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

The Royal Flush Shit Show

Balls to it all. The night is over. Let’s look to the sunrise.
Where have all the bikinis gone?

Never buy camouflaged slippers. I spend half my evenings looking for them. One is starting to curl up. I am a bit annoyed. I paid ten dollars for the garden slug green rubber numbers in the East Kootenays just last summer!

Meanwhile, here in Ladysmith on Christmas Eve afternoon, it has begun to snow. Huge white soggy biscuits of the stuff. Many kids will be overwhelmed with joy right now but this seasoned old winter driver is staying home. In a hillside town loaded with wide-eyed folks careening about, it’s best to hunker down when the world is covered in this white grease. It may be pretty but it’s dead dangerous especially with all the other drivers out there who don’t get it. While I’ve pecked out this paragraph, a second call to arms from the fire hall siren has wailed out. Another wreck. Nothing like giving a potentially covid-infected stranger mouth to mouth.

Winter nerds!   (After their swim)
Complicated
Our town

Six days later, it’s still snowing. Shoveling snow is good exercise but I’d rather be floating down some Mexican beach like Bo Derek. You could call my version of the film “3,” or perhaps “Thump”. My wife has been horribly ill with a massive gastric affliction. I’ll avoid the graphic details and yes, we’re sure it’s not Covid-49 or any other deadly version. She’s had eight days of intense “cleansing” but I wouldn’t recommend this as a weight loss adventure. The title of this blog is a quote from her. Still, every time these days that you sniffle, cough or fart you find yourself wondering is this IT?

How I spent my winter vacation, hanging on.
… And a kite in a maple tree. Jack has responded to the snow like the puppy heart he’ll always be.
Yeah baby!
The ultimate happy dog.

We do live in strange times. In a local pharmacy cashier’s line-up I thought I had misread a label on a toy. The item was a tiny plastic dog, with a push-stick which fit into its back. It had four stiff legs and a wheel between the front two. There was a packet of tiny plastic treats you fed into its mouth. Then apparently, it fired them out a tiny orifice beneath the tail. There was a little scoop to pick them out. Really! The toy was named something like “furRealPoopalot.” I almost bought it. “Mommy what’s that old man playing with?” You can order them through Amazon. Go ahead, I know you want one! Next there will be a “Covid Collie”. There’s no limit to profit possibilities. Maybe we could form a “Poopsalot support group.”

A yarding session. I remember days like this. Walking the rolling logs covered in slippery snow, you are braced for the sudden icy plunge while wearing heavy caulk boots. Wherever you have to lay down to immerse your arms in the burning cold water there is probably a large pie of seal shit. It’s the romance of the sea.

Now it’s New Year’s Eve. We’ve had several snowy days and the temperature has plummeted to a horrific -4° C. Every year someone proclaims this one an especially severe winter but I remember ones far worse than this, like the one when it snowed four feet in one night ( I have photos) or the winter in the late eighties when the February temperature went down as far as – 20°C for several dayss while the wind howled incessantly. I don’t recall BC Ferries missing crossings because of extreme cold then. I would describe this as a normal coastal winter. Folks need drama and apparently Covid is not enough. This afternoon we’re under a thick blanket of snow and a wind chill of – 12°C. But it’s OK, we’ll forget.

Heron in cedar.
Watchers. Bald Eagles confirm a late salmon run.
Salmon stream
Cold as a fish

By anyone’s estimation it is a good year to put behind us, let’s call it a learning experience and move on. Hopefully the next is one when we all have someone to love, something to do and something to look forward to. There really is nothing more, it’s that simple.

Happy New Year.

If you don’t think you can be happy, or at least content, try missing a few days. It’s the only moment you’ve got. Avoid dancing on tables and remember that hangunders are always worse than the one before. Being pissed as a newt is no way to start the next year. We all make plenty enough bad decisions sober!

Winterhood. The engine hood of the ‘Hemoth’ reveals a frosty beauty.
When your ship comes in, don’t be at the airport.

Deep breaths are very helpful at shallow parties.” Barbara Walters

God’s On Our side. Right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

We all know the feeling.

