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 Thirty: Communion en français

I was hanging out with Fatou and Fatou at Le Bar Jean-Jacques yesterday afternoon. The aunt creates yummy meals for the family (occasionally including a random Canadian). The niece runs the bar, serving drinks with aplomb.

I was curious about who was who within the Jean-Jacques family, and Aunt Fatou did her best across the span of two languages to fill me in. So many grandparents, daughters, sons and little ones. I wanted to learn but soon I was lost. That’s okay.

The older woman left at one point to work on dinner for the clan. Niece Fatou and I sat together under the mango tree, the only folks there. We got talking, me with my stuttering French. Fatou is a young woman … and a gentle soul. There were gaps in our speaking because we were comfy with each other (plus holes in my knowledge of words).

Fatou wanted to know about the meeting I was going to in San Francisco. I told her that I’m a member of a group that intends to bring more love into the world. She smiled and replied in words I didn’t understand. I spoke of “les yeux”, about how our work revolved around a gentle meeting of the eyes. Fatou was so with me. She got it, and there was a merging of our hearts. We sat together for much time. Often there were no words. And all doing paused.

***

This morning I awoke in the dark and reached over to turn on my watch’s light. The digital screen wavered back and forth … I couldn’t read the time. I switched on the little lamp beside me. The ceiling was roaming around. Someone really should slow it down.

Oh my. This afternoon, I will start a travel adventure that will join four countries. After probably a five-hour drive to Dakar, it’ll be a six-hour flight to Brussels. Then an hour or two to London, England. The pièce de résistance will carry me over an ocean and a continent to San Francisco … a tidy fourteen hours. I tried to imagine how my spinning head would handle all that.

I got up and had a last breakfast at Mariama Counda. The omelet in front of me looked inedible. I had a coffee and contemplated my dubious future. Some song was playing in the dining area. A French chanteuse soared in her language, and the melody came from the past. What was it?

It was The Rose! I smiled. The lyrics would come to me later … but I knew I was home – at breakfast, on the road, in the air, even in San Francisco.

All is well

Some say love, it is a river
That drowns the tender reed
Some say love, it is a razor
That leaves your soul to bleed
Some say love, it is a hunger
An endless aching need
I say love, it is a flower
And you, its only seed

It’s the heart, afraid of breaking
That never learns to dance
It’s the dream, afraid of waking
That never takes the chance
It’s the one who won’t be taken
Who cannot seem to give
And the soul, afraid of dying
That never learns to live

When the night has been too lonely
And the road has been too long
And you think that love is only
For the lucky and the strong
Just remember in the winter
Far beneath the bitter snows
Lies a seed that with the sun’s love
In the spring becomes the rose

Day Four: A Walk on the Wild Side

I helped out for an hour yesterday at Lydia and Jo’s funeral services business, taking tape off a flat of urn boxes and then placing them on shelves according to colour. It felt great to contribute.

She had to continue working after that and suggested I go for a walk. Lydia knew of a scenic route that would take me into Oudenaard, where I could meet up with daughter Lore at 5:00 pm, after her exam.

Lydia wrote out detailed directions, naming all the streets and a few landmarks. As she told me all this, I followed along with Google Maps on my phone. Piece of cake!

Soon I was out and about on the streets of Maarkedal, joying in my touristic explorations. Ah ha – there’s the Boulangerie Vermeire that Lydia mentioned. A bakery sounds good to me. My purpose is not merely to admire architecture, but also to eat yummy food. Inside, a large custard tart beckoned me and resistance was futile. I munched as I strolled on, happy in the world.

The street curved past city hall and a towering church. Lydia’s directions were spot on. Okay, jog right at the t-intersection and find the sign for Ladeuze (a street). Yes, there it is. Now onwards to an imposing cream coloured house, then turn left onto a narrow paved path (about two feet wide).

The next half hour was bliss … fields to the left and right, cutesy homes out in the middle of nowhere, a stream cutting in from the left and accompanying me on my journey. A ringing bell came from behind and I made way for a smiling cyclist. And another. Then an unsmiling runner. We shared the path. Past a wee stone bridge, I climbed onto a vista of farm and home, clumps of trees and a meandering waterway. Such a gentle place was surrounding me.

