Labour Day Musings

The shining dinghy. A moment of reflection at high slack tide. The boat house would make a lovely wee home.

Jack and I walked our normal morning loop down at the waterfront and around the old coal terminal here in Ladysmith. I call it the “Black Beach” because of all the coal left over from that era. Jack loves it there. Blackberries and rabbits thrive and he often gets to socialize with other wonderful dogs. The sun hung as a huge white ball low over the glassy waters of the harbour. No boat stirred its surface. There was not a breath of wind. The morning air was cool in the shade and warm in the light. A heavy dew had settled this morning. The seasons progress.

TILT! In a town on a hill. This shed has been leaning like that for over ten years. Would you park your car in it?
The leaky pipe grows the grass. Part of the water supply for our local pulp mill. These wooden pipe lines run for miles. Superb engineering, some of these pipes are several feet in diameter. This one is only about two feet.

For some reason I recalled a labour day sixty-two years ago today. It was 1957, I was five years old. My father was a manic gardener and could produce amazing heaps of vegetables out of the red clay soil of Southern Ontario where we lived. Across the street from where we rented a tiny house there sprawled a large playing field. Several games of soccer often went on at the same time. I can still hear shouts in Italian and Portuguese as flashing balls ricocheted back and forth on the broad field and see swarthy men pelting about in pursuit. Every spring a circus came to the Oakville arena on the far side of that expanse. When it left town there remained warm pungent heaps of manure. Elephant, camel, horse, monkey, lion, tiger; dad swore by the properties of these exotic mounds and he would trot with his wheel barrow back and forth across the park with his freely-acquired aromatic garden elixir late into the night. He certainly could conjure monstrous vegetables out of that brick clay mixed with circus dung.

On the particular Labour Day I’m recalling, he built a fire in the backyard and installed a cauldron over it. We harvested from the garden and mom boiled and canned a large part of our winter’s preserves. We were living in town, newcomers from dairy farms, but even then, in post-war suburban Canada, it was an unusual thing for folks to do. Dad had survived the war in rural England, mother grew up on a prairie homestead through the depression and survivalist sensibilities came naturally to them. They possessed and taught me skills which I now take pride in when most people around me live in a push-button culture. It was hot, dirty work but even at that tender age I was expected to work like a little man. A friend from up the street wandered by to ask me to come play but was told I had to stay home until the day-long job was done. I complained that it was a holiday and dad responded that on Labour Day everyone was expected to work, no matter what other folks were doing. I believe he was serious.

The very next day was my first ever at school. I walked, on my own, the better part of a mile to find my way to kindergarten. When, years later, I visited these old haunts as an adult, I could not believe that my parents had pushed me out into the world like that. I suppose that is how baby birds learn to fly, flap or crash. I learned skills which have served me well throughout my existence. My parents were martially strict yet would allow me great latitudes in how far and how long I wandered. Apparently, when I was outside of their presence, God was expected to babysit. When I pass a high-school and see the parade of vehicles transporting teenage students I wonder at these kids and their skills to go out into a digital world and cope with basics like food and shelter. I cannot even operate a modern mobile phone competently but I do know how to survive without one.

A few weeks later that fall, Sputnik orbited over our house. I recall, even now, how everyone stood out in their backyards staring up at the clear night sky not sure what they were looking for. Suddenly someone cried, “There it is!” and soon we all spotted, in muted awe, a very bright star hurtling across the darkening cosmos. The world changed forever that night. We seldom look up now to count all the satellites stitching across the sky in all directions. We don’t even look up from our texting as we step into the traffic.

My parents, consummate fundamentalist evangelical Christians had been indoctrinated that Soviet Communism was the epitome of Satanic evil and surely the mark of the “end of days.” This mysterious Russian weapon (or whatever Khrushchev was scheming) now violating God’s heaven and spying down on us surely heralded Armageddon. We were living through the era leading up to the Cuban Missile Crisis and paranoia of being fried to a crisp was rampant. I recall the air-raid sirens and the drills at school when we would all crawl under our desks and kiss our little asses goodbye, again. A gas explosion destroyed a house a few blocks away that winter. There was a huge thump, everything rattled horrifically. I can still remember my deep terror that this was IT. The Pinkos had struck!

Well, here I am well over a half-century later. I survived it all including my high-school years which is a fabulous story in itself. All I’ll offer of those days is that there was grave concern for a few years about the next encroaching ice age. Yes really! Then Ralph Nader came along and the tiger crap really hit the fan. The profit of paranoia is still imposed on us as never before history began to be recorded.

The keeper. Carved in a rock at the entrance to a popular forest path. I wonder how many folks ever see it. Later in the day, as the light shifts, it is almost invisible.
I’ll give it a buzz. Another keeper of another path. Wasps seem to be on standby in the nest’s entrance. Nice berries!
Please park older trailers in the back. I rent a space in this storage yard. All those RVs just sitting…and all I need is one!
Yep, she’s almost paid for! This 1967 Mercury F250 was built two years before I graduated in the town where the Ford assembly plant was located. The truck looks in better shape than I do! The owner ran a venerable power saw repair business. Clearly, logging is his passion. Note the horn!

It is now a beautiful, flawless late summer day. I need to get up from this desk and do something. Despite backyard burning being illegal in this town I am tempted to find some beets to boil and go make a fire. I could explain to the volunteer fire department that I was following a cultural tradition. Yeah right. There is a rising breeze and if I turned on my marine radio I’d hear a string of Maydays. It happens every summer long -weekend. Yachters from mainland Canada must return across the Strait Of Georgia and as soon as a tiny whitecap appears, panic sets in among the Tupperware armada. It used to amuse me but now that I’m boatless a dull knife twists in my gut. I know that all those millions of dollars of nautica, which never leave sight of land, belong to most folks for nearly every reason other than a love of the sea. Once in the home marina most of these “look at me possessions” will languish abandoned until Easter. Money isn’t everything but I sure could stand a change of problems.

C’mon Jack, let’s go for a walk.”

I know, you’ve seen it before, but it is my trademark photo of all time. This was taken over twenty years ago while sailing alone aboard my first ‘Seafire.’ The image is indelible in my brain and says everything about what sailing means to me. In troubled moments, like during a dental procedure, I close my eyes and this vision sustains me.

…”The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.”

… Annie Dillard, from ‘The Abundance’

Out And About

Out And About

Home Waters. Ladysmith Harbour and home is in the far distance.

There are many fates worse than death. Nearly all of us have known some and I am living one at the moment but, being of an older breed, I know this too shall pass. My fortunes will change, I’ll pay my bills and get on with life. The image I dread most is of a geezer breathing out his last days, sitting staring at some bleak neighbour’s wall, wearing those ubiquitous red plaid slippers, perhaps a bridle of oxygen tubes on his face, an electric scooter parked at the front door, and walker on hand to shuffle out to it. Perhaps for a little more flavour we’ll add a thin string of drool on his white-stubbled face. The nurse will come by tomorrow to help him bath and shave and then he will take the scooter the six blocks to downtown to sit and watch the traffic; just for a change, his weekly highlight. Much of his time is spent contemplating all the things he didn’t do. There is a cliché about life being an ordeal or an adventure and some days we all need to give ourselves a severe talking-to. Enough said.

The rig. The trailer is a bit of a shape-shifter and eventually it will have a removable box to carry deflated dinghy, motor, generator, tools, extra gas and water and maybe a small motorcycle.
Do South!

A neighbour is having some beautiful tall fir trees removed. They’ve been there at least a hundred years and after last winter’s incredible winds I’m sure they are quite safe, but down they come in eight foot lengths to make very expensive firewood. The daily whine of power saws and the growl of the limb-chipping machine are a bit irritating but perhaps I am just becoming a grumpy old man. I thought of that as I watched for a few minutes and recalled a time when I worked as a logger wielding hot screaming power saws in the heat and bugs of summer. At that time of year, we’d go up the mountain at two am and be headed back to town by noon, the afternoons were too tinder-dry dangerous to be in the woods. If things became too dry we’d be banned from going to work at all. Days were then spent in the local pub, swilling draft beer and waiting for a call to go fight a forest fire. That was hell and a horror story very hard to relate believably. You had to have been there.

The high life.
“Mommy is that a tree hugger?” The trunk is lopped off in short sections from the top down. This solves the problem of trying to not fall the whole tree on someone’s home. Nothing like not seeing what you’ve done at the end of the day.

I doubt I could endure a half-hour of those he-man activities now. In fact, some of my health issues relate to those testosterone-charged days. I was never a high-rigger like the fellow in the photo, but when I hear the snarl of logging activity and catch the tang of fresh-cut wood there is a latent part of my brain that still wants to go kill a tree. Like smoking cigarettes, another part of my life decades ago, there is still a twinge of longing in the back of my hard drive to look at forests in terms of lumber instead of the amazing eco-system which I now embrace and love for its beauty and co-ordinated complexity. Oh indeed, how youth is wasted on the young!

A stand of Arbutus. I love these trees. This natural grove of these beautiful evergreen hardwoods is rare. Arbutus usually grow on their own. The species is unique to this immediate area. The grey trunk on the right is a Garry Oak.
Jack and I pass this lump in the path nearly every day on our walk along the beach. It’s a root but I wonder how many folks have made that painful discovery after trying to kick away something a dog might have left.

