(Click and drag red play line to the left to see video from the beginning)
Christmas is past. The birds and squirrels are back in the trees. Isn’t it a miracle how these tiny creatures survive an extreme wind? The devastation on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands has been massive. Thousand of trees have blown down onto houses and power lines. Power poles, in many places, were broken like match sticks. The overhead wires have been snapped like string and macramaed together with tangles of tree limbs. Roofs have been stripped bare all over the south coast. I am amazed to repeatedly see incredible carnage in a specific area and yet a few hundred meters away, things appear almost unscathed. Water supplies, fuel supplies and groceries have all become commodities that have moved from a taken-for-granted status to desperate scarcity. Portable generators are unavailable at any price. The snarl of power saws and brush chippers can be heard in all directions near and far. Some folks, nine days later, are still without electricity. The line trucks and crews are still out there, wearily restoring power. Fortunately, so far as I know, there was only one fatality attributable to the blast.
Our population, with its modern urban sensibilities and softness, is unable to cope with a relatively minor disaster and the basic realities of survival. We’ve all had a wake up call. We need to be reminded about what frail creatures we are and how we become seduced into total dependency and subsequent vulnerability. These few hours of wind on December 20th do not begin to compare to a full-blown hurricane, earthquake or tsunami. It is very sobering. Even an old bush rat like myself realizes how spoiled and dependant I am on an infrastructure that is delicate at the best of times. I have good backwoods survival skills yet here, softness creeps in. Vancouver Island has 3 days of supplies ahead at the best of times. Most of us cannot even cover that gap. Some folks have had a very lean and cold Christmas. Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the planet, Indonesia reels from another massively deadly tsunami. We can can our blessings indeed.
Time is ticking through the last hours of 2018. It’s over. For me it has not been a memorable year. I have achieved little other than staying alive, which is always a good thing. My life seems to have been what I did to pass the time between medical appointments and that I resolve to change. Yes, there are some things to look forward coming along very soon. I thank all those who love me and support me. You know who you are. It is remarkable how some friends and family continue to believe in you when you have lost all faith in yourself. That, in itself, is a blessing beyond any other wealth. I am grateful beyond words. So I will say it simply. Thank you. You’ve made a difference.
May everyone have a grand and wonder-filled year ahead.
“My pain may be the reason for somebody’s laughter. But my laughter must never be the reason for somebody’s pain.” …..Charlie Chaplin
Well, well, blog 200! How did this happen? It does not seem so long ago that I was writing my first blog and declaring my intentions, one way or another, to do wonderful things with my boat ‘Seafire.’ Then again, rocketing through my mid-sixties seems incredible as well. I don’t know how I ended up here! I clearly recall being a teenager just a few months ago. Of course, in my tiny brain I am still a young fool. Well, still a fool! And, I’ll admit, not a lot has happened to see me travel in the direction I intended since writing that first blog. ‘Seafire’ is still at the dock, here. How that grieves me!
One of the things about blogs, or any writing, is that no matter how diligently one checks for errors, there is almost always something askew which you do not notice until the “Post” or “Send” button is clicked. Rectal-linear as I am about grammar, punctuation and spelling, there will be, almost always, something I’ve missed which does not stand out until the piece has been committed for someone else’s perusal. One of the tricks I’ve learned is that if in doubt, use a hyphen such as in the invented word in the previous sentence. It always seems to satisfy the computer’s spell checker. The existence of that in every computer leaves me amazed at how many mistakes I find in other folk’s writing. Of course, sometimes, you just have to know the nuances of language. And, I should add, sometimes the spell-checker can be wrong. We now communicate with grunts and flying texting thumbs, abbreviations are used extensively LOL and well, you know what I mean eh? But, I’m old-school and believe that language is indeed the cornerstone of culture and that every point of the art of communication matters. Grunting is for cave men.
“I have spent most of the day putting in a comma and the rest of the day taking it out.”
That quote is attributed to both Oscar Wilde and Gustave Flaubert. In any case, that is where this blog is. I wrote half a page and then deleted it. I caught myself being far too cynical. Why employ negativity in this season of light and hope? CUT! That was easy enough. So there, Bum-hug. I’ve declared that things will soon get better, and when they do, I’ll drink to all of my readers…the hell with what the doctor says. Yes, I’m daring to say that there is something wonderful just around the corner, I just have to fill in a few blanks.
