Day Four B

“What Now?” is the question, for the conference participants, and for me.

I want to reach people with my ideas and experiences.  For three years, I’ve told myself that WordPress is a good way to do that, but now I wonder.  On an average day, it appears that only five people read my posts.  But I have maybe 100 followers and I’m guessing that any views from them don’t count in the stats.  I don’t know if that’s true.

Jody loved being on Facebook but it never drew me.  I sensed that the posts of many folks focused on “What I did today”, and I didn’t want to do that.  But now, after watching hours of conference sessions, I’m thinking about opening a Facebook page, to see if my grappling with big issues and experiences could reach a wider audience.  We’ll see what energy is behind that thought, and whether there’s enough oomph for me to begin.

***

It was the last day of the conference and there was no shortage of intriguing comments from the presenters:

“Ask yourself:  ‘Since I arrived at the conference, has anything shifted in me?’  Shifts that are experiential and embodied, not just centered in your mind.  Are you moved to do and say new things?  When you share about this, bring your life force to it.  Don’t tell us your shift in a monotone way.  The energy of your voice shifts things.”

I’ve long been fascinated with the human voice as an instrument of change.  I had a theory once that the greater the processing of oxygen, the greater the consciousness that’s revealed.  So running, cycling, talking with passion, singing … they feel like ways to reach Spirit.  But then again, I don’t think it’s just about speech volume.  What if I could be totally present with each person I talk to?  What if a current of energy was transmitted to the other person whether I’m whispering or belting out the bass part of “O Come All Ye Faithful”?  More experiments needed.

“What’s alive for me at this point in my practice?  What matters to me is two things:

1. The cultivation of a reliable, trustworthy community, people who understand that evolution is beautiful but not necessarily pretty.  It makes a difference to have a tribe.

2. The transfer of what I’ve learned to a younger generation, acknowledging that they’re creating new things, that they come in with another set of capacities.”  [The presenter is around 60.]

I’ve decided to rejoin the meditation group that meets weekly in London, Ontario.  A sangha.  I need to talk to people who are not brand new to what I’m experiencing.  As for the second point, I’ll soon be 69.  I need to find ways to share my values and experiences.  I want there to be some remembrance of Bruce when I die (even if the solidity of Bruce is a total fiction!)

“I’m no longer engaged in those questions.”

And it’s okay if past passions have morphed into pleasant memories, with no current juice coursing through my spiritual veins.  I used to be fanatical about playing beautiful golf courses on my computer.  I bought lots of them.  I loved the lay of the land, and still do.  But now, I don’t want to play, and that’s just fine.

“When you think about the following domains, what arises?  What questions do you feel pulsing from the inside that are the most urgent and beautiful?  What wants to live through you?  What would you die for?

1. My purpose on the planet
2. Intimate relationships
3. Spiritual practice
4. My stage of life”

I’m here to love people and make them laugh.  I deeply miss being in an intimate relationship, and I realize that I may, or may not, have one again.  With the Dalai Lama, I say that my spiritual practice is kindness.  And coming up on 69?  Don’t waste time.  Don’t miss the stunning moments of life.  Give.  Be sacred in each moment – to others and to me.

“Stand up whenever one of these statements is true for you.  Pause and be seen.  See who’s standing with you.  See who’s sitting down.  No judgments.  Then sit down.  If you’re sitting, witness those standing and hold the truth that the statement is not resonant for you.

1. I feel connected to my deep life purpose
2. I’m still searching for my deep life purpose
3. Right now, in my current life stage, I am preferencing autonomy (i.e. self-development, caring for myself first)
4. In my current life stage, I am preferencing being with others
5. Right now, in my current life stage, I am contemplating mortality on a regular basis
6. In my current life stage, I am at ease
7. In my current life stage, I am not at ease”

How lovely.  No one right.  No one wrong.  Just the truth.

***

Thank you, Integral Life, for creating this forum.  Folks in Colorado.  Folks on their computers across the world.  And folks who know nothing about what’s happened in a Denver hotel ballroom over the last four days.

Us

 

Island Thoughts

Yesterday was brunch-and-concert day on Toronto Island, at St. Andrew-by-the-Lake Church.  It’s another world, only a ten-minute ferry ride from downtown.

