Town Day

To warm a sailor’s heart. No matter how big and grand a vessel may be, the boat that has universal appeal is the small and pretty rowing boat. This is a lapstrake, or clinker-built boat where a perfect fit and excellent workmanship is what keeps the leaks under control. It is for sale. I had a passing fantasy of having money enough and a house big enough to buy this one and hang it from the ceiling. A sight to cheer on any day. Form and function blend to make ultimate art.
Autumn morning dew. It does not cost a thing to open one’s eyes and look.
Loaded. Apples and rose hips. Food for winter and seeds for spring.
Backlight
Autumn meadow. Soon the leaves will be gone.

I was sanding a piece of plywood purchased at Home Depot as work continues on my little trailer. I am no fan of any big chain store but these guys will cut up wood to my exact specifications and so there I go. They also sell lumber stored inside, out of the rain and sun, at least for a few days. Impressed with the superior quality of this particular product, I noted the clear grain and the lack of voids between laminations. Then I noticed the stamp, “Made in Chile.” WOT! I bought this in British Columbia? I’ve previously found the ‘home despot’ selling 2x4s cut from loblolly pine from Louisiana and marked “Product of NAFTA.” How do you harvest, mill, ship and sell lumber at a profit from the diagonally opposite corner of the continent…into the global forest products capital of BC? And the US president rants about the inequities of NAFTA. I agree!

A view from my town in the morning looking southeast into the Gulf Islands.

The media constantly runs stories about the dire state of BC’s forest industry. I frequently write about the chicken farmer who goes to town to buy his eggs. I repeatedly use my example of a local sawmill shut down allegedly due to a shortage of timber supplies. Several ships a week come to that former mill’s dock to load raw logs for export across the Pacific! That has been going on for years at several locations along our coast. And, I’m buying wood products from far across the same ocean! Is my plywood made from a BC log milled in Chile? Think of all the fossil fuels burned to ship products back and forth around the planet. Green? Meanwhile our young Norwegian school girl environmental messiah is in Alberta to suss out our environmental evils. Is she still travelling about in Arnold Scharzenegger’s electric car? Scotty? Helloo Scotty? Beam me up. Please!

Backyard treasure. Our morning walk turns up a tradition wooden mast languishing in a backyard. It is not the best way to store such a work of art. To make a mast like this, symmetrically perfect, takes great skill and is almost a lost art. Laying unsupported horizontally is not good for it. Note the woodshed roof built around a fir tree.
The corner lot. Modest by today’s standards, this was once an ultimate home. It is still lovely and clearly much-cared for. Ladysmith has plenty of very nice older homes.
A banana tree, a tattered flag, a crumbling block wall, a ubiquitous plastic chair all shout Mexico to me. But, it’s in Ladysmith.

Clearly, this old sailor knows nothing about economics but there is something very wrong here. I’ve found bottled water from Texas in local stores, meat and produce come from the other side of the planet and this British Columbian, living in a wine-producing valley, often finds the best quality and value in imported wine…often from Chile. Apparently Chile often uses the same poor environmental practices which we have proven wrong and unsustainable, from fish farming to forestry. Questions anyone?

Lilac leaves in autumn, dead lovely. Note the buds all ready for spring.

On a more positive note, I went to the advanced poll to vote in the Federal Election. The lines ran out the door and still people came waiting for nearly an hour to mark their X. It was encouraging to see such a turnout. Hopefully, for once, the election will not be decided by all those who are too comfortable to get off their butts and vote. It would be grand if someone else’s apathy was not running everyone else’s lives.

Morning calm by a small bridge.
Another bridge. Trout often rest in the clear pool beneath.
Oak calm
Aw leaf me alone. Let me be a dog. It smells different in the rain.

It is Thanksgiving Monday in Canada. Our roads and ferries will be clogged with folks rushing home after their “holiday.” We have one day left of clear skies before a forecast of several rainy days is due. I’ve declared this to be a BNG day. (Burn no Gas) Just back from our morning walk, Jack and I took a tour of a few suburban blocks and along part of an extensive creek-side trail network. We met lovely dogs and their lovely owners and exchanged greetings on this calm, warm sunny day. It is a lovely wee town and I take pleasure in seeing well-kept, older smaller homes. They are not pretentious but express a quiet dignity and contentment without any need to impress anyone. And that impresses me. Sadly, there is a cancer of neo-suburbia encroaching all around the town but it is easy enough to stay on this side of the creek where clear, cold, safe to drink for the stream water still runs. Today is the only one I have and I intend to enjoy it. It is Thanksgiving and I did not wake up elsewhere. Good enough!

The edge of old town, high above Holland Creek in the bottom of the steep ravine below. A five minute walk from home, I can then stay in the forest all the way across Vancouver Island to the open Pacific shoreline.  There are only one or two gravel roads to cross.

Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich by promising to protect each from the other.
~Oscar Am ringer, “the Mark Twain of American Socialism.

Slippery Slopes

The last resort. A view of Dogpatch in autumnal splendour. The heavy chair begs a question or two.

We slide down the slippery slope called autumn. Our first frost of this fall glitters on the roofs this morning as the reluctant sun rises under a clear cold sky. There’s no turning back so we may as well ride it out and get on with it. If we gain enough momentum, perhaps we’ll zoom across the valley called winter and find ourselves well on the way to spring before we know it. Yeah right! It was only a month ago that I slept out on a dock. Now here we are digging in the closet for winter coats.

Things that go bump in the night. Now it is safely stranded at the high tide line. Imagine confronting this iron-studded monster in the dark. The black stuff is coal dust.

