Sharing Space with Dr. Roberta Bondar

Episode 5: Anne Murray, singer of note and notes

January 12, 2022 Dr. Roberta Bondar Season 1 Episode 5
Sharing Space with Dr. Roberta Bondar
Episode 5: Anne Murray, singer of note and notes
Show Notes Transcript

Singer Anne Murray talks to her friend Dr. Bondar about appreciating nature, mimicking bird songs, reducing plastic pollution, and golf tips and staying fit while aging.

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Roberta Bondar:

The celebration of the 30th anniversary of my historic spaceflight continues back here on earth with this podcast series Sharing Space with Dr. Roberta Bondar. Now this is an opportunity for you to join me while I explore life, creativity, flexibility and change with my guests, some of the most famous and globally well respected Canadians. In each of these podcasts, we will hear a special guest express personal views about the present and the future. And if you have a deep passion for exploration and inquiry, whether it's through the arts, sciences, or athletics for example, the storytelling in this series is for those who wander and those who wonder. Join me now to explore how some of the most notable Canadians exercise their creativity and curiosity in a wide array of fields. Unlike those of the night sky, these stars are within reach. So let's tap into their energy as they enlightened us. My promise is not to speak of snowbirds, or to interview her for that matter. She would rather seek birdies and play golf with a duffer like me. Guess that's like getting one's teeth drilled by a dentist. Even though I hit a tree the last time we played together and it was within chipping distance of the flag. Of note, she has managed a hole in one and has a unique and very speedy golf cart. Now in this chat, we will see where age will take us or aging. To recap for those who have been on some isolated island for the past four decades. Her singing voice is a global phenomenon, the voice that is unmistakably Anne Murray. An introduction to this legend is akin to describing what the Earth looks like in space. You can't do it justice. After all, saying that Anne is accomplished is too trite. Over her 40 year career as a singer, she has amassed a bio that is staggering, with her Companion of the Order of Canada, two dozen Junos, four Grammys, induction into every hall of fame and walk of fame that hint at her depth and value to society, best awards and recognitions, humanitarian causes, and I need to stop myself. Best to visit the Anne Murray center in Springhill, Nova Scotia. What is Anne up to these days? And are there other birdies to sing with her? Let's begin. Welcome Anne to the podcast. I'm so glad you could join us and where are you right now?

Anne Murray:

I'm on the Northumberland Strait. I'm in my happy place.

Roberta Bondar:

In you're really happy place.

Anne Murray:

Oh, yeah, it's great.

Roberta Bondar:

And is your happy place some something that you've had since childhood?

Anne Murray:

Well, I was born and spent every summer of my life on this, on this shore. And I've been here since 1981. So my kids spent every summer here. So yes, I mean, this is my dream to come back here and to live here. And it's been wonderful.

Roberta Bondar:

Do you find that the ocean air is really invigorating later on, like in the fall? Or is a springtime better for you on the ocean? Or does it matter to you?

Anne Murray:

Well, the thing is, is that I just find now that I'm here, I lived in Toronto for 40, well, more than 40, almost 45 years. And I was completely out of touch with nature that whole time. I was so busy, nose to the grindstone, and all of that. And all of a sudden, I mean, just before I came on and talked to you. There are these two magnificent bald eagles that are my, they are my pets now. Because they sit right out here on my, I have a little point that goes out in front of my place. And they sit there and chatter away. It's just fascinating to watch them. And when they fly, and they fly, I have skylights in my house. When they fly, the room goes completely dark as they fly over. It's it's they are so huge. And and also, I have deer here, I have... I mean there's so much and it's so great to be back in touch with that. I have really missed it.

Roberta Bondar:

Well when you're talking about bald eagles there's something I've never seen bald eagles do but I've seen pictures of it. And that's when they are courting each other. They actually have this fantastic aerial dance where they grab each other's talons and they kind of spin spin around. They're magnificent, as you say, magnificent creatures.

Anne Murray:

Well, I don't think I've seen that. But I do know that they've they've had nests here for the last three years. And there are two of them. And I presume that they're are a couple, but I don't know.

