Friday the 13th. The weather forecast shows the date and a thick grey cloud with heavy raindrops. That seems about right. At the moment however there is an attempt at a sun rise. A thin brassy light reflects from the neighbour’s windows and that damned insidious street cleaning machine is out there growling away again. It’s on a fourth pass now. The wind will blow everything back in short order. A day later the weather is the same with a cold rain in a gusting wind like only it can in November. By the following Tuesday when I finally post this, not a lot has changed.
There are two leaks in the camper which have eluded me despite all my attempts to find and cure them. All that was left to do was to remove the inside panelling and insulation. What the hell? There was some faulty wiring to trace as well. Between the inner skin and the outer I found some soggy insulation. I’ve removed it. The taking apart is done…I hope. It has rained sporadically for the past few days, the kind of cold rain that can leak into anything. I just checked; there is no sign of moisture! Grrr! I knew of course that this little old box would require some attentions but I had no intention for it to become a career. To keep things in perspective I know that there are plenty of people who’d love to have this one as a home, leaks and all.
I managed to strip out the final bit of forward interior in perfect co-ordination with a horrific rain storm which went on and on. The problem is now that the ambient humidity inside is so high that condensation forms instantly on the bare cold metal skin. Still I tracked down, or up, the source of ingressing water. In one corner just below the roof I found a mysterious cluster of tiny pinholes. I’ve concluded the cause is electrolysis, something I’m all too familiar with in boats. When dissimilar metals are placed in contact they begin to produce minute electrical currents known as a galvanic action. Add an electrolyte like water and an insidious corrosion occurs. Introduce an electrical current and things become really weird. What I found was that when the camper had been built small galvanized pieces of metal had been used to reinforce corners of the frame. So, combine thin aluminum, steel, zinc, 12 volt wiring, possibly lead-based paint, 40 years of time and copious rain. Bzzzt! Still learning after all these years!”
Just off the main street in Ladysmith sits an old building just behind our tiny museum which is a remnant from the town’s rustic past. It is flat-roofed and covered with a faux brick heavy tarred material which I recall was named ‘Insul-brick.’ It was an old store of some sort and for a long time displayed a faded sign that said ‘Food Bank.’ It has been boarded up for a very long time. On one corner of the building is a small porch built into the structure. A homeless person moved into that space and set up camp under a green tarp. They have been evicted and the empty porch is now caged in. A tent has been erected in the back of the soggy lot.
If I could wish myself into a larger fibreglass camper I would donate this one to someone who needs a shelter. In the meantime I’ll keep this old tin and stick box as a sort of earthquake plan. Isn’t that all we need now in winter on top of Covid?
I’ve just returned from a quick trip to a building supply store. As I drove out through the parking lot a character leapt in front of me oblivious to all except to be fumbling with their covid mask and text messaging in hand. I managed to stop in time; they never noticed. What’s that term? “Eyes wide shut.” We’ve even abandoned the primal self-preserving instinct of fear. “The Lemming Syndrome.” I’ll get back into my box.
“I’ve decided that a sign of aging is losing the ability to be amazed. That amazes me.”
Life and love are like a lottery ticket blowing away in the wind. You know that if you don’t catch it, you’ll spend the rest of your days wondering if it was the one. Mine blew off in a strong wind as I stepped out of the pharmacy. I caught it. My pursuit must have cut an interesting image as I stumbled after it doing a strange dance while trying to stomp it into captivity. If someone else had found it, I know it would have been worth millions. Perhaps it escaped my hand because I was distracted by the US election result on the newspapers by the cashier’s desk.
The Disunited States can begin healing and getting on with their traditional two party democracy. The horrible era of the Trump party (That p-word has more than one meaning) is ending. How long I’ve waited to hear someone mouth the words, “YOU’RE FIRED!” The lesson is indelible about what happens when folks don’t exercise their obligation to vote as they did not in 2016. Apathy ultimately demands a high price. This election’s record voter turnout has hopefully set the American train back on its rails. In reality politicians are rarely voted in but instead are voted out. Frankly my perspective is that one party is as pathetic as the next, yes in this country too; but there is no other system which actually works as well. The politicians and the people just have to remember who serves whom.
Hopefully Mr. Biden and Ms Harris can prove some integrity by actually trying to serve the people. There will certainly be a hard scrutiny upon them. People have been reminded of how thin the walls of their comfort zone can be. This reclusive bog Canadian can only hope that our country has caught the lesson as well. If Mr T-Rump did anything positive it was to shake the US out of its comfort zone. And sadly, comedians and cartoonists will be short of lampoon material for the time being.
The new president elect and his vice-president offered some stirring speeches as they celebrated their success. Let’s hope they meant what they said and said what they meant. After Covid the biggest problem in the US is to accept the fact that although they may have a huge military they are no longer the world power they still think they are. They have some huge messes at home to clear up before they re-assume themselves a world leader. With a global pandemic, desperate economics and massive environmental issues to face they must face certain pressing issues. Finding water on the moon, soil-sampling asteroids and exploring Mars are not priorities. Those budgets of billions should be used to address domestic issues. If we have the technology to do some of those amazing things and to develop military hardware to its scorched earth capability several times over, shouldn’t we focus that skill on disease and poverty? Our problems on this planet have to come first. It has to remain habitable before we can be thinking of wandering off into the universe. Earth is still the only home we have but the US is not its guiding light.
