Finding Home with Disney

So I bought a fancy new TV. It comes with apps installed, one of which is Disney Plus. I remember loving Disney movies all the way from Bambi to Frozen 2. But I wasn’t prepared for what I discovered after shelling out $90.00 for the year.

I wish you could see my face … my astonishment at the stories, the clarity of the picture and the wondrous computer-generated graphics.

My first foray into the programming was the film Strange Magic:

A realm is divided between a land of fairies and light, and a land of bog creatures and darkness, living in the dark forest. Primrose flowers, which are a crucial ingredient to love potions, mark the border between the lands. Marianne is a fairy princess and heir to the throne of the Fairy Kingdom, and is engaged to be married to Roland, a handsome warrior who disappoints her when she discovers him kissing another fairy on their wedding day. Marianne vows to never fall in love again. In the dark forest, the Bog King also shares the same view on love.

Spoiler Alert

Marianne and the Bog King, after much blustering and many harsh words, eventually fall in love … a state of being that has been absent from the dark forest. Residents there share in the emergence of tenderness. The sombre opens to sweetness. The feeling of home melts through the muted tones of night.

***

Today was the tale of One Strange Rock, also known as Planet Earth. Again, the visuals were stunning. Again, I was beckoned into an exploration of “home”. Peggy, a US astronaut, has gone way beyond Iowa in her thinking:

It was like I had lived my whole life in a semi-dark room and then somebody flipped on the light.

As a kid, Peggy dreamed of becoming a pilot. Her sister tried to set her straight. You can’t do that. Be a stewardess. But Peggy saw a wider future.

Home is our whole planet. And back on the family farm, Peggy’s mom and dad watch a light move across the starlit night. Here she comes. There she goes. And within the mystery of my TV screen, I go with her.

Day Forty-Two: Home

It’s been such a long road, and now I’m back in my world of orange brick and red walls.

I arrived home late yesterday afternoon. In Senegal I had lost my house key but I knew there was a spare on my back patio, under the statue of the Buddha. Before seeking entrance, I stood on the street and looked at my dear sanctuary. I knew it very well … and yet I didn’t. I felt disoriented after weeks of other lands, other cultures.

I tipped Mr. Buddha and there sat the key. Reaching down, I discovered that it was firmly attached to the paving stone beneath. I stared. I whipped out a credit card and tried to pry the key loose. No go. My next thought was to knock on a neighbour’s door and ask for a flat screwdriver. As I walked down the driveway, I glanced back at the open garage and realized that my toolbox was sitting in there, complete with the instrument I needed. How strange … what was dulling my mind?

I knew there was a concert at the Cuckoo’s Nest folk club in London last night. Despite the long journey, I felt drawn to go. I didn’t even care who was playing. As I walked in, there was a deep breathing. Something was easy here, familiar. I sat down and looked around. My eyes were drawn to the huge stone fireplace. Many a time I’d heard melodies and harmonies while the stone framed the performers. I smiled a wee bit.

Then there were the big windows looking out on the night, with stained glass panels at the top. Another sigh. Finally the long wooden bar stretched out, reminding me of previous escapades in this very room with the Belgian beer Delirium Tremens.

The Andrew Collins Trio enchanted us with their instrumental treasures, including a Bach masterpiece arranged for two mandolins and the deep tones of a mandocello.

All was right with the world. The tunes and the wood and the stone were welcoming me home. I slumped in my chair and closed my eyes.

Forty-two days are done.

Day Forty: Canada

Here’s the view out my Toronto bedroom window. It’s been forty days since I’ve seen the white stuff. I’m home in Canada. Tomorrow I’ll be home in Belmont.

On my trip to Belgium, Senegal and San Francisco I encountered one Canadian – on yesterday’s flight. Pablo lives in Durham, Ontario and runs a furniture business. He was returning from Singapore, where many of the tables and chairs are made. I loved his stories about world cities. Only partway through our time together did I realize “He’s from Canada – like me.”

If you would have told me two years ago that someday I’d be absent from my country for five weeks, I’d have said you’re crazy. And yet here I am, having immersed myself in African life, enjoying the people whose languages I mostly didn’t speak. The geography was stunning but it’s the human beings I love.

And now I return to what I know. I come back to my local beloveds, to see what they have to say about life. There are so many Pablo’s to discover … and rediscover.

