Slippery Slopes

The last resort. A view of Dogpatch in autumnal splendour. The heavy chair begs a question or two.

We slide down the slippery slope called autumn. Our first frost of this fall glitters on the roofs this morning as the reluctant sun rises under a clear cold sky. There’s no turning back so we may as well ride it out and get on with it. If we gain enough momentum, perhaps we’ll zoom across the valley called winter and find ourselves well on the way to spring before we know it. Yeah right! It was only a month ago that I slept out on a dock. Now here we are digging in the closet for winter coats.

Things that go bump in the night. Now it is safely stranded at the high tide line. Imagine confronting this iron-studded monster in the dark. The black stuff is coal dust.

Like springtime, if you don’t like the weather, wait a few minutes and it will change. There are periods of lovely sunlight, then bursts of cold rain. Within the advance to winter we are having the cold approach of a federal election later this month. The wearisome political signs are everywhere. Posters line our streets and highways, dot lawns and store fronts much to vandal’s delight. A televised “debate” earlier this week between the federal leadership hopefuls left me squirming in disdain as everyone tried to outshout and insult each other. Other inane election stories on television leave me inclined toward indignant rage. A friend and I recalled how as kids, for Halloween costumes we would black our faces with burnt cork. No one considered it a racial innuendo. That candidates would use twenty-year old photos of a young man at a costume party to try and slander another is pathetic. It is childish and self-demeaning; I know who has persuaded me away from voting for them.

Rare election humour
Wearing only bones in their noses, they danced naked around the crackling flames as Pluto rose and aligned itself with the orifice in the shrine.
…Or something like that.
There are jokes about the Ugga Bugga tribe.

Beyond our Canadian borders, US politics also amuse and confuse me; England too. With all the politicians stumbling about peeing in each other’s cornflakes, how the hell do they ever get around to actually doing the job their constituents hired them to do? If you are old enough to know what a gong show is…well! The bong of the gong goes on. There are no alternatives. Party politics, in the end, are ridiculous, no matter whom you decide to support. At least, in our system, we are still free to leave, any time, anywhere. Real estate is very affordable in Syria, or Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Bangladesh, just to name a few. No need to name this dude, but how to you sit idly by when anyone tweets that they “have a great and unmatched wisdom?” (No, that is not taken out of context) It seems to be a neo edition of the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes.’ Seriously! And apparently, they are all as goofy.

Now here’s a green memorial. Old industrial junk as been cleverly adapted and piece of beach is cleaner.

A neighbour who has held a major bucket-list item of seeing Africa finally dreamed and schemed herself onto her trip of a lifetime. Several countries were on her two-month itinerary and on her arrival in South Africa, she sent a photo of herself paragliding. I joked that was a slow way to fly the length of such a big continent. Nearly a month into her adventure her ankle exploded during a white water rafting adventure in Zambia. She never got to see Victoria Falls. The hospital there was so basic that the doctors had to hold her x-rays up to the sun to read them. Struth! It took a few days to get to Johannesburg where that hospital would not accept her medical insurance. Miraculously she found a flight home via Hong Kong and made it through that airport without any political demonstrations. I cannot imagine the misery of her travels.

Finally, in Vancouver, after a jaunt around the world, the hospital there turned her away and directed her back to Vancouver Island. By the time she arrived in Nanaimo her fragmented ankle had been injured for well over a week and so then the hospital here tried turning her away; no beds. Finally, in desperation, she persuaded them to look at her x-rays again and so she found a bed in a hall. The ankle was in such bad shape by then, they waited another six days and have finally operated and pieced the mess back together. I worry that she is able to keep her foot. And we thought we had troubles!

Fall blooms
Hunting season in the alley. Four different sets of fresh tracks.

Back from our morning walk Jack and I huddle by the gas fireplace. It was crisp and lovely with a light Westerly wind rising. Municipal workers were blowing the water out of the sprinkler system on the lawn of the town hall. It is indeed time to focus on things south. It occurred to me this morning that the local anchorage dubbed as Dogpatch was once regarded by myself, I’ll confess, with low regard. Folks living off the grid, for whatever reason often impose themselves on the tolerance and benevolence of others. They undermine their own dignity by doing that. Now I am on the beach, boatless. What a change in perspective! And in humility.

Now THESE are mushrooms, at least for a little while. Known as ‘Shaggy Manes’ or ‘Inky Blacks’ they have a delightful delicate flavour. But within hours, they bell out, their edges become inky black and they have become toxic.
Love me, love my slug. Somebody had a nibble.
Ok, OK! Enough with the ‘shroom photos! I couldn’t resist this little guys nestled beneath the leaves. They were not even a quarter this size in reality.
La loo! In an effort to provide affordable public washrooms in the woods…actually the town had this venerable arbutus felled and cut up. Someone considered it a danger tree and wanted to “help” nature. It would probably have fallen over, in another two hundred years.
Remember this? My little utility trailer in transformer state 2 with metal sides removed and bunks installed to turn it into an inflatable boat trailer.
Now this, a dream in a box! That’s my home-made storage box mounted on the front. Didn’t that work out well? Now with a cover that hinges up on one end, insulation, a bed, some wiring, a fireplace, a hot tub…..
Good things come in small packages.

