An older man travels over sea and land in quest of new adventures
Author: Fred Bailey
Fred is a slightly-past middle age sailor /, writer / photographer with plenty of eclectic hands-on skills and experiences. Some would describe him as the old hippy who doesn't know the war is over. He is certainly reluctant to grow up and readily admits to being the eternal dreamer.
He has written several books including two novels, 'The Keeper' and 'Storm Ecstasy,' as well as 'The Water Rushing By', 'Sins Of The Fathers', 'The Magic Stick', as well as an extensive inventory of poetry, essays, short stories, anecdotes and photographs.
His first passion is the ocean, sailboats, voyaging and all those people who are similarly drawn to the sea. He lived aboard and extensively cruised the BC Coast on 'Seafire' the boat he refitted to go voyaging, to explore new horizons both inner and outer. This blog was about that journey and the preparations for it. Circumstances prevailed which forced the sale of his beloved vessel. Now on a different tack, the voyage continues. If you follow this blog your interest may provide some of the energy that helps fuel the journey.
Namaste Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
After my boat inspections were complete and truck repairs were finished I sallied forth hoping to take a day or too just for being and taking some photos. I love the foothill country of Alberta and actually concede to a growing affection for the wide open flat country and the big blue sky overhead. I also hold a delight for old buildings and there are still a few of those standing. Eventually I found a place to park for the night where I could see for miles in all directions. I hunkered down to watch the ever-changing light and the sun setting through an approaching storm. The next day I poked about in the Old Man River area. The weather flipped between snow squalls and exquisite warm sunny spells. It was an exquisite day. Here are some of my photos.
The mission, which I chose to accept, was to drive to central Alberta and inspect some boats for a potential buyer. I have never before driven through the Crowsnest Pass. It was beautiful and dramatic. The mountains capped with an entire winter’s load of glistening snow towered dramatically. Wildlife bounded all around and driving required open eyes. I emerged to turn north onto highway 22 which leads toward Calgary and all points beyond. I braced myself for the dull prairie drive ahead. I was heading for a town near Red Deer well into the belly of the province. It is a long way and I thought I’d be driving on and on, consumed with white line fever. But I did stop, repeatedly. There are winning photographs everywhere. Eventually you concede that you’ll have to leave most of them behind. This drive must be among the most beautiful in Canada, with the Rockies in the background, peaks peeking up behind the foothills and the rich ranch land in this rolling country. For me, it is the quintessential Canadian cowboy West. Perhaps all those rolling vistas remind me of being out on the open ocean. In any case I was driving in country new to me and I loved it.
I finally arrived just before dark at a motel near where the boat was supposed to be and settled in for a night. The long forgotten sounds of a nearby railway kept my weary head awake for a while but those rumblings and hootings are the anthem of the prairies. I drifted off with snatches of ancient cowboy songs about trains drifting through my brain.
A morning rendezvous lead me up rolling dusty gravel roads to where the boat sat. Water is a far more precious commodity than the copious supplies of oil and gas in this province. I was amazed at how dry everything was for early April. But then, they’re having a drought and I’m a coastal boy. All the dry brown and sepia tones unsettled me but there is a stark beauty everywhere. At the end of a long country road there sat the boat, high and dry, looking incongruous and sad. The young man brokering this amazing find from Lake Diefenbaker in Saskatchewan had it towed to his uncle’s Alberta farm. He had apparently traded it for some Harley Davidson motorcycles and then hauled the old classic the hundreds of miles on a beautiful trailer which had no working brakes and jury rigged tail lights. I commended his temerity and he said that he reckoned folks would be “So amazed at seeing Noah’s ark rolling across the prairies that they’d never notice the trailer.” Uhuh!
