Get in Line

The commercial salmon troller (not to be mistaken for a trawler) is shown here in early June, all tiddled up, ready to leave for the summer fishing season in the Queen Charlotte Islands (now called Haida Gwaii). But now that the season has ended, the boat is a bit tired and ready for some TLC. Like every summer, it has taken a beating, pounding into the waves in bad weather. Rigging, fishing lines, gear,  equipment, and even other boats have rubbed on its hull.

The question friends and acquaintances most often ask after it’s all over, is “How was your season?”

The main thing is to survive the elements, stay safe from the many hazards that can befall a fisherman. Beyond that, it’s a case of trying to be in the right place at the right time and hook some salmon that happen to be swimming by.

Commercial fishermen work hard to supply us with fish to eat. Turns out though, that we humans have to get in line. No, I don’t mean the line in the grocery store. I mean get in line behind the more aggressive predators. Here’s how it comes to be that way.

This year, the Captain tells me, it has been an exercise in frustration. Yes, there were good days, but there were extra obstacles besides the ongoing bad weather. The blue shark below is one example. Often they are quick to take advantage of the salmon’s inability to escape the hook. This one was unlucky and bit the lure himself.

Sometimes the Captain might hook a salmon and before he can get it into the boat, a shark has helped himself to a meal.  Here is what’s left of the fish after the shark has taken a bite. I’ve blurred out the deckhand’s face for the sake of his anonymity.

And then there are the pyrosomes, a new phenomenon in northern waters this year. They are not really a jellyfish although they could easily be mistaken for them. They are really small creatures (zooids)  held together in a colony by a gelatinous substance. If they break apart, they just multiply and grow again. Soon we could be overrun … er .. overswum?? with them.

The deckhand holds the hoochie (a lure meant to simulate a squid), which has the hook hidden inside its rubbery, synthetic tentacles. Some pyrosomes are snagged on the steel cable and slide down to where the monfilament line is attached, while others are snagged on the monofilament line itself and slide down to the flasher or the hoochie beyond it.   A hook that is covered with pyrosomes won’t attract a fish, so the lines have to be cleaned off constantly.And then we have the same old deadly predators, the sea lions, who often follow a boat, lazily waiting for a salmon to be caught so they can snatch it off the line for their own easy meal.

With a lot of stress and frustration, the fisherman does his best to catch enough fish to sell to the buyers who will supply the stores to feed humans. Looks like we have  to get in line behind these more aggressive feeders and take what they leave us.

Town Deer

The smoke from the wildfires in the BC interior is still thick in the air way down here on Vancouver Island. I keep trying to get the redness of the sun to show but it doesn’t come out in the finished photo. I must be doing something wrong or maybe I need a filter to get the red colour to show. I tried taking a picture of a red geranium and it was bright red, but the sun? No dice.

That smoky day, I was driving along in downtown Comox and noticed a doe and her fawn at the edge of the golf course parking lot. I’m always a sucker for baby animals so I took this picture of the deer. I had mixed feelings about them being in town. It’s a modern day phenomenon that many deer now live in town, but they do have a hard time avoiding dogs, finding food, avoiding traffic, and even avoiding people who might do them harm (yes, they are out there too).

I didn’t notice until I uploaded this photo that the doe has a lump in front of her shoulder. It could be an injury from a pellet gun, or she may have been poked by a branch.  Any number of other mishaps may have befallen her. I think it will heal eventually, but in the meantime she will have to live with that discomfort.

Don’t stray too far, my little one,

I’m keeping watch for you.

Most people in this town are kind,

But some have mean streaks too.

 

Stay by my side and eat your greens,

They’re hard enough to find.

Most gardeners get annoyed with us,

But others do not mind.

 

Watch out for dogs who like to chase,

Be careful of the cars.

If neither of them injure us,

We’ll thank our lucky stars.

 

Look sweet and mild into the lens,

The lady sure can gawk.

But then she’ll put us on her blog, 

And folks will say we rock.

 

 

 

A Dog’s Breakfast

It is morning. Ruby is lying low while I get my coffee going.  I can almost hear her thinking, “See? I’m being good.”

Emma takes her cue from the older dog and lies low too. They both know there’s a good chance they’ll get a treat before breakfast, just so I won’t feel so guilty about eating mine before going to feed them.

The tiny Melmac dishes have been part of our household since they belonged to our cats 40 years ago. They are the dogs’ snack dishes now.

