It is the second day of July. Last night the holiday fireworks resolved into a mere two huge explosions. Then all was quiet. I hope there were at least a few survivors. This morning it is raining, a beautiful steady warm rain. The doors are open and I listen to the music of water gurgling in the downspouts. There is a lovely aroma of freshness. We need this, desperately. There were a few hours of precipitation last week, the stream beds did not swell at all. Now this. I swear I can almost hear the parched earth soaking it up. More please! This blog will be a simple photo essay about life in my little patch here on Vancouver Island. Rain or sun, bring your hat.
“ For nothing is fixed, forever and forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have. The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other, and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out. James Baldwin.
The proverbial ‘Barefoot Shoemaker’ is someone who is so busy plying their trade that they have no time (or money) to make shoes for themself. This old yacht tinker is in a similar boat. (yes, that’s a pun) I’m so often at work in someone else’s boat. When there is so much to do on my own. When living aboard ‘Seafire’ I don’t have the energy at the end of the day to work on my own upgrades if it is possible at all while living in that same small space. I bought the boat four years ago and immediately had lists of “To do” lists. As soon as one item is crossed off, two more are added to the bottom. Some days it is just not fun and sadly the best days for working on your boat are also the nicest days to be out sailing. But it does beat mowing a lawn. Always!
It is the time of year when people are stumbling down onto the docks to see if their boat has survived the winter and is yet afloat. I’ve been moored in the Ladysmith Maritime Society Docks since Christmas. I am there nearly every day and can confidently state that many boats have not had a visit by their owners in all that time. Now the May long weekend is coming and there is a panic to get the old bateau ready for voyaging. “Damn boats, fix, fix, fix, nothing but a hole in the water to shovel money into.” Yuck, yuck, yuck! There are some frantic requests for me to “Git ‘er dun for the weekend” but I’ve decided that, for once, my own boat comes first. Love your boat, she’ll love you back.
As I write this somewhere in the Indian Ocean, my friends Tony and Connie, are aboard their boat ‘Sage’ between the southern Maldives and the East Coast of Africa. They expect to be out of touch for up to eight weeks. My thoughts and best wishes sail with them on their long crossing.
With news of the horrific earthquake in Nepal, Deadly hail storms in Texas, a monster volcano in Chile, Israeli military strikes into Syria and renewed drug wars in Mexico, I am happy enough in my own bilge. I’ve had to go backward by about three thousand dollars with the necessary installation of a new charger/inverter. This is a machine that not only keeps the batteries charged when the boat is at the dock but converts DC electrical power to AC power when at sea. This allows the use of power tools and other luxuries like microwave ovens and even, if I want, an air conditioner. If I have to make my way south by fixing other boats, I do need AC power away from the dock.
There was a time when a small gasoline engine in a sailing yacht was a decadence used only to move the boat in and out of marinas. They were aptly called auxiliaries. (For many years, part of my criteria was that the auxiliary had to have a back-up hand crank to manually starting the engine… just in case) Engines were also used to charge a battery for starting and to run another luxury, a VHF radio. Boats have become much bigger, the list of appliances and gadgets is extensive as is the amount of power required to run it all. Now some sailboat owners brag about their turbo-charged diesel. There is far more than enough power to charge the electrical system and propel the boat but excess is now often a normal state.
During my years on the tugs, sailboats were often referred to as “Blowboats” or “Stickboats.” We jokingly used them as a wind monitor. While the sails were up and flapping, wind was nil or light. When the sails were stowed, it was getting a bit breezy. Seriously! If a sailboat was motoring with only the mains’l up, chances were good that someone was trying to declare their right-of-way as a sailing vessel, a perverse misinterpretation of collision regulations. Sometimes I took a lot of flak from the rest of the crew because they knew I was a “Ragboater.” There are also those who are determined to prove their saltiness by insisting on, and trying to sail, no matter how light the wind and no matter how they interfere with other marine traffic. In fact I suspect that is part of the fun for them.
An undue sense of entitlement, or perhaps a quest for empowerment, seems to a prime motivator in our culture. It is often displayed as an attempt to shoulder everyone else aside or to hold as many people back as possible. You can see this behaviour any time on the roads or in the supermarket and at times on the water. We are saddled with a media culture that attempts to diminish our sense of self-worth unless we look like, smell like, live in, drive one of those and generally consume ourselves into a wretched existence. No wonder so many folks subconsciously crave empowerment, entitlement and recognition simply because they exist.
An Audi advertisement on the television this morning stated their automobiles were about “Presence” and provided a statement of “Dominance and intimidation.” Really?
What about reliability, economy, and safety? Oh yeah, and environmental sensibility?
A few days ago I had an adventure with a dog stuck in a culvert. Neighbours were complaining about ongoing barking and howling that had kept them awake. I assumed that someone had left their spoiled-rotten dog alone in a nearby house. The noise continued and, hours, I finally went to investigate.
I found an old, very large Labrador retriever stuck in a culvert, about twenty feet in. He had been laying in cold, running water for at least twelve hours. Then this old fat boy hisself wriggled into the pipe. For a moment I worried about also becoming stuck but all’s well that ends. Slowly both of we old dogs came out backwards, me dragging the other an inch at a time until we both emerged, wet and mucky, into daylight. We must have quite a sight! Then came a trek with the rescued dog over my shoulder until I could get him laying on a blanket in the sun. He probably weighed seventy pounds and was of course soaking wet, chronically hypothermic and totally exhausted. He couldn’t even lift his head.
