Homes of Romance

I want the beloved to be supremely happy.  I want to say “Look at that!” and have her joy in what gives me joy.

Where are the spots in Ghent to hold hands, to gaze towards each other and out into the world?  I’m new here but I know a few places:

This is an alcove tucked away in The Cobbler, a sweet home for lovers in the Post Hotel.  When I arrived yesterday morning, a fellow was sitting here.  I walked up and asked if he could leave his chair while I took a picture for my blog.  His smile was wide.

I was smiling myself as I left the Cobbler, thinking of a certain woman.   Then … Smash!  I walked into a glass door, leading with my forehead.  Perhaps I’m losing my head in love.

Here we have Appelbrugparkje, a sweet sliver of green on Jan Breydelstraat.  My friend Lucrèce owns a jewelry shop on this street.

The park ends with seats by the Lieve River.  The tiny gathering place is easily missed.  It’s a sanctuary for quiet times together.

And if you’re in the mood for romance, go see Betty.  She owns Rococo, and is a master of cocktail creation.  Betty holds sway on Corduwaniersstraat in the Patershol district.  I’m a one-minute walk from this paradise of candles.  If you’re lucky, she’ll have a wood fire going to welcome you in.

There’s a stillness in Rococo that quivers with the melting of the loved ones.

This is a lovely room, graced by slanting sunshine or wispy moonlight.  I know the owner – an okay guy.  He recently moved from Canada.

Falling in Love

A funny thing happened yesterday and I planned to write about it today.  But now it feels completely irrelevant.  It doesn’t “sing”.  And so it shouldn’t be told.

The events of the day are being overwhelmed by me falling in love.  I’m wobbly, taken somewhere not remembered.  Right now I just don’t know anything.

The last time I fell in love was in 1984.  Almost 40 years ago!  It felt like slow motion – a two-year friendship sliding into a deep joining.  Today it’s a plummeting, a topsy turvy free fall.  My mind is spinning, along with the rest of me.

Rather than “It could work,” my brain shouts “This is it!”  The gaze between us holds … and holds some more.  There’s no foreground silhouetted by a background.  There’s just This!  These eyes.

Last night we cuddled as we drank in the feisty girl known as Anne with an E.  The 13-year-old on Netflix speaks her mind without thought and searches again and again for a “kindred spirit”.  And I’m nestled next to one!

How long it’s been since I last watched TV with the two of us on the middle seat of a three-person couch.

The touch of skin in the far nighttime … so soft.  Feeling the rise and fall of her chest as she sleeps.  What wonder!  What privilege.

Many a time over the last nine years I thought that romance would be no more.  Too old.  Now I shake my head: “Stupid man.”

And then the morning, setting off on a walk in Ghent.  Her hand swinging by her side, and mine by mine.  I reach over.  She takes my offered fingers.  And we stroll into the next chapter of our lives.

What will become of us?

Let’s ask Enya …

Who can say where the road goes
Where the day flows
Only time
And who can say if your love grows
As your heart chose
Only time

We begin …

‘Tis Love

I wonder and then I wonder again
The seas part their ways
The angels have a song to sing
All is giggling in this sacred place
Mountains rise and fall under the touch of a finger
I hear the sighs of babies
And see the shuffle of the ancient ones
The sun keeps rising ... it needs to be with us
And the blue is royal
There is much to learn I 'spose
But now that is passing away
The petals stretch out upon the linen
And eyes say hello

Turner Brown

Turner and I have been friends for decades.  He doesn’t say much … but oh, the smile!  (Right now it’s hiding under his mouth fur).

Turner sat on Jody’s and my dresser.  It was important that he was high enough so we could make good contact.  His eyes were soft.  He enjoyed my good morning visits.

After I began going to Buddhist meditation retreats at the Insight Meditation Society in Massachusetts, USA, a new greeting came to me.  I’d look into those marvelous Turner eyes and say to him “All beings everywhere”.

Still later, my right hand wanted to contribute.  I rubbed Turner’s furry cheek with the backs of my fingers as I wished everyone well.  He started smiling then … and he’s never stopped.

