Wonders of the World

I saw two inspiring sights today: one was a huge orange moon. The other was a human face.

As I drove home from London a couple of hours ago, the moon hung low over the highway. All was black around, and it shone like a beacon in the sky. My breath slowed and the beauty came home.

Other beauties of the world have come my way, and I have been blessed to be in their presence. A few weeks ago, there were the thousand-year-old buildings of Ghent, Belgium, glowing with Christmas lights. Many years past, I climbed a sandy ridge on the west coast of Vancouver Island to see at the summit miles of Long Beach, the waves from Japan crashing onto the sand below.

I have stood atop Mount Lineham in Alberta’s Waterton Lakes National Park, a sea of peaks spread before me. I have seen the golden harbour of Toubacouta, Senegal at sunset, with fishing boats lying at rest. I have sat within a hollowed-out cave on the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario, gazing at the sky above.

All these reminders of transcendence, and more, have graced my life. The land, the sea and the structures of man have made me happy.

But the best and brightest of wonders reside in the human face:

My eight-year-old friend Ali in Senegal, smiling into my eyes
as he shook my hand “Bonjour”

My dear wife Jodiette gazing deep into me
as we shared a window table
in Chez Temporel
a sweet restaurant on Quebec City’s Rue Couillard

My friend Sharyn being with me
in a mutual awakening practice this afternoon
the space between us glowing with love

***

No need to travel to the far corners of the world for beauty
although you will also find it there
Just look, really look, at the person beside you

Spacious

About six months ago, “Geoff” and “Barbara” moved into our condo community to be close to their daughter and her family. I’d say they’re both in their 70’s. Geoff can’t drive any more and is starving for male companionship. That’s where I come in. Every two or three weeks, I drive him to the Belmont Diner for breakfast. Geoff is very appreciative.

We sat around the horseshoe-shaped counter today with five local guys. One asked how Geoff could stand me. He replied with something like “Oh, it’s a challenge.” And the banter flows. Geoff’s a natural. He makes wry comments about the political situation and is already taking a playful jab or two at the assembled locals. All in good fun.

Geoff doesn’t see well and he doesn’t move well but his spirit is strong. He doesn’t let his current physicality determine his congeniality. And he laughs at himself. The guys already like him.

In the summer, I sat on Geoff’s deck, which like my patio backs onto a field, this year planted with corn. I remember him talking about the beauty of the green stalks, their tips waving in the breeze. Geoff sees. Geoff feels, and is willing to talk about it. Rare.

We went for a drive this morning after breakie, and my friend was so thankful for the journey. He waxed poetic about the feeling of space, the long views across the fields. Once again I marvelled. Here is a kindred spirit … drinking in the majesty of the world. His previous home near St. Catharines, Ontario was overrun with dull gloms of sameness – expensive homes that somehow all looked like each other. The extended tongue of urban life. Now, already after a few months, Geoff was home.

I wanted to show him the golf course I love – Tarandowah – now blanketed in white. I told him about the flow of the fairways, the long fescue grass in the rough, the Canada geese flying overhead, the silence. He got it. He was there with me as I wondered at it all. I thought about the club members I know. Not a one has ever cast their eyes to the horizon and talked of the loneliness of the links, the sensuous undulations of the seventh green, the vista from the fourth tee. Thank you, Geoff, for entering my world.

On the way home, we talked of trees. Geoff told me of the “Serengeti tree” he sees framed in his living room window, and how the sunset through the branches is glorious.

Just like my neighbour, I too am home.

Burwell

If it’s the Sunday of the long Civic Holiday weekend, it’s time for fireworks on the Port Burwell beach. Twilight is here and the pleasure boats are twinkling on Lake Erie. I’m surrounded by families on the sand – lots of bathing suits, sunburns and happy faces. Glow sticks are shining in their circular paths on necks, wrists and waists and the world is at peace. A great grandma jiggles a tiny boy, much to his delight.

Earlier I was in the beer garden, right up front, sporting the appropriate beverage. A duet played old folk songs, such as Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle”, she of 15 years and he of 70 or so. Avery was so nervous and kept looking out to her friends in the crowd for support. She did fine, and the tunes went down as sweetly as the beer. Seagulls soared over the stage. I sang along. And all was well.

Back to the moment of now and the darkness descends. Excited chatter all around. Kids straining to see their sand castle creations. Others asking what there is to eat. All of us eager for the explosions of light.

“Mom. When are the fireworks going to start?”

