Non- Offensive Politically Correct Summer

After the weekend. We had some stout breezes this past weekend. And so it goes.
Ditch Apples. Right beneath the tree. Perhaps this is how bobbing for apples began!
In the morning the monster slowly retracted its tentacles. After an annual uprising in the dark of the Halloween new moon it fed and then retreated back underground. All that remained was a pair of shoes, some eyeglasses and an empty dog leash.
Jack’s sentiments for the season. Damned fireworks! Hope the kids don’t come back to play in their pile of leaves.

We are currently enjoying our “Indian Summer.” Perhaps that term is now politically incorrect, but then what the hell isn’t? With no ethnic slurs intended, it is the only term I know for the spell of fine weather that comes in autumn after a significant frost or two. The weather is gorgeous. I was in Victoria on Sunday and the streets were thronged with folks who seemed out and about simply enjoying the solar celebration. In the face of the West Coast winter’s darkness and chill wet ahead it is almost a biological need to savour sunlight and cloudless sky. Despite all of our modern distractions, we still possess a primal, pagan instinct for the star which gives this planet its life.

In Victoria I attended a splendid gathering held in honour of two dear friends just returned from nine years of voyaging on their sailboat. After sailing the Pacific, the Indian Ocean, the South Atlantic, the Caribbean and then the Eastern Seaboard They finally sold their beloved cutter ‘Sage’ in Nova Scotia and drove back to Victoria, camping along the way. They previously spent seven years in the South Pacific on a much smaller boat. After sixteen years of cruising and living “tiny” they’re still together and looking forward, I’m sure, to new adventures. They have been a great inspiration to me and many others. Their blog is ‘Sage On Sail.’

After the visit I strolled part of old-town Victoria and took photos of different spectrums of living. Times, for many, are tough and getting tougher. Affordable housing is a challenge requiring ingenuity and the artful business, for some, to stay ahead of the “Man” who is bent on punishing non-conformists. I’ve lived on boats for many years and can easily rant ‘ad nauseum.’ Even when ones tries to be discreet and fly below the radar, there is always someone looking to jam a stick into your spokes. It is odd how in our culture where the individual is glorified, the non-conformist is punished. End pre-rant!

Emily Carr House. It is typical of the houses in the ‘hood. Most are lovingly maintained despite their century plus age.
Old town.
“Don’t laugh, she’s almost paid off!” Warm and dry on a winter night…and who’d want to break in?
Home is where the pumpkin is. A herb garden absorbs some sun on the roof and there’s even a bit of never-mow  mobile lawn. ‘Wipe ‘yer feet!”

A recent BBC television documentary hosted by Neil Oliver was simply titled ‘Vikings.’ In what I saw of it ,he divided those much-love nautical thugs into three groups, the Norwegians, The Swedish and the Danes.

The Danish Vikings, basing themselves in Ireland, conquered most of England. It is entirely possible that my fair hair and blue eyes are from long-ago-bestowed Nordic DNA among my ancestors. I don’t mind that idea at all. Apparently the Swedish Vikings travelled across the Baltic and down the rivers of Europe, plundering their way as far as Constantinople where some became revered as the fierce martial masters they were. Some were even recruited as personal bodyguards of the Sultan. In the grand Blue Mosque of today’s Istanbul, where the Sultan once attended, and his bodyguards would have stood watch, ancient Nordic letters are carved into a solid marble banister saying something like “Olaf was here.” What an amazing tangible connection to history!

An old friend. ‘Seeker Of Truth’ was found by a friend languishing in a Vancouver Island barn. He restored and renamed it and eventually put her up for sale. I was sorely tempted. She was built in Norway in the early 1900’s and is a lovely example of a well built and maintained wooden boat. Carved on a bulkhead below in Norwegian is the legend which translates: “A man without a boat is a prisoner.” You can clearly see her Viking lineage.
What ‘Seeker’ should have for a dinghy.
‘Duen’
A much-loved Scandinavian ketch still working the BC Coast doing charter work. She’s the real thing, complete with a varnished hull.

An old Gary Larson cartoon depicts a long table. Around it sits a group of Vikings. At the head stand two more. The chairman is saying, “Now that the business portion of the meeting is out of the way, Lars would like to talk about his new idea for hats.” Lars is holding a fabled (and fictitious) horned helmet. All of the Vikings are wearing a duck on their heads. “Ya vell Olly, now dats fonny!”

Friends recently visited Scandinavia and sent back fantastic photos from Viking museums and others dedicated to Thor Heyerdahl and to the Arctic explorer Nansen and his rugged ship the ‘Fram’. I have long ached to get to the Baltic region and see some of these amazing examples of iconic marine history. There is a flair to old Baltic vessels which is instantly recognizable. The lines of those Viking boats are the most amazing of all. Sensual, flexible, rugged and incredibly seaworthy, those boats underscore how much we humans have lost as we think we advance with technology. Perhaps those old boats are a pinnacle of human technical achievement, an ultimate blend of art and function. I doubt that with all our electronic wizardry and tools, that we can match the intuitive high skill evidenced in these amazing icons of nautical achievement. And… not a drop of oil or one electron was employed in the whole process from harvesting living trees for material to landfalls on far distant shores, and then coming all the long, long way home again. Heil og sael. Takk!

photo courtesy of Donna Poirier.                                                   This is a model behind glass. I suspect the real boats were too hard to frame in a single photo within the confines of the museum. If the lines of this boat don’t stir something in your heart…you’re dead.

This past weekend our ferry service was down for more than a day due to high winds and seas. I doubt that would have held those ‘Old School’ Vikings back. If you look at the new hi-tech sailing boat hulls which begin to plane like a powerboat after reaching specific speeds, then carefully study those old Nordic hulls, you’ll see some amazing similarities. Truly! Are we progressing or regressing?

Another back street Ladysmith landmark. Los Agave Baha? Ain’t no such place and …if it were a real Mexican fire truck, it would still be in service. It’s only sixty-some years old.
It’s like some old Beatle Song. “Past the firetruck and up the hill, through the gate and beyond the herb garden… No one has been home for many a year.”
Autumn Brook
Here lies Rex, he went to fetch and never came back.
Ready for winter. The tarp still ain’t leakin’, good ‘nuf.
No more hang ups. More energy-free technology abandoned to the “Think Greens.”
Mellow Yellow.
Frost melting in the morning sun.

 

Never stop because you are afraid – you are never so likely to be wrong.”

…Fridtjof Nansen

Ho Hum Just Another Autumn Day

The pee-mail inspector. It’s especially intriguing for Jack in a sea of freshly-fallen leaves. There are hidden aromas to savour and reply to.

We’re back from our morning walk. There was rain and a blustery wind last night. This morning a thick carpet of leaves are on the path. Jack loves snuffling through those freshly fallen maple leaves. There are all sorts of new scents, including those from other dogs so he usually needs a huge drink once we’re home again. We progress toward Halloween, the next commercial event before Christmas madness begins. At least most of the election signs are gone now as we settle in for another four years of tedious politics and the occasional episode of more silly pajamas. Instead of face-black, maybe our re-elected PM will show up at the next party wearing a Trump mask. That’s almost funny. Politically correct?…… Well ! Of there is always a Putin or Boris mask. Boo!

Gulldawnit!
Between the rainy days there are some spectacular ones like this.

In my last blog there was a link to my latest little video. For those of you who bothered to look at the effort, you saw a compilation of originally unrelated clips edited together into a vague continuity of theme. In the first clip with the loud sound track of flocking geese, did you hear the little dog yelping in the background? In the clip with the grand motor yacht, did you notice the exotic ensign being flown on the back of the vessel? It was, I believe, the flag of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Interesting that a vessel from a tropical homeport is northbound on the BC Coast in October. Perhaps, it is now nested on the deck of a Dock-Wise yacht carrier heading back to warmer latitudes. In that same clip, there was another yacht. Did you see the mast southbound passing the tree tops of the foreshore? Here is the link again to ‘Just Another Day’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jQtJ2j-74A&t=6s

My narrative briefly notes the sound of passing aircraft. There were, actually, five clips with the sound of airplanes. When I reviewed those clips as I had first put them together, I believed that all that aviation noise made the film impossible. I digressed to writing a short narrative that matched the time line and suddenly it occurred to me that with a simple mention of the audio pollution I could use it to underscore the theme about awareness. That’s my story, I’m sticking to it. Some folks really liked the effort, and there are plenty who don’t give a toss, just as I expected. I learned a long time ago that if a creative effort is first intended to please others, it will fail in all regards. One must pursue any art form to please yourself. Do it simply for the joy of the process. Once that sincerity shines through, others are touched in some way.

