Whores And Mechanics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…The odd grumpy old man at large as well.

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

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

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

Stairway To Spring

The stairway to spring. It has some ups and downs.
Snowdrops galore, a welcome sight
Then comes the crocus

Well there’s not much to say. Spring is flirting with us. Flowers and buds are appearing but the wind can be wild, wet and cold. When the skies clear, snow coats the glistening mountains nearly all the way to the bottom. Certainly, you can smell it in the wind. But there’s not much point in analyzing something we can’t change. This fellow for one, is so weary of all the fear-mongering and perverted information about Global Warming, that I don’t really want to add anything to the babble. It’s what we’ve got, enjoy it or not, that’s up to you.

Slowly grows the fungi. Nature’s way of recycling old wood back to the earth from which it came.
Booger! 100% natural. More winter fungus.
YES AGAIN! Another one sank here about two weeks ago. This time one went down and dragged its buddy boat down with it. The owners will be long gone by now. The price of freedom is responsibility and living off-grid demands avoiding attention. Sadly, this helps build the case against everyone living freely.
Same old view, ever-changing scene. Four deep-seas wait out of ballast ready to take on their cargos.

The evening weather person can’t seem to interpret their scattered bones and pebbles without mumbling some bloody thing about Global Warming or Climate Change. It is just too trendy to avoid. “Wow this is the coldest moment on record….since 1941.” Yes, it is occurring. No we are not helping matters and need to stop talking about it and simply do our best in our own personal patch but… we are not the prime cause of this natural phenomenon. Yes, warming and cooling is a natural occurrence and is part of climatic fluctuations which have been going on for millions of years, up and down, over and over… despite the hard evidence that the paranoia profiteers choose to ignore. We have to learn to adjust and change or we will disappear like the dinosaurs. They could not evolve quickly enough to assimilate a naturally changing environment. Whom will we blame should some asteroid or monster hemorrhoid (Well, I dare say there are plenty of grand assholes out there) slam into the planet and make drastic changes.

Or was it some yuppy SUV back then which brought that change on? And, by the way, why do you actually need a hybrid SUV (Stupid Urban Vanity) at all? Will it ever actually be off-pavement? Most folks still can’t get where they want when there is only an inch of snow. Then, if you do get moving, there is the trick of stopping… something they don’t show you in the TV ads. When I was a kid we all got where were going without SUVs or AWD. Radial tires for any season were unheard of. We filled the back seat with children. They provided the weight for traction and could get out and push if necessary. And of course, many folks knew how to install tire chains. And, often as not, we walked.

A greening beneath the mountain. It’s coming.

I harp on about how there is one life form on this planet which does not fit in anywhere. NIO (Non-indigenous Organism.) We can’t even get along with each other let alone in our adopted environment or with other species. We just don’t fit…although we could. When a parasite begins to overwhelm its host, nature has a way of applying checks. Once, the Bubonic Plague did a great job of culling our numbers. A century ago, The Spanish Flu once again reduced the infection that we had become. There have since been a few viruses which have not really done much to teach us anything or thin our overwhelming presence on this planet.

Now we face the nio-terror of the Coronavirus. In consideration of political correctness, it is being re-named COVID – 19 which will still offend folks, especially if it’s killing them. Frankly, if it is Corona which is the cause of all of this then perhaps we should try drinking another brand of beer. It is NOT a laughing matter. But what is it that we refuse to get? If people are determined to live like a spreading disease then guess what!? For the moment, all trans-continental travel should stop until the pandemic is completely ended. So long as folks can travel anywhere on the planet within a single day, the problem will spread. But, we don’t want to mess with anyone’s commerce. There is no expert intervention which will prevent that. Over-simplification? Nasty cough you’ve got there! Just a bit of snyphlis? OK. When two Boeing Max 8 737s killed far less folks than this virus has already, every one of them was pulled out of service. What happened to that logic?

One final consideration. If the Chinese can build and open a 1000-bed hospital in ten days, what genius maintains housing shortages here or anywhere else? 

A mossy peek. Spring is soon to burst out.

