Listening to the Breezes Beyond Time

I’ve done nothing.  I’ve simply written down what I heard from the Gods

Giacomo Puccini (classical music composer)

Sometimes I structure things, I lay out plans, I have a clear view of the road ahead.  That’s okay.  There’s a certain meek satisfaction there.  But it often feels dull.  Yes, I have to put the work in to accomplish things, and indeed they do get done, but there’s another realm … of juice.

Mr. Puccini wrote twelve operas.  He needed a broad musical knowledge to accomplish that, but there was a beyond.  He listened.  Unknown guides were whispering in his ear, and he allowed himself to fall forward into the mist, to trust that a vaster mind was placing gifts in his hands.  Please, let me be so orchestrated.

I’ve learned not to censor the words that tumble from my mouth.  Oh, I still hear the ancient tones of “Be Careful” but they don’t hold sway.  I respect such acquaintances but I don’t wrap my arms around them.  It’s more like nodding as I acknowledge their presence.

Today was a hug.  As I was doing the Mutual Awakening Practice with a partner, the world was flowing free.  I was being carried by a lilt in the voice, a spring in the step.  And then the revelation landed from the nether regions:

I have happy fingers!

Yes, it was true.  “They get to hang out together, and bobble and wobble together.  The fingies touch and then bounce away.  And you know what’s the best?  They’re all part of this … hand!  They’re part of a whole, one that can wave, and hold things, and rest on my lap.  My happy fingers never get lost out there in the sky.  They have a home – always connected, always a part of something big.”

Perhaps Giacomo Puccini is proud of me today.  I wasn’t measured or effective.  I was dancing to the whims and whispers from other lands.

Day Thirty-Six: Rinzin

I was on a mission. Three girls in Belmont, Canada asked me months ago if I’d bring them back something from San Francisco. They all wanted the same thing: a Tree of Life necklace. I said yes, in the spirit of rewarding people who speak up, who politely ask me to do something.

About two weeks ago in Senegal, I sat with a couple who mostly live in Berkeley, California – where I am. They told me where I’d find street vendors who’d sell these necklaces. So cool to get directions from so far away.

The Evolutionary Collective conference ended on Sunday, and yesterday I set off to find three gifts.

This is the third time I’ve been to Berkeley. I like staying at the YMCA. Each morning, on the way to my favourite breakfast spot, I pass a lovely shop offering Tibetan treasures. It was always too early for them to be open but yesterday my timing was perfect. And who knows, maybe a Buddhist tree of life would be hanging somewhere.

In I walked, to be greeted by a jolly Tibetan soul – Rinzin. In the span of multiple lifetimes, I think he’s been around the block a few times. Rinzin welcomed me with his entire heart and soul. At the top left of the photo I took of him, you may be able to make out the Dalai Lama. My new friend is the person one to the left.

I could feel it: there’s something for me to buy in here. There was a sweetness hanging in the air.

I asked about a tree of life. He wasn’t sure, but went searching. I was absolutely fine with him finding nothing. But lo and behold, he came back with an object of exquisite beauty. I felt a “yes” … such a deep yes that this pendant would be around a girl’s neck in a week or so. I stood there staring, stunned at the silver trunk and leaves of tiny white stones.

Rinzin watched my eyes widen and was ecstatic that he had contributed.

We talked about the exile of Tibetans from their homeland, and his great sadness about that. Then we both wandered off down separate aisles. I looked down and there was a shining stainless steel tree pendant. Yes again. A minute later, Rinzin pranced up with a third. All were different and all were sublime. No street vendors on Telegraph Avenue would be needed. Someone was watching out for the girls and me.

As I readied my wallet, the feeling returned: there’s something else calling me in this shop. My eyes wandered, already softened. And I came upon the banner, hanging high above the cash register. “We must try to do something good.” Yes once more. The kids need to see this. They need to feel the value of contributing. Hopefully the teacher will let me hang the banner in the classroom.

My credit card emerged but again I hesitated. Some other object was beckoning. It didn’t take long for me to discover the oval piece of coral, stained red. Its energy flew out in arrows to the curved edge of the piece. Yes, it needed to come with me as well. The smooth ruby oval was so Bruce.

