Friday, April 27, 2012

Mr. Jim Celebrates Earthday 2012…

… with students from The Peacebus!

Earthday is one of my mostest favouritest days of the year! I love using my minds eye to see the millions of people from around the world celebrating the life energies of this ol’ great planet that we all share!! If the Earth could, I’m sure that she would send out a glorious ‘THANKS!’ to all those who cleaned up litter from parks, roadsides and river edges and those who planted trees, shrubs and bushes in parks.

To get to the Earthday event that I invited all of you – my readers – and my Peacebus students to, I hopped on a city bus. I live near Springbank Park and at this time of year so many colourful blossoms decorate the many trees along the roadside.

 I got dropped off downtown and continued my way to Watson Park via my feet, which was just a short 15 walk away. As I crossed over the Wellington Street Bridge I noticed that I was following and being followed by large groups of parents with their children. There were many in attendance and I thought that was just great!

It was still early – the opening speeches hadn’t even started yet – and people were already busying themselves with shovels.

To take this photo, I stood in an area that was planted last year. You can see that the trees are doing very well, with their leaves just starting to grow for this year. The areas that get planted are left to grow as Nature intended. The grasses and weeds and wildflowers fill the area and the Park’s maintenance crews let the long grasses grow. Each year less and less area is mowed and this means that less and less fossil fuels are burned in the mowing machines.

The trees that we plant are all indigenous to this region of Southern Ontario. Some coniferous species are planted, small shrub bushes like Dogwood and really tall trees – like this one – really help to completely fill in these areas. Just imagine how beautiful this whole area will look in another 20-30 years!!!!!

This (for now… soon to grow…) cedar is one of the trees that I planted last year. I always like to see if I can find the trees that I’ve planted in this space over the last several years.

In this photo we see London’s famous town crier Bill Paul – our M/C for the day, along with Steve Sauders – Mr. Earthday Canada himself inspiring the crowd with some uplifting words. “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time to plant a tree is today!” We also heard statements from the politicians seen here.

We all had a chuckle when one of the politicians said that all three of them would join forces in planting a tree, “to show that different levels of our government can actually work together!”

Every so often, I would gaze around the crowd to see if any of The Peacebus students and their parents had arrived. Last year, two students showed up and I was hoping that as many would show up this year. After the first hour had passed I began thinking that I might not see any of my students, but then, from a distance, I heard, “Hey Mr. Jim! Hey Mr. Jim!” and I turned to see two face painted students running towards me!!!!!

A few minutes later, I noticed another student already busy with his father planting several trees. Another quick moment later, I heard my name being shouted across the area as another student arrived. By the end of the day seven Peacebus students had shown up, bringing with them another twelve adults and so I was happy to realize that I had inspired 19 people to attend and plant trees on this amazing afternoon!!!

Over this last week, I’ve been collecting photos from the students’ parents, of the students who attended. I spent a while this morning designing this….

… poster that I’m going to make copies of to share with these students - a very personal souvenir to remember this day by!

I hope that your Earthday adventures were as educational and inspirational as the one that I participated in and on behalf of Mother Earth I extend unto you a soulful and heartfelt ‘Thank You!’

Mr. Jim

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Earthday Invites

Across the globe ‘Green and Clean’ events are in full swing as we humans get back in touch with dear ol’ Mother Nature! I’m here today to invite you to two special events that are happening over this coming weekend…

Last year, I wrote a small series of stories to raise awareness about an environmental issue that is happening in the area where I grew up, just north of Toronto.

History of the Mega-Quarry issue:

Since then (what over 40, 000 people have been doing about this):

The View From Here – Artists Against the Mega-Quarry
Art Exhibition and Sale
Evening Event with local food and live music… and of course, lots of art.
Saturday, April 21st, 2012
7pm – 10pm
Honeywood Arena, Honeywood, Ontario
Tickets are $20.00 and to get them you should email – although if you just showed up I imagine that you’d be able to buy a ticket at the door.

This event continues on Earthday, April 22, 2012 from 11am to 5pm for viewing, buying and bidding (auction style) on the many artworks that have been created to support this cause.

I was hoping to be able to attend this event, but I have other events, here in London, that are going to be keeping me rather busy. However, I was able to create a copy of one of my landscapes inspired by this region of Ontario, to donate to this effort. I won’t be in attendance but one of my artworks will be!

