Saturday morning. Sirens wailing. Woo, woo, woo. Another wreck on the highway where people hurtle through town in a quest to hurry up and relax? The sirens stop abruptly, somewhere nearby. Perhaps another old soul in the neighbourhood has a medical crisis. Dogs bark, the children next door make the noises of happy children. There’s a country song coming out of all this. Goldang!
Sunday morning. Overcast sky, it feels good. There’s a forecast of rain two days away. We’ll see. Joey is barking out her morning sonata. This poor old German Shepherd has been at it for the fifteen years we’ve lived here. She’s a fine dog who never gets walked and has a path worn along the inside of her back fence. She sounds fierce but I can pet her and give her treats. It’s the silent rottweiller she shares her existence with to watch. Everyone wants to shoot the dogs for their incessant noise, I want to deal with the owner. Occasionally there is a shout of “Joey shaddup” but that is a token of showing she cares. I don’t know what to do to ease the torture of these poor creatures. They turn the back alley into a gauntlet for anyone walking by. The neighbours complain to each other, nothing changes.
The long weekend is past, we’ve had a wee sprinkle of rain. Despite their best efforts there have been no heaps of traffic victims on the roadside waiting for their helicopter ride. It has to be a miracle that dozens don’t die on our roads daily. They sure work at it. Enough said.
I went to see a surgeon yesterday and am now on a list for a new knee. Something within the next year. Now that’s something to look forward to. I understand that the healing process is long and painful but the reward is to have no more pain and crunching parts. The old knee is worn down to nearly the last kick. I was warned, but life is wasted on the young and I can’t think of one thing that I’ve proven except that I’m an idiot. The new synthetic knee is a marvel of engineering. I examined one yesterday. Once the Canadian Tire label is gone it will look good on any fireplace mantel. It is a result of modern technology, cleverly designed and built. The stainless steel knuckle will cause hell in airport security but we will deal with it at the time. I asked if I could get one with a grease nipple. The surgeon has a sense of humour, everything will be fine.
This blog was slid to the back of the shelf to ferment, or perhaps, desiccate. Days have passed. There are no dramas or points to ponder so we have just sat. Even I’m finally admitting that it’s bloody hot today. There’s a lovely Westerly breeze blowing but it is like a blast furnace when you step outside. I am cooking supper on the barbeque, it would be too warm to bake a meat loaf inside. All the fans in the house are murmuring away. It feels relatively cool in here at my desk, but the air seems to go muddy again, I stare blankly at the wall. Perhaps that is an achievement.
Sunday morning again, suddenly it is a week later, still the sirens wail. Woo, woo!
“We can know only that we know nothing. And that is the highest degree of human wisdom.” ― Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
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 was enjoying a few minutes of bliss wandering along a local sandstone beach. The dogs scampered happily among the driftwood. The sun was warm and the seabreeze entirely pleasant. A Rubenesque woman, clad in black spandex and blending in to the shadows, was squatting on the end of a log and suddenly shouted out “Yer dog jes took a shit!” I replied calmly as I walked on, “It’s OK. She’ll put it back.” The woman was sitting with her bumbas hanging over her perch as if she might be “taking” one herself. I wanted to point out that the scat from seals, otters, racoons and all the birds were strewn all over the beach. No point; “He who argues with a fool,” you know the rest.
My little girl Libby did her business discreetly underneath a log where no-one could tread if they wanted to. I don’t want anyone to suffer anything due to my dogs but I also refuse to step outside the bounds of basic reality. Shit happens. And so it goes.
My friend on the motorcycle odyssey called me early this morning. Jimmy is in Dawson City, cooling his jets and waiting for the arrival of his brother on a motorcycle. They’ll ride together on to Tuktoyaktuk, the apex of the journey, and then begin a fast but meandering journey homeward. All is well and I wish him every joy on his trip. We discussed a few current news items and got stuck on the missing mini-sub at the Titanic site. It had been four days since the alarm was sounded, they’re out of oxygen now, they’re dead. As a mariner, I mourn their loss, and empathize with their long wait in the cold and dark. At least now they sleep.
