Too Wet To Plow Again

Yes Really!
January 6th, Gabriola Island. There’s hope!
Happy New Year.

It’s January 10th, already! My little life here on Vancouver Island is very quiet and that is not necessarily a complaint. I sure ache to feel the caresses of fragrant warm breezes fluttering the napkin beneath my sweating margarita and then whispering off through the cacti above the beach. Certainly my arthritic old bones also ache from the chill damp of another coastal winter. But considering all the other places where I could be dying of some terrible affliction I believe I am blessed to be in one of the best spots on the entire planet. And if I have to wrap my ugly mug in a mask on the odd occasion that I have to be among the public, it’s a small price to pay to not be quarantined inside my home. My reclusive lifestyle has not changed much.

Reflections on the year ahead. It’s looking weird but we still have some freedom.
Too wet to plow
Too wet for heifers
Definitely too wet for farming
Three generations
Nurse stump, mature seedling and offshoot.

A friend in France, each time she needs to go out for a few groceries, even to walk the dog, is first required to apply online for a permit number to allow her an absolute minimum of time within the parameters of the described activity. If an official catches her without her specific number, or outside the area as described, it’s essentially off to the glue factory with you. It is nowhere near that here…YET! But there are folks working on making it so.

Old jungle girls
Reaching for a little light
Swirls and complications
FLIRT
A little colour on a dull day. Even the cover is a thing of beauty and the boat is something to quicken a sailor’s heart. I can feel the bend of the oars and hear the water gurgling by simply by looking at her. What beautiful lines!

We’ve all heard some of the tales from those who were either civilians or military folks during WWII. This pandemic is a picnic in comparison. No one is dropping bombs on us or trying to starve us. If our expectations and notions of entitlement were not so ridiculously high we would be a lot more content. “WHAT? You’re out of mint chip dip!!” If you don’t like today, try missing a few.

Quick as a flash
The Coho keep on coming
Fish with no end. It’s lovely to see and the eagles are watching too. The fish at the top is a female making a bed to lay her eggs. Two males standby.
Eagles Three
Old Fish Farts Hisself
I’m just a lonely fish
lonely and red.
The stump is big enough to park a small car. It seems tragic to knock down an old-growth giant and just leave it to rot. The parks people call it “helping nature.”
A swan in the corn. The rain continues.

So far as comments on pandemics and politics, I’ll let the following quote say it for me. I’ll just post some local photos of daily life around Ladysmith.

The sensible dog. This is a rare moment for Ayre, the eight-month old Min Pin Chihuahua. She’s nuclear and usually a blur. Jack retreats to his bed in the closet when she’s on the rampage.

Due to travel restrictions this year, the United States had to organize a coup at home.”                                                                       Martin Mesquita Watguri Hardie

Bad Decisions

Amaryllis for the New Year. Any colour is gratefully accepted during this gloomy season.
Even orchids will do
How about a pepper, a boot and a propane bottle on a frosty morning?
Yep, even a child’s painted rock will do, perhaps it’s the finest of all!

I suppose this’ll hit the ceiling and bounce back from cyber space on January 1st, 2021 even though I’m posting it on New Year’s Eve. So Happy New Year to the world. May your balls drop and may everything glitter. I truly mean that without reviewing any of the weary rhetoric about the past year. Three hundred sixty-five days ago who knew what a Covid was? Who’da thunk that investing in a face mask business would be a good bet? Well onwards and sideways. Now turn your head to sneeze please!

Yesterday I met a fellow who was enraged that I would not buy into his proclamation that the entire pandemic is a hoax. No one has actually died of a virus. It’s all bullshit!

I told him that the Flat Earth Society has members all around the globe and that I hoped he did not wake up staring at a beige hospital ceiling with a load of hoses stuffed up his nose. Incredible! And yes, I’ve just had acquaintances die due to the virus.

Budy Whumpgut Zapata
This little guy has been my dashboard travelling companion for thousands of miles and in many different vehicles through the years. He’s ready to head out on the road. Very ready.

If I can say something of value at this moment it is this. I have seen grown men have a fist fight over differing views on one social issue or another. When their hard-as-stone opinions were dissected it turned out that all of their certitude was based on something they had gleaned from the media. They were slugging it out over something about which they knew nothing. If you really care about any issue, you must do a lot of research, from many different perspectives. You can’t just settle for a view you want to swallow. Here’s an example.

If you ask the average person about the Boeing 737 Max 8, they will tell you with conviction that they will never ride in one. They know it is the world’s worst aircraft ever! As old Paul Harvey would have said, here is the “Rest Of The Story.” As a lifelong aviation enthusiast, a former pilot and aircraft mechanic I like to stay in touch. Pilots I’ve spoken with who have actually flown that model (and loved it) as well as a close relative who is an airline pilot who keeps a broad overview of the whole industry made these points. The 737 was developed as a regional jet or RJ to serve short and medium range routes. One of the larger markets for that airplane is third world countries. Bear in mind that there were thousands of flight hours logged in the aircraft in the Western World without incident. Both tragic crashes occurred in third world countries. The simple difference is the training standard offered by third world airlines is not as comprehensive as it should be. With a major market for Boeing with those airlines they cannot risk offending their customers by pointing that out. Competitors like Airbus, (Who have had plenty of their own products fall out of the sky, killing hundreds) are always hot on their heels.

So what’s my point? For your own sake do not accept what the media has to say. I decry negativity and recently lost a friend when I challenged him over his insistence of always offering negative perspectives. However, keep in mind that all media sources are businesses who need to make a profit and so must offer an enticing product made so by gross exaggerations, misrepresentation and skewed data. It is always reasonable to challenge what is thrown at you. Perhaps it is even a social and moral obligation to hold a questioning mind.

The Memory Tree. A local tradition along one of our walking routes is to decorate this tree for Christmas and include photos of beloved dogs who once walked here but have died.
It is very poignant.

As we enter our second year of the Covid pandemic be mindful of what you choose to believe. We now have the hope of miraculous vaccines, oddly all concocted within days of each other. All have been formulated in less than a year. Previous successful vaccines have taken many years to develop and prove. I hope my cynicism proves unjustified but I am always stunned and appalled at the herd’s willingness to accept easy answers. Good advice is to sleep upwind and drink upstream of the herd. “Sheople” an acquaintance calls folks. We have a naturally questioning mind and these are the times to not bury that instinct further. Ask questions. Be positive but ask questions!

