Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Peace – Delightfully Infectious!!

A few weeks ago, I had finished unloading my elementary school students and afterwards I had found a lunch box that had been left behind. I moved my bus out of the way, parked it and then I hunted down the student who was playing with his friends and handed his lunch box back to him. As I was returning to my bus, another bus had pulled in with its students. Something about this other bus had caught my eye and I took a second, closer look…

I noticed that several of the windows were filled with students’ art – peace art that is! I smiled and walked closer so that I could see what they had drawn.

As the last few students got off the bus I heard my name being called out, “Mr. Jim! This is The Peacebus Volume II! Do you like it?” I turned, smiled, laughed and reported that I didn’t really like it very much… “I LOVE IT!!!!”

For over a month, two students who ride my bus were bringing me artwork for The Peacebus that had been created by their schoolmates. Katie was the student I was now talking with and she told me that she’ll still make artwork for my bus, “but my friends and I really wanted to create our own Peacebus filled with our own art!” I told her that I was really proud of her and her friends for doing this.

“Wouldn’t it be cool if all the other buses became Peacebuses?” I asked her. “I sure hope so, cuz peace is cool!” We both laughed.

Not only were these students thinking about and drawing pictures of peace, they were also creating drawings of awareness, addressing some rather serious issues. This artwork, which is taped to the inside roof of the bus, tells us to eat healthy foods to stay alive. I’m thinking that this artwork was the result of a teacher’s lesson on this subject and wouldn’t the teacher be amazed to realize that someone was listening – LOL!!!

It’s a well-known fact that every action has a consequence. It brings a warm smile to my face to know that the consequence of The Peacebus’ birth was the birth of The Peacebus Volume II.

That night, when I went to bed, I closed my eyes and envisioned a world full of Peacebuses in every school, town, city and country around the world. “What a wonderful world that would be.”


A Peaceful PS – In just two hours I will be driving The Peacebus on its last runs for this school year. Yup! Today is the last day of school and tomorrow is the first day of summer vacation!!!

I want to thank all of the students whom I became friends with this year, for sharing a small part of there lives with me. “Your smiles delight me. Your efforts encourage me. And your art has inspired me! Thank you for such a glorious experience. I will think of you all, often, and I wish you all success and happiness for the rest of your lives!”

As a parting gift, I will leave you with this link to a most inspiring song by my favourite Rock’N’Roll band… “Love and Peace… or Else” by U2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xUsTNuUEs2k&feature=related

Friday, June 25, 2010

A Little Bit of Blood

Near the end of April, I shared a story about how I had been able to enlist the voluntary services of seven other people to help me build a peace symbol made out of flowers http://bitsandpeaces08.blogspot.com/2010/04/guerrilla-gardening-attack-2.html.

We had a great time working underneath the setting spring equinox sun, thinking about all the people that would be seeing our design as the summer progressed.

Well, as the spring turned into summer – and all the grasses in the area of our planting began to grow - the design became less and less recognizable, until it disappeared altogether.

Yes! It was time for a guerrilla gardening weeding expedition.

At this location, the Day Lilies that we had planted were not being dominated by the other plants – as they had been at another location. These flowers were coming along just fine, considering that it was their first year of growth. However, I figured that by weeding the surrounding grasses out of the way the peace symbol would become – again – recognizable, so that many people would be able to enjoy this effort.

Simply, I used my hands to tear the grass away from where the lilies were planted. I cleared away an area about ten inches from either side of the flowers and then I gathered these grasses into small bundles and laid them around the edge of the ‘weeding zone’.

About half an hour later, the peace symbol was beginning to take shape!

Believe it or not, grass can have a very sharp edge and at one point during my labours I found that one of my fingers had been sliced rather deeply and blood was slowly seeping from this wound. Instead of wrapping my finger, I let my blood continue to flow. I visited each Day Lily and let one drop of blood spill onto each flower. Now, the flowers and I had joined together to become one!

By doing this I felt that I was speaking to the Earth, letting her know that I was there, toiling away to help create a better future for the world. I know that she heard me!

