Whores And Mechanics

The shipping news: Same as yesterday.
“Pull up a stump. Something’s gonna happen any minute now.”
Rerun!

It is said all too often that there is no rest for the wicked and that idle hands do the devil’s work. This week I’ve removed a grotty old carpet in a bedroom and replaced it with laminate flooring. After a couple of days of constant kneeling I am remembering old wisdoms and old injuries. (I know, a professional about forty years younger, would have done this job in a day.) Damn, this getting old is definitely not for the faint-hearted! Another old blue collar witticism says that both whores and mechanics earn their living the same way: on their knees or their backs. I’ll let the reader work out all the possible metaphors. I’ll just say that some kinds of dirt wash off at the end of the day and I’ve never minded getting my hands dirty, although my knees sure hurt at the moment. And now I’ve gone and taken a real job, as a mechanic.

The job. No turning back.
Nearing completion. Note the grain and texture in the flooring including saw marks and knots. Clever people those Chinese.
Mmmmmmm. Up? Me? Walk? In a minute….maybe.
A new friend. Your stick? Nice!

So it’s back to work for me. I confess to a sense of humility of having to do this at my age but such is life. There are all kinds of folks with a similar number of rings on their stump working at menial jobs and seem content to have found any sort of employment. I regard the usually personable employees in places like the big box stores with respect and awe. Some are seniors who have known glory and some degree of good income are now reduced to the horrid lighting and vacuous din of those consumer edifices selling products from China. Many others are single moms, not even earning enough to be able to shop where they work and I wonder how the hell they do it day after day, then go home to care for their children. There are types of courage I do not possess or begin to comprehend.

Distracted driver? A policeman with two VHF radios, a cell phone, at least one computer and perhaps a fistful of donuts has to make a subjective decision.

I’ve spent months looking for a suitable job, then finally any job, and have gotten used to being chucked out on the rubbish heap of competent senior folks with good experience and skills and yet some sparks of vitality. Unless you are already wealthy it seems no-one wants to hire an old fart. They don’t seem to understand that you don’t become an old bull by being frail or stupid. I once described being a didiot (disposable idiot) in a previous work environment and it seems that is what a lot of employers want. Incredibly, in this enlightened age there are still plenty of job ads for automatons. The pre-qualified candidate must be no more than twenty years of age, hold three master’s degrees, two trade certificates, be fully computer-literate, have transgender first aid certificates, a forklift training certificate, a dangerous goods certificate, be fluent with English as well as Swahili and Mongolian, be willing to work flexible hours for minimum wage in a “fast-paced” environment, have no criminal record and be able to accept dna, drug and alcohol testing and…preferably have some medical training with a willingness to make a lifetime commitment. “We are an equal-opportunity employer.” Uh huh? Please provide references.

So I am taking pride in being found employable at something where I can use my experience. It’s a boat shop, one for all those little plastic buckets which I hate so much but I’ll be under a roof out of the rain and hot sun and the folks I’ll be spending my days with seem quite nice. I’ll be rigging boats. (Installing engines and accessories) There’ll be none of the romance of filthy old fishing boats and the stench of bilgewater. I’ve been told that I’ll be training other junior employees. It should be interesting and maybe even fun. These people seem to see the value in their employees and working there will be a very nice change from other situations I have known. It beats hell out of working as a night watchman at a glue factory (Vat #9) which I’d feared would be my fate. “Where’d that old geezer go?” It seems odd that I will be travelling back and forth in my rut-mobile in the parade of daily grinders just like a regular guy. “What, me normal?”

Crystal pond moment. The rope swings will hang idle for a few months yet.
Crystal pond bridge
Crystal pond magic
Old Friends. “How’s your winter been?”

I won’t be out throwing hammers at invading bears, or hearing wolves howl while tramping home in the rain and mud to the boat where I live, heading deep into the wilderness on days off but I’ll cope. I still have my down-south dreams with plenty to tinker away at in preparation. I’ve written often that you can’t steer a steady course by looking back and so onward I go. Adventure or ordeal, it is all up to each of us. Let’s see what I can blog about now.

