An Absence Of Birds

I’m dreaming of a Wet Christmas. And to all… a dry night!

It seems that the gods can send messages in unexpected ways. I play YouTube roulette sometimes, just to see what randomly pops up. I’ve discovered incredible musicians from around the globe, found amazing inventions, wonderful stories and once in a while stumble on something that I can only consider as a tiny personal kick in the butt. Today I came across a video about a sixty-three year old cowboy still riding broncos in the rodeo. He’s the real thing and had some eloquent things to say. One was about hitch-hiking, something real hand-to-mouth cowboys do regularly. They don’t all have big-fat-wheeled diesel pickup trucks. “Have a saddle along, it’ll gitchya a ride every time.” (In my hitch-hiking days I had a red toolbox and an old military duffel bag that worked quite well.) He mentioned, after a litany of all his broken bones, how folks tell him he’s crazy to still be at it. “I ain’t never gonna grow up. I’m old but I ain’t never grownin’ up. You’re judged by that third and forth try in life and I think I’ve got one more try.”

There’s some inspiration in those words. Grit! I’ll take a bag please. Course ground!

Bullhead! One of my favourite rodeo photos of all time. It’s over forty years old. I recall that terrier played the bull like a fish on a line. These photos are poor quick copies made with my  mobile phone. I’d take my photos, then printed  them in the darkroom into the night and tried to sell them the next day.
Old leather. One more from the archives. Take a moment and look closely at the details on this old saddle. The obvious age and wear tell very interesting stories.

There are some rodeo days in my ancient history but I soon lost my desire to be slammed around by any angry beast. There may be some momentary beauty in all those arched postures and flailing, jingling rigging and hoofs but it all hurts and years down the trail, those hurts come back to haunt a body. As I age, I wonder at why we continue to do such primal things if for no other reason than the cruelty to the animals. In our latitudes a successful rodeo ride is eight seconds. In Mexico I’ve seen bulls ridden until they collapse. Sport? It might seem manly but I’ve come to consider testosterone a poisonous substance. Mix it with alcohol and you have a bomb about to go off. Those two juices, mixed or not, are at the root of nearly every woe in the world, ever.

The heat, dust and din of a rodeo seems very alien to the dark and thick rain of pre-Christmas coastal BC. Just days from the winter solstice, the darkness here is crushing, even at high noon. Further north the daylight is progressively shorter and the weather much harsher. A nice day is often when the rain simply falls vertically and is not being driven by a blasting wind. I don’t miss it. How people endure it year upon year on the North Coast is a wonder. But they do and even thrive in it. There are different kinds of grit I suppose, but up there with all that rain it’s often just called mud. When I lived and worked on the mid-coast, locals would go south for a few days and arrive back home expressing profound relief at being out of “that mess.” I know what they meant but Geez Louise, watching the moss grow between my toes is no pastime for me. Today the gelatinous rain, almost frozen, doesn’t bounce. It just splats down and heads from the nearest drain.

An annual tradition. Along a popular local walking trail this tree is decorated in memory of dogs who once passed here and have gone on to a higher calling.
It’s very touching.
A ghost of happiness past. Several clear balls contain photos of dogs.
There’ll never be a hand-made decoration on any tree with the name ‘Fred.’

As usual I’m listening to that radio station in Goldfield Nevada, although I’m enduring an overload of Christmas tunes. (Note I didn’t say music.) Some is traditional, some mutant-traditional, some innovative, some weird and some completely bizarre, even rude. (If this old salt thinks it’s rude, it is definitely rude!) All the music is about Christmas and that’s beginning to wear a bit thin. The songs are punctuated with local anecdotes about winter hardships and historical storms with six feet of snow in one night, -30°F temperatures and horrific winds. There are accounts of people freezing to death in the high desert country which I can well believe, it almost happened to me one night on a high Nevada desert plain. Considering the bleak desert winter who can begrudge them their fun? Apparently this is how the season is observed in the Nevada desert.

Fortunately for them, Goldfield is a day north of Las Vegas where cacti begin to grow and the Mexican border is another day’s drive south of there. Theoretically they can escape winter easily. This station has no news broadcasts. That on its own makes it a winner in my books. Their advertising is for small local businesses like restaurants, hardware stores and a tow truck service. There is nothing from box stores, shopping malls, car manufacturers or fast food chains. Public service announcements describe events of common interest like a local highway improvement project. The local “dump road” is temporarily rerouted along the cemetery road. Country logic rules, the dump and the cemetery are side by side.

UNBELIEVABLE! Two hours of sunshine. All sorts of dogs with nice people were suddenly out and about.
Morning Glory! By noon, it was raining again.
As the clouds lifted and the sun broke through, the pagans, after dancing naked around their poles all night, plunged into the frigid sea and swam back to their boats. (Or something like that.)
Thousands of miles from home, many thousands of mariners will make the best of Christmas so very far away from their families.

As I edit what I’ve just written I realize it is all about what I’m absorbing from my electric babysitters. I offer no accounts of what I’m doing because I’m not doing much of any account.

I’m struggling with the second chapter of my third novel; something over a decade old. And it is indeed a struggle. Good creative writing happens when the story writes itself and the writer scrambles to keep up. It’s not happening. The southwestern deserts may seen far away but I’m stuck in my own suburban wasteland. Walking with Jack twice a day out in the drizzling gloom is my high adventure. We do see lovely, colourful wee birds, yesterday it was a brilliant red-headed woodpecker then a flitting flock of golden-crowned kinglets. The flashes of bright yellow on their tiny heads brought instant cheer but the light was too dull for photos with any sort of camera.

Summer
Winter. Jack had no interest in wading.

Today Jack snoozes in front of the fireplace. Part of that time was spent with his head on my lap. He’s warm. By two this afternoon the dull light was fading, and rain or not, we had to make at least one outing. We took a muddy path beside a local stream which was swollen to the top of its banks. These two soggy old mutts plodded along and then homeward, eager to get back by the fire. The rain was so insidious there was an absence of birds, no croaking of a single raven, not even the timid chatter of one chickadee. They’ve all found a place to hole up. I saw one tiny titmouse bouncing along a salmonberry limb. It promptly vanished into the underbrush once it saw what foolish lumps were out trudging in the driving rain. I imagine that, being that size, each thick raindrop must seem like a bucket of water would to me. Home again, I’m content to sit near the fireplace.

Jack is sound asleep again, dreaming of chasing rabbits, perhaps in a daisy-filled meadow. It is sunny and warm wherever he is and he is young again. And me…I don’t need to close my eyes to hear the rustle of palm fronds overhead and smell the salty warm sea air as a frosty lime margarita jumbo is placed in my hand. It is made from a smokey local tequila and the prawns and fish have come out of the bay right out there where that humpback is breaching. Mariachi music plays somewhere up the beach. Beep, beep, beep… the oven is ready for the bread. My fantasy vanishes as a fresh blast of wind and rain batters the window. And what bliss to smell baking bread. Weather be damned, I’m going to eat something!

Where have all the spiders gone?
Maple totems. In each clump of moss, tiny creatures live within their own world.

The big day is close enough now so I’ll wish all Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Season’s Greetings, pleasant solstice, oh yeah Happy Hanukkah. For the rest of you, Bumhug!

Then there’s the New Year.

Like that old cowboy said, one more try.

All of the season’s best from Jack and his human.

I am a forest, and a night of dark trees: but he who is not afraid of my darkness, will find banks full of roses under my cypresses.”

Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

DOFTTAB

DOFTTAB

Thonk! Damn, I didn’t see that coming! The poor wee thing flew into the patio door with a horrible noise. It sat in a billowing cloud of its own pin feathers looking totally befuddled. I picked it up, warming it within my hands until it was ready to fly off. I think it is a crowned sparrow.   Not a bad photo for a mobile phone on a dull morning. It appears on my computer screen about life-size.

I sit at my desk writing this blog and listen to my beloved Goldfield Nevada radio station online. Goldfield is not far from the Black Rock Desert where the annual Burning Man event occurs. I describe Goldfield as being the full-time Burning Man. They seem to have an alternative perspective, quirky, earthy and creative, right out of the box; after that has been thrown away. I love the humour gleaned from this station. The above title is an acronym from KGFN 89.1 which represents ‘Department Of Fixing Things That Ain’t Broke.’ I think there are some quality times spent around a table in that only saloon in Goldfield. Wouldn’t it be fun to collaborate on bits of trivia like that? An announcer with a gravelly desert voice went on to jest about a government complaint that their weather burros were not of sufficiently mixed gender and where were they going to find a female burro to send to Gabbs?

