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.

Passion for the Music

I leaned on the front of the stage at SunFest last night.  Eight feet away from me was a cellist, a member of the Ukrainian quartet Dakha Brakha.  Here’s what the program had to say about them:

Three striking women in white wedding dresses and tall black Astrakhan hats … harmonizing in mighty steel-tearing Ukrainian white voice, two band members pounding drums and the third digging into a folk-pattern-painted cello with massive abrasive energy, plus a male singer wielding accordion and trombone

Indeed.

To be so close to a woman who closed her eyes, threw her head back and sang unknown words was a marvel.  She held her cello between her knees at an angle rather than straight on.  She played some incredibly high notes and would slide her finger down for the next one, creating a mournful wail.  Again with her eyes often closed.

To see those women in their embroidered dresses, wearing many loops of large grey beads around their necks, and to feel the power of the drums … Wow.  Some kind entity allowed me to experience the driving beat and the tender ballads from a few feet away.  I’ve had so many intense moments over the last month, usually with music, and I feel my heart continuing to open and stay open.  Something is happening to me.

Intensity

I’d say that my enjoyment of classical music has been on-and-off in my life.  I played cello from Grade 6 till Grade 13, hearing the pieces from the inside of the orchestra.  Then, sadly, I let go of my instrument.  Except for a few dabbles, I haven’t played again.

Years ago, I bought a 10-CD set called “The Most Beautiful Melodies of Classical Music”.  Such marvelous tunes, but truth be told I haven’t listened to them very often.  They sit on a high shelf, ignored.

In the early 2000’s, I went to a couple of Orchestra London concerts, watching the musicians from the balcony.  I don’t remember the pieces but it was good music.

Then a couple of weeks ago, I sat in the second row of Dundas Street Centre United Church to hear The Musicians of Orchestra London, folks who are determined to play on after the city dropped its funding.  Great sights and sounds from my nearby perch.

None of all that, however, prepared me for last night.  It was another concert from The Musicians, this time in the dramatic confines of Metropolitan United Church.  The centre part of the front row was blocked off, but I was allowed to sit up front on the left side of the orchestra.  I had been leaning back and talking to two women behind me when the musicians walked in.

A female violinist sat down about four feet from me, facing to my right.  When she did a downbow, I could have touched her right elbow.  The orchestra began with the Overture from the opera Don Giovanni by Mozart.  From the first note, my new friend launched herself into the stratosphere, moving and grooving to the music as her fingers flew on the fingerboard.  And her notes were so pure.  The melodies exploded in my head as I watched her grab on to them, then caress, then propel once again.  I tried to take my eyes off of her but usually couldn’t.  She was a goddess of the violin and I was transported into her world.  I had never been so close to a professional musician and I was overwhelmed with the power of it all.

As intermission started, I leaned forward and said, “Thank you.  That was lovely.  I loved watching your fingers fly.”  She smiled.  And then I continued:  “Am I sitting too close?”  She laughed.  “Oh no.  In fact you can sit up here if you want”, pointing to the very front pew beside her.  Wouldn’t that have been a hoot?  I’d be dodging her elbow all night.

Words cannot express the depth of my evening.  May I bring such intensity to the moments of my life.

Billowing

As I was driving north towards London this afternoon, I noticed a black mushroom cloud rising above the trees to the northwest, trailed by a yellowish mass of something against the blue sky.

Mushroom cloud?  I didn’t think of Armageddon, but rather I imagined a horrible traffic accident on the 401, our local freeway.  “Oh my God, please let there be no lives lost.”  As I passed over the 401 fifteen minutes later, the scenario I’d created faded from view.  But the black cloud was huge.  It looked like smoke.

I decided to turn west and investigate.  “What was that about?” I asked of my decision.  Needing to be up close and personal with death and destruction?  No, of course not.  I just wanted to experience the intensity.  Soon I rounded a curve and saw a farmstead about a kilometre away in the middle of a field, with one building fully ablaze.  I pulled Hugo onto the shoulder, opened my window, and looked.

The flames licked well above the roof.  The rolls of black smoke climbed so fast and so high before floating off to the south.  And there was silence.  I was protected from the immediacy of the fire.  Still, I prayed: “Please God, may there be no one in that building!  And may that building be a barn, not the family’s home.”

My eyes were transfixed by the blackness.  Sure, I’d watched such scenes on TV, but this was different.  There was such power rising from the flames.  I was reminded of photos I’d seen of an ash cloud after Mount St. Helens blew its top.  Stunning in a book.  Overwhelming  right now in person.

I saw a road that would get me nearer the farm, and I set off to get close.  This time I was maybe 500 metres away.  When I opened my window, I heard the fire.  I heard things popping.  I saw long streams of water arcing towards the blaze.  And the black smoke roiled and boiled right in front of me.  With the sounds, I pretended it was a nice controlled campfire … “Oh, Bruce.  Wake up.  This is immense.  Lives could be lost.”

I saw ambulances with their lights flashing, but they seemed to be waiting, rather than caring for burn victims.  Maybe everybody was okay.  I sure hope so.  Guess I’ll find out in the paper tomorrow.

Do I need such striking moments to really see what’s important in life?  No, I don’t think that’s true.  I vow to keep my eyes wide open, so that I may experience the defeats and triumphs, large and small, that come upon us all.