Thursday, September 29, 2011

Great Things Come in Threes

Great things come in threes…

Like the great tasting Reeses Peanut Butter Cups. Yum! Yum!

Like the Peacebus rules.

And the following three interesting photos…

Explanation: What's that below the Milky Way? Historic kilns. Built in the 1870s in rural Nevada, USA to process local wood into charcoal, the kilns were soon abandoned due to a town fire and flooding, but remain in good condition even today. The above panorama is a digital conglomerate of five separate images taken in early June from the same location. Visible above the unusual kilns is a colorful star field, highlighted by the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy appearing along a diagonal toward the lower right. Many famous sites in our Galaxy are visible, including the Pipe Nebula and the Dark River to Antares, seen to the right of the Milky Way. The origin of the green mist on the lower left, however, is currently unexplained.

Explanation: The scene might have been considered serene if it weren't for the tornado. During 2004 in Kansas, storm chaser Eric Nguyen photographed this budding twister in a different light -- the light of a rainbow. Pictured above, a white tornado cloud descends from a dark storm cloud. The Sun, peeking through a clear patch of sky to the left, illuminates some buildings in the foreground. Sunlight reflects off raindrops to form a rainbow. By coincidence, the tornado appears to end right over the rainbow. Streaks in the image are hail being swept about by the high swirling winds. Over 1,000 tornadoes, the most violent type of storm known, occur on Earth every year, many in tornado alley. If you see a tornado while driving, do not try to outrun it -- park your car safely, go to a storm cellar, or crouch under steps in a basement.

Explanation: What is that on the horizon? No, it's not an alien starship battling distant Earthlings, but rather a sun pillar. When driving across Ontario, Canada in early June 2011, the photographer was surprised to encounter such an "eerie and beautiful" vista, and immediately took pictures. When the atmosphere is cold, ice sometimes forms flat six-sided crystals as it falls from high-level clouds. Air resistance then causes these crystals to lie nearly flat much of the time as they flutter to the ground. If viewed toward a rising or setting Sun, these flat crystals will reflect sunlight and create an unusual column of light -- a sun pillar as seen above.

I just love all the amazing wonders that exist on our incredible planet!!!!

These photos and their stories were taken from a NASA website. This site showcases a different interesting photo every day. I like to peruse their archives to see all that they have to show - . Please enjoy!

So! I’ve filled you with inspiration to realize that our Earth is a magical place. But my job is not yet finished, for today. Before I end this blog, I feel I need to share with you a concern of great importance….

Yes – our world is full of wonder! But – we humans have created many, many problems that could destroy this world for future generations!

Yes – our world will never die! But – do we really want to create a situation that will cause the Earth to have to heal itself for other life forms, knowing that this healing process could take a few million years?

The future depends on what we do now! Let’s all do our part to raise awareness and instigate positive actions that will lead us to our glorious future!


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Happy Peace On Earth Day!!!!

Since today is International Peace Day, I thought that it would be most fitting to share some of the artworks that the students of The Peacebus have created since the beginning of the school year.

It doesn’t bother me that some of the artworks have spelling mistakes or that some of the peace symbols aren’t drawn perfectly. What really matters is the thought and creativity that goes into all of these expressions.

I’m a really lucky guy! I think that the students who ride on my bus are the most friendly, kind and peaceful people I have ever met. And I mean all of them!!!

In the past, the older students used to sit only at the back of the bus while the younger students sat at the front. I was very surprised and delighted to see that there is a lot of mingling going on throughout the entire bus. I had nothing to do with this – it’s just the way they are… and I’m glad!

Some of the older students have younger brothers or sisters and they often times sit together. The older students will share stories and play silly games with the friends of their younger sibling, who are sitting nearby.

Sometimes a young student will have trouble finding a place to sit and there is always an older student nearby to offer assistance.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen this type of behaviour before and I’m so glad that this is happening. Students of all ages working together is a very positive thing!

I got to work a little earlier than usual, on the first day of this school year, because I wanted to put up a few peace artworks so that my new students would be happy with the bus.

I greeted each student, as they boarded The Peacebus, in my usual silly way and by the time we arrived at the school I could see many smiling faces. I knew that this was going to be a great year!

Because I will soon be very busy with my wife and our newborn son (… and the countdown begins…) I knew that I would not have the time to work with my students on crazy and great art projects, as I have in the past. I decided to tame me down a bit, this year.

This fact has not stopped my students from – already – overwhelming me with their cheery inspiration! On the second day of school, in the morning, one young girl handed to me The Peacebus’ first artwork of the school year!!

That afternoon, two other students also presented me with their artful expressions! Day 2 and already three artworks for the bus!!!

By the end of the first week, fifteen artworks had been given to me to decorate the bus. I was in delighted shock! See what I mean when I say that I’m a really lucky guy?!

