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.
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?
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.
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.
“How horrible is man’s condition! He does not own one happiness whose source does not lie in ignorance of some kind.”
“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.
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!
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.
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.
“You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war.” ― Albert Einstein
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.
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.
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.
Happy New Year.
“The first step towards getting somewhere is to decide you’re not going to stay where you are.” —J.P. Morgan
I try to keep my blogs like the proverbial box of chocolates “You never know what you’re going to get.” So, after the last posting’s polemic social comment here’s something much different.
Aviation has been a cornerstone of my life. One of my favourite all-time airplanes is the de Havilland DHC2 otherwise known simply as the Beaver. Once while I was using a payphone on a Gulf Island dock a Beaver began it’s takeoff from the harbour. The usual ear-splitting snarl filled the air and awestruck, the person on the phone, from Southern California, asked what the noise was. I replied casually that it was just a Beaver. “Oh my Gawd” was the stunned response. I left the magic in the air and did not explain further that this beaver was an airplane.
Famous around the globe in an amazing variety of roles, this aircraft design is almost seventy-five years old. It is famous along this coast and is synonymous with the word float plane. There are books written about all its accomplishments and I could produce another. I love its raw, rugged simplicity and see this machine as an ultimate piece of Canadian technology.
It’s engine, the Pratt& Whitney R985 of 450 horsepower is little-changed since its inception in 1935. It still runs beautifully and dependably without computers and despite being archaic WWII technology it will be clattering through the sky for many years to come. As time wore on some Beavers were re-powered with the incredible PT6 turbine. This cut engine weight drastically and increased power by almost fifty percent. This engine has been one of the best improvements to aviation ever, powering a fantastic array of aircraft and is incredibly reliable. It made the Beaver into a whole new airplane.
Now there has been yet another upchange. Harbour Air, a local schedule and charter float plane service, with over 40 aircraft and 500,000 passengers annually, has just flown its first electric Beaver. Powered with a magniX 750 hp electric engine, this new generation of Beaver will currently have a range, plus reserve, to safely fly across the Strait Of Georgia and back. The batteries are NASA-approved lithium (An environmental conundrum) and as they are improved, will allow electric aviation to advance. Even a new style of propeller has been fitted and that lovely old Beaver banshee take-off howl may one day no longer echo between shorelines. There are skeptics, there are bugs, but it’s a giant step in a wonderful new direction. It is not so long ago that electric model airplanes were novel. I muse at the following scenario as a pilot makes this announcement. “Ladies and gentlemen, you will have noticed the recent jolt as we came to the end of our extension cord. However….!”
Sadly, as I wrote the word “thonk” beneath my caption about the photo of the little bird in my last blog, a similar but much louder and sickening din occurred on the beach of nearby Gabriola Island. A local and highly seasoned pilot augered his twin-engined Piper Aerostar onto a vacant woodlot between two homes. He and two passengers died after an apparent instrument failure during dark and foggy conditions only a few minutes from the safety of the end of the runway at nearby Cassidy Airport. The flight had started in Mexico with one stop for fuel in California, a long and tiring trek in a single day for a single pilot. It is a huge local tragedy yet also a miracle that no-one on the ground was taken as well.
As a former pilot I can tell you about the day of advanced flight training when you are put “under the hood.” It is a contraption that looks a bit like a welding helmet and prevents the student from seeing outside the cockpit. The flight instruments are carded over and then you are to maintain level flight simply by instinct and the feelings in the seat of your pants. After a few very long and sweaty moments the hood is removed and you are horrified to see that you have put the airplane into a flight attitude which is rapidly about to become catastrophic. I remember wondering why the engine revs were running away and then I saw! It is a very memorable event, both humbling and sobering. The lesson is simple: “ALWAYS TRUST YOUR INSTRUMENTS.” Eventually you learn to control the aircraft while wearing the hood despite what you instincts are shouting at you. It is very, very hard to do at times and flying under real instrument conditions regularly is a necessary practice. Regular proficiency exams are mandatory to maintain a valid IFR rating. Commercial aircraft have back-up systems and crew. I won’t speculate and leave that to the armchair aviation experts who rear their lofty views as always at such times.
Now for some new home-spun creativity. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
This is how it all began. I bought this little work trailer, removed its metal sides and converted it to carry my inflatable boat. It worked well.
