Who Has Walked Here?

Yesterday my post started with a photo of the Zuivelbrug bridge.  Here’s another:

I see a cap, a top hat and a bowler hat.  Mostly that fashion is no more.  I see an ancient building marked “105” that I walk by every day.

So many people over the centuries have stood on the Zuivelbrug, in one of its incarnations.  They’ve chatted with their friends.  They’ve looked over the railing at the little black ducks.  Perhaps they’ve got down on one knee and asked their loved one to marry.

Where are they now?  Their bodies are no longer here but do their spirits return to reminisce about the Leie?  Do they remember the bad jokes shared with a giggle?  Do they remember plagues that brought their beloveds low?

Those who have gone before … so easily they are invisible to us modern folks.  Their joys and sorrows so similar to our own.  Their backs hurting under a heavy load … just like us.

Did earlier ones gaze up in wonder at the sculptures embedded in 105?  I know I do.  Perhaps those quiet moments bind me to the dreamers of centuries past.  My long ago sisters and brothers.

I imagine my feet on the cobblestones, covering the lingering footsteps of prior humans.  “Thanks for coming to see us,” I hear.  You’re most welcome.

May my eyes soften so I see we Gentians entwining

And so I glimpse the fullness of past residents

The Anouk Turnock Trio

Last night at Café Fatima three musicians graced my ears.  But there was more.  I sat at a table close to the stage with the moms of two of those musicians.

Anouk has a haunting voice, revealing a layer of spirit beyond vocal quality.  Her songs were of the floating type, taking me away to worlds I now can’t remember. All disappeared in the course of the evening.

The lead guitarist melted into his instrument as fingers found the strings in aching melodies.  The standup bass player caressed his own strings as he plucked the journey of low notes.

Then there were the smiles among the three.  Notes of appreciation and laughter, at times beckoning each other to take the lead.

Anouk sang about being fragile.  Later she gave us a wandering song a capella, accompanied only by her snapping fingers.  We the audience roared our approval as the last note faded away.

Anouk’s mom beamed next to me.  She told me beforehand how proud she was of her daughter.  The mom and dad of lead guitarist Gilles sat at our table as well, only a metre from their son’s left hand.

Another couple joined us.  They’ve been married for over 50 years.  The man and I shared memories of Canada’s Rocky Mountains.  But we were home in Fatima.

The small pub was packed.  A line of people stood at the bar, cheering on their friends.  Even being a stranger, I was a part of something immense.  I was included.  I was laughed with.

A fresh version of family sat in Fatima last night:

We were together in the music

We were together with the musicians

We were together with each other

Shall We Read A Play Together?

Marvels continue to visit my life. Gregor Samsa is a bookstore on the Oudburg, owned by Harry from the UK. Last night nine of us sat there in a circle and read the play Hedda Gabler, written by the Norwegian playright Henrik Ibsen in 1891. I’ve never done such a thing.

There were four acts. At the beginning of each, Harry asked us what part we wanted to play. I got to be a shallow husband, a conniving judge, and the person giving stage directions. So cool!

Here’s a sample of the characters, courtesy of Wikipedia:

“Newly married and bored with both her marriage and life” (Hedda)

“An academic who is as interested in research and travel as he is enamoured with his wife” [more actually] (George)

“Desperately wants Hedda and her nephew to have a child” (Aunt Julie)

“Nervous and shy, in an unhappy marriage” (Thea)

“An unscrupulous family friend” (Judge Brack)

“Destroyed his reputation in society by spending his money on depravity” (Eilert)

I had to read plays in high school. Even if I understood all the words, digesting these works was usually a tedious task. “Just tell me what I need to know for the exam.” As an adult, the number of plays I’ve read is approximately zero. Lots of novels, but the constant dialogue in plays wasn’t for me. (I said)

And then there was a circle of human beings, surrounded by tall bookshelves and accompanied by various beverages. I got to inhabit George, not just read his words. Inhabit someone I didn’t like. Spouting on and on about his oh so essential research into a tiny slice of life. Hardly a kind look over to Hedda. A world away from cuddling on the couch.