And then the voice inside boomed out into the world: “You’ll be giving this away too.” > What? No way. It’s for me > “No it isn’t. It’s for life.”

Three girls will receive their necklaces next week. As for the glowing red oval … I don’t know the destination. I just know that it will reside in someone else’s home.

Ahh … the mystery
I’m not here to figure things out
I’m here to act in love
Thank you, Rinzin

Safe Landing

How easily today fades into yesterday.  I planned to blog last night but the last minute events of Friday ran away with me.  Today I fly to Belgium.  Yesterday I did things I love with people I love and crammed packing and erranding between.

The love part was reciting “Twas the Night Before Christmas” to five classes yesterday morning and listening to my friends Liv and Braden sing their hearts out in concert last night.  Wide-eyed 5-year-olds gazed up at me as I jollied my way through the poem.  Their mouths as little o’s transformed into glee as I said “Twas” a second time … really fast.  My record yesterday was one minute and one second.  Oh, what a good boy am I!

My friends form the duo “Tragedy Ann” and they blend beautifully – as singers, as instrumentalists, and most impressively as human beings.  Their love for each other shone from the stage.  And songs such as the haunting “Regulars” shine a light on us human beings, this time the stories of ordinary folks who frequent a bar that is home.

Morning and evening were deliciously slow.  Still, the nasty little voice would sometimes intervene.  “Why did you say “Twas” to so many classes today?  You’ve got a big deadline tomorrow.  And what’s with the concert?  You should be focused on the task at hand.”  Silly voice.  People are infinitely more lovely than schedules.  Don’t worry, frantic one, I’ll get the job done.  I’ll fly from Toronto tomorrow (today) at 6:00 pm.

Other parts of my day were a blur of doingness.  A stop at Best Buy to pick up an electrical outlet adapter for Europe and Africa.  Hmm.  Do I also need it to be a voltage converter?  I didn’t know and neither did the well-meaning salesman.  I bought a combo unit.

The kitchen counter was covered with stuff.  Most crucial was all the health info.  Make sure I take the vaccination card so Senegalese officials know that I’m protected from yellow fever.  And oh, where did I put the bottle of insect repellent – the type with super-DEET?  Clothes for very cold and clothes for very hot …

Wait a minute … I forgot to fill the nyjer feeder.  The new seed that I bought is still in the trunk.  C’mon, go go go!  Scissors to open the bag.  Feeder all dry now in the sink after a good washing.  Remember your physio appointment in London at 2:30.

Feeders filled, birds soon to be happy, I set off for London, just a little late for comfort.  Seven minutes to the freeway and now I can rev it up.  110 kph, not many cars … I’m golden.  I greeted the clinic receptionist with three minutes to spare.  Ahh …

Slow through the session of exercises and muscle stimulation.  That’s better.  But my re-entry into Scarlet got me going again.  “Once you’re home again in Belmont, you’ll have at least two hours of organizing time before you have to drive back to London for the concert.  No sweat.”

And then the moment of the day: At a stoplight, there’s a woman knocking on the passenger window.  She’s holding something.  I roll down the window.  “These scissors were on your trunk.”  Oh my.  “Thank you so much.”  As we started up on the green, I waved to my new friend in the rearview mirror.

Now you tell me … How exactly am I still in possession of my dear scissors?  Is there some benign force that’s wishing me well as I head off into the world?  I say “yes”.  And that voice simply says “Be with people.”




That’s the time I meditated this afternoon … hour and minutes, not minute and seconds. The time doesn’t matter. The space does.

I’ve meditated a lot over the past eight years and it’s sure contributed to my life. These days, however, eyes open beckon far more than eyes closed, talking far more than silence. Still, quiet times in my chair are a blessing.

I only got five hours’ sleep last night, and usually that’s a red flag that meditating won’t work. Oh well, I decided to give it a go.

I went quiet inside within a few minutes. Several times, my body slumped down and then I’d pull myself up a bit later. In the past, the falling seemed to point to a deeper opening of the heart but times appear to have changed. It felt like I was on the verge of sleep, a very peaceful sleep.

