Lizard Response

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GONE

The magnolia on main street

Magnolia trees in bloom. That fleeting glorious splendour marks the surety of the seasons, the bursting out of spring, warmer days ahead and then the luxuries of summer. In a day or two the wind or rain will tear away the stunning beauty of those magnificent blossoms. Like the rest of life, beauty is a fleeting thing. There are flowers and buds all around, very intense after the reluctant retreat of winter. They mean nothing. It is Easter, the celebration of hope and rebirth. This year, it means nothing. All is a hollow, echoing nightmare. I see but do not grasp, there is no reaching sound, no smell, no taste. All is surreal. All is a void. A few days ago her mother found her body in her apartment. Her frantic little dog was guarding. Apparently, we learned, Rachel our daughter had been dead a few days.

Rachel.
She was seven years old when I met her. She and her mom were a package deal. I have no regrets about that.
She was incredibly beautiful in all ways.

No mother should ever have to find her daughter’s corpse. How I wish I could erase that horror for her. I cannot imagination how she deals with this end of her motherhood. She will be a mother forever. What a slam! No manipulation of words can begin to describe the depths of anguish and darkness we find ourselves plunged into. We function like automatons, mechanically going about all the ordeals and logistics we must at such a time. There may be a short pause in my blogging. There is too much pain to be able to write coherently.

Rachel at about the age of ten with her dog Fletcher. That was thirty-seven years ago. How time flies! I cannot describe the depths of grief at losing her so suddenly. It is pain no parent should ever know.

It is absolutely no consolation but I think of people in an identical circumstance in a place like the Ukraine. Their loved ones are gone, there may be no family left to share the grief, no home or any familiarity for shelter, no food. Shattered bodies lay in the rubble-strewn streets. There is a smell of decay and soot and torn earth.

I try to find solace in the love received from my family and friends, it truly is a comfort. Yet for the time being I travel in a place I do not know, nor want to. I find myself in a dark labyrinth of caves. I do not know which way to crawl, I can see nothing. This will pass. Life will go on, with or without me, all I need is to grasp a single thread to follow back toward where I can see well enough to find the path ahead. I try to imagine that Rachel and Jack, who loved each other dearly, have found each other in some beautiful place and have each again found the bliss they used to share. Meanwhile, Rachel’s own little dog is utterly confused and I cannot image the wee beast being alone with her for days after she had died. Little Ayre is a living extension of our daughter’s existence and we will cherish her.

We had no chance to say goodbye to our daughter. And my message to you is to understand that every time you say farewell to anyone, it may be the last time. Life is like that, it is fragile. Don’t leave anything unfinished, leave no regrettable words, tell them you love them, hug your children every chance you get. Happy Easter.

Ayre.                                                                                                                                                                          Rachel’s loyal companion past the bitter end. She watches for Rachel to reappear, just like her parents do. Is any of this real?

How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”                                                                                                                        Winnie The Pooh

How Much Is That Doggie In The Ukraine?

Think green, it must be spring. A forest slug snacking on a maple flower. Do you see the beady little eyes watching you?
Another lunch photo. Yes the trilliums are starting to bloom.

A friend and reader responded to my last blog with a note about a CBC story she’d seen. A Canadian veterinarian and his daughter have gone to the Ukraine to help out. I checked it out. Kudos to Dr. Cliff Redford. At great personal risk you are making a positive difference in an unseen corner of this humanitarian tragedy. So far, two people have died while transporting rescued animals out of the war zone. There is a huge population of dogs, cats and other creatures which were abandoned. Some are injured, some suffering from acute hunger and thirst and illness. And, I don’t recall anyone ever being shot at by a dog.

Full frontal nudity.
Peace in the bog.

It is horrible. What a terrible decision to have to make. You can only take what you can carry and so often the pet just has to stay behind. Other folks have chosen to leave their stuff and bring their pet. I know the choice I would make. Then I stumbled across stories about hungry Russian troops raping women and eating dogs. I recall accounts from German civilians at the end of the second world war as Russian marched into East Germany. The civilians had already endured a horrific ordeal and the war’s end brought them no liberation. I have also heard accounts of how we, the good guys, are just as capable of the same atrocities. Some things never change, we’re still the same beasts we always were. I began to research an avenue for adopting a Ukrainian dog but all the online contacts I’ve found seem suspicious to me. There will be legitimate means established to adopt dogs eventually but in the meantime I’ll just have to keep looking.