Ocean view family home available. Handyman special, beat the rush.
The fungal stick. Not frost, but a type of fungus…yeah, like a toad stool. It appears suddenly and then vanishes as mysteriously.
My solar roof defroster. It’s nice to feel the radiation.
Winter’s edge

I am the humble subject of an act of love for which I am deeply grateful and overwhelmed. My annual subscription fees to WordPress for hosting this blog site were due. Because I post so many images and use up goggles of giggle bites I must pay a business rate which I could not raise this year. My financial woes have me painted into a corner. Due in part to the kindness of the nice folks at WordPress and the benevolence of Jill, here I am, still. Thank you, thank you! I had my teary goodbye blog written but happily it now languishes in the back of the archives. And to all my loyal subscribers with your many thoughtful criticisms and kind remarks through the years and around the planet, much gratitude as well. My interaction with all of you folks means very much and has carried me through some very dark days indeed. Namasté.

…The odd grumpy old man at large as well.

Life is a series of windows. We must choose which one to pass through all the while knowing there will more windows ahead leading in turn to ever more and that there is never any open windows behind. Often a good choice leads to more happy windows and poor choices tend to lead to more of those. So, the window on the left or the one on the right? Curse or blessing, there’s only one way to find out. Phew! Look out for that hooooooooooole.

Race ya to the mast. The calm after dawn.
A bouquet of fingers to ungracious employers. “It’s Ok. I was looking for a job when I found this one.”
The fork. Life, a series of choices.
Y’all come back now!

I now have anti-bodies to assholes after working for so many.”
― Crystal Woods,  Write like no one is reading

“Wot Part Of Woof Don’tcha Get?”

(Definitely NOT barking mad.)

As my beloved pal Jack advances further into his dotage he continues to learn new things. Or perhaps he teaches himself; and me. Over the past several weeks he has begun employing an extension of his vocabulary of grunts, sighs, groans, growls and barks. Now he regularly emits a special short, sharp bark. Standing beside the door it means he wants out, or back in. By the pantry door the bark means a treat is expected. Coming from the middle of the living room it means he’d like some petting and general attention. In one of his three beds the same demand is a request to be tucked in with a blanket over him.

The watcher

This morning, while laying on “his” living room couch the demanding bark rang out. It meant, I think, “I need to go out but I’m not standing by that door like some sort of common dog. Hop to it doorman!” So I did; and so did he. Spoiled? Oh yeah! But I hasten to say that he can never be out-given. He manages to put back far more than he takes. I cannot imagine life without a dog. For those who don’t understand that, you have my sympathy for missing out on one of man’s highest achievements.    Yes, the dog.

The watched
I’ve always thought that Oyster Catchers were first drawn by a child. They’re slightly out of proportion. Yet, they are perfectly designed for a life in the inter-tidal zone and are a delight to watch and hear.

On that note, while I’ve promised to pare down on my political/ social comments (Because opinions based on media conjectures are simply  irresponsible) I’ve decided to share a simple analogy I’ve recently heard.

I’ll admit to being a member of a capitalist culture. Even Jack is. He hides his bones, keeps a watchful eye on his toys and dishes, guards and marks his territory. At times he even demonstrates a sense of ownership of his human units. Wolves, spiders, birds, fish, all creatures can be possessive about a territory necessary for the needs of their survival. There are some sound reasons for a sense of propriety. However, we humans have a compulsion to acquire for the simple sake of our own insecurity and a false sense of adequacy which comes from amassing far more than we need. It is what we have been taught and in conforming to that premise we have allowed ourselves to be enslaved far more than ever before in our entire earthly history. Yes, you ,me, all of us.

Door please!
Gotcha! That was MY treat! Jack was always a street-fighter but he really doesn’t mind sharing treats and toys. This scuffle was all play.
Always a consummate sea dog. I think he misses the boat as much as I do. He is always wanting to head down any dock we come to.
All you really need. The ocean and a dog.

The analogy I mentioned describes capitalism as cancer. The body is finite and limits its growth within parameters. Cancer is unlimited growth within a finite host. Unless that growth is checked and controlled it will destroy the body and ultimately itself. If the body is our planet and all the symptoms of unsustainable economic development are simply for its own sake then the sad conclusion is obvious and imminent. It is over-simplified perhaps with plenty of possible “Yeah-buts” but I like simple. This is a concept even I can grasp. I’ll keep my opinions to myself.

