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Four weeks ago tomorrow, while on my bike. I hit a pot hole, a deep one. The bike stopped. I did not. Within seconds I knew that I had a compound fracture of the elbow and I would need surgery. The medics had trouble stopping the bleeding. Somehow, I felt calm.

A young man who stayed with me confided that he had anxiety problems. I told him how I got over my own anxiety, and recommended Eli Bay and The Relaxation Response which helped me, years ago.

Later that day, the surgeon told me that it had gone well, but he had needed to spend four hours on me. My humerus was broken into seven pieces (not including fragments), and it had been necessary for him to fracture the ulna to get at it. He put in three stainless steel plates and who knows how many screws plus some kind of artificial lattice work that bone likes to grow over to fill the space left by fragments that were too small to screw to anything. The nerves, thank God, are all intact.

The bones are knitting. The cast came off after three weeks, the screws holding everything together well enough to permit physiotherapy.

I will heal, although I will be prone to some degree of arthritis, and it is uncertain how much range of motion will return. The surgeon says that I might make a full recovery.

To say that it has been a difficult month would be an understatement. It has been a shock to the system, I have been in a lot of pain, and taken a lot of pills.

I have also asked myself a lot of questions.

I was doing a lot of that, even before the accident, having decided that it was time to make a few adjustments to my life as I head into its third act. Not to be melodramatic about it, but I’m not getting any younger, and I want these next few decades to be rewarding.

And so, with all of that on my plate, I ask for your prayers.

I have written many times on this blog about how meaningful life is, how everything is an opportunity for growth, and that ours is a glorious spiritual future. Ultimately, good comes from everything, either intrinsically or because that is what we choose to draw from it.

Here, in verse, is my response to what I have gone through:

 

A marvel ’tis that from co-mingled earth

and spirit comes the miracle of life.

Though met with simple love and joy at birth,

too soon, it wades through swirling want and strife.

 

When all goes well, our swelling hearts give praise

and thanks to Him above who authored us;

if aught goes ill, another thought we raise:

How can it be misfortune courts us thus?

 

Still I, In prayer, ask not for any thing,

no recognition nor relationship:

I only long for that which surely brings

such ease as overcomes the worst hardship:

 

I see that all my soul yet longs to see

is me as God created me to be.

The Beggar

St Ps 5

This is a picture that you may recognize from a blog post I did on St. Paul’s Basilica in Toronto. This statue is located in the basement. Rounding a corner to meet it face to face is startling and remembering it is haunting. It is, of course, based on a passage of scripture in Matthew:

40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:

43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.

44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?

45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.

Personally, despite the fact that I am a Catholic convert, I do not believe in a literal Hell: I take the above passage as metaphor, and I know that Jesus, from all the scriptural evidence, loved a good metaphor. Mother Teresa picked up on the above passage, it seems to me, when she said of the poor, the sick and the dying whom she ministered to, “Every day I see Jesus Christ in all his distressing disguises.”

Over the last few months, I found that the picture of this statue returned to me again and again, as if I was supposed to do something, and then I got the idea for this poem:

The Beggar

I smelled him ere I saw him sitting,

piss and vomit stained;

unfed for days, unwashed for weeks,

his face was drawn with pain.

I purposely avoided him;

the movement caught his eye.

He laughed asthmatically. “You need

not kiss me; you won’t die.”

Just see me, please, so spoke the eyes

beneath his filthy hair,

worn like an execution hood –

they caught me unaware.

His cracked lips caterpillared

from one cheek o’er to its twin.

Against my every prejudice,

his presence drew me in.

And something scuttled in his lap,

crab-like, as on the strand,

a withered hand that might have shook,

but ne’er another’s hand,

a thumb in rictus, fingers gnarled,

all quivering and splayed,

and then across some inner screen

this misty vision played:

A ragged hole all purpled round

was centered in his palm,

a bruise that oozed, unhealing wound,

a hand fit to embalm.

 

His other hand (another wound,

too, oozing) joined its brother

to form a fetid begging bowl

that stirred the hearts of others.

I blinked, the piercings both were gone.

“Well? Watcha starin’ for?”

His puzzled stare reflected mine –

the vision was no more.

