The Vertical and the Horizontal

I like geometry.  Lines fascinate me.  I wonder what they say.

I wrote a post recently about curves.  There are so many cool ones in Ghent.  But what about straight lines?  Do we neglect them because they’ve not of nature?  No.  Nothing and no one should be omitted.

The vertical draws our eyes to the sky, and to the depths of the Earth.  It stretches us gently up and down.  It teaches us to be upright in life, to have unassailable integrity.  We are kind.  We use the moment to contribute.  And … the heights we reach draw others up.  People see us when we stand tall.

The horizontal flows to the horizon and beyond.  It encircles the planet to find brothers and sisters in China.  You may be 4’11” (150 cm) and me 5’10” (178 cm) but our eyes are level, perfect for looking deeply into each other.

You have your gifts and faults.  They’re different than the stew that is me.  Both are delicious.  You are essential in the evolution of consciousness here.  So am I.  The world “equal” doesn’t fit but we each have a place.  We stand together, back to back, looking outwards to see how we can serve.

And … what is the magical point where the vertical and horizontal meet?  Who invented that?  What majesties are invisible to our puny eyes, and perhaps always will be?

How can we speak of the mystery?  How can we embrace a mist that melts away in the sunshine?

I don’t know

There is much that I don’t know

What Will I Do in a Place Like This?

What will I do in a place like this?

Lie on the cobbles and watch the sky open

Slalom through the willows, my arms wide

Talk to myself of the world’s wonders

Stand alone, arms dangling, heart at rest

Welcome all who come by

Who will I meet in a place like this ?

An old man with no English and a huge smile

A teacher holding hands with three little kids

Gulls hanging high above the Leie

A five-year-old girl with eyes that see the centuries

The next love of my life

When will I come to a place like this?

At daybreak as the world wakens

When my spot on the bench feels my arrival

When hunger of a different kind gnaws at me

When my feet tell me to

As the lights of evening shine on us all


And …

Why does my heart soar in a place like this?

The Lievekaai in Ghent

Looking … Seeing

I enjoy the difference between those two words. We all look at things. Our eyes take in the colours and shapes before us. No big deal. The big deal is seeing … absorbing, making connections, feeling empathy with the people seen, going to the very centre of what is beheld and lingering there. I like seeing.

Take this street scene in Ghent. There is much to see and reflect upon. I’m tempted to not say a thing about the photo, and just let you discover. Hmm … good idea. You take a few minutes. I’ll get a coffee.


Okay, I’m back. I’ll tell you what I see. First of all, if you can enlarge this picture on your phone or laptop, that will be helpful. The discoveries will still be good if you can’t.

I love curves … also windows. So many of the windows in Ghent have a little curve on the top edge. Passageways as well. It’s also très cool to have brick walls, plus so many colours of brick. And how about windows that are set into the roof? Things that suggest an artistic flair.

When I think of buildings in Canada, everything seems horizontal meeting vertical. How amazing to have diamond shapes show up on a wall. And the roofline of that building isn’t straight. There’s an angle there.

Now for the cool semi-hidden stuff, which will be vivid if you can enlarge: Look near the right edge of the photo. One of the windows is stained glass – barely visible from the outside. But what must it be like to be sitting in there on a sunny day?! I say marvelous.

Finally (Now wait a minute – this isn’t final. Who knows what other mysteries may show up?)

Somewhat finally, gaze at the orange brick wall. Someone is happy to be seeing from above, perhaps blessing us who pass by. And I wonder what is hanging from her mouth.

Only a few homes on only one street in only one city

May we open our eyes wherever we are

One … Two

Recently I’ve discovered a way of thinking that’s very helpful for me. But who knows if it will mean anything to other people? It represents a dilemma that any writer faces: Do you tailor your words to the expected audience or do you simply let loose with what’s in your mind? I don’t know. I want to reach people in my writing. That won’t happen if no one gets it. But then I shouldn’t assume that people won’t understand.

Okay. I’ll just say it.

