Don’t Forget

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

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

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

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

To The Dead

Tick, Tick

Heading out. Three men in a tiny boat go to sea in anticipation of finding a fish to kill
Under the high way. We live under a designated air route where commercial flights come and go to Asia. The weather has been beautiful, though dry, and we had best enjoy it while it lasts. Six contrails line the sky.

Tick, tick, tick, tick. It sounds like rain dripping on a roof. It is the rhythm of meters and gauges of the monitoring equipment wired and plumbed into my wife’s body. She’s had a heart attack and after a week in the hospital, things are going better. There’s a stint installed but after subsequent complications she is in an induced coma and a ventilator. There is a harness of plumbing down her throat and I feel horribly helpless. There is nothing I can do except just be there. And, nobody can piss off my wife simply with their presence like I can. Haar!

Wired. One side of the bed. The other was just as busy. All the wiring and plumbing fed into my wife’s anatomy. it’s so hard to just sit there and feel useless.

A week later, she’s still in the hospital. This and that have happened and now she is lost in a sea of delirium. I suppose if her rants weren’t directed so pointedly at me and the hospital staff, it would be funny. Even though I understand the situation, it is quite cutting and hurtful and it is hard to not take things personally; which of course is foolish. This will pass, but then there is the daily drive along the snot-chute which is the south island highway, then into the Downtown Victoria traffic and finally finding a parking spot at the hospital, only to spend a few minutes with your loved one before realizing your presence is upsetting her; that’s a crusher.

A fungal sweat, but this too has passed. Jill is home again.
I can’t resist saying “Look at the pecker on that one.” Blue herons are one of my favourite birds.

You reverse your route homeward with a heavy heart and despair that there is nothing else you can do. Meanwhile, every third zoom-head on the road seems to want to kill themselves and take you with them. I caught myself doing 120 km/h to go with the flow and still felt I was holding up production. Once finally home you spend the long minutes through the rest of the day, and the night, pondering if she’ll come out of this and wondering how long her minutes are. At least I have the two wee dogs and their wonderful company. One of Jill’s greatest frustrations is that I’m not bringing them for a visit and refuse to understand that they can’t come into the hospital. That breaks my heart. The dogs would do so much for her, if only they could indeed visit.

The girls. Remember how you hated being tickled when you were little?
The new girl in the house. Libby has made herself right at home.
My bookends
Da girls wuz here
Collateral damage
I’ve got your back.

I know that some folks endure this kind of ordeal for years. May the gods grant me that kind of courage to stand up to whatever challenges lay ahead. Even if it were not payback after all the years that Jill has supported my back, I just want to get her well enough to come home. So, enough blubbing about poor me. Jill needs everyone’s positive thoughts and yes, even prayers. She has had a horrible year and does not deserve this. Through her long career as a teacher, Jill has positively influenced thousands of lives, both students and teachers. That she has been dealt these hard hands this year is completely unjust but then life is seldom fair. Thank you to those who have offered and provided their support. It means so much.

Almost three weeks later she is home again. She is frail and weak and has lost a lot of weight. (Hospital food!) She has a stint and a pacemaker, covered in bruises and bandages. She is definitely not up for dancing on any tables but there is still a spark in her eyes. The dogs are thrilled to have her home and so am I. We don’t know what the future holds but we’ll take it on one day at a time.

Sadly one of my dear friends has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. I can say without reserve that I love this man, a highly skilled shipwright and craftsman who has lead a wonderful life and drawn around him a brilliant assortment of friends who are also lovely people. He has taught me a lot and flavoured my life brilliantly. I’ll not mourn for him yet but am horrified that his days may end like this. BASTARDS!

What more is there to life than the ocean, a dog, a stick, sunlight and someone to share it with.
On the hook. Anchored beneath the October harbour moon. Don’t call me in the morning.
Nanaimo River low. In our seasonal late-summer dry season, the river runs clear. Despite the cries of the apocalypse apostles, this is normal until around mid-October. Then the rain will come, any day now, the salmon will spawn and the doomers will use the autumn weather as yet another sign of what they want to prove this week.
Meal with a view. On the way home from the hospital we stopped at the Malahat Chelt. The cuisine, the service and the prices are as good as the view of Finlayson Inlet at sundown.

Perhaps providentially, I found this poem today and post it with my blog instead of the usual quote. It is timely and appropriate.

To laugh often and much;


to win the respect of the
intelligent people and
the affection of children;


to earn the appreciation of
honest critics and endure
the betrayal of false friends;


to appreciate beauty;


to find the beauty in others;


to leave the world a bit better
whether by a healthy child,


a garden patch, or a redeemed
social condition;

to know that
one life has breathed easier
because you lived here.


This is to have succeeded.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thank you, Bob.

Around A Corner

The Bee’s Knees. Little Ayre tries to rule the house and I’ll admit she is an endearing enigma.
Remove all tags before operating.
Aw dad! Naaw! You said these were rolls of toilet paper. NOT!

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!

Ayre’s favourite beach
Is that Canada over there? The mainland beyond the Gulf Islands and across the Strait Of Georgia.
Who says you can’t photograph a nightmare? This ant-covered flower seemed surreal to me.
They kept coming.
Is this better?
Some sunsets, the shoreline seems to take on its own glow.

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.

We’ve all been there!

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.

“Could you pass the sunscreen?” I put him back in the water, but although still alive, he was done.
Medium rare.
Woof over! And no tail gating.
Pool Hog, but he’s happy.
Generscape. A backup generator and a Gulf Island landscape with a muffler.
The visitor. It has been raiding the nut tree next door.
Wind in the corn. Flowers and cobs already.

