Stairway To Spring

The stairway to spring. It has some ups and downs.
Snowdrops galore, a welcome sight
Then comes the crocus

Well there’s not much to say. Spring is flirting with us. Flowers and buds are appearing but the wind can be wild, wet and cold. When the skies clear, snow coats the glistening mountains nearly all the way to the bottom. Certainly, you can smell it in the wind. But there’s not much point in analyzing something we can’t change. This fellow for one, is so weary of all the fear-mongering and perverted information about Global Warming, that I don’t really want to add anything to the babble. It’s what we’ve got, enjoy it or not, that’s up to you.

Slowly grows the fungi. Nature’s way of recycling old wood back to the earth from which it came.
Booger! 100% natural. More winter fungus.
YES AGAIN! Another one sank here about two weeks ago. This time one went down and dragged its buddy boat down with it. The owners will be long gone by now. The price of freedom is responsibility and living off-grid demands avoiding attention. Sadly, this helps build the case against everyone living freely.
Same old view, ever-changing scene. Four deep-seas wait out of ballast ready to take on their cargos.

The evening weather person can’t seem to interpret their scattered bones and pebbles without mumbling some bloody thing about Global Warming or Climate Change. It is just too trendy to avoid. “Wow this is the coldest moment on record….since 1941.” Yes, it is occurring. No we are not helping matters and need to stop talking about it and simply do our best in our own personal patch but… we are not the prime cause of this natural phenomenon. Yes, warming and cooling is a natural occurrence and is part of climatic fluctuations which have been going on for millions of years, up and down, over and over… despite the hard evidence that the paranoia profiteers choose to ignore. We have to learn to adjust and change or we will disappear like the dinosaurs. They could not evolve quickly enough to assimilate a naturally changing environment. Whom will we blame should some asteroid or monster hemorrhoid (Well, I dare say there are plenty of grand assholes out there) slam into the planet and make drastic changes.

Or was it some yuppy SUV back then which brought that change on? And, by the way, why do you actually need a hybrid SUV (Stupid Urban Vanity) at all? Will it ever actually be off-pavement? Most folks still can’t get where they want when there is only an inch of snow. Then, if you do get moving, there is the trick of stopping… something they don’t show you in the TV ads. When I was a kid we all got where were going without SUVs or AWD. Radial tires for any season were unheard of. We filled the back seat with children. They provided the weight for traction and could get out and push if necessary. And of course, many folks knew how to install tire chains. And, often as not, we walked.

A greening beneath the mountain. It’s coming.

I harp on about how there is one life form on this planet which does not fit in anywhere. NIO (Non-indigenous Organism.) We can’t even get along with each other let alone in our adopted environment or with other species. We just don’t fit…although we could. When a parasite begins to overwhelm its host, nature has a way of applying checks. Once, the Bubonic Plague did a great job of culling our numbers. A century ago, The Spanish Flu once again reduced the infection that we had become. There have since been a few viruses which have not really done much to teach us anything or thin our overwhelming presence on this planet.

Now we face the nio-terror of the Coronavirus. In consideration of political correctness, it is being re-named COVID – 19 which will still offend folks, especially if it’s killing them. Frankly, if it is Corona which is the cause of all of this then perhaps we should try drinking another brand of beer. It is NOT a laughing matter. But what is it that we refuse to get? If people are determined to live like a spreading disease then guess what!? For the moment, all trans-continental travel should stop until the pandemic is completely ended. So long as folks can travel anywhere on the planet within a single day, the problem will spread. But, we don’t want to mess with anyone’s commerce. There is no expert intervention which will prevent that. Over-simplification? Nasty cough you’ve got there! Just a bit of snyphlis? OK. When two Boeing Max 8 737s killed far less folks than this virus has already, every one of them was pulled out of service. What happened to that logic?

One final consideration. If the Chinese can build and open a 1000-bed hospital in ten days, what genius maintains housing shortages here or anywhere else? 

A mossy peek. Spring is soon to burst out.

