“Our fears are like dragons guarding our most precious treasures.” Ray Wylie Hubbard
How can those few words from a Texan country singer not tug at your heart. They apply to all of us. Consider how you feel about our present times. They really hit home for me as I regard a present visitor. Ayre is a 3½ month old tiny dog. She weighs less than 3 kilos (about five pounds.) This five-pound monster has stolen my heart. I find myself taking to her in silly voice puppy-speak. Jack gives her a deep warning growl when she comes prancing at him; he’s doing his part in mentoring her. She’s cute as hell even when she tries to sink her tiny needle teeth into my fingers, growling with all the ferocity she can muster. Of course that bravado is a mask for all that frightens her. “The best defence is a good offence.” Who could want to harm her? There are those who would and some creatures see her as a tasty snack. I can’t imagine how the world must look to a being so tiny and newly arrived. When I pick her up I’m afraid I’m going to break her frail-feeling bones but soon the warm wriggling fragrant bundle of puppy licks my big old hand with a tiny soft pink tongue and there is a moment of joy and a gush of paternal instinct. Awwwww.
Of all the negative things we can find about human beans one of the rays of hope is our indefatigable instinct to care and protect tiny creatures. This little dog can soon prove itself a pain in the ass, demanding attention and food then more attention. Yet an old bush ape like me finds patience and tenderness much to my own amazement. She’s running the whole household, both innocently and deliberately. I’ve know little of the horror of a screaming baby in the night but I suspect this is much the same. There is some override wiring which brings patience and caring without contemplation. Mothers possess a courage and stamina I don’t grasp.
Today is August 3rd, a provincial holiday, BC Day. The weather is languid, the streets are quiet (After a bout of wailing sirens at 04:00) The mourning doves are hoo-hoo-hooing and all seems calm, Covid be damned.
Recently some friends and I held a conversation about the correct, and also the legal way, to merge into traffic. I found myself contemplating this again while out walking Jack this morning.
I’ve some some research online. In BC there is a bit of a grey zone about this with references to “being socially handicapped” and “it’s the polite thing to do.” It is clearly stated however that a vehicle making a left turn, or entering traffic on it’s left is always the give-way vehicle. If there is an accident involving any merging vehicle it will be always that vehicle deemed at fault. A vehicle in the moving traffic lane must not impede the flow of traffic it is in to accomodate a merging vehicle. Our traffic laws were generally written based on marine traffic rules and it makes sense that a vessel entering a busy channel must give way to others already underway. In the air, or on the water, a vessel with another on its right is the stand-on vessel.
I have a notion that folks demanding you merge ahead of them, or go before them at a four-way stop for example, are often actually empowering themselves rather than trying to be nice. There are no “Nice Police” and usually simply playing by the rules is the nicest thing to do, then we all have a notion of whazzup. I’ve held a drivers license for fifty-two years without any crashes. With all of the driving I’ve done I like to think I’ve done something right. I’ll certainly admit that as I age, my reaction time is beginning to slow as well as my ability to see things as quickly. Being honest about your abilities is a good way to help stay safe. Ever notice how no-one admits to being a poor driver? It’s always the other guy.
Blackberry season is now in full swing. Men with plastic buckets lean into the brambles picking the succulent treats. Except for one. He stood watching and holding a full pail while his elderly wife worked on filling another, all the while she was holding a big German Shepard on a leash. It did not like the brambles. I wanted to kick that old misogynist’s arse but he would have spilled the berries and the dog would have bitten me. Isn’t it interesting what one can assume from a glance? Everyone seems extra testy these days so it’s best to keep to oneself. At least we’ve had no explosions. Working in the backwoods I learned how even twenty pounds of ammonium nitrate could crack away a big piece of granite mountain. Nearly three tons of the stuff in downtown Beirut is like a nuclear bomb. That thousands, out and about living their daily lives, were not killed is a miracle. Bang. How quickly life can change!
Jack and I have just come back from our morning walk, or in other words, shuffle and sniff. It rained last night and there is a subtle perfume of freshness. We met that old couple with the dog again. Pops was holding the dog this time and his wife was breakfasting on wet blackberries. All three seemed pleasant and amicable. So…three friends, instead of enemies.
The fourth agreement: “ I will respect the power of my words.”
As my beloved pal Jack advances further into his dotage he continues to learn new things. Or perhaps he teaches himself; and me. Over the past several weeks he has begun employing an extension of his vocabulary of grunts, sighs, groans, growls and barks. Now he regularly emits a special short, sharp bark. Standing beside the door it means he wants out, or back in. By the pantry door the bark means a treat is expected. Coming from the middle of the living room it means he’d like some petting and general attention. In one of his three beds the same demand is a request to be tucked in with a blanket over him.
