Covid One Nine

Deepwoods blog. The table comes from the back of an older Honda CRV. It was the trunk floor and spare tire cover. Intended to double as a traveller’s table it is rugged and stable. Jack deals with the bugs.

I’m sitting at my beloved old Honda car trunk table in the woods north of Campbell River swatting at mosquitoes and black flies despite a brisk breeze. This blog has begun first day out on our next jaunt. I’ve left my computer mouse behind so I’m poking away with my banana fingers and hoping for the best. So far the only other thing I seem to have forgotten is the butter. Jack is fine, peacefully laying on his bed beside me wiggling his ears at the bugs. On our postprandial walk we met a lovely black bear, probably a two-year old. It crashed off into the thick brush of course and I was reminded that old Jack is no longer the feisty beast he once was. Neither am I. We’ve had a long day. With the bugs being so friendly we are about to lock away the groceries and retire for the night. One of the nice things about getting old is that you can fall asleep anywhere, any time. At least until the middle of the night. Then, after determining that it is indeed the “golden age” you can’t get back to sleep until after first light which, of course, is why you can fall asleep any time through the day.

In the morning, after a night of absolute quiet we stepped out into the cool early morning light with clouds of black flies hovering silently. Too stunned to go into feeding frenzy, they’ll soon be at it as the day warms. We’ll move on. With my morning coffee beside me I sift through my notes and see two T-shirt logos I’ve written down. On elderly man slowly walking his old dog had a shirt which said “In memory of a time when I cared.” The other comes from a music video. The drummer’s shirt said “Let’s get together and make some poor decisions.” Right then! With the day’s business meeting concluded, the bugs have broken out the antifreeze and are attacking in squadrons. Breakfast quickly, we be gone!

The Cable Cafe in Sayward. Cleverly built of logger’s cables it is unique. In years past, I’ve enjoyed some wonderful meals here. The pies were incredible.
It was also once a logging museum.
Sit on that puppy for twelve hours every day in the woods. That is a road grader in the background. It was what they had!
Yeah? Fetch you! Nice stick.
Happy Jack. He loves to explore any place new. There’s still a gleam in his eye.
Serial # 428. Empire was one of over 150 foundries in Vancouver meeting coastal needs of every description.
This was a wood-fired, steam-powered yarding machine, used to skid logs out of the woods. When an area was logged of all the timber, the yarder engineer would move the huge steam winch (or donkey) by hooking its cables to stumps ahead and skidding the contraption on those log runners to a new location.
So what do you do with a hollow stump out back?
You build the ubiquitous outhouse…complete with extra toe-room.
Devil’s Club. Aptly named, these nasty plants have leaves two feet wide and everything is covered in vicious thorns which love to hook deep into your skin, then break off and fester.
Cable art

A few hours of meandering brings us to a vast concrete pad at the end of a logging road on the edge of Johnstone Strait. With our camp barely set up, a pair of humpback whales swam past, heading north. I am very familiar with these waters, having tug-boated and sailed up and down this strait for many decades. I’m looking across to the Stimpson Reef Light and remember all the dark nights either towing logs or smashing into nasty seas. That light was a tiny dot on the radar screen slowly making its way along the sweeping green scan line. Yes, I miss it.

Tonight we have an abandoned log sorting ground to ourselves. One could park up to thirty RVs here with respectable distancing but I’m content with things the way they are. Sadly, after all the frustrations of packing this little boat up here there is no place to launch it. The foreshore is a steep jumbled mass of boulders, logs and abandoned machinery. With the wind I think is coming, perhaps it’s a good thing. This strait is notorious for its quick and deadly seas. There’s an old WWII gunnery fortification a short way down the shoreline I’ve long wanted to visit. But it has languished without my personal visit for almost eighty years. Windy Point will be fine for a while yet.

End of the road. We had all this to ourselves.
That’s me in the corner.

The marine forecast is for wind and rain which is fine… no bugs! Having worked in the great northern bug country these ones here are amateurs in comparison but still, who needs them. They’re here for a reason, but none of those reasons are mine! The cyber voice droning out the marine forecast offers admonishments about dealing with “Covid One Nine” and assisting the RCMP in their efforts to prevent the spread of the virus. Isn’t a boat an ultimate isolation unit already? Who are the people that think this stuff up?

I sit by my fire, wishing I’d brought a winter coat along. Then I think of this same spot at the same hour in mid-January. It would have been dark by three pm and the snow or sleet would be blowing horizontally. I crawl into my little trailer where Jack has already been warming the bed. A rain shower drums on the lid and we both drift into a deep sleep, cuddled like the old pals we are.

Morning dawns still bug-free thanks to the damp breeze blowing along the strait. There’s low cloud and I’m wearing all my jackets. My little generator drones on, charging the batteries on all my cameras and gadgets. I marvel at how dependant I’ve become on all of this stuff, stuff, stuff. There’s no point in reviewing the minimalism I’ve known and practised, obviously I’ve evolved beyond that, or perhaps “been seduced” is a better term. I can actually shut the generator off from my bed, simply by pushing an icon on my cell phone! Hopefully the breakfast drone will be making a delivery shortly, I pushed that button twenty minutes ago! I do know that trying to work this computer without my mouse is a challenge, downloading images is a right horror, there’s no hope of editing them.

The day passed idyllically. Jack is not up to much hiking anymore so after a couple of kilometres, and several mounds of fresh bear droppings, we prudently decided to lounge beneath the home tent. I watch the ever-changing tidal currents shift and bend and swirl, an eternal fascination. The amount of traffic on the strait amazes me. There is seldom much time with no boats in sight and others when there may be half a dozen to see all at once. I have made a conservative estimate of about one hundred fifty commercial vessels as well as several yachts. Due to Covid one nine there are no cruise ships or tour boats this year. There are a lot of fishing boats heading north right now, there must be some openings in Alaska coming up.

The camp inspector. This lovely spot was occupied by someone who had parked their trailer in the middle, taking up the whole area for themselves alone. We were set-up three hundred metres away…all alone. Early worm gets the bird!
WTF? There was a trailer here yesterday! If my phone hadn’t rang I was considering a move to here and settling in for a spell.
There was even plumbing with sweet, cool clean water.
And succulent, tasty salmon berries.
A first glimple of the sea while descending to the log sort. A fringe of old growth timber remains. The logged-off area was not replanted and left to fend for itself.
Left to reseed itself this second-growth area desperately needs thinning if it is to become natural forest or managed timber.  There are thousands of hectares of re-gen forest like this all over the coast. The original timber still standing is of excellent size and quality. Hopefully it will be left untouched.
Second growth forest becomes a dead zone without thinning. The new trees need light to grow and to allow the forest flow to evolve into the vibrant plant zone which supports the adolescent trees and wildlife.

