We Can

I read an article in the Toronto Sun this morning that laid bare the thoughts of Gianni Infantino, the President of FIFA, which is the world soccer association.  He was talking about the good that soccer can do, how the game can contribute to a coming together of people.  His words had me thinking about my life, how I want it to mean something to others, and how those others can impact their loved ones.  Gianni was speaking for me.

***

There are many things we’d like to change in the world.  There are many things we are not happy about that happen in the world.  It’s not in one country.  It’s not in one region.  It’s not in one area but in the entire world.

We try to work to do and speak and make things change for the good wherever we can.  But here we are, at the World Cup.  We are focusing on football.  We are focusing on celebrating football.

And actually, I think one of the things we are missing in the world – more and more – is our capacity to speak to each other and have a dialogue.  If there’s no dialogue or discussion … then we cannot go anywhere.

If football and the World Cup can contribute to open some channels and discussions and help those who have to take the important decisions to at least start to speak to each other and realize there are people living everywhere in the world – some in better, some in worse conditions – then we have done something and we have given a contribution.

Football cannot solve all the problems in the world.  Football cannot change the past.  But football can have an impact in the future.  And maybe some people who are taking important decisions for our planet can take a look at what we trying to do in football and take some inspiration to try to address these issues.

We have to look forward, learning from what has happened without denying what has happened, with the respect to those who have been touched personally and directly from what has happened everywhere in the world.

If football can contribute a little bit … then I think it’s already a positive outcome.

***

What if I changed a word or two and really brought this home inside my skin?  It would sound like this:

There are many things I’d like to change in the world.  There are many things I am not happy about that happen in the world.  It’s not in one country.  It’s not in one region.  It’s not in one area but in the entire world.

I try to work to do and speak and make things change for the good wherever I can.  But here I am, in Belmont, Ontario, Canada.  I am focusing on my neighbours, and my friends at the Belmont Diner.  I am focusing on celebrating local life.

And actually, I think one of the things we are missing in the world – more and more – is our capacity to speak to each other and have a dialogue.  If there’s no dialogue or discussion … then we cannot go anywhere.

If my friends and I can contribute to open some channels and discussions and help those who have to take the important decisions to at least start to speak to each other and realize there are people living everywhere in the world – some in better, some in worse conditions – then we have done something and we have given a contribution.

We cannot solve all the problems in the world.  We cannot change the past.  But we can have an impact in the future.  And maybe some people who are taking important decisions for our planet can take a look at what we are trying to do in Belmont and take some inspiration to try to address these issues.

We have to look forward, learning from what has happened without denying what has happened, with the respect to those who have been touched personally and directly from what has happened everywhere in the world.

If we can contribute a little bit … then I think it’s already a positive outcome.

Yay for us

Under the Tree

Since getting home from my bicycling adventure, I’ve told myself to blog every day.  “It doesn’t matter what you talk about, as long as your words are true to your soul.  And those words need to go out to the world because there are some folks there who will understand.  They’ll see their own lives in your struggles.  It may help them and it will definitely help you.”

Okay.  I’ll do that.

***

Today was hot and humid in Belmont, Ontario.  Kids decorated their bikes and rode in a parade to the community centre.  Such sweet young ones sweating their way to a hot dog lunch, plus a drink, chips and a slice of Canada Day birthday cake.  I love Belmont.

Along the way, I talked to two moms of kids I’ve volunteered with.  I enjoyed both conversations.  I talked briefly about my trials and tribulations out west and they told me how their daughter and son and families were doing, including cool plans for the summer.  I had lunch under a tree with one of the women and two fellow moms.  Thank God for the shade.

One 8-year-old fellow I know climbed way up the tree.  I didn’t see his ascent since I was facing the other way, but when I turned around “Peter” was perched comfortably on a branch about 12 feet off the ground.  I marvelled.  I saw how high the lowest branch was and wondered how he could have reached it.  He must have major upper body strength.  For a second, I lamented that my body couldn’t do such a thing … but just as quickly I let that thought go.  Peter’s job is to climb trees.  Mine is to explore consciousness.  We’re 60 years apart.  Why would I want his job?  And I smiled.  “Climb high, dear Peter.  I will too.”