And as I struggled with myself

Some sense in it to find,

inquisiting relentlessly,

these words played in my mind:

“I thirsted and ye gave me drink;

I hungered, ye gave bread;

ye rescued me when robbers

left me on the road for dead.

“When I was sick, ye soothed my brow;

my naked body clothed;

was homeless, and ye took me in;

ye loved the one they loathed.”

And I stretched out my hand to you . . . ?

These words came not with those,

but from that beggar’s rheumy eyes,

as through rank weeds, a rose.

For as I wondered what they meant,

I heard my Christian name

being spoken in a whisper as

another vision came:

a crucifix stood in one pan,

my deeds sat its twin,

as if to set the wages paid

for virtue and for sin.

 

The pans hung from a balance beam,

and it began to sway,

my eyes glued to the pivot point

so I could see which way.

 

But though it swayed, it somehow stayed,

both pans in place restrained

from movement either up or down:

in balance they remained.

And coming to my senses, then,

it seemed to me I might,

in my next act, be choosing:

walk in darkness or in light?

These whispered words of Jesus Christ

Made clear for me to see:

“The deed which you do now for him,

you do also for Me.”

And so, I gave him all I had,

for pride is overpriced.

It was no beggar stared at me;

indeed, I’d witnessed Christ.

And on that day, my life was changed:

As yeast to bread is leaven,

a beggar’s words and eyes and hands,

showed me the way to heaven.

greenhouse

 

Last Fall, I started collecting windows.

I noticed that one of my neighbors was taking out her original windows (maybe from the 1950s) to put in modern ones, and I thought, “Greenhouse!” I asked her if I could have the old ones, and she said yes. I leaned it up against the side of my house, and kept my eyes open for more.

A few months later, another person on my street decided to do the same thing, so he gave me his windows, too. More windows were leaned against the side of my house.

Eventually, I acquired the windows from four houses, along with two storm doors.

Meanwhile, one of my next door neighbors – a real grouch – called the city to complain. I convinced them that they did not constitute not renovation waste (the storage of which is against a city bylaw) but building materials – truth! – so they gave me until sometime in September to build.

So many rules!

Then, the question naturally arose: how do I build a greenhouse out of thirty or forty old windows? The internet was no help. There are no books on the subject, and then I remembered . . .

My brother-in-law is a retired contractor, and he was kind enough to draw me up some plans. As you can see from the picture, I am about halfway done. Thanks to him and four homeowners, I will be able to grow some veggies all winter, get a two month start on the growing season for the more delicate varieties, and bring down my food bill substantially, which is a great thing when you’re a recent retiree. As Ron Finley, the urban gardener says, “Growing your own food is like printing your own money.”

But none of the above, although important, is the main reason behind this post.

Bear with me.

Recently, it got back to me that someone I know said of my proposed venture, “He’ll never be able to build it.”

I’m not offended; in fact, I’m most grateful because he made me realize something very important.

Bear with me.

The truth is I had doubts myself. I had never built anything even remotely comparable. I was useless with a hand saw, and power tools scared me. I was awful in Shop class back in junior high school: my salad bowl project turned into a picture frame when I cut too deep on the wood lathe. How was I supposed to build a greenhouse?

But I had a plan in my hand and a backyard full of materials . . .

The foundation was made out of “sleepers”: 6” x 6” pressured treated wood. The 8 foot lengths that formed the ends were pretty heavy, but 12 foot lengths that formed the sides were pretty much as heavy as I could manage, and I’m not a small guy. I had to dig shallow trenches and line them up, get them perfectly level, then join them with screws and metal plates. I looked at them and thought, “Can I do this?”

To shorten a long, ongoing story, I asked myself that question before every stage of construction, each of which seemed to require a new skill which I did not possess: Can I actually get this foundation right? Can I really frame the walls? Can I properly place the glass? I’m partway through that process now. And how about that roof . . . ?

Now, here is where I’m going to go a little airy-fairy on you, but it is the main point of this blog entry.

I was not only asking myself questions; I was sending them out to the universe. They all boiled down to: Can I do this? And since I was asking that question so frequently, this is what I was saying and projecting: “I CAN’T do this.”

I believe that we do that all the time. “Thoughts are things” as some of the personal development people say. Put out your thoughts to the universe and you will attract what resonates with them into your life.