Even though I’m not on the water at the moment, I feel like I’m home. As I write, on the opposite shore, a tug with a log tow rides the flood tide southward, hoping no doubt to make it into Sunderland Channel before the tide in the strait turns against its progress. With skill and luck, it will be in position to catch the first of the next flood into the Wellbore Rapids. Eighteen miles in twelve hours hours, it doesn’t sound like much, but when towing log booms, that distance can seem like an odyssey. A few miles south of here, where you turn out of the strait is a place called Fanny Islet. It is a check point where marine traffic control is advised of commercial vessel’s progress. One dark nasty night I was aboard the ‘Kaymar’ with one-hundred-twenty sections of log bundles, an entire forest packaged into a raft about the size of a hay field. We had our entire towline out, if we slowed from our speed of one knot, that line could snag on the bottom. Then the radio call came. “Mayday, Mayday, oh fuck we’re sinking!” We were the only other vessel anywhere near and are bound in all ways to assist. It was a long and interesting winter night. We missed our tide at the Wellbores.

A line tug bound for Alaska passed a while ago. They are huge tugs, powered with massive EMD diesels, the same as used in rail locomotives and their resonant throb pulses in the gathering darkness long after they have passed from view. It is a reassuring and somehow lonely sound all at once. The barges these boats pull are the lifeline of Alaska. They are huge and travel between the various ports of Alaska and their southern terminus in Seattle. In some of this coast’s thick fogs, although you have them plotted precisely on radar, these massive scows loom out of the gloom looking like half a city. Even though Johnstone Strait is an average of two miles wide, it seem like a ditch when meeting in poor visibility. Of course, you seldom meet in the widest places.

There is a magic light which, for a few minutes, bathes Johnstone Strait some evenings.

The next day is blustery and dark with frequent rain squalls. I’m wondering what to do with this day. It’s too miserable to sit under the marquis tent and Jack is restless. Then unbelievably the phone rings despite the weak and intermittent cell service. It is the doctor’s office, they want me to come in for an appointment, more test results. Remember the bladder thing? Unfortunately there was no breakfast from the sky and I know there will be no prescription delivery drone. Here I am now, back at my desk in Ladysmith. The weather is forecast to soon improve. Yep, we’ll gone again.

The Adams River in the pouring rain. Running parallel a few miles away is the Eve River.

We don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” Native American proverb

Honesty, Stupidity And Little Green Lies

“Nevermore.” This crow sat in the same spot for a couple of hours cawing out a message of dubious meaning.

While posting the previous blog, it was pleasing to realize that my text had not once used the C word which now nestles in our vocabulary to a point of not being noticed. It is like the word “like” which has become a painfully misused preposition. I’m like so in love. I’m like going fast. I’m like really hungry. WTH? What exactly are you doing if you are doing like something? Is there a parallel existence that is like this one? Ya know, like, it really pisses me off. Like actually? How did that misuse of basic language creep in along with all the other strange anomalies we don’t even hear after a while? The word “cool” is now long used to express the same appreciation which, when I was a child, was “hot.” Awesome! There’s yet another. An English friend was accused of having an English accent. He responded “No mate, I am English, I don’t have an accent.” You’re hearing me with your accent. Now then, could you like pass me a beer eh? Yup, I can see how English is a hard language to learn.

Know the feeling? Try to keep your bow pointed for open water. The tide will return.
Reserved parking or recycling? There was a time when old cars were used to try and prevent erosion along riverbanks. Folks were as well-intentioned then as we are now. Maybe we’ll learn yet.
Down the creek just before the sea.
Up the creek. A vital salmon stream encroached on by subdivisions, light industry and shopping malls.
I can hear happy children jumping from the bridge on a hot summer day. This photo is at low tide.
Camp Runamuck . Someone is living off-grid in social isolation beneath the tracks on the edge of town. The site is clean and…mortgage free ocean front. I admire the dignity.

CRA, now there’s another disagreeable C word. Canada Revenue Agency; Mr. Turdeau’s mafia. For reasons of health I am no longer able to do the he-man work I used to. For reasons of age I am apparently not a desirable hire-able. I do under-the-table jobs which a lifetime of experience permits me to do when others can’t or won’t. For reasons of poor luck, translated to honesty and stupidity, I am not financially secure. I’m flat-assed busted broke. But being a responsible citizen, I filed my tax return in good time, weeks before the dead line. There were a few hundred bucks coming back which I really need.

The wooden leopard. Disguised as a dead limb and poised to strike. This rare wildcat waited for its prey above a dog-walkers parking spot. It had acquired a taste for fluffy little dogs.
YouTube, me tube, their tube. This wooden water pipe is part of a network taking water to a nearby pulp mill.
Two of these pipes run for miles to the mill. Pumping water from the Nanaimo River, through more pumping stations, under rivers and streams, never mind the salmon, all so we can have products like toilet paper. Five feet in diameter, they are amazing engineering.
Zzzzzt! It’s a matter of time. A little more wind on a rainy day and this arbutus will provide a cracking light display.
Vanilla Leaf plants. Hung in bunches and dried, these plants have a pleasant smell and were used traditionally as an insect repellant.

Then the Covid Crisis was acknowledged and the government began handing out money to anyone who came up with a vaguely reasonable story, honest or not. Just apply online, three easy questions. The country is being bilked, scammed, and ripped-off for an astronomical sum we have not begun to calculate. I know there are dire and legitimate needs but there is a part of our society which has no conscience nor consideration of consequences. Meanwhile, trying to be an honest citizen receives punishment. After a lifetime of contributing to the GNP I’m treated like I don’t matter. I can also reiterate, from experience, how shabbily a small Canadian entrepreneur is treated. A free spirit? Scum! And over seventy percent of our economy is small business-based.

Another one! I’ve been walking by this carving for a very long time before I finally saw it. Brilliant!

A blurb on the evening news casually mentioned that tax returns filed on paper, the old-fashioned way, had been delayed because of all the other emergency activities. Well, I’m old-school. I checked the mail again, nothing. In the morning I phoned CRA and after a maze of numbers to push I waited for almost fifty minutes to speak with an “agent.” Wonderfully her accent was standard Canadian, and she was pleasant, both unusual in my experience with government agencies. I provided the data so that funds could be direct-deposited to my bank account. I asked the question “When?” I learned that in fact paper-filed returns have been suspended.

Well, guess what queue I’m going to go stand in? My income has been cut-off due to the Covid crisis. Coincidentally, our illustrious Prime Minister has announced today, that the government has banned over 1500 makes of assault-style firearms. Hmmm, interesting timing! Coincidence? A long-time hunter, I know that nobody needs a Kalashnikov to hunt deer. For once I agree with our supreme dude but remember that one pissed-off old citizen with a shotgun can still damage a politician! A pitch fork will work too! Beware angry geezers. They don’t have much to loose!

