Good Grief

Broom Flower. Collectively despised by many because of their overwhelming allergy affects. Individually, they’re quite stunning.

Over the past month of shock and emotional devastation after the sudden loss of our daughter, it has occurred to me that grief is simply a massive attack of self-pity. Now then, I am one of those who prefers the company of dogs to people so value my opinions at your own peril. I can certainly tell you that dogs do grieve but they have also found a balance of living in the moment and getting on with simply being. The little dog Ayre which we have inherited from our daughter has endured a massive trauma from the loss of her prime human unit but she has attached herself like a limpet to Rachel’s mom. She is learning to trust me (a male human unit) and allows me now to show her affection without employing her piranha teeth. She possessed a natural dread of men in general and we have climbed a steep and slippery slope in the past weeks.

Ayre the dash dog. Remember those little cardboard critters with the bobble-heads that folks put on the hat shelf in their car? I’ve got a live one!
Ayre meets Leo. He’s 16 and still a feisty independent wee dude.
Teaching a new dog old tracks. She loves to explore.

Each day is a triumph in the development of our relationship and we enjoy long pleasant walks on the wonderful trails here around Ladysmith. I’ve reluctantly allowed her to wander along off-leash and she is proving to be quite trustworthy. I also find myself scanning the sky for eagles, I’m sure she’d make a nice light snack for them. We also have cougar, coyotes and other predators so I’m constantly playing father goose as I allow my wee hound the full parameter of being a dog. I learned long ago that to establish a full and lasting bond with any dog is that you must demonstrate your trust in them. I don’t pick her up whenever another dog approaches so that she can develop confidence in her abilities to socialize with her own kind. I focus on the other dog’s owner and I may pick Ayre up if I can detect any darkness. I’ve watched these creatures in action in their native Mexico and know how well they can fend for themselves. She has to learn that too.

Camas flower. They are stunning. Their bulbs were once a staple food for indigenous people.
A dogwood tree in full glory. What a wonderful time of year when so many flowers are blooming at the same time.

Speaking of darkness, my website designer, in whom I had placed my trust, suddenly announced that she would go no further with my account. She had put together a proposal of how to develop my talents and provided a quote. The quote seemed reasonable and the proposal was exciting. I did mention to her that I had no money pit and operate on a very tight budget but accepted her terms. I also asked to meet her for a few minutes, just to hang a face on the voice. Our working relationship has been amiable and complimentary. I know that I have a social skill-set of a badger at times but I don’t know what brought on this prompt flush. Strange! Folks these days develop intimate relationships with each other although they are on opposite sides of the planet. Someone five minutes down the road wants to have an arm’s length interaction. I am one confused bog-trotter on this one.

WANTED One local web designer.

Gramma’s house. The effect was enhanced by the aroma of fresh cinnamon buns from the bakery next door.
Above the bakery. Leave a light in the window.
Mountain Lilies. Rare and already fading.
This rock in the path looked like a pig’s head to me. It has only taken me ten years to notice it.
The trilliums are starting to fade. What’s more beautiful than a fading flower? Take that as you will.

So suddenly, my little home-made stealth/transformer trailer needs some major attention. I was quite proud of my clever fold-up design and it has impressed many people. However, I made it with bargain-priced plywood from Chile. It was beautiful but after a couple of our winters it’s falling apart like old cardboard. To complicate my Fredondrum I’ve just bought a tiny motorcycle which requires a partial dismantle and a full set-up of the trailer every time I want to load or unload. Yep, here I go again, rip and rebuild. I’ve decided that maybe always being to stand up inside, the full length of the trailer is a good thing. Not having to erect and assemble my contraction is a good thing too! Some sniffing about turned up a few old truck canopies, for FREE, and so here I go again. Now I have a solid top with sides and windows and all (yeah right) I have to do is fit it to the trailer base and make it look like something which did not come from Clem’s garage. Stay tuned as once again I try to reinvent the wheel.

NOW WHAT? Here we go again. More Fredizing. Normal folks would just go buy what they needed. But not me. Inventor of the square wheel.

More on the new motorcycle next blog. I drove it home from Nanaimo to Ladysmith today through and hail. Yet I live. I just can’t feel anything. Thank goodness for the face mask I just bought. I was worried about catching bugs in my teeth. “Haar Billy, back before global warming we used to have insects. They were all crusty on the outside and gooey in the middle. Some didn’t taste so good.”

The dream. Whenever I see evidence of a young dreamer I feel a little hope.
Mommy is that a tree hugger?
A square peg in a round hole. Long live the misfits!

Every morning I wake up to perform my one and only character. A Rising Phoenix in spite of it all.”
―  Michele Bell,

Lizard Response

Apple blossom season
… already. There was a frost yesterday morning.