He used to love puddles. it is hard to believe we live with a high risk of forest fires come summer.
Slowly, in the pouring rain, there comes a beast. Jack’s old bones dislike the damp as much as mine.
The woods are alive with the sound of dripping.
Washed toad stools.

When I sat at my desk this morning to proof-read this blog, night was grudgingly yielding to the last dawn of this year. A low layer of fog hung over town like a broad cake of congealed cooking fat. On the mountains immediately above us thick rolls of fog muffled the peaks and ridges. The moon, full two days ago, sank from a clearing sky into those banks. Then for brief moments a burst of sunrise back-lit the water drops in the shrubbery outside the door. Now the sparkling diamonds are gone, again just more winter wetness beneath a pallid overcast. But, those moments of light will carry us through the day. Life goes on.

Hey Baby! Wanna spawn!
Lookin’ like we’re almost out of time.
Waiting for a frog. This heron sat in a tree top in the driving rain waiting for something edible to pass by below. Fortunately neither Jack nor I looked fishy enough.

Apparently our provincial chief medical officer has issued an edict prohibiting the sale of alcohol this New Year’s Eve after 8 pm. This is in an effort to prevent irresponsible decisions. It is the stupidest thing I’ve heard lately. She should have made this decree a couple of weeks ago. Not only is she distancing herself from the people she is trying to protect, she is encouraging certain folks toward rebelling and being even more drunk and disorderly. And capitalists that we are, even as I write, someone is printing up a batch of T shirts for sale that say, “Let’s get together and make some bad decisions.”

My two dollar door. I found this at a local Habitat Store and used it to provide a finishing touch to my old camper. The hole is for access to a snag-free latch. The horseshoe came from an arroyo in the middle of the Southern Arizona desert. I will return.

As for me, I’ll probably be sound asleep when the midnight din breaks out. I learned long ago that deliberately making myself sick is not an auspicious beginning for another year.

Happy New Year and sincere wishes that everyone has someone to love, good things to do and to look forward to.

Christmas Eve morning
Fetch! The same morning. A dog retrieves his stick.  We’ve had little sun since.
Don’t look back. It’s OVER! Dry your wings and fly into the new year.

Dear Self:

2021 is going to be your year.

So dust off your shitkickers and let’s get started.

All my love,

Me

Old Friends

Winter forest dawn. It’s not the cold, it’s the damp. My old bones ache for southern latitudes.

Now then, where was I? Oh yeah. I’d had a long telephone chat with a dear old buddy and then gone and refilled my big coffee mug. I reached for some paperwork on the back of my desk and sploosh! How does one mug of coffee suddenly become what seems like more than a litre? What else can run everywhere and cover everything like hot coffee? (I sometimes refer to it as the hot oil laxative) Laptop, cellphone, note pads, an important e-mail I’d printed. I grabbed every piece of cloth and paper towel within range and began mopping; hauling my desk out to sponge up beneath and trying to save the phone and computer from catastrophic collateral damage. “Oh gosh” I thought. Yeah right! Of course in the middle of that there is the overwhelming urge to rush to the bathroom as the hot oil kicks in, and in the middle of that, Old Jack came to remind me that he was plenty ready to go for a walk. Then the phone rings again.

Dad! You sonofabitch!
He used to love the snow, but the look in his eyes this morning says it all.
Pretty? Not! YOU sleep in the bushes.
Yeah! Right here will do.
At least with Covid they don’t have to worry about where to hang the mistletoe. This is a housing reality for many.
Remember this? Booted from the back porch of the old food bank, a tent was set up in the soggy back yard. Now the tent is gone. Booted again?
The new old box. Leaks and interior repairs complete, my old camper looks pretty luxurious compared to an old pallet and a scrap of building paper.
The rebar rooster. a little beauty in the gloom.
Then there’s this. He seemed like a nice sensible older fellow. but with gloves, a zipped-up winter parka and shorts?? I don’t understand the costume of choice. I’ve blanked the fellow’s face for obvious reasons. It wasn’t something he was wearing. Well, these ARE strange days.
More geezer jocks. Can someone explain this? A rite of passage used to be when boys started wearing long pants. My knees ache just to see this. I’m not saying it’s wrong, I just don’t understand. Flash we now our fluorescent shanks.
Cold and fuzzy.

Well now that I’ve buried the dead, I can see how funny it all is. Where’s the hidden camera? And, I’ve been meaning to give the desk a good cleaning! I smugly thought that the laptop had been spared and my mobile phone as well. Driving toward where we would walk my mobile phone began to ring. This old recluse sometimes doesn’t receive a call for weeks. This morning the thing wouldn’t stop. I could answer but no-one could hear me nor could I call out. Later I’d take it apart tiny screw by screw. Out came a few drips of coffee. I rinsed it in clean water and now it sits in front of a small electric heater. Are we having fun yet?

The Garage, Duncan. One of the first car dealers on Vancouver Island it is now a cafe, health food store, bookshop and a favourite place for me. A sunny winter day to savour.
Behind the garage. There’s a bit of beauty everywhere…if you care to look.

At the hatchery where we walked the streams were full of bright red sockeye. I can’t recall a spawn this late in the season but I’m sure that it is not unknown and has nothing to do with covid nor global warming. Not much in nature happens by any human calendar no matter how arrogant we chose to be about our role in the natural scheme of things. Fish happen and I, for one, rejoice to see them. One dufus with two lovely brown dobermans allowed them to charge freely into the stream and chase the spawners. He thought it was hilarious. I flung out a few harsh words and realized what a good thing it is that Canadians are not allowed to carry hand guns. I really want to be tolerant of my fellows but how do you accept wilful stupidity. A quick look in the mirror works well for me. Dufus I said? Yep.

What’s behind that door? Actually, there sits a Baldwin steam locomotive, stored in its original shed.
Not far away sits a logger’s steam donkey. This one was built by Tyee in Vancouver.