As I walked from the docks, I heard a familiar sound.  I’m used to the scrape of skates on ice during telecasts of Hockey Night In Canada.  Go you Maple Leafs!  But this was classic.  Up ahead, a hockey game was breaking out on the channel between islands.  I stopped and marvelled.  So deep in Canada’s roots, doing stuff outdoors.  I thought of David Francey’s song:

The music from the skating rink
Drifts across the town
The stars of heaven high above
Forever looking down
I stand here looking upward,
And I’m listening to the sound
Of the village in the lonely heart of winter

Here were ten women flowing on their blades, some very skilled, a few not so.  There was one grey hair and several teens.  Plus ten smiles.  For goals, they had laid two six-foot beams on the ice.  If you wanted to score, you couldn’t raise the puck.  And no bodychecking.  I stared some more.  It was so simple and so beautiful.

On to the church.  Pews were turned around and tables placed between.  I sat with local folks, steeped in the history of the Ward’s Island and Algonquin Island communities.  An Algonquiner praised her land as “The Heights”, clearly superior to the Ward’s accommodation.  Jabs in the ribs and more happy faces.

And then … tofu with a sweet-and-sour sauce, bok choy, exotic mushrooms, a nest of rice noodles, and cucumber.  Not to mention a dark cake drizzled with vanilla icing.  Waydago, chef.

We talked about island life.  Coming soon is a huge bonfire on Ward’s beach, reducing the island’s Christmas trees to ash.  I mentioned the meditation retreat I’m about to go on.  Beside me sat a fellow with a speech impediment.  I felt a stereotype bubble up as I struggled to understand him.  But then I got the hang of his lingo and we were off to the races.  He had many wise things to say.

Amply satisfied, we switched the pews to theatre style.  Three gentlemen began their enthrallment of us the audience.  Violin, cello, piano.  Mozart, Brahms, Tchaikovsky.  Oh my.  Melodies soared.  Harmonies filled the tones.  Brilliant runs and calm lacings of notes.

Directly in front of me sat a young woman with curly red hair stretching to the middle of her back.  I exhaled, a few times.  She was so pretty.  I longed to run my fingers through her tresses.  Showing admirable restraint, however, I returned again and again to the music.

The alignment of bodies ahead meant that I rarely saw a full performer’s head during the performance.  Occasionally just the violinist’s eyes were seen through the gap, and they were usually closed.  Sometimes an upbow rose above the crowd, or a shoulder gave way to an ear.  I decided to let it be, rather than twisting myself to see more.  I thought of how, in one telling, the moment is perfect as it presents itself.  I thought that the folks behind me would have to adjust if I made sudden moves.  And that hair was just so divine.

Ahh
Thank you, Toronto Island
and more especially the people who call it home
I’ll be back

How Sweet It Is

There is such a thing as a Belmont Santa Claus Parade and I got to experience it a couple of days ago.  The night was dark and I was Charles Dickens – top hat, scarf, trenchcoat … and moustache!

I live at the north end of Belmont and the parade was to start at the south end, on the grounds of the farm supply company.  Forty-five minutes before the great beginning, I strolled down Main Street.  To the few passersby I encountered I said “What’s going on in town tonight?”  Some smiled.  Some stared.  Oh well.

Basically there were hardly any spectators positioning themselves.  Here I thought the Belmont parade was a big deal.  Guess I was wrong.

I found my Belmont Diner float and loaded my Christmas bag with tons of candy.  Then I wandered among the other floats, chatting with some and sundry.  I sought Santa, hoping that he would come through with the red Lamborghini I had promised myself decades ago.  But he must have been doing some last minute gift wrapping.  And then it was time to get rolling.

I told the Grade 6 kids at South Dorchester School that I’d be handing out candy beside the Diner float, and if they wanted to see me they should be on the east side of the street.

The float and I turned right out of the parking lot onto Main Street.  Oh my God!  The sidewalks were packed two and three deep, and were well populated with short folks.  Christal, the Diner’s owner, told me “One candy only to each kid.  Otherwise you’ll run out by the bridge.” (about one-third of the way along the route).  Okay, so be it.

I made eye contact with every child I could find.  “Merry Christmas!” was interspersed with “I don’t see any kids.”  (Cue frantic waving) and “You look like a broccoli and lettuce kind of guy, not the candy type.”  (Cue yelps of “Candy!” and outstretched hands)   Great fun.

About five of the Grade 6s rushed up to say hi.  And I got to meet a few parents.  I think they’re glad I show up in their child’s class.  Being there makes me happy.

Occasionally I glanced up from the sea of young faces to see my float fading into the future.  Ouch – that’s my source of candy replenishment!  So a decision was needed.  Should I zoom forward to refill my bag or continue to see each youngster?  Practicality gave way to relationship.  More eyes to behold.  Dwindling supplies be darned.

I got to chanting “Adult, adult, adult … kid!” and gave the next small human a gigantis smile.  Another candy safely delivered.  Laughing went from sidewalk to street and back again.

