My time in Shearwater is coming to an end. This may be the last blog I post from here. By mid-December old ‘Seafire’ and I will be making our way south to whatever lays ahead. Of course I’m waiting for some really heavy weather to make the trip. There’s little drama with fair weather. I may still not be home to Ladysmith for Christmas if I flounder into a typical winter weather system. In my tugboat days, I’ve waited in one spot for up to two weeks. I’m sure the trip southward will provide some interesting material for a future blog, one way or the other.
Things just haven’t worked out for me here. I didn’t amass the funds I had hoped to; in fact I’m further behind financially than when I arrived. I can’t say that I’ve discovered any other good reason for having come here, perhaps that will be revealed in the future. Life is like that. A rear view is often very clear but for the moment I have a sense of unfinished business. I don’t know what it is.That aside, recently the weather has turned cold, clear, and calm. There’s been no rain for a week! If a stormy winter night is an adventure, a dead-calm darkness of nearly fifteen hours is an ordeal. Staying warm is a challenge and condensation inside the boat is an eternal battle.
Certainly, the notion of leaving a job to go into a situation with no money and no prospects seems suicidal and it will be a challenging time. I’m not expecting any warmth or fuzziness for a while. These thoughts are punctuated by photos emailed by friends in Mexico.
. I recently read that the pursuit of happiness should be secondary to the happiness of pursuit. We’ll see. Certainly it is up to me whether my life is an ordeal or an adventure. There is not much to write about when life is a daily grind of dreary work and long, lonely evenings. The boat is ready to go, I just need a couple more pay cheques before I can untie and sail away. This is the same country which had me spellbound during the summer months but there is something about winter which brings on a profound loneliness and depression. Certainly there are some folks left here who have not already gone south. They live their lives one way or the other. I am not prepared to socialize in the local pub and so here I sit poking away at my laptop alone in the night. Stay tuned, more to come.
“I won’t belong to any organization that would have me as a member.”
Saturday morning I awake in my bunk which I soon realize is dripping with condensation. It is winter time on the Northcoast and my boat was built for more southerly latitudes. There are puddles under the mattress and all the efforts I’ve made to insulate and keep a dry bed are in vain. I’ll rip the forepeak apart in the spring and rebuild it but I realize I must move the boat south even before I arise. Enough! Neither of us can endure this sort of winter climate my old bones scream in protest. I’ll sleep in the main cabin for the duration of my tenure here.
I get up, put the kettle on for coffee, wipe thick condensation from the windows and see soggy heaps of hail on the dock. There is snow low-down on the not-so-distant mountains. I can smell it in the air. There was a time when I would have revelled in this on-the-edge living but the romance went out of that a long time ago and I’ve decided being warm and dry has certain acceptable nuances as well.
Coffee made, I check my e-mail and open one from Twisted Sifter which has a video-clip of a pianist playing “Imagine” on the sidewalk in front of a concert hall in Paris, France. It is only then that I learn of the multiple horrific terrorist attacks the night before. At the hour those dark events were unfolding I sat in this boat watching a movie about a Buddhist monk and his novice who live on a floating temple in the middle of a lake. The ironic contrast of that overwhelms me. So I write this:
The driving rain is relentless, cold and stinging. The Shearwater winter weather, where you can wring water from any handful of air, has followed me all the way here to Ladysmith. I’ve come south for a few days to take care of business and medical appointments. It also turns out that my beloved dog Jack needs some surgical attention at the veterinary clinic. I’m anxious about that, as if he were my own child. If you don’t understand the affection and healing that can occur between a person and a dog; well, you have my sympathy.
So here I am standing in the rain, worrying about Jack when I’m overwhelmed by the aroma of ripe, red succulent apples. I follow my nose. It turns out to be a bin of apples in front of a feed and garden shop across the street. I am amazed to be able to smell the fruit so far away and suddenly understand how it is being a creature like a deer or a bear near an apple tree. Perhaps my acute sense is due to being in the Northwoods for so long but as always, the sense of smell is a great memory stimulant and suddenly I am taken back to my childhood. For a while my father worked as an orchard keeper and we lived in cottages at the edge of. orchards. The aroma of that single apple bin brought install recall from over half a century ago. There is also a sweet tang of smoke from my mother’s wood cookstove and that leads to memories of another little black dog so long ago. I’m suddenly blinking back tears and shake myself free of the moment, all brought on by the scent of apples. Bloody hell, have I gone round the twist?
There are months of this bleak weather ahead and I wonder how I will survive it. The boat is over three hundred miles north and I’ll say that, for me, home is where the boat is. I’ll be back there in a few days but it seems very far away and I desperately wish the boat and I were somewhere far south. I see all the consumer convenience and gratification here, and yet despite the incredible pervasive dampness on the North Coast I miss the solitude and natural richness such as the humpback whale that swam by the docks a few days ago, with the howling of wolves in the background. That was a moment which will last a lifetime. I can concede that my aching bones feel much better down here, even when it is raining. I do find it fascinating that things I would normally take for granted, like the colours of autumn leaves, a near-infinite diversity of shopping, restaurants and stores with profuse inventories of food for sale, all of that leaves me slightly overwhelmed. I do not miss the frantic rush of nearly everyone, the sound of sirens and at the moment, the tsunami of Christmas marketing. Give it a rest! Bloody hell! Bumhug!
I wonder how I’ll feel about it all once back in Shearwater.
