Call Of The Tree Frog

Bottoms Up
Breathe. The swans are getting restless. Some stay resident, but many migrate northward in spring. The sight of them in flight and the sound of their clear loud calls are unforgettable.

Last night the light of the waning half-moon glowed through an overcast which continued to rain. This morning the precipitation had ended, here at least. The day seemed bright despite the overcast, perhaps in contrast to days of deep gloom. Doggies and I went for a walk in a local park named Hemer, after a local farming family who donated the land. It is a delightful network of trails sprawling through second-growth forest which blankets broken ground sprawling between a few small lakes and swamps.

Cornered. Some last spawners of the season take a rest before their final hurdle.

Today the woods reverberated with the peculiar croinking grunt of tree frogs. I have spent many hours through the years stalking these tiny reptiles. I have yet to see one. As you approach the apparent source of their call, they fall silent. You dare not move or make a sound if you want to hear them call again. It is a waiting game which I invariably loose. No matter how hard I methodically scan the branches, trunks, leaves and plants I never see one.

(This video clip may take a while to download)

Tree Frog seg

For those who can’t wait for the 2 minute download, here is a still shot of where I recorded the frogs. This is all second-growth forest.
A fir, a cedar and a maple. Original old-growth trees. The fir, on the left, is about eight feet in diameter.

It’s frustrating. I love their call and how they herald the distant spring. Today there was yet another loud proclamation of the changing season. Through the echoing woods, from over a mile away, the roar of sea lions filtered over the distance. They inhabit the log booms just north of Dodd Narrows and have come to await the arrival of the annual herring migration. Those fish come here to spawn in the spring, according to their own mysterious timing. Like a symphony orchestra everthing is on the same page, playing its part perfectly and right on time. We’ve just got to sit back and enjoy the music instead of trying to be the conductor. Da da dum!

Done! The wonderful colours of this Cyclamen have cheered us through the autumn and winter. Now it’s a time for a rest.
Dos Amigos, deep in the woods.
Back at the ranch.
Too wet to plow.
Hemer Brook
Look up. Little dog, big trees.
Common Mergansers. They are reclusive and very hard to photograph.

The winter gloom of another rainy overcast provides almost enough light to take photographs that are often unfocused because of the low light and slow shutter speeds. Colours are drab but we do our best. Photography is a way of forcing myself to take an interest in the world around me. No matter how dismal, there is beauty and an effort to reach out for life. It is a deep mystery at times, but sometimes you have to accept things you do not understand. Bloom where you’re planted. Shed a little light in someone else’s eyes and you’ll find some for yourself.

Roots drawing life from a long-fallen mother log
Overflow filtration.
Winter Swamp, where the bog trotter roams.
Here too
Rush to the sea, a mile away. Through the trees filters the distant calls of a mob of sea lions.
A suggestion box? Looks like someone has emptied it. They must have had a ladder.
The ten horsepower dog. He’ll be big when he grows up! To gauge his size, note the footprint beside him. He is tethered simply with a string. A lovely character indeed.

If you know you can do it, why go in the first place? ” Iohan Guearguiev

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

Bombastic Bastard

Christmas kilowatts. This is the lower half of main street Ladysmith. The glow goes up the hill and then the homes try to compete with the gaudiness. Honey, just leave a candle in the window for me.

The weather girl in a tight skirt warned of a deluge of rain today, that dreaded atmospheric river. I opened the curtains to find a cloudless sky and watched as frost formed while the first light of day crept up the neighbour’s wall. So far so good. I hope she’s wrong about the snow.

The Christmas Arachnid. Not bad for the end of November.

Canadians are known for politeness. We are retiring and demure to a point of absolute timidity. We can find ourselves hanging off a cliff-edge with a bully standing on our fingers and peeing on our head. We’ll politely ask if someone could please bring us a small towel. Often when you stand up against an inequity you are branded as a troublemaker. Afraid of confrontation, we do nothing. I’m not suggesting that, like some of our neighbours to the south, we shoot someone for blinking but Jeeze Louise! It’s your life, eh!

Would you really pack your dirty knickers off to someone named Sue War?

Politicians are merely people we hire, or appoint, to do jobs we don’t want to tackle ourselves. That is so from the Prime Minister’s office down to the backyard politics of the strata council. There is the presumption that these folks have stepped forward to serve their fellows but all too often we have to contend with characters who have an agenda to massage their own ego by trying to manipulate and control their constituents. Being Canadians, we say “Oh OK eh.”

