The Plan Was

Napa Moon, October 1st. Smoke from the fires in the Napa Valley once again coloured our skies.

The woods were silent. The autumn sun rose in a clear sky, its warm light laddering down between yellow maple leaves still thick on the branches. Old Jack plodded along the trail, his breath was thick clouds of steam in each shaft of light slanting onto the ground. I walked ahead and waited for him, looking for things worth a photograph. It’s not a bad arrangement. Once, he used to run ahead and then wait for me. Damn, it is so very hard watching a beloved friend age and knowing that one day too soon he will go on to leave you alone. It is an essay on savouring the moment. It’s all anyone has; not today, certainly not tomorrow, not the next hour. Now, this moment, click, it is all we have.

So, finally my old camper is in Fred shape. I’ve even resealed all the exterior seams along the roof and sides. Oddly after forty years the old butyl sealant was hardening and even mouldy. I’ve replaced it with double layers of new material. Hopefully that will fend off the insidious leaks which come with winter rains. At last Jack and I are off to spend a few nights in it. Last night was the first sleep in our little box and now for the first time I’m sitting at my wobbly one-legged camper table with my laptop. A mug of fresh-perked strong black coffee is at my elbow.

The plan was to seek out a spot on the shores of Nitinaht Lake. The lake drains into the open ocean through a famous narrows and I’d hoped to take the inflatable boat for some exploring and filming. It won’t be happening.

Nice doghouse. Jack has accepted the camper as home and loves watching the world from the door.

This area is the homeland of the Ditidaht people. They have a community at the head of the lake and have closed the entire area to outsiders, no covid crackers. The bitter impression of what smallpox did to their population is still vivid and rightly so. I drove on by but after miles of rough logging road came upon a sign explaining that even the campground I sought was closed. Bugga! That was what I’d come for. It’s their land, and as a trespasser I cannot raise my voice but it had been a long day, I was tired, it was getting dark. We continued on the road toward the Carmanah Valley and of course couldn’t find a place to pull off for the night. Finally I turned down a side trail which looked like it was used occasionally. If folks go in, they’re able to turn around somewhere and come back out. Right?

When you are tired things can become a little weird. We drove on and on through a gauntlet of ever-thickening lashing alder branches with no place to turn around. Towing the trailer, there was no choice but to continue on into this sucker hole and beat hell out of my rig. Every turn of the wheels took us further in but there was no backing out. Full darkness settled just as we finally found a place to wiggle around to face the way out and park, fog followed soon after and continues to swirl through the tree tops this morning. In the distance we can hear the roar of surf from the open Pacific. Making its way along the coast a freighter blows its sonorous fog horn, out there somewhere, a lonely sound indeed. Overhead, mysterious birds call, Murres I wonder. We retreated into the camper for our first night and finally made some lunch at eight pm. This morning we are parked in an old quarry pointed in the correct direction to leave listening to the sounds from the grey fog, no-one, including us, knows where we are.

In a quandary in a quarry in the fog. The view must be amazing on a clear day.
For the tree huggers. It is a bleak view indeed… to the untrained eye. There’s a lot more there if you care to see.

Since the last paragraph we’ve been for a short walk and now it’s time for a warm breakfast and more coffee. After tramping for another half kilometre along this trail it is clear we drove as far as we’d dared. Thank goodness I stopped when I did. We saw some beautiful willow grouse and stupendous heaps of bear droppings, or perhaps they’re from a sasquatch. I’m soaked to the knees from all the fog condensed on the growth in the trail. Well-used elk trails cross the trail regularly. I’ve noted the yellow alder stain on the front corners of the camper. “Tough on riggin” is the older logger’s colloquialism that comes to mind. I’ll feel better when we’re back out bumping along the main road. We emerged with minimal collateral damage. Old knowledge was refreshed with only a few minor battle scars to show for my stupidity. With plans dashed, I just want to find a spot to set up camp for a few days. Obviously we are now back from our adventures. Of course on our return leg I saw a few places we could have stopped on the roadside. Hindsight! But as a friend says, “If you ain’t been aground, you ain’t been around!” I learn later that we were only four kilometres from the Carmanah campground where a friend was spending the night.

The way out seemed much shorter than the way in. It sure felt good to break out into the open and away from the lashing alder branches.

Later I write from a glorious spot. We are camped on a gravel bar of the Nitinaht River. The rolling water is crystal clear and full of spawning Chinook salmon. Upon arrival Jack flopped down on the river gravel and vigorously scratched his back. It’s a sign of great happiness. Next he trotted down to the river’s edge and had a long drink. We’re staying a while. I’m sitting at my Honda table beneath my white canopy. A cheery fire crackles a few feet away. In the dark salmon splash in the river. Bliss.

Can we stay here huh? Can we, can we? The first thing Jack did was to flop on his back and luxuriate in a long wriggling happy scratch.
Camp on the Nitinaht. It’s all ours and nobody wanted money!
The view from the camper door.

Then some yahoos arrive. In the dark as usual. They get stuck in a mud hole, there is much shouting. Tires and people squeal but finally they settle somewhere in the woods nearby. I can hear someone splitting firewood and yes, there it is, the loud pulse of their stereo, as usual. Backwoods serenity! Jack has already retreated into the camper. I’m joining him.

In the morning my friend appeared at my campsite. What a wonderful surprise. Niels is a dear friend of many years and his presence immediately lifted me out of my dark funk. He had tracked me all the way out to the Carmanah and then given up on finding me. He spent a night camping on his own. He was homeward bound when by chance he spotted my little white circus tent beside the river.

The rushing river water is crystal clear. We could clearly all the spawners. Here we can see a cutthroat trout hoping to pirate a few eggs.
Males and female. In a few days with eggs laid and fertilized, the fish die and become nutrient in the water and forest. It is an incredible drama.
Our fascination with the spawners is shared by others. This male is in prime condition and had a surly swagger.
A pink porta-pooper. A great idea, the portable composting toilet. Shovel and paper not included. Bookshelf optional.