It has evolved. I built the toolbox at the front to fit the back of an RV and is big enough to even hold a twenty pound bottle of propane as well as all the tools I should need. It fits the trailer as if I’d planned it that way. The plywood was purchased new, but much of the project has used recycled parts and hardware. I re-installed the axle beneath the springs for more ground clearance and to allow room for bigger wheels and heavier tires which desert roads will demand.
Who’da thunk? The upper back part slips out and the sides fold down onto a removable support for travel. A friend donated the locking door handle and upper windows. Thanks Jimmy. The lower window was found in a sailor’s garage sale and has waited years to find its place. The top is coated with a special HD deck paint found for sale at half-price. The sides are treated with Cetol, a marine wood oil which I happened to have. It will be easy to repair if scratched along the trail. Hardware is from second-hand shops or out of salvage boxes I’ve stowed away for years.
With standing headroom inside at the back This will provide a snug shelter where I can sleep warm and dry or sit and write when the weather is harsh. I could even cook in there if necessary. The top, when laying flat, is an excellent platform for photography and shooting video. I MADE IT!
I’m calling this my “Hobbit Box. ” The flooring came from a ‘Restore’ The bed base unclips and folds out of the way. The trailer will hold my outboard motor and rolled-up inflatable boat, a bicycle or small motorcycle, generator, compressor, chainsaw, gas and water containers or accomodate one or two friendly people. The bunk is 36″ wide folded down. I still need to acquire a custom-made mattress and finish insulating the top and sides. My generator will easily run a small electric heater and charge other batteries at the same time.
Once a sailor, always one. The cables and turnbuckles hold the lid down securely in the up and down positions. Beneath the corner brace, a sturdy bracket holds an outboard motor in place, handy to the door and yet safely upright.
So how many Hobbit Boxes have a porch? Now all I need is a rocking chair and a banjo! A friend provided the two jack stands. Thanks Niels! They’ll be handy for many things, including roasting wild game over a campfire. This hinged ramp will double as a work table and the trailer can be a cargo transporter, a workshop, a camper and general storage box. What about a taco stand?”Fred’s Mexican Curries.”Tha, tha, thaz all folks! With the hinged ramp locked in the up position we also have a bear trap/ paddy wagon. The section of pvc pipe is intended to facilitate loading kayaks and other gear on top. It has proven to also be an excellent rain catcher! The closest ideas to this trailer were on Russian YouTube videos. Hopefully the next photos of the Hobbit Box will have cacti in the background.
“The Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a nativity scene in Washington, D.C. This wasn’t for any religious reasons. They couldn’t find three wise men and a virgin.” …Jay Leno
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 wonderI am apparently expected to feel at this time of year. “You vill hazze 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.
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-warmbread. 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 justtakes 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!
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!
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!
“A lovely thing about Christmas is that it’s compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together.” …Garrison Keillor
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.
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.
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 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.
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
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 reallycared.) They do manage to maintain the paint on the old mine pump beside the hall and the old tractors on main street.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!”
“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” Dalai Lama
The garage door rattled open. I stepped out with a sack of recycling in each hand; garbage day again. Lately, this weekly event seems to have become be a way to measure the passage of my life. But I don’t really consider the day truly begun until I’ve stepped outside. So there I was, on my way toward another tiny adventure, another thin slice of life. In the dim light of pre-dawn the waxing moon was setting above a high thin overcast. There was a forecast for rain. Two gulls flew together beneath the dull baleful glow of the moon. It was beautiful. Back inside the coffee machine had leaked all over the counter and the dog had thrown up on the carpet. But…it was the only day I had! We tend to forget that at times and in fact, now is eternally the only the moment any of us ever have. Let’s go for a walk Jack!
A few months ago I mentioned my tinnitus to a doctor. That is a condition, usually due to being around high industrial noise, gunfire, or any other combination of excessive decibels which causes a permanent condition of ringing or squealing in your ears. It can be overwhelming at times. The painting “The Scream” is alleged by some to have been inspired by tinnitus. One thing led to another and soon I found myself at a hearing clinic with a prescription for hearing aids. I am not a fan of going around with foreign objects attached to, or inserted in, my body but any chance at some sort of relief from the incessant white noise in my head is worth consideration.