This coming Sunday, April 22, 2012 from 11am to 3pm I will be planting trees at Watson Park, London, Ontario. Watson Park is on the east side of Wellington Road, between South St. and Grand Ave.

Last year, they had a Birds of Prey display and talk with many amazing feathered friends.

Throughout the day, everyone got involved with creating this unique art display using pine cones, broken branches and dried grasses.

There was a bbq stand to keep our bellies full, jugglers and face painters to keep our faces smiling and reporters snapping pics and chatting with all the families about how much fun it is to do positive things to care for our Earth.

If you are in the area, drop by and help me plant a tree – I will have my pockets full of Peace Stik-ers to share with you!


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Temagami and Me

(An Artist Should I Learn To Be)
Part VII

The Peaceful Warrior
Paper Collage on Drawing Board
14” x 20”

It had taken Alan and me over five months to plan and prepare for our ten day walk across Southern Ontario to raise awareness about the clear-cut logging that was planned for the Temagami forestland. We had overcome many obstacles and challenges and in the end we had completed what we had set out to do. A short time later, Alan and I laughed when we thought about the fact that we still hadn’t been to Temagami to see what we had worked so hard to protect!

We wanted to travel together, but our work schedules didn’t allow that to happen. Alan made his own journey to the Northern Ontario forest and had many wonderful adventures. Joanne (my then girlfriend and my now wife) and I prepared for our own journey.

We found ourselves in the heart of the old growth forest for three life-changing days! We enjoyed a peace that we have yet to experience again, since that time.

I was in awe of the energy that I felt flowing from, through and over the land. Untouched in over 10 000 years, the trees, rocks and water sand a song to me about ancient times. I listened more closely and I could also hear the beavers, birds and dragonflies humming a tune about future days.

Our days were filled with sunshine and our nights were a window to the heavens. The waters were clean and the air was fresh and pure. I felt uniquely special for being able to experience this land in this way with the one I love.

As we were hiking along old hunting trails, endeavouring to find our way out of the forest, I heard a whispering voice in the breeze. This echo of the wind that blew through the trees’ branches asked me to share this story of love and beauty with the world. I acknowledged this request with a smile and a nod of my head, though at that time I had no idea exactly how I would do this.

A week later, I had a profound dream. A dream that would open up a brand new world for my mind and my spirit. A dream that would pull the blankets back, lift me from bed and lead me to my drawing table.

Joanne appeared in the entrance of our living room, rubbing her eyes, wondering what I was doing up at 3:00 am. “I had a vision come to me, just now, and I felt the need to draw it while it still remains in my mind,” I stated. “Who knows?… I just might end up being an artist!”

The End

+ + +

So… there you have it folks! The end of the seven part story that tells the tale about how one man surrounded by many family, friends and supporters was able to learn about and share inspiration about the Temagami forestland, and how that experience changed his (er – I mean ‘my’) life.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed it!

+ + +

I mentioned in my last blog how Alan and I had estimated that because of all the media support we had received, around 130 000 people had heard of Temagami for their first time. A very impressive number!!!!

Since then, I would estimate that I’ve been sharing tales across Canada, with the help of over thirteen different newspapers, a few arts and crafts magazines as well as radio and television interviews. In each of these interviews I always share the story of my first inspiration – Temagami.

I would now estimate that with these additional media spotlights that the forestland of the Temagami region has been heard about and read about by over one million people from around the world – some of my television interviews have been broadcast as far away as Australia.

One man shares a message with millions!!!!! Not bad considering I’m not a sports celebrity or rock star!

+ + +

‘Peaceful Warrior’ was created using paper collage techniques (using bits of paper cut out of magazines) that I have taught myself over the many years. I love how colours can be manipulated to create so many moods and depths to an art peace – notice how the sky changes from a light blue to a dark blue as it recedes into the distance.

This is the story of one tree (I’ve always compared this tree to be me – so in this way this art could be considered a self portrait) standing solidly as a protector of the forest in the far background. The sky is tranquil, dotted with a few fluffy clouds. The river meanders peaceful by the sandy beaches and the rocky terrain. All the elements that are ‘Temagami’ are present in this artwork. The concept of ‘reflections’ is also present as we see a small portion of the tree reflecting in the river’s water.