The farm itself was a rambling collection of old trucks, farm machinery, a jumble of shipping containers, and a few mobile homes jammed together. The inhabitants I met were a few young men in steel-toe boots and baseball hats who were surrounded by a swirling mob of large pitbulls. Despite those boy’s angst I was easily able to befriend their four-legged pals and soon learned that their “Pig farm” raised giant razorback hogs which were then sold to various groups who liked to release them and then hunt them down. Sport? They are infamously vicious critters, (both the hunters and the hogs.) The boar was easily three hundred pounds and stood staring me down with his tiny pig eyes and clacking his six inch tusks. I asked if I could photograph them and after glances among themselves, the young fellows reluctantly agreed. I was told that they do not go inside the fence with these infamous creatures without a stout stick and someone standing by outside with a rifle. I began to remember the movie ‘Deliverance’ and remembered the part about being asked to squeal. Much to everyone’s relief, including mine, I left. I mused that maybe this could pass for a movie set of a meth lab. The place did not have a warm and fuzzy feeling.
After a sojourn to Calgary to inspect some more boats that day I found myself in Cochrane, about thirty miles to the West. It had been a very long day. The slogan on the community’s welcome sign says “The West as it is now.” That is very sad. Endless rows of enormous shit-brindle brown houses are jammed together in a way that is reminiscent of old industrial English row housing. Eeech! Each house id large and verey comfortable but Geez Louse! There’s a whole prairie out there. There are many long beautiful hiking trails, moose are often seen in local parks, the mountain views are spectacular, but I repeat, eeech! I remember this place as a quaint little old cow town of less than five thousand folks. Now God knows how many people have swelled its borders and continue to infect it like a virus. A bedroom community for sprawling Calgary, the downtown of Cochrane has been made-over with a faux western theme now that lends a Disneyland effect to what was once a real cow town. Now everything is about impressions. Malls with all the box stores, car dealers, industrial parks and pretentious clone-box suburbs spread like cancer across rich farming country.
It was splendid to visit with some very dear friends who live in one of those boxes. They, at least, have a spectacular view from their corner lot. The light and the clouds change incessantly. That panorama is mesmerizing but they want to move. Folks in their area have an aggressively friendly manner. They peer into windows as they walk by and wave at you inside. They lean over the fence and gormlessly speculate on what my friends are doing in their own yard. Everyone means well I’m sure, but it’s hard to live with after a while especially if you treasure your privacy.
After a wonderful visit it was time to move on. My truck was reloaded, final hugs and promises were made. The starter on my truck decided to expire right there in their driveway. My finances are tight and it was certainly not what was needed but instead of being parked in a distant backwoods mud puddle, or a razorback hog farm, there I was on a dry concrete slab, among friends, in town. Their very gracious help allowed me to make repairs right there in the driveway. By that time late in the day they were stuck with me for another night. You’ve got to wonder how the god’s minds work. I’m not complaining. Thank you so much Ann and Randy.
The next morning I sallied forth with a few days to point my cameras at whatever I liked. And so I have. Eventually that day I parked on a level patch within the void between an intersection between two gravel country roads. These roads are smoother than many paved ones in BC and the locals hurtle along them at amazing speeds. They’d slow right down to ponder the spectacle that I must have presented. “Git the shotgun Doreen, there’s a stranger squattin’ down on the corner of Seemore and Didless! Dang tourist I reckon. Need to run him off afore more turn up. Goldang it anyhow.” I slept in the camper feeling as if I were in a boat, the wind buffeted and moaned all night. In The morning greeted me with a skiff of snow and dramatically changing light. It was wonderful.
I ambled along the back roads in a sort-of homeward direction contentedly taking photos and chasing windmills. This is a notoriously windy area and there are spinning windmills in all directions for many miles. Don Quixote rides on!
Throughout the day, several snow squalls blew out of the north. In one place I hiked a kilometer from the truck to video a row of whirling windmills. I returned to the truck as another vicious squall struck and realized that I’d dropped my glasses, somewhere. I hiked back, bent into the wind and worried they’d be covered in the pelleting snow. Exactly as far back as I had first gone, I found them winking at me.
After one final stop in Pincher Creek I drove westward looking for a good place to park for the night. I’m writing this near noon of the next day parked beside the CPR mainline in Crowsnest Pass. It has snowed several inches overnight and more flurries continue. I’m in no hurry.
I’ve edited my heap of photos and videos and sit writing while wondering what to do with the remains of the day. Perhaps I should drive back up the hill to the highway before it snows more. Did I mention that it is April eleventh?