I have learned clearly that images are only a part of a video’s value. That is why there used to be live music in cinemas to accompany the old silent movies. A carefully scripted narrative, sound levels, a tweak of sound effects, all blend to make moving images successful. A simple and properly timed bit of background can make or break the whole video. It is an expansive art, there is no end to the learning and as a self-teaching rookie I am boggled by all that is involved. I have a long way to go before messing with special effects. I have a new appreciation of all that must be involved in making a full length feature film. For me, good, clear simple perspectives will continue to be my indulgence. I still labour to take good, stable, clear footage and have developed a huge appreciation of wildlife videographers. They sometimes take years to eventually capture a few seconds of good video.

The golden harbour…again.
Leash free
released in the dog park
…you know the tune!
Two crows in the wind
Mile 58, from Victoria. I have a fantasy about upgrading our old rail line to an electric passenger service between Victoria and Campbell River here on Vancouver Island. The population and the traffic are here to justify that foresight. The rail grades are there. Despite this island being a haven for the ‘Green Party,’ talking green and actually acting green are two very different things. There is no political will for anything beyond the next election.
C’mon guys, take a hint eh!
Treat…now, OK?

In my last blog I posted a photo of my dad’s old brass-riveted suitcase. It contains treasures, things like his dip-penned birth certificate and original English driver’s license. There are sacks of photo negatives and tiny old black and white prints, often of people and places I know nothing of. There are pre-war photos of my grandfather’s farm near Coventry, photos of my parents when I was merely a gleam in their eyes and then a procession of little ‘Freddie’ photos and my early environs. I was delighted to discover the postcard I’ve included in this blog. It confirms an early memory about the era when my family moved off the farm and into town.

The leaves and the cumulus clouds tell me this was taken on a fine late summer day.

At the end of each summer this vessel would appear as depicted and discharge a full cargo of coal into the creekside coal yard. We moved to Oakville in 1957 and this image matches my memories of that time. The little freighter, to me, appeared to be a monstrous black apparition. Steam trains were still in use then and the locomotives also appeared incredible, belching steam and smoke and the wheels, then, seemed at least thirty feet high. Coal was still a prime fossil fuel for heating buildings and homes and this vessel’s appearance was an early sign of winter’s approach. If you look carefully you can see a wisp of smoke coming from her stack. It makes sense that she be steam-powered and coal-fired. I can remember the coal man delivering coal in hundred-pound burlap sacks, emptying then into coal chutes, often right on the sidewalks of main street. Buckets of coal ash, called “clinkers” would be spread on icy sidewalks and paths. I marvel at how the little ship was squeezed into that tiny harbour and backed out again. The old wooden lighthouse at the end of the pier still exists. It eventually became a landmark for the yacht club which is now across the creek on the port side of the coal boat.

At that time I spent many and hours beside the lighthouse lurking about out on the end of that pier. Life was reduced to some very simple elements there and I loved it. I can close my eyes and still smell the funky reek of Lake Ontario. Much has changed but I believe the building behind the vessel is still functioning as the local tennis club. The last I saw of the old coal yard, it was a parking lot for the high-end restaurant built inside the old stone-walled flour mill just up the hill. The soil in that area was red clay. There were several brickyards nearby. When it rained, the Sixteen Mile Creek would become a thick russet plume that bled far out into the lake. Eventually it blended with all the industrial muck that many folks claimed was preventing the Lake from freezing in winter, in earlier times allegedly as much a mile from shore. By the time I was in high school the was a paranoia about an impending ice age. It never ends folks!

This image also marks the beginning of my fascination with boats of all sorts and of going to sea. Anyone who sneers at “lake sailors” has not been on the Great Lakes. They are vast, often with the far shore hidden over the horizon. Every mariner believes they have sailed in horrific storms but the Great Lakes are an equivalent of any other large body of water for nasty weather. The seas are massive even with no tides for the monstrous waves to build against. Storms often rise quickly and viciously, often proving to be very deadly. The legend of the ‘Edmond Fitzgerald’ is only one of hundreds of similar disasters.

I also marvel at the quality of the photo on this postcard which measures about 4” x 3”. People actually posted these to each other with short messages written on the back for everyone else to read along the way. I believe postage was one or two cents. How long has it been since we gave up our pennies? The hand-retouching on this image is clearly visible and the general quality is very low. Yet, it was what we had. The card itself was produced by the Photogelatine Engraving Company Limited, Ottawa. And imagine then, if folks had been told that the Kodak Company would eventually go bankrupt, displaced by something call digital imagery? Imagine trying to explain how I have reproduced this image, and all the others in this blog, with my mobile telephone, something not much bigger than a deck of playing cards. Imagine trying to explain internet, wifi, or what a blog is! How about a President who runs his country with Tweets! I must confess that these considerations leave me feeling as old as a lump of coal.

Wot? Now that’s a lawn ornament! Just beside the plaster bunny and duck. Jack and I are walking a lot more lately. We see all sorts of interesting things. This is a whaler’s cannon, once mounted on the front of a vessel where the harpooner would fire a nasty steel harpoon into the back of a whale. Cruel, and unnecessary, despite modern enlightenments the savage trade is still plied in places.
October Rose. There’s nothing like a late bloomer.
Lot’s of folks I have known are described as being “Old School.” Is this the place?
This old Duncan school building is in great shape… and still in use. Can you smell the chalk and the aroma of all those books?
…So I asked the truck driver, “Who eats all that penguin meat?”
Blank look!

In the process of aging comes the moment when you must concede to yourself that memory is not indelible. In the repeated remembering of specific memories things slowly become skewed and faded. It is much like the classic telephone game where someone will provide a simple statement which is whispered to the next person and then the next until it has gone all the way around the room. The final person offers up their version of what they say they were given. That message is often totally unrelated to the original statement. What one recalls as absolute truth is sometimes revealed as a very different reality. That can be very sobering. I find myself wondering what is fantasy and what actually happened. I can vaguely recall a milkman and his horse when I was barely old enough to walk, yet what I had for lunch requires some contemplation. I envy those who simply declare that they can’t remember and leave it at that.

Autumn Abstract.
We know what’s coming so we may as well enjoy what we’ve got while we can.
The old lump hisself. Ladysmith was built on coal and the mines of Robert Dunsmuir, the Scottish coal baron. The broken sandstone spindle is from a hotel balcony in Saint Andrews Scotland. I managed to sneak it home in my baggage without security shipping me off to Guantamano Bay… Although I’ve always want to visit Cuba!

A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory”… Steven Wright

Town Day

To warm a sailor’s heart. No matter how big and grand a vessel may be, the boat that has universal appeal is the small and pretty rowing boat. This is a lapstrake, or clinker-built boat where a perfect fit and excellent workmanship is what keeps the leaks under control. It is for sale. I had a passing fantasy of having money enough and a house big enough to buy this one and hang it from the ceiling. A sight to cheer on any day. Form and function blend to make ultimate art.
Autumn morning dew. It does not cost a thing to open one’s eyes and look.
Loaded. Apples and rose hips. Food for winter and seeds for spring.
Backlight
Autumn meadow. Soon the leaves will be gone.

I was sanding a piece of plywood purchased at Home Depot as work continues on my little trailer. I am no fan of any big chain store but these guys will cut up wood to my exact specifications and so there I go. They also sell lumber stored inside, out of the rain and sun, at least for a few days. Impressed with the superior quality of this particular product, I noted the clear grain and the lack of voids between laminations. Then I noticed the stamp, “Made in Chile.” WOT! I bought this in British Columbia? I’ve previously found the ‘home despot’ selling 2x4s cut from loblolly pine from Louisiana and marked “Product of NAFTA.” How do you harvest, mill, ship and sell lumber at a profit from the diagonally opposite corner of the continent…into the global forest products capital of BC? And the US president rants about the inequities of NAFTA. I agree!

