The Empty Signifier, Eva’s Loo and The April’s Fool

Feeling Frisky? Feral Gabriola road runners do their spring fan dance.

Feeling Frisky? Feral Gabriola road runners do their spring fan dance.

(To enlarge images, click on each picture)

March zoomed past in a frenetic blur. And I can’t see much that I’ve accomplished. I have finally finished a home renovation project for a friend and now I’m trying to move on toward my own goals. There has been a round of medical appointments which have left me puzzled and a bit angry. After copious testing and consultation the end result is yet more prescriptions. I’m becoming convinced that it is a mix of all the damned pills that has me feeling so poorly. I quit taking them and soon felt much better. The type II diabetes I allegedly have is something I can beat with diet and exercise and perhaps my other health issues will abate as well. With several prescriptions mixing around in one’s plumbing, I’m not sure what chemical combinations are formed nor what their effects are on an individual. I can say that the tentacles growing out of my back can be darned near as itchy as the third eye which appeared on the top of my head. Whadya mean it’s only a bald spot?

Flock this! gorging gulls enjoy the annual herring spawn.

Flock this! Gorging gulls enjoy the annual herring spawn.

Once again, it appears, our Western medical acumen is eager to treat symptoms rather than address cause. It is good for business and I wonder how many Porsche SUVs I help keep on the road. I’m researching my health issues very thoroughly and am now beginning to pursue more natural sensibilities. If I’m going to sail away I need to be healthy and one doctor at least, bless him, has told me that the sailing away is on its own the best cure. Certainly, the prescription I received for diabetes soon had me feeling near death and I do want a solution more positive than that. I flushed my pills down the loo. Much better! I suppose one should consider the environmental effects of doing that, but what is the proper way to dispose of medications?

We are a culture of excess. I know I have certainly allowed myself to be programmed to consume far more than I need. Now I pay for my foolishness. This bog trotter’s research about diabetes has turned up some interesting approaches. Insulin is a hormone which the body produces to help cells absorb glucose. A lot of the crap food we eat and drink, over time, reduces the body’s ability to produce sufficient insulin hormone, which causes an increase of belly fat which in turn further degrades our ability to produce enough natural insulin. The spiral deepens.

From this. Showing old window opening and new windows framed in.

From this.
Showing old window opening and new windows framed in after walling-in an adjoining closet then opening the back to enlarge the bathroom.

Speaking of loos I have, among other things, been busy refinishing a friend’s bathroom for his wife Eva. Both go to work in far off places so communication has not been the best. The job has lasted far too long, punctuated with long delays. Now it’s done. It has turned out well and my efforts to do something exotic with affordable materials has proven a grand success. I’ve decided, however, that I am finished with this sort of work. I’ve earned my bread rebuilding boats and doing home renovation work but I’m having to concede that I’m now too stove-up to continue peddling my talents. My hands have become so arthritic that I have difficulty holding my tools at times. Working on my knees and contorting myself into awkward places is really becoming challenging. I’m not complaining, just explaining. All those years that I wasted trying to prove how tough I was. And I was! But the geezers of that time warned me. Yeah right!

To this... Heated tile floor, wainscoting, acrylic clawfoot tub, recycled shower glass becomes toilet divider. Well I'm chuffed about it!

To this…
Heated tile floor, wainscoting, acrylic clawfoot tub, recycled shower glass becomes toilet divider.
Well I’m chuffed about it!

Now it’s my turn. I recently found myself cautioning a cocky young fellow to never mess with an old bull. I think I’ve heard that somewhere before.

WET! Gabriola Organic taxi. Some folks proudly refuse to wash their cars.

WET!
Gabriola Organic taxi. Some folks proudly refuse to wash their cars.

This brings me to a new grammatical term I’ve learned. Empty signifier, apparently a word which absorbs meaning rather providing some. Wikipedia delves into a description using words like semiotics and postmodernism, which always has me back-pedalling rapidly. Apparently words like race, gender, oomph and mana are floating, or empty, signifiers and are said to possess “symbolic value zero”. If this is what having a degree in literature does for you I’m glad I missed it. It is not one of the things which keeps me awake at night. Most people to whom I’ve mentioned this respond by saying “Yeah I know some people like that.” I have to be careful that this doesn’t become an empty signified blog. If I don’t leave the dock soon, it will be. God knows there is plenty enough emptiness out there already. What a name for a boat! ‘Empty Signifier.‘ I’ll bet there’s one somewhere!

