Watching All the World Go By

“Lighthouse is a Canadian rock band formed in 1968 in Toronto, Ontario. Their sound included horns, string instruments, and vibraphone; their music reflected elements of rock music, jazz, classical music, and swing.”

I have proof in my pocket that “included” is really “includes”. In an hour, I’ll be in the front row of Koerner Hall, listening to them rock the house.

I’m sitting on a bench on Philosopher’s Walk, a path I strolled, also in 1968, as a University of Toronto student. Such great memories of open windows at the Royal Conservatory of Music – the tones of violin or voice drifting down. I look up to a glass balcony where I will no doubt be standing at intermission, looking down to a bench once occupied.

People in all their human flavours are moving left to right and right to left before me.

***

Eight runners just zoomed past: young adults, mostly in blue shirts and black tights. Their mouths were little O’s and the heavy breathing sounded synchronized. They were giving ‘er, one of the best parts of life, I’d say.

Now a little boy dressed in yellow, and in a stroller, leading his mom up the path. I say “Hello”. He gives me a sweet smile while she turns away. There is such yinning and yanging in this life.

To the left, just off the path, a grey-haired man gazes at a small sign, in the presence of fourteen trees. It’s a memorial to the fourteen female engineering students who were murdered in Montreal in 1989. His female companion lingers back on the path, looking impatient.

As I type, I hear a woman’s voice coming in from the right. She’s crying. I looked up to see her passing in front of me, laughing with her boyfriend. It’s so easy to get it wrong in this life.

Here comes a portly fellow with three friends. He points to Varsity Arena. “I used to play hockey in there. Our music department team was called the Gustav Mahlers. We were terrible.” The friends smile. Mahler was a Czech composer at the beginning of the Twentieth Century.

I look up. Folks in fancy clothes are on “my” balcony, many of them drinking wine. I’ll share a room with them in a bit. They’re physically above me but we’re all charter members of the human family.

Time to go in. I’ll see you at the break.

***

As I walk to the front of the Royal Conservatory building, a trumpet sounds from above. Windows then and now.

***

I look down from the balcony, down to the twilight trees, down to an empty bench. The CN Tower shines blue in the distance. A couple walk the path hand in hand. All is well.

Presence in Absence

Objects contain absent people

Julian Barnes

I was watching a TV show last night about the wonders of New Zealand and its people. The host was very engaging. He had a syrupy voice that almost hypnotized me at times. At one point, I was nodding off when he spoke the words above. Huh? What did he say about objects? And what does it mean?

The day after, it’s clear. Dear human beings remain in place after they move on in life or in death. They continue to reside in precious objects. Such as …

1. I wrote a book about my loved one, called Jodiette: My Lovely Wife. About 1200 copies are spread around Canada and beyond. One sits on Anne and Ihor’s coffee table here in Toronto. Jody radiates from the pages.

2. The totem poles of Haida Gwaii, a huge island off the mainland of British Columbia, stand guard. Twenty-six of them tilt in the abandoned village of Ninstints. Hundreds of years of the Haida people remain in the wood.

3. I’m sitting in the waiting room of a walk-in clinic on Weston Road. Six others wait with me. The chair beside is empty and I think of the thousands of sick people who have put their rear end down in that spot. May they all have found health.

4. I wandered through the 911 Museum in New York City last week. I came upon a piece of paper, charred at the edges. It was a report about some project that a company was initiating. I imagined some young account executive holding this sheet as he or she spoke to colleagues and bosses. The person was still there in the paragraphs.

5. Value Village is a thrift store in London, featuring lots of quality used clothing. I go to Wellington Fitness next door and often see crowds of folks coming and going with their treasures. I think of the folks wearing other folks’ clothing and wonder if the energy of the previous owner shines through to the new one.

6. I bought a wooden mask in Toubacouta, Senegal in January. The smile is big and the eyes are wide. The fellow offering it said that his great-great-great? grandfather carved it over a hundred years ago. That man’s hands are still in the crevices of the face, in the high cheek bones, in the joy.

7. I’ve been privileged to see many bears in the Canadian Rockies, even the occasional grizzly. And yet most times on the alpine trails there was no sign of the majestic animals. But I would look to the way ahead and realize that the bears were here – I just couldn’t see them. I would sense their footfalls on the dirt and exposed rock.

8. At home I have a ticket stub for a Bruce Springsteen concert in Toronto’s Exhibition Stadium, around 1980. What lives on in that little slip of stuff is … me. A younger version. Dancing in his seat. In love with life, just not as deeply as now.