When we get to town what are we going to do? Chase cats? What if they’re bigger than us?
Ayre wise eyes. she’s proving to be an excellent big sister to little Libby.
My ball!

I live in a strata-titled development. There are eighteen share holders. We moved in after living in other strata-titled shituations but the appeal of this little home, and its location, were grand and so we took a deep breath and tip-toed in. We can easily walk to our small town mainstreet and they’ve now built a pub half a block away. Unfortunately many of our neighbours, and fellow share-holders, moved in as strata virgins and didn’t understand that there is more to communal life than simply paying monthly fees and letting someone else do the dirty work. Invariably, as in all politics, apathy is a prime breeding ground for those who have a craving for control and power, even at such a miniscual level.

Despite their furious denials, we have a couple of those folks on our tiny strata council. They try to manipulate their neighbours, telling them what they must and cannot do, and have expenditures without transparency. They constantly impose condescending tones on anyone who dares challenge them and even employ vindictive tactics if you challenge their petty tyrany. We hired a professional property management company to apply some objective direction but as it turns out, that agent slithered in with our questionable concillors and so we live in a dark little world of backyard politics. They are incompetent to the point of not knowing what they don’t know and adamnant that no-one else understands more than they do. I once named this home as our “Lock it and leave it” but it clearly requires some hands-on involvement. We’d just sell and leave but can’t find an equitable alternative, especially with certain health issues and all the hassles of moving. If you are considering a move to a strata-titled situation I suggest that it’s wise to go meet a few of your potential new neighbours and ask if they are content living there. Actually, meeting the folks next door before you are committed is a prudent thing to do before buying a new to-you home anywhere.

After the wind
Autumn Road

After living here for over a decade I finally went to our recent annual general meeting and raised hell. I was indeed the bombastic bastard who shook the bushes until the monkies fell out. In the end, I have only accomplished a new awareness of our strata council for my fellows and probably made some enemies. I know that will soon wear off, but it’s the best I can do. I am stunned that folks will allow a major investment which is their own home be so mis-managed with few or no questions. A person will pay the price of home ownership one way or another. I’ve become convinced that strata-titled living is overpriced for me.

There is an old wisdom which says “The fear of change is only overcome when the pain of a situation becomes too great to bear.” I guess we have a ways to go yet. Lordy, I miss my boat!

Yeah, I know, the greatest thing about living in Canada is that we are all free to leave if we don’t like it here. Sometimes, this stubborn old sailor is inclined to set out more anchoring gear when the wind rises. Grin and bare it Billy!

Meanwhile it’s Black Friday weekend, another milestone in our lemming consumer stupidity. “Buy now and save!” A wonderful and wise elderly lady once asked me “If ye canna pay for it once, how will ye pay for it twice?” It’s the wisest financial advice I’ve ever ignored.

A Tub Boat. Some folks will even pay to ride in a boat filled with water!

We go to our modern cathedrals, the malls, and worship our gods of consumerism. It’ll make us feel gooder for a little while. There must be some available credit on one card. All is well. First you have to find a parking spot somewhere on that vastness of mall pavement to leave your electric SUV. (Stupid Urban Vanity…it may never leave pavement) Later, you have to find it again. Perhaps that’s why so many new vehicles are available in garish colours. (Raspberry fluorescent green banana, range 3.7 km, bearing 176 degrees. Bleep it!) Then you have to get back into the thing. Some dufus has abandoned their vehicle an inch from yours so you can’t open your doors. You have to clamber in through the back hatch. That’s when the mall cop shows up. Christmas! Bumhug!

Glisten in the harsh light of dawn.
Ready for winter. No strata problems here!
Nice! No tree died in the making of this photo.

Get off your dead centers.”      Paul Harvey

The Dark Before The Dawn

Soggy bottom goats. It’s the time of year when summer seems a distant fantasy.
Under the Volcano. Mount Baker 10,781′ ASL is 149 km (about 94 miles) from my front door. It is a live volcano.