Last week, I asked the students if they knew why September 21st is one of my favourite days. The first few answers that were shouted out were, “It’s your birthday!” and “It’s your anniversary!”

I quickly told them that this day was not a special day because of something happening specifically in my life, “September 21st is a special day of celebration for ‘something’ that happens all the way around the world! It is a special Earth event.”

The students scratched their heads, thinking. I told them that they should ask their teachers and parents if they knew the answer. The next day, several of the students had the answer and soon everyone was talking about what they would do on International Peace Day!

This morning, I was blinded by the light at each of my bus stops. Almost all the students were wearing peace T-shirts, earrings, bracelets, shoes, handbags or hair-bands. I had a ‘Peace-Crew’ riding the bus! If the student didn’t have anything with a peace symbol on it, then they were wearing T-shirts with ‘Earth’ images on them – like trees, flowers, birds and animals!

I told the students that we could do other things to celebrate Peace On Earth Day and soon I was teaching them one of my favourite ‘repeat-after-me’ songs! We pulled into the schoolyard, singing very loudly and teachers and other students began to smile as our song filled the air!

HAPPY PEACE ON EARTH DAY, EVERYONE! May we be continuously inspired to realize that we can change the world, we can make a difference and we can build a future where we all work together to add a richness of colour to our planet that has never been seen before!

Mr. Jim

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


(Thoughts For The New Millenium)

In June of 1999, Joanne and I began our Cross-Canada art tour to work on the project entitled “Canada: Glorious To Be”.

Our first stop was Neepawa, Manitoba. During the first two weeks, we were busy looking for work and a place to live – at this point we were still sleeping in our van and cooking over fires at local campgrounds. We spent a lot of our time checking out all the local newspapers to aid us in our tasks.

It was Jo’ who spotted an advertisement posted by The Poetry Institute of Canada looking for submissions for a special collection of Canadian poems to usher in the new millenium. This gave me an idea.

Since my artwork and poetry is always filled with thoughts of understanding our past as we forge a brighter future for the world, I thought that this ‘Millenium’ concept was right up my alley. And, so, I began to jot down a few new ideas and a short while later my poem entitled ‘Peace-Fire (Thoughts For The New Millenium)” was ready to send off as my submission.

A few months later, I received a letter from the PIof C, telling me that my poem was in the running for some prize money! I was ecstatic!!! In the envelope, there were also a few order forms so that authors could purchase a leather-bound copy of the collection of poems that was being put together. There were also order forms for other items to purchase, as well.

Of course, I mailed in a cheque to receive my copy.

A few months later, I received my copy of the poetry book. Inside there were letters of thanks and all of that kind of stuff and a list of the finalists who had won a small prize. I was not one of the winners, but I was very happy to have been a part of something really unique and truly Canadian!

The next year, I received by mail, another offer by the PIofC to participate in another poetry contest. I submitted another poem and soon after received the same letter telling me that my poem was being considered for a prize. Enclosed were more order forms.

It was at this point when I didn’t feel so special. I began to realize this letter was probably being sent out to all contestants in a ploy to get them excited so that they would purchase products. Jo’ and I sat down with a calculator and using very conservative figures, we estimated how much money was being made off of poor artists by this national company. The estimated profits for the PIofC were staggeringly high.

I haven’t participated in any poetry contest conducted by the Poetry Institute of Canada since! :(

In February of this year, Joanne and I went on our first resort vacation to Mexico.

We both knew that this could be our only visit to this country, so I wanted to do something interesting and unique while we were there. I decided to do some filming – using my digital camera – so that I could bring my ‘Peace-Fire’ poem to life.

The poem takes the reader on a journey through the Earth’s history with thoughts about responsibility while considering the present so that the future of the world will be a joyous place. I thought that the landscapes surrounding Talum – an historical site filled with buildings and temples constructed by the Mayan civilization – would help me to capture images reflecting the world’s history. While in Playa del Carmen, I filmed some scenes to capture images of the present day world.

When we returned home, I started setting aside a few dollars every paycheck so that I could pay for professional editing services. A few months ago, I had saved up enough money and it was time to bring my ideas to life.

I contacted my friend Melissa Parrott – – to help me.

We got together at her recording studio so that I could record – using my guitar – the music that I wanted to hear in the background of this video. After that, we recorded me reciting the poem.

Notes and email letters flew back and forth between us over the next while as we discussed edits and storyboard layouts. Overjoyed may be a great word to use when, last Friday, I received an email from Melissa with a link to the finished video!!!!

And, now, ladies and gentlemen from around the world, it is my humble privilege to present to you…

I’m very confident that you will enjoy this video presentation! I’m really happy to have been able to share this with you.