Like springtime, if you don’t like the weather, wait a few minutes and it will change. There are periods of lovely sunlight, then bursts of cold rain. Within the advance to winter we are having the cold approach of a federal election later this month. The wearisome political signs are everywhere. Posters line our streets and highways, dot lawns and store fronts much to vandal’s delight. A televised “debate” earlier this week between the federal leadership hopefuls left me squirming in disdain as everyone tried to outshout and insult each other. Other inane election stories on television leave me inclined toward indignant rage. A friend and I recalled how as kids, for Halloween costumes we would black our faces with burnt cork. No one considered it a racial innuendo. That candidates would use twenty-year old photos of a young man at a costume party to try and slander another is pathetic. It is childish and self-demeaning; I know who has persuaded me away from voting for them.

Rare election humour
Wearing only bones in their noses, they danced naked around the crackling flames as Pluto rose and aligned itself with the orifice in the shrine.
…Or something like that.
There are jokes about the Ugga Bugga tribe.

Beyond our Canadian borders, US politics also amuse and confuse me; England too. With all the politicians stumbling about peeing in each other’s cornflakes, how the hell do they ever get around to actually doing the job their constituents hired them to do? If you are old enough to know what a gong show is…well! The bong of the gong goes on. There are no alternatives. Party politics, in the end, are ridiculous, no matter whom you decide to support. At least, in our system, we are still free to leave, any time, anywhere. Real estate is very affordable in Syria, or Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Bangladesh, just to name a few. No need to name this dude, but how to you sit idly by when anyone tweets that they “have a great and unmatched wisdom?” (No, that is not taken out of context) It seems to be a neo edition of the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes.’ Seriously! And apparently, they are all as goofy.

Now here’s a green memorial. Old industrial junk as been cleverly adapted and piece of beach is cleaner.

A neighbour who has held a major bucket-list item of seeing Africa finally dreamed and schemed herself onto her trip of a lifetime. Several countries were on her two-month itinerary and on her arrival in South Africa, she sent a photo of herself paragliding. I joked that was a slow way to fly the length of such a big continent. Nearly a month into her adventure her ankle exploded during a white water rafting adventure in Zambia. She never got to see Victoria Falls. The hospital there was so basic that the doctors had to hold her x-rays up to the sun to read them. Struth! It took a few days to get to Johannesburg where that hospital would not accept her medical insurance. Miraculously she found a flight home via Hong Kong and made it through that airport without any political demonstrations. I cannot imagine the misery of her travels.

Finally, in Vancouver, after a jaunt around the world, the hospital there turned her away and directed her back to Vancouver Island. By the time she arrived in Nanaimo her fragmented ankle had been injured for well over a week and so then the hospital here tried turning her away; no beds. Finally, in desperation, she persuaded them to look at her x-rays again and so she found a bed in a hall. The ankle was in such bad shape by then, they waited another six days and have finally operated and pieced the mess back together. I worry that she is able to keep her foot. And we thought we had troubles!

Fall blooms
Hunting season in the alley. Four different sets of fresh tracks.

Back from our morning walk Jack and I huddle by the gas fireplace. It was crisp and lovely with a light Westerly wind rising. Municipal workers were blowing the water out of the sprinkler system on the lawn of the town hall. It is indeed time to focus on things south. It occurred to me this morning that the local anchorage dubbed as Dogpatch was once regarded by myself, I’ll confess, with low regard. Folks living off the grid, for whatever reason often impose themselves on the tolerance and benevolence of others. They undermine their own dignity by doing that. Now I am on the beach, boatless. What a change in perspective! And in humility.

Now THESE are mushrooms, at least for a little while. Known as ‘Shaggy Manes’ or ‘Inky Blacks’ they have a delightful delicate flavour. But within hours, they bell out, their edges become inky black and they have become toxic.
Toadstools.
Love me, love my slug. Somebody had a nibble.
Ok, OK! Enough with the ‘shroom photos! I couldn’t resist this little guys nestled beneath the leaves. They were not even a quarter this size in reality.
La loo! In an effort to provide affordable public washrooms in the woods…actually the town had this venerable arbutus felled and cut up. Someone considered it a danger tree and wanted to “help” nature. It would probably have fallen over, in another two hundred years.
Remember this? My little utility trailer in transformer state 2 with metal sides removed and bunks installed to turn it into an inflatable boat trailer.
Now this, a dream in a box! That’s my home-made storage box mounted on the front. Didn’t that work out well? Now with a cover that hinges up on one end, insulation, a bed, some wiring, a fireplace, a hot tub…..
Good things come in small packages.

I cannot come up with resources, or even employment, to sustain myself. In an effort to stay positive and active I have put myself to work building an enclosure on my little trailer to haul camping amenities behind my truck on my next trip south. (Yes, I AM determined.) I have been thinking that an older, small camper for the back of the truck is all I need. Then I would have a four-wheel-drive RV of sorts. Now it has occurred to me that all I need is a safe, dry place to sleep comfortably. Why not turn the trailer into a small camping vehicle? One of the best trips ever was with a teardrop trailer. I can build this into a fold-up camper with standing headroom at one end. It already has a ramp which can double as a small porch, snake and scorpion-proof. I already have plenty of camping gear so why not do something big in something tiny? My cameras and laptop don’t know what sort of RV I’m based in and I’ve learned from experience with my little teardrop trailer that this is the way to meet some awesome people. Those that pick you out because of your humble rig are the ones to get to know. So there!

Downtown Duncan, “City Of Totems.” Late season tourists admire the native art. Note the rusted tin roof over a main block in town.; a left-over from more rustic times in Vancouver Island’s history.
Granny’s moved. Near Duncan, this is a favourite house to me. It looks like a movie set. I can hear the distant echoes of children’s laughter and even faintly smell cinnamon buns in the oven of a wood stove.
Garry Oak forest. Fortunately, in the face of cancerous housing development, this patch of original woodland has been preserved. It wraps around the old house.
The barn. An overview of part of the old Swallowfield Farm and Chemainus River Estuary where Jack and I love to wander. What a wonderful area to live! The bright bank of cumulus cloud in the distance marks the shoreline of mainland Canada.

