On the Upside of the Grass

I went to a backyard concert this afternoon.  About fifty of us sat under the trees, listening to folk music from fifteen performers.  Finally … live music.

A week ago, I was at the US Open tennis tournament.  The sound that I loved was waves of cheering.  Today it was the sweet blending of voices and the improvised runs coming from the fingers of a fiddler.  Tennis and music – two homes for me.

One of the last songs talked about the title of this piece … a celebration of being alive, of being out and about with other human beings, enjoying community life once more.  I smiled a lot.

Earlier, Barry and Joanne joined voices in the song “Keep Me In Your Heart”:

Hold me in your thoughts
Take me to your dreams
Touch me as I fall into view
When the winter comes
Keep the fires lit
And I will be right next to you
Keep me in your heart for awhile

And then Paul Mills came onstage to sing “Forty-Five Years”.   Stan Rogers wrote this song.  For years, before Stan died in 1983, Paul was his manager and sometimes guitarist.  Two or three years ago, I was at a tribute concert to Stan in Toronto, at Hugh’s Room.  At the break I asked Paul if he would sing “Forty-Five Years” before the evening was done.  He sadly told me that the group of performers was locked into a set list, and that my song wasn’t on it.  I sighed.

Time stretches from the past and today I got to hear the words I wanted to come from Paul’s mouth:

And I just want to hold you closer than I’ve ever held anyone before
You say you’ve been twice a wife and you’re through with life
Ah, but honey, what the hell’s it for?
After twenty-three years you’d think I could find
A way to let you know somehow
That I want to see your smiling face forty-five years from now

Paul sang
I sang along
The trees whispered

Contact Then … Contact Now

I walked down Dundas Street this evening. Cradled in my arms was a bag of kettle corn, with the contents easily finding their way to my mouth. I was en route to the London Knights’ hockey game with the Windsor Spitfires. As I walked through the entrance of Budweiser Gardens, there was still a lot of kettle to be consumed. Staff members eyed me warily as I plunked down on a cushy red chair before reaching the ticket gate. “No outside food or beverage.”

A man can only eat so much sugar, but I was giving it the good old college try. Around a corner was a woman’s voice: “Be a fan … bring a can [for the food bank]. We also accept money donations.” As I continued to munch, she continued to spiel, maybe fifty times.

Finally I reached my nutritional limit. I dropped the rest of the bag into a garbage can and turned toward the entrance attendant. The sing song refrain for donations ceased, replaced with “Bruce Kerr”. (That’s me.) The young woman smiled at me and said “I’m Mary Bartlett.” (I’ve made up a name for her.) My mouth dropped. The face I took in was nowhere near the face I remembered from eighteen years ago. Mary said she was 30, far beyond the 12-year-old kid from a school deep in the past.

“I remember you,” I said. “You were such a free spirit, so much yourself. You spoke your mind. I bet you still do.” Mary smiled some more. I went back in my mind to a girl who stood out from the rest. I knew then that she’d be a fine adult.

I told Mary that I was a member of an international group that’s exploring consciousness, with the intention of bringing more love into the world. “If you’re curious, Google ‘Evolutionary Collective’.” She tapped the name into her phone.

Will I ever see Mary again? Probably not. She’s one of the rare former students who re-entered my life, albeit briefly. I detected gratitude in our moments together.

I know that I’ve contributed to the lives of many kids and teens who now are adults. Rarely do I see the evidence of this face-to-face. Thanks, Mary.

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.

Day Twenty-Two … Family

A couple of recollections from days past:

Rita started talking about a trip that she and Dave had been on.  I can’t remember where to – let’s say Seattle, Washington.  She began “Bruce and I headed down to Seattle …”  My heart stopped.  I didn’t say a thing but I was transported back to happy times with my former wife, adventures we went on, times when that big smile of hers was shining bright.  Oh, the chapters of my life.


When I was visiting Rhonda (Jody’s cousin) near Vancouver, she talked about her dad Roy, who died about five years ago.  She talked with love in her eyes and in her voice.  I think I only met Roy once.  He was in a wheelchair at Norm’s funeral (Jody’s dad).  We chatted a bit but I didn’t get a real sense of him.  Rhonda definitely helped me out there.  “Dad sometimes walked into the kitchen in the morning wearing a flip wig.  He would brush it back with his hand.”  Oh my.  “Other times, he would use a grease pencil to draw a big moustache on his face.  He’d sit there as if nothing was out of the ordinary while we kids were dumbfounded.”

So, I sat near an outrageous character at Norm’s funeral and I didn’t have a clue that he was perhaps more “out there” than his kids.  My loss.


After leaving Rita and Dave, I drove long and hard towards her sister Beryl in Yakima, Washington.  I even gave away two of Jody’s books at a gas station in Mount Vernon, Washington.  Got into Yakima after dark, and directions from a friendly McDonald’s employee saw me through the last few kilometres.

Beryl and I spent two hours talking that evening.  I told her that she was always my favourite of Rita’s siblings.  She told me that her children Scott (46) and Tricia (42) still call me Uncle Bruce.  (Sigh)  Now I have a new generation that calls me Uncle Bruce – Jody’s brother Lance’s kids – Jaxon (13). Jagger (11) and Jace (8).  Blessed again.  I get to be with Lance’s clan from August 15 till 30 in Longview, Alberta, southwest of Calgary.  Oh my some more.  What a trip this is.  Lots of people who still love me, and some who are new to me that I’m starting to love.  The big human family that we are.

