Friday, July 31, 2015

The Unexpected Gift of Flowers... of Self... of Love!

It’s going to be a short entry for a long and full day…

I spent the morning working finalizing the wedding service and the meditation.  This will be the first marriage I have conducted since Anna and I have separated and I’ve begun this journey of discovery and new beginnings.  I will share the wedding reflection as part of my blog after the wedding.

A Barn..
With the service and reflection and complete I did some personal banking, responded to some work related emails, did the dishes, packed the bike, locked up the house and headed off…

The ride to Dundalk was very pleasant – punctuated with some very humorous messages from friends back home.  One in particular touched me deeply and had me laughing for quite a few miles… that happens you know, when we share of our deepest selves – we connect with others in such a significant way.

My Space!
Upon arriving at the wedding venue in Dundalk, I quickly marked my space by putting up my tent – in a very strategic location: near the motorhome, far from the band stage, next to the fence, with my bike on the other side of the fence… well placed for power, out of the line of traffic and ready for a quick exit on Sunday morning.

With my tent set up I was quickly recruited to give some leadership to the setting up of the party tents.  I think my help was appreciated… nobody threatened me with violence… and the tents withstood the wind of the afternoon…

Party Tent
Amazing things happen when we give of ourselves… unexpected gifts… even simple flowers to someone not expecting them!  A connection is deepened.  The receiver is reminded that they are important, that they are loved, that they are worthy and deserving of beauty and goodness in their life… so it was this evening when Joe, the owner of this beautiful property we are using brought flowers to Cindy!

Joe, as I understand it, purchased flowers from one of the roadside stands operated by a local Mennonite family.  He then took the flowers home and arrange them in jars (10 of them) for Cindy to use as centerpieces on the dining tables.  It was such a thoughtful gesture.  Totally unexpected gift, given with no expectation of anything in return… a simple expression of love from one human beings to another.  So beautiful!

It’s 7:30 here… supper is cooking on a number of different bbq’s and stoves mixing with the other scents of the evening.  Children are playing in the field as people arrive and set up their tents and trailers and there is joy in the air.

I keep hearing the word ‘epic’.  It’s going to be an epic wedding… and epic party… it will be epic – cause love is present and being shared… on the Sabbath Road…

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Throwback Thursday.. into the Grind of Work!

Its been a throwback kinda Thursday!  Paul and I began the morning with coffee and toast with peanut butter... how many mornings did we rise from the gym floor and stumble to the kitchen and fumble for coffee?  And, having propped our eyes open with caffeine as a hundred or more kids snored away, enjoyed toast and peanut butter as the volunteers from the church prepared breakfast for the masses... good sustaining memories and simple things that accomplished significant impact... at least we hope!  Kids had fun, learned that faith could be real and fun, and nurtured relationships with some pretty amazing young people!

Listening to Paul play last night touched me to the core.  The cadence of the melody and the gentleness of his voice allowed me to wrestle with the questions of the song:

How well did you live?
How well did you love?
How well did you learn to let go?

In the end
what matters most
is how well did you live
how well did you love
how well did you learn
to let go

How well did you live?
How well did you love?
How well did you learn to let go?

In the end
what matters most
is how well did you live
how well did you love
how well did you learn
to let go
                 ~ Paul Rumbolt

Others will be the judge of my living.  I do my best - its all I can do... I seek to be true to the passion within me.  I seek to serve those whose lives call upon my heart.  I seek to let go of pain and negativity.  Yes, others will be the judge of my living and loving and how I have let go... as for me, I am at peace.  The experience in the early morning hours of July 1st when we were told to prepare for an emergency landing as we came into Toronto was informative for me:
  • No.  I did not want to die.
  • Yes.  I was afraid of how I might die.
  • Yes.  I was at peace. 
And I still am at peace - but songs such as "We All Fall Down" cause one to reflect again on mistakes
and choices... and then I remember the need to "let go" and that "grace falls all around" and that I am experiencing that grace (love) even today...