Roberta Bondar:

In my high school, we had a motto call the, it was with the Sir James Dunn Eagles, right. And so they always, they're always thinking about what to call the girls basketball team. And so they decided to call them the Eaglettes. It's, and I'm going like, okay, [Laughter] the guys get to be Eagles, and the girls get to be Eaglettes. I mean, you can hardly even say it. [Laughter]

Anne Murray:

Yes exactly. You can't. [Laughter] I know, I know.

Roberta Bondar:

Yeah. And so have you found that you're going outside more or, or doing any hiking or.

Anne Murray:

Well see, I have scoliosis bad, pretty badly. And I have also bad knees. This happens as you get older, but so I can't hike anymore. I can't play tennis anymore. The one thing I can do is I can still play golf. And I work very hard at keeping the quads strong so that I can still play golf. I managed to do that as long as as long as I'm on a cart. I can't walk for long periods of time. But apart from that I swim every other day. I, I'm on the bicycle. I'm really busy.

Roberta Bondar:

Well, I think playing golf, regardless of your walking or in a car, it does take it does take time. But I've been quite impressed since I took up golf, and mind you you and I have played a couple of times. And I know I hit a tree once in a while, but, and I am trying to improve. [Laughter] But I've always found that golf courses, especially down in the southwestern United States, where I played, I like playing down there because the desert courses. But it's being in touch with again with the environment. I know a lot of people don't think about golf courses as being environmentally friendly. And I, I have a book on Audubon courses. And I actually on a website, I look at a bird cam on an Audubon golf course, in the Carolinas. And it's quite fascinating. So I always like hearing the birds and, and seeing, so much so I get distracted from my golf. So I just find if you're from the city, like Toronto, it's really hard unless you're on a big big piece of property out in the east or the west, to really get in touch with with the environment in in that kind of way. And I find I find playing golf if I just sit back and relax, and just enjoy the outdoors.

Anne Murray:

I have a friend who's who's a nun, is a sister, and she said that's her church. She's got a great golf game, she plays a really great golf game. And she said when she's playing golf that a golf course is her kind of like her church. And so I thought, "Hmm, that's a good point." But you know, I have friends who are birders and I golf with them and they're constantly not paying attention to their golf at all. But and, and funny, you should bring that up because on for about two weeks, we were hearing a bird on the golf course, and nobody could figure out what it was. And finally, someone looked it up, or I don't know how they found out, but it was the Northern Bobwhite. A quail that is not indigenous to this part of the world, but somehow got here. And and I had it one day on my tennis court too. And the the sound, and I found out that the sound that they were making, because I could imitate it perfectly. So when we were on the golf course, I would imitate the sound.

Roberta Bondar:

Really?

Anne Murray:

We had a great conversation going on. [Laughter] I don't know what it was about. But anyway. So but then I found out that that that particular call or whatever you want to call that happens when the bird is either lost or looking for a mate. [Laughter] So I thought I, I thought I better shut up from now. [Laughter].

Roberta Bondar:

Only Anne Murray would be able to copy verbatim, or maybe not verbatim, but note for note a white, what was it, a Northern White Bob, a Bobwhite?

Anne Murray:

A Bobwhite, yeah, quail.

Roberta Bondar:

Yeah, I mean, imagine Anne Murray copying their sound. I mean, you got a whole, there's a whole new future for you, Anne.

Anne Murray:

[Laughter] Well, I had to whistle. I wasn't singing it because you had to whistle it. But I I think I did a pretty good job. So my so my golf friends thought so too. So.

Roberta Bondar:

I do think there's a market here. I think this is I think you're missing, missing a golden opportunity. Bird songs by Anne Murray or bird sounds by Anne Murray.

Anne Murray:

Yeah.

Roberta Bondar:

You know, I mean, wow, extraordinary experience. Well, I'm gonna have to look for a Bobwhite, I've read about them and I've seen their pictures, but I've never seen one out out in the wild ever.