Skunk Cabbage. A sure sign of spring.
The Swamp Rocket

I continue to look for a local dog who needs a fresh start. Charity begins at home, right? There are dogs available, but most are too big for life in the camper and any extended travel. There are also plenty of pit bull terriers with which I have no problem but there are plenty of people who do. I don’t need an incessant hassle. Most dogs have a huge monetary price attached and I’m suspicious of folks who claim to be looking for a good home for their canine charges and then mention “Oh by the way” they have a huge adoption fee. I know caring for a dog and providing shelter for more to come costs money but every dog I’ve had cost nothing in dollars and were wonderful friends. The idea of paying for a furry soul mate just seems wrong unless the expense is explainable. Then there are the rescue folks who simply don’t answer your inquiries. Nice!

Rise of the fiddleheads. Everything is bursting out despite the cool weather.

And so our reluctant spring grinds on. The ongoing dark saga from the Ukraine is dragging us all down. The weather seems to echo our sentiments. We have moments of spring between the massive epilogue of winter. It is mostly cold and wet and gloomy. Still! It seems to be all I’ve written about for a long time. Photographing spring flowers trembling in a wintry wind beneath the dull light of grey clouds is wearing thin.

Bleeding hearts for those left-wing liberal folks.
Spots underneath fern leaves. Wonder what purpose they serve?
After being bombarded with the woes of the world, it’s hard to believe I live here. This is ten minutes from my home.
I’m not much for “stuff” and glitz but I will confess a deep admiration for this poor fisherman’s shack with a view. I Wonder where I could park the Hemoth.

I’ve hired a lady who is helping me set up a marketing program for my writing and photography. It’s all over my head, suddenly I find myself with business pages on Face Book. As things were linked up, ten random blogs selected from my archives were posted on Face Book. While in the process these blogs appeared together in a blizzard to all my subscribers. I apologize sincerely to all you folks for the nuisance. I was also forwarded the following which may be soggy cookies but it moved this old flower who has felt guilt about looking for another dog so soon after Jack’s passing.

A DOG’S LAST WILL & TESTAMENT

 Before  humans die, they write their last will and testament, give their home and all they have to those they leave behind. 

 If, with my paws, I could do the same, this is what I’d ask…

 To a poor and lonely stray I’d give my happy home; my bowl and cozy bed, soft pillow and all my toys; the lap, which I loved so much;

the hand that stroked my fur; and the sweet voice that spoke my name.

 I’d will to the sad, scared shelter dog, the place I had in my human’s loving heart, of which there seemed no bounds.

 So, when I die, please do not say, “I will never have a pet again, for the loss and pain is more than I can stand.”

 Instead go find an unloved dog, one whose life has held no joy or hope, and give my place to him.

 This is the only thing I can give…

The love I left behind.

This is a Red Breasted Sapsucker. Really! It was advertising its presence by drumming vigorously on the metal sign.

 

Nowhere Man

Spring in the swamp.

I awoke in the morning with that damned old song looping around in my head. From beneath the blankets I could feel the grey outdoors and life seemed pointless. One of those mornings. Bathroom, coffee machine, morning grunts on the living room rug, then open the curtains and confirm what I already knew. Another voice from the past echoed in my head, “Can’t have gravy all the time.”

Leave me alone” I wanted to shout, but still “Nowhere man” wouldn’t let me go. I suppose I’d been pondering the point of life, past, present and future and came up with a foggy zero. Another slash of rain rattled on the skylight. March 26th, Yeehaw!

Currantly blooming. It is a reluctant spring this year.

My habit of late is to check the news and see if there are any significant developments in the Ukraine. The first story to stop me today is about a dog abandoned in a Ukrainian train station. There must be hundreds of them. I want to do something, but what? I ended up making a small donation to PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)There are so many people who have to come before any dog but in my jaded brain I have a hard time accepting that a dog is less worthy of love than a person. And, no-one has ever been shot at by a dog! Yesterday while making up the bed in the Hemoth I noted a faint odour of Jack in the duvet. I will wash it or replace it, but it is a last link to my beloved friend who has already been gone almost two months. Well isn’t it all too bizarre and depressing? As a tugboat dispatcher in my past used to say, “She’s all bluebirds, just fuckin’ bluebirds.” On that note, the barn swallows have just returned.

I don’t know their name. I don’t care.
That they draw me down onto the soggy spring ground to take a photo brings me back to life.
I’m a sucker for fawn lilies.
Don’t dare step on any!
A cable runs through it. What’s the rest of the story?

