October twenty-second. A first frost is on the roofs of my neighbours. The brassy thin light of a reluctant dawn slowly sweeps over the town. The stars were brilliant last night, a few were especially bright as they beamed down between the clouds. Old Jack is snoring softly where he is nested on the couch, I’m reluctant to stir him for his morning walk but I need it as much as he does.
October 25th. It’s over. The provincial election has passed with a predictable result. Our minority government is still in the saddle, now as a majority. May the gods help us, any majority government seems eventually to lead to dire consequences. At least we’ll have a slight change of rhetoric.
There’s a humid chill in the air this morning, with a dusting of fresh snow on the nearest hills. Jack loved it and frolicked along on his walk. The tang of burning damp leaves filled the air and someone was burning coal in their stove, an unmistakable odour. What must air quality have been like when nearly everyone burned the stuff? No-one noticed, that was the way it was. I’ve been in China where the air was thick with the stench of coal smoke, (Cheap Canadian coal at that) copious dust and other human effluents. Life went on all around me as I stood almost gasping for a full breath. For me, coal smoke is synonymous with forges and blacksmithing, something I dearly love. I can almost hear the clang of hammer on anvil as I write. Amazing isn’t it? All of that came from one whiff of coal smoke! It’s blowing a near gale outside this morning. Leaves and debris blow past the window horizontally. The street sweeper just ground by hard at work. Daft as a brush!
Unfortunately my life is dull these days. I spend far too much time sitting in front of the television. Recommended by friends, I watched a Netflix program called ‘My Octopus Teacher.’ The footage, accumulated over ten years, is stunning and some of the insights provided are amazing. You know I’m impressed if I’m offering kudos. In my next breath I’m promoting my own next video. It’s something I put together for the Fisher Poets group, who may not be gathering this spring in consideration of Covid. That gathering in February is a guiding light through the winter and many of us use it to steer toward through the gloomy days of that season. Who knows what will happen this winter.
BEWARE OLD PEOPLE The older we get the less “Life in prison” is a deterrent.
… and I thought, probably a better retirement plan than what many of us have.
It’s a blue moon Halloween coming up. A full moon on October 31st is scary, but a second full moon in the same month in the midst of a plague is reason to hide under the bed. All those mini spooks in T-Rump and Biden masks are a sobering thought. Trick or treat indeed. I’m leaving town. Hopefully I’ll have some interesting new videos and photos when I return. Stay safe.
Sometimes the obvious is just too close to be seen. I am chagrined to admit that a friend who lives way over in Eastern Oregon sent me a link to a wonderful article in Hakaii Magazine. This is a weekly online publication housed in one of my favourite buildings here on Vancouver Island, the old Customs House, which overlooks Victoria’s inner harbour. The magazine has articles of a coastal theme from here in the Pacific Northwest to stories and photos from around the world. Go figure! The publication has been up and running for several years. Why I have not known about it before is one of life’s mysteries. Among the crap out there it is a diamond with well written informative and interesting articles with excellent photos. Check it out by googling up the name.
Since I’ve returned last week from the old camper road test, autumn has descended with an indelible thud. There’s not much else to report. Mercifully we’ve been spared a Canadian federal election, our provincial election is a few days away and hopefully the US goon show will pass without an attempt at a military coup. I reminded a friend recently that we live in a pretty darned nice part of the world, politically, climatically, economically. I don’t know why certain folks are so determined to change that. Frankly, folks from foreign countries who have come to this country and then insist on complaining about everything must agree that if you truly don’t like living here, well… the best thing of all is that you’re free to leave; today! So go!
No-one is going to put a gun in your ear and insist that you stay. Perhaps first pause a moment to chat with one of the refugees who fight so hard to get into our countries. This morning another friend sent me a photo of a US election poster. It says, “NOT VOTING, #1 CAUSE OF UNWANTED PRESIDENCIES.” So I took my voter’s card and Covid face mask and headed down to the advanced poll. Voting is not just a right, it’s an obligation and even a spoiled ballot is a clear political statement. So get out there and seize the day. Vote!
Our little town has a common hall used for several public functions including that of advanced polling station. It sits next to the traffic round-about at the foot of main street which, when I went to vote, was ringed with a crowd of goons waving election posters and thrusting them at my windshield. I found it intimidating and infuriating. They represented the party I was going to vote for. I’m confident their chances are minimal. My vote would be one against, instead of for anyone, and would pique my conscience the least. Not now! I abhor mobs and herd mentality and refuse to succumb to mindless mass persuasion. If you want the gombah vote I refuse to be among them. Reverse effect guys! If I am going to be bullied at least leave me the illusion of making my own choice and effecting a difference, even when there is really no-one worthy of a vote. A politician is still a politician regardless of the lies they tell and no election ever displaces and changes the bureaucrats. Hopefully we end up with the least of weevils.
Here are some local photos of the changing season. Note the lack of rocket launchers, burned buildings and military uniforms. There is no snow, not one heap of dead plague victims and there are still line-ups in the drive-thru’s of every fast food and coffee shop outlet. Someone still has a little money. Despite our personal woes we are doing just fine.
“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” Plato
The woods were silent. The autumn sun rose in a clear sky, its warm light laddering down between yellow maple leaves still thick on the branches. Old Jack plodded along the trail, his breath was thick clouds of steam in each shaft of light slanting onto the ground. I walked ahead and waited for him, looking for things worth a photograph. It’s not a bad arrangement. Once, he used to run ahead and then wait for me. Damn, it is so very hard watching a beloved friend age and knowing that one day too soon he will go on to leave you alone. It is an essay on savouring the moment. It’s all anyone has; not today, certainly not tomorrow, not the next hour. Now, this moment, click, it is all we have.
