“Kristin, would you think I was totally mad if I suggested before we went on our adventure that we sit and meditate for a bit, do a bit of Jwonging, and set our intention really clearly?” Obviously for some people this would be either an anathema or simply incomprehensible. To the rather witchy Kristin Sweetland this was greeted with –
“Yes darling, that sounds lovely”.
I sat cross-legged and as Kristin poured herself a glass of bubbly started to chant the special word I had mis-heard two fruitful years ago when being taught to meditate by the Taoist healer Gal Mor in Sydney. He had said Jong. I had heard Jwong. Within days of starting to chant it and imagining a ball of golden light two fingers below my belly button, I had had a series of life-changing epiphanies, bringing me out of anxiety and stress and giving me a profound understanding of the importance of being present and how little of the time I spent being truly present.
“Jwonnnnnnnngg”….Kristin sipped at her champagne and came to join me. I’d met fellow troubadour, photographer and overall stylish witchy lady (with some serious guitar playing chops to boot) at the 3-day drunken hotel room gig jamboree known as Folk Alliance Conference (or that was my experience of it anyway…) and we’d been friends ever since. She had a serious body of work, had been making music for as long as I had, had travelled far and wide in North America with her music, and did these beautiful series of photos wherever she went… ( check it out here http://www.kristinsweetland.com)
I voiced an intention, stuff that in the past I might have thought was unnecessary waffle and now I knew could make the difference between amazing things happening and not. Kristin seconded the intention not to have a shred of clinging for anything as we adventured that was not absolutely in our present, to not have any craving or attachment or feeling of lack , to be completely present and in gratitude, as we were here, as I was chanting jwong, resonating this golden ball of light, and to take that presence with us wherever we went and see that light of love and peace in our eyes reflected back at us by all the people we met or passed on the way…Oh well she did say she would like a surprise and one great photo….but she did ask very nicely….
We headed out, the darkness was just falling it was about 10pm, mid-summer, we caught a trolley as Kristin called it (a tram), and there on the crowded trolley, we were surrounded by humanity….all races….europe, rastas, china, Africa, Caucasian, irish….. the greeny white light glow of the tram, people drunk and tired, Sunday night, heading home, it seemed so obvious then and there looking at everyone’s naked faces, their eyes staring out or across or at the floor, their different faces all so similar, all me, all you, us ALL the same, and our struggle or our sadness or our tension or our joy all so transparent, so completely naked and obvious, and all of us just the same being, separated in this dimension in to our different human bodies, our different set of experiences that had shaped us, our perceptions that had made us who we were.
I saw there this gorgeous man, about 60, kind of fell in to a rapture with him for a moment….like something out of Cuba or Portugal, a tan suit, a faded green collared shirt, unbuttoned, tanned skin, handsome suave face but his whole being as if he was covered in a layer of dust, had walked out of a photo of a bunch of cool suave dudes sitting in the sunshine playing chess and drinking rum….where was he from? What was his life? Who was he? He seemed so calm, so present….he went to leave, walked past me, with love I looked at him and said “Where are you from?” and beautifully, he took my head in his hand and smiled so sweetly at me and said almost indecipherably “Greece, Greece”….but his hand on my head and the look in his eyes was so kind, so laid-back, it seemed to say, yes people often come up to me and ask that, look at me like that, he was like a kind of Greek 60 year old Big Lebowski, riding the Toronto tram, sat comfortably in his own dust-covered skin, moving on and out in to the night…
Soon enough it was time to descend ourselves, down Ossington st, the kind of hipster street of bars and restaurants and art galleries that I love walking down, that in some parallel life I live on and eat on daily, where I carouse with my tantric goddess lover after intimate and unparalleled sexual exploits in our air conditioned, minimalist chic apartment, cucumber water in the fridge, wearing her patterned Moroccan scarf, and a bit worried I’m going to lose it.
Not sure if I’d want to live here, but nice to walk down in the dark though, see all those folk doing it for me, the warm glow of golden light in my belly, in every footstep, no talking necessary between my accomplice and I as we bore down on the corner of Ossington and whatever street it is where you find the Dakota and the electric lady and, our actual destination – Opera Bob’s to see the spunky Sarah Burton (http://sarahburton.ca), a friend of Kristin’s I’d also met at Folk Alliance, front the house band there for their weekly Sunday slot of country rock.
We’d been there for half a set, me sipping on a black tea the barman Greg had been kind enough to make me, Kristin on something more potent, when Kristin pointed to someone standing at the bar…
“I might be hallucinating but I think that’s Kiefer Sutherland” I had a look. Hmm, clean shaven, quite small guy, smooth blue blazer and collared shirt, looked a little bit like your bank manager dressed up for an important meeting, quite conservatively dressed, he had a glint in his eye for sure, a bit red in the face, some energy, but no, don’t think so, kiefer Sutherland was that quite butch, bit hairy handsome dude in the movies right?
“Hmm, no don’t think so!” I said, “but”, I conceded, “I see what you mean, he must get it all the time!”
I had another look.
So did Kristin.
The vibe in the bar had somehow changed. The band were playing a bit softer, Sarah’s emotionally focused and passionate delivery seemed to be a bit distracted. People were talking, assuming exactly the same positions and performing the same actions as before – nobody was going silent like in the bar in Star Wars when Luke and OB1 enter…but things had changed.
The guy I had thought was a bank manager – was actually who Kristin had thought it was, Kiefer Sutherland, one of Earth’s most famous people, and it was pretty remarkable to see the effect it was having on this little bar in Toronto.
