Quiche

Anchor watch. Ho hum, just another day waiting for a berth in Vancouver. Too cold to paint, God knows how they pass their watches. For once there are a few minutes of sunrise.

Another dreary winter day, snowing again. It’s a left-over quiche kind-of afternoon. Every other day it’s leftovers. Cook one day, warm-up left-overs the next. Some foods, like soup and stew, often taste better after they’ve been left to ferment overnight. Blah month, blah weather, blah food, blah attitude. Seen one, seen ’em all. Where’s that bottle of hot sauce?

Between the sleepers. Toadstools grow on our abandoned railway.
“Now, THIS is an old growth tree.”
“Yeah, beats the heck out of a mulberry bush.”
This old workshop is one of my favourite buildings in Nanaimo. I like to imagine that it was a blacksmith shop. I can hear the clang of hammer on anvil and smell the coal smoke belching out of that old chimney. One of the cornerstones of photography is to take the picture when you see it. This building is being outflanked by new subdivisions. It’s a matter of time and the rain-wet added something special.

One of the good things my mother did for me was to get me cooking at a very early age, about three as I recall. I soon learned about hot stove tops when I’d stand on tip toes on the kindling box at the wood stove and stir up a batch of porridge or some other blupping concoction. I was lucky not to be seriously scalded or loose a finger splitting firewood.

Having a reasonable understanding of basic meat and potato cooking has served me well at times. I always had a place working on the tugs because of my culinary skill. Savoury, plentious meals are deemed a due of the job and woe to anyone in the galley who produces slop. You knew you’d done well when conversation around the supper table fell silent. The crew was too busy stuffing their pie holes. A skipper once offered an accolade, “you’d make a good wife if you weren’t so f―king ugly!” Terms of endearment, right?

The dog watcher. Now the salmon are gone a little dog must look tasty on a cold winter day.
Joined at the hip. I have become completely smitten with these two little rascals.

I have a lot of funny anecdotes about cooking at sea. Full-time cooks on the coastal tugs were rendered redundant. Deck hands were then required to prepare one meal a day on the day watches, lunch and supper. Apparently grub often improved over what the cooks had been producing. I took the mate’s watch, twelve to six because on the night watch I often had a few free hours to write. The crew worried who I was writing about.

Heron Beach winter afternoon. As the tide ebbs the ducks work the retreating shallows to scrounge for edible tidbits.
High fungus. Edible? Smokable? Dunno. I’m not going up there to check it out.
Under the volcano, 91 miles/147 km away. Mt. Baker from my house.
Another telephoto view taken with my mobile phone. Amazing I think.

One afternoon we had been very busy putting together our tow. I did not have the time left to put together a full effort meal so I slammed two cans of chicken soup into a pot, added some vegetables, lots of spice and a little seafood. While that was simmering up on the back of the big diesel stove I knocked together a quiche with lots of spice and a little seafood and bacon. I often referred to this meal as “Quicky” and to hell with what real men eat. The skipper expected his supper served on time, so he could eat without rushing to his watch in the wheelhouse at 18:00.

At 17:30 hours I was hauling the quiche out of the oven just as he was stepping into the galley. “Wots that shit?” he queried in great suspicion with his usual screeching voice and weary red neck perspective.

It’s uh,,,tugboat pie, skipper, something new!”

Looks like freakin’ quiche to me! Jeehesus!” Just then our new engineer was stepping into the galley. He was a sweet young fellow from Kitsalano. “QUICHE? I LOVE quiche!”

Keehrist” Exclaimed our captain. He made his way up to the helm with a bowl of soup and a plate of peanut butter sandwiches.

On another trip, with that same old red-neck captain, a new deckhand had come aboard and was clearly determine to make a good impression on his first-ever trip. He stowed his gear in the foc’sle and was putting a few cookbooks up on the galley window sill. Into the galley stepped old “Turkey Neck”, our nickname for him. “Jeesus! Cook books! Wot kinda freakin’ cook are you? Cook books?” Most novice deckhands would have been quivering at that point. This boy calmly looked the skipper in the eye with determined insubordination. “Skipper, when I come up to the wheel house I’m going to find drawers full of charts, collision regulations, tide books, sailing directions and lord knows what all else. Tell me sir, what kind of freakin’ captain are you?” Those two got on famously for the entire trip. Every ship needs a cat but this kid wasn’t it.

The spider web
Just reach in
Troll’s throw. When you turn away you may get cracked on the back of the head.
In the troll’s den
Still too wet to plow
I buried Jack here a year ago today. Feb. 2nd
How I miss my beloved friend Jack. He will be a part of me forever.

Never trust a skinny cook.” so saith the Fred

Call Of The Tree Frog

Bottoms Up
Breathe. The swans are getting restless. Some stay resident, but many migrate northward in spring. The sight of them in flight and the sound of their clear loud calls are unforgettable.

Last night the light of the waning half-moon glowed through an overcast which continued to rain. This morning the precipitation had ended, here at least. The day seemed bright despite the overcast, perhaps in contrast to days of deep gloom. Doggies and I went for a walk in a local park named Hemer, after a local farming family who donated the land. It is a delightful network of trails sprawling through second-growth forest which blankets broken ground sprawling between a few small lakes and swamps.

Cornered. Some last spawners of the season take a rest before their final hurdle.

Today the woods reverberated with the peculiar croinking grunt of tree frogs. I have spent many hours through the years stalking these tiny reptiles. I have yet to see one. As you approach the apparent source of their call, they fall silent. You dare not move or make a sound if you want to hear them call again. It is a waiting game which I invariably loose. No matter how hard I methodically scan the branches, trunks, leaves and plants I never see one.

(This video clip may take a while to download)

Tree Frog seg

For those who can’t wait for the 2 minute download, here is a still shot of where I recorded the frogs. This is all second-growth forest.
A fir, a cedar and a maple. Original old-growth trees. The fir, on the left, is about eight feet in diameter.

