A Wind in the Willows kind of morning

Hither and thither through the meadows he rambled busily, along the hedgerows, across the copses, finding everywhere birds building, flowers budding, leaves thrusting “

My early morning run took me through Rocky Point Park, a tranquil, empty space brimming with budding trees and tulips in full bloom, shared only by a dog walker, a strolling couple, and a fisherman launching his small boat.

nothing,- absolutely – nothing, is half so much worth doing, as simply messing about in boats” I mused as I turned at the end of the pier

Suddenly, the tyke came thundering towards me on his scooter, tiny leg pumping furiously to propel it at breakneck speed.

“As if in a dream, all sense of right and wrong, all fear of obvious consequences, seemed temporarily suspended. He increased his pace, and as the car devoured the street and leapt forth on the high road through the open country,” 

I smiled, then glanced around. The young speed demon was far too young to be out unattended, but the path behind him was empty. Had he made good an escape from his custodians?   I slowed my pace, partly to avoid the careening scooter, but mostly to ensure there was some passing adult oversight of his adventure.

“— the terror, the traffic-queller, the Lord of the lone trail, before whom all must give way or be smitten into nothingness and everlasting night–“

A long minute passed, and I  turned to keep  the young Lord of the lone trail in sight. Then at last I spotted her- loping over the bridge, head on a swivel, body tense with worry. There was no doubt who she was frantically looking for. I waved  broadly to catch her attention, then pointed down the path towards the tiny retreating figure.

By the time she passed me she was laughing, the tension drained away,she had her quarry in plain sight and was closing the distance rapidly. We high fived, and I resumed my run, pausing again briefly  at the edge of the wood to watch the reunion, before slipping into the forest .

I couldn’t suppress a chuckle as a I thought to myself – ” well, aren’t you just  a poor man’s version of the Piper at the Gates of Dawn this morning !” . It was indeed a Wind in the Willows kind of morning, -a glorious spring day, full of life and promise.

“All this he saw, for one moment breathless and intense, vivid on the morning sky; and still, as he looked, he lived; and still, as he lived, he wondered.”

And as I ran on I could swear I heard the soft notes of a song wafting on the breeze:

                          “Lest the awe should dwell—And turn your frolic to fret—

                           You shall look on my power at the helping hour—But then you shall forget!

Lest limbs be reddened and rent—I spring the trap that is set

                         -As I loose the snare you may glimpse me there—For surely you shall forget!

                          Helper and healer, I cheer—Small waifs in the woodland wet—

                           Strays I find in it, wounds I bind in it—Bidding them all forget”

 

( excerpts from  The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame )

Categories: fiction, Parks, Port Moody, Reflections | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Little Free Library

This spring marks the fifth anniversary of the arrival in Port Moody of our first Little Free Library. For the uninitiated, these mini- libraries are actually weatherproof boxes mounted on front lawns or in parks, capable of holding a couple of dozen books. The instructions for use are simple – “take one, leave one”

I think they are a charming addition to the local landscape, and I’ve been an occasional user ever since the first one popped up on San Remo drive, using the box to purge my bookshelf of any highbrow material I’m finished with ( I’m still too shy to share with my neighbors the trashy novels with high body counts that comprise most of my actual bedside reading!)

A couple of years ago another box popped up at Old Orchard Park, and five more in Port Coquitlam  and I’ve spotted several during  visits to Victoria. Curious to know how widespread the phenomena was, I took to Google, and quickly learned that there are upwards of 40,000 registered locations worldwide.

To my utter shock however, I  also discovered  via my google search that these benign little community affairs are actually the subject of controversy in many places. The boxes have attracted complaints about zoning and by-law compliance in a number of communities ( one municipality even deemed them to be “illegal detached structures” ) and some folks just plain don’t like ad hoc structures popping up on boulevards and front lawns

They have even prompted the ire of the Journal of Radical Librarianship (yes, they are for real!) who suggest that  these tiny book exchanges are elitist, often showing up in more affluent, better educated, and predominantly white neighbourhoods, and accuse the volunteers who build them of “self gratification” and “virtue signalling”.

I must say,  I find impugning the motives of those who go the extra mile to make our community a better place to be highly offensive, and I shake my head over petty bureaucrats trying to stomp out these friendly little, Thankfully as far as I know, our local boxes haven’t offended anyone.

So, when I ambled down to San Remo drive this weekend, I gave thanks : for a gorgeous spring day,  for a community that supports quirky endeavours such as the Little Free Library, and especially, for a neighbour who thoughtfully deposited a couple of dog-eared John Grisham novels that I haven’t read yet !

Categories: libraries, Port Moody, Reflections | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Credit where credit due

My introduction to the frontier lifestyle of the West Coast came shortly after I began my articling year in Nanaimo, when the herring fleet hit town.