A sudden update announces a debris field which would indicate a severe malfunction and that the five aboard endured a quick and merciful end, probably only a short while into their descent.
Jimmy related a conversation he’d recently had about this same subject. It covered all the resources spent, financial and economic, to save the lives of five wealthy people enjoying an exotic adventure. The Titanic is a grave site. It contains the remains of hundreds of people, or at least the memory of them. Now its ghosts have claimed five more lives. Leave it alone. It should be a sacred place. There are other mysteries to spend money and interest on. We have turned it into another commercial venture. But then, in another week , this too will be an abandoned story.
A week ago, an immigrant vessel off the coast of Greece, capsized and sank with hundreds of desperate souls aboard. They all invested all their resources in a mere chance at a new life. Locked below deck within a mass of terrified fellow human cargo, in the disoriented darkness, one can only image the immense horror of a slow excruciating death. We endured three days of speculation and generally uninformed opinion and now will hear nothing more. Mothers and children, in the hundreds, refuges of war and poverty, are already a forgotten news item.
Yesterday 227 migrants were rescued off the Canary Islands and in a separate incident 39 died when their inflatable boat sank. Within the past month over 5,900 refuges have been helped off the Canaries. There has been nothing on the evening news about any of this. Apparently human lives have differing values. The carnage in Ukraine continues, Sudan is an ongoing disaster, earthquake survivors in Turkey and Syria continue to grapple for basic needs. They are not newsworthy any more. We move on to the next saleable media item, such as the Glastonbury Music Festival in the UK. Mountains are swept under the rug.
“If people in the media cannot decide whether they are in the business of reporting news or manufacturing propaganda, it is all the more important that the public understand that difference, and choose their news sources accordingly.” Thomas Sowell
Followers of my blogs know that I am a jaded and skeptical sub-senior and angry member of the “Last Nations.” I am often enraged by the poor language skills of our media people and infuriated by the wrong emphasis they place on practical matters. I am especially incensed at the need to dramatize “climate change.” Record breaking temperatures turn out to be based on a datum of 2015. I can remember extremes of heat and cold, dry and wet that exceeded anything being reported. Folks just carried on, life was what you got and there was no point in dramatizing something you could do nothing about. Winter was cold, summer was hot, it was not news.
Yes climate change exists and in fact the entire planet has constantly endured climatic fluxuations which at times have destroyed entire eco-systems, multiple species and entire civilizations. It’s normal! Get used to it and deal with it as you can. The arrogance of thinking we can fix it, all the while continuing to indulge in a life of excess where cause and effect have become the same thing. We have a mentality that endorses spending billions to send technology beyond known edges of the universe all the while ignoring the desperate plight of a major portion of our population. We turn a blind eye to the excesses of government and the incredibly vulgar wealth of several religious organizations. Love, peace and charity are abstracts. All the while people live in desperate poverty, their children enduring the lottery of death and the faceless obliterations of war. All the while we grudgingly gather under the umbrella of various organizations to talk about it, often while sitting over a gourmet dinner.
I don’t know how to change anything. I have no money and no way to go do something. All I can do is write and try to provide needle pricks of awareness and questioning. One thing I’ve noticed, and you can too if you look, is a diminishing number of insects. Just take a drive down a highway and take note of the lack of protein on the windshield. In the warm temperatures of years past a windshield would accumulate a thick crust of dried bugsmack. Usually there would be an especially big gooey splatter right in front of the driver’s eyes. Scrubbing all that yummyputz off your windows was part of the routine of fueling up and sometimes in between gas stops. It is always a good thing to see what you’re running into. I’d even avoid gas stations that did not provide clean wash water and squeegees. There was a time, way back when gasoline sold for less than fifty cents, a gallon, attendants would pump your gas, check under the hood, check your tires and clean your windshield. That was back when we had “Service Stations.” Uhuh! Now we’ve even lost our population of insects. The ramifications of that are sobering.