Upon arriving back in Gravenhurst I went looking for my daily reflective post on Krista Tippet's blog "On Being".  The offering I chose to read today did not disappoint.  In an entry entitled Until the Heart Stays Open, Laura Kelly Fanucci writes the following:
Whenever I let the heartache change me, when I let my bruised soul stay stretched out so much longer than I thought possible, when I made the grueling choice again and again to let this loss soften my sharp edges into empathy — that was when I discovered God. 
As if I were tripping over an obvious root on the path — oh! there you were all along! — and remembering that this was exactly how growth happens: you love, you lose, you live on changed. 
Does God break our hearts on purpose? Make us suffer to learn a lesson? Theologically I bristle at these thoughts. This is not the nature of love.
But I do know that something strange and surprising happens when I sit with loss. When I refuse to push away pain. I find God in the midst of it. I learn how God’s heart breaks over and over again with ours. I begin to understand again how the mystery of dying and rising is the shape of loving wisdom.
As my theology has evolved, I would change the word God to LOVE... the mystery of acceptance and affirmation, hope and encouragement, commitment and passion shared between two people, a family or even a community of people...
Whenever I let the heartache change me, when I let my bruised soul stay stretched out so much longer than I thought possible, when I made the grueling choice again and again to let this loss soften my sharp edges into empathy — that was when I discovered LOVE
As if I were tripping over an obvious root on the path — oh! there you were all along! — and remembering that this was exactly how growth happens: you love, you lose, you live on changed. 
Does LOVE break our hearts on purpose? Make us suffer to learn a lesson? Theologically I bristle at these thoughts. This is not the nature of love.
But I do know that something strange and surprising happens when I sit with loss. When I refuse to push away pain. I find LOVE in the midst of it. I learn how LOVE's heart breaks over and over again with ours. I begin to understand again how the mystery of dying and rising is the shape of loving wisdom.
I know this LOVE when I share my struggles and make myself vulnerable.  I know this LOVE when I risk being open to new people and new experiences.  I know this LOVE when trust is developed and shared.

A colleague has accused me of becoming "some kind of flower child..." I laugh and then I realize that there is some truth to that.  I am gaining a new appreciation for the natural world in which I live.  The scents and scenes of fields and forests of flowers and trees... I breathe deeply and even on this Thursday when I have been thrown back into work with meetings and other administrative responsibilities, I am so glad to be alive! ...on the Sabbath Road...

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Burgers and Connecting with an Old Buddy!

This morning dawned bright and clear!  And after a few moments of quiet in the uncomfortable sofa bed connecting with a friend in a different time zones I crawled out and tried to straighten my back that had the imprint of the cross bar of the sofa bed frame on it!  It was gonna be a good day.  My sunburn didn't hurt and even the burn on my calf wasn't stinging... and the sun was up and the sky was blue!  The only thing missing was coffee and that was soon rectified once Duane got out of bed and we got on the road back toward Gravenhurst.

About halfway there I called Paul Rumbolt.  Paul and I did youth ministry together in Foothills Presbytery back in the early nineties: ski trips, retreats, rafting trips, special worship services and so on... we got to know a lot of awesome kids and have a lot of fun together!

As a musician, Paul has travelled across the country a fair bit and my work has seen me get to Alberta regularly and in most every case when one of us is in the vicinity of the other we make an effort to connect - and its always a good connection: stories, laughter and some deep conversation.  Today was no exception.

I just had to...  stop at Webers.  An iconic burger joint that most everyone on their way to the cottage stops at on a Friday night!!  It was Wednesday and the lineup was manageable... the burger was really satisfying... as was the conversation I shared as I sat in the shade.