After another hour’s labour, I had completed this task and the design was once again, unmistakably recognizable!!
I chose this site because I drive by it twice a day when I’m taking my students to and from school on The Peacebus. Since the weeding has been finished – I did this about three weeks ago – all the students wave to the flowers every time we pass by.

This last week has been especially exciting for the students as some of the Day Lilies have been blooming. When flowers do appear the entire bus fills with, “There it is!! I can see it!! There’s a flower, Mr. Jim! Do you see it?”

There will only be a few flowers blooming this year, as all the plants are healing from their transplant and adjusting to new soil conditions. Even left alone, I would anticipate that the entire peace symbol will bloom next year, but alas it will not be left alone. I will be intervening again, next spring, to add even more flowers to the design. In my mind I’ve come to accept the fact that these ‘Peaceflower Gardens’ will be a labour of love that I will continue to work on for many more years… making them better and more beautiful year after year!

Monday, June 21, 2010

It’s Berry Time!!

A lot of people still have the belief that big businesses, manufacturers and governments will be the organizations that will stop pollution and protect our environments. Because of this belief these people continue to live their lives as they always have… not realizing the impact that simple, everyday decisions can make – like picking your own strawberries!

By spending one single hour in a local farmers field you can pick enough strawberries for your entire family for an entire year… unless you have plans to make your own jams, in which case you’ll need to spend two hours in the field. By doing this you will have no need to buy any strawberries imported from Mexico or California during the winter months. This means that you are not supporting the creation of plastic boxes needed to pack the berries, tonnes of carbon dioxide are not added to our atmosphere as fewer transport trucks are needed to import the berries, etc., etc.

Buy local! Buy in season! Spend time now to save for the future!

And you get a free tractor ride to the picking area! :)

Flash freezing is a term that I learned about many years ago. First – wash all the berries and pull the green stems from the middle. Next – place the berries onto cookie sheets and then put them into the freezer for an hour.

Once the berries are frozen, you can put them into freezer bags or reusable yogurt or margarine containers and that’s it! Simple eh!! Now you’ll have berries to enjoy all winter long in your pancakes, loaves, muffins and pies.

If you were to clean the berries and then put them immediately into freezer bags and then into your freezer you will find that all the berries will freeze together into one big clump. Flash freezing the berries ensures that each berry is frozen individually and when they are put into storage containers they won’t become a solid mass.

On our way home from the strawberry farm, Joanne and I made another stop at a roadside vegetable stand – another way of supporting local farmers and cutting down on the fossil fuels needed by big trucks to import veggies from far off places. The other benefits of this is a financial savings. The farmer had some ‘day-old’ baskets filled with peppers and tomatoes and we bought one of each for $1.00 a basket.

So… simple actions CAN save our environment. Joanne and I spent a total of $25.00 for the freshest of fruits and vegetable. We saved around $15.00 by getting some exercise and enjoying the sunshine. We didn’t create the need to burn fossil fuels. We supported a localized economy thus making this world a better place for future generations!!!

And we had fun doing it!!!!


Friday, June 18, 2010

Me and the Clown

I always try to have fun while I’m living my life, no matter what it is I’m doing. My time communicating with my friends on Facebook is no exception.

Last week, I was visiting a friends ‘wall’ where she had posted the first line of a poem that she had written in grade 10. The comments that followed were filled with funny remarks and a few people – myself included – added some rhyming lines of our own. I thought that this was really funny, so I did something similar on my wall the next day.

Simply, I asked my friends to help me finish a poem. It began, “One day I was walking down the street, and by chance, I tripped over my feet. As I fell down…” When I logged onto Facebook the next day, there were quite a few comments for me to read. The comments came from a friend in South Africa, the USA and another fr
iend who I went to school with during my youth. I couldn’t stop laughing as I read their contributions to my poem.

The comments inspired me to want to share this hilarious creativity with you. I took all of their contributions - everyone added more than one - and I put them together in my brain blender to come up with the following results…

Me and the Clown

One day I was walking down the street
And, by chance, I tripped over my feet
As I fell down
I was caught by a clown
Who was marching to the soldiers beat!

I got up and brushed the dirt off of my knees
Wondering if the kids on my bus would tease
And draw pictures of Mr. Jim tripping over his feet
Being caught by a clown whose nose goes Beep! Beep!