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

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

Nanoo, nanoo! Shazbot!

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

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

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

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

Happy Christmas.

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

 

When You Don’t Have A Camera

When You Don’t Have A Camera

One of the reasons I carry a camera is to make myself find the beauty we so often overlook. This appeared on a rock face in an area where Jack loves to go. I don’t like seeing something natural defaced but this is beautiful.

The day begins black as inside a bear’s belly. Dawn crawls out of bed one toe at a time. It’s like that a few days before winter solstice when there’s a forecast of another imminent “atmospheric river” which will bring an increasing deluge through the weekend. The forecast contains a “Special Weather Statement” warning of extreme wind and rain. I have the engine partially apart in the ‘Hemoth at the moment and will not work in a winter storm. I’ve done that all too often for a living and this job may have to sit and wait. There has been an exhaust leak and now a fuel leak. That demands I disassemble the fuel system and the turbo charger and finally a part of the exhaust system.

Atmospheric River
Celestial Stream

It is like doing brain surgery through the rectum. Assembly A’s removal requires the extraction of unit B which needs A to be out of the way first. Then item “F” appears. Add 25 years of exhaust heating and cooling it becomes a Rubic’s cube with dark squares. That used to be called “Catch 22.” I can’t find my magic wrench so I buy a few others, cut them up and modify them. Often, only another quarter-inch of space would make the job so easy! Meanwhile everything is covered in a thick frost which will dissolve once it begins to rain. Christmas cheer? Bumhug!

This old mechanic offers up timeless curses about the engineers who design this shit and have, apparently, never held a wrench. Then I curse my hands. They’re arthritic and clumsy from doing this sort of work over a lifetime. I spread a tarp beneath the project to catch the things I drop.

The heart of the matter. That much-abused nut behind the turbo charger was actually self-welded to the iron base beneath it and also to the stud on which it was threaded. I had to chisel it off, one molecule at a time. Then I had to drill out the heat-hardened stud, tap fresh thread into the metal beneath, then manufacture and install a new stud. Once the turbo was removed I could finally repair the gap in the manifold flange visible beneath the turbo base. There is a small bolt on the lower side which had to be removed then re-installed. I talked to God a wee bit. Note the soot on the firewall from the diesel exhaust leak. 

Finally I can see the vague silhouette of a tree against the sky. It’s time to let old Jack take me for a shuffle before I crawl back under the truck’s hood. I’ll go back to work like a three-legged dog trying to make love to a greasy football. Retirement! One of my subtle pleasures is to sit with my morning coffee and do something for my next blog. It gives me a sense of accomplishment early in the day and thus fulfilled I go on to other endeavours. Then I’ll see how long I last under the hood until that cold winter rain soaks me from the arse down and eventually sends me packing off for a hot shower and dry clean clothes.

The Rapper
The Rabbit
Frere Jacques, dormez vous? His rabbit days are behind him except in his dreams.

We shuffled our way around the dog park. Jack left some splendour in the leaves which I promptly collected in the ubiquitous plastic dog bag, grateful for the hand warmer. Mornings like this remind me of the North Sea in this season. Brrr bloody brrr! To my wondering eyes old ladies began to arrive in a lower parking lot. They were clad in blankets and housecoats, bare-legged in wading shoes. I was stunned to see that they were hobbling briskly toward the beach. In moments these senior girls were frolicking in the water. I learn later that they do this every morning! You wouldn’t get me in there to my ankles…wearing boots! I’d go in a boy and come out a girl. Whoooo! I can only admire them. Of course, I’d left my mobile phone/ camera at home. (That underscores my enduring admonishment to always have some sort of camera along.) Well, while those Viking daughters now sit by someone’s crackling fireplace, or perhaps in a sauna, sipping fish eggnog and laughing raucously at their own bravado, I’m going up the hill and under the hood. Hand me that wrench please.

Well puddle me!
Beauty everywhere
Christmas colour complete with real ice drops.

If the road is easy, you’re likely going the wrong way.”
― Terry Goodkind

Under The River

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Black Friday Weekend huh?