We had a great day together watching the salmon, some well over twenty pounds. Sometimes a cutthroat trout hovers near a mating pair of salmon and tries to pirate eggs. It is all fascinating to watch this drama in crystal clear water. A handsome male black bear ambled and snacked along the opposite river bank, the song of the river and the wind kept him from noticing us; or maybe he knew what we taste like and was just not interested. Today we headed back to the east side of the island and soon emerged into brilliant sunlight and clear skies. Now we’re alone again in a campground on the south side of Lake Cowichan. Seeing a friend out in the woods was very uplifting and exactly what I needed. Thanks Niels; for everything.

Out from under the clouds on Lake Cowichan. The stars were fabulous.
Morning fog
A visitor drops in. I think it was a flying lesson for someone learning glassy water landing, perhaps the most dangerous part of float flying.

Next day, in mid-afternoon after a very lazy morning Jack and I continue to take our ease in the sun-dappled shade of a beautiful forest of second-growth fir. We are in a tiny provincial park on the south shore of Lake Cowichan for a couple of nights. Jack wanders off to explore the beach and woods for a half-hour at a time before returning to check on me. Being allowed to do that is his nirvana. Loons, geese and swans held a choir practice of wonderful wild music out on the lake. Then a gorgeous Zenair 701 kit-built floatplane idled along a few feet above the glassy water, stirring up other old passions. Much higher, heavy commercial flights inbound from the open Pacific glide eastward toward Vancouver.

Second-growth forest.
Autumn on Lake Cowichan
The remains of a pier where steam log trains dumped their loads into the water to be towed by steam tug to the mills and rail head at the far end of the lake.
There was a certain romance to the rape of the majestic old-growth forest. One has to admire the tenacity, brawn and skill of those people who truly believed they were doing a noble thing.
Old school. Not many loggers could do this anymore. This is called a “strap” used for securing a block in a specific place. It was piece of very stiff 2″ cable with two beautifully spliced and tapered eyes. It would have been made by hand using a stump, a few railway spikes, a marlinspike and a hammer.
If you couldn’t buy it, you built it. Recycling was part of the logger’s skillset.

As dusk falls I’ve built a campfire and less than twenty feet away a tree frog begins its song. I’ve never seen one yet. They often makes their calls from nearby but I cannot ever spot one. If you try to sneak up on that big little sound they stop. They are very tiny and wary so for me they remain a happy mystery. It’s been an easy, peaceful day. I try not to feel guilty about doing absolutely nothing. Beyond the west end of the lake a few clouds over on the ocean side catch the last light of the setting sun as I begin splicing together a video about this little trip. Then comes a loon’s solitary serenade from out on the lake, perhaps the most beautiful sound I know. A barred owl begins hooting from a tree nearby. Forest internet. G’night.

Good night.

Abraham Maslow: In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or step back into safety.”

Up The Creek

(Written Somewhere On Vancouver Island Beside Johnstone Strait)

The eagle marked the spot where we would camp for the next week. I chose it for the incredible view, which is also where it caught incredible wind.

Poor cell service. No internet, no news, no e-mail, no Twitter. Sunny, but with a cold westerly wind blowing down Johnstone Strait. Jack and I are camped at the mouth of a River near the top of Vancouver Island. A monstrous dryland log sort separates us from Johnstone Strait and the foaming waters reared by the blasting wind. There is a lovely little campground provided free of charge by the timber company. Spiked to a tree a sign says, “If you clean up your mess maybe you’ll come again.” Blue collar eloquence; the area is pristine. Below us is a fantastic dreamlike maze of huge Sitka spruce interwoven with clear shallow gravel-bottomed streams. There is thick underbrush and a shoulder-high carpet of ferns. The area is thick with slugs. Within a half-hour of setting Jack’s food dish down it was crawling with the slimy beasts. I don’t care who used to eat them, eeech! I am stumped for how to take photos or video which accurately portrays the feeling of this beautiful place. Salmon spawn here and there are reports of grizzlies in the area. The roads are liberally dotted with huge mounds of bear scat so I make lots of noise and stay in open areas. Does a bear crap in the woods? Yep, and twice as often on the road. It’s a manyberry thing. Unless….. a Sasquatch festival? Now playing: The Mugwumps.

Along the way, you’ve got to stop to smell the daisies.
A shy one, but soon to open.
There’s a powerful beauty even in something as common as a daisy

We drove in around nine pm. There was plenty of light and plenty of game. Elk and deer ambled the road in several places. After two nights in that place we then found the roadway to heaven. Now I’m sitting in the dark only twenty feet from the ocean’s edge looking northward up the last miles of Johnstone Strait. There is a brisk cool westerly breeze which has eased from a near-gale at sundown. I’ll let my photos describe this place which I’ll leave un-named. If you are a kindred spirit you’ll find it on your own which makes the magic a little richer or, if you like, I’ll tell you one on one if you ask. It’s that kind of place. Other campers here, who have been coming for decades, have sworn me to secrecy. I see why.

Says it all.

Next paragraph, twenty-four hours later. Another blazing yet soft J.M. Turner sunset. The wind is finally easing, for the moment. I’ve known it to blast relentlessly for over two weeks non-stop. That’s a long time to be stuck on a tug boat with a few other blue-collared guys. Tensions rise and tedium inspires bad tempers. Bound to our log tow, one time for two weeks, we were committed to nursing it through the storm until we could deliver it safely far south down the coast. That would take ten more days if all went well. Six hours on watch, six off, day in day out, that tedium brings out hidden bottles and then hell breaks loose. I’ve seen a fist fight over who installed the toilet paper roll backwards! It’s funny now!

I drove out of the woods and found a meadow filled with flowers and a campsite on the beach.
Ghost Tree. The rivers are pristine.
Missed it!
Vancouver Island has many beautiful rivers, accessible to anyone who wants to find them.

