I was sanding a piece of plywood purchased at Home Depot as work continues on my little trailer. I am no fan of any big chain store but these guys will cut up wood to my exact specifications and so there I go. They also sell lumber stored inside, out of the rain and sun, at least for a few days. Impressed with the superior quality of this particular product, I noted the clear grain and the lack of voids between laminations. Then I noticed the stamp, “Made in Chile.” WOT! I bought this in British Columbia? I’ve previously found the ‘home despot’ selling 2x4s cut from loblolly pine from Louisiana and marked “Product of NAFTA.” How do you harvest, mill, ship and sell lumber at a profit from the diagonally opposite corner of the continent…into the global forest products capital of BC? And the US president rants about the inequities of NAFTA. I agree!
The media constantly runs stories about the dire state of BC’s forest industry. I frequently write about the chicken farmer who goes to town to buy his eggs. I repeatedly use my example of a local sawmill shut down allegedly due to a shortage of timber supplies. Several ships a week come to that former mill’s dock to load raw logs for export across the Pacific! That has been going on for years at several locations along our coast. And, I’m buying wood products from far across the same ocean! Is my plywood made from a BC log milled in Chile? Think of all the fossil fuels burned to ship products back and forth around the planet. Green? Meanwhile our young Norwegian school girl environmental messiah is in Alberta to suss out our environmental evils. Is she still travelling about in Arnold Scharzenegger’s electric car? Scotty? Helloo Scotty? Beam me up. Please!
Clearly, this old sailor knows nothing about economics but there is something very wrong here. I’ve found bottled water from Texas in local stores, meat and produce come from the other side of the planet and this British Columbian, living in a wine-producing valley, often finds the best quality and value in imported wine…often from Chile. Apparently Chile often uses the same poor environmental practices which we have proven wrong and unsustainable, from fish farming to forestry. Questions anyone?
On a more positive note, I went to the advanced poll to vote in the Federal Election. The lines ran out the door and still people came waiting for nearly an hour to mark their X. It was encouraging to see such a turnout. Hopefully, for once, the election will not be decided by all those who are too comfortable to get off their butts and vote. It would be grand if someone else’s apathy was not running everyone else’s lives.
It is Thanksgiving Monday in Canada. Our roads and ferries will be clogged with folks rushing home after their “holiday.” We have one day left of clear skies before a forecast of several rainy days is due. I’ve declared this to be a BNG day. (Burn no Gas) Just back from our morning walk, Jack and I took a tour of a few suburban blocks and along part of an extensive creek-side trail network. We met lovely dogs and their lovely owners and exchanged greetings on this calm, warm sunny day. It is a lovely wee town and I take pleasure in seeing well-kept, older smaller homes. They are not pretentious but express a quiet dignity and contentment without any need to impress anyone. And that impresses me. Sadly, there is a cancer of neo-suburbia encroaching all around the town but it is easy enough to stay on this side of the creek where clear, cold, safe to drink for the stream water still runs. Today is the only one I have and I intend to enjoy it. It is Thanksgiving and I did not wake up elsewhere. Good enough!
Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich by promising to protect each from the other. ~Oscar Am ringer, “the Mark Twain of American Socialism.
We slide down the slippery slope called autumn. Our first frost of this fall glitters on the roofs this morning as the reluctant sun rises under a clear cold sky. There’s no turning back so we may as well ride it out and get on with it. If we gain enough momentum, perhaps we’ll zoom across the valley called winter and find ourselves well on the way to spring before we know it. Yeah right! It was only a month ago that I slept out on a dock. Now here we are digging in the closet for winter coats.
Like springtime, if you don’t like the weather, wait a few minutes and it will change. There are periods of lovely sunlight, then bursts of cold rain. Within the advance to winter we are having the cold approach of a federal election later this month. The wearisome political signs are everywhere. Posters line our streets and highways, dot lawns and store fronts much to vandal’s delight. A televised “debate” earlier this week between the federal leadership hopefuls left me squirming in disdain as everyone tried to outshout and insult each other. Other inane election stories on television leave me inclined toward indignant rage. A friend and I recalled how as kids, for Halloween costumes we would black our faces with burnt cork. No one considered it a racial innuendo. That candidates would use twenty-year old photos of a young man at a costume party to try and slander another is pathetic. It is childish and self-demeaning; I know who has persuaded me away from voting for them.
