Saturday, July 31, 2010

The 2010 Canadian Summer Special Olympics! - Part III

The Pin Collectors

Many of my best memories will revolve around the pins that were gifted or traded between me and many of the athletes. This pin, from the small community of Neguac, New Brunswick, was the first one I received, from an athlete. It’s older than I am! I imagine a serious collector would be very interested.

I had never collected pins before, but that was soon to change as more and more pins were given to me. I wasn’t sure what to do with them and then someone told me that I should decorate my Driver’s ID necklace thingy… ha – not sure what you call that thing!

I had received this special Royal Canadian Mounted Police pin during the opening ceremonies. There’s a few stories in that acquiring.

The next day, a Canadian Flag, Saskatchewan wheat sheaf, and Olympic Torchrunner pin were added. Now that my ID necklace was being adorned with pins, athletes would stop to see what I had collected. “Hmmm…. You don’t have a pin from _______ so here you go!” and another one would be added.

Soon, many of the drivers were growing their own collections. We all started taking this quite seriously and started trading pins – everyone wanted a pin from each of Canada’s provinces and territories.

When I saw ‘The Official Pin’ for these games I became quite excited. Having worked through this event I had to have a pin stating that these games were being held in London, Ontario. I soon was gifted this pin. I smiled.

By the end of the week, I had done the best at collecting pins from all across Canada. The only pin that I had failed to collect was one from The North West Territories. Not bad!

Not all the pins were dated for this year or even this event. Like this pin that was given to me by an athlete from British Columbia. This pin is actually from the last Olympics that happened in Vancouver during February of this year.

I regarded these pins with an artistic perspective. Each one was unique and had its own individual charm. Some were pressed metal. Some were painted glass. My eyes popped out of my head when I was given this pin – very nice!! I’m not sure how old this is, but it appears to have been made many years ago.

This pin is like tres kewl!!!! Canada Post made this to celebrate the rising costs of mailing a letter – when the price of a stamp went from 47 cents to 50 cents. The Bluenose is the name of this world famous racing boat from the 1930’s and it also graces the Canadian dime.

I nicknamed myself ‘He Who Collects Pins’ and I held my head high as everyone marveled at all the pins I had collected. By the end of the week I had collected around 50 pins!!! My necklace become the subject of a lot of attention. I had become a pin junkie!!!

Since the Olympics are now over and the athletes have all gone home, I find that I’ve been going through a bit of pin withdrawal… but don’t worry – I’m sure that I’ll get through this! I’ve had a lot of inspiration surrounding me by individuals who have ‘gotten through’ a lot more than ‘this’ in their lives and for this I am forever thankful.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

The 2010 Canadian Summer Special Olympics! - Part II

Let The Games Begin…

It was a very busy time driving my bus throughout London, dropping off or returning athletes from their events. The athletes always wore smiles on their faces, even if they didn’t do as well as they had hoped in an event. If they had won an event, their smiles had a hard time staying in the confines of their faces!!!

Although our schedules were quite full, there were times when a half-hour had to be waited through and so I’d get an occasional glimpse of a baseball game.

I sat down on one of the benches just as Team Ontario was finishing a group photo. There were three Team Ontario ball clubs. This team had white tops and red bottoms. One of the other teams wore red tops and black bottoms while the third team red tops and red bottoms.

It was quite hot! Almost every spectator wore a hat and sunglasses and funny umbrellas kept popping open throughout the stands.

It’s the pitch!

Crack! A perfect hit!

And the runner on second base makes a steal!!!

There’s something about this last photo that I just love. The character and positioning of the runner just says something so simple and yet it’s so full of joyous emotion! I look at this and I think, “Painting!!!” Maybe… one day.

When I had the time, and I saw an Olympic medal around the neck of an athlete, I had my picture taken with them.

As I think about all of the peace Stik-ers that I gave to each and every athlete I met during these days, I wonder how many of them just might visit my blog to see pictures of themselves or their friends!!! I’ll bet they’ll be pleasantly surprised!

There was only one time that I regret not taking a picture. One day, I had the oldest Olympic athlete on my bus. She is 71 years old and she’s on one of the bowling teams. Her coach introduced us, we shook hands and exchanged greetings and then she was off. And then I remembered my camera – D’oh!!!