What was missing during the first hour was the upswell of love that’s become such a part of me. I was simply blissing in the peace of it all rather than feeling the sweetness of others. And there’s nothing wrong with bathing in the holy water. It’s just that I want more.

Then, as a gift, a tiny smile caressed my lips. I felt the seeping in of love … ever so slowly. It wasn’t aimed at a particular person. It just covered me like a rainbow. Energy was flowing out of me, and the falling was gone. The love was unbidden, undoing and undeniable. I was simply floating with friends on the river which I stumbled upon.

Pushing doesn’t work. Pulling’s not so great either. Something far bigger than me is doing the heavy lifting. Thank you, my mysterious benefactor.

Day Two: UBC and Beyond

I’m sitting in the sun on the University of British Columbia campus, waiting for the Bike Kitchen to open. Check that … I just moved to the shade, since I couldn’t see the darned screen. Made seven spelling mistakes in one sentence, which tends to diminish people’s confidence in my intelligence.

I’m about to impart words of wisdom from my bike mechanic to theirs. So I’m a conduit with very little bike tech knowledge. That’s okay. Surround myself with good people and life works.

I slept nine hours last night – just what my body needed. Headed for the shower to find out that hot water was in short supply. I jumped up and down a lot, probably good practice for the wide variety of campgrounds we’ll face.

I really feel that some mysterious force is drawing me towards my future summer. For instance, in checking my luggage this morning, I saw that I forgot my tiny daypack, which I was going to use for roaming on rest days. But then I realized that the Camelbak water carrier that I’ll wear on riding days will do just fine as a backpack. As for the daypack, I didn’t need it. Then I opened another sports bag to find that the hard plastic glass I was going to use for taking meds was smashed. (Sigh) Seconds later, the words “water bottle” burbled up. As for the glass, I didn’t need it.

After showering, I put my yoga mat under arm and scoured through the residence for somewhere to lay it down. And voilà … a lounge appeared. Eight large windows brought in the sun. At the base of one, a large flying bug was trying to get home. Way up top, a transom window winked at me. As I reached for the handle, Mr. or Mrs. Wide Wings climbed the bottom pane and met me at the opening. And away …

On the road to downtown Vancouver, I boarded a packed bus. Not a square inch available for another human. I said hi to a woman who was dressed in a melody of colours. She smiled widely in response and told me she recruits Asian students for UBC, spending most of the year in India. She’s had marvelous conversations with young people throughout Asia and seemed thoroughly happy with her life. She also thought my bike trip was an awesome way to spend the summer. I so agree. And then I was moving toward the door for my stop. “Goodbye,” we echoed.

Another bus, another woman. Ana and I were both moved when a handicapped passenger implored the driver to make room for a patron in a wheelchair, so she wouldn’t have to wait anymore on the sidewalk. The driver responded. I applauded the courageous woman.

Ana and I talked on the street later as we strolled to our destinations. She’s a coach for Israeli women and loves being a mentor. My story got her thinking how much she loves the bicycle and how she misses being on it. Ana committed to me that she’d ride again soon. And she wants to follow my cycling blog. I responded by offering to send her a copy of the book I wrote about Jody. She accepted.

Ah … the fine folks of the planet.

Shrek and Allie

I saw a musical tonight, performed by the Grade 8 students of St. Mary Choir School.  Twice I taught a blind student there, each time for three years.  But now I don’t know any of the kids and they don’t know me.  What an eerie feeling that is, so familiar with the school, it being part of my history, but now I’m a stranger.

The kids were magnificent in their acting, singing and dancing.  The ogre Shrek seems to be rejected by nearly everybody.  Just a big green “ugly” fellow.  The beautiful princess has eyes only for the lord of the land, someone who hopefully will sweep her off her feet.  Alas, she harbours a terrible secret – a spell turns her into a disfigured green maiden every night at sunset.  How could the prince love a girl like that?

Only a kiss from her true love will transform the princess into eternal beauty.  And finally she sees that Shrek is that love.  His kiss, however, doesn’t return her to Hollywood loveliness.  She remains green but is changed within.  True beauty.

