At the Bottom of the Heap or Standing Tall?

Yesterday was South Dorchester School’s track meet.  Kids from Grade 3 to 6 strutted their stuff.  Many athletes were on display, throwing, jumping and running to exquisite lengths.  I enjoyed their performance but was especially taken with other students.

I saw one girl far back from the field in the Grade 6 girls’ 800 metre run.  Another girl went back to run with her, to encourage her.  They crossed the finish line with their arms over each other’s shoulder.  Just awesome.  What sports should be about.

I watched as some kids jumped only half as far as others in the long jump.  And I saw lots of children get their footing all mixed up in the hop, step and jump.  Gobs of anguish on the field.  Many adults and students encouraged the kids who simply weren’t athletes.

Are the less physically accomplished less valuable as human beings?  Not for a second.

These lessons made perfect sense but they weren’t gut wrenching, since I wasn’t running, jumping and throwing.  They became up close and personal a few hours later, however.

Last night was the first yoga class of six offered at the Belmont Library.  I signed up for the series and headed down.  My classmates were nine women, with grey hair well represented.  I had tried a few classes without much success but now it was time to get back on the horse.

I hadn’t counted on a bucking bronco.

Sitting down with my legs out ahead, I could hardly bend forward.  My feet were a land too far.

Standing on one foot lasted approximately three seconds each time, before toppling behaviour ensued.

Lunging forward sent pain through various body parts, and I had to give myself relief before the sequence of poses was complete.

Throughout all this, my brain brought me back to the kids.  How they struggled.  How I tried to encourage them.  And now it was time to encourage me.  My skills and strength were far below my companions’.  So what?  To use a martial arts term, I was “on the mat”.  I had shown up in the yoga room and was doing my best.  The same as those kids.  They had walked out to the track, to the ball throwing field, to the long jump pit.  And they gave what they had.

I think we’re all fine people.  It’s one thing to be on public display when you’re good at something.  Quite something else when your skills are low and your strength ebbing.  Life seems to throw gain and loss at us, both in liberal portions.  With a little help from our friends, we can handle it.

On The Bike Again … Part One

It’s been months since I’ve ridden my bicycle.  And I get scared whenever I start up again.  I guess it makes no sense, but I have a history.

“How old were you, Bruce, when you learned to ride a bike?”

(Gulp)  “47.”

I was afraid of lots of things when I was a kid.  I knew I didn’t have the balance or confidence to ride.  My parents never asked me if I wanted a bicycle and I never pursued the matter.  Strangely, even though I guess all my friends had bikes, it never was an issue among us.  When I was around, we just walked everywhere.

My first job was flipping hamburgers at Hanlan’s Point on Toronto Island.  I was 17.  One day, my boss took me to the back of the snack bar, pointed to a bicycle, and told me to take a box of frozen patties to the stand on Centre Island, a few miles away.  And then he was gone.  It was just the offending bike and me, staring at each other.  Had I been wearing a heart rate monitor, it no doubt would have read 225 beats per minute.

I’d never even been astride a bike.  But now I was, with one arm wrapped around the frozen food.  Seems to me that there wasn’t a carrier to put the box in.  My feet found the pedals.  My right hand found the handlebar, and I set off.  Within a second or two, my body found the ground.  I remember lying there, thinking that I was the slimiest human being on the planet.  Oh teenage angst … how I know thee well.

I got up, glanced around to find that I was alone, and ran the bike towards some bushes.  In it went, nicely covered by the foliage.  And then … I ran to Centre.  That’s where the memories stop.  I have no idea how much humiliation I swallowed from my peers.  Maybe that’s a blessing.

Fast forward a few decades.  Jody knows about my bike trauma.  She’s taken me at night to a subdivision under construction in Lethbridge, Alberta.  Street lights, asphalt and bare lots.  She pushed, she ran beside, I pedalled.  And I stayed up for a hundred yards or so.  Was I exhilarated?  No.  I was terrified.  At the end of my trip, Jody rushed up to me, saying “You did it!  You rode a bike.”  My response?  “No, I didn’t.”  To this day, I don’t know what that was about.  How skewed is my brain when drowning in fear and embarrassment.

A few YEARS later, I finally agreed.  I could ride a bike.  Did I mention the 47?

