Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Overwhelmed With Peace!!!

One of the things that I love about being an elementary school bus driver is…. well… everything – LOL!!! I have a lot of fun with all of these students.

We play twenty question games and trivial pursuit and occasionally the bus will break out into “The Wheels On The Bus Go Round And Round” song. When the song gets to “The horn on the bus goes beep, beep, beep”, I’ll (if we’re not on a major road where I could confuse another driver – Safety always first ya know!) beep my horn along with them and they’ll all laugh ‘til I’m deaf!

Of course, I occasionally give them all one of my peace stik-ers and other times I’ve found fun ways to give out some of my prints. Since it was nearing the end of the school year, I decided that I wanted to give out one print to each student. This time, however, they would have to earn it… I had a ‘peace’ assignment in mind.

I told the busload that they could create a poem about peace or draw a picture of peace. I asked them to print their name and age on the bottom, hand it to me, and I would give them some stik-ers and one print. They had until the end of the school year to do this – I was well aware that they had many other school assignments and rehearsals to keep busy with – which was about seven days.

The next day, the first poem was handed in. The next day, three poems and one drawing fell upon my lap. By the end, I was being swamped with handfuls of pages of poems and artwork. I was amazed with each student’s achievement and I delighted in sharing these arts with many fellow workers and Joanne, in the evenings. Here’s a sampling…

Vanessa, age 13


War doesn’t bring peace!
Helping people in need gives everyone peace.
Recycling pop cans and other materials causes peace.
Carpooling everyday adds peace.

I’ve talked a little bit – here and there – about how the world’s environment needs help to heal itself from all the pollution we’ve created and that by working together we will make a better future for everyone. It seems that someone was listening. I smile!

Many of the students decorated their sheet of paper with happy designs of rainbows and flowers…

One little girl, whom I’ve known before she was old enough for kindergarten, heard about my “Peaceflowers From Around The World” art project on Facebook and she decided to draw me a peaceflower to add to my growing collection. In the last three days I’ve received photos of peaceflowers from Mexico and British Columbia… sorry – I’m off topic – LOL!!!

More than one student had decided to help me build more designs for my ‘Stik-man’ stik-er collection. This really impressed me. “How incredibly thoughtful and amazing that they would do this for me”, I thought to myself. Here are two designs…

The students often asked me about aspects of my stik-er designs and one time I told them to look at the peace symbol in the stik-er they were asking about, and notice that it is draw with one continuous line, moving this way and that way, to fill the space. Julia must have noticed this and tried to use this technique in her fun design.

One student chatted with me about how they liked the stik-er where Stik was laying on the beach, enjoying the sunset – in the shape of a peace sign. Emily must have enjoyed seeing Stik relaxing – for a change – so she drew him relaxing on a boat in the ocean, enjoying the peaceful sun. I couldn’t believe it when I saw that she had gone to the extreme lengths to write ‘www.bitsandpeaces.com’ all around the border of her design – just like my stik-ers! She had thought of everything.

Julia also wrote a poem for me…

P is for patience
E motion is E
A ll those words
C ompare peace and me
E verybody who loves peace

I love peace, should it be
S cience at least

F abulous peace, could it be
A ll about love
B est, keep a tree
U nique personality
L illies are beautiful
O ptional is free
U nlikely is evil
S urely peace is fabulous!!!!!!

Cassidy, age 10


Peace sounds like a little dove flying very slow
Or water coming onto the beach
And it comes to your feet
It feels great!
Peace makes me feel like I am walking
In a forest
And I look at a deer and birds and fish
That’s what peace sounds like to me
What does peace sound like to you Mr. Jim?

Hmmmmm…. I had to think about that for a little while and later that night, I was looking up thro’ the disappearing twilight when I heard the answer…

Peace sounds like the stars
As they are winking into the night
Pointing to our way home.

Peace sounds like the Earth
Underneath my feet
My companion wherever I may roam.

I’m going to finish this story with two poems that really lit up my face. I could tell that these artists really had fun with this assignment…

It always amazes me – tho’ it shouldn’t (by now), yet it always will – when I see brilliant creativity unleashed in such a positive way. When I look through the eyes of these students I am able to realize that the strength and imagination needed to reinvent ourselves as a global civilization is already here.

ps - Happy Canada Day - tomorrow - everyone!!!!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Something New In Old South

Old South is the name of the area in London, where I live. The Wortley Village is included in this area – I’ve described this unique community before (a few entries ago).

