Heading back…

…to school? Normality? Civilized discourse in politics?

The lead photograph this week is sadder than it looks. If you’re me. And I am. Me. I was in the office, busily counting paperclips and preparing for the new school year, when my phone rang.

“Can you see us?”

“Hey! Old man? Look out your window – can you see us?”

Two colleagues were puttering down the channel and out to the ocean, heading to a remote camp, to pick up a skiff and tow it back so we’d have another little boat to use for brushing up our nautical skills. Definitely education related, so why wasn’t I on board, heading out to the Broken Islands and beyond, on a warm and sunny day? Good question, so I asked it:

“Picking up the skiff and towing it back so we’ll have another little boat to use to brush up nautical skills? Definitely education related, so shouldn’t I be on board?” – in a whiny voice, because that always works.

“Is it your turn again? You grabbed the kayaking gig last week, remember? Oh stop snivelling – if you can swim out to us before we go past, you can come!”

Earlier in the week

I could have done that, and easily, but, you know, paperclips…

I was so happy to hear they had a brilliant day, picking up the skiff, stopping for a picnic lunch at the camp, then heading back escorted by four – four! – orcas. I organized the red and blue paperclips, and I’m totally prepared for the new school year.

Oh yes, the new school year. All pandemic plans are in place, with gallons and gallons of hand sanitizer situated in strategic locations, signage has gone up, arrows have been laid down, instructions have been printed and distributed. What could possibly go wrong? Young and not so young students will learn to follow bus and class seating plans, use appropriate mask etiquette and remain suitably distanced until a vaccine is ready, because, well, it’ll be good to try and have something resembling normal. For as long as it lasts…

Also taken earlier this week

Setting fears of a second wave to one side, I’m impressed by the effort and dedication educators have put in, in trying to meet this pandemic moment. If things go awry, it won’t be due to a lack of caring or commitment. Hats off. Let’s not use educators or children as a pandemic political football.

Right, I’d best leave it here. Four orcas! Four! I’ve dropped a paperclip, a blue one since you were wondering, and I know there’ll be a situation down the road that’ll stand or fall for the want of a paperclip.

If you’re about to return to school, have returned, or find yourself connected to folks working in schools, I hope it’s going well for you. Take care out there. Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend.

A patch of blue

Last week ended very well, with an unexpected opportunity to paddle and splash about for a couple of hours. A summer building the trail, learning new skills, and not chopping or shooting off toes has been great, but I’ve missed spending time on the water, and I’ve missed hanging out with younger community members. That was all put right last Friday.

Teamwork!

At a meeting earlier in the week, where I was nodding along and looking interested behind my mask, a colleague mentioned she was one adult paddler short for her planned kayak activity. Being a considerate almost outdoorsman, I waited an appropriate amount of time for someone else to volunteer. When almost half a second had passed, I shouted out, “Me! Me! Pick me! I’ll do it! Pick me!” – I was going to volunteer sooner, but it’s best to give everyone a chance.

To my astonishment, I got away with this appalling behaviour – I’m sure it had nothing to do with colleagues wanting me far from the office on a Friday afternoon – and the next day found myself part of a group of three 8 year olds and three adults. Two and a half adults? Three adults on paper.

Three 8 year olds and two and a half adults

I had a lovely time catching up with L, T, and L. I hadn’t seen them in nearly six months, since schools closed and we all disappeared into our small bubbles. We paired off in three kayaks. L sat in the front and instructed me on how hard to paddle and which way to steer us. She helped by doing the opposite and seeing how wet I’d get from her enthusiastic paddling. Teamwork. I couldn’t have been happier!

Spotting sea stars clinging to Lyche Island

We paddled along the shore, admiring the big fishing vessels, waving at fishermen and pleasure boaters, and gradually improving our synchronized paddling. We crossed the inlet, circled Lyche Island, spotting sea stars, watching the bald eagles overhead, making our way to Port Albion, then Hitacu Dock, smiling at the wading blue herons and at another bald eagle standing in the mud flats.

Patches of blue

All this took place under grey skies, all grey apart from a small patch of blue. Our kayaks were also small patches of blue, but as we laughed and splashed our way up and down the channel, we were anything but blue. It’s great to be young. Or almost young.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you have an enjoyable weekend!

Sleepers and stringers

Sounds like something from a spy movie…

Bridge of Spies? Nothing as dramatic as that – good movie if you haven’t seen it, set in less complicated times(!) – but we’ve been building bridges.

