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’

S’not Funny

Pink. Trillium that is. They seem especially prolific this year.

If your nose is runny and you’re with your honey,

don’t think it’s funny, ‘cause it’s not.”…anon

If my nose was running money honey

I’d blow it all on you.” … Moron Brothers

Look damnit I’m just trying to make you laugh. Some folks, I know, will be disgusted, s’not for you. Others will laugh till they fart. Don’t be disgusted, you do it too! Whatever it takes, laugh with me or laugh at me, it is my little effort to help us all make it through another Covid day.

That’s me in the corner. Howya doin’ over there?

There’s not much new to write about. One day blends into the next. It’s odd how even the most adventurous of us seem restricted during this damndemic and how all the news just sounds the same. An apparently normal guy in Nova Scotia, (a denturist, whodda thunk?) went nutters and killed sixteen people during a Hollywood style rampage of mayhem and arson and  car crashes. There is speculation that the pressures of our pandemic may have flipped his switch and there may be more to come from others. At least in Canada, that sort of horror is still news. So without any more rhetoric on the woes of the world here are some more pictures. To take one of the fawn lily images this morning I flopped down on the ground, suddenly realizing I had nearly planted myself in a few pounds of cleverly stacked and hidden poodle poo. “Gee these flowers smell kinda shitty!” All’s well that ends. I came home with a clean shirt reminding myself that taking pictures is about seeing; everything!

Already! They’re starting to fall. One good wind and it will be all over for another year.
A technically terrible photo but… it was point and shoot with my mobile phone. A rare sight to see these two woodpeckers squabbling over territory, I felt privileged to see them at all.
The winner is!
There they go.

I’ve decided to start calling my photos “Cellphies.” Today’s pictures were all taken with my cell phone, despite the dull light. There’s something about finding, seeing and capturing an image that has to be good for anyone’s soul. You don’t need any exotic photo equipment to feel fulfilled and right now, at spring time, it is a great way to deal with our social stresses. I muse that a crusty old sailor man ought to be keeping his subject matter to the sea and to boats but I find being without a boat is too darned painful to be skulking around the waterfront. That will pass, the boatless bit that is, so I may as well see what I can while I’m still ashore.

Fawn Lily
Again!
In Covid fields
where white lilies grow
this season will pass
we’ll breathe free at last.
Trillium
Currant
Broom
Cherry
Apple
Maple
Ferns
It seemed like an endless journey down through the jungle but suddenly and finally we came to the sea. There was only one remaining stretch of thorny brush. Then we heard the tiger growl.
High bloomer. This is the tallest cherry tree I’ve ever seen.
Mr. Peabody’s Coal Train. ‘Paradise’ is a song by John Prine which describes a railway built to help exploit local resources then abandoned at everyone else’s expense. This is our version. The blossoms are grand.
Leave the porch light on. Even if it is a cave.
Bloom on. Someone’s yard in town.
A family with children in self-isolation. This a lovely house down on the corner. The dogwoods glow in the afternoon light.
Fly like an eagle, the sky is still free.
The phantom carver strikes again! The work appears in places that leaves folks wondering how long they have not been seeing it. Maybe the hole is a bottle opener?
Old Stinkeye. Jack in the ferns with his ubiquitous grin.

Don’t count the days, make the days count.”

Hurry Up And Shut Up!

Hurry Up And Shut Up!

South Pirate’s Cove and Ruxton Pass from afar. Beyond the freighter in Trincomali Channel is Valdez Island then across the Strait of Georgia, the Coast Mountains of mainland Canada. I love many of our local place names. Yes, I tinkered with this image, and I’m pleased with it.

The old quote about how a picture is worth a thousand words is well known. There is so much blah, blah about Covid this and that, the economy, the new depression, bio-warfare, our political leaders and all the ramifications around the planet, what’s gone to poo, the horrors yet to come, the rumours, what might be right or wrong…phew! We all feel like we’re packing a bus on our back. Hell’s teeth! We’re tense, reactive, afraid, depressed and all feel like prisoners of something we can’t see. We’re supposed to stay home alone, stay sane, fit and wholly healthy. So, without anymore blither, here are a few thousand words. I’ve found some lost photo files and along with those taken today I’m simply going to post them. Hopefully we all have someone to love, something to do, something to look forward to. Namaste.

