Archive for September, 2007

On The Bus

Friday, September 28th, 2007

I grew up in the sixties and seventies. The expression “on the bus” had a special connotation. Ken Kesey coined it, “Are you on the bus, or off the bus?” I so wanted to be on the bus. Haight-Ashbury, free love, tuning in/turning on /dropping out, Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, The Grateful Dead, Timothy Leary, communes, happenings…..oh, I read about it all. The Civil Rights Movement in the States, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, protest marches….oh, I read and read and read all about it. I worked my way through the current history sections and the poetry and the cutting edge literature and….I was the reader. I was inflamed. I was not on the bus, or I was, but my teenage self was still in Niagara Falls, Ontario, at the library.

I had invitations to move to communes “somewhere north of Toronto.” To hitchhike to California, to take stuff, do stuff, and jump right in to everything my little heart was so attracted to. But the drug stuff didn’t appeal, and I knew that I was too young. So much could go wrong if I followed every trail. But I felt so trapped. I wanted in to the serious stuff. My heroes were the ones that were changing history, that lived their beliefs and were ahead of the pack. I knew even then that I would probably not agree with or even like these people as individuals, but I could certainly understand their importance in changing minds, that they were original thinkers.

I am thinking of busses. A Midland bus went by and I see the transit system is called EZRIDER. How ironic. I ride the busses back home in the Lower Mainland. It doesn’t bother me too much to be car-less. I think it has helped keep me grounded. That’s ironic, too. My last two losses were the car and the dog. The last of the big stuff. As I watched myself having to let go of people and places and things in my life, some voluntarily and by choice, others with an enormous amount of grief, I started to welcome the simplicity more and more. Acceptance. Just me. Just me. Just me.

“Barn’s burnt down, now I can see the moon.”

This past summer taking the three busses and the one Skytrain that it takes for me to get where I go to in Vancouver has never been without some kind of illumination. I have developed a crazy, almost involuntary response to the 501 that goes through Port Kells to the King George Skytrain Station in Surrey. King George on a Friday night is humanity on parade. The swaggering, the poor, the shut down, the volatile, those out of this world, and the car-less, all coincide at that forlorn, cement junction. Perhaps it’s because I take Osho with me and read a few paragraphs, look up at the people around me, read again; Osho breaks down boundaries for me. Osho, with his mouthiness and his mandate that he not be followed but that we follow ourselves. That we go inward, not take up religions and bandwagons and become sheep, but go inward. Osho has been a trigger, and my own broken heart, and I have come to appreciate that 501.

Looking out at the no man’s land along 104th Street, it is so damn ugly and depressive to spirit that I’ve had to laugh or cry and just let go. “In Zen they have a certain phrase for it. They say it’s like whipping the cart. If your horses are not moving and you go on whipping the cart, it is not going to help. You are miserable, then anything you can dream, anything you can project, is going to bring more misery. So the first thing is not to dream, not to project. The first thing is to be here now. Whatsoever it is, just be here now – and a tremendous revelation is waiting for you.” That is Osho. That is riding the 501.

In 1974 I rode the bus from Cornerbrook to St. John’s, Newfoundland after an all night ferry ride from Nova Scotia. The train in Newfoundland, the Newfie Bullet, was no longer in service. I looked around at the other passengers and couldn’t quite put my finger on what was different about them. Then I saw it, it was something childlike. The adults were sitting cross-legged in their seats and facing each other as they engaged in animated conversation.

Before the Skytrain was built I took the Hastings Street bus to get to downtown Vancouver. It has earned its reputation. One rush hour, I was at the back, we were all packed in, and a man across from me on the long bench seat began asking each individual whether they had any nail clippers. To my horror, some fool cheerfully handed over a pair, whereupon he proceeded to take off his shoes and socks and cut his gruesome toenails. Nails were flying everywhere like missiles, hitting people, landing in laps, and all the polite Canadians just turned their heads and gagged. Not one of us yelled, “Give them to him on condition that he keep them and does his grooming elsewhere!”

There are days when you just close your eyes and will yourself home.

