It is the second day of July. Last night the holiday fireworks resolved into a mere two huge explosions. Then all was quiet. I hope there were at least a few survivors. This morning it is raining, a beautiful steady warm rain. The doors are open and I listen to the music of water gurgling in the downspouts. There is a lovely aroma of freshness. We need this, desperately. There were a few hours of precipitation last week, the stream beds did not swell at all. Now this. I swear I can almost hear the parched earth soaking it up. More please! This blog will be a simple photo essay about life in my little patch here on Vancouver Island. Rain or sun, bring your hat.
“ For nothing is fixed, forever and forever and forever, it is not fixed; the earth is always shifting, the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them because we are the only witnesses they have. The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to each other, and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out. James Baldwin.
The driving rain is relentless, cold and stinging. The Shearwater winter weather, where you can wring water from any handful of air, has followed me all the way here to Ladysmith. I’ve come south for a few days to take care of business and medical appointments. It also turns out that my beloved dog Jack needs some surgical attention at the veterinary clinic. I’m anxious about that, as if he were my own child. If you don’t understand the affection and healing that can occur between a person and a dog; well, you have my sympathy.
So here I am standing in the rain, worrying about Jack when I’m overwhelmed by the aroma of ripe, red succulent apples. I follow my nose. It turns out to be a bin of apples in front of a feed and garden shop across the street. I am amazed to be able to smell the fruit so far away and suddenly understand how it is being a creature like a deer or a bear near an apple tree. Perhaps my acute sense is due to being in the Northwoods for so long but as always, the sense of smell is a great memory stimulant and suddenly I am taken back to my childhood. For a while my father worked as an orchard keeper and we lived in cottages at the edge of. orchards. The aroma of that single apple bin brought install recall from over half a century ago. There is also a sweet tang of smoke from my mother’s wood cookstove and that leads to memories of another little black dog so long ago. I’m suddenly blinking back tears and shake myself free of the moment, all brought on by the scent of apples. Bloody hell, have I gone round the twist?
There are months of this bleak weather ahead and I wonder how I will survive it. The boat is over three hundred miles north and I’ll say that, for me, home is where the boat is. I’ll be back there in a few days but it seems very far away and I desperately wish the boat and I were somewhere far south. I see all the consumer convenience and gratification here, and yet despite the incredible pervasive dampness on the North Coast I miss the solitude and natural richness such as the humpback whale that swam by the docks a few days ago, with the howling of wolves in the background. That was a moment which will last a lifetime. I can concede that my aching bones feel much better down here, even when it is raining. I do find it fascinating that things I would normally take for granted, like the colours of autumn leaves, a near-infinite diversity of shopping, restaurants and stores with profuse inventories of food for sale, all of that leaves me slightly overwhelmed. I do not miss the frantic rush of nearly everyone, the sound of sirens and at the moment, the tsunami of Christmas marketing. Give it a rest! Bloody hell! Bumhug!
I wonder how I’ll feel about it all once back in Shearwater.
The highlight of this Southern jaunt was attending a performance by my hero, Billy Connolly. A Glaswegian musician, comedian, actor and philosopher (in my opinion) he is world-renowned. Now in his mid-seventies, he has various health issues yet stood his gig on stage, non-stop, for nearly two hours. The entire sold-out audience was doubled over with laughter at his apparently impromptu ramblings. I suspect it’s the only chance I’ll ever have to see him live. If you’re not familiar with this brilliant character, there is a lot of his material available simply by googling up his name. You’ll love him or hate him.
I’ll be returning to Shearwater tomorrow. That will on be Remembrance Day. I’ve previously expressed my polemic views on the incredible stupidity of the military and the mindless waste of war and how all enemies think God is on their side. I’ve offended some people deeply and inspired others to look at the whole picture and think for themselves. I hope that this day is taken as an opportunity to see ourselves as the potentially naturally nasty creatures we all are and what a concerted effort it is necessary to avoid violent conflict. I know I’m a dreamer but I believe it Is possible for us to become creatures of a higher level. That is a personal and individual endeavour, which requires massive introspection and sometimes painful growth and I’ve said enough. Just imagine if everyone stayed home and cleaned up the mess in their own yards. What a wonderful world it could be!
I’ve stood stiffly at attention in a military uniform in the cold, cold November rain and wept as the Last Post was played but now the most poignant sound for me is the 1942 BBC recording called Nightingales And Bombers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_MHqW5KVds
This is a spring recording made in the woods of Southern England. The objective was to record the spring songs of nightingales but as the tape reels turned, squadrons of RAF bombers were climbing overhead on a bombing raid to Germany. It is the sound of sweet peace juxtaposed against the ominous thunder of young men going to kill and be killed. If the recording doesn’t shiver your timbers, I truly hope you have no sons or daughters to send to war. Have a very nice day.
Something really odd occurred today. I’ve been trying to search my inner self for answers to some personal issues and have been sceptically looking for a sign. Well today I think I got it and I’m not sure what the hell it means. Jack and I were having a morning walk along the banks of the Nanaimo River before I went to my final round of appointments. There was a sudden raucous sound ahead and then veering directly toward me, about twenty feet high, was a large bald eagle carrying something which I first assumed was a fish. Pursuing the big bird was another eagle. It was an incredible sight. I furiously tried to extract my camera but before I could, the second eagle knocked the treasure free from the first bird’s talons. It fell with a thunk immediately beside Jack who, startled, was suspicious of why it was raining ducks.
It proved to be a Mallard hen lying on its back. My first thought was that “Verily, verily the gods doth provide a succulent duck for dinner from the heavens above.” I bent to pick it up and noticed it was breathing and so I flipped the lovely wee quacker onto its feet. It was alive despite a punctured breast and, for some odd reason, appeared to be in shock. I decided to wrap it in a blanket of maple leaves. A few minutes later its head popped out of the covering and then it waddled off into the safety of a patch of blackberries. Now that’s one very lucky duck! And, I’m sure, there’s one very pissed off eagle. What is really interesting is that this old farm boy was once easily able to bonk any barnyard animal on the head with sledge hammer when it was time for butchering. As a hunter, I’ve been remorseless about the countless creatures I’ve dispatched for their meat. Once I proudly blew ducks out of the sky and now I’m proud at having done something to try and save one humble duck.
I don’t know how to interpret this one as an omen other than a moral which has something to do with never giving up. And that’s the whole shituation. In the morning I’ll be winging my way back to Seafire and the next adventure.
“Progress is man’s ability to complicate simplicity.”