Takaya is dead. A few blogs back (Feb. 1st) I wrote about this splendid, and particularly beautiful lone wolf, who found his way through the city of Victoria and across tidal rapids to survive and thrive on Discovery Island. He lived alone, in social isolation for several years, managing to hunt successfully and to endure his solitude. This spring, in his mating season he returned to the main island, looking for a mate some think. He was eventually tranquilized and relocated deep into the woods of Southern Vancouver Island. He has now been shot dead by a hunter about fifty metres from where he was released. I am enraged and heartbroken as apparently are many others globally.
I have been a hunter who has lived in rural areas and eaten plenty of wild game. There was never a sound reason to kill a wolf. They posed no threat to anyone or anything despite any myth which can ever be conjured up. A few years ago, on Northern Vancouver Island, a grizzly bear was sighted, the first ever there to anyone’s knowledge. It was promptly shot. When our government conservation officers attend a human versus wildlife situation, quite often a wild creature is killed.
At the moment, tidal waves of fear about a deadly pandemic wash around the planet. Our entire social fabric is under tremendous pressure. The implications of this disease are far-reaching with all its fear and doubt. It is a time for introspection. I want only to put a little light into other’s eyes and yet today I share a little more grief. Damn us all. That wolf will never howl from the depths of the forest again, nor will any offspring. There is silence in the swamp.
“The wolves knew when it was time to stop looking for what they’d lost, to focus instead on what was yet to come.” Jodi Picoult
As my beloved pal Jack advances further into his dotage he continues to learn new things. Or perhaps he teaches himself; and me. Over the past several weeks he has begun employing an extension of his vocabulary of grunts, sighs, groans, growls and barks. Now he regularly emits a special short, sharp bark. Standing beside the door it means he wants out, or back in. By the pantry door the bark means a treat is expected. Coming from the middle of the living room it means he’d like some petting and general attention. In one of his three beds the same demand is a request to be tucked in with a blanket over him.
This morning, while laying on “his” living room couch the demanding bark rang out. It meant, I think, “I need to go out but I’m not standing by that door like some sort of common dog. Hop to it doorman!” So I did; and so did he. Spoiled? Oh yeah! But I hasten to say that he can never be out-given. He manages to put back far more than he takes. I cannot imagine life without a dog. For those who don’t understand that, you have my sympathy for missing out on one of man’s highest achievements. Yes, the dog.
On that note, while I’ve promised to pare down on my political/ social comments (Because opinions based on media conjectures are simply irresponsible) I’ve decided to share a simple analogy I’ve recently heard.
I’ll admit to being a member of a capitalist culture. Even Jack is. He hides his bones, keeps a watchful eye on his toys and dishes, guards and marks his territory. At times he even demonstrates a sense of ownership of his human units. Wolves, spiders, birds, fish, all creatures can be possessive about a territory necessary for the needs of their survival. There are some sound reasons for a sense of propriety. However, we humans have a compulsion to acquire for the simple sake of our own insecurity and a false sense of adequacy which comes from amassing far more than we need. It is what we have been taught and in conforming to that premise we have allowed ourselves to be enslaved far more than ever before in our entire earthly history. Yes, you ,me, all of us.
The analogy I mentioned describes capitalism as cancer. The body is finite and limits its growth within parameters. Cancer is unlimited growth within a finite host. Unless that growth is checked and controlled it will destroy the body and ultimately itself. If the body is our planet and all the symptoms of unsustainable economic development are simply for its own sake then the sad conclusion is obvious and imminent. It is over-simplified perhaps with plenty of possible “Yeah-buts” but I like simple. This is a concept even I can grasp. I’ll keep my opinions to myself.
“If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and man.” – Mark Twain
Oh good grief, here he goes again, another lament about life on the West Coast in mid-winter. No more please! We get that it’s winter. Low grey skies, penetrating dampness, pizzling dripping precipitation, foggy wind in your face from all directions. E-mails from friends in Mexico to ice the cake. This morning a golden sunlight beams down through the eternal rain. There must be rainbows out there.
I’ve been looking for a dog. No, no old Jack is fine but my daughter needs a full-time friend. She and Jack adore each other and they spend some quality time together, but in his dotage he needs a canine companion and she needs to have a home-body and travel partner. It sounds easy. Just go pick one out. Right! There must be plenty of local dogs who need homes and among those there will be that one special heart throb who somehow finds you. There are certainly several folks within short radius who describe themselves as being dog rescue centers but almost invariably, the beautiful creatures pictured are from as far away as Texas, California, Mexico, Florida, even Kuwait. Shipping a dog in a crate tossed by uncaring baggage people into the dark belly of an airplane to travel half-way around the planet is not a trauma I want to impose on any creature; well maybe a few people. But anyway, where the hell are our local needy canines?
There is a surplus of pitbull-type dogs. I know they are often lovely characters but the stigma about them is far-reaching and many folks pucker up just at the sight of one, which is where the problems begin. There are many places with succinct laws against the breed. So, mutts are us. I saw one lovely-looking young female described as a black-lipped cur. That puts a new meaning on the term cur-b appeal. “C’mere my little black-lipped cur.” As it turns out, I found the perfect puppy, or he found me, but the stars are not aligned correctly and Jack remains a solo act for now.
