Closure

Closure

Yeah, yeah just another damned flower. The point is, they keep coming. There is a life force which I don’t understand, and at times don’t even want to be part of, but one may as well enjoy the ride. It’ll end soon enough.

I sure hope it is, however I can’t say the worst is over. At least we now have our daughter’s ashes. The modern term is “closure.” Those remains are in a beautifully engraved stainless steel urn which we have brought home. There is a permanent grimness to it but this is much better than the horrible wait for medical reports and finally the cremation itself. For the first time in about thirty-five years we know where she is this night. So much for my attempt at humour for the moment. We have the business of dealing with our daughter’s belongings and clearing out her apartment. That seems like a mercenary thing to do but it needs to be done like it or not. There will also be the random hits of paper work but we’re braced for that.

She will always be with us and always be loved. We miss her, dearly.

The little dog we’ve inherited from Rachel is settling in nicely with us and her trauma is slowly fading. What comes in the wake of the last six weeks is a total mystery. There is a defragging period to come I’m sure, but at the moment a heavy numbness is what we are living with. I’ll say it one more time, hug your children and understand that each time you say goodbye to anyone may well the last. There is no rewind button.

This wee dog has become the center of our lives. Yes, even me. I think I’m a sort of dog whisperer but this one is very slow to respond. Intellect clearly has nothing to do with brain size. She is flamboyant to say the least.

Meanwhile we continue to endure a cold and wet spring. The flowers and blossoms are brilliant and intense when they finally burst out. They seem to pass quickly under the battering received from the rain and wind. Better days are ahead I’m sure, soon I’ll hear someone bitching about the heat. I’ll kick them. Many men having been wearing shorts for a while now, I’m bemused at seeing their fluorescent shanks glowing in the gloomy cool weather. My arthritic knees throb like bad toothaches at the sight of these guys and whatever it is they are trying to prove. Surely they are not all retired postmen!

I’ve decided to indulge in another sort of masochism. I’ve bought a tiny motorcycle. The prices of used ones are insane and the dealer’s price on a new unit was amazingly good. It’s an old marketing ploy. Get some product out there and once it’s selling itself, bring the price into line. I’ve wanted a small two-wheel conveyance to explore around campsites and to run to town for supplies instead of breaking camp each time. I’ve acquired a Honda Navi. It’s a new product in North America. I refer to it as my scooter cycle. It has a tiny 109cc engine and a scooter’s cv transmission. There are drum brakes front and back, which I don’t like. I do prefer crunching gears to relying solely on minimal brakes but life’s always about a compromise. I suppose I can crack my skull well enough at 80 kmph as 140.

“Hardly a Hawg!” With no intention of Easy Rider exploits, it’ll get me from campsite to town for beer and chicken. The view is from South Ladysmith looking over power lines eastward to the Gulf Islands and Canada way over there. Deepsea ships wait in Trincomli Channel for a berth in Vancouver.

I don’t expect to get the 100mpg as promised but with gasoline now bouncing at around $2.25 a litre it’s much better than my other vehicles. I have to remember that when wing-dinging along at 75kph feeling like a pig on a roller skate. I brought the wee contraption home from Nanaimo, a distance of about forty km, first through a rain squall and then a hail storm. I found no romance in that ride as I wobbled along back roads most of the way. It has been over thirty years since I last travelled on two wheels. I know that this old fart is not nearly as reflexive nor intrepid as he used to be. As long as I keep that in mind I should be fine.

Country humour.
Duck and cluck, fresh from the butt.
Yes, really! Un-retouched.
It was glorious!
Fetch! She didn’t come back without it.
There’s a sixties rock song here.
Up close and personal
1933 Packhard. From back in the day when men wore three-piece suits, rode on running boards and carried machine guns.
No air bags and the trunk is a fold-down rack on the back.
Two spare tires…for good reason.
Well spoken.