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.

On the hot, hot summer sidewalk. Subtle and haunting. I think someone is very talented.
Walk on
The ‘Providence’ came back…then left again. She’s my kind of 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

Long Weekend Saturday Morning

Aw shaddup! For some reason, there have been a large number of crows in the tree tops recently. Their croaking and rasping is not a pleasant bird sound, especially first thing in the morning.

I need to repair the paint on the back deck before everyone is awake and the wee dog comes to help me. And, it’s supposed to rain tomorrow. In his last months old Jack had a hard time getting around and would content himself with peeing on the back deck. In time the paint in those spots lifted and now I go to patch that final shred of his existence. Can you believe there are tears in my eyes?

Hang on, it’s never over ’til the last petal falls.

A few weeks after Jack passed my daughter drew her last breath. I’m still in a permanent state of numbness. There is no joy, no sorrow, no beauty, no creative urges. I sit on my shoulder and watch as the world goes by. I know every moment not lived is gone forever but I just don’t have the mojo to grab the brass ring and ride on. I’m afraid of being permanently in this rut but it is up to me to find my way onward. Jill, my wife, has displayed an enormous courage and energy. She has dealt with an amazing mountain of things which one must after a daughter has died. I cannot comprehend her coping mechanism and can only admire her tenacity and grit. The little dog we’ve inherited is doing a tremendous job of motivating us.

Ayre, Queen of the Jungle.
I’ll take the high road, you look out below.
Little dogs unite!

This morning window is open. Warm fragrant summer morning air cascades in. There is the ubiquitous sound of a motorcycle and then the howl of heavy truck tires from down on the highway. There is a stop light there beside the old post office and I can hear the world accelerating into its rush to get somewhere, or nowhere. From that corner, a street climbs a steep hill to a four-way stop on main street. On one corner, every early morning, a tiny group stands in cheap polyester suits, covid masks, hats and sunglasses. They hand out road maps to heaven and will gladly try to persuade you of your sin. I wonder how they believe what they do and I feel a deep pity for them.

Up! Imagine all that this venerable giant has seen.
The organic Cadillac. Compare its life to the tree above.

On this same corner, years ago, a retired mortician used to sit on the iron bench next to the drinking fountain. I recall an old lady who said she was determined to stay alive until this character was gone. She did not want him touching her cadaver. After his retirement this obese old man sat for hours on this bench with his little dog. His suspenders were twanging taut over his enormous belly. He smoked heavily and coughed up bits of himself until one day the little dog was gone. Shortly after, so was he. Pity the pallbearers.  Life went on. The god-botherers came back.

The corner as described. The big building was  the Ladysmith Trading Store, two floors of mercantile goods. From dress patterns, needles, thread and buttons, to work clothes, boots, suspenders, long underwear and sundry household goods. All gone in a new world I don’t really understand. I liked it the way it was.

Well, we all have our persuasions. Like the mob who have taken the Canadian flag and turned it into a symbol of contempt against our own country. Despite all the problems in our nation, I haven’t heard of any of these self-styled patriot rebels packing up and moving to some place like Kiev. They damned-well know how good we have it here but I’m not convinced they actually know what it is they are protesting about. I’m bloody angry about the ridiculous price of fuel, especially diesel, these days but I’m not going out to interfere with anyone else over my peeve. I too am free to leave. I just can’t afford the fuel.

The day is rising into more glorious weather and it is time to abandon my desk. Live a little. The wee dog that was my daughter’s, and now is mine, is at the door wanting out for her morning relief. Life goes one. On Sunday we had a lovely life-giving rain, warm and steady all day long. We need it. The woods were getting too dry already. The RVs sloshing homeward on the wet highway did my heart good. I know, grumpy old bastard!

Canada Day weekend, 2022.

Fuzzy promenades down on the old Malecon.

I don’t understand all the fuss about rushing off to “Go camping.” Don’t people understand that they’re free to live in a tent and sleep on the ground all year long?” – Allen Farrell

What’s In A Name?

Mount Arrowsmith, a favourite view for me. The sunset is a bonus this spring.

Why do we name something with the noun or verb which we do? Why is a tree called tree instead of wrench or spoon or brainfart or porridge? In English an egg, in French un oeuf, in Spanish el huevo. There’s no apparent link but that’s the way the pickle squirts and we all understand each other; or not. How come hi means hello but not high? An old English expression says it’s a “Corker” which mean “unanswerable.” Bugga! There’s a lot to be said for grunts and facial expressions.

Twisted Rhubarb. Not a bad name for a rock band. Believe it or not this is growing in a garden on the front lawn of our town hall.
Also in front of Town Hall. I approve.

When I began blogging I named my website “Seafire Chronicles.” That was the name of the boat I owned at the time and I intended to document my journeys in body and soul aboard that fine little ship. Now, the boat is long gone and I’m still here (Not hear). I decided on a new clever name and renamed my blog Driftword.ca which, I thought implied travel writing, both by land and by sea. A web designer whom I hired said no. I trusted her. She’s gone now as well. I understood how hard it was not to think driftwood instead of driftword. I was probably missing a lot of “hits” because of that. I need a name which might not be poetic but will embed itself in one’s mind, be easy to remember, spell and to find. Good idea! Furthermore, she explained, anything British Columbia is a hot topic globally so best to incorporate at least “BC” into the name. And, I should register my blog as a home business for obvious tax advantages. It made sense to have a business name and an URL that were the same. My blog has essentially been a hobby and I want to produce some income with it so it is time to wax pragmatic.

