Circa '68

Show ‘em don’t tell ‘em is the writers’ rule

Why keep on coming by, unless you see this site as cool?

Journalese, Ecologese, Free Enterprese, Philosophese

Loggerese, Psychologese, I’m at ease in all of these

Bureaucratese, Intellectualese, neither bring me to my knees

Marketese, well that’s a breeze

And Pollenese will make you sneeze

I like to think that what I’m saying isn’t said in vain

That in any of these languages, my meaning will be plain

So drop on by once in a while, for more than just one date

You never know, you might find that we can communicate

A Little Something for Down Gibsons Way

Posted by on December in Jest Thinkin', Making Music, Sagas and Serendipity | 0 comments

A Little Something for Down Gibsons Way

With local elections growing smaller in the rear-view, the Christmas respite just ahead in the lights, here’s a little piece about a little piece of my initial foray away from things urban and the professional.

If you check out the biode on this site you will read of a number of transitions, including a rather stilted series of stops along the journalistic turnpike, a sharp diversion off the ‘straight’ and narrow, a foray into what most folks would call the wilderness and a seminal ferry trip out this way to begin what now amounts to a tad under four decades on our blessed Sunshine Coast.

My lady Aus and I, she with child, obtained renters rights to the old Chamberlain homestead, reputedly one of the first two such non-aboriginal holdings on the Sechelt Peninsula.  On it stood the main house, the core of which stands today and serves as home to the caretakers of Shirley Macey Park, a termite-tenanted 12’x16′ single-room log cabin and another building of similar size that would serve a variety of purposes. Ah yes, there was one other building about 12’x10′ which served first as a stable and then a tool-shed.

Daughter Megin, winter '75

We lived there for four years, drawing our water from a dug well and making do with outhouses in the absence of toilets and septic fields.

It was a touch more rural then than it is now and, while part of Grantham’s Landing and politically within the electoral area of West Howe Sound, it was for practical purposes much connected to the town of Gibsons.

We were poor in assets, but rich in our affection for one another, ever-more-so with the births of our daughters, both of them on the property, which, by the time of their arrival was shared with goats, horses, dogs, cats, ducks, chickens and bees. I have no sense of either of us feeling deprived of the amenities most folks find essential, perhaps in part because we knew they could be acquired if we so chooe.

Nevertheless, scraping by on a few dollars from a bit of work here and there wasn’t cutting it and I got a job on the booming ground at Andy’s Bay. It would give me the knowledge to eventually work on other such grounds and move from there to salvaging deadheads before they sank from and with the sanction of the various log sorts in Howe Sound, using the ‘Kathy,’ Archie Haleta’s tough little towboat.

That in turn would lead to me spending eighteen years salvaging logs and working log spills from bases on Nelson Island and Trail Islands.

But six winter months was about all the time I was willing at that point to give over to a structured working life. I had a garden to plant and a lady and new babe .   So delighted was I at the prospect of returning to them full time, while still relishing my new experience on the logs and the water, that on the ride home in the crummy after my last shift ‘Fine Mel, Fine’sprang into existence as of its own volition. It features Keith Bennett on Harp.


[audio:http://www.johnmarian.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Fine-Mel-Fine.mp3|titles=Fine Mel Fine]

A lot of songs, five albums of them, have come out of life here and on the wider West Coast of Canada.  Like it, they cover a lot of varied terrain, rhythm’s and styles.  There are multiple ways to access them on the site.  Enjoy.


It Wasn’t So Long Ago………………… 11/10/2011

Posted by on November in Jest Thinkin', Making Music | 0 comments

It Wasn’t So Long Ago………………… 11/10/2011

Serena Eades


It was a lone gillnetter moored some way from us in Safety Cove on Calvert Island, a mere shadow beneath it’s anchor light, that generated this song.  It seemed complete enough at the time with just the verses and was later recorded that way at the Inner Ear’s studio in Roberts Creek.

Several years after that it was one of three of my songs that Lyn Vernon wanted to include in her production of ‘Roots’, staged at the Heritage Playhouse in Gibson. With the choir playing a large part in the mix of dance, song and spoken word, Lyn asked if I could come up with a chorus that would employ the talents of its members. A couple of days later it sprung to mind as if it had been waiting all along in the wings.  It kind of makes the song, I think, one which the musically inventive and lovely woman pictured here told me she found herself deeply moved by. Her playing reflects that.