Times are tough. I am living in a flat financial state these days due to circumstances which I am determined are temporary. It will pass, one of the joys of getting older is knowing that all things change. Yes, it’s my fault, I tacked when I should have gybed and then I hit a reef. So I am not feeling the joy and wonder I am apparently expected to feel at this time of year. “You vill haz ze fun vezzer you lak it or nut!” To get more exercise and avoid burning precious gasoline I try to walk everywhere possible. Jack and I are getting in a few extra kilometres of exercise each day. He doesn’t prefer any particular route so long as he gets out and comes home again where he can flop on the couch for several more hours at a time. It is “Like, hibernating season dad!” Some days I join him.

Jack has a master’s degree in couch potatoing.

Occasionally we return along the gentler slopes of Ladysmith’s main street. Today we walked by the cookery shop with its stunning array of gleaming copper pots and stainless kitchen utensils. (That shalt not covet thy neighbour’s pots!) Then we passed the bakery pulsing with aromas of fresh coffee, cinnamon buns, ginger bread and still-warm bread. Next came the pet shop with kittens in a window cage and shelves full of dog treats. Right next door is the town’s butcher shop, a traditional venture with the windows full of succulent treasures like deep and crusty meat pies, fresh fish, thick succulent steaks, whole free-range chickens and my favourite, thick smoked pork chops. Jack, straining back against his leash, wanted to savour it all. I simply wanted to go on by and get home out of the cold rain.

I have known very lean times. Hitchhiking and job-hunting in the severe cold of northern Ontario winters as a young man I endured the numb pain of hunger and the insidious agony of  frost-bitten appendages. The only thing that hurt more was when you were finally able to thaw your parts out. I was a skinny flat-bellied wanderer and I am eternally grateful for the kindness of a few strangers. I imagined walking past these same windows with a similar hunger. Cold, dirty, with no-one to go home to, nor any home for that matter, no change of clothes and nothing to dare hope for. Perhaps there is a metallic taste in the back of your throat from your last meal of something like cold, tinned pasta something and you have no toothpaste or brush to rid yourself of the taste. And how you would love a simple cup of warm coffee. No cream? No problem. This coastal winter damp with kill you as surely as deep sub-zero temperatures, it just takes much longer. Do not doubt, good people, how close we all live to being in that state. Your present situation is fragile regardless of what you think and do not condemn others for being down and out. They have not chosen that situation any more than you would. The stories of some of those living rough are terrifying. Some even hold jobs and have to live like that.

You also do not make good decisions when your back is to the wall. A few simple poor choices may well put you into a state of desperation. One panicked choice leads you to more bad thinking and once that hairball begins to roll downhill it is very hard to stop. We all live at the top of a slippery slope. Smugness and arrogance can easily precipitate the beginning of a slide. It is happening to more and more people these days. And do not dare tell me there is no such thing as bad luck! If my words provide discomfort…good.

There is a reason we don’t sing carols like the one about old King Wenceslas very much anymore. Greed has dulled our humanity. So let me suggest a radical solution to caring for the homeless. It’s simple. All those grand, posh, heated and usually unoccupied church buildings: unlock the doors or start paying tax. Fortunately there are many organizations who try to provide shelter and nurturing for the desperate but they can’t keep up. Overwhelmed, they stand against long odds to make a difference and never get, or want, the recognition they deserve.

Perhaps it’s time to open the old book and review some basic Christian teachings. Note that I am not of any particular religious flavour. Both Christians and Muslims have slaughtered millions and enslaved the minds of even more in the name of divine love. I want none of that mindless double-speak. It was the religious folk who executed Christ. I am, if I fit any pigeon hole, now of a pagan persuasion. Spirituality and religion are two very different things. Whatever God or Gods we create, we are all endowed with the capacity to see and hear the wonderful universe around us. The choice to tune in, or out, is a personal one.That desire in turn offers the wisdom to get along with each other on this splendid planet where we are such ungracious guests. If you want to have “Dominion” over the planet, understand that the word also mean “Responsibility.” It is not complicated.

I’ve fumbled with the above four paragraphs like a three-legged dog trying to make love to a greasy football. Should I post them or not? Out walking with Jack this morning I decided to delete them, it’s Christmas and supposed to be a season of light. Then I happened upon some tattered tarps strung up within a blackberry thicket. Nearby, there was a ubiquitous pirated shopping cart heaped with what appeared to be junk. To me that was a simple essay on the sickness of our society. This person, whoever they are, probably poorly-clothed and marginally fed, whose concern would logically be their next meal, or fix, and better shelter, is obsessed with collecting stuff. There is a strange sense of security in having stuff, any stuff, and our instincts are poisoned with that compulsion to the basest levels. So my acid Christmas comments remain. And yes, I did say CHRISTMAS! Regardless of what anyone believes, it is a Christian-originated celebration. So, if ”Stick it where the sun doesn’t shine” is politically incorrect; AWESOME!

Eeech! Tis the season to not be sleeping in a ditch.
May your berries be many and may they be dry.

Well something did bend me toward a Christmas sentiment the other day. CBC radio was playing some Sunday morning choral music and hit on ‘Oh Fortuna’ by Karl Orbst. It is a grand stirring piece, one of mankind’s favourites. You’ve heard it no doubt whether you knew it or not. There are many renditions on YouTube. It was written about eight hundred years ago. With no computers, no electronics or recording devices through the centuries it has endured, one of those timeless tributes to the genius of man stripped of all the crutches we have so easily and wilfully come to depend upon. The things we are truly capable of!

How many times… have I walked by this subtle graffiti on a stone in a wall? As I edited the photo I suddenly saw the face. Brilliant!
Greener than moss on a maple. What lovely textures.

As I write, my Nevada radio station is playing as usual. This morning their Christmas music began. Most traditional songs are bastardized or are some new effort, neither of which do much for my grinchiness. Somehow, “Jingle Bells” with banjos does not resonate with me. But then, a line from the next song caught my ear. “Tis the season when the greedy give a dime to the needy, then wonder who’s gonna stuff their socks.” That was closely followed by a ballad about pack rats raiding the Christmas stockings then returning a pair of long-lost eyeglasses.

Ah indeed, ‘tis the season!

Eat your heart out! I dragged out my old dutch oven after 35 years and made some kneadless bread. It’s dead-easy to make and tastes as good as it looks. Ah gluten, the glue that holds civilization together. After losing over 40 pounds this year, this stuff is dangerous.
“Ladysmith! Next stop Ladysmith Station!” I wonder if a conductor will ever shout those words again. It seems so sad that this line is not carrying passengers while our highways are clogged, dangerous and toxic.
Ladysmith sunrise.
As I posted the preceding photo I remembered this crude old ink sketch of mine which I rediscovered recently. It is decades old. I drew it long before ever being in Ladysmith. Is that Jack going down the hill toward the harbour with me?  Strange!
Wet wood. I watched this fellow cutting wood at the high tide line a few days ago. It’s a romantic image.
I wouldn’t trade this for any amount of glitz.
Basic. Simple. Perfect!

A lovely thing about Christmas is that it’s compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together.” …Garrison Keillor

The Vulgarian Schnerdle Yipper

Out there…where my heart is.

The garage door rattled open. I stepped out with a sack of recycling in each hand; garbage day again. Lately, this weekly event seems to have become be a way to measure the passage of my life. But I don’t really consider the day truly begun until I’ve stepped outside. So there I was, on my way toward another tiny adventure, another thin slice of life. In the dim light of pre-dawn the waxing moon was setting above a high thin overcast. There was a forecast for rain. Two gulls flew together beneath the dull baleful glow of the moon. It was beautiful. Back inside the coffee machine had leaked all over the counter and the dog had thrown up on the carpet. But…it was the only day I had! We tend to forget that at times and in fact, now is eternally the only the moment any of us ever have. Let’s go for a walk Jack!

It’s all downstream from here. Jack loves wading along the top of this old dam on the local creek. Good clear drinking water and clean feet.
Dog Dawn. The old boy can still kick his heels up.
In a local woodshed. VW forever!

A few months ago I mentioned my tinnitus to a doctor. That is a condition, usually due to being around high industrial noise, gunfire, or any other combination of excessive decibels which causes a permanent condition of ringing or squealing in your ears. It can be overwhelming at times. The painting “The Scream” is alleged by some to have been inspired by tinnitus. One thing led to another and soon I found myself at a hearing clinic with a prescription for hearing aids. I am not a fan of going around with foreign objects attached to, or inserted in, my body but any chance at some sort of relief from the incessant white noise in my head is worth consideration.

