Click

Morning. In the bedroom an hour ago. Mobile phone, simple subjects. Lighting and composition, that’s all.

The chill overcast of early morning gave way to a warm calm. I began imagining that I could hear the budding leaves emerging. Jack and I went off to one of our mutually favourite wandering spots, the old Swallowfield Farm. I set up to take a shot along the mud road beneath a canopy of blossoms and chlorophyll green with a background of bird songs. A helicopter buzzed overhead, from another corner the scrape and bang of heavy machinery echoed across the fields. Now an old WWII fighter plane clattered by, a Yak attack. I know and love that particular airplane but gimme a break, I’m trying to shot some video here! It was joined in a chorus by some goon on a mufflerless Fartley Davidson. Geez Louise! Part of the art of making videos is often the accompanying sound track and my amateur skill level does not know much about erasing and over-dubbing or applying any of the wobble-quavers which the pros can do.

The shot in question. Can you hear airplanes?

That in turn got me thinking about how I’ve arrived at this point in my experience as a photographer. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve become a snapshot artist instead of the fully involved disciple of the medium format film camera and the dark room. I used to spend long hours working in a tiny, chemical-saturated space producing the perfect print, both black and white, colour and cibachrome (Printing from colour slides. It was especially toxic.) I even started a business printing folk’s personal photos, but circumstances prevailed that moved me on. How was I to know that digital photography was coming and monster companies like Eastman Kodak were to become a memory? Finding darkroom equipment, paper and chemicals has now become an expensive challenge. I’d love to go back to it again, appreciating it as the wonderful art it is.

From the darkroom. Cheung Chau Harbour, January 1986. A moment long gone yet saved forever.
There’s something about black and white photos which is elemental for indelible images. This beautiful wistful girl is now a beautiful, sensitive middle-aged woman.
A third product from my darkroom. Simplicity always works and if in doubt, crop, crop , crop.

I watched a biography about Ansel Adams recently. If you don’t know who he was, you’re just not interested in photography but you’ll know some of his work. He photographed landscapes and is famous for his work in Yosemite Park and the High Sierras. He lugged cumbersome box cameras with their glass plate negatives to mountain tops and developed stunning prints which captivated the world. A master of light, composition, depth of field and opportune timing he was also a chemist, perfecting solutions for what was needed to maximize his images. He always used only natural light so far as I know. His work inspired the founding of National Parks yet his work was a simple portrayal of a beautiful world so many of us look at but never see. Portraits, abstracts, wildlife photos were not what he was known for. He inspired me as much as the thousands of other spellbound photographers. He was a landscape artist.

I first took a serious interest in photography as a boy. My camera was a ubiquitous Kodak Brownie, crude, battered and abused as it was. I would carefully load of roll of 120 format, 12 frame film in and tape up the worn case latches to prevent any light leaking in. I can still recall the first photo which thrilled me. It was of a herd of cows resting beneath a spreading elm tree on a hot summer afternoon. By accident I’d caught the light and composition almost perfectly. I’d love to see that little square print again. Time and technology have moved on.

While laying among the lilies, videoing them swaying in the breeze, look what I found right in front of me! Allo, allo!
Sssssnap.
Spider and snake. It is amazing what you can see if you become still and let the world come to you.

Years later I took up serious photography using manual cameras which required every shot be manually calibrated for correct exposure, shutter speed, depth of field, contrast and any necessary filtration. Then it was off to the darkroom. I recall photography with a darkroom being described as having a leash without a puppy. I was never a gadget collector and take pride in doing good work with simple equipment. That of course is product of having limited finances, but no camera, no matter how exotic, can produce a good frame without a skilled person to utilize it. And no camera, no matter how inexpensive, has been maximized by anyone. Modern mobile phones are now sold for their photographic capabilities. Gidgets, gadgets and other toys are extolled as absolutely requisite to make good photographs. Photo magazines are filled with ads admonishing that you won’t get your ultimate shot without yet another product. All I’ll say to all of that is simply: Bullshit! Keep it simple, stick with basics.

Keep it simple. A good image needs impact to catch the eye and depth to hold the eye. Can you find Brio and Jessie in this view?

I am deeply offended when someone says “Your photos are awesome, you must have really good cameras.” No damnit!

Do you want to be an equipment collector or make good photos? You can either peer through some multi-thousand dollar telephoto lens or you can learn the habitat and habits of your subject and get up close for a splendid photograph with an affordable piece of equipment along with all that you experience gained in the process. I recently watched another documentary on the work of Indian photographer Raghu Rai. Thousands of dollars worth of Nikon equipment dangled on straps from his neck while he shot projects with his mobile phone.

The photographer’s dog. Jack enjoys the sun as he  waits on me and surveys his kingdom.

