Moistened

I feel like writing a poem.  The challenge is that I have no topic in mind … no plan.  No rhyme or reason.  (Wait a minute, I think I just made a poetry joke!)  I’m sitting here with bits of snow falling through the sun.  Special enough to let fly with unpremeditated verse.  And I don’t even care if you like it!

So here goes:

Underwater there is no understanding
The breathing is fine as the bubbles rise up
Suspended, gyrating and upside down
I lean into the wayward current

Down here I don’t have to be smart
Being witty and eloquent is a waste of time
As the water surrounding me, the words flow by
Unknown as the source, unknown as a goal

The arms straight out, rounding their tiny circles
The legs straight down, reaching for the core
The eyes wide open, so very well lubricated
And the heart sloshing away in the wetness of it all

I could live down here with some lessons from fish
I could thrive down here as the seaweeds wave greenly
And if I die down here, all will be swept away
As I retreat to the pebbles below

Perhaps I’ll burst above the surface of the sea
And arch my back to the rising sun
Propelled to the up and off to the sides
The horizon says “Hi!” on my way

Why not the middle, lying on the waves?
Ticked underneath, shone upon from above
On my back, feeling the massage of all time
In my smile as I’m cradled to sleep

That’ll do nicely.

Listen

Those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Someone does something which I call “strange”, such as dancing by himself in the broad expanse of a train station.  What song of freedom is blessing his sweeping arms?  What’s transparent to him that’s opaque to me?  Perhaps at this moment in my life, I don’t have the ears to hear the sweet melody.  And that’s okay.  I can still smile in the presence of a free human being.

Maybe, though, I won’t smile.  Maybe I’ll conclude that there’s a drunk in front of me, swirling and twirling just before stumbling to the floor.  A philosopher named Ken Wilber talked about the “pre/trans fallacy”, in which another’s behaviour appears to be deficient, even pathological.  But it may in fact be something above normal, something that reaches for the stars rather than puddling in the gutter.

Could it be that some of us see connections that are invisible to others?  See through a self-imposed roof to the glory of sunshine?  Say “What if?” and “Why not?” rather than languishing in “the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.”

I don’t want to “regress to the mean”, as in having my life get ever closer to the mediocrity – the vanilla – of “average”.  I want to fly across the dance floor, drinking in both the applause and frowns of onlookers.  I want to feel the praise and blame falling off me to the floor.  They’re both imposters after all.  I yearn for the real thing.

True

Last night I watched the movie Mulan on Disney Plus.  It’s a story of ancient China.  Invaders from the north are threatening the country and the Emperor declares that each family must give a son to the war effort.  Mulan is a girl of 16.  She has no brothers.  Out of honour, her hobbled father says that he will join the fight.  To protect him, Mulan disguises herself as a boy and leaves home under the cover of darkness.

Mulan and her fellow recruits are trained not only in skills and strength but also in values.  At one point, the General has them unsheath their swords and raise them to the sky – being loyal … brave … true.  Mulan’s arm reaches straight up and she yells the word for the first two, but not for the third.  Despite her commitment to family and country, she is living a lie.  Later in the film, she reveals that she is a woman.

I loved the movie.  After going to bed, I laid back and replayed my favourite parts on my phone.

Morning came.  Lying amid sleep and wakefulness, words started tumbling from me.  “Sweetness and light.”  “There is love in the world.”  “Simply this.”  I wasn’t thinking … the words just bubbled up from Nowhereland.  As my mind began to focus, I thought of tonight.  I thought of what I might write in my blog.  I remembered reading someone’s turn of the phrase that made me laugh: “loose in the vowels”.  Yes, my vowels were loose in the hour before sunrise.  That’s what I’d write about.  Besides, it was a clever title (not mine, however).

After showering, I took out a piece of paper and wrote down the phrases that I told you about.  “A good start.  Every time there’s another flow from my mouth, I’ll write it down.  Maybe I’ll have twenty of them by suppertime – plenty for a blog post.”

Now, here’s the rub.  During the day, I tried.  I’d sit in the meditation chair and allow my mind to quieten.  It was a classic means to an end: Meditation → Quiet Mind → Bubbling Words → Post.  So much for spontaneous.  As I lay in my bed again an hour ago, accompanied by my trusty sheet of paper with eleven examples, I returned to Mulan.  What I was doing wasn’t true.  It was narrow and strategic rather expansive and mysterious.