I cannot come up with resources, or even employment, to sustain myself. In an effort to stay positive and active I have put myself to work building an enclosure on my little trailer to haul camping amenities behind my truck on my next trip south. (Yes, I AM determined.) I have been thinking that an older, small camper for the back of the truck is all I need. Then I would have a four-wheel-drive RV of sorts. Now it has occurred to me that all I need is a safe, dry place to sleep comfortably. Why not turn the trailer into a small camping vehicle? One of the best trips ever was with a teardrop trailer. I can build this into a fold-up camper with standing headroom at one end. It already has a ramp which can double as a small porch, snake and scorpion-proof. I already have plenty of camping gear so why not do something big in something tiny? My cameras and laptop don’t know what sort of RV I’m based in and I’ve learned from experience with my little teardrop trailer that this is the way to meet some awesome people. Those that pick you out because of your humble rig are the ones to get to know. So there!

Downtown Duncan, “City Of Totems.” Late season tourists admire the native art. Note the rusted tin roof over a main block in town.; a left-over from more rustic times in Vancouver Island’s history.
Granny’s moved. Near Duncan, this is a favourite house to me. It looks like a movie set. I can hear the distant echoes of children’s laughter and even faintly smell cinnamon buns in the oven of a wood stove.
Garry Oak forest. Fortunately, in the face of cancerous housing development, this patch of original woodland has been preserved. It wraps around the old house.
The barn. An overview of part of the old Swallowfield Farm and Chemainus River Estuary where Jack and I love to wander. What a wonderful area to live! The bright bank of cumulus cloud in the distance marks the shoreline of mainland Canada.

I’ve just discovered something worth sharing if you happen to like genuine Mexican food. This Michoacán rural grandma has become a YouTube star with her very basic cooking show. No glitz, no make-up, just out in the rustic backyard with the chickens. You don’t need to speak Mexican to see how she does things. She has some very neat tricks.

Here is the link to one show, check it out. You may want to subscribe. The title of her series is “De Mi Rancho A Tu Cuchina” (From my farm to your kitchen) Mucho Gusto!

On October paths. The big stump above Jack tells a story about the original old-growth forest.
To the sea, alway back to the sea. Soon the rains will swell the course, the leaves will wash away and perhaps salmon will return to spawn.

Don’t surrender all your joy for an idea you used to have about yourself that isn’t true anymore.”
― Cheryl Strayed


A Bad Snack A deadly but beautiful toadstool appears to announce the end of summer. Three days later it was brown slime
A Bad Snack
A deadly but beautiful toadstool appears to announce the end of summer. Three days later it was brown slime

Yep. It’s that time of year again. Suddenly we have our winter weather back, it’s still warm but then we have lots of warm wet days all winter long. There may be snow, but not every winter. The gulls have a ritual each autumn of pecking the mussels off the dock floats then depositing them up and over the tops of the docks. They break them open to eat. The crows join them and soon you find yourself crunching and slithering along in copious puddles of guano and razor-sharp shells.

Misery at breakfast
Misery at breakfast

Of course each boat is covered in the same slimey debris and my little marina world is a disgusting mess. This too shall pass, I just wish it didn’t have to go through the birds first! Suddenly the feeding frenzy will end and winter will be imminent. Jack loves chasing dock birds, in fact he’s out on patrol as I write. Otters and herons are also part of his mandate. I rest assured that despite his vigorous efforts he’ll never catch one. Wow! There’s a metaphor….chasing birds that will never be caught.                                      

It is also spider season
It is also spider season


Guts! A ball of mussel shell bits, sharp as razors, after they've been through the bird. How do they do it?
A ball of mussel shell bits, sharp as razors, after they’ve been through the bird. How do they do it?
Another starfish down the hatch. How gulls manage to swallow whole starfish is a mystery, but their droppings will eat through anything. "More bitter than gull bile!"
Another starfish down the hatch. How gulls manage to swallow whole starfish is a mystery, but their droppings will eat through anything. “More bitter than gull bile!”
Misery loves company... A mussel lunch
Misery loves company…
A mussel lunch
Jack on patrol while the morning fog holds us captive
Jack on patrol while the morning fog holds us captive

It’s too wet to complete various small pre-winter boat jobs and so I busy myself renovating a friend’s bathroom. It’s not an illustrious endeavour but it’ll improve their lives and give me the rewards of having helped someone as well as a few more days sustenance. There’s certainly nought romantic about gypsum dust and broken tiles bu I remind myself that lots of folks do this all day, everyday, for their whole working life. Think of all the jobs that somebody has to do, things like caring for Ebola patients. There are many different kinds of courage which each of us do or do not possess! Meanwhile, a certain soggy doggy has returned from his dawn patrol and lept back into my bunk. Well, nobody else has ever kissed me awake in the morning! I know, yeech! But then what’s real love without a few sloppy kisses now and then? An elderly English lady recently referred to him as “a stalwart chap” which I thought was charming and accurate.