Eventually the group of us were finished eating and we headed back to the picnic shelter.  I was reaching for the gooeyness of vanilla cake when I saw a third mom.  I volunteered in her daughter’s class last year.  It seems to me that she asked how I was and I think I said “Shaky” in reply. “Denise” looked right into my eyes and said “Let’s talk.  Let’s find a tree to sit under.”  From the very first second, I was touched by her generosity.  I suggested we walk over to Peter’s tree.

And there we sat, for maybe an hour.  Her two kids were with us for a bit and then they wanted to go home.  Denise knew the older would keep the younger safe on the short walk … and off they went.

Denise knew I needed to talk and she let me do so at my own pace.  She looked at me softly, without judgment, just “getting” the contents of my heart – the fear, the sadness, the loss of Bruce.  Denise talked about moments in her life that were hard, wanting her words to be helpful to me.  They were.  And I thought: “Hmm.  She’s not rushing off.  She wants to understand me.  She sees me.”  What a revelation that was.  Sooner rather than later, I found myself smiling.  Plus I do believe there was a laugh or two bubbling up to my surface.

I can feel the light beyond the murkiness, a floating beyond the dead weight, a pulsing beyond the drone.  How about that?  Did Denise do that for me or did Bruce do that for me?  Well … I think we were co-conspirators!

***

People keep giving me gifts
Some folks are 10 years old
Some are 40
Some are 48
Some are 77
All are so very human

Energy Spikes

I wonder what I mean by that title.  The words just came to me.  They don’t seem to be about running the 100 metre dash in ten seconds, or lifting twice my body weight.  Some other energy is afoot.  I sense a sudden inbreath of astonishment – a moment that moves me, jolts me, and in some sense frees me.

***

We had a farewell assembly today for the teachers who were leaving, including our marvelous resource teacher, who offers certain kids extra academic help.  At the end of the ceremony, she was sitting right beside me by the wall of the gym.  From the far side, a Grade 5 girl rushes over in tears and gives the teacher a long, gentle hug.  The 11-year-old’s love shone from her.  It was a holy moment, and a privilege to witness.  How we can touch each other.

***

Yesterday a neighbour of mine died.  He was so sweet to everyone, and always interested in how my life was going.  His granddaughter goes to my school and I couldn’t imagine her showing up for the final day.  But she did.  “Emma” sat there in the assembly, looking vacant.  At lunch recess, I knew I wanted to say something to her but the yard was a flurry of kids.  What chance did I have of finding her?  After aimlessly walking around for awhile, I spotted a few kids in a little opening in the trees.  One child emerged – Emma.  I approached her and said what I needed to say.  I believe she felt the love behind the words.

***

Assembly number two featured one of the school’s bus drivers.  “Fred” walked onstage with his guitar and launched into “Puff The Magic Dragon”.  He had a lovely voice.  A song or two later, he began one of his own compositions.  It was the story of his riders.  As he followed his route in the verses, each child’s name was mentioned.  I scanned the room and saw face after face come alight as Fred shared one of their fine qualities.  On one level, I was amazed that he could memorize all this.  Far deeper was my joy as light after light turned on.

***

Last recess.  One of my favourite kids asked if I was going outside.  I said yes.  We walked together for a bit and then sat down at a table.  She and I talked about our summers – camps for her and music festivals for me.  She encouraged me about the early end of my bicycle ride.  The differences in our ages didn’t matter.  It was two people talking about important things.

***

I was invited to this evening’s staff party.  It was so generous of the teachers to include me.  We sat in a big circle and the banter whizzed around.  Usually I love these situations but tonight was not usual.  Just like yesterday’s foray onto the 401, I felt fear, and my hand started shaking.  As the conversation sped up and the laughter grew, I couldn’t handle it.  Too many inputs.  Too much energy whirling this way and that.  I was so much not myself, and yet for these three hours my tense silence was Bruce.  I let myself fall into the fear … and how very unpleasant it was.  I stopped trying to manufacture happiness, and my eyes widened in response.  As I left the party and said a few words of explanation, the smiles on faces said they understood.