So, finally my old camper is in Fred shape. I’ve even resealed all the exterior seams along the roof and sides. Oddly after forty years the old butyl sealant was hardening and even mouldy. I’ve replaced it with double layers of new material. Hopefully that will fend off the insidious leaks which come with winter rains. At last Jack and I are off to spend a few nights in it. Last night was the first sleep in our little box and now for the first time I’m sitting at my wobbly one-legged camper table with my laptop. A mug of fresh-perked strong black coffee is at my elbow.
The plan was to seek out a spot on the shores of Nitinaht Lake. The lake drains into the open ocean through a famous narrows and I’d hoped to take the inflatable boat for some exploring and filming. It won’t be happening.
This area is the homeland of the Ditidaht people. They have a community at the head of the lake and have closed the entire area to outsiders, no covid crackers. The bitter impression of what smallpox did to their population is still vivid and rightly so. I drove on by but after miles of rough logging road came upon a sign explaining that even the campground I sought was closed. Bugga! That was what I’d come for. It’s their land, and as a trespasser I cannot raise my voice but it had been a long day, I was tired, it was getting dark. We continued on the road toward the Carmanah Valley and of course couldn’t find a place to pull off for the night. Finally I turned down a side trail which looked like it was used occasionally. If folks go in, they’re able to turn around somewhere and come back out. Right?
When you are tired things can become a little weird. We drove on and on through a gauntlet of ever-thickening lashing alder branches with no place to turn around. Towing the trailer, there was no choice but to continue on into this sucker hole and beat hell out of my rig. Every turn of the wheels took us further in but there was no backing out. Full darkness settled just as we finally found a place to wiggle around to face the way out and park, fog followed soon after and continues to swirl through the tree tops this morning. In the distance we can hear the roar of surf from the open Pacific. Making its way along the coast a freighter blows its sonorous fog horn, out there somewhere, a lonely sound indeed. Overhead, mysterious birds call, Murres I wonder. We retreated into the camper for our first night and finally made some lunch at eight pm. This morning we are parked in an old quarry pointed in the correct direction to leave listening to the sounds from the grey fog, no-one, including us, knows where we are.
Since the last paragraph we’ve been for a short walk and now it’s time for a warm breakfast and more coffee. After tramping for another half kilometre along this trail it is clear we drove as far as we’d dared. Thank goodness I stopped when I did. We saw some beautiful willow grouse and stupendous heaps of bear droppings, or perhaps they’re from a sasquatch. I’m soaked to the knees from all the fog condensed on the growth in the trail. Well-used elk trails cross the trail regularly. I’ve noted the yellow alder stain on the front corners of the camper. “Tough on riggin” is the older logger’s colloquialism that comes to mind. I’ll feel better when we’re back out bumping along the main road. We emerged with minimal collateral damage. Old knowledge was refreshed with only a few minor battle scars to show for my stupidity. With plans dashed, I just want to find a spot to set up camp for a few days. Obviously we are now back from our adventures. Of course on our return leg I saw a few places we could have stopped on the roadside. Hindsight! But as a friend says, “If you ain’t been aground, you ain’t been around!” I learn later that we were only four kilometres from the Carmanah campground where a friend was spending the night.
Later I write from a glorious spot. We are camped on a gravel bar of the Nitinaht River. The rolling water is crystal clear and full of spawning Chinook salmon. Upon arrival Jack flopped down on the river gravel and vigorously scratched his back. It’s a sign of great happiness. Next he trotted down to the river’s edge and had a long drink. We’re staying a while. I’m sitting at my Honda table beneath my white canopy. A cheery fire crackles a few feet away. In the dark salmon splash in the river. Bliss.
Then some yahoos arrive. In the dark as usual. They get stuck in a mud hole, there is much shouting. Tires and people squeal but finally they settle somewhere in the woods nearby. I can hear someone splitting firewood and yes, there it is, the loud pulse of their stereo, as usual. Backwoods serenity! Jack has already retreated into the camper. I’m joining him.
In the morning my friend appeared at my campsite. What a wonderful surprise. Niels is a dear friend of many years and his presence immediately lifted me out of my dark funk. He had tracked me all the way out to the Carmanah and then given up on finding me. He spent a night camping on his own. He was homeward bound when by chance he spotted my little white circus tent beside the river.
We had a great day together watching the salmon, some well over twenty pounds. Sometimes a cutthroat trout hovers near a mating pair of salmon and tries to pirate eggs. It is all fascinating to watch this drama in crystal clear water. A handsome male black bear ambled and snacked along the opposite river bank, the song of the river and the wind kept him from noticing us; or maybe he knew what we taste like and was just not interested. Today we headed back to the east side of the island and soon emerged into brilliant sunlight and clear skies. Now we’re alone again in a campground on the south side of Lake Cowichan. Seeing a friend out in the woods was very uplifting and exactly what I needed. Thanks Niels; for everything.
Next day, in mid-afternoon after a very lazy morning Jack and I continue to take our ease in the sun-dappled shade of a beautiful forest of second-growth fir. We are in a tiny provincial park on the south shore of Lake Cowichan for a couple of nights. Jack wanders off to explore the beach and woods for a half-hour at a time before returning to check on me. Being allowed to do that is his nirvana. Loons, geese and swans held a choir practice of wonderful wild music out on the lake. Then a gorgeous Zenair 701 kit-built floatplane idled along a few feet above the glassy water, stirring up other old passions. Much higher, heavy commercial flights inbound from the open Pacific glide eastward toward Vancouver.
As dusk falls I’ve built a campfire and less than twenty feet away a tree frog begins its song. I’ve never seen one yet. They often makes their calls from nearby but I cannot ever spot one. If you try to sneak up on that big little sound they stop. They are very tiny and wary so for me they remain a happy mystery. It’s been an easy, peaceful day. I try not to feel guilty about doing absolutely nothing. Beyond the west end of the lake a few clouds over on the ocean side catch the last light of the setting sun as I begin splicing together a video about this little trip. Then comes a loon’s solitary serenade from out on the lake, perhaps the most beautiful sound I know. A barred owl begins hooting from a tree nearby. Forest internet. G’night.
