wordsfromanneli

Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


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Beach Walk

After months of wind and rain, followed by at least a week of snowy blasts, the sun let us know that it’s still up there. It lit up the white hills and said to us, “Come out, come out. I’ll warm your back as you walk on the beach.”

The Captain and I took Emma to the beach on the east side of the spit, where the morning sun was warmer and much of the snow was gone.

Emma loved it, but then she saw something that stopped her in her tracks. “Whoah!” she said. “WHAT is that large woman doing out there in this icy water?”

She wasn’t swimming much — more like bobbing in the waves. She didn’t seem to mind the cold.

To her right, was a very relaxed sea lion head. I looked back at the woman and saw that what I thought was a head,  was really the sea lion’s flipper.

A whole group of them lay on their backs, enjoying the morning sun. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d had a breakfast of kippers. It’s that time when the herring come in close to the beaches to spawn. That makes the sea lions happy, as well as the eagles and sea gulls, all of whom love to eat the herring spawn and herring bodies that wash up on the beach for a wonderful smorgasbord.

Everybody (except the herring) is happy these days.

Don’t forget to visit my other blog, https://annelisplace.wordpress.com/2021/02/12/the-trap/

Also, please visit my website to find out more about my books and my copy-editing.  http://www.anneli-purchase.com/


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Hard Work

It is herring time on the coast of B.C.  The herring migrate to certain parts of the coast to lay eggs (spawn) close to shore.  It is the ideal time to catch them for their roe.

The seiners didn’t have far to go to set their nets this year. Less than a half hour’s run from town, they put their huge nets in the water  and encircled the schools of herring with a huge  purse seine net.

The small skiff helps anchor one end of the net while the seiner runs around in a circle, unrolling the huge net into the water. The white floats on the top of the net help us to see where the net is. Their job is to keep the top of the net afloat. The bottom of the net has heavy lead rings tied to it through which a line passes. It is like a drawstring that closes the net so fish can’t escape through the bottom.

In the photo below, the red  boat has already closed its net. Seagulls circle, hoping to lunch on unfortunate escapees. The boat next to the red seiner might be a packer, standing by to take the load onto his boat and then to market.

The herring could be scooped out of the net with a huge brailer, like a long-handled fish net, or in some cases, the herring are sucked out of the net and onto the packer or into the hold of the seiner with a kind of (very large) vacuum that slurps up the fish and seawater and pumps it all into the hold of the waiting boat. The seawater is pumped out of the boat leaving only the herring behind in a big strainer.

To unload them, the process is reversed and water is added to the hold to enable the vacuum to suck the herring out of the boat.

 

The boat on the right side of the photo has just paid out the net in a circle to try for a catch of herring. See the white floats?


The farther boat in the photo below has hauled a catch over to the boat. You can see the seagulls going crazy with the feeding opportunities it provides for them.

Fishing for herring is hard work. In late February and even in March the weather can be raw and brutal, especially on the water.

I took the photos of the seiners from the deck of my house, so they are quite far away. The very next day, I took the photo below, of the same view, but the boats are not visible through the snow clouds. I hope no one was fishing that day.

I like to eat pickled herring, but I’ve learned that the food herring are caught in the winter (maybe November) when they are fattest.  In the spring roe fishery, the herring are skinnier and are caught mainly for their roe, highly prized in the Japanese market (at least prized by the older generation). I’ve heard it suggested that the younger Japanese generation prefers McDonalds. Not much of a choice, to my mind.

In case you are wondering what happens to the rest of the herring after they are stripped of their roe … fish fertilizer.

 


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Loner or Groupie?

People are all different. If you think about it though, they fall into two main categories: loners, and groupies.

Are you a loner? Do you like your own company better than that of others? Are you independent, happy to spend time alone,  thinking and musing, or doing solitary activities? Do you like the quietness of nature? Do you easily amuse yourself with thoughts and puzzles, hiking, fishing, or walking alone?

A lot of well adjusted people are solitary types and love to be that way.

But some hate spending time alone. I’ve heard them say, “It’s too quiet. I’m lonely. I’m bored. I’m afraid to be alone, especially at night.”

Nothing makes them happier than when company is coming.

 

And then there are those who HAVE to be with a lot of “friends” or even just in a crowd. They say it makes them feel good when they’re surrounded by people. Life is one big party, and when the band goes home for the night, the groupies still want to continue being together, seeking each other’s approval in almost everything they think or do. “Wait for me! I just have to check how many ‘Likes’ I have on my blog.”

Photo: Courtesy of Paul Knettig.

Whichever category we lean towards, loners or groupies, maybe we’re just like the rest of the animals on this planet.

 


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Love Conquers All

Love happens in the most unexpected places, between the most unexpected individuals. Here in the estuary of the Puntledge River, an odd couple have been “seeing” each other for weeks.

 

Remember Red Skelton’s Gertrude and Heathcliff? They are gossiping at the top of the next photo.

“Watch this, Gertrude.”