I have far too many photos for one blog so the next few will be a series of photo essays. I will be able to fill my evenings posting them while I settle into my new fate at Lake Kookanusa. Happy trails indeed.
Instead of my usual ending with a quote here is a link to the time-worn sound of Wilf Carter singing ‘Springtime In The Rockies.’ It’s corny, but Wilf was a father of Canadian country music and his songs are the sound of a life much simpler. I, for one, miss it.
My recent peregrination along the most southerly highway in British Columbia offered many delights. I am fascinated with old farms, mines and towns along the back roads I love to travel. Bittersweet feelings fill my head at times about the tremendous industry which goes into building dreams that eventually fall into decay and ruin. I marvel at how all that effort is so easily abandoned. But then that has always happened with civilization and someday our endeavours will merely be another mound to be explored by future archaeologists.
This blog is a simple photo essay on the town of Greenwood. Once a bustling wealthy mining center with a smelter it is now a quiet, remote community struggling to stay alive. Photos of Greenwood are usually of its smelter and huge hideous slag piles. I chose to share a few minutes on a Saturday afternoon strolling around the main blocks of its downtown, where people lived. It typifies a lot of small North American communities stubbornly clinging to a time which was very different and is rightfully cherished. Have a look, maybe find an ice cream and get a tattoo. Then drive on.
“No child on earth was ever meant to be ordinary, and you can still see it in them, and they know it, too, but then the times get to them, and they wear out their brains learning what folks expect, and spend their strength trying to rise over those same folks.”
I was loading up my old camper when a neighbor three doors down began yelling at her dog. It’s a lovely German Shepard which never gets a walk and barks incessantly from the confines of its back yard. The owner is a woman who has a loud penetrating smokers voice, full of gravel and venom. “Stoppit, STOPPIT!” It has occurred to me that she might be shouting at her husband. This barking/shouting routine has become neighborhood white noise through the years. It may even be missed when it ends, rather like a cancelled train.
Perhaps my presence may be missed when it ends as it does this morning. I’m leaving on my next adventure today. Ladysmith will have to struggle on without me. Yeah right! The clear sky brightens slowly with a dull pink then turns to a subtle gold. A heavy dew covers everything and this is near the moment when it may suddenly freeze. I fell into a deep sleep in front of the television last night. I awoke in the middle of a documentary about the work of Sebastiao Salgado, the renowned photojournalist. I was in a peculiar state, neither asleep nor fully awake and unable to move as a parade of stunning black and white images moved in front of me. Each shot was more dramatic and surreal, a thousand views of hell and the unspeakable cruelty and suffering of the human race. Those images are still racing in my brain this morning. I try to distract myself while I finish packing. Somewhere up the back alley more dogs bark. The dew freezes and all the roofs are suddenly white.
A first night sleeping in the camper just east of the town of Hope is followed by a drive through the mountains and over the passes into the interior. I miss the ocean dearly, both the smell and the idea of it. Enough said. The light of the rising sun draws me on into breathtaking vistas, over passes and into dark winding valleys. There are spectacular scenes of an entire winter’s snow lining ice-crusted clear streams but snow holds no fascination for me. I’ve had more than enough in my life time. Emerging into the high open country of the Similkameen I miss a stunning shot of eagles and ravens milling around the carcass of a road-killed elk. I double back but they are gone. In a few more miles there is a puff of dust high up on a rocky slide and a herd of Big Horn rams melee about like school boys at recess. It’s a glorious day and I amble onward, the truck with its full camper and overloaded trailer a sight from a ponderous odyssey.
After visiting with a friend in the South Okanogan for over a day I head eastward up the steep passes and down into the next valley beyond. I’m either burning up the truck’s motor with my heavy load or trying not to cook the brakes while racing down toward the next tight bend. There is deep crusted snow near each summit and sad little towns in each valley. I drive until past another ruin of a community named Yahk where I found a good place to park for the night. I sleep well.
