Day One: Up, Up and Away

Oh yes … another roaming of the world. Who will I meet? What moments will I cherish? Will I let myself be undone on the other end of the continent?

Since my flight zooms away at 6:30 pm, I had time to go to school. It was March Break last week so I hadn’t been surrounded by 12-year-olds for ten days.

On the road through farmland, I spied a V way high in the sky. I slowed and wondered as at least 80 tundra swans flew over Scarlet. These huge white birds come through Southern Ontario every spring on their way to the Arctic. They flowed out both ways from the leader, their wings appearing to be in unison with their friends. The power … the grace … the sense of a group direction. Wow.

And now in the classroom. As I opened the door, I heard a few cries of welcome, even with the Math lesson in full swing. I decided to sit back and see if any hands went up for help. There was only one, and I helped the guy, at least a bit. I wanted to have conversations, to hear about the kids’ vacation adventures, but the task at hand was long division. Inside, I felt a loosening, a relaxing into the possibility that today won’t be about 1-1 moments. I smiled, sat off to the side and waited for the approach of any kid who wanted to talk.

As the morning twirled away, a few young ones came over, curious about San Francisco. One girl told me about Los Angeles, and all the cool tourist stuff to do there. Another one talked about her sister waking up screaming one night, in great pain. She’s fine now. It was clear to me that it doesn’t matter what kids and I talk about. The moments of being together are all that I need, even if there are few of them.

Now I’m deep in the concourse of the Toronto Airport, enjoying an arugula and feta cheese salad. I’m so pleased with myself for not choosing some high-fat alternative.

I’m thinking about “Jeff”, the fellow I lined up with in front of US Customs. We were in long looping lines with probably 200 other folks. And we got talking. It doesn’t matter who went first … I’m pretty sure that both of us were open to conversation. Jeff lives in New York City and we’re both in love with the place. I got to revisit my favourite moments from two months ago, much to his delight. Central Park! The MET! The 911 Museum! The noise and hurry! How astonishing to launch right into life’s joys with a so-called stranger. Jeff even knew the San Francisco area and recommended a ferry ride to the cutesy village of Tiburon. After visiting the customs guy, we bid each other farewell with “Have a good life.”

Now I’m beside my friend “Philippe” on a big Boeing plane, 298 of us zipping along at 900 kilometres an hour. We’re heading to the Evolutionary Collective meeting on the weekend, sharing plane seats and a hotel room. We’ve talked for two hours about falling in love, living freely and uniting with the people around us. We’ve shared joys and foibles. We’ve leaned into the future and found mystery there.

Tomorrow morning, we go in search of a healthy restaurant and emerging miracles. What will San Francisco and Berkeley share with us? If we listen very, very carefully, all will be revealed.

San Francisco

I get aboard the big bird tomorrow.  Here I come.  The main reason I’m going is to gather with members of the Evolutionary Collective Base Camp group.  Our contact so far has been online, where we do the Mutual Awakening Practice and delve into the worlds of integrity, trust and giving.  Now we get to see that each of us really has legs!  The EC is a marvelous vehicle for exploring consciousness.  We aim to spread love across the world, irrespective of religion, culture, race, gender or any other variable you can think of.  Who knows what we can create during the upcoming three-day weekend?

Before the meeting, I have two days to explore San Francisco, and then two more afterwards.  Jody and I were in the city thirty years ago.  We loved sitting in a sidewalk café on Lombard Street, which was very steep.  I remember seeing a gentleman push a woman in a wheelchair … from two blocks down, to us, and disappearing two blocks up.  It was astonishing.  Then there was Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39, the basking sea lions, the sun on the ocean, the long loaf of sourdough bread.

What will beckon me on Wednesday?  Right now it’s a mystery, like much of my life.  Will I repeat the itinerary or branch out to parts unknown?  Plan B sounds more exciting but I know I’d be fine with the Lombard viewing and biting through soft sourdough.  Still .. a tour of Alacatraz at night?  A stroll through Haight-Ashbury, the former hippie heaven?  Why not?

Perhaps I’ll set off in the morning with my active brain decommissioned, wondering what’s around the next corner, and having no need to see a top ten tourist attraction.  Maybe I’ll spot an old guy on a bench and talk to him for an hour or two.  After all, that’s how I met Lydia and Jo – on an Alberta hiking trail, and look where I ended up (in Belgium and Senegal with them).

On my recent trips, I’ve enjoyed blogging every day, from Day One to Day End.  There’s a rhythm there that I love.  It’s not appropriate to share the specific practices we do in the EC but I can give you a general flavour of us being together.  As for the world of San Francisco, the sky’s the limit for my words.

