Hard Butter and Strange Birds
The seasons have moved from late spring to mid-summer. We’ve had blistering hot weather, then a few days of rain. Now the evenings and mornings are cool. The butter in the galley is once again hard at breakfast time. It’s great weather for sleeping. My dog Jack and I wake up one toe at a time. The rain has helped produce a profusion of blackberries and some are already ripe for picking. It seems the plants are producing their treasures a month earlier this year.
Silva Bay is blessed with an annual migration of Purple Martins and Barn Swallows. They’re delightful as they chatter and zoom about through the rigging. I wonder if the annual influx of yachters aren’t a clever device which the birds use to attract the biting insects they in turn feed upon. This year’s brood of baby birds is well on its way to being ready to fly south. That magic is amazing. Birds return to mate and nest and produce tiny eggs. Those eggs in turn become ugly little dinosaurs which rapidly evolve into beautiful creatures born with a navigational intuition which which will take them as far away as Central America then back to this bay next spring.
An e-mail I received recently advised not to worry about old age: it doesn’t last that long. I forwarded that message on, explaining there are things to do before I end up as a few puffs of smoke in the crematorium chimney. A song playing on the radio has the lyrics, “If I die, I wanna die old.” Hey baby, there’s no if about it! As I rushed about the business of the day a lady discovered an inert heron floating by the docks. It was freshly killed. The bright crimson at the back of its head was evidence of a mortal tangle with an otter or a collision of some sort. In my haste I debated briefly about taking a photo but then rushed off to the tasks at hand. I can still see that dead heron. Beak slightly parted, bright, sharp yellow eye staring serenely into my soul, an image more indelible than any photo. This morning I open the hatches to a perfect dawn with the birds calling and chattering. There is a perfume of fresh newness as if the world had just been unwrapped, an incredible gift which we so often don’t quite see. Baby birds, dead birds, life, death, dawn, sunset, the days whirl by. Life has no apparent meaning for me. How I wish I could learn to enjoy life’s plateaus and find the ability to live fully in the moment!
Now the hot weather has returned. Yesterday afternoon when I stepped into the boat it felt cool. The thermometer read 29ºC. This morning the bird’s noises are subdued. Old men wipe the dew from their white boats. Flags lift and drop flaccidly. It’s going to be a blister! Forest fires rage across the continent and the global warming faction is saying, “See, I told ya!” Uno cervesa por favor.
Days later, the grand summer weather continues, thankfully today we have a moderate Westerly breeze. Yesterday was windless and airless, an absolute torture to work bent over in the sun, at least for this aging old fair-haired boy. Days like that leave me wondering at the feasibility of my Southern dreams. I say that even as I continue my research on Mexico and Costa Rica. That seems ludicrous in this paradise which is my home; but the nights are shortening. Another long, grey wet arthritic winter is coming. I’m also questioning the sanity of staying in a place that seems doomed to self-destruct politically, economically and environmentally.
My pal Jim has now arrived in Hilo, Hawaii with his boat. He has sailed a hurricane- pace tour of the South Pacific. His next stop will be back here in British Columbia. I admire Jimmy totally in his ability to realize his long-held dream and I look forward to helping welcome him back. Much of his journey was cursed with a lack of wind. When you’re out there with your little windship rolling and rolling day after day, your rigging is self-destructing while your precious fuel and water supplies dwindle and the nearest ports are thousands of miles away, you are left feeling very tiny and somewhat doubtful. Fortunately on the leg from the Marquesas to Hawaii Jim had perfect winds and describes it as the sail of his life. The passage was made on one tack with only minor sail adjustments. Good for you Jimmy and mucho kudos to Donna, the wife who has provided ground support for him throughout the journey.
This place called British Columbia where we live is an ultimate home, especially for the mariner. We have 17,000 nautical miles of shoreline to explore. Even in the harshness of winter our weather is often better than summers elsewhere on the planet. Despite the rising social economic issues we’re having to face, we are privileged to still hold a claim on this piece of the planet. Unfortunately the politicians on our payroll won’t respect our will and are intent on wholesaling our assets to the first bidder. We pay retail prices at the gas pumps while there is a determination to pipe oil for many hundreds of kilometres from the environmental mess that is Northern Alberta to coastal shipping facilities. It is incredible, it is stupid. We are posing a monstrous environmental threat on our land and our waters to wholesale raw resources outside the country. We in British Columbia will receive little benefit once the project is completed. The oil will be shipped in vessels manufactured from some of our own iron ore and coal. Other ships line up to load raw logs from the docks of shut-down sawmills. I repeat my weary metaphor about the chicken farmer who goes to town to buy eggs.
