Lizard Response

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yggdrasil Trembles

Hope! January 13th
January 6th
Moisture go up
Snow come down
Water run down
Atmospheric River

An older man lay in bed long after awaking; for just another minute, then another. His bladder became more insistent and finally, rubbing his tousled head he let his feet swing to the floor. One foot landed squarely in a puddle of cold viscous dog vomit. Immediately he slipped to his knees to check on the dog in the little bed beside his. Old Jack was fine and sleeping soundly. Hobbling on one clean foot and a heel he went to the window and threw open the curtain. The sky was clear, a muted grey pink balanced far to the southeast on a dagger of angry dark red laying on the horizon. Sailor’s warning. The day’s beginning had not been auspicious.

First things first. With a pot of coffee beginning to gurgle he bent to his morning penance of cleaning up after the dog. Then, with a first mug of coffee on his desk, he checked his email. The top news items were about a Chinese restaurant somewhere in Mexico and Covid protests in France. All is well. Delete, delete. ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down.’ He reached for a tiny but powerful Bluetooth speaker he’d received as a Christmas gift, tapped in the title of that song and began typing his next blog as the voice of Johnny Cash filled his head. His wife dozed in her favourite living room chair, Jack lay on the floor beside her, dreaming gently. Fog settled outside. And so he went into one more winter day. The month wore on.

My little boom box. The sound that comes out is impossibly rich and clear. It is perfect for the camper. I’m weary of installing a new car stereo in each RV which I acquire.

I’ve just now come in from sorting my tools into a new bag, something that’s been due for the last three years. Now that they’re organized I’ll have trouble finding them. I listened to a wonderful tiny speaker which was a Christmas gift. It’s a wee cube about the dimensions of my computer mouse with a sound as big as Carnegie Hall. It runs off a Bluetooth signal, something I am now forced to accept as a fact of life. It’s only been around twenty-three years. Ain’t it wonderful! I suppose by now folks don’t worry about it rotting your brain or teeth so I can feel safe to poke about with it. Amazing! I found myself out in the cold, sorting my wrenches and listening to a collection of Viking and Tibetan Throat Singing. Really! I caught myself rocking to ‘Yggdrasil Trembles.’ There is an app called ‘Spotify’ and it took me a long time to find an artist not included in their incredible collection. I finally found one.

Walter Zuber Armstrong was an accomplished jazz musician who, for some reason, loved to busk in the Granville Island Public Market. I would sail from Nanaimo all the way to the market dock in Vancouver hoping he would be playing there. He was a tall man who sat for hours playing Northwest Indigenous improvisations. I have a cassette of some of that music which I treasure. Amazon carries some of his Cds. I recall the utter magic in ghosting up some fog-shrouded coastal inlet in a boat while listening to those same clear, haunting notes. Some local readers might also remember him. Spotify, nevertheless, even without Walter, has an outstanding eclectic collection of music which I’ll enjoy exploring.

The ferry to Vesuvius. The link from Crofton, on Vancouver Island, to Saltspring Island.

There was a time when having stereo speakers the size of refrigerators was just what you did for best sound. Further back I remember an elementary school class in which we built crystal AM radio receivers. You listened to them through a single ear plug. The cabinet was easily four times as big as my new tiny speaker. I was very proud of that radio. When I was very young and we had just moved to town from life on a farm I used to listen raptly to the local radio station CHWO. (AM1250, White Oak Radio, Oakville, Ontario apparently on air in 1956 it was run by three generations of the same family and was one of the last remaining private stations in Canada) I knew where the station was located downtown on main street in the top of a two-story red brick building above a butcher shop. What fascinated me was how between pieces of music, musicians bands and orchestras could enter then leave the station and never make any sound. In my child’s imagination I could see the flurry of activity within that tiny upstairs studio and yet no-one every dropped anything or made even a tiny noise. I marveled at how all of this silent activity was possible. Eventually an epiphany about recordings fell on me but to this day I wonder how often our perceptions are entirely wrong.

Despite all the modern technology which I do not understand, I still prefer basic manual skill such as this near-perfect wood work.
Winter waterlines. I always marvel at this amazing woodwork. Four feet in diameter a pair of these supply water to the local pulp mill.

And what advances in technology in my lifetime! I had just started school when one October evening the entire neighbourhood was out in its backyards looking for something they had never seen before. Sputnik! Suddenly someone shouted and we all craned our necks to look up and see a tiny star hurtling across the darkening sky. Now a lifetime later, in this accelerating age of wonder, within just the time it has taken to write this paragraph, the Webb Telescope has hurtled further away from earth than most of us will drive this entire year. I stand choking in the stardust.