Anne Murray:

Yeah, it's a beautiful, beautiful bird. I mean, we have all kinds of birds here. Of course seagulls go without saying and blue herons. And we have, oh, we have cormorants. I'm not so keen on cormorants. They're dirty birds. But we have lots of them [Laughter].

Roberta Bondar:

Do you ever get Puffins down that far?

Anne Murray:

Oh, yes. Yeah. Yeah, we do have Puffins as well. But again, these are all things that I didn't ever pay much attention to. But now that I'm here, I see and hear all of this stuff. It's being mindful of what's going on around you.

Roberta Bondar:

And at one point, when we were chatting you're mentioning about, it's like Prince Charles right. He was way ahead of his time in terms of environments of people always used to think he was who was a bit odd and crazy. And, and now it's his son, Prince William, who is, doesn't appear to be odd or crazy, is saying, "Look, my dad wasn't odd or crazy, but he was just ahead of the curve when environment movement came in." I understand that you are also doing stuff for the environment, really early on, it wasn't just coming back to Nova Scotia. But you've been doing this for a long, long time.

Anne Murray:

Yeah. So I moved to Thornhill, just outside of Toronto, I can't remember, would be the late 70s. And in the early 80s, I thought would be a good idea if we got rid of the plastic. And we took net bags to the Dominions store. And so I had at that time had a nanny. And she would take net bags, she was Irish, so that wasn't unusual for her. And so she would take them and the cashiers would give her a tough time. And say "No, we're not doing that. We're not allowing that." And so finally, I had to go and talk to the manager and say, "You know what, you've got to let her do this, because it's the right thing to do." And that was a long time ago, that was in the 80s.

Roberta Bondar:

I get asked a lot like what one thing would you suggest to people who do that they can do with the environment? And I know that you're talking about the net bags, is there anything else that that you feel is important that you that you do that you want to pass along, a tip?

Anne Murray:

Well, I do whatever I can, I mean, I'm very careful about recycle. I'm very careful about making sure that compost goes into compost, and I have friends who just throw everything in one bag. And on the one hand, somebody says that if you do that, it doesn't matter anyway, because it's all going to landfill. I don't know. But I'm hoping it isn't. And I do what I have to do. But when I lived in Toronto, I I had a huge footprint. I had an indoor pool, and I had a very large house. And you know, people could could say, Well, sure, that's no example. So what was I gonna do? I was gonna move into a little tiny, tiny bungalow or whatever, to raise a couple of kids? So at times I kind of felt like I couldn't really say very much because of that footprint. But that has improved immensely.

Roberta Bondar:

Yeah, I think there the lot of places now are trying to get much more environmently friendly. I mean there's no question we all need someplace to live, we need someplace that that reflects the kind of workspace we need or the living space we need.

Anne Murray:

Right.

Roberta Bondar:

Even to have the windows now that are much better, thermally sealed, especially in Canada Eh, like in the wintertime. [Laughter] It's always good to have less heat go out the window.

Anne Murray:

Right.

Roberta Bondar:

And I remember visiting when I was doing a lot of photography out west, Pacific Rim National Park. And on the beach it wasn't unusual to find beads of plastic which would be blowing in the wind from these container ships that would just bring plastic in to be used in manufacturing of plastic products. And it just meant, almost want to make me cry to see something that that we would think would be a pristine area, especially in a national park, by this huge, huge ocean, getting all this stuff. Stuff on the beach. I mean it's a.

Anne Murray:

Well. And you know what? Just think, if you think now you may not have played golf for a while. But if you go to a pro shop anywhere, every single outfit that is worn is made out of plastic. Every single one of them. I won't wear them. And they talk about them breathing. They don't breathe, they're as hot as can be. And, and the ocean is going to be filled with that stuff or the landfill. And it's all plastic. And I don't get it.