There are wasps and hornets, mosquitos and house flies and all the other pesky flying and crawling creatures, which inhabited the planet for millions of years before we arrived, but suddenly their numbers have plummeted. They have as much right, and often more purpose to be here. If we cannot see the purpose of any annoying (to us) insect or creature, remove it from the ecosystem and its role in the cycle of life will eventually become very obvious. It is not all about us and in fact we are the one organism the planet would do better without. Meanwhile the tiny creatures which pollinate our plants and food crops are declining in number. Does that mean anything to you?
“We don’t give a damn to the insects on our Earth, but if we could find even a single insect on Mars, the whole world would cherish it like crazy! ― Mehmet Murat ildan
I recently watched a documentary about a beautiful young woman in the Ukraine. She had left her lucrative jewelry business to become a sniper on the front lines. She met her future husband there and well into her third trimester of pregnancy she was still out there fulfilling a most dangerous and deadly duty as she defends her country’s future which she carries in her belly. The irony of her life was not lost. I can see a bronze statue called “motherland” or perhaps “love.”
A soldier in battle dress, her near full-term pregnacy quite obvious brandishes a sniper’s rifle and is resolved in defiance. It is an indelible image, poignant, inspiring and so very tragic. Through our history on this planet, we have learned nothing. The battles rage on.
One of the joys of summer are the aromas. I was driving the dogs to the beach for a walk. We passed a construction site where the sun beat down and a pain and bloodfragrance of new lumber filled the air. At the shoreline it was low tide. The rank funk of drying mudflats, seaweed, shellfish and fresh leaves above the banks filled the air with a grand cloying musk. Along the pathways, through the thickets of verdant fresh flora there were heavy wafts of floral blends in the air that were bliss even for this old bush ape. In the air drifts the rattling roar of Harley Davidson mating calls which are sometimes answered by the scream of little Asian motorcycles.
The clear sky overhead holds a thin curtain of Albertan bushfire smoke. Hopefully this is not a harbinger of the summer air quality we’ve endured in previous years. BC and Washington forests have been burning prodigiously during recent past summers when breathable air and clear visibility have become a premium. Our indigenous people’s oral histories describe “summers of the red sun.” We are in one of those traditional climate blips within the regular fluctuations of our climate. Dramatizing those gasping days improves nothing. Claiming that temperatures are “record breaking” is a farce. One weather announcer in a tight skirt let it slip that the datum of their records is 2015! You fill in the blank on that one. WOT?
On the long weekend highways folks hurtle in opposite directions hauling bikes, motorcyles, kayaks, paddle boards, surf boards, boats, trailers and rooftop tents. I wonder how many people are injured clambering in and out of those contraptions. Certainly there must certainly be more pain and blood than all the bear encounters together. As I see the frantic race to hurry up and relax I recall a friend’s comment “ Don’t they know they’re free to go sleep on the ground all year long?” Horrified at the plight, or inconvience, of the homeless, some of us pursue a similar venture for fun. And fun it should be if you’re roughing it in a mortgaged Rv.
My old “Hemouth” is not a shiny, sexy beast but, it’s paid for. That’s plenty sexy to me.
A growing number of casinos is clear evidence that someone knows that many people do not make good decisions.
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.
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.
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!
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.
“If you know you can do it, why go in the first place? ” Iohan Guearguiev
I first need to offer a kudo to an institution in Ladysmith, the ’49th Parallel Grocery.’ With all the flap, (and rightly so) about plastic bloody plastic, and single-use bags, the 49th has come up with a sensible solution. Heavier bags! Now they are multi- use bags, reusable! Wot a concept! I was a wee child when plastics were being introduced to the world, who could have seen the devastating effect this blight would become.
Paper sacks were what we used and they were hefty enough to be used over and over. My old mom threw nothing out. Even the wrappers from lard and shortening were folded and saved in the fridge for greasing baking tins. Of course those were also the days when folks still baked. All the separate ingredients were added. Today it is called “Baking from scratch.”Adding water to the powder in a box was not how one baked anything. Good grief we had it tough!
