Adventurous types…

A shortish piece for a week where we’ve been worried about friends and family not doing so well, medically speaking. That said, it doesn’t have to be all gloom (although, the January weather here – please, weather gods, just a few hours of blue sky! Is that too much to ask?!) Right, on with the story:

Blue sky! Not much, admittedly, but there’s a patch!

L, a good friend, was taken unwell recently and rushed off to a local hospital. Alright, we’ll go see how he’s doing. Nope, not there, he was transported to a larger hospital the next big town up. No worries, we’re heading there Tuesday, we can drop in. Ten minutes before arrival, I picked up a voicemail. “Hey, L here, I’m not in Port, I’m in Victoria!” We can do that, had plans to be in Victoria at the weekend, so called back and left a message saying we’d track him down… By the time we got home from Port, a new voicemail. “Don’t go to Victoria, I’ll be heading to Tofino by the time you hear this!” Sure, that’s an easy reach from home.

Older and wiser heads

We finally caught up with L in Tofino. I thought he might be a touch miffed what with all the travel. Nope, not a bit of it! Instead, a model of grace and calm. He’s been hither and thither, up and down and over and across the island in the past week. Prodded and poked, weighed and measured, yet still in pretty good humour given the circumstances.

On the way to Port – or was it on the way back? Losing track!

Smiling as he recounted his travels, he whispered he doesn’t need but would quite like an air ambulance to the mainland, just to grow his recent medical transportation collection, you know, to complete the set.

As we’re here…

Over the years, L has been a logger, a fisherman and a trucker, loving aspects of each – particularly the travel – the more difficult and remote the better. So being bumped around in an ambulance on roads that have seen better days wasn’t too bad. “The medics couldn’t understand why I was so happy! I didn’t mind, seen worse, felt worse!”

Blue skies! Really! Short-lived, but it happened…

I left L with a pile of sports and outdoor adventure-type books he’s keen to read. “Yeah, you can go now. Let’s see what we’ve got here. Hockey? I dunno, not any more, not at my age. Hold on! Mountain climbing, eh? Haven’t done much of that, could be good…”

Adventurous? Yessir! Busy right now, so how about tomorrow?

Yes, mountain climbing, eh! Well, why not? Curiosity and being an adventurous type can keep one going. L has about 25 years on me, and I wouldn’t put it past him to be out in front again soon, with me struggling to keep up.

Mountains? Let’s start with a low one!

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

Winter light

We’re just past the solstice and enjoying the winter light and the promise of more daylight hours. Hello winter!

Low winter sun

We’ve had rainy days, snowy days, grey days and a few golden days the past little while, all pleasant enough, and illustrated here in the accompanying photographs.

Snowy days!
Morning light

I’ll keep it very brief this week, as we send warm wishes to you for the season if you choose to celebrate, and hope you have a great time with family and friends, perhaps close to a forest, lake, beach, mountain or other preferred natural environment!

Brisk on the beach
Green days

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

Good morning? I think so…

Way back when…

…I was a schoolboy, aged 10, my teacher was Mr. Ross Laugher (pronounced law, not laugh-er if you valued your recess time) and he was, initial impressions and appearances to the contrary, a lovely man. Over the years, I’ve been taught by, learned alongside, learned from, and taught or mentored dozens and dozens of wonderful educators, and of them all it was Mr. Laugher who came to mind as I was walking with Scout this morning.

Damp

I suspect he popped into my head because I remember him as being so enthusiastic about the natural world. Scout, as ever, was being enthusiastic about the natural world. It was a brisk and barely above freezing outing, and we were checking in with our favourite trees and inhaling the invigorating air, damp and mossy after the overnight rains. I think Scout maps the world through her nose. Light or dark, wet or dry, she has an unerring instinct when finding her way. Scout scouting!

