Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Visitor

I have a visitor!   

Who would have that a homeless itinerant vagabond could be a host?   However, Lovely Louisa has come to visit me here on my way to Hamburg.   She has actually been with me the last three days, I just haven't had the chance to catch up on my posts.  

My tent is typically a lonely place.  I had long forgotten the pleasure of sharing a tent.  What a pleasure to wake up with someone!   What a pleasure to be able to share the beauty and adventure that I typically encounter alone with someone else.  Her being with me is giving a whole new perspective on my experience.  I am seeing what is 'normal' for me through her eyes, and realizing that its not as normal as I would think.

Tonight, a rain storm, two close call crashes has led Louisa to treat us to a wonderfully warm and fabulously luxuriant (well for me!) hotel.  

Another great wake-up awaits me.  

I mean 'us'! 

 I need to get use to not being so solitary!

Yesterday's Creation, Today's Crash

I am trying to get a new artistic creation created every day.    

Given how far behind I am on uploading my latest art to my blog, I am not doing too bad.  Here's a some photographic photoshop fun made almost a week ago.   Its based on a photo of a recycled paper depot that I passed cycling into Leer, Germany.

I write from Oldenburg Germany.  Just survived a little car crash.   A car pulled out in the bike lane and despite my  drastic swerving and braking I hit it.   Did more damage to the car than me or my bike.  Was so totally the driver's fault that he did nothing but apologize despite the massive scratch on the side of his car.   

All is totally fine.  

 It was a good reminder of how instantenously things can change from good to bad.   

Indeed, one must be grateful for the moments one has. 

 As my good friend Andrew always reminded me, you just never know when you're going to check out.

It was also a good reminder to tighten up my brakes!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Post it Notes in Gronigen

While hanging out in Groningen last week, I had the good fortune of making the acquaintance of Sigrid-- an authentic Frieslander.   Frieslanders are from Friesland-- a province in Northern Holland that the rest of people in Holland make jokes about, partly because they have their own unique version of Dutch.  They also have a funny flag with lots of hearts on it.  

But they are not really hearts.  They are just lillies!   For a moment I thought that everyone was going way overboard celebrating Valentine's day.   

Sigrid is a modern art enthusiast.  We had just made a dinner in honour of our friend Wout.  After his departure, we sat sipping wine.  She complained aloud about how empty her walls were despite her love of art.

Well, as an artist, I too cannot bear the site of empty white walls.   As an artist it is also my personal passion to solve this problem for people!

I proposed we do something about it.  After a little cajoling and turning up the music, we set to work with some spontaneously discovered post it notes.

The above is our little creation!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Last Night in Holland

I write this post from Bad Zwischenahn, Germany.   It reaches back into the past a few days.  However, I've only just now been able to download this photo and post it.  I wrote about this night in words, but this photo is too cool to not share.

How fitting that my last night in Holland should have been so magnificent.  How fitting that the a night of personal reflection, sitting in front of this canal, should indeed be so reflective.


My goodness, how could I possibly have known that I would have such an amazing and profound time in this little country?   I thought it might take me a week to pass through.  Instead its been more like four or five and I can now tell stories in Dutch!

I made new friends, met old ones, sailed through blue skies, suffered through sleet snow and crazy windstorms.   I cruised over the most amazing bike trails and roads and bridges I have ever seen and waited at traffic lights with a crowd of fellow cyclists.  I met Christians, atheists, families and foreigners.   I spent nights in the smallest and quaintest of towns and the biggest and most thriving of cities. 

I discovered Love and experienced it to heights and lows that I never imagined.     I shattered old ideas that had shackled me with their rusty chains and replaced them with white wings.   I painted a mural, I rode double and tipsy on the back of a bicycle, I played with children, I embraced the elderly, I even camped in a swamp.

Most of all I experienced a people that think of themselves as cold and distant but are in fact warm and generous and helpful and friendly to strange strangers.   I was able to share my stories of Dutch kindness to the Dutch themselves and watch as one act of kindness bounced back and forth inspiring yet more.


Thank you Holland.  Bedankt Nederlands!

Friday, February 20, 2009


That's me cruising into Germany as the sun sets!

I am in Leer, Germany as I type. 