[audio:http://www.johnmarian.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/It-Wasnt-So-Long-Ago.mp3|titles=It wasnt So Long Ago]


We do our best not to lament these days, don’t we?  If much of great value is trampled or lost as we cede ground to the vacuous mantra that ‘change is inevitable’, well, has it ever been otherwise?

To lament is deeply human, an aspect of ourselves that may best be experienced, retrospectively, through poetry or music. Perhaps poetry and music with anything to say generates so little interest and support nowadays because commerce in one form or another is always dishing up a new cheap thrill to distract, ‘excite’, eventually disappoint and be discarded by us: the exploitation of denial, as it were.

But if we allow ourselves to acknowledge loss, might we not find ourselves more readily willing to question and oppose the accepted wisdom of the day that so often precipitates it?



Attitude….Genrephobia….and more 11/3/2011

Posted by on November in Jest Thinkin', Making Music | 0 comments

If you are new to this site or haven’t been by for a while, you are entering the slow-release process for ‘Coda Many Colors’. It is is my fourth and possibly last album of songs, as you might intuit from its title, and given the finitude of individual existence.

Most folks who hear this song ‘Attitude’ get at least a chuckle out of it. It would be a timid soul indeed that does not relish at least the odd fiery moment of ‘let the chips fall as they may’ self-expression that frees us from our usual surrender to the appearance of things.

Serena Eades brings her own attitude-rich violin to enhance this song as does Bill Buckingham in multiple ways.

Some tell me it has fortified them in coping with something challenging in their lives.  I take pleasure in the thought that it might have been so and might be so again for someone else.


If you check out the menu to the right under Music and scroll down to Coda Many Colors, you will find last week’s song to the right of the album cover created out of what was available by Sean Murphy, who takes care of the music page and brings a variety of talents to helping make the site effective.  Soon the ten new songs will be up there, along with the songs from previous albums already there.

Alternatively, you can scroll down through these posts.  It’s not far down and along the way you might come across something else of interest to you.

Is this a good way to draw folks to check out my music? Well, I can tell you that doing this and placing a simple little box ad in the local paper, seems to be bringing me lot of friendly smiles when I venture into downtown Sechelt. That has a lot of value to me.

Serena Eades handled the role of studio musician with the grace and substance abundantly evident to those fortunate enough to see and hear her perform and tells me she is delighted to play her part in bringing a number of songs on this album to life and sharing that with the community via this site.

If you are a genrephile, someone who likes their music identifiably of a particular kind, having a week between songs may make mine easier for you to appreciate than listening to the album in one go would….or to any of my album, for that matter.  I might be thought of as coming close to being  genrephobic…… averse to extraneous limits of most kinds.



I’m coming around to the view that the finance sector might be plagued, not with lack  of intelligence (it must require some to get an MBA, one would think) but by lack of imagination.  But then, self-interest as an accredited motivator might well short-circuit the ability to empathize……….with the sensibilities of  customers, for instance.

A couple of months back I got hit with a string of penalty payments to companies whose requisitions for automatic withdrawals ran up against shortages in my Sechelt Credit Union account. Quickly shifting funds to it from elsewhere didn’t, of course, eliminate the hit.

I rarely allowed this account be vulnerable in this way over the years. When I did, a call from the branch allowed me to rectify the situation in time to avoid penalties.

When I phoned to ask why that hadn’t happened this time I was told that this practice had never been a policy but merely a courtesy. Huh…and there I was thinking that courtesy to customers, members of a co-operative in this case, would be policy as a matter of course? I don’t recall being notified that this ‘courtesy’ was being withdrawn. It was not extended to me one last time accompanied by a heads-up that it would not continue to be.

I mention this incident now after seeing that our local Credit Union, a public co-operative in the mind certainly of this member, recently hosted a session with the BCCU’s chief economist on a ‘by-invitation-only’ basis. What were they thinking, that folks were going to flood en masse to a recitation of statistics ostensibly but, as it turns out, not necessarily relevant to our local economy?