I’ve just discovered something worth sharing if you happen to like genuine Mexican food. This Michoacán rural grandma has become a YouTube star with her very basic cooking show. No glitz, no make-up, just out in the rustic backyard with the chickens. You don’t need to speak Mexican to see how she does things. She has some very neat tricks.

Here is the link to one show, check it out. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WCni7y8i44 You may want to subscribe. The title of her series is “De Mi Rancho A Tu Cuchina” (From my farm to your kitchen) Mucho Gusto!

On October paths. The big stump above Jack tells a story about the original old-growth forest.
To the sea, alway back to the sea. Soon the rains will swell the course, the leaves will wash away and perhaps salmon will return to spawn.

Don’t surrender all your joy for an idea you used to have about yourself that isn’t true anymore.”
― Cheryl Strayed

How We Look At Things

How We Look At Things

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

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

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

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

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

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

A nice light snack.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This came on Facebook from a friend.

To all candidates and all parties…

Negative campaign ads WILL cost you my vote.

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

Otherwise, we are finished.

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

Right on! There is hope.

Tis the season.

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

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

Puttering About In A little Boat

A pirated piece of nautical chart. It is about eighteen kilometres from Ladysmith, on Vancouver Island to Porlier Pass, the gap Between Valdez and Galiano Islands. In fair weather, that takes about an hour in my inflatable dinghy. The white patch in the upper right corner marks the shoaling waters of mainland Canada

One of my signature poems is called “The Water Rushing By”. In it, I describe the consummate need for mariners to feel the sensation of water passing the hull of a boat. That feeling is an addiction and presently, being boatless, there are days when an old log would have to do if nothing else were at hand. Fortunately I had the good sense to buy a wonderful Achilles inflatable boat before the money ran out. The size of what has usually been a dinghy to my mother vessels, it is nevertheless a boat which gets me away from shore. Equipped with a new outboard motor my tiny vessel is reliable and safe although it can certainly be rough and wet. A man of my scantlings must make an incongruous sight bobbing along miles from shore, but what is, is. Two blogs ago I described touring around this part of the coast in my little basher and this blog is about a recent day when I went off with my cameras in that little boat.

Bound up with cabin fever I launched the inflatable for a long day away. As an afterthought I threw in a small air mattress, one blanket and a tarp…just in case. With extra gas, water and a small bag of provisions I charged out on calm waters beneath a cloudless sky not knowing where I was heading. The best days start out exactly like that. Wind is always of concern in a tiny boat. In the Gulf Islands, with all its bays, and cliffs, forests and flowing water, local winds can spring up quickly. Despite prevailing winds local breezes are capricious and one must be prepared. Conditions within a short distance can change dramatically. Bouncing about impedes progress and soon has the boat and its contents soaking wet. It is safe enough, just miserable. I always try to position myself as quickly as possible so that access to the route home is downwind. Although longer and slower, it is usually much easier and drier.

Under the beautiful cliffs of Southern Valdez, I drifted with the tide and watched as Turkey Vultures rode the thermals. Ugly up close, they are beautiful in flight. Nothing can match their soaring skills.

After leaving Ladysmith Harbour, once safe under the sheltering cliffs of Valdez Island a passage of about sixteen kilometres, or ten miles, an outer island in the Strait Of Georgia, the wind can come from the north or south quadrants and actually help a small vessel on its way. Vancouver Island, the size of a small country, lies off the west coast of mainland Canada aligned in a northwest- southeast direction. On the inside lower shoreline it is flanked by an archipelago known as the Gulf Islands. The geography here is mostly of sandstone and was clearly shaped by glaciation. Along its Dali-like sculpted sandstone shores one often finds round granite boulders which must have been deposited as the ice retreated.

A Dali rock, with a natural hole right through it. Obviously a handy tie-up ring.

The archipelago was an ancient haven for indigenous people, with an abundance of edibles, especially sea food; there were a maze of sheltered nooks and bays, and a moderate climate. Hold no illusions about an idyllic lifestyle, it would have been a hard life and the numerous native nations warred brutally among themselves. Compared however to the harsh conditions in the traditional homelands of most other first nations people, with long bitterly cold winters, life in the Gulf Islands was easy enough for there to be time for a very rich culture, full of wonderful art and creativity. Sadly for them, the invasion of Europeans spelled a rapid end to that venerable culture, which only now, is regaining the respect it deserved. Hopefully we will find a balance of living together as equal human beings, each with our own piece of cultural diversity, distinct, and yet part of a brightly-coloured mosaic like a patchwork quilt. Comfortingly, local place names were often bestowed by Spanish and British explorers and many places have been returned to the original indigenous derivatives. Kuper Island, for example, is now Penalakut Island. The Strait Of Georgia, is now politically correctly named The Salish Sea.

A petroglyph in the Gulf Islands. It is covered by the sea at high tide.

The Gulf Islands are a mecca for folks from all over the world. They attract yachters, eco-tourists and those with enough money to acquire a piece of land and build an often garish neo-monstrosity that is clearly not an effort to assimilate the tone of this beautiful place, but rather seems to scream “Look at me.” The world these folks wanted to escape has been merely been transplanted here, they are tentacles of yet another invasive species. I love to repeat that I remember a time when poor people lived by the sea and ate fish. More’s the pity, those days are gone forever.

In the near-four decades that I have lived in this area, it has become a much different place and not in a good way. Over a half a century ago (Yes, it was that long ago) hippies and draft dodgers invaded the Gulf Islands. The islands were then remote, sparsely populated, land was cheap, It was nirvana for a generation of free-loaders who wanted a perfect climate for growing their organic “crops” and living close to the earth, often in communes. The mantra was “Peace man, share the wealth.” Then, as inheritances came along, land values soared yesterday’s hippies became yuppies and “Private, My Land!” signs were spiked, in places, to every shoreline tree. It has been said that capitalists are merely socialists who have found an opportunity. Mine!