***

These are the moments that stood out today.  Whether I enjoyed them or not, they brought me to an deeper vibration, and for that I am thankful.

Day One: Some More

Over the world we flew. On the prairies I came upon a long stretch of tiny lakes. Didn’t exactly fit with my image of endless grain fields. Above the Rockies, fresh snow etched the rocks in pencil-thin lines but bowls above the tree line were flush with a blanket of white. Then the coast, with the Pacific stretching between all those islands. Canada lay beneath me, as it will lie beneath my bicycle wheels in the coming weeks.

At the luggage carousel in Vancouver, I called to a woman to watch out as I swung my heavy bag off the belt. And then we talked. Sarah and Stephanie wanted to hear about my bike ride across Canada. I talked too much, roaming from Canada to the wise words of the Buddha. He essentially said “What you resist will persist.” And that hit home with Sarah. Both women seemed to enjoy my presence, as I enjoyed theirs.

Then it was time for a taxi ride to UBC. Jaswant so loves Vancouver, even with his long hours at the wheel. We searched and searched for the Bike Kitchen, folks who’ll be putting my bicycle back together tomorrow. And … success.

Now I’m at Koerner’s Pub on the UBC campus. A beer or two and a burger later, I’m reflecting with Andrew about the joys of the bicycle. Rap music fills the space … and I’m on vacation on the left coast, where the land is green and the trees soar above. A private party is about to begin and I’m revelling in the freedom of it all.

What will become of me over the summer? Will a book leak out of me in the fall? Will Canadians step forward to say hi as I roll through their town? Will we riders hold each other up through the rain and the hills and the heat? Will I look in the mirror and see a new man looking back at me? I think yes.

On we go.

Questions

I was volunteering in the Grade 5/6 class this afternoon.  A community police officer spent some time talking to the kids about “peer relationships”.  How marvelous that these young people got to see a representative of the police force as approachable, engaging and funny.  A real human being, not just a uniform and a gun belt.

Adam asked the students some questions.  And I reflected on my life.

1.  Have I ever punched, shoved or hit another person?

Gosh no.  It’s so far away from who I am, and who I’ve been.  My mouth drops open when I even imagine myself being violent with someone.

2.  Have I ever threatened to hurt someone?

No.  If I have differences with a person, or criticism about something they did or said, I want to talk it out, without antagonism.

3.  Do I ever make fun of others, tease them or call them mean names?

No, except for playful teasing when I know that the other person sees I’m on their side.  But never mocking them for being different than me, whether that’s personality, sexual orientation, age, race or ethnicity.  To call a black person a “nigger” is completely foreign to me.

4.  Do I often make fun of others because they’re different from my friends and me?

No.  I love exploring the differences among us, in learning about folks whose lives are such a contrast to mine.

5.  Do I gossip about other people?  Do I spread rumours about them?

Heavens no.  That’s an act of violence, both towards the other person and towards me.  I can’t be happy if I’m aversive to someone else.  I do talk about people who are not right there listening, but it’s in the spirit of fascination and interest, not criticism.

***

Having said all this, I’m no saint.  Sometimes I don’t give folks enough space in their life, pressing forward in relationship when I need to back off some.  Sometimes I speak without thinking, without really gauging the potential impact of my words.  And sometimes I forget important things that people tell me.  But through it all, through those unskillful moments, I know that my intentions are good.

There’s so much pain in the world and my commitment is to add very little to the total, while adding a lot to the sum of well-being.

Pastor and Me

I had breakfast with a local pastor this morning at the Belmont Diner.  I’ll call him Peter.  Due to the heavy snow falling, he was a half-hour late.  As I sat at the counter waiting for him, and engaging in conversation about the weather and (less convincingly) about the placement of garages, I felt into the sense of loss I was experiencing.  “If he doesn’t show, how will I get to see him again?  I don’t have any contact information.  And then who will I talk to locally about spiritual matters?”

