My liitle big dog Arye and I were on our morning walk. We had come from a loop in the woods and were returning to our vehicle on the distant side of of a very large hay field. There was a light wind, the sky was absolutely clear. There was no wisp of cloud, just deep pure blue. Somewhere up there, from the southwest, came that ubiquitous sound of a high-flying airliner. It was up there, possibly forty thousand feet or more. The air mass was so stable and dry that no contrail appeared. The aircraft was invisible to my eye
The thought came to me about a hundred or more bombers up there, preparing to loose a rain of thousands of tons of death nearby and maybe on my head. Where do you run? It was a chilling thought. How many people have endured such terror? How lucky most of us are to never know a feeling which at best, we can only imagine. Why would I conjure up such a nightmare? It was a perfect day. I don’t know. But then that’s what writers do, think out of their box or, is it about going outside other’s boxes?. Some of us are regarded as nutters. That’s fine; I don’t want to fit in with the status quo. But for the moment I had another indelible reality to cope with.
The hayfield had already produced two crops this year and was now being fertilized. The reek of liquified cow manure was heady in the summer heat. Recycling in the raw. As we walked, another truck load bounded into the field. The driiver hit his switch and a thick gurry of green-brown effluent spun through the air in a hundred-foot-wide rooster tail. Gaglicious! Dungsaway! The sky was void of any birds. This old dairy farm kid savoured a fleeting comfort in the fumey funk and then smirked as I considered having that truck out on the highway on certain days for certain people. A tailgating convertible, “Bombs away Billy!” I’m sure wee Arye wanted to go roll in the liquid delight. Something to take home for mom with lots of clinging cuddles.
This morning we all went for a walk together. The dogs love the local fish hatchery which is a mix of streams, ponds, shady trails, open roads and other dogs. It is where my beloved old Jack is buried. This morning I saw two fat trout side by side in a bubbling part of the stream in the shade of an overhanging alder. It feels very good to just leave them as they are, going softly and doing no harm. It has clouded over this afternoon, we may get some rain. A respite from the hot sun is certainly welcome.
My arthritic knees were especially painful today, perhaps due to the change in weather. Once home I was forced to go lay down for a while. Oddly, those worn-out joints also start throbbing like two monster toothaches in the middle of the night. What does resting them have, and not have, to do with any relief. Once I wondered why old folks were often so cranky. Now I get it. I lay there watching the activity in a shrub outside the bedroom window. That greenery is properly named a Skimmia Japonica ((I’d see a doctor about that son!) I just call it the bush, and Jill insisits that this old logger leaves the pruning to her. It has copious tiny white flowers, which are lovely and in winter, it produces arrays of bright red berries and all the while keeps its leaves.
Bees love the flowers and I lay on the bed watching their industry. They were everywhere and despite the odd dogfight about a certain flower, it was a peaceful assault. Then I realized there was an accompaniment. We have new neighbours next door. The owner has rented her place out to a lovely couple with two young boys. They were interacting happily. There were no screams, or shouts or whining. It was bliss. Somehow the lyrical sounds of happy children underscored the aerial ballet of the bees. I realized what a rare sound it is to hear children interacting harmoniously. Usually, so often we don’t even notice, the sound of children at play incorporates screaming and wailing. There are few sounds of simple joy but rather those of the violence and altercation they’ve already learned from the world around them and…it doesn’t all come from video games. What a sad realization that genuine children’s laughter is so rare.
I lay savouring my sweet reveries and then another neighbour ran his shrieking, smoking ancient lawnmower along the fence. He’s a good neighbour too.
And yes, it rained. Ahhhh!
“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.”
I really hate it. Why do some people force you into a situation where you have to be an asshole? I arrived at my beloved Naka Creek campground looking forward to performing a few chores and generally relaxing. Libby was with me and I didn’t want to force her through anything extreme. What a tremendous dog and friend she has proven to be! This was her first time in the backwoods and we both needed it to be an entirely pleasant experience. As I was setting up camp two vehicle loads of folks arrived together. Eight people tumbled out with their three dogs. One of the joys of a place like this is that you usually meet other kindred spirits. Not this mob, “Weah Heah!”
There was a flat tire on my trailer and I immediately set about changing it. In the middle of the job, while pulling on the tire iron, the matriarch of my new neighbours promptly stumbled over to announce to me that I had a flat tire. “YES, I do.” How does one respond?
“Really? I hadn’t noticed” or how about “Naaw, just practising, just in case… you know?” I was polite but bent back to my work. They were a rowdy yuckity-yuck sort of gang and managed to be boisterous until very late. They constantly bounced frisbys off my camper until 10:30 in the evening, hooting and stomping right beside the vehicle despite acres of free space all around. I was quite proud of my restraint despite a huge urge to explode outside for an ugly confrontation. Eventually the din moved up the road, little Libby’s growls subsided and we drifted off to sleep.
