Abbey Knoll

The poser.
A very healthy fawn.
Using the same pose she has taught to her fawn. Deer have the uncanny ability to appear calm and yet are eternally poised for flight.
Home stretch

Our gravel lane which angles down from the paved main road is called Abbey Road. There is a grass knoll above it which I have named Abbey Knoll. It is a spot which has beckoned to me all the time I’ve been here and finally I’ve gone for a wander over the knoll. There are many things in life we don’t get around to. Places nearby, things to see and do or taste or hear and we never just go do it. I marvel at both visitors and staff who come to this magnificent wild area and see none of it. They roar around in their flashy boats, ATV’s and off-road vehicles with stereos throbbing and see nor sense any of the magic they are helping to destroy. Many of the employees here are unaware of the incredible forest and lakes all around us. They have no interest in the wildlife and don’t even seem to see the mountains.

I arrived at my jobsite here in the Southeast Kootenays in early April. Now we are already in the declining days of summer. Time flies whether you’re having fun or not. I notice a few limbs of tamarack turning gold already and one morning in the next few weeks there will be frost. The evenings darken ever earlier and there is a chill in the air. Soon I’ll be gone from here.

Wild deer fascinate me. They are always a joy to simply watch. This old hunter may not come home with venison anymore but I savour some of my photos with deep satisfaction. My only weapon now is my camera. The remainder of this blog is images.

Abbey Knoll
Not the best time to be heading into the woods for a walk but…it’s when the critters come out.
Looking south a long way into Montana. The open grassy areas are entirely natural. Oh for a horse!
Just the way the gods left it
Aha!
Dance. On a recent visit to Fort Steele I looked across the Kootenay River and saw three whitetail deer frolicking in the meadow beside the pond. One deer can be seen beside the small spruce tree.
Happy trails
find the deer. There are six in this photo. After a lifetime in the woods I’ll wager that for every deer we see, there are ten we don’t.
During an all-day downpour this young buck showed up behind my camper to savour some fresh, wet greens.
Deer, like many creatures, seem able to know when you mean them no harm.
Across the province several man-made nesting sites for Peregrine falcons have proven quite successful. Three adjacent nests all had maturing chicks. One annoyed parent chased my truck along the road with load screeches and several low passes.
Dad takes off to chase the big red truck.
Down from Abbey Knoll.  I thought I knew where he’d be hiding… right where mom told him to.
Can you see him?
How about now?
Domestic beasts. They’re a formidable pair, weighing not more than ten pounds between the two of them. I must be getting old, I now like little dogs too.
This barn looks like I feel all too often lately. I drive the back roads as much as I can and find sights like this.
Whatever their official name, I call these guys Wifi bugs.
On closer inspection, they are beautifully marked.

Free Range day for the cows at the water park. They were promptly moved along by ladies in housecoats.
“Well me son, de arse is outta ‘er.”
The horse agreed.

It’s a strange and insufferable uncertainty to know that monumental beauty always supposes servitude. Perhaps it’s for this that I put the beauty of a landscape above all else- it’s not paid for by any injustice and my heart is free there.” …Albert Camus

Pink People

Pink People

Rumble Mountain.
While on a visit to Fernie last week, for my second covid vaccination, I watched this cumulonimbus cloud quadruple this size in less than a half-hour. A huge anvil was forming on its top as I left town.
Even these high peaks looked hot.

After a reluctant spring, summer descended like a squadron of dive bombers. We were obliterated. Even my young co-workers staggered about panting. Those working on the docks easily burned from the sun’s reflection on the mirror-calm lake surface as if they were in a micro wave. We were being nuked. Temperatures hovered around and above forty degrees Celsius. I found myself sitting in the emergency ward of the hospital in Cranbrook for seven hours when I thought I was exhibiting a few stroke-like symptoms. I waited that long because ambulances were arriving almost bumper to bumper with heart attack victims due to the heat. I was told, after a series of tests, that I was working too hard in the heat. I knew that. But there’s no fool like an old fool.

Yes Really! Inside the camper at ten pm.
Kinda says it all
Fernie street art
The mark of a civilized town, a public loo.

