned
So as to accept the one that is waiting for us
(Joseph Campbell)

Transom

This afternoon I sat in my meditation chair looking out the bedroom window, just as I’m doing now.  The window is composed of four five-foot-long panes of glass, three vertical and a horizontal one at the top.  I learned two years ago, as my condo was being built, that the top one was called a transom.

After an hour or so of meditation today, I opened my eyes.  A puffy cumulus cloud was drifting slowly across the transom window, left to right.  A bit of blue was on the left edge.  I decided to stare.  Mr. Cumulus was sure taking his time and I could feel its peace within me.  How about that?  No hurry at all.  “I hope you’re listening, Bruce.”

As I gazed at the sky, I thought of my life.  A couple of minutes later, the left edge of the cloud passed above the middle pane, and I reflected on my 30’s and 40’s.  They were good years.  Jody and I enjoyed each other.  I enjoyed my teaching.  I enjoyed the kids.  And the cloud keeps drifting.

Now it’s over the right panel and other kids paint my life, as I volunteer at the elementary school nearby.  I have a new home.  I’m in a worldwide community of folks who are exploring consciousness.  Life is good.  But now the transom is mostly blue, and the white travels on.  I try to hold onto it but it continues to float eastward, on a mission I guess.  “Don’t go.  Stay with me.”

And then … poof!  The cloud is gone and my world is brilliantly blue.  How peaceful are the endings.

I hope to live for many more years but “the future’s not ours to see.  Que sera, sera.”

What will be, will be

No Willful Change

Let’s say I’m at A
And I like A
Why would I change?

Or

Let’s say I’m at A
I don’t like A
I’m tense
I want to get away from A
I do things to go from A to B

Or

Let’s say I’m at A
I don’t like A
I’m curious about A
I let myself be at A
I feel what comes up
In the spirit of “All things must pass”
The universe draws me away from A
I may end up at B or somewhere else

What if I consistently chose the third scenario, rather than the second?  If I’m tired, I go inside myself and feel it.  I may lie down for awhile but I’m not shaking my head, denying that I’m tired.  If I’ve eaten too much, I let myself go inside the bloating, the pressure.  What’s it like?  If someone has spoken harshly to me, I let my feeling come up, whatever it is … anger, sadness, fear.  I don’t shove it down with TV or by staying busy.

Perhaps I don’t need to move away from anything (with the possible exception of a speeding car!)  The pain of life could be most vivid in the experience of “Not this, not that”, the sense that this moment needs to be improved, avoided, ignored.

Despite the sometimes existence of bodily pains and spiritual woes, staying inside what’s happening right now could be the road to freedom.

If I let go, will the universe provide?