It is impossible to tell at the moment. Whose smoke are we breathing here? The claim is that our local scrap yard fire is “Contained” but it sure as hell is not out. It may smoulder on for a long time and the acrid, cloying stench is gently smothering us. It’s all because the junk yard dog dropped his cigar! Well who knows? We may never learn that and what does it matter. We try to recycle our disposable cars and other metal commodities and some days things just go wrong. Hopefully we learn a little bit and life eventually improves. Meanwhile thick smoke from three US States clot our already permeated sky and we live in a dim world at the moment. I’ll keep my text short and relay my story with repetitive photos of our grey world.
I photographed the ambience of the thick air above our harbour from behind a heap of coal on the shore and realized that not so long ago we burned this stuff and the air was always like this. It was normal. In younger years I chain-smoked cigarettes like a train. I also did a lot of welding with my face in those fumes and often cut up old metal with an ox-acetylene torch, burning through thick layers of old lead-based paint or I’d grind the paint away, with no face mask. I know better now. These days, the simple whiff of a smoker’s clothes in a change room has me gagging. Eeeech! I cannot believe my incredible foolishness. I have come to believe that perhaps anyone who smokes should perhaps be denied medical insurance.They are willfully harming themselves. That in this enlightened age people are stupid enough to deliberately inhale smouldering objects is amazing. Are they among those complaining about our present atmospheric imperfections?
The thought has occurred to me that the present stench and pallor of gloom is what millions endure on a daily basis where they live in industrial areas around the planet. Others know it as the reek of war and death. They also know of thirst, hunger, disease and blasted-out hospitals. We take clean air and water and personal freedoms for granted. Yesterday was the anniversary of 9/11. Surely we can take a moment to consider how quickly our lives can change then savour and participate in maintaining what we privileged few enjoy without considering. We’re still free to vote and free to leave.
On Monday, conditions have not improved. We’re still surrounded by think grey smog with only glimpses of a dull copper orb which is the sun. Our three states to the south of the border are burning up. That’s California, Oregon and Washington in your throat and nose. The eco-gloomers are having a field day with all of this. I’ll admit it is hard to stay objective and look at the big picture, to examine the history of climatic cycles and realize that this is not Armageddon. It just seems like it. My heart goes out to all those who have lost their homes and communities, their sense of security and all the personal illusions and dreams they have held. It is a wake-up call for all of us. All I can wish everyone is someone to love, something good to do, and something to look forward to, while doing no harm. Now I have to shake off the lethargy of my own personal darkness and go do something. And so work progresses on the old camper. Wagons ho!
“The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials.”
A few days ago in mid-afternoon I was kneeling up on the hot aluminum roof of my newly-acquired old truck camper. I was dolloping out roofing tar to reseal a previous repair. The thick black goo had been used previously so there was no choice but to use it again. I thought of how I must look up there, a Fred on a box and came up with various lines about “hot tin roofs.” They were all rude. The roof wasn’t leaking…yet. Wonderfully it is made of a single sheet of sturdy aluminum. But some preventive measures in the heat and dry of late summer seem in order. It’s almost forty years old; a little TLC is due. It’s small and light, and warm and dry. It has a propane cook stove and a furnace! Good enough. There’s no hot tub but sometimes roughing it is just what you have to do.
One of the popular truck campers is called an “Arctic Fox.” I’m thinking of hanging the name on this old beauty of “Fartic Ox” and putting a little sign on the trailer that says, “Feel free to feed the Sasquatch.” Neighbours have noticed the box and say “I see you’re going camping.” Somehow I’ve never considered sleeping in an RV as camping. Camping, when I was young, involved travelling by canoe and sleeping beneath the overturned hull if it rained. My fantasy was a ‘jungle hammock,’ a military surplus item that came with a roof and mosquito netting all around. I’ve just checked, they’re still available.
Many recreational vehicles now have rooms that pop out, automatic levelling devices, satellite entertainment devices which align themselves to the appropriate signals. By the time all the flip-out items have ceased their whirring, and the generator is purring, there is a fair-sized modern home set up in a commercial “campground” four feet away from someone else’s “wilderness” dream. The cursing begins when all the transformer bits won’t pop back into place so you can go “get away from it all” somewhere else. A diesel pickup truck will easily haul it all at 110 kilometres per hour to re-establish the pitchings a few feet from someone else where you can compare notes. It doesn’t much seem to me like a sensible way of reconnecting with the natural world or of “thinking green.” But…no payments until January!
Almost a week ago it was Labour Day weekend. Already we’ve arrived in late summer and the hottest part of it. The weather forecast is for clear skies and temperatures in the 30s. The sunrise was red from all the smoke in the air from as far away as California. There is a 70,000 acre fire burning in the Yakima area. What a blessed thing to live here on Vancouver Island. We made it through the long weekend without any fires here. Last night the upper winds began to move the smoke back to where it came from and the stars gleamed and twinkled. I often go out for a celestial meditation before bed in an effort to put the day’s concerns into perspective. My little woes against the vastness of the universe puts everything in place.