But tonight here is peaceful. A young brother and sister are playing on the large roots of a beached tree thirty feet away. It’s lovely to hear the sound of their happy voices against the rhythm of waves gently lapping on the stone beach and a joy to see two siblings who like each other enough to get along amicably. Their joint imaginations as they turn the big roots into their castle, decorating it with kelp, is uplifting. Sometimes there is a rattle of the round beach stones rolling in the pull of the waves. The day began with a pod of humpbacks swimming close to shore, now it ends placidly. Money cannot buy bliss like this.

Ever the trooper, Jack is always up for the next adventure.
“Dear mom, I’ve bought a trailer. It needs a few repairs.” Remnants of a time when this place was a logging camp.
The Altar. A windbreak at a campsite fire pit. Visitors seem to keep adding bits.
That’s us on the point. A grand view with lots of wind.
How’s this view for Canada Day?

This paragraph begins on July first; the year half spent. Instead of being in a crowd celebrating our nationhood in a sweating Covid mass with loud music and the aroma of food stalls, I sit alone at my Honda table by the edge of the sea. The wind rose again this morning. When I opened the door on the trailer we were shrouded in fog. Now that fog has become a roll of low grey cloud over the strait and I watch a wall of rain advancing slowly toward us. I am wearing all the jackets and vests I have. I was astute enough to bring a water-proof storm coat with me. It seems like winter. Still, I’d rather be here. That’s a grand feeling.

Where the river meets the sea.
My office; where I wrote this blog. Camera ready.  Jack keeps watch. There were plenty of whales, I got no good images. So…I’ll go back.

Jack is away making his rounds. Most of the campsites have filled. Those folks have children and dogs. He comes back regularly to check on me and let me know he’s having a fine time and, perhaps, to assure himself of my blessing to wander. God forbid I wander off! He’s just reappeared with two gorgeous Australian collies. They voraciously sample his food bowl while he sits by, the gracious host. With all these people around there are no lurking predators and I know he does not go exploring beyond a short radius. He knows his limits and his joy is mine as well. I want every one of his senior days to be as rich as possible. After making his rounds he wants to get back into bed in the trailer. (Which I’ve decided to name ‘Boxtrot’) I join him and pull an extra blanket over us. The day wears on and we hibernate. Rain lashes the far shore of the strait. The neighbours cut and split more firewood. On the horizon to the west a sail catches a glint of sunlight. That may be the brightest moment of the day. And so it was. At day’s end, the wind is still blasting. The horizon to the west is a bright gleam of sunlight and there are now patches of blue between the ragged clouds; whatever that means. It’s all good.

On our sixth morning we awake to a pristine sky. Now a rising southeast breeze stirs the ocean. Without the roar of the wind I can hear a choir of bird songs echoing through the surrounding woods. The bitin, g bugs have returned with a vengeance. A red squirrel scolds and a pine martin scampers along the beach with a freshly caught crab in his mouth. Jack has found a patch of sunlight under the trees and he snores gently in his bed of spruce needles. I sip my first coffee and ruefully consider that groceries are beginning to run low. I don’t want to leave but it will be homeward tomorrow.

Yesterday I went for more firewood from a nearby abandoned logging sight. Jack despises the din of chainsaws and promptly disappeared. I went off in a panic-riddled search only to find him eventually sitting exactly back where I had been working. He was soaked in hydraulic oil. Apparently he had hidden beneath the only logging machine still there. There is a hose and tap harnessed to a nearby spring so with a bottle of dish detergent Jack had to endure a cold bath. While doing that I met a former skipper I’d once worked with on the boats. He was camped nearby; funny little world! In the evening my camping neighbour rushed up to me asking if I knew first aid. His wife was splitting kindling and had amputated the end of her thumb. A small drama (Not to her!) which serves as a reminder about how quickly things can happen and the need for thoughtful prudence; especially when you and your buddy are two old dogs. Fortunately I was able to assist and after a trip to a distant hospital, they were back in their tent before dawn.

Splendid waterfalls are not uncommon but often hard to access.
“Red sky at night, sailor’s delight.” 10 pm, looking up Johnstone Strait.
A perfect fit. Two crossed logs chaffing against each other on each high tide.
An ancient casting, made when this rock was molten.
More beach art. The root was about eight feet high.
A very mature plum tree, a souvenir of days long past.
The tree was full of robins and ripening fruit. another reason to return. There must be another tree nearby for pollination.
Waiting for whales…still.
Camp Runamuck perfected.

In the time that I’ve written these last two paragraphs the wind has risen from a zephyr to a half-gale. It stacks waves against the rising tide. It’s beautiful and I wonder how long before I see the bright colour of someone’s spinnaker charging up the coast. (There was one late in the afternoon.) I’ll sit placidly, sipping coffee and waiting for whales. Breakfast over, dishes done, chores complete I’m back at my table pecking away. While sitting here I’ve started reading a new (to me) book. I try to buy books from the bargain bin in my favourite book store and sometimes find a real treasure. I’ve begun ‘Fishing For Stars’ by Bryce Courtenay.’ I liked the title. It’s brick-thick with seven-hundred pages of small print. The first paragraph is like a poem and begins: “Some things from the past stay fresh in the mind of an old man…” He goes on to describe being at sea in a gaff-rigged cutter named ‘Madam Butterfly.’ I was hooked. On the forth page I read: “Mine has been a fortunate life in so many ways, but in the end we live more in our head than we do in a place and lately there’s some alarming stuff happening in my head.” That’d be me!

The soggy bottom boy. Soon the bears will be sitting and waiting for salmon.

I think it’s time Jack and I went for a walk. I’ll give my impression on this novel once I’ve squeezed it for the last drop; six hundred ninety-five pages to go.

An ingenious fusion of two vessels which become a very seaworthy little boat.
One more for the road. It is a spectacular island where I live.

