The Jets Are Fading in My Mind

I love sports, or so I tell me.  I have favourite teams and players and have been known to exalt or wail, depending on the results.

Let me give you a rundown of my heroes:

Toronto Maple Leafs (hockey)
Winnipeg Jets (hockey)
Toronto Blue Jays (baseball)
Toronto FC (soccer)
Toronto Raptors (basketball)
Brooke Henderson (golf)
Denis Shapovalov (tennis)

Enough champions to make anyone happy, wouldn’t you say?  Well … maybe.

Last night I started watching the Jets on TV.  If the team won, they’d be in the semi-finals of the Stanley Cup playoffs.  The game was in Winnipeg, where just about all the fans in the building wear white and wave towels like crazy.  So exciting!

Within ten minutes of game start, something happened to that exclamation mark.  It was … fading.  The fans were still jumping up and down, Winnipeg and Nashville were taking turns roaring down the ice, but I was no longer engaged.  Instead I was mystified. “How can I not be excited?  This is the playoffs!”

In my perplexity, I thought of my other sporting heroes.  No juice there either.  Was I becoming a blah blob?

No, I wasn’t.

Some force is moving through me, pushing me towards a deep sense of relationship with human beings.  There’s a beauty and a spirit that I can’t name but it’s lifting me up.  The majesty is far beyond the thrill of a breakaway, a slam dunk or a three-wood nestling close to the pin.  It’s like a 60-watt bulb compared to a spotlight.

Am I becoming the next version of me?  Are the old me’s taking their rightful place in the background?  I don’t know.

I’m open to where this roaring river is taking me.  A destination that I can’t even conceive of.

Not knowing
Not planning
Not a care in the world

Power

I’m used to the mellow energy of meditation.  Quiet and all-encompassing at times.  Nothing that I would describe as “powerful”.  But today’s been different.

I’ve been working out a lot on the elliptical at the gym, to get ready for my cross-Canada bicycle trip this summer. Usually, at the end of an hour of sweating and swinging my limbs every which way, I’m pooped.  But this morning, after the workout, and after I drove home, there was a tingle inside.  I headed out the front door for the 20-minute walk to the Belmont Diner and soon energy flooded me.  Yes, it was POWER.  My head felt “big”.  Something was coursing through me, pushing out from my heart.  I expected that I’d look in the mirror and see a 6 feet four hulk … hopefully not green.  I walked fast, feeling that if a car careened towards me, I’d just flip it over my shoulder.

At the restaurant, I was even more talkative than usual.  I wasn’t an idiot.  I wasn’t argumentative.  I just felt this great urge to talk about stuff that’s important to me … and I did.

My body felt strong, like I could tackle the Tour du Canada today, average 30 kph (good luck with that!), and burn up the hills.  I know I’m getting fitter but this surging flow was brand new.  And yes, I liked it.

This afternoon, I volunteered in the Grade 5/6 class. Tiffany, the teacher, asked me to read a chapter from The City of Ember, a science fiction novel.  The characters included Doon and Lina, two 13-year-olds, and an assortment of quirky adults.  I had the best time pulling on different voices.  At one point, someone in the book yelled, so I followed suit, scaring a kid or two.  I was intensely “there”, tender and snarly in turns as I inhabited the folks of the novel.

Basically I felt “fierce” all day, like my chest was about to burst my buttons, like I could have lifted my own body weight … no problem.

So it was another rich life experience, knowing I can be intense as well as sublime.  And I decided that I like all of it.

Energies

Well, here I am, experimenting with energies.  I used to think that I wanted to hang out in the peaceful energy of meditation till the cows come home, but I’m no longer in that spot.  I want to see what edgy feels like, what intense doing feels like, what big crowds feel like, what bantering back and forth with another human being feels like.

So then there was yesterday.  I got up early and drove to Toronto.  After taking the UP Express train downtown, I meandered over to the ferry terminal.  I spent a minute or two holding the arm of Jack Layton (or that of a statue honouring him).  I thanked Jack for all he contributed to Toronto and Canada.  It was the quiet energy of relationship.

I got off the ferry on Ward’s Island at 11:00 am.  The brunch and concert at St. Andrew-by-the-Lake Church would start at 12:30 so I had lots of time to wander.

It was clean-up day on the shoreline and many island residents were picking up garbage, hoisting branches that had washed ashore, and sorting recyclables from not.  They often moved quickly from one task to the next.  I told several of them “The earth thanks you.”  Everyone smiled in response.  Overall, it was the exuberant energy of doing good.