After the expected copious and tedious paperwork with near-endless impossible questions as well as a few telephone interviews, to my utter amazement, WorkSafe BC approved the application. I am now the dubious owner of nearly six thousand dollars worth of audio assistance devices. They are tiny, as non-intrusive as possible and nearly invisible to the casual eye. Small as they are, they are also rechargeable, so there is no need to be messing with tiny expensive batteries. That’s a bonus for a guy with banana fingers, lithium cells notwithstanding. I am worried about losing the tiny items.They are also Bluetooth compatible and can become part of my mobile phone system if desired. But thank you very much, I already have enough wrong numbers rattling around in my noggin. I do wonder if there is a way to connect to my favourite radio station! And… are there any of these gadgets available for my dog? He doesn’t seem to hear anything I say anymore.

Walking with Jack yesterday we came upon one of those traffic-counting devices stretched across the street. Those are the black rubber tubes which, when driven over, record a vehicle’s passage. There are two, I believe, in order to be able to indicate which way the vehicle was travelling. Gasoline stations once had them to ring a bell whenever someone drove up to the pumps. I recall kids jumping on them just for the fun of annoying someone. Ding, ding, ding, ding. These are exactly the same old-tech devices I recall from my childhood. I was reminded of an old man who was a family friend when I was very young. He had hearing aids. My parents, at the time, did not own a car but this fellow had a Nash sedan. It was burgundy with a black roof, I can still smell the upholstery in the summer heat. These cars were notorious for their seats which folded down into a large comfortable bed and were apparently the bane of parents with teenage daughters.

Ding!

Too decrepit to drive far, the old fellow would travel with my family on special trips if my father took the wheel. He believed those traffic counters were some sort of police speed trap and would insist we slow to an even lower crawl if he saw one. His name was Melvin Cudmore (yes really) and his hearing aid was state of the art for that day. It was a large box that clipped onto the waistline of his trousers and was connected by an obvious twisting wire to a flesh-coloured ear plug. “D” cell batteries were all that we had then and they didn’t last long. The Duracell bunny had yet to be born. I remember sitting beside this codger in church for interminable Sunday services. His hearing device squealed loudly at times. He was as oblivious to that as he was to his old-man-smell which, as a child, was an overwhelming cloud of pre-decomposition that seemed to surround many seniors. Good grief, I suddenly wonder, am I going to smell like that?

Technology has moved on, hopefully personal hygiene has as well. Now then, I must adapt to having these things stuffed into my head. It will take a while. Out with Jack this morning, raindrops pattering on the trees sounded like bullets smacking down. Wet leaves underfoot sounded as if I were walking on cornflakes. A noisy little dog we met seemed to squeak thunderously. I greeted the wee beast with my affected silly Cherman voice. “Ischt das unt Vulgarian Scherndle Yipper?” The owners were amused and apologetic, explaining it is a rescued dog which is slowly adjusting to a better life. I must be getting old. I’ve learned to like little dogs and now I’m wearing audio-assist devices. Maybe I’ll soon own an electric cane. It’ll have a taser death-ray, a GPS and should hold at least half a pint of scotch. Meanwhile, my new, supposedly life-enhancing gadgets, are resting in their charging box. Maybe, I’ll wear them a little longer tomorrow.

Wot’s that sound?

Lean on me. In the fog over the creek a whole little inter-dependent world lives on one old maple.
“Well I’ll be peckered!” Woodpeckers do their bit to recycle an old tree back into the earth.

Monday morning dawns reluctantly under a low foggy overcast. I get out of bed one toe at a time and then plonk myself down on the couch beside Jack and pull a blanket over us. No point in rushing into things. Eventually we go for a long walk down the dank creek-side path. I try to find some cheer in looking for photos, there is always something of beauty, no matter how dim the light. In so doing, I usually find good reason to be alive. Jack is happy in the moment, I try to take inspiration. Finally home again he is now back on the couch, snoring blissfully. I putter away at my writing for a bit and then go back to puttering on my little trailer project.

Last night I shared a YouTube video with some friends about Greta Thunberg and the corporations sponsoring her, it’s a look at what the rest of the story might well be. While I don’t believe in shooting the messenger I do believe in asking questions. That is one of the mission motives of this blog, either to inspire you or piss you off enough to ask questions. I’ve already said my bit about the entire hypocrisy of little Greta’s message although it is underscored with some sound thinking. All I’ll say now is that the entire “Think Green” mentality, once dissected, is about the green colour of money. If you care, you’ll do your own homework and arrive at your own informed opinions. Ask questions, ask questions, ask questions. If you buy the media’s spin on things, you’re playing into their hands and are part of the problem.

Frankly, having just returned with Jack after a walk out in the brisk Westerly winter wind howling down the harbour, the notion of global warming, at least here, seems abstract. Brrrr! But yes, we are entering a period of cyclic global warming, yes we are contributing to that warming, but no, we are not the prime cause. Icefields have covered this planet, over and over, the climate has warmed and cooled, those massive glaciers have retreated and advanced over and over; that is how much of our geography has been formed. These climatic variations are caused by solar fluxuations or something else beyond the control of the frail, insignificant beings we are. There are entire civilizations underwater which once were built well above sea levels. Who did those folks blame when invaded by their water front? What automobiles and factories were to blame. They perhaps understood the arrogance of believing it was all due to their influence.

Last of the alder leaves over Holland Creek

While we wring our hands about things over which we have no control, we ignore the things we can, often deliberately. On this chill, damp mid-November morning, the howl of a mower on the neighbour’s lawn invades my space. The lawn feeds no-one, the carbon footprint of the lawnmower is significant and it is all for nothing but vanity. It is a uniform plane of non-edible grass, which won’t grow much for the next few months, but it is a thing of beauty to the conformist eye.

“Hey you! Yeah you! We’re talking to you.”
An iceshroom. It is often coldest just at dawn.

The same soil could feed a few head of livestock and/ or grow enough vegetables for the entire neighbourhood. That property is part of an old farm, it is good rich ground. The mature fruit trees in that yard groaned with a bumper crop this summer. I’m don’t believe any of it was harvested. There is no need to burn anymore jungle.

I don’t know if much of the fruit was harvested…but the lawn is lovely.

We can produce all of our own food here instead of burning all that fuel to build more ships and import our groceries and gadgets from the other side of the planet across oceans littered deeply in plastic debris, (Including high-tech carbon fibre yachts carrying self-righteous, glaring young environmental evangelists). We need to focus on what’s important. Taking care of ourselves responsibly and sustainably must come first. We can be self-sufficient, we can relearn how to love ourselves and each other. If we each did that, what a world it could be!

It’s an old one, but I love the image, especially on a frosty morning like this. The Thoreau quote is eternal. This southward view is from the top of Jedediah Island over the Strait Of Georgia. Note the goat skull atop the cairn. That’s another story!

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

George Carlin

Vanished

Fritzy
A new pal. He’s eight weeks old. Friends  have just brought home their new pup. He’s a keeper!

Jack was suddenly gone. Out on a sunny afternoon walk beside a local salmon stream he disappeared. Total silence, no response to being called, only the ravens croaking away up in the trees. My cell phone rang the alarm and I rushed off to join the quest, my heart in my mouth. You never realize how much a part of your life that your old dog is until he is not there. Part of me assessed worst-case scenarios, part wanted to kick his sorry furry ass when/ if he turned up. He once got himself stuck under a log in this same creek and nearly drowned. He survived due to the efforts of a good Samaritan. So, I was anxious. Eventually, he appeared on the trail, jogging wearily up from behind, reeking of dead salmon. Of course, that call is something beyond his control. I wanted to hug him but… there was that cloying stench. His version of sushi! Something to roll in. There’s nothing friendlier than a wet dog smelling of rotten salmon. That thought conjures images of a dog sushi bar. “ The Roll-in Dog Bar. Nothing Fresh!” Once we had him home and in the bathtub, the double-scrubbing began, all angst washing down the drain with his stink and hair. Our beloved old dog resolved himself to his penance.

POOR GOOSE! I know, I know. But for a few moments, Jack was young again.
The goose is fine although I think it has had a broken wing for several weeks.

How horrific it must be to have a cornerstone of your love and your life simply vanish without a trace. I have a buddy whose son disappeared while out fishing. The grandfather’s body was found, but not a trace of the boy. I can’t pretend to imagine what that must be like. The son appears to my friend for a moment over and over, in any place where other young men might go. Of course that son would be a middle-aged man now. The torture must be terrible and it will haunt my friend for the rest of his days. I see it in his eyes and recognize a deep permanent pain.