A book I ordered a while ago arrived in the mail today. It is a collection of poetry by Ofelia Zepeda, a brilliant Tohono O’odham indigenous woman of Southern Arizona. She is a highly respected literary icon and as I absorb a bit of that ancient desert culture I want to study as many aspects as I can. The damnedest thing about this book is that while it was published in Tucson Arizona, the copy I received was posted from Gloucester England. Go figure! When I worked up-coast in Shearwater, part of the native community of Bella Bella, I ordered a book I learned about from the local Heiltsuk cultural centre. It was about their unique and beautiful art. I found a used copy in a second-hand book shop in Ohio which shipped it back to Bella Bella. Totem poles and indigenous cultural artifacts are being returned to native communities from all over the world. They were taken long ago and now it’s payback time; rightly so. I guess I’m just part of a trend.

Campers in the branches. A plague of Western Tent Caterpillars arrives every summer. Once each decade they strip the leaves from nearly every tree. They’re ugly, but part of nature’s scheme.
The wheel barrow and the rabbit. I couldn’t resist this one.

Meanwhile back on South Vancouver Island summer here has been glorious, even as it winds down toward the inevitable end. It sure went fast. I have been scooting about local waters in my inflatable boat exploring haunts I have passed for several decades while voyaging off to far away places. I am used to having a boat this size to serve as a dinghy to the mother vessel so I’m finding this a bit humbling. However I have spent a lot of time in tiny vessels, dinghies, dories, kayaks and canoes. I’ve made some long voyages including a rowing trip through the Gulf Islands and once I took a small ten foot Zodiac from Nanaimo across the Strait Of Georgia to the top of Howe sound on the mainland. It was a distance of almost thirty nautical miles and a good part of the trip was in wide open water. I’ll always remember the look on a yachter’s face as I passed close behind his sloop’s transom and an easy ten miles from the nearest shore. I had a hard time walking for the next two days after that ride. It may sound foolhardy to many, but I am at home on the water like nowhere else and I do know my limits. I’ve made to this age by being prudent.

In days gone by it was not uncommon for people to row fantastic distances here. Loggers would come out of the camps up the inlets and across the Strait of Georgia, and sometimes Juan De Fuca, just for a break. Our coastal natives paddled dugout canoes as far south as Puget sound from Haida Gwaii on raiding expeditions and often went out on the open ocean to hunt whales and kill them in close contact with simple harpoons. I have met folks who have kayaked from Seattle to Alaska and back again. If I am a fool, I am in good company.


Unidentified Floating Object
This is probably an egg-yolk jellyfish. About two feet across, it dove as I took the photo. These creatures are always amazing to me.

Well, I’ll finish this rambling blog with a recommendation. I’ve just returned from a sneak off to the movies. There’s been nothing worth seeing nearly all summer and so I needed a big screen fix. I won’t review this film except to say that even if you are not a movie-goer, check out “Peanut Butter Falcon.” It is the first time I have laughed from my soul in a very long time. Self-described as perhaps the best movie of the decade, I’m inclined to agree about this uplifting effort.   Thanks; I needed that!

“So, that’ll be three triple cheeseburgers, upsize the fries with double gravy.”
I couldn’t resist this one either. The caption came to mind as I snapped the picture while waiting at the local recycling center.

On a final note, here’s the YouTube link to my latest video effort. Hope you like it.

Now then, Pooh,” said Christopher Robin, “where’s your boat?”
“I ought to say,” explained Pooh as they walked down to the shore of the island, “that it isn’t just an ordinary sort of boat. Sometimes it’s a Boat, and sometimes it’s more of an Accident. It all depends.”
“Depends on what?”
“On whether I’m on the top of it or underneath it.” 
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Serenity And Sweaty Things

An old friend. ‘Seeker Of Truth’ was found by a friend languishing in a Vancouver Island barn. He restored and renamed it and eventually put her up for sale. I was sorely tempted. She was built in Norway in the early 1900’s and is a lovely example of a well built and maintained wooden boat.  With a little love she’ll live at least another century. Carved on a bulkhead below in Norwegian is a legend which translates: “A man without a boat is a prisoner.” Too true! Too true!
Not so long ago poor people lived by the sea and ate fish. Note that in mid-summer the dock is not in use. Perhaps this is the autumn cottage?
Not far away, another reality beside our abandoned island railroad.

Last blog I offered a cryptic squint at modern policing attitudes. I must add this. Four years ago a habitual drunk in a pickup truck careening through a suburb of Victoria ran a red light and rammed a police car broadside. He fatally mashed a police officer. The victim was a woman and a mother. Her husband still grieves, especially now. The sentence handed down for this horrific tragedy was a mere four years. However we may each value our human lives that punishment seems cavalier to say the least. That the victim was a RCMP constable on duty should perhaps be irrelevant but four years for wilfully dangerous and violent, mortal irresponsibility is a horrific insult to us all. It trivializes the value of everyone’s life.

The anchor for my next boat.
YEAH RIGHT!
My experience says that Rocnas, a product of New Zealand, are an ultimate anchor. This 55 pound, polished stainless steel beauty will hold a very big vessel.

I stand by my concerns about jaded and arrogant police attitudes but I also grasp how crushing it must be for all officers when they are so demeaned by a casual judicial system. It also helps me empathize a bit better with the policeman’s lot. Small wonder they become bitterly hardened in the face of such crass dismissals of what they endure while trying to do their duty, no matter how they perceive what that might be.

Disposable income, a 1930 Packard. On the wide whitewall tires is a n inscription which says “High Speed, Gum-Dipped”
The rumble seat. Complete with its own folding windshield there’s enough room to sleep comfortably beneath the hinged cowling. Nope, no air bags!

By the way, friendly comments about my last blog suggest that I “Stay out of trouble.” All I’ll say in response is this. Name me one of your heroes or anyone else the world remembers who stayed out of trouble! C’mon now, just one name!

August path. The alder leaves emit a lovely fragrance when walked on.
August browns. A sign of things to come.
The leaky pipe grows the grass. Part of the water supply for our local pulp mill. These wooden pipe lines run for miles. Superb engineering, some of these pipes are several feet in diameter. This one is only about two feet.
Bookends. These two young lovely brothers were new friends we met on the trail.
A first I thought I was bending down to photograph a ladybug. I don’t know what this cleverly coloured beasty is.

Summer is rushing past. Dried leaves fall and carpet the trails. Over-ripe blackberries ferment and drunken wasps buzz in your face. Tiny songbirds are flocking up and feeding voraciously in preparation for long southward migrations. Second cuttings of hay on local farms have been baled and stored away. Local markets and roadside stalls overflow with fresh local produce. Back-to-school ads flood the media. It seems I was just posting photos of early spring buds. The seasons whirl by. Peter Fonda, the baby-faced biker just died. He was 89!

In the Bogwump. Nothing lives forever. There is beauty in all things if you care to look.

I was shocked to realize that the classic and iconic movie, ‘Easy Rider’ was first seen back in my high school days, an entire lifetime ago. That was over half a century! When you start measuring your own life in those terms, well, you know the jokes about buying green bananas.

Beauty by the dollar. Tugboats, logs, booms, barges, chains, cables, cranes were once a chapter in my life. I am now angered that any wood is exported. This barge load of small second-growth timber is destined for somewhere in the US. Each bundle of wood is a truckload. There is a lot of 2x4s and pulp in that mountain. Logs are boomed in bundles or in flat “swifter” booms as in the foreground. Close your eyes, smell the diesel exhaust, wood aroma in the sun, and seal and otter droppings.  Elixer!

I’ve never written a bucket list; I’ve just lived it. The greatest anticipations are yet to be experienced. I’ve learned to quit wringing my hands about things like politics. I still constantly prod people to think, think for themselves but I’ve also realized the wisdom of the old Alcoholics Anonymous mantra: “God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Or, as George Carlin put it, “Don’t sweat the petty things, and don’t pet the sweaty things.”

Dali Rocks. Jack and I love taking the dinghy and exploring the sandstone reefs and shorelines of our area. These sandstone formations are an eternal fascination for me.
Jack surveys his kingdom. He’s showing his years but my dear friend still has a grand sense of adventure.

This blog’s photos are local grab shots taken in the last few days.

Look into my eye. I photographed this wee beauty just a few minutes ago. It was basking under a neighbour’s vehicle. It was a whole six inches in length.
Another sign of the season. Wee button fungi begin to appear. It seems a mouse may have had a nibble.
Breathe.

A dear friend and fellow sailor presently visiting the Thor Heyerdahl Museum in Oslo Norway has just e-mailed me this:

Borders? I have never seen one, but I have heard that they exist in the minds of some people.”

… Thor Heyerdahl

The Bird Pride Parade

Dog Day Afternoon, between a rock and a wet place.  Jack takes a break in the shade and contemplates a dip in the river while out on his daily walk.
Moving on. The season passes. Fruit and berries ripen, flowers go to seed,  plagues of spiders have begun to appear, crickets have started their songs which will only end with first frosts. Seize the day!

I once wrote an article about four levels of competence. It was within a series of essays about coastal navigation requested by a local yachting magazine. They never printed that piece. I think what I wrote was too offensive to their valued advertisers. So be it.