Especially there are the kids. I promised the Grade 5/6 children that I’d return to them on Monday, January 20 and spend the whole day at school. And I will do that, despite possible snow on the highway home.

I want to hear the ideas of 11-year-olds, and those of the regulars at the Belmont Diner. On Wednesday evening, I want to hear Ken Thorne sing his songs at the Acoustic Spotlight house concert in London. And if he does covers, I want to sing along!

I’m bringing faraway worlds back to Belmont. And the folks of my village and city are welcoming me home. The rhythms of life continue.

Day Thirty-Seven: Tiburon and Soucouta

I took the ferry from San Francisco to Tiburon yesterday. It’s fair to call the scenery spectacular. Broad vistas across the water, the greenest of islands, the Golden Gate Bridge twinkling on the horizon, the sun lighting our way. A seagull journeyed with us, hovering above the ship in search of yummies. And the breeze filling my soul.

In Tiburon harbour, I gazed up at monumental homes clinging to the hills. Just now, I asked Google about the average house price in town … $2,300,000 US.

As I wandered down the main boulevard towards the public library, it felt like ultra chic suburbia, adorned with wondrous trees and plants. It seemed like one long strip mall, with modern façades of warm colour. There were many consulting firms and financial services companies. People walking by averted their eyes, except for one engaging woman out walking her dog. She waxed poetic about the Italian restaurant whose menu I was perusing.

I strolled up a hilly street past lovely homes in rich tones, homes that blended in so well with the cliffs and open views back towards San Francisco.

Everything seemed dramatic, splendiferous … and actually surreal. It felt like being inside of the old TV series Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

It didn’t feel like a home, even though there are no doubt countless residents who feel Tiburon is the best place on Earth to live. Good for them. As I felt into this supposedly idyllic world, what came through was the feeling of money and not relationship. Quite soon I wanted to leave and eventually the ferry obliged.

***

On the way back, I thought of Soucouta and Toubacouta in Senegal. Most Westerners wouldn’t call the environs beautiful. There’s nary a patch of green and buildings are composed of cement blocks. There’s lots of garbage on the ground and lots of noise in the air: roosters, donkeys, goats, screaming birds, evening drums and spiritual leaders calling the faithful to prayer.

Soucouta is plain, brown, smoky and oceanless. But the people smile and say hi. (“Cà va?”) Folks gather together and tell stories. Like residents of Tiburon, they probably spend too much time on their cell phones but in Senegal I feel the flow of family, and everyone is invited. “Veuillez vous joindre à nous pour le déjeuner.” (Please join us for lunch.)

I respect the town of Tiburon
I love the village of Soucouta

Day Fifteen: The Space Around

There is you over there and me in here … or is that so? Perhaps your skin isn’t the end of you. We might be far broader than that, stretching and stretching till we touch the stars.

Maybe there’s a huge space around everything – a sense of outflow, of joining me to whatever’s beside. And time expands too … into a softness, a lingering. It could be that even the difficult moments blend into the air and extend themselves back into the past and forward into the future. Maybe there’s nothing distinct and limited at all, no edges marking “this” from “not this”.

There is space around the beings and moments of the world – softening them and enriching them. I just need the eyes to see.

Just now, it was easy. Ali, Nima and I sat together. I showed them a video on my phone, of Aretha Franklin singing You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman to an audience that included Barack Obama and Carole King, the co-writer of the song. The three of us cuddled and the singer touched not only a Canadian heart, but also Senegalese ones too, despite the language difference. I feel in my being that this is true.

I could feel us extending together … being with Carole, Aretha, Michelle and Barack in that faraway where of Washington, D.C. and that faraway when of 2015. It wasn’t my brain that knew we were all together, but it was nonetheless so. People of the ages 4, 11, 70, 77, 55, 58 and “dead” were united across such permeable boundaries. The space around us kept reaching outward, animating whatever it touched.

Last night, not so easy. Wrestling is one of the big sports in Senegal and there’s a competition in a nearby village happening now. The singing and drumming starts each night around 9:00 pm and lasts till 1:00 am. This will be going on for the rest of 2019.

The voice easily crosses the few kilometres between Soucouta and Toubacouta. I couldn’t sleep. I felt into the space around but there were jangles in the way. The staccato sound, the fatigue, the unfamiliarity of it all. In my better moments, I sank into the sweetness of the tones, feeling the rhythm of the song. And then the walls closed in. Contract … expand … contract … expand …

Still I knew … all moved outwards, dissipating as the night said hello. I was home, within all that the word can mean.