The web in the morning
That’s me in the corner. Give each pumpkin a necktie, we could call it a legislature. I like the one with a stem for a nose.
Gone south. Come back in springtime.
The Troll Palace
The watchers. The Chinook are now spawning. School children visit the nearby hatchery and each one gets to release a salmon fingerling into the stream. Hopefully that becomes an indelible memory toward a life-long respect for nature.

Remembrance Day is fast approaching, the day when we are supposed to pause to mourn our war-dead. But there are all those who came home in body to suffer fates of eternal suffering both physical and emotional, whom we forget even after they finally pass unnoticed into the dark oblivion of death. And there are those who love them and suffer eternally on their own lonely islands. The devastation of war strangles everyone. We forget the survivors, often enduring fates far worse than death. A token moment of remembrance is almost an insult to them. For so many, dying is not an ultimate price. Our incredible, wilful refusal to look within ourselves despite our modern enlightenments while continuing to accept the notions of violence and greed, at any level, is a boggling stupidity. “Lest We Forget? What don’t we get?”

Halloween is over. Here it passed mildly. Fortunately, Jack is now too hard-of-hearing to notice the fireworks, a relief for everyone in his home. However, I went to see a sort-of horror film, albeit of a different flavour. ‘The Lighthouse’ is the work of film maker Robert Egger, who produced another work a few years ago called ‘The Witch.’ That title holds no appeal to me. A black and white film in 4:3 format it has an old-timey flavour and stars William Dafoe and Robert Pattinson. It depicts a descent into madness by two already-edgy characters within their confinement together in a decrepit New England lighthouse during stormy weather. The acting deserves awards, the story line has some holes and the ending is wrong in my opinion but for those who like to watch unsettling films this is for you. There are shades of Coleridge’s ‘Rime Of The Ancient Mariner’ and also Edgar Allan Poe and there is plenty of saltiness. Haar and yar. The dialogue is delightfully salty. The darkness is a rich immersion in nautical mystic.

There is already enough darkness out there for me. I have been hoping and waiting for a hernia surgery for six years. Finally got the surgeon agreed that there is indeed a real problem deserving attention and finally, after much waiting, a date for the operation was set; November sixth. Last Friday, the surgeon’s office phoned to announce that date was now postponed because the anaesthetist first demanded a consultation, something I’ve never had before any other of my surgeries, including a major heart surgery twenty years ago. As I write, the phone has just rung again. That appointment has now been moved to the twenty-fifth. I am wondering what colour the Porsche is for which I’m making a payment.

Who knows when the surgery will happen. Frustrated, depressed, impoverished because of this, you’ve no idea! I can’t do my regular old work because of this, and if I did have some money, any south plans now seem dashed. Boo hoo! I know I could be living somewhere where folks just don’t ever have hernias repaired. They suffer permanently with debilitating agony. But geez Louise, what a pain in the ass! (Well, actually it’s something else that hurts.) Twenty years ago I had an accident on the tugs and the messing around I endured before my life-saving heart surgery was incredible. So why should I expect any warmth and fuzziness for a mere hernia? Unfortunately, while our system can eventually repair our bodies very well indeed, no-one seems to give a toss about the real-life problems associated. A couple of years ago I had a repair done to an ankle which failed. I was miles from anywhere on ‘Seafire’ when the ganglion reappeared with a vengeance.

So: rum, peroxide, net knife, crazy glue. It hasn’t bothered me since. Yes, I’m tempted, I’ve dressed out plenty of deer and other critters.

No train today, or perhaps ever again. I have an ongoing rant about how the island rail line should be rebuilt and become an electric passenger express. Governments always seem to lag a half-century behind infrastructure needs. Our island highways are clogged and folks like to talk about thinking green.

The weather is dull, there is a permanent damp chill in the air, daylight is at a premium now as we lose another three minutes of it each day. No rainbows! No bluebirds. To preserve the shreds of my sanity I continue to tinker away on my little cargo trailer/ minimalist camping trailer AKA ‘The Gut wagon.’ I am trying to do as much as possible with salvaged materials including hardware and fittings. There are some used local building supply stores known as ‘Restore’ which subsidize an organization known as ‘Habitat For Humanity.’ With the funds raised and their volunteer workers, they build low-cost housing. It’s a very worthy endeavour and doesn’t receive the recognition it deserves. So….drums and trumpet fanfares please. Perhaps there’s one near your home. Check it out.

The trailer is also an opportunity for cleaning up some of the nautical junk I’ve accumulated over the years. I truly marvel why I saved some of it. But, as soon as it’s chucked in the recycling bin… Damn! If only I had saved that widget. There is also a false economy of reworking goods for a new use. It is often cheaper to just go buy the item in question, if such a thing exists. And there is satisfaction in reinventing the wheel. I do draw the line before making planters from old tires and toilets.

Now where do I put the hot tub? There will be some insulation, a few windows, a fold-up bed, a bracket to carry my outboard motor, my inflatable boat, power saw, generator, compressor, tools and generator. There will also be be room for a bicycle or small motorcycle. A kayak and a solar panel can go on the top.
Paint it lime green and bright  pink, I can have a mobile food stall. “Fred’s Curried Mexican Burritos.”
The Paddy Wagon. It all folds up in a flash. “Wagons ho!” There’s plenty of work yet, but I’m looking forward to my first night’s sleep in this contraption. “Otra Vez.”
Harbour view forty-nine. There’s a sunrise above the fog.
Roof lines in the fog. Look ma, the mountain’s gone!
PUFF! This is a steam “donkey” built by Washington Iron Works. Once it was high-tech. It is a steam winch that was used to winch, or yard, felled timber to a rail line or water front. When it was time to relocate to a fresh patch of logs, crews would use its own winch to skid it from stump to stump on those massive log runners. A tool of devastation, the brawn and skill required have to be admired. The monstrosity is a monument in our local park.
The Neighbour’s window this sunny morning. Too close for this old country boy!

This morning there is a chill clear brilliant red dawn. A sailor’s warning. There is no wind. I can hear aircraft on the ramp at the airport, eight kilometres away. I can smell the stink of cold diesel engine exhaust and hear the whine of heavy tires on the highway. All is calm, all is bright, something’s definitely not right. Walk time Jack. Walk! Maybe we can find something new to roll in.

Nautica Rustica. Dogpatch expands the fleet. a wood shed perhaps? I’ve heard chopping sounds. ‘Night Moves’ is the boat’s name.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_MHqW5KVds This link is to a youTube copy of the 1942 BBC recording called Nightingales and Bombers. It is the conundrum of a bird in an English forest singing while loaded RAF bombers pass overheard on a raid to Germany. It is the sound of baby-faced young men going to kill and to die. It makes my face leak more than any rendition of the ‘Last Post.’

“In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.”   …Jose Narosky

The Last Poppy
What do we remember?

How We Look At Things

How We Look At Things

The book said to be sure to anchor securely. This is scary to say the least. Perspectives! There… my obligatory nautical photos for this blog.
No padlocks for links on this ground tackle. The wear on this old CQR bespeaks some dark and stormy nights.

Shrooms and stools. That was going to be the title, intended to accompany these photos of wild autumn fungi. Then I realized that someone out there would find the words offensive or even vulgar. I am adamantly blue-collar and know my perspective is quite skewed by the standards of some other people. But if you’re trying to live your life without offending anyone, you don’t have a life. Sorry! It is those differences which help folks move to higher planes, if they want to. Perhaps my skin is chaffed a bit thin in the wake of an ongoing strata-home stand off. Apparently some dear souls are offended by the very sight of this lumbering old bush ape but I digress and have already said too much. It’s all in the way folks choose to look at things and if everyone wakes up content, who’s wrong? Some never will be. I guess that’s their bliss.

Grethe’s bloom. Remember this one in the last blog.
A week later.

There is an old urban joke about a fellow driving home who receives a call on his mobile phone from his wife. She anxiously tells him to be careful, the local radio station has just reported that some nut is driving against the traffic on the freeway. “One?” he exclaims, “They’re all going the wrong way.” Perspective. Uh huh. Anyway ‘shrooms and stools. Mushrooms and toadstools…right?

Yesterday
Today
Up in the morning
Done within a day
The subtleties of autumn. Toadstools do a great deal in recycling forest organics.

