“You’re outta cheese!” Those were the first spoken words I heard in the wee hours of the morning. I’d just stepped into the local all-night corner store at 02:30. I was grabbing a quick cup of coffee before trekking up at local mountain with the hope of photographing the Comet Neowise. A woman was there loading up a DIY meal of some sort (Eeeech!) The clerk replied to her with an unintelligible middle-eastern accent. She responded “Jes tellin’ ya!” And so the day began.
With a backpack full of photo gear and trusty tripod in hand I hiked the final ascent to the peak of Mount Prevost using my head lamp, finding my way up the brushy trail in the dark woods. I only tripped four times. I missed seeing the comet but that early scramble produced some excellent images. What a beautiful part of the world I live in! If the sky tonight is still cloudless I’ll try again; but without the clamber.
There are many areas in my life where I can be accused of being a few noodles short of a full can. I do things which in retrospect are clearly stupid. A few days ago, after a long harassment by a pop-up intruder on my computer desktop, I gave in. A free version of CCleaner, allegedly keeping my computer files clean, etc. etc; had kept intruding for many months. It’s been there for so long I can’t remember when it first arrived. It has persistently told me I should get serious and buy the real deal for $24.95. Times are tough. Even that amount needs to be seriously considered. I submitted a credit card number and suddenly the invoice price was $74.95 for a far more exotic package than what I’d ordered. I’m certain I carefully made the correct selection. Now, I can’t directly access my e-mail and every time I do anything online a big, long-fading pop-up covers the screen telling my what a wonderful product I’ve bought. WTF? In my complaint I promised the company called Cleverbridge I’d tell the world. They have NOT responded about my e-mail to their “support department.” So I have now told the world. End of the-too few noodles story. There’s no sucker like an old sucker.
In recent blogs I’ve commented on the “Black Lives Matter” story. I’ve been bemused about all those bronze statues being torn down. Now I’ve twice heard a solution from two articulate Black intellectuals. They both said the same thing. Leave the statues alone and instead erect signs telling of the bias and ignorance which had the bronzes first erected. Provide the comparative views of today which mark our progress away from the datums which those statues are. That is very positive, making lemonade from lemons. If we forget our history we’re bound to repeat it. None of us will ever rise if we continue to stay on the ground struggling with our knees on each other’s necks.
In the hurly-burly chaos of our frantic lives it is easy to get fixated on all that is wrong and dark. Occasionally something incredibly simple can hit a reset button. For me it was opening a single pea pod growing on a vine in a pot. The aroma of the contents and the superb taste of the tiny fresh peas was an instant tonic; aroma therapy. Smell and taste are great stimulants and suddenly for a few seconds I was back in vegetable gardens of my childhood, not a bad little vacation at all! The hike up through the mountain forest in the dark evoked other happy memories. Tis the simple tings Billy!
“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” Martin Luther King Jr.
It seems a long time ago now that there was a promise of “A great big beautiful wall” to be built along the Mexican border. I recall jovially remarking at the time that eventually there might be another wall along the Canadian / US border. I had no idea about the Covid walls that were to come. I despair about how long it will be before I can legally cross that line and head for the back roads of the desert again.
I’ve recently learned how, during WWII with desperate labour shortages, the US turned to Mexico for help. It went so far as military assistance where the US recruited, trained and equipped a fighter squadron known as the “Aztec Eagles” which provided a significant contribution in the South Pacific. I’ve no idea of what else went on. I am sure there are plenty of missed pages in the history books regardless of who wrote them. One has to keep their mind open; always. I wonder if some of the discord about illegal immigrants crossing the border from Mexico began with those desperate times. “A friend in need is a friend indeed” and what happens when that need is perceived to be reduced? The solid “Old Wealth” of many nations was built on the backs of its enslaved people until a newer, more insidious system was developed to enslave us all. So few of us can see that and choose to believe the fantasies and myths we are fed to distract us from certain harsh realities. Recent global protest about racial inequity (Already dying down) has me asking more questions than ever.
My curiosity about the ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign has eventually had me stumble over the name Paul Robeson. A Black American who had no problem calling himself a “Negro,” he was an athlete, a singer and actor who championed the causes of the working man and also the civil rights movement in the US back in earlier days. He was politically aware, courageous and active in the 1930’s through the 60’s. A globally famous and loved entertainer he was yet another whom the McCarthy inquisitions worked hard to crush. A hero of British coal miners, he seems almost completely forgotten here in North America. Here’s a link to an award ceremony involving two other famous personalities and political activists, Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte. Robeson is mentioned there as an inspiration to them. There is plenty of information online about this great man if you care to look. Here’s one link.