We have to consider our lifestyles, population densities, diets, food sources and how all of that is unimportant to someone else’s profits. Last night I tried to cook two salmon fillets which came frozen in a bag marked as wild-caught pink salmon. Only after I opened the bag did I notice the inscription “Product of China.” WOT? That country has never been know as a salmon-producing nation and I can raise several obvious questions. The pieces of mushy, stale-fish-smelling protein came out of the bag appearing to have seen service perhaps as mud flaps on a rickshaw, possibly as far inland as Wuhan. I don’t really want to speculate on where this slop came from but I have seen much better product from fish farms. I am NOT making any Asian slurs here, but damnit! I live in British Columbia, one of the world’s great commercial fishing centres. WAZZUP? Why is finding affordable fresh fish here such a challenge? Is it the paranoia of profits or the profit of paranoia…or both? Why do we live like chicken farmers who go to town to buy eggs?

And here I was determined to provide no more than one paragraph of text and a few spring photos. But some things need to said.

A little daylight in the swamp.

“I marvel how the fishes live in the sea. Why, as men do a-land; the great ones eat up the little ones.”
William Shakespeare

Shucks

In summer, Jack can barely find enough water to swim here. This is the Chemainus River a few hours after it had subsided enough to re-open the highway.

After two days of “Biblical” (That’s the weatherman’s description) rainfall, yesterday broke out sunny with semi-clear skies and a drying northern wind. A lot of folks were out and about to enjoy the respite, their dogs seemed to be especially happy. Jack was away visiting and I was free to stop as often as I wanted to take photos. I pulled over by the Chemainus River bridge to record an image of the river after it had subsided enough to allow the re-opening of the highway. Clunk! The little plastic adjusting device on my camera strap had allowed the whole thing to slip through. The camera landed on the face of the lense. “Shucks! Golly! Oh Goldangit!” Yup that’s what I said. Uhuh! The thousand dollar camera is OK, the lens is screwed, gronched, toast. It is not a hopelessly expensive lens although it is the one which is my standard work horse; but, there’s no use in crying over dropped lenses.

Hmmm? Lefty loosey, righty tighty. But …I’m giving this up as spare parts. As a kid I used to do this. Mechanical things don’t need to be big to be impressive. That teeny screwdriver is also another marvel which has allowed me to repair many things.

I took it apart today to see what I could. My career as a camera mechanic concluded briefly. I amassed a mysterious pile of tiny screws and clips which I doubted my banana fingers could ever re-install. However it was the little curly plastic whiskers and chunks which spelled truly “broken” beyond hope. There’s only so much I can do with crazy glue. I settled to see inside a sample of modern mass-production wizardry. The engineering is amazing, the assembly is impossibly delicate and accurate. That the whole little zoom lens can be sold affordably to work reliably for capturing crisp, clear images is stunning. And this is just a simple camera lens. I remember a jocular mission statement I coined for a friend’s repair business. “If it ain’t broke, we can fix that too.” I ought to know. You can’t take photos with a hammer and you can’t pound gravel with a camera. Well, maybe once.

I’ve complained to these guys about soaking their produce! Sadly, they’ve suffered expensive damage. The flood level was much higher a few hours earlier. Several homes had to be evacuated.
This road is open again. Many have been closed due to flooding.
I am always amazed at how water runs out of the top of hills. There’s a house up there somewhere. I hope that’s not water from the basement.
Water ran everywhere. Dry feet were a luxury.
Too wet to plow

This afternoon the skies are again overcast and lowering as another “Atmospheric River” approaches. That’s more weatherperson jargon. In times past, these warm winter North Pacific systems were called “Pineapple Expresses” but I suppose that is just not sophisticated enough. So here we go again, back into our comfort zone. It’s what we’re used to.

The confluence. A favourite wading spot for Jack…but not today. The water had been over the path a while earlier.
Business as usual for the river otters.

Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.”

– Les Brown

Doggone it! Arf Arf Awooooh!

Into the mystic. Ho-hum perhaps to the land lubber but a thrill to this old salt. Blue sky, sun-dappled waves, what bliss after all the rain and low cloud. You know where I ached to be. Mom and the kids log some quality time.

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 remember when poor folk lived by the sea.
The Wind Troll. Wind boarders took advantage of strong winds and calm water along the shore near Victoria.  One guy was 20′ in the air for flights of over a 100′. He’s the spec in the welter of foam at five o’clock beneath the parasail. Not for old farts. Sigh! All that open horizon. Sigh!
Not bad for January.

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.

Jack and Shaman. An old photo that can get me misty-eyed. Shaman is long dead now. Like Jack, he was a fantastic dog rescued from a sad beginning. I can’t imagine life without dogs.
The first crocus.
Does anyone know what these are called? Avens is the name I’ve come up with and I am in doubt. They’re delicate yet very hardy and they herald the distant but coming spring.

