Day Ten: The Pull of Home

I said goodbye to Kayla yesterday morning. She too is on a spiritual path, one quite different from mine. When we go out to dinner, it’s obvious that we have some contrasting perspectives but there’s a celebration in the space. “I’m so glad that you and I have a spiritual life. It brings our words alive.”

As soon as I moved behind the wheel of Scarlet, I could feel the tug – Canada, Belmont, home. There was no sense at all of getting rid of the United States. My last ten days have been full to the brim with precious moments, all of them centered on the presence of one or two other human beings. Those were shining times and now I want to bask in the light of folks who sit at the counter of the Belmont Diner.

I felt immense peace as I followed Scarlet up Highway 23 from Columbus, then 15, 68 and the I-75. I guess I passed a car or two but mostly it was a flood of humanity zooming by on my left. I wished them well, with the possible exception of the truck driver who just about ripped off my front bumper as he pulled back into the curb lane. Oh heck, I’ll wish him well, too!

The freeway through Detroit was surprisingly light with traffic and soon I was on the approach to the Ambassador Bridge to Canada. As Scarlet climbed, I glanced at the water below. No boundary down there or up here on the bridge. Just folks on both sides. You could describe them as American or Canadian but identity goes infinitely deeper than that.

A leisurely two hours to Belmont. Tonight there was a community fish fry at the arena and both my stomach and heart wanted to go. I climbed the steps to the big meeting room with anticipation. The place was packed but as I looked around I realized that I only knew about twenty people. I’ve lived in Belmont for two years now and I want to know far more locals than that. “It’s okay, Bruce. It’ll come.”

My favourite conversation of the evening was with a girl I’ll call Terri. Two years ago, I volunteered in her Grade 6 classroom. Now she goes to another school in another town. I hardly ever see her. We talked about this and that, including her eagerness to take Drama and Art when she goes to high school next year.

As I looked at her, I knew that I loved her. She’s so spontaneous … so very much herself. While we continued talking, I realized that I wanted nothing back from her. Not her time, not her compliments – nothing. And that’s a very sweet kind of love.

I’m home
I’m happy
I’m me

Danger and Love

If you were reading my blog two years ago, you heard about Lydia and Jo, Belgium and Senegal.  In December, I’m visiting my friends in Belgium and then we’re flying to Senegal in Africa to visit their twenty foster children.  A grand adventure.

Today I went to the London Travel Clinic to find out what shots I need.  The doctor didn’t pull any punches: “You’re going to one of the most dangerous places in the world.”  Dangerous as in disease.  She described a belt which runs west to east across the middle of Africa … big problems with respect to health.  But I can get the “full meal deal” of vaccines and pills to protect me.

Today I had four injections.  In a month I’ll have two or three more.  Here’s what I’m avoiding:

1. Yellow fever – potentially fatal without protection, widespread in parts of Africa, carried by infected mosquitoes

2. Hepatitis A – contracted through impure water

3. Hepatitis B – contracted through blood or other bodily fluids

4. Typhoid – contracted by eating food or drinking water contaminated with the feces of an infected person

5. Meningitis – inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord, due to infection

6. Measles, mumps and rubella – infections caused by viruses

7. Malaria – a life-threatening disease transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito

And here are some other do’s and don’ts for me to contemplate:

1. Put on insect repellent at the beginning of the day and every four hours thereafter. Make sure it has a high concentration of DEET.

2. Don’t pet dogs.  Actually, stay away from dogs.  Rabies is a common cause of death in Africa.

3. To avoid diarrhea, drink only boiled fluids or those coming out of a sealed bottle.  Stay well-hydrated.  Brush your teeth with bottled water.

4. Eat well-cooked meat, rice and peeled fruit, such as bananas. Don’t eat salads or berries since they may have been washed in impure water.

5. Stay well-hydrated to avoid constipation.  Take a supply of Bran Buds with you since African food tends to be low in fibre.  Use a laxative such as Restoralax as needed.

***

Well, this definitely gets me thinking.  Ruth, the doctor at the clinic, told me not to worry since I’ll be well protected.  Still, I need to be on high alert while I’m in Senegal.  Not exactly a “falling asleep on the beach” vacation.  Here comes a dog.  Those greens look yummy but …  Did I take that malaria pill at breakfast?