More importantly, if the Credit Union is no longer going to operate in spirit as well as action as an open, member-oriented co-operative, away goes a primary reason for its members to choose it over any of the numerous options.

The Credit Union is not alone in falling prey to self-destructive managerial arrogance vis a vis those who provide their raison d’etre.

Master Card, after benefiting for years from the revenue drawn from merchants whose products and services I purchase, and being paid on time, were not satisfied just to hit me with a penalty for being unable, for the first time in their case, to withdraw my payment to them automatically. They also drastically reduced my credit limit.C

I seldom come close to using it. I could ignore the implied slap on the hands. What I didn’t ignore was banality and stupidity of it. I now use a Visa Card for most of my purchases.  As for the Credit Union.  I’ll stick with it for now.  A thirty-five-year relationship with it warrants some consideration, I guess. If only it were reciprocal.


Our Very Own ‘Watching the Apples Grow’ 10/27/2011

Posted by on October in Jest Thinkin', Making Music, Pagin' the Agin' | 0 comments

Our Very Own ‘Watching the Apples Grow’  10/27/2011

Serena Eades




Sunshine Coasters….here you go

Our very own ‘Watching the Apples Grow’

For the love of this place that we all know

Lit up by the fiddler and her bow


It is a pleasure to get this song on to the site with Serena Eades now sharing the soundscape with yours truly and Bill Buckingham, who added much to it in his Vancouver studio. Serena’s picture does her justice. I’m not sure she could do other than charm us, personally, musically and on stage.  She plays with the Rakish Angles, a quartet of Sunshine Coast cross-genre musical charmers all, who have generated national interest in Canada.

This song was posted here in an introductory way a few weeks back, mostly, I suppose, because I was tickled with it and couldn’t wait to have others hear it.  It could then also be easily shared around for Katie Angermeyer’s musical group to work with.  Katie had brought me her initial adaptation of the Stan Rogers east-coast version to attempt some further lyrical alchemy on.  She and I and friend and fellow-musician Rick Kobus sat here by the computer, trying out different combinations of verse until we were reasonably happy with it. We groomed it a little over the next several weeks.

In the studio Bill and I doubled up the main instrumental passage to afford Serena as full a measure of space to play as we we could.  I left in a little instrumental passage of my own guitar-playing, of a quality I always hope to attain, only occasionally do and feel I managed to on this song.

As mentioned in earlier posts this is one of ten songs on an album I’m calling ‘Coda Many Colors’.  I’ll feature a new song every week or so and add them to the music page as I go. That is the plan at this point.


[audio:http://www.johnmarian.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Watching-the-Apples-Grow.mp3|titles=Watching the Apples Grow]



‘Coda Many Colors’-Slow Release 10/25/2011

Posted by on October in Jest Thinkin' | 0 comments

All right…..as soon as I finish this post I’m going to write another featuring the first song on what I see as the slow release of what will probably be my last album. You may already given it a listen. Actually, I guess that by appearing here first as a post it will eventually be the last song of the album.  The first, for those eventually inclined to track down through two months worth of posts to hear them, will show up somewhere above here in a couple of months or so..  Isn’t it an ever more topsy-turvy world we live in?

This is my fourth album but only a few folks will get this one in CD form, a few radio stations for example.  The songs on it, for the most part, the songs are likely to be heard by those accessing this site. I’m sure we can find a way to get them in one form or another to anyone wanting a version in their own possession. We will see how and if that unfolds.

CDs, unfortunately in some ways, are obviously no longer the premier means by which music is stored, Mp3s are.  It’s a shame because there is quality lost in Mp3s compared to CDs.  But it’s a convenient format, consuming relatively less computer memory and amenable to being sent via e-mail.

Artists keep putting their music out in CD form and most lose money doing it.  At best they barely break even playing poor-paying gigs in the hope of selling CDs and are lucky to get rid of more than a few.

I have never done that, being unattracted to the life, but have managed to lose money making CDs in my own way.

The Case Against Cases

I will be quite happy to not go to the trouble of getting into the design and and manufacture of CD cases. I’m not mass-marketing.  They add nothing to the actual listening experience, which is what I’m interested in providing. I don’t even see the sense of people actually keeping physical CDs, let alone the covers. Computer memory is so cheap these days that it seems to me to make more sense to load songs, even at full WAV  quality into one and play them from there through phones or your home stereo.