Abraham Maslow: “In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or step back into safety.”
We are currently enjoying our “Indian Summer.” Perhaps that term is now politically incorrect, but then what the hell isn’t? With no ethnic slurs intended, it is the only term I know for the spell of fine weather that comes in autumn after a significant frost or two. The weather is gorgeous. I was in Victoria on Sunday and the streets were thronged with folks who seemed out and about simply enjoying the solar celebration. In the face of the West Coast winter’s darkness and chill wet ahead it is almost a biological need to savour sunlight and cloudless sky. Despite all of our modern distractions, we still possess a primal, pagan instinct for the star which gives this planet its life.
In Victoria I attended a splendid gathering held in honour of two dear friends just returned from nine years of voyaging on their sailboat. After sailing the Pacific, the Indian Ocean, the South Atlantic, the Caribbean and then the Eastern Seaboard They finally sold their beloved cutter ‘Sage’ in Nova Scotia and drove back to Victoria, camping along the way. They previously spent seven years in the South Pacific on a much smaller boat. After sixteen years of cruising and living “tiny” they’re still together and looking forward, I’m sure, to new adventures. They have been a great inspiration to me and many others. Their blog is ‘Sage On Sail.’
After the visit I strolled part of old-town Victoria and took photos of different spectrums of living. Times, for many, are tough and getting tougher. Affordable housing is a challenge requiring ingenuity and the artful business, for some, to stay ahead of the “Man” who is bent on punishing non-conformists. I’ve lived on boats for many years and can easily rant ‘ad nauseum.’ Even when ones tries to be discreet and fly below the radar, there is always someone looking to jam a stick into your spokes. It is odd how in our culture where the individual is glorified, the non-conformist is punished. End pre-rant!
A recent BBC television documentary hosted by Neil Oliver was simply titled ‘Vikings.’ In what I saw of it ,he divided those much-love nautical thugs into three groups, the Norwegians, The Swedish and the Danes.
The Danish Vikings, basing themselves in Ireland, conquered most of England. It is entirely possible that my fair hair and blue eyes are from long-ago-bestowed Nordic DNA among my ancestors. I don’t mind that idea at all. Apparently the Swedish Vikings travelled across the Baltic and down the rivers of Europe, plundering their way as far as Constantinople where some became revered as the fierce martial masters they were. Some were even recruited as personal bodyguards of the Sultan. In the grand Blue Mosque of today’s Istanbul, where the Sultan once attended, and his bodyguards would have stood watch, ancient Nordic letters are carved into a solid marble banister saying something like “Olaf was here.” What an amazing tangible connection to history!
An old Gary Larson cartoon depicts a long table. Around it sits a group of Vikings. At the head stand two more. The chairman is saying, “Now that the business portion of the meeting is out of the way, Lars would like to talk about his new idea for hats.” Lars is holding a fabled (and fictitious) horned helmet. All of the Vikings are wearing a duck on their heads. “Ya vell Olly, now dats fonny!”
Friends recently visited Scandinavia and sent back fantastic photos from Viking museums and others dedicated to Thor Heyerdahl and to the Arctic explorer Nansen and his rugged ship the ‘Fram’. I have long ached to get to the Baltic region and see some of these amazing examples of iconic marine history. There is a flair to old Baltic vessels which is instantly recognizable. The lines of those Viking boats are the most amazing of all. Sensual, flexible, rugged and incredibly seaworthy, those boats underscore how much we humans have lost as we think we advance with technology. Perhaps those old boats are a pinnacle of human technical achievement, an ultimate blend of art and function. I doubt that with all our electronic wizardry and tools, that we can match the intuitive high skill evidenced in these amazing icons of nautical achievement. And… not a drop of oil or one electron was employed in the whole process from harvesting living trees for material to landfalls on far distant shores, and then coming all the long, long way home again. Heil og sael. Takk!
This past weekend our ferry service was down for more than a day due to high winds and seas. I doubt that would have held those ‘Old School’ Vikings back. If you look at the new hi-tech sailing boat hulls which begin to plane like a powerboat after reaching specific speeds, then carefully study those old Nordic hulls, you’ll see some amazing similarities. Truly! Are we progressing or regressing?
“Never stop because you are afraid – you are never so likely to be wrong.”
We’re back from our morning walk. There was rain and a blustery wind last night. This morning a thick carpet of leaves are on the path. Jack loves snuffling through those freshly fallen maple leaves. There are all sorts of new scents, including those from other dogs so he usually needs a huge drink once we’re home again. We progress toward Halloween, the next commercial event before Christmas madness begins. At least most of the election signs are gone now as we settle in for another four years of tedious politics and the occasional episode of more silly pajamas. Instead of face-black, maybe our re-elected PM will show up at the next party wearing a Trump mask. That’s almost funny. Politically correct?…… Well ! Of there is always a Putin or Boris mask. Boo!
In my last blog there was a link to my latest little video. For those of you who bothered to look at the effort, you saw a compilation of originally unrelated clips edited together into a vague continuity of theme. In the first clip with the loud sound track of flocking geese, did you hear the little dog yelping in the background? In the clip with the grand motor yacht, did you notice the exotic ensign being flown on the back of the vessel? It was, I believe, the flag of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Interesting that a vessel from a tropical homeport is northbound on the BC Coast in October. Perhaps, it is now nested on the deck of a Dock-Wise yacht carrier heading back to warmer latitudes. In that same clip, there was another yacht. Did you see the mast southbound passing the tree tops of the foreshore? Here is the link again to ‘Just Another Day’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jQtJ2j-74A&t=6s
My narrative briefly notes the sound of passing aircraft. There were, actually, five clips with the sound of airplanes. When I reviewed those clips as I had first put them together, I believed that all that aviation noise made the film impossible. I digressed to writing a short narrative that matched the time line and suddenly it occurred to me that with a simple mention of the audio pollution I could use it to underscore the theme about awareness. That’s my story, I’m sticking to it. Some folks really liked the effort, and there are plenty who don’t give a toss, just as I expected. I learned a long time ago that if a creative effort is first intended to please others, it will fail in all regards. One must pursue any art form to please yourself. Do it simply for the joy of the process. Once that sincerity shines through, others are touched in some way.