I usually crumble half a slice of bread into each dish, add a bit of whatever tasty morsel might be around – a sprinkle of parmesan, a tiny dash of half and half, whatever is handy – and add some warm water. I walk over to the hallway with Emma and Ruby right behind me. Without being told, they each sit in their usual spots, Emma to the right, Ruby to the left. I place the dishes on the floor and as always, Emma looks up at me while Ruby stares at her dish. When I say, “Okay,” they lap up the goodies.

Afterwards, like the good girls they are, they bring me the dishes to put in the sink.

Here is Ruby with her brown dish.

And here is Emma with her cream dish. (Her pictures are often  blurry because she is always in motion.)

Then, partially satisfied, they lie at my feet until I’ve had my coffee and toast, knowing that afterwards we’ll go downstairs and they’ll have a real “dog’s breakfast.”

“Manners matter,” Ruby says.

Emma says, “I’m cute.”

“That’s not enough,” the old dog warns.

“And you should follow suit.

 

Just lie down flat, and roll your eyes

To watch what’s going on.

Pretty soon we’ll get our snack

And breakfast won’t be long.

 

Sit there patiently and wait.

Never whine or jump.

If you do, we’ll miss our snack

So sit down on your rump.

 

When the mistress says, ‘Okay!’

We can begin to eat.

You’d better not start in too soon,

She doesn’t like a cheat.

 

“Oh yeah, but Ruby,” Emma says,

“You always watch your food.

I watch, adoringly, her face,

And capture her good mood.”

 

Where There’s Smoke….

They say where there’s smoke, there’s fire, but I’m learning that even where there’s no fire, there’s smoke.

The rising sun glowed red through the smoke haze that drifted in and settled over the lower mainland of British Columbia. Wildfires continue to burn  hundreds of miles away, in the BC interior, but the smoke has arrived in Vancouver and also across the water on Vancouver Island. I’ve heard reports of it spreading south past Seattle.

My usual view of the bay and the hills on the farther side is now screened with a smoky veil. I took some pictures of the Comox Glacier today and could barely see it.

First I’d like to show you  photos of the glacier taken quite a long time ago on a normal day, even with a few clouds. Now, below, are today’s photos, taken on a cloudless day, but with smoke drifting through the region from the wildfires.

 

“Where is the glacier?” you may well ask. If you look hard, you will see it there behind the smokescreen.

The air smells like a campfire minus the hot dogs and marshmallows. It’s hard to find a refreshing lungful of clean air. Eyes, nose, mouth, and throat are dry, dry, dry. Add to this the extreme heat and drought, and it is a miserable state of affairs.

Here is the view of the estuary. If it were winter, you might think it’s a normal misty winter day on the coast, but it’s the beginning of August. That sky should be blue, and so should the water. That haze is not mist, but smoke.

Summer is supposed to be a time for camping, tenting, swimming, fishing, barbecuing, and sitting around a campfire at night. The extreme fire hazard puts the idea of summer camping fun in a different light. The simple act of striking a match has the potential to destroy whole communities. Hundreds of little animals (and this year, even many large animals) have died trying in vain to escape the fires.

Please be careful when you are camping or even just out walking. If you are a smoker, please be mindful of what you do with your cigarette butts, or even the ashes that fall from the cigarette. The vegetation is tinder dry.

This past spring when it continued to be wet and cold, I wished for warm, dry weather and I remember saying that when it finally happens we’ll wish for rain. And here we are!

I am now wishing for rain.

Books from Way Back

“Ginny Gordon and the Lending Library” was one of the first books my older sister, Hanna, bought for me as a payment for babysitting for her. She was 13 years older than me and I was a very young babysitter, but this was in the 50s when very few houses had locks on their doors. There was no need for locks as crime was extremely rare. The worst thing that happened was that for a few nights someone went up our street and stole the milk money people had put in their empty milk bottles at the end of their walkway, ready for the milkman who delivered the milk in the morning.

I had no reason to worry about being left at my sister’s house without adult supervision, babysitting for her from age 9 until I was about 12. There were only two times that I got spooked, and both times were because of listening (before the days of TV) to scary radio shows. One was a story called The Monkey’s Paw, and another was The Maltese Falcon. I often listened to Richard Diamond detective stories on the radio in those days, as well. Scary stories, but I couldn’t make myself turn them off.

