Yggdrasil Trembles

Hope! January 13th
January 6th
Moisture go up
Snow come down
Water run down
Atmospheric River

An older man lay in bed long after awaking; for just another minute, then another. His bladder became more insistent and finally, rubbing his tousled head he let his feet swing to the floor. One foot landed squarely in a puddle of cold viscous dog vomit. Immediately he slipped to his knees to check on the dog in the little bed beside his. Old Jack was fine and sleeping soundly. Hobbling on one clean foot and a heel he went to the window and threw open the curtain. The sky was clear, a muted grey pink balanced far to the southeast on a dagger of angry dark red laying on the horizon. Sailor’s warning. The day’s beginning had not been auspicious.

First things first. With a pot of coffee beginning to gurgle he bent to his morning penance of cleaning up after the dog. Then, with a first mug of coffee on his desk, he checked his email. The top news items were about a Chinese restaurant somewhere in Mexico and Covid protests in France. All is well. Delete, delete. ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down.’ He reached for a tiny but powerful Bluetooth speaker he’d received as a Christmas gift, tapped in the title of that song and began typing his next blog as the voice of Johnny Cash filled his head. His wife dozed in her favourite living room chair, Jack lay on the floor beside her, dreaming gently. Fog settled outside. And so he went into one more winter day. The month wore on.

My little boom box. The sound that comes out is impossibly rich and clear. It is perfect for the camper. I’m weary of installing a new car stereo in each RV which I acquire.

I’ve just now come in from sorting my tools into a new bag, something that’s been due for the last three years. Now that they’re organized I’ll have trouble finding them. I listened to a wonderful tiny speaker which was a Christmas gift. It’s a wee cube about the dimensions of my computer mouse with a sound as big as Carnegie Hall. It runs off a Bluetooth signal, something I am now forced to accept as a fact of life. It’s only been around twenty-three years. Ain’t it wonderful! I suppose by now folks don’t worry about it rotting your brain or teeth so I can feel safe to poke about with it. Amazing! I found myself out in the cold, sorting my wrenches and listening to a collection of Viking and Tibetan Throat Singing. Really! I caught myself rocking to ‘Yggdrasil Trembles.’ There is an app called ‘Spotify’ and it took me a long time to find an artist not included in their incredible collection. I finally found one.

Walter Zuber Armstrong was an accomplished jazz musician who, for some reason, loved to busk in the Granville Island Public Market. I would sail from Nanaimo all the way to the market dock in Vancouver hoping he would be playing there. He was a tall man who sat for hours playing Northwest Indigenous improvisations. I have a cassette of some of that music which I treasure. Amazon carries some of his Cds. I recall the utter magic in ghosting up some fog-shrouded coastal inlet in a boat while listening to those same clear, haunting notes. Some local readers might also remember him. Spotify, nevertheless, even without Walter, has an outstanding eclectic collection of music which I’ll enjoy exploring.

The ferry to Vesuvius. The link from Crofton, on Vancouver Island, to Saltspring Island.

There was a time when having stereo speakers the size of refrigerators was just what you did for best sound. Further back I remember an elementary school class in which we built crystal AM radio receivers. You listened to them through a single ear plug. The cabinet was easily four times as big as my new tiny speaker. I was very proud of that radio. When I was very young and we had just moved to town from life on a farm I used to listen raptly to the local radio station CHWO. (AM1250, White Oak Radio, Oakville, Ontario apparently on air in 1956 it was run by three generations of the same family and was one of the last remaining private stations in Canada) I knew where the station was located downtown on main street in the top of a two-story red brick building above a butcher shop. What fascinated me was how between pieces of music, musicians bands and orchestras could enter then leave the station and never make any sound. In my child’s imagination I could see the flurry of activity within that tiny upstairs studio and yet no-one every dropped anything or made even a tiny noise. I marveled at how all of this silent activity was possible. Eventually an epiphany about recordings fell on me but to this day I wonder how often our perceptions are entirely wrong.

Despite all the modern technology which I do not understand, I still prefer basic manual skill such as this near-perfect wood work.
Winter waterlines. I always marvel at this amazing woodwork. Four feet in diameter a pair of these supply water to the local pulp mill.

And what advances in technology in my lifetime! I had just started school when one October evening the entire neighbourhood was out in its backyards looking for something they had never seen before. Sputnik! Suddenly someone shouted and we all craned our necks to look up and see a tiny star hurtling across the darkening sky. Now a lifetime later, in this accelerating age of wonder, within just the time it has taken to write this paragraph, the Webb Telescope has hurtled further away from earth than most of us will drive this entire year. I stand choking in the stardust.

The day’s fog settled and stayed. The thick smothering gloom finally resolved itself into another inky winter blackness. Fourteen hours until dawn. Less than a month since winter solstice the daylight minutes are noticeably longer but for now Jack is back in his bed. Ah winter!

The eagle.
Look up, way up.