After the expected copious and tedious paperwork with near-endless impossible questions as well as a few telephone interviews, to my utter amazement, WorkSafe BC approved the application. I am now the dubious owner of nearly six thousand dollars worth of audio assistance devices. They are tiny, as non-intrusive as possible and nearly invisible to the casual eye. Small as they are, they are also rechargeable, so there is no need to be messing with tiny expensive batteries. That’s a bonus for a guy with banana fingers, lithium cells notwithstanding. I am worried about losing the tiny items.They are also Bluetooth compatible and can become part of my mobile phone system if desired. But thank you very much, I already have enough wrong numbers rattling around in my noggin. I do wonder if there is a way to connect to my favourite radio station! And… are there any of these gadgets available for my dog? He doesn’t seem to hear anything I say anymore.
Walking with Jack yesterday we came upon one of those traffic-counting devices stretched across the street. Those are the black rubber tubes which, when driven over, record a vehicle’s passage. There are two, I believe, in order to be able to indicate which way the vehicle was travelling. Gasoline stations once had them to ring a bell whenever someone drove up to the pumps. I recall kids jumping on them just for the fun of annoying someone. Ding, ding, ding, ding. These are exactly the same old-tech devices I recall from my childhood. I was reminded of an old man who was a family friend when I was very young. He had hearing aids. My parents, at the time, did not own a car but this fellow had a Nash sedan. It was burgundy with a black roof, I can still smell the upholstery in the summer heat. These cars were notorious for their seats which folded down into a large comfortable bed and were apparently the bane of parents with teenage daughters.
Too decrepit to drive far, the old fellow would travel with my family on special trips if my father took the wheel. He believed those traffic counters were some sort of police speed trap and would insist we slow to an even lower crawl if he saw one. His name was Melvin Cudmore (yes really) and his hearing aid was state of the art for that day. It was a large box that clipped onto the waistline of his trousers and was connected by an obvious twisting wire to a flesh-coloured ear plug. “D” cell batteries were all that we had then and they didn’t last long. The Duracell bunny had yet to be born. I remember sitting beside this codger in church for interminable Sunday services. His hearing device squealed loudly at times. He was as oblivious to that as he was to his old-man-smell which, as a child, was an overwhelming cloud of pre-decomposition that seemed to surround many seniors. Good grief, I suddenly wonder, am I going to smell like that?
Technology has moved on, hopefully personal hygiene has as well. Now then, I must adapt to having these things stuffed into my head. It will take a while. Out with Jack this morning, raindrops pattering on the trees sounded like bullets smacking down. Wet leaves underfoot sounded as if I were walking on cornflakes. A noisy little dog we met seemed to squeak thunderously. I greeted the wee beast with my affected silly Cherman voice. “Ischt das unt Vulgarian Scherndle Yipper?” The owners were amused and apologetic, explaining it is a rescued dog which is slowly adjusting to a better life. I must be getting old. I’ve learned to like little dogs and now I’m wearing audio-assist devices. Maybe I’ll soon own an electric cane. It’ll have a taser death-ray, a GPS and should hold at least half a pint of scotch. Meanwhile, my new, supposedly life-enhancing gadgets, are resting in their charging box. Maybe, I’ll wear them a little longer tomorrow.
Wot’s that sound?
Monday morning dawns reluctantly under a low foggy overcast. I get out of bed one toe at a time and then plonk myself down on the couch beside Jack and pull a blanket over us. No point in rushing into things. Eventually we go for a long walk down the dank creek-side path. I try to find some cheer in looking for photos, there is always something of beauty, no matter how dim the light. In so doing, I usually find good reason to be alive. Jack is happy in the moment, I try to take inspiration. Finally home again he is now back on the couch, snoring blissfully. I putter away at my writing for a bit and then go back to puttering on my little trailer project.
Last night I shared a YouTube video with some friends about Greta Thunberg and the corporations sponsoring her, it’s a look at what the rest of the story might well be. While I don’t believe in shooting the messenger I do believe in asking questions. That is one of the mission motives of this blog, either to inspire you or piss you off enough to ask questions. I’ve already said my bit about the entire hypocrisy of little Greta’s message although it is underscored with some sound thinking. All I’ll say now is that the entire “Think Green” mentality, once dissected, is about the green colour of money. If you care, you’ll do your own homework and arrive at your own informed opinions. Ask questions, ask questions, ask questions. If you buy the media’s spin on things, you’re playing into their hands and are part of the problem.