Strength

I like myself a lot.  I think I’m kind and compassionate.  I’m working out on the elliptical in the gym and soon with the bike on the road.  So cardiovascular health is coming my way.  But there’s one aspect of life where I’ve always defined myself as “less”: strength.

In 1980 or so, I lost an arm wrestle to my 11-year-old niece Diana.  And yes, I was really trying.  Growing up, I related to that skinny kid on the beach who had sand kicked in his face.  I go the gym now and see the huge weights that some of the men and women are hoisting.  And the “less” starts to grow.

I’ve dabbled in strength training over the past few years, even hired a personal trainer, but I would always find reasons to fritter away my expressed commitment.  During some sessions I was fierce in my determination to do all the reps but then injury or illness always seemed to derail me and my progress returned to zero.

Today I began again.  Light weights but I did my full Day One program.  And oh, it felt good.  I see the opportunity right in front of my nose – to be strong, not with big, blocky muscles, but still, able to grunt my way up hills on the bike, climb stairs with ease twenty years from now, and have my body support my spirit.

One version of spirituality focuses on the sweetness beyond this physical round, on epiphanies of the soul, feeling the depth of the present moment.  Another emphasizes the glory of the senses – the body moving through space, the pleasures of a soft breeze or a fine meal.  But there’s more: the chance to embrace both.

I can be more than my heart and head.  I can include my biceps and quads.  No need for the V-shape but lots of room for a different type of meditation – the intensity of contracting muscles can be in partnership with stillness.

It’s possible that physical fitness can allow me to reach more people with my caring.  I’d like that.

 

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

Who Is Bruce Kerr?

I Googled myself yesterday, but sadly I didn’t exist, at least not within the first 20 pages of “Bruce Kerr” listings.  Oh well.  I’m pretty sure that I do exist.  Guess you’ll have to take my word for it.

I did, however, find many versions of me on the Internet.  So many different lives.  Occasionally, I had pangs of jealousy, but really not much.  I like my rendition of the BK melody.

Here are some folks worth meeting:

***

Bringing more than 20 years of executive-level experience to his role as SVP & President, Bruce applies his expertise in customer management, analytics, loyalty marketing and international markets to build successful corporate and brand partnerships.

***

Bruce Kerr has been a familiar face of Australian film, television and theatre for more than thirty-five years.  His film credits include The Man From Snowy River and Compo (1989 AFI Awards entry).  He has appeared in almost every major Australian television drama including Blue Heelers, Corelli, Neighbours, Prisoner, The Sullivans, Cop Shop and Homicide, and the miniseries The Anzacs and I Can Jump Puddles.  Bruce has also worked extensively in theatre and radio serials.

***

Whether it is the unique light of a winter sunrise across a frozen Midwest pond, the color of a fall leaf against a cobalt sky or the inner workings of the atom, all are subjects for Bruce Kerr’s keen eye.  He has been designing, painting or drawing for most of his life.

***

Loose Bruce Kerr is a songwriter, performer, and music producer living in Northern California.  A native of Waukesha, Wisconsin, Bruce took 20 years off from his legal career to tour the country and the Caribbean, performing as a solo, in a duo with Steve Hoeft, or in his band in New England, “Spud City.”

Following that 20 year span, Bruce resumed his legal career and now is a lawyer working for Oracle in Silicon Valley.  His songs & videos can be heard & viewed on YouTube and here on loosebrucekerr.com.

***

Bruce Kerr, of Monewden, near Framlingham, one of 2,000 UK growers, produces early crops for processing and loose skin Maris Peer for supermarkets on soils ranging from sandy to heavy clay.  He says the council’s research work is important to his business and others in the region.

“Potatoes are an extremely valuable crop to our region,” he said.  “The industry is a large employer locally, so there’s great importance to the wider economy in having a robust and sustainable industry producing potatoes.”

***

Bruce joined the ambulance service in 1972 before working with ARHT, firstly as a rostered ambulance service paramedic in 1993 and then permanently in 1997.  He has participated in over two thousand ARHT rescues and was recognised for this achievement in 2010.

***

Bruce was a humble man who would always lend a helping hand whenever he could.  He was very proud of the students he had taught and in turn they openly expressed he was a great role model.  He was a loving husband and father who will be greatly missed.