A short e-mail appeared in my morning bin a few days ago. It inquired if I was the same Fred this lady had known fifty years ago. It turns out that I was. (Well no actually, I’m an old fart now)I was amazed and flattered that she had sought me out and the reminiscing has been sweet indeed. How the hell did half-a goddamned century go by? Here’s a YouTube link to Guy Clark’s song, “Old Friends.”       https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i0OmFK38_ZU

Screaming Meemee
A young bald eagle watches the salmon and protests first rights on his fishing hole.
Fishing for jumpers
There’s one! It’s darned hard to catch one in mid-air, even when picking it from a video clip like this.
Oy you! Get to the front of the pool, or is that school? It’s an amazing congestion of fish, eventually they turn back downstream a bit to find a place to spawn. One coming in and one trying to get out.
Smells like fish, tastes like fish.

Well it is our first Covid Christmas and what more is there to say? We’d never heard that word a year ago and now we’ll never forget it. Hopefully in another year it will be spoken in the past tense and we’ll have other lesser challenges to face. Meanwhile it’s Bumhug and deck the halls with coloured face masks. Take it easy on the gagnog, turn your face to cough and hug a turkey for me.

By the way, that cellphone…I’ve got it working again. There IS a Santa Claus!

Christmas.

The Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a nativity scene in Washington, D.C. This wasn’t for any religious reasons. (or because of covid) They couldn’t find three wise men and a virgin.

Jay Leno

Turn Your Head To Cough

A December covid morning. Sure is a nice looking day despite the doom and gloom.

I found myself beginning this blog with yet another account of more Covid bad behaviour. But one of the mantras which I claim to aspire toward is to take nothing personally. So…End of rant, delete, start again. We’re all under some degree of duress and perhaps the best relief is to cut a little slack for our fellows in their determination to satisfy a sense of entitlement. It is what we’ve been taught to expect for decades! We are all bent out of shape with the direct and also the obscure long-term effects of this ongoing pandemic. It is appalling that so many folks are determined to demand their personal whims come before a few weeks of self-discipline in consideration of the common good. Let’s get together and beat this thing.

Just wear a mask damnit!

Social Isolation. A cabin in the mists behind local blueberry fields
A dough puppy named Pillsbury. Just another fungus.

Personally I hate face masks and rip them off each time I emerge from an “enclosed public place” but even I, master loner and contrarian, wear one without protest. I get it and don’t understand what it is that some others don’t. At the same time, from a different view I continue to find great amusement at those I see driving around alone in December gloom, wearing sunglasses, surgical gloves and face mask. Oh! You like dressing like that! OK fine, it’s not hurting anyone. So sorry.

Eagle eyes
and Seagulls watching, the last of the salmon run
Dog sushi. Various creatures drag the dead salmon up from the stream. Dogs love to roll on them, the hummier the better. “There’s nothing friendlier than a wet dog that’s rolled on a dead fish.”
We emerge unscathed and smelling like a rose, old Jack is down to a slow shuffle these days.
At the hatchery office. Even though shooting into the morning light it was so dull that the camera insisted on using flash. I love this panel and could build a whole house around it.
Mucho amigos
The portal. Another world awaits.

The following note just arrived in my morning bulletin board from La Manzanilla.

Covid news from the interior of MexicoPosted by Stephanie on November 30, 2020, 12:59 p

My last customer at the bookstore today happened to be a phlebotomist Dr. who works at a hospital in Guanajuato! She is here visiting with mask on for a much needed break from all the cases they are seeing at her hospital!

I wanted to question her more but she had an emotional breakdown when describing how the whole first floor of the hospital has now been turned into a morgue and her stress was apparent,

I think she was surprised at the lack of masks seen on the streets here given we have many buses coming from all parts.

Just saying! Be safe!

Nah, you don’t need to wear a mask, it’s your right! Dead right!

And now a little colour:
Arbutus berries
December weeds hanging on.
We’ll take all the brightness we can find.
December mauve

I was reading the latest edition of Hakaii Magazine. An excellent article about toxic effluent which washes off our highways into the ocean (you can google it up) made a profound comment. It suggests that Covid has taught us that to survive, we can change our behaviour rapidly. (Well, some of us anyway.) Now if only we would apply that same thinking to other environmental issues…. There’s something to chew on!

Once upon a bridge
The rusty rails tell the sad story.
“Doc I think I’ve got rail fungus.”
Mid drip. The old train station roof. Nothing lasts forever.
We need all the colour we can get.
Pommes Noel

Meanwhile as I write this line another December day dawns here with a clear sky. The world still looks like a fine place to be. And maybe that’s part of the problem, we can’t see the ghost riders in the sky. The millions of Thanksgiving travellers south of the border have returned home to complete their Christmas consumerism. But some of them will not see Christmas, having died a horrible death in result of their stupidity. Worse yet, so will some of those they’ve contacted along the way. Being an individual and a free-thinker is grand, I endorse that but “think” is the root word here. Stepping off a bridge will do little to defy the law of gravity but it sure will confirm a few things. Others who survive their infection will endure miserable, mysterious and debilitating long-term effects.

Bungee! This is where folks pay money to jump off a perfectly good bridge with a rubber band tied to their ankle. Leave your glasses, false teeth, glass eyes and wallets in the basket.

It ain’t pretty Dorothy and when you wake up tomorrow, this nightmare will still be upon us. Meanwhile the politicians have got to get their beaks out of the medical world and let the professionals do their work. Even when everyone has had their vaccines the virus will still be out there. Vaccines are not magic bullets, the plague won’t simply vanish because we’ve cooked up a potion. Forget the personal agendas! There are names for folks who try to gain profits and power from other’s misery. Yeah that’s the one, the orifice lodged within the inter-gluteal cleft. See, I can be polite and anatomically correct.

Winter nest
Know the feeling?
Next summer?

No message of Christmas joy and hope here, but it is one of consideration for others. We’ve essentially put the horrible US election behind us, let’s live to enjoy the free air. Now we have to take care of ourselves. That is best done simply by respecting our fellows even when they don’t reciprocate. We don’t know the pressures they may be enduring. Masks don’t protect us from others, they do help protect others from us; it’s the least we can do. If nothing else, wearing a mask appropriately is a sign of that respect. Thus saith the Fred.