Massive wealth

If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and man.” – Mark Twain

Absolutely Nothing

A week ago this was the view from the bedroom. In the midst of the snowy blast a fat black rat ran along the porch railing, selected a nice bunch of berries and packed it off into the storm. I set a trap, the bait had been sampled and the mechanism had exploded. The beast won. He’s clever! A Taliban rat?

One of the most successful television sitcoms ever, “Seinfeld” was declared by it’s makers to be about absolutely nothing. And so too is this blog. A week past my surgery my belly and lower regions are an amazing splotch of multi-purples. (I know, too much information and no, there are no photos.)I was delighted today to note that some parts were beginning to fade and then saw that other parts were colouring up. Maybe I can hire out as an Easter Egg. So I’ll stoically endure these long dull days one at a time. It is frustrating to have to very careful about what and how I lift even the smallest thing, including my fork. The surgeon admonished lots of sleep and plenty of walking. And so I go for now. Despite feeling desperate to DO something I know I must be cautious for a good while yet. I don’t want to repeat this performance ever again. This is my third hernia surgery. Enough.

Busted. A few days ago the Canadian Coast Guard made a deliberately visible patrol of the local Dogpatch Anchorage, paying particular attention to the derelict fishboat on the left.
For good reason. At least the fuel tanks were empty. “If you’d like a good, close second look come back at low tide.”
On the other side of the anchorage, it’s just another day, wet firewood, fog, rain and all.

The weather here has been entirely normal for mid-January. Outside, here on Vancouver Island, it is a mucky mess; normal. After a medium amount of snowfall over a few days, the precipitation has turned to rain. The slush and ice are going fast with a slurry beneath of mud and gravel left by the road-sanding crews. There are no guarantees that this is the end of the winter snow, sometimes the first round is just for practice. There has been four feet of snow thump down here in one night in previous winters. Not unheard of, not news. A horrific blizzard in Newfoundland, extreme cold in the prairies, not news, not proof of anything other than life going on. It’s nasty business if you are the one enduring the extreme, however the media can twist anything into an apocalyptic drama to help their ratings.

Mine’s bigger! 4×4…no kidding! I had to snap a record of this contraption. All I’ll say is no Green bumper stickers were visible. For all that raised body, the clearance beneath the suspension remains the same. It would pack a hefty camper!

Unfortunately my finances are in a dire state which further restricts my movements and I’m even concerned about being able to renew my annual fees for the hosting of this blog which are due in a few days. Bugga! I’ve no desire to be wealthy but a change of problems would sure be nice. I’m in the doldrums here in suburban Coastal Vancouver Island but I’m happy to not be some other places on the planet. Fires, floods, wars, plagues, politics, volcanoes, earthquakes. Too much information is one of our curses perhaps, especially as so much is inaccurate. We’re doing just fine right here, despite all the griping about the weather and Greta-noias and impeachment. Perhaps it is a good thing to write about absolutely nothing.

A fine winter view from Dullsville. The snow is gone now.

And here’s something positive to make note of. The online news headlines that come every morning had not one jot or tittle about anything Trump. This may be the first time since this character began his campaign those long weary years ago. I am not commenting on anyone’s political persuasions, just saying how sweet it is! Yes, absolutely nothing.

Colour! Anything to brighten the day. This old oil painting appeared on a pile of rubble at the waterfront. There’s a talented rabbit living within.

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
― Albert Einstein

Finally

Pretty huh? From where you sit. I’ve paid my dues in the Great White North and could happily never see snow again. But, you take it as it comes.
Jack still likes the snow but the frolicking days are past.
You are feeeling sleeepy.
Snzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

It happened yesterday. After empty many threats it snowed.Only about a foot, but plenty enough to seize up our coastal sensibilities. Several feet of snow in one night many other places I’ve lived did not slow anyone much but here on the coast even an inch of white grease can be a disaster. We had almost a foot! I’ve also finally had my hernia surgery. Whoo Haa! The surgeon’s office eventually wearied of my incessant inquiries, “Are we there yet?” I know that if I had not made myself a pestering nuisance I’d still be waiting. No big deal in the course of the world but once again I’ll soon be able to hike and clamber. No more he-man lifting, I’ve finally figured that part out, but look out desert here I come. This time I can only say nice things about all the staff at the Nanaimo Hospital. They were pleasant and kind and had me out of there in five hours.

