My Father’s Kite

Johnstone Strait calm; a rare moment. I have sailed the strait for many years and know its many moods all too well. It is volatile, vicious and entirely unpredictable. When wind is against tide it can be very dangerous even to larger working boats. Small fishing boats and kayaks can easily be seduced into a hellish situation. For the moment, savour the calm.
Sundog warning. Sundogs often announce a coming change in weather.

I really hate it. Why do some people force you into a situation where you have to be an asshole? I arrived at my beloved Naka Creek campground looking forward to performing a few chores and generally relaxing. Libby was with me and I didn’t want to force her through anything extreme. What a tremendous dog and friend she has proven to be! This was her first time in the backwoods and we both needed it to be an entirely pleasant experience. As I was setting up camp two vehicle loads of folks arrived together. Eight people tumbled out with their three dogs. One of the joys of a place like this is that you usually meet other kindred spirits. Not this mob, “Weah Heah!”

My neighbours camp in the morning. Step right up, let’s shoot some skeets. Haaa!

There was a flat tire on my trailer and I immediately set about changing it. In the middle of the job, while pulling on the tire iron, the matriarch of my new neighbours promptly stumbled over to announce to me that I had a flat tire. “YES, I do.” How does one respond?

Really? I hadn’t noticed” or how about “Naaw, just practising, just in case… you know?” I was polite but bent back to my work. They were a rowdy yuckity-yuck sort of gang and managed to be boisterous until very late. They constantly bounced frisbys off my camper until 10:30 in the evening, hooting and stomping right beside the vehicle despite acres of free space all around. I was quite proud of my restraint despite a huge urge to explode outside for an ugly confrontation. Eventually the din moved up the road, little Libby’s growls subsided and we drifted off to sleep.

The goons next door. When they weren’t wandering round and about, or bouncing their toys off my camper, they’d sit like this for hours. Whale watching perhaps?

I was going to refinish the roof on my trailer. Awake by 05:30 I decided to wait until my neighbours arose and had a chance at breakfast. They had set up several tents over a hundred foot radius . There was no point in deliberately antagonizing an apparently tense situation. I decided that there was no point in seeking any blessing from these folks so i just went to work. At 10:30 I fired up my generator and sander and went to work, hoping to finish quickly. There was a breeze but it was blowing away from both our camps. After a half-hour of my industry there was only ten minutes until I was finished. That’s when the shit the fan. While up a ladder I was accosted by mom and pop, who despite the obvious wind direction, claimed “All my dust was blowing all over their table.” I replied that I could see it was not and that I’d be done in a few minutes, sooner if they left me alone. They slunk away, befuddled by the geezer who was not going to back down.

The second night was as rich with rudeness but I still didn’t react. What’s the point? Later, next morning, while taping the edges of the roof the manure started flowing again. This time it was about what would happen to me when I dared to start spray painting. Stupid people! Spray painting? Really? The innuendos about what was coming my way were stunning as were the threats and photos of me “Fer evidence.” “We’re gonna report you!” Clearly some folks watch too much TV. I resolved to outlast them. When it became clear that I was not about to budge on their account, they began deflating their big rubber ducks and set about the arduous process of loading up all their “stuff.” Their prime objection had been that I was “In a project and not fishin’.” It’s a splendid free camping area with plenty of room and no need to be near anyone else. Why they had chosen to be in my face is a mystery. They were gone when Libby and I awoke from our nap. I have a knack for finding confrontation. I don’t want it, I do not look for it but damnit, I won’t back down when people want to be bullies.

I understand how so many of our people are in dire financial circumstances. Our greed has caught up with us. We all live under the constant dark clouds of multiple wars, the after effects and implications of covid, as well as the growing loom of terrifying possibilities such as more pandemics, artificial intelligence, ever higher taxes, impossible housing costs. There’s a lot to worry about but there’s no reason to try to punish other people because they don’t conform to your expectations. Well blither and blah, blah. Have a nice day! Smirk, smirk.

Austrian behemouth. These round the world trekkers found Naka Creek while many locals don’t know or seem to care. That’s a good thing I suppose. Keep it wild.
An elderly German couple came in this beautiful European Ford van to watch whales. In the spot next to them was another couple from Switzerland.
Despite many hours behind their battery of photo artillery, they saw nothing. The trick of whale watching is to not watch. They’ll suddenly appear.
That camera lens alone is probably worth more than my old camper… and is entirely wrong for aiming at a quickly appearing and vanishing whale.
My wind gauge. When When Libbys ears are both horizontal, it’s blowing about 15 knors.
Libby disappeared inside the confines of the camper. Here’s where I found her.
Libby loves exploring and clambering along logs. She’s looking up Naka Creek to where she’d later ford the river.
Libby’s Ford. Her tiny legs carried her across without hesitation.
Libby outstanding on the beach. She’s a very big little dog.