We all know that famous quote from Winston Churchill about how it is always darkest before the dawn. I sit writing this morning looking out a window at a thick cone of fog beneath a street light. There is a darkness blacker than the night and that impenetrable gloom smothers all. There is a palpable weight to the pre-dawn world. No bird sings. Jack is in his bed near my feet in what I fear may be his last days. Our deep affection for him is mixed with selfish guilt that he may be in pain. We wrestle with the dark decision we know we soon may have to make. His back legs are now paralyzed, he needs help with his basic functions. He’s a very stoic character and it is impossible to tell if he is suffering. Yet we cling to each minute of his presence and focus our will on keeping him alive and in comfort. I’ve spent hours laying with him, holding him, thanking him for all the wonderful years and trying to let him know that it is alright to let go and fly on ahead to find his peace. There is no catharsis with writing about this. I sure hope old Winnie was right. *

Hobbling along the beach a few weeks ago, Jack demonstrates his keen interest in the world around him. He seems determined to squeeze every drop of life out of each moment.

I’ve been reading a wonderful novel. ‘The Overstory’ by Richard Powers. The book deservedly won a Pulitzer. It is very cleverly written and leaves me feeling completely unworthy as any sort of writer. Among other interwoven themes Powers examines the militant environmental movement, the “Tree Hugger.” One of his persistent efforts is to show how complex and venerable the entire forest is; how interconnected all things natural are. Saving a piece of forest is not just about the trees, ultimately it is about a massive ecosystem called Earth. What is interesting to me is how I once was inclined toward the other side but have slowly evolved to hold a much broader view and respect beyond my own personal greed.

I’ve decided to start exploring old cafes I find, those quintessential “Greasy spoons.” This one is in Downtown Duncan.
It is very funky inside. The art is wonderful, the food was good.
March 18, 1985. The story is about a UFO enthusiast who had vanished. The ad is for Woodwards, a BC institution which closed its doors in 1993. Its famous jingle was “Woodwards, $1.49 day, Tuesday.”
For once I’m lost for a caption. What a lovely comic image.
A bird of a different bark.
The tiniest bark owl I’ve seen. Making these effigies and mounting them outdoors seems a growing trend.

I used to joke that it is interesting how most of our militant and vocal environmentalists come from a world entirely alien to forests and wilderness. Here in BC chances are good they live somewhere in the lower mainland and don’t give a fig for living without all their modern conveniences. Their home environment is the biggest clear cut in the province. Not only are the trees gone, the natural earth has all been ripped up and then smothered in concrete, asphalt, and alien vegetation. Millions of years of natural evolution wiped out for modern ease and personal convenience.

Hope! First crocus January 23rd.
Colour! Any colour to cheer the winter gloom.
This fungus on a decomposing log is as important to the grand scheme as any other organism, large or microscopic.
Another sort of fungi.

Our watersheds have been re-arranged to suit our current greeds. Rivers and streams have been diverted and channelled, smothered with concrete and culverts, or simply filled in or drained. Lakes are drained, we build on thier dried bottoms then howl when nature puts things back they way they were. Just think about how much of the earth is destroyed to build a highway, an airport or railway, a mall or a golf course, a subdivision or even a church. We then look for someone to blame when our prime real estate is flooded. After we’ve mutated much of our prime land we then import food from somewhere else on the planet instead of growing it ourselves. Let’s not discuss the footprint we leave because of that. Even this old sailor knows that is very bad economics. Being able to feed yourself first comes as a cornerstone of building wealth. I understand the deep need for an idea of wilderness and untouched forest. I don’t understand why the message is always about what someone else is supposed to do.When someone stands in front of a TV camera describing their loses to a natural event, it is always in terms of dollars. So before we get into our plastic electric suv (Stupid Urban Vanity) loaded with cardboard protest signs nailed to wooden sticks, let’s ask ourselves some basic questions. End rant.

Jack asks: “If shitting under a bush on the natural soil is bad, how come it’s OK to go to the effort of putting it in a plastic bag and then leave it hanging in a tree? People! Grrrr.

From my time as a boy laying in the grass watching the clouds, to being an old pilot with most of his life behind him, there is still magic in the sky.

* I’m posting this blog three days after I began to write it. Amazingly, Jack has rallied. He has found his legs again and can shuffle around on his own. He has his appetite back and his plumbing is functional. There is light in his eyes. He has resurrected himself. This morning there was a brilliant sunrise. Then the fog settled in again. Jack hangs on.

Crow Creek

There is something faster than the speed of light: the speed of darkness.

The Royal Flush Shit Show

Balls to it all. The night is over. Let’s look to the sunrise.
Where have all the bikinis gone?

Never buy camouflaged slippers. I spend half my evenings looking for them. One is starting to curl up. I am a bit annoyed. I paid ten dollars for the garden slug green rubber numbers in the East Kootenays just last summer!