The problem with “stuff” is that it usually demands more stuff. Now I have to rebuild or replace my home-built “stealth” trailer to accommodate the motor bike. Around and around we go. I built it three years ago with some cheap plywood which has essentially rotted and dissolved in our climate. The price of plywood has become ridiculous and I thought I’d save a few dollars. I knew better. I’m quite proud of my engineering but I’ll concede that having standing headroom the full length inside is a simple feature which I had not considered. “Keep it simple stupid.” The hinged lid has proven to be very hard to lift with the added weight of anything stored on it. Everything is a compromise. I just want to quit messing around and get to southern latitudes.

There’s a lot to be said for a backpack and a thumb.

Trillium fading. All things must pass.

“Closure is a greasy little word which, moreover, describes a nonexistent condition. The truth, Venus, is that nobody gets over anything.” -Martin Amis

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,

Lizard Response

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GONE

The magnolia on main street

Magnolia trees in bloom. That fleeting glorious splendour marks the surety of the seasons, the bursting out of spring, warmer days ahead and then the luxuries of summer. In a day or two the wind or rain will tear away the stunning beauty of those magnificent blossoms. Like the rest of life, beauty is a fleeting thing. There are flowers and buds all around, very intense after the reluctant retreat of winter. They mean nothing. It is Easter, the celebration of hope and rebirth. This year, it means nothing. All is a hollow, echoing nightmare. I see but do not grasp, there is no reaching sound, no smell, no taste. All is surreal. All is a void. A few days ago her mother found her body in her apartment. Her frantic little dog was guarding. Apparently, we learned, Rachel our daughter had been dead a few days.

Rachel.
She was seven years old when I met her. She and her mom were a package deal. I have no regrets about that.
She was incredibly beautiful in all ways.

No mother should ever have to find her daughter’s corpse. How I wish I could erase that horror for her. I cannot imagination how she deals with this end of her motherhood. She will be a mother forever. What a slam! No manipulation of words can begin to describe the depths of anguish and darkness we find ourselves plunged into. We function like automatons, mechanically going about all the ordeals and logistics we must at such a time. There may be a short pause in my blogging. There is too much pain to be able to write coherently.

Rachel at about the age of ten with her dog Fletcher. That was thirty-seven years ago. How time flies! I cannot describe the depths of grief at losing her so suddenly. It is pain no parent should ever know.

It is absolutely no consolation but I think of people in an identical circumstance in a place like the Ukraine. Their loved ones are gone, there may be no family left to share the grief, no home or any familiarity for shelter, no food. Shattered bodies lay in the rubble-strewn streets. There is a smell of decay and soot and torn earth.

I try to find solace in the love received from my family and friends, it truly is a comfort. Yet for the time being I travel in a place I do not know, nor want to. I find myself in a dark labyrinth of caves. I do not know which way to crawl, I can see nothing. This will pass. Life will go on, with or without me, all I need is to grasp a single thread to follow back toward where I can see well enough to find the path ahead. I try to imagine that Rachel and Jack, who loved each other dearly, have found each other in some beautiful place and have each again found the bliss they used to share. Meanwhile, Rachel’s own little dog is utterly confused and I cannot image the wee beast being alone with her for days after she had died. Little Ayre is a living extension of our daughter’s existence and we will cherish her.

We had no chance to say goodbye to our daughter. And my message to you is to understand that every time you say farewell to anyone, it may be the last time. Life is like that, it is fragile. Don’t leave anything unfinished, leave no regrettable words, tell them you love them, hug your children every chance you get. Happy Easter.

Ayre.                                                                                                                                                                          Rachel’s loyal companion past the bitter end. She watches for Rachel to reappear, just like her parents do. Is any of this real?

How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”                                                                                                                        Winnie The Pooh

How Much Is That Doggie In The Ukraine?

Think green, it must be spring. A forest slug snacking on a maple flower. Do you see the beady little eyes watching you?
Another lunch photo. Yes the trilliums are starting to bloom.