We have to consider our lifestyles, population densities, diets, food sources and how all of that is unimportant to someone else’s profits. Last night I tried to cook two salmon fillets which came frozen in a bag marked as wild-caught pink salmon. Only after I opened the bag did I notice the inscription “Product of China.” WOT? That country has never been know as a salmon-producing nation and I can raise several obvious questions. The pieces of mushy, stale-fish-smelling protein came out of the bag appearing to have seen service perhaps as mud flaps on a rickshaw, possibly as far inland as Wuhan. I don’t really want to speculate on where this slop came from but I have seen much better product from fish farms. I am NOT making any Asian slurs here, but damnit! I live in British Columbia, one of the world’s great commercial fishing centres. WAZZUP? Why is finding affordable fresh fish here such a challenge? Is it the paranoia of profits or the profit of paranoia…or both? Why do we live like chicken farmers who go to town to buy eggs?

And here I was determined to provide no more than one paragraph of text and a few spring photos. But some things need to said.

A little daylight in the swamp.

“I marvel how the fishes live in the sea. Why, as men do a-land; the great ones eat up the little ones.”
William Shakespeare

“Wot Part Of Woof Don’tcha Get?”

(Definitely NOT barking mad.)

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

The watcher

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

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

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

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

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

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

Massive wealth

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

Doggone it! Arf Arf Awooooh!

Into the mystic. Ho-hum perhaps to the land lubber but a thrill to this old salt. Blue sky, sun-dappled waves, what bliss after all the rain and low cloud. You know where I ached to be. Mom and the kids log some quality time.

Oh good grief, here he goes again, another lament about life on the West Coast in mid-winter. No more please! We get that it’s winter. Low grey skies, penetrating dampness, pizzling dripping precipitation, foggy wind in your face from all directions. E-mails from friends in Mexico to ice the cake. This morning a golden sunlight beams down through the eternal rain. There must be rainbows out there.

I remember when poor folk lived by the sea.
The Wind Troll. Wind boarders took advantage of strong winds and calm water along the shore near Victoria.  One guy was 20′ in the air for flights of over a 100′. He’s the spec in the welter of foam at five o’clock beneath the parasail. Not for old farts. Sigh! All that open horizon. Sigh!
Not bad for January.

I’ve been looking for a dog. No, no old Jack is fine but my daughter needs a full-time friend. She and Jack adore each other and they spend some quality time together, but in his dotage he needs a canine companion and she needs to have a home-body and travel partner. It sounds easy. Just go pick one out. Right! There must be plenty of local dogs who need homes and among those there will be that one special heart throb who somehow finds you. There are certainly several folks within short radius who describe themselves as being dog rescue centers but almost invariably, the beautiful creatures pictured are from as far away as Texas, California, Mexico, Florida, even Kuwait. Shipping a dog in a crate tossed by uncaring baggage people into the dark belly of an airplane to travel half-way around the planet is not a trauma I want to impose on any creature; well maybe a few people. But anyway, where the hell are our local needy canines?

There is a surplus of pitbull-type dogs. I know they are often lovely characters but the stigma about them is far-reaching and many folks pucker up just at the sight of one, which is where the problems begin. There are many places with succinct laws against the breed. So, mutts are us. I saw one lovely-looking young female described as a black-lipped cur. That puts a new meaning on the term cur-b appeal. “C’mere my little black-lipped cur.” As it turns out, I found the perfect puppy, or he found me, but the stars are not aligned correctly and Jack remains a solo act for now.

Jack and Shaman. An old photo that can get me misty-eyed. Shaman is long dead now. Like Jack, he was a fantastic dog rescued from a sad beginning. I can’t imagine life without dogs.
The first crocus.
Does anyone know what these are called? Avens is the name I’ve come up with and I am in doubt. They’re delicate yet very hardy and they herald the distant but coming spring.

While this has been going on another local canine story has been unfolding. The archipelago along the Southern Coast of Vancouver Island is known as the Gulf Islands. Further southward the islands become smaller and more arid. Just forty miles to windward, on the outer coast of Vancouver Island, some of the highest rainfalls in Canada are recorded. In the rain shadow of the leeward side these small islands are dry enough to have cacti growing. The most southerly group of these are Discovery and Chatham Islands and the weather station on Discovery records the least annual precipitation anywhere in Canada. Struth! They lay across Baynes Channel a mile away from the Community of Oak Bay, which is annexed to Victoria and helps form the largest urban area on Vancouver Island with over 400,000 people.

The anchorage between Discovery and Chatham Islands. Jack was much younger then. We were there before the wolf arrived. That’s our boat ‘Pax’ in the anchorage.
Discovery Island beneath a full moon and the old boathouse all aglow. It is hard to believe a city is only a mile away.