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.

The anchorage between Discovery and Chatham Islands. Jack was much younger then. We were there before the wolf arrived. That’s our boat ‘Pax’ in the anchorage.
Discovery Island beneath a full moon and the old boathouse all aglow. It is hard to believe a city is only a mile away.

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICiuHibGgr8

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.

The Block Busterds are back. I don’t know what this scrap lumber was but I could see a funky cartoon bird. I added the eye.
A foggy dawn. Getting up in the morning can be sooo hard. Not a bad grab shot for a mobile phone.

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 invading force. The movie folks came along and overran the town. This is their mobile accommodations set up at the local boat ramp. They’ve moved on.
I could cry I’m so happy to see you.

The tiger and the lion may be more powerful but the wolf does not perform in the circus.” Anonymous

A Sniff Of Spring

Bleak Bay. Under a noon gloom of low cloud and cold drizzle, everyone is hunkered down. Rightly so.

It sure is pretty crazy in our part of the world right now. Our town was in the thick of it earlier in the week and is on alert again today but the closest active fire is 10k away. Very thick smoke. 

There’s a wind change due in a few hours that will be good for us (not for others unfortunately). The size of the burnt and burning area in SE Australia is phenomenal!”

This is a quote from an e-mail I exchanged with some friends in Australia. I can’t imagine how it must be wondering how a wind shift will affect your fate. These friends live in Lakes Entrance, not far along the coast from Mallacoota where people had to be evacuated by boat to escape becoming crispy critters, just like millions of their wild creatures have. There was a time when fighting bush fires was, for me, part of being a logger and it does not take much to remember the feel of choking smoke in my throat, the grit everywhere, the incredible searing heat, the ominous apprehension, but I cannot imagine the apocalypse so many folks in areas of Australia are facing. The death toll is rising but I am actually amazed so few have lost their lives. I hold a healthy mistrust of all things media but I know the images we are receiving cannot begin to portray the horror of it all. The friend who wrote the above is a cool character at any time but he writes of fires being a whole ten kilometres away with that old Aussy tone of “No worries mate.” I remain worried. Bugga!

For those “doomers” who seize on this dark drama as proof of global warming, I am not convinced with your conjecture. There is certainly a human-caused factor in this but it is a drama which nature has repeated thousands of times in the planet’s history. It is in fact nature’s way of refreshing itself and the flora and fauna will return vigorously. It is hard for us, in the face of such a conflagration, to grasp our smallness within the natural order of the universe. Life will go on.

Winter colour. A slime mould appears in the cold and wet.
Yes!
Australian Falls. If only we could send our winter surplus down under.
We’ve got plenty to spare.
One drop at a time.

Well, here on Vancouver Island things are very different. We are not worried about wildfires at the moment. All any of us have anywhere is the moment and today, here at home, there is a tiny sniff of spring in the air. This hour is sunny, almost warm, buds are swelling, some blooms are peeking out. We know it won’t stay, the pounding bouncing rain will soon be back, it may even dump several feet of snow on us in one night as it has before, so we’ll seize the moment and enjoy it while it lasts. The nice thing here is that if you truly have an urge for the white crud you can go up any mountain right now and fill your boots. In the afternoon irregular bursts of thick rain fell on us like truckloads of splintered glass. Despite my heavy winter raincoat I sported my big black umbrella, like a real old salt; “Popkins the Sailorman.” The problem with that coat is that it funnels rain down onto my knees and I don’t really care about being tough anymore. Jack plunked happily through the puddles, savouring the moment as usual.

A week ago I enjoyed a splendid dinner with family whom I have been long overdue in visiting. Seeing myself as the ancestral storyteller I recounted some history of my mother’s second husband. He was a very quite man whom we all knew was a WWII veteran and did not talk much about his wartime experiences. After he died, I met his kid brother who gave me the rest of the story. His account was about young Jim’s experience in Dieppe as a member of the South Saskatchewan Regiment. He had personally killed German soldiers by hand then went on about the business of staying alive in battle conditions. I believed it was an embellished yarn and clung to what little I been personally able to coax out of the old vet.