Beyond our Canadian borders, US politics also amuse and confuse me; England too. With all the politicians stumbling about peeing in each other’s cornflakes, how the hell do they ever get around to actually doing the job their constituents hired them to do? If you are old enough to know what a gong show is…well! The bong of the gong goes on. There are no alternatives. Party politics, in the end, are ridiculous, no matter whom you decide to support. At least, in our system, we are still free to leave, any time, anywhere. Real estate is very affordable in Syria, or Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Bangladesh, just to name a few. No need to name this dude, but how to you sit idly by when anyone tweets that they “have a great and unmatched wisdom?” (No, that is not taken out of context) It seems to be a neo edition of the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes.’ Seriously! And apparently, they are all as goofy.
A neighbour who has held a major bucket-list item of seeing Africa finally dreamed and schemed herself onto her trip of a lifetime. Several countries were on her two-month itinerary and on her arrival in South Africa, she sent a photo of herself paragliding. I joked that was a slow way to fly the length of such a big continent. Nearly a month into her adventure her ankle exploded during a white water rafting adventure in Zambia. She never got to see Victoria Falls. The hospital there was so basic that the doctors had to hold her x-rays up to the sun to read them. Struth! It took a few days to get to Johannesburg where that hospital would not accept her medical insurance. Miraculously she found a flight home via Hong Kong and made it through that airport without any political demonstrations. I cannot imagine the misery of her travels.
Finally, in Vancouver, after a jaunt around the world, the hospital there turned her away and directed her back to Vancouver Island. By the time she arrived in Nanaimo her fragmented ankle had been injured for well over a week and so then the hospital here tried turning her away; no beds. Finally, in desperation, she persuaded them to look at her x-rays again and so she found a bed in a hall. The ankle was in such bad shape by then, they waited another six days and have finally operated and pieced the mess back together. I worry that she is able to keep her foot. And we thought we had troubles!
Back from our morning walk Jack and I huddle by the gas fireplace. It was crisp and lovely with a light Westerly wind rising. Municipal workers were blowing the water out of the sprinkler system on the lawn of the town hall. It is indeed time to focus on things south. It occurred to me this morning that the local anchorage dubbed as Dogpatch was once regarded by myself, I’ll confess, with low regard. Folks living off the grid, for whatever reason often impose themselves on the tolerance and benevolence of others. They undermine their own dignity by doing that. Now I am on the beach, boatless. What a change in perspective! And in humility.
I cannot come up with resources, or even employment, to sustain myself. In an effort to stay positive and active I have put myself to work building an enclosure on my little trailer to haul camping amenities behind my truck on my next trip south. (Yes, I AM determined.) I have been thinking that an older, small camper for the back of the truck is all I need. Then I would have a four-wheel-drive RV of sorts. Now it has occurred to me that all I need is a safe, dry place to sleep comfortably. Why not turn the trailer into a small camping vehicle? One of the best trips ever was with a teardrop trailer. I can build this into a fold-up camper with standing headroom at one end. It already has a ramp which can double as a small porch, snake and scorpion-proof. I already have plenty of camping gear so why not do something big in something tiny? My cameras and laptop don’t know what sort of RV I’m based in and I’ve learned from experience with my little teardrop trailer that this is the way to meet some awesome people. Those that pick you out because of your humble rig are the ones to get to know. So there!
I’ve just discovered something worth sharing if you happen to like genuine Mexican food. This Michoacán rural grandma has become a YouTube star with her very basic cooking show. No glitz, no make-up, just out in the rustic backyard with the chickens. You don’t need to speak Mexican to see how she does things. She has some very neat tricks.
‘Shrooms and stools. That was going to be the title, intended to accompany these photos of wild autumn fungi. Then I realized that someone out there would find the words offensive or even vulgar. I am adamantly blue-collar and know my perspective is quite skewed by the standards of some other people. But if you’re trying to live your life without offending anyone, you don’t have a life. Sorry! It is those differences which help folks move to higher planes, if they want to. Perhaps my skin is chaffed a bit thin in the wake of an ongoing strata-home stand off. Apparently some dear souls are offended by the very sight of this lumbering old bush ape but I digress and have already said too much. It’s all in the way folks choose to look at things and if everyone wakes up content, who’s wrong? Some never will be. I guess that’s their bliss.
