Busking

I was sitting beside the “Venus de Cello”.

There were exactly two loonies and two pieces of bark to weigh down the one piece of paper that had been dropped into my guitar case as it sat in front of me.

The “Venus de Cello” is one of the art installations the City of Nelson has rented for the summer to display along Baker Street. Downtown always has such a vibrant art scene going on. The art installations are another manifestation of the colours and sounds that adorn the bustling centre. These stationary renditions of the presence of art aren’t the only intriguing aspects of downtown Nelson.

I am ever amazed at the sheer amount of people in and around the downtown core. The city itself has a population of around 10 000. Yes, it serves the needs of the surrounding communities and yes, it’s B.C. so those surrounding communities have a much higher population density than Alberta, but Coaldale has only 4000 less people than Nelson and yet is a veritable ghost-town in comparison. Sure, Coaldale is a mere bedroom community to the services and businesses available in Lethbridge but still – it’s dead compared to Nelson’s core.

What is it that makes Nelson so much more energetic and alive? Yes, it’s the art and yes, it’s the flourishing flora that began sprouting from the earth not only months ago but stayed alive all winter in this temperate zone. It’s the local businesses that are thriving in a place where big box stores are relegated to only a few numbers, randomly distributed throughout the city.

More than all of these *things* it’s the people that make them. A typical gathering in Nelson, whether it be the regular markets that shut down Baker street from traffic and fill it with stalls, walkers, and people interested in buying locally handcrafted goods or a pub on a weekend is likely to host a similar range of people.

There will be the same openminded and accepting cross-section of individuals that call Nelson home. People that speak to one another as they wander around town, strangers that are helpful and friendly and stop for a conversation in parking lots or while waiting for the light to indicate it’s time to walk across the street. It’s the people that create the vibrancy and allow the flow of life to move through them as they create life around them.

Public spaces in this town are an opportunity to continue the expression of individuality. That’s what the “Venus” is doing in her silent and stoic way – a limbless body in the shape of both woman and cello, placed in one of the many courtyard areas along baker. Places to eat al fresco in a restaurant along the way or places to sit and enjoy the blossoms on the trees exploding with sprain. Places for art and places for buskers.

I finally mustered up the resolve to strap my guitar onto my back and pedal down to Baker street. I dismounted, sidled my bike up to the concrete barrier between me and the road, pulled my bag and guitar off my shoulder, took a chug of water, and took a breath. I unzipped my black guitar case and threw it rather haphazardly in front of me.

It was as if the hesitation I was feeling inside was channeled solely in the placement of my case. It leaned in a little ways towards me turning into this safety net that could catch me in case I needed it to, offering me some element of support. What came to me, unconsciously or otherwise, were the marketing strategies that are necessary to be employed when busking on the street.

Numerous thoughts passed through me head. I could put a few coins out to kind of get the ball rolling. I could put the case further out, so that it didn’t nearly touch me on one side, making it easier for people to approach and drop a coin or two in. I could stand, giving myself the opportunity to look passersby in the eye and create more of a connection with others.

I thought about the continual struggle I have to bring myself forward and put myself out there. Well, busking alone on the street is certainly one way of doing that. Being willing to simply be who I am and do what I would be doing in my living room anyways was actually pretty liberating. Yes, I can do it. I can sit alongside “Venus de Cello” and rock out to some Bhajans, or devotional songs, while people wander past. And hey, a few might stop and express appreciation through word or note and a few might even throw some coins my way.

My busking adventure was a complete success, one that I plan to implement again in the future. I feel as though it helped dissolve distance between myself and others.

We’re all just people, after all, people on either side of a guitar with the common experience of life holding us together. While that experience will look incredibly different to everyone, on that day mine looked like me sharing music on the street.

I didn’t stay for too long, friends wandered past to chat and sing along and then a colourful bus drove by beckoning people and playing some enchanting blue grass music – so I hopped on. Yup, adventures abound in Nelson.

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Transition

I’ve reached the next stage of transition. What are Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ stages of grief? I remember being introduced to them in a Simpson’s episode as Homer went through each one in a caricatured accelerated pace. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I don’t quite know if I’m following this model but i’m certainly moving through something. I went through the find-out-everything-I-can-that’s-interesting-in-this-town stage. Volleyball is on Thursday’s at the Mary Hall gym in the college campus but Kim said no one is showing up now that the semester is over. The tango workshop was full, tai-chi still happens at the Central School gym Tuesdays and Thursdays. Chris was kind enough to phone me back right away and let me know it’s qi gong *and* tai chi. Perfect. Of course there are numerous other interesting things happening around here. Some of the things I’ve participated in but I see in many ways I was branching out because I needed to give the impression to myself that I was branching out without actually branching out. Now, I feel like I’m ready to branch out.

