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

God’s On Our side. Right?

Dancing Crow. The tracks describe the year we’ve had.

A few evenings ago, I flopped in front of the tely to watch a “60 Minutes” program. The first story was about the disastrous consequences following the US abandonment of Afghanistan. The battered nation is ruled fully as a military state by the Taliban. They have now shed their traditional gear to sport about in abandoned US army uniforms while brandishing US weapons. There is dark speculation about how many in that country will starve to death in this winter. I’m sure none of the Taliban forces will go hungry. Things are so dire in Afghanistan, one hears no mention of Covid. Allah is on their side so the Taliban can pass the buck onto his will as it suits them. Then again, “In God We Trust” is the banner declaration of the US which manages to leave a wake of despair and destruction in every country where it has intruded.

The gift, and what a wonderful one. It’s sprouting up.

The very next story on “60 Minutes” was about the latest NASA project which will launch the James Webb Space Telescope into the nether regions of our known universe. Of course the question why arose. The response was to see if we can understand where we came from and to see if there is intelligent life elsewhere. The first question is answered by the second. With millions of inhabitable planets scattered through the infinity of stars, of course there is wisdom equal to and beyond ours. That is, if we have capacity for true wisdom at all. This project has so far cost $10 billion US! Image if those funds were been used to improve situations in places for example like Afghanistan, Haiti, Somalia, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Syria and at home on the ground in the US. Apparently horrific wind events have since delayed the launch.

The Christmas moon after another rain squall. The brilliance woke me up. No flying reindeer though. I love skylights.
Down in the dog park early one day.
The smile says it all. We stumbled on a lost ball and suddenly Jack was younger again. His eyes lit up and he was actually hopping around after the ball. He yelps for me to come throw it for him and there is a lovely tugging game complete with happy growls and his little dance.
There goes a beast.
Business as usual. Environmentally unfriendly, ugly, dangerous, cold, tired, wet, I miss it!

Last night I watched another edition of “60 Minutes”. (Yes, my life is very dull at the moment.) I love their random selection of stories and their style of presentation. They still employ the good old 5 Ws. I watch the program as a study of apparently good journalism. One article this week was about a massive problem in the US with residential sewage and how legislators refuse to address this horrific problem. Even portable plastic outhouses would be a huge improvement over homes surrounded in their own reeking septic raw waste. I wonder how many porta-poopers $10 billion would buy. (I should mention that my opinions in this blog are based entirely on what I’ve seen on television and then researched for confirmation)

We all know the feeling.

Geez Louise! Think about it. Our little lifeboat drifts aimlessly in a vast sea. We call it the “universe.” The boat is sinking. We’ve been pissing in it for a very long time. Instead of using what we have on hand to bail ourselves out of this predicament we’ve built brand new shiny toys to impress some being we have not yet met. The way we’re going about things we won’t live long enough to ever meet those neighbours. All our environmental declarations, political and social rants are all about what someone else should be doing. Nobody feels personally responsible.

Yes, I’ll put money on life out there, all over the place. Maybe it keeps itself hidden from us for good reason. And perhaps we were put here for a good reason. The universe will be there to explore for a while yet. It will wait. Let us first of all make this planet safe for everyone to live on, and worth coming home to when we do go out there. Perhaps by then, we’ll be able to understand what we see.

Nanoo, nanoo! Shazbot!

The Old Duncan Train Station. Homeless folks shelter from the brisk wind while shoppers prowl the mainline.
Steam Vane. Crowning the train station, a masterpiece of tin work.

I try to tell myself to just think Christmas, this season of brotherhood and generosity. We have perverted it to a celebration of excess and garish overindulgence. Go with the flow, pretend to be part of the rollicking orgy of numbness and stupidity. But my night time dreams are clouded with images of starving children, skeletal parents and mass graves. I press my soft belly against my desk while typing this and know that we each need to do some small thing to make a difference. Am I cursed or blessed to still have a conscience? My tiny effort is to try and raise awareness and to prod folks to look beyond the rim of their rut, to ask questions. A good way to describe the perversion of Christmas is to mention a short video I just received. A fellow, proudly proclaiming himself to be All-American is out in the snowy woods with his children cutting down a Christmas tree, with a machine gun! That puts a new meaning on Holy Night!