Day Nine: Just Like Home

I lay in bed this morning, watching the breeze flutter the leaves outside my window. Just like home. Nearby the mosquito netting billowed … ever so softly. The hush flowing through the tree was familiar. So was the growling of my stomach.

But then there’s all the rest …

Around 2:00 the morning before, I awoke to a choir of male voices, singing melody and harmonies in another language. Within the fogginess, I wondered if this was real. I still don’t know.

At 6:30 am or so, an hour before sunrise, another song is sung. The Muslim imam climbs the steps of the Toubacouta mosque and begins his long nasal notes. No words come to my ears but the tune easily enters in. There’s no doubt a holy message wafting over the village as he calls the faithful to prayer.

A piercing tone comes. It has to be man-made. It sounds so mechanical, like one of those kids’ whistles that squeals at different pitches as you work the plunger. But fear not … it’s completely natural – a bird unknown to North Americans. And unseen by this one.

Roosters and chickens make themselves known throughout the day. I’m able to make animal sounds, such as horses, cows, sheep, dogs, cats and assorted feathered creatures. Yesterday afternoon, I sat on Jo and Lydia’s patio and called back to the scurrying birds. The roosters looked confused. My fellow humans laughed.

Goats are everywhere in Toubacouta. Short little bleats come and go in the air. The brayings of the many wild donkeys last longer and somehow bring to mind science fiction novels. No doubt Stephen King could make good use of a few of them in his pages.

While dozing this morning, I was assaulted by raucous clapping. It sounded like The Price Is Right was happening outside my door. I haven’t seen any TVs in Senegal and this noise sounded so foreign to the flow of life in Africa. And after only three days here, it was foreign to me.

So … the feeling of home is broadening. It’s not about a particular continent, a particular culture. It’s where I can sink into, whatever the sounds around me.

Just like home.

More Than One

We’re home in Belgium, having said goodbye to our home in Italy. And then there is the question “What makes these places home?” The roll of the land is very beautiful, as is the grandeur of the old buildings. Tourist attractions abound, as do fine hotels and B&Bs. Still, the answer isn’t there.

It is very simply people who beckon me home. Perhaps we meet in the cool of this baguetteria in Roma. Maybe in our car today on the way to Oudenaarde. We gather. In the evening, Lore, Lydia and I watched The Notebook. It was the first time for me, maybe the twentieth for Lydia. She cried. My eyes were also moist as we watched a true love unfold over time. The three of us shared such a human experience. We all want to touch and be touched.

In a few days, Jo and Lydia’s son Baziel, and Anja and Curd’s daughter Olivia will fly with me to Canada. We will see wondrous things. We will go to wondrous sporting events. The true wonder, however, will be in sharing moments together, caring for each other, hanging loose in a most delightful way.

Together

Dinner in Riardo with the birthday folks behind

***

It was just a ten-minute walk from our B&B to downtown Riardo. I had asked my family to go ahead towards dinner since I had an appointment with an antibiotic needle. So now it was just me, on a dark residential street. I could hear the music of Italian voices on the higher floors of the homes I passed. Just like Flemish, I didn’t understand a word … and that was fine. Kids played in the muted light of a side street. All was well.

As I reached the main drag, I came upon a restaurant full of folks on its streetside patio. Two men were yelling at each other, gesturing wildly. I loved the energy, even though I’m not the yelly type. It reminded me of Roma and New York.

To my left, I heard “Bruce”, and there was Lydia in the street, waving me on to the pizzeria. Thank you, my friend.

The blackboard by our table told all, except I needed my friends to tell me. I knew I wanted pasta. After all, when in Riardo … Spaghetti porcini (with mushrooms) sounded fine and “Oh my God!” it was. What was that sublime flavour on the noodles? I told my gracious hostess that it was the best pasta I’d had in Italia. Her smile was all I needed in reply.

Behind us sat a large family. At least twelve folks, young and old and in between. Lots of gay chatter, again unknown to me. I loved it. My birth family was small and I wanted to borrow some energy from the humans at the next table. Mission accomplished.

The swimming family was tucked into a corner and three other groups soon sat down at the remaining tables. Wow … together indeed.