A favourite tree

Back to Mr. Laugher. If you didn’t know him, or were apprehensive about moving into his classroom for your final year in elementary school, you might have thought he was a slightly forbidding and imposing figure. Bearded, gold wire rim spectacles, collar and tie, corduroy slacks, an array of sweater vests, and a brisk and purposeful way with movement and words, he induced a nervousness amongst pupils who weren’t taught by him. You’ve probably had teachers like that? They have a bit of a reputation for being fierce, but if you’re lucky enough to be in their class, it turns out to be a case of bark worse than bite? Ross Laugher was like that to me. It wasn’t that he couldn’t be strict – he was – but he was fair, and you knew where the lines were.

Bark? No!

He encouraged questions, looking up answers, reading, using the library, map making, experimentation, responsibility, common sense and using your senses. I don’t remember seeing him laugh or having a sense of humour, at least not with students, but he praised enthusiasm and effort.

Bark? Yes!

Friday afternoons in the upper elementary school were devoted to clubs. You could choose from (or were assigned based on seniority and if you had previously attended or not) cookery, clay, puppets (yikes, too scary, no thanks), bird club, needlework, painting, drama, music, model making and likely many others I’ve forgotten. Mr. Laugher ran the bird club and grade 5 me did not want to be there. It was bad enough thinking about the 50:50 possibility of being in his class for grade 6, so why run into him any earlier? For the record, in grade 6 I wanted to be in Mr. Lemaire’s class. He taught music, had that early 1970s rock band hair, flared trousers and no scary gold glasses. Like, cool, man.

Another favourite

Anyway, the education gods knew best, and I got Mr. Laugher in grade 6 and bird club not puppets the back end of grade 5. Bird club? Nooooo, I thought, that’s too square, man…We would go on walks through the school grounds, peering in hedgerows and up at trees, trying to spot nests, scaring birds off before we could identify them, then sitting with binoculars hoping the scared birds would return. We also looked for tracks, put up bird houses and filled feeders. Back in class, we were encouraged to draw maps to include what we’d discovered, and use reference books to identify what we thought we’d seen, then draw and/or paint any bird that we liked. (I was always rather taken by the storm petrel. Yup, I’d also like to know why…) For homework, we were encouraged to keep a bird spotting diary. Homework? For a school club?! Like, no, man…

Bird club

I would never have chosen bird club – in my young and shallow world view, Mr. Laugher would not be mistaken for my real role models, you know, a rock god or footballer – but it turned out it was all a good fit. Superstar sports and music ambitions aside, I was already enthused by maps, and had that odd childhood love of identifying and categorizing anything from cars and planes, to tanks and trains, so bird club made a kind of sense.

I even did the homework, making maps of our backyard and noting tracks and bird sightings. Robins, thrushes and sparrows mostly. Nope, no storm petrel. As we’re all enjoying these tales from the distant past, shall we add a few more details as I remember them of childhood me?

“Is he still talking about himself? I can’t bear to watch or listen…”

Outside of school clubs, I collected football stickers, had a brief flirtation with stamp collecting, was far too keen on old WWII movies, loved Viking, Greek and Roman myths and legends, anything Arthurian (reading this now, how did I not end up some kind of swivel-eyed right leaning loon?), tales of Robin Hood (phew, looks like I also had a leaning to the left and concern for fair redistribution of wealth from the 1%) and also spent time frequently modifying and falling off modified bicycles. I never enjoyed train-spotting, because that was for nerds. Yes, I know what some of the sentences before that describe, but c’mon, there are degrees of nerd…(Oh, ok, I might have been train-spotting once or twice with friends, and I might have enjoyed it. But we’ll keep that quiet?)

Misty, slightly faded

And once again back to Mr. Laugher. He opened my eyes to the natural world in my own backyard, school yard and neighborhood. He helped me see the small natural wonders and start to understand how they are actually rather large. He wasn’t the first or only person to do this. Parents and grandparents also encouraged a love of learning and sense of curiosity, and any number of family, friends and colleagues have also done so since. But as I said at the top, it was Ross Laugher who popped into my head this morning. And here we are, many years later, me the bearded teacher, sometimes requiring glasses, and corduroys in the closet. Talk about teacher influence… Wait a minute! No no, it’s ok, I don’t have a sweater vest. How could I? There’s only one Ross Laugher – an excellent teacher and role model, and in my mind, no one will ever rock a sweater vest the way he did…

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

Rainforest reminder

After a somewhat worryingly lengthy dry spell, the weather has taken a turn for the expected the past few days, and reminded us we do live in a rainforest. Temperatures have gone down, hoods have gone up, and relatively normal meteorological service has resumed.