Enough said. Enjoy the season, remember its original meaning and count your blessings.

Ya got balls, ya got Christmas.
The maple sleeps, soon the days will warm.
May we all keep a sense of humour.

Happy Christmas.

God never gives someone a gift they are not capable of receiving. If he gives us the gift of Christmas, it is because we all have the ability to understand and receive it.” Pope Francis

 

See The Light

A faint gleam

In my previous blog I once again admonished readers to never go anywhere without something which takes photos. If you want to get good photos, you need to have a camera to capture the moment. Timing is everything, technical skill is a distant second. My six best photo opportunities, ever, are filed only in the back of my skull because I did not have a camera. I usually carry my mobile phone which I acquired because of its photographic capability. It does not replace a shelf full of professional equipment, and often offers a stubborn attitude at critical moments, but it does produce some superb images. I’ll say no more. The photos in this blog were all taken with that mobile phone within an hour during a recent morning amble with Jack. Here is some light and cheer in a very dark season.

Happy Christmas.

All the world’s a stage
Look into the light
Softly comes the day
Not a creature was stirring
After the storm
And so another day begins
The mystery of sunrise and buoyancy , dark metal ships that reflect the light.
“Fog: Air slowly becoming sea, sea slowly becoming air”….Ray Griggs
Jack and Beau savour the warmth while chasing frosty sticks
Islands in the stream. Dunsmuir Island, a favourite anchorage
Slowly yet rapidly, the scene changes. Ships vanish then reappear.
There!
What world is this?
As the planet spins.

Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth. Buddha

When You Don’t Have A Camera

When You Don’t Have A Camera

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

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

Atmospheric River
Celestial Stream

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Away

Every pole tells a story. This is some native art along the way in Port Alberni.
The back side, facing the sunset.
Beautiful whale totems tucked discreetly away.

Nothing! No light in the overcast sky, none anywhere around. Without illumination from the Hemoth there would only be blackness. No sound, no wind. There is only a damp, penetrating cold. It is just past five pm. A long night lays ahead, daylight won’t begin to appear for another fourteen hours. How did the indigenous people survive winter? Were they simply tougher than we are? They had no wool underwear, no hi-tech winter clothing, no heat pumps, or anything else that came at the turn of a switch. Their homes had no insulation and their roofs probably leaked.

Bark whale. A perfectly proportioned effigy of an Orca made apparently, from bits of beach flotsam.

It’s hard to imagine. Jack and I are in the camper tonight somewhere between the beaches of the open Pacific and the shore of Kennedy Lake. We’re at an intersection of logging roads deep in the boggy desolate second-growth woodlands near the extreme Western edge of Canada. Being a tight old sod, I did not want to pay a ridiculous nightly rate for a spot in a campground. It now costs more than twice what I once paid for a decent motel room. And what sort of nutter goes off rambling with his dog in December? I am supposed to be at home absorbing global gloom and consuming my bottom off; or on as the case may be. Truly, I prefer the deep silent darkness of the swampy black forest. I know being here would probably terrify the average urbanite. Jaded as I be, Consumermass holds little appeal.

“Ya want me to eat that bowel of yuk?” Roughing it, camper style.
“Mind the gap” Jack sniffs out the jeep that awoke him.
Deep in the boggy backwoods. The stumps are all that remains of the old growth forest. The re-gen timber, or second-growth , desperately needs to be thinned if it is ever going to become anything like the ancient forest was. Even these small trees can be turned into valuable forest products.
Looking into Kennedy Lake from the back side where it drains into Staghorn Creek.
Staghorn Creek becomes a small lake becomes the short Kennedy River. It has a stark beauty and is not hospital country.
Winter looms

Round about midnight, snugly cuddled and deeply asleep in our comfy bed, there was a sudden blaze of light. I thought I was dreaming. Someone in a Jeep needed to pass on the road I was partially blocking. I recognized that particular engine sound as it crept by within inches of the camper. Being an old farm boy I know to always latch the gate behind me and never block a road, any road. I’d parked in the most level spot I could find while leaving passage space and out here in the back of beyond… who’da thunk? What the hell was anyone doing out here at that time? I spent the rest of the night waiting for the next vehicle.

