While out walking my dogs and doing some introspections I had to admit to myself that, yep, I’m an angry old guy. It is never correct or healthy to carry anger inside one’s self but it happens and the first step in dealing with a problem is admitting it. To direct rage at someone else is always wrong. I realize that I am volatile and that frustrates me even more. I’m aware of, and working on my personal issues, there is no reason to make anyone else wear my angst.
I recently attended a meeting in regard to the attempted ousting of the Ladysmith Maritime Society. I’ve written about this at length in various publications and whole-heatedly (Intentional pun) oppose this travesty against basic protocol, dignity and political acumen. There is clearly no sense of political correctness on behalf of the local municipal government, the provincial government nor the local First Nations. They appear determined to crush a very valuable achievement of and asset to the community of Ladysmith. There is an odour of some secret political agenda which exceeds any of their stated intentions. A large group of members in the LMS have put a huge piece of themselves over the years into building up a fabulous facility which self-entitled factions now have decided to acquire for themselves. The word ‘piracy’ comes to mind.
These regular meetings are intended to update LMS membership about the progress of our defense against an impending takeover. The meetings are informally chaired by the LMS executive director. He’s a fine fellow and possesses qualities I never will. He is charming, silver-tongued, apparently meticulous and presents himself with a smooth charisma. At this recent meeting I heard once again the same delicious looped rhetoric as I’ve listened to ever since the issue arose. There has been no true progress in favour of the LMS situation. Every member lives with fear and doubt about the eventual outcome of this debacle. I’m sure our man is doing his job very well, and there is still our daily business to run, but smooth talking is producing no results in regard to fighting the takeover looming over us.
When I passionately interjected that our man was our employee and had no personal investment in the story, such as having his own boat to moor, I was asked angrily to leave. Fair enough. I did, amid accusations of having “Strong opinions”. Well folks when you’re fighting for something important, strong opinions are absolutely necessary. Placations may leave warm and fuzzy feelings but they get nothing done. In fact the Stz’uminus Band is now trying to coerce LMS members to renew their annual moorage agreements with them in October, instead of with LMS at year’s end. WOT? I, For one, will NOT start singing “Roll me over in the clover.” It is said of bacon and eggs that the chicken is involved and the pig is committed. I hear nothing but clucking; from everyone.
It is time that everyone affected by this matter get ferociously pissed off. Canadians have developed a digressive approach to most social issues. If we weren’t so damned polite perhaps we’d hold a much firmer position within the global community. Our Prime Minister eternally tries to be politically correct with everyone and has earned all the respect nationally and internationally of a jelly fish. If we found ourselves being invaded like the Ukraine we would be lining the streets to ask the marching troops not to step on our flowers please. Journalists frequently refer to “Illegal Wars.” What’s a legal war? We’re at war, OK? Bang!
I have constantly ruminated about this blog for the past week. Should I post it or not? Whom will I offend? No-one I have not already. If you truly believe within yourself that your stand is correct then it is right to speak up. It would be dishonest not to.
I don’t own a boat at the moment and have no tangible reason to involve myself in the ongoing muddle at LMS. No one seems to want to actually raise a fist and lead. I’ll remove my volatile self and strong opinions from the mix and watch from afar. The fool on the hill.
“The object of war is not to die for your country but rather to make the other bastard die for his.” George Patton.
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
Nothing at all. That’s what I’m doing. It’s hard. The surf thunders on the beach beneath a cloudless sky. The long crescent of sand and shingle is miles long and we have it nearly all to ourselves. We are backed up to the driftwood at the top of foreshore at the Pacheedaht First Nations Campground near Port Renfrew. It looks out on the bay known as Port San Juan. Only a two hour drive from home we are in a different world here on the opposite side of the island. The sea air from the open ocean and the sweeping view are bliss.