Up Main Street we journeyed, past the Barking Cat (pub), the Diner, The Post Office and Jody’s bench, the Belmont Dairystore, the library and the Town Restaurant.  When at Church Street, one block from the end of the parade, what to my wondering eyes should appear but only twenty candies lying in my bag.  Between Church and Washburn, another flurry of children bounced on the sidewalk.  What to do?  I mentioned my dilemma to a number of parents.

Guess what happened?

Maybe eight or ten adults poured handfuls of candies into my bag. “For the kids up ahead.”  And how many of the children associated with said adults complained?  That’s right – zero.  Immensely sweet.

Thank you, Belmontonians.  You made my year.

St. Andrew-by-the-Lake

I got on the tiny ferry to Toronto Island this morning, and a chilly, windy one it was.  Go inside or stand at the bow.  An easy choice, and I loved watching the ducks take off as our vessel chugged into the fog.  I kept hoping that one duckie would be brave enough not to fly, that it would just steer clear of the big metal thing.  No such luck.

Once ashore I wandered the narrow paths between the Ward’s Island houses.  Many were tiny.  I loved the ones that were lit from within.  Such a cozy place to call home.  Flowers and bushes were past their seasonal best and the trees arched over me in their skeletal blackness.  My coat and toque kept me warm.  I was happy.

It was time to wander down the island to the church.  I came upon a geodesic dome, about fifteen feet tall.  Lots of silver metal triangles.  As I got closer, an intricate web of black ropes revealed itself.  A climber!  The shapes inside were squares and hexagons.  I imagined kids loving every second above the earth.  The floor was a spongy rubber, ready to cushion the occasional fall.  I smiled.  Waydago, designing adults.

And then the church … brunch at 12:30, folk concert at 2:00.  I knew no one but I didn’t think that would last for long.  And it didn’t.  Anne and I talked about the brilliance of Stan Rogers, a singer-songwriter who died in a smoke-filled plane in 1983.  And not just talk.  The two of us broke into a rollicking chorus from Northwest Passage:

Ah, for just one time I would take the Northwest Passage
To find the hand of Franklin reaching for the Beaufort Sea
Tracing one warm line through a land so wide and savage
And make a Northwest Passage to the sea

Soon I met Julia, Roger, Jo, Linda and Karen.  We all sat at the same long table and chatted away as we dug into salads, beans, squash and cheesecake, all grown in island gardens (with the possible exception of the cheesecake).  The church was a small wooden structure built in 1884, all white outside and all brown wood inside.  The tall stained glass windows included Jesus praying at Gethsemane.  Lovely all around.

Our musicians were a guitarist from California and a violinist from Toronto.  They showed us Bach and Vivaldi and an Irish reel and a Balkan dance.  We clapped and cheered as the sound surrounded.

Outside the wind was whipping the season’s first snow sideways.  Inside the building and inside our bodies, all was well.

It’s a community I found today and I became a part of it.  Blessedly home.

Benchmark

I do believe that I’ve waxed poetic in these pages about Belmont, Ontario, my soon-to-be home.  About seeking a waffle cone at the convenience store on Main Street, and then standing outside, longing for a bench.  Seeing none, I leaned against the wall and loosened my eyes across the street.  The post office.  And in front … a black metal bench.  I’ve already consumed many chocolate-peanut butters with my backside caressed by the smoothness.  And I can tell that this will be a continuing tradition.

On visit number eight or ten, I saw something new.  There was a rectangular hole, about 2″ x 10″, in the middle of the bench back.  “That’s nice,” I thought.  A spot for a tiny plaque.

Several licking sessions later, I turned around and stared at that hole.  “Jody.”  What if I spoke bronzed words to my beloved, and those words seeped inside all who sat there?

Yesterday I went to the Municipality of Central Elgin and asked about bench memorials.  “The cost is $2500, sir.”  Ouch.  When I asked how many words I could fit on the plaque, the woman recommended that I do a tour of the region and read the messages.

So I did.  I wandered the harbour of Port Stanley in the evening and read about fifteen tributes to loved ones.  Some were so beautiful.  I cried for Jody.

This morning, I sat down and typed out my words of love:

In Memory Of
Jody Kerr
A marvelous human being and my life wife
I love you, my dear Jodiette

Yes, that’s what I want to say.

The person responsible for memorials is on vacation this week.  I don’t know if anyone else has reserved the post office bench.  But I have already spoken and the residents of Belmont will hear.  This I know.

We Play On

Tonight was the night!  I dressed formal, vaguely remembering how to tie a Windsor knot.  Then Renato and I headed to the London airport.  Thirty white chairs sat in the concourse.  Slowly they filled … with musicians from the former Orchestra London.  When they lost their government funding, the organization went into bankruptcy, but many of the members continued playing as the We Play On Orchestra..