I have learned clearly that images are only a part of a video’s value. That is why there used to be live music in cinemas to accompany the old silent movies. A carefully scripted narrative, sound levels, a tweak of sound effects, all blend to make moving images successful. A simple and properly timed bit of background can make or break the whole video. It is an expansive art, there is no end to the learning and as a self-teaching rookie I am boggled by all that is involved. I have a long way to go before messing with special effects. I have a new appreciation of all that must be involved in making a full length feature film. For me, good, clear simple perspectives will continue to be my indulgence. I still labour to take good, stable, clear footage and have developed a huge appreciation of wildlife videographers. They sometimes take years to eventually capture a few seconds of good video.
In my last blog I posted a photo of my dad’s old brass-riveted suitcase. It contains treasures, things like his dip-penned birth certificate and original English driver’s license. There are sacks of photo negatives and tiny old black and white prints, often of people and places I know nothing of. There are pre-war photos of my grandfather’s farm near Coventry, photos of my parents when I was merely a gleam in their eyes and then a procession of little ‘Freddie’ photos and my early environs. I was delighted to discover the postcard I’ve included in this blog. It confirms an early memory about the era when my family moved off the farm and into town.
At the end of each summer this vessel would appear as depicted and discharge a full cargo of coal into the creekside coal yard. We moved to Oakville in 1957 and this image matches my memories of that time. The little freighter, to me, appeared to be a monstrous black apparition. Steam trains were still in use then and the locomotives also appeared incredible, belching steam and smoke and the wheels, then, seemed at least thirty feet high. Coal was still a prime fossil fuel for heating buildings and homes and this vessel’s appearance was an early sign of winter’s approach. If you look carefully you can see a wisp of smoke coming from her stack. It makes sense that she be steam-powered and coal-fired. I can remember the coal man delivering coal in hundred-pound burlap sacks, emptying then into coal chutes, often right on the sidewalks of main street. Buckets of coal ash, called “clinkers” would be spread on icy sidewalks and paths. I marvel at how the little ship was squeezed into that tiny harbour and backed out again. The old wooden lighthouse at the end of the pier still exists. It eventually became a landmark for the yacht club which is now across the creek on the port side of the coal boat.
At that time I spent many and hours beside the lighthouse lurking about out on the end of that pier. Life was reduced to some very simple elements there and I loved it. I can close my eyes and still smell the funky reek of Lake Ontario. Much has changed but I believe the building behind the vessel is still functioning as the local tennis club. The last I saw of the old coal yard, it was a parking lot for the high-end restaurant built inside the old stone-walled flour mill just up the hill. The soil in that area was red clay. There were several brickyards nearby. When it rained, the Sixteen Mile Creek would become a thick russet plume that bled far out into the lake. Eventually it blended with all the industrial muck that many folks claimed was preventing the Lake from freezing in winter, in earlier times allegedly as much a mile from shore. By the time I was in high school the was a paranoia about an impending ice age. It never ends folks!
This image also marks the beginning of my fascination with boats of all sorts and of going to sea. Anyone who sneers at “lake sailors” has not been on the Great Lakes. They are vast, often with the far shore hidden over the horizon. Every mariner believes they have sailed in horrific storms but the Great Lakes are an equivalent of any other large body of water for nasty weather. The seas are massive even with no tides for the monstrous waves to build against. Storms often rise quickly and viciously, often proving to be very deadly. The legend of the ‘Edmond Fitzgerald’ is only one of hundreds of similar disasters.
I also marvel at the quality of the photo on this postcard which measures about 4” x 3”. People actually posted these to each other with short messages written on the back for everyone else to read along the way. I believe postage was one or two cents. How long has it been since we gave up our pennies? The hand-retouching on this image is clearly visible and the general quality is very low. Yet, it was what we had. The card itself was produced by the Photogelatine Engraving Company Limited, Ottawa. And imagine then, if folks had been told that the Kodak Company would eventually go bankrupt, displaced by something call digital imagery? Imagine trying to explain how I have reproduced this image, and all the others in this blog, with my mobile telephone, something not much bigger than a deck of playing cards. Imagine trying to explain internet, wifi, or what a blog is! How about a President who runs his country with Tweets! I must confess that these considerations leave me feeling as old as a lump of coal.
In the process of aging comes the moment when you must concede to yourself that memory is not indelible. In the repeated remembering of specific memories things slowly become skewed and faded. It is much like the classic telephone game where someone will provide a simple statement which is whispered to the next person and then the next until it has gone all the way around the room. The final person offers up their version of what they say they were given. That message is often totally unrelated to the original statement. What one recalls as absolute truth is sometimes revealed as a very different reality. That can be very sobering. I find myself wondering what is fantasy and what actually happened. I can vaguely recall a milkman and his horse when I was barely old enough to walk, yet what I had for lunch requires some contemplation. I envy those who simply declare that they can’t remember and leave it at that.
“A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory”… Steven Wright
I was sanding a piece of plywood purchased at Home Depot as work continues on my little trailer. I am no fan of any big chain store but these guys will cut up wood to my exact specifications and so there I go. They also sell lumber stored inside, out of the rain and sun, at least for a few days. Impressed with the superior quality of this particular product, I noted the clear grain and the lack of voids between laminations. Then I noticed the stamp, “Made in Chile.” WOT! I bought this in British Columbia? I’ve previously found the ‘home despot’ selling 2x4s cut from loblolly pine from Louisiana and marked “Product of NAFTA.” How do you harvest, mill, ship and sell lumber at a profit from the diagonally opposite corner of the continent…into the global forest products capital of BC? And the US president rants about the inequities of NAFTA. I agree!