There is an old urban joke about a fellow driving home who receives a call on his mobile phone from his wife. She anxiously tells him to be careful, the local radio station has just reported that some nut is driving against the traffic on the freeway. “One?” he exclaims, “They’re all going the wrong way.” Perspective. Uh huh. Anyway ‘shrooms and stools. Mushrooms and toadstools…right?
There is only one kind of wild mushroom I know I can eat safely. Many toxic fungi and edible ones look too much the same for my eye; some are only safe to eat at a certain stage of maturity. Sometimes it is tempting, I love mushrooms, but eating the wrong one can apparently be a horrible way to die. Other poisoned reactions merely leave you wishing you could check out. I photographed one puffball fungus that a bird or squirrel had been enjoying, but then some creatures can eat foods which are not for us. Think of what we eat. I did notice a crow flying some intriguing aerobatics. Magic shrooms?
There’s a storm coming, a prelude, says the forecaster, to a nice stretch of fair weather. Have you ever noticed that before some heavy weather, there is often a spate of odd behaviour? People drive and interact oddly. Wildlife can be especially careless, out feeding up before they have to hide and wait out the tempest. Their danger assessments shift from short term danger to long term. Most of the places where Jack and I walk have copious thickets of blackberries. All those brambles are a haven for rabbits. Rabbit populations are cyclic, sometimes there are few and the rodents are very furtive. In periods of massive over-population they become quite cavalier about their well-being. That’s a lot like people I think.
Oddly, as I write about perspective and self-preservation, a Canadian investigative program, called the Fifth Estate is on television. It is running a story about gun ownership and the right to own assault-type weapons in Canada. An idiot holding an AR15, a direct copy of a military weapon, tells the camera that “this is not a weapon.” What? What! He claims it is merely for sport. I am livid. I have lived in rural environments much of my life. I once owned many firearms ,over two dozen at one time, including handguns. I had some strange arguments for my arsenal, but it was because they were weapons that I possessed them. All, firearms are weapons, intended and designed to kill. Indulge in target shooting all you want, a firearm is specifically built as a killing tool. Why any urbanite requires any firearm is a mystery to me.
I once vigorously worked to protest bill C68 which required the registration of all firearms in Canada. I quoted Lloyd Axworthy whose words in support of his bill were almost a verbatim quote of Adolph Hitler decades earlier. The Nazis, in pre-war Germany had imposed a gun control on its citizens for obvious reasons. I argued that a gun is no more responsible for killing someone than a fork is for making people fat. I have conjectured that a rock, a stick, a car, a pair of panty-hose, infected blankets, water, fire, alcohol, have all been weapons. (It was once explained to me that the difference between John Wayne and Jack Daniels is that Jack is still killing people.) I am fearful of a system which ultimately leaves firearms only in the hands of those who should least have them, both criminals and at times police, one and the same all too often.
I confess to still owning one firearm. I carry it into backwood environments as a survival tool. The rest of the time it is well-hidden, locked and well away from the ammunition. I argue with myself at times about even owning that one, with as many reasons pro and con. Having it does not make me feel more secure or manly.
We accept gun violence as part of our daily entertainment. Try to find a movie to watch without some shooting somewhere in its course. I watched the new film “The Goldfinch” a few days ago. It was well done, sensitive and emotional yet it did not finish without the ubiquitous gun fight. We are all part of the problem and in the pressures of our frantic modern culture, some of us lash back. Some use a firearm. It is horrible and a symptom of a far deeper issue. I don’t have an answer. We have been working out how to kill each other long, long before gun powder was invented. I can think of no smarmy clichés to spark a new sensibility. In fact I don’t even know how a blog, which started about mushrooms and rabbits, becomes a rant about human nature.
Perhaps, my comments about the ebb and flood of populations sums it all up. If we can’t figure out how to live together in harmony how can we be so arrogant as to assume we can save the planet. Don’t worry; the host will rid itself of the parasite, let’s look into ourselves and the planet will become a fine place to live again. It is not about what someone else is supposed to do. Yes, it is time the next generation assume an aggressive role in forcing our race to stop being such irresponsible guests on this planet but, sorry young Greta Thunberg, you’ve missed your mark with me.