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

Fredfessions :

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

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

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

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

__________________________________________________________________________________

Drip

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

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

After the rain stopped. Nanaimo River

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WET

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two quotes I’ve stumbled across this afternoon:

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

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

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

– Muhammad Ali

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

A Happy Day

The dawn on the day in question. There were no gaily frolicking dolphins, it was even too wet for them.

Driving in the coastal morning dark can be hell. During a hard rain the sucking gloom becomes a black hole, like the inside of a bear. The wet slashes down and sticks to the windshield like thin, cold oil. It will not wipe away. Some other cars hurtle madly past on the lemming highway and promptly vanish as if sucked into a celestial black hole. Headlights in the spray become a blinding, impenetrable fog. Yet we arrived safely. I walked into the glare of the Duke Point ferry terminal.

But sometimes a day becomes a celebration of life, like it or not. It can happen even when the weather is apocalyptic. The day I’m writing about was one of those doomy days in New Westminster. The rain had persisted all the way from Vancouver Island. Thick heavy dark clouds scudded overhead only fifty feet up. The incessant cold rain hammered down and bounced back knee-high, chilling wet and bloody miserable. Full daylight never appeared.

My old truck and camper, now named the “Hemoth” is a dreadful daily driver. Lurching around town is a challenge and finding a place to park is never fun. Angle parking on main street is risky business. The truck, with dual rear-wheels is useless on wet hills without the weight of the camper and I want to keep the two together as a single unit ready to go south at the first possible moment. Its monster diesel engine likes to warm up and do some work, which can’t happen putting only a few blocks at a time. I don’t have enough money to get away at the moment so I decided to acquire a cheap “Winter beater.”

Beater World with dozens more inside. There was no razzle dazzle or any expensive suits, just simple decency and integrity.

I’d been questing a rough-road capable scooter but they’re incredibly overpriced, even with high mileage. For a few dollars more one can buy a new one. So I thought I’d apply that same budget to a small used automobile. Mission impossible. During my quest, I did discover a Rolls Royce SUV, (a mere $450,000.) just the ticket to drive up the mountain in hope of finding a grouse for supper, cheap meat old chap!

Eventually I found a vehicle for my pittance and off I went into the rain of the back waters of an old industrial park in New Westminster. There was a labryinth of twisting streets leading onto the far end of Lulu Island in the Fraser River. Even when the taxi arrived it took a minute to realize I was in the right place. It was a yard jammed with cars, no more than six inches apart. In the rain, you could not walk between the dripping fenders without soon becoming soaked. Still the folks were all congenial and I sensed that they operated with a rare integrity.

Everyone works together with a rare feel of harmony. There is an exotic air to the place, in part because the language they speak among themselves is Parsi which fascinated me. All seem truly interested in the customer’s best interests. Every vehicle I wanted to see was parked in a back row so there were other cars to move around first which required even more shuffling to find room to put them. And, of course, every vehicle needed its battery boosted. The prices were fair, there were no rip-off documentation fees and there was no argument when the vehicle I came to see proved to have too many problems. In fact the owner offered me a very fair price on another vehicle, which I ended up buying. It is an innocuous little silver car with plenty of miles but it runs well and was driveable without any repairs needed. My experience was quite pleasant and not at all like a “Big Slick” operation most of us have known. Some folks still understand the ‘golden rule’ and I can confidently recommend this place to anyone.

I’ll go back there again and heartily recommend Tala Auto Select if you need a low-price vehicle. You’ll find them online. By the way, should it matter to you, there was a large inventory of assorted BMWs and a large private collection stored inside. That is guarded by five feisty little dogs.

An oasis in the rain.
Going fast. I thought I should take a photo before I inhaled the whole thing. There was no need for supper.

Next door to this business is Rozzini’s Restaurant. They advertise an Italian, Greek and Indian menu. Their fare is superb, the prices are great, the service was grand. They’re online too and well worth the out-of-the-way drive for a positively unique experience. I was at the ferry terminal and sailing back to Vancouver Island before evening darkness fell, my belly full of roast lamb. The rain never stopped.

