Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year and Resolutions

Today is the thirty first of December 2010, New Year’s Eve... Already the Winter Solstice is ten days behind us and each day is a nano-second or two longer. In Atlantic Canada, where I write this however, those nano-seconds mean little as the temperature plummets and in many places, snow accumulates.

New Years is a time for reflection, and introspection, as well as a time for looking forward and planning. For many, it is another chance to celebrate and share merriment with family and friends, while for others, it is merely another excuse to participate in drunkenness and asinine behaviour.

It is also a time for making resolutions; for intentional behaviour changes and self-improvement.

As a younger person, I made resolutions religiously. I made all the standard ones; quit smoking, lose weight, be a nicer person, stand up for myself when necessary, get a better job, save money... I also failed miserably. That failure I soon discovered was due to the nature of resolutions and how they are often ridiculously unrealistic.

How can anyone expect, or be expected, to take a daily living pattern and change, let go of, or otherwise modify it in a matter of minutes at midnight on December thirty-first? In fact, even the date seems wrong and incomprehensible. If such behaviour modification were possible and realistic, would it not be somewhat easier on the Solstice, the shortest day of the year? “Tomorrow, the day will be longer than today, so therefore I will... (insert resolution here)” Except, in most cases, the “shortest day of the year” does not stand alone but is one of three or four days that are all equal in length and also shorter than the rest of the days of the year.

This is not to say we should not resolve to modify our behaviour or improve our lives and the person we present to others. If anything, self-improvement should be a daily effort; sometimes even hourly or by the minute.

Sometimes I catch myself in behaviours I abhor in others, and in my mind I am reminded, “We criticize in others the things we despise in ourselves.” I always pause and reflect upon this adage and my behaviour, vowing to be more conscious of how I live my life. For me, most of the time, I cannot resolve to stop such behaviour, because mostly when it happens, I am unaware of it until either after it’s been done, or I am in the middle of it and there is little hope of turning back. It is simply a matter of trying to be conscious of the times when I am GOING to resort to this behaviour and stopping before I do. I suspect that as time goes on the conscious awareness becomes easier, or so I am told.

To make a New Year’s resolution to change this behaviour would be a waste of time, for I know that resolution would be broken on the first day. Instead, I have to resolve daily to be more mindful of my thoughts and actions; that I become more aware of the ways in which I betray myself, and check that behaviour as it happens in the hope that eventually I will stop myself before I begin to behave negatively.

At this time, regardless of the effectiveness of resolutions, I would like to take the opportunity to wish each and every one of you a very Happy New Year. May 2011 bring you Peace, Joy and Prosperity.

~Still Wandering...

Friday, December 24, 2010

Holiday Greetings!

As I sit here on this Christmas Eve 2010, the wind is blowing hard outside. The temperature is 3 degrees Celsius, or 37.4 degrees Fahrenheit. The wind chill is currently -3 Celsius or 26.6 degrees Fahrenheit. It has been raining for several days and there is flooding in the freshwater streams and storm surges on the ocean. In Europe, the snowfall has crippled the continent. It seems to be a time of turbulence not only in the weather but politically and economically as well. Indeed, zealots could say it is the end of times.

Yet, listening to Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, I am touched by the season in which we find ourselves. Despite the violent weather, despite the aggressive desperation of the last minute shoppers trying to find the “perfect” gift for someone. Despite the frustration of travellers waiting in airports and bus stations, delayed by the weather, there is an inner feeling of peace and contentment today.

I remember as a child, the anticipation of Christmas Eve; this was the big one, tomorrow, we’d all have our gifts opened and start visiting friends and relatives, comparing what we got and often planning adventures with our new acquisitions. Food was plentiful; turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, home-made stuffing, cranberry sauce, carrots, peas, squash... and for dessert there was Steamed pudding, pies of all flavours, cookies, squares, candies, and beverages galore.

While my father and most of my relatives were “working class” and far from affluent, I felt as if we were Royalty at Christmas. Our wealth was in the bond of our family, the love and joy shared at kitchen and dining room tables, in the stories told and re-told and the enquiries about other family members.

We didn’t have e-mail, and rarely used the phone beyond finding out if a relative in another town or “the city” was going to be home. We just walked or drove to someone’s home and visited. Given the number of my Mom’s siblings all living at that time within a few hours of our house, the visiting went on for days. Often we would leave a house after a visit only to meet up with those same relatives in somebody else’s home a few hours later! Conversations continued from house to house as if they hadn’t been paused, often bringing newcomers up to date.

I am now living far from my remaining relatives and friends. Many aunts and uncles as well as a few cousins have passed on and their children have grown up and moved away to find employment (as did I) and our Royal family, rich in each other’s presence, has become fragmented.

Yet, on this day of anticipation, which admittedly is not as great as it was when I was a child, we are all together again in each other’s hearts and memories. Our departed parents, aunts, uncles and cousins are also with us; their legacy alive within our hearts and our traditions.

No matter where you are during this Holiday season, whether apart from your loved ones or within their embrace, I wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. May your memories and traditions keep you well fed with Joy. May you be warm and dry and may laughter be plentiful in your home.

~Still Wandering...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Remembering....

I was still a boy on February 9, 1964 when Ed Sullivan introduced the Beatles to North America. Throughout the following years, I followed them with great interest, and was influenced by not only their music, but their social statements.

When I began my drumming “career,” the Beatles were breaking up and were gone in less than a year after I started playing.

I began to follow the individual careers of the members, thinking George Harrison was finally getting his writing heard and Paul McCartney was reverting to a silly pop musician.

I was most intrigued however with John Lennon, and his neo-political statements that were heavily influenced by Yoko Ono’s Asian philosophies. “War is over... If you want it” was one of the greatest statements of that time. John began to challenge society’s norms, taking it upon himself to mount a campaign of Peace in unorthodox and controversial ways. The “bed-ins” staged by Lennon and Ono brought great attention to their beliefs and during interviews, they both expressed their ideas in passionate, articulate speech that revealed that they were more than just a pair of “freaks with too much money.”

John’s compassion toward others was evidenced when he would often take hangers-on outside his home in for a home cooked meal or a hot cup of tea on a cold day.

On December 8 1980, a deranged man fired five shots from a .38 calibre handgun and ended John’s campaign of Peace and in my belief, plunged our planet into a time of greater than ever violence and darkness. What could John and Yoko have done if his life hadn’t been so tragically ended? Would we now be witnessing wars in the Middle East, Asia, and South America? Would Peace have finally caught on as a lifestyle?

I remember where I was when I heard the news that John had died, and I remember the blank, empty feeling I experienced as the reality set in. I remember slumping shaking to the floor, and feeling alone and powerless in the darkness that night.

John once jokingly said that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, (he later recanted that statement) and, like Jesus, his life was ended, far too soon.

On December 8, 1980, John Lennon took his place among Mahatma Ghandi, Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evers, and many others whose only goal it seems, was to bring Peace to a race of hominids that seem so intent on killing each other off.

John, on the thirtieth anniversary of your departure of this Earthly plane, we miss you and need you in a way that has become urgent beyond your greatest fears.

Let us heed John’s words and practise them before we cause ourselves to become extinct.

“All you need is Love...”

~Still Wandering…

Monday, December 6, 2010

Drumming and Perception.

OK, so it wouldn’t take a degree in quantum physics to be able to figure out that I’ve rediscovered my passion for drums and drumming. It also would be easy to guess that the word “drum” pretty much describes me. So much so in fact that I’ve been searching for the Sanskrit character for “drum” or “drummer” so I can get it tattooed on my arm.

I mentioned in a previous blog post how I tried several times to put drumming behind me and how unsuccessful those attempts were. I guess I should clarify something… It wasn’t DRUMS that I was trying to avoid, nor even DRUMMING! I was more disillusioned with the BUSINESS of music and what it meant and I began to equate the business with the instrument. I didn’t hate drums, but the fact that the drums led to the business which at times I did hate! The business, you see, is comprised vile creatures that would peel the skin from its victims if that very act would not kill the victim and the associated cash flow!

But drums, and drumming, are like life to me. I am fascinated with the shapes and colours of drums; the sounds, textures and tones. Not just drumsets, but also Darabukas, Djembes, frame drums, Tablas…. I love them all.

Recently I was trying to explain to a friend the sensation of transcendence in drumming. I started to say, “When I sit down to play…” and ended up saying “When I put my drums on…” So OK, maybe I do wear my drums like a garment of rhythm. Maybe they are not so much an instrument of sound and tempo as they are a cloak of textural expression that allows me to show the world what I think and feel in a percussive fashion.