Frankly, having just returned with Jack after a walk out in the brisk Westerly winter wind howling down the harbour, the notion of global warming, at least here, seems abstract. Brrrr! But yes, we are entering a period of cyclic global warming, yes we are contributing to that warming, but no, we are not the prime cause. Icefields have covered this planet, over and over, the climate has warmed and cooled, those massive glaciers have retreated and advanced over and over; that is how much of our geography has been formed. These climatic variations are caused by solar fluxuations or something else beyond the control of the frail, insignificant beings we are. There are entire civilizations underwater which once were built well above sea levels. Who did those folks blame when invaded by their water front? What automobiles and factories were to blame. They perhaps understood the arrogance of believing it was all due to their influence.
While we wring our hands about things over which we have no control, we ignore the things we can, often deliberately. On this chill, damp mid-November morning, the howl of a mower on the neighbour’s lawn invades my space. The lawn feeds no-one, the carbon footprint of the lawnmower is significant and it is all for nothing but vanity. It is a uniform plane of non-edible grass, which won’t grow much for the next few months, but it is a thing of beauty to the conformist eye.
The same soil could feed a few head of livestock and/ or grow enough vegetables for the entire neighbourhood. That property is part of an old farm, it is good rich ground. The mature fruit trees in that yard groaned with a bumper crop this summer. I’m don’t believe any of it was harvested. There is no need to burn anymore jungle.
We can produce all of our own food here instead of burning all that fuel to build more ships and import our groceries and gadgets from the other side of the planet across oceans littered deeply in plastic debris, (Including high-tech carbon fibre yachts carrying self-righteous, glaring young environmental evangelists). We need to focus on what’s important. Taking care of ourselves responsibly and sustainably must come first. We can be self-sufficient, we can relearn how to love ourselves and each other. If we each did that, what a world it could be!
“Don’t sweat the petty things and don’t pet the sweaty things.”
Jack was suddenly gone. Out on a sunny afternoon walk beside a local salmon stream he disappeared. Total silence, no response to being called, only the ravens croaking away up in the trees. My cell phone rang the alarm and I rushed off to join the quest, my heart in my mouth. You never realize how much a part of your life that your old dog is until he is not there. Part of me assessed worst-case scenarios, part wanted to kick his sorry furry ass when/ if he turned up. He once got himself stuck under a log in this same creek and nearly drowned. He survived due to the efforts of a good Samaritan. So, I was anxious. Eventually, he appeared on the trail, jogging wearily up from behind, reeking of dead salmon. Of course, that call is something beyond his control. I wanted to hug him but… there was that cloying stench. His version of sushi! Something to roll in. There’s nothing friendlier than a wet dog smelling of rotten salmon. That thought conjures images of a dog sushi bar. “ The Roll-in Dog Bar. Nothing Fresh!” Once we had him home and in the bathtub, the double-scrubbing began, all angst washing down the drain with his stink and hair. Our beloved old dog resolved himself to his penance.
How horrific it must be to have a cornerstone of your love and your life simply vanish without a trace. I have a buddy whose son disappeared while out fishing. The grandfather’s body was found, but not a trace of the boy. I can’t pretend to imagine what that must be like. The son appears to my friend for a moment over and over, in any place where other young men might go. Of course that son would be a middle-aged man now. The torture must be terrible and it will haunt my friend for the rest of his days. I see it in his eyes and recognize a deep permanent pain.
Remembrance Day is fast approaching, the day when we are supposed to pause to mourn our war-dead. But there are all those who came home in body to suffer fates of eternal suffering both physical and emotional, whom we forget even after they finally pass unnoticed into the dark oblivion of death. And there are those who love them and suffer eternally on their own lonely islands. The devastation of war strangles everyone. We forget the survivors, often enduring fates far worse than death. A token moment of remembrance is almost an insult to them. For so many, dying is not an ultimate price. Our incredible, wilful refusal to look within ourselves despite our modern enlightenments while continuing to accept the notions of violence and greed, at any level, is a boggling stupidity. “Lest We Forget? What don’t we get?”