Say no more!

Say no more!

The bakery on Gabriola Island. It is wood-fired, the bread is delicious. Many people say they expect to see Hobbit folks scurrying about

The bakery on Gabriola Island. It is wood-fired, the bread is delicious. Many people say they expect to see Hobbit folks scurrying about.

The job site where I’ve been is a prime waterfront location with a priceless view. It has allowed me to watch the annual drama of the spring herring fishery. It appears that in these waters it was a good year for the herring fleet. Seine boats and gill netters made some spectacular sets. I saw several big seiners heading for the packing houses with decks awash, they were so deeply laden. Often, there will be an incident where an overloaded boat enters the Fraser River. Buoyancy in fresh water is considerably less. The vessel promptly sinks.

Beach Caviar with a hint of kelp. Mounds of Herring roe accumulate on the beach after the spawn

Beach Caviar with a hint of kelp.
Mounds of Herring roe accumulate on the beach after the spawn

Rows of roe. Wake up and smell the sea Billy!

Rows of roe. Wake up and smell the sea Billy!

Big Boats for Tiny Fish. Tensions rise as the weeks pass while waiting for the arrival of the herring

Big Boats for Tiny Fish.
Tensions rise as the weeks pass while waiting for the arrival of the herring

The annual herring spawn occurs later in the season further north up the coast. The Heiltsuk and Haida nations are demanding a moratorium on the herring fishery. They say the stock is too low for the extensive harvest of a datum species. Herring are a link in the marine food chain, both up and down, to which everything else relates. Ninety percent of the herring volume harvested volume does not feed any human. It all becomes fish meal and fertilizer while the highly prized roe is sold to Japan. After the herring spawn, and the fishing boats are gone, there are streaks of milt in the water. Then, after the next spring storm, mounds of herring roe, or eggs, wash up on the beach to decompose in a rich, heavenly reek. The gulls gorge themselves until they can barely fly and there is a frenzy of activity along shorelines of British Columbia. In turn, all that fish fornication and decomposition provides a huge nutrient base for marine life.

The herring arrive. At low tide one line of sea foam, one line of herring milt.

The herring arrive. At low tide one line of sea foam, one line of herring milt.

I would like to see a two or three year moratorium placed on the herring row fishery. I can hear the howls of outrage! Catch what you want for food, take the roe for personal consumption as the natives here have always done. Many fisherman claim they make little profit from herring, despite the very expensive speciality equipment they use to maximize their catches. Somebody is turning a profit when a modern aluminum herring skiff can cost several hundred thousand dollars and fishing openings, which some years, run for less than an hour.

Salmon Berry Bloom

Salmon Berry Bloom

Coincidentally, I was fortunate to recently catch a BBC documentary about a seventy-one hundred hectare reserve at Cabo Pulmo on Southern Baha, Mexico. The Mexican Government imposed a moratorium on this once heavily fished area. To the north, and to the south, rapacious sport and commercial fisheries continue, yet this reserve now again teams with fish at original population levels. It is spectacular to see. Locals are making a decent living now from eco-tourism instead of the meagre existence they knew as fisherman in this once fished-out area. The experiment is proving so successful that the Mexican government is seriously considering similar conservation strategies for up to ten percent of Mexican coastline. It is obvious once again that nature needs no help or manipulation. It just requires being left alone. We must learn that we are an alien influence on this planet. The natural planet does need our constant interference. There is a huge difference between need and greed and we all have to learn the joy of taking as little as possible instead of how much.