As each day progressed, the weather got a little hotter… and a lot stickier. Southern Ontario is known for its extremes in humidity. It was 1:30pm and I had just dropped off a team of track athletes at a university playing field. Half an hour later, I was called back to pick them up again as a few athletes had become sick from the extreme temperatures. Imagine running laps around an outside track, under a blazing sun with temperatures reaching above 46 degrees!!!!

Because of this change, I was let off work early, so I went home. Other drivers were being called in to drive the athletes back to the playing fields later that evening, when the temperatures had become bearable. Then the dark clouds came rolling in. As I sat in my backyard, enjoying a nice cold beer, the skies cracked with thunder and lightning, and I wondered what was happening with the athletes. I was told, the next day, that our drivers had broken a record for time for this massive stadium evacuation. The Police Chief was impressed!

It was really great meeting so many people from all across Canada. Since Joanne and I had spent five years travelling across this country, as I worked on various community art projects, I had some knowledge of many of the towns and cities that the athletes came from and this gave us some common ground to speak about.

I chatted with one of the coaches from The Northwest Territories for almost half an hour, one evening. I told him that I had been to the arctic – Rankin Inlet, Nunavut – to be precise and he told me that he had actually lived there for five years. I shared some of the family names that I had come to know and he knew a few of them. He knew the hotel where I had stayed and he knew the radio station where I had been a guest DJ.

For being one of the planet’s largest countries, Canada can sure seem very small at times!

On another day, a group of athletes was walking beside my bus to get on the bus behind me. I was casually glancing at everyone when one face stirred a memory in me. I focused! I actually knew the face that was walking by me. I looked at the team shirts this group was wearing and noticed that they were from Manitoba. I sent my memory into overdrive so that I could remember how I knew this person. Then I remembered that his favourite drink was a gingerale. While I was living in Neepawa, Manitoba I worked as a bartender at The Classic Rock Bar – now burned to the ground – and this person used to come in, from time to time, with a family member for special community gatherings. I laughed! I never had a chance to talk with him but I wondered if I had if he would remember his old bartender from 1999.

One afternoon, I was enroute to the baseball fields, again, to return a group for their dinner. While I was driving to the field I noticed that the clouds had formed into a massive eagle in one of my rearview mirrors – with head tilted upwards and wings spread large and wide embracing the sky. Since the eagle is one of my greatest life-totems I knew that something interesting was about to happen.

As the team started to walk towards my bus, I had inquired as to how their game went. The coach beamed with delight to inform me that Team PEI had won a landslide victory – 25 to 0!!!! I asked the coach if I could have a photo taken with the team as they just might end up being the gold medal winners if this streak continued. The coach said, ‘Yes’ and in less than 5 seconds – LOL – the team was ready for the photo. I guess they had practiced the ‘team pose’ on many occasions in the past!

Since PEI is an island just off the coast I thought it was appropriate to call them The Hurricanes! The players loved this idea and we all laughed!!

I was told that this was the team’s first shutout victory and that it was one of the greatest shutout victories in any Special Olympics. I guess that the eagle cloud was watching over them as they played.

The stories that were shared and the memories that were created during this time will live on in thousands and thousands of people for many years to come. I am very grateful to have been selected to be one of the drivers for this weeklong event. I had a blast!!!!

As I drove my bus back to yard, at the end of the last day, I felt a little pained as I knew that the smiles that had been created on my face would soon be a memory.


PS – you may think that this concludes my story telling from this week long event… but I have one more amusing story to share… next time!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The 2010 Canadian Summer Special Olympics! - Part I

The Opening Ceremony

It was Tuesday, July 13, 2010, 5:45 in the a.m. and I was enjoying the sunrise as I drove to work.

This was going to be a special week for selected Murphy Bus drivers as we had the honour and privilege of driving all the athletes to and from their events during The 2010 Canadian Summer Special Olympics!

I knew that this was going to be a great week cuz the clouds had formed a halo over all the buses in the yard.

During this first day, we drove the athletes to their venues for a little bit of practice before the actual competitions began the next morning. Later that evening, we drove the athletes to the opening ceremonies and we (the drivers) were excited to learn that we could stay to watch this event!

The stands were totally full of family and friends of the athletes and the spirits were very high! The excitement was building…

This is me, with five of my driver friends!

It was quite a spectacle watching all the different coloured shirts entering the stadium. Athletes from all across this great nation of ours waved flags, hands and smiles as they responded to all the shouts and cheers from the stands.