9. I’m still in the waiting room, and a huge window allows me to look across the street to a brick building. Its side is covered with a mural, depicting Weston Road as it once was. A streetcar rumbles down the street. A two-storey brick building is topped with a bell tower. Mother and daughter are strolling on the porch of what might be a general store. The people are created in paint but they stand in for real folks who walked this street decades ago. And the artist’s love lingers on the wall.

***

Ghosts from the past
Real in the present
Leaning into the future

Day Eight: The 911 Museum

I knew I wanted to go there, to let the sorrow come at the loss of so many human lives. Upon climbing the subway stairs, I saw the tips of a huge silver wing past the buildings ahead. A block later, the whole expanse spread itself before me. The Oculus. Hearts took flight, heads were lifted again after the trauma of 2001.

Now I was approaching a large square reflecting pool, the exact footprint of one of the twin towers. The water flowed into a central cavity. Angled all around the edge was metal plate, on which were inscribed the names of the nearly 3000 victims. Every so often, a yellow rose grew from a name, noting a birthday. I came upon a fellow whose name was Bruce. It could have been me.

Inside the museum stood a cross of girders – a huge rust red symbol of love and hope. Other artifacts, large and small, took their place in history. Papers burned at the edges, eyeglasses beside a toasted case, a crushed fire truck. And the photos, screaming of human anguish. The videos of impact and devastation.

Down a ramp, rectangular images were projected on a wall. They would slowly appear, linger for awhile, and then fade away. These were posters pleading for the recovery of loved ones – friends and family who also faded away, to reappear forever in the hearts of others. One scrawl under a name said it all: “Have you seen my daddy?”

I took a photo, and then spent minutes studying it. Right at the bottom was the smile of Brooke Jackman, a young woman leaning into a delightful life. I decided to stare at the wall until she returned. It probably took twenty minutes … and there she was, for a few seconds.

I looked for Brooke in the Memoriam room. On the walls were colour photos of all who died on 911. A screen allowed me to input her name. Photos of white dresses, beaming parents, friends at a party. An audio clip from mom sharing Brooke’s love of books, even word of a phone call home from a crossing guard, warning that the young girl was crossing a busy street while reading. And then a wavering dad … saying how Brooke always included everyone. Oh my. Real live human beings.

In an alcove, a sign said “Advisory”, warning of disturbing content. And it was. Photos of people jumping from the burning and smoking. Plus a few quotations. To paraphrase one: “She was dressed in a business suit, her hair awry. She smoothed out her skirt (such an innocent gesture) … and fell.”

Another display tucked in a corner told of Flight 93, and the passengers who overwhelmed the hijackers, causing the plane to land in a Pennsylvania field, rather than in the hallways of the White House. Several passengers reached loved ones by cell phone. I heard the spirit of an overcome woman’s words to her husband:

I pray that I will see your lovely face again

I love you

Goodbye

***

Who amongst us would be moved by this place
and the events it describes?

Every single one

A Flood of Humanity

I think balance is a great thing, but sometimes … not. What would life be like if I crammed it with people, taking hardly any alone time? Not so great long term but how about trying it for a day? A friend told me that I love being with people so much that I could pretty much be in their presence hour after hour. Well, yesterday was the experiment. I didn’t plan it out but it’s how it worked out.

8:30 – 10:00

I sat with eleven Grade 9 students, one at a time, and wrote them messages in Jody’s book. I asked each one what they were passionate about and included that in my words. One girl talked about her commitment to make a difference in the world by leading the push for social justice. Very cool.

I also dropped into a Music class and joked with the teacher. I sang “a little number” for the kids – “3”! Some mouths turned up at the edges.

10:15 – 10:20

Messing with the mind of the young woman who served me at the bakery. Bring on the fresh bread! She laughed.

10:30 – 11:15

A late breakfast at Wimpy’s Diner. The section of my favourite server was full so I had only the occasional moments to say silly things to her from afar and give her snippets about Senegal. There’ll be a fuller conversation next time. The woman who did serve me smiled as she gave me extra peanut butter.

11:30 – 12:30

An online call with about thirty members of the Evolutionary Collective. I love looking at all the little rectangles, each containing a human being. I had a partner for part of the time and I told the group afterwards that he was Santa Claus, giving me the gift of himself. And he sure looks like Santa! Some folks agreed.

