Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Days Before The Snow

A great gusty wind has been pushing hard eastward across the lake all day.  The waves rolling up onto the pebbled beach come in, capped with heads of wild spray.   Just the kind that surfers ask for in their prayers, though none are here today.

The waves are rich and fat and come in clean ordered rows.  A kind of scene that you would normally expect to see when a storm roars up hard past the Atlantic shores.

This is not what usually splashes up on to the thin beach in Goderich, on the eastern shore of Lake Huron. This is also not how it looks on most late December days here in Canada.

 Christmas is just a day away and the thick crusts of ice that usually loll on the hard cold edge of the shoreline have not yet arrived.  

The grass is still a rich and hopeful green.  The people in town have yet to dig out their thick heavy coats from the back of closets.  A light sweater is all that you need today to brake the chill of winter from reaching to your bones, which became official, just a couple of days ago.

The Beach St station restaurant is open for the last day of the season.  The real Goderich winter will rush in soon enough.  The place so vibrant and inviting throughout the summer will be closed for winter.  The steep pitched roof, and the parking lot beside it will be layered with thick crusts of snow and ice.  Its big windows rimed with frost.

Since the Springtime hungry people have come here for its food, and for its surprising endless view out across the lake.  All from an old red brick temple of commerce and travel, brimming with a long history that had a great new chapter written when my brother moved it here.  

Now it is no longer a loved but neglected relect of a bygone era.  It brims with life and hope at least until the afternoon, when the doors will be closed and locked till Spring.

This winter, when it is still and dark and cold along the quiet edge of the lake. No one will come there except my brother Herb.  He who had the absurd inspiration to move it from its old foundations tucked up beside the hill.  There where it had not heard or seen the puff and rumble of busy trains for more than 50 years.

My sister Carol-Anne and my mother have just finished their lunch on this last day that it is open.  

It is a bright, warm, and happy place.  I do not know what they are saying.  It is a private moment and probably they are talking about not too much at all.

Just words dancing lightly in the sunlight. Little said but meaning more than enough.

Later my brother and I will take away my Mother's cheer by bringing her out to the edge of town.

It just may be the last time she comes this year to the grave yard where my Dad's ashes rest on the top shelf of this red marbled wall.

Despite the sadness she still likes coming here.  With her hand extended out towards the wall, she says before we go, "I will see you soon." 

Words to my late father now passed nearly 5 years ago.  Her speaking not to an urn filled with ash behind a wall, but to the place where departed spirits listen and gratefully receive the heartfelt cries from the earth below.

Not long ago I found a picture taken at a family Christmas nearly 60 years ago.  Taken by my camera at my Grand Mother's home in Glassville NB.  

I wonder now why no one is smiling for the picture.  What words, what event, stripped away the joy in every face, just then.  I do not know.

Just what could have happened in the moments before the camera flashed and captured this fragment of time on a cold winter night, so long ago.  So in contrast to my own happy memories of those loving days back in my Grand Mother's home.

Now the picture remains an unanswered and unsolvable puzzle.  Never to be known what caused this chorus of somber faces.  Clearly defying my memory which unhesitatingly describes a much different scene.

A tiny young version of myself is  there on the left, looking out through time from a faded black and white photograph.  I, like my family, have been caught by the bright impermanence of the flash of my little camera. 

But Christmas is not at all about the shadows that can suddenly fall upon faces captured long ago. It is about the love shared here and now.  The true smiles are not those that come from brand new things.  But what our hearts offer up to one another.

At my brother's house on Christmas morning the two newest members of this family get together and forge a loving bond.  Indya is exploring her first Christmas in this world.  One she has so recently joined last January, less than a year ago. 

Moose the dog, has seen more then a few hectic happy Christmas mornings at my brother's home, but never seen a baby there before.

On Christmas morning the full Marshall family, a rare occasion, gathers all together.  In years to come no one will look back at this picture and wonder why there are no smiles. 

 In just a few days more the snow at last blows in from across the cold lake.  The long dark days of winter have at last arrived.  They can be denied no longer. 