I’ve asked myself if it’s possible to access whatever “a higher state of consciousness” is … instantly. For me the “higher” would be an experience of lightness, of spontaneous smiling, of profound connection with another person. I looked at the regular, usually boring moments of life and called them “Number One”. Things like shopping for groceries, walking across a busy street or doing my income taxes. There’s a focus on results, a pinpoint of time, a sense of cause-and-effect. It feels ordinary, necessary, the usual moments of our daily life. I know things.

Then there’s “Number Two”. These moments are broad, sparkling, often full of wonder and “not knowing”. Sometimes there’s disorientation, floating, a feeling of “Where am I?” I realize that last part doesn’t sound good but I’m coming to see that it is profoundly good. There are moments of meeting the eyes of another, of the mouth dropping open in communion with them, of being brought to a sacred silence, even as we keep speaking. Number Two.

As recent months have unfolded, I’m often finding that simply by saying “One … Two” my mind switches to the wide open sky, to the sweetness of “being with” another, to disintegration, subsiding, falling with the eyes closed. My experience passes through a gossamer curtain, from “small’ to “big”. I see this as neither good nor bad. It’s just here.

Many times, simply saying “One …Two” creates nothing – no new lightness. But then there are all those other times!

I’m sitting now with the mystery of it all

Something far bigger than me is at work

I’m along for the ride


I sat down at 5:55 pm. Just now, at 7:08, it was over. A few minutes before, some unknown part of me knew that was true, and my eyes opened. I took the wooden mallet in my hand and tapped the side of the singing bowl. A pure ring started as a solid tone and then slipped into a wave … and slowly faded into silence. There’s a moment when I know the tiny vibration is no more. I tapped the bowl three times.

“Should I write about this?” a small voice calls out in the night. “Nobody’s going to understand. Some folks will see your words as ‘hogwash’, as mom loved to say.” It was a funner word than “ridiculous”. Oh, what the heck, I’ll start writing and you the reader can react as you will. I see now that I don’t need agreement about my meditation experiences. If you don’t like it, I’m sure you’ll find something else to read. What’s clear is that I want to share what my last hour was about.

I’ve meditated for fifteen years or so. Sitting for an hour has become ordinary, certainly not an achievement. For the last month, another version of ordinary has been consistently showing up. Within minutes, or perhaps even seconds, I can’t speak. I think of my favourite phrase – “I love you” – but I can’t say the words in my head. I get to the “I” and there’s an extended “ah” that shows up. If I open my mouth to say the words aloud, they don’t come. Today it took maybe ten seconds for me to slip into this realm. It appears to be a signpost that love indeed has embraced me.

If you can slip in, you can slip out. And that happened today. Without any thoughts showing up, I saw “I love you” in my head and they were said, easily. I smiled. And that smile made me happy. Holding on to some cool state is not the way life works. Tonight I said “Bye bye” to the sublimity, trusting that it would return in its own good time. Sometime later in the hour, it did.

I haven’t had many thoughts during meditation recently, but when they come, sometimes in spurts, I like welcoming these old friends. Grunting and groaning, trying not to have thoughts, is a fool’s errand. I’ve been that fool many times. But not lately.

Even when it’s impossible to speak, there are nuances. For part of the time, I felt a wave flowing behind my eyes. I was being carried on that wave, feeling the pulse. Then there was a spell of “shimmering down”, the sense of something bright falling from the top of my head down my face. Later, as if by magic, both of those disappeared and what was left was stillness. No movement at all, no thoughts, and yet keenly feeling the presence of my bedroom. It’s tempting to see cessation as the goal, the shining peak of the whole climb. In my experience, though, there is no goal – no better or worse. There’s simply choosing to sit, and being open to whatever comes by.

At one point tonight, it felt like I was waking up from a deep sleep. My head had fallen way off to the left. As I brought myself back to vertical, I felt a sharp pain in my side. I didn’t remember falling. In some other sessions, I’ve had the sensation of jerking myself out of sleep, the whole body jolted. And now I’m smiling again. Meditation is such a delightful mystery.