1:00 – 3:30

Volunteering in the Grade 6 class. I sat at an empty desk and marked Math tests, much to the interest of the kids sitting beside me. “How’d I do?” I showed them, leading to fist pumps and grimaces.

I told the 11-year-olds that I was heading to New York City on Thursday and asked the experienced ones what I should see there. Great enthusiasm came back about the 911 memorial and Times Square. The adult in me (or kid?) also wants to walk in Central Park and see a Broadway play.

4:15 – 5:15

On the elliptical at the gym. The fellow manning the front desk was all excited about turning 24 in two days. We compared ages. He told me that I was probably more fit than him. What delightful nonsense!

I actually had some alone time … just me and the rolling beast under my feet. I managed to get in some good conversation with the elliptical, however.

6:00 – 10:00

Dinner at my neighbours’ place. They were so eager to hear about Senegal and I was happy to oblige. I painted a picture of a very affectionate society and they seemed fascinated with the people I met. Holding hands with children as we walked down the dirt streets was an astounding experience. Overall, we talked and talked about the mysteries of life. Good food, good conversation, good friends. Four hours of quality blabbing.

10:30 – 11:30

Another Evolutionary Collective call, this time about twenty folks. I did a practice with a woman who’d I’d never seen before and within a couple of minutes it was like we were old friends. How is that possible? During the group sharing, I mentioned that my partner and I managed to talk about each other’s eyes for five minutes or more. From the outside, I realize this sounds very weird. From the inside, it was a blessing.

***

So there you have it … a very unusual day. I was nourished by human beings from dawn to bedtime. We’re all so fascinating, so different from each other, but down deep the same. Yay for us.

Extraordinary Ordinary Folks

I was walking down Weston Road in Toronto yesterday and told myself that I needed a hot dog. I didn’t, really. What I wanted was a visit with Rosina. She and her husband George own a tiny restaurant called God Blesses Canada. My history there has been yummy ice cream cones but my shivering bones weren’t up for that particular menu item. A hot dog would do nicely.

Rosina came out from behind the counter to greet me, and once I had unbundled from my winter togs, she gave me a big smile. How lovely to be remembered.

We must have talked for fifteen minutes before I got around to ordering anything. Rosina’s calm reminded me of the folks in Senegal, and I reminisced about their beauty. She was interested in my journey and was happy that I had been welcomed so.

“Any kidnapping of white folks in Senegal?” Ouch. “No, not at all.” > “It’s a big problem where I’m from – Nigeria. I don’t want to go back. Canada is home.”

Rosina told me about her mother. The family lived in the jungle. The women were naked. The men wore some large leaves around the middle to cover the naughty bits. When mom was 12, a man of maybe 25 returned to the home village from the big city, looking for a wife. He picked Rosina’s mother. It was arranged that the girl would live with him in the city. She and her grandma travelled there. The girl, and maybe both of them, entered the city with no clothes on. Can you imagine the trauma and disorientation for the child? The new husband swiftly found her some garments.

Rosina, like her mother, was deposited in an arranged and essentially loveless marriage. How very sad. Since then, Rosina escaped her husband, went to Canada, and fell in love with George. She’s a committed Christian and has served many homeless people in her coffee shops in Toronto and Keswick, Ontario. Rosina wants to adopt a child from Haiti and bring him or her to Canada.

I read a sign in the restaurant that talked about brutal conditions in Nigeria and how Rosina gives in Canada. I looked back at her and saw a glowing face, a kind person. Someone who undercharges me for a hot dog and bottle of water. Thank you, Rosina.

Next on my menu was the Weston Arena, built a very long time ago. It’s the home of hockey teams and a snack bar. I was hoping that the chuckly fellow I’d seen before would be serving up “The World’s Best Fries”. (Sorry, you Belgian readers) And there he was … chuckling.

I asked Wayne “Do you have any of those French fries that are second best in the world?”

“No! They’re the absolute best in the world.”

Okay, Wayne, okay. I’ll stop arguing the point. We continued to say silly things to each other. I sang a snippet from a song to Wayne’s admittedly grumpy co-worker. The guy stared. Wayne doubled over in laughter. I’d like to get to know this guy.

I entered the frozen arena with my world’s best and a Diet Coke. I could see my breath, and in the background were two teams of 12-year-olds – mostly boys and happily a few girls. They were skating like the wind and sometimes getting weak shots on net. It was so cool to see. What was uncool were the two male coaches. They took turns throwing around the F-word, aimed at the referee or an opposing player. What a contrast to Wayne and what dubious role models for all those young folks.