I made it.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

3 kms from the German border!

All this way. Can't beleive it.


From the tent

I type this out on my iPod from my cozy sleeping in this morninng. Last night I found the most amazing camp site on the edge of a forest. My tent is sheltered in the wwoods while I have the view of an expansive field and horizon. There is a canal out my front door where I sat last night and had my dinner.

I watched as the sun set, the clouds cleared, and the constellations revealed themselves one star at a time. Beneath my feet the celestial show was mirrored in the still water.

Supposedly it was minus 4 last night but it didn't get me. I sat there for several hours meditating on expansive scene before me. I sent out love to those close to me.

I departed Smithsrs reading a book. Courage was it's title and theme. Choose always the unknown was it's dictum. Let go of the known and the comffort of the moment, have courage, live dangerousluy. Live.

No offense to Wout, but despite his warm ands funky abode, this site is even more comfortable than my mattress on his floor. I won't say cooler because I had a pretty fun time there. However, who would have thought?

Well I guess Osho would have-- the author of the book! He even had some words for artists. Choose the unknown, forget about fame and fortune, and creativity will flow and you life will know a RICHNESS that you cannot fathom.


(not that i am any good at leaving comfort given my dally in griningen!)

Well on that note, I would say it's time to leave this oh so warm bag and embrace the new day!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wouterful Webdesigning

Arriving into Groningen, I had been on the road for a while.  Much 1Mandala website work had been pilling up.  As I cycled nearer Groningen I put out the intention of getting a whole lot of work done on the web site.  I guessed that my friend Wout would probably have a good WIFI connection that I could work with.

Now, I knew that Wout was a designer, but I didn't remember exactly what kind.

He's a web designer!  Not any web designer, but a top notch, ultra professional and experienced designer working for a Dutch company that's striving to be the best in Europe.

I was showing Wout the 1Mandala page Sunday when he stopped me and asked about the code. Suddenly, his gaze at the screen intensified.   He fell silent as he scrolled impossibly fast through the back-end HTML.     "Do you mind if I clean this up a bit?  I really can't stand to see code like this."  It wasn't so much a question as statement of what would happen next!  Before I knew it he was in ravenous code mode! 
Wout is a human interface and useability expert.  He one of those guys who loves what he does and his passion for his work carries into his Suday afternoons.    He jumped right into the code. In fact, the rest of Sunday he's spent revising the code of the main 1Mandala template from scratch!    

I don't know quite what to say, but the page has been dramatically revised from the bottom up!   
The visible changes are subtle.   The page is simply simpler.   Its easier to use, loads faster, and will integrate better into sponsors.  The page much easier to make sense of for first time visitors.

 The anology that comes to mind is the honing of a diamond.  After the first cuts of the jewler its looking pretty good.  However, let the jewler finish his refinements and fine cutting and it dazzles at a whole other level.  

Bedankt Wout!

You can see the new page here:

Good Times in Groningen

I write from the city of Gronigen in Northern Holland where I am visiting my friend Wout. Wout and I met four years ago when he and I shared a 12 hour ferry ride through BC's west coast.  Interestingly enough, I was on my bike at the time too.   After the long ferry ride we exchanged e-mail addresses.  

 Its funny how you connect with some people and not others.   There was another guy who hung out with us on the ferry, and he is but a shadow in my memory.   However, Wout and I have kept in sporadic touch for four years.

Wout's town is on my route to Berlin.  I've actually been meaning to pass through for months but, as you know all sorts of adventures have befallen me.  Thankfully, he was still as welcoming as back in November when I originally suggested that I would pass through.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Road to Groningen: Friesland is Friendly.

I write from the city of Groningen in Northern Holland.  So many amazing things have befallen me on my way here, that I haven't been able to keep up with my blog-- despite making three post on Sunday.

I feel deeply compelled to share some of the crazy kindness I've encountered here in Northern Holland.   In Southern Holland, Abby had told me about the Frieslanders-- a strange and curious folk that spoke their own version of Dutch, and that kept to themselves.  I was very curious to experience their land. 

 I've noticed that the Dutch really seem to think of themselves as cold and distant and ungenerous.   My experience has been the complete opposite!   Especially here in Friesland.