All my other experiences have been dark in that beige institution, with surly uncaring staff and a refusal to be respectful including not letting me know when they would let me go home or even feeding me some of that dreadful hospital slop once a day. So, it is very nice to have kind things to say for a change. I could not go to work there regularly for twelve hour shifts without sunlight or fresh air and dealing with all those anxious patients and family who are miserable with their personal issues. Kudos to folks who do a very necessary job and manage to stay positive and apparently happy. There are many kinds of courage I do not possess.

Different day, same old hum drum. A boat can become pretty tiny when the weather keeps you aboard.

Now all I have to work out is how to deal with the hand transplanted onto my forehead.

Actually everything is fine although the swelling and bruising look like the Taliban had a go at me below the belt line. This too shall pass and soon I’ll be leaping over the outhouse like a spring goat. Well actually maybe I’ll probably be an old goat with his horns stuck in a board! It is certainly nice to have most of this behind me. Well actually it’s in the front but…I know, I know, too much information. At the moment it hurts like hell but no pain, no gain. Right?

Brrrr bloody cold

Of course to bracket my little event it has snowed steadily for a day and night. Shovelling over and over was painful but there will be no more of that for a good long while. There are several neighbours here who have serious health issues and I felt obligated to make sure there was access to their front doors. Now they can look after me. Yeah right! Just sitting here at my desk is a teeth-gritting endeavour right now so I’ll have to behave; for the moment. I lay on the couch with Jack cuddled up watching the snow and rain blow by. Not much good at being a couch potato I have to keep telling myself “Down boy, down!” It will take months until all is fully healed.

Hurry up? You try running in this crap in your bare feet!
A cold fall two hundred feet down to the stream
Beneath a stump a sign of the advancing season

And so that’s the shituation. Not much adventure to describe and I’ve promised to keep my political rhetoric to a dull roar. The local media seems fixated about what Prince Harry is going to do for a living once he moves here. The poor sod is down to his last thirty-nine million pounds. Maybe I could get him to come out and collect discarded beverage cans, an environmentally friendly statement old chap! Then there’s that old Harry Chapin song about the taxi driver with an opening line of “How are ya Harry?” Could he stay on the correct side of the road long enough to acquire his class 4 license? Frankly I don’t envy that couple without the bliss of anonymity and, granny is going to be too far away to babysit. Life’s tough.

You said you wouldn’t mind a little snow? Enjoy.
The lonely hunter
You say you love the sea? Where are you today?
Says it all

How horrible is man’s condition! He does not own one happiness whose source does not lie in ignorance of some kind.”

Honoré de Balzac (Eugénie Grandet)

A Sniff Of Spring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flowers happen. January 7th. Hope.

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

2020

First Light, New Dawn.
May you live as a free as a dolphin.

A low slab of solid grey cloud extended eastward. Beyond that hard edge, well out over the strait, a band of azure sky was pierced by the jagged peaks of the mainland coastal mountains. They were coated heavily in fresh fluorescent snow which gleamed against the pure blue. It would be crackling cold up there but the sight was cheering. A thin rain continued beneath my island’s cloud. And so the day wears on toward the year’s end.

No berry like a snow berry.
December Rose in a Ladysmith alley. Small but lovely they’re grand to see in winter.
On the other side of the house at the same time Forsythia blooms for New Years.
No complaints.
The neighbourhood book exchange. In a front yard beside a sidewalk in
Victoria. Note the rubber lizard peeking out.  Lovely huh?

I use an old anecdote about climbing mountains. When you finally get to the top of one, you find the apex is not level, often cold and windy, a poor place to rest for long. But you are rewarded a grand sense of success as well as the incredible view and what you see are more mountains. One in particular calls to you and off you go, heading toward it as directly as you can, sliding down steep dangerous slopes as you realize that going down is more difficult and risky than climbing. Finally in the shadowed valley far below, you find yourself up to your arse in the middle of a bog. It is then you must remind yourself that you are actually climbing a mountain. Move forward, one step at a time.

