On our drive to a favourite walking path, Jack and I passed a 70’s-something camperized VW van. Like a lot of folks, I had one once; it was even the same colour. Not a Westphalia conversion it was a rare automatic with a whopping 2200cc engine. Compared to what we consider a camping rig fifty years later they were crude to say the least. What drew my attention to this old VW was the “Just Married” sign in its rear window. Wow! Remember those days? Right into the 70’s folks still held wedding parades between the church and the reception location. They would decorate their cars, complete with tin cans tied to the back bumper and hold a slow procession around town honking the horns. It was a tradition that had folks along their route rushing out to wave and see if it was anyone they knew. And of course they did if the town was small enough. Today, if anyone carried on like that, they’d probably be ticketed by the police for several infractions. The only person rushing out for a look would be a divorce lawyer to hand out business cards.
After an encounter with yet another Covid-masked bully I found myself writing like a hairball rolling before the wind; just discarded bits of DNA getting bigger and bigger and of absolutely no value. Eeech! I left it to sit and ferment but finally I scrubbed my acid words after I dug into some current news stories and ended up even more confused. The numbers I researched on police violence and racial percentages did not add up. They could be used to prove anything in any way as they so often do. There’s rhetoric aplenty about all issues. All I can offer is that all of us, yes me too, should consider consequences a little more. In fact consideration of cause and effect is perhaps a cornerstone of stable civilization. Psychopathic ping-pong; That’s how we talk and act, with no regard for the effects of what we do and say, who we hurt or how we damage ourselves or our future.
Think of the current pandemic and the racism monster. Both are a direct result of folks who did not think ahead about the results of inaction and poor choices. And instead of thinking it all through, folks are working on new apps. Perhaps someone will come up with one that calculates consequences of a given action. The “impeachment” word was conveniently wrapped inside with the Covid crisis and now racism is binding all the mess together. In the knee-jerk reactions to it all folks are tearing down statutes of clearly once-revered leaders. Now Theodore Roosevelt is being pulled down. He was, I thought, regarded as a progressive and esteemed leader, a cornerstone example of what a US president should be. Now he is being dubbed “A colonialist.” Guess I’ve read the wrong history books. I thought the US had long been a sovereign state when Teddy hit the saddle. In the meantime the tsunami of the second Covid wave may well be building and racing toward our shores…as I write. Someone has decided it will not arrive until next winter and we’ll be ready. Yeah OK! But the numbers are rising now. So?
I stand by my mantra that “All Lives Matter.” I am concerned that the media’s careless determination to create an impression police violence is somehow targeted only at blacks will undermine the whole new movement against racism. But the movement needs to be to promote equality between all people. I am not denigrating any person or all the serious issues but the media has an obligation to be objective and honest. It is clearly not. While subjectivity may sell better, credibility will sell longer. Do your own homework and raise your own questions. Be prepared to find that the real story may be barely recognizable.
I can add nothing to the solution so let me share some humour.
Here’s a hand-painted sign I saw recently, “Clean fill wanted…but I’ll settle for a dirty woman!”
Or a bumper sticker, “Sasquatch doesn’t believe in you either.”
I have a T-shirt with a silhouette of a Bigfoot and the inscription, “Introvert.”
Yesterday afternoon while walking with Jack around the perimeter of a very large hay field, a tiny homemade aeroplane high overhead practised some “Happy Flying.” Long ago I used to do that and yes, there was an ache for those magic days now passed. Although long suppressed, aviation is as much a part of my fibre as messing with boats. Easily recognizable as a home-built aircraft, it was one of several mid-wing designs which fly very well with low horsepower. This one had the unmistakable clatter of a Continental 85. The pilot flew basic aerobatics: stalls, spins, loops, chandelles, Immelmans and Cuban eights, all flawlessly. He was going nowhere and was just up there for the simple joy of it. He or she didn’t know it, but I was in that tiny cockpit too, twisting and turning, pulling the G’s and looking down on the spectacular aqua mosaic of the Gulf Islands. The joy of the moment! For a few minutes I partook vicariously. It was grand. Thank you for that, whomever you are. You made my day.