A boy named Noah. This little float-a-shack looks to me as if it would be dangerously rolly-polly. Still I’ve learned not to laugh at another man’s dream.
It has character!

I looked up an available unclaimed URL and eventually came up with bcawesome.ca. It met all the criteria and although the name did not thrill me I decided to learn to live with it and applied to register it as an official business name. NYET! Someone else has a name which is remotely similar so the name and the thirty dollar registration fee were flushed. After considerable thought, lap after lap in the local swimming pool and day after day walking the dog I came up with a new name. It was one of three which I again submitted for approval. The name which was approved is BC BOGTROTTER.COM. Yes the URL was also available, it’s easy to remember and spell. Now I learn, I must apply for official provincial government permission to employ the term BC within my business name. Once that permission is granted, probably for yet another small fee, I’ll go and see if the URL is still available. Phew! Would you believe that one of the questions in this little inquisition was “What direction does your street run?” I wanted to respond, in degrees magnetic or true? Check out Google Earth and decide for yourself.

By all means, bloom where you are planted.

What’s a Bog Trotter? Well you may ask. It’s an endearment installed on me by my Scottish mother-in-law. I think it was originally an Irish term. It means lowest of the low, homeless one, eternal wanderer, despised, unwelcome, rough, course, primitive. An approximate close appropriation on my continent would be hillbilly or perhaps country bumpkin. I’ll take it, with pride. It has suddenly occurred to me that a bog trotter could even be a sasquatch. AHA! What could be more BC than that? If all of this comes together I’ll have managed a minor coup without pissing in my own knitting. Look! I can say what I want, after all I’m a bog trotter. Would you expect anything less?

BLISS! Winny laying in a muddy puddle with her ball. The ultimate.
Peek
Ayre works on her socializing skills…from between my feet. Gibson was a lovely dog and Ayre eventually played with him.
After months of nurturing two apparently dead stems, this orchid has appeared.

Frankly I don’t give a toss about being politically correct, socially acceptable nor fashionably appealing. That’s the problem with being a reprobate, your appeal comes from offending folks yet you need them in order to be sustained. Most successful comedians have mastered this fine art of balancing themselves delicately between being universally offensive and wisely charming all at once. You must manage to get folks to laugh at themselves and also feel enlightened. I swear that our prominent comedians are also our foremost philosphers and even leaders; Volodymyr Zelenskyy for example.

The old days. Check out the phone numbers.

And so we move on to the pig on a roller skater. I haven’t crashed my new motor scooter, yet. A friend who is a seasoned motorcyclist recommends some good protective gear. I’m sure losing a piece of your butt skidding along a gravel road is not a preferred weight loss method. The little fliver sits in the garage shiny new and red for the moment while I divert my attention to plan F. My little home-built trailer will grudgingly accommodate my stuff and my scooter but there’s no room for me to sleep in a pinch. I’ve happened to find a small livestock trailer which has never hauled a beast. There’s no rust from bull pee or other critter emissions and the price was relatively reasonable. It’ll hold all my gear and provide a little extra accommodation if the need arises. There will be no fancy upgrades but it will be a forever trailer which will stand up to back roads anywhere I choose to go. It may even have to become my home some day. You never know, the world seems to get progressively crazier and the notion of an old clown in a box is not that ludicrous.

My paddy wagon. It has allegedly never carried a critter and now it houses a horse’s ass! It is perfect for my needs.

Yesterday I bought some gas at a station while a tandem tank truck delivered a load of fuel. Another customer pulled in to the pump behind me. He began to rant at the truck driver about the high price of his gasoline. Pointing at the metre on his pump he screamed “I bet you’re not paying this price!” Fortunately the trucker was physically massive character. He could easily have defended himself and had clearly endured a fair share of morons. All the while an aroma of fuel vapours wafted in the air as the sparks flew. I’ve always admired these folks who keep our wheels turning and demonstrate a very high driving skill manoeuvring their massive tandem bombs in tight places. Then they have to face idiots whenever their boots hit the ground.

A crow and a beachcomber. I used to love doing that. The trade is another part of our vanishing ways.

I was hoping to end this blog right about here with something witty and humorous. Then I watched the six o’clock news. In the wake of the disgusting mass school shooting in Uvalde Texas, and the carnage in Buffalo the usual rhetorical tsunamis wash over us once again. There have been almost two hundred mass shootings in the US so far this year. They are not a big news item anymore. And don’t exonerate yourself from the pandemic of violence because you are Canadian. We are all North Americans with the same culture no matter what side of the border we live on. The sickness has reared its ugly head here as well too many times.

This old country boy has owned and used many different types of firearms. I’ve done a lot of hunting. I’ve killed as many deer with a tiny .22 rifle as with any other calibre of rifle or shot gun. Dead is dead, no matter what killed you. Banning any single type of weapon will NOT solve the problem of gun violence. There was never ANY firearm produced that is not capable of killing. That is their purpose and what they are perfected to do. SO STOP THE BULLSHIT! NRA be damned! We live in a violence-immersed culture in North America. The concept of violent death is our prime entertainment. Whether it is a video game, a movie, a book, yet another murder mystery, try to find one that does not orbit around death, death, death, the more graphically gory and violent the better. Violence is embedded in all of our collective sub-consciences. We endorse it. Even Christianity uses a symbol of capital punishment as its icon! Sorry God-botherers but violence is so much a part of our culture we are all desensitized to it.

