Monthly Archives: November 2018

Yet Again

Near-full, the November moon rises over Ladysmith Harbour. Serenity for the moment.

Black Friday is past, now it is Black Sunday and then Cyber Monday. Folks with bellies full of turkey are out there decimating themselves and their families on highways all over America. It is not a cheery thought. Wearily, once again it is the time when the annual worship reaches a frenzied climax of our religion, Consumerism. Our temples: the malls. Black Friday! What a way to start a time of year that is supposedly about peace, love, hope and togetherness.

The Dream

There is still a quarter of November to wade through and I am sick of Christmas already. People have their homes and yards draped in garish decoration. The tradition of coloured lights near Christmas time has become another competition of excess between neighbours. In the daylight, lawns are littered with deflated effigies of santas, reindeer, snowmen, and other crass visual clichés. With all those lights blazing, I wonder what happens to the “Think Green” messages about reduced consumption. Meanwhile, the communities of homeless folks hunker down for winter by adding extra tarps over their individual tents.

Hunkering down for winter. Tarpaulins add some thin extra protection. This is a homeless enclave in downtown Nanaimo.

Jack and I have been spending every dry day visiting our new stomping grounds at the old Swallowfield Farm site. The estuary and adjoining salt marsh will be the source of many great wildlife photos in future.

An oasis in a sea of blackberries. The brambles have completely overrun the old field. An “invasive species” indeed.

A rabbit hole. It is not a place to fall into from the rocks above.

When I was young, Thanksgiving in Canada was celebrated at the same time as it was in the US. It was set at this date to celebrate the end of harvest and the completed preparations for the winter ahead. Usually, winter was well set-in with snow and bitter cold. There was little to do with Christmas in the wind other than the Sears and Eaton’s Christmas catalogues which arrived in time to serve their mail order service. My mom’s birthday was December seventh and for me that was the first indication of the coming festivities. Christmas cards would begin to arrive in the mail (another lost tradition, both the cards and the post office) Christmas songs would begin to play on the AM radio and the season would rapidly build toward the fantastic peak of a celebration of life in the dead of winter. New Year’s day would mark the end of it all. It was the intensity that made Christmas such a special time. All gone now, blurred in a greyness of marketing that has gone on for weeks already. Bumhug!

Deer trails in the marsh. It is a hundred metre dash between the cover of forest on either side.

The darkness and dampness of winter has seeped into everything. ‘Seafire’ feels like a tomb inside. It takes hours to exorcise the penetrating chill of winter. I find it hard to believe that just two years ago, my beloved boat was a place of warmth and cozy shelter through a long, wet upcoast winter. To distract myself, I stay busy with my writing, photography and video-making. My most recent effort is now posted on YouTube.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSuR95bfKS8&t=142s

Waterfront standoff.
For weeks the empty freighter lay off the foreshore imposing itself on the local residents. At night it provided a blaze of light and the incessant throb of its diesel generators. Then one morning, it was gone.

That is the link which should take you directly to “The Fickle Sea.” I’m excited to consider what I might achieve in future with more experience and better equipment. I have a huge archive of poetry and will try to make videos built on the foundation of some of those poems. Finding good footage to splice together into a cohesive and complimentary visual poem is the challenge. Looking for beauty and positive perspectives within the blandness of winter and familiarity is my chosen method of maintaining good cheer and a sense of purpose. This evening the beginning of our first winter storm is evident. The forecasters have warned us for two days. The barometer has slowly and steadily declined. Rain clatters on the skylight over my desk and shrubbery outside the window flails in the rising wind. If a storm is inevitable, relax and enjoy it. You can’t do anything about it. Enjoy yielding to forces greater than yourself. It’s called storm ecstasy.

November

The last leaf.
This is from a broadleaf Alder or Cottonwood. it is about nine inches wide. “How the mighty are fallen.”

The richest man is not he who has the most, but he who needs the least.” …anonymous

The Run Is Done

Lord steamin’ lychgate!
The morning sun vapourizes last night’s heavy dew.

There is a tang in the air. The funk of fishy decay is inescapable. Dogs quiver and lose their hearing as they charge off to find their own dead salmon to roll in. There may be spawning runs as late as January but for the moment, the banks and bottoms of our local streams are littered with the corpses of dead salmon from the most recent event. The last few stragglers laconically swim against the current. Eagles and gulls sit along the river edge looking sated and sluggish. There is bear scat along stream-side trails and some diligence is due because Jack, in all his dogliness, might be inclined to try and impose indignities at any bruins he may come across. He’ll brook no large intruders to his private world. With diminished hearing, his realm can be very private. His elderly sophistication may well have had him rise above the old indulgence of perfuming himself by rolling on a rotten fish but today he ran ahead out of sight. My angst about him returning embalmed with  “Eau de Poison Parti” came from past experience. No perfuming but I found him belly-deep in the water of a local river  snacking on a decaying delicacy. He is, after all, only being a dog. In consideration of some of the noxious things humans eat; well, at least dead fish are organic. Just don’t try licking my face.