On a clear night, one can seldom look into any part of the night sky without seeing at least one satellite within a minute. Dull or bright they zing over in all directions unnoticed. For a while last night I could see three at once all on different vectors. There are also all those man-made stars in fixed orbit also known as geosynchronous satellites which sit up there unnoticed to our eye. Those ones must really piss off the astronomer who thinks they’ve discovered an unknown star! They are as pervasive as electrical lines or contrails marring a view of the natural world. It’s a sad essay that so few folks notice them. Today’s check says there are currently 2,666 satellites up there. And we thought the beer cans in the ditch were a problem.
Anyway, folks ensconced around their portable campfire beneath a string of patio lanterns, safely inside their electronic mosquito net-bubble (yes really) watching the ‘Simpsons.’ That we all know who the ‘Simpsons’ are underscores the age we live in. We are as oblivious to the geosynchronous satellites relaying our television signals as we are to lost primal skills like melting spruce gum over an open wood fire so we can patch our home-made canoe. I am well familiar with the “Old School” and the non-romance of doing things like using an outhouse at -40°, or making a bed from spruce boughs. I don’t miss it.
While perusing the latest camping gadgets I can across a small portable cooking stove that burns any “bio fuel.” It also uses the heat to charge a lithium battery which has a USB port to run a small light or charge a mobile phone. So now we live in the age of the electronic campfire. When your rocket stove has started a wildfire, you can call to report it if…there is a geosynchronous satellite in place.
Parts of Oregon have now exploded with wildfire. Cities are threatened with devastation. It seems that half of California is in flames, Washington State is in a critical situation and British Columbia is also adjoined to the crisis as part of the Pacific Northwest. Here we can smell and taste their smoke in the air. With the Covid numbers rising again we are all together in living with a sense of tension. What a year!
I’ve been working on the camper in the cooler part of the morning and then retiring to the shady cool inside the house during the afternoon. About 9am today a thick column of grey/black smoke rose into the azure sky then drifted off in the upper winds. Helicopters with water buckets began passing overhead. I feared the worst. A new bush fire or a serious plane crash could look like that. As it turns out a metal recycling yard, a few miles away at our end of our airport, has caught fire. An online news story had images of heaps of burning crushed cars and a mountain of burning tires. It is the sort of fire which is very hard to extinguish and produces a variety of nasty toxins. Ironically the advertisement immediately following the story shows a young father and son cheerily roasting marshmallows over a crackling campfire.
By evening the wind has shifted in our direction and the tang of burning rubber is heavy in the air. You can see it and taste it. There are no hydrants near the burning scrapyard so all water has to be trucked to the inferno. It’s going to be a long night for those fighting the fire and for those with adjacent properties. It will be a long night for those of us trying to sleep downwind. Damn! I miss having a boat.
“Civilization is a conspiracy. Modern life is the silent compact of comfortable folk to keep up pretences.”
While cracking eggs for breakfast I came on one coated with small calcium nodules. My first thought was “That must’ve bloody hurt!” Tread-gripping is the gritty material applied to slippery surfaces. It’s more abrasive than course sandpaper. Now the chickens are trying it out. A good grippy egg is a great idea. They are much easier to throw. Free-range organic sport eggs. Cluck you!
While cleaning the barbecue yesterday I spread out the latest local newspaper and discovered an article about the portable toilet that has been installed on main street. This is the same street which is alleged to have been awarded as the best main street in Canada. I promptly sent off a letter to the editor wondering why we don’t have a proper public washroom downtown and why there is an open toilet in the heart of town during a pandemic. Describing a lack of local lateral thinking I ranted on to describe other examples of that thoughtlessness (In my opinion) and then punched the ‘send’ button. Of course I should have stuck to my single issue and let the letter ferment a few minutes before sending it but in the heat of my moment… It’s a covid mask for me! Actually the editor liked the letter and let me edit it as I should have in the first place. One of the joys of a small town newspaper.
Another joy of this small town is a morning walk in the park. Everyone (Well… except an old dufus yesterday) loves Jack and greeting him. In the perfect climate of mid-morning, not too hot or cold, folks gather in groups in the park. With respectful social distances they practise their yoga and tai chi. Some folks sit in their portable chairs and chat, perhaps with knitting they’ve brought. Others read to each other. The view of the harbour is always grand, even from the leash-free area where other folks let their dogs interact happily. I think ahead to the cold blustery winter days and all the dark news of these times and try my best to absorb all the good energy on these end days of summer.
Well, I’m no addict to Facebook and often refer to it as Assbook. That says enough I think. But I took an hour out at midday today to watch a friend’s live evening concert from his home near Whitby in Yorkshire UK. Richard Grainger is a wonderful singer/songwriter with themes about the working man, the fisherman and whaler, common folk in general, and life on the edge of the North Sea. If you loved Stan Rogers you’ll love Richard’s music. I certainly do. You can learn about Richard on Facebook and on Youtube and also purchase any of his many splendid albums. As much as I am reluctant to endorse any social media and all its addictive nuances I’m amazed at the notion of attending a live event half-way around the planet. I know, I know, it’s all old school now. When I was a child the notion of having a telephone in your home was still considered something of a novelty. They were complete with rotary dial and twisty cords. A private phone line was decadent. Now telephone books have been relegated to museums. All the photos in this blog were taken with my mobile telephone. I’ve no idea what all else my “device” can do. Fossil!