Meanwhile, here in Ladysmith on Christmas Eve afternoon, it has begun to snow. Huge white soggy biscuits of the stuff. Many kids will be overwhelmed with joy right now but this seasoned old winter driver is staying home. In a hillside town loaded with wide-eyed folks careening about, it’s best to hunker down when the world is covered in this white grease. It may be pretty but it’s dead dangerous especially with all the other drivers out there who don’t get it. While I’ve pecked out this paragraph, a second call to arms from the fire hall siren has wailed out. Another wreck. Nothing like giving a potentially covid-infected stranger mouth to mouth.

Winter nerds!   (After their swim)
Complicated
Our town

Six days later, it’s still snowing. Shoveling snow is good exercise but I’d rather be floating down some Mexican beach like Bo Derek. You could call my version of the film “3,” or perhaps “Thump”. My wife has been horribly ill with a massive gastric affliction. I’ll avoid the graphic details and yes, we’re sure it’s not Covid-49 or any other deadly version. She’s had eight days of intense “cleansing” but I wouldn’t recommend this as a weight loss adventure. The title of this blog is a quote from her. Still, every time these days that you sniffle, cough or fart you find yourself wondering is this IT?

How I spent my winter vacation, hanging on.
… And a kite in a maple tree. Jack has responded to the snow like the puppy heart he’ll always be.
Yeah baby!
The ultimate happy dog.

We do live in strange times. In a local pharmacy cashier’s line-up I thought I had misread a label on a toy. The item was a tiny plastic dog, with a push-stick which fit into its back. It had four stiff legs and a wheel between the front two. There was a packet of tiny plastic treats you fed into its mouth. Then apparently, it fired them out a tiny orifice beneath the tail. There was a little scoop to pick them out. Really! The toy was named something like “furRealPoopalot.” I almost bought it. “Mommy what’s that old man playing with?” You can order them through Amazon. Go ahead, I know you want one! Next there will be a “Covid Collie”. There’s no limit to profit possibilities. Maybe we could form a “Poopsalot support group.”

A yarding session. I remember days like this. Walking the rolling logs covered in slippery snow, you are braced for the sudden icy plunge while wearing heavy caulk boots. Wherever you have to lay down to immerse your arms in the burning cold water there is probably a large pie of seal shit. It’s the romance of the sea.

Now it’s New Year’s Eve. We’ve had several snowy days and the temperature has plummeted to a horrific -4° C. Every year someone proclaims this one an especially severe winter but I remember ones far worse than this, like the one when it snowed four feet in one night ( I have photos) or the winter in the late eighties when the February temperature went down as far as – 20°C for several dayss while the wind howled incessantly. I don’t recall BC Ferries missing crossings because of extreme cold then. I would describe this as a normal coastal winter. Folks need drama and apparently Covid is not enough. This afternoon we’re under a thick blanket of snow and a wind chill of – 12°C. But it’s OK, we’ll forget.

Heron in cedar.
Watchers. Bald Eagles confirm a late salmon run.
Salmon stream
Cold as a fish

By anyone’s estimation it is a good year to put behind us, let’s call it a learning experience and move on. Hopefully the next is one when we all have someone to love, something to do and something to look forward to. There really is nothing more, it’s that simple.

Happy New Year.

If you don’t think you can be happy, or at least content, try missing a few days. It’s the only moment you’ve got. Avoid dancing on tables and remember that hangunders are always worse than the one before. Being pissed as a newt is no way to start the next year. We all make plenty enough bad decisions sober!

Winterhood. The engine hood of the ‘Hemoth’ reveals a frosty beauty.
When your ship comes in, don’t be at the airport.

Deep breaths are very helpful at shallow parties.” Barbara Walters

When You Don’t Have A Camera

When You Don’t Have A Camera

One of the reasons I carry a camera is to make myself find the beauty we so often overlook. This appeared on a rock face in an area where Jack loves to go. I don’t like seeing something natural defaced but this is beautiful.

The day begins black as inside a bear’s belly. Dawn crawls out of bed one toe at a time. It’s like that a few days before winter solstice when there’s a forecast of another imminent “atmospheric river” which will bring an increasing deluge through the weekend. The forecast contains a “Special Weather Statement” warning of extreme wind and rain. I have the engine partially apart in the ‘Hemoth at the moment and will not work in a winter storm. I’ve done that all too often for a living and this job may have to sit and wait. There has been an exhaust leak and now a fuel leak. That demands I disassemble the fuel system and the turbo charger and finally a part of the exhaust system.