The media constantly runs stories about the dire state of BC’s forest industry. I frequently write about the chicken farmer who goes to town to buy his eggs. I repeatedly use my example of a local sawmill shut down allegedly due to a shortage of timber supplies. Several ships a week come to that former mill’s dock to load raw logs for export across the Pacific! That has been going on for years at several locations along our coast. And, I’m buying wood products from far across the same ocean! Is my plywood made from a BC log milled in Chile? Think of all the fossil fuels burned to ship products back and forth around the planet. Green? Meanwhile our young Norwegian school girl environmental messiah is in Alberta to suss out our environmental evils. Is she still travelling about in Arnold Scharzenegger’s electric car? Scotty? Helloo Scotty? Beam me up. Please!
Clearly, this old sailor knows nothing about economics but there is something very wrong here. I’ve found bottled water from Texas in local stores, meat and produce come from the other side of the planet and this British Columbian, living in a wine-producing valley, often finds the best quality and value in imported wine…often from Chile. Apparently Chile often uses the same poor environmental practices which we have proven wrong and unsustainable, from fish farming to forestry. Questions anyone?
On a more positive note, I went to the advanced poll to vote in the Federal Election. The lines ran out the door and still people came waiting for nearly an hour to mark their X. It was encouraging to see such a turnout. Hopefully, for once, the election will not be decided by all those who are too comfortable to get off their butts and vote. It would be grand if someone else’s apathy was not running everyone else’s lives.
It is Thanksgiving Monday in Canada. Our roads and ferries will be clogged with folks rushing home after their “holiday.” We have one day left of clear skies before a forecast of several rainy days is due. I’ve declared this to be a BNG day. (Burn no Gas) Just back from our morning walk, Jack and I took a tour of a few suburban blocks and along part of an extensive creek-side trail network. We met lovely dogs and their lovely owners and exchanged greetings on this calm, warm sunny day. It is a lovely wee town and I take pleasure in seeing well-kept, older smaller homes. They are not pretentious but express a quiet dignity and contentment without any need to impress anyone. And that impresses me. Sadly, there is a cancer of neo-suburbia encroaching all around the town but it is easy enough to stay on this side of the creek where clear, cold, safe to drink for the stream water still runs. Today is the only one I have and I intend to enjoy it. It is Thanksgiving and I did not wake up elsewhere. Good enough!
Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich by promising to protect each from the other. ~Oscar Am ringer, “the Mark Twain of American Socialism.
We slide down the slippery slope called autumn. Our first frost of this fall glitters on the roofs this morning as the reluctant sun rises under a clear cold sky. There’s no turning back so we may as well ride it out and get on with it. If we gain enough momentum, perhaps we’ll zoom across the valley called winter and find ourselves well on the way to spring before we know it. Yeah right! It was only a month ago that I slept out on a dock. Now here we are digging in the closet for winter coats.
Like springtime, if you don’t like the weather, wait a few minutes and it will change. There are periods of lovely sunlight, then bursts of cold rain. Within the advance to winter we are having the cold approach of a federal election later this month. The wearisome political signs are everywhere. Posters line our streets and highways, dot lawns and store fronts much to vandal’s delight. A televised “debate” earlier this week between the federal leadership hopefuls left me squirming in disdain as everyone tried to outshout and insult each other. Other inane election stories on television leave me inclined toward indignant rage. A friend and I recalled how as kids, for Halloween costumes we would black our faces with burnt cork. No one considered it a racial innuendo. That candidates would use twenty-year old photos of a young man at a costume party to try and slander another is pathetic. It is childish and self-demeaning; I know who has persuaded me away from voting for them.
Beyond our Canadian borders, US politics also amuse and confuse me; England too. With all the politicians stumbling about peeing in each other’s cornflakes, how the hell do they ever get around to actually doing the job their constituents hired them to do? If you are old enough to know what a gong show is…well! The bong of the gong goes on. There are no alternatives. Party politics, in the end, are ridiculous, no matter whom you decide to support. At least, in our system, we are still free to leave, any time, anywhere. Real estate is very affordable in Syria, or Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Bangladesh, just to name a few. No need to name this dude, but how to you sit idly by when anyone tweets that they “have a great and unmatched wisdom?” (No, that is not taken out of context) It seems to be a neo edition of the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes.’ Seriously! And apparently, they are all as goofy.
A neighbour who has held a major bucket-list item of seeing Africa finally dreamed and schemed herself onto her trip of a lifetime. Several countries were on her two-month itinerary and on her arrival in South Africa, she sent a photo of herself paragliding. I joked that was a slow way to fly the length of such a big continent. Nearly a month into her adventure her ankle exploded during a white water rafting adventure in Zambia. She never got to see Victoria Falls. The hospital there was so basic that the doctors had to hold her x-rays up to the sun to read them. Struth! It took a few days to get to Johannesburg where that hospital would not accept her medical insurance. Miraculously she found a flight home via Hong Kong and made it through that airport without any political demonstrations. I cannot imagine the misery of her travels.
Finally, in Vancouver, after a jaunt around the world, the hospital there turned her away and directed her back to Vancouver Island. By the time she arrived in Nanaimo her fragmented ankle had been injured for well over a week and so then the hospital here tried turning her away; no beds. Finally, in desperation, she persuaded them to look at her x-rays again and so she found a bed in a hall. The ankle was in such bad shape by then, they waited another six days and have finally operated and pieced the mess back together. I worry that she is able to keep her foot. And we thought we had troubles!
Back from our morning walk Jack and I huddle by the gas fireplace. It was crisp and lovely with a light Westerly wind rising. Municipal workers were blowing the water out of the sprinkler system on the lawn of the town hall. It is indeed time to focus on things south. It occurred to me this morning that the local anchorage dubbed as Dogpatch was once regarded by myself, I’ll confess, with low regard. Folks living off the grid, for whatever reason often impose themselves on the tolerance and benevolence of others. They undermine their own dignity by doing that. Now I am on the beach, boatless. What a change in perspective! And in humility.