I walked the tiny streets of Ward’s, surrounded by quaint cottages.  Green was everywhere.  Plants poking their heads above the earth.  Wide stretches of grass.  And yellow … masses of daffodils and large forsythia bushes.  Vines hung from many homes.  Only a few residents were up and about and I said hi when they were close.  It was the slow rhythmic energy of nature.

Next I put feet to wood on the shoreline boardwalk.  I waved to the few cyclists and walkers out for a stroll.  Often V’s of black birds soared over my head.  Squirrels did their digging and bouncing along things.  It was the pulsating energy of life.

And now for brunch.  A jampacked frittata, asparagus-infused greens, a gooey Italian cake and two glasses of red wine.  Such a nourishing energy.

I had some good moments with the people I was sitting with.  Smiles about life.  When the talk turned toward local news that I knew nothing about, I just listened.  It was a happy and sad energy … happy to be with human beings and sad that I wasn’t part of their group.

And now for music.  I listened to a jazz quartet – vocalist, saxophone player, pianist and upright bassist.  The tunes ebbed and flowed as they read off each other and gave each person the chance to shine in a solo.  Making it up as they went?  Sometimes it felt like that.  It was a spontaneous and creative energy, tender and then boisterous, and then back to sweet again.

The dessert of my day was back on the mainland.  I stood with a thousand other folks in Maple Leaf Square, where we gazed up at a huge screen and waved white towels.  Inside the Air Canada Centre, the Toronto Maple Leafs were battling the Washington Capitals in a National Hockey League playoff game.  We cheered wildly for the big hits delivered by the Leafs, for the saves made by Frederik Andersen (“Freddie!  Freddie!”) and for the one Toronto goal.  We agonized as the Capitals came back to tie and then ended our season with an overtime marker.  It was the energy of winning and losing, of gain and loss, of them versus us.

***

So, I was awash in energies
And no one was better that any other
Just a human being embracing his world

In The Arena

Many years ago, Jody and I went to a Toronto Raptors basketball game.  It was at the Air Canada Centre.  Last night I retraced our steps.

I walked in the door, escalated myself to the heavens, and then proceeded even more upward to the very top row of the ACC.  Way below me were an array of red and blue ants, otherwise known as professional basketball players warming up.

Directly ahead of me, about twenty feet away, was a large screen hanging from the ceiling. As the game unfolded, I forced myself to watch the ants rather than lapsing into TV mode.  I’d glance up occasionally at a closeup of a player taking a free throw but mostly I was faithful to the “here and nowness” of it all.

A Raptors game can be a full body experience.  Employees roamed around with heavy cameras on their shoulders, watching for fans jumping up and down, smiling, laughing, hugging and in general having a good time.  Although I suspected that part of the fervor was an effort to get oneself on the big screen, it was still great fun.  Kids bouncing, arms of all ages in the air, mouths agape … go for it you Raptorites!  Children especially were totally themselves.  Their friends and their parents shared in the joy.  So very cool.

Adult moving and grooving seemed to peak when the team’s dancing girls bounced up the stairs with t-shirts to throw.  There even was a multi-barrelled gun on the court, sending a rain of shirts skyward.  But who cares about the motivation?  Give me an event with happy faces and I’ll be happy.

I loved the energy of cheering fans in their thousands.  I also love the energy of sitting with one person, talking about our lives.  And the energy of silent aloneness, watching the tapestries of life parading behind my closed eyes.

I love it all

 

Dancing

Long ago I ruptured a tendon in my right ankle and ended up on crutches for 17 weeks.  Jody and I went to a New Year’s Eve party that year and after dinner I sat watching couples swing and sway on the dance floor.  I love dancing.  Jody loves dancing.  It was hard.

SunFest started last night.  It’s the world music festival in London that’s expected to draw 250,000 people to Victoria Park.  Soon after I arrived, I wandered over to the beer garden, where a group from Colombia was moving and grooving.  So were about a hundred dancers in front of the stage.  I stood just outside the fence and watched.  Most of them were young but certainly not all.  Pockets of friends grooved together.  A fellow in his 70’s dipped and dived to his wife, who moved a bit and smiled a lot.  One young woman near me gyrated in a delightfully sexual way, her purse on the ground in front of her.  The wild abandon and the sensible caution … sounds like a human being.

The leader of the band told the group to “Get down!” and 200 legs obliged.  Then it was hands to the sky.  So wonderful to see all those upraised arms – full self-expression.  I stood there fascinated.  All that energy.  All those smiles.  What life should be about.

