Bucket list, of a sort

Ever since the concept of the bucket list became popular, everyone I know has made them, imagined them, or, at least, discussed them.  I am no different.

Usually bucket lists include places one wants to visit (Machu Pichu on the full moon) or experiences one would like to have (sky diving while wearing a clown suit).  Again, I am no different.  But having seen Monument Valley I’d be okay if I never saw anywhere else.

But I have another bucket list — my art bucket list — and it is much more intimate and private, and I just checked off another one.

See Michelangelo’s Rondanini Pieta: no check; never going to get there; too old to deal with Milan.

See Michelangelo’s Slaves:  check.

See Rodin’s Burghers of Calais:  check

Hear Bach’s Mass in B minor:  check, but with an asterisk, because I have never heard a rendition that moves me like Karl Richter’s grand, stately, profoundly spiritual rendition.  Still hoping for that.

Yesterday I got to check off one of my most treasured art bucket list pieces:  seeing Frederick Varley’s Stormy Weather, Georgian Bay, in person.  Actually, I got to fill the bucket to overflowing by being in the Canadian National Gallery surrounded by the works of the Canadian Group of Seven, the painters whose works, for whatever reason, touch me like no others.  I think it has to do with their simplicity, humility, and ability to evoke my beloved north country.  They paint its spirit, and whenever someone catches the spirit of something in an art work, it moves the spirit of others who share that spiritual affinity.  These are works that have my spirit shouting, “Yes!”  And Varley’s Stormy Weather is first among them.

Here are two pieces — I could have added a whole gallery full — that caused me to try to do the impossible of catching their spirit in a photograph.  Stormy Weather, of course, and Tom Thomson’s little sketch painting of a storm, not much bigger than a foot square, which jolted me when I saw it.  I had never known it, but it just jumped out at me — or, perhaps I should say, pulled me into it.

What a joy it is to love works of art so much that they reduce you to tears.  I don’t often talk about being blessed, but I felt blessed to see these works in person.  I’m a better and a richer man for those few hours yesterday in the presence of those works.  My bucket is emptier but my heart is fuller.


A Musical Gift from across the Pond

This came in my email this morning and I thought I’d pass it along.  It is a wonderful translation of my cab driver story in Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace into song.  That story, which was excerpted from the chapter, “Where there is sadness, Joy,” has become a social media phenomenon, traveling around the world on the internet as “The Last Cab Ride.”  The last time I checked it had been viewed several million times, and I receive notes about it on almost a daily basis.  You can seek it out on your own if you haven’t read it.  I’ll publish the true version of it here in a few days.  But for now I’d like you to hear this song composed around it by a Scottish singer named Nico.  Reducing a story to song is no easy thing.  I think she did a wonderful job.  Take a listen.


And do consider going to the shop on the website and ordering the special package of the CD of Small Graces and the book, Ordinary Sacred.  I’ve enjoyed rediscovering these, and realize that I caught something very heartfelt in those two works.  I will never forget the note I received from a reader who said her mother wanted Small Graces read to her as she was dying.  Can a writer ever wish for anything more?