And now for the “Rest of the story.” Remember Paul Harvey? Good…day! Now I know how old you are!

Where the heavy old man’s stool failed in the gravel and he lost his kite. The spool caught up in the small spruce trees across the river. The kit is above the frame.
Kite and anchor.
Look up, waaay up.
Libby finds the kite.
All’s well that ends. It’s an uplifting (No pun intended) story. This is the way someone left it for me.

When my father died, now well over twenty years ago, I kept a few trivial personal items. One was a kite in a wee bag. It ended up in a jumble of miscellaneous items in a locker on my boat and then eventually found its way into my old camper. I’d never really looked at it and had forgotten about it until cleaning out some storage in the camper. I decided that I’d celebrate the exodus of my nemesis neighbours by trying to fly this forgotten toy. My old dad would have been ninety-nine in another two days, so this seemed fitting. He’d died exactly on his birthday like the old English train spotter he was; right on schedule. Now another marker, still on time.

Libby and I set off to a rocky promontory beside the mouth of Naka Creek. The wind along Johnstone Strait was warm and steady. I planted my carcass on a folding camp stool and soon launched the relic aerodyne. Damn! It flew beautifully. I was a boy again! The kit rose steadily, tugging firmly and soaring upward like the proverbial homesick angel. Soon at the end of its string I spliced on another piece of fishing line and she climbed ever upward. Then the stool collapsed. You know what happened. The spool on the bitter end of the string skittered away across the rocks and then in a welter of spray crossed the creek like the tiny wind-surfer it was. The kite dipped for a moment and then rose higher yet as the spool snagged on the last limb at the top of a spruce tree. There would be no climbing up to fetch my airspace hazard. Now anchored firmly the kite rose to maximum altitude. I had filed no flight plan. It became a tiny coloured speck in the sky, like a Chinese spy balloon. I wondered how long before the F-18s showed up.

Well” I mused, “this is a grand ending to all the dark memories about me and my father. I’ll always see his kite stuck up in the clear blue sky. Closure!” Then I thought, the wind will quit after dark, that kite is coming down! Day VFR only. Libby and I treked back along the beach, back through the campground, along the road across the bridge, past a lone camp trailer with two vicious dogs and finally into the log sort about a half-kilometre downwind of where I’d lost my kite. All the while we’d had our sky beacon to guide us. Finally we stood directly beneath the prodical kite and I reckoned where it might land when the wind dropped after dark.

We returned early next morning, full of vague hope. Libby trotted eagerly ahead, her tiny feet setting up tiny puffs of dust. I knew there was slim chance of ever seeing the kite again but you cannot catch fish if you don’t go fishing and I needed to feel that I’d done all that I could. A log sort is a huge cleared area used to store and sort logs before reshipping them to a distant mill. This one is about twenty acres in area. Unused for a while, young alders have sprouted up about two feet in height all over the huge clearing. “There’s no hope” I thought. Then Libby raced ahead to where the kite lay, neatly folded by someone. Much of the string was tidily wound around a stick. After my previous anus-a-thon, my faith in people was completely and instantly restored. What else can I say? Thank you certainly seems hardly enough.

Libby, queen of the road.

And so the good mysteries of life float to the top. Things that matter. Naka Creek is enduring an overpopulation of mice. They’re everywhere, Libby was intrigued. I have a folding plastic table with crossed metal legs. How do these cute little guys manage to get up onto the table and leave their poop spore copiously? How?

An ancient moral. “Never lose your head over a bit of tail.”

Out beyond ideas

of wrongdoing and rightdoing.

There is a field.

I’ll meet you there.

Jelaluddin Rumi, 13th century.

Band Names

Back in the spotlight again. Princess Arye catches her morning rays.

Are you a reader? I mean, are you someone who reads a lot? Books? I believe that one of my obligations as a writer is to read. When I begin reading a book I feel a silly obligation to finish it, no matter how much work that may become. It is partly out of an obligation of respect that someone convinced someone else to take the risk of publishing their work. And that work I know, if the writer has done their own research and editing, is horrific. All books, I suppose, are intended to entertain. They are all, even if not intended, also to educate and will alter the way we eventually think and perceive. So even the ones I find as boring as a dried turd must be endured. There may be a nugget in the manure pile.

“Back off bitch! I’ll pee on your foot.”  They soon became friends.
She put her foot down.
Tiny church. This shrine is hidden away neatly in front of our favourite local Thai restaurant.
My twisted mind. I call it the brain tree and can see birds and snakes in its labyrinth.

Someone once declared that a book is the last place you can go to be alone.    So is writing one. I sit on a dull but sunny early summer Sunday morning. There is no breath of a breeze. This afternoon may well be a warm one. An airplane drones overhead. Someone dragged their arse out of bed and had enough money for gas to auger their way up into the sky to enjoy the view down through a crystal clear sky. I miss those mornings. I miss a lot of things, like waking up on my own boat on a morning such as this. Perhaps waking up on a stormy morning was much better. If the anchorage was safe then there was a simple resolve to stay put and do nothing. There’s nothing like being on a rocking vessel, warm and dry while the wind and rain screech and rattle outside. I look forward to more of those.

