Thursday, December 30, 2010

Old Debts

This has been a very different year, for me, compared to the many previous. Being the owner of a new (old) home has meant that I’ve spent more of my time…

…doing repairs and…

…building lots of new gardens for flowers and veggies. These activities have kept my paintbrushes out of my hands, but I still found a bit of time to be creative.

I began the New Year by starting a huge mural in my living room.

It wasn’t finished until nine months later.

Then the new job came along and I found I had no time to paint. My lifestyle had changed very dramatically and for the next few months I focussed on my training courses and adjusting to my new work schedules. I was keeping my eye on the future, knowing that soon enough I would gain a new kind of balance that would allow me to be creative once again.

The christmas holidays were approaching and I knew that my work shifts were going to be cut back a bit as fewer people would be needing the Para-transit service. Finally – a few days to get down and dirty with my paints had arrived!!!

This painting has been almost two years in the waiting. In 2008-09 I was teaching my ‘Art For Earth’ environmental workshops in four of London’s elementary schools. The Ontario Arts Council had provided much of the needed financing for this program, but not as much as I needed. I had requested a small amount of funding to pay for my guest speakers’ time and preparation for these classes. Since I didn’t receive enough funding I had to find a solution.

One of my guest speakers was Denise – seen here on the left side. This photo was taken during my 2004 Art For Earth workshops where Denise and I both volunteered our time to teach London’s youth about the importance of protecting our environment for future generations.

Since then, Denise and I have worked together on a number of other related projects and our friendship has grown.

I couldn’t imagine not working with Denise during the 2008-09 classes. Denise is a great speaker, full of lots of knowledge on many subjects. The students learned a lot about grasslands and wetlands and the animals, birds and insects that inhabit these regions. Denise would teach them important lessons about these unique environments and then I would take over and teach them important lessons about how to be a great painter!

We made a deal. I told Denise that I would create a unique and original painting, just for her, in lieu of a cash payment for her involvement in my classes. She quickly agreed. So, this painting, my final art creation for 2010, is for Denise!

I decided to create an image using mosaic rendering techniques- using a grid. This would create a final image that would be interesting and slightly abstract – my favourite kinds of paintings to create! Instead of simply filling each small square with it’s corresponding colour, I used another technique that I teach quite often in my classes.

When I teach art classes, my greatest focus is on teaching ways to create interesting textures. I often share how textures are created by painting individual lines – be them straight or wiggly – while leaving spaces in between. Once these lines have dried, the spaces in between can then be filled in. It’s that simple!

By painting one line, letting it dry and then painting another line right beside the first one, small hills and valleys are created by the paints. These hills and valleys create the texture.

My furry friends always like to inspect my work. Whenever I’m in my art room doing something it doesn’t take long before Koly’s lying on the floor sleeping, Guido’s curled up in a nearby chair with Elly sitting on or near the work that I’m doing. I love the company!

So… this is what I mean my texture. You can see hills and valleys along the edges of each painted line. You may also notice that each colour is actually about three or four different colours, although created using just one colour. In some areas the paint is very thick and the colour is very dark. In other areas there is not as much paint and the white of the canvass shows through slightly, creating another tone of the same colour. In my eyes, this makes for a more interesting image!

From a distance all of these different tones blend together creating a unified colour. By creating textures you make the viewer curious as to how the image was created and they have to get very close to see all of the flavours that the artist added.

And now the painting is finished!!!

It was very easy for me to choose a subject for Denise’s painting. During my art classes, she would tell the students that her favourite insect is the Dragonfly and that her nick-name at work is also Dragonfly.

I’ll be getting together with Denise, sometime soon in the New Year of 2011 to present her with this painting. I’m sure that she will love it!

I really enjoyed working on this creation, knowing that it will be appreciated and knowing that – although it has taken me longer than I originally thought – an old debt to a good friend has finally been paid.

Wishing everyone a most creative and enlightening 2011!!! And let's always remember that 'Everyday is Earthday'.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Magic That Surrounds

The concert hall shimmered in hues of blue

as the audience shuffled in two by two.

