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Rambling, Judging, Seeing Occasionally

Rambling through the day – to, through, and out of High Park – I noticed a father guiding his daughter across an intersection with his foot while chatting on his cell, and a man walking in the park and texting, and two women in the park with buds in their ears, missing out on the birdsong – and I was inclined to judge them.  What happened to being in the world when in the world?  Then, remembering I have my own kind of expertise with non-presence, I pulled back on judgement and felt a little sadness for us all; the pressure we feel to always plug on, the diminished ability to ever plug out.  But watching a swan protect its nest by chasing a goose through Grenadier Pond, I was reminded that it’s not necessarily supposed to be easy.

Also, I saw some stuff:

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Please forgive the absence of snow…

Normally I ascribe a theme to what I post here.  The best I can come up with for this one is…

Hey!  Look at all these pictures without snow in them!

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Mile End, Montreal

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Balmutto and Charles, Toronto

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Yonge Street

I know, I know…I should get with the program and give up my preference

of old and dilapidated over new and behemoth.  Just doesn’t seem to be in me.

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Black and white aren’t colours? 

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The March of March: Fire and Ice and Whimsy

In watching the transition from winter to spring, I’ve been taking turns enjoying it and negotiating with it to happen faster.

(So far, I don’t seem to be calling the shots.)

Along the way, I’ve gotten to see fire and ice and whimsy…

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What these images don’t quite capture was the adventure my afternoon companion and I enjoyed today in “progressing” along the ice in High Park.  But Paul Simon’s “Slip Sliding Away” does.  Plus it has this beautiful and heartbreaking verse:

And I know a father who had a son

He longed to tell him all the reasons for the things he’d done

He came a long way just to explain

He kissed his boy while he lay sleeping

And he turned around

And he headed home again

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Just When I Thought Attention Was Overrated…

Darned if it didn’t happen again.

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Winter. February. Who needs it?

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Let’s go shopping instead.

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But on the other hand, isn’t the way of getting the most out of winter to step into it instead?

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Apparently so, at least this afternoon.

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Outing Colour

Okay, so it’s been trying to hide, but seen in downtown Toronto the last couple of days…colour! 

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Question: are we required to offer gratitude to the browns, beiges and grays for helping us enjoy the reds and the blues?

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Popcorn Surrogate

Wanted out badly this afternoon.  Tempted to go to a movie, and use a big bag of popcorn as a hand warmer.  Reminded myself that there’s a decidedly finite amount of sunlight to be had this time of year.  Went instead, almost against my will, to the meeting place of the Humber River and Lake Ontario, and got to see this:

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Loss Meets Gain

So often we think of winter as an occasion of loss – there goes the green grass, there fall the leaves, and the birds have left for their timeshares down south.  But lately, when I remember to lift my shoulders from their seasonal hunching, I’m noticing what the “loss” reveals:Image

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And this morning, this has me thinking, “One Man’s Ceiling is Another Man’s Floor” 

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And Now I Know

So this is what happens during an ice storm…

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O Sky Full of Funkiness (or thank you, bus of fullness)

Good thing the first bus that came along was full.  Gave me a chance to look up:

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Any Given Sunday

Show up at Grossman’s Tavern at the right hour of a sunny Sunday, and watch the light do its thing….and, oh yeah, catch some really fine trad jazz while you’re there:

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Green Not Gone, Auburn Didn’t Get the Memo

Nuance to this autumn day….

…some green that’s in no hurry to go…

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….and some auburn that didn’t get the memo about the approaching “dullness”

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Toronto Beltline Meets Bleecker Street

Since taking this shot while walking Toronto’s Beltline Trail a couple of days ago

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I’ve found myself thinking of a line from Simon & Garfunkel’s Bleecker Street

“…I watched a shadow touch a shadow’s hand…”

Here’s the song:

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Cold and Wet, with a chance of Real Pretty

Of course, it helps that Montreal has a knack for wearing “inclement” with panache:

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Giving the Grey A Hug

So if I understand all this mindfulness propaganda I’m practicing (and valuing), I’m to embrace the arriving greyness, even if I am not required to love it

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Fortunately, that doesn’t seem to require being inattentive to the non-grey

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Holy Hangover Refined: self-medicating in New Orleans

[Prelude: Life is good, real good.  Figured out how to embed the video that I hadn’t been able to add to the previous version of this blog post.]

