Went splorin’ yesterday afternoon in Belleville. Gord, my host at the B&B, suggested that I walk the trail beside the Bay of Quinte, so off I went.
Near the water I came upon a semi-circular path done with small paving stones. And there were messages of love on many of the stones, to the dearly departed. One stone expressed love for a family member, and the one below it said, “P.S. I miss you.” Lovely. The stones breathed affection, appreciation and sadness, and I got to be there, watching.
I strolled eastward on the asphalt path, enjoying the bay, the trees, the cattails and the birds. Most people responded smilingly to my “Hi”. It all felt good. I walked so slowly. I love doing that. One time Jody and I were staying at the Riu Tequila Hotel on the Mayan Riviera in Mexico. The grounds were festooned with flowering bushes. We dipsydoodled along. Around day three, I announced to my dear wife that I had a goal: for us to be the slowest couple at the resort. All was going well until one day I spied two elderly folks ahead of us. We were catching up! Darn. Lots of smiles as we passed them at a moderate pace. Oh well. I looked at Jody and said, “you’re my little runner up”. (Okay, that last sentence was a lie. Seems to me that it’s some quote from a magnificent play, full of magnificent performances, that I saw awhile ago.)
Now, where was I? Oh yes, the Belleville waterfront. At one point the paved track ended, but I saw a short length of chain link fence ahead. Beyond was a dirt path, cradled by bushes on either side. Around the fence I went, and so began at least two miles of adventure. Soon I beheld a huge weeping willow to my left, adorned with the light green beginnings of leaves. I went over and stood under. Jody was right beside me. “I am this tree, Bruce. I shelter you. I protect you.” Familiar words. I cried for my wife.
Farther along was a big marsh, again to the left. I came past some bushes and came face-to-face with a white swan, who was paddling and dipping. We talked a bit. And then said goodbye.
Later things opened into a meadow, where I noticed a white thing on the ground. Turns out it was a plastic sheet, and a big one, maybe fitting a queen bed. “Well, we can’t have that sitting there among the beauty.” So I picked it up and kept walking. Soon I came upon “a good industrial landscape” (a quote from David Francey, a Canadian singer-songwriter). There was a large cement foundation but only one wall standing. And the top of the wall wasn’t a horizontal line, but instead the broken shape of a rounded mountain. Sticking out of the top were long pieces of rebar, flowing every which way, like the arms of a dancer. Cool.
I found an old road and followed to the left. There was traffic ahead. It was the east part of Dundas St. As I got closer, I saw that my way was blocked by more chain link, supplemented by barbed wire. My heart moved higher. As worry started to take over, I glanced to the right and saw a dirt path that took me to the highway. Gosh, I think that someone is looking after me. Always.
I hauled my white blob across Dundas, wondering where I would deposit the sheet. But my answer was right in front of me – a pink garbage can by the vacuum station of a self-serve car wash. In she went. Across the street was Mr. Convenience. I was ready for food. I went inside and picked up representatives of Canada’s four major food groups – SmartFood cheesy popcorn, honey peanuts, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Gatorade. Yum. I sat down facing some old cattails and ate meditatively. I was having fun.
Heading back towards downtown, I strolled into McDonalds. Since Canada’s fifth food group is Smarties McFlurries, I decided to participate. I sat beside a couple who looked pretty down-and-out. She hadn’t taken care of herself over the years and dearly missed her deceased parents. We had a good talk. At one point, I looked out at the parking lot. And there was a young woman, sitting on a low cement barrier, head down, crying. Then she lay down, still crying. A woman came over and sat beside her. Sometimes she talked to the girl, and sometimes just sat with her. It was very beautiful to see. But the crying continued. I had finished my ice cream and told my new friends that I was going to walk out there and see if there was anything I could do. They told me that I shouldn’t get involved, that the girl might hurt me. I smiled, but I knew I was going over there.
First I phoned 911, worried that the girl might hurt herself. The dispatcher told me that she was well known to police, was mentally unstable, and often didn’t take her meds. She wasn’t a danger to herself or others. “A lost soul.” Well, lost souls deserve to be found. I walked over as the Good Samaritan was getting ready to leave. We talked a bit. And then I asked the girl if I could sit down beside her. I didn’t sense any response through the tears, either positive or negative. So I sat down. I tried saying a few things to her, and then realized that wasn’t it. My meditation practice has taught me that the most powerful giving is “being with”, without judgment, and without speaking. So we sat together for about twenty minutes. I wasn’t pushing love out to her, but love was flowing. At the end of that time, she asked for some money. I gave her some. She got up and walked over to Subway. Fare thee well, my dear.
Wow, that’s a lot of words, and I haven’t even told you about Jake’s Women. I enjoyed the second night as much as the first. Seeing Bill play Jake on night one, I had questioned my ability to do the job he was doing, to memorize all those lines and to wander with such grace through the emotional spectrum that is Jake. Last night, I let that go. I sat there enjoying the story and celebrating the actor and actresses who made their characters real – human beings that I’ve met in my life. I realized that I can be Jake.
There were some scenes that may bring me to tears onstage. Is it okay for an actor to cry? What if I can’t stop the tears when I’m supposed to deliver a funny line? Lots of I don’t knows.
Jody and I didn’t have kids. We decided to focus on travel. That decision is one of only two things I regret in my life. The other is that Jody died so early, at age 54, and that we can’t hold hands anymore. As for the kids, my favourite scene in Jake’s Women comes at the end of Act 1. His wife Maggie has just left him, wanting a six-month separation. Jake sits on the couch, head down. And along come two versions of his daughter Molly, one at age 12, and the current Molly, age 21. They sit beside him. The love they all share is front and centre. Jake puts his right arm around young Molly and his left one around older Molly. They sit quietly … and fade to black. Oh my. I have so much wanted a daughter.
In Act 2, there’s a scene in which Julie (Jake’s wife who died in a car accident) and Jake kiss. “Goodbye, Jake.” Oh my again. Thinking of my darling Jody, how can I not cry? I miss her so.
At the end of the evening, I got to meet the cast. Wow! I’m running out of writing oomph here, so I’ll save that story for tomorrow morning. It’s a lovely one.
One of the cast members asked me if I would write a review of the play and their performances. Sure, I’ll do that. Also tomorrow morning.
As for today, it’s more walking, a beer at the Red Lion Pub, and a rendezvous with a love story.