A view from my town in the morning looking southeast into the Gulf Islands.

The media constantly runs stories about the dire state of BC’s forest industry. I frequently write about the chicken farmer who goes to town to buy his eggs. I repeatedly use my example of a local sawmill shut down allegedly due to a shortage of timber supplies. Several ships a week come to that former mill’s dock to load raw logs for export across the Pacific! That has been going on for years at several locations along our coast. And, I’m buying wood products from far across the same ocean! Is my plywood made from a BC log milled in Chile? Think of all the fossil fuels burned to ship products back and forth around the planet. Green? Meanwhile our young Norwegian school girl environmental messiah is in Alberta to suss out our environmental evils. Is she still travelling about in Arnold Scharzenegger’s electric car? Scotty? Helloo Scotty? Beam me up. Please!

Backyard treasure. Our morning walk turns up a traditional  wooden mizzen mast languishing in a backyard. It is not the best way to store such a work of art. To make a mast like this, symmetrically perfect, takes great skill and is almost a lost art. Laying unsupported horizontally is not good for it. Note the woodshed roof built around a fir tree.
The corner lot. Modest by today’s standards, this was once an ultimate home. It is still lovely and clearly much-cared for. Ladysmith has plenty of very nice older homes.
A banana tree, a tattered flag, a crumbling block wall, a ubiquitous plastic chair all shout Mexico to me. But, it’s in Ladysmith.

Clearly, this old sailor knows nothing about economics but there is something very wrong here. I’ve found bottled water from Texas in local stores, meat and produce come from the other side of the planet and this British Columbian, living in a wine-producing valley, often finds the best quality and value in imported wine…often from Chile. Apparently Chile often uses the same poor environmental practices which we have proven wrong and unsustainable, from fish farming to forestry. Questions anyone?

Lilac leaves in autumn, dead lovely. Note the buds all ready for spring.

On a more positive note, I went to the advanced poll to vote in the Federal Election. The lines ran out the door and still people came waiting for nearly an hour to mark their X. It was encouraging to see such a turnout. Hopefully, for once, the election will not be decided by all those who are too comfortable to get off their butts and vote. It would be grand if someone else’s apathy was not running everyone else’s lives.

Morning calm by a small bridge.
Another bridge. Trout often rest in the clear pool beneath.
Oak calm
Aw leaf me alone. Let me be a dog. It smells different in the rain.

It is Thanksgiving Monday in Canada. Our roads and ferries will be clogged with folks rushing home after their “holiday.” We have one day left of clear skies before a forecast of several rainy days is due. I’ve declared this to be a BNG day. (Burn no Gas) Just back from our morning walk, Jack and I took a tour of a few suburban blocks and along part of an extensive creek-side trail network. We met lovely dogs and their lovely owners and exchanged greetings on this calm, warm sunny day. It is a lovely wee town and I take pleasure in seeing well-kept, older smaller homes. They are not pretentious but express a quiet dignity and contentment without any need to impress anyone. And that impresses me. Sadly, there is a cancer of neo-suburbia encroaching all around the town but it is easy enough to stay on this side of the creek where clear, cold, safe to drink for the stream water still runs. Today is the only one I have and I intend to enjoy it. It is Thanksgiving and I did not wake up elsewhere. Good enough!

The edge of old town, high above Holland Creek in the bottom of the steep ravine below. A five minute walk from home, I can then stay in the forest all the way across Vancouver Island to the open Pacific shoreline.  There are only one or two gravel roads to cross.

Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich by promising to protect each from the other.
~Oscar Am ringer, “the Mark Twain of American Socialism.

Slippery Slopes

The last resort. A view of Dogpatch in autumnal splendour. The heavy chair begs a question or two.

We slide down the slippery slope called autumn. Our first frost of this fall glitters on the roofs this morning as the reluctant sun rises under a clear cold sky. There’s no turning back so we may as well ride it out and get on with it. If we gain enough momentum, perhaps we’ll zoom across the valley called winter and find ourselves well on the way to spring before we know it. Yeah right! It was only a month ago that I slept out on a dock. Now here we are digging in the closet for winter coats.

Things that go bump in the night. Now it is safely stranded at the high tide line. Imagine confronting this iron-studded monster in the dark. The black stuff is coal dust.

Like springtime, if you don’t like the weather, wait a few minutes and it will change. There are periods of lovely sunlight, then bursts of cold rain. Within the advance to winter we are having the cold approach of a federal election later this month. The wearisome political signs are everywhere. Posters line our streets and highways, dot lawns and store fronts much to vandal’s delight. A televised “debate” earlier this week between the federal leadership hopefuls left me squirming in disdain as everyone tried to outshout and insult each other. Other inane election stories on television leave me inclined toward indignant rage. A friend and I recalled how as kids, for Halloween costumes we would black our faces with burnt cork. No one considered it a racial innuendo. That candidates would use twenty-year old photos of a young man at a costume party to try and slander another is pathetic. It is childish and self-demeaning; I know who has persuaded me away from voting for them.

Rare election humour
Wearing only bones in their noses, they danced naked around the crackling flames as Pluto rose and aligned itself with the orifice in the shrine.
…Or something like that.
There are jokes about the Ugga Bugga tribe.

Beyond our Canadian borders, US politics also amuse and confuse me; England too. With all the politicians stumbling about peeing in each other’s cornflakes, how the hell do they ever get around to actually doing the job their constituents hired them to do? If you are old enough to know what a gong show is…well! The bong of the gong goes on. There are no alternatives. Party politics, in the end, are ridiculous, no matter whom you decide to support. At least, in our system, we are still free to leave, any time, anywhere. Real estate is very affordable in Syria, or Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Bangladesh, just to name a few. No need to name this dude, but how to you sit idly by when anyone tweets that they “have a great and unmatched wisdom?” (No, that is not taken out of context) It seems to be a neo edition of the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes.’ Seriously! And apparently, they are all as goofy.

Now here’s a green memorial. Old industrial junk as been cleverly adapted and piece of beach is cleaner.

A neighbour who has held a major bucket-list item of seeing Africa finally dreamed and schemed herself onto her trip of a lifetime. Several countries were on her two-month itinerary and on her arrival in South Africa, she sent a photo of herself paragliding. I joked that was a slow way to fly the length of such a big continent. Nearly a month into her adventure her ankle exploded during a white water rafting adventure in Zambia. She never got to see Victoria Falls. The hospital there was so basic that the doctors had to hold her x-rays up to the sun to read them. Struth! It took a few days to get to Johannesburg where that hospital would not accept her medical insurance. Miraculously she found a flight home via Hong Kong and made it through that airport without any political demonstrations. I cannot imagine the misery of her travels.

Finally, in Vancouver, after a jaunt around the world, the hospital there turned her away and directed her back to Vancouver Island. By the time she arrived in Nanaimo her fragmented ankle had been injured for well over a week and so then the hospital here tried turning her away; no beds. Finally, in desperation, she persuaded them to look at her x-rays again and so she found a bed in a hall. The ankle was in such bad shape by then, they waited another six days and have finally operated and pieced the mess back together. I worry that she is able to keep her foot. And we thought we had troubles!

Fall blooms
Hunting season in the alley. Four different sets of fresh tracks.

Back from our morning walk Jack and I huddle by the gas fireplace. It was crisp and lovely with a light Westerly wind rising. Municipal workers were blowing the water out of the sprinkler system on the lawn of the town hall. It is indeed time to focus on things south. It occurred to me this morning that the local anchorage dubbed as Dogpatch was once regarded by myself, I’ll confess, with low regard. Folks living off the grid, for whatever reason often impose themselves on the tolerance and benevolence of others. They undermine their own dignity by doing that. Now I am on the beach, boatless. What a change in perspective! And in humility.

