The Dance

I was online yesterday with some members of the Evolutionary Collective Global Community.  Part of the experience is practicing 1-1 with one other person.  As we let go of concepts, images often come.  While I talked to “Sherry”, the dance entered my mind.  We were doing a slow waltz to the most celestial music.  We whirled so gently.  And I gazed deep into the eyes of the Beloved.  I was lost in the moving, in the glory of another human being moving with me.  Time stopped.  Even within the flow, there was stillness.  We danced.

Jody and I often danced.  We jived to the accompaniment of glorious smiles.  We did the fox trot and the waltz, imperfectly but lovingly.  We held each other close.

Decades ago, I was involved in a personal development program called Est (Erhard Seminars Training).  We leadership candidates met in person occasionally and we’d go dancing.  Fast dancing.  No-mind dancing.  We called it breakthrough dancing.  My body parts moved every whichway, unattached to my head.  When I was able to let go completely, it was glorious.

Rita and I were married before Jody and I were married.  The family lived on a grain farm in Southern Alberta.  Saturday nights during the winter were often times for old time dancing – whole families getting together in a school gym to share “The Road to the Isles”, “The Schottische” and the allemande lefts of square dancing.  I danced with lots of women, not just Rita – older ladies, kids and my dear mother-in-law Amy.  It was family.

So dancing is in my jeans.  And in my meditations.

And clearly not just me.  Here are some words from those who are danced through life:

We should consider every day lost in which we have not danced at least once

To dance is to be out of yourself.  Larger, more beautiful, more powerful.  This is power, it is glory on earth and it is yours for the taking

Dance when you’re broken open.  Dance if you’ve torn the bandage off.  Dance in the middle of the fighting.  Dance in your blood.  Dance when you’re perfectly free

While I dance I cannot judge, I cannot hate, I cannot separate myself from life.  I can only be joyful and whole.  This is why I dance

There is a need to find and sing our own song, to stretch our limbs and shake them in a dance so wild that nothing can roost there

To watch us dance is to hear our hearts speak

And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music

Indeed, wise friends
Bring on the insanity

Out There

As in throwing myself out into the world, gracefully or awkwardly. On one level, it doesn’t matter what I do with the throw. It’s just happening. And actually I feel launched … by some unknown force.

I went to a concert last night and found such a person. Carlos Nunez is from Spain. Five musicians had gathered on the stage, along with an empty chair. All instruments were at the ready but the troupe didn’t bring forth music. They just sat there, looking to the back of the hall.

And then! The wail of bagpipes filled the space. A tall man, dressed Western, and looking remarkably like Pierre Trudeau (former Prime Minister of Canada), strode majestically towards us. The music was loud. Onto the stage he climbed and walked slowly towards my front row viewing spot. So tall, so passionate, so much air being moved, so there.

I could only gape. Charisma is too small a word for this man. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. His final note was a high squeal, and then he stood in front of us – eyes flashing and mouth widening. Carlos was amongst us. I know that sounds like I’m bowing down to God, but that wasn’t it. Here simply was a human being whose cells seem to burst out of his body and shower us with blessings. But still … merely one of us.

During the concert, Carlos played a variety of whistles as well as the pipes. Almost always, his eyes were closed as the melodies soared. And there was great stillness surrounding him. At the end of a number, he would often gesture towards the other soloists, willing our attention onto them. When his eyes were open, Carlos wrapped the audience in contact, seeming to make a connection with many individual faces.

Carlos is no better than me or anyone else. He’s found a way, however, to let the filters drop away, and to throw celebration to the far corners of the room. “Here I am,” he seems to say. “Love me or loathe me – it doesn’t matter. I’m here to show you me.”

What a fine job he did of just that.

Canada Joy and Toronto Sorrow

On Friday, I went walking down Weston Road in Toronto and came upon an ice cream and coffee shop named God Loves Canada.  Well, with a name like that, who am I to walk by?

Steps inside the door, I was greeted by Rosina, a black woman, and her husband George, a white man.  She had the biggest smile the world has ever seen and assured me that her ice cream was the best in Toronto, straight from Kawartha Dairies.  Rosina and I bantered back and forth about how cool Canada is, much to the delight of George, who sat alone at a tiny table.  Actually the whole place was tiny.

Clearly it was time to sing and Rosina and I launched into “O Canada”.  For some reason, George and the one other customer didn’t join in.  Oh well.  We raised the small roof.

How can anyone smile this much?  Rosina is one happy Canadian.  An hour later, fully supplied with a Rocky Road waffle cone and a cup of “Keswick’s Best Coffee” (decaf!), I walked out the door a grinning man.