One thing that I’ve enjoyed about this part of the city is that many residences flavour their front yards with varieties of flowers, shrubs and trees. Lately, I’ve been a witness to the fact that this has become a growing interest for more and more residences.

This is my neighbour’s yard and they are in the process of putting in a brand new flower garden. Their lawn area is now half of it’s former size.

Maybe, they were inspired by their next door neighbour, who built this garden just last year.

As people are becoming concerned about the state of our global environment, we are beginning to look for solutions to these problems. We are becoming aware of the positive changes that we can accomplish in the places where we live – our homes.

By planting flower gardens, we are creating a more diverse environment that bugs, spiders, birds and toads can thrive in. These gardens only need to be watered during the first phase of planting. After this time they live on the water that is provided during our rains. Since the size of the grassed area is significantly reduced and sometimes totally eliminated, the use of gasoline powered lawnmowers is no longer required.

If one family can stop using 1000 litres of water and 5-10 litres of gasoline per summer season, by increasing the beauty of their home, imagine the combined conservation of these two resources if an entire community followed suit? That seems to be the growing trend and I applaud these efforts…

Another half a block away from where I live, another front lawn has vanished to be replaced with a flower garden. Even the small area between the street and the sidewalk has been reestablished.

Just down the street, another neighbour is preparing a small flower garden.

And another one…

This lawn has been scraped away and soon this fresh soil will be welcoming the planting of another garden.

Daily, Joanne and I go for walks around our neighbourhood and daily we see another flower garden being created.

This garden was planted last year and now it has doubled is size as the plants have grown stronger. I’ve talked about this type of planting before – where spring flowers are planted around the flowers that will bloom in the summer.

The spring flowers will die but their leaves provide shelter to the soil, stopping weeds from overrunning the garden. This allows the summer plants to grow strong until they are large enough to dominate the insistent weeds.

As I enjoy all the varieties of flowers and shrubs in my neighbour’s gardens I am studying things like colour, size, domination, overgrowth, undergrowth, etc. so that I can make my garden better. I hope that others are learning the same things when they view my flower gardens.

Last year I saw quite a few new gardens being planted. This year, I was watching a bit more closely and I recognized quite a large number of new gardens. If this trend continues to escalate then pretty soon lawnmowers will be found only on playing fields and golf courses. Many tonnes of water will be available for other purposes and let’s not forget the noise factors. We won’t have to hear a thousand lawnmowers chug-a-lugin’ – instead we’ll hear the twirps and tweets of so many more birds as they dance through the air celebrating a new kind of freedom.


Friday, June 26, 2009

P is for Priority

So… here it is, London’s latest fashion statement. I wonder if this fountain has a name. If it needs a name we could call it “Wasteful Willie’s Water Why”.

Our city counsel members are probably glorying in their justifications for this project as they can say that this project stimulated the economy by employing people. I can see that a catering company received employment, supplying sirloin steaks and lobster tails to all the private meetings that must have taken place. One, maybe two of the largest contracting firms in the area can now continue to make payments on their Hummers or Mercedes Benz.

Does a project like this make Londoner’s feel glad or sad? It would be hard to say that the fountain doesn’t look a bit cool – all the spraying water is nice to watch. It makes the viewer long to cool down on a hot day, but soon the viewer must be reminded that the water of the Thames River is so very polluted, that dipping a toe into the river suddenly becomes ‘out of the question’.

In 2004, when Joanne and I had returned to London, I had taken Koly for a walk along the river footpath. I threw a few sticks into the river for Koly to swim after – one of his favourite things to do. When we got home Jo’ greeted us and then looked shockingly at Koly’s fur. It was uncannily silky and smooth. Jo’ and I figured that the river must be so full of detergents to have this kind of effect on Koly’s fur. This was the last time that we’ve allowed him into the river.

It is quite common to NOT see dogs swimming in the river, anymore, as more and more people are recognizing more and more hazards that threaten us, in our immediate environment. I would think that the money used to construct this fountain could have been spent creating projects that would help clean our river of contaminates, so that maybe one day, people could actually jump in for a refreshing dip. Projects of this nature would employ many more people and educate others in our community.