Now I’ll go get back into my box….and Bumhug to you!

December noon
December moon.

if physical world can affect mind but mind cannot affect physical world, then its the only one-way interaction known in science !!!

Dossey, Larry M.D. (1982, p 206) Space, Time and Medicine. New Science Library, Shambhala, Boston, MA.

***********

Universal Mind -“…there is one all uniting, universal Mind, one all-pervading Intelligence…these are no totally separate minds…waves in an ocean – a wave cannot separate itself…bucket of water poured into a pool – affects every other particle of water within the pool, whether it knows it or not

Jampolsky, Gerold G. M.D. (1983) Teach Only Love. NY Bantom Books, p 78

Chasing Leaks

Abstracto! It’s just some faded paint on a car fender but eye-catching none-the-less.

Friday the 13th. The weather forecast shows the date and a thick grey cloud with heavy raindrops. That seems about right. At the moment however there is an attempt at a sun rise. A thin brassy light reflects from the neighbour’s windows and that damned insidious street cleaning machine is out there growling away again. It’s on a fourth pass now. The wind will blow everything back in short order. A day later the weather is the same with a cold rain in a gusting wind like only it can in November. By the following Tuesday when I finally post this, not a lot has changed.

There are two leaks in the camper which have eluded me despite all my attempts to find and cure them. All that was left to do was to remove the inside panelling and insulation. What the hell? There was some faulty wiring to trace as well. Between the inner skin and the outer I found some soggy insulation. I’ve removed it. The taking apart is done…I hope. It has rained sporadically for the past few days, the kind of cold rain that can leak into anything. I just checked; there is no sign of moisture! Grrr! I knew of course that this little old box would require some attentions but I had no intention for it to become a career. To keep things in perspective I know that there are plenty of people who’d love to have this one as a home, leaks and all.

I wonder what the weather is like in the desert today? The leak project.
Aha! That tiny pinprick of light is the great dull light of the rainy outdoors shining through. The wood frame is good so patch and go is the order of the day. The piece of metal above the beam is galvanized steel which is the source of electrolysis.  It may be no warmer or dryer in the woods but I prefer being out there.

I managed to strip out the final bit of forward interior in perfect co-ordination with a horrific rain storm which went on and on. The problem is now that the ambient humidity inside is so high that condensation forms instantly on the bare cold metal skin. Still I tracked down, or up, the source of ingressing water. In one corner just below the roof I found a mysterious cluster of tiny pinholes. I’ve concluded the cause is electrolysis, something I’m all too familiar with in boats. When dissimilar metals are placed in contact they begin to produce minute electrical currents known as a galvanic action. Add an electrolyte like water and an insidious corrosion occurs. Introduce an electrical current and things become really weird. What I found was that when the camper had been built small galvanized pieces of metal had been used to reinforce corners of the frame. So, combine thin aluminum, steel, zinc, 12 volt wiring, possibly lead-based paint, 40 years of time and copious rain. Bzzzt! Still learning after all these years!”

Just off the main street in Ladysmith sits an old building just behind our tiny museum which is a remnant from the town’s rustic past. It is flat-roofed and covered with a faux brick heavy tarred material which I recall was named ‘Insul-brick.’ It was an old store of some sort and for a long time displayed a faded sign that said ‘Food Bank.’ It has been boarded up for a very long time. On one corner of the building is a small porch built into the structure. A homeless person moved into that space and set up camp under a green tarp. They have been evicted and the empty porch is now caged in. A tent has been erected in the back of the soggy lot.

Don’t fence me out. Plan B is in the background. Plan C is under the bridge, if there’s any space left. Someone is always in a worse situation. The siding is called insulbrick.

If I could wish myself into a larger fibreglass camper I would donate this one to someone who needs a shelter. In the meantime I’ll keep this old tin and stick box as a sort of earthquake plan. Isn’t that all we need now in winter on top of Covid?

Living behind the waterfall. My neighbour’s overflowing rain gutter. It is a low-quality photo taken by mobile phone on a very dark afternoon. That’s a hummingbird sitting on the feeder. Imagine flying around in weather when each pelting raindrop is nearly half your body size and three times its weight.

I’ve just returned from a quick trip to a building supply store. As I drove out through the parking lot a character leapt in front of me oblivious to all except to be fumbling with their covid mask and text messaging in hand. I managed to stop in time; they never noticed. What’s that term? “Eyes wide shut.” We’ve even abandoned the primal self-preserving instinct of fear. “The Lemming Syndrome.” I’ll get back into my box.

Whodathunk? Ten months ago I could not have believed I’d ever be seen looking like this. With a fierce second wave of Covid washing over us it seems a respectful thing to do toward my fellows. Masks are designed to prevent a person from spreading their own germs and maybe help keep you safe from others…and to prevent you from licking door handles!

I’ve decided that a sign of aging is losing the ability to be amazed. That amazes me.”

A Lottery Ticket Blowing In The Wind

UP! Yesterday’s tomorrow dawn. That was our sunrise this morning. It was a bleak and raw cold as it looks.

Life and love are like a lottery ticket blowing away in the wind. You know that if you don’t catch it, you’ll spend the rest of your days wondering if it was the one. Mine blew off in a strong wind as I stepped out of the pharmacy. I caught it. My pursuit must have cut an interesting image as I stumbled after it doing a strange dance while trying to stomp it into captivity. If someone else had found it, I know it would have been worth millions. Perhaps it escaped my hand because I was distracted by the US election result on the newspapers by the cashier’s desk.

On track. One of Jack’s delights is snuffling through a thick carpet of leaves. Tonight’s heavy rain will bring more down. Soon the trees will be bare.

The Disunited States can begin healing and getting on with their traditional two party democracy. The horrible era of the Trump party (That p-word has more than one meaning) is ending. How long I’ve waited to hear someone mouth the words, “YOU’RE FIRED!” The lesson is indelible about what happens when folks don’t exercise their obligation to vote as they did not in 2016. Apathy ultimately demands a high price. This election’s record voter turnout has hopefully set the American train back on its rails. In reality politicians are rarely voted in but instead are voted out. Frankly my perspective is that one party is as pathetic as the next, yes in this country too; but there is no other system which actually works as well. The politicians and the people just have to remember who serves whom.