Part of the brother’s story had Jim being named “Silver Stuart” and that there had been a Life Magazine article about him and his bloody feat using his personal battle cry of “Hi Ho Silver,” something he had acquired as a boy listening to the ‘Lone Ranger’ on the radio. I eventually found the entire Life Magazine archives online but could not find any cover stories about what I sought. After my tale at the dinner table my nephew later managed to find, within ten minutes, (and much to my considerable admiration) a story about the Saskatchewan Regiment in Dieppe. There was a paragraph about “Silver Stuart.” There has to be more to the story which was not written. The accolade of respect which Jim carried had been bestowed by his fellows before the war correspondent had written his article. What intrigues me is a photo that accompanies the article. I’ve spent hours carefully comparing photos of the Jim I knew to the photo of a young soldier looking into the camera on a Dieppe beach so long ago. There is a distinct resemblance between those photos considering the near-five decades between when they were taken!

The Life Magazine article. The photo on the lower left could well be of Jim. He would be about 20 years old. The raid lasted 10 hours. Of over 6000 men, half were killed or captured. Despite the spin-doctoring in this headline, the ‘Dieppe Raid’ is infamous as a disaster of military ineptitude.

Of course, there has to be more to the story. Jim had a box full of metals which he neither displayed or explained. He had seen service in North Africa and in the allied invasion of Italy. What I gleaned from my reluctant conversations with Jim when he was still alive was that it was not the carnage and hardships of years in the battlefield that had eventually driven a hardened warrior to chronic alcoholism. It was the realization that he was one of the “good guys,” many of whom proved to be as wholly capable of every human baseness as the evil enemy. He was buried by Canadian Veterans Affairs in their corner of a Kelowna cemetery, only a few places from the grave of W.A.C. Bennet, a revered Provincial Premier. It is timely to consider Jim’s awareness as we teeter on the very real possibility of yet another war in the Middle East.

Will we ever learn? Apparently not, despite all the wonderful words, we just don’t want to grasp some other way because, of course, just like them, God is on our side. I am steering further away from political comments, mainly because I don’t trust any media sources and am never sure of the true facts. Whom do I believe, whom may I quote with certitude? I’ll simply say this. The assassinated leader being mourned in Iran was second from the top yet everywhere his body has been taken, millions have turned out to mourn and revere him. There has never been, nor ever will be, such a massive display of national unity in our countries for any political figure.

We want to pick on these folks! They are far away around the planet from us, they do not threaten our borders despite what we’re told. While out with Jack yesterday we met a lady who told me what a wonderful thing it was that the US had taken out Soleimani; this man who had killed so many. I asked her if she had ever heard of him before last week. I also asked her how many innocents had been killed by US forces and weapons overseas in just the last decade. Questions, you’ve got to ask yourself questions.

A winter mystery. What draws earthworms up out of the sheltering ground to crawl onto the cold wet surface. Do the gods summon them up to sacrifice themselves to the hungry birds?
A stark canopy. In summer these alders and maples provide a high green cathedral of verdant shade. The vines flower, birds twitter from their nests. Not today!
Even been given the gears? This is a detail of a huge old anchor windlass laying above the foreshore. It is more of our nautical heritage in the bushes.
Life goes on. This arbutus blew down in last winter’s storms and was then cut up. What mystery makes even fallen trees sprout with the universal overwhelming drive for life?

Today, a week into the New Year, the cold rain hammers down as usual. The snow advances and retreats low on the mountain sides. Today, it’s too wet and gloomy outside for man or beast and too dark for good photos of the winter wet. One day, one hour, one minute at a time. But there are signs of spring and in the long dark of January’s dragging hours, we cling to hope of spring and rational judgements.

Flowers happen. January 7th. Hope.

You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war.
― Albert Einstein

DOFTTAB

DOFTTAB

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

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

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

Jack has a master’s degree in couch potatoing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah indeed, ‘tis the season!

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

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

Cold

The way home. Pretty indeed. The trick is to spot the pedestrians in dark clothes.
Easy up, easy down, Christmas can go back in a box with no muss or fuss and a minimum of electrical consumption.
Two years ago onboard ‘Seafire.’  You never see what you’ve got til it’s gone.
In an old file, a little nautical humour from Christmas past.
From that same file, a Heiltsuk pictograph. “Honest Charlie’s used canoes and coffins. Black Friday Sale!”
A neo-pictograph.

I have spent parts of my life living where -40º temperatures were normal at mid-day for weeks at a time. The coldest I’ve ever known was -72º one night on the Cote Nord of Quebec. We did not even try to fly in that weather, our helicopters stayed wrapped up on the ground. It seemed you could break things just by looking at them everything was so brittle.

