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!
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.
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.
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.
“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
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.”
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.’
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.
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 thatwas the message. I’ve lost touch and it is time to get my beak out of my belly button and flap my wings.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
“ 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.
My blogs have been so gloomy-doomy lately that I think they could make a hangman cry. This little life of mine seems to be hove-to at the moment. So, no mention of boats or Rvs or shattered dreams. How about a walk on a perfect weather Sunday morning? The joy of it was that Jack seemed to completely be himself this morning. He is certainly not a bounding puppy anymore nor does he lunge off after rabbits now but he is taking a full interest in life and actually has some vigour. We went to our beloved estuary at the mouth of the Chemainus River. I simply sat and watched him play for over an hour. He loves to chase little creatures, shadows and sparkles. He always has. It was very healing. Here are some pictures.
I saw this on a bumper sticker. “Don’t believe everything you think.”
Jack is now on the mend. His nose is wet, his eyes are shiny and he is taking a full interest in life. He was near death it seemed. A wonderful vet came by in his mobile clinic and deduced that Jack had eaten something nasty while out on walk. With other dark clouds in my sky I was terrified that he wasn’t going to make it through the night only four days ago. My hope was thin. I am happy to report that he was out on the trail with me this morning sporting along almost like his old self again. I am deeply grateful to a wonderful veterinarian who brought his mobile clinic to the door, just the way things used to be done. Thank you Tom.
While I am being thankful I cannot let my appreciation for the love and support of family and friends to go unmentioned. The last two weeks for me have been hellacious, the support has been life-sustaining. THANK YOU!
I am able to check statistics for my blog site. I know how many people have looked at each posting, what country on the planet they are in and how long folks on average have spent looking at each post. I’m sure there’s more I can learn but being the cyber-caveman I am; good enough!
I only have access to a viewer’s e-mail address when they contact me with a comment. I always reply to every one, even when it’s a criticism and I do stay respectful of other folk’s information. Always grateful for every interaction I’m always eager to hear from my readers. I’ve noted something interesting. Posts that draws the least views also produce the most comments. It is like a lottery. The higher the main prize, the more tickets sell and the odds rise to very, very thin odds. The latest blog drew comments about personal bicycle memories and concerns for Jack have also come in. Thank you!
As you may recall I recently had a local computer whiz tune-up this site. That man has two huge computer screens on his desk which he is able to work simultaneously. His hands flash over his keyboards and text heaps up before your eyes. He never looks at what his hands are doing. Half of his spelling is incorrect but at the end of each bit of writing he pokes a button. Everything is spell-checked, the punctuation is correctly arranged, line spacing and indents are perfect. That is amazing; yet I see the big possibility of mistakes which can go unnoticed, especially if the computer is thinking in American-English.
My old saw is the question about ‘checking your cheque book.’ I also know what happens when you become dependant on technology. You lose your basic skills. That is the reason I rail against using electronic navigation in the marine world. You should have the basic old-school knowledge in the back of your head if the Global Positioning System ever fails for any variety of reasons, including deliberate human intervention. Once you become dependant on anything, you quickly give up of freedom of self-reliance and in the case of writing, self-expression.
I have used the two index bananas on my gnarled paws to peck out two novels, several other books, copious poetry and musings. Each letter is typed one at a time and spelling errors are fixed as I go. I edit everything. I trim away all the ands, buts or other conjunctives I can. Should the same word be used twice to describe anything, I try to find another word to replace one of them. The art of good writing is to say as much as possible with as few words possible. Flowery just does not cut it.
I think of some of the world’s great writers who produced everything longhand with a dip pen and a candle for light. If you wanted to change a word or sentence, you’d have to rewrite the whole page. And, operating like I do, as you jotted down the final period, you’d manage to tip the ink pot over the whole manuscript. Haar again. But then with a computer, now and then some writing and photographs manage to vanish into the ether never to be seen again. “Oh golly,” I think to myself. Yeah right.
There is another “Phew.” I’ve finally made a decision about my little trailer. It is for sale as salvage. It is a hard decision but also a relief and a viable consideration. “First loss, best loss.” If the ducks line up for a rebuild I am open to options but at the moment, with no repair facilities, the economics of a major rebuild just did not add up from any angle. There is another home on wheels, a good one, out there somewhere with my name on it even as I write. Christmas in Baja…or bust. My dark drama may have come about, in part, because of my ingrained farm-boy sense of economics. It seems to be in my DNA, this life-long propensity to spend thousands of dollars trying to save dimes. But then, if I’d had spent more on a trailer it may also have been a write-off. Who knows? I’ve certainly gained a million dollars worth of experience.
