Moments

…and a star to steer her by. This is one of my signature photos. Taken aboard the barque ‘Svanen’ a classic Baltic trader. It says more about sailing than words ever can.

Just after posting the last blog I was driving along the highway to take Jack for a walk in a favourite place. A chopped-up, lowered-down, stretched-out Fartley Davidson blattered past us with a mufflerless exhaust. I watched the bucket-headed dude receding ahead of us and thought “There goes Hooker Fairybell.” He’s the invented character in a photo caption of that blog. I wonder if that moment’s inspiration is now a permanent fixture in my hard drive. Will every character on a mutilated motorcycle be a nominee for the ‘Hooker’ Award? How many influential ideas start as a single fleeting notion? What good comes from those bursts of inspiration and how many are lost? The only thing to do is to write them down and see where they lead.

Covid morning mainstreet. This spectacular Dogwood tree marks the center of town.
Early bloomers, they soon proved to be gutter flowers.  End of the cherry blossoms.
Even hogweed has a certain beauty to the eye.
2020 someone’s newly installed bark owl says plenty about our spring.
Limb-locked and root- bound, united they stood.
You up there? Tar? Jane?
A Few-Flowered Shooting Star.
Another lovely spring flower stands its brief season in the woods.

Once again the morning sun is beaming through the window. I’ve found a new-to-me John Prine song on YouTube. Jack has risen from his state of dog zen and it’s time to wade into another day. The slanting light reveals a crud of dog hair and popcorn bits on the living room rug. I drag out the vacuum and marvel at where dirt comes from. I hoovered the joint just a few days ago. Another cup of coffee after I’m done and the vacuum is stowed. I listen to that song again. It is quick, simple and deadly eloquent, typical Prine: ‘Knockin’ On Your Screen Door’ There’s a line, “I’m dreamin’ about a sailboat” and for some reason that simple line rips me apart. I take my leaky face and dive into the shower.

I think of all the times I’ve bucked into black haystacks of frigid sea, numb with cold and wet, wanting to be anywhere else. Those long hours when every hundred feet of vertical movement might produce ten feet of forward progress and the nearest harbour, and rest, is an eternity away. Right now, I’d take all this shorebound nothingness, this unmoving ground, and trade it for a few more minutes at sea. Oh yes I would! The thing about being at sea is that you do it for all the time when you are exactly where you want to be. The peace, and even bliss of that is what carries you, at sea and and ashore.

In the shower I progressively turn the water colder until I’m breathless. I ask myself if this is indeed really what I miss. “Quit yer snivlin’ ya old flower! Stand by to gybe, gotta keep going.” Flowers! Grab a camera, go for a walk. Jack is laying by the door, waiting. We’ll go down by the shoreline. We return much later in the morning. Jack has met some lovely dogs and I their owners. I’ve photographed the faded glory of last week’s splendid glacier lilies. The day is cloudless and warm with a forecast high for this afternoon of 24°C. The air is filled with the drone of lawnmowers. Up the alley, a cigarette-burned voice shouts as usual at her two, barking as usual, mad dogs. “Shaddup. Git over here!” My longing persists.

Social distancing dog style. First we sniff butts then check the pee mail. Jack has an amazing ability to hold his own with all dogs and in any number. I warned the lab owners not to put their dogs in the dryer.
Bluebells.
Munchkin attack
Last week’s glorious glacier lilies have now faded into a an ever more fleeting, fading beauty.

Then I remember this classic poem and look it up. For now I can say no more. I have not read ‘Sea Fever’ for years. Suddenly written words have never seemed so poignant to me. I need to get back out to sea. I found myself writing to a friend this evening that the problem with swallowing the anchor* is that it will not pass on through. It hurts like hell at times!

(* not going to sea anymore.)

Sea Fever

BY JOHN MASEFIELD

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,

And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;

And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,

And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

 

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide

Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;

And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,

And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

 

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,

To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;

And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,

And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

The Hook, catted and belayed. Bow detail of the replica ship ‘HMS Endeavour’

They’re Gone

They’re Gone. Trilliums and other lilies won’t be back to until spring 2021. Sounds strange doesn’t it?

So who’s gone? The lilies. Ils sont partis! Some rain, some wind, poof, not there anymore. Come again next year. This morning was a gusty day. With the wind rumbling in one ear, looking up showed the trees bending in the opposite direction as the wind on the ground. Aircraft, on a well-executed final approach to the nearby airport where we walk, suddenly found themselves trying to land downwind. This old pilot found myself looking up and muttering “Go ‘round, go around.” A Fedex flight forced its way on down. That’s awfully hard on the airplane, especially if you bend it. But commerce first, that’s what got us into this Covid mess. It’s another one of those pandemic days. Many of us seem to be making weird decisions. But in the woods berries are forming and any day now, the first wild roses will begin to appear. The planet’s life cycle goes on; whether we like it or not.

Bucky has breakfast. It is amazing to watch what, how much and how fast they munch.
For every one we see, there are dozens we miss.
Outstanding in his pond. It is difficult to take a bad photo of a heron.

After writing a blog, I usually let it sit for a little while, rather like making bread. Then I edit it, punch it down, and let it sit again. I don’t work under any deadline although sometimes I pretend I do and see what I can turn out in short order. Working under pressure can be a good thing. The last blog I posted was not a careless effort. My remarks, both about government and environmentalism, were a bit polemic and on the edge of being rants instead of simple amusement. In fact, I let it sit and ferment for a few days before deciding not to rip it apart and flush the whole thing. Finally the upload button was pushed. Then a few more typos appeared; it never fails.

Hooker’s Fairybell and an earwig.
The tattooed biker was a big man but he could not outlive the name his mother had given him: Hooker Fairybell.

In this time of special duress, I feel my best effort is comic relief. I certainly do not want to offend anyone. I want to help dispel anger and frustration, not add to what is already heaping up out there. But, that which has some folks doubled in laughter renders others livid with indignation. So, stir the pot, and review what you’ve got. Do your best, screw the rest. If you’re going to put it in writing be prepared to stand behind it, not like some politicians.