Now THESE are mushrooms, at least for a little while. Known as ‘Shaggy Manes’ or ‘Inky Blacks’ they have a delightful delicate flavour. But within hours, they bell out, their edges become inky black and they have become toxic.
Toadstools.
Love me, love my slug. Somebody had a nibble.
Ok, OK! Enough with the ‘shroom photos! I couldn’t resist this little guys nestled beneath the leaves. They were not even a quarter this size in reality.
La loo! In an effort to provide affordable public washrooms in the woods…actually the town had this venerable arbutus felled and cut up. Someone considered it a danger tree and wanted to “help” nature. It would probably have fallen over, in another two hundred years.
Remember this? My little utility trailer in transformer state 2 with metal sides removed and bunks installed to turn it into an inflatable boat trailer.
Now this, a dream in a box! That’s my home-made storage box mounted on the front. Didn’t that work out well? Now with a cover that hinges up on one end, insulation, a bed, some wiring, a fireplace, a hot tub…..
Good things come in small packages.

I cannot come up with resources, or even employment, to sustain myself. In an effort to stay positive and active I have put myself to work building an enclosure on my little trailer to haul camping amenities behind my truck on my next trip south. (Yes, I AM determined.) I have been thinking that an older, small camper for the back of the truck is all I need. Then I would have a four-wheel-drive RV of sorts. Now it has occurred to me that all I need is a safe, dry place to sleep comfortably. Why not turn the trailer into a small camping vehicle? One of the best trips ever was with a teardrop trailer. I can build this into a fold-up camper with standing headroom at one end. It already has a ramp which can double as a small porch, snake and scorpion-proof. I already have plenty of camping gear so why not do something big in something tiny? My cameras and laptop don’t know what sort of RV I’m based in and I’ve learned from experience with my little teardrop trailer that this is the way to meet some awesome people. Those that pick you out because of your humble rig are the ones to get to know. So there!

Downtown Duncan, “City Of Totems.” Late season tourists admire the native art. Note the rusted tin roof over a main block in town.; a left-over from more rustic times in Vancouver Island’s history.
Granny’s moved. Near Duncan, this is a favourite house to me. It looks like a movie set. I can hear the distant echoes of children’s laughter and even faintly smell cinnamon buns in the oven of a wood stove.
Garry Oak forest. Fortunately, in the face of cancerous housing development, this patch of original woodland has been preserved. It wraps around the old house.
The barn. An overview of part of the old Swallowfield Farm and Chemainus River Estuary where Jack and I love to wander. What a wonderful area to live! The bright bank of cumulus cloud in the distance marks the shoreline of mainland Canada.

I’ve just discovered something worth sharing if you happen to like genuine Mexican food. This Michoacán rural grandma has become a YouTube star with her very basic cooking show. No glitz, no make-up, just out in the rustic backyard with the chickens. You don’t need to speak Mexican to see how she does things. She has some very neat tricks.

Here is the link to one show, check it out. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WCni7y8i44 You may want to subscribe. The title of her series is “De Mi Rancho A Tu Cuchina” (From my farm to your kitchen) Mucho Gusto!

On October paths. The big stump above Jack tells a story about the original old-growth forest.
To the sea, alway back to the sea. Soon the rains will swell the course, the leaves will wash away and perhaps salmon will return to spawn.

Don’t surrender all your joy for an idea you used to have about yourself that isn’t true anymore.”
― Cheryl Strayed

How We Look At Things

How We Look At Things

The book said to be sure to anchor securely. This is scary to say the least. Perspectives! There… my obligatory nautical photos for this blog.
No padlocks for links on this ground tackle. The wear on this old CQR bespeaks some dark and stormy nights.

Shrooms and stools. That was going to be the title, intended to accompany these photos of wild autumn fungi. Then I realized that someone out there would find the words offensive or even vulgar. I am adamantly blue-collar and know my perspective is quite skewed by the standards of some other people. But if you’re trying to live your life without offending anyone, you don’t have a life. Sorry! It is those differences which help folks move to higher planes, if they want to. Perhaps my skin is chaffed a bit thin in the wake of an ongoing strata-home stand off. Apparently some dear souls are offended by the very sight of this lumbering old bush ape but I digress and have already said too much. It’s all in the way folks choose to look at things and if everyone wakes up content, who’s wrong? Some never will be. I guess that’s their bliss.

Grethe’s bloom. Remember this one in the last blog.
A week later.

There is an old urban joke about a fellow driving home who receives a call on his mobile phone from his wife. She anxiously tells him to be careful, the local radio station has just reported that some nut is driving against the traffic on the freeway. “One?” he exclaims, “They’re all going the wrong way.” Perspective. Uh huh. Anyway ‘shrooms and stools. Mushrooms and toadstools…right?

Yesterday
Today
Up in the morning
Done within a day
The subtleties of autumn. Toadstools do a great deal in recycling forest organics.

There is only one kind of wild mushroom I know I can eat safely. Many toxic fungi and edible ones look too much the same for my eye; some are only safe to eat at a certain stage of maturity. Sometimes it is tempting, I love mushrooms, but eating the wrong one can apparently be a horrible way to die. Other poisoned reactions merely leave you wishing you could check out. I photographed one puffball fungus that a bird or squirrel had been enjoying, but then some creatures can eat foods which are not for us. Think of what we eat. I did notice a crow flying some intriguing aerobatics. Magic shrooms?

A nice light snack.

There’s a storm coming, a prelude, says the forecaster, to a nice stretch of fair weather. Have you ever noticed that before some heavy weather, there is often a spate of odd behaviour? People drive and interact oddly. Wildlife can be especially careless, out feeding up before they have to hide and wait out the tempest. Their danger assessments shift from short term danger to long term. Most of the places where Jack and I walk have copious thickets of blackberries. All those brambles are a haven for rabbits. Rabbit populations are cyclic, sometimes there are few and the rodents are very furtive. In periods of massive over-population they become quite cavalier about their well-being. That’s a lot like people I think.

A young and careless beach bunny. It did not move until Jack got within eight feet. Unfortunately, mobile phones do not always make the best wildlife cameras.
Jack on patrol by a pile of coal. This is an area in Ladysmith which was a coal terminal where tall ships loaded for ports around the world.

Oddly, as I write about perspective and self-preservation, a Canadian investigative program, called the Fifth Estate is on television. It is running a story about gun ownership and the right to own assault-type weapons in Canada. An idiot holding an AR15, a direct copy of a military weapon, tells the camera that “this is not a weapon.” What? What! He claims it is merely for sport. I am livid. I have lived in rural environments much of my life. I once owned many firearms ,over two dozen at one time, including handguns. I had some strange arguments for my arsenal, but it was because they were weapons that I possessed them. All, firearms are weapons, intended and designed to kill. Indulge in target shooting all you want, a firearm is specifically built as a killing tool. Why any urbanite requires any firearm is a mystery to me.

I once vigorously worked to protest bill C68 which required the registration of all firearms in Canada. I quoted Lloyd Axworthy whose words in support of his bill were almost a verbatim quote of Adolph Hitler decades earlier. The Nazis, in pre-war Germany had imposed a gun control on its citizens for obvious reasons. I argued that a gun is no more responsible for killing someone than a fork is for making people fat. I have conjectured that a rock, a stick, a car, a pair of panty-hose, infected blankets, water, fire, alcohol, have all been weapons. (It was once explained to me that the difference between John Wayne and Jack Daniels is that Jack is still killing people.) I am fearful of a system which ultimately leaves firearms only in the hands of those who should least have them, both criminals and at times police, one and the same all too often.

I confess to still owning one firearm. I carry it into backwood environments as a survival tool. The rest of the time it is well-hidden, locked and well away from the ammunition. I argue with myself at times about even owning that one, with as many reasons pro and con. Having it does not make me feel more secure or manly.

We accept gun violence as part of our daily entertainment. Try to find a movie to watch without some shooting somewhere in its course. I watched the new film “The Goldfinch” a few days ago. It was well done, sensitive and emotional yet it did not finish without the ubiquitous gun fight. We are all part of the problem and in the pressures of our frantic modern culture, some of us lash back. Some use a firearm. It is horrible and a symptom of a far deeper issue. I don’t have an answer. We have been working out how to kill each other long, long before gun powder was invented. I can think of no smarmy clichés to spark a new sensibility. In fact I don’t even know how a blog, which started about mushrooms and rabbits, becomes a rant about human nature.