I cannot come up with resources, or even employment, to sustain myself. In an effort to stay positive and active I have put myself to work building an enclosure on my little trailer to haul camping amenities behind my truck on my next trip south. (Yes, I AM determined.) I have been thinking that an older, small camper for the back of the truck is all I need. Then I would have a four-wheel-drive RV of sorts. Now it has occurred to me that all I need is a safe, dry place to sleep comfortably. Why not turn the trailer into a small camping vehicle? One of the best trips ever was with a teardrop trailer. I can build this into a fold-up camper with standing headroom at one end. It already has a ramp which can double as a small porch, snake and scorpion-proof. I already have plenty of camping gear so why not do something big in something tiny? My cameras and laptop don’t know what sort of RV I’m based in and I’ve learned from experience with my little teardrop trailer that this is the way to meet some awesome people. Those that pick you out because of your humble rig are the ones to get to know. So there!
I’ve just discovered something worth sharing if you happen to like genuine Mexican food. This Michoacán rural grandma has become a YouTube star with her very basic cooking show. No glitz, no make-up, just out in the rustic backyard with the chickens. You don’t need to speak Mexican to see how she does things. She has some very neat tricks.
‘Shrooms and stools. That was going to be the title, intended to accompany these photos of wild autumn fungi. Then I realized that someone out there would find the words offensive or even vulgar. I am adamantly blue-collar and know my perspective is quite skewed by the standards of some other people. But if you’re trying to live your life without offending anyone, you don’t have a life. Sorry! It is those differences which help folks move to higher planes, if they want to. Perhaps my skin is chaffed a bit thin in the wake of an ongoing strata-home stand off. Apparently some dear souls are offended by the very sight of this lumbering old bush ape but I digress and have already said too much. It’s all in the way folks choose to look at things and if everyone wakes up content, who’s wrong? Some never will be. I guess that’s their bliss.
There is an old urban joke about a fellow driving home who receives a call on his mobile phone from his wife. She anxiously tells him to be careful, the local radio station has just reported that some nut is driving against the traffic on the freeway. “One?” he exclaims, “They’re all going the wrong way.” Perspective. Uh huh. Anyway ‘shrooms and stools. Mushrooms and toadstools…right?
There is only one kind of wild mushroom I know I can eat safely. Many toxic fungi and edible ones look too much the same for my eye; some are only safe to eat at a certain stage of maturity. Sometimes it is tempting, I love mushrooms, but eating the wrong one can apparently be a horrible way to die. Other poisoned reactions merely leave you wishing you could check out. I photographed one puffball fungus that a bird or squirrel had been enjoying, but then some creatures can eat foods which are not for us. Think of what we eat. I did notice a crow flying some intriguing aerobatics. Magic shrooms?
There’s a storm coming, a prelude, says the forecaster, to a nice stretch of fair weather. Have you ever noticed that before some heavy weather, there is often a spate of odd behaviour? People drive and interact oddly. Wildlife can be especially careless, out feeding up before they have to hide and wait out the tempest. Their danger assessments shift from short term danger to long term. Most of the places where Jack and I walk have copious thickets of blackberries. All those brambles are a haven for rabbits. Rabbit populations are cyclic, sometimes there are few and the rodents are very furtive. In periods of massive over-population they become quite cavalier about their well-being. That’s a lot like people I think.
Oddly, as I write about perspective and self-preservation, a Canadian investigative program, called the Fifth Estate is on television. It is running a story about gun ownership and the right to own assault-type weapons in Canada. An idiot holding an AR15, a direct copy of a military weapon, tells the camera that “this is not a weapon.” What? What! He claims it is merely for sport. I am livid. I have lived in rural environments much of my life. I once owned many firearms ,over two dozen at one time, including handguns. I had some strange arguments for my arsenal, but it was because they were weapons that I possessed them. All, firearms are weapons, intended and designed to kill. Indulge in target shooting all you want, a firearm is specifically built as a killing tool. Why any urbanite requires any firearm is a mystery to me.
I once vigorously worked to protest bill C68 which required the registration of all firearms in Canada. I quoted Lloyd Axworthy whose words in support of his bill were almost a verbatim quote of Adolph Hitler decades earlier. The Nazis, in pre-war Germany had imposed a gun control on its citizens for obvious reasons. I argued that a gun is no more responsible for killing someone than a fork is for making people fat. I have conjectured that a rock, a stick, a car, a pair of panty-hose, infected blankets, water, fire, alcohol, have all been weapons. (It was once explained to me that the difference between John Wayne and Jack Daniels is that Jack is still killing people.) I am fearful of a system which ultimately leaves firearms only in the hands of those who should least have them, both criminals and at times police, one and the same all too often.
I confess to still owning one firearm. I carry it into backwood environments as a survival tool. The rest of the time it is well-hidden, locked and well away from the ammunition. I argue with myself at times about even owning that one, with as many reasons pro and con. Having it does not make me feel more secure or manly.
We accept gun violence as part of our daily entertainment. Try to find a movie to watch without some shooting somewhere in its course. I watched the new film “The Goldfinch” a few days ago. It was well done, sensitive and emotional yet it did not finish without the ubiquitous gun fight. We are all part of the problem and in the pressures of our frantic modern culture, some of us lash back. Some use a firearm. It is horrible and a symptom of a far deeper issue. I don’t have an answer. We have been working out how to kill each other long, long before gun powder was invented. I can think of no smarmy clichés to spark a new sensibility. In fact I don’t even know how a blog, which started about mushrooms and rabbits, becomes a rant about human nature.
Perhaps, my comments about the ebb and flood of populations sums it all up. If we can’t figure out how to live together in harmony how can we be so arrogant as to assume we can save the planet. Don’t worry; the host will rid itself of the parasite, let’s look into ourselves and the planet will become a fine place to live again. It is not about what someone else is supposed to do. Yes, it is time the next generation assume an aggressive role in forcing our race to stop being such irresponsible guests on this planet but, sorry young Greta Thunberg, you’ve missed your mark with me.