Whose pockets does the money go into? What the hell is going on? I know this is all weary rhetoric but the threat of impending disaster seems to skip off the top of our heads. We should be in every politician’s office, on the lawns and in the chambers of every government building with our pitchforks and chainsaws and environmentally friendly weed eaters until we regain control of politicians and their weighty bureaucracy which is pledged to serve US, the people who hired them. If it were anyone else in our hire, we’d fire them. This blog is not a venue for rants. I can easily slip into pages of diatribe about the rape of our fisheries, our forests, our water and mineral resources but we’ve all heard it before.
The real problem is our complacency. We let the corporations and bureaucrats run our lives while insidiously steering us deeper into their carefully designed consumer rut. Until our own personal comfort zone is clearly threatened we won’t lift our heads from the drinking pool. It pisses me off! Wake up! Look around! Ask questions! Don’t believe everything, perhaps anything, thrown at us. We evolved with questioning minds for good reason. Use them!
Jill, my wife has just returned from a visit to her old homeland of Scotland. (Where the price of gas is double ours despite their own tremendous petroleum resources. Yep, more inept politics) She had two gruelling weeks of dealing with her ailing mom. For once the weather there was quite agreeable but she was held to a regimen of caring for the needs of family. She came back to Canada with a delightfully funny story about a dead parrot. Her brother and his wife live in an old school house. It is a wonderful building with two-foot thick sandstone walls, high ceilings curling stones on the front steps and rolling farm fields for a view. Even their mailing address is wonderfully quaint, being in part: The Old School House, Drumlithie. One morning one of the dogs noticed a bright flash of colour in the back garden which proved to be a dead parrot and an interesting toy. This is not an ordinary find anywhere, let alone in Scotland, a country definitely not known for any abundance of tropical birds.
After a wondering discussion, it was decided there wasn’t much else to do but put the mystery of the dead bird out in the trash. Of course the bird was soon mentioned at the local pub and the thistle telegraph buzzed with the story. Within hours the telephone rang with a call from a neighbouring village, a few miles across the fields. Someone wanted to come and claim the remains for burial. Old Hagis, we’ll call him, was retrieved from the tip bin and carefully cleaned of coffee grounds, bits of eggshell and other detritus. Two women arrived, mother and adult daughter. Both, apparently, were beyond Rubenesque These two very round people, both dressed entirely in black, had come to take their beloved Hagis off to the big limb in the sky.
It’s a wonderful story with a vivid splash of Monty Python.I can see both John Cleese and Michael Palin having fun with this one. Apparently the remnants of the Monty Python gang are getting back together to work up five more shows. They don’t have to pretend to be geezers anymore. Also, in the wake of the ‘Two Fat Ladies’ cooking show, BBC is now airing something called ‘The Hairy Bikers’.Two middle-aged blokes are trying to follow in the wake of Jessica and Clarissa. Fat chance!
I’m now writing on the first Sunday morning in August. The boat is anchored in a tiny bay in the Gulf Islands which I’ve been passing by for over 25 years. I can see through Porlier Pass to the mainland mountains over thirty-five miles away. Ancient fir trees lean over this little bight. Eagles call, kingfishers chatter, schools of tiny fish roil the water. The morning breeze is fresh and warm and fragrant, the day is full of promise. Jack is anxious to go ashore. There is some wonderful exploring to be done here and I can post an entire blog dedicated to this lovely secret place.
In fact, I will.
“On the sea there is a tradition older even than the traditions of the country itself and wiser in its age than this new custom.
It is the tradition that with responsibility goes authority and with them accountability.
…for men will not long trust leaders who feel themselves beyond accountability for what they do.
…And when men lose confidence and trust in those who lead, order disintegrates into chaos and purposeful ships into uncontrollable derelicts.”