Up The Creek

(Written Somewhere On Vancouver Island Beside Johnstone Strait)

The eagle marked the spot where we would camp for the next week. I chose it for the incredible view, which is also where it caught incredible wind.

Poor cell service. No internet, no news, no e-mail, no Twitter. Sunny, but with a cold westerly wind blowing down Johnstone Strait. Jack and I are camped at the mouth of a River near the top of Vancouver Island. A monstrous dryland log sort separates us from Johnstone Strait and the foaming waters reared by the blasting wind. There is a lovely little campground provided free of charge by the timber company. Spiked to a tree a sign says, “If you clean up your mess maybe you’ll come again.” Blue collar eloquence; the area is pristine. Below us is a fantastic dreamlike maze of huge Sitka spruce interwoven with clear shallow gravel-bottomed streams. There is thick underbrush and a shoulder-high carpet of ferns. The area is thick with slugs. Within a half-hour of setting Jack’s food dish down it was crawling with the slimy beasts. I don’t care who used to eat them, eeech! I am stumped for how to take photos or video which accurately portrays the feeling of this beautiful place. Salmon spawn here and there are reports of grizzlies in the area. The roads are liberally dotted with huge mounds of bear scat so I make lots of noise and stay in open areas. Does a bear crap in the woods? Yep, and twice as often on the road. It’s a manyberry thing. Unless….. a Sasquatch festival? Now playing: The Mugwumps.

Along the way, you’ve got to stop to smell the daisies.
A shy one, but soon to open.
There’s a powerful beauty even in something as common as a daisy

We drove in around nine pm. There was plenty of light and plenty of game. Elk and deer ambled the road in several places. After two nights in that place we then found the roadway to heaven. Now I’m sitting in the dark only twenty feet from the ocean’s edge looking northward up the last miles of Johnstone Strait. There is a brisk cool westerly breeze which has eased from a near-gale at sundown. I’ll let my photos describe this place which I’ll leave un-named. If you are a kindred spirit you’ll find it on your own which makes the magic a little richer or, if you like, I’ll tell you one on one if you ask. It’s that kind of place. Other campers here, who have been coming for decades, have sworn me to secrecy. I see why.

Says it all.

Next paragraph, twenty-four hours later. Another blazing yet soft J.M. Turner sunset. The wind is finally easing, for the moment. I’ve known it to blast relentlessly for over two weeks non-stop. That’s a long time to be stuck on a tug boat with a few other blue-collared guys. Tensions rise and tedium inspires bad tempers. Bound to our log tow, one time for two weeks, we were committed to nursing it through the storm until we could deliver it safely far south down the coast. That would take ten more days if all went well. Six hours on watch, six off, day in day out, that tedium brings out hidden bottles and then hell breaks loose. I’ve seen a fist fight over who installed the toilet paper roll backwards! It’s funny now!

I drove out of the woods and found a meadow filled with flowers and a campsite on the beach.
Ghost Tree. The rivers are pristine.
Missed it!
Vancouver Island has many beautiful rivers, accessible to anyone who wants to find them.

But tonight here is peaceful. A young brother and sister are playing on the large roots of a beached tree thirty feet away. It’s lovely to hear the sound of their happy voices against the rhythm of waves gently lapping on the stone beach and a joy to see two siblings who like each other enough to get along amicably. Their joint imaginations as they turn the big roots into their castle, decorating it with kelp, is uplifting. Sometimes there is a rattle of the round beach stones rolling in the pull of the waves. The day began with a pod of humpbacks swimming close to shore, now it ends placidly. Money cannot buy bliss like this.

Ever the trooper, Jack is always up for the next adventure.
“Dear mom, I’ve bought a trailer. It needs a few repairs.” Remnants of a time when this place was a logging camp.
The Altar. A windbreak at a campsite fire pit. Visitors seem to keep adding bits.
That’s us on the point. A grand view with lots of wind.
How’s this view for Canada Day?

This paragraph begins on July first; the year half spent. Instead of being in a crowd celebrating our nationhood in a sweating Covid mass with loud music and the aroma of food stalls, I sit alone at my Honda table by the edge of the sea. The wind rose again this morning. When I opened the door on the trailer we were shrouded in fog. Now that fog has become a roll of low grey cloud over the strait and I watch a wall of rain advancing slowly toward us. I am wearing all the jackets and vests I have. I was astute enough to bring a water-proof storm coat with me. It seems like winter. Still, I’d rather be here. That’s a grand feeling.