Port San Juan looks directly across the mouth of Juan de Fuca Strait to Cape Flattery and then the entire Pacific Ocean. That is the Northwestern tip of the State of Worshington (As they say) and also that of continental US. Last night, just on the horizon I could see the instantly familiar rhythm of the Cape Flattery Light, on Tattosh Island which marks the gateway in and out of the straight. Considering the strong tides, it is perhaps more of a hinge to that long and deadly gate. This is an area known as the Graveyard of the Pacific where the bones of ships are littered, on average one per mile. I could see radio tower lights on the ridge above Neah Bay and the twinkle of stars overhead. An outbound deep sea vessel shows her green starboard light.
Tonight in this bay moonlight from a gibbous moon sparkles on the waves. A cold west wind subsided as the day’s warmth faded but I relished the heat of my small campfire. Of course I ached to be back out on the ocean, where I feel truly at home. I’ve anchored boats here when a trip along the outside of Vancouver Island met opposing tides and winds and seeking shelter here made sense. It is a rolly place to sit on the end of an anchor chain but the only option in consideration of the thrashing a boat would take out on the open sea. Being here now on the beach with my wife and two little dogs is enviable, especially in mid-week. This place is a mecca for surfers who come in droves and party hardy through the night. When the surf is right in the daytime they don neoprene suits and hone their skills in the bitter cold waters. They’re still working at the office in the city at the moment.
This certainly beats hell out of the small town environment and the strata-titled patio home where we live. That tedium and mediocrity is a fate worse than death. It is also the first time since Jill’s horrible health ordeal that she has been able to get out away from home base. THAT is something to celebrate. She is cold, cold, cold and I’ve given her one of my old fat boy shirts, which seems to help against the chill sea wind. We listen to the pulsing rhythm of the surf angling along the beach, there is a clatter of round hard stones which are first cast up the sloping sand then drawn back down; a grinding and polishing routine that is eternal. Sleep comes easily.
Morning comes sweetly and a day without an agenda unfurls before us in the rising wind. Campers leave, others arrive. It’s a campground after all. There is a field of monstrous logs and stumps cast up beyond the beach. The debris is scattered thickly for over a mile, a testament to the incredible power of winter storms at high tide. It would be a wonderland for children with all those spots and niches to hide and explore; a nightmare for parents trying to find their wee ones again. And there are goggles of sticks and stones for creative young minds to play with, no batteries required. What a place for children to roam, especially the city-bound, adults too! Down the beach someone flies a kite.
Despite the incredible ocean panorama most campers settle in by shutting their Rv window blinds shortly after arriving. I can’t understand but it’s none of my business. Then a young couple arrives in a small car which bounds over the bumps and huge potholes. They soon claim the furthest picnic table and strip down to skimpy bathing costumes despite the shrill chill wind. Minutes later my old eyes see these two enjoying a vigourous round of rumpy bumby up on the table. Despite the privacy of all those logs, where they could indulge in hours of afternoon delight, they are having sex on stage. I understand some folks find thrills in being exhibitionists. Part of me is a little jealous, part of me wants to find a big stick. I’m no prude but there are children on the beach as well as others who must find such stray-dog behaviour offensive. In the end, their hormones assuaged, they leave as quickly as they arrived. The surf rolls on.
Just before sundown, a burly bicycle trekker arrives wearing a huge flourescent jacket. She transports huge bags of gear and I wonder what possesses folks to indulge in such an ambition. I’ve done remarkable things alone in sailing boats and in tiny airplanes and I’d like to do a few wee trips on a motorcycle, but a bicycle! I’d rather walk and hitch hike but then who in the hell would stop and pick up the likes of me. They’d have to be more nutters than I am. This bicycle lady expertly erected a bell tent and disappeared inside. She was gone at first light.