Arriving at his and Michelle's new home - built in 1880 - I was quickly embraced and welcomed into their space and given a cold can to quench my thirst (the town water is not drinkable - so it had to be beer).  After Paul and Michelle had lunch Paul and I headed out on a drive talking about community, growth, marriage, change and commitment... I will try and an offer a brief synopsis here... and I expect that Paul will find at least a verse for a song from our ramblings...
We marry young and so often don't really know ourselves let along the person we are marrying, add to this the fact that individuals grow in different directions and at different rates - its amazing that anyone is still married.  In addition, the world is so much bigger now.  No longer do people marry someone from the next community over and then move to one community or the other and spend the rest of their lives together.  A marriage needs to meet the needs of both people in it - when such is not the case those in it have a choice - to stay and make the best of things or leave and seek a new beginning.
Before we knew it we were in Schomberg and spent a few minutes looking around a custom motorcycle shop (Paul was looking for a garage to service his bike).  As we came to the intersection nearest the shop he looked at me and asked "Where to now?"  Knowing he had an appointment I reply, "Back to Bradford - but not by the same road..."  Quickly he smiled and laughed, "Yeah man... lets go!!"

As we rolled through Tottenham I pointed out the rink and Paul was dumbfounded to learn that I had grown up in this area.  I guess our friendship was such that history that far back was unimportant... we always focused on the present moment and what was happening in each others life at the time!

I remember on one of his tours through the Maritimes he arrived at my place on a Sunday and I asked: "What do you need?"  His reply was classic Paul: "KFC and beer!"  At the Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet

on Mountain Road a cabbie told us where the nearest bootlegger was... and that's how two United Church ministers came to be walking out of a garage someplace on Highfield Street with a brown paper bag of a dozen Alexander Keith's on a Sunday evening!

That'll be all for this day... I'm going to focus on the present moment with Paul.  Hopefully he'll share with me some of the material he is putting together for the next two albums.

On the Sabbath Road...

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Shift, Shift, Shift... Moving Forward

A new day… and what a beautiful day it is!  Blue sky.  Coffee on the deck.  Words of connection and encouragement waiting in the inbox… a fine way to start!

Duane crawled out of bed once the coffee was ready and after a cup of Joe and some grunts he was human again… and put me to work.  We loaded some stuff in the motorhome… and then the mishaps started!

I successfully backed the Jeep into a tight space and hitched it to the trailer and navigated the rig out of said tight space and parked it along side the house.  Then we began to load “Plain Jane” on the trailer.  I was walking the bike up, it was in gear and as I got to the top of the ramp I clutched in and got on the trailer to resume the journey… I let out the clutch and the rear tire spit the ramp out and the bike dropped on the trailer with the rear tire hanging off the back of the trailer… missing my foot (safely ensconced in my Brikenstocks) by mere centimeters!!!

With a bit of grunting (once we remembered to take the bike out of gear) we got it on the trailer… and as Duane was strapping it down, he told me to sit on it.  I did – and promptly burnt my calf on the header from the rear cylinder…  it’s a HOG brand… the kind you get when you go on a motorcycle wearing shorts… duh!!

With the bike loaded, some Polysporin on my new body art we were off… to the sound of the alarm on the bike waking the neighbours and a light show for added measure!!  We tried everything… putting the alarm fob on the dash… no joy… putting it in the back of the jeep… no joy… finally we had to bungee cord the alarm fob to the motorcycle just so I could move down the highway without attracting the OPP!

Driving the Jeep was a real joy.  It’s a standard and there is something about finding the right gear for the right moment of the journey that appeals to me at such a deep level:
  • Attend to the lay of the land and traffic patterns
  • Attend to the RPMs of the vehicle
  • Know what gear you are presently in
  • Foot on gas pedal
  • Foot on clutch
  • Hand on steering wheel
  • Hand on gear stick

And shift…  shift… shift… and life moves ever forward with an almost magical quality.

Now... off to mow some grass... and ponder life at this moment.

Well so much for mowing grass.  I sat on the mower… did manage to get it started but could not figure out how to engage the mower deck… Joe came along and in the interest of his Toro mower sent me off with Duane and Frank to get firewood…  probably just as well – given my luck with machines today I might have lost a toe on the leg that did not get burnt!