Morning arrives with a tatter of blue visible beyond the blanket of fog overhead. The day turned out to be perfect. After touring neo-Tofino I realized that the camp ground prices were a bargain by local standards. They’ve jammed paved cycling paths through the rain forest jungle leaving heaps of shattered vegetation and stumps along the sides of the asphalt. A center line has been painted. It’s quite contrary to the surfer spirit which helped advance Tofino to it’s present gaudy self. The old school, when loggers and fishermen and hippies were the mainstay, has been driven out of town. Nevertheless, Jack loved the beach and for a short while the sunny sands helped him forget his old bones. But oh lawdy, the cold wind sure clutched at mine. I’ll let my photos tell the story.

What we came for! It may be weeks until anyone sees a sunset again.
A glorious afternoon in Cox Bay.
Bliss
Phodographer
Surfers. They now populate the surf, in all weather, like flocks of seabirds. In my passion for the sea, unfortunately I can only wish I were young again and will never know that particular intimacy of dancing with the waves.
An old familiar friend
It’s called progress but it is certainly not the flavour of the Tofino I remember.
Nor this!
Even the RCMP have gone for the glitz.
Yes really! There are now miles of paved paths with centerlines carved into the rainforest. It completely destroys the feeling of the place. There are at, least, no fast food outlets. Kudos on that.
The V Dub van museum. Struth! It is in immaculate condition, completely unlike any that the first wave of surfers drove. Perhaps next door they’ll put up a tree museum.
Roughing it. I could see why the fee was up there. Their map shows over 600 spots, each with dead-level graveled parking, a steel fire pit, picnic table, drinking water, electrical supply and sewage hookup. Yes, there’s internet. The beach is a short walk away and there is even a dog shower. There was not one sign about dogs…what a treat!
The central washroom facility. It IS very impressive. There are others around the perimeter. Someone has made a huge investment.
The only highway in and out of the Tofino-Ucluelet peninsula is experiencing a massive upgrade. It is long overdue and will be ongoing for a good while yet. The drive to Port Alberni is breathtakingly beautiful.
May you never lose your urge to fly.

 

 To myself I am only a child playing on the beach, while vast oceans of truth lie undiscovered before me.” – Isaac Newton 

Under The River

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Black Friday Weekend huh?

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

Fredfessions :

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

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

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

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

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Drip

A bleary first sight of the day through the bedroom screen. There have been several of these in a row. “Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning.”
SCARY! There’s a little light in my eyes, albeit a red dawn, but wot a sight! The selfie was a sleepy accident and a funny image of an old fart before his first coffee.

It’s interesting how mere ideas can polarize friendships and nations. Those differences can start wars, cause untold miseries and close minds to realistic solutions. Of course, they can also bring people closer together and advance the course of humanity. The past few days have seen folks in Southern BC under the enduring result of a devastating weather system which has left huge areas of the southwestern province flooded and shattered. If an invading military force had wanted to strategically cripple us, they could not have done as good a job. Immediately there are people who appoint themselves environmental experts declaring this a “one of” event and clear proof of global warming. Laymen’s differing opinions range widely and folks will argue a point fiercely, based entirely on what they saw on television.

After the rain stopped. Nanaimo River

May I gently point out the great flood of 1948 when a huge portion of the lower mainland was underwater or even three years ago when a vicious windstorm left a large part of the Southern coast without power for up to a month. There are numerous events which we soon relegate to the delete bin. How quickly we forget. Admittedly we haven’t had a single weather event before which so quickly crippled the province and it will take a very long time to get our infrastructure back in order. However, for example, when you drain a lake and develop farms on its bottom, you are not eternally going to break the law of gravity.

One of the ambitions of my blog is to provoke thought and reaction. If I piss you off, or at least raise eyebrows, then I am content to have stirred the pot and to know you actually read my efforts. I do not place myself among the home-brewed experts who can use anything as an example of their argument. I find a lot of environmental conjecture as unfounded and irrational. Folks are unwilling, or unable, to see ourselves as the tiny organism we are within the universe. However Covid 19 is a fine example of the destruction a tiny organism can cause.