+ + +

I’ve mentioned how each of these seven artworks ended up being given to my close friends and family. I really wanted to keep this one for myself, cuz I just love it so much. But, I had already chosen my most favourite of this series ‘Earth Angel’, so I had to find a home for ‘Peaceful Warrior’.

This was an easy task. I had actually negotiated its new owners before my yearlong art tour began.

To prepare all seven artworks for this art tour, many of them had to be mounted, matted and framed behind glass. This was a problem for me, cuz I didn’t have any money to pay for this service. I approached a local art/framing gallery and asked if we could make a deal where they provided this service and in exchange I would provide them advertising at each of my exhibits. The owners thought that what I was doing was a wonderful thing, so they gave me much consideration. In the end, a deal was struck where they would provide this service for me, but in exchange they wanted me to give them 'Peaceful Warrior’ at the end of my art tour. A deal was made and we shook hands.

+ + +

‘Peaceful Warrior’ really struck a chord in my heart. Maybe this was because I did consider it to be a self-portrait. Needless to say, I have missed it over the years.

Because I love it so much, I have felt inspired to recreate this image on a number of occasions.

Every time this image came to life, the story of Temagami was told again.

Yes – the image was altered slightly. I got rid of the rocks and the river because the technique that I was teaching was very difficult for these grade 2 and 3 students.

The techniques that I taught during these classes were meant to resemble ‘paper collage’, just using paint and brushes instead.

The students loved to see how all their colour blending created such an unusual yet striking texture when the work was complete.

The Temagami forestland has been thriving and surviving on this planet of ours for over 10 000 years. I’ve only had the pleasure of making its acquaintance just a short 16 years ago. Since then, I’ve learned how to use the lessons that it taught me in many ways, offering inspiration to my fellow Canadians as well as the many international readers of this blog.

Continuously, I hope and pray that more people will become involved in this story and the many countless other environmental struggles that face our global civilization, so that the Earth’s inspiration will continue to flourish for all future generations.

‘Nuf Said


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Temagami and Me

(An Artist Should I Learn To Be)
Part VI

Dawn Chorus
Colour Inks on Drawing Board
14” x 9”

Upon completion of our exhausting journey throughout ten communities in Southern Ontario, Alan and I spent a period of time reflecting on our experiences. We discussed the events that had happened and we wondered about the things that were still to come.

We had set out to educate people and raise awareness about the issues of clear-cut forestry practices that were happening in the Temagami region of Northern Ontario and we both agreed that we had, indeed, accomplished that goal. With all of the support we received from many local businesses, the newspaper, television and radio media and community grass roots organizations, we calculated that between 80 000 – 130 000 people in Southern Ontario were now aware of Temagami’s existence and it’s struggle for survival. We were more than impressed!!

We spent many hours sharing stories of our adventures with our family and friends. Out of the many events that happened, two significant moments shine in my memory…

Our public presentation consisting of music, photographs and video recordings was a very dramatic expression, to say the least. I can remember, on several occasions, becoming very emotionally involved in the words I had prepared to share with our audiences.

At one of our venues a mother had brought her three year old son along to learn about Nature and humanities responsibility to act respectfully towards all of life’s wonderful creations… including the Temagami forestland. Later, when the presentation was over and we were about to have the ‘lighting of the torches’, this mother called me off to the side for some private words. With tears in her eyes she clasped my hands and leaning in she whispered softly in my ear, “Thank you.” She then hugged me, and looked down to her son and while smoothing his hair with her hand she said, “I’ll make sure that my son never forgets the lessons and understandings that were shared here, this evening.”

A few days later we were in the town of New Hamburg. It is a smaller town, but it showed us that it was filled with a lot of heart. Only seven people attended our presentation and no one thought that this was a bad thing.

A mother with two teenage daughters asked what our plans were for the night. I told her that Alan and I had a four hour walk ahead of us before we reached our prearranged campsite. The campsite was to be an area of untilled farmland at the back of a farmer’s field. She knew that we had to set off on our walk very shortly, and with gleams of star-shine in her eyes she simply asked if we could wait for half an hour before we departed. We did.

A short time later, I could hear singing and laughing, thumping and bumping and a lot of “Hooras!!!” in the distance. I nudged Alan and said, “It sounds like the town is having some sort of parade on the same day as our walk.” The sounds grew ever louder as they grew ever closer. Moments later, a group of five adults with twelve children loaded with hiking gear, tents, pillows, pots and walking sticks rounded the corner. We recognized several faces from our presentation. Alan and I looked at each other in absolute amazement!!!!