There is only one kind of wild mushroom I know I can eat safely. Many toxic fungi and edible ones look too much the same for my eye; some are only safe to eat at a certain stage of maturity. Sometimes it is tempting, I love mushrooms, but eating the wrong one can apparently be a horrible way to die. Other poisoned reactions merely leave you wishing you could check out. I photographed one puffball fungus that a bird or squirrel had been enjoying, but then some creatures can eat foods which are not for us. Think of what we eat. I did notice a crow flying some intriguing aerobatics. Magic shrooms?

A nice light snack.

There’s a storm coming, a prelude, says the forecaster, to a nice stretch of fair weather. Have you ever noticed that before some heavy weather, there is often a spate of odd behaviour? People drive and interact oddly. Wildlife can be especially careless, out feeding up before they have to hide and wait out the tempest. Their danger assessments shift from short term danger to long term. Most of the places where Jack and I walk have copious thickets of blackberries. All those brambles are a haven for rabbits. Rabbit populations are cyclic, sometimes there are few and the rodents are very furtive. In periods of massive over-population they become quite cavalier about their well-being. That’s a lot like people I think.

A young and careless beach bunny. It did not move until Jack got within eight feet. Unfortunately, mobile phones do not always make the best wildlife cameras.
Jack on patrol by a pile of coal. This is an area in Ladysmith which was a coal terminal where tall ships loaded for ports around the world.

Oddly, as I write about perspective and self-preservation, a Canadian investigative program, called the Fifth Estate is on television. It is running a story about gun ownership and the right to own assault-type weapons in Canada. An idiot holding an AR15, a direct copy of a military weapon, tells the camera that “this is not a weapon.” What? What! He claims it is merely for sport. I am livid. I have lived in rural environments much of my life. I once owned many firearms ,over two dozen at one time, including handguns. I had some strange arguments for my arsenal, but it was because they were weapons that I possessed them. All, firearms are weapons, intended and designed to kill. Indulge in target shooting all you want, a firearm is specifically built as a killing tool. Why any urbanite requires any firearm is a mystery to me.

I once vigorously worked to protest bill C68 which required the registration of all firearms in Canada. I quoted Lloyd Axworthy whose words in support of his bill were almost a verbatim quote of Adolph Hitler decades earlier. The Nazis, in pre-war Germany had imposed a gun control on its citizens for obvious reasons. I argued that a gun is no more responsible for killing someone than a fork is for making people fat. I have conjectured that a rock, a stick, a car, a pair of panty-hose, infected blankets, water, fire, alcohol, have all been weapons. (It was once explained to me that the difference between John Wayne and Jack Daniels is that Jack is still killing people.) I am fearful of a system which ultimately leaves firearms only in the hands of those who should least have them, both criminals and at times police, one and the same all too often.

I confess to still owning one firearm. I carry it into backwood environments as a survival tool. The rest of the time it is well-hidden, locked and well away from the ammunition. I argue with myself at times about even owning that one, with as many reasons pro and con. Having it does not make me feel more secure or manly.

We accept gun violence as part of our daily entertainment. Try to find a movie to watch without some shooting somewhere in its course. I watched the new film “The Goldfinch” a few days ago. It was well done, sensitive and emotional yet it did not finish without the ubiquitous gun fight. We are all part of the problem and in the pressures of our frantic modern culture, some of us lash back. Some use a firearm. It is horrible and a symptom of a far deeper issue. I don’t have an answer. We have been working out how to kill each other long, long before gun powder was invented. I can think of no smarmy clichés to spark a new sensibility. In fact I don’t even know how a blog, which started about mushrooms and rabbits, becomes a rant about human nature.

This guy, about an inch long, was hopping about in one-foot bounds…backwards! He began his next leap just as the camera clicked. A poor image of a beautiful creature.
Slugging it out, another one of God’s creatures, lowly but serving mysterious purposes.

Perhaps, my comments about the ebb and flood of populations sums it all up. If we can’t figure out how to live together in harmony how can we be so arrogant as to assume we can save the planet. Don’t worry; the host will rid itself of the parasite, let’s look into ourselves and the planet will become a fine place to live again. It is not about what someone else is supposed to do. Yes, it is time the next generation assume an aggressive role in forcing our race to stop being such irresponsible guests on this planet but, sorry young Greta Thunberg, you’ve missed your mark with me.

First things first. Global warming is part of a cycle billions of years old and we are certainly messing with that rhythm but we are not the sole cause. The rhythms of the universe are far bigger than we can comprehend. We do need urgently to clean up our act but stop the bullshit. I admire and agree with much of this young lady’s carefully scripted words and acting but for Godsake! The sixty foot carbon fibre sailboat she rode in for attention is a product of extreme toxic processes which my research says produced up to 140 tonnes of environment nastiness resulting in the highest CO2 emission “Zero Emission” sailboat to ever cross the Atlantic.

Now think of this showboating. There are many flights daily from Scandinavia to New York daily. They will all have at least a few empty seats. Greta could have taken one without costing the planet one extra carbon molecule. Airlines would probably have provided a free ticket in exchange for a little press. The boat trip will require at least four flight seats for crew to go to the US to bring the boat home. Please, don’t believe me, look it up for yourself. Once again, the message is about what someone else is doing wrong. When you can explain what sort of industry caused the warming which put sea shells on mountain tops, you’ll have both my ears. Meanwhile, I refuse to participate in the profit of paranoia. If that makes me unpopular… OK. I choose to think for myself.

THIS is an environmentally friendly boat. Built in Norway in 1905, she’s still out there travelling the oceans of the world. There are no petroleum-based materials in her.

As everyone knows, Canada is in the midst of a federal election campaign. It is a referendum about our political future, including our present figurehead, Mr. Dress-up. Poor guy, no matter how hard he tries to be politically correct, he just screws it up a little more. He just can’t seem to help himself.

This came on Facebook from a friend.

To all candidates and all parties…

Negative campaign ads WILL cost you my vote.

Tell me in a positive way what you can do for our country, and I will listen.

Otherwise, we are finished.

I urge ALL Canadians to take a stand on this! Smear campaigns are NOT the Canadian way.

Right on! There is hope.

Tis the season.

Here is this blog’s closing quote. Again it is something sent by a friend and I include a quote which is the summation of the lovely story about an old lady’s benevolence. She says:

It’s important to be kind. You can’t know all the times you’ve hurt people in tiny, significant ways. It’s easy to be cruel without meaning to be. There’s nothing you can do about that. But you can choose to be kind. Be kind.”

Shoulder Season

Wet Varnish
There’s nothing like a little rain to highlight the beauty of a wooden boat’s brightwork.
All those summer days of sanding and varnishing, and sanding and varnishing and…. Sure is pretty, especially if someone else does the work.

Hum-ho, ho hum. An early autumn Monday. It is what some folks now call the shoulder season, not summer, not autumn. The rain is not heavy but drizzles down steadily. It is one of those penetrating precipitations which leaves one wet and cold to the bone. I’m sitting in my house coat while my clothes rattle around in the dryer after a bit of tinkering on my vehicle…under the shelter of a roof! Jack and I went for our walk, he is content for the moment to lay by the door, snoozing and watching for the old mangy grey squirrel which pelts along the top of the fence with yet another hazelnut in its mouth. A fence post, which it often floats over in a single high bound, is also a perch for it to sit, flagging its tail, I am convinced, in an effort to attract Jack and raise his fury. Squirrels clearly have a sense of humour. I wonder if they laugh.

“Damned squirrels, bloody rain. Ya think I’m funny huh !?”
“THIS is funny! Quack. Ya never seen a duck-billed dog before?”

The problem with grey and black squirrels, is that they are, like most people here, including myself I’ll admit, an invasive species. The native red squirrels are a rarity now, bullied away from their turf by the newcomers. The larger invasive squirrels carry a virus which is deadly to the local reds (Now there’s an old familiar story!) and are also able to overrun prime food sources. You have to go into the deep backwoods to find red squirrels now. They can thrive on coniferous seeds and whatever other small things they evolved to consume. The larger grey and black squirrels seem to prefer the nuts of hardwoods, generally found close to human habitation. How the big guys first came here is probably a tale of accidental transport as well as a few escaping or being released by new-coming humans. People love to mess with natural balance, and one way or another, we’d prove to be the culprits in this story, an old repeat performance.

On a Jack walk, just a few kilometres from home. It is hard to believe that this is second-growth forest. It was once all logged off and burned.

