November 1st. It is clear and sunny and warm in a November sort of way. I’ve done two things in the last forty-eight hours not done in a long time. For the first time in forty-seven years, as I recall, I celebrated Halloween. Friends invited me to join them in a local pub. I did not need to invent much of a costume, I usually look scary enough as it is. I had a splendid time, revelling in the moment and even found myself hopping about on the dance floor with other ghouls. There I was doing things I usually condemn or at least rationalize not doing. I enjoyed it all immensely. Thank you Ann and Randy!
I’m beginning to write this blog in a laundromat which is clean and well kept, and there’s hot water for the washing machines. There are no puddles on the floor from a leaking roof. I’ve just come from the local swimming pool where I swam leisurely lengths, then enjoyed a hot tub, a sauna and then a shower that had instant hot water, and was clean and bright with no mould or rust in sight. It felt like heaven after the crumbling rotted facility I’ve had to use for the past four years. It all seems so decadent after the stoic, monkish isolation and bleak existence I’ve imposed upon myself for several years. And what has brought it all on? You may well ask.
First of all, I’ve moved the boat from Silva Bay to Nanaimo. It now rests at a decrepit but secure dock in the old shipyard. I have friends there who can keep an eye on ‘Seafire’ when I’m away and as it is said, “A change is as good as a rest”. I’ll miss Silva Bay but a few disagreeable folks (With whom, I’ll admit, I’ve become a little too reactive… but don’t pick on my beloved dog! ) and a few other new realities forced my hand. An old Sufi mantra cautions to avoid “Vexatious people” although, it should be noted, one can never elude themselves. Now playing softly in the background, you can hear Bob Seger singing “Against The Wind.”
Because of where I was moored I bore the brunt of a vicious autumn storm a few nights ago. It blew hard on the boat’s beam and crushed us up against the dock. It was a long night and I realized it was indeed time to move on. A night with 40 knot gusts on the windward side of the dock’s end was bad enough. There’ll be some serious winds coming and I don’t want to be there should the ninety-six foot phallic symbol on the other side of the dock tear itself and everything else downwind loose. That includes a fuel dock, a floatplane and another marina. I hope I’m wrong about that but learned sailors use their learned judgement to avoid situations requiring learned skills. Besides, the way things have been going there lately, somehow it could all become my fault. Many people allude to an ancient native curse put on the bay when the Spanish arrived. Certainly, nothing ever thrives there and somedays I wonder if there’s something to it. This old salt knows when it’s time to weigh anchor and bugger off out. People change and move on, I might be back to this beautiful bay.
Life is a journey and so on we go. I’m now writing at the dining room table of a friend’s house which is located on some fabulous waterfront property. Sitting here, about fifty feet above the tideline, I can see across the Strait of Georgia to Gibsons, up Howe Sound to the mountains at Whistler, and a little further eastward lays the climbing sprawl of West Vancouver. Looking the other way past Entrance Island the view goes well up Malaspina Strait, the gateway to Desolation Sound. Later the mainland is just visible beneath a very low layer of cloud. Commercial marine traffic passes on a dull horizon as if suspended between sky and sea. Beneath the house, a rocky shoreline reveals a lovely sand beach at low tide. Sea lions, seals and birds populate the foreshore much to Jack’s continuing interest. It’s a huge piece of heaven and I’m frustrated at how to photograph it adequately.
I’m here to do some renovations and upgrades on a pal’s house before he retires. It rains nearly every day so I have to divide my time between inside and outside. Among my least favourite things, dry-walling is at the top of the list. The dust gets everywhere and even with a face mask I manage to inhale a bit of crud. I suppose that if I were a professional, there’s be a lot less sanding, and I’d have specialized equipment, but I’m not a pro and have no such intention. People do this as a lifetime career and I can only repeat that there are certain types of courage which I do not possess. I can’t recommend it as a healthy occupation. This fine dust sticks to sweaty hands and face as it must and I can only imagine what occurs inside a person’s respiratory plumbing. My writer’s brain devises a plot where some wit decides that gypsum is carcinogenic and that all drywall must be removed. That would involve almost every building in North America! Remember, there’s huge profit in paranoia. It is entirely possible.