On day four I arrive at my destination, Lake Koocanusa. If I can’t be by or on the ocean this is country I can love. Open grassy land with open forest of ponderosa or bull pine, tamarack also known as larch, and small fir. I find myself longing for a horse. Although I have not ridden for decades this is a broad wide valley leading southward which draws one’s heart onward. This lake is man made, the reservoir is behind Libby Dam on the Kootenay River in Montana, one hundred forty kilometers to the south. Incongruously the river then arches northward back into Canada where it joins the Columbia River near Castlegar. My first glimpse of it is a sailor’s nightmare. There are shallow sandbars everywhere and from my high vantage point I see only safe passage for tiny boats. Of course spring runoff has yet to begin when the lake’s surface will rise almost forty feet. In a seaman’s perspective these waters have only one annual tide with high water late in the summer and low slack right about now. The dam releases water as required to generate electricity and to offer some flood control, good things I know, but my heart aches for what this beautiful broad valley was like when it was untouched.
Judging by the copious amount of elk and deer droppings it would have been a treasure to first nations people and the early settlers. It was indeed a valley worth fighting for although there should have been plenty for everyone. But need and greed are very different notions. The miners have torn at the bowels of this rich country, the loggers have raped the timber clear to mountain tree lines in places, the ranchers have fenced nearly everywhere. Politicians and industrialists flooded and destroyed the rich river bottom. Yet this valley still holds a rare beauty and I in turn will exploit some of that grandeur while I am here.
The balmy winds of afternoon were pushed away by a wall of lowering grey cloud bearing down the valley from the Northwest. It brought a piercing cold and soon I sheltered in the camper. It was buffeted by pelting horizontal rain on one side and a while later the onslaught came on the opposite side. “Springtime in the Rockies” I abandoned my notion of sitting by the campfire to admire the sunset over my new kingdom.
Often, I find, it is the morning after arrival at a destination which reveals a first true impression of the place. Perhaps one absorbs some sort of local cosmic energy or maybe a night’s sleep allows one to fully open their eyes to their new environment. “Holy shit, I never noticed that yesterday!” This morning dawned clear and cold. The sky was wide and blue, the northwest wind was a gentle knife. The dried cow pies in this meadow all bore a glint of sparkling frost. I soon retreated back into the warmth of my little man box. I feel fine. If the plan uncoils as anticipated I start a new job here for the next half-year. So here I am. Sixty-nine years old and starting over once again. Fools and newcomers line up on the left, old farts on the right and all of the above in the middle. Haar!
A week after leaving Vancouver Island I find myself on a bleak, cold morning in the center of Alberta. I’m going to survey a boat this morning and yes, I feel a very long way from the ocean. I’m now behind by two or three blogs, there is no shortage of material. The blog goes on.
There is a British actor on YouTube who calls himself Johnathon Pie. Most folks are convinced that he is a genuine reporter who has had enough of the smarmy syrup we have come to expect from our media. He delivers scathing abuses of politicians in general and I love his acid, ranting satire. He also attacks journalists at times and “keyboard warrior” is a term he employed which I thought was wonderfully descriptive. Am I one myself? Dunno? I’m just trying to do my bit to persuade some folks to ask questions and get off their dufus to go see a bit more of their world; and someone else’s as well.
You will see some changes with this blog (number 335) and there will be a few more modifications to come. The blog has now been renamed DRIFTWORD.
The url seafirechronicles.com will still get you there and now so will driftword.ca. I reckoned that the old handle is misleading as the boat it was named after is two years behind me. There is no point in grieving about the loss of my beloved home, temple and magic carpet. I will miss her dearly forever but I also repeatedly write that you cannot steer a steady course by looking back at your wake. It is time to look ahead to the days I have left. Life has no rewind buttons and there is no point in musing about that which cannot be changed.
There will undoubtedly be another serious boat in my future, life for me just does not seem whole without a life afloat. However, I have discovered there is adventure out of sight, sound and smell of the sea and in fact I found a new passion deep in the desert. Oddly, wonderfully I am filled with the same sense of wholeness which I know when out of sight of land. Perhaps a happy compromise will be in a place like Baja where life is lived on an edge between ocean and desert.