“I can’t, Heathcliff. Can’t you see I’m doing my feathers?  I got this spot on me when I ate that clam.”

“Oh, you women. Never mind that. You look beautiful to me. But look over there. It’s that Betsy Barnyard, trying to make a move on Charlie Canada … AGAIN! She just pesters him and pesters him. Just won’t leave him alone.”

“Oh go on … you know he likes the attention.”

“Shh! Here she comes.”

***

“Honk-honk! Hi, Charlie. Whatcha doin’?”

“Oh, just hanging out. Fixing up a few feathers. Minding my own business.”

“I wondered if you wanted to ‘hang out’ with me today. It’s such a lovely spring day.”

“Are you serious? You know we’re not the same kind. Heavens to Betsy Barnyard! What would your father say?”

“I don’t know, Charlie. I haven’t told him about us. Anyway, who cares? These days it’s okay to  love whomever you want.”

“But Betsy, there’s also the fact of our stations. I represent the country. I’m Charlie Canada, and you … well, there’s just no getting away from it. You were brought up in a barn.”

“It’s no use hanging your head in shame. It’s just the way things are.”

“I’m sorry, Betsy, but I don’t think we should see each other anymore. We’re just too different. And think of the children. They would have such cultural issues. I don’t know if I could handle it.”

Betsy sniffles and wipes away a tear. “Okay, Charlie. If that’s the way you feel about me….”

“I’ll just have to go drown myself. I can’t face that gossipy gaggle of geese in the barnyard.”

“Awww … Betsy, don’t be like that. Come on over here. ”

“Are you sure, Charlie?”

“Yeah, I’m sorry. I couldn’t be happy without you.”

 

“Well, Heathcliff. What do you say now? It looks like they’re getting back together again.”

“Just as long as they’re happy … like us …. Right, Gertrude?”

“Whatever you say, Heathcliff.”

 


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Wind and Rain

Yesterday, on a rare sunny day I was coming home from town when I had to make a quick photo stop. The mist and cloud formations across the bay were ominous, warning of the next weather system coming in.

*Warning* Wet camera lens was an ongoing problem.

I turned the camera back towards town. The spread of the clouds stretched along the far hills. In the water is a long row of posts that has been there ever since I can remember. Not sure what purpose they once served, unless it was a  navigation guide. The posts still stick out at high tide and warn boaters of the bar.

As you can see below, some posts still show in places where the bar is farther below the surface, and the trunk of a long-dead tree is hung up on the gravel. This is not where you want your boat to end up. Seagulls and a heron sit on the log like sentinels warning of hazards to navigation.

After a slightly deeper stretch of water, the bar comes up again and continues into the bay. A river flows along the side of the bar that is closest to us (at the bottom of the photo), while the water beyond is a shallow bay that is a mudflat at very low tide. If you want to bring a boat up the river, you need to know where the channel is or end up with seagulls sitting on your hull.

The sandbar is a popular place for birds to dabble and sun themselves. Sometimes you’ll find ducks and geese there; sometimes, like this day, seagulls.

The sun came blasting through the clouds for one last look at me. I clicked the camera as I looked back into its blinding light, knowing I might not see this light for days ahead.

This morning I see that I was right. Looking out my living room window, I saw what was behind those first clouds I saw yesterday – a blast of southeast duck weather.

It’s a good day to stay home while the Captain goes duck hunting.

*****

Winter on the coast is wet,

Wind and rain is all you get,

Sometimes there’s a glimpse of sun,

Just five minutes, then it’s done,

Back we go to wind and rain,

Hope by spring I’m not insane.

 


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Wild Winds

For days and days and days and days we lived in an atmosphere as thick as pea soup.

And then the wind picked up. It blew the fog away and delivered some hefty, hefty rain clouds. My house is near the end of that spit of land on the left, in that gap between the trees, but looking out the other way towards Comox Bay.  The beach in these photos is not far away but it gets hammered much harder by the wind.

See the foam that has piled up on the beach like whipping cream that has blown off the frothing tops of the waves.

Anyone for a little boat ride today? Surfing might be okay except for the many rocks on this beach.

This lonely seagull probably can’t decide where he wants to go but it doesn’t matter because it’s unlikely he’ll get there today anyway. He will go where the winds take him.

More foam collects on the beach. At night those fish who have legs come ashore and gather this whipping cream to put on their “sponge” cake for dessert.

“Careful,” hollers the Captain. “Stay off those logs. They’re “slicker’n snot on a doorknob,” he announces crudely.

“Aye, aye, Cap’n! Aaarrrh haaarrrh.

Brisk and wild and wonderful

The sea spray soaks my face

I gasp for air that whooshes past

With giant strength and pace.

I lift the camera in the wind

Don’t want to lose my grip

I brace myself against the sway

As if I’m on a ship.

The lens is spattered, droplets run,

No way to keep it dry.

I click the pictures anyway

And whoop and gasp and cry.

The wind is strong,  I need to hold 

The car door safely tight.

I ease inside and yell out, “Wow!

I thought I might take flight.”