London’s wildlife would benefit from river rejuvenation projects, as well. The Thames River is home to many species of fish, birds, plants and turtles that are unique to only this part of the world. That makes them pretty darn special, in my book. The Spiny Softshell Turtle is one species that has been on the ‘threatened’ list for many years. If our water pollution continues to increase then this turtle could become ‘endangered’ taking it one step closer to becoming extinct. The future of this species will assuredly be defined within my lifetime.

This fountain represents prosperity and celebration. I feel that it has been placed in the wrong time period. I can’t quite figure out what we should be celebrating, considering that only the city’s elite enjoy the cold comforts of insecure prosperity.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Peaceflowers From Around The World

A little over a week ago, I wrote a blog about my latest art endeavours… creating peaceflowers of chalk, drawn throughout the city’s sidewalks…

I thought that this would be a fun way to share a simple image intended to make people smile and think of peace. Since this graffiti art is made of chalk, it will wash away with the rain, so it’s quite a harmless venture of expression.

While I was writing that blog, it occurred to me that I could create a photoalbum on my Facebook pages and invite other people to join in my adventure – even you, my blog readers. So I did. Since most of my Facebook friends are people that I’ve never met, from many countries around the world, I thought that it would be really cool to have these peaceflowers drawn in different locations around the world. How many people can I get to join in my first ever global ‘art attack’!!! LOL!

It’s almost been two weeks and here are the art creations that have been sent to me so far…

Three countries have participated – Canada (Cambridge and Barrie), China (an entire class of students) and the USA (Florida and Georgia) – creating a total of eleven peaceflowers! I am so very impressed!!! Many other people have told me that they will be sending me their peaceflowers, very soon, so I’ll have some more art to share with you in the near future.

You can see that this idea is simple to do and its lots of fun. If you would like to contribute to this global effort, just send your photos (tell me your name and where you drew the art – city, province/state and country) to: peacefulwarrior333@hotmail.com.

Let’s have some fun and unite as a global community!!!


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Beal Art Show

Beal High School is known throughout this region of Southern Ontario for its arts education programs. At the end of each school year, the school puts on a display of the student’s artworks for the public to see. People come from many different places to attend this show. Joanne and I went to our first show in the spring of 1998.

There must be about twenty different interconnected rooms absolutely packed with art creations. Jo’ and I spent over two hours slowly meandering through all the unique displays. Here are some of the highlights…

This was the first creation that made me say, “Wow! Isn’t this amazing!?” This room divide is a tribute to life on Earth. Each panel was created using silk fabrics with wax and coloured inks. In the centre we see a map of the world. Surrounding this are symbols that highlight all the different cultures of the world. We can see the kangaroo in Australia, Inukshuks from the Arctic, the windmills from parts of Europe, temples from South America and the Eiffel tower from Paris. People from India, Japan and Africa are busy with their daily tasks: bringing water and celebrating with dance.

As you can see, walls were just packed with so many unique paintings. My mind swirled from one painting to the next, from one theme to the next philosophy, from one impression to another.

Room by room we journeyed, being taken on a ride through print media, photography, ceramics, charcoal drawings, etchings. I wish I had more juice in my camera’s battery so that I could have shown you more of these other arts, but I took too many photos while I was admiring all the paintings and drawings…

This wall was full of pencil drawings – some black and white, most in colour. The variety of topics was as far reaching as the dynamic use of colour and texture.

I spent a few moments admiring the pencil drawing of this ‘Mischievous’ fox, that looks like she just got cornered by the police after having tricked her prey of two fairies.

This clay sculpture gave my mouth many reasons to upturn into a smile. The expression of this woman’s face is truly a moment captured in time. The detail to the texture and folds of the skin, the placement of the hair and the emotion captured in the closed eyes really blew me away!!!

There were rooms full of jewelry that were created to accessorize all the fabric arts of hats, scarves and purses. I really enjoyed all the colours of the fabrics that were complimented with the addition of coloured threads, stitched in elaborate designs.