Already, I had a love of stories, so the books Hanna bought for me  were treasures. Each Friday night, when she and her husband went out grocery shopping and to a movie, I waited impatiently to see what the title of this week’s book would be. They were usually published by the Whitman Company of Wisconsin, and cost about 69  cents. After a while I had quite an extensive collection of Whitman books and I loved every one of them.

When you move 800 miles away, it’s necessary to leave some things behind. Books are heavy and take up space, so I was only able to take a few of my treasures with me. Now, decades later, one of my younger sisters mentioned that she had some old books in a box of “stuff” that she salvaged from our parents’ house before it was sold.

Last week she surprised me with this collection of books from my very early days.

Notice that there are two Annie Oakley books in the collection. No wonder we played Annie Oakley games at home. Here is the sister who saved my books, sitting in an old trunk, playing Annie Oakley.

Wasn’t it sweet of her to bring me those old treasures from my childhood days?

Lily

Did you know there are many varieties of lilies?  A friend brought this lily to my garden last year just before it was about to bloom. Somehow the conditions weren’t right for the bloom to last very long so I have been waiting anxiously for it to bloom again this year, so I could take its picture for posterity. The  long-hoped-for rain  arrived the day the lily tried to bloom. Would I be lucky enough to see the flowers this year? Not only did it bloom, but it graced my garden with three blossoms. I see that the first to bloom is already a little “rough around the edges” but the other two are still fresh. Notice the dark pollen on the stamens? Then please read the poem below the photo and tell me if this has ever happened to you.

Dainty lily blooms a while,

When she does it makes you smile.

But if you invade her space

Staring right into her face,

In her bloom your nose you poke,

Be prepared for Lily’s  joke.

Those who sniff her sometimes pay.

Pollen on their nose will stay.

Friends of Tom Sawyer

Where were they when I needed them? I had extra brushes ready too…. Turned out I had to  paint the deck railing and spindles all by myself.

But for next time, I’ll be better prepared. I’ve refreshed my memory on how to get help with painting by reading part of chapter two of Tom Sawyer, by Samuel Clemens aka Mark Twain. He published this in 1876 and I’m sure Tom’s method would still work today.

Here is a short excerpt (there is much more that is interesting in the rest of the chapter, but I had to make the cut somewhere):

“Hello, old chap, you got to work, hey?”

Tom wheeled suddenly and said:

“Why, it’s you, Ben! I warn’t noticing.”

“Say – I’m going in a-swimming, I am. Don’t you wish you could? But of course you’d druther work – wouldn’t you? Course you would!”

Tom contemplated the boy a bit, and said:

“What do you call work?”

“Why, ain’t that work?”

Tom resumed his whitewashing, and answered carelessly:

“Well, maybe it is, and maybe it ain’t. All I know, is, it suits Tom Sawyer.”

“Oh come, now, you don’t mean to let on that you like it?”

The brush continued to move.

“Like it? Well, I don’t see why I oughtn’t to like it. Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?”

That put the thing in a new light. Ben stopped nibbling his apple. Tom swept his brush daintily back and forth – stepped back to note the effect – added a touch here and there – criticised the effect again – Ben watching every move and getting more and more interested, more and more absorbed. Presently he said:

“Say, Tom, let me whitewash a little.”

Tom considered, was about to consent; but he altered his mind:

“No – no – I reckon it wouldn’t hardly do, Ben. You see, Aunt Polly’s awful particular about this fence – right here on the street, you know – but if it was the back fence I wouldn’t mind and she wouldn’t. Yes, she’s awful particular about this fence; it’s got to be done very careful; I reckon there ain’t one boy in a thousand, maybe two thousand, that can do it the way it’s got to be done.”

“No – is that so? Oh come, now – lemme, just try. Only just a little – I’d let you, if you was me, Tom.”

“Ben, I’d like to, but Aunt Polly – well, Jim wanted to do it, but she wouldn’t let him; Sid wanted to do it, and she wouldn’t let Sid. Now don’t you see how I’m fixed? If you was to tackle this fence and anything was to happen to it – ”

“Oh, shucks, I’ll be just as careful. Now lemme try. Say – I’ll give you the core of my apple.”

“Well, here – No, Ben, now don’t. I’m afeard – ”

“I’ll give you all of it!”

Tom gave up the brush with reluctance in his face, but alacrity in his heart. 

*****

And so it began, and before long, Tom had a string of boys begging him to let them have a turn. Wish I’d been as wily as Tom. Well … next time the deck railing needs work, I’ll invite my friends over while I’m painting.