Night Sounds

Night Sounds

A neo-traditional totem pole.
It stands in front of the band office of the Tseshaht people in Port Alberni.  After tremendous oppression for decades from both outside and inside their community, First Nations people are regaining their dignity, their voice and a modicum of control over traditional lands. Hopefully we will soon all see ourselves as equals while retaining our individual cultural identity.

A barred owl begins its night time serenade of hoo-hoo-who-hoo. Darkness settles over the calm water as frogs croak into the darkness and from somewhere out on the lake a loon utters its plaintiff cry. Here in the campsite there is the crackle of a freshly-lit fire and the steady gnawing crunch of Jack dogging on a bone. We are in a campsite on the west end of Horne Lake on Vancouver Island. The view over the darkened lake is framed by the black silhouette of newly-leafed branches and a few subtle lights twinkle over the glassy water from cottages on the distant shore. It is tranquil and lovely, lonely, complete. Jack has now gone to bed. I will join him shortly. This setting is perfection, yet it is not the ocean.

By my Horne Lake campsite, a neighbour who is travelling by motorcycle, settles in for a night.
The Morning After

Twenty four hours have passed. We did not do much. It was a grand day. The same scene as last night lays beyond the extravagant fire I have set. Haunting Yiddish violin music from a treasured old Cd I have found sifts out of my stereo at a low volume. I let it repeat around and around; it blends perfectly with the night sounds. The pulsing glitter of a jet’s trajectory crosses from behind the lofty rock cliffs above the lake and is paralleled by its reflection on the water. The owl repeats his booming hooting again, slowly coming closer to our campsite. Jack snores gently in his bed at my feet. Soon we will both retire to the comfy bunk inside the trailer. There is an extra bed. I wish you could be here.

The camp on Horne Lake.
It’s wonderful but… I miss the boat.
Here’s the dinghy for the next boat. Achilles are my favourite inflatable and Tohatsu outboards need no sales pitch. This old marine mechanic thinks they are the best.
Horne Lake sea trial. It all went well…but it’s not the ocean. My brand-new Tohatsu purrs beautifully. The wheels, by the way, are for hauling the boat up out of the water.

Another twenty-four hours finds Jack and I in another Provincial Campground on the other side of the mountain. Now we are on Sproat Lake a few kilometres west of Port Alberni. As the crow flies, we are only about 15 kilometres from where we set out this morning. The drive from one valley to another took well over an hour. There is a climb and descent up and over a steep grade which is a good test for truck and trailer after recent adjustments. The Alberni Valley is famous for fierce summer heat and here, before mid-May, the mercury climbed well above thirty degrees Celsius. The forest fire hazard rating rose from moderate to high today and will rapidly become extreme if the weather persists. I’m enjoying the campfire tonight as the evening cools. There may soon be a ban on any fires for the rest of the summer.

Sproat Lake Petroglyphs. There are nine carvings on this rock face on the lake’s edge. It is also a parry site for the local young folk. Hopefully this photo gives a glimpse of the way it has looked for a long time.
The crack tells how long the carvings have been there.
Now THAT’S a steak. One of the joys of a low-carb diet.
Jack loved the bone.

The lake was liberally dotted with white and pink bodies of squealing exuberant youth frolicking in the water. After Jack’s refreshing swim we plodded back to our campsite along the dusty trail where we met motley groups of young folk in various states of intoxication. The aroma of marijuana smoke wafted through the forest. Worldly as I think I am, it was still a rattler to meet gorgeous scantily clad young ladies who met Jack ever so gushingly yet chattered sweetly all the while in the rawest, four-lettered sailor-speak I’ve ever used. It seemed incongruous for a moment, and then, I just felt old.

Some folks have garden gnomes or plastic flamingos on their lawns. Then there are those with some of the world’s biggest aircraft. That is a Martin Mars. Coulson Air Crane converted a pair to serve as water bombers. They are now world famous and have proven their worth many times over. Not as big as the ‘Spruce Goose’ they were intended for the same purpose: To provide rapid mass transport for troops to the South Pacific. The end of WWII rendered them redundant.
The back yard is impressive too. These are the Hawaii Mars and the Philippine Mars, which is in its original colours of the United States Navy Air Transport Command. These were the world’s largest flying boats ever manufactured. There were seven built.