It repeatedly occurs to me as I work around this property about how our stuff owns us. The incessant maintenance and repairs is a grinding weight, a millstone indeed. I know, I know, our “Home is our castle” and that it often used to tell the world about our perceived social status but, good grief! I’ve been doing home repairs on and off for a long time and I can tell you that there is a good reason for all those “Home Improvement” stores and specialty bath, kitchen, flooring, drapery, tile, lighting, and yard stores. An average kitchen renovation starts at between $40,000 to $50,000 and goes up from there. I won’t go beyond these next sentences to rant about the stunning fiscal and environment waste of home “Ownership” and landscaping in North America. Think of all the food we could provide on that same land! In our culture, our reason to be is to consume and there’s no fighting the madness. You can go your own way however.
I perceive a growing awareness about need Vs greed and ever more questioning minds. The recent and continuing economic crisis has forced many folks into a new awareness.
A recent magazine articles describes how some of the middle class who determined to maintain appearance with a nice house, fine clothes, and a new car, but have no pay cheque to pay cheque cash left to afford proper groceries. One blogsite to which I subscribe is “The Tiny House Blog’. Some of the perspectives there are skewed, and commercial, but there is also a great delight as people discover how little room they need to be safe and warm, to lie down and stand up. Not only does limited living space preclude the accumulation of all that unnecessary stuff, personal resources including time and cash are freed up to live more wholly. I’m not saying that living in a boat, as I do, is carefree. There is still important maintenance to do and always the ubiquitous ocean waits ever so patiently to invade your tiny space if you are not vigilant. But at least one can hold the illusion of being free to sail away at will.
My dear intrepid Australian friends, Rodger and Ali, are now in San Diego aboard their beloved ‘Betty Mac’ having left their other boat in the Arctic, they’ll be leaving in a few days to head south to Baja and somehow I hope to meet up with them there this winter. What a contrast! Summers in the land of ice and snow, winter in the desert-bound sea. Meanwhile, my broad ocean view is shrinking as the fog descends again and the Entrance Island lighthouse fades into the morning gloom. There are up to 15mm of cold, cold rain forecast today. Good thing I mowed the lawn yesterday!
The latest post from ‘Sage on Sail’ describes how Tony and Connie are refitting their boat in Northern Phuket. After seven months of dry storage aftera year’s sailing in southern watersthe boat requires a nasty ordeal of preparation before heading into the Indian Ocean. I sit here peering out into the cold rain still slanting down a day later. Winds are forecast to pickup to 60 to 80 kph later today. It could be another electricity-out sort of day. That is a regular event on a Gulf Island during winter months. Most trees still carry their leaves and so are far more susceptible to the force of the wind. There’ll be lots of trees blown down onto powerlines. It’s nature’s way of pruning the forests. Survival of the strongest. What winds will blow to thin out the human forest? I’m always shocked to realize that like everyone else, I am pathetically dependant on electricity and all the conveniences we take for granted.
During the winter season ahead, after a while, it’ll be considered a fine day when the rain hammers down vertically. A sunny day is a natural holiday. People suddenly reappear magically, sun mushrooms, gone again with the next precipitation. Those are also days to frantically try and patch leaks, at least temporarily. My bones ache for someplace south. Jack is holed up somewhere in a corner of this lovely big house. He’s got lots of hiding places here and doesn’t really want to be outside exploring on a day like this. I’ve found him. He’s gone back to bed. Good idea.
Sure enough! 11:47. The power’s gone off. I’m downstairs trying to glue some splash panels for a shower stall to the wall when I’m plunged into blackness. Of course my flashlight is not where it’s supposed to be in my tool bucket but somehow I manage to complete fixing the floppy plastic panel to the wall without gluing myself there as well. The panel has to fit perfectly and with this glue, aptly named “Liquid Nail”, second chances can be ugly.
I emerge to survey my ocean panorama and see a small sloop on an Easterly heading passing the lighthouse. The building wind is SE. Entrance Island is fringed with billowing surf and this little boat, tightly reefed, is sailing full and by into the teeth of the rising gale. I close my eyes and recall all those times when it was me out there in an open cockpit, soaked through, so bloody cold and feeling so salty and manly. On the edge of death and feeling so alive. Your watch mate, your watch.
“ Life is simple. Everything happens for you, not to you. Everything happens at exactly the right moment, neither too soon nor too late. You don’t have to like it….
it’s just easier if you do.” Byron Katie