It’s frustrating. I love their call and how they herald the distant spring. Today there was yet another loud proclamation of the changing season. Through the echoing woods, from over a mile away, the roar of sea lions filtered over the distance. They inhabit the log booms just north of Dodd Narrows and have come to await the arrival of the annual herring migration. Those fish come here to spawn in the spring, according to their own mysterious timing. Like a symphony orchestra everthing is on the same page, playing its part perfectly and right on time. We’ve just got to sit back and enjoy the music instead of trying to be the conductor. Da da dum!

Done! The wonderful colours of this Cyclamen have cheered us through the autumn and winter. Now it’s a time for a rest.
Dos Amigos, deep in the woods.
Back at the ranch.
Too wet to plow.
Hemer Brook
Look up. Little dog, big trees.
Common Mergansers. They are reclusive and very hard to photograph.

The winter gloom of another rainy overcast provides almost enough light to take photographs that are often unfocused because of the low light and slow shutter speeds. Colours are drab but we do our best. Photography is a way of forcing myself to take an interest in the world around me. No matter how dismal, there is beauty and an effort to reach out for life. It is a deep mystery at times, but sometimes you have to accept things you do not understand. Bloom where you’re planted. Shed a little light in someone else’s eyes and you’ll find some for yourself.

Roots drawing life from a long-fallen mother log
Overflow filtration.
Winter Swamp, where the bog trotter roams.
Here too
Rush to the sea, a mile away. Through the trees filters the distant calls of a mob of sea lions.
A suggestion box? Looks like someone has emptied it. They must have had a ladder.
The ten horsepower dog. He’ll be big when he grows up! To gauge his size, note the footprint beside him. He is tethered simply with a string. A lovely character indeed.

If you know you can do it, why go in the first place? ” Iohan Guearguiev

Say What?

Say something; anything. I’m telling myself that as I sit here and stare at a blank screen. Really! Nothing to talk about. Me? Of all people! Write something, make a start, there must be sprouts in your fertile mind.(fertile=fertilizer=manure) Rants come, then go and so do silly anecdotes but I have nothing to change the world or even make anyone laugh. Empty wagons rattle the most I remind myself so I keep my big fingers away from the keyboard. The world tragedies are horrific, political bungles continue, miseries and darkness the same old fodder; and those are the ones we are told about. And frankly, I don’t give a toss about poor Prince Harry.

Arbutus wet. I find these trees incredibly beautiful, even in the pouring rain.
Green grows. Insidiously, despite the cold and dark, the green slime overcomes all.

The Christmas “stuff” has been stowed away. This year our total decoration was a single tiny live cedar tree about sixteen inches tall. It was bowed over with a copper wire wrapped around it and a red ball hanging from its tip. There was sprig of festive decoration poked into the pot which was wrapped in a vaguely Christmasy bag. The whole little rig was frozen solid on a rack with several others. They were on sale for $6.50 each at the Home Despot which was clearly trying to dump them. I employed my usual argument with myself, “You didn’t need it until you saw it.” I shyly packed it home under my arm actually feeling a bit embarrassed at this pathetic specimen. Then, I discovered that the wire binding was actually a string of microscopic lights but the battery case was filled with frozen rain water. It needed new batteries. Bastards! Ripoff! Think I’ll go get my money back.

Two new AAA batteries and it sparkled magnificently, the frozen rainwater melted and dribbled for two days and we had a miserable little Christmas all things considered. But we had one! And we had a tree. I was not astute enough to take a photo but here’s one since I have de-festivized it. Some day it may stand tall and proud, an arboreal giant. Squirrels, children and perhaps monkeys will cavort among its branches. Eagles will perch in the gently swaying top and environmental groups will dance arm in arm around the broad base. All because a cheap grumpy old fart bought a discounted ornamental tree. Bumhug! By the way, individual small cedar trees one would use to plant a hedge sell for $35. each. My bargain tree chucked out of the house, I turned my attention to stowing away the Christmas cards. There were about a dozen and it took a minute or so. Christmas…over!

Think green. The little tree gets another chance at life. It beats being tossed into a chipper or a bonfire.

When I was a child Christmas cards were a huge part of the season. We’d tighten a string along the four sides of the living room wall and hang our cards on it. Handfuls came in the daily mail. Sometimes we would have to hang more cards in the kitchen. They were a traditional part of the decorations and began arriving in late November. There could be over a hundred of them. Postage was two cents for an unsealed envelope and we’d often sneak in a photo and a letter. My father had become a mailman and he hated the season. Relief workers were hired to cope with the overload and he worried that they would receive his Christmas gifts from the customers along his route. Some folks gave cards with cash inside, others provided bottles of booze and some offered cartons of cigarettes. Dad neither drank or smoked but bartered the gifts off for other treasures. Yet gifts were never expected, we were poor enough to understand. Imagine that going on today!

Just think. At today’s prices of $200. for a carton of smokes, $40. for a cheap jug of hootch, and $1. for a postage stamp, plus the cost of the card, and the time to write something in each one, Christmas could be a very, very expensive ordeal. As for snow storms, they were a regular part of the season and did not make headline news. We plodded on, it was winter, it was normal. Buffalo always got six feet of snow, Lake Ontario often froze a great distance from shore. Most folks were smart enough not to go out on the ice. Kids would shovel driveways for a quarter and were expected to show up for school no matter what the weather.

I’m now reading these wee scritchings a week into the year. The cold January rain is hammering on the skylight over my head. The little doggies don’t want to leave their beds. They’re smarter than I am. Once again I’m stuck for words. I started this blog ten years ago to share my travel adventures. What a dismal failure! I’m still here. It rankles me to mention someone else’s videos of their adventures but it would be immoral not to share this particular and incredible work.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBn2YT5fsW4

This is the work of Iohan Gueorguiev. There are over seventy videos which he has posted. They are absolute masterpieces of outdoor film work. He documents his travels by bicicyle from the Canadian North all the way to Patagonia. The link above is a feature-film-length account of his 1000 km, 45 day trek through the Argentinian Puna, a high altitude desert. It is stunning and mesmerizing. I found it a life-enhancing experience and I sat mesmerized watching this unique work. What an expression of the joy of living in balance with the natural world! Sadly he is with us no more, his demise a poignant end to his amazing achievements. How many other inspiring people walk among us, quietly living their lives and we never learn about them?