This guy, about an inch long, was hopping about in one-foot bounds…backwards! He began his next leap just as the camera clicked. A poor image of a beautiful creature.
Slugging it out, another one of God’s creatures, lowly but serving mysterious purposes.

Perhaps, my comments about the ebb and flood of populations sums it all up. If we can’t figure out how to live together in harmony how can we be so arrogant as to assume we can save the planet. Don’t worry; the host will rid itself of the parasite, let’s look into ourselves and the planet will become a fine place to live again. It is not about what someone else is supposed to do. Yes, it is time the next generation assume an aggressive role in forcing our race to stop being such irresponsible guests on this planet but, sorry young Greta Thunberg, you’ve missed your mark with me.

First things first. Global warming is part of a cycle billions of years old and we are certainly messing with that rhythm but we are not the sole cause. The rhythms of the universe are far bigger than we can comprehend. We do need urgently to clean up our act but stop the bullshit. I admire and agree with much of this young lady’s carefully scripted words and acting but for Godsake! The sixty foot carbon fibre sailboat she rode in for attention is a product of extreme toxic processes which my research says produced up to 140 tonnes of environment nastiness resulting in the highest CO2 emission “Zero Emission” sailboat to ever cross the Atlantic.

Now think of this showboating. There are many flights daily from Scandinavia to New York daily. They will all have at least a few empty seats. Greta could have taken one without costing the planet one extra carbon molecule. Airlines would probably have provided a free ticket in exchange for a little press. The boat trip will require at least four flight seats for crew to go to the US to bring the boat home. Please, don’t believe me, look it up for yourself. Once again, the message is about what someone else is doing wrong. When you can explain what sort of industry caused the warming which put sea shells on mountain tops, you’ll have both my ears. Meanwhile, I refuse to participate in the profit of paranoia. If that makes me unpopular… OK. I choose to think for myself.

THIS is an environmentally friendly boat. Built in Norway in 1905, she’s still out there travelling the oceans of the world. There are no petroleum-based materials in her.

As everyone knows, Canada is in the midst of a federal election campaign. It is a referendum about our political future, including our present figurehead, Mr. Dress-up. Poor guy, no matter how hard he tries to be politically correct, he just screws it up a little more. He just can’t seem to help himself.

This came on Facebook from a friend.

To all candidates and all parties…

Negative campaign ads WILL cost you my vote.

Tell me in a positive way what you can do for our country, and I will listen.

Otherwise, we are finished.

I urge ALL Canadians to take a stand on this! Smear campaigns are NOT the Canadian way.

Right on! There is hope.

Tis the season.

Here is this blog’s closing quote. Again it is something sent by a friend and I include a quote which is the summation of the lovely story about an old lady’s benevolence. She says:

It’s important to be kind. You can’t know all the times you’ve hurt people in tiny, significant ways. It’s easy to be cruel without meaning to be. There’s nothing you can do about that. But you can choose to be kind. Be kind.”

Yet Again

Near-full, the November moon rises over Ladysmith Harbour. Serenity for the moment.

Black Friday is past, now it is Black Sunday and then Cyber Monday. Folks with bellies full of turkey are out there decimating themselves and their families on highways all over America. It is not a cheery thought. Wearily, once again it is the time when the annual worship reaches a frenzied climax of our religion, Consumerism. Our temples: the malls. Black Friday! What a way to start a time of year that is supposedly about peace, love, hope and togetherness.

The Dream

There is still a quarter of November to wade through and I am sick of Christmas already. People have their homes and yards draped in garish decoration. The tradition of coloured lights near Christmas time has become another competition of excess between neighbours. In the daylight, lawns are littered with deflated effigies of santas, reindeer, snowmen, and other crass visual clichés. With all those lights blazing, I wonder what happens to the “Think Green” messages about reduced consumption. Meanwhile, the communities of homeless folks hunker down for winter by adding extra tarps over their individual tents.

Hunkering down for winter. Tarpaulins add some thin extra protection. This is a homeless enclave in downtown Nanaimo.
Jack and I have been spending every dry day visiting our new stomping grounds at the old Swallowfield Farm site. The estuary and adjoining salt marsh will be the source of many great wildlife photos in future.
An oasis in a sea of blackberries. The brambles have completely overrun the old field. An “invasive species” indeed.
A rabbit hole. It is not a place to fall into from the rocks above.

When I was young, Thanksgiving in Canada was celebrated at the same time as it was in the US. It was set at this date to celebrate the end of harvest and the completed preparations for the winter ahead. Usually, winter was well set-in with snow and bitter cold. There was little to do with Christmas in the wind other than the Sears and Eaton’s Christmas catalogues which arrived in time to serve their mail order service. My mom’s birthday was December seventh and for me that was the first indication of the coming festivities. Christmas cards would begin to arrive in the mail (another lost tradition, both the cards and the post office) Christmas songs would begin to play on the AM radio and the season would rapidly build toward the fantastic peak of a celebration of life in the dead of winter. New Year’s day would mark the end of it all. It was the intensity that made Christmas such a special time. All gone now, blurred in a greyness of marketing that has gone on for weeks already. Bumhug!

Deer trails in the marsh. It is a hundred metre dash between the cover of forest on either side.

The darkness and dampness of winter has seeped into everything. ‘Seafire’ feels like a tomb inside. It takes hours to exorcise the penetrating chill of winter. I find it hard to believe that just two years ago, my beloved boat was a place of warmth and cozy shelter through a long, wet upcoast winter. To distract myself, I stay busy with my writing, photography and video-making. My most recent effort is now posted on YouTube.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSuR95bfKS8&t=142s

Waterfront standoff.
For weeks the empty freighter lay off the foreshore imposing itself on the local residents. At night it provided a blaze of light and the incessant throb of its diesel generators. Then one morning, it was gone.

That is the link which should take you directly to “The Fickle Sea.” I’m excited to consider what I might achieve in future with more experience and better equipment. I have a huge archive of poetry and will try to make videos built on the foundation of some of those poems. Finding good footage to splice together into a cohesive and complimentary visual poem is the challenge. Looking for beauty and positive perspectives within the blandness of winter and familiarity is my chosen method of maintaining good cheer and a sense of purpose. This evening the beginning of our first winter storm is evident. The forecasters have warned us for two days. The barometer has slowly and steadily declined. Rain clatters on the skylight over my desk and shrubbery outside the window flails in the rising wind. If a storm is inevitable, relax and enjoy it. You can’t do anything about it. Enjoy yielding to forces greater than yourself. It’s called storm ecstasy.

November
The last leaf.
This is from a broadleaf Alder or Cottonwood. it is about nine inches wide. “How the mighty are fallen.”

The richest man is not he who has the most, but he who needs the least.” …anonymous

The Run Is Done

Lord steamin’ lychgate!
The morning sun vapourizes last night’s heavy dew.

There is a tang in the air. The funk of fishy decay is inescapable. Dogs quiver and lose their hearing as they charge off to find their own dead salmon to roll in. There may be spawning runs as late as January but for the moment, the banks and bottoms of our local streams are littered with the corpses of dead salmon from the most recent event. The last few stragglers laconically swim against the current. Eagles and gulls sit along the river edge looking sated and sluggish. There is bear scat along stream-side trails and some diligence is due because Jack, in all his dogliness, might be inclined to try and impose indignities at any bruins he may come across. He’ll brook no large intruders to his private world. With diminished hearing, his realm can be very private. His elderly sophistication may well have had him rise above the old indulgence of perfuming himself by rolling on a rotten fish but today he ran ahead out of sight. My angst about him returning embalmed with  “Eau de Poison Parti” came from past experience. No perfuming but I found him belly-deep in the water of a local river  snacking on a decaying delicacy. He is, after all, only being a dog. In consideration of some of the noxious things humans eat; well, at least dead fish are organic. Just don’t try licking my face.

Autumn corn field. As the soil becomes saturated with rain, very large puddles will form. Flocks of wild swans will arrive to winter while feeding on the roots and insects in the mud.
Limber up! A beautiful climbing tree. I can still see the world through a boy’s eyes.
Snowberry
Welcome to de swamp! What a rich habitat for waterfowl of all sorts as well as deer and other wild creatures.
The lower fields. These former hay meadows immediately adjoin the Chemainus River’s mouth and fabulous estuary. There is a labyrinth of twisting channels and gravel bars, pools and islets. Seals, otters, fish, birds, insects and reptiles live in this wonder world.