I’ve never heard that term until recently. I’m told it’s common but although it’s new to me I’ll run with it. I like it. These days exactly describes the state of mind for both me and the dog. That wee Chihuahua/ MinPin employs these responses with no apparent regard to present details and damn; it does have some teeth! As previously mentioned, we have inherited her from our daughter and we had no idea what traumas the little beast has developed before we brought her home. We still don’t. These are known to be a one-person dog and this little critter is all teeth and arsehole on four nuclear-powered legs. She can operate at the speed of light. Time and tenderness will tame the beast and in the meantime if Ayre the wonder rat doesn’t rip off my fingers I’ll continue to write.

I’ve smirked when I’ve seen old codgers walking a rodent-sized dog, sometimes even wearing a silly costume, and now I am one. I’ve seen these mini-mutts in action as Mexican strays. They have my deep respect, they are indeed real dogs but thank God they don’t come any bigger! However once you’ve had one nestle into the crook of your arm, I’ll confess they are heart-breakers who can win anyone over, even a half-hearted old crank like me.

Aaah, the sun! Rain hammered down all night and morning, the afternoon warmth was a treat.

Lizard Response is also an excellent term for how we are operating at the moment. Thank God for instinct. I’ll confess to spontaneous tears as waves of emotion still break liker towering waves of surf. There are swells of anger, grief, self-pity, then moments of peace before the cycles wash past again. Even funeral arrangements for our daughter seem overwhelming and there are all sorts of details we haven’t even thought of yet. Thank you to all of those who have offered their sympathy, empathy, tears and broad shoulders. Times like these certainly sort your friends from those who are not. Life goes on and elephants never forget. Meanwhile my life as a zombie shuffles slowly along in a vaguely consistent direction.

Hawg down! Nobody was hurt. Oddly, this happened a half-block from the Honda dealer where I was going to pick up my own new little scooter-cycle. This, I took as a warning.
Now THIS is scary! No worries, bikers aren’t so tough on their own.

One of my distractions is a determination to rebuild my website to something new and improved which will allow me to monetize all my years of writing and photographing. This is probably going to require putting up yet another new url. Seafire Chronicles has become Driftword.ca which I thought was dead clever. Unfortunately lots of people hear Drift wood instead of word so it is clear that I have outsmarted myself. I’d love to hear any interesting ideas for another new name. It must be simple, be a real grabber which is easy to remember and spell as well as having some sort of PNW/ocean connotation. Your homework is due by Monday. Seriously, it sounds simple, but after each idea ferments a while, I reach for another one.

This stool is the most treasured item from among our daughter Rachel’s possessions. When I first met her it needed repairs. So I did. After a fresh coat of paint I decorated it with these images. She cherished it for the last forty years.
Our home is full of flowers sent in condolence. My sinus’ are tingling. This beauty is among them. It occurred to me that if one could see a fart, this may be what it might look like in technicolor.
Who me?
Spring becomes. Some lovely graffiti framed by spring growth seemed especially lovely.

The image is one I conjured up for a tattoo which hasn’t happened yet. Maybe there’s something in it for a blog heading. Meanwhile I continue to search for a snappy url which hasn’t been taken. fred.com and fredwrites.com are taken. The brassmonkeymagazine.com is dedicated to pole dancing and I love this one, numnuts.com is the site of a company which markets rubber rings used for castrating sheep. Now there’s something I’ll bet you didn’t know! The day is not lost, we’ve learned something.

East. In this dark and troubled month, my heart is out there. I may be shore-bound, but my heart is out there. My heart is out there.
West. The Strait of Juan de Fuca, looking out to sea from Victoria. Just past that point, beyond Race Rock is the open Pacific. How I ache to be back out there, out of sight of land.
Finally! After years of trying I’ve finally caught the magic moment when the self-dumping barge sheds its load. Valves are opened to flood tanks inside the barge until it lists enough for the load of logs to slide off. It’s an efficient way to move logs, like it or not.
Loose the hounds.
When the trilliums turn purple.
Another Jack. Nothing can ever replace my beloved Jack, now gone 3 months. But there are other dogs named Jack, including this beautiful big husky.
Life goes on.

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” — Albert Einstein

Nowhere Man

Spring in the swamp.

I awoke in the morning with that damned old song looping around in my head. From beneath the blankets I could feel the grey outdoors and life seemed pointless. One of those mornings. Bathroom, coffee machine, morning grunts on the living room rug, then open the curtains and confirm what I already knew. Another voice from the past echoed in my head, “Can’t have gravy all the time.”