Speaking of “good old days” I had a wonderful experience today. I’m heading into the woods for a few days. Ayre is with me. I stopped for a late lunch or “lupper” in the town of Lake Cowichan. A fish ‘n chip shop advertised Deep Fried Ice Cream and so I assumed the main course would be fine. It was excellent! What intrigued me was their insistence that I bring Ayre in. She was then presented with her own little ice cream cone. Wow! It’s just what they do…screw the regulations. I love it. So did Ayre. It seemed like a surreal slip back into my childhood and it was certainly a dose of happiness, no extra charge.
Our next morning has dawned with spatters of rain and drifting fo high on the cliffs above. We are beside the road between Mesachie Lake and Port Renfrew. A long time ago I drove this route on business. You followed a logging truck in the billowing dust and flying rocks and hoped for the best. Now the way has been paved and it is a beautiful drive where vehicles can fly along far too fast to admire the scenery. A sign at the head of the road warns that there is cellular service for the next 56km. “Sounds awful risky to me Darleen. Think we should turn aroun’?” We parked about two hundred metres away from it. I was amazed at the traffic all night long. Where the hell are they all going? Drug dealers? Over-enthused surfers? Night loggers? I can also note that the night was the darkest I’ve ever know. I can’t explain how my eyes didn’t adjust to see even a faint glimmer. There was only a truly full-dimension impenetrable blackness. It was grave-dark; I did not like it.
By coincidence we parked beside an old suspension foot bridge. It’s narrow and wobbly and probably won’t be around much longer, either falling down or being torn down. What its history is would be intriguing. There are the footings of a previous structure and a piece of well-worn train rail. The water in the stream would be invisible if it didn’t move or hold tiny darting minnows, trout or salmon spawn I cannot say.
There is a mystery and magic in the woods of Vancouver Island. They have been raped and left to fend for themselves but one cannot help but admire the energy and enthusiam employed to so thorougly devastate this huge ecosystem by hand. The forest has grown back enough to leave only traces of its former grandeur. What a time it must have been!
Port Renfrew is a beautiful place yet it always leaves me feeling despondant. As usual, it wasn’t sunny today, but that’s not it. There is just something in the air and I’m eager to move on. I was backing into a parking spot next to a concrete wall, Ayre was bobbing up and down trying to see what it was in the mirror I was watching and yep, crunch. Swearwords! No major harm done but the general store I was going into was closed, the till wasn’t working. I guess a pencil, paper and adding machine don’t work anymore! I was a huge lineup of one and needed a bit of butter. Rhymes with bugga! Life goes on and so did we… in a foul mood.
The road around the Soutwestern tip of Vancouver Island to Jordan River isn’t long, it just seems that way. There are breaks in the pavement which also bucks and yaws to port and starboard like some monster had crumpled the surface and then done a vague job of smoothing it back out. All of this in a succession of hairpin turns and steep hills.My old procession maxed out, without the trailer this trip, at 50 kph. It seemed daft to go faster. Others drove their sexy motorhomes and cars as if they were filming a new advertisement for their vehicle. Zoom, zoom the girl in the tight dress said. Holy shit people! Why is the world in such a hurry? Tick, tock, gotta go chill man!
We spent last night in a seaside camping area at Jordan River and have decided to spend another. For $15 per night. What the heck eh? We found one spot available next to a washroom with slamming doors and clanging garbage bins. Tires crunched in the gravel most of the night as people came and went but I’m not complaining. The photos explain the rest of the story. On the beach this morning I was warned by an elderly lady, “Thet heaglez goona enjoy yer dog’s bonz fer brekfas’” then she cackled like a movie witch. Ayre, in oblivion, continued to attack bits of seaweed and yes I was aware of the pair of eagles chattering to each other. The woman meant well I’m sure.
The day wears on following Ayre’s lead with naps, frolics and more exploring. She has become a very happy dog and her company is so good for the soul. Having been my daughter’s dog, to nurture her is very uplifting and sometimes heart-rending when I am reminded of my daughter. There is, however, more bad news. My daughter, who passed in April, had a special friend. She inherited many of our daughter’s belongings.That friend also had a little dog. Libby was a buddy to Ayre. Now, unbelievably, that friend has just died. What the hell is going on? We’re going into Victoria tomorrow to rescue that dog, a daschund. This is one story I’d really like to end but when the gods call, a person must be willing to listen.