A day later, a day older. I have yet to master the art of doing nothing without feeling guilt. Jack (A master at living without guilt) and I walked our walks, I visited with a dear friend whom I learned was in Port Alberni. The day passed, now it is dark again. The sound of neighbour campers visiting around their fires mingles with the happy din of children playing. A huge shining (Yes, gold in colour) motor home appeared at dusk and now runs its generator despite the rules. Such is life when you accept the challenge of co-mingling with strangers. Come morning the grand escape vehicle fired up its diesel engine to idle for a half-hour of exhaust stench before hoisting the automatic levelling jacks and buggering off somewhere else after a hard night of roughing it.

Traditional First Nations carving.
Note the pendant on her belly. Or, is it a fetus?
Pedestal detail. I find this work stunning.

Other folks were making coffee over a wood fire after a night in a tent behind their car; a very good aroma.Some folks still possess a primal urge to be close to the earth. Organized campgrounds may be as primitive an experience as they will ever have but at least they are off the couch and away from the goon box. I am not a fan of these places but this weekend they served my purpose. It’s better to have some of these folks organized and protected than to have their edge-of-the wilderness forays and random fires occurring hodge-podge. The problem on Vancouver Island is that it is hard to find untainted wilderness. There is evidence of man’s exploitation everywhere and of course the roads we use to get to the back of beyond were all built by logging companies.

I found this life-sized diorama incredible. Badly in need of a good cleaning it depicts a native whaling crew at the moment a whale is harpooned. To go out on the cold ocean in a hand-made, hand-propelled cedar canoe to harpoon a whale with primitive weapons was a courage that no-one possess today. Even the water in this work is entirely hand-carved wood. “Oh shit, I forgot my life jacket …and my pants!”
DANG! The motor in my truck is a 5.3 litre V-8. This 425 hp “Kicker” is 5.6 litres! As an old salt I cannot imagine why anyone needs something like this. We won’t try to guess the price!
Jack watches a native fishery on the Somass River in Port Alberni.
A native spring fishery. This gill net is set across the Somass River on a flood tide.

Now that I’ve joined the ranks of the Rv world I find it interesting that despite the massive effort to charm folks into coming to indulge in “Super Natural BC” there is a paucity of camp grounds and facilities like sani-stations and places to fill tanks with potable water. One is now charged everywhere for a dribble of air or water and who wants to try manoeuvring a clumsy large vehicle near the awkward places where those hoses and their coin boxes are located. It is intriguing that we know face shortages of water in a place abounding with snow-capped mountains, streams and lakes. Of note is a recent news item I heard which claims that despite our long snowy winter, Coastal BC snow sheds hold a sixty percent less than normal amount of water. If it doesn’t rain all summer, which is entirely possible, it may be a paint your lawn season once again. Now back in Ladysmith, the skies have gradually become overcast and this morning shows evidence of overnight showers. Soon, it begins to rain steadily. Of course, I’ve yet to see a Victoria Day weekend when the weather was not foul, cold and wet. That having been said I recall once being advised that “Only fools and newcomers predict the weather.”

As I raised my camera a beautiful grass snake vanished into the nettles and periwinkles and one dandelion.
Jack sees a rabbit. it was not concerned.
Wild and free. These are blooming at the concrete base of a crane once used to unload logs.
Perhaps one of the last dogwood flowers I’ll see this year.
Welcoming the waxing moon of May.

Bad weather always looks worse through a window.” …Tom Lehrer

IT’S OVER!

