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
Sunday morning, Naka Creek. I sit inside my camper with a fresh, stout black mug of coffee beside this keyboard. It is chilly. I couldn’t be bothered to stoke up my propane furnace so instead I wear a heavy flannel shirt. Outside a low overcast races before a westerly wind and balls of drizzle wash over my campsite. I had the happy foresight to stow things away while it was still dry. Soon I’ll be on my way.
Across Johnstone Strait a sail advances in the murk, westbound into the wind. It is bucking against the wind and tide. When the tide turns fully and the ebb begins to run in the boat’s favour, but against the wind, the seas will rise and those lumps will continue to hold him back. The boat is fast but for every six miles it tacks the position on the chart advances only a mile. I used to do that long ago, just to feel manly and salty but I eventually gave it up and motored directly toward my destination, having decided to bring a gun to the knife fight. Still I ache to be out there, cold and wet though it may be, it is in some people’s blood to suffer for the religion of the ocean. I am one. I think this boat is a participant in the R2AK motorless race to Alaska. Whoever is out there bashing along deserves full kudos for their drive and spirit. Puget Sound to Alaska is one bloody long way, I’ve done it often enough in a tug boat and even that was wearisome. Travelling the coast in my own sailboat was a dream. There was a time when the globe was being discovered by Europeans. This coast was explored entirely by wind power and muscle alone.
From where I sit I can see northward to Blinkhorn Pennisula, beyond famous Robson Bight and marking the entrance Beaver Cove. Past that are the radio towers of Cormorant Island and Alert Bay. In the far distance are the shoreline humps near Port Hardy, where the island shoreline turns sharply to the northwest. I know these waters with their labyrinth inlets and archipelagos. I ache to own a boat once again so I can vanish into secret anchorages.
Advancing from behind the sailing boats and passing quickly out of sight ahead is a gleaming white motor yacht. I wonder how many barrels of fuel per hour it burns. Powering along, level, warm and dry I wonder at other perspectives on manliness. Then I nod off, my thick old fingers on the keyboard produce two pages of ppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp’s. Time for a walk. I clamber up to the secret waterfalls which are as beautiful as ever. I muse that on my last visit here my beloved companion, Jack the dog, was with me and I plunge myself into momentary sorrow. He will always be with me and I try to cheer myself with recollections of all the happy moments. He loved this place. Once again I can see him rolling happily on his back in the long grass and daisies as well as the smug look on his face when he had returned from running off on his own to visit other campers and their dogs. He never made an enemy. Today I have some lovely neighbours and new friends. I am grateful.
The weather evolves from winter-like conditions to a flawless summer day in a few hours. I change costumes and emerge with my fluorescent shanks sticking out of old camo-patterned work shorts. How have military motifs ever become high fashion? That bemuses me, the old poster boy of the thrift stores. I’m “stylin’.”
Home again it is time for tinkering on my little circus caravan. Minor repairs, some upgrades and I’ll be back into the woods somewhere on this magic island.
Let’s have a moment of silence for all those North Americans who are stuck in traffic on their way to the gym to ride the stationary bicycle.h Earl Blumenauer
After a continuum of applications, fees, phone calls to yet another number, then another, emails and dictums ad nauseam (Computer wanted to respell that as nutcase) I am officially accepted as the BCbogtrotter.com. It’s signed, sealed and delivered. Now here I sit on the first Saturday of June, and yes it’s raining a little more. I wonder where to go from here. Funds have run out. I’ve done some repairs on the truck and am trying to set up the new old trailer for my specific needs.
Meanwhile there are moments of delicious hot sunshine before the next front creeps overhead. The media is determined to predict massive flooding and devastating wildfires. I just want to get out there and perhaps get flooded out for a few weeks. At home, life is a wade through suburban mediocrity. Ayre the wee beast is in my lap as I type. The din of a small town waking up is amazing, if you listen. There is the hum, roar and howl of the highway passing below the town. There are often sirens. Often we don’t even hear them they are so common. Is it an emergency or another run to Tim Hortons? A large murder of crows nearby argues over some point of bird decorum and then the neighbour fires up his lawnmower. In the distance an excavator with a chattering rock hammer gouges out the footings for another million-dollar bungalow and from that white noise emerges the clatter of a passing helicopter.
Doggy now sits in the window of Jill’s office howling like a little wolf trying to will her Alpha human to come home again from her day’s work.