Definitely damp

Scout can usually be relied on to jump up and be first out of the door if a walk is mentioned, but she was decidedly less enthusiastic this week as she heard the rain bouncing on the roof. In fairness, it was quite loud, and her ears are quite large. Fortunately, her curiosity always gets the better of her, or at least a fear of missing out on potential hiking snacks, and her mood always improves after the first few steps. Or bits of kibble. I find I’m the same, although I haven’t tried the kibble.

Greener

The forest smells right, with a return to wet and mulchy rather than dry and dusty, and to my eyes the greens are greener. I’ve missed the pattering of rain on leaf and raincoat, and although there’s much to enjoy hiking in the dry, it’s nice the temperatures have dropped a bit. It all feels a bit more alive somehow.

Not so gentle patter

The forecast is for a fair amount of rain the next two weeks, and we have definitely entered rain season, so let’s see how far our early enthusiasm goes. Will it be dampened? Probably not, as long as Scout can endure the indignity of towel drying each time we get home. I do assure her it’s laughing with and not at her, but she remains unconvinced…

“You said you wouldn’t share this one…”

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

Seasonal greens
“Large ears? Me? Not a problem, other than I can hear him when he thinks he’s being funny…”

Canada Day!

I was aiming to choose a recent photograph that attempted to capture the essence of Canada – our little corner – for Canada Day, and I think it’s quite a good choice!

Pretty hoppy with my choice, and as much as a beer can, this represents our little corner! Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day to all who choose to celebrate. It’s far from perfect here in the True North, but as a work in (slow) progress we’re paddling in the right direction, and that’s something to celebrate. Cheers!

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

Green Creek Restoration

A brief post this week, harking back to early fall and warmer weather experienced only a few short weeks ago. Goodness, this west coast autumn has been chillier than the norm for us here. Wet too, but that is most welcome after such a dry summer.

Mixed greens

Right, let’s visit Green Creek (I made that up, it isn’t called Green Creek, other than in my head!) We mostly explored close to the cabin on Salt Spring a few weeks back, and were very happy to have a trailhead a few short steps from the cabin door.

Very early fall

The trail crisscrossed open meadows, and also looped through a forested area, at points hugging the bank of a small creek. A couple of information boards explained how local schoolchildren had teamed up with a stream conservation/restoration group, and worked to restore the creek to be a place where salmon could run successfully.

Green Creek

We didn’t see any salmon, but did see leafy trees, tiny tumbling water falls, and ancient Douglas firs. We enjoyed meandering along the stream side listening to croaking frogs and failing to identify all the little brown birds flitting from tree to tree. We stopped at an open spot as the sun broke through, lighting up the clearing, and it was a very pleasant place to be, with no real hurry, and nothing more to do than simply soak up the green. Very restorative!

Bright and leafy

Short and sweet, like the trail and creek we were on – thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Restorative!

The rough with the smooth

A short and textured piece for a week where all went pretty well, whether it was rough or smooth.

Rrruff!

Our spring weather has jumped about, with some rain, some sun, some wind, plenty of grey, green and blue, and mostly feeling pretty warm, even under the grey skies.

We went to the black rock and shell beach below the Black Rock buildings – how did they come up with that name? – and if you scramble along a bit, there are many quiet little corners to sit and survey the sea. It was calm the day we went, with warm sun, blue skies and the gentle sound of waves over rocks. Soporific but not boring, and maybe my head nodded once or twice…

Why is the nearby hotel called the Black Rock?

Yesterday morning was a west coast special – misty, almost foggy, and through it you could feel the warmth of the sun, a hint of a sunny afternoon ahead. Sometimes, the mist and fog lingers, but yesterday it cleared, and it felt like a promise kept.