The firewood (slabs) were located at a sawmill on Mennonite farm adjacent to Frank’s property as we approached the slab pile we came alongside four Mennonite children in a little buggy pulled by a pony… they were heading to town.  Such a simple life with simple pleasures.

Two trailer loads of slabs were quickly loaded and we set off back to Joe’s place… by a different route… Duane didn’t know where he was…  “Damn you Frank where are you taking us…”  I quickly figured it out and said to Duane – “Never travel the same road twice if you can help it.”  He nodded.

A strange habit of mine.  Daily when I travelled to Springhill, if I took the highway in the morning I’d take the two lane (old #2) in the evening and vice versa…   Maybe it was something about seeing more or being open to a larger space in the world… yes, choose one road and you miss what may be on the other one – but, every choice has consequence – the question is, can you live with the consequence?

I’ve made some difficult choices in my life.  Some would argue that they were “good” and “bad”
Choosing to wear my
choices.  I beg to differ.  The value comes in the consequence – not the choice.  Some of those choices may have been unhealthy (to start smoking when I was 17) and healthy, (to quit smoking when Justin was born) … but each choice is made with the information we have at the time – and we can always make a different choice… to choose is one of the privileges of being human…

And yes, again, there are consequences to the choices we make. Can I live with the consequences of a choice that radically alters a choice made many years ago?  Yes… and I will always seek to make choices in that process that are respectful to the needs of those involved – including my family and others who are part of my circle of care.

Jean-Paul Sarte a philosopher I studied while doing my undergraduate degree says that to choose not to choose is a choice… and, even when faced with inevitable circumstances, or even circumstances beyond our control, we still choose how we are in those circumstances.

I choose life…  to turn toward the light… to pause and ponder the wonder of this moment…

I choose to be happy… to embrace each moment of every day and build wide and varied relationships with people along the way…

I choose love… to accept others as they are and offer myself as I am…

I close with some thoughtful words from C.S. Lewis
Everytime you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before…

... on the Sabbath Road...

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Value of Community and Trusting Your Body...

Its been an epic day!  I'm not one to ride with others very often - but - one must make exceptions for family!!

My cousin Duane rode from Gravenhurst to Hawkesbury, ON to meet me... its an honour thing for him!  So, having spent the night with Helen and Andrew I travelled through Quebec along Rte 148 to Genville where I crossed into Hawkesbury and met up with Duane and Cindy at the Comfort Inn...

Duane's first words... "That thing doesn't song like a Beemer..."  I laughed.  Beemer it is... his hearing is affected by the many years of riding a HOG!

Cindy and Duane packed up and we headed over to A&W where we enjoyed breakfast and the first of a number of catch up conversations... that always began with a question that somehow got at "what do you need/desire"...

One such conversation was... "when do you wish to stop... or... when does your ass need a break..."  I told Cindy I liked taking pictures of old barns... and thus began the pattern: Cindy would see an old bard, Duane would slow down, I would catch up... and wave him on... as we had a long way to go and it was HOT!!

I did stop for one photo though... and given the context, I could not help but wonder about the communication... about the community that went into creating this barn of sanctuary and storage in such a location.

What need was present?  How was the need communicated?

Building barns, as I understand the history, was a family/community events.  Individuals within the family  articulated their need... no doubt this was hard work, taking the time to ponder as individuals - what is it we need in this time and place in order to move forward with our lives: individually and as a unit.  Do I want to raise chickens?  Do we see ourselves storing grain?  How will we use the space... to create community requires communication!  And then the building begins and more and more communication takes place all based on the premise "we'll figure it out..."

And as barns are built - no two are every exactly alike.  Each barn reflects the need presented and communicated to the community... and unique parts fit in unique places!

With the exception of the beach in the distance off of Hwy 17, the journey onto Hwy 417 - slab.  Nothing much to see.  No pictures.

