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.

Show pony shutdown

Time to saddle up! Be warned, it’s a rambling piece this week, detours and tangents aplenty as we take an armchair slow ride to nowhere in particular. That being said, with no topic or destination in mind, how will we know there’s been a detour? Anyway, I’m allowed to be off topic and tangential – squirrel – I’m not a president. Just saying…

High noon, Kneehill County

I got an email from a friend yesterday morning, describing how he’s coping with lockdown in London. Some brief background? Ok. My buddy is a young man, only a year older than me. We met over 30 years ago, when I started my first proper job, working for a government department in central London. I can’t say exactly where, or name the department, all very hush hush. Regular readers know I can be trusted with the truth. Hank (not his real name, but one he wishes was) still works for a government department, and he’s currently plotting, I mean working, from his small apartment in North London. He’s fine, the evidence being he’s taken to dressing up in C&W clothing, complete with Stetson, and is listening to “Honky Tonks and Cheap Motels” by Whitey Morgan and the 78s. (Good cover there of a great song – what do you think?) Cowboy duds and country music – that’s normal for North London these days, isn’t it? He’s doing this as preparation for a (now postponed) road trip we were due to take this summer. I might have dodged a bullet there…

High plains drifting

Sticking with the Western theme, Scout and I were moseying down the middle of 10th Street at high noon yesterday. As with all good, and not so good, Westerns, townsfolk scurried indoors as we passed, shooing their children ahead of them and peering out through the gap in the curtains. Showdown! Hairy and mean looking varmints (squirrels) moved from tree to tree, trying to get the high ground and a clear view of the sheriff (Scout) and her good looking and trustworthy young deputy (me, of course – how could you even ask?!) We faced them down, made it out of there.

The sheriff, tracking

‘Scuse me while I take a moment, spit my chewin’ baccy into the ol’ tin at my feet. Well sh*t, now I gone done made a mess on my boots. Shee-it. New old timey story? Ok. Okey dokey. You bet. I pardnered up with a law-abiding school master from Red Deer a few years back. He was principal of a Junior High School that had even more than the usual share of middle years miscreants, rebels, and wannabe outlaws. Education badlands, allegedly, but in truth, not at all bad, these were spirited and lively young people. Sheriff Duane was excellent at his job, corralling and educatin’ his young steers with great good humour. He was never overly fond of a meeting, preferring to be in the field teaching, rather than pushing darn papers. He’d always start a meeting with “Let’s get this dog and pony show on the road!” This young buck never quite understood what that meant, but I do think of Sheriff Duane every time I drink a Last Best Show Pony pale ale. Yup, all that just so I could use this photograph:

No dog, all pony. Cheers, Duane!

Well, I think that’ll ‘bout do it for now. I gotta get me a glass of something to sip slow and steady as I sit on my rocking chair, watch the sun set, dog at my feet, with Whitey Morgan and his boys crooning quietly in back. So long!

Goodness, what is going on? Where did all that come from? You’re doing something similar, yes? Or is it just me? Is this what happens when an old PlaidCamper is in a long term shut down. Or decline? Neural pathways rewiring themselves in new and not so interesting ways, and make believe takes over. It’s not all make believe. I am actually growing (or trying to grow) a fine “sad cowboy” moustache, for when Hank and I finally take that Western road trip. We’ll look (and sound, haha) completely authentic. You have been warned, small town bars of Alberta, Montana and Wyoming. That fast moving cloud of dust on the outskirts? Two thirsty show pony buckaroos riding into town…

Thanks for reading, I hope you’re well, safe, sane enough, and ready to enjoy your weekend!

PS I’ve just finished listening to “Honky Tonks and Cheap Motels” for the second time. It might (or might not) be a great way to plan a road trip, but it is definitely a fun old school country album. You’ll be growing your own sad cowboy moustache, or drawing one on. My thanks to Hank, the North London urban cowboy, for the recommendation.

Space and balance and comfort

Balance? Teetering? Toppling? No, just an occasional wobble. Who? Me? Um, maybe. Any more questions? Um, maybe…

Teetering? Not me!