Those were the glory days of the herring fishery, when high-balling crews of “Cold water Cowboys” exuberantly chased enormous schools of  herring around the Straits of Georgia, loading  their skiffs with fish until their gunwales were almost awash, then frantically signaling to the hovering packer boats displaying “Cash Buyer” signs, to sell their catch before they capsized. Herring roe is a delicacy in Japan, and the  Japanese were flush, paying huge prices for the roe. Continue reading

Categories: First Nations, Nature, Politics, Reflections | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Reductio Ad Absurdum

Like lawyers everywhere I relish every opportunity to throw around obscure Latin phrases, to confuse and confound the uninitiated. This blog’s headline is an example, although it will be instantly recognizable to students of logic amongst the readership, as well as those who keep a copy of Aristotle’s Prior Analytics on their bedside table.

It refers to a type of argument that seeks to destroy a proposition by taking it to the extreme. In legal argument it is sometimes employed along with its sister, the “Floodgates” argument (“judge, if you find in favor of the idiot on the other side, it will open the floodgates of litigation”)

Let’s have some fun with Reductio Ad Absurdum. Readers of my companion blog will know that I’ve been alternately bemused and incensed by the swelling tide of political correctness that seems bent on erasing the names of Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie from public view, because of their actions against aboriginal people. There have been shrill demands for their names to be removed from schools, bridges and even pubs that have been named after them.

Logically then, any historical public figure whose actions were abhorrent by today’s standard should receive the same treatment. May I present Chief Maquinna, a well known chief of the Nuu-Cha-Nulth. While history will remember him best as the chief who welcomed Capt. James Cook to Nootka Sound, it also records that he was an enthusiastic owner of slaves. Slavery of course, was an established part of First Nations culture, pre-European contact, but Maquinna is also known to have captured European whalers who strayed into his territory, keeping them as slaves, and putting some to death when they attempted to escape. It seems to me that the chief’s conduct ticks all the same boxes as Sir John A. and Sir Matthew.

So, when various school boards vote to rename schools named after Sir John A. McDonald, surely  the name of Maquinna  Elementary school  should also get axed (there are two schools named after Maquinna, incidentally, one in Vancouver and one in Port Alberni )

Last, but not least, since the Kingston  pub Sir John’s Public House recently felt compelled to change its name to simply ‘The Public House’ to avoid offending patrons, should not Tofino’s  venerable Maquinna Hotel follow suit ? Ironically the Maquinna  Hotel bar is  a favorite First Nations watering hole, being conveniently located just above the pier where the water taxi from the Ahousaht First nations Reserve  docks.

Reductio Ad Absudum ?

 

Categories: First Nations, humour, law, Reflections | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Of bucket lists and tramp steamers and such

A very long time ago I was a fan of the comic strip Terry and the Pirates. It was a wonderful piece of escapism with a swashbuckling hero traveling through exotic lands and surviving incredible adventures. The lure of faraway places with strange sounding names triggered something in my adolescent brain, and a nascent bucket list was born. I too would someday trudge the markets of old Rangoon, hike the temples of  mysterious Mandalay and stroll moonlit tropical beaches.

Bucket lists are funny things: ever-growing, they tend to morph over time, as tastes and circumstances and resources change. For myself, common sense has pretty well ruled out an ascent of the Matterhorn or a solo crossing of the Spearhead Traverse, and  my financial advisor has strongly suggested that if I wish to eat at least a couple of meals a day in retirement I should abandon any idea of a  submarine ride to the Titanic, or space tourism in general.

I confess to feeling a bit wistful as I stare down yet another birthday and the realization dawns that I may be running out of runway to make it to the bottom of a very long and ever-growing bucket list, but also chagrined, as I have just learned  that my list has unexpectedly amended itself

Last week the venerable  old mail ship the RMS St. Helena (one of only two Royal Mail ships remaining in the entire world), which has for decades been the only link to the isolated island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic, embarked upon its final voyage and I have never had the opportunity to walk its decks.

A  voyage to the island has long been on my list, since it is reputedly stunning, is steeped in history, having been once Napoleon’s residence in exile, but moreover has had the cachet of inaccessibility.  I once investigated the possibility of sailing there aboard a square rigger,  but abandoned the idea after learning that it would have set me back over 50 grand and a year of my time, and I’d have to scramble up the rat lines to reef sails in all weather; so the mail ship was my only other option.

Alas the island has now installed an airport, destroying not only the mystique of sea-only access, but also the viability of the mail ship, which is being retired from service and sold.

Is an island now accessible to any tourist with a plane ticket worthy of a spot on the list? Thinning hair and creaking joints suggest a bit of bucket list triage is in order, so I am afraid St. Helena no longer makes the cut, which is a shame- it’s not the way one should remove items from the list. A big black  “completed” check mark is hardly preferred.

Speaking of which is anyone out there up for a wee jaunt up Mount Kilimanjaro?

Categories: Bucket list, humour, Reflections, Travel | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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