And then …

No more named streets
No more juice in my phone
A niggly trembling in the heart

I paused. I breathed. I smiled. This was going to work out. I’ll guess about the turns. I’ll ask locals to point the way. I have Lydia’s list of street names. I’ll be there for Lore.

The path widened into a narrow road, with railway tracks joining me on the left. Ahead was a woman walking her dog. I never caught up with her to say hello. The land was slumbering under a grey sky.

“Turn left at the Nissan,” said the instructions, assuming I was on the road called Diependale. I wondered if that was a big assumption. I walked into a shop and faced a rough-looking fellow. “English?” I intoned. The reply was a vigorous shake of the head and a flood of Flemish. I pointed to “Diependale” on the sheet, and the gentleman shoved his hands downward, which I took to mean I was in the right place.

So onward, and soon a Nissan dealership presented itself. There was supposed to be a bridge over the Scheldt River but none graced my eyes. A gentleman was sitting on a bench. “English?” > “A little.” A minute later I was pointed to the river and city hall beyond. My step sprinted.

What astonishing beauty glowed from the walls of the building. I broke away from the wonderment as I realized I didn’t know what time it was, nor the location of the Tacambaro statue where Lore and I were to meet.

The solution was obvious: go into another shop. The woman inside was surrounded with jewelry displays, and was fully anchored in English. She went outside with me and pointed past the city hall. “Go straight. You’ll see the statue.”

And so it was. Lydia had shown me a photo of a young woman reposing in marble, and after several blocks a shining whiteness parted the moving cars and people. I stood beside the lady at 4:50 pm. Lore came along shortly thereafter.

It was a grand day for walking into the unknown, trusting that the goodness of the world would blossom.

Reunion

I just got home.  Two hours and twenty minutes of my evening were spent walking the fairways of Tarandowah.  Lucky me.

The air was cool and the wind was brisk.  With a down jacket under a water resistant shell, and the hood tied tight, I headed down the first fairway.  I was happy.  It felt like the grass was caressing my feet and they were returning the favour.  This was a time to be alone with my friend.  I saw a few golfers off in the distance but basically the course was mine to explore.  And I know all the nooks and crannies.  (Speaking of which, have you ever seen a cranny?)

I wondered at the rolling fairways … so sensuous.  The fescue grass was just starting its growing thing in the rough, green instead of mid-season wispy brown.  But the blades blew strong anyway, rippling like the ocean.  Tarandowah also has long fescue growing on the far edges of the bunkers, so mini-oceans graced my path.

Birds said hello.  Swallows dipped and dived close to the grass.  Five little birdies were fanatic as they chased a big bird away from their nests.  The pursuit must have extended for two hundred metres.  And then there were the little pecking fellows in the rough.  Apparently there’s lots to eat in there.

Crossing the bridge in front of the seventh tee, I saw a swimmer exiting stage left.  It was a muskrat.  She swished that long tail to get away.  Once I was at a safe distance, she pulled onto a tiny sand bar and washed her face.  Very cool.

I thought that the sunset would do its job before I completed my eighteen hole journey, and I was right.  The declining sun turned the bunker sand golden and gave the fairways an animated sheen.  Long shadows danced through the hollows and brought the mounds alive.  And the wind died.

I stood on the thirteenth green, at the end of the world, with bare fields on two sides.  I was alone in the universe, and yet immersed in a communion of spirit.  I stood on the high point of land behind the sixth tee, and gazed over 360º of beauty.  Faraway pins standing on faraway greens.  The odd car making its way along a distant country road.  I stood on the mounds behind the eighth green and was entranced by all the curves.  An artist named Martin Hawtree (Tarandowah’s architect) had used broad brush strokes here.  And then there was the broad sweep of the fourteenth, looking suspiciously like the mural on my bedroom wall.

On the eighteenth fairway, darkness was settling in.  If I had been golfing, I wouldn’t have been able to follow the flight of the ball.  I looked to the tiny clubhouse as I finished the journey … all dark.  Golfers and staff members had gone home.  I was already there.