Roberta Bondar:

Well, let's talk a bit about, we can talk a lot about golf, I mean, that's, that's I'm cool with that, and picking up few tips from the pro here would be a good idea. I just wanted to chat with you because I was injured in the space program and I find with my swing, I'll, the swing that I have, that I'm really restricted in how I can swing through a golf ball. Like I can't turn my chin to get over my arm to put over the golf ball.

Anne Murray:

Oh, I know.

Roberta Bondar:

And so the arthritis from that injury has really wreaked havoc with with my body and someone says, "Oh, that's just aging." Well, it's aging on top of of injuries. And I guess when we get to our stage in life, we kind of think, well what is it that I still want to do? And what do you feel about, either about golf and aging, or just how you view what you're able to do now? You don't have to compare it to 40 years ago, but.

Anne Murray:

No. Well, I...

Roberta Bondar:

Don't do that. Don't, don't, don't do that. [Laughter].

Anne Murray:

No. Well, like you, because of the scoliosis and what's going on with the turning of the spine and everything for me, I can't get the shoulder underneath my chin like I'm supposed to, you know, I can't get around enough to. I just hit the ball about 30 yards, or maybe even more, less. I mean, I don't hit it nearly as far as I used to. But so be it. You're still out there, you're still you know, with people you're interacting, you're trying to enjoy the game. Even though you can't play like you used to. I always say, as all golfers say who aren't doing as well as they used to. They say well, it's nice to be out here. [Laughter].

Roberta Bondar:

A friend of, a friend of our families wanted me to pick up golf when I was like in my 20s and 30s and 40s and 50s and 60s kind of thing. I had to wait till my, I think it was my late 60s I decided to pick up a golf club. But he passed away at age, I think it was about 87 or 88. And he had been going out to golf courses. And he had this hit a bone marrow cancer and, and I'd go and see him in the Sault and he had he always wanted to get up and give me a golf lesson. And so he had his oxygen on. And I remember the week before he died, he stood up there and he was trying to give me, he was trying to give me a lesson on pitching. [Laughter] You gotta love this guy. And he's standing by the bed with his oxygen and I'm looking at him thinking "I better take some lessons because I would not want him to think even when he's gone that I would not have paid enough attention to his last lesson." Yeah, so you play, I guess you play golf long, long, haul.

Anne Murray:

You can play for a long time, you just have to settle for less. That's all. And when you can come to grips with that. Which I found very difficult to do. What I did when I couldn't come to grips with singing as well as I used to. I just quit and decided to have a life. But, but with this I'm not gonna quit until I have to because I enjoy it so much.

Roberta Bondar:

Do you have your own cart? Like do you...

Anne Murray:

Yeah. Actually, this is the 22nd year that I've had it, it kind of looks like a little Cadillac. And my record company asked me what I wanted. Because it was I guess it was my 30th year with the record company. And first thing I thought of was a golf cart because it's something I would never buy for myself. And so they bought it and I've had it ever since and it's been great.

Roberta Bondar:

Does it go fast?

Anne Murray:

It goes very fast because it has no limiter on it. All the ones, [Laughter] all the ones you see on the golf course, they have limiters because you can only go so fast on them but but this one has no limiter so. But the only time I go really fast is from my house to the golf course because I'm on the highway for 90 seconds. So I have to hightail it so that I don't get picked up. I have never been picked up, I think that that the RCMP have better things to do than chase an old woman on a golf cart [Laughter].

Roberta Bondar:

Well, you're probably right. I mean who's gonna to give Anne Murray a ticket for 90 seconds on the road really? [Laughter].

Anne Murray:

Yeah, it's so funny because the last passport I got I said to somebody, you know what? I just got a new passport and they put a picture of my mother on it. [Laughter] It looks so much like her.

Roberta Bondar:

Well, we're lucky we have good genes then.

Anne Murray:

You're absolutely right. [Laughter].

Roberta Bondar:

Your background before you went into this wonderful career that you had, is was in physical education, right? It was in fitness?