A friend and reader responded to my last blog with a note about a CBC story she’d seen. A Canadian veterinarian and his daughter have gone to the Ukraine to help out. I checked it out. Kudos to Dr. Cliff Redford. At great personal risk you are making a positive difference in an unseen corner of this humanitarian tragedy. So far, two people have died while transporting rescued animals out of the war zone. There is a huge population of dogs, cats and other creatures which were abandoned. Some are injured, some suffering from acute hunger and thirst and illness. And, I don’t recall anyone ever being shot at by a dog.

Full frontal nudity.
Peace in the bog.

It is horrible. What a terrible decision to have to make. You can only take what you can carry and so often the pet just has to stay behind. Other folks have chosen to leave their stuff and bring their pet. I know the choice I would make. Then I stumbled across stories about hungry Russian troops raping women and eating dogs. I recall accounts from German civilians at the end of the second world war as Russian marched into East Germany. The civilians had already endured a horrific ordeal and the war’s end brought them no liberation. I have also heard accounts of how we, the good guys, are just as capable of the same atrocities. Some things never change, we’re still the same beasts we always were. I began to research an avenue for adopting a Ukrainian dog but all the online contacts I’ve found seem suspicious to me. There will be legitimate means established to adopt dogs eventually but in the meantime I’ll just have to keep looking.

Skunk Cabbage. A sure sign of spring.
The Swamp Rocket

I continue to look for a local dog who needs a fresh start. Charity begins at home, right? There are dogs available, but most are too big for life in the camper and any extended travel. There are also plenty of pit bull terriers with which I have no problem but there are plenty of people who do. I don’t need an incessant hassle. Most dogs have a huge monetary price attached and I’m suspicious of folks who claim to be looking for a good home for their canine charges and then mention “Oh by the way” they have a huge adoption fee. I know caring for a dog and providing shelter for more to come costs money but every dog I’ve had cost nothing in dollars and were wonderful friends. The idea of paying for a furry soul mate just seems wrong unless the expense is explainable. Then there are the rescue folks who simply don’t answer your inquiries. Nice!

Rise of the fiddleheads. Everything is bursting out despite the cool weather.

And so our reluctant spring grinds on. The ongoing dark saga from the Ukraine is dragging us all down. The weather seems to echo our sentiments. We have moments of spring between the massive epilogue of winter. It is mostly cold and wet and gloomy. Still! It seems to be all I’ve written about for a long time. Photographing spring flowers trembling in a wintry wind beneath the dull light of grey clouds is wearing thin.

Bleeding hearts for those left-wing liberal folks.
Spots underneath fern leaves. Wonder what purpose they serve?
After being bombarded with the woes of the world, it’s hard to believe I live here. This is ten minutes from my home.
I’m not much for “stuff” and glitz but I will confess a deep admiration for this poor fisherman’s shack with a view. I Wonder where I could park the Hemoth.

I’ve hired a lady who is helping me set up a marketing program for my writing and photography. It’s all over my head, suddenly I find myself with business pages on Face Book. As things were linked up, ten random blogs selected from my archives were posted on Face Book. While in the process these blogs appeared together in a blizzard to all my subscribers. I apologize sincerely to all you folks for the nuisance. I was also forwarded the following which may be soggy cookies but it moved this old flower who has felt guilt about looking for another dog so soon after Jack’s passing.

A DOG’S LAST WILL & TESTAMENT

 Before  humans die, they write their last will and testament, give their home and all they have to those they leave behind. 

 If, with my paws, I could do the same, this is what I’d ask…

 To a poor and lonely stray I’d give my happy home; my bowl and cozy bed, soft pillow and all my toys; the lap, which I loved so much;

the hand that stroked my fur; and the sweet voice that spoke my name.

 I’d will to the sad, scared shelter dog, the place I had in my human’s loving heart, of which there seemed no bounds.

 So, when I die, please do not say, “I will never have a pet again, for the loss and pain is more than I can stand.”

 Instead go find an unloved dog, one whose life has held no joy or hope, and give my place to him.

 This is the only thing I can give…

The love I left behind.

This is a Red Breasted Sapsucker. Really! It was advertising its presence by drumming vigorously on the metal sign.