Ansel Adams did not have the equipment to machine gun his subjects and then go to his computer photo programs to determine and manipulate a best shot. Each exposure had to count. In any case, a day out with any camera is still a way to maintain contact with whatever view of the world is important to you. Photography is the simple, yet long-learned art of seeing and then sharing your vision with others. In these days of social isolation it is a wonderful endeavour, even if you don’t want to share what you see. And try as you might, it is an art you’ll never master as much as you’d like. There’s the challenge.

Fawn Lily perfection. This is the shot I set out to make. Everything else happened along the way. (Walk softly and carry a big click.)

Great photography is about depth of feeling, not depth of field.”
Peter Adams

Dems Da Berries

Within the prison and shelter of Blackberry brambles delicate beauty rises to the call of spring.

Ya dint worsh all yer parts. Yer smellin’ kinda earthy!” I was up on the back forty whacking down a pandemic of blackberry bushes in our overflow parking/storage area. It’s where I keep my little trailer, now aka the SIU: Social Isolation Unit, so I’ve felt an obligation to the strata council to look after the patch I seem to use exclusively. Yep, somebody will probably tender a noise complaint. I’ve taken pictures to prove I was not simply trying to annoy them. In a previous life as a logger I’ve worn out several chain saws so the smell of two-stroke exhaust, oil, fresh-cut wood, brings back many pleasant manly memories of a youth which could perhaps have been better spent. That smell also quickly imbues your clothing and a comment on that inspired the above attempt at humour. I confess that to this day, although an avowed nature lover, I often look at a towering mature tree and catch myself calculating its volume in cunits, board feet or cubic metres as timber and also automatically scheming the best way to fall it. I can’t help myself as I consider the lean of the tree, the lay of the land, the surrounding trees and the force of the wind. I am annoyed when I catch myself doing that but then after thirty-five years of abstinence from chain-smoking, I still reach for a cigarette at times. Now I neither smoke nor kill trees nor have passions for other young man abuses and still I’m getting old.

The SIU. Ready for road testing.
One of the patches overwhelming our back yard. Now I can fix that fence.
The Hoopu Cedar. So how would I cut this one down? It is a common red cedar which through genetic mutation persuaded itself to send out limbs like this. It would be a treasure for boat builders in days past.

I found myself calling that blackberry tangle the Covid Vine this morning. Damn, the things are insidious! If someone claimed this invasive bramble had found its own way several thousand miles across the Pacific from Asia to our Westcoast, I wouldn’t offer much argument. The Himalayan Blackberry is classified as an “Invasive species” along with Holly, Scotch Broom and Gorse. Someone though they were smarter than God and tried to improve nature.

And so it grows. Runner, root, more runner, rhizome…and they’ll grow in any soil.
A Fistful Of Mint… the new western movie. A lovely bed of this plant was growing among the roots of the brambles.

One blackberry contains enough seed to re-populate the planet with new plants even if it were the last fruit. Once they take root all hell breaks loose. You can almost see them growing into a self-macramed thorny tangle that only a fugitive rabbit can love. Wherever the reaching canes touch the ground they send out new roots and then another fistful of aggressive shoots and buds. As you buck into the nasty vines which often leave broken thorns festering in your skin, I swear there are other new shoots popping up out of the ground while you work. They can also send out runners, or rhizomes, underground so that eradicating them requires a scorched earth policy. Clipped-off bits of blackberry stem can actually take root without help and start a whole new life.

Himalayan Blackberries, Brambles, Bugga! Many of us love the fruit and pay a dear price to harvest some. Step right in!
Pick me! The biggest, juiciest ones are always just at the end of your reach. As if the plant can think, the berries ripen sequentially so there is a ripe edible crop  for several weeks into autumn. The uneaten berries will dry and provide nutrition for birds in the winter ahead. It is a clever distribution strategy. Anyone can count the seeds in one berry but only the gods can count the berries in one seed.

A powersaw, or chainsaw, is a vicious tool which does not know the difference between wood, bone or meat and just cuts a wide bite in its subject called a kerf. “Thet yer kerf or ya jest happy to see me?” Filled with dirt, sawdust and oil a powersaw cut is a real challenge for a doctor to repair. Blackberry vines love to throw the saw back against one’s legs and arms so it’s no place for beginners. Yes, I do have all my parts after all these years. I’ve used these saws when quartering up moose, elk and cattle and developed a severe respect for the snarling tool.

The backlit jungle. How eagerly would British Columbia have been explored if it were already covered in black berries? They came later along with rats, starlings, gorse and broom among other things..