Autumn corn field. As the soil becomes saturated with rain, very large puddles will form. Flocks of wild swans will arrive to winter while feeding on the roots and insects in the mud.

Limber up! A beautiful climbing tree. I can still see the world through a boy’s eyes.

Snowberry

Welcome to de swamp! What a rich habitat for waterfowl of all sorts as well as deer and other wild creatures.

The lower fields. These former hay meadows immediately adjoin the Chemainus River’s mouth and fabulous estuary. There is a labyrinth of twisting channels and gravel bars, pools and islets. Seals, otters, fish, birds, insects and reptiles live in this wonder world.

This week I discovered a grand place to walk with my cameras. It is heaven for Jack.  We’ve been back twice already. Only a few minutes from home, the estuary of the Chemainus River was once  the site of a large sprawling farm acquired by the company which built the huge, and often foul pulp mill at Crofton. It has returned to nature in a grand way. The blackberries have invaded many of the fields which lie among the swamps and backwaters of the broad river mouth. A delightful place, you’ll find me there often in the future. It takes little imagination to see native villages here long before the white invaders arrived. The name Chemainus has a first nations origin which I’ve decided to finally quit pondering.

This comes from Wikipedia: The name Chemainus comes from the native shaman and prophet “Tsa-meeun-is” meaning broken chest. Legend says that the man survived a massive wound in his chest to become a powerful chief. His people took his name to identify their community, the Stz’uminus First Nation, formerly the Chemainus Indian Band.”

The Blackberry Factory. With all the acres of wild berries, it could well be the source of wine, jam and other delights. Actually it is a pulp and paper mill, producing a horrific stench at times, referred to by some as the “smell of money.” I’ve long used the plumes of effluent as a weather beacon showing strength and direction of the Vancouver Island wind while sailing across the Strait Of Georgia from mainland Canada.

G’mornin! In the morning sun a fungus breaks up through the ground. How things so delicate can displace hardened earth and stones is amazing.

You are being watched. Bald eagles blend into the forest while they preen in the sun and wait for a meal to pass by.

Jack keeps an eye on his patch. A seal had shown itself a few minutes earlier. This is a final bend in the river before it floods out into a broad estuary.

 

Considering that I survived a serious chest trauma and subsequent major heart surgery I am now wondering if “Tsa-meeun-is” should become my new name. You’ve got to admit there is a certain ring to it; “Chemainus Fred.” What really intrigues me is that, for thirty years, I’ve been driving by the inconspicuous road which provides access to the trails and meadows of this fantastic eco-sanctuary. Go figure! I am the guy who is constantly harping on about seeing what you look at. A fellow whom I met there today claimed that he has lived as an immediate neighbour to this sprawling old farm and had only just discovered the access after twenty-one years. So, I don’t feel quite so chagrined. In any case the massive acreage was once Swallowfield Farm. It seems a shame that after all the industry of clearing this rich bottomland that it no longer produces food and instead sponges effluent from the looming mill.

You and me, some wine and cheese and fresh bread and a dry patch of grass. Yeah right! It’s November dude!

But it is always a joy and wonder to find a treasure that has been so close. I have noted numerous survey stakes in several places and and desperately hope that the word “development” is nowhere in the future of this piece of heaven.There is a life lesson in that and I remember a TV clergyman named Robert Schuller often saying, “Bloom where you’re planted.” Yep, you’ve got to see what you look at. I keep saying that.

November slides on toward winter. Veterans Day has passed. Thank you all for your kind remarks about my YouTube film ‘Swoop.’ I am clearly not the only one who questions what it is we choose to think of on Remembrance Day. A viscous heavy rain hammers down for increasingly longer intervals. Soon it will persist endlessly for days and nights at a time. The bright leaves have been beaten off the trees and now lay on the ground as a dull, slimy carpet. The temperature hovers just above freezing, providing a penetrating, bone-chilling dampness. It will seem warmer when the temperature drops and the humidity is frozen out of the air. Friends are migrating south. I wonder how to deal with the long, dark, bleak cold winter ahead. My only hope is to stay busy and find cheer within each long hour ahead.

For some odd reason, I, who loves being at sea out of sight of land, also have a passion for the intricacies and entanglements of swamp land. Bog Trotter!