Our trail work is going along nicely, and with chainsaw skills acquired, we’ve been able to tackle some bigger items, like staircases and bridges. Trees that have been felled for safety have a new lease of life, stripped of bark to make sleepers and stringers for new sections of boardwalk bridge.

This lot needs replacing!

The youth and young adults were shown once, then after that they got into building their own wooden bridges. Working as a group of two to four, they’ve been able to prepare the site and construct a bridge in less than a morning.

Part of the new section – no bridge needed here

It’s corny, but the bridge building has closed the gap between elders and youth, the trail to the community, and outside partners to the nation. The young folks will step across their bridges and on towards a future full of multiple possibilities due to the skills they’re learning. I’ve got something in my eye, sniff…

“Is he crying again?” “Yup!”

I can’t believe how quickly the summer is passing, and we’ve so much more to build! We had to down tools yesterday, and probably today, due to some very heavy rain and potentially strong wind gusts – the advice is forest-based work is high risk in these conditions. Still, when we head out there next week, we’ll be confident the raised sections are high and dry, in a good way, and we will see where drainage channels are needed.

“When can I come and see the bridges? They’re wooden? Can I chew them?”

Next week, I’ll include a photograph of a series of bridges built close together. I took a rushed photo in the rain earlier, but it’s mostly of my thumb. Next time…

Under construction – sleepers and stringers going in

Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Down time

A few photos posted this week from lots of sitting down time a weekend or two or three ago. This week has been busy, so I’ve kept this brief. You’re welcome!

Must be Fogust…

We are making the most of sunny days, particularly now Fogust is well and truly with us. To be fair, even when many mornings have started foggy, most days have ended with warm afternoons and sunny evenings.

Is that fog rolling in back there? No…

The work on the trail has been moving along, and we can’t decide if we like the slightly cooler damp mornings – not too hot, but the mosquitos still come out to play – or do we prefer the warmer afternoons with fewer mosquito friends, but more wasps and a sweatier environment?

No bugs! Or sun. Or horizon. Or- ok, I’ll stop now.

Ha, they’re both pretty good, so it’s not really a choice, and with the rain staying away and progress being made, we can’t complain. Those mosquitos though…

A partial harbour view

When the weekend comes around, quiet spaces on the dock or on the beach are just fine, with nothing much to bug us in our down time.

Another partial harbour view. What a sight!

Well, that was brief, as promised. Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Buzzing

Last week was a noisily productive week. I’d say we were buzzing. And roaring, cursing and sweating through a few days of chainsaw training. By “we” I mean me. The cursing and sweating part anyway.

Looks messy! What would help here?

If you’re familiar with gas powered chainsaws, you’ll know you have to yank a cord to get the saw fired up. Looks easy when a professional shows you. And, the first time I tried, hey presto, the chainsaw roared into life. Mostly because the chainsaw was new, and had warmed up. I like those new ones.

Starting the community winter wood pile

You should have seen me later, on a cold start older saw. Could I get it going? Nope. Must have been a really old saw, one of the ones that runs not on gas, but something from an earlier era. Coal? Dinosaur poop?

At the end of the day, after you’ve worked up a chainsaw sweat. Or even if you didn’t.

I’d paid attention during the basic maintenance and upkeep session. It was probably dirty, clogged up and needed cleaning. Oh yeah, I can handle some basic maintenance and pre-op checks. And on the chainsaw too. It was totally clean. So, probably a major repair was required, something that couldn’t be fixed in the field. Yeah, that was it.

J, one of the young people I was learning alongside, offered to take a look.

“Seems alright – let’s give it a go!”

Well, you can guess the rest… I must have warmed it up.

“What’s he talking about? Seems alright!”

My sweating, cursing, and weedy biceps aside, we had a great – and safe – few days. No fingers or toes were lost, and we’re better equipped to tackle some of the more challenging sections on the trail being built. We are back to that next week, and I’ll be there, ready to fire it up and get buzzing – if someone passes me a chainsaw that has been running recently.

“Chainsaws? Nah, I’ll use this!“

Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

The forest

The past week has been the most enjoyable for quite some time. I’ve got bruises and scratches, I ache almost everywhere, and I’m writing this at the second attempt, having dozed off previously. Hmm. I’m awake now, drool wiped from chin, so let’s share a little of the last few days.

A group of youth and young adults have been learning from two trail-building teachers. They were so good, teaching us that how a trail is built is its own story, then trails are used to retell old stories and create new ones. Walking in places where the spirit of ancestors reside, and where predecessors walked in times past, certainly fired up the youth. They’re excited about creating community paths to allow easier access to the local lake. Improving and replacing sections of an old boardwalk, as well as building a couple of new trails is what they’ll be doing over the course of the summer.

