That time of year…stock taking

“Well, all in all, we did good.  NOT great.  But, after a very slow start and an even slower mid-term, we managed to drag our sorry butts over the finish line before being disqualified.  Good on ya.”

“What the hell are you going on about?”

“You know I like to get projects done and, of course, every year I have a list – usually just a few things added to the unfinished list from last year. So, this year was quite long and extensive.  I had projects up the yin yang.  Still do.  Big year next year!  So, I was taking stock to see where the bottleneck was and I am pleased to be able to report that it was not you.  You did good.”

“So?  Where was the bottleneck?”

“You’re lookin’ at ‘im.”

“Oh, sweetie.  Don’t be so hard on yourself. You were OK.  NOT a dynamo but OK….mostly…..I am not complaining except for…oh, never mind, I think you did good, too.  ‘Cept for all the naps, I guess.”

“I did a lot more dishes, vacuuming and cooking this year, too.  And there were Woofers and guests.  And fish frys.  Plus there was all that community volunteering – that is very draining work.  But I didn’t really get any of my big projects done.  OK, we rebuilt a deck, rebuilt the lower stairs, fixed the sea-stairs and did some minor boat projects.  And we got in the wood.  We re-arranged all the batteries.  Fixed the funicular.  Put in the new gas tank.  Fixed the water pump.  Re-did the stove.  And you must have done the creek-pick-up water line five times at least!”

“We also fixed the marine ways and built a magnificent boat cradle.  Plus you fixed a couple engines.  And we helped out our neighbour some.” 

“I know.  But do you see what I am seeing?”

“Never do.”

“We’re slowing down.  Butts-a-draggin’.  I mean, this year was a real go-slow year.  This year was mostly working just to stay-in-place.  The empire did not expand one iota this year.”

“You concerned?”

“Not overly.  A little.  Lots still to do, tho.  Gotta plan better for next year.  Gotta ‘rope in’ some volunteers……more Woofers at the very least.  Maybe cut back a bit on the quilting…..?”

“I think you just lost half your workforce, buddy-boy!”

“Well, no workers to supervise just means more naps.  Let’s hope next year our labour relations are better.”

 

 

Beginning of my redundancy……

We heat with wood.  To do that requires more work and maintenance than most modern people do, but it is, for the most part, good exercise, not long-in-the-doing and, strangely, interesting in a zen-kinda way.  And always different.  Of course we add to the fun by wrangling logs found at sea and hauling them up a small cliff just to get started in the process.  Heating with wood is a long story and today we just added a new chapter.

As regular readers know, we have had the wood stove for over a decade and we like it a lot.  Pacific Energy.  It’s just the right size.  But burning salt-water wood ‘eats’ the stove from the inside out and so we recently took the whole thing apart and had it rebuilt.  Made a bit more skookum this time.  I told the stove guy: “I’d like it to see me out.” 

“How long you plan on livin’?”

It’s a heavy sucker and it required dismantling, removal, down the hill.  Onto the boat.  Off the boat.  Into the truck and then, a day later, delivered to the master stove builder who resides down island.  And, of course, all that in reverse.  A week later, we were $800 lighter but the stove was a little heavier.  Plus we added two new lengths of pipe.  AAaaannnnnnd ……thennnnnnn, we put it all together and waited for the first cold day.  That was about a week ago….or so…

The stove was better.  It was NOT THAT MUCH better but we had gone for maintenance and longevity, NOT high performance, so being better was good.  Still…….it was really, REALLY not better-better and we kinda thought it should have been.

Then, a few days in, the smoke started.  That was a bit unnerving.  Smoke poured forth from the chimney pipe seams.  THAT was weird.  Weird because part of the restoring process included taking down the entire chimney and cleaning it out completely.  It was pristine when we put it back up.

Mind you, the through-the-roof part is a fixed-in-place unit that I can only service by pushing a bristly chimney sweep brush through without being able to see inside but I have been doing that for years and it has always resulted in ‘clean’.

A day or so later, Sal had thought about it.  “I think I have to go on the roof.”

“Sounds like a plan. What for?”

“The chimney.  I’ve been thinking, I think the chimney cap is blocked.”

“I cleaned it.  I half-filled a plastic bag with soot.  I am pretty sure it’s clean.”

“I am pretty sure it’s not.”

So, I threw a rope over the whole house and secured it.  Then we got a bucket of tools and cleaning apparatus and hauled it up to the peak.  And then Sal climbed up onto the sleek, metal roof and headed up to the chimney top.  When she is up there, she is 28 feet from the rocks below.  Mind you, if she slipped, she would likely slide to the lower, gutter level and then just flip off the edge and fall only twenty feet.  But rocks are almost as hard at 20 feet as 30 and so we try to avoid that.

