Majestic Moments

My life, like yours, is made up of a long string of moments.  Most of them seem to escape my notice.  Too often, I’m thinking about something else or dreaming about somewhere else.  And that’s a great loss.

So what can I do about this?  Right now I’m in Mai’s Café at a tiny table for two near the front door.  I’ve written about this spot before – it’s just so cozy and cute.  I’m looking out on the shops of Wortley Road and watching folks roam by on their feet and in their cars.  Across the street, a young couple sit at a window table, looking at their menus.  So those people are momentary in my life.  Moments like this, when I’m alone, allow me to feel my environment, including the inner one.  (My tummy is delightfully full of pad thai and banana fritter!)  I can animate these solitary moments by shining a light on them, having them glow.

Even better are my times with other people.  The same environmental noticing is available but there’s something extra.  Last night I joined Louise and Jeff for supper at Chaucer’s Pub.  It’s warm and dark and quiet.  No big screen TVs showing me the wide world of sports (although I often enjoy such settings).  My back was to the fireplace and the warmth toasted me all over.

We talked of life, of music, of adventures, of community.  We talked of real people in our lives.  We talked of them with appreciation and tenderness.  Through all of this, we created a special time.  But I knew there could be more.  I’ve been studying the insights of Patricia Albere, about what’s possible when two or more people are together.  With Patricia in mind, I looked at my new friends.

Jeff and Louise are good people.  I could feel that.  As I listened to them speak, I threw my consciousness inside each one, trying to feel them from within.  And for a second or two, now and then … I did.  It wasn’t me being with them.  It was me being them.  Oh.  Completely different from other mealtime conversations I’ve had.  “Goodness.  Where does Bruce end and Louise begin?”  I didn’t know.  “Who is Jeff?”  Somehow I was part of the answer.

Our shared words continued … but there was a shift.  I was inside.  What if I could create this majesty at will?  What if another human being chose to join me in this experience of touching and being touched, of living inside each other?  The words “Heaven on Earth” come to mind.

It appears that I’m not here and not now for a fair slice of my day.  Nothing to get all grumpy about but I dream of what could be. 

Time for a grand experiment, perhaps?


I love music.  All types of music?  Apparently not.

I went to a concert last night to hear Nicolas Altstaedt, a world-renowned cellist, and Fazil Say, a similarly honoured pianist.  Being an optimistic person, I expected to be enthralled.  I wasn’t.

On the surface of things, I should have been transported to heavenly realms.  Nicolas was outrageously handsome, in his 30’s, with longish hair that fell over his eyes as he played.  His fingers flew on the strings and his tone was of a virtuoso.  In his passion, he would lean every which way as the music took him.  Sometimes he would lift his eyes and stare long into the recesses of the hall.  Then those eyes would close as he bowed a tender passage.  He wore a black turtleneck and often pulled on the sleeves to let his hands flow free.

It was supposed to work.  Isn’t a young, handsome, brilliant male what society says the world is all about?  Well … not for me.  The bare truth was that I didn’t like the music.  I saw myself yearning for sweeping melodies, and they were not to be found.  Shouldn’t I be gushing over the brilliance of the musician?  No.  “Should” doesn’t fit in this conversation.  Either my heart opens or it doesn’t.  Either I’m swept away or I sit inert.

So I applauded politely for the efforts of the two human beings in front of me but the hands fell back into my lap quite soon.  And then the final piece.  At its conclusion, the performers bowed and my hands came together as my butt remained fixed to the seat.  Around me, folks gradually stood.  I felt the cheers begin to soar and soon I was virtually the only person near me who wasn’t standing.  I smiled.  When I’m moved, I usually stand immediately – the complete opposite of the current moment.  Nicolas and Fazil left the stage and returned three times as the hearty applause continued.  Mine had long since stopped.

There’s no right and wrong about all this.  I’m happy that I was true to myself.  Sweet melodies often lift my soul to the heights.  No harm, no foul if my heart isn’t moved to open.  It’s just the rhythms of life saying hi once again.  As one wise one said:

When you’re hot, you’re hot
When you’re not, you’re not

Ants Below

Construction started on Toronto’s CN Tower in 1973.  Until 2010, it was the tallest freestanding structure in the world.  I’d never been up it … till yesterday.