When I hunted deer, I preferred to find an active game area and sit and wait, sometimes calling deer and other wildlife to come within sight. Often, a red squirrel would sit on a limb somewhere above me and begin its scolding call, announcing my alien presence in the woods to all creatures within earshot of at least a mile. I would often have to give up my post and move on. At the time, I never thought I’d miss that insistent, incessant squeaking flagging alarm. Some days, I wanted to blow the annoying little rodents out of my life. Funny how things change! This former farm boy and woods ape, once able to kill any critter without remorse, now even tries to move spiders and wasps in preference to just squashing them.

A sure sign of the end of the dry season. Overnight, the toadstools spring up and there’s six months of wet coming on.

With the first rainy onset of autumn, nature responds. Fish and fauna begin frantic reactions to the promise of winter ahead. The rain raises stream and river levels. That triggers a response from salmon which have arrived on schedule to re-enter fresh water to spawn and then die. It is a magic, bittersweet drama but fish are not philosophers and simply do what they are programmed to do. Imagine if people followed a similar life cycle and pro-creation was a final act instead of the life-long convoluted dance of intrigue with all the complexities of our existence. Most of our lives orbit around our gender differences and the many-textured fabrics we weave to disguise the simple reality of our need to reproduce. Call it what you will, in the end, that is the rendered-down reality with the romance factors removed. Writers have tackled the concept and created characters who evolve from being frail and decrepit to being young, vital bounding creatures filled with all those bubbling hormones. (Remember Benjamin Button?)

Phew! I think I’ll follow Jack out into the woods for a walk. The rain has eased, maybe we’ll see a red squirrel. My latest short video, about the first wave of this year’s spawning salmon, is now posted on YouTube. Here’s the link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gqtiAm4mT0&t=50s

Defiance. Late bloomers add a last splash of floral colour.
Feral grapes ripen in the rain.
I brought some home, they’re not bad at all.
Wet birds on a limb. This shot was taken in the rain and wind with a 400mm Minolta reflex lense, handheld. The birds are about 100 metres away. You can even see beaks and fir needles. I bought it used from Japan. It’s one of the best pieces of photo equipment I have.
And then he flew away…on silent wings. Owls are amazing birds and to me, seeing one is a good omen.

We did go for a walk, despite the threat of more rain. To Jack’s extreme delight we detoured through an area new to us. It was a deer haven with wide, well-trod trails, an abundance of feed and cover. Yes, I still move stealthily like the hunter, and see with the same woodsman’s eyes. Even with Jack crashing along, I could have taken four deer within a half-hour. Watching us ease through this lovely place, a juvenile Barred Owl flew from tree to tree on silent wings. The rain began again as we returned back at the truck. It was not a bad Monday, not at all.

Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet.” Roger Miller

I Wonder

The real thing.
A genuine carved canoe and a thing of beauty. Even the seats are fitted in a traditional way. Note the carving marks inside and the repair.
Boats? Ya wanna see boats? They’re out there, from kayaks to deep-sea bulkers like the ‘Atlantic Buenavista’. Anchored in the Pacific with Panamanian registry and a Filipino crew. Think global.
The ‘Providence’ apparently on a day charter. She’s one of my favourite local oldtimers.

Lately I’ve caught myself bending toward writing rants about local social injustices. I have just deleted an entire page that was snow-balling toward a collision with the thought police. I have also reminded myself that my ire was being based solely on information from the media. Recent experience with the emu and the policeman once again confirmed the inaccuracy of news stories. What was reported and what I saw while experiencing the actual story in first person were rather different. Once I worked with a colleague to rebuild a British DeHavilland 1936 Mk I Tiger Moth which belonged to a local doctor where we lived in a remote Rocky Mountain community. The media got wind of the story and soon was reporting about a British doctor who flew mercy missions in his antique biplane. The account was absolute fabricated rubbish. If the story had a dog sled lashed to one wing it could not have been more ridiculous. My point is about how we tend to form opinions based on what we are fed by the media and how we can get fighting mad over gross inaccuracies and blatant lies. So, chill out dude!

Land fall. A day trip in a traditional sloop-rigged boat, roller-furled notwithstanding.
Sea foam! Whahoo! My little boat is very fast. In our wood-infested waters a sharp lookout is requisite at all times. Tohatsu outboards, in this old marine-tech’s opinion are unbeatable.

When I finished high school I was offered a journalism scholarship. I am happy to report that I took a summer job and instead turned it into a career. Still I recall the five W’s. Who, what, why, where, when. Those foundations for all journalism seem to have gone into the ditch. I sometimes watch TV news stories and am not informed of where or when the event occurred. Sometimes the reporter’s name is not given. Creative interpretations of an event are offered which have nothing to do with an objective coverage of the truth. I am enraged when a person who has just lost a child or spouse is grieving in front of a camera. That is wholly irresponsible and unconsciously gormless.

A Crested Cormorant, aka Shagpoke, peers out of its sandstone pocket cave at a rookery on Tent Island.
Just another shitty day. These birds eat nothing but fish. On a hot day the air gets a bit tangy.
Living high at the Guano Estates. This is a natural sandstone cliff which the birds use a convenient nesting sites. Guano is the polite term for copious amounts of seabird droppings. Harvesting it and shipping it around the world was once a booming trade. It made potent fertilizer and also nitrate explosive. Perhaps hence the term “Booming.” !!??
Cormorantiniums. White-washed the old fashioned way.
I can’t ever get enough of our stunning waterline sandstone formations.
A cliff-side swing made from a venerable Arbutus tree.

Clearly, media’s first priority is to entertain. Tabloid mentality cares little about honesty and accuracy. Get ratings, sell ads, abandon truth and accuracy. We swallow it all as sugar-coated dung. If I interview you saying that you like little boys who are kind to animals, respectful of their parents and old people but I quote you as saying that you “Like little boys,” have I been honest or ethical? There are two important federal elections coming up in North America. The drums are already beating. Remember nature’s simple formula of two ears, two eyes, one mouth.

A friend in the US sent me some political statistics. I’m always suspicious of numbers put forward by anyone. We all know how they can be manipulated to serve an argument in any direction. One figure however, leapt out at me. The US has 5% of the world’s population and 66% of the world’s lawyers. There’s something to chew on! I’ve often considered lawyers to be a breed of parasite that has a life cycle which needs to make enough profit to get into politics. Once in office they make more laws which in turn justifies more lawyers.

Just one more.
Yeah, you! We have plenty of harbour seals, always timid, always endearing. Some say they are to blame for reduced fish stocks, I think their presence, as well as seabirds, is a sign of plenty of fish. They don’t live on popcorn. There was a time when there were many more seals, whales, sea birds and….loads of fish. Figure it out, it’s not hard.

Yesterday the weather was fair, the wind was calm. I was long overdue to renew my grasp on certain points of reality. In the wake of selling ‘Seafire’ I had the opportunity to purchase a very nice used inflatable boat. A local shop was having a sale on new outboard motors and for the first time in my life I splurged and bought one. No more tinkering with some else’s cast-offs. The new motor, of course, had a few glitches but I’ve sorted them out and can confidently leave the shore. I have a boat which I can deflate and roll-up to transport with me wherever I go. It is very safe, so long as I stay inside it. That can be difficult in lumpy waters, the boat is very rough-riding but everything is a compromise and, that is what life jackets and harnesses are for. Any day on the water, rough or not, is better than a smooth day ashore. It was wonderful to spend a few hours exploring little nooks I’ve passed by for years. The photos are all from yesterday.

Jungle letter box.
This old log stood on end above the little beach where I took my lunch break. Postal Station F, Penalakut Island.
Red Right Returning. Huh?
This canal, dug between Clam Bay and Telegraph Harbour separates Thetis Island, on the north, from Penalakut Island. It has mostly filled-in again but provides a handy shortcut for little boats at high tide.
The old man’s gig. I’ve always been a bit sceptical of the tough but thin skin of an inflatable boat between me and the deep cold sea. The convenience of portability is weighed against the danger of tears and punctures along the shore. Still, I wish my own skin were this durable. This is an Achilles, made in Japan of a material called Hypalon. It is famously rugged…and expensive. There are thousands of protected nooks among the Gulf Islands where you can find some tranquility.

Being on a boat that’s moving through the water, it’s so clear. Everything falls into place in terms of what’s important and what’s not.” … James Taylor

The Bird Pride Parade

Dog Day Afternoon, between a rock and a wet place.  Jack takes a break in the shade and contemplates a dip in the river while out on his daily walk.
Moving on. The season passes. Fruit and berries ripen, flowers go to seed,  plagues of spiders have begun to appear, crickets have started their songs which will only end with first frosts. Seize the day!