I’m a bit afraid but then clear thinking returns.  I’m committed to being safe.

I want the trip to be about people – especially Jo and Lydia’s kids, but also the Senegalese adults I’ll meet.  I’ll handle the health details, breathe easy because of that, and open myself to love.

The Holy Land

My friends Anne and Ihor got back from their pilgrimage to Israel last week. They’re devout Christians and shared this devotion with 24 other souls from their Ukrainian Catholic church. Yes, “pilgrimage” is the right word.

Pilgrims from all over the world come to Jerusalem, Nazareth, Mount Tabor, Bethlehem and Jericho. They walk the Via Dolorosa, the street where Jesus carried his cross. They gaze up at Golgatha, where he died.

I sat in the living room this morning as my B&B hosts told me what most deeply impacted them on the trip.

Ihor was struck with the groups of pilgrims who each dressed in their traditional clothing as they honoured Jesus by their presence. Flowing gowns in bright colours were common. Some devotees formed a circle and sang holy songs. Reverence filled the space. The North Americans, in their individual clothing choices, contrasted with the “families” of worshippers, but their inner faith was no doubt the same.

Anne experienced the presence of God atop Mount Tabor. As she looked around at her companions, many of them were similarly moved. The mountain is apparently the site of Jesus’ “transfiguration”. In Matthew we read:

After six days Jesus took with him
Peter, James and John the brother of James
and led them up a high mountain by themselves
There he was transfigured before them
His face shone like the sun
and his clothes became as white as the light

Who knows what energies are alive in the world? Sitting quietly though, in a state of reception, we may welcome in God, the Buddha, Spirit or whatever we choose to call it, and we too may radiate lovingkindness. Some immensity touched Anne and her friends on Mount Tabor.

Alas, all is not roses and lemonade. Ihor and Anne were in a cafeteria packed with locals and tourists, about to chow down on the lunch they had prepared in their hotel. Chicken and cheese sandwiches looked pretty tasty.

Suddenly a middle-aged Jewish woman ran over to them, yelling:

“You are breaking kosher laws. Get out! Get out!”

Although many Jews abide by kosher rules, in which meat and dairy products are not to be eaten together, this was a public place, with people from all over the world. Sadly, in their shock, my friends chose to leave. Even though the woman’s behaviour did not show a general Jewish attitude, it was a sad commentary on the abuse that can be done in the name of religion. Anne and Ihor are still trying to process this incident.

Ihor loved being at the site of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount – the side of a hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee. As a priest led a ceremony, the view was through graceful trees down to the water. No doubt many pilgrims could imagine Jesus standing exactly where they were, sharing his soul with the faithful:

Blessed are the poor in spirit
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

Blessed are those who mourn
for they shall be comforted

Blessed are the meek
for they shall inherit the earth

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness
for they shall be satisfied

Blessed are the merciful
for they shall obtain mercy

Blessed are the pure of heart
for they shall see God

Blessed are the peacemakers
for they shall be called children of God

Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

And blessed are Ihor and Anne

Day Ten: The Plane

First the breakfast. I walked by two fit-looking fellows and said hi. I soon found out that Clive and Alen had just completed a cross-country bicycle ride. I chose not to mention my recent Tour du Canada experiences but instead showed my appreciation of their achievement.

“Do you think you’ll look back on this as a life-changing experience?”

“No. It’s just something else for the bucket list.”

I wasn’t expecting that answer. Turns out that the two of them specialize in crossing countries on their bicycles. Twice they’ve “done” the USA. This fall is Africa. Just part of a cycling lifestyle.

How different these guys’ lives are from mine. And that’s just fine. No better or worse … just different. I love hearing of other folks’ journeys.

Alen and Clive talked about cars bombing by less than a metre from their handlebars, how so few drivers will pull over a bit or wait if there’s oncoming traffic. Many is the time that they’ve had to veer off into the gravel. Now why does all that sound awfully familiar? Just listening to them moved my heart into my throat.

Next was Brian, my cab driver to the airport. He loves St. John’s because everyone is so “laid back”. “Hurry” just isn’t in the vocabulary. Brian is a passionate Montreal Canadiens hockey fan and I’m a lover of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Along the road, we talked hockey, about the great Canadiens players of the past, such as Henri Richard and Jean Beliveau. Not a whiff of antagonism between us.