Atmospheric River
Celestial Stream

It is like doing brain surgery through the rectum. Assembly A’s removal requires the extraction of unit B which needs A to be out of the way first. Then item “F” appears. Add 25 years of exhaust heating and cooling it becomes a Rubic’s cube with dark squares. That used to be called “Catch 22.” I can’t find my magic wrench so I buy a few others, cut them up and modify them. Often, only another quarter-inch of space would make the job so easy! Meanwhile everything is covered in a thick frost which will dissolve once it begins to rain. Christmas cheer? Bumhug!

This old mechanic offers up timeless curses about the engineers who design this shit and have, apparently, never held a wrench. Then I curse my hands. They’re arthritic and clumsy from doing this sort of work over a lifetime. I spread a tarp beneath the project to catch the things I drop.

The heart of the matter. That much-abused nut behind the turbo charger was actually self-welded to the iron base beneath it and also to the stud on which it was threaded. I had to chisel it off, one molecule at a time. Then I had to drill out the heat-hardened stud, tap fresh thread into the metal beneath, then manufacture and install a new stud. Once the turbo was removed I could finally repair the gap in the manifold flange visible beneath the turbo base. There is a small bolt on the lower side which had to be removed then re-installed. I talked to God a wee bit. Note the soot on the firewall from the diesel exhaust leak. 

Finally I can see the vague silhouette of a tree against the sky. It’s time to let old Jack take me for a shuffle before I crawl back under the truck’s hood. I’ll go back to work like a three-legged dog trying to make love to a greasy football. Retirement! One of my subtle pleasures is to sit with my morning coffee and do something for my next blog. It gives me a sense of accomplishment early in the day and thus fulfilled I go on to other endeavours. Then I’ll see how long I last under the hood until that cold winter rain soaks me from the arse down and eventually sends me packing off for a hot shower and dry clean clothes.

The Rapper
The Rabbit
Frere Jacques, dormez vous? His rabbit days are behind him except in his dreams.

We shuffled our way around the dog park. Jack left some splendour in the leaves which I promptly collected in the ubiquitous plastic dog bag, grateful for the hand warmer. Mornings like this remind me of the North Sea in this season. Brrr bloody brrr! To my wondering eyes old ladies began to arrive in a lower parking lot. They were clad in blankets and housecoats, bare-legged in wading shoes. I was stunned to see that they were hobbling briskly toward the beach. In moments these senior girls were frolicking in the water. I learn later that they do this every morning! You wouldn’t get me in there to my ankles…wearing boots! I’d go in a boy and come out a girl. Whoooo! I can only admire them. Of course, I’d left my mobile phone/ camera at home. (That underscores my enduring admonishment to always have some sort of camera along.) Well, while those Viking daughters now sit by someone’s crackling fireplace, or perhaps in a sauna, sipping fish eggnog and laughing raucously at their own bravado, I’m going up the hill and under the hood. Hand me that wrench please.

Well puddle me!
Beauty everywhere
Christmas colour complete with real ice drops.

If the road is easy, you’re likely going the wrong way.”
― Terry Goodkind

Under The River

In the eye of the hurricane. Or is it between rivers?
In the dog park.
Clear the park, here comes Jack. It is torture to watch your beloved old dog shuffling stiffly where he used to leap and bound and race. His running gear is shot but there’s still light in his eyes and a frequent smile on his face. He still charms everyone he meets.
Wot a morning!

Here I sit, a steaming mug of coffee beside me as I begin to write. I am in my camper, the “Hemoth”, in a friend’s backyard on Gabriola Island, visiting old haunts and friends. This is yet another blog in which I mention the rain. The next “Atmospheric River” arrived in the night. The rain drums a wild fandango on the camper roof. I lay up in the bed snug and warm, cozy in the result of all my efforts. The new mattress is very fine, the furnace works like a good one should. I looked out through the now not-leaking windows at the thin grey dawn and went to the brand-new toilet. Then it was time to light the new-used galley stove and perk a pot of coffee. My day can begin. Sheer decadence!

Another river arrives. Day shift at the toilet paper factory.
Lemon Soup.

Storm surge. Storm wind out on the open strait pushes the high tide even higher in Degnen Bay on Gabriola Island.