So where does that leave me in this transition stage countdown? Is there any denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance? Maybe I’ve denied just how it is I ideally wanted to flow into this transition. I wanted to get a job, fill my time, impose structure on to. But wait, I’ve had an exaggerated amount of structure in my life lately. Now’s the time to relax a little bit. To play guitar and do hatha, go for bike rides and draw. I was denying the internal reconfiguring my cells have been doing these past three weeks. I see now just how much of a resettling I’ve been able to do.

What about anger? Anger exists in a variety of forms that don’t necessarily include yelling and throwing things. I’ve had my moments of anger. Of feeling like I’ve wanted to shake off and be done with old patterns and ways of doing things despite being fully entrenched in them still. I’ve also had moments of denial that I am still entrenched in them.

Bargaining. Hoo boy. I’ll step out of this bargaining mode if you can tell me one good reason to. Bargaining keeps me in “us versus them” mode. It removes me from being an active participant in life. It places a barrier between what my current reality and what I think that I want for myself. It is refusal to accept.

Before acceptance comes depression. Life is a flow. There are ups and downs. Every human has them. What would we be without them? What I’ve noticed over my time at the Ashram is that for many people there is this initial rush of excitement and pleasure at arriving at such an oasis of a place. Like a newlywed couple in their honeymoon stage, people who connect with the Ashram often experience a heart opening that hints at the wonder of life, the wonder of each moment. It could be a moment of pause crossing the lushness under the bridge that caresses Krishna creek, or the first “Om” in Satsang. There’s this wonderful moment where fullness happens. Where happiness exists – perceived externally only because it is reflected out from people’s own selves. What is opened up after these moments is the ability to delve into the space created and dig around in the mud. The more expansive my ecstasy, the more minute microbes I can inspect that are revealed to be the sources of my pain and fear, habits and reactions. The cycle of life is full of ups and downs. Joy opens the arms that can hold depression.

Sometimes I feel like I didn’t know what happiness really was until a few years ago. I would gently perceive hints of it until I got pulled back down into the muck. Lotus flowers grow out of mud. There are certainly moments of sadness or confusion but to see them held in the ever-growing reality of placeless bliss that is the nature of all things is really quite astounding. I am carrying this seed of consciousness inside of me and it is nourishing a happiness that is not dependant on other factors, is neither quelled nor fanned by wind. It simply exists and I get to watch it with rapt attention.

Perhaps this is what acceptance is. Yes, acceptance of others in their differences, in alternate ways of doing things and respect for diversity, but also acceptance as a pre-emptive verb. I am given something, I am given life, and I accept it. I will take it and live it fully without fear and with an open heart.

These states all exist alongside me as I continue on in this journey of transition. I am not solely in any one of them, but all of them simultaneously as I make plans and elaborate castles in the sky, then watch them disintegrate with new information and realizations. I dip into moments of bliss, self-pity, service or fear. Through it all I hope that I am able to carry with me the crown of acceptance for whatever it is that I am experiencing right now. As well as carry the magic and wonder of just how the next stage will unfold.

Bike Ride

The trail along the Lake is such an incredible opportunity to experience the stillness of nature. I’m sandwiched between this mass of water and an expanse of earth that is thoughtfully laid out and taken care of. Once I pull my bike off the highway and head down to the lake I go straight to the edge, where the sidewalk is, where all of the interesting things are. The pigeons are eating strewn bread crumbs and the sail boats are moored along the shelf of the lake. My favourite boat is always there, the one that’s made to look like a pirate ship. I don’t imagine it would be very aerodynamic but it sure is fun to behold.

I meander around said pigeons, some sleeping right on the path, who nonchalantly lift themselves off the white stone gravel and begin to gently step away from where they were. Naturally they tend towards the exact clear path that I, too was heading for. I’ve come to know these pigeons or, at least, the pigeon brain enough that I squeeze my brakes instinctively when I’m about to encounter their erratic sense of spatial awareness.

Eventually I round the small bay and pass by the red-winged blackbird nest. My favourite. I love to stop and hear their songs. I’m amazed at the proximity it sits to the path with all it’s comings and goings. Warbling away, it has no need to heed the business or the leisure of those that wander along the adjacent path. It looks so plump and cute nestled on it’s cat tail perch, singing its song. I pass the soccer fields that are full of bold-coloured uniformed kids in the afternoon hours.