Arbutus Man. I suddenly spotted this wonderful carving while driving through nearby Chemainus. It marks a driveway and is executed in the trunk of a dead and seasoned arbutus tree.
T & J. Are they still together? Do they have children? Maple and moss, their love was not lost.

Now here’s a horrifying thought. Imagine finally winning a big lottery prize and sprinting off to the lottery office. There you find that to claim your winnings, you must first produce a receipt for your ticket. Well golly! Nobody told me that! I’ll just go buy tickets for another forty years. That’s a story I learned yesterday for a lady selling me a ticket. In these tense times, there are plenty of obstreperous people out there. “No, you didn’t win.” When push comes to shove we’re all at least a bit grumpy living under this overcast of doubt, and gloom and threat.

Miner’s Lettuce.
Found in thick beds, miner’s lettuce is a delicious wild green and makes a great salad.
A Field of Rape and Onions. Some images demand to be taken. Although it looks like somewhere near Yuma, AZ it is on a backroad here on Vancouver Island.

If some cheerless sonafabitch has not thought it up, another will concoct a worse yarn. There’s always a piece of information which can change a person’s perspective and stir their doubt bucket. Certainly the last few months have deluged us with new and often opposing information. Now there is apparently evidence that folks in North America were ill with Covid 19 as far back as December. That changes the whole picture. I’m arriving at a point where I don’t much give a damn about what any of it means. All I have is this moment and I’ll live it according to my conscience and as fully as I can so long as I am not endangering anyone else. That’s the best anyone can do, pandemic or not. “Someone to love, something to do, something to look forward to, while doing no harm.”

Poster Boy. Jack knew instantly that the new bed was HIS!

Last blog I mentioned the recent Michael Moore production, ‘Planet Of The Humans.’ Now videos have been posted which refute the claims made there. They point out that a lot of the information is severely outdated and skewed toward the sensational. Probably so. So are the ‘Think Green’ diatribes. One man’s truth is another man’s lie. It has always been so. So long as folks are urged to ask questions and can be inspired to take a personal responsibility about our world, perhaps the end does justify the means. It is not up to them to make a change, it is our personal obligation. Us, us, us! We need to get that into our Covid news-confused heads. Meanwhile, my dog Jack and I are going for another walk in the woods.

Mobile social isolation unit. I moved this beauty off the path before someone stepped on it. It was going as fast as it could.

Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.” Henry Van Dyke

Honesty, Stupidity And Little Green Lies

“Nevermore.” This crow sat in the same spot for a couple of hours cawing out a message of dubious meaning.

While posting the previous blog, it was pleasing to realize that my text had not once used the C word which now nestles in our vocabulary to a point of not being noticed. It is like the word “like” which has become a painfully misused preposition. I’m like so in love. I’m like going fast. I’m like really hungry. WTH? What exactly are you doing if you are doing like something? Is there a parallel existence that is like this one? Ya know, like, it really pisses me off. Like actually? How did that misuse of basic language creep in along with all the other strange anomalies we don’t even hear after a while? The word “cool” is now long used to express the same appreciation which, when I was a child, was “hot.” Awesome! There’s yet another. An English friend was accused of having an English accent. He responded “No mate, I am English, I don’t have an accent.” You’re hearing me with your accent. Now then, could you like pass me a beer eh? Yup, I can see how English is a hard language to learn.

Know the feeling? Try to keep your bow pointed for open water. The tide will return.
Reserved parking or recycling? There was a time when old cars were used to try and prevent erosion along riverbanks. Folks were as well-intentioned then as we are now. Maybe we’ll learn yet.
Down the creek just before the sea.
Up the creek. A vital salmon stream encroached on by subdivisions, light industry and shopping malls.
I can hear happy children jumping from the bridge on a hot summer day. This photo is at low tide.
Camp Runamuck . Someone is living off-grid in social isolation beneath the tracks on the edge of town. The site is clean and…mortgage free ocean front. I admire the dignity.

CRA, now there’s another disagreeable C word. Canada Revenue Agency; Mr. Turdeau’s mafia. For reasons of health I am no longer able to do the he-man work I used to. For reasons of age I am apparently not a desirable hire-able. I do under-the-table jobs which a lifetime of experience permits me to do when others can’t or won’t. For reasons of poor luck, translated to honesty and stupidity, I am not financially secure. I’m flat-assed busted broke. But being a responsible citizen, I filed my tax return in good time, weeks before the dead line. There were a few hundred bucks coming back which I really need.

The wooden leopard. Disguised as a dead limb and poised to strike. This rare wildcat waited for its prey above a dog-walkers parking spot. It had acquired a taste for fluffy little dogs.
YouTube, me tube, their tube. This wooden water pipe is part of a network taking water to a nearby pulp mill.
Two of these pipes run for miles to the mill. Pumping water from the Nanaimo River, through more pumping stations, under rivers and streams, never mind the salmon, all so we can have products like toilet paper. Five feet in diameter, they are amazing engineering.
Zzzzzt! It’s a matter of time. A little more wind on a rainy day and this arbutus will provide a cracking light display.
Vanilla Leaf plants. Hung in bunches and dried, these plants have a pleasant smell and were used traditionally as an insect repellant.

Then the Covid Crisis was acknowledged and the government began handing out money to anyone who came up with a vaguely reasonable story, honest or not. Just apply online, three easy questions. The country is being bilked, scammed, and ripped-off for an astronomical sum we have not begun to calculate. I know there are dire and legitimate needs but there is a part of our society which has no conscience nor consideration of consequences. Meanwhile, trying to be an honest citizen receives punishment. After a lifetime of contributing to the GNP I’m treated like I don’t matter. I can also reiterate, from experience, how shabbily a small Canadian entrepreneur is treated. A free spirit? Scum! And over seventy percent of our economy is small business-based.

Another one! I’ve been walking by this carving for a very long time before I finally saw it. Brilliant!

A blurb on the evening news casually mentioned that tax returns filed on paper, the old-fashioned way, had been delayed because of all the other emergency activities. Well, I’m old-school. I checked the mail again, nothing. In the morning I phoned CRA and after a maze of numbers to push I waited for almost fifty minutes to speak with an “agent.” Wonderfully her accent was standard Canadian, and she was pleasant, both unusual in my experience with government agencies. I provided the data so that funds could be direct-deposited to my bank account. I asked the question “When?” I learned that in fact paper-filed returns have been suspended.