Our local organic shipyard. It’s not paved and doesn’t conform to all the enviro-rules but it’s nice to see something with an old-school sensibility. As I took this picture the air was filled with the smell of snow and cold diesel engine exhaust, a very familiar aroma to me.
The chum have come. These salmon are latecomers but there are hundreds in the little stream where we walk. So eager to spawn they swim into shallows like this. Jack stood a foot above them, fascinated but knowing he was too old to do anything other than watch.

Hopefully Mr. Biden and Ms Harris can prove some integrity by actually trying to serve the people. There will certainly be a hard scrutiny upon them. People have been reminded of how thin the walls of their comfort zone can be. This reclusive bog Canadian can only hope that our country has caught the lesson as well. If Mr T-Rump did anything positive it was to shake the US out of its comfort zone. And sadly, comedians and cartoonists will be short of lampoon material for the time being.

Ice on the mud puddles. There is even a subtle beauty in this.

The new president elect and his vice-president offered some stirring speeches as they celebrated their success. Let’s hope they meant what they said and said what they meant. After Covid the biggest problem in the US is to accept the fact that although they may have a huge military they are no longer the world power they still think they are. They have some huge messes at home to clear up before they re-assume themselves a world leader. With a global pandemic, desperate economics and massive environmental issues to face they must face certain pressing issues. Finding water on the moon, soil-sampling asteroids and exploring Mars are not priorities. Those budgets of billions should be used to address domestic issues. If we have the technology to do some of those amazing things and to develop military hardware to its scorched earth capability several times over, shouldn’t we focus that skill on disease and poverty? Our problems on this planet have to come first. It has to remain habitable before we can be thinking of wandering off into the universe. Earth is still the only home we have but the US is not its guiding light.

The old dozer boat, one of our waterfront artifacts. These are used to push logs into specific spots, note the teeth or “dogs” on the bow. They are roly-poly and fun to run. This begs a smiling face on the wheelhouse.
Leaf mulcher.
It is a splender anchor windlass now sitting beside the dozer boat.

It is a cold November morning. The sky is clear and the west wind is thundering. It’s time for two old dogs to stumble off into the rising light. There is a threat of snow for tomorrow. We need to get out and find some fresh new photos along our weary daily routes.

Dash hounds. Three-eyed security in the time of Covid.
November 9th
Still they bloom.

Free election of masters does not abolish the masters; or the slaves.”
― Herbert Marcuse

November Camping

Halloween blue moon over Sayward Junction.
A nautical superstition is to never begin a voyage on a Friday. We did.
Hoomak Lake dawn. A placid lake betrays the ongoing business of the North island highway and the rest area where we spent a long night. The traffic never stopped.
End of the road. A view northward from Port Hardy to the central coast and all points beyond. I miss my boat!

These breathtaking copper panels adorn the lobby of the new Kwa’lilas Hotel in Port Hardy. A venture of the local Kwakiutl First Nations the hotel is an elegant example of Neo-Westcoast architecture. It alone made my drive worthwhile. Each panel is about six feet tall and the mural portrays the history and culture of these people.

I’m starting this with the rain drumming on the metal roof of the camper. It has slowed enough for the moment to allow me to hear individual drops. This morning I first awoke to hear the wind roaring in the tree tops hundreds of feet above me. The din was like a passing high-speed train. The trees are massive ancient Sitka Spruce, already venerable when the first of us Caucasians stumbled into these swamps hundreds of years ago. The rain now crashes down again in barrel-sized dollops. Our shelter shudders under the assault. I worried about a tree falling on us but realized they had withstood far worse weather in the hundreds of years they had grown here. Many of the bases are more than ten feet across. It will take more than my dark karma to bring one of these down. The notion of a crackling campfire is a mad fantasy.

Finally! The objective after over seventy kilometers of rough muddy logging roads and a long walk. San Joseph Bay on the west side of Vancouver Island.
Jack galloped ahead as if he were suddenly ten years younger. The trek back was hell but he was determined to do it all on his own.
He trotted across the sand to inspect this creature emerging from the icy sea. It had no pockets or treats. Surfers pack their gear the entire distance of over 2.6 km in and then back out after a day in the water.
Mystery flotsam. How did this ball of copper wire manage to end up here?
A roll of bull kelp not to be confused with a load of bull.
Hawaii next stop. There are three surfers out there. What a way to celebrate being alive and young!
And then the reluctant turn back.
There is magic everywhere and the coastal rainforest seems filled with the presence of many spirits.
They lurk overhead.
They reach out as if to draw you into their boggy world.
There is magic under every root.
This beauty was about twenty centimetres tall
Berry nice
The entire ecosystem depends on massive amounts of moisture. At times it seems one can reach out and wring a handful of water from the very air.
Beneath giant’s feet. The wind thundered in their tops a few hundred feet up.
Whoosh! Beside the camp spot. There was no dry firewood.
The watcher of Nahwitti Lake
The whole damned downtown. Holberg  once had upwards of 3000 people living in housing built on log rafts. It was the largest floating community in North America. It is still an operational logging center.

We arrived the day before in pristine weather. I’d wanted to find a place called Palmerston Bay but on arrival discovered a simple ending of a logging road. The slippery scramble down and back from a rocky, surf-bashed shoreline would have been too much for old Jack and so we retreated back the way we had come. The described “recreation site” proved to merely be a wider spot in a muddy trail surrounded by old logging devastation, not a place to cheer my soul. Eventually we arrived at San Joseph Bay. I hadn’t been there for over thirty years and recall being able to drive almost to the beach. Could my memory be wrong? The developments since made by the Provincial Parks people are impressive. Their pathways are like narrow highways and meander through the rain forest in a circuitous route which is far longer than I recall. It is a beautiful walk and Jack bounded ahead, full of enthusiasm for what lay around each corner ahead. I thought I’d have to carry him back but how could I impose on his joy? He was exhausted on the return walk but soldiered along determined to stay on his own pins one staggering step at a time. What an amazing character! After a long sleep he seems none the worse for wear and is, as always, eager for the next adventure.