I am embarrassed to realize my ignorance about many things which you only discover when you are in quest of more knowledge. How could I have not known that for so long? I can certainly say that the more I try to learn about Black civil liberties and oppression, the more confused I become. You cannot demand both equal rights and special consideration without creating more division. Eventually you become your own worst enemy. I continue to declare that the mantra has to be “All Lives Matter” before true equality can ever begin to occur. I know that no matter what anyone says on this matter, someone else will be offended. It seems that’s what it takes to inspire folks to open their minds and look outside their personal comfort zone. I don’t so much want people to agree with me but rather to just ask their own questions.
Meanwhile this bogtrotter still prefers to be isolated out at sea or somewhere in the back country and off I’ll go again as soon I can. With the cool, damp weather we’ve had so far this summer, our forests are still open to wander. A few days of higher temperatures and drying winds will change that. Then the skies will fill with smoke. It is a “Go now” time. Summer is far from over and as we’ve learned so well this dreary year, you must grab the moments you have.
(Written Somewhere On Vancouver Island Beside Johnstone Strait)
Poor cell service. No internet, no news, no e-mail, no Twitter. Sunny, but with a cold westerly wind blowing down Johnstone Strait. Jack and I are camped at the mouth of a River near the top of Vancouver Island. A monstrous dryland log sort separates us from Johnstone Strait and the foaming waters reared by the blasting wind. There is a lovely little campground provided free of charge by the timber company. Spiked to a tree a sign says, “If you clean up your mess maybe you’ll come again.” Blue collar eloquence; the area is pristine. Below us is a fantastic dreamlike maze of huge Sitka spruce interwoven with clear shallow gravel-bottomed streams. There is thick underbrush and a shoulder-high carpet of ferns. The area is thick with slugs. Within a half-hour of setting Jack’s food dish down it was crawling with the slimy beasts. I don’t care who used to eat them, eeech! I am stumped for how to take photos or video which accurately portrays the feeling of this beautiful place. Salmon spawn here and there are reports of grizzlies in the area. The roads are liberally dotted with huge mounds of bear scat so I make lots of noise and stay in open areas. Does a bear crap in the woods? Yep, and twice as often on the road. It’s a manyberry thing. Unless….. a Sasquatch festival? Now playing: The Mugwumps.
We drove in around nine pm. There was plenty of light and plenty of game. Elk and deer ambled the road in several places. After two nights in that place we then found the roadway to heaven. Now I’m sitting in the dark only twenty feet from the ocean’s edge looking northward up the last miles of Johnstone Strait. There is a brisk cool westerly breeze which has eased from a near-gale at sundown. I’ll let my photos describe this place which I’ll leave un-named. If you are a kindred spirit you’ll find it on your own which makes the magic a little richer or, if you like, I’ll tell you one on one if you ask. It’s that kind of place. Other campers here, who have been coming for decades, have sworn me to secrecy. I see why.
Next paragraph, twenty-four hours later. Another blazing yet soft J.M. Turner sunset. The wind is finally easing, for the moment. I’ve known it to blast relentlessly for over two weeks non-stop. That’s a long time to be stuck on a tug boat with a few other blue-collared guys. Tensions rise and tedium inspires bad tempers. Bound to our log tow, one time for two weeks, we were committed to nursing it through the storm until we could deliver it safely far south down the coast. That would take ten more days if all went well. Six hours on watch, six off, day in day out, that tedium brings out hidden bottles and then hell breaks loose. I’ve seen a fist fight over who installed the toilet paper roll backwards! It’s funny now!
But tonight here is peaceful. A young brother and sister are playing on the large roots of a beached tree thirty feet away. It’s lovely to hear the sound of their happy voices against the rhythm of waves gently lapping on the stone beach and a joy to see two siblings who like each other enough to get along amicably. Their joint imaginations as they turn the big roots into their castle, decorating it with kelp, is uplifting. Sometimes there is a rattle of the round beach stones rolling in the pull of the waves. The day began with a pod of humpbacks swimming close to shore, now it ends placidly. Money cannot buy bliss like this.
This paragraph begins on July first; the year half spent. Instead of being in a crowd celebrating our nationhood in a sweating Covid mass with loud music and the aroma of food stalls, I sit alone at my Honda table by the edge of the sea. The wind rose again this morning. When I opened the door on the trailer we were shrouded in fog. Now that fog has become a roll of low grey cloud over the strait and I watch a wall of rain advancing slowly toward us. I am wearing all the jackets and vests I have. I was astute enough to bring a water-proof storm coat with me. It seems like winter. Still, I’d rather be here. That’s a grand feeling.