As darkness falls a convoy arrives, parking trailers and motorhomes in a circle, pitching tents all around where their dogs roam free. The little community settles in for a serious party, but they’re quieter than expected. Sleep comes easily. Then one great farting Harley Davidson motorcycle arrives, touring slowly past each camping spot, looking for someone. I start thinking of that big stick again. Later, after midnight, I’m awakened again by brilliant white lights slashing into our quietude. Someone next door is out there at 01:30 erecting a tent and using their hiking headlamps. They mean no harm, they just want to sleep but their lights are annoying and so I lay listening to the surf until its zen rhytmn fades my senses into peaceful sleep; finally.
Next morning we return home on the same route through the abandoned remains of raped first growth forest. I used to travel this road before it was paved. One would follow as closely as they dared behind a massively loaded off-highway truck. The dust would billow biblically and fist-sized rocks would be flung up from the tires of the behemoth vehicles. Other vehicles would emerge out of the dust and appear in the rearview mirror. It could be terrifying. It was my first practical use for air-conditioning which pressurized my vehicle against the ingress of smothering dust. Now that it is paved the road is bliss although dips and twists make it a different sort of challenge to navigate. Morons in vehicles, both locals and transients, travel far too fast for the road surface and don’t understand why they should stay on the right hand side of the road. So, in a new way, the road can still be terrifying. The surrounding forest is the collateral damage left after the original timber were systematically levelled about a century ago. That decimation continues, now often in stands of second-growth which arose on their own, without any help, only to be cut down again.
Our forest industry has become a complicated issue. Many factions each demand to be given control of our vast forestlands. Few seem to know what the hell they’re really yelling about. Within less than two centuries we have managed to obliterate much of the original forests we marched into. We did it with the spirit of men who posed proudly beside the massive stumps they would leave behind as monuments to an age when making daylight in the swamp was a good thing. It is pathetic that so much of that resource, and its wealth, have been squandered at the hands of men who have probably never held an axe, let alone used one. A group has rallied against the logging-off a remaining stand of original timber at Fairy Creek. I don’t agree with all of their perspectives but what little is left of those pristine groves must be left in their natural state. They hold a value beyond anything monetary. So says someone who spent much of his life involved with various aspects of logging.
There is one remaining spruce tree along the roadside. Not all the old forest was comprised of trees nearly so big but it was certainly not the tangled mass of windfalls and thick debris left behind by loggers. It is excellent fodder for fire and at the moment a hard to fight conflagration has closed the road to Port Alberni. Traffic from the far side of the island is being re-routed along rough logging roads into the Cowichan Valley and back to paved roads and civilization. I can only imagine the urbane sensibilities of folks trying to navigate a rough, dusty, rocky trail in a huge Rv while dodging other Rvs and logging traffic. Hopefully no-one chucks their cigar butt, or joint, out the window.
“Forests may be gorgeous but there is nothing more alive than a tree that learns how to grow in a cemetery.”
― Andrea Gibson
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
Some times when I’m poking around YouTube I stumble onto something special. I came across a performance on America’s Got Talent which is a live audition of selected acts. What I saw was a woman named Jane Marczewski aka Nightbirde. She was skinny as a rake and incredibly beautiful, even seeming to possess an aura. She sang a song she had written called ‘It’s OK’ and brought the house down as they say. She was fighting terminal cancer and she said some amazing things. “I’ve got a two percent chance of survival but that’s a lot more than zero.”
She also said “You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore until you decide to be happy.” Wow! Isn’t that warm and fuzzy? Jane has since passed away after inspiring millions. Her appearance has inspired so many other lives. It got me thinking. Head happy or heart happy? It is indeed a mighty challenge to make yourself feel happy by choice but to be happy is very different. I cannot even define that very well. I suppose it has to do with living within a sense of well-being no matter what happens to you or those around you. Then I thought further and wondered if folks like Mr Putin have inner peace. Suddenly I was exploring madness. Religions offer a promise of that, for a price, and a lot of folks have written books and make speeches about living in a state of divine nirvana. I once heard a therapist describe clients who all wanted to be happy and his perspective was that it can be achieved when one gives up expectations of bliss. Who ever told us we deserved to be constantly happy. There’s a headful!