First things first. Global warming is part of a cycle billions of years old and we are certainly messing with that rhythm but we are not the sole cause. The rhythms of the universe are far bigger than we can comprehend. We do need urgently to clean up our act but stop the bullshit. I admire and agree with much of this young lady’s carefully scripted words and acting but for Godsake! The sixty foot carbon fibre sailboat she rode in for attention is a product of extreme toxic processes which my research says produced up to 140 tonnes of environment nastiness resulting in the highest CO2 emission “Zero Emission” sailboat to ever cross the Atlantic.
Now think of this showboating. There are many flights daily from Scandinavia to New York daily. They will all have at least a few empty seats. Greta could have taken one without costing the planet one extra carbon molecule. Airlines would probably have provided a free ticket in exchange for a little press. The boat trip will require at least four flight seats for crew to go to the US to bring the boat home. Please, don’t believe me, look it up for yourself. Once again, the message is about what someone else is doing wrong. When you can explain what sort of industry caused the warming which put sea shells on mountain tops, you’ll have both my ears. Meanwhile, I refuse to participate in the profit of paranoia. If that makes me unpopular… OK. I choose to think for myself.
As everyone knows, Canada is in the midst of a federal election campaign. It is a referendum about our political future, including our present figurehead, Mr. Dress-up. Poor guy, no matter how hard he tries to be politically correct, he just screws it up a little more. He just can’t seem to help himself.
This came on Facebook from a friend.
To all candidates and all parties…
Negative campaign ads WILL cost you my vote.
Tell me in a positive way what you can do for our country, and I will listen.
Otherwise, we are finished.
I urge ALL Canadians to take a stand on this! Smear campaigns are NOT the Canadian way.
Right on! There is hope.
Here is this blog’s closing quote. Again it is something sent by a friend and I include a quote which is the summation of the lovely story about an old lady’s benevolence. She says:
“ It’s important to be kind. You can’t know all the times you’ve hurt people in tiny, significant ways. It’s easy to be cruel without meaning to be. There’s nothing you can do about that. But you can choose to be kind. Be kind.”
Black Friday is past, now it is Black Sunday and then Cyber Monday. Folks with bellies full of turkey are out there decimating themselves and their families on highways all over America. It is not a cheery thought. Wearily, once again it is the time when the annual worship reaches a frenzied climax of our religion, Consumerism. Our temples: the malls. Black Friday! What a way to start a time of year that is supposedly about peace, love, hope and togetherness.
There is still a quarter of November to wade through and I am sick of Christmas already. People have their homes and yards draped in garish decoration. The tradition of coloured lights near Christmas time has become another competition of excess between neighbours. In the daylight, lawns are littered with deflated effigies of santas, reindeer, snowmen, and other crass visual clichés. With all those lights blazing, I wonder what happens to the “Think Green” messages about reduced consumption. Meanwhile, the communities of homeless folks hunker down for winter by adding extra tarps over their individual tents.
When I was young, Thanksgiving in Canada was celebrated at the same time as it was in the US. It was set at this date to celebrate the end of harvest and the completed preparations for the winter ahead. Usually, winter was well set-in with snow and bitter cold. There was little to do with Christmas in the wind other than the Sears and Eaton’s Christmas catalogues which arrived in time to serve their mail order service. My mom’s birthday was December seventh and for me that was the first indication of the coming festivities. Christmas cards would begin to arrive in the mail (another lost tradition, both the cards and the post office) Christmas songs would begin to play on the AM radio and the season would rapidly build toward the fantastic peak of a celebration of life in the dead of winter. New Year’s day would mark the end of it all. It was the intensity that made Christmas such a special time. All gone now, blurred in a greyness of marketing that has gone on for weeks already. Bumhug!
The darkness and dampness of winter has seeped into everything. ‘Seafire’ feels like a tomb inside. It takes hours to exorcise the penetrating chill of winter. I find it hard to believe that just two years ago, my beloved boat was a place of warmth and cozy shelter through a long, wet upcoast winter. To distract myself, I stay busy with my writing, photography and video-making. My most recent effort is now posted on YouTube.
That is the link which should take you directly to “The Fickle Sea.” I’m excited to consider what I might achieve in future with more experience and better equipment. I have a huge archive of poetry and will try to make videos built on the foundation of some of those poems. Finding good footage to splice together into a cohesive and complimentary visual poem is the challenge. Looking for beauty and positive perspectives within the blandness of winter and familiarity is my chosen method of maintaining good cheer and a sense of purpose. This evening the beginning of our first winter storm is evident. The forecasters have warned us for two days. The barometer has slowly and steadily declined. Rain clatters on the skylight over my desk and shrubbery outside the window flails in the rising wind. If a storm is inevitable, relax and enjoy it. You can’t do anything about it. Enjoy yielding to forces greater than yourself. It’s called storm ecstasy.
“The richest man is not he who has the most, but he who needs the least.” …anonymous
There is a tang in the air. The funk of fishy decay is inescapable. Dogs quiver and lose their hearing as they charge off to find their own dead salmon to roll in. There may be spawning runs as late as January but for the moment, the banks and bottoms of our local streams are littered with the corpses of dead salmon from the most recent event. The last few stragglers laconically swim against the current. Eagles and gulls sit along the river edge looking sated and sluggish. There is bear scat along stream-side trails and some diligence is due because Jack, in all his dogliness, might be inclined to try and impose indignities at any bruins he may come across. He’ll brook no large intruders to his private world. With diminished hearing, his realm can be very private. His elderly sophistication may well have had him rise above the old indulgence of perfuming himself by rolling on a rotten fish but today he ran ahead out of sight. My angst about him returning embalmed with “Eau de Poison Parti” came from past experience. No perfuming but I found him belly-deep in the water of a local river snacking on a decaying delicacy. He is, after all, only being a dog. In consideration of some of the noxious things humans eat; well, at least dead fish are organic. Just don’t try licking my face.