Now I’m flying high aboard WestJet’s flight to Toronto. I have a window seat in Row 4. The rows ahead are for “Plus” passengers. The three seats on the left side of Row 3 hold two people. The middle seat boasts a tray with two cup holders. So one of the basics of Plus is that you don’t have to sit beside anyone. Speaking to your seatmate would be over a greater distance. No doubt the folks ahead will have a fancy meal but how sad that “better” includes isolation from other human beings.

Jimmy is sitting next to me. He works in Ottawa but is a true Newfoundlander, friendly and “down home”, with a wonderful thick accent. He ordered a rum and coke, offering cash to the flight attendant, except that WestJet accepts credit cards only. Both the fellow to Jimmy’s right and the handsome guy to the left were ready to pay with credit cards … but the female employee gave Jimmy his drink for free. Waydago, WestJet!

A male flight attendant is serving the Plus passengers. He’s an older fellow (younger than me) and I like watching him. Even from a distance I see his easy smile and the graceful way he moves as he pours wine or delivers a dessert. Nothing forced, just natural. Clearly he likes people. Very cool.

A couple of minutes ago, we were coming in for a landing at Toronto Airport. “Wow. Look how big those homes are getting!” And then they weren’t. They were getting small again. A few seconds later, our plane was swooping gently to the left. Out my window, there was the world of solid ground. Happily the pilot came on the intercom to announce that another plane was slow in getting off the runway so we were going on “a tour of Toronto”. He was so calm and reassuring. Now we’re on final approach number two. May the wings be with us.

Touchdown! Piece of cake.

Now I’m on the bus from Toronto to London. A young Chinese woman has sat down beside me. Yan Nan Gu has been in the air from China for 14 hours. And she’s just given me an orange candy. What a sweet thing to do.

Yan Nan was going to give me her English name but I really wanted to know her real one. She’s in fashion marketing at Fanshawe College in London and is a delightful human being to talk to. We’re laughing a lot.

I keep struggling with her name but I’m determined to say it right, to spell it right, to know the real person. We smile and bow as we say goodbye.

***

And now only one word remains … home
It’s where I am

Day Nine: Slowing Down to Home

I strolled down to the hotel breakfast room today wearing one of my favourite t-shirts, given to me by my brilliant in-laws Nona and Lance:

Irony: The Opposite of Wrinkly

Nothing highfalutin, just a down home definition.

A woman and her adult daughter were sitting nearby. Hardly ever in my life does someone say hi before I do but today was the day. The younger one greeted me as she got up to replenish her food supplies and mom smiled gaily as they were walking out a few minutes later. Both of them were staring at my chest. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t because of my emerging V-shaped body.

Then I talked to an oriental couple, clearly tourists like me. The woman looked surprised that I said hello but she responded warmly. I got to be the purveyor of local knowledge, heartily recommending that they go to Quidi Vidi (see my post of two days ago). They loved the idea and plan on taking a bus there later today. I feel so fine … my good deed for the day. Heck, I might even throw in another deed or two before the sun says goodbye.

Now I’m sitting in the Rocket Bakery in downtown St. John’s. The possibilities of breakfast number two are dangling in front of my eyeballs. My window counter gives me a bird’s eye view of a sidewalk table for two. Ten minutes ago a young couple sat there. She was sure pretty! But I won’t say any more about that. Mostly what I noticed is that she had her face buried in a smartphone for most of the time. He sat there, looking around at the buildings and the flow of humanity. But she wasn’t with him. I was sad.

Now there’s another man and woman at the table, much older. They’re looking at each other! They’re talking! Cool.

Okay. I’m off … to who knows where. My left ankle and right knee are sore, no doubt worsened by the tilting St. John’s streets. But I’m wearing my compression stocking and an ankle brace. Plus I’m being super duper careful about the steps I take. The world needs to be explored!

***

I walked down by the water and saw an enormous ship approaching the harbour. Since there was a fence in my way, I decided to climb up a few streets for a better view. There beckoning me was a long curved bench in a parkette called Angel’s Corner. A gentleman was sitting there, a cup of Tim’s coffee in hand. I said hello and Terry created something beautiful.

