Click

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

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

The shot in question. Can you hear airplanes?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Heard The Bird!

With all the media’s doom and gloom, from our present deadly global virus pandemic to the endless hordes of victims from war and famine, there’s not a lot of cheer out there. My personal issues are pathetically tiny in comparison but it all wears a person down until there seems no point in anything. One of those little things was that my Goldfield Nevada radio station was no longer live-streaming. For weeks the repeated message was about an error but with no suggestion whose it was. But I kept checking. Apparently it was down for upgrades. I can’t describe the boost I felt on a recent morning when there it was again, loud and clear! It doesn’t take much to cheer me up. I love this small-town mid-desert station with its eclectic play-list and refusal to be slick. It works for me. Burros, blues and country music and then a little bit of classical…can’t beat it with a stick!

I won’t begin to discuss our current global health situation. I don’t know where to begin. Who do I trust? Already being in a state of personal cheerlessness and lingering flu, yes still, I don’t want to damage any of the peaches you may still have on your tree. I doubt that any of us find humour or confidence in the news from anywhere. I think of the tens and tens of millions of us culled by the Spanish Flu a century ago. That was before casual global air travel. And we didn’t learn a thing.

Friends have gone off on their boat to escape the madness and that merely underscores my own situation. For decades I always had an “earthquake plan” at a nearby dock and boy do I feel naked without that. If I had a boat that’s exactly what I’d be doing as well. I think a couple of weeks without any news would be wonderfully restorative. And… I suppose if folks start tipping over by the score there’ll be all sorts of boats available simply for the taking.

For the last two weeks the sky has been clear and cloudless with a chill dry wind blowing. It seemed ominous, even surreal for this part of the world. This morning, the breeze eased enough for me to unzip my outer jacket. Then I heard it. Struth! A mourning dove. Its soft “hoo, hoo, hoo” was the sweetest music I could imagine. It was a little personal cheer for me. That sound is the instant harbinger of many things “desert” and of warmer days to come. There is hope.

In consideration of all the panic-buying of things like toilet paper, I’m heading into the woods to collect a few sacks of moss. No-one seems able to explain the fascination with all that loo paper. Maybe that will be our new currency. I can image board meetings at companies like the Purex Tissue Company. “Well folks,” says the chairman, “I am happy to report that this quarter’s earnings are really shitty!” They all double over in laughter. Then I heard about a pre-flight announcement. “Welcome aboard folks, this is your captain. The weather is fine, we should be about one hour enroute. I also should let you know that I have chosen to work from home today.”

The Covid Collar. (This is an old photo, Jack is fine.)
What if…we all wore a collar 12′ in diameter. That would keep us all the requisite minimum of 6′ from each other. Deluxe models could include toilet paper rollers, face mask dispensers, hand cleaner and beverages.
Base price $395…US!
Mourning Doves, Ajo AZ. On the roof of the old Spanish Mission.
In the desert. A crackle and aroma of Mesquite.
Seems awfully far away right now.

I am especially bemused by politicians who want to assure folks by promising to throw money at them. Governments are always presenting themselves as a source of wealth, which they never are. The money that they are assuring folks is coming doesn’t exist. It is your money and they haven’t extracted it…yet. What bullshit! But we’ll baa the myth and wade on into the swamp. I am a bit of an expert on government financial matters, I have operated a deficit budget for years. I know that debt begets debt and I also know that to have a growing national deficit all the while declaring a surplus is a grand chicanery; especially when we believe them. I sometimes have the terrible thought that I was a politician in a previous life; no wonder the Gods punish me. Seriously, throwing money at things seems to be our eternal solution. If we had not tried to operate on a business as usual plan, we may well have impeded the spread of this plague. Global travel should have stopped at least a month ago. The donkey is long gone from the barn. But I say it again, maybe that’s what all that toilet paper is about. Commerce first, now turn you head and cough.

I wonder if he’s learned not to sit out in the open. A desert ground squirrel.
A Caracara. He’d love a little squirrel for lunch.

Meanwhile, there before the cameras, stands yet another “Official” scratching their eyes and wiping their nose while telling us not to touch our faces. And wait until the world realizes it can survive nicely without the eternal pandemic of sports! For more comic relief you have to chuckle at the many travel companies currently promoting their wondrous packages.  It’s a strange world we live in Master Jack.”

I’m aching to drive this road again.

A friend and fellow blogger sent me this YouTube link.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8-BT6y_wYg

It took my breath away. A perfect underscore for these especially uncertain days.

May the Mourning Dove call your name. PEACE!