Well, guess what queue I’m going to go stand in? My income has been cut-off due to the Covid crisis. Coincidentally, our illustrious Prime Minister has announced today, that the government has banned over 1500 makes of assault-style firearms. Hmmm, interesting timing! Coincidence? A long-time hunter, I know that nobody needs a Kalashnikov to hunt deer. For once I agree with our supreme dude but remember that one pissed-off old citizen with a shotgun can still damage a politician! A pitch fork will work too! Beware angry geezers. They don’t have much to loose!

A little later, I return to my desk after shovelling some gravel for a neighbour. I feel much better and muse about the therapeutic values of splitting fire wood and other simple mindless manual labour. There’s nothing like a good zen sweat. I miss that pre-fossil fuel which warms a body at least twice before it is burned. I watched a documentary about life on a nearby Gulf Island and listened to a fellow who proudly uses firewood for heating and cooking, brag about not using fossil fuels. Stunning! He cuts it with a gasoline chainsaw, brings it home in a gasoline truck and has clearly never thought about what coal and oil came from. Yeah man; ancient composted vegetation, like you know, trees! Then there’s the question about carbon footprints and how many cubic metres of Co2 he produces being environmentally friendly.

This guy has raised his family in a yurt while he builds a big wooden house, with asphalt shingles, glass windows and a deep concrete basement as well as many other exploited resources. When do we ever figure out that each of us is part of the problem? Stop the bullshit and work out the difference between need, want and greed. I understand that there are a lot of very well intentioned people who are poorly informed, even misguided.

Here’s a tiny bit of environmental homework. Do research on the mining and smelting of sand to make all the glass we use. And what of concrete? Mining the rock, crushing it into powder, baking it to make cement all so we go and smother more natural earth somewhere else is a monstrous environmental disaster which few consider. The impact is huge! The production of concrete is one of the planet’s single largest sources of carbon dioxide. And just think of all the energy consumed to make glass, concrete, steel, toilet paper! All those exploited resources, and the energy to take and modify them to suit our ends, so much going into housing, schools and hospitals (Boarded up or not) commercial and industrial buildings, roads, malls, churches, airports all of which will be ripped up and replaced within a few decades. The environmental cost, for example, incurred to produce windmills is huge and not questioned because if we can put some of those twirling giants on display we’re clearly in the groove. Are we doing what we do to be thoughtfully in tune with the planet or are we going through the motions of appearing cool? A friend describes our madness as “Fornicating for chastity.”

I’ve just reviewed the latest Michael Moore documentary ‘Planet Of The Humans.’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zk11vI-7czE

I’m not a great fan of Mikey but he was clever enough to keep his pudgy face out of this one. He is facetious, as capable of bending statistics and evidence as his targets, and probably as profit-motivated. I do love the indignant howls of various environment organizations targeted in this film. The information presented is perverted but so are many of the notions he challenges. The message is clearly, “Green Energy” demands as much energy, if not more, than it would have taken to simply consume fossil fuels in the first place. A wise old man once told me that the key to long-term survival is to realize how little we really need. Just think of all the paper tissue products we consume; all for the extravagance of ease and comfort. It is not complicated. CONSUME LESS! WASTE LESS! The documentary is meeting mixed reviews but it does provoke questioning dialogue. If folks would just ask questions the world would begin to improve. Unfortunately we all live in a very broad comfort zone where complacency rules our choices and allows politicians and corporations (One and the same it often turns out) free rein.

My favourites. Chocolate lilies. Rare, fleeting, fragile and beautiful, they mark the ending of the spring lily season.
Chocolate lilies. Then they’ll be gone.
Camas Jack. What’s happier than a wet dog? …a wet dog that’s rolled on a dead salmon!  “I love you dad, let’s cuddle!”
Puddle Break! C’mon, lay down and drink. Taste the mud. None of that clear fresh rainwater for me.

When I was a child the notion of rolls of paper towels would have been dumbfounding. When clothing was too worn to patch anymore, (An alien concept now) it was torn up for rags, which were even washed and reused. Toilet paper was not novel, but many of us with outdoor facilities used newspaper and old book pages. It was how I learned to read. The planet advanced nicely without our present decadence. Think of all the environmental devastation wrought simply so we can clean our bottoms with triple-fluffy poo pillows. Hell, some ads even have the bears using the stuff. Trouble is, the woods where those bears live are being cut down to make dunny rolls. When the Covid panic hit, folks rushed out in panic to gather all the toilet paper they could find. Priorities first!

Here’s one more thought. Suppose some persuasive enterprisers are able to convince the world that the gyprock drywall used in nearly every building is a deadly carcinogen. It has to go the way of lead-pipe plumbing and asbestos products. Can you imagine? Sleep well.

See what happens when you mess with a taxpayer. You get him thinking!

Shack Island squall. These islands, in a beautiful natural bay, were populated during the 1930s. I think it should be a heritage site. Newcomers want the buildings razed although they are all owned in perpetuity. It is a splendid example of people adapting to tough times.
Piper Island woods. A rain squall hit and drove everyone off. We had all this beauty to ourselves and Lord knows, we’re not made of sugar!
Piper’s Lagoon, after the squall. Within minutes of the storm’s passing, whole families magically appeared. The urge to get outside is clearly overwhelming.
From the woods, Jack and I watched a squadron of racing sloops bash their way around Five Fingers Island. We both ached to be with them.
Right then, on my count, stand up and reach high as you can. 1, 2, 3. Hello? Hello!
Young engineers. It is wonderful to see what a little driftwood and imagination can produce. Beats hell out of any video game. My father’s ashes are scattered in the wild roses here.
May you find tranquility,
Splendid isolation…
…and a good neighbour.

 

On a positive note. We still live in a part of the world where we are free to openly voice criticisms. Imagine enduring this pandemic, for example, in Syria or India or an African state. Throw in Ebola, drought, civil war and general desperate starvation. When schools and casinos will re-open are not a concern. Finding a hospital, any hospital is a challenge. A friend travelling in Zimbabwe last year ended up in hospital after an accident. To be viewed, her x-rays were taken outside and held up to the sun. So how many ventilators might they have on hand? Face masks? Yeah right! Toilet paper; what’s that? We’re doing OK.