The day’s fog settled and stayed. The thick smothering gloom finally resolved itself into another inky winter blackness. Fourteen hours until dawn. Less than a month since winter solstice the daylight minutes are noticeably longer but for now Jack is back in his bed. Ah winter!

The eagle.
Look up, way up.

We cling to our own point of view, as though everything depended on it. Yet our opinions have no permanence; like autumn and winter, they gradually pass away…. Zhuangzi

Around The Bend

Who knows what’s around the bend?

I’ve spent the summer working in the breathtaking, beautiful East Kootenays. Despite the grandeur all around it has been an unhappy summer for several reasons and it has been hard not to trip over my bottom lip. There are days when on this road of life I want to flop down in the ditch and declare myself done with the whole senseless gambit. Yet I often sustain my spirit by going around just one more bend in the road. There is seldom much point but there can be something wonderful that makes the entire journey worthwhile. That faint hope is sustaining. You find that new wonder just beyond where you were going to turn around.

Recently I was in Cranbrook on my weekly jaunt for errands and groceries. I’d taken a new-to-me back road through the forest. It was a rugged first gear bush trail and I loved it. The bumpy old trek whetted my appetite for more exploring but I knew I’d have to content myself with life as it was for the time being. Eventually I arrived in Cranbrook and soon crossed off the items on my list. It was a perfect weather day with a clear Kootenay blue sky, the temperature was perfect. It was early afternoon, I had nothing to do and nowhere to go except home. And, I was alone, as usual. That realization washed over me like a bucket of black paint. So I just drove. I passed the mouth of a driveway where an old motorcycle sat in the bushes and marked that particular home. I drove on but turned back to take a photo and so met the property owner who proved to be an interesting kindred spirit. If I had not been in that place at that time, that moment would not have occurred. And so for a while, life seems to make sense. Encouraged, one travels on, just to see what’s around the next bend.

The marker that caught my eye.
Original paint! A 1952 Buick Eight. The inline eight cylinder engine whispers like a dream. This car is so ugly it’s beautiful! It is the same age as me and I fear may be in better shape.
Original interior too! No padding, no seat belts, no airbags. The joke was that if you had a head-on collision in a car like this, you just hosed off the dashboard and sold the car. Incredibly, despite all that heavy metal rolling on bias-ply tires and the crude long-stroke engines of the day, these beasts got essentially the same gas mileage as today’s wonder cars. Struth!
Wonder of wonders! a few feet into the bushes from the motorcycle lay this old life boat. Now there’s an interesting story I’m sure.
Ship’s carving on the little boat. I could not completely interpret them.

I have a new friend. I call him Squirrely. He or she is a very gregarious red squirrel. On the coast they have been driven out by invasive, and much larger, black and grey squirrels which were imported from Europe. Here in the East Kootenays the native red squirrel is still master of its universe. Their nature seems to demand being loudly territorial. They can sit on a limb above you and scold for hours, a loud squeaky chirp that announces your presence to anything within a half-mile. As a hunter I’ve cursed them many times.

This character will sit in a tree above my little deck and curse me for an hour on end. Sometimes it descends the tree, still scolding, and will approach to within six feet. I bought a sack of peanuts in the shell but so far all the squirrel has done is scatter them about. It does not recognize a new food source. Eventually Squirelly decided to like them and packs them off as fast as I put them out. It has to be furtive and fully aware. Two feral cats team up to hunt and he is their prime quarry. They sit like stones for hours staring at his little tunnel and I fear I may be hastening his demise with my treats. There are no stupid old squirrels.

My new neighbour.

The little guy has dug a burrow under the shed and it sits in the entrance watching me in my burrow. Some times I swear it heaves pine cones down at me. It is the time of the year when the cones are releasing the seeds within and so it must be a propitious time to lay in winter stores. I make certain to keep the door closed when I’m not home.

Squirelly reluctantly agreed for a few quick poses just as it was getting dark. Now don’t go getting attached. There are two cats which hunt him incessantly. Who would have thought I’d ever become a squirrel-hugger?

On a previous vehicle I installed an Asian-built low priced rear view camera. It was powered from the vehicle’s back-up light wiring. All worked very well, until something went weird in it’s little cyber brain and the whole wiring circuit failed permanently. Now I’m about to install my camper on my truck and will also be towing my little trailer. I need a rear-view camera. Previous experience had taught me to buy an American-made product and after some research I chose an item made in Kansas. It is, apparently, a clever little device, mounted on the top of the camper’s rear and takes its power from the clearance light wiring. It has a wifi transmitter, which, through an app, sends an image to my mobile phone. Brilliant folks those Amuricans!