On my desk I have dictionaries in several languages, a thesaurus (not to be confused with a sore ass when I sit too long) a rhyming dictionary, a book of synonyms and antonyms as well as the ubiquitous copy of ‘Eats Shoots and Leaves.’ My texts are still often embedded with errors. So God bless the editors and proof readers out there. I cannot imagine myself doing either of those jobs for a living. There are indeed many different kinds of courage.
At the moment, I’m typing away in the dark. Thankfully this lap top, (Or whatever I’m supposed to call it these days) has back-lit keys. The battery is dwindling. The power went off a few hours ago so I’ll have to go and watch TV in the dark. We have had a vicious surging wind most of the day with gusts coming from all directions. Trees are down everywhere, the power is off all over town and we are reminded of how incredibly dependant we all are on the electrical grid. We take so much for granted including fresh clean water, food in the grocery store whenever we want it, health care on demand and all the things that millions of othershave never heard of. It is Christmas time, and for most of us, a pinnacle of consumer celebration but suddenly, here we sit in the dark, our comfy little world has come to an end for the moment and I’m sure some folks out there are fuming that “Someone ought to do something about this.” Well, a little slap therapy can be a good thing.
Down at the marina there was an exceptionally high tide, brought on in part by a storm surge; boats were leaping violently at the ends of their skinny little lines. The vessels which really did not need to be worried about, had sturdy lines and owners on hand to make sure all was well. ‘Seafire,’ a solid old ark, sat nodding her head serenely while most her neighbours were slam-dancing in their berths. This wind was not that bad compared to many I have known in other places and times but it is a big deal here. I had a hard time appreciating the drama that so many others were invoking. Such vigorous winds are uncommon here and the flora is not designed to cope with it. The storm turned out to be a real old limb-ripper with varying degrees of devastation all over the South Coast. Trees blew over everywhere, someone in Duncan, a few miles south, has been killed when a tree fell on them. Houses were damaged and there is general chaos. Thank the gods that the leaves are now off the deciduous trees, otherwise we would have a truly horrific mess. All’s well that ends and this night will surely pass.
And so it did. I rose before daylight to go for my morning swim at the local recreation centre. It was clear and calm outside. Venus, the Christmas star, (Actually a planet shrouded in clouds of sulphuric acid) gleamed down as I scrapeda frost-encrusted windshield. After a torrential rain everything froze, including the doors and locks. Driving across town, it soon became obvious that a large portion of the community was still without electricity. The pool was also shrouded in absolute darkness. Clearly I live on the right side of the hill. The power came on last night just after sitting down to a candle-lit dinner. Jack the dog nestled into his blanket in front of the gas fireplace. That item certainly proved its worth; there was no need to burn any furniture. Today, the twenty-first of the month, is winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. Soon the daylight will be noticeably longer and all will be bluebirds and rainbows. Yeah right!
The Aftermath: Jack and I went out for our morning walk and could not go to any of the places we wanted. The roads are blocked nearly everywhere. All routes are cluttered with debris and broken power wires. In Nanaimo, the water treatment plant was “Compromised” and folks are out buying up all the bottled water they can. There are few stores and no banks open because folks can’t do business anymore without computers. You cannot buy gasoline, the fuel pumps are all defunct. Traffic lights are hard-hit and hanging dead over the intersections. Christmas roads are a tangle. Wonderfully, nearly everyone is being interactive and things are flowing as best they can. The smell of crushed fir needles from all the shattered branches fills the air everywhere and that is the perfect perfume for the season. One whiff of that takes me back to childhood Christmas’s and then into my years as a logger. Many houses have downed trees laying on them (Imagine waking up with a tree top up the old wahoolie!) and let’s simply say the roofers will be very, very busy for a while. The line crews are making some good overtime pay but they are out there around the clock in extreme weather, facing nasty conditions that must be quite dangerous at times. And apparently, we here on Vancouver Island are considerably better off than many on the mainland.
This is all due to a windstorm that lasted a few hours. Imagine how life would be, should the dreaded “Big One” earthquake were to occur. The sun is brassy and hangs above the pallid sky within a distinct sun dog. There’s more to come! Now that I’ve spread some good cheer, Happy Christmas everyone. May it be warm and fuzzy. I hope that your New Year is filled with good things to do, something to look forward to and someone to love.