After hours of shouting ” Six feet, six feet” to the people on the path, Heckle decided a ‘see nothing’ policy was much easier.

You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference and you have to decide what kind of a difference you want to make.”
Jane Goodall

Nooks Overlooked

It is a time of social isolation. Even the snails are doubling their shells. I’d stopped to photograph  lilies below and found this character hiding out.
The rabbits are already expert at avoiding Covid creatures.

I watched a presentation about flying a home-built gyro plane in the Florida Everglades. It was dream-like. This blog’s quote is something the pilot said in that video. I think it is profound as a metaphor about life, perhaps especially in these times of being forced to travel low and slow which as any pilot will tell you, is dangerous. There’s really not much to add to what has already been said. All the angles have been examined. Every possibility has been covered, many so dark and ludicrous as to be boggling. But then the ludicrous has become normal, even boring.

Something new. I assumed they were fawn lilies. It turns out they are yellow glacier lilies, usually found high in the mountains. These grow beside a stream beside a ditch beside an old railway siding, about 40 feet above the sea shore. How’d they get here?
Obviously, I’m impressed.
Spock Blossoms. I’ve forgotten the proper name of these weirdly wonderful alien flowers.
Even the back alley is ablaze.
Dogwood time again.
There’s plenty of pollen in the air. And it’s not a time to be sneezing around out there.

It is clear and calm this morning. If you listen, you can hear the dickey birds breaking wind. No, that was a squirrel! It is absolutely quiet out there. Not one distant blatting motorcycle, no vehicles of any sort. Once again, that Omega man feeling. Then comes the twitter of song sparrows and a chorus of cooing from the mourning doves. Ahhhh!

I found myself thinking “In like a lion out like a…. nope, that was March! Today is the last day of April. How’d that happen?” How time, despite the tedium, has whizzed us to here is amazing. A third of the year is gone! I know it’s Thursday, the neighbours have set their trash out. So, time to get my stuff together. Garbage day is not a great way to mark the passage of your life!

Hot Wheels. “How was work today honey?” No-one was hurt. My videos made it onto the evening news. The truck’s trailer was empty but wouldn’t it have been fun if it were full of popping corn?
All over but the drinking.
The Border from the “other” side. This spring has been spectacular for its flowers everywhere.
Bird orchard beside the tracks. These feral apples were planted by the birds or…were apple cores thrown from a train window back in the day when we still had a passenger service.
Upstarts

Jack and I continue to explore local nooks we’ve overlooked and sometimes I’m stunned to realize how this or that have gone unseen by me for years. And I arrogantly consider myself to be observant compared to most folks. What don’t they see? Off we go again to wonder as we wander.

Please turn your head and cough into your elbow. I’m delicate, and trying to hide  in social isolation.

If you can’t smell the flowers you’re flying too high.”

Covid 49

More damned flowers! Another camas bloom.
Yeah well…cheer the hell up, whether you like it or not. This is close to visual perfection.
It’s a new one to me. This single daffodil variation was growing in the forest all on its own.
Dunno! Further up the trail that same morning, another unknown flower blooms in solitude.

A joy of getting older is accepting that nothing lasts forever; neither good nor bad. This pandemic will one day fade into history until something new rears its ugly head. We’d nearly forgotten the Spanish Influenza. All things considered, in comparison, we’re getting off easy this time. Approximately twenty-five million died then and that was without the aid of air travel. We’ve forgotten all the other deadly viruses we’ve endured since. Today one viral carrier can go anywhere in the world within twenty-four hours. More folks than ever take vacation cruises despite all the illness that has been spawned aboard those monster incubators. I am guessing that there are now more cruise ships on the planet than there used to be ocean liners. Perhaps we’ll get up to Covid 49 when the planet’s population is killing itself off with something like toxic flatulence, which might be a viral mutation spawned by all the plastic and genetically modified food we’ve ingested. Imagine those face masks and the bottom filters we’ll scurry to invent. Whoo! Then we’ll look back to the good old days. All they had to worry about was Covid 19.

As flowers fade ferns reach out for the new season.
A cold sweat? Sweaty fungus. It’s supposed to be dry under there!

All things pass. I’ve recently lamented about how dry our spring has been. As I write the rain hammers on the skylight above me. The gas fireplace is guttering away in an effort to displace the damp. Jack is wisely in his bed, in a deep state of dog zen, a skill I’m working to acquire. I’m getting there!

Flora becoming earth, earth becoming flora. The eternal cycle of rebirth. Fungi help reduce a fallen alder back to the soil it grew from.

Mexico, which entered the early pandemic days with very low infection numbers is now raging with the virus, and of course, having to fend for itself. You can’t expect assistance from countries which can’t help themselves. Mexico already has huge social issues. With an insidious national presence of violent gangs, masses of corrupt bureaucrats and politicians, some days it seems to be all part of the same self-devouring monster. Journalists and sincere elected officials are regularly executed by one group or another and the poor masses of the country endure medieval miseries. But pandemics are great equalizers, respecting neither wealth or power, good or evil. Perhaps there are fairer days ahead.

Choices. Left or right? Either way is a decision which subtly affects the balance of one’s life.
Signs! After your horse’s what? In tense times it seems there are certain people who need to give orders. But…it’s not nice when horses leave their beer cans and snack bags laying around.

I love that country, especially its rural areas and people. I look forward to being able to return there. Yes, it has plenty of violent crime but if you drive there through the US, where there is at least, on average, one hand gun in everyone’s sweatpants, purse or vehicle, you’ve beaten the odds. Just keep your one mouth shut and both your eyes and ears open. That’s a basic rule of survival anywhere and perhaps something our politicians should work out. Please, no more medical suggestions, if even in jest, about ingesting disinfectants.

Third world industry…the hunter-gatherer-mechanic! Having no workshop I resorted to an abandoned piece of rail track in the woods to form some metal bits for my trailer. I found that beloved hammer sitting on the side of the road one day. One of the characteristics of a true sailor is to be an eternal scrounge.
Metalmorphosis complete. Give me a big hammer and a pipe wrench, I’ll repair the crack of dawn! And if it ain’t broke…I can fix that too!
The organic mechanic strikes again. My homemade folding camper trailer is complete. I’m ready for total social isolation. Now I’ve got to find a donkey to pull it.