Such a fine couple.  They’ve been married for twenty-some years and bug each other playfully.  Ah … the lightness of life that’s waiting if I have the eyes to see.

And then the day turned …

I took bus and subway to the site of Monday’s horrific van attack.  A fellow drove a rental van onto the sidewalk at Yonge and Finch and mowed down pedestrians.  Ten people died and fourteen were injured over a two kilometre stretch.  So immensely sad.

In my backpack I was carrying messages from nine of the Grade 5/6 kids at school, most adorned with art work:

“I am with you”

“Sorry about the accident”

“We are thinking of you”

I climbed the steps out of the subway at Yonge and Finch and looked across the street.  There had to be fifty folks reading all the messages and breathing in the flowers at a memorial set up in a small park.  A long stone wall was covered with the crying of a city.  And I mean covered.  The only blank spot I found was big enough for only one of the kids’ messages.  The thought came that I should just pick one to represent our class.  It only took a second to reject that idea.  Every one of these children needed to have their care seen and appreciated.

So I walked south.  I read an article on my phone that mentioned the sites of death: Tolman Street, Kempford Boulevard, Empress Avenue, Mel Lastman Square.  All places on my route.  No physical evidence remained but the feeling of loss was everywhere.  “The van came by right here, on this very patch of sidewalk.”  (Sigh)

On my way down the street, I looked for other places to suspend the kids’ hearts.  I wanted them to be part of a community outpouring, and nothing showed itself until … Mel Lastman Square – a big open space in front of government buildings.  And there it was: another memorial.  Flowers and thousands of messages.  Jampacked.  I could feel a twinge of frustration but right beside it was faith, that there would be a space for the souls of 10-, 11- and 12-year-olds.

And lo and behold, off to the side, right beside the sidewalk where Torontonians died, was a tree.  Unadorned.  Just naturally beautiful.

I set to work with nine messages of love embraced within plastic page protectors.  I had my packing tape and I had my scissors.  The wind made the stilling of the tape an adventure but with the help of a few local folks, I got the job done.

People came to read.  And take pictures.  And bow their heads.  I met Aurora, who lives nearby.  She read the kids’ words and smiled a lot.  “Please thank them for me.”  I will.  “I live right over there and I’ll come by often to say hi.”  Thank you, Aurora.

***

I was going to drive home today, but I’ve decided to stay another night.  This evening at 7:00 there will be a vigil at Mel Lastman Square.  The police expect 25,000 people to show up.  I’ll be one of them.

 

 

 

Humboldt

I watched the final round of The Masters golf tournament this afternoon.  I saw spectators jumping up and cheering when a long putt went in.  Such delight!  Also vivid was the drooping head of a player who had just hit his ball into the water.  And at the end, as the winner Patrick Reed walked from the 18th green to the scorers tent, there was Rickie Fowler, the second-place finisher, hugging Patrick and giving him such a sincere smile.

All of these were fine human moments.

Then the TV feed switched to TSN’s sports news show – Sportcentre.  There was a view of flowers on the steps of the hockey arena in Humboldt, Saskatchewan.  On Friday evening, the bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team collided with a semi-trailer.  Fifteen people died, most of them players ages 16-21.  As people spoke onscreen, I felt immensely sad.  All those lives gone, along with their future dreams, accomplishments and loves.

It was time to show photos of each victim, along with a few details about them.  A woman read the words as the pictures went by.  She kept clearing her throat, catching her breath, and finally she could speak no more.  Just the photo of a young man … and silence.  I think tears were flowing on the other side of the TV.

More fine human moments.

As if I needed to be reminded of the contrast between the human spirit and the so-so of daily life, it was time for a commercial break.  Obviously I needed a certain brand of hamburger.  Plus who knew that a new vacuum could bring a woman such joy?

Flatness in a world of dimension.

It’s clear to me that the heart needs to be involved in huge expanses of my day.  Otherwise, where is the joy and sorrow?  Where is the depth?  Where is the awe?

 

Fire in the Sky

I love traditions, and the residents of Toronto Island have a doozy.  Last night, they hauled dozens of Christmas trees to Ward’s Beach and had a bonfire.  I went last year and no doubt wrote about it in WordPress but my memory of such writing is tucked away in some inaccessible spot.  It’s time for now.

I took the ferry across as the sun was setting.  When what to my wondering eyes should appear but smoke rising above the trees.  “They started without me!”  And indeed they had.