Back from our walk, I’ve decided to declare this a do nothing afternoon. We walked to the far side of a lovely stream not far from here, explored and waded back across through the icy water. Jack swam and is clearly delighted in today’s little adventure. Now he’s asleep in his day bed. He is a master of do-nothingness. I’m trying to learn the art. Next blog I’ll post a link to my next video, made about this recent trip.

Tudaloo!

Our mind is of three categories: what we know, what we don’t know, and what we don’t know we don’t know. Not knowing is unfortunate; not knowing that we don’t know is tragic.” – W. Erhart.

Covid One Nine

Deepwoods blog. The table comes from the back of an older Honda CRV. It was the trunk floor and spare tire cover. Intended to double as a traveller’s table it is rugged and stable. Jack deals with the bugs.

I’m sitting at my beloved old Honda car trunk table in the woods north of Campbell River swatting at mosquitoes and black flies despite a brisk breeze. This blog has begun first day out on our next jaunt. I’ve left my computer mouse behind so I’m poking away with my banana fingers and hoping for the best. So far the only other thing I seem to have forgotten is the butter. Jack is fine, peacefully laying on his bed beside me wiggling his ears at the bugs. On our postprandial walk we met a lovely black bear, probably a two-year old. It crashed off into the thick brush of course and I was reminded that old Jack is no longer the feisty beast he once was. Neither am I. We’ve had a long day. With the bugs being so friendly we are about to lock away the groceries and retire for the night. One of the nice things about getting old is that you can fall asleep anywhere, any time. At least until the middle of the night. Then, after determining that it is indeed the “golden age” you can’t get back to sleep until after first light which, of course, is why you can fall asleep any time through the day.

In the morning, after a night of absolute quiet we stepped out into the cool early morning light with clouds of black flies hovering silently. Too stunned to go into feeding frenzy, they’ll soon be at it as the day warms. We’ll move on. With my morning coffee beside me I sift through my notes and see two T-shirt logos I’ve written down. On elderly man slowly walking his old dog had a shirt which said “In memory of a time when I cared.” The other comes from a music video. The drummer’s shirt said “Let’s get together and make some poor decisions.” Right then! With the day’s business meeting concluded, the bugs have broken out the antifreeze and are attacking in squadrons. Breakfast quickly, we be gone!

The Cable Cafe in Sayward. Cleverly built of logger’s cables it is unique. In years past, I’ve enjoyed some wonderful meals here. The pies were incredible.
It was also once a logging museum.
Sit on that puppy for twelve hours every day in the woods. That is a road grader in the background. It was what they had!
Yeah? Fetch you! Nice stick.
Happy Jack. He loves to explore any place new. There’s still a gleam in his eye.
Serial # 428. Empire was one of over 150 foundries in Vancouver meeting coastal needs of every description.
This was a wood-fired, steam-powered yarding machine, used to skid logs out of the woods. When an area was logged of all the timber, the yarder engineer would move the huge steam winch (or donkey) by hooking its cables to stumps ahead and skidding the contraption on those log runners to a new location.
So what do you do with a hollow stump out back?
You build the ubiquitous outhouse…complete with extra toe-room.
Devil’s Club. Aptly named, these nasty plants have leaves two feet wide and everything is covered in vicious thorns which love to hook deep into your skin, then break off and fester.
Cable art

A few hours of meandering brings us to a vast concrete pad at the end of a logging road on the edge of Johnstone Strait. With our camp barely set up, a pair of humpback whales swam past, heading north. I am very familiar with these waters, having tug-boated and sailed up and down this strait for many decades. I’m looking across to the Stimpson Reef Light and remember all the dark nights either towing logs or smashing into nasty seas. That light was a tiny dot on the radar screen slowly making its way along the sweeping green scan line. Yes, I miss it.

Tonight we have an abandoned log sorting ground to ourselves. One could park up to thirty RVs here with respectable distancing but I’m content with things the way they are. Sadly, after all the frustrations of packing this little boat up here there is no place to launch it. The foreshore is a steep jumbled mass of boulders, logs and abandoned machinery. With the wind I think is coming, perhaps it’s a good thing. This strait is notorious for its quick and deadly seas. There’s an old WWII gunnery fortification a short way down the shoreline I’ve long wanted to visit. But it has languished without my personal visit for almost eighty years. Windy Point will be fine for a while yet.

End of the road. We had all this to ourselves.
That’s me in the corner.

The marine forecast is for wind and rain which is fine… no bugs! Having worked in the great northern bug country these ones here are amateurs in comparison but still, who needs them. They’re here for a reason, but none of those reasons are mine! The cyber voice droning out the marine forecast offers admonishments about dealing with “Covid One Nine” and assisting the RCMP in their efforts to prevent the spread of the virus. Isn’t a boat an ultimate isolation unit already? Who are the people that think this stuff up?

I sit by my fire, wishing I’d brought a winter coat along. Then I think of this same spot at the same hour in mid-January. It would have been dark by three pm and the snow or sleet would be blowing horizontally. I crawl into my little trailer where Jack has already been warming the bed. A rain shower drums on the lid and we both drift into a deep sleep, cuddled like the old pals we are.

Morning dawns still bug-free thanks to the damp breeze blowing along the strait. There’s low cloud and I’m wearing all my jackets. My little generator drones on, charging the batteries on all my cameras and gadgets. I marvel at how dependant I’ve become on all of this stuff, stuff, stuff. There’s no point in reviewing the minimalism I’ve known and practised, obviously I’ve evolved beyond that, or perhaps “been seduced” is a better term. I can actually shut the generator off from my bed, simply by pushing an icon on my cell phone! Hopefully the breakfast drone will be making a delivery shortly, I pushed that button twenty minutes ago! I do know that trying to work this computer without my mouse is a challenge, downloading images is a right horror, there’s no hope of editing them.