We cling to our own point of view, as though everything depended on it. Yet our opinions have no permanence; like autumn and winter, they gradually pass away…. Zhuangzi

Wrench

HUH?  Somehow, East and West appear reversed. Or are North and South  backwards?                      “We be lost Billy!” We’re here because we’re not all there.
The elk know where they are. The recent winter storms drove them down to greener pastures. There were twenty-five in this herd.
Sun on a wet fir tree. The steam swirled and rose, its own weather system. For a moment a face appeared and then vanished into another apparition.

I’m starting this blog while my mobile phone plays horrid “elevator music.” I’m in a hurry-up and-wait mode with the switchboard at my doctor’s office. So I’m multi-tasking. Chances are growing that I will have died before anyone answers my call. Such is life: “Please press *** for organ donations.

Three days into the new year all is well. The mechanical work on my old truck is finished, for the moment. I’m now assembling one of those pre-packaged furniture items from China. I think I’d rather be back out crawling about in the snow and rain underneath the Hemoth than doing this. The instructions for these jobs always look forthright enough. “Any idiot could do this.” Uhuh!

“Necessity is the mother of invention.” Buy a wrench, cut it to the right length, grind notches in the side to hold the end of a bigger wrench, put it into place, heat the hell out of things, whack it with a big hammer and finally the impossible nut begins to turn, 1/16″ at a time. The nut eventually had to be Dremelled off with a carbide bit. That’s the remains of the nut beside the wrench. “Whatever one man thinks up, another can bugger up!” Save the bits, they’ll come in handy some other day. The ‘Hemoth’ now rides again. I tried using slightly larger nuts with a 17mm outer size, no way any wrench would fit. The nearest Ford dealer searched out and found 3 correct nuts which they sold to me for a reasonable price. I was impressed.
Down behind and below the nut you can see is where the above jury-rig wrench was needed. Other bolts back there also required creative solutions to remove and then reinstall. It would have been easier to remove the engine…in a proper shop. The ‘Hemoth’ now runs better than ever.
Who needs a camper when they’ve got a back seat box? I stowed the seat and built this. I can sleep on this in a pinch and store/hide a lot of gear out of sight yet handy. It’s a wonderful spot for a dog to ride and keep my cameras handy. There’s even space for a plug-in 12V cooler behind my seat. Note the roll in the driver’s seat pouch…don’t leave home without it.

All the bits and pieces are cleverly packed together inside a tidy box. The necessary hardware is provided to the exact number of each piece required. There is no way this old monkey could ever get all those parts back inside the box. So there is no returning the item. Gotcha! Somewhere in Asia there is a degree-granting institution offering a Doctorate Of Packaging. Rubik’s Cube solutions are part of the first year’s syllabus. There are, in total, six years remaining in the course.

Save the photo of the product on the box cover, it may prove a very useful tool when all other ideas fail. I wonder if an entertainment value is factored into the price of whatever unit a person buys. “The Gameboy furniture assembly suite… Pass your Covid hours productively.” It sure as hell beats shoveling snow.

Jack 2008. 14 years ago. It snowed four feet that night. The only white on his face then was snow. He was 2 years old.
Happy Dog 2022. Jack has always loved snow. The old fellow is frail but certainly not short of enthusiasm…when he can stay awake.
Supreme Bliss. Whenever Jack is very happy, he wriggles about on his back.
“He’ll be a big dog when he grows up!” Fourteen months old.                                                                    Jack loves large guys and this playful beauty was no exception.

In the first week of the year we’ve had rain, snow, warm sunshine, wind, fog and a shortage of labour at every store I’ve tried to visit. We have now noted the first anniversary of the Trump insurrection and there has been a further announcement of yet another Covid variant, IHU. Now cheer up, we haven’t had a damaging earthquake here… yet. But we did just have one, fifteen kilometres down! (4.3 on the sphincter scale) Galiano Island was probably just settling under the weight of it’s newcomers.

There is great beauty in things we look at every day and never see.

It is the time of year when if you don’t have the funds to travel, or pressing personal agendas, you must heave-to and endure what comes. The media is determined to make every natural event a drama. It IS normal for snow and ice in January, even here on the West Coast. How temperatures of – 40ºC in the interior of the country have become news bemuses me. Of course we’re living in the age of panic about global warming. Awareness of the natural world around us is a good thing. Perhaps we can yet learn about our smallness within the grand scheme of things. Surely, when we have achieved the successful deployment of the Webb Space Telescope (107 latches, among over three hundred other things, performed successfully so that the solar array is now functional) then we can look to the intricacies of the natural world all around us. No need to be bored.

The beekeeper’s gate. With a hint of fog over the untrodden snow, the sun’s warmth fell on my face as I took the photo.
Last Kiss, head of the stream. “‘E was cold as a fish and ‘is breath twer a bit fishy!”
It was a good idea, but not the brightest one he’d ever had.

Just when the caterpillar thought her life was over, she became a butterfly.” —Unknown

The Royal Flush Shit Show

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

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

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

Winter nerds!   (After their swim)
Complicated
Our town

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year.

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

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

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