So long as we refuse to look within ourselves, and admit our dark primal instinct we will continue to have this escalating issue. Our consumer culture tells us we are worthless unless we look like this, smell like that, own some of those, hang out with pretty people. We live with a massive insecurity and sense of inadequacy, frustration and smouldering rage. We all have an aching expectation toward things we are convinced since childhood that we are entitled. We cannot love others until we learn to love ourselves. That will not happen until we start using our personal intelligence and ability to ask questions which come from within ourselves and not from the politicians, the clergy, the advertisers and certainly not our news industry. I, for one, am weary of the notion that someone else has to solve our woes. Every one of us, is in some way, to some degree, responsible for the incipient violence in our culture. We continue to tolerate the embedding of acceptable in all our brains, both young and old.

I do not know how to sow the seeds for universal self esteem and peace. I struggle with this issue within myself. We are each a miracle, a product of amazing cosmic wonder, every one of us unique and special. We don’t need divine fantasy to realize that. Perhaps that is the problem, inverting mind knowledge to heart felt certainty. An ultimate description of evil is the destruction of innocence. But naivety and ignorance are not innocence. Wilfully ignoring darkness is not innocence. Let’s each take a long look in a mirror then follow our conscience.

Honeysuckle time
Wild roses too.
“Don’t pet the sweaty things and don’t sweat the petty things.”
George Carlin
Say goodnight

When a country with less than five percent of the world’s population has nearly half of the world’s privately owned guns and makes up nearly a third of the world’s mass shootings, it’s time to stop saying guns make us safer.”
―  DaShanne Stokes

Lizard Response

Apple blossom season
… already. There was a frost yesterday morning.

I’ve never heard that term until recently. I’m told it’s common but although it’s new to me I’ll run with it. I like it. These days exactly describes the state of mind for both me and the dog. That wee Chihuahua/ MinPin employs these responses with no apparent regard to present details and damn; it does have some teeth! As previously mentioned, we have inherited her from our daughter and we had no idea what traumas the little beast has developed before we brought her home. We still don’t. These are known to be a one-person dog and this little critter is all teeth and arsehole on four nuclear-powered legs. She can operate at the speed of light. Time and tenderness will tame the beast and in the meantime if Ayre the wonder rat doesn’t rip off my fingers I’ll continue to write.

I’ve smirked when I’ve seen old codgers walking a rodent-sized dog, sometimes even wearing a silly costume, and now I am one. I’ve seen these mini-mutts in action as Mexican strays. They have my deep respect, they are indeed real dogs but thank God they don’t come any bigger! However once you’ve had one nestle into the crook of your arm, I’ll confess they are heart-breakers who can win anyone over, even a half-hearted old crank like me.

Aaah, the sun! Rain hammered down all night and morning, the afternoon warmth was a treat.

Lizard Response is also an excellent term for how we are operating at the moment. Thank God for instinct. I’ll confess to spontaneous tears as waves of emotion still break liker towering waves of surf. There are swells of anger, grief, self-pity, then moments of peace before the cycles wash past again. Even funeral arrangements for our daughter seem overwhelming and there are all sorts of details we haven’t even thought of yet. Thank you to all of those who have offered their sympathy, empathy, tears and broad shoulders. Times like these certainly sort your friends from those who are not. Life goes on and elephants never forget. Meanwhile my life as a zombie shuffles slowly along in a vaguely consistent direction.

Hawg down! Nobody was hurt. Oddly, this happened a half-block from the Honda dealer where I was going to pick up my own new little scooter-cycle. This, I took as a warning.
Now THIS is scary! No worries, bikers aren’t so tough on their own.

One of my distractions is a determination to rebuild my website to something new and improved which will allow me to monetize all my years of writing and photographing. This is probably going to require putting up yet another new url. Seafire Chronicles has become Driftword.ca which I thought was dead clever. Unfortunately lots of people hear Drift wood instead of word so it is clear that I have outsmarted myself. I’d love to hear any interesting ideas for another new name. It must be simple, be a real grabber which is easy to remember and spell as well as having some sort of PNW/ocean connotation. Your homework is due by Monday. Seriously, it sounds simple, but after each idea ferments a while, I reach for another one.

This stool is the most treasured item from among our daughter Rachel’s possessions. When I first met her it needed repairs. So I did. After a fresh coat of paint I decorated it with these images. She cherished it for the last forty years.
Our home is full of flowers sent in condolence. My sinus’ are tingling. This beauty is among them. It occurred to me that if one could see a fart, this may be what it might look like in technicolor.
Who me?
Spring becomes. Some lovely graffiti framed by spring growth seemed especially lovely.

The image is one I conjured up for a tattoo which hasn’t happened yet. Maybe there’s something in it for a blog heading. Meanwhile I continue to search for a snappy url which hasn’t been taken. fred.com and fredwrites.com are taken. The brassmonkeymagazine.com is dedicated to pole dancing and I love this one, numnuts.com is the site of a company which markets rubber rings used for castrating sheep. Now there’s something I’ll bet you didn’t know! The day is not lost, we’ve learned something.

East. In this dark and troubled month, my heart is out there. I may be shore-bound, but my heart is out there. My heart is out there.
West. The Strait of Juan de Fuca, looking out to sea from Victoria. Just past that point, beyond Race Rock is the open Pacific. How I ache to be back out there, out of sight of land.
Finally! After years of trying I’ve finally caught the magic moment when the self-dumping barge sheds its load. Valves are opened to flood tanks inside the barge until it lists enough for the load of logs to slide off. It’s an efficient way to move logs, like it or not.
Loose the hounds.
When the trilliums turn purple.
Another Jack. Nothing can ever replace my beloved Jack, now gone 3 months. But there are other dogs named Jack, including this beautiful big husky.
Life goes on.