I once wrote an article about four levels of competence. It was within a series of essays about coastal navigation requested by a local yachting magazine. They never printed that piece. I think what I wrote was too offensive to their valued advertisers. So be it.

Those four levels start at the bottom and rise from not knowing even how little we grasp about how to do something. This skill level is often accompanied with a lot of condescending tones and braggadocio. “Empty wagons rattle the most,” is something this old farm boy tries to remember.

Most of us rise at least to the second level where we become aware of how little we know and begin considering how to improve. We become quite humble in the face of that awareness and mechanically perform the basic steps. Have you known the pain of trying to learn to play a musical instrument?

The third level is when we are finally able to perform to some point of satisfaction but still seek to improve ourselves and often need to consciously think about the skills we are employing. We’ve learned to respect rather than envy others who possess a competence we strive for.

The fourth level is achieved with experience and practice when we can finally do something intuitively. I’ve become fairly adept at sitting in this chair.

Deep woods relief and a little shade by a stream. A simple thing can be so sweet.
Canadian dust no doubt…eh?

Here’s my drift; if you’re still with me. I’ve recently had two bemusing moments with the local constabulary in recent weeks. The first incident found me in handcuffs while going to the local Post Office. I’d always wondered what that must feel like. I was simply parking my truck. Another fellow was also trying to park and making a very poor job of it even after repeated attempts. I waited hoping he would settle. Embarrassed perhaps, he began shouting at me, asking if I had a problem. When I replied “yes” he responded by asking what was wrong. At that point my terse answer, without thinking, was that he was blocking the “F…ing road.”

Then all hell broke loose from behind the Post Office across the street. It turns out to have been a young cop interrogating a woman there about her boyfriend whom he’d just taken to jail. (No further comment on why he’d later share that information.) Crossing the street to get the mail and angling past him, his harangue continued. I suggested that he appeared to be plenty busy enough without spreading his efforts so thinly. He was enraged. I was arrested, hand-cuffed and stuffed into the back of his vehicle. Eventually the cuffs were removed and I was threatened with charges of disturbing the peace, road rage and uttering profanities in public. Yes, really!

He even had the audacity to mention the size of my wrists and how difficult hand-cuffing me had been. He wanted to know what my occupation was. I so badly wanted to say that I was a retired cop and had spent a lot of time playing with my gun. No, I did not. The handcuffs hurt like hell and I bore deep welts on my wrists for several hours.

Constable Zealous refused to acknowledge that he had not interviewed all those witness to my heinous behaviour nor had he noticed the traffic problem and who was shouting. After a half-hour of acrimonious debate I actually received a vague apology once I’d pointed out that he had a rage issue about being challenged and that his job did not involve being any sort of interpretive judicial system. Of course if I’d just kept my pie-hole shut there would have been no problem. I often remind myself of Don Ruiz’s four agreements: I will respect the power of my words, I will take nothing personally, I will assume nothing, I will always do my best.

Old school policing. Actually, a year ago, this was a movie set on main street, Ladysmith. Whatever happened to the movie, ‘Sonic The Hedgehog’ is a mystery. The sets were amazing, right down to the Montana license plates. A block of downtown was painted over in a day, and then painted back to original colours in another day.

From a skewed perspective I can see how I broke all those rules in my police moment but damnit, sometimes you have to stand up for what’s right. That’s the problem with Canadians, we are just too polite to the point of enduring all manner of abuses, even from people on our payroll: politicians, bureaucrats, civil servants. They are sworn to serve us, not to try forcing us to bend to their will. We’ve forgotten who’s supposed to be in control. I could easily begin to rant about how Canada is insidiously becoming a police state while we blissfully ignore the obvious. But, if you can’t see it, I’m not about to try penetrating your comfort zone.

I have no desire to be a policeman, not for any salary. It is a thankless task, fraught with danger, stress, frustration and hopefully, at times, guilt and is at most times subject to contempt from the taxpayer….. until, of course, they need to dial 911. There are life and death decisions to be made in an instant and no-one always gets it right no matter how much training they may have had. It is intolerable however when a police officer is arrogant, rude and assumptive. I will not endure derogatory tones from anyone, even a goon with a gun. “To serve and protect” dude! Friends who are retired RCMP members admit some embarrassment that they once wore the uniform. One retiree said that in consideration of the modern police force the only difference between it and motorcycle gangs is that the police have better resources. “They’re all thugs.” Strong words indeed. I do appreciate the job they try to do. I repeat that I don’t want it. I know I’m just too reactive.

I’ve made it to this point in my life without ever tangling with the police. There were, of course, times when I deserved to have been. I can’t remember my last traffic ticket and the last time I interacted with police was to help apprehend a severely impaired driver. A good thing I think.

My objection is that the prevalent police attitude I see, and hear about, is that they know more than everyone about everything at all times. That apparent insecurity is a dangerous thing for someone so heavily armed and so constantly under stress. A little contrition could go a long way. So, back to the four levels of competence and the four agreements.

On a recent morning Jack and I were driving to one of our favourite walking locations. We fetched up at the back of a small parade creeping along the road. A police car headed the procession with flashing lights. Well, actually it became apparent that an emu was heading the parade. It was high-stepping down the centre of the pavement and making a good four knots to windward.

If you’re being run out of town, get to the front of the crowd and make it look like a parade.

Eventually big bird decided to make a u-turn and headed back toward town in the opposite lane. I saw a photo opportunity coming my way and perhaps a chance to help corner the outbound oiseau. The cop, now in mid u-turn began to bellow on his loudhailer. “GET-BACK-IN-YOUR-VEHICLE!”

Just what an over-wrought monster bird needed! The officer pulled alongside and angrily admonished me: “That bird has toes ya know!” He was clearly frustrated with the whole humiliating situation. It never occurred to him that perhaps I may have displayed some confidence with good reason. I do understood that in his eyes I was just another nuisance idiot in need of salvation from himself. I do actually have a little experience with these creatures which are indeed powerful kick-boxers known to have readily disemboweled people who get too close. A former farm boy, ranch hand, and rodeo dude I’ve also been in pens with angry horned cattle, kicking biting horses, tusky boars. You develop a savvy for critters, but not when they’re being pursued by bellowing policemen in hot pursuit and I was not about to offer my resumé.

The jogger. No Reeboks.  Can emus laugh?

The emu made it onto the evening TV news. It turns out his name is Parker. He is from a local farm and a repeat escape artist. Eventually the police blockaded the road for a half-hour and then tasered old Parker before “subduing” him. He’s none the worse for wear with nary a singed feather. Fortunately for Birdy Boy there was not enough cranberry sauce on hand for a barby and happily no “Conservation” officers were involved. When they show up, despite their title, something invariably gets shot. Parker survived unscathed and is back on the right side of the fence plotting his next adventure. So, choose your own closing line:

– Keep your pecker up/ Keep your eye on the bird/ The beat goes on/ drumsticks!

The long arm of the mouse, thick wrists and all. This is a result of a slamming box lid. it required surgical attention today. Good thing there have been no more handcuffs! The book and the author are amazing, Urrea has fast become one of my favourite  writers.
“Go ahead, step on it. Not my tail!”
“Right then. Try it again and you’ll get a licking to remember!”
Good music at the Duncan Farmer’s Market. This is a popular local weekly event in the Cowichan Valley where baking, preserves, produce, wine and handcrafts are showcased.
Lapstrake and lyrics. The singer was as good as the skiff was beautiful. Built at a local boat school, it was being raffled off. Good boats are pleasing to the eye from all angles.
The bow and the bouquet. A lovely comment on the incredible valley where I live.
Spellbound. Another moment at the market.
Whoosh! Jack and I have a favourite walk at the north end of the local airport. Here is a Navigation Canada aircraft on short final, gear down and locked, check….Good old mobile phone!
Whoosh! There are so many ways to direct the same script (Google up the short film “Room 8”)

The police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.”

…Robert Peel

Crow Song

Ripe for the taking. Feral grapes, plums and blackberries. There are plenty more, come again tomorrow.

I muse on this every year. Each blackberry season the berries do not ripen all at once. If they did, most of the harvest would go to waste. The berries ripen in sequence, so that each day there are more newly-perfect delicious treats. A person can go back every day, or every few, and pick a fresh crop of tasty bliss. The vines amortize themselves. People and birds both have an ongoing feast through the month of August and often well into September. The untouched berries left over eventually dry on the vine and become winter stores. Some fall on the ground to sprout in the next year but most feed the birds for a good while after the first frosts. Among that macramaed tangle of formidable stalks, rabbits and other creatures find refuge through the seasons from predators. In spring, tender new plants springing up from the fallen seeds provide fresh nourishment for those furry wee beasts which will soon give birth to their own progeny. Their droppings, in turn, help fertilize the thorny thickets. Nothing goes to waste. No one could manage any human endeavour quite as well.