On the retreat last fall, we were encouraged to classify our present moments as “pleasant, unpleasant or neutral”.  This was unpleasant.  Then we’d be asked to see what feelings were present.  This morning it was sadness and fear.  And then the experience of “OK-ness” washed over me.  I didn’t need Peter to show up.  Confidence came … that the universe would create spiritual discussions for me.  Peace was here.  And I continued on with my bacon and eggs.

The Diner door opens and in walks Peter!  I was happy.  Thank you, dear universe.  He had loads of questions about the retreat, starting with what the daily schedule was like (wakeup bell at 4:50!)  I talked about the Buddha’s focus on the present moment, on his insistence that certain types of suffering were always going to be with us (such as sporadic physical pain), but other forms of it were optional.  Mr. Buddha said that craving people and things was the source of that second type.  Peter smiled and expressed his sense of relationship with the Divine, in the form of Jesus.

I marvelled at what was happening.  There was no judgment from either of us.  And no sense of contraction that I could feel, even as we revealed our differences.  Four or five folks sat near us at the horseshoe-shaped lunch counter.  Some, maybe all of them, were listening.  I told Peter that occasionally in Belmont I’m brave enough to venture into spirituality in conversation.  Often people change the topic quickly, but sometimes not.  “A lot of folks think I’m weird, Peter.”  His response?  “Welcome to my world!”  I love it.

To expand my range of spiritual contacts, I’ve decided to rejoin a meditation group in London, usually about a 40 minute drive away.  Their first meeting after Christmas is tonight but the snow continues to fall.  Travel is not recommended.  But it doesn’t matter if that reunion happens tonight.  I’m drawn to it.

Peter and I arranged to talk again next Monday.  Who knows what epiphanies might arise?  Or maybe not.  But we will connect in a way that transcends the rational mind.

Friendly Reflections

My friend writes very long e-mails.  Here is my continuing reply to her:

“Dear ______,

Thank you for talking to me about Jody [my wife, who died of lung cancer in November, 2014].

‘I saw that you and Jody were not separate. That she was inside you, there with you, or vice versa, but I thought I saw or felt that you two were truly one, and that death had not rendered you asunder. That was the feeling that I experienced. And I felt that when I met you, I met Jody as well, and that she was not gone. She was well alive in you. It was so beautiful and inspiring and soft and true feeling.’

Jody and I talk every day.  I realize that most people don’t accept this as a reality, and I wish them well.  But our conversations are real.  How marvelous that you’ve met Jody standing beside me.  When you receive a copy of the book I wrote about her, you’ll see her beautiful face on the cover.  She’s cheering me on, ______, wanting me to experience all the beauty that life has to offer.  Jody also knows that I will continue to have the dark times that show up for all of us.  She tells me, though, that I am bigger than the fear and sadness.  And I believe her.

It makes me happy to realize that my lovely wife continues to give, in the pages of our book, yes, but also in some mysterious ways unknown to the rational mind.  And I wonder if she has been reborn in some two-year-old who will enter my life soon with gifts to give.

‘I feel my father’s presence. He was such a wonderful man Bruce, not unlike yourself. He and his whole family adopted me before I was born, because my mother had gotten pregnant from another man who had then run away. My father, who had always had a crush on her, stepped in and was there when I was born. He was a very good man as was his whole family. Not rich. Not super educated, but good, humble people who were able to love! And so I was able to have a wonderful father!’

How lovely, ______.  It’s so clear that your dad was able to love.  He wasn’t  going to have a young girl grow up without a father.  It makes me think of all the generosity that lives in the people I meet on the sidewalk, at school, in the Belmont Diner.  Perhaps there’s a veil covering the quiet heroism but maybe I can pull it gently to the side to gaze upon the shining soul within.  I need to have the eyes to see.

‘Everywhere people are trying to save their lives from delusion and aversion and embrace love, understanding and forgiveness and the beautiful reality underneath “the world”.’

I was talking to a farmer today. He loves his life on the land.  He’s 78 and knows he’d die soon if he let go of his work.  He struggles with taxes and the market for his grain and the vagaries of weather, but he’s home.  He doesn’t go to retreats.  He doesn’t read spiritual books, I’d guess.  But he’s touching the beautiful reality of which you speak.

What a gift your e-mail is, ______, and your friendship.  I love sitting down with one other person and talking about stuff that matters.  You are one of those people.