The media does not give much press to Mexico, or Central and South America, Eastern Europe, Africa, the smaller countries of Asia; we hear little of smaller Asian nations and nothing of backwater China. There may be little news other than the pandemic and frankly who cares about them when we’re struggling to look after ourselves. Sadly, folks who need assistance most urgently, even in our society, are the last to get it. Life is never fair.

Suspense. Who knows when the drip will fall?
One person’s weed is someone else’s flower.

Everyone is tense enough without deliberate provocation. Store clerks are testy, others surly and insular. I get it and have to work at not being reactive. Near closing time in a local grocery store I was challenged by a cashier. “How’d you get in here?” I responded in kind and our interaction spiralled rapidly. I’ve since tried to imagine her workday and feel badly. I broke one of my trusty “Four Agreements,” the one about not taking things personally. And so we learn, over and over.

The rare polka dot maple. After a little wind and rain the cherry blossoms are gone for another year.

Some folks have become maniacal about hand washing. I have always been suspect of public washrooms and would rather not wash my hands if it involves touching soap dispensers, taps, or drying devices. Who’s messed with that? I go so far as to handle toilet seats, doors and handles by using my sleeve as protection. The other day I was admonished. “ Hey, ya dint wash yer hands!” I replied, “Where I come from, our mothers taught us not to pee on our fingers.”

Wha dar muddle wi me?”

The race. Loser gets the bird. The rain draws them up and then off they go, one way or the other. These guys were all squishing along in different directions.
Then came the rain. Once the trillium flowers are wet, their end draws near for the season.
And in pink.
A berry is born. Soon there will be a bumper crop of salmon berries.
There will be plenty of berries to eat this year. Life goes on.

Don’t look down on anybody …unless you’re helping them up.

S’not Funny

Pink. Trillium that is. They seem especially prolific this year.

If your nose is runny and you’re with your honey,

don’t think it’s funny, ‘cause it’s not.”…anon

If my nose was running money honey

I’d blow it all on you.” … Moron Brothers

Look damnit I’m just trying to make you laugh. Some folks, I know, will be disgusted, s’not for you. Others will laugh till they fart. Don’t be disgusted, you do it too! Whatever it takes, laugh with me or laugh at me, it is my little effort to help us all make it through another Covid day.

That’s me in the corner. Howya doin’ over there?

There’s not much new to write about. One day blends into the next. It’s odd how even the most adventurous of us seem restricted during this damndemic and how all the news just sounds the same. An apparently normal guy in Nova Scotia, (a denturist, whodda thunk?) went nutters and killed sixteen people during a Hollywood style rampage of mayhem and arson and  car crashes. There is speculation that the pressures of our pandemic may have flipped his switch and there may be more to come from others. At least in Canada, that sort of horror is still news. So without any more rhetoric on the woes of the world here are some more pictures. To take one of the fawn lily images this morning I flopped down on the ground, suddenly realizing I had nearly planted myself in a few pounds of cleverly stacked and hidden poodle poo. “Gee these flowers smell kinda shitty!” All’s well that ends. I came home with a clean shirt reminding myself that taking pictures is about seeing; everything!

Already! They’re starting to fall. One good wind and it will be all over for another year.
A technically terrible photo but… it was point and shoot with my mobile phone. A rare sight to see these two woodpeckers squabbling over territory, I felt privileged to see them at all.
The winner is!
There they go.

I’ve decided to start calling my photos “Cellphies.” Today’s pictures were all taken with my cell phone, despite the dull light. There’s something about finding, seeing and capturing an image that has to be good for anyone’s soul. You don’t need any exotic photo equipment to feel fulfilled and right now, at spring time, it is a great way to deal with our social stresses. I muse that a crusty old sailor man ought to be keeping his subject matter to the sea and to boats but I find being without a boat is too darned painful to be skulking around the waterfront. That will pass, the boatless bit that is, so I may as well see what I can while I’m still ashore.

Fawn Lily
Again!
In Covid fields
where white lilies grow
this season will pass
we’ll breathe free at last.
Trillium
Currant
Broom
Cherry
Apple
Maple
Ferns
It seemed like an endless journey down through the jungle but suddenly and finally we came to the sea. There was only one remaining stretch of thorny brush. Then we heard the tiger growl.
High bloomer. This is the tallest cherry tree I’ve ever seen.
Mr. Peabody’s Coal Train. ‘Paradise’ is a song by John Prine which describes a railway built to help exploit local resources then abandoned at everyone else’s expense. This is our version. The blossoms are grand.
Leave the porch light on. Even if it is a cave.
Bloom on. Someone’s yard in town.
A family with children in self-isolation. This a lovely house down on the corner. The dogwoods glow in the afternoon light.
Fly like an eagle, the sky is still free.
The phantom carver strikes again! The work appears in places that leaves folks wondering how long they have not been seeing it. Maybe the hole is a bottle opener?
Old Stinkeye. Jack in the ferns with his ubiquitous grin.

Don’t count the days, make the days count.”

Hurry Up And Shut Up!

Hurry Up And Shut Up!

South Pirate’s Cove and Ruxton Pass from afar. Beyond the freighter in Trincomali Channel is Valdez Island then across the Strait of Georgia, the Coast Mountains of mainland Canada. I love many of our local place names. Yes, I tinkered with this image, and I’m pleased with it.

The old quote about how a picture is worth a thousand words is well known. There is so much blah, blah about Covid this and that, the economy, the new depression, bio-warfare, our political leaders and all the ramifications around the planet, what’s gone to poo, the horrors yet to come, the rumours, what might be right or wrong…phew! We all feel like we’re packing a bus on our back. Hell’s teeth! We’re tense, reactive, afraid, depressed and all feel like prisoners of something we can’t see. We’re supposed to stay home alone, stay sane, fit and wholly healthy. So, without anymore blither, here are a few thousand words. I’ve found some lost photo files and along with those taken today I’m simply going to post them. Hopefully we all have someone to love, something to do, something to look forward to. Namaste.