Doggies and I have been out in the rain for some fresh air and are back home drying off and warming up again. Next to my desk is a leather couch with a broad soft top on the back. The dogs like to sit there at times and are wonderful company, albeit a bit demanding and distracting. Libby, the mini daschund is there at the moment producing some amazing snarts. (sneezes and farts all at once) I guess the caviar pizza didn’t agree with her. A nice thing about having a dog is that you can blame them for your “stuff.” Seriously, these two beasties have helped us through each day in wonderful ways. I’m still a big dog guy but I must concede that these two mini monsters are whole and complete dogs. Their love is as big as any dog of any size can offer.

Run little wet dog, run. Thar be trolls beneath bridges. She was happy to get home.
Morning girl? NOT! Another damned walk? She crawled out of bed one toe at a time.

And so the year is wearing on, only 355 of these days to go. Grey, wet, foggy, I’ve got all the enthusiasm of a garbage can. This too shall pass but it is time to go find some pleasant adventure to write about. Last night we programed the new “smart” television so that we could explore the delights of Prime TV. I think we were the ones being bent into shape. With all the wizardry available, why is nothing straight forward? Download and transfer codes, find a password, then another, that the “app” likes, start the process over and over, all the while working out the dynamics of three different remote controls. Finally, for some obscure reason, the same old process works! WTF? I feel I’m an idiot and know that there are millions out there who have no problem with this stuff. I just can’t wrap my weary brain around any of it.

I can’t recall how I spent long winter nights in my younger years but neither do I recall rolling into my bunk in abject frustration, overwhelmed with a sense of uselessness. There’s a lot to be said for a woodpile and a chopping block. I never did read a firewood manual. I just split away and I’ve got both arms and legs.

I like to imagine that this was a blacksmith shop. I can smell the acrid coal smoke billowing out of that chimney and hear the clang of hammer on anvil. A simple secret of photography is to take the photo when you see it. It’s never the same when you come back, if you can. How many images I’ve missed! It is a matter of time until the encroaching subdivision overwhelms this landmark. Then it’s gone forever.
The unfurling. Even inside, in the dull limited light of January new growth insists. What a mystery, this life force.

It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”
Albert Einstein                                                               (How long ago did he say that?)

Christmas Zoom

 

“Thazzit?” Hopefully the White Christmas business is over. Thank you!

Two days before Christmas I sat watching the desert fly by. Cacti, and rocks and dust fling by the handle bar of a motorcycle where a video camera was mounted. The bike is participating in a rally in The Baha desert. I love the desert by I can’t understand why anyone would want to beat themselves, and their expensive piece of machinery like that. Just because I don’t get it does not mean it’s wrong, it is just not for me. I’d love to be there in fact, right now, on a motorbike, but idling along; Fred Quixote, the happy wanderer. I’m a lover not a racer. Outside my window here, a grainy snow sifts down, ahead of a forecast for a heap more snow, then torrential rain.

And the creeks did rise. There was flooding which subsided quickly.
"Follow me. Don't worry, it's too cold for snakes."
“Follow me. Don’t worry, it’s too cold for snakes.”

Television news this week is full of reports of cancelled flights and backed-up air terminals as people complain about who is to blame. There are claims of never having known storms like this before. Really? Do you actually believe yourself? It doesn’t taking much digging into records to see that there have been plenty of winter storms, fiercer, colder, snowier than this. A funny thing happens when you plan to travel during winter, you have to deal with winter storms. Yes really! Your agenda has nothing to with what the weather gods determine. It’s called reality. Don’t take it personally. It is not the fault of any airline, or weather forecaster.

I find it ludicrous that Canadians expect that by stepping through a few doorways, and waiting a few hours, you can move from a country known to be a wintery place and always arrive, on time, in some lower latitude tropical paradise. Even telephone calls don’t always get through. Reality, and our expectations, are often very far apart. There are still seats available on the all-inclusive Christmas tour of the Ukraine. For no extra charge, you can pick out an orphaned dog or cat and bring them home with you. And then, there are the children.

Bacon ‘n eggs. The pig is committed and the chicken is involved. Actually this one’s a rooster!
Winter weather brings the elk down to low ground. They’re very tasty too but it’s wonderful to see natural wild herds on the roam.
The bulls have shed their antlers already, but they’re still noble creatures.
This old farm boy will admit to hating goats. But, I’ll also admit, they do have a certain charm.

With Christmas past, the weather has warmed, the wind and rain have hammered away much of the snow. We have survived our day of grief missing those we so loved and are now gone. The wee dogs and I will soon head out, hopefully there’ll be no more slush-hopping. With wind slamming the trees around it may be a good idea to stay out in the open. Four days later, after another “weather event” of biblical rain, the snow is completely gone except for the receding heaps we shoveled so high last week. Now our lowlands are flooded as usual after heavy rain. Folks, as usual, are looking for someone to blame. Frankly, I’ve little pity for people who are determined to live in bottomland that is repeatedly flooded. Hello? Hello?

End of the home stretch. One more spawn at Christmas time. The colour is right.
Five on the hook, waiting for a cargo just before Christmas as another storm blows in from the sou’east.
Winter sleep
A glorious visual moment after two hours of snow-shoveling. It’s pretty up there.
Spider morning.
Follow me. He’ll never catch us. “Gawd, I hate spiders!”
The trekkers
United we stand.
Winter park.

And so we have survived into a New Calendar year. Fireworks intermittently hammered under a beautiful clear sky until after 3 am. It sounded like yet another assault on Kiev. Life goes on whether we like it or not, suck it up and go do something. Wishing everyone health and happiness with good things to look forward to. May you find contentment in the moment.

The watcher. From deep inside an old alder, yet another bark owl peeks out.
Juniper. We’d be shocked to learn how old this venerable beauty is.
Trincomali Bonsai. A  winter view toward Ruxton Pass during a solstice high tide.
Thet yer RV? A good mattress and two saddle bags, all you need. Due South!

You are never too old to reinvent yourself.” Steve Harvey

Cystoscopy For Christmas

The path. In the tree tops overhead, bald eagles scream and chatter among themselves.