I was going to refinish the roof on my trailer. Awake by 05:30 I decided to wait until my neighbours arose and had a chance at breakfast. They had set up several tents over a hundred foot radius . There was no point in deliberately antagonizing an apparently tense situation. I decided that there was no point in seeking any blessing from these folks so i just went to work. At 10:30 I fired up my generator and sander and went to work, hoping to finish quickly. There was a breeze but it was blowing away from both our camps. After a half-hour of my industry there was only ten minutes until I was finished. That’s when the shit the fan. While up a ladder I was accosted by mom and pop, who despite the obvious wind direction, claimed “All my dust was blowing all over their table.” I replied that I could see it was not and that I’d be done in a few minutes, sooner if they left me alone. They slunk away, befuddled by the geezer who was not going to back down.
The second night was as rich with rudeness but I still didn’t react. What’s the point? Later, next morning, while taping the edges of the roof the manure started flowing again. This time it was about what would happen to me when I dared to start spray painting. Stupid people! Spray painting? Really? The innuendos about what was coming my way were stunning as were the threats and photos of me “Fer evidence.” “We’re gonna report you!” Clearly some folks watch too much TV. I resolved to outlast them. When it became clear that I was not about to budge on their account, they began deflating their big rubber ducks and set about the arduous process of loading up all their “stuff.” Their prime objection had been that I was “In a project and not fishin’.” It’s a splendid free camping area with plenty of room and no need to be near anyone else. Why they had chosen to be in my face is a mystery. They were gone when Libby and I awoke from our nap. I have a knack for finding confrontation. I don’t want it, I do not look for it but damnit, I won’t back down when people want to be bullies.
I understand how so many of our people are in dire financial circumstances. Our greed has caught up with us. We all live under the constant dark clouds of multiple wars, the after effects and implications of covid, as well as the growing loom of terrifying possibilities such as more pandemics, artificial intelligence, ever higher taxes, impossible housing costs. There’s a lot to worry about but there’s no reason to try to punish other people because they don’t conform to your expectations. Well blither and blah, blah. Have a nice day! Smirk, smirk.
And now for the “Rest of the story.” Remember Paul Harvey? Good…day! Now I know how old you are!
When my father died, now well over twenty years ago, I kept a few trivial personal items. One was a kite in a wee bag. It ended up in a jumble of miscellaneous items in a locker on my boat and then eventually found its way into my old camper. I’d never really looked at it and had forgotten about it until cleaning out some storage in the camper. I decided that I’d celebrate the exodus of my nemesis neighbours by trying to fly this forgotten toy. My old dad would have been ninety-nine in another two days, so this seemed fitting. He’d died exactly on his birthday like the old English train spotter he was; right on schedule. Now another marker, still on time.
Libby and I set off to a rocky promontory beside the mouth of Naka Creek. The wind along Johnstone Strait was warm and steady. I planted my carcass on a folding camp stool and soon launched the relic aerodyne. Damn! It flew beautifully. I was a boy again! The kit rose steadily, tugging firmly and soaring upward like the proverbial homesick angel. Soon at the end of its string I spliced on another piece of fishing line and she climbed ever upward. Then the stool collapsed. You know what happened. The spool on the bitter end of the string skittered away across the rocks and then in a welter of spray crossed the creek like the tiny wind-surfer it was. The kite dipped for a moment and then rose higher yet as the spool snagged on the last limb at the top of a spruce tree. There would be no climbing up to fetch my airspace hazard. Now anchored firmly the kite rose to maximum altitude. I had filed no flight plan. It became a tiny coloured speck in the sky, like a Chinese spy balloon. I wondered how long before the F-18s showed up.
“Well” I mused, “this is a grand ending to all the dark memories about me and my father. I’ll always see his kite stuck up in the clear blue sky. Closure!” Then I thought, the wind will quit after dark, that kite is coming down! Day VFR only. Libby and I treked back along the beach, back through the campground, along the road across the bridge, past a lone camp trailer with two vicious dogs and finally into the log sort about a half-kilometre downwind of where I’d lost my kite. All the while we’d had our sky beacon to guide us. Finally we stood directly beneath the prodical kite and I reckoned where it might land when the wind dropped after dark.