Another dramatic change is about to be my location. I am entertaining the idea of a summer’s employment at a place called Lake Koocanusa. It sounds like the title of a bad movie with someone like John Candyis a real location located in the East Kootenays and the border between British Columbia and Montana. There is a long man-made reservoir on the Kootenay River which extends northward 150 kilometres from the Libby Dam in the US. There is a need there for an old seadog with a wide skillset and so I go. Apparently the job begins with a visit to a pig farm in Central Alberta where sit some old wooden boats to survey. Adventure or ordeal, it’s always up to us to control our attitude. The gods have put me in front of an open window and ready or not, it’s boots and saddles. The adventure continues. Yeehaw, kerplunk.
Meanwhile here at home an old friend and his dear wife dropped by on their boat. Jimmy and I have been been buddies for thirty-nine years. We’ve laughed and cried together, shared some huge tragedies and triumphs, pissed each other off at times nearly to the death and are still friends after all these years. Jimmy is a talented singer and songwriter among many other things and we have just completed our first music video. Of course I see all the flaws, but initial reviews are very favourable. Thus encouraged we will hone our skills in future productions. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7wGZcXO0hg
And so I’m off to the mainland before I’m quarantined on Vancouver Island as the numbers of Covid varient infections seem to be on an accelerating “Uptick.” Oh the words we’d never heard a year ago.
“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” ― Andre Gide
There seems to be signs for every occasion and every level of stupidity. Here’s one I saw recently which I liked. “I don’t like being old so it doesn’t take much to piss me off.” On a T shirt I read “the older I get the less life sentence means to me.” A caption on a short video I just watched says, “Everybody wants to be the captain until it’s time to do captain stuff.” That’s certainly been my experience. And then there are really dumb-assed road signs which say things like “Be Prepared To Stop.” Are there really folks out there who aren’t? There probably are!
The recent Virtual Fisher Poets Gathering went extremely well. I’m amazed at the talent which coordinated all the performers from around the planet and threaded them together like pearls on a string. Kudos to all and let’s hope we don’t have to do it again. Here’s the link to my little gig, I am on right at the 1:18 hour mark.
Following is a little piece I wrote in tribute to the wonder of it all.
Fisher Poets 2021
I sit mesmerized in front of my computer screen
absorbing all I can of the lights and depths of musicians and poets,
my peers, my muses, my confessors and affirmers, my fellows
from around the long curves of the planet
who are possessed by the common bond of sea-bound masochism
and the thrust and sway and plunge of living water beneath our keels.
This strange gathering was all made possible by the discovery of the electron
and the spreading wake of technology
and now we take for granted our instant ability to see the universe
through the pinprick camera lense of our computer screen.
Try to explain this to someone fifty years ago,
We would have been considered as mad as a hootchie.
I watch as a senior fisherman named Gary reads to the world
from the confines of a spare room and uttered wisdoms
you only gain from the peace and terror long-lived at sea.
Through the open door of that room
I can see a lady, presumably his wife, in another room,
sitting in front of a window
through which I see lights of other buildings in the night.
She is busy with her own endeavors
painting a picture perhaps or maybe knitting
I feel very much an intruder in that home
and I marvel at the different worlds
so far apart
even though we touch mutually oblivious to our passing.
This particular poet lives in old Port Hadlock
A place I know well
I have anchored there on more than one long winter night
sheltering from a brisk Sou-easter
in front of the wooden boat school and a fine quaint restaurant
and who can resist a place with names like ‘The Old Alcohol Plant?’
I feel a familiar ache as I imagine the gentle rumble of
anchor chain on bottom, the flicker of my oil lamps.
I hear the echoes of my own addiction to the sea
duplicated in the words and tunes of my fellows
I am in the affirming company of fellow mariners
who I’m sure all long to reach out and
draw each other into firm embrace
but we sit safe in our homes
like goldfish in a bowl
only an arm’s length away.
Well, like the little pig stuttered, “Tha, tha, that’s all folks.” There are some big (to me) changes coming which will upgrade this blog to make it more suitable for plans ahead.
You’ll be the first to know.