Well, here I am a week upwind of Christmas Eve. I hope this marks the end of the plague of griefs we’ve endured this year. Jill continues to improve. From my perspective her biggest setback is the medications as ordered by the doctors. Ongoing nausea and fatigue raise questions about the whole point of life but Jill has perservered and hopefully she’ll soon be skipping through meadows filled with daisys. She deserves happiness again after all she’s been through.

The trekkers

One of my heros is the Scottish comedian Billy Connolly. He has a hilarious yarn about going to the doctor for a colonoscopy. He describes the ordeal as being “When they ram a tv camera up your arse.” A few years ago I sprouted a tumour in my bladder. The experience of peeing blood for several weeks and not knowing what was happening, and being in a remote area of upcoast BC at the time, was not joyful. It was in fact a frightening piss-off. The repair job involved going into the inside of my frontal plumbing and removing the offending tidbit. It is an amazing process done remotely with minimal invasive slicing and dicing.

Finding humour in a delicate moment. A cystoscopy is described as “uncomfortable but not painful” Yeah, right!

All’s well that ends; but this has not yet reached a conclusion. I need to go for an annual inspection called a cystoscopy. I’m now a seasoned veteran of this but still tend to pucker inwards at the very thought of it. It only takes a minute or two but it is not an “Oh what a feeling!” experience. After you’ve booked in at the hospital, a place I absolutely dread, you have to change into their standard bum-flapper togs and then go sit in a hall with several other folks. We all have our brown paper bag holding our own clothes and sit humiliated and anxious, glancing at each other, knowing we men and women sit there now without any knickers. It is not a pretty picture. We’ve all been asked to not drain our bladders so most of us geezers sit there bursting for a tinkle. None of this brings any gratifying thoughts to anyone. Being in this together is no comfort. There is little sense of camaradarie.

Creekside. Libby must still be able to smell salmon remains.

Eventually a set of double doors open and a subdued-looking patient shuffles out, avoiding eye-contact and closely clutching their bag of clothing. They survived their experience and are going to cautiously go have a monster pee, get dressed and to hell out of there as quickly as possible. Eventually, a nurse with a clipboard appears out of the light beyond those swinging doors and calls your name. They’re always so damned cheery.

You are asked to sign a consent form, then ushered to a table and greeted by the poker-faced urologist. I noted how he has aged through the years. As I recline on his workbench I bang my head on something and am admonished to “Be careful.” I quip about not wanting to damage their equipment. The nurses laugh gently and the man whom I think of as the “Piss doctor” replies “No, no the equipment can be replaced, we don’t want you getting hurt.”

No sense of humour” I muse, “let me see what I can do about that.” I love trying to make medical folks laugh. Then comes the blur of agony. A numbing lubricant is applied, the camera on its tube is instantly inserted then rammed inward into a tight tunnel that feels three miles long. (It’s actually just a few inches) I realize that I am uncontrollably wiggling my feet like a baby duck.

Then a small tv screen reveals my inner workings. I see into a whitish rubbery underwater cave and the tiny camera is deftly wriggled around, peering into all corners. I offer, “Oh look, a starfish!” The nurses find some mirth, the doctor wonders what I’m on about, absolutely humourless. No other resident invaders are found. The apparatus is deftly removed. “Everything’s fine, see you in a year.” I’m handed a wad of towels, grab my bag and head out through those doors, trying to throw a “nothing to it” smirk at the other waiting victims. I’ve always wondered what it might be like to emerge as if doubled in agony, clutching at myself, and blubbering like a baby. I remember a previous year when a burly nurse began shouting at me to “RELAX, just RELAX!” I responded with “Well then let go your strangle-hold on the little fellow!” The probe had felt like a fire-hose augering into my sensitive friend as she clamped it like a bear. It was clearly counter-productive and very hurtful. I wondered about how she treated her poor partner at home. All’s well that ends. I drove out of the hospital parking lot and disappeared into the gathering darkness.

Speaking of plumbing. These two massive wooden pipes are part of the water supply for the local paper mill. I’d love to see how they were built. I don’t know how many miles they run.
Know the feeling? The woodpeckers are almost finished.
Dear old Jack’s resting place. He gets at least a weekly visit.
How I miss my beloved dog. He was very special.

Now here’s something that puzzles me about some men. I stood in a cashier’s queue behind a tall fellow. He wore a heavy macho parka, complete with furry hood and a camoflage motif. Under the parka he wore a pair of summer shorts. I just don’t get it. What statement do I not understand? Surely these fellows are not all retired postmen. My arthritic knees throb at the sight of this, it seems completely silly to me. He also sported a full forest of beard beneath a shaved shiny skull. Having just described a cystoscopy I wonder why guys want to go around looking like a penis. I have asked women if they find this look sexy and invariably draw a negative response. Is it a video-game-look these men try to achieve? Stumped!

Jump right in
Just breathe
The bridge. There are ripples in front of the bridge where a salmon has just jumped.

Another current vogue is for young women to dye their hair grey. What’s with that? The real thing will come soon enough and then you’ll be colouring it some unnatural tone to hide the grey. Just let it be. You’re lovely as you are, or were. One more thing while I’m ranting about appearances. What’s with these body-coverings of tattoos? A few tattoos mean something, an entire suit of them leaves me thinking nasty thoughts. There’s a fellow at the pool where I go for my morning swim. He’s tattooed like he has been wall-papered. He loves to stand in the shallow end and pose. What these young folks don’t realize is that their body is very fickle. As it ages and changes they’ll end up with splotches and tangles that will look like a street map of Moscow. Tattoo removal is clearly a great business for the future. I’m glad I’m the age I am.

Arye crosses a bridge over a salmon pool. The dogs love this walk around the hatchery grounds.

As I sat at this desk last night I watched as an orange last quarter moon rose behind the bare limbs of a neigbour’s massive tree. The forecast blizzard did not arrive and it is time for the girls to me take out for a walk. Maybe we can find a dead fish to roll on. No worries, now it’s snowing heavily.