If you can think
Golden thoughts,
That means already
You have changed the winter weather
Of your mind.

Thursday, February 12, 2015


I suspect that for many western travelers coming to Varanasi, they either believe that they have been blessed to come here to experience the sacred Ganges or that they have been cursed to come to such a wild, crazy and chaotic place such as this. Between these two positions there is precious little firm safe ground upon which to stand.

Thankfully our lives are not dependent totally upon on our own choices.  Something within draws us to places such as Varanasi.  Something not unconnected to our outer senses but one which draws more upon inner receptivity to our spiritual selves.  A divinity which is always present within us but which seems to be awakened and inspired by such sacred places like Varanasi caught on a curve of the divine flowing Ganges. 

There is more dirt and beauty collected in one place than is possible for our human senses to grasp.

Indians believe it to be the holiest of its 7 sacred cities.  Though it is hard to fully prove it is as well one of the oldest continuously inhabited places on earth.

The 10 horse ghat is the focal point for most pilgrims who come to the Ganges.

Many take early morning boat rides to enjoy and worship the sun as it rises on the far shore.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Day In Agra

Agra is one of those rare and unique places in the world that is shaped and defined by one single object.  In this case the Taj Mahal is a building of such exquisite beauty that it deserves all the admiration and praise that has been bestowed upon it now for hundreds of years.

The Taj Mahal is legitimately possessed by Agra but it is too precious to be the property of just this city of 3.5 million.  It instead belongs to the whole world.

Not too far off is another place whose story is historically and physically linked to that of the Taj Mahal.  The stories of the Agra fort and its close connection to the other more famous monument are intimately intertwined.

 In 1558 the Mughal emperor Akbar came to Agra.  He needed a new capital that would allow him to rule over his vast kingdom that spread across much of what is now India.

Agra was to be his capital.  On top of the ruins of a fort that was already situated here would he build the center of his power in order to reign over his ever increasing empire.

 It is said that 4000 men worked for 8 years on building his mighty fort.

He wanted it to be a practical and powerful place.  He also spared no expense in making it beautiful as well.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Wedding Season

It is the time of weddings in India.  Or at least the time of Hindu weddings.  We are told that the season is over by the end of February.  Then during the month of March Muslims traditionally get married.

We were driving down the road in Agra at night.  The bright pool of lights in the distance surprised us as it is mostly very dark on the outskirts of the city where we are staying.

The road is narrow and traffic has to drive carefully around the wedding procession.  Which besides lights has a band and people dance who dance happily in front of the groom riding a horse.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Road to Brindavan

"The power of God is with you at all times; through the activities of mind, senses, breathing, and emotions; and is constantly doing all the work using you as a mere instrument.”...Quote from the Bhagvad Gita

The road out of Delhi was light with traffic while the sky was thick with haze.  We were not exactly going to Brindavan but the birthplace of Sri Krishna was not far from where we were staying in Mathura.

In Mathura there are several important Krishna temples.  The first destination was Banke Bihari.  The driver parked the car as the Sunday crowds filled the road.  Sanjaya, myself, and the driver rode in a pedicab to the temple.

It is hard to describe the utter outer chaos and yet somehow things still manage to work.  Here in this building the shoes are kept by those who don't want to just leave their shoes on the ground.

On the way into the temple a large crowd had stopped to watch a monkey, high up on a pole chewing on a man's eye glasses.

Afternoon In Delhi

Shobit Singh is our guide on this Saturday afternoon.  Sanjaya and I have taken the plunge and decided to see the sites of Delhi with as much help as we can.  Our plans are ambitious on this election day. The daylight or what remains of it will define much of what happens.

The roads are mostly clear but by the time we leave it will be nearly impossible to see all the items on our list.

The light is quickly fading when we arrive at the Quatab Minar.

It is ancient and it is grand.  The warm afternoon light makes its sandstone blocks glow with life.   Shobit has many stories to tell about it. More than I can really appreciate.