This week I discovered a grand place to walk with my cameras. It is heaven for Jack. We’ve been back twice already. Only a few minutes from home, the estuary of the Chemainus River was once the site of a large sprawling farm acquired by the company which built the huge, and often foul pulp mill at Crofton. It has returned to nature in a grand way. The blackberries have invaded many of the fields which lie among the swamps and backwaters of the broad river mouth. A delightful place, you’ll find me there often in the future. It takes little imagination to see native villages here long before the white invaders arrived. The name Chemainus has a first nations origin which I’ve decided to finally quit pondering.
This comes from Wikipedia: “The name Chemainuscomes from the native shaman and prophet “Tsa-meeun-is” meaning broken chest. Legend says that the man survived a massive wound in his chest to become a powerful chief. His people took his name to identify their community, the Stz’uminus First Nation, formerly the Chemainus Indian Band.”
Considering that I survived a serious chest trauma and subsequent major heart surgery I am now wondering if “Tsa-meeun-is” should become my new name. You’ve got to admit there is a certain ring to it; “Chemainus Fred.” What really intrigues me is that, for thirty years, I’ve been driving by the inconspicuous road which provides access to the trails and meadows of this fantastic eco-sanctuary. Go figure! I am the guy who is constantly harping on about seeing what you look at. A fellow whom I met there today claimed that he has lived as an immediate neighbour to this sprawling old farm and had only just discovered the access after twenty-one years. So, I don’t feel quite so chagrined. In any case the massive acreage was once Swallowfield Farm. It seems a shame that after all the industry of clearing this rich bottomland that it no longer produces food and instead sponges effluent from the looming mill.
But it is always a joy and wonder to find a treasure that has been so close. I have noted numerous survey stakes in several places and and desperately hope that the word “development” is nowhere in the future of this piece of heaven.There is a life lesson in that and I remember a TV clergyman named Robert Schuller often saying, “Bloom where you’re planted.” Yep, you’ve got to see what you look at. I keep saying that.
November slides on toward winter. Veterans Day has passed. Thank you all for your kind remarks about my YouTube film ‘Swoop.’ I am clearly not the only one who questions what it is we choose to think of on Remembrance Day. A viscous heavy rain hammers down for increasingly longer intervals. Soon it will persist endlessly for days and nights at a time. The bright leaves have been beaten off the trees and now lay on the ground as a dull, slimy carpet. The temperature hovers just above freezing, providing a penetrating, bone-chilling dampness. It will seem warmer when the temperature drops and the humidity is frozen out of the air. Friends are migrating south. I wonder how to deal with the long, dark, bleak cold winter ahead. My only hope is to stay busy and find cheer within each long hour ahead.
“It is more beautiful to hear a string that snaps than never to draw a bow,” is a line from a book titled “The Little Old Lady Who Broke All The Rules,” by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg. The novel is about a small group of geriatrics in a Swedish care home who decide their existence is so miserable that they can only improve things by turning to a life of crime. They reason the worst that can happen is to end up in prison which, they decide, may be a fate better than the one they endure. There are many of us who can relate. I have planned, schemed and worked for years with the intention that by now I’d have ‘Seafire’ somewhere in a Southern Latitude. Palm trees, tepid water to swim in, a simple warm life with a lower cost of living and, the fantasy goes, sustained by my writing and photography. That dream was my entire focus, to the exclusion of other pleasures and satisfactions. I deferred the joy of the moment for a dream. It has not worked out; yet. Although the vision still flickers on, there are waves of hopelessness. Thank God I have my creative endeavours and a sense of humour. I reluctantly mention this, not as a lament, but only as an affirmation to the millions of others at my age who are in a similar situation enduring a despair which is deep and very dark. You are not alone, small comfort that may be. I have been actively searching for employment but no-one seems inclined to hire a man with a lifetime of skills and experience which younger workers could learn. The damnedest thing is, despite health issues, I am still vital and don’t feel at all a senior. There is a lot we old farts can contribute.
How a culture treats its young and its seniors is a pulse-taking of its general health. And, we’re sick! Both the old and the young are the future of a society. The young have the energy and the elderly have the life-lessons to pass on and utilize that power efficiently. That is how the human race thrived for millennia. Now we’ve replaced ourselves with gadgets of our own making. Artificial intelligence is here. Stupidity is as prevalent as ever.
Life is certainly not fair regardless of whatever expectations one clings to. My misadventures began with a simple fall of a mere three feet! Bang! That instantly began an ongoing struggle with health and financial issues. Throw in a genetic disposition for chronic depression. That I have endured like this for nearly twenty years has to be some sort achievement of positive thinking. It is painful to feel like an outcast within a system to which you, in your productive years, contributed millions directly and otherwise. And it can always be worse. I could be a geezer in some place like Yemen or Syria or, God forbid, Toronto, New York or …well,the world has a lot of armpits!
I am thankful that I live in such a wonderful place, but it is frustrating to end up like this while all around me I see folks with assets and wealth they don’t know what to do with. They certainly have not earned them, either by working hard, or smart. It’s the luck of the draw and for those of you who have achieved comfort and apparent security, know that it can also all come tumbling down with amazing speed. It is all temporary. All that stuff that you think you own; well folks, actually it owns you. I also know that all the shininess which I catch myself coveting at times, is, in our culture, mostly financed. Folks with no debt are rare and …truly wealthy. It just doesn’t seem right but that’s the way the pickle squirts! However, one of the joys of aging is to know that nothing is forever. “This too shall pass.”And, I muse, there may soon come a time when aged wizards who can sweat and bleed and dig in the dirt to produce food, and who can interpret the lines of tiny symbols in paper books will be highly revered mystics. I won’t feel redundant any more.
How sweet it will be when things finally get better. And, they will!
“The Flat Earth Society has members all around the globe.” … anonymous