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.

Geometry

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

Mastery of the Moment Part Two

Many people see life as A > B:

A = Something bad happens
B = I react … I say something or do something – e.g. with anger, fear, sadness

Another possibility is A > B > C:

A = Something bad happens
B = I look at the attitude I have to that event.  I have choices.
C = I respond rather than react

Here are 22 attitude choices:

1.
Love
Unrestricted caring and compassion, serving and honoring the other person
Indifference
Not caring what happens to the other person, treating them as if they’re invisible
Antagonism
Opposed to and critical of the other person, wishing them pain and disaster

2.
Relationship
Being “related to” the other person, feeling a deep emotional bond with them, hiding nothing from them
No Relationship
No emotional bond.  The other person is treated as an object, with indifference or antagonism

3.
Sufficiency
Knowing that you are whole and complete, lacking nothing, even though life continues to present its challenges
Deficiency
Feeling that life is incomplete, that there is always something missing
Scarcity
Feeling that there is a shortage of something, e.g. love, money, sleep

4.
Source Internal
The “beginning” or source or cause of the quality of my life resides within me
Source External
The cause of the quality of my life is outside of me

5.
Acceptance
Being okay with what life gives you moment-to-moment, while still allowing for the pursuit of goals
Resistance
Fighting life situations that you define as “negative”, trying to avoid or eliminate them

6.
Accepting What Is
See “Acceptance”
Evaluating What Is
Rating what life presents to you on scales such as good/bad, better/worse and right/wrong

7.
Letting Go Of
Releasing negative emotional energy, including the energy associated with the loss of a person, ability, material possession, etc.  Open hands.  No possessiveness
Holding On To
Clinging to negative emotional energy or to someone or something that you have lost.  Allowing emotions such as resentment and sadness to persist.  Closed fist.  Possessiveness

8.
Inclusion
Allowing yourself to experience all of life’s events, whether defined as “positive” or “negative”.  Welcoming everything
Exclusion
Attempting to eliminate certain things from your life, e.g. sadness, anger, illness, financial strain, certain types of people, etc.  Allowing only the “good half” of life

9.
You and Me
Concern for the well-being of yourself and the other person.  “Win-Win”
You or Me
Concern only for yourself.  Life as a battle.  “Win-Lose”

10.
Oneness
Experiencing an identification with all living beings
“There is nothing that is not me”
“The seamless coat of the universe”
Me / Not Me
“Me” means everything from the surface of the skin inwards.  Anything outside the skin is “not me”

11.
Person
Being in awe and wonder of all living beings, experiencing their beauty, love and mystery
Thing
Experiencing the other person as an object that can be used for some purpose

12.
Animated
Seeing the true magnificence of a person, as if a light had been turned on to reveal their beauty
“Flat”
Seeing only a “piece of meat” standing in front of you, an object with no character or zest

13.
Enhance
Intending to contribute to the well-being of the other person, even if at times this includes the use of criticism
Diminish
Intending to decrease the well-being of the other person

14.
No Comparison
Not rating a person or comparing them to oneself or other people
Comparison
Rating a person by comparing their quality to that of someone else   Better/worse

15.
Action
Acting appropriately, being the source or cause of the action
Reaction
Acting (sometimes inappropriately), seeing the other person as the cause of your action

16.
Opportunity
Everything that life gives you is an opportunity to learn
No Problem
Not experiencing severe emotional distress, even though a challenging life experience has to be dealt with
Problem
Experiencing life’s challenges as “horrible disasters” and creating severe emotional distress for yourself

17.
Not Important
Seeing that “negative” life occurrences are not important, that they need not diminish your well-being
Important
Experiencing “negative” life occurrences as hugely important, being a great threat to your well-being

18.
Solution-Oriented
When faced with a problem, looking immediately at possible solutions
Problem-Oriented
When faced with a problem, focusing on who’s at fault and how bad the situation is

19.
Immense
Seeing life as infinite in scope, wonderfully rich and magnificent
Focused
Reducing your awareness of life only to the immediate focus of attention, e.g. another person’s behaviour, a disappointment

20.
Mystery, Not Knowing
Being in awe of the infinite unknowns of life.  Realizing that there is so much you don’t know, and may never know
Certainty, Knowing
Being absolutely sure about what life is.  Being certain that life is limited in some way, e.g. only the physical dimension is real

21.
Learning
Acknowledging that you don’t know everything and that other people can teach you things.  Being open to the wisdom of others
Being Right
Having to defend your position as the right one at all times.  Exhausting!

22.
Love
Where it all began

Celebrating, Ending and Celebrating Again

Dear companions on the journey,

I’m feeling sad.  I’m feeling nostalgic.  I’m feeling thankful.