However, just past Arnprior the benefits of riding a motorcycle became readily apparent.

Traffic was backed up (at the first of 15 or more constructions sites along our route) 6KM.  On a two lane road they had traffic reduced to one lane as they rebuilt a bridge...

Duane nodded to me, swinging his chin to the right and I knew
exactly what he was thinking (we are after all related)!  We rode for almost 5KM on the shoulder of the road passing all the backed up traffic and dipped back into the queue three cars before the signal person.  Priceless!

At Renfrew we turned west and settled into a rhythm on Hwy 60... ebb and flow with the traffic.

At Deacon we blew by a little lake and very quickly Duane was gearing down to make a u-turn... Hmmm is he doing what I think he is doing... YES!!  As I was riding with my swim trunks on under my riding pants I was in the water before they had even changed!

Living in the moment!  As my friend Barb Nixon said on Facebook today "Reminding myself to approach today as if it is the only day there is- because it is..."  Barb and I met at a retreat that she led in Oregon that I attended while I was on my original Sabbath Road... thanks Barb.  Your sentiment, in similar words has become for me a daily mantra.  "Enjoy the Moment".

Enjoy the moment... we did.  A swim, a visit in the shade sharing a a tall boy of Busch between us - just enough to quench the thirst of the day, phone calls and text messages to family and other friends... what better moment could there be that the one we found ourselves in right there and then.

Refreshed from our swim we motored on.

Passing Wilno (home to the first Polish settlement in Canada) I was reminded of the important place in my life of my one Polish friend (at least who I know is Polish) - Jerry Wittstock.  Thanks Jerry for accepting me always - as I am.

And it was just past Wilno, after entering Algonquin Park, that I was moved to do something I'd not done on this bike before - ride with no hands.  Tell the truth... you did it on your bicycle.  Its not much different on a motorcycle - just at a higher speed and a correspondingly higher level of trust in yourself and your machine:

  • set the throttle lock
  • remove hands from bars
  • put hands out to side and feel the wind lifting your arms
  • focus on your core

Its not about balance, its about knowing your body and its position in relation to that which you are intimately connected.  Balance would have you sitting straight up and down... that's a recipe for disaster.  Your hips and shoulders must move in time with the machine... and yes, you can navigate a sweeping left hand turn (around which you cannot see anything) with your body and your hands stretched like wings... Look Ma... No Hands!!!  Tell me you've not said that at least once in your life, with joy bubbling to the surface...

A few more stops for bum breaks and a stop at the West Gate for a bathroom break, then we turned
south on #36 and then Dorset merged onto the 117 which took us over to Hwy 11 where - soon after entering the highway Duane got cut off by a dump truck trying to make one more load for the day... We eventually passed him... he waved "sorry..." but he still got the Newell/Bruce glare as we rode slowly by...

Arriving in Gravenhurst the firs order of the evening was to rehydrate as we sat on the front porch and enjoyed the setting sun and told stories of the day...  it was, to this point, the only day we had - and we enjoyed every moment of it... on the Sabbath Road...

Anticipating Algonquin Park and Beyond (An Early Morning Entry)

I'm such a lucky guy... on so many levels!

Yesterday, when I called Helen from a rest stop an hour outside of Montreal there was happy confusion in her voice: "Oh, its today that you are coming.  The house is a mess and your room is just as it was the last time you were here."

I arrived, and it was if I'd never left.  Such care, interest in my life and the life of those connected to me, and a willingness to listen and ask questions that invite reflection.  Yes, I'm a lucky guy to have such friends in my life.

Such relationships, intimate relationships of care and concern, in my view ought never to be grounded on rights me may think we have as a result of the pre-existing relationship - but rather on questions that invite reflection and stories that tell a bit of who we are, what is important to us, what is troubling us and what we share in common in the world...

As I travel and relate to those I meet along the way on a daily basis, I claim no "right" to speak into their life.  The only life I have a right to speak of and into is my own... I can only tell my own story and ask questions of the stories of others seeking to find those places where we share common interests and passions.