“All I know is just what I read in the papers, and that’s an alibi for my ignorance.” ― Will Rogers
Recently during our annual snow event I found myself outside making busy with a shovel. Something did not seem right, (apart from the incessant desert longings in my brain.) Snow was zinging horizontally past my ears yet I could hear an incongruous sound. I finally realized what it was when the snow eased for a minute. High in the top of a neighbour’s tree I could see five mourning doves. To me there is no sweeter, soothing sound than the call of these birds. The quintessential song of the desert was alive and in person. That they managed to arrive in a mild blizzard seemed like some celestial message which I haven’t worked out yet other than being a song of hope. “Hang in there, there’s better things to come.”
This is the time of year when I traditionally go join the Fisher Poets Gathering in Astoria, OR. It is uplifting to find spring has arrived just those few hundred miles further south and to mingle with old friends who are fine artists, musicians and story tellers. Looking forward to that event each year helps me get through the winter. This year, due to Covid, a fabulous effort has been put together, by many good people, to hold a virtual FPG online. My gig is a very short five minute performance on Thursday night at 8pm precisely. Somehow they are presenting upwards of a hundred performers in three nights. It is a massive piece of clockwork and I am very proud to be any part of it.
These are great people from various aspects of the fishing industry around the world. They are witty and humorous. Many are tremendously talented and their blue collar perspective is refreshing to say the least.
You can get a great overview of the Fisher Poets group and a review of poetry reading (Yep mine too) by going to our website www.fisherpoets.org Then go to “In the Tote.”
I have a video produced for this year’s FPG which you can see via this link:
So, enough said. One of the wonderful things about Astoria is its many brew pubs. Once you’ve had a pint of something like ‘Bitter Bitch’ you’re doomed to go back for more. So I’ll raise a jar to you all for now. Bottoms up. Then two jars for next year.
“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.” Henry David Thoreau
They’ve freakin’ blown it. The Republicans will not win an election for generations. That’s my humble uniformed bog trotter’s opinion. I’ve promised to restrict my political rhetoric but this is so pathetic it demands comment. If the Republicans truly wanted to restore trust and belief in their party all they needed to do was to make a stand and declare that they do not support or condone the abhorrent attitudes expressed by Mr. Trump. “He was our mistake.” This way they have virtually guaranteed a Democrat win next election and probably the next as well. Some Republican senators did vote in support of the impeachment. It is encouraging that these politicians chose to put their country ahead of their party. They will probably be punished for their historic stand. A quirk of politicians, in particular, is that they seem unable to admit mistakes. If only they could confess their human frailty they would be demonstrating a strength which would take them much further than any lie or denial.
As far as I am concerned one party is no better or worse and ongoing political chess games have nothing to do with reuniting the country and putting it back on the rails of peace, prosperity and “In God We Trust.” The “united states” may well dissolve in anarchy and the Second Civil War will be upon us. Yeah, I know we are Canadian but if you don’t see yourself as a North American, you will be rudely awakened when the troubles erupt in full blossom. We’re part of the fiasco.
Yesterday I watched a video clip sent to me by a friend. It was a cell phone recording taken while some goon sat on his ass and watched as a police officer was assaulted by a madman with a large stick. Ultimately the cop shot his assailant twelve times, point blank, before the nutter finally fell down and died, twitching and jerking just like some of the deer I have taken. What appalled me more than the actual graphic detail was the shallowness of the man recording the event. The videographer cheered the policeman and expressed pleasure as a fellow human gasped his last breath not ten feet away. The event was entertainment to him. This pathetic soulless son-of-a-bitch is not alone. There are millions like him…on both sides of the border. Here’s the link if you have stomach enough for a dose of harsh reality. That the perpetrator/victim may have chosen ‘Suicide by Cop’ does not devalue human life.
I’ve confirmed that this is a real event which occurred on Feb. 6th. It is ironic that this is an area where several fatal shootings of black people by police have occurred. Here a black man encourages a policeman to shoot a white perpetrator. I can’t help wondering what might have happened if he’d gone to help the cop.