As a hitch hiker I have sat on the roadside in Northern Ontario for two days and nights while a January blizzard raged with deep sub-zero temperatures, high wind and heavy snow. I cannot describe how long a winter night can be when keeping a fire going is your single reason to be and the urge to fall asleep is massive, and fatal. But I have never known a more penetrating cold such as I felt on the shore of the North Sea at Christmas time in Northeast England. I doubt the temperature was much below zero but it penetrated instantly to the bone despite a heavy layer of winter kit and lingered long after finding warmth again. I remember the fabulous blended aroma of Indian cooking in the stinging cold air of that Tyneside night and being forbidden to eat any because “I canna stand the reek of people who’ve eaten Indian! It just oozes out of their pores.” I love curry and Indian cuisine. It seemed that every restaurant that night offered some. Most of the chippies had become curry houses. It was an exquisite torture to inhale that blended aroma in the dank night air yet not have any. Then we travelled together northward into Scotland for two days in a very small car absorbing each other’s porridge, dark beer and herring farts. Much better! 

The Brits are known as masochists. I know, I am a direct descendant. “No pain, no gain.” At sea a heavy damp sweater often took the place of a heater. A horrid finicky gimbaled one-burner stove might help warm some tea water or soup. “Wot? Pleasure! Comfort? NO! We’re British!” And don’t ever build a sleeping bunk that is comfortable. Ever! In fact, until in its last few years in service, the Royal Yacht Britannia provided only hammocks for its crew. STRUTH!

I just watched a YouTube video where a fellow with a broad Cornish accent demonstrated how to make a heater with a tea candle and a flower pot. I’ve dubiously replicated his model. Sorry mate, that is NOT heat! And think of folks like the Vikings in their open boats, or Highland shepherds with the breeze around their kilted knees. Their families waited at home in a drafty fieldstone hut with a smouldering chunk of peat in a fireplace where most of that thin warmth immediately rose up the chimney past the dripping sod roof. There’s not romance in any of it if you have to live it. I feel like a pathetic wimp in comparison when I can turn up the gas fireplace with a click of the remote control.

Arbutus freckles. Even on a dull morning, these trees have a special glow.
Simple symmetry. Harlequin ducks in the morning.

Well, a mystery has been solved. A friend and fellow blogger enlightened me that my un-named vine is in fact a “Wild Clematis” otherwise known as “Old Mans Beard.” That harks me back (How’s that for old English?”) to some old lines which are so bad they’re rather good.

-There was once a man named Beebopbedo

who spent his days swinging on vines (Clematis I suppose)

and telling folks how life was fine.

One day, down by the river

he suddenly felt a pain right in his liver.

Down he came with a mighty crash

his ribs were broke

his head was bashed.

He struggled up to his feet

and wandered off to smoke some grass

but on the way a snake bit him on the toe

and the was the end of Beebopbedo.”

I can hear my readership ratings crashing even now! Remember what I say about laughter; even a chuckle will do.

Yeah, these ones. They are beautiful when backlit.

Dawn arrived this morning like a hung-over deckhand coming on watch; grudgingly. The thick darkness gave way to a heavy low gloom. The yard lights where I live have stayed on all day. I leapt out of bed one toe at a time. But, I finally had an appointment today with the anaesthetist at the hospital. We can go ahead with this hernia surgery…hopefully in January, this coming year perhaps. We don’t want to rush into things, it has only taken six years to get here.

Next morning, same old deckhand! The cold and damp seize me up, I can’t ignore them like I once did.

A beachcomber at work near high tide in the late afternoon dusk. He uses his pike pole to row his skiff. Doing exactly this was how I began my tugboating career. It didn’t pay much but was its own reward. I learned a lot.
More recycling. a few weeks ago I found this couple in the park gathering leaves. They take them home to insulate their banana trees then mulch them into their vegetable garden in spring. no chemicals, no machinery, just simple old-school common sense and a little civic duty thrown in as well.

A buddy loaned me a copy of ‘Book Of The Hopi’ by Frank Waters. For some reason I have developed a fascination with the land and indigenous people of the American Southwest. The Arizona desert fits a big piece in my puzzle and I can’t wait to return to that bleak yet beautiful place with a pocketful of time to spend there. One of the centres of the Hopi culture was within a radius of places with names Oraibi, Hotevilla and Mishongnovi. There are several of these difficult but lyrical names which are still tiny communities clinging to their culture in a place which, to outsiders, is apparently inhospitable. Perhaps that’s part of the idea! They’ve been there for thousands of years. They have a deep spiritual connection with the land and the universe which bears a worthy consideration. The book is still available and I think a fascinating handbook for those interested in our ancient cultures. In an odd way, the Hopi account of man’s history on this planet parallels biblical legends.