What does it mean that millions of people across the world have gazed out from the sky high observation deck, but not me?  How about “absolutely nothing”?  It’s becoming clearer to me that life is not about accumulating experiences but rather about living in accord with my highest values.  And those are love, compassion, kindness and peace.

But I still wanted to take an elevator to the heights.

My eyes widened as I approached the glass.  The world was so far down.  The sun was shining on Lake Ontario and the ice was breaking up, creating a jumble of geometric patterns.  Two channels of smaller floes showed the way to Ward’s Island and Hanlan’s Point on Toronto Island.  A ferry found its way through.

Directly below was another spot of ice – a skating rink bordered by tall condos.  But “tall” didn’t seem to fit from up here.  The penthouses were hundreds of feet below.  On the ice, little dots of colour circled.  And I got it … each speck was a human being.  Someone with joys and sorrows, health and illness, high and low self-esteem, leading lives so much like mine.  I just stared.

Then there was the Royal York Hotel, a classic Toronto landmark since 1929.  Way, way below me.  I thought of my dear wife Jody, and the time that we stayed there.  I smiled.  And I imagined all the human beings inside the building right then … showering, sitting in the lobby, enjoying a drink in the lounge.  All like me, those folks.  Some differences, sure, but just minor variations on the theme homo sapiens.

The Gardiner Expressway flowed beneath me, although that’s not the right word.  It was late afternoon rush hour in the big city, and the cars crawled.  The backup stretched way to my left and way to my right.  There’d be one or two people in each tin can, maybe tired after a day of stress, longing for home, longing for a “beam me up” machine that would transport them to their couch.  All with hopes and dreams, successes and failures, pleasure and pain.  I tried to place my soul in each car but immediately felt overwhelmed.  “They’ll find their way, Bruce.”

From on high, life didn’t seem so darned serious.  Just a whole bunch of people walking or riding from here to there, each on their path.  It’s okay.  There’ll be a few dead ends, a few traffic jams, but also moments of flowing free.  On we go, fellow travellers.

Wandering Up and Down

I walked twelve kilometres yesterday, through the parkland by Toronto’s Humber River.  All was green.  I meandered past tennis courts and fire circles, wooded slopes and wide lawns, with benches a-plenty for sittin’.  And I went slow.

All sorts of folks came my way.  Unless they looked supremely grumpy, I said hi.  Only three people gave me a sincere hello back.  I wonder if I look dangerous.  Or maybe it’s just the big city mentality, perhaps “Someone who says hello wants something.”  Oh well.  I wasn’t going to let the prevailing responses besmirch my day.

Near the end of the journey, I parked my bod in the lounge of the Old Mill Inn.  Lots of nice stonework and comfy chairs.  I found myself facing the portrait of a severe young man.  I asked myself whether he ever smiled in his earlier life.  I sure hope so.  I sipped my glass of white wine and read sports articles on my phone.  Sort of a mixed metaphor but I don’t mind.

Off again, this time to the mysteries of Bloor Street.  The sidewalks were full of all and sundry, enjoying the spring sunshine.  But I was fading.  Was it the wine, or the long walk, or my continued movement away from sleeping pills?  My head beat out a nasty rhythm and my legs were declining towards the asphalt.  “It’s okay, Bruce.  You’re off these pills and there’s no going back.”

My walking plans fell apart and I stumbled towards a subway station.  Fifteen minutes later I was slurping coffee in a Tim Horton’s, watching outside folks scatter under a sudden thunderstorm.  I was happy to be dry and sad to be vacant.  Coffee completed, I continued to stare out at smashing raindrops.  How would I stay awake at the concert?  So … another twelve ounces of Dark Roast.

Koerner Hall was only a three-minute walk from Tim’s and the rain had faded when I poked my pounding head out the door.  Inside the gorgeous concert hall, I awaited the presence of Rosanne Cash.  Slowly my brain cleared and I was ready for tunes.

Rosanne’s voice filled the space with sweetness, accompanied by the guitar runs of her husband.  One song especially hit home:

We’re falling like the velvet petals
We’re bleeding and we’re torn
But God is in the roses
And the thorns

I left The Royal Conservatory of Music with “500 Miles” on my lips and a skip in my step.  All deficits were in the rear view mirror.  Until, that is, I got to my home bed-and-breakfast.  Head banging again and a troubled caffeine-laden sleep.