The act of playing now has changed due to the scaling back of my stage set-up. I carry less due to lack of vehicle space, and I carry lighter due to lack of youthful machismo. This has led to a total re-thinking of how I approach what I do and how I do it. Obviously, the key elements of drumming within the context of the music of western society are still there: the downbeat and the backbeat remain, but the fills are so totally different. Instead of using a five or six piece set, I’m using only four, which means I have gone from four or five horizontal surfaces (the bass drum is vertical) to three. That means the subdivisions of notes has had to change as well. After many, many years of thinking and playing a certain way, it has been awkward and at times comical to change that. At the last gig, I was feeling like things were finally starting to take shape and I was playing more to the configuration I have rather than thinking of the old set-up and trying to make those ideas fit on the smaller set-up. The “Square peg in a triangular hole” idea…

The perception of success too can be misleading and a cause of concern. I learned to play drums primarily by doing what we all did at that time… by emulating my idols. My teenaged logic understood that if I learned to play like my idols that I would become one of them; that I would also get the lifestyle including the manor estate in the Welsh countryside. As time passed and that hadn’t happened, even when I began drumming professionally, I felt as if I’d missed out on success. Of course, this meant that I was a failure and therefore should leave the business and find another way to make a living. I later came to realize that I wasn’t a failure in any measure. I had managed to eke out a modest livelihood at the drum set and avoid taking what we know as a “day job” for many years.

My drumming career was on-again, off-again for some time, at times willingly, sometimes with great emotional struggle involved until the final blow… hearing damage!

I’m not here at this time to address that trauma, because I’ve found a way to overcome and deal with it, or at least make it tolerable.

What I AM about to address is that even though I don’t have a manor estate in Wales, even though I still struggle financially, even though I am not a household name, I AM a success! I am and have been successful in playing drums for many bands in many genres of music. I have successfully entertained countless people throughout the years. I have successfully taught many young drummers, some of whom are full time or primarily drummers today. I have travelled to many places across our vastly beautiful country and the northern U.S. and even far and distant lands. I have met some of the most remarkable people anyone could hope to meet as a direct result of my drumming and I would never have met them otherwise. Some of these people are still friends of mine and I consider them a valuable part of my life.

Success cannot be defined by bank accounts, cars or houses. (Although they help) Success cannot be defined by awards or accolades. Success cannot be defined by the number of people who recognise your name from recordings, radio or television.

Success in my mind is being alive, healthy and still pursuing one’s dream. Success is having many friends and interests. Success is having a good home; warm, dry and comfortably full of love.

I have all of this and more.

Listening to: Emerson, Lake and Palmer on You Tube.

~Still Wandering…

Friday, December 3, 2010

Keep It Simple

Last week my coffee maker broke. I got it not that long ago and I was really excited to get it. It had a programmable start time function, (most do these days) auto-off function that would shut the burner off after the coffee had brewed. The coffee was kept hot (then warm, then not-so-warm etc) in a stainless steel carafe like they use in the fancy restaurants. It was half price, down from $65.00 so I grabbed it up quickly.

However, it was a problem from day one. The reservoir where the water went had an opaque gray panel with numbers to indicate how many cups of coffee could be brewed from the water that had been added, but because it was opaque, I could never see how much water was there unless I pulled it out to the edge of the counter and back lit it. The top of the machine opened on a hinge that soon broke and wobbled like a Jack-in-the-box. This in itself might not have been a problem except that the hot water came from an outlet like a shower nozzle attached to the bottom of the lid.

All in all, it was a clumsy, awkward device designed to frustrate and anger instead of simply make coffee. The process usually took more time than I was willing to spend, (if you’ve ever seen me before my first cup in the morning, you will understand its urgency) and I was starting to not enjoy my coffee. Horror of horrors!

So, as I said before, the damned thing finally stopped functioning properly and so I set out to find a replacement. OK, who should I give the Holy Grail to? I found it while trying to find a coffee maker. And it was easier to find too!

The problem is, I don’t want a lot of bells and whistles; gadgets that can (and most often do) break down or fail to function properly. These additions cost extra money that I really don’t feel it should be necessary to spend when I don’t need them. But just try to find a coffee maker these days without them! Wal-Mart carries tens of models, all with expensive gadgetry and in a variety of styles from single-cup to the kind that read bar codes on the can. But do they sell a simple device that simply makes coffee? Other stores have even less to choose from at higher prices.

Here is what I’m looking for...

1)Insert Folgers into filter basket.

2) Close basket tray.

3) Add water to reservoir.

4) Push “Go” button.

5) Wait until gurgling sounds stop.

Aahhhh....

Can that be so difficult?

~Still Wandering…

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Social networking...

I think I get it!

Social networking is good for business!

Yes, I was told that a year ago and I’ve been aware of it to a certain level since then, but today I managed to GET it!

Last year at this time, I was working for a firm in New Brunswick and we had been invited to an event known as a “Tweet Up” where users of Twitter gather and meet up. In discussion with Carter McLaughlin and Tim Scammell, I learned that such networks as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc are all about building relationships.

OK, that’s a stumper. What does that mean exactly? I have trouble with some relationships face-to-face, so what can Social Media offer me?

Well, to start with, there’s the safety of not being in a room with somebody. I know that sounds weird, but sometimes being in direct contact with others makes me feel awkward, insecure, or intimidated. (especially if it’s someone I look up to) Connecting by means of Social Networking Media keeps a level of separation in place where intimidation and awkwardness don’t (or can’t) exist. That allows me to speak (write) more freely and review what I say before I send it out to the other person.


But I discovered something else... It’s not about me! And in recognizing that, it became a benefit to me!

???

“How does that work,” you may ask...

OK, here’s how it happened for me. I follow people I know on Twitter, and also strangers (as in I haven’t met them) who do things I am interested in such as drumming, cycling, self-empowerment etc. In the process of that, someone I follow mentioned a podcast he had heard and included a link to it. I clicked on the link, dug the ‘cast, and subscribed. Once I became a subscriber, I downloaded other ‘casts and began listening... and learning.

This particular podcast is very diverse and covers many topics, often several per episode. Sometimes it is a short passage of only a few seconds that answers a question I’ve been asking for years. Other times, there is a secret that no one else knows, and this is where the learning begins for me. I learn something that can be used to my advantage in making me a better drummer.

True Social Networking would dictate that I would share this information and allow everyone to develop this skill and we would all have it at our disposal to use at will. There has however, been a long history of “Knowledge is power,” where knowing something others don’t is the same as having an “upper hand.”

Gone are those days of keeping information to ourselves in order to maintain power and control... Today, it’s all about sharing everything we know with the understanding that we will use that knowledge differently anyway, because we are all individuals with individual approaches to everything.

Another way it has worked to my advantage is financially. Again, because I follow someone on Twitter, I got connected with someone else who offered me a part-time PR position of sorts. This is a paid position and it’s not only in an area where I apparently have some expertise, but it’s also something I really enjoy doing!

Social networking has other advantages as well. I have several friends who no longer live here. Through the cyber-magic of social media, I can stay in touch immediately. Through them, I have met others of similar interests and together, we have great (albeit short) conversations about our favourite activities. Not only can I learn more about the things that bring me money, but also the things I do to unwind and enjoy life. I’m learning about far and distant lands I will likely never see, and my circle of “friends” is growing ever larger.

Heck, not long ago I was exchanging witticisms with Prince’s former drummer Sheila E!

~Still Wandering….

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bloggin' & Vloggin' are good for the noggin!

When I first began blogging, I had serious doubts whether or not I had anything worthy of publication. At first, my blogging was sporadic and I had thoughts of abandoning it. However, I “stuck it out” and realized it was not only therapeutic, but I was developing my writing skills which would one day lead me to more adventures in creative writing.

Once I became more comfortable with writing in general and blogging specifically, I began to keep a word document on which to jot down ideas and expand upon them over time. My last entry came together very quickly and took priority over several other ideas that I have been working on for some time.

Other ideas I have are more controversial and I feel reluctant to post them due to the fact that I could anger some people or be misunderstood by others. I can talk about these topics with some face-to-face, but I’m still reluctant to put it out there.

So I rewrite and revise...

I always manage to forget a key element in my blogs however.

Since Music is such a large part of my life; indeed at times it seems to BE life, I always intend to post what I am listening to at the time of posting. Perhaps with a bit of prodding from my readers I will be forced to remember.

Besides my blog, I’m also vlogging. I have a good friend who has two vlogs, and manages to keep them not only interesting but also diverse and entertaining. To top it off, he has a job, a blog AND a podcast AND an infant son, AND he runs marathons. Enjoy it while you can Kevin, the energy you now posess will someday run out. lol

But vlogging is something I took to rather willingly and it requires a form of thinking that I enjoy. The learning curve required in editing was a bit frustrating at first, but I enjoy it now. The best thing about vlogging is that it appears on your screen like a TV show, in real time, (sort of) so you don’t have to read it!

And I know how much some of you hate reading. Lol

Listening to: Drummertalk podcast www.drummertalk.org

~Still Wandering…

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The People and Places We Love

I’m stuck...


I think we are all intrinsically connected to the place of our birth, the place that was a part of our memories during our formative years.

I was born and raised in central New Brunswick. As a youth waiting to become an adult there, I couldn’t wait to get away and become a famous drummer. Once I finished high school, I moved to the nearest city, thirty-five miles (56 kilometres) away and established a life there. Within a few years of that I was busy touring and rarely saw the city, let alone the tiny village where I spent the first nineteen years of my life. There came a time when, after a few bad relationships and a yearning for adventure, I made a conscious decision to leave the area where I had been born and spent so much time as a child, adolescent, and young adult. There was a big wonderful world out there and I wanted to see it, and as a touring musician, I could live pretty much anywhere I chose to anyway!