Bliss!
Somewhere there goes a young engineer.
Ling Lips
By accident of timing, angle, light and shadow, I can see a Parrot Fish beneath the one on top.
Landfall. 97 days from Covid Atoll. Did they really have to eat the cabin boy?
South Nanaimo Harbour from Jack Point. The three boats with orange markings are part of a high-speed spill response fleet we now have on the South Coast.
A Jack moment.
Seeds over troubled water.
Most folks prefer the common way, low, straight, wide and safe.
Jack and I prefer paths less travelled.
At sundown the tide turned to ebb.
The dreaded Tiger Slug.
A vine heart spinning in the wind. Heart warming!
Three lights to steer by.  (Venus, I think) is to the right of the moon.
Verily, verily, from the coal heap sprang forth great beauty.
Beach detail. In many places, we have splendid sandstone beaches.
The ripple effect. The sandstone wears into infinite intriguing patterns
The beach house…I’ll take it! The lights weren’t on and there was a sack on the chimney. It looks a perfect place to practice social isolation.
The lost drum. Without it, the Unga Bunga tribe could not call its members to the meeting house. So the drummer boy drank all the banana beer by himself.
Patience my ass, I wanna kill something!
Eventually the winding path came to the bridge under calm water.
A hole in one. They suited each other like a rock in a boom stick. Uh huh!
A Moon Jellyfish. With no apparent brain these mysterious creatures manage to migrate, navigate and propagate. There’s something to ponder.
Root and Shoot.
Bloom where you’re planted.

You can look at a picture for a week and never think of it again. You can also look at a picture for a second and think of it all your life.”
Joan Miro

The Joy Of Going Nowhere

The incredible Camas. Note the insect enjoying the pollen. These gorgeous flowers were a staple food of local indigenous peoples. They would dig and dry the bulbs, then pound them into flour. You just had to know which ones would kill you!

After I checked my e-mail this morning I followed my usual routine of clearing my bin and my spam file. To my disgust and bemusement there was some spam mail claiming to be solicitations from folks in hospital dying of Covid 19. Lowlifes! In contrast there are certain types of courage I know I do not possess and I offer my deep respect for all the emergency workers, healthcare people and essential store employees.

To get up every weary day and go back to your personal grind, whether it be cleaning toilets, picking up the garbage, stocking shelves, sanitizing medical equipment or nursing sick people is immensely courageous. As much as part of me despises police, I can’t imagine our world without them. Imagine the nutters they have to deal with, especially in our present times. It is all tedious and risky as these folks go about humbly serving their fellow humans. They deserve all the appreciation we can muster. And think of all the parents confined with their children. They now have not even a menial job to go to and must hang their hopes on some politician’s promises. What do you call courage when you have no choices? That resolve and responsibility leaves me with hope for the future.

A chip on the old block. I see this carving as a tribute to all the parents struggling with their personal realities of this pandemic.
A sure sign that some children are getting fresh air and exercise. They’re also being inspired to be creative…”Look ma, no computer!” These painted stones are appearing along trails everywhere. I love it!
One for Jack and friends.
And from a bigger kid! The phantom rock carver strikes again. A ling cod perhaps.
Face it! Part of my delight in this wonderful rock carving is that it sits in the corner of a parking area where few people must notice it, although it leaps out once you do. i’d really like to meet this covert carver and express my appreciation of all the work done across the area.

Like many folks my days drag by. Walking my old friend Jack has become a pinnacle of activity. Out for our morning jaunt around a small, nearby lake, I managed to make a mistake. There are now so many Covid signs and “Don’t do nuthin” warnings posted all over that I don’t even see them anymore. I carelessly managed to launch Jack and I against the now-posted traffic flow on the trail. Our first encounter was with an older man puffing furiously on a cigarette and shouting at me that I was putting his health at risk by walking the “Wrong way.” I told him to be careful, an airplane might fall on him and that the smouldering cat turd stuffed into his gob wasn’t helping my health. Thanks very much.

The next admonishment came from two wobbling old ladies with walking sticks who were quite upset about my non-conformist approach. I told them that I was well outside the six-foot spacing, and that the wind was blowing from them to me. I also promised to walk backwards for a while. Blank looks! The old dears were at the very back of a long, hilly loop around the lake. I thought of who would have to risk themselves should a rescue become necessary. I don’t want to put myself or anyone else at risk, but who would have ever thought that a person could walk the wrong way in the forest?

Most people interacted like reasonable folks while we all kept our distance and exchanged pleasantries. The social interactions felt as good as the exercise. The next enraged scolding came from a young man who clearly saw himself as a Covid Cop. I hope that Amazon is soon able to deliver his new uniform despite their backlog of orders. The deluxe costumes will come with a Darth Vader helmet. The face grill can hold a replaceable filter. A built-in a speaker will play echoing pre-recorded warnings including a rasping, gasping cough and various prolonged bubbling wheezes. Other scarier mask options could include, Justin, Boris and Donald.

Covid Cop
I have pirated this from the internet and note the copyright. Call the cops!
Another covid cop, a bent-barrelled carbinier. Hope he doesn’t shoot someone in the foot.
Covid Cadillac…maybe this is the cop’s car! What we drove in days past, imagine taking your driver’s test in this pig! Perhaps it is a social isolation unit, the trunk could house an entire family. Grandpa gets the back seat. Compare these wheels to the full-size pickup truck. How many litres per mile?
In the gooped-up rear window. Say no more. Note the yellow pollen specs.