___________________________________________________

“The absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence. I expect a sizable jump in [COVID-19] cases in the next few weeks.”

Los Angeles Times, Feb 28, 2020

Quarantine

An ode to spring

As the Covid 19 Virus has officially been declared a “Pandemic” and toilet paper wars surge around the planet (silly people) I continue to seclude myself at home with what I’ve decided previously is called the Schlitzvirus. Mexico, home of Corona, apparently has the lowest global incidence of this insidious bug. Jack and I go for our regular outings in the cool spring weather but I still feel too wobbly to get out and live it up after ten days of this. Apparently I am far from being the only one with a similar affliction. Fortunately old Jack is quite content to sleep twenty-two hours a day so we plod into spring with little alacrity.

Along comes Jack.
Some mornings there are too many good smells in the air to be in a hurry.
Everyone needs a Jack

After a long dull winter I’ve finally finished my latest video. Here’s the link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PukfiKGtTXA

As usual my intent is to provoke folks to look inside themselves and truly think about notions others impose on us as ultimate truths. And that’s the whole situation. Stay healthy.

Bark ‘n fungus. Say that three times quickly. You’ve got it too! The micro-world is just as fascinating as any.
Settled in, again… this waterfront squatters site changes hands frequently. The latest occupant has put some serious effort into upgrades. Despite a chill ocean breeze someone was asleep in there when I took the photo.
A long green arm reached out.
Wot the heck? One more of those spring photos.

Don’t sweat the petty things and don’t pet the sweaty things.” George Carlin

“Wot Part Of Woof Don’tcha Get?”

(Definitely NOT barking mad.)

As my beloved pal Jack advances further into his dotage he continues to learn new things. Or perhaps he teaches himself; and me. Over the past several weeks he has begun employing an extension of his vocabulary of grunts, sighs, groans, growls and barks. Now he regularly emits a special short, sharp bark. Standing beside the door it means he wants out, or back in. By the pantry door the bark means a treat is expected. Coming from the middle of the living room it means he’d like some petting and general attention. In one of his three beds the same demand is a request to be tucked in with a blanket over him.

The watcher

This morning, while laying on “his” living room couch the demanding bark rang out. It meant, I think, “I need to go out but I’m not standing by that door like some sort of common dog. Hop to it doorman!” So I did; and so did he. Spoiled? Oh yeah! But I hasten to say that he can never be out-given. He manages to put back far more than he takes. I cannot imagine life without a dog. For those who don’t understand that, you have my sympathy for missing out on one of man’s highest achievements.    Yes, the dog.

The watched
I’ve always thought that Oyster Catchers were first drawn by a child. They’re slightly out of proportion. Yet, they are perfectly designed for a life in the inter-tidal zone and are a delight to watch and hear.

On that note, while I’ve promised to pare down on my political/ social comments (Because opinions based on media conjectures are simply  irresponsible) I’ve decided to share a simple analogy I’ve recently heard.

I’ll admit to being a member of a capitalist culture. Even Jack is. He hides his bones, keeps a watchful eye on his toys and dishes, guards and marks his territory. At times he even demonstrates a sense of ownership of his human units. Wolves, spiders, birds, fish, all creatures can be possessive about a territory necessary for the needs of their survival. There are some sound reasons for a sense of propriety. However, we humans have a compulsion to acquire for the simple sake of our own insecurity and a false sense of adequacy which comes from amassing far more than we need. It is what we have been taught and in conforming to that premise we have allowed ourselves to be enslaved far more than ever before in our entire earthly history. Yes, you ,me, all of us.

Door please!
Gotcha! That was MY treat! Jack was always a street-fighter but he really doesn’t mind sharing treats and toys. This scuffle was all play.
Always a consummate sea dog. I think he misses the boat as much as I do. He is always wanting to head down any dock we come to.
All you really need. The ocean and a dog.

The analogy I mentioned describes capitalism as cancer. The body is finite and limits its growth within parameters. Cancer is unlimited growth within a finite host. Unless that growth is checked and controlled it will destroy the body and ultimately itself. If the body is our planet and all the symptoms of unsustainable economic development are simply for its own sake then the sad conclusion is obvious and imminent. It is over-simplified perhaps with plenty of possible “Yeah-buts” but I like simple. This is a concept even I can grasp. I’ll keep my opinions to myself.

Massive wealth

If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and man.” – Mark Twain

An Absence Of Birds

I’m dreaming of a Wet Christmas. And to all… a dry night!