My Hopkins vueSMART RV camera has proven to be a total disappointment. After several attempts of keying in codes and passwords it came to life with a brilliant led array. Finally, after more fiddling, my mobile phone (Itself another huge frustration) produced an image of what lay behind the camper. I was thrilled, until I realized that everything was reversed from left to right and vice versa. Try backing up a trailer with that arrangement! After more poking and cursing I phoned the good folks in Kansas for help. I explained that a blinding back-up light came on each time I switched on the clearance lights, whether or not I wanted to use the camera. “Yep, they all do that, perfectly normal.” I then explained about the reverse image and was again told “That’s how they all work. Lot’s of folks complained about that, but that’s the way they work. You can try selling the camera if you’re not happy.” Really! I’ve ordered another camera…made in Taiwan. Wanna buy a back-up camera?

On certain brisk, calm winter days tiny flecks of frost flit and drift aimlessly in the air. Outside my RV windows there is a similar phenomenon. But the tiny flecks of bright-coloured fluff are microscopic flies. I’m new in these parts and don’t know what they are called but they seem innocuous. They don’t bite and make no sound although they have reason to exist even if I don’t understand. They drift and dream; quite like a lot of people. The “Wifi” beetle I described in my last blog is properly named a Ceranbycid. This one is of an Asian variety and is a nasty wood-boring, tree-killing critter. Thanks Wayne for the help.

Fluffy flies on a burlap coffee sack. They’re impossible to photograph in flight.
Our lives…like tracks in the dust

Well time drifts relentlessly on. I have been rebuilding two small boats and can now see the completion of both projects. After that I have idea of what’s next but it’s coming…. around the next bend.

The future depends on what you do today.” … Mahatma Gandhi

Fly

Grass. The beginning and the end. This large Black Boar is a rare breed originally from Southern England. They are allegedly docile but this big porker’s tusks and punctured ear (from fighting) aren’t reassuring. We’ll call him the Pope of Fort Steele.
I am a dog guy but this little black cat won me over. I love this photo and had to share it.

This once mighty great white hunter (I was a classic legend in my own mind) has learned to respect and admire all of god’s creatures, great and small. Photos in this blog are often proof of that. I often conjecture that humans are clearly the only obviously alien life form on this planet. We don’t fit and can’t even get along with each other. I argue that even the lowliest creature we know has a place and a function which, even though we may not understand, ties it into all the other species which we have not yet rendered extinct. But then there is this one goddamned tiny housefly which is driving me crazy.

I’ve reasoned that because the average housefly lives only twenty-eight days this particular vexatious wee monster must, in fact, be several. But I’ve come to see it is a one-of-a-kind and I also think I’ve trained it to be annoying. It lights on my skin, then buzzes off in a second to land somewhere else. Every time I smack at it, the little bugger buzzes away and lands somewhere else. It knows. It flits in front of the computer monitor, daring me to take a whack at that and delights on landing on my knees. They’re both arthritic and I have a job right now that involves constant kneeling so those old hinges are especially painful. The last thing they need is an angry blow. It bloody hurts!

What sort of sound do flies make when they laugh? It is only here in the sticky warm evenings, never in the mornings and goes home as soon as I go to bed. I’m counting down from twenty-eight and look forward to finding it with its six little legs in the air on the middle of my table. Now that I’ve reduced myself to blogging about a single housefly I’ll post the rest of those Fort Steele photos.

Just ‘cause you got the monkey off your back doesn’t mean the circus has left town.” George Carlin