Where the river meets the sea.
My office; where I wrote this blog. Camera ready.  Jack keeps watch. There were plenty of whales, I got no good images. So…I’ll go back.

Jack is away making his rounds. Most of the campsites have filled. Those folks have children and dogs. He comes back regularly to check on me and let me know he’s having a fine time and, perhaps, to assure himself of my blessing to wander. God forbid I wander off! He’s just reappeared with two gorgeous Australian collies. They voraciously sample his food bowl while he sits by, the gracious host. With all these people around there are no lurking predators and I know he does not go exploring beyond a short radius. He knows his limits and his joy is mine as well. I want every one of his senior days to be as rich as possible. After making his rounds he wants to get back into bed in the trailer. (Which I’ve decided to name ‘Boxtrot’) I join him and pull an extra blanket over us. The day wears on and we hibernate. Rain lashes the far shore of the strait. The neighbours cut and split more firewood. On the horizon to the west a sail catches a glint of sunlight. That may be the brightest moment of the day. And so it was. At day’s end, the wind is still blasting. The horizon to the west is a bright gleam of sunlight and there are now patches of blue between the ragged clouds; whatever that means. It’s all good.

On our sixth morning we awake to a pristine sky. Now a rising southeast breeze stirs the ocean. Without the roar of the wind I can hear a choir of bird songs echoing through the surrounding woods. The bitin, g bugs have returned with a vengeance. A red squirrel scolds and a pine martin scampers along the beach with a freshly caught crab in his mouth. Jack has found a patch of sunlight under the trees and he snores gently in his bed of spruce needles. I sip my first coffee and ruefully consider that groceries are beginning to run low. I don’t want to leave but it will be homeward tomorrow.

Yesterday I went for more firewood from a nearby abandoned logging sight. Jack despises the din of chainsaws and promptly disappeared. I went off in a panic-riddled search only to find him eventually sitting exactly back where I had been working. He was soaked in hydraulic oil. Apparently he had hidden beneath the only logging machine still there. There is a hose and tap harnessed to a nearby spring so with a bottle of dish detergent Jack had to endure a cold bath. While doing that I met a former skipper I’d once worked with on the boats. He was camped nearby; funny little world! In the evening my camping neighbour rushed up to me asking if I knew first aid. His wife was splitting kindling and had amputated the end of her thumb. A small drama (Not to her!) which serves as a reminder about how quickly things can happen and the need for thoughtful prudence; especially when you and your buddy are two old dogs. Fortunately I was able to assist and after a trip to a distant hospital, they were back in their tent before dawn.

Splendid waterfalls are not uncommon but often hard to access.
“Red sky at night, sailor’s delight.” 10 pm, looking up Johnstone Strait.
A perfect fit. Two crossed logs chaffing against each other on each high tide.
An ancient casting, made when this rock was molten.
More beach art. The root was about eight feet high.
A very mature plum tree, a souvenir of days long past.
The tree was full of robins and ripening fruit. another reason to return. There must be another tree nearby for pollination.
Waiting for whales…still.
Camp Runamuck perfected.

In the time that I’ve written these last two paragraphs the wind has risen from a zephyr to a half-gale. It stacks waves against the rising tide. It’s beautiful and I wonder how long before I see the bright colour of someone’s spinnaker charging up the coast. (There was one late in the afternoon.) I’ll sit placidly, sipping coffee and waiting for whales. Breakfast over, dishes done, chores complete I’m back at my table pecking away. While sitting here I’ve started reading a new (to me) book. I try to buy books from the bargain bin in my favourite book store and sometimes find a real treasure. I’ve begun ‘Fishing For Stars’ by Bryce Courtenay.’ I liked the title. It’s brick-thick with seven-hundred pages of small print. The first paragraph is like a poem and begins: “Some things from the past stay fresh in the mind of an old man…” He goes on to describe being at sea in a gaff-rigged cutter named ‘Madam Butterfly.’ I was hooked. On the forth page I read: “Mine has been a fortunate life in so many ways, but in the end we live more in our head than we do in a place and lately there’s some alarming stuff happening in my head.” That’d be me!

The soggy bottom boy. Soon the bears will be sitting and waiting for salmon.