 

Sleeping By The River

At the swimming pool a few mornings back, while in the hot tube, I learned of a BBC headline story. I’ve since looked it up. In Yorkshire a kitten was born without an anus. His name (which I chose to find hilarious) is Toulose. He underwent some life-saving surgery and all is well. Imagine the poor surgeon who opened things up!

How was work today honey?” “T’wer a bit shitty in fact!”

Apparently a tidy sum was raised to help. It’s a happy story, especially for Toulose. and frankly I prefer one about a little asshole in Yorkshire to anything about a big one in London. God knows, we need all the levity we can get.

I buried Jack yesterday morning under the sheltering branches of a large holly tree on the banks of a salmon stream. He is sleeping in soft river sand beside Napoleon Creek, a short distance before it joins Haslam Creek which then runs into the Nanaimo River. The grave is about a kilometer into the forest, beyond the range of the shouting, yuk-yuking shallowites. There is constant music as the stream burbles past. The burial was attended by two ravens practicing their throat singing, an eagle screaming its anthem and a large wood pecker banging passionately on a hollow tree. I did not linger, feeling that I had somehow betrayed Jack, which is ridiculous. It had to be done. He’s gone, he is at peace.

On a soft bed of ancient river sand, a bed of ferns. Jack now lays here, waist deep, safe from harm yet where he can hear what I come to say to him.
Well done my friend, sleep in peace
Who would have a living tree as a grave marker? The ancients believed that Holly protected one from evil. For Jack, the very best.

I have received many wonderful notes of sympathy, and empathy. A large number of those have come from you my readers and I cannot thank you enough. It means so very much.

One of the common threads is how it is often much harder to lose a beloved dog than any person. That is certainly so for me and your affirmation certainly raises a doubt than I am not quite as odd as I believed. Thanks. It also occurred to me this afternoon that grieving is not a noble ordeal as much as it is a massive endeavour in self-pity. No volume of tears or dark musings can restore that which is lost. My wife and I were bestowed with the privilege to afford Jack a good life. He out-gave us in every way. He indulged in his days to his fullest and brought joy to all who met him. Who knows what good came from that? I believe that my mission in life is to bring light to other’s eyes, man or beast. There is no merit in trying to solicit tears over success.

So, wherever you are, raise a glass to Jack and a life well-lived. Let’s have a wake. Here’s a link to a video about Jack which I made and posted on YouTube some time ago.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3_5vlFHHYk

There are two wolves fighting inside all of us.

The first one is evil, the second one is good.

Which wolf will win?

…The one you feed.” Ancient American Indian proverb

He’s Gone

Goodbye my friend.

Jack has died. This blog is my way of coping. So many of you good folks said so many kind things to and about Jack through the years, I need to let you know. Thank you.

It is now 12:15 am February 2, 2022. He passed about 11:45. He had done poorly on his walk yesterday. When we got home I carried him to his bed and he seemed to slip into a semi-coma with laboured breathing and a shallow pulse. We moved his bed to the living room and I made up one for myself next to him. I lay beside him, petting him, cuddling him and thanking him for all the wonderful years. I looked out the window through a brief break in the clouds and saw one faint twinkling star. “The Jackstar” I mused and then dozed off.

A short while later I was awakened by three gentle strokes on my arm. He emitted one last breath and was gone. I know what the strokes were but will always choose to believe that he said goodbye. I sit here now in the dark quiet with a stiff glass of rum beside me and type these words through tear-blurred eyes. Jack was a very special character, unique in many ways. He touched many hearts, both canine and human. He had no enemies. He was the son I never had and the reincarnation  of a puppy taken from me when I was an infant. I will miss him forever.

Smoke And Mirrors

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right colours, but nobody else was there.

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

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

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

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

I subscribe to a mantra called the Four Agreements:

-I will always do my best

-I will take take nothing personally

-I will assume nothing

-I will respect the power of my words

That’s it. Simple huh? Try it!