It is more beautiful to hear a string that snaps than never to draw a bow,” is a line from a book titled “The Little Old Lady Who Broke All The Rules,” by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg. The novel is about a small group of geriatrics in a Swedish care home who decide their existence is so miserable that they can only improve things by turning to a life of crime. They reason the worst that can happen is to end up in prison which, they decide, may be a fate better than the one they endure. There are many of us who can relate. I have planned, schemed and worked for years with the intention that by now I’d have ‘Seafire’ somewhere in a Southern Latitude. Palm trees, tepid water to swim in, a simple warm life with a lower cost of living and, the fantasy goes, sustained by my writing and photography. That dream was my entire focus, to the exclusion of other pleasures and satisfactions. I deferred the joy of the moment for a dream. It has not worked out; yet. Although the vision still flickers on, there are waves of hopelessness. Thank God I have my creative endeavours and a sense of humour. I reluctantly mention this, not as a lament, but only as an affirmation to the millions of others at my age who are in a similar situation enduring a despair which is deep and very dark. You are not alone, small comfort that may be. I have been actively searching for employment but no-one seems inclined to hire a man with a lifetime of skills and experience which younger workers could learn. The damnedest thing is, despite health issues, I am still vital and don’t feel at all a senior. There is a lot we old farts can contribute.

Reluctantly we turn up the shining path and stroll back to another reality.

How a culture treats its young and its seniors is a pulse-taking of its general health. And, we’re sick! Both the old and the young are the future of a society. The young have the energy and the elderly have the life-lessons to pass on and utilize that power efficiently. That is how the human race thrived for millennia. Now we’ve replaced ourselves with gadgets of our own making. Artificial intelligence is here. Stupidity is as prevalent as ever.

Berry Lane,… there’s a song in this. Imagine all the creatures living within the shelter of these vast beds of brambles. They are acres of them.

Life is certainly not fair regardless of whatever expectations one clings to. My misadventures began with a simple fall of a mere three feet! Bang! That instantly began an ongoing struggle with health and financial issues. Throw in a genetic disposition for chronic depression. That I have endured like this for nearly twenty years has to be some sort achievement of positive thinking. It is painful to feel like an outcast within a system to which you, in your productive years, contributed millions directly and otherwise. And it can always be worse. I could be a geezer in some place like Yemen or Syria or, God forbid, Toronto, New York or …well,the world has a lot of armpits!

Find the deer. They’re in there somewhere.

My good friend Jack. He waits patiently while I yarn it up with other dog walkers. All the photos in this blog, to this one, were taken on today’s wander. Wot a day!

I am thankful that I live in such a wonderful place, but it is frustrating to end up like this while all around me I see folks with assets and wealth they don’t know what to do with. They certainly have not earned them, either by working hard, or smart. It’s the luck of the draw and for those of you who have achieved comfort and apparent security, know that it can also all come tumbling down with amazing speed. It is all temporary. All that stuff that you think you own; well folks, actually it owns you. I also know that all the shininess which I catch myself coveting at times, is, in our culture, mostly financed. Folks with no debt are rare and …truly wealthy. It just doesn’t seem right but that’s the way the pickle squirts! However, one of the joys of aging is to know that nothing is forever. “This too shall pass.”And, I muse, there may soon come a time when aged wizards who can sweat and bleed and dig in the dirt to produce food, and who can interpret the lines of tiny symbols in paper books will be highly revered mystics. I won’t feel redundant any more.

How sweet it will be when things finally get better. And, they will!

This is one of my signature photos; taken one fine day, many years ago while sailing close-hauled on the original ‘Seafire.’

The Flat Earth Society has members all around the globe.” … anonymous

A Deadline

She’s Baack!
This gorgeous wooden schooner is a feast for the eye no matter what flavour of boat suits you. She has reappeared since her visit of last summer and was certainly eye-candy to me. (I had a nooner on a schooner with no name!)

A deadline not to be confused with a dead line. That bit of dark humour ran through my brain as I typed the title. I was going to call this “I’ve done it again!” as reference to my second video, just posted in time for Remembrance Day or Memorial Day if you prefer. After completing my first video I decided to see if I could meet the deadline of November eleventh and compose something in respect of that date. Mission accomplished! Here’s the link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYLEx5fzbLg&t=8s

Or, go to You Tube and type in: Swoop  Fred Bailey. As it turns out, there are a lot of Fred Bailey dudes on YouTube, all shapes, sizes, ages and colours. Take your pick! My video, I hope, is visibly improved from my first. Please, please, if you see any hope in my effort, look for the thumbs up icon below the YouTube screen and give it a click. I need all the help you can give. I have tons of clips in my archives so there will be more to come. It is a fascinating art form, especially if you go at it self-taught. GAWD! But this cyber-neanderthal is determined to master videography. What I need now is a proper video camera. So far I’ve been using DSLRs, my mobile phone, and cheap action cams. I regret not diving into this discipline before computers came along and wonder at some of the brilliant work done on celluloid. Older short films and full length movies are especially amazing when you consider the considerable skill that went into making them.