Sunday morning dawns spectacular and warm. Ayre and I have patrolled the beach. Piss stones and kelp balls are all accounted for. Now it is time to get on with life. This is a splendid spot, full of people, mostly surfers, who all seem very positive and come with nice dogs. I’ve been driving by here for decades, funny how you pass by some really good places. Yesterday, while walking to a surfer coffee bar across the Jordan River bridge, I was tagged on the sleeve by a motor home wandering across the painted line onto the shoulder. No harm done. Fortunately, Ayre was on a short leash in my right hand. How close we come to disaster, all in a nano-second, done or gone! The vehicle stopped at the shop and I told the driver that I took being killed rather personally. The denials flew. Life goes on. All’s well that ends, Ayre is fine, I’m meant to live a while longer, time to go see why.
Boots and saddles!
“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for. ― John A. Shedd
Back in the jungle again. You know the tune, sing it Willy. The home front had enough of me, and I of it. Without much contemplation here I am back in Naka Creek with the whales and other urban refugees, and as it turns out, some international ones as well.
As I left town a great wall of smoke rose rapidly from the south, America is burning I hear. To add an apocalyptic touch, someone turned hard right and rammed head-on into two rows of vehicles waiting for a traffic light. There was a heap of carnage, a muddle of arriving emergency vehicles and a herd of geriatrics in spandex on bicycles running in dithering circles waving their arms. We make movies in Ladysmith. We’ll call this one ‘No Fault Insurance.’ You can be part of the problem or part of the solution. I let the wall of smoke chase me northward. It found me by next morning.
I arrived at Naka Creek, my favourite place on Johnstone Strait just in time to see three southbound cruise ships returning from another Alaska jaunt. I remember meeting these gleaming behemoths in these waters when I worked on the tugs. It is an incongruous sight in the deep dark of an upcoast night. I imagine the passengers trying to dance their arses off after yet another gourmet buffet dinner all the while oblivious to the incredible natural world sliding by in the dark, but then endless miles of wilderness is not really what they came to see. It makes a lovely background for the ‘binderdundat’ mug shots they’ll proudly show back home in Donkey Shin Kansas or wherever their bombers takes them. By the time they’re home they will be crawling with viruses they’ve found on the cruise or the homeward flight but that strawberry creme flambe was worth it all. Laugh damnit, all humour is cynicism.
My prefered spot was taken by an expedition vehicle with German license plates. It was one of those monstrous offroad boxes with the big wheels, too big really to squeeze along many of our roads. Still, I fancy them and wanted to chat with the owner. He pulled away and left. Incredibly another German RV pulled in to the same site a short time later. Soon the new neighbour befriended me. He and his wife were from Berlin. Their motorhome was built on a Citroen cab and chassis, powered with a Fiat diesel. The rest of the unit was built in Slovenia. It had a German license plate. How exotically European is that? With over 160,000 nautical miles of sailing offshore catamarans he, and she, who works as a wedding videographer in Quatar, had some interesting yarns to share. Avowed vegetarians, they declared that they ate “nothing that had parents or eyes.” And so the day passed with something else to consider.
On Monday morning the day comes with overcast smokey skies. A dry rasping call of a solitary crow announces the stealthy arrival of his cousin, a brilliant blue Stellar jay. Fog rolls and curls along the water. It is quiet, it is peaceful… until an hours-long yuckfest developed on the beach and overwhelmed everyone else. Other campers clearly do not come for the same things I do. Tranquility, solitude, the music of nature; I prayed for rain. It did not come. I launched my dinghy and left. I powered north into the flooding tide and switched the engine off to simply drift and dream. The water was calm and the thin sunlight soothing. Soon I could hear voices. I could see nothing but eventually a flotilla of kayaks appeared from the far shore. The wilderness tranquility they came to absorb eludes them. Despite my persuasions, peace is not part of the urbanites agenda. The reason they see few whales and little wild life is beyond their grasp.