Saturday evening passed with me watching ancient Sterling Hayden movies on YouTube then music videos of James Mcmurtry and Ray Wylie Hubbard. All the cheery stuff! All the while I snacked on Cheesies, washing that health food down with straight Demerra rum.

A path well trod. This was a regular haunt for Jack and I. He loved the gravel bars out in the estuary of the Chemainus River.

I’ve decided that it’s time to start looking for another dog. There are no merit points in mourning for Jack. He’s gone, life goes on. He will always be a part of me but my life is not complete without some canine company. I’m not rushing into anything and need to feel that somehow the dog finds me, but I’m open to possibilities. I have no breed or gender preferences, so long as the dog will be able to adapt to life in the Hemoth, or in a boat.

Help Wanted. One dog. Job description negotiable.” Posted on the woofernet, March 31st.

The ache in my heart. How I miss him! He’s a tough standard for any new dog.

A boy can learn a lot from a dog: obedience, loyalty, and the importance of turning around three times before lying down.” Robert Benchley

Invasions

They do tend to leave their beer cans and chip bags laying around.
Horses know. Which is why she won’t go.

After the numbness of over two years of Covid I am finding it very hard to process the information about the Ukraine. Sadly, like Covid, the media covers the story in a tumbling mix of contradictions, speculations and “essentially correct” information. The one news source I’ve found which is convincingly objective and succinct is Al Jazeera. I know that will raise a few eyebrows.

Damnable human beings! We jabber about finding harmony and natural balance while learning to live a harmonious existence with our planet. Yet we refuse to get along with each other. We have an insatiable need for power and control, refusing to rise above our hostile nature. Clearly, from what we learn, the Russian people, who have endured so many horrors in the last century, do not support the Putinists and there may well be some nasty times ahead in that country if not the whole of the Western World. A grenade has been tossed into the cage and the monkeys are fiddling with the safety pin.

In my mind one of the perpetrators in this debacle was the persistent provocation of the Americans. Old Biden just couldn’t keep his pie hole shut. You’re a member of NATO, just pay up your dues and let its spokespeople there lay out the ultimatums. If you taunt a bully enough, you give him no choice but to lash out. I truly wonder if all of Biden’s rhetoric is not an effort to draw focus away from the desperate mess the Americans have left behind in Afghanistan and as far back as Vietnam. If only the not-so-United States could ever understand, or care, that their missionary compulsion to meddle in other people’s affairs causes nothing but further chaos and misery. Stay home, clean up your own mess. At least media focus has been drawn away from all things related to Covid. Doesn’t it leave you wondering what is real and what’s contrived?

At mention of Afghanistan I want to kick our own Mr. Trudeau’s ass. If only the kid would stop trying to be politically correct. Justin, boy, you’ll never keep everyone happy all the time. Make a stand, on something, stick to it, be a man. He does not understand that he is constantly pissing in his own knitting. He promised to help certain people immigrate from Afghanistan to Canada. That process is floundering in a bureaucratic bog and he now offers a broad welcome to Ukrainian refuges. I support welcoming refuges, but first keep the promises already made.

This Canadian will be seventy years old this year. I know that is not “old” by today’s standards but there is far more of my life behind me than ahead. I’ve passed my “Best before” date. I’m often in pain, can be miserable and cranky and bitter. I don’t have a hell of a lot left to contribute. Send me and other pre-geezers like me off to the Ukraine, or Afghanistan or any place like them. So long as we can still walk and fart at the same time we may prove better warriors than the children we send. The enemy can’t fire a weapon while they’re doubled over in laughter. Think of the old age benefits the country would be saving.

This tiffen was made responsibly, we just couldn’t spell srainless.

Perhaps a solution to world woes would be to load a life raft with the likes of Vladimir, Boris, Joe, Justin, Kim and Xi. Kick it loose on an ebb tide and throw in one oar. But then there would be an issue about water pollution.

Meanwhile here in Ladysmith, we too have been invaded; by a massive film crew making a sequel to a scifi flic called “Resident Alien.” The streets downtown, all parking areas and other random locations have been commandeered by a horde of out-of-towners. A part of town has been transformed into a fictious place called Patience, Colorado. I speculate that should a film be set in Ladysmith, the set would be located somewhere else in a place like Kansas. So far as I know, there has never been a referendum in Ladysmith about the town repeatedly being held hostage by a film company. Its citizens can simply go to hell. These movie folks leave a lot of money behind but I’ve never received a cheque. Beam me up. I’m just a resident alien.

