Day Four: Triangle

I was looking for a quiet spot yesterday and I found one.  On the other side of a walkway beside the lobby bar is a little sitting area, shaded by a canopy of big green leaves over a trellis.  It was full of wicker chairs, with comfy cushions for the back and bum.  No waiters coming by with an offer of drinks.  Just peace.  As well as exploring the pages of Birdie, I watched the flow of humanity across the way.  Since I was well to the side of their field of vision, nobody seemed to detect me.  But I detected them.  Couples holding hands, young kids scampering ahead of their parents.  Folks with canes.  Most of the guys had facial hair, unlike a certain observer I know.

Twelve wooden posts supported the trellis.  The hard branches of the plants wound their way around half of them.  On the ceiling’s edges, green leaves waved in the wind.  And such a sublime breeze.  The fairies tickling my face.

I needed this.  To be alone, without conversation.  To reflect on life, on my love of golf, on what it means to be an aboriginal woman in Canada.  Some of me was here and now, watching the high-pitched black birds hop from chair to chair and then hoist themselves into the nest of branches above.  Another part was there and then, imagining myself on the practice tee at Tarandowah, actually hitting shots high in the air.  I’m fine with both ways of being.

I have a favourite spot in the lobby bar.  I’m sitting here right now.  It’s where I tap on my laptop and go on the Internet to obsess about Brooke Henderson.  From my chair under the birdie trellis, I could just see my place in the bar.  That felt good.  Bruce saying hi to Bruce.  I was also looking at the tall windows of the Italiano à la carte restaurant.  Later in the day, I would be enjoying a meal in there.  The exterior was decorated in white and pale green.  It looked very Mediterranean.  I saw my future me and wondered if I’d get a window table, so I could look back at my chair under the trellis.  Bar, trellis, restaurant … all Bruce.  I don’t have words for the peace I felt, for the love I felt for me.

At 6:00 pm, a smiling waiter ushered me to a window table in Italiano.  And there was my wicker chair, with the cushion supporting the back of an earlier visitor.  And over yonder was my blogging spot in the lobby bar.  Bruce hangs out there too.

All is right with the world.

Day Three: Sunny

A tan’s the thing, is it not?  I figured my strategy was good … show up at the beach at 4:00 and stay a couple of hours, avoiding the most damaging rays of the sun.  Plus I slathered on SPF 30 and reapplied it halfway through.

My history of wanting a good tan goes way back to the teen years when I was sorely afraid of anyone seeing my white body.  But now I’m 67.  Does it really matter that I’m brown all over, that I return to friends in Canada with a bodily badge of honour?  I think not.

Still there I was yesterday on a sublime white sand beach, hauling a lounger out of its thatched shade so I could get the full meal deal.  I pulled off my t-shirt and shorts to reveal a sparkling lime green Speedo.  Last time here, I had little hesitation about prancing around in such skimpiness but this time I was afraid.

Maybe thirty posts ago, I talked about a physical problem I’ve developed.  I was sure scared to press “Enter” after that writing was done, but I did it, and then hoped that time would erase any record of the subject.  Well … here I go again.  I have benign cysts on my testicles such that the little guys have turned into big guys, two to three times their normal size.  Add that to the reality of wearing a Speedo and you can see my problem.  Before coming to Cuba, I’d decided that gym shorts would be my bathing suit.  Maybe I’d strip to my Speedo in the confines of my beach lounger but I sure wouldn’t walk around wearing it.

So there I lounged in the Speedo way, reading my book.  Yes, the urge came to get up and walk down the beach.  “No, Bruce!  People will … ”  Come on now – people will what?  “They’ll laugh, point, or maybe call security.”  Geez.  Just get up and stroll around.  So I did, first walking out to the shore and staring out at the infinite ocean.  Nobody tackled me.  So I turned right and dipsy doodled along the water’s edge.  Two or three folks did look at my central area but I kept going.  Then a young woman came up and asked me to take a picture of her family.  They were lined up looking at me as I fiddled with the camera.  I’m pretty sure I was blushing but I hoped they’d mistake it for sunburn.  I took too much time and the screen went blank.  So more time as she showed me how to get the camera going again.  Happily, no one stuck out their tongue or vomited, but I was dying inside.