Those four levels start at the bottom and rise from not knowing even how little we grasp about how to do something. This skill level is often accompanied with a lot of condescending tones and braggadocio. “Empty wagons rattle the most,” is something this old farm boy tries to remember.

Most of us rise at least to the second level where we become aware of how little we know and begin considering how to improve. We become quite humble in the face of that awareness and mechanically perform the basic steps. Have you known the pain of trying to learn to play a musical instrument?

The third level is when we are finally able to perform to some point of satisfaction but still seek to improve ourselves and often need to consciously think about the skills we are employing. We’ve learned to respect rather than envy others who possess a competence we strive for.

The fourth level is achieved with experience and practice when we can finally do something intuitively. I’ve become fairly adept at sitting in this chair.

Deep woods relief and a little shade by a stream. A simple thing can be so sweet.
Canadian dust no doubt…eh?

Here’s my drift; if you’re still with me. I’ve recently had two bemusing moments with the local constabulary in recent weeks. The first incident found me in handcuffs while going to the local Post Office. I’d always wondered what that must feel like. I was simply parking my truck. Another fellow was also trying to park and making a very poor job of it even after repeated attempts. I waited hoping he would settle. Embarrassed perhaps, he began shouting at me, asking if I had a problem. When I replied “yes” he responded by asking what was wrong. At that point my terse answer, without thinking, was that he was blocking the “F…ing road.”

Then all hell broke loose from behind the Post Office across the street. It turns out to have been a young cop interrogating a woman there about her boyfriend whom he’d just taken to jail. (No further comment on why he’d later share that information.) Crossing the street to get the mail and angling past him, his harangue continued. I suggested that he appeared to be plenty busy enough without spreading his efforts so thinly. He was enraged. I was arrested, hand-cuffed and stuffed into the back of his vehicle. Eventually the cuffs were removed and I was threatened with charges of disturbing the peace, road rage and uttering profanities in public. Yes, really!

He even had the audacity to mention the size of my wrists and how difficult hand-cuffing me had been. He wanted to know what my occupation was. I so badly wanted to say that I was a retired cop and had spent a lot of time playing with my gun. No, I did not. The handcuffs hurt like hell and I bore deep welts on my wrists for several hours.

Constable Zealous refused to acknowledge that he had not interviewed all those witness to my heinous behaviour nor had he noticed the traffic problem and who was shouting. After a half-hour of acrimonious debate I actually received a vague apology once I’d pointed out that he had a rage issue about being challenged and that his job did not involve being any sort of interpretive judicial system. Of course if I’d just kept my pie-hole shut there would have been no problem. I often remind myself of Don Ruiz’s four agreements: I will respect the power of my words, I will take nothing personally, I will assume nothing, I will always do my best.

Old school policing. Actually, a year ago, this was a movie set on main street, Ladysmith. Whatever happened to the movie, ‘Sonic The Hedgehog’ is a mystery. The sets were amazing, right down to the Montana license plates. A block of downtown was painted over in a day, and then painted back to original colours in another day.

From a skewed perspective I can see how I broke all those rules in my police moment but damnit, sometimes you have to stand up for what’s right. That’s the problem with Canadians, we are just too polite to the point of enduring all manner of abuses, even from people on our payroll: politicians, bureaucrats, civil servants. They are sworn to serve us, not to try forcing us to bend to their will. We’ve forgotten who’s supposed to be in control. I could easily begin to rant about how Canada is insidiously becoming a police state while we blissfully ignore the obvious. But, if you can’t see it, I’m not about to try penetrating your comfort zone.

I have no desire to be a policeman, not for any salary. It is a thankless task, fraught with danger, stress, frustration and hopefully, at times, guilt and is at most times subject to contempt from the taxpayer….. until, of course, they need to dial 911. There are life and death decisions to be made in an instant and no-one always gets it right no matter how much training they may have had. It is intolerable however when a police officer is arrogant, rude and assumptive. I will not endure derogatory tones from anyone, even a goon with a gun. “To serve and protect” dude! Friends who are retired RCMP members admit some embarrassment that they once wore the uniform. One retiree said that in consideration of the modern police force the only difference between it and motorcycle gangs is that the police have better resources. “They’re all thugs.” Strong words indeed. I do appreciate the job they try to do. I repeat that I don’t want it. I know I’m just too reactive.

I’ve made it to this point in my life without ever tangling with the police. There were, of course, times when I deserved to have been. I can’t remember my last traffic ticket and the last time I interacted with police was to help apprehend a severely impaired driver. A good thing I think.

My objection is that the prevalent police attitude I see, and hear about, is that they know more than everyone about everything at all times. That apparent insecurity is a dangerous thing for someone so heavily armed and so constantly under stress. A little contrition could go a long way. So, back to the four levels of competence and the four agreements.

On a recent morning Jack and I were driving to one of our favourite walking locations. We fetched up at the back of a small parade creeping along the road. A police car headed the procession with flashing lights. Well, actually it became apparent that an emu was heading the parade. It was high-stepping down the centre of the pavement and making a good four knots to windward.

If you’re being run out of town, get to the front of the crowd and make it look like a parade.

Eventually big bird decided to make a u-turn and headed back toward town in the opposite lane. I saw a photo opportunity coming my way and perhaps a chance to help corner the outbound oiseau. The cop, now in mid u-turn began to bellow on his loudhailer. “GET-BACK-IN-YOUR-VEHICLE!”

Just what an over-wrought monster bird needed! The officer pulled alongside and angrily admonished me: “That bird has toes ya know!” He was clearly frustrated with the whole humiliating situation. It never occurred to him that perhaps I may have displayed some confidence with good reason. I do understood that in his eyes I was just another nuisance idiot in need of salvation from himself. I do actually have a little experience with these creatures which are indeed powerful kick-boxers known to have readily disemboweled people who get too close. A former farm boy, ranch hand, and rodeo dude I’ve also been in pens with angry horned cattle, kicking biting horses, tusky boars. You develop a savvy for critters, but not when they’re being pursued by bellowing policemen in hot pursuit and I was not about to offer my resumé.

The jogger. No Reeboks.  Can emus laugh?

The emu made it onto the evening TV news. It turns out his name is Parker. He is from a local farm and a repeat escape artist. Eventually the police blockaded the road for a half-hour and then tasered old Parker before “subduing” him. He’s none the worse for wear with nary a singed feather. Fortunately for Birdy Boy there was not enough cranberry sauce on hand for a barby and happily no “Conservation” officers were involved. When they show up, despite their title, something invariably gets shot. Parker survived unscathed and is back on the right side of the fence plotting his next adventure. So, choose your own closing line:

– Keep your pecker up/ Keep your eye on the bird/ The beat goes on/ drumsticks!

The long arm of the mouse, thick wrists and all. This is a result of a slamming box lid. it required surgical attention today. Good thing there have been no more handcuffs! The book and the author are amazing, Urrea has fast become one of my favourite  writers.
“Go ahead, step on it. Not my tail!”
“Right then. Try it again and you’ll get a licking to remember!”
Good music at the Duncan Farmer’s Market. This is a popular local weekly event in the Cowichan Valley where baking, preserves, produce, wine and handcrafts are showcased.
Lapstrake and lyrics. The singer was as good as the skiff was beautiful. Built at a local boat school, it was being raffled off. Good boats are pleasing to the eye from all angles.
The bow and the bouquet. A lovely comment on the incredible valley where I live.
Spellbound. Another moment at the market.
Whoosh! Jack and I have a favourite walk at the north end of the local airport. Here is a Navigation Canada aircraft on short final, gear down and locked, check….Good old mobile phone!
Whoosh! There are so many ways to direct the same script (Google up the short film “Room 8”)

The police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.”

…Robert Peel

Crow Song

Ripe for the taking. Feral grapes, plums and blackberries. There are plenty more, come again tomorrow.

I muse on this every year. Each blackberry season the berries do not ripen all at once. If they did, most of the harvest would go to waste. The berries ripen in sequence, so that each day there are more newly-perfect delicious treats. A person can go back every day, or every few, and pick a fresh crop of tasty bliss. The vines amortize themselves. People and birds both have an ongoing feast through the month of August and often well into September. The untouched berries left over eventually dry on the vine and become winter stores. Some fall on the ground to sprout in the next year but most feed the birds for a good while after the first frosts. Among that macramaed tangle of formidable stalks, rabbits and other creatures find refuge through the seasons from predators. In spring, tender new plants springing up from the fallen seeds provide fresh nourishment for those furry wee beasts which will soon give birth to their own progeny. Their droppings, in turn, help fertilize the thorny thickets. Nothing goes to waste. No one could manage any human endeavour quite as well.

I beg myself to know what it is that naturally occurs among mindless thorny vines to manage their assets when I don’t have a clue about managing mine. I never have. I don’t even have many left to manage. I have made and lost fortunes. Maybe, as the tide turns, I will have finally learned something. In my advancing years I find myself skint beyond any way of describing my pathetic situation. My finances have always been a tumbling hairball of advance and retreat, bad management, bad luck, bad timing and bad choices in general. I am aware of a deeply embedded sub-conscious need to self destruct and I know there were values and practices taught, and not taught, in my formative years. I am not blaming anyone else but I sure wish I’d learned values other than work hard, spend hard, fall hard. The chapters in my book about working smart just haven’t ever been there. Despite all my personal insights, I have managed to arrive a place in my life where I just don’t have the energy to start over yet again but I do not want to dig the hole that I am in one spoonful deeper. Enough! I’ve burned myself up in every sense clambering through the vicious cycles of my life’s game of ‘Snakes and Ladders.’