On a final note, I’ve just posted my latest video effort on YouTube. There’s a great response from motorcycle people world-wide and a comforting criticism from close to home.

You be the judge if you like and leave a thumb up or down please. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D6ZLiLNu_5M&t=51s

Swimming weather seems so very far away
They’re back! Seal lions are arriving after a long swim from the south. They’ll be in position to wait, and wait, by the thousands, for the eventual arrival of huge numbers of herring which will spawn in late winter or early spring. The seal lions will gorge for many weeks. The cycles of life go round.

 

This will probably be my last blog before Christmas so I hope the elves are kind to you and that you can enjoy the closeness of family and friends. BUMHUG!

Aren’t we forgetting the true meaning of Christmas? You know, the birth of Santa.” — Bart Simpson

All Thumbs

Kinkweed. AKA cyclamen. I found a new button in my photo editing program.

I recently sat in a hospital waiting room and watched as an elderly lady thumbed rapidly through a text conversation on her mobile phone. Suddenly I recalled how older ladies were constantly knitting when I was a child. Their hands flew as various woolen items took shape beneath their flying fingers. I can even hear the gentle click of their needles. They carried a purse and a knitting bag, everywhere! I’m not so sure that some didn’t even knit while sitting in church.

Eh!
“Can’t a gull go anywhere to be along?” Cleanup after the latest spawning run.
He showed up early at the speaking stump to chair the meeting. Nobody else came.

My dear old English grandmother kept me in sweaters and socks, pajama bags, hats, scarves and clothes that lasted forever. I don’t know where any are now, but I treasure the memory of them. There was a vogue in recent years when young women wanted to be seen knitting but I don’t know what happened to that. I suppose it’s impossible to text and knit at the same time. Perhaps there’s an app.

It now seems to be all thumbs on cell phones everywhere and I’m amazed at the apparent dexterity that some folks possess. I’m an old banana-fingered poker. I actually care about spelling so I do plenty of erasing and repeating. I will never master the art of texting, (or spelling.) I’ve been in the backwoods of a Mexican jungle and found locals coming out of the bushes, head down, intent on their texting. I have watched as young parents push their offspring in a stroller out into traffic without bothering to look up at all. We’ve even lost our basic instinct of lizard response fear.

The snow walker
Ayre Wise Eyes
Dad! Winter sucks!
The Pink Patrol. If there’s a smell of fish…chances are somewhere there is a fish. I didn’t let them roll on it.
Now where’s that darned dog? Libby takes advantage of laundry day. She loves denning up.
Dogpatch winter, a snug anchorage.
Winter hook in the cold cold northwest wind. Mount Benson, behind Nanaimo, looks down on Ladysmith Harbour.
A brrrroad reach, riding the tide and chill winter wind out of Ladysmith Harbour.
BUMP! Things that arrive in the dark on a flood tide. A good reason to not be under way at night.

Those of you who have been following my blog through this year know the litany of woes I have related. I’m weary of it all and ache for something good to look forward to. Two weeks before Christmas I am writing on a Friday night as the wind and rain hammer on the skylight over my head. Instincts from a long life on the water catch me thinking that maybe I should go down and check the boat. Then I realize I don’t own one anymore, well, at least at the moment. I’d enjoy tramping down the heaving dock, head bowed to the rain and wind. I’d check the dock lines, which at all times, were always thick and doubled-up for heavy weather. Then inside, I’d look for leaks, start the furnace, break out a glass of rum, light and trim an oil lamp or two, and settle back to listen to the symphony of the storm outside.

Meet you at the pump stump.

Sometimes the mast would vibrate in a heavy gust. I loved it. There was no place I’d rather be. The only thing better was to be in the same sort of night on the end of an anchor chain. The motion of the boat is much different out on the hook but, being confident in your skill at setting the anchor, you could relax and listen to the wind moan and rattle in the rigging. The boat would dip and roll but it was just part of the soothing waltz of being anchored. And there was a dog, blissfully asleep in his cozy bunk, perhaps chasing dream rabbits, uncaring about the storm outside. You could fall into an easy sleep, confident in your instinctive ability to be wide awake instantly should anything change. The oil lamps cast a warm glow on the varnished wood and the ship’s clock rang out the watches. There was a feeling of being at one with the universe, your vessel, your beloved dog and of being in the one place you wanted to be. Bliss! How I miss it! I’ve tried to convince myself that my life did not end the last time I stepped off that boat but all I’ve done is confirm who I am.

A tidal winter backwater

Tonight I’ve just put on my rain gear and carried my little dogs out for their night time ritual of pumping ship just before bed. They did not want to go out on their own! The rain is bulleting horizontally. They’ve now nestled into their wee bunks. Soon I will join them. I will endure another long night of dark dreams and sudden wakings when there is any strange noise. Jill is recovering slowly and I worry constantly. We are not celebrating Christmas this year due to lack of family and shattered finances. The winter ahead looks long and bleak. Blub, blub, blub. When I think of all the places I could be, a bombed-out basement in the Ukraine, teetering on a hangman’s scaffold in Iran, living in any city, I know how lucky I am.

By noon the next day, the rain has eased and doggies and I have been out for a walk. Our regular trails are now free of the trample-packed ice and are ankle-deep in running rivers of ice cold rain water. Now I’ll make some soup, so it can sit and ferment until supper time, go check the camper, take a load to the recycling depot, have a nap, watch the TV news over supper, fall asleep in front of the televison, wake up and drag myself off to bed where once again I’ll stare into the night, afraid to fall asleep and have yet another nightmare. How does the human mind conjure up such weirdness? I know I am still in the grieving process for my daughter and that all this aberrant mentalism is part of it. I feel guilt at the notion of letting go and walking away. I know that to some degree there will always be a sadness, some people never let go of that but life is for the living. This old tugboater clings to the motto of “Never look back” and it is a chore to find the right balance. At least we have the closure of knowing what happened to our daughter. Some folks never even have that.