It is a cold November morning. The sky is clear and the west wind is thundering. It’s time for two old dogs to stumble off into the rising light. There is a threat of snow for tomorrow. We need to get out and find some fresh new photos along our weary daily routes.
“Free election of masters does not abolish the masters; or the slaves.” ― Herbert Marcuse
Sometimes the obvious is just too close to be seen. I am chagrined to admit that a friend who lives way over in Eastern Oregon sent me a link to a wonderful article in Hakaii Magazine. This is a weekly online publication housed in one of my favourite buildings here on Vancouver Island, the old Customs House, which overlooks Victoria’s inner harbour. The magazine has articles of a coastal theme from here in the Pacific Northwest to stories and photos from around the world. Go figure! The publication has been up and running for several years. Why I have not known about it before is one of life’s mysteries. Among the crap out there it is a diamond with well written informative and interesting articles with excellent photos. Check it out by googling up the name.
Since I’ve returned last week from the old camper road test, autumn has descended with an indelible thud. There’s not much else to report. Mercifully we’ve been spared a Canadian federal election, our provincial election is a few days away and hopefully the US goon show will pass without an attempt at a military coup. I reminded a friend recently that we live in a pretty darned nice part of the world, politically, climatically, economically. I don’t know why certain folks are so determined to change that. Frankly, folks from foreign countries who have come to this country and then insist on complaining about everything must agree that if you truly don’t like living here, well… the best thing of all is that you’re free to leave; today! So go!
No-one is going to put a gun in your ear and insist that you stay. Perhaps first pause a moment to chat with one of the refugees who fight so hard to get into our countries. This morning another friend sent me a photo of a US election poster. It says, “NOT VOTING, #1 CAUSE OF UNWANTED PRESIDENCIES.” So I took my voter’s card and Covid face mask and headed down to the advanced poll. Voting is not just a right, it’s an obligation and even a spoiled ballot is a clear political statement. So get out there and seize the day. Vote!
Our little town has a common hall used for several public functions including that of advanced polling station. It sits next to the traffic round-about at the foot of main street which, when I went to vote, was ringed with a crowd of goons waving election posters and thrusting them at my windshield. I found it intimidating and infuriating. They represented the party I was going to vote for. I’m confident their chances are minimal. My vote would be one against, instead of for anyone, and would pique my conscience the least. Not now! I abhor mobs and herd mentality and refuse to succumb to mindless mass persuasion. If you want the gombah vote I refuse to be among them. Reverse effect guys! If I am going to be bullied at least leave me the illusion of making my own choice and effecting a difference, even when there is really no-one worthy of a vote. A politician is still a politician regardless of the lies they tell and no election ever displaces and changes the bureaucrats. Hopefully we end up with the least of weevils.
Here are some local photos of the changing season. Note the lack of rocket launchers, burned buildings and military uniforms. There is no snow, not one heap of dead plague victims and there are still line-ups in the drive-thru’s of every fast food and coffee shop outlet. Someone still has a little money. Despite our personal woes we are doing just fine.
“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” Plato
It’s Thursday morning. Garbage day, cold driving rain, still dark at seven am, thick drops hammering the hood of my winter rain coat while I was out there. How the hell did this happen? It was smokey and tongue-over-shoulder hot a week ago. There are now spawning sockeye salmon in the stream where Jack and I walk. Yellow leaves are drifting down. We’re plunging into another autumn again…already! What a year! Despite the gloom and apprehension the days have flown by and some arse will begin Christmas advertising any day now. Personalized Covid masks? Designer isolation suits?
There are two, or maybe three, elections upon us this fall. The US federal goon show is in full swing and now we have a snap provincial election upon us. There are rumours of a Canadian federal pick-a-nut about to be announced. Sadly, in any arena, there is no-one I can see worth voting for. I know that I am as politically astute as a bowling ball but I will never vote for a candidate just because of the party they’re in, and because that’s who grandpa voted for. The party has become more important than the individual candidate. We have a throng of idiots running our countries. When I hire some-one to do a job my decision is based solely on that person’s ability to perform as promised, not because of whom they affiliate themselves with. And Covid numbers are again on the rise. Add all of that to the current global horrors while our drinking establishments are being forced to close by ten pm. Geez Louise! Is there no relief? There is no point in adding my uninformed opinions to all those others grinding around out there. It seems that any information can be mutated in a flash. Integrity is in a glass box in the museum of abandoned values.