Eventually, reluctantly ,some of the neighbours were persuaded to help. Soon after the ubiquitous self-acclaimed expert dog whisperer arrived to demonstrate her superior knowledge. She had little actual sympathy for the dog, he was merely a platform for her warped ego, and yes I finally lost my patience with her arrogant declarations about how much she thought she knew. I cannot abide someone trying to capitalize on another’s misery. Things got quite ugly but eventually I got Wyatt to a veterinary hospital. That was his name as it turned out. (Wyatt Twerp) The vet called me today to say that poor old Wyatt had had to be put down and thanked me profusely for my efforts. Not a word of appreciation from the locals, which I didn’t expect, but ain’t folks funny? If Wyatt had expired in the culvert, I wonder how long it would have taken someone to go find the source of the smell. And if I’d expired in there too…yeeech!
I recalled this story with a fellow dog lover/walker whom I met out on the trail. I said something about militant feminism. “No, no,” she said, “You were dealing with a womanist. They are the female equivalent of a misogynist and loath men in general. Their perspective is as archaic as the notion of nuns and priests.” Her view was refreshing, but I don’t like to genderize the behaviour of people who live with the sad, desperate need to constantly pee in other folk’s corn flakes.
It seems that I’ve found myself recently dealing with folks who are easily upset, determined to take offence and speak condescendingly. It happens at times to all of us and when I find myself in that groove I see myself as the common factor and sit in front of the mirror and review what the hell’s happening. I always tend to feel responsible for whatever might be wrong and acrimony leaves me upset for days after.. This time I can’t figure what’s up. Later, I was talking with someone else who remarked that he had just seen an article describing recent, extra large solar flares and their effects on this planet, including electrical grinds, communication systems, and yes, people’s moods. Apparently there is a general wave of hostility and aggressiveness in human behaviour that might be attributed to celestial influence. Dunno! Maybe? We do know that lunar cycles effect human behaviour among many other things so let’s just keep an open mind. Blame it on the sun.
In the face of all the recent miseries of the world I’ve been wandering around Ladysmith with my cameras looking at what we have right here. Don’t we take so much for granted? It is a lovely little town. One of my constant joys in this community is how young families are buying up the older miner’s, logger’s and fishermen’s houses and lovingly restoring them. Many of those house are small, but if previous generations could raise large families in them, surely, one-point-something baby yuppies will do just fine there. The bonus is the large yards, many with mature fruit trees and space for large gardens and room for kids to stay at home and play, physically outdoors. I’m loading this blog with photos of Ladysmith and the local area. A popular bumper sticker here reads, “Ladysmith, where you’re never over the hill.”
There is a movement afoot for many folks to downsize their homes to the point of silliness. There seems to be a notion that they are re-inventing the concept of minimalism and living with less is a great new idea. The trendy yachting magazines are now glorifying those who’ve dumped their grand yacht and are enjoying life with trailer-able sailboats. They’re discovering a new sort of freedom where their possession are truly serving their interests rather than ruling their life.
Of course a lot of this is rationalization which comes in the wake of recent economic disasters in North America which have decimated the middle class and the notion of our identities being determined by the stuff we accumulate. We are all out of touch with reality in this part of the world and really have no idea of how most of the world’s population lives, forcing itself to be content with rudimentary shelter and no clear idea of when or what their next meal might be. Gluten? Trans-fat? Yes please.
By the way, a happy note from this old cynic. I often slam modern technology and express my dismay at our growing dependance on machines. But today I reviewed a wonderful application of that technology. A blind pregnant woman in Brazil, entering her third trimester, received an ultrasound of the foetus. Those images were then transferred to a 3D printer and so she was able to feel the face of her unborn baby. That made my face leak.
One last note from the media. We’ve long known that dolphins are one of the few other species which indulge in recreational sex. Now we’re learning they also partake in recreational drug use. I’ve just just watched a video which clearly shows a pod of dolphins gently harassing a puffer fish. Once it defensively inflates itself it floats on the ocean’s surface immobilized . The spiky little bugger than begins exuding neurotoxins, which in large doses can be fatally toxic. In mild doses you get stoned so in turns the dolphins nuzzle the little guy and the effects are obvious. One the part is over, the puffer deflates, heads back to its life on the bottom and the dolphins find other distractions. Interesting!
I’m reading two wonderful books at the moment. One, ‘The Shadow Of the Sun’ is by Ryszard Kapuscinski, a Polish journalist who in the late 1950s witnessed the end of colonialism in African, the rise of independent states and the ensuing madness which still grips most of that continent. He affords a graphic explanation of so many things I didn’t think about and certainly did not understand. It is a wonderful essay on Africa and I am glad to have read it. Social studies aside, his writing style is beautiful and I heartily recommend this book for those who like to learn and understand.
The second book is ‘The Inconvenient Indian’ by Thomas King. I believe this is a fine and even exciting text for anyone who wants a better understanding of native perspectives about their place in contemporary North American culture and how they got to their present situation. It is of course, biased, but forgivably so, and the wit and insight this writer offers is refreshing and very enlightening.
I’ll close this blog with a quote from that book.
“Most of us think that history is the past. It’s not. History is the stories we tell about the past. That’s all it is. Stories.”…”I simply have difficulty with how we choose which stories become the pulse of history and which do not.”