When picking the delicious ripe berries, it seems as if the thorny canes are drawing you into themselves like some man-eating plant. There have been folks who managed to get themselves into the middle of a blackberry thicket and needed a fire department to rescue them. I have suggested that during the six-week annual blackberry season, picking the juicy treasures could be a good endeavour for prison work gangs. We have many feral hectares of unharvested berries which just go to seed every year. “Chain-gang Jam and Pie Filling” or “Blackberry Brandy.” Uh-huh! Fascist bastard! With liquor tax added, there’s a whole new source of revenue for our Covid-pressed government.

Blackberry honey. At the peak of summer the vines begin to flower and are abuzz with thousands of bees. Later as the berries become over-ripe wasps will become drunk on the sweet juice and buzz annoyingly but harmlessly in your face.

On a cool but sunny Covid Tuesday, that’s the whole shituation. Who says there’s nothing to blog about?

Boring dad! A Jack yawn at Wolf Creek Bend.
A Wolf Creek moment.
The Shark Stone. Someone talented at picking their rocks and etching clever images into them travels our waterfront parks and woodland trails adding their personal petroglyphs. I think it is brilliant.
‘Seafire’ the foundation of this blog. I miss her dearly, especially in these Covid days. I’ll still miss her once there is another boat in my life. I’ve learned that a boat, if owned for the right reasons, is never “Just stuff.”

Himalayans (blackberries) seize the land, gobbling acres, blanketing banks, consuming abandoned farmhouses and their Studebakers and anything left alone in the rain for five minutes or longer.”
― Robert Michael Pyle, Sky Time in Gray’s River: Living for Keeps in a Forgotten Place

Say What?

Hairy Inukshuk. A positive aspect of the current pandemic is that there now appears to be families out walking together. Children are doing creative things like painting rocks and erecting little stone piles. It’s lovely.

I am just a dumb-assed average guy who is not entitled to dispense uninformed opinions about things like a pandemic. I know that I know very little. I understand also that I am free to challenge, at least for myself, the edicts and mantras of others who thrill at the notion of control over us. I tend to be reclusive normally so the idea of social isolation is not new or unusual. I’ve practised it often at sea and ashore and continue to be a loner. I don’t mind my own company at all. Crowds induce an instant psychosis for me so I avoid them if at all possible. So, I am not about to join arms with a few strangers and go staggering down a city street kissing all the door handles we come upon. My concept of common sense may be skewed by other’s standards, but it has kept me alive for several decades.

Social isolation. Smell the woodsmoke, the fresh bread, cinnamon buns, gingerbread and maybe a roasting piece of venison. Could do worse!
Beach houses looking into Ladysmith Harbour. The weather is bleak, cold and damp but the free air is bliss.
Proof of previous global warming, when glaciers melted away and left boulders like this.
All steamed up. Wet, dry, cool, warm, sunny then not. It’s spring weather. A neighbour’s roof dries after the last rain shower.
The toilet paper factory. I don’t actually know what sort of pulp this mill in Crofton produces, but it’s as stinky as any other paper mill… The smell of money some folks say.

I am blessed to live in a small coastal community where with a few minutes walking I can be in a forest that will surround me all the way to the west side of Vancouver Island and the open Pacific Ocean. I think there are only two or three logging roads to cross on the way. To be in some apartment in any city must be a horror even if you live up in the free air of an upper floor. You have the gauntlet of those possibly-infected elevators and stairwells to pass through to get down to the streets in order to see which stores are now closed. There are probably highly-stressed people in uniforms with hands on guns watching you carefully. Then you have to return home, up through the labyrinth of passages to your retreat where even your water supply depends on someone somewhere running a pump. Just think of what it might be like to endure this in a place like India or Syria. We are the lucky few. Dreary, depressed, flat-broke and in debt, plans and dreams shattered, we’re still doing alright so long as we don’t panic.

More coal flowers. Incongruously this forsythia bush grows alone among the brambles in the middle of the old coal terminal.
I spot my first Fawn Lily of this spring.
Then suddenly, they’re everywhere.
Purple delicates too.
And even more
Beach blossoms as yet another rain squall advances through the Gulf Islands.
Da-ad! Let’s go see what’s around the next corner.

There are plenty of movies about pandemics, there are many apocalyptic scenarios and of course the strangely popular zombie themes. The notion of the world we are now suddenly living in has fascinated and entertained us for a long time. We seen fascinated with doom.  Be careful what you wish for. Here we are. Sadly, our national leaders do not inspire a lot of confidence and so we all endure this terror with a sense of fear and rising panic. A US aircraft carrier captain has been dismissed for informing his massive crew that a few cases of the Covid virus had broken out in the very close quarters of the ship. He is punished for being responsible and respectful of his charges. Yep, military intelligence. And of course, there is the incredibly expensive US Navy hospital ship ‘Comfort’ sitting nearly empty in downtown New York. Well, I did not promise to not ask questions.