Parker Palmer, a hero for me, writing on Krista Tippet's On Being blog offered an entry entitled: Fierce with Reality: Living and Loving Well to the End, talks about the stages of life and offers some advice:
How can we learn to embrace with love the whole of who we are — a task that need not and should not await our elder years? Of course there are tried-and-true aids such as meditation, journaling and therapy, all of which have been helpful to me. Here are three others that I’ve found equally helpful, sometimes even more:
  1. Spend as much time as you can experiencing the natural world. Nature constantly reminds me that everything has a place, that nothing need be excluded. That “mess” on the forest floor — like the mess in my own life — has an amazing harmony and hidden wholeness to it.
  1. Move toward, not away from, whatever you fear. I try to remember the advice I was given on an Outward Bound course when I froze with fear on a rock face in the middle of a one-hundred-foot rappel: “If you can’t get out of it, get into it!” If, for example, you fear diversity, get to know “the other’s” story face-to-face and watch your fear shrink as your empathy expands.
  1. Reach out to the younger generation—not to advise them but to learn from them, gain energy from them, and support them on their way. That’s a life-enhancing act that Erik Erikson called “generativity,” an alternative to the “stagnation” of age that sooner or later leads to despair.
Wholeness is the goal, but wholeness does not mean perfection. It means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life. The sooner we understand this, the better. It’s a truth that can set us free to live well, to love well and, in the end, to die well.
I can't think of a sadder way to die than with the knowledge that I never showed up in this world as who I really am. I can’t think of a more graced way to die than with the knowledge that, as best I knew how, I showed up here as my true self — able to engage the world in freedom and with love because I had become fierce with reality.

I think about the people I know who live fiercely, ones who I have come to love in part because of their strength of character, their commitment to life in the face of all that sometimes shitty reality that they find themselves in...

These are the ones who take difficult situations and find goodness in them,  who face complicated situations, sit quietly and listen carefully before they react, who consider always the interests of the larger world along side their own needs.

They are ones who are generative and have initiative for life, who function in the world with integrity and are industrious... John, Peg, Shelly, Al, Helen, Hilroy, Ken, Pat, Gerald and the list goes on... these are the ones I admire and seek to emulate... and I can only hope that someday those who I call friends might say something similar of me and my life journey... as

Now I Become Myself

Now I become myself. It’s taken
Time, many years and places;
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people’s faces,
Run madly, as if Time were there,
Terribly old, crying a warning,
“Hurry, you will be dead before—”
(What? Before you reach the morning?
Or the end of the poem is clear?
Or love safe in the walled city?)
Now to stand still, to be here,
Feel my own weight and density!
The black shadow on the paper
Is my hand; the shadow of a word
As thought shapes the shaper
Falls heavy on the page, is heard.
All fuses now, falls into place
From wish to action, word to silence,
My work, my love, my time, my face
Gathered into one intense
Gesture of growing like a plant.
As slowly as the ripening fruit
Fertile, detached, and always spent,
Falls but does not exhaust the root,
So all the poem is, can give,
Grows in me to become the song;
Made so and rooted so by love.
Now there is time and Time is young.
O, in this single hour I live
All of myself and do not move.
I, the pursued, who madly ran,
Stand still, stand still, and stop the sun!
                                       ~ May Sarton

In a few hours I will meet up with Duane and Cindy and enjoy the natural beauty of Algonquin Park as we make our way to Gravenhurst and the wedding preparations that await... on the Sabbath Road...

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Morning of Departure: Get as Far Away As Fast As I Can...

It rained overnight.  All was damp, fresh and new with possibility... go as
far as the tank will take you... get as far away as fast as you can... around Moncton, through Rogersville and the light began to change.  As the sun rose higher behind me, it seemed to light my way as the skies turned blue before me and shadows began to fall east to west pointing me toward my destination.