So that’s how I spent a recent 73 minutes. I’m grateful to the psychologist who introduced me to meditation way back when. I’m grateful to the Insight Meditation Society in Massachusetts, the site of several silent retreats. And I’m grateful to … what? I don’t know. But whatever it is, it’s here. Time to smile once more.


Those of us who have been on the planet for a fair long spell have probably been asked the question “How are you?” thousands of times.  I bet I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I’ve responded with “Fine” when I wasn’t feeling so.  And quite often, fine or not, I’d go into rambling detail about my current state of affairs, while the questioner wondered why I couldn’t stick to social norms.

For the last few years, I’ve paused after the question was asked, checked the state of the kingdom, and usually replied “I’m happy.”  Most times the other human seemed flummoxed.  “Such a weird answer,” they might be thinking.

Occasionally, I’ve been asked why I’m happy, as if there needed to be a good list of positive events to justify the response.  More often than not, I returned with “I don’t know.  I’m just happy.”  And that’s where I’ve been for weeks.  I suppose you could say that negative stuff is happening, but I remain quietly happy.

I’m not seeing many people in the flesh, and I love talking face-to-face
I’m happy

I miss the kids at school – haven’t seen them since March
I’m happy

The world is grappling with Covid, racial inequality and mean people
I’m happy

My endurance on the cross-country ski machine is declining, as measured by duration and energy output
I’m happy

The arthritis in my right thumb slows down the buttoning process and relegates lid-removing to the left hand
I’m happy

I’m having trouble remembering people’s names, and that used to be a point of pride for me
I’m happy

I don’t know why a blanket of happiness has nestled itself against me, and I don’t care that I don’t know.  It’s very odd to be breathing this air.  It’s tempting to look to my near daily Zoom calls with the Evolutionary Collective as the cause of my little smile, but it’s bigger than that.  I’m not doing anything to bring forth happiness.  It’s just here.

Come on in, my friend.  Would you like a coffee?


A bluebell woodland in England

Terraced rice fields in China

The hills of Tuscany in Italy


I ask myself “What is beauty?” There are many possibilities. Before your eyes are some of the world’s wonders. Drink in the mauves, the spring leaves, the shining waters, the touches of yellow, the feminine curves of the land. Our souls delight in the display.

Of all the images, though, my soul flies to the white horse. She is gazing at all of us, seeking out the end point of her affection. The Earth gladdens the eyes but the breathing being reaches the heart.

My personal favourites are human. They need not be splashed with colour, have cascading hair or smoothness of skin. They might be young, they might not. But there is an entrance to mystery that brings me to silence. And so I abide at the windowsill …

Where Did It Go?

The subject is tanning.  I’ve had a lot of history about the topic.  A lot of angstful energy has accompanied my emerging life.

I knew the truth early: girls like guys with a tan, and I didn’t have one.  In high school, a last minute invite to a friend’s cottage called for desperate measures.  My friend had a gorgeous older sister (age 17) and my body was white.  That just wouldn’t do.  My teenaged mind knew how to fix things though, a day or two before the big weekend: buy a tube of some permatan goop and apply it liberally to all the places that should be brown.  I woke up the morning after application to find that my fine motor skills weren’t optimal.  My chest had gross orange streaks, as did my back.  And my toes?  Perfect ridges of artificial darkness framed by lily white skin.  (Sigh)  It was a forgettable weekend chock full of self-esteem spasms.

The need was still strong as I became a newbie adult.  The backyard, hemmed in by lots of bushes and trees, would provide me the solitude necessary for unselfconscious tanning.  But there was that one neighbourly window staring down in likely disapproval.  During all my darking sessions, I never saw any face looking at me but I bet there were lots of them behind the glass – laughing and immediately posting photos on Instagram.  (Wait a minute … there wasn’t any Instagram.  Whew.)

I remember being called “Whitefoot” for years.  The tan line went down from my shorts to the top of my socks.  Forearms also looked good.  But the rest of me?  Yuck.  And when inattention led to sunburn, I had the distinction of being tri-coloured.  More “woe is me” doldrums.

