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Musings from a spiritual pilgrim on this rocky road

Lent

It seems too coincidental that Lent occurs when everyone is so anxious for spring. When the snow and the cold have almost become unbearable, when we all long for the warmth of the sun, less wind, less snow, less fighting the elements. During this time of deprivation, when we are feeling our lowest and our sense of joy in the everyday is minimal, long repressed issues come to the surface to show their surprising presence, sometimes terrifying in their magnitude. Memories arise, past doubts, childhood traumas, old regrets. During this time we are tempted again and again to forget who we are, children of light, and begin to think of ourselves as victims of our circumstance. During these months, simply getting out of bed can prove to be a major accomplishment. If we manage to struggle through work, then we deserve even bigger applause. I used to judge people who fled the winter to spend time in the sun somewhere, but now I see that perhaps it’s a need to remind ourselves that we are more than what we experience in these harsh months before the earth is awakened once more to its full potential. Perhaps the sun is a reminder to us that we are loved and that the earth loves us, a reciprocal relationship that winter often leads us to forget.

However, as much as winter can seem to be endless, when you live in the sun and warmth all year long, you don’t have the opportunity to battle annually with these demons. As much as it fatigues us, the opportunity is a gift, a chance to look deeper, a real Lenten experience. This year especially with its harshness and its unforgiving winds, is especially bleak. This year for the first time I felt a need to travel to some warmer climate, but though I felt that I didn’t succumb because I know this is temporary. And I beleive when it does warm, as it is starting to do here in Toronto the last few days, it will truly be glorious. I’ve always loved Toronto in the spring when people seem to come out of hibernation and celebrate the street. Festivals emerge, street parties, and those bursts of colours from the roses, apple blossoms, cherry blossoms and more, tell us once again that there is much to celebrate and that resurrection is imbedded in the cycle of life.

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Old Movies

I had a sick day this week in which I found myself watching an old movie from the 40’s I hadn’t seen for quite a few years. I was struck by how influential these movies were to me as a young boy. As a boy I was persuaded somewhere people actually lived like they did in these films. They dressed for dinner, they talked with a mid-Atlantic accent, they uttered witty bits of dialogue. Surely a world existed where these things actually happened because the movies were about real life weren’t they? So for a period of time, I imagined my mother and father grew up in an era where phrases like “I suspect Dora, you’re a treasure”, were bandied about, where they called each other “darling”, wore spectacular hats, and smoked cigarettes as if they were making love. And photographed so beautifully. Watch Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca, and how carefully one tear cascades down her cheek, watch Bette Davis’ eyes well up and how beautifully they glistened, the black and white heightening the glamour playing with shadow in a way colour falls embarrassingly short. What a world it created for the audience.

It irritates me when that style of film making is misunderstood and seen as inferior to current cinema. Of course acting has changed, actors no longer need to carry on with that odd accent, however few actors today could pull off the dialogue of the thirties and the forties, they’d be laughed off the screen. There was a operatic feel to cinema in the past, everything was bigger. The passion they embraced each other, the intensity the characters experienced in a break down or emotional outburst. So big, so demanding.

Revenge

This week I’ve been preoccupied with the flooding disaster in Alberta. I spent a great deal of my life in Calgary and seeing familiar neighbourhoods where I once lived covered with water really brought home how quickly lives can be changed. One friend told me it was a complete surprise, it all happened in a matter of eight hours. However, in trolling the Internet for news, I came across comments suggesting that Alberta deserved what they were experiencing because of the Tar Sands and that project’s damaging effect to the eco system. Granted, I’m no fan of what is happening in Northern Alberta, but I would not wish this kind of devastation on anyone. That mindset is really no different than those who think certain people deserve to die because of their lifestyle. Just substitute Mother Nature for the revengeful Almighty and you have basically the same religion. That kind of thinking gets us nowhere and can be harmful in the long run. We may disagree, but no one deserves hardship or death because they don’t agree with me. Please, let’s move on to something greater in ourselves that looks on all with love.

Superman has fallen

Theodore watched the cyclist from the streetcar window. He regularly kept track of the bikers. It was a kind of game he played to pass the time, endowing each with a name and creating stories in his head about each one. Today he noticed that Brad, at least he imagined his name to be Brad, cycled a bit slower. Brad, from his observation, always raced to work. One of those cyclists who breezed past everyone queued at a stoplight then cut in front, inching out into traffic impatient for the light to change. However today, Theodore watched as Brad appeared to struggle for breath. Brad’s usual healthy glow was ashen. He looked ten years older.

As long as he could remember, Theodore wanted to be a Brad. Everything about a Brad would improve Theodore’s life. Athleticism, attractiveness, and what he assumed would be a healthy extroversion. He imagined Brad to be the life of the office, telling jokes, leading discussions, easily steering conversation in the direction he wanted. He imagined Brad to have a successful relationship. He imagined Brad to be bisexual; he was of course attractive to both sexes and made no judgement on that and in his life enjoyed the freedom of loving both sexes. He imagined Brad having children, at least one. He imagined Brad camping, hiking, participating in those adventure vacations Theodore only dreamed about.

But today, in this moment, Brad struggled and Theodore panicked. If Brad had to struggle, it destroyed his belief system that somewhere there was a possible blissful existence and that if Theodore had been blessed with a different set of attributes, he too could participate in this Nirvana available to only those who held the secret passports.