A patch of light. what a joy to amble with Jack through the rain forest on a summer morning.

I have no love of wealth, I manage to eliminate any I come across. However, money is a tool everyone in this culture needs to do the things that give their life meaning, security and direction. It is all about choices. I’ve never understand how to make make more money with what you already have. All I’ve known is to work myself like a donkey and spend whatever I bring in before someone else gets their claws on it. My body and soul are now worn past the point of being able to continue doing what I know and no-one seems willing to hire someone for their experience alone. That sense of being discarded onto the big pile of worn-out shovels does nothing to inspire confidence and self-faith. There are many people around me who are smarter, skilled in financial strategy,yet  who are in the same bin as myself despite all their cleverness. They have risen higher and fallen further. They perhaps once offered smug advice to others about managing their affairs. That awareness leaves me feeling no better. And so there you have it, a great mystery called life. I am not complaining, just explaining. And yes, I know what Einstein said about repeating an effort and expecting different results: insanity.

A cool change. A little low cloud for a while on an August morning as yachts sail out to their day. I WILL be out there again.

I also know that fortunes can change in a flash. Negative mental energy will bring more darkness; positive thinking and activity lead toward light and goodness. Each energy feeds on itself. The trick is finding the empowerment to jump aboard the right train, not in front of it nor beneath it. There is always risk involved in anything worthwhile. “You can’t get at the fruit without going out on the limb.” I have wonderful creative skills and even a sense of mission about what to do with those endowments. The doldrums where I find myself at present, are they the eye of a hurricane? Will the wind suddenly reverse and blow me in the opposite direction? Staying hove-to and waiting for that shift is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Doing nothing is a terrific challenge. The wisdom of the old sailor is to know when to put the helm down and sail on again. God grant me that knowledge.

This morning, while walking with Jack the dog, a crow sat on a limb above me and performed a strange self-grooming dance all the while singing a piece of crow-rap gibberish. Or was it offering a message, which in my self-absorbed misery, I am too out of tune to understand? Being in tune with nature is intrinsically important to me. Fitting in with the human world around me means little other than having the tools to go where I feel led. Later, after hours of pondering, it occurred to me that that was the message. I’ve lost touch and it is time to get my beak out of my belly button and flap my wings.

A right proper bloomer!

So why am I bothering to write this? Everyone has their own gig to deal with. I know that there are many other folks living in desperate circumstances. There is no comfort in that knowledge. Our current history is being written as a grand, global, widening deliberate division between the poor and the wealthy. The middle class faces a holocaust. My mission in life, which I’ll admit I tend to forget at times, is to put a little light in other people’s eyes. If I can take a positive note from the call of the crow, then perhaps I can make the flame of someone else’s flickering light flame a little brighter, help them make it through their night.

If it rains before they’re picked……limbs will break.
Bumper crop!

Like manna from heaven, a few hours later while flipping through YouTube, I found this. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBaHPND2QJg The video was made in Sabadell, Catalonia. The music is Beethoven’s ‘Ode To Joy.’ This flash mob performance made me shiver. In a time when the news seems to be about yet another mass-shooting and in Canada, a bizarre manhunt which has ended with a total of five deaths, this is something worth sharing with everyone. There is hope; even when we cannot see it. Namaste.

Now here’s that crow. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJB5fEuCGFI

The wooden schooner ‘Alcyone’ in a golden moment many years ago, skipper Sugar Flanagan on the helm. Even the most beautiful ship started out simply as someone’s dream. Where might ours take us?

Much of human behaviour can be explained by watching the wild beasts around us. They are constantly teaching us things about ourselves and the way of the universe, but most people are too blind to watch and listen.”

– Suzy Kassem


The Way You See It

If you can’t see the humour in this, well…I hope you’re feeling better in the morning.

I have a natural inclination to apply humour to all my human interactions. It comes from a hard-wired insecurity which tells me that for successful interpersonal relations, I need to win folks over with a laugh and a smile. Most of the time that strategy works and I can get along well with folks, even those I don’t actually like. Once in a while I encounter some poor soul who is so broke they have no sense of humour. Then I’m stuck.

Sad beauty. This old miner’s house sits in an alley in downtown Ladysmith. It waits for a demolition crew. Through its inhabitants a house becomes a living thing. I hear children’s laughter, smell coal smoke and cooking aromas, see golden light in the windows on a wet winter night. Now it is no longer a sanctuary, but boarded up and slowly returning to the earth.

Recently I found myself in a large box store at a check-out counter. I was purchasing a new sewage-connection plumbing kit for my little trailer. The box it was in refused to stay closed. Plastic bits and long uncoiling brown springy hoses insisted on leaping out of their containment every time I managed to almost stuff them back into place. It was annoying but I could also see the funny perspective of my poo-pipe Jack-in the-box. I recall thinking, “Where’s the hidden camera?” A lady standing in line behind me asked, “Can I give you a hand”? Without thinking I responded with my usual come-back to that particular question. “Oh sure, I can always stand a little applause.” Invariably this brings a smile and laughter and I’ve made a new friend. Not today, even though others nearby saw the humour in my remark.

Dad? When can we have a another boat?

Look I was just trying to be helpful and you give me sarcasm. Goddamned men and their chauvinist attitudes! You don’t think women can do the same things men do!” Actually I do, I may even be more of a feminist that some women because I know many ladies who are more skilled than men doing anything that is considered within the manly realm. Pilots, doctors, welders, mechanics, machinery operators, ship’s captains, engineers, educators, politicians, on and on, gender is irrelevant to ability whether men can admit that or not. I refuse to categorize based on gender. That I even write about this is ridiculous. With that sensibility, I also have little patience with chauvinist remarks. I responded, “Look, I’m just trying to check out my shit pipes. I tried offering you a little humour in exchange for your kind offer. Now, please, get off my tits.” She shut up. I instantly regretted my last quip although I was implying that we are all equal, we are all mammals, now lay of the gender babble. She had intended to be helpful and I had worked at shattering her day simply because she has a different view of life.

When I rewind that scenario I realize that it would have been best to simply keep my pie-hole wide shut. I just can’t keep from responding to other folk’s remarks. Only I can allow their words to affect the course of my day in any way. Ultimately, the only person responsible for our feelings is ourselves. A woman once said to me in a very condescending tone, “You men are all the same!” Nope; I couldn’t resist. “Oh,” I replied, “Just how many men have you known?” Like the sign above says, “Do not make eye contact with the gorilla.”

Just another Dogpatch dawn.
The morning light is rich and sweet no matter what the sky.
Shadow chaser. An airliner at altitude flies into a perfectly aligned tunnel of its own contrail’s shadow.

Another equalizer is being overweight. “My doctor told me I was obese and I replied that after a recent trip through the US, I was not obese, thank you very much. I am certainly not spandex-tight wattle-revealing waddling sideways porky, but I’ll concede I am not the flat-bellied willowy self of decades past. With a few health problems spiralling around each other, packing around an extra forty pounds is detrimental to my well-being and longevity unless… I am a bear about to den up. Other folks I know have had great success with the trendy “Keto Diet” and so I have eliminated the consumption of carbohydrates and gluten including wheat, rice and pasta, beer, and most of the other foods which give me pleasure. I am left with meat fish and poultry, nuts, green vegetables which grow above the ground, cheese and a little dark chocolate. I am actually not missing the addiction to carbohydrates (Yeah right!) and things are starting to look down. There is also a certain pleasure in realizing that I have rejected the garbage diet most of my culture swallows without question. It is an easier regimen to assume than I thought and I am enjoying the results of a little self-deprivation. My jeans are beginning to hang from my suspenders like clown pants. Maybe, as I lose my big shape, I’ll actually be able to again use a belt successfully. For that you need hips. Don’t buy me any thongs just yet. Yuck! There is already a pair of Speedos I can’t bring myself to wear in public anymore.

A very short train. Ladysmith clings to a flickering dream of a railway museum.

Losing weight is not the only effort to trim the results of personal over-consumerism. I am trying to reduce the accumulations of belongings. If I never use it, or have even forgotten I possess it, it is junk. While I can’t bring myself to throwing out books or tools, I also am chagrined to realize that there is no point in storing boxes of things like plumbing fittings, bits of exotic wood, old useless boat parts and so forth. I’ve been dunging out and truly have ended up with loads of bits and bobs of no value to anyone. Potentially useful materials go to people like ReStore but otherwise, why keep stuff just for the bizarre comfort of owning “Stuff.” I’ve previously written about relatives who were hoarders to the point of reducing the value of their property because it was heaped with “Stuff.”

Lush. Calm. Birdsong.