Politicians have entirely forgotten their mandate to serve their constituents and have no problem barfing out any inanity that gets them through the moment. That any politician would espouse medical expertise and unfounded claims in these times is so very wrong* and incredibly stupid. And anyone who runs their campaign on a platform about their opponent’s imperfections, instead of what they themselves sincerely plan to do to serve the people, automatically looses my vote. As a certain prominent political character loves to say, “You’re fired!” But, I’ll go and make my mark against someone, it is a democratic obligation. No further comment other than the good old four agreements:
I will always do my best,
I will take nothing personally,
I will assume nothing,
I will respect the power of my words. (*some folks will even drink toilet cleaner when told to.)
I know, those simple mantras are a tall order. I’m still working on them, some politicians have never heard of them.
I’ve been passing the time by tinkering up my old camper. The test flight will be any day now. I am amazed that a stick and tin contraption has survived almost forty years. It was designed to be easily rebuilt as required. The rainy winter prelude has shown me where the leaks are. In the nice days ahead you know what I’ll be doing. Despite the long winter ahead I cling to my desert dreams. I’m listening to my Nevada radio station as I write.
Now on Sunday morning I’m finishing up this blog after checking my e-mail. A Twitter headline today was “Texas officials warn of brain-eating amoeba in tap water.” OK? Next pandemic? Hell, we’ve had that one here for a long time. It seems to start gnawing whenever the television is on.
“ You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” — Mae West.
It is impossible to tell at the moment. Whose smoke are we breathing here? The claim is that our local scrap yard fire is “Contained” but it sure as hell is not out. It may smoulder on for a long time and the acrid, cloying stench is gently smothering us. It’s all because the junk yard dog dropped his cigar! Well who knows? We may never learn that and what does it matter. We try to recycle our disposable cars and other metal commodities and some days things just go wrong. Hopefully we learn a little bit and life eventually improves. Meanwhile thick smoke from three US States clot our already permeated sky and we live in a dim world at the moment. I’ll keep my text short and relay my story with repetitive photos of our grey world.
I photographed the ambience of the thick air above our harbour from behind a heap of coal on the shore and realized that not so long ago we burned this stuff and the air was always like this. It was normal. In younger years I chain-smoked cigarettes like a train. I also did a lot of welding with my face in those fumes and often cut up old metal with an ox-acetylene torch, burning through thick layers of old lead-based paint or I’d grind the paint away, with no face mask. I know better now. These days, the simple whiff of a smoker’s clothes in a change room has me gagging. Eeeech! I cannot believe my incredible foolishness. I have come to believe that perhaps anyone who smokes should perhaps be denied medical insurance.They are willfully harming themselves. That in this enlightened age people are stupid enough to deliberately inhale smouldering objects is amazing. Are they among those complaining about our present atmospheric imperfections?
The thought has occurred to me that the present stench and pallor of gloom is what millions endure on a daily basis where they live in industrial areas around the planet. Others know it as the reek of war and death. They also know of thirst, hunger, disease and blasted-out hospitals. We take clean air and water and personal freedoms for granted. Yesterday was the anniversary of 9/11. Surely we can take a moment to consider how quickly our lives can change then savour and participate in maintaining what we privileged few enjoy without considering. We’re still free to vote and free to leave.
On Monday, conditions have not improved. We’re still surrounded by think grey smog with only glimpses of a dull copper orb which is the sun. Our three states to the south of the border are burning up. That’s California, Oregon and Washington in your throat and nose. The eco-gloomers are having a field day with all of this. I’ll admit it is hard to stay objective and look at the big picture, to examine the history of climatic cycles and realize that this is not Armageddon. It just seems like it. My heart goes out to all those who have lost their homes and communities, their sense of security and all the personal illusions and dreams they have held. It is a wake-up call for all of us. All I can wish everyone is someone to love, something good to do, and something to look forward to, while doing no harm. Now I have to shake off the lethargy of my own personal darkness and go do something. And so work progresses on the old camper. Wagons ho!
“The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials.”
A few days ago in mid-afternoon I was kneeling up on the hot aluminum roof of my newly-acquired old truck camper. I was dolloping out roofing tar to reseal a previous repair. The thick black goo had been used previously so there was no choice but to use it again. I thought of how I must look up there, a Fred on a box and came up with various lines about “hot tin roofs.” They were all rude. The roof wasn’t leaking…yet. Wonderfully it is made of a single sheet of sturdy aluminum. But some preventive measures in the heat and dry of late summer seem in order. It’s almost forty years old; a little TLC is due. It’s small and light, and warm and dry. It has a propane cook stove and a furnace! Good enough. There’s no hot tub but sometimes roughing it is just what you have to do.
One of the popular truck campers is called an “Arctic Fox.” I’m thinking of hanging the name on this old beauty of “Fartic Ox” and putting a little sign on the trailer that says, “Feel free to feed the Sasquatch.” Neighbours have noticed the box and say “I see you’re going camping.” Somehow I’ve never considered sleeping in an RV as camping. Camping, when I was young, involved travelling by canoe and sleeping beneath the overturned hull if it rained. My fantasy was a ‘jungle hammock,’ a military surplus item that came with a roof and mosquito netting all around. I’ve just checked, they’re still available.