As the run rose the lingering scents of the night intensified... almost such that you could taste newness and growth...

The fuel light came on as I turned into the Shell station at the east end of the Renous Highway.  As is my custom - make every stop count.  Filled the tank and enjoyed two homemade sugar donuts and coffee as the sun continued to bring warmth to the land... and my spirit.

Ten clicks in the Renous Highway took me back in time... it turned to gravel.  Well, not really gravel - but chip seal - all the same when you are on a motorcycle!

There is a life lesson that comes through really clearly when riding a 600 pound top heavy motorcycle on chip seal gravel and things begin to get squirrelly...

  • don't hold on so tightly, hold that which guides you lightly and it'll be ok...
  • stand up and look far down the road... perspective always helps...
  • keep the front wheel light; keep your speed up... stopping will get you nowhere as the gravel (or any other obstacle for that matter) is not going anywhere...

After the gravel a series of sweeping turns came along... and they too can be a lesson for life: lean and trust gravity as you stay on your side of the yellow line!  No, we can't see around the corner... but, we can trust ourselves to deal with what comes next.  Enjoy the ride!!!

About the halfway through the Renous it began to mist.  By Paster Rock it was intermittent showers but by Grand Falls the rain had stopped and I was able to stretch my legs and take a few photos. My belly was growling but - as I'd not burned a complete tank of fuel, according the the "Wallace Rule" I could not eat.  I still had 300+ KM to go...

The rain began in earnest at Cabano and shortly thereafter I pulled in under an overpass and donned my rain gear and put on some soothing music: "If Not Now... Tell Me When" and "Before and After" seemed very fitting as the skies closed behind me and patches of blue could be seen far off in the distance.

I figured Al was Scottish enough that I could put frugal ahead of a completely empty tank - and avoid thereby following the rule to the letter of the law.  Breakfast was had a Normandie Restaurant near Mont Joli... delicious!  Gas tank was filled and I set off in the rain again...

Rain on a motorcycle does not inspire picture taking!  The next photo I took  was of Clancey greeting me upon my arrival at Helen and Andrew's home.  Beer, pizza and a dip in the pool seemed to be a most fitting end to this first day on the road.

As I finish up this entry, I've just heard from Duane.  He and Cindy are settled into their room.  I'm about an hour away... I'm sure we will connect around nine or so, have breakfast and then head to Gravenhurst... on the Sabbath Road...

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Preparatory Journey: To My Roots...

This morning I set off with a friend on what I now understand was a preparatory journey... a walk back in time to
A painting by Nancy Jorgenson
based on an old B&W
photograph of the tree.
sit at the base of a tree that is for me a marker of my rootedness in the Bruce family and the red soil of Prince Edward Island.

This large Elm tree sits at the base of a field which once belonged to my grandfather.  Each summer we made the trek from Ontario to Prince Edward Island there was always one other journey to make: to the tree to get our picture taken at its base.  One can see the years pass, styles come and go, and boys turn to men by looking at these pictures. And when my boys were small I tried to continue the practice.  It was a little more difficult as the land was no longer in the family and children being children they did not want to journey to the distant mosquito infested field - simply to have their picture taken.

This tree has long been a marker of rootedness for me.  In addition to the place to which we came for pictures, it was a place to which I came for quiet, to seek direction in my life... to sit at its base, ponder its size, enjoy its shelter and discern which it was that I, like its branches, would reach for next.

I found myself under the tree the spring after my grandfather died and at other times when I found myself a crossroads on the journey... and here I am again on this day: sitting at its base, pondering its size, enjoying its shelter (swatting the many mosquitos) and pondering what I would reach for next: the light - always the light, turning to the light.

From the tree, the quiet reflective day, mimicking the hallowed light of sunshine after rain, continued in a drive through Pleasant Grove with memories of clearing land, building a garage and barn, dirt-biking and snowmobiling, best friends and teenage foolishness up and down the road... and seeing trees standing tall that I had planted all along the laneway of Lowell and Mary Lou Vessey's home, Algonquin Farms where I worked during my teenage years.