Anne Murray:

Yes. I grew up with five brothers, all of whom played baseball, and hockey and everything else, and soccer and all that. And I couldn't play any of them. But I used to get in there and give it a go with them. And they included me when they were just out in the field, not in the organized stuff. And so I was always interested plus my father was very fit. When he had time, he, he didn't have much time because he was a physician, and he did house calls. He had office hours, he worked 18 hours a day. But he was a great example of someone who stayed fit. So I saw that all of my life, so I continued to do it. And as someone said to me, an old old friend said to me, there's no offseason.

Roberta Bondar:

That's true.

Anne Murray:

You don't ever stop, you just keep moving.

Roberta Bondar:

I mean, it's so true. I know, for myself in the [Laughter]. space program, one had to be fit. I mean, you weren't gonna fly unless you were fit and you wanted to be fit, because you didn't want to die. [Laughter]

Anne Murray:

There's incentive for you.

Roberta Bondar:

Yeah, real incentive. And so at the and, but the strange thing was when I was going through the program, we didn't have that wasn't like a standard thing we did. I mean, they just said, "Oh, just, you have to pass the physical. Oh, you have to be able to run 100 yards with the full suit on. Oh, you have to do this, you have to do that." And I was the only woman in the crew and I found myself getting a little bit nuts sometimes. Because I didn't it didn't work out. I didn't do this. I was scared that I was traveling to Europe, and I wasn't going to be able to, to keep my fitness up and I wasn't gonna be able to fly or something was gonna happen. I had to really settle myself down and chat with my mother about this because she was such a great athlete when she was growing up. And she really counselled me and said, "Look." She said, she said, "I know, I read a story where some young man was trying to keep fit when he was on these trips. And he was he was jogging down the one of the major highways in England and suddenly realized that he could have been killed trying to stay fit." So I think there's a lesson there not to overdo it. What do you think about as we get older?

Anne Murray:

Well, I think you have to keep moving. And that's why I do it. I mean, I was told a couple of years ago that I have absolutely no cartilage left between my kneecap and my the bones. So it's everything's bone on bone. So I have to get on the bike every day, I have to get on the stationary bike or get into the pool on a noodle and pedal in the pool or. So I just do it. Because I don't know what happens if you stop doing that.

Roberta Bondar:

So when you talk about your swimming do do you get into the the ocean. I mean, I don't get into the I don't get into the ocean anymore, mainly because I wear orthotics in my shoes after all my injuries. So I don't walk without them. So I don't go into the ocean at all. But do you?

Anne Murray:

Yes, I do. Normally, by about the third week in July, it's warm enough here and the Northumberland Strait is not open ocean. So the tides come and go and the sun beats down on the sandbars here. And then the water comes in and it warms up. So I usually can swim from the last week in July or will swim from the last week of July until the end of August. And it's beautiful.

Roberta Bondar:

What happens to us, when we're kids like I remember going into Lake Superior. Yeah, it's a cold lake. And we just could never get out of it. And we'd be shivering and our lips would be blue. And then as an adult, I'm going I don't think so.

Anne Murray:

No, no, no, no, you don't.

Roberta Bondar:

I don't want to, no. I mean, you're no, no, no. I sometimes I look at some of the crazy things, like I when we downsized my mom's house actually brought her to Toronto when she had a few strokes. I went through the house and I cleared it right to the walls. I'd never seen the house looking like that because they built it in 1941 I was born, as you know in 45. You were born in 45, along with Helen Mirren I might add.

Anne Murray:

Oh, yes.

Roberta Bondar:

So that's another role model. [Laughter] And, and I remember I pulled all the things that had to do with my stuff in high school and early university that had to do with fencing and basketball and archery and all of that. So I brought all those old things. And I have them in my fitness room. And I look at them and some days. I'm discouraged about, you know, I don't feel like about the energy. And I look at this stuff, and I get inspired by the energy, not just the energy I had when I was younger, but the idea of, of the reason why I want to do all these things, you know coordination or eye-hand or whatever it was I was doing and how it improved, how it improved my attitude towards, towards subjects in school. So I thought this is a good thing to have in my fitness room, I just have to get past the wine cupboard and get into the fitness room. [Laughter].