In 2015, after my dear wife died, I decided to go on a three-month silent meditation retreat at IMS.  What essentials would I bring?  Well Turner, of course.

That first day, as I was bringing my luggage into the building, I had Turner under my arm, where he would be cozy.  As I crossed the dining room in the presence of other arriving yogis, eyes lifted to a little bear, and mouths began a smile.  I’m pretty sure Turner waved back.

Now Belgium is my home.  I’ve lived on the Oudburg in Ghent for two months … and Turner has been in the background.  I had placed him on an end table beside my bed.  I know that sounds close but he was too low and facing the wrong way for me to meet his eyes.

Yesterday I searched for a spot where we could be friends again.  There’s a cabinet in my kitchen that does nicely.


Four eyes

My fingers running down his cheek


Reading Words of Love

My neighbour Dirk Tanghe is a passionate man.  He lives life big.  And he has big books, like this one:

Oscar Wilde was a playwright in the 1800s.  He loved a young man named Bosie who was 16 years younger.  He was imprisoned for this illicit bond.  Two Loves reveals letters that Oscar wrote to Bosie.  Let the words speak.  Let Oscar’s soul touch ours.

Leave behind any thoughts about homosexuality, about age, about “appropriateness”.  This is universal.

Your sonnet is quite lovely, and it is a marvel that those red rose-leaf lips of yours should have been made no less for music of song than for madness of kisses.

You are the divine thing I want, the thing of grace and genius.

[Love] repeatedly exists between an elder and a younger man, when the elder has intellect, and the younger man has all the joy, hope and glamour of life before him.

Be happy to have filled with an immortal love the soul of a man who now weeps in hell, and yet carries heaven in his heart.  I love you, I love you, my heart is a rose which your love has brought to bloom.  My life is a desert fanned by the delicious breeze of your breath, and whose cool springs are your eyes.

Love me always, love me always.  You have been the supreme, the perfect love of my life.  There can be no other.

O sweetest of all boys, most loved of all loves, my soul clings to your soul, my life is your life, and in all the worlds of pain and pleasure you are my ideal of admiration and joy.

A day in prison on which one does not weep is a day on which one’s heart is hard, not a day on which one’s heart is happy.

I feel that my only hope of again doing beautiful work in art is being with you … you can really recreate in me that energy and sense of joyous power on which art depends.

Painting Kindness

My friend Steph posted on Facebook yesterday.  She shared images of “kind” graffiti.  Here’s one:

It got me thinking.  Ghent has Graffiti Street, a winding lane that offers artists the chance to express their essence.  In time, older works are painted over by fresh creations.  Oh …how impermanent this life is!

I wandered over this morning.  Here are a few things I found:

I am being welcomed!  I’m not sure to what but that doesn’t matter.  “I’m glad you’re here.”

Yes.  “Please look down and find the beauty in this artist’s work.  I really want you to see what I see.”

These painted tiles were placed way above those who stroll by.  “This time look up.  And please … see the people you love.”

And then, sitting beside the words, are the colours.  This is not a fence.  It’s a gateway.  Feel the invitation to pass through, to sit on the bench with a new or known loved one.

Now the artist: Klaas paints all over Ghent.  It’s his passion.  He told me about the two steam trains.  Over the next few hours, they will be transformed into eyes.  And the black shapes at the bottom will become the mouth, formed by silhouettes of folks walking Graffiti Street.  Cool.

And further down the road, another artist will paint over Klaas’ face.  I have a feeling that my friend will smile … and find another canvas.

The Sadness of Absence

There were warning signs yesterday.  Twice I stood on the Zuivelbrug, the bridge over the Leie near my home … and there were no seagulls.

I love watching them fly, especially when they soar unflappably.  But where were my friends yesterday?

I think of a quote I love:

If you love something, set it free

If it comes back, it’s yours

If it doesn’t, it never was

Those words have rung true down the years, with friends romantic and not.  So often I’ve felt the need to grab on and hold tight.  That would be squeezing the life out of them. 


And so it is with the gulls.  Often I sit on my back terrace and watch for the wings above.  If you look at the photo, see if you can enlarge it.  Look through the willow and you’ll see a slanted roof.  I’m on the other side of the slant – facing the river but not seeing it.