In the morning, the farmer who had shared his land with us, came to wish us a good day. He was rather speechless for a few moments as he looked upon our entourage of over twenty people, as we busied ourselves preparing breakfast under a row of trees that edged his field. He was delighted to sit with us to share a warm drink and listen to all the excited stories that the children had to share with him.

I smiled and my heart grew a size bigger, that morning.

(To be continued…)

+ + +

‘Dawn Chorus’ is, again, based on a photograph that I took while adventuring throughout the Temagami region…

I’d mentioned near the beginning of this short story series, that I learned about Temagami while attending presentations given by environmental organizations that had been working towards changing government policies to protect these endangered forestlands. While I was having my own personal adventures in this region, I happened along this group’s ‘protest camp’ that was set up just outside the next area that had been slated for logging.

I was invited to spend some time with this group and soon I was looking for an area where I could set up my tent. I found a large clearing along the edge of a wide river – it was a very peaceful place. I spent a lot of time with the people in this group – all of us excited to be sharing stories of our individual experiences over the last several months.

Together, we went for hikes through the forests. We got lost on one occasion causing all of us to have to cross through a swamp to find the trail, again. We spent the evening cooking dinners over a fire that was surrounded with wet boots and socks!

I also enjoyed many moments on my own. For hours I sat by the slow moving river, looking across the shore to the forest on the other bank. I meditated in my own fashion and found myself lost, on several occasions, in the rhythms and heartbeats of this forest. The energies of growth and vibrations of the Earth slipped in and out of my mind and my soul. I felt that I had ‘touched’ the Earth for the first time in my life.

I woke rather early, one morning, and I crawled out of my tent, wrapped in blankets so that I could experience a morning sunrise. As the sun began to push back the night stars a thick, eerie and mysterious fog began to form on top of the surface of this river. I took several photographs to try to capture this evolving moment. ‘Dawn Chorus’ is based on one of these photos.

Like many of the artworks created in this ‘Group of Seven’ series depicting the beauty of the Temagami forestland, ‘Dawn Chorus’ is based on concepts of reflection. While other artworks were designed around just one reflection, I felt compelled to add a second reflection to this art peace.

Near the top of this artwork we see a reflected ghost-like apparition. This is the fog that rose and settled upon the river. As we travel down the art we see an upside down silhouette of the forest. This is the forest reflecting on the surface of the river. Also reflected on the river is the morning sky, filled with gentle clouds and the bursting colours of the morning sun.

The second reflection found in this artwork is found near the left side. Quite simply, I added a mirror line and reflected the original reflection a second time on a vertical axis. The idea manifested in my designing mind and I just thought that I would look nice – adding more textures for the viewer to enjoy.

The title ‘Dawn Chorus’ came to mind on the morning when I experienced this sunrise. As the moment was unfolding I was thinking of Earth spirits – the undulating fogs looked like shape-shifting beings/angels/spirits - a choir, singing a chorus of celebration for the dawn. A chorus that embodied the word ‘hope’. As these thoughts were flirting with my brain I could here the banging of a deep drum and feel the electric pulse of Dave Sharp’s guitar while Mike Peters leans towards a microphone….

Dawn Chorus (excerpt)
By The Alarm

The tension in this world
Keeps me from sleep
I’m hungry and cold
There’s a weight hanging over my shoulder
A rain black cloud of doubt

Have I got enough love? Have I got enough hope?
Enough strength to face the world each day?
I know there’s an answer somewhere in this night
I see it each time I look in your eyes

I’m walking in a wild place
I am banging on the gates
On the other side of the tracks, babe
Hoping that someone’s gonna hear me pray

Oh there’s a dawn chorus breaking out all over this town

At that time, gazing across the river, I was naming the photograph I had just taken. It wouldn’t be for another decade when I would revisit this inspiration to bring this title to life again as it entitled a new peace of art.

This artwork was presented to not just one childhood friend, but two! Teresa H. and I have known each other since elementary school and while in high school Teresa met her husband to be, who is also a friend of mine. Eric is a member of the Green Party of Canada and Teresa is a teacher, so I was very happy to know that this artwork would be residing in a home that could appreciate its significance.