My friend is dying of colon cancer, with less than a year to live. His body can’t take any more radiation or chemo. The morphine does its best to keep the pain down but there’ll be a time when it won’t do the job. Terry is terrified of the pain to come but is willing to look down the throat of death. The tears came. What an honour to sit with this man, hear him give thanks for every day remaining, and watch him cry. It was moment after holy moment.

We talked for half an hour. Terry is surrounded by family and friends, who are naturally torn up about losing their dear one. Thank God for their presence.

“Goodbye, Terry. I wish you a peaceful and pain-free death. It was a privilege to meet you.”

“Thank you for talking to me, Bruce. Have a good trip home.”

Twenty minutes later, I was taking a picture of a painted garbage bin, showing the beauty of a Newfoundland fishing village. I said hi to a woman on a bike, stopped for a red light. Brittany probably missed five more green lights as we talked. My photography behaviour gave me away: a total tourist. She’s a potter who lives halfway up Signal Hill and rides her bicycle up to her home most days. Can you imagine how strong she is? Wow.

What a nice person, so interested in the tourist’s life and willing to share about her own. Fare thee well, Brittany.

And then there were the statues: from behind I saw the man and the girl. He was holding her hand. Here’s the inscription:

There is nothing that recommends a Police Officer to the favourable notice of the public so much as kindness to the poor, to the helpless and to children

John McCowen 1908

I agree, John. And kids are the best.

***

That’s just about it from St. John’s. It’s a lovely-looking city with lovely people. Tomorrow I fly away to my Ontario home.

Arrivederci, Newfoundland
Keep singing

Day Seven: Roaming St. John’s

First, a bit about last night …

Riders, staff, family members and friends gathered at the Knights of Columbus Hall for the celebratory banquet. Cool stories of Canada travel were flying fast and furious. I kept asking questions such as “What did you like best about the Tour du Canada?” and “What impact do you think the ride will have on your life?” The answer to that one will no doubt take time to percolate through. The wife of one of the riders looked at me and said “You like asking deep stuff.” So true. The undeep is usually boring.

I spent a lot of time looking around the room, remembering conversations I’d had with each of the cyclists. Precious moments recalled. And I wondered what could have been if I’d stayed. I also thought about the goodbyes that were coming after these fine people had spent ten weeks together.

Several folks gave short speeches after dinner. Jim shocked me by talking about the impact I’d had on the group. (Gulp) I stood up and told the riders that they’d always be with me. And that’s true, whether or not we ever meet again. Paul also spoke about me, saying that I had inspired him, that I had tried so hard. (Accept it all with grace, Bruce)

I’m sad that I didn’t say goodbye to every cyclist. I was talking to Uli when a few of the folks left the hall. Fare thee well, friends. Afterwards, several of us went to a pub. Good old Newfoundland music competed with our conversations and I mostly couldn’t hear anyone at a distance. Across the table, Ken and Mary talked about the time they climbed France’s Mont Ventoux on their bicycles. The Tour de France riders go there! What an epic achievement. I hope it’s touched their lives deeply.

***

Now I’m writing about Saturday, even though it’s Sunday morning. Oh well. I like the slow pace.

Paul and his family invited me to join them for the day. That was so generous of them. Al came as well. We went to see the Terry Fox memorial on the waterfront. Terry lost his leg to cancer in the 1980’s and began running across Canada to raise money for research. He averaged a marathon a day (26 miles) until the cancer brought him to a halt halfway across Canada. Terry’s statue in St. John’s was slightly bigger than lifesize and I got to look right into his eyes. We connected. I think deep eye contact is one of the great gifts in life.

Paul’s daughters Hayley and Lindsay suggested we go on a five-kilometre hike around Signal Hill. Paul, Laurie, Al and I were up for it. Laurie drives so confidently, like she’s a Newfoundlander, and we were off.

My left ankle and right knee continue to be unfriendly and it soon became clear to me that the trail wasn’t a good idea. A few rocky downhill stretches and I knew I was in trouble. How humbling to be poised above a tiny slope, not knowing if my body will get the job done.

To say something or not? Well … clearly I needed to speak up. I told Paul and friends that I’d sprained my ankle recently and I needed to take the road up Signal Hill. They understood, and Paul and Al chose to accompany me.