These are two quilts that tell the story of ‘Alice In Wonderland’. The blending of the fabrics and stitchwork was absolutely impressive. I had noticed that in almost every division of art media – throughout the show – there was an image from this book. I had seen a paper collage of Alice looking up a tree at the Cheshire Cat. The largest canvas in the entire show – it was about six feet high by four feet wide – showed Alice discovering the rabbit hole. It is refreshing to know that many aspiring artists take the time to acknowledge the minds of generations past as they forge into a new and fresh future.

Yes, I’ve been saving the best for last…

It surprised even me, to be captured by a still life painting. I’m usually not to keen on looking at a bowl of fruit or a vase full of flowers, but this simple image of a potted cactus, bowl and glass teapot brought about a peacefulness within me. The fact that the teapot is made of glass made me appreciate all the curves of light and contrasts of shadow that the artist had to recognize while preparing the canvas. The dark and somber colours of the drapes and terracotta pot and bowl was balanced perfectly with the soft misting of sunlight reflecting sharply off of the hard surface of the table.

This painting made me think of lazy summer mornings, when a person is beginning their day to realize that on this particular day there is nothing that needs doing. It is a day off. A time to rest, with moments to reflect of the simplicity of existence. Moments to appreciate the simple beauty of a potted cactus. Moments to forget about the troubles of the world, only to find comfort in the warm sunlight bathing the spaces outside our window.

I like moments that make life seem simple and peaceful…


Friday, June 19, 2009

Art In The Village

Close to the downtown streets of London, Ontario is a small area known as The Wortley Village. It has a small downtown of its own with a few cafes and restaurants as well as a bakery, pet store, market, book and health stores. During the summer months, many community activities fill the streets and nearby parks. Last Saturday, Joanne and I attended the ‘Art In The Village’ festival…

Local artisans filled an open park area, displaying and selling the paintings and prints, as well as hand made jewelry and artistic wood items.

I enjoyed looking at all the stained glass window decorations, as soon as the sun made its first appearance that afternoon.

I was really impressed to see that one group of teenagers had set up a painting area for children. There were lots of paintings that were in the process of drying and you could see that many children had spent a bit of time at this station.

It did not surprise me to see a few familiar faces among the many artists that had displays. Over the course of the last four years I have participated in many community art events allowing me to meet many London artists. We chatted like old friends, glad to see each other again. I told them about my latest art adventures and they told me about some other upcoming art events that they will be attending. I’m sure that I will see them again, soon.

Some artists had decided to set up their displays in front of some of the Wortley Village businesses. This meant that as you walked to and from the park full of artists that you could see other displays as well. The Village had exploded into a million colours for this one special afternoon! It was great!!!

This is where I met Dumay. She had many colourful canvases on display with bright and thoughtful themes. I took a real interest in her work and soon we were chatting away. Dumay has been painting for a little over one year! Yes, I was amazed, as well. This was her first public showing of her work. I felt really special to be a part of this. She told me that her desire to paint came from a spark of imagination that made her feel that it is important to share with others thoughts concerning ‘love, light and happiness’ in a world so full of pain. I told her that was what inspired me… over fourteen years ago!

This is one of her paintings (that I stole from her website to share with you) entitled ‘Healing Hands’. You can see that she puts a lot of detail and uses a very small brush to create the vibrant mixtures that please the eye. To see more of her artwork you can visit – http://www.dumay.ca/.

At the end of this day my eyeballs felt as if they might just explode from art overload –LOL – so I had to give them a little rest to get ready for the next day’s event…


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What Is Love? – continues

My goodness – I’ve been working on this art project since the middle of February, and finally, the end is in sight. I may just have this painting done by the end of this month. I’m going to continue this story where I left off, so please follow this link ( ) if you’d like to read about the history behind this project.

When we last saw this painting, I had just completed the first part of my poem…

The rest of the poem goes like this -


I told how that since the poem refers to ‘ignition’ that I thought it would be funny to create a ‘love bomb’ at the bottom of the painting that will ignite, then expand, to fill the rest of the image until the portrait of my wife is complete. You can see the beginning of the bomb taking shape.

Now, the bomb is complete with a heart shape (that I spontaneously thought of) and its fuse.

As soon as the word ‘IGNIGHT’ was completed, the fuse was lit. I’ve tried to create the illusion of sparks flying off the fuse line.