Laughter and chatter filled the air

as the time quickly approached

when – as a mass – we would share

a wonder of ROCK twirling musical notes.

I thought that it would be appropriate to begin this blog story in the same manner that Gord Downie began his concert – just about a month ago – here in London, Ontario at the London Music Hall.

The lights came on – dimly lit – and the band took the stage. Gord gave the crowd a wave, took his microphone and then began talking in rhythmic lyric – as only Gord could! As he continued to speak he knelt down beside a slide projector – of sorts – and dabbled liquid colours onto the glass, which reflected onto a large screen at the back of the stage.

Having finished – or so we thought – his spontaneous art creation he picked up his guitar and joined in with The Country of Miracles – his band – who had been filling the air with edgy musical vibrations and beats throughout this time.

Earlier – while enroute to this venue – I told Joanne that this should be a very interesting concert for the both of us. Gord had released his third solo album with his third solo band – taking a side step away from his endeavours with one of Canada’s greatest Rock bands The Tragically Hip. I had only heard two songs off of this album and Jo’ hadn’t heard a single one. I remarked that it would be an interesting concert since neither of us were deeply acquainted with these new songs.

As we were walking down the street, heading towards the concert hall I said, “It’ll be like watching a glorious sunrise, set to music. The sun will rise, the magic that surrounds, in the shapes of clouds and colours of the sky will unfold and be experienced. We’ll be a part of the experience but unable to truly capture or save it, unable to relive it at a later date. To live is to experience the moment as it is happening and revel in the wonder of it all.”

After the first few songs - which truly Rocked! – Gord went back to his projection screen – microphone in hand – and using a thin metal object, began destroying his art creation until new textures were created. Many fans – myself included – were taking pictures (some were recording the performance using their cel phones) and as Gord worked on his new creation he commented – in rhythmic lyric – how we’ll be unable to truly capture this moment and how it would be best if we lived in the experience and the magic that surrounds. I nudged Jo’ and said, “Hey! That was what I was talkin’ about on our way here!”

During these times The Country of Miracles kept the spirit of musical celebration alive by diving into melodical ‘jam’ sessions. I felt like I was witnessing a shift in space and time. Was I at a Grateful Dead (who are known for their long jam sessions) concert, guest starring Jim Morrison (being remembered for his off-beat tangents and poetic verses)?

No – this was better!! This was a melding of historical Rock influences combined with inspiration found only in this new century.

During the first set a few thoughts swept through my brain. I wondered where all of Gord’s material was coming from. True – he had a new album, but that contained maybe ten or twelve new songs. We had already heard this many and a second set of performance was still to come. He wasn’t singing any Tragically Hip songs, so I wondered if he was using material from his first two solo albums. But some of the songs seemed to make reference to ideas that – as The Hip – were explored during their last two albums.

Hmmm??? Could it be (and I thought this was truly possible, slightly alighting to Gord’s renowned creative ingeniousness) that many of these songs were totally brand new, having never been recorded in a studio, created solely for the purpose of this Canadian Rock tour???

These thoughts formed into a stronger theory during the intermission, when I bumped into someone I knew…

In 2008-09 I was teaching my Art For Earth programs in a few elementary schools, here in London. The person I met at the Gord Downie concert was a teacher from one of these classes. Throughout the three days of my classes, the teacher and I had several conversations. He was very impressed with the reasoning that surrounded my classes and I’m sure that I may have inspired him to continue teaching these ways of thinking and expressing, long after my job was finished.

At the concert, he told me that he had bought Gord’s new album and that he had only heard one song off of the album, so far that evening. Hmmmm?!! My theory grew stronger!

My favourite part of the concert was the first song of the second set. Gord took the stage by himself and began another small rant as he layered his projection screen with shades of blue and a black silhouette cut-out of a tree. He picked up his guitar and went straight in to ‘East Wind’ – the first radio release from his new album – I had heard this song maybe just four times previous to this moment and I thought that it was good – nothing to get too excited about though…until this night!!