Leave me alone” I wanted to shout, but still “Nowhere man” wouldn’t let me go. I suppose I’d been pondering the point of life, past, present and future and came up with a foggy zero. Another slash of rain rattled on the skylight. March 26th, Yeehaw!

Currantly blooming. It is a reluctant spring this year.

My habit of late is to check the news and see if there are any significant developments in the Ukraine. The first story to stop me today is about a dog abandoned in a Ukrainian train station. There must be hundreds of them. I want to do something, but what? I ended up making a small donation to PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)There are so many people who have to come before any dog but in my jaded brain I have a hard time accepting that a dog is less worthy of love than a person. And, no-one has ever been shot at by a dog! Yesterday while making up the bed in the Hemoth I noted a faint odour of Jack in the duvet. I will wash it or replace it, but it is a last link to my beloved friend who has already been gone almost two months. Well isn’t it all too bizarre and depressing? As a tugboat dispatcher in my past used to say, “She’s all bluebirds, just fuckin’ bluebirds.” On that note, the barn swallows have just returned.

I don’t know their name. I don’t care.
That they draw me down onto the soggy spring ground to take a photo brings me back to life.
I’m a sucker for fawn lilies.
Don’t dare step on any!
A cable runs through it. What’s the rest of the story?

Saturday evening passed with me watching ancient Sterling Hayden movies on YouTube then music videos of James Mcmurtry and Ray Wylie Hubbard. All the cheery stuff! All the while I snacked on Cheesies, washing that health food down with straight Demerra rum.

A path well trod. This was a regular haunt for Jack and I. He loved the gravel bars out in the estuary of the Chemainus River.

I’ve decided that it’s time to start looking for another dog. There are no merit points in mourning for Jack. He’s gone, life goes on. He will always be a part of me but my life is not complete without some canine company. I’m not rushing into anything and need to feel that somehow the dog finds me, but I’m open to possibilities. I have no breed or gender preferences, so long as the dog will be able to adapt to life in the Hemoth, or in a boat.

Help Wanted. One dog. Job description negotiable.” Posted on the woofernet, March 31st.

The ache in my heart. How I miss him! He’s a tough standard for any new dog.

A boy can learn a lot from a dog: obedience, loyalty, and the importance of turning around three times before lying down.” Robert Benchley

The Ides Of March

The Ides Of March

All from one log, a work in progress. This is an ultimate example of chainsaw carving.

Monday morning, February 28th. BC Ferries, Queen of Cowichan. It’s all grey out there, but the visibilty is thirty miles beneath the low overcast. There’s a wind warning up but for the moment it’s a piffling 15 knots, on the nose of course. It’s not my idea of how to go to sea sitting here at this tiny desk with herds of landlubbers stumbling by and yucking it up by my elbow. There’s a young fellow hovering around, practising his manly walks and trying to display the new tattoo on his skinny arm. He is the sort who gets duped into going to war. A young family settles at the desk beside me and tries to set up a card game with their shrieking youngster. Another BC Ferry announcements booms out extolling passengers to re-install their Covid face masks between each sip of coffee. And then …”Thank you for choosing BC Ferries.” Arseholes! As if we had a choice!

Once off of this old gutbucket there is a gauntlet ahead. There will be a freeway marathon around the north edge of Vancouver and then out into the grey bowels of the lower mainland. Hopefully I’ll be off that snot chute before rush hour begins, not that this old bogwump can tell when that might be. It seems like a lemming race to me all day, every day. At the moment this jaded old salt is looking out at Jedediah Island and the south end of cloud-wrapped Texada. I remember long black storm-tossed nights at the helm of some greasy old tug. There were other spells of sun-dappled days on one of my own boats anchored safely in some nook when you’d lost track of time and didn’t really give a damn. How I cherish those memories and long to feel a small vessel rocking beneath me again.

The ferry stumbles into its second notable swell of the trip. The whole vessel shudders like a monstrous drum. Rain now lashes the window. I look out and up Sechelt Inlet to more fresh snow on the distant peaks. I’ll close this computer, find a corner and try to have a nap. That’s how you get to meet any screaming babies on board.

A long phone call. Uhuh, uhuh, yes, uhuh.
Doodles forever!

A day later finds me in a friend’s brand-new apartment in Langley. Fifth floor, looking down on another of these box mushrooms rising up. First thing in the morning, the crew has set their pace at full plod. I get it, the rain is spattering down as the workers staple together the bits of lumber and soggy plywood. Safety first and how do you get motivated with hours of dreary travail ahead? Overhead cranes spin in a slow choreography, dipping and lifting all the countless bits and equipment in and out of place as required. Beeping back-up alarms, the din of hammers and air guns blend into a strange jazz for the ballet of industry.