My first night in Friesland, I had found an open Wifi network in Harlingen's small town square.  It was 10:30 PM when I sent my last message, shut my computer and prepared to head off into the cold, windy and wet night.  It had not been a good day (read the stove episode!).   I was not looking forward to finding a campsite at this hour.   

As I got up a lady emerged from the front door of a nearby house.  "Are you leaving?" she enquired.  I was certain that she had figured out I was pirating their Wifi and that the cops were on their way.   "I am going, I am going" I tried to assure her.

Her next words blew me away.

"Would you like a hot coffee? A bowl of soup?"  

You have to understand that at this point, my fingers were frozen from typing, and I had completely resigned myself to camping under a wet bush.  Not only that but I had just been talking to a friend who had been taking a hot bath.   

I stammered my delighted acceptance.

The rest of the family joined us in the living room as I craddled my soup with cold hands. Apparently they don't see many Canadian cyclists out their front window!  Before I knew it I was invited to spend the night in their spare bed room.   And then... to my utter awe I found myself taking a steamy hot bath.   I was flabbergasted.  I fell to my knees in the bathroom and thanked the universe (really!).  

Its amazing how little things can mean so much.  

I think the Harlingen family saw this and they were delighted to share some little things with me.   After such a bad previous day, I left feeling restored, warm and sunny again.   Beautiful.  Bedankt!

Let me also mention that they were proffessional maritime acheologists!   The next morning we talked into the afternoon about their exploration of the Lucine, a 17th century wreck of a ship carrying lots of gold.  They had artifacts all over and a movie of their 20 year odyssey.  Talk about interesting.  And I shared my art.   It was a great exchange.   

Yet in my two days traversing Friesland, this was but the start of the kindness!   There was the lady who actually stopped her car beside me when I looked lost to give me directions, got out and walked up to me.  Then there was the farmers that insisted that rather than sleep in my tent I sleep in their barn with 20 pregnant sheep (he fed them well and they were quiet)!      The hockey player who gave me directions.   The man who told me about the Friesland flag...  It goes on!

Friesland is definitely Friendly.



Sunday, February 15, 2009

More Shades of Blue!

Notes of Blue No. 1 - Mural Study

There's been lots of blue on my blog of late-- I am hope you enjoy the colour!   

As I was painting my Amsterdam mural, I also painted four other paintings.   These are not only complete, but they are for sale!   Here they are with a little studio context.   Prices and sizes range from 16 x 10 to 24 x 30 and $200 to $600 USD.  Drop me a line for more details or prices in Euros!

Notes of Blue No. 2 

Notes of Blue No. 3 - SOLD

Notes of Blue No. 4

The Final Mural

I almost forgot to post this picture!   Here is a photo of the completed mural, complete with the illustrious final touch of yellow.  The mural goes around the corner to the side wall to play yet a little more with dimensionality.  Click to enlarge.

The Land of the Wind

Passing wind mills on a windy day.

Has it been really less than a week since I left Amsterdam?   So much has happened!   Alas the first few days after getting back on the road were not so good.  

Ok, let's be honest... they sucked!

It rained and it blew.  In fact, I haven't seen so many wind turbines in my life.  They all were aligned in the direction I was heading!     My Northern trajectory took me straight into the 50-60 km/h wind.   I had to my set up my tent in wet forests with the sleet coming down.   Technically it sucked.  Yet, existentially I was still on a high from my amazing time in Amsterdam.   I was litterally singing in the rain.   I was still processing the great experiences, and preparing the YouTube movie in the last post.

Just when the technical situation was brightening, things went instantaneously to really sucky. It is actually amazing how fast things can change.   I had found a great forest campsite, the sun had come out, and I was cooking up a great meal that would last me several days.  The smell of bacon was just started to pique my hunger.

Alas, I was experimenting with a new fuel.   Uh... turpentine.  What the heck was I thinking?!   

The fumes got into my pot, and contaminated my food.  My pots were blackened beyond cleaning.  I was starving so I had to break my great campsite into town for an expensive Chinese food restaurant that blew my budget completely.  Then, the next morning I realized that in my disapointment, I had left my high end titanium stove back in the forest.   I even went back.  I couldn't find it-- undoubtedly something to do with its blackened state!