This island was my home for a few years. I worked in the local shipyard and have wonderful stories, not all happy, about what I can look back on as the end of an era. The restaurant has burned down, the shipyard is closed, any hope of reviving the wooden boat school is long-lost. Rumours of an ancient Indian curse on Silva Bay ring true. I’ll meander around the island and then hopefully catch a ferry back to the big island. There’s been a crewing problem on the ferry due to a shortage of Covid-vaccinated personnel and several sailing have been cancelled. Like a turtle with its home on its back I’ll be fine, the old man who lived in an egg.

Home again, checking my email, I come upon the following ad from someone selling insurance. “Burial coverage that lasts a lifetime.” It’s a lugubrious mix of words which can be interpreted a few different ways. I wonder if the ad-writer woke up in the middle of the night realizing their gaff. “We’ll cover your ass.” “Out of luck, you’re dead.” It will be hard pulling your foot out of that one. Thanks for the humour!

Sometimes the gods send you an angel. Today I was tinkering on the ‘Hemoth’ where it sits in our storage yard on the back alley. I was about to drive away when a senior in their small enclosed electric scooter trundled up the alley, effectively blocking my exit. I sat and waited, allowing them time to clear the alley without my imposition behind them. Finally I idled up the alley as slowly as I could but there was the little red cart blocking the route. I sat mumblefluxing to myself about how to deal with the situation. The occupant sat inside the cart’s plastic enclosure peering back at me as if she wanted me to pass her. Finally she dismounted and came back to the truck. She needed help. Her battery was dead and she asked if I could tow her home to a senior’s housing complex two blocks away. Of course I would.

I secured a stout thirty foot marine mooring line to the front of her tiny buggy and we set off as slowly as I could. Up the hill, out onto the street, around another corner, further up the hill, around another corner. We arrived without mishap. I then pushed the cart by hand as she steered the remaining distance to her parking spot at her front door. All of the dark imaginings about what could have gone wrong on our wee jaunt vaporized as she introduced herself. Loriki was a very old tiny Japanese lady who was utterly charming. Jack was eager to meet her which in itself is a huge accolade. I gained a friend and feel blessed to have lent her a hand. Meeting her made my day. And to think how I could have bulled my way past her and left her to fate.

Kindness is a selfish thing, your reward is always bigger than your offering. I keep smiling at the image of my big lurching camper truck towing this lady up the street at the end of a long rope. There’s a cartoon there.

Two days since I began this blog the lid was jacked off another grim grey dawn. Another atmospheric river flows over us and rain pizzles down without stop. Jack’s outdoor water dish is full and overflowing yet again. As a former pilot from the old days when meteorology was a serious subject (right behind learning Morse Code) I was required to know about warm and cold fronts, trowels, troughs, high and low pressure systems, cloud types and what they meant in forecasting, isobars and dew points. Never among all that terminology did the term “atmospheric river” appear. It seemed logical that we knew how to look at a barometer and thermometer and what sort of clouds were blowing which way, then be able to predict what the weather was up to. Now we press a button and it is instantly available and explained. We can also turn on the tely and let some young nubile in a tight dress verbally machine gun a continuous sentence about atmospheric rivers. She’ll use words like “Prowr” and other illiteracies. Until recently, her term for “Atmospheric River” was “Pineapple Express.” I guess folks just aren’t content with the twelve month predictions in the Farmer’s Almanac anymore. And do you remember the catgut barometer where the little Swiss milkmaid came out of a tiny Alpine cabin for fair weather and the old man came out for the shit days? Yeah, I guess I AM that old.

Walkabout on a fine morning. The last of the fog burns off over downtown Ladysmith.
Allegedly the nicest main street in Canada!
Perhaps it is now…with a new public washroom. It cost us $100,000. and there are days I would have paid that! I like to think that my letters to the editor helped promote this notion of civilization.
It has been a very long time since I’ve gone to a barkeeper to rent a room.
Not exactly the Hilton, but I’ll bet there are a lot of stories from the years behind that door.
Two doors down from the cat. Children love the old machinery along our main street.

Next day another atmospheric river is meandering overhead. Through the day the rain steadily increases in volume and after nightfall, about 4:30 pm, a fog begins to rise. I need to nip down to the grocery story, the main street is resplendent in Christmas lights. The usual number of moron motorists insist on driving around with retina-burning hi-beam headlights. I am half-blinded as I creep through the four-way stop. Suddenly, immediately in front of the car’s hood, a black-clad, black umbrella toting pedestrian has appeared. How she got out there from the curb is stunning. Yes, I stopped in time. I gave her my best old sailor roar but she was adamant about her rights. I’ve said it before and damnit I’ll say it again. We see it daily on our roads. We have devolved to the point where the primal instinct, fear, which has kept our species alive for a very long time, has eroded severely for many people. Perhaps there is a FEAR App. for that ubiquitous cell phone. Beep, beep, termination imminent!