I should also mention that during weekdays, seniors travel on BC Ferries for free. I walked off the ferry, stepped right onto a bus and one transfer later I found myself at the Scott Road Station, in less than an hour from the ferry, for the lofty sum of $3. Bitch all you want, we’re doing fine. This old grump is truly pleased with all my experiences on Coastal BC public transit systems.

As I drove back to the ferry that afternoon, in the weaving traffic and endless rain, I realized that for the same money I could be out there wobbling along on a used scooter, raincoat flapping next to some cement truck’s wheels. Yep, it was a good day. Now all I have to learn is how to find such an ordinary little car where I left it in a big parking lot.

A morning with better weather…our local dog park.
Thazzal for now folks. The wind and the rain are beating the leaves from the trees.
Jack has always loved little boats. He did not leave this piece of flotsam easily.
A golden pond.

 

Fish rise within the reflections.
They’re baaack!
A never-ending drama that is never diminished in wonder when the salmon return each year.
Autumn low tide
Dogpatch, nothing ever changes. Abandoned boathouse and sailboat beside old pilings that I think would make a grand base for a new marine pub.
An explanation among the garbage on the beach.
Halloween rose
November Suckle
A local blueberry farm. It’s for sale.
Solitude
The municipal hanging tree
No-one could say when it began but slowly an ancient castle emerged from the ground in the forest.
The ‘Swell.’ This beautiful old wooden tug was launched in 1903 as the last steam-powered tug built on the BC Coast. I remember talking to her on the VHF through the years from various tugboat wheelhouses when she still worked as a Tug for Westview Dredge and Dock. After an extensive rebuild and refit she reappeared as she looks now, a fabulous mobile fishing lodge.

Electric cars aren’t pollution-free; they have to get their energy from somewhere.

Alexandra Paul

In Passing

In Passing

Photos in my last blog of the Squilax General Store inspired a surprising response from some readers. Assuming that no one would relate to the old brick building I was surprised it had been part of other’s lives as well. Go figure! The little store sat in the shadow of a high, long wooden bridge which took travellers over the Little Shuswap River to the upper reaches of big Shuswap Lake and also to Adams Lake and remote locations beyond. Place names like Scotch Creek, Celista, Anglemont, and Hard Scramble come to mind. There was a spattering of summer homes and a marina. It was an area essentially undiscovered to the outside world… then.

What’s in a memory?

I had come to the area due to a strange series of circumstances. I found myself working on a ranch belonging to a religious organization. I soon moved over to a neighbouring ranch and have indelible memories of life and all that I learned up in Turtle Valley. I sometimes wish I’d never left. At the bottom of the steep dirt road was the location of Squilax Station on the CPR mainline. The ranch family I worked for had bought the old station building, put it on log skids and dragged it behind the ranch bulldozer all the way up into the valley and set it on new foundations. That was over fifty years ago and other ranchers are still peeved about ripped-out portions of fence, wandering cattle and general mayhem. Country folk are often quite parochial and that event is part of the fabric of local legend. The old building is still there so far as I know, still in it’s very faded, peeling railway burgundy paint. There is a novella lurking about my rich experiences there. Looking back, everything seems larger than life, including the Squilax Store.

Imagine all that has been seen through these windows

At the bottom of the Turtle Valley Hill was a looping ramp which rose from the Trans-Canada highway and made a three-quarter turn to the long wooden bridge across the Little Shuswap River. There was a traffic light at either end of the single-lane bridge. Invariably there was a long wait for the light to turn green. I drove a ‘64 Buick like a maniac on the daily trip to work at the Holdings Sawmill on Adams Lake. A co-worker had financed a brand-new Datsun 240Z and insisted on pushing his sports car to the limit. He rolled it over on that approach to the bridge. The old abutments are all that remain of that bridge now. They stand beside the replacement bridge, a two-lane concrete affair with no character but a necessary concession to modern times and a growing population.