Halloween is over. Here it passed mildly. Fortunately, Jack is now too hard-of-hearing to notice the fireworks, a relief for everyone in his home. However, I went to see a sort-of horror film, albeit of a different flavour. ‘The Lighthouse’ is the work of film maker Robert Egger, who produced another work a few years ago called ‘The Witch.’ That title holds no appeal to me. A black and white film in 4:3 format it has an old-timey flavour and stars William Dafoe and Robert Pattinson. It depicts a descent into madness by two already-edgy characters within their confinement together in a decrepit New England lighthouse during stormy weather. The acting deserves awards, the story line has some holes and the ending is wrong in my opinion but for those who like to watch unsettling films this is for you. There are shades of Coleridge’s ‘Rime Of The Ancient Mariner’ and also Edgar Allan Poe and there is plenty of saltiness. Haar and yar. The dialogue is delightfully salty. The darkness is a rich immersion in nautical mystic.
There is already enough darkness out there for me. I have been hoping and waiting for a hernia surgery for six years. Finally got the surgeon agreed that there is indeed a real problem deserving attention and finally, after much waiting, a date for the operation was set; November sixth. Last Friday, the surgeon’s office phoned to announce that date was now postponed because the anaesthetist first demanded a consultation, something I’ve never had before any other of my surgeries, including a major heart surgery twenty years ago. As I write, the phone has just rung again. That appointment has now been moved to the twenty-fifth. I am wondering what colour the Porsche is for which I’m making a payment.
Who knows when the surgery will happen. Frustrated, depressed, impoverished because of this, you’ve no idea! I can’t do my regular old work because of this, and if I did have some money, any south plans now seem dashed. Boo hoo! I know I could be living somewhere where folks just don’t ever have hernias repaired. They suffer permanently with debilitating agony. But geez Louise, what a pain in the ass! (Well, actually it’s something else that hurts.) Twenty years ago I had an accident on the tugs and the messing around I endured before my life-saving heart surgery was incredible. So why should I expect any warmth and fuzziness for a mere hernia? Unfortunately, while our system can eventually repair our bodies very well indeed, no-one seems to give a toss about the real-life problems associated. A couple of years ago I had a repair done to an ankle which failed. I was miles from anywhere on ‘Seafire’ when the ganglion reappeared with a vengeance.
So: rum, peroxide, net knife, crazy glue. It hasn’t bothered me since. Yes, I’m tempted, I’ve dressed out plenty of deer and other critters.
The weather is dull, there is a permanent damp chill in the air, daylight is at a premium now as we lose another three minutes of it each day. No rainbows! No bluebirds. To preserve the shreds of my sanity I continue to tinker away on my little cargo trailer/ minimalist camping trailer AKA ‘The Gut wagon.’ I am trying to do as much as possible with salvaged materials including hardware and fittings. There are some used local building supply stores known as ‘Restore’ which subsidize an organization known as ‘Habitat For Humanity.’ With the funds raised and their volunteer workers, they build low-cost housing. It’s a very worthy endeavour and doesn’t receive the recognition it deserves. So….drums and trumpet fanfares please. Perhaps there’s one near your home. Check it out.
The trailer is also an opportunity for cleaning up some of the nautical junk I’ve accumulated over the years. I truly marvel why I saved some of it. But, as soon as it’s chucked in the recycling bin… Damn! If only I had saved that widget. There is also a false economy of reworking goods for a new use. It is often cheaper to just go buy the item in question, if such a thing exists. And there is satisfaction in reinventing the wheel. I do draw the line before making planters from old tires and toilets.
This morning there is a chill clear brilliant red dawn. A sailor’s warning. There is no wind. I can hear aircraft on the ramp at the airport, eight kilometres away. I can smell the stink of cold diesel engine exhaust and hear the whine of heavy tires on the highway. All is calm, all is bright, something’s definitely not right. Walk time Jack. Walk! Maybe we can find something new to roll in.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_MHqW5KVds This link is to a youTube copy of the 1942 BBC recording called Nightingales and Bombers. It is the conundrum of a bird in an English forest singing while loaded RAF bombers pass overheard on a raid to Germany. It is the sound of baby-faced young men going to kill and to die. It makes my face leak more than any rendition of the ‘Last Post.’