For those of you who have been reading my e-mails about Jody since November, 2013, this will be the last message you’ll receive.  It’s time to bring this particular written journey to a close.  The love I have for my dear wife will never end.  It grows every day, and so, it seems, do my tears.  Jody wants me to smile and show the world my true colours.  I’m trying to do that.  But it’s hard.  I love my wife quadruple oodles.

At last count, my e-mails are going out to 322 addresses.  Thank you for being here with Jody and me.  Thank you for praying for us, sending us love, sending us positive thoughts … whatever you have been doing.  I’m clear that your love allowed Jodiette to spend her last seven months at home – enjoying our home, enjoying her garden, enjoying little trips here and there, and enjoying me.

With the completion of today’s e-mail, I now turn towards Jodiette: My Lovely Wife, the book I’m writing about my dear one.  I hope that the folks at Blurb, a self-publishing website, will be a big help as I navigate the unknown waters of content and design.  The book will mostly be a compilation of all those e-mails, plus some posts I created about Jody on my website, as well as a little section I’m calling “My Surprising Wife”.

The goal is to have Jody’s book in my hands by April.  When it’s ready, I’ll send you one brief e-mail, asking you to respond if you’d like a copy.  I’m giving it to whomever wants it.  It’s a love story, you know.

Many of you reading these words are not among the 322.  You’ve been reading posts on my website – brucearcherkerr.com.  If some of you e-mail recipients would like to continue hearing what I have to say, tune in there.  I love writing, and except for periods of meditation retreats, I intend to put fingertips to keys every second day or so.

***

I loved Saturday.  About eighty of us were at the Bellamere Winery to celebrate Jody’s life.  Folks came from near and far, with the far including Collingwood, Brantford and Toronto.  Lots of smiles and lots of tears.  Many wonderful people came to the front of the room and spoke – Jody’s teenage friend and maid of honour, co-workers and friends from Parkwood Hospital, family members of fellow cancer patients at Victoria Hospital, my colleagues.  Marvelous.  One woman told the group “I don’t know what to say, but I want to say something.”  Lovely.

One friend from Parkwood said that she loved watching Jody and me leave the hospital at the end of the day, holding hands.  A friend from Victoria Hospital, a single mom, mentioned that someday she hopes to have the quality of love that Jody and I share.  May it be so.  Someone told us how Jody glowed when she talked about me.  And then there were her funky clothes, including all those pastel pants.  Oh, my wife.  How you are loved!

I shared some of the great words that have flowed from my wife’s lips:

Jody:  Where are we going, Bruce?

Bruce:  Disney World!

Jody:  No, Bruce, we’re going to Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

***

Stop, Bruce!  We’re here.  (The Pantages Theatre on Yonge St. in Toronto, the site of “Phantom of the Opera”)

***

Brucio, Brucio. Wherefore are thou, Brucio?  (at an open house in Lethbridge, as Jody looked down at me from the second floor)

***

I talked about how Jody dressed up in a sparkly black top and a funky green hat for my retirement speech last May.  She wasn’t strong enough to go to the London Convention Centre but she followed all the action via Skype.  Jody was so proud of me.  I talked about the bread that Jody baked me every Christmas, and how last September she coached one of our personal support workers in how to make it, sensing that she wouldn’t be alive in December.  I made copies of the recipe (in Jody’s handwriting) for the guests at Bellamere.  Many were thrilled to receive it and will no doubt pass on Jody’s love to their family.

Love moved in all directions on Saturday.  Our friend Neal stayed with our friend Carole as she waited and waited in her wheelchair to be picked up by a transportation service after the celebration.  I told the folks about Etienne, the husband of one of the speakers, who rode with me towards the end of a cycling trip when I was exhausted, making sure I got home safe.  I saw the love coming from a dad to his daughter, also in a wheelchair, and the returning gladness in her eyes.  And then there were all those who reached for a Kleenex during our time together.

Music!  There was lots of it.  Here are few of my favourite lines, aimed so dearly at you, Jodiette:

Free in the Harbour:  They broach and they spout and they lift their flukes out.

True Colors:  (From Jody to us)  If this world makes you crazy and you’ve taken all you can bear, you call me up because you know I’ll be there.

For You:  Just to know that you’re never really far away …  Just to know that you’re here in my heart to stay.

Annie’s Song:  Let me always be with you.  Come let me love you.  Come love me again.

The Irish Blessing:  And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

In the Arms of an Angel:  Fly away from here … from this dark cold hotel room …  You’re in the arms of an angel.  May you find some comfort here.

Jody helped me sing Annie’s Song to the group.  When I couldn’t go on halfway through the second verse, the people facing me starting singing.  Strengthened by my wife’s love, and theirs, I began to sing again.  I invited the audience to sing the last verse with me.  They did.  Thank you all.