A shovel didn’t go into the ground for the first day and a half. The time was spent bushwhacking, searching for likely routes and places to see, using the terrain and marking out possibilities. This was fun stuff, and somewhat harder for one or two of the older folks accompanying the young crew. Yup, me.

Old boardwalk, new tools

It turns out I’m not as nimble as I thought when it comes to jumping up on to (or off) a log. And gaps in dense thickets get smaller when I’m in them. At one point I got stuck pushing up and over an old log, completely caught in the tangle of smaller branches. Couldn’t go forward, couldn’t go back, and couldn’t lose (any more) face. I ended up using my COVID kilos, and simply let myself “fall” forward, counting on gravity and a heavy backpack (or those COVID kilos) to pull me through. It sort of worked. Probably not in any training manual…

Digging it

Anyway, older folks were recovered, plausible routes were marked out, and we’ve spent three sweat and mosquito filled days breaking new trail. The young ones are so strong, and so ready to learn. After months of mostly indoor time, the hours in the forest are wonderful. Purposeful activity, great company, lots of learning, kilos to lose, and all under the watchful eye of bears, spirits, leaders, and spirited leaders-in-making.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Happy Campers

It’s Canada Day next Wednesday, a day we like to stop and think about how fortunate we are to be living and working where we do.

Warmer than it looks

For almost everyone, the year so far – are we only six months in?! – has been challenging, so it’s good to pause and be positive.

A different sense of time

Canada is very far from perfect, but I choose to believe that it’s a nation trying to progress towards greater inclusivity, aiming to ensure what comes next for all Canadians is an improvement on the past. Personally, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, in good times or tougher times, and I’m looking forward to Wednesday. Peering ahead, I’d like to think every day is Canada Day for all who live here.

Taken from Mount Ozzard. Hitacu near side, Ucluelet far side

So if you’re Canadian, know a Canadian, will become a Canadian, have visited Canada, would like to visit Canada, or you’re a big fan of maple syrup, then happy Canada Day to you!

A good idea from Nelson Brewing, BC

Thanks for reading, and enjoy your weekend!

All accompanying photographs were taken this week when I was at work – what a spot to work in! (Not the beer photo – that was after work!)

Benches and beaches

Last week’s post was firmly rooted in unreality, so I thought I’d better demonstrate I haven’t completely lost the plot by writing a more grounded piece. A brief item on benches and beaches, since that’s where we’ve mostly been in between bouts of online work.

What bear? Where?

Scout has enjoyed sniffing out and rediscovering her old haunts, and many of these happen to be in front of convenient benches with a view.

Last Sunday morning, we spent quite some time lost in thought, sitting on a bench and watching bald eagles spiral and sing in lazy loops above the water. Our eyes are a bit out of focus, and at first we couldn’t be absolutely certain if we’d spotted a bear over the bay, or a rock pretending to be a bear. It was a bear. Or the rock was walking…

Could be a moving rock…

Later, we ventured out to Long Beach, uncertain about how busy it might be. We needn’t have worried. The parking lot was about half full, and most folks were surfers judging by numbers in the water. Once we’d walked down the beach for a few minutes, we were fully physically distanced by many hundreds of metres from the very few souls we saw.

Long bench or long beach?

Back on a beach, on a sunny day, it was a relief to sit on a log, watch the surf, and forget the world wide woes for a while. We smiled and smiled, and Scout decided to dig and dig. I believe the trench she created is the only dog-made construction – or deconstruction – that can be seen from space. She sure put in some effort for her beach return.

Hitacu to Ucluelet – you can almost see “our” bench from here!

Speaking of grounded (were we?) I’m delighted to say, all being well, I’m breaking out of self-isolating/work-from-home exile next week. Coronavirus grounded me – and sent me to my room young man – for over twelve weeks. Young rebel that I am, I’ll be taking the car keys, climbing down the drainpipe, and driving off into a summer of misadventures. Or going back to real work. Real work? Yes, if a summer of chainsaw courses, trail building, wilderness survival training, search and rescue skills, beach-keeping and other related learning/mentoring is allowed to be called work. It’ll be a proper grounding, working and learning alongside a group of motivated youth and young adults. We met earlier this week, and it’s going to be an effort for me to keep pace! I predict weekends full of benches, beaches and long snoozes…

Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Unmoored (2m/6ft)

We had a pretty good road trip back to the coast last week. It was strange to be traveling in these socially distant times, with caution and uncertainty over new protocols very evident. What was lovely was how considerate people were – at gas stations, the hotel, and on the ferry. Kind, friendly, creating space, and aware of each other, maybe this can continue post-pandemic?