Learning is often better outdoors, or at the very least, indoors with doors and windows thrown open – and if we had to anchor wind blown paper-based assignments with a few rocks after chasing around the room, well, that’s okay. Smoothed them out…

7:30 smooth

Scout has a set Saturday afternoon routine I have to follow when we’re out. She’s persuaded Mrs. PC to visit a small pocket park that has a series of different height walls, and she (Scout, not Mrs. PC) has to leap up each step of wall and balance to the end before jumping off to great applause. This means now, when Scout is out with me, there’s no avoiding the left turn to the little park, and we have to visit and go through the same performance. My balance isn’t all that, but I’ve almost nailed the landing.

Same day, midday, still pretty smooth

After the park, Scout insists we head to a small section of the Wild Pacific Trail, where we check on what is currently our favourite tree, a tall beauty with a textured trunk that demands our admiration. So we do.

Rough – our current favourite

Enough for this week, keeping it brief, as promised. We’re hoping for more warm sunshine this weekend, and a longer beach hike or two. We’ll head out there, and rough or smooth, expect it’ll be great fun either way.

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

Fringe elements

The lunatic fringe. Used to be, you could tell where that was located, politically speaking, but these days? It’s a little harder to avoid the fringe elements…

Don’t worry, this isn’t a post-Brexit, post-Tr*mp, post-truth piece. It’s a piece touching on fringes, elements, edges, and transitions. But not hair. A fringe? If I had one, it would be a high fringe. Possibly monkish. Moving on.

High green fringes

We were walking through the rainforest fringe last weekend, descending through layers of green down to the shore, and emerging onto a wind-blasted beach. We knew it was a blustery day, and had wrapped up accordingly. The first part of our walk was in the shelter of the trees, and we thought it was all pretty pleasant. So when we stepped out and into the hard gnashing teeth of the wind, goodness, it was biting.

Colder than it looks…

We trotted up and down the beach at a very brisk pace. Down to the water’s edge and back, and enduring, I mean, enjoying the bracing air. For what was probably the first time ever, Scout was not interested in examining every single washed up log. She had her ears pinned back – streamlining, sensible dog – and attempted to guide her lunatic companions back to the fringe. Yes, at least one of us was thinking clearly.

The sheltered edge

We did find a suitable log to stop and sit on for a short while, mercifully out of the clutches of the wind. The sun almost appeared, and with it a steady trickle of hopeful beach walkers. It was fun to watch them hit the wind zone and then see them scurry back. So it wasn’t just us…

Cool green

A short piece this week from the western fringe as we transition into proper spring. Or hope to. A recent long range forecast was predicting a cool start to the season. Haven’t we just enjoyed that? We’ll continue to head out, whatever the weather, ears pinned back and making the most of it.

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

Positives?

Well, wasn’t that quite the week?! As I write this, late in the day Thursday, it would appear that by January, there’ll be a change in White House occupancy – phew! Even if a blue wave didn’t quite appear, I’ll settle for being able to listen to a presidential press conference without wincing. That’s a positive.

A blue ripple

Bigger picture? More to be done, but please let’s enjoy the hope that steps are being taken towards repair, and an opportunity to build, not tear down. The restoration of a more civil political discourse? Maybe? That’s a positive. Instead of denial, working as a collective to arrest the worst of a looming climate disaster? You have to hope…

Things are looking up

I’m keeping it very brief this time. I’m exhausted, but enjoying the notion we can breathe a little easier, politically speaking, if only due to the reduction in noise that ought to happen as a result of the tight result. We can welcome a greater reliance on accepted facts and shared understandings, instead of alternate facts and divisive lies. Now wouldn’t that be nice?

Space

The photographs this time are all from our wilderness trip a couple of weeks back, and they were chosen for their sense of space, scale, and a pleasant bigger picture. Of course, given the way this year has offered up too many unwelcome surprises, maybe next week I’ll be writing about how the results all went the wrong way after Thursday evening, and the White House occupant remains the same after January 2021. No, surely not? Let’s stay positive!

Bigger

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!