The highlight of this Southern jaunt was attending a performance by my hero, Billy Connolly. A Glaswegian musician, comedian, actor and philosopher (in my opinion) he is world-renowned. Now in his mid-seventies, he has various health issues yet stood his gig on stage, non-stop, for nearly two hours. The entire sold-out audience was doubled over with laughter at his apparently impromptu ramblings. I suspect it’s the only chance I’ll ever have to see him live. If you’re not familiar with this brilliant character, there is a lot of his material available simply by googling up his name. You’ll love him or hate him.
I’ll be returning to Shearwater tomorrow. That will on be Remembrance Day. I’ve previously expressed my polemic views on the incredible stupidity of the military and the mindless waste of war and how all enemies think God is on their side. I’ve offended some people deeply and inspired others to look at the whole picture and think for themselves. I hope that this day is taken as an opportunity to see ourselves as the potentially naturally nasty creatures we all are and what a concerted effort it is necessary to avoid violent conflict. I know I’m a dreamer but I believe it Is possible for us to become creatures of a higher level. That is a personal and individual endeavour, which requires massive introspection and sometimes painful growth and I’ve said enough. Just imagine if everyone stayed home and cleaned up the mess in their own yards. What a wonderful world it could be!
I’ve stood stiffly at attention in a military uniform in the cold, cold November rain and wept as the Last Post was played but now the most poignant sound for me is the 1942 BBC recording called Nightingales And Bombers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_MHqW5KVds
This is a spring recording made in the woods of Southern England. The objective was to record the spring songs of nightingales but as the tape reels turned, squadrons of RAF bombers were climbing overhead on a bombing raid to Germany. It is the sound of sweet peace juxtaposed against the ominous thunder of young men going to kill and be killed. If the recording doesn’t shiver your timbers, I truly hope you have no sons or daughters to send to war. Have a very nice day.
Something really odd occurred today. I’ve been trying to search my inner self for answers to some personal issues and have been sceptically looking for a sign. Well today I think I got it and I’m not sure what the hell it means. Jack and I were having a morning walk along the banks of the Nanaimo River before I went to my final round of appointments. There was a sudden raucous sound ahead and then veering directly toward me, about twenty feet high, was a large bald eagle carrying something which I first assumed was a fish. Pursuing the big bird was another eagle. It was an incredible sight. I furiously tried to extract my camera but before I could, the second eagle knocked the treasure free from the first bird’s talons. It fell with a thunk immediately beside Jack who, startled, was suspicious of why it was raining ducks.
It proved to be a Mallard hen lying on its back. My first thought was that “Verily, verily the gods doth provide a succulent duck for dinner from the heavens above.” I bent to pick it up and noticed it was breathing and so I flipped the lovely wee quacker onto its feet. It was alive despite a punctured breast and, for some odd reason, appeared to be in shock. I decided to wrap it in a blanket of maple leaves. A few minutes later its head popped out of the covering and then it waddled off into the safety of a patch of blackberries. Now that’s one very lucky duck! And, I’m sure, there’s one very pissed off eagle. What is really interesting is that this old farm boy was once easily able to bonk any barnyard animal on the head with sledge hammer when it was time for butchering. As a hunter, I’ve been remorseless about the countless creatures I’ve dispatched for their meat. Once I proudly blew ducks out of the sky and now I’m proud at having done something to try and save one humble duck.
I don’t know how to interpret this one as an omen other than a moral which has something to do with never giving up. And that’s the whole shituation. In the morning I’ll be winging my way back to Seafire and the next adventure.
“Progress is man’s ability to complicate simplicity.”
Isn’t it interesting how things work out? It is early on Wednesday morning, the brightening of the day is occurring reluctantly after a very rainy night. My toilet clogged first thing and I’m taking time off from work to resolve the problem. It might become a shitty day. As I returned to the boat after booking out from the job and grim-lipped at the task ahead, I heard something unusual.
I paused and listened. To my delight what I could hear was a chorus of wolves howling. The music drifted down through the timber on the slopes above. A sacred sound to me, it is a terrifying and hellish siren to many who chose to believe the dark myths and embellished lies about wolves. Curse or blessing, that is up to each of us. My point in mentioning any of this personal moment is that had the timing of my movements not been exactly as they were, I would not have heard those uplifting notes. I think that’s pretty cool. Now…Dung ho!
On the note of a wolf howl let me direct my readers to an incredible website. pacificwild.org is how you will find the incredible photography and video work of Ian McAllister and his organization, Pacific Wild. The endeavour is based here on Denny Island and does wonderful work to heighten awareness of the beauty and fragility of the Great Bear Rainforest as this area is known. The stunning images leave me feeling like an amateur photographer and wanting to throw my cameras away in humility. If those photos don’t stir your heart, you’re dead. Stay in your city, zombie!
Two days later, the wolves are at it again. Two packs, one on each side of the bay, called back and forth to each other through the morning. The serenade of quavering howls and yodels went on for hours until the cold autumn rain began again. Soon it was pelting down. Its rising roar drowned out the wolves. I imagine them snuggled up together under a thick cedar tree, warm, dry and loved. Yes, even wolves are very capable of great love.
This is a short blog. I’ll be away south taking care of business but I’ll be back to my beloved Seafire as soon as possible to see where the universe might lead me. Here’s a short piece I wrote the other morning just before the wolf songs began.