This week I discovered a grand place to walk with my cameras. It is heaven for Jack.  We’ve been back twice already. Only a few minutes from home, the estuary of the Chemainus River was once  the site of a large sprawling farm acquired by the company which built the huge, and often foul pulp mill at Crofton. It has returned to nature in a grand way. The blackberries have invaded many of the fields which lie among the swamps and backwaters of the broad river mouth. A delightful place, you’ll find me there often in the future. It takes little imagination to see native villages here long before the white invaders arrived. The name Chemainus has a first nations origin which I’ve decided to finally quit pondering.

This comes from Wikipedia: The name Chemainus comes from the native shaman and prophet “Tsa-meeun-is” meaning broken chest. Legend says that the man survived a massive wound in his chest to become a powerful chief. His people took his name to identify their community, the Stz’uminus First Nation, formerly the Chemainus Indian Band.”

The Blackberry Factory. With all the acres of wild berries, it could well be the source of wine, jam and other delights. Actually it is a pulp and paper mill, producing a horrific stench at times, referred to by some as the “smell of money.” I’ve long used the plumes of effluent as a weather beacon showing strength and direction of the Vancouver Island wind while sailing across the Strait Of Georgia from mainland Canada.
G’mornin! In the morning sun a fungus breaks up through the ground. How things so delicate can displace hardened earth and stones is amazing.
You are being watched. Bald eagles blend into the forest while they preen in the sun and wait for a meal to pass by.
Jack keeps an eye on his patch. A seal had shown itself a few minutes earlier. This is a final bend in the river before it floods out into a broad estuary.

 

Considering that I survived a serious chest trauma and subsequent major heart surgery I am now wondering if “Tsa-meeun-is” should become my new name. You’ve got to admit there is a certain ring to it; “Chemainus Fred.” What really intrigues me is that, for thirty years, I’ve been driving by the inconspicuous road which provides access to the trails and meadows of this fantastic eco-sanctuary. Go figure! I am the guy who is constantly harping on about seeing what you look at. A fellow whom I met there today claimed that he has lived as an immediate neighbour to this sprawling old farm and had only just discovered the access after twenty-one years. So, I don’t feel quite so chagrined. In any case the massive acreage was once Swallowfield Farm. It seems a shame that after all the industry of clearing this rich bottomland that it no longer produces food and instead sponges effluent from the looming mill.

You and me, some wine and cheese and fresh bread and a dry patch of grass. Yeah right! It’s November dude!

But it is always a joy and wonder to find a treasure that has been so close. I have noted numerous survey stakes in several places and and desperately hope that the word “development” is nowhere in the future of this piece of heaven.There is a life lesson in that and I remember a TV clergyman named Robert Schuller often saying, “Bloom where you’re planted.” Yep, you’ve got to see what you look at. I keep saying that.

November slides on toward winter. Veterans Day has passed. Thank you all for your kind remarks about my YouTube film ‘Swoop.’ I am clearly not the only one who questions what it is we choose to think of on Remembrance Day. A viscous heavy rain hammers down for increasingly longer intervals. Soon it will persist endlessly for days and nights at a time. The bright leaves have been beaten off the trees and now lay on the ground as a dull, slimy carpet. The temperature hovers just above freezing, providing a penetrating, bone-chilling dampness. It will seem warmer when the temperature drops and the humidity is frozen out of the air. Friends are migrating south. I wonder how to deal with the long, dark, bleak cold winter ahead. My only hope is to stay busy and find cheer within each long hour ahead.

For some odd reason, I, who loves being at sea out of sight of land, also have a passion for the intricacies and entanglements of swamp land. Bog Trotter!

It is more beautiful to hear a string that snaps than never to draw a bow,” is a line from a book titled “The Little Old Lady Who Broke All The Rules,” by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg. The novel is about a small group of geriatrics in a Swedish care home who decide their existence is so miserable that they can only improve things by turning to a life of crime. They reason the worst that can happen is to end up in prison which, they decide, may be a fate better than the one they endure. There are many of us who can relate. I have planned, schemed and worked for years with the intention that by now I’d have ‘Seafire’ somewhere in a Southern Latitude. Palm trees, tepid water to swim in, a simple warm life with a lower cost of living and, the fantasy goes, sustained by my writing and photography. That dream was my entire focus, to the exclusion of other pleasures and satisfactions. I deferred the joy of the moment for a dream. It has not worked out; yet. Although the vision still flickers on, there are waves of hopelessness. Thank God I have my creative endeavours and a sense of humour. I reluctantly mention this, not as a lament, but only as an affirmation to the millions of others at my age who are in a similar situation enduring a despair which is deep and very dark. You are not alone, small comfort that may be. I have been actively searching for employment but no-one seems inclined to hire a man with a lifetime of skills and experience which younger workers could learn. The damnedest thing is, despite health issues, I am still vital and don’t feel at all a senior. There is a lot we old farts can contribute.

Reluctantly we turn up the shining path and stroll back to another reality.

How a culture treats its young and its seniors is a pulse-taking of its general health. And, we’re sick! Both the old and the young are the future of a society. The young have the energy and the elderly have the life-lessons to pass on and utilize that power efficiently. That is how the human race thrived for millennia. Now we’ve replaced ourselves with gadgets of our own making. Artificial intelligence is here. Stupidity is as prevalent as ever.

Berry Lane,… there’s a song in this. Imagine all the creatures living within the shelter of these vast beds of brambles. They are acres of them.

Life is certainly not fair regardless of whatever expectations one clings to. My misadventures began with a simple fall of a mere three feet! Bang! That instantly began an ongoing struggle with health and financial issues. Throw in a genetic disposition for chronic depression. That I have endured like this for nearly twenty years has to be some sort achievement of positive thinking. It is painful to feel like an outcast within a system to which you, in your productive years, contributed millions directly and otherwise. And it can always be worse. I could be a geezer in some place like Yemen or Syria or, God forbid, Toronto, New York or …well,the world has a lot of armpits!

Find the deer. They’re in there somewhere.
My good friend Jack. He waits patiently while I yarn it up with other dog walkers. All the photos in this blog, to this one, were taken on today’s wander. Wot a day!

I am thankful that I live in such a wonderful place, but it is frustrating to end up like this while all around me I see folks with assets and wealth they don’t know what to do with. They certainly have not earned them, either by working hard, or smart. It’s the luck of the draw and for those of you who have achieved comfort and apparent security, know that it can also all come tumbling down with amazing speed. It is all temporary. All that stuff that you think you own; well folks, actually it owns you. I also know that all the shininess which I catch myself coveting at times, is, in our culture, mostly financed. Folks with no debt are rare and …truly wealthy. It just doesn’t seem right but that’s the way the pickle squirts! However, one of the joys of aging is to know that nothing is forever. “This too shall pass.”And, I muse, there may soon come a time when aged wizards who can sweat and bleed and dig in the dirt to produce food, and who can interpret the lines of tiny symbols in paper books will be highly revered mystics. I won’t feel redundant any more.

How sweet it will be when things finally get better. And, they will!

This is one of my signature photos; taken one fine day, many years ago while sailing close-hauled on the original ‘Seafire.’

The Flat Earth Society has members all around the globe.” … anonymous

A Text Book Autumn

Just another autumn sunrise.
A little wind, a little rain, a little sun. These ships are still waiting for a cargo, week after week. home must seem very far away for the crews.

We are nearing the finale of a wonderful autumn. The weather has been superb. There have been weeks of flawless clear days and nights. The fall leaves have been spectacular. We have had only two or three frosts and now the rains are beginning in an almost textbook manner. The rivers are rising right on time for the salmon to spawn. I’ve been busy with my cameras so this blog will simply be another series of local graphics. Why ruin a good thing by writing polemic thoughts and observations? We are all aware of what horrors continue around the planet on a daily basis. Perhaps the joy of the moment is the best offering I can provide.