And then … poof! The first streamer and banger. Yay for the bright.

As the flowers opened above me, I looked out to the lake and saw the ripples shining. And between were silhouettes of human beings, heads tilted to the heavens. I do believe we were all in awe as the show went on and on. My favourite was a shimmering gold curtain filled in by at least six explosions. It lingered above our heads for so long, seeming to bless us.

Kids oohed and adults ahhed. Though we didn’t know each other, the crowd was family, enraptured with the bursts of white against a blanket of black. And I heard the message: “Wake up! There is so much to live in this world.” May we heed the call.

Summons

What in your life is calling you when all the noise is silenced
The meetings adjourned, the lists laid aside
And the Wild Iris blooms by itself in the dark forest
What still pulls on your soul?

In the silence between your heartbeats hides a summons
Do you hear it?
Name it, if you must, or leave it nameless
But why pretend it is not there?

Terma Collective

I have no idea who the Terma Collective is, but that’s not important.  I’ll forget about “consider the source” and just let the words move through me.

Am I being summoned?  Are you?  And not to a court of law.  Rather to our highest calling.  Yours is no doubt different than mine and there’s no better or worse about it.  Is it sports, the arts, consciousness, business, travel, relationships?  Good for us in any event.

Do we hear the call in the early of the morning?  Are we lying in bed or sipping tea in a cozy chair or jogging through the neighbourhood?  Maybe enjoying lunch with friends at a sidewalk café, munching popcorn in a darkened theatre or grabbing a coffee at Tim’s.

Are there moments when the world recedes and silence comes upon us?  The eyes widen a bit and there’s some sort of space where before there was none.  A pause … an opening … a glimmer of light.

“What exactly is this?”

Well, “exactly” just isn’t it.  The moment of wonder is worlds beyond any analysis.  It doesn’t make sense.  It doesn’t add up.  You can’t reason your way to the truth of it.

Let go
Let in

Angel of the Piano

Yesterday afternoon, I sat down in Toronto’s Koerner Hall, anticipating the keystrokes of a virtuoso pianist – Sir Andras Schiff.  Beside me sat a young Asian woman and we got talking.  She’s a student at the Glenn Gould School of classical music performance.  We chatted about the beauty of Koerner Hall, especially the violin-like wooden sculpture that adorned the ceiling.  It reminded me of waves of energy, and I wondered if the love and peace I felt coming off me was anything like that.

I told Linda about my meditation retreat and I do believe she was enthralled.  “I’ve wanted to do something like that.”  She was one of very few people in such conversations that didn’t say “Oh, I could never do that.”  I mentioned the Buddha’s instruction “What you contemplate, you become.”  She seemed to see the wisdom of it right away.  Before Andras took the stage, we discussed more of life’s ups and downs.  It was a lovely time.

Sir Andras lived up to his billing, with exquisite runs, explosive passages and tender melodies.  I closed my eyes and a quiet crept over me.  Soon I was deep in meditation as his fingers created the magic.  I opened my eyes a few times, occasionally to see Linda leaning way forward, head down.  I wondered if I had something to do with that.

At the break, neither of us wanted to go anywhere.  We talked of love and peace.  Linda told me she was a pianist and was presenting a recital in the evening, in another hall at the Royal Conservatory.  I said I would come.  She smiled.  “But it won’t be as good as this.”  “Let’s try that again.”  I said I would come.  “Thank you.”

And so the evening.  Mazzoleni Hall was an intimate yellow brick and wood enclave.  Linda strolled onstage wearing a gorgeous cream-coloured gown.  Sadly, the audience was nine.

Linda launched into Haydn with a sometimes flurry and an often caress.  Her face was with the music … a passionate “Oh!” and then a sweet “Ahh.”  I was entranced.  She may be decades younger that Mr. Schiff but the heart was just as open.  Chopin, Bach, Brahms, Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky were cheering her brilliance for the rest of the evening.

I gave Linda a standing O, accompanied by a “Bravo!”  So richly deserved.

At the entrance to the hall, I said, “Thank you, Linda.”  We hugged.  We bowed.  “It was lovely.”  “Thank you so much for coming.”

And I was gone into the night.

A Toronto Day

I’m living in an exquisite hotel room, all white and maroon, with a rain shower (square 7×7″ head) that I love standing under.  I’m sitting on the comfy couch, tapping out the words while the downtown sun splashes through the sheers behind me.  I have a sanctuary.