I followed the path of humanity across parkland and through the brush … and there was the fire, licking high into the darkening sky.  Maybe 200 people stood at a respectful distance.  The local costume-clad band pounded out a rhythm on their drums and horns. I was in the presence of a community.

A family emerged out of the black, carrying a large Christmas tree.  Mom, dad, son and daughter.  With a ho heave ho and a “One … two … three!” the evergreen lofted and plopped into the blaze.  The crackling sound burst upon us, along with a light that illuminated all.  And the blast of heat!  Yes.  The heat without clearly inspired the heat within, as smiles broke open faces and cheers danced with applause.

Some ploppers waltzed around the flames before depositing their treasure.  Gifts ranged from gigantic spruces to the tiniest of boughs.  Givers from 70-somethings to wee kids. One train of five children launched a long pile of wood shavings upward.  There were endless crackles and glows for ninety minutes or more.  Sparks flew upwards against the crescent moon and sometimes sideways towards faces.  I felt some pricks of fire and brushed them off.  All part of the astonishing energy.

Two women hooped around the fire.  How someone can keep a hula hoop going just above her knees is beyond me, but she did it.  Later she reappeared rotating a hoop alive with fire.  The glow circled up and circled down, much to the joy of kids young and old. The second woman hooped with ecstasy lighting her face.  Her body moved sensuously and the vibrancy of her soul added to the erotica.  A young girl tried to keep a hoop aloft with little success but frequent visits to the ground wouldn’t stop her smile.

Many a time I looked around to wonder at the togetherness, the relationship, the community feeling.  The water lapped softly on the beach.  All was dark save for the blaze and a few far off lights.  The intensity of the city was worlds away.  All was well.

Perspective

I decided to do two hours on the elliptical yesterday afternoon.  No sweat, I thought, since I’d done much more than that recently.  The first hour was smooth.  A good rhythm and I felt strong.

On we go to Part Two.  And I started well.  Somewhere around twenty minutes, though, something was wrong.  My arms slowed, my legs slowed, and I swear my brain slowed. My breath was no longer silent and the weight of the world pressed on me.  “How can this be?”  I’d eaten enough, had a good sleep, and felt happy.  But I continued to spiral down.  forty-five minutes, I stopped.

And then it was time to choose … an attitude.

A. You’re a weak and uncommitted and just plain bad person.

B. For some unknown reason, you don’t have it today.  This says nothing about you as a person.  Accept what is.

A smile came as I chose Option B.  Sure I was disappointed but life keeps showing me its yins and yangs.  O great imperfect one … celebrate it all.

***

Last night I watched eight short films at the Wolf Performance Hall in downtown London.  One lasted just ten minutes but will stay with me considerably longer than that. It was about a figure skater.  We saw her being interviewed and the woman’s face was vibrant.  As they say, “Her smile reached her eyes.”  And the skating!  In a glowing dress, our heroine spun and floated, radiant on the ice.

Then there was the matter of her age … 91.  She winked and said that she doesn’t fall much anymore.  Good thing, I thought.  Over the last few years, she’s won several medals in her age group – 50 and above.

After our skater had finished her comments for the film, words appeared on the screen: her date of birth … and her date of death.  Most of the two hundred of us present let out an audible “Aww.”  I so much wanted her to still be alive.  And then more words: “She died as she lived – on the ice.”

I thought of my earlier weakness.  I thought of her thoroughly alive face.  Definitely something to learn here.

Who am I to play small?  I know someone twenty-two years older who rocked the house every time she did a spin.

TFC

I’m sitting in a downtown Boston Pizza, wearing my TFC scarf.  That’s the Toronto FC soccer team for the uninitiated.  They dominated Major League Soccer (MLS) last year but tonight they’re playing Tigres, one of the best teams in Mexico, and TFC are the underdogs.  It’s two-and-a-half hours from game time.  I’m a 45-minute walk from BMO Field … and I have a ticket!

I bought my team scarf last year and I still don’t know how to wear it “right”.  Tonight I tied it in a knot around my neck and walked down the street.  It didn’t feel good but then again who cares?  So I held my fan head high as I strolled towards the stadium.  And … the knot just came undone and my adornment now hangs down from my neck.  Perfect!

Okay, I just entered BMO Field and found my seat, about 2700 stair risers up from the gate.  I’m getting high!  And my next door neighbours are a family from Mexico.  They respectfully suggest that TFC doesn’t have much of a chance.  We’ll, we’ll see about that.  The good-natured banter has already started and I’m sure I’ll have fun sitting beside them.