Jack and I walk past this building nearly every day. It looks like a blacksmith shop to me. I love blacksmithing and in the cold rain I can feel the searing heat of the forge, see the bright yellow of hot steel, smell the near-molten metal and the coal smoke, taste the grit, feel the jolt of the hammer on anvil and hear the ring of steel on steel. We walk on in the winter wet.
The way we were. The tag says Canadian General Electric. I found this old radio in an apartment window by the sidewalk. Note the slides for pulling the chassis out of the cabinet. Replacing the vacuum tubes was a regular chore. There was a testing machine and racks of new tubes in nearly every hardware store. I remember listening to these kinds of radios. The cabinets are lovely and collected by some folks.
Corner unit, third floor, no balcony. Same apartment building, more of the way we were.
The man cave. Past the apartment, down the alley. Someone took grampa’s TV and now he refuses to clear out the weeds although he took out the garbage.
Light at the end of the tunnel. Walking the opposite way the path goes through a tunnel under the highway. A homeless fellow has taken up residence.
A few blocks away uptown is a remarkable contrast. An old-style butcher shop still graces the main street. There is excellent fare but I don’t understand how folks afford it. The fish prices are per 100 grams! Remember when poor people ate fish and lived by the sea?

It is another New Year’s Eve. I’m happy to put this past year behind me and look forward to a better one ahead. May we all have someone to love, grand things to do and plenty to look forward to, all the while doing no harm. Long may we climb.

The fairy grotto. Not hard to imagine little flitters in spandex!
And so the daylight is increasing. Yeah right! I’ve tuned up the exposure on this shot 1 1/2 stops.
How about walking a little old half-deaf black dog at 4pm?  That dark blotch on the path between the two big trees is Jack. Guess I should get him one of those jogger’s tail lights.

Happy New Year.

 “The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide you’re not going to stay where you are.” —J.P. Morgan

The Electric Beaver

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.

Thursday morning coming down, for hours. The rain finally stopped after Jack and I were home again. Of course!
Clean feet and soggy bandana, keep the fireplace burning and take me home.
Gathering winter fuel. Driftwood collects in this tiny bight on the windward side of a  point in the harbour. Folks cut and try burning the soggy fibre fresh-in on the last tide in their boat stoves. It doesn’t occur to them that the black stuff there is coal. Just dry it out and be warm.

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.

C-FHRT (aka Seafart)  A standard DHC2 Beaver
Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!
A face every mother can love
Part of one of Harbour Air’s docks. This is in Burrard Inlet,  downtown Vancouver.
Bumper to bumper dream machines. Turbo Otters and Beavers.
Bomber dawn. Beavers and other float planes are sometimes referred to in local terms as “Bombers.”
A Beaver cockpit view of Degnen Bay on Southern Gabriola Island. I wonder how old the airplane was when its pilot was born.
YVR Jake.  A wonderful artistic tribute to the Beaver in Vancouver Airport’s South Terminal

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.

Same old view with an ever-changing scene. Two naval vessels were skulking about this morning.

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

 

DOFTTAB

DOFTTAB

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

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

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

Jack has a master’s degree in couch potatoing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah indeed, ‘tis the season!

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

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

Cold

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-There was once a man named Beebopbedo

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

and telling folks how life was fine.

One day, down by the river

he suddenly felt a pain right in his liver.

Down he came with a mighty crash

his ribs were broke

his head was bashed.

He struggled up to his feet

and wandered off to smoke some grass

but on the way a snake bit him on the toe

and the was the end of Beebopbedo.”

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

Yeah, these ones. They are beautiful when backlit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LIGHT UP

Soggy, soggy night.
Ladysmith downtown Christmas lights last season. Same this year.