“Don’t look back – you’re not going that way.” …Ovid
A thin, grey light began to seep through the skylight. Snug and warm, I cracked one eye open. Protruding my feet from beneath the cozy covers, I rose into the day one toe at a time. Yesterday had been crackling cold, today was back to the normal dank drizzling wet of a coastal winter. I made coffee and reviewed the news headlines. Buried amid the tales of war and corruption is a story about the machinery we have dropped onto the face of Mars. Of all the data it is busy gathering, the audio recording of the Martian wind leaves us spellbound. A gentle murmuring over the face of our marvellous contraption is soothing, like a summer breeze in long grass. That sound is one more encouragement on our quest to find our way home, somewhere out there.
Well, that’s how my next blog began. Then I received an e-mail from a good friend in response to some remarks I’ve recently made. I replied and the rant is on! I haven’t posted a good rant for a long time.
Hello Fred. It seems that many of the self proclaimed environmentalists have never left a city, have no idea how goods are transported, where the minerals that are used to make the every day essential goods we use come from nor how they are mined. We have a whole group of citizens who are educated by books and yet are totally clueless about the real world. Now unfortunately we have elected politicians that come from this group!! It does not bode well for our future. I would like to see them all go back to the caveman days. Walk, don’t ride bicycles because iron and aluminum have to be mined to manufacture the components to make bicycles. Live in caves because God help us if we cut down a tree! What a bunch of hypocrites they are to eat food that has to be trucked here from warmer climates where it can be grown. Oh and don’t let them buy anything made in China! Make them use sticks and bones as tools, and NO GORTEX high tech synthetic clothing that may have been made by petroleum byproducts. AAAAHHHHH!!!
Well, I have to go now. I am going to drive my diesel pickup truck to the store and buy some grapes grown in Chile and a bottle of South African wine, and I’m not going to feel guilty about it one bit.
Will the wine be enjoyed with a New Zealand Lamb roast or Australian beef? Either way it came on a ship made in China fuelled with oil from Romania and delivered to your store in a Japanese truck rolling on tires made in Korea. And why, I ask, are we, in BC of all places, eating seafood from Asia? Even the otters are apparently getting into the act! (Remember Koi Boy?) Once again I offer my old saw about the chicken farmer who goes to town to buy eggs.
It is the biggest ongoing rant I have. In British Columbia, which with its natural boundaries, immense resources of energy, industry, clean water and agriculture could be a very, very wealthy sovereign state. (I’m quite in favour of the idea of Cascadia.) Anyone who can put down their I-pad and sweat, maybe even bleed a little and get some dirt on their hands, in other words produce something, should be wealthy. Instead, we import folks who are willing to do the grunt work and then regard them as inferior beings and complain if they get ahead in life.
We could, and should be, completely self-sufficient for food. We have been in the past. Those monster green houses in the lower mainland area could easily grow tea, coffee and citrus fruits instead of the marijuana they probably will cultivate in the future. The price for one cauliflower in the store yesterday was $8.99! That is to cover, I assume, the immense amount of diesel required to move it from Mexico to Vancouver Island. Or perhaps, from a Vancouver Island farm to a Toronto warehouse and then back here! Gawd! You now need to take out a mortgage to acquire a handful of asparagus! As you know, I have no acumen for financial management but I do understand that before you go off spending money on anything else, you figure out how to first feed yourself. We have, or had, very prime farmland throughout the province but we’ve managed to flood it, pave it over for malls and roads, or build subdivisions and golf courses. And, think of all the food we could grow if we simply replaced the expensive vanity and environmental stupidity of our lawns with vegetable gardens. Why are we importing any foodstuff? It is sheer political genius multiplied by our collective idiocy and comfort zone apathy.
We indeed will end up back in the caves as we deserve. We may now be able to listen to the Martian wind, but have learned bugger-all of basic value about living on this planet. With all of our technology we have dummied ourselves into a state of mental oblivion. A few years back someone came up with the bright notion of only consuming food produced within 60 KM of home. WOW! That’s original. The human race has been doing that in a much tighter radius for millennia. We don’t need rocket science to feed ourselves. Remember the Paul Simon lyrics? “Isn’t that astute, why don’t we call ourselves an institute?”