I again employed my inept fiscal instincts today. I found my computer mouse laying on its back with its little feet in the air. Dead! Stopping by the local dollar store I proudly came home with a bargain mouse I’d bought for ten dollars. It worked, sort of. This afternoon I came out of the local computer store with a brand name product which works beautifully. So there you are. In my determination to be cheap, I’m now out the price of a piece of junk. Maybe I’ll throw it in with the trailer. That’ll clinch the deal!
“If you want to buy good, clean, fresh oats you must pay a fair price. Ones that have already been through a horse cost a bit less.” …anon.
First things first. Last blog I described a plant as being a zucchini when in fact, as I have been corrected, it was an English Cucumber. I’m glad I didn’t try to name it something like a Nigerian Horse Radish. No fake news here! Around the docks on Southern Vancouver Island, folks build bird houses for Purple Martins. The birds arrive in the spring with their chittering calls. They swoop and dive and gobble up tons of insects which are then bombed onto the shiny yachts moored below. Some people gripe about the tiny blobs of potential bug bites on their boats but I’m quite happy to pay that small price for the presence of these happy and colourful birds.
They raise their chicks until they are peeking out from the bird houses. Their fluffy demanding offspring can’t seem to ever be fed enough. Once they are big enough to survey the world outside, it is only a matter of days until all the birds are gone for the year. Yesterday their thunderous absence rang out. They’re gone. South. There must come a moment when some sage old martin says “Right squadrons, it’s time to go. Now!” and off they all fly. Now the crickets and their tireless concert will chirp on night and day until the first heavy frost. Some swallows remain for the time being but the Martin houses are empty. One day soon, there will be a sad quietude. The swallows will be gone too.
Creatures know. Birds know when to leave on their migrations and they know where to go. Jack the dog, on the morning of the recent eclipse, went and hid in a closet, a place he never goes otherwise. People have those same instincts and intellects. We’ve simply buried them in our mad rush to do abstract things. Being in touch with our planet and it’s driving forces has lost value in our primal sensibility. That’s why for example, you’ll see a young mother, head-down texting, pushing her progeny in a stroller out into hurtling traffic. Apparently, in recent years, global pedestrian fatalities have soared due simply to people texting.
Summer is roaring by as I work for and with a fine bunch of people. The days pass quickly maintaining and preparing a fleet of yachts for the next round of charter customers. Most are lovely people as well they should be; they’re on vacation. Then there are others. I’ll simply say that the couple who own this business possess a courage and graciousness which I do not. The weeks go by in a blur. Repairing boats, inspecting them, delivering them and sometimes charging across the strait when they break down while on charter can all be in a day’s demands. There are few dull moments. I go home to Ladysmith for two days each week and sleep the whole time away. I feel old. I am having serious doubts about ever getting out and southbound on the open ocean. That, of course, is what this blog is all about. How I try to be like people who can simply relax in the moment and squeeze it like a sponge until every possible drop of life has been tasted. Working for tomorrow while folks around you are on vacation at the moment is torture.
Every morning begins with a huge flock of honking Canada Geese flying by low overhead. These airborne thugs practise a few circuits just over the mast heads like boys on motorcycles demanding attention. Then there is quiet again, but now it’s time to get up. Perhaps they are practising for a southward migration, deciding who will go and who must stay for the winter. It used to be an uplifting song to me, the ultimate Canadian anthem of travel, freedom, vast distance and self-determination. Now I curse these braying, flapping creatures with their bomb loads of greasy green excrement. When I was a child there was grave concern about these birds becoming extinct. They’re now the bane of parks, schoolyards and waterfront areas everywhere. The flocks which live along the shoreline are apparently barely edible. They taste strongly of their inter-tidal diet. But these grey flapper are certainly excellent organic alarm clocks.