Oh … it was rock and roll! Stilted language grew in my mouth into a vacant tone of voice. Who cares if George was thoroughly not me? During Act 1, Bruce be damned! Bring on George. And so it was with my literary companions. I could feel each of us, page by page, growing into our parts. Sometimes the voice was strident, at other times a whisper. The stand-ins for Hedda and George often glanced across the room at their adversary. This was no longer Ghent. We were home in Oslo.

It took us nearly three hours to read Hedda Gabler. Time well spent. As the last words on the last page were spoken, we the people sitting in Gregor Samsa burst into applause.

A fine time was had by all.

At the Corner Store

There was an old man behind the counter – skinny, brown and eager. He greeted me like a long lost daughter, as if we both came from the same world, someplace warmer and more gracious than this cold city. I was thirsty, and alone, sick-at-heart, grief-soiled. And his face lit up as if I were his prodigal daughter returning.

Coming back to the freezer bins in front of the register, which were still and always filled with the same old Cable Car ice cream sandwiches and cheap frozen greens, back to the knobs of beef and packages of hot dogs, these familiar shelves full of potato chips and corn chips, stacked up beer boxes and an immortal Jim Beam.

I lumbered to the case and bought my precious bottled water, and he returned my change beaming, as if I were the bright new buds on the just-bursting-open cherry trees, as if I were everything beautiful struggling to grow. And he was blessing me as he handed me my dime. Over the dirty counter and the plastic tub of red licorice whips, this old man who didn’t speak English beamed out love to me in the iron week after my mother’s death. So when I emerged from his store, my whole cockeyed life – what a beautiful failure – glowed gold like a sunset after rain.

Frustrated city dogs were yelping in their yards, mad with passion behind chain link fences, and in the driveway of a peeling townhouse, a woman and a girl danced to contagious reggae. Praise Allah, the Buddha, Kwan Yin, Jesus, Mary and even jealous old Jehovah. For the eyes and hands of the Divine are everywhere.

Alison Luterman

We do come from the same world
May our faces light up in each other’s presence
May we be seen as everything beautiful
May we be blessed
The eyes and hands are here


The teacher handed me an outline of a human being on a sheet of paper and laid out the assignment. It was Fall, 2019 and I was volunteering in the Grade 5/6 class. I love it when I get to tackle the same task as the kids. I was to colour my human and include several words that were important to me. I watched as most kids launched into their work with gusto. I did the same.

I thought of the sports I loved: golf and tennis. Eighteen months later, tennis still shines but I’ve cancelled my subscription to Golf Channel. And my clubs sit lonely in the garage.

I thought of other activities that get my juices flowing: elliptical and meditation. Both are still alive in me. I love the swoosh of the arms and legs, and the stillness within my meditation chair.

I thought of the values I hold: love, connection and you. Yep … c’est moi! Put me in a cubicle, away from my fellow man and woman, and I would wither away. I look over there and I see your eyes, and what a delight to be in their presence.

I thought of my qualities: kind, peace and determination. I will give to you when you’re down. I am quiet inside. And then there’s the “I will do this!” part. I will never give up.

I thought of folk music … how I love the songs of the people, the stories of ordinary folks like us.

And then this other word came to me – hands. They’re such gracious instruments of blessing. They reach out. They touch.

My time on the planet showed its face as well: 70 and January 9, 1949. They’re well related. I’m happy to be this young.

Finally, two more words: Mr. Kerr.


Days later, the labours of all 24 of us were brought together in a magical way. My life, far longer than theirs so far, is no more special that those of the kids. Words spill out across the collage, revealing the truths of each of us … and all of us.

A few months ago, I had this glorious work of souls framed. It sits in my home, reminding me every day of what’s important.