One delicious and expensive hot chocolate later, we were atop the hill where 24 hours earlier 18 cyclists had completed their journey across Canada. The slope just below the parking lot was so steep and they would have been so tired. Chapeau, dear riders!

The family wanted to take the trail to Quidi Vidi, whatever that was. A St. John’s bus driver, leaning against her vehicle, mentioned that part of the trail was a bit rugged, but that her route would take me right there. I could feel my pride swallowing and voted for the bus.

Quidi Vidi is a rocky inlet, with a few of the old homes on stilts over the water. I came upon a wedding party, red dresses and black tuxedos, plus one special woman who got to wear a white dress. After all the photos, I went up to the bride and groom and said “Have a happy marriage.” She especially smiled.

I had a seat in the Quidi Vidi Brewing Company with my Iceberg beer. The fellow singing announced that the next song would separate the CFA’s from the Newfoundlanders. CFA means “Come from away” – anyone who’s not local.

I tried unsuccessfully to pick up the lyrics. Across the room, a woman in her 60’s was belting out the words and looking at me. I threw my arms into the air with my hands spread, letting her know that I was CFA. She smiled.

Then the whole crew arrived and we settled into a beer-laden table for six. As the singer sang and the room vibrated with conversation, I looked over to Paul. He was talking to his wife and two daughters, all of them sitting to his right. And the looks of love between him and them were marvelous. What a family.

Later I came upon a big circle of folks, singing and playing their instruments. For some unknown reason, I pulled out my MasterCard and flung it into the middle of them. Then I called out “2112”, which just happens to be my PIN. A few smiles came back, as well as one thumbs up. And a woman rushed over to return the card.

In the evening, we were on George Street, being screeched in at a bar called Christian’s. All six of us were sitting at the bar, watching drinks be poured and taking in the din of the place. Wow, was it loud! I was basically yelling at Hayley next door. Our host wore a newfie fisherman’s hat and regaled us with stories, Newfoundland lingo and an astonishing ability to remember the names of the 25 or so people who were being screeched.

The highlight of the day lasted several hours. Paul, Laurie, Lindsay and Hayley included Al and me. We were welcomed into the family, and how precious that was. Paul had been away from his kin for two-and-a-half months, and the family could have kept him to themselves yesterday. Happily for me, they didn’t. Thank you, folks.

Day Five: The Bus

I got on board at 8:00 am and I’ll get off at 9:00 … pm that is. That’s a pile of asphalt and, so far, endless trees. For the first two hours, I was freezing, and the hostess gave me some reasoned response about why they couldn’t turn on the heat. After she finished, I was still freezing.

The rains came down and the clouds dropped low. Plus I was awfully hungry. Later a convenience store provided the necessities of coffee, potato chips and a raspberry flaky but I was still grumpy.

Then there was the announcement: “Welcome to ____ Bus Lines. If you’re late getting back on the bus after a rest stop, the driver won’t wait for you. You’ll be responsible for your own transportation. Consuming alcoholic beverages is prohibited. If caught, you’ll be escorted off the bus at the next stop … We hope you enjoy your trip.”

Hmm.

All the window seats are occupied and only a few of the aisle ones. Although I laughed with a few pre-passengers in Port-aux-Basques, now we’re about twenty-five solitudes. Sort of sad but I don’t feel a desire to hop over next to anybody.

I’m noticing that I’ve fallen into the trap of letting my environment dictate my well-being. It’s time to create goodness for myself, and starting this blog post helps.

Hours later, there are no views out the window, just masses of trees. It seems to me that long views are a precious reflection of an expansive life. “Look long into the good light and see the marvels displayed there. Walk towards that light.” That’s it, Bruce. The views are mostly internal. If the good Earth co-operates, I see to the far horizon. If I’m enclosed in a corridor of trees, that’s okay too. Keep looking.

Now it’s movie time on the bus – Sister Act 2. Whoopi Goldberg is the coolest teacher and the disgruntled student Rita is gradually drawn under her wing. Sister Mary Clarence is a magnet. Yay for teachers!

The rain keeps pouring. It’s pooling on the road and we’re creating huge splashes out my window. All is well.