This morning, while laying on “his” living room couch the demanding bark rang out. It meant, I think, “I need to go out but I’m not standing by that door like some sort of common dog. Hop to it doorman!” So I did; and so did he. Spoiled? Oh yeah! But I hasten to say that he can never be out-given. He manages to put back far more than he takes. I cannot imagine life without a dog. For those who don’t understand that, you have my sympathy for missing out on one of man’s highest achievements. Yes, the dog.
On that note, while I’ve promised to pare down on my political/ social comments (Because opinions based on media conjectures are simply irresponsible) I’ve decided to share a simple analogy I’ve recently heard.
I’ll admit to being a member of a capitalist culture. Even Jack is. He hides his bones, keeps a watchful eye on his toys and dishes, guards and marks his territory. At times he even demonstrates a sense of ownership of his human units. Wolves, spiders, birds, fish, all creatures can be possessive about a territory necessary for the needs of their survival. There are some sound reasons for a sense of propriety. However, we humans have a compulsion to acquire for the simple sake of our own insecurity and a false sense of adequacy which comes from amassing far more than we need. It is what we have been taught and in conforming to that premise we have allowed ourselves to be enslaved far more than ever before in our entire earthly history. Yes, you ,me, all of us.
The analogy I mentioned describes capitalism as cancer. The body is finite and limits its growth within parameters. Cancer is unlimited growth within a finite host. Unless that growth is checked and controlled it will destroy the body and ultimately itself. If the body is our planet and all the symptoms of unsustainable economic development are simply for its own sake then the sad conclusion is obvious and imminent. It is over-simplified perhaps with plenty of possible “Yeah-buts” but I like simple. This is a concept even I can grasp. I’ll keep my opinions to myself.
“If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and man.” – Mark Twain
Last blog I offered a cryptic squint at modern policing attitudes. I must add this. Four years ago a habitual drunk in a pickup truck careening through a suburb of Victoria ran a red light and rammed a police car broadside. He fatally mashed a police officer. The victim was a woman and a mother. Her husband still grieves, especially now. The sentence handed down for this horrific tragedy was a mere four years. However we may each value our human lives that punishment seems cavalier to say the least. That the victim was a RCMP constable on duty should perhaps be irrelevant but four years for wilfully dangerous and violent, mortal irresponsibility is a horrific insult to us all. It trivializes the value of everyone’s life.
I stand by my concerns about jaded and arrogant police attitudes but I also grasp how crushing it must be for all officers when they are so demeaned by a casual judicial system. It also helps me empathize a bit better with the policeman’s lot. Small wonder they become bitterly hardened in the face of such crass dismissals of what they endure while trying to do their duty, no matter how they perceive what that might be.
By the way, friendly comments about my last blog suggest that I “Stay out of trouble.” All I’ll say in response is this. Name me one of your heroes or anyone else the world remembers who stayed out of trouble! C’mon now, just one name!
Summer is rushing past. Dried leaves fall and carpet the trails. Over-ripe blackberries ferment and drunken wasps buzz in your face. Tiny songbirds are flocking up and feeding voraciously in preparation for long southward migrations. Second cuttings of hay on local farms have been baled and stored away. Local markets and roadside stalls overflow with fresh local produce. Back-to-school ads flood the media. It seems I was just posting photos of early spring buds. The seasons whirl by. Peter Fonda, the baby-faced biker just died. He was 89!
I was shocked to realize that the classic and iconic movie, ‘Easy Rider’ was first seen back in my high school days, an entire lifetime ago. That was over half a century! When you start measuring your own life in those terms, well, you know the jokes about buying green bananas.
I’ve never written a bucket list; I’ve just lived it. The greatest anticipations are yet to be experienced. I’ve learned to quit wringing my hands about things like politics. I still constantly prod people to think, think for themselves but I’ve also realized the wisdom of the old Alcoholics Anonymous mantra: “God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Or, as George Carlin put it, “Don’t sweat the petty things, and don’t pet the sweaty things.”
This blog’s photos are local grab shots taken in the last few days.
A dear friend and fellow sailor presently visiting the Thor Heyerdahl Museum in Oslo Norway has just e-mailed me this:
“Borders? I have never seen one, but I have heard that they exist in the minds of some people.”
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 proverbial ‘Barefoot Shoemaker’ is someone who is so busy plying their trade that they have no time (or money) to make shoes for themself. This old yacht tinker is in a similar boat. (yes, that’s a pun) I’m so often at work in someone else’s boat. When there is so much to do on my own. When living aboard ‘Seafire’ I don’t have the energy at the end of the day to work on my own upgrades if it is possible at all while living in that same small space. I bought the boat four years ago and immediately had lists of “To do” lists. As soon as one item is crossed off, two more are added to the bottom. Some days it is just not fun and sadly the best days for working on your boat are also the nicest days to be out sailing. But it does beat mowing a lawn. Always!