Well now! Near-silence. Several days after I began this blog I now sit on the shore of Johnstone Strait at Naka Creek Camp. If you have enough out-of-town savvy to find this place, you too deserve this little piece of heaven. I’m sipping hot mint tea at noon after a lazy morning and a late brunch. A US Coast Guard cutter powers its way southward against the last of the morning ebb. The throb of its engines is clear above the mild clatter of my tiny generator, charging up camera and laptop batteries. Soon there’ll be only the twitter of birds, the lapping of water on the shore, the gentle whisper of the wind in the trees, and the eternal hope of seeing more whales.
This place is an old logging camp. The forest is trying to take it back. Slowly it wins. It is essentially maintained by the users and although much loved by these folks, the jungle is creeping back to claim its own. I can see the progress since last year. Jack, my old dog, loved it here and I miss him dearly. I remember his joy exploring here and visiting with new dogs and their owners. This was a place I held hope of bringing my daughter but that is never going to happen. My wife is busy with things only she can do. I try not to feel sad or lonely but I watch couples and families and groups and yes there is an ache. Thankfully, the area is occupied with few this weekend and those folks all seem to hold a reverence for this oasis of peace and sanity. Kindred, even if we never speak.
At night the camp fire burns reluctantly, the wood is damp. The sea air seems to suppress any defiance to its eternal shroud of dampness. Still I nudge the fire, my feet to the warmth while holding a partial mug of rum.
There are worse ways to spend an evening.
“If you are depressed you are living in the past, if you are anxious you are living in the future, if you are at peace, you are living in the present.” —Lao Tzu
We all know that famous quote from Winston Churchill about how it is always darkest before the dawn. I sit writing this morning looking out a window at a thick cone of fog beneath a street light. There is a darkness blacker than the night and that impenetrable gloom smothers all. There is a palpable weight to the pre-dawn world. No bird sings. Jack is in his bed near my feet in what I fear may be his last days. Our deep affection for him is mixed with selfish guilt that he may be in pain. We wrestle with the dark decision we know we soon may have to make. His back legs are now paralyzed, he needs help with his basic functions. He’s a very stoic character and it is impossible to tell if he is suffering. Yet we cling to each minute of his presence and focus our will on keeping him alive and in comfort. I’ve spent hours laying with him, holding him, thanking him for all the wonderful years and trying to let him know that it is alright to let go and fly on ahead to find his peace. There is no catharsis with writing about this. I sure hope old Winnie was right. *
I’ve been reading a wonderful novel. ‘The Overstory’ by Richard Powers. The book deservedly won a Pulitzer. It is very cleverly written and leaves me feeling completely unworthy as any sort of writer. Among other interwoven themes Powers examines the militant environmental movement, the “Tree Hugger.” One of his persistent efforts is to show how complex and venerable the entire forest is; how interconnected all things natural are. Saving a piece of forest is not just about the trees, ultimately it is about a massive ecosystem called Earth. What is interesting to me is how I once was inclined toward the other side but have slowly evolved to hold a much broader view and respect beyond my own personal greed.
I used to joke that it is interesting how most of our militant and vocal environmentalists come from a world entirely alien to forests and wilderness. Here in BC chances are good they live somewhere in the lower mainland and don’t give a fig for living without all their modern conveniences. Their home environment is the biggest clear cut in the province. Not only are the trees gone, the natural earth has all been ripped up and then smothered in concrete, asphalt, and alien vegetation. Millions of years of natural evolution wiped out for modern ease and personal convenience.
Our watersheds have been re-arranged to suit our current greeds. Rivers and streams have been diverted and channelled, smothered with concrete and culverts, or simply filled in or drained. Lakes are drained, we build on thier dried bottoms then howl when nature puts things back they way they were. Just think about how much of the earth is destroyed to build a highway, an airport or railway, a mall or a golf course, a subdivision or even a church. We then look for someone to blame when our prime real estate is flooded. After we’ve mutated much of our prime land we then import food from somewhere else on the planet instead of growing it ourselves. Let’s not discuss the footprint we leave because of that. Even this old sailor knows that is very bad economics. Being able to feed yourself first comes as a cornerstone of building wealth. I understand the deep need for an idea of wilderness and untouched forest. I don’t understand why the message is always about what someone else is supposed to do.When someone stands in front of a TV camera describing their loses to a natural event, it is always in terms of dollars. So before we get into our plastic electric suv (Stupid Urban Vanity) loaded with cardboard protest signs nailed to wooden sticks, let’s ask ourselves some basic questions. End rant.
Jack asks: “If shitting under a bush on the natural soil is bad, how come it’s OK to go to the effort of putting it in a plastic bag and then leave it hanging in a tree? People! Grrrr.
