Nook

It was time to get my hair cut this morning since I won’t be seeing my hairstylist in Mount Brydges, Ontario for the next five weeks. Pop’s Barber Shop, complete with the traditional candy stripe barber pole, sits on Main Street, Black Diamond, Alberta. I showed up before the shop opened and spent a few minutes reading the historical sign beside the building. The old blue structure had been moved from nearby Royalties around 1950. Royalties once was the home of 5000 folks dependent on the emerging oil industry. Today its population is zero.

Past the sign, I was vaguely aware of some bushes. A closer inspection revealed a little path. It was an alley that I so easily could have missed. Entering the greenery, what to my wondering eyes should appear but a wooden bench, hidden from the street.

I sat down.

A place of peace, adjacent to the madding crowd … or as madding as four people passing by can get. A semi-trailer roared along Main Street. Only its stack was visible to this hidden one.

A place of sanctuary, untouched by the rushing, the to do lists, the lives lived with pressured purpose. I loved the respite from the hustle and the bustle, but steps away it was available to me if I wanted it.

The cave or the marketplace? Which beckoned more vividly? In the waiting for shorn hair, I chose the resting. In the next hour, I was back with the flow of people. Both have a place in my life.

Now the sheltering bushes
Now the sidewalk and stores
And now … ?

Wandering Up and Down

I walked twelve kilometres yesterday, through the parkland by Toronto’s Humber River.  All was green.  I meandered past tennis courts and fire circles, wooded slopes and wide lawns, with benches a-plenty for sittin’.  And I went slow.

All sorts of folks came my way.  Unless they looked supremely grumpy, I said hi.  Only three people gave me a sincere hello back.  I wonder if I look dangerous.  Or maybe it’s just the big city mentality, perhaps “Someone who says hello wants something.”  Oh well.  I wasn’t going to let the prevailing responses besmirch my day.

Near the end of the journey, I parked my bod in the lounge of the Old Mill Inn.  Lots of nice stonework and comfy chairs.  I found myself facing the portrait of a severe young man.  I asked myself whether he ever smiled in his earlier life.  I sure hope so.  I sipped my glass of white wine and read sports articles on my phone.  Sort of a mixed metaphor but I don’t mind.

Off again, this time to the mysteries of Bloor Street.  The sidewalks were full of all and sundry, enjoying the spring sunshine.  But I was fading.  Was it the wine, or the long walk, or my continued movement away from sleeping pills?  My head beat out a nasty rhythm and my legs were declining towards the asphalt.  “It’s okay, Bruce.  You’re off these pills and there’s no going back.”

My walking plans fell apart and I stumbled towards a subway station.  Fifteen minutes later I was slurping coffee in a Tim Horton’s, watching outside folks scatter under a sudden thunderstorm.  I was happy to be dry and sad to be vacant.  Coffee completed, I continued to stare out at smashing raindrops.  How would I stay awake at the concert?  So … another twelve ounces of Dark Roast.

Koerner Hall was only a three-minute walk from Tim’s and the rain had faded when I poked my pounding head out the door.  Inside the gorgeous concert hall, I awaited the presence of Rosanne Cash.  Slowly my brain cleared and I was ready for tunes.

Rosanne’s voice filled the space with sweetness, accompanied by the guitar runs of her husband.  One song especially hit home:

We’re falling like the velvet petals
We’re bleeding and we’re torn
But God is in the roses
And the thorns

I left The Royal Conservatory of Music with “500 Miles” on my lips and a skip in my step.  All deficits were in the rear view mirror.  Until, that is, I got to my home bed-and-breakfast.  Head banging again and a troubled caffeine-laden sleep.

So it seems to me this morning that life is both A and B
Despite my efforts to call it A
I guess I can live with that

Just A Word

In the early years of human presence on Earth, I was a kid.  I loved going to the matinée at the movie theatre on Avenue Road in Toronto.  It was a bit of a walk but I was young and strong.

Inside, a large waddling woman patrolled the aisles.  Fifty-five years later, I still remember her bellows:

LESS NOISE!

In recent days, I’ve been re-exploring Stephen King’s novella The Library Policeman.  I love how King creates such believable characters.  Poor Sam Peebles, a respected Junction City insurance agent, is about to be devoured by Ardelia Lortz, the town’s bewitching librarian.  He opens the front door, steps into the foyer, and is greeted by a large sign pressing down on its tripod stand:

SILENCE!

In my sixties, I’ve come into the world of Buddhist meditation.  In two weeks, I’m heading to the heart of Massachusetts for a one-month silent retreat.  I’ve been many times before.  Love and peace often surround me there.  Over all, we are embraced by a single word:

Silence

How is it that a human expression can hold such different meanings?  Every muscle in my body tightening.  And then an undoing, a sweet mushing of my structures, a blessed puddling.

Such a mystery, this life.  The agony, the ecstasy and the calm in which high and low seem irrelevant.  I’m for all of it.