Cold

The way home. Pretty indeed. The trick is to spot the pedestrians in dark clothes.
Easy up, easy down, Christmas can go back in a box with no muss or fuss and a minimum of electrical consumption.
Two years ago onboard ‘Seafire.’  You never see what you’ve got til it’s gone.
In an old file, a little nautical humour from Christmas past.
From that same file, a Heiltsuk pictograph. “Honest Charlie’s used canoes and coffins. Black Friday Sale!”
A neo-pictograph.

I have spent parts of my life living where -40º temperatures were normal at mid-day for weeks at a time. The coldest I’ve ever known was -72º one night on the Cote Nord of Quebec. We did not even try to fly in that weather, our helicopters stayed wrapped up on the ground. It seemed you could break things just by looking at them everything was so brittle.

As a hitch hiker I have sat on the roadside in Northern Ontario for two days and nights while a January blizzard raged with deep sub-zero temperatures, high wind and heavy snow. I cannot describe how long a winter night can be when keeping a fire going is your single reason to be and the urge to fall asleep is massive, and fatal. But I have never known a more penetrating cold such as I felt on the shore of the North Sea at Christmas time in Northeast England. I doubt the temperature was much below zero but it penetrated instantly to the bone despite a heavy layer of winter kit and lingered long after finding warmth again. I remember the fabulous blended aroma of Indian cooking in the stinging cold air of that Tyneside night and being forbidden to eat any because “I canna stand the reek of people who’ve eaten Indian! It just oozes out of their pores.” I love curry and Indian cuisine. It seemed that every restaurant that night offered some. Most of the chippies had become curry houses. It was an exquisite torture to inhale that blended aroma in the dank night air yet not have any. Then we travelled together northward into Scotland for two days in a very small car absorbing each other’s porridge, dark beer and herring farts. Much better! 

The Brits are known as masochists. I know, I am a direct descendant. “No pain, no gain.” At sea a heavy damp sweater often took the place of a heater. A horrid finicky gimbaled one-burner stove might help warm some tea water or soup. “Wot? Pleasure! Comfort? NO! We’re British!” And don’t ever build a sleeping bunk that is comfortable. Ever! In fact, until in its last few years in service, the Royal Yacht Britannia provided only hammocks for its crew. STRUTH!

I just watched a YouTube video where a fellow with a broad Cornish accent demonstrated how to make a heater with a tea candle and a flower pot. I’ve dubiously replicated his model. Sorry mate, that is NOT heat! And think of folks like the Vikings in their open boats, or Highland shepherds with the breeze around their kilted knees. Their families waited at home in a drafty fieldstone hut with a smouldering chunk of peat in a fireplace where most of that thin warmth immediately rose up the chimney past the dripping sod roof. There’s not romance in any of it if you have to live it. I feel like a pathetic wimp in comparison when I can turn up the gas fireplace with a click of the remote control.

Arbutus freckles. Even on a dull morning, these trees have a special glow.
Simple symmetry. Harlequin ducks in the morning.

Well, a mystery has been solved. A friend and fellow blogger enlightened me that my un-named vine is in fact a “Wild Clematis” otherwise known as “Old Mans Beard.” That harks me back (How’s that for old English?”) to some old lines which are so bad they’re rather good.

-There was once a man named Beebopbedo

who spent his days swinging on vines (Clematis I suppose)

and telling folks how life was fine.

One day, down by the river

he suddenly felt a pain right in his liver.

Down he came with a mighty crash

his ribs were broke

his head was bashed.

He struggled up to his feet

and wandered off to smoke some grass

but on the way a snake bit him on the toe

and the was the end of Beebopbedo.”

I can hear my readership ratings crashing even now! Remember what I say about laughter; even a chuckle will do.

Yeah, these ones. They are beautiful when backlit.

Dawn arrived this morning like a hung-over deckhand coming on watch; grudgingly. The thick darkness gave way to a heavy low gloom. The yard lights where I live have stayed on all day. I leapt out of bed one toe at a time. But, I finally had an appointment today with the anaesthetist at the hospital. We can go ahead with this hernia surgery…hopefully in January, this coming year perhaps. We don’t want to rush into things, it has only taken six years to get here.

Next morning, same old deckhand! The cold and damp seize me up, I can’t ignore them like I once did.

A beachcomber at work near high tide in the late afternoon dusk. He uses his pike pole to row his skiff. Doing exactly this was how I began my tugboating career. It didn’t pay much but was its own reward. I learned a lot.
More recycling. a few weeks ago I found this couple in the park gathering leaves. They take them home to insulate their banana trees then mulch them into their vegetable garden in spring. no chemicals, no machinery, just simple old-school common sense and a little civic duty thrown in as well.

