Finally

Pretty huh? From where you sit. I’ve paid my dues in the Great White North and could happily never see snow again. But, you take it as it comes.
Jack still likes the snow but the frolicking days are past.
You are feeeling sleeepy.
Snzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

It happened yesterday. After empty many threats it snowed.Only about a foot, but plenty enough to seize up our coastal sensibilities. Several feet of snow in one night many other places I’ve lived did not slow anyone much but here on the coast even an inch of white grease can be a disaster. We had almost a foot! I’ve also finally had my hernia surgery. Whoo Haa! The surgeon’s office eventually wearied of my incessant inquiries, “Are we there yet?” I know that if I had not made myself a pestering nuisance I’d still be waiting. No big deal in the course of the world but once again I’ll soon be able to hike and clamber. No more he-man lifting, I’ve finally figured that part out, but look out desert here I come. This time I can only say nice things about all the staff at the Nanaimo Hospital. They were pleasant and kind and had me out of there in five hours.

All my other experiences have been dark in that beige institution, with surly uncaring staff and a refusal to be respectful including not letting me know when they would let me go home or even feeding me some of that dreadful hospital slop once a day. So, it is very nice to have kind things to say for a change. I could not go to work there regularly for twelve hour shifts without sunlight or fresh air and dealing with all those anxious patients and family who are miserable with their personal issues. Kudos to folks who do a very necessary job and manage to stay positive and apparently happy. There are many kinds of courage I do not possess.

Different day, same old hum drum. A boat can become pretty tiny when the weather keeps you aboard.

Now all I have to work out is how to deal with the hand transplanted onto my forehead.

Actually everything is fine although the swelling and bruising look like the Taliban had a go at me below the belt line. This too shall pass and soon I’ll be leaping over the outhouse like a spring goat. Well actually maybe I’ll probably be an old goat with his horns stuck in a board! It is certainly nice to have most of this behind me. Well actually it’s in the front but…I know, I know, too much information. At the moment it hurts like hell but no pain, no gain. Right?

Brrrr bloody cold

Of course to bracket my little event it has snowed steadily for a day and night. Shovelling over and over was painful but there will be no more of that for a good long while. There are several neighbours here who have serious health issues and I felt obligated to make sure there was access to their front doors. Now they can look after me. Yeah right! Just sitting here at my desk is a teeth-gritting endeavour right now so I’ll have to behave; for the moment. I lay on the couch with Jack cuddled up watching the snow and rain blow by. Not much good at being a couch potato I have to keep telling myself “Down boy, down!” It will take months until all is fully healed.

Hurry up? You try running in this crap in your bare feet!
A cold fall two hundred feet down to the stream
Beneath a stump a sign of the advancing season

And so that’s the shituation. Not much adventure to describe and I’ve promised to keep my political rhetoric to a dull roar. The local media seems fixated about what Prince Harry is going to do for a living once he moves here. The poor sod is down to his last thirty-nine million pounds. Maybe I could get him to come out and collect discarded beverage cans, an environmentally friendly statement old chap! Then there’s that old Harry Chapin song about the taxi driver with an opening line of “How are ya Harry?” Could he stay on the correct side of the road long enough to acquire his class 4 license? Frankly I don’t envy that couple without the bliss of anonymity and, granny is going to be too far away to babysit. Life’s tough.

You said you wouldn’t mind a little snow? Enjoy.
The lonely hunter
You say you love the sea? Where are you today?
Says it all

How horrible is man’s condition! He does not own one happiness whose source does not lie in ignorance of some kind.”

Honoré de Balzac (Eugénie Grandet)

A Sniff Of Spring

Bleak Bay. Under a noon gloom of low cloud and cold drizzle, everyone is hunkered down. Rightly so.

It sure is pretty crazy in our part of the world right now. Our town was in the thick of it earlier in the week and is on alert again today but the closest active fire is 10k away. Very thick smoke. 

There’s a wind change due in a few hours that will be good for us (not for others unfortunately). The size of the burnt and burning area in SE Australia is phenomenal!”

This is a quote from an e-mail I exchanged with some friends in Australia. I can’t imagine how it must be wondering how a wind shift will affect your fate. These friends live in Lakes Entrance, not far along the coast from Mallacoota where people had to be evacuated by boat to escape becoming crispy critters, just like millions of their wild creatures have. There was a time when fighting bush fires was, for me, part of being a logger and it does not take much to remember the feel of choking smoke in my throat, the grit everywhere, the incredible searing heat, the ominous apprehension, but I cannot imagine the apocalypse so many folks in areas of Australia are facing. The death toll is rising but I am actually amazed so few have lost their lives. I hold a healthy mistrust of all things media but I know the images we are receiving cannot begin to portray the horror of it all. The friend who wrote the above is a cool character at any time but he writes of fires being a whole ten kilometres away with that old Aussy tone of “No worries mate.” I remain worried. Bugga!