A little later, I return to my desk after shovelling some gravel for a neighbour. I feel much better and muse about the therapeutic values of splitting fire wood and other simple mindless manual labour. There’s nothing like a good zen sweat. I miss that pre-fossil fuel which warms a body at least twice before it is burned. I watched a documentary about life on a nearby Gulf Island and listened to a fellow who proudly uses firewood for heating and cooking, brag about not using fossil fuels. Stunning! He cuts it with a gasoline chainsaw, brings it home in a gasoline truck and has clearly never thought about what coal and oil came from. Yeah man; ancient composted vegetation, like you know, trees! Then there’s the question about carbon footprints and how many cubic metres of Co2 he produces being environmentally friendly.

This guy has raised his family in a yurt while he builds a big wooden house, with asphalt shingles, glass windows and a deep concrete basement as well as many other exploited resources. When do we ever figure out that each of us is part of the problem? Stop the bullshit and work out the difference between need, want and greed. I understand that there are a lot of very well intentioned people who are poorly informed, even misguided.

Here’s a tiny bit of environmental homework. Do research on the mining and smelting of sand to make all the glass we use. And what of concrete? Mining the rock, crushing it into powder, baking it to make cement all so we go and smother more natural earth somewhere else is a monstrous environmental disaster which few consider. The impact is huge! The production of concrete is one of the planet’s single largest sources of carbon dioxide. And just think of all the energy consumed to make glass, concrete, steel, toilet paper! All those exploited resources, and the energy to take and modify them to suit our ends, so much going into housing, schools and hospitals (Boarded up or not) commercial and industrial buildings, roads, malls, churches, airports all of which will be ripped up and replaced within a few decades. The environmental cost, for example, incurred to produce windmills is huge and not questioned because if we can put some of those twirling giants on display we’re clearly in the groove. Are we doing what we do to be thoughtfully in tune with the planet or are we going through the motions of appearing cool? A friend describes our madness as “Fornicating for chastity.”

I’ve just reviewed the latest Michael Moore documentary ‘Planet Of The Humans.’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zk11vI-7czE

I’m not a great fan of Mikey but he was clever enough to keep his pudgy face out of this one. He is facetious, as capable of bending statistics and evidence as his targets, and probably as profit-motivated. I do love the indignant howls of various environment organizations targeted in this film. The information presented is perverted but so are many of the notions he challenges. The message is clearly, “Green Energy” demands as much energy, if not more, than it would have taken to simply consume fossil fuels in the first place. A wise old man once told me that the key to long-term survival is to realize how little we really need. Just think of all the paper tissue products we consume; all for the extravagance of ease and comfort. It is not complicated. CONSUME LESS! WASTE LESS! The documentary is meeting mixed reviews but it does provoke questioning dialogue. If folks would just ask questions the world would begin to improve. Unfortunately we all live in a very broad comfort zone where complacency rules our choices and allows politicians and corporations (One and the same it often turns out) free rein.

My favourites. Chocolate lilies. Rare, fleeting, fragile and beautiful, they mark the ending of the spring lily season.
Chocolate lilies. Then they’ll be gone.
Camas Jack. What’s happier than a wet dog? …a wet dog that’s rolled on a dead salmon!  “I love you dad, let’s cuddle!”
Puddle Break! C’mon, lay down and drink. Taste the mud. None of that clear fresh rainwater for me.

When I was a child the notion of rolls of paper towels would have been dumbfounding. When clothing was too worn to patch anymore, (An alien concept now) it was torn up for rags, which were even washed and reused. Toilet paper was not novel, but many of us with outdoor facilities used newspaper and old book pages. It was how I learned to read. The planet advanced nicely without our present decadence. Think of all the environmental devastation wrought simply so we can clean our bottoms with triple-fluffy poo pillows. Hell, some ads even have the bears using the stuff. Trouble is, the woods where those bears live are being cut down to make dunny rolls. When the Covid panic hit, folks rushed out in panic to gather all the toilet paper they could find. Priorities first!

Here’s one more thought. Suppose some persuasive enterprisers are able to convince the world that the gyprock drywall used in nearly every building is a deadly carcinogen. It has to go the way of lead-pipe plumbing and asbestos products. Can you imagine? Sleep well.

See what happens when you mess with a taxpayer. You get him thinking!

Shack Island squall. These islands, in a beautiful natural bay, were populated during the 1930s. I think it should be a heritage site. Newcomers want the buildings razed although they are all owned in perpetuity. It is a splendid example of people adapting to tough times.
Piper Island woods. A rain squall hit and drove everyone off. We had all this beauty to ourselves and Lord knows, we’re not made of sugar!
Piper’s Lagoon, after the squall. Within minutes of the storm’s passing, whole families magically appeared. The urge to get outside is clearly overwhelming.
From the woods, Jack and I watched a squadron of racing sloops bash their way around Five Fingers Island. We both ached to be with them.
Right then, on my count, stand up and reach high as you can. 1, 2, 3. Hello? Hello!
Young engineers. It is wonderful to see what a little driftwood and imagination can produce. Beats hell out of any video game. My father’s ashes are scattered in the wild roses here.
May you find tranquility,
Splendid isolation…
…and a good neighbour.

 

On a positive note. We still live in a part of the world where we are free to openly voice criticisms. Imagine enduring this pandemic, for example, in Syria or India or an African state. Throw in Ebola, drought, civil war and general desperate starvation. When schools and casinos will re-open are not a concern. Finding a hospital, any hospital is a challenge. A friend travelling in Zimbabwe last year ended up in hospital after an accident. To be viewed, her x-rays were taken outside and held up to the sun. So how many ventilators might they have on hand? Face masks? Yeah right! Toilet paper; what’s that? We’re doing OK.

After hours of shouting ” Six feet, six feet” to the people on the path, Heckle decided a ‘see nothing’ policy was much easier.

You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference and you have to decide what kind of a difference you want to make.”
Jane Goodall

The Paintng

It’s coming, slowly and reluctantly but spring will soon be here in full glory.
I am often told that I must have exotic camera equipment. Nope! These were both taken this cloudy morning with my mobile phone. Any type of camera no more makes a good photograph than a brush makes a painting. It is always the nut who holds the camera.