Near Holberg is Vancouver Island’s first wind farm. In a traveller’s stop in Port Hardy, a defunct turbine blade is a grand curiosity. Take a lunch if you’re walking to the other end. This massive chunk of carbon fibre is not recyclable and consumed massive amounts of toxic substances when it was manufactured. There are some obvious green questions about the hundreds of thousands of these machines around the world: Eco-politics versus common sense.
Where the Marble River drains out of Lake Alice. Free, clean constant energy, no dams or exotic plastics required.
I remember when this engine was still working as a back-up for the diesel locomotives and to haul eco-tourists out to show them active logging operations. It seems sad to see the logging locomotive relegated to being a lawn ornament in the venerable logging community of Woss.
Old 113 is a mere 100 years old and probably still capable of earning her keep.
This photo of her at work in 1944 is how I remember seeing her in the early 90s. I’d love to hear the whistle echoing up a valley again. How fortunate to at least have the memory.

The next night we are well on our way toward home. The rain is incessant so again I sit with Jack in our little box. The winter weather has certainly made it seem much smaller when forced into confinement. Jack is cuddled against me as I sit on the edge of the bed and write. The blasting rain has revealed leaks which will, of course, be addressed once home. It is damp enough for the wallpaper to be separating for the inside panels. I curse myself for my restless nature and being up here in these conditions. Of course I look forward to going to drier country so these test runs are necessary to ensure there are no nasty surprises ahead. Tonight we sit fifty feet from the high water mark on Johnstone Strait. The wind and rain are increasing again but we are warm and dry with full tummies. Who could ask for more?

“Right then, that’s being the welcoming party done with. Let’s find a dry spot for the night, it’s going to be a wet one.”
This doe and two very healthy fawns seemed very tame when we arrived at Elk Bay on Johnstone Strait.
The next morning. The rain eased for a little while but the rising puddle made it obvious, that along with mechanical problems, it was time to pack up and reload for the next adventure.
Even this former logger was appalled by such a devastated clearcut.

Driving southward, trees with leaves began to appear and now back in Ladysmith it seems we’ve regained a month. Only two and a half degrees of latitude on an island of rugged mountainous shorelines makes a huge difference. This massive rock angles out into the North Pacific and catches hell from a very long way off. Wintry wind and rain have followed us home but as soon as repairs are made to truck and the old man box, Jack and I will be off to some local remote nook. Covid may have us trapped here, but I know the Snowbird flocks have filled every possible private campground on the island. It’s clearly a great place to be, especially with a civil war looming just south of the border.

Splendour in the grass at the edge of the sea.
The tide in the raincoast jungle. It is flooding and ebbing just as it has for a very long time.
Not a friendly place for humans, it is an amazing ecosystem.

The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
― Albert Einstein

Blue Moon Halloween

To next summer.

October twenty-second. A first frost is on the roofs of my neighbours. The brassy thin light of a reluctant dawn slowly sweeps over the town. The stars were brilliant last night, a few were especially bright as they beamed down between the clouds. Old Jack is snoring softly where he is nested on the couch, I’m reluctant to stir him for his morning walk but I need it as much as he does.

October 25th. It’s over. The provincial election has passed with a predictable result. Our minority government is still in the saddle, now as a majority. May the gods help us, any majority government seems eventually to lead to dire consequences. At least we’ll have a slight change of rhetoric.

Frost art
Call the plumber
The finish line. A final mark on a morning circuit at the local fish hatchery.
Hush Puppy

There’s a humid chill in the air this morning, with a dusting of fresh snow on the nearest hills. Jack loved it and frolicked along on his walk. The tang of burning damp leaves filled the air and someone was burning coal in their stove, an unmistakable odour. What must air quality have been like when nearly everyone burned the stuff? No-one noticed, that was the way it was. I’ve been in China where the air was thick with the stench of coal smoke, (Cheap Canadian coal at that) copious dust and other human effluents. Life went on all around me as I stood almost gasping for a full breath. For me, coal smoke is synonymous with forges and blacksmithing, something I dearly love. I can almost hear the clang of hammer on anvil as I write. Amazing isn’t it? All of that came from one whiff of coal smoke! It’s blowing a near gale outside this morning. Leaves and debris blow past the window horizontally. The street sweeper just ground by hard at work. Daft as a brush!

BUMP! Not something to run into, even in daylight. This hemlock log, about four feet in diameter, is incredibly heavy and will float just below the water’s surface. You would definitely notice if you hit it with a boat.
Feel the damp. Four ships wait for a cargo.

Unfortunately my life is dull these days. I spend far too much time sitting in front of the television. Recommended by friends, I watched a Netflix program called ‘My Octopus Teacher.’ The footage, accumulated over ten years, is stunning and some of the insights provided are amazing. You know I’m impressed if I’m offering kudos. In my next breath I’m promoting my own next video. It’s something I put together for the Fisher Poets group, who may not be gathering this spring in consideration of Covid. That gathering in February is a guiding light through the winter and many of us use it to steer toward through the gloomy days of that season. Who knows what will happen this winter.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Q6ik-vumIc&t=8s is the link. I’ve received some very nice responses I’m proud to say.

Arbutus colours. From bright green in summer to brilliant red by Christmas
A free worm in every one.
Frost on the wild peas. It’s not summer any more.

I saw an ad for a T-shirt carrying the message:

BEWARE OLD PEOPLE The older we get the less “Life in prison” is a deterrent.

and I thought, probably a better retirement plan than what many of us have.

The bark licker. I’ve no idea what was on it but this black squirrel was vigorously licking this piece of bark.

It’s a blue moon Halloween coming up. A full moon on October 31st is scary, but a second full moon in the same month in the midst of a plague is reason to hide under the bed. All those mini spooks in T-Rump and Biden masks are a sobering thought. Trick or treat indeed. I’m leaving town. Hopefully I’ll have some interesting new videos and photos when I return. Stay safe.

Find the spider
Patience my ass…let’s kill something.

Then… some idiot turned on the lights.” ― Ray Bradbury, Long After Midnight


Just Vote

Try to out-cute this! Arye is a six-month old Mini-Pinscher/Chihuahua cross. I guess I’m her sort-of grandfather. Wish I had some of her energy.  Photo is about life size.