She removed the chimney top and discovered a 6 inch crusty build-up that had been just a few inches above the reach of the bristly brush and had slowly built up over the years.  By the time Sal discovered it, it was almost closed.  Imagine: a large soot-bagel (6″ in diameter) stuck at the very top and just a small bagel-hole opening for smoke.  She was right!

Sal cleaned it all out, then came down and cleaned all the gutters and then we went back inside to test the stove.  It worked and ‘drew’ like a model stove at a home show.  It is perfect again.

But the main point of the story is, of course, Sal.  My wife is 66.  She’s fit, flexible and fearless.  Plus she does yoga.  She went up that roof like she was 17.   More to the point, she was ‘thinking chimney’.  I know that sounds crazy but, typically, that kind of thought process is ‘Dave’s stuff’.  Sal thinks about all sorts of things, of course, but systems, physics, how-things-work and repairing and building challenges are usually left to me to figure out.  But when I drew a blank she ‘got on the case’ and re-examined the whole thing in her head and came to the proper conclusion – one that I might never get to since I was 99.99% sure it was all clean.

Nor did she hesitate.  “I have to go up on the roof.”

Why make such a big deal of this?  1. We recently had occasion to visit an old person’s institution, a rest home, a seniors living kinda thing.  When we were there, I asked how old the people were who lived there.  “Our youngest is in her late 50’s and our oldest turns 100 soon but the average is about 70 to 75.”

“Why would a person in their 50’s live here?”

“They feel old, I guess.  And some people are old especially by their late 60’s.”

“I’m 70.  My wife is 66.  I don’t see this for me or her for at least another 70 years!”

“Neither of you look that old!”  

So Sal, it seems, is doing pretty damn good.  This life is doing us both good.  But there is a second reason to tell the story.  Out here, you do for yourself.  There are no services.  There are few people to hire and little money to throw around.  Plus, few people can know what we know about our self-built house and it would probably take five times longer to explain and prepare them than it does to just do the damn job in the first place.  And I have the extra goal of having Sal as able as anyone to do anything as it may arise.  I want Sal to be as capable as she can be.

Somebody has to see me out.

She has proven more capable than me several times but I was always needed for – at the very least – problem solving, initiative and supervision.  I generally knew more about the problem and the solution needed even if I couldn’t get into the space or crevice to actually do it.  NOT this time.  This time Sal had it all covered.  From the get-go.  Problem solving, planning the attack, choosing her tools, implementing the plan and doing it right.  Being right.  Being able.  I was just the go-fer.

And I made the tea afterwards.

Money, eh?

Annual Fish Fry Saturday night.  Medium size gathering.  Nine.  Plus a dog.  It had been raining that day.  All but two close neighbours came by boat.  Started at 4:30 due to possibly eroding maritime conditions later.  Ended at 8:30.  When everyone left it was black-as-pitch and, as each togged up in wet gear, checking flashlights and looking into the night, they were also checking their phones and the GPS Navionics program to make sure they could safely ‘see’ their way home.

We help a bit.  Our house is visible for awhile so we turn on all the lights so that they can have a visual bearing as they leave.

When rural folks travel for dinner, they carry.  Usually it is just a bag or two.  Sometimes a tote is added.  Pot luck dinners require the tote for the two pies or the huge salad not to mention the bottles of wine, ice cream, fresh-picked berries and, at this time of year, a cauliflower sized chunk o’ mushroom.  They came bearing weight.  They left with so much dinner packed in, it was likely the same weight leaving.

Prawns, scallops, tuna medallions, huge cod, seafood chowder, three salads, bread, the best scalloped potatoes (sounded fishy) and carrot cake and two pies.

Did I mention wine…..

It was a great evening.  Lots of fun.  Lots of laughs.  Everyone had a good time.  Even Sadie (dog) was happy.  But one thing stood out for me.  Not because of it’s uniqueness but rather for it’s ubiquity.  Once again….like almost every time we gather and socialize…someone makes reference to ‘how great this life is’.  The conversation goes on and on about this being ‘heaven’ on earth and how it doesn’t get any better and words like paradise and perfect and ‘never gonna leave’ flow like wine.  It is all so nice.  So nice.

And so true.