Singing a song of spring.

If there were squadrons of bombers or UFOs overhead, or masses of invading troupes in the street we could see something, some-one to push back against. A virus is something we cannot see or fight with any tangible effort other than the feeble measures we can think of. One day, one moment at a time, it is all we can do. Self-love and loving one another is a worthy endeavour many of us need to grasp or relearn. This is the perfect opportunity. And remember, don’t believe everything they imagine. Flower photos, for the time being I’ll stick to that.

The sage old one. Jack’s legs are getting wobblier but his eyes are bright and he is always up for another adventure.

…”They lived in a country where believing had taken the place of knowing.”

from ‘Stones From The River’ Ursula Hegi

It’s All Relative

Try to stay balanced.
We’re all on the fence these days!

The main street is nearly deserted. I pulled into one of many available angled parking spots across from the pharmacy. As I reached for the door-handle there was a blur in the spot next to me. A small car pulled in as if it were a brake test zone. The young woman driving was wearing a surgical mask. Had I been a second earlier I would have been mince. No mask would have helped me.

Cold front over the water front. An approaching mass of cold air wedges itself beneath the warm air ahead. All is calm and bright with everyone in social isolation. Any bets on how much longer that boathouse will survive?

There’s a weary old joke about a person who quits smoking only to be run over by a tobacco truck. We fixate on one peril and ignore several others. Think of all the near misses one endures while out driving on any road. You have no control over the other driver and what a single twitch of their hand could do. Danger is all around us, at all times, we cannot escape its presence even as we obsess about the perils of our present pandemic and all the social issues of isolation versus contamination.

Most of us would go completely around the twist if we lost our electronic and cyber web of information and distraction. I was on the phone yesterday with a friend from South Africa. He talked about my recent blog and the sad news of the wolf Takaya. He then related a similar story about a hippopotamus that went walkabout and was eventually shot. The story is about ninety years old but simply by googling “hippo shot in South Africa” I had instant access to several accounts of the legend of Huberta. It is truly amazing how the internet evolved so quickly to become the wealth of information (and lies) it is. Even more incredibly we take it all for granted, accepting whatever is presented as truth.

Behind my back gate.
Everybody now! Two days later.

Yesterday morning we awoke to the sound of a train on the roof. Actually it was a burst of rain and sleet which gave way to another sunny morning. The next onslaught of precipitation came just after Jack and I had launched ourselves on our morning wander. Of course. Like the few folks out with their dogs, we all respectfully maintained a two-metre radius and it is suggested that we not even pet each other’s canine for fear of transferring heeby jeebies that way. There are dark aspects to people’s behaviour certainly but that seems outweighed by the goodness and graciousness demonstrated by most but the symptoms of analytis are evident at the best of times and those folks put themselves in a place of auto-distancing by default.

Currently the currant bushes are in bloom.
Salmon Berries too

Lollygagging, remember that word? It sits on the shelf just after heeby jeeby, not far before malinger which is a bit before a box marked “Redneck Terms” which are often single-syllable four-letter words far more commonly used, especially in times like these by crusty old dudes like me. Folks will come to understand “Cabin Fever” if they don’t already. That in turn may erupt into a wild rage far more insidious than any virus. When we can all come up out of our lemming holes again, perhaps we’ll find the world a little better place with a newly re-found respect for each other and ourselves. How long those lessons last will be up to each of us.

Trillium Trivectis.
Oregon Grape
Looks like Eli is trying a comeback.
Face it. We’re all in the woods together.

This morning Jack and I were out and about in the cold crispy air and misty light of early morning. We met no-one else. There were not even any cars on the road. It seems very strange indeed.

Despite my cynicisms about media information here are three online items which might provide some comic relief, dark as it may be.

The first is from New York City where throngs of people crowded together on bridges and the waterfront to see the arrival of the US Navy hospital ship ‘Comfort.’ There are several photos which show folks with mobile phones held high, trying to record the moment.

The next is about the ‘Resolute,’ a small cruise ship in international waters off the coast of Tobago. It was accosted by a Venezuelan navy patrol vessel, the ‘Naiguta’ which demanded the ship allow itself to be forced into a Venezuelan port. Instead the ship, which had been built with an ice-breaking bow, rammed and sank the naval vessel. There were no lives lost and the story cheers me immensely.

And finally, a horrible story from Texas. On an interstate highway a tractor trailer load of toilet paper crashed and burned. Photos show flaming rolls littering several lanes. Hot wipes!

And so another day drags on, hopefully we all find something to smile about. I hope the spring flowers bring a little cheer.