Come with me on the journey.  I promise you surprises, laughter and a bit of communion.

 

Twenty Flights

Perhaps I’m crazy.  Over the years, several people have volunteered that opinion.  I seem to be throwing myself into life in an unprecedented way.  I’m going here, I’m going there.  And mostly I’m flying through the air (with the greatest of ease).

Between now and early January, I’m stepping aboard twenty airplanes.  This will involve a major dip into savings.  It’s not that I haven’t considered the financial fallout … but I’m doing it anyway!

It’s all about love.  And the physical distance between my loved ones and me will decline to zero, again and again.  I will be looking into the eyes of Canadians, Americans, Belgians and Senegalese, and I will see beauty there.  I will truly be a world traveller, something that has not been true in the past.

Here’s my itinerary.  The dates are approximate but you’ll get the idea:

1.  March 19 – Toronto to San Francisco for the Evolutionary Collective Base Camp three-day weekend

2.  March 27 – San Francisco to Toronto

3.  April 30 – Toronto to San Jose, California for the EC five-day event “All Together Now”

4.  May 9 – San Jose to Toronto

5.  June 5 – London, Ontario to Calgary, Alberta for my nephew Jaxon’s high school graduation

6.  June 13 – Calgary to London

7.  June 28 – Toronto to Edmonton, Alberta to visit my friend Sharyn in Mannville, Alberta and my brother-in-law Lance and his family in Longview, near Calgary

8.  July 12 – Calgary to Toronto

(What?  One day between!  You’re nuts.)

9.  July 14 – Toronto to Amsterdam, the Netherlands

10.  July 15 – Amsterdam to Brussels, Belgium to visit Lydia, Jo, Lore and Baziel

11.  July 20 – Brussels to Rome, Italy to go ‘splorin’ with Lydia, Jo, Anja and Curd

12.  July 30 – Rome to Brussels

13.  August 4 – Brussels to Amsterdam

14.  August 4 – Amsterdam to Toronto with Baziel (Lydia and Jo’s son – age 14) and Olivia (Anja and Curd’s daughter – age 14)  to explore Toronto, Niagara Falls and Belmont for two weeks

15.  December 15 – Toronto to Amsterdam

16.  December 16 – Amsterdam to Brussels to visit Lydia and her family

17.  December 22 – Brussels to Dakar, Senegal with Lydia and ten other Belgian folks to visit the kids we sponsor in Toubacouta, Senegal

18.  January 4, 2020 – Dakar to Brussels

19.  January 8 – Brussels to Amsterdam

20.  January 8 – Amsterdam to Toronto

***

Why did I tell you all this stuff?  So you’ll think I’m super cool?  So you’ll think I’m absolutely full of myself?  Well, no. These trips are an expression of my need for contact, true communion, “being with” across the miles.  There’s some power surging up in me, demanding I pay attention.  My beingness has been deep for years, and that will continue.  Now it’s time  to get out there far more and do things – Bruce actions that make a difference in Belmont, San Francisco, Nukerke, Pompeii and Toubacouta.

Whatever happened to that recent fellow who wanted to hang out in rural Massachusetts for three months … in silence?  He’s still here.  It’s just that he’s been transcended and included.

On I go

Day Nine: Homeward

What I hadn’t yet experienced was a real New York bagel.  One local guy suggested Tompkins Square Bagels, about six blocks from my room.  So I went, on my last morning.  There were laughing guys behind the counter, smiling patrons in front of it.  Just a wee place but it felt like I was entering the hall of gastronomic fame.

Sourdough looked good and so did blueberry cream cheese.  I guarantee you that the taste was far better.  How can bagels be this soft and yummy?  I sat at my little table, watching people and savouring my breakie.  Even the coffee was good.

I thought ahead to the Newark Liberty International Airport, waiting for my flight to be called, hungry.  How about a bagel to go?  In an instant the choice was clear … pumpernickel with bacon cream cheese.  Decadence of the delayed gratification genre.

Back on the street, I talked to myself.  “You’re tired.  You have this big suitcase.  Subway stations don’t have elevators from the surface to the bowels > > > Get a cab!”  My adventurous spirit was fading away as I raised my arm, beckoning to a whizzing yellow object passing by on the opposite side of the street.  “He’ll turn around for me.”  He didn’t.  So I waited for maybe ten minutes, arm at the ready.  No cabs.