The way we were. This was a common way for folks to live along the coast in days gone by. No lawns! “Johnny go through the garbage out and check the crab trap.”
A summer home on Porlier Pass. Sitting on the Valdez shore looking south the view encompasses the Strait Of Georgia, Mount Baker and a long look for miles down the southern Gulf Islands. The tide flowing back and forth twice a day is full of marine life including birds, seals, whales, sea lions, crabs, prawns, and fish, fish, fish. There is always something going on.
The keeper’s house. When I first set foot ashore here years ago an elderly couple lived here and maintained the lights and the station. It was immaculate, all was trim and freshly painted, the garden was fantastic, the fruit trees were pruned and productive. Automation replaced live people and one of the loveliest home sites on the South Coast slowly decays. It is tragic. I decided to sleep out on the old jetty.
A safe place to leave the inflatable for the night. A challenge with operating inflatables is to be constantly vigilant for the possibility of punctures. The large rock was flat and fairly free of barnacles. The tide would come back in the late morning tomorrow. Right?
Yeah right! Of course, the tide came back but first thing in the morning it looked doubtful. High tide came three hours later than the previous day instead of my anticipated forty minutes. Nature does not understand tide books.
Camp Runamuck. I used to sleep rough all the time… fifty years ago. The romance of it has faded a bit. It got bloody damp and cold by midnight and it was too dry to build a fire, especially on a wooden deck! But…what a view! The music of the rushing tide came in surround sound.
Time and sea water. These steel shackles and anchor eye are fused into a solid lump of oxidized metal.
Time knows no bounds. This freight shed, still salvageable, and even habitable is yielding to advancing natural processes. It’s decay will accelerate if not checked. What a tragedy that this whole station is not put to good use, or sold by the Canadian Coast Guard to someone who knows what to do with it. Government is a synonym for waste.
The vines come creeping in and signal a death knell for a structure.
…And strangle trees as well. Welcome to the weird forest, where people may enter and never be seen again.
I suspect someone tried to break into the boarded-up house through the basement. Alack and alas, they discovered the cistern, head-first perhaps. Fresh water is a precious commodity on the Gulf Islands and collecting it in the rainy season is very important. Note the gauge of the footings, a foot thick and indicative of how all government buildings were put together. Once again, what a tragedy, and travesty, to let it simply waste away.
They don’t make them like this anymore. The old Porlier Pass Light, still in use as a range light but now automated and powered by those ugly  solar panels. Bittersweet indeed. I’d love a chance to turn this lovely building into a tiny home. Imagine sitting up in that light reading, writing, just looking. Oh, and a wee taste of single malt.
One giant step. I can never be bored on the sandstone beaches of these islands.
How can you put a price on a view like this? How can you want it all for yourself?
There’s always one! As dusk settles and the tide turned back to flood, a small sloop struggles against the rising current and then on to find an anchorage in the dark. I’ve done it myself, too many times.
Last gasp of day. High above, a night flight to somewhere in Asia heads off on a great circle route over the North Pacific, perhaps to greet the dawn before it lands.
And then night fell. The tidal waters mumbled and chattered incessantly.
With the new day, the tide turned once again to flood. Far across the Strait Of Georgia, looking into the light, is Howe Sound. Gibsons on the left, Bowen Island to the right.
The other side. A telephoto view of Burnaby far across the Strait and past Vancouver International Airport. The sight seems surreal looking from a different world within the rugged natural beauty of the Gulf Islands.

Well, life goes on. Like the dinosaurs who could not assimilate change rapidly enough and faded into history, old farts like me will pass and “Progress” will continue. Frankly one of the foulest words I have come to know is “Development”, synonymous to me with greed and devastation. When the time comes, scatter my ashes on the local green waters where I can wash and circulate among these beloved islands. Look at these islands and try to imagine how they used to be not so long ago. The images in this blog are from within a twenty-four hour period two days ago. There will also be a video.

A whole world. This tiny tidal pool is an entire eco-system. If watched long enough, one can see all sorts of little creatures going about their lives.

Land was created to provide a place for boats to visit.” Brooks Atkinson

Out And About

Out And About

Home Waters. Ladysmith Harbour and home is in the far distance.

There are many fates worse than death. Nearly all of us have known some and I am living one at the moment but, being of an older breed, I know this too shall pass. My fortunes will change, I’ll pay my bills and get on with life. The image I dread most is of a geezer breathing out his last days, sitting staring at some bleak neighbour’s wall, wearing those ubiquitous red plaid slippers, perhaps a bridle of oxygen tubes on his face, an electric scooter parked at the front door, and walker on hand to shuffle out to it. Perhaps for a little more flavour we’ll add a thin string of drool on his white-stubbled face. The nurse will come by tomorrow to help him bath and shave and then he will take the scooter the six blocks to downtown to sit and watch the traffic; just for a change, his weekly highlight. Much of his time is spent contemplating all the things he didn’t do. There is a cliché about life being an ordeal or an adventure and some days we all need to give ourselves a severe talking-to. Enough said.

The rig. The trailer is a bit of a shape-shifter and eventually it will have a removable box to carry deflated dinghy, motor, generator, tools, extra gas and water and maybe a small motorcycle.
Do South!

A neighbour is having some beautiful tall fir trees removed. They’ve been there at least a hundred years and after last winter’s incredible winds I’m sure they are quite safe, but down they come in eight foot lengths to make very expensive firewood. The daily whine of power saws and the growl of the limb-chipping machine are a bit irritating but perhaps I am just becoming a grumpy old man. I thought of that as I watched for a few minutes and recalled a time when I worked as a logger wielding hot screaming power saws in the heat and bugs of summer. At that time of year, we’d go up the mountain at two am and be headed back to town by noon, the afternoons were too tinder-dry dangerous to be in the woods. If things became too dry we’d be banned from going to work at all. Days were then spent in the local pub, swilling draft beer and waiting for a call to go fight a forest fire. That was hell and a horror story very hard to relate believably. You had to have been there.