Well, I thanked him for saving me so
For saving me from a suffering blow
Said the clown with a frown
“You’ll always fall down
With loose shoelaces on your feet”

I said, “They’re sandals” and I looked at him funny
Down he looked with surprise and proclaimed “It’s too sunny
To be wearing pink sandals that are three sizes too wide!
With those on your feet
You’ll never break through to the other side.”

He found me some others and then I ran to the park
Where I played with my imagination until the light turned to dark
People walked by, always being much too loud
So I found a quiet place where I gazed up at a cloud
As I looked up I wondered if there’d be a peace sign to see
A peace sign, a rainbow, some green grass for me

Later on while tucked into my bed
I thought about what that friendly clown had said
So never more will I wear sandals three sizes to wide
I’m so glad to have had that clown by my side!

Authors – Jim Kogelheide, Kym Tempelaar, Kim Lee & Jutta Hartlaub

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Jimñata!

My – Oh My!!! The Peaceman turned 40 yesterday!

Since Joanne and I moved in to our new (old) house last year on Jo’s birthday, we figured that it would be a good thing to have our house warming party on my birthday, which we celebrated just a few days ago. I would be surprised if anyone said that they didn’t have a great time! The rains held off – though it was a bit humid and hot, the food was delicious, the drinks were cold and the spirits where high!

Everyone enjoyed taking tours of our house and they all commented that they felt they were visiting an art museum, as the walls are obviously filled with many of my art creations and Joanne’s impressive quilts. But the party was – for the most part – in our backyard.

Joanne’s co-workers and their husbands came out for the afternoon and I had some new friends attending (my fellow guerrilla gardeners) as well as a friend from elementary school and a few other mutual friends.

The Bean Bag Toss Championship of 2010 was the main attraction for most of the afternoon. I was quickly but into the ‘losers’ play-off finals after having been beaten severely.

My guest highlight came when little Noah finally arrived. His parents weren’t sure if they’d be able to make it, because at the time of my invitation little Noah was in a full body cast!!! Yikes is right! About two months ago, Noah and his sister were playing outside after a rainstorm. Noah slipped, twisted and fell and broke his femur bone! That’s the largest bone in the human body – ouch! He just recently, had his cast removed and now just one of his legs is bandaged up, but he still has much healing ahead of him.

Kristen and Mike arrived with arms full of cake, the beanbag toss game and this attractive looking dude. Noah asked his dad what it was and he was told that it was a Piñata that looked like Jim – with a peace necklace and peace earring and a bottle of beer in its hand. Noah laughed and said, “It’s a Jimñata!!!” and so that is what it was called for the rest of the evening!

Noah’s wit and humour entertained many people throughout the course of the afternoon. A little while later, his younger sister Zoey came walking straight up to me and as she smiled and poked me in my belly she said, “Jim… you’re an old man!”, and then she ran away laughing. I gave James – her dad – a look that said, “What are you teaching these kids?” and James laughed, shrugged and pointed at Noah who was splitting a gut in hysterics!

Of course, Koly was there to greet everyone with a bark… and another… and another. In this photo Carolyn was offering Koly a glass of wine. I had to translate his barks so that Carolyn knew that he was saying, “Yo! I only drink beer! Yo!”

It’s too bad that there were no photos showing all the yummy food that was brought. We feasted on veggie and fruit plates, homemade salsas and other dips and Liz brought some of her famous baked fudge and chocolate chip cookies and pecan tarts! Of course, I had the bbq fired up for a while and although it was my party and I shouldn’t have been doing any work at all, I was more than happy to make sure that everyone had a full belly. We had ordered some spiced, homemade burger patties from a local butcher shop – fresh not frozen – that supported local free-range cattle ranchers. No McDonald’s burgers from the Amazon Rainforest here!

After dinner I was called into the losers circle to compete in another beanbag toss game, and this time Joanne was my opponent!

I gave her a kiss and told her that I would try to let her score at least a few points!

And then the game began! After just the first two rounds the score was 10 to 0 in my favour.

Soon, the situation was reversed and I ended up hanging my head in shame as Joanne came back to win the game 15 to 12!!! Maybe next time I won’t boast until after I win… if I ever win!!!