Median age: probably 65.  Three in their 50’s the rest 65 plus.  At least four over 70.  Sadie is 3.  But more to the point, they are all happy.  NOT giggly happy (altho the wine does seem to have an effect) but rather content, satisfied, comfortable, and pleased with their lot in life.  These people are ANYTHING BUT comfortable by urban standards but they are totally comfortable with their physical and financial level of forest-dwelling comfort.

That kinda says something about money, don’t you think?  As an aside during our ‘happy circumstance’ discussion, I asked, “By the way, just out of curiosity, how many of you are carrying money or your wallet?”  Answer:  NO ONE.  

Find a comfortable, rich, mansion-dwelling 65 year old in West Vancouver or Shaughnessy and I don’t think they are in the least one bit happier than was our collective group Saturday night.

That’s pretty cool.

Preparations Paranoid and Preposterous…? Or just feeling a bit peckish?

Trump cut taxes to US corporations.  Trump increased military spending.  Trump ‘irritates’ his allies (Nato, Canada, UK, Germany, etc.) and Trump ‘rips up’ agreements with all and sundry from trade pacts to climate change, from foreign aid to now the nuclear arms deal with Russia.  Plus he opened up resource exploitation and eviscerated environmental protection.  And the US is all-the-while stockpiling oil.  Throw in a little saber-rattling, insults and open aggression (against China, Iran, journalists, Mexicans, immigrants, Muslims, free-speech, truth-telling, etc) and waddya got…?

War preparations?

There is some prominent Republican, rich, connected, GOP woman in California that has been part of the ‘elite’ for some considerable time. NOT this time.  “I am voting Democrat this time.  Trump is preparing for war and my son is of age to be drafted.”  She had no trouble with all the other tyrannical acts that Trump has been playing at until it threatened her own family.  Couldn’t have cared less about immigrants and families being separated and all that…..but, of course, her son is special.  She’s changing her vote.  Trump went too far for this GOP gal.

She may be on to something……

And that, it seems, is how it works for most folks.  It has to hit close to home.  “So, how does that effect me?”  “How does that impact on my wallet?”  Until it gets personal, most people don’t care too much about politics.  Too boring.

There is a historical perspective that cites that people will not revolt until they are hungry.  Hunger is their last ‘straw’.  Family members are disappeared, people are jailed and beaten, taxes and fines are unjustly levied, neighbourhoods are razed, corruption runs rampant, police brutality goes on the increase, the rich get richer and on and on it goes ad infinitum but no one acts until they are actually, physically hungry.

…..like dogs and rats, actually.    

And yet we can see it all play out until that very moment when our stomach growls.  We can see it coming from a long ways off.  But we choose NOT to see until then.  The Jews did not see either until November 9, 1938 and the Night of Broken Glass.  But the evidence had been piling up for years before that.  They saw it all clearly but much too late.

“Dave, you are paranoid. Trump is not preparing for war!”

I do not know that I am being paranoid.  Maybe.  Probably.  I tend to see every Ebola outbreak as the next ‘beginning of the end’.  I have that tendency.  On the other hand, what have we actually seen these past two years?  Really seen?  A clown prince acting the fool, a bigot ranting.  A racist, misogynist, tax-evader crook that fake ‘battles’ with mainstream media.  MAGA rallies riling the deplorables and lots of golf.  It’s all like WWF – fake wrestling.  A show.

What have we actually seen?

Mueller has not yet revealed……

Most topics are dropped after a week or so……

What have we actually seen to be fact…?  Well, tax cuts for the rich and corporate.  Increased military spending…etc…(see first paragraph)…..a weakening of ‘the West’ but a strengthening of the US…….that is what we have seen.  We’ve seen support for strong-man dictators but antipathy for democratic allies and we’ve seen a virtual sundering of institutions.  We have seen many of the first steps to tyranny.

Put more bluntly: we are actually seeing tyranny.

But, it is Sunday and I have been spending more time thinking these past few days than is likely good for me or any hapless reader who takes me too seriously.  And, I am getting a bit peckish….

OTG revisited…..?

It kinda feels that way…..’visiting’……we’ve spent so much time in the city these past few weeks that it kinda feels like we have just come to the cabin for a holiday weekend.  In fact, we are just NOW really, really home.  God it feels good! 

Travels and travails took us to Vancouver and then to Victoria.  Then down to Victoria again.  It’s all some kind of crazy down there but that is not news.  In fact, it is all kinds of crazy everywhere.   And, sadly, that is not news either.

Even THIS is not news: we figured (and we kept it to a minimum) that we spent in excess of three wasted hours a day driving in traffic, parking, lining up, standing at check-outs and generally doing nothing constructive whatsoever on average per every day we were away while in the city.

