Thursday, October 12, 2017

A pinecone amongst roses

People value roses; the friendly yellow, the cheerful pink, the romantic red, the pure white.  Across cultures they are revered for their scent, color and shape.  Upheld as the ideal symbol of feminine beauty.  Also that our perceptions of beauty value the fresh and young, the budding bloom gradually unfolding to reveal its gifts to the world. 
Once a rose has fully emerged it has its season in the sun, then it loses its value.  Soon it is no longer fragrant, the brightness darkens and fades, and the lush petals fall away.  It matters not that the rose was selected to be cut and briefly enjoy fame in a vase or passed over to remain on the plant unselected, those blossoms will wither regardless.  When even the leaves are exhausted, you are left with only a stick of thorns.

I knew a young man who loved roses, and most of all was fascinated by the concept of a blue rose.  Blue roses do not exist in nature.  Breeders have produced mauve or burgundy roses and given them "Blue" in their name, but the bright blue roses are white roses that have been artificially dyed blue.  Like a simple elementary school science experiment, a white rose is cut and placed in water dyed with blue food coloring.  Once severed from the bush that bloom will expire, but not before it desperately drinks up the blue fluid that permeates the petals from tip to base, and stem and leaves along the vascular system.
I think sometimes on that the innocent white had to be manipulated with a chemical imposed upon it, just to be considered a unique and interesting aesthetic.  Was plain white too boring for you?
I wonder if that young man will be forever chasing the elusive... unattainable... novelty...

Behold the lowly pinecone.  Typically they're only noticed once the roses are done for the season, and only some fraction of the rose-lovers would see the beauty in a pinecone.  It has no vibrant hue, just brown.  The richness of wood brown, or maybe sunbleached-through-the-seasons grey.  It has no scent, at least nothing remarkable.  They're more common and simply grow uncultivated, and may even be an unsightly annoyance to be raked off the lawn and openly scorned as they fall with a thud onto the parked car.
But what about their gifts that they hold? Shouldn't that deserve celebration too?
They hold the potential of future forests, armouring the seeds within. Their thorns are but tiny prickles, slight yet unconcealed on scale tips, just for protection against those who would crush it in their hands.  Their shape has its own elegant symmetry and arrangement of scales the Fibonacci sequence, as roses do.  But unlike roses their shape has the strength of wood, and designed to not only withstand but respond to the elements.  They open when dry and close when wet, and will continue their function long after their seeds are dispersed, to diligently execute their duty and purpose.  They're resilient, still trying to open and close after being broken and disfigured by cars driving over them, they skitter off into the gutter.  They're tough, for as long as they can be.
They're beautiful in their own way.  Just different.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Farewell my friend.

September has been difficult for me.  I lost my friend.
I should clarify, he's not dead - which after a tumultuous and emotional spring/summer I am relieved and will gratefully cling to any scrap of good news about him.  He's simply moved on elsewhere.  His last email a "farewell" I took to mean 'I'm leaving town but we'll keep in touch as we have in the past'.  I was slow to realise it meant 'I'm severing all communications so I have closure for a fresh start'.  That was my August, and September has been... resignation.  I must surrender.
He's killed me off.  Whether I agree or protest, it was his choice I'm left to deal with now.  If one of us had to perish I'm glad it would be me, because I am strong enough to take it.  It hurts for now, but have faith it'll heal with time.  It's still lovely sunny in Vancouver now, but I carry in me the grey of winter.  Both grey and winter are beautiful in their own way.
I've been wringing and ironing out words; foolish words, maudlin words for the month.  These were those that made it to this blog post, once finally mustering the motivation to write.  How can one's head swarm yet remain so dull?
I know he had a miserable five months here, fraught with homelessness, frustration, disappointment and exhaustion despite my best efforts.  Perhaps it's simply my turn to be miserable in his absence.  I surely can grant him five months, wouldn't that be fair? I always strive to be fair in my interactions, as imbalance leads to resentment.  Perhaps it is a language he can understand better than my demonstration of best intentions: is that of sacrifice.  One he won't even be present to witness.
I've heard that he has moved on, both in settlement and mindset, and is not only surviving but thriving well in his new environment.  They say he is happy now, which is what I would've wanted for him.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Tall ships, and Cape Breton.

I was in Nova Scotia for half of August.  The weather was clear and sunny, mostly (except when it wasn't), and I wasn't as adamant about eating seafood every meal as I had been on my first trip there.  The more I discover in Nova Scotia (especially food) the more it is to cram into a two week visit.  I missed my Halifax-style donair, and McDonald's wasn't serving their McLobsters anymore - blame demand from foreign markets to drive up the cost of lobsters here.  Unless meals were planned and often coordinated to involve more than four people, meals (or snacks) were really a matter of time convenience and available options.  Despite being cheap and consistent, I think I've had my fill of Timmy Ho's for the foreseeable future.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Galiano again, and Saturna