Tonight I’m sitting outside of my camper in a sultry wind blowing off the lake. Temperatures have plummeted down to the mid thirties. It feels chilly. The tree tops roar like surf and dust blows past in swirls. I’m loving it. There is always a patina of dust on everything and I remind myself that life in the desert is just like this. Repairs to the camper have stalled, I’ve been too exhausted to do much with my evenings except wait for the temperature to cool enough for sleep and consume every sort of fluid available. And so the summer passes at the moment, one weary day after another. Visitors I was looking forward to seeing are cancelling for various reasons and frankly I am feeling quite low about life in general. This too shall pass.

One of my many projects, our floating cantina
A morning coffee on the roof watching an inbound houseboat
‘Amazing Grace’ draws close. It looks like a floating wedding cake to me. While nowhere near my idea of a boat they are a highlight of many folk’s lives.
Here we go again
End of the day, my sweat-crusted shirt

One of my bemusements here are the folks who come to enjoy the new water park. It opened on July 1st. My employer purchased an inflatable world from a Chinese (of course) manufacturer which was then held up in customs for almost two months. There was much puzzling and re-anchoring and inflating but it finally came together. Skeptical at first I am now amazed. From toddlers in diapers through amazingly obese human apparitions to geriatrics barely capable of walking on solid ground, these folks clamber, crawl, slither and roll along these inflatable floating obstacle courses. They squeal and scream and squeak in a cacophony of unbridled joy. Most are not confident swimmers so they are provided with life jackets. It is delightful to watch as even elderly folks become children again. The old adage about the best amusements being simple things proves itself true.

Where adults can shamelessly be children again
Wheee kerplunk

I can also see that a thriving future business will be tattoo removal. Good grief! Don’t folks realize that those beautifully crafted flowers, dragons, tigers and graphic fantasies will evolve as time goes by. When their skin sags, wattles and wrinkles those tattoos will slowly evolve into abstract patterns and more closely resemble street maps of places like Moscow. Then there are the thong-string bikinis which do nothing erotic or tantalizing fopr the wearer or the observer. Pockety alabaster mounds (both genders) balumping down the dock only confirm statistics about rising Canadian obesity. Clearly this old fart, who is in no way a prude, is missing something about contemporary physical appeals. “Shake it up baby.” What’s white and red and squeals when it gets near water? A Canadian.

The fleet in the morning. By mid-morning the dock bustles like a train station as swarms of new charter folks arrive with all their food, booze and other baggage. Then there are the maintenance folks desperately preparing the vessel for the next trip.
The boat won’t go anymore! Landlubbers feel safest close to the shore…where the rocks are!
I have never before seen such a neatly trimmed propeller hub. The speed at impact must have been tremendous.
A much prettier set of three blades, completely intact. These flowers grow in baking hot, bone-dry, powdery alluvial dust. They are incredibly beautiful.
Growing
Growing
Bloom
Bee happy

By the end of the day some of these creatures have turned a vicious fluorescent pink. They plod up a very steep hill to a dusty yard where their cars are parked with blast furnace temperatures inside. They drive for at least an hour to get anywhere back out toward their world yet next day there are more folks squealing and pink. Word of mouth is an ultimate marketing tool and clearly folks are very happy. Meanwhile the fleet of rental houseboats comes and goes as ever more folks enjoy a unique vacation. I am amazed at how my employers saw this opportunity and have made it work so well. All things are possible.

Another job on the docks done, next one now! Still smiling!
photo by Krista Fast

Enjoy life. There’s plenty of time to be dead.” – Hans Christian Andersen

Sew Wot!

Big Brother is watching you.

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!

Nut flowers. Snow sits prettily on Hazelnut flowers, a sure sign of the coming spring.
Ayre’s first snow. She loved it. I guess she could be called the the grand-dog. She is a visitor. Jack loves the wee beasty.
Jack’s first snow; now far too many years ago.
The five pound terrorist home from the arctic steppes. It has taken me a while to accept that she’s all dog despite her diminutive size. Her legs are about the same size as my fingers but she’s tough and fast.

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.

Morning in the park two days ago. Yes those are flowers.
A world in a ditch. Winter growth before the snow. The more you look, the more you see.
Then this!

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.

Ya missed! Bird facilities. Knots on an arbutus tree look like a bird loo.

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?

Pipe Finger

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.

Waterfront birdhouse
Tension rides the ebb tide.
Winter reprieve
Willows in winter sunlight
Winter field
The field trail

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.