Bliss!
Somewhere there goes a young engineer.
Ling Lips
By accident of timing, angle, light and shadow, I can see a Parrot Fish beneath the one on top.
Landfall. 97 days from Covid Atoll. Did they really have to eat the cabin boy?
South Nanaimo Harbour from Jack Point. The three boats with orange markings are part of a high-speed spill response fleet we now have on the South Coast.
A Jack moment.
Seeds over troubled water.
Most folks prefer the common way, low, straight, wide and safe.
Jack and I prefer paths less travelled.
At sundown the tide turned to ebb.
The dreaded Tiger Slug.
A vine heart spinning in the wind. Heart warming!
Three lights to steer by.  (Venus, I think) is to the right of the moon.
Verily, verily, from the coal heap sprang forth great beauty.
Beach detail. In many places, we have splendid sandstone beaches.
The ripple effect. The sandstone wears into infinite intriguing patterns
The beach house…I’ll take it! The lights weren’t on and there was a sack on the chimney. It looks a perfect place to practice social isolation.
The lost drum. Without it, the Unga Bunga tribe could not call its members to the meeting house. So the drummer boy drank all the banana beer by himself.
Patience my ass, I wanna kill something!
Eventually the winding path came to the bridge under calm water.
A hole in one. They suited each other like a rock in a boom stick. Uh huh!
A Moon Jellyfish. With no apparent brain these mysterious creatures manage to migrate, navigate and propagate. There’s something to ponder.
Root and Shoot.
Bloom where you’re planted.

You can look at a picture for a week and never think of it again. You can also look at a picture for a second and think of it all your life.”
Joan Miro

The Joy Of Going Nowhere

The incredible Camas. Note the insect enjoying the pollen. These gorgeous flowers were a staple food of local indigenous peoples. They would dig and dry the bulbs, then pound them into flour. You just had to know which ones would kill you!

After I checked my e-mail this morning I followed my usual routine of clearing my bin and my spam file. To my disgust and bemusement there was some spam mail claiming to be solicitations from folks in hospital dying of Covid 19. Lowlifes! In contrast there are certain types of courage I know I do not possess and I offer my deep respect for all the emergency workers, healthcare people and essential store employees.

To get up every weary day and go back to your personal grind, whether it be cleaning toilets, picking up the garbage, stocking shelves, sanitizing medical equipment or nursing sick people is immensely courageous. As much as part of me despises police, I can’t imagine our world without them. Imagine the nutters they have to deal with, especially in our present times. It is all tedious and risky as these folks go about humbly serving their fellow humans. They deserve all the appreciation we can muster. And think of all the parents confined with their children. They now have not even a menial job to go to and must hang their hopes on some politician’s promises. What do you call courage when you have no choices? That resolve and responsibility leaves me with hope for the future.

A chip on the old block. I see this carving as a tribute to all the parents struggling with their personal realities of this pandemic.
A sure sign that some children are getting fresh air and exercise. They’re also being inspired to be creative…”Look ma, no computer!” These painted stones are appearing along trails everywhere. I love it!
One for Jack and friends.
And from a bigger kid! The phantom rock carver strikes again. A ling cod perhaps.
Face it! Part of my delight in this wonderful rock carving is that it sits in the corner of a parking area where few people must notice it, although it leaps out once you do. i’d really like to meet this covert carver and express my appreciation of all the work done across the area.

Like many folks my days drag by. Walking my old friend Jack has become a pinnacle of activity. Out for our morning jaunt around a small, nearby lake, I managed to make a mistake. There are now so many Covid signs and “Don’t do nuthin” warnings posted all over that I don’t even see them anymore. I carelessly managed to launch Jack and I against the now-posted traffic flow on the trail. Our first encounter was with an older man puffing furiously on a cigarette and shouting at me that I was putting his health at risk by walking the “Wrong way.” I told him to be careful, an airplane might fall on him and that the smouldering cat turd stuffed into his gob wasn’t helping my health. Thanks very much.

The next admonishment came from two wobbling old ladies with walking sticks who were quite upset about my non-conformist approach. I told them that I was well outside the six-foot spacing, and that the wind was blowing from them to me. I also promised to walk backwards for a while. Blank looks! The old dears were at the very back of a long, hilly loop around the lake. I thought of who would have to risk themselves should a rescue become necessary. I don’t want to put myself or anyone else at risk, but who would have ever thought that a person could walk the wrong way in the forest?

Most people interacted like reasonable folks while we all kept our distance and exchanged pleasantries. The social interactions felt as good as the exercise. The next enraged scolding came from a young man who clearly saw himself as a Covid Cop. I hope that Amazon is soon able to deliver his new uniform despite their backlog of orders. The deluxe costumes will come with a Darth Vader helmet. The face grill can hold a replaceable filter. A built-in a speaker will play echoing pre-recorded warnings including a rasping, gasping cough and various prolonged bubbling wheezes. Other scarier mask options could include, Justin, Boris and Donald.

Covid Cop
I have pirated this from the internet and note the copyright. Call the cops!
Another covid cop, a bent-barrelled carbinier. Hope he doesn’t shoot someone in the foot.
Covid Cadillac…maybe this is the cop’s car! What we drove in days past, imagine taking your driver’s test in this pig! Perhaps it is a social isolation unit, the trunk could house an entire family. Grandpa gets the back seat. Compare these wheels to the full-size pickup truck. How many litres per mile?
In the gooped-up rear window. Say no more. Note the yellow pollen specs.

Meanwhile I saw a man hitch-hiking on the highway yesterday. He was gone when I returned a little later. Someone gave him a ride. Turn you head to cough! And oddly, throughout this crisis, I have yet to meet anyone displaying any flu-like symptoms. They’re at home I guess.

Rex In Peace. Deep in the woods, beside a trail, someone’s friend rests in what must have been a favourite place.
The rare and highly secretive moss bear. It is seldom seen because it so cleverly disguises itself. Aw c’mon, use your imagination!