Jack is away making his rounds. Most of the campsites have filled. Those folks have children and dogs. He comes back regularly to check on me and let me know he’s having a fine time and, perhaps, to assure himself of my blessing to wander. God forbid I wander off! He’s just reappeared with two gorgeous Australian collies. They voraciously sample his food bowl while he sits by, the gracious host. With all these people around there are no lurking predators and I know he does not go exploring beyond a short radius. He knows his limits and his joy is mine as well. I want every one of his senior days to be as rich as possible. After making his rounds he wants to get back into bed in the trailer. (Which I’ve decided to name ‘Boxtrot’) I join him and pull an extra blanket over us. The day wears on and we hibernate. Rain lashes the far shore of the strait. The neighbours cut and split more firewood. On the horizon to the west a sail catches a glint of sunlight. That may be the brightest moment of the day. And so it was. At day’s end, the wind is still blasting. The horizon to the west is a bright gleam of sunlight and there are now patches of blue between the ragged clouds; whatever that means. It’s all good.
On our sixth morning we awake to a pristine sky. Now a rising southeast breeze stirs the ocean. Without the roar of the wind I can hear a choir of bird songs echoing through the surrounding woods. The bitin, g bugs have returned with a vengeance. A red squirrel scolds and a pine martin scampers along the beach with a freshly caught crab in his mouth. Jack has found a patch of sunlight under the trees and he snores gently in his bed of spruce needles. I sip my first coffee and ruefully consider that groceries are beginning to run low. I don’t want to leave but it will be homeward tomorrow.
Yesterday I went for more firewood from a nearby abandoned logging sight. Jack despises the din of chainsaws and promptly disappeared. I went off in a panic-riddled search only to find him eventually sitting exactly back where I had been working. He was soaked in hydraulic oil. Apparently he had hidden beneath the only logging machine still there. There is a hose and tap harnessed to a nearby spring so with a bottle of dish detergent Jack had to endure a cold bath. While doing that I met a former skipper I’d once worked with on the boats. He was camped nearby; funny little world! In the evening my camping neighbour rushed up to me asking if I knew first aid. His wife was splitting kindling and had amputated the end of her thumb. A small drama (Not to her!) which serves as a reminder about how quickly things can happen and the need for thoughtful prudence; especially when you and your buddy are two old dogs. Fortunately I was able to assist and after a trip to a distant hospital, they were back in their tent before dawn.
In the time that I’ve written these last two paragraphs the wind has risen from a zephyr to a half-gale. It stacks waves against the rising tide. It’s beautiful and I wonder how long before I see the bright colour of someone’s spinnaker charging up the coast. (There was one late in the afternoon.) I’ll sit placidly, sipping coffee and waiting for whales. Breakfast over, dishes done, chores complete I’m back at my table pecking away. While sitting here I’ve started reading a new (to me) book. I try to buy books from the bargain bin in my favourite book store and sometimes find a real treasure. I’ve begun ‘Fishing For Stars’ by Bryce Courtenay.’ I liked the title. It’s brick-thick with seven-hundred pages of small print. The first paragraph is like a poem and begins: “Some things from the past stay fresh in the mind of an old man…” He goes on to describe being at sea in a gaff-rigged cutter named ‘Madam Butterfly.’ I was hooked. On the forth page I read: “Mine has been a fortunate life in so many ways, but in the end we live more in our head than we do in a place and lately there’s some alarming stuff happening in my head.” That’d be me!
I think it’s time Jack and I went for a walk. I’ll give my impression on this novel once I’ve squeezed it for the last drop; six hundred ninety-five pages to go.
Back from our walk, I’ve decided to declare this a do nothing afternoon. We walked to the far side of a lovely stream not far from here, explored and waded back across through the icy water. Jack swam and is clearly delighted in today’s little adventure. Now he’s asleep in his day bed. He is a master of do-nothingness. I’m trying to learn the art. Next blog I’ll post a link to my next video, made about this recent trip.
“Our mind is of three categories: what we know, what we don’t know, and what we don’t know we don’t know. Not knowing is unfortunate; not knowing that we don’t know is tragic.” – W. Erhart.
On our drive to a favourite walking path, Jack and I passed a 70’s-something camperized VW van. Like a lot of folks, I had one once; it was even the same colour. Not a Westphalia conversion it was a rare automatic with a whopping 2200cc engine. Compared to what we consider a camping rig fifty years later they were crude to say the least. What drew my attention to this old VW was the “Just Married” sign in its rear window. Wow! Remember those days? Right into the 70’s folks still held wedding parades between the church and the reception location. They would decorate their cars, complete with tin cans tied to the back bumper and hold a slow procession around town honking the horns. It was a tradition that had folks along their route rushing out to wave and see if it was anyone they knew. And of course they did if the town was small enough. Today, if anyone carried on like that, they’d probably be ticketed by the police for several infractions. The only person rushing out for a look would be a divorce lawyer to hand out business cards.