Colour of the day.
We never pick cotton, it just falls from the trees. They’re called cottonwoods.
The deer trail. The corn is now high enough to hide in.
Meanwhile back on the shoreline. There are dogs and people in this photo.

Meanwhile life ho-hums along while everyone else seems to be up to something meaningful. Even those dudes in the mini-sub who spent a quarter-million each to go down and get squashed like bugs went out in a wet flash doing something interesting. My latest thrill was to be out scootering along, enjoying the warm cool of riding in and out of the forest shade. I was wearing shorts and feeling like a part of the universe when it hit me;    the shrapnel sting of a bee hitting my inner thigh. Bam! Just hang on old boy, don’t end up in the ditch. Wobbledy wobble! I hope this doesn’t hurt any more than it does already!      The last thing to go through the creature’s mind as it mushroomed    into    my tender blubber was his little bum; but he was quick enough to point his stinger in kamakazi mode. I was happy to keep my little scooter wheels pointing where they should and that the little exo-skeletoned beast had not made it further up my leg. Let’s just say that it has been a long time since anything down there swelled up that quickly. Hey baby, wanna see my bee sting? Uhuh! It’s funny now. Bahaha.

Now it is the Canada Day Long Weekend. The highways have been clogged with hurtling Rvs (Sounds like a rock band) all week long. BC Ferries have once again managed to have a major breakdown. Now their parking yards have become campgrounds, no campfires please.The fury to go hurry up and relax always amuses me. To hell with the price of gas, they’re going to rush out to a reserved camp spot and pretend to be hairy people. Parking a mortgaged Rv between hidden stumps ten feet from someone else and having a person in a brown shirt regularly reminding folks of all that they can’t do is no part of any wilderness experience. Then they’ll join the lemming rush toward home where they live with millions of others in the biggest clearcut in the province. Think green!, camping

Jungle mark 49. Another bark owl deepens the mystery. Who does this? Why?

For some reason friends and heros are passing away in numbers. That always seems to happen in multiples and hopefully it’s over for the time being. Their time on this planet has made it a better place. My pal way up north on his motorcycle is soldiering on in his grand adventure. He’s made it to Tuktoyatuk on July 1st but finding the Artic Ocean breeze too brisk and the price of accomodation also too brisk, promptly began the southward trek and is camped near Inuvik.    Me, I’m going to cool my cold jets and putz around on the back roads looking for another bee. Last blog, I’m the one who mentioned the apparent lack of bugs!

A patch of red. The girls know the way.
Exotic in a pot.
Like bark owls, some folks leave their rock paintings randomly in the forest.
Don’t forget the wee ones. Little flowers have amazing beauty

On a final note, I recently watched a smidge of a ‘Save the wild creatures’ program which, admirably, must leave a lot of people realizing the value of wildlife of all sizes. The good people were trying to save a baby red squirel which needed to nurse. The problem was successfully solved by finding a lactating rat. “Now then,” I thought, “there’s a band name!”

Shall we have a contest?

You can’t see me.

 

There is a planet in the Solar System where the people are so stupid they didn’t catch on for a million years that there was another half to their planet. They didn’t figure that out until five hundred years ago! Only five hundred years ago! And yet they are now calling themselves Homo Sapiens.” – Kurt Vonnegut ‘Timequake’

Down

Depth of Field. Just weeds. It’s a jungle in there.

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.

Foxgloves and a sip of rain.
The E&N railway.
Exploited and Neglected.
It’s a lovely place to stroll with the dogs.

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.

Forest lunch. A little rain brought them up overnight, by tomorrow, they’ll probably be gone.

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.

For those who go out on the sea and never return.
Cream rises to the top, so does scum. Welcome to the swamp.
There is beauty beneath the leaves.

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

Wheels North

Sing a song of summer! This wee bird declares his presence under a cloudless sky. I’m proud to mention that this was taken with my mobile phone. Amazing I think, and you wouldn’t believe the phone calls I can make with my camera.

I have a friend. Surprising perhaps, but actually, yes I have a few. I’ve always reckoned that if someone claims to have lots of friends, they may well have none. Perhaps acquaintances are considered friends by some, but you find out quickly whom your true friends are and who are not when the chips are down. You need to be relied on at all costs, and vice versa. I have a few of those and of course they have me.

Pirate Air.

Jimmy is a buddy whom I have known over forty years. Anyone who can put up with me for that long is worth keeping in touch with. He’s also the same age I am and tonight as I write he’s setting up his tent somewhere in Northern Yukon. From here I can hear the whine and bump of bugs outside the thin fabric as he settles down to rest from a long day and recharges for the next one ahead. An avid and seasoned motorcycle dude, he has ridden his Suzuki DR650 toward Tuktoyuktuk.