Inching carefully through the kelp beds there is a way through the rock-studded waters of this small archipelago to a secure and peaceful anchorage. But don’t go too far, there are more rocks. It is well within ear shot of the sirens in the city. Yet despite the ruins of a lightkeeper’s boat house there is a sense of the pristine. You must trespass across First Nations reserve land to walk the trails and open meadows of cactus-studded Discovery Island and then dinghy or kayak around the outside in dangerous open waters. The original owner was a retired sea-captain who worked ardently to develop the island. The remains of his roadways and little stone bridges among the arid landscape can conjure a Mediterranean sense to the place. Along its southern shore there are spectacular views of the Strait Of Juan de Fuca and the towering Olympic Mountains beyond in Washington State. All of the surrounding waters are a swirling maelstrom of treacherous ever-changing tides and currents. Overfalls and whirlpools are constant, the tidal sea is seldom still. It seems at times that all of the open Pacific is trying to crowd through these narrows. Many a mariner has a yarn about their experiences in Baynes Channel sneaking past the fang-like rocks lurking helter-skelter while surging swirls of sea try to throw your boat upon them. Now imagine swimming across this bitterly-cold gauntlet.

So, with this stage set, I must admit with chagrin I did not know about ‘Takaya’ the sea wolf who has lived alone on these island for the past several years. I’ve been up the coast for a while so maybe that’s how I missed learning about this character. CBC has archived an incredibly beautiful film about Takaya The Lone Wolf of Discovery Island. Here’s the link to 44 minutes of excellent video work and editing by Cheryl Alexander as posted on You Tube:

Take the time to watch this, it will enrich you. Hopefully it is not blocked in your area.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICiuHibGgr8

This splendid, award-worthy effort helps dispel some of the ridiculous myths about wolves and other mystical creatures of the wild. This woman’s incredible work leaves me humbly wanting to chuck all of my photo gear into the sea. WOW! Her videos reveal a bond and trust that she established with this fellow. Some of the clips are stunning. I have lived a good part of my life in wolf country, I’ve listened to them howl many wonderful times but I have only ever had fleeting glimpses of their beauty and I consider myself to be observant above average. This is an eight-year long story which had eluded me until a television news item appeared a week ago about wolf sightings in downtown Victoria. At first I was skeptical of the blurry photos I saw on the news, thinking that this was probably someone’s large dog. This magnificent creature has now been captured alive and relocated to a distant and remote area of Vancouver Island. Kudus to our conservation officers who, for once, did not shoot the wolf. That is often their solution to situations where humans have imposed themselves on the natural world.

How the wolf first found the islands and swam to them, then back years later, is an amazing mystery to me. I am not quite content to accept the explanation despite some solid evidence that he actually meandered through the city until arriving at the sea. That he survived there on his own, and thrived, is an incredible fact. Wolves hunt in packs yet this character perfected techniques which clearly worked well for him on his own. Finding drinking water on these arid rocks was another skill he taught himself. I am convinced that wild canines and domestic dogs all possess an intelligence, and intuitive spirit, much higher than we credit them with. They are often in tune with things we chose to abandon. Some folks on the city shore claim to have heard his howls at times. That’s certainly possible. Wolf howls are a communication and he was probably checking to see if there was any of his kin out there somewhere, anywhere. All wild canines are naturally very social. That’s how we successfully interfaced with dogs. I wonder if this alpha male was not at times, in abject solitude, trying to somehow communicate with the sirens. We all know how town dogs react to the wail and hoot of emergency vehicles.

This archipelago is one of my two favourite anchorages on the South Coast and has a special place in my heart. I remember magic times through the years on various boats while being nestled into this place, distant sirens aside. (God, I miss my boat!) However, my faith in a few things is slightly restored after watching this video. I’ll never go near that island again, or hear sirens, without thinking of him. Happy trails Takaya.

The Block Busterds are back. I don’t know what this scrap lumber was but I could see a funky cartoon bird. I added the eye.
A foggy dawn. Getting up in the morning can be sooo hard. Not a bad grab shot for a mobile phone.

Meanwhile another movie company invaded downtown Ladysmith, changed the face of main street to be somewhereville in Colorado, liberally distributed faux snowdrifts and filmed their hearts out for three days in the pouring rain. Is there a movie set somewhere in Colorado that represents Vancouver Island? I photographed the sets and some of their fabulous video equipment then came home and promptly deleted everything while downloading it. I know, “smart as he looks.” That’s how the pickle squirts some days. Oh darn, the wolf ate my camera!