First things first. Global warming is part of a cycle billions of years old and we are certainly messing with that rhythm but we are not the sole cause. The rhythms of the universe are far bigger than we can comprehend. We do need urgently to clean up our act but stop the bullshit. I admire and agree with much of this young lady’s carefully scripted words and acting but for Godsake! The sixty foot carbon fibre sailboat she rode in for attention is a product of extreme toxic processes which my research says produced up to 140 tonnes of environment nastiness resulting in the highest CO2 emission “Zero Emission” sailboat to ever cross the Atlantic.
Now think of this showboating. There are many flights daily from Scandinavia to New York daily. They will all have at least a few empty seats. Greta could have taken one without costing the planet one extra carbon molecule. Airlines would probably have provided a free ticket in exchange for a little press. The boat trip will require at least four flight seats for crew to go to the US to bring the boat home. Please, don’t believe me, look it up for yourself. Once again, the message is about what someone else is doing wrong. When you can explain what sort of industry caused the warming which put sea shells on mountain tops, you’ll have both my ears. Meanwhile, I refuse to participate in the profit of paranoia. If that makes me unpopular… OK. I choose to think for myself.
As everyone knows, Canada is in the midst of a federal election campaign. It is a referendum about our political future, including our present figurehead, Mr. Dress-up. Poor guy, no matter how hard he tries to be politically correct, he just screws it up a little more. He just can’t seem to help himself.
This came on Facebook from a friend.
To all candidates and all parties…
Negative campaign ads WILL cost you my vote.
Tell me in a positive way what you can do for our country, and I will listen.
Otherwise, we are finished.
I urge ALL Canadians to take a stand on this! Smear campaigns are NOT the Canadian way.
Right on! There is hope.
Here is this blog’s closing quote. Again it is something sent by a friend and I include a quote which is the summation of the lovely story about an old lady’s benevolence. She says:
“ It’s important to be kind. You can’t know all the times you’ve hurt people in tiny, significant ways. It’s easy to be cruel without meaning to be. There’s nothing you can do about that. But you can choose to be kind. Be kind.”
That title is a recent description which I heard about blogging. And perhaps so. This weary writer, who through the years, has produced a half-shelf full of manuscripts, and only managed to self-publish a few, is not sure at times why he bothers to continue blogging. No, blogging is not literature, but neither are some of the best-sellers I have read. Actually, I know why I blog, and the reasons are selfish so I will not openly admit them. I do truly like to think, however, that my noble ambition is to make people aware of the beauty all around us, of which so many lose sight in our rush through life. I also hope that a few folks are inspired to expand a questioning mind and not blindly accept all the slurry which washes around us. That’s all!
Those who have already seen it have been very kind with their remarks about my slowly- improving amateur efforts. If you will, please click the thumbs up button on the lower right-hand side of the video. Thank you. I have found videography to be a challenging, complicated endeavour, especially with my fumbling self-taught progress and low-budget equipment. I do enjoy completing a project and seeing a gradual improvement to the quality of my work. Hopefully I provide a gentle inspiration to a few.
The seasos progresses into autumn with our first gloomy, drizzling days. The rain is cold now. It is slashing down as I write. Jack lays by the glass door, exhaling great sighs in anticipation of going for our morning expedition. We will have some wonderful weather yet, but we all know that summer is over. I stowed the inflatable boat and focus on how to get myself south for a good part of the winter. The next time I inflate that dinghy, I intend it to be with Mexican air. Andalé!
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 andslower, it is usually much easier and drier.
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.
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.
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!
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.
“Land was created to provide a place for boats to visit.” Brooks Atkinson
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.
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.
It is nowa 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.”
…”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.”
There are many fates worse than death. Nearly all of us have known some and I am living one at the moment but, being of an older breed, I know this too shall pass. My fortunes will change, I’ll pay my bills and get on with life. The image I dread most is of a geezer breathing out his last days, sitting staring at some bleak neighbour’s wall, wearing those ubiquitous red plaid slippers, perhaps a bridle of oxygen tubes on his face, an electric scooter parked at the front door, and walker on hand to shuffle out to it. Perhaps for a little more flavour we’ll add a thin string of drool on his white-stubbled face. The nurse will come by tomorrow to help him bath and shave and then he will take the scooter the six blocks to downtown to sit and watch the traffic; just for a change, his weekly highlight. Much of his time is spent contemplating all the things he didn’t do. There is a cliché about life being an ordeal or an adventure and some days we all need to give ourselves a severe talking-to. Enough said.