I could have made a bee line back to my chair but instead, girding my loins, I meandered along the shore some more.  I climbed the steps up to the beach bar and ordered a pina colada, then walked in front of maybe fifty people back to my temporary home.  No bolt of lightning struck me down.  I was thrilled and astonished.  I did it.  And really it was just a couple of body parts that had gotten out of control.  I hummed a happy tune.

***

After supper, I sat in the lobby bar reading Birdie, the story of a Canadian aboriginal woman that almost won the Canada Reads competition on CBC Radio.  The heavens opened up before, during and after.  The bar is open to the elements, tempered by the translucent blinds that offered some protection from the rain.  What I experienced was delightful.  The lightest mist fell upon my face and arms … just like Niagara Falls.  The perfect end to a perfect day.  Or perhaps not.

I was in bed by 11:00 and up by 12:30.  The bod was on fire, not with a burn but with itching.  I turned on the light to see what was shaking.  What I saw was lots of tiny blisters adorning the newly tanning areas.  (Big sigh)  Sleep seemed impossible.  I knew that I had some hand lotion with me, so I rubbed that on.  More fire.  So into the shower I stumbled.  That helped a bit.  I took the second sleeping pill of the evening and lay down again.  The itching continued.  I resigned myself to a largely sleepless night.  That was about 1:30.  I woke up at 9:00.  The blisters were gone.  Thank you, Jodiette, and other beings who watch over me.

Bye bye, tan.  From now on, I’m staying in the shade – under the thatched huts on the beach and hanging loose in the lobby bar.  My cold is full speed ahead.  My energy is way down low.  But my soul is happy.  Quite the adventure, this life of ours.

Day Two:  Not Me … Or Me?

My head is fuzzy and stuffed up.  I’m weak.  And I don’t want to get out there and do things, such as dancing and chatting.  So I sit in the lobby bar with a morning coffee and reflect upon Bruceness.  Gosh, I guess it can mean a lot of different things.  Skilled and not skilled.  Vibrant and almost comatose.  Making meaning with other people and staying away from them.  It’s all me.

How can I not want to dance?  Go to tonight’s evening show?  Pump iron at the gym?  Well, actually it’s easy.  I just want to write blog posts, read Golf In The Kingdom and lie on the beach towards sunset, when it’s cooler.  All perfectly fine.

At breakfast, I watched a couple and their two young boys.  Mom and dad took turns getting food.  Dad made funny faces at the tiny kid in the high chair.  Mom cut up his papaya and swished away the flies when they came too close.  It was lovely to behold.

Last night, I watched a performance of Grease in the theatre.  Sixteen months ago, I was enthralled in the same room, with probably the same songs and singers.  This time I was pretty flat about it all, despite an inspiring performance from the two leads.  A strange conversation entered my head:  “Bruce, you seem to be devolving, not evolving.  What’s happened to your spirit?”  The answer is simple – I’m sick.  I need to allow myself to be so.  Sleep most of the day if that seems right.  Stick to fruit and other non-greasy things at mealtime.  Let go of creamy alcoholic drinks for a bit.

To be present in the moment rather than leaning forward to a “better” future – quite the trick, I’d say.  This headache, for instance.  “Hello.”  Eyes that want to close.  “How ya doin’?”  Nothing to say to anyone.  “Works for me.”

A light brown cat just walked through the bar.  Someone made a purring sound.  Ahh … maybe that’s it.  As slow as I am, I can just watch life passing in front of me, look into some tourist and Cuban faces as they walk by, and watch the palm fronds wave in the breeze.

See you tomorrow.

 

 

Day One: Letting It Be

1. I have pictures in my head of the way things should be … in Cuba, for instance.  I shouldn’t be sick (but my cold continues on its merry way).  I should be on the beach working on my tan and just hanging loose (but the heat is getting to me and so I’ve been showing up on the sand an hour or two before sunset).  I should be talking to all sorts of people (but mostly I want to be alone).  How come life has its own ideas about my life?