It is vain. It is frivolous. Yet in the window of a local main street art and framing shop, there is a painting which I covet. It is spectacular in its own way, a limited edition copy, well executed by someone who knows and loves the sea well and intimately. He has captured every fleck of sea foam, every glint of light perfectly. The painter Christopher Walker is a renowned Canadian illustrator and this image has my heart. It is small, 24”x 15”, which makes it more endearing and also possible to mount in a boat. It portrays a man in red storm gear rowing a clinker-built skiff a goodly distance from shore. The title of the work is ‘Devotion.’ “Ya bet yer breasthook!” I think. You’ve got no choice. Pull for your life all the while resolved to the living heaving reality all around. It is often referred to as ‘Storm Ecstasy.’

Behind him, a steep near-breaking swell rises high above but he does not look, hearing its slop and hiss tells him all he needs to know. He has to have confidence that his small craft will rise daintily over it and all the other lumps he must encounter on his way to a sanctuary somewhere near the lighthouse. He is resolved that there is nothing he can do about it anyway. One moment of panic may well spell his doom. “Now lean into it,” he thinks, “but don’t break or lose your oar.” That light, to me, looks a lot like Race Rocks, a few miles from Victoria. It is noted for its turbulent surrounding waters and the image is so true I can smell it. I can taste the brine on my lips, feel the wet air on my face and the slap of the sea against my fragile, thin hull. I’ve been in such situations and can see, hear and feel everything including the pull and spring of the wooden spoon oars. Perhaps there is a nice small halibut in the bottom of the skiff. He isn’t out there just for the exercise.

There it is! Every time I pass the shop window I check to see if it is still there and where it might have been moved. You can see it clearly  and wholly online if you look up the artist’s web site without other paintings in front of it.

Designed to warn mariners away from danger, light houses are seldom built to draw them near but onward he rows. This painting expresses tension and peace all at once for the seasoned mariner and a certain terror for the viewer who is a landsperson. I love it. I want it. There is another special nautical painting which, years ago, I did not acquire yet remains indelible in my memory. Now the capitalist craving haunts me again but for the time being this new longing will have to stay in the shop window where it has called to me for the past year. The painting is a metaphor of my life. Read into it what you will. I have a fantasy of my writing desk by a window looking out to sea, my books on shelves at either elbow, that painting on the wall where I can see it along with other art I cherish. Still rowing toward distant marks, tide against wind I yam what I yam. You know the Bob Seger song.

The painting requires only a bit of money but I I have none and there are, of course, debts and bills to be paid first. The job I started a week ago lasted less than four days. I made a simple but grievously stupid error on my first morning. I was easily able to repair it and offered that, but the damage was done. There are no second chances after making a bad first impression. My wagging tail was suddenly tucked where the sun seldom shines. That dark cloud of doubt weighed on both me and my new employer. With a rapidly dwindling trade, due in part to both the global virus dread and the puckered economy in result of regional protests I could clearly see there was not much work for me at the moment. I need the income and I need the affirmation of being able to hold a job. Gone! I must confess my weary body and the incomplete healing from my recent surgery also made it obvious that perhaps my glory days on the job are past. I was able to prove to my younger co-workers that motors can be diagnosed and repaired efficiently without computer diagnosis. Maybe ignoring protocol was what did me in. But then, it would have been something else. So what! Life goes on.

There is no higher art than the wooden boat. Form and function blend to make something beautiful and extremely useful.
An old boat once again becomes the land becomes the earth and maybe will become a boat again one day.
Even a plastic kayak offers an intimacy with the ocean that bigger boats cannot match.
The romance of the sea. This famous boathouse is now gone, strangled by the approach of suburbia, done in with noise bylaws although it was there decades before any newcomer. There’s a waterfront luxury condo there now.

This is a tough week and first things first, I must repair the engine in my truck. Maybe that will restore my confidence. Done. But I feel no better. Suddenly I’ve come down with flu-like symptoms but haven’t coughed up any Corona bottle caps so no worries mate. I was at the doctor’s office last week and everyone with a sniffle is piling in there. I don’t do baa very well. You get old, you get sick, you die. Then the cycle begins again. Old Jack wants to go for his morning outing, which will be a slow and halting procession, for both of us. We each need the air and the exercise and off we go before the drizzle thickens into a steady rain. Spring draws nearer.

One thousand words.

And so in time the rowboat and I became one and the same-like the archer and his bow or the artist and his paint. What I learned wasn’t mastery over the elements; it was mastery over myself, which is what conquest is ultimately all about.”
― Richard Bode , First You Have to Row a Little Boat: Reflections on Life & Living

 

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

Black Friday Boogie

Sometimes even a pulp mill can be beautiful. On the ferry to Vancouver at the Duke Point Terminal. There were sea lions and seals in the water and gulls in the air as the day’s first scheduled floatplane to Vancouver clattered over.
Entrance Island. An iconic navigation point in the Strait Of Georgia
The ferry slowed for this pod of Orcas. There were about a dozen. They were busy feeding, probably on a run of salmon.
Canada ho! I love to joke about going over to Canada. At times living on Vancouver Island leaves me feeling like an alien; especially after a day in the bustle of the City of Vancouver.

Black Friday originally described a stock market event in the US in 1869 then re-emerged in 1966 as a marketing concept. Its ugly name has evolved to now officially mark the beginning of our annual frantic Christmas consumer orgy although there has, of course, already been some vigorous Christmas advertising through the past couple of months. The notation of Christian celebration of birth and renewal at the time of winter solstice, of family, peace, joy and love have been herded to the back of the bus. So it is within each of us to find something positive in this cold, dark, damp time of year. I only wish some other colour had been chosen to mark the beginning of what used to be the season of joy and celebration. There must have been a sale on surplus black after Halloween. And, Happy Thanksgiving to our American neighbours. There was a time when we Canadians celebrated this day at the same time. Yes look it up, it’s true. I remember Thanksgiving’s deep snow and cold and as a child, dreading the two more horrific turkey dinners of Christmas and New Years which lurked ahead. Folks would load your plate then force-feed it all into you. I can still taste those watery lumpy mashed turnips, parsnips, yams. Next came the heavy puddings, sauces and cakes. Bleah! It was agony.

Fluff in the wind…you know that song. I do not know the name of this vine but I love its winter flowers.
A pee mail station. Jack updates his file every time. It is a sawn-off pole. How many summer’s heat drew the creosote up?

The vehicle I followed out of the ferry terminal had something written on the back bumper. Of course I had to move up too close to read it. “All Out Sewage Pumping.” Of course I recalled others I have seen on sewage pumping trucks, otherwise known as “Honey Wagons.” “Back Off Or I’ll Flush.” “A Royal Flush Beats A Full House” and “Satisfaction Guaranteed Or Double Your Sewage Back.” Well look, yeah it might be a crappy way to start a blog but it’s humour and this gruff old sailor insists on grabbing all he can. I’ve even thought up a couple of hilariously rude seweriffic logos myself which will stay right in the bowel, (I meant bowl) where they belong. I would not want to offend P.L.O.P.S. (Professional League Of Plumbing and Sanitation workers.) Tonight’s news carried a bizarre story about some dude in Toronto who’s been dashing around dumping buckets of raw sewage on people. I could see the news-readers bursting to drop cracks about a shitty attitude. Dung ho! We have now plungered into yet another BLACK FRIDAY season and I, at least, need all the mirth I can find. Grrrrr to the notion that the amount you spend is a gauge of your affection for others.