Yesterday Jack and I chose a different walk, one we had not taken for years. It meanders out to Jack Point which help protect Nanaimo Harbour from the open Strait Of Georgia and is also where one of our BC Ferry Terminals is situated. We passed the large, and active sawmill next to the terminal, emitting the usual mill din and ash. It was wonderful to hear normal activity. The folks we met on the single trail in and out were friendly and considerate, the weather mild and perfect. At the final long and steep stairway on the trail it was obvious old Jack was floundering, so after a rest, we made the slow return trek without asking more of his valiant spirit. What a wonderful friend! It is very hard watching him age. There is still a spark in his eyes and he is determined to let nothing hold him back but his old pins have nearly run their course. I suppose that soon I’ll have to find him one of those expensive off-road baby strollers so we can still get him out and about.

I wondered as I wandered. How long ago was this small fir cut? Was it uniquely straight or crooked? Did it become part of someone’s boat?
Down by the sea, that’s where you’ll find my dog and me. Jack takes a deserved rest. Recently we visited friends on their boat where he promptly fell asleep. He was determined to get aboard. Jack loves boats of all kinds.
Low side of the high road. This winding trail is clearly well-used and there is a blessed minimum of signs.

Now, in mid-April, the afternoons are warm, the skies still clear and cloudless. The air is filled with drifts of mixed pollen and dust. We are entering a time of drought…in April! There have been few spring rains, the walking trails are dusty and we are already in a wildfire season. Perhaps our summer will be a wet one, but only fools and new-comers predict the weather. Meanwhile all the symptoms of allergy season are upon many of us which is just what we need in the midst of our Covid chaos. Still, if one must endure a plague of contagion I can’t think of a better place to be. Those who live far from the sea deserve a special sympathy. In my opinion.

High above the roofs of Ladysmith. A harbour view through the blooming Dogwood trees.

That the man on the throne was completely bonkers said more about the imploding culture than the ruler.” …Mary Beard Rome: Empire without Limit

NUTS

You can’t have spring without a Magnolia tree in full, splendid bloom.
Feeling nearly faded as my flowers. I find a poignant beauty in fading flowers and that these perhaps should not have been picked at all, they deserved to be preserved in a photo.

I went to the grocery store yesterday (now a gauntlet indeed) and bought a pre-bagged sack of bulk mixed nuts. You can’t dip into the bulk bins yourself, you might cough. That leads to some obvious questions about bulk bins at the best of times and then there are the restaurants with buffets. And of course there the open markets in much of the world, where nothing is pre-packaged as it never has been since markets ever were. There are public washrooms, and water fountains and the Wailing Wall and the Blarney Stone and all those religious shrines which millions of strangers love to kiss…How the hell have we ever survived this long? Anyway this morning I took a handful of nuts and noted how the brazil nuts, cashews and almonds were on top of the peanuts.

So then: “Is life like a bag of nuts, the biggest ones rise to the top?”

Time to reload the hives and get the year’s honey crop in the making.

I am truly not in support of any political group or perspective, frankly my dear I think they’re all nuts. Some of the incredible stupidities we’ve seen in the past weeks bear that out and confirm the low datum of mass human intellect. If only, at the earliest rumour of this disaster, we had firmly stopped all international travel, perhaps things would be much different. Commerce remained more important than safety and here we are. I know I’m just a bog peanut backwoods boy but it is not space science to understand that if you close the barn door, chances are much better of keeping your piggies in and the wolves out. It seems simple enough. I am really weary of cynicism, even my own, but there has to be voices asking obvious questions. Frankly there is just too much baaing going on. But it’s Easter, so peace on earth and watch your blood sugar level. And beware the giant rabbit!

Popping out all over. What magic lets plants know when it is time to re-emerge for a new year?
The Hobbit Hostel. A favourite nook for me at the base of two conjoined maples.

The day outside is pristine. The sky cloudless, the air warming. There is just enough breeze to gently stir the bushes and let us know that indeed the planet still lives. All else is quiet. I had a horrid dream last night about some authority’s decision that all dogs had to be destroyed. Our pandemic was their fault. I firmly decided that I did not want to live in a world without dogs and…I leave the rest to your imagination. I awoke suddenly and had a hard time sleeping after. It seems wildly dark and irrational but I’ve come to expect the ludicrous and the biblically incredible. Jack is slumbering peacefully by the back door, so it’s time to try and return my brain to a default setting. Faulty is my usual mode so “Hi ho off to the woods we go.”

How many springs have these old beauties slowly grown another covering of new leaves?
It seems to be an especially good spring for Oregon Grape. the bright blooms are everywhere.

We went to our favourite spot but the local dog and gun club had taken over for the day. What better way to celebrate Easter? Plastic geese decoys, duck blinds, camouflage clothing, popping shotguns and bewildered dogs. They know what to do, in fact, they could probably teach the people a thing or two, but hell, it gets everyone out of the house despite current standing orders. Yep we were there too, albeit at a safe distance. Have your field, we’ll be back when you’re gone.

Not Easter Eggs. Button fungi adorn a slowly decaying log.
Easter leaf. Was it dipped like an egg?

Easter Monday dawns just as crystalline with warmer temperatures yet in the forecast. There is not a sound outside. Maybe everyone is….. naw c’mon! I recall a story about a man who came to believe he was the last person alive. To end his loneliness and despair he threw himself from the top of the tallest building in town. As he hurtled down past the third floor from the bottom he heard a telephone ringing. There is always hope, you’ve just got to hang on a little bit longer.

Is it possible? For a moment I mused that the snake in last week’s photo had followed me the twenty miles home. This beauty is about a foot long. It was sunning itself beneath the neighbour’s car.

Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” Albert Einstein

Lighten Up Eh!

Life goes on. Spring growth in the ditch.

At the best of times, there is inevitably minor power-hungry bureaucrats trying to save us from ourselves and so empower themselves. Our current virus has apparently given some of them a sense of license to post dire signs and try to impose closures wherever possible. We are not a species with high primal instincts of self-preservation anymore but really, I do not need to be incessantly reminded to go home, hide in a closet, put my head between my knees and kiss me arse farewell. I get it! OK?

OK? So who has been saved from what by having a small gravel parking lot blocked? The signs have dire warnings about Covid 19.
THAT’s better! You can see the blocked parking lot 100 metres away.
Nope! Nothing’s allowed. Go home.
Oh SHIT!
GERM. A sign of the times. I don’t mind this one at all.