Added to that he was clearly loaded and having a great time with a bunch of different people in the bar….chatting amiably, enthusiastic, warm, tactile…he reminded me in his drunken enthusiasm of a character I know very well and like to inhabit myself now and then…but right now Kiefer was the man, arms around his new friends, a tall blonde woman in a flight suit and pigtails adding credence to his film star credentials, stomping along to Sarah and the band’s next number and generally making the place feel like there was a party going on. Our adventure had just got a little more exciting.
I had a couple of albums on me, of course, as I generally do, seeing the CDs I give to strangers I meet as the purest way my music is distributed. Not giving a copy of Supernatural to Jake Gyllenhaal when he’d sat opposite me at a café in 2008 had always irked me. Was it my stubborn ego that refused to just go up and hand it over? Did I think I was too big for that? Or did I feel it was craving to go up to a film star and give them a CD? Some desperate scraping for the possibility that in some way they might give your music some push on twitter or something if they liked it? What about all this “not craving something that isn’t in the present”? Does it go out the window when a film star turns up? Then again, perhaps this was an opportunity falling in to my unattached lap, like when Feist’s producer Mocky had sat down next to me at my local café in LA?
No sooner had I said to Kristin “Do you think I should give him an album?” and she’d said “I don’t see why not” than Kiefer was heading my way from his table in the corner, walking right over to put his arms around the people at the bar behind me and to check out the ice hockey score. Well I guess that was that.
Slightly nervous to be approaching a “film star”, much more so than I had been to approach my greek guru on the tram, I stood up and tapped him on the shoulder, and he looked around with such a ferocious friendliness that I was stunned. Not remotely stand-offish, and boy, when he found out I’d been on an adventure with my friend and that I’d brought some cds with me to give to who I met on the adventure, he just lit up, he accepted the gift with such warmth…I was totally taken in by his charm! I introduced him to Kristin (clearly not doing so would be very bad co-pilot behavior!) and he sat down with us and told us how he’d just finished making his girlfriend xxxxxx’s record (“oh were you producing it?” I asked, “no I paid for it!” he said), and did I have distribution and if there was anything he could do, unfortunately he still didn’t have a computer but he could get someone else to send me an email….all flurried and enthusiastic and drunken conversational antics but such a sweet soul, it would be hard NOT to like him!
Well, we had a bit of a giggle about this, it was soon time to go and then on the way out….I bumped in to him again, and Kristin bonded with XXXXX in the toilet and before you knew it I was inviting them to our house concert on the weekend and suggesting XXXXX come and play a few tunes and giving her a cd too and we were scampering out the door and back down Ossington, me excitedly telling Kristin how Kiefer had told me “you’re a good man….you’re a really good man, I can see it in your eyes” and how flattered I’d felt! And both of us blown away by what the universe was bringing us on our adventure…. Surely that was the surprise Kristin had asked for?
For the photo she’d asked for however, we just needed Kristin to head in to this pretty cool bar called The Done Right Inn on the way back and find a Metallica pinball machine. She got a great picture of that and was pleased as punch.
Then we went and visited the nightwatchman guarding the new art installation that was being put up as part of Illuminato in a little park by the side of the woods called Trinity-Bellwoods. And then we headed further down Queen and stopped to have a look in at one of the venues I am looking forward to playing sometime soon – Cameron House. The house band were just finishing, but there were Kristin’s neighbours who she had never really spoken to before. Well now would be a perfect time hey? Kristin was really happy to see them there. We chatted about stuff for a bit, Kristin had a drink, I had a fizzy water, and soon said our goodbyes and walked on.
It was almost time. It felt like the adventure was drawing to an end. It was then, walking around the corner of Queen and Spadina that it happened. The moment that in some deep way my life would never be the same again, that a certain vein of belief in “things” would change fundamentally from “maybe” to “definite”.
Just after walking around the corner, both of us walking at a decent speed, side by side, a thing that looked like a bubble, a squeezed elongated bubble, passed very quickly between us, so quick that by the time either of us had looked around we saw nothing, and no residue where there might be say from a bubble. Between us as we walked a thing had passed, that both of us would then describe as “like a bubble”, we both saw it, it appeared very quickly and passed between us and then was gone.
In 40 years I have never “seen” anything. A ghost….an angel….I have hallucinated sure. I have dreamt. I have thought I had voices telling me to ask in a house if they have a room for me or to go down a certain street. But ACTUALLY seeing something is a different sensation. I’m talking about seeing something pass you which you can’t explain that is as solid visually as a table or a leaf or a car or a rock…..an actual, physical thing….i saw it only ever so briefly and it passed us at speed and then as I looked around as quickly as I could it was not there.
And of course, one’s first reaction is to try to work out what it could be in a rational way. Where is the bubble gun? Where is the street cleaning truck over flowing with foam from which this stray bubble has come? Where is the vent from a restaurant from which this stray abnormality that MUST BE EXPLAINED IN A WAY I UNDERSTAND OR HAVE PREVIOUSLY UNDERSTOOD THINGS can be understood. And then when one can’t find any of those things, it’s interesting to note that what one really wants to do is deny it, not think about it, not even dare suggest that this actually could be some sort of thing that doesn’t fit in to our society’s general assumptions as to what is out there, what exists in our physical world.
But see it we did. At the tail-end, or perhaps the apex, of our magical and well-intentioned adventure. Kiefer had seemed like the surprise, but perhaps the real surprise was to be shown something so deep and truly challenging to what either of us had thought possible in this extraordinary dimension we call Life.
More really stunning photos at www.kristinsweetland.com