Must be a relative. I had to grab a shot of this. note the new driver decal and the crawl-through window in the back.
See the resemblance?

The premium app allows you to choose a celebrity warning voice. How about Porky Pig? “Tha, tha, that’s all folks!”

Black Friday Weekend huh?

Sunday morning, the rain continues. Monday, it’s stopped for a while. Jack and I are going for a walk.

Fredfessions :

Three blogs back I made the heinous error of describing the Farsi language as Parsi. Just one letter out but it is like describing Chinese as Japanese. I owe an apology to a very large ethnic group.

My second brainfart (to which I’ll admit) came today when an email arrived to which I stupidly responded. It was a scam. Now I am having to undo my knee-jerk foolishness. It is a time of year when we are all probably expecting a package and with current shipping issues, a damaged label seemed quite possible. They needed $3 to relabel and redirect the package. The scam really comes when you’ve given them a credit card number which is then reported to be not working and do you have another one you could use? Dumbo finally smelled the coffee and reported his stupidity. A new credit card is in the mail. I know, I know …as smart as he looks! You’ve been warned. Interestingly within hours, several ‘stranded package’ scams appeared. Scams must work, they keep coming. I’m not the only fool out there.

Looks convincing, right? Especially when you’re waiting for an overdue parcel. I’m smarter now!
Another ‘atmospheric river’ arrives. Actually, the river is a constant, flowing eternally as the planet turns. Sometimes there’s some junk in the water. The app you see is windy.com. It’s free to download.
Despite wind, rain, and frost there’s a little beauty still sheltering in the thickets.
Hang in there.

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” Plato

__________________________________________________________________________________

What’s Next?

Too Wet To Plow Again

Yes Really!
January 6th, Gabriola Island. There’s hope!
Happy New Year.

It’s January 10th, already! My little life here on Vancouver Island is very quiet and that is not necessarily a complaint. I sure ache to feel the caresses of fragrant warm breezes fluttering the napkin beneath my sweating margarita and then whispering off through the cacti above the beach. Certainly my arthritic old bones also ache from the chill damp of another coastal winter. But considering all the other places where I could be dying of some terrible affliction I believe I am blessed to be in one of the best spots on the entire planet. And if I have to wrap my ugly mug in a mask on the odd occasion that I have to be among the public, it’s a small price to pay to not be quarantined inside my home. My reclusive lifestyle has not changed much.

Reflections on the year ahead. It’s looking weird but we still have some freedom.
Too wet to plow
Too wet for heifers
Definitely too wet for farming
Three generations
Nurse stump, mature seedling and offshoot.

A friend in France, each time she needs to go out for a few groceries, even to walk the dog, is first required to apply online for a permit number to allow her an absolute minimum of time within the parameters of the described activity. If an official catches her without her specific number, or outside the area as described, it’s essentially off to the glue factory with you. It is nowhere near that here…YET! But there are folks working on making it so.

Old jungle girls
Reaching for a little light
Swirls and complications
FLIRT
A little colour on a dull day. Even the cover is a thing of beauty and the boat is something to quicken a sailor’s heart. I can feel the bend of the oars and hear the water gurgling by simply by looking at her. What beautiful lines!

We’ve all heard some of the tales from those who were either civilians or military folks during WWII. This pandemic is a picnic in comparison. No one is dropping bombs on us or trying to starve us. If our expectations and notions of entitlement were not so ridiculously high we would be a lot more content. “WHAT? You’re out of mint chip dip!!” If you don’t like today, try missing a few.

Quick as a flash
The Coho keep on coming
Fish with no end. It’s lovely to see and the eagles are watching too. The fish at the top is a female making a bed to lay her eggs. Two males standby.
Eagles Three
Old Fish Farts Hisself
I’m just a lonely fish
lonely and red.
The stump is big enough to park a small car. It seems tragic to knock down an old-growth giant and just leave it to rot. The parks people call it “helping nature.”
A swan in the corn. The rain continues.

So far as comments on pandemics and politics, I’ll let the following quote say it for me. I’ll just post some local photos of daily life around Ladysmith.