Further south in Arizona I have spent a little time in the lands of the Tohono O’odham people. I love their traditional desert home and how they maintained their culture in a desert which would kill me, if left to my Pacific Northwest backwoods knowledge, within days. I ache to return there as alien as I may be. Their sacred mountain Baboquivari is a very special place, I can feel magic in the air there. This old sailor can’t explain his affinity for the desert. It is a similar feeling to being at sea out of sight of land. I know that would terrify many others, it is a feeling for me of absolute completeness. There is certainly plenty to absorb right here at home beside the ocean. The coastal First Nations of this region have a rich culture. Yet it is the desert which calls me.

Part of which fascinates me about these ancient cultures is a spiritual wholeness despite the bleakness of the people’s environments and the paucity of basics, like water. Yet they thrived and even had enough reserve to produce beautiful art. In my world where there is an overwhelming abundance of nearly everything, except spiritual fullness, inner peace and contentment have somehow been perverted to yet another commodity. Everything has been reduced to monetary values. That is never more evident than in this season which was founded on the premise of hope and common humanity. It is up to each of us to find the spirit which cannot be wrapped up and tied with a ribbon.

Moonshine in the park. It occurred to me that this old steam donkey could be converted to a boiler for distilling whiskey.     ‘Ladysmith Squirrel Water.’
Enough. Sometimes it is the understated that says the most.

This blog’s quote comes from the inside of the front cover of the ‘Book Of The Hopi.’ In consideration of Mr. Trump’s recent public denigration of Mr. Trudeau, this stands as sufficient political comment.

There is no such thing as a little country. The greatness of a people is no more determined by their number than the greatness of a man is determined by his height.” …Victor Hugo

The Vulgarian Schnerdle Yipper

Out there…where my heart is.

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

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

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

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

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

Ding!

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

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

Wot’s that sound?

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

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

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

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

Last of the alder leaves over Holland Creek

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

George Carlin

Non- Offensive Politically Correct Summer

After the weekend. We had some stout breezes this past weekend. And so it goes.
Ditch Apples. Right beneath the tree. Perhaps this is how bobbing for apples began!
In the morning the monster slowly retracted its tentacles. After an annual uprising in the dark of the Halloween new moon it fed and then retreated back underground. All that remained was a pair of shoes, some eyeglasses and an empty dog leash.
Jack’s sentiments for the season. Damned fireworks! Hope the kids don’t come back to play in their pile of leaves.

We are currently enjoying our “Indian Summer.” Perhaps that term is now politically incorrect, but then what the hell isn’t? With no ethnic slurs intended, it is the only term I know for the spell of fine weather that comes in autumn after a significant frost or two. The weather is gorgeous. I was in Victoria on Sunday and the streets were thronged with folks who seemed out and about simply enjoying the solar celebration. In the face of the West Coast winter’s darkness and chill wet ahead it is almost a biological need to savour sunlight and cloudless sky. Despite all of our modern distractions, we still possess a primal, pagan instinct for the star which gives this planet its life.

In Victoria I attended a splendid gathering held in honour of two dear friends just returned from nine years of voyaging on their sailboat. After sailing the Pacific, the Indian Ocean, the South Atlantic, the Caribbean and then the Eastern Seaboard They finally sold their beloved cutter ‘Sage’ in Nova Scotia and drove back to Victoria, camping along the way. They previously spent seven years in the South Pacific on a much smaller boat. After sixteen years of cruising and living “tiny” they’re still together and looking forward, I’m sure, to new adventures. They have been a great inspiration to me and many others. Their blog is ‘Sage On Sail.’

After the visit I strolled part of old-town Victoria and took photos of different spectrums of living. Times, for many, are tough and getting tougher. Affordable housing is a challenge requiring ingenuity and the artful business, for some, to stay ahead of the “Man” who is bent on punishing non-conformists. I’ve lived on boats for many years and can easily rant ‘ad nauseum.’ Even when ones tries to be discreet and fly below the radar, there is always someone looking to jam a stick into your spokes. It is odd how in our culture where the individual is glorified, the non-conformist is punished. End pre-rant!