Once he’s had a sip of Arctic Ocean he’ll turn southward to return home to Ladner, an entire trip intended to be completed in six weeks. Phew, there’ll be no moss on his wheels! You’ve seen other folks making videos about similar feats, but Jimmy and I are the same age. We’re firmly into our seventies. He has previously ridden a motorcycle all over the continent and also sailed several boats all over the Pacific. You can’t keep a good man down and…there’s a lovely wife who provides him with excellent ground support; long-suffering Donna.

This is my pal Jimmy on a lake somewhere in the Yukon last night. I should mention that I’m posting this photo without permission. Great selfie!

I’ve been following Jimmys progress on Goggle Earth. Donna sends me his position on SPOT and I survey where he is. Tonight his wee tent is set up about fifty feet from a huge bear pile, right behind a blueberry bush. His next town will be Dawson City. I’ve noticed that just to the north is the place name of Off Leash Dog Park. In all of that vast wilderness that’s got to be the town for me!

Batmobile recycled. I’m happy to report that this abandoned bike has been salvaged by a boy from up the alley. He rides it daily. Batman lives!
The amazing woodsplitter slug. Every firewood pile needs one.
Buzz
Wild pink

As a young man I was deeply inspired by Francis Chichester, an Englishman in his mid-seventies who incidentally also had cancer. He had already become famous with global exploits in his tiny Tiger Moth biplane. Now in a newly-commissioned huge and hard-to-sail yawl he sailed off to go around the planet once again. Crews of younger men have since tried to re-create parts of the original voyage in that same boat. It beat them down until they had to head for port. It’s clearly all about attitude. I’m afraid mine is terrible at the moment. I don’t want to discuss issues here but I do want to thank the inspiration of folks like my friend Jimmy. My sense of mission in life is to create a little light in other people’s eyes. You’ve certainly done that for me amigo. Thanks!

The fleet. There’s not much prettier than wooden rowboats

By strange coincidence I stumbled on a YouTube video about a 94 year old man who still rides his fleet of Triumph motorcycles. He began racing Triumphs in 1952 (The year I was born) and became known as ‘Fast Eddie’. So he’s been riding all my life and is still going strong although he can barely walk out to his barn full of kick-start motorcycles. Inspiring!

Almost ripe. Indian Plumbs are ready when they are a dark blue-black. They seem almost tasteless but they vanish when they’re ready. The birds know.

There is no glory in vicarious adventure. No-one will ever be recognized for what they watched on television. You’ve got to get out there on your own and light your own little star. I can also state from personal experience that often there is a quiet courage in the business of simple daily living. As I get older and my body decomposes while yet I breath, like everyone else, I endure physical pain as well as the guilt and frustration about all the things I could have done differently. There is great anxiety about not being able to do what I want due to lack of funds. Still there are people who make excuses and those who get things done. The two seldom mix.

Green fly on a blackberry flower. The berries seem to be flowering about six weeks early this year

There are a lot of folks my age and younger in a similar situation. Trying to make it through the month on a tiny pension without ending up a little further in debt is an acheivement now. Bought a cabbage lately?

The End.

Inflation is when you pay fifteen dollars for the ten-dollar haircut you used to get for five dollars when you had hair.”
―  Sam Ewing

Pacheedaht

     

Pacheedaht. A Westcoast beach. What a place for children!

                                                                                                                                                               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.

Never ending rhythm. Two edges of the world constantly becoming sea, becoming land.

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.

Things that go bump in the night. I wouldn’t want to hit this with any boat. It was flung up 100 feet above the tide line. There are hundreds more.
False Lily of the Valley. Deep in the forest, another plant of subtle beauty and medicinal value. Everything has a purpose.

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.

Abandoned logging railway trestle. There was a lot of clever engineering employed to extract the huge timber out of the mountains.

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.

Another relic of the past.

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.

Barrelville. Accommodations for the weary traveler. No plumbing or level floor, $120. a night.
Walk right in, just bend your head. It would be a long winter living in one of these.

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.

In the mouths of rivers that run into the sea there are often rich swamplands. This is a view from Barrelville,

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.

The whole meal deal. A salmonberry form flower to fruit.

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.

Now THAT’S a fungus. This ancient symbiosis stands beside an entrance to a campground. It’s closed. Because of the blind ignorance of some tourists and environmental protestors, forest companies have blocked roads and torn down signboards in an effort to prevent access to the people’s forest. It’s not right, but it is necessary to prevent certain fools from burning down the forest they say they love.

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.

Summer approaches.

This venerable Sitka Spruce is about 4 metres in diameter and impossible to guess how tall. It has been around for a long time, way before any white man. It looks quite healthy. Imagine a forest with only trees like this.