Perhaps simply being content in the moment, at peace with a current reality, knowing that nothing is forever and that all things pass, both the good and the other. For years, on the bulkheads of each of my various boats, I installed a framed black and white photo of a storm-wracked rocky beach. I had written on it “A storm always ends, enjoy it while it lasts.” Good advice if only I would pay attention.
One of my excuses for being tardy with my blogging is that I’ve been busy re-editing my second novel. I pushed it to the back of the shelf many years ago, having given up on the notion of ever getting published. This has been an especially tough year for me, emotionally it has been an all-time low, where I have often found myself simply staring at the wall. I decided that I had to do something to affirm my existence, perhaps find my “inner peace,” and so I began the odious task of correction and punctuation of every jot and tittle. Hey, it’s a pretty darned good read! Oddly, it is set here on the coast of the Pacific Northwest and is about an austere loner who can’t exist away from the sea. I don’t know what to do with it when I’m finished but the affirmation is wonderful. The sea and being on it is my passion and reason to be. No amount of denial can change that.
When I stepped off of my beloved ‘Seafire’ I wrote that if owning “stuff” defined who I was, then I was better off without it. Well, for me life is awfully dry without a boat. Most of my friends were seadogs as well, and so we have drifted apart. A boat is a tool to live my life where I do feel content and whole and somehow I must get back there. It is who I am.
My old truck, camper and trailer will continue to be part of my life and remain part of my plan. One of the intentions of the recent trip where I took my rig along some very rugged logging roads was that it would be a true “shakedown” trip. Anything that was going to fail, has. Guess what I’m up to these days. I’ve been sorting out the wiring for the lights and brakes. Nothing can humiliate a man quite as well. The builder of this trailer hired someone right off the farm. Wire colours meant nothing to them, nor did sharp corners. Twisting wire ends together, soldering them and wrapping them in tape seemed to be their protocol, unless…someone else down on a farm has since had a go. No worries, now I know what I’ve got. To add to the challenge my strata council has forbidden me to do repairs in any of our parking and storage areas so I’m sneaking around in public places to find an obscure corner to go tinker. Damn! I miss my boat.
“A sailor is an artist whose medium is the wind. Live passionately, even if it kills you, because something is going to kill you anyway.” ―Webb Chiles
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
Nothing! No light in the overcast sky, none anywhere around. Without illumination from the Hemoth there would only be blackness. No sound, no wind. There is only a damp, penetrating cold. It is just past five pm. A long night lays ahead, daylight won’t begin to appear for another fourteen hours. How did the indigenous people survive winter? Were they simply tougher than we are? They had no wool underwear, no hi-tech winter clothing, no heat pumps, or anything else that came at the turn of a switch. Their homes had no insulation and their roofs probably leaked.
It’s hard to imagine. Jack and I are in the camper tonight somewhere between the beaches of the open Pacific and the shore of Kennedy Lake. We’re at an intersection of logging roads deep in the boggy desolate second-growth woodlands near the extreme Western edge of Canada. Being a tight old sod, I did not want to pay a ridiculous nightly rate for a spot in a campground. It now costs more than twice what I once paid for a decent motel room. And what sort of nutter goes off rambling with his dog in December? I am supposed to be at home absorbing global gloom and consuming my bottom off; or on as the case may be. Truly, I prefer the deep silent darkness of the swampy black forest. I know being here would probably terrify the average urbanite. Jaded as I be, Consumermass holds little appeal.
‘Round about midnight, snugly cuddled and deeply asleep in our comfy bed, there was a sudden blaze of light. I thought I was dreaming. Someone in a Jeep needed to pass on the road I was partially blocking. I recognized that particular engine sound as it crept by within inches of the camper. Being an old farm boy I know to always latch the gate behind me and never block a road, any road. I’d parked in the most level spot I could find while leaving passage space and out here in the back of beyond… who’da thunk? What the hell was anyone doing out here at that time? I spent the rest of the night waiting for the next vehicle.