All I could find was my Welsh love spoon.  A special culinary gift from a special someone that I had forgotten at the campsite.

So my load is much lighter now.  No stove.  No gas. No pots!   

But I have the love spoon.   

Love.  What more do you need?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Into the Blue

I am really excited to share this movie.

It was created over the last week during my time at Bob's Hostel in Amsterdam.   I must say, I had a pretty amazing time.   I remember pulling into downtown Amsterdam without any idea where I would go and what exactly I would do.   All, I had was a thought-- boy it would be nice to spend a little while in this cool city.

Sitting here, in a small Dutch town almost two weeks later as I ride north, I  shake my head.   If you've been following my blog you've read some of my the adventures and blessings that have befallen me here.    How the heck did all that happen?   I've been feeling a lot of gratitude.  And I have been feeling a lot of love-- from people near and far.  The combination has put me on a cloud most of the week.   I hope that my intuitively, non-planned creation of this mural and movie reflect a little of what I was feeling!  

It is a mural that was meant to be just blue, but was instead infused with golden light.  Quite literally!   For a few days I laboured over whether to keep my original austere vision of a strict tonal exploration of one hue of blue-- or to add some yellow.   The one colour concept is an idea that I have had for a while and which involves keep to certain rules and restrictions.

When I posted a request for advice on my blog, I received a dozen or so comments on whether to add yellow.  Thank you for all your feedback!   The consistent theme of the comments was "Follow your heart".  

That made it easy.  

My conclusion:  Add the yellow, add the light, go with love.   Drop the silly rules and prescriptions that would keep such a vibrant addition out.   The more love, for the more people that one lives and expresses the richer and deeper and more fulfilling one's moments are.   



Tuesday, February 10, 2009


After a rich, exciting, creative and fantastically fun week in Amsterdam, I am off. I am back on the road. No cozy bed tonight. In fact its 7:30 PM here at this little restraunt and I have no idea where I am going to be tonight. Fantastic. I am breathing the fresh air deeply. It is great to be back dancing with the unknown!

Chess at the Hostel: Merci Pere Fournier!

It is sure interesting how the past shapes the future.   

Growing up in my teens in Ottawa, I joined a French Canadian Catholic cyclist group.  Each summer I would spend two weeks on a 1000 km journey somewhere in Ontario or Quebec with 30 or so other teens.

I was neither French Canadian nor Catholic!   In fact, the first year, I was the first Anglophone ever to be part of the group.  I loved it.  So much so, that I persuaded my parents six years in a row to let me return.  

I can trace much of my love of cylcing, my love of languages, and my love for chess to Le Camp de Amitier.    Yep, chess.  You see, the group was led by Pere Fournier, a Catholic priest in his 60s.  Pere Fournier saw too it that everyone not only kept in line, but had a good time.   In the evenings, after a long day's ride, he would take out the chess boards.

Not only did my French flourish to heights my other anglophone friends could only dream of, so did my Chess.   Of course, I didn't realize it at the time.   

I never won!    

Pere Fournier was merciless.  

You would think that over six years, you would let the poor kid win at least once.  Nope.  Game after game, year after year, I was thoroughly trounced.   I would look forward each summer, not only to the cycling, the amazing friendships that formed, the cute girls, but also the epic chess rematch!   

I would labour for eons over moves, determined to finally win.   But in vain!   Yet from all those mistakes, losses, and defeats, came some pretty darn solid chess experience and skills.   Little did I realize but Pere Fournier was teaching me.

At the hostel here In Amsterdam, there were a lot of chess boards around.  

There were also chess players from all over the world.   Most were pretty darn good.  The guys had openings, end games, were forking, pining, and skewering, and knew obscur rules that I didn't.   Yet, in my week at the Hostel, I was undefeated.   I won something six or seven or eight games in a row.   It was alot of fun, and frankly, I was rather surprised!

Merci Pere Fournier.    Somewhere, up there with St. Peter, I suspect you're smiling as I cycle, speak French, and play Chess all at the same time!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Another Test

Trying out another iPod application here.

Posted with LifeCast

iPod test post

Typing on my iPod in Amsterdam with a new little program. Let's see if this works....

Yellow or White!

I've come to all but the conclusion of my mural.