 But anything built nearly 1000 years ago has more to say then any young guide from Rajisthan can possibly tell you.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Morning In Delhi

It is the time of day I so love most.  The promise of sunrise faintly glimmering on the horizon.  The atmosphere still and cool though the air of Delhi seems to be permanently tainted by a dull dirty haze.

I am staying near Central Park, Or at least New Delhi's version of it.  A long steel fence surrounds it and you have to walk some distance to find a gate to let you in.  A small group of scruffy man stood next to a little shack.  A bedraggled security check point I believe.  A metal screener stood off to one side ignored by the chatting men wrapped up in shawls.  They paid no attention to me as I walked in.  Signs said no pictures.

A giant Indian flag hangs limp.  The wind has yet to rise the city still slumbers.

In the middle of the park are many many signs asking park goers not to spit.  On the way into the park I could hear the shuffling steps of a man behind me.  Then the conspicuous sound of a throat gathering a load of phlegm.  Followed immediately by a roaring discharge onto the sidewalk.

The peculiar mix of the divine and the worldly I always find mysterious.  The goddess of beauty Lakshmi juxtaposed with an old hanging tire.

Some of the earliest ones to wake are the crows.  Their voices still a little timid in the morning coolness.

I learn over my coffee that it is a special day in Delhi.  There are I believe municipal elections.  The polls are open starting at 8am and close again at 6pm.  The television is filled with the excitement of it all.

You cannot drink alcohol on a voting day.  Security is tightened, or at least so they say across the city.  The faces on the screen as sincere and as well meaning as anyone who has ever stood in front of a camera and had important things to say.

But just outside the Radisson hotel, security and voting is not so important, or so it would seem.  In the still dimness a dog sleeps and a shape lies on the sidewalk under a slim blanket close by.  Both beings waiting for the sun to rise and to find purpose on this Saturday morning in Delhi.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Statues....Old and New

As time has passed I have continued to accumulate more and more interesting and satisfying Bali experiences.  Since my first visit in 1988 this small tropical paradise has continued to provide something unique and special with each new visit.

In 2004 I went in a taxi with some friends to visit some of the carving shops on the road that leads to Ubud.  At one point we stopped in an area of stone carvers.  As the others examined the art work in the various small shops I wandered out back behind and down a small lane.

What I found there was an amazing landscape of endless rows of stone statues of all kinds that seemed somehow abandoned.  Of all shapes and sizes they were gathered here and there on any clear flat patch of earth that they could be placed.  All extremely heavy and clearly not moved in many many years.

It was amazing, yet there was no explanation at all for why they were collected there, who owned them, and what would be their fate.

Abedan took this picture with his new fangled digital camera and would eventually give a copy of it to each of us.  We took the experience as just one of the wonders that is the Bali experience.  Kaivalya, here wearing the red hat, saw something else.

An artist and  sculptor, he soon took upon himself just a few years later the task of creating statues of our teacher Sri Chinmoy.  In 2009 one of his statues was erected at the Arma museum in Ubud.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Morning Starts The Day

There is always a pervading sense of peace here.  I tried calculating just how many times I have been here to experience the magical charm of Bali, but am not really certain just what the number is.  This must be at least my 5th visit.

Something calls me out most mornings.  In the tranquil hour before the sun rises, while the dogs still doze under the trees, and before men rise up from their mats and go out and do meaningful things.

It is at that time that I enjoy this place most.  Have unexpected but not necessarily surprising experiences.  There seems to be endless supply of beauty that can be enjoyed no matter whether your eyes are open to it.

Particularly after nights filled with tumbling torrents of rain.  The morning then slowly opens up revealing its brightness and all its sweet promises.

I am sure there is some pleasure in long distance travel, but I have yet to see it.  We endure such discomforts though to get us to a place like this.

But perhaps there is a price to be paid for all fulfilling rewards.  Some struggle, some effort, some wistful hopes that all things lead us on to something better and better.

Of course I am not the first out in the mornings.  Fishermen with headlamps have waded out before there was even a hint of light in the sky.

And the Goddesses of course have never slackened in their endless vigil guarding the dawn and the warm calm sea stretching eastward.