Who’d a thunk?
“Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.” – William Shakespeare
“Our fears are like dragons guarding our most precious treasures.” Ray Wylie Hubbard
How can those few words from a Texan country singer not tug at your heart. They apply to all of us. Consider how you feel about our present times. They really hit home for me as I regard a present visitor. Ayre is a 3½ month old tiny dog. She weighs less than 3 kilos (about five pounds.) This five-pound monster has stolen my heart. I find myself taking to her in silly voice puppy-speak. Jack gives her a deep warning growl when she comes prancing at him; he’s doing his part in mentoring her. She’s cute as hell even when she tries to sink her tiny needle teeth into my fingers, growling with all the ferocity she can muster. Of course that bravado is a mask for all that frightens her. “The best defence is a good offence.” Who could want to harm her? There are those who would and some creatures see her as a tasty snack. I can’t imagine how the world must look to a being so tiny and newly arrived. When I pick her up I’m afraid I’m going to break her frail-feeling bones but soon the warm wriggling fragrant bundle of puppy licks my big old hand with a tiny soft pink tongue and there is a moment of joy and a gush of paternal instinct. Awwwww.
Of all the negative things we can find about human beans one of the rays of hope is our indefatigable instinct to care and protect tiny creatures. This little dog can soon prove itself a pain in the ass, demanding attention and food then more attention. Yet an old bush ape like me finds patience and tenderness much to my own amazement. She’s running the whole household, both innocently and deliberately. I’ve know little of the horror of a screaming baby in the night but I suspect this is much the same. There is some override wiring which brings patience and caring without contemplation. Mothers possess a courage and stamina I don’t grasp.
Today is August 3rd, a provincial holiday, BC Day. The weather is languid, the streets are quiet (After a bout of wailing sirens at 04:00) The mourning doves are hoo-hoo-hooing and all seems calm, Covid be damned.
Recently some friends and I held a conversation about the correct, and also the legal way, to merge into traffic. I found myself contemplating this again while out walking Jack this morning.
I’ve some some research online. In BC there is a bit of a grey zone about this with references to “being socially handicapped” and “it’s the polite thing to do.” It is clearly stated however that a vehicle making a left turn, or entering traffic on it’s left is always the give-way vehicle. If there is an accident involving any merging vehicle it will be always that vehicle deemed at fault. A vehicle in the moving traffic lane must not impede the flow of traffic it is in to accomodate a merging vehicle. Our traffic laws were generally written based on marine traffic rules and it makes sense that a vessel entering a busy channel must give way to others already underway. In the air, or on the water, a vessel with another on its right is the stand-on vessel.
I have a notion that folks demanding you merge ahead of them, or go before them at a four-way stop for example, are often actually empowering themselves rather than trying to be nice. There are no “Nice Police” and usually simply playing by the rules is the nicest thing to do, then we all have a notion of whazzup. I’ve held a drivers license for fifty-two years without any crashes. With all of the driving I’ve done I like to think I’ve done something right. I’ll certainly admit that as I age, my reaction time is beginning to slow as well as my ability to see things as quickly. Being honest about your abilities is a good way to help stay safe. Ever notice how no-one admits to being a poor driver? It’s always the other guy.
Blackberry season is now in full swing. Men with plastic buckets lean into the brambles picking the succulent treats. Except for one. He stood watching and holding a full pail while his elderly wife worked on filling another, all the while she was holding a big German Shepard on a leash. It did not like the brambles. I wanted to kick that old misogynist’s arse but he would have spilled the berries and the dog would have bitten me. Isn’t it interesting what one can assume from a glance? Everyone seems extra testy these days so it’s best to keep to oneself. At least we’ve had no explosions. Working in the backwoods I learned how even twenty pounds of ammonium nitrate could crack away a big piece of granite mountain. Nearly three tons of the stuff in downtown Beirut is like a nuclear bomb. That thousands, out and about living their daily lives, were not killed is a miracle. Bang. How quickly life can change!
Jack and I have just come back from our morning walk, or in other words, shuffle and sniff. It rained last night and there is a subtle perfume of freshness. We met that old couple with the dog again. Pops was holding the dog this time and his wife was breakfasting on wet blackberries. All three seemed pleasant and amicable. So…three friends, instead of enemies.
The fourth agreement: “ I will respect the power of my words.”
The main street is nearly deserted. I pulled into one of many available angled parking spots across from the pharmacy. As I reached for the door-handle there was a blur in the spot next to me. A small car pulled in as if it were a brake test zone. The young woman driving was wearing a surgical mask. Had I been a second earlier I would have been mince. No mask would have helped me.