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” — Albert Einstein

Yggdrasil Trembles

Hope! January 13th
January 6th
Moisture go up
Snow come down
Water run down
Atmospheric River

An older man lay in bed long after awaking; for just another minute, then another. His bladder became more insistent and finally, rubbing his tousled head he let his feet swing to the floor. One foot landed squarely in a puddle of cold viscous dog vomit. Immediately he slipped to his knees to check on the dog in the little bed beside his. Old Jack was fine and sleeping soundly. Hobbling on one clean foot and a heel he went to the window and threw open the curtain. The sky was clear, a muted grey pink balanced far to the southeast on a dagger of angry dark red laying on the horizon. Sailor’s warning. The day’s beginning had not been auspicious.

First things first. With a pot of coffee beginning to gurgle he bent to his morning penance of cleaning up after the dog. Then, with a first mug of coffee on his desk, he checked his email. The top news items were about a Chinese restaurant somewhere in Mexico and Covid protests in France. All is well. Delete, delete. ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down.’ He reached for a tiny but powerful Bluetooth speaker he’d received as a Christmas gift, tapped in the title of that song and began typing his next blog as the voice of Johnny Cash filled his head. His wife dozed in her favourite living room chair, Jack lay on the floor beside her, dreaming gently. Fog settled outside. And so he went into one more winter day. The month wore on.

My little boom box. The sound that comes out is impossibly rich and clear. It is perfect for the camper. I’m weary of installing a new car stereo in each RV which I acquire.

I’ve just now come in from sorting my tools into a new bag, something that’s been due for the last three years. Now that they’re organized I’ll have trouble finding them. I listened to a wonderful tiny speaker which was a Christmas gift. It’s a wee cube about the dimensions of my computer mouse with a sound as big as Carnegie Hall. It runs off a Bluetooth signal, something I am now forced to accept as a fact of life. It’s only been around twenty-three years. Ain’t it wonderful! I suppose by now folks don’t worry about it rotting your brain or teeth so I can feel safe to poke about with it. Amazing! I found myself out in the cold, sorting my wrenches and listening to a collection of Viking and Tibetan Throat Singing. Really! I caught myself rocking to ‘Yggdrasil Trembles.’ There is an app called ‘Spotify’ and it took me a long time to find an artist not included in their incredible collection. I finally found one.

Walter Zuber Armstrong was an accomplished jazz musician who, for some reason, loved to busk in the Granville Island Public Market. I would sail from Nanaimo all the way to the market dock in Vancouver hoping he would be playing there. He was a tall man who sat for hours playing Northwest Indigenous improvisations. I have a cassette of some of that music which I treasure. Amazon carries some of his Cds. I recall the utter magic in ghosting up some fog-shrouded coastal inlet in a boat while listening to those same clear, haunting notes. Some local readers might also remember him. Spotify, nevertheless, even without Walter, has an outstanding eclectic collection of music which I’ll enjoy exploring.

The ferry to Vesuvius. The link from Crofton, on Vancouver Island, to Saltspring Island.

There was a time when having stereo speakers the size of refrigerators was just what you did for best sound. Further back I remember an elementary school class in which we built crystal AM radio receivers. You listened to them through a single ear plug. The cabinet was easily four times as big as my new tiny speaker. I was very proud of that radio. When I was very young and we had just moved to town from life on a farm I used to listen raptly to the local radio station CHWO. (AM1250, White Oak Radio, Oakville, Ontario apparently on air in 1956 it was run by three generations of the same family and was one of the last remaining private stations in Canada) I knew where the station was located downtown on main street in the top of a two-story red brick building above a butcher shop. What fascinated me was how between pieces of music, musicians bands and orchestras could enter then leave the station and never make any sound. In my child’s imagination I could see the flurry of activity within that tiny upstairs studio and yet no-one every dropped anything or made even a tiny noise. I marveled at how all of this silent activity was possible. Eventually an epiphany about recordings fell on me but to this day I wonder how often our perceptions are entirely wrong.

Despite all the modern technology which I do not understand, I still prefer basic manual skill such as this near-perfect wood work.
Winter waterlines. I always marvel at this amazing woodwork. Four feet in diameter a pair of these supply water to the local pulp mill.

And what advances in technology in my lifetime! I had just started school when one October evening the entire neighbourhood was out in its backyards looking for something they had never seen before. Sputnik! Suddenly someone shouted and we all craned our necks to look up and see a tiny star hurtling across the darkening sky. Now a lifetime later, in this accelerating age of wonder, within just the time it has taken to write this paragraph, the Webb Telescope has hurtled further away from earth than most of us will drive this entire year. I stand choking in the stardust.

The day’s fog settled and stayed. The thick smothering gloom finally resolved itself into another inky winter blackness. Fourteen hours until dawn. Less than a month since winter solstice the daylight minutes are noticeably longer but for now Jack is back in his bed. Ah winter!

The eagle.
Look up, way up.

We cling to our own point of view, as though everything depended on it. Yet our opinions have no permanence; like autumn and winter, they gradually pass away…. Zhuangzi

Around The Bend

Who knows what’s around the bend?