2. Friday night’s show at the theatre was so much fun.  Last night’s focused on the MC’s booming voice.  Too much amplified bluster for me.  But the night before was golden.  Even before the curtains parted, there were moments to behold.  A young girl, maybe 12, was kneeling in front of the stage, tossing a beach ball to a far younger girl, about 5.  The older child was so patient, hanging in with her partner for at least five minutes, smiling all the while.  I figured they were sisters but when the music started, they went their separate ways.

A fellow dressed in black came onto the stage, wearing a white clown face on the back of his head.  He turned away from us and began to dance.  His arms and legs flipped and flopped as his new face scanned the audience.  Those limbs bent opposite to us normal human beings.  It was an unearthly flow of life.  Very cool.

Michael Jackson put in an appearance, telling us all about Billie Jean and snarling out “Thriller”.  We erupted when his moon walk slipped him backwards.  Add it all up and it was a great evening.

3. I met a couple by the currency exchange office on Friday and we said we’d sit down together sometime soon and have a good talk.  It happened yesterday afternoon on the beach.  After twenty minutes, I was feeling overwhelmed by the husband’s dominance.  Not only did he spew forth an incredible volume of speech, but most of it was in lecture mode.  I mentioned that I’m a Buddhist and he came back with an analysis of several schools of Buddhism.  Ouch.  Should I just smile and accept what life is giving me in the moment or should I speak up?  I chose the latter:

“Please stop.  Too many words.  I can’t process what you’re saying.”  >  Silence

The two of them walked on shortly thereafter.  There were pleasant goodbyes but I don’t believe they’ll be seeking me out any time soon.  And I’m fine with what I did.  I had no antagonism towards them.  I just wanted the noise to stop.  It’s becoming clearer to me that I need to exit myself from noxious stimuli.  And I will continue to do so.

4.  I went to the gym yesterday.  After all, Bruce goes to the gym.  My cold was there with me but I decided that an hour of cardio in the air conditioning would be a good idea.  They didn’t have an elliptical so I started out on the stationary bicycle.  My rear end started complaining after half an hour.  “Why didn’t you pack your padded shorts, Bruce?”  How shortsighted of me … not about my packing prowess but being so critical.  I can’t expect myself to anticipate all the little details of a Caribbean vacation.  So I let my self-grousing go and moved to the StairMaster.  Not a machine I’ve used before but at least my bum would recover nicely.  I finished the hour on the vertical beast, going far slower than my brain said was okay.  Silly brain.

Then it was yoga time.  I spread my mat out on a nice blue floor and stretched assorted muscles of the back, arms and legs.  They smiled.  I was really tired but my nose was clear.  Yay!

5. As I was discovering how to connect to the Internet and send blog posts on their cyber journey, I also spent time seeing how Brooke Henderson was doing in the first major golf tournament of the year.  I’m obsessed with her.  Brooke is Canadian, pretty, young and highly skilled.  Plus she hits her drives about 270 yards.  She’s climbing rapidly in the world rankings and I’ve imagined an unbroken line of success stretching into an infinite future.  More silliness.  Life doesn’t work that way.  After yesterday’s third round, she was tied for 33rd, 8 strokes behind the leaders.  Not a great week so far.  I watched myself struggle with this fact.  I want to cheer on a hero.

Actually, I felt a sweet sadness as I thought of her.  All of us get a few life birdies along the way, mixed in with our fair share of double bogeys.  May I embrace it all.

***

This is fun.  I’m doing things my way while staying open to the unknown.  More please

Southerly Journey

I’m sitting in the lobby bar of the Memories Paraiso Azul Beach Resort, sipping a Spanish coffee and tapping away at my laptop.  I’m used to having trouble with my Internet connection in hotels and restaurants.  And that’s in Canada.  What about Cuba?  A friendly bartender has hung in with me, exploring how to get around all the security thingies.  And here I am … actually talking to you!

A little voice inside says that I should be on the beach right now, soaking up those intense rays.  But hey, it’s my vacation.  I plan to be on the beach every day but not right now, thank you.

Thursday seems like a long time ago but the memories are vivid.  I spent four hours in the morning – packing, organizing, thinking.  Weren’t you supposed to spread this stuff gently over the past week, my man?  Hey again … no supposed to’s.