The big family started saluting the woman of the hour with the familiar tune of “Happy Birthday”, although naturally the words were Italiano. I zoomed to Google Translate and found “Buon Compleanno”, which I said to the woman when she came over to us, offering two plates of cake and other sweeties. She smiled and said something enthusiastic. Soon other desserty plates were being placed in front of all the other diners. I whirled around to the partygoers and yelled “Buon Compleanno!” Laughter erupted.

Ahh … there was such contact, across permeable boundaries of tables and languages. Just human beings, laughing in the night.

Home comes in many flavours.

Inside You

Jesus offers himself to his companions under the guise of food and urges them to eat and to be filled with his life and energy … He shows that he means to put himself literally inside the other persons, and that he wishes to nourish them.

The basic spiritual practice we do in the Evolutionary Collective offers us the possibility of throwing our consciousness out into space, having it arc upwards and then fall through the eyes of the beloved sitting across from us.  There can be an urging to go “over there” and to know it as home.

Until recently, I’ve thought of home as being inside me.  Over there was a you, with your own home.  We were separate.  We may have loved each other, and joyed in each other’s company, but there was a membrane between.

What if that’s not true?  What if we’re joined into one at the heart, while I still get to be Bruce and you get to be you?  What if, in our entering in, we feed each other the most nourishing of foods?  Salmon, kale, garlic, mussels, potatoes and blueberries pass from your fork to my mouth and from mine to yours.  The nutrients flow out to our fingertips and the flavours bring joy to our soul.

Our bodies lean towards each other.  As our foreheads touch, it’s as though there aren’t any bones.  We simply merge.  And we wonder … are there two beings here, or just one?  I can feel me, I can feel you, but most deeply I can feel us.

Inside you, there is a wonderland.  We sit together on the couch, in a room of dark wood, brightened by the glow of the fire.  We are full together, wanting for nothing, knowing we can bring the world alive.  I am inside you and there’s nowhere else to go.  No need to move our bodies apart, or to get up from the couch, or to burst out into spasms of opinion.  We simply rest in the touching, gazing in wonder at the shimmering coals.

Day Two: Family

“Je sens déjà une partie de ta famille.” Lydia and Jo, the friends I met on a hiking trail in Alberta, are sitting with their children Lore and Baziel (and me) as we shared a meal. I had been in their home for only an hour or two but I knew what was true: “I already feel a part of your family.”

I picked up my luggage at the Brussels airport and there was Lydia greeting me at the gate with a big hug. On our serpentine way home, we laughed a lot and actually giggled about me being here. Lydia’s friends had said “You mean that Canadian guy is really coming?” Yes, indeed he is.

Lydia is so in love with life. Enthousiasme! Tonight we walked down a dark street on the way to watching Lore and her horse doing jumping training. We bounced along walking arm in arm. I made animal sounds and Lydia smiled lots.

Jo started almost two months ago turning a dusty attic into a sanctuary for me. His home is a marvel of his own making and my bedroom fits right in. Right now I’m sitting in his designed living room with a wall of windows facing a horse meadow sloping down to a pond. There’s such a feeling of space. Thanks, Jo.

Last night, Baziel stayed up to 11:30 to do the finishing touches in the room – and this with exams looming on Monday. Such dedication to someone he’d never met.

Baziel’s passion is basketball. I saw him shooting hoops in the farm’s courtyard … swoosh, swoosh, swoosh. And tomorrow evening, I’m going to watch him practice with his team. That should be fun. I think I’ll be the proud uncle.

I walked into the muddy yard to greet Lore’s two Shetland ponies: the 24-year-old mom and her son. What a wonder to run my hand through that long hair. And then there was the star of the show – Jackson, truly Lore’s horse. I watched the two of them together, and the love between animal and human flowed freely.

Tonight Lore and Jackson had a jumping session at a nearby horse barn. Poles were set up in various configurations for Jackson to float over … and mostly he did! I stood nearby to watch the grace and power.

Lore was the main chooser of objects to display in my bedroom. The first thing I noticed was Jody’s book standing proudly on a cupboard. Across the way was a small statue of the Buddha – perfect for me. Her attention to detail was a perfect expression of love for, again, someone she’d never met.

I’m home here. The old sharp-sloped rooves, the shale tiles and the red brick are a factor, but essentially the people in this home are the beauty. Thank you, dear loved ones.