I Knew Better

Waiting for the wind to ease. Johnstone Strait winds can rise instantly. If blowing against a tide the waters can become vicious. Prudent boaters know it’s best to wait things out especially when using lake boats.

If there’s a slight draftiness to this text you’re not imagining anything. I have to keep blowing spruce needles off my keyboard. They rain down as the wind howls through the branches overhead. I’m back at my favourite camping spot on Northern Vancouver Island beneath the trees beside the fire trying to keep warm in a very chill breeze. It’s time for the pink (sockeye) salmon to be running. I thought I’d catch some fish, film some bears wading in the creekmouth as they fed but, there are no fish at the moment. And it’s too windy to launch my little boat off the beach. It’s August 11th, I’m wearing my winter coat and all the heavy clothing I have with me.

“All clear Dad. no bears. Let’s go over there.” I waded, he swam.
Sandpipers. Are they heading south already?
Racing Rock.

Ever notice how few things are seldom quite as good as a previous experience? I recount this with humour and bemusement. It’s downright funny! How else do you deal with folks being folks? Six weeks ago this place had only a half-dozen campers, who were kindred spirits with nice dogs. Now the place is overwhelmed with garrulous people trying to take as much space as possible. We all possess a primal urge to lay claim to more than we need and for some, a sense of conquest is part of their outdoor experience. I’m not sure they even know they do it. Each camper seems to have noisy dogs determined to declare loud rights to this entire territory which is quite offensive to Jack. He knows it’s all his! There is a monstrous fifth-wheel trailer parked where it effectively blocks the lane to other campsites. The geezers who came with it sit under their canopy waving cheerfully to others as if to say “Aren’t we grand?” I waved back limply and kept my big mouth shut. Part of the fun for me is minimalism, although I confess that as I write, my generator purrs away charging everything from the electric fridge to the cell phone and this computer.

Home made techno camping. The generator runs the battery charger and other electric gadgets. The charger sparks up the car battery in my DIY charger pack. That, in turn runs my 12 volt fridge and can provide 12v power for other jobs including boosting a dead auto battery. The extra harness connects the charging pack to a solar panel. Don’t laugh, it works! Ready for the desert.

When someone appears to be leaving, there is a frenzy among other campers who think that it’s a better location than where they were already set up. They frantically pack chairs, tables and firewood by hand over to the next site before the previous occupants have even left. There is the eleven pm arrival of someone joining friends at their camp spot with the requisite bashing about, flashing of brilliant lights and a plethora of screeched commands. “Stopstopstop! SHIT! Turn your wheels a little. NO! Turn em HARD! Easy, easy!” Then their little windup dog is released to begin yelping at the world. Oh the things I want to shout out! Wearily, I turn on my light and read another chapter, then two.

Marning. First coffee. Warmth.
Sorry Vegans! There’s nothing like a good chorizo sausage grilled over an open wood fire…except perhaps, four more. Just add a glass of red wine.

The spirit of the place is much different than it was earlier, but I was warned a different breed was coming. I knew better. Maybe I should come back next month to complete my comparisons. In the morning I sit with a cup of stout black coffee beside a small fire trying to warm up. A cold damp wind has blown all night and even Jack, cuddled up, did not keep my old bones warm. I sit musing about the primal pleasure of an open wood fire and how a little heat from it on one side manages to warm your whole body. Then comes a dry, rasping Covid cough from the trailer blocking the trail. Her merry band sits around her apparently oblivious to her emissions and the bits of lung she’s spewing around. It went on last night and begins again. I’ve seen her Rubenesque form in spandex grandeur and can only think “Pity the pallbearers!” Pandemic or not, she has the sort of deep-chest ripper that deserves a doctor. Despite all the overwhelming admonitions to self-quarantine with any Covid-like symptoms there are those for whom the rules don’t apply. Dead right!

On a mound of gravel overlooking the beach, a gaggle of folks wearing hoods and wrapped in blankets have brought their folding chairs up into the wind and taken up post with a huge telescope. One of them has a large, lunging rottweiler on a leash which appears eager to eat anyone who comes near. On one of the outhouses someone has posted a hand-made misspelled sign proclaiming it to be their private crapper. If a mobile taco stand appears, no surprise. Most folks are lovely but as usual, there are those few who impose themselves on everyone else. In truth the entire site is actually quieter and more civil than those managed sites with little goons in brown shirts patrolling and telling folks what is forbidden as they collect camping fees. Those managed sites have folks parked ridiculously close to each other with no sense of solitude, or this year, social isolation. There is none of that here, but I would happily pay to have this persistent cold wind turned off.