No thanks

I got up, placed the sheet in the recycle bin, and smiled
Now I know what I’m going to write about

Day Eighteen: Newcomers Welcoming

New to me. The couple sat on the patio of Keur Saloum, one table away. We Belgians, Senegalese and Canadian crammed together nearby, laughing in three languages. I said several silly things, such as one comment aimed at Marie-paule, Lydia’s mom. We were both taking up residence for a few days at Eddy’s bed-and-breakfast. “Marie-paule est dans la chambre cinq. Je suis dans la chambre … cinq.” (Marie-paule will be in room 5. I’ll be in room … 5.”) Much laughter erupted, and as I glanced over to the next table, the woman was smiling.

As our conversation continued, the couple talked together – in French I believe. Once in awhile, she’d look over to us as our words spilled out. Smiling again.

Lydia brings people together. As our group got up to leave, she bubbled over to our neighbours en français. The conversation among us all sped up and I was left in the dust. Fast French means no French for me. After awhile I walked over to the flowering bushes to watch the sunset on the river. As the disc fell behind the trees, leaving its pink glow, I returned to our tables. All the Lydiaists were standing and inching towards the exit ramp.

It felt like the woman next door was looking straight at me but she may have been taking us all in: “Would you like to stay for a drink?” I looked at the barely receding feet around me and responded “No, I want to get to dinner.” The woman across seemed to lower her head. Then somehow words kept falling out of people’s mouths. I stood there, passive on the outside and churning on the inside.

The movie Dead Poets Society came through – the one where Robin Williams teaches a bunch of high school students about life. “Carpe diem” he would say … seize the day. “And Bruce, isn’t this a perfectly good day to seize?”

As feet really did move one after the other in farewell, I reached down to the nearest chair and pulled it over to the couple. Yes, let’s talk.

We did so for three hours. In another seizing moment, I said yes to having dinner with Julie and Luc. Happily we talked about our lives – rehabilitating elephants, working in the Belgian embassy in Dakar, seeing big white birds land on an island at sunset so they could be together overnight, living with cancer loss, volunteering with 11-year-olds, eating a delcious meal in Keur Saloum … just everything.

There was communion at our evening table … three discovering friends savouring the flavours of relationship. It was all so cozy.

We hugged and shook hands goodbye. Will this be the end of it or will there be a friendship which endures? Using Lydia and Jo as an example, there may be many more dinners to come.

Unbounded

Write five words you can spell

five
words
you
can
spell

What ended in 1896?

1895

(On a physics exam) What is the strongest force on earth?

Love

Expand (a+b)ª

(a+b)ª … (a + b)ª … (a + b)ª … (a + b)ª …

The man can ______. (rub, run, rug)
The man ______ the dog. (fit, hit)

The man can run.
The man pet the dog. (You should not hit dogs)

Write an example of a risk.

This

You are to assume the role of a Chinese immigrant in 1870 and write a letter home describing your experiences.

頁 – 設 – 是 – 煵 – 엌 – 嫠 – 쯦 – 案 – 煪 – ㍱ – 從 – つ – 浳 – 浤 – 搰 – ㍭ – 煤 – 洳 – 橱 – 橱 – 迎 – 事 – 網 – 計 – 簡 – 大 ㍵ – 畱 – 煵 – 田 – 煱 – 둻 – 睤 – ㌹

浳 – 浤 – 搰 – ㍭ – 煤 – 洳 – 橱 – 橱 – 迎 – 事 – 網 – 計 – 簡 – 大 ㍵ – 畱 – 煵 – 田 – 煱 – 둻 – 睤 – ㌹

煵 – 엌 – 嫠 – 쯦 – 案 – 煪 – ㍱ – 從 – つ – 浳 – 浤 – 搰 – ㍭ – 煤 – 洳 – 橱

Name the shapes: Δ Ο ◊ ∠ Ω

Δ (Bob) Ο (Terry) ◊ (Denise) ∠ (Murphy) Ω (Barb)

(Test on hard and soft water) Briefly explain what hard water is.

Ice

What do we call the science of classifying living things?

Racism

Solve: 1/n sin x =

funny-test-answers-smartass-kids-6

I earn money at home by _______.

I don’t. I am a freeloader.

Can a man still reproduce with one testicle?

No, girls don’t find that shit attractive.

The difference between 180 and 158is ______. Explain how you found your answer.

22. Math.

Where was the American Declaration of Independence signed?

At the bottom.

What happens during puberty to a boy?

He says goodbye to his childhood and enters adultery.

Cause: Tony practices the piano 20 minutes every day.
Effect: __________

He is a big nerd.

To change centimeters to meters you __________.

Take out centi.

Tapeworms are hemaphrodites. What is meant by the term “hermaphrodite”?

Lady Gaga

Miranda can’t see anything when she looks down her microscope. Suggest one reason why not.

She is blind.