I went to Hawaii in April last year by myself. My friends and strangers all gave me advice on what to do and where to go and what to see. There were volcanoes, and tour busses and pineapple factories and certain shops and nightspots. I knew I would do none of the above. What I wanted to do was just sit on a local bus and stare out the window and be taken through other people’s neighbourhoods, and for the ride, taken out of my own head. The day of my plan started sunny and warm. I walked to Kailua and found a bus stop which would bring a bus that went north and all around the parameters of O’ahu before reaching Honolulu. Suddenly dark clouds rolled in and it rained hard and cold on all of us waiting at the stop. There were children and housewives and workers, no tourists. We were all quite chilled by the time the bus arrived half an hour late. Busses in Hawaii are air-conditioned so that was the only distraction, being somewhat under dressed and wet for the whole ride, which took more than four hours and cost me all of two dollars.

I sat in my window seat and watched the day move through its paces. Students got on and off. We passed the surfer beaches, the touristy store shacks, the Dole Pineapple factory, the university. A young man sat down beside me and we began to talk. I thought it was funny that we were the only redheads on the bus. He had a very long pony tail, and we looked related and so very white. Bruce was a drummer who worked construction and lived in a tent in the north part of the island. He had been in the U.S. military and “seen the world” and wanted no more part of that viewpoint. He said he had lived in Hawaii for three years and that it had taken almost that long for him to feel accepted. But once you are, he said, the hospitality of the Hawaiian people was unsurpassed. As we approached Honolulu he stood to get off and said something so sweet that I will never forget him. He asked me my name, took my hand, and said that today he had made a friend. And that he hoped before I left the island that I would experience Aloha. With a bow of his head he was gone.

Honolulu was desolate. There was a cold wind blowing and the connection for me to get back to the Lanikai area was at the back of a large grey, cement parkade. A well-dressed woman came over to me and said, “When you get old, don’t let anyone put you in a home.” I said that I wouldn’t, and she walked back over to where she had been waiting for her bus.

When I finally reached the town of Kailua I still had a few miles to go to the Lanikai neighbourhood where I was staying. I had rented a cottage in the backyard of an old hippie couple from Winnipeg, Andi and Klauss. By now I knew the shortcuts through Kailua, the schoolyards to cut through that would keep me off the main throughfares. The wind was fiercesome, the sky a midnight blue. The clack of the palm fronds sped me along. Past Buzz’s Steak House where there are celebrity sightings and up to the top of the Lanikai bluff that had a three point view of beach, and surf and sky. The wind was such a force I would have been gone if I’d had an umbrella. If I knew how to do it I would put here the snapshot I have of that bluff. But Tom’s in Fort Langley and I do not know how to get it out of my shoebox and up here onto this page. I’m counting on a thousand words being worth the picture.

These are the things I ponder.

Good Life

Identity And Place

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

Some of my family have gone to the Mall. Some of my family have gone to get tattooed. I am in the middle of a pool in Midland, Texas. So named because it is midway between El Paso and Dallas. But that still doesn’t help me. I am lost. I am thinking about identity and place. Homesick! The sky is so blue, the water cool, I am treading water and staring at a tree blowing in the wind. I guess I am no tumbleweed. I think I’m identifying too much with my home. I miss the attic, its skylights and stained glass windows. I’ve been told the rain started the day after I left. I loved falling asleep to the sound of it on the skylights. Through the walls of my bedroom here the pool pump thumps all night long. I do not want to be so undone. I do want to learn to travel and be present wherever I am. Bruce Chatwin and Paul Theroux have a photography book on Patagonia called “Nowhere is a Place” and I get it. Where exactly are our reference points?

Just as one learns to relax into a relationship, so it is with new places. I have six more weeks to recognize the neighbours, have a favourite walk and become a familiar face myself. I’ve been to camp, I can do this!

Advice to myself

1. Read the “Be Here Now” book.

2. Take up Southern drinking. Start with bourbon, perhaps Wild Turkey.

3. There is a Zoom sale. Book a ticket to Ireland for the Spring.

4. Get out of the pool, phone someone’s cell, ask them to pick up a T-shirt for me at the Mall, one with a map on it, and a dot, and an arrow pointing to it that says YOU ARE HERE.