The anthropologist invited the children from the African tribe to play one game.  He placed a basket of fruit near the tree and announced, addressing the children: “The one of you who reaches the tree first will be rewarded with all of the sweet fruits.”  When he signaled to the children to start the race, they locked their hands tightly and ran together, and then they all sat together and enjoyed the delicious fruit.

The astonished anthropologist asked the children why they all ran together, because each of them could have enjoyed the fruit for him or herself.  To which the children replied: “Obonato”.  Is it possible for one to be happy if everyone else is sad?  “Obonato” in their language means “I exist because we exist.”

I don’t know who wrote this.  It’s not important.  We humanity wrote it.  Similarly, it doesn’t matter if I write a particular thing in this blog.  What matters is that it is written.

We lives and breathes and creates.  We brings joy and reverence for life.  is a mere shadow of what life can be.  The African kids got the message.  Can we adult Westerners, older and supposedly wiser, understand … and live from there?  The future is cheering us on: “You folks can do it!”  Let’s prove the future right.

Faces In Rectangles

I was on a Zoom call today with about 170 other human beings. Patricia Albere was introducing the work of the Evolutionary Collective to the folks who were new. She points to the evolving of consciousness from individual concern (How can I be a better person?) to a “We-Space” (a deep connection that’s available between us).

A few quotes:

Separation is the real global pandemic.

Communicating across the distance between us is exhausting. [But true contact is liberating.]

There’s the possibility of a shared circuitry between us that we’re orchestrated by.

Something else [beyond the individual] is being given.

I was letting Patricia’s words sink in, without having to make sense of them. There’s something new that can bring us together in love. Any two people. Romantic or otherwise. Actually, any three, four or five people.

As my eyes softened, they took in my laptop screen. It was full of humans – 48 of them in their individual rectangles. But the lines were blurring between the faces. There was a joining at work here.

A click showed me 48 new faces. And then page three – a few folks here didn’t have their videos on. Page four merely showed names – no alive beings.

Spread before me were perhaps 130 people from the corners of the world. Different rooms, different clothing … races, ages, personalities. An infinite variety of us. Some faces glowed. Some leaned forward. Some seemed “flat”, not engaged. A few folks clicked the “Raise Hand” button because they had something to ask or share.

I was in awe of the display. The collective smiles when someone said something funny. The unease when Patricia talked too long at a stretch. I was in the presence of my brothers and sisters, and I wanted more. I tried to will the blank rectangles into life – to transform a name into living flesh – but that didn’t happen.

Oh, the power of us together. We didn’t know each other, in terms of being familiar with our lives, but as the time flowed on, there was a knowing. I looked into eyes and saw common joys and sorrows … a sharing.

You’re so different than me
And you’re just like me


I enjoy sitting in my den, looking over to my bookcase. You’ll be happy to know that I’ve arranged things. If I sit on the left cushion of the loveseat, many eyes are aimed right at me. I hope you can enlarge the photo to see what I mean. There’s a marble sculpture of a man and woman who aren’t really looking my way, but apart from that …

In no particular order, you’re likely to find two Buddhas, two lizards, two native American women, a snowy owl, a cyclist, a Senegalese goddess of fertility, a laughing wooden face, a downcast stone face, Jody and me on our wedding day, Jody at a tiny restaurant in Quebec City, two little kids under an umbrella, an owl with wings spread wide, me at a community dinner in Belmont, my nephew Jaxon’s grad picture, a jovial black kid, the haunting image of a sad peasant girl in 1885, and the Sun.

All meeting my eyes. All saying “Hello”. There is magic on this cushion. I feel radiation coming my way. I am being included in so many lives. Across time and space, we are together.