The store sat beside the highway on the south bank of the river. I do not know who had built the red brick construction but it stands as solidly as ever. Fifty years ago it already looked as if it had been there forever. Old Mr Herring claimed that he had been a young man working on a British whaling vessel off the coast of Kamchatka. That was where he had met his wife. I recall how everything was priced by hand and all sales were recorded in a ledger. She wrote in cyrillic alphabet which to me was an exotic mystery. She was an elegant silver-haired lady, always in a bright flowered-print dress. He was a bald old man with tiny round-rimmed glasses and sparkling eyes.

One last look before we drive away…if we bothered to stop at all. I can still hear the tinkle of the bell as the door opened.

They lived in the back of the building, the store in the front was very small but offered a wide variety of goods and obviously they had enough trade to provide themselves with a living. There were accounts of another store which they first operated in Fort St. John. I so wish I’d paid more attention. The Squilax store was lined with glass cabinets which had rows of wooden kegs sitting in in front of them. A hinged plank covered the kegs of nails and other hard ware, foodstuffs sat inside the cabinets. You could not buy a piece of cheese from one of the huge blocks without first being offered a sample. The product was cut, weighed and wrapped in brown paper and then tied with string which hung from a spool suspended from the ceiling. The price was carefully marked in cyrillic on the package and also in the ledger. Even then, it was a step far back in time which I did not appreciate. It is long-gone, forever.

The house where I lived back in the day. It’s hard to comprehend that half a century has passed since that age of innocence.

I remember the tinkle of the bell whenever the door was opened and closed and believe I recall a small round wood stove in the storefront. For years I treasured a telescopic fishing rod which travelled with me in my backpack and I still have a splendid axe which has served me well through the years. They both came from that store. One day Mr Herring took a phone call. (Yes, it was one of those old crank-up style phones) There had been a suicide on the Shuswap reserve across the river and the inquiry was for some muslin cloth to prepare the body. There was none in stock but the old shopkeeper had cheesecloth and assured the caller that it was perfectly acceptable to use what was on hand. That led him into a story about a too-small coffin in their former store and how they managed to cram the body into it by sitting on the lid so it could be screwed down.

Looking southward from Turtle Valley, over my old home into Paxton Valley, the location this year of a dreadful wild fire. The pasture in the foreground was once forest. I cleared it as I learned to be a logger.

Well, that’s not much for memories from over half a century ago. Maybe with more dredging I’ll come up with more. I’d love to hear other’s accounts of the Herring’s and their business. Whomever the owners now are, they have heaped the old store with junk and clearly do not appreciate what they have. Such is life. The traffic whizzes by on the highway, and as is so often the case, few appreciate the significance of one obscure place.

I used to have a peaceful life until you came home and started dragging me out in the rain.
arbutus berries and wet bark
They bloom every fall
Another sure sign of the cool damp of autumn. Some of these fungi are nearly the size of plates

At home I’m settling in while I make repairs and upgrades to my RV. There was a tremendous welcome from Jack but it is hard to admit how he is aging. He still has a sparkle in his eyes but his old body is clearly worn out. He can barely walk. I took him to visit friends. A spectacular lunch was prepared and say waiting on the table while we visited. Through the corner of my eye I caught Jack, slowly but deliberately, pulling on the table cloth and inching lunch off the edge of the table. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

What would Squirelly think of this? The back fence is a highway to the hazelnut tree. It’s nuts!

Nothing is more responsible for the good old days than a bad memory.

Franklin Pierce Adams

The Frost Before The Dawn

A kind of hush. Like a steaming kettle, the lake gives up its summer heat. Soon it will freeze over.
A beach all to myself
Jack was with me on a previous visit and loved this pond. Suddenly I missed him desperately.
Simplicity and complexity
Breathe

The title is just not a pliable metaphor, it’s a fact. I’m sitting in my camper watching the day’s sunrise. As so often happens, a while before the first golden rays poke through the trees a hard frost suddenly forms. I sit inside beside the furnace, hot black coffee in hand watching the day evolve. I drove out of my way to be here, Kentucky-Alleyne Provincial Park. It is a special place to me for its chain of small crystalline aqua lakes. I thought I’d have it to myself. Fool! It’s a holiday weekend and there are RVs everywhere. Worst of all, they’ve paved the road in to the park and there is heavy machinery and mud all over. There goes the ’hood. Why the hell we can not leave things alone is a compulsion I don’t understand. If you’re coming out to a place like this to get a taste of the edge of wilderness, why urbanize it to be just like home? The missionary complex! I suppose there will soon be a McDonalds. Bugga!