“If you try to fail, and succeed, which have you done?” ― George Carlin
Well now I’ve started something. When in my last blog, on impulse, I added a sentence about how distantly we treat our children, I had an epiphany; especially in the wake of reader’s comments. I wrote about how we have displaced the value of our elders and ignore their very essential value in the continuity of our culture. What I realized after I added the bit about how poorly many of us treat our children, especially at the time of their lives when dedicated parental nurturing is necessary for healthy development, is that those kids are tomorrow’s adults. They’ll do what we have taught them. “As the twig is bent so grows the tree.” They’re the ones who will discard their parents into care facilities which dilutes the family further, just like we did to them. “Just keep paying us and we’ll keep them out of your way.” Family members become as disposable as chocolate wrappers and all our other debris. We know where a large number of Covid 19 deaths have occurred.
In my archives is a rough draft for a novel based on an opening scene where paramedics attend an accident with several victims scattered on the roadside. After checking each person for a pulse the bar code tattooed behind their right ear is scanned. The monetary system as we know it now is gone, replaced with electronic currency. We would have a system of personal credits, those earned, accumulated, spent and borrowed. Depending on your net credit worth and your present social standing factored by the degree of your injuries, a computer decision is made to save your life or terminate it as a source of fresh organs and tissue. And if you don’t have a bar code, well you’re just not part of the system. Red light! Send that one in on the slow truck.
Far fetched? We’re really not that far away now. There’s a lot to consider about the progress and regress, the ebb and flood of civilization, if you’re contemplative about humanity. Frankly, I envy those who are not. I sometimes wish a case of beer, a sack of crisps and some TV sports could placate me and keep me in a non-questioning existence. For those of us who are cursed with a questioning mind there is plenty to research in our quests. Recently a novel was brought to my attention. ‘The Plague’ written by Albert Camus near the middle of the last century is amazingly prescient. Camus, well aware of the pandemics past, seemed to understand those that were to come, perhaps because there is a pattern of natural mass population control throughout our history. Like nearly everything else, there are reviews of the work available on the web.
Then, today, there was third component introduced to my epiphany. ‘The Machine Stops’ written in 1909 by E.M. Forster is a short story which offers some amazing views on a future dystopian troglodyte society which is almost entirely dependant on and committed to the synthetic environment it has created. Communication around the planet is via an internet-like technology. People live underground, entirely terrified of being self-reliant, independent and are almost wholly insular from each other. They travel reluctantly in airships and only when necessary with little interest in scenic views of the planet passing beneath them. Those who struggle to escape this culture are accused of the despicable act of “homelessness.” This a sobering essay on how our society may be evolving. Written at the time it was is fascinating. It is work to read and digest but thrilling to discover such a brilliant mind especially in the years preceding the massive technical renaissance of the First World War. Here’s a link to the entire short story:
Our spring weather here on Vancouver Island has been cool and damp lately. Despite that the wildflowers have bloomed profusely. Fruit and berries are flowering and ripening early and in huge quantities. It is said that fools and newcomers predict the weather but my instilled rural sensibilities suggest that we may well have a severe winter ahead. Another indicator, as old wit and humour go, is about the size of the white man’s wood piles. But, it is officially summer in a few days and as Covid restrictions slowly relax, we’d best live in the moment. Remember the line from that wonderful movie ‘Bucket List.’ “If you think the last six months went fast, think about the next few.”
“The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.”
The rain hammered down until near midday. It eventually began to ease and so Jack and I finally went for our morning walk. Along the wet, wet trails I found a final wild lily and a columbine in bloom. Their cheerful splashes of colour certainly helped brighten a dull day. I realized there are no events for me to comment on intelligently, despite the ongoing pandemic and the rightfully erupting surge of protest against police violence and racism. I know I have ranted, mourned and criticized popular social trends. I feel an obligation to be a devil’s advocate and may I point out that humour is always some form of criticism. But for once I have little to say.
I’m befuddled by the slogan “Black Lives Matter.” Yes they do! The entire history of Black folks in America is certainly ugly. But… those three words become a cliché that turns the whole massive movement into a further advancement of prejudice and division. Only when people can say “All lives matter” will we have movement toward erasing racism and developing true equality. Whether it is race, faith, gender, age, disability, health, economic status or birthplace, only when those factors become irrelevant to all of us will we have a significant move toward real equality. So far, in the history of the human race, we have not come close to solving any of those issues. Someday, hopefully soon, we will start actually trying.