Now, though the fields are mostly empty. A few exclusive groups of twos or threes are amply housed by the thousands of square feet of manicured green. The sun’s already gone down this evening. The air off the lake is distinct and strong. Like a delicate sheet I press into with every pump of my pedals, it cools my skin still holding the memory of the blaring sun it absorbed this day.

The lake is still. How can such a large body of water be so still? A part of a body – like an arm of a being, a vein of Divine Mother. I can attribute the majesty of its stillness to the power She holds. The cool grace in her eyes reflects of of the glassy surface. I am spellbound by the potential inherently existing within each static drop. The sail boats adorn Her body like jewels, effortlessly placed with pure precision.

I round the bend, pass the fields and enter the park. The suns slides further behind the mountain making the air seem even more smudgier. I turn off the path towards the start of the bridge. Large trees surround me now. They are responding to the sun and warm and allowing their buds to open fully into leaves. They are this covering above me making me feel as though I were indoors yet with this tall tall sky as my roof. Held in this silent palace with velvet green beneath my wheels the rhythmic brush of my misshapen tire against its left break offers a beat I move to.

I edge towards pavement again and dismount to pull my bike up the bridge’s steep embankment. Almost home. First I get to soar over this lake. I ride this fiery-orange steel and cement encased bird across the air. Its evenly placed feathers brush past me, each beam of support locked in its place as I fly over the fish and plants beneath in that lake I was so recently beside. I am closer to the sunset now yet enclosed by the open ribs of this massive bird’s suspended supports.

I cross. The spell somehow ends. I’m just another vehicle in traffic on my way home. I bike away from the water now, and up the small rise home remembering the majesty and magic of the lake in evening.

Free Will

My horoscope this week is incredibly unhelpful. I love Rob Brezsny’s “Free Will Astrology.” Rather than telling me how my week is going to go his philosophy is more about recognizing the free will of individuals. His book is call “Pronoia: How the World is Conspiring to Shower You With Blessings” or something like that. It’s the antidote to paranoia and in the convoluted political and corporate world in which we live, it’s rather essential.

This week, however, his stout advice to me is about waging the inner battle of the self vs the Self rather than venturing out into the world. What? But I’ve been doing just that for three years and now I’m ready to take it out into the world. Hmm. Rob Breszny, just what are you and the stars trying to tell me?

I find myself continually going back to the word “gentleness” that I decided to bring into this transition for me. My entire way of life is utterly changed. I can use all the gentleness I can get! And I know that the fellow shoppers at the grocery store aren’t going to be the ones to give it to me in their speedy haste to grab items for their family’s dinner. The tiny shop aisles, the scores of carts full of organic brown rice pasta and imported mangoes, the shop clerks sliding along to re-fill vacant shelves – it’s all a little much for someone whose only task for the procurement of food the last three years has been to get down to the dining room in the half hour allotted slot. Wait, you mean after I get home with all these goods I have to cook them up myself? *And* clean the kitchen afterwards?! Hoo boy! Ok Rob, I can see the merit to you suggesting I focus on my inner reserves.

Then that word gentleness comes floating into my conscious again. I could be watching the kittens playing or gazing over the vast expanse of mountain views, watching the hint of green spread upwards in elevation on the deciduous trees with each passing day. Then from somewhere comes this reminder: Guenevere, be gentle with yourself. I have these memories of myself being strong and capable, tapping into inner strength that propels me forward in all sorts of difficult circumstances. OK, maybe memories isn’t exactly the right word to use. It was only a couple of weeks ago I was tackling difficult software and organizational problems and navigating through interpersonal relations with ease. A lot has happened since then – I’ve moved out of the Ashram. Gentleness, Guenevere, gentleness.

So I look at how I can retain my focus on myself while living out here in the world. How I can wage that inner battle through it all. It rests in awareness and having the freedom to be able to step back for a greater perspective. It’s not an awareness that I hold in every single moment. It’s like a dolphin, occasionally emerging to the surface of the water for air. I nestle down into life, into the waters of it all, and I come back up to breathe and take stock.

Like a creature, propelling itself through the ocean deep I can navigate through with serenity. Gentleness comes when I allow myself to be exactly how I am, and to know I have my ideals to aspire to whether I am waging an inner battle, engaging in the world, or doing a healthy mix of both.