My First Fist Bump: Another Columbia Staton Moment


My First Fist Bump: Another Columbia Station Moment


I was swooping down the steps from Columbia Street, heading for the skytrain station, compass card ready, when, coming from the other direction, a man stopped, looked me in the eye, and asked, “What is your favourite band?” He was fifty years younger than me. I had no idea whatsoever what bands he might want me to compare. Leonard Cohen had died a couple of days before. I said, “No band, at the moment, Leonard Cohen.” The guy said, “He just died.” I said, “Yes.” The guy said, “I play in a heavy metal band. I enjoy it.” I replied, and I meant it, “I’m glad you do.” He put up his fist in some sort of thing like a high five. I raised mine. As we did the fist bump, he said something. I think it had to do with the bump. I have no idea what it was.

When I got in the elevator with a group of women of mixed age and ethnicity, I shared the experience. Answers were suggested. The Beatles. Glen Miller. We all had a good laugh. One of those Columbia Station moments.

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The Rainbow Flag


The Rainbow Flag


If red is flaming gay

I come out, across the flag

Confined to purple.

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Floating in the

kaleidoscope of life, she

kisses the universe.

Art:  “The Spring In Me” by Elham Sarvi


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A Cure For Denial

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A Cure for Denial


I told her I would waft us back to Transylvania where the Unitarians still believe in a personal god. We would appeal to that god, who would answer our prayers, and all would be well.


We laughed. But her laugh was weakened by the cancer raging through her body. Raging against her … against the satisfaction of her life, the future of it.


When was the last time I saw her, the last time we got up when there was a demanding beat in the music and we moved to behind the congregation to respond to it? When was the last time she felt her oomphy over seventy self? Those days, those months, those years are gone. Subsumed into the exhaustion of putting her affairs in order. Of finding pleasure in transitory pain free rest.


Oh, Sandra, I want to turn the clock back and rewrite the future. Instead, my own denial of age, of death, has come crashing down in tandem with yours, with your life.




Sandra and I travelled to Transylvania, in Romania, along the great curve of Unitarian Villages from to Brasov to Cluj. We were roommates.


We explored. When I look at the photos, Sandra was often missing, off on her own adventure. She was communicating with people with smiles and admiring gestures, checking things out. We’d lose her at markets, and find her at a stand selling shawls. I called her Sandra Shawl.


Kobatflava was our partner church. Sandra connected with our hosts, and played with the minister’s daughters at the communal dinner. It was a wonderful trip, and Sandra and I became friends. This friendship continued after we returned, and very often, at church, when there was music with a beat, we would get up and move to it, together.


Sandra was a serious, but fun, person. Many many friends and relatives miss her warmth and laughter.

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The speaker’s wife and I had gone downstairs, searched for, and found jugs for the water, and now the table was set for the tea ceremony. After much looking, I had given up finding the hook to pull the screen down for the slides. Given up finding a projector. The stage was ready: doors closed, tree in place, lighting right, chair, book and mats ready for the story telling. All looked ready, but it was not.


It was 10:30. Time to begin a worship service for a small, but very active, and, as I have told new speakers, intelligent and supportive Unitarian community. I had prepared a tightly timed service, short readings, smooth transitions. The timing was geared toward finishing by eleven thirty, to fit in a Chinese tea ceremony after before noon. The theme was imperfection, but I had no desire to be anything but perfect. I had to begin on time.


I approached the lectern, my nerves and my determination tight to the breaking point. I introduced myself, and asked the congregation to repeat the words for the ingathering song, the song that was supposed to be sung. Then I asked them to sing it.


I welcomed everyone, and particularly new people. I skipped over announcements, but was corrected in that when people arrived at the front. To avoid the problem of someone not introducing herself, I announced the speakers. This was not usual, but suddenly it seemed a good idea! Where was the singing bowl, the one I always used to begin the more contemplative part of the service? It was still in the cupboard. I tried some sort of tuning thing from the shelf, then noticed the bells which others use, and clanged them a couple of times. Not at all the way I like to begin. And somewhere in that time a piece of fabric draped over the lectern slipped off. I caught it before it got to the floor and placed it back, as it happens, over the clock that was there to help speakers time the service.


I could leave the congregational song to our song leader. I placed myself in position to read the story, and the story saved me. It was a simple one, and I think I told it reasonably well. Others had found the hook and pulled the screen down, had brought in the projector.


Had I “lost it”? Was this some pre-experience of dementia? At seventy-seven I was aware of the possibility. Or was it simply a response to the theme? Imperfection? I had done an excellent job of that. I went home and took a cracked mask down from its place on my balcony. The Japanese give attention to imperfection by filling the cracks of broken things with gold. I did not have gold, but I did have silver paint. I filled the cracks.IMG_3230

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Unspeakable Things



Unspeakable Things


It’s difficult for me to walk past the new books at the library. The other day I picked one up. Tested the “voice”. Yes. Wonderful choice of illuminating adjectives, a real feel for place. No time to lose, I signed it out. Unspeakable Things by Kathleen Spivack. And then I got the cold, and I cancelled arrangements and settled in to sleep and read.


When have I read a book written with deep feeling, with an understanding of people, of music, and of the effects of war? Characters weave through time and space, young and old, peaceful and obstreperous, selfless to self absorbed wend their way from the time of Tzar Nicholas to the Second World War, from their beginnings in Europe to the setting of the novel, 1940’s New York.


The characters are memorable. Herbert, in greatly reduced material wealth, finds his calling as an advocate for others. The Mouse is possibly the most complex character, both physically and in her thoughts and abilities. Felix? But perhaps I should not judge him. I leave that up to you.


There is music, and some well placed magic. And we have the story, a story of faith, amazingly believable faith in life in spite of adversity and sacrifice.


A memorable book.

Have some Mozart ready to play while you read the last chapters.

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By Noons Creek


In this private place, between two busy roads,

the creek runs free.

I, oblivious to traffic, to carbon footprints

hear the music of the water, the rising of a bamboo shoot.


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