I think it’s time Jack and I went for a walk. I’ll give my impression on this novel once I’ve squeezed it for the last drop; six hundred ninety-five pages to go.

An ingenious fusion of two vessels which become a very seaworthy little boat.
One more for the road. It is a spectacular island where I live.

Back from our walk, I’ve decided to declare this a do nothing afternoon. We walked to the far side of a lovely stream not far from here, explored and waded back across through the icy water. Jack swam and is clearly delighted in today’s little adventure. Now he’s asleep in his day bed. He is a master of do-nothingness. I’m trying to learn the art. Next blog I’ll post a link to my next video, made about this recent trip.

Tudaloo!

Our mind is of three categories: what we know, what we don’t know, and what we don’t know we don’t know. Not knowing is unfortunate; not knowing that we don’t know is tragic.” – W. Erhart.

Normal

Just Fireweed.
Mellow Yellow. Too lazy to look up the name and description, I also enjoy the mystery of beauty by not putting it in a box.
“Wotcha gonna name me? Bin layin’ here for years. Now ya see me!”

It was suggested to me that things are getting back to normal. Pandemic restrictions are being relaxed. I still can’t get a haircut, see a chiropractor, dentist or optometrist, sit at a restaurant table and order food or not be shown which way to walk in a grocery store. Folks in face masks scowl at me regularly, even when I’m standing on the X, but I can wear one and walk up to a bank teller without panic. Normal huh? But we’ll get there. Frankly my notion of normal right now is being able to get up to speed on the road and drive for ten minutes without having to find some bushes to dive into. That bladder problem was getting to be a real drain. Thankfully it is passing. There are two morals to this story. 1- Don’t let strangers mess with your plumbing. 2- The old and proven wisdom of “If it works, why tinker with it?” Frankly, in future, I think I’ll let someone else make the lease payments on the urologist’s SUV.

The procedure, a cystoscopy, never did have that Disney fun ring to it. Imagine the kiss booth and attendant in a Micky Mouse hat. The sign over their head, “CYSTOSCOPY. See your inner self! Free 3D print-outs of your tour.” That’s a souvenir little Wendel will want to hang over his bed! Everyone has their own notion of normal. I’ll settle for the simpler things.

I was amazed! It was in incredibly good shape, all original from what I could see, including the dent. When I was a young apprentice helicopter mechanic in Quebec in the late 60s it seemed all the priests drove these basic (Note the hubcaps) blue Chryslers. They were bloody huge! A family can live in the trunk and back seat. Try parallel-parking this puppy on a hill…with a driving examiner sitting beside you!
Hit me!
Wot no airbags? Seat belts were an awkward option, sometimes added at home in the garage. Shoulder harnesses were yet to come. Looking back, the joke is that after a head-on collision you simply hosed off the dash and re-sold the car.
How must the world smell to Jack? This field of Alfalfa is ready for mowing and it must be full of interesting aromas.
A free tree in every one. Each spec of fluff is the seed of a cottonwood tree. Wind-born by the billion only a few will take root and become mature trees.
Another bark owl. A low-budget hobby for someone, each new one is startling at first glimpse.

I’m avoiding listening to the news, there’s only so many times I can stand to hear the C word and it seems every other word is just that. As the daily down and out and dead tolls are read there is a growing emphasis about the approaching “Second wave.” The TV announcers, I know, are merely reading their script but it is sad to hear professional communicators uttering inanities like “No doubt eh” or “Fer sure.” So much for language being the cornerstone of culture.

Wild Columbine.
Suddenly the wild roses are in bloom.
The picnic.
Western Trumpet Honeysuckle.

There is a cute little button of a weather reporter who delivers her material in a twee Chatty-Cathy tone and can’t say “Per hour.” It comes out “Prour.” Their helicopter traffic reports always come from “High above” something and spews out an unintelligible speedy-speak ad for yet another auto body shop against a background of helicopter sound effects. Perhaps I could find employment as a professional grump. The diction, grammar and elocution editor. Yep, this old bogwump could really whip things into shape. Yeah right! There is a foreign language school which is a daily sponsor. Would you really take language classes from someone who calls themselves Babbel? Do they possibly mean Babble? I know, I know, like get a life dude! Ya know? Eh?

Remember the glacier lilies? Just memories and seeds are left.