Think I’ll rest my brain cells in memories of Rosina and Wayne. Extraordinary.

Day Seven: Des Gens Extraordinaires

The family Nachtergaele has a cat. We leave for Senegal in two days. Last night, Poopi curled up on top of a piece of luggage lying in the living room. Lydia knows that Poopi knows we’re leaving and she doesn’t want us to go.

We need to be in each other’s presence. We need to love even more than we need to be loved. Both are blessings.

This morning, the family’s housekeeper Karin was cleaning up. She only speaks French, exactly the situation I’ll face in Senegal. I said “Bonjour, Karin.” She returned the favour. I saw her stare at the piece of luggage. Perhaps Poopi left a little poopy – I didn’t look closely. What I did do was furrow my brow in potential translation. I so much wanted to communicate with Karin.

“Le chat dormit au bagage.” That was my best attempt at “The cat slept on the piece of luggage,” although I couldn’t remember how to do the past tense, or the word “on”.

Quite proud of myself, I wasn’t ready for the barrage of words that came back. And memories returned from Jody’s and my vacation in old Quebec City in 2008. The Francophone no doubt thinks I understand a fair bit of French and blasts out a sentence or two at supersonic speed, leaving me in the linguistic dust. But really, who cares? I will love my new Senegalese friends, with or without our mutual understanding of words. Our eyes will make meaning.

Now it’s later in the morning and Pil and I have been talking at the dining room table. I still have happy memories of the 12% (!) beer we shared in Bruges yesterday. We look out over the back field and watch flocks of pigeons fly. Pil is so happy to teach me about local things. These pigeons will hang around some more, as long as the weather stays warm (5 degrees Celsius) but when winter sets in, they’re off to Spain.

Down by the pond, the orange leaves of a weeping willow are waving in the breeze. The two Shetland ponies are searching for the best grass. Mom is about thirty and son around ten. They have each other. An orange-headed woodpecker has just stopped for a visit near the window. Peace is here.

Away up on the horizon, vehicles move left and right. Who are those people? Where are they going? Do they have the same joys and sorrows that I do? Of course.

***

This evening two families enjoyed food at a Chinese restaurant. Liesbet is Lydia’s best friend and the two of them sat side by side, joking in Flemish most of the evening. The love between was as clear as a moonlit night.

Both Lydia and Liesbet had gifts for all of us. Liesbet and Lode gave me two jars of mustard created in Oudenaard. Lydia presented me with a quill pen – a fine white feather inscribed with “Dream On.” It’s so sweet to be included.

The meal and the wine were delicious but eating was just a convenient excuse to be together. The four kids gabbed away, and so did we five adults. My goodness, I’m part of a family after being alone for four years.

I said silly things to the servers and at one point started eating a decorative onion. Anything to get a laugh out of people. I threatened to approach the table next door to see if they were as nice as us but Lydia held me back. I enjoyed myself so much.

I’m in Belgium. Sure the streets wind so exquisitely and are often cobblestoned. Sure the buildings are ancient and the old brick shines in the sun. Sure the beer is strong and the wine sublime. But give me people any day.

We were together
I don’t remember the rest

Walt Whitman

Day Six: Bruges

Pil, my pheasant-feeding friend from two days ago, asked me if I’d like to visit Bruges, known as “The Venice of Belgium”. Of course I said yes. “Carpe diem” … Seize the day.

Our first stop was to visit Pil’s longtime friend in downtown Bruges. Lucas is an optician whom my dear amiga Lydia calls “crazy”. Crazy strange and perfectly wonderful.

We walked through the door of his shop and approached a grey-haired man dressed in black. Pil had alerted Lucas that a wayward Canadian was going to show up today. After an initial moment of eye contact, Lucas extended his hand and said:

“Jesus ____ Christ. You look just like Jesus.” I laughed. No one had ever seen that epitome of holiness in me before. This was a character all right, but then again so am I. On the way to Bruges, Pil told me a story about Lucas. Seems that he once entered a party and announced “Is anyone up for an orgasm?” After a beat of silence among the partygoers, he added “Even a little one?”

Lucas had to get back to work and his wife Ann offered us a coffee. Yum … very strong stuff. We were invited to check out their home a few blocks away, and it was a marvel. Part of a long string of ancient brick houses, inside it was a wonder of African art. One tapestry seemed to have animal teeth embedded in it and there were many statues of tribesmen. The place was somehow both fierce and serene.

