Friday, February 25, 2011

Stepping Back to Move Forward

It might have been as far back as last October when I mentioned that I still had a small handful of Peacebus art to share with you – my readers. These remaining artworks were created by just one of my students. I was so impressed by Andrea’s creative ability that I wanted to showcase her art while I commented on each of her peaces. Her attention to detail and the tools that she used reminded me of … well… me! I had many conversations with this student where I would talk to her about some of the design concepts that she had used and I would show her some of my art and point out that we both had used the same ideas when designing.

I will be using Andrea’s peace art to add a splash of colour to this story, but I won’t be commenting on her works. I have a different story to tell, today, and I think that it is most fitting that I’m sharing some Peacebus art, at the same time…

I started driving school bus in the spring of 2009. My 13 year long ‘career’ as an artist had come to an end and at this point in my life I simply needed a job to pay the rent. For many years, I had worked with children in a classroom setting (part time, here and there, whenever I could) and I was looking out my window wondering what kind of steady paying job I could find where I could continue to be around children. At that moment a school bus drove right past my apartment. I smiled. I had glimpsed at my future.

I had no thoughts in my head about creating what would soon be called The Peacebus, but over the next months that is exactly what happened. I came to view my ‘failure’ as an art teacher as a blessing, for now I was working with more children than ever before, creating more artwork than ever before and influencing - in positive ways - more people than ever before. For the first time in my life I felt like I had found ‘me’ and I was happy.

The job didn’t pay that much, just enough to keep a person honest, but it was more than I had made for many years. I didn’t know how long I would continue with this position, but for now I didn’t really care. When it was time to move on it would be time to move on. Somewhere deep inside my heart I knew that I had something important to accomplish and I simply let The Peacebus take me for the most wonderful ride.

Last August, nearing the end of the month, Joanne and I were talking about some of the things we needed to save up for – our first ever vacation (see last blog and tune in for my next blog as I finish that story), home renovations, etc. I spent a while trying to figure out how I could find another part-time job to increase my monthly income. I couldn’t think of anything that would fit with my present schedule. I started wondering if this was to be the end of The Peacebus cuz maybe I’d have to find another full time job that offered more hours.

I decided to give a few other transportation companies a call. Voyageur had me in the very next day, for an interview and two days later I had been hired and two days after that my training had begun. I didn’t have time to blink let alone think about how quickly this change was taking place.

Over the next several months I dug into the new job. There were many things that I enjoyed about the work that I did – I found honour with being able to help so many people with mobility disabilities. The mini-buses were fun to drive and I had fun sharing silly jokes over the CB radio from time to time. The dispatchers quickly learned that whenever an extra hand was needed to complete an extra task that I could always be counted on. Like ever job I’ve ever had, I strove for excellence and worked very diligently.

I was very sad to see The Peacebus come to an end. Ohhhh the plans I had for the coming year had me very excited and suddenly – like the ebbing tide – I watched as my dreams began to fade into the distance.

I had to overcome the feelings of loss that had filled my heart and after a couple of months I thought that I had won this inner battle. I kept thinking about evolution and how this process involves continuing from one of life’s stepping stones on to the next. I explained my situation in metaphors comparing this new change to the turning of chapters in one’s book of existence. These thoughts helped in many instances and soon it was winter and a new year was just beginning.

In the first week of January, I received an email from a Facebook friend who told me the story of her completed quilt that she had created using artworks by the students of The Peacebus.. A must read story - A deep river of memory flowed through my mind and I began to see how so many people (around the world) had experienced so much joy because of The Peacebus. My inner battle to find peace and worthiness in my life kick-started again with even more resolve. My mind twisted over these feelings for some time.

I woke up in the early hours of the day, quite restless and feeling very isolated in my mind. I made a cup of tea to help warm me up. I glanced at the clock on the stove and the time was 3:21am. 321 was my old employee number at Murphy Bus Lines. I cringed. I almost cried. About half an hour later, Koly and I found ourselves in a nearby park. I spent time trying to distract myself by throwing snowballs that Koly loves to chase and eat. The sky was very dark because of all the cloud cover and I closed my eyes and prayed for clarity to direct my thoughts. I looked up at the clouds and just for the briefest of moments the sky cracked open and a full moon stared straight down at me. And then it was gone.