For those “doomers” who seize on this dark drama as proof of global warming, I am not convinced with your conjecture. There is certainly a human-caused factor in this but it is a drama which nature has repeated thousands of times in the planet’s history. It is in fact nature’s way of refreshing itself and the flora and fauna will return vigorously. It is hard for us, in the face of such a conflagration, to grasp our smallness within the natural order of the universe. Life will go on.

Winter colour. A slime mould appears in the cold and wet.
Yes!
Australian Falls. If only we could send our winter surplus down under.
We’ve got plenty to spare.
One drop at a time.

Well, here on Vancouver Island things are very different. We are not worried about wildfires at the moment. All any of us have anywhere is the moment and today, here at home, there is a tiny sniff of spring in the air. This hour is sunny, almost warm, buds are swelling, some blooms are peeking out. We know it won’t stay, the pounding bouncing rain will soon be back, it may even dump several feet of snow on us in one night as it has before, so we’ll seize the moment and enjoy it while it lasts. The nice thing here is that if you truly have an urge for the white crud you can go up any mountain right now and fill your boots. In the afternoon irregular bursts of thick rain fell on us like truckloads of splintered glass. Despite my heavy winter raincoat I sported my big black umbrella, like a real old salt; “Popkins the Sailorman.” The problem with that coat is that it funnels rain down onto my knees and I don’t really care about being tough anymore. Jack plunked happily through the puddles, savouring the moment as usual.

A week ago I enjoyed a splendid dinner with family whom I have been long overdue in visiting. Seeing myself as the ancestral storyteller I recounted some history of my mother’s second husband. He was a very quite man whom we all knew was a WWII veteran and did not talk much about his wartime experiences. After he died, I met his kid brother who gave me the rest of the story. His account was about young Jim’s experience in Dieppe as a member of the South Saskatchewan Regiment. He had personally killed German soldiers by hand then went on about the business of staying alive in battle conditions. I believed it was an embellished yarn and clung to what little I been personally able to coax out of the old vet.

Part of the brother’s story had Jim being named “Silver Stuart” and that there had been a Life Magazine article about him and his bloody feat using his personal battle cry of “Hi Ho Silver,” something he had acquired as a boy listening to the ‘Lone Ranger’ on the radio. I eventually found the entire Life Magazine archives online but could not find any cover stories about what I sought. After my tale at the dinner table my nephew later managed to find, within ten minutes, (and much to my considerable admiration) a story about the Saskatchewan Regiment in Dieppe. There was a paragraph about “Silver Stuart.” There has to be more to the story which was not written. The accolade of respect which Jim carried had been bestowed by his fellows before the war correspondent had written his article. What intrigues me is a photo that accompanies the article. I’ve spent hours carefully comparing photos of the Jim I knew to the photo of a young soldier looking into the camera on a Dieppe beach so long ago. There is a distinct resemblance between those photos considering the near-five decades between when they were taken!

The Life Magazine article. The photo on the lower left could well be of Jim. He would be about 20 years old. The raid lasted 10 hours. Of over 6000 men, half were killed or captured. Despite the spin-doctoring in this headline, the ‘Dieppe Raid’ is infamous as a disaster of military ineptitude.

Of course, there has to be more to the story. Jim had a box full of metals which he neither displayed or explained. He had seen service in North Africa and in the allied invasion of Italy. What I gleaned from my reluctant conversations with Jim when he was still alive was that it was not the carnage and hardships of years in the battlefield that had eventually driven a hardened warrior to chronic alcoholism. It was the realization that he was one of the “good guys,” many of whom proved to be as wholly capable of every human baseness as the evil enemy. He was buried by Canadian Veterans Affairs in their corner of a Kelowna cemetery, only a few places from the grave of W.A.C. Bennet, a revered Provincial Premier. It is timely to consider Jim’s awareness as we teeter on the very real possibility of yet another war in the Middle East.

Will we ever learn? Apparently not, despite all the wonderful words, we just don’t want to grasp some other way because, of course, just like them, God is on our side. I am steering further away from political comments, mainly because I don’t trust any media sources and am never sure of the true facts. Whom do I believe, whom may I quote with certitude? I’ll simply say this. The assassinated leader being mourned in Iran was second from the top yet everywhere his body has been taken, millions have turned out to mourn and revere him. There has never been, nor ever will be, such a massive display of national unity in our countries for any political figure.