And so we wade on into our summer of discontent. Covidnoia. Hurry up and wait. There are so many people saying so many contradicting things you’ve just got to leave it all behind and get on with life. It has become like banging your head on the wall. It feels so good when you stop.

“Birdy num-num.” If you know what film that phrase is from, I know at least how old you are. A sure sign the salmon berries are ripe is that the birds are eating them.
Somewhere there goes a young slug on a motorcycle. Hope he didn’t fall off!

 “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”– Thomas A. Edison

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

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

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

Click

Morning. In the bedroom an hour ago. Mobile phone, simple subjects. Lighting and composition, that’s all.

The chill overcast of early morning gave way to a warm calm. I began imagining that I could hear the budding leaves emerging. Jack and I went off to one of our mutually favourite wandering spots, the old Swallowfield Farm. I set up to take a shot along the mud road beneath a canopy of blossoms and chlorophyll green with a background of bird songs. A helicopter buzzed overhead, from another corner the scrape and bang of heavy machinery echoed across the fields. Now an old WWII fighter plane clattered by, a Yak attack. I know and love that particular airplane but gimme a break, I’m trying to shot some video here! It was joined in a chorus by some goon on a mufflerless Fartley Davidson. Geez Louise! Part of the art of making videos is often the accompanying sound track and my amateur skill level does not know much about erasing and over-dubbing or applying any of the wobble-quavers which the pros can do.

The shot in question. Can you hear airplanes?

That in turn got me thinking about how I’ve arrived at this point in my experience as a photographer. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve become a snapshot artist instead of the fully involved disciple of the medium format film camera and the dark room. I used to spend long hours working in a tiny, chemical-saturated space producing the perfect print, both black and white, colour and cibachrome (Printing from colour slides. It was especially toxic.) I even started a business printing folk’s personal photos, but circumstances prevailed that moved me on. How was I to know that digital photography was coming and monster companies like Eastman Kodak were to become a memory? Finding darkroom equipment, paper and chemicals has now become an expensive challenge. I’d love to go back to it again, appreciating it as the wonderful art it is.

From the darkroom. Cheung Chau Harbour, January 1986. A moment long gone yet saved forever.
There’s something about black and white photos which is elemental for indelible images. This beautiful wistful girl is now a beautiful, sensitive middle-aged woman.
A third product from my darkroom. Simplicity always works and if in doubt, crop, crop , crop.

I watched a biography about Ansel Adams recently. If you don’t know who he was, you’re just not interested in photography but you’ll know some of his work. He photographed landscapes and is famous for his work in Yosemite Park and the High Sierras. He lugged cumbersome box cameras with their glass plate negatives to mountain tops and developed stunning prints which captivated the world. A master of light, composition, depth of field and opportune timing he was also a chemist, perfecting solutions for what was needed to maximize his images. He always used only natural light so far as I know. His work inspired the founding of National Parks yet his work was a simple portrayal of a beautiful world so many of us look at but never see. Portraits, abstracts, wildlife photos were not what he was known for. He inspired me as much as the thousands of other spellbound photographers. He was a landscape artist.

I first took a serious interest in photography as a boy. My camera was a ubiquitous Kodak Brownie, crude, battered and abused as it was. I would carefully load of roll of 120 format, 12 frame film in and tape up the worn case latches to prevent any light leaking in. I can still recall the first photo which thrilled me. It was of a herd of cows resting beneath a spreading elm tree on a hot summer afternoon. By accident I’d caught the light and composition almost perfectly. I’d love to see that little square print again. Time and technology have moved on.

While laying among the lilies, videoing them swaying in the breeze, look what I found right in front of me! Allo, allo!
Sssssnap.
Spider and snake. It is amazing what you can see if you become still and let the world come to you.

Years later I took up serious photography using manual cameras which required every shot be manually calibrated for correct exposure, shutter speed, depth of field, contrast and any necessary filtration. Then it was off to the darkroom. I recall photography with a darkroom being described as having a leash without a puppy. I was never a gadget collector and take pride in doing good work with simple equipment. That of course is product of having limited finances, but no camera, no matter how exotic, can produce a good frame without a skilled person to utilize it. And no camera, no matter how inexpensive, has been maximized by anyone. Modern mobile phones are now sold for their photographic capabilities. Gidgets, gadgets and other toys are extolled as absolutely requisite to make good photographs. Photo magazines are filled with ads admonishing that you won’t get your ultimate shot without yet another product. All I’ll say to all of that is simply: Bullshit! Keep it simple, stick with basics.