The high life.
“Mommy is that a tree hugger?” The trunk is lopped off in short sections from the top down. This solves the problem of trying to not fall the whole tree on someone’s home. Nothing like not seeing what you’ve done at the end of the day.

I doubt I could endure a half-hour of those he-man activities now. In fact, some of my health issues relate to those testosterone-charged days. I was never a high-rigger like the fellow in the photo, but when I hear the snarl of logging activity and catch the tang of fresh-cut wood there is a latent part of my brain that still wants to go kill a tree. Like smoking cigarettes, another part of my life decades ago, there is still a twinge of longing in the back of my hard drive to look at forests in terms of lumber instead of the amazing eco-system which I now embrace and love for its beauty and co-ordinated complexity. Oh indeed, how youth is wasted on the young!

A stand of Arbutus. I love these trees. This natural grove of these beautiful evergreen hardwoods is rare. Arbutus usually grow on their own. The species is unique to this immediate area. The grey trunk on the right is a Garry Oak.
Jack and I pass this lump in the path nearly every day on our walk along the beach. It’s a root but I wonder how many folks have made that painful discovery after trying to kick away something a dog might have left.

A book I ordered a while ago arrived in the mail today. It is a collection of poetry by Ofelia Zepeda, a brilliant Tohono O’odham indigenous woman of Southern Arizona. She is a highly respected literary icon and as I absorb a bit of that ancient desert culture I want to study as many aspects as I can. The damnedest thing about this book is that while it was published in Tucson Arizona, the copy I received was posted from Gloucester England. Go figure! When I worked up-coast in Shearwater, part of the native community of Bella Bella, I ordered a book I learned about from the local Heiltsuk cultural centre. It was about their unique and beautiful art. I found a used copy in a second-hand book shop in Ohio which shipped it back to Bella Bella. Totem poles and indigenous cultural artifacts are being returned to native communities from all over the world. They were taken long ago and now it’s payback time; rightly so. I guess I’m just part of a trend.

Campers in the branches. A plague of Western Tent Caterpillars arrives every summer. Once each decade they strip the leaves from nearly every tree. They’re ugly, but part of nature’s scheme.
The wheel barrow and the rabbit. I couldn’t resist this one.

Meanwhile back on South Vancouver Island summer here has been glorious, even as it winds down toward the inevitable end. It sure went fast. I have been scooting about local waters in my inflatable boat exploring haunts I have passed for several decades while voyaging off to far away places. I am used to having a boat this size to serve as a dinghy to the mother vessel so I’m finding this a bit humbling. However I have spent a lot of time in tiny vessels, dinghies, dories, kayaks and canoes. I’ve made some long voyages including a rowing trip through the Gulf Islands and once I took a small ten foot Zodiac from Nanaimo across the Strait Of Georgia to the top of Howe sound on the mainland. It was a distance of almost thirty nautical miles and a good part of the trip was in wide open water. I’ll always remember the look on a yachter’s face as I passed close behind his sloop’s transom and an easy ten miles from the nearest shore. I had a hard time walking for the next two days after that ride. It may sound foolhardy to many, but I am at home on the water like nowhere else and I do know my limits. I’ve made to this age by being prudent.

In days gone by it was not uncommon for people to row fantastic distances here. Loggers would come out of the camps up the inlets and across the Strait of Georgia, and sometimes Juan De Fuca, just for a break. Our coastal natives paddled dugout canoes as far south as Puget sound from Haida Gwaii on raiding expeditions and often went out on the open ocean to hunt whales and kill them in close contact with simple harpoons. I have met folks who have kayaked from Seattle to Alaska and back again. If I am a fool, I am in good company.


Unidentified Floating Object
This is probably an egg-yolk jellyfish. About two feet across, it dove as I took the photo. These creatures are always amazing to me.

Well, I’ll finish this rambling blog with a recommendation. I’ve just returned from a sneak off to the movies. There’s been nothing worth seeing nearly all summer and so I needed a big screen fix. I won’t review this film except to say that even if you are not a movie-goer, check out “Peanut Butter Falcon.” It is the first time I have laughed from my soul in a very long time. Self-described as perhaps the best movie of the decade, I’m inclined to agree about this uplifting effort.   Thanks; I needed that!

“So, that’ll be three triple cheeseburgers, upsize the fries with double gravy.”
I couldn’t resist this one either. The caption came to mind as I snapped the picture while waiting at the local recycling center.

On a final note, here’s the YouTube link to my latest video effort. Hope you like it.

Now then, Pooh,” said Christopher Robin, “where’s your boat?”
“I ought to say,” explained Pooh as they walked down to the shore of the island, “that it isn’t just an ordinary sort of boat. Sometimes it’s a Boat, and sometimes it’s more of an Accident. It all depends.”
“Depends on what?”
“On whether I’m on the top of it or underneath it.” 
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Crow Song

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A right proper bloomer!

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Suzy Kassem


Warm Rain

Warm Rain

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

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

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

A Walk With Jack

Now just breathe. Sunday morning in a Crofton backwater.
“Slow down! Let’s just stop and smell the roses.”

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.

Full blooms. It’s June.
“Dorothy, it ain’t Kansas, and I don’t care.”
Let’s zoom in.
Nettles and Buttercups. Weeds are just plants for which someone else has no use.
The wild roses are at their peak.
Is the bush a rose hip’s way of reproducing?
You walk like a heron.
In the moment

I saw this on a bumper sticker. “Don’t believe everything you think.”