Good Life

What Is A Blog?

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

Not ever having had something like this before, a venue for my own thoughts, I have been giving it a lot of thought. It seems somewhat narcissistic, “My blog, all about me, by me, from me.” Yikes. To get past this I remind myself that it’s free choice, no one has to tune in, and my intention to connect my small world with the greater world and our common similarities, is very innocent. Sitting here in front of the lit monitor, fingers on the keyboard, feels somewhat like being the only person awake in the world. This house is in darkness, there are two sleeping children entrusted to my care, an oversized cat and a minuscule dog are quietly roaming about. This is that romantic scenario of the all night DJ with the husky voice all alone in the control room, the voice going out across the country into houses, into cars, becoming a part of other people’s lives. Taking the listeners on a journey; some stories, some music. Creating a mood, nothing jarring, linking it up, but definitely something that moves us all through space. I’m tapping on the microphone now. I think someone is listening….

A long time ago I lived with two brothers in an apartment in Hamilton, Ontario. One brother Mark was away travelling, and other brother Dave and I were both waiting for him. Dave and I were such good friends, and I was a very pregnant teenager. Dave and I would go out driving in his van, or play cards for a while at night. We were both passing the time and found comfort in each other’s company. Sometimes after we had said goodnight and Dave went down the hall to his bedroom, I would be just about asleep when he’d call out and ask me if I was. I always said no. He’d ask me if I felt like talking to him for a while. So I’d pull the big armchair in the living room to the door of his bedroom and settle in. Our conversations would get more and more one-sided and his comments came further and further apart. I loved sitting in the dark with Dave. I’d start telling him stories of things that had happened, things I had noticed, things that surprised me, or about dreams that I’d wonder if they could come true. I would be completely lost in thought when Dave would start snoring. The first time it happened I felt embarrassed and considered being insulted. But it was so funny. He really snored so loudly that I ended up kind of proud of myself for doing such a good job of putting him to sleep. I made a point of finishing my story, whether he was listening or not. I liked that he was there. I liked the way the streetlights came through the blinds. I liked the quiet of our apartment and the shadows that ran the length of it. Now it makes me remember all the men I’ve put to sleep or whose sleep I have disturbed. Think about that in your own life.

I remember a lovely thing a friend of mine once said. She has had a long distance, long term relationship with a man, spanning different continents for more than twenty years now. She said, “When I first met him, I couldn’t sleep. Now, because of him, I can.”

Maybe I am someone’s blanky right now. There are worse things, I don’t mind. If I’m putting you to sleep I hope you have gorgeous dreams. You can close your eyes. You are safe. Someone loves you.

Good Life

Dorothy, You’re In Texas

Monday, September 17th, 2007

It’s disorienting, only 24 hours later to be in a completely different world. And when it’s that different to not think of it as a detour from your real life. Nope, this is it. This is life now. I’m in the Midland/Odessa area of west Texas. The babies have been tucked in and the family is around the table, all seven of them. They’ve got the beer, they’ve got the chips, the cards are out and the competition is high – it’s Texas Hold’Em. Each guy believes he’s gonna’ win, but my bets are on Ruby or Eliza. I’m used to living alone, and I have to adjust to the group thing. There are a lot of us. But I’m content to overhear them, be in the next room, or do a walk through. I’m just happy we’re all together. But we’re always missing one. This time Sarah’s in Montreal. I look at it as a wabi sabi kind of thing. A reminder of the perfection of imperfection, both sides of the coin. You can’t know joy without the pain. Or Leonard! “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

Travelling in a group of seven was fun. We have grown up. No one said, “Are we there yet?” Vancouver, San Francisco, Dallas to Midland, what a milk run, 14 hours! Jonah made me laugh so hard on the plane I felt hysterical. At one of our connections there was a delay, and when we finally got on the plane, the few minutes more got longer and longer. The pilot came on the intercom to reassure us that we were only waiting for a maintenance form to be signed, nothing serious. When the plane finally started moving we were going backwards down the runway and Jonah sort of yelped, “We’re going the wrong way!” I love ridiculous humour. Okay, one more – I was holding some orange peels in my hands, you’re stuck in an airplane seat, where do you put them? Jonah leaned over and said, “Ask them if they compost.” I thought I was gonna’ die.

