Day Eight: Visiting Buckeye

And then there was that woman with horror on her face. She said something like “buck eye” and I responded with “What’s that?” Thought the poor lady was going to have a heart attack. For the uninitiated, the Buckeyes are the beloved football team of Ohio State University. The name comes not from a deer (“buck”) but from the buckeye tree. Who knew? Well, clearly not me. Ontario isn’t far from Ohio but obviously I don’t possess the local consciousness. Oh well. I just hope the distraught woman didn’t end up in Emergency.

My friend “Kayla” walked me through part of the university campus yesterday. Towering trees and some dramatic brick buildings. Plus there was a tranquil little lake bordered by water grasses and black iron benches. I sat there for a long time while Kayla was doing an errand, and watched Ohio folks stroll by. Well, actually some rushed by but the peace remained.

There were memorial stones forming parts of the path. So many human beings were celebrated with love. More than a few professed love for the Buckeyes. Okay, I’m getting the hang of this.

I meandered through a grassy and tree-festooned area aptly called “The Oval”. Kayla had told me that decades ago, when the university fathers and mothers were deciding where to put sidewalks in the space, they simply watched where people walked. The natural routes became obvious. How beautiful – people before policies.

The Evolutionary Collective Global internet call was coming up in less than an hour. My plan was to find a picnic table and hang out there. But then the rains came … and stayed. Across the way was a big building named R-PAC. “I’ll try there.” Turns out it’s a huge fitness and athletic complex.

I dipsydoodled up to the Welcome Center and asked the young fellow if they had an empty room where I could talk out loud to folks from across the world. He didn’t flinch, but set to work in fulfilling my request. He consulted with his fellow employees. He asked a woman to walk me upstairs to see if a particular meeting room would work. She smiled and we were off.

My guide opened a door for me and I walked into a lecture hall that would seat 100 students. And it was all for me! Thank you, OSU human beings. Seventy-five minutes later, I emerged, thankful for the contact with my EC friends and for the generosity of my hosts.

You know, life is pretty darned good

Oh Joy!

Last year I loved volunteering with a Grade 6 class in a school near Belmont.  And I loved those kids.  This year they’re at a new school – in Aylmer.  I met with the three Grade 7 teachers before I went on my meditation retreat last fall and again when I got back in December.  I’ve been waiting to see if they’re willing to have me volunteer.  I e-mailed them when school started up in January and said I’d show up this morning to hear their decision.

I pulled into the school parking lot with a little smile on my face.  How very much I want to spend more time with those children.  And yet being allowed in the classroom is out of my control.  How amazing life is.  The Buddha taught that craving leads to suffering and here I was craving big time.  But the smile said more.  I feel a deep connection with most of those kids and I know that connection will remain, even if I’m not in their new school.

If the Grade 7 teachers say no, I’ll approach the Grade 5, 6 and 8 teachers.  And if they all say no, it will be unpleasant, and I’ll be very sad, but that would also point to the unknownness of life.  Getting what I want just doesn’t always happen.  And happiness can be there beside me even then.  Thus the smile.

I showed up at 8:00 and found one of the Grade 7 teachers.  Kindly and politely, she said no.

Twenty minutes later, as I sat on a bench in the hallway, here comes number two.  He smiled when he saw me.  In the classroom, I asked him what he’d decided about me volunteering.  He said that he’d like me to work with small groups of kids about once a week.  His words didn’t register.  We were talking about days and times when I finally got it.  I’m in!  My mind continued to process while my heart exploded and my eyes filled.

Minutes later, the third teacher also said yes.

I cried on the drive home.  I get to be with people I love.  I get to contribute to another school.  I get to live fully, in precious moments of contact with young minds and souls.

Thank you, dear forces of the universe, for holding me in your arms.

On The Train And At The Play

So off I went yesterday, taking VIA Rail from London to Belleville, a trip of 6 hours including a stopover in Toronto.  I found my precious window seat and introduced myself to my neighbour.  I’ll call him Trevor.

We talking about lots of stuff, including our interest in Buddhism.  Trevor and I compared notes about the retreats we’d been on.  Very cool.  He mentioned a book that sounded familiar.  The author started with an historical incident, in which Chinese troops were chasing Tibetan refugees who were fleeing their country for Nepal, and wove a tale of adventure and morality.  “It’s called _____________,” Trevor said.