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

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

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

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

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

McMinnville

It is a real place and home of a very fine aviation exhibition, The Evergreen Aviation Museum. I arrived too late to go in for a self-guided tour. I would need at least a half day. They let me park in the back corner, dry-camping next to old US Air Force rockets. There are four massive buildings. The largest one houses the Hughes Hercules and is nearly big enough to fly some of the small aircraft I have known, around inside it! The massive airplane is known worldwide as the “Spruce Goose” although it is actually built almost entirely of birch plywood. Howie himself flew it, once. An icon of dreams, it is the world’s largest wooden airplane ever and among the world’s largest airplanes, even today. Of all the amazing achievements of old weird Howard, this is the big one. Just imagine all the people telling him and his crew that it couldn’t be done. But he did, and so did it. Then WW II ended and the need for a massive air transport machine ended, at least for the time being.

The whole goose and nothing but the goose. This is the centerpiece of all the exhibits, around it and underneath it.
Inside, looking aft. It cost another $39.US to see the flight deck and have your photo taken. No, I did not.
A brilliantly-done cutaway of Pratt and Whitney R-4360. The Goose used eight of these. Each engine had 28 cylinders (With two spark plugs per cylinder for a total of 56 on each engine) They produced a net horsepower of 3500. The Goose sported eight of these. “I say old chap, number seven is a bit rough don’t you think.”  The flight engineer was a very busy fellow.
” Now son, I want you to change the spark plugs. When you’re done on this wing, do the other one. Don’t drop anything.”
The office up there.
Big smoothie. The huge Hughes.
One wing sponson dwarfs a beautiful Curtis Robin.
Where the money came from. Howard Hughes Sr invented this drill bit. He refused to sell it to oil companies, and instead leased it. Howard JR inherited the massive wealth at age 19 and started messing with airplanes. He was, by all accounts, a very skillful test pilot.
A Bell D1, the ubiquitous M.A.S.H. helicopter. Part of my apprenticeship was spent working on these. Wooden main rotors, dozens of grease fittings, it was crude. To trim the aircraft for varying loads, you slide the battery to the correct position in the tailboom.
Just think of it!
A Beech 17 Staggerwing.
When it hit the civilian market in the 1930’s it was faster than anything the US military possessed at that time.
A Pietenpol, probably one of the first home-built designs ever. The engine is from a Ford Model A
One of my flying mentors built one of these during the Great Depression and made an income selling rides. As he travelled, he’d sleep beneath a wing at night. There should be a song: “And that’s why I hit the tree, I couldn’t see, there was a radiator right in front of me.” These are still being built today with modern engines.
Them’s the brakes. A primitive toe-brake on a Curtis Pusher (That means the engine pushes instead of pulls. OK!)
A GeeBee Sportster, gentle sister of the GeeBee racer as portrayed with the model on the floor.
A beautiful full-scale replica of Lindberg’s famous “Spirit Of Saint Louis.” There were others who made the Atlantic crossing in little airplanes when we seldom hear of, but hi was the first successful crossing.
A misty-eyed moment for me. This is a Bell Huey, the most famous Vietnam helicopter. When I was graduating from high school in 1969 three friends  and I were determined to join the US Army. (30,000 Canadians went to ‘Nam) We could learn to fly helicopters for free! The first friend went ahead…and came home in a Glad Bag. We became a lot smarter overnight. It was my second consideration of a military career, and I lost interest for good.
A Le Rhone rotary engine. First World War technology. It was used in an airplane designed to kill…only a few years after powered flight had been proven possible. It was crude. The cylinders spun with the propellor. A 2-stroke engine, the lubricant used was castor oil, which flew everywhere. Pilots carried spare googles to exchange ones which had become coated with oil.
A DC3, probably the world’s most well known aircraft. Introduced in the late 1930s, it was the first to have a full-cantilever wing. (No external bracing) Eighty years later, many are still earning a living in skies around the planet.
An ME 262, the world’s first operational jet fight. Fortunately for us, allied bombers obliterated the factories where these were being built.
These are both real flyable airplanes, a kit-built helicopter and a Bede 4 personal jet. The little boy was completely fascinated by the jet, a perfect size for him.
A FW 190., another very respected Luftwaffe fighter. With its massive BMW radial engine, monstrous torque high-propellor, pigeon’toed undercarriage and short fuselage, this machine must have been a beast to handle while on the ground.