Team Ontario had the most athletes with a total of just over four hundred!

Each team was led into the stadium by a different group of people. Bagpipe musicians led in some teams and others were led in by police dignitaries and members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Throughout this process the fans in the stands grew louder and louder. I’m sure that the athletes were just feasting on all of this excited attention! Once all the athletes had assembled in the middle of UWO’s stadium an announcer asked all the athletes to show their appreciation for us – their fans – by turning and giving us a wave. The whole stadium blew up with waves of cheers by everyone!!!

It seemed like everyone had a little something that they wanted to say to the athletes, to welcome them to London, to encourage them in their pursuits and to thank them for being an inspiration to the world.

Musicians and bands entertained the crowds and a group of local young dancers shared their talents.

Then… everything went a little bit quiet. A faint “Whup-whup-whup…” could be heard in the distance and as each second passed this noise grew louder and louder.

I think that everyone was surprised to see a helicopter coming in for a landing, right in the middle of this football field! Who was inside? What was inside? Was this the moment for the Olympic Flame to enter the stadium? Somehow I didn’t think that an open flame (Olympic or not) would be allowed to burn inside a helicopter.

Some commotion was happening around the landed chopper and another vehicle came by and passengers were transferred. Oh my! Could it be!!!!? Was the bachelorette and her concubine of male escorts here… in Canada?! LOL!

No! It was Don Cherry – Canada’s most loved and sometimes hated sports personality!!! He had three hockey players with him as well. Keeping the “London, Ontario” athletic pride going, I believe that these three athletes had all played for the London Knights and now they had advanced into the NHL.

Don spoke to the crowd and special athletes and everyone cheered! Later that evening, as I was driving one group from Team Ontario back to their residences, the athletes all showed me their hats that were now marked with Don Cherry’s autograph. The athletes were so stoked by this! There were a lot of hats so I image that Don had been signing for quite a while.

After all of these events had taken place I was beginning to wonder when the finale would occur – the lighting of the Olympic Flame. Then something caught my eye and I looked up. A beautiful hawk had appeared from seemingly nowhere and it was heading our way. Several people followed my hand as I pointed towards it and we watched as it flew over the entire crowd. For many years the hawk has been one of my life-totems so I took this sign as a good one. I smiled.

Then it was time for the lighting of the Olympic Flame…

It started with this procession of police cars.

Then over five hundred volunteer torch runners entered the stadium that had become an almost deafening place to be!!!

And then… there it was! Our first sight of the Olympic Torch!!

This is one happy dude!

The flame was passed on to these two people – an athlete and (I think) London’s Police Chief for…

… the lighting of…

… The Olympic Flame!!!

The excitement and overflowing positive energy that filled the stadium affected everyone. Smiles abounded and friendships blossomed during this time. I (and I believe that I speak for all Murphy Bus drivers) was deeply honoured to have been a part of these ceremonies – the official kickoff to a week that would be soon be filled with the blood, sweat and tears of athletes pursuing their dreams!


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Dismissal Of Sorrow!

Here I sit and think of words of thanks,
for the days that have passed.
At times the skies were wet with rain,
but we both knew that this would not last.

The grey skies cracked to let in the light.
The hawk winds cried and then flew through my sight.
Then I realized that I just might
have more endurances to face,
though with no more fright.

You move throughout me in mysterious ways,
my heartbeat pounds with ancient drums.
You glide throughin me night and day,
I’m fingers and toes (occasionally thumbs).

Here I sit thinking of your love’s hope,
embracing the smiles and all the joys.
Cherishing it with others is my life’s rope,
filling the hearts of little girls and boys.

Hand upon hand, we’ll climb this thread together,
reaching passed the stars with a love that’s never been tethered.
Looking back, to see the distances we’ve come…
Oh my! How this line has been weathered.

But, soon enough, I’ll be able to look around
and see yesterday’s love light
and the shadow it has cast upon the ground.
For when this day turns into tomorrow,
I’ll be there to share
in the dismissal of sorrow.

Jim Kogelheide
July 1999

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cyprus Lake and the Grotto

I always enjoy looking at people’s photo albums from far away places. They showcase scenes and landscapes of areas where I doubt I will ever have a chance to go. Similarly, I like to share photos of places where I do happen to wander, so that those people from far off places can get a small glimpse of some Canadian landscapes.