I eventually settled in another province, in a region where the music was like water from a tap. One didn’t have to search for it; it was everywhere! It was this music that drew me to the place where I now live.

The following twenty seven years have been tumultuous, often painful and frequently very rewarding. Sometime in that period, I began to miss the streets of the tiny village and city where I used to live. I had experienced a number of incidents with which I think you are all familiar by now, and I think I needed the familiarity of home.

I was able to return to where I began life to visit more frequently as time passed and money became slightly more available. Each time I would visit, I would make a point of going to a few special places each time, and I’d be certain to visit a few choice friends and relatives. As well, I’d attempt to see at least one place and one person I hadn’t seen in a longer while. This put my mind at great ease and brought me remarkable peace.

When I returned to Fredericton a little more than a year ago, I thought I had completed the circle.

That was when I made a very important discovery. The place I loved most is a wonderful place, but the people I love most are in quite another place!

I had always known this I think, but it didn’t really register. At least until I began feeling very lonely.

I had known many people in Fredericton when I had lived there, but many months after I moved, I had only managed to reconnect with two or three people besides my family. The people who most frequently came to my mind were those I had come to know and love in Cape Breton: My partner of now twenty three years, my Reiki teacher and her daughter who is my acupuncturist, my Reiki students and fellow practitioners, my Taiji friends, the Cycling club, musicians, and many others. I was feeling as lost in Fredericton as I often do here in Cape Breton.

Stuck...

Between...

This is not to say that the people in New Brunswick aren’t terrific people; they are! But I know so few of them outside my ever shrinking family circle. Besides my Mom, sister, niece and nephew, and a handful of cousins and their spouses, it seems I know no one there anymore. And no matter how clean and lovely the streets are, they don’t hold much allure if they’re populated with strangers.

Last Friday, after one of my friends finished work, her sister-in-law and I met her for coffee near her workplace. As I sat there with these two charming, intelligent women, I felt I was in the right place. Two days later, on Sunday evening, my partner and I walked to her cousin’s house nearby. On our way home, I looked off across the horizon toward the bay and the lights beyond, once again feeling the familiarity I once felt in the village and city I sometimes miss. At times, I wonder why I ever left there and occasionally I feel regret. Yet the old axiom stands, home truly is where the heart is.

... and my heart has two homes!

~Still Wandering…

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Accepting one’s DNA

As a pre-teenage boy, my one passionate desire was to play drums in a successful band; touring, recording, appearing on television…. At age fourteen, I received a small but functional drumset for Christmas and by the time school reconvened after New Year’s, I was in a band with a few of my schoolmates.

As I progressed through high school, I was fortunate enough to be in a situation where I was playing every weekend and getting paid quite adequately for my efforts. As I entered my twenties, I began to become disillusioned and disenchanted with the music business and decided to quit, the first of several attempts to "retire."

By the time I had turned twenty-five, I was back at the drums, bigger and better than ever and by October of that year I was preparing for a tour of western Canada with a group who only a month earlier I was enjoying on the radio.

As I entered my thirties, I found myself married and “settled down” in a situation where touring was not an option. (That marriage ended poorly because I refused to allow someone else make my choices for me)

As a result of being “off the road,” I began to teach. In retrospect, I can only see that as a blessing because as I taught, I learned! When I once again began playing, I had a great deal more knowledge to apply which made me more versatile and well-rounded.

At that time, I was freelancing; playing with up to four bands and teaching at the same time. Slowly, the playing tapered off and the teaching was less than I had wanted it to be. When a fire broke out in 1997 and wiped out the space I had been renting as a teaching studio, taking everything musical I owned, I was convinced my career was over. However, a fundraiser was held and I came home with a new drumset, the same ones I use today.

It took a while to become re-established as a player, and I suffered many “dark days of the soul” while the Universe completed her plans. Once the planets lined up properly, I was once again playing steadily and touring great distances.

As in the past, the situation changed, and in the fall of the year 2000, twenty years after I had first become a professional drummer, I was a drummer no longer.

For whatever reason, drumming jobs were no longer coming in like in the past. I tried moving to another location to search for gigs, but competition was great, and I was running out of money fast. I chose to return to my current home before the opportunity to do so was no longer available. I repeated this behaviour in 2004, again with no success.

In 2005 I received a call to join a band I had been a part of briefly in 1989. It was not a touring or recording act, but there would be a degree of regular income, and very little pressure. By July 2006 however, I was becoming concerned with the damage to my hearing from the volume of the band and I chose to once again “retire.”

I returned to teaching, this time for a local music store, meaning no overhead to pay. The situation was ideal for many months but I was always open to better offers. When one such offer came, I took a “day job” as a writer in Fredericton NB and took my future there with me. Early in January 2010 that situation also changed.

It was after returning yet again to my current home and enduring several months of wondering what was next that I received yet another call from Bad Habits. Initially I was to fill in for two weeks while they searched for a replacement for the chap who had replaced me and who was now unable to play due to a health problem. The option was always open for me to become their full-time drummer if I chose and after the initial two gigs, I chose to stay on.

That has been a very long preamble to say that I am now ready to accept the fact that I was born to play drums. It could be said that drumming is in my DNA. I have also decided that in my own particular case at least, DNA stands for Do Not Argue! I am once again in my element, feeling more fulfilled than in many years, and taking pride in what I do. A very dear friend of mine who is a few years older than I has never lost his passionate desire to drum. In many e-mail conversations, we have discussed our roots, our motivations, our obstacles, and our eventual, inevitable realization that we do not own and play drums; we are servants to our drums. Our drums have chosen us wisely to extract from them the sounds and vibrations that they need to express. Our drums ask us to help them entertain, to love, to heal our planet, and set the pace for those who are sensitive to our rhythm.

Am I up to the task?


~Still Wandering…

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Autumn's Splendour.

Autumn.... a time for introspection, reflection, and taking stock.

As a child, autumn was just one more step in a long adventure I knew as my life. Summer was followed by school, shorter days, heavier clothes, and finally snow. Somewhere in there, the event known as “Autumn;” sometimes known as “Fall,” occurred. The leaves turned colour, then fell to the ground, none of which really made much difference in my young life.

As I became a teen, a vigorous “back to nature” movement was in full momentum. By that time, I had learned to appreciate the spectacle of Autumn’s painting. I followed in my Father’s footsteps and learned to use a rifle and became a hunter in the fall. Soon enough I discovered that I preferred to just look at the forests than to kill the inhabitants thereof. I began hiking around the open spaces of abandoned farms, visible to hunters yet in contact with the trees and drying grasses. I would sometimes carry a notebook and jot down a poem or short story.

As I began driving, I was able to go to other parts of the Province, places I hadn’t often seen before. I marvelled at the different colours from region to region, species to species... Maple, Birch, Oak, Beech, Aspen... All took on a different hue in Autumn; some red, some yellow, orange, brown... Some kept their green but it became muted or lighter than its summer vibrancy.

As a touring musician, I got to see the Autumn in every province in Canada. I think among the most beautiful places in this great country is the Niagara peninsula. How amazing it is!

As I grew older, I began to find Autumn depressing. I dreaded winter's arrival; the cold and shivering, the snow, the dangerous driving. Autumn also reminded me I was growing older. Each one came around a little sooner than I expected it to, a lot sooner than I wanted. I spent many years feeling melancholy during Autumn's visit.

Last year, I was once again living in south-central New Brunswick. I spent many Autumn days in or near Odell and Wilmot Parks in Fredericton. I watched the leaves turn magnificent colours and fall to the earth below, and I realized just how much I need that. Without Autumn, Summer would become meaningless and boring. Autumn reminds us to make Summer count for soon she will be gone.

Yesterday I had some time available, and my camera was blessed with fresh batteries, so I took a short drive and took some photos. I was pleased with the results and posted some of them in a You Tube video, although that concept seems strange to me; still images in a video. Heh... Watch it here

~Still Wandering…

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pain and Suffering.

The second of the Five Remembrances in Buddhism as taught by the Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh states, “I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape ill health.”

Ill health can be anything from the common cold to cancer, or in my most recent situation, injury.

On October 2nd 2010 I was setting up my drumset in a confined space. When I stood, my back was stiff. I gave it little thought since these things happen from time to time and I usually recover relatively quickly, and a few days later I thought recovery was near. However, the stiffness became pain which worsened and by the morning of the 17th, it was excruciating! I placed a call to the chiropractor I sometimes see and left a message on his answering machine. I then e-mailed my friends who do Reiki and asked for some positive vibes and good Mojo.

By my second visit to the chiropractor on October 19, it was determined that I had sprained a disk in my back but total recovery is expected. It is important to note that this sprain was deemed “minor” by the chiropractor.

Although I am advised against sitting to avoid compression, my life is only temporarily inconvenienced by this.

When I think of the many people I know or have known who have been in serious pain, I cannot help but think of how unpleasant their lives must have been. Yet, the majority of these people put on a cheerful smile and went on with their lives. There are of course, exceptions, but I am amazed at those who managed to be happy and cheerful despite their pain.

When my chiropractor said it was a “mild” sprain, I commented that I couldn’t even imagine what a serious sprain must feel like… or anything else such as a deteriorating disk or cancer. Having watched my Father and a few friends grow weak and pass away from cancer I can attest to the pain and suffering they experienced.

