Good Grief

Broom Flower. Collectively despised by many because of their overwhelming allergy affects. Individually, they’re quite stunning.

Over the past month of shock and emotional devastation after the sudden loss of our daughter, it has occurred to me that grief is simply a massive attack of self-pity. Now then, I am one of those who prefers the company of dogs to people so value my opinions at your own peril. I can certainly tell you that dogs do grieve but they have also found a balance of living in the moment and getting on with simply being. The little dog Ayre which we have inherited from our daughter has endured a massive trauma from the loss of her prime human unit but she has attached herself like a limpet to Rachel’s mom. She is learning to trust me (a male human unit) and allows me now to show her affection without employing her piranha teeth. She possessed a natural dread of men in general and we have climbed a steep and slippery slope in the past weeks.

Ayre the dash dog. Remember those little cardboard critters with the bobble-heads that folks put on the hat shelf in their car? I’ve got a live one!
Ayre meets Leo. He’s 16 and still a feisty independent wee dude.
Teaching a new dog old tracks. She loves to explore.

Each day is a triumph in the development of our relationship and we enjoy long pleasant walks on the wonderful trails here around Ladysmith. I’ve reluctantly allowed her to wander along off-leash and she is proving to be quite trustworthy. I also find myself scanning the sky for eagles, I’m sure she’d make a nice light snack for them. We also have cougar, coyotes and other predators so I’m constantly playing father goose as I allow my wee hound the full parameter of being a dog. I learned long ago that to establish a full and lasting bond with any dog is that you must demonstrate your trust in them. I don’t pick her up whenever another dog approaches so that she can develop confidence in her abilities to socialize with her own kind. I focus on the other dog’s owner and I may pick Ayre up if I can detect any darkness. I’ve watched these creatures in action in their native Mexico and know how well they can fend for themselves. She has to learn that too.

Camas flower. They are stunning. Their bulbs were once a staple food for indigenous people.
A dogwood tree in full glory. What a wonderful time of year when so many flowers are blooming at the same time.

Speaking of darkness, my website designer, in whom I had placed my trust, suddenly announced that she would go no further with my account. She had put together a proposal of how to develop my talents and provided a quote. The quote seemed reasonable and the proposal was exciting. I did mention to her that I had no money pit and operate on a very tight budget but accepted her terms. I also asked to meet her for a few minutes, just to hang a face on the voice. Our working relationship has been amiable and complimentary. I know that I have a social skill-set of a badger at times but I don’t know what brought on this prompt flush. Strange! Folks these days develop intimate relationships with each other although they are on opposite sides of the planet. Someone five minutes down the road wants to have an arm’s length interaction. I am one confused bog-trotter on this one.

WANTED One local web designer.

Gramma’s house. The effect was enhanced by the aroma of fresh cinnamon buns from the bakery next door.
Above the bakery. Leave a light in the window.
Mountain Lilies. Rare and already fading.
This rock in the path looked like a pig’s head to me. It has only taken me ten years to notice it.
The trilliums are starting to fade. What’s more beautiful than a fading flower? Take that as you will.

So suddenly, my little home-made stealth/transformer trailer needs some major attention. I was quite proud of my clever fold-up design and it has impressed many people. However, I made it with bargain-priced plywood from Chile. It was beautiful but after a couple of our winters it’s falling apart like old cardboard. To complicate my Fredondrum I’ve just bought a tiny motorcycle which requires a partial dismantle and a full set-up of the trailer every time I want to load or unload. Yep, here I go again, rip and rebuild. I’ve decided that maybe always being to stand up inside, the full length of the trailer is a good thing. Not having to erect and assemble my contraction is a good thing too! Some sniffing about turned up a few old truck canopies, for FREE, and so here I go again. Now I have a solid top with sides and windows and all (yeah right) I have to do is fit it to the trailer base and make it look like something which did not come from Clem’s garage. Stay tuned as once again I try to reinvent the wheel.

NOW WHAT? Here we go again. More Fredizing. Normal folks would just go buy what they needed. But not me. Inventor of the square wheel.

More on the new motorcycle next blog. I drove it home from Nanaimo to Ladysmith today through and hail. Yet I live. I just can’t feel anything. Thank goodness for the face mask I just bought. I was worried about catching bugs in my teeth. “Haar Billy, back before global warming we used to have insects. They were all crusty on the outside and gooey in the middle. Some didn’t taste so good.”

The dream. Whenever I see evidence of a young dreamer I feel a little hope.
Mommy is that a tree hugger?
A square peg in a round hole. Long live the misfits!