***

 Who, me?

Foibles

I’ve lost a step over the years, in one respect or another.  May I gracefully accept these changes, rather than “rage, rage against the dying of the light”.

First thing – I struggle to remember the names of objects that hold other objects, and so in conversation I usually retreat to the most convenient term “container”.  In the moment, as I gaze at the thing, I search (most often in vain) for box, pot, can, jar, basket, bowl, or whatever the heck it is.  Last year, I got scared a lot by this, fretting over whether I had a case of early onset something-or-other.  In the freshness of 2014, I mostly laugh at myself.

Secondly, and more importantly, I can’t squat.  You know, bend at the knees and go down.  In this bod, it’s just not happening.  On golf course greens, I see folks demonstrate this intricate maneuver to line up their putts.  Why them?  Why not me?  And laughing again, who cares?

I used to enjoy driving at night.  Actually, I still do.  I remember passing cars with confidence as the stars twinkled.  Not now.  I just can’t figure out how far away that oncoming vehicle is.  Which happily slows me down.  So my supposed shortcoming allows me to keep to a gentle rhythm on the roads, and I laugh some more at my good fortune.

For decades, I’ve enjoyed remembering people’s names.  They feel good when I greet them personally.  These days, it’s a mite confusing, especially when I see the person in an unexpected environment.  I often guess wrong.  Maybe I should religiously avoid using any name as we talk, but that feels false.  I want to know and be known.  I wonder if my companion senses my caring for them even if I call Jessica “Martine”.  Hope so (he said, smiling).

I can’t handle big meals anymore.  Small portions please, and far less red meat, if you don’t mind.  Now, c’mon, that isn’t a foible, is it?  More like a wise choice.  Makes my tummy feel good and my mouth turn up at the corners.

Lastly, there’s the ticklish subject of extended nose hairs (right now infinitely longer than my non-existent head hair).  Yesterday, I was thumbing through a catalogue which offered sundry consumer ways to be a better person.  I was especially taken with “The Best Nose Hair Trimmer”, which, you’ll be happy to know, is “the only model with an integrated light that illuminates difficult-to-see areas in the nose”.  Well, heck, I don’t really want one.  I’ll just stand on guard for me with my trusty scissors, and the offending downward-seeking fellows will be eliminated from public view.  (Grin)

And there’s my summary of Brucive deficiencies.  I can live with them.  No problem, mon.

 

 

Robin Williams

My favorite film of Robin’s is “When Dreams May Come”.  It’s the story of Chris, a man who’s killed in a car crash and discovers a heaven full of his wife’s paintings.  Meadows of flowers overflow with wild splotches of paint in the most vivid colours.  It is both an internal and external world brought alive, so alive.

Robin’s wife in the film, Annie, becomes depressed after the death of their two children, also in a car accident, and commits suicide after Chris dies.  Eventually he lets go of heaven and descends to the darkness of hell to rescue Annie.  Such a love.

Robin Williams brought so much passion to the screen, and joy.  But it wasn’t enough to be adored by millions.  How can it be that his life was also torn apart by agonies of the mind?  When I look at celebrities, I hope that what I see is what I get.  May the happy faces for the camera also be happy faces for their loved ones.  I once heard Sharon Salzberg talk about Miss Kentucky.  Years after the peak of her fame, she was asked what impact her crown had had on her.  Her response?  “I’m just so tired of smiling.”

I always hope that celebrities are truly nice people, ones who would treat the gas station attendant with respect and good humour.  And treat themselves with respect as well, seeing their own holiness.

We’re so fragile, we human beings.  We want to be good people.  We want to be gifts to the folks around us.  We want to love ourselves.  But the demons arise and sometimes won’t go back to sleep.

***

Actress Minnie Driver:  “My heart’s broken.  Robin Williams was a beautiful, kind soul.  Can’t bear that he’s gone.”

Robin Williams:  “People just want to be entertained.  They see you do something wonderful and they want you to do it again … and again … and again … until they get tired of it and want somebody else … They’ll finally go ‘Harrumph!  Seen that!’  ‘But that’s what you wanted!’  ‘Used to.’  And you’re dead.”