The day passed idyllically. Jack is not up to much hiking anymore so after a couple of kilometres, and several mounds of fresh bear droppings, we prudently decided to lounge beneath the home tent. I watch the ever-changing tidal currents shift and bend and swirl, an eternal fascination. The amount of traffic on the strait amazes me. There is seldom much time with no boats in sight and others when there may be half a dozen to see all at once. I have made a conservative estimate of about one hundred fifty commercial vessels as well as several yachts. Due to Covid one nine there are no cruise ships or tour boats this year. There are a lot of fishing boats heading north right now, there must be some openings in Alaska coming up.

The camp inspector. This lovely spot was occupied by someone who had parked their trailer in the middle, taking up the whole area for themselves alone. We were set-up three hundred metres away…all alone. Early worm gets the bird!
WTF? There was a trailer here yesterday! If my phone hadn’t rang I was considering a move to here and settling in for a spell.
There was even plumbing with sweet, cool clean water.
And succulent, tasty salmon berries.
A first glimple of the sea while descending to the log sort. A fringe of old growth timber remains. The logged-off area was not replanted and left to fend for itself.
Left to reseed itself this second-growth area desperately needs thinning if it is to become natural forest or managed timber.  There are thousands of hectares of re-gen forest like this all over the coast. The original timber still standing is of excellent size and quality. Hopefully it will be left untouched.
Second growth forest becomes a dead zone without thinning. The new trees need light to grow and to allow the forest flow to evolve into the vibrant plant zone which supports the adolescent trees and wildlife.

Even though I’m not on the water at the moment, I feel like I’m home. As I write, on the opposite shore, a tug with a log tow rides the flood tide southward, hoping no doubt to make it into Sunderland Channel before the tide in the strait turns against its progress. With skill and luck, it will be in position to catch the first of the next flood into the Wellbore Rapids. Eighteen miles in twelve hours hours, it doesn’t sound like much, but when towing log booms, that distance can seem like an odyssey. A few miles south of here, where you turn out of the strait is a place called Fanny Islet. It is a check point where marine traffic control is advised of commercial vessel’s progress. One dark nasty night I was aboard the ‘Kaymar’ with one-hundred-twenty sections of log bundles, an entire forest packaged into a raft about the size of a hay field. We had our entire towline out, if we slowed from our speed of one knot, that line could snag on the bottom. Then the radio call came. “Mayday, Mayday, oh fuck we’re sinking!” We were the only other vessel anywhere near and are bound in all ways to assist. It was a long and interesting winter night. We missed our tide at the Wellbores.

A line tug bound for Alaska passed a while ago. They are huge tugs, powered with massive EMD diesels, the same as used in rail locomotives and their resonant throb pulses in the gathering darkness long after they have passed from view. It is a reassuring and somehow lonely sound all at once. The barges these boats pull are the lifeline of Alaska. They are huge and travel between the various ports of Alaska and their southern terminus in Seattle. In some of this coast’s thick fogs, although you have them plotted precisely on radar, these massive scows loom out of the gloom looking like half a city. Even though Johnstone Strait is an average of two miles wide, it seem like a ditch when meeting in poor visibility. Of course, you seldom meet in the widest places.

There is a magic light which, for a few minutes, bathes Johnstone Strait some evenings.

The next day is blustery and dark with frequent rain squalls. I’m wondering what to do with this day. It’s too miserable to sit under the marquis tent and Jack is restless. Then unbelievably the phone rings despite the weak and intermittent cell service. It is the doctor’s office, they want me to come in for an appointment, more test results. Remember the bladder thing? Unfortunately there was no breakfast from the sky and I know there will be no prescription delivery drone. Here I am now, back at my desk in Ladysmith. The weather is forecast to soon improve. Yep, we’ll gone again.

The Adams River in the pouring rain. Running parallel a few miles away is the Eve River.

We don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” Native American proverb

Honesty, Stupidity And Little Green Lies

“Nevermore.” This crow sat in the same spot for a couple of hours cawing out a message of dubious meaning.

While posting the previous blog, it was pleasing to realize that my text had not once used the C word which now nestles in our vocabulary to a point of not being noticed. It is like the word “like” which has become a painfully misused preposition. I’m like so in love. I’m like going fast. I’m like really hungry. WTH? What exactly are you doing if you are doing like something? Is there a parallel existence that is like this one? Ya know, like, it really pisses me off. Like actually? How did that misuse of basic language creep in along with all the other strange anomalies we don’t even hear after a while? The word “cool” is now long used to express the same appreciation which, when I was a child, was “hot.” Awesome! There’s yet another. An English friend was accused of having an English accent. He responded “No mate, I am English, I don’t have an accent.” You’re hearing me with your accent. Now then, could you like pass me a beer eh? Yup, I can see how English is a hard language to learn.

Know the feeling? Try to keep your bow pointed for open water. The tide will return.
Reserved parking or recycling? There was a time when old cars were used to try and prevent erosion along riverbanks. Folks were as well-intentioned then as we are now. Maybe we’ll learn yet.
Down the creek just before the sea.
Up the creek. A vital salmon stream encroached on by subdivisions, light industry and shopping malls.
I can hear happy children jumping from the bridge on a hot summer day. This photo is at low tide.
Camp Runamuck . Someone is living off-grid in social isolation beneath the tracks on the edge of town. The site is clean and…mortgage free ocean front. I admire the dignity.

CRA, now there’s another disagreeable C word. Canada Revenue Agency; Mr. Turdeau’s mafia. For reasons of health I am no longer able to do the he-man work I used to. For reasons of age I am apparently not a desirable hire-able. I do under-the-table jobs which a lifetime of experience permits me to do when others can’t or won’t. For reasons of poor luck, translated to honesty and stupidity, I am not financially secure. I’m flat-assed busted broke. But being a responsible citizen, I filed my tax return in good time, weeks before the dead line. There were a few hundred bucks coming back which I really need.