After the Colombian folks were done, I meandered down the paths of crafts booths, knowing that I would make my appearance on the dance floor a bit later.  One of the kiosks held some marvelous creations from Bali, Indonesia.  And there it hung on a wall … a wooden plaque hand-painted, revealing a human being in full lotus meditation posture, one leg tucked into the other.  And in vibrant colours were the seven chakras, or energy centres, in the body.  Actually, the crown chakra is above the head.  I just stared, and brought out my MasterCard.  My heart danced.

Speaking of which, it was time to head back to the beer garden, and to the music of Five Alarm Funk, nine guys from Vancouver sporting a drum set, three guitars, bongo drums, saxophone, trumpet and trombone.  Hmm … guess I missed somebody.  The music was loud, raucous and so very danceable.  So we did.  I found myself next to a young woman and her boyfriend.  I heard “Hi, Mr.Kerr.”  Ten years ago, she was an elementary student at the school where I taught a blind child.  It was weird and yet wonderful to dance my heart out next to her.  Little kids grow up.

For awhile I threw my arms everywhere, but as the folks packed in tighter, my movements became vertical.  I tried moving my feet in a spastic sort of way but I had to stare at them to keep from crushing someone else’s foot.  When I mustered up the energy, I bounced for a bit, arms flopping at my sides.  Finally, my bodily organs told me to calm down or my days on the planet might be numbered.  Come to think of it, my days are numbered, bouncing or not.

I sweated and strained and joyed in living.  The folks around me were mostly young and radiant, but there were two fellow grey hairs off to my right.  Thank you, God.  Thank you, Jody.  Thank you, O powers of the universe, for letting me dance again.  It’s such a part of me.  And hey, maybe during SunFest 2035, it’ll be me and my walker showing those young’uns a step or two!

Memorizing

As some of you know, I want to be Jake in the play Jake’s Women, which will be performed in St. Thomas, Ontario in February, 2016.  Auditions are months away.  I’ve told people that I’ve started memorizing Jake’s lines, and that’s true, but I haven’t turned a page in a month.  Time to begin again.

Many years ago, Carol, the librarian at the Port Stanley Library, challenged me to learn the poem “Twas The Night Before Christmas” in time for the kids’ talent show in December.  I showed up day after day at Sebastian’s, a cozy restaurant on Springbank Drive in London, to talk to myself creatively.  And the deed was eventually done.  Onto the stage I walked in a nightgown and night cap, holding a candle, and I told the story to the children.  “And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.”

This afternoon, I drove from home with the script beside me.  I knew that all the libraries were closed on Sunday, so where to go?  A hotel.  Good idea.  Which one?  How about the Sheraton Four Points on Wellington Road South?  Sure.  The lounge at the Four Points had been one of Jody’s and my favourites.

My early attempts at learning Jake had been weak.  I was full of negative thoughts.  “Maybe I’m too old to memorize hundreds of lines.”  A friend of mine told me of some research about meditators.  Apparently those who practice regularly can remember things more easily.  Well, that’s good, but I still wasn’t bringing my whole self to the task.

Today, I sat in an easy chair looking out at the rainy world.  I decided to order a glass of white wine.  How about a Gewurztraminer, a semi-dry variety that I used to love?  Sounds good.  Now … page one.  And guess what happened?  I wasn’t scared.  I tackled the sentences with gusto.  Cool.  I’ve seen six performances of Jake’s Women in the last six weeks – three in Belleville and three in London.  I knew the flow of the story.  I remembered Jake saying this and saying that.  Yay!

After multiple sips of chilled white goodness, I opted for food.  The menu proclaimed that French fries in garlic with bits of some fancy cheese was a winner.  And the menu was right.  There I was, the glass of wine perched on the right arm of the chair, the bowl of fries sitting on my lap, and my left hand hoisting Jake’s script.  I talked out loud between bites and slurps.  Oh, I had fun!  And I was Jake.  Wonder if the patrons halfway down the lounge thought so too?

I was getting some lines right, and some almost right, but more importantly I was on stage, at least in my mind.  And here comes page 12, where Jake speaks at length to the audience.  Power, and more power, flowed through me.  I can do this.  Who cares if I’m “old”?  I sure don’t feel it.

“That little room up there [where Jake writes] is eight by ten feet but to me it’s the world.  The universe!  You don’t get to play God … You get to be God!”

“She’s so damn stubborn and intractable – only she’s not saying it.  You wrote it!  You’re bright, witty and clever and she’s a pain in the ass.”

My free hand was gesturing.  My mouth was alternately orating and devouring.  My heart was thumping away.  No smallness here.  I’ve got stuff to say, hopefully in February, 2016.  And the words will come.