How hard it is to be an island. At the moment, the ice is almost thick enough to walk out. But, the tide keeps shifting it.
A dream machine to me. A beautiful home-made expedition vehicle built on a Fuso 4×4 frame. I saw this parked in Ladysmith and had to turn back for a close look. Love at first sight!
May you find a portal to your dreams
Watch all you want bro…Just remember, two ears, two eyes, one beak!

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

What’s Next?

Too Wet To Plow Again

Yes Really!
January 6th, Gabriola Island. There’s hope!
Happy New Year.

It’s January 10th, already! My little life here on Vancouver Island is very quiet and that is not necessarily a complaint. I sure ache to feel the caresses of fragrant warm breezes fluttering the napkin beneath my sweating margarita and then whispering off through the cacti above the beach. Certainly my arthritic old bones also ache from the chill damp of another coastal winter. But considering all the other places where I could be dying of some terrible affliction I believe I am blessed to be in one of the best spots on the entire planet. And if I have to wrap my ugly mug in a mask on the odd occasion that I have to be among the public, it’s a small price to pay to not be quarantined inside my home. My reclusive lifestyle has not changed much.

Reflections on the year ahead. It’s looking weird but we still have some freedom.
Too wet to plow
Too wet for heifers
Definitely too wet for farming
Three generations
Nurse stump, mature seedling and offshoot.

A friend in France, each time she needs to go out for a few groceries, even to walk the dog, is first required to apply online for a permit number to allow her an absolute minimum of time within the parameters of the described activity. If an official catches her without her specific number, or outside the area as described, it’s essentially off to the glue factory with you. It is nowhere near that here…YET! But there are folks working on making it so.

Old jungle girls
Reaching for a little light
Swirls and complications
FLIRT
A little colour on a dull day. Even the cover is a thing of beauty and the boat is something to quicken a sailor’s heart. I can feel the bend of the oars and hear the water gurgling by simply by looking at her. What beautiful lines!

We’ve all heard some of the tales from those who were either civilians or military folks during WWII. This pandemic is a picnic in comparison. No one is dropping bombs on us or trying to starve us. If our expectations and notions of entitlement were not so ridiculously high we would be a lot more content. “WHAT? You’re out of mint chip dip!!” If you don’t like today, try missing a few.

Quick as a flash
The Coho keep on coming
Fish with no end. It’s lovely to see and the eagles are watching too. The fish at the top is a female making a bed to lay her eggs. Two males standby.
Eagles Three
Old Fish Farts Hisself
I’m just a lonely fish
lonely and red.
The stump is big enough to park a small car. It seems tragic to knock down an old-growth giant and just leave it to rot. The parks people call it “helping nature.”
A swan in the corn. The rain continues.

So far as comments on pandemics and politics, I’ll let the following quote say it for me. I’ll just post some local photos of daily life around Ladysmith.

The sensible dog. This is a rare moment for Ayre, the eight-month old Min Pin Chihuahua. She’s nuclear and usually a blur. Jack retreats to his bed in the closet when she’s on the rampage.

Due to travel restrictions this year, the United States had to organize a coup at home.”                                                                       Martin Mesquita Watguri Hardie

Turn Your Head To Cough

A December covid morning. Sure is a nice looking day despite the doom and gloom.

I found myself beginning this blog with yet another account of more Covid bad behaviour. But one of the mantras which I claim to aspire toward is to take nothing personally. So…End of rant, delete, start again. We’re all under some degree of duress and perhaps the best relief is to cut a little slack for our fellows in their determination to satisfy a sense of entitlement. It is what we’ve been taught to expect for decades! We are all bent out of shape with the direct and also the obscure long-term effects of this ongoing pandemic. It is appalling that so many folks are determined to demand their personal whims come before a few weeks of self-discipline in consideration of the common good. Let’s get together and beat this thing.

Just wear a mask damnit!

Social Isolation. A cabin in the mists behind local blueberry fields
A dough puppy named Pillsbury. Just another fungus.

Personally I hate face masks and rip them off each time I emerge from an “enclosed public place” but even I, master loner and contrarian, wear one without protest. I get it and don’t understand what it is that some others don’t. At the same time, from a different view I continue to find great amusement at those I see driving around alone in December gloom, wearing sunglasses, surgical gloves and face mask. Oh! You like dressing like that! OK fine, it’s not hurting anyone. So sorry.