I glanced over to the familiar bus stop and my insides shifted.  “No cab indeed.”  Three minutes later, I was hauling my local world onto the public beast.  “One more time … I can do this.  It’ll just take a transfer or two.”  Later, as I soared through the air en route to Toronto, I added up the vehicles of my day – it came to eleven.  M14A bus > 4 subway > 7 subway > 2 subway > New Jersey Transit train to the Newark Airport > Skytrain to Terminal B > Porter Flight PD 130 to Toronto > Billy Bishop Airport shuttle bus to Union Station > UP Express to Pearson Airport > Skyway Park shuttle van to Scarlet > two hour drive home.  Piece of cake.  I handled the luggaged stairs, I found elevators, I balanced on escalators, I had fun.  Dear taxi, you’re just not needed today.

Even though I was in airplane mode above New York State, I could still compose a blog post about Thursday.  I wrote and wrote about the 911 Museum.  It was difficult writing, since my heart had entered my fingers.  Upon arrival in Toronto, I sat in the airport lounge, did some editing, and prepared to click “Post”.  Click.  Then I copied my message to Facebook.  I also use that platform to post some photos.  I came to the one which showed Bruce’s name, one of the 911 victims, carved into a long metal plate.  I looked more closely.  Above “Bruce Douglas Boehm” was another, and my breath ceased.  It was “Brooke Alexandra Jackman”, the woman whose “missing” poster I had spied the day before, the woman whom I had adopted in love.  The metal plates encircled the two reflecting pools which were the locations of the twin towers.  The number of names inscribed was 2977.  And still, it was Bruce and Brooke.

Love lives

Day Five: Out and About in NYC

There’s an Evolutionary Collective internet gathering at 2:00 pm. Terry and I have just said goodbye, as he catches his bus to New Hampshire, and me the subway to Central Park. At the corner of Love and Power, we looked way deep into each other’s eyes and said what was inevitable. We are together, him and me, in the service of life evolving on this planet. Distance means nothing.

Speaking of power, consider the express train northward. It hurtles through space, blasting past local stops, rocking and rolling and surging. I feel the power within as the subway shakes in the power without.

Speaking of love, consider the black woman standing in front of me. She wears a shining black heart-shaped backpack, with a gold zipper. The whole thing vibrates. And she has no idea how moved I am.

I need to be on time. Being more than a minute or two late means not being on the call. Out of the subway staircase, it looks like three blocks to the park. Turns out to be four. I need to be away from the street noise and onto a bench. At 1:57 they are missions accomplished.

As the call begins, it’s time for my toque, hood and mittens. Joggers are flowing past. “Deb”, my partner in the mutual awakening practice that makes up half of our time, is sitting in her home in California. She loves seeing the cold and the runners and the bare trees. It’s clear to both of us that these moments are far beyond her and me. The folks passing by are part of us. We include them in our caring.

A young girl and her dad, both bundled up against the weather, come strolling along. She moves right up to me and points my way. I shift gaze from my Californian friend to my new one. Smiles both ways. “Hi” from me. “Squirrel!” from her. She was pointing to the bundle of fur that was scampering behind me. Yes, let’s include everybody. A minute later, she and dad are waving goodbye. Me too.

(Tuesday) Later it’s a beer and nachos in Dylan Murphy’s, an Irish pub on Third Street. Cozy. Gemma, the bartender, has a lilting accent and a soft smile. We talk about life. She asks me why I’m in New York. I tell her about the work of the EC. I sum it all up with the word “eyes”, as I look into hers.

I’m an evangelist but naturally people don’t like to be cornered, compressed, told they should do something. So I simply say, “If you want to know more, Google ‘Evolutionary Collective.'” Absolutely enough said.

Today I’m heading to the MET – the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I’ll let you know all about it in a few hours.

Day One: The Energy

It was a long trip from Newark Airport to Manhattan. An Air Train dipsy doodle to the New Jersey Transit Station, then a long wait, then a leisurely float to New York’s Penn Station. One fellow asked me for directions. I laughed and told him I was an absolute newbie. The folks standing around at the transit station seemed normal. It could have been a scene from downtown Toronto.

At Penn Station, I climbed all these stairs, building up my biceps as I hauled my suitcase upwards. A fellow hosting a tourist booth downstairs laid out my options. A cab would work. That’s certainly what a woman on the plane had suggested. As we landed, she said there was no way I should be navigating the subway system, in the rain, with luggage, on my very first visit to New York. I agreed. But Mr. Tourism Agent got me thinking: walk three blocks to a subway station. The train could deposit me within a thirty minute walk of my new home. Why not? Go for it, young man.