I can confess to this. As I have come through life I have been among those who often denigrated older people even if only in jest. I don’t understand why we fear and distance ourselves from the inevitable state of becoming an elder. We are all heading that way and at the same rate of progress. Yeah, you too! It is part of the life cycle for all beings. Certainly older folks have a lifetime of skills, experience and wisdom that we need to maintain the continuity of our culture. We have developed a trend of alienating our older family members and relegating them to isolation and separation. Without the inclusion of our seniors within our families our culture has to ultimately crumble. And, may the Gods help us, we also do it with our children. We treat them as an inconvenience and nuisance during the years when they most need nurturing and dedicated love. Then we wonder what’s wrong with society! If you can’t make a family work how the hell can you expect a functional government?
That elders continue to play a valuable role in Latino families is one of the reasons I love the Mexican people. It is also certainly true of several other cultures we all know and often despise. As I stumble toward my senior years I am paying for my bigotry about older folks. Although I can still provide a valuable contribution in the workplace, in society and in the family I know I am often dismissed simply because of my wrinkles and silvering hair. The first time you are asked if you are eligible for a seniors discount is a bit of a twister. Then comes the day when someone calls you an “Old Fucker.” Wham! Yep, your turn is coming. It is mighty powerful slap therapy. Sadly, life offers no rewind buttons. You can’t go back and make new mistakes!
The other social issue under close scrutiny again, or still, is the thuggery of our police forces. They are simply reflecting the values we hold. Try to find a movie, a video game or a television show without someone waving guns, crashing cars, beating each other, blowing things up. That’s the entertainment we employ to stimulate ourselves and to relax! It is part of the fibre of our society and yet we expect all of our police to be smiling, embracing examples of good citizenship. Cops are not all thugs. Unjust violence is never acceptable but are their martial tactics part of our social woe or is it a symptom? Yes; both times. The Covid crisis hype keeps declaring “We’re all in this together.” Yes, WE ARE.
During this morning’s monsoon I worked at the final edit of my latest little video. It is a simple explanation of why and how my tiny trailer evolved. It’s called “A Social Isolation Unit… On Wheels.” If you think it might interest you, here’s the link.
“No matter how big a nation is, it is no stronger than its weakest people, and as long as you keep a person down, some part of you has to be down there to hold him down, so it means you cannot soar as you might otherwise.” —Marian Anderson, singer
I’m sitting at my beloved old Honda car trunk table in the woods north of Campbell River swatting at mosquitoes and black flies despite a brisk breeze. This blog has begun first day out on our next jaunt. I’ve left my computer mouse behind so I’m poking away with my banana fingers and hoping for the best. So far the only other thing I seem to have forgotten is the butter. Jack is fine, peacefully laying on his bed beside me wiggling his ears at the bugs. On our postprandial walk we met a lovely black bear, probably a two-year old. It crashed off into the thick brush of course and I was reminded that old Jack is no longer the feisty beast he once was. Neither am I. We’ve had a long day. With the bugs being so friendly we are about to lock away the groceries and retire for the night. One of the nice things about getting old is that you can fall asleep anywhere, any time. At least until the middle of the night. Then, after determining that it is indeed the “golden age” you can’t get back to sleep until after first light which, of course, is why you can fall asleep any time through the day.
In the morning, after a night of absolute quiet we stepped out into the cool early morning light with clouds of black flies hovering silently. Too stunned to go into feeding frenzy, they’ll soon be at it as the day warms. We’ll move on. With my morning coffee beside me I sift through my notes and see two T-shirt logos I’ve written down. On elderly man slowly walking his old dog had a shirt which said “In memory of a time when I cared.” The other comes from a music video. The drummer’s shirt said “Let’s get together and make some poor decisions.” Right then! With the day’s business meeting concluded, the bugs have broken out the antifreeze and are attacking in squadrons. Breakfast quickly, we be gone!
A few hours of meandering brings us to a vast concrete pad at the end of a logging road on the edge of Johnstone Strait.With our camp barely set up, a pair of humpback whales swam past, heading north. I am very familiar with these waters, having tug-boated and sailed up and down this strait for many decades. I’m looking across to the Stimpson Reef Light and remember all the dark nights either towing logs or smashing into nasty seas. That light was a tiny dot on the radar screen slowly making its way along the sweeping green scan line. Yes, I miss it.
Tonight we have an abandoned log sorting ground to ourselves. One could park up to thirty RVs here with respectable distancing but I’m content with things the way they are. Sadly, after all the frustrations of packing this little boat up here there is no place to launch it. The foreshore is a steep jumbled mass of boulders, logs and abandoned machinery. With the wind I think is coming, perhaps it’s a good thing. This strait is notorious for its quick and deadly seas. There’s an old WWII gunnery fortification a short way down the shoreline I’ve long wanted to visit. But it has languished without my personal visit for almost eighty years. Windy Point will be fine for a while yet.