Night Sounds

Night Sounds

A neo-traditional totem pole.
It stands in front of the band office of the Tseshaht people in Port Alberni.  After tremendous oppression for decades from both outside and inside their community, First Nations people are regaining their dignity, their voice and a modicum of control over traditional lands. Hopefully we will soon all see ourselves as equals while retaining our individual cultural identity.

A barred owl begins its night time serenade of hoo-hoo-who-hoo. Darkness settles over the calm water as frogs croak into the darkness and from somewhere out on the lake a loon utters its plaintiff cry. Here in the campsite there is the crackle of a freshly-lit fire and the steady gnawing crunch of Jack dogging on a bone. We are in a campsite on the west end of Horne Lake on Vancouver Island. The view over the darkened lake is framed by the black silhouette of newly-leafed branches and a few subtle lights twinkle over the glassy water from cottages on the distant shore. It is tranquil and lovely, lonely, complete. Jack has now gone to bed. I will join him shortly. This setting is perfection, yet it is not the ocean.

By my Horne Lake campsite, a neighbour who is travelling by motorcycle, settles in for a night.
The Morning After

Twenty four hours have passed. We did not do much. It was a grand day. The same scene as last night lays beyond the extravagant fire I have set. Haunting Yiddish violin music from a treasured old Cd I have found sifts out of my stereo at a low volume. I let it repeat around and around; it blends perfectly with the night sounds. The pulsing glitter of a jet’s trajectory crosses from behind the lofty rock cliffs above the lake and is paralleled by its reflection on the water. The owl repeats his booming hooting again, slowly coming closer to our campsite. Jack snores gently in his bed at my feet. Soon we will both retire to the comfy bunk inside the trailer. There is an extra bed. I wish you could be here.

The camp on Horne Lake.
It’s wonderful but… I miss the boat.
Here’s the dinghy for the next boat. Achilles are my favourite inflatable and Tohatsu outboards need no sales pitch. This old marine mechanic thinks they are the best.
Horne Lake sea trial. It all went well…but it’s not the ocean. My brand-new Tohatsu purrs beautifully. The wheels, by the way, are for hauling the boat up out of the water.

Another twenty-four hours finds Jack and I in another Provincial Campground on the other side of the mountain. Now we are on Sproat Lake a few kilometres west of Port Alberni. As the crow flies, we are only about 15 kilometres from where we set out this morning. The drive from one valley to another took well over an hour. There is a climb and descent up and over a steep grade which is a good test for truck and trailer after recent adjustments. The Alberni Valley is famous for fierce summer heat and here, before mid-May, the mercury climbed well above thirty degrees Celsius. The forest fire hazard rating rose from moderate to high today and will rapidly become extreme if the weather persists. I’m enjoying the campfire tonight as the evening cools. There may soon be a ban on any fires for the rest of the summer.

Sproat Lake Petroglyphs. There are nine carvings on this rock face on the lake’s edge. It is also a parry site for the local young folk. Hopefully this photo gives a glimpse of the way it has looked for a long time.
The crack tells how long the carvings have been there.
Now THAT’S a steak. One of the joys of a low-carb diet.
Jack loved the bone.

The lake was liberally dotted with white and pink bodies of squealing exuberant youth frolicking in the water. After Jack’s refreshing swim we plodded back to our campsite along the dusty trail where we met motley groups of young folk in various states of intoxication. The aroma of marijuana smoke wafted through the forest. Worldly as I think I am, it was still a rattler to meet gorgeous scantily clad young ladies who met Jack ever so gushingly yet chattered sweetly all the while in the rawest, four-lettered sailor-speak I’ve ever used. It seemed incongruous for a moment, and then, I just felt old.

Some folks have garden gnomes or plastic flamingos on their lawns. Then there are those with some of the world’s biggest aircraft. That is a Martin Mars. Coulson Air Crane converted a pair to serve as water bombers. They are now world famous and have proven their worth many times over. Not as big as the ‘Spruce Goose’ they were intended for the same purpose: To provide rapid mass transport for troops to the South Pacific. The end of WWII rendered them redundant.
The back yard is impressive too. These are the Hawaii Mars and the Philippine Mars, which is in its original colours of the United States Navy Air Transport Command. These were the world’s largest flying boats ever manufactured. There were seven built.

A day later, a day older. I have yet to master the art of doing nothing without feeling guilt. Jack (A master at living without guilt) and I walked our walks, I visited with a dear friend whom I learned was in Port Alberni. The day passed, now it is dark again. The sound of neighbour campers visiting around their fires mingles with the happy din of children playing. A huge shining (Yes, gold in colour) motor home appeared at dusk and now runs its generator despite the rules. Such is life when you accept the challenge of co-mingling with strangers. Come morning the grand escape vehicle fired up its diesel engine to idle for a half-hour of exhaust stench before hoisting the automatic levelling jacks and buggering off somewhere else after a hard night of roughing it.

Traditional First Nations carving.
Note the pendant on her belly. Or, is it a fetus?
Pedestal detail. I find this work stunning.

Other folks were making coffee over a wood fire after a night in a tent behind their car; a very good aroma.Some folks still possess a primal urge to be close to the earth. Organized campgrounds may be as primitive an experience as they will ever have but at least they are off the couch and away from the goon box. I am not a fan of these places but this weekend they served my purpose. It’s better to have some of these folks organized and protected than to have their edge-of-the wilderness forays and random fires occurring hodge-podge. The problem on Vancouver Island is that it is hard to find untainted wilderness. There is evidence of man’s exploitation everywhere and of course the roads we use to get to the back of beyond were all built by logging companies.