Seasons past
Jack’s hammer.
He showed an interest but we’ve got too many rusty hammers already.
Besides, what if it is evidence?
No breathing, no nothing. This is a parking area on the waterfront where folks come to sit in splendid social isolation in their cars and savour the harbour view. Fear the fear.
Shy Perriwinkles
Have you ever pointed a camera at a crow? You’ve got to be quick. They are incredibly wary.
The bomber. A local company, Coulson Aviation, contracts water bombing services globally. This is a Boeing 737, which they have developed for bombing wildfires. Hopefully we won’t be seeing them this summer.
Coal flowers
These feral blooms grow a short distance away in the same abandoned coal pile.
May your path ahead be clear, level, verdant and full of light…with a few blossoms as well.

Humanity is not without answers or solutions regarding how to liberate itself from scenarios that invariably end with mass exterminations. Tools such as compassion, trust, empathy, love, and ethical discernment are already in our possession. The next sensible step would be to use them.”
― Aberjhani, Splendid Literarium: A Treasury of Stories, Aphorisms, Poems, and Essays

 

Social Isolation

Run Takaya. Run free.

Takaya is dead. A few blogs back (Feb. 1st) I wrote about this splendid, and particularly beautiful lone wolf, who found his way through the city of Victoria and across tidal rapids to survive and thrive on Discovery Island. He lived alone, in social isolation for several years, managing to hunt successfully and to endure his solitude. This spring, in his mating season he returned to the main island, looking for a mate some think. He was eventually tranquilized and relocated deep into the woods of Southern Vancouver Island. He has now been shot dead by a hunter about fifty metres from where he was released. I am enraged and heartbroken as apparently are many others globally.

I have been a hunter who has lived in rural areas and eaten plenty of wild game. There was never a sound reason to kill a wolf. They posed no threat to anyone or anything despite any myth which can ever be conjured up. A few years ago, on Northern Vancouver Island, a grizzly bear was sighted, the first ever there to anyone’s knowledge. It was promptly shot. When our government conservation officers attend a human versus wildlife situation, quite often a wild creature is killed.

Wolf, man, dog, sea.

At the moment, tidal waves of fear about a deadly pandemic wash around the planet. Our entire social fabric is under tremendous pressure. The implications of this disease are far-reaching with all its fear and doubt. It is a time for introspection. I want only to put a little light into other’s eyes and yet today I share a little more grief. Damn us all. That wolf will never howl from the depths of the forest again, nor will any offspring. There is silence in the swamp.

Beguiled into leaving his wolf brothers, the dog is perhaps one of man’s highest achievements.

The wolves knew when it was time to stop looking for what they’d lost, to focus instead on what was yet to come.” Jodi Picoult

Covid Dawn

Slowly spring comes. There are still morning frosts but the flowers are tired of waiting.

A molten dagger of sunlight found its way behind the curtains and crept across the wall toward the foot of the bed. Another crystalline morning. The world outside is eerily quiet. Quarantined. There is no frost until the sun rises a little more then instantly everything is covered in whiteness. Then the sun’s radiation burns it away again with a sweeping line as it climbs into the day ahead. A Covid dawn. I like to be up before dawn, it’s the best part of the day. However, I’m still struggling with the long-term effects of whatever flu bug I’ve had. Hopefully I have the right cream for bed sores but sleep seems to be what the body demands. Apparently many others endure a similar affliction. It is not the Big C but it sure is debilitating.

Trilliums too!

Overhead a few contrails lazily dissipate in the flight corridor which parallels the length of Vancouver Island. Unless those are military aircraft on international routes someone is still making commercial flights. This evening, minutes ago, I looked up to see a jet’s thick contrail aligned with the North Pacific Great Circle Route; bound somewhere in Asia I’d guess. The sun had set behind the island’s mountains but its golden glow rendered the long thin cloud iridescent in the azure sky. On the same flight path, four cranes silently winged their way Northwestward, their elegant black silhouettes contrasting sharply with the long glowing cloud tens of thousands of feet above.

They make a body want to burst into song… I promise I won’t. Dogs would howl, babies would scream, buildings would fall. I can’t carry a tune in a night pail.
Spring path.

My most indelible photos ever are embedded in my personal hard drive. They’ve all been viewed when there was no camera handy; of course! So they sit in the back of my brain. As I wrote this, those birds descended with their wings set to land in some field or marsh to feed and rest for the night. Usually, cranes honk distinctively, calling for more of their kind already on the ground. Their silence seemed strange; maybe they knew they were the first of the spring migration. Maybe they were going to do a red eye and fly on past the coughing, sneezing hordes below. Life goes on.

Always a sight and sound to make a person tingle.
Cranes in their summer grounds. They are extremely furtive and wary.
Incredible!! Not the vehicle, the price! 10K!  That one of these rust buckets has survived well over a half-century is amazing. My first car was one of these, I paid $90. which was far too much. 
My 1957 Vauxhall was horrible. Someone has invested some hot-rod efforts in this and hopes to recover some of their money.
Good for them!