There’s a weary old joke about a person who quits smoking only to be run over by a tobacco truck. We fixate on one peril and ignore several others. Think of all the near misses one endures while out driving on any road. You have no control over the other driver and what a single twitch of their hand could do. Danger is all around us, at all times, we cannot escape its presence even as we obsess about the perils of our present pandemic and all the social issues of isolation versus contamination.
Most of us would go completely around the twist if we lost our electronic and cyber web of information and distraction. I was on the phone yesterday with a friend from South Africa. He talked about my recent blog and the sad news of the wolf Takaya. He then related a similar story about a hippopotamus that went walkabout and was eventually shot. The story is about ninety years old but simply by googling “hippo shot in South Africa” I had instant access to several accounts of the legend of Huberta. It is truly amazing how the internet evolved so quickly to become the wealth of information (and lies) it is. Even more incredibly we take it all for granted, accepting whatever is presented as truth.
Yesterday morning we awoke to the sound of a train on the roof. Actually it was a burst of rain and sleet which gave way to another sunny morning. The next onslaught of precipitation came just after Jack and I had launched ourselves on our morning wander. Of course. Like the few folks out with their dogs, we all respectfully maintained a two-metre radius and it is suggested that we not even pet each other’s canine for fear of transferring heeby jeebies that way. There are dark aspects to people’s behaviour certainly but that seems outweighed by the goodness and graciousness demonstrated by most but the symptoms of analytis are evident at the best of times and those folks put themselves in a place of auto-distancing by default.
Lollygagging, remember that word? It sits on the shelf just after heeby jeeby, not far before malinger which is a bit before a box marked “Redneck Terms” which are often single-syllable four-letter words far more commonly used, especially in times like these by crusty old dudes like me. Folks will come to understand “Cabin Fever” if they don’t already. That in turn may erupt into a wild rage far more insidious than any virus. When we can all come up out of our lemming holes again, perhaps we’ll find the world a little better place with a newly re-found respect for each other and ourselves. How long those lessons last will be up to each of us.
This morning Jack and I were out and about in the cold crispy air and misty light of early morning. We met no-one else. There were not even any cars on the road. It seems very strange indeed.
Despite my cynicisms about media information here are three online items which might provide some comic relief, dark as it may be.
The first is from New York City where throngs of people crowded together on bridges and the waterfront to see the arrival of the US Navy hospital ship ‘Comfort.’ There are several photos which show folks with mobile phones held high, trying to record the moment.
The next is about the ‘Resolute,’ a small cruise ship in international waters off the coast of Tobago. It was accosted by a Venezuelan navy patrol vessel, the ‘Naiguta’ which demanded the ship allow itself to be forced into a Venezuelan port. Instead the ship, which had been built with an ice-breaking bow, rammed and sank the naval vessel. There were no lives lost and the story cheers me immensely.
And finally, a horrible story from Texas. On an interstate highway a tractor trailer load of toilet paper crashed and burned. Photos show flaming rolls littering several lanes. Hot wipes!
And so another day drags on, hopefully we all find something to smile about. I hope the spring flowers bring a little cheer.
“Humanity is not without answers or solutions regarding how to liberate itself from scenarios that invariably end with mass exterminations. Tools such as compassion, trust, empathy, love, and ethical discernment are already in our possession. The next sensible step would be to use them.” ― Aberjhani, Splendid Literarium: A Treasury of Stories, Aphorisms, Poems, and Essays
A molten dagger of sunlight found its way behind the curtains and crept across the wall toward the foot of the bed. Another crystalline morning. The world outside is eerily quiet. Quarantined. There is no frost until the sun rises a little more then instantly everything is covered in whiteness. Then the sun’s radiation burns it away again with a sweeping line as it climbs into the day ahead. A Covid dawn. I like to be up before dawn, it’s the best part of the day. However, I’m still struggling with the long-term effects of whatever flu bug I’ve had. Hopefully I have the right cream for bed sores but sleep seems to be what the body demands. Apparently many others endure a similar affliction. It is not the Big C but it sure is debilitating.
Overhead a few contrails lazily dissipate in the flight corridor which parallels the length of Vancouver Island. Unless those are military aircraft on international routes someone is still making commercial flights. This evening, minutes ago, I looked up to see a jet’s thick contrail aligned with the North Pacific Great Circle Route; bound somewhere in Asia I’d guess. The sun had set behind the island’s mountains but its golden glow rendered the long thin cloud iridescent in the azure sky. On the same flight path, four cranes silently winged their way Northwestward, their elegant black silhouettes contrasting sharply with the long glowing cloud tens of thousands of feet above.
My most indelible photos ever are embedded in my personal hard drive. They’ve all been viewed when there was no camera handy; of course! So they sit in the back of my brain. As I wrote this, those birds descended with their wings set to land in some field or marsh to feed and rest for the night. Usually, cranes honk distinctively, calling for more of their kind already on the ground. Their silence seemed strange; maybe they knew they were the first of the spring migration. Maybe they were going to do a red eye and fly on past the coughing, sneezing hordes below. Life goes on.