While this has been going on another local canine story has been unfolding. The archipelago along the Southern Coast of Vancouver Island is known as the Gulf Islands. Further southward the islands become smaller and more arid. Just forty miles to windward, on the outer coast of Vancouver Island, some of the highest rainfalls in Canada are recorded. In the rain shadow of the leeward side these small islands are dry enough to have cacti growing. The most southerly group of these are Discovery and Chatham Islands and the weather station on Discovery records the least annual precipitation anywhere in Canada. Struth! They lay across Baynes Channel a mile away from the Community of Oak Bay, which is annexed to Victoria and helps form the largest urban area on Vancouver Island with over 400,000 people.
Inching carefully through the kelp beds there is a way through the rock-studded waters of this small archipelago to a secure and peaceful anchorage. But don’t go too far, there are more rocks. It is well within ear shot of the sirens in the city. Yet despite the ruins of a lightkeeper’s boat house there is a sense of the pristine. You must trespass across First Nations reserve land to walk the trails and open meadows of cactus-studded Discovery Island and then dinghy or kayak around the outside in dangerous open waters. The original owner was a retired sea-captain who worked ardently to develop the island. The remains of his roadways and little stone bridges among the arid landscape can conjure a Mediterranean sense to the place. Along its southern shore there are spectacular views of the Strait Of Juan de Fuca and the towering Olympic Mountains beyond in Washington State. All of the surrounding waters are a swirling maelstrom of treacherous ever-changing tides and currents. Overfalls and whirlpools are constant, the tidal sea is seldom still. It seems at times that all of the open Pacific is trying to crowd through these narrows. Many a mariner has a yarn about their experiences in Baynes Channel sneaking past the fang-like rocks lurking helter-skelter while surging swirls of sea try to throw your boat upon them. Now imagine swimming across this bitterly-cold gauntlet.
So, with this stage set, I must admit with chagrin I did not know about ‘Takaya’ the sea wolf who has lived alone on these island for the past several years. I’ve been up the coast for a while so maybe that’s how I missed learning about this character. CBC has archived an incredibly beautiful film about Takaya The Lone Wolf of Discovery Island. Here’s the link to 44 minutes of excellent video work and editing by Cheryl Alexander as posted on You Tube:
Take the time to watch this, it will enrich you. Hopefully it is not blocked in your area.
This splendid, award-worthy effort helps dispel some of the ridiculous myths about wolves and other mystical creatures of the wild. This woman’s incredible work leaves me humbly wanting to chuck all of my photo gear into the sea. WOW! Her videos reveal a bond and trust that she established with this fellow. Some of the clips are stunning. I have lived a good part of my life in wolf country, I’ve listened to them howl many wonderful times but I have only ever had fleeting glimpses of their beauty and I consider myself to be observant above average. This is an eight-year long story which had eluded me until a television news item appeared a week ago about wolf sightings in downtown Victoria. At first I was skeptical of the blurry photos I saw on the news, thinking that this was probably someone’s large dog. This magnificent creature has now been captured alive and relocated to a distant and remote area of Vancouver Island. Kudus to our conservation officers who, for once, did not shoot the wolf. That is often their solution to situations where humans have imposed themselves on the natural world.
How the wolf first found the islands and swam to them, then back years later, is an amazing mystery to me. I am not quite content to accept the explanation despite some solid evidence that he actually meandered through the city until arriving at the sea. That he survived there on his own, and thrived, is an incredible fact. Wolves hunt in packs yet this character perfected techniques which clearly worked well for him on his own. Finding drinking water on these arid rocks was another skill he taught himself. I am convinced that wild canines and domestic dogs all possess an intelligence, and intuitive spirit, much higher than we credit them with. They are often in tune with things we chose to abandon. Some folks on the city shore claim to have heard his howls at times. That’s certainly possible. Wolf howls are a communication and he was probably checking to see if there was any of his kin out there somewhere, anywhere. All wild canines are naturally very social. That’s how we successfully interfaced with dogs. I wonder if this alpha male was not at times, in abject solitude, trying to somehow communicate with the sirens. We all know how town dogs react to the wail and hoot of emergency vehicles.
This archipelago is one of my two favourite anchorages on the South Coast and has a special place in my heart. I remember magic times through the years on various boats while being nestled into this place, distant sirens aside. (God, I miss my boat!) However, my faith in a few things is slightly restored after watching this video. I’ll never go near that island again, or hear sirens, without thinking of him. Happy trails Takaya.
Meanwhile another movie company invaded downtown Ladysmith, changed the face of main street to be somewhereville in Colorado, liberally distributed faux snowdrifts and filmed their hearts out for three days in the pouring rain. Is there a movie set somewhere in Colorado that represents Vancouver Island? I photographed the sets and some of their fabulous video equipment then came home and promptly deleted everything while downloading it. I know, “smart as he looks.” That’s how the pickle squirts some days. Oh darn, the wolf ate my camera!
“The tiger and the lion may be more powerful but the wolf does not perform in the circus.” Anonymous
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
“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.”
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 wonderI am apparently expected to feel at this time of year. “You vill hazze 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.
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-warmbread. 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 justtakes 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!
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!
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!
“A lovely thing about Christmas is that it’s compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together.” …Garrison Keillor
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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
“Don’t sweat the petty things and don’t pet the sweaty things.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
‘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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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:
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
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