How many days are in a week? ______
How many months are in a year? ______
Is this number even or odd? 68 ______
How do you know? ______

How many days are in a week? … 7
How many months are in a year? … 12
Is this number even or odd? 68 … even
How do you know? … because I’m smart

***

Aren’t we all

Visibly Wrong

For the second evening in a row, I sat in the middle of the front row in Koerner Hall. Last night was a celebration of the life of Charles Aznavour, a French singer and composer or co-composer of 1000 songs.

The young man who played Charles was full of the spirit of life. It shone in his eyes, his voice and in his widespread arms. And I sat at his feet. He was surrounded by other brilliant musicians, playing keyboard, drums, stand up bass, and accordion. The songs were haunting, and almost all of them were in French. I can compose sentences on French but figuring out the fast speech of others is very difficult.

Koerner Hall seats about 1100 people and I was happy to be at the front of things. I don’t mind being seen. In fact, I love being seen … and heard.

At one point, the young Charles asked for requests. I heard voices behind me and knew I’d participate. Before the concert, a friend had waxed poetic about the song “Mamma”. I didn’t know it, but why not?

“Mamma!” I yelled.

Charles stared down at me, with a quizzical look.

The woman to my left nudged me. “He sang that one two songs ago.”

Oops. If I wasn’t just so darn loud. I imagined 1100 snickers behind me.

Happily, I didn’t let this minor interruption slow down my zest for the music. Why dampen myself? Why waste energy slumping my soul? Life continues to request that I live it.

Fast forward to the last song of the concert. I pretty much knew this was the last song because things were coming to a close … in French. The real Charles made an appearance on the big screen, accompanied by the words “You will always live in our hearts.” The instruments were swelling up to a grand finale. Yes, this was the end.

The last note hung in the air and I burst from my chair in a raucous standing O. I clapped and clapped. My excellent peripheral vision showed that no one else nearby was erect. And once more young Charles was looking down at me with … curiosity.

Anothe nudge from the left. “They have a few more songs to do.”

Ahh … to be bilingual. But no matter. I held my head high and enjoyed the rest of the concert, taking my cue from other folks about when to stand again.

Sticking out like a sore thumb. I smile at the thought of it.

The Play’s the Thing

How many times in life have I told myself something and then proceeded to do the opposite? Many! I’m so right about something and then in the next day’s breath my vision shifts. There’s a bending here, a flowing rather than a solidity. And I like that.

To supply you with an example, I received an e-mail from the Port Stanley Festival Theatre a month ago, one which waxed poetic about their summer season. “No thanks” was my response. “I have three airplane trips planned and when I’m home I want to kick back rather than stretch out for more.” Now that sounds logical and wise, right? I sure thought so.

Then was then and now is now. I’ve been sitting in the Marienbad Restaurant in downtown London, enjoying a non-alcoholic Heineken beer and yummy portobello penne pasta. Mid-yum, I glanced at my phone … and there was another Port Theatre e-mail. “Last chance!” Without a shred of thought, I started in on picking a package of six plays and what nights would work. Strangely, I was confident that concert dates between plane trips would magically appear, and they did (except for Ed’s Garage, which is on in early August).

I was on a mission and didn’t have a clue what was happening. “They’re all comedies. I hate comedies!” Here’s one about the Donnellys in Lucan, Ontario, and their murdering ways. Or a father and son smilefest. And how about a story of the pastel beauty and ridiculous situations in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia?

Here I am, the proud owner of a ticket for each of six plays, taking me to late August. If one of you wants to go to Ed’s Garage, comment after this post and I’ll send you the ticket.

Oh Bruce, I hardly know ye!

Kids’ Play

There’s nothing like the annual Christmas play in elementary school.  Today I got to watch a practice.  How marvelous to see children be children.  I tried to imagine adults doing all the cool stuff I witnessed.  Sometimes the imagining was a stretch.

One young lady has perfected “Bah humbug!”  It wasn’t just her face, which was a contorted mask of fury.  Her whole body got into the act, crouching down in a spasm of scowl.  I just had to applaud.  Sure wouldn’t want to meet her in a dark alley.

Three elves, two girls and a boy, were doing their conversational thing.  The fellow kept extending his ball of greenery towards the nearest girl.  Mistletoe!  She cringed and backed away from him, fending off the offending amour with her arms.  Then he did it again … and so did she!  Ahh, the battle of the sexes.

And soon there were grandma and grandpa, expecting holiday mail.  At the end of the scene, the darling couple exited the stage with their twin canes, slow and bent over as I hope I never am.  (Good luck on that, Bruce)  How strange to see 10-year-olds hobbling along in pain.  My brain just couldn’t make sense of it.  Good acting.

Next was the mailman, striding onto a long white box which doubled as a slippery sidewalk.  Down she went in a heap, slip-sliding away.  Letters and presents tumbled every whichway.  Pure slapstick fun.