Every morning I wake up to perform my one and only character. A Rising Phoenix in spite of it all.”
―  Michele Bell,

The Run Is Done

Lord steamin’ lychgate!
The morning sun vapourizes last night’s heavy dew.

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.

Autumn corn field. As the soil becomes saturated with rain, very large puddles will form. Flocks of wild swans will arrive to winter while feeding on the roots and insects in the mud.
Limber up! A beautiful climbing tree. I can still see the world through a boy’s eyes.
Welcome to de swamp! What a rich habitat for waterfowl of all sorts as well as deer and other wild creatures.
The lower fields. These former hay meadows immediately adjoin the Chemainus River’s mouth and fabulous estuary. There is a labyrinth of twisting channels and gravel bars, pools and islets. Seals, otters, fish, birds, insects and reptiles live in this wonder world.

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 Chemainus comes 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.”

The Blackberry Factory. With all the acres of wild berries, it could well be the source of wine, jam and other delights. Actually it is a pulp and paper mill, producing a horrific stench at times, referred to by some as the “smell of money.” I’ve long used the plumes of effluent as a weather beacon showing strength and direction of the Vancouver Island wind while sailing across the Strait Of Georgia from mainland Canada.
G’mornin! In the morning sun a fungus breaks up through the ground. How things so delicate can displace hardened earth and stones is amazing.
You are being watched. Bald eagles blend into the forest while they preen in the sun and wait for a meal to pass by.
Jack keeps an eye on his patch. A seal had shown itself a few minutes earlier. This is a final bend in the river before it floods out into a broad estuary.


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.

You and me, some wine and cheese and fresh bread and a dry patch of grass. Yeah right! It’s November dude!

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.

For some odd reason, I, who loves being at sea out of sight of land, also have a passion for the intricacies and entanglements of swamp land. Bog Trotter!

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.

Reluctantly we turn up the shining path and stroll back to another reality.

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.

Berry Lane,… there’s a song in this. Imagine all the creatures living within the shelter of these vast beds of brambles. They are acres of them.

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!

Find the deer. They’re in there somewhere.
My good friend Jack. He waits patiently while I yarn it up with other dog walkers. All the photos in this blog, to this one, were taken on today’s wander. Wot a day!

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!

This is one of my signature photos; taken one fine day, many years ago while sailing close-hauled on the original ‘Seafire.’

The Flat Earth Society has members all around the globe.” … anonymous

Blossoms and Boats

Red Dogwood in full glory.

Well, the exuberant celebration of spring blossoms is winding down. I’ll post a couple of Dogwood flower photos,.They’re now all gone from the trees. We’re into the black cottonwood, or alder as they’re commonly known here, season of blowing seeds.

Cottonwood seeds ready for launch.
A drift of Cottonwood seeds. Only one in a million needs to take root.
Until the next rain, the stuff will be everywhere. Doesn’t this look like a warm and fuzzy creature?

It’s clear why they’re called cottonwood. The Scotch broom is in its spring bloom, much to the misery of allergy suffers. There will be a second flowering in late summer, but for now we’ll just worry about what we’ve got on our plate. Already, there is a smell of smoke in the air which heralds forest fire season. that’s just too darned early.

Standard White Dogwood blossom, British Columbia’s floral emblem
Dogwoods downtown
Apple blossoms, just to help the perfume in the air.
Scotch Broom, an invasive species that tortures some allergy sufferers. I think the flowers are beautiful.

Before I go further I should mention a really awesome shop I visited up in Courtenay. A good kayak store is hard to come by but Comox Valley Kayaks have been in business for many years, and for good reason. I’d never stopped in before but was looking for a couple of items I could not find anywhere in Nanaimo. Even without my kayak along they fitted me out with the perfect items and at a fair price. The service was great, the staff knowledgeable and friendly (Even the lovely black German Shepherd) and the inventory quite impressive. I’m recommending them because I am that impressed. They only offer what is reasonable to expect, and all too rare it seems. That makes it commendable.

The Ladysmith Maritime Society’s own wooden boat fleet. Lots of varnish, elbow grease and love.
The ‘Ontario’ the way we used to run our navy.
The grates of wrath. No place for bare toes.
Morning calm, head of the parade is ‘Herself’
Now where’d I leave my mug?
Foredeck detail of a 1954 Chris Craft
Hit me
What is there to say?
The name says it all
A stack full of pipes
A gleam in her eye
The office

There was a wooden boat gathering in the Ladysmith Maritime Marina last weekend where ‘Seafire’ is moored. I walked the docks early on Sunday morning before many other folks were up and about. My camera whirred. Now these folks are gone home to more varnishing and painting and I’m left here praying for some cloud cover to do my own painting out of the direct sunlight. So without any social comment (for a change) I’ll simply post my photos and hope you enjoy them. By the way, the mystery about the little aluminum sailboat in the last blog has been resolved.