“Hurry up, you don’t want to miss the school wagon.” I wonder when the ubiquitous school bus yellow first appeared.
Ft Steele arose in the midst of rich placer mining. This large number of old mining carts is evidence there was also some serious underground mining in the area.
No permits, no foundations, still able to provide shelter after a century.
More shelter. No transgender outhouses back then.
Well, yeah mebbe we can git ‘er goin’ agin. Come back on Tuesday.
There is a sense that the town is still alive.
What’s a WIFI?
One of three hotels in town. One has been refurbished and is again letting rooms.
The entire town was virtually levelled in a fire in 1906. This is the front of the town’s original bakery and the evidence is clear that it survived, barely. Now left to crumble at nature’s whim, the old stone ovens in the back are visible.
A marriage of wits, steel and wood. This wheel was moved from a nearby mine where it once ran underground pumps.
The southern approach. I could live there.
As the business grew, so did the house. It would be a full time job keeping all those chimneys smoking.
Images of this water wheel are used to identify all things Fort Steele.
The REAL thing. This fir floor will outlast vinyl laminate flooring without doubt.
I am not comfortable around churches but I’m a sucker for beautiful windows.
An eastern view to a steaming tree. Very biblical.
The latest in fire suppression. That’s it! A huge wood stove sat in the far end of the church.
This old house.
No microwave oven, no ice-maker, no big screen TV but the food was good. I can almost smell venison stew and baking bread.
After the day’s work was done, you could sew your kids some new clothes. What’s a Walmart?
What a piece of cabinetry to have in a clapboard house.
What they had…and where they went!
A big step up.
What skills we’ve lost.
The stone and the rope.
The center of town. When everything was real horsepower.
Y’all come back now.
Another dimension of the good old days. Always a wonderful thing to see and hear, this beautiful locomotive is only ninety-eight years old. It cam from Vancouver Island as a donation from the MacMillan Bloedel Company
A vision from my childhood. Yes I’m that old.
A horse’s regard for technology.
Granite cumulus. After the rain, heading for Forte Steele. It was a good day.
Up the Kootenay River where the paddle wheelers used to go.


Smoke And Mirrors

Sunday Morning
Smoke and mirrors. The hamlet of Wardner languishes on the west bank of the Kootenay River. The smoke is everywhere. You cannot see the surrounding mountains.
Here’s why. I took this photo from downtown Cranbrook a week ago. I could see six separate fires from where I stood, there are over 280 burning in BC at the moment. Bring wieners! This fire is still not under control.

The fading calm of a smoky Sunday morning is punctuated with the steady drip of my galley sink tap. It’s first of my chores for the day. The neighbour’s children are up and playing peaceably but as the day wears on their harmony will become a series of screams and silly sounds. Last night at eleven pm they were still at it. But who am I to complain about the sound of happy children? I have the day off, first on my list is that damned tap. On the gravel road above me vehicles begin to arrive, many towing flashy boats (For which I’ve found a nasty name of course) on clattering trailers and once again the dust billows over us. I’ve learned to associate the sound of tires on gravel with choking dust. It s a wearying sound.

Under the volcano. Big Red sits with a wildfire in the background. This truck is growing on me. I love the clatter of its big diesel but parking it often means a long walk to the store. It does not fit in any regular parking spot. Apparently it’s a highly prized truck, known for its reliability and endurance.
Fredville.
Less the golf cart, this whole little travelling circus packs up and  fits together nicely. Mexico or bust!
Beauty eh? Even I like the look of this small, over-powered ski boat.
Ugly to the bone. I’m dissecting it and will rebuild it well but I am reminded of John Steinbeck’s remark that some boats are built to sail and some are built to sell.”

 The smoke and dust of another hot day begin to build. In the work week ahead I have some challenging jobs waiting for me, one of which involves the itch of fibreglass slivers and the dust and fumes of rebuilding a boat’s complete floor and framing. I swore I’d never do again but here I am now taking half the wages I used to earn for the same work. Sweat constantly smears my glasses, when they are not slipping off. I’m angry as hell at myself for feeling lonely and depressed and being without the vigour and stamina I once had. No-one could outwork me or endure extremes like I could. I want to scream. What the hell have I done to end up here, at my age?

Here is a photo that some of you missed in that vanishing blog. There is certainly more to life than work…and it’s all free!
These guys are incredible. They leave very strange meandering tracks in the dust. This one was only 4 centimetres long, other get quite large. Yes they can fly.
These guys have been around for several weeks. On the coast they don’t begin to appear until mid-
august. They click and clatter about here by the thousands. The birds love them.
Blue Willy. I don’t know what this cocoon is but it reacted violently to my touch. I did not want that blue thing poked into me and let God’s green creature continue on his way.

It’s especially frustrating when all around are the sights and sounds of folks trying to convince themselves they are having fun. Not that I’d know. I think I’ve forgotten how. My co-workers here don’t want to socialize much, just as I don’t, so we retreat into our cocoons of solitude and recharge ourselves as best we can for the next day’s work. Some of the younger workers wind themselves up late at night in a frenzy of gormless noise and occasional drunken foolishness but they deserve the excesses of their youth which will pass all too soon as it has for us who have already travelled that road.

Right colours, but nobody else was there.