After I wrote the above I wrestled with myself while I showered, vacuumed, ate breakfast, walked the dog and shovelled a heap of snow. Dark tabloidism is not my genre. I prefer to provide hope and cheer, introspection and humour with my blogs. The darkness here doesn’t do much to make the world a better place, but sometimes a little slap therapy is in order. I desperately need to find another boat.
By the way, Happy Valentine’s Day. It has something to do with love I’m told.
“Thou shalt not be a victim, thou shalt not be a perpetrator, but, above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.” ― Yehuda Bauer
I learned how to sew when I was a child. It began with darning socks. Yep, back in the day we repaired our clothing instead of talking ‘green’ and then throwing everything away as soon as it was less than perfect. Of course, most of our clothing was organic and not made of something synthetic, which is certainly a lot harder to repair. To repair a sock’s worn heel you inserted a special wooden disc beneath the hole then stitched back and forth in two directions, weaving the new material together into the old until there was a completely new heel in place. The trick was to make the repair smooth enough so that you could not feel it when wearing the sock. My skills evolved to sewing buttons and making dolls out of old socks. Eventually I could sew patches on shirts and jeans and my ability with a needle has served me well and often. Those were times when nearly every grocery store sold sewing supplies, cloth dye, iron-on patches and patterns for making your own clothes. Home Economics was a popular class in school for both genders. Not no mo!
As an aircraft mechanic I learned how to sew new fabric onto rebuilt aircraft wings, an exacting endeavor with a perfect number of perfect stitches per inch and long stitches through the wing fabric which helped hold the linen in place during flight. Everything had to be done quickly so the organic material did not sag excessively before the first coat of nitrate dope was applied. This shrank the cloth into place and weather-proofed it. If you messed that up, you stripped the fabric off and tried again. Successive coats filled the weave of the cloth and produced an aerodynamic glass-like finish. There have been a lot of marine fabric and sail repairs through the years, all hand-sewn. I still have my leather palm and awls used to push needles through heavy material, including leather.
On a recent morning I set about repairing a beloved pair of old sweat pants and tried threading a needle. My arthritic fingers made it a challenge and actually seeing the eye of the needle well enough to insert the thread was certainly humbling. The experience was a sobering milestone in my aging process. It goes on the shelf beside the first time I was asked if I qualified for a senior’s discount. I was indignant at first but have soon learned to demand every break as often as I can. Shovelling a foot of snow today was another marker, but that’s not an age problem. Let’s just say i bought some wine today bottled under the label of ‘Fat Bastard.’ Enough said.
A friend recently speculated on what I can find to write about in these Covid days when we are essentially under self-imposed house arrest. Sometimes I wonder myself. Unfortunately there are far too many Covid-related issues which deserve comment and so there is always something to raise a question about. Hopefully some day soon this will again be the travel blog it was intended to be.
Despite the near-quarantine conditions there are still a number of out of province, and out of country, license plates. I’ll assume nothing but certainly do wonder what’s up. The borders are supposed to be closed. I recognize Pamela Anderson’s SUV with its California plates, but she is a hometown girl who again lives here a lot of the time. So I don’t want to assume anything about who’s doing what here. I do wish folks could respect themselves and each other a little more. The face mask issue rages on. A fellow ranted that now they’re trying to make us afraid of fresh air. I can see his point but I’ve had friends and family fall to this virus and I believe it’s real. If you’re not prepared to wear a mask out of respect for your fellows, will you volunteer to dig a few graves?
I’m an old bog trotter who knows there is a lot I don’t understand but it seems that shutting down the planet’s commerce for a few weeks would stop this bug in its tracks. We should have done that a year ago. Think of all we’ve lost because we did not. Despite all the dire consequences, it seems a small price to pay to stop an apparently thinking virus which will keep mutating faster than we can concoct new vaccines. Remember the old mantra “An once of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” We must stop putting economics ahead of our health and that of our planet. This is not a suspense movie. Morgan Freeman nor Dustin Hoffman cannot save us. It’s real life. What sort of economy will there be when millions more are dead?