We want to pick on these folks! They are far away around the planet from us, they do not threaten our borders despite what we’re told. While out with Jack yesterday we met a lady who told me what a wonderful thing it was that the US had taken out Soleimani; this man who had killed so many. I asked her if she had ever heard of him before last week. I also asked her how many innocents had been killed by US forces and weapons overseas in just the last decade. Questions, you’ve got to ask yourself questions.

A winter mystery. What draws earthworms up out of the sheltering ground to crawl onto the cold wet surface. Do the gods summon them up to sacrifice themselves to the hungry birds?
A stark canopy. In summer these alders and maples provide a high green cathedral of verdant shade. The vines flower, birds twitter from their nests. Not today!
Even been given the gears? This is a detail of a huge old anchor windlass laying above the foreshore. It is more of our nautical heritage in the bushes.
Life goes on. This arbutus blew down in last winter’s storms and was then cut up. What mystery makes even fallen trees sprout with the universal overwhelming drive for life?

Today, a week into the New Year, the cold rain hammers down as usual. The snow advances and retreats low on the mountain sides. Today, it’s too wet and gloomy outside for man or beast and too dark for good photos of the winter wet. One day, one hour, one minute at a time. But there are signs of spring and in the long dark of January’s dragging hours, we cling to hope of spring and rational judgements.

Flowers happen. January 7th. Hope.

You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war.
― Albert Einstein

2020

First Light, New Dawn.
May you live as a free as a dolphin.

A low slab of solid grey cloud extended eastward. Beyond that hard edge, well out over the strait, a band of azure sky was pierced by the jagged peaks of the mainland coastal mountains. They were coated heavily in fresh fluorescent snow which gleamed against the pure blue. It would be crackling cold up there but the sight was cheering. A thin rain continued beneath my island’s cloud. And so the day wears on toward the year’s end.

No berry like a snow berry.
December Rose in a Ladysmith alley. Small but lovely they’re grand to see in winter.
On the other side of the house at the same time Forsythia blooms for New Years.
No complaints.
The neighbourhood book exchange. In a front yard beside a sidewalk in
Victoria. Note the rubber lizard peeking out.  Lovely huh?

I use an old anecdote about climbing mountains. When you finally get to the top of one, you find the apex is not level, often cold and windy, a poor place to rest for long. But you are rewarded a grand sense of success as well as the incredible view and what you see are more mountains. One in particular calls to you and off you go, heading toward it as directly as you can, sliding down steep dangerous slopes as you realize that going down is more difficult and risky than climbing. Finally in the shadowed valley far below, you find yourself up to your arse in the middle of a bog. It is then you must remind yourself that you are actually climbing a mountain. Move forward, one step at a time.

Jack and I walk past this building nearly every day. It looks like a blacksmith shop to me. I love blacksmithing and in the cold rain I can feel the searing heat of the forge, see the bright yellow of hot steel, smell the near-molten metal and the coal smoke, taste the grit, feel the jolt of the hammer on anvil and hear the ring of steel on steel. We walk on in the winter wet.
The way we were. The tag says Canadian General Electric. I found this old radio in an apartment window by the sidewalk. Note the slides for pulling the chassis out of the cabinet. Replacing the vacuum tubes was a regular chore. There was a testing machine and racks of new tubes in nearly every hardware store. I remember listening to these kinds of radios. The cabinets are lovely and collected by some folks.
Corner unit, third floor, no balcony. Same apartment building, more of the way we were.
The man cave. Past the apartment, down the alley. Someone took grampa’s TV and now he refuses to clear out the weeds although he took out the garbage.
Light at the end of the tunnel. Walking the opposite way the path goes through a tunnel under the highway. A homeless fellow has taken up residence.
A few blocks away uptown is a remarkable contrast. An old-style butcher shop still graces the main street. There is excellent fare but I don’t understand how folks afford it. The fish prices are per 100 grams! Remember when poor people ate fish and lived by the sea?

It is another New Year’s Eve. I’m happy to put this past year behind me and look forward to a better one ahead. May we all have someone to love, grand things to do and plenty to look forward to, all the while doing no harm. Long may we climb.

The fairy grotto. Not hard to imagine little flitters in spandex!
And so the daylight is increasing. Yeah right! I’ve tuned up the exposure on this shot 1 1/2 stops.
How about walking a little old half-deaf black dog at 4pm?  That dark blotch on the path between the two big trees is Jack. Guess I should get him one of those jogger’s tail lights.

Happy New Year.

 “The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide you’re not going to stay where you are.” —J.P. Morgan