I could hear Joni Mitchell singing “they’ve paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”
For the tree museum.
Roughing it. Perhaps the road was paved so these behemoths would not be damaged while hurtling out to relax. Perhaps those beautiful pines should come down. They may interfere with satellite dish reception.
Says it all

A few days ago I awoke to the smell of cowshit and the sound of a nearby rooster. It was thoroughly pleasant, a vignette from my long ago farm boy past. I was at a friend’s home on the banks of the Shuswap River where it passed through the hamlet of Grindrod. While I put the coffee on, the first vehicle over the bridge was a bulk milk truck headed off to local farms for its morning collection. Places like this still exist despite the encroachment of condos, subdivisions and gentrified hobby farms. Some days I am happy to be the age I am.

End of fire season. One of the joys of driving in BC is the ever-changing geography. This was taken a few miles east of Revelstoke.
Beautiful downtown Grindrod
…And daughters
The Shuswap River from downtown Grindrod, two doors upstream from the pub. The idyllic  setting is punctuated often with the thunder of Harley Davidsons leaving and arriving.
The feed mill at Grindrod. This has been a landmark for a very long time. It was there over fifty years ago when I used to deliver logs to a nearby portable sawmill from the ranch where I worked.
Looking up from downtown Salmon Arm. A few miles over that mountain was “Old Grassy” the summer range land of the ranch where I worked. I used to ride my horse up there, checking our cattle and also hunting. It was another lifetime.
A glimpse into the way I remember things. Beautiful ranchland everywhere is being encroached upon with sub-divisions, trailer parks, storage yards and ostentatious country manors. Sadly the original buildings are disappearing.
Another memory. At the foot of the road down from the high valley where the ranch was, this was the store one passed. i have fond memories of the 1880’s-style general store and the colourful old couple who where the proprietors; Old man Herring and his Russian wife.
I remember passing beneath this sign when it was in perfect condition. This sight leaves me feeling very old. The Squilax Store was located beside a high single-lane wooden bridge which crossed the Little Shuswap River. The bridge was replaced long ago. This site is where paddle-wheelers travelling from Kamloops to Sicamous once stopped to take on more firewood.
Hostile Hostel?
No mail today
A wooden monument to the past probably on the endangered list. This one-lane bridge at Pritchard where it crosses the South Thompson River. I have spent many wonderful afternoons above the grassy plains over the bridge at places like Pinantan Lake.
From the bridge, looking upstream to the east. The river has a system of buoys as it is considered a Canadian navigable waterway from the days of the paddle wheelers. It is hard to believe when the river is so shallow at this time of year.
Quilchena Lake moment. A jewel in the middle of some gorgeous country.

I’m driving a circuitous route homeward, savouring old haunts at a beautiful time of year. Unfortunately my little circus train cannot always stop for the best photos I see; the roadside is too narrow, the traffic too heavy. All the government camp grounds are closed, most private ones too. Spots where I assumed to be able to just find a place off the road seem very hard to find. I drove on and on finally finding myself in the swirling madness of the lower mainland and travelling westward into a setting sun beaming through a filthy windshield. Once aboard a ferry I crawled into the bunk in my camper and slept through the whole crossing. I parked for the night in a secret place and arrived home in the morning.

The ocean! Home!

It was raining lightly when I pulled up in front of the abode and to my horror there was a trail of rainbows behind me on the damp pavement in glowing LGBTQ colours. Of course that would offend someone. I had a serious oil leak and was very lucky to not have run my engine out of oil. I braced myself for the inevitable acid strata council letter. Sure enough! It arrived. Welcome home. You can guess what my plans are. Due South. Open the border por favor.

All is well!
Thanksgiving Sunday in the park.
Home Port, Ladysmith
One of two happy old dogs reunited.

Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” – Maya Angelou