The wooden leopard. Disguised as a dead limb and poised to strike. This rare wildcat waited for its prey above a dog-walkers parking spot. It had acquired a taste for fluffy little dogs.
YouTube, me tube, their tube. This wooden water pipe is part of a network taking water to a nearby pulp mill.
Two of these pipes run for miles to the mill. Pumping water from the Nanaimo River, through more pumping stations, under rivers and streams, never mind the salmon, all so we can have products like toilet paper. Five feet in diameter, they are amazing engineering.
Zzzzzt! It’s a matter of time. A little more wind on a rainy day and this arbutus will provide a cracking light display.
Vanilla Leaf plants. Hung in bunches and dried, these plants have a pleasant smell and were used traditionally as an insect repellant.

Then the Covid Crisis was acknowledged and the government began handing out money to anyone who came up with a vaguely reasonable story, honest or not. Just apply online, three easy questions. The country is being bilked, scammed, and ripped-off for an astronomical sum we have not begun to calculate. I know there are dire and legitimate needs but there is a part of our society which has no conscience nor consideration of consequences. Meanwhile, trying to be an honest citizen receives punishment. After a lifetime of contributing to the GNP I’m treated like I don’t matter. I can also reiterate, from experience, how shabbily a small Canadian entrepreneur is treated. A free spirit? Scum! And over seventy percent of our economy is small business-based.

Another one! I’ve been walking by this carving for a very long time before I finally saw it. Brilliant!

A blurb on the evening news casually mentioned that tax returns filed on paper, the old-fashioned way, had been delayed because of all the other emergency activities. Well, I’m old-school. I checked the mail again, nothing. In the morning I phoned CRA and after a maze of numbers to push I waited for almost fifty minutes to speak with an “agent.” Wonderfully her accent was standard Canadian, and she was pleasant, both unusual in my experience with government agencies. I provided the data so that funds could be direct-deposited to my bank account. I asked the question “When?” I learned that in fact paper-filed returns have been suspended.

Well, guess what queue I’m going to go stand in? My income has been cut-off due to the Covid crisis. Coincidentally, our illustrious Prime Minister has announced today, that the government has banned over 1500 makes of assault-style firearms. Hmmm, interesting timing! Coincidence? A long-time hunter, I know that nobody needs a Kalashnikov to hunt deer. For once I agree with our supreme dude but remember that one pissed-off old citizen with a shotgun can still damage a politician! A pitch fork will work too! Beware angry geezers. They don’t have much to loose!

A little later, I return to my desk after shovelling some gravel for a neighbour. I feel much better and muse about the therapeutic values of splitting fire wood and other simple mindless manual labour. There’s nothing like a good zen sweat. I miss that pre-fossil fuel which warms a body at least twice before it is burned. I watched a documentary about life on a nearby Gulf Island and listened to a fellow who proudly uses firewood for heating and cooking, brag about not using fossil fuels. Stunning! He cuts it with a gasoline chainsaw, brings it home in a gasoline truck and has clearly never thought about what coal and oil came from. Yeah man; ancient composted vegetation, like you know, trees! Then there’s the question about carbon footprints and how many cubic metres of Co2 he produces being environmentally friendly.

This guy has raised his family in a yurt while he builds a big wooden house, with asphalt shingles, glass windows and a deep concrete basement as well as many other exploited resources. When do we ever figure out that each of us is part of the problem? Stop the bullshit and work out the difference between need, want and greed. I understand that there are a lot of very well intentioned people who are poorly informed, even misguided.

Here’s a tiny bit of environmental homework. Do research on the mining and smelting of sand to make all the glass we use. And what of concrete? Mining the rock, crushing it into powder, baking it to make cement all so we go and smother more natural earth somewhere else is a monstrous environmental disaster which few consider. The impact is huge! The production of concrete is one of the planet’s single largest sources of carbon dioxide. And just think of all the energy consumed to make glass, concrete, steel, toilet paper! All those exploited resources, and the energy to take and modify them to suit our ends, so much going into housing, schools and hospitals (Boarded up or not) commercial and industrial buildings, roads, malls, churches, airports all of which will be ripped up and replaced within a few decades. The environmental cost, for example, incurred to produce windmills is huge and not questioned because if we can put some of those twirling giants on display we’re clearly in the groove. Are we doing what we do to be thoughtfully in tune with the planet or are we going through the motions of appearing cool? A friend describes our madness as “Fornicating for chastity.”

I’ve just reviewed the latest Michael Moore documentary ‘Planet Of The Humans.’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zk11vI-7czE

I’m not a great fan of Mikey but he was clever enough to keep his pudgy face out of this one. He is facetious, as capable of bending statistics and evidence as his targets, and probably as profit-motivated. I do love the indignant howls of various environment organizations targeted in this film. The information presented is perverted but so are many of the notions he challenges. The message is clearly, “Green Energy” demands as much energy, if not more, than it would have taken to simply consume fossil fuels in the first place. A wise old man once told me that the key to long-term survival is to realize how little we really need. Just think of all the paper tissue products we consume; all for the extravagance of ease and comfort. It is not complicated. CONSUME LESS! WASTE LESS! The documentary is meeting mixed reviews but it does provoke questioning dialogue. If folks would just ask questions the world would begin to improve. Unfortunately we all live in a very broad comfort zone where complacency rules our choices and allows politicians and corporations (One and the same it often turns out) free rein.

My favourites. Chocolate lilies. Rare, fleeting, fragile and beautiful, they mark the ending of the spring lily season.
Chocolate lilies. Then they’ll be gone.
Camas Jack. What’s happier than a wet dog? …a wet dog that’s rolled on a dead salmon!  “I love you dad, let’s cuddle!”
Puddle Break! C’mon, lay down and drink. Taste the mud. None of that clear fresh rainwater for me.