The city was as advertised – brick buildings hundreds of years old, often with the fronts of rooves rising in a step pattern. There were two or three main canals with countless narrow ones branching off. Tiny grassed backyards gave right onto the water.

Cyclists were everywhere, even after a heavy rain. On one downhill stretch of cobblestones, I was astonished at the ease with which these folks navigated the slippery surface. A pair of riders would be looking to each other while deep in conversation, with cars squeezing by on the left. Truly a wow.

Pil wanted me to experience a genuine Belgian libation so he ushered me into a pub. He ordered a huge bottle of 12% Benedictus beer for us to share. A couple at a nearby table were staring at the bottle and Pil called out to them for a conversation, the same thing I’m known for doing. Kindred spirits, these Belgian and Canadian guys.

Back at Lucas’ shop, I told him “Lydia thinks you’re crazy … and she loves you.” Lucas grabbed me in a powerful hug, laughed like a fanatic, and said “Tell Lydia that I love her too.” An hour or two later, I did.

My new world is full of big personalities, and what a blessing that is. Together we drink deep from life, laugh from the bottom of our bellies, and smile a lot. Good for us.

Day One: Toronto Airport

I was supposed to show up here three hours before my flight time. As it turned out, four hours was the actual result. Late morning, I said goodbye to my friends at the Belmont Diner and headed down the freeway to Toronto. You might say I was flying high, listening to the sound track of Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, and belting out the tunes. My audience was simply me, and I was feeling my oats.

Am I really doing this? Belgium. Senegal. Human beings I’ve never met before. So cool. What wonders will reveal themselves in the next three weeks? Who will touch my heart? I sense that life will unfold as it should.

Nothing is fazing me today. Let’s have stuff go wrong. Who cares? First up on the problem list was the fact that KLM’s counter wasn’t open yet. Oh well. The next task was finding a place to sit. I roamed the concourse without success, and marvelled at the faces passing me by. Who are they, really? Where are they going … in life and airplanes?

I finally found a seat. I whipped out my phone to see how many folks had viewed my latest post on WordPress. I really shouldn’t concern myself with such things, but what the heck – I’m human. Some of me needs to be loved.

There were momentary things, such as not having my passport ready for the KLM attendant. She smiled. Not remembering how to go through customs with minimum strain. Moderate strain only cost me a few extra minutes. What’s that in the span of my life? Nothing at all.

Now I’m in a bar near Gate C31. Chicken wings and a beer basically cover all of Canada’s main food groups. I’m happy, even with the fellow two seats down continually swearing into his phone. The self-esteemed version of my identity is complaining that I should have spoken up. I suppose, but nothing is going to waver my well-being on this day.

TV sports are overhead. The highlight show on TSN shows the best of the best – impossible catches, miraculous saves and slow motion flying through the air. It’s better than blooper shows, where an athlete’s poor decision-making creates angst in the human breast.

On the other TV, jocks in suits are revving up their testosterone on a variety of topics. They’re not exactly yelling at each other but the venom curls their lips. No thanks. Give me the awesome pass any day.

My next experience is sitting in the departure lounge. Apart from the multitude of humans lined up, almost everyone else is staring at their electronics. (Wait a minute … so am I!) All around me are colours, shapes and ages. Lovely. I’d like to talk to them all but no one seems interested. That’s okay.

Once I’m on the plane, I expect that I won’t be able to send this post, so here’s Bruce signing off. Seven hours to Amsterdam and then a short hop to Brussels, and my friends Jo and Lydia. Yay! See you tomorrow.

Coffee Shop

I’m sitting in a Tim Hortons in London, gazing at the span of humanity before me. People-watching is so much fun.

Across the way, two guys and a girl, all seniors I’d guess, are having a grand old time. They’re probably setting a world’s record for laughs per minute. I can’t quite hear their topics of conversation but it seems like they’re not laughing at anyone. It’s more like they’re chuckling at life. Every so often they greet someone in line so these folks must be regulars.

Off to my right, another old guy sits alone. He’s wearing a grey plaid beret, plus a scowl. Wow, does he look unhappy. His arms are crossed and he’s looking down. Such a contrast to the laughers nearby. I ponder going over and talking to him, but leaving him alone and wishing him well feels like a better plan. So that’s what I do.

I look at the teenager who served me half an hour ago. Her face is pretty, when you think of Hollywood. It’s buried, however, under a white coat of makeup. And there’s a paleness about her spirit too. She filled my order with the contact of a robot. I felt like a “thing” in her eyes. Still, I also wish her well. May she discover what’s truly beautiful in our world.