In that flash I saw a thousand smiling children’s faces and I felt a whisper creep along the length of my spine telling me that my work as The Peacebus driver was not yet finished. But how?

On our walk home I stumbled and tripped on some ice. I found myself on my knees, covered in snow… and the most simplest of answers. I would work for Murphy’s during the week and on Saturdays and holidays I would work for Voyageur. Koly came over to me and licked my face and I told him that I had been so blind for not being able to see what was right under my nose, the whole time!

A decision was made. It was time for me to take one small step back into my past so that I could continue – with a smile – into my future.

Over the next few days I had two telephone calls to make. Yes! Murphy’s would take me back. Yes! Voyageur was glad to keep me on part time so that I could find happiness surrounding myself with smiling children. Everything was falling into place. It was two weeks before Joanne and I traveled to Mexico and this was enough time to organize my new work schedules. When I returned from my vacation a new chapter in my life would begin. My first day back as The Peacebus driver was fittingly to be the day of Peace and Love – Valentine’s Day!


Friday, February 18, 2011

Our First Vacation

Joanne and I have been together for over 17 years and we’ve never gone on a vacation. Oh yes – over these many years we’ve had many wonderful adventures – 2 or 3 day road trips, weekend camping, etc. For 5 years we traveled across Canada – but that was moving from one community to another where we rented apartments and worked in the places we traveled to.

Our adventure to the Riviera Maya region of Mexico was the first time we’ve flown anywhere together to stay at an all inclusive resort. We worked really hard at saving enough money to do this – at this point in our lives – cuz we may not get another chance for another 20 years or so.

We had a most amazing time and are very grateful for this once in a lifetime experience. Let me share some of our photos and stories with you now…

This photo was taken from our ground floor balcony at the Blue Bay Resort, just 40 minutes south of Cancun. Our room was in the farthest away building – from anything – and this was great cuz we had to walk past all the other buildings at the resort to get anywhere. The people staying at the beach front properties missed out on a lot of people watching!

To get to this pool – the second fresh water one and the largest – we had to walk past ‘our pool’ dubbed “the quiet pool”, past an outdoor restaurant – where I’d always grab something yummy to take for our walk, past the open sports bar, spa, shops and other resort buildings.

You can see the many lounge chairs that are actually sitting on a ledge in the pool. You can lay back to enjoy the sun and a cold drink while your feet dangle over the side of your chair in the refreshing water.

We arrived at the resort just after 11:00am and found our room. I cracked open a beer and sat on our patio for a few minutes to relax from the many hours of traveling. A minute later I was refreshed and wondering where Joanne was. She was unpacking. I said that this just wouldn’t do, “Unpack later… beach now!”

There were many employees at the resort, with so much to do. They all looked like they enjoyed their jobs – and all the extra tips we gave them!!! Everyday, we found a different towel creature on our bed – they were all great! This was Jo’s favourite…

… and this silly creature was mine!

We spent our days doing many activities, like eating breakfast, having a morning swim in the pool, relaxing with drinks on the beach, then a light lunch, more swimming and lots of doing nothing. Never a dull moment!

In the evenings we would hang out by the sports bar to be entertained by the many different performances. Before the evening shows would begin, strange characters would appear – like these dudes from ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ and people could have their pictures taken with them.

The poparatzi were everywhere and on one night Jo’ and I also got into a few photos! I just love the body painting and ancient Mayan costumes that these dudes where wearing. Jo’s kiss was really nice, too!

As you can see, the poparatzi probably had the best jobs at the resort!

This is a Mexican Raccoon. And they are not shy in the least!

They would walk right through a sitting area or dining area always looking from some free food. I wonder if they realize how easy they’ve got it.

These birds were always around, too! Twice I saw a bird flying away from the pool areas with long crispy strips of bacon in their beaks. Score!

They had a very pretty song. Whenever they’d sing I’d see their feathers ruffle up and their bodies fill with air just before their high tones cut into the surrounding soft breezes.

This was a bird I saw almost every morning, as we walked to the beach. It reminds me of the North American Blue Haron, except that it’s much smaller and white.