I will confess to having rented a storage locker for the interim to store equipment and components left over from the sale of ‘Seafire.’ In the storage yard where my locker is, there is row after row of old cars, RVs and boats that are clearly worn out, rotting away and otherwise not used. Yet someone is paying to keep their belongings. Folks in our culture have so many belongings they can’t fit them into their over-sized homes. The storage business is a growth industry in North America. ($38 billion in the US alone.) As I was driving away and musing on our capitalist instinct, yet another news story on the radio ran on with more weary statistics about global warming. I often rant on about the “Profits of paranoia” so it was with some joy to sit at this desk and open a short YouTube presentation emailed on to me by a friend.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eiPIvH49X-E This link will take you to an excerpt from the 9th annual International Conference On Climate Change. It covers a short presentation by a renowned scientist named Art Robinson. Here are few things he has to say: “We are on a democratic playing field trying to save a constitutional republic.”…”All democracies fail and descend into mob rule.” In summation of what he presents the man says, whatever you choose to believe we ask you to “Think.” He presents a very different and qualified perspective on Global Climate Change and I found myself sitting at this desk applauding what he has the courage to say. I think some of his perspectives are skewed, we do need to think and act in a more responsible way toward our environment, but think, damn it, think.

Red Dogwood

I’ve recently forwarded two presentations of polemic, satirical political comment from YouTube to select friends. It was very interesting to consider the reactions each evoked. Some were in complete agreement with the views presented, others were enraged and very polarized against the ideas put forth. Interesting, in all negative responses I detected that only selected portions had been absorbed and the overall message had been missed. I have to always keep that in mind with what I write and leave no doubt in my comments and messages.

I have learned to keep my abstract social/ political views to myself past a certain point. There is no advantage for me to repel subscribers yet I also feel obliged to present thought-provoking suggestions that inspire folks to ask themselves questions which take them out of their personal comfort zones. Perhaps of all the things that separate the human organism from any other life form is our ability for introspection and self-questioning. To avoid doing so is to wilfully deny yourself your humanity. Goose-stepping out onto thin ice is foolish but sometimes, like it or not, you do have to look the gorilla in the eye.

The Sausage Hound. I couldn’t pass up this shot . One of the joys of Ladysmith is its old-time butcher shop on main street. It’s next to the pet store.

Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better.” …Albert Camus

OLD FOOL

(The Bastards!)

Click on images to enlarge

Coo, Coo KaHappy New Year! A shot from my Upcoast archives.

There’s no fool like an old fool. Sadly, that weary old axiom is as true as ever. Yesterday, in the middle of a busy morning my computer went KABLOOWEY KERPLUNK. The Screen was suddenly frozen, white with a broad red band across it. There was no way to escape (At least so far as I knew.) A bold message read that Microsoft had detected an insidious virus and had frozen my computer to prevent further damage. A toll-free phone number was provided for me to contact immediately. There’s no-one as gullible as someone in deep panic. I was on my way to an important meeting and the timing of this cyber trap completely blew my cool.

A friend and a view. May you have a higher view on the world.

A man with a thick Asian accent answered my call through a very bad connection and the fun began. I should have caught on immediately. For half an hour I was switched up the line to yet another supervisor, with difficult accents, and then another who soon had control of my desk-top. An alien curser began dancing across my screen at their will and reams of data scrolled on and on. I was told that my IP address was severely hacked, all my personal data was now in the hands of these bad guys and with such a high-end computer, now drastically infected, I had huge problems. Eventually prices in the hundreds of dollars began appearing on the screen. I finally began to smell fish. I was warned of dire consequences if I switched off the computer and/or took it to any computer repair facility. At this point I became the next curser, and a loud one at that. Bastards! Looking back I knew that Microsoft simply does not operate in such a way. Hello! Hello!

Alluring! A shiny spoon and some line tell of a disappointing afternoon one day last summer.
On winter’s pond. Incredibly a few late spawning salmon rose and broke the tranquility.
I could not catch one with my camera.
Gotcha! At a tiny stream mouth a flash of red betrays a late spawning salmon.

Originally assured that there were no fees for this online repair, the story evolved. Now the scam was that my IP address was in the hands of nasty hackers and hopelessly irretrievable. The only way I could ever use my computer again was to buy a license for a new IP address. This is yet another version of my ongoing theme about the profit of paranoia. Scare the crap out of folks and you’ll be able to steer them in any direction you want. That ageless persuasion continues to work very well for the church and for politicians. That, and greed. I was once selling a boat for a friend when a nasty Nigerian scammer tried to pull my chain. That’s another story. I should have known better this time. I’ve already skipped through the big scam about Revenue Canada threatening me with imprisonment. I’d been warned. Now this! So you too stay alert.

Winter rush.
It is the time of year when there is water running everywhere.

Suddenly I could see that I was being had and knew I’d soon be asked for credit card information. Finally I hung up and headed for my neighbourhood computer guru where I was met with a quiet smile. Yep, just another old fish who had bitten the dancing lure. Fortunately I spat the hook. All is well that ends. My chagrin has not. These dudes were utterly convincing and part of my fury was at myself for being swept through some very obvious signs, in retrospect, that I was being had. Almost duped I felt like an absolute stupid ass. Here’s what you do if you find yourself in the same pickle. Shut it down and go to your computer repair man. They’ll remove any nasty thing that was installed… by the hackers. Those were the guys who installed the problem. I’ve also been shown how to unfreeze my screen should the same thing ever happen again. Bastards!

Flatrock beach.
Sandstone makes for some fantastic rock formations in our part of the world. High tide with a rising westerly wind puts the picnic notion out of mind. My Corona umbrella would blow away!
A winter view across the Strait Of Georgia. Northwest winds clear the air and sometimes produce a prismatic effect. These mountains on mainland Canada are almost forty miles away.
Feel the Brrrr!

The rest of the story is that I was heading off to an appointment to look at a vehicle. A very good friend was having dinner with another of his amigos and learned that their old camper van was for sale at a very, very reasonable price. He e-mailed me immediately. Now I’m flat-assed broke for the moment but many of my pals have noted how badly I’ve been faring with winter and other problems which are rapidly becoming a great dungball of darkness. One of those friends has graciously loaned me the means to acquire the van and go south for a while. So, there will be some interesting blogs as I travel down the cactus trail to old Mexico. Meanwhile the rain hammers down as usual. There was a time when the sound of rain on the roof was soothing and peaceful. Now, it is an irritating white noise. That’s a bad sign in itself. Yesterday, I had to walk several blocks in the downpour when I could hear a red-winged blackbird singing. That is one of the first joyous sounds of spring. Instantly uplifted, the singer soon proved to be a starling, one of the great mimics. I’ve actually heard a starling perform a perfect eagle song. I spotted the little bugger singing his head off after I had looked all over the sky for a big baldy. That seemed quite funny at the time. Now it just depressed me a little more. Is everyone up to some sick trick? Bastards!

You never know what you might find in old barns and sheds. A friend spotted this aging camper van while visiting another friend. Room to stand up and to lay down, what more do you need?  Like me, it’s rough on the outside but has a heart of gold. Hopefully I’ll be seeing cacti and palm trees through that windshield sometime this month.

The rest of the story is that my benevolent friend wants to buy a sailboat in Mexico which he will leave there to use during the winter months. He wants this old salt to watch his back and offer a second perspective and any other relevant assistance. So we’ll call this a bus-man’s holiday. Of course cameras, both still and video, will be whirring all the while and evenings will be spent working at the computer keeping everything sorted out and recorded. Spring arrives in the Sonora Desert next month and the flowers are profuse and fantastic.  There will be blogs.

Meanwhile I have a plethora of woes to sort out on the new old van. It has sat unused for years and as old Lord Nelson said “Ships and men rot in port.” The vehicle was stored under a roof and as soon as it was moved out into the pouring rain, windows began to leak. I turned on the pressure water system, the plumbing leaked badly. Electrical systems need attention. The rig needs a full service, including brakes and steering. I’ll have some busy days ahead.

The shape of boats.
I added an abstract touch to enhance the “Peaceful, easy” feeling of this bay. This is my minimal obligatory nautical image required in each blog. Another song says “Dream on.”

Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it.”

… André Gide

The Martian Wind (Correspondence between two aging blue-collared friends)

A dashcam view of Ladysmith’s main street..touted as Canada’s award-winning best. The annual light-up festival is a huge drawing card but one has to ask of a town that claims to be green…how many kilowatts of light do we burn up every year?
Just asking!

A thin, grey light began to seep through the skylight. Snug and warm, I cracked one eye open. Protruding my feet from beneath the cozy covers, I rose into the day one toe at a time. Yesterday had been crackling cold, today was back to the normal dank drizzling wet of a coastal winter. I made coffee and reviewed the news headlines. Buried amid the tales of war and corruption is a story about the machinery we have dropped onto the face of Mars. Of all the data it is busy gathering, the audio recording of the Martian wind leaves us spellbound. A gentle murmuring over the face of our marvellous contraption is soothing, like a summer breeze in long grass. That sound is one more encouragement on our quest to find our way home, somewhere out there.

Well, that’s how my next blog began. Then I received an e-mail from a good friend in response to some remarks I’ve recently made. I replied and the rant is on! I haven’t posted a good rant for a long time.

Corn field in winter. As the winter rains return this flooding will increase and then one day, wild swans will descend to swim and feed on the yummy bits in the rich soil below. Man and nature can work together.