There is something deeply satisfying to see see a tree you planted, as a young thin sapling, standing thick and tall, providing shade to a laneway along which a family travels.  There is a permanence to trees... they sink their roots deep where they are planted and grow... reaching always for the light.  Changing with the seasons theirs is a resilience that we two footed beings would do well to learn - to bend, to sway and let the storms pass through.  Yes, there is always risk of damage, risk that in the reaching something may be lost... but, what is the alternative?  To stop growing?  To cease reaching? To eliminate the feeling of the wind blowing through your leaves?

The choice for me is simple: to continue growing, reaching and allowing the wind to blow through what little hair this almost 50 year old head has on it...  growing deeper in my knowledge of self and the world in which I live, asking questions and building new relationships, reaching for new knowledge and experiences and yes, riding... always riding on the Sabbath Road...

And so, here I sit at the base of this deeply rooted tree, with both fragile and strong limbs, the consequence of storms and choices at my feet, embarking on a new journey... extending those strong limbs to the brightening sky while nurturing new shoots, hidden in the maze and mystery of my being, reaching always reaching...  On the Sabbath Road...

A New Journey...

A short entry this morning as I begin to settle my heart on this inward journey of life I now find myself on, and begin to  prepare for the first of four adventures over the next four months.

Trip 1:  On Sunday July 26, I will leave on a motorcycle trip to Ontario.  My plan is to make Montreal Sunday night where I will spend the evening with Helen and Andrew (and Clancy).   On Monday I will meet my cousin Duane and his bride-to-be in Hawkesbury, ON, from there we will travel through Algonquin Park to Gravenhurst where I will spend the week visiting with family and preparing for the wedding on Saturday.
On the 2nd of August I will head down to Cambridge, ON for a visit with my Aunt Irene before heading up to the Kawartha Lakes region for a visit with my cousin Joey and his family... and then on Monday it will be a bum burner ride back to Sackville.

Trip 2: On Saturday August 8th after officiating at a Memorial Service I will head to Sydney, NS where I will catch the ferry to Newfoundland.  From the 9th to the 14th I will be attending the gathering of the General Council of the United Church of Canada.  My third General Council... in the midst of a community that I have come to cherish, I will celebrate the entry into my 50th year!
At the conclusion of the Council I will take 2 or 3 days to travel across Newfoundland to St. John's where the Board of Directors of Kairos Pneuma Chaplaincy Inc. will hold their Annual General Meeting.  On the 18th my Dad will fly into St. John's and we will have three days to explore and enjoy each others company.  I depart for home via the Argentia ferry on August 22nd and will do another bum burner from Sydney to Sackville - arriving back around noon on Sunday.

Trip 3: On September 2nd after officiating at a wedding on August 29th I depart for Auckland, New Zealand.  While there I will be touring the northern part of the island on a V-Strom 650.  On September 10th I fly to Cairns, Australia where I will engage in an off-road motorcycle tour in rain forest and a snorkelling excursion on the Great Barrier Reef before flying onto Sydney.  In Sydney I will again hire (Australian term) a motorcycle for a 5 day tour of the Kangaroo and Hunter Valley regions before returning to Sydney for the International Prison Chaplains Association VII Conference where I will be part of a panel discussion and offer a workshop.  I return to Canada on September 26th.

Trip 4: On Thanksgiving Monday I will fly to Calgary for a short layover to do some business there before heading onto Salt Lake City, UT where I will take part in the World Parliament of Religions.  There again, I will take part in a panel discussion and offer a presentation on Interfaith Prison Chaplaincy before returning home through Vancouver where I will do some business.

It is hard to believe that is has been almost two years since I entered a word on this blog... much has happened that needs to be processed as I ride and reflect... I hope you'll join me on the journey of a lifetime:

The Journey
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.
                                 ~ Mary Oliver