I beg myself to know what it is that naturally occurs among mindless thorny vines to manage their assets when I don’t have a clue about managing mine. I never have. I don’t even have many left to manage. I have made and lost fortunes. Maybe, as the tide turns, I will have finally learned something. In my advancing years I find myself skint beyond any way of describing my pathetic situation. My finances have always been a tumbling hairball of advance and retreat, bad management, bad luck, bad timing and bad choices in general. I am aware of a deeply embedded sub-conscious need to self destruct and I know there were values and practices taught, and not taught, in my formative years. I am not blaming anyone else but I sure wish I’d learned values other than work hard, spend hard, fall hard. The chapters in my book about working smart just haven’t ever been there. Despite all my personal insights, I have managed to arrive a place in my life where I just don’t have the energy to start over yet again but I do not want to dig the hole that I am in one spoonful deeper. Enough! I’ve burned myself up in every sense clambering through the vicious cycles of my life’s game of ‘Snakes and Ladders.’

A patch of light. what a joy to amble with Jack through the rain forest on a summer morning.

I have no love of wealth, I manage to eliminate any I come across. However, money is a tool everyone in this culture needs to do the things that give their life meaning, security and direction. It is all about choices. I’ve never understand how to make make more money with what you already have. All I’ve known is to work myself like a donkey and spend whatever I bring in before someone else gets their claws on it. My body and soul are now worn past the point of being able to continue doing what I know and no-one seems willing to hire someone for their experience alone. That sense of being discarded onto the big pile of worn-out shovels does nothing to inspire confidence and self-faith. There are many people around me who are smarter, skilled in financial strategy,yet  who are in the same bin as myself despite all their cleverness. They have risen higher and fallen further. They perhaps once offered smug advice to others about managing their affairs. That awareness leaves me feeling no better. And so there you have it, a great mystery called life. I am not complaining, just explaining. And yes, I know what Einstein said about repeating an effort and expecting different results: insanity.

A cool change. A little low cloud for a while on an August morning as yachts sail out to their day. I WILL be out there again.

I also know that fortunes can change in a flash. Negative mental energy will bring more darkness; positive thinking and activity lead toward light and goodness. Each energy feeds on itself. The trick is finding the empowerment to jump aboard the right train, not in front of it nor beneath it. There is always risk involved in anything worthwhile. “You can’t get at the fruit without going out on the limb.” I have wonderful creative skills and even a sense of mission about what to do with those endowments. The doldrums where I find myself at present, are they the eye of a hurricane? Will the wind suddenly reverse and blow me in the opposite direction? Staying hove-to and waiting for that shift is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Doing nothing is a terrific challenge. The wisdom of the old sailor is to know when to put the helm down and sail on again. God grant me that knowledge.

This morning, while walking with Jack the dog, a crow sat on a limb above me and performed a strange self-grooming dance all the while singing a piece of crow-rap gibberish. Or was it offering a message, which in my self-absorbed misery, I am too out of tune to understand? Being in tune with nature is intrinsically important to me. Fitting in with the human world around me means little other than having the tools to go where I feel led. Later, after hours of pondering, it occurred to me that that was the message. I’ve lost touch and it is time to get my beak out of my belly button and flap my wings.

A right proper bloomer!

So why am I bothering to write this? Everyone has their own gig to deal with. I know that there are many other folks living in desperate circumstances. There is no comfort in that knowledge. Our current history is being written as a grand, global, widening deliberate division between the poor and the wealthy. The middle class faces a holocaust. My mission in life, which I’ll admit I tend to forget at times, is to put a little light in other people’s eyes. If I can take a positive note from the call of the crow, then perhaps I can make the flame of someone else’s flickering light flame a little brighter, help them make it through their night.

If it rains before they’re picked……limbs will break.
Bumper crop!

Like manna from heaven, a few hours later while flipping through YouTube, I found this. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBaHPND2QJg The video was made in Sabadell, Catalonia. The music is Beethoven’s ‘Ode To Joy.’ This flash mob performance made me shiver. In a time when the news seems to be about yet another mass-shooting and in Canada, a bizarre manhunt which has ended with a total of five deaths, this is something worth sharing with everyone. There is hope; even when we cannot see it. Namaste.

Now here’s that crow. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJB5fEuCGFI

The wooden schooner ‘Alcyone’ in a golden moment many years ago, skipper Sugar Flanagan on the helm. Even the most beautiful ship started out simply as someone’s dream. Where might ours take us?

Much of human behaviour can be explained by watching the wild beasts around us. They are constantly teaching us things about ourselves and the way of the universe, but most people are too blind to watch and listen.”

– Suzy Kassem


Warm Rain

Warm Rain

It is the second day of July. Last night the holiday fireworks resolved into a mere two huge explosions. Then all was quiet. I hope there were at least a few survivors. This morning it is raining, a beautiful steady warm rain. The doors are open and I listen to the music of water gurgling in the downspouts. There is a lovely aroma of freshness. We need this, desperately. There were a few hours of precipitation last week, the stream beds did not swell at all. Now this. I swear I can almost hear the parched earth soaking it up. More please! This blog will be a simple photo essay about life in my little patch here on Vancouver Island. Rain or sun, bring your hat.

Is Popeye aboard? This surreal vessel holds, for me, a cartoon-like appearance. This old sea dog can see the old girl is near the end of her life. I first met her two years ago far up the coast and was inspired to write a five-page poem about the folly of dreams turned nightmare. A former North Sea beam trawler, she bears evidence of attempts to turn her into something she can never be. As the dream fades, the rust and rot advance, a sad ending indeed. But, never mock another man’s dream…
An Air Tractor 802 Fire Boss. That really is their name and they are purpose-built from the ground up with it. A clone of crop-dusters with a wonderful PT6 turbine, these ones are equipped with amphibious floats designed to scoop up water as the aircraft skims the surface of a lake, river or the ocean. That water can then be mixed with fire retardant before it is dropped on a wildfire. This old pilot would love to fly one of these. An exacting skill set is required, but it is a flying job that must be fun. These aircraft are part of a squadron of water bombers used to help contain a recent bush fire that threatened several homes on the mainland.  Things ended well. Folks are back in their homes, the bombers are off fighting one of the many fires burning elsewhere  in British Columbia and Alberta.
Fly United! This pair of mating Crane Flies landed beside the barbeque where I was cooking supper. Then they flew away, still coupled. They are commonly called ‘Mosquito Hawks’ but they are not at all predatory. The big one one had a wingspan of almost two inches.
ALWAYS keep some sort of camera handy! I used my cell phone.
Wink! A remnant of old growth forest. Those watching eyes are notches where a faller inserted a spring board to stand on while he hand-sawed through the tree, cutting it off about the flare of the butt. Then, after a fire,  a dam was built to store creekwater for the old local coal mines. Jack loves wading in this particular pool.
DAd? Can we go for a walk…sometime today? Jack waits as patiently as he can while I sit and write.
Much better!
After the rain. Jack savours puddles and new scents brought by the rain.
Drip. Precious jewels after a long dry spell.
The sinus headache. That came to mind as I photographed this mutation on a wild rose bush.
Oregon Grapes. They make an excellent jelly preserve. Despite our late spring, berries seem to be a month early this year. The Blackberry crop this year will be stupendous.
Aqua Apples. An old feral tree beside a local fish hatchery pond produces a burgeoning crop.
Profusion. Wild peas colourfully mark the advance of summer.
Buddha rocks! This lovely carving sits beside a local hiking trail. I wonder how many folks ever notice it.
The Salmon Stone. Some talented soul makes lovely carvings on random stones throughout the area. This one sits beside a fish ladder. The background noise is of rushing water tumbling down.
Art among the bushes. This sculpture looks amazingly life-like at first glance.
Border Closed! A grand effort to a now-abandoned
half vast project.
The Portal. Holland Creek, overflow from our local water supply, passes through this old tunnel and then trickles into the sea.
The Stink Eye! Jack has a pensive moment.
Feathers in the stream. There were several wing feathers, an eagle must have been preening nearby.

For nothing is fixed, forever and forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have. The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other, and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out. James Baldwin.