Day Eight: Roaming the Ordinary Streets

I told myself I didn’t want anything special today – no Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39 or Alcatraz.  Just the people’s city, please.  I was looking for those people, plain folks who might want to talk for a few minutes.

I started off at Bette’s Oceanview Diner on Fourth Street in Berkeley, except I couldn’t find any ocean.  What was there were nine red stools at the counter, each with good access to tiny juke boxes.  A quarter for two songs.  Cool.  I tried “Whiter Shade of Pale” on for size, as well as an Edith Piaf melody in French.  I joked with Jenna, my server, and she even plunked down two quarters for my listening pleasure.  I asked a waiter to sing a song but he said he only does Prince songs.  I found one on the machine … but he demurred.  (Sigh)

Manfred was this rollicking happy German fellow behind the counter.  He wants people to have a good time, especially since he owns the place.

On my left was a woman who started crying as she talked to me: the old gentleman on her left had just walked out, after paying for her meal.  The guy on my right was, like me, an explorer of consciousness.  He was so interested in the mind, particularly the link between intention and action.  He also was curious about the Evolutionary Collective when I piped up about my passion.

So … a thoroughly alive place.  Manfred called Bette’s “real”.  I agree.  This is the Bay Area I want.

I emerged from the subway (called BART) in San Francisco an hour later.  Unlike New York City, there was no crowd of yellow cabs.  There was, however, a seemingly endless line of cyclists powering past in the bike lane.  The energy of the flow was immense, like a river.  The sidewalks were crowded with folks walking fast.  It felt like I was the slowest.  Maybe I was.  I don’t care.  I saw lots of buildings that weren’t purely rectangular.  Bow windows especially were très magnifique.  And the colours were often bright pastels.  My favourite was a three-storey jobbie all decked out in yellow with red trim.

Shortly after I emerged from the bowels of the subway, I came upon a giant mural on the side of a grey house.  Huge letters pronounced “I have a dream.”  And faces greeted me: Gandhi, César Chavez (a civil rights activist), Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King.  I loved their eyes as they loomed above me.  Thank you, dear home owner, for mixing paint and spirit.

A few minutes ago, I felt moved to find a quote from each of these spiritual giants, so here goes:

Gandhi:  An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.

César Chavez:  If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him … the people who give you their food give you their heart.

Mother Teresa:  Spread love wherever you go.  Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.

Martin Luther King:  Free at last.  Free at last.  Thank God almighty we are free at last.

As I sauntered down the streets of common people, I felt the need for sweet.  Almost immediately a bakery appeared, hosted by a jolly woman who waxed poetic about a nearby street – Valencia.  We smiled a lot and I smiled some more as I bit into shortbread cookies filled with caramel.  I know for a fact that such yummies have a proud spot in Canada’s Food Guide!

Further down the road, the image of a smoothie came calling, and once again providence provided.  An ice cream shop opened its arms to me and placed a banana, pineapple, mango, coconut milk and vanilla gelato smoothie within reach of my mouth.  Who was I to refuse?  I sat outside at a tiny table, savouring a taste fit for all of us.  Beside me was an old man who was praying with his eyes closed.  I could almost hear his words.  He stayed within an aura of reverence for the whole time I sat there.  It was a privilege to share the space with him.

I roamed and rambled, chatting with a few folks in shops and subways.  No one refused my words of greeting.  I like this place.  The only sadness I had was on the packed BART car on the way home to Berkeley.  On a seat made for two, a woman placed her purse dead centre in the open space.  There were lots of people standing.  I wondered what that was about.  Fear?  The need to stay distant from other human beings?  Or just plain unconsciousness?

In the nighttime, I walked along Allston Way from downtown Berkeley to my room at the Knights Inn.  Gorgeous trees, bushes and flowers were near.  And the scent of the blossoms followed me home.  Goodbye, Berkeley.  I’m glad we’re friends.

Day Three: The University of California at Berkeley

First, a simple choice.  Instead of walking six blocks to breakfast along the main drag (University Avenue), Philippe and I strolled along a residential street two blocks south.  There was the greenest of grass and the most wondrous of trees.  One shone in the sun, with fans of needles and long seed pods.  I stared up at the beauty of it … some terrestrial artist had sculpted a miracle.  Then there were the giant bonsais, also looming over me.  Swirls of green flowed like the ocean under a human artist’s hands.  Through it all, the sun blessed our steps.