On a parallel note I watched a report on Scotland’s green energy program last night. Their goal is to be 100% green in a few years and are now rising through the 80% mark. This is a country which until recently, relied entirely on coal and its own rich resource of North Sea oil and gas. (England switched from coal to nuclear power years ago and is realizing the horrible pitfalls of that.)The Scots are now placing tidal generators on the ocean floor of their coastal waters, each of which will supply the needs of 1000 homes. They do not rely on sunlight or wind but use the regular and predictable diurnal tidal currents. They can calculate the energy that will be produced over the next twenty years simply by consulting the tidal books. I have advocated for that here in BC for decades. Both our coastal ocean currents and our mighty rivers produce massive amounts of unharnessed clean energy. Think of the electricity we could produce without flooding another inch of land or erecting ugly expensive wind generators. River turbines in Europe have proven themselves long ago. A few years ago, on the banks of Northumberland Channel near Nanaimo there was a serious proposal to build a natural gas-powered generating station. That immediately beside uncalculated kilowatts of eternal unharnessed tidal energy. The gas has to piped to Vancouver Island. Just what were they thinking? Fortunately, for once, public outcry was massive and the project was abandoned.
Oh to hell with it. At my age it’s easier to just move south and live with the unique problems down there. At least they grow their own food. Cave For Sale!
Well, so it goes for two old farts who are still audacious enough to ask WTF! We may not have any answers, but refuse to live in a world where asking for simple logic seems increasingly out of order. And… I don’t know how to say Baaaaaaaaaa with a down-under accent.
Three more quotes from Thomas Sowell:
“People who enjoy meetings should not be in charge of anything.”
“Stopping illegal immigration would mean that wages would have to rise to a level where Americans would want the jobs currently taken by illegal aliens.”
“You will never understand bureaucracies until you understand that for bureaucrats procedure is everything and outcomes are nothing.”
It is a time of year here on Vancouver Island when we usually have incessant wind and rain. For the last week we’ve had clear, cold weather under a massive high with light Westerly winds. High-flying jets leave contrails that dissipate quickly, a sure sign of stable air aloft which means the fine weather will last a while. This afternoon a high ridge of cloud advanced rapidly from the Southwest. Now the cloud cover is descending which means a warm front has penetrated the high. Soon it will bring rain, perhaps with snow flurries at first. As a sailor and former pilot it is instinctive for me to keep an eye on the sky and I can confirm that the forecast appears accurate this time. I’m dreaming of a wet Christmas.
I have worked in Northern regions where winter was long and hard. The romance of the great white north soon wore off. There were many feet of snow and the cold was extreme. In the dead of winter we would service our machinery around mid-day because it had warmed up to -40. (Celsius and Fahrenheit are both the same temperature at that mark.) Now, much older, some of my health issues probably stem from those days when I was young and invincible and seldom wore gloves or hats. Now with temperatures at a mere 6° and humidity at 90% it hurts. My old bones ache and burn. I am glad that I am not back on the Great Lakes where I grew up. The humid winter chill there was bitterly horrid. The only worse damp cold I have known was in the Northeast of England along the shore of the North Sea.
Incidentally, while working in Quebec long ago, I spent some time one winter in Baie-Comeau. The temperature one night dipped briefly to -72°F and a brisk wind blew in from the Gulf Of Saint Lawrence. Gawd! I shall never forget that insidious, penetrating chill even inside the motel where the steam radiators clicked and banged, threatening failure at any moment. All’s well that ends. We drank a lot of cognac. My employer hired pilots retiring from the French Air Force. They could speak the language and they had considerable experience flying turbine powered helicopters. (The local Quebecois held a huge contempt for these foreigners who were perceived to be taking their jobs.) I went to meet one new recruit at the airport. There was no trouble picking him out as he stepped out of the airplane. It was a balmy -40°. He had left Algeria two weeks earlier where the desert temperature regularly rose to 120°F. He told me that mechanics there often kept their tools in a bucket of water so they were not too hot to handle. I was used to having tools freeze to my bare hands when I had to reach into a tight spot. It’s all relative I suppose.
Jack and I have taken advantage of the dry days and with life on hold we have gone on some grand walks. Here are photos from this week. There has been a hard frost, even at mid-day anywhere the sun’s radiation could not reach. There are two weeks to winter solstice.
As I was about to post this blog a very happy story came up on the evening TV news. A week ago a disabled Vancouver man in a wheelchair who earns much of his living by panhandling had his sole companion abducted; a tiny chihuahua. He and those who knew him were shattered. The local community rallied and went on a dog hunt. Eventually they found him in the hands of a n’ere-do- well in a city alley. Dog and owner are reunited.