A buddy loaned me a copy of ‘Book Of The Hopi’ by Frank Waters. For some reason I have developed a fascination with the land and indigenous people of the American Southwest. The Arizona desert fits a big piece in my puzzle and I can’t wait to return to that bleak yet beautiful place with a pocketful of time to spend there. One of the centres of the Hopi culture was within a radius of places with names Oraibi, Hotevilla and Mishongnovi. There are several of these difficult but lyrical names which are still tiny communities clinging to their culture in a place which, to outsiders, is apparently inhospitable. Perhaps that’s part of the idea! They’ve been there for thousands of years. They have a deep spiritual connection with the land and the universe which bears a worthy consideration. The book is still available and I think a fascinating handbook for those interested in our ancient cultures. In an odd way, the Hopi account of man’s history on this planet parallels biblical legends.

Further south in Arizona I have spent a little time in the lands of the Tohono O’odham people. I love their traditional desert home and how they maintained their culture in a desert which would kill me, if left to my Pacific Northwest backwoods knowledge, within days. I ache to return there as alien as I may be. Their sacred mountain Baboquivari is a very special place, I can feel magic in the air there. This old sailor can’t explain his affinity for the desert. It is a similar feeling to being at sea out of sight of land. I know that would terrify many others, it is a feeling for me of absolute completeness. There is certainly plenty to absorb right here at home beside the ocean. The coastal First Nations of this region have a rich culture. Yet it is the desert which calls me.

Part of which fascinates me about these ancient cultures is a spiritual wholeness despite the bleakness of the people’s environments and the paucity of basics, like water. Yet they thrived and even had enough reserve to produce beautiful art. In my world where there is an overwhelming abundance of nearly everything, except spiritual fullness, inner peace and contentment have somehow been perverted to yet another commodity. Everything has been reduced to monetary values. That is never more evident than in this season which was founded on the premise of hope and common humanity. It is up to each of us to find the spirit which cannot be wrapped up and tied with a ribbon.

Moonshine in the park. It occurred to me that this old steam donkey could be converted to a boiler for distilling whiskey.     ‘Ladysmith Squirrel Water.’
Enough. Sometimes it is the understated that says the most.

This blog’s quote comes from the inside of the front cover of the ‘Book Of The Hopi.’ In consideration of Mr. Trump’s recent public denigration of Mr. Trudeau, this stands as sufficient political comment.

There is no such thing as a little country. The greatness of a people is no more determined by their number than the greatness of a man is determined by his height.” …Victor Hugo

Author: Fred Bailey

Fred is a slightly-past middle age sailor /, writer / photographer with plenty of eclectic hands-on skills and experiences. Some would describe him as the old hippy who doesn't know the war is over. He is certainly reluctant to grow up and readily admits to being the eternal dreamer. He has written several books including two novels, 'The Keeper' and 'Storm Ecstasy,' as well as 'The Water Rushing By', 'Sins Of The Fathers', 'The Magic Stick', as well as an extensive inventory of poetry, essays, short stories, anecdotes and photographs. His first passion is the ocean, sailboats, voyaging and all those people who are similarly drawn to the sea. He lived aboard and extensively cruised the BC Coast on 'Seafire' the boat he refitted to go voyaging, to explore new horizons both inner and outer. This blog was about that journey and the preparations for it. Circumstances prevailed which forced the sale of his beloved vessel. Now on a different tack, the voyage continues. If you follow this blog your interest may provide some of the energy that helps fuel the journey. Namaste Contact me at svpaxboat@gmail.com

5 thoughts on “Cold”

  1. Love your comment on finding spirit in this season of within a culture focused on money. Well said. And thanks for solving the mystery of that pretty flowering vine I had also noticed in your town – considered a noxious weed in our part of the world as it turns out!

  2. You have some beautiful blue colors in this post Fred – as blue as your cold hands on those cold nights you endured long ago. Hopefully you are not paying the penalty with arthritis now. I waited for the bus many years in frigid weather, and, even though I had the polar fleece and all the woolen or heavy clothing to keep warm, it was my feet and hands which suffered first – they say that is since are so far from your body. My fingers still freeze up way too fast, so I am sure I had some frost bite damage through the years. I am glad your fellow blogger/friend enlightened you on the name of the plant.

    1. Linda:
      Yep lots of Arthritis now… winter, the gift that keeps on giving! For some reason I am reminded of walking to school on winter mornings (PERDUE remember that one?) refusing to wear gloves and packing those massive piles of books as we used to. And there were all those girls in mini-skirts. I’ll bet they’re not showing off their shanks anymore!
      Fred

      1. My mom used to say she could tell when it would rain or snow the day before it did. Not sure what you mean about PERDUE, but I did have to walk back and forth to school all the way through 12th grade and high school graduation. It built character! And yes, the girls in short skirts in all that cold. When I worked at the diner in my short waitress uniform, on the really cold and snowy mornings, my boss would swing by and pick me up (weekends while going to school). He would say he could not picture me out there in my short dress, short coat and scraping off my car to be at the diner for 6:45 a.m. shift change. How did I do it? My VW Beetle took 20 minutes to warm up and I only had to drive about 5 blocks, but drove as it was early in the morning. When I went out last Saturday and spent six hours in 29 degree weather on the Detroit River and Lake Erie, I was bundled up like Nanook of the North. Hmm.

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