The next morning, Tricia texted her mom from Portland, Oregon.  She works in the running department of Nike and remembers me as a runner.  Beryl asked if I wanted to reply, and I did.  “I have great memories of you as a kid.  I hope we meet again.”  Tricia responded by saying that she thinks of me often.  My goodness, time and space are such flimsy barriers to love.  Really no barrier at all.  Love wins.

Family … such a fine word.  I vote for a hugely broad definition of the term.  Like perhaps “All beings everywhere”.  Including Portland, Yakima and Vancouver.

Transcending Time

I just left messages with two old friends … an e-mail for Joel and an answering machine for Lynne.  I was nervous.  I haven’t seen Joel for 30 years and Lynne for 20.  They both lead seminars that help people discover the depths of themselves – Joel in Vancouver and Lynne in Kamloops, B.C.  Back in the day, I assisted each of them as they taught.

In a few weeks, I’m heading to Western Canada in Scarlet, my Toyota, with my bicycle ta-pocketa hanging from the rear bumper.  Six weeks of travelling the highways and biways, visiting friends and Jody’s relatives.  I’m sure that many adventures await, including two weeks with Jody’s brother Lance and his family in the lee of the Rockies.  But 50 years of absence?  Oh my.

It would be easy for me to bow down to the spiritual and psychological guidance that Lynne and Joel have given their seminar participants.  Bowing down in the sense of seeing myself as less.  But I won’t do that, because it’s not true.  There’s no rating here.  Just three human beings who want to touch people.  We can compare paths if we like but our hearts beat as one.

If I spend time with Lynne and Joel, our contact will unfold in its own sweet way.  I want to talk about Jody.  I want to talk about what Buddhism has meant to me.  And they’ll talk about what vibrates inside them.  It will be fine.

Or … we don’t get to see each other this time.  That will be fine too.  Communion doesn’t fade away.

Mastery of the Moment Part One

Long ago and far away, I came up with a personal development presentation, aided by a lot of reading.  On June 10, 1988, I led a workshop called “Mastery of the Moment” at the Annual Symposium of the Alberta Therapeutic Recreation Association.  Some members of the audience smiled and nodded but, as I remember, no one said anything positive afterward.  So I let it go, never bringing forth the ideas again.  I was sad.

Now it’s 27 years later, and I wonder … Why didn’t people hear me?  Why didn’t my thoughts impact their lives?  Why didn’t I have the strength to carry forward the structure of happiness that I was proposing?  An opportunity lost, but not forever.  I could tell you folks about the “attitude choices”.  They might make a difference with you.  My material wasn’t original but maybe bringing everything together as I did, was.

What’s my life about in 2015?  Well, I want to pass on something of me to whomever will listen.  Jody’s book is one example.  Maybe “Mastery” is another.

I don’t have the oomph to get into the choices tonight but I’ll start tomorrow.  For now, being thoroughly into reminiscing mode, here’s what the symposium brochure had to say:

Mastery Of The Moment: Attitude Choices For Dealing With
Any Interpersonal Problem Situation

This presentation suggests that attitude choice, when recreation therapists are faced with a problem, is far more important than problem-solving and stress management techniques.  Participants will be given ten pairs of attitudes (e.g. “sufficiency-deficiency”) and will be shown one possibility for working with them in particular recreation therapy situations.

Bruce Kerr

Bruce Kerr received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from the University of Toronto in 1970 and a Bachelor of Education in Social Studies from the University of Lethbridge in 1977.  His past experience includes three years as a Life Skills Program Instructor at Lethbridge Community College and two years as a personal development seminar leader with a Lethbridge psychologist.  He is currently the Volunteer Coordinator at the Lethbridge Regional Hospital, Auxiliary Wing.

Who, me?  See you tomorrow

Fifty Years After – Part 1

Cam and I went to visit Lawrence Park Collegiate Institute in Toronto yesterday … our high school.  I had dropped in once as an adult, probably twenty years ago, but that had been a very brief peek at what had been.  Yesterday was the full meal deal.

After parking, we could have gone in the main entrance or the one by the auditorium.  Since as a teenager I was never allowed enter the school by the main one, I decided that as an adult I would stay consistent.  Besides, I used to hang out by the auditorium, sitting on a low wall next to the lawn.  In 2015, a wheelchair ramp was right up against the wall, making it impossible to sit in my spot.  Sigh.

As we walked inside, I looked at the left wall in the foyer for the many plaques which had featured the names of Lawrence award winners over the decades.  I was especially looking for one certain plaque from 1967 which included “Bruce Kerr” in yellow calligraphy on dark brown wood.  But the wall was blank.  Double sigh.  “No!  They can’t have gotten rid of us.  It’s my history.”

Cam and I slouched down the hallway to the office, where we explained our ancient status and asked permission to look around.  The secretary was most obliging and gave us guest badges to wear around our necks.  Before leaving the office, I did what any normal person would have done – I sang Lawrence’s school song:

Give a cheer for the good old gold and blue
Our sons will be always strong and true
We’ll go in fighting and get a victory
Our foes we’ll soon subdue
For Lawrence is going out to win
We’ll fight through our foes through thick and thin
Give a cheer for the team that’s out to win that game
And make that cheer a victory cry
Let’s go – we won’t stop until it’s victory
For the gang at LPCI

Victory, victory is our cry
Are we champions?  Well, I guess
Can we beat ’em?  Yes, yes, yes!

Two secretaries smiled big time.  They told me that most of those words had been scrapped a long time ago.  Politically incorrect, you know.  Guess it was hard to fit in “Our sons and daughters will be always strong and true”.  Plus “fighting”, “subdue” and “fight through our foes” were just a mite too violent.  So today’s kids don’t know the song.  Triple sigh.

So began three hours of exploring our youth in the halls and classrooms of Lawrence Park.  The best was yet to come.