A neighbour is having some beautiful tall fir trees removed. They’ve been there at least a hundred years and after last winter’s incredible winds I’m sure they are quite safe, but down they come in eight foot lengths to make very expensive firewood. The daily whine of power saws and the growl of the limb-chipping machine are a bit irritating but perhaps I am just becoming a grumpy old man. I thought of that as I watched for a few minutes and recalled a time when I worked as a logger wielding hot screaming power saws in the heat and bugs of summer. At that time of year, we’d go up the mountain at two am and be headed back to town by noon, the afternoons were too tinder-dry dangerous to be in the woods. If things became too dry we’d be banned from going to work at all. Days were then spent in the local pub, swilling draft beer and waiting for a call to go fight a forest fire. That was hell and a horror story very hard to relate believably. You had to have been there.
I doubt I could endure a half-hour of those he-man activities now. In fact, some of my health issues relate to those testosterone-charged days. I was never a high-rigger like the fellow in the photo, but when I hear the snarl of logging activity and catch the tang of fresh-cut wood there is a latent part of my brain that still wants to go kill a tree. Like smoking cigarettes, another part of my life decades ago, there is still a twinge of longing in the back of my hard drive to look at forests in terms of lumber instead of the amazing eco-system which I now embrace and love for its beauty and co-ordinated complexity. Oh indeed, how youth is wasted on the young!
A book I ordered a while ago arrived in the mail today. It is a collection of poetry by Ofelia Zepeda, a brilliant Tohono O’odham indigenous woman of Southern Arizona. She is a highly respected literary icon and as I absorb a bit of that ancient desert culture I want to study as many aspects as I can. The damnedest thing about this book is that while it was published in Tucson Arizona, the copy I received was posted from Gloucester England. Go figure! When I worked up-coast in Shearwater, part of the native community of Bella Bella, I ordered a book I learned about from the local Heiltsuk cultural centre. It was about their unique and beautiful art. I found a used copy in a second-hand book shop in Ohio which shipped it back to Bella Bella. Totem poles and indigenous cultural artifacts are being returned to native communities from all over the world. They were taken long ago and now it’s payback time; rightly so. I guess I’m just part of a trend.
Meanwhile back on South Vancouver Island summer here has been glorious, even as it winds down toward the inevitable end. It sure went fast. I have been scooting about local waters in my inflatable boat exploring haunts I have passed for several decades while voyaging off to far away places. I am used to having a boat this size to serve as a dinghy to the mother vessel so I’m finding this a bit humbling. However I have spent a lot of time in tiny vessels, dinghies, dories, kayaks and canoes. I’ve made some long voyages including a rowing trip through the Gulf Islands and once I took a small ten foot Zodiac from Nanaimo across the Strait Of Georgia to the top of Howe sound on the mainland. It was a distance of almost thirty nautical miles and a good part of the trip was in wide open water. I’ll always remember the look on a yachter’s face as I passed close behind his sloop’s transom and an easy ten miles from the nearest shore. I had a hard time walking for the next two days after that ride. It may sound foolhardy to many, but I am at home on the water like nowhere else and I do know my limits. I’ve made to this age by being prudent.
In days gone by it was not uncommon for people to row fantastic distances here. Loggers would come out of the camps up the inlets and across the Strait of Georgia, and sometimes Juan De Fuca, just for a break. Our coastal natives paddled dugout canoes as far south as Puget sound from Haida Gwaii on raiding expeditions and often went out on the open ocean to hunt whales and kill them in close contact with simple harpoons. I have met folks who have kayaked from Seattle to Alaska and back again. If I am a fool, I am in good company.
Well, I’ll finish this rambling blog with a recommendation. I’ve just returned from a sneak off to the movies. There’s been nothing worth seeing nearly all summer and so I needed a big screen fix. I won’t review this film except to say that even if you are not a movie-goer, check out “Peanut Butter Falcon.” It is the first time I have laughed from my soul in a very long time. Self-described as perhaps the best movie of the decade, I’m inclined to agree about this uplifting effort. Thanks; I needed that!