My video muse is a good friend named Pär Domeij. His videos are what I aspire to and are of superb quality, flawless and award-worthy in every way. Coddiwomple is his latest masterpiece. Here’s that link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmM2a1CPjd0

If you don’t want to come sailing on the West Coast after seeing this….well real estate is still cheap in Donkey Shin Kansas or wherever it is you choose to live as far from the ocean as possible. And, I suppose, someone has to grow the wheat to make sea biscuits!

On a final note about film-making I’ve discovered a beauty this week called Fauve. You can find it on Twisted Sifter or Vimeo or simply by googling up the name. It is filmed in Quebec in real time, in real places with real people and is one of the most brilliantly made short films I’ve ever seen. This award winner is poignant, it does not have a happy ending but it is beautifully acted by two young boys and is perhaps an oblique consideration, in regard to today’s date, of how we seduce young men into going to war to die for someone else’s ambition. They have a sense of being invincible. By the way, if you are a short film junkie like me, one more film to google up is called Room 8.

Here are some still photos taken locally in the past few days. We have had spectacular weather this autumn and still, nearing the middle of November, we enjoy intermittent hours of soft, golden sunlight. I’m trying to enjoy it while it lasts because, as we all know, good weather is never, never paid for in advance. See you in the movies.

Boo Rex! Just a plastic toy, right? I was panning a film shot when this apparition appeared in the corner of my eye. It scared my witless for a moment. Kudus to someone’s great sense of humour!

It came from a crack in the wall. Not until I was editing this grab shot did I notice the spots of light in the darkest bit. I had to add a touch of green to them!

Roberts Street Pizza…and Sunflowers. This was growing in front of the colourful facade of the local pizza shop. Some of the best “bad for me” food ever!

Some days, in some places, with a certain light, you just can’t go wrong.

The last rose of summer. There is always a special beauty in a faded flower.

CLOSED!
This monstrous padlock appears to be the real thing. It secures the gate to a lovely outdoor dining area beside Roberts Street Pizza in Ladysmith

You gotta look up, and down. There is so much we look at and don’t see. This slug was enjoying the afternoon sun in the shelter of a tree root. If you click to enlarge and look carefully, there is a tiny fly piggy-backing the mother critter.

Beauty in miniature. Rain drops on a spider web.

A river grave. Nestled on a bank of the Chemainus River this appears to be where someone has interred the ashes of a wife and mother. It is beautiful and peaceful. Note the bark owls nailed to the tree above the memorial plaque.

Surface tension. I think summer’s over Dorothy!

Reflections of summers passed and children grown up.

There was a secret world at the far end of the tunnel. It might not be much better but it was upstream.
Actually, it’s a massive culvert beneath our main island highway, it has resting blocks for spawning salmon to rest behind. They also raise the water level for fish and provide handy stepping stones should you want to go tunnel-trekking.

More logs for Asia. A tug delivers logs to a freighter standing-off in Ladysmith Harbour. NO COMMENT!

AVAST YE SWABS! This bronze statue is an effigy of Frank Ney aka Black Frank. He was mayor of Nanaimo for many years, intrepid realtor, and father of the now world-famous annual Bathtub Race. There is some disgruntlement that he was not placed facing the water but it was was reckoned that tourists wanted their mug shots taken with a harbour background and not with Frank’s arse in the scene! Haar! I think the six feathers in his cap are a means of keeping birds from perching and pooping on his fizzog.

The reward of a thing well done is to have done it.” … Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thumbs Up Please

Stand by your camera…and don’t get it wet. Hopefully I can soon evolve to one of those exotic, and deadly expensive video cameras with all those doo-dads.
I must admit however, that I’ve got good footage with the yep, you guessed it, good old mobile phone.

Fishing. Waiting for spawners to wriggle up the shallows.
A woman whom I met in the woods asked if that “Thing” was a camera.
“No” I said, “It’s a toilet brush.”
“Looks like it” she replied.

This may well be the shortest blog I ever post. BUT! I’ve gone and finally done it.

My first video, rough and flawed as it may be, is complete and posted on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7RlIq9mebI

If the link doesn’t work you can find it by typing in: Friends Below . It has taken nearly a year of cyber Neanderthal fumbling, starting over and over, learning, learning, learning, cursing, cursing, cursing and trying again as I self-teach myself this long-time goal of mine. And here it is. There will be many more to follow, steadily improving, I hope, as I learn and grow in this incredibly complex yer wonderful art form. Please, if you see any hope for my future efforts, click on the thumbs-up button. Thanks.

Now, however, I think I’ll have a nap.

Creativity is not the finding of a thing, but the making something out of it after it is found.”

…James Russell Lowell