This old ranter is stuck. This is a time to be especially careful with one’s words. I’ll keep my criticisms to myself. The internet can be a fantastic tool or a weapon. The information available is staggering and imagine enduring this pandemic without all the ready information, whether accurate truth or blatant lies. It is up to each of us to be discerning about what we choose to believe but think of going through this event without the advise, news and entertainment. That was how it must have been with the Spanish Flu pandemic. Well, I’ve long felt an obligation to try and bring a little light to other folks, be that with humour or questions that I think need to be asked. I’ll do my best to brighten your days…and so too mine. This all shall pass and a day will come when we ask each other, “Remember that spring of 2020?” Yes, really!
Here’s a link to some pertinent Australian humour. That continent has, within the last year, endured massive wildfires, severe drought and flooding and now Covid-19. Still there is humour to be found. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ia0bfWbOLjY
“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” -Franklin D. Roosevelt March 4, 1933
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.
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.
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?
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.
“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
I try to keep my blogs like the proverbial box of chocolates “You never know what you’re going to get.” So, after the last posting’s polemic social comment here’s something much different.
Aviation has been a cornerstone of my life. One of my favourite all-time airplanes is the de Havilland DHC2 otherwise known simply as the Beaver. Once while I was using a payphone on a Gulf Island dock a Beaver began it’s takeoff from the harbour. The usual ear-splitting snarl filled the air and awestruck, the person on the phone, from Southern California, asked what the noise was. I replied casually that it was just a Beaver. “Oh my Gawd” was the stunned response. I left the magic in the air and did not explain further that this beaver was an airplane.
Famous around the globe in an amazing variety of roles, this aircraft design is almost seventy-five years old. It is famous along this coast and is synonymous with the word float plane. There are books written about all its accomplishments and I could produce another. I love its raw, rugged simplicity and see this machine as an ultimate piece of Canadian technology.
It’s engine, the Pratt& Whitney R985 of 450 horsepower is little-changed since its inception in 1935. It still runs beautifully and dependably without computers and despite being archaic WWII technology it will be clattering through the sky for many years to come. As time wore on some Beavers were re-powered with the incredible PT6 turbine. This cut engine weight drastically and increased power by almost fifty percent. This engine has been one of the best improvements to aviation ever, powering a fantastic array of aircraft and is incredibly reliable. It made the Beaver into a whole new airplane.
Now there has been yet another upchange. Harbour Air, a local schedule and charter float plane service, with over 40 aircraft and 500,000 passengers annually, has just flown its first electric Beaver. Powered with a magniX 750 hp electric engine, this new generation of Beaver will currently have a range, plus reserve, to safely fly across the Strait Of Georgia and back. The batteries are NASA-approved lithium (An environmental conundrum) and as they are improved, will allow electric aviation to advance. Even a new style of propeller has been fitted and that lovely old Beaver banshee take-off howl may one day no longer echo between shorelines. There are skeptics, there are bugs, but it’s a giant step in a wonderful new direction. It is not so long ago that electric model airplanes were novel. I muse at the following scenario as a pilot makes this announcement. “Ladies and gentlemen, you will have noticed the recent jolt as we came to the end of our extension cord. However….!”
Sadly, as I wrote the word “thonk” beneath my caption about the photo of the little bird in my last blog, a similar but much louder and sickening din occurred on the beach of nearby Gabriola Island. A local and highly seasoned pilot augered his twin-engined Piper Aerostar onto a vacant woodlot between two homes. He and two passengers died after an apparent instrument failure during dark and foggy conditions only a few minutes from the safety of the end of the runway at nearby Cassidy Airport. The flight had started in Mexico with one stop for fuel in California, a long and tiring trek in a single day for a single pilot. It is a huge local tragedy yet also a miracle that no-one on the ground was taken as well.
As a former pilot I can tell you about the day of advanced flight training when you are put “under the hood.” It is a contraption that looks a bit like a welding helmet and prevents the student from seeing outside the cockpit. The flight instruments are carded over and then you are to maintain level flight simply by instinct and the feelings in the seat of your pants. After a few very long and sweaty moments the hood is removed and you are horrified to see that you have put the airplane into a flight attitude which is rapidly about to become catastrophic. I remember wondering why the engine revs were running away and then I saw! It is a very memorable event, both humbling and sobering. The lesson is simple: “ALWAYS TRUST YOUR INSTRUMENTS.” Eventually you learn to control the aircraft while wearing the hood despite what you instincts are shouting at you. It is very, very hard to do at times and flying under real instrument conditions regularly is a necessary practice. Regular proficiency exams are mandatory to maintain a valid IFR rating. Commercial aircraft have back-up systems and crew. I won’t speculate and leave that to the armchair aviation experts who rear their lofty views as always at such times.
Now for some new home-spun creativity. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
This is how it all began. I bought this little work trailer, removed its metal sides and converted it to carry my inflatable boat. It worked well.
It has evolved. I built the toolbox at the front to fit the back of an RV and is big enough to even hold a twenty pound bottle of propane as well as all the tools I should need. It fits the trailer as if I’d planned it that way. The plywood was purchased new, but much of the project has used recycled parts and hardware. I re-installed the axle beneath the springs for more ground clearance and to allow room for bigger wheels and heavier tires which desert roads will demand.