With love,

Bruce”

 

Sniffing and Sharing

I’m sitting in the lobby of a hotel near Toronto airport, letting my newly emerging cold be there.  I have some saline stuff to spray into my nose and some intestinal fortitude to move way past “poor me”.  How strange life can be.

I want to talk to you in Cuba.  I’ve heard that the Internet at Memories Paraiso Azul Beach Resort is sporadic, and that it’s only available in the lobby.  So what?  My strength training has shown me that determination can go a long way.  So you’ll be hearing from me.  Is it unwise for me to promise?  Maybe. But I’ve been unwise before.  It could be fun to go down that road again.

I want to describe what I see on the outside and on the inside.  I want to tell you about cool people I meet.  About dancing in the disco and on the beach.  About Michael Jackson.  About waiters, maids and gardeners.

Time for bed.  Wake up call at 2:00.  Taxi at 3:00.  Fly at 6:15.  Oh my, I’m really doing this.  Tell you all about it tomorrow or Saturday.

 

 

Day Thirty-Three … Out And About, In And Within

Scarlet was calling to me yesterday morning: “Fix me.  Fix me please.”  And who am I to resist the urgings of a red Toyota Corolla?  A few weeks ago, I hit a curb in Vancouver.  As well as an oil change, my car needed a wheel alignment.  So off I went to High River Toyota, with the sparkling Rockies behind.  Fresh snow on the mountains.

After dropping off my four-wheeled wonder at the dealership, I followed the rep’s directions towards Smitty’s, with breakfast on my mind.  I kept walking along the highway … McDonald’s, Tim Hortons, A&W, but no Smitty’s.  I stood at an intersection, spinning around inside and out.  A woman stopped, rolled down her window and said “Can I help you?”  And so the location of the breakie locale was revealed.  It was behind a hotel that I had walked by.  On my return trip, I did visual research.  I’m usually good at spotting landmarks but I missed the Smitty’s sign.  I discovered that it was only visible for a distance of 40 metres along the sidewalk.  How strange.  I felt there was a life lesson here but I just couldn’t put my finger on it.  I know … go to Tim’s for breakfast!

As I munched on my lettuce and tofu, the Calgary Sun magically appeared before me, somehow open to the sports section.  Seven pages of football … and I don’t even like all those huge men hitting each other.  But I got to read about Brooke Henderson, the 17-year-old Canadian golfer who won her first LPGA tournament last week.  I wouldn’t say I’m obsessed with her.  Or would I?  She’s pretty, hits the ball 280 yards, and is a nice person.  She smiles.  I’m all for those upward bendings of the mouth.

After bugging my waitress sufficiently, I lined up at the cash.  Ahead of me was another fellow who likes playing with servers.  And the woman receiving his money clearly was enjoying the moment as well.  We got talking.  He’s 94 and still driving.  Oh, I want to be like him when I grow up!  He offered me a ride back to Toyota but I wanted to walk.  I suggested to him, however, that if he sees me on the highway, he should come close and nudge me with his right front fender.  He decided not to.

As I pointed Scarlet westward, the full glory of fresh snow on the Rockies lay before me.  Words just don’t do it.  A few days ago, Lance took us to a high point on a foothills road, one that gave us an enormous vista of this good earth.  I sallied forth to find the spot.  With Scarlet leading the way, happy with her straight wheel, we arrived.  Photos were good but standing there in silence was better.  Just because happiness comes from within is no reason not to revel in nature’s glory.  And glorious it was.

Back home again, I got to spend some time with Ember on my lap.  She stilled and sunk into my legs.  Oh my.  If only we human beings would touch like this.  Sometimes we do.  I stroked Ember’s head and back.  I scratched her ears.  I enjoyed her company.  There was nothing to add.  Being with a touch of doing.

Today, we family of seven are launching ourselves towards Waterton Lakes National Park for four days of exploring.  Waterton is where I became a person.  I worked at the Prince of Wales Hotel there in 1969, 1970, 1974, 1975 and 1976.  I became friends with fellow employees who came from nearly all the provinces.  Waterton is home.  The PW is tied for my favourite building in the world, alongside my home in Union, Ontario.  And we get to go there.  We get to climb Bear’s Hump, a shoulder of Mount Crandall.  Fifty-six years ago, I climbed that trail on my hands and knees.  I’m going to try feet this time.