I arrived at my Toronto hotel around supper time.  Then it was off to the nearest drugstore for some essential item that I had missed (and that now, inexplicably, I don’t remember).  I was so excited.  Even a saunter over to Shoppers Drug Mart was fun.  Back in my room, I messed around on the Internet for awhile and then took my sleeping pill.  Into bed and off to dreamland by 7:30!  Well … not quite.  I got under the sheets but sleep didn’t come.  As I tossed and sometimes turned, my 2:00 am wakeup call loomed large.  Gosh, I thought I was so smart, booking a hotel for my night before.  I’ll get 6, 7 hours sleep.  Actually, make that 1 or 2.  (Sigh)

I entered the Toronto airport at 3:30, perfectly stunned.  I travelled on the moving walkway for quite a spell and came to the conclusion that I was the only human being who stood still.  I clung to the right railing as a fair percentage of Canada’s population motored past.  I don’t know what it says about me or them.  I’m just different, I guess.

On the plane, I plunked down into my precious window seat.  Had a good chat with the fellow beside.  An hour into the journey, the movie was beginning.  Little screens popped out of the ceiling every four rows or so.  Then the announcement:  “So that your fellow passengers may enjoy the film without glare, please lower your shades if you’re sitting beside a window.”  Being a nice little Buddhist person, I half expected that I would go along.  After all, no one moment is better than any other.  However, I didn’t go along.  I wanted to see the world outside.  Either I’m a selfish so-and-so or someone who wants to embrace real moments, not just ones that show up in movies.  I prayed that glare wouldn’t be a problem for my companions.  I don’t think it was.

In the fullness of time, we were approaching Santa Clara, Cuba.  And then another troubling announcement:  “A disabled plane is sitting on the runway.  We need to land at the airport in Camanguey instead.  Once the runway at Santa Clara is cleared, we’ll fly back.  Sunwing Vacations is sorry for the inconvenience.”  Oh my and oh well.  “It’s really not important if I get to the hotel hours later than expected,” he said unconvincingly.

Half an hour later, we landed … in Santa Clara.  “April Fool’s!” announced a sunny flight attendant.  Have to admit, it was brilliant.  We laughed.

Going through customs was fine.  After that, we were supposed to pick up our luggage and proceed to one of ten shuttle buses.  But I couldn’t find my stuff.  I checked every “red and large” suitcase in the concourse.  None of them were mine.  Several staff members did their best to help.  Nothing.  Other flights were arriving and new belongings were speeding down the conveyor belt.  Not mine, however.  The inhabitants of my shuttle bus were waiting and waiting.  I was stewing and stewing but within that was a bit of my Buddhist peace.  Finally a gentleman in uniform came up to me to say that one of the bus passengers had picked up my suitcase by mistake.  All was right with the world.

And that’s true.  All is right.  The beach will appear in my life at the appropriate time … later this afternoon.  And my message to you here will no doubt go through.  I’ll talk to you again tomorrow.

Cuba Bound

On Friday morning at 6:15 am, I lift off.  Well, the plane does, but I’m going along for the ride.  There’s so much I’m looking forward to:

1.  Watching the clouds in their infinite display, plus the land of the Earth way down below

2.  Being on the bus from the airport in Santa Clara as we pass through towns and countryside, plus the 48 kilometre causeway leading to Cayo Santa Maria

3.  Leaning over my balcony at the Memories Paraiso Azul Beach Resort, saying “Ola” to the folks walking on the path below

4.  Reading Ken Wilber and Michael Murphy from the comfort of my lounger on the white sand beach

5.  Dancing down the shoreline at regular intervals

6.  Spending mornings being good to myself: meditation, strength training, cardio and yoga

7.  Spending late evenings at the disco, dancing by myself in an allegedly wild and crazy way

8.  Grooving to the shows at the theatre, especially Grease and the Michael Jackson tribute

9.  Talking to folks from around the world about life and love

10.  Hopefully finding Dorelys, the maid whom I enjoyed talking to last time

11.  Laughing with my servers, and with the woman who serves up delicious smoothies

12.  Going on my one and only excursion – an all day catamaran journey

13.  And most of all … being in a symphony of moments

***

Here comes the unknown, unbidden and unusual