In prep for Caribbean vacations, I’ve hung around in standing tanning booths.  With lengthy periods of commitment, I emerged looking … good.  Naturally brown.  No doubt a man’s man.  A likely recipient of womanly attention, but on the beach it didn’t seem like any lovely lasses even noticed.  (Sigh again)

At the beginning of this summer, I stretched a robin’s egg blue sheet over a foam pad and toasted my bod on the back patio.  “It’s only June.  Imagine what I’ll look like in August!”


Well, it’s August, and a miracle has happened:

I’m still white
I don’t care
I’ve just lost interest … for the first time in my life

I didn’t grit my teeth.  I didn’t spew out endless and tanless affirmations.  didn’t do anything.  But the need for brown is gone.  How incomprehensible.

The divine force within you is mightier than any mountain

Lailah Gifty Akita

Two Questions

I like questions.  The really good ones are far more interesting than quick answers.  Watching the science of coronavirus unfold, I’m fascinated as I see intelligent public health officials leaning towards “I don’t know” on the knowing/not knowing spectrum.  Some things are mysterious.

I like the question “Who am I?”  I’ve felt into it for decades, knowing that cool answers are far beyond the realms of occupation, gender, age, physical appearance and even personality.  How about that?  A question whose answer remains elusive after all these years.

And sometimes I’m even more deeply lost in a question.  Two of them have enthralled me ever since I was in diapers (okay … not quite).  The first one seems very strange.  The second one infinite.

How did I get in here?

The “here” I’m talking about is this particular human body.  I seem to be inside this basket of flesh and associated structures.  I turn my head to look at something and I swear that I’m behind those eyes, searching for the next new thing.  But why?  How come I’m not inside my neighbour or the host I see on the evening news?  Did someone flick a magic switch and insert me into this body?

Could it be that I’m not really inside this fleshed-out skeleton?  I see a tree out the window.  Why am I not embedded within those branches instead of in this shape that’s sitting on the couch?  Maybe all this interior viewpointing is a mirage.  Perhaps I’m inside you when I gaze into “your” eyes.

Hmm.  I’m getting confused again.  I feel so localized inside this head and chest, but could it be that I’m … everywhere?

However, if I’m willing to accept the consensual wisdom that I’m in this body, may I ask a simple question?  Who put me in here?


Okay.  Enough of that.  Time for question number two:

Does the universe end?

I look around at things.  Take that tree for instance.  I’m staring at it now.  No leaves yet so the branches are in sharp relief.  The wooden parts are “tree”.  The spaces around the wooden parts – grass and sky – are “not tree”.  Same with me when I look in the mirror.  I see Bruce and the shower curtain behind.  That curtain is clearly “not Bruce”.  There’s a point where I end.

Seems clear enough.  But what about the universe?  Does it end somewhere?  If so, what’s outside of the universe?!  The question stops my mind.  It throws me into a spasm of “Where am I?  Where are we?”  Doesn’t everything have to end somewhere?  (I don’t know.)


Woh.  Too much thinking.  Too many explosions inside wherever I am.  Maybe I should just hunker down with a Captain America movie … and a hot chocolate.  Much simpler.


Sitting … Now

The sun is long gone as I open my eyes. From my meditation chair, I see a bit of grey in the sky and the sweep of snow across the field. Soon all will be black, except for two dots of light out past Harrietsville Drive – farms to the north.

I don’t know these folks but I usually greet them at night from my bed or chair:

Hello neighbours.

At this moment the world consists of the candle on my keyboard and the shining twins near the horizon. But I know that sooner or later they’ll have company. (I’ll stop tapping until the mystery guests appear.)

(I’m still waiting.)

Ahh … another light. This one enters from the right and passes through my life so briefly, leaving me at the left edge of the window.

Hello traveller.

And now from left to right flow two lights tied together, one red and one white.

Hello traveller.

I used to call out “travellers” but I soon realized that I couldn’t see who was in those cars. Perhaps it was just a single soul. I find myself hoping that there’ll also be a passenger in the front seat … so the driver isn’t alone.

Who are the human beings who live on those farms?
Who are the human beings who float over the land on the road?
And who exactly is the fellow sitting in this chair?
We don’t know