Connecting with the Homeless

It was my 3rd Friday off this past weekend and I relished knowing that this was ME time. A time to relax, feel inspired and expressive. A time to catch up on items longstanding through the week and a time to potentially catch up on sleep. But what made this weekend so exciting and special was the time that I set aside for an incredibly worthwhile project … Homeless Connect (HC2) at the City Hall, downtown Calgary. HC is a city initiative at attempting to end homelessness by the year 2010. Noble and lofty goals indeed. Having lived here for the past 2 years, witnessing the dire circumstances of many people (50% of whom have jobs) who just can’t afford to house themselves, I see the mass difficulties that the city faces. The occupancy rate in Calgary is extremely high, and with the price of accommodation through the roof, trying to come up with first & last months rent + a security deposit is an impossible task for many, considering that the Landlords here in Alberta seem to have all the rights over tenants; it seems like the proverbial 1-way street in the way of rights and legalities favouring the home owners. But that’s another story ….

sKYflowerSI have always enjoyed volunteering, giving of myself to another without anything expected in return. And in every circumstance that I’ve donated to such causes, I often get back more than I actually give. This however is not about who comes out ahead. Rather it’s about giving of myself and offering a hand up (rather than a handout) to those in need. Feeling so blessed in my life with the world falling into place in every sense of the word, I have everything plus my love and time to give. One could say that I am ‘overflowing’. To this extent, I jumped at the chance at helping out with this quarterly event (the 2nd of its kind – I was unable to make the first, last Spring).

So early Saturday morning, I followed the same schedule of readiness, as if it were a normal workday, and made my way downtown, with a smile on my face and a skip in my step. I didn’t really know what to expect, beyond the unexpected. So to arrive and discover that I was offering my cre8tive services to the Arts and Culture (‘This Is My City’ initiative) booth left me giddy and happy at the possibilities that would unveil themselves. Basically “This Is My City” offered an enticing artist trading card workshop where anyone who was interested could cre8te their own powerful piece of art, on 2 x 3 inch cardstock. This initiative was sponsored by the Arts and Culture Department of the City of Calgary.

I discovered that, at first, most people were leery and skeptical of particpating, saying that they lacked experience and / or any artistic skill … the desire really didn’t hit them that day, nor did they often feel inspired in the harsh world they exist in, every single day. This doesn’t lend itself to invoking a sudden yearning to paint / sketch / cre8te. The homeless people who came to this event were in search of help, resources and connection, rather than offering to participate on this type of ‘frivolous’ level. Art seemed to be the last thing on their minds. Trying to convince people that a spontaneous artist existed within each of us, regardless of the experience, was a difficult, awkward and hard sell.

With the mindset that inspiration is a far better leader than coercion or bribery (why can’t politicians grasp this concept?), I sat down for 4 hours and literally explored, divulging my soul through many a mixed media, and played! Given every sort of cre8tive material imaginable, I painted with acrylics, and drew with chalk, oil pastels, markers, pencil crayons and glitter. I collaged with magazine photos and art paper. I wrote poetry and weaved it into a colourful song on paper. There was no end to my non-digital cre8tivity! And oh how I loved the freedom to express, on such a pure, non-demanding level. Who knew that I would find such joy and gratitude in today’s event? I haven’t been this free to cre8te (with such a plethora of materials) since I was probably in kindergarten. And with my earnest attempts to be as colourful and flamboyant as I could be with no holds barred in my art, people started to enquire, inquisitive about this young girl focused so intently on having fun. I felt like a child given the permission to run rampant with my imagination. And all the tools were provided to express my outlet. And slowly, slowly, people came to sit down and speak with me. Opening up about their childhood dreams, their cre8tive pasts, their addictions which often hampered any possibility of cre8tive expression. And with a little coaxing, I managed to inspire the uninspired into weaving their story on to paper. The art and colour which emerged was incredibly beautiful. The stories, the music, the cre8tivity inspired was an artistic masterpiece which burned itself deep into my soul. The images below are some of the art that was inspired and produced.

words of the homeless

words of the homeless

The impact made on me can be expressed with a few sentences:
“Every Man, Woman or Child, regardless of race, religion, colour or financial status has a heart bursting to be explored, expressed and admired. Art is the pathway and mirror to the soul. And we are all beautiful, with our own story to tell. The possibilities and variability’s are endless, boundless. We are all unique, in need of the freedom of expression, and we are all worthy.”

  • Live artfully.
  • DreAm beautifully.
  • Live blissfully.

Explore, find joy, breathe deeply and savour. Now go cre8te and explore your heart in the vast expanse of life’s colour.