Eagle eyes
and Seagulls watching, the last of the salmon run
Dog sushi. Various creatures drag the dead salmon up from the stream. Dogs love to roll on them, the hummier the better. “There’s nothing friendlier than a wet dog that’s rolled on a dead fish.”
We emerge unscathed and smelling like a rose, old Jack is down to a slow shuffle these days.
At the hatchery office. Even though shooting into the morning light it was so dull that the camera insisted on using flash. I love this panel and could build a whole house around it.
Mucho amigos
The portal. Another world awaits.

The following note just arrived in my morning bulletin board from La Manzanilla.

Covid news from the interior of MexicoPosted by Stephanie on November 30, 2020, 12:59 p

My last customer at the bookstore today happened to be a phlebotomist Dr. who works at a hospital in Guanajuato! She is here visiting with mask on for a much needed break from all the cases they are seeing at her hospital!

I wanted to question her more but she had an emotional breakdown when describing how the whole first floor of the hospital has now been turned into a morgue and her stress was apparent,

I think she was surprised at the lack of masks seen on the streets here given we have many buses coming from all parts.

Just saying! Be safe!

Nah, you don’t need to wear a mask, it’s your right! Dead right!

And now a little colour:
Arbutus berries
December weeds hanging on.
We’ll take all the brightness we can find.
December mauve

I was reading the latest edition of Hakaii Magazine. An excellent article about toxic effluent which washes off our highways into the ocean (you can google it up) made a profound comment. It suggests that Covid has taught us that to survive, we can change our behaviour rapidly. (Well, some of us anyway.) Now if only we would apply that same thinking to other environmental issues…. There’s something to chew on!

Once upon a bridge
The rusty rails tell the sad story.
“Doc I think I’ve got rail fungus.”
Mid drip. The old train station roof. Nothing lasts forever.
We need all the colour we can get.
Pommes Noel

Meanwhile as I write this line another December day dawns here with a clear sky. The world still looks like a fine place to be. And maybe that’s part of the problem, we can’t see the ghost riders in the sky. The millions of Thanksgiving travellers south of the border have returned home to complete their Christmas consumerism. But some of them will not see Christmas, having died a horrible death in result of their stupidity. Worse yet, so will some of those they’ve contacted along the way. Being an individual and a free-thinker is grand, I endorse that but “think” is the root word here. Stepping off a bridge will do little to defy the law of gravity but it sure will confirm a few things. Others who survive their infection will endure miserable, mysterious and debilitating long-term effects.

Bungee! This is where folks pay money to jump off a perfectly good bridge with a rubber band tied to their ankle. Leave your glasses, false teeth, glass eyes and wallets in the basket.

It ain’t pretty Dorothy and when you wake up tomorrow, this nightmare will still be upon us. Meanwhile the politicians have got to get their beaks out of the medical world and let the professionals do their work. Even when everyone has had their vaccines the virus will still be out there. Vaccines are not magic bullets, the plague won’t simply vanish because we’ve cooked up a potion. Forget the personal agendas! There are names for folks who try to gain profits and power from other’s misery. Yeah that’s the one, the orifice lodged within the inter-gluteal cleft. See, I can be polite and anatomically correct.

Winter nest
Know the feeling?
Next summer?

No message of Christmas joy and hope here, but it is one of consideration for others. We’ve essentially put the horrible US election behind us, let’s live to enjoy the free air. Now we have to take care of ourselves. That is best done simply by respecting our fellows even when they don’t reciprocate. We don’t know the pressures they may be enduring. Masks don’t protect us from others, they do help protect others from us; it’s the least we can do. If nothing else, wearing a mask appropriately is a sign of that respect. Thus saith the Fred.

Now I’ll go get back into my box….and Bumhug to you!

December noon
December moon.

if physical world can affect mind but mind cannot affect physical world, then its the only one-way interaction known in science !!!

Dossey, Larry M.D. (1982, p 206) Space, Time and Medicine. New Science Library, Shambhala, Boston, MA.

***********

Universal Mind -“…there is one all uniting, universal Mind, one all-pervading Intelligence…these are no totally separate minds…waves in an ocean – a wave cannot separate itself…bucket of water poured into a pool – affects every other particle of water within the pool, whether it knows it or not

Jampolsky, Gerold G. M.D. (1983) Teach Only Love. NY Bantom Books, p 78

Chasing Leaks

Abstracto! It’s just some faded paint on a car fender but eye-catching none-the-less.