Next was Razan’s Organic Kitchen.  We had dropped in the day before, to be greeted by a smiling young woman wearing a head scarf.  We promised that we’d come back today and both Philippe and I have learned to keep our word.  We sat upstairs and were soon chowing down on a spinach basil burrito and a breakfast burrito.  Mine was so delicious, and according to our friend, so immensely healthy.  As one reviewer said, “Loved this place!  Visiting Berkeley and even with dozens of restaurants to choose from, I went here for dinner two days in a row.  How many other restaurants offer 100% organic?  You can taste it too.  Everything I had was fresh and skillfully made.”

I watched the people passing along the sidewalk below us … young, old, wealthy and not.  I wondered what their lives were like, if they go through the same joys and sorrows that I do.  Of course.

On the UC Berkeley campus, we came upon the Berkeley City Club, a fancy hotel guarded by a heavy metal gate.  Happily there was an intercom, and the receptionist allowed us to look around.  The building is a Julia Morgan architectural masterpiece, featuring huge windows that bring natural light inside.  We lolled around, drinking in the aesthetics of dark wood, orangey cream walls, and so many curves … arches, doors rounded at the top, flower-shaped windows.  Peace flowed into me from the ambiance, to blend with the peace that flowed out of me.

On Oxford Street, a demolition was pressing ahead.  Cranes and earth movers were ripping down cement walls and floors.  It was surreal to witness the power of destruction, to visualize the past as the present crumbled before our eyes.

We roamed and rambled the green spaces of UC Berkeley, standing below towering red cedars.  We sat in the Student Union for awhile, surrounded by students on their laptops and iPads.  I was working on the earlier paragraphs of this post.  There we were, forty or fifty isolations, intent in our individual stories, and not a shred of contact between us.  And we sat beneath a quote from Martin Luther King: “Yes, we have learned to fly the air like birds, we’ve learned to swim the seas like fish, and yet we have not learned the simple art of walking the earth as brothers and sisters.”  Amen.

Finally, dinner at Jupiter, a pub just off-campus.  We were on a patio at the back, three sweet levels ripe with red brick walls, greenery beside us and on the trellis above, and many smiling faces.  And I was … cold.  I had left my down jacket in the motel room and Maslow was having his way with me.  My consciousness, usually flowing out to others, was being sucked back into my body as I teetered on the edge of “poor me”.

How strange to see so many folks in shirt sleeves as I zipped up my shell and borrowed Philippe’s toque.  I chuckled at my poor selection of clothing.  Tomorrow I’ll do better.

We hurried home to the land of 72º F.  And so to bed, under warm covers.

Withdrawal

I was lying in bed just now and the voice inside said “Just be natural.” Hmm. That’s odd, I suppose, but maybe not. And definitely a good idea. I don’t usually lie down in the afternoon but I’m feeling dull, floaty. And I don’t have to search far to see why.

Part of the introductory work with my new trainer was having him take my blood pressure. 154 over 101. Ouch. What exactly has happened there? During my recent adventures with bronchitis, my exercise time plummeted. That’s probably a factor. Derek has been having me look at a whole bunch of lifestyle choices and one prominent word in my recent past has been “caffeine”. Oops. I’ve been glossing over that one.

I figure that for the last year at least, I’ve been consuming about fifteen cups of caffeinated coffee a week. What I’ve noticed is the yummy flavour, not the impact of such a decision, such as elevated blood pressure. I have a BP monitor at home and since the 154/101 moment, I’ve been doing the deed. Yesterday the score was 135 over 92 – a lot better but still not the epitome of health. “So, Bruce, let’s drop caffeine, or at least reduce it drastically.” Okay.

In the last three days, I’ve had one caffeinated cup and I’m in the middle of withdrawal. Feeling slow and not so easy, vacant in the head. It’s such a teacher. Die early because of explosive blood pressure > No thanks. Get off the stuff and go through what the body says it needs to accomplish that, even if it amounts to several days of discomfort > Yes, I’ll take Door Number Two, please.