Who’da thunk? The upper back part slips out and the sides fold down onto a removable support for travel. A friend donated the locking door handle and upper windows. Thanks Jimmy. The lower window was found in a sailor’s garage sale and has waited years to find its place. The top is coated with a special HD deck paint found for sale at half-price. The sides are treated with Cetol, a marine wood oil which I happened to have. It will be easy to repair if scratched along the trail. Hardware is from second-hand shops or out of salvage boxes I’ve stowed away for years.
With standing headroom inside at the back This will provide a snug shelter where I can sleep warm and dry or sit and write when the weather is harsh. I could even cook in there if necessary. The top, when laying flat, is an excellent platform for photography and shooting video. I MADE IT!
I’m calling this my “Hobbit Box. ” The flooring came from a ‘Restore’ The bed base unclips and folds out of the way. The trailer will hold my outboard motor and rolled-up inflatable boat, a bicycle or small motorcycle, generator, compressor, chainsaw, gas and water containers or accomodate one or two friendly people. The bunk is 36″ wide folded down. I still need to acquire a custom-made mattress and finish insulating the top and sides. My generator will easily run a small electric heater and charge other batteries at the same time.
Once a sailor, always one. The cables and turnbuckles hold the lid down securely in the up and down positions. Beneath the corner brace, a sturdy bracket holds an outboard motor in place, handy to the door and yet safely upright.
So how many Hobbit Boxes have a porch? Now all I need is a rocking chair and a banjo! A friend provided the two jack stands. Thanks Niels! They’ll be handy for many things, including roasting wild game over a campfire. This hinged ramp will double as a work table and the trailer can be a cargo transporter, a workshop, a camper and general storage box. What about a taco stand?”Fred’s Mexican Curries.”Tha, tha, thaz all folks! With the hinged ramp locked in the up position we also have a bear trap/ paddy wagon. The section of pvc pipe is intended to facilitate loading kayaks and other gear on top. It has proven to also be an excellent rain catcher! The closest ideas to this trailer were on Russian YouTube videos. Hopefully the next photos of the Hobbit Box will have cacti in the background.
“The Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a nativity scene in Washington, D.C. This wasn’t for any religious reasons. They couldn’t find three wise men and a virgin.” …Jay Leno
The garage door rattled open. I stepped out with a sack of recycling in each hand; garbage day again. Lately, this weekly event seems to have become be a way to measure the passage of my life. But I don’t really consider the day truly begun until I’ve stepped outside. So there I was, on my way toward another tiny adventure, another thin slice of life. In the dim light of pre-dawn the waxing moon was setting above a high thin overcast. There was a forecast for rain. Two gulls flew together beneath the dull baleful glow of the moon. It was beautiful. Back inside the coffee machine had leaked all over the counter and the dog had thrown up on the carpet. But…it was the only day I had! We tend to forget that at times and in fact, now is eternally the only the moment any of us ever have. Let’s go for a walk Jack!
A few months ago I mentioned my tinnitus to a doctor. That is a condition, usually due to being around high industrial noise, gunfire, or any other combination of excessive decibels which causes a permanent condition of ringing or squealing in your ears. It can be overwhelming at times. The painting “The Scream” is alleged by some to have been inspired by tinnitus. One thing led to another and soon I found myself at a hearing clinic with a prescription for hearing aids. I am not a fan of going around with foreign objects attached to, or inserted in, my body but any chance at some sort of relief from the incessant white noise in my head is worth consideration.
After the expected copious and tedious paperwork with near-endless impossible questions as well as a few telephone interviews, to my utter amazement, WorkSafe BC approved the application. I am now the dubious owner of nearly six thousand dollars worth of audio assistance devices. They are tiny, as non-intrusive as possible and nearly invisible to the casual eye. Small as they are, they are also rechargeable, so there is no need to be messing with tiny expensive batteries. That’s a bonus for a guy with banana fingers, lithium cells notwithstanding. I am worried about losing the tiny items.They are also Bluetooth compatible and can become part of my mobile phone system if desired. But thank you very much, I already have enough wrong numbers rattling around in my noggin. I do wonder if there is a way to connect to my favourite radio station! And… are there any of these gadgets available for my dog? He doesn’t seem to hear anything I say anymore.
Walking with Jack yesterday we came upon one of those traffic-counting devices stretched across the street. Those are the black rubber tubes which, when driven over, record a vehicle’s passage. There are two, I believe, in order to be able to indicate which way the vehicle was travelling. Gasoline stations once had them to ring a bell whenever someone drove up to the pumps. I recall kids jumping on them just for the fun of annoying someone. Ding, ding, ding, ding. These are exactly the same old-tech devices I recall from my childhood. I was reminded of an old man who was a family friend when I was very young. He had hearing aids. My parents, at the time, did not own a car but this fellow had a Nash sedan. It was burgundy with a black roof, I can still smell the upholstery in the summer heat. These cars were notorious for their seats which folded down into a large comfortable bed and were apparently the bane of parents with teenage daughters.