Meanwhile I saw a man hitch-hiking on the highway yesterday. He was gone when I returned a little later. Someone gave him a ride. Turn you head to cough! And oddly, throughout this crisis, I have yet to meet anyone displaying any flu-like symptoms. They’re at home I guess.

Rex In Peace. Deep in the woods, beside a trail, someone’s friend rests in what must have been a favourite place.
The rare and highly secretive moss bear. It is seldom seen because it so cleverly disguises itself. Aw c’mon, use your imagination!

Yesterday Jack and I chose a different walk, one we had not taken for years. It meanders out to Jack Point which help protect Nanaimo Harbour from the open Strait Of Georgia and is also where one of our BC Ferry Terminals is situated. We passed the large, and active sawmill next to the terminal, emitting the usual mill din and ash. It was wonderful to hear normal activity. The folks we met on the single trail in and out were friendly and considerate, the weather mild and perfect. At the final long and steep stairway on the trail it was obvious old Jack was floundering, so after a rest, we made the slow return trek without asking more of his valiant spirit. What a wonderful friend! It is very hard watching him age. There is still a spark in his eyes and he is determined to let nothing hold him back but his old pins have nearly run their course. I suppose that soon I’ll have to find him one of those expensive off-road baby strollers so we can still get him out and about.

I wondered as I wandered. How long ago was this small fir cut? Was it uniquely straight or crooked? Did it become part of someone’s boat?
Down by the sea, that’s where you’ll find my dog and me. Jack takes a deserved rest. Recently we visited friends on their boat where he promptly fell asleep. He was determined to get aboard. Jack loves boats of all kinds.
Low side of the high road. This winding trail is clearly well-used and there is a blessed minimum of signs.

Now, in mid-April, the afternoons are warm, the skies still clear and cloudless. The air is filled with drifts of mixed pollen and dust. We are entering a time of drought…in April! There have been few spring rains, the walking trails are dusty and we are already in a wildfire season. Perhaps our summer will be a wet one, but only fools and new-comers predict the weather. Meanwhile all the symptoms of allergy season are upon many of us which is just what we need in the midst of our Covid chaos. Still, if one must endure a plague of contagion I can’t think of a better place to be. Those who live far from the sea deserve a special sympathy. In my opinion.

High above the roofs of Ladysmith. A harbour view through the blooming Dogwood trees.

That the man on the throne was completely bonkers said more about the imploding culture than the ruler.” …Mary Beard Rome: Empire without Limit

Lighten Up Eh!

Life goes on. Spring growth in the ditch.

At the best of times, there is inevitably minor power-hungry bureaucrats trying to save us from ourselves and so empower themselves. Our current virus has apparently given some of them a sense of license to post dire signs and try to impose closures wherever possible. We are not a species with high primal instincts of self-preservation anymore but really, I do not need to be incessantly reminded to go home, hide in a closet, put my head between my knees and kiss me arse farewell. I get it! OK?

OK? So who has been saved from what by having a small gravel parking lot blocked? The signs have dire warnings about Covid 19.
THAT’s better! You can see the blocked parking lot 100 metres away.
Nope! Nothing’s allowed. Go home.
Oh SHIT!
GERM. A sign of the times. I don’t mind this one at all.

Those who don’t understand by now, never will, so we may as well let the gene pool cleanse itself a bit. I was encouraged to learn that in some places where it comes down to which victim needs a ventilator, a smoker will lose against the non-smoker. Sad, but fair.

Plod. Poor old Jack is slowing down. He used to run ahead and wait for me. There is still a sparkle in his eye and the stubby tail is quick to blur in a happy greeting. The crows were engrossed in a lively mating ritual.

Sorry but I’m getting a little fed up. Folks, sick and dying is sick and dying, wherever you are. Don’t give me any crap after what your local infection percentile is. I just spoke with a nurse from tiny little Tahsis, (Population about 248) a village way up on the remote west coast of Vancouver Island, next stop Japan. They’ve had a confirmed case of Covid 19. If you want to having a pissing contest about who has the worst situation, please, walk on by. We’re all in this together. Dead is dead. Got it? Every community I’ve ever lived in has, by someone’s declaimation, the worst hospital ever. So stop it already. Lighten up eh! Look for some light.

Today is a flawless spring day. The sky is cloudless, the breeze is light and warm. It’s a T-shirt day. (16° C /61°F) The air is filled with pollen. Folks will be sneezing, coughing, farting, blowing their noses and all thinking they have the big C. I swear that soon we’ll have officious little-minded people on the street corners in fluorescent space suits, with 2 meter long grabber sticks, leaping out to install a headbag on anyone so cavalier to venture out.