Westerly winds usually ease at sundown. The clouds low on the distant horizon mark the open ocean, always a siren call for a sailor.

The drive homeward was a frenzied gauntlet. I plodded along at 100 kph, despite the 110 speed limit. Fuel consumption and wear and tear just don’t make sense and besides, I swear that if you were going 140, you’d still feel like you were holding folks back. There was not one police car in sight on the entire trip. When we arrived at the traffic lights in Nanaimo, many of those who hurtled past were waiting right beside us only to zoom off as if late for their own funeral. I’m embarrassed to admit that I was one of those hurtling fools for many years. All that happened more quickly was my aging process.

So now I’m finishing this back in Ladysmith. I’ve had my morning coffee out on the deck listening to the sounds of urban Vancouver Island. Across the alley, the daily release of a neighbour’s Alsatian. “Rowrowrowrowrowrowrowrowrowrow…….Shaddup gitoverere,” then comes the rasping deep-chest cough of a heavy smoker. More bits of lung. It is a weary, predictable script. The serenade is a daily event as regular every morning as the Tuesday seven pm volunteer fire department siren. Then sounds emerge from all over and soon our quiet little town is anything but quiet, drowned in urban sound pollution. It’s time to go back to the woods! There I’ll start my chainsaw and cut some firewood.

Home again. Nope! Not coming out. It’s warm in here.
No way! Not even for a baby rabbit.
Twenty minutes to fill a gallon pail. The garden shears help to gain access to the fat ones always just beyond ones reach. You can put the whole cluster over the pail so none get lost. There are still thorns to endure, but no pain, no gain. It took twenty minutes to fill this pail.
The state of our railway. The tracks are being overgrown by blackberries.
Municipal organics on the town office lawn. This may be green thinking but they still leave the Christmas lights on for several months.
Something new on main street. In support of two eating establishments this deck has just been built. I’ve wondered if it could also double as a public gallows..ya know, for folks not wearing their covid mask. Judging by the concrete blocks, it could be a big hit. This deck was built days after the local by-law officer showed up to check on a building permit for a backyard deck extension I’d built at home. In a move toward 21st century civility, there is now a plastic portable toilet installed across the main street.
In an effort to brighten up mainstreet some wit has decided to paint this historic hotel black. Tres chic? NOT!

A friend and I went to look at what had once been a gorgeous 47’ liveaboard sail-anywhere cutter. Now it is filled with rot from one end to the other and the crusty evidence of long neglect. I couldn’t bring myself to photograph this beauty in her abject humiliation.The vessel is being auctioned off to cover overdue moorage fees. From what I saw, and didn’t see, the monster project wouldn’t be worth more than ten thousand dollars. Otters have already provided copious deposits. There is a fortune to spend as well as several months of hard, long hours. Binderdundat! By comparison a sister ship in Europe is currently for sale for $US 140,000. It seems a huge tragedy to me. That amount of funds would well set me back on my rails and here it’s been thrown away. The ongoing saga of boats and dreamers repeats itself and some naive buyer is about to gain a massive education as the dark realization of a fantastic dream becomes a dark nightmare. For once, it won’t be me.

Archipelago at sunset. That’s me anchored in the middle.  On a metal bar table. There’s always something to see if you look.
Hard abstract. A detail in poured concrete.
Aboriginal abstract. Duncan is renowned for the native carvings on its streets. Work like this nicely moves forward from traditional themes.
Arbutus dawn. It’s the time of year when these trees shed last year’s skin as they grow a little more. The aroma of their leaves and skin underfoot is magnificent.

Strangely enough, they have a mind to till the soil, and the love of possessions is a disease in them.” …Sitting Bull

 

It’s All Relative

Try to stay balanced.
We’re all on the fence these days!

The main street is nearly deserted. I pulled into one of many available angled parking spots across from the pharmacy. As I reached for the door-handle there was a blur in the spot next to me. A small car pulled in as if it were a brake test zone. The young woman driving was wearing a surgical mask. Had I been a second earlier I would have been mince. No mask would have helped me.

Cold front over the water front. An approaching mass of cold air wedges itself beneath the warm air ahead. All is calm and bright with everyone in social isolation. Any bets on how much longer that boathouse will survive?