It seems that the gods can send messages in unexpected ways. I play YouTube roulette sometimes, just to see what randomly pops up. I’ve discovered incredible musicians from around the globe, found amazing inventions, wonderful stories and once in a while stumble on something that I can only consider as a tiny personal kick in the butt. Today I came across a video about a sixty-three year old cowboy still riding broncos in the rodeo. He’s the real thing and had some eloquent things to say. One was about hitch-hiking, something real hand-to-mouth cowboys do regularly. They don’t all have big-fat-wheeled diesel pickup trucks. “Have a saddle along, it’ll gitchya a ride every time.” (In my hitch-hiking days I had a red toolbox and an old military duffel bag that worked quite well.) He mentioned, after a litany of all his broken bones, how folks tell him he’s crazy to still be at it. “I ain’t never gonna grow up. I’m old but I ain’t never grownin’ up. You’re judged by that third and forth try in life and I think I’ve got one more try.”

There’s some inspiration in those words. Grit! I’ll take a bag please. Course ground!

Bullhead! One of my favourite rodeo photos of all time. It’s over forty years old. I recall that terrier played the bull like a fish on a line. These photos are poor quick copies made with my  mobile phone. I’d take my photos, then printed  them in the darkroom into the night and tried to sell them the next day.
Old leather. One more from the archives. Take a moment and look closely at the details on this old saddle. The obvious age and wear tell very interesting stories.

There are some rodeo days in my ancient history but I soon lost my desire to be slammed around by any angry beast. There may be some momentary beauty in all those arched postures and flailing, jingling rigging and hoofs but it all hurts and years down the trail, those hurts come back to haunt a body. As I age, I wonder at why we continue to do such primal things if for no other reason than the cruelty to the animals. In our latitudes a successful rodeo ride is eight seconds. In Mexico I’ve seen bulls ridden until they collapse. Sport? It might seem manly but I’ve come to consider testosterone a poisonous substance. Mix it with alcohol and you have a bomb about to go off. Those two juices, mixed or not, are at the root of nearly every woe in the world, ever.

The heat, dust and din of a rodeo seems very alien to the dark and thick rain of pre-Christmas coastal BC. Just days from the winter solstice, the darkness here is crushing, even at high noon. Further north the daylight is progressively shorter and the weather much harsher. A nice day is often when the rain simply falls vertically and is not being driven by a blasting wind. I don’t miss it. How people endure it year upon year on the North Coast is a wonder. But they do and even thrive in it. There are different kinds of grit I suppose, but up there with all that rain it’s often just called mud. When I lived and worked on the mid-coast, locals would go south for a few days and arrive back home expressing profound relief at being out of “that mess.” I know what they meant but Geez Louise, watching the moss grow between my toes is no pastime for me. Today the gelatinous rain, almost frozen, doesn’t bounce. It just splats down and heads from the nearest drain.

An annual tradition. Along a popular local walking trail this tree is decorated in memory of dogs who once passed here and have gone on to a higher calling.
It’s very touching.
A ghost of happiness past. Several clear balls contain photos of dogs.
There’ll never be a hand-made decoration on any tree with the name ‘Fred.’

As usual I’m listening to that radio station in Goldfield Nevada, although I’m enduring an overload of Christmas tunes. (Note I didn’t say music.) Some is traditional, some mutant-traditional, some innovative, some weird and some completely bizarre, even rude. (If this old salt thinks it’s rude, it is definitely rude!) All the music is about Christmas and that’s beginning to wear a bit thin. The songs are punctuated with local anecdotes about winter hardships and historical storms with six feet of snow in one night, -30°F temperatures and horrific winds. There are accounts of people freezing to death in the high desert country which I can well believe, it almost happened to me one night on a high Nevada desert plain. Considering the bleak desert winter who can begrudge them their fun? Apparently this is how the season is observed in the Nevada desert.

Fortunately for them, Goldfield is a day north of Las Vegas where cacti begin to grow and the Mexican border is another day’s drive south of there. Theoretically they can escape winter easily. This station has no news broadcasts. That on its own makes it a winner in my books. Their advertising is for small local businesses like restaurants, hardware stores and a tow truck service. There is nothing from box stores, shopping malls, car manufacturers or fast food chains. Public service announcements describe events of common interest like a local highway improvement project. The local “dump road” is temporarily rerouted along the cemetery road. Country logic rules, the dump and the cemetery are side by side.