So it seems to me this morning that life is both A and B
Despite my efforts to call it A
I guess I can live with that


Well, here I am, experimenting with energies.  I used to think that I wanted to hang out in the peaceful energy of meditation till the cows come home, but I’m no longer in that spot.  I want to see what edgy feels like, what intense doing feels like, what big crowds feel like, what bantering back and forth with another human being feels like.

So then there was yesterday.  I got up early and drove to Toronto.  After taking the UP Express train downtown, I meandered over to the ferry terminal.  I spent a minute or two holding the arm of Jack Layton (or that of a statue honouring him).  I thanked Jack for all he contributed to Toronto and Canada.  It was the quiet energy of relationship.

I got off the ferry on Ward’s Island at 11:00 am.  The brunch and concert at St. Andrew-by-the-Lake Church would start at 12:30 so I had lots of time to wander.

It was clean-up day on the shoreline and many island residents were picking up garbage, hoisting branches that had washed ashore, and sorting recyclables from not.  They often moved quickly from one task to the next.  I told several of them “The earth thanks you.”  Everyone smiled in response.  Overall, it was the exuberant energy of doing good.

I walked the tiny streets of Ward’s, surrounded by quaint cottages.  Green was everywhere.  Plants poking their heads above the earth.  Wide stretches of grass.  And yellow … masses of daffodils and large forsythia bushes.  Vines hung from many homes.  Only a few residents were up and about and I said hi when they were close.  It was the slow rhythmic energy of nature.

Next I put feet to wood on the shoreline boardwalk.  I waved to the few cyclists and walkers out for a stroll.  Often V’s of black birds soared over my head.  Squirrels did their digging and bouncing along things.  It was the pulsating energy of life.

And now for brunch.  A jampacked frittata, asparagus-infused greens, a gooey Italian cake and two glasses of red wine.  Such a nourishing energy.

I had some good moments with the people I was sitting with.  Smiles about life.  When the talk turned toward local news that I knew nothing about, I just listened.  It was a happy and sad energy … happy to be with human beings and sad that I wasn’t part of their group.

And now for music.  I listened to a jazz quartet – vocalist, saxophone player, pianist and upright bassist.  The tunes ebbed and flowed as they read off each other and gave each person the chance to shine in a solo.  Making it up as they went?  Sometimes it felt like that.  It was a spontaneous and creative energy, tender and then boisterous, and then back to sweet again.

The dessert of my day was back on the mainland.  I stood with a thousand other folks in Maple Leaf Square, where we gazed up at a huge screen and waved white towels.  Inside the Air Canada Centre, the Toronto Maple Leafs were battling the Washington Capitals in a National Hockey League playoff game.  We cheered wildly for the big hits delivered by the Leafs, for the saves made by Frederik Andersen (“Freddie!  Freddie!”) and for the one Toronto goal.  We agonized as the Capitals came back to tie and then ended our season with an overtime marker.  It was the energy of winning and losing, of gain and loss, of them versus us.


So, I was awash in energies
And no one was better that any other
Just a human being embracing his world

The Voice

I sat in Chaucer’s Pub in London last night, listening to the folk music beauty of The Friends of Fiddler’s Green.  This group of balding gents has been at it for 45 years, and five of the six fellows only a few feet away from me were original members.  Fiddle, guitar, button accordions, bagpipes and piano blended with full-throated voices.

A song or two into the first set, we heard Stephen Foster’s Hard Times.  And when it was time for the chorus, we eighty audience members let loose:

‘Tis the song, the sign of the weary
Hard times, hard times, come again no more
Many days you have lingered all around my cabin door
Oh hard times, come again no more.

After the last notes had melted away, the woman in front of me turned around and said “You have a lovely voice.”  I smiled and said thank you.  I was pleased.  At the same time, my head swirled with past deficiencies.


I was singing The Rose at a karaoke party in St. Lucia decades ago and thought I was doing well.  Jody, however, couldn’t take my off-key effort and retired to our room.  I wonder if I really was that bad.

I sang in a choir for years and never was offered a solo part.  I wanted one, and I should have asked for one, but I didn’t.  Maybe my voice just wasn’t good enough.

I was working with a visually impaired student and her Grade 8 graduation was coming up.  She and I decided to audition for the grads’ talent show.  We worked hard on The Prayer but the supervising teacher turned us down.  Was it me?


At the end of the folk concert, the woman in front of me extended her hand and said “I’m so glad I sat in front of you and could hear you sing all night.”