A week on the tail end of spring, to return to the islands.  I pick Saturna! I realise that getting two buses from downtown that connect to Tsawwassen ferries that go directly to Saturna just don't want to match up, even if I were willing to be up at 4am.  I'm eager to get this show on the road, so I'll pick Galiano as the gateway to the southern Gulf islands and get a transferring ferry from there.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Back to the Caribou

May long weekend found me back to the Caribou Chilcotin, visiting the same family I had seen a few years ago here.  Their licky puppy is still licky despite being older and more sensible, and is now joined by a large chocolate lab who enthusiastically (and loudly) bounces off floors, walls, and people.  I saw no caribou.  Either I went to where the sun was or the sun finally caught up with the season, but I welcomed the reprieve from rain and could finally ride in a convertible with the top down without bundling my head in a scarf like a Russian babushka!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Gone to Galiano

I had a week to not be accountable to anyone for my whereabouts and activities.  I'm blessed with friends that invite me out with them and are a pleasure to do something - or nothing - with, but could do with a little alone-time.  And itching to be camping in the woods since January, but this has been a dreary wet spring slow to start.  Apparently I'm still pushing the 'camping season' as I was about to be rained on plenty...
Anyway Vancouver is next to one of the most beautiful archipelagos in the world, many islands easily accessible by ferry, so eeny-meany-miney-mo I choose Galiano! Not sure what I expected to find aside from the ferry terminal, marina, and a pub.  Let's explore shall we?

Day 1 - I caught the ferry from Tsawwassen around 6-ish after an early dinner.  Excitement started to kick in after I purchased my $20 foot passenger ticket - money spent means it's more concrete action than a dreamy plan - and I shot through the maze of corridors to the waiting room, which had a nice view of the west where I'd be heading.  Sunset this day would be no colors at all, just shades of deepening grey and an elusive sun that refracted off layers of cloud deceptively till its final bow.  The clouds were not foreboding or worrisome, just muted and serene.  I was awake and gladly undisturbed for the duration of the crossing.
The ferry docked at Sturdies Bay around 8-ish, and I had some daylight left to hunt for a few geocaches.  A friendly guy on motorized scooter greeted me on the road from the ferry and asked if I had any questions or needed a map, and I didn't think to inquire about bears on the island.
When I lost the light I still had my wee flashlight, that I was skulking around Bellhouse Park with. The ferries were a wall of not-to-distant lights against dark sky, water, and trees, rumbled through the pass with a droning horn I suppose the locals would be used to, like living next to a train or airport. The frogs started seemingly precisely at 10pm, and I headed north, my plan to get north quickly and take my time wandering back south for the ferry back.
I walked till I was tired and felt like stopping, and found a patch of moss in the forest close to the trail along the road but still discrete.  Still concerned about bears I tied my food in a bag up a tree, admittedly nowhere near high or far enough away from my tent but better than nothing.  A crash descending a tree watched me with two yellow eyes.  I talked to it, not yelling as to not disturb the residents, but apparently I'm not menacing enough.  "Shoo! You should be scared of me!".  The faceless yellow eyes just bobbed, unsure whether this was an invitation or a genuine concern.  It decided to move away slowly down the trail, looking back as if to say I know where you live...
The moss was cushioning but the concealed many lumps of logs or stumps that I contorted my body around to sleep.  I didn't sleep so much as just rest, lying down with my pack off my back and a roof over my head, sometimes that's enough.  No animal disturbed my hanging food, but thinking that they might kept me awake anyway, listening.  Sometime in the night it started to rain, and my breath made condensation inside so I further contorted myself around puddles.
I moved when it was light enough, around 6am.