Two days ago, Joanne and I returned home from our three-day camping trip at CyprusLake

We left London, Ontario fairly early – by our standards! – and enjoyed watching all the passing farm fields as we traveled north. Cyprus Lake is located just south of Tobermory (where you can catch a ferry to venture further into Ontario’s north). After we had found our camping site, we made a quick walk down to the lake. The water was warm and clear and I began looking forward to a swim, but a cool wind had started to pick up and clouds began rolling in.

Back at the campsite, we quickly tied our tarp to the surrounding trees, so that we’d have a small dry place to sit in case it did start to rain. And it did! It took a bit of work to finally get our fire burning nicely. The rain came and went, came and went and we were lucky to have been able to cook ourselves a yummy meal during one of the dry times of the evening.

Later on, we went for another short visit down to Cyprus Lake and I did go for a dunk in its warm waters – to get rid of the damp chill caused by the rains. Even though the skies were still filled with clouds I told Jo’ not to worry cuz tomorrow the clouds would be gone and we would have a great day in the sunshine.

The next morning saw the sun peeping through the clouds now and again, and the rains had stopped. We packed a lunch and spent the next hour hiking along some trails that would lead us to the shore of Georgian Bay and the Grotto. I marveled at this tree and its ability to do whatever it took to live and grow in this wooded area. It had grown horizontally for a span of almost twenty feet before it started growing vertically again, once it had reached a small clearing where it could reach for the light. I think that this inspirational picture will be my profile image on Facebook for the next week or so.

We reached the shore to see jagged cliff walls, cobble stone beaches and layers of slate rock. Joanne took Koly for a small walk while I stayed behind to take a few photographs.

Capturing a flowing wave as it cascades over a rock is one way to learn patience. In a way you have t o become one with the water, listening to the rhythms of the waves as you sense the rise and f all of each swell… waiting for the one that rises above the rest.

Even the small wave in the bottom right corner of this photo adds to the excitement and mood of this entire scene.

All the different colours of the rocks and the water are a true delight to me.

A little while later, we continued on to the Grotto. While all the shoreline is a splendid sight, the Grotto is a small area where all the magic in this area comes to life. There are caves and rock outcroppings that were given a littl e more special attention by the melting polar icecaps of over 10 000 years ago.

But I have no pictures of this area to show! There was a rescue taking place by the police, and a special fire rescue team with the assistance of the local coast guard. Someone had hurt themselves in one of the caves – just a minor slip, I heard, with a really sore ankle and leg, making it too difficult to climb back out of the cave. With so many people watching it was impossible to take any nice photos.

We continued on to the beach area. There was no sand at this beach. We spent a while hanging around on these large rocks. The shoreline at the top of this photo is all cobble rocks and the far shore – this area is kinda like a bay – is all cliffs.

The clouds were starting to break up and the beginning of a great afternoon was upon us. I got my camera out to take some more photos. Many regular readers o f my blog know that I like to use computer effects on some of my photos to make them more interesting and artistic. I think that this photo really captures the essence of a relaxing adventure along an Ontario shoreline – sitting, relaxing, thinking, all the while listening to the waterbirds and the sounds of the waves lapping at the rocks around you.

Here I go again, with the computer filters, taking a simple picture and turning it into something that evokes a deeper emotion within the viewer.

I tell ya – all of this relaxing sure has built up an appetite wit hin me!

Although the skies remained clear I was keeping my eye on the clouds way off in the distance.

As each hour went by I could witness this air mass creeping closer and closer.

Even a few hours later, after we had returned to Cyprus Lake, we could see these same clouds drawing ever nearer. By the early evening they had reached our campsite and we watched as they continue to pass overhead. Yeah! No rain for us this evening!!!

My last three photographs were taken by the shore of the lake. Again, I had a bit of fun using computer filters to make these images a little more interesting.

Waves have always fascinated me. I dig their quantum mathematics and light reflecting prowess. I also love the colour blue!

Even though the sun was not setting when I took this picture, I was able to change colours and intensity on my computer to create a sunset burning overhead, reflecting on the water.

Sooo… that’s about that! A simple camping story with some simple photos highlighting a few scenes from a Northern Ontario shore and nearby lake. I hope that my readers from afar will enjoy these images and think of making Canada a vacation destination in their future travels where the rain is free, the sunburns are pink and the campfire is always burning…