When I was a child the notion of rolls of paper towels would have been dumbfounding. When clothing was too worn to patch anymore, (An alien concept now) it was torn up for rags, which were even washed and reused. Toilet paper was not novel, but many of us with outdoor facilities used newspaper and old book pages. It was how I learned to read. The planet advanced nicely without our present decadence. Think of all the environmental devastation wrought simply so we can clean our bottoms with triple-fluffy poo pillows. Hell, some ads even have the bears using the stuff. Trouble is, the woods where those bears live are being cut down to make dunny rolls. When the Covid panic hit, folks rushed out in panic to gather all the toilet paper they could find. Priorities first!

Here’s one more thought. Suppose some persuasive enterprisers are able to convince the world that the gyprock drywall used in nearly every building is a deadly carcinogen. It has to go the way of lead-pipe plumbing and asbestos products. Can you imagine? Sleep well.

See what happens when you mess with a taxpayer. You get him thinking!

Shack Island squall. These islands, in a beautiful natural bay, were populated during the 1930s. I think it should be a heritage site. Newcomers want the buildings razed although they are all owned in perpetuity. It is a splendid example of people adapting to tough times.
Piper Island woods. A rain squall hit and drove everyone off. We had all this beauty to ourselves and Lord knows, we’re not made of sugar!
Piper’s Lagoon, after the squall. Within minutes of the storm’s passing, whole families magically appeared. The urge to get outside is clearly overwhelming.
From the woods, Jack and I watched a squadron of racing sloops bash their way around Five Fingers Island. We both ached to be with them.
Right then, on my count, stand up and reach high as you can. 1, 2, 3. Hello? Hello!
Young engineers. It is wonderful to see what a little driftwood and imagination can produce. Beats hell out of any video game. My father’s ashes are scattered in the wild roses here.
May you find tranquility,
Splendid isolation…
…and a good neighbour.

 

On a positive note. We still live in a part of the world where we are free to openly voice criticisms. Imagine enduring this pandemic, for example, in Syria or India or an African state. Throw in Ebola, drought, civil war and general desperate starvation. When schools and casinos will re-open are not a concern. Finding a hospital, any hospital is a challenge. A friend travelling in Zimbabwe last year ended up in hospital after an accident. To be viewed, her x-rays were taken outside and held up to the sun. So how many ventilators might they have on hand? Face masks? Yeah right! Toilet paper; what’s that? We’re doing OK.

After hours of shouting ” Six feet, six feet” to the people on the path, Heckle decided a ‘see nothing’ policy was much easier.

You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference and you have to decide what kind of a difference you want to make.”
Jane Goodall

S’not Funny

Pink. Trillium that is. They seem especially prolific this year.

If your nose is runny and you’re with your honey,

don’t think it’s funny, ‘cause it’s not.”…anon

If my nose was running money honey

I’d blow it all on you.” … Moron Brothers

Look damnit I’m just trying to make you laugh. Some folks, I know, will be disgusted, s’not for you. Others will laugh till they fart. Don’t be disgusted, you do it too! Whatever it takes, laugh with me or laugh at me, it is my little effort to help us all make it through another Covid day.

That’s me in the corner. Howya doin’ over there?

There’s not much new to write about. One day blends into the next. It’s odd how even the most adventurous of us seem restricted during this damndemic and how all the news just sounds the same. An apparently normal guy in Nova Scotia, (a denturist, whodda thunk?) went nutters and killed sixteen people during a Hollywood style rampage of mayhem and arson and  car crashes. There is speculation that the pressures of our pandemic may have flipped his switch and there may be more to come from others. At least in Canada, that sort of horror is still news. So without any more rhetoric on the woes of the world here are some more pictures. To take one of the fawn lily images this morning I flopped down on the ground, suddenly realizing I had nearly planted myself in a few pounds of cleverly stacked and hidden poodle poo. “Gee these flowers smell kinda shitty!” All’s well that ends. I came home with a clean shirt reminding myself that taking pictures is about seeing; everything!

Already! They’re starting to fall. One good wind and it will be all over for another year.
A technically terrible photo but… it was point and shoot with my mobile phone. A rare sight to see these two woodpeckers squabbling over territory, I felt privileged to see them at all.
The winner is!
There they go.

I’ve decided to start calling my photos “Cellphies.” Today’s pictures were all taken with my cell phone, despite the dull light. There’s something about finding, seeing and capturing an image that has to be good for anyone’s soul. You don’t need any exotic photo equipment to feel fulfilled and right now, at spring time, it is a great way to deal with our social stresses. I muse that a crusty old sailor man ought to be keeping his subject matter to the sea and to boats but I find being without a boat is too darned painful to be skulking around the waterfront. That will pass, the boatless bit that is, so I may as well see what I can while I’m still ashore.

Fawn Lily
Again!
In Covid fields
where white lilies grow
this season will pass
we’ll breathe free at last.
Trillium
Currant
Broom
Cherry
Apple
Maple
Ferns
It seemed like an endless journey down through the jungle but suddenly and finally we came to the sea. There was only one remaining stretch of thorny brush. Then we heard the tiger growl.
High bloomer. This is the tallest cherry tree I’ve ever seen.
Mr. Peabody’s Coal Train. ‘Paradise’ is a song by John Prine which describes a railway built to help exploit local resources then abandoned at everyone else’s expense. This is our version. The blossoms are grand.
Leave the porch light on. Even if it is a cave.
Bloom on. Someone’s yard in town.
A family with children in self-isolation. This a lovely house down on the corner. The dogwoods glow in the afternoon light.
Fly like an eagle, the sky is still free.
The phantom carver strikes again! The work appears in places that leaves folks wondering how long they have not been seeing it. Maybe the hole is a bottle opener?
Old Stinkeye. Jack in the ferns with his ubiquitous grin.

Don’t count the days, make the days count.”

The Joy Of Going Nowhere

The incredible Camas. Note the insect enjoying the pollen. These gorgeous flowers were a staple food of local indigenous peoples. They would dig and dry the bulbs, then pound them into flour. You just had to know which ones would kill you!