UNBELIEVABLE! Two hours of sunshine. All sorts of dogs with nice people were suddenly out and about.
Morning Glory! By noon, it was raining again.
As the clouds lifted and the sun broke through, the pagans, after dancing naked around their poles all night, plunged into the frigid sea and swam back to their boats. (Or something like that.)
Thousands of miles from home, many thousands of mariners will make the best of Christmas so very far away from their families.

As I edit what I’ve just written I realize it is all about what I’m absorbing from my electric babysitters. I offer no accounts of what I’m doing because I’m not doing much of any account.

I’m struggling with the second chapter of my third novel; something over a decade old. And it is indeed a struggle. Good creative writing happens when the story writes itself and the writer scrambles to keep up. It’s not happening. The southwestern deserts may seen far away but I’m stuck in my own suburban wasteland. Walking with Jack twice a day out in the drizzling gloom is my high adventure. We do see lovely, colourful wee birds, yesterday it was a brilliant red-headed woodpecker then a flitting flock of golden-crowned kinglets. The flashes of bright yellow on their tiny heads brought instant cheer but the light was too dull for photos with any sort of camera.

Summer
Winter. Jack had no interest in wading.

Today Jack snoozes in front of the fireplace. Part of that time was spent with his head on my lap. He’s warm. By two this afternoon the dull light was fading, and rain or not, we had to make at least one outing. We took a muddy path beside a local stream which was swollen to the top of its banks. These two soggy old mutts plodded along and then homeward, eager to get back by the fire. The rain was so insidious there was an absence of birds, no croaking of a single raven, not even the timid chatter of one chickadee. They’ve all found a place to hole up. I saw one tiny titmouse bouncing along a salmonberry limb. It promptly vanished into the underbrush once it saw what foolish lumps were out trudging in the driving rain. I imagine that, being that size, each thick raindrop must seem like a bucket of water would to me. Home again, I’m content to sit near the fireplace.

Jack is sound asleep again, dreaming of chasing rabbits, perhaps in a daisy-filled meadow. It is sunny and warm wherever he is and he is young again. And me…I don’t need to close my eyes to hear the rustle of palm fronds overhead and smell the salty warm sea air as a frosty lime margarita jumbo is placed in my hand. It is made from a smokey local tequila and the prawns and fish have come out of the bay right out there where that humpback is breaching. Mariachi music plays somewhere up the beach. Beep, beep, beep… the oven is ready for the bread. My fantasy vanishes as a fresh blast of wind and rain batters the window. And what bliss to smell baking bread. Weather be damned, I’m going to eat something!

Where have all the spiders gone?
Maple totems. In each clump of moss, tiny creatures live within their own world.

The big day is close enough now so I’ll wish all Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Season’s Greetings, pleasant solstice, oh yeah Happy Hanukkah. For the rest of you, Bumhug!

Then there’s the New Year.

Like that old cowboy said, one more try.

All of the season’s best from Jack and his human.

I am a forest, and a night of dark trees: but he who is not afraid of my darkness, will find banks full of roses under my cypresses.”

Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

DOFTTAB

DOFTTAB

Thonk! Damn, I didn’t see that coming! The poor wee thing flew into the patio door with a horrible noise. It sat in a billowing cloud of its own pin feathers looking totally befuddled. I picked it up, warming it within my hands until it was ready to fly off. I think it is a crowned sparrow.   Not a bad photo for a mobile phone on a dull morning. It appears on my computer screen about life-size.

I sit at my desk writing this blog and listen to my beloved Goldfield Nevada radio station online. Goldfield is not far from the Black Rock Desert where the annual Burning Man event occurs. I describe Goldfield as being the full-time Burning Man. They seem to have an alternative perspective, quirky, earthy and creative, right out of the box; after that has been thrown away. I love the humour gleaned from this station. The above title is an acronym from KGFN 89.1 which represents ‘Department Of Fixing Things That Ain’t Broke.’ I think there are some quality times spent around a table in that only saloon in Goldfield. Wouldn’t it be fun to collaborate on bits of trivia like that? An announcer with a gravelly desert voice went on to jest about a government complaint that their weather burros were not of sufficiently mixed gender and where were they going to find a female burro to send to Gabbs?

Times are tough. I am living in a flat financial state these days due to circumstances which I am determined are temporary. It will pass, one of the joys of getting older is knowing that all things change. Yes, it’s my fault, I tacked when I should have gybed and then I hit a reef. So I am not feeling the joy and wonder I am apparently expected to feel at this time of year. “You vill haz ze fun vezzer you lak it or nut!” To get more exercise and avoid burning precious gasoline I try to walk everywhere possible. Jack and I are getting in a few extra kilometres of exercise each day. He doesn’t prefer any particular route so long as he gets out and comes home again where he can flop on the couch for several more hours at a time. It is “Like, hibernating season dad!” Some days I join him.