The invading force. The movie folks came along and overran the town. This is their mobile accommodations set up at the local boat ramp. They’ve moved on.
I could cry I’m so happy to see you.

The tiger and the lion may be more powerful but the wolf does not perform in the circus.” Anonymous

Absolutely Nothing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brrrr bloody cold

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

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

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

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

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

Honoré de Balzac (Eugénie Grandet)

A Sniff Of Spring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flowers happen. January 7th. Hope.

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

An Absence Of Birds

I’m dreaming of a Wet Christmas. And to all… a dry night!

It seems that the gods can send messages in unexpected ways. I play YouTube roulette sometimes, just to see what randomly pops up. I’ve discovered incredible musicians from around the globe, found amazing inventions, wonderful stories and once in a while stumble on something that I can only consider as a tiny personal kick in the butt. Today I came across a video about a sixty-three year old cowboy still riding broncos in the rodeo. He’s the real thing and had some eloquent things to say. One was about hitch-hiking, something real hand-to-mouth cowboys do regularly. They don’t all have big-fat-wheeled diesel pickup trucks. “Have a saddle along, it’ll gitchya a ride every time.” (In my hitch-hiking days I had a red toolbox and an old military duffel bag that worked quite well.) He mentioned, after a litany of all his broken bones, how folks tell him he’s crazy to still be at it. “I ain’t never gonna grow up. I’m old but I ain’t never grownin’ up. You’re judged by that third and forth try in life and I think I’ve got one more try.”

There’s some inspiration in those words. Grit! I’ll take a bag please. Course ground!

Bullhead! One of my favourite rodeo photos of all time. It’s over forty years old. I recall that terrier played the bull like a fish on a line. These photos are poor quick copies made with my  mobile phone. I’d take my photos, then printed  them in the darkroom into the night and tried to sell them the next day.
Old leather. One more from the archives. Take a moment and look closely at the details on this old saddle. The obvious age and wear tell very interesting stories.

There are some rodeo days in my ancient history but I soon lost my desire to be slammed around by any angry beast. There may be some momentary beauty in all those arched postures and flailing, jingling rigging and hoofs but it all hurts and years down the trail, those hurts come back to haunt a body. As I age, I wonder at why we continue to do such primal things if for no other reason than the cruelty to the animals. In our latitudes a successful rodeo ride is eight seconds. In Mexico I’ve seen bulls ridden until they collapse. Sport? It might seem manly but I’ve come to consider testosterone a poisonous substance. Mix it with alcohol and you have a bomb about to go off. Those two juices, mixed or not, are at the root of nearly every woe in the world, ever.

The heat, dust and din of a rodeo seems very alien to the dark and thick rain of pre-Christmas coastal BC. Just days from the winter solstice, the darkness here is crushing, even at high noon. Further north the daylight is progressively shorter and the weather much harsher. A nice day is often when the rain simply falls vertically and is not being driven by a blasting wind. I don’t miss it. How people endure it year upon year on the North Coast is a wonder. But they do and even thrive in it. There are different kinds of grit I suppose, but up there with all that rain it’s often just called mud. When I lived and worked on the mid-coast, locals would go south for a few days and arrive back home expressing profound relief at being out of “that mess.” I know what they meant but Geez Louise, watching the moss grow between my toes is no pastime for me. Today the gelatinous rain, almost frozen, doesn’t bounce. It just splats down and heads from the nearest drain.

An annual tradition. Along a popular local walking trail this tree is decorated in memory of dogs who once passed here and have gone on to a higher calling.
It’s very touching.
A ghost of happiness past. Several clear balls contain photos of dogs.
There’ll never be a hand-made decoration on any tree with the name ‘Fred.’

As usual I’m listening to that radio station in Goldfield Nevada, although I’m enduring an overload of Christmas tunes. (Note I didn’t say music.) Some is traditional, some mutant-traditional, some innovative, some weird and some completely bizarre, even rude. (If this old salt thinks it’s rude, it is definitely rude!) All the music is about Christmas and that’s beginning to wear a bit thin. The songs are punctuated with local anecdotes about winter hardships and historical storms with six feet of snow in one night, -30°F temperatures and horrific winds. There are accounts of people freezing to death in the high desert country which I can well believe, it almost happened to me one night on a high Nevada desert plain. Considering the bleak desert winter who can begrudge them their fun? Apparently this is how the season is observed in the Nevada desert.