It was such a sweet story.  Let’s all be ourselves and celebrate each person’s uniqueness.


There’s a Part Two to my evening.  Before the show, as I was seeking my seat, I saw a girl who four years ago was a classmate of the blind child I worked with.  I’ll call her Allie.  As our eyes met, she smiled and said “Mr. Kerr”.  We hugged.  And I couldn’t remember her name.  I remembered how alive she was back then, so spontaneous, but no name came to me.  I decided to admit to her that I’d forgotten.  Maybe I shouldn’t have done that.  As resilient as I guessed she was now, it’s hard to be forgotten.  She said it was okay, I found out how high school life was for her, and we wished each other well.

As I watched the play, I was sad.  “Do no harm, Bruce.”  And I never intend to.  I’ve prided myself for a long time in remembering people’s names but lately it’s been a struggle.  As with you, Allie.

At the end, I wanted to find her, to apologize, to tell her how she had made me smile so often back then.  After talking to an old friend for a few minutes, I went in search.  Allie wasn’t in the theatre.  She wasn’t in the lobby.  On a whim, I returned to the theatre.  Nope.  Oh well, I hope you got that I meant no harm.

Time to go.  Back through the lobby … and there she was standing with her friends.  We saw each other.  We smiled again.

“I’m so sorry that I forgot your name.  I remember your zest for life, and I’m sure you still have it.”  My eyes were watering.

“It’s not important.  There were a lot of us.”

“It is important.  It’s your name.”

Two final smiles and then the latest intersection of our lives was gone.  Fare thee well, young woman.

Beyond Reason

Yesterday was my birthday.  I officially turned 48.  Of course I’m also a chronic liar, so my true age will appear inconspicuously somewhere in this post.  68!

When I was a kid, mom told me that I was born at 10:00 am.  So at 9:30 I walked out of my dear condo and headed down Main Street to the Belmont Diner.  I sat at the lunch counter and announced “When I was a kid, mom told me that I was born at 10:00 am.”  Chrystal (the owner, and a very sharp cookie), chimed in with “So it’s your birthday.”  She then proceeded to waltz over to the white menu board and add “Happy birthday, Bruce -72 years.”  Well, not quite.

I took out my phone and saw that it was 9:55.  One more countdown.  I’ve done this every year since I was knee high to somebody’s knee.  As 9:56 appeared in my universe, I started a slow chant: “67, 67, 67, …”.  My companions smiled.

The radio was playing a wee dittie.  I recognized one of my favourites:  Superman’s Song.

I’ve always related to the words.  I’m no Superman, but like him I’ve wanted to do good.  I could be a “hangin’-out-in-the-cave” Buddhist, but that’s not me.  Tarzan had his jungle but I’ve yearned to be like Supe:

Sometimes when Supe was stopping crimes
I’ll bet that he was tempted to just quit and turn his back on man
Join Tarzan in the forest
But he stayed in the city
And kept on changing clothes in dirty old phonebooths
Till his work was through
And nothing to do but go on home

Coffee to my lips, 9:59 became 10:00 and I was 68.  Superman sang on.  What are the chances that words I love would intersect with my birthday moment?

Time for the next song, another Brucio smiler:

I want to know what love is
I want you to show me
I want to feel what love is
I know you can show me

Well, I was 2 for 2.  Unknown forces were flowing around me.  Peace was there.  Wonder too.

Oh, what we tiny humans don’t know

Condo … Part Two


I walked into the Belmont Diner and sat down, ready for poached eggs, bacon, home fries, brown toast … and peanut butter.  When Chrystal saw me, she came right over.  “I was wrong.  Glenn’s condos aren’t on Manning Drive.  They’re on the northeast corner of town, by the water tower.”  Okay then.   Once I finish slurping my coffee, I’ll head out there to get the lay of the land.  Shortly thereafter, the door opens and in walks a guy.  He sits beside me at the horseshoe lunch counter.  Chrystal makes an appearance once more.  “This is Glenn.  And Glenn, this is the guy I told you about.”  Serendipity!