My wife Jill is a voracious reader and I often read books she has finished with. I found one book was very dull and she agreed, saying that she was not able to finish it. She declared that “Life is too short to waste reading boring books.” Perhaps writing dull blogs is part of that mantra. In my recent experiences there have been no explosions, leaping whales or exciting intrigues.’Seafire’ remains tied to the dock, a floating apartment, while I work on all the other boats around me. I’ll have to stir the pot and see what I can scrape off the bottom. I’m shrinking from my efforts here perhaps in response to some of the nonsense I hear on the radio. I think I’m writing about nothing! How a resource-rich country like Canada should be paying exorbitant spiralling fuel prices is stunning. That we push back with only a few mumbles is incredible. I’m sorry about the weather tragedy in Texas but there is no way it truly affects us. We happily live like chicken farmers who go to town to buy eggs and accept whatever we’re told, even that the recent solar eclipse is also reason to jack up the price of petroleum. Huh?
Speaking of things Fort McMoney, I am not aware of reciprocal interest this year from those people who accepted global help to prevent them all from being barbequed last year. Perhaps there is some concern and help from them. I’m not aware of it. As wildfires ravage British Columbia this year I do hear the media describe a “Drought” we are suffering. C’mon! We’re paying the price for decades of gross forest mismanagement. It is a normal hot, dry summer. Thazzit! A drought is when the streams and lakes dry up, crops and livestock wither and die, folks can’t find any water even to drink. All the car-washes are still operating. Life goes on, shiney as ever, even with the high price of fuel.
Today on our walk Jack and I met two gorgeous dogs, recently rescued from Iran. They had both been mutilated. Apparently some fundamentalists see dogs as unclean and fair game for torture and mistreatment even though the Koran demands that all of God’s creatures be respected, especially those which by nature live in families. Fundamentalists, whether Christian or Muslim, don’t need to dig deep to find excuses for heinous behaviour. We’ve all been at it for millenniums. For the record, I believe that dogs are one of man’s highest achievements. If you don’t like dogs, you probably don’t get along well with people either.
Labour day is now past. Once again the air is filled with smoke from numerous intense forest fires burning in the interior. We’re caught in one last coastal summer high pressure ridge. It doesn’t seem so long ago that folks were fed up with the long, damp, cool spring. Soon enough again we will forget these last warm days of summer. Let’s enjoy them while they last.
By the way, the swallows have now all departed.A t the end of the workday today, six southbound Sandhill Cranes flew low overhead trumpeting their unmistakeable call. They’re a month early. Whatever that mean’s.
“I’m not nearly as afraid of dying as I am of not living.” …Old Fred the sailor.
On the chart it is named Kakushdish Harbour. The locals called it “Gustafson’s.” I much prefer the Heiltsuk name but I have no idea what sort of spices are used in a kakushdish .(She fed him some kakushdish and he was up all night) Seriously, the name rolls off one’s tongue in a lovely way and I’d guess it means something to do with shelter or safety. This is a short, shallow inlet only a few minutes from downtown Shearwater but a world away from the industrial ugliness and near incessant dirty clatter. I’ve avoided coming here, partly because it’s too close to home base but mostly because one has to pass under an electrical power line. I just don’t like overhead wires while on a moving sailboat. On the chart there is a clearance indicated of twenty-three metres. That is plenty enough for Seafire’s mast of sixteen metres but still I have a bad feeling about overhead wires and bridges. Unless the overhead obstruction is very high, it always looks as if you’ll go bump or zap; that tense anticipation is a nasty sensation.
Once under the wire the bay is wide and calm. In places there are long grassy shores to stretch your legs. With our late spring, the colours seem especially intense. This morning there’s a high overcast but the bay is still lovely. The season is very near summer solstice and nights have long lingering dusks. It is a time of richness and plenty. All creatures are busy feeding, raising their young, and preparing for the coming winter. The last one seems to have barely passed. As I get older the seasons, for me, spin faster and faster. Summer is the apex before the long descent into the next cycle of cold, dark and wetness. Yeah you know it, south, south!
A few days ago I crawled out from beneath a customer’s boat to find myself fifty feet from a young black bear. He was a beauty. My immediate concern was where the mother bear might be but it was soon obvious that this character was alone. There were a few people watching him but he was oblivious as he perused the aromatic garbage bins. Wild animals that accustom themselves to humans almost invariably meet a nasty end. I threw my hammer at him, several times. Bumbles, I named him, belonged in the safety of the forest, not in the middle of a shipyard at midday. He ambled slightly away but was determined to find a meal. We finally steered him up the hill, towards the school; plenty of lunch buckets up there. A yearling, probably orphaned, he has not been taught to forage for wild food and will need some strong persuasion to avoid the temptations of civilization. He has been spotted several times within the community. I fear for his future.