Those who don’t understand by now, never will, so we may as well let the gene pool cleanse itself a bit. I was encouraged to learn that in some places where it comes down to which victim needs a ventilator, a smoker will lose against the non-smoker. Sad, but fair.

Plod. Poor old Jack is slowing down. He used to run ahead and wait for me. There is still a sparkle in his eye and the stubby tail is quick to blur in a happy greeting. The crows were engrossed in a lively mating ritual.

Sorry but I’m getting a little fed up. Folks, sick and dying is sick and dying, wherever you are. Don’t give me any crap after what your local infection percentile is. I just spoke with a nurse from tiny little Tahsis, (Population about 248) a village way up on the remote west coast of Vancouver Island, next stop Japan. They’ve had a confirmed case of Covid 19. If you want to having a pissing contest about who has the worst situation, please, walk on by. We’re all in this together. Dead is dead. Got it? Every community I’ve ever lived in has, by someone’s declaimation, the worst hospital ever. So stop it already. Lighten up eh! Look for some light.

Today is a flawless spring day. The sky is cloudless, the breeze is light and warm. It’s a T-shirt day. (16° C /61°F) The air is filled with pollen. Folks will be sneezing, coughing, farting, blowing their noses and all thinking they have the big C. I swear that soon we’ll have officious little-minded people on the street corners in fluorescent space suits, with 2 meter long grabber sticks, leaping out to install a headbag on anyone so cavalier to venture out.

It’s a jungle out there, but so much nicer with the sun!
Well woof to you too. Welcome to my wading pool.
This way a wet dog came.
“The vandals took the handles and now the pumps won’t work.”  …Bob Dylan

Our premier goes on television to tell the proletariat how to properly wash its hands, to stay indoors but also get outside and enjoy the fresh air. Yep, I’ve broken out into some good old blue collar epithets more than once.

It is Good Friday and struth, usually the weather is cloudy and stormy. My fundamentalist parents used to explain that it was God reminding us of what a terrible day it was when the evil ones executed Christ. That the bad guys were the local religious factions of the time seemed to elude them. “Hurry up, we’re late for church!” But then, which army has not had God on ITS side? I am presently wading though a novel called ‘Stones From The River’ by Ursula Hegi. It is set in Germany during the era leading up to the second world war. I can only read a few pages at a time about the darkness of spiralling self-serving values, terrible behaviour, attitudes and practices of many inspired by Mr. H and the boys. The country had doomed itself before ever marching across any border. My personal cynicism can draw parallels to the mass mindlessness of our present pandemic. The ripple effects of this panic and terror will be far-reaching and with us for a long time. As the Australian man said, “Brace yourself Sheila!”

“Now what have I pushed?” Banana fingers and mobile phones are a poor mix. The inadvertent selfie. Scary!  “More lines in his face than a street map of London.”
The poet’s desk.
New boots broken in, it’s time to say goodbye to the old ones. After three years of bilges, mechanics shops, welding, hundreds of miles of walking, one boot finally fell off my foot. I usually get about six months from a pair of working boots. Blundstones are more than just a fashion statement.

Our governments are trying to bolster our spirits by throwing money at us. Funds they don’t have and we will pay, and pay. There will be little happiness for a long time. Historically, countries pull themselves out of a crisis by starting yet another war. Pay attention! That’s all I’ll say now that I’ve depressed everyone even lower. While we ponder the extent of our weakness it is also a time to consider our strengths and develop those to a higher level. Kindness has no substitute and even a little has far-reaching implications. Common sense is clearly not common, so it is time to take a breath and think things through before letting someone else’s knee-jerk stupidity dictate the direction of your life. Smile. It’s Easter. Eat chocolate. It’s bad for you!

Bump! A stable air mass. Two intersecting contrails dissipate very slowly in the high spring sky.
The crack pansy. Does that sound rude?
Natural light, natural beauty. Trilliums are especially beautiful because they are so soon gone.

I understand how I may come across as crass and insensitive. In actual fact, I am an emotional flower and I am saddened when people demean their own god-given potential by refusing to think and feel for themselves. This blog finds me in mourning. Covid-19 took one of my few heroes and human inspirations this week. John Prine, gone. Oddly, a lot of folks don’t know who this incredible singer songwriter is/ was. His music will live on and on. He was of more value to me than any politician. Here’s a link to one of my favourite Prine songs:

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

And here is a poem I wrote the day after his passing this week.

Rough Draft

Bad news travels fast they say

But I didn’t hear Prine was gone

until only yesterday.

I won’t begin to list his works

some may perhaps have saved my life

Certainly they helped me get along

just a postman, but he sure as hell

could write and sing a song.

It ain’t right

that a humble man with

a quiet sparkle in his eye

and a raging fire in his soul

who wrote blue collar eloquence

about the beauty and the tragedy

of the common man

should find himself such a terrible way to die.

You’d expect there would have been a flaming wreck

some stark drama to mark this sad, sad day

but goddamn it, he’s gone

and it never even made the evening news.

Just another victim of a plague

randomly snatching us one by one

that gravel twang silenced forever

his pen lies still

beside a worn guitar

and a book of blank pages

yet to be filled

all those unwritten tunes

he is gone far, far too soon.

I wander the Covid streets

of my deathly quiet little town

there’s no-one around.

Even the accosting God-botherers

handing out road maps to heaven

have abandoned their strategic corner

and stayed home to pray in their closets.

Passing down the broken hill

in the cold early morning light

there is an old hotel with a pub

often filled with blues and country song

a reek of cigarettes and spilled beer

clinging by the battered door

the sort of joint John played

for so very long.

He was one of those guys

with whom you thought

you’d like to share a beer,

or ten,

sipping pints of rough draft

thinking up something witty

that would have made him laugh.

I don’t much believe in heaven

but if there is

I hope there’s a tavern up there

with a crowded little stage

John steps up and joins their ranks

Rogers, Petty, Cash, Nilsson, Haggard, Williams, Snow,

and all the others standing there.

They make room for John Prine and he begins to sing

He Was In Heaven Before He Knew He Died.”

I did not know the man

but still I’ve cried.

Stupid is as stupid does.” …Forest Gump