In front of the podium hung a red sign: “Conduct Us!”  So we did.  Young and old and medium.  Musicians and novices.  Those with confidence and those shaking in their boots.

When it was my turn, I took the baton from the concertmaster (the number one violinist), stepped onto the podium, tapped the music stand and raised my arms.  Smiles from many of the players.  Then we were off, into some fast Christmas piece whose name I can’t remember.  I swirled my arms during the loud parts and pulled in my limbs during the tender sections.  I was a conductor!  And I was enthralled.  A female violinist to my left kept grinning.  Actually she did so for every one of the conductors, maybe thirty in all.  Oh, bliss!  I had so looked forward to tapping that stand and directing such immensely talented musicians.  Dreams do come true.

Here are a few of my favourite moments:

  1. A little boy doesn’t want to take off his baseball cap off when conducting.  A helpful adult turned it around so we could see his face.  Then he gave ‘er.
  2. A young woman in a green down coat clearly had never done this before but soldiered on with a huge smile adorning her face throughout.  Wild applause from her friends standing at the back.
  3. A 2-year-old girl wearing a pink toque is carried by her mom and together they lead the orchestra.  Later, when another child was on the podium, the little one kept conducting in the wings, using a pink straw to great effect.
  4. A man in his twenties keeps a steady beat while his girlfriend films the whole thing.  When the piece was over, he sat down beside her.  They held hands and she leaned her head against his neck.
  5. As her young daughter conducts, mom holds her cell phone high and just beams love.  An eternal smile … ecstasy beyond words.
  6. An elderly man gives it his all.  His technique was muted, a little bit jerky, but the universe doesn’t care.  He led.  The musicians followed.  It was good.
  7. A 10-year-old girl grabs the baton and jerks it up and down with gusto, then starts dancing mid-performance.  The podium survived nicely.

Throughout, the concertmaster welcomed each conductor, encouraging the nervous ones, and letting the folks with more confidence do their thing.  Instruments came alive in the hands of professional Christmas celebrators.  Violin, cello, viola, double bass, trumpet, trombone, bassoon, clarinet, drums, and others not remembered – all were happy to be there.  So were the throngs coming in on the latest flight and their loved ones there to pick them up.  A fine time was had by all.

“God bless us, every one”

 

 

The Scattering of Jody’s Ashes

Fourteen of us came together yesterday, joining Jody in a celebration of life.  Her beloved rosebushes came into bloom on Thursday.  Life is timing.  Thanks, Jodiette.

Last week, I was walking with my friend Pat on the beach at Port Stanley.  I could feel grumpiness coming on as the sand on my bare feet gave way to a surface of pebbles.  On went the sandals.  Then I saw Pat bending down to pick something up.  It was an exquisite heart-shaped stone.  “For you.”

As we fourteen stood facing Jody’s rosebushes, I pulled the stone from my pocket.  Love had moved from Pat to me to Jody and ever outwards.  I placed our stone in a bowl of branches, surrounded by blossoms.  I started crying for my lovely wife.

My friend Theresa sang a sweet song about love, flowers, sun and rain.  I can’t remember the words.  The mist was gently falling as she began and the sun burst through as she ended.  Thank you, Jodiette.

My friend Adele sent me an e-mail after our ceremony.  “Today was a truly moving day….all about LOVE!  Jody was there, in the trees, in the rain, in the gentle breeze, in the bird’s song…she was there!”  So true.  Last night, Jody thanked me for drifting her soul over her roses.  Home.  I love you so much, my wife.  I miss you.

Inside our home, I had lit 70 candles for Jody.  Actually, Theresa lit the last few, including four red cubes that sit on my chest-of-drawers … L-O-V-E.  She asked me whether I’d like her to bring them into our living room.  I said no.  Our bedroom is a sacred space.  An hour later, I checked on them.  Wax had dripped down the drawers, with frozen streams hanging from the handles, and a puddle on the carpet.  I just stared.  Something big was happening, but my small mind started shutting it down with a burst of “How do I clean this up?”  Happily, I didn’t clean it up.  That will be for another day.  I saw my tears for Jody, and my bright red love for her.  And I saw her love flowing over me.

After everyone had gone, I stood before Jody’s roses.  I saw ashes on the end of a branch that had been pruned.  I gathered them between my right thumb and forefinger and placed them in the palm of my left hand.  I cupped my right hand over and talked to my dear wife.  I don’t remember what I said but it was love.  I uncovered Jody’s ashes, paused and blew her into the world.