Now a young guy sits down with the laughers. Green ball cap, camouflage jacket, heavy growth on his face. F-in this and F-in that. Complaining about someone or something almost continually. The smiling ones adjust and smile some more.

I switch seats to watch the parade of cars at the drive-thru. Faces waiting in line:

A young man at the wheel, passenger seat empty, an elderly woman in the back. What does that mean?

A 60-something woman wearing a bright red coat, surgical mask tucked under her chin. What could this story be?

A blue Dodge Ram truck looming above me, with two bearded fellows talking loudly to each other.

A teenaged girl driving her mom, I suppose -the young one gesturing in the air and the old one smiling.

A black SUV climbs the curb. Inside, there’s a grey-haired fellow with a black coat and sunglasses. I look to see if there’s an earpiece.

And beyond the drive-thru lane is the traffic on Wellington Road. The flow of human beings, slowed only by red lights. I’m in the midst of us and it’s a pleasure to be here. Home is not alone. Home is with you.

Empathy

I listened to Stan Rogers last night.  His spirit and songs poured from the mouths of his loved ones.

Stan was a Canadian singer-songwriter who died on the tarmac of the Cincinnati Airport in 1983, of smoke inhalation.  He lives on.

Stan’s daughter Beth sang 45 Years to us.  It was a love song to his wife Ariel.  As Beth’s voice soared, I cast a few glances to Ariel, who seemed lost in love.  At the end, she told us that their 45th anniversary was a month or two ago.  Oh my.

Where the earth shows its bones of wind-broken stone
And the sea and the sky are one
I’m caught out of time, my blood sings with wine
And I’m running naked in the sun
There’s God in the trees, I’m weak in the knees
And the sky is a painful blue
I’d like to look around, but honey, all I see is you

The summer city lights will soften the night
Till you’d think that the air is clear
And I’m sitting with friends, where forty-five cents
Will buy another glass of beer
He’s got something to say, but I’m so far away
That I don’t know who I’m talking to
‘Cause you just walked in the door, and honey, all I see is you

Stan walked into the shoes of ordinary Canadians, feeling their pains and joys.  The poet helped all of us know …

1.  The Alberta Ranch Wife  (Lies)

Then she shakes off the bitter web she wove
And turns to set the mirror, gently face down by the stove
She gathers up her apron in her hand
Pours a cup of coffee, drips Carnation from the can
And thinks ahead to Friday, cause Friday will be fine
She’ll look up in that weathered face that loves hers line for line
To see that maiden shining in his eyes
And laugh at how her mirror tells her lies

2.  The Prairie Wheat Farmer  (The Field Behind the Plow)

Watch the field behind the plow turn to straight, dark rows
Feel the trickle in your clothes, blow the dust cake from your nose
Hear the tractor’s steady roar.  Oh you can’t stop now
There’s a quarter section more or less to go

And it figures that the rain keeps its own sweet time
You can watch it come for miles, but you guess you’ve got awhile
So ease the throttle out of air, every rod’s a gain
And there’s victory in every quarter mile

Poor old Kuzyk down the road
The heartache, hail and hoppers brought him down
He gave it up and went to town

And Emmett Pierce the other day
Took a heart attack and died at forty-two
You could see it coming on ’cause he worked as hard as you

3.  The Great Lakes Seaman and His Girlfriend  (White Squall) 

The kid was so damned eager.  It was all so big and new
You never had to tell him twice, or find him work to do
And evenings on the mess deck he was always first to sing
And show us pictures of the girl he’d wed in spring

But I told that kid a hundred times “Don’t take the lakes for granted
They go from calm to a hundred knots so fast they seem enchanted”
But tonight some red-eyed Wiarton girl lies staring at the wall
And her lover’s gone into a white squall

4.  The Nova Scotia Fisherman  (Make and Break Harbour)

Now it’s so hard to not think of before the big war
When the cod went so cheap, but so plenty
Foreign trawlers go by now with long seeking eyes
Taking all where we seldom take any
And the young folk don’t stay with the fishermen’s ways
Long ago they all moved to the cities
And the ones left behind, old and tired and blind
Won’t work for a pound, for a penny

In Make And Break Harbour the boats are so few
Too many are pulled up and rotten
Most houses stand empty, old nets hung to dry
Are blown away, lost and forgotten

***

Thank you, Stan
We hardly knew you
And now we know you