After an encounter with yet another Covid-masked bully I found myself writing like a hairball rolling before the wind; just discarded bits of DNA getting bigger and bigger and of absolutely no value. Eeech! I left it to sit and ferment but finally I scrubbed my acid words after I dug into some current news stories and ended up even more confused. The numbers I researched on police violence and racial percentages did not add up. They could be used to prove anything in any way as they so often do. There’s rhetoric aplenty about all issues. All I can offer is that all of us, yes me too, should consider consequences a little more. In fact consideration of cause and effect is perhaps a cornerstone of stable civilization. Psychopathic ping-pong; That’s how we talk and act, with no regard for the effects of what we do and say, who we hurt or how we damage ourselves or our future.
Think of the current pandemic and the racism monster. Both are a direct result of folks who did not think ahead about the results of inaction and poor choices. And instead of thinking it all through, folks are working on new apps. Perhaps someone will come up with one that calculates consequences of a given action. The “impeachment” word was conveniently wrapped inside with the Covid crisis and now racism is binding all the mess together. In the knee-jerk reactions to it all folks are tearing down statutes of clearly once-revered leaders. Now Theodore Roosevelt is being pulled down. He was, I thought, regarded as a progressive and esteemed leader, a cornerstone example of what a US president should be. Now he is being dubbed “A colonialist.” Guess I’ve read the wrong history books. I thought the US had long been a sovereign state when Teddy hit the saddle. In the meantime the tsunami of the second Covid wave may well be building and racing toward our shores…as I write. Someone has decided it will not arrive until next winter and we’ll be ready. Yeah OK! But the numbers are rising now. So?
I stand by my mantra that “All Lives Matter.” I am concerned that the media’s careless determination to create an impression police violence is somehow targeted only at blacks will undermine the whole new movement against racism. But the movement needs to be to promote equality between all people. I am not denigrating any person or all the serious issues but the media has an obligation to be objective and honest. It is clearly not. While subjectivity may sell better, credibility will sell longer. Do your own homework and raise your own questions. Be prepared to find that the real story may be barely recognizable.
I can add nothing to the solution so let me share some humour.
Here’s a hand-painted sign I saw recently, “Clean fill wanted…but I’ll settle for a dirty woman!”
Or a bumper sticker, “Sasquatch doesn’t believe in you either.”
I have a T-shirt with a silhouette of a Bigfoot and the inscription, “Introvert.”
Yesterday afternoon while walking with Jack around the perimeter of a very large hay field, a tiny homemade aeroplane high overhead practised some “Happy Flying.” Long ago I used to do that and yes, there was an ache for those magic days now passed. Although long suppressed, aviation is as much a part of my fibre as messing with boats. Easily recognizable as a home-built aircraft, it was one of several mid-wing designs which fly very well with low horsepower. This one had the unmistakable clatter of a Continental 85. The pilot flew basic aerobatics: stalls, spins, loops, chandelles, Immelmans and Cuban eights, all flawlessly. He was going nowhere and was just up there for the simple joy of it. He or she didn’t know it, but I was in that tiny cockpit too, twisting and turning, pulling the G’s and looking down on the spectacular aqua mosaic of the Gulf Islands. The joy of the moment! For a few minutes I partook vicariously. It was grand. Thank you for that, whomever you are. You made my day.
“If you try to fail, and succeed, which have you done?” ― George Carlin
Well now I’ve started something. When in my last blog, on impulse, I added a sentence about how distantly we treat our children, I had an epiphany; especially in the wake of reader’s comments. I wrote about how we have displaced the value of our elders and ignore their very essential value in the continuity of our culture. What I realized after I added the bit about how poorly many of us treat our children, especially at the time of their lives when dedicated parental nurturing is necessary for healthy development, is that those kids are tomorrow’s adults. They’ll do what we have taught them. “As the twig is bent so grows the tree.” They’re the ones who will discard their parents into care facilities which dilutes the family further, just like we did to them. “Just keep paying us and we’ll keep them out of your way.” Family members become as disposable as chocolate wrappers and all our other debris. We know where a large number of Covid 19 deaths have occurred.
In my archives is a rough draft for a novel based on an opening scene where paramedics attend an accident with several victims scattered on the roadside. After checking each person for a pulse the bar code tattooed behind their right ear is scanned. The monetary system as we know it now is gone, replaced with electronic currency. We would have a system of personal credits, those earned, accumulated, spent and borrowed. Depending on your net credit worth and your present social standing factored by the degree of your injuries, a computer decision is made to save your life or terminate it as a source of fresh organs and tissue. And if you don’t have a bar code, well you’re just not part of the system. Red light! Send that one in on the slow truck.
Far fetched? We’re really not that far away now. There’s a lot to consider about the progress and regress, the ebb and flood of civilization, if you’re contemplative about humanity. Frankly, I envy those who are not. I sometimes wish a case of beer, a sack of crisps and some TV sports could placate me and keep me in a non-questioning existence. For those of us who are cursed with a questioning mind there is plenty to research in our quests. Recently a novel was brought to my attention. ‘The Plague’ written by Albert Camus near the middle of the last century is amazingly prescient. Camus, well aware of the pandemics past, seemed to understand those that were to come, perhaps because there is a pattern of natural mass population control throughout our history. Like nearly everything else, there are reviews of the work available on the web.
