Give thanks by giving back


Happy Thanksgiving to all of my Canadian friends and truthfully anyone who just likes the narcosis of turkey and pumpkin pie, no matter what time of year.

I have an abundance of reasons to be thankful this year, as with all previous, but perhaps my greatest thanks is for my ability and resources to give back to my communities: financially, spiritually, however love is needed.

Below, I describe a couple of projects I have underway that will hopefully bear fruit for any number of groups.


Opportunity #1

As an avid fan of the Toronto Marlies hockey team and avid photographer, I have been combining my passions by photographing the home games.

A couple of years ago, I took that one step further by designing a photo calendar for the hockey season (Oct to Sep), listing all the games & many player birthdays.

The first year, it was just a gift from me to many of the other season seat holders.

You Can Play

Last year, I sold them to anyone interested simply to cover my expenses. At the end of last season, however, my ticket agent & friend Wayne arranged to have the team sign the calendar and we auctioned it off with a team-signed stick on Facebook.

I was blown away.

Between the winning bid and two matching bids, we raised $1050 for You Can Play (American link), a group that supports inclusiveness in sports with a focus on the LGBTQ community.



This year, I am doing the same, but donating $5 from every sale (calendars are $20) to the MLSE Foundation, an org that uses sports to build communities.

Of the 75 calendars I ordered, I only have 16 left after the two-day home opener this weekend (both Toronto victories). Fans from as far away as the United Kingdom are jumping on-board to help support my effort, the team and the MLSE Foundation.

If you’re interested in supporting the effort by purchasing a calendar, feel free to reach out to me on my Facebook page or via my Twitter page. And you can find my photography (not just hockey) on my Instagram account.

Also, Wayne is again having one signed by the team, so watch another auction in the coming months!

100 Days to a Better World

Opportunity #2

I love walking all over the city of Toronto and pretty much anywhere else I visit, photographing both the wildlife and the urban art landscape of graffiti and murals. With that in mind, I recently decided to see if I could use that walking habit to raise some money for charity.

100 Days To A Better World is the result.

For 100 days (to Dec 25), I will record my daily walking distance and my total to-date, inviting people to sponsor my distance (per km).

When the 100 days is completed and the cumulative distance is known, those lovely individuals can then donate their total sponsorship to a charity of THEIR choice.

Rather than focus on a charity I think is worthy, I want to convince people to give their money to groups they think are worthy. We spread the love.

To date, with the generous support of many people, I am earning about $3.30/km.

As of October 8 (Day 23), my total distance is 263.41 km (158 miles); so, we have already raised $870 for various charities.

I appreciate that some people may have an upper limit on what they can afford – in case I go crazy and hit 1000 km (I am frighteningly on pace for that). No problem.

If they can’t afford any money but are willing to cheer me on, then I am honoured to have their support.

Just in doing the exercise, in having the conversation, I feel that I am making this a better world. That charitable organizations may also benefit is the icing.

Painted Lady

Making a difference in the world doesn’t have to be difficult or even cost you anything financially.

It can centre on your passions, the things you do in everyday life and/or that bring you joy. It is as much about offering your time and spirit as anything.

It is about being open and loving. It is about being thankful.

I wish everyone all the best both in this season of thanks and throughout the months and years ahead.

Painting the night


Missing the slush (not my photo)

Stepping up from the drizzling darkness that changed snow to slush at my feet, I climbed onto the bus, swallowed by the jaundiced warmth to join my fellow riders, isolated from the world in their cocoons of rayon, wool and leather.

Taking a seat as the bus pulled away from the curb, I too slowly descended into mental torpor, an oblivious partner on a journey across the east end of town, the warm companionship of time spent with a friend leaching from my body like the heat of a dying ember.

But before I entered my traveler’s coma, a brief flash forced its way onto slumbering retinas, drawing my attention to the window beside me. And yet, I saw little other than the salined grime of the city that blocked my view of the houses that I knew rolled past in the darkening night.


A veil of sodden salt and grime blinded me

And then another flash. Or perhaps it was a splash.

Ready now, I waited and watched, and was soon rewarded with flares of green and orange and red and white. An aurora transportis dazzled my eyes, unheard musical notes traversing my optic nerve to tickle my brain.

And as quickly as those colours had passed, white puddles of light twinkled at shoulder height, blebbing through the mire; abstract art painted from the other side of a translucent canvas for my pleasure.

Reds, blues, whites mingled with greens, mauves and yellows. Or blinked out of existence altogether, only to reappear elsewhere before my eyes. Multi-hued ballerinas and dervishes spinning without purpose; colour without design; existence the only goal.


Image doesn’t really capture the diffractive dance

As my conscious brain finally arose from its slumber, awaken by the visceral tarantella that stomped the grey matter, I began to understand what I was seeing.