A half-million dollars or more for each of these domicile boxes with rot built-in from the beginning but how do you erect a whole new city without working in the rain. Not much would ever get done. No matter to me if folks chose to live like stacked rats, the cancerous spread of this megalopian cancer is well to the east in the Fraser Valley. The high-rises look down on the last of the old barns and the new corner stores where soon the milk will come from China. In the distance I can see excavator booms bending and rising with loaded buckets as they prepare the foundations for more buildings. When I looked up this address on Google Earth a red teardrop placed it in a forest behind a farm. No-one will hear the call of a rooster or the bellow of a cow here ever again.

From my bedroom window in Langley. This used to be rich, productive farmland. In the daylight, in the distance, excavators dipped and spun while digging ever more foundations.                         Progress they call it!

 

Stackers. three nesting tables discovered in a thrift store. Solid wood!

There was a time when home was a place where you could piss and then jump safely from the back porch, returning inside with a fist full of fresh eggs or an arm load of fire wood.

Now, peeing without a face mask ist verbotten, someone in a brown shirt will show up to charge you with inadequate exposure, the eggs need to be approved by the health department and the egg marketing board, the firewood must be certified ozone friendly with carbon taxes paid. Old George Orwell was a clever chap. I’m glad to be the age I am.

The week slips by quickly. All too soon the visiting must end and I find myself back on the ferry. This time I’m on a top deck and can stay in my vehicle. I put my seat back for a nap and find myself awakened over two hours later by the announcement that we are nearing the Duke Point Terminal. I race up to the washroom on the passenger deck and can’t comprehend why other passengers are glaring at me. I’ve forgotten my Covid mask. I complete my mission and return to my car. I can’t find it. I’ve long found amusement with the lost souls in panic stumbling the decks wondering what in hell…. now I’m one myself.

Welcome to the world of senility, where nothing is as it seemed. On the ferry, I always note the door I’ve used and the car was just where I left it, on the other side of a bulkhead. I’d simply had a brain fart. There was a local restaurant which mischievously placed a sign inside the men’s washroom which simply read “Women.” Same feeling.

Cadillac dream. Well on its way to becoming earth again. Don’t make ’em like they used to… Thank God!
Eldorado rag top. you could live in the trunk. This came from the days when we howled as gasoline prices broke a dollar a gallon. Struth!
A day later the price was up another twenty-five cents. And why is diesel higher than gas?

Now at home again I sit at my desk and check the latest news. Once again, nothing seems real. It is unforgivable to me that an iconic aircraft, the AN-225, has been wilfully destroyed. The aircraft was a symbol of Ukrainian pride and achievement.

These are civilians, trying to live their lives, who are now fleeing with their children or taking up arms to try and defend their homeland. That such humanitarian horror has been imposed on a peaceful Western nation is terribly wrong. All because of one pig-faced short man. An indelible image for me has been that of a Russian soldier’s body laying spread-eagled on his back on the frozen ground beside the tracks of a burned-out tank. He is covered in an inch of snow. His comrades have not claimed his body. Even more horrifying, there are images of civilian bodies laying in the street where they fell. Wars have become real-time live entertainment and it is appalling that someone’s misery and carnage is our casual distraction as we sit down to dinner.

Grrr! Cute and feisty. a new friend named Bambi.
A dog named Uber. Covid mask and all.

In our own homeland, greedy bastards have popped the price of fuel up by ten percent or more using the invasion of Ukraine as a thin excuse. Our roads are still jammed with hurtling traffic. No-one is thinking economy although (in my opinion) we are paying a dollar per litre more than we should. Life goes on. I’m loading up the Hemouth with beans and heading into the woods for a while.

I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones. “ Albert Einstein

Invasions

They do tend to leave their beer cans and chip bags laying around.
Horses know. Which is why she won’t go.

After the numbness of over two years of Covid I am finding it very hard to process the information about the Ukraine. Sadly, like Covid, the media covers the story in a tumbling mix of contradictions, speculations and “essentially correct” information. The one news source I’ve found which is convincingly objective and succinct is Al Jazeera. I know that will raise a few eyebrows.

Damnable human beings! We jabber about finding harmony and natural balance while learning to live a harmonious existence with our planet. Yet we refuse to get along with each other. We have an insatiable need for power and control, refusing to rise above our hostile nature. Clearly, from what we learn, the Russian people, who have endured so many horrors in the last century, do not support the Putinists and there may well be some nasty times ahead in that country if not the whole of the Western World. A grenade has been tossed into the cage and the monkeys are fiddling with the safety pin.