Although I have asked – a few times in the past – my blog readers to participate in some of my fun peace-art initiatives, I have never asked anyone to help me promote anything… until now!

I would like to ask everyone to help me to share this video so that more people can enjoy it. You can share a link on your Facebook wall or on Twitter. If you have created a ‘group’ on Facebook, you can send this - - link to everyone in that group or send an email to all of your friends.

Your comments and support are always appreciated and I thank you in advance,


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

My Veggie Patch

Last year, I shared many a blog about my adventures in my veggie patch. I wrote about how to make a garden from a lawn, how to add leaves and grass clippings into the soil, how to make raised beds and how to harvest the yummy vegetables. Since I don’t like repeating myself, too often, I thought that I’d just share some of the highlights from this year’s garden…

In the early spring, my first chore was to expand the length of my garden – you can see that I’m building it into a long snake-like shape. I turned the soil over and buried all the composting plants from last year’s garden. I thought I’d try to grow some onions and I learned that they need to be planted very early and you can see that I created a raised bed for them.

The rest of the garden that is visible in this photo has been covered with the compost that I made from last year’s table scraps and yard waste. It looks like it is also covered in snow, but what you are seeing is a layer of crushed eggshells. Whenever I cook or bake using eggs, I put the empty shells into a container to dry and then I use a potato masher to crush them into tiny bits, before I sprinkle them onto my garden.

In the eggshell area you can see very small plants growing. Let’s take a closer look…

The entire area that I covered with compost started filling in with many of these small plants. That’s the benefit of putting compost into your garden – free food! You just don’t know what you’re going to get, though!!!

Many free plants started growing in this area and I built mini ‘volcanoes’ around each plant so that they would have more water to drink to grow. I was thinking that these plants could be pumpkin, acorn squash, butternut squash, zucchini, watermelon or cantaloupe. I also knew that the plants would take up a lot of space and that I would soon be choosing which three plants I would let continue to grow in this area. For now, I encouraged each plant to grow until I could determine the shape of the plants leaves – which would tell me how many different species of plants I had growing.

After a few more weeks I noted that I had three species and so I chose the healthiest of each species to continue to grow. At this point, I still had no idea what I was growing!

After the volcanoes were built, I covered the entire area with leaf mulch. In the autumn, instead of bagging my leaves, setting them on the curb and leaving them for someone else to deal with, I keep them, shred them and add their nutrients to all my gardens.

Then it was time to get the rest of the veggie patch ready. Before I could plant my tomatoes and beans, I first had to have my spring fire in the metal tirewall you see here. During the year, I collect all the twigs and branches that fall from my trees and every spring and fall I burn them in my garden. After the fire is reduced to glowing embers I rake them over my garden. The hot embers burn any weeds growing in the top layer of soil and the ash from the fire adds nitrogen to the soil.

Since my lawn grows so quickly in the spring, I also add these clipping to my garden, on top of the leaf mulch. The grass and the leaves will compost adding more nutrients to the soil and while they are composting they are also keeping the soil moist.

Hmmmmm…. all the photos in this story are filled with different shades of brown – a little boring. To brighten things up a bit, here are a few photos of the spring flowers that bloomed at the one end of this garden…

This is one of the tulips that bloomed. In the background you can see the colours of the blue forget-me-nots and a yellow daffodil.

Here are some allums just bursting to bloom.

Almost in full bloom.

In full bloom.

And now seeding after its bloom.

There – a splash of colour! Now back to the dirt…

… which can’t be seen anymore, cuz the entire area is filled with vegetable plants!!!!

The unknown plants, which grew from my compost, have taken over my entire garden! They’ve grown up into my juniper bush. They’ve grown all the way to my back hedge. They’ve taken over my back lawn. Yikes!!! Just three plants. Could you imagine what would have happened if I had let all the free plants grow?!!

Those of you with keen eyes have probably already realized that one to the three plant species is…

… a pumpkin plant!

Another of the three plants turned out to also be a pumpkin plant – a different kind of pumpkin plant tho’. The final plant grew up to be an acorn squash and in another week or so I’ll be harvesting these.

Having a garden and being able to provide at least some of the food that ends up on your dinner plate is very important – in my eyes – for creating a future for the world. What better way is there to establish a bond between yourself and our planet than by touching the Earth and tending to her flowers and vegetables? Think of all the chemicals that were not produced in factories because your garden didn’t consume any. Think of all the fuel that was not used in transporting food to your table. Think of the health of the food that you grow, realizing it is fresher than any other product you can find in the stores – tomatoes were not picked while they were green, to turn red during the transportation to your local store. The list of benefits goes on and on…

I hope that you have enjoyed watching my garden evolve through the last few seasons and I hope that I’ve inspired all of you to consider doing a little growing of your own!