I’ve lived in Ladysmith for over a decade and have always resisted the local signature event, the annual turning on the Christmas lights. People come from miles around to watch this moment, when the community defies its own ‘Think Green’ mantras and begins to suck a gadoggle of extra kilowatts off the grid. The lights will all gleam brightly for the next few months. Volunteers have been out on weekends stringing endless wires of lights everywhere and tonight’s the night they flip the switch. We’ll be seen from space! This little municipality talks the enviro-talk and does things like growing vegetables in the little round flower beds on the lawns of the town hall in front of its mossy and black-moulded garden-slug-green walls. (The first thing I’d do if crowned mayor would be have the town hall painted a living colour and make it look like someone really cared.) They do manage to maintain the paint on the old mine pump beside the hall and the old tractors on main street.

Sunday morning town hall. The greens are frozen and the lights on the roof say “Ho,Ho,Ho.”
“The vandals took the handles…” but the pumps were painted fine.
Dull dawn coming on. After the hordes have left, we get our town back for a while. Ladysmith is a charming little place even in the dank coastal cold. In another hour, finding a parking space becomes a challenge.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that I am a grinch, a scrooge, and a grumpy old fart who left his Christmas spirit in the ditch years ago. Actually that’s not true. I object only to the loss of the intensity of Christmas. I’ve told folks that if they have their radios on all the time music eventually becomes just noise. When walking by homes in the neighbourhood I can that seen some folks already have their Christmas trees up in November and gleaming like Las Vegas.

Too gloomy for the mobile phone to take a good photo, the image still portrays the feeling. The sight and smell of the wood smoke conjures up a sense of being inside the boat, snug and warm and the rest of the world can go to hell. On the beach in the penetrating chill I felt horribly boatless.

When Christmas begins in September, it gets worn a little thin by the time of the real day, a quarter-year later. I’d love to see the season stay under wraps until mid-December and then the next two weeks could be YEEHAW time. By January 2nd, everyone would be yeehawed out, the Christmas trees can go on a communal New Years bonfire (If enviro cops approve of course) and people can enjoy hot chocolate and turkey soup, then get on with their New Year. Come to think of it, folks could toss their credit cards into the flames as well. How’s that for a religious ceremony?

Today is crystal clear and crystal cold. It is only -4ºC but that has dried the air out and there is no frost on the windows. There’s no snow on the ground which means the frost is sinking down, down toward pipes and sewers but I’d rather have frozen mud than squeaky snow. By 09:30 this morning, municipal workers were out tacking up signs telling folks where they cannot park after 3 pm. There are stacks of barricades ready to plonk across streets and alleys. Ever notice that you can’t have a grand event without someone telling others what they can’t do?

There are also portable plastic toilets now plonked in obscure locations for the evening festivities. Our town is not yet cosmopolitan enough to have built a public washroom near its core. (Tiny neighbouring little Chemainus has two within three blocks in the heart of the tourist section) We just have signs in shop windows that say the equivalent of “About to piss yourself? Tough! Not here.” This morning, before sunlight hit the streets, there were already gaggles of folks wandering and wondering in their deep Arctic gear, coffee in gloved hands, all of nine hours before the magic moment. By the way there is, to me, a winter-tog mystery. What’s with the dudes in full winter gear, parkas, mitts, wool caps, hoods and shorts? There is an aspect of manliness I don’t get. It seems prevalent among older guys, the ones who are starting to get achy bones. There they are bundled up like Quinn the Eskimo but with their knobby red-raw shanks exposed. My British heritage regarded the move from shorts to trousers as a graduation from boyhood. Dunno! And yes, there is the odd styler out there in his kilt.

I am actually contemplating packing my video camera downtown just to see what I’ve been missing all these years. I’ve always had a hard time in dealing with the lemming mentality of people in large groups but maybe there are some moments I should add to my video files. Jack is too hard of hearing now to be upset by all of the sirens and fireworks which accompany this event so he’ll be fine home alone for a while. Volunteer Fire Brigades, the world over, seem to love their sirens and our gang is no exception especially tonight. First the air raid siren howls its piercing dirge and then the whoop-whoops begin… and don’t end. Last year, one snow-slimey morning I heard strident hooting of our biggest fire engine slowly approaching. Eventually it appeared, tip-toeing down the hill toward the highway immediately behind the snowplow/sand truck. All the volunteers make life much, much better but they do like their just attentions.