So here I sit in my little fibreglass box, a crotchety old man. The dust piles up in a thick patina which I’ve given up trying to wipe away, there’s no point, it is as thick as ever by every day’s end. Sometimes I catch myself staring into space, picking the mud balls out of my eyes and nose. Clogged sinus’s lead to achy teeth and it all becomes another test. Eeeech! Snot funny! If you wipe off a table or counter and spill a little water it rapidly becomes a little mud stain. On the coast, it is black mould to contend with, here it’s dust. There’s only one cure for this malaise and that’s to go do something.

I took the old kayak out for a few hours and had a grand time but this man-made ditch is not the ocean in any sense. I can find no point in inflating my Achilles boat and ramming around in all the debris in the water. Besides I had no idea how so much of the shoreline has been developed into large trailer parks and even subdivisions. I took no photos of any of that, I was disgusted. I need so little to get where I need to go and here are people who have millions they clearly do not know what to do with. It’s the same on the coast where marinas bulge with exotic yachts that never leave the dock. I don’t understand how in an effort to escape the tedium and crassness of their daily world, so many folks manage to bring it with them.

It just ain’t natural. Lake Koocanusa near it’s high water mark. The water is lovely and warm for swimming.
Up the creek. Gold Creek as far as the reservoir water will allow me top go.
As usual mergansers are wary and fly off to find solitude. There’s a lovely play of light here.
Intrepidly the aging explorer worked his way up the jungle stream on his lifelong quest for the lost city of Gunnado.
He knew he must be approaching the village of the Moo Tribe.
I’ve travelled many a mile in my little plastic kayak and seen many splendid sights including whales. I’ve surfed huge waves and trespassed in idylic lagoons and on rushing rivers. It’s an old friend who’ll see me through many more adventures.

When I arrived back from my paddle-about I discovered a fellow had set up a day camp at the foot of the boat ramp. Amongst the gear he had spread around, he lounged on a deck chair beneath an umbrella. It was the oddest thing I’ve seen. I asked if he rolled out his sleeping bag on the center line of highways but his logic and mine did not coincide. He seemed rather miffed that folks backing their boat trailers into the water required him to keep moving out of the way. Hello? Then another aberrant character decided to appoint himself ramp cop and accosted me with fabricated allegations. I loath folks trying to empower themselves at other’s expense and I responded rather badly. He did not want to challenge the willy-nilly camper at the water line. Wazwithat? Damnit, those were the first hours I’d taken in weeks just to be. I’d found the peace I sought, then that! I was very close to quitting. Ultimately only I can let someone else ruin my day, but how do dark moments manage to often come in batches? How is it that after a lifetime, a person can still deal with certain situations so poorly?

I subscribe to a mantra called the Four Agreements:

-I will always do my best

-I will take take nothing personally

-I will assume nothing

-I will respect the power of my words

That’s it. Simple huh? Try it!

When I find myself in a sticky situation I review it later and assess what I could have done differently. An ordeal can at least become a learning experience. Those agreements certainly sound simple, and easy, but they are broken regularly. However an awareness of them and a sincere intent to improve helps ease the path through life…. for me.

Life goes on. Even with its roots extending past the crumbling cliff, with the inevitable obvious, this venerable bull pine stands majestic.

The week passed. Now it’s Sunday again. The smoke is thicker than ever with some occasional ash falling. There is still a list of jobs for the old camper which I need to tackle but I think I’ll take the kayak out later…somewhere else.

In Cranbrook I was delighted to discover an authentic Mexican restaurant. The owner is a real Mexican and a fine gentleman who cooks and also serves. He cheered me up immensely.
Oddly, my beloved Jaffray Pub has just imported some new Mexican furniture.
I love it!
His ‘n hers. I love the colours. And on her bike…
Says it all

Children are those who let someone else make all their decisions.” anon

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

Normal

Just Fireweed.
Mellow Yellow. Too lazy to look up the name and description, I also enjoy the mystery of beauty by not putting it in a box.
“Wotcha gonna name me? Bin layin’ here for years. Now ya see me!”

It was suggested to me that things are getting back to normal. Pandemic restrictions are being relaxed. I still can’t get a haircut, see a chiropractor, dentist or optometrist, sit at a restaurant table and order food or not be shown which way to walk in a grocery store. Folks in face masks scowl at me regularly, even when I’m standing on the X, but I can wear one and walk up to a bank teller without panic. Normal huh? But we’ll get there. Frankly my notion of normal right now is being able to get up to speed on the road and drive for ten minutes without having to find some bushes to dive into. That bladder problem was getting to be a real drain. Thankfully it is passing. There are two morals to this story. 1- Don’t let strangers mess with your plumbing. 2- The old and proven wisdom of “If it works, why tinker with it?” Frankly, in future, I think I’ll let someone else make the lease payments on the urologist’s SUV.