In my mind one of the perpetrators in this debacle was the persistent provocation of the Americans. Old Biden just couldn’t keep his pie hole shut. You’re a member of NATO, just pay up your dues and let its spokespeople there lay out the ultimatums. If you taunt a bully enough, you give him no choice but to lash out. I truly wonder if all of Biden’s rhetoric is not an effort to draw focus away from the desperate mess the Americans have left behind in Afghanistan and as far back as Vietnam. If only the not-so-United States could ever understand, or care, that their missionary compulsion to meddle in other people’s affairs causes nothing but further chaos and misery. Stay home, clean up your own mess. At least media focus has been drawn away from all things related to Covid. Doesn’t it leave you wondering what is real and what’s contrived?

At mention of Afghanistan I want to kick our own Mr. Trudeau’s ass. If only the kid would stop trying to be politically correct. Justin, boy, you’ll never keep everyone happy all the time. Make a stand, on something, stick to it, be a man. He does not understand that he is constantly pissing in his own knitting. He promised to help certain people immigrate from Afghanistan to Canada. That process is floundering in a bureaucratic bog and he now offers a broad welcome to Ukrainian refuges. I support welcoming refuges, but first keep the promises already made.

This Canadian will be seventy years old this year. I know that is not “old” by today’s standards but there is far more of my life behind me than ahead. I’ve passed my “Best before” date. I’m often in pain, can be miserable and cranky and bitter. I don’t have a hell of a lot left to contribute. Send me and other pre-geezers like me off to the Ukraine, or Afghanistan or any place like them. So long as we can still walk and fart at the same time we may prove better warriors than the children we send. The enemy can’t fire a weapon while they’re doubled over in laughter. Think of the old age benefits the country would be saving.

This tiffen was made responsibly, we just couldn’t spell srainless.

Perhaps a solution to world woes would be to load a life raft with the likes of Vladimir, Boris, Joe, Justin, Kim and Xi. Kick it loose on an ebb tide and throw in one oar. But then there would be an issue about water pollution.

Meanwhile here in Ladysmith, we too have been invaded; by a massive film crew making a sequel to a scifi flic called “Resident Alien.” The streets downtown, all parking areas and other random locations have been commandeered by a horde of out-of-towners. A part of town has been transformed into a fictious place called Patience, Colorado. I speculate that should a film be set in Ladysmith, the set would be located somewhere else in a place like Kansas. So far as I know, there has never been a referendum in Ladysmith about the town repeatedly being held hostage by a film company. Its citizens can simply go to hell. These movie folks leave a lot of money behind but I’ve never received a cheque. Beam me up. I’m just a resident alien.

Action! A security goon warned me about taking photos because the camera flash could “Mess up the whole gig” I replied that the filming had messed up my whole gig.
The camera sure caught my eye. Not that I could work out how to switch it on.
Red to red, no not that one! No respect for handicap parking either!
The beam me up machine.
The Ladysmith CPO is suddenly the Patience Colorado postal station. Perhaps this why so much mail becomes lost.

Ever felt like you don’t fit in? Photo was copied from the Ladysmith Chronicle.

I’m not crazy about reality, but it’s still the only place to get a decent meal.”

GROUCHO MARX

Source

Bleak

Wild swans, a symbol of peace. Wishing you many swans. These are trumpeter swans and may you live to hear their flocks flying high overhead. Their call is unforgettable.

It is a brilliant cloudless sunny day in late February. The southeast wind has a frosty bite and for once the air is so dry there is little frost, even in the shadows. This is normal but the sensation-seekers are trying to declare records are being broken in an effort to confirm global warming. I’ve seen this is previous years and am not overly concerned about being crispified in my bed. I’m just glad I am not waking up in the Ukraine today. I truly do not understand the issues and ramifications but from one perspective it looks like a strong potential for a third world war.

Perhaps there will be some cheap travel packages in Eastern Europe.

A CMT. Culturally Modified Tree. This is how indigenous people would harvest red cedar bark for their many varied needs. The tree lived. There’s a lesson here about taking what you need without destroying everything.

At home, a few strata councillors have also decided to cross borders and raise hell. I can’t comprehend how folks can be so tiny-minded and eager to cause turmoil in other folk’s lives, even going so far as to invent issues. I guess their own existence is so bleak they become infuriated with those of us who try to have a life. I’ve raised their ire by tinkering on my old RV in the back corner of our storage yard. It harms and affects no-one but one fellow has decided there is a “liability” issue. I’m weary of it all and am seriously contemplating a move into the backwoods in my old camper. It sure is depressing to feel such dark weariness on such a beautiful day.

Dead wood and swans. So simple, so complicated.
Along the edge of Hemer Park, near Nanaimo, runs the old rail grade from the Morden coal mine. It’s a lovely walk.

