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.

God’s On Our side. Right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

We all know the feeling.

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

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

Nanoo, nanoo! Shazbot!

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

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

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

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

Happy Christmas.

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

 

See The Light

A faint gleam

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

Happy Christmas.

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

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

Away

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Under The River

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Black Friday Weekend huh?

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

Fredfessions :

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

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

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

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

__________________________________________________________________________________

Drip

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

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

After the rain stopped. Nanaimo River

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WET

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two quotes I’ve stumbled across this afternoon:

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

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

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

– Muhammad Ali

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

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