As the turgid water clears, another run of spawning salmon arrives.
Back from the open ocean, the spawning salmon will soon become earth again and complete a huge and magic cycle.
A glimpse back to a time when men were men and there fish to catch. Few of these boats have left the dock in years.

Whatever we are within the grand scheme of things, we do have the capacity to think for ourselves. We can assess and dissect any idea, even the opposing perspectives before we determine all the “What ifs.” Despite our intention to do so, you cannot measure the natural world in terms of a human lifespan. We have become so used to living in a man-made world that when it rains on our picnic, we need to blame somebody. Sometimes, stuff just happens. Dealing with that fact is part of our human challenge.

On a positive side, natural disasters also bring out the best in many people. Acts of charity and heroism abound. Many of those stories have not been heard yet. The resilience and tenacity of some folks is tremendous. The kindness of individuals and groups toward neighbours and strangers is inspiring to say the least. We see the best in people during times like this. Light overcomes darkness and we’ll look back on these days with quiet wonder.

Another frightening image…in full fungal glory. Winter brings out some wonderful fungi.

A friend directed me to some fresh ideas on how capitalism is the root cause of environmental woe. Capitalism depends on constant expansion and the dogma of ever more. But we live on a finite planet and eventually we arrive at a huge conundrum where we can maintain our explosive greed no more. The wisdom comes from a fellow named George Monbiot. He also has several videos posted on YouTube. If you appreciate lateral thinking and alternate consideration it may be worth your while to sample this fellow’s thoughts. He has a skillful turn of phrase and some refreshing notions.

Where coal was once loaded from rail cars onto full-rigged ships, little remains as evidence of that industry. This rusted train wheel looks as if it somehow floated onto this beach. The black material is crushed coal.

A few days after our deluge a glorious full moon set in a clear sky while the dawn broadened across the eastern horizon as a bloody red slash. If it wasn’t overcast and raining, each dawn since has been similar. Weather apps indicate another monstrous front is about to hit our coast. As the Australian said, “Brace yerself Sheila!”

Store shelves are emptying and we are now on temporary gas rationing. Christmas madness is bursting in all the media and some environmentalists rage about the tradition of Christmas trees. What a year!

Another shining beauty. some creature, probably a squirrel, has had a wee nibble.
The joy of seeing. I was trying to make a good photo f the diving bird below when I looked down to see this primitive carving on the rock where I stood.
Sit bird, sit.

Everyone complains about the weather, but nobody ever seems to do anything about it.” Willard Scott

WET

This photo says it all. Thank the gods it is not snow!
Water Cress. The ditch in the alley above the house. “He drowned twenty feet above his roof.”

The rain pulsed down. For some strange reason I thought of some horrific sacrifical beast which bleeding horrifically and gasping with gusting, dying breaths. The tiny coastal town also lay bleeding and gasping. Chemainus, once a lumbering and fishing centre, had turned desperately to tourism when industry failed. Now it was a retirement town. Its houses sat small and mostly well-kept on tidy streets which undulated up the hills away from the sea. In a bid to attract tourist trade, tributes to the town’s early history and first nations heritage were generously displayed around the downtown. Block-long murals, now fading, and sculptures of native figures, now burdened with moss and slime, were everywhere.

On one side street, a small restaurant, favoured by local seniors, unchanged for decades, sat in the rain. Next door the visage of a local timber baron glared down from a multi-story mural. Aromas of good and simple food escaped into the chill dampness. There was a handicap parking spot immediately in front of the door. On Sunday afternoon, the first nightfall since the clocks had been turned back for the winter ahead, the door briefly opened and amber light spilled out to reflect on the puddles in the street. Inside there were two tables available, all the rest were full. We took the small one by the window. A large, elderly woman rammed her wheel chair fiercely into the other setting and planted herself as if to stake out the other seven chairs around her. Her body and her voice trembled with a dreadful palsy but undaunted she imposed a loud conversation with the unfortunates at the table next to her.