Because I am in my last days at Shearwater time is passing slowly for me, just as it did when I sat in a public school classroom this time of year so long ago. Friday afternoon finally arrived. I slipped the boat’s lines. We were quickly around the corner and out of sight. I spent the night and following day in Kakushdish most pleasantly. After a morning exploration of the bay by dinghy I settled down to work on the boat’s teak. I almost sanded my fingertips to the bone but tonight one cap rail is done. It has been scraped and sanded, had two coats of teak oil applied and all the metal fittings are back in their place. I enjoyed my simple honest work. A cool breeze hummed and whistled in the rigging. I knew a great sense of well-being. Funny how contentment can come from such a simple thing.
Late in the day I moved ‘Seafire’ to Beales Bay, a short distance around the rocks and reefs of Gunboat Passage. ‘Sjoa’ is anchored st the far end of the bay, I wonder what magic video footage Paer has made. I look out one last time just before bed. Last night’s full moon shines down between the scudding clouds. In the morning I awake with my eyes glued shut. I have to peel them open. Insect bites, or teak sanding dust, my whole head feels puffy. It’s snot funny. I force myself into the day; and soon happy for what it becomes. Paer comes over to ‘Seafire’ for a visit and we finally get to know each other a little. What a delight to meet someone new who closely shares similar perspectives and philosophies. I learn of adventures in Sweden along the Arctic Circle and in Lapland. Paer tells of sailing there and how life is in summers of the midnight sun and intense winters of near eternal darkness. He has an advantage of being able to see things from an outsider’s perspective and finds a positive view of things where I see only the negative. He points out that Shearwater, a tiny oddball community of misfit refugees from urban latitudes, manages to survive in relative harmony. He also points out, that despite our industry, we are able to make a minimal environmental foot print. The morning flew by as, in happy discovery, we plumbed each other’s philosophies, values, perspectives. Affirmation is very good for the soul.
I’ve been wanting to explore this huge wetland and estuary. Today the weather and the tides are in my favour. There is a lively and shallow, drying tidal rapids which guard the entrance. I’m able to pass through with a few inches of water beneath my kayak and slalom around three points and rocky islets into the marshland. It is unique as it spreads broadly around three saltwater streams which almost dry out at each low tide. Certainly they are navigable only on a rising tide. I am able to penetrate the green marsh by bumping along the bottom only as the tide rises up the stream bed and lifts me along a little further at a time. It is fantastic. The bottom of the streams are very course sand with glinting bits of mica. The water is slightly tea-coloured but clear. I am able to penetrate the grassy marsh and see birds and minnows in abundance. It is a place where I expect to see deer and bear at any time. I’m not disappointed.
Up one reach of the stream network I find Paer hiking in the marsh. We chat at the stream’s edge, marvelling at how quickly the tide rises. As we stand there a deer emerges from the forest, walking directly toward us. Eventually she senses our presence and we all stand motionless regarding each other across the flowing water. Mesmerized, we don’t notice how the tide is rising over the mud at our feet. Paer has to scramble for higher ground. I paddle out against the flood arriving back at the narrows just as the tide is about to turn again to ebb. I imagine how the marsh streams must be when salmon are spawning. They will be lined with bear and churning with spawning salmon. My one regret is that it has taken me so long to discover this wonderful place. Paer spends days there, always alone. He loves the marsh and lagoon and has developed an intimate knowledge of this area. His film work is of superb professional quality. Clearly he loves filming wildlife and wilderness. He points out that he has never made a living with film; it is something he does in amateur passion to share his vision of the natural world. I note again that his film vignettes are published for viewing on Vimeo and YouTube.
Look for his name: Paer Domeij or titles like ‘Ellerslie Lagoon Waterfalls,’ ‘Two birds and a bear’ or ‘Sommarpromen i Lulea.’ ‘Gransfors Yxmedja’ is fascinating and ‘Cruise Canada’ is my favourite. I have not mentioned his exploits as a man who built a boat and went voyaging as he still is. I am both impressed and inspired by Paer. High praise indeed from this cynic.
Monday was the usual hectic day with transient boaters lining up at the shop door to present their tales of woe. We serve folks on a first come first serve basis but somewhere else there be a place that serves people on the basic of the best dramatic account of their perceived problem. Uncle Harold’s ingrown tone nail and that the cat had diarrhoea six weeks ago really don’t have nothing to do with solving your present mechanical failure mister. You are number seventeen in the line-up so far this morning. We’re working on work order three from yesterday. Uh huh.