And…remember Koi Boy as described in my last blog? He’s gone; disappeared in the night, last seen crossing Hasting Street. Eleven prized Koi eaten, he’s got away with his gig. And so there are two happy Christmas stories. The way I see it.
“Too much of what is called “Education” is little more than an expensive isolation from reality.”
“It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance.”
Like many folks around the time of the full moon, I often have trouble sleeping. I’m loony enough at the best of times and right now I have a special sense of unrest. This month we have some especially high tides so clearly the moon is showing a potent effect on this planet. The abode where I live has several skylights. They are a delightful feature providing plenty of light. The rain has hammered incessantly on them in the last thirty-six hours. It stopped sometime in the night and the silence woke me up. I drifted back to sleep and into twisted dreams only to be awakened again with a bright light in my eyes. It was the moon beaming in through the skylight. So now I sit at my keyboard, pecking out this blog.
I’ve already grinched on about how our culture celebrates Christmas, or, at least, the shambles it has become. There are still Black Friday sales pop-ups appearing on my computer screen. That only exacerbates my Scroogely darkness and even if I had cash to spend, I’ll be damned if I’ll succumb to this invasive cyber badgering.
Now here is a current TV news item that is warming my heart. In the heart of Vancouver lies a lovely place on the edge of Chinatown called the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden.
You can learn more about this lovely “Urban oasis of tranquility and reflection.” It is claimed to be the only classical garden of its kind built outside of China. Someone had the foresight to acquire the land and create this place while it was still possible. Land in downtown Vancouver is now probably valued by the square inch. Chinatown as it existed is rapidly vanishing inside the swelling cancer of neo-urban renaissance sweeping over Vancouver. All is now glass and metal and concrete. It is easy to claim that the whole of Vancouver has become the New Chinatown, but that is another story.
What is making the news is that a lone river otter has somehow found its way through the concrete jungle of downtown Vancouver to the Sun Yat Sen Gardens. They are a long way from the shore of the Burrard inlet from which he had to have started out. There are several ponds in the gardens. They are filled with Koi. This sleek beast is behaving like a fat man at a buffet. He just can’t be stopped. A dedicated sushi addict, he is slowly cleaning out the pond’s murky waters of their much loved monster goldfish. Why he would give up fresh clean fish, crabs and shellfish for scaly bottom-feeders mystifies me. But then, look at the crap we eat simply for the easy pickings that they be. A story of the path of least resistance and survival of the fattest, I find it quite amusing. Folks are frantic. All attempts to trap the otter have failed, now they are evacuating the fish to the Vancouver Aquarium for the interim. So, call me perverse, but I’m rooting for “Koi Boy.” The latest update is then when the ponds were drained in order to catch the remaining old fish, it was discovered that there were loads of baby fish no-one knew about. “Koi Boy” is proving to be a blessing as much as a curse.The intention is to catch the critter and move it miles away far into the Fraser Valley. I think it is a wonderful story and I follow it with glee. In the aftermath, someone will make a movie. There will be Koi burgers sold in local restaurants and of course, there will be T-shirts.
Midnight, the end of a long day. Can’t sleep again. Bugga! More hot cocoa, more abstract thoughts too strange to write about. I’m not usually an insomniac. I guess life is extra troubling at the moment. I’ve just sold my beloved Achilles inflatable boat to make ends meet for month-end. It is on its way to Mexico this weekend, in someone else’s truck. Bugga again. I had my own plans for it down there. So another morning approaches and something good will happen. The dinghy is gone, there was money in the bank for a few minutes, but now at least, the overdraft on my overdraft is cleared up. Haar! The banker asked me about dipping into my investment portfolio. I said “Sure” and showed her my lottery ticket.
The rain is hammering down again and I enjoy the luxury of being warm and dry. Many out there do not have even this. Stay grateful and appreciate what you have. A week has passed since I began this post. Now it is December. The weather has turned clear and cold. Recently I’ve found myself working on a friend’s boat. It really is time I stopped squirming around in bilges. It hurts. There is a reason there are few rubenesque marine mechanics.
Well, the latest headline is that “Desperate officials continue hunt for otter.” The beat goes on.
“The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.” …Walter Bagehot