That little tin sailboat again. There were over 1400 of these sold. Where are they now?

Lou, one of my faithful readers sent me information which reveal the boat was sold by Aerocraft Petrel Sailboats in the US. The boat was designed by the famous Philip Rhodes and built by Alcan Limited right here in Canada. Go figure huh? One photo I found shows a boat with a Transport Canada approval that indicates it was also sold by Eaton Viking. Cool! Thanks for the help Lou.

‘Herself’ and nothing but.

If you can love the wrong person that much, imagine how much you can love the right one.” …Bob Marley

Winter Descending

Up into the gloom. Bella Bella falling away rapidly behind and below.
Up into the gloom. Bella Bella falling away rapidly behind and below.

After a few days south I’m back in Shearwater, cold and damp and tired at the end of my first day back at work. I miss my wife Jill and my old dog Jack. ( He rolled in some dead rotting salmon while on a walk during the ride to meet my return flight. I can’t blame him for being a dog, but then it was Jill who had to bathe him.) The sunken tug is now gone and the masses of people surrounding that grounding are slowly dwindling. We’re getting used to the idea of Trump, and all puckered up for what comes next. Snow is creeping down the mountains and I’m hearing folks making plans for Christmas. Some are moving south; permanently.

Out of the gloom. always at home in the sky, this old pilot always has a discomfort at not being at the controls.
Down and out of the gloom. Always at home in the sky, this old pilot always has a discomfort with not being at the controls.
A sign of home, a familiar sight. Atug tows three empty chip barges from Nanaimo to Port Mellon. Just on watch, the mate will be settling in to the wheelhouse, his deckhand cleaning up the lunch dishes. Been there, done that!
A sign of home, a familiar sight. A tug tows three empty chip barges from Nanaimo to Port Mellon. Just on watch, the mate will be settling in to the wheelhouse, his deckhand cleaning up the lunch dishes while the rest of the crew have their afternoon nap. Been there, done that!
Thar be home port! Beyond the Gulf Islands, Ladysmith Harbour sits in the afternoon gleam.
Thar be home port!
Beyond the Gulf Islands, Ladysmith Harbour sits in the distant afternoon gleam.
Nanaimo! Nearing the of the final leg,,, in the rain of course. Floatplanes are the quick, convenient, scenic link from YVR South to Nanaimo's inner harbour.
Nanaimo! Nearing the end of the final leg,,, in the rain of course. Floatplanes are the quick, convenient, scenic link from YVR South to Nanaimo’s inner harbour.
YVR... Belly button of British Columbian transport. Looking down I can almost hear the sirens and think of wolves howling from the quiet of the Great Bear Rainforest. This photo was taken from a Harbour Air Turbo-Otter floatplane, a wonderful way to cross the Strait of Georgia.
YVR… X marks the spot, the Belly button of British Columbian transportation to and from the rest of the world. Looking down I can almost hear the sirens of urbania and then think of wolves howling from the solitude of the Great Bear Rainforest. It is like two different planets. This photo was taken from a Harbour Air Turbo-Otter floatplane, a wonderful way to cross the Strait of Georgia.

I love this country, it’s people and it’s secrets and the wonderful light when the sun shines for a few minutes. That is a rare event at this time of year and when it occurs, the air is usually cold and drier. Being cold and dry is not much better than being cold and damp. There’s a chill in the air at all times and living in this California- built vessel is nippley, especially in the morning. I guess it is winter and when I hear the weather reports from the interior I’m happy enough where I am although Mexico is always on my mind. Jill will be joining me here for a few days at Christmas and I certainly wish for some rare fine days of calm and sun.

Watching the neighbour's cat. Now let's go to the creek and roll in some dead salmon.
“You’re back! You Jerk! Where did you bugger off to this time? I give what I get. Make an appointment! I’m busy watching the neighbour’s cat…. unless… you want to take me to the creek to roll in some dead salmon.”       Actually his rollicking welcome always instills an absolute sense of well-being.

Meanwhile dull daily routine is the course followed by dull evenings and long dark nights. Sometimes I can hear wolves howling in the surrounding forest. This morning, as i write, the last quarter of the super moon rises in the east. It is a thin scythe and accompanied by Venus, which I sometimes call the Muslim moon. At least the sky is clear. A thick coating of frost sparkles on the dock.