THAT’S 20+ wasted hours a week!!!

Some days were even more stupid.  (OK, shopping and restaurants are somewhat constructive but barely.  Sustaining is the word.  NOT constructive.)  Put another way: too much of my diminishing energy is spent complying with rules and systems designed by others for the benefit of others and that I pay too much for when I am there.  Plus I just plain hate it.

My son recently added about 400 square feet to his house with an addition that had him jump through more hoops than a slinky and some so crazy I can’t imagine him handling it.  I’d have gone nuts.  Did you know that Victoria has an ‘inspector’ for drywall? 

Yesterday, in a hurry of course, I did the ‘shopping’ at one store in just under 11 minutes and that included putting all the crap on the conveyor belt.  I waited 15 more minutes to get through the cashier process.  I was apoplectic.

“And how are you today, sir?”

“Impatient.  Angry and getting angrier by the moment.  I am experiencing homicidal feelings towards people who can’t seem to pay and move along.  I am especially frustrated by women who do not get their wallet out of their purse to get their air-miles cards and credit cards – which they can’t seem to make work anyway – and don’t even start that hunt-and-search method until the bill is already wrung up.  Do you think that I am being sexist?”, I growled.

“No, sir.  I’ve been working here five years and it drives me crazy, too!”  And that made me feel a bit better.  And then she rang through my stuff in record time.  There may have been some fear in the air…… I was still angry as I left.   That is no way to live.

“Dave, stop complaining!”

OK.  I’ll stop after this, but I am NOT complaining, not really.  I am COMPARING.  I am 70.  My day has only so much energy available for me to do stuff.  Let’s pretend it’s 8 hours.  It is NOT REALLY eight hours, it’s more like four because the last four are so much slower paced and include wine-drinking and dinner-making.  Productivity trails off pretty rapidly.  But, in the city that theoretical eight hours is either reduced to five or three extra-frustrating hours are added to it by city-time (driving, parking, lining up, etc.)!

That’s a huge Gross Domestic Productivity kick in the cajones.

Anyway, I am back now.  I am happy.  I vented.  I may even vent a bit more some time in another blog.  Old men do that, it seems.  But I am happy.  The fire is roaring, the sea is beautiful, the air is clean and it is cathedral-quiet except for the Ravens giving us orders to fill.  Sal and I can get back at it – whatever we are at in any given moment – and enjoy ourselves again.  God, it is good to be home!

Thank God I saw a bear….

…in the back yard of my in-laws, no less.  Practically ‘downtown’ Victoria.  It was a plump, medium sized black bear and he/she was just passing through from one yard to the next.  Good to see ‘im.  Sal and I have lived off the grid now for just about 15 years…..on a remote unserviced island up the coast….way, way, WAY out there…never once saw a bear.

It’s more of that rural exodus thing, if you ask me. Like coyotes at the golf course, raccoons in the backyard pool and eagles at the dump. Everyone wants a condo these days.

Oh, well….

There are other things to worry about, other things to be happy about, other things….

Right now, naturally, we are wondering about life, death, getting old, doing things, NOT doing things….it’s a pensive time for us – for the family.  We’ve had a loss.

If there is anything constant in the universe when something big happens to shake you up, it’s quilting.  There is always quilting, it seems.  It’s our ‘rock’, our foundation.  It gives us a point of reference from which to see the world.  For Sal it is a centering, calming thing.  For me, quilting is the opposite, the sheer madness of it all.  Randomness.  Illogical.  So, quilting is the yin for Sal, the yang for me.  It proves unequivocally that we both see the universe through different lenses, eyeballs and grey matter.  At least one of us has some grey matter.  One of us is a whack-job.  Sal says it’s me.

She could be right.

I hear the climate guys are ratcheting up the alarms.  Seems we’re all gonna die.  Soon. Climate change is gonna get us.  They are now even saying that recent weather events are harbingers of things soon to come.  Not long ago they would say, “Well, it’s weird weather.  I’ll give you that.  But you can’t call it climate change – not on any one event, you can’t.  No single event is climate change.” 

Not anymore……

NOW IT’S CLIMATE CHANGE!!  NOW WE ARE GONNA DIE!!”

And, in the meantime, Trump wants more oil (we have pumped more oil in the last year than in any previous year in history).  Trudeau, the environmental hypocrite extraordinaire, is pushing for the TransMountain pipeline and, of course, all the deplorables want more coal to be mined.  So do the Chinese.  And so it goes.  Madness.  Plain and simple.