Poo bears only!
Sailors are scrounges by nature. i descended on this abandoned RV like a seagull, hoping to find useful bits for my trailer. It was filled with nasty wet, mouldy blankets. I was warned that they were filled with discarded needles. Not nice!

Yesterday a friend dropped off an item I had left behind at a mutual friends house. I met him on that road from the ferry terminal and had no trouble recognizing his vehicle. It was a tiny three-wheeled electric car and a delight to see. A practical, affordable working electric vehicle. Developed in Canada it is a short-range vehicle, built for one person, has two trunks and enough range (160km) to get through the day. It is priced lower than many motorcycles and will be available with two seats in future. This is a product for folks who truly think green and want to travel warm and dry. A green vehicle should not have to be a statement about your wealth. Check out http://www.smallev.com It looks like a left-over from a Star Wars movie set and from what I saw, the vehicle accelerates like a fighter jet. It certainly looks like fun. Apparently there are over 20,000 orders before full-scale production begins. “May the force be with them.”

The SOLO
It’s a real car

Just back from our morning walk, Jack and I are warming up with a bowel of warm oaty gluten. You know, the stuff that drew the human race out of the woods, porridge and beer. Now it’s bad for us! A rising Norwesterly howled down the creek where we went and we came home dead chilly. Bugga! I just don’t have the juices I used to. There was a time when I never wore gloves, even when it was -40º. Mind you they were usually coated in grease. Now these old arthritic bunches of bananas whimper in my pockets. I used to feel this burning cold only in my feet at the end of the day, but now a viral pain sits on my shoulders and whispers in my tingling ears “South you old fool, south!” I’m working on it. So I walked along while improvising lines of poetry like:

They called her November Dawn

And it didn’t take long

To see why she’d gained her handle.

Her glare was dark and icy

The light in her eyes slow to kindle

As a cold rain began to fall horizontal

…… next line please.

Ah c’mon! Look mate, just trying to make it through the day! It’s tough living with a fertile mind. The thing about messing with words is that you have to keep juggling ideas until something lights up and then write it down then!

Rotten to the core.
Cedar and palm. Incongruous to find the two growing together, even odder is that the windmill palm is in flower.
Cedar and lichen. A few blocks apart, up the hill in the forest, clearly a different climate. That’s Ladysmith, where you’re always over the hill!
I photographed these this morning. It snowed later today.
Windows 13. I am always drawn to old workshops. They are cathedrals of the blue collar folk. This is an old rail shed on the waterfront in Ladysmith.

Next morning, the sunlight is gone, it has warmed up, there’s a chance of snow. Off we go again, just another day living the dream, hatching schemes and bad poetry out on the old sniff ‘n piss trail. We went out again this afternoon. It began to dump a load of wet greasy snow that pelted down for a half hour. When the clouds lifted a bit I could see half-way up the mountain above town. It was beautiful, up there. Well enough talk of winter and dark days. Here’s something from the streets of New Orleans to warm your heart. It is not at all Christmasy but it certainly cheered this gruff old sailor’s heart. This YouTube link to a Tuba Skinny video brings me the old message “Dance like no-one is watching” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJP3fhan75o .

I hope it makes you smile. Now off you go! Do the Black Friday Boogie. You can leave your gumboots on!

Dos Pesos! Jack stepped on it. To my amazement I saw it laying in the wet gravel beneath the pelting snow. I’ll take it as a good omen.
Out of my head! My goggles came off with my ear muffs while working on some sound bites.

One picture is worth 1,000 denials.” Ronald Reagan

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

Ho Hum Just Another Autumn Day

The pee-mail inspector. It’s especially intriguing for Jack in a sea of freshly-fallen leaves. There are hidden aromas to savour and reply to.

We’re back from our morning walk. There was rain and a blustery wind last night. This morning a thick carpet of leaves are on the path. Jack loves snuffling through those freshly fallen maple leaves. There are all sorts of new scents, including those from other dogs so he usually needs a huge drink once we’re home again. We progress toward Halloween, the next commercial event before Christmas madness begins. At least most of the election signs are gone now as we settle in for another four years of tedious politics and the occasional episode of more silly pajamas. Instead of face-black, maybe our re-elected PM will show up at the next party wearing a Trump mask. That’s almost funny. Politically correct?…… Well ! Of there is always a Putin or Boris mask. Boo!

Gulldawnit!
Between the rainy days there are some spectacular ones like this.

In my last blog there was a link to my latest little video. For those of you who bothered to look at the effort, you saw a compilation of originally unrelated clips edited together into a vague continuity of theme. In the first clip with the loud sound track of flocking geese, did you hear the little dog yelping in the background? In the clip with the grand motor yacht, did you notice the exotic ensign being flown on the back of the vessel? It was, I believe, the flag of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Interesting that a vessel from a tropical homeport is northbound on the BC Coast in October. Perhaps, it is now nested on the deck of a Dock-Wise yacht carrier heading back to warmer latitudes. In that same clip, there was another yacht. Did you see the mast southbound passing the tree tops of the foreshore? Here is the link again to ‘Just Another Day’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jQtJ2j-74A&t=6s

My narrative briefly notes the sound of passing aircraft. There were, actually, five clips with the sound of airplanes. When I reviewed those clips as I had first put them together, I believed that all that aviation noise made the film impossible. I digressed to writing a short narrative that matched the time line and suddenly it occurred to me that with a simple mention of the audio pollution I could use it to underscore the theme about awareness. That’s my story, I’m sticking to it. Some folks really liked the effort, and there are plenty who don’t give a toss, just as I expected. I learned a long time ago that if a creative effort is first intended to please others, it will fail in all regards. One must pursue any art form to please yourself. Do it simply for the joy of the process. Once that sincerity shines through, others are touched in some way.

I have learned clearly that images are only a part of a video’s value. That is why there used to be live music in cinemas to accompany the old silent movies. A carefully scripted narrative, sound levels, a tweak of sound effects, all blend to make moving images successful. A simple and properly timed bit of background can make or break the whole video. It is an expansive art, there is no end to the learning and as a self-teaching rookie I am boggled by all that is involved. I have a long way to go before messing with special effects. I have a new appreciation of all that must be involved in making a full length feature film. For me, good, clear simple perspectives will continue to be my indulgence. I still labour to take good, stable, clear footage and have developed a huge appreciation of wildlife videographers. They sometimes take years to eventually capture a few seconds of good video.