As each following word in the poem is completed the lit fuse gets closer to the bomb.

Now, the poem is complete, the fuse is completely lit and the bomb is about to explode.

Whew! I’m one tired painting dude!!! It took me three weeks to complete these last four photographs. Since the explosion, that is about to take place, is just that – an explosion, I will be filling in the rest of this canvas rather quickly. I’m thinking that it will take four more frames to finish this peace of art. This next phase is going to be the most exciting for me, cuz I will finally get to see the fruits of my diligent labours!


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Apples of the Earth

I was a little behind schedule, last week, but I made up for it with a six-hour gardening session. As mentioned several times in this blog, the neighbourhood squirrels have forced me to plant only root vegetables. So, my garden will soon be sprouting carrots, onions, beets, parsnips and a few different varieties of potatoes.

About a month ago, I dug all my compost into the garden and created my ‘beds’ for the vegetables. I mentioned that I had a few small fires, on top of the beds, to get rid of all the broken branches and pruned bushes (from spring clean up). The ash that was left behind added nitrogen to the soil and something else… I hadn’t realized at that time.

You will notice, in this photo, that the bed where I had one of my fires, has almost no weeds. It makes sense to me now, to realize that the heat of the fire burned all the roots of the weeds that would have grown in this area. The second bed is covered in weeds. This was my first job… getting the beds ready for planting.

My neighbour’s son, who often drops by for a visit, was very interested in helping me get my garden ready. After I had shown him how to use the dutch hoe, I put him to work – LOL!!! About two minutes later, he had decided that my other neighbour needed his help pruning a bush in his front yard, so I continued on my own.

I keep a small container, under my sink in the kitchen, to collect all the eggshells from our breakfasts. After a while, all the remnants of yolk have dried up and the shells are put to use in my garden. I use a potato masher to break them into really small bits.

Then, I sprinkle the eggshell bits onto the beds and I turn the soil one more time, also digging in the ash from my spring fires.

Then, I use my flat rake to reshape the beds before I plant my seeds. I mentioned before that a raised bed has more surface area, than a level garden, and this allows more sunlight to heat the soil. I also build a small ledge around the outside of the bed, to keep the rainwater confined and focussed in the area where the roots will be growing. During the times when I have to water the garden, I only have to water in these smaller areas and not the entire garden, thus saving a lot of this precious resource.

Near the end of February, Joanne and I filled this small box with a number of different varieties of potatoes – that we had bought at the market – and stored it in the bottom of our pantry cupboard. Then the potatoes began to sprout roots.

I learned, while working for a farmer in 2003 during our stay in Nova Scotia, that each root sprout (referred to as ‘eyes’) would be able to produce a potato plant. You can see that this potato has three eyes.

So, I chopped the potato in three sections and each section could produce four or five potatoes. This means that just this one potato could produce about a dozen or so other potatoes of the same size. Please, tell me again… why do we have world hunger?! It’s amazing to think that each plant that we see, be it a flower or a vegetable, has the ability to reproduce itself ten to many hundreds of times… each year!

After the seeds and potato chunks have been planted, it is time to soak the skin… of the Earth, that is!

My neighbour told me a story about how to get up to three times as many potatoes, per plant, as conventional growing methods. It sounded like a neat idea, so I gave it a try. I figured that I would also grow some, using methods that I have learned in the past, so that I can compare my results during the harvest season. I’ll share this ‘new’ (probably old) idea in a later blog, once I’m ready to take the next step in that process.

The way that I’ve been growing them is the ‘hump’ method. I’ll dig down into the bed and create a crater. I put three potato chunks into each crater – eyes facing down. Then I pile the soil nice and high, creating a hump. I’m not exactly sure how or why this is done – LOL – but this was the advice given to me be several gardeners and so far it has worked well. Most people stop here… but I came up with this final idea: I use my fist and I create a crater in the top of the hump. Now, when I water my potato patch I fill the craters with lots of water (that goes straight down to the vegetables), as well as around the outside of each hump – that I’ve excavated like a trough.

I tell ya – after this afternoon gardening session I had a little R & R and enjoyed a super yummy BBQ’d meal that Jo’ prepared for us this evening! I had earned it.