Many recreational vehicles now have rooms that pop out, automatic levelling devices, satellite entertainment devices which align themselves to the appropriate signals. By the time all the flip-out items have ceased their whirring, and the generator is purring, there is a fair-sized modern home set up in a commercial “campground” four feet away from someone else’s “wilderness” dream. The cursing begins when all the transformer bits won’t pop back into place so you can go “get away from it all” somewhere else. A diesel pickup truck will easily haul it all at 110 kilometres per hour to re-establish the pitchings a few feet from someone else where you can compare notes. It doesn’t much seem to me like a sensible way of reconnecting with the natural world or of “thinking green.” But…no payments until January!
Almost a week ago it was Labour Day weekend. Already we’ve arrived in late summer and the hottest part of it. The weather forecast is for clear skies and temperatures in the 30s. The sunrise was red from all the smoke in the air from as far away as California. There is a 70,000 acre fire burning in the Yakima area. What a blessed thing to live here on Vancouver Island. We made it through the long weekend without any fires here. Last night the upper winds began to move the smoke back to where it came from and the stars gleamed and twinkled. I often go out for a celestial meditation before bed in an effort to put the day’s concerns into perspective. My little woes against the vastness of the universe puts everything in place.
On a clear night, one can seldom look into any part of the night sky without seeing at least one satellite within a minute. Dull or bright they zing over in all directions unnoticed. For a while last night I could see three at once all on different vectors. There are also all those man-made stars in fixed orbit also known as geosynchronous satellites which sit up there unnoticed to our eye. Those ones must really piss off the astronomer who thinks they’ve discovered an unknown star! They are as pervasive as electrical lines or contrails marring a view of the natural world. It’s a sad essay that so few folks notice them. Today’s check says there are currently 2,666 satellites up there. And we thought the beer cans in the ditch were a problem.
Anyway, folks ensconced around their portable campfire beneath a string of patio lanterns, safely inside their electronic mosquito net-bubble (yes really) watching the ‘Simpsons.’ That we all know who the ‘Simpsons’ are underscores the age we live in. We are as oblivious to the geosynchronous satellites relaying our television signals as we are to lost primal skills like melting spruce gum over an open wood fire so we can patch our home-made canoe. I am well familiar with the “Old School” and the non-romance of doing things like using an outhouse at -40°, or making a bed from spruce boughs. I don’t miss it.
While perusing the latest camping gadgets I can across a small portable cooking stove that burns any “bio fuel.” It also uses the heat to charge a lithium battery which has a USB port to run a small light or charge a mobile phone. So now we live in the age of the electronic campfire. When your rocket stove has started a wildfire, you can call to report it if…there is a geosynchronous satellite in place.
Parts of Oregon have now exploded with wildfire. Cities are threatened with devastation. It seems that half of California is in flames, Washington State is in a critical situation and British Columbia is also adjoined to the crisis as part of the Pacific Northwest. Here we can smell and taste their smoke in the air. With the Covid numbers rising again we are all together in living with a sense of tension. What a year!
I’ve been working on the camper in the cooler part of the morning and then retiring to the shady cool inside the house during the afternoon. About 9am today a thick column of grey/black smoke rose into the azure sky then drifted off in the upper winds. Helicopters with water buckets began passing overhead. I feared the worst. A new bush fire or a serious plane crash could look like that. As it turns out a metal recycling yard, a few miles away at our end of our airport, has caught fire. An online news story had images of heaps of burning crushed cars and a mountain of burning tires. It is the sort of fire which is very hard to extinguish and produces a variety of nasty toxins. Ironically the advertisement immediately following the story shows a young father and son cheerily roasting marshmallows over a crackling campfire.
By evening the wind has shifted in our direction and the tang of burning rubber is heavy in the air. You can see it and taste it. There are no hydrants near the burning scrapyard so all water has to be trucked to the inferno. It’s going to be a long night for those fighting the fire and for those with adjacent properties. It will be a long night for those of us trying to sleep downwind. Damn! I miss having a boat.
“Civilization is a conspiracy. Modern life is the silent compact of comfortable folk to keep up pretences.”
If there’s a slight draftiness to this text you’re not imagining anything. I have to keep blowing spruce needles off my keyboard. They rain down as the wind howls through the branches overhead. I’m back at my favourite camping spot on Northern Vancouver Island beneath the trees beside the fire trying to keep warm in a very chill breeze. It’s time for the pink (sockeye) salmon to be running. I thought I’d catch some fish, film some bears wading in the creekmouth as they fed but, there are no fish at the moment. And it’s too windy to launch my little boat off the beach. It’s August 11th, I’m wearing my winter coat and all the heavy clothing I have with me.
Ever notice how few things are seldom quite as good as a previous experience? I recount this with humour and bemusement. It’s downright funny! How else do you deal with folks being folks? Six weeks ago this place had only a half-dozen campers, who were kindred spirits with nice dogs. Now the place is overwhelmed with garrulous people trying to take as much space as possible. We all possess a primal urge to lay claim to more than we need and for some, a sense of conquest is part of their outdoor experience. I’m not sure they even know they do it. Each camper seems to have noisy dogs determined to declare loud rights to this entire territory which is quite offensive to Jack. He knows it’s all his! There is a monstrous fifth-wheel trailer parked where it effectively blocks the lane to other campsites. The geezers who came with it sit under their canopy waving cheerfully to others as if to say “Aren’t we grand?” I waved back limply and kept my big mouth shut. Part of the fun for me is minimalism, although I confess that as I write, my generator purrs away charging everything from the electric fridge to the cell phone and this computer.