 

Even as modern airplanes go, the Goose thing is a monster. I am amazed at the survival of this wooden wonder. How it has not rotted or burned in 75 years is yet another wonder. The aircraft that I came to see is the only one of its kind ever built. This is my Mecca, the object of a pilgrimage for a guy who has been flying and otherwise messing around with airplanes his whole life. I’m hoping to find inspiration to cope with some tough weeks ahead. I’ve looked up at it already. The only time I’ve know that same feeling before was when I stepped aboard ‘Cutty Sark’ in Greenwich.

The museum itself is massive with its four huge (Ha… Hughes, get it?) buildings, three are for display and a third is a swimming pool. They have somehow hoisted a Boeing 747 (Imagine the fleet of monster cranes required to work in full co-ordination…with no wind)) onto the roof and converted it into the apex of a water slide. The parking lot behind the buildings would be adequate for landing smaller aircraft.. Imagine having rows of jet fighters for lawn ornaments!

Now that’s a lawn ornament!
It sure beats plastic flamingos or garden gnomes. It is a Lockheed T-33 or ‘Shooting Star’ I remember then from my early childhood. they are still flying in a few countries.
Am American drone clone. The US decided to copy the German V-1 and use it for a target drone. Someone has been droning on about something ever since.
Then came the V-2, brainchild of Wernher von Braun. It was the beginning of the space age.
There is something to amaze everyone, even if they’re not interested in aviation or space travel.
How about the lunar RVer?
Or…the lunar ATVer?
After a while sensory overload began to kick in. I began to worry about missing something. I’m sure I did.

The exhibits go on and on, with a movie theatre complex in the middle of the complex. I am a small airplane guy and there were plenty of these dispersed among the big fellows, both civilian and military. It was a dull overcast day for taking photographs, but I managed to click off about one-hundred-fifty frames that I’m keeping. That is a lot of editing. I could have easily taken twice as many.

Evergreen, a private enterprise, draws a very close second to the amazing Boeing aircraft museum in Seattle which doesn’t have a water park. Ha! It also doesn’t have the Goose or, the SR71 Blackbird. There are also two other great aviation museums in the state of Oregon, one in Tillamook and another in Madras. Here are a few of the photos taken at Evergreen, I once again repeat myself in saying that they don’t begin to compare with actually seeing this operation in the flesh. When I was growing up in the post-war, pre-space age, aviation was still a bit of a novelty. That, despite the massive aviation advancements of WWII. By the time we had put men on the moon the reality of flying machines had become a ho-hum fact of everyday life. We no longer look up when an aircraft passes overhead. Yet, clearly, there are a great many people who do hold a deep fascination for a highly and still rapidly evolving technology which is only a little over a century old.

I have long held the theory that the human race is not indigenous to this planet. We certainly do not fit in here. As far back as we know, we have had an affinity for the sky, for the stars, for flight. God is always from somewhere up there ( God being the concept which is our convenient pigeon-hole for all that we cannot comprehend including love, wisdom and infinity) Many of our wisest ancients speculated on ways and means to rise above our earthly bonds. We have scrambled frantically to fly, then to fly ever higher and faster. It is a compulsion which now has us sending machines beyond the known edges of our universe, looking for ways to personally visit and inhabit places like Mars. I believe that it is all part of that ancient quest to find our way home. Yet at the same time, we need to look within and consider our aberrant nature, and that that is perhaps why our ancient ancestors were dropped off here. Once we realize the way to get along with each other, as well as other species, only then will we be truly ready to go home. Then we won’t need to. In the meantime, to survive that long, we need to become considerably more gracious toward the beautiful planet that is hosting us. For now, it is the only place we have.