Yesterday I had fish.  I went to Ripley’s Aquarium to see a lot of swimming life.  The best scenes for me were:

  1.  A huge cylindrical tank of small fish, all hovering in mid-water until some unknown leader suggested a course change and the school responded
  2. One little fishy person who seemed to tread water, sitting vertically in place, its mouth doing deep breathing exercises
  3. A gaggle of blue eels, wrapped around each other, with each head looking shockingly like a human face, complete with a variety of expressions
  4. Standing in a tube with sea creatures meandering by to my left, my right and above.  For a long while, I stood in place, waiting for a toothy shark or the flat mass of a manta ray to pass right over my head
  5. The “Ray Bay”, a huge aquarium full of rays.  Some would approach the wall of glass and climb straight up, their undersides apparently revealing a big smiling mouth

I rode the subway here and there, remembering my daily trips from home to the downtown campus of the University of Toronto.  90% of my fellow passengers were connected – that certainly wasn’t part of my memory cells.  I reminisced about how I used to watch people by gazing at their reflection in the window beside me, and I followed suit.  Such stealth!

I was also jolted by the speed at which most people walked … definitely a sprint.  Oh yes, and then there’s escalator etiquette.  Stay on the right side if you want to stand, and watch the flow of humanity beat you to the destination.  A fellow told me yesterday about climbing a narrow escalator in a Toronto mall, just room for one person at a time.  He had chosen to stay still.  The woman behind would have none of it, apparently.  It must have been an effective body check as she squeezed past him.  (Sigh … and no thanks)

One subway station had two large posters that saddened me:

Don’t want to make eye contact?  Read a subway poster

Thinking of suicide?  There is help.  Let’s talk

My second concert in two days was a pretty loud affair, featuring four brilliant musicians: lead guitar, bass guitar, piano and drums.  I enjoyed seeing them express their craft.  But I wanted more quiet stories about life … my definition of folk music.  The highlight for me was when a woman joined them on stage and sang of a place – Aille, I think – and the love that happened there.  The song and the voice were haunting.  It was far and away the highlight of the concert for me.

I wanted to tell the artist how her performance had moved me.  At the break, I looked for her and saw that she was engaged in conversation with the pianist the whole time.  After the whole shebang was done, I sought her out again.  She was talking at the bar to a woman who had sung a song with the band during the second half.  And they kept talking.  I kept standing in the background.  I wanted to thank the Aille inspirer but I didn’t want to share my appreciation with the other person being there, because that woman’s performance didn’t reach me.  How strange.  I was determined to contribute to the first lady without diminishing the second.  How much of my desired contact was the ego speaking?  I don’t know.  Finally, as they continued chatting, the voice inside me said “Let her go, Bruce.”  So I did.  And off into the night …

Glistening

A light snow covered the world as I woke up this morning.  It clung to the branches and adorned the bushes.  And it had stopped falling.  The day was cloudy, with the soft light bringing all this to a quiet glory.

So you have bare trees in winter and you have bare trees today.  You have the events of daily life and you have those same events imbued with wonder.

What words can paint such a picture of illumination?  How about …

Glow
Love
Animation
Vibrancy
Magic
Luster
Shine
Gleam
Halo
Oh my

What will it take for me to see with these eyes throughout the day?

What will it take to animate the gentleman sitting across from me right now in the library?

What will it take for me to see the beauty around me always?

And what will it take for me to be moved by it all?

***

Will

Unseen

The substance of things hoped for
The evidence of things not seen

What beauties are hiding in this world, so we puny human beings aren’t aware of them?  Well, if I’m not aware, how can I possibly write about such unknowns?  I don’t know but it’s worth a try.

1.  Lines of connection between people who walk by each other on the street … maybe fine red strings that entwine

2.  Roaming at night over the world, visiting friends old and new, alive and dead

3.  Whatever’s under the ground … roots that go way down, insects that scurry to and fro, moles that construct long tunnels

4.  What goes on inside of dogs, cats, horses and dolphins

5.  The future laying itself down as we wind our way through the present

6.  Blood coursing through my body over 60,000 miles of arteries, veins and capillaries

7.  The marvel of the brain, allowing me to suddenly relive moments from decades ago.  (As I wrote this, I was transported back to kid-dom, lighting firecrackers in the back alley, and being terrified of the noise)

8.  My friend gravity, constantly keeping me from zipping off into space

***

Simple stuff, really, but fun to imagine