Jack has a master’s degree in couch potatoing.

Occasionally we return along the gentler slopes of Ladysmith’s main street. Today we walked by the cookery shop with its stunning array of gleaming copper pots and stainless kitchen utensils. (That shalt not covet thy neighbour’s pots!) Then we passed the bakery pulsing with aromas of fresh coffee, cinnamon buns, ginger bread and still-warm bread. Next came the pet shop with kittens in a window cage and shelves full of dog treats. Right next door is the town’s butcher shop, a traditional venture with the windows full of succulent treasures like deep and crusty meat pies, fresh fish, thick succulent steaks, whole free-range chickens and my favourite, thick smoked pork chops. Jack, straining back against his leash, wanted to savour it all. I simply wanted to go on by and get home out of the cold rain.

I have known very lean times. Hitchhiking and job-hunting in the severe cold of northern Ontario winters as a young man I endured the numb pain of hunger and the insidious agony of  frost-bitten appendages. The only thing that hurt more was when you were finally able to thaw your parts out. I was a skinny flat-bellied wanderer and I am eternally grateful for the kindness of a few strangers. I imagined walking past these same windows with a similar hunger. Cold, dirty, with no-one to go home to, nor any home for that matter, no change of clothes and nothing to dare hope for. Perhaps there is a metallic taste in the back of your throat from your last meal of something like cold, tinned pasta something and you have no toothpaste or brush to rid yourself of the taste. And how you would love a simple cup of warm coffee. No cream? No problem. This coastal winter damp with kill you as surely as deep sub-zero temperatures, it just takes much longer. Do not doubt, good people, how close we all live to being in that state. Your present situation is fragile regardless of what you think and do not condemn others for being down and out. They have not chosen that situation any more than you would. The stories of some of those living rough are terrifying. Some even hold jobs and have to live like that.

You also do not make good decisions when your back is to the wall. A few simple poor choices may well put you into a state of desperation. One panicked choice leads you to more bad thinking and once that hairball begins to roll downhill it is very hard to stop. We all live at the top of a slippery slope. Smugness and arrogance can easily precipitate the beginning of a slide. It is happening to more and more people these days. And do not dare tell me there is no such thing as bad luck! If my words provide discomfort…good.

There is a reason we don’t sing carols like the one about old King Wenceslas very much anymore. Greed has dulled our humanity. So let me suggest a radical solution to caring for the homeless. It’s simple. All those grand, posh, heated and usually unoccupied church buildings: unlock the doors or start paying tax. Fortunately there are many organizations who try to provide shelter and nurturing for the desperate but they can’t keep up. Overwhelmed, they stand against long odds to make a difference and never get, or want, the recognition they deserve.

Perhaps it’s time to open the old book and review some basic Christian teachings. Note that I am not of any particular religious flavour. Both Christians and Muslims have slaughtered millions and enslaved the minds of even more in the name of divine love. I want none of that mindless double-speak. It was the religious folk who executed Christ. I am, if I fit any pigeon hole, now of a pagan persuasion. Spirituality and religion are two very different things. Whatever God or Gods we create, we are all endowed with the capacity to see and hear the wonderful universe around us. The choice to tune in, or out, is a personal one.That desire in turn offers the wisdom to get along with each other on this splendid planet where we are such ungracious guests. If you want to have “Dominion” over the planet, understand that the word also mean “Responsibility.” It is not complicated.

I’ve fumbled with the above four paragraphs like a three-legged dog trying to make love to a greasy football. Should I post them or not? Out walking with Jack this morning I decided to delete them, it’s Christmas and supposed to be a season of light. Then I happened upon some tattered tarps strung up within a blackberry thicket. Nearby, there was a ubiquitous pirated shopping cart heaped with what appeared to be junk. To me that was a simple essay on the sickness of our society. This person, whoever they are, probably poorly-clothed and marginally fed, whose concern would logically be their next meal, or fix, and better shelter, is obsessed with collecting stuff. There is a strange sense of security in having stuff, any stuff, and our instincts are poisoned with that compulsion to the basest levels. So my acid Christmas comments remain. And yes, I did say CHRISTMAS! Regardless of what anyone believes, it is a Christian-originated celebration. So, if ”Stick it where the sun doesn’t shine” is politically incorrect; AWESOME!

Eeech! Tis the season to not be sleeping in a ditch.
May your berries be many and may they be dry.