What always strikes me when I become ill or injured is how much we seem to take for granted when we are well. Because I am advised at this time against sitting, I spend my time either standing or lying flat with my legs straight. Simple tasks such as putting on socks or tying shoes can be a challenge. Earlier today, I had to squat to retrieve an item from the cupboard and bending my knees was such a pleasant relief. Then I think of Darcy, the guitarist/vocalist in the band I play with who spent several months in a cast for a broken leg and I realize my situation is not bad at all.

While we are all concerned with our own problems, it is probably quite all right to be. Each of us is the one who has to live within our own skin. Many people have experienced the same back pain as I have, but we each experience it differently, from our own unique personal perspective. Others have had broken legs, but have experienced that differently than Darcy has. Others have had cancer and have experienced it differently than Dad did.

We all can also choose to be better prepared to deal with illness and/or injury. With proper diet, exercise, and lifestyle choices we can prevent damage, recover more easily from damage, or have less severe damage. My chiropractor mentioned that I have flexible hamstrings (I always thought they weren’t) and I attribute that to all the cycling I have done in the past five months. I’m sure that will be a factor in my recovery time and could perhaps also have prevented the injury from being far worse than it was.

Since the chiropractor is also a Yoga practitioner and former Yoga teacher, I am going to ask him to prescribe some stretches I can incorporate into my daily life in order to keep flexible. A little weight lifting is probably a good idea too, and certainly adjusting my diet to reduce foods that contribute to inflammation will be taken into consideration.

And, if my recovery is not complete, I will adapt. Pain and suffering can be great motivators in learning to do the things we have always done in new and different ways.

Finally, since we have just recently celebrated the Canadian Thanksgiving, I will give thanks for being as healthy as I am. As the old saying goes, “I was sad because I had no shoes until I met a man that had no feet.”

~Still Wandering…

Monday, October 11, 2010

Giving Thanks

Today is Thanksgiving in Canada.

During my school years, that meant a day off school; a long weekend. As I entered the workforce, nothing changed. As I went into a full time career as a musician, Thanksgiving Day varied from Province to Province, from establishment to establishment. Sometimes we’d have the day off, sometimes not.

If it was a day off, it was spent walking around whatever town or city we would be performing in for the week. Sometimes I would be accompanied by a fellow band member or, if it was a place where we performed frequently, I would call a lady friend to accompany me and go to dinner or a movie after an afternoon of walking or hanging out. If I knew no one in that location, I’d find a museum or art gallery and get a taste of the local culture.

Thanksgiving Day in recent years has become the day I put the lawn furniture and decorations away for winter. Sometimes, if I get my yard work done early, I may take a hike or drive in the country and enjoy the colourful leaves.

Today, I read a piece in the Reader’s Digest about a young man who said his childhood was “lucky.” He qualified that by saying he and his sister had grown up in Canada while his parents were immigrants who grew up without the benefits of the things we take for granted in this country. This young man began a blog a few years ago; a thousand things that are awesome... one posted daily for a thousand days.

While I cannot even begin to aspire to that, I would like to take the opportunity on this Thanksgiving Day to mention a few things for which I am thankful.

First, like the young man in the Reader’s digest article, I am thankful to be a Canadian. As such, I live in a country that is loved and respected worldwide, despite our close geographical and political association with a warring nation.

I am thankful also that my Canadian heritage grants me a free education up to and including high school, and free basic health care. My country won’t let me die just because I can’t afford to pay for treatment.

While I dislike the cold, and find all but one season in Canada just that, I still AM thankful for the three seasons that I shiver. They make the summer all the more enjoyable!

I am thankful that in Canada I can worship the deity of my choice or disregard as I see fit. I can befriend people of all faiths and philosophies and have; Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Native American, Atheist... It might earn me the scorn of my peers, but it isn’t illegal.

I am thankful for the good health I enjoy. While in the advanced stages of middle age, I have the “normal” aches and pains associated with my age and geography, but I can still ride my bicycle, log a few kilometres hiking or snowshoeing and I’m not on a regimen of daily medications like many my age or even younger.

I am thankful to have had a stable family environment as a child and teenager. My parents, while smokers, did not drink and provided me with a diet of fresh grown vegetables and homemade bread and baked goods. In some ways, my parents did not prepare me for the world I grew into, but I don’t think they could have; it was so different than their world.

I am thankful to have a healthy intelligence coupled with an above average memory. I can recall song lyrics from the first live performance I played in 1970!

Speaking of performing, I am thankful for my ability to play music. I have had a long and rewarding career in that field, and it’s not over yet.

I am thankful for the many “esoteric” teachings I have received, from Reiki to Taiji and Yoga; from the Law of Attraction to Vibrational Healing; I have learned much and met many wonderful people because of it.

Which brings me to the final yet most important thing for which I am thankful... (Although I would hardly categorize all my wonderful friends as a “thing” to be thankful for.)

Each of you reading this has been a gift and blessing to me. Although many of you have moved to other parts of Canada or other countries, (or if you are still where I started my life and noticing MY absence) you still mean a great deal to me. If I have sent you the link to this blog it is to tell you that very thing.

Today, I have realized I have a great deal to be thankful for. Despite my propensity to sometimes see the glass as, if not half empty, being on its way there, I have more reasons to see the glass as being re-filled as well.

What are you thankful for today? Do you have to think about it or do they come to mind easily? Are you sharing your thanks with special people or are you alone?

And mostly, as a friend pointed out on Twitter earlier today, “I don't believe that 'Thanksgiving' was ever meant to be one day...”

~Still Wandering…

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Living Simply.

Everyone is stressed… Too many bills to pay, not enough time to do all we need to do, too much clutter in our homes and offices… Life seems to be an ever-increasing circle of meaningless repetition, spinning faster and faster out of our control. When life gets this way, even the simplest of tasks can seem daunting and un-doable.

Often, while planning to address one issue, we are thinking ahead to the other things that need to be done and we become overwhelmed; simply moving a few magazines from the couch becomes a day-long task… In order to move the magazines, there needs to be a place to put them, but in order to find that, the bookshelf needs to be tidied up. In the process of tidying the bookshelf something else becomes urgent and we become sidetracked, usually with the end result of being less organized and tidy than when we started.

In my case things get out of hand in the summer. The summers where I live seem extremely short and warm sunny weather is appreciated like nothing else. On a sunny day, when I should be mowing the lawn, I am more tempted to get on my bike or take a hike in the forest or along the shore. The end result of course is that eventually the lawn becomes a pressing issue that takes the better part of two days to deal with. Then I have put myself in a position of spending two days doing something that should only take a few hours. Exhausted, I flop onto the couch and read, which leads to a nap and what I’ve been reading stays where it falls. Then I’m back outside trying to squeeze as much as I can out of our short summer.

My friends are all equally busy too. I have three level 2 Reiki students who have been trying for months to coordinate schedules with myself and each other to get together and share some time. Another friend, who I used to see many times a week, I now see perhaps three times a year.

There has been a movement afoot for some time in North America, to “lighten up” our lives and homes, to remove clutter and disorganization and free up some time for personal growth. In recent times, many “successful” people have given up their careers, assets, and belongings to seek out a simpler and possibly more meaningful life.

During my adolescence, there was a movement among the Hippies to move back to the land and give up the trappings of society. Many at that time were escaping the U.S to avoid being drafted into the war in Viet Nam. Today it is not a war in Asia that is being avoided, but enslavement to a life of consumerism and accumulation.

I think the problem is too much television. Not that television is inherently evil; on the contrary, it is a great source of education and entertainment, but we spend far too much time as a society watching it, and the commercials encourage us to buy products we don’t need, maybe even don’t want and will probably never use. This consumer mentality forces us to have too many cars, too many TV sets, too many computers, a swimming pool, a bigger house and so on and so on.... Then when our credit cards are maxed out, we need to work, work, work to pay off the massive debt load. Add children to the mix and the cost of raising them and saving for their University educations and ... well my friends can speak on that better than I can.

If you can get them to spare the time...

~Still Wandering...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Expressing our Emotions

Yesterday, I had an acupuncture appointment with a young woman whom I have known for nearly twenty years. In the time I have known her, I have come to know her brother and parents as well, although it is her mother to whom I am the closest.

This young woman and her family are people I consider very important in my life and I care deeply for them. During my appointment, we conversed about many things while the needles were in. Eventually, we began to discuss the value of emotion in Healing; not only the emotions of the Healer, but of the recipient of the Healing as well.

Something about that conversation opened a part of me that I felt had to be discussed, and I mentioned how difficult it seems to be in our society to verbally express affection without being misunderstood. There are less than five women aside from my mother and partner to whom I can say “I love you” without fear that they will think I am being too bold or worse, trying to be sexually forward. And in North America, for a man to say that to another man would elicit great homophobic outcries, although there are a couple that I express these emotions to since they are amazingly good friends and understand that my words express my gratitude for their friendship.