Brad finally stopped biking. As the streetcar passed, Brad pulled the bike onto the boulevard, then leaned over wheezing holding the bike upright with one hand. Theodore watched, his heart racing, wondering if he should get off and help. He couldn’t decide. He didn’t want to decide. Superman had fallen and it shook Theodore to his very core.

Leaking

The dripping she heard came from the corner of the bedroom. She turned on the light, looked at the rug for a wet spot, found nothing then discovered for some reason the dripping had stopped. She held her breath, listened carefully, then turned out the light and closed her eyes. Drip, drip. She counted. Ten, a ten count between each drip, or what sounded like a drip. It did seem to originate from the corner. She turned on the light again, this time put on her glasses and went over for a more in-depth look. The sound stopped. She looked both at the rug and at the ceiling and could see no water and there was no longer any sound, nothing. She stepped softly back to bed, listening intently, wondering if it was an aural illusion, the sound tricking her into thinking it came from one place but actually originating elsewhere. Leaving the light on, she lay in bed, held her breath and waited for the dripping to resume. Nothing. However, she knew and assumed that if she turned out the light, then what she couldn’t hear right now would be apparent. She wondered if the sound and the light were somehow connected, wondered if for some reason the illusion was connected to the bed lamp. Crazy talk she knew but otherwise she couldn’t make sense of it. 

Could it be mice? She wondered if an animal could sound like dripping water. Is that possible? It was now a puzzle but she was too tired to solve it. She got out of bed and headed to the bathroom. Earplugs. She grabbed a couple from the package, rolled them between her fingers, and inserted them in her ears. She found the initial sound barrier disorienting; everything sounding miles away. Lying back down on the bed however, she relished the silence and closed her eyes, rolled over and turned off the light. Blessed silence. Drip. Drip. She lay, her eyes open. It was in her head, her brain was leaking. 

Warmth

She cupped her hands around the tea, huddling around the mug like a campfire, hoping the gift of heat would spread through her whole being. If only she could get warm, if only for once in her life she could feel the heat. Although the apartment dripped with summer mugginess, her hands froze, her feet chilled. Her mother would laugh, telling her she was born a reptile, and that she should find a cave to live. She thought she had. It was two months since she’d moved in and two months since she stepped out the door, two months since she’d opened the curtains.  

She remembered one occasion where she thinks she felt something approximating warmth. She was about two years old, one of her earliest memories. She and her parents had been visiting her aunt. She sat in the backseat, strapped into her child carrier. Mom had wrapped her in flannel blankets but she was still cold.  Suddenly her mother turned around and spread her fur coat over top, the fur facing down, touching her skin, each individual follicle sending electric sparks into her system. She remembered the shock of being warm and remembered how hard she cried when the coat was removed. 

Moving

I’m moving this week. What a horrible task. The following thoughts have been looping through my head for the last two weeks.

Where did all this stuff come from?

Why am I doing this?

Why did I think this was such a good idea?

I hate all my crap.

I love all my crap.

Lets put all the crap in boxes, then take all the crap out boxes, to store in one big box.

I work every day to pay for the big box to put my crap.

Am I my crap?

We judge people by their crap. Where did you buy your crap? How much time did you take to buy your crap? Do you buy new crap or old crap? Do you buy crap often?

There apparently is tasteful crap and tacky crap. Much the same with the boxes we live in. There is tasteful boxes and tacky boxes.

We give away crap we don’t want.

Some people try to sell the crap they don’t want.

People buy other people’s crap.

Certain crap is precious.

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Time

I had a premonition of growing older and how the yesterdays and the present moment, maybe the tomorrows too, will all be put in a time blender and whirred around until perception becomes all discombobulated. Then the ability to follow the time rules, the rules stating the existence of a past, a present, and a future, the rule where time must be attended to, a schedule must be followed, these rules of time and presence become arbitrary. Perhaps I’ll be talking to mother, or dead friends, or any number of people, perhaps I’ll still be married, that my daughter is an infant, that I am twenty. Perhaps I’ll be living in a robot apocalypse. Perhaps.

How Sad

The feather drifted so magnificently, she almost stopped breathing as it meandered across her little piazza. Slowly it finally nestled in the corner, caught by the accumulated bits of bark, chipped paint, various twigs. Rare up here, above the treeline, unusual to get a sense of the wildlife below, some bird shedding an old life, becoming new again, molting. She thought many times she’d like to molt, shed a skin, become something new, sprout a few new feathers. She watched it quickly incorporate into the collection of debris, another miscellaneous detritus that swept over the balcony to settle in the corners. Sad, she thought, how sad.

Leviticus

Leviticus needed a nap. A busy day, many clients, many people in need. Today, he was not in the best of form. Today he felt himself leave the room. His penchant for escape and aptitude toward fantasy – building a world inside his mind, a place to step into when things began to knot up or become tangled – forced him to develop tricks to keep him in the moment. Pinching the softness between his thumb and index finger, biting his lip, pulling on his ear lobe – all were little tricks he invented to remind himself that his patients needed his attention despite the pull to withdraw and disappear into his private world. Odd, he thought, to choose a profession that demanded he remain in the moment, in what the world established as “real”.