It’s hard to believe radio stations have actual physical CDs taking up valuable space these days, but if they do it seems to me they won’t keep doing so.

So no CD cases….reducing household clutter and staying out of the resources to trash process that undermines the well-being of the planet that bears us on our way around the sun.



Slip-Sliding Away……..Sept. 23, 2011

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Slip-Sliding Away……..Sept. 23, 2011

Whew, I’ve been absent from this site for an unconscionable length of time, haven’t I? May 15th was the last entry. Well I’m back at the keyboard now, with a few tales to tell.

In general I’m pretty much a home-body these days but a visit from a cousin and companion of my early childhood got me out and about in August.

We checked out the Skookumchuck Rapids, a short, powerful and unpredictable stretch of water, capable of flipping a fifty-foot fishing boat or slamming a barge-load of gravel into the islets through which it passes. I’d been through it with the Stray on forays into the inlets in search of logs or played in it with my jetboat, the Stranger.

We took my little two-station peapod rowboat out to Frenchman’s Cove and into Welcome Pass, getting an eyeful of seals and eagles as well as a trio of buzzards taking a brief time out from sky-travel for a little rock time.

We took in the Top of Grouse with it’s grizzly bears and Whistler with its zip-lines, sharing the time with my immediate family daughters and grandchildren.

Had a real comfortable visit with my sister in Kelowna, enjoying some bike riding, some Okanagan Lake time and blue-berry picking. Took the bus to Kamloops and caught the train through the Rockies to Edmonton and watched the B.C. Lions take a round out of a badly depleted Edmonton Eskimo football team.

Anita flew home to London and I to Vancouver and on to the Sunshine Coast.

The trip out of my comfort zone was good overall, but Edmonton was kind of a shocker; the old city worn and faded, floating within a wealth of oil, located in the bend of the North Saskatchewan River, gone to seed, urban renewal seconded to a toxic spread of oversize houses in ugly suburb enclaves spread out across good agricultural land, reeking of capitulation to developers by civic planners.

The Chicken Shack

I have two daughters living within easy traveling distance. One lives on acreage, with animals, the other in the city but wanting just a touch of country in her circumstances. So towards the end of summer I cobbled together from my supply of recycled materials a wee townhouse for two, chickens that is, for her backyard.


It is intended to house and provide nesting boxes for, at the most four, hens (more folks might keep backyard chickens if they didn’t think they ‘had’ to have at least a small flock). I keep two myself at home on the Sunshine Coast, for eggs, insect deterrence and to consume organic household waste.

Mine have a long run but for now we’re just providing smallish wings on either side of my daughter’s chicken-shack, fashioned of stucco wire over aluminum poles that used to support a deck-cover on my log-salvage boat.  That should keep the raccoons out.  I saw one big one slip in along the side of the house to scope out the back yard.

You can see from the hinges that the lower half at the front drops down to allow easy cleanout and that the window swings upward and can be latched to allow access to the nests. The roof is a 4’x4′ skylight salvaged from Sechelt’s solid-waste site.  It can be tarped or painted over if overheating looks to be a problem. There’s an outflow vent on the upper side and more than adequate inflow from small access doors on either side at the bottom.

You can see that a little leveling of the left wing is needed.  The two wings are hinged to the fence, allowing them to swing up so the runs can be cleaned.

What else?

Well I’ve done three pages on local politics which I hope will engage readers other than just those of my own community.  After all most of us live in communities of one kind or another that can be assumed, at least in general terms, to share a lot of issues. I’m listing them on the side menus under ‘The Sunshine Side.’

And Bill Buckingham has just finished up a lengthy project and yesterday sent me bed-tracks for five of the 14 songs we laid down a couple of months ago, quantized and arranged with a little percussion and bass. More are on the way.  Some good potential there and for now enough for me to get familiar with so that when I get back into the studio (hopefully soon) righty and lefty (the hands, of course) will come up with something creative between them to add to the mix.