Very quickly, I found myself slipping into the magic that surrounds, as the notes found a happy place within my skull. I felt myself swirling through the colours of vibration as they leapt from Gord’s guitar… and my feat started to move. A tingling arched it’s way up my spine and I felt a bursting of light exploding throughout my body. The music from this one instrument came from all directions and his voice echoed from the base of my skull into the inner core of my ears. From this one guitar I heard a symphony, that didn’t go around me, it blew right through!

If you can’t guess, I’ll say it straight up – I HAD A BLAST!!!! What an amazing musical experience! I’m so glad that Joanne and I were there!!!

The other day, I went onto youtube to see if I could find some cool links to some fan-recorded concert clips…to share with you. There were many to be found – like this one ( It was during this time that I truly came to appreciate the memories of my experience cuz not one clip came even remotely close to capturing the essence of the concert that I had celebrated in.

There were concert clips from outdoor shows in the summer where a projection screen would not have been possible. There were other indoor venues where Gord simply placed one image to be projected with none of the rhythmical or lyrical expressions that we heard that evening. And in all of the recordings of East Wind, I could not find a single example where it was just Gord and his guitar. In some of these recordings Gord played along with his band and in other recordings he simply sang while his band played.

As I was walking home from the library – where I had conducted my youtube searches (I don’t have the Internet in my home) I began to think how lucky I (and the rest of the crowd at the London Music Hall) was/were. By watching these youtube clips I could witness the evolution of Gord’s concert series, as he strove continuously to make his performance more interesting and more artful. I felt very lucky to have been a part of his journey nearing the end of his tour where all of his ideas had come together in perfection and grace.


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Not So Funny

My last blog shared many photos taken around my home during the first severe winter blizzard of this season. I shared a few thoughts concerning the magic and wonder of Nature – thoughts that many Canadians have during the winter: Endure it, then shovel it, then enjoy it!!!

I returned home from the library – where I posted my last blog – and Joanne told me that the news was forecasting another blizzard that would be hitting London, the next morning. I groaned. Londoners had spent the last five days digging out from underneath the first storm and I don’t think that anyone had ‘happy’ thoughts thinking about receiving another 30-40 cm of the white stuff.

This winter weather wasn’t so funny anymore!

I woke up early, the next morning - in preparation for shoveling my driveway so I could go to work - and noticed that only a few centimeters of snow had fallen. Yes! The storm had either passed us by or weather conditions had changed so the storm wasn’t created.

Boy! Was I wrong!!

We flipped on the television and were immediately confronted with many devastating video images of what had happened just a few kilometers outside of London.

Freeway #402 had been shut down just after Jo’ and I had gone to bed, the night before. The blizzard that was forecast for London did come, but it struck areas just west of the city. Here’s a link to some of the news videos that were streaming around Canada and the world on this day -

No one was surprised to learn about the many vehicles that ended up in the ditches. This is always expected during a Canadian snowstorm. What was totally surprising was the fact that over 300 vehicles and close to 360 people had been caught in this blast of cold and snow and were stuck on this freeway!!!

We learned that an accident had occurred on the freeway, stopping all traffic. As these hundreds of vehicles waited for the accident to clear the snow kept falling and the winds kept blowing. The accident occurred in the late night and no one was able to come to the call and clear it away. In a matter of minutes all of these waiting cars and people became covered in snow.

On this morning it was reported that these people had been stranded in their vehicles for almost 11 hours! By the end of the rescue efforts some people had spent up to 30 hours trapped inside their vehicles.

A state of emergency was immediately declared and several army helicopters were brought into the area to help with the rescue efforts. These rescue efforts were focussed on the stranded people on the 402, but other people living in the area needed rescuing as well.

The helicopters were used to rescue those in extreme need but their main goal was to do reconnaissance to help the police locate the people in their vehicles.