Over the last three decades (three decades??!) I’ve mostly taught upper elementary and Junior High school students. My work the past month has been with students a little younger than that, and I’ve found myself crawling around on hands and knees in the mud, building shelters and making fire pits. In truth, this isn’t so different to when I’m working with older youth. Hands and knees? Check. Getting muddy? Check. Building stuff? Check. To house a small toy wolf? Erm…

Room to wander – and wonder

I’ve wandered quite a long way out of my comfort zone, learning to learn through imaginative play. I’ve constructed tiny shelters from leaves and twigs so “my” wolf feels safe and secure out in the wild. The young ones understand real wolves don’t live in actual constructed shelters (they know pigs build those) but they’ve really taken to looking after their wolves.

Space to play

Since the mini shelters, we’ve moved on to making real shelters for keeping dry, exploring different ways to keep the rain off using a tarp and some rope, or a lean to made from branches. Yeah, that’s more like it for me, comfort zone rediscovered! When we finished, it was back indoors to warm up and make a miniature campsite using popsicle sticks, paper and plasticine. Comfort zone lost once more. All I can say is I’m doing my best, and who knew I would be so consumed by creating a fire pit from plasticine? Consumed, I tell you. Well, if you’re going to do something…

I’m finding out the attention span of eight year olds is fairly short (yet remarkably similar to teens) and when you throw in a few emotional/behavioural challenges, things get interesting. A popsicle stick topped with plasticine can be a weapon? Yikes!

A long and empty stretch

All great fun, and a major reason why weekends full of space and free from too many people have become so prized. I have to find some space and balance! Wandering long stretches of beach, and wondering exactly how many strains of bacteria can live in or on plasticine? Did I forget to bring my wolf inside? How long will it take to use several thousand popsicle sticks?

Space and balance!

I’m not going to post pictures of my – I mean our – plasticine triumphs, but an older student, the one with the creaky, muddy knees, seemed very pleased with this creation:

Aren’t those foxes, not wolves, PC? Shhh! Use your imagination!

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Light and dark

Day and night, morning and evening, good and bad, lager and stout.

I could almost leave it there (I know, but I won’t!) as this about describes our trip to Victoria last weekend.

Distant (somewhat hidden) mountains

If you’re going to spend some time in a city, then Victoria is a pretty good one. Much is made of the relatively warm and dry climate, and we were lucky enough to have a mostly dry weekend. Not sunny, but dry. Other Victoria plus points? Waterside location, distant mountains, not too big, a mostly walkable downtown, many coffee shops and microbreweries, and the rather lovely Royal BC Museum.

BC Parliament building, Victoria

We stayed at Spinnakers over in Esquimault because it is only a short waterside walk from the downtown. At night, the lights reflecting on the water was a sparkly sight, and by day there’s always a floatplane taking off or landing, as well as various marine craft large and small. Spinnakers claims to be the oldest craft brewery in Canada, producing decent beer since 1984. I believe Mrs PC suggested we stay there, and after much protest, I agreed.

Oh alright, if I have to…(but not the cider or sours)

The beer menu is quite substantial, although once I’d ruled out sours and ciders, it all became manageable. Mrs PC enjoyed their Pilsner, I preferred the Original Pale Ale. And the Scottish ale. And the PNW ale. And the imperial stout. And the nut brown. Anyway, enough about breakfast.

Really?! Looks chilly.

Should you find yourself in Victoria, can I recommend the First Peoples gallery at the museum? Excellent displays depicting life pre and post European contact, with thoughtful and thought-provoking exhibits. Many items included original language as well as English explanations, and it was a joy to hear the language out loud. I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but the connection to – and respect for – land and sea came over as common sense time and again. We’ve lost so much, yet could still look back to find a model to help us move forward, environmentally speaking. Oh, and while we’re using common sense, let’s include total respect for ancestors and elders. Who’d have thought?

Taxi!