No Bees Fly

Posted by on May in Current Despairs, Jest Thinkin' | 0 comments

May 15 2011


The cherry branches

And the plum

That briefly blossomed

Now are done

The apple trees

Bloom pink and white

While still the sun

Stays hid from sight

And no bees fly


But all undaunted

Out we go

To clear the soil

Transplant and sow

To gently cover o’er the seeds

And pluck away

The new-grown weeds

While no bees fly


And yet, this early morning

Of another drizzly day

The air so sweet it almost

Takes your breath away

The light so rich and somber

Holy as a church

The birds, in sequence

Offer cantor praises

From each perch

While no bees fly


Oh I’m a busy boy these days: Writing begetting writing, spring begetting gardening; politics begetting a shake of the head; the muse begetting poetry and, wouldn’t you know it, music.

I am delighted to hear, always, that this palette of mine is engaging people, near and far. Yes, ‘palette’. Isn’t that a nice word, commencing with a confident pursing of the lips and ending, with a flair, in the expulsion of air. A new term aborning; perhaps new to the world, who knows: ‘Web-palette.’

I rose early one morning, having lain awake for some time with thoughts aromping like foals in a meadow, to find an e-mail from one Jerome. A rare name….but it took the reading of only a sentence for the synapses to fire across the gap of time. Ah, this was the Jerome who ventured out from Vancouver many years ago to join us in the studio in Sechelt and lay down the drum tracks for all the songs on ‘Pulling For the Woods’.

He’s writing to me, from an ashram in India where he has been living for seven years or so, to praise this ‘palette’ and point me to his own. http://radio3.cbc.ca/bands/Jai-Raam-with-the-Group-of-Gyaan.

And so I write back to the sound of his music and the voices of him and his companions.


Then, sitting, bum on beam beside an open fire at a favored gathering place beside the salt water in Halfmoon Bay, celebrating a friend’s birthday, I’m congratulated on this site, and in enough detail on its design and contents to know that it has been well-explored.

I live alone now, and find much to recommend it. I speculate that I might write more truthfully and accurately if not impelled to hedge at the edge from fear of finding myself alienated from my own kind. I am drawn to the idea of living evermore free from need, including the need for the approval of others, yet find myself grateful, almost to the point of tears, when told that what I choose to contribute is of value to them.

Something missing from somewhere, in childhood most likely. How do we ever delude ourselves that we can truly get a handle on what it is to be human and how we might be more fully so?


In the plans, perhaps for today, is yet another tale of a log spill ‘worked’ in my years on the water. All were unique in their way, each worthy of its own accounting. But this ‘Crying Girl Spill,’ as I am thinking I will entitle it, was a different thing altogether. Truly a tale of the courage innate to us all.


One more thing: It can not be overemphasized how catalytic to the existence and effectiveness of this site have been and are the contributions of site designer and sometimes editor, Laurie McConnell, of videographer Sean Murphy and of others who provide me with feedback as to how effectively I am drawing with words and, if need be, in pencil, what over the years I did not have the means or foresight to photograph.

This week I have also been the beneficiary of the writing of Jo Hammond, whose recently published ‘At the Edge of the Sound’ describes her years and adventures with her husband Dick, a log salvor of considerable reputation, resolve and ability. Reading it triggered a number of thoughts and recollections that I will be able to make use of in my own writing.

Myth Busting-First of, Maybe, a Series

Posted by on April in Current Despairs, Jest Thinkin' | 0 comments

Myth Busting-First of, Maybe, a Series


April 20 2011

Let’s start off with the assumed efficiency of free enterprise. Now there’s a bogus claim for you.

Here’s a scenario we’re familiar with. The business world becomes excited about the potential profitability of a product range. Globally, companies spring up in pursuit of it. They generate jobs, personal, institutional and government investment in training, physical infrastructure and propaganda to promote buy-in. The vast majority will fail, some outright, some to takeovers. The reduced job pool will be further; perhaps drastically reduced by automation. Buildings will come to sit empty, idle and unmaintained (think Detroit), the resources pulled from the earth to build them crumbling, the value of erecting them falling far short of what was projected to justify the cost of doing so. Enterprising bunch that we are, this cycle does not limit itself to one range of products, it is endemic to production itself.