Action! A security goon warned me about taking photos because the camera flash could “Mess up the whole gig” I replied that the filming had messed up my whole gig.
The camera sure caught my eye. Not that I could work out how to switch it on.
Red to red, no not that one! No respect for handicap parking either!
The beam me up machine.
The Ladysmith CPO is suddenly the Patience Colorado postal station. Perhaps this why so much mail becomes lost.

Ever felt like you don’t fit in? Photo was copied from the Ladysmith Chronicle.

I’m not crazy about reality, but it’s still the only place to get a decent meal.”

GROUCHO MARX

Source

Bleak

Wild swans, a symbol of peace. Wishing you many swans. These are trumpeter swans and may you live to hear their flocks flying high overhead. Their call is unforgettable.

It is a brilliant cloudless sunny day in late February. The southeast wind has a frosty bite and for once the air is so dry there is little frost, even in the shadows. This is normal but the sensation-seekers are trying to declare records are being broken in an effort to confirm global warming. I’ve seen this is previous years and am not overly concerned about being crispified in my bed. I’m just glad I am not waking up in the Ukraine today. I truly do not understand the issues and ramifications but from one perspective it looks like a strong potential for a third world war.

Perhaps there will be some cheap travel packages in Eastern Europe.

A CMT. Culturally Modified Tree. This is how indigenous people would harvest red cedar bark for their many varied needs. The tree lived. There’s a lesson here about taking what you need without destroying everything.

At home, a few strata councillors have also decided to cross borders and raise hell. I can’t comprehend how folks can be so tiny-minded and eager to cause turmoil in other folk’s lives, even going so far as to invent issues. I guess their own existence is so bleak they become infuriated with those of us who try to have a life. I’ve raised their ire by tinkering on my old RV in the back corner of our storage yard. It harms and affects no-one but one fellow has decided there is a “liability” issue. I’m weary of it all and am seriously contemplating a move into the backwoods in my old camper. It sure is depressing to feel such dark weariness on such a beautiful day.

Dead wood and swans. So simple, so complicated.
Along the edge of Hemer Park, near Nanaimo, runs the old rail grade from the Morden coal mine. It’s a lovely walk.

It is also Fisher Poet’s weekend coming up. For years we’ve gathered in Astoria Oregon on the last weekend of February. We share our poetry and music in a celebration of life among fisher folk and people of the sea. This will be the second year we have gathered virtually thanks to Covid. A great many talented volunteers have done a splendid job of splicing it all together. My little gig will come on Saturday evening soon after eight pm. Here’s the link to seeing that live https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1yc7flmh6w

Fisher Poet’s website is simply fisherpoets.org One of the performers following me Saturday night is Richard Grainger, live from Whitby, England whom I describe as Britain’s Stan Rogers and whose work I quite love. The annual event is a star in my winter to steer toward and helps me survive while waiting for spring. It is amazing and uplifting to find such deep eloquence and insights among blue collar folk. You might enjoy it.

Three weeks ago a lady, and total stranger, found me busy digging Jack’s grave. His body lay beside me. I thought “Yeah right.” I’m used to empty promises. But the thought was kind. She emailed me today to say that she has made and erected a grave marker there. I am overwhelmed by her kindness. In the morning, you know where I’ll be going.

Hearts and crosses…the stories this old tree could tell!
Hotroof! Things must have become overheated one night in this old Crofton motel.
Under the volcano. A view of Mount Baker from the Crofton Public Wharf
Plastic engine parts. The modern way. This is a double thermostat housing which distributes coolant and helps keep the engine from overheating. Plastic? It works.
Overwhelmed. This from a complete stranger. It’s made from rice and beans, food Jack loved. It is all coated in a weather-proof epoxy. Note the heart within the paw print. Thank you, thank you Cheri!
Rest in peace my friend. How I miss him cannot be expressed in words. There is a huge piece of me buried here. Even with the marker he is in solitude where no one who does not know can find him.

How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”
― Henry David Thoreau

Blunderland

Fly away, the weather is fine.

Knowing what the weather forecast says is not going to change what’s really going to happen. “Darn, it was supposed to be sunny today.” Well, no it wasn’t supposed to be anything. That’s just what the weather girl in the tight dress said. Have you ever had an outdoor project that’s weather-dependant? I have some fibre-glassing to do (Yes in February!) and the forecast has a lower chance of rain tomorrow but I know that if I postpone it’ll probably be pouring rain then. All any of us ever have is the moment. “Git ‘er done!”