After I checked my e-mail this morning I followed my usual routine of clearing my bin and my spam file. To my disgust and bemusement there was some spam mail claiming to be solicitations from folks in hospital dying of Covid 19. Lowlifes! In contrast there are certain types of courage I know I do not possess and I offer my deep respect for all the emergency workers, healthcare people and essential store employees.

To get up every weary day and go back to your personal grind, whether it be cleaning toilets, picking up the garbage, stocking shelves, sanitizing medical equipment or nursing sick people is immensely courageous. As much as part of me despises police, I can’t imagine our world without them. Imagine the nutters they have to deal with, especially in our present times. It is all tedious and risky as these folks go about humbly serving their fellow humans. They deserve all the appreciation we can muster. And think of all the parents confined with their children. They now have not even a menial job to go to and must hang their hopes on some politician’s promises. What do you call courage when you have no choices? That resolve and responsibility leaves me with hope for the future.

A chip on the old block. I see this carving as a tribute to all the parents struggling with their personal realities of this pandemic.
A sure sign that some children are getting fresh air and exercise. They’re also being inspired to be creative…”Look ma, no computer!” These painted stones are appearing along trails everywhere. I love it!
One for Jack and friends.
And from a bigger kid! The phantom rock carver strikes again. A ling cod perhaps.
Face it! Part of my delight in this wonderful rock carving is that it sits in the corner of a parking area where few people must notice it, although it leaps out once you do. i’d really like to meet this covert carver and express my appreciation of all the work done across the area.

Like many folks my days drag by. Walking my old friend Jack has become a pinnacle of activity. Out for our morning jaunt around a small, nearby lake, I managed to make a mistake. There are now so many Covid signs and “Don’t do nuthin” warnings posted all over that I don’t even see them anymore. I carelessly managed to launch Jack and I against the now-posted traffic flow on the trail. Our first encounter was with an older man puffing furiously on a cigarette and shouting at me that I was putting his health at risk by walking the “Wrong way.” I told him to be careful, an airplane might fall on him and that the smouldering cat turd stuffed into his gob wasn’t helping my health. Thanks very much.

The next admonishment came from two wobbling old ladies with walking sticks who were quite upset about my non-conformist approach. I told them that I was well outside the six-foot spacing, and that the wind was blowing from them to me. I also promised to walk backwards for a while. Blank looks! The old dears were at the very back of a long, hilly loop around the lake. I thought of who would have to risk themselves should a rescue become necessary. I don’t want to put myself or anyone else at risk, but who would have ever thought that a person could walk the wrong way in the forest?

Most people interacted like reasonable folks while we all kept our distance and exchanged pleasantries. The social interactions felt as good as the exercise. The next enraged scolding came from a young man who clearly saw himself as a Covid Cop. I hope that Amazon is soon able to deliver his new uniform despite their backlog of orders. The deluxe costumes will come with a Darth Vader helmet. The face grill can hold a replaceable filter. A built-in a speaker will play echoing pre-recorded warnings including a rasping, gasping cough and various prolonged bubbling wheezes. Other scarier mask options could include, Justin, Boris and Donald.

Covid Cop
I have pirated this from the internet and note the copyright. Call the cops!
Another covid cop, a bent-barrelled carbinier. Hope he doesn’t shoot someone in the foot.
Covid Cadillac…maybe this is the cop’s car! What we drove in days past, imagine taking your driver’s test in this pig! Perhaps it is a social isolation unit, the trunk could house an entire family. Grandpa gets the back seat. Compare these wheels to the full-size pickup truck. How many litres per mile?
In the gooped-up rear window. Say no more. Note the yellow pollen specs.

Meanwhile I saw a man hitch-hiking on the highway yesterday. He was gone when I returned a little later. Someone gave him a ride. Turn you head to cough! And oddly, throughout this crisis, I have yet to meet anyone displaying any flu-like symptoms. They’re at home I guess.

Rex In Peace. Deep in the woods, beside a trail, someone’s friend rests in what must have been a favourite place.
The rare and highly secretive moss bear. It is seldom seen because it so cleverly disguises itself. Aw c’mon, use your imagination!

Yesterday Jack and I chose a different walk, one we had not taken for years. It meanders out to Jack Point which help protect Nanaimo Harbour from the open Strait Of Georgia and is also where one of our BC Ferry Terminals is situated. We passed the large, and active sawmill next to the terminal, emitting the usual mill din and ash. It was wonderful to hear normal activity. The folks we met on the single trail in and out were friendly and considerate, the weather mild and perfect. At the final long and steep stairway on the trail it was obvious old Jack was floundering, so after a rest, we made the slow return trek without asking more of his valiant spirit. What a wonderful friend! It is very hard watching him age. There is still a spark in his eyes and he is determined to let nothing hold him back but his old pins have nearly run their course. I suppose that soon I’ll have to find him one of those expensive off-road baby strollers so we can still get him out and about.

I wondered as I wandered. How long ago was this small fir cut? Was it uniquely straight or crooked? Did it become part of someone’s boat?
Down by the sea, that’s where you’ll find my dog and me. Jack takes a deserved rest. Recently we visited friends on their boat where he promptly fell asleep. He was determined to get aboard. Jack loves boats of all kinds.
Low side of the high road. This winding trail is clearly well-used and there is a blessed minimum of signs.

Now, in mid-April, the afternoons are warm, the skies still clear and cloudless. The air is filled with drifts of mixed pollen and dust. We are entering a time of drought…in April! There have been few spring rains, the walking trails are dusty and we are already in a wildfire season. Perhaps our summer will be a wet one, but only fools and new-comers predict the weather. Meanwhile all the symptoms of allergy season are upon many of us which is just what we need in the midst of our Covid chaos. Still, if one must endure a plague of contagion I can’t think of a better place to be. Those who live far from the sea deserve a special sympathy. In my opinion.

High above the roofs of Ladysmith. A harbour view through the blooming Dogwood trees.

That the man on the throne was completely bonkers said more about the imploding culture than the ruler.” …Mary Beard Rome: Empire without Limit

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