Life is a mystery

A Balmy Morning

I was motoring along a Kitchener, Ontario freeway on Saturday morning.  Ahead of me waited Lydia Ko and the LPGA golf tournament.  All was well, except for my lips.  Four days of sun had dried them to a crisp, and they were starting to hurt.

Blistex.  The wonderful ointment that soothes and softens.  And the tube was back in my B&B bedroom, forgotten on the dresser.  Oh, silly man.

No worries.  There must be a drug store around here somewhere.  I remembered that the freeway frittered out at one point, with traffic slowing down through a littering of big box stores.  There’ll be Blistex somewhere amid the rectangles.

First though, I spotted a furniture store ahead – The Brick.  At their store in London I had recently bought an off-white bedroom suite for my condo.  Forsaking the urgency of peeling skin, and completely forgetting the marvelous person who is Lydia Ko, I pulled into the parking lot, hoping to visit another incarnation of my suite.  And there it was, in the double bed model.  I touched the wood.  I opened the drawers.  I drooled.

On my way out of the store, I asked two fellows if there was a drug store handy.  “Costco has one.  It’s just down the road.”  Thank you, my esteemed sales associates.

A few twists and turns later, I walked into consumer paradise.  I had my doubts about the Blistex since everything seems to come in Grade A Large at Costco.  I approached a druggie (I mean a drug department employee) to find that the tiny tube I sought hadn’t made it into inventory.  My lips groaned.  I asked her if she knew of another drug store nearby.  She smiled and drew me a map, featuring a return to the freeway, a long looping road, and a few traffic lights.

My lips pursed as I followed the lovely young woman’s directions.  I kept looking for Shoppers Drug Mart on the left but there was nothing.  Then a “Pharmacy” sign on the right.  I veered in.  Smacking my lips in anticipation, I approached the counter.  “No, we don’t stock that product.  Sorry.”  (Sigh)

Back on the road again, I squinted for a Shoppers.  And finally it appeared.  There was even a “Lip Balm” aisle.  I walked down it, glancing left and right.  Nothing again.  Finally, I noticed a rotating display.  I twirled … and there it was: my sacred tube of Blistex.

Out in the car, I applied liberal amount of the goo, coming perilously close to the underside  of my nose and my chin.  All was right with the world.  Except for my cell phone sitting awkwardly in the left pocket of my shorts.  I reached in to adjust things.  My fingers touched something soft.  It was a tube.

Although my intention had been to follow the sweet Lydia Ko for all eighteen of her holes, I managed to see just four.

Strange, this person
Strange, this life

A Golfing Life

Okay, so I’m addicted to the game and to the beauty that is the Tarandowah Golfers Club.  And I see analogies to life as I set off with my clubs.  Eighteen holes.  A journey from infancy to old age.  Hmm.  I wonder what hole I’m on now.  How about 14?  I’ll take that. I just don’t want to be on the 18th green, facing a three-foot putt.  But none of us know when the final hole-out will come.  I best enjoy my walk on the pretty green lands.

Let’s contemplate the sweet spot.  If I hit the ball on the central area of my clubhead, it’s effortless and high and long.  Some of my moments in life are like that.  I don’t do anything … wonders just decide to surround me.  Maybe a smile, a flower, or writing this blog.  And then there are the times when my golf ball hits the shaft of the club and zooms into the rough way to my right.  Or a toe hit.  Either one feels yucky, like hitting a stone.  Away from the course, I might say the wrong thing or stumble on the sidewalk.  Perhaps I can’t remember what I went down to the basement for.  Or how about constipation?  No sweet spot there.

I’ve never broken 100 at Tarandowah.  I’ve created a personal par of two over par for each hole.  That would give me a score of 106.  Two days ago,  I finished the front nine with 49, four under my par.  Oh bliss!  I saw future golfing glory spread before me on the back nine.  Then I “birdied” the 10th … five under par.  What a good boy am I.  On the 11th, a long par four, I hit a fine drive that unfortunately wandered right, slipping into a bunker.  No sweat.  Just a little sand shot to get back onto the fairway.  All this is sort of like a perfect day at work – crossing off items from my “to do” list, saying wise things in meetings, having people smile and nod approval.  And then …

It took me six shots to get out of that trap.  My final score on the 11th was 16.  Felt like a layoff notice.