The morning before the rain began.
Baldwin behind glass. A municipal treasure, this old Baldwin logging locomotive is stored out of harm’s way…and public view.

It was the sort of place which was decorated with amateur oil paintings of landscapes painted on old saw blades. The one nailed over our table showed a crude depiction of prairie grain elevators poised between forest and rolling fields. Although the ocean lay two blocks away no nautical nostalgia was evident. There was a shelf filled with home-made jams for sale. A sign solicited any available canning jars. The little restaurant was a time machine into decades past.

An old man, grossly obese, sat across from us. His flabby white thighs burst out of his too-short soccer shorts, a pair of white knee-high socks added to the incongruity of his corpulence presented in an athletic costume. He sat watching his fellow patrons until finally he waddled off out into the spattering wet. More cars fitted themselves into the handicap spot. Watching those various lurching gymnastics was clearly prime entertainment.

A week later the rain continues to drum down. A forecast is up for a biblical deluge to sweep over us, 75mm in less than 48 hours. We are wearily resolved to a watery fate. In Ladysmith, the next town up the abandoned railway, I stopped at a local restaurant to pick up some take-out food. Incredibly, into that place shuffled the same old fat man from Chemainus. He wore the same costume in Chemainus. I’d recognize those wattles anywhere.

In the early morning rain…
Despite the deluge the communal faithful turned out to to put up Christmas lights. Bless them everyone, hopefully there were big bowls of hot butter rum at the end of their gambit.

Meanwhile the rhetoric about the Glasgow environmental conference thinly sputters to its next stage of incessant review. It’ll go on for months. Nearly every journalist presents themselves as an eco-expert while the participants, from Greta to Joe Biden continue to blither on. When you need a long parade of vehicles (85) and a squadron of transport aircraft to go save the world a few questions tend to rise. Now everyone who hoped to be seen at the conference heads self-righteously homeward in a storm of jet exhaust. Frankly I think the entire effort made as much sense as mufflers on a Tesla.

Yes there is a global warming trend, just as there have been many before in the history of this planet going back long before the human parasite showed up. We are contributing to the effect, but let’s not be so arrogant as to claim to be the exclusive cause of it. We will not begin to solve any issue so long as we remain determined to bullshit ourselves. Let’s take a look in the mirror and then consider what we can do personally within our own sphere of being. Resolving any issue is not about what someone else should do. Got that, Greta and friends?

Bambi Lane. In Oak Bay, where one risks being trampled by an urban deer.
I joked about the town deer wearing Gucci wrist watches. There are two local factions, one to cull the deer and one to save them. Think of all the places on earth where they’d love to have this problem.

Meanwhile our local forecast of gloom is proving accurate. The rain is pounding on the skylight like Charlie Watts is up there. Two months ago everyone was gasping in a summer-long heat wave. Only four or five months of winter ahead. Bugga! It has nothing to do with enviro-disaster, it is simply November on Vancouver Island. The rain has been falling since Friday evening and is forecast to ease tomorrow afternoon. Then there will be a mere 24% chance of rain. Think about that.

Rain dogs. After our plod in the wet, we came home to find an email from a friend with the following photo attached.
I don’t like Cabo but…I’ll be right down.
Photo credit: Ann & Randy

Two quotes I’ve stumbled across this afternoon:

I’m not getting old, I’m evolving.” Keith Richards

I ain’t draft dodging. I ain’t burning no flag. I ain’t running to Canada. I’m staying right here. You want to send me to jail? Fine, you go right ahead. I’ve been in jail for 400 years. I could be there for four or five more, but I ain’t going no 10,000 miles to help murder and kill other poor people.

“If I want to die, I’ll die right here, right now, fightin’ you, if I want to die. You my enemy, not no Chinese, no Vietcong, no Japanese. You my opposer when I want freedom. You my opposer when I want justice. You my opposer when I want equality. Want me to go somewhere and fight for you? You won’t even stand up for me right here in America, for my rights and my religious beliefs. You won’t even stand up for me right here at home. “

– Muhammad Ali

I can barely recall taking this image but such a moment will come again..