But I am likely the whacko.

Brett Kavanaugh, on the other hand, got appointed to the Supreme Court.

Still, I am likely the whacko.

Here’s a thought that might not yet have crossed your mind……we have enough.  That’s right, ‘we have enough’.  In fact, we have so much of enough stuff that we leave working stuff on curbs for free take-away.  There’s a small subculture of people who make a living recycling, re-purposing, refurbishing and re-selling all the ‘stuff’ people have thrown out.  They sell that stuff to people who still want more stuff.  Some people want so much stuff, they eventually become classified as hoarders.  They pack-rat themselves up tight with stuff til they can’t move.  Then, maybe, the local government carts all the crap away and the hoarder starts all over again.  And, during that process, the re-purposers and re-sellers swoop in and recycle some of that hoarder’s stuff so they can sell it to other hoarder wannabees.

The new thought on this is: this phenomena is not a minor, eccentric thing anymore.  It is not just a few people with a junk shop anymore.  This is a full-on thing complete with travel routes, selling schedules, evaluation printouts and it includes ‘all the old familiar faces’. EVERY WEEK!  Two maybe three times a week!  On a good summer day, the subculture ‘hunts’ for three days and then cleans, glues and ‘merchandises’ their stuff for the next weekend.  Doesn’t that kind of say ‘having enough’ is NOT the problem…maybe distribution or sharing is…?

Forgive me.  Seems I am a whacko.

Well, partly, anyway.  As you can see, I am now just topic-wandering…ruminating, reflecting, wondering where it is all headed.  Loss of a family member does that, I guess.  The real message here? How am I spending my time, limited as it is?  Mind you, it’s all a wonder, really.  Harder to understand all the time.  I think that’s why the bear was such a treat to see.  A bear snuffling through the back garden makes sense to me.  The rest…? Not so much.

 

 

 

 

October 6, 2018.

My father-in-law died yesterday.  Peter was 94.  He went as he lived – active until the final moment.  No ‘old age nonsense‘ for him.

Peter was a physical marvel.  He just stopped single-handedly sailing his own sailboat up to see us a few years ago.  Just gave up badminton two years ago.  Gave up driving a year ago.  His life ended officially on a nice sunny morning at the mid point of a short walk to get the morning paper.  I am not so sure that it gets much better than that.  No lingering.  No suffering.  No pain.  It was how he would have wanted it.

People die.  So I won’t write a long blog about it…. there’s nothing new there, nothing profound.  We come and we go. If there is anything profound it is felt by the next generation and, to some extent, on the one behind them.  We all just moved up a place in the process.

So be it.

I called a few people we mutually knew but that was a short list.  Virtually all of Peter’s friends had predeceased him and his wife.  But R is still with us, thank God.  They had gazillions of friends but none with the really-long-lives gene.  At the end, it is the younger family and a few next-generation friends as a rule.  For many, not even that.  I am not so sure there are any of their contemporaries left.

Seems wishing someone a long life and prosperity might also be wishing them isolation and loneliness.  Neither P nor R are or were isolated or lonely really…they have the family.  And great neighbours.  But getting on into the nineties limits one’s travels, socializing and, actuarially-speaking, most of your Christmas card list.  Life becomes smaller, more private, as you age, I guess.  You come into the world small and alone and so – I guess – you leave that way as well.

Sally and I lucked out in an odd way……we went to Vancouver to ‘do some good work’ for some friends who, it seems, didn’t really need that much help at all.  We kinda wondered if we had wasted our time.  But our trip down took us by way of Victoria and our grandchild, Leo, and, of course, we stay with R&P when down island.  They like the extra visit and an ‘unexpected’ one was appreciated.  We just recently spent two unplanned days with Peter.

The timing was good in that sense.

My relationship with Peter was good.  We met when I rode up to their family home late one night (10:00 pm) on my 650 BSA motorcycle almost 50 year ago.  I had come over from Vancouver after work one weekend to see Sally and, with the ferry and all, showed up on the ‘edge of late’ by my watch.  It was way past the edge and well in to the unacceptable time zone by Peter’s.   He yelled through an open window: “Go away!  Come back tomorrow.  Good NIGHT!” 

But it was all uphill from there although I acknowledge a slight dip in the polls when Sal left home two years later to come live with me.  She was just 19 even then.  But, by the time the two of our kids were adults, I am pretty sure Peter and I were on an OK footing.  He was a British seaman, after all.  Had his captain’s papers.  I was barely an able seaman my whole life and rank has it’s privileges.

Still, I will miss him.