* I’m posting this blog three days after I began to write it. Amazingly, Jack has rallied. He has found his legs again and can shuffle around on his own. He has his appetite back and his plumbing is functional. There is light in his eyes. He has resurrected himself. This morning there was a brilliant sunrise. Then the fog settled in again. Jack hangs on.
There is something faster than the speed of light: the speed of darkness.
A few evenings ago, I flopped in front of the tely to watch a “60 Minutes” program. The first story was about the disastrous consequences following the US abandonment of Afghanistan. The battered nation is ruled fully as a military state by the Taliban. They have now shed their traditional gear to sport about in abandoned US army uniforms while brandishing US weapons. There is dark speculation about how many in that country will starve to death in this winter. I’m sure none of the Taliban forces will go hungry. Things are so dire in Afghanistan, one hears no mention of Covid. Allah is on their side so the Taliban can pass the buck onto his will as it suits them. Then again, “In God We Trust” is the banner declaration of the US which manages to leave a wake of despair and destruction in every country where it has intruded.
The very next story on “60 Minutes” was about the latest NASA project which will launch the James Webb Space Telescope into the nether regions of our known universe. Of course the question why arose. The response was to see if we can understand where we came from and to see if there is intelligent life elsewhere. The first question is answered by the second. With millions of inhabitable planets scattered through the infinity of stars, of course there is wisdom equal to and beyond ours. That is, if we have capacity for true wisdom at all. This project has so far cost $10 billion US! Image if those funds were been used to improve situations in places for example like Afghanistan, Haiti, Somalia, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Syria and at home on the ground in the US. Apparently horrific wind events have since delayed the launch.
Last night I watched another edition of “60 Minutes”. (Yes, my life is very dull at the moment.) I love their random selection of stories and their style of presentation. They still employ the good old 5 Ws. I watch the program as a study of apparently good journalism. One article this week was about a massive problem in the US with residential sewage and how legislators refuse to address this horrific problem. Even portable plastic outhouses would be a huge improvement over homes surrounded in their own reeking septic raw waste. I wonder how many porta-poopers $10 billion would buy. (I should mention that my opinions in this blog are based entirely on what I’ve seen on television and then researched for confirmation)
Geez Louise! Think about it. Our little lifeboat drifts aimlessly in a vast sea. We call it the “universe.” The boat is sinking. We’ve been pissing in it for a very long time. Instead of using what we have on hand to bail ourselves out of this predicament we’ve built brand new shiny toys to impress some being we have not yet met. The way we’re going about things we won’t live long enough to ever meet those neighbours. All our environmental declarations, political and social rants are all about what someone else should be doing. Nobody feels personally responsible.
Yes, I’ll put money on life out there, all over the place. Maybe it keeps itself hidden from us for good reason. And perhaps we were put here for a good reason. The universe will be there to explore for a while yet. It will wait. Let us first of all make this planet safe for everyone to live on, and worth coming home to when we do go out there. Perhaps by then, we’ll be able to understand what we see.
Nanoo, nanoo! Shazbot!
I try to tell myself to just think Christmas, this season of brotherhood and generosity. We have perverted it to a celebration of excess and garish overindulgence. Go with the flow, pretend to be part of the rollicking orgy of numbness and stupidity. But my night time dreams are clouded with images of starving children, skeletal parents and mass graves. I press my soft belly against my desk while typing this and know that we each need to do some small thing to make a difference. Am I cursed or blessed to still have a conscience? My tiny effort is to try and raise awareness and to prod folks to look beyond the rim of their rut, to ask questions. A good way to describe the perversion of Christmas is to mention a short video I just received. A fellow, proudly proclaiming himself to be All-American is out in the snowy woods with his children cutting down a Christmas tree, with a machine gun! That puts a new meaning on Holy Night!
Enough said. Enjoy the season, remember its original meaning and count your blessings.
“God never gives someone a gift they are not capable of receiving. If he gives us the gift of Christmas, it is because we all have the ability to understand and receive it.” Pope Francis
In my previous blog I once again admonished readers to never go anywhere without something which takes photos. If you want to get good photos, you need to have a camera to capture the moment. Timing is everything, technical skill is a distant second. My six best photo opportunities, ever, are filed only in the back of my skull because I did not have a camera. I usually carry my mobile phone which I acquired because of its photographic capability. It does not replace a shelf full of professional equipment, and often offers a stubborn attitude at critical moments, but it does produce some superb images. I’ll say no more. The photos in this blog were all taken with that mobile phone within an hour during a recent morning amble with Jack. Here is some light and cheer in a very dark season.
Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth. Buddha