We had a lot of fun, sharing the camera. I tried my best to capture a few images to portray the Nature of the surrounding landscapes.

This is a moth that habituates in the area.

I love the shapes and textures of the designs of its wings.

When we were preparing for this leisurely break from our regular lives, we decided that we did not want to fill each day with sight-seeing activities. We wanted to go for a couple of interesting adventures, but our main goal was to enjoy the sun, warm breezes, great food, cold beers and the occasional shot of Tequila.

The resort had quite a number of activities happening around the large pool and on the beach, so we spent a lot of time watching other people, but on a few occasions I got a bit ‘ansy’ and found I had to do something.

This was the first time that I’ve done something like this and I had a super great time! A jet-ski brought me to the boat and then the dudes on the boat where like, “Stand up, step into this, sit down, strap this around, move here, sit on this,” and then in a flash I was being lifted into the air. The surprised expression on my face had the guys in the boat laughing.

When in the air, I could see very far. The ocean stretched out for miles and when I looked the other way I could see the land did the same thing. This region of Mexico is very, very flat. The colours of the ocean waters were many different shades of blues, greens and turquoise – very inspiring! I could see the ocean floor with outcroppings of rocks, as well as small valleys of coral. I spotted one huge fish, lazily swimming along and a rather large school of smaller fish.

On two separate afternoons, Joanne and I visited the nearby tourist town Playa (beach) Del Carmen. The outskirts of this small city were a little run down, but the main shopping areas were well upkept.

As we walked along the famous 5th Avenue, our noses were continuously assaulted with many fine aromas from all the restaurants.

It was so nice to go from bare, sleeping trees and roads covered in snow to outdoor markets surrounded by green and blossoming trees!

This is the latest addition to my Peace T-shirt collection. The peace-heart design is surrounded with a few lyrics from some Beatles songs. I wonder if they’ll get some royalties from this sale.

This is the inside of the store where I bought that T-shirt. As you can see, there is a huge tree growing right in the middle of the store. Walls and ceilings had to be built around this tree.

This photo is of a different store and it shows how the trees grow up into overhead balcony areas, adding lots of green to the streetscape. Very cool indeed!!

We visited the famous Tequila bar, where I met my newest girlfriend! She was the quiet type and didn’t say too much.

A little further down the street, I met this little character. I was told that this was the second smallest monkey in the world.

The beaches here were the cleanest in the region and many people were enjoying the warm salt waters. I was lucky to get this photo before people walked in front of me.

There was about 20 feet of beach along the water’s edge and then the sand towered upwards about 5 feet to level off again for several hundred more feet. Then the landscape filled with small hotels, restaurants and more shops. The 5 foot sand cliff was often designed with staring eyes or heart shapes created by children.

I was surprised to see that only a few seagulls were in the area. With all the food nearby I thought there would be a huge population. I saw more of these birds enjoying this area than seagulls.

I spent so long trying to get a photo of a pelican flying, but I could never get my camera out in time, before they flew too far away. I guess I’ll just have to settle for a tamer image of these birds as they bobbed up and down on the waves.

I’m sneaking this iguana photo into this story just to give you a peak at my next blog where I’ll tell of our adventures to an ancient Mayan ruin and our underwater journey with snorkels and flippers!

But, right now, I’m feeling a little tired – it’s been a long day! The moon is just rising and I can hear the mermaid calling to Joanne, and me from our bedroom, saying, “Time to go to sleep and dream of ants and honey.”

Hmmmm…. what does she mean by that?


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Soon… soon…

So… it’s taking me a little longer – no surprise – to prepare my photos and stories about our Riviera Maya experience. But, I’ll show you my very first efforts…

… so you’ll know that I am putting a lot of thought into the images that I want to share with you. Ha!