Well if you’re going to get seduced by something, it might as well be the restoration of your soul.  Didn’t know I needed it, but a light breeze is coming in through the front door of the double-shotgun where I stay when in New Orleans (https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/71624), giving me a view of a weathered fence beside a more weathered house, and behind it a more freshly painted purple and burgundy job, and I am enjoying just the right kind of hangover.  The kind where I got drunk on one beer and a six-pack of New Orleans vibe.

Started with Amanda Shaw and the “Cute Guys” electrifying the crowd at the Louisiana Seafood Festival at City Park (not such great quality video, but Ms. Shaw and company’s sound makes up for it)

Continued at the Spotted Cat on Frenchmen

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where a fusion trad jazz-funk band got a bunch of us on our feet and kept us there.  Before I knew it, a young hottie was flirting with me while the band played “I’ll Fly Away.”  She ditched me, though, for someone twenty years my senior.  Can’t blame her; he was a better dancer.

And then, it was John Boutte across the street at dba doing:

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and Halleluyah

Somewhere, it dawns on me that I’m having a religious experience.  In the way that happens here at its best, it’s not just about performing, it’s about connecting.  So Boutte gets a “young cat” onstage for a duet on “At the Foot of Canal Street,” and tells us whatever stories are on his mind about his day and his life.  Next thing I know, a young couple have pushed their way in front.  I’m annoyed at first, but admit to myself that it’s sweet the way he really wants her to be close to the stage.  Then I notice their wardrobe.  He’s in a tux, she’s in a wedding gown. And Boutte tries to get the back of the house to hush (“that’ll never happen,” someone shouts out….dba is long and narrow and if you’re far away from the stage, you can’t see the performers) so he can sing a love song for them.  And then he ends the show with his Treme theme song, the newly married couple leading in the joy of it all:

When all’s said and done, he signs a couple of CDs for me, tells me about the time he saved Massey Hall in Toronto from going down in flames when a fellow performer tossed a cigarette in a trash can, and I talk about the connection I saw on stage and with the audience, and how it had the quality of a religious experience.  This weirds him out, I think, but I also think he can take it.

Oh, plus I discovered a delightful lyric in another song by someone I now know was named Little Milton:

If I don’t love you baby

Grits ain’t groceries

Eggs ain’t poultry

And Mona Lisa was a man

Coming soon to a blog post near this one…my tale of stepping out at the Prince of Wales second line…

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Newsflash

Important discovery the past couple of days.

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Turns out fall is a beautiful time of year.

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Spread the word.

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Waiver-Free Gift

Next to actually getting to see this, the best part was that when I asked if I could take this picture, no one demanded I sign a waiver first.  Thank you, young woman who served me at the Hot Oven Bakery this morning:

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And next to actually getting to see this, the best part is that the moment lasted a while:

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A Point in Here Somewhere…

Well, sure, the beauty of the leaves is ephemeral.  But at least the sky is eternal.

Oh…except that it’s not always that blue.

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Or filled with interestingly shaped clouds. 

 

So what was my point again?  Oh, yeah!  No matter what, there’s surely going to be something interesting going on.  Even when the leaves call it a season…

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Be Gentle, Natural Selection

So you know that thing about how the only constant is change?

Here’s what I’m wondering.  Assuming the theory of evolution is correct, I’m wondering if natural selection allowed our particular brand of hominoid to survive because we have a capacity for seeing some changes with joy as well as dread:

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And here’s what I’m also wondering.  If natural selection has any say in the matter, what will happen to those of us who can manage the changing leaves, but are made to shudder by the pace of broader societal and technological transformation?

For now, though, I’ll try to satisfy myself with, “Hey!  Look how pretty the leaves are.”

That, and the pleasure of walking under a building I normally regard from a distance, to take time for a closer look:

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Century Hopping

And so, what I’m wondering is, who stuck all that 19th century behind my 20th (and early 21st) century?

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Just asking….

