Friday, May 6, 2011

My London


A couple of weeks ago, I had an evening appointment in downtown London, Ontario. It was a fairly nice day, so instead of taking the city bus all the way downtown I decided to get off a few stops early so I could enjoy a nice walk into the core of the city. I like to walk!

I had been walking for just a minute or two, when I chanced to cross paths with this here duck! I wasn’t in much of a hurry, so I decided to stop and have a little chat with my feathered friend. He told me that he was very happy to know that I was on my way to a City Council meeting to raise my voice in support of the preservation of the Meadowlily Woods Park. “I go there quite often,” the duck continued, “and I have many friends who would lose their homes if it wasn’t for people like you, Jim!” I found it surprising that the duck had so much to say!

As I was about to continue on my way, the duck said one last thing to me. Indeed, I found this quite odd. He said, “As you continue on your way, look at all that you pass by and remember…” I raised my eyebrow and questioned, “Remember?” “Yes!” the duck exclaimed, “Remember……” and then he flew off!

A wee bit startled by this unusual happenstance, I just stood and stared as this duck flew up, flew out and then beyond my sight. I soon found myself following my feet as I continued on my way.

Moments later, as I was approaching the Wortley Street bridge, which overpasses Horton Street, I found myself enjoying a great view of the downtown core. I continued over the bridge, tapping my fingers along the metal railing when I found my mind slipping through time. I was remembering…

I remembered the summer of 2009, when I had walked over this same bridge. I remember looking down to the sidewalks running alongside Horton Street and thinking that I would draw…

… a peaceflower using chalk on that there sidewalk! I remember being inspired by such a simple, artistic expression and how that led me to begin my first ever ‘Global Art Attack’!

Peaceflowers From Around The World –

I remembered how this one simple idea was used to unite so many people from over twenty different countries… and I smiled!

Just another minute later, I found myself walking over the King Street bridge. Ahemm… the NEWLY constructed King Street bridge. For many years I meandered across this bridge on almost a daily basis. I’ve seen Blue Herons flying over this bridge. I’ve seen many Canada Day fireworks shot out over the river from just beside this bridge. I look forward to building many more memories with this new peace of London.

A few steps further, past the Court House and some fancy restaurants is this towering condominium building. It’s hard to imagine that someone like me would have a significant memory associated with a building like this… but I do.

Almost a year and a half ago, I traveled up to one of the top suites to meet with the person who had commissioned me to paint this portrait of his dog who had recently passed away. As I continued on, I remembered the many hours I spent labouring on this artwork – getting the colours just right, experimenting with new texturing techniques and keeping my fingers crossed that my painting would be positively received… and it was!

Onwards my feet directed me until I came to the John Labatts’ Centre. I would be surprised to find anyone living in London who has not been to this stadium for one reason or another – so much goes on here.

I remembered the night when Joanne and I enjoyed a couple of beers before rockin’ out with the Foo Fighters acoustic opening set ( ) before one of the Great Greats - Mr. Bobby Dylan - took the stage ( ) to dazzle us with his shiny white suit and wide brimmed hat!

All I had to do was turn my head to look upon London’s Covent Garden Market – a downtown farmers market filled with many artisan shops - and suddenly my mind filled with many many great memories!

I remembered the time in 2004, when Jo’ and I had just moved back to London after spending five years touring Canada. Over the course of eight months I had – with the support of the Spriet Family Children’s Library – finished teaching my first structured ‘Art For Earth’ programs. At the end of the course, the students and I had an Earthday celebration and we were invited to share our art and our stories with the community during a morning news broadcast.

I remembered when I had received my first ever art grant – from the London Arts Council – to help buy the materials that I would need for my ‘Healing Hands’ community arts project. Hundreds of people from London and surrounding communities made special visits to the Market to participate in the creation…

… of this absolutely unique art peace that was later donated to the London Health Science Centre’s annual fundraising art auction!

While I was looking through the lens of my camera – taking the picture of the Market – I spotted something that I hadn’t noticed at first…

As I walked closer to the mailbox - where someone had stuck a sticker - I had an instant flashback to about a kazillion memories!!!

This is one of my own hand drawn peace Stik-ers and to this day they can still be found throughout the city. They can also be found throughout Nunavut, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, British Columbia and most recently Mexico!!!! I’ve been handing out these Stik-ers for almost fifteen years. They’ve traveled to over half the countries on this planet and in fact, today I handed out over 75 of them to students who were passengers on The Peacebus!

I think that stickers are a fun, artistic and creative way to spread ideas and inspiration throughout a community!

I was getting closer to my destination, but first I had to continue walking along King Street for another block or so. As I crossed Richmond Street, a huge smile crept across my face as I remembered participating in a Critical Mass Bike Rally, last Autumn. On that date, organizers told me that they had the best turn out so far!!!!

Another rally is scheduled for Friday, May 27, 2011 – in just a few weeks. If you’d like to join in this movement - meant to voice concern about global climate change - then bring yourself and your bike to Victoria Park’s bandshell between 6-6:30pm. I hope to see you there!!!!

Having reached Wellington Street, I had to direct myself northwards to reach my final destination. Along the way, I passed by this great old building. During the mid 90’s I almost lived here – it used to be the downtown library – as I was continuously researching things that interested me.

It was in this library where I learned about the Temagami forestlands, located in Northern Ontario, and how the pressures of clearcutting where threatening the survival of this natural reservoir of ancient mystery and energy. It was in this library where I organized a ten-day walk across Southern Ontario to raise awareness about this issue. It was in this library where this journey began.

My experience in the Temagami forestland changed me. Upon my return to civilization I felt an inspiration burning inside of me. Soon, I was honoured to self proclaim myself to be an artist. It was in this library – 3 years later – when I showcased the first artwork that had been created for my epic adventure entitled “Canada: Glorious To Be”

In 2006, this project witnessed an explosion of creativity in Canada’s newest territory – Nunavut!!!!

While all of these memories were washing over me and I heard a small voice in the back of my mind. I was recalling a poem I had written many years ago, something that expanded on the simple statement, “How the future is depends on what we do now.”

Train Time

Time is a train
It leads our future
Into their pasts
And we are all conductors
For into this world
We have been cast
We ride this rail
Hard and fast
Always filling our hearts content
But now and again
It’s good to look back
To see which way we went.

Ahah!!!! Here we are. 300 Dufferin Street. London’s City Hall. In a few moments I will be meeting some of my fellow Londoners as we raise our voice to share ideas and plans that could save a very special place – The Meadowlily Woods Park.

But, that’s another story…


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