So… (again)… for today’s blog I thought that you’d enjoy some images created by some other planetary folk. Though some of these images were captured by satellites, a human hand was in touch with it’s mechanics and controls to capture these universal happenings. All of these images and their explanations came from a NASA website that I have a link to at the very bottom of my website’s homepage entitled “My Home”

Explanation: Blown by the wind from a massive star, this interstellar apparition has a surprisingly familiar shape. Cataloged as NGC 7635, it is also known simply as The Bubble Nebula. Although it looks delicate, the 10 light-year diameter bubble offers evidence of violent processes at work. Above and right of the Bubble's center is a hot, O-type star, several hundred thousand times more luminous and approximately 45 times more massive than the Sun. A fierce stellar wind and intense radiation from that star has blasted out the structure of glowing gas against denser material in a surrounding molecular cloud. The intriguing Bubble Nebula lies a mere 11,000 light-years away toward the boastful constellation Cassiopeia.

Explanation: Sometimes, it's fun to share the sky. Although it might appear that the two sky enthusiasts on the ridge are sharing only a crescent moon between them, three bright planets also stand behind them. The brightest point in the sky is the planet Venus, while reddish Mars floats above it, and Saturn shines off to its right. In the foreground are picturesque clumps of sand of the beach at Costa da Caparica, before the reflecting waters of the Atlantic Ocean. August 18, 2010

Explanation: Don't panic, the Sun has not gone wild. But this wild-looking portrait of the nearest star to planet Earth was made on March 30th, 2010 by the recently launched Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). Shown in false-color, the composite view covers extreme ultraviolet wavelengths and traces hot plasma at temperatures approaching 1 million kelvins. At full resolution, SDO image data is intended to explore solar activity in unprecedented detail. In fact, SDO will send 1.5 terabytes of data back each day, equivalent to a daily download of about half a million MP3 songs. New SDO data releases include a high-resolution movie of the large, eruptive prominence seen along the solar limb at the upper left.

Explanation: Why did the recent volcanic eruption in Iceland create so much ash? Although the large ash plume was not unparalleled in its abundance, its location was particularly noticeable because it drifted across such well populated areas. The Eyjafjallajökull volcano in southern Iceland began erupting on March 20, with a second eruption starting under the center of a small glacier on April 14, 2010. Neither eruption was unusually powerful. The second eruption, however, melted a large amount of glacial ice which then cooled and fragmented lava into gritty glass particles that were carried up with the rising volcanic plume. Pictured above, lightning bolts illuminate ash pouring out of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano.

Explanation: Inside the head of this interstellar monster is a star that is slowly destroying it. The monster, on the right, is actually an inanimate pillar of gas and dust that measures over a light year in length. The star, not itself visible through the opaque dust, is bursting out partly by ejecting energetic beams of particles. Similar epic battles are being waged all over the star-forming Carina Nebula. The stars will win in the end, destroying their pillars of creation over the next 100,000 years, and resulting in a new open cluster of stars. The pink dots around the image are newly formed stars that have already been freed from their birth monster. The above image was released last week in commemoration of the Hubble Space Telescopes 20th year of operation. The technical name for the stellar jets are Herbig-Haro objects. How a star creates Herbig-Haro jets is an ongoing topic of research, but it likely involves an accretion disk swirling around a central star. A second impressive Herbig-Haro jet occurs diagonally near the image center.

Explanation: These are towers and walls of sedimentary rock that are particularly plentiful in Bryce Canyon in Utah, USA. The rock columns may rise higher than 50 meters and are called hoodoos. On the far left is Thor's Hammer, perhaps the most famous hoodoo. The tall rock columns were carved, most typically, when a unusually dense cap of rock provided a layer of protection to rock underneath from rain-based erosion. Visible in the background (a few kilometers in the far distance) are a few water clouds. Far in the distance lie billions of stars that are thousands of light years away and compose the faintly glowing arch that is the visible central band of the flat disk of our Milky Way. Over many years, wind and rain will eventually cause the tops of the hoodoos to topple, whereafter the underlying column will likely completely erode away.

Explanation: Venus, being commonly discernible as one of the brightest objects in the sky, is frequently mistaken for an airplane. (Venus will set quite slowly, though.) Mercury, however, is dimmer and usually harder to find. During February 2010 though, Mercury was found just to the right of Venus, appearing increasingly below the brighter planet. Pictured above, Venus and Mercury were imaged next to the famous Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France. A careful inspection of the image will further reveal that the bright object nearly below Venus is iconic Eiffel Tower.

There’s just so much to marvel at when ya think about it!?