The golden harbour…again.
Leash free
released in the dog park
…you know the tune!
Two crows in the wind
Mile 58, from Victoria. I have a fantasy about upgrading our old rail line to an electric passenger service between Victoria and Campbell River here on Vancouver Island. The population and the traffic are here to justify that foresight. The rail grades are there. Despite this island being a haven for the ‘Green Party,’ talking green and actually acting green are two very different things. There is no political will for anything beyond the next election.
C’mon guys, take a hint eh!
Treat…now, OK?

In my last blog I posted a photo of my dad’s old brass-riveted suitcase. It contains treasures, things like his dip-penned birth certificate and original English driver’s license. There are sacks of photo negatives and tiny old black and white prints, often of people and places I know nothing of. There are pre-war photos of my grandfather’s farm near Coventry, photos of my parents when I was merely a gleam in their eyes and then a procession of little ‘Freddie’ photos and my early environs. I was delighted to discover the postcard I’ve included in this blog. It confirms an early memory about the era when my family moved off the farm and into town.

The leaves and the cumulus clouds tell me this was taken on a fine late summer day.

At the end of each summer this vessel would appear as depicted and discharge a full cargo of coal into the creekside coal yard. We moved to Oakville in 1957 and this image matches my memories of that time. The little freighter, to me, appeared to be a monstrous black apparition. Steam trains were still in use then and the locomotives also appeared incredible, belching steam and smoke and the wheels, then, seemed at least thirty feet high. Coal was still a prime fossil fuel for heating buildings and homes and this vessel’s appearance was an early sign of winter’s approach. If you look carefully you can see a wisp of smoke coming from her stack. It makes sense that she be steam-powered and coal-fired. I can remember the coal man delivering coal in hundred-pound burlap sacks, emptying then into coal chutes, often right on the sidewalks of main street. Buckets of coal ash, called “clinkers” would be spread on icy sidewalks and paths. I marvel at how the little ship was squeezed into that tiny harbour and backed out again. The old wooden lighthouse at the end of the pier still exists. It eventually became a landmark for the yacht club which is now across the creek on the port side of the coal boat.

At that time I spent many and hours beside the lighthouse lurking about out on the end of that pier. Life was reduced to some very simple elements there and I loved it. I can close my eyes and still smell the funky reek of Lake Ontario. Much has changed but I believe the building behind the vessel is still functioning as the local tennis club. The last I saw of the old coal yard, it was a parking lot for the high-end restaurant built inside the old stone-walled flour mill just up the hill. The soil in that area was red clay. There were several brickyards nearby. When it rained, the Sixteen Mile Creek would become a thick russet plume that bled far out into the lake. Eventually it blended with all the industrial muck that many folks claimed was preventing the Lake from freezing in winter, in earlier times allegedly as much a mile from shore. By the time I was in high school the was a paranoia about an impending ice age. It never ends folks!

This image also marks the beginning of my fascination with boats of all sorts and of going to sea. Anyone who sneers at “lake sailors” has not been on the Great Lakes. They are vast, often with the far shore hidden over the horizon. Every mariner believes they have sailed in horrific storms but the Great Lakes are an equivalent of any other large body of water for nasty weather. The seas are massive even with no tides for the monstrous waves to build against. Storms often rise quickly and viciously, often proving to be very deadly. The legend of the ‘Edmond Fitzgerald’ is only one of hundreds of similar disasters.

I also marvel at the quality of the photo on this postcard which measures about 4” x 3”. People actually posted these to each other with short messages written on the back for everyone else to read along the way. I believe postage was one or two cents. How long has it been since we gave up our pennies? The hand-retouching on this image is clearly visible and the general quality is very low. Yet, it was what we had. The card itself was produced by the Photogelatine Engraving Company Limited, Ottawa. And imagine then, if folks had been told that the Kodak Company would eventually go bankrupt, displaced by something call digital imagery? Imagine trying to explain how I have reproduced this image, and all the others in this blog, with my mobile telephone, something not much bigger than a deck of playing cards. Imagine trying to explain internet, wifi, or what a blog is! How about a President who runs his country with Tweets! I must confess that these considerations leave me feeling as old as a lump of coal.

Wot? Now that’s a lawn ornament! Just beside the plaster bunny and duck. Jack and I are walking a lot more lately. We see all sorts of interesting things. This is a whaler’s cannon, once mounted on the front of a vessel where the harpooner would fire a nasty steel harpoon into the back of a whale. Cruel, and unnecessary, despite modern enlightenments the savage trade is still plied in places.
October Rose. There’s nothing like a late bloomer.
Lot’s of folks I have known are described as being “Old School.” Is this the place?
This old Duncan school building is in great shape… and still in use. Can you smell the chalk and the aroma of all those books?
…So I asked the truck driver, “Who eats all that penguin meat?”
Blank look!

In the process of aging comes the moment when you must concede to yourself that memory is not indelible. In the repeated remembering of specific memories things slowly become skewed and faded. It is much like the classic telephone game where someone will provide a simple statement which is whispered to the next person and then the next until it has gone all the way around the room. The final person offers up their version of what they say they were given. That message is often totally unrelated to the original statement. What one recalls as absolute truth is sometimes revealed as a very different reality. That can be very sobering. I find myself wondering what is fantasy and what actually happened. I can vaguely recall a milkman and his horse when I was barely old enough to walk, yet what I had for lunch requires some contemplation. I envy those who simply declare that they can’t remember and leave it at that.

Autumn Abstract.
We know what’s coming so we may as well enjoy what we’ve got while we can.
The old lump hisself. Ladysmith was built on coal and the mines of Robert Dunsmuir, the Scottish coal baron. The broken sandstone spindle is from a hotel balcony in Saint Andrews Scotland. I managed to sneak it home in my baggage without security shipping me off to Guantamano Bay… Although I’ve always want to visit Cuba!

A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory”… Steven Wright

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

OOPS

‘Rolano’ lives no more. I posted a photo in a recent blog of this venerable old North Sea beam trawler. She was clearly dying of cancer, too far gone to be rebuilt. There is now a crane on the barge beside her and she is being dismantled. An honourable death for an old work horse and someone’s dream, she did not sink or burn. I wrote a poem about this old girl which I’ll be happy to send on request.