Emily Carr House. It is typical of the houses in the ‘hood. Most are lovingly maintained despite their century plus age.
Old town.
“Don’t laugh, she’s almost paid off!” Warm and dry on a winter night…and who’d want to break in?
Home is where the pumpkin is. A herb garden absorbs some sun on the roof and there’s even a bit of never-mow  mobile lawn. ‘Wipe ‘yer feet!”

A recent BBC television documentary hosted by Neil Oliver was simply titled ‘Vikings.’ In what I saw of it ,he divided those much-love nautical thugs into three groups, the Norwegians, The Swedish and the Danes.

The Danish Vikings, basing themselves in Ireland, conquered most of England. It is entirely possible that my fair hair and blue eyes are from long-ago-bestowed Nordic DNA among my ancestors. I don’t mind that idea at all. Apparently the Swedish Vikings travelled across the Baltic and down the rivers of Europe, plundering their way as far as Constantinople where some became revered as the fierce martial masters they were. Some were even recruited as personal bodyguards of the Sultan. In the grand Blue Mosque of today’s Istanbul, where the Sultan once attended, and his bodyguards would have stood watch, ancient Nordic letters are carved into a solid marble banister saying something like “Olaf was here.” What an amazing tangible connection to history!

An old friend. ‘Seeker Of Truth’ was found by a friend languishing in a Vancouver Island barn. He restored and renamed it and eventually put her up for sale. I was sorely tempted. She was built in Norway in the early 1900’s and is a lovely example of a well built and maintained wooden boat. Carved on a bulkhead below in Norwegian is the legend which translates: “A man without a boat is a prisoner.” You can clearly see her Viking lineage.
What ‘Seeker’ should have for a dinghy.
‘Duen’
A much-loved Scandinavian ketch still working the BC Coast doing charter work. She’s the real thing, complete with a varnished hull.

An old Gary Larson cartoon depicts a long table. Around it sits a group of Vikings. At the head stand two more. The chairman is saying, “Now that the business portion of the meeting is out of the way, Lars would like to talk about his new idea for hats.” Lars is holding a fabled (and fictitious) horned helmet. All of the Vikings are wearing a duck on their heads. “Ya vell Olly, now dats fonny!”

Friends recently visited Scandinavia and sent back fantastic photos from Viking museums and others dedicated to Thor Heyerdahl and to the Arctic explorer Nansen and his rugged ship the ‘Fram’. I have long ached to get to the Baltic region and see some of these amazing examples of iconic marine history. There is a flair to old Baltic vessels which is instantly recognizable. The lines of those Viking boats are the most amazing of all. Sensual, flexible, rugged and incredibly seaworthy, those boats underscore how much we humans have lost as we think we advance with technology. Perhaps those old boats are a pinnacle of human technical achievement, an ultimate blend of art and function. I doubt that with all our electronic wizardry and tools, that we can match the intuitive high skill evidenced in these amazing icons of nautical achievement. And… not a drop of oil or one electron was employed in the whole process from harvesting living trees for material to landfalls on far distant shores, and then coming all the long, long way home again. Heil og sael. Takk!

photo courtesy of Donna Poirier.                                                   This is a model behind glass. I suspect the real boats were too hard to frame in a single photo within the confines of the museum. If the lines of this boat don’t stir something in your heart…you’re dead.

This past weekend our ferry service was down for more than a day due to high winds and seas. I doubt that would have held those ‘Old School’ Vikings back. If you look at the new hi-tech sailing boat hulls which begin to plane like a powerboat after reaching specific speeds, then carefully study those old Nordic hulls, you’ll see some amazing similarities. Truly! Are we progressing or regressing?

Another back street Ladysmith landmark. Los Agave Baha? Ain’t no such place and …if it were a real Mexican fire truck, it would still be in service. It’s only sixty-some years old.
It’s like some old Beatle Song. “Past the firetruck and up the hill, through the gate and beyond the herb garden… No one has been home for many a year.”
Autumn Brook
Here lies Rex, he went to fetch and never came back.
Ready for winter. The tarp still ain’t leakin’, good ‘nuf.
No more hang ups. More energy-free technology abandoned to the “Think Greens.”
Mellow Yellow.
Frost melting in the morning sun.

 

Never stop because you are afraid – you are never so likely to be wrong.”

…Fridtjof Nansen

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 traditional  wooden mizzen 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