My friend and I as Healers, -- she as an acupuncturist, a Reiki Practitioner, and other modalities I don’t remember, and I as a Reiki Master -- both know the value of Love when it comes to Healing. Many of the “New Age” (ancient wisdom) modalities are based on imbuing the client with a sense of being loved, unconditionally. It is this feeling of Love that gives the client a sense of well-being and inner Peace from which to allow the Healing to grow. So often that Love is not articulated verbally rather than implicitly sensed by the client, yet what is so wrong with saying it? All the great religions of the world teach Love and Compassion as the most important principles, and yet we are so reluctant to speak of love to any but the most intimate of our friends, and even in saying that I am reluctant to let it go to print because of the word “intimate.” Why would I be reluctant to use that word? Because I don’t want to give the impression of physical intimacy when the intimacy of which I speak is emotional.

I guess it boils down to language and how it’s used and what certain words have come to mean in our society. Again, I am not too hung up about telling my friends I love them, but only if they can take it in the way I mean it. If it would make them uncomfortable, it doesn’t get said...

Which is a shame.

~Still Wandering...

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Extreme weather and Weekend reflections.

It is Sunday, September fifth, 2010 as I write this. At 7:30 in the evening, the sun has gone down low enough that it would now be dark in the forest, and long sleeves are going to be necessary when I venture outside. It is the first weekend of school season here in Nova Scotia.

As a boy, Sunday evening meant the Ed Sullivan show: I saw all my favourite musical acts there; The Beatles, the Dave Clark 5, The Hollies, The Doors, and Petula Clarke whose music still touches me in a way that no one else’s can.

As I grew older and became a teenager, I began playing music on the weekends. During the summer when there was no school, it was easy to overlook Sunday other than the fact that I had more money than my friends because of the weekend’s gigs, but as September came and school resumed, Sunday meant a restful turning point for me. It was the end of the combined activities of the week and weekend. Friday wasn’t really restful because after school I would have to prepare for the night’s performance. After we finished the gig, we’d often end up at an all night diner a few kilometres from home and stay there literally all night. Saturday there was always a basketball game or other activity at the school and I’d be there with all my friends, then perform again that night and again, spend the night at the diner. Sunday was either more activities at the school or jamming with friends other than the band. Sunday evening marked the end of the partying and activity.

After I finished high school, I worked at day jobs, again performing on the weekends, but even my non-musician friends among you will recognize the pattern: I play music; you listen to it or dance to it, but the continuation from week to weekend really seems uninterrupted and seamless.

Once I became a professional musician, we’d most often be booked in a venue for six consecutive nights before heading on to the next one. Sunday was travel day and upon checking into the hotel in the next town, Sunday night would once again be a time of rest for me.

I began to appreciate the pattern last year while living in Fredericton and working for Los Cabos drumsticks. The weekend was a time of doing the things that didn’t get done during the week; laundry, grocery shopping, and of course cycling and visiting friends and family members.

Yesterday, a tropical storm (what was left of Hurricane Earl) blew through the area, leaving us without power for over fifteen hours. As darkness fell, I sat on the couch, looking out my living room window at the frantic activities of the villagers. Cars left driveways and returned, flashlights bobbed as people walked, or ran, often no further than next door. It was as if everybody suddenly had more to do than normal. Eventually I began to resent all the lights interrupting the darkness. Once the clouds cleared, there were more stars than I have seen since my last wilderness camping trip many years ago. It was hot in the house and I was perfectly contented to sit and do nothing, hear nothing, see nothing.

With no electricity, there was no TV, no computer, no reading, no streetlights... No need... no urgency to do anything other than just BE!

Tonight, as I sit here in my “Zen Zone,” again, there is no TV, no music playing, hardly any lights on in the house. I appreciate these moments of silent inactivity in a life full of doing, in a world full of noise.

~Still Wandering...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Habitual Habituation (?)

It is said that it takes at least three weeks to establish a pattern in our lives and another three weeks for it to become habitual. I know from experience that it takes a great long time to break habits.

For many years, I smoked cigarettes. Occasionally, I would smoke a pipe because I loved the rich smell of the tobacco. (I still do) Several years ago, after an extended period of not smoking at all, I started smoking cigars, and became somewhat of a connoisseur.

During my teens, when I began smoking, I also began using (and eventually abusing) alcohol and non-prescription drugs. As a musician, I felt it was necessary as part of my “image” to fit the stereotype.

Over time, my habits became addictions, and the struggle to break free began.

Today, I have eliminated many of my addictive habits from my life, and can live quite well without them. I still love coffee and chocolate, but compared to some things I have ingested, those are pretty mild.

One habit I have tried to establish is a more active lifestyle in order to lose weight and lower my blood pressure as well as reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer. I have always enjoyed cycling and hiking, but this year I attempted to do more of each. I think the cycling has worked out relatively well, having logged nearly a thousand kilometres (over six hundred miles) on the Devinci. While that is far less than I had the opportunity to ride, it is still exponentially more than ever before in my adult life, and I still have at least another month and a half before the weather becomes prohibitive. I have lost about seven kilograms (fifteen pounds) and appear much trimmer. Again, I could have done better, but there were days when the heat and humidity would have made such activity more stupid than admirable.

As well, I have returned to playing my drums as a means of financial support and mental/Spiritual therapy. Drumming it seems, is always who I have been so to speak. But to go from a four year total hiatus to performing at least once a week, has placed demands on my body that surprised me. Even minimal effort now causes muscle fatigue and soreness. For that reason, I have taken time away from cycling to partake in some practice in order to rebuild my former strength and speed. I also carry fewer drums with me due to restricted vehicle space, so I’ve had to rethink my playing style. This too required actual physical practice to make sure my ideas could be executed onstage.

Some habits are formed from compulsion as well. Today, I got up, caffeinated my brain into some semblance of functioning activity, and then moved the coffee table, rolled out my mat and did Yoga for the first time in over a year. Now, I am sipping green tea that has steeped in a terracotta teapot that at one time used to seem glued to my hand.

The Yoga and tea are two things I hope to re-establish as habits in my life. I need twenty more days to establish the pattern, then another twenty one days to make it a habit.

Can I do it?

~Still Wandering…

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Power of Memory.

I’ve never been one to collect a lot of photographs. I tried; for a while in the early days of my musical career, I carried a huge SLR camera and several lenses on my travels across North America, but invariably, it sat in my hotel room while I was out walking or sightseeing. A number of years ago I went digital, but that camera too sits more often on my table than in my knapsack or bike’s trunk bag. Photography just doesn’t seem to be my way of gathering memories.

I have another way to collect my memories... I use rhythm, lyrics and melody; I use music!

I mentioned in a previous blog how music stirs great emotions and memories for me. In a recent conversation, the discussion turned to older songs and how they seemed to have more substance than today’s music. Titles began to emerge: Songs by Aerosmith, Deep Purple, Joe Cocker, (I’ve mentioned them all before) and I said, “Every song a memory.”

I’ve been blessed with what seems to be a remarkable capacity to remember. I can remember events that occurred when I was three years old. Since that conversation, I’ve been remembering songs, occurrences associated with them, people, places... everything! I’ve just reached my mid-fifties, and I have many memories. Memories of boyhood adventures with my friends, memories of drives in the country with my Dad, memories of learning to play music and the early days of performing in school and then dance halls, memories of romance and heartbreak. Already I have so many memories and yet I have the capacity for so many more.

I think often of my parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, older cousins and others I have known who are older than I. What memories they must have. As a young man in my early twenties, I asked my grandfather about the changes he must have experienced growing up, being born in the latter days of the nineteenth century and passing away in the eighty-third year of his life. He had been born when transportation was by horse, light had been by oil lamps and candles and heat had been produced by wood and coal, and had witnessed the introduction of telephones, automobiles, and electricity. He said the changes didn’t seem too big a deal because they had come gradually. At first, someone in the community had a car; someone else had a telephone etc. Eventually more and more people had all the amenities and so it grew from there. And yet, looking back on his life, he lived to see not only aeroplanes fly, but the lunar landing in 1969, and he watched it on a colour TV!

I think of my mother, now approaching her late eighties, and the life she has lived. She too grew up with horses in the barn although she was very aware of cars and wasn’t too old when her father got one. Yet she lived through the great depression, WW II, the Korean war, and outlived two husbands. Last year she left the house she and Dad built and I can only imagine the pain she must have felt as each memory was packed away to be moved to another location or sold at a yard sale. I share her regret that Dad hadn’t lived to see her retirement from her job and the many other magical moments in her life including her grandchildren, my niece and nephew. Her life has not been an easy one and yet I know she has loved it and has few regrets.

Mom’s siblings, all but two, are now all gone as is my father and his siblings. I never met either of my grandmothers and my maternal grandfather died when I was very young, yet I can still taste the candies he slipped to me when Mom’s back was turned.
I also remember more recently the many wonderful people I met through my Taiji and Reiki experiences and even more recently Velo Cape Breton. I have made some terrific friends, made wonderful memories, and expect to make many more.

Who are you making your memories with? Are they the lasting kind, or are they fleeting? Will you look back in forty years with fondness on these days or with disdain?