Forests may be gorgeous but there is nothing more alive than a tree that learns how to grow in a cemetery.”
―  Andrea Gibson

Pop Went The Wonton

You’re kidding! It’s a BALLOON we’re looking for!

To break the humdrum of winter, China has provided us with a little comic relief. Aviation has been my fascination and passion for all of my life. I no longer maintain my pilot license but I still hold a keen interest in all things to do with flight. When I learned that a high-altitude Chinese balloon had trespassed through Canadian airspace, I was instantly fascinated. At the time the story first broke, the aircraft was already over central Montana and being born toward North Carolina. The US Airforce shot it down there just after it had drifted out over the Atlantic and away from causing potential civilian damage on the ground. At least that’s their story.

One of the military bases the device had to have passed over was the Canadian fighterbase at Cold Lake in Alberta. It is where we train our F18 pilots and surely they would have loved a real target to practice on. Whether it was a meteorological flight, or a surveillance mission, it was a simple balloon! The media speculated that balloon was at an altitude of 60,000 feet and possibly beyond the service ceiling of Canadian and US military aircraft. It think it is a hilarious, embarrassing bungle. We spend billions annually to maintain a super hi-tech defense umbrella. It was completely comprised and had been passed by before we little people learned of the air invasion. Old Nostradamus warned us to “Beware the yellow peril.”

Clearly he knew his business. Maybe “keeping it simple” is a clever new military strategy.

My warped brain imagined the radio com yesterday between base station and the assault aircraft. “Eagle defense, eagle defense, clear to engage.”

Roger base, firing one. Oh shit, oh no, there’s writing on the target! It says, “Woo Li World Famous Wontons.” POOF!

We all saw news footage of the deflated silk envelope fluttering earthward. I imagined Putin saying to his boys, “So that’s what they’re sending to the Ukraine. They can even shoot down balloons! Imperialist devils!” And think of the thousands of miles it travelled without burning a single drop of fuel! Green Wontons Rule! Suppose they’d had one of those American hostages aboard. He was trying to win his freedom by taking photos, tying the SIM cards to pigeons and heaving them overboard. Wars have started over less. There will be a bad movie, or two, out soon.

Oh yeah, have you heard? We’ve just learned of a serious program being developed to defend our planet against asteroids. Uhuh?

One huge sky One tiny balloon

If black boxes survive air crashes, why don’t they make the whole plane out of that stuff?”
– George Carlin

Quiche

Anchor watch. Ho hum, just another day waiting for a berth in Vancouver. Too cold to paint, God knows how they pass their watches. For once there are a few minutes of sunrise.

Another dreary winter day, snowing again. It’s a left-over quiche kind-of afternoon. Every other day it’s leftovers. Cook one day, warm-up left-overs the next. Some foods, like soup and stew, often taste better after they’ve been left to ferment overnight. Blah month, blah weather, blah food, blah attitude. Seen one, seen ’em all. Where’s that bottle of hot sauce?

Between the sleepers. Toadstools grow on our abandoned railway.
“Now, THIS is an old growth tree.”
“Yeah, beats the heck out of a mulberry bush.”
This old workshop is one of my favourite buildings in Nanaimo. I like to imagine that it was a blacksmith shop. I can hear the clang of hammer on anvil and smell the coal smoke belching out of that old chimney. One of the cornerstones of photography is to take the picture when you see it. This building is being outflanked by new subdivisions. It’s a matter of time and the rain-wet added something special.

One of the good things my mother did for me was to get me cooking at a very early age, about three as I recall. I soon learned about hot stove tops when I’d stand on tip toes on the kindling box at the wood stove and stir up a batch of porridge or some other blupping concoction. I was lucky not to be seriously scalded or loose a finger splitting firewood.

Having a reasonable understanding of basic meat and potato cooking has served me well at times. I always had a place working on the tugs because of my culinary skill. Savoury, plentious meals are deemed a due of the job and woe to anyone in the galley who produces slop. You knew you’d done well when conversation around the supper table fell silent. The crew was too busy stuffing their pie holes. A skipper once offered an accolade, “you’d make a good wife if you weren’t so f―king ugly!” Terms of endearment, right?

The dog watcher. Now the salmon are gone a little dog must look tasty on a cold winter day.
Joined at the hip. I have become completely smitten with these two little rascals.

I have a lot of funny anecdotes about cooking at sea. Full-time cooks on the coastal tugs were rendered redundant. Deck hands were then required to prepare one meal a day on the day watches, lunch and supper. Apparently grub often improved over what the cooks had been producing. I took the mate’s watch, twelve to six because on the night watch I often had a few free hours to write. The crew worried who I was writing about.

Heron Beach winter afternoon. As the tide ebbs the ducks work the retreating shallows to scrounge for edible tidbits.
High fungus. Edible? Smokable? Dunno. I’m not going up there to check it out.
Under the volcano, 91 miles/147 km away. Mt. Baker from my house.
Another telephoto view taken with my mobile phone. Amazing I think.