A call home on my mobile that evening informed me that an emergency was unfolding. I needed to return south quickly. I broke camp and stowed everything in the trailer. My friends had left earlier and so I went to nurse a beer alone on the beach as the last of the sunset faded. There was a roar, a blaze of light and grinding of gears. I refused to turn and acknowledge this latest intrusion. Yet another expedition vehicle! And yes, once again, more Germans! This machine was a monster military green box with a huge Mercedes emblem on the grill. As the growling diesel shuddered into quietude a thick German accent shouted at my back, “Are you vatching ze orcas?” Oh sigh! Isn’t GPS with backroad maps a wonder?
I left at 04:30. In the impenetrable darkness, fog swirled in heavy banks. Visibility was down to twenty feet in places. Over the mountains, into the valleys, across narrow bridges, around switchback corners I finally arrived on the main road out and began meeting loaded logging trucks with their bright lights. Their dust mixed with the fog. There is no headlight that deals with that. By the time daylight arrived I was back on the pavement, southbound for home by noon. All’s well that ends.
Soon the rain and darkness of autumn will settle over this island. Perhaps I can go into the woods and be alone then.
“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
I’ve never understood why, when we live on an island plenty big enough to be a country, that everyone does not want to be on the perimeter shore that faces the ocean. But then, there’s a lot I don’t understand. Some folks prefer to go to the inside of the island and settle on the edge of a lake. Such is Youbou.
Once a bustling logging community, it is now a retirement and summer home village where certain people were once smart enough to buy properties at giveaway prices. No-one then wanted to live in such a place. The next nearest community is Lake Cowichan itself which is situated on the east end of the lake of the same name. The nearest full-sized town is Duncan, about twenty five miles eastward. There are now good roads and a regular bus service. If you are driving across to the west side of Vancouver Island, Youbou is the last place you can get gas, some groceries, beer, and a restaurant meal.
It is the gateway to places with names like Carmanah, Walbran, West Coast Trail, Bamfield and is a back road to Port Alberni. Youbou is also where you run out of pavement and must continue along active logging roads. Turn your headlights on, unfasten your seat belt so it doesn’t strangle you, and prepare to endure a washboard and pothole-studded tire busting trail onward. Use your air-conditioning to pressurize the cabin of your vehicle to keep most of the dust out. Always assume someone will be coming around a curve at you on the wrong side and never assume the right of way over a logging truck. These are not simply country roads. These are vicious industrial work routes not intended for the urban weekend warrior.
Distances are measured by the sign boards nailed to trees, if they haven’t fallen off. Forget the time, you’ll be there when you arrive. After turning onto the Nitinat main road, I drove several kilometers to discover a road block saying the road was closed due to extreme fire hazard. Fair enough but why the hell wasn’t the sign put where you turn onto the road? I back-tracked and took other routes I know. Don’t expect things to make sense and top up your fuel tank whenever you can. I finally arrived at the native community of Nitinat where a sign advised me I needed to buy a permit for the camp ground I wanted to go to. No-one there knew who sold the permits. I didn’t feel like driving another thirty kilometres to be turned back so I’ve retreated to a nice spot I know on the Nitinat River. It was very hot and dusty so I stripped down and flopped into a lovely clear salmon pool here on a river bend. I’ll deal with tomorrow when it gets here. It is so pristine and peaceful here that staying put is a definite option.
Morning arrived after a night of wonderful quiet. There was only the gentle murmuring of the river. An owl called once. The stars gleamed and splotches of faint light from galaxies I can’t begin to know were all visible through the moss-laden spruce branches. A meteorite streaked straight down trailing a tail of light. Seeing and hearing the earth as it should be I slept peacefully. The dust and clatter of the morning’s road lay beyond.
Downtown Nitinat, early Thursday. No luck. The Doobeh Campground was closed. I learned that after a fine fellow phoned around until he found someone who actually knew. That’s the way it was and there was no point in asking why. These are good people, I didn’t meet anyone I didn’t like. I fell in love with a local dog. He was a year and a half old, black and white, with a head like a bull, built like a terrier and with a grin like a clown. After a few treats we were buddies. The fellow running a little shop told me he’d turn his head if I wanted to load the dog up and go but I just couldn’t do that. Somebody loved him but I can’t get him out of my head. He’s a long way behind me now. There are many kilometres of horribly rough logging road now past. There are detours set up on back roads. They’re hellacious.