When someone appears to be leaving, there is a frenzy among other campers who think that it’s a better location than where they were already set up. They frantically pack chairs, tables and firewood by hand over to the next site before the previous occupants have even left. There is the eleven pm arrival of someone joining friends at their camp spot with the requisite bashing about, flashing of brilliant lights and a plethora of screeched commands. “Stopstopstop! SHIT! Turn your wheels a little. NO! Turn em HARD! Easy, easy!” Then their little windup dog is released to begin yelping at the world. Oh the things I want to shout out! Wearily, I turn on my light and read another chapter, then two.
The spirit of the place is much different than it was earlier, but I was warned a different breed was coming. I knew better. Maybe I should come back next month to complete my comparisons. In the morning I sit with a cup of stout black coffee beside a small fire trying to warm up. A cold damp wind has blown all night and even Jack, cuddled up, did not keep my old bones warm. I sit musing about the primal pleasure of an open wood fire and how a little heat from it on one side manages to warm your whole body. Then comes a dry, rasping Covid cough from the trailer blocking the trail. Her merry band sits around her apparently oblivious to her emissions and the bits of lung she’s spewing around. It went on last night and begins again. I’ve seen her Rubenesque form in spandex grandeur and can only think “Pity the pallbearers!” Pandemic or not, she has the sort of deep-chest ripper that deserves a doctor. Despite all the overwhelming admonitions to self-quarantine with any Covid-like symptoms there are those for whom the rules don’t apply. Dead right!
On a mound of gravel overlooking the beach, a gaggle of folks wearing hoods and wrapped in blankets have brought their folding chairs up into the wind and taken up post with a huge telescope. One of them has a large, lunging rottweiler on a leash which appears eager to eat anyone who comes near. On one of the outhouses someone has posted a hand-made misspelled sign proclaiming it to be their private crapper. If a mobile taco stand appears, no surprise. Most folks are lovely but as usual, there are those few who impose themselves on everyone else. In truth the entire site is actually quieter and more civil than those managed sites with little goons in brown shirts patrolling and telling folks what is forbidden as they collect camping fees. Those managed sites have folks parked ridiculously close to each other with no sense of solitude, or this year, social isolation. There is none of that here, but I would happily pay to have this persistent cold wind turned off.
The drive homeward was a frenzied gauntlet. I plodded along at 100 kph, despite the 110 speed limit. Fuel consumption and wear and tear just don’t make sense and besides, I swear that if you were going 140, you’d still feel like you were holding folks back. There was not one police car in sight on the entire trip. When we arrived at the traffic lights in Nanaimo, many of those who hurtled past were waiting right beside us only to zoom off as if late for their own funeral. I’m embarrassed to admit that I was one of those hurtling fools for many years. All that happened more quickly was my aging process.
So now I’m finishing this back in Ladysmith. I’ve had my morning coffee out on the deck listening to the sounds of urban Vancouver Island. Across the alley, the daily release of a neighbour’s Alsatian. “Rowrowrowrowrowrowrowrowrowrow…….Shaddup gitoverere,” then comes the rasping deep-chest cough of a heavy smoker. More bits of lung. It is a weary, predictable script. The serenade is a daily event as regular every morning as the Tuesday seven pm volunteer fire department siren. Then sounds emerge from all over and soon our quiet little town is anything but quiet, drowned in urban sound pollution. It’s time to go back to the woods! There I’ll start my chainsaw and cut some firewood.
A friend and I went to look at what had once been a gorgeous 47’ liveaboard sail-anywhere cutter. Now it is filled with rot from one end to the other and the crusty evidence of long neglect. I couldn’t bring myself to photograph this beauty in her abject humiliation.The vessel is being auctioned off to cover overdue moorage fees. From what I saw, and didn’t see, the monster project wouldn’t be worth more than ten thousand dollars. Otters have already provided copious deposits. There is a fortune to spend as well as several months of hard, long hours. Binderdundat! By comparison a sister ship in Europe is currently for sale for $US 140,000. It seems a huge tragedy to me. That amount of funds would well set me back on my rails and here it’s been thrown away. The ongoing saga of boats and dreamers repeats itself and some naive buyer is about to gain a massive education as the dark realization of a fantastic dream becomes a dark nightmare. For once, it won’t be me.
“Strangely enough, they have a mind to till the soil, and the love of possessions is a disease in them.” …Sitting Bull
A good friend of mine grumbles about books that are written with “Twenty dollar words.” I agree. If an author tries to impress readers with obscure words and establish themselves as a scholastic superior they are demonstrating a large sense of insecurity. No-one should need a dictionary to read a novel. So says this bog trotter blogger.