Friday the 13th. The weather forecast shows the date and a thick grey cloud with heavy raindrops. That seems about right. At the moment however there is an attempt at a sun rise. A thin brassy light reflects from the neighbour’s windows and that damned insidious street cleaning machine is out there growling away again. It’s on a fourth pass now. The wind will blow everything back in short order. A day later the weather is the same with a cold rain in a gusting wind like only it can in November. By the following Tuesday when I finally post this, not a lot has changed.

There are two leaks in the camper which have eluded me despite all my attempts to find and cure them. All that was left to do was to remove the inside panelling and insulation. What the hell? There was some faulty wiring to trace as well. Between the inner skin and the outer I found some soggy insulation. I’ve removed it. The taking apart is done…I hope. It has rained sporadically for the past few days, the kind of cold rain that can leak into anything. I just checked; there is no sign of moisture! Grrr! I knew of course that this little old box would require some attentions but I had no intention for it to become a career. To keep things in perspective I know that there are plenty of people who’d love to have this one as a home, leaks and all.

I wonder what the weather is like in the desert today? The leak project.
Aha! That tiny pinprick of light is the great dull light of the rainy outdoors shining through. The wood frame is good so patch and go is the order of the day. The piece of metal above the beam is galvanized steel which is the source of electrolysis.  It may be no warmer or dryer in the woods but I prefer being out there.

I managed to strip out the final bit of forward interior in perfect co-ordination with a horrific rain storm which went on and on. The problem is now that the ambient humidity inside is so high that condensation forms instantly on the bare cold metal skin. Still I tracked down, or up, the source of ingressing water. In one corner just below the roof I found a mysterious cluster of tiny pinholes. I’ve concluded the cause is electrolysis, something I’m all too familiar with in boats. When dissimilar metals are placed in contact they begin to produce minute electrical currents known as a galvanic action. Add an electrolyte like water and an insidious corrosion occurs. Introduce an electrical current and things become really weird. What I found was that when the camper had been built small galvanized pieces of metal had been used to reinforce corners of the frame. So, combine thin aluminum, steel, zinc, 12 volt wiring, possibly lead-based paint, 40 years of time and copious rain. Bzzzt! Still learning after all these years!”

Just off the main street in Ladysmith sits an old building just behind our tiny museum which is a remnant from the town’s rustic past. It is flat-roofed and covered with a faux brick heavy tarred material which I recall was named ‘Insul-brick.’ It was an old store of some sort and for a long time displayed a faded sign that said ‘Food Bank.’ It has been boarded up for a very long time. On one corner of the building is a small porch built into the structure. A homeless person moved into that space and set up camp under a green tarp. They have been evicted and the empty porch is now caged in. A tent has been erected in the back of the soggy lot.

Don’t fence me out. Plan B is in the background. Plan C is under the bridge, if there’s any space left. Someone is always in a worse situation. The siding is called insulbrick.

If I could wish myself into a larger fibreglass camper I would donate this one to someone who needs a shelter. In the meantime I’ll keep this old tin and stick box as a sort of earthquake plan. Isn’t that all we need now in winter on top of Covid?

Living behind the waterfall. My neighbour’s overflowing rain gutter. It is a low-quality photo taken by mobile phone on a very dark afternoon. That’s a hummingbird sitting on the feeder. Imagine flying around in weather when each pelting raindrop is nearly half your body size and three times its weight.

I’ve just returned from a quick trip to a building supply store. As I drove out through the parking lot a character leapt in front of me oblivious to all except to be fumbling with their covid mask and text messaging in hand. I managed to stop in time; they never noticed. What’s that term? “Eyes wide shut.” We’ve even abandoned the primal self-preserving instinct of fear. “The Lemming Syndrome.” I’ll get back into my box.

Whodathunk? Ten months ago I could not have believed I’d ever be seen looking like this. With a fierce second wave of Covid washing over us it seems a respectful thing to do toward my fellows. Masks are designed to prevent a person from spreading their own germs and maybe help keep you safe from others…and to prevent you from licking door handles!

I’ve decided that a sign of aging is losing the ability to be amazed. That amazes me.”

November Camping

Halloween blue moon over Sayward Junction.
A nautical superstition is to never begin a voyage on a Friday. We did.
Hoomak Lake dawn. A placid lake betrays the ongoing business of the North island highway and the rest area where we spent a long night. The traffic never stopped.
End of the road. A view northward from Port Hardy to the central coast and all points beyond. I miss my boat!