Then, today, there was third component introduced to my epiphany. ‘The Machine Stops’ written in 1909 by E.M. Forster is a short story which offers some amazing views on a future dystopian troglodyte society which is almost entirely dependant on and committed to the synthetic environment it has created. Communication around the planet is via an internet-like technology. People live underground, entirely terrified of being self-reliant, independent and are almost wholly insular from each other. They travel reluctantly in airships and only when necessary with little interest in scenic views of the planet passing beneath them. Those who struggle to escape this culture are accused of the despicable act of “homelessness.” This a sobering essay on how our society may be evolving. Written at the time it was is fascinating. It is work to read and digest but thrilling to discover such a brilliant mind especially in the years preceding the massive technical renaissance of the First World War. Here’s a link to the entire short story:
Our spring weather here on Vancouver Island has been cool and damp lately. Despite that the wildflowers have bloomed profusely. Fruit and berries are flowering and ripening early and in huge quantities. It is said that fools and newcomers predict the weather but my instilled rural sensibilities suggest that we may well have a severe winter ahead. Another indicator, as old wit and humour go, is about the size of the white man’s wood piles. But, it is officially summer in a few days and as Covid restrictions slowly relax, we’d best live in the moment. Remember the line from that wonderful movie ‘Bucket List.’ “If you think the last six months went fast, think about the next few.”
“The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.”
The rain hammered down until near midday. It eventually began to ease and so Jack and I finally went for our morning walk. Along the wet, wet trails I found a final wild lily and a columbine in bloom. Their cheerful splashes of colour certainly helped brighten a dull day. I realized there are no events for me to comment on intelligently, despite the ongoing pandemic and the rightfully erupting surge of protest against police violence and racism. I know I have ranted, mourned and criticized popular social trends. I feel an obligation to be a devil’s advocate and may I point out that humour is always some form of criticism. But for once I have little to say.
I’m befuddled by the slogan “Black Lives Matter.” Yes they do! The entire history of Black folks in America is certainly ugly. But… those three words become a cliché that turns the whole massive movement into a further advancement of prejudice and division. Only when people can say “All lives matter” will we have movement toward erasing racism and developing true equality. Whether it is race, faith, gender, age, disability, health, economic status or birthplace, only when those factors become irrelevant to all of us will we have a significant move toward real equality. So far, in the history of the human race, we have not come close to solving any of those issues. Someday, hopefully soon, we will start actually trying.
I can confess to this. As I have come through life I have been among those who often denigrated older people even if only in jest. I don’t understand why we fear and distance ourselves from the inevitable state of becoming an elder. We are all heading that way and at the same rate of progress. Yeah, you too! It is part of the life cycle for all beings. Certainly older folks have a lifetime of skills, experience and wisdom that we need to maintain the continuity of our culture. We have developed a trend of alienating our older family members and relegating them to isolation and separation. Without the inclusion of our seniors within our families our culture has to ultimately crumble. And, may the Gods help us, we also do it with our children. We treat them as an inconvenience and nuisance during the years when they most need nurturing and dedicated love. Then we wonder what’s wrong with society! If you can’t make a family work how the hell can you expect a functional government?
That elders continue to play a valuable role in Latino families is one of the reasons I love the Mexican people. It is also certainly true of several other cultures we all know and often despise. As I stumble toward my senior years I am paying for my bigotry about older folks. Although I can still provide a valuable contribution in the workplace, in society and in the family I know I am often dismissed simply because of my wrinkles and silvering hair. The first time you are asked if you are eligible for a seniors discount is a bit of a twister. Then comes the day when someone calls you an “Old Fucker.” Wham! Yep, your turn is coming. It is mighty powerful slap therapy. Sadly, life offers no rewind buttons. You can’t go back and make new mistakes!
The other social issue under close scrutiny again, or still, is the thuggery of our police forces. They are simply reflecting the values we hold. Try to find a movie, a video game or a television show without someone waving guns, crashing cars, beating each other, blowing things up. That’s the entertainment we employ to stimulate ourselves and to relax! It is part of the fibre of our society and yet we expect all of our police to be smiling, embracing examples of good citizenship. Cops are not all thugs. Unjust violence is never acceptable but are their martial tactics part of our social woe or is it a symptom? Yes; both times. The Covid crisis hype keeps declaring “We’re all in this together.” Yes, WE ARE.
During this morning’s monsoon I worked at the final edit of my latest little video. It is a simple explanation of why and how my tiny trailer evolved. It’s called “A Social Isolation Unit… On Wheels.” If you think it might interest you, here’s the link.