It is also Fisher Poet’s weekend coming up. For years we’ve gathered in Astoria Oregon on the last weekend of February. We share our poetry and music in a celebration of life among fisher folk and people of the sea. This will be the second year we have gathered virtually thanks to Covid. A great many talented volunteers have done a splendid job of splicing it all together. My little gig will come on Saturday evening soon after eight pm. Here’s the link to seeing that live https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1yc7flmh6w

Fisher Poet’s website is simply fisherpoets.org One of the performers following me Saturday night is Richard Grainger, live from Whitby, England whom I describe as Britain’s Stan Rogers and whose work I quite love. The annual event is a star in my winter to steer toward and helps me survive while waiting for spring. It is amazing and uplifting to find such deep eloquence and insights among blue collar folk. You might enjoy it.

Three weeks ago a lady, and total stranger, found me busy digging Jack’s grave. His body lay beside me. I thought “Yeah right.” I’m used to empty promises. But the thought was kind. She emailed me today to say that she has made and erected a grave marker there. I am overwhelmed by her kindness. In the morning, you know where I’ll be going.

Hearts and crosses…the stories this old tree could tell!
Hotroof! Things must have become overheated one night in this old Crofton motel.
Under the volcano. A view of Mount Baker from the Crofton Public Wharf
Plastic engine parts. The modern way. This is a double thermostat housing which distributes coolant and helps keep the engine from overheating. Plastic? It works.
Overwhelmed. This from a complete stranger. It’s made from rice and beans, food Jack loved. It is all coated in a weather-proof epoxy. Note the heart within the paw print. Thank you, thank you Cheri!
Rest in peace my friend. How I miss him cannot be expressed in words. There is a huge piece of me buried here. Even with the marker he is in solitude where no one who does not know can find him.

How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”
― Henry David Thoreau

Blunderland

Fly away, the weather is fine.

Knowing what the weather forecast says is not going to change what’s really going to happen. “Darn, it was supposed to be sunny today.” Well, no it wasn’t supposed to be anything. That’s just what the weather girl in the tight dress said. Have you ever had an outdoor project that’s weather-dependant? I have some fibre-glassing to do (Yes in February!) and the forecast has a lower chance of rain tomorrow but I know that if I postpone it’ll probably be pouring rain then. All any of us ever have is the moment. “Git ‘er done!”

Frosty the worm. Sometimes it’s best not to rush into things.

After installing some badly-needed new headlights in my old camper, the Hemoth, I decided to align them using the siding on the storage sheds where I was working. Focused on that I forgot all about the overhanging eaves and yes, I ripped the corner off that overhang and punched a hole in my fibreglass camper’s roof. Oh gosh golly I said. Yeah right!

I’ve repaired the building, then I needed to rebuild the camper’s eggshell-thin top before our next deluge arrives. The repair will be stronger than the original and it’ll be out of sight on the top but my fog of chagrin is thick indeed. What the hell wasn’t I thinking. If only I… No amount of regret puts things back to that moment before, so I may as well forge ahead until this has become only a blip to laugh about. In the shower this morning I came up with this line. “It’s like a nickel in the clothes dryer, not worth much but sure can be irritating.” This has stuck in my head, round and round, like a nickel in a dryer.

Therein lies a story…or ten.
Doesn’t fit like a glove. An essay on why I have difficulty repairing Asian products.
My too big hands. The gloves came with some new headlamp bulbs. Thoughtful!
“Gee honey, there seems to be a draft.”  It could have been worse. The first step was to spray foam the bits back together  while bracing it from inside. Yes, the headliner over the bunk will need some attention. I was going to  put something new in there anyway.
Really good stuff! A Gorilla Tape product. You can patch the crack of dawn with this. Everybody should have a roll in their bathroom! I used it on the hole in my camper roof until the weather was improved enough to make a proper repair.
All done. I’ll prettify it come spring.

We bin held hostage for two years.” Thus said a trucker who is part of the ongoing demonstration in Ottawa. He was being interviewed by a television reporter. I didn’t want to wade into this polemic issue but now I am pissed off after that inanity. This nonsense has been going on for over two weeks. A sad fact is that everything we consume demands burning diesel. That lettuce in your salad was probably trucked up from Yuma (and the moisture that is in it came out of the nearly-dried up Colorado River) Trains, planes, ships and trucks all burn a fuel in copious amounts that is now than a dime a litre more than regular gasoline. That is blatant rape.