7 years and holding

Celebrating 7 years of anything. Now that in itself is a huge feat in my life! To honour that time with slaDE~, now that is something I truly treasure.
In honour of our 7 years together, I wanted to celebrate this momentous occasion with the fullest and most entertaining experience possible (for a Wednesday night that is). Something truly special for my beloved. In this case, using the tickets that I won to the Theatre Calgary play ‘Skydive’ seemed appropo and enthusiastically fun! Racing home on my bike (yes, I’m still cycling every day to work, despite the minus temperatures in the morning), I arrived breathlerss and in desparate need of a shower, however quick that might be. In true fashion, I was ready and raring to go in 10 minutes; remarkably on time for our 5:15 reservation at the fine dining restaurant ‘Cilantro’. We’ve been wanting to go here for ages, but being as spendy as it is, we wanted to hold out for a special occasion, such as tonight. The dining extravaganza didn’t let us down. The seafood was divine and cooked to perfection. After luxuriously savouring our meal, we strolled down to the theatre hand in hand and, upon arriving, settled in to our seats, with full bellies and satisfied smiles.

my HusbandThe play was outstanding (and involved no standing!). Many corny references to the 80s era and 80s music were made. Two actors managed to fill the stage and 90 minutes with high flying acrobatic-like maneuvers. How they did this was incredible …. it involved a cantilever see saw of sort that had the actor attached by a harness around the pelvis to a hoist that was maneuvered by 4 men on the other weighted end. I wish that I had taken a photo of this remarkably simple but efficient ballast system that had a steering wheel on one end to twist and turn the actor on the other. What truly was remarkable is that one of the actors was a paraplegic! The system had molded legs that helped the actor stand and fly and rotate in every possible direction. What an incredible gift. Needless to say, we were enthralled by the whole experience, loving every moment of this incredibly engaging and witty story.

As Morgan tells his brother Daniel in the play “When you free-fall, you don’t feel the fall, only the free”.

The Globe and Mail desrcibes the system as such

Technically, Skydive is a fascinating and unique show. Frazer and Sanders are each strapped to an ES Dance Instrument, a device invented by the show’s “aerial choreographer” (and former Arctic explorer) Sven Johansson in the 1980s. The actors are attached to long steel poles and manoeuvred like puppets up and down, side to side and in spiralling circles by black-clad operators.

Sven also pioneered dance for the disabled in 1994. “The ES Dance Instrument compensates for lack of balance, blindness and muscular inability,” he says, “giving freedom of movement to persons who would not otherwise be able to dance for enjoyment or artistic expression.”

A wonderful anniversary to say the least!

projecT 366

I’ve been needing a cre8tive zap in the butt … and I think that I’ve actually found something! Although it requires a HUGE commitment on my part, this is exactly what I’ve been longing and searching for ….

My cre8tive commitment for 2008 … posting pictures (hosted by flickr) that I’ve taken of: anything, anywhere along my journey in life, just as long as I upload a digital image for each of the 366 days, counting from the first day I started (that being today, January 15, 2008). The rules state that my pictures don’t have to be taken on the day that I post them (whoO!), but rather, the photo should represent that day of the image posting.

Today is a day of burgeoning cre8tivity … and my beginning photo is ‘sKY flying amidst the clouds’ — this represents one of the themes for my portfolio and cre8tive outlet / outlook, thuS symbolizing

You can follow my journey here at: I’m hoping to directly blog each and every day as well.

sKY flying

A walk in the park

soft downy colourMy favourite season of the year is tied between spring and autumn. Spring because of the clean fresh breathe of green paint and life found resplendent in nature. Autumn because of the fresh coat of sunset washed tint splashed so vividly everywhere in the flora (one last hurrah before hibernating for the winter). Wanting to capture my colours in their glory, a walk in Confederation Park was in order. Hope you enjoy my representations of nature stunningly gorgeous ….

one last hurrah
berries aglow
shadow play in the leaves
keeping my eyes open for bears
blue bells
memories of an autumn breeze
make a wish and bloW!
at rest

City and colour

Markets of any sort draw me within, lulling me into an inner frenzy, excited at the prospect of buying and supporting locally, lessening our environmental footprint. However, local here in Calgary pretty much means that the produce is imported from British Columbia. It seems, although factually I am not entirely sure, that Calgary does not cultivate any amounts of vegetable fare. In my opinion, Alberta focuses solely on its animal and oil-sands byproducts. I am saddened by this … the environmental impact is huge, the human ramifications, prolifically evident.

The weekend Ogden market is very similar to many marketplaces across North America. Colourful and vibrant, alive with the buzz of farmers / vendors, families and weekend warriors. I reminisce to past experiences of visits to the markets of other exotic locales … Africa, India and Guatemala come to mind, as if I were transported there by the sounds and smells of my current positioning. The only missing element is the swathe of brooding insects on open-faced presentations of raw fish and meat.