These breathtaking copper panels adorn the lobby of the new Kwa’lilas Hotel in Port Hardy. A venture of the local Kwakiutl First Nations the hotel is an elegant example of Neo-Westcoast architecture. It alone made my drive worthwhile. Each panel is about six feet tall and the mural portrays the history and culture of these people.

I’m starting this with the rain drumming on the metal roof of the camper. It has slowed enough for the moment to allow me to hear individual drops. This morning I first awoke to hear the wind roaring in the tree tops hundreds of feet above me. The din was like a passing high-speed train. The trees are massive ancient Sitka Spruce, already venerable when the first of us Caucasians stumbled into these swamps hundreds of years ago. The rain now crashes down again in barrel-sized dollops. Our shelter shudders under the assault. I worried about a tree falling on us but realized they had withstood far worse weather in the hundreds of years they had grown here. Many of the bases are more than ten feet across. It will take more than my dark karma to bring one of these down. The notion of a crackling campfire is a mad fantasy.

Finally! The objective after over seventy kilometers of rough muddy logging roads and a long walk. San Joseph Bay on the west side of Vancouver Island.
Jack galloped ahead as if he were suddenly ten years younger. The trek back was hell but he was determined to do it all on his own.
He trotted across the sand to inspect this creature emerging from the icy sea. It had no pockets or treats. Surfers pack their gear the entire distance of over 2.6 km in and then back out after a day in the water.
Mystery flotsam. How did this ball of copper wire manage to end up here?
A roll of bull kelp not to be confused with a load of bull.
Hawaii next stop. There are three surfers out there. What a way to celebrate being alive and young!
And then the reluctant turn back.
There is magic everywhere and the coastal rainforest seems filled with the presence of many spirits.
They lurk overhead.
They reach out as if to draw you into their boggy world.
There is magic under every root.
This beauty was about twenty centimetres tall
Berry nice
The entire ecosystem depends on massive amounts of moisture. At times it seems one can reach out and wring a handful of water from the very air.
Beneath giant’s feet. The wind thundered in their tops a few hundred feet up.
Whoosh! Beside the camp spot. There was no dry firewood.
The watcher of Nahwitti Lake
The whole damned downtown. Holberg  once had upwards of 3000 people living in housing built on log rafts. It was the largest floating community in North America. It is still an operational logging center.

We arrived the day before in pristine weather. I’d wanted to find a place called Palmerston Bay but on arrival discovered a simple ending of a logging road. The slippery scramble down and back from a rocky, surf-bashed shoreline would have been too much for old Jack and so we retreated back the way we had come. The described “recreation site” proved to merely be a wider spot in a muddy trail surrounded by old logging devastation, not a place to cheer my soul. Eventually we arrived at San Joseph Bay. I hadn’t been there for over thirty years and recall being able to drive almost to the beach. Could my memory be wrong? The developments since made by the Provincial Parks people are impressive. Their pathways are like narrow highways and meander through the rain forest in a circuitous route which is far longer than I recall. It is a beautiful walk and Jack bounded ahead, full of enthusiasm for what lay around each corner ahead. I thought I’d have to carry him back but how could I impose on his joy? He was exhausted on the return walk but soldiered along determined to stay on his own pins one staggering step at a time. What an amazing character! After a long sleep he seems none the worse for wear and is, as always, eager for the next adventure.

Near Holberg is Vancouver Island’s first wind farm. In a traveller’s stop in Port Hardy, a defunct turbine blade is a grand curiosity. Take a lunch if you’re walking to the other end. This massive chunk of carbon fibre is not recyclable and consumed massive amounts of toxic substances when it was manufactured. There are some obvious green questions about the hundreds of thousands of these machines around the world: Eco-politics versus common sense.
Where the Marble River drains out of Lake Alice. Free, clean constant energy, no dams or exotic plastics required.
I remember when this engine was still working as a back-up for the diesel locomotives and to haul eco-tourists out to show them active logging operations. It seems sad to see the logging locomotive relegated to being a lawn ornament in the venerable logging community of Woss.
Old 113 is a mere 100 years old and probably still capable of earning her keep.
This photo of her at work in 1944 is how I remember seeing her in the early 90s. I’d love to hear the whistle echoing up a valley again. How fortunate to at least have the memory.