One last detail eludes me.   The center eye needs a colour.   I have used all blue tones thus far and have covered up the original yellow lines.  Yet, this can of yellow paints sits beside me in all its golden glory!   Its soooo tempting to add a little yellow to the painting.   The yellow of course changes everything.   It brings out the blues, but also detracts from the simlicity by commanding much attention.

So... to help decide what to do, I've take two photos.   One with the yellow added, and one without.   Tomorrow, before I head onwards, I can finalize the painting.   I will sleep on it tonight.  Or rather... beside it.   Tonight my bed is in the dormitory with the mural!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Me and the Merry Mural

My mural is progressing!   In fact, I should be done in the next day or two.  Alas, I can't use my camera to take any picktures as it is tied up.  Literally.  I've tied it to one of the dormotory beds and am taking a sequence of photos to make into a little experimental stop-motion movie of the mural's evolution.

In the meantime here are two impromtu photos taken with my webcam!  Still under development

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Moon Over Amsterdam

The Moon and Venus hung in the sky like two lovers alone in a sea of blue.  

Beneath the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam surrounded me.   As I crossed one of the bridges over one of the many canals, I couldn't help but pull out my camera.  The camera has taken a fair amount of abuse over the last 3000 kms.   For a moment it wouldn't start, and a memory hit me

You see it is a camera with a story.   

Passing through a remote part of Vancouver Island, BC, I met Ian.  I told Ian about my mandala project and I also expressed my frustration at the recent demise of my old camera.  It had been decidedly vanquished by my the tribulations of my journey!  There I was traveling through all these beautiful places, and I couldn't take photos.  Nor could I take photos of people's smiles!

Ian handed me the cash to buy this camera.

I am still in awe of Ian's impetuous jaw dropping generosity and kindness.  Perhaps he glimpsed something about our connection that I didn't at the time.  Ian and I have kept in contact since.   He has featured in one of my paintings.  We've shared an ongoing, lengthy and personal correspondence since.  Our dialogue has been uncannily therapeutic, helpful and inspiring.  

Thank you Ian!  

The camera opened up, and I was able to shoot the shot above.   It has served me immensely well, and continues to.  Hurray!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Mural

I am working on a mural in Amsterdam!  

 I have been giving free license to do what ever I want on one of the dormitory walls in a downtown hostel.   Talk about fun!   Perhaps its a repressed childhood inhibition from getting in trouble drawing on the walls as a kid.

I've had the idea of doing a large abstract colour painting for quite some time-- using my black line style.   Of course, I also have my mandalic tendencies.   They come together here in this sketch.   A 3D twist has worked its way in also.  In New York, working with Amie in her studio, she was always sketching swiss cheese like shapes-- undoubtedly its her influence.   Painting without a plan like this, it is always fascinating to sit back and see the many ways one has been influenced.  

Thanks Amie!

Monday, February 2, 2009

A Marvelous Day

Its a marvelous day.

I rode into Amsterdam only three days ago without a clue as to where I would stay and what I would do.   I thought to myself:  "I'd love to stay here a few days".

As I was updating this very blog (see the last entry!), the manager of the very hostel that I had passed only 30 minutes ago, sat down beside me at the cafe where I was warming up from my ride into town.   We shared a really nice connection.   After hearing my crazy story, she took a look at my ladden bike, and I was invited to stay a free night at the hostel.   It was a very kind offer and I could do no other than to accept.

One thing has led to the other, and the hostel, which is embarking on incorporating art into its rooms, has commissioned me to paint a mural!   Its a modest comission, but I am like a solar panel that has been sitting on the floor of the Sahara all day--- I am brimming over with excitement and enthusism to be here!

I have to shake my head in wonder.

Here I am, in the center of Amsterdam, doing an art commission.  I am staying for free in the nicest single suite the hostel has to offer.   I basically have my own place, breakfast, coffee and drinks for free for the next week in the heart of one of the coolest cities in the world!  Not only this, but I am doing precisely what I love.  A mural without any artistic restrictions!    I have actually had an idea for just such a project for a year now.   

I am going to do it!   Nay... I am doing! 

 This solar panel is going to explode has alot of shine to share!    Time to turn up the tunes and paint!