The procedure, a cystoscopy, never did have that Disney fun ring to it. Imagine the kiss booth and attendant in a Micky Mouse hat. The sign over their head, “CYSTOSCOPY. See your inner self! Free 3D print-outs of your tour.” That’s a souvenir little Wendel will want to hang over his bed! Everyone has their own notion of normal. I’ll settle for the simpler things.

I was amazed! It was in incredibly good shape, all original from what I could see, including the dent. When I was a young apprentice helicopter mechanic in Quebec in the late 60s it seemed all the priests drove these basic (Note the hubcaps) blue Chryslers. They were bloody huge! A family can live in the trunk and back seat. Try parallel-parking this puppy on a hill…with a driving examiner sitting beside you!
Hit me!
Wot no airbags? Seat belts were an awkward option, sometimes added at home in the garage. Shoulder harnesses were yet to come. Looking back, the joke is that after a head-on collision you simply hosed off the dash and re-sold the car.
How must the world smell to Jack? This field of Alfalfa is ready for mowing and it must be full of interesting aromas.
A free tree in every one. Each spec of fluff is the seed of a cottonwood tree. Wind-born by the billion only a few will take root and become mature trees.
Another bark owl. A low-budget hobby for someone, each new one is startling at first glimpse.

I’m avoiding listening to the news, there’s only so many times I can stand to hear the C word and it seems every other word is just that. As the daily down and out and dead tolls are read there is a growing emphasis about the approaching “Second wave.” The TV announcers, I know, are merely reading their script but it is sad to hear professional communicators uttering inanities like “No doubt eh” or “Fer sure.” So much for language being the cornerstone of culture.

Wild Columbine.
Suddenly the wild roses are in bloom.
The picnic.
Western Trumpet Honeysuckle.

There is a cute little button of a weather reporter who delivers her material in a twee Chatty-Cathy tone and can’t say “Per hour.” It comes out “Prour.” Their helicopter traffic reports always come from “High above” something and spews out an unintelligible speedy-speak ad for yet another auto body shop against a background of helicopter sound effects. Perhaps I could find employment as a professional grump. The diction, grammar and elocution editor. Yep, this old bogwump could really whip things into shape. Yeah right! There is a foreign language school which is a daily sponsor. Would you really take language classes from someone who calls themselves Babbel? Do they possibly mean Babble? I know, I know, like get a life dude! Ya know? Eh?

Remember the glacier lilies? Just memories and seeds are left.

And so we wade on into our summer of discontent. Covidnoia. Hurry up and wait. There are so many people saying so many contradicting things you’ve just got to leave it all behind and get on with life. It has become like banging your head on the wall. It feels so good when you stop.

“Birdy num-num.” If you know what film that phrase is from, I know at least how old you are. A sure sign the salmon berries are ripe is that the birds are eating them.
Somewhere there goes a young slug on a motorcycle. Hope he didn’t fall off!

 “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”– Thomas A. Edison

Wheeling On

Pure! It was as snowy delicious as it was cold. Despite that the urge to dive in called. I could see individual grains of sand in the bottom! Video footage of this pool made the whole little trip worthwhile. We camped here the first night.

Camp Runamuck has finally gone mobile. I’m starting this blog using the tailgate of my truck as a desk, Jack is laying in his bed on the roadway snoring peacefully. The highway to Tofino is closed for construction for the next three hours. It is an amazing project, overdue by forty years. It involves carving half a granite mountain away and will take several months more. We spent a first night ever cuddled in the Social Isolation Unit and we’re still both on speaking terms. I’m quite proud of myself, the trailer is a sound idea. The crystal water of Taylor River sang by our campsite and now we’re off to points beyond. We’re delayed only a few kilometres from where I want to turn off. There are no glitches other than things forgotten. Usually I pack along enough for a trip around the world but this time we’re missing a crescent wrench (For the propane fitting), forks, (fingers and sharp sticks work just fine) spare batteries for the interior lights in the trailer and now the battery has just died in the computer mouse. Minor details, it’s all part of the romance Billy! But I sure wish I knew where my last marble is.

Kings of the road. Jack takes it all in stride as I began this blog on the tailgate of the truck.
At first I thought that perhaps it was a Covid Blockade. With all the hysteria, nothing would surprise me.
A deer trail beside the road. If you crawled in a few feet you’d find yourself wondering where the hell it went. Deer tunnel through the thick coast brush like ghosts.
Across the road, the trail became a broad, well-used pathway. There was a thicket of blueberries in bloom. The bees were busy.