Out of those failures come job loss, mortgage default, broken marriages, drug abuse, spousal and child abuse, causes all of immense psychological distress and cost to the public purse. All of those will generate or create additional demand for ameliorative industries: policing, private or public social work, hospitals, government jobs, to name a few. A substantial portion of the costs of those are in fact unassigned costs of production. It’s not much of a stretch to add gambling, pornography, and mindless, stupifying television to the list, the kind of ‘products’ people buy to compensate for one level or another or dissatisfaction. Dissatisfaction is a great economic driver. Granted it does create jobs, but hardly on the plus side of things. It is all, however, part of the Gross National Product and therefore a statistical indicator of economic vigor.

Then there are the non-GNP items…deforestation, desertification, species loss, resource depletion and ongoing etceteras.

Riding high and overseeing this, reins to hand, sits a thin, sociopathic elite of human beings living in assumed and presumed grandeur completely out of sync with the passing nature of their existence. I have trouble seeing the net efficiencies of this, let alone the intelligence or the fulfillment of human potential. As gardens go their glorious foliage and blossoms hardly compensate for areas of utter global drabness.

Unlikely as it is that they will come across this piece, any folks feel inclined to holler “COMMY,” in response to it should give their head a shake. It has been made quite clear what an authoritarian horror human beings can turn socialism into.

I don’t think there is an answer to be found in a ‘system.’ Something useful might come out of a set of values.

We should consider the demonstrable advantages of balance, of flying with two wings, not with one or the other foreshortened, and of accumulating only the weight, personally and materially, that will allow us to at least become and remain operationally airborne.

Right now there are pretty-well zero signs at global or national political levels of any substantive dialogue, let alone action, aimed at forestalling or altogether avoiding the consequences for ourselves of our metastasizing all over the surface of the planet and delving maniacally beneath it for more of the means to do so. If we don’t acknowledge and deal with that overarching issue and generate the will and ways to bring our reproductive instincts under control, this planet, far more akin to a vessel or to a living organism than any castle, is going to rid itself of most of us. And then what will be the net effectiveness of all the effort to reduce the suffering and improve the lot of our species?

On the other hand, human beings have been particularly prone to moving quickly to dispose of one another in great numbers before nature gets around to it, sometimes literally by the millions, so perhaps an ability to identify with one another on a global scale is beyond us.

And perhaps it is just the universe at work when I rest from my labors at the keyboard, pick up a new David Rosenfelt novel called Dog Tags and read “Dogs almost unanimously possess dignity, compassion and innate intelligence. In these areas, humans tend to be a little more hit and miss.”


My Empathetic Pal Charlie

Imaging the Seaside and the Soil

Posted by on April in Jest Thinkin' | 0 comments

Imaging the Seaside and the Soil

April 11, 2011


I have been a busy boy this last week. Laurie, my site designer, and I are pretty happy with the way the site is shaping up. I e-mailed the link out to a few folks. That secondarily generated contact with someone who is in the business of site promotion. Gratifying enthusiasm from all who took a look.

Then I was off to Howe Sound, where I worked as a boom-man many years back, to shoot some photos for the site. We came across a couple of boom chains in good condition. They’d been used to lift a dilapidated but still illustrative sidewinder out of the water and on to the landing. I double-toggled the chains together to show folks reading the tale of the log spill below Young Point just how tricky it would be to get something like that apart in a heaving sea. Got a nice shot of a one section boom, the fundamental unit making up the log tows that wend their way down the west coast. It had a swifter spanning it, so folks can see clearly what a boomstick looks like and how they would keep a tier of logs from working their way out of the ends of a flatboom.

It was a little heartbreaking to see that, with the vast majority of the logs being sorted on dry land, the snappy, athletic little sidewinders were gone from the water, replaced by more powerful but sluggish versions designed for pushing log-bundles around. Can’t argue for a moment that the dry-land is a not a better place to sort and grade logs than on the water. A better job can be done of both and far fewer logs will find their way to the ocean bottom. But nothing is there now that speaks even sparingly of the poetic motion that I experienced sorting and stowing logs. It was a pretty stark working environment altogether.

So shooting the garden video the following day, Sean Murphy behind the camera, made a pleasant contrast. He felt it went well and I was comfortable with the process.There are some unique things done with the space, an integration of elements that might intrigue. Shooting it now, before the spring growth gets seriously underway reveals the underlying structure, ‘the bones’ as I like to refer to it.