When I’m especially depressed or stressed, (For example, laying in a dentist’s chair) I pull up a recurring image from the back of my brain. I am sailing, on a starboard tack. Tepid green seawater washes through the port scupper and I run my hand through it from where I sit in the cockpit, my other hand on a well-balanced helm. The translucent water is inviting. The boat is on a lee shore. The beach is lined with palm trees and somehow, from downwind, cooking aromas are able to reach me. Lee shores are dangerous places to be near, yet I feel peace and fulfillment, confident that I can tack out into open water as I wish. So, if you see me staring at the wall, know where I am.

We finally conceded an issue this week and bought a new television. By today’s standards it is tiny, only 32”, the same size as the old one. I was fascinated by the image quality on some of the huge wall-sized units. They remind me of the screens at drive-in movie theaters! The price of them was stupendous but most impressive to me was the heat pulsing out of them. So much for thinking green! It must take the energy from one hydro-electric dam to power just a few of these things. Frankly with these huge, larger than life screens you’d need one hell of a long room to see them properly. Boggle view! Can’t be healthy.

How not to think green. This non-fragile package was in a box within a box, packed in with paper. A waste of material, unless the cardboard can be used for an environmental protest sign.

One of the first programs I watched was about Cuban wildlife. I almost felt like I was there. To hear a hummingbird appear from somewhere out there and then look into its eyes with crystal clarity was thrilling. The entire scene was portrayed in brilliant natural colours. There was a walk-in depth to it. Perhaps, one day television will be like a door which we can step through and find ourselves surrounded in the scene. We can be one of the actors and have a chance to shoot old John Wayne in the knee.

It is amazing what twelve years of evolution in electronics has brought. The image is now scary-clear but what is truly wonderful is the sound. I can hear everything! It is wonderful and terrifying. I now have three remote controls to work in sequence and the gods forbid that I try to adjust anything. Apparently everything can be consolidated onto one control. Yeah right!Pushing one wrong button may provide a window with ten more options. Pushing that first button twice, well….! Dinosaurs disappeared because they could not evolve quickly enough! G’bye.

May your path ahead be free of snow.
Hollyolly
We’ll take all the happy colours we can get.

I know it must be close to Christmas, I’ve just seen my first Easter ad.”

Bombastic Bastard

Christmas kilowatts. This is the lower half of main street Ladysmith. The glow goes up the hill and then the homes try to compete with the gaudiness. Honey, just leave a candle in the window for me.

The weather girl in a tight skirt warned of a deluge of rain today, that dreaded atmospheric river. I opened the curtains to find a cloudless sky and watched as frost formed while the first light of day crept up the neighbour’s wall. So far so good. I hope she’s wrong about the snow.

The Christmas Arachnid. Not bad for the end of November.

Canadians are known for politeness. We are retiring and demure to a point of absolute timidity. We can find ourselves hanging off a cliff-edge with a bully standing on our fingers and peeing on our head. We’ll politely ask if someone could please bring us a small towel. Often when you stand up against an inequity you are branded as a troublemaker. Afraid of confrontation, we do nothing. I’m not suggesting that, like some of our neighbours to the south, we shoot someone for blinking but Jeeze Louise! It’s your life, eh!

Would you really pack your dirty knickers off to someone named Sue War?

Politicians are merely people we hire, or appoint, to do jobs we don’t want to tackle ourselves. That is so from the Prime Minister’s office down to the backyard politics of the strata council. There is the presumption that these folks have stepped forward to serve their fellows but all too often we have to contend with characters who have an agenda to massage their own ego by trying to manipulate and control their constituents. Being Canadians, we say “Oh OK eh.”

When we get to town what are we going to do? Chase cats? What if they’re bigger than us?
Ayre wise eyes. she’s proving to be an excellent big sister to little Libby.
My ball!

I live in a strata-titled development. There are eighteen share holders. We moved in after living in other strata-titled shituations but the appeal of this little home, and its location, were grand and so we took a deep breath and tip-toed in. We can easily walk to our small town mainstreet and they’ve now built a pub half a block away. Unfortunately many of our neighbours, and fellow share-holders, moved in as strata virgins and didn’t understand that there is more to communal life than simply paying monthly fees and letting someone else do the dirty work. Invariably, as in all politics, apathy is a prime breeding ground for those who have a craving for control and power, even at such a miniscual level.

Despite their furious denials, we have a couple of those folks on our tiny strata council. They try to manipulate their neighbours, telling them what they must and cannot do, and have expenditures without transparency. They constantly impose condescending tones on anyone who dares challenge them and even employ vindictive tactics if you challenge their petty tyrany. We hired a professional property management company to apply some objective direction but as it turns out, that agent slithered in with our questionable concillors and so we live in a dark little world of backyard politics. They are incompetent to the point of not knowing what they don’t know and adamnant that no-one else understands more than they do. I once named this home as our “Lock it and leave it” but it clearly requires some hands-on involvement. We’d just sell and leave but can’t find an equitable alternative, especially with certain health issues and all the hassles of moving. If you are considering a move to a strata-titled situation I suggest that it’s wise to go meet a few of your potential new neighbours and ask if they are content living there. Actually, meeting the folks next door before you are committed is a prudent thing to do before buying a new to-you home anywhere.

After the wind
Autumn Road

After living here for over a decade I finally went to our recent annual general meeting and raised hell. I was indeed the bombastic bastard who shook the bushes until the monkies fell out. In the end, I have only accomplished a new awareness of our strata council for my fellows and probably made some enemies. I know that will soon wear off, but it’s the best I can do. I am stunned that folks will allow a major investment which is their own home be so mis-managed with few or no questions. A person will pay the price of home ownership one way or another. I’ve become convinced that strata-titled living is overpriced for me.

There is an old wisdom which says “The fear of change is only overcome when the pain of a situation becomes too great to bear.” I guess we have a ways to go yet. Lordy, I miss my boat!

Yeah, I know, the greatest thing about living in Canada is that we are all free to leave if we don’t like it here. Sometimes, this stubborn old sailor is inclined to set out more anchoring gear when the wind rises. Grin and bare it Billy!

Meanwhile it’s Black Friday weekend, another milestone in our lemming consumer stupidity. “Buy now and save!” A wonderful and wise elderly lady once asked me “If ye canna pay for it once, how will ye pay for it twice?” It’s the wisest financial advice I’ve ever ignored.