When we left our campsite this morning my plan was to travel back-roads where I’d never gone before and find a place on the ocean shore of Toquart Bay on Barkley Sound. This is on the wild, rugged West coast of the island. It opens onto the open Pacific. Looking out on that curved horizon brings me an inner peace only another ocean addict can understand. No such luck today! All access to the shoreline, everywhere, was gated or very deliberately blocked. The trees frequently bore a freshly posted sign declaring that the forest here was managed by this or that first nations group and their world was closed to all outsiders due to “Emergency Measures.” All campgrounds, both private and public, are slam-shut. I travelled a horribly potholed logging road toward the famous little coastal community of Ucluelet. It was beyond anything Mexican.

So far as I know no-one has ever caught, or given, a contagious virus to a tree or flower. Why are so few people being so incredibly anal to the rest of the world? The air in my lungs was some of the cleanest on the planet, it has just travelled across several thousand miles of open North Pacific Ocean. How can people be so hysterically stupid? It’s been years since I was last in Ucluelet and I was shocked to see how cosmopolitan this once-quaint fishing village has become. I’ve heard raves about what a wonderful place it is now. The reek of money may be in the air, but it’s not for me. Perhaps that’s the present resistance to visitors, there’s still some old guard who remember the way it used to be. And the pandemic come from out there.

Swamp roses, rhodos maybe? Really I don’t know. They were blooming in the bogs alongside that terribly rough road, where my speed was down to 4 kph.
Finally I find them in my wild plant book. Bog Laurel. Now you can sleep.

We made our pilgrimage to the light station at Amphritrite Point just to take a photo and prove we were there. The quest for a place to stuff the SIU proved fruitless. My hope of spending a little time with mother ocean has been dashed for now. Then we caught the return construction gauntlet with only a few minutes delay. Tonight we are on the edge of a large inland lake, known as Sproat. I took one last chance and crept down a very long-since-maintained logging road thinking we’d have a quiet place all to ourselves. As it turns out there is a small community of squatter RVs here, but there was one perfect wee spot left and I backed in. We’re exhausted.

Amphritrite Point Light and keeper’s house, now automated. Even here the paths had been designated one-way; the outhouses were locked. Of course.
It seemed a long way to come for a glimpse of this.
But it is as far west as we could go by land.
An amazing statement about life. These beauties thrive in solid rock, just above the inter-tidal zone and in all the salt spray from every windy day.
A glimpse of unrestricted freedom. Looking southwest across the mouth of Barkley Sound, Hawaii next stop.

We’ll be in the bunk in a few more minutes. Jack is as shattered-weary as I am. One neighbour has put their squalling children to bed so I’ve taken the cue. The other neighbour arrived back from fishing, and has started a clattering generator. Above that din, he is playing some very strange and loud music. Six am is coming. Haar! Did He doesn’t know about my new electric bagpipes? I’m going to fire up my generator and squawk through my first lesson. I’ll try playing ‘Castrating The Ram.’

Estuary. The Taylor River flows into Sproat Lake. The roar of the falls and the cataracts below were wonderfully loud.  (Good noise) The timber from a very old and massive wildfire runs for very many miles. The new forest growing up among it is all naturally reseeded. The timber below is all second-growth, the first having been all logged off.  Nature just needs us to leave it alone!
Cataracts like this.
Islands in the stream
Bush plumbing. A basic gravity feed pressure water system. It is the same principle we use in town but the water here is purer and sweeter than anything that comes from a shiny tap.

A tranquil morning dawns over the lake. The low fog burned away rapidly. There is a roar from the waterfalls half-way up the mountain across the lake. The only angst is a pair of Stellar Jays taking turns raiding Jack’s food bowel. They’re brilliant! He is in full repose, watching them through the corner of his eye. As it turned out, we spent most of the day napping. Jack seems disgruntled but I don’t even have the enthusiasm to launch our little boat. For once, I’m not going to feel guilty about anything. The day wore by, Jack visited with other dogs and I rested. As evening approached a convoy of trailers arrived and squeezed themselves in anywhere possible. WE HEAH! Screeching children, sneaky dogs, loud rock music, country music all at once and forced laughter from the adults who are trying to convince themselves they’re having fun by yelping like excited burros. It sounds like a travelling carnival. Everyone seems determined to make relaxing into hard work. I know I am an outsider who has invaded the local folk’s secret spot and that everyone is trying to blow off some of that Covid stress. It IS The Victoria long weekend. We’ll move on in the morning.

Camp robbers. A pair of Stellar Jays soon figured out Jack’s food bowel.
Gotcha!
Bold but wary, cheeky yet always ready for flight, it is hard to photograph them well. Like all members of the crow family they are ever suspicious of cameras.