_____________________________________________________

Hello Fred.  It seems that many of the self proclaimed environmentalists have never left a city, have no idea how goods are transported, where the minerals that are used to make the every day essential goods we use come from nor how they are mined.  We have a whole group of citizens who are educated by books and yet are totally clueless about the real world.  Now unfortunately we have elected politicians that come from this group!!  It does not bode well for our future.  I would like to see them all go back to the caveman days.  Walk, don’t ride bicycles because iron and aluminum have to be mined to manufacture the components to make bicycles.  Live in caves because God help us if we cut down a tree!  What a bunch of hypocrites they are to eat food that has to be trucked here from warmer climates where it can be grown.  Oh and don’t let them buy anything made in China!  Make them use sticks and bones as tools, and NO GORTEX high tech synthetic clothing that may have been made by petroleum byproducts. AAAAHHHHH!!!

Well, I have to go now.  I am going to drive my diesel pickup truck to the store and buy some grapes grown in Chile and a bottle of South African wine, and I’m not going to feel guilty about it one bit.

Panamanian-flagged, Greek owned, built in China of North American iron ore and recycled Japanese automobiles smelted with British Columbian coal. It will load with raw logs for Asia where they’ll be turned into furniture and other goods to be sold back to us. Did I mention that the flags were probably made in Pakistan? It gets confusing.

Jimmy:

Will the wine be enjoyed with a New Zealand Lamb roast or Australian beef?  Either way it came on a ship made in China fuelled with oil from Romania and delivered to your store in a Japanese truck rolling on tires made in Korea. And why, I ask, are we, in BC of all places, eating seafood from Asia? Even the otters are apparently getting into the act! (Remember Koi Boy?) Once again I offer my old saw about the chicken farmer who goes to town to buy eggs.

It is the biggest ongoing rant I have. In British Columbia, which with its natural boundaries, immense resources of energy, industry, clean water and agriculture could be a very, very wealthy  sovereign state. (I’m quite in favour of the idea of Cascadia.) Anyone who can put down their I-pad and sweat, maybe even bleed a little and get some dirt on their hands, in other words produce something, should be wealthy. Instead, we import folks who are willing to do the grunt work and then regard them as inferior beings and complain if they get ahead in life.

We could, and should be, completely self-sufficient for food. We have been in the past. Those monster green houses in the lower mainland area could easily grow tea, coffee and citrus fruits instead of the marijuana they probably will cultivate in the future. The price for one cauliflower in the store yesterday was $8.99! That is to cover, I assume, the immense amount of diesel required to move it from Mexico to Vancouver Island. Or perhaps, from a Vancouver Island farm to a Toronto warehouse and then back here! Gawd! You now need to take out a mortgage to acquire a handful of asparagus! As you know, I have no acumen for financial management but I do understand that before you go off spending money on anything else, you figure out how to first feed yourself. We have, or had, very prime farmland throughout the province but we’ve managed to flood it, pave it over for malls and roads, or build subdivisions and golf courses.  And, think of all the food we could grow if we simply replaced the expensive vanity and environmental stupidity of our lawns with vegetable gardens. Why are we importing any foodstuff? It is sheer political genius multiplied by our collective idiocy and comfort zone apathy.

We indeed will end up back in the caves as we deserve. We may now be able to listen to the Martian wind, but have learned bugger-all of basic value about living on this planet. With all of our technology we have dummied ourselves into a state of mental oblivion. A few years back someone came up with the bright notion of only consuming food produced within 60 KM of home. WOW! That’s original. The human race has been doing that in a much tighter radius for millennia. We don’t need rocket science to feed ourselves. Remember the Paul Simon lyrics? “Isn’t that astute, why don’t we call ourselves an institute?”

Once a tremendous effort was made to clear our rich Southern coastal land of its massive timber. After all that effort, most of this prime ground has been abandoned to eventually become “Developed ” land. With ever more people and less arable land, the idea of being able to feed ourselves is becoming more remote.
Abandoned fields are eventually overrun by Himalayan blackberries, an aggressive invasive species. Hardly anyone tries to even harvest the berries, a rich food source. Doesn’t it make you want to ask a few questions?

On a parallel note I watched a report on Scotland’s green energy program last night. Their goal is to be 100% green in a few years and are now rising through the 80% mark. This is a country which until recently, relied entirely on coal and its own rich resource of North Sea oil and gas. (England switched from coal to nuclear power years ago and is realizing the horrible pitfalls of that.)The Scots are now placing tidal generators on the ocean floor of their coastal waters, each of which will supply the needs of 1000 homes. They do not rely on sunlight or wind but use the regular and predictable diurnal tidal currents. They can calculate the energy that will be produced over the next twenty years simply by consulting the tidal books.  I have advocated for that here in BC for decades. Both our coastal ocean currents and our mighty rivers produce massive amounts of unharnessed clean energy. Think of the electricity we could produce without flooding another inch of land or erecting ugly expensive wind generators.  River turbines in Europe have proven themselves long ago. A few years ago, on the banks of Northumberland Channel near Nanaimo there was a serious proposal to build a natural gas-powered generating station. That immediately beside uncalculated kilowatts of eternal unharnessed tidal energy. The gas has to piped to Vancouver Island. Just what were they thinking?  Fortunately, for once, public outcry was massive and the project was abandoned.

Oh to hell with it. At my age it’s easier to just move south and live with the unique problems down there. At least they grow their own food. Cave For Sale!

_______________________________________________________

Well, so it goes for two old farts who are still audacious enough to ask WTF! We may not have any answers, but refuse to live in a world where asking for simple logic seems increasingly out of order. And… I don’t know how to say Baaaaaaaaaa with a down-under accent.

Three more quotes from Thomas Sowell:

People who enjoy meetings should not be in charge of anything.”

Stopping illegal immigration would mean that wages would have to rise to a level where Americans would want the jobs currently taken by illegal aliens.”

You will never understand bureaucracies until you understand that for bureaucrats procedure is everything and outcomes are nothing.”

Well balls to it all. I don’t really care where they were made. Remember to hang on to your sense of humour…it may be the most valuable thing you possess.                   Happy Christmas!

 

 

 

 

A Hoot In The Night

Home is where the boat is...and where the blogs come from. 'Seafire' is the left of the tiny liveaboard community here at Shearwater. There are five of us in all.
Home is where the boat is…and where the blogs come from. ‘Seafire’ is to the left of the tiny liveaboard community here at Shearwater. There are five of us in all.

 In my last blog I made disparaging remarks about computers. I must admit that all of my writing is done on a computer and that the internet has saved me years of research in libraries and various archives. I mentioned a childhood memory of a grist mill in the tiny village of Kilbride where I first lived after being born. Suddenly it occurred to me that a little on-line research might confirm my memory. Blam! Boom! There it was, a history and photos to confirm that flickering memory. The Dakota grist and sawmill, built in 1844, burned down in 1979. It was named after the indigenous people who originally lived there. Wow! This blog is not about my childhood memories and I’ll leave my fascination about that old mill right here. I’ll write about it elsewhere and have already mentioned it in one my books.

A guardian in the forest.
A guardian in the forest.

The advantages of our cyber age are huge and wonderful if computers are used as a tool and not a master of our lives. Stay focused and keep your shoes on the dock. Ask questions of all things. I am amazed that in a place like Shearwater, with very limited media availability, that people form strong, unshakable opinions based on someone else’s skewed perspectives. Politicians, everywhere, try to manipulate our loyalty with fear and our laziness about questing the “rest of the story.”

A friend commented on my last blog and closed by saying “By the way say hello to the royals as you sip tea with them while wearing your work gloves.” My reply was “I’ll wear my cleanest overalls, one of those T-shirts with a tie painted on the front, and try really hard not to fart. “I say old chap, was that the call of an eagle?” Prince Frederick.

In the rainforest.
In the rainforest out on a limb.

Royal Monday morning arrived with a building deluge which soon proved to be the most intense rain some locals claim to have ever seen. A river ran through the hangar which has apparently never happened before. Perhaps a drain was plugged but I can affirm never having seen such a prolonged downpour. Unfortunately I did not have a camera with me as I worked. I busied myself on a project in a far corner and came out only when I was sure the whole royal flap had passed. I don’t know how things went in Bella Bella other than that William and Kate came and went and all the efforts of the Shearwater gang to grab a little attention proved for nought. The disappointment was clearly profound. All’s well that ends and I’m happy to get on with life here without worries of stepping in any Grey Poupon. Take that as you wish. As their allotted number of minutes in the Great Bear Rain Forest came to an end the rain eased and our sodden skies began to clear. They flew off to their next engagement. I hope the noble pair did not take the weather personally.

Earth, wi.nd, sun, rain
Earth, wind, sun, rain.

On that same evening the first television debate between the Frump and the Trump was aired. Apparently 80,000,000 people watched/listened. Our sole radio station here, CBC North, aired the debate and I listened for a while. My God! Those are the best two candidates anyone can come up with! “It’s the end of the world as we know it,” are lyrics from a song by the band R.E.M. Perhaps I’m moving in the right direction with ‘Seafire.’ There are plenty of long inlets up here with a place to hide away. The rest of the world could go to hell. It seems determined to do exactly that anyway.