Well something did bend me toward a Christmas sentiment the other day. CBC radio was playing some Sunday morning choral music and hit on ‘Oh Fortuna’ by Karl Orbst. It is a grand stirring piece, one of mankind’s favourites. You’ve heard it no doubt whether you knew it or not. There are many renditions on YouTube. It was written about eight hundred years ago. With no computers, no electronics or recording devices through the centuries it has endured, one of those timeless tributes to the genius of man stripped of all the crutches we have so easily and wilfully come to depend upon. The things we are truly capable of!

How many times… have I walked by this subtle graffiti on a stone in a wall? As I edited the photo I suddenly saw the face. Brilliant!
Greener than moss on a maple. What lovely textures.

As I write, my Nevada radio station is playing as usual. This morning their Christmas music began. Most traditional songs are bastardized or are some new effort, neither of which do much for my grinchiness. Somehow, “Jingle Bells” with banjos does not resonate with me. But then, a line from the next song caught my ear. “Tis the season when the greedy give a dime to the needy, then wonder who’s gonna stuff their socks.” That was closely followed by a ballad about pack rats raiding the Christmas stockings then returning a pair of long-lost eyeglasses.

Ah indeed, ‘tis the season!

Eat your heart out! I dragged out my old dutch oven after 35 years and made some kneadless bread. It’s dead-easy to make and tastes as good as it looks. Ah gluten, the glue that holds civilization together. After losing over 40 pounds this year, this stuff is dangerous.
“Ladysmith! Next stop Ladysmith Station!” I wonder if a conductor will ever shout those words again. It seems so sad that this line is not carrying passengers while our highways are clogged, dangerous and toxic.
Ladysmith sunrise.
As I posted the preceding photo I remembered this crude old ink sketch of mine which I rediscovered recently. It is decades old. I drew it long before ever being in Ladysmith. Is that Jack going down the hill toward the harbour with me?  Strange!
Wet wood. I watched this fellow cutting wood at the high tide line a few days ago. It’s a romantic image.
I wouldn’t trade this for any amount of glitz.
Basic. Simple. Perfect!

A lovely thing about Christmas is that it’s compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together.” …Garrison Keillor

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

Election Day

The dull light above my desk at mid-afternoon. The ceiling is  white but not today. I actually built this skylight, it was just blank ceiling before. What a job!

It has bucketed rain all day; a steady, splattering, cold soaking rain. I am happy to not be sleeping under a bridge today. Jack, in his primal wisdom, stowed several bowels of food yesterday and has retreated into hibernation as the deluge continues. The rain drums on the skylight above my desk, echoing down through the light shaft, muffled, it seems, by the grudging grey light sieving through the thick low clouds. Kept inside by the weather, I salvaged yet-to-be-used video clips and put them together in a stew of vague continuity.

Here’s the result. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jQtJ2j-74A

I marvel that a year ago it took me several weeks to finally upload my first video. When I watch it now I am surprised at how good it is for a first effort despite some very obvious flaws. Onwards and sideways, that’s the life for me. Someday, I’ll be able to take some lessons and afford better equipment but for the meantime I am enjoying the challenges of learning more about this very challenging art. Here are some local photos from the last few days. It is election day and I hope, my fellow Canadians, that you have got your soggy bottoms out there and voted. Eh!

Aldergeist revisited. I named this tree years ago for, what to me, is a screaming mouth with dark eyes. It remains a landmark.
NOT overhead baggage. This monster was purchased by my father when he emigrated from England to Canada in 1948. I believe all he owned was packed inside. In the tedium of this dull day I extracted it from storage and repaired a hinge, a first repair. Not bad after 70 years. The Cunard White Star line once owned the ‘Titanic.’
The edge. A moment later, a beaver swam by.
Into the woods they went, over the bridge and up the hill never to be seen again.
Arbutus wet. Even in the dull morning light, these trees seem to glow. They are a favourite for me.
A jungle stream. You think not? Try walking in there!
Texture! A toadstool with attitude.
On top of his world. It was wet and slimy but he did his best.
Going down the tube. These twin wooden pipes are over four feet in diameter. They supply water to a local pulp mill.
‘Cutty Sark’ my obligatory nautical photo for this blog. This was taken in Greenwich on Millenium Christmas. The vessel has since burned and been rebuilt. Wandering her decks was a deeply spiritual experience for me. I ache to return. Chichester’s ‘Gipsy Moth IV’ is also displayed here.

Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.”