I found this life-sized diorama incredible. Badly in need of a good cleaning it depicts a native whaling crew at the moment a whale is harpooned. To go out on the cold ocean in a hand-made, hand-propelled cedar canoe to harpoon a whale with primitive weapons was a courage that no-one possess today. Even the water in this work is entirely hand-carved wood. “Oh shit, I forgot my life jacket …and my pants!”
DANG! The motor in my truck is a 5.3 litre V-8. This 425 hp “Kicker” is 5.6 litres! As an old salt I cannot imagine why anyone needs something like this. We won’t try to guess the price!
Jack watches a native fishery on the Somass River in Port Alberni.
A native spring fishery. This gill net is set across the Somass River on a flood tide.

Now that I’ve joined the ranks of the Rv world I find it interesting that despite the massive effort to charm folks into coming to indulge in “Super Natural BC” there is a paucity of camp grounds and facilities like sani-stations and places to fill tanks with potable water. One is now charged everywhere for a dribble of air or water and who wants to try manoeuvring a clumsy large vehicle near the awkward places where those hoses and their coin boxes are located. It is intriguing that we know face shortages of water in a place abounding with snow-capped mountains, streams and lakes. Of note is a recent news item I heard which claims that despite our long snowy winter, Coastal BC snow sheds hold a sixty percent less than normal amount of water. If it doesn’t rain all summer, which is entirely possible, it may be a paint your lawn season once again. Now back in Ladysmith, the skies have gradually become overcast and this morning shows evidence of overnight showers. Soon, it begins to rain steadily. Of course, I’ve yet to see a Victoria Day weekend when the weather was not foul, cold and wet. That having been said I recall once being advised that “Only fools and newcomers predict the weather.”

As I raised my camera a beautiful grass snake vanished into the nettles and periwinkles and one dandelion.
Jack sees a rabbit. it was not concerned.
Wild and free. These are blooming at the concrete base of a crane once used to unload logs.
Perhaps one of the last dogwood flowers I’ll see this year.
Welcoming the waxing moon of May.

Bad weather always looks worse through a window.” …Tom Lehrer

Driveabout

Jack is sleeping in the truck two decks below. I am no longer permitted to stay down there during the crossing. so here I sit by a portside window in the cafeteria on the BC Ferry ‘Queen of Alberni’ watching the world slide by at about seventeen knots. We’re running downwind so it’s hard to tell our actual speed which is probably faster over the bottom than it looks. It is a perfect sailing day. The seas are low, it is not cold (but not warm) and the sky is mostly clear with no rain squalls in sight. And damn their teeth, there are sailing boats out actually sailing. Yep, once a sailor, always one.

Midpoint. When you come abeam the ferry on the opposite leg you know you are about half-way in the crossing. The mountain above Howe Sound on mainland Canada are in the background. Oddly, a week later later I am sitting beneath them as I post this blog.

When I worked on the tugs this vessel was known to us as the ‘Overlander’ because it had ran aground a couple of times in quick succession. I suppose if one worked out the miles and hours it has spent traversing the Strait Of Georgia back and forth this old tub has an excellent safety record. “If you ain’t been aground, you ain’t been around,” a friend has told me and I’m not about to recount the times when I’ve gone bump. There have been a few. I’ve always been able to get myself free in short order and there’s never been any dramatic damage but…the gig’s not over yet.

Looking back to Vancouver Island after the two hour crossing to Tsawassen on the mainland.
At the edge of a swamp on the banks Of The Fraser River evidence of last winter’s feasting. A beaver’s teeth are a force to be reckoned with. The original think green technology.

It really is hard not to be pessimistic. I’m sure that thousands of years ago old geezers commiserated and proclaimed that “This can’t go on much longer.” I was raised by two zealous fundamentalist evangelical parents who could achieve a state of near ecstasy listening to yet another shouting leaping trickster behind his pulpit describe the “Second Coming” and the impending horrors of Armageddon. Well, the doomsters are still at it and somehow, we’re still here. So long as we keep asking questions and challenging those who try to manipulate us, there is hope. The moment is all any of us have and at this point in my little stumble through life I’m trying to savour all the small joys and forget the imperfections. I was once told that if I’m being run out of town, get to the front of the crowd and make it look like a parade. Anybody got a tuba? Speaking of tricksters, check out the TED talk given by a very brave reporter. Here’s the link https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/apr/21/carole-cadwalladr-ted-tech-google-facebook-zuckerberg-silicon-valley. This lady, Carole Cadwalladr, is Queen of the Questioners in my opinion. She sums up what I go on and on about, asking questions and hopefully inspiring others to do as well. She has blown the lid off some very grave business. Send me a comment, let me know what you think.

When a plan works out. The 4×4 truck towed my little trailer into a perfect spot beside the Thompson River. A very different world from the coast only a few hours behind.

Its sound and that of the trains are drowned in the steady roar of the river. Living on Vancouver Island where our single railway has been rendered redundant, working trains have become a rarity to me. These trains are amazingly long, over a mile I’d say, with locomotives in the middle and at both ends. They seem quieter than I recall but all are amazingly filthy and in dire need of fresh paint. The rails are now welded instead of being bolted together so the old clickety-clack is another sound of the past. In the last half-hour a chill Easterly wind has sprung up and I won’t be sitting outside pecking away at this computer for long. Jack is off sniffing about for Easter eggs in a tight radius of our little campsite. He discovered prickly pear cacti last night and is not keen to adventure far on his own.