Morning arrives with a tatter of blue visible beyond the blanket of fog overhead. The day turned out to be perfect. After touring neo-Tofino I realized that the camp ground prices were a bargain by local standards. They’ve jammed paved cycling paths through the rain forest jungle leaving heaps of shattered vegetation and stumps along the sides of the asphalt. A center line has been painted. It’s quite contrary to the surfer spirit which helped advance Tofino to it’s present gaudy self. The old school, when loggers and fishermen and hippies were the mainstay, has been driven out of town. Nevertheless, Jack loved the beach and for a short while the sunny sands helped him forget his old bones. But oh lawdy, the cold wind sure clutched at mine. I’ll let my photos tell the story.
“To myself I am only a child playing on the beach, while vast oceans of truth lie undiscovered before me.” – Isaac Newton
Here I sit, a steaming mug of coffee beside me as I begin to write. I am in my camper, the “Hemoth”, in a friend’s backyard on Gabriola Island, visiting old haunts and friends. This is yet another blog in which I mention the rain. The next “Atmospheric River” arrived in the night. The rain drums a wild fandango on the camper roof. I lay up in the bed snug and warm, cozy in the result of all my efforts. The new mattress is very fine, the furnace works like a good one should. I looked out through the now not-leaking windows at the thin grey dawn and went to the brand-new toilet. Then it was time to light the new-used galley stove and perk a pot of coffee. My day can begin. Sheer decadence!
This island was my home for a few years. I worked in the local shipyard and have wonderful stories, not all happy, about what I can look back on as the end of an era. The restaurant has burned down, the shipyard is closed, any hope of reviving the wooden boat school is long-lost. Rumours of an ancient Indian curse on Silva Bay ring true. I’ll meander around the island and then hopefully catch a ferry back to the big island. There’s been a crewing problem on the ferry due to a shortage of Covid-vaccinated personnel and several sailing have been cancelled. Like a turtle with its home on its back I’ll be fine, the old man who lived in an egg.
Home again, checking my email, I come upon the following ad from someone selling insurance. “Burial coverage that lasts a lifetime.” It’s a lugubrious mix of words which can be interpreted a few different ways. I wonder if the ad-writer woke up in the middle of the night realizing their gaff. “We’ll cover your ass.” “Out of luck, you’re dead.” It will be hard pulling your foot out of that one. Thanks for the humour!
Sometimes the gods send you an angel. Today I was tinkering on the ‘Hemoth’ where it sits in our storage yard on the back alley. I was about to drive away when a senior in their small enclosed electric scooter trundled up the alley, effectively blocking my exit. I sat and waited, allowing them time to clear the alley without my imposition behind them. Finally I idled up the alley as slowly as I could but there was the little red cart blocking the route. I sat mumblefluxing to myself about how to deal with the situation. The occupant sat inside the cart’s plastic enclosure peering back at me as if she wanted me to pass her. Finally she dismounted and came back to the truck. She needed help. Her battery was dead and she asked if I could tow her home to a senior’s housing complex two blocks away. Of course I would.
I secured a stout thirty foot marine mooring line to the front of her tiny buggy and we set off as slowly as I could. Up the hill, out onto the street, around another corner, further up the hill, around another corner. We arrived without mishap. I then pushed the cart by hand as she steered the remaining distance to her parking spot at her front door. All of the dark imaginings about what could have gone wrong on our wee jaunt vaporized as she introduced herself. Loriki was a very old tiny Japanese lady who was utterly charming. Jack was eager to meet her which in itself is a huge accolade. I gained a friend and feel blessed to have lent her a hand. Meeting her made my day. And to think how I could have bulled my way past her and left her to fate.