Too decrepit to drive far, the old fellow would travel with my family on special trips if my father took the wheel. He believed those traffic counters were some sort of police speed trap and would insist we slow to an even lower crawl if he saw one. His name was Melvin Cudmore (yes really) and his hearing aid was state of the art for that day. It was a large box that clipped onto the waistline of his trousers and was connected by an obvious twisting wire to a flesh-coloured ear plug. “D” cell batteries were all that we had then and they didn’t last long. The Duracell bunny had yet to be born. I remember sitting beside this codger in church for interminable Sunday services. His hearing device squealed loudly at times. He was as oblivious to that as he was to his old-man-smell which, as a child, was an overwhelming cloud of pre-decomposition that seemed to surround many seniors. Good grief, I suddenly wonder, am I going to smell like that?
Technology has moved on, hopefully personal hygiene has as well. Now then, I must adapt to having these things stuffed into my head. It will take a while. Out with Jack this morning, raindrops pattering on the trees sounded like bullets smacking down. Wet leaves underfoot sounded as if I were walking on cornflakes. A noisy little dog we met seemed to squeak thunderously. I greeted the wee beast with my affected silly Cherman voice. “Ischt das unt Vulgarian Scherndle Yipper?” The owners were amused and apologetic, explaining it is a rescued dog which is slowly adjusting to a better life. I must be getting old. I’ve learned to like little dogs and now I’m wearing audio-assist devices. Maybe I’ll soon own an electric cane. It’ll have a taser death-ray, a GPS and should hold at least half a pint of scotch. Meanwhile, my new, supposedly life-enhancing gadgets, are resting in their charging box. Maybe, I’ll wear them a little longer tomorrow.
Wot’s that sound?
Monday morning dawns reluctantly under a low foggy overcast. I get out of bed one toe at a time and then plonk myself down on the couch beside Jack and pull a blanket over us. No point in rushing into things. Eventually we go for a long walk down the dank creek-side path. I try to find some cheer in looking for photos, there is always something of beauty, no matter how dim the light. In so doing, I usually find good reason to be alive. Jack is happy in the moment, I try to take inspiration. Finally home again he is now back on the couch, snoring blissfully. I putter away at my writing for a bit and then go back to puttering on my little trailer project.
Last night I shared a YouTube video with some friends about Greta Thunberg and the corporations sponsoring her, it’s a look at what the rest of the story might well be. While I don’t believe in shooting the messenger I do believe in asking questions. That is one of the mission motives of this blog, either to inspire you or piss you off enough to ask questions. I’ve already said my bit about the entire hypocrisy of little Greta’s message although it is underscored with some sound thinking. All I’ll say now is that the entire “Think Green” mentality, once dissected, is about the green colour of money. If you care, you’ll do your own homework and arrive at your own informed opinions. Ask questions, ask questions, ask questions. If you buy the media’s spin on things, you’re playing into their hands and are part of the problem.
Frankly, having just returned with Jack after a walk out in the brisk Westerly winter wind howling down the harbour, the notion of global warming, at least here, seems abstract. Brrrr! But yes, we are entering a period of cyclic global warming, yes we are contributing to that warming, but no, we are not the prime cause. Icefields have covered this planet, over and over, the climate has warmed and cooled, those massive glaciers have retreated and advanced over and over; that is how much of our geography has been formed. These climatic variations are caused by solar fluxuations or something else beyond the control of the frail, insignificant beings we are. There are entire civilizations underwater which once were built well above sea levels. Who did those folks blame when invaded by their water front? What automobiles and factories were to blame. They perhaps understood the arrogance of believing it was all due to their influence.
While we wring our hands about things over which we have no control, we ignore the things we can, often deliberately. On this chill, damp mid-November morning, the howl of a mower on the neighbour’s lawn invades my space. The lawn feeds no-one, the carbon footprint of the lawnmower is significant and it is all for nothing but vanity. It is a uniform plane of non-edible grass, which won’t grow much for the next few months, but it is a thing of beauty to the conformist eye.
The same soil could feed a few head of livestock and/ or grow enough vegetables for the entire neighbourhood. That property is part of an old farm, it is good rich ground. The mature fruit trees in that yard groaned with a bumper crop this summer. I’m don’t believe any of it was harvested. There is no need to burn anymore jungle.
We can produce all of our own food here instead of burning all that fuel to build more ships and import our groceries and gadgets from the other side of the planet across oceans littered deeply in plastic debris, (Including high-tech carbon fibre yachts carrying self-righteous, glaring young environmental evangelists). We need to focus on what’s important. Taking care of ourselves responsibly and sustainably must come first. We can be self-sufficient, we can relearn how to love ourselves and each other. If we each did that, what a world it could be!
“Don’t sweat the petty things and don’t pet the sweaty things.”