I am a blue collar man who is all too familiar with redneck thinking. I often employ it myself. In response to remarks about being held hostage for over two years let me simply reply “Dude! We all have!” I have never been a trucker but I’ve burned one helluva lot of diesel in other machinery and I’ve listened to truckers whine for most of my life. If you can afford to take your highway tractor and bobtail all the way from BC to Ottawa and eventually home again, which in direct expense will be twenty thousand dollars or more, lose the revenue from all those missed trips, keep up your monthly truck payments and other expenses, then boys, YOU’RE PISSING INTO YOUR OWN KNITTING! God help the next trucker I hear whinge on about how tough it is to make a buck with a truck. I do still see plenty of trucks hauling loads so I know you protesters do not represent your entire brotherhood.

If it is really Covid vaccinations and face masks you are protesting I cannot comprehend what you are complaining about. Our governments, both provincial and federal, have certainly made a muddle of things but why are you punishing the citizens of the entire country? You have earned our contempt. You are regularly crossing an international border where you mix and mingle with other travellers from all over the continent who in turn mix and mingle. There is not one of you who have not been vaccinated for measles, smallpox, polio and so forth. Hell, you even dump additives into your truck’s fuel tanks. So whazzup? If I was in your situation, I’d want all the possible protection I can get.

As for all the wannabe wotzits standing on the side of the road, waving flags and generally being a dangerous distraction to traffic, all I can say is GET A LIFE! I’ve driven the Hemoth by some of those mobs and been given the arm-pump to blow my horn. Really? Get a life! You clearly don’t know what you are protesting about. And don’t dare complain about the high price of groceries.

I understand the frustration. We all feel it. But one thing is a fact you cannot deny. If you’re truly unhappy here in Canada, you are free to leave. Buy yourself a one-way ticket to a place like Ukraine, Afghanistan, Syria, Namibia, Haiti, Ethiopia. The choices are many.

Kenzie, greeter at the Trading Post. This delightful store, by the Nanaimo Airport sells feed, saddles, tack, Western Clothing, boots and many other delights. The aroma of leather is worth the visit. The people there are lovely and so is their dog. The store is well-know for the full-sized plastic horse that is wheeled out beside the highway in various amusing costumes.
Please!
An Australian Shepherd. She’s a heartbreaker.
Hope in a warm sky

The bird that has eaten cannot fly with the bird that is hungry.”

American Indian proverb

Sleeping By The River

At the swimming pool a few mornings back, while in the hot tube, I learned of a BBC headline story. I’ve since looked it up. In Yorkshire a kitten was born without an anus. His name (which I chose to find hilarious) is Toulose. He underwent some life-saving surgery and all is well. Imagine the poor surgeon who opened things up!

How was work today honey?” “T’wer a bit shitty in fact!”

Apparently a tidy sum was raised to help. It’s a happy story, especially for Toulose. and frankly I prefer one about a little asshole in Yorkshire to anything about a big one in London. God knows, we need all the levity we can get.

I buried Jack yesterday morning under the sheltering branches of a large holly tree on the banks of a salmon stream. He is sleeping in soft river sand beside Napoleon Creek, a short distance before it joins Haslam Creek which then runs into the Nanaimo River. The grave is about a kilometer into the forest, beyond the range of the shouting, yuk-yuking shallowites. There is constant music as the stream burbles past. The burial was attended by two ravens practicing their throat singing, an eagle screaming its anthem and a large wood pecker banging passionately on a hollow tree. I did not linger, feeling that I had somehow betrayed Jack, which is ridiculous. It had to be done. He’s gone, he is at peace.

On a soft bed of ancient river sand, a bed of ferns. Jack now lays here, waist deep, safe from harm yet where he can hear what I come to say to him.
Well done my friend, sleep in peace
Who would have a living tree as a grave marker? The ancients believed that Holly protected one from evil. For Jack, the very best.

I have received many wonderful notes of sympathy, and empathy. A large number of those have come from you my readers and I cannot thank you enough. It means so very much.

One of the common threads is how it is often much harder to lose a beloved dog than any person. That is certainly so for me and your affirmation certainly raises a doubt than I am not quite as odd as I believed. Thanks. It also occurred to me this afternoon that grieving is not a noble ordeal as much as it is a massive endeavour in self-pity. No volume of tears or dark musings can restore that which is lost. My wife and I were bestowed with the privilege to afford Jack a good life. He out-gave us in every way. He indulged in his days to his fullest and brought joy to all who met him. Who knows what good came from that? I believe that my mission in life is to bring light to other’s eyes, man or beast. There is no merit in trying to solicit tears over success.

So, wherever you are, raise a glass to Jack and a life well-lived. Let’s have a wake. Here’s a link to a video about Jack which I made and posted on YouTube some time ago.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3_5vlFHHYk

There are two wolves fighting inside all of us.

The first one is evil, the second one is good.

Which wolf will win?