Kindness is a selfish thing, your reward is always bigger than your offering. I keep smiling at the image of my big lurching camper truck towing this lady up the street at the end of a long rope. There’s a cartoon there.
Two days since I began this blog the lid was jacked off another grim grey dawn. Another atmospheric river flows over us and rain pizzles down without stop. Jack’s outdoor water dish is full and overflowing yet again. As a former pilot from the old days when meteorology was a serious subject (right behind learning Morse Code) I was required to know about warm and cold fronts, trowels, troughs, high and low pressure systems, cloud types and what they meant in forecasting, isobars and dew points. Never among all that terminology did the term “atmospheric river” appear. It seemed logical that we knew how to look at a barometer and thermometer and what sort of clouds were blowing which way, then be able to predict what the weather was up to. Now we press a button and it is instantly available and explained. We can also turn on the tely and let some young nubile in a tight dress verbally machine gun a continuous sentence about atmospheric rivers. She’ll use words like “Prowr” and other illiteracies. Until recently, her term for “Atmospheric River” was “Pineapple Express.” I guess folks just aren’t content with the twelve month predictions in the Farmer’s Almanac anymore. And do you remember the catgut barometer where the little Swiss milkmaid came out of a tiny Alpine cabin for fair weather and the old man came out for the shit days? Yeah, I guess I AM that old.
Next day another atmospheric river is meandering overhead. Through the day the rain steadily increases in volume and after nightfall, about 4:30 pm, a fog begins to rise. I need to nip down to the grocery story, the main street is resplendent in Christmas lights. The usual number of moron motorists insist on driving around with retina-burning hi-beam headlights. I am half-blinded as I creep through the four-way stop. Suddenly, immediately in front of the car’s hood, a black-clad, black umbrella toting pedestrian has appeared. How she got out there from the curb is stunning. Yes, I stopped in time. I gave her my best old sailor roar but she was adamant about her rights. I’ve said it before and damnit I’ll say it again. We see it daily on our roads. We have devolved to the point where the primal instinct, fear, which has kept our species alive for a very long time, has eroded severely for many people. Perhaps there is a FEAR App. for that ubiquitous cell phone. Beep, beep, termination imminent!
The premium app allows you to choose a celebrity warning voice. How about Porky Pig? “Tha, tha, that’s all folks!”
Black Friday Weekend huh?
Sunday morning, the rain continues. Monday, it’s stopped for a while. Jack and I are going for a walk.
Three blogs back I made the heinous error of describing the Farsi language as Parsi. Just one letter out but it is like describing Chinese as Japanese. I owe an apology to a very large ethnic group.
My second brainfart (to which I’ll admit) came today when an email arrived to which I stupidly responded. It was a scam. Now I am having to undo my knee-jerk foolishness. It is a time of year when we are all probably expecting a package and with current shipping issues, a damaged label seemed quite possible. They needed $3 to relabel and redirect the package. The scam really comes when you’ve given them a credit card number which is then reported to be not working and do you have another one you could use? Dumbo finally smelled the coffee and reported his stupidity. A new credit card is in the mail. I know, I know …as smart as he looks! You’ve been warned. Interestingly within hours, several ‘stranded package’ scams appeared. Scams must work, they keep coming. I’m not the only fool out there.
“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” Plato
The rain pulsed down. For some strange reason I thought of some horrific sacrifical beast which bleeding horrifically and gasping with gusting, dying breaths. The tiny coastal town also lay bleeding and gasping. Chemainus, once a lumbering and fishing centre, had turned desperately to tourism when industry failed. Now it was a retirement town. Its houses sat small and mostly well-kept on tidy streets which undulated up the hills away from the sea. In a bid to attract tourist trade, tributes to the town’s early history and first nations heritage were generously displayed around the downtown. Block-long murals, now fading, and sculptures of native figures, now burdened with moss and slime, were everywhere.
