Riardo Just Out Of Reach

The family has headed into Riardo to poke around. I’m in my room. Another life opportunity.

One reality is that my body isn’t working right. Coughing, tired, some dizzy, vague nausea. It’s nothing spectacular but it’s there. When I go into figuring out mode, I see the 35 degree Celsius heat, the amazing quantity of food I’ve been eating, the “new to me” foods I’ve been eating, and … beer. I especially suspect that last one, even though I enjoy a brew at home.

So, what is bigger and what is smaller? This morning after breakfast, as the crew were planning for the day, I realized I could do something unusual for me. I could rest. I could say no to the streets of Riardo, the ancient buildings with bricks of volcanic ash, the open-air ristorantes. I love venturing forth into new life, meeting new people, gazing in wonder at the previously unknown. But that love need not define me, need not put me into a box of identity. This morning I simply chose differently. Sleep came upon me … and then I awoke.

I gazed up to a sublime curving of light coming through the wooden shutters. I lay in a cathedral, a flow of beauty far larger than physical ills. So I sit, feeling the woes of the body, seeing art on the ceiling, waiting for the family to return.

It is enough.

Day Eight: Everybody Gone

I’m sitting in the Basilica Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, an immense building with ceilings as high as the sky. The feeling is white, with rich blues and purples, as well as 12-foot-high stained glass windows. They’re domed, and feature many views of Jesus and his disciples. Not one that I see shows two people looking into each other’s eyes, and I feel the loss of such contact. It’s what I treasure.

I just sneezed, and despite my sleeve, the sound echoes upwards. There are only four or five folks here potentially to be disturbed. It’s a lonely place, and for me an emotionally flat one.

High on the walls, four statues of the apostles seem to stand guard. I wonder what Matthew, Mark, Luke and John think of this sanctuary. I want a simpler church, far less ornate, one that feels good for a face-to-face meeting. Just a few pews, please, and a simple cross at the front.

Yesterday’s circle of musicians and the sight of Paul’s family smiling at him drew my spiritual breath far more deeply. But I wonder what energy would issue forth if the Basilica was full with 2000 souls.

I’m now in the Duke of Duckworth pub but I remember what came next at church. A gentleman started playing the pipe organ high in the back of the sanctuary. The deep tones went right through me but still I was left wanting. I wanted to be singing a stirring hymn with those 2000 souls, to have our voices bouncing off the ornamented walls.

What’s true is that the Tour du Canada riders have all headed home and I miss them. I miss the conversation. Today it was “Goodbye Paul, Ruedi, Ken, Jin-si, Kathy, Jane and Al.” Back to their real lives, or at least to their usual ones. Feeling lonely, I sat in the hotel lobby and joked with the guests who were coming and going. But our time together was measured in seconds. I need more than that.

On the TV is tennis – the US Open. I sip and cheer for Milos Raonic, the sole remaining Canadian. Around me are groups of friends, enjoying life together. No, I’m not going to approach them, declaring “Isn’t tennis great?” It’s time to be alone with Milos.


Milos lost … but he gave ‘er. I finished sipping and headed home. I was tired after a day of St. John’s slopy streets. And so to bed.


Imagine entering a hospital where, several times each day, the staff meditate and celebrate with all patients who are able to participate.  Imagine that all people would regard their work in such a hospital as inseparable from their private lives, that their home lives would be an extension of their work lives and vice versa.  You would know that all people who share with you while you are in this hospital consider it a privilege.  Imagine a staff that regards being well-rested and clear as their sacred duty.  Imagine the emergency room, surgical and ward teams understanding how to tap their collective energy and thus create a high energy team.

Wow.  And so I imagine.   I call this kind of environment a church, in the best sense of the word.  People are happy to be there.  People talk to each other about their lives, about important things.  People sometimes hold each other’s hand.  And people really look into each other’s eyes.

I think my Costco South in London is a church.  I am welcomed.  Folks smile at me.  The staff are usually very busy but they make sure I am seen.  I can be silly with the food demonstrators and with the people behind the hot dog counter.  I can go to the optical department and complain that my eyes are falling out.  I can greet fellow customers on my way through produce.  It’s home.

Sir Arthur Carty School in London is another church.  The principal is real, not a role.  The hallways are filled with happy chatter at recess time.  The staff room is full at lunch … little knots of conversation, and none of it complaining about students.  Short human beings and taller human beings appreciate each other.  And the answer to “What do you teach?” is “Kids”.

Places of communion exist
They are right under our collective noses
Let’s go find them