Something in the process of correcting spelling, punctuation errors and typos prevents my twisted brain from seeing them all until after I have posted or submitted a piece of writing. I just e-mailed an application for a writing job and as a sample of travel writing, I provided the copy of a recent blog. It has been out there, floating around in the ether, for several weeks so I could see no point in proof reading it again. But there was one more glitch. Arrrg! Yes, I do use my computer’s spell-checker but how does it catch things like, “It was to wet too burn.” It tries instead to correct things like “I checked my cheque book.” That infuriates me. I am Canadian and I speak English, not Amurican! The computer is set for UK English, not US English so what’s up? ( Nothing personal my dear American friends!) What sort of spell-checker did dudes like Shakespeare use? And texting? OMG! I hate abbreviations. LOL.

In the poem based on my impressions of ‘Rolano’ I describe her old engine as a Petter diesel. Oddly, this past week, I saw this ancient Petter being pulled along by this huge tow truck. It is a very unusual sight. It is twice as heavy as it looks and was once a popular  commercial marine diesel engine. Long-stroked, slow-turning they sounded a lot like their name. “Petter, petter, petter”! I count twelve guides on the pulley at the back. Twelve monster belts drove a generator or a pump. Of course, if a belt broke, it would be the one next to the flywheel.

I watch other folks peck out machine gun-fast text, full of every possible error, then push a button and their think-box corrects everything for them. So far as it knows! But I wonder, if they are too illiterate to even try to exercise correct language skills , is it simply acceptable now to use language which is essentially correct? “The crew landed their jet ten metres from the end of the runway. They were essentially correct.” What about surgeons being essentially correct? Gudnuf! Next! Well, ya know wot I mean.

I recall a story about a kayaker paddling closely to a beach portion of the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island. They were in a morning fog. They saw a man walking along the sand and shouted out an inquiry about where they were. A thick German accent replied, “Ya… Canada.” How wonderful it would have been had they retorted, “VAS! Ziss ischt nicht Denmark!?” I once sat in a Vancouver pub with a cousin from the English Midlands. His regional accent is twangy and nasal. He was chatting up a lady at the next table. Her partner, perhaps a bit jealous, said “I know where you’re from, you’re Australian! The response was a flat, “Clouse!” That, in turn, reminds me of an anecdote from a Bill Bryson book. He and his family are checking in for a flight to Austria and the agent says, “Oh wow! I’ve always wanted to go there. I love kangaroos!” Essentially correct. Uhuh!

I read somewhere that all humour is a form (I first typed ‘from’…close!) of sarcasm. Isn’t it wonderful? All I’ll say to close (Two sentences, two words, same spelling, different meanings… it is confusing.) in this particular musing is that if an old bog-trotter like me can take the time and acumen to do my best to get it right, what about the clever people? Language is the foundation of all cultures and if it is slip-sliding away, there are obvious questions.

Leftovers. It appears that much of this year’s bumper blackberry crop goes unharvested. Come winter, the birds will be grateful.
It came in the night. It is the time of year when toadstools, mushrooms and other fungi mysteriously appear. It is always a wonder how such delicate organisms can push their way up through hard, dry dirt.
“The end is nigh”. Leaves which did not do their bit to support the tree are the first to be rejected by the tree. There is a lesson here. “Put up or put out”.

And one more note, which also may be construed as sarcasm. For some reason, Twitter randomly e-mails me headlines. One came recently about a “Straight Rights” parade in Boston and a heavy police presence. Damn, that made me feel good! I am no right-wing nutter (or left for that matter) of any flavour and I am willing to live with whatever other people do…in private. So long as you do not harm children in any way, or for that matter any non-consenting innocent being, that’s your business. If you have a thing for ducks, and you have its consent, then get quacking! But, why the hell do you have to get in the world’s face about your personal intimate preferences. Go about your business with dignity and please, please leave the rest of us boring, normal heterosexuals to do the same. Straight Rights! It’s overdue.

Once, decades ago, I worked as a ranch hand. Ranchers regularly sold their bulls and bought different ones to avoid all the genetic issues of inbreeding. There was a prolonged bull sale each autumn in nearby Kamloops, a central BC interior cow town. We acquired a new bull which, back at the ranch, soon made it clear that his preference was steers, only. This, of course, would neither enhance nor enlarge the herd and old Boris, the Broke Back Black Bull, was soon being prodded back up the auction ramp at the next sale. Yep, there’s not much that’s new.

Another sign. A dry creek bed is littered with fallen alder leaves.
Reach! Maple branches seem to reach away from the afternoon light.

I mentioned my twisted brain earlier. Suddenly out of that echoing abyss, as I wrote the above, came a TV ad from my childhood of over fifty years ago. That’s scary! Two tins of sandwich meat are having a chat. One says, “Say Moo.” The other tin only ever replies, “Oink.” Finally asked why it can’t say Moo, that one can replies, “I guess I just don’t have it in me.” Take that as you will. It may well have been an ad for Spam so far as I can recall but there were several other disgusting meat spreads on the market. I will not eat any to this day and there are times when I have been plenty hungry.

Millions of flat-bellied folks would not understand my reluctance, although in a pinch, I can manage corned beef. That stuff will choke up a lot of palates but there are at least bits which are recognizable as meat even though the rest may be hoofs, horns or beaks. If we think of all the things which humans eat, good grief! Then some of us are disgusted when a dog wants to lick our face! Depends on what we’ve been eating I suppose. There are some types of junk food which old Jack will only allow himself one sniff. The Jack test works for me.

It occurred to me as I write to read the label on the bag of potato chips sitting on the corner of my desk. Ingredients:

potatoes (OK) then canola and/or mid-oleic sunflower oil, seasoning [sugar, salt, corn maltodextrin, inactive yeast, yeast extract, hydrolyzed corn protein, brown sugar, dried onion, natural flavour (including maple-and bacon-type flavour) huh? Caramel colour (Contains sulphites), high oleic sunflower oil, citric acid, spices, spice extracts, calcium silicate, silicon dioxide]. YUM! Where’s the hint of battery acid? We wonder why obesity and cancer are prevalent. During the Irish Potato Famine, some folks chose to starve rather than eat lobster which which commonly used as fertilizer on the fields. “Wot! Eat bugs?” I guess it’s all a matter of perspective.

Over, under, or around? Apparently some dog tried to tunnel under this windfall. Jack choose to go around and pondered the excavations.
Afro Cedar. Some hedge-trimmer has a sense of humour. I like it.

Two days ago I sat shirtless in the broiling afternoon sun, reading a book and realizing that this was one of the last days this year in this part of the world that I would feel good doing this. The daylight is shorter each day, the evenings cooler. Let there be goose bumps. The leaves are yellowing and crispy, there is dew in the mornings. As I sit writing this afternoon I realize that I would not be uncomfortable in long pants. In fact, I’ve put them on. It’s chilly. It is time to seriously start a Go South plan and do something about it. Turkey vultures are flocking up, circling together in afternoon thermals and then gliding southward. Living proof, time flies.