Communication is about understanding each other, both transmitting and receiving. While digging through my Chambers Dictionary to learn a new word I’d found I tripped over this beauty. “Lemniscate: the locus of the foot of the perpendicular from the centre of a conic upon the tangent.” I’ll let you look up locus. It IS English but you could have fooled me. Next time someone pisses you off, call them a “Pathetic little lemniscate.” UHUH! This on-going pandemic has the masses lemmingscating in ever more frantic circles. Six months ago if someone had approached a bank and lurked outside wearing a hood, sunglasses and a facemask, the wail of sirens would have been imminent. You might hear them now if a person is not wearing a mask. And what’s with those folks driving around alone with the windows rolled up, wearing a mask and surgical gloves?
The comet Neowise has also left me bewildered. I’ve successfully photographed Hale Bopp when it adorned our sky and the images I’ve seen of Neowise looked like something very similar. I’ve hiked mountain trails in the middle of the night and sat on beaches for hours watching the night evolve and revolve. A seasoned amateur astronomer finally pointed it out, exactly where I’d been looking all along. It is a faint, blurry dull light; not at all like the exotic imagines I’ve been seeing online. Apparently I’ve missed it, repeatedly although I’m not entirely confident in that old stargazer. No wonder binoculars were recommended! Clearly the icy celestial blob is moving along quickly and the show is over.
One night I’d set up my camera on a beach, all ready for what might come. A small group of people soon planted themselves on a log in front of me and began yukking it up, completely destroying the ambience of the beautiful lingering sunset. There was some marvellous a cappella singing coming from across the lagoon which perfectly enhanced the evening. Bliss! It was drowned by the newcomer’s gormless blither. Apparently my silent presence bothered them because finally they asked just what it was I waiting for. My instant reply, “For you to leave.” There were no threats or fisticuffs. They left. Funny thing is, they were speaking in a Quebecois dialect and didn’t grasp that I understood their rude comments about things local. Tabernac! It’s fun being a fly on the wall; n’est-ce pas? “Si vous n’aimez pas notre île, prenez votre Covid et rentrez chez vous.” Oh the things we’d like to say!
After my efforts to photograph the comet I’ve come up empty-handed. My neighbour then shows me a spectacular image he has taken with his mobile phone. I am suitably humbled. Summer wears on in the wake of the comet. The days are noticeably shorter, the afternoons hot, the evenings pleasantly cool. The highways this summer seem especially busy although there are few out-of-province license plates. I can only imagine the tense manoeuvrings in campgrounds as people try to find social isolation all the while being jammed together as closely as possible. There is an amazing parade of monstrous RVs careening along at high speed in their quest to “Get away from it all.” I suppose that if pandemic economics prevent being able to make the bi-weekly payments, you may as well go hide in the woods.
Out and about in my dinghy, looking for a chance of a cell signal, I came across a US-registered sloop in a local anchorage. Hello? The border is closed, perhaps I should have reported the boat. I admire a rebel spirit so I’ll let someone else deal with the invader. There are certainly plenty of vigilante types out there looking for a cause. The vessel was displaying a Canadian courtesy flag but no US ensign or markings other than their Washington registration number. So, they knew they were in a foreign country but had not bothered trying to go through Canada Customs. It would be interesting to hear the far-fetched explanation.
For the time being, the closest I can get to my southern dreams is to listen to that beloved radio station in Goldfield Nevada. A country band they featured was called the ‘Sonoran Dogs’ which of course translated instantly to ‘Snoring Dogs.’ Their music was fine but was the nuance of the band’s name intentional? I watched a low-budget movie last night called ‘Hard Times’. Set in an impoverished Irish village the plot develops around a few locals who hijack a truckload of Viagra being shipped from the local pharmaceutical factory. They hide their plunder in a roadside well which is part of the village aquifer. Soon everyone is sporting about with a wildly enhanced libido. The nuance of that groaner title finally hit me this morning. By the way, the CCleaner anti-virus program I bought and described last blog in disgruntlement, has now been fully refunded. That’s nice to report. I guess it takes a while to respond when you’re based in the Philippines. I feel obligated to mention an honourable conclusion.
Finishing some work on a backyard sundeck I painted it with a viscous deck paint that has the colour and texture of plum butter. I haven’t seen or thought of that delightful substance since my childhood. Now I have a craving. There are plenty of recipes available. Isn’t it funny how life goes? All I did was paint a deck. That becomes* plum butter. Go figure!
(* Could have said extrapolates)
“One of the great cosmic laws, I think, is that whatever we hold in our thought will come true in our experience. When we hold something, anything, in our thought, then somehow coincidence leads us in the direction that we’ve been wishing to lead ourselves.” Richard Bach
It seems a long time ago now that there was a promise of “A great big beautiful wall” to be built along the Mexican border. I recall jovially remarking at the time that eventually there might be another wall along the Canadian / US border. I had no idea about the Covid walls that were to come. I despair about how long it will be before I can legally cross that line and head for the back roads of the desert again.