We gabbed and chewed a bit and then he suggested I come over to see the model home.  Fifteen minutes later I was at his doorstep.  We talked and walked for an hour-and-a-half.  From the map of the development, it looked like there was a lot available backing onto the farmer’s field to the north … a long view.  Something I treasure.

There was a cheque in my pocket earmarked for Wellington Manor, the big condo building in St. Thomas.  I whipped it out and re-earmarked it to Glenn.  There.  Deposit delivered.  Home reserved.  Bruce happy.  Should I have done more research, more thinking?  Naw.  Lot 4 at 12 Robin Ridge Drive was calling my name.  Strike while the iron is hot and all that.

In the week between then and now, I’ve met lots of my fellow condoers, mostly by walking around and saying hi.  I even knocked on my next door neighbour’s door to welcome her to my world.  Sharon very kindly showed me all through her home.  Oh my goodness.  In four months I’ll be in a very similar sanctuary, with Bruceness inserted into every nook and cranny.

Glenn and I have pored over the plans and come to an agreement about the design.  And yesterday I went to Patene’s to pick out brick and shingles.  Among the brick colours available for Glenn’s condos was a warm orangish-brown variety, with some of the bricks having a touch of grey or white.  Beautiful.  I asked for the addresses of homes that were built using this colour and found out that only three homes in the entire London region qualified.  “Weird,” I thought.  There were 50 or 60 homes constructed with my second favourite brick – a reddish brown hue.

Oh well, I guess my tastes are different from the vast majority.  I drove off to London to view my colour.  Google had given me directions and the target structure was number 2088 on a curving street.  As the road moved leftward, I checked out the numbers … 2044, 2048, 2052.  And then what to my wondering eyes should appear but a two-storey home decked out in the most lovely orangish-brown brick.  I pulled Scarlet to a halt, got out and leaned against my car.  I just stared.  The brick sang to me.  It was so beautiful.  So warm, so homey, so me.

Tomorrow the journey continues.

Out Of The Blue

I was just at Wendy’s in St. Thomas, having their yummy Asian cashew chicken salad.  It’s freezing rain right now … our first taste of winter.  On the way there, I concentrated like crazy.  Slow, Bruce, slow.  And gentle turns.

Emerging from the restaurant fully satisfied, I poked my way home.  Sometime during the trip, my caution evaporated … and I sobbed for Jody while winter passed me by.  Huge, gasping cries.  How I miss my dear wife.

But where did this fresh grief come from?  I don’t see any trigger.  The last few weeks, I haven’t been crying for Jodiette every day – maybe every second one.  But this, just half an hour ago, was a flood.

Last week I had lunch with my friend Lyrinda.  We had two hours of great talk.  Maybe halfway through, there was another flood.  I was overwhelmed with an immense peace, such that I just sat there with mouth open.  Lyrinda smiled.  And the sublimity continued to percolate through me.  [Oh, my.  I just wrote this stuff and the peace and the tears are both here with me.  Oh … how can they be visiting at the same time?  But they are.  I think I’ll just sit with them for a few minutes.]

Did my written words call forth the peace and the sorrow?  If so, perhaps I can bring into being anything I want, just by saying or writing it.  And yet a big slice of me doesn’t want to perform acts of will.  It wants to let go.  Aren’t the moments of serendipity allowed entrance by open hands, rather than clutching ones?  Well … maybe both can create the sun bursting through the clouds; or 1, 2, 3, 17, 121 … ; or joy.

Day Eighteen … String Bikinis and the Sky Train

Well, what can I do?  Today is Sunday and I haven’t even written about Friday yet.  And memory is not my best subject.  Oh well, I’ll give you an approximation of my life.  Because it’s uncertain business at the best of times.

The front desk clerk at the hotel in Delta (maybe 2o km south of Vancouver) told me how to get to a Sky Train station that would take me downtown.  I got lost, which actually I enjoy doing.  It gives me more chances to talk to people.  Scarlet and I wandered around until we came upon a FedEx office.  In I went, with no valid FedEx purpose.  And the two employees – a man and a woman – were perfectly helpful.  In no time at all, I was zipping along towards the Vancouver skyline in search of some of my favourite haunts.