How’d this look jacked up with big fat wheels? It is a coveted McLaren 720s. Prices start at $325000. Cdn. A neighbour’s guest parked it behind me. As I backed out, for a moment I forgot it, and almost…. BIG OOPS! Where the hell do you park a King’s ransom?

You do not have to sit out in the dark. If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is necessary.

But the stars themselves neither require nor demand it.”

….Annie Dillard ‘The Abundance’

Labour Day Musings

The shining dinghy. A moment of reflection at high slack tide. The boat house would make a lovely wee home.

Jack and I walked our normal morning loop down at the waterfront and around the old coal terminal here in Ladysmith. I call it the “Black Beach” because of all the coal left over from that era. Jack loves it there. Blackberries and rabbits thrive and he often gets to socialize with other wonderful dogs. The sun hung as a huge white ball low over the glassy waters of the harbour. No boat stirred its surface. There was not a breath of wind. The morning air was cool in the shade and warm in the light. A heavy dew had settled this morning. The seasons progress.

TILT! In a town on a hill. This shed has been leaning like that for over ten years. Would you park your car in it?
The leaky pipe grows the grass. Part of the water supply for our local pulp mill. These wooden pipe lines run for miles. Superb engineering, some of these pipes are several feet in diameter. This one is only about two feet.

For some reason I recalled a labour day sixty-two years ago today. It was 1957, I was five years old. My father was a manic gardener and could produce amazing heaps of vegetables out of the red clay soil of Southern Ontario where we lived. Across the street from where we rented a tiny house there sprawled a large playing field. Several games of soccer often went on at the same time. I can still hear shouts in Italian and Portuguese as flashing balls ricocheted back and forth on the broad field and see swarthy men pelting about in pursuit. Every spring a circus came to the Oakville arena on the far side of that expanse. When it left town there remained warm pungent heaps of manure. Elephant, camel, horse, monkey, lion, tiger; dad swore by the properties of these exotic mounds and he would trot with his wheel barrow back and forth across the park with his freely-acquired aromatic garden elixir late into the night. He certainly could conjure monstrous vegetables out of that brick clay mixed with circus dung.

On the particular Labour Day I’m recalling, he built a fire in the backyard and installed a cauldron over it. We harvested from the garden and mom boiled and canned a large part of our winter’s preserves. We were living in town, newcomers from dairy farms, but even then, in post-war suburban Canada, it was an unusual thing for folks to do. Dad had survived the war in rural England, mother grew up on a prairie homestead through the depression and survivalist sensibilities came naturally to them. They possessed and taught me skills which I now take pride in when most people around me live in a push-button culture. It was hot, dirty work but even at that tender age I was expected to work like a little man. A friend from up the street wandered by to ask me to come play but was told I had to stay home until the day-long job was done. I complained that it was a holiday and dad responded that on Labour Day everyone was expected to work, no matter what other folks were doing. I believe he was serious.

The very next day was my first ever at school. I walked, on my own, the better part of a mile to find my way to kindergarten. When, years later, I visited these old haunts as an adult, I could not believe that my parents had pushed me out into the world like that. I suppose that is how baby birds learn to fly, flap or crash. I learned skills which have served me well throughout my existence. My parents were martially strict yet would allow me great latitudes in how far and how long I wandered. Apparently, when I was outside of their presence, God was expected to babysit. When I pass a high-school and see the parade of vehicles transporting teenage students I wonder at these kids and their skills to go out into a digital world and cope with basics like food and shelter. I cannot even operate a modern mobile phone competently but I do know how to survive without one.

A few weeks later that fall, Sputnik orbited over our house. I recall, even now, how everyone stood out in their backyards staring up at the clear night sky not sure what they were looking for. Suddenly someone cried, “There it is!” and soon we all spotted, in muted awe, a very bright star hurtling across the darkening cosmos. The world changed forever that night. We seldom look up now to count all the satellites stitching across the sky in all directions. We don’t even look up from our texting as we step into the traffic.

My parents, consummate fundamentalist evangelical Christians had been indoctrinated that Soviet Communism was the epitome of Satanic evil and surely the mark of the “end of days.” This mysterious Russian weapon (or whatever Khrushchev was scheming) now violating God’s heaven and spying down on us surely heralded Armageddon. We were living through the era leading up to the Cuban Missile Crisis and paranoia of being fried to a crisp was rampant. I recall the air-raid sirens and the drills at school when we would all crawl under our desks and kiss our little asses goodbye, again. A gas explosion destroyed a house a few blocks away that winter. There was a huge thump, everything rattled horrifically. I can still remember my deep terror that this was IT. The Pinkos had struck!

Well, here I am well over a half-century later. I survived it all including my high-school years which is a fabulous story in itself. All I’ll offer of those days is that there was grave concern for a few years about the next encroaching ice age. Yes really! Then Ralph Nader came along and the tiger crap really hit the fan. The profit of paranoia is still imposed on us as never before history began to be recorded.

The keeper. Carved in a rock at the entrance to a popular forest path. I wonder how many folks ever see it. Later in the day, as the light shifts, it is almost invisible.
I’ll give it a buzz. Another keeper of another path. Wasps seem to be on standby in the nest’s entrance. Nice berries!
Please park older trailers in the back. I rent a space in this storage yard. All those RVs just sitting…and all I need is one!
Yep, she’s almost paid for! This 1967 Mercury F250 was built two years before I graduated in the town where the Ford assembly plant was located. The truck looks in better shape than I do! The owner ran a venerable power saw repair business. Clearly, logging is his passion. Note the horn!

It is now a beautiful, flawless late summer day. I need to get up from this desk and do something. Despite backyard burning being illegal in this town I am tempted to find some beets to boil and go make a fire. I could explain to the volunteer fire department that I was following a cultural tradition. Yeah right. There is a rising breeze and if I turned on my marine radio I’d hear a string of Maydays. It happens every summer long -weekend. Yachters from mainland Canada must return across the Strait Of Georgia and as soon as a tiny whitecap appears, panic sets in among the Tupperware armada. It used to amuse me but now that I’m boatless a dull knife twists in my gut. I know that all those millions of dollars of nautica, which never leave sight of land, belong to most folks for nearly every reason other than a love of the sea. Once in the home marina most of these “look at me possessions” will languish abandoned until Easter. Money isn’t everything but I sure could stand a change of problems.

C’mon Jack, let’s go for a walk.”

I know, you’ve seen it before, but it is my trademark photo of all time. This was taken over twenty years ago while sailing alone aboard my first ‘Seafire.’ The image is indelible in my brain and says everything about what sailing means to me. In troubled moments, like during a dental procedure, I close my eyes and this vision sustains me.

…”The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.”

… Annie Dillard, from ‘The Abundance’