The sensible dog. This is a rare moment for Ayre, the eight-month old Min Pin Chihuahua. She’s nuclear and usually a blur. Jack retreats to his bed in the closet when she’s on the rampage.

Due to travel restrictions this year, the United States had to organize a coup at home.”                                                                       Martin Mesquita Watguri Hardie

Chasing Leaks

Abstracto! It’s just some faded paint on a car fender but eye-catching none-the-less.

Friday the 13th. The weather forecast shows the date and a thick grey cloud with heavy raindrops. That seems about right. At the moment however there is an attempt at a sun rise. A thin brassy light reflects from the neighbour’s windows and that damned insidious street cleaning machine is out there growling away again. It’s on a fourth pass now. The wind will blow everything back in short order. A day later the weather is the same with a cold rain in a gusting wind like only it can in November. By the following Tuesday when I finally post this, not a lot has changed.

There are two leaks in the camper which have eluded me despite all my attempts to find and cure them. All that was left to do was to remove the inside panelling and insulation. What the hell? There was some faulty wiring to trace as well. Between the inner skin and the outer I found some soggy insulation. I’ve removed it. The taking apart is done…I hope. It has rained sporadically for the past few days, the kind of cold rain that can leak into anything. I just checked; there is no sign of moisture! Grrr! I knew of course that this little old box would require some attentions but I had no intention for it to become a career. To keep things in perspective I know that there are plenty of people who’d love to have this one as a home, leaks and all.

I wonder what the weather is like in the desert today? The leak project.
Aha! That tiny pinprick of light is the great dull light of the rainy outdoors shining through. The wood frame is good so patch and go is the order of the day. The piece of metal above the beam is galvanized steel which is the source of electrolysis.  It may be no warmer or dryer in the woods but I prefer being out there.

I managed to strip out the final bit of forward interior in perfect co-ordination with a horrific rain storm which went on and on. The problem is now that the ambient humidity inside is so high that condensation forms instantly on the bare cold metal skin. Still I tracked down, or up, the source of ingressing water. In one corner just below the roof I found a mysterious cluster of tiny pinholes. I’ve concluded the cause is electrolysis, something I’m all too familiar with in boats. When dissimilar metals are placed in contact they begin to produce minute electrical currents known as a galvanic action. Add an electrolyte like water and an insidious corrosion occurs. Introduce an electrical current and things become really weird. What I found was that when the camper had been built small galvanized pieces of metal had been used to reinforce corners of the frame. So, combine thin aluminum, steel, zinc, 12 volt wiring, possibly lead-based paint, 40 years of time and copious rain. Bzzzt! Still learning after all these years!”

Just off the main street in Ladysmith sits an old building just behind our tiny museum which is a remnant from the town’s rustic past. It is flat-roofed and covered with a faux brick heavy tarred material which I recall was named ‘Insul-brick.’ It was an old store of some sort and for a long time displayed a faded sign that said ‘Food Bank.’ It has been boarded up for a very long time. On one corner of the building is a small porch built into the structure. A homeless person moved into that space and set up camp under a green tarp. They have been evicted and the empty porch is now caged in. A tent has been erected in the back of the soggy lot.

Don’t fence me out. Plan B is in the background. Plan C is under the bridge, if there’s any space left. Someone is always in a worse situation. The siding is called insulbrick.

If I could wish myself into a larger fibreglass camper I would donate this one to someone who needs a shelter. In the meantime I’ll keep this old tin and stick box as a sort of earthquake plan. Isn’t that all we need now in winter on top of Covid?

Living behind the waterfall. My neighbour’s overflowing rain gutter. It is a low-quality photo taken by mobile phone on a very dark afternoon. That’s a hummingbird sitting on the feeder. Imagine flying around in weather when each pelting raindrop is nearly half your body size and three times its weight.

I’ve just returned from a quick trip to a building supply store. As I drove out through the parking lot a character leapt in front of me oblivious to all except to be fumbling with their covid mask and text messaging in hand. I managed to stop in time; they never noticed. What’s that term? “Eyes wide shut.” We’ve even abandoned the primal self-preserving instinct of fear. “The Lemming Syndrome.” I’ll get back into my box.

Whodathunk? Ten months ago I could not have believed I’d ever be seen looking like this. With a fierce second wave of Covid washing over us it seems a respectful thing to do toward my fellows. Masks are designed to prevent a person from spreading their own germs and maybe help keep you safe from others…and to prevent you from licking door handles!

I’ve decided that a sign of aging is losing the ability to be amazed. That amazes me.”