Keep it simple. A good image needs impact to catch the eye and depth to hold the eye. Can you find Brio and Jessie in this view?

I am deeply offended when someone says “Your photos are awesome, you must have really good cameras.” No damnit!

Do you want to be an equipment collector or make good photos? You can either peer through some multi-thousand dollar telephoto lens or you can learn the habitat and habits of your subject and get up close for a splendid photograph with an affordable piece of equipment along with all that you experience gained in the process. I recently watched another documentary on the work of Indian photographer Raghu Rai. Thousands of dollars worth of Nikon equipment dangled on straps from his neck while he shot projects with his mobile phone.

The photographer’s dog. Jack enjoys the sun as he  waits on me and surveys his kingdom.

Ansel Adams did not have the equipment to machine gun his subjects and then go to his computer photo programs to determine and manipulate a best shot. Each exposure had to count. In any case, a day out with any camera is still a way to maintain contact with whatever view of the world is important to you. Photography is the simple, yet long-learned art of seeing and then sharing your vision with others. In these days of social isolation it is a wonderful endeavour, even if you don’t want to share what you see. And try as you might, it is an art you’ll never master as much as you’d like. There’s the challenge.

Fawn Lily perfection. This is the shot I set out to make. Everything else happened along the way. (Walk softly and carry a big click.)

Great photography is about depth of feeling, not depth of field.”
Peter Adams

Shucks

In summer, Jack can barely find enough water to swim here. This is the Chemainus River a few hours after it had subsided enough to re-open the highway.

After two days of “Biblical” (That’s the weatherman’s description) rainfall, yesterday broke out sunny with semi-clear skies and a drying northern wind. A lot of folks were out and about to enjoy the respite, their dogs seemed to be especially happy. Jack was away visiting and I was free to stop as often as I wanted to take photos. I pulled over by the Chemainus River bridge to record an image of the river after it had subsided enough to allow the re-opening of the highway. Clunk! The little plastic adjusting device on my camera strap had allowed the whole thing to slip through. The camera landed on the face of the lense. “Shucks! Golly! Oh Goldangit!” Yup that’s what I said. Uhuh! The thousand dollar camera is OK, the lens is screwed, gronched, toast. It is not a hopelessly expensive lens although it is the one which is my standard work horse; but, there’s no use in crying over dropped lenses.

Hmmm? Lefty loosey, righty tighty. But …I’m giving this up as spare parts. As a kid I used to do this. Mechanical things don’t need to be big to be impressive. That teeny screwdriver is also another marvel which has allowed me to repair many things.

I took it apart today to see what I could. My career as a camera mechanic concluded briefly. I amassed a mysterious pile of tiny screws and clips which I doubted my banana fingers could ever re-install. However it was the little curly plastic whiskers and chunks which spelled truly “broken” beyond hope. There’s only so much I can do with crazy glue. I settled to see inside a sample of modern mass-production wizardry. The engineering is amazing, the assembly is impossibly delicate and accurate. That the whole little zoom lens can be sold affordably to work reliably for capturing crisp, clear images is stunning. And this is just a simple camera lens. I remember a jocular mission statement I coined for a friend’s repair business. “If it ain’t broke, we can fix that too.” I ought to know. You can’t take photos with a hammer and you can’t pound gravel with a camera. Well, maybe once.

I’ve complained to these guys about soaking their produce! Sadly, they’ve suffered expensive damage. The flood level was much higher a few hours earlier. Several homes had to be evacuated.
This road is open again. Many have been closed due to flooding.
I am always amazed at how water runs out of the top of hills. There’s a house up there somewhere. I hope that’s not water from the basement.
Water ran everywhere. Dry feet were a luxury.
Too wet to plow

This afternoon the skies are again overcast and lowering as another “Atmospheric River” approaches. That’s more weatherperson jargon. In times past, these warm winter North Pacific systems were called “Pineapple Expresses” but I suppose that is just not sophisticated enough. So here we go again, back into our comfort zone. It’s what we’re used to.

The confluence. A favourite wading spot for Jack…but not today. The water had been over the path a while earlier.
Business as usual for the river otters.

Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.”

– Les Brown