During the YouTube videos and the DVDs,  I’d often lift my eyes from the screen and look at the photo of my lovely wife on the mantel.  Such love in Jody’s eyes.  Before the ceremony, I had been fiddling with the placement of the photo, trying to reduce the glare coming from the track lights.  But I couldn’t get rid of it.  After Jody’s celebration was complete, I looked again, and saw a little whitish spot in the middle of my wife’s lips.  And I smiled.  Every night before getting into bed, I stand in front of Jodiette, moisten the tip of my right index finger, and press it to her lips.  A kiss that stays.

Finally, folks came up to give me a hug as they got ready to leave.  They had lovely things to say:  “Thank you for sharing Jody with us.”  Of course.  Diamonds need to be seen.  “Thank you for showing us such a vivid love today.”  You’re very welcome.  Pass it on.  And in the guest book:  “Honour Jody with your life now.”  Yes, I will.  “We love how you honour Jody’s memory with your stories.”  Thank you.  “Celebrating an everlasting love”  Indeed it is.  “Celebrating life”  All of us.

On a table, I had placed a number of objects that were important to Jody and me.  And I put out a little sign:  “Please touch and open.”  As I was packing up, I looked at that sign, and thought of us touching the people in our world, opening our hearts to them.  It’s what Jody wants us to do.

I also looked at a book of Jody’s I had put on the table:  Your Happy Healthy Pet: Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.  She had so much wanted to get a dog when she retired.  It wasn’t to be.  But an image came flooding into my head …  Jody running in the meadow with her doggie, laughing with her canine friend.  “Are you with your doggie, Jodiette?”  “I am, Bruce.”

I didn’t want to go home.  I wanted to be with human beings.  So I drove to the Byron Library and plunked myself down in a cozy chair, near a few newspaper readers.  I looked through a wall of windows, to trees near and far.  And thought of Jodiette:  “I am all trees, Bruce.  I welcome you everywhere.”

I read my book a bit but Jody wanted to talk, and so did I.  She let me go first.

“I love you, my dear wife.  There was so much love in the room, Jodiette.  People laughed.  People smiled.  People cried.  You touched them.  I touched them.  We touched them.  It was good.”

Jody’s turn:

“Thank you, Bruce, for such a lovely day.  All those people who love me and love you.  And so many people were brave enough to speak!  I saw it all, Bruce.  Thank you for making it happen.  Thank you for loving me so very much.”

You’re welcome, my dear.  You deserve great kindness.

I still wasn’t ready to go home so I headed to the Cineplex Odeon Cinema to see “Selma”.  First I went to their lounge and had a key lime smoothie and nachos.  Yum.  In the theatre, I moved over so that two fellows could sit together.  The guy next to me was so thankful.  We talked about kindness until Martin Luther King appeared on the screen.  After the film, we stayed in our seats while the others got up to leave.  We talked about King and Gandhi and JFK.  As they stood, we shook hands.  And the gentleman who had been two chairs away from me said, “Take care of the ones you love.”

Yes

Muddled

Jody’s Celebration of Life is on Saturday, two days from now.  And my brain is messed up.  I still cry for Jody every day.  That’s a blessing for me, not a mess at all.  It’s all the other stuff that intrudes.

I want lots of people to come.  But I have no control over that.  It could be 50.  It could be 200.  I’m trying to let go of the numbers.  I know what’s true is that there will be a lot of love in the room.  That’s what’s important.  Love for Jody.  Love for me.  Love for the loved ones of the loved ones attending.  It’s going to be a Celebration of Life … Jody’s life, of course, but also of life itself.  What a precious gift we’ve been given to be on this planet, to contribute to the lives of others.

I want to laugh a lot on Saturday.  I have some funny stories about my lovely wife and I hope that I’m rolling in the aisles as I listen to her friends talk about Jody’s smile and fun spirit.  But I will cry too.  And I worry about crying all the way through the ceremony as I gaze out at Jody’s friends and think of her.  Then I worry about not crying at all, of suppressing myself, both the joy and the sorrow, as I wallow in the stress of the day.  But there doesn’t need to be stress.  How about if I let things unfold exactly as they do, and trust that our time together will be good for our souls?  Yes, that’s a good idea.

I’m playing four songs for Jody – two YouTube videos and two from DVDs.  I played them at my darling’s funeral too, and struggled with the technology.  What if that happens again?  Well, at the funeral, people were wonderfully understanding of my imperfections.  Nice folks will be coming on Saturday too.  We’re all in this together.

There was a fifth song in November, and it will also appear this Saturday … me singing “Annie’s Song”.  Back then, I only got a line or two into it before my sorrow ground me to a halt.  Friends and family picked up the tune and sang it for me.  It’s okay, Bruce, if the words won’t come again.  The choir will respond.