Lunacy
The October harvest moon and a star slide toward the horizon on a mid-month clear night. (Not a bad shot for a hand-held mobile phone!)
All through the night. clatter, bang, boom. One of the last working sawmills on the BC Coast. Not a great neighbour for a marina. There is lots of dust in the air, debris in the water and incessant industrial noise.
And then another dawn.
Autumn leaves on an old coal heap on the Ladysmith waterfront.
This was once a coal-loading terminal for the local mines, now all a memory.
Smokey Maples.
Part of the autumn ambiance.
Another day dawns in Dogpatch, the free-spirited anchorage next to our first marina. Soft light, calm water and smoking chimneys make for a deceptive peacefulness.
Ho hum, yet another leaf picture. Obviously I find the colours and patterns fascinating.
Nanaimo obscured.
Arguably looking its best.
Irrelevant but intriguing. With all sorts of new laws about “Distracted driving” I found this motorhome’s dashboard full of decorations as well as a squawking, flapping cockatoo an interesting case in point. No texting I hope.
Afternoon delight. One can only imagine what might go on in this old Cadillac Coupe de Ville on the edge of a field. With our current housing crisis the old crate IS huge enough to live in!
A favourite view of mine, a few minutes south of Ladysmith here on Vancouver Island. Afternoon shadows advance across the pasture.
Perhaps if I hide behind this thistle, he’ll just bugger off and leave me alone.
Banon Falls, a favourite spot for Jack and I to snoop around. Autumn brings a special beauty.
GOLD
…And red.
Wots this now? An aviation addict all my life, and a pilot once, I can’t resist a pretty face. This is a T28 Trojan, the love child of the world famous Harvard trainer. How’s this for a personal commuter? The engine is a Wright Cyclone 1820, 1425 horsepower, 50 gallons of fuel an hour. And…it only seats two!
This old beauty is still in her colours from when she served in the the Nicaraguan Airforce. Introduced in 1950 as a trainer these aircraft also proved themselves good tactical aircraft right into the Vietnam era and then as front-line fighters and ground assault weapons for several Third-world countries.
Bloody lovely! Austere, deadly and beautiful all at once. It is sad that one of man’s greatest and most beautiful inventions was so readily turned into a weapon, but that is our nature.
You never know what you’ll find while poking around! I spotted this Yak 52 trainer behind a lawn mower in a hangar beside the T28. Built in Romania, they were a primary trainer for both the Russian and Chinese military. They have a magnificent sound. I’ve always wanted to fly one.
The big sleep. Remember that gorgeous tree in my last blog? How many months until spring?
Bull kelp and rock by the beach. There’s a photograph everywhere you look.
Mossy rock in the stream. Autumn rains are beginning to swell the rivers with rushing aerated water… perfect for the returning salmon.
Fungus galore! All shapes, sizes and colours are growing everywhere. A few are edible.
The streams rise, the salmon make their way up to leave their eggs and then die.
The end. The decomposing fish enrich the water, feeding all the little creatures that feed the salmon fingerlings and the cycle of life continues.
The eternal drama continues.
Now we return to our regular programing and nautical themes. This old fishboat is being converted to a yacht and she’s pretty no matter how one looks at her. Arguably, boats are the ultimate genius of function and form.

Remember that images can be enlarged by clicking on them.

 

The wise man learns more from the fool than the fool learns from the wise man.”

….Marcus Aurelius

Among The Rocks

Once again I begin a new blog while aboard ‘Seafire’ and anchored in Silva Bay. I’m here to work on ‘Aja;’ that lovely little wooden schooner I’ve been helping revive.

‘AJA’ A storybook schooner. I have known and loved this little boat for many years, as she’s had name-changes at the hands of a few different owners in a few different harbours.

She’s moored on a lee shore at low tide in a brisk wind. I need to raft alongside of her. There’s no room for a mistake and so I’ve dropped the anchor to wait things out. Sometimes it is best to use your superior judgment to avoid demonstrating your superior skill. Prudence is a good thing. There are times when a lifetime of experience allows me to show off a little. Today is not one of those. So here I sit with the wind moaning a dirge in the rigging, the anchor burying itself in the mud while I tinker at the endless chores on a boat. I’m half a cable off an islet I’ve named “Dog Rock” because this tiny island is where the summer yachters bring their pooches in the morning. Jack and I use it too. Mind where you step. This area is an archipelago known as the “Flat Top Islands.” The islands actually form and protect this bay nestled in the shoreline of Gabriola Island. I have many memories of this place, both bitter and sweet. It keeps calling me back. The surrounding small islands provide several narrow, tricky entrances. Careful chart study is required of the newcomer. The old shipyard here is a clear warning of the rock-studded passages. It sits like a spider in its web waiting for the next victim. Every year there are a few hapless skippers who can’t read their charts or GPS plotters. Crunch! Gotcha!

Cyclamen! Mystery solved. A friend visiting from France knew instantly what it was and that it blooms in the fall. So, apparently, yet another invasive species of flora.
WTF? I found this T-shirt hanging from a branch while walking Jack one morning. It was gone the next.
Glorious golden autumn. I’m enjoying it while it lasts and dreading what will surely follow.
The Dogwatch. Jack is enjoying the last of the year’s sunny warmth and catching it while he can. Wise beast!

The following morning I get up in the dark and put on some coffee. The blackness is palpable. All night I’ve lain in my bunk sleeping lightly, tossing restlessly, craving for a sound or a bit of light. The sky is now overcast and in this corner of the bay the blackness is multi-dimensional. ‘Seafire’ is a cozy refuge, a storm shelter and a wonderful time machine which has transported me to new realms and wonderful adventures. On nights like this, it is also a prison. So now I seek distraction sipping at my mug and battling with the computer. It insists the paragraph I wrote last night does not exist. I finally find a back-way to sneak in to the app and add these words. I was weary when I crawled out of the bunk, this little cyber battle leaves me feeling exhausted already. The day awaits.

Global Warming! Actually just some low morning cloud and the Crofton Pulp mill in the distance.
Waiting for cargo. The Gulf Islands provide a secure anchorage while waiting to load at one of the Vancouver Area ports. There can be many tedious weeks spent aboard until finally able to slip in beneath the cranes and then finally head back out on the open sea.
Bulker by the beach. Its muted tones add to the subtle autumn pallet.

And, it proved to be a long but successful day. ‘Aja’ now has a reliably functional engine and among other things, a dependable bilge pump. I’m weary of repairing and rebuilding boats but there is something special in the seams of ‘Aja’ which leaves me wanting to dig in and begin the restoration. The boat is a shrine of all that is sacred to me. The full refit of this old beauty will be a career for the new owner but, I think, a worthwhile endeavour. I meander homeward with ‘Seafire’ wondering what lays ahead. I have no money and no prospects, only dreams. It will be an interesting winter.

The world in a puddle.
Persist!
Despite two catastrophic amputations, this alder reaches out with a third attempt at life.

Meanwhile the weather is fabulous and I’m well aware that these golden days must be savoured fully. I know what lays ahead in regard to weather, and it ain’t pretty. Good weather is never paid for in advance. So here are some pictures of the fullness of autumn.

Crow’s nest. They hold a daily conference between their perches on various boats in the marina.
“I say old chap, there’s one just washed. Let’s go deposit some crowy cheer.” Remember Heckle and Jeckle?
When STOP means WHOA! In other words: “Git yer pitchins’ off ma land!”
Once, poor folk lived by the sea and ate fish.
October Ferry To Gabriola
(A novel by Malcolm Lowry)
October marina in the morning.

Summer ends, and Autumn comes, and he who would have it otherwise would have high tide always and a full moon every night.” …. Hal Borland

A Scent Of Apples And One Lucky Duck

The Bomber CF-YVR Some lovely, funny sculpture hanging in Vancouver's South Terminal
The Bomber CF-YVR
Some lovely, funny sculpture hanging in Vancouver’s South Terminal

The driving rain is relentless, cold and stinging. The Shearwater winter weather, where you can wring water from any handful of air, has followed me all the way here to Ladysmith. I’ve come south for a few days to take care of business and medical appointments. It also turns out that my beloved dog Jack needs some surgical attention at the veterinary clinic. I’m anxious about that, as if he were my own child. If you don’t understand the affection and healing that can occur between a person and a dog; well, you have my sympathy.