“I have that one on my Kobo.  Haven’t read it yet.”  And our discussion continued.  Only after a minute or two did I clue in to the fact that I was sitting beside the author.  My small voice said, “Golly gee.  I’m talking to a famous person.”  Happily, that voice closed its mouth almost immediately.  We were just folks, Trevor and me, chatting about our love of words.  It was fun.

Later, as we said goodbye, Trevor and I exchanged books … his about nineteen human beings who were “cast adrift on an ice floe”, mine about my dear wife Jody.  At the Bed and Breakfast in Belleville, I read snippets of reviews about Trevor and his story:

“A triumph of a novel … [Trevor] has pulled off a masterpiece.”

” _______________ is up there with the best work in the genre … This is gripping stuff.”

What a blessing to have spent time with Trevor.  But truly, what a blessing it is to spend time with anyone.  We all glow, even though with some of us, the body is currently hemming it in.


“The play’s the thing.”  Would you believe I just made that up?  No, I didn’t think so.  It was time for the first of three performances of Jake’s Women at the Pinnacle Playhouse.  I walked in the door, showed a woman my Internet ticket for last night’s show, and she walked off into another room.  “I’ll be right back.”  When she returned, she was carrying three real tickets wrapped in a little piece of notepaper.  I opened the note and read:

“Hi Bruce,

Read your blog.  Glad to have you here.  Enjoy the show(s).  See you after.

The Cast of Jake’s Women”

Awesome!  I cried out in joy in the lobby.  Another woman approached me and I showed her the note.  She had seen it before.  Her husband had written it.  “I know who you are,” she said, smiling.  Oh, this is a good time.

I sat in the front row and watched Jake’s every move, every subtlety of mouth and hands, of tone and pause.  He was magnificent.  I was happy for him.  And the woman playing his wife Maggie so deeply inhabited her role, it was a joy to see.


It’s Friday morning.  After a yummy breakfast, I’m in a sitting room, cheerily tapping away.  I’m so glad I’m here.  After a day of meandering around downtown Belleville, strolling by the Moira River, and perhaps getting lost in the trees of Riverside Park, it’ll be time for round two of Jake’s Women.  I’m ready.

Ah, For Just One Time

I went a tribute concert last night for Stan Rogers, a Canadian singer-songwriter who died from smoke inhalation on a plane in 1983.  As the brochure said, “Stan Rogers touched the lives of countless people.”

Stan wrote about ordinary Canadians … fishermen, farmers, factory workers, lovers, explorers, displaced East coasters who went west to work in oil refineries.  He told the story of an aging housewife, gazing at the wrinkles in her mirror but dreaming of “Friday at the Legion when she’s dancing with her man”.

Five passionate musicians stood in front of me, recreating Stan’s stories with their mouths and fingers.  And we in London’s Aeolian Hall responded with our voices held high, blasting out the choruses so the walls trembled.

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

And then it was over.  Time to leave.  Or perhaps not just yet.  Do I say hi to the performers or let them have their space?  “Be a decent person, Bruce.”  But really, what does that mean?  As Jack singer and guitarist walked off the stage and started down the aisle where I stood, I knew this moment’s version of decency.  I smiled.  He smiled.  I shook his hand.  “I enjoyed your music.”  Contact, of the most lovely kind.

Further down the aisle, Brad singer and guitarist was talking to an audience member.  To brush past or to linger?  I’m sure you know.  Brad had enchanted me with his singing of one of Stan’s lesser known tunes – “White Squall”.

But I tell these kids a hundred times “Don’t take the Lakes for granted
They go from calm to a hundred knots so fast they seem enchanted”
But tonight some red-eyed Wiarton girl lies staring at the wall
And her lover’s gone into a white squall

“I loved your singing, especially on ‘White Squall’.  Thank you.”  Two smiles.

The concert hall was three flights of stairs up from the street.  A narrow stairway.  So it was a very slow process having all of us move towards the outside world.  Just before I reached the top of the stairs, I saw a little room on the right, with a snack bar.  Leaning against the counter was Paul singer and guitarist, waiting to be served.  There was no thought, just an abrupt change of direction.

Bruce:  “Thank you for your music.”

(Smile in return)

Paul:  “It’s Stan’s music.”

Bruce:  “Yes, but really it belongs to all of us.”


Down the stairs.  Off into the night.  Happy.