Finally a door, and the street. And then … whoosh! The sidewalk was packed with almost sprinting New Yorkers. The buildings soared above the canyons. Huge neon video boards sold their wares. And I was stunned. Sirens howled, horns blasted and the world was electric. Oh my God, who are all these people? And what am I enjoying all this noise, me of the silent mediation retreats? Just fall into it, Bruce.

I found my home … at 515 East 5th Street, and proceeded to be mystified by the lockbox that faced me. Oh, Bruce, I thought you were smarter than this! Apparently not.

Finally gaining entry, I noted that my apartment was 5C. In the first floor hallway, all I saw was 1B, 1C … A woman left her room and we smiled. “Is there an elevator?” > “No, it’s a walkup.” > (Sigh) A long haul indeed.

It was 7:00 pm. In my sweet room, with its red brick wall, I worked at translating the NYC subway map. Good luck. I Googled this and that, trying to figure out how I was going to arrive at the Affinia Shelburne Hotel tomorrow morning at 7:30 am.

Okay, it was time for action. I figured out that a northward bus was nearby. I asked folks for directions. Every single one of them was friendly! That’s not what I was told about New Yorkers.

Off the bus here, onto probably the right subway line there. Confused a lot, happy even more. And everywhere the surge of humanity. Wow, I love this stuff! At the end of exploration, there I sat in the lobby of the Affinia Shelburne, hoping I’d see a few members of the Evolutionary Collective hanging around. But no.

Now I’m in a bar called “Niagara”, congratulating myself on conquering New York. Except I didn’t. I’ve merely begun to embrace the city.

More to come …

Day Thirteen: A Little Sick, A Lot Happy

My day started with breakfast at the B&B. The group of us had the chance to taste baguettes with onions and potatoes, or with beans. I had one of each. They were both yummy. When in Rome …

Lydia wanted us to experience a far older village than Toubacouta. Secouna (I think) was eighteen kilometres away, and we doubled up on four motos. I was sitting behind Eddy, our B&B host, and was thrilled to see carts pulled by donkeys, crowds of folks seeking shade under wide-spreading trees, and even a couple of large red monkeys bounding across the road.

At one point, Eddy and I passed a fellow carrying a load of wood on his back. Eddy gave him a toot and the guy raised a couple of fingers in response. Beautiful. It reminded me of Ellwood Irwin, my former father-in-law. He was a wheat farmer on the vast Canadian prairie. When Ellwood was driving his truck and another farmer was approaching, he also would lift a couple of fingers in salute. Senegal … Alberta … just folks.

We were about halfway to Secouna when the urge to upchuck rose within me. Oh, no. Surely I wasn’t going to puke all over Eddy’s back! Oh, God, please help me here. I was also getting dizzy, and holding on to the bar behind me for all I was worth. “I can do this!” And I did.

We finally reached the village and stopped at a store. I ungracefully lurched off the bike and rested my head against the doorjamb of the entrance. The next thing I knew, there was a chair underneath my butt and a little container of water was in my hand. My friends were there in a flash to take care of me. Love lives.

As we sat on the patio of a restaurant with a big bottle of water, I looked across the street to see four fellows working on a bicycle. They were all so intent on the task and were chatting together, I suppose about what needed to be done. One guy worked for at least ten minutes, trying to get a tire off the rim. He didn’t have the right tool but no matter.

On the way back to Toubacouta, I felt much better. Eddy and I rolled past twenty or thirty monkeys who were running full out across the dry land. What athletes! We went through two tiny villages and I waved to the folks gathered under trees. Most people waved right back. I thought of the ride to Secouna, where I didn’t wave to anybody. Yes, I wasn’t feeling well, but it’s so strange to not be friendly.

Lydia and Jo invited me to have lunch with the family at their home. And she had a surprise for me: a large bowl of pasta was placed on the table accompanied by … a jar of pesto! My favourite flavour in the world. Mareama, the woman who made sure I got Senegalese pantaloons, was wearing a gorgeous pair of gold heart-shaped glasses. I asked her if I could wear them, and she tried mine on. We looked great, as you’ll see from the nearby photos.

A large group of us went for a walk later on a flat stretch of land that reveals itself at low tide. We felt the mud under our feet and walked into a watery area where snails lay on the intertidal floor. We could see the tracks they made in the sand. Partway, Lydia took my arm as we strolled along. We reflected on love and the beauty of the land. She is truly at home in Senegal. I can see myself feeling the same way.

Thank you for accompanying me on my journey.

Day Ten: Toubacouta Tour

I slept till noon and it could have been far more. The kids were lounging by the pool and there were no adults in sight. I had the thought that they were still sleeping but I found out they’d all gone over to Jo and Lydia’s house. After breakfast, they had decided to let me sleep. I got about five hours of shuteye – their total must have been two or three. And how exactly did they manage that?