I’ve recently learned how, during WWII with desperate labour shortages, the US turned to Mexico for help. It went so far as military assistance where the US recruited, trained and equipped a fighter squadron known as the “Aztec Eagles” which provided a significant contribution in the South Pacific. I’ve no idea of what else went on. I am sure there are plenty of missed pages in the history books regardless of who wrote them. One has to keep their mind open; always. I wonder if some of the discord about illegal immigrants crossing the border from Mexico began with those desperate times. “A friend in need is a friend indeed” and what happens when that need is perceived to be reduced? The solid “Old Wealth” of many nations was built on the backs of its enslaved people until a newer, more insidious system was developed to enslave us all. So few of us can see that and choose to believe the fantasies and myths we are fed to distract us from certain harsh realities. Recent global protest about racial inequity (Already dying down) has me asking more questions than ever.
My curiosity about the ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign has eventually had me stumble over the name Paul Robeson. A Black American who had no problem calling himself a “Negro,” he was an athlete, a singer and actor who championed the causes of the working man and also the civil rights movement in the US back in earlier days. He was politically aware, courageous and active in the 1930’s through the 60’s. A globally famous and loved entertainer he was yet another whom the McCarthy inquisitions worked hard to crush. A hero of British coal miners, he seems almost completely forgotten here in North America. Here’s a link to an award ceremony involving two other famous personalities and political activists, Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte. Robeson is mentioned there as an inspiration to them. There is plenty of information online about this great man if you care to look. Here’s one link.
I am embarrassed to realize my ignorance about many things which you only discover when you are in quest of more knowledge. How could I have not known that for so long? I can certainly say that the more I try to learn about Black civil liberties and oppression, the more confused I become. You cannot demand both equal rights and special consideration without creating more division. Eventually you become your own worst enemy. I continue to declare that the mantra has to be “All Lives Matter” before true equality can ever begin to occur. I know that no matter what anyone says on this matter, someone else will be offended. It seems that’s what it takes to inspire folks to open their minds and look outside their personal comfort zone. I don’t so much want people to agree with me but rather to just ask their own questions.
Meanwhile this bogtrotter still prefers to be isolated out at sea or somewhere in the back country and off I’ll go again as soon I can. With the cool, damp weather we’ve had so far this summer, our forests are still open to wander. A few days of higher temperatures and drying winds will change that. Then the skies will fill with smoke. It is a “Go now” time. Summer is far from over and as we’ve learned so well this dreary year, you must grab the moments you have.
(Written Somewhere On Vancouver Island Beside Johnstone Strait)
Poor cell service. No internet, no news, no e-mail, no Twitter. Sunny, but with a cold westerly wind blowing down Johnstone Strait. Jack and I are camped at the mouth of a River near the top of Vancouver Island. A monstrous dryland log sort separates us from Johnstone Strait and the foaming waters reared by the blasting wind. There is a lovely little campground provided free of charge by the timber company. Spiked to a tree a sign says, “If you clean up your mess maybe you’ll come again.” Blue collar eloquence; the area is pristine. Below us is a fantastic dreamlike maze of huge Sitka spruce interwoven with clear shallow gravel-bottomed streams. There is thick underbrush and a shoulder-high carpet of ferns. The area is thick with slugs. Within a half-hour of setting Jack’s food dish down it was crawling with the slimy beasts. I don’t care who used to eat them, eeech! I am stumped for how to take photos or video which accurately portrays the feeling of this beautiful place. Salmon spawn here and there are reports of grizzlies in the area. The roads are liberally dotted with huge mounds of bear scat so I make lots of noise and stay in open areas. Does a bear crap in the woods? Yep, and twice as often on the road. It’s a manyberry thing. Unless….. a Sasquatch festival? Now playing: The Mugwumps.
We drove in around nine pm. There was plenty of light and plenty of game. Elk and deer ambled the road in several places. After two nights in that place we then found the roadway to heaven. Now I’m sitting in the dark only twenty feet from the ocean’s edge looking northward up the last miles of Johnstone Strait. There is a brisk cool westerly breeze which has eased from a near-gale at sundown. I’ll let my photos describe this place which I’ll leave un-named. If you are a kindred spirit you’ll find it on your own which makes the magic a little richer or, if you like, I’ll tell you one on one if you ask. It’s that kind of place. Other campers here, who have been coming for decades, have sworn me to secrecy. I see why.
Next paragraph, twenty-four hours later. Another blazing yet soft J.M. Turner sunset. The wind is finally easing, for the moment. I’ve known it to blast relentlessly for over two weeks non-stop. That’s a long time to be stuck on a tug boat with a few other blue-collared guys. Tensions rise and tedium inspires bad tempers. Bound to our log tow, one time for two weeks, we were committed to nursing it through the storm until we could deliver it safely far south down the coast. That would take ten more days if all went well. Six hours on watch, six off, day in day out, that tedium brings out hidden bottles and then hell breaks loose. I’ve seen a fist fight over who installed the toilet paper roll backwards! It’s funny now!