Teak, hemp, bronze water
Teak, hemp, bronze, water

Yesterday Jack broke into some groceries in my vehicle while I worked at the bathroom job.

He had never done that before and so as usual I left them easily available. I’d bought a package of soup bones intending to give him one each day. I hoped this would keep him from from wandering and it worked! I emerged outside later in the day to discover all six soup bones neatly cleaned and arranged on the lawn. Checking the bags I found the chicken had been merely inspected but the sausages were gone. All of them. It’s hard to get angry at a dog for being a dog especially when they look so smug with their executive decision. There have been no nasty after-effects. So far.

How's this for a figurehead? A souvenir Musk Ox skull
How’s this for a figurehead?
A souvenir Musk Ox skull

A red boat has appeared in the marina. She is clearly a home-built steel boat and is not especially glossy and slick. Yet she is registered to Brussels and has reportedly just completely a Northwest Passage east-about. This, despite several reports of ice conditions which made transits impossible for many. She’s clearly battered from her ordeal and is in for some overhauling. There are skull’s of a caribou and a muskox tied to the pulpit and fuel cans lashed all over the decks. Her named is ‘Perd pas le Nord’ which is a twist on a French colloquialism. “Ne perd pas le nord” can translate literally as “no fear of the north” but it generally means “Someone who has their head screwed on right” either way this is a wonderful name for a boat which has clearly been out there doing it. She bears honourable scars. That is always a mark of beauty to me.

A red boat from Brussels via the Northwest Passage, Caribou skull lashed to the bow
A red boat from Brussels
via the Northwest Passage, Caribou skull lashed to the bow

On the subject of red boats there has been a story running on the news for the past few days about a Russian freighter broken down off the Haida Gwaii islands. There was much dark speculation of her running aground and the inevitable environmental disaster as her fuel and cargo contaminated that pristine shoreline. Native voices were added that linked the unfolding event to the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. There were even speculative comparisons to the Exxon Valdez disaster! I understand the passion which is using every possible means to oppose the bitumen pipe to Kitimat but discrediting the integrity of an argument is not beneficial to the cause.

October Harvest Moon
October Harvest Moon

The rest of the story is that the storm winds were blowing Sou’east and the ‘Shimushir’, out of Kholmsk, was being blown away from land as confirmed by the Canadian Coast Guard. She has since been safely towed to Prince Rupert for repairs. The reporting continues to be grossly irresponsible and speculative. Allegations by environment groups claim Canada is clearly unable to rescue ships in peril (Ever hear of the ‘Sudbury’?) and that it was a “Fluke” that an American tug completed the rescue. There is no mention of the standard Lloyds Open Form Salvage agreement and the profits involved, nor why one of the many Alaskan-trade US tugs might transiting the area. There has apparently been no research into standard maritime protocol. Instead there is verbose rhetoric about the proposed pipeline which most of us already strongly oppose.

'Native Girl ' morning. Imagine the smell of woodsmoke from the stove and the cry of a newborn child. Taya has arrived, q beautiful little girl
‘Native Girl ‘ morning. Imagine the smell of woodsmoke from the stove and the cry of a newborn child. Taya has arrived, a most beautiful little girl

I for one, am weary of the media avoiding the standard who, why, what, where, and when of basic journalism and turning instead to creative narrative that distorts facts. If a local story can be so badly skewed then what of the information provided about all the rest of the planet’s events? In an age of instant information I am stunned at how masses cling to tabloid-style uninformed opinion and may even base the course of their lives on someone else’s lies.

Silva Bay Harvest Moon, the night before it was full
Silva Bay Harvest Moon, the night before it was full

Do you remember Y2K? It was a scam that extracted billions from the masses. I call it the profit of paranoia. Thankfully, information is there for everyone and an enquiring mind can ferret out the true story and then form an informed opinion. Speculation and distortion has no place in objective journalism. If you say that you “Like little boys who are kind to animals” and I quote you as having said that you “Like little boys”, have I represented the truth? End rant.

'Seafire' herself, the old prune barge hunkers down for another Pacific Northwest winter
‘Seafire’ herself, the old prune barge hunkers down for another Pacific Northwest winter

For Canadians, Thanksgiving has passed and the next event in the turning of the seasons is Halloween and the turning back of the clocks. The dream of sailing ‘Seafire’ south has been delayed yet another year. The dream, as ever, is very much alive. Hopefully it will all make sense in the end, but I confess that I write this blog as much to convince myself as anyone else. I occasionally offer, and remind myself of, an anecdote about climbing mountains. Finally at the summit, one sees more peaks to climb. Usually however the climb up the next shining mountain requires descending into a valley before beginning to climb again. When up to your arse in a snake-filled swamp in a shadowed valley it is difficult to maintain awareness and belief that you are actually in the process of mountain climbing. Is success about the height of the mountain or the depth of the valley?

Noli illegitimi carborundum”  Don’t let the bastards grind you down!

IT IS OVER summer's done, even the spiders have gone south
Summer’s done, even the spiders have gone south