The Mexican fellow next door laughs a lot and so do I.  Lovely.  I like  bugging his son, a dedicated Tigres supporter.  And son laughs along with me.

Okay, it’s really cold in this open air stadium.  The wind brings the effective temperature to well below 0 degrees Celsius.  I bundle up and then bundle up some more.  How are those Mexican players coping with our Canadian deep freeze?

Tigres dominates the first ten minutes.  It seems like they have the ball all the time.  No big scoring chances though.  Both teams pass the ball magically, like it’s on a string.  The crowd leans forward, perched on the edge of our seats.  Zoom this way, zoom that way … and then it’s halftime.  0-0.

As soon as the referee blows his whistle I’m out of my seat, praying that a urinal has my name on it.  Trouble is, hundreds of other folks seem to have the same idea, unless they have a yearning for hot dogs.  The trek down the stands reminds me of the 401 at rush hour … a slow go.  And I thought it was just women who lined up at washrooms.  At least 50 guys were waiting their turn.  So much for that stereotype.  By the time I was back in my seat, the teams were five minutes into the second half.  (Sigh)

Tigres scored a gorgeous goal early in the second frame.  The folks beside were up on their feet in a shot, highfiving each other.  Being a curious type, I asked why they were so happy.  We chuckled.

All through the night, the TTC supporters behind the goal banged their drums and chanted their chants.  So exciting!  It’s how I imagine European sporting events to be.  And we amateur TFC supporters responded with “TFC, TFC, TFC!”  Lots of noise.

Jozy Altidore blasted home the tying goal later in the second half.  We stood as one, with the wave of sound no doubt reaching Niagara Falls 130 kilometres away.  My seated companions smiled (and grimaced a bit).

On and on the game went, with each side taking turns pushing the ball forward.  There were “oohs” of joy and “awws” of despair as the deadlock persisted.  And then … in the very last minute, a pass was slightly behind Jonathan Osorio.  He twisted around and nudged the ball home with his heel.  I was up.  My arms made a sky high V.  And 20,000 voices hit a note of ecstasy.  We win!

I shook hands with father and son.  Dad was still smiling.  Such a good sport.  We fans walked off into the night to our various cars, trains and streetcars, most of us with smiles plastered on our faces.  The wind had frozen us.  Sport had warmed us from the inside.  All was well.

You Are Free

It feels like I wrote about this same topic a few weeks ago.  My yappy voice says that therefore I shouldn’t repeat myself.  But I don’t care.  I was walking home from breakfast at the Belmont Diner today when this thought once more exploded in my brain:

It doesn’t matter what comes back to you in life
All that matters is what you put out there

It feels like a cozy new age message but no, it’s a world beyond that.  As I sauntered down the snowy sidewalk, joy wrapped itself around.  “It doesn’t matter.”  The pains will continue when they do.  The sadness, the fear, the loneliness will still come calling.  And none of that directs me.  Waves of energy roamed behind my eyes on Main Street and fell down my face.  “You are free,” spoke the quietness inside.

“No, I’m not free.  That’s ridiculous”

You are free”

“No.  I’m bound by self-esteem issues”

“You are free”

“No.  I’m bound by what other people say and do”

You are free”

“No.  I’m bound by what my body chooses to do”

You are free”

“No”

“Yes”

***

I’m sitting on my couch, thinking about going to yoga class tonight.  The mouth tightens.

“I’m so inflexible … can’t get my knees anywhere near the floor”

You are free”

“You’re not strong enough to do most of these poses”

You are free”

“You can’t even balance on one leg”

You are free”

“Your fellow yogists see your flaws, and are critical”

You are free”

***

“And about that bike ride of yours this summer … you suck”

You are free”

“You don’t even have the balance to get your water bottle out of its cage”

You are free”

“Too old, too weak, too far”

You are free”

***

“You’re alone in life”

You are free”

“You’ll never be in a committed relationship again”

You are free”

“You’ll never have sex again”

You are free”

***

Quite a persistent voice, wouldn’t you say?
Perhaps I should listen

Live Big

I went out to the movies tonight.  I saw “Chavela”, a documentary about a singer.  Sounds basic but it was intense.

“She not only slept with women, but also sang love songs about them, wore trousers, smoked cigars, drank heavily, carried a loaded pistol and credited her recovery from polio to shamans.”  All of this was shocking to Mexican society in the first half of the 20th century.  I’m not gay, I don’t like smoking, I drink only a bit and I abhor violence.  But I like the shaman stuff.