Yeah, there’s a lot to write about. Unfortunately stupidity is infinite and it gets boring. I know I’m the same wooly-headed sheople as the rest of the herd but I insist on retaining the judgment to step out of its core, breath some fresh air and try to think for myself a bit. Instead of “Baaa” I choose to say “Woof” and that is not going to be tolerated.
At the moment we’re experiencing an intense winter high. It’s cold and windy with threats of “significant” snow fall. The media is trying to turn winter into another dark story. Perhaps it is my old fart memory but I swear that 40° in Winnipeg, or snow in Toronto or Calgary was once regarded as normal.
While walking Jack a few mornings ago we came upon some rabbit tracks in freshly-fallen snow. They travelled up a trail then abruptly ended in a tidy pile of rabbit fur with a tail. Leading on up the trail from the scene of the ambush a set of large house-cat tracks meandered onward. Garfield lives! It has been snowing here all day, a fine sifting sort of snow that manages to pile up quite quickly and will require shoveling a second time by day’s end. At least I’ve heard no-one mention Global Warming for a few days.
“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less” – Marie Curie
Sitting beside me on my desk is a frozen package of salmon fillets. The package has been labelled By Captain High Liner of Lunenburg Nova Scotia (Yep, on the Atlantic Coast.)
The claim is that these are “Wild caught in the North Pacific Ocean.” On the back of the package it is marked as “Product Of China.” No, it is nothing new but it still pisses me off immensely. I repeat my rant about the chicken farmer who goes to town to buy eggs.
I live, work, play and travel on the Pacific Ocean. I am almost as much a part of this body of water as this alleged fish. Lunenburg China? Where dat? Hell, the two oceans don’t even smell the same. And I know that China does not have a salmon fishery. I have been told that these fish were caught by Alaskan or Canadian boats, sent to China for processing and packaging, then returned to us marked up accordingly. We wonder what is wrong with our economy! When we go to Canadian Tire, or Walmart or any other box store it is tough to find products not made in China, including Covid face masks! Snot funny! China is not coming, it’s here!
Well, I edited out the rest of this rant. I’ll admit I should have first read the packaging on those pieces of tasteless pink protein. But geez Louise, can’t we even trust Captain Highliner any more?
Yesterday I was placidly sitting on the couch when hit with a sudden muscle spasm in my neck. It was the sort of pain that causes you to squeal out loud without even knowing that you are. It was agonizing. I was writhing about like Quasimodo when a loud beeping began. Struth! The whole house was filled with a skull-shattering omnidirectional (My illiterate spellchecker didn’t like that one!) regular piercing burst of violent noise. Hobbling quickly with one contorted arm and curved neck I fetched the kitchen stool and began ripping smoke detectors from the ceiling. Reaching over my head was excruciating. Old Jack was desperate to escape the house and the metal-jacketed sound and my frantic efforts. The alarm continued, despite unplugging the devices and then removing their backup batteries. SkreeeeeP SkreeeeeP at seven million decibels. “Oh golly” I shouted in mounting frustration. (Yeah right) Then the phone rang; of course. This is just a bad dream I thought. But it wasn’t. I spat out the teeth shattered by the ultrasonic assault.
The culprit turned out to be a Co2 detector I had installed a few years ago, wondering at the time how we had ever dared sleep without one. It had been long forgotten as it sat there lurking like a terrorist device behind a piece of furniture waiting for the perfect moment to wreak havoc. My ginky neck is still with me, the instrument of pervasive sound is in the garage. Wanna buy a Co2 detector? It works really well!
What if you thought of it as the Jews consider the Sabbath — the most sacred of times? Cease from travel. Cease from buying and selling. Give up, just for now, on trying to make the world different than it is. Sing. Pray. Touch only those to whom you commit your life. Center down.
And when your body has become still, reach out with your heart. Know that we are connected in ways that are terrifying and beautiful. (You could hardly deny it now.) Know that our lives are in one another’s hands. (Surely, that has come clear.) Do not reach out your hands. Reach out your heart. Reach out your words. Reach out all the tendrils of compassion that move, invisibly, where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love — for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, so long as we all shall live.
From Lynn Ungar’s first book of poetry, Blessing the Bread