It is the time of year when people are stumbling down onto the docks to see if their boat has survived the winter and is yet afloat. I’ve been moored in the Ladysmith Maritime Society Docks since Christmas. I am there nearly every day and can confidently state that many boats have not had a visit by their owners in all that time. Now the May long weekend is coming and there is a panic to get the old bateau ready for voyaging. “Damn boats, fix, fix, fix, nothing but a hole in the water to shovel money into.” Yuck, yuck, yuck! There are some frantic requests for me to “Git ‘er dun for the weekend” but I’ve decided that, for once, my own boat comes first. Love your boat, she’ll love you back.
As I write this somewhere in the Indian Ocean, my friends Tony and Connie, are aboard their boat ‘Sage’ between the southern Maldives and the East Coast of Africa. They expect to be out of touch for up to eight weeks. My thoughts and best wishes sail with them on their long crossing.
With news of the horrific earthquake in Nepal, Deadly hail storms in Texas, a monster volcano in Chile, Israeli military strikes into Syria and renewed drug wars in Mexico, I am happy enough in my own bilge. I’ve had to go backward by about three thousand dollars with the necessary installation of a new charger/inverter. This is a machine that not only keeps the batteries charged when the boat is at the dock but converts DC electrical power to AC power when at sea. This allows the use of power tools and other luxuries like microwave ovens and even, if I want, an air conditioner. If I have to make my way south by fixing other boats, I do need AC power away from the dock.
There was a time when a small gasoline engine in a sailing yacht was a decadence used only to move the boat in and out of marinas. They were aptly called auxiliaries. (For many years, part of my criteria was that the auxiliary had to have a back-up hand crank to manually starting the engine… just in case) Engines were also used to charge a battery for starting and to run another luxury, a VHF radio. Boats have become much bigger, the list of appliances and gadgets is extensive as is the amount of power required to run it all. Now some sailboat owners brag about their turbo-charged diesel. There is far more than enough power to charge the electrical system and propel the boat but excess is now often a normal state.
During my years on the tugs, sailboats were often referred to as “Blowboats” or “Stickboats.” We jokingly used them as a wind monitor. While the sails were up and flapping, wind was nil or light. When the sails were stowed, it was getting a bit breezy. Seriously! If a sailboat was motoring with only the mains’l up, chances were good that someone was trying to declare their right-of-way as a sailing vessel, a perverse misinterpretation of collision regulations. Sometimes I took a lot of flak from the rest of the crew because they knew I was a “Ragboater.” There are also those who are determined to prove their saltiness by insisting on, and trying to sail, no matter how light the wind and no matter how they interfere with other marine traffic. In fact I suspect that is part of the fun for them.
An undue sense of entitlement, or perhaps a quest for empowerment, seems to a prime motivator in our culture. It is often displayed as an attempt to shoulder everyone else aside or to hold as many people back as possible. You can see this behaviour any time on the roads or in the supermarket and at times on the water. We are saddled with a media culture that attempts to diminish our sense of self-worth unless we look like, smell like, live in, drive one of those and generally consume ourselves into a wretched existence. No wonder so many folks subconsciously crave empowerment, entitlement and recognition simply because they exist.
An Audi advertisement on the television this morning stated their automobiles were about “Presence” and provided a statement of “Dominance and intimidation.” Really?
What about reliability, economy, and safety? Oh yeah, and environmental sensibility?
A few days ago I had an adventure with a dog stuck in a culvert. Neighbours were complaining about ongoing barking and howling that had kept them awake. I assumed that someone had left their spoiled-rotten dog alone in a nearby house. The noise continued and, hours, I finally went to investigate.
I found an old, very large Labrador retriever stuck in a culvert, about twenty feet in. He had been laying in cold, running water for at least twelve hours. Then this old fat boy hisself wriggled into the pipe. For a moment I worried about also becoming stuck but all’s well that ends. Slowly both of we old dogs came out backwards, me dragging the other an inch at a time until we both emerged, wet and mucky, into daylight. We must have quite a sight! Then came a trek with the rescued dog over my shoulder until I could get him laying on a blanket in the sun. He probably weighed seventy pounds and was of course soaking wet, chronically hypothermic and totally exhausted. He couldn’t even lift his head.
Eventually, reluctantly ,some of the neighbours were persuaded to help. Soon after the ubiquitous self-acclaimed expert dog whisperer arrived to demonstrate her superior knowledge. She had little actual sympathy for the dog, he was merely a platform for her warped ego, and yes I finally lost my patience with her arrogant declarations about how much she thought she knew. I cannot abide someone trying to capitalize on another’s misery. Things got quite ugly but eventually I got Wyatt to a veterinary hospital. That was his name as it turned out. (Wyatt Twerp) The vet called me today to say that poor old Wyatt had had to be put down and thanked me profusely for my efforts. Not a word of appreciation from the locals, which I didn’t expect, but ain’t folks funny? If Wyatt had expired in the culvert, I wonder how long it would have taken someone to go find the source of the smell. And if I’d expired in there too…yeeech!