The afternoons have been sunny ever since our royal deluge on Monday. Today, Saturday, was exceptionally nice. All boat owners in our little corner were out cleaning, sanding and painting. It was delightful, such days are very rare here. I took the afternoon to begin a quest. One of the small islands which surround the waters between here and Bella Bella has some very ancient Heiltsuk petroglyphs. The island, I discovered, has three cemeteries. I must confess that I felt as if I were trespassing although I have previously enquired of locals if it would be permissible for me to explore the small island. Of course, the forest is thick tangled jungle and you can try to trespass as much as you want, you won’t get far. That I found three, instead of one burial ground, was surprising but it was a grand experience. I had no sense of dread or foreboding and of course I was respectful in all ways. I took only photographs and any of those I publish, will have family surnames erased out of respect.

A Heiltsuk gravesite.
A Heiltsuk gravesite.
A hand-made banner on a grave.
A hand-made banner on a grave.
Little is left to be permanent. It is part of the culture to return to nature from which all things come.
Little is left to be permanent. It is part of the culture to return to nature from which all things come.
The art thrilled me.
The art thrilled me.
A brilliant token of love and respect.
A brilliant token of love and respect.
It is hard to guess how many graves there are. The forest re-claims them rapidly.
It is hard to guess how many graves there are. The forest re-claims them rapidly.
The graves go on and on.
The graves go on and on.
The amount of work that went into this little canoe betrays a deep affection.
The amount of work that went into this little canoe betrays a deep affection.
A strong nautical heritage is clearly evident.
A strong nautical heritage is clearly evident.
A totem of the eagle clan
A totem of the eagle clan. Note the ancient, huge red cedar tree in the background.
More eagles
More eagles
Returning to mother earth.
Returning to mother earth.

There is a curious blend of traditional aboriginal sensibilities blended with Christian persuasions. A grave marker displaying beautiful native art often also declares that the deceased has gone to be with Jesus. There were many depictions of praying hands, rosaries and other rhetorical biblical nuggets. The grave sites blend peacefully into the overhanging forest and are all located, for practical reasons, close to the beach. Always, the echoing call of ravens in flight resound through the tangled forest. The graves must be extremely difficult to dig between the roots and the rocks and it’s clear that the sense of extended family and deep, strong love is an enduring quality of local culture. It was unsettling to realize how young many of the interred were. I am decades older than many of of those in the ground. I should also mention that there were also local Caucasians buried there as well. A little over a mile away lies a burial island, barren and lonely, guarded by a grim-faced totem pole. Older local folks tell of of that island in their childhood when coffins on burial platforms slowly disintegrated to reveal their boney contents.

A gift from the sea on the beach in front of some of the graves. Yet another vision of the cycle of life.
A gift from the sea on the beach in front of some of the graves. Yet another vision of the cycle of life.
On the beach. Rebirth in the roots of a brine-burned stump.
On the beach. Rebirth in the roots of a brine-burned stump.
The beach in front of the cementary
The beach in front of the cemetery.

Tomorrow I fly south for medical appointments. After this afternoon’s experience I find myself considering my own health, longevity and sense of purpose. It would be so grand to be one of those folks who progress through life without a questioning mind. TV hockey, beer and chips, the latest headline, a shiny truck, a new lawnmower and a steady union job with a good pension….bliss with never a question, total fulfilment as a consumer. That has always eluded me. I was one of those children who took things apart. Toys, clocks, radios and so forth; I’m still dissecting things decades later.

The Goose Islands and the waters of Millbanke sound beyond.
The Goose Islands and the waters of Millbanke Sound beyond.
A favourite anchorage of mine and some of the confusing water ways around it.
A favourite anchorage of mine and some of the confusing waterways around it.
A splendid set of saltwater rapids hidden in the backwaters...but I know where to find them.
A splendid set of saltwater rapids hidden in the backwaters…but I know where to find them. The poor image quality is due to the aircraft window.
Fog over the Western approach to Hakaii Pass. Japan is somewhere over the horizon.
Fog over the Western approach to Hakaii Pass.
Japan is somewhere over the horizon.
Calvert Mountain, the pinnacle of Calvert Island.
Calvert Mountain, the pinnacle of Calvert Island. The clear areas are natural open meadows due to the soil being too wet and thin to support large trees.
Goletas Channel, the entrance to Bull Harbour. Nahwitti Bar and Cape Scott beyond. This is the Northwestern tip of Vancouver Island.
Goletas Channel, the entrance to Bull Harbour. Nahwitti Bar and Cape Scott beyond. This is the Northwestern tip of Vancouver Island.
Cranberry fields forever. The fruit is harvested by flooding the field and skimming the floating berries.
Cranberry fields forever.
The fruit is harvested by flooding the field and skimming the floating berries.
Farmland becoming suburbs and industrial parks, malls, denser housing and downtown Vancouver in the distance. Not my cup of tea.
Farmland becoming suburbs and industrial parks, malls, ever-denser housing and then downtown Vancouver in the distance. Not my cup of tea.

The flight was marvellous, clear smooth air, some wonders of the Central BC Coast revealed. Seven long days of passage in ‘Seafire’ equals an hour and a half in a Saab turbo-prop. Another few minutes in a floatplane, with a pub at either terminal, and there in the golden autumn sun of Nanaimo. I am greeted by Jack and Jill. On the following day, a urologist dons a surgical glove and tells me to bend over. Right! He then declares that I need another appointment for another procedure in that damned shit-brindle beige hospital. Bugger me! Today I’ll see another vet about other problems and then with their monthly Porsche payments covered, I’ll make my way back to the Great Wet North.

A tale on a tail. I love these graphics.
A tale on a tail.
I love these graphics.

I lay in bed in the middle of the night, listening to the peaceful breathing of my wife beside me and that of Jack in his bed on the floor. I savour every moment, knowing that all-too-soon I’ll again be a lone in my bunk in shearwater. Truck tires howl on the highway, a short distance away. They sound the same as they always have and stir memories of sleepless nights as a child in a bed in a house not far from a highway. A weird regular hooting howl punctuates the darkness every few minutes. It drives Jack frantic. Sounding like an an escaped fox from one of those BBC detective series it probably is some sort of owl. It’s nothing I’m familiar with and I half expect the appearance of a figure with a hockey mask who is wielding a gory chainsaw. It’s been a long way to travel for a finger up the bum and a hoot in the night.

The banana boat. A view from my Port Hardy motel room. The yellow boat is one of two pilot boats based there. The two sailboats rafted together out in the bay both sport Swedish ensigns. They passed through Shearwater a few days earlier. did they come via the Northwest Passage?
The banana boat. A view from my Port Hardy motel room. The yellow boat is one of two pilot boats based there. The two sailboats rafted together out in the bay both fly Swedish ensigns. They passed through Shearwater a few days earlier. Did they come via the Northwest Passage?
Meanwhile back in Shearwater. a morning view from my cockpit beside the dock.
Meanwhile back in Shearwater. A morning view from my cockpit beside the dock.

Wednesday afternoon sees me back up to Port Hardy. I’ve dropped off my vehicle for it to be delivered by the company freight barge to Shearwater. There’s nowhere to go but it will be quite nice not having to pack laundry and groceries in the pouring rain. I’ll sell it up there and acquire a vehicle more suitable to my Mexico needs but for now it’s going to be workity-work-work and pay off some bills. But first, there’s a long weekend ahead and a boat straining at her lines wanting to go exploring. The weather forecast for this part of the coast is looking fine so off I’ll go. Who knows what I’ll discover this time?

My doctor tells me I should start slowing it down – but there are more old drunks than there are old doctors so let’s have another round.”

… Willie Nelson

All’s Well That Ends

The prince is coming! The prince is coming! They didn't put up any nee flags when I showed up.
The prince is coming! The prince is coming! They didn’t put up any new flags when I showed up.

 

Shearwater Central Common This is a tribute by the owners to the location's history as a WWII RCAF seaplane base. it was a photo of the flying boat that helped to first entice me here. Note beautiful Heiltsuk art on the left.
Shearwater Central Common. This is a tribute by the owners to the location’s history as a WWII RCAF seaplane base. it was a photo of the flying boat that helped to first entice me here. Note beautiful Heiltsuk art on the left.

Have you ever looked up at the sound of an airplane and instead seen a bird? I suppose it’s happened to most of us. I find it hilariously funny. I’ve heard starlings making a perfect imitation of an eagle which amused me immensely. A friend of long ago had a huge, geriatric macaw which used to declare “I can talk, can you fly?” I smile at even the thought of that. Aviation is in my blood. It has been so since I was a small child and I always look up at the sight and sound of any aircraft. I have no control over my instinct. Today I heard a beaver floatplane and looked up to see a seagull. Yep, I laughed and I can’t explain why. Then we had a sunny day and my eye caught a seagull high in the clear sky that was motionless. It turned out to be a drone. What the hell? For some reason that offended me.

A spectacular annual event as thousands of Sandhill Cranes migrate south. These birds have a six foot wingspan and a loud haunting call. Few people notice.
A spectacular annual event as thousands of Sandhill Cranes migrate south. These birds have a six foot wingspan and a loud haunting call. Few people notice.