On a final note, here’s the YouTube link to my latest video effort. Hope you like it.
“Now then, Pooh,” said Christopher Robin, “where’s your boat?” “I ought to say,” explained Pooh as they walked down to the shore of the island, “that it isn’t just an ordinary sort of boat. Sometimes it’s a Boat, and sometimes it’s more of an Accident. It all depends.” “Depends on what?” “On whether I’m on the top of it or underneath it.” ― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
Lately I’ve caught myself bending toward writing rants about local social injustices. I have just deleted an entire page that was snow-balling toward a collision with the thought police. I have also reminded myself that my ire was being based solely on information from the media. Recent experience with the emu and the policeman once again confirmed the inaccuracy of news stories. What was reported and what I saw while experiencing the actual story in first person were rather different. Once I worked with a colleague to rebuild a British DeHavilland 1936 Mk I Tiger Moth which belonged to a local doctor where we lived in a remote Rocky Mountain community. The media got wind of the story and soon was reporting about a British doctor who flew mercy missions in his antique biplane. The account was absolute fabricated rubbish. If the story had a dog sled lashed to one wing it could not have been more ridiculous. My point is about how we tend to form opinions based on what we are fed by the media and how we can get fighting mad over gross inaccuracies and blatant lies. So, chill out dude!
When I finished high school I was offered a journalism scholarship. I am happy to report that I took a summer job and instead turned it into a career. Still I recall the five W’s. Who, what, why, where, when. Those foundations for all journalism seem to have gone into the ditch. I sometimes watch TV news stories and am not informed of where or when the event occurred. Sometimes the reporter’s name is not given. Creative interpretations of an event are offered which have nothing to do with an objective coverage of the truth. I am enraged when a person who has just lost a child or spouse is grieving in front of a camera. That is wholly irresponsible and unconsciously gormless.
Clearly, media’s first priority is to entertain. Tabloid mentality cares little about honesty and accuracy. Get ratings, sell ads, abandon truth and accuracy. We swallow it all as sugar-coated dung. If I interview you saying that you like little boys who are kind to animals, respectful of their parents and old people but I quote you as saying that you “Like little boys,” have I been honest or ethical? There are two important federal elections coming up in North America. The drums are already beating. Remember nature’s simple formula of two ears, two eyes, one mouth.
A friend in the US sent me some political statistics. I’m always suspicious of numbers put forward by anyone. We all know how they can be manipulated to serve an argument in any direction. One figure however, leapt out at me. The US has 5% of the world’s population and 66% of the world’s lawyers. There’s something to chew on! I’ve often considered lawyers to be a breed of parasite that has a life cycle which needs to make enough profit to get into politics. Once in office they make more laws which in turn justifies more lawyers.
Yesterday the weather was fair, the wind was calm. I was long overdue to renew my grasp on certain points of reality. In the wake of selling ‘Seafire’ I had the opportunity to purchase a very nice used inflatable boat. A local shop was having a sale on new outboard motors and for the first time in my life I splurged and bought one. No more tinkering with some else’s cast-offs. The new motor, of course, had a few glitches but I’ve sorted them out and can confidently leave the shore. I have a boat which I can deflate and roll-up to transport with me wherever I go. It is very safe, so long as I stay inside it. That can be difficult in lumpy waters, the boat is very rough-riding but everything is a compromise and, that is what life jackets and harnesses are for. Any day on the water, rough or not, is better than a smooth day ashore. It was wonderful to spend a few hours exploring little nooks I’ve passed by for years. The photos are all from yesterday.
“Being on a boat that’s moving through the water, it’s so clear. Everything falls into place in terms of what’s important and what’s not.” … James Taylor
Last blog I offered a cryptic squint at modern policing attitudes. I must add this. Four years ago a habitual drunk in a pickup truck careening through a suburb of Victoria ran a red light and rammed a police car broadside. He fatally mashed a police officer. The victim was a woman and a mother. Her husband still grieves, especially now. The sentence handed down for this horrific tragedy was a mere four years. However we may each value our human lives that punishment seems cavalier to say the least. That the victim was a RCMP constable on duty should perhaps be irrelevant but four years for wilfully dangerous and violent, mortal irresponsibility is a horrific insult to us all. It trivializes the value of everyone’s life.