I don’t think I’ll have any Internet in Waterton, so there won’t be a peep from me till Thursday.  I’m going to write a post each day in Microsoft Word and send them all on Thursday evening.  I’ll miss you.

It’s time to get high on mountains.

Day Twenty-Five … Stops Along The Way To Red Deer

After leaving Ray and Joy’s place on Friday, I meandered north towards Jody’s cousin Holly in Red Deer, Alberta.  There were people to touch en route.

My first meeting didn’t happen in a face-to-face way.  I was dropping a letter off for Michelle, a welcomer at the visitor centre of the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden in Lethbridge.  On my way through a couple of weeks ago,  Michelle and I had a great talk about life.  And we hugged.  I seem to be hugging a lot of people on my road trip whom I’ve never met before.  I like it.

I told Michelle that I was coming back through Lethbridge on August 13 and 14 and that I’d love to visit her again.  She said that she was off on the 14th but worked until 5:00 on the 13th.  So my goal on Thursday was to get to her in time.  Sadly, a delay in Kimberley, BC, another one at the border, and me forgetting about the time zone change between BC and Alberta nixed that idea.  I was sad.  No hug.  And I had told Michelle that I’d be there.  I hate not keeping my word.  Let it go, Bruce.

Next up for me was seeing Gordon, my sister-in-law Nona’s father.  He’s in a nursing home in Lethbridge.  Gordon has always struck me as being a quiet person, but he and I have had some good conversations.  On Friday, I showed up at Gordon’s bedroom door.  He was sitting in a chair.  As I approached, he looked up and smiled.  He recognized me!  I sat down opposite and we talked about many things – Nona, how he misses his home in Milk River, and the laughter of many staff members at his care facility.  It was clear to me that I needed to pause after my comments so that Gordon could process what I said.  And of course that was fine.

As I was about leave, I stood in front of Gordon to shake his hand and say goodbye.  He was clearly determined to stand.  I wondered if I should move his walker closer to him but Gordon stood quickly, moved forward to the walker and went fully upright.  He was happy to shake my hand.  And even happier to walk me to the front entrance, approximately at the speed of light.  Nona and Lance call him “Flash Gordon”.  Absolutely.

I decided to explore another planet on my way to Red Deer.  Vulcan, Alberta is basically Spockland, from the original Star Trek.  I dropped into the visitor centre to buy some T-shirts.  A young woman greeted me, clearly in the throes of a bad cold.  Even as stuffed up as she was, kindness came my way.  She patiently explained Star Trek references of which I was unfamiliar.  Such as the Green Girl, a seductive young lady who was rescued from certain doom by a certain William Shatner.  Sadly, no green girl approached to sell me a water bottle.

On I went, certain of my route to Red Deer.  I thought there was a “Stony Plain Road” that headed directly north to my destination.  Slight miscalculation.   Stony Road was actually a ring route around Calgary.  I knew something was wrong when the mountains appeared directly in front of me instead of to my left.  Oh well … being on time is highly overrated.

Holly welcomed me to her palace in Red Deer.  Okay, it wasn’t that big but it was a lovely space.  She took me out to a cool restaurant called Chopped Leaf and I had a decadent salad full of shrimp, served in a tilty white bowl.  We just yapped and yapped, both there and back at her palace over a glass of wine.  Holly remembered Jody as a teenager, walking her beloved dog Dutch in downtown Coaldale, Alberta.  Dutch was a sausage dog – a dachshund.  Then Holly told me that she got close to Jody only in the last few years, as they rediscovered each other via Skype and Facebook.  They had planned to get together face-to-face.  (Sigh)

Holly wants to bring all 16 of the Doram first cousins together for a reunion and hopefully a genealogy trip to England to meet some ancient Dorams.  Make it so, Holly.

“Let the journey carry on.”  A quote from my 14-year-old nephew Jaxon.