The computer grinch says that I have run out of space for any more photos in this blog, even in my edited series. I’ve challenged him three times because there is so much more to show. If, readers care to send a comment in favour of posting a part 2 to this particular blog, I’ll be glad to post more images. Happy Landings!

“Sometimes, flying feels too godlike to be attained by man. Sometimes, the world from above seems too beautiful, too wonderful, too distant for human eyes to see. ”   

Charles A. Lindbergh

 

Blizzard!

I left Baker in mid-morning after editing photos and posting a blog. It always feel good to be caught up. This trip has been a breathless rush of events, people and images which I feel are truly worth sharing. Reader’s comments confirm that. I began the day’s travels by visiting a local archaeological site. It was wonderful. I had it all to myself to speculate on the wonders of mud ruins, apparently seven-hundred years old. The wind was keen and shrill and cold. I wore no hat and soon had an ice-cream headache. My hands throbbed painfully. I am just not nineteen anymore!

Handyman special! View home in need of TLC. Quiet neighbours. These ruins left me with a whole lot of questions. Why here? Water? Game? Defenses? Each question raises three more.
Spring Valley, Nevada. There are five rows of these monsters steadily turning in the face of the approaching storm. it is an impressive sight to say the least. They are huge. It is hard to guess but I reckon each blade must be about ninety feet long. Maybe it was because the wind was shrieking, but the whole weird scene was dead quiet. Eerie!

Turning west onto Highway 50 (Called the loneliest highway in America) I again climbed and descended several mountain passes and traversed more wonderful valleys. I stopped to absorb the wonder of a huge wind farm in a place called Spring Valley. The wind was increasing and it was obvious that a storm was coming. I reckoned I could make it to Ely (Pronounced eely) and hunker down somewhere if the weather was indeed as serious as it seemed. The snow blew and thickened. When I finally arrived I passed an RV Park that looked so dismal in the deepening snow I could not bring myself to stop. I filled up with gas at a “Loves” truck stop and then decided that in consideration of the weather I should stuff up my own tank. The truck stop is adjoined to a sort-of casino and a Carl’s Jr. Fast burger joint. I know better. I still have a souvenir of that joint riding in my belly over a day later.

Sure glad I had my shorts and sandals along!
…And my bike too!
Struth! Of all the things a person could possibly see!
Slowly, the visibility improved and I could see what I was passing.
Can’t call it the Pearly Gate, and Horny Gate would upset some people. How about “Bone Bower?”
Those antlers represent an awful lot of dead deer and elk.
Eureka! I’ve found Eureka..which sure beat being back at Carl Jr’s in Ely watching the drifts pile up.
Somehow, in the snow, the old freight wagon does not look so romantic.
S’no dog like a Blue Merle Collie on an ATV in the snow.
These folks have known a winter day,or two, before.
This town knew some high times…before the gold ran out.
Mule Deer antlers, goat skull, maybe a clock some day? Too cold to ponder any longer.
“America’s Loneliest Highway.” Nevada HWY 50.
How’s Business?
Yeah, they’re everywhere!
Some Logo! What does a Fist and Whip really mean?
Not a place I’d want to work.
A big hat, a long range coat, the clink of spurs, a a horse’s steaming breath, the squeak of snow shoes. Wasn’t I in Mexico a few days ago?
We’re outta here!

All the employees there, mostly chunky ladies who looked like the Michelin Sisters wore company T-shorts with “Beyond Meat” emblazoned on their chests. The irony did not escape me. Clearly the management has an all-you-can eat policy for its employees. There’s an old country song that says, “I love the way you fill out your skin-tight blue jeans.” Not! What rhymes with sweat pants? I suppose it may be cheaper than a retirement program, but pity the pallbearers! My ubiquitous gang of Asian tourists arrived, looking completely bewildered. Their patriarch, an aged, shuffling fellow was dressed incongruously in a Russian fur helmet, a pair of John Lennon sun glasses, camouflage trousers and open toe sandals with bright pink socks. And I thought I was a snappy dresser! While we snacked on our gristle burgers, a full blizzard descended with swirling fury.