I put my Speedo on (!) and sat by the pool a bit. My slow brain finally figured out that the kids needed to be with their friends – no adults please. By this time Jan, the father of another clan, had dropped by. He offered to walk me over to the house because I didn’t know where it was.

Outside of the B&B, I saw the real Toubacouta. Small cement homes, lots of folks walking, the occasional goat or chicken, dirt streets, a few stalls for selling things. Not at all what I experience on the other side of the world.

As Jan and I walked into the house, Lydia was there to greet us, dressed in a flowing African robe of many colours. We all had slept well. She had asked Iced Tea to drive me around the village on his motorbike. The smiling man was clearly happy to do so.

We visited some neighbours of his, often folks who were standing outside of a business. Everyone seemed to be happy. On one stop, we met his mother and a young woman peeling some vegetable. Instant smiles came my way. Mom-in-law especially glowed. After we set off again, me holding Iced Tea’s waist from the rear, he told me “I like you. I will do anything to have you be happy here.” And he absolutely meant it.

Iced Tea took me to see his house under construction. It was basically just a foundation. He stood in each room, proudly pointing to bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and living room. He held up a concrete brick as I snapped his picture, so proud of his future.

I told Iced Tea that the boy I tutor wanted to contribute to the village, and that I had decided to put the money into his home. His eyes widened and he surrounded me in a hug. Thank you never felt so good.

Later on the ride, Iced Tea stopped at a neighbour’s, and a 3-year-old girl bounced toward him. She settled in front of her dad with tiny hands on the handlebars. We were three for awhile. So sweet.

Iced Tea took me to the local hotel where several of our group were sitting at the bar, enjoying a drink. A few cheek kisses later, we were laughing. I paid for Iced Tea’s Coca -Cola when he wasn’t looking.

***

It’s now many hours later, almost midnight, and I’m writing this in bed. Out in the distance there’s the sound of drums. A soloist sings a line and then a chorus responds. It’s a goodnight that I’ve never experienced. May it come my way again, both on this trip and many times in the future.

Day Six: Bruges

Pil, my pheasant-feeding friend from two days ago, asked me if I’d like to visit Bruges, known as “The Venice of Belgium”. Of course I said yes. “Carpe diem” … Seize the day.

Our first stop was to visit Pil’s longtime friend in downtown Bruges. Lucas is an optician whom my dear amiga Lydia calls “crazy”. Crazy strange and perfectly wonderful.

We walked through the door of his shop and approached a grey-haired man dressed in black. Pil had alerted Lucas that a wayward Canadian was going to show up today. After an initial moment of eye contact, Lucas extended his hand and said:

“Jesus ____ Christ. You look just like Jesus.” I laughed. No one had ever seen that epitome of holiness in me before. This was a character all right, but then again so am I. On the way to Bruges, Pil told me a story about Lucas. Seems that he once entered a party and announced “Is anyone up for an orgasm?” After a beat of silence among the partygoers, he added “Even a little one?”

Lucas had to get back to work and his wife Ann offered us a coffee. Yum … very strong stuff. We were invited to check out their home a few blocks away, and it was a marvel. Part of a long string of ancient brick houses, inside it was a wonder of African art. One tapestry seemed to have animal teeth embedded in it and there were many statues of tribesmen. The place was somehow both fierce and serene.

The city was as advertised – brick buildings hundreds of years old, often with the fronts of rooves rising in a step pattern. There were two or three main canals with countless narrow ones branching off. Tiny grassed backyards gave right onto the water.

Cyclists were everywhere, even after a heavy rain. On one downhill stretch of cobblestones, I was astonished at the ease with which these folks navigated the slippery surface. A pair of riders would be looking to each other while deep in conversation, with cars squeezing by on the left. Truly a wow.

Pil wanted me to experience a genuine Belgian libation so he ushered me into a pub. He ordered a huge bottle of 12% Benedictus beer for us to share. A couple at a nearby table were staring at the bottle and Pil called out to them for a conversation, the same thing I’m known for doing. Kindred spirits, these Belgian and Canadian guys.

Back at Lucas’ shop, I told him “Lydia thinks you’re crazy … and she loves you.” Lucas grabbed me in a powerful hug, laughed like a fanatic, and said “Tell Lydia that I love her too.” An hour or two later, I did.

My new world is full of big personalities, and what a blessing that is. Together we drink deep from life, laugh from the bottom of our bellies, and smile a lot. Good for us.