One afternoon we had been very busy putting together our tow. I did not have the time left to put together a full effort meal so I slammed two cans of chicken soup into a pot, added some vegetables, lots of spice and a little seafood. While that was simmering up on the back of the big diesel stove I knocked together a quiche with lots of spice and a little seafood and bacon. I often referred to this meal as “Quicky” and to hell with what real men eat. The skipper expected his supper served on time, so he could eat without rushing to his watch in the wheelhouse at 18:00.

At 17:30 hours I was hauling the quiche out of the oven just as he was stepping into the galley. “Wots that shit?” he queried in great suspicion with his usual screeching voice and weary red neck perspective.

It’s uh,,,tugboat pie, skipper, something new!”

Looks like freakin’ quiche to me! Jeehesus!” Just then our new engineer was stepping into the galley. He was a sweet young fellow from Kitsalano. “QUICHE? I LOVE quiche!”

Keehrist” Exclaimed our captain. He made his way up to the helm with a bowl of soup and a plate of peanut butter sandwiches.

On another trip, with that same old red-neck captain, a new deckhand had come aboard and was clearly determine to make a good impression on his first-ever trip. He stowed his gear in the foc’sle and was putting a few cookbooks up on the galley window sill. Into the galley stepped old “Turkey Neck”, our nickname for him. “Jeesus! Cook books! Wot kinda freakin’ cook are you? Cook books?” Most novice deckhands would have been quivering at that point. This boy calmly looked the skipper in the eye with determined insubordination. “Skipper, when I come up to the wheel house I’m going to find drawers full of charts, collision regulations, tide books, sailing directions and lord knows what all else. Tell me sir, what kind of freakin’ captain are you?” Those two got on famously for the entire trip. Every ship needs a cat but this kid wasn’t it.

The spider web
Just reach in
Troll’s throw. When you turn away you may get cracked on the back of the head.
In the troll’s den
Still too wet to plow
I buried Jack here a year ago today. Feb. 2nd
How I miss my beloved friend Jack. He will be a part of me forever.

Never trust a skinny cook.” so saith the Fred

Christmas Zoom

 

“Thazzit?” Hopefully the White Christmas business is over. Thank you!

Two days before Christmas I sat watching the desert fly by. Cacti, and rocks and dust fling by the handle bar of a motorcycle where a video camera was mounted. The bike is participating in a rally in The Baha desert. I love the desert by I can’t understand why anyone would want to beat themselves, and their expensive piece of machinery like that. Just because I don’t get it does not mean it’s wrong, it is just not for me. I’d love to be there in fact, right now, on a motorbike, but idling along; Fred Quixote, the happy wanderer. I’m a lover not a racer. Outside my window here, a grainy snow sifts down, ahead of a forecast for a heap more snow, then torrential rain.

And the creeks did rise. There was flooding which subsided quickly.
"Follow me. Don't worry, it's too cold for snakes."
“Follow me. Don’t worry, it’s too cold for snakes.”

Television news this week is full of reports of cancelled flights and backed-up air terminals as people complain about who is to blame. There are claims of never having known storms like this before. Really? Do you actually believe yourself? It doesn’t taking much digging into records to see that there have been plenty of winter storms, fiercer, colder, snowier than this. A funny thing happens when you plan to travel during winter, you have to deal with winter storms. Yes really! Your agenda has nothing to with what the weather gods determine. It’s called reality. Don’t take it personally. It is not the fault of any airline, or weather forecaster.

I find it ludicrous that Canadians expect that by stepping through a few doorways, and waiting a few hours, you can move from a country known to be a wintery place and always arrive, on time, in some lower latitude tropical paradise. Even telephone calls don’t always get through. Reality, and our expectations, are often very far apart. There are still seats available on the all-inclusive Christmas tour of the Ukraine. For no extra charge, you can pick out an orphaned dog or cat and bring them home with you. And then, there are the children.

Bacon ‘n eggs. The pig is committed and the chicken is involved. Actually this one’s a rooster!
Winter weather brings the elk down to low ground. They’re very tasty too but it’s wonderful to see natural wild herds on the roam.
The bulls have shed their antlers already, but they’re still noble creatures.
This old farm boy will admit to hating goats. But, I’ll also admit, they do have a certain charm.

With Christmas past, the weather has warmed, the wind and rain have hammered away much of the snow. We have survived our day of grief missing those we so loved and are now gone. The wee dogs and I will soon head out, hopefully there’ll be no more slush-hopping. With wind slamming the trees around it may be a good idea to stay out in the open. Four days later, after another “weather event” of biblical rain, the snow is completely gone except for the receding heaps we shoveled so high last week. Now our lowlands are flooded as usual after heavy rain. Folks, as usual, are looking for someone to blame. Frankly, I’ve little pity for people who are determined to live in bottomland that is repeatedly flooded. Hello? Hello?