“No matter how big a nation is, it is no stronger than its weakest people, and as long as you keep a person down, some part of you has to be down there to hold him down, so it means you cannot soar as you might otherwise.” —Marian Anderson, singer
I’m sitting at my beloved old Honda car trunk table in the woods north of Campbell River swatting at mosquitoes and black flies despite a brisk breeze. This blog has begun first day out on our next jaunt. I’ve left my computer mouse behind so I’m poking away with my banana fingers and hoping for the best. So far the only other thing I seem to have forgotten is the butter. Jack is fine, peacefully laying on his bed beside me wiggling his ears at the bugs. On our postprandial walk we met a lovely black bear, probably a two-year old. It crashed off into the thick brush of course and I was reminded that old Jack is no longer the feisty beast he once was. Neither am I. We’ve had a long day. With the bugs being so friendly we are about to lock away the groceries and retire for the night. One of the nice things about getting old is that you can fall asleep anywhere, any time. At least until the middle of the night. Then, after determining that it is indeed the “golden age” you can’t get back to sleep until after first light which, of course, is why you can fall asleep any time through the day.
In the morning, after a night of absolute quiet we stepped out into the cool early morning light with clouds of black flies hovering silently. Too stunned to go into feeding frenzy, they’ll soon be at it as the day warms. We’ll move on. With my morning coffee beside me I sift through my notes and see two T-shirt logos I’ve written down. On elderly man slowly walking his old dog had a shirt which said “In memory of a time when I cared.” The other comes from a music video. The drummer’s shirt said “Let’s get together and make some poor decisions.” Right then! With the day’s business meeting concluded, the bugs have broken out the antifreeze and are attacking in squadrons. Breakfast quickly, we be gone!
A few hours of meandering brings us to a vast concrete pad at the end of a logging road on the edge of Johnstone Strait.With our camp barely set up, a pair of humpback whales swam past, heading north. I am very familiar with these waters, having tug-boated and sailed up and down this strait for many decades. I’m looking across to the Stimpson Reef Light and remember all the dark nights either towing logs or smashing into nasty seas. That light was a tiny dot on the radar screen slowly making its way along the sweeping green scan line. Yes, I miss it.
Tonight we have an abandoned log sorting ground to ourselves. One could park up to thirty RVs here with respectable distancing but I’m content with things the way they are. Sadly, after all the frustrations of packing this little boat up here there is no place to launch it. The foreshore is a steep jumbled mass of boulders, logs and abandoned machinery. With the wind I think is coming, perhaps it’s a good thing. This strait is notorious for its quick and deadly seas. There’s an old WWII gunnery fortification a short way down the shoreline I’ve long wanted to visit. But it has languished without my personal visit for almost eighty years. Windy Point will be fine for a while yet.
The marine forecast is for wind and rain which is fine… no bugs! Having worked in the great northern bug country these ones here are amateurs in comparison but still, who needs them. They’re here for a reason, but none of those reasons are mine! The cyber voice droning out the marine forecast offers admonishments about dealing with “Covid One Nine” and assisting the RCMP in their efforts to prevent the spread of the virus. Isn’t a boat an ultimate isolation unit already? Who are the people that think this stuff up?
I sit by my fire, wishing I’d brought a winter coat along. Then I think of this same spot at the same hour in mid-January. It would have been dark by three pm and the snow or sleet would be blowing horizontally. I crawl into my little trailer where Jack has already been warming the bed. A rain shower drums on the lid and we both drift into a deep sleep, cuddled like the old pals we are.
Morning dawns still bug-free thanks to the damp breeze blowing along the strait. There’s low cloud and I’m wearing all my jackets. My little generator drones on, charging the batteries on all my cameras and gadgets. I marvel at how dependant I’ve become on all of this stuff, stuff, stuff. There’s no point in reviewing the minimalism I’ve known and practised, obviously I’ve evolved beyond that, or perhaps “been seduced” is a better term. I can actually shut the generator off from my bed, simply by pushing an icon on my cell phone! Hopefully the breakfast drone will be making a delivery shortly, I pushed that button twenty minutes ago! I do know that trying to work this computer without my mouse is a challenge, downloading images is a right horror, there’s no hope of editing them.
The day passed idyllically. Jack is not up to much hiking anymore so after a couple of kilometres, and several mounds of fresh bear droppings, we prudently decided to lounge beneath the home tent. I watch the ever-changing tidal currents shift and bend and swirl, an eternal fascination. The amount of traffic on the strait amazes me. There is seldom much time with no boats in sight and others when there may be half a dozen to see all at once. I have made a conservative estimate of about one hundred fifty commercial vessels as well as several yachts. Due to Covid one nine there are no cruise ships or tour boats this year. There are a lot of fishing boats heading north right now, there must be some openings in Alaska coming up.