Port San Juan

Port San Juan

Tonight I’m spending my first night in my trailer. Jack and I are warm and cozy and dry inside while huge blobs of rain fall from the limbs of monstrous Sitka Spruce towering above us. The wind is incessant and there is fresh snow on the mountains. There is no hint of spring tonight. Less than a hundred meters away surf from the open Pacific thunders on a broad shoreline. We’re staying at the Pacheedaht campground. It is located on a long sandy beach running between the mouths of the Gordon River and the San Juan River next to Port Renfrew. It is spectacular. In the distance lies Cape Flattery, land’s end for continental USA. The two kilometre beach is rightly part of the local native reservation and I believe provides a steady source of income. The surfers come year-round. Despite the intermittent cloudbursts and the subsequent boggy trail beneath the trees, the facility is nearly full. It is not hard to imagination times past when huge dugout canoes would be hauled up on the beach, resting between fishing, whaling and warring expeditions. They had to have been amazing sea people. To manouver one of these cumbersome vessels through the surf with paddle-power only would take amazing skill. I have difficulty remembering native names correctly so here ‘Pacheedaht’ becomes ‘Patch this, patch that, there’s a leak in your canoe”. I know. It’s silly but it works.

The confluence of the Gordon River and the Pacific Ocean. This is the southern end of the famous West Coast Trail

The confluence of the Gordon River and the Pacific Ocean. This is the southern end of the famous West Coast Trail

It’s Good Friday evening. The place we are camped is on the bank of the Gordon River where it runs into the sea. I think it is that outflow at certain points of tide that makes the surf so appealing. God knows I’m a sailor, surf is something I don’t want to know a lot about. At this point in my life, being deliberately cold and wet with a chance of drowning is losing its charm. At dusk, in the salt marsh across the river, a huge heard of elk came out to graze. Now in the darkness, the surfers crowd around huge bonfires despite the pelting rain. The old days of van camping are apparently gone. These surfer dudes have a convoy of generic white travel trailers with pop-out portions and huge diesel pickup trucks. So much for counter-culture. I’ll bet most of these characters don’t even know who Dick Dale is. I couldn’t see one VW van parked anywhere.

The things we do for a few moments of bliss. Surfers off the beach at Pacheedaht

The things we do for a few moments of bliss.
Surfers off the beach at Pacheedaht. Cape Flattery in the distance, open  Pacific beyond.

Camping at Pacheedaht. Jack loved the mud.

Camping at Pacheedaht.
Jack loved the mud.

The drive here from Mesachie Lake on Lake Cowichan is a piece of cake. It is paved all the way now and is named ‘Pacific Marine Road.’ I remember when it was all gravel, a series of connected main logging roads. Public use was then lowly regarded. The dust and rocks flew and you were noted as someone from out of town if your windshield wasn’t broken. All too often, out of the swirling dust, an off-highway truck would appear with a grill eight feet tall and a load of logs that loomed as big, it seemed, as New York City. How times have changed! Once it was considered prestigious to be a white, male, heterosexual making a living as a logger. That is now politically incorrect. I recently saw a logger’s truck with a logo describing his enterprise as “Vegetation Management.”

BIGFOOT Harris Creek Giant Sitka Spruce over 4 metres in diameter

BIGFOOT
Harris Creek Giant Sitka Spruce over 4 metres in diameter

Look up, waaay up!

Look up, waaay up!

GUN CONTROL

GUN CONTROL

Downtown

Downtown

Pink Fawn lily

Pink Fawn Lily

Now then, all of you who eat bread made from selectively harvested grain please raise your hands. WOT!? Good help em. Those freakin’ clear-cuttin’ gluten farmers. Send in the owls! Or is it spotted gophers? Well, so long as it’s somebody else’ fault. Well it’s Easter. Hope you’re not eating too many hot-cross buns and chocolate eggs. And if, like me somedays, you’re stricken with a flickering memory, which is certainly no joke, perhaps you can have fun hiding your own eggs.

Adventure is dealing with the unknown while moving toward the unknown.” …anon

Island in the Rain Forest

Island in the Rain Forest

2 responses to “The Empty Signifier, Eva’s Loo and The April’s Fool

  1. Your photos and text make the west coast sound like paradise. Why would you ever want to leave?

  2. Tony,

    for some of the same reasons you did! and what a wonderful place to have to come home to.
    Glad to hear you’ve completed your leg.
    Best, Fred

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