The marine forecast is for wind and rain which is fine… no bugs! Having worked in the great northern bug country these ones here are amateurs in comparison but still, who needs them. They’re here for a reason, but none of those reasons are mine! The cyber voice droning out the marine forecast offers admonishments about dealing with “Covid One Nine” and assisting the RCMP in their efforts to prevent the spread of the virus. Isn’t a boat an ultimate isolation unit already? Who are the people that think this stuff up?
I sit by my fire, wishing I’d brought a winter coat along. Then I think of this same spot at the same hour in mid-January. It would have been dark by three pm and the snow or sleet would be blowing horizontally. I crawl into my little trailer where Jack has already been warming the bed. A rain shower drums on the lid and we both drift into a deep sleep, cuddled like the old pals we are.
Morning dawns still bug-free thanks to the damp breeze blowing along the strait. There’s low cloud and I’m wearing all my jackets. My little generator drones on, charging the batteries on all my cameras and gadgets. I marvel at how dependant I’ve become on all of this stuff, stuff, stuff. There’s no point in reviewing the minimalism I’ve known and practised, obviously I’ve evolved beyond that, or perhaps “been seduced” is a better term. I can actually shut the generator off from my bed, simply by pushing an icon on my cell phone! Hopefully the breakfast drone will be making a delivery shortly, I pushed that button twenty minutes ago! I do know that trying to work this computer without my mouse is a challenge, downloading images is a right horror, there’s no hope of editing them.
The day passed idyllically. Jack is not up to much hiking anymore so after a couple of kilometres, and several mounds of fresh bear droppings, we prudently decided to lounge beneath the home tent. I watch the ever-changing tidal currents shift and bend and swirl, an eternal fascination. The amount of traffic on the strait amazes me. There is seldom much time with no boats in sight and others when there may be half a dozen to see all at once. I have made a conservative estimate of about one hundred fifty commercial vessels as well as several yachts. Due to Covid one nine there are no cruise ships or tour boats this year. There are a lot of fishing boats heading north right now, there must be some openings in Alaska coming up.
Even though I’m not on the water at the moment, I feel like I’m home. As I write, on the opposite shore, a tug with a log tow rides the flood tide southward, hoping no doubt to make it into Sunderland Channel before the tide in the strait turns against its progress. With skill and luck, it will be in position to catch the first of the next flood into the Wellbore Rapids. Eighteen miles in twelve hours hours, it doesn’t sound like much, but when towing log booms, that distance can seem like an odyssey. A few miles south of here, where you turn out of the strait is a place called Fanny Islet. It is a check point where marine traffic control is advised of commercial vessel’s progress. One dark nasty night I was aboard the ‘Kaymar’ with one-hundred-twenty sections of log bundles, an entire forest packaged into a raft about the size of a hay field. We had our entire towline out, if we slowed from our speed of one knot, that line could snag on the bottom. Then the radio call came. “Mayday, Mayday, oh fuck we’re sinking!” We were the only other vessel anywhere near and are bound in all ways to assist. It was a long and interesting winter night. We missed our tide at the Wellbores.
A line tug bound for Alaska passed a while ago. They are huge tugs, powered with massive EMD diesels, the same as used in rail locomotives and their resonant throb pulses in the gathering darkness long after they have passed from view. It is a reassuring and somehow lonely sound all at once. The barges these boats pull are the lifeline of Alaska. They are huge and travel between the various ports of Alaska and their southern terminus in Seattle. In some of this coast’s thick fogs, although you have them plotted precisely on radar, these massive scows loom out of the gloom looking like half a city. Even though Johnstone Strait is an average of two miles wide, it seem like a ditch when meeting in poor visibility. Of course, you seldom meet in the widest places.
The next day is blustery and dark with frequent rain squalls. I’m wondering what to do with this day. It’s too miserable to sit under the marquis tent and Jack is restless. Then unbelievably the phone rings despite the weak and intermittent cell service. It is the doctor’s office, they want me to come in for an appointment, more test results. Remember the bladder thing? Unfortunately there was no breakfast from the sky and I know there will be no prescription delivery drone. Here I am now, back at my desk in Ladysmith. The weather is forecast to soon improve. Yep, we’ll gone again.
“ We don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” Native American proverb