My hope for you is that your life be long, your days be fair, and your memories plentiful and joyous.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Beauty of Our World

There is ugliness in our world. Greed, war, deceit, all create the ugliness that fills many of us with deep despair. Occasionally this ugliness hits like a slap across the face and the sting is so bitter. But then something like this comes along and all the Beauty of the Universe is revealed to me in such Joy it is nearly unbearable.

Manose, the flute player, was born in Boudha, Nepal. His bansuri flute is one of the sweetest sounds on this planet, and he is a master at playing it.

Deva Premal was born in Nuremberg Germany where she grew up hearing her parents chanting the ancient traditional Mantras of Hinduism and Buddhism. Her voice is angelic and her modern interpretations of the Mantras make them more accessible to a contemporary audience. She is a beacon of Peace in a tumultuous world spinning even closer to self-destruction.

Miten was born Andy Desmond in London England. In his earlier life, his circle of friends included Fleetwood Mac, The Kinks, and Lou Reed. His arrangements lend themselves easily to Deva's style and voice. Together, Deva and Miten, along with Manose have travelled worldwide, playing to sold-out audiences at concerts and festivals including Earth Day celebrations in Brazil, as well as a private performance for His Holiness, the Dalai Lama.

Please enjoy.

~Still Wandering...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Forgiveness.

Earlier today, I was reading a book by Jack Kornfield in which he quoted a phrase that is reputed to have originated in the time of The Buddha; “Hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed.” On the next page, he mentioned the two former prisoners of war who met. One asked the other, “Have you forgiven your captors yet?” To which the second replied, “No, never!” “Well,” said the first, “they still have you in their prison then don’t they?”

As I read those passages which were part of a chapter on “Forgiveness Meditation,” I began thinking of all the people I would have to forgive in order to be released from the prison of my mind. Kornfield said people sometimes don’t even realize they have hurt or wronged us, so great is their own suffering of pain, confusion, and ignorance. That increased my list exponentially until I realized that in my own ignorance and confusion, I allowed things to happen to me that now must be forgiven. I have often put myself in situations where I could be hurt by others.

This has, I quickly saw, created a very unusual situation; I must also forgive myself! In fact, if I forgive others while overlooking myself, I have only achieved half my goal, and forgiveness is totally incomplete. Then, as I examined this dilemma further, I concluded that forgiving others is really not the issue at all but forgiving myself is everything! In many circumstances, I became hurt, damaged, by a situation that could possibly have been avoided if I’d only discussed what was bothering me with the other parties involved. Instead, I believed that discussion would either be futile or lead to further exacerbate the problem that probably didn’t even exist beyond my perceptions.

So often we see ourselves as victims of others whom we may perceive as stronger, more popular etc than ourselves, when in fact others may behave aggressively toward us because we intimidate them! Many times we become victims only of our own ideas about others and what we believe they think.

If we look closely, we will see that we are more alike than we are different.

~Still Wandering…

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Updates to "Share The Road... Please!"

On June 28, 2010 I posted a blog entry in reference to a letter I had sent to the Cape Breton Post that had yet to be printed. On July 3, the letter appeared in the Post and immediately drew some negative response in the online version. Rather than make you follow a link to the Post website, I will quote verbatim the conversations here. Since a link to the original letter is included here (or you could just scroll down for that matter) I will not include it here.

One note. I feel I may have caused some degree of danger for my fellow riders, since the outspoken opponent to my ideas might just target any cyclist he sees. I hope this is not the case.

But on with the update:


- July 3rd, 2010 at 15:06:22
I have no problem with people driving bikes, what ticks me off is how much I have to pay for insurance, license, registration, maintenance etc to keep my truck on the road, and your wanting me to yield to a bicycle! Sorry but NO! A little hard to stop a 5000lbs truck on a dime to wait till its safe to pass a "bicycle"! How much do these drivers contribute to the road? It costs me $200 to fill my truck, bike nothing! I say let them drive on the dirt, if not, heads up!!
JOHN


- July 4th, 2010 at 17:39:29
John, besides being a cyclist, I also own a car and buy gas, pay for insurance etc. Your "heads up" comment alarms me. Are you threatening cyclists? Are you willing to commit murder to be "right?" If so, you should have your driving priveleges revoked.
LONNIE L. JONES


- July 4th, 2010 at 17:40:08
I hope you're joking. This is not a cost comparison (and if you want to go down that road, we have to bring up the level of education of the average cyclist and their average income compared to people who drive enormous gas-guzzling trucks and the total amount of tax they each pay, and I am pretty sure the cyclist is contributing more to the economy, ok?). This is about being respectful and following the rules of the road. I think everyone can do that for 20 seconds while they pass a cyclist who is cycling properly on the side of the road.
SHELLEY


- July 6th, 2010 at 10:51:41
Lonnie, do you have a licence plate on your bicycle? Do you have insurance on your bicycle in case you cut off a vehicle and cause an accident? Your missing Johns point, motorized vehicles have to pay for the right to be on the roads......bicycles should as well....especially on provincial and federal roads. We are taxed to have a privelage.....it should be no different for you.
BEN BURNETT


- July 6th, 2010 at 13:12:10
Ben, no bicycle licensing system exists in Nova Scotia, but I did have licenses on my bike when I lived in other provinces and would here too if possible. My insurance company doesn't know how to insure a bicycle, otherwise yes it would be insured. And you must have missed MY point when I said I have my car licensed and insured as do most of my cycling friends. As well, the roads we ride on are badly broken by heavy vehicles like John's 5000 lb truck. As for me cutting off a vehicle and causing an accident, that is completely absurd since I am moving much slower than the average motor vehicle. Finally, IT IS THE LAW of the province of Nova Scotia who are passing the laws that are for my protection, not me. Don't forget, there are police officers on bicycles too; are you going to threaten them as well?

(This appeared 4 times)
LONNIE L. JONES


- July 6th, 2010 at 14:50:28
(There seems to have been a technical glitch there. I only posted that comment once but it showed up three times. Well, I guess it bears repeating.)
LONNIE L. JONES


- July 7th, 2010 at 10:33:20
Actually lonnie, your comment merits no value! Even if you repeated it 4 times! Another example, my ATV is also licensed, insured, registered with a plate, but I can't cross a road without getting pulled over. But the fella driving down Reserve St. with a lawn mower motor in his mountain bike is perfectly fine! Where is the justice? Good luck with that law lonnie when I'm clipping by at 120km/hr! Hope it helps!
JOHN


- July 7th, 2010 at 19:23:28
John, just so you know, your comments have been forwarded to the Police department. But let me ask you; do you wear a seatbelt? Why? Is it because the law says you must? Do you pay insurance out of choice or because it's the law? As for the fool who has the motor on his bike (Yes I know him and he IS a fool) those are being reviewed and I believe you'll find they are outlawed soon. And by the way, where in Cape Breton can you legally drive at 120km/h?
LONNIE L. JONES

- July 9th, 2010 at 15:36:41
Lonnie, do you pay to insure your bike for liaibility in the case you are at fault in an accident and need to reimburse damages to others cars you may cause? Unless you do, then you fail to have the same responsibilities that those of us in cars are requiered to adhear to. One of the largest factors in most accidents is a mis-match in speed. This does NOT mean it is always the person going fasters fault. Those pushing for laws to allow bikes that simply CANNOT keep up with the flow of traffic to be allowed to play in the middle of it are endangering the lives of all the rest of us that use the roads. Until the law requires that you carry the same liaibility and identifying tags ON YOUR BIKE as any other vehicle on the road then your plight is really invalid and will be treated as such by those that do abide by responsible behaviour. Your insistance that you be allowed to intefer with traffic by grinding it to a halt while you personally save a few pennies is selfish beyond comprehension. You should be ashamed. I intend to follow the letter of the law exactly, so as you pointed out, you are required to carry the same responsibilities, so go do it and get insured, until then, in court, I have my loophole.
ROLLSEYES

Monday, July 5, 2010

Religious Freedom?

At least once a week, sometimes once a day, I receive an e-mail from a well-meaning friend warning me of the imminent loss of freedom I will experience if we continue to allow immigration in Canada. I am constantly being told by Christians to hate the Muslims. In fact, I recently had to back off from an argument with an old friend over Islam because I felt that friendship was being threatened by his beliefs and my assertion that his beliefs were misguided.

All religions it seems have a history of being the only ones who are “right.” As a pre-schooler, I received the standard teachings of Christianity; the old testament, based on Judaism, made references to the Gentiles who we were led to believe were “wrong” and therefore evil while the Jews were “right.” Beyond that, nothing was said of the non-Jewish inhabitants of Mother Earth.

Once Jesus was born, the emphasis switched from Judaism to Christianity, but again there was little discussion of the non-Christians or the non-Jews; the Jews who were now also “wrong” because they held to their traditions that all through the old Testament had been “right.”

During the Crusades, Christians and Jews declared war on the “Mohammedans” who in turn waged war back. The killing of Jews and Christians by each other for the time being had been put on hold it seems in favour of wiping out the common enemy. In recent years, former U.S. President George W. Bush likened a war against “Islamic terrorists” to a modern-day Crusade.

Religion it seems has always found ways to justify killing others who believe something other than what that religion teaches, even though all religious texts clearly state that to kill another is a sin resulting in a direct one-way trip to the most abominable of hells.