End of the home stretch. One more spawn at Christmas time. The colour is right.
Five on the hook, waiting for a cargo just before Christmas as another storm blows in from the sou’east.
Winter sleep
A glorious visual moment after two hours of snow-shoveling. It’s pretty up there.
Spider morning.
Follow me. He’ll never catch us. “Gawd, I hate spiders!”
The trekkers
United we stand.
Winter park.

And so we have survived into a New Calendar year. Fireworks intermittently hammered under a beautiful clear sky until after 3 am. It sounded like yet another assault on Kiev. Life goes on whether we like it or not, suck it up and go do something. Wishing everyone health and happiness with good things to look forward to. May you find contentment in the moment.

The watcher. From deep inside an old alder, yet another bark owl peeks out.
Juniper. We’d be shocked to learn how old this venerable beauty is.
Trincomali Bonsai. A  winter view toward Ruxton Pass during a solstice high tide.
Thet yer RV? A good mattress and two saddle bags, all you need. Due South!

You are never too old to reinvent yourself.” Steve Harvey

Rite And Rong

Welcome To Campbell River. This aged Beaver CF-GBV is mounted on a pylon and marks the entrance to town.
In the colours of British Columbia Airlines, this beauty has survived the years and lumps and bumps without any apparent modifications.

Back in the jungle again. You know the tune, sing it Willy. The home front had enough of me, and I of it. Without much contemplation here I am back in Naka Creek with the whales and other urban refugees, and as it turns out, some international ones as well.

As I left town a great wall of smoke rose rapidly from the south, America is burning I hear. To add an apocalyptic touch, someone turned hard right and rammed head-on into two rows of vehicles waiting for a traffic light. There was a heap of carnage, a muddle of arriving emergency vehicles and a herd of geriatrics in spandex on bicycles running in dithering circles waving their arms. We make movies in Ladysmith. We’ll call this one ‘No Fault Insurance.’ You can be part of the problem or part of the solution. I let the wall of smoke chase me northward. It found me by next morning.

By the next day the smoke from US forest fires surrounded us.
BUMP! Floating just on the surface this old loader tire would definitely grab a sailor’s attention if they hit it.

I arrived at Naka Creek, my favourite place on Johnstone Strait just in time to see three southbound cruise ships returning from another Alaska jaunt. I remember meeting these gleaming behemoths in these waters when I worked on the tugs. It is an incongruous sight in the deep dark of an upcoast night. I imagine the passengers trying to dance their arses off after yet another gourmet buffet dinner all the while oblivious to the incredible natural world sliding by in the dark, but then endless miles of wilderness is not really what they came to see. It makes a lovely background for the ‘binderdundat’ mug shots they’ll proudly show back home in Donkey Shin Kansas or wherever their bombers takes them. By the time they’re home they will be crawling with viruses they’ve found on the cruise or the homeward flight but that strawberry creme flambe was worth it all. Laugh damnit, all humour is cynicism.

My old bush ape eyes spotted a strange fungus on this pine tree over the water’s edge. It proved to be a single remaining insulator. There must have been hundreds at one time carrying telephone or telegraph wire. Yet another coastal mystery lost to time.

My prefered spot was taken by an expedition vehicle with German license plates. It was one of those monstrous offroad boxes with the big wheels, too big really to squeeze along many of our roads. Still, I fancy them and wanted to chat with the owner. He pulled away and left. Incredibly another German RV pulled in to the same site a short time later. Soon the new neighbour befriended me. He and his wife were from Berlin. Their motorhome was built on a Citroen cab and chassis, powered with a Fiat diesel. The rest of the unit was built in Slovenia. It had a German license plate. How exotically European is that? With over 160,000 nautical miles of sailing offshore catamarans he, and she, who works as a wedding videographer in Quatar, had some interesting yarns to share. Avowed vegetarians, they declared that they ate “nothing that had parents or eyes.” And so the day passed with something else to consider.

An Adria, a European beauty. He couldn’t find any 240 v trees to plug into.
Gotcha! Berry pie a la road. Ursus Thumpus. Mounds of bear droppings on the road prove an excellent year for wild berries. Hit too many of these you’ll need some front-end repairs.

On Monday morning the day comes with overcast smokey skies. A dry rasping call of a solitary crow announces the stealthy arrival of his cousin, a brilliant blue Stellar jay. Fog rolls and curls along the water. It is quiet, it is peaceful… until an hours-long yuckfest developed on the beach and overwhelmed everyone else. Other campers clearly do not come for the same things I do. Tranquility, solitude, the music of nature; I prayed for rain. It did not come. I launched my dinghy and left. I powered north into the flooding tide and switched the engine off to simply drift and dream. The water was calm and the thin sunlight soothing. Soon I could hear voices. I could see nothing but eventually a flotilla of kayaks appeared from the far shore. The wilderness tranquility they came to absorb eludes them. Despite my persuasions, peace is not part of the urbanites agenda. The reason they see few whales and little wild life is beyond their grasp.