Even though I’m not on the water at the moment, I feel like I’m home. As I write, on the opposite shore, a tug with a log tow rides the flood tide southward, hoping no doubt to make it into Sunderland Channel before the tide in the strait turns against its progress. With skill and luck, it will be in position to catch the first of the next flood into the Wellbore Rapids. Eighteen miles in twelve hours hours, it doesn’t sound like much, but when towing log booms, that distance can seem like an odyssey. A few miles south of here, where you turn out of the strait is a place called Fanny Islet. It is a check point where marine traffic control is advised of commercial vessel’s progress. One dark nasty night I was aboard the ‘Kaymar’ with one-hundred-twenty sections of log bundles, an entire forest packaged into a raft about the size of a hay field. We had our entire towline out, if we slowed from our speed of one knot, that line could snag on the bottom. Then the radio call came. “Mayday, Mayday, oh fuck we’re sinking!” We were the only other vessel anywhere near and are bound in all ways to assist. It was a long and interesting winter night. We missed our tide at the Wellbores.
A line tug bound for Alaska passed a while ago. They are huge tugs, powered with massive EMD diesels, the same as used in rail locomotives and their resonant throb pulses in the gathering darkness long after they have passed from view. It is a reassuring and somehow lonely sound all at once. The barges these boats pull are the lifeline of Alaska. They are huge and travel between the various ports of Alaska and their southern terminus in Seattle. In some of this coast’s thick fogs, although you have them plotted precisely on radar, these massive scows loom out of the gloom looking like half a city. Even though Johnstone Strait is an average of two miles wide, it seem like a ditch when meeting in poor visibility. Of course, you seldom meet in the widest places.
The next day is blustery and dark with frequent rain squalls. I’m wondering what to do with this day. It’s too miserable to sit under the marquis tent and Jack is restless. Then unbelievably the phone rings despite the weak and intermittent cell service. It is the doctor’s office, they want me to come in for an appointment, more test results. Remember the bladder thing? Unfortunately there was no breakfast from the sky and I know there will be no prescription delivery drone. Here I am now, back at my desk in Ladysmith. The weather is forecast to soon improve. Yep, we’ll gone again.
“ We don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” Native American proverb
I’ve just finished reading a novel titled ‘Sweetness In The Belly’ by Camilla Gibb. It is not a macho swashbuckling story but rather a tale of far greater courage. Told from the perspective of a Western woman who has embraced Islam, she finds herself living in 1970’s Ethiopia at the time of the overthrow of the dictator Haile Selassie. Forced to flee by fundamentalists the protagonist ends up living with other dispossessed Muslim women in the miseries of London. It hasn’t been an easy read for me but I’ve grasped a concept about why so many people live within the regimen and rigours of the Islamic faith or other religions. When your life is shit, it is much easier to endure simply by following the rules, trying to convince yourself that God’s alleged laws will bring you to great rewards if you submit to what someone else declares as divine.
I see a parallel in that thinking to our present pandemic but let me first hasten to add that our strictures do not begin to compare to a lifetime of misery, poverty, and subjection simply for being born a woman in a third world Muslim culture. Being a man is tough enough but being a woman seems utter hell. I’ll probably receive a comment from out there saying something like, “Well asshole, try being a woman in ANY culture!” I’ll admit to being happy enough as a man but I also have some counter remarks which would start something I probably can’t finish.
Anyway I often marvel at how easily folks allow themselves to conform to the regimen of Covid restrictions and the ask-no-questions servitude we so readily embrace. Blind trust leads the masses. It won’t work of course if everyone is banging around in different directions but I see things which leave me going hmmm! In the doctor’s clinic yesterday everyone had to wear a mask. I found out after my visit that I was wearing mine wrong, but no-one had said anything. The scowling receptionist behind her partial plastic who corrected me wasn’t wearing one at all! The doctor ran out to find a baby scale and returned to his little office clearly without disinfecting it. So it goes. I’ll confess to a twenty minute highway drive for my appointment, risky business far more dangerous than someone else’s germs.
We do need to accept a common dogma to survive but we don’t need to drink disinfectant or keep any automatic firearm handy. That mantra can be expressed in a single word “Respect,” first for ourselves, then for all of our fellows. As recent events in Minneapolis prove once again, it is not the weapon, but rather the man who kills. It would be a good thing to take away some of our weapons, but it won’t change the nature of we beasts. Rocks, sticks, fists, and knees work quite well, but guns do make it easier. But we just can’t blame a fork for making us fat. After my crack last blog about the cystoscopy booth at the amusement park, Twitter’s recent headline was about the re-opening of Florida amusement parks. Perhaps kids will be handed helium balloons that look like those knobby Covid virus balls. Gary Larson, where are you?