Committed to the Imagination

Posted by on March in Jest Thinkin', Pagin' the Agin' | 0 comments

March 15, 2011

There are so many ways to assess ourselves, the choices we have made, the way in which we have put them into effect, or bypassed the opportunity to, or moved on to other options that looked more intriguing or achievable.

A few days back I found myself reading over letters my father had saved, kept from his files after his death a few years back, and some sent to me from Japan by Ricki Ferguson, a dear friend memorialize in the song bearing her name, and some sent to her at that time that she must have returned to me as she tidied up her affairs in the months before her death.

There are some wonderful, spirited, cleanly written letters from my daughter to their grandfather and one of particular interest from my youngest daughter to Ricki. She regretfully filled a page recounting my ongoing battles with depression and her mother’s with arthritis. It was, altogether, something of a tale of woe. I was left a little breathless by the tone of it, a little hurt, but mostly astonished that my child’s recollection of her years growing up and of Aus and I during those years could be so contrary to my own.

Then I turned the page over to see “Ha! Ha! JUST KIDDING”, followed by a list of all the sweet and engaging things that were happening in her life and ours. It was very well done.

The letters I had written to my father were not, particularly. I’m accounted by some to be a pretty decent writer now, so I found myself surprised to find that at eighteen there were such gaping holes in my skills: A certain brittleness in the style and much more a recounting of the stresses of just getting around the planet than of the sights and flavors to which I was being exposed. I have never quite wanted to believe that simply completing the circumnavigation was, in and of itself, my prime objective, but of course it was: I was eighteen and making the trip solo.

The other thing the surprised me was the assurance with which I laid out for my parents my imminent plans, because so few of them came to fruition and I have no recollection of ever having made them. But I guess that’s the nature of undertaking such a journey with no itinerary. The whole experience is one of making it up as you go along. As opportunities or possibilities present themselves. My process appears to have been to fully to commit psychologically to those I imagined but, of course, actualize only what circumstance accommodated.

Looking back I see that whether or not I took adequate advantage of the opportunities the journey offered, I did accomplish my main objective, subconscious as it might have been, which was to learn about myself. There is not a great deal about growing up middle class that teaches that.

I found immediately, for instance, on the train from Saskatoon to Montreal, from where I would embark for England, that I had new choices as to how and who I might be. All it took was to find myself responding to the genuine curiosity of a stranger far more thoughtfully than I would likely have in the environment in which I had grown up, where I felt required to sustain almost reflexively a whole range of preconceptions.

I subsequently found myself fundamentally altered, irreversibly, simply from observing far more joy in folks gathering barefoot at a wellside in India than I had ever seen where I was raised, and more generally by seeing that there were many ways in which to make this life-journey of ours, most of those I saw at the time seeming innately legitimate.

But the works of man, grand and bold, I tended to see as generally having been constructed at far too great a cost in human suffering, to serve the foolishness of human egotism. Terrain interested me more, and finding that I could be comfortable across a range of it: A preference, if you like, for raw creation.

Seeing the way in which I projected myself into what I imagined might unfold, as I read these letters, put me in mind of an instructive experience that I had of myself when I was perhaps only eight years old and still new to Canada.

I was walking with a friend by the name of Ian Logie along the lovely open sidewalks of North Battleford, responding at considerable length to his questions about my experiences in England. I was very much enjoying the telling of my tale, and at some length. Finally Ian broke the narrative, genuinely curious, not unkind or as a challenge, to ask how I could have have done all the things when I was only eight. Only then did it occur to me that I couldn’t have.

Was it the length of time that I was attributing to each element that was off? Or was I simply elaborating on each theme in my as I imagined it to have evolved.? I wasn’t lying, you see. There was nothing in the tone of Ian’s interjection that suggested he thought I was, not in any deliberate way at least.

I realize now that in the absence of much experience of peers to that age I had always spend a lot of time imagining, and that the reality I created that way was, for me, real. As problematic as that might have been or could have become, it is unlikely that I would have lived the life I have, one for which I am most grateful, had I not been able to imagine, in general terms, the possibility of it.

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