This old ranter is stuck. This is a time to be especially careful with one’s words. I’ll keep my criticisms to myself. The internet can be a fantastic tool or a weapon. The information available is staggering and imagine enduring this pandemic without all the ready information, whether accurate truth or blatant lies. It is up to each of us to be discerning about what we choose to believe but think of going through this event without the advise, news and entertainment. That was how it must have been with the Spanish Flu pandemic. Well, I’ve long felt an obligation to try and bring a little light to other folks, be that with humour or questions that I think need to be asked. I’ll do my best to brighten your days…and so too mine. This all shall pass and a day will come when we ask each other, “Remember that spring of 2020?” Yes, really!

Celebrating the pandemic…with a case of Corona. These guys sat in the local park on their motorcycles and camp chairs with a case of the good stuff.
A local tack shop always wheels this horsequinn out during opening hours. They dress it in a timely manner. Note the virus balls. There are some great bits of humour appearing.

Here’s a link to some pertinent Australian humour. That continent has, within the last year, endured massive wildfires, severe drought and flooding and now Covid-19. Still there is humour to be found. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ia0bfWbOLjY

Still running. The fuzzy blob on the left horizon is the ferry from Chemainus to Thetis and Penelakut Islands. The deep-sea vessels are coming and going now, the ports are functioning after a fashion.

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” -Franklin D. Roosevelt March 4, 1933

I Heard The Bird!

With all the media’s doom and gloom, from our present deadly global virus pandemic to the endless hordes of victims from war and famine, there’s not a lot of cheer out there. My personal issues are pathetically tiny in comparison but it all wears a person down until there seems no point in anything. One of those little things was that my Goldfield Nevada radio station was no longer live-streaming. For weeks the repeated message was about an error but with no suggestion whose it was. But I kept checking. Apparently it was down for upgrades. I can’t describe the boost I felt on a recent morning when there it was again, loud and clear! It doesn’t take much to cheer me up. I love this small-town mid-desert station with its eclectic play-list and refusal to be slick. It works for me. Burros, blues and country music and then a little bit of classical…can’t beat it with a stick!

I won’t begin to discuss our current global health situation. I don’t know where to begin. Who do I trust? Already being in a state of personal cheerlessness and lingering flu, yes still, I don’t want to damage any of the peaches you may still have on your tree. I doubt that any of us find humour or confidence in the news from anywhere. I think of the tens and tens of millions of us culled by the Spanish Flu a century ago. That was before casual global air travel. And we didn’t learn a thing.

Friends have gone off on their boat to escape the madness and that merely underscores my own situation. For decades I always had an “earthquake plan” at a nearby dock and boy do I feel naked without that. If I had a boat that’s exactly what I’d be doing as well. I think a couple of weeks without any news would be wonderfully restorative. And… I suppose if folks start tipping over by the score there’ll be all sorts of boats available simply for the taking.

For the last two weeks the sky has been clear and cloudless with a chill dry wind blowing. It seemed ominous, even surreal for this part of the world. This morning, the breeze eased enough for me to unzip my outer jacket. Then I heard it. Struth! A mourning dove. Its soft “hoo, hoo, hoo” was the sweetest music I could imagine. It was a little personal cheer for me. That sound is the instant harbinger of many things “desert” and of warmer days to come. There is hope.

In consideration of all the panic-buying of things like toilet paper, I’m heading into the woods to collect a few sacks of moss. No-one seems able to explain the fascination with all that loo paper. Maybe that will be our new currency. I can image board meetings at companies like the Purex Tissue Company. “Well folks,” says the chairman, “I am happy to report that this quarter’s earnings are really shitty!” They all double over in laughter. Then I heard about a pre-flight announcement. “Welcome aboard folks, this is your captain. The weather is fine, we should be about one hour enroute. I also should let you know that I have chosen to work from home today.”

The Covid Collar. (This is an old photo, Jack is fine.)
What if…we all wore a collar 12′ in diameter. That would keep us all the requisite minimum of 6′ from each other. Deluxe models could include toilet paper rollers, face mask dispensers, hand cleaner and beverages.
Base price $395…US!
Mourning Doves, Ajo AZ. On the roof of the old Spanish Mission.
In the desert. A crackle and aroma of Mesquite.
Seems awfully far away right now.