What rings true worldwide is the vitality and beauty of the outdoor displays … every colour under the rainbow tickling my senses. Mountains of peppers are meticulously positioned beside a celebration of succulent apples; swathes of vegetables happily adorned with delectable soft fruits and berries culminating into a cascading waterfall of colour, from one stand to the next. Choices everywhere. Quality is the desirable, invoked partially though the trial and error of taste test here and there. Heaven!

Here’s a couple of my favorite photos from India that I’ve pulled from my journal archives, to splash your desktop with colour and cultural festivity!
Spice heaven! …. [ 209 kb ] spicesDOWNLOAD for your Desktop.

Salaciously picante chilies … [ 347 kb ] spicesDOWNLOAD for your Desktop.

After our shopping extravaganza, I opted to give my hair a healthy trim before joyously hitting a few yard sales on my bicycle ride home. Staying inside seemed a crime on my favourite of days, with the luxuriously warm sun beating itself into a last-ditch frenzy, before Summer’s end.

Bootcut Seven jeansWell, on my first sojourn, I hit the mother-lode! Two stylish sisters were moving province / country and wanted to rid themselves of all their funky wares. Never a slave to fashion, I nevertheless dote on cute groovy clothes. I actually bought my first pair of ‘designer’ jeans. Seven jeans, that fit me like a glove. Her initial purchase price-tag of $250 left me gaping and speechless. How could anyone spend that much on denim? But intrigued by the tight stylish fit that worked wonders for my 40 year old butt, I bartered her down from the asking price of $20 with a few loonies to spare for other items. Unheard of, for me to spend that much on garage sale clothing, no matter the treasure value!

I actually did quite well walking away with an investment of less than $40, kitting out my wardrobe to new heights of fashion, this including a gorgeous Aldo leather attache / purse. Wicked!

After strutting my wares for slaDE~ to appreciate, we summoned enough energy to treat ourselves to Summer chillers at the local Second Cup. A strange and somewhat disturbing event was noticed after sitting down to read the papers, outside. Four police officers were enjoying their afternoon coffee, while one of their vehicles sat for at least 25 minutes idling. I get agitated when I see a vehicle idling for over 5 minutes in the inter, but for half an hour in the summer? Truly uncalled for, I think, regardless of the owner and badge. I actually had the nerve to approach them, asking why they let their cars sit in such an environmentally unfriendly state. I queried whether they needed it to be left running for the purposes of a quick escape? Their response was to keep their laptops cool, by way of air-conditioning. Do I sound alarmist in stating that such a matter is completely unnecessary, especially in 17 degree Celsius weather? Taxpayers hard earned dollars literally evaporating before our very eyes and noses, let alone taking a toll on the environment. Shouldn’t such public figures set a better leadership example in our shifting cultural and mental awareness? Global warming apparently was on the back-burner of their minds. Sadly appalling really! But unfortunately, all too common amongst us all 🙁 as we sit idling by.

Speaking of Mother Earth, slaDE~ and I watched a powerful pseudo-documentary on the worldwide tribulations of the effects of religion dividing the already segregated factions of our countries. The movie “Earth” by Deepa Mehta is an intelligent and deeply moving personal account of the partition between India and Pakistan in 1947, both astoundingly brutal, precise and cinematographically beautiful. Another must-see movie for those interested in World historical events, that continue to reverberate worldwide.

Lost Prairie Photos

What a jam packed weekend! After 7 long years of absence, I returned to Lost Prairie to many old time friends.

Sadly, I’ve yet to find the time to write about each glorious day, but I wanted to get some photos up so that you could enjoy the splendour. Forgive the old cliche / Chinese proverb, but what they say is true about a picture being worth a thousand words.

Check out Joe Jenning’s photos here:

A grand ‘ole time was packed into 3.5 days!

3 for 3 in 2006

slaDE~ in front of a frozen Sinclair Falls
I wonder if I should call this entry ‘Hot-tubbing Across Canada’ or rather ‘Hot-springing across Canada’ 🙂 !

What a delight today has been …. Our third hot-spring-ing session in 3 weeks here at Radium Hot Springs. Wow, wow, wow. The day started out luxuriously sleeping in and enjoying another day of R&R. We ate our breakfast and prepared our snacks rather quickly, as the day was starting to get away from us, with so much planned before the midnight hour. We had wanted to go hiking first thing and Slade discovered a trail that actually scooted beside the canyon up to the parking lot of the Radium Hot Pools. Bonus! When I say skirting, the canyon walls leading into the town were a couple of thousand feet higher than the road level. So this was predicative of the hike before us. Walking the short distance to the trailhead (the gates of the National Park) was the easy part. From there, switchbacks down to the Sinclair Falls gave us an inkling into the radical changes in altitude ahead of us.