On one side street, a small restaurant, favoured by local seniors, unchanged for decades, sat in the rain. Next door the visage of a local timber baron glared down from a multi-story mural. Aromas of good and simple food escaped into the chill dampness. There was a handicap parking spot immediately in front of the door. On Sunday afternoon, the first nightfall since the clocks had been turned back for the winter ahead, the door briefly opened and amber light spilled out to reflect on the puddles in the street. Inside there were two tables available, all the rest were full. We took the small one by the window. A large, elderly woman rammed her wheel chair fiercely into the other setting and planted herself as if to stake out the other seven chairs around her. Her body and her voice trembled with a dreadful palsy but undaunted she imposed a loud conversation with the unfortunates at the table next to her.
It was the sort of place which was decorated with amateur oil paintings of landscapes painted on old saw blades. The one nailed over our table showed a crude depiction of prairie grain elevators poised between forest and rolling fields. Although the ocean lay two blocks away no nautical nostalgia was evident. There was a shelf filled with home-made jams for sale. A sign solicited any available canning jars. The little restaurant was a time machine into decades past.
An old man, grossly obese, sat across from us. His flabby white thighs burst out of his too-short soccer shorts, a pair of white knee-high socks added to the incongruity of his corpulence presented in an athletic costume. He sat watching his fellow patrons until finally he waddled off out into the spattering wet. More cars fitted themselves into the handicap spot. Watching those various lurching gymnastics was clearly prime entertainment.
A week later the rain continues to drum down. A forecast is up for a biblical deluge to sweep over us, 75mm in less than 48 hours. We are wearily resolved to a watery fate. In Ladysmith, the next town up the abandoned railway, I stopped at a local restaurant to pick up some take-out food. Incredibly, into that place shuffled the same old fat man from Chemainus. He wore the same costume in Chemainus. I’d recognize those wattles anywhere.
Meanwhile the rhetoric about the Glasgow environmental conference thinly sputters to its next stage of incessant review. It’ll go on for months. Nearly every journalist presents themselves as an eco-expert while the participants, from Greta to Joe Biden continue to blither on. When you need a long parade of vehicles (85) and a squadron of transport aircraft to go save the world a few questions tend to rise. Now everyone who hoped to be seen at the conference heads self-righteously homeward in a storm of jet exhaust. Frankly I think the entire effort made as much sense as mufflers on a Tesla.
Yes there is a global warming trend, just as there have been many before in the history of this planet going back long before the human parasite showed up. We are contributing to the effect, but let’s not be so arrogant as to claim to be the exclusive cause of it. We will not begin to solve any issue so long as we remain determined to bullshit ourselves. Let’s take a look in the mirror and then consider what we can do personally within our own sphere of being. Resolving any issue is not about what someone else should do. Got that, Greta and friends?
Meanwhile our local forecast of gloom is proving accurate. The rain is pounding on the skylight like Charlie Watts is up there. Two months ago everyone was gasping in a summer-long heat wave. Only four or five months of winter ahead. Bugga! It has nothing to do with enviro-disaster, it is simply November on Vancouver Island. The rain has been falling since Friday evening and is forecast to ease tomorrow afternoon. Then there will be a mere 24% chance of rain. Think about that.
Two quotes I’ve stumbled across this afternoon:
“I’m not getting old, I’m evolving.” Keith Richards
“I ain’t draft dodging. I ain’t burning no flag. I ain’t running to Canada. I’m staying right here. You want to send me to jail? Fine, you go right ahead. I’ve been in jail for 400 years. I could be there for four or five more, but I ain’t going no 10,000 miles to help murder and kill other poor people.
“If I want to die, I’ll die right here, right now, fightin’ you, if I want to die. You my enemy, not no Chinese, no Vietcong, no Japanese. You my opposer when I want freedom. You my opposer when I want justice. You my opposer when I want equality. Want me to go somewhere and fight for you? You won’t even stand up for me right here in America, for my rights and my religious beliefs. You won’t even stand up for me right here at home. “