I’ve ended up on the edge of Barkley Sound near a little spot called Poet’s Nook. I’ve repaired things which came adrift on today’s jaunt. There is dust everywhere. I can find no romance in any of it. Plastic sport fishing boats herd in and out of the marina in the ‘Nook’. The sky is cloudless but the beauty of the rugged islands in the sound is shattered with old logging cut blocks everywhere. Tonight I’m parked on an old equipment ramp where logging machinery came and went on barges. I was once fully immersed in the forest industry and have to accept my part in this rape. I often point out that folks can’t live in pretty, we need lumber to build our boxes and I’ve no idea how you can have a cake and eat it as well. No point in ruminating and cogitating about things you aren’t going to try to change. Think I’ll go and watch the sunset. That’s where my heart is, out there, over the dust-free horizon.
Day three of this masochism took me on a strange meandering route. Refusing to go further into this labyrinth of tortuous roads and ridiculous prices I back-tracked. Thumping and slamming my way along through swirling clouds of dust I finally arrived back at old Franklin Camp which is essentially the belly button of this part of the world. A massive project is underway to properly build a paved road to Bamfield. It seems that maintenance of the existing roads, and detours, is minimal and what do you do with hard rock and dust. When it rains the dust turns instantly to clinging greasy mud. In dry weather like we are having at the moment there also is the incessant threat of fire. One flipped cigarette butt can instantly become an explosive conflagration; a biblical disaster. To endure roads like this merely to look at the aftermath of extensive logging was not uplifting nor intelligent.
I made my decision and headed toward Port Alberni. Incredibly, after finally putting pavement under my wheels I chose once again to plunge onto yet another logging road. There is a route along the south side of Sproat Lake which, on my map, showed the possibility of several places to park on the beach. They were all taken, every one. I wanted to assemble and use my inflatable boat and motor. They have been stored for two years and need a workout. I want to find a place where I can just sit for a couple of days which will justify all the effort of shaking out the wee boat. For the last three days I’ve been enduring some sort of bladder problem. The agitation of the rough road has me needing to pump ship every few minutes. I have little value as dust control and feel generally poorly so it would indeed be grand to just park and relax. Of course the rules of the back road include one that forces cupboard to contents to flip over and spill. The camper held the wonderful aroma of curry, soya sauce and olive oil. A nice melange, just not in the cupboard. At least, unlike some new Rvs, my cupboard doors have not dropped off.
I finally found a spot on the rocky bank of Taylor River, well past the west end of Sproat. The water is crystal clear and cool. I sit on a rock with my feet in the stream, a beverage in hand, and wonder what, just what. Traffic, across the river by about two hundred metres whizzes past. Old Jack and I once spent a night here. I have a surge of missing him and wonder what’ll come of me. In the morning the traffic has swollen to a high-speed parade. I’ve had enough. Everyone seems to be out on the road. It is about two and a half kilometres to be at the spot on the highway across from my camp. I wait for one of those German off-road monster camper trucks to leave and I follow him out. By the time I’m on the highway across from last night’s stop, someone has taken my spot! It’s nuts. Passing through Coombs, I realize it is their rodeo weekend. Cars jam the shoulder of the road and folks wander in the traffic for miles on either side of the venue. It is madness. Then I pulled out onto the main island highway. Lemmings!
I’m home finally. Ayre the dog is happy to see me. What else is there? Later, I sit out on my back deck, another beverage in hand and look up again at the stars. It’s just not the same sky as the backwoods. I listen to the crickets sing their long summer song and wonder again, what else is there?
“ Some people try to turn back their odometers.
Not me, I want people to know “why” I look this way. I’ve travelled a long way and some of the roads weren’t paved.” – Will Rogers
It is eerie. Sunday morning in Ladysmith, dead quiet. An early flight out of the airport is gone overhead and now there is nothing. A Harley Davidson clatters along the highway, accelerates to beat a yellow light then mumbles off into the distance. It seems very odd, there is usually a distant cacophony of traffic, sirens, lawnmowers and other distant noise pollution. All I can hear this morning is the eternal ringing in my own ears which come from too many years around noisy machinery. And, this is a quiet little town by general standards.