Sometimes the obvious is just too close to be seen. I am chagrined to admit that a friend who lives way over in Eastern Oregon sent me a link to a wonderful article in Hakaii Magazine. This is a weekly online publication housed in one of my favourite buildings here on Vancouver Island, the old Customs House, which overlooks Victoria’s inner harbour. The magazine has articles of a coastal theme from here in the Pacific Northwest to stories and photos from around the world. Go figure! The publication has been up and running for several years. Why I have not known about it before is one of life’s mysteries. Among the crap out there it is a diamond with well written informative and interesting articles with excellent photos. Check it out by googling up the name.

King of Camp Runamuck. Photo by my pal Niels. After a recent autumn downpour this gravel bar is probably not a good place to be. Still, town life is a distant second choice. The boat is now stowed and packed ready for Mexico.

Since I’ve returned last week from the old camper road test, autumn has descended with an indelible thud. There’s not much else to report. Mercifully we’ve been spared a Canadian federal election, our provincial election is a few days away and hopefully the US goon show will pass without an attempt at a military coup. I reminded a friend recently that we live in a pretty darned nice part of the world, politically, climatically, economically. I don’t know why certain folks are so determined to change that. Frankly, folks from foreign countries who have come to this country and then insist on complaining about everything must agree that if you truly don’t like living here, well… the best thing of all is that you’re free to leave; today! So go!

A fantastic marker for a forestry consulting business. A tree had to die to carve the fist in this very healthy stump.
…And right next door! Note the sign on the tree, “Turn Logs To Lumber.”

No-one is going to put a gun in your ear and insist that you stay. Perhaps first pause a moment to chat with one of the refugees who fight so hard to get into our countries. This morning another friend sent me a photo of a US election poster. It says, “NOT VOTING, #1 CAUSE OF UNWANTED PRESIDENCIES.” So I took my voter’s card and Covid face mask and headed down to the advanced poll. Voting is not just a right, it’s an obligation and even a spoiled ballot is a clear political statement. So get out there and seize the day. Vote!

“…And that’s all I have to say. Remember to vote for me.”

Our little town has a common hall used for several public functions including that of advanced polling station. It sits next to the traffic round-about at the foot of main street which, when I went to vote, was ringed with a crowd of goons waving election posters and thrusting them at my windshield. I found it intimidating and infuriating. They represented the party I was going to vote for. I’m confident their chances are minimal. My vote would be one against, instead of for anyone, and would pique my conscience the least. Not now! I abhor mobs and herd mentality and refuse to succumb to mindless mass persuasion. If you want the gombah vote I refuse to be among them. Reverse effect guys! If I am going to be bullied at least leave me the illusion of making my own choice and effecting a difference, even when there is really no-one worthy of a vote. A politician is still a politician regardless of the lies they tell and no election ever displaces and changes the bureaucrats. Hopefully we end up with the least of weevils.

After the rain. In Bowen Park, Nanaimo.
Kayaking anyone?
After the rain
Red Toadies season. Not to be eaten.
All things pass.
Quickly at times.
More to come.
Just a few leaves, most are still on the trees.
The rare feather maple.
Fall flowers.
Three maples in the drippy woods.
Mourning doves flight planning, southeast, Covid procedures in effect.
Failing to flight plan. First, check the weather. Jack plods toward the wreckage.
Dog patch dawn after our first serious autumn wind and rain storm.
Meanwhile in the East.

Here are some local photos of the changing season. Note the lack of rocket launchers, burned buildings and military uniforms. There is no snow, not one heap of dead plague victims and there are still line-ups in the drive-thru’s of every fast food and coffee shop outlet. Someone still has a little money. Despite our personal woes we are doing just fine.

The End

One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” Plato

 

The Plan Was

Napa Moon, October 1st. Smoke from the fires in the Napa Valley once again coloured our skies.

The woods were silent. The autumn sun rose in a clear sky, its warm light laddering down between yellow maple leaves still thick on the branches. Old Jack plodded along the trail, his breath was thick clouds of steam in each shaft of light slanting onto the ground. I walked ahead and waited for him, looking for things worth a photograph. It’s not a bad arrangement. Once, he used to run ahead and then wait for me. Damn, it is so very hard watching a beloved friend age and knowing that one day too soon he will go on to leave you alone. It is an essay on savouring the moment. It’s all anyone has; not today, certainly not tomorrow, not the next hour. Now, this moment, click, it is all we have.

So, finally my old camper is in Fred shape. I’ve even resealed all the exterior seams along the roof and sides. Oddly after forty years the old butyl sealant was hardening and even mouldy. I’ve replaced it with double layers of new material. Hopefully that will fend off the insidious leaks which come with winter rains. At last Jack and I are off to spend a few nights in it. Last night was the first sleep in our little box and now for the first time I’m sitting at my wobbly one-legged camper table with my laptop. A mug of fresh-perked strong black coffee is at my elbow.

The plan was to seek out a spot on the shores of Nitinaht Lake. The lake drains into the open ocean through a famous narrows and I’d hoped to take the inflatable boat for some exploring and filming. It won’t be happening.

Nice doghouse. Jack has accepted the camper as home and loves watching the world from the door.

This area is the homeland of the Ditidaht people. They have a community at the head of the lake and have closed the entire area to outsiders, no covid crackers. The bitter impression of what smallpox did to their population is still vivid and rightly so. I drove on by but after miles of rough logging road came upon a sign explaining that even the campground I sought was closed. Bugga! That was what I’d come for. It’s their land, and as a trespasser I cannot raise my voice but it had been a long day, I was tired, it was getting dark. We continued on the road toward the Carmanah Valley and of course couldn’t find a place to pull off for the night. Finally I turned down a side trail which looked like it was used occasionally. If folks go in, they’re able to turn around somewhere and come back out. Right?

When you are tired things can become a little weird. We drove on and on through a gauntlet of ever-thickening lashing alder branches with no place to turn around. Towing the trailer, there was no choice but to continue on into this sucker hole and beat hell out of my rig. Every turn of the wheels took us further in but there was no backing out. Full darkness settled just as we finally found a place to wiggle around to face the way out and park, fog followed soon after and continues to swirl through the tree tops this morning. In the distance we can hear the roar of surf from the open Pacific. Making its way along the coast a freighter blows its sonorous fog horn, out there somewhere, a lonely sound indeed. Overhead, mysterious birds call, Murres I wonder. We retreated into the camper for our first night and finally made some lunch at eight pm. This morning we are parked in an old quarry pointed in the correct direction to leave listening to the sounds from the grey fog, no-one, including us, knows where we are.