(with apologies to those who know enough about architecture to correct my time stamping….I like to think the “point” holds in any case)

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Bikes and Bombs and Rivers of Life (with guest appearances by Moses and Creation)

We seem to have reached that time of year when the light is always bouncing off of things.* 

Since taking this shot a few days ago

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and seeing metal pipes meld with bike melding with an imagined cyclist with the key to the lock, I’ve found myself thinking of these lyrics from Paul Simon’s “Love is Eternal Sacred Light”

How’d it all begin?  Started with a bang

Couple of light years later, stars and planets sang

Fire warmed the cold, waves of colours flew

Moonlight into gold, earth to green and blue…

Earth becomes a farm

Farmer takes a wife

Wife becomes a river and giver of life

Man becomes machine

Oil runs down his face

Machine becomes a man

With a bomb in the marketplace

As Mr. Simon seems to do so often, he finds room for the ominous, spiritual and playful almost in the same breath.  Later in the song, there’s a lyric: “I’m driving along in my automobile.  It’s a brand new pre-owned ’96 Ford.”

It’s Simcha Torah today, when Jewish tradition has celebrants reading the end of the Torah, with Moses’ death, then starting over with the creation of the universe.  Death gives way to rebirth, as hopefully (and effortfully) bombs in marketplaces will one day give way to rivers of life.

Here’s how the song goes.  Be sure to tell Paul I sent you:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WdrrEpYhATM

 * (or is it that we’ve reached that time of year when we’re more likely to be outdoors when the sun is low to the horizon….I think it IS this time of year, but anyone who knows otherwise is welcome to leave a comment)

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Let’s Give That Metaphor a Stretch

Time to risk stretching a metaphor….

I think of this flotilla of clouds (last seen a year ago on Lac St. Louis in Quebec) as a reminder of the moments of our lives.  Each unique, each likely to command our attention as though they represent something eternal, but nonetheless moving along to be replaced by other apparent eternities.

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Brought to you by Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and my ongoing mission to walk the walk, talk the talk, and sit the sit…

 

 

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Sneaky Texture

You just never know when the world will sprout behind your back…

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….or in front of your face

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Seeing Red

So is finding these hues of red amidst the concrete of the city an act of mindful attention or just camera gimmickry?  Of course, I know what I’d like the answer to be…

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Note to self…sometimes the light is there to be found…

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One-and-a-Half Trick Pony

Yes, I know.

I seem to be a one-trick pony of late.  To which I can only say…when the sky gets less interesting, I’ll start taking pictures of something else.  In fact, I have – take a look at the other side of these sky pics

In Toronto a few days ago:

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In Toronto during the magic (freaking hour) two days ago:

 

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In Montreal, a week ago:

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And finally, in non-sky-related news….also in Montreal, at what is fast on its way to becoming my favourite greasy spoon:

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Look! Up in the Sky! It’s…the sky (and its urban friends)!

Here’s a Hasidic tale that has more to say on the topic:

One day a rabbi gazed through the window of his study which looked out upon the marketplace.  People were hurrying to and fro, each attending to his or her own particular business.

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Suddenly the rabbi saw a familiar face.

“Hikel!” he called.  “Come in, I want to speak with you.”

“Shalom, Rabbi, how are you?”

“Thank God, I am fine.  Tell me, Hikel, what were you doing in the marketplace?”

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“Oh, I’ve very busy today.  I have a lot of business to take care of.”

“Hikel,” asked the rabbi.  “Have you looked up at the sky today?”

“At the sky, Rabbi?  No, of course not.  I’m too busy to look at the sky.”

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“Hikel, look out the window and tell me what you see.”

“I see people and horses and carriages, all rushing around doing business.”

“Hikel,” the rabbi said, “in fifty years there will be other people in other carriages, drawn by other horses, and we will not be here.  And, Hikel, in a hundred years, neither the marketplace nor this town will even exist.  Look at the sky, Hikel, look at the sky!”