I realize that I have a bladder infection. It mast have contracted during a visit to my urologist a few days ago. I have to go for a regular inspection and the nurse administering the camera was a tad brutal. I recall asking her to loosen her stranglehold on the little feller. I’ll spare you “too much information” and simply say that “peeing through razor blades” is not just an expression. Whoee! We’ll be back on the road just as soon as possible.

Camp Jack. The wee laird in full repose. We’ll be back out there soon as possible.

The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” –Alice Walker

Moments

…and a star to steer her by. This is one of my signature photos. Taken aboard the barque ‘Svanen’ a classic Baltic trader. It says more about sailing than words ever can.

Just after posting the last blog I was driving along the highway to take Jack for a walk in a favourite place. A chopped-up, lowered-down, stretched-out Fartley Davidson blattered past us with a mufflerless exhaust. I watched the bucket-headed dude receding ahead of us and thought “There goes Hooker Fairybell.” He’s the invented character in a photo caption of that blog. I wonder if that moment’s inspiration is now a permanent fixture in my hard drive. Will every character on a mutilated motorcycle be a nominee for the ‘Hooker’ Award? How many influential ideas start as a single fleeting notion? What good comes from those bursts of inspiration and how many are lost? The only thing to do is to write them down and see where they lead.

Covid morning mainstreet. This spectacular Dogwood tree marks the center of town.
Early bloomers, they soon proved to be gutter flowers.  End of the cherry blossoms.
Even hogweed has a certain beauty to the eye.
2020 someone’s newly installed bark owl says plenty about our spring.
Limb-locked and root- bound, united they stood.
You up there? Tar? Jane?
A Few-Flowered Shooting Star.
Another lovely spring flower stands its brief season in the woods.

Once again the morning sun is beaming through the window. I’ve found a new-to-me John Prine song on YouTube. Jack has risen from his state of dog zen and it’s time to wade into another day. The slanting light reveals a crud of dog hair and popcorn bits on the living room rug. I drag out the vacuum and marvel at where dirt comes from. I hoovered the joint just a few days ago. Another cup of coffee after I’m done and the vacuum is stowed. I listen to that song again. It is quick, simple and deadly eloquent, typical Prine: ‘Knockin’ On Your Screen Door’ There’s a line, “I’m dreamin’ about a sailboat” and for some reason that simple line rips me apart. I take my leaky face and dive into the shower.

I think of all the times I’ve bucked into black haystacks of frigid sea, numb with cold and wet, wanting to be anywhere else. Those long hours when every hundred feet of vertical movement might produce ten feet of forward progress and the nearest harbour, and rest, is an eternity away. Right now, I’d take all this shorebound nothingness, this unmoving ground, and trade it for a few more minutes at sea. Oh yes I would! The thing about being at sea is that you do it for all the time when you are exactly where you want to be. The peace, and even bliss of that is what carries you, at sea and and ashore.

In the shower I progressively turn the water colder until I’m breathless. I ask myself if this is indeed really what I miss. “Quit yer snivlin’ ya old flower! Stand by to gybe, gotta keep going.” Flowers! Grab a camera, go for a walk. Jack is laying by the door, waiting. We’ll go down by the shoreline. We return much later in the morning. Jack has met some lovely dogs and I their owners. I’ve photographed the faded glory of last week’s splendid glacier lilies. The day is cloudless and warm with a forecast high for this afternoon of 24°C. The air is filled with the drone of lawnmowers. Up the alley, a cigarette-burned voice shouts as usual at her two, barking as usual, mad dogs. “Shaddup. Git over here!” My longing persists.

Social distancing dog style. First we sniff butts then check the pee mail. Jack has an amazing ability to hold his own with all dogs and in any number. I warned the lab owners not to put their dogs in the dryer.
Bluebells.
Munchkin attack
Last week’s glorious glacier lilies have now faded into a an ever more fleeting, fading beauty.

Then I remember this classic poem and look it up. For now I can say no more. I have not read ‘Sea Fever’ for years. Suddenly written words have never seemed so poignant to me. I need to get back out to sea. I found myself writing to a friend this evening that the problem with swallowing the anchor* is that it will not pass on through. It hurts like hell at times!

(* not going to sea anymore.)

Sea Fever

BY JOHN MASEFIELD

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,

And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;

And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,

And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

 

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide

Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;

And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,

And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

 

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,

To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;

And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,

And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

The Hook, catted and belayed. Bow detail of the replica ship ‘HMS Endeavour’