Wow, the frozen configuration of ice patterns in both the falls and the rapidly running ice-covered stream was incredible. Here is my prize-winning photo from the falls. What I call as “A Canadian Goose: Frozen in Time”.
Hope you enjoy it as much as I did upon it’s discovery!!!

A Canadian Goose, Frozen in Time

We must have climbed about 1000+ feet up the canyon wall. The hike was purely magical .. We didn’t come across another human in our 1.5+ hour trek. (30 minutes of that time was spent stopping to take photos and enjoy the views), with heavy snow puffs clotting the bows of the trees … And thousands of trees there were. Everywhere, tall thin pines with clumpy snow balls decorating every tree like a Christmas decoration. It was quite funny when I shook one of those, and the snow tumbled down upon me, leaving me looking like a snowwoman! Gently cleaning the snow from my brows and face, slaDE~ laughed, wishing that he could have caught my naiveté on video (a youTube contestant for sure!). Timing is everything, I guess ;).

slaDE~ braves the Spa Waters with the camera in order to capture this COOL photo!We arrived at the Radium Springs Lodge parking lot and crossed the road to our intended destination … Radium Hot Springs hot pools. With a 1.5 hour massage scheduled only an hour away, we hung out in the gorgeous wide expanse of the steaming sultry waters (I’d say 3 times as big as Banff’s pool). Boy, the waters were a plenty filled with people from all destinations savouring the healing benefits of the thermal water. We had the extra benefit of a kick-butt steam sauna in the Pleiades Spa to help melt away the aches and pains.

SlaDE~ and I had different experiences with our masseurs … I like the really deep tissue grind of a good massage but I tend to get the less experienced weaker of the two (perhaps they think that the man can tolerate more?).

After a quick dunk in the hot springs, we left to join the rest of the town in celebration of Radium’s 16th birthday incorporation. Free hot dogs and hot chocolate to wash down the sugary vanilla pudding cake made for a quick hunger fix before our 9pm dinner reservations. Not really the most healthy of meals (I can just hear you, Sandy, gasping in delight!), but hey, with us hiking, spa-ing and dehydrating our water reserves (a good massage and steaming hot pools will do that to ya!), the ‘food’ washed down really quite nicely, filling our hunger gap. Next we tackled the toboggan run. Kids of all ages (ourselves included) hijacked other kids with their crazy carpets and hitched a ride down Radium’s zippy little hill. I’d forgotten the speeds that one can carry when on plastic hits snow, and without brakes! Liken it to a projectile bullet really … anything in your path, watch out!

SlaDE~ proved that one …. he hitched a ride with Grey, a little 5 year old bundled up so cutely! They took the first run without incident. The second run, another little boy (4 years old?) had fallen off of his lone sled; he wasn’t really attuned to the traffic around him. Poor guy didn’t see them coming when he fell off of his peppy ride. SlaDE~ was aware enough to shield them all as best as he could, deflecting his leg off of the standing boy. Luckily, everyone was okay. The little one cried a few alligator tears, more from fright methinks, but quickly jumped into the spirit again :).

sKY braves the crazy carpet with Matty
Next up was my turn, with the lively Matty and her slick crazy carpet. I haven’t been on one of these rides since my teen years, on the farm. What fun! We hurtled down the hill, several times, much to my delight. A nice bit of excitement to round off the day. But before returning to the hot springs for one last evening soak (we bought a day pass to the springs), we watched the firework finale held at the local golf course. Phenomenal! Really a wonderful exhibition in the winter time, smoke lazily hanging and floating in the air long after the pyrotechnic remnants have extinguished.

Happy New Year Everyone!
Our return to the springs was different this time, with the dark sky enveloping us like a warm cosy blanket, steam and darkness masking the hodgepodge of people filling many a gap. I’d say there was an even number of adults and children alike … we were lucky enough to witness a large family with their 3 month baby there, so cute, the clan, all adorned in their winter hats in the water. I was amazed, truly, at how many kinsmen had the same idea as us to spending their New Year’s Eve here. Fabulous!

Waterlogged we made our way to Helna’s Stube restaurant for a lovely European Gourmet dinner. However, the 70 minute wait for our food wasn’t so spectacular but, really, we were lucky to get in with reservations when we did, made only that morning.

Tired, satisfied and happy, we returned to our quaint Misty River Lodge room and rang in the New Year, drinking fizzy Aqua Libra and watching Dick Clark’s Rockin’ TV legacy.

PS. We’ve been loving the fact that we had a white Christmas in the Mountains! Quite different from last year’s sojourn to the desert. The question on our minds is, where will we spend the holiday season in 2007!

May You Find Your Peace on Earth in 2007