It was getting near sunset and Zoey came to tell me that she had been waiting long enough and that it was time for cake and ice cream. The Birthday song was sung and when they got to the part where they say my name we all had to wait a while, as this took a long time… “Happy Birthday to Jim/Kokes/James/Peaceman/Toxic Clown/Mr. Jim/Mr. Temagami/Kocabeaner…”

While I was cutting the cake I failed to see the slight shift in the surrounding atmosphere. Now, that I see this photo and I can see the mischievous smile on my wife’s face, I wish that I was paying closer attention!

I don’t think I need to say anymore about what happened next!!!! This incident made me feel like I was in a time warp, it happened so slowly and like a bad dream I found myself being unable to move and then – SPLAT!!!! Neal… you are obviously enjoying yourself WAYYYYY too much!

Then it was time to smash the Jimñata! Around and around they spun me until I almost fell over and then they expected me to swing my new gardening shovel! Stand back!

I must have been close many times – every time I swung out I’d hear a few “Ohhhhhs!” from my friends. You can see from my stance that I really meant business. I swung out with the intent of totally demolishing this thing and eventually I did – with one of the Jimñata’s legs sailing almost into my neighbour’s yard.

This is one of my best friends! Dave and I have known each other since grade 3 and it was great having him and his wife in attendance for this celebration. I’m looking forward to seeing Dave again in August for his 40th birthday party!!!

It was getting close to midnight and most of my guests had left for home. Some guests were just arriving. Rob had brought his guitar and a couple of harmonicas and for the next two hours the rest of us had pulled the tables together to sit closer for some homemade entertainment! Of course, I brought my guitar out too!

By the end/end of the night – LOL – or the beginning of the new day there were only five of us left! The guitars were put away as we didn’t want to bug the neighbours, so we sat and sipped on our beers and told stories. These four (although poor Ingrid isn’t totally in the photo – sorry!) may look familiar to a few of you. These are my Guerrilla Gardening friends and I’ve shared several stories over the last few months about our adventures together.

It was a little after 3:00am when I retired to bed and I slipped into dreamland with a huge smile on my face. I had had a totally amazing time! Great atmosphere! Great food! And best of all… great friends!

Thanks so much, to everyone who attended. I am truly blessed!


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Birth of Stikette!!!

TA-DA! Here she is with our old and well-known friend Stik. It brings me great pleasure to introduce to you and to the world, the first ever Stikette!

So, here’s the story…

Carolyn and I met on Earthday 2010 – just over a month ago. She was one of the seven people who joined me for a Guerrilla Gardening adventure -http://bitsandpeaces08.blogspot.com/2010/04/guerrilla-gardening-attack-2.html. During this time, we all shared some stories about ourselves with the other planters, as many of us had just met for the first time.

One of the stories that Carolyn told us was about her job. She was working for a recruiting agency in Burlington – where she lives – and she has big plans to start her own company. She wants to create a job finding service for people who want to have ‘Earthfriendly’ jobs. We all agreed that her ambitions were grand and we all wished her success in her pursuits.

When our work was finished, we all chatted for a while and I handed out some of my peace Stik-ers to everyone. Some had seen Stik before, and the others all gave me positive comments about my little friend. Carolyn totally fell in love with Stik! She thought that he was a truly amazing dude!!! “He’s such a hard worker and it always looks like he’s enjoying himself no matter what he’s doing.”

A couple of weeks had passed and then I received an email from Carolyn. She told me that she was gearing up to start her new company and that she wanted me to help her with a logo. She told me that she really thought my Stik character was cool and that she would like to have him in the design… as well as a Stikette (being Carolyn) who would be helping Stik find an Earthfriendly job. I was flattered and told her that I’d see what I could do to help her.

Interestingly, just the next day, I stumbled onto this image somewhere on the internet and I thought that it kinda symbolized, more completely, what it was that Carolyn was trying to portray with her business.

Over the next two weeks we emailed each other everyday, sharing images and ideas to move her project along. It ended up being a bit of a wild goose chase… but we did have fun! In the end Carolyn told me straight out, that she wanted to scrap those ideas and that she really felt inclined to revisit her first ideas with Stik and Stikette. HA! Back to square one.