I am especially bemused by politicians who want to assure folks by promising to throw money at them. Governments are always presenting themselves as a source of wealth, which they never are. The money that they are assuring folks is coming doesn’t exist. It is your money and they haven’t extracted it…yet. What bullshit! But we’ll baa the myth and wade on into the swamp. I am a bit of an expert on government financial matters, I have operated a deficit budget for years. I know that debt begets debt and I also know that to have a growing national deficit all the while declaring a surplus is a grand chicanery; especially when we believe them. I sometimes have the terrible thought that I was a politician in a previous life; no wonder the Gods punish me. Seriously, throwing money at things seems to be our eternal solution. If we had not tried to operate on a business as usual plan, we may well have impeded the spread of this plague. Global travel should have stopped at least a month ago. The donkey is long gone from the barn. But I say it again, maybe that’s what all that toilet paper is about. Commerce first, now turn you head and cough.

I wonder if he’s learned not to sit out in the open. A desert ground squirrel.
A Caracara. He’d love a little squirrel for lunch.

Meanwhile, there before the cameras, stands yet another “Official” scratching their eyes and wiping their nose while telling us not to touch our faces. And wait until the world realizes it can survive nicely without the eternal pandemic of sports! For more comic relief you have to chuckle at the many travel companies currently promoting their wondrous packages.  It’s a strange world we live in Master Jack.”

I’m aching to drive this road again.

A friend and fellow blogger sent me this YouTube link.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8-BT6y_wYg

It took my breath away. A perfect underscore for these especially uncertain days.

May the Mourning Dove call your name. PEACE!

___________________________________________________

“The absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence. I expect a sizable jump in [COVID-19] cases in the next few weeks.”

Los Angeles Times, Feb 28, 2020

Quarantine

An ode to spring

As the Covid 19 Virus has officially been declared a “Pandemic” and toilet paper wars surge around the planet (silly people) I continue to seclude myself at home with what I’ve decided previously is called the Schlitzvirus. Mexico, home of Corona, apparently has the lowest global incidence of this insidious bug. Jack and I go for our regular outings in the cool spring weather but I still feel too wobbly to get out and live it up after ten days of this. Apparently I am far from being the only one with a similar affliction. Fortunately old Jack is quite content to sleep twenty-two hours a day so we plod into spring with little alacrity.

Along comes Jack.
Some mornings there are too many good smells in the air to be in a hurry.
Everyone needs a Jack

After a long dull winter I’ve finally finished my latest video. Here’s the link:

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

As usual my intent is to provoke folks to look inside themselves and truly think about notions others impose on us as ultimate truths. And that’s the whole situation. Stay healthy.

Bark ‘n fungus. Say that three times quickly. You’ve got it too! The micro-world is just as fascinating as any.
Settled in, again… this waterfront squatters site changes hands frequently. The latest occupant has put some serious effort into upgrades. Despite a chill ocean breeze someone was asleep in there when I took the photo.
A long green arm reached out.
Wot the heck? One more of those spring photos.

Don’t sweat the petty things and don’t pet the sweaty things.” George Carlin

THE GREENING

THE GREENING. A splendid beauty to me is when the sun back-lights the chlorophyll green of new leaves. Yes!
One of the joys of a reluctant spring is that the flowers last and last. Snow Drops, the first to appear are still with us and becoming ever grander.

In my last blog a few days ago I made a crack about Schlitzvirus. The Gods took note. I got it. Their sense of humour at times truly leaves me gasping. I’ll spare you the yukky details, when two or more malfunctioning body systems collaborate to bring you down it ain’t pretty. I’ve dropped ten pounds in four days, everything hurts. Note: Schlitzvirus is not a recommended weight-lose program. And yes, cold sweats do exist. I’ve been invaded with alien movie worms, you know those ones that click their evil yellow teeth while crawling out through the skin of your belly once they’ve spawned. The evolution of my contamination is not over yet, I’m too sick to go to the doctor… as if he has a magic pill. In fact, come to think of it, I probably caught this wee monster from my visit to the doctor’s office last week! Snot funny! For fear of spreading this contagion I don’t even want to talk to anyone on the phone.

W’all now! That there pup’s gonna be one big dawg when she’s all growed up!
Green, green green. Ahhh!
Even a little slug was poking about in the sun

This morning is clear and frosty. Devil be damned I thought, we’ve got to get some air. It was glorious, but for once, Jack was the one up ahead on the path waiting for me to catch up. Back inside again after our little outing the crystalline light reflects off the neighbours wall. It’s beautiful. Even passing aircraft seem to glide extra easily through the silken air. Birds trill and twitter joyfully. Being too weak and wobbly to get out there again is a misery. There are murmurs of spring in the calm air. Hope lives. These are this morning’s photos.

Hope sproings eternal. I hear another one… sproing! Above this scene a wood pecker drummed up some breakfast.

“Spring is nature’s way of saying let’s party.” — Robin Williams

The Paintng

It’s coming, slowly and reluctantly but spring will soon be here in full glory.
I am often told that I must have exotic camera equipment. Nope! These were both taken this cloudy morning with my mobile phone. Any type of camera no more makes a good photograph than a brush makes a painting. It is always the nut who holds the camera.