Finally some ponds and meadows. I seek moose. Even a deer would be fine. No one.

It’s nearly dark now. I guess the moose and deer will have to remain in my mind. That’s all right. St. John’s is two hours away and I don’t want to write anymore. I hope you understand.

Goodnight all.

Day Four: Staying Put

It was my day to explore Port-aux-Basques. I started off in the dining room of St. Christopher’s Hotel, where I’m staying. The young woman serving me was emotionally flat. Rehearsed words seemed to be coming out of her mouth. I had to go looking for her to get a second cup of coffee. Negativity started bubbling up in me and then I took a step back. Here was a girl, maybe 20, no doubt dealing the same self-esteem issues that I faced back then. “Cut her some slack, Bruce.” So I did. Silently I wished her well as I left. It’s true that she was very different from the other newfies I’ve met … and that’s fine.

I walked down to the harbour and gazed past the tiny islands to the free water beyond. Such an immense feeling of space. Something caught my eye and I looked left. The huge ferry was leaving port. Way up on the promenade deck, where I had stood yesterday, about twenty-five souls stood looking towards the land. I waved madly and kept it up for probably a minute. Not a single person waved back, and I was sad. I so much yearn for true contact with other human beings, and in those moments it was not to be.

Off I strolled to the often steep streets of Port-aux-Basques. How do they get cars up some of those driveways? At the high points, I had other views of the ocean. I enjoyed the vistas. Still, it’s people who move me the most, not nature or architecture.

I saw little fishing boats. My favourite was “Eastern Comfort”. Marine Drive was an empty little road by the water, lined with industrial buildings and the occasional house. It was such a contrast to Marine Drive in Vancouver, British Columbia – a busy and speedy thoroughfare between lush greenery and opulent homes. But contrast is everywhere in life, I’d say.

My ankles had puffed up with the walking and I was sore. A tiger waffle cone at a convenience store helped immeasurably and so did my conversation with a young girl, about ten years old. She liked her summer adventures but was absolutely thrilled to be returning to school and being with some friends who were absent from her life for the past eight weeks. She talked to me as if I was a local. Cool.

I came upon a gaggle of teens in front of a grocery store. There was a yellow cylindrical cement post, about four feet tall, to keep cars from smashing into the building. A young man was standing on top of it. I couldn’t resist – the opportunity was too sweet. Crossing the street, I called out “Does everybody put you on a pedestal?” He smiled and replied “Pretty much.”

His friends seemed to be looking at me in wonder so I kept going: “I hope you’re not looking down on these fine folks!” Smiles all around. We talked for another couple of minutes and then I was off. They waved goodbye.

As the afternoon waned, I headed to the cluster of tiny pastel buildings which were near the music stage. It was time to sample Geraldine’s food. She gabbed gaily with me while her friend or sister was off to the side, peeling PEI potatoes for the fries. I succumbed to a cheeseburger and natural fries, and when Geraldine told me she’d gone home last night after the singing and baked chocolate chip cookies, I succumbed again.

At one point, I looked over to the orange kiosk across the way. It had a sign saying “Intuitive Tarot Readings”. I spied the young woman inside and asked Geraldine loudly “I wonder where I could get a Tarot card reading.” And there was a small smile from inside the orange place.

I went over to meet Justine, who kindly gave me the only chair in the place. She’d overheard my chattering over at Geraldine’s and concluded that I was “a happy person”. I am.

Her Tarot reading pointed to the image of an arrow flying off to a target. Wow! That’s so true. I experience myself as being launched towards an unknown future, one of beauty and contribution.

Justine and I talked of the spiritual life. She was slow in her soul and it felt like home. I told her of the book I wrote about my wife Jody and her eyes brightened some more. I’ll send her a copy when I get home.

I like people.

Day Two: Rocking and Rolling

Walking on the train was an adventure. The dining car was about ten cars ahead of where I slept, with the dome four back. Since people’s small cabins stretched across most of the width of the train, the corridor was sixteen inches wide. As the train moved and grooved on the rails, so did my bod, caressing the walls as I stumbled forward. I was left to imagine what travel would be like if I had a beer or two in me … “Bruising on the Halifax Express”!