As I emerged from the underground on Georgia St., there stood the classic Hotel Vancouver looming above me.  I found the row of big windows at the top of the building and remembered.  The winter of 1970-71, bartender’s assistant in the Grand Ballroom (or some such lofty name).  The band playing “Tiny Bubbles” every night as the older crowd danced the fox trot.  Trying to keep my face pleasant, or at least neutral, as the Lawrence Welk tune dampened my soul.  Plus the main bartender was plain mean.  A slave I was.

Next I strolled down Robson St.  I looked up at a second floor restaurant that Jody and I enjoyed when we came for Expo 86.  Farther along was the Landmark Hotel, a very tall fellow.  I had walked Jody up the same side of Robson as the hotel so she didn’t know what was coming up.  “Let’s go in here.”  As so began a breakfast in the revolving restaurant at the top of the Landmark.  We both loved surprises.

On Friday, I hurried towards the front door of the Pacific Palisades Hotel, where I worked as a bellman during the winter of 1973-74.  Reminiscing, please.  I grabbed the handle and pulled.  Locked.  A fellow walking by told me that there is no hotel anymore – just apartments.  (Sigh)

Then it was down the street to the tiny house I lived in, at Bidwell and Alberni.  I already knew that the cutesy one was gone, replaced by layered condo units.  Still, I just had to stand there near the intersection, looking up at the unique deciduous trees that still lined the street.  The trunk went straight up for eight feet and then spread into four or five thick branches.  Cool.

I used to get off my shift at midnight and walk down to the McDonald’s at Robson and Bidwell and enjoy their smallest cheeseburger, smallest fries and a tiny drink.  I’m sure I don’t have to tell you about Friday’s luncheon choice.

And then there was English Bay Beach.  In the middle of September, 1986, Jody and I walked onto the beach at sunset and sat down, propped against one of the huge logs lying there.  The freighter lights were twinkling out in the harbour.  We huddled together.  A ring was burning a hole in my pocket.  I got up.  I knelt down.  “Jody, will you marry me?”  “Yes.”  (Pause)  “Wow, you sure answered quickly.”  (Smile)

On Friday, I sat against what I guessed was that very log, ate my chocolate peanut butter waffle cone, and thought of my dear wife.  Glistening eyes.  Beside me, in front of the next log, three young women were sunbathing, two of them in string bikinis.  Naturally, I averted my eyes.  As I got up to leave, something inside moved me to say to the covered up one, “I have to tell somebody.  Twenty-nine years ago, I asked my wife to marry me in just about this same spot.”  Their eyes softened.  After I painted the picture a bit more, one of the skimpily clad girls said, “You should bring your wife back here.”  Choking up some, I told them that Jody died in November.  Tears flowed from two of the girls.  “May I give you a hug?” one of them asked.  “Yes.”  And I held a sweaty, barely clothed 20-year-old.  Two more hugs followed.  Was it exciting, hugging those young women?  Yes.  Far more importantly, it was a communion.  They each gladly took one of Jody’s books.  And then we were gone from each other.

On the Sky Train heading back to my car, I faced a full house.  That’s fine … I’ll stand.  After the car emptied some at a station, there was one empty seat.  A young woman motioned with her hand for me to sit down.  I did the same to her.  “I’m getting off at the next stop,” she replied.  I smiled and sat … next to another young woman.  She looked at me and said, “I love your T-shirt.  I want to get one.”  “Well, it’s one of a kind.  It’s poetry that my sister-in-law wrote.”  Shine a light upon my day  We talked.  I told her about Jodiette.  “Would you like a copy of our book?  I just gave away the ones I had in my backpack, but I can mail you one, if you like.”  “No thanks.  I’ll just remember the moment.”  “Okay.”  As the train rolled along, we were getting close to my station, and I didn’t know where my friend was exiting.  I don’t remember what she said next but the gist of it was “May I have a book?”  So she wrote down her name and address and will be receiving a package once I get back to Ontario.

How can all this be happening to me?  From which woodwork are these folks emerging?  Actually, it doesn’t matter.  I’m just glad they’re coming to see me.