Coquihalla Highway High

Anyway, rather than write a heavy-on-boring-details account of our Trans Canada Highway drive, I thought I’d describe it through a set of song titles from the playlist. All tracks are by my new favourite band you won’t have heard of, Gays in the Military. They hail from the PNW and here are the songs, most found on the album “Your Devoted Son, Ned”:

1. Coquihalla Highway High

2. Runaway Lane

3. Drooping Hemlock Tip (huh?)

4. ManBaby in Orange/Unmoored

5. Taking A Knee

2m/6ft

6. 2m/6ft

7. Queen of Alberni

8. Duke of Duke Point

9. Cargo Pants Capacity

10. Sovereignty/Taking Back Control (How do you like me now?) feat. Oops, I’m A Unicorn

11. French Roast Alarm

12. Green and Blue feat. West Coast Pale

13. Bonus track, Chicken Kibble Again? feat. Sad Mutt

So there you have it, a new band, some new songs, and they all seemed to fit with being on the road last week. I don’t know, does this seem likely?

Chicken Kibble Again? OK!

Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

All the right notes, wrong coast

PS Alright, I’ll come clean. When the ferry unmoored from the Tsawassen dock, my own mind untethered from reality as I sat in the sun watching the mainland recede. An unhinged mind, free from the shackles of whatever was shackling it, came up with a make believe band and their first album. If they were real, they’d be huge, in an understated indie scene way. I’m thinking a modern day sound influenced by Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, and Bob Dylan, with a hint of plaid commentary and I’ll play the drums. Sounds good, eh? How modest of me. If you’d like further liner/sleeve notes, feel free to ask in the comments below. Every song title has a story…

Green and Blue

PPS I think it’s clear I should return to some proper employment. I start back next week, and my only regret is I won’t have time to focus on the often difficult second album. I agree, a musical loss. Perhaps a future project…

PPPS Imagine my surprise when I checked to see if there is/was a band called Gays in the Military. Well, confirming there is rarely anything new under the sun, they already exist, with an album released in 2005. Having played a couple of tracks, you’ll be happy to know I think my future project is still a go.

Upbeat

I’ve a cheerful face, with movie star good looks best suited to radio. When I stand on my head, I appear to be smiling. Appearances can be deceptive, as I’m actually quite a happy soul, a glass half full person, especially when my glass is half full. Keep me away from the daily political and environmental news, and you’ll see a happy chappy.

Glass half full – this was an excellent IPA!

Having said all that, like many of us, I’ve had days when the current crisis has dented a positive outlook. How couldn’t it? What a time we’re all going through. Initially, there were aspects of stay at home social distancing that were quite welcome for this introvert. I didn’t mind the extra quiet that befell the city, especially at the start of the shutdown. Reduced traffic and hushed streets were rather enjoyable. Vehicle use is picking up again now, noticeably so, and I’m looking forward to when we’ll be able to return to the less noisy coast. It’ll happen.

Fresh

The city is brightening up, greenery more abundant, and the first blossom starting to show. Scout and I stood under a tree the other morning, sheltering from the rain and breathing in the fresh fragrance. Heady stuff, and we’d have stood there longer, but people were starting to stare…

Staying dry

We’ve missed being able to hang out with mates, so when we were invited by mountain friends to go have a physically distant beer on their deck, we jumped at the chance. Calculating we’d all been in isolation (aside from a weekly supermarket run) for over two months, and hadn’t had any significant interaction with anyone outside of our respective households, we rolled the dice and said let’s meet.

Colour!

The weather didn’t cooperate, with intermittent rain and low cloud cover obscuring the mountains. Never mind, and it was coffee rather than beer, sheltering under the deck instead of up on top.

It was so good to catch up, to sit (together but apart) and chew the fat, make plans for a camping trip to be taken… well, who knows? But it’ll happen.

It’ll happen

The best part of the day wasn’t for the humans, it was for the dogs. Our friends have taken in a rescue pup, a delightful little dog called Ponyo. Part husky, part beagle, all fun, Ponyo and Scout had a wild time. They wrestled and rolled in the backyard, ran and ran in the dog park, then wrestled and rolled some more. We’ve never seen Scout so tired!

Wrestle and roll

All in all, we aim to remain positive, maintain an upbeat outlook, make plans for the summer and beyond, and keep our glasses half full. And beyond.

Ponyo!

Thanks for reading, stay safe and well, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!