I am a former great white north guy and reasoned that if I could make it to the other side of the mountains, conditions would ease and the storm could heap as much snow as it wanted…behind me. Hell, I’ve driven in everything. Fool! My photos attest to that. However, the most weirdly wonderful thing happened as I set out on that trek. I could smell coal smoke and put it down to an over-reaction to my lunch or perhaps my angst about the weather. Then I saw it! Had I also begun to hallucinate? I leapt out into the wintry blast with my mobile phone. (My serious cameras were not going to be taken out into the driving snow.) There, in that raging blizzard, was a steam locomotive backing an antique work train onto a siding. I could not have been more amazed had I been looking at the ‘Queen Mary’. I’ve reviewed my short video and photos repeatedly to confirm what I saw. It is still hard to believe. You can google up information on the railway museum in Ely) Go closer to spring. I drove on westward into that storm; sometimes my speed was down to fifteen mph. I had to stop repeatedly to clear the ice from my windshield and wipers.

I was right. The snow eased and visibility improved and I arrived in Eureka Nevada. It was winter-bound and the RV park I saw looked closed. After a short stretch and breathe and shoot- up with my camera, I drove on west into the now-brilliant sunset hoping to find a place to stop for the night in Austin. Everything there was wintered out as well. After almost colliding with a large herd of mule deer on the main street I drove on down the mountain into the darkness. I looked back and saw that Stokes Castle was cleverly lit with golden light. Every time I drive across Nevada, Austin is on my route. This time I closed a loop of my south-bound leg to San Carlos. I hate looking for a spot to spend the night in the dark when I’m not sure where I am. Eventually I found a safe turn-out which proved to be the former site of a Pony Express station called ‘Cold Spring.’

In the morning I took photos of the surrounds and also ruins of a former telegraph station. Later, in perfect light, I came upon an archaeological site with loads of ancient and beautiful pictographs near Grimes Point, looking down on the Fallon Naval Air Base. Yep, right there in the desert! Tonight, I discovered I’d done something wrong and have no images to download from the day. Swear words! My water pump had again frozen last night. Later in the day as it thawed, a hose came loose and the water tank under the bed emptied itself inside the van. Grit! You’ve gotta have grit!

Blowing snow. The view did not leave me feeling warm and fuzzy.
Into the setting sun he drove, Westward, ever westward, California or bust. Hwy 50, Austin somewhere ahead.

 

Red Bluff California offered no room at the inn. It was full of homeless refugees from last year’s horrible wildfires in the surrounding area. I drove on into the gathering dusk, once again, looking for a level place to park for the night. I awoke in the morning beside a stockyard, beside a gurgling stream. “California!” I thought, I’ve made it, the snow is behind me now.” Haa!

It was fortunate that I made a decision to put my head down and just drive, ignoring some great images along the way, (which I would have lost as it turned out.) I drove through Reno (Eeeech) and then north, heading for Susanville California. Then I chose to head for low ground and put the last mountain passes behind me. Eventually I arrived in Red Bluff a few thousand feet ASL lower. In the wake of last year’s horrific wild fires, there is no space available in this area for the likes of me. Many of those displaced folks are living in RV Parks all over the interior of Northern California. So with no wifi again, no blogs will be posted tonight. I am in some very beautiful countryside, about one-hundred miles from the coast, parked on the side of the road once more. Think of the money I’m saving in fees. There is a gentle steady rain falling which, I know, is more snow in the mountains behind me.

I have always loved this region of California. The lush, rolling hills covered with open Oak forest and filled with grazing cattle soothes my soul. Sadly, everywhere you look there is a”Posted” sign. Private, no trespassing, no looking, threats of prosecution and execution. Where have you gone, Timothy Leary? Peace man!

Hard winter conditions have pursued me for the past week. I’m frustrated in not finding the rest and reboot I sought. I am in fact, exhausted. Meanwhile, at home, snow is piling up with more to come. Folks are emptying the grocery stores in anticipation of continuing harsh weather. I try not to feel guilty about being out here on the lam. Silly bugger!

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” … Scott Adams.