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Trading Irritation for Attention

I suppose I might have given in to irritation when my buddy Jamey texted me a couple of days ago to alert me he might be late for the start of the baseball game.  Especially since he had the tickets.  On the other hand, given that he was attending a memorial service, irritation would have been bad form.  Not that I’m always above bad form where such things are concerned, but on this occasion I instead managed to remember to pay attention to my surroundings on the way to the ballpark, and take note of…

…the collage of shapes to be found in the cityscape…

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…and the bounce of light off Roy Thompson Hall onto a building I’ll have to learn the name of one day…

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…as it was, we ended up in the ballpark in sufficient time to pay ridiculous sums at the concession stand and still catch the first of R.A. Dickey’s knuckleballs.  The good guys won, and the not-so-bad guys got to celebrate…

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...clearly it was a tense game, though.  Our beards were jet black when it started.

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Winter Green Grace

Yesterday, I confessed to mind drift towards the green of spring and summer.

Turns out there’s some green to be found in winter, too…

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Rumours of Green

Amazing.

I’ve been working on this living thing for close to fifty years (okay…a little more than fifty…what’s your point?) , yet I find myself being surprised by green.

Despite one of my previous posts, I haven’t minded this winter so much; something I’m inclined to attribute in large part to mindfulness practice.  One moment I’m grumping about the weather, and the next I decide to take an interest in it, paying attention to how it feels on my skin, the way it intersects with my breath, what effect it has on the sounds of the world around me.

Despite the fact that winter and I have been getting along pretty well, when the images below recently surfaced on my screensaver, I was shocked to see how explosive the greenness of spring and summer can be when contrasted to the grays and whites of February.

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Mount Royal, Montreal

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Yes, Fenway Park is home to baseball’s second most evil empire (from a Torontonian’s perspective), but there’s no arguing with its aesthetics

I’m still trying not to rush out of winter, but man, that green stuff is a rush.

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You Go, Ignorance!

So before I get to something I’ve been taught by some of my spiritual teachers, I thought I’d first tell you what I don’t know about the young woman who works at the burger place I was at tonight.  I’ll also slip in some of my latest New Orleans pics to give your eyes a break, in part because one of them provides a funky variation on the teaching (and in part because I continue to find the place so damned photogenic).

A New Orleans variation on the "I don't know" pracitce

A New Orleans variation on the “I don’t know” pracitce

I was tempted to know that the young woman at the burger place was bored and perhaps irritated with the customer talking to her from the other side of the counter.  Two and a half times her age, he dominated the conversation to the point of owning it, focusing mostly on anecdotes about his life, many of which had to do with the ethnic mix of women he’s known, and in some cases, might have liked to know better.  I assumed that the young woman was bored and perhaps resentful of being made captive to his story-telling by her service job; an assumption born largely of the fact that my default is to be put off by people who strike me as disproportionately interested in their own lives and insufficiently interested in others’ (which doesn’t mean I’m not one of them, but that’s for another time).

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But then, the young woman began to challenge my assumptions by periodically laughing or punctuating his speeches with reflections of her own, which in turn propelled the conversation further and even got him to ask her to elaborate time or two  on something she’d previously told him.

And so they both did me a favour, reminding me that there’s a difference between what we know and what we’ve decided to know before the evidence comes in.  Was she bored?  Maybe.  Or maybe he’s the most interesting part of her burger-flipping evenings.  I don’t know.

That’s the beauty of it.  I really don’t know.

This is how I recall Rabbi Alan Lew discussing the “I don’t know” practice in his book, Be Still and Get Going: A Jewish Meditation Practice for Real Life.  Lew, who had been a long time practitioner of Zen Buddhism before discovering a connection to Judaism, talks about the practice of periodically responding to all questions asked by saying “I don’t know.”  For instance, we might be asked our opinion on capital punishment, and most of the time, simply answer with a rote response formed years ago which we have habitually repeated without reflecting on if it still holds true.  And by giving rote responses to life, by forgetting how much we don’t know, we close ourselves off to what is in front of us here and now.

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Which is one of the reasons I love that “think that you might be wrong” sign from New Orleans.  Most signs I see there are replaced between my visits, but that one’s lasted a year.  Must be because there’s some resonance to it.  Or maybe it’s because taking it down would require climbing a very tall pole.

Either way…you go, ignorance!

Not sure why they were crossing the road, but I’m sure they had their reasons…

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And if you want to see the box set of images, click below:

https://picasaweb.google.com/guanacastec/NewOrleansYesAgain

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