We returned early next morning, full of vague hope. Libby trotted eagerly ahead, her tiny feet setting up tiny puffs of dust. I knew there was slim chance of ever seeing the kite again but you cannot catch fish if you don’t go fishing and I needed to feel that I’d done all that I could. A log sort is a huge cleared area used to store and sort logs before reshipping them to a distant mill. This one is about twenty acres in area. Unused for a while, young alders have sprouted up about two feet in height all over the huge clearing. “There’s no hope” I thought. Then Libby raced ahead to where the kite lay, neatly folded by someone. Much of the string was tidily wound around a stick. After my previous anus-a-thon, my faith in people was completely and instantly restored. What else can I say? Thank you certainly seems hardly enough.
And so the good mysteries of life float to the top. Things that matter. Naka Creek is enduring an overpopulation of mice. They’re everywhere, Libby was intrigued. I have a folding plastic table with crossed metal legs. How do these cute little guys manage to get up onto the table and leave their poop spore copiously? How?
Are you a reader? I mean, are you someone who reads a lot? Books? I believe that one of my obligations as a writer is to read. When I begin reading a book I feel a silly obligation to finish it, no matter how much work that may become. It is partly out of an obligation of respect that someone convinced someone else to take the risk of publishing their work. And that work I know, if the writer has done their own research and editing, is horrific. All books, I suppose, are intended to entertain. They are all, even if not intended, also to educate and will alter the way we eventually think and perceive. So even the ones I find as boring as a dried turd must be endured. There may be a nugget in the manure pile.
Someone once declared that a book is the last place you can go to be alone. So is writing one. I sit on a dull but sunny early summer Sunday morning. There is no breath of a breeze. This afternoon may well be a warm one. An airplane drones overhead. Someone dragged their arse out of bed and had enough money for gas to auger their way up into the sky to enjoy the view down through a crystal clear sky. I miss those mornings. I miss a lot of things, like waking up on my own boat on a morning such as this. Perhaps waking up on a stormy morning was much better. If the anchorage was safe then there was a simple resolve to stay put and do nothing. There’s nothing like being on a rocking vessel, warm and dry while the wind and rain screech and rattle outside. I look forward to more of those.
Meanwhile life ho-hums along while everyone else seems to be up to something meaningful. Even those dudes in the mini-sub who spent a quarter-million each to go down and get squashed like bugs went out in a wet flash doing something interesting. My latest thrill was to be out scootering along, enjoying the warm cool of riding in and out of the forest shade. I was wearing shorts and feeling like a part of the universe when it hit me; the shrapnel sting of a bee hitting my inner thigh. Bam! Just hang on old boy, don’t end up in the ditch. Wobbledy wobble! I hope this doesn’t hurt any more than it does already! The last thing to go through the creature’s mind as it mushroomed into my tender blubber was his little bum; but he was quick enough to point his stinger in kamakazi mode. I was happy to keep my little scooter wheels pointing where they should and that the little exo-skeletoned beast had not made it further up my leg. Let’s just say that it has been a long time since anything down there swelled up that quickly. Hey baby, wanna see my bee sting? Uhuh! It’s funny now. Bahaha.
Now it is the Canada Day Long Weekend. The highways have been clogged with hurtling Rvs (Sounds like a rock band) all week long. BC Ferries have once again managed to have a major breakdown. Now their parking yards have become campgrounds, no campfires please.The fury to go hurry up and relax always amuses me. To hell with the price of gas, they’re going to rush out to a reserved camp spot and pretend to be hairy people. Parking a mortgaged Rv between hidden stumps ten feet from someone else and having a person in a brown shirt regularly reminding folks of all that they can’t do is no part of any wilderness experience. Then they’ll join the lemming rush toward home where they live with millions of others in the biggest clearcut in the province. Think green!, camping
For some reason friends and heros are passing away in numbers. That always seems to happen in multiples and hopefully it’s over for the time being. Their time on this planet has made it a better place. My pal way up north on his motorcycle is soldiering on in his grand adventure. He’s made it to Tuktoyatuk on July 1st but finding the Artic Ocean breeze too brisk and the price of accomodation also too brisk, promptly began the southward trek and is camped near Inuvik. Me, I’m going to cool my cold jets and putz around on the back roads looking for another bee. Last blog, I’m the one who mentioned the apparent lack of bugs!
On a final note, I recently watched a smidge of a ‘Save the wild creatures’ program which, admirably, must leave a lot of people realizing the value of wildlife of all sizes. The good people were trying to save a baby red squirel which needed to nurse. The problem was successfully solved by finding a lactating rat. “Now then,” I thought, “there’s a band name!”
Shall we have a contest?
“There is a planet in the Solar System where the people are so stupid they didn’t catch on for a million years that there was another half to their planet. They didn’t figure that out until five hundred years ago! Only five hundred years ago! And yet they are now calling themselves Homo Sapiens.” – Kurt Vonnegut ‘Timequake’