Anne Murray:

Well, you know what, there's nothing like a workout first thing in the morning, to cheer you up and to get you through the rest of the day. Because sometimes you just don't feel like doing it. I mean, that was the same as when I was performing. There were nights, I just didn't want to do it. But it's your job. So you do it. But keeping fit. When I was on the road, we always stayed in hotels, where there was a pool. And so I was able to get up first thing in the morning and get in the pool, whether I wanted to or not. But I did. All those years I was on the road, I was in the pool.

Roberta Bondar:

I think about the years to come, like every year is like probably like five or 10 years that I had when I was younger. But when I think of the age I'll be at now, there's nothing wrong with being 85. But the sound of it right now does not appeal to me as strongly as if I was 65 and said I was going to be 75. [Laughter] Do you feel that? Do you feel, do you have, what is your sense of like, the years that are that are ahead of you, and what you might want to be accomplishing in that time.

Anne Murray:

I just try to stay in the present and try and take care of what is happening now. And I think thinking about that too much is depressing. [Laughter] You know, it would depress me, I think to to dwell on that kind of thing. So I just kind of enjoy the day. Enjoy making chili. Not.

Roberta Bondar:

I can't eat onions or peppers of any description. I can't eat any beans that unless they're green or yellow beans, so I'm pathetic when it comes to minestrones or Chili's, I can't eat peppers. I had something somebody gave me the other night, a kebab and I said please easy on the spices. I could not even swallow, I was watching, we were watching Mamma Mia [Laughter] on television, right that with Meryl Streep and I'm watching this and I want to sing along dah dah dah. And I took a bite of this kebab and I thought I was gonna die. I thought I was gonna die. This, the pepper on it. I just got reversed peristalsis, it started coming back up and I was totally invested in running off to the washroom and I couldn't get to the washroom with this hot food and I thought I'm going to die. Gonna die watching Mamma Mia eating a kebab.

Anne Murray:

I mean, I developed this sensitivity to gluten late in life. You know, not until about six or seven years? Well, maybe it was a little longer. But I just can't do it at all, it makes me very sick. So.

Roberta Bondar:

So do you have gluten free products or do you just...?

Anne Murray:

You can find gluten free products everywhere. More and more people... Well, there are some people who do it just because it sounds like the right thing to do. But, but I definitely have a sensitivity and my father was celiac. So I, I don't I don't think it runs in families. But I don't know.

Roberta Bondar:

Have you experimented with things that you like or don't like?

Anne Murray:

I eat mostly fish. I don't eat a lot of red meat. From time to time I do. But I eat a lot of veggies. I just find it much easier on my system.

Roberta Bondar:

When you talk, when you talk about fish, do find that being back in the East Coast, it's actually easier to get fish? Yeah?

Anne Murray:

It is easier here because there are guys who come out on the street and sell fish from the back of their truck. And if you're lucky enough to catch them on the days that they show up. You can fill your freezer. It's great.

Roberta Bondar:

Well, you know, as you say, it's certainly a good advertisement for the for the East Coast. You have fresh air, and you have good food. You have obviously good friends and family there. I mean, it sounds like you're leading a very healthy lifestyle.

Anne Murray:

Yes, I think I am. And I am happy to be here. And I loved Ontario. But I, I just, living in the city, I, it just never never felt right to me. Yeah, so I'm at home here. So I'm in the right place. Just so you know.

Roberta Bondar:

Oh I got that. I think is great. Hey, Anne, thank you so much.

Anne Murray:

My pleasure.

Roberta Bondar:

All right. Well, you take care and good luck.

Anne Murray:

Okay. Thank you.

Roberta Bondar:

Bye.

Anne Murray:

Bye.

Roberta Bondar:

The privilege to engage with other minds and experiences continues. I would like to thank Anne Murray for sharing her unique story with us today. Come back again next week for the next Sharing Space with Dr. Roberta Bondar podcast when my guest will be singer songwriter Susan Aglukark. Thanks for joining.