I’ve spent the summer working in the breathtaking, beautiful East Kootenays. Despite the grandeur all around it has been an unhappy summer for several reasons and it has been hard not to trip over my bottom lip. There are days when on this road of life I want to flop down in the ditch and declare myself done with the whole senseless gambit. Yet I often sustain my spirit by going around just one more bend in the road. There is seldom much point but there can be something wonderful that makes the entire journey worthwhile. That faint hope is sustaining. You find that new wonder just beyond where you were going to turn around.

Recently I was in Cranbrook on my weekly jaunt for errands and groceries. I’d taken a new-to-me back road through the forest. It was a rugged first gear bush trail and I loved it. The bumpy old trek whetted my appetite for more exploring but I knew I’d have to content myself with life as it was for the time being. Eventually I arrived in Cranbrook and soon crossed off the items on my list. It was a perfect weather day with a clear Kootenay blue sky, the temperature was perfect. It was early afternoon, I had nothing to do and nowhere to go except home. And, I was alone, as usual. That realization washed over me like a bucket of black paint. So I just drove. I passed the mouth of a driveway where an old motorcycle sat in the bushes and marked that particular home. I drove on but turned back to take a photo and so met the property owner who proved to be an interesting kindred spirit. If I had not been in that place at that time, that moment would not have occurred. And so for a while, life seems to make sense. Encouraged, one travels on, just to see what’s around the next bend.

The marker that caught my eye.
Original paint! A 1952 Buick Eight. The inline eight cylinder engine whispers like a dream. This car is so ugly it’s beautiful! It is the same age as me and I fear may be in better shape.
Original interior too! No padding, no seat belts, no airbags. The joke was that if you had a head-on collision in a car like this, you just hosed off the dashboard and sold the car. Incredibly, despite all that heavy metal rolling on bias-ply tires and the crude long-stroke engines of the day, these beasts got essentially the same gas mileage as today’s wonder cars. Struth!
Wonder of wonders! a few feet into the bushes from the motorcycle lay this old life boat. Now there’s an interesting story I’m sure.
Ship’s carving on the little boat. I could not completely interpret them.

I have a new friend. I call him Squirrely. He or she is a very gregarious red squirrel. On the coast they have been driven out by invasive, and much larger, black and grey squirrels which were imported from Europe. Here in the East Kootenays the native red squirrel is still master of its universe. Their nature seems to demand being loudly territorial. They can sit on a limb above you and scold for hours, a loud squeaky chirp that announces your presence to anything within a half-mile. As a hunter I’ve cursed them many times.

This character will sit in a tree above my little deck and curse me for an hour on end. Sometimes it descends the tree, still scolding, and will approach to within six feet. I bought a sack of peanuts in the shell but so far all the squirrel has done is scatter them about. It does not recognize a new food source. Eventually Squirelly decided to like them and packs them off as fast as I put them out. It has to be furtive and fully aware. Two feral cats team up to hunt and he is their prime quarry. They sit like stones for hours staring at his little tunnel and I fear I may be hastening his demise with my treats. There are no stupid old squirrels.

My new neighbour.

The little guy has dug a burrow under the shed and it sits in the entrance watching me in my burrow. Some times I swear it heaves pine cones down at me. It is the time of the year when the cones are releasing the seeds within and so it must be a propitious time to lay in winter stores. I make certain to keep the door closed when I’m not home.

Squirelly reluctantly agreed for a few quick poses just as it was getting dark. Now don’t go getting attached. There are two cats which hunt him incessantly. Who would have thought I’d ever become a squirrel-hugger?

On a previous vehicle I installed an Asian-built low priced rear view camera. It was powered from the vehicle’s back-up light wiring. All worked very well, until something went weird in it’s little cyber brain and the whole wiring circuit failed permanently. Now I’m about to install my camper on my truck and will also be towing my little trailer. I need a rear-view camera. Previous experience had taught me to buy an American-made product and after some research I chose an item made in Kansas. It is, apparently, a clever little device, mounted on the top of the camper’s rear and takes its power from the clearance light wiring. It has a wifi transmitter, which, through an app, sends an image to my mobile phone. Brilliant folks those Amuricans!

My Hopkins vueSMART RV camera has proven to be a total disappointment. After several attempts of keying in codes and passwords it came to life with a brilliant led array. Finally, after more fiddling, my mobile phone (Itself another huge frustration) produced an image of what lay behind the camper. I was thrilled, until I realized that everything was reversed from left to right and vice versa. Try backing up a trailer with that arrangement! After more poking and cursing I phoned the good folks in Kansas for help. I explained that a blinding back-up light came on each time I switched on the clearance lights, whether or not I wanted to use the camera. “Yep, they all do that, perfectly normal.” I then explained about the reverse image and was again told “That’s how they all work. Lot’s of folks complained about that, but that’s the way they work. You can try selling the camera if you’re not happy.” Really! I’ve ordered another camera…made in Taiwan. Wanna buy a back-up camera?

On certain brisk, calm winter days tiny flecks of frost flit and drift aimlessly in the air. Outside my RV windows there is a similar phenomenon. But the tiny flecks of bright-coloured fluff are microscopic flies. I’m new in these parts and don’t know what they are called but they seem innocuous. They don’t bite and make no sound although they have reason to exist even if I don’t understand. They drift and dream; quite like a lot of people. The “Wifi” beetle I described in my last blog is properly named a Ceranbycid. This one is of an Asian variety and is a nasty wood-boring, tree-killing critter. Thanks Wayne for the help.