Sitting here in the middle of this shows me vividly what I don’t want my life to be about. How can I possibly be of assistance to other people if my brain is floating along in super slo-mo? Well, I can’t. And beyond anything, contributing to others is my heart’s desire. “So, dear Bruce, suck it up.”

I wonder what other purifications are needed for me to be of the deepest service. No more alcohol? Not participating in any more toxic conversations? Diminishing the small talk?

I’m on a path here. I can feel it. And the destination? Address unknown … and yet decidedly lovely.

New York

Arggh! I just completed a blog post about my upcoming journey to New York City. WordPress told me that my words were being saved as I typed, 380 of them. I edited the piece and moved towards “Publish”. And then the whole darned thing disappeared. I’ve tried recovering it, but my reflection on what starts tomorrow is … gone.

I’m tired and there’s an early wake up call in the morning. But I committed to let you know about my trip, and to do it tonight. So, back to it!

***

Can it be that I’m going to another new place? First there was Belgium, them Senegal, and tomorrow … New York City. What mysteries will reveal themselves? Will I stay open to what draws me, moment by moment? Yes, I will.

I got an e-mail in Belgium from an Evolutionary Collective staff member, asking if I would be interested in assisting at the upcoming three-day weekend. Folks who for years have been a part of this consciousness of mutual love and awakening are gathering at the Affinia Shelburne Hotel. My answer was immediate. I get to run microphones, move chairs, organize nametags and in general look out for what’s needed. And I’ll bathe in the beauty of others. I’m pretty new on this journey but I’m clear: I want to be where those folks are – immersed in something big.

How did I come to be with so many opened-hearted people? How is it that I discovered the work of Patricia Albere? It’s true that I’ve cared for people for many years, wanting the best for them, but that doesn’t entitle me to anything. It’s by grace that I have come this way. Now it’s my job to serve, to remove any distractions so that the participants can dive deeply into “being with” each other.

After Sunday, I have four days of exploration. The only “for sure” items in my mind are visiting the 911 Memorial and going to a Broadway play. I remember my immense sadness in September, 2001, and I know it will return next week. I have a DVD of footage shot while the planes slammed into the World Trade Center, and of the aftermath, where people were trapped in the rubble – broken bones, bleeding, difficulty breathing. What horror. When I’m there next week, I want to sit with my sadness, rather than cover it over with political analysis or stories of heroism.

This morning, as I was driving into London, I listened to an interview on CBC Radio. Tom Power was talking to a cast member of the play Network, based on a 1976 movie about the rantings of a TV news anchor who was “mad as hell and not going to take this anymore”. I was fascinated with the discussion and soon was yearning to go. “I wonder where it’s being performed.” The answer came right away … Broadway. That’s me! I got on my phone and scored one of the few remaining tickets. This fellow will be sitting in the balcony of the Belasco Theatre next Wednesday evening.

What will emerge over the next nine days? I’ve told you about a couple of knowns, but really they’re unknowns like everything else. Let’s go ‘splorin’. I hope you’ll come along on the journey.

Day Twenty-Three: To Toronto

It was a 6:00 am rising for the trip home. Lore and Baziel promised they’d get up at 7:00 to say goodbye. They kept their word. I hugged each of them and told them that I loved them. Such wonderful teenagers who will be great adults, ones with big hearts and huge contributions to make in our wide world. As we loaded the car, Baziel stood at the window for a few minutes, staying in touch.

Jo and Lydia drove me the hour to Brussels Airport. Sometimes she was sniffling in the front seat in the darkness.

We sat in a café having a coffee and croissant but the time was soon for parting. They walked me to the gate. Jo and I hugged and I told him that I loved him.

And then … Lydia. We turned to each other and started crying. We held each other with Jo smiling beside. She messed my hair and we said what was oh so very true.

As we walked in Belgium and Senegal, Lydia would often grab my arm. Sometimes it was her linked with Jo on one side and me on the other. A great joie de vivre as we strolled along.