The police used snowmobiles and other heavy-duty vehicles to get to the stranded victims. Vehicle by vehicle they went in search of survivors who – by this point – had become dehydrated, cold and hungry. Two days later one man’s body was found about 50 feet away from his vehicle. Police suggest that this man went looking for help, became disoriented in the white-out conditions and was quickly overcome by the blasting fury of winter.

Local communities really pulled it together!!!! As survivors were brought back to civilization they were greeted with warm drinks, soups, food, showers, clothing and beds. Some local schools and community centres were quickly converted to safe houses for these people to stay for the few days that it took to clear the freeway and pull all the vehicles out of the ditches.

As I was googling photos and videos to help me create this blog, I came across this really interesting image, taken from a NASA satellite. I added the text and arrows.

Citizens from across Canada watched as this story unfolded. The story started out showing the storm’s devastation, then it focussed on the rescue efforts before concluding with images of all the heroes who had gone so far above and beyond the call of duty to help save lives.

I would like to do the same with this story by sending out a huge and loud ‘THANK YOU’ to the army, the police, the firemen, the tow-truck drivers, the news reporters, the ambulance drivers, the doctors and nurses who worked so hard during this time. Another marvelous ‘THANK YOU’ goes out to all the ‘regular folk’ in these surrounding communities – the moms and dads and children who were the people who set up cots and made warm soups and breads to keep spirits warms and bellies full! They proved that ‘regular’ becomes ‘extraordinary’ during times of crisis and all of these acts of heroism and bravery truly define the what it means to be human.


PS – although this story and my last focussed on happenings in my area, I feel that I should also send out ‘THANKS’ to all the other Canadian heroes who have also been saving lives and helping people in need throughout all of Canada, during the last week.

Along with reports on the blizzards of Southern Ontario, I have also been watching news videos dealing with the many floods occurring throughout British Columbia, Quebec, New Brunswick and Newfoundland. Some small communities have been completely devastated, as floodwaters have risen to unprecedented heights, destroying homes, roads and bridges – making rescue efforts almost impossible.

Winter has not yet even begun and I have a feeling it’s going to be a hard one. Let’s all prepare ourselves to be stronger and more caring than ever before so that we will be able to overcome the many obstacles that have not yet shown themselves.




We will get through this – together!!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

3 Day Snowday

Many of my readers have probably noticed that my blog stories are not being created as frequently as before – just once a week, now, instead of two. I’ve had a change in occupation – keeping me very busy! But, it’s been two weeks since my last story...

… and this is the reason!

Earlier last week, London had its first taste of winter. I was working and experienced the entire ‘light’ storm – from the slight graying of the clouds, to the whitening of the sky as ka-billions of snowflakes fell to cover every surface.

Like many first snow falls, I believed as many Londoners believed, that it would soon melt and be gone. It didn’t melt, so it made a nice base for the next wave of storm activity, which hit the area on the morning of Sunday, December 5, 2010.

I hadn’t yet heard about the severity of the impending snow battle, so I simply warmed up with a hot drink on the front porch with Koly - enjoying the wistful way the air was being filled with snowflakes.

I spent the morning writing a story – which will now be saved for next week’s blog – and when I next went outside I realized that I had another to job to do…

… clear away some of the snow, now, so when it does stop, it won’t be such a daunting task, later.

YES!! It’s TOUQUE Time!

I take my snow shoveling very seriously… I try to do as little as possible… but to be affective! You’ll notice that we park our car just inside our driveway. The rest of our driveway becomes the area where we put the snow from our walking paths.

This is a photo-definition for the word ‘accumulation’!!!

So… after a little shoveling, it was time to take a couple of fun photos to play around with, later, on my computer…

When I went back inside a loud humming noise filled my ear. As I got closer to the kitchen the noise grew louder. I turned a corner expecting to be able to see what was going on in the kitchen…

… but all I saw were these large plastic sheets! Let’s see what’s going on behind…

Well – this all looked like a lot of work, so I quickly made myself scarce! Ha! Actually, Jo’ loves doing this kind of stuff – painting and decorating – and when she gets going I get out of her way and just let her go!