Fluffy flies on a burlap coffee sack. They’re impossible to photograph in flight.
Our lives…like tracks in the dust

Well time drifts relentlessly on. I have been rebuilding two small boats and can now see the completion of both projects. After that I have idea of what’s next but it’s coming…. around the next bend.

The future depends on what you do today.” … Mahatma Gandhi

Fly

Grass. The beginning and the end. This large Black Boar is a rare breed originally from Southern England. They are allegedly docile but this big porker’s tusks and punctured ear (from fighting) aren’t reassuring. We’ll call him the Pope of Fort Steele.
I am a dog guy but this little black cat won me over. I love this photo and had to share it.

This once mighty great white hunter (I was a classic legend in my own mind) has learned to respect and admire all of god’s creatures, great and small. Photos in this blog are often proof of that. I often conjecture that humans are clearly the only obviously alien life form on this planet. We don’t fit and can’t even get along with each other. I argue that even the lowliest creature we know has a place and a function which, even though we may not understand, ties it into all the other species which we have not yet rendered extinct. But then there is this one goddamned tiny housefly which is driving me crazy.

I’ve reasoned that because the average housefly lives only twenty-eight days this particular vexatious wee monster must, in fact, be several. But I’ve come to see it is a one-of-a-kind and I also think I’ve trained it to be annoying. It lights on my skin, then buzzes off in a second to land somewhere else. Every time I smack at it, the little bugger buzzes away and lands somewhere else. It knows. It flits in front of the computer monitor, daring me to take a whack at that and delights on landing on my knees. They’re both arthritic and I have a job right now that involves constant kneeling so those old hinges are especially painful. The last thing they need is an angry blow. It bloody hurts!

What sort of sound do flies make when they laugh? It is only here in the sticky warm evenings, never in the mornings and goes home as soon as I go to bed. I’m counting down from twenty-eight and look forward to finding it with its six little legs in the air on the middle of my table. Now that I’ve reduced myself to blogging about a single housefly I’ll post the rest of those Fort Steele photos.

Just ‘cause you got the monkey off your back doesn’t mean the circus has left town.” George Carlin

“Hurry up, you don’t want to miss the school wagon.” I wonder when the ubiquitous school bus yellow first appeared.
Ft Steele arose in the midst of rich placer mining. This large number of old mining carts is evidence there was also some serious underground mining in the area.
No permits, no foundations, still able to provide shelter after a century.
More shelter. No transgender outhouses back then.
Well, yeah mebbe we can git ‘er goin’ agin. Come back on Tuesday.
There is a sense that the town is still alive.
What’s a WIFI?
One of three hotels in town. One has been refurbished and is again letting rooms.
The entire town was virtually levelled in a fire in 1906. This is the front of the town’s original bakery and the evidence is clear that it survived, barely. Now left to crumble at nature’s whim, the old stone ovens in the back are visible.
A marriage of wits, steel and wood. This wheel was moved from a nearby mine where it once ran underground pumps.
The southern approach. I could live there.
As the business grew, so did the house. It would be a full time job keeping all those chimneys smoking.
Images of this water wheel are used to identify all things Fort Steele.
The REAL thing. This fir floor will outlast vinyl laminate flooring without doubt.
I am not comfortable around churches but I’m a sucker for beautiful windows.
An eastern view to a steaming tree. Very biblical.
The latest in fire suppression. That’s it! A huge wood stove sat in the far end of the church.
This old house.
No microwave oven, no ice-maker, no big screen TV but the food was good. I can almost smell venison stew and baking bread.
After the day’s work was done, you could sew your kids some new clothes. What’s a Walmart?
What a piece of cabinetry to have in a clapboard house.
What they had…and where they went!
A big step up.
What skills we’ve lost.
The stone and the rope.
The center of town. When everything was real horsepower.
Y’all come back now.
Another dimension of the good old days. Always a wonderful thing to see and hear, this beautiful locomotive is only ninety-eight years old. It cam from Vancouver Island as a donation from the MacMillan Bloedel Company
A vision from my childhood. Yes I’m that old.
A horse’s regard for technology.
Granite cumulus. After the rain, heading for Forte Steele. It was a good day.
Up the Kootenay River where the paddle wheelers used to go.


Smoke And Mirrors

Sunday Morning
Smoke and mirrors. The hamlet of Wardner languishes on the west bank of the Kootenay River. The smoke is everywhere. You cannot see the surrounding mountains.
Here’s why. I took this photo from downtown Cranbrook a week ago. I could see six separate fires from where I stood, there are over 280 burning in BC at the moment. Bring wieners! This fire is still not under control.

The fading calm of a smoky Sunday morning is punctuated with the steady drip of my galley sink tap. It’s first of my chores for the day. The neighbour’s children are up and playing peaceably but as the day wears on their harmony will become a series of screams and silly sounds. Last night at eleven pm they were still at it. But who am I to complain about the sound of happy children? I have the day off, first on my list is that damned tap. On the gravel road above me vehicles begin to arrive, many towing flashy boats (For which I’ve found a nasty name of course) on clattering trailers and once again the dust billows over us. I’ve learned to associate the sound of tires on gravel with choking dust. It s a wearying sound.

Under the volcano. Big Red sits with a wildfire in the background. This truck is growing on me. I love the clatter of its big diesel but parking it often means a long walk to the store. It does not fit in any regular parking spot. Apparently it’s a highly prized truck, known for its reliability and endurance.
Fredville.
Less the golf cart, this whole little travelling circus packs up and  fits together nicely. Mexico or bust!
Beauty eh? Even I like the look of this small, over-powered ski boat.
Ugly to the bone. I’m dissecting it and will rebuild it well but I am reminded of John Steinbeck’s remark that some boats are built to sail and some are built to sell.”