Whether heroic or devastating, the journey continues to the 18th green.  Miles from performance issues, I simply walk the fairway.  And I will continue to do so until my ball drops into that final hole.

Women Golfing

I’ve loved golf for most of my life.  I remember as a kid hitting balls into a field on my grandpa’s farm.  And then blissing out when a nine-hole course opened up a few farms down the road.  I’ve had trouble breaking 100 but there were always a few shots each round that leapt off the sweet spot of my clubface and arced towards the green.

Then there’s computer golf.  I have lots of courses on my laptop and sometimes on the screen I hit it straight and long.  Oh, I have a rich fantasy life.

And of course there’s watching the pros play on TV.  Many exciting down-to-the wire finishes.  Over the years, though, I’ve lost interest in seeing the men play.  Everyone seems so businesslike, so serious.  Nary a smile to be seen.

It’s not like the women are completely opposite to this but still a lot of the female players show their personalities … saying hi to people in the galleries, congratulating a competitor for a great shot, flashing the teeth when all is well, and even sometimes showing a rueful smile when the ball goes out of bounds.

I love women.  Men are fine but in general women are easier to talk to.  Okay, that’s a big stereotype but there’s some truth in it.  On the Ladies Professional Golf Association tour (the LPGA), there are many pretty women, and many nice people.  That’s what I want to see … genuine human beings.

The LPGA season starts tomorrow in the Bahamas.  I’m so taken with a young Canadian golfer – Brooke Henderson – who’s kind, intelligent and attractive.  I want her to do well as she starts her professional career.

The little voice in my head tells me that I’m wasting my time and energy when I wax poetic about women players such as Brooke.  “You have a spiritual life, Bruce, and you’re here on Earth to spread love around, not to walk the fairways at tournaments and watch highly skilled players do their thing.”

The larger voice points to something sweet on the golf course.  The sport mimics the great journey of life … 18 holes of ups and downs.  I want to see the joy on the golfers’ faces, and the sadness when things are falling apart.  I want to see kindness, determination and acceptance.  I want to see life.

I enrolled yesterday in the “LPGA Fantasy Series”, where I pick a team of professional golfers and get points based on how well they do in the real tournaments.  I don’t care about the prizes.  I care a bit about winning the series, as I compete with a few thousand other fans across the world.  But I can handle finishing near the bottom of the heap.  I’m thrilled that I picked players who strike me as being lovely humans.  I’m also happy that so many countries are represented on my team: Canada, USA, Italy, South Korea, Paraguay, Scotland and Spain.  The world community.

All this makes me happy, even though I know that comes from within.  And a happy Bruce touches people.  So thank you, golf, and thank you, women players.  May we all hit it straight down the middle, and be gentle with ourselves when the ball ends up in the rough.


Are they just lines or is there a hidden glory within them?

1.  A Circle

No beginning, no end.  But doesn’t everything start and later stop?  Perhaps not.  What if there is an essence within me that’s been there since before my parents’ eyes twinkled at each other?  And will be there after the cremation oven warms me up?  And what if there’s nothing I can do to make that essence show up … because it’s always there?  I just have to listen for it.  Nowhere to get to.  Just living in the circle.

2.  A Horizontal Line

No one better and no one worse, despite the kindness and the meanness in the world.  No looking up to someone or looking down at someone.  Young and old.  Male and female.  Physically attractive and plain.  Just folks, all doing their best to be happy.  All to be loved.

3.  A Vertical Line

Being upright in life, neither leaning to the left or right, towards indulgence or asceticism.  Balanced.  Moral.  Not needing to be propped up by any external person or thing.  Unshakeably kind and appropriate.  Doing what I say I’ll do.  Speaking the truth.  Standing up for myself and others.

4.  A Curved Line

Honouring the risings and fallings of life.  The golf ball soaring off the clubhead and then falling back to the earth.  The growing of energy and beauty and the later diminishing.  The climbing of self and the returning to source.  Strong and weak.  Happy and sad.  Embracing the rhythms.

5.  A Triangle

Three people, all loving each other.  Sometimes feeling revered, and sometimes feeling left out.  Opening to relationships beyond me and mine.  Feeling the strength and stability of deep friendship.  Letting the other two take centre stage for awhile.


The power of mathematics is often to change one thing into another
To change geometry into language

Marcus du Sautoy