All over but the chewing
Jacks stocking is empty now
Most of the gift treats are chewed up or safely hidden for future emergencies
Happy New Year folks!
Dad has just posted his latest video on Youtube. It’s all about me! I’m incredible! Here’s the link below:

(Click and drag red play line to the left to see video from the beginning)

Christmas is past. The birds and squirrels are back in the trees. Isn’t it a miracle how these tiny creatures survive an extreme wind? The devastation on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands has been massive. Thousand of trees have blown down onto houses and power lines. Power poles, in many places, were broken like match sticks. The overhead wires have been snapped like string and macramaed together with tangles of tree limbs. Roofs have been stripped bare all over the south coast. I am amazed to repeatedly see incredible carnage in a specific area and yet a few hundred meters away, things appear almost unscathed. Water supplies, fuel supplies and groceries have all become commodities that have moved from a taken-for-granted status to desperate scarcity. Portable generators are unavailable at any price. The snarl of power saws and brush chippers can be heard in all directions near and far. Some folks, nine days later, are still without electricity. The line trucks and crews are still out there, wearily restoring power. Fortunately, so far as I know, there was only one fatality attributable to the blast.

The Second Wave
Sunday Dec.23rd. another ferry-load of men and equipment head for Gabriola Island to help restore electricity. It was a stupendous effort and the crew’s tenacity and determination was amazing. They gave up their Christmas to put things right.
Selective Carnage
It appears that vicious swirling winds, much like small tornados, struck randomly. It is natures way of pruning and thinning for reasons we don’t always understand.
Yet it stands. I could hear Hendrix singing ‘The Watch Tower’ This old silo should have been toppled but it survived unscathed by the wind.

Our population, with its modern urban sensibilities and softness, is unable to cope with a relatively minor disaster and the basic realities of survival. We’ve all had a wake up call. We need to be reminded about what frail creatures we are and how we become seduced into total dependency and subsequent vulnerability. These few hours of wind on December 20th do not begin to compare to a full-blown hurricane, earthquake or tsunami. It is very sobering. Even an old bush rat like myself realizes how spoiled and dependant I am on an infrastructure that is delicate at the best of times. I have good backwoods survival skills yet here, softness creeps in. Vancouver Island has 3 days of supplies ahead at the best of times. Most of us cannot even cover that gap. Some folks have had a very lean and cold Christmas. Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the planet, Indonesia reels from another massively deadly tsunami. We can can our blessings indeed.

Within a stand of supportive surrounding trees this beautiful arbutus was torn off its base and shattered with bits laying in all directions. Think of the energy required to this.
Ironically, less than 50 metres from the open, crumbling shoreline this ancient, brittle arbutus survived the wind nearly unscathed.
Safe haven.
This niche in the base of a maple, complete with a tiny toadstool, could well have sheltered a little bird during the storm.
Thank goodness there are no trains for the time being. This blowdown is only 30 meters from the niche in the maple.
The old priest was in his bathroom at his morning ablutions and devotions. He prayed for a sign from his heavenly father. There was a huge noise as the roof disappeared. There he sat on the loo with a tree in his lap. “Well holy shit!,” he muttered.                This downed timber was bucked off just enough to open the road and there it will remain until  all local infrastructure is functional.
The pet’s memorial Christmas tree. Each year, in the woods beside a well-travelled path, this tree is decorated and then hung with photos of pets passed on that once roamed here. It’s very touching.

Time is ticking through the last hours of 2018. It’s over. For me it has not been a memorable year. I have achieved little other than staying alive, which is always a good thing. My life seems to have been what I did to pass the time between medical appointments and that I resolve to change. Yes, there are some things to look forward coming along very soon. I thank all those who love me and support me. You know who you are. It is remarkable how some friends and family continue to believe in you when you have lost all faith in yourself. That, in itself, is a blessing beyond any other wealth. I am grateful beyond words. So I will say it simply. Thank you. You’ve made a difference.

Rigged. All set up and ready to record interesting images.

May everyone have a grand and wonder-filled year ahead.

Happy New Year from Happy Harry Heiltsuk Now get that whalebone off my back!     That is a vertebra from a Fin whale.

My pain may be the reason for somebody’s laughter. But my laughter must never be the reason for somebody’s pain.” …..Charlie Chaplin

Waiting

There went several B.N.D.s! My work sometimes requires two compatible cameras. This is the very first frame with my new Sony dslt. It has been cloudy again all day long but what lighting!

I’ve deleted this entire blog and am starting over. It is a season for renewal so my sarcasms can be hung up, at least for a while. I had first begun with a sardonic remark about our local prize fire engine/ ladder truck tip-toeing down a very steep icy hill on New Year’s Eve with sirens wailing as it followed a creeping sanding truck. All is well that ends. There was no crash. They were out there and that’s what matters. Hats off to all of the town’s volunteers. Ladysmith, like all communities, would be a total shambles without them.