A week after I began to write this blog it is again Saturday morning. The docks are slick with a greasy pre-frost coating. After a long sleepless night, the cold-damp has seeped into my bones. My first sips of a morning coffee descend into my innards with a welcome spreading warmth. I’ve just reviewed a blog from friends in South Africa loaded with incredible wildlife photos. I wonder what the hell I’m doing here. Despite the beauty here, despite my sincere desire to be happy wherever I am, I ache for southern latitudes. Warm sand under my feet, palms rustling in a fragrant breeze…oh shit! This won’t help me make it through this day, here.

Back in Bella Bella again. Fresh snow on the mountains, the smell of it in the wind.
Back in Bella Bella again. Fresh snow on the mountains, the smell of it in the wind.

I’m building and installing a small air exchanger which will help dehumidify the boat and I’d best get to work. It is not raining, at the moment; no time to waste on a day like this.

Fidel Castro died last night. His passing truly marks the end of an era. I remember the Cuban missile crisis, the air raid drills and how we all expected to be nuked. My fundamentalist parents knew that he and Khrushchev were the Anti-Christ and that Armageddon was imminent at any moment. I wonder now who the fundamentalists believe is the devil re-incarnate. Trump the fornicator? Putin perhaps?

I’ll end this short blog by using a lengthy quote from a book I found on the shelf in the local laundromat. Isn’t it wonderful how the gems of life turn up in moments and places least expected and are often not realized at the time? This pocket book is called “The Wayfinders” by Wade Davis. CBC co-sponsors an annual series called the Massey Lectures. They are, in some ways, a fore-runner of Ted Talks. Their content is profound and cerebral. This series of lectures explored “Why ancient wisdom matters in the modern world.” Davis is an explorer who has travelled the backwoods of the world. He writes here extensively about the future of resource-based industry in his home province of British Columbia.

Environmental concerns aside, think for a moment of what these proposals imply about our culture. We accept it as normal that people who have never been on the land, who have no history or connection to the country, may legally secure the right to come in and by the very nature of their enterprises leave in their wake a cultural and physical landscape utterly transformed and desecrated. What’s more, in granting such mining concessions, often for trivial sums to speculators from distant cities, companies cobbled together with less history than my dog, we place no cultural or market value on the land itself. The cost of destroying a natural asset, or its inherent worth if left intact, has no metric in the economic calculations that support the industrialization of the wild. No company has to compensate the public for what it does to the commons, the forests, the mountains, and rivers, which by definition belong to everyone. As long as there is a promise of revenue flows and employment, it merely requires permission to proceed. We take this as a given for it is the foundation of our system, the way commerce extracts value and profit in a resource-driven economy. But if you think about it, especially from the perspective of so many other cultures, touched and inspired by quite different visions of life and land, it appears to be very odd and highly anomalous human behaviour.”

Phew! In review of my recent blogs about the local diesel spill, this book really hit home. We are all trained in our culture that our prime purpose in life is to make money and then consume voraciously. How do we de-program a lifetime of that indoctrination and learn tseparate need from greed?

The air exchanger is now complete and installed and running. It is intended to perform as a maintenance-free dehumidifier. Hopefully the boat will be cozier inside with drier air. By morning I’ll know.

My home-made air exchanger, shoe-horned into the rope locker. It is a simple device that removes the damp air from the bottom of the boat and draws fresh, drier air in. IT WORKS!
YES! IT WORKS! My home-made air exchanger, shoe-horned into the rope locker. It is a simple device that removes the damp air from the bottom of the boat and draws fresh, drier air in. I need to remove the rest of the muck from the locker on a warmer, drier day.

Finally, a note of inspiration. I’ve just listened to a report  about an incredible sailor named Jeanne Socrates. She’s made two attempts this fall to set out from Victoria on her sailboat for her next solo circumnavigation. Jeanne has already sailed around the world alone a few times. She’s had to turn in for San Diego due to heavy weather. That, in itself, at this time of year, is a considerable feat.  Her boat, ‘Nereida’ is a 38′ Najad, which can be a handful in heavy weather for a full crew. Jeanne sails alone. She is seventy-four. Her website is As I posted the following photo, my weather station began bleeping out the latest gale warning. The barometer is at   990.6 mb and plummeting rapidly. Have a nice day.

As you read this caption, somewhere on a distant storm-tossed sea, a lone sailor waits through long minutes for an easing of the elements and the continuation of the voyage. A storm never ends, enjoy it while it lasts.
As you read this caption, somewhere on a distant storm-tossed sea, a lone sailor waits through long, long minutes for an easing of extreme conditions and the continuation of the voyage. A storm never ends, enjoy it while it lasts.

I think that a man should not live beyond the age when he begins to deteriorate, when the flame that lighted the brightest moment of his life has weakened.”

… Fidel Castro