Day 2 - Proceeding north along the main road with a jumbo chocolate cookie for breakfast.  I saw some deer, little traffic and no people.  Splitting from the main road I followed the finger side roads over the central ridge and back past small houses buried in the woods, for no other reason than the see the land in detail and there were geocaches at the ends of beach trails.  Note there is no connected stretch of shoreline walk, it's all fragmented and blocked by private property.  One of the locals picked me up hitching but didn't take me far as our directions diverged; a construction guy with a side business of selling firewood.  Big truck with makeshift pop bottle ashtray.
As the afternoon progressed it rained again, having never really stopped from the night.  The quest of another cache found me off the trail "it's only 100ft that way..." in what seemed like an hour of bushwhacking wet foliage, muddy embankments and logs to scramble over with a full backpack, picking my way through 5ft at a time. Then came the usual mental fight of Why-do-I-do-this-to-myself?? (which rears its ugly head at least once per trip), which is easier to reflect on in hindsight once dry and comfortable than in the thick of it.  I would rather the challenge that I choose than the challenge thrust upon me.  Physical adversity is just another obstacle to mentally rise above.  I could just walk away from it if I wanted to, but my focus is stubborn till I decide otherwise.
Then I found the geocache, maybe 10 ft from the dirt road I'd been on.  The road had curved back away from where I'd seen it heading when I left it, and I would've walked easily to it had I only stayed on the path.  I think there's some philosophy in there somewhere.
At this point I'm thoroughly soaked and tired but I keep walking, because I still have daylight and what else would I do? Along a street with no cars I found a single feather, huge, clean and straight like a blade.  Seemed deliberately placed in front of me, so I took it as a gift from whomever bird and it brightened my mood.  Some spirit noticed I am here, and is watching over me.  I decided it would be a gift for someone else I know later.
Back on the main road up the spine of the island I caught a lift with a woman in a cluttered car.  Strange I hadn't seen too many locals, as if they leave on the morning ferry or stay shut up in their homes, but the ones I found were friendly and eager to help.  This one refilled my water bottles and whisked me up the length of the island speedily, insisting it was not far out of the way, to as far as she could drive before encountering a gate and less-used road - the land route for the Dionisio Point Provincial Park, typically only accessed by water.
The walk along this road was a quiet one, I felt like being quiet as if I was trespassing or sneaking in.  Having not fully researched the park I wasn't even sure if the park was open for season yet or if staff would turn me away, or what I would find when I got there (aside from two geocaches).  I am a very conscientious hobo and leave little footprint that I was there at all.
The park was vacant even of camp hosts, I was the only one there.  That was great in a way I had my solitude in nature that I always sought as a kid and I miss by living in the city.   Less great in that if I run into any trouble (ie. bears) there'd be no one to call for help, even my phone didn't work here.  I never had such concerns when I was a kid.  Why must worry dampen all the "freedom" of being an adult, now that I'm free to go explore far away?! My brain grows weary of constantly calculating the what ifs and formulating a backup plan, but it keeps me alive and alert to options.  Such practice can be beneficial to a team, if anyone listens to such considerations, though I admit it makes me a party-pooper.  If I decide to do nothing at all it's because I've decided it's just not worth the mental exhaustion of weighing all options, indeed they can feel quite weighty at times.
Maybe I'm just tired.  Tired of rain and of thinking.
It wasn't raining when I arrived at the campsites late afternoon, just grey with a peek of sun.  I had my full choice of campsites and set up my still-damp tent to dry out, the door to catch the narrow sliver of sunshine between trees.  I went to explore what looked like an island on my map but was easily accessed by a sandy spit.  A geocache accompanied by at least four types of spider, and then a sense of relief and accomplishment.  I made it here!
Evening into night, and no fire pit for a warming/cooking fire.  I made a mediocre meal of pasta in beef broth, and made chamomile tea which was far more satisfying.  A general tonic and relaxant, personally quite and effective sleep aid.  I could do with some sleep.  I'd found a rain-soaked tealight in a geocache earlier and lit that in my empty pot which both amplified the light and reduced the risk of accidentally knocking it over and catching my tent on fire.
And I was grateful for that little flame.  Thank you for being with me, tiny flame.

Day 3 - Being damp and stiffly cold is good motivation to get moving again.  This is a nice park, clean and quiet.  I suppose I could've lingered longer here another day, but this isn't childhood camping where parents trucked in inflatable dinghies and a cooler of real food that isn't granola bars - I suppose it would be easier and convenient, but is it rewarding or stimulating? Where's the challenge? I may as well stay home.  Maybe that's why people pay for all-inclusive resorts, which I'm not against but think it might be a bit dull.  Doing nothing until something prompts you to leave paradise.   This is a natural paradise, and feels neither welcoming nor spurning, just ancient energy from the native ruins and damp forest of big beautiful trees.  They don't care whether I'm here or not.
Refill water bottles and head out on the road I came in, soon to split off west along a dubiously 'private'-but-not-really dirt road, past marshy land with frogs and plentiful stinging nettles.  Galiano has plenty of nettles and appreciates them enough to have a Nettlefest in the spring.  I am adept at plucking leaves from stalks without being stung, and was glad for finally some vegetable nutrition! The road lead to a trailhead for hikers, and from there an easy link to the main road spine of the island.  Someone stopped to give me a lift to the north end - could've been a doppleganger of the other fellow, same haircut, large truck and makeshift ashtray - and from there I head south, geocaching along the way.  My mind seemed more at ease, and I ruminated on why; that it was daylight, and not raining, or that I'm heading to a place I've been to before with a pub or cafe to sit and dry out? Do I want/need having people around, or is it a fear of risk and a precarious lifestyle without them? I've never really fit categorically into the introvert/extrovert labels.  Perhaps as there is a disconnect between being literally alone, and feeling alone.
The afternoon progressed steadily with nice places along the way; Lover's Leap, Retreat Cove (though some moored boater played his rap music loud enough to bounce off the natural acoustics - eww no thanks!), and my favourite was Pebble Beach.  I'm a sucker for pretty rocks, my shelves holding glasses or loose clusters from places I recall years later.  I can easily spend a day creeping barely any distance, stooped like a heron to find a pretty rock as my pockets get increasingly heavier.  So many pretty rocks here!
I walked to Montague Harbour; there's campsite facilities and nice white sands so I've heard, but by the time I arrived it was too dark to cache anymore and I wan't inclined to camp if I had another option.  Despite having a marina there was no pub nearby *gasp!*, but a shuttle would take one to the Hummingbird Pub.  I think I missed the bus but cheerful people in a crowded jeep gave me a lift on their way back to their friends' house.