I loved my tiny space – two comfy chairs that a staff member transformed into a bed in the evening. I had visions of leaving the drapes open overnight so I could be bathed in moonlight, but a series of red lights flashing by soon dampened my romantic aspirations.

My bed was just fine, although I half expected to fall off at 2:00 am, given how narrow it was. As I laid down my head, the jostling of rail travel had me thinking that it would be a short night but that thought soon fell into sleep.

At breakfast yesterday, I looked out at the views – left was a wide stretch of water and right forests and fields. I had asked a gentleman sitting alone if I could join him and he smilingly said yes. Habib was a Pakistani fellow from Toronto, a commercial real estate agent.

And … we had the most marvelous conversation – my life and his life, and how important it is to be kind. I asked him if he experienced much discrimination, and he said yes. He spoke without antagonism. In fact he spoke with love. The scenery around me faded away and our words flowed.

Other meetings followed. Karen in the dome car, just returning from a yoga retreat and so interested in my long term meditation experience. Like-minded voyagers on our dear planet. Then there was Jo at lunch. She was from the UK and had fallen in love with Kelowna, B.C. A future possibility as a Canadian was beckoning.

Late in the day, a staff member told me that our train was an hour behind schedule. Oops. I was supposed to get off at Truro, Nova Scotia at 4:20 pm and get on a bus to North Sydney at 5:00. As the minutes ticked by, it became clear that I wasn’t going to make it. Jo stayed by me as I grappled with sketchy phone service to call the bus company, my soon-to-be B&B hostess, and other transportation options. Jo was so supportive.

I was amazed at how calm I was. I just knew that the universe would provide. I would get to North Sydney tonight and take the ferry to Newfoundland tomorrow afternoon. I sat there quietly pleased with who I’ve become.

Via Rail arrived in Truro at 5:05. The bus had left at 5:00. And a shuttle van was picking me up at Murphy’s Fish and Chips at 6:30. All was well.

I had a homemade piece of coconut cream pie and a fine chat with my server. When it was time to pay, I approached an older woman at the counter. I told her my Via Rail story. Her response? “Okay then. This is on the house.” I was tempted to protest but the look in her eyes told me not to. Thank you, Natalie, and to the other fine human beings who have come my way.

The Rails Ahead

On Sunday at 7:30 am I get on a train in London, Ontario.  Two trains, two buses and one ferry later, I arrive in St. John’s, Newfoundland on Thursday.  The next day I get to greet the cyclists of the Tour du Canada as they end their cross-country journey.  So I’m on a journey of my own.

All told, I’m gone for ten days.  And I ask myself: “What can I create in that time?”  Seems like a odd question.  Am I not going simply to absorb all that the world of travel offers?  To consume the land, the food and the people I meet?  Well, yes, that’s part of it.  I want to draw experiences, conversations and scenes inside of me … so they may nourish me.  Yes, I want to be fed.  But if my life is all about eating, I fear that I’ll bloat – be so full of incoming energy that I don’t even give a thought to what I’m sending forth.

Very simply, I want to contribute to the lives of the folks I meet.  That starts with the attendant at the London train station, as I figure out how I’m going to make my luggage work for both the train travel and the return flight from St. John’s on September 4.

There may be a human being sitting beside me as the fields give way to the towers of Toronto.

There may be a hot dog vendor outside the Montreal station.

There’ll be a waiter or waitress as I get to eat three fancy meals in the dining car while we roll through Quebec.

There may be fellow travellers watching the world go by from the next table.

There may be a host or hostess orienting me to my sleeping berth.

And on and on.

Will I share my heart with the human beings I meet?  Yes, I will.  And if they turn their head away or move the topic to the fortunes of the Toronto Blue Jays, then I’ll gracefully follow their lead.  It may be, however, that some of my companions will be fellow explorers of consciousness … and we’ll fall together into the mysteries of living.

Will I make people laugh?  I’ll sure try.  The thing about meeting new folks is that they haven’t heard my repertoire of silly comments.  It’ll all be fresh to them.  Perfect.  And as for those who just stare when I sing them “a little number” (i.e. “3”) I’ll bless them as they retreat.

Maybe the coolest thing is that every day I’ll be blogging to you cyber inhabitants.  I bet there won’t be any shortage of material.  We human beings are good at being noteworthy.

See you on the train and boat and plane