That day’s weather was flawless. The afternoon passed under a clear sky and several flocks of Sandhill cranes passed high overhead. I looked up to all I heard in the sky. Three large flocks of migrating cranes passed low overhead, all calling raucously and impossible not to notice. A few people stood on the dock, all engrossed in texting on their mobile phones. No one looked up. No one noticed this marvellous spectacle of nature. How sad! Even here, away from any urban din and bustle, folks still can’t absorb the grandness of a wilderness that so many others pay handsomely to come and hope to see.

The gringos are migrating south too. This beautiful double-ended steel motor cruiser is home to two. Her name is 'Constant' I wonder if the tender is named 'Never.'
The gringos are migrating south too. This big beautiful double-ended steel motor cruiser is home to two seniors. Her name is ‘Constant’ I wonder if the tender is named ‘Never. That’s little old ‘Seafire’ in the background.

 

The 'Serengetti' St. John, USVI Their dinghy is on the left. I assume they are in quest of rustic wilderness charm.
The ‘Serengeti’ St. John, USVI
Their dinghy is on the left. I assume they are in quest of rustic wilderness charm. This look-at-me floating plastic palace did not have enough cash left over for a Canadian courtesy flag.
So where's your regulation stern light? The 'Serengeti' after dark. The clatter of the generator which kept all those deck lights burning went on all damned night.
So where’s your regulation stern light?
The ‘Serengeti’ after dark. The clatter of the generator which kept the signboards and all those deck lights burning went on all damned night.
Boats of a feather seldom flock together. 'Serengeti' and tender in background, RCMP patrol catamaran 'Inkster' on right, and that's me in the corner. 'Seafire' with a whale bone on her sprit above Happy Harry Heiltsuk.
Boats of a feather seldom flock together. ‘Serengeti’ and tender in background, RCMP patrol catamaran ‘Inkster’ on right, and that’s me in the corner. ‘Seafire’ with a whale bone on her sprit above Happy Harry Heiltsuk.
The winner...and the loser. Shearwater held a cardboard boat race. This was the only entry. It took all the cups.
The winner…and the loser. Shearwater held a cardboard boat race.
This was the only entry. With two paddlers it took all the cups.

On another note of modern mindlessness I just heard a story on CBC radio that I had to check out. Established in 1819, that’s 197 years ago, the Arva Flour Mill in Southwestern Ontario has operated continuously without any accidents. It is the oldest water-powered mill in Canada and should be considered a working museum. The Feds have recently inspected the mill and declared that the mill contravenes several points of the Canadian Labour Code and must close down. Can you believe the idiocy?

The website is www.arvaflourmill.com and there is a petition to sign for support of the mill remaining in business. There is a lovely short video about the history of the mill. It certainly tugged at me. I suppose I have a bit of an affinity for this story because the tiny village where I first lived after my birth, Kilbride, in Southern Ontario, had a wonderful water-powered mill. It burned down in the 1960s but I remember the huge wooden shafts and crude hardwood gears all joined by long flapping belts. The mill ground flour, sawed lumber and, if my memory is accurate, also had a machine shop and blacksmith’s forge. It was a very “Green” operation. I can recall that even as a young boy how fascinated I was to see such industry powered by one small stream. I am convinced that in many ways our culture is regressing. We achieved so much with raw intellect before we became addicted to computers.

The organic mechanic and a cyber Neanderthal. "Wot's a compuder?"
The organic mechanic, a cyber Neanderthal. “Wot’s a compuder?”

The modern diesel engines I work on sometimes have up to three separate computers. Last week I worked on a Gardner diesel that was at least fifty years old and going strong. I don’t believe it has ever been rebuilt, can be hand-started in a pinch, has great fuel economy and guess what?… It has no computers!

I’m bemused here in Shearwater at the number of people, both visitors and locals, who indulge perpetually in texting. Some folks can’t seem to walk anywhere without their heads down while poking away at some sort of cyber device. I’m amazed that someone hasn’t stumbled right off of the dock. There was a time not so long ago when people knew how to write letters and were able to hold a conversation with each other in person in real time. I have sat in a restaurant and actually watched a group of teens text each other across the table. I’ve watched a young mother with head down and thumbs flying as she heedlessly pushed her child in his stroller out into rushing traffic. Now there is a concern that public school curriculums include something called ‘coding.’

As we become increasingly detached from our fellows we also seem to loose our regard for other people. In the past week, at Shearwater’s guest dock, I’ve lost a lot of sleep due to other’s rudeness. One night a mega yacht’s generator throbbed relentlessly. Another night the vessel across the dock from me had a large furnace which spewed fumes from a thundering exhaust pipe. On yet another night in the wee hours, a shouting family with a squalling child held a prolonged conversation in the cockpit. Yesterday I spoke harshly with another gormless lout who, for some reason, delighted in leaving his twin unmuffled Detroit diesels at a fast idle for prolonged durations. He couldn’t understand or care that the din and the stink would offend anyone. Finally, the wiring at the worker’s dock was installed and here I am, having had a night’s sleep uninterrupted by anyone else. The wind blew as forecast, shrieking and shaking the boat horrifically; the rigging clattered and moaned. I fell asleep like a happy puppy. The wind quit, a few hours later. I was instantly awake.

On Monday Bella Bella will endure a brief royal visit. It is bringing out the utmost in local foolishness. Shearwater and Bella Bella function as a single community and the water taxis I help maintain are the link between the communities and local areas. Union Jacks are now flying and the flagship of the fleet, the ‘Clowholm Spirit I,’ has been reupholstered, had new name decals and local art applied, has had the upper deck refitted as a promenade deck complete with chairs and umbrellas and two huge British flags. I have a nagging doubt about the vessel’s tipping stability once it is loaded with all that royal meat up top. Can you imagine if the boat rolled over? Remember what happened in Tofino last year? How many drowned? The aspiration, of course, is for a little incidental publicity for the company. Chances are it will be raining and blowing like hell come Monday and the boat will stay at the dock. Each of the three engines in this boat has three computers which we’ve disconnected to prevent damage while the upper deck accoutrements are welded in place. These computers are somewhat fickle and once they are all reconnected they may well have to be reconfigured before the engines will even start. One of the local jokes is about how we know the union jacks are not being displayed inverted. I’ve suggested finding a few dozen of those bullet hole decals and applying them all over the boat. I’ll possibly end up in handcuffs if I don’t keep my cynical perspective under a lid.

The Royal Barge. 'Clowholm Spirit I' being fitting out for her few minutes of glory transporting the royal flock a few miles down Lamma Pass. The building in which she sits is the one remaining hangar from WW II.
The Royal Barge. ‘Clowholm Spirit I’ being fitting out for her few minutes of glory transporting the royal flock a few miles down Lamma Pass. The building in which she sits is the one remaining hangar from WW II Shearwater.
A work in progress. A local Heiltsuk artist decorates the 'Clowholm' with an eagle and a kermode bear. It is beautiful even when half-finished.
A work in progress. A local Heiltsuk artist decorates the ‘Clowholm’ with an eagle and a kermode bear. It is beautiful even when half-finished.
Promenade Deck B. An impromptu effort at royal accommodation. I have an image of Princess Kate clinging desperately to an umbrella as a blast of wind and rain whisk her off and up into the mountains.
Promenade Deck B. An impromptu effort at royal accommodation. I have an image of Princess Kate clinging desperately to an umbrella as a blast of wind and rain whisk her off and up into the mountains.

It’s amazing how folks who otherwise wouldn’t give a toss are suddenly falling-down gaga about two baby-faced descendants of an empire which tyrannized our aboriginal people and resources. There are ongoing endeavours about freeing ourselves of the remnants of that oppression. Suddenly we’re on our faces to worship two ambivalent characters who have all the same bodily orifices which we do. I’m sure they’re lovely people and we could find something to laugh about over a beer or two but I would not want their job. It must be a horrible life sentence of always being watched, adulated, protected, scrutinized and organized. I do hope it all goes well, but really, I just don’t get it.

The hotel here at Shearwater has over eighty guests this weekend who are all part of the entourage supporting this hours-short visit by Prince Billy and his wife Kate which won’t last more than half a day. I’ll bet they’d probably prefer to simply bugger off alone and do a little fishing, even if it’s pouring rain. That would probably allow them a much clearer perspective on what this region is really like. They might even see some wildlife without the hordes tagging along. There has been a security force lurking about for weeks which probably has enough troops and weapons to start a war. We’ll never know how much money goes into a brief visit like this but I’m sure that if the same amount went into a lasting community improvement it would be significant. While all of the fuss and frenzy unravel, I’ll be head-down in someone’s bilge.

Poop Tank Peek While working on this sewage system I needed to take a photo for the dealer. Somehow my mobile took pictures both ways at once.
Poop Tank Peek
While working on this sewage system I needed to take a photo for the dealer. Somehow my mobile took pictures both ways at once.

As I edit this blog, CBC radio is playing a live broadcast of the royal arrival in Victoria. Military bands toot and drum and fire their guns, people hoot and whistle rudely, rhetorical speeches blither on and on. Then the prince regurgitates the words written by someone else. Tears gush down many legs I’m sure. I’ve just plugged in a Stan Rogers CD. Now there’s some real “Oh Canada.”

Blue skies and bluebirds.
Blue skies and bluebirds.

Hardly anyone recognizes the most significant moments of their life when they happen.”

… W.P. Kinsella