I stopped pursuing any other ideas, at that point, so that I could focus solely on what Carolyn wanted. I thought about all that had gone on during this process and I began wondering if I was a little reluctant to use Stik for this purpose. I had used him, in the past, on a few other projects…

While I was living in Cranbrook, BC, I met a person who wanted me to create an animated Stik drawing for the upcoming Airshow. She wanted to use the animation on a website to promote the event. I did the work, but the animation was never used. Actually, this is the first time that anyone has ever seen this animated series – Boy! Aren’t you lucky readers today!!!! Have some fun and look at all that is going on in this nine frame series. I’ve got these frames just teeming with all sorts of fun things!!!

I think that my hesitation was with bringing a female Stik to life. Stik is Stik and that’s that – eh! What’s a Stikette? I had no clue. Well, I was soon to find out… I started my initial sketches and soon I had my paintbrushes keeping very busy.

Another point about this project that makes this interesting is that Stik has always been drawn in ink. Even if the drawing was to be in full colour, I used coloured inks. It has been several years since I’ve painted in ink and when I checked my supplies I found that most of my inks had dried up and were now useless. I was about to create my first ever Stik painting!

I had to figure out how I was going to create the perfectly straight lines that would be needed for this painting and then my memory sent me a message from almost twenty years ago. When I was studying Interior Design I had to create a painting using only straight lines. My teacher told everyone to open up their compass sets and pull out the tool that I’m holding in the above photo. To use this instrument you have to use a paintbrush to fill in the area between the two metal ‘tongs’. Then you hold the instrument perfectly vertical as you run it along the side of a ruler or any other straight edge. This tool can also be inserted into a compass so that you can draw perfect circles.

I’ve used this instrument only once in my life… well actually twice… with this being the second time!!! You can see that it worked very well.

After a couple of days, this black and white image was finished! I knew that the final painting was going to be full colour, but I wanted to give Carolyn a black and white image that she could use for her business cards. A full colour image would cost her more to reproduce and I wanted to try to save her a few dollars.

To create this image, I first scanned the painting when only Stik and Stikette had been finished. Then I printed it and added the ink to the Earth in an interesting way. Then, I scanned that image and continued. I used a Photoshop program to help me create the swirly sky. I super zoomed in on Stik’s tie and Stikette’s dress to create a pointalistic texture.

Carolyn had told me that she wanted Stikette to be holding what we ended up calling ‘the job card’ to her far side. The message being that she was the person between the job seeker and the job… they had to use her to find the Earthfriendly job. I thought that this was a great idea, but I had to put a twist in it.

In some of my previous Stik art, I had incorporated an animated aspect into the design. Here we see Stik simply throwing a peace symbol, which starts a chain reaction throughout the rest of the image.

Here is another example of how a static image comes to life using animation ideals. This is also an example of what a full colour ink Stik drawing looks like.

My idea was to have Stikette holding ‘the job card’ to her one side and as the job seeker approaches her, she begins to connect the two. I didn’t tell her about this idea and I really hope that she likes it!

Even though I don’t have all the information that will be put onto the business cards, I went ahead a made up a few anyway…

…just to give Carolyn some ideas.

With that finished, I was soon planning the colour schemes for the painting. At this point in time, Carolyn had only seen one image of the painting. I sent her the above photo of me painting Stik with that special tool – it didn’t reveal too much of the rest of the artwork. I wanted to surprise her with the final product. I also wanted to send her some images so that she would see how much time was going into this painting…

This shows the first two colours that went into the sky, using a very small paintbrush!

This shows the sky after the third colour is painted, as well as the beginning of the peace-sun.

Carolyn emailed me a reply telling me how mean I was cuz I kept on teasing her with all these partial photographs!!! LOL! She said that she was really happy watching the painting coming to its completion.

Well, that’s about the end of this story. I’ve just finished emailing these images to Carolyn, but if she doesn’t check her email right away you will be the first ones to see the completed art. I hope that you have enjoyed seeing the first ever Stikette image and the first ever Stik painting. I hope that Carolyn likes it more!!!