Also, what would a Christmas play be without reindeer?  Eight of them lined up on the box, with antler heads proudly displayed.  Arms were flying in the air and mouths bellowed the good and bad.  What a motley crew … and immensely lovable too.  You should have seen them all hopping off at the end.

My favourite moment was when a young girl was pleading with someone  – I think the mailman.  Hands in prayer position … imploring, begging.  So good.  Soon to be followed by another girl, crying her eyes out, in the best tradition of drama.  Angst always gets me.

I smiled a lot
I clapped
And I wished that more than a few of those kids were mine
Maybe next lifetime

Thumbs Up

I walked into the Belmont Pharmacy today, supposedly for no useful purpose.  Actually I figure saying hi is quite useful.

Suzanne greeted me and we blabbed a bit.  About what I can’t remember.  But I got really excited about something.  In a fit of verticality, I threw my arms into the air.  Unbenounced to me  (Wow.  I don’t know how to spell that word.  Excuse me for a minute while I take a SpellCheck break.)  … …  Now, where was I?  Oh yeah …  Ouch.  Apparently the word doesn’t exist.  All I got back was “undenounced”.  I’m pretty sure that’s not the same.  Okay, let’s try Google  … …  Ah hah!  Unbenownst  →  “without the knowledge of”.

I realize that was a lot of further ado, so let’s cut to the chase.  My right thumb smashed into a plastic sign hanging from the ceiling.   My soul yelped and my thumb gushed red.  Darn blood thinners.  They’ll get you every time.  Quick like a bunny, Suzanne passed me a paper towel.  I love it that Bounty is the quicker picker-upper but I guess I needed three-ply.

Suzanne didn’t have any Bandaids except for those nestled in boxes for sale.  I didn’t want her to break open a package so I headed to the Diner, grasping said digit.  Chrystal saw my scarlet plight and got me a couple of Elastoplasts (I’m an equal opportunity adhesive bandage guy).  Being a righthanded dude, I couldn’t get the paper off so I approached a table of local women and Sue did the deed.  Off to the washroom and soon I was well covered.  I decided not to go with the flow.

That’s enough dramatics, Bruce.  We’re not exactly talking heart surgery here.

Much of the rest of my day was humbling.  I was a whiz at peeing but how does a thumb deprived human get his pants done up again?  Then I was trying on winter boots at Mountain Equipment Co-Op.  I couldn’t shove my insoles down deep but Janique came to the rescue.  She just about had to do up my laces but I managed a loose approximation of the task.

You know, the thumb is an awfully valuable tool out there in the world, not that I was aware of the fact before today.  I was fumbling, again and again.

Somewhere along the way, in a quiet moment of digital repose, a thought crossed my frontal lobe:

What did you learn today, Bruce?
Do you avoid all exultations in the spirit of painfree thumb wholeness?
Or do you throw yourself into the air whenever a deeper spirit moves you?

I vote for the jump-up

Up In The Air

It’s quite possible that I’m a strange person.  For instance, I keep testing gravity.

I was lifting weights at Wellington Fitness yesterday.  My dear friend Karisa works there and today her boyfriend Nick was working out.  She’s so much in love with her man and today I got to meet him.  He seems like a fine fellow.  Later, I told Karisa that I hope their love continues to blossom and that they grow old together.

I was standing at the front desk, so very happy that she’s happy.  I was drinking my protein powder from a shaker cup.  Without apparent thought, I threw the cup way high into the air, close to the ceiling.  The toss wasn’t as straight up as I’d hoped, and I rushed forward to make the catch.  It was a glancing blow and then a smash on the floor.  Vanilla goo flowed freely.

For a bit I just stared.  Did I really do that?  Apparently so.  The puddle was immense and Karisa found me some paper towels.  I soaked and wiped and soaked some more.  And then Brandon showed up with a mop.  I was happy, not embarrassed or guilty.  Nothing in my cognitive system had planned it out.  I just … threw.

Many years ago, when I was teaching at St. Mary Choir School, I must have been similarly happy.  I was standing in the staff room talking with Marg, after consuming a precious liquid in my favourite mug.  Same story.  The mug soared.  The mug broke.  I stared.  And somehow it was all okay.

Then there was the time in Costco when I was also flying high.  I was slurping my chocolate waffle cone while talking to a couple of employees in the vision department.  Up went the cone, sadly nowhere near the store’s high ceiling.  It did a flip in the air.  I reached out my right hand.  Plop … ice cream end down.  It should have been on the Plays of the Week.  Oh, what a good boy was I.

Guess my eye-hand co-ordination has faded over the years.  But it’s okay.  I was volunteering yesterday afternoon at South Dorchester School and Tiffany asked me if I would like a water bottle.  She had one extra.  And it has a holey insert for shaking.  Nice.