…The one you feed.” Ancient American Indian proverb

The Dark Before The Dawn

Soggy bottom goats. It’s the time of year when summer seems a distant fantasy.
Under the Volcano. Mount Baker 10,781′ ASL is 149 km (about 94 miles) from my front door. It is a live volcano.

We all know that famous quote from Winston Churchill about how it is always darkest before the dawn. I sit writing this morning looking out a window at a thick cone of fog beneath a street light. There is a darkness blacker than the night and that impenetrable gloom smothers all. There is a palpable weight to the pre-dawn world. No bird sings. Jack is in his bed near my feet in what I fear may be his last days. Our deep affection for him is mixed with selfish guilt that he may be in pain. We wrestle with the dark decision we know we soon may have to make. His back legs are now paralyzed, he needs help with his basic functions. He’s a very stoic character and it is impossible to tell if he is suffering. Yet we cling to each minute of his presence and focus our will on keeping him alive and in comfort. I’ve spent hours laying with him, holding him, thanking him for all the wonderful years and trying to let him know that it is alright to let go and fly on ahead to find his peace. There is no catharsis with writing about this. I sure hope old Winnie was right. *

Hobbling along the beach a few weeks ago, Jack demonstrates his keen interest in the world around him. He seems determined to squeeze every drop of life out of each moment.

I’ve been reading a wonderful novel. ‘The Overstory’ by Richard Powers. The book deservedly won a Pulitzer. It is very cleverly written and leaves me feeling completely unworthy as any sort of writer. Among other interwoven themes Powers examines the militant environmental movement, the “Tree Hugger.” One of his persistent efforts is to show how complex and venerable the entire forest is; how interconnected all things natural are. Saving a piece of forest is not just about the trees, ultimately it is about a massive ecosystem called Earth. What is interesting to me is how I once was inclined toward the other side but have slowly evolved to hold a much broader view and respect beyond my own personal greed.

I’ve decided to start exploring old cafes I find, those quintessential “Greasy spoons.” This one is in Downtown Duncan.
It is very funky inside. The art is wonderful, the food was good.
March 18, 1985. The story is about a UFO enthusiast who had vanished. The ad is for Woodwards, a BC institution which closed its doors in 1993. Its famous jingle was “Woodwards, $1.49 day, Tuesday.”
For once I’m lost for a caption. What a lovely comic image.
A bird of a different bark.
The tiniest bark owl I’ve seen. Making these effigies and mounting them outdoors seems a growing trend.

I used to joke that it is interesting how most of our militant and vocal environmentalists come from a world entirely alien to forests and wilderness. Here in BC chances are good they live somewhere in the lower mainland and don’t give a fig for living without all their modern conveniences. Their home environment is the biggest clear cut in the province. Not only are the trees gone, the natural earth has all been ripped up and then smothered in concrete, asphalt, and alien vegetation. Millions of years of natural evolution wiped out for modern ease and personal convenience.

Hope! First crocus January 23rd.
Colour! Any colour to cheer the winter gloom.
This fungus on a decomposing log is as important to the grand scheme as any other organism, large or microscopic.
Another sort of fungi.

Our watersheds have been re-arranged to suit our current greeds. Rivers and streams have been diverted and channelled, smothered with concrete and culverts, or simply filled in or drained. Lakes are drained, we build on thier dried bottoms then howl when nature puts things back they way they were. Just think about how much of the earth is destroyed to build a highway, an airport or railway, a mall or a golf course, a subdivision or even a church. We then look for someone to blame when our prime real estate is flooded. After we’ve mutated much of our prime land we then import food from somewhere else on the planet instead of growing it ourselves. Let’s not discuss the footprint we leave because of that. Even this old sailor knows that is very bad economics. Being able to feed yourself first comes as a cornerstone of building wealth. I understand the deep need for an idea of wilderness and untouched forest. I don’t understand why the message is always about what someone else is supposed to do.When someone stands in front of a TV camera describing their loses to a natural event, it is always in terms of dollars. So before we get into our plastic electric suv (Stupid Urban Vanity) loaded with cardboard protest signs nailed to wooden sticks, let’s ask ourselves some basic questions. End rant.

Jack asks: “If shitting under a bush on the natural soil is bad, how come it’s OK to go to the effort of putting it in a plastic bag and then leave it hanging in a tree? People! Grrrr.

From my time as a boy laying in the grass watching the clouds, to being an old pilot with most of his life behind him, there is still magic in the sky.

* I’m posting this blog three days after I began to write it. Amazingly, Jack has rallied. He has found his legs again and can shuffle around on his own. He has his appetite back and his plumbing is functional. There is light in his eyes. He has resurrected himself. This morning there was a brilliant sunrise. Then the fog settled in again. Jack hangs on.

Crow Creek

There is something faster than the speed of light: the speed of darkness.

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