I stand by my concerns about jaded and arrogant police attitudes but I also grasp how crushing it must be for all officers when they are so demeaned by a casual judicial system. It also helps me empathize a bit better with the policeman’s lot. Small wonder they become bitterly hardened in the face of such crass dismissals of what they endure while trying to do their duty, no matter how they perceive what that might be.
By the way, friendly comments about my last blog suggest that I “Stay out of trouble.” All I’ll say in response is this. Name me one of your heroes or anyone else the world remembers who stayed out of trouble! C’mon now, just one name!
Summer is rushing past. Dried leaves fall and carpet the trails. Over-ripe blackberries ferment and drunken wasps buzz in your face. Tiny songbirds are flocking up and feeding voraciously in preparation for long southward migrations. Second cuttings of hay on local farms have been baled and stored away. Local markets and roadside stalls overflow with fresh local produce. Back-to-school ads flood the media. It seems I was just posting photos of early spring buds. The seasons whirl by. Peter Fonda, the baby-faced biker just died. He was 89!
I was shocked to realize that the classic and iconic movie, ‘Easy Rider’ was first seen back in my high school days, an entire lifetime ago. That was over half a century! When you start measuring your own life in those terms, well, you know the jokes about buying green bananas.
I’ve never written a bucket list; I’ve just lived it. The greatest anticipations are yet to be experienced. I’ve learned to quit wringing my hands about things like politics. I still constantly prod people to think, think for themselves but I’ve also realized the wisdom of the old Alcoholics Anonymous mantra: “God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Or, as George Carlin put it, “Don’t sweat the petty things, and don’t pet the sweaty things.”
This blog’s photos are local grab shots taken in the last few days.
A dear friend and fellow sailor presently visiting the Thor Heyerdahl Museum in Oslo Norway has just e-mailed me this:
“Borders? I have never seen one, but I have heard that they exist in the minds of some people.”
I once wrote an article about four levels of competence. It was within a series of essays about coastal navigation requested by a local yachting magazine. They never printed that piece. I think what I wrote was too offensive to their valued advertisers. So be it.
Those four levels start at the bottom and rise from not knowing even how little we grasp about how to do something. This skill level is often accompanied with a lot of condescending tones and braggadocio. “Empty wagons rattle the most,” is something this old farm boy tries to remember.
Most of us rise at least to the second level where we become aware of how little we know and begin considering how to improve. We become quite humble in the face of that awareness and mechanically perform the basic steps. Have you known the pain of trying to learn to play a musical instrument?
The third level is when we are finally able to perform to some point of satisfaction but still seek to improve ourselves and often need to consciously think about the skills we are employing. We’ve learned to respect rather than envy others who possess a competence we strive for.
The fourth level is achieved with experience and practice when we can finally do something intuitively. I’ve become fairly adept at sitting in this chair.
Here’s my drift; if you’re still with me. I’ve recently had two bemusing moments with the local constabulary in recent weeks. The first incident found me in handcuffs while going to the local Post Office. I’d always wondered what that must feel like. I was simply parking my truck. Another fellow was also trying to park and making a very poor job of it even after repeated attempts. I waited hoping he would settle. Embarrassed perhaps, he began shouting at me, asking if I had a problem. When I replied “yes” he responded by asking what was wrong. At that point my terse answer, without thinking, was that he was blocking the “F…ing road.”
Then all hell broke loose from behind the Post Office across the street. It turns out to have been a young cop interrogating a woman there about her boyfriend whom he’d just taken to jail. (No further comment on why he’d later share that information.) Crossing the street to get the mail and angling past him, his harangue continued. I suggested that he appeared to be plenty busy enough without spreading his efforts so thinly. He was enraged. I was arrested, hand-cuffed and stuffed into the back of his vehicle. Eventually the cuffs were removed and I was threatened with charges of disturbing the peace, road rage and uttering profanities in public. Yes, really!
He even had the audacity to mention the size of my wrists and how difficult hand-cuffing me had been. He wanted to know what my occupation was. I so badly wanted to say that I was a retired cop and had spent a lot of time playing with my gun. No, I did not. The handcuffs hurt like hell and I bore deep welts on my wrists for several hours.