The next night we are well on our way toward home. The rain is incessant so again I sit with Jack in our little box. The winter weather has certainly made it seem much smaller when forced into confinement. Jack is cuddled against me as I sit on the edge of the bed and write. The blasting rain has revealed leaks which will, of course, be addressed once home. It is damp enough for the wallpaper to be separating for the inside panels. I curse myself for my restless nature and being up here in these conditions. Of course I look forward to going to drier country so these test runs are necessary to ensure there are no nasty surprises ahead. Tonight we sit fifty feet from the high water mark on Johnstone Strait. The wind and rain are increasing again but we are warm and dry with full tummies. Who could ask for more?

“Right then, that’s being the welcoming party done with. Let’s find a dry spot for the night, it’s going to be a wet one.”
This doe and two very healthy fawns seemed very tame when we arrived at Elk Bay on Johnstone Strait.
The next morning. The rain eased for a little while but the rising puddle made it obvious, that along with mechanical problems, it was time to pack up and reload for the next adventure.
Even this former logger was appalled by such a devastated clearcut.

Driving southward, trees with leaves began to appear and now back in Ladysmith it seems we’ve regained a month. Only two and a half degrees of latitude on an island of rugged mountainous shorelines makes a huge difference. This massive rock angles out into the North Pacific and catches hell from a very long way off. Wintry wind and rain have followed us home but as soon as repairs are made to truck and the old man box, Jack and I will be off to some local remote nook. Covid may have us trapped here, but I know the Snowbird flocks have filled every possible private campground on the island. It’s clearly a great place to be, especially with a civil war looming just south of the border.

Splendour in the grass at the edge of the sea.
The tide in the raincoast jungle. It is flooding and ebbing just as it has for a very long time.
Not a friendly place for humans, it is an amazing ecosystem.

The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
― Albert Einstein

Blue Moon Halloween

To next summer.

October twenty-second. A first frost is on the roofs of my neighbours. The brassy thin light of a reluctant dawn slowly sweeps over the town. The stars were brilliant last night, a few were especially bright as they beamed down between the clouds. Old Jack is snoring softly where he is nested on the couch, I’m reluctant to stir him for his morning walk but I need it as much as he does.

October 25th. It’s over. The provincial election has passed with a predictable result. Our minority government is still in the saddle, now as a majority. May the gods help us, any majority government seems eventually to lead to dire consequences. At least we’ll have a slight change of rhetoric.

Frost art
Call the plumber
The finish line. A final mark on a morning circuit at the local fish hatchery.
Hush Puppy

There’s a humid chill in the air this morning, with a dusting of fresh snow on the nearest hills. Jack loved it and frolicked along on his walk. The tang of burning damp leaves filled the air and someone was burning coal in their stove, an unmistakable odour. What must air quality have been like when nearly everyone burned the stuff? No-one noticed, that was the way it was. I’ve been in China where the air was thick with the stench of coal smoke, (Cheap Canadian coal at that) copious dust and other human effluents. Life went on all around me as I stood almost gasping for a full breath. For me, coal smoke is synonymous with forges and blacksmithing, something I dearly love. I can almost hear the clang of hammer on anvil as I write. Amazing isn’t it? All of that came from one whiff of coal smoke! It’s blowing a near gale outside this morning. Leaves and debris blow past the window horizontally. The street sweeper just ground by hard at work. Daft as a brush!

BUMP! Not something to run into, even in daylight. This hemlock log, about four feet in diameter, is incredibly heavy and will float just below the water’s surface. You would definitely notice if you hit it with a boat.
Feel the damp. Four ships wait for a cargo.

Unfortunately my life is dull these days. I spend far too much time sitting in front of the television. Recommended by friends, I watched a Netflix program called ‘My Octopus Teacher.’ The footage, accumulated over ten years, is stunning and some of the insights provided are amazing. You know I’m impressed if I’m offering kudos. In my next breath I’m promoting my own next video. It’s something I put together for the Fisher Poets group, who may not be gathering this spring in consideration of Covid. That gathering in February is a guiding light through the winter and many of us use it to steer toward through the gloomy days of that season. Who knows what will happen this winter.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Q6ik-vumIc&t=8s is the link. I’ve received some very nice responses I’m proud to say.

Arbutus colours. From bright green in summer to brilliant red by Christmas
A free worm in every one.
Frost on the wild peas. It’s not summer any more.