“In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.” …Jose Narosky
We are currently enjoying our “Indian Summer.” Perhaps that term is now politically incorrect, but then what the hell isn’t? With no ethnic slurs intended, it is the only term I know for the spell of fine weather that comes in autumn after a significant frost or two. The weather is gorgeous. I was in Victoria on Sunday and the streets were thronged with folks who seemed out and about simply enjoying the solar celebration. In the face of the West Coast winter’s darkness and chill wet ahead it is almost a biological need to savour sunlight and cloudless sky. Despite all of our modern distractions, we still possess a primal, pagan instinct for the star which gives this planet its life.
In Victoria I attended a splendid gathering held in honour of two dear friends just returned from nine years of voyaging on their sailboat. After sailing the Pacific, the Indian Ocean, the South Atlantic, the Caribbean and then the Eastern Seaboard They finally sold their beloved cutter ‘Sage’ in Nova Scotia and drove back to Victoria, camping along the way. They previously spent seven years in the South Pacific on a much smaller boat. After sixteen years of cruising and living “tiny” they’re still together and looking forward, I’m sure, to new adventures. They have been a great inspiration to me and many others. Their blog is ‘Sage On Sail.’
After the visit I strolled part of old-town Victoria and took photos of different spectrums of living. Times, for many, are tough and getting tougher. Affordable housing is a challenge requiring ingenuity and the artful business, for some, to stay ahead of the “Man” who is bent on punishing non-conformists. I’ve lived on boats for many years and can easily rant ‘ad nauseum.’ Even when ones tries to be discreet and fly below the radar, there is always someone looking to jam a stick into your spokes. It is odd how in our culture where the individual is glorified, the non-conformist is punished. End pre-rant!
A recent BBC television documentary hosted by Neil Oliver was simply titled ‘Vikings.’ In what I saw of it ,he divided those much-love nautical thugs into three groups, the Norwegians, The Swedish and the Danes.
The Danish Vikings, basing themselves in Ireland, conquered most of England. It is entirely possible that my fair hair and blue eyes are from long-ago-bestowed Nordic DNA among my ancestors. I don’t mind that idea at all. Apparently the Swedish Vikings travelled across the Baltic and down the rivers of Europe, plundering their way as far as Constantinople where some became revered as the fierce martial masters they were. Some were even recruited as personal bodyguards of the Sultan. In the grand Blue Mosque of today’s Istanbul, where the Sultan once attended, and his bodyguards would have stood watch, ancient Nordic letters are carved into a solid marble banister saying something like “Olaf was here.” What an amazing tangible connection to history!
An old Gary Larson cartoon depicts a long table. Around it sits a group of Vikings. At the head stand two more. The chairman is saying, “Now that the business portion of the meeting is out of the way, Lars would like to talk about his new idea for hats.” Lars is holding a fabled (and fictitious) horned helmet. All of the Vikings are wearing a duck on their heads. “Ya vell Olly, now dats fonny!”
Friends recently visited Scandinavia and sent back fantastic photos from Viking museums and others dedicated to Thor Heyerdahl and to the Arctic explorer Nansen and his rugged ship the ‘Fram’. I have long ached to get to the Baltic region and see some of these amazing examples of iconic marine history. There is a flair to old Baltic vessels which is instantly recognizable. The lines of those Viking boats are the most amazing of all. Sensual, flexible, rugged and incredibly seaworthy, those boats underscore how much we humans have lost as we think we advance with technology. Perhaps those old boats are a pinnacle of human technical achievement, an ultimate blend of art and function. I doubt that with all our electronic wizardry and tools, that we can match the intuitive high skill evidenced in these amazing icons of nautical achievement. And… not a drop of oil or one electron was employed in the whole process from harvesting living trees for material to landfalls on far distant shores, and then coming all the long, long way home again. Heil og sael. Takk!
This past weekend our ferry service was down for more than a day due to high winds and seas. I doubt that would have held those ‘Old School’ Vikings back. If you look at the new hi-tech sailing boat hulls which begin to plane like a powerboat after reaching specific speeds, then carefully study those old Nordic hulls, you’ll see some amazing similarities. Truly! Are we progressing or regressing?
“Never stop because you are afraid – you are never so likely to be wrong.”