Archives for the month of: June, 2012

I’ve been having some challenging times recently.

Returning home from a reasonably successful viva voce for my doctoral studies in the UK, the first thing I learned was that my mother had been diagnosed with a serious illness, and was beginning treatment immediately.

Over the week that followed, she became progressively worse and was taken to the emergency department in the middle of the night by my father and brother.  I stayed with my dad for several days, and was startled to witness my mom, quite honestly one of the most intelligent women I’ve ever known, unable to recognize her husband or children.

She is hopefully on the mend now, and her mental faculties are improving, but this incident was a reminder of important work I haven’t yet completed in terms of my own spiritual growth.

In December, I put my little canine girl, Gini, to sleep after struggling for months to improve her health based on a false diagnosis.  A second opinion proved that she had cancer, and was never going to get better.  Although we were able to keep her comfortable for a short time, I promised myself that when she had three bad days in a row, it would be the sign that I should release her from mortal suffering, and that day came on December 13th.

I don’t know if every reader has had, or will have, the kind of relationship some of us have with animals.  I can only say that Gini was truly a part of me … a piece of my soul that lived outside my body, like the ‘daemons’ which were linked to the humans in the film The Golden Compass. I still feel her loss acutely, as in her presence, I never felt either lonely or alone.

Now, when forced to confront my mother’s age and medical condition, it struck me that there are some individuals, either human or non-human, who are so real to us, so integral to our personal reality, it seems impossible that they should ever not ‘be’.  There are days when I think of Gini and am honestly surprised that I am still alive and walking on this earth, and she is not.

I know that life is transitory.  I know it intellectually, in my head.  But obviously I have not completely let the idea into my soul.  This is something I will be opening myself to in the coming months, as I attempt to understand and accept this important piece in life’s puzzle.

While this has all been going on, I’ve been driving and walking through this beautiful countryside, marveling that the trees are still green and supple, that the earth is bringing forth its riches, that the sun still beats down warm and friendly on my arms.  As my family has been embroiled in a human drama, life has still gone on around us, not uncaring, but simply present.  It reminds me that there is still joy to be had, even in the midst of anguish.

During an early morning stroll on the beach with my remaining beloved canine, I came across the message pictured above, lovingly placed in the sand by someone who had walked there before me.  It seemed to sum up so much.

After all, in this transitory journey we call life, the only thing that really lasts, that really matters, is love.


Ceiling of the Chapel of Saint Gabriel, Exeter Cathedral

For anyone who doesn’t already know, I’m currently in Exeter, in the southwest part of the United Kingdom, about to have a viva voce (that’s by living voice, for those of us not taught rudimentary Latin in grammar school) toward the acceptance of my doctoral thesis.

Monday was a bank holiday, and after doing some scholarly work in the morning, I drifted downtown to enjoy a bit of lunch and wander about this ancient city.

Approaching the cathedral, the stirring chords of a musical interlude drew me into the yard, where I was greeted by the sight and sound of a small orchestra supporting a young male vocalist.  The gentleman in question was literally draped in the Union Jack, and was lending a robust baritone to what seemed to me an unprecedented number of reprises of Rule Britannia, delivered without the slightest evidence of irony.  This was followed by that classic British melody, Jerusalem, the lyrics of which are based on the Blake poem which hypothesizes that Jesus Christ, accompanied by his uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, somehow traversed what must have been an unfathomable  distance in those biblical times in order tread on British soil.

It was all a little surreal, made more so by the energetic approval of the audience.  I, the lowly Canuck, seemed to be the only auditor conscious of the incongruity of a nation reveling in lost glory, considering that this glory included forced colonization of any number of independent cultures, and the theft of the Elgin Marbles.

Later, as I tripped along High Street, enjoying the sunshine and buoyed by my absolute indifference to shopping, my progress was halted by the strains of an energetic pick-up band of ragtag musicians, playing a sort of Romany jazz involving plenty of brass, a concertina and a stand-up bass.  Their dress was a mixture of Slavik thrift shop and Elizabethan motley, all tied up with a Gypsy shawl and topped by a threadbare fedora.

And their music was rocking, rollicking, frolicking bliss.  Toe-tapping, tongue-in-cheek, alive with dramatic crescendo and musical feint, it was so filled with irony, I thought it would spill over and cascade unto the pavement.

What a dichotomous soundscape for a sunny/cloudy Monday!

A good day.

And in case you want to experience a little of their Romano magic, you’ll find it on their website at  Incidentally, ‘Gadjo’ is a somewhat derogatory term used by the Gypsies to describe the rest of us, but we won’t hold that against them!