So all is well that ends and it is now a new year with loads of thrills and challenges ahead. My first dreaded task is already out of the way. Jack now has been successfully re-vaccinated for rabies and other nasty dog maladies. Trips to the vet have always been an ordeal and this was certainly one. This anxious old dogdad sweated it out in the waiting room while many long minutes of crashing, snarling and yelping dragged on in the veterinarian’s examination room. I resolved not to interfere unless there were shrieks of pain or a cry for help. The vet and her assistant, both lovely young ladies, eventually subdued Jack by rolling him in a blanket and making their point. I am indebted.

Jack Tar Hisself
Once he was cute, and smaller, and quicker…just like his owner!

Jack, I’ll admit, is like a surrogate son to me. He is a rogue; defiant and stubborn, but also loyal, deeply affectionate and protective. He suffers no fools, human or canine. A “Res. dog” he came from Penalakut Island. He was born about the time of a massive dog cull there. Apparently it involved a pick-up truck and a shot gun but I have no idea what traumas he endured during his early life. He can wag his tail and even his whole body, but if the karma runs over the dogma, Jack may turn himself instantly into a whirling dervish of snapping teeth and arsehole. He has taught me a lot about patience.

There are those who condemn the affection and funds spent on dogs. They say all that effort should be directed at our own children and yes, they’re right, but if you can’t even interact with dogs, you have little hope of success with humans. Perhaps that should be a pre-job test for teachers and counsellors: lock them in a room with a dog for a while. But then, we have laws about cruelty to animals. That was a joke Lucille! I think dogs are one of man’s higher achievements. All we have to do is let them teach us what they know. Insult me if you must, be leave my dog alone.

Read my lips!
photo: Jim Poirier
‘Seafire’ and owner enjoy a few days away from the home dock.
Two old farts on the same dock. Jim and his Corbin 39 have sailed extensively including two years in the South Pacific. It is a rugged and capable vessel to say the least.
Winter evening at Panther Point, looking south. The forest was a tangle of freshly blown-down trees, the paths were submerged in water. Night fell quickly.
Conover Cove. A view to Vancouver Island over the northern tip of Saltspring Island. On the fourth morning there was a hint of sunlight.
It was glorious.
While it lasted…. Soon the sun climbed above the overcast.
A Frank Lloyd Wright home in nearby Princess Cove. It suits the landscape perfectly, but in thirty years I’ve never seen anyone home. That is an Arbutus Tree hanging over the house.
NOT a FLW home. Just an original farm house at Conover Cove. Note the high spring tide, two days after a full moon.
Another Gulf Island home, a crow’s nest.

Long overdue, I spent some quality time with an old friend. Jimmy and I have know each other for over thirty years. Among his many talents, Jim has also sailed extensively. We have travelled in our own directions and have certainly never spent four days tied to the same dock. The days and evenings were spent commiserating. They flew by. The weather was perfect. January dark and rainy, there was little incentive to be outside. We rendezvoused at Conover Cove, a popular cruising destination in the Gulf Islands. There was no one else around. With plenty of laughter long into each night, and even some tears, nobody woke up hung over. We’re getting too old for that any more. What was discussed on that dock will remain there but it was perhaps the best start to a new year; ever. Thank the gods for good friends.

Arbutus tree in the morning light
Nothing warms my heart like the sight of these magnificent trees in sunlight, especially after a night-long rain.

The month wears on, creeping like a fire truck on a slippery slope. Daylight is already noticeably longer and soon little yellow flowers will begin to appear in parks and glens in the forest. Next the buds now swelling on limbs will burst and we’ll begin to expose our fluorescent skin to the eternal sun. Here’s to spring. We‘re waiting.

“Wanna take a turn around the block?” An overturned piece of dock floatation during some renovations at the Ladysmith Maritime Society Marina. The wonderful volunteer work never ends.

Truth is everybody is going to hurt you: you just gotta find the ones worth suffering for “

…Bob Marley