Enough of the preaching, because you’re probably desperate to know which beer was my favourite? Being a decisive sort, and after much consideration, I think it was the Original Pale Ale. No, the PNW ale. No, the stout, or was it the nut brown? The Scottish? My memory is failing me here, so I’ll have to go back for another visit, put in some proper research time. I think Mrs PC will insist on staying there again. Oh well…

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

Royal BC Museum

Spinnakers

Salmon and sunshine

We’ve been lucky enough to have had a lengthy spell of autumn sunshine, and not only in the week but through last weekend too!

Dusk

Sunny ways and sunny days to enjoy, from dawn to dusk, so we had to go to the beach. Shirtsleeve order in late October, and let’s not tell Mrs. PC – she’s currently working and loving the early winter in Alberta, snow and all. Scout and I send her photographs from the coast, and I think that helps…

Helping

Last Monday evening I went with a small group of youth to a local salmon hatchery. What a trip! We witnessed nature red in tooth and claw (the claws were on the hind paws of a hopeful bear we saw disappearing into the undergrowth) as the young people assisted in removing eggs and fertilizing them. These were sights I’ve never seen before, and in part it is a bloody spectacle, but one conducted with great care and respect by the hatchery staff. As ever, students were rapt, and getting a hands on education about salmon as a keystone species. It must be said, we all washed hands thoroughly after, and after that as well.

I’ll leave it there for this week, a brief post celebrating some local positives. Salmon and sunshine!

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Very helpful

Digging it

Really digging it. And no stone left unturned. A little more detail this week to follow up on last week. This one is a bit preachy – that’s a heads up, not an apology…

Digging it

The students I was with were really digging being scientists. From a plankton tow, to measuring sea salinity and water temperatures, to searching for intertidal wildlife, the young ones showed they really, really care about the place they live, even if some of the creatures they were looking for can’t easily be seen with the naked eye.

Sooo cute?! I think so…

Plankton! Phytoplankton! Zooplankton! These little plants and critters are sooo cute (not my words, but I understand the sentiment) and utterly astonishing when viewed under a microscope. We all – quite rightly – get alarmed by the rate at which forests are clear cut, slashed and burned, and generally mistreated in the name of resource extraction, worried that these acts of destruction are steadily ruining the “lungs” of the planet. Last week, students learned from their instructors that forests contribute approximately one third of the Earth’s oxygen. The other two thirds? Yup, you guessed it, from marine plants, and particularly or significantly from phytoplankton. The larger lung of the planet, absorbing carbon and producing oxygen, the all important base of the aquatic food chain, these tiny plants perform a mighty task. Good thing we’re being so kind to the oceans…

On the ocean, in the ocean

Students enjoyed seeing aquatic life through microscopes, in laboratory touch tanks, and even better, out on and in the ocean waters. By exploring, seeing, touching, drawing, identifying and naming a variety of marine life, the students came to care (more) about their local environment, and see how what is local and necessary for them is also local and necessary for everywhere else and everything else.

Think green, go on, dive right in

These young ones, they see the connections, can follow a line from the smallest creatures to the largest, from the bottom of the ocean floor to the high edge of our atmospheric envelope. Lofty stuff, and here’s hoping their caring example is enough to maintain, restore and protect our precious planet. Forget about the childish adults denying a climate crisis and belittling those (young and old) who care to hear the truth of science and dare to suggest solutions. Instead, aim to support the next generation of scientists and activists, the young people inheriting our woeful environmental legacy, and hope for them that they have enough time to act to secure a sustainable future.

Passing through, like we all are…

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

Wizard Island

This isn’t a post about elves or unicorns (or hobbits) – phew – but how about some magic? I will, due to being rather tired, be very brief this week, and I promise to write something a bit more detailed next week.

Leaving Bamfield, and we’re off to Wizard Island

I was on Wizard Island – yes, really – earlier this week, learning alongside a small group of students, splashing about in the intertidal zone, slipping on seaweed and scraping hands and knees on barnacles. We were being scientists, uncovering then sharing our discoveries, beaming our explorations live to students at UVic, and generally having a fine old time in the middle of Barkley Sound.