At least my little bear came back, he’s still alive and hungry. He did not seem as cavalier about the presence of people today and in fact scrambled up a vertical rock face to escape me. There are reports of a mother bear loitering in the surrounding forest. Hopefully, as the berries ripen during our late spring, our furry friend will prefer eating in the rough to biting the bullet if he continues to scrounge around people. Run Bumbles, run.
“I’d rather see a blackbird in the forest than an eagle on TV”
The evening is clear, the sky is clear. The temperature is not frigidly damp. In fact it is almost tepid. Outside in the last of the day’s light two Kingfishers dart and chase, chattering vigorously. Inside the boat, I’ve just turned the heater on for the evening. It was off for most of the day and the hatches were open. Ever so slowly the reluctant spring shuffles in under the faltering embrace of winter. During my dinner, and in the hour since, I’ve been watching ‘2 Cellos,’ a dynamic pair. Their music is amazing and flawless whether a classical prelude or a rollicking cover of a famous rock song. I heartily recommend them to anyone with a love of good music. The duo has a concert tour passing nearby. Seats in Washington and Oregon were sold out for as much as $US 395. each!
I worked today, even though it is Sunday. A water taxi needed some maintenance and repairs. Just before finishing the job, an operator appeared without notice to take the boat away ASAP. Then we found the battery in the Travel-lift was stone dead. (This is the machine which transports boats, weighing up to sixty tons, to and from the water.) Such is life here. We’re braced to see what will be jammed into tomorrow’s schedule. There is plenty of work already on the slate but there is always something unexpected to deal with. The engine shop tries desperately to run a preventive maintenance program but ‘Break and Fix’ is the way things have always been done here and no amount of persuasion affects permanent change. It is frustrating to see the incredible and unnecessary expenses the company deliberately endures. Combining my inability to affect positive change, and with my health issues, it is time to move on. I’ve given notice here. After a replacement has arrived I will leave this place. I love this wild country but my experience here does not seem to be on any path toward my goal. Perhaps I’ll see things differently once I’ve left. Meanwhile, pass me some dry socks please.
Earlier today, while trudging back to the boat during a rain squall, my eye was caught by a battered box of tools sitting beside a boat stored in the yard. It sat with drawers and lid flipped wide open. Everything was filled with rainwater, the tools in the drawers were beginning to rust. Rain water ran over the edges of the box. Days later, the battered tool box is still in the same place. Mechanics treasure their tools which are the instruments of our trade. Without them we could do little. It is hard to see anyone’s tools treated with indifference. But that is often the way things are done here. I don’t get it, I never will. I’m hardwired another way. Sometimes I truly wish I were not.
I mused that perhaps my life is a bit like that toolbox. Filled with good potential and valuable skills, have I abandoned my life and simple ambitions to rot with neglect and disuse? Why does everything seem at a dead end? Certainly, my potential far exceeds what I do here. My worn body is in pain all day and night. Finances are holding me where I am and it seems that the friends who are financially secure are telling me to “Just do it.” What is it I don’t understand? A good buddy and I are in similar situations and we both have the same dream. We each sign off our regular communications with “Due south!” Meaning of course, we will do this thing no matter what, meet you down there. But a dark, nagging doubt towers over each of us.
Meanwhile the provincial election campaign rails on. There are another two weeks of verbal masturbation to endure. I listened to part of an on-air debate last recently between the three candidates. They all espoused various idiotologies yet all sounded the same. I have long refused to vote for any candidate whose platform is about what’s wrong with their opponents. The debate was a childish game of turd-toss. There is no-one to vote for. And by the way candidates, all of you, no government has ever been a source of wealth. And, although all politicians make the claim, no government has ever created one job. Never! Stop the bull!
You can’t catch a fish by chasing it with a hook. Offer me something enticing and I just might bite. Here in Shearwater a lady removed her voter’s card from her mailbox. Apparently the nearest advanced polling station is in Masset, on Haida Gwaii. That’s an ocean voyage of over two hundred miles across the notoriously vicious Hecate Strait. We are a hardy bunch of folks! For weeks, CBC radio provides thin speculations and dreary reviews of the electoral race. Journalists pick out every bit of lint from every corner. Such a weary business!