H. L. Mencke

(PS:  It’s still raining… only six months till spring.)

Graffiti With Comas

WOT?

That title is a recent description which I heard about blogging. And perhaps so. This weary writer, who through the years, has produced a half-shelf full of manuscripts, and only managed to self-publish a few, is not sure at times why he bothers to continue blogging. No, blogging is not literature, but neither are some of the best-sellers I have read. Actually, I know why I blog, and the reasons are selfish so I will not openly admit them. I do truly like to think, however, that my noble ambition is to make people aware of the beauty all around us, of which so many lose sight in our rush through life. I also hope that a few folks are inspired to expand a questioning mind and not blindly accept all the slurry which washes around us. That’s all!

Here is the YouTube link to my latest video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcpvMIGUymY&t=47s

Those who have already seen it have been very kind with their remarks about my slowly- improving amateur efforts. If you will, please click the thumbs up button on the lower right-hand side of the video. Thank you. I have found videography to be a challenging, complicated endeavour, especially with my fumbling self-taught progress and low-budget equipment. I do enjoy completing a project and seeing a gradual improvement to the quality of my work. Hopefully I provide a gentle inspiration to a few.

Cider on the limb, worms and all.
Just a few days ago the mature corn provided cover and lunch for the deer.
Now…it’s hunting season. The corn, harvested and chopped into silage, will feed dairy cattle in the coming winter. That in turn will become the dairy products in the fridge and perhaps the roast in your oven.

The seasos progresses into autumn with our first gloomy, drizzling days. The rain is cold now. It is slashing down as I write. Jack lays by the glass door, exhaling great sighs in anticipation of going for our morning expedition. We will have some wonderful weather yet, but we all know that summer is over. I stowed the inflatable boat and focus on how to get myself south for a good part of the winter. The next time I inflate that dinghy, I intend it to be with Mexican air. Andalé!

Use it or lose it. Himalayan Blackberries, an aggressive invasive species and local enigma with wonderful berries and nightmarish brambles. The vines seem to reach out and grab you. If you panic and fight you become more ensnared. Hopefully brush cutter machinery will pass by to keep the road open until it all grows back again.
Grethe’s bloom. An exotic in the late summer rain. Enjoy it while you can.
Waterfront dream. Someone’s summer home, built at great expense languishes beside Porlier Pass as the flooding tide passes by. There must be comfort in knowing you own a place like this while you hurtle about in the city, trying to pay for it.
Sailing away from the sunset toward another dawn.

And then I found this; yet another link to YouTube, take this Ted Talk as you will. It inspired me. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VaRO5-V1uK0

One of the first conditions of happiness is that the link between Man and Nature shall not be broken.”

…Leo Tolstoy

Labour Day Musings

The shining dinghy. A moment of reflection at high slack tide. The boat house would make a lovely wee home.

Jack and I walked our normal morning loop down at the waterfront and around the old coal terminal here in Ladysmith. I call it the “Black Beach” because of all the coal left over from that era. Jack loves it there. Blackberries and rabbits thrive and he often gets to socialize with other wonderful dogs. The sun hung as a huge white ball low over the glassy waters of the harbour. No boat stirred its surface. There was not a breath of wind. The morning air was cool in the shade and warm in the light. A heavy dew had settled this morning. The seasons progress.

TILT! In a town on a hill. This shed has been leaning like that for over ten years. Would you park your car in it?
The leaky pipe grows the grass. Part of the water supply for our local pulp mill. These wooden pipe lines run for miles. Superb engineering, some of these pipes are several feet in diameter. This one is only about two feet.

For some reason I recalled a labour day sixty-two years ago today. It was 1957, I was five years old. My father was a manic gardener and could produce amazing heaps of vegetables out of the red clay soil of Southern Ontario where we lived. Across the street from where we rented a tiny house there sprawled a large playing field. Several games of soccer often went on at the same time. I can still hear shouts in Italian and Portuguese as flashing balls ricocheted back and forth on the broad field and see swarthy men pelting about in pursuit. Every spring a circus came to the Oakville arena on the far side of that expanse. When it left town there remained warm pungent heaps of manure. Elephant, camel, horse, monkey, lion, tiger; dad swore by the properties of these exotic mounds and he would trot with his wheel barrow back and forth across the park with his freely-acquired aromatic garden elixir late into the night. He certainly could conjure monstrous vegetables out of that brick clay mixed with circus dung.