If I do go to check out the mass mania, I must remember that this is the town where I ended up in handcuffs when I went to check the mail earlier this year. Constable Overzealot may have been moved on but there’ll be someone else in a police costume who doesn’t like the cut of my jib. Maybe there’ll be a water cannon for crowd control! Little towns love to do things in a big way. If you are not having fun correctly, well…!

Later in the afternoon while again out with Jack I realized that I wouldn’t be hitting the town tonight after all. My hernia issue reared its ugly self and I painfully plodded home up the steep hills, Jack ahead of me for once. There was already some goon blathering aware on a PA system we could hear from blocks away and then a horrible cacophony of musical din began to blare and echo over the town and across the harbour. There was nothing about Christmas in the air other than a biting North wind and I imagine, deer trotting up the mountains to escape the mounting hubub.

Folks were abandoning their vehicles everywhere and rushing up to where a parade would pass in several more hours after darkness fell. Two medical emergencies delayed events and eventually parents just gave up and began prodding their hypothermic children back to their vehicles. Unfortunately the elfs in orange vests had many streets blocked and getting out of town must have been a challenge. They even managed to partially blockade the main highway through town. By 9pm fireworks were blazing over the harbour and from ten blocks away it sounded as if several rock concerts were in full swing. Jack and I lounged peacefully by the fireplace. Peace on earth eh!

“I’ll meet you at the old birdbath.” It lays on a tiny commercial lot for sale in Downtown Ladysmith. Thirty feet of frontage.
Buzzborough. Another small community. I watched as the keepers did what beekeepers do. One fellow was in full netted costume, the other, an elderly man, just wore his regular clothes. a Bee Whisperer!

The link below was sent to me by a friend. It reads to me as a well written and researched article on our modern culture and economy, discussing why so many people are in the financial outback and how it’s not their fault. If you read only one article this year, this one is worth the insight. I printed it for future reference, all twenty pages.

https://getpocket.com/explore/item/the-american-dream-is-killing-us?utm_source=emailsynd&utm_medium=social

By the way, while sitting in doctor’s office I found a local magazine which highlights local points of interest. Two leapt out at me. ‘The Shelter Point Distillery’, which makes single malt whiskey from locally grown barley and ‘The Hand Of Man Museum’, nestled in tiny nearby Maple Bay. It’s a private museum with admission by donation. It hosts an eclectic collection of natural history and cultural artifacts including first nations items and several skeletons including a complete mammoth frame. WOW indeed! I knew of neither. You can find them online.

Isn’t it cool when you find something local that you didn’t know about? The Duncan area has a living, flying raptor museum and a forestry museum with a working steam railway. There are several vineyards with tasting rooms, an amazing collection of fine restaurants and a vibrant farm market every weekend. They are all within about a half-hours drive inside this valley. Victoria lays further to the south and there are very many other wonders along the way. Then we can go north to all the wonders it holds. This is all encompassed by spectacular ocean, woodland and primal forest, pastoral and mountain scenery. No wonder we have an invasion of newcomers wanting to retire here. And, I already live here!

Jungle Fungal. These fungi, when baked dry, then lit to smoulder, produce an effective, acrid mosquito-repellent smoke.
My research does not produce a name for these fluffy vines. I think they’re wonderful.
The root’s the thing!
Roots of evil? I wonder how old this venerable apple tree is. I suspect there are more roots than branches.
Dormant beauty. A rose hip in a garden provides a natural Christmas star. There is some sort of beauty most places, if only we look.

Sunday morning, December first, Jack and I headed out on our morning excursion. It was a biting raw day, the damp cold penetrated to the bone. I wondered whatever happened to a certain young punk who was the toughest in the Great White North and how one pays for their foolishness forever after. Back home, I joined Jack in his hibernation. He’s warm. And he’s clean. Yesterday he found himself a dead fish to roll in and so endured the ubiquitous after-bath. Today both of us have all the ambition of a garden hose. My mobile phone shows randomly selected weather locations. One I chose is Ajo, Arizona which is the navel of my desert world down there. 16ºC, clear skies.

So, there’s only one more thing to say, “BUMHUG!”

Out of the tunnel into another day, another dawn. Just follow that dog.
A December poppy. Despite the puckering cold, a California Poppy ads some cheer in a biting sea breeze.

“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”  Dalai Lama