Constable Zealous refused to acknowledge that he had not interviewed all those witness to my heinous behaviour nor had he noticed the traffic problem and who was shouting. After a half-hour of acrimonious debate I actually received a vague apology once I’d pointed out that he had a rage issue about being challenged and that his job did not involve being any sort of interpretive judicial system. Of course if I’d just kept my pie-hole shut there would have been no problem. I often remind myself of Don Ruiz’s four agreements: I will respect the power of my words, I will take nothing personally, I will assume nothing, I will always do my best.
From a skewed perspective I can see how I broke all those rules in my police moment but damnit, sometimes you have to stand up for what’s right. That’s the problem with Canadians, we are just too polite to the point of enduring all manner of abuses, even from people on our payroll: politicians, bureaucrats, civil servants. They are sworn to serve us, not to try forcing us to bend to their will. We’ve forgotten who’s supposed to be in control. I could easily begin to rant about how Canada is insidiously becoming a police state while we blissfully ignore the obvious. But, if you can’t see it, I’m not about to try penetrating your comfort zone.
I have no desire to be a policeman, not for any salary. It is a thankless task, fraught with danger, stress, frustration and hopefully, at times, guilt and is at most times subject to contempt from the taxpayer….. until, of course, they need to dial 911. There are life and death decisions to be made in an instant and no-one always gets it right no matter how much training they may have had. It is intolerable however when a police officer is arrogant, rude and assumptive. I will not endure derogatory tones from anyone, even a goon with a gun. “To serve and protect” dude! Friends who are retired RCMP members admit some embarrassment that they once wore the uniform. One retiree said that in consideration of the modern police force the only difference between it and motorcycle gangs is that the police have better resources. “They’re all thugs.” Strong words indeed. I do appreciate the job they try to do. I repeat that I don’t want it. I know I’m just too reactive.
I’ve made it to this point in my life without ever tangling with the police. There were, of course, times when I deserved to have been. I can’t remember my last traffic ticket and the last time I interacted with police was to help apprehend a severely impaired driver. A good thing I think.
My objection is that the prevalent police attitude I see, and hear about, is that they know more than everyone about everything at all times. That apparent insecurity is a dangerous thing for someone so heavily armed and so constantly under stress. A little contrition could go a long way. So, back to the four levels of competence and the four agreements.
On a recent morning Jack and I were driving to one of our favourite walking locations. We fetched up at the back of a small parade creeping along the road. A police car headed the procession with flashing lights. Well, actually it became apparent that an emu was heading the parade. It was high-stepping down the centre of the pavement and making a good four knots to windward.
Eventually big bird decided to make a u-turn and headed back toward town in the opposite lane. I saw a photo opportunity coming my way and perhaps a chance to help corner the outbound oiseau. The cop, now in mid u-turn began to bellow on his loudhailer. “GET-BACK-IN-YOUR-VEHICLE!”
Just what an over-wrought monster bird needed! The officer pulled alongside and angrily admonished me: “That bird has toes ya know!” He was clearly frustrated with the whole humiliating situation. It never occurred to him that perhaps I may have displayed some confidence with good reason. I do understood that in his eyes I was just another nuisance idiot in need of salvation from himself. I do actually have a little experience with these creatures which are indeed powerful kick-boxers known to have readily disemboweled people who get too close. A former farm boy, ranch hand, and rodeo dude I’ve also been in pens with angry horned cattle, kicking biting horses, tusky boars. You develop a savvy for critters, but not when they’re being pursued by bellowing policemen in hot pursuit and I was not about to offer my resumé.
The emu made it onto the evening TV news. It turns out his name is Parker. He is from a local farm and a repeat escape artist. Eventually the police blockaded the road for a half-hour and then tasered old Parker before “subduing” him. He’s none the worse for wear with nary a singed feather. Fortunately for Birdy Boy there was not enough cranberry sauce on hand for a barby and happily no “Conservation” officers were involved. When they show up, despite their title, something invariably gets shot. Parker survived unscathed and is back on the right side of the fence plotting his next adventure. So, choose your own closing line:
– Keep your pecker up/ Keep your eye on the bird/ The beat goes on/ drumsticks!
“The police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.”