The genocide of indigenous peoples around the world by the Priests and Ministers of various Christian churches is, to me, incomprehensible. The ten commandments clearly state “Thou Shalt not Kill...” And yet the killing continues.

A great strategy of the settlers to North America and various other continents was to turn peaceful nations... known in the vernacular as “tribes”... against one another. When the British and French were fighting for control of “The Americas,” they involved the Natives as well. During the early 1700s, a bounty was placed on Mi’Kmaq scalps by William Shirley of New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The Mi’Kmaq were allied to the French and the easiest way to conquer the French was to eliminate their allies. It almost worked.

Today, with North America, Africa, India, and most of Asia stripped of their culture by European invaders, the target is now Islam. I am being repeatedly told to hate the Muslims, even though their religion is one of peace. When I remind people of this, I am asked to explain Osama Bin Laden’s Jihad to which I reply that he represents Islam about as well as Adolph Hitler represented Catholicism.

I refuse to believe that war and killing is the only solution. I cannot believe it when both the old and new testaments of the Christian Bible, the Koran, the Dammapada and so many other great books teach us of love and tolerance.

How can we refuse to see that we have so much more to gain from mutual respect and tolerance than from exclusion and hatred?

~Still Wandering…

Monday, June 28, 2010

Share The Road... Please!


Once again bicycling season is in full swing. In recent years, more and more cyclists of all ages are taking to the roads for fun, fitness, and environmentally friendly active transportation. The “Share the Road” campaign is raising awareness among motorists that cyclists are out there in increasing numbers and that we are entitled to be there.

There is a small segment of the population however, who seem to find it amusing to “buzz” by cyclists as closely as possible, blasting the car horn at deafening volumes and laughing at the results.

As you read this, the Nova Scotia Government is amending the motor vehicle act, making it mandatory for motorists to leave a minimum of one meter between the motor vehicle and the cyclist. This means that if it is not possible to pass safely, the motorist must slow down and remain behind the cyclist until it is safe to pass. Given the capabilities of motor vehicles to accelerate rapidly after passing a bicycle, this should present no problem. The same motor vehicle act already states, “Cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists”

(http://www.gov.ns.ca/snsmr/rmv/safe/Bicycle_Safety_hl.pdf)

so motorists cannot reasonably state that we do not belong on the road.

As well, it should be noted that today’s bicycles are very efficient and some cyclists are capable of reaching speeds in excess of forty kilometres per hour on level ground. Taking a fall as a result of being forced off the road at such speeds can result in serious injury, including broken bones. Collisions with motor vehicles most often results in death.

I know nobody gets in their car and says “I wonder how many cyclists I can injure or kill today,” but “Oops, I didn’t mean to do that,” will not bring a human being back to life nor will it ease a motorist’s guilt.

As a member of Velo Cape Breton, I ride with people of all ages and backgrounds. Among our members you will find people of all walks of life, some including members of your family and friends. All are part of the community in which we live.

So, motorists, while I recognise that you may feel bicycles are a menace and in your way slowing you down, I ask you to recognise that we are people just like yourself, and mean you no harm. Please do us no harm.

And cyclists, I urge you to know and follow the rules of safe cycling. Treat your bicycle as you treat your car. Ride as you drive, using proper turn signals and predictable behaviour and wear an approved helmet. Avail yourself to the Can-Bike 1 and Can-Bike 2 courses that are taught locally.

“Share the Road” means so much more than just sharing space; it is also sharing responsibility and respect.

Ride and drive safely everyone and have a great summer.


~Still Wandering...

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Musical Memories

Our senses are very powerful forces. Taste, smell, sight, hearing all can serve to alert us to danger or reward us with pleasure. Our sense of touch helps us to perform tasks and seek and give pleasure as well as provide comfort. Our senses combined with our memories can remind us of experiences, good or bad.

My senses remind me of my younger days.

I was born during the best of times; in the height of the “baby boom” following World War II. The war in Korea was over and North America was in a time of great optimism and financial affluence. Cars, televisions, and refrigerators were no longer for the middle and upper classes but for everyone except the very poor.

However, the great depression was not such a far away memory. Many of my cousins had been born during the depression and WWII, and my aunts and uncles had all lived through the worst of times in the same way as I had arrived during the best.

My families, relatives of both my Father and Mother, were very different from each other, yet held many similarities such as the music they listened to. Due to the close proximity of the Great Depression, many old 78 RPM records of the music from that time existed in the various households I would visit with my parents. Even as a pre-schooler I was attracted to music and can still remember those old records and the way they sounded.

In recent times, some of those songs have begun to appear in movie soundtracks rekindling those old memories in me. I can remember so clearly that I can actually feel the sensations again of being in those homes. I can smell the food cooking, the pipe my Mom’s older brother smoked, the grass freshly cut on another relative’s lawn, the gas and oil on yet another uncle’s clothing. I can remember the darkness of the highways and back roads as we made our way home; my Father carrying me, half asleep into my bedroom and tucking me in. All these memories reawakened by the sound of a song.

As a teenager, I was introduced to a different kind of music, and the people who enjoyed it were as different from my family as they could get. My new friends taught me to rebel against the age-old norms held so dear by my parents and their siblings. The war in Viet-Nam sparked protests and we rebelled against pretty much everything our parents’ generation stood for as well as the war.

Something about our music still rings true, despite the forty plus years since its heyday. We had such great optimism; we believed not only that we could change the world, but that we would! During my worst period of darkness, I would turn to the music of my adolescence in the vain hope that I could re-capture the joy and hope it gave me back then. What I inevitably accomplished however was to cause myself more despair.

Today, I can listen to the music of my generation; The Who, The Beatles, Deep Purple, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Janis Joplin etcetera, and enjoy the art and the memories without being trapped in the nostalgic quicksand of emotional instability that once resulted from trying to bring back the past.

Ultimately we cannot preserve nor retrieve the past, not even five minutes ago. Once it leaves our present experience, it is gone forever.

But occasionally it’s fun to hear the old songs and remember our departed friends and family members who were such a big part of who we have become.

“...Oh I'm bound to go
Where there ain't no snow
Where the rain don't fall
The winds don't blow
In the Big Rock Candy Mountains.”
-Harry McClintock

~Still Wandering...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Compassion

I once complained of having no shoes...

Until I met the man with no legs.

For years I searched for Ultimate happiness. I had once been a member of a successful musical act, touring, recording, television appearances and radio interviews. I continued on in other groups with varying degrees of success for a number of years, and when suddenly it all ended, I had no idea how to deal with it.

I suffered for many years with depression, searching always for a way to regain my equilibrium; I thought that if I were back on tour, in the studio, or in any way active in the music business, that I would find happiness. I did not seek medical help with my depression because medication is often addictive and can cause greater problems later.

Everyone I know asked, "What do you have to be depressed about?" My response was that it isn't a choice. Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. If a baker adds the right ingredients to a cake, but in the wrong quantities, that cake will not turn out right. Depression is really that simple. My ingredients were all there but the quantities were wrong.

In time, through self-examination, Meditation, a couple of eye-opening events, and the love of dear friends and a very patient woman, I regained my equilibrium.

While depression is an imbalance, it can have triggers. In my case it was caused by job losses, but the loss of a relationship, an automobile accident, dropping out of University; any stimuli can bring it on.

Last night I read the story of a young woman who suffered great loss. I will not repeat the details here out of respect for her privacy and the nature of her suffering. I will say that she is one of the dear friends who showed me amazing love, tolerance and compassion through my depression, and I had no idea she was suffering so.

How can someone give so much to another and when in need, not ask to be consoled? How can one not turn to someone and ask for help after giving them help in the past? The answer to that is simply one word; Compassion.

Compassion can be described by a dictionary as, "A feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering." It is better described by the example of those who exemplify it: Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, Mahatma Ghandi, and so on.

And one special, compassionate young woman in my life who means a great deal to me.

Today, and every day, if you see suffering in someone, show compassion. A simple act of kindness such as opening a door for someone or simply offering a smile can make a world of difference to that person and give him/her hope when all hope seems lost.

~Still Wandering...

Windy Day

Monday, June 14, 2010

Scene From a Bicycle Seat

Wandering into better self-expression.

In the past, I have posted blog entries on the power of our words, the meanings and the effects they can have. Last week I sent a You Tube video of myself to my niece and asked her to show it to my mother who does not have a computer. My niece sent me an e-mail the following day, commenting on how much Mom enjoyed that short video clip and she (my niece) also mentioned that I am well-spoken; something I don't readily agree with. I think I write much better than I speak, something Mom also mentioned to my niece.

In writing, I find I can read and re-read my words and change what I think may sound different from what I intend to say; I can remove the "sting" by choosing different ways to phrase my thoughts and I can correct ambiguities before they occur. These are luxuries we don't have when speaking, either into a camcorder, on a telephone, or in person. Once said, our words are out there, and any hurt they cause is also out there, sometimes with devastating, permanent results.

Having said all that, I have noticed a trend since the beginning of 2010 to be somewhat scattered in my thoughts. As I re-read my blog entries a few weeks ago, I felt a definite shift in the tone, from relatively articulate to average, and determined that my scattered thoughts had resulted in an inability to express myself as well as I once did. I vow to change that, and in a sense, have begun to make those changes.