Frosty the worm. Sometimes it’s best not to rush into things.

After installing some badly-needed new headlights in my old camper, the Hemoth, I decided to align them using the siding on the storage sheds where I was working. Focused on that I forgot all about the overhanging eaves and yes, I ripped the corner off that overhang and punched a hole in my fibreglass camper’s roof. Oh gosh golly I said. Yeah right!

I’ve repaired the building, then I needed to rebuild the camper’s eggshell-thin top before our next deluge arrives. The repair will be stronger than the original and it’ll be out of sight on the top but my fog of chagrin is thick indeed. What the hell wasn’t I thinking. If only I… No amount of regret puts things back to that moment before, so I may as well forge ahead until this has become only a blip to laugh about. In the shower this morning I came up with this line. “It’s like a nickel in the clothes dryer, not worth much but sure can be irritating.” This has stuck in my head, round and round, like a nickel in a dryer.

Therein lies a story…or ten.
Doesn’t fit like a glove. An essay on why I have difficulty repairing Asian products.
My too big hands. The gloves came with some new headlamp bulbs. Thoughtful!
“Gee honey, there seems to be a draft.”  It could have been worse. The first step was to spray foam the bits back together  while bracing it from inside. Yes, the headliner over the bunk will need some attention. I was going to  put something new in there anyway.
Really good stuff! A Gorilla Tape product. You can patch the crack of dawn with this. Everybody should have a roll in their bathroom! I used it on the hole in my camper roof until the weather was improved enough to make a proper repair.
All done. I’ll prettify it come spring.

We bin held hostage for two years.” Thus said a trucker who is part of the ongoing demonstration in Ottawa. He was being interviewed by a television reporter. I didn’t want to wade into this polemic issue but now I am pissed off after that inanity. This nonsense has been going on for over two weeks. A sad fact is that everything we consume demands burning diesel. That lettuce in your salad was probably trucked up from Yuma (and the moisture that is in it came out of the nearly-dried up Colorado River) Trains, planes, ships and trucks all burn a fuel in copious amounts that is now than a dime a litre more than regular gasoline. That is blatant rape.

I am a blue collar man who is all too familiar with redneck thinking. I often employ it myself. In response to remarks about being held hostage for over two years let me simply reply “Dude! We all have!” I have never been a trucker but I’ve burned one helluva lot of diesel in other machinery and I’ve listened to truckers whine for most of my life. If you can afford to take your highway tractor and bobtail all the way from BC to Ottawa and eventually home again, which in direct expense will be twenty thousand dollars or more, lose the revenue from all those missed trips, keep up your monthly truck payments and other expenses, then boys, YOU’RE PISSING INTO YOUR OWN KNITTING! God help the next trucker I hear whinge on about how tough it is to make a buck with a truck. I do still see plenty of trucks hauling loads so I know you protesters do not represent your entire brotherhood.

If it is really Covid vaccinations and face masks you are protesting I cannot comprehend what you are complaining about. Our governments, both provincial and federal, have certainly made a muddle of things but why are you punishing the citizens of the entire country? You have earned our contempt. You are regularly crossing an international border where you mix and mingle with other travellers from all over the continent who in turn mix and mingle. There is not one of you who have not been vaccinated for measles, smallpox, polio and so forth. Hell, you even dump additives into your truck’s fuel tanks. So whazzup? If I was in your situation, I’d want all the possible protection I can get.

As for all the wannabe wotzits standing on the side of the road, waving flags and generally being a dangerous distraction to traffic, all I can say is GET A LIFE! I’ve driven the Hemoth by some of those mobs and been given the arm-pump to blow my horn. Really? Get a life! You clearly don’t know what you are protesting about. And don’t dare complain about the high price of groceries.

I understand the frustration. We all feel it. But one thing is a fact you cannot deny. If you’re truly unhappy here in Canada, you are free to leave. Buy yourself a one-way ticket to a place like Ukraine, Afghanistan, Syria, Namibia, Haiti, Ethiopia. The choices are many.

Kenzie, greeter at the Trading Post. This delightful store, by the Nanaimo Airport sells feed, saddles, tack, Western Clothing, boots and many other delights. The aroma of leather is worth the visit. The people there are lovely and so is their dog. The store is well-know for the full-sized plastic horse that is wheeled out beside the highway in various amusing costumes.
Please!
An Australian Shepherd. She’s a heartbreaker.
Hope in a warm sky

The bird that has eaten cannot fly with the bird that is hungry.”

American Indian proverb

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