If in August, 2017 on a hiking trail in Alberta Lydia Dutrieue hadn’t said “Would you like to come with us?” I wouldn’t be crying right now. I wouldn’t have held hands with Senegalese kids and kissed the cheeks of many adults. I wouldn’t now have Mareama and Youssoupha in my life. (I’ve been spelling his name wrong.) Thank you, Lydia, for moving right into my life and calling it home. You are my friend.

***

It’s four-and-a-half hours into the sky. I’ve had a delicious meal of penne pasta with a tomato sauce; a multi-flavoured salad full of greens, reds, little cheese balls and walnuts; a warm bun; an almond tart … and definitely the red wine. Wow. And that’s not even the best. I just finished watching Les Misérables for the first time. So much human communion there – love, sadness, loneliness, death – all wrapped in a blanket of song. Stunning.

***

I wonder what’s next in this life of mine. I know it’ll be about friends – in Belmont, in the Evolutionary Collective, in London, in Toronto and most definitely in Belgium and Senegal. I am blessed.

***

Okay, that was a very long flight. I am quite perfectly pooped and very glad to be staying with Anne and Ihor in Toronto tonight. I need to be good to myself and stay off the 401 in the dark when I’m this tired.

Belgium and Senegal were marvels in my world. I loved and was loved. Can you think of anything better? No, I can’t either. I’m going back in 2019 to both places … with bells on.

Thank you for sharing these twenty-three days with me. I’ve loved writing to you.

Day Fifteen: On the Water to Paradise Island

We started early this morning – two small boats carrying about twenty human beings down the river to the ocean. I sat with Lieselot, Sabrine and Jan. Normal conversations were punctuated with vistas of biabab trees, broad expanses of smooth water, and birds flying high. Other boats passed us by, mostly local folks out fishing. We waved and they waved.

Far, far away was Jackson Island, home of a lonely and all-encompassing white sand beach. Several of us began strolling by the water’s edge. The softness under my feet was a caress. The invitation was so clear – slow right down and feel the moments drip away. It was just me and my Speedo, a clothing choice that’s inspired quite a few giggles, and truth be told I wish I could have been nude. I realize, though, that ultimate freedom is an inside job. Paradise Island is just one more external thing … it’s not where the action is.

I sat on the sand for awhile, just drinking it all in. Ansou, one of our young Senegalese friends, probably was wondering if I needed assistance and lingered near me till I set off again. We walked along side by side, him apparently asking questions about Canada and me getting lost in his fast French. None of that mattered. We were together.

Our captains went out fishing, along with Jo and Curd. The group of them came back with several barracuda, which a Senegalese woman accompanying us prepared beautifully.

I had two beer, and that combined with the intense heat just did me in. I nibbled on the barracuda and spiced potatoes but my stomach wasn’t in it. Sabrine worried that I wasn’t well, and I tried to tell her that I was fine. It seems that I have a lot of mothers on this trip, as old as 55 and as young as 16. Although I bug them about it, it’s very cool that people care about me.

After lunch, six of us lay down in the shade. Nothing to do, nowhere to go. Just friends resting, and occasionally snoring. It was lovely. Out in the sun, the seven teens were working on a fancy sand castle. Sometimes they’re verging on adulthood, and at other times they’re just little kids trying to build something pretty.

Before I lay down with my friends, Sabrine warned me that there were little twigs in the sand, with big thorns. “You should put on your shoes, Bruce.” I didn’t. I got up at one point to take a photo of the long beach and was thoroughly impaled. Ali was near me, saw what my face did, knelt down and pulled the thorn out. I thought of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples as I smiled my thanks to the young man. We help each other.

On the way home, our two boats were often beside each other. Eva was looking over at her kids, and I asked her to share what she was thinking. “They look so happy.” And they did. Eva went on to tell me that Louisa, Jean and Giraud all hug her before they go to school and when they come back home. So wonderful. Plus they tell her their problems (most of the time). Even the kids’ friends trust Eva with their issues. She sounds like Super Mom to me.

We arrived back in Toubacouta just before sunset, in time to watch lines of birds heading to the big tree for a safe sleep together.

And may we too have a safe sleep within the spiritual presence of each other. Wherever we are in the world, our wings touch.