When I returned from New Brunswick after what had become a somewhat less than expected experience, I pretty much literally dropped what I had brought with me and decided to deal with it all later. As it turns out, much of what I dropped and did not deal with were my emotions surrounding the situation. Therein was the cause of my scattered thoughts. In recent days, I have begun to re-arrange the clothes in my closet and the accumulated clutter in the garage and my thoughts and emotions have begun to clear.

In the ancient Chinese practice of Feng Shui, (also known as Hotei in Japan) it is said that a cluttered home leads to a cluttered mind and with that I can certainly agree. As my life gets increasingly more organized and my thoughts follow suit, my words, both written and spoken, are sure to also follow.

KEEPING things neat and organized... Well, that's another matter altogether!

~Still Wandering...

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Overwhelming Joy.

After a day of clouds that became full blown rain in the mid-afternoon, the sky turned blue and the sun became visible in time to begin it's downward descent toward evening and eventual night. I was standing in the kitchen, listening to Katie Melua, when the sun broke through the clouds and the way it touched the trees, at just the right angle filled me with such incredible happiness, it was almost unbearable.

Like all humans and probably other mammals as well, I have had a lifetime of searching for happiness. When I first moved into this house, I had a vision of myself as an old man, smoking a pipe, retired from my career as a musician, my life's struggles behind me. As the following twenty plus years unfolded, the struggles became harder, the pursuit of happiness was subdued by the pursuit of employment, conditions under which happiness is most often unattainable and largely impossible. The result was hostility, depression and eventual alienation. I eventually had an experience that caused me to re-evaluate what is important and meaningful in my life and I have come to realize that what I have been told for decades is really true. The most meaningful parts of one's life are not the houses and cars nor the bank account, but the people you can count on in times of need and those with whom you can share meaningful experiences.

While I am not officially retired in terms of old-age pensions or government statistics and I don't smoke a pipe, I have become more comfortable with working less and enjoying myself more. I have traded my drumset for a sketch pad and my sticks for pencils. There is no need to do one final tour for posterity; if I were to tour now, it would be to see my friends who no longer live in this area, and to enjoy the vast wonderfulness of this great land; Canada.

So the sun can set contentedly this evening, knowing he shone some wisdom on an old fool today and taught me what the great Sages and Wise Teachers have been saying since the beginning of time and which I have been too blinded by my rage to see... Our happiness lies within us; it is not an entity that is outside us or to be provided by someone else. We create it with our perceptions and desire to have it.

~Still Wandering....

Introduction to Road Cycling.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Monday, May 17, 2010

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Wandering into the technological age...

Well of course, the technological age has been upon us for around sixty five years, ever since the end of world war two, perhaps a bit longer.

But this technology that I am using today is somewhat new to me... Yes, I've used video cameras since the days of silent eight millimeter home movies, and I've been using a computer for quite some time now, but to shoot digital video, upload it to my computer and then broadcast it to the world (at least those parts of the world that are interested/watching) is new to me.

However, that being said, here is my first attempt at "vlogging." I'll use this vlog to keep people (mostly friends and family I would guess) up-to-date with my activities. I intend to submit some material from a bicycle mounted attachment that will allow me to shoot as I ride. Probably that will take the theme "As scene from a bicycle seat." Since I have time lapse capabilities, this should make bike rides fun, and time lapse sunsets over the ocean will be spectacular.

So without further ado, please sit back, munch some popcorn, and enjoy!

Let me know what you think.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Renewed friendships and new Acquaintances

I have a friend in Japan who has resolved to vlog every single day in May. This might become something he enjoys so much he’ll continue it indefinitely. I admire his ambition, because for me, it’s difficult to blog once a week.

That said, here is my most recent entry to my blog in which I actually mention some of my followers to some extent.

In my last blog entry, I mentioned the cycling club I belong to and sometimes ride with. A member who recently passed away was fond of mounting his camcorder to his bike and uploading the results to You Tube. I am in no way trying to take his place, but rather make my own contributions and in so doing be able to keep friends and family up to date on the places I ride and the sights I see. However, the technology, however sophisticated, can sometimes be unreliable and as luck would have it, the camcorder I have is just odd enough that it requires a specialized method to upload to my computer. In fact, I have to upload to my old desktop if I can even do it that way and I’m waiting for a friend to come by to help me find out. There is an outside possibility I might need to buy a new camera to help me accomplish my goals.

What’s most interesting about my video documentation though is the method I’ve chosen to mount my camcorder. Five of my seven followers have worked with me in some capacity as I’ve plied my trade as a drummer, so it will come as no surprise that I’ve made a camera mount from old drum parts. Using a multi-clamp designed to attach an additional part to a stand, I was able to attach a shortened boom arm to the bike and screw the camcorder right to that. The thread pattern matches up perfectly, and the rides I’ve taken have proven that the camera is stable and the footage is steady enough that the viewer doesn’t get sea sick! I apologize for not having images to show the details, but I promise to add them soon.

Sometimes people have to move on to find gainful employment and this is true of most of my friends, let alone those who follow my blogs. My friend in Japan, our mutual friends from the University days, and many others are all living at a distance now. One however has returned to this area for a brief visit, and I was fortunate enough to meet her for coffee today and have a conversation that covered just about everything from the behavioural habits of dogs to politics. ... Come to think of it, that’s probably not such a gap after all. While we haven’t seen each other in years, we fell into the customary ease of conversing and joking as if we met daily.

Finally, I have noticed the addition of a new follower, someone whom I have never met. I know such things happen, someone stumbles upon a blog that they find interesting or touches on topics in which they are interested, but I’ve never experienced it until last week. I have no idea how this person found me or what prompted her to choose to follow me, but please say hello to Bee! Welcome to my circle of fun Bee! I hope you enjoy the random ramblings I post here.

~Still Wandering

Monday, April 26, 2010

Spring Renewal...



In the months since my last entry, I have been searching... That is in this case a multi-faceted word that is also a gross understatement of my emotions and activities.

Obviously, I have been searching for employment, but not as tenaciously as in the past. Having a job and income have become less important than before. Firstly, there is very little work in this part of Canada for skilled workers let alone someone like myself; which is not to say that I have no skills, but rather that I have no certificates to verify my skills and certificates are very important as we all know. Secondly, jobs are often acquired through political patronage, nepotism, or familial relations. Being from another province, I have few connections here beyond some friends and acquaintances in the political arena, and I’ve come to understand that such jobs often carry a requirement to abandon one’s conscience. Finally, I am at an age now where many employers will overlook me in favour of a younger, more educated person.

Also, I have been searching for direction. For most of my life I have been totally and completely focused upon (some would say consumed by) my desire to be a professional drummer. While this has been accomplished to some degree, the struggle to become successful in the music business is minimal in comparison to the struggle to remain successful. After forty years of struggling in all ways possible, I have decided to re-focus and seek a profession that has greater meaning and less noise pollution. To this end, I am looking to sell my drums and trying my hand at writing. Another area of interest is an online craft store. I’ve had experience in selling hand made goods at craft fairs in the past, but an online store offers a larger market and a clientele who are more interested in my products. My strongest focus however, will be on my Reiki practice, energy Healing and helping others achieve their highest Self. This seems very esoteric and many would believe impossible and/or unrealistic, but I believe it is necessary since people are becoming more and more disconnected from their spiritual selves, and there is a shift in consciousness developing on our planet that will lead to people seeking out those with the skills I now possess.

As many of you already know, I’m still an avid cyclist. A couple of years ago, I bought a Norco Mountaineer, a durable but heavy bike designed for off-road activities. I knew at the time it was not really what I was looking for, but it was the one that best fit my budget. I got a good season and a half out of it and this spring, I bought the road bike I should have had all along. It’s a Devinci Silverstone S1, the top of the line aluminium frame road/racing bike made by Devinci. I’ve only had the chance to get out about 4 times so far this year, but I can already tell that I’m going to love this bike. I've renewed my membership to Velo Cape Breton, and have signed up for an upcoming Can Bike II course to improve my skills even further. This looks to be a great summer of riding!

In the time since I returned to Cape Breton from Fredericton, I have had to face one other fact: I have been broken by all that’s happened since last May. The turmoil and upheaval of leaving Cape Breton and returning to Fredericton where I was born was exciting, but the reality of it was that the job I was going to was not ideal. In my haste to be back with my family, I accepted employment that was really not suitable, and several factors led me to decide in early January to return to Cape Breton, despite what I would be leaving in Fredericton. Once I got here, I avoided facing reality for quite some time. Jack Kornfield refers to this as “our brokenness...” And I realize I have become broken. At one point a few weeks ago, I began to become conscious of this fact, and made a decision to allow myself to be broken until roughly the middle of May when the land around me begins to show new life for the upcoming summer. I determined that if I allow myself to be broken, to not fight it, I would heal better and faster once I began the process. It seems that I’m beginning about three weeks ahead of schedule, but that too is alright.

As I witness the grass growing greener each day, and feel the sun warming our planet, I feel stronger, healthier, and more assured that no matter what “stuff” I encounter, I will always endure. My will to live and persevere is stronger than my despair.

~Still Wandering…