As a kid, Chavela wasn’t loved much by her Costa Rican parents.  They hid her when guests came by.  When she was 7, the minister of a local church said “You can’t bring her in here.  Get her out.”  In her early teens, Chavela had enough.  She ran away to Mexico City and started singing in the streets.  And what courage will I show in my approaching 70’s?

“Every word that rolls off her tongue is suffused with pure emotion.  Anyone can listen to her, know what she is feeling, and feel it with her.”  I saw this in the film.  Her voice was not pure.  But her soul ran through every word.

“I became obsessed with her ability to draw people in.  I was fascinated by her lightness and ease, her masculinity.”  Well, I also want to draw people in, and sometimes I do.

“Chavela Vargas turned abandon and desolation into a cathedral within which we all fit,” Almodóvar wrote after her death.  “She emerged reconciled with the errors she had made and ready to make them again.”  Hey, I’ve made big mistakes too.  I like to think I’ve learned from them but some repeats have crawled back into my life.  Still, I will not live careful.  That’s withering.

“At age 81, ranchera singer Chavela Vargas officially came out as a lesbian.”  Perhaps I’ll officially come out as a chronicler of the world’s wisdom.  That’s the secret project I’ve worked on sporadically since 1987.  I’ve accumulated thousands of quotes that touch me to my toes.  (Shh.  Don’t tell anybody)

“I am proud that I do not owe anybody anything, and it is wonderful to feel free,” she said in 2009.  “Now I have the desire to lie down in death’s lap, and I am sure that will be quite beautiful.”  And what will my response be to my final days?  Maybe the physical pain will be great but I intend to go out laughing.

What do I want?

To love people deeply
To suck the juice out of life’s bones
To have others laugh around me
To look way into human eyes and celebrate what’s there
To flood the world

Make it so

Golf Balls

When I was a kid, I’d often show up at the Don Valley Golf Course in Toronto.  At 6:00 am on Saturday mornings.  Juniors could tee off starting at 7:00 and meanwhile I had a job to do – replenishing my dwindling supply of golf balls from the flow of the Don River.  I had so much fun getting so wet.

Decades later, Jody and I enjoyed walking by the Oldman River in Lethbridge, Alberta.  Lovely trees in the river bottom, a golf course beside and always the flow of water gurgling nearby.  I didn’t need to find golf balls but I did it anyway, much to my dear wife’s amusement.  And the joy I felt when a white treasure winked up at me from the fallen leaves!

Yesterday, it was pouring buckets but I wanted to walk the fairways and rough of Tarandowah Golfers Club, a spiritual home of mine.  I put on rain pants and my trusty winter coat.  In the parking lot sat three lonely cars, one belonging to the ever hopeful pro who stood patiently in the clubhouse.  He knew about my shtick:  “Enjoy your walk, Bruce.”

Off I went into the stiff breeze and the barrage of raindrops.  I was just so happy!  I sauntered down the middle of the first fairway, all alone in the world.  Behind the first green, the grass falls down to a creek.  That’s where I needed to go.  I searched amid the long leafiness, seemingly without success.  Then a small white object appeared, tucked into its nest of grasses.  And – no more than a foot away – another ball made my acquaintance.  Joy times two!

I have a system, no doubt set in place to massage my ego after a round of 112 at Tarandowah.  When I’m walking, and not playing, I par a hole when I find one ball there.  Two balls is a birdie, no balls a bogey.  So par for the entire course is having my pockets bulge with 18 of the little darlings.  My record has been 22 under par (40 balls)  which would equate to a score of 50 in the real game of golf – eight strokes better than anyone has ever accomplished.  I’ve told a few golfers about my clubless exploits but they all seemed unimpressed.

Wow – it was getting wet out there, but happily I was three under par after four holes.  Now for the gem:  The fifth is a long uphill par four with a farmer’s field bordering it to the right.  The soil was gooey, the pondlets were several, the shoes squished at nearly every step.  But look what I found!  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, … 33 golf balls poked their dimples at me.

Many a time, I thrust my forefinger into the mud and pried out the prize.  Some wiping on my rain pants and into the pocket it went.  As you might suspect, my coat has big pockets, and as I finally trudged back to the clubhouse, I looked like a squirrel with its cheeks full of nuts for the winter.  But there was nobody around to see my personal vestige of loveliness.  Oh well, I knew I was glorious … complete with mud smears, coated hands and wet everything, despite the rain protection.  I was just so dirty … so wild … so strange.

The grand total?  43 balls, which represents a new standard for all golfers to aspire to.  I expect any moment now that my doorbell will ring and TSN/ESPN/CNN will come calling.