On the particular Labour Day I’m recalling, he built a fire in the backyard and installed a cauldron over it. We harvested from the garden and mom boiled and canned a large part of our winter’s preserves. We were living in town, newcomers from dairy farms, but even then, in post-war suburban Canada, it was an unusual thing for folks to do. Dad had survived the war in rural England, mother grew up on a prairie homestead through the depression and survivalist sensibilities came naturally to them. They possessed and taught me skills which I now take pride in when most people around me live in a push-button culture. It was hot, dirty work but even at that tender age I was expected to work like a little man. A friend from up the street wandered by to ask me to come play but was told I had to stay home until the day-long job was done. I complained that it was a holiday and dad responded that on Labour Day everyone was expected to work, no matter what other folks were doing. I believe he was serious.

The very next day was my first ever at school. I walked, on my own, the better part of a mile to find my way to kindergarten. When, years later, I visited these old haunts as an adult, I could not believe that my parents had pushed me out into the world like that. I suppose that is how baby birds learn to fly, flap or crash. I learned skills which have served me well throughout my existence. My parents were martially strict yet would allow me great latitudes in how far and how long I wandered. Apparently, when I was outside of their presence, God was expected to babysit. When I pass a high-school and see the parade of vehicles transporting teenage students I wonder at these kids and their skills to go out into a digital world and cope with basics like food and shelter. I cannot even operate a modern mobile phone competently but I do know how to survive without one.

A few weeks later that fall, Sputnik orbited over our house. I recall, even now, how everyone stood out in their backyards staring up at the clear night sky not sure what they were looking for. Suddenly someone cried, “There it is!” and soon we all spotted, in muted awe, a very bright star hurtling across the darkening cosmos. The world changed forever that night. We seldom look up now to count all the satellites stitching across the sky in all directions. We don’t even look up from our texting as we step into the traffic.

My parents, consummate fundamentalist evangelical Christians had been indoctrinated that Soviet Communism was the epitome of Satanic evil and surely the mark of the “end of days.” This mysterious Russian weapon (or whatever Khrushchev was scheming) now violating God’s heaven and spying down on us surely heralded Armageddon. We were living through the era leading up to the Cuban Missile Crisis and paranoia of being fried to a crisp was rampant. I recall the air-raid sirens and the drills at school when we would all crawl under our desks and kiss our little asses goodbye, again. A gas explosion destroyed a house a few blocks away that winter. There was a huge thump, everything rattled horrifically. I can still remember my deep terror that this was IT. The Pinkos had struck!

Well, here I am well over a half-century later. I survived it all including my high-school years which is a fabulous story in itself. All I’ll offer of those days is that there was grave concern for a few years about the next encroaching ice age. Yes really! Then Ralph Nader came along and the tiger crap really hit the fan. The profit of paranoia is still imposed on us as never before history began to be recorded.

The keeper. Carved in a rock at the entrance to a popular forest path. I wonder how many folks ever see it. Later in the day, as the light shifts, it is almost invisible.
I’ll give it a buzz. Another keeper of another path. Wasps seem to be on standby in the nest’s entrance. Nice berries!
Please park older trailers in the back. I rent a space in this storage yard. All those RVs just sitting…and all I need is one!
Yep, she’s almost paid for! This 1967 Mercury F250 was built two years before I graduated in the town where the Ford assembly plant was located. The truck looks in better shape than I do! The owner ran a venerable power saw repair business. Clearly, logging is his passion. Note the horn!

It is now a beautiful, flawless late summer day. I need to get up from this desk and do something. Despite backyard burning being illegal in this town I am tempted to find some beets to boil and go make a fire. I could explain to the volunteer fire department that I was following a cultural tradition. Yeah right. There is a rising breeze and if I turned on my marine radio I’d hear a string of Maydays. It happens every summer long -weekend. Yachters from mainland Canada must return across the Strait Of Georgia and as soon as a tiny whitecap appears, panic sets in among the Tupperware armada. It used to amuse me but now that I’m boatless a dull knife twists in my gut. I know that all those millions of dollars of nautica, which never leave sight of land, belong to most folks for nearly every reason other than a love of the sea. Once in the home marina most of these “look at me possessions” will languish abandoned until Easter. Money isn’t everything but I sure could stand a change of problems.

C’mon Jack, let’s go for a walk.”

I know, you’ve seen it before, but it is my trademark photo of all time. This was taken over twenty years ago while sailing alone aboard my first ‘Seafire.’ The image is indelible in my brain and says everything about what sailing means to me. In troubled moments, like during a dental procedure, I close my eyes and this vision sustains me.

…”The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.”

… Annie Dillard, from ‘The Abundance’