I flipped on the news and quickly learned that this was no ordinary snowfall.

Already, we had seen about 6cm…

… and the forecast announced that by the end of the day we will get a total of about 20cm.

That was nothing new. Southern Ontario having a large snowfall…

…but the forecast was calling for another 30cm for Monday and another 25cm for Tuesday! WOW!

The next morning, I woke up 45 minutes earlier than usual, to clear the driveway and get to work on time. The snow kept coming down. Most of our fleet of buses were taken off of the roads by 1:00pm – I worked until 3:30pm. All day long, more and more business and institutions were making decisions to close. By 5:00pm even the City buses had been pulled from the roads!

No one in London was surprised when, the next morning, news reports declared that the City had been shut down, again and that citizens were best off staying at home. In fact, the news – that evening – announced that Wednesday would also be a snowday. Which sounded like a great idea to me! You can see that we had received so much snow overnight that these tree branches had bent over until they touched the roof of my car!

Unfortunately, I wasn’t to receive a three-day snowday – I had worked for most of the first snowday and the next two days were my regular days off. This worked out just fine, cuz I didn’t lose any wages.

I think I may have worked harder on this day off - when compared to going to work - cuz I had so much snow to shovel…

…and shovel and shovel!!!!

It may take a lot longer and cause me to use a lot more personal energy, but I’ve always cleared snow using shovels – not snowblowers. Most people don’t even consider the environmental damage that snowblowers create. First – large, vast holes are dug into the Earth to extract the metals and petroleums that are used to create these machines. Next – there is a great amount of industrial air pollution created (in China) during the manufacturing process. Thirdly – our oceans are contaminated with waste and spilled fuel and oils as these machines are shipped half way around the world to then be packed onto rigs for transportation throughout Europe and North America. Then there’s the air pollution that is created when the machines are in use.

I realize that large equipment needs to be used to clear roadways, sidewalks, parking lots and all that kind of stuff – but it’s the personal (at home) snow removal that needs to be more deeply respected by the masses in our society if we are to reduce our senseless wasting of irreplaceable fossil fuels.

Ha! Even Joanne had to join my battle of clearing all of this snow…

and Koly helped too! Koly loves eating snow, so while the two of us where working Koly followed behind us eating mouthful after mouthful of the yummy stuff!

Soon we had finished and it was time for a little fun! Koly loves chasing snowballs and eating them too!!!

I don’t think any of us were ready for what happened next…

… Koly completed sank and disappeared into our small mountains of snow!!!

Even tho’ Joanne and I were laughing hysterically during this, I was thinking that there may come a point where I would have to jump in after Koly to rescue him.

Koly is not a young dog anymore, and this event had him working very hard. I was laughing and feeling sorry for him at the same time!

Yeah! Koly has escaped the snow pile!!!!!

I think that the changing of the seasons is an amazing event. I picture our Earth spinning away in space, circling the sun and four times a year there is just the smallest and most subtlest of changes that have the most profound impacts on global climates. Obviously, winter seems to be the most dramatic of all these changes. This is the time of year when our atmosphere falls from the sky and lays on the land! When the ground is covered in snow I don’t see droplets of frozen water I see the air that I breathe, the oceans, lakes and rivers of the world all suspended in time.

I pack a snowball for Koly to chase and I’m packing water droplets that may have been in someone’s lungs on the other side of the Earth last week, or droplets that may have been splashed about off the end of a great whale’s tale! And here I am, able to touch millions of particles of our Earth, all brought together in one fantastical phenomenon known simply as snow!

I think that thoughts like this better enable us to make simple connections with all of the life that flourishes on our Earth. I believe that these connections will enable our minds to expand to the point where life and all its wonders will hold a higher significance in our consciousness as we evolve in time with our shifting environments, enabling humanity to change so that future generations may thrive.

Even if – for now – people are unable to appreciate these simple perspectives, I’m confident that we can all agree on at least one thing…

… that snow sure is pretty!