I stopped at a small graveyard I had never visited before. This polished granite marker is well over a hundred years old and still gleams brilliantly.
Sober as it may be, this headstone is also a thing of beauty.  Twelve hours later I’d briefly visited old friends in Turtle Valley where I’d once live and worked on a small ranch. We drove on and found a spot on the side of the road to park before darkness fell. Jack was sick through the night, so we slept in. Just as well, it was a miserable drizzly morning. We completed our morning routine and hit the muddy, pot-holed road. Two hundred metres around the corner from the bleak little clearing where we had spent the night we discovered a lovely public campground next to a rushing stream. Life is like that. Either one goes too far or not quite far enough. Down into the Okanogan Valley we went. I once lived there. There is little I recognize now. All has become malls, car dealers and RV sales lots. Huge condominiums loom on the ridges, subdivisions sprawl everywhere. There is little visible agricultural land. Once this valley was a gentle, slow-paced rolling valley famous for its orchards. I saw one tiny segment of what I remembered, perhaps an acre at most. Mature apple trees surrounded an old farmhouse and I wondered if this tiny parcel of land should not become a museum. Folks have crammed themselves into this throbbing mess to escape an even more frantic existence elsewhere. And now we eat imported fruit. I chatted with a friend about this today. He summed it up nicely, “The whole damned valley has become a massive strip mall.”
The old square-hewn log house where I lived over 45 years ago. It was a hundred years old then. It still stands today. There was a time when I have shot my supper from out of that upper window.
Okanogan sunflowers. Something which hasn’t changed.
In the background meadow larks trilled, quail hooted their unique call, red winged blackbirds chittered, other song birds added their chorus.
The Sunny Okanogan.
A view south over Gallagher Canyon from the ascent out of the mess that is now the Okanogan Valley

To escape the madness I drove up into the Kettle Valley. It parallels the Okanogan and is perhaps now best known for a massive forest fire which swept along a massive area in the valley a few years ago; all, apparently, in the wake of one tossed cigarette butt. Miraculously, near Rock Creek, a small parcel of forest nestled in a bend of the Kettle River was spared. It is a Provincial campground, a green oasis in the middle of extensive devastation. I sit writing tonight beside my campfire in this piece of interior forest. It is very different from coastal rainforest and lovely in its own right. I’ll bank the fire and go join Jack who has already put himself to bed.

Bird Books. When I arrived at the campground I found this lovely little book exchange sitting on a post in the woods.
Kettle River Campsite.
Jack was in bliss.
Sometimes there is nothing finer than to sit with your feet near a gentle fire, stare into the flames and think about nothing. And then…
“Didja hear that?”
The whims of nature. The massive fire paused on the far side of the river. The parkland from where this photo was taken was spared. The Kettle River is in freshet at the moment and rolls along silently. It is eerie.
Catching up on my laundry and my blogging on a back porch in Rock Creek. Jack takes a break from trying to dig up voles.

The morning brings a cloudless sky and the sound of mating geese honking along the river. Jack is rested and anxious to go explore. So we shall. A few short kilometres further we find ourselves in beautiful downtown Rock Creek. It may have a population of two hundred. I sit writing on the back porch of a small enterprise which is a pleasant camp ground with wifi, handcrafts, second-hand goods, snacks and laundry facilities where I sit. A potential obligation has passed and I am free to enjoy myself. I drive across the high, spectacular country around Anarchist Mountain then descend to the route up through the Southern Okanogan which still bears a semblance of its former self. It has orchards! I still had a sense of it, then I arrived in Pentiction. Yep, back into the Okanogan strip mall. Along the highway, boarded-up fruit stands languish beside endless expanses of vineyards and wine tasting rooms. I had to drive half-way toward Kelowna to find an RV Park which was grudgingly accepting transient RV folks. Most parks I passed were filled with permanent residents living in mouldering motor homes and travel trailers. These grotty places charge ridiculous monthly fees but such is the economic situation for many folks. When you are too poor to have options, you just have to pay, and pay.

Okanogan Lake Calm.
BUT…it ain’t the ocean!
And when you leave a marina, where in the hell do you go!

At the end of my sixth day on the road I have visited with new friends whom I met through the passing of my friend Frank. (See the blog posted March 13th) It was a lovely and all-too brief visit but made my short stay here more than worthwhile. I was also able to tour the Naramata Area on the Eastern shore of South Okanogan Lake. I had never been there before and was amazed at what I found. Although grapes have taken over much of the old orchard land, there is a happy mix of crops and an amazing profusion of wineries. I’m not much of a wine taster, especially not when alone and I did manage to bypass all the enticing bistros, this time!

A glimpse of the Okanogan as I remember it. A vineyard in the foreground, fruit trees in blossom in the distance.
There are wineries everywhere. This one caught my fancy. Sounds of a bottling machine came from the big open door.
The other side. Tasting room and bistro. All very posh and appealing. It’s not the sort of place to visit alone.
The Naramata Inn 1908
Once built by a land speculator (Yes, even back then) then long-abandoned it has since been restored and is now a spa, inn and restaurant.
To name a few. Wineries/Vineyards in the last 5 km section of the Naramata drive.
BlackWidow Wines. The building has a stark appeal with its lack of pretension.
Ya can’t miss it! The grape-coloured house with the green roof on a knoll in the middle of the vineyard. Turn in there. Methinks here lives an old hippy.
Yet another relic from the flower power days. Ruby Blues Wine.
Far out man!
Where the plonck truck was plunked. Whoda thunk? Old farm trucks end up being vogue lawn ornaments.
I couldn’t resist. This was parked on a quiet street in quiet little Naramata. As I raised my camera I knew the caption had to be, “Drive Defensively.”

A week after I started this blog post I am freezing body parts at a campsite south of Whistler. This the latest trendy world skiing destination. In my jaded opinion it is all a bloody horrible mess. I am in a RV park which has a spectacular view and the highest price I’ve ever paid including a $10. fee for wifi. It has crashed this post twice and is still hopelessly slow at 6 am.  Enough! I’ll finish the rest of my travelogue as part two…elsewhere. 

A sad end. This rough pile of trees behind the white surveyor’s stake was once a venerable, productive orchard. Hopefully, at least, the trees will be cut up for firewood. Fruit wood is the best ever that you can get although burning wood for heat is now banned in many places. Ironically, it is not environmentally friendly.

All knowledge is not taught in one school.” …Hawaiian Proverb