As far as these students were concerned, we were in (on?) the best possible classroom, transported there in a small aluminum boat, past bald eagles, basking seals, foraging bears, and with the prospect of a humpback whale sighting. We were lucky enough to spot three humpbacks spouting on our trip back, and I wish you could have seen the students when this happened! Such excitement, because we were relatively close, and this excitement from young ones quite used to spotting whales from the shore.

Barkley brilliance

All this and their first ever media appearance before 10 o’clock in the morning. Not that I couldn’t keep up – I did, just about – but I am mighty tired in the best possible way after three full days of marine activity. I will sign off this week with a few more photographs from Wizard Island. I don’t know about magic, but I do believe there are magical places…

More to follow. Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

“We’re media stars!”

We ramble on (somewhat dazed and confused…)

Can it really be September already?! Not too much has changed, weather wise, it being misty in the mornings and then sunny later in the day. Yes, it’s September because I find myself back in school, almost working for a living, and my time isn’t quite all my own…

Early morning silver glow

Not to worry, and it’s not too bad, because Scout and I have taken to our new time shifted routine, and we’re very much enjoying our early morning plod and pee about Ucluelet. I know, it’s easy on the early morning walk when the weather is fine, just wait until it’s dark, PC, and the rains have started. Oh, I should probably say it’s Scout doing the peeing on these walks (it’s not dark enough for me, yet…)

We like how the climbing sun glows through the early morning mist and fog, creating pockets of warm humidity, and we stand there sweating lightly and quietly, with me realizing I’ll have to change my shirt before setting off to work.

Warmer than it looks – we sometimes do a misty mountain hop just here

Apologies for the rather damp post this week. As you can see, my mind will ramble on. Ramble On! This has been the tune playing in my head as we’ve been out and about, and it’s a favourite, apart from the closing lines referring to hobbits or whatever. I’m not anti-hobbit – I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings several times as a young one, but after the first time always skipped the hobbity songs and stuff.

“What is he rambling on about now? Look, it warms up later!”

Clearly, having to be back at work has left me a little weary, at least if this piece is anything to go by. It’s a communication breakdown! I’ll leave it here, rest awhile, perhaps enjoy a second breakfast, before picking myself up and rambling on into the weekend and next week.

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Summer, is that you?

Oh, I surely hope so.

It’s been a busy end of school season wrap up, with exams, transition plans, and celebrations to mark achievements in an academic year well spent.

It’s a tough gig

Yesterday was a beach day, with students, families and teachers having a few hours down by the water, some play time and easy company before all leave and head off into summer, a year older and a year wiser. Certainly older…

Learning!

I’m looking forward to a busy and relaxed summer, if both can happen at the same time. The twin track approach will see me back in Blighty for a swift visit, a chance to catch up with one brother, one father and one daughter in little more than a week. Then it’s back to the island for a few weeks, with beach walks, paddling, maybe a few tent nights if we can find some quiet spots, and, fingers crossed, some time learning to build log cabins in remote parts. Mid August, we’ll be on the road, nothing too long, for a visit to Alberta, just to be sure friends, lakes, mountains, and a few big city haunts are all still there.

Lining up, ready to go

I love being in education, and especially in my current position, finding myself working in schools, the community and (best of all, I can’t lie about this) out in the backcountry. If I ever found myself in an occupation that demanded I work for pay over the summer months, then all would not be well. I did fake being a chef for a couple of summers when we lived in France – I was younger, leaner and hungrier back then – but those few years aside, I’ve had summers off, and for that I’m most grateful! (Apologies to readers who do work summers, and a tip of the hat – like that helps…)

A student has a new young pup – how cute?!

Keeping it brief, as time is short this week, having spent longer than usual days preparing for and enjoying an education celebration. This was a lovely evening where many citizens and residents over the bay were recognized for educational achievements – from pre-school through to post secondary and then all manner of lifelong learning.

Bannock in the school garden

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!