But tonight here is peaceful. A young brother and sister are playing on the large roots of a beached tree thirty feet away. It’s lovely to hear the sound of their happy voices against the rhythm of waves gently lapping on the stone beach and a joy to see two siblings who like each other enough to get along amicably. Their joint imaginations as they turn the big roots into their castle, decorating it with kelp, is uplifting. Sometimes there is a rattle of the round beach stones rolling in the pull of the waves. The day began with a pod of humpbacks swimming close to shore, now it ends placidly. Money cannot buy bliss like this.
This paragraph begins on July first; the year half spent. Instead of being in a crowd celebrating our nationhood in a sweating Covid mass with loud music and the aroma of food stalls, I sit alone at my Honda table by the edge of the sea. The wind rose again this morning. When I opened the door on the trailer we were shrouded in fog. Now that fog has become a roll of low grey cloud over the strait and I watch a wall of rain advancing slowly toward us. I am wearing all the jackets and vests I have. I was astute enough to bring a water-proof storm coat with me. It seems like winter. Still, I’d rather be here. That’s a grand feeling.
Jack is away making his rounds. Most of the campsites have filled. Those folks have children and dogs. He comes back regularly to check on me and let me know he’s having a fine time and, perhaps, to assure himself of my blessing to wander. God forbid I wander off! He’s just reappeared with two gorgeous Australian collies. They voraciously sample his food bowl while he sits by, the gracious host. With all these people around there are no lurking predators and I know he does not go exploring beyond a short radius. He knows his limits and his joy is mine as well. I want every one of his senior days to be as rich as possible. After making his rounds he wants to get back into bed in the trailer. (Which I’ve decided to name ‘Boxtrot’) I join him and pull an extra blanket over us. The day wears on and we hibernate. Rain lashes the far shore of the strait. The neighbours cut and split more firewood. On the horizon to the west a sail catches a glint of sunlight. That may be the brightest moment of the day. And so it was. At day’s end, the wind is still blasting. The horizon to the west is a bright gleam of sunlight and there are now patches of blue between the ragged clouds; whatever that means. It’s all good.
On our sixth morning we awake to a pristine sky. Now a rising southeast breeze stirs the ocean. Without the roar of the wind I can hear a choir of bird songs echoing through the surrounding woods. The bitin, g bugs have returned with a vengeance. A red squirrel scolds and a pine martin scampers along the beach with a freshly caught crab in his mouth. Jack has found a patch of sunlight under the trees and he snores gently in his bed of spruce needles. I sip my first coffee and ruefully consider that groceries are beginning to run low. I don’t want to leave but it will be homeward tomorrow.
Yesterday I went for more firewood from a nearby abandoned logging sight. Jack despises the din of chainsaws and promptly disappeared. I went off in a panic-riddled search only to find him eventually sitting exactly back where I had been working. He was soaked in hydraulic oil. Apparently he had hidden beneath the only logging machine still there. There is a hose and tap harnessed to a nearby spring so with a bottle of dish detergent Jack had to endure a cold bath. While doing that I met a former skipper I’d once worked with on the boats. He was camped nearby; funny little world! In the evening my camping neighbour rushed up to me asking if I knew first aid. His wife was splitting kindling and had amputated the end of her thumb. A small drama (Not to her!) which serves as a reminder about how quickly things can happen and the need for thoughtful prudence; especially when you and your buddy are two old dogs. Fortunately I was able to assist and after a trip to a distant hospital, they were back in their tent before dawn.
In the time that I’ve written these last two paragraphs the wind has risen from a zephyr to a half-gale. It stacks waves against the rising tide. It’s beautiful and I wonder how long before I see the bright colour of someone’s spinnaker charging up the coast. (There was one late in the afternoon.) I’ll sit placidly, sipping coffee and waiting for whales. Breakfast over, dishes done, chores complete I’m back at my table pecking away. While sitting here I’ve started reading a new (to me) book. I try to buy books from the bargain bin in my favourite book store and sometimes find a real treasure. I’ve begun ‘Fishing For Stars’ by Bryce Courtenay.’ I liked the title. It’s brick-thick with seven-hundred pages of small print. The first paragraph is like a poem and begins: “Some things from the past stay fresh in the mind of an old man…” He goes on to describe being at sea in a gaff-rigged cutter named ‘Madam Butterfly.’ I was hooked. On the forth page I read: “Mine has been a fortunate life in so many ways, but in the end we live more in our head than we do in a place and lately there’s some alarming stuff happening in my head.” That’d be me!
I think it’s time Jack and I went for a walk. I’ll give my impression on this novel once I’ve squeezed it for the last drop; six hundred ninety-five pages to go.
Back from our walk, I’ve decided to declare this a do nothing afternoon. We walked to the far side of a lovely stream not far from here, explored and waded back across through the icy water. Jack swam and is clearly delighted in today’s little adventure. Now he’s asleep in his day bed. He is a master of do-nothingness. I’m trying to learn the art. Next blog I’ll post a link to my next video, made about this recent trip.
“Our mind is of three categories: what we know, what we don’t know, and what we don’t know we don’t know. Not knowing is unfortunate; not knowing that we don’t know is tragic.” – W. Erhart.