Being incapable with tools has always been a part of my self-image, and I must have been putting that out to the universe for the fellow I mentioned above to pick up on. I’ve never discussed such things with him or given him any reason to formulate an opinion like that. But that’s what he thought, and in a sense, at least at that point, he was right.

Naturally, I wonder what other ways my self-image has affected my life, and, perhaps more importantly, I wonder what effect the act of successfully completing this greenhouse will have on it.

I’m not building a palace, mind you, but this IS decent sized project, requiring a number of different skills, and I WILL finish it successfully.

More importantly, still, I will become a person who is capable of accomplishing such a thing, and I can feel that component of my self-image changing already. Furthermore, I must be putting THAT out to the universe now, and it is bound to effect everything that comes into my life.

And I’m really looking forward to that.

when longings are fulfilled
in passion, unexpectedly,
they often steal away,
it seems, to me, capriciously

as waves, foaming white, wash the beach
and then recede, languidly, whence they came
they leave us straining after
their poignant echo . . .
echoing still . .
echoing ever .

then as we linger on the strand
. . . longing for love
longing for peace . . .
the sun still rises orange and red before our weary eyes
and o’er the teeming
pregnant
sea.

in this, if nothing else, may we rejoice:
life schools us thus to foster better choice.

A Poem . . .

. . . illustrating a philosophy and constituting a blog post:

On yesternight I fell into despair
O’er teeming cares my lady’s silence bred.
“How fares our love? Should I its ending dread?”
I questioned closely the unanswering air.
Of Him above, I asked how I might bear
My loss if her affections now were dead,
So took my tumbling cares unto my bed,
Today awoke, and found my answer there.
T’was always there, though hidden, now it’s shown,
As sun may peek through banks of smothering cloud
Then burst in burnished shafts on paths untrod,
Illumed afore by midnight moon alone.
Love won or lost, with these we are endowed:
A heart, a mind, a soul that’s one with God.

First of all, July 1st, to me, is not Canada Day; it is Dominion Day, the anniversary of the day on which Canada became a Dominion – a country.

Secondly, that country is gone.

What do the citizens of a country do on the anniversary of their country’s founding? They celebrate its values, its heritage, the things that they have been told from childhood constitute their country’s identity, things that they hope will live on after they are gone.

I can not do that for the simple reason that Lester Pearson and Pierre Elliot Trudeau changed all that. Between them, they rewrote Canada’s “identity” into something that I do not recognize. They changed everything that I thought of as Canadian.

They changed the name of the country itself from “The Dominion of Canada” to simply “Canada”.

They changed the name of our national holiday from “Dominion Day” to “Canada Day”.

They degraded the Monarchy, pretending that the Governor General, usually a failed politician, was head of state rather than the Queen, as stated in the constitution.

They saddled us with a Charter of so-called Rights and Freedoms that is actually the charter of political correctness, dealing a severe blow to freedom of speech (making it subservient to some people’s “right” not to be offended) and other real rights and freedoms that were part of our British Heritage.

They changed our system of law, making our system based on British Common Law subservient to the Charter and closer to the French system.

They changed our system of weights and measures from the British Imperial system to the French metric system, even though our largest trading partner still uses feet and pounds.

Our language policy was changed so that French was forced on every province except Quebec which all but outlawed English.

Our cultural policy was changed from favouring Canada’s heritage – any sane country takes that approach – to the relativism of official multiculturalism in a way that degraded our own heritage, especially its British component, to which it has become positively hostile (In Ontario, for instance, the teaching of British History was made illegal).

The courts were supplemented by star chamber like Human Rights Commissions in which the normal protections of law do not apply to the accused.

I could go on, but I don’t have the heart.

Sorry, but I cannot buy into this new “Canada”. I cannot pretend that the traditions I was taught have been replaced by these new “traditions”. And I would be insane to even try because I have learned something about “traditions” in the process: they can be changed at the whim of the people whom Shakespeare called “vile politicians”. And if I somehow did manage that act of insanity, who is to say that they, too, would not be changed somewhere down the road.

I no longer think of myself as Canadian because the traditions I was brought up with have changed into something unrecognizable to me, as if I had moved to a foreign country.

Happy Dominion Day, all.

 

A Prayer

I do not ask for any thing; neither, do I ask for any relationship or external circumstance. I ask but for Your peace and to be the man you created me to be. That is all I need or ever will.

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