There’s a weary old joke about a person who quits smoking only to be run over by a tobacco truck. We fixate on one peril and ignore several others. Think of all the near misses one endures while out driving on any road. You have no control over the other driver and what a single twitch of their hand could do. Danger is all around us, at all times, we cannot escape its presence even as we obsess about the perils of our present pandemic and all the social issues of isolation versus contamination.

Most of us would go completely around the twist if we lost our electronic and cyber web of information and distraction. I was on the phone yesterday with a friend from South Africa. He talked about my recent blog and the sad news of the wolf Takaya. He then related a similar story about a hippopotamus that went walkabout and was eventually shot. The story is about ninety years old but simply by googling “hippo shot in South Africa” I had instant access to several accounts of the legend of Huberta. It is truly amazing how the internet evolved so quickly to become the wealth of information (and lies) it is. Even more incredibly we take it all for granted, accepting whatever is presented as truth.

Behind my back gate.
Everybody now! Two days later.

Yesterday morning we awoke to the sound of a train on the roof. Actually it was a burst of rain and sleet which gave way to another sunny morning. The next onslaught of precipitation came just after Jack and I had launched ourselves on our morning wander. Of course. Like the few folks out with their dogs, we all respectfully maintained a two-metre radius and it is suggested that we not even pet each other’s canine for fear of transferring heeby jeebies that way. There are dark aspects to people’s behaviour certainly but that seems outweighed by the goodness and graciousness demonstrated by most but the symptoms of analytis are evident at the best of times and those folks put themselves in a place of auto-distancing by default.

Currently the currant bushes are in bloom.
Salmon Berries too

Lollygagging, remember that word? It sits on the shelf just after heeby jeeby, not far before malinger which is a bit before a box marked “Redneck Terms” which are often single-syllable four-letter words far more commonly used, especially in times like these by crusty old dudes like me. Folks will come to understand “Cabin Fever” if they don’t already. That in turn may erupt into a wild rage far more insidious than any virus. When we can all come up out of our lemming holes again, perhaps we’ll find the world a little better place with a newly re-found respect for each other and ourselves. How long those lessons last will be up to each of us.

Trillium Trivectis.
Oregon Grape
Looks like Eli is trying a comeback.
Face it. We’re all in the woods together.

This morning Jack and I were out and about in the cold crispy air and misty light of early morning. We met no-one else. There were not even any cars on the road. It seems very strange indeed.

Despite my cynicisms about media information here are three online items which might provide some comic relief, dark as it may be.

The first is from New York City where throngs of people crowded together on bridges and the waterfront to see the arrival of the US Navy hospital ship ‘Comfort.’ There are several photos which show folks with mobile phones held high, trying to record the moment.

The next is about the ‘Resolute,’ a small cruise ship in international waters off the coast of Tobago. It was accosted by a Venezuelan navy patrol vessel, the ‘Naiguta’ which demanded the ship allow itself to be forced into a Venezuelan port. Instead the ship, which had been built with an ice-breaking bow, rammed and sank the naval vessel. There were no lives lost and the story cheers me immensely.

And finally, a horrible story from Texas. On an interstate highway a tractor trailer load of toilet paper crashed and burned. Photos show flaming rolls littering several lanes. Hot wipes!

And so another day drags on, hopefully we all find something to smile about. I hope the spring flowers bring a little cheer.

Seasons past
Jack’s hammer.
He showed an interest but we’ve got too many rusty hammers already.
Besides, what if it is evidence?
No breathing, no nothing. This is a parking area on the waterfront where folks come to sit in splendid social isolation in their cars and savour the harbour view. Fear the fear.
Shy Perriwinkles
Have you ever pointed a camera at a crow? You’ve got to be quick. They are incredibly wary.
The bomber. A local company, Coulson Aviation, contracts water bombing services globally. This is a Boeing 737, which they have developed for bombing wildfires. Hopefully we won’t be seeing them this summer.
Coal flowers
These feral blooms grow a short distance away in the same abandoned coal pile.
May your path ahead be clear, level, verdant and full of light…with a few blossoms as well.

Humanity is not without answers or solutions regarding how to liberate itself from scenarios that invariably end with mass exterminations. Tools such as compassion, trust, empathy, love, and ethical discernment are already in our possession. The next sensible step would be to use them.”
― Aberjhani, Splendid Literarium: A Treasury of Stories, Aphorisms, Poems, and Essays