I think about the food that will be available after Jody’s celebration.  I had to order enough for 150 to get the room.  If only 50 people show up, health regulations would prevent me from donating the excess to the Men’s Mission downtown.  If there are 200 guests, there won’t be much for each person to eat.

Oh, what a tangled web I weave!  Let it all go, Bruce.  As the Desiderata said, “The universe is unfolding as it should.”  Let it do its dance on Saturday.

I’ll let you know early next week how the moments blessed us all.

Toronto – Part 3: Scarf and Applesauce

It’s so easy to be happy and openhearted when my body feels good.  In Toronto, my body mostly felt bad.

When I was a kid, mom and Aunt Norah wrote back and forth a lot.  I got to read Norah’s letters, which were usually full of reports about her various ailments.  I vowed that I would never turn into my aunt, that I would never let what’s wrong dominate my conversations.  But I feel the need to address the pain I felt last week, as a way to open to all of life.

I had already been cold for ten days or so, and Toronto’s deep freeze sent me over the edge.  I was terrified of being cold, colder, coldest.  “Will it hurt?  How long will it hurt?”  I don’t know what happened to the mountain man in me.  He was gone.  Instead, there was a guy who developed this dressing ritual every time a door was about to open onto the outside world.  The neck of my coat totally zipped up.  Toque pulled way down.  Scarf so tight around my nose and mouth that it brought up thoughts of asphyxiation.  Mitts struggling to fit way inside the sleeves of my jacket.  Neal waiting patiently.

Sometimes our forehead-burning street travels brought us to more subway time.  I loosened the scarf so it wrapped around my neck but the rest of the arrangements stayed put.  Mitts and toque fully engaged on the train.  As we jostled our way from station to station, all I could think of was diving under the covers of my hotel room bed.  No expansive mind.  No lovingkindness aimed at my fellow passengers (well, very little of that).  Just me, me, me.  How very unBuddhist of me.

And then there was my stomach.  For most of our trip, the nausea came and went and came again.  My diet was basic – microwavable rice, bananas, dry bagels, applesauce and herbal tea.  Neal had omelets and seafood fettuccini and beer.  I was drooping with a lack of calories and flavour.  Dizzy and roiling and flat.  Oh vacation, wherefore art thou?

At the Allan Gardens plant conservatory, I sat.  At the Royal Ontario Museum, I sat.  Neal boogied around, taking lots of cool photos.  I sat.  I tried to be present with what life was offering me, to see the pain as being no worse than pleasure.  But I couldn’t.  I rarely could talk to Jody.  I missed the beauty of the flowers, of the vendors offering their food at the St. Lawrence Market, even of the Buddhist statues at the museum.  I pretty much missed it all.  Sad some more.

On Sunday afternoon, we were leaving on the train for London.  My nausea had disappeared and the temperature had warmed to 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit).  How strange.

I wonder what life wants me to learn from all this.  Right now, I don’t know.  I’m open to an epiphany.  Come on down.

 

Last Time

I like those two words so much that I often use them as my user name on Internet sites.  (Don’t tell anyone, please.)  I realize that any given moment could be the very last time I see someone or something, I do something, I experience something.  We just don’t know.

Yesterday Jody spent many hours being disoriented.  She slept well, thanks to an increased dose of her sedative.  When she awoke this morning (with me lying beside her bed on a foam pad), I sensed that Jody was “there” as she asked for water.  I wondered whether this was the last time we would have an oriented conversation.  And so, I began:

“I love you, my dear.”

“I love you too.”

“I’m glad you’re my wife.”

“I’m glad you’re my wife … (smiles) … husband.”

“Good morning.”

“Good morning.”

To be so present right then was stunning and truly wonderful.  Oh, if only I could be this way always with everyone, not knowing if this time is our last.  I’m thinking of an old friend Linda, whom I palled (or is that “paled” – no, that’s not right) around with at the Prince of Wales Hotel in Alberta, and later in Vancouver.  We had such good talks.  Linda was the older sister I never had.  And then we lost touch.  Miraculously, years later, I saw her on the streets of Calgary and introduced her to Jody.  And then she was gone, and she remains so.  Was I present to our moment of departure from each other?  I fear not.

***

When will be the last time that I:

– ride my bike ta-pocketa?

– eat pumpkin pie?

– go dancing?

– write a post in Bruce’s Blog?

– walk in the mountains?

– tell someone I love them?

– sing a song and play guitar?

– sit cozied up in my man chair, reading a good book?

– set foot in my home … 6265 Bostwick Road, Union, Ontario?

– wear a t-shirt and shorts?

– say something silly?

– speak?

– shave?

– be on a beach in the Caribbean?

– drive a car?

– josh around with people at Costco?

– make love?

– watch “The Razor’s Edge” and “Titanic”?  (my two favourite movies)

– am with Jody?

– awaken?

***

The mystery unfoldeth