About two hundred years ago Vancouver Island was being seriously discovered by Europeans. We had all these raw resources to exploit although earlier British Explorers described this place as worthless because it was covered with impossibly huge trees. The land could not be farmed because it would be too difficult to clear. Yet those sailors headed home with deck cargos of beautiful spars and it was their rigging skills which were adapted to rape those old growth forests. Those were the days when making daylight in the swamp was a noble thing. Monstrous clear-grained timber was so plentiful that some pioneers resorted to burning down the trees where they stood. There are records of folks roofing over old hollow stumps and using them for a snug home. No value was placed on wilderness, pristine vistas and water, no thoughts were placed on the value of sustainability. Notions of ever running out of timber, fish, drinking water would have had you laughed out of the pub.
Vancouver Island is still one of the most beautiful areas on the planet, but like the old Joni Mitchell song about the tree museum, there is very, very little left the way it always was. Our forests are feral. They have been subdued and ravished then left to fend for themselves.Nothing was sacred. Our indigenous peoples were merely an inconvenience to the invasion of industrial pirates. Even people brought from the old world to die in the coal mines or the forests and mills, were a bothersome but necessary commodity. At times, donkeys and pit ponies held a higher value than the men. Families wearied their way around Cape Horn as a second-value cargo in their quest for a better life. When a man died in the mines, or of black lung disease, their wives and their children could well find themselves out in the rain on a muddy street to fend for themselves. Life is cheap, so long as it is not your own.
Much has improved in the last two centuries and few have any longing for the “Old days.” Ladysmith Harbour was once known as Oyster Bay because of the incredible abundance of huge, succulent bivalves. The coal mines and the forest industry destroyed that natural bounty. Jack and I have just returned from our morning exploration in the November drizzle. The stream we followed is pocked with the remains of old coal mining operations. Various buildings crumble into the black mud. The forest is all second-growth, having reseeded itself among the shattered stumps of long-evolved rain forest. I find a permanent sadness among the twisted branches and debris from days past.
Young men now come in off-road vehicles to churn their way through the mud holes and to chew up the tortured creek and forest. Vehicles discarded in the bushes are either stolen and abandoned or belong to people out hunting deer. Who brings exotic vehicles along a bashed-out road to look for something to shoot at in these twisted feral woods? Discarded beer cans and deer parts provide copious evidence that they are there. I have sense of being in a war zone. A former hunter myself, the back of my neck began to tingle and I wondered what testosterone and alcohol-charged urbanite was creeping around in the bushes with his assault weapon looking for something, anything, to move. I felt like we had targets painted on the backs of our heads. I called Jack back and we headed home.
Ladysmith was re-named after the community of Oyster Bay sent a contingent of its young men off to the Boer War in South Africa to fight and die at the Battle of Ladysmith. It is something else to be proud of. On Monday morning a small squadron of vintage WW II aircraft will pass overhead, old men in blue blazers and berets will stand at the local cenotaph beside the highway where the traffic will keep on speeding by. Perhaps there will be a bugler. Then, many will head for a drink, or ten, and life goes on.
Last night I watched a documentary about Xinjiang Province in China. Since 2014 over a million Uyghur people have been herded into concentration camps by China. Their crime is simply their culture and their Muslim faith. It is the largest mass incarceration since the Second World War. I was shocked and sickened by my ignorance of this. My research since indicates it is true. Sadly, once again the darkness of human nature confirms that we have learned nothing. “Lest We Forget.” It has gone unmentioned to the rest of the world by other prominent nations because of China’s massive economic clout. Think of that the next time we walk into WalMart. Nearly every product is marked made in PRC. What else do we live in oblivion of?
Well, now that I’ve cheered everyone to a state of giddiness let me again mention my favourite radio station From Goldfield, Nevada. KGFN 89.1 I stream it online and think it is one of the finest mixes of music broadcast anywhere. It is officially called a Bluegrass station but that is certainly only one flavour of the music they play. The station is run by volunteers and relies heavily on donations and local sponsors. When is the last time you’ve heard a tow truck company advertised on the radio? They also air local musicians who sing lyrics like “Never turn your back on a bull.” The announcer this morning was playing with words about “Snattlerakes.” So I thunk up “Pionscorps” and “Otecoys” wot live out among the “Tuscac.” I enjoy their wisecracks about we snowbirds and all the California yuppies. Nothing is sacred in the high desert. Today there was an announcement for folks who might want lumber from a local old school demolition. I’ve never heard the news on this station. It’s that kind of town. There is something down-home folksy that tugs at my heart. I look forward to my next arrival in that little old mining town in the middle of the bleak Nevada desert. It has something called personality with no sense of the ubiquitous strip mall all too common with our modern existence. I stand by my description of the place as the real Burning Man event, all year long. I plan on staying a day or two.
Jack and I are back from today’s morning patrol and the rain has just begun again. (Rhythm! And we’re not even Catholic.) We met a couple on the trail out with their little dog. The lady bent over to Jack and exclaimed, “What a handsome fellow!’ I responded, “Why thank you! Whatd’ya think of my dog?” There was laughter. My day is a success already. Laugh with me, laugh at me, just laugh darnit! So long as I can leave a little light in someone’s eyes, I have served a higher purpose.
“Everything human is pathetic. The secret source of humour itself is not joy but sorrow. There is no humour in heaven.” …Mark Twain