It is vain. It is frivolous. Yet in the window of a local main street art and framing shop, there is a painting which I covet. It is spectacular in its own way, a limited edition copy, well executed by someone who knows and loves the sea well and intimately. He has captured every fleck of sea foam, every glint of light perfectly. The painter Christopher Walker is a renowned Canadian illustrator and this image has my heart. It is small, 24”x 15”, which makes it more endearing and also possible to mount in a boat. It portrays a man in red storm gear rowing a clinker-built skiff a goodly distance from shore. The title of the work is ‘Devotion.’ “Ya bet yer breasthook!” I think. You’ve got no choice. Pull for your life all the while resolved to the living heaving reality all around. It is often referred to as ‘Storm Ecstasy.’

Behind him, a steep near-breaking swell rises high above but he does not look, hearing its slop and hiss tells him all he needs to know. He has to have confidence that his small craft will rise daintily over it and all the other lumps he must encounter on his way to a sanctuary somewhere near the lighthouse. He is resolved that there is nothing he can do about it anyway. One moment of panic may well spell his doom. “Now lean into it,” he thinks, “but don’t break or lose your oar.” That light, to me, looks a lot like Race Rocks, a few miles from Victoria. It is noted for its turbulent surrounding waters and the image is so true I can smell it. I can taste the brine on my lips, feel the wet air on my face and the slap of the sea against my fragile, thin hull. I’ve been in such situations and can see, hear and feel everything including the pull and spring of the wooden spoon oars. Perhaps there is a nice small halibut in the bottom of the skiff. He isn’t out there just for the exercise.

There it is! Every time I pass the shop window I check to see if it is still there and where it might have been moved. You can see it clearly  and wholly online if you look up the artist’s web site without other paintings in front of it.

Designed to warn mariners away from danger, light houses are seldom built to draw them near but onward he rows. This painting expresses tension and peace all at once for the seasoned mariner and a certain terror for the viewer who is a landsperson. I love it. I want it. There is another special nautical painting which, years ago, I did not acquire yet remains indelible in my memory. Now the capitalist craving haunts me again but for the time being this new longing will have to stay in the shop window where it has called to me for the past year. The painting is a metaphor of my life. Read into it what you will. I have a fantasy of my writing desk by a window looking out to sea, my books on shelves at either elbow, that painting on the wall where I can see it along with other art I cherish. Still rowing toward distant marks, tide against wind I yam what I yam. You know the Bob Seger song.

The painting requires only a bit of money but I I have none and there are, of course, debts and bills to be paid first. The job I started a week ago lasted less than four days. I made a simple but grievously stupid error on my first morning. I was easily able to repair it and offered that, but the damage was done. There are no second chances after making a bad first impression. My wagging tail was suddenly tucked where the sun seldom shines. That dark cloud of doubt weighed on both me and my new employer. With a rapidly dwindling trade, due in part to both the global virus dread and the puckered economy in result of regional protests I could clearly see there was not much work for me at the moment. I need the income and I need the affirmation of being able to hold a job. Gone! I must confess my weary body and the incomplete healing from my recent surgery also made it obvious that perhaps my glory days on the job are past. I was able to prove to my younger co-workers that motors can be diagnosed and repaired efficiently without computer diagnosis. Maybe ignoring protocol was what did me in. But then, it would have been something else. So what! Life goes on.

There is no higher art than the wooden boat. Form and function blend to make something beautiful and extremely useful.
An old boat once again becomes the land becomes the earth and maybe will become a boat again one day.
Even a plastic kayak offers an intimacy with the ocean that bigger boats cannot match.
The romance of the sea. This famous boathouse is now gone, strangled by the approach of suburbia, done in with noise bylaws although it was there decades before any newcomer. There’s a waterfront luxury condo there now.

This is a tough week and first things first, I must repair the engine in my truck. Maybe that will restore my confidence. Done. But I feel no better. Suddenly I’ve come down with flu-like symptoms but haven’t coughed up any Corona bottle caps so no worries mate. I was at the doctor’s office last week and everyone with a sniffle is piling in there. I don’t do baa very well. You get old, you get sick, you die. Then the cycle begins again. Old Jack wants to go for his morning outing, which will be a slow and halting procession, for both of us. We each need the air and the exercise and off we go before the drizzle thickens into a steady rain. Spring draws nearer.

One thousand words.

And so in time the rowboat and I became one and the same-like the archer and his bow or the artist and his paint. What I learned wasn’t mastery over the elements; it was mastery over myself, which is what conquest is ultimately all about.”
― Richard Bode , First You Have to Row a Little Boat: Reflections on Life & Living