“Expect a flippening in U.S. Stocks.” That is what an ad read as I checked my e-mail. Well our weather has flippened. Finally we have some temperatures in the 30 degree range and I hear babble about heat domes and records being broken. “This is the hottest it has been since 1940.” No, it is called summer time. Simple. Normal. We can all check the records. It gets hot every summer and there is no need to go set yourself on fire. We’re not acclimatized and about the time we get used to some summer heat the trend crashes and someone is howling about a rainy day. STOP IT! Enjoy it while you can.
I sat waiting at the Gabriola Island ferry terminal a few days ago and looked across the harbour. In my brain I wrote, “Nanaimo shimmered. A band of hot air lay over the harbour like a layer of dancing prisms. There was no breath of wind. Waiting passengers left their cars to sit in the waiting room, basking in the air conditioning.” Yep, summertime!
Such is life. I’m now picking up this blog after the August 1st long weekend. I know, the tardy old blogger! The pope has been and gone. Poor old geezer! He was hauled around like some battered trophy scalp and demanded to offer apologies for sins that go back over 500 years. The scapegoat in the housecoat wore every silly hat someone could think up for him to teeter on his old head. Good grief, who would want his job? I see the guy as a figure head, just like presidents and prime ministers; a puppet on a string. He says the words his board of directors told him to utter and now he is back home being prepped for his next mission of placation. Oddly he was not brought to British Columbia, a focal point of Canadian residential school atrocity which brought the whole issue to a boil.
I’ll keep my low opinions about all religions to myself and simply say that when the corporation of the Catholic Church, one of the wealthiest organizations on the planet, decides to embrace biblical humility and universal love, they’ll hang a REMAX sign on the Vatican and get on with the real teachings of Christ. It should be noted that the Catholics apparently administered approximately two thirds of the government-sanctioned cultural remodeling in these schools. The rest was left to protestants who were equally determined to crush the “Indian” out of aboriginal children. That is another part of the same ugly, tragic story which we have not addressed yet. The time will come.
When one nation conquers another it has always been standard protocol to impose ethnic cleansing, especially upon the children. Some purport that we were very close not so long ago to becoming a German-speaking people. At present China is trying to crush the Uyghar people in every way possible. That has always been a dark chapter in the history of man. It will never end. Power and control, that is our instinct. And so on and so on. Blah, blah, blah. We’ve heard it all before. Nothing changes.
The back to school ads are up, soon Christmas sales will appear. If you let it, the swirling madness of our modern world can crush you.
Today I drove by the huge plastic-bound round bales of hay in the fields. They look like huge rolls of toilet paper. I reminisced about chucking hay bales up onto wagons in summer heat. If you could, you’d wear a leather apron to save your clothes from the ripping straws and thistles in the bales. You did it because you had to, the crop had to come in before rain came. I was a sinewy flat-bellied young man then. I couldn’t manage many minutes of that old heave-ho now! I recall how we did it from first light to last or so long as the dew was gone. The survival of your livestock, and so your farm, depended on a barn full of hay.
What a different world today. Now hay is handled entirely by machine. No human hand touches the hay or the cow anymore. One man in an air-conditioned tractor can do more in a day than an entire haying crew in the old days. I actually recall some folks bringing in loose hay, not even bothering to bale it. That was an art in itself. And yes, grain was collected in “sheaves” which were then stood together on end in a process called “stooking.” You did that by hand after the sheaves had been collected and tied together by a machine called a binder. The stooks, once sufficiently dry, were then collected by hand and loaded on a wagon to be conveyed to the barn for threshing. It was complicated and all hard work but it was all folks knew. People survived, thrived and didn’t complain. Amazingly, farms much smaller than today’s were somehow able to support a few families each. It is what we call progress.
This evening is already the third of August. It is overcast and a chilly 20 degrees. It is spitting rain.
The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.― Albert Einstein