Haven’t really gone out yet, just in the yard which is awesome with a pool. The temperature is mid-eighties, a balmy breeze. This is not a house, it looks like a villa. There are so many rooms and areas off rooms that it is absorbing all ten of us. But tomorrow I have to get out and claim the neighbourhood. I will be here until November and the only way to know a place is to walk it.

So this family thing will be lasting for a week, shorter for Jonah. He’s got gigs in Vancouver next weekend so his flight leaves on Thursday. James was really concerned about how to entertain us and thought he should have a lineup of things to do every day and show us Texas. He doesn’t know us well, but this family is low maintenance, the daunting part is our number. We are quite satisfied eating, drinking, sleeping, getting wet, and poking at each other. But there are a few things on the agenda. It wouldn’t be Texas without some shooting. All those who want to are going out for target practice. I thought that meant at a range but James is taking them out in the desert. Duh, I’ll skip it. I prefer to use my mouth. And I’m going to be a terrifically good sport and stay with the babies while all the siblings and their partners go out to a real Texas bar for drinking and dancing. I am so jealous but I’ll do it. My turn will come. And Ruby can finally have a birthday with her family present. We miss her so much. So… one party, one shootarama, and the Canadians kicking butt at The Ranch…..

What I need after the family returns home, is to figure out what’s here. I know I need a library, I need some green space, a diner, and something authentic. I want to find the old parts of this town that have to exist somewhere besides what I see – the malls, the fast food outlets, the homogenization.

Thanks for checking in. I’m going to end this with something of Osho’s that struck me. We were on the last leg of our journey on a small plane from Dallas to Midland, which is 500 miles further west. Stepping into the aircraft you can’t help but notice the size of the nuts and bolts through the metal that are holding the plane together. This heavy, man-made contraption with an engine, with seats and human beings sitting in them (and it’s carpeted, too!), is going to go up there through the clouds and hang there and even move forward. Is that not surreal? And everyone is reading People magazine while hurtling through the sky. Does a lighter read…help? I need something more substantial. It was Osho’s book on Courage and I’ll leave you with this…..

You cannot be truthful if you are not courageous

You cannot be loving if you are not courageous

You cannot be trusting if you are not courageous

You cannot inquire into reality if you are not courageous

Hence courage comes first and everything else follows

Good Life

Diane Out Loud

Thursday, September 13th, 2007

Welcome. I am happy to be here and I welcome you who have decided to visit. This can be a beautiful thing. For those who know me, it’s a long road from Ludditesville, and one that I could not have undertaken without the generous patience, expertise and enthusiasm of Tom. He and I have put in many long hours in the last two weeks. As I slipped further into a coma, he seemed to get more animated and determined as we encountered one problem after another with wireless cards, domain name registration and server sites. (Yes, this is me talking.) All funny miscommunication, all doable, all fixed. The goal was to get me up and running by the time I leave for Texas this weekend. You bet I’m excited now at having a voice. I’m going to make this soapbox home. What you can expect is: my thoughts on the whole shebang, whatever gorgeous poetry you really must read before you leave the house, book reviews (I am still the master book pusher), and there will be very gentle force feedings of Osho and other master mind blowers.

As I am preparing to leave Fort Langley, ironically after deciding to stay and make this home, I am sad knowing that I will miss the whole month of October here. Poplar trees will shed without me, the rain will come, my attic will be silent, and all the friends that I am making and embracing closer now will carry on. But I am adjusting my radar now for sunny Texas and all that big sky. I’ve got a secret pilgrimage planned and of course I will tell you all about it.

So, easing into this blog thing, my thanks go to Tom. This first blog is dedicated to Tom! Angels come in all shapes and disguises, and they include computer geeks. I’m feeling a little shy, a little exposed, but that has never stopped me for too long from expressing myself. I trust you will be kind. And trust that I will be worthy of your attention.

Good Life

Aloud = Allowed