It is time for me to vanish again. Jack is waiting by the door. Here’s a link to my latest video, completed just this morning and now posted on You Tube. We are on our way shortly for another jaunt in the backwoods.
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’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.
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?
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.
“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”– Thomas A. Edison
Camp Runamuck has finally gone mobile. I’m starting this blog using the tailgate of my truck as a desk, Jack is laying in his bed on the roadway snoring peacefully. The highway to Tofino is closed for construction for the next three hours. It is an amazing project, overdue by forty years. It involves carving half a granite mountain away and will take several months more. We spent a first night ever cuddled in the Social Isolation Unit and we’re still both on speaking terms. I’m quite proud of myself, the trailer is a sound idea. The crystal water of Taylor River sang by our campsite and now we’re off to points beyond. We’re delayed only a few kilometres from where I want to turn off. There are no glitches other than things forgotten. Usually I pack along enough for a trip around the world but this time we’re missing a crescent wrench (For the propane fitting), forks, (fingers and sharp sticks work just fine) spare batteries for the interior lights in the trailer and now the battery has just died in the computer mouse. Minor details, it’s all part of the romance Billy! But I sure wish I knew where my last marble is.
When we left our campsite this morning my plan was to travel back-roads where I’d never gone before and find a place on the ocean shore of Toquart Bay on Barkley Sound. This is on the wild, rugged West coast of the island. It opens onto the open Pacific. Looking out on that curved horizon brings me an inner peace only another ocean addict can understand. No such luck today! All access to the shoreline, everywhere, was gated or very deliberately blocked. The trees frequently bore a freshly posted sign declaring that the forest here was managed by this or that first nations group and their world was closed to all outsiders due to “Emergency Measures.” All campgrounds, both private and public, are slam-shut. I travelled a horribly potholed logging road toward the famous little coastal community of Ucluelet. It was beyond anything Mexican.
So far as I know no-one has ever caught, or given, a contagious virus to a tree or flower. Why are so few people being so incredibly anal to the rest of the world? The air in my lungs was some of the cleanest on the planet, it has just travelled across several thousand miles of open North Pacific Ocean. How can people be so hysterically stupid? It’s been years since I was last in Ucluelet and I was shocked to see how cosmopolitan this once-quaint fishing village has become. I’ve heard raves about what a wonderful place it is now. The reek of money may be in the air, but it’s not for me. Perhaps that’s the present resistance to visitors, there’s still some old guard who remember the way it used to be. And the pandemic come from out there.
We made our pilgrimage to the light station at Amphritrite Point just to take a photo and prove we were there. The quest for a place to stuff the SIU proved fruitless. My hope of spending a little time with mother ocean has been dashed for now. Then we caught the return construction gauntlet with only a few minutes delay. Tonight we are on the edge of a large inland lake, known as Sproat. I took one last chance and crept down a very long-since-maintained logging road thinking we’d have a quiet place all to ourselves. As it turns out there is a small community of squatter RVs here, but there was one perfect wee spot left and I backed in. We’re exhausted.
We’ll be in the bunk in a few more minutes. Jack is as shattered-weary as I am. One neighbour has put their squalling children to bed so I’ve taken the cue. The other neighbour arrived back from fishing, and has started a clattering generator. Above that din, he is playing some very strange and loud music. Six am is coming. Haar! Did He doesn’t know about my new electric bagpipes? I’m going to fire up my generator and squawk through my first lesson. I’ll try playing ‘Castrating The Ram.’
A tranquil morning dawns over the lake. The low fog burned away rapidly. There is a roar from the waterfalls half-way up the mountain across the lake. The only angst is a pair of Stellar Jays taking turns raiding Jack’s food bowel. They’re brilliant! He is in full repose, watching them through the corner of his eye. As it turned out, we spent most of the day napping. Jack seems disgruntled but I don’t even have the enthusiasm to launch our little boat. For once, I’m not going to feel guilty about anything. The day wore by, Jack visited with other dogs and I rested. As evening approached a convoy of trailers arrived and squeezed themselves in anywhere possible. WE HEAH! Screeching children, sneaky dogs, loud rock music, country music all at once and forced laughter from the adults who are trying to convince themselves they’re having fun by yelping like excited burros. It sounds like a travelling carnival. Everyone seems determined to make relaxing into hard work. I know I am an outsider who has invaded the local folk’s secret spot and that everyone is trying to blow off some of that Covid stress. It IS The Victoria long weekend. We’ll move on in the morning.
I realize that I have a bladder infection. It mast have contracted during a visit to my urologist a few days ago. I have to go for a regular inspection and the nurse administering the camera was a tad brutal. I recall asking her to loosen her stranglehold on the little feller. I’ll spare you “too much information” and simply say that “peeing through razor blades” is not just an expression. Whoee! We’ll be back on the road just as soon as possible.
“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” –Alice Walker