I recalled this story with a fellow dog lover/walker whom I met out on the trail. I said something about militant feminism. “No, no,” she said, “You were dealing with a womanist. They are the female equivalent of a misogynist and loath men in general. Their perspective is as archaic as the notion of nuns and priests.” Her view was refreshing, but I don’t like to genderize the behaviour of people who live with the sad, desperate need to constantly pee in other folk’s corn flakes.
It seems that I’ve found myself recently dealing with folks who are easily upset, determined to take offence and speak condescendingly. It happens at times to all of us and when I find myself in that groove I see myself as the common factor and sit in front of the mirror and review what the hell’s happening. I always tend to feel responsible for whatever might be wrong and acrimony leaves me upset for days after.. This time I can’t figure what’s up. Later, I was talking with someone else who remarked that he had just seen an article describing recent, extra large solar flares and their effects on this planet, including electrical grinds, communication systems, and yes, people’s moods. Apparently there is a general wave of hostility and aggressiveness in human behaviour that might be attributed to celestial influence. Dunno! Maybe? We do know that lunar cycles effect human behaviour among many other things so let’s just keep an open mind. Blame it on the sun.
In the face of all the recent miseries of the world I’ve been wandering around Ladysmith with my cameras looking at what we have right here. Don’t we take so much for granted? It is a lovely little town. One of my constant joys in this community is how young families are buying up the older miner’s, logger’s and fishermen’s houses and lovingly restoring them. Many of those house are small, but if previous generations could raise large families in them, surely, one-point-something baby yuppies will do just fine there. The bonus is the large yards, many with mature fruit trees and space for large gardens and room for kids to stay at home and play, physically outdoors. I’m loading this blog with photos of Ladysmith and the local area. A popular bumper sticker here reads, “Ladysmith, where you’re never over the hill.”
There is a movement afoot for many folks to downsize their homes to the point of silliness. There seems to be a notion that they are re-inventing the concept of minimalism and living with less is a great new idea. The trendy yachting magazines are now glorifying those who’ve dumped their grand yacht and are enjoying life with trailer-able sailboats. They’re discovering a new sort of freedom where their possession are truly serving their interests rather than ruling their life.
Of course a lot of this is rationalization which comes in the wake of recent economic disasters in North America which have decimated the middle class and the notion of our identities being determined by the stuff we accumulate. We are all out of touch with reality in this part of the world and really have no idea of how most of the world’s population lives, forcing itself to be content with rudimentary shelter and no clear idea of when or what their next meal might be. Gluten? Trans-fat? Yes please.
By the way, a happy note from this old cynic. I often slam modern technology and express my dismay at our growing dependance on machines. But today I reviewed a wonderful application of that technology. A blind pregnant woman in Brazil, entering her third trimester, received an ultrasound of the foetus. Those images were then transferred to a 3D printer and so she was able to feel the face of her unborn baby. That made my face leak.
One last note from the media. We’ve long known that dolphins are one of the few other species which indulge in recreational sex. Now we’re learning they also partake in recreational drug use. I’ve just just watched a video which clearly shows a pod of dolphins gently harassing a puffer fish. Once it defensively inflates itself it floats on the ocean’s surface immobilized . The spiky little bugger than begins exuding neurotoxins, which in large doses can be fatally toxic. In mild doses you get stoned so in turns the dolphins nuzzle the little guy and the effects are obvious. One the part is over, the puffer deflates, heads back to its life on the bottom and the dolphins find other distractions. Interesting!
I’m reading two wonderful books at the moment. One, ‘The Shadow Of the Sun’ is by Ryszard Kapuscinski, a Polish journalist who in the late 1950s witnessed the end of colonialism in African, the rise of independent states and the ensuing madness which still grips most of that continent. He affords a graphic explanation of so many things I didn’t think about and certainly did not understand. It is a wonderful essay on Africa and I am glad to have read it. Social studies aside, his writing style is beautiful and I heartily recommend this book for those who like to learn and understand.
The second book is ‘The Inconvenient Indian’ by Thomas King. I believe this is a fine and even exciting text for anyone who wants a better understanding of native perspectives about their place in contemporary North American culture and how they got to their present situation. It is of course, biased, but forgivably so, and the wit and insight this writer offers is refreshing and very enlightening.
I’ll close this blog with a quote from that book.
“Most of us think that history is the past. It’s not. History is the stories we tell about the past. That’s all it is. Stories.”…”I simply have difficulty with how we choose which stories become the pulse of history and which do not.”