 The smoke and dust of another hot day begin to build. In the work week ahead I have some challenging jobs waiting for me, one of which involves the itch of fibreglass slivers and the dust and fumes of rebuilding a boat’s complete floor and framing. I swore I’d never do again but here I am now taking half the wages I used to earn for the same work. Sweat constantly smears my glasses, when they are not slipping off. I’m angry as hell at myself for feeling lonely and depressed and being without the vigour and stamina I once had. No-one could outwork me or endure extremes like I could. I want to scream. What the hell have I done to end up here, at my age?

Here is a photo that some of you missed in that vanishing blog. There is certainly more to life than work…and it’s all free!
These guys are incredible. They leave very strange meandering tracks in the dust. This one was only 4 centimetres long, other get quite large. Yes they can fly.
These guys have been around for several weeks. On the coast they don’t begin to appear until mid-
august. They click and clatter about here by the thousands. The birds love them.
Blue Willy. I don’t know what this cocoon is but it reacted violently to my touch. I did not want that blue thing poked into me and let God’s green creature continue on his way.

It’s especially frustrating when all around are the sights and sounds of folks trying to convince themselves they are having fun. Not that I’d know. I think I’ve forgotten how. My co-workers here don’t want to socialize much, just as I don’t, so we retreat into our cocoons of solitude and recharge ourselves as best we can for the next day’s work. Some of the younger workers wind themselves up late at night in a frenzy of gormless noise and occasional drunken foolishness but they deserve the excesses of their youth which will pass all too soon as it has for us who have already travelled that road.

Right colours, but nobody else was there.

So here I sit in my little fibreglass box, a crotchety old man. The dust piles up in a thick patina which I’ve given up trying to wipe away, there’s no point, it is as thick as ever by every day’s end. Sometimes I catch myself staring into space, picking the mud balls out of my eyes and nose. Clogged sinus’s lead to achy teeth and it all becomes another test. Eeeech! Snot funny! If you wipe off a table or counter and spill a little water it rapidly becomes a little mud stain. On the coast, it is black mould to contend with, here it’s dust. There’s only one cure for this malaise and that’s to go do something.

I took the old kayak out for a few hours and had a grand time but this man-made ditch is not the ocean in any sense. I can find no point in inflating my Achilles boat and ramming around in all the debris in the water. Besides I had no idea how so much of the shoreline has been developed into large trailer parks and even subdivisions. I took no photos of any of that, I was disgusted. I need so little to get where I need to go and here are people who have millions they clearly do not know what to do with. It’s the same on the coast where marinas bulge with exotic yachts that never leave the dock. I don’t understand how in an effort to escape the tedium and crassness of their daily world, so many folks manage to bring it with them.

It just ain’t natural. Lake Koocanusa near it’s high water mark. The water is lovely and warm for swimming.
Up the creek. Gold Creek as far as the reservoir water will allow me top go.
As usual mergansers are wary and fly off to find solitude. There’s a lovely play of light here.
Intrepidly the aging explorer worked his way up the jungle stream on his lifelong quest for the lost city of Gunnado.
He knew he must be approaching the village of the Moo Tribe.
I’ve travelled many a mile in my little plastic kayak and seen many splendid sights including whales. I’ve surfed huge waves and trespassed in idylic lagoons and on rushing rivers. It’s an old friend who’ll see me through many more adventures.

When I arrived back from my paddle-about I discovered a fellow had set up a day camp at the foot of the boat ramp. Amongst the gear he had spread around, he lounged on a deck chair beneath an umbrella. It was the oddest thing I’ve seen. I asked if he rolled out his sleeping bag on the center line of highways but his logic and mine did not coincide. He seemed rather miffed that folks backing their boat trailers into the water required him to keep moving out of the way. Hello? Then another aberrant character decided to appoint himself ramp cop and accosted me with fabricated allegations. I loath folks trying to empower themselves at other’s expense and I responded rather badly. He did not want to challenge the willy-nilly camper at the water line. Wazwithat? Damnit, those were the first hours I’d taken in weeks just to be. I’d found the peace I sought, then that! I was very close to quitting. Ultimately only I can let someone else ruin my day, but how do dark moments manage to often come in batches? How is it that after a lifetime, a person can still deal with certain situations so poorly?

I subscribe to a mantra called the Four Agreements:

-I will always do my best

-I will take take nothing personally

-I will assume nothing

-I will respect the power of my words

That’s it. Simple huh? Try it!

When I find myself in a sticky situation I review it later and assess what I could have done differently. An ordeal can at least become a learning experience. Those agreements certainly sound simple, and easy, but they are broken regularly. However an awareness of them and a sincere intent to improve helps ease the path through life…. for me.

Life goes on. Even with its roots extending past the crumbling cliff, with the inevitable obvious, this venerable bull pine stands majestic.

The week passed. Now it’s Sunday again. The smoke is thicker than ever with some occasional ash falling. There is still a list of jobs for the old camper which I need to tackle but I think I’ll take the kayak out later…somewhere else.

In Cranbrook I was delighted to discover an authentic Mexican restaurant. The owner is a real Mexican and a fine gentleman who cooks and also serves. He cheered me up immensely.
Oddly, my beloved Jaffray Pub has just imported some new Mexican furniture.
I love it!
His ‘n hers. I love the colours. And on her bike…
Says it all

Children are those who let someone else make all their decisions.” anon