Day Eleven: Yesterday and Tomorrow

The Keur Saloum Hotel is a fifteen-minute walk along the dirt streets of Toubacouta from Jo and Lydia’s place. I walk through the entrance, greeted with a “Ça va?” (How are you?) from the security guard. I proceed unimpeded because I’m a white tourist with money to spend. The black residents of the village would not be allowed in, and that makes me sad. In the words of Werner Erhard, this is meant be “a world that works for everyone”.

Now I sit by the pool, writing these words. I see many pink blossoms floating on the blue of the water. Pink and blue … the colours of young children. I want the beauty of the world’s moments to endure but alas those flowers might block the water intake, or perhaps the pink ones might disturb swimmers. Whatever the reason, an employee is soon out there with a big net, and in minutes the blue is pure. I get the likely practicality but I’m sad once more.

What life of beauty and inclusion is available to us all? What richness of spirit can stroll through it all, reaching towards the future? Even if I don’t have the words to describe such a reality, I know it’s real.

***

For twenty years, Jo played guitar throughout Europe with a band. His life has been permeated with and enriched by music. Over the past few days, he’s spoken glowingly about a wide variety of luminaries – Hoagy Carmichael, Leonard Bernstein, Aretha Franklin, The Who, José Carreras … Back at the house, the little speaker often tells me about The Beatles. They’re really the only musicians from Jo’s heart that are in mine as well.

I remember the Ed Sullivan TV show in 1964 when the mop heads were introduced to North America. Fifteen-year-old girls in the audience were going crazy, leaping in the air and professing their love. I was that age as well, and although I kept my butt on the couch, I realized that there was something new here … and exciting.

I know many of The Beatles’ songs by heart. They’ve been absorbed through my skin, become part of me. However, I’ve never paid much attention to the words. Until yesterday, and Yesterday. The words came onto me as I sat innocently on the patio. Was I really hearing what I thought I was hearing? If so, have I allowed myself to be hypnotized over all these years? Have I become a different person than the oh so receptive teenager of the 1960s? The answer is “Yes”.

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away
Now it looks as though they’re here to stay
Oh, I believe in yesterday

Oh no, I disagree. I face the future, not the past. I look back, sometimes fondly and sometimes shaking my head, but that’s not where my action is. I still have challenges, of course, but they are outshined by possibility, togetherness, smiles.

Suddenly, I’m not half the man I used to be
There’s a shadow hanging over me
Oh, yesterday came suddenly

I don’t think in terms of fractions, and whoever “me” is lies both within and far beyond the boundary of the skin. There is no weight coming down, except so very briefly. There is open sky, with room to roam to the stars.

Why she had to go I don’t know
She wouldn’t say
I said something wrong
Now I long for yesterday

There is companionship of the heart. It surrounds me. Jody has died and yet there is love on all sides. Some people some close, some back away. All is well. I say wise things. I say dumb things. And I keep saying …

Yesterday love was such an easy game to play
Now I need a place to hide away
Oh, I believe in yesterday

No games. Open arms welcoming the world. Yes, I give myself time alone to renew but my home is in the marketplace of life, being with people.

Rather than “On I go” it’s very much “On we go”
Happiness is here

No Longer There … Always Here

I decided this morning that the New Sarum Diner would be a good choice for breakfast.  As I pulled into the parking lot, I saw lots of bicycles leaning against the building.  My immediate reaction: fear.  I suspected that what I’d encounter inside would be members of the London Cycling Club.  I rode with them for years before deciding I couldn’t even keep up with the slow group.  Today I was afraid to talk to “real cyclists” about me quitting the Tour du Canada.  Gulp.

Inside I saw “Ted” and lots of other jersey wearers.  He and I got talking about mutual friends and the LCC.  What a good guy.  As I glanced around the booths, I realized that Ted was the only person I recognized.  And that gave me pause.  I was a board member, ride organizer and weekly club e-mail contributor for many years.  A couple of times I was also the MC at the annual banquet.  And now I’m unknown to almost everyone.  How strange.

I thought back to my teaching career.  Mostly I was a visiting teacher in forty different schools, working with visually impaired students.  For six years, though, I spent a lot of time in one particular school, assisting blind students.  A year or so after I retired, I dropped into that school to say hi to staff and students.  Except there were no kids left who knew me.  I walked the halls and entered the classrooms, but there were no young smiles of recognition aimed my way.  “Who’s that guy?” I sensed the kids thinking.  How strange some more.

Both of these experiences remind me to give in the present moment … and then let go.  It may be that most of my contributions to people are short-lived in the face-to-face way.  Some folks will remember me with tenderness years later but I likely won’t be in their lives anymore.  And that’s okay.

And really, why look back?  Those days are dead and gone.  Instead, what can I bring forth now, and now, and now?  What opportunities to do good in this world are there for the emerging?

On I go into my future.