In a quandary in a quarry in the fog. The view must be amazing on a clear day.
For the tree huggers. It is a bleak view indeed… to the untrained eye. There’s a lot more there if you care to see.

Since the last paragraph we’ve been for a short walk and now it’s time for a warm breakfast and more coffee. After tramping for another half kilometre along this trail it is clear we drove as far as we’d dared. Thank goodness I stopped when I did. We saw some beautiful willow grouse and stupendous heaps of bear droppings, or perhaps they’re from a sasquatch. I’m soaked to the knees from all the fog condensed on the growth in the trail. Well-used elk trails cross the trail regularly. I’ve noted the yellow alder stain on the front corners of the camper. “Tough on riggin” is the older logger’s colloquialism that comes to mind. I’ll feel better when we’re back out bumping along the main road. We emerged with minimal collateral damage. Old knowledge was refreshed with only a few minor battle scars to show for my stupidity. With plans dashed, I just want to find a spot to set up camp for a few days. Obviously we are now back from our adventures. Of course on our return leg I saw a few places we could have stopped on the roadside. Hindsight! But as a friend says, “If you ain’t been aground, you ain’t been around!” I learn later that we were only four kilometres from the Carmanah campground where a friend was spending the night.

The way out seemed much shorter than the way in. It sure felt good to break out into the open and away from the lashing alder branches.

Later I write from a glorious spot. We are camped on a gravel bar of the Nitinaht River. The rolling water is crystal clear and full of spawning Chinook salmon. Upon arrival Jack flopped down on the river gravel and vigorously scratched his back. It’s a sign of great happiness. Next he trotted down to the river’s edge and had a long drink. We’re staying a while. I’m sitting at my Honda table beneath my white canopy. A cheery fire crackles a few feet away. In the dark salmon splash in the river. Bliss.

Can we stay here huh? Can we, can we? The first thing Jack did was to flop on his back and luxuriate in a long wriggling happy scratch.
Camp on the Nitinaht. It’s all ours and nobody wanted money!
The view from the camper door.

Then some yahoos arrive. In the dark as usual. They get stuck in a mud hole, there is much shouting. Tires and people squeal but finally they settle somewhere in the woods nearby. I can hear someone splitting firewood and yes, there it is, the loud pulse of their stereo, as usual. Backwoods serenity! Jack has already retreated into the camper. I’m joining him.

In the morning my friend appeared at my campsite. What a wonderful surprise. Niels is a dear friend of many years and his presence immediately lifted me out of my dark funk. He had tracked me all the way out to the Carmanah and then given up on finding me. He spent a night camping on his own. He was homeward bound when by chance he spotted my little white circus tent beside the river.

The rushing river water is crystal clear. We could clearly all the spawners. Here we can see a cutthroat trout hoping to pirate a few eggs.
Males and female. In a few days with eggs laid and fertilized, the fish die and become nutrient in the water and forest. It is an incredible drama.
Our fascination with the spawners is shared by others. This male is in prime condition and had a surly swagger.
A pink porta-pooper. A great idea, the portable composting toilet. Shovel and paper not included. Bookshelf optional.

We had a great day together watching the salmon, some well over twenty pounds. Sometimes a cutthroat trout hovers near a mating pair of salmon and tries to pirate eggs. It is all fascinating to watch this drama in crystal clear water. A handsome male black bear ambled and snacked along the opposite river bank, the song of the river and the wind kept him from noticing us; or maybe he knew what we taste like and was just not interested. Today we headed back to the east side of the island and soon emerged into brilliant sunlight and clear skies. Now we’re alone again in a campground on the south side of Lake Cowichan. Seeing a friend out in the woods was very uplifting and exactly what I needed. Thanks Niels; for everything.

Out from under the clouds on Lake Cowichan. The stars were fabulous.
Morning fog
A visitor drops in. I think it was a flying lesson for someone learning glassy water landing, perhaps the most dangerous part of float flying.

Next day, in mid-afternoon after a very lazy morning Jack and I continue to take our ease in the sun-dappled shade of a beautiful forest of second-growth fir. We are in a tiny provincial park on the south shore of Lake Cowichan for a couple of nights. Jack wanders off to explore the beach and woods for a half-hour at a time before returning to check on me. Being allowed to do that is his nirvana. Loons, geese and swans held a choir practice of wonderful wild music out on the lake. Then a gorgeous Zenair 701 kit-built floatplane idled along a few feet above the glassy water, stirring up other old passions. Much higher, heavy commercial flights inbound from the open Pacific glide eastward toward Vancouver.

Second-growth forest.
Autumn on Lake Cowichan
The remains of a pier where steam log trains dumped their loads into the water to be towed by steam tug to the mills and rail head at the far end of the lake.
There was a certain romance to the rape of the majestic old-growth forest. One has to admire the tenacity, brawn and skill of those people who truly believed they were doing a noble thing.
Old school. Not many loggers could do this anymore. This is called a “strap” used for securing a block in a specific place. It was piece of very stiff 2″ cable with two beautifully spliced and tapered eyes. It would have been made by hand using a stump, a few railway spikes, a marlinspike and a hammer.
If you couldn’t buy it, you built it. Recycling was part of the logger’s skillset.

As dusk falls I’ve built a campfire and less than twenty feet away a tree frog begins its song. I’ve never seen one yet. They often makes their calls from nearby but I cannot ever spot one. If you try to sneak up on that big little sound they stop. They are very tiny and wary so for me they remain a happy mystery. It’s been an easy, peaceful day. I try not to feel guilty about doing absolutely nothing. Beyond the west end of the lake a few clouds over on the ocean side catch the last light of the setting sun as I begin splicing together a video about this little trip. Then comes a loon’s solitary serenade from out on the lake, perhaps the most beautiful sound I know. A barred owl begins hooting from a tree nearby. Forest internet. G’night.

Good night.

Abraham Maslow: In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or step back into safety.”