A Tub Boat. Some folks will even pay to ride in a boat filled with water!

We go to our modern cathedrals, the malls, and worship our gods of consumerism. It’ll make us feel gooder for a little while. There must be some available credit on one card. All is well. First you have to find a parking spot somewhere on that vastness of mall pavement to leave your electric SUV. (Stupid Urban Vanity…it may never leave pavement) Later, you have to find it again. Perhaps that’s why so many new vehicles are available in garish colours. (Raspberry fluorescent green banana, range 3.7 km, bearing 176 degrees. Bleep it!) Then you have to get back into the thing. Some dufus has abandoned their vehicle an inch from yours so you can’t open your doors. You have to clamber in through the back hatch. That’s when the mall cop shows up. Christmas! Bumhug!

Glisten in the harsh light of dawn.
Ready for winter. No strata problems here!
Nice! No tree died in the making of this photo.

Get off your dead centers.”      Paul Harvey

CPR – Computer Please Recover

Fairweather Fog

I am sequestered at home these days. The cold November rain spatters down. A dull grey is as bright as the day will get. I’ve just posted my Remembrance Day blog and I’m not feeling especially brilliant myself. The doctor tells us that Jill’s recovery will be long and slow and that she is lucky to be alive. I’ve vowed to stand by her but I’m terrified of not having the courage to do this as long as she needs me. I’ve been the jut-jawed aviator and never feel as at home as when sailing a boat in heavy weather but this, this leaves me feeling wholly inadequate. Like all things in life, you deal with it one step at a time and then one day you emerge from the swamp, ground down but allegedly a better person. Yeah right!

Fogbound, smell the coffee.
Edge of the world

Yesterday, before I’d had one sip, I managed to dump my entire coffee mug into my computer. It wasn’t as exciting as low-level aerobatics but there was certainly a rush of adrenaline. I was brutally confronted with the reality of how much of my life depends on this damned lap-top, something I love to preach against all the while I swim in that addiction fully immersed. Well, I blew, and sucked and dabbed and heated until I actually got a murmur of life in the old computador to the point of being able to write this blog. Humiliated and diminished I took the doglets and headed off for a circumnavigation of the local fish hatchery. There are usually a few nice dogs with nice people in tow and one comes home feeling affirmed and uplifted. The salmon are spawning and there are bus-loads of junior school kids hearding around the streams and ponds. Those were a challenge to out-manouver and the dog’s faith in humanity was not too severely dented. We made it back to the vehicle without them finding any fishy bits to roll in. No cleaning up after that dreaded yum!

After the wind
We talk about it, but here is how we often actually think green. Packaging is one of our biggest environmental stupidities. The smaller box, cleverly packaged, came inside a bigger box, stuffed with more paper to fill the void. And then there’s the extra diesel to ship it.
Really? So how did dogs survive the previous thousands of millennia?  Wonder when there will be a “biologically” appropriate human grocery store. They sure ain’t now!

On the way home a buddy telephoned. I pulled off of the highway onto an extra wide part of the shoulder. Glancing into the rearview mirror there was a sudden image of a black pickup truck almost fully over on the shoulder zooming up from behind at warp speed. There is nothing you can do as you watch someone’s grill expanding in that little rear-view mirror! It’s amazing what can go through your mind in a nano-second. There was a rush of panic for my little dogs, the thought that I couldn’t kiss my arse goodbye while sitting behind the wheel and then the hope that this wouldn’t hurt too mch before the lights went out. All the while I’m trying to maintain my chat with my buddy. All’s well that ends. Life goes on such as it is. 

Chain Cumulus? I’ve never seen low- altitude cumulus like this before.
“Turn over a new leaf huh, well this is an old one!”

Last night I came home severely disillusioned. I’d travelled over to Gabriola Island to attend my friend Bob’s ‘Celebration Of Life.’ I signed the registry and departed after ten minutes. Bob loved people and was tolerant and accepting but the hall was filled with a mob whom I doubt many never knew him or he, them. Banks of acrid hydroponic pot smog formed an initial barrier around the entrance. Clots of guffawing folks blocked the doorways, and a milling crowd of gormless characters were tripping over each other while carrying heaped plates dripping with food. I know I’m jaded but I was repulsed at a yuckfest of jolly people helping themselves to the free buffet. I was hungry but refused to partake. I’ve been to wakes where the body was present in its coffin as if participating but this event showed no respect for my friend and I could not bear it. A photo portrait of him looked out on the hall with a bemused grin. It seemed bizarre to me. A sailor is, by nature, a lonely soul and this was not the way to send him on his way. Fairwinds old salt, we’ll see you on a distant shore. I later explained my cryptic view to Bob’s widow; she replied that he would probably have enjoyed the event. Dunno!

Wondering and wandering. Do dogs contemplate the meaning of life?
How about fish?

 

The worm’s way.

Back at home the dogs cuddled up close to comfort me. They know! We sat and watched the tide ebb in the last rum bottle. It did not turn back to flood. I went to bed.

Some people come into our lives and leave footprints on our hearts and we are never, ever the same.� Flavia Weedn

Don’t Forget

Remembrance Day. The weather is typical, cold, damp and rainy. I recall parades on this day over half a century ago when I was a pimply Air Cadet. I’d stand in rank on rank at attention in my immaculate blue wool uniform, very heavy Lee Enfield rifle sopping wet with rain or snow, fluttering pigeons trying to crap on the uniforms. You’d get an itch you dare not scratch and then the bugler would blow the ‘Last Post.’ Warm tears in that cold rain. At the time it was somehow romantic and en-nobling but then I grew up some more. It is always the young people who get charmed into going to become immortal. I got to know some real veterans and almost went to Vietnam (because the US Army would teach me to fly helicopters for free) That’s another story.

After getting to know some of those people I can tell you that Remembrance Day is more than a little twisted. Yes there are hundreds of thousands of military personel who never came home but there are uncountable thousands of dead and maimed innocent civilians that were left behind. Conveniently we don’t take time to remember them. Of the veterans who made it home, there are thousands with shattered bodies and minds who truly pay an ultimate price over and over again. We try to ignore them.