, I’m posting this from the Bella Bella Airfield. Fog and a thin spattering drizzle are the weather this morning. At the moment, conditions are not flyable. I’m hoping to head south on yet another medical excursion. I’m very much looking forward to seeing my wife Jill and my buddy Jack, the dog. For the weekend, I’m doing south.
He’s back. One of the disappointments on my return to Shearwater this year was that Edgar was gone. Someone, with a burst of artistic genius, installed the gnarled top of a tree on the waterfront. It accents our sweeping panorama of the Great Bear Rainforest and proved to be a perfect perch for an eagle which the locals had named Edgar. Last year he sat placidly twenty feet above the ground while people stood beneath and clicked their cameras merrily. The old tree sat empty this year. Yesterday, there he was! Even if he moves on I know that yet he lives. It is tiny moments like that which make life here survivable for me.
I’m starting to write this blog only a day after I posted the last one. Apparently the containment boom around our sunken tug in Seaforth Channel has broken in heavy weather. While I’m concerned about environmental aspects I’m getting damned weary of the whole situation. CBC’s “On site” report by Chris Brown yesterday was skewed and poorly researched. The story he presented was largely uninformed opinion and quite misleading to the broadcast audience, most of which swallows anything viewed on television as God’s truth. If Mr. Brown would like to report on environmental devastation he should return when the gillnet fleet is at our docks when, for months, there is a thick film of diesel and oily bilge water punctuated with copious beer cans and every sort of plastic garbage. All of that on the ocean which these fishermen depend to provide the bounty of their livelihood. Report on that Mr. Brown. Perhaps he could spend more time, than that between flights in and out of here, and review the rape which our sport fishing industry annually imposes on our fish stocks. Perhaps he could review some of the hypocrisies and environmental travesties our indigenous population imposes on the land and sea they claim to cherish so dearly. Report on that Mr. Brown.
As for quoting local environmental activists who consume the same products and fuels we all import on barges by burning, yes diesel, try reporting on how ALL of us are consumers and part of the problem. If we really don’t want the bulk transport of fuel in our waters, fine. I live on my boat, I’ll be OK. Stop our fuel deliveries and let’s see how long it takes for the squeaking to rise in a different direction. And as for quoting Heiltsuk executives who are criticizing the alacrity of the clean-up process, perhaps you could check on the accuracy of their claims. There were vessels on site within six hours of the grounding. Fifty-four million dollars were spent in the first week and I’m told the daily operational costs are around $1.3 million. And by the way, check out how many folks from the Heiltsuk Nation are being paid obscene hourly rates to merely wander the beaches with a bundle of absorbent pads. Furthermore, what IS the wildlife death toll? Report on that Mr. Brown. I am damned weary of hearing about what someone else is supposed to do. We are ALL part of the problem. What are YOU doing about it? Hello? Mr. Brown?
As I sit writing this morning, for a few minutes, there was a burst of golden sunlight on the trees above the dock. Now the forest is again plunged into various dim tones of grey and green. I find that my life here scuttles between those moments of light and rainlessness. Now pelting rain is clattering against the pilot house windows. Last evening, the schooner “Spike Africa” returned briefly to the dock. I managed to grab some photos with my mobile phone in the soft afternoon light. I love traditional boats and it was an inspiration to see this beautiful, lovingly-maintained, wooden vessel. Just about every boat here is a utilitarian conveyance and the notion of keeping a boat clean, tidy and shipshape is considered frivolous. This morning, at first light, the schooner was gone. But that is the way of sailors.
The afternoon today was warm, calm and sunny. Back at my secret petroglyph site more moss was cleared away. More carvings, some under up to six inches of soil, roots and moss. It has been a while since anyone else looked on this ancient art. I wonder at how these images were made in such hard rock and what spiritual energy inspired the endeavour. I wonder what these ancients would have thought of their descendants. I have no illusions about the noble savage, past or present. I choose to see us all as human beings first, complete with our amazing strengths and pathetic weaknesses. I look at evidence of a time when we humans were apparently in harmony with our environment. I can only wonder when our slide backwards will stop and when technology and profit will cease to be our god.
All the while, as they have for the past several days, thousands of snow geese wing their way southward. They fly high, fast and strong, constantly shifting their formation to take a turn at sharing the effort of breaking the way. Even the birds know. They know and do not forget.
“The superior man understands what is right, the inferior man understands what will sell.” .…Confusius