I saw an ad for a T-shirt carrying the message:

BEWARE OLD PEOPLE The older we get the less “Life in prison” is a deterrent.

and I thought, probably a better retirement plan than what many of us have.

The bark licker. I’ve no idea what was on it but this black squirrel was vigorously licking this piece of bark.

It’s a blue moon Halloween coming up. A full moon on October 31st is scary, but a second full moon in the same month in the midst of a plague is reason to hide under the bed. All those mini spooks in T-Rump and Biden masks are a sobering thought. Trick or treat indeed. I’m leaving town. Hopefully I’ll have some interesting new videos and photos when I return. Stay safe.

Find the spider
Patience my ass…let’s kill something.

Then… some idiot turned on the lights.” ― Ray Bradbury, Long After Midnight


The Junk Yard Dog’s Cigar

Our life-giving star. It only looks like Armageddon. In the history of the planet, this happens over and over. Never measure the universe in human terms.

It is impossible to tell at the moment. Whose smoke are we breathing here? The claim is that our local scrap yard fire is “Contained” but it sure as hell is not out. It may smoulder on for a long time and the acrid, cloying stench is gently smothering us. It’s all because the junk yard dog dropped his cigar! Well who knows? We may never learn that and what does it matter. We try to recycle our disposable cars and other metal commodities and some days things just go wrong. Hopefully we learn a little bit and life eventually improves. Meanwhile thick smoke from three US States clot our already permeated sky and we live in a dim world at the moment. I’ll keep my text short and relay my story with repetitive photos of our grey world.

Nine AM. The street lights remain on.
It came from behind the old pink fishboat. There sits the crispy scrap yard about six km away. It may smoulder for weeks. The black bank in the foreground is coal. It is our beach, the remains of a former coal terminal. Everyone used to burn this stuff and the air quality was this foul every day.

I photographed the ambience of the thick air above our harbour from behind a heap of coal on the shore and realized that not so long ago we burned this stuff and the air was always like this. It was normal. In younger years I chain-smoked cigarettes like a train. I also did a lot of welding with my face in those fumes and often cut up old metal with an ox-acetylene torch, burning through thick layers of old lead-based paint or I’d grind the paint away, with no face mask. I know better now. These days, the simple whiff of a smoker’s clothes in a change room has me gagging. Eeeech! I cannot believe my incredible foolishness. I have come to believe that perhaps anyone who smokes should perhaps be denied medical insurance.They are willfully harming themselves. That in this enlightened age people are stupid enough to deliberately inhale smouldering objects is amazing. Are they among those complaining about our present atmospheric imperfections?

A Crow-vid Dawn. One flew from the top of the leaning piling as I took this shot. Crows hate having cameras pointed at them. There are hundreds flocking around croaking out their raspy messages.
Isn’t it amazing how much beauty there can be in one simple object?

 

The thought has occurred to me that the present stench and pallor of gloom is what millions endure on a daily basis where they live in industrial areas around the planet. Others know it as the reek of war and death. They also know of thirst, hunger, disease and blasted-out hospitals. We take clean air and water and personal freedoms for granted. Yesterday was the anniversary of 9/11. Surely we can take a moment to consider how quickly our lives can change then savour and participate in maintaining what we privileged few enjoy without considering. We’re still free to vote and free to leave.

Smoke Watch
Gulldawnit!

On Monday, conditions have not improved. We’re still surrounded by think grey smog with only glimpses of a dull copper orb which is the sun. Our three states to the south of the border are burning up. That’s California, Oregon and Washington in your throat and nose. The eco-gloomers are having a field day with all of this. I’ll admit it is hard to stay objective and look at the big picture, to examine the history of climatic cycles and realize that this is not Armageddon. It just seems like it. My heart goes out to all those who have lost their homes and communities, their sense of security and all the personal illusions and dreams they have held. It is a wake-up call for all of us. All I can wish everyone is someone to love, something good to do, and something to look forward to, while doing no harm. Now I have to shake off the lethargy of my own personal darkness and go do something. And so work progresses on the old camper. Wagons ho!

Sometimes the best thing to do is hunker down and conserve resources.
In full hunker. 10am Monday morning.
Find Jack. There I stood at the corner of Seemore and Do-less waiting for my old dog. It used to be him running ahead and waiting for me.

The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials.” 

Chinese Proverb