War is no video game. If you think so, try an all-inclusive holiday in the Ukraine or perhaps Afghanistan.

Well, there’s my annual Remembrance Day rant, but remembering the horrible consequences of our base human nature is a daily obligation we all need to fulfill. Pray your children do not get called to go run the gauntlet.

To The Dead

bc-bog-trotter.com

Late bloomer, the autumn crocus. They appear every fall, a sure sign that summer is finished. They manage to somehow bloom just before the autumn rain begins.
Autumn Pink. Forget the girl in the tight skirt telling you about atmospheric rivers and globular warming , get out there and see for yourself what’s going on.

I’ve said it before. There are certain types of courage I do not possess. The long-suffering patience required to be Fred The Nurse is hard-come-by for me but it is payback time. I owe Jill a lot. I’m not complaining and in fact appreciate the opportunity to demonstrate my love. I am bound to stick within a short radius of home and that’s a tall order for my restless soul. I am a good cook but it is hard to produce tasty repasts for someone who presently has a hard time eating much. Yummy bird-sized portions are a challenge and a body can only endure so much quiche and soup before rebelling. My wife is slowly recovering from her cardiac ordeal. There is a long road ahead but she’ll get there. A sure sign of progress is when I catch hell for serving more budget-priced groceries. “But it was thirty percent off!” Cheap bastard! I’ve got to be the rock she can rely on and I’m almost at the back of my Spam cookbook. Then comes ‘Beans For All Occasions.”

A friend is in Mexico for the winter aboard his boat. Another amigo in Sweden has me looking for a local boat to suit his needs and budget. I’m back in the world where I belong but may not indulge while in the middle of my urban land-bound penance. Another dear friend, ill with terminal cancer, has chosen a medically assisted end. I respect the dignity of that choice but find myself beneath a cloud of will for a miracle to bring him a return to good health and happy camaraderie. I don’t want him to suffer but I hate the idea of him no longer being around. I’ll never again be able to telephone him and hear a cheery “Allo Fritz.” I did get the chance to do that recently and now he’s sailed on already. But sailors are like that, gone before dawn with little warning. Nothing is forever, grab it while you can.

Find the dog
Find the dog
Gull dawn in Dogpatch, all was calm, all was bright
The hanging tree. Beneath, a robin feeds among red berries.
Seven salmon in the stream, do they know what their passing means?
We don’t have time. Shut up and kiss me.

I got the notice today. He’s gone. Just like that. He went at his own will and avoided the indignity of fighting the miserable inevitability of a terminal illness. His celebration of life will be next weekend. I’ll have a drink or ten.

There’s no point in blubbing about anything and I’ve got on with the long-overdue business of submitting manuscripts to literary agencies. That is like buying a lottery ticket. One realizes the chance of winning is impossibly small but it is the faint hope which sustains. It doesn’t take much to keep inching forward through the unbearable heaviness of being. As I try to write this my wife is in the bathroom dry-barfing. There is nothing a person can do except wish you can help. Bowing down at the porcelain alter is horrible and so is listening to someone kneeling there arguing with Ralph and Huey. All that altercation (pun!) cannot be good for a damaged heart. It must be her medication and it certainly does not sound like a path to wellness. Swear words!

No! I said sit! This lovely boardwalk is the bayside malecon in Crofton.
This carved face is covered up at high tide. It looks up at the boardwalk.
Last ferry to Saltspring Island. it’s not really, it just looks like it.

Once Jill is well again this mundane existence has got to change for both of us. I just can’t resolve myself to sitting around waiting. How many folks end up like this? Once you adopt this mindset, you’re dead already; just a stinky corpulent fartsalot in the way at the checkout counter trying to tell folks how you used to be able to live on twenty bucks a week. You shuffle along in your plaid slippers pushing a squeaky walker and then one day the walker is for sale and no-one can remember your name.

I was in Duncan yesterday to get the doctor to pump my knees full of cortisone. (He refuses to simply install grease nipples.) The relief was almost instant and I celebrated by going off to my favourite vegetable market. Their produce is never hosed down, some of the delicate items are displayed on a bed of ice. Wet fruit and vegetables is a favourite rant of mine. It enrages this old farm boy. It is the worst thing you can do to preserve organic items and perpetrates yet another urban myth.

While in the store I came upon a lovely display of firm, full, juicy blueberries. One of the icons of Canadism is the humble blueberry. A few hour later I’m slurping them down with a bowl of ice cream. Damn they were good! I perused the little box they came in, wanting see to see their exact origin. Peru! My rage was instant. Next I’ll find maple syrup from China!

October bloom. At the end of the boardwalk this desiccated flower stood determinedly in the cold wind. I think there is no greater beauty than a fading flower.

So finally, what’s in a name. I thought that changing my blog’s name to Driftword.ca was clever and artistic. It turns out that even I found myself wanting to say Driftwood. Perhaps deadwood would have been better. Earlier this year I was trying to work with a web host who suggested that anything “BC” is a hot handle and I should adopt a name which includes the implication of British Columbia. I had to leap through flaming hoops to be able to legally use that name, just in case I was representing something government (Oh sigh) but it’s official, my new blog name is about to become bc-bog-trotter.com.

Historically the term bogtrotter refers to the lower class of Irish peasantry who roamed across the countryside, among the bogs of Ireland. It is not intended as a compliment with any use but it was what my Scottish mother-in-law called me and I chose to accept it as a term of endearment. It is also where you’ll often find me, in the backwaters and backwoods, where I choose to explore. You’ll seldom find me near any bright lights.

A peaceful easy feeling.
Checking the pee mail.
An aroma of wood smoke set against the cold, damp bite of an autumn afternoon. Snug!

The weather has been descending rapidly into winter in recent days. Today the first steady, cold downpour has settled over us. It suits my mood. The dogs are huddled near the fireplace and I may go join them. Tomorrow may come. Maybe not.

This photo best describes my buddy Bob. I will miss him dearly. Thank you dear friend.

The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”
―  Mark Twain