The salted matting that covered the bus windows could not hold back the shine of the many porch lights, Christmas lights, headlights and street lights that I passed on my journey, instead providing myriad prisms through which the photons waved their many lengths.

The very mire that weighted and closed my world was the vector through which the display existed to dazzle.

Unfortunately, consciousness came at a price as my understanding of what I was seeing meant that I now saw what I understood. And although the display continued until I reached my destination, it was slightly dimmed as mental clarity broke through grimed windows.

But even as I mourn the loss, I am warmed by the memory, and even if I never experience it again, I have been changed by my journey through a tunnel of light and colour.

Finding inspiration


Where do you find inspiration? What causes one moment to pass completely unnoticed and another to trigger a flurry of activity?

Truth be told, I don’t think inspiration comes from outside but rather from within. The exact same moment viewed at different times by the exact same individual may result in completely different responses depending on the openness of the individual to inspiration.

When you are open to inspiration, you witness and experience life through a completely different lens, one that sees connections and patterns between events and objects that do not necessarily exist in the forms themselves.

The priests sitting in the bar become a foil for the man trying to pick up women. The dog urinating on a building becomes the unwitting initiator of the death of 275 people in an office tower. The crows on the telephone lines become dark angels surveilling the land, awaiting the arrival of a malevolent spirit.

The irony of inspiration coming from within, however, is that it is something you cannot really will into existence. You can easily sit for hours with pen poised over paper, awaiting inspiration’s wafting arrival, only to realize that days have gone by without result. And trying to force your way through artistic constipation only seems to worsen the situation as you strain against the blockage by forcing invisible connections. Rarely, if ever, will inspiration make itself known to you in this way.

All you can really do is till the soil in which inspiration will implant itself and hopefully germinate. Rather than clear away all distraction, you may find it better to envelope yourself in distraction. By allowing the mental and spiritual noise to flow over, under and through you, you remove the hard edges of the real world and let the boundaries criss-cross in chaotic flux, searching for new patterns that your mind’s eye can mark.

It may also be helpful to engage your mind in someone else’s art, whether of the same medium as yours or no, but remembering to also give your mind permission to wander.

There is no exam at the end of the novel you’re reading. No request to reproduce the painting you are viewing. No critical essay to argue once the concerto has ceased.

So let yourself go and let yourself respond—consciously and viscerally—to the art. Let a word, image or note ricochet through your mind until it attaches itself to an earlier thought or feeling. Don’t try to define or even understand the clusters that form but rather observe them until the need to create takes hold.

Inspiration is about the initial amount of discovery, not the final product. An ephemeral spirit, inspiration is likely to dissipate at your first attempt to put a leash on it. You cannot present inspiration with a road map and expect it to clear the path ahead. Rather, you must follow inspiration as it meanders, bearing witness to the miracles it triggers.

Where do you find inspiration?

Everywhere and anywhere, when you are ready to let it be seen.

I had no idea

Ideas are everywhere, but they don't always look like ideas

Ideas are everywhere, but they don’t always look like ideas

“How the heck did you come up with that?”

It’s a common question I get when talking about my latest ideas, and for years, my answer was a resounding “I dunno…just came to me.”

To a limited extent, the response is correct, but it suggests the process of ideation is much more passive or deus ex machina than it really is.

Ideas surround me, as they do you. They are in the nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs that make up our moment-by-moment reality. They are in the streetcar in which I presently ride, the streets down which I presently travel.

In the dark-haired beauty two rows before me who is fixated on adjusting her hair rather than close the window through which the hair-mussing breeze blows. And in the armada of free-range humans who occupy the parkette we just passed, proving themselves houseless rather than homeless.

The challenge for many would-be writers is that these are starting points for ideas rather than fully fledged stories or subjects. These are the writers who wish to be reporters or chroniclers rather than explorers.

Think instead of these idea kernels as pieces of clay, as something that can be moulded into any of a thousand other shapes. Take the kernel and play with it for a while. Give yourself a chance to see what it feels like, smells like, sounds like, tastes like.

Twist it. Turn parts of it over. Reverse its halves.

What is something were feasting on Toronto’s homeless? Imagine a mobile service that will do your hair and makeup while you commute to work. What if a terrorist planted a bomb on a streetcar and it had to travel no slower than 50 mph? Or an aesthetician to the deceased in From Hair to Eternity.

All of these are probably bad ideas, but the ideas have evolved.

Twist it again. Mould it again. Press it onto something else, like so much Silly Putty, and see what sticks.

Keep the good. Set aside the bad. But keep working it until something you really like begins to show itself.

You have no idea the wonders you will discover.