Fortunately for them, Goldfield is a day north of Las Vegas where cacti begin to grow and the Mexican border is another day’s drive south of there. Theoretically they can escape winter easily. This station has no news broadcasts. That on its own makes it a winner in my books. Their advertising is for small local businesses like restaurants, hardware stores and a tow truck service. There is nothing from box stores, shopping malls, car manufacturers or fast food chains. Public service announcements describe events of common interest like a local highway improvement project. The local “dump road” is temporarily rerouted along the cemetery road. Country logic rules, the dump and the cemetery are side by side.

UNBELIEVABLE! Two hours of sunshine. All sorts of dogs with nice people were suddenly out and about.
Morning Glory! By noon, it was raining again.
As the clouds lifted and the sun broke through, the pagans, after dancing naked around their poles all night, plunged into the frigid sea and swam back to their boats. (Or something like that.)
Thousands of miles from home, many thousands of mariners will make the best of Christmas so very far away from their families.

As I edit what I’ve just written I realize it is all about what I’m absorbing from my electric babysitters. I offer no accounts of what I’m doing because I’m not doing much of any account.

I’m struggling with the second chapter of my third novel; something over a decade old. And it is indeed a struggle. Good creative writing happens when the story writes itself and the writer scrambles to keep up. It’s not happening. The southwestern deserts may seen far away but I’m stuck in my own suburban wasteland. Walking with Jack twice a day out in the drizzling gloom is my high adventure. We do see lovely, colourful wee birds, yesterday it was a brilliant red-headed woodpecker then a flitting flock of golden-crowned kinglets. The flashes of bright yellow on their tiny heads brought instant cheer but the light was too dull for photos with any sort of camera.

Summer
Winter. Jack had no interest in wading.

Today Jack snoozes in front of the fireplace. Part of that time was spent with his head on my lap. He’s warm. By two this afternoon the dull light was fading, and rain or not, we had to make at least one outing. We took a muddy path beside a local stream which was swollen to the top of its banks. These two soggy old mutts plodded along and then homeward, eager to get back by the fire. The rain was so insidious there was an absence of birds, no croaking of a single raven, not even the timid chatter of one chickadee. They’ve all found a place to hole up. I saw one tiny titmouse bouncing along a salmonberry limb. It promptly vanished into the underbrush once it saw what foolish lumps were out trudging in the driving rain. I imagine that, being that size, each thick raindrop must seem like a bucket of water would to me. Home again, I’m content to sit near the fireplace.

Jack is sound asleep again, dreaming of chasing rabbits, perhaps in a daisy-filled meadow. It is sunny and warm wherever he is and he is young again. And me…I don’t need to close my eyes to hear the rustle of palm fronds overhead and smell the salty warm sea air as a frosty lime margarita jumbo is placed in my hand. It is made from a smokey local tequila and the prawns and fish have come out of the bay right out there where that humpback is breaching. Mariachi music plays somewhere up the beach. Beep, beep, beep… the oven is ready for the bread. My fantasy vanishes as a fresh blast of wind and rain batters the window. And what bliss to smell baking bread. Weather be damned, I’m going to eat something!

Where have all the spiders gone?
Maple totems. In each clump of moss, tiny creatures live within their own world.

The big day is close enough now so I’ll wish all Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Season’s Greetings, pleasant solstice, oh yeah Happy Hanukkah. For the rest of you, Bumhug!

Then there’s the New Year.

Like that old cowboy said, one more try.

All of the season’s best from Jack and his human.

I am a forest, and a night of dark trees: but he who is not afraid of my darkness, will find banks full of roses under my cypresses.”

Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

DOFTTAB

DOFTTAB

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

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

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

Jack has a master’s degree in couch potatoing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah indeed, ‘tis the season!

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

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

Cold

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-There was once a man named Beebopbedo

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

and telling folks how life was fine.

One day, down by the river

he suddenly felt a pain right in his liver.

Down he came with a mighty crash

his ribs were broke

his head was bashed.

He struggled up to his feet

and wandered off to smoke some grass

but on the way a snake bit him on the toe

and the was the end of Beebopbedo.”

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

Yeah, these ones. They are beautiful when backlit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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