Jack in the Woods, A happy morning after three month apart...Bliss!
Jack in the Woods,
A happy morning after three months apart…Bliss!

So here I am standing in the rain, worrying about Jack when I’m overwhelmed by the aroma of ripe, red succulent apples. I follow my nose. It turns out to be a bin of apples in front of a feed and garden shop across the street. I am amazed to be able to smell the fruit so far away and suddenly understand how it is being a creature like a deer or a bear near an apple tree. Perhaps my acute sense is due to being in the Northwoods for so long but as always, the sense of smell is a great memory stimulant and suddenly I am taken back to my childhood. For a while my father worked as an orchard keeper and we lived in cottages at the edge of. orchards. The aroma of that single apple bin brought install recall from over half a century ago. There is also a sweet tang of smoke from my mother’s wood cookstove and that leads to memories of another little black dog so long ago. I’m suddenly blinking back tears and shake myself free of the moment, all brought on by the scent of apples. Bloody hell, have I gone round the twist?

Unhappiness is. One very unhappy dog on the day of his surgery. Two days later he had the funnel and his bandages off.
Unhappiness is.
One very unhappy dog on the day of his surgery. Two days later he had managed to remove the funnel and his bandages.

There are months of this bleak weather ahead and I wonder how I will survive it. The boat is over three hundred miles north and I’ll say that, for me, home is where the boat is. I’ll be back there in a few days but it seems very far away and I desperately wish the boat and I were somewhere far south. I see all the consumer convenience and gratification here, and yet despite the incredible pervasive dampness on the North Coast I miss the solitude and natural richness such as the humpback whale that swam by the docks a few days ago, with the howling of wolves in the background. That was a moment which will last a lifetime. I can concede that my aching bones feel much better down here, even when it is raining. I do find it fascinating that things I would normally take for granted, like the colours of autumn leaves, a near-infinite diversity of shopping, restaurants and stores with profuse inventories of food for sale, all of that leaves me slightly overwhelmed. I do not miss the frantic rush of nearly everyone, the sound of sirens and at the moment, the tsunami of Christmas marketing. Give it a rest! Bloody hell! Bumhug!

I wonder how I’ll feel about it all once back in Shearwater.

November roses at the corner of Seemore and Do-less. Actually it's the mainstreet of downtown Ladysmith.
November roses at the corner of Seemore and
Do-less. Actually it’s part of the main street in downtown Ladysmith.
Robert's Street Pizza. Almost world-famous, folks come from miles around for the succulent fare.
Robert’s Street Pizza.
Almost world-famous, folks come here from miles around for the succulent fare.

The highlight of this Southern jaunt was attending a performance by my hero, Billy Connolly. A Glaswegian musician, comedian, actor and philosopher (in my opinion) he is world-renowned. Now in his mid-seventies, he has various health issues yet stood his gig on stage, non-stop, for nearly two hours. The entire sold-out audience was doubled over with laughter at his apparently impromptu ramblings. I suspect it’s the only chance I’ll ever have to see him live. If you’re not familiar with this brilliant character, there is a lot of his material available simply by googling up his name. You’ll love him or hate him.

In the dark room beneath the street Where in came sounds of laughing children And Tramping feet There lived a little boy Who knew no light or joy He possessed not even one small toy.
In the dark room beneath the street
Where in came sounds of laughing children
And tramping feet
There lived a little boy
Who knew no light or joy
He possessed not even one small toy.
Time passed As the boy grew The window slowly sank Until as a man Hew was the foundation of the local bank.
Time passed.
The boy grew
As the window slowly sank
Until as a man
He became the foundation of the local bank.
Ladysmith, where everyone has one leg longer than the other.
Ladysmith, where everyone has one leg longer than the other.
At the Duncan Farmer's Market, all seasons, rain or shine. I can't explain how good fresh produce looks to a guy from Shearwater who's groceries come bi-monthly by barge
At the Duncan Farmer’s Market, every Saturday, all seasons, rain or shine.
I can’t explain how good fresh produce looks to a guy from Shearwater who’s groceries come bi-monthly by barge
It ain't Mexico but it's bloody good...especially on a cold, rainy day
It ain’t Mexico but it’s bloody good…especially on a cold, rainy day
The Duncan Farmer's Masrket
The Duncan Farmer’s Market
Somewhere there goes a naked clown. A clever use for outgrown children's clothing.
Somewhere there goes a naked clown. A clever use for outgrown children’s clothing.
Town Hall, on one side of the Duncan market square
Town Hall, on one side of the Duncan market square
Rolls Royce in the rain.
Rolls Royce in the rain.
Autumn mobile
Autumn mobile
Maple treasures for a guy from the land of monotonous conifers
Maple treasures for a guy from the land of monotonous conifers
Natural Composition
Natural Composition
A Cowichan Acknowledgement as a fountain beside the Duncan town hall.
A Cowichan Acknowledgement as a fountain beside the Duncan town hall.

 

I’ll be returning to Shearwater tomorrow. That will on be Remembrance Day. I’ve previously expressed my polemic views on the incredible stupidity of the military and the mindless waste of war and how all enemies think God is on their side. I’ve offended some people deeply and inspired others to look at the whole picture and think for themselves. I hope that this day is taken as an opportunity to see ourselves as the potentially naturally nasty creatures we all are and what a concerted effort it is necessary to avoid violent conflict. I know I’m a dreamer but I believe it Is possible for us to become creatures of a higher level. That is a personal and individual endeavour, which requires massive introspection and sometimes painful growth and I’ve said enough. Just imagine if everyone stayed home and cleaned up the mess in their own yards. What a wonderful world it could be!

I’ve stood stiffly at attention in a military uniform in the cold, cold November rain and wept as the Last Post was played but now the most poignant sound for me is the 1942 BBC recording called Nightingales And Bombers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_MHqW5KVds

This is a spring recording made in the woods of Southern England. The objective was to record the spring songs of nightingales but as the tape reels turned, squadrons of RAF bombers were climbing overhead on a bombing raid to Germany. It is the sound of sweet peace juxtaposed against the ominous thunder of young men going to kill and be killed. If the recording doesn’t shiver your timbers, I truly hope you have no sons or daughters to send to war. Have a very nice day.

Something really odd occurred today. I’ve been trying to search my inner self for answers to some personal issues and have been sceptically looking for a sign. Well today I think I got it and I’m not sure what the hell it means. Jack and I were having a morning walk along the banks of the Nanaimo River before I went to my final round of appointments. There was a sudden raucous sound ahead and then veering directly toward me, about twenty feet high, was a large bald eagle carrying something which I first assumed was a fish. Pursuing the big bird was another eagle. It was an incredible sight. I furiously tried to extract my camera but before I could, the second eagle knocked the treasure free from the first bird’s talons. It fell with a thunk immediately beside Jack who, startled, was suspicious of why it was raining ducks.

WTF? It's raining ducks!
WTF? It’s raining ducks!
LUCKY THE DUCK!
LUCKY THE DUCK!

It proved to be a Mallard hen lying on its back. My first thought was that “Verily, verily the gods doth provide a succulent duck for dinner from the heavens above.” I bent to pick it up and noticed it was breathing and so I flipped the lovely wee quacker onto its feet. It was alive despite a punctured breast and, for some odd reason, appeared to be in shock. I decided to wrap it in a blanket of maple leaves. A few minutes later its head popped out of the covering and then it waddled off into the safety of a patch of blackberries. Now that’s one very lucky duck! And, I’m sure, there’s one very pissed off eagle. What is really interesting is that this old farm boy was once easily able to bonk any barnyard animal on the head with sledge hammer when it was time for butchering. As a hunter, I’ve been remorseless about the countless creatures I’ve dispatched for their meat. Once I proudly blew ducks out of the sky and now I’m proud at having done something to try and save one humble duck.

I don’t know how to interpret this one as an omen other than a moral which has something to do with never giving up. And that’s the whole shituation. In the morning I’ll be winging my way back to Seafire and the next adventure.

A Simple Beauty
A Simple Beauty

Progress is man’s ability to complicate simplicity.”

…. Thor Heyerdahl