Out of the sunset a brilliance doth approach.
So where are the regulation navigation lights?
‘Grand Princess’
In the daylight they look like this…still out of place.
Yuk. Yuk Yuk, Yuk. Yuk.
Getting away from it all.
My beloved window. It is why I bought this old camper.

A call home on my mobile that evening informed me that an emergency was unfolding. I needed to return south quickly. I broke camp and stowed everything in the trailer. My friends had left earlier and so I went to nurse a beer alone on the beach as the last of the sunset faded. There was a roar, a blaze of light and grinding of gears. I refused to turn and acknowledge this latest intrusion. Yet another expedition vehicle! And yes, once again, more Germans! This machine was a monster military green box with a huge Mercedes emblem on the grill. As the growling diesel shuddered into quietude a thick German accent shouted at my back, “Are you vatching ze orcas?” Oh sigh! Isn’t GPS with backroad maps a wonder?

I left at 04:30. In the impenetrable darkness, fog swirled in heavy banks. Visibility was down to twenty feet in places. Over the mountains, into the valleys, across narrow bridges, around switchback corners I finally arrived on the main road out and began meeting loaded logging trucks with their bright lights. Their dust mixed with the fog. There is no headlight that deals with that. By the time daylight arrived I was back on the pavement, southbound for home by noon. All’s well that ends.

Jackson
Vinny meets Ayre
Covid Beetle or government drone?

Soon the rain and darkness of autumn will settle over this island. Perhaps I can go into the woods and be alone then.

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Home Again

Hey, that’s me! No, not the squirrel. I found this amazing work in a live red cedar in Sayward. The detail is great and the theme is perfect. The carver deserves  huge recognition.
This eagle with a salmon is incredible too. Well done, Greensides.   Glenn Greensides is a local carver in Sayward. His work is widely distributed. He has a website, just look up his name.

Muh dog’s gonna eat yers!” Ever have a period in your life when every little thing just seems weird? You begin to question your own sanity. If I’m a common factor it’s got to be something to do with me. Right? On Sunday, I tried to pleasantly ask a neighbour about an unfamiliar car apparently abandoned in our common property. I was met with a resounding shout, “Fuck Off Asshole!”

Um, ok?” Two days later there was a timid apology, which I accepted. This woman’s mother, my neighbour, had suddenly died and I understand the unpredictable emotions. What was bemusing was a man who appeared immediately after my rebuff. He refused to give his name, determined to stand belly to belly announcing that he was “The executor, ya know? The EXECUTOR!” Weird!

Last night at a campground in Sayward, just after arriving, little Ayre ran next door to greet two fuzzy little dogs. A trailer door opened a crack, a corpulent female figure appeared and roared out my opening sentence. I wanted to reply, “I see you’ve snacked down a few puppies yer own self.” but I’m learning to curb my own quick tongue. This morning, yet again, there was another apology. Geez Louise, is it my cologne? I keep having these strange encounters so hopefully the guy in the mirror comes up with an answer. It was a new moon last night, is that it?

Hey neighbour! This former German firetruck is an expedition vehicle capable of going nearly anywhere.

We’ve just arrived back at the Naka Creek campsite. Ahhh! Despite a light rain, the birds are singing, the neighbours here are friendly and I feel like I’ve come home to a sanctuary in the backwoods.

Home! Let it rain. Beautiful downtown Naka Creek.

I soon discover that I have managed to leave the power cord for this laptop at home. So, after doing some photo editing I’m down to my last giga-doodles of battery. The weather is wet but I’ll have to live a few days without life depending on my computer. It is lovely to just focus on the waves lapping on shore and all the birds exchanging insults with each other. Three northbound orca whales passed a few minutes ago and there may be more to come.

Ayre soon found herself a dancing partner. They could have waltzed all night.
Ayre  quickly found a way to launch herself up into the bunk. The view fascinated her.

Life without a computer, fancy that!    Well we’ve survived a week living together in a camper and now we’re home again with no more weird encounters of any kind.

There’s a hot spell ahead. You can feel it first thing in the morning. Heat domes we call them these days. I’ll bite my tongue and refrain from further comment. We’ll survive, like it or not.

Another Johnstone Strait sunset
Hope springs eternal.
There are a few places where the real old growth timber still stands as it always has. These Douglas fir are 12 to 15 feet in diameter at the butt and well over 200′ tall. These venerable grow with signs are any human interference. I won’t tell you where they are, you have to find them on your own.
Magic!
Look high, then look low.
Ripe.
Outstanding in the brush.
Sayward taxi.
Downtown Cumberland.
Stay cool.

Without deep reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people.” Albert Einstein