It’s a jungle out there, but so much nicer with the sun!
Well woof to you too. Welcome to my wading pool.
This way a wet dog came.
“The vandals took the handles and now the pumps won’t work.”  …Bob Dylan

Our premier goes on television to tell the proletariat how to properly wash its hands, to stay indoors but also get outside and enjoy the fresh air. Yep, I’ve broken out into some good old blue collar epithets more than once.

It is Good Friday and struth, usually the weather is cloudy and stormy. My fundamentalist parents used to explain that it was God reminding us of what a terrible day it was when the evil ones executed Christ. That the bad guys were the local religious factions of the time seemed to elude them. “Hurry up, we’re late for church!” But then, which army has not had God on ITS side? I am presently wading though a novel called ‘Stones From The River’ by Ursula Hegi. It is set in Germany during the era leading up to the second world war. I can only read a few pages at a time about the darkness of spiralling self-serving values, terrible behaviour, attitudes and practices of many inspired by Mr. H and the boys. The country had doomed itself before ever marching across any border. My personal cynicism can draw parallels to the mass mindlessness of our present pandemic. The ripple effects of this panic and terror will be far-reaching and with us for a long time. As the Australian man said, “Brace yourself Sheila!”

“Now what have I pushed?” Banana fingers and mobile phones are a poor mix. The inadvertent selfie. Scary!  “More lines in his face than a street map of London.”
The poet’s desk.
New boots broken in, it’s time to say goodbye to the old ones. After three years of bilges, mechanics shops, welding, hundreds of miles of walking, one boot finally fell off my foot. I usually get about six months from a pair of working boots. Blundstones are more than just a fashion statement.

Our governments are trying to bolster our spirits by throwing money at us. Funds they don’t have and we will pay, and pay. There will be little happiness for a long time. Historically, countries pull themselves out of a crisis by starting yet another war. Pay attention! That’s all I’ll say now that I’ve depressed everyone even lower. While we ponder the extent of our weakness it is also a time to consider our strengths and develop those to a higher level. Kindness has no substitute and even a little has far-reaching implications. Common sense is clearly not common, so it is time to take a breath and think things through before letting someone else’s knee-jerk stupidity dictate the direction of your life. Smile. It’s Easter. Eat chocolate. It’s bad for you!

Bump! A stable air mass. Two intersecting contrails dissipate very slowly in the high spring sky.
The crack pansy. Does that sound rude?
Natural light, natural beauty. Trilliums are especially beautiful because they are so soon gone.

I understand how I may come across as crass and insensitive. In actual fact, I am an emotional flower and I am saddened when people demean their own god-given potential by refusing to think and feel for themselves. This blog finds me in mourning. Covid-19 took one of my few heroes and human inspirations this week. John Prine, gone. Oddly, a lot of folks don’t know who this incredible singer songwriter is/ was. His music will live on and on. He was of more value to me than any politician. Here’s a link to one of my favourite Prine songs:

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

And here is a poem I wrote the day after his passing this week.

Rough Draft

Bad news travels fast they say

But I didn’t hear Prine was gone

until only yesterday.

I won’t begin to list his works

some may perhaps have saved my life

Certainly they helped me get along

just a postman, but he sure as hell

could write and sing a song.

It ain’t right

that a humble man with

a quiet sparkle in his eye

and a raging fire in his soul

who wrote blue collar eloquence

about the beauty and the tragedy

of the common man

should find himself such a terrible way to die.

You’d expect there would have been a flaming wreck

some stark drama to mark this sad, sad day

but goddamn it, he’s gone

and it never even made the evening news.

Just another victim of a plague

randomly snatching us one by one

that gravel twang silenced forever

his pen lies still

beside a worn guitar

and a book of blank pages

yet to be filled

all those unwritten tunes

he is gone far, far too soon.

I wander the Covid streets

of my deathly quiet little town

there’s no-one around.

Even the accosting God-botherers

handing out road maps to heaven

have abandoned their strategic corner

and stayed home to pray in their closets.

Passing down the broken hill

in the cold early morning light

there is an old hotel with a pub

often filled with blues and country song

a reek of cigarettes and spilled beer

clinging by the battered door

the sort of joint John played

for so very long.

He was one of those guys

with whom you thought

you’d like to share a beer,

or ten,

sipping pints of rough draft

thinking up something witty

that would have made him laugh.

I don’t much believe in heaven

but if there is

I hope there’s a tavern up there

with a crowded little stage

John steps up and joins their ranks

Rogers, Petty, Cash, Nilsson, Haggard, Williams, Snow,

and all the others standing there.

They make room for John Prine and he begins to sing

He Was In Heaven Before He Knew He Died.”

I did not know the man

but still I’ve cried.

Stupid is as stupid does.” …Forest Gump