The glassed building is the Ghent River Hotel.  Below the circular openings in the brick is the Leie.

I feel the yearning to unite with the birds, to be one with them.  To feel the lift below my wings.  To smile into the wind.  To dip and dive with the touch of a feather.

I was frantic as the sun descended yesterday.  Clutching with all my might.  I had a Zoom call at 7:30 and I sat rigid on my terrace as the time approached.  “Seagulls!  Now!”

O the error of my ways …

After the call, the darkness was full.  In my intensity of need, I decided to go to bed early and get up before sunrise, when the gulls fly left to right down the Leie.

And so I did.  In my robe, down jacket and slippers I sat on the terrace as pink filled the bottom of the sky.  I waited … No one came but the pigeons.

And then, right over my head (!) a blurred whiteness zoomed.  I caught the wingtips as the gull disappeared beyond the rooftop.

My reaction was instant.  It was a non-sexual orgasm, a jolt, a shudder.  My friend!

And what if tomorrow is friendless?  I would be sad but the vision of the long wings would remain.

And true companions reappear

Where Does Love Go When We Die?

Kobe and Gianna

He was a star NBA basketball player.  “Words can’t describe and it doesn’t do any justice to who he is and how he impacted the sports world.”

She played on her middle school team.  “She was fiery and stubborn.  She knew what she wanted and fought to get it.”

Together they died in a helicopter crash … father and daughter.

“Kobe was known to gush about her tenacity as a player.”  “Bryant often said his daughter’s passion for basketball rekindled his own love of the game, especially after his retirement.”

In a letter to Gianna’s mom, best friend Aubrey spilled forth her love: “I hope that in the midst of your intense sadness you catch a glimpse of joy in who the daughter that you created and raised was.”

Kobe and Gianna loved each other till the words faded away.


We don’t know much.  We can’t see the “after” and we can’t easily behold beyond the world of objects and time.

I say solid stuff is just the beginning.  We love flowers and poems.  It feels like they’re bridges to something so soft and pass-through. 

Love migrates, I think, leaking out of our decomposing shells and roaming worlds shapeless and shining.  And maybe returning to abide awhile in a loved one’s basketball or ball cap or in a favourite DVD.

When two go at the same time, perhaps there’s vibrating together in some netherland, spanning the rainbow, sitting quietly without bodies getting in the way.

Love continues and celebrates in ways that our tiny heads can only point to.  Let’s just close our eyes and smile.  Gianna and Kobe are here, there and everywhere, sharing the mellow moments with all who come close.


Wim was a family man.  And he still is.  His spirit shines beyond death.  As much as he revered his wife Marie-Anne and his children and his grandchildren, Wim’s sense of “family” was bigger than these sixteen human beings.  It included all who came his way.

I was one of those lucky ones.

You’d never forget a Wim hug.  He encircled me and held me close.  He laughed big.  When I heard he was an engineer and built bridges, I thought of my favourite one in Ghent: the Kongostraat.  I tried to convince him that he built that one.  But he shyly shook his head.

Lydia had us over for dinner a couple of months ago.  She presented an hors d’oeuvre that I didn’t know.  It was sitting on a tiny puff pastry (or so I thought!).  Turns out it was a shell, and I broke it apart with my teeth.  I was laughed at … with love.  Later, as plates were passed around for the main course, Wim noticed there was a chip out of my plate.  “Still hungry, Bruce?”  Totally Wim.

I don’t know when Wim gave this framed calligraphy to Lydia, Jo, Lore and Baziel. Perhaps he knew he was dying and wanted these words to touch their hearts. It sits in “Wim’s place” in the living room. It enters all who come close and are willing to read.

I decided to choose to focus my attention on the “beautiful” rather than the “ugly”

I decided to choose to listen to beautiful music rather than confuse my ears with anxiety-provoking news

I decided to fill my mind and my heart with gratitude for all the great opportunities that life brings me

It’s all just a matter of choice

Christophe André

Christophe and Wim. Perhaps they’re sharing a bottle of wine right now.