Day Thirty-Four: Closer

Last night, the Evolutionary Collective hosted an evening in which people could join us and experience what’s it’s like to be inside this shared consciousness together. I was talking to a couple about our work. I searched for a short statement that would sum up the EC’s impact on me. And it came: Now my natural tendency is to move towards people rather than away from them. My fear of differentness has faded away, replaced by an intense curiosity about what others’ lives are like, what their passions are, their visions. I find that when I speak about my journey, things often loosen between us, and the other person goes towards their experiences and discoveries.

My favourite moments are conversations with one other person, followed by three of us, and then being alone. That preference is so bright now. It doesn’t matter the personalities, ages, cultures, situations. Just let me linger in your eyes.

And yet more folks coming together can be magical too. In our session yesterday daytime, we did a practice that deeply hit home. We were in a group of eight – two standing in the middle back-to-back, and the rest of us circled in chairs. Our teacher Patricia Albere asked us to experience the threading – the weaving – of consciousness among us, flowing through both the standing ones and the seated ones. The pair would rotate together to meet the eyes of each of us. If Persons A and B started in the middle, A would sit down after a complete turn, replaced by C. B and C went around together, then C and D, D and E … We became an organism of eight cells, blending, weaving, caressing. It was lovely. It was human beings together rather than separate, each one so vividly particular and yet also breathing in the whole.

I received a compliment last night. I sat with a couple new to this work. She said that I exuded a sweet energy. She had first noticed it when I was greeting the newcomers at the street entrance of the building. My intention was to have each one feel welcomed from the first moment they set foot in the David Brower Center. She got it then … so did he.

I did my usual squirm in response to her words but happily it faded within seconds. All that was left was a beaming “Thank you” and a peaceful space emanating from something far larger than this Bruceness. We weave together … magic emerges … it’s a mystery that need not be corralled.

Day Twenty-Three: Potpourri

Gnima and Baziel

Shells near the water

Nescafé coffee


Three things drew me yesterday:

1. The Leaving

We all knew it. At 2:30 pm, a van would give us a honk at the gate and then whisk away Jo, Lore and Baziel back to Belgium. There would be a hole in our family in the sense of physical proximity, certainly not when it comes to love. The day before, I asked Jo how he was feeling about the coming separation and he quite rightly said he didn’t want to talk about it.

We sat on Lydia and Jo’s patio in the early afternoon and talked about this, that and the other thing … not about what was coming next. Baziel, Lore and Lydia were here and there, chatting and doing the last minute packing. I looked at the teens and realized I didn’t know when I’d see them again. But it will definitely happen. I’m part of a Belgian and Senegalese family now. There will be reunions.

Jo and I have shared many fine conversations over the past two weeks. There’ll be another opportunity at Brussels Airport early in the morning of January 9.

The honk did come, and we all turned to each other. There were gentle and lingering hugs between the three human beings and me. The sweetest moment was the farewell of Lydia and Jo … companions in love, with the glistening eyes. As the van pulled away, we moved to the centre of the dirt street to watch it fade to the east and then disappear into a left turn. Goodbye for now, dear friends.

2. So Different … So Much the Same

There are seven million of us across the world. Almost all of us have two arms and two legs. We have skin. We have internal organs. On the other view, we have different languages, personality, culture, skin colour, facial structure, hairstyle, willingness to express ourselves, age, attitude, inclusiveness/exclusiveness. And here we are on Planet Earth, cuddling together, forming a wondrous mosaic. What a privilege to be here with you.

3. Just a Little Package

The coffee here is instant. It comes in tiny packages that mostly don’t respond to my efforts to open them. There’s sometimes a little line that indicates a perforation, but not always. The arthritis in my right thumb seems to be laughing at me as I twist and turn in search of caffeine. The staff have kindly offered me a pair of scissors. Friends across the table don’t seem to need them. In five seconds they’re pouring the contents into their cup. Today I let go and cut the end off the package. Yesterday I grunted. How can a little bit of instant coffee be such a teacher for me? I don’t know … but now it’s me who’s laughing.

On we go