Florence, Dante and Me

In the early 1960s, when all things European were hip, a UBC student went to Italy for a year to study Dante. His letters home are the subject of a new book. Review by Beverly Cramp. FULL STORY

#69 Mysteries abound

May 15th, 2017

Hi, darlin’:

On Saturday a woman taking her dog for a run in the bush came upon a heap of dead birds. A mound of dead birds. Not one or two or even ten or twelve but hundreds of small black birds. Not crows, too small, not starlings, no spots… she came back and got a friend with a camera and they went back to record this horror.

Contacted the Chief Administrative Officer, included photos in the e-mail, then contacted Conservation and gave them specifics, including photos. Got answers from each which said the official in question was “out of the office” so went to good old social media. To “Tahsis Rants and Raves” and let at least some of the neighbours know.

Eventually, someone thought to gather some of the birds and freeze them in case someone went to the office and wanted to investigate.

It is understood or hoped that some of the dead birds are on their way to a provincial vet for analysis. There is some suggestion these are Vauxs swifts. Right now, we’re told, thousands of the swifts are gathering at dusk to roost in the chimney of the museum in Courtenay so maybe… but we don’t really have any high chimneys in Tahsis, just the usual domestic size. But why did so many of them die, who gathered them up, and why drive them past the outskirts of the village and then dump them in a heap on the side of the road?

Theories abound.

…and people still ask, “Where do you get your ideas for stories?”

*

Mysteries abound.

For reasons not disclosed to anyone we are up to our ear lobes in Mounties. They are, at times, accompanied by, and perhaps even supported by, what seem to be Military Police. One theory is there’s some kind of tri-service training event taking place as the government tries to come up with a workable plan to evacuate large numbers of people.

Well, it’s a theory. But the obvious flaw is we don’t have a large number of people, let alone a large number of people needing to be evacuated. So we’re kinda concerned the brain trust is considering bringing a large number of evacuated people here. Jeez, guys, we don’t even have any place to put them! I could manage a couple of them, but even that would be uncomfortably crowded. Maybe they’ll bring some big tents or something.

In the meantime, minus a swarm of evacuees, the Mounties have set up not one but at least two roadblocks on our goat track. Whether coming from or going to Gold River you can get stopped twice by guys with uniforms and guns who want to check your driver’s licence, your registration and the contents of the bin-tote in the back seat. Mexico North.

I hope they’re less obstructive and much more polite to the evacuees than they’ve been to the poor suckers they’ve been bothering on the mostly pot-holed unpaved road which links us with what some insist is civilization.

*

Mysteries abound.

Western Forest Products has its corporate eyes fixed on our watershed. Never been logged, miles of old growth. The government and Vancouver Island Health Authority forced this village of less than 300 permanent residents to stop using McKelvie Creek as our water source. Nobody had ever been made ill by drinking that water. So the cheapest alternative allowed us to pay to have a deep well drilled.

As soon as we started pulling water from that well, the watershed was no longer a watershed and WFP’s eyes lit up like beacons. Oh wow, old growth. That’s profit, profit, profit!!  So now we’re organizing against the pillage.

Yes, we feel intimidated. There aren’t very many of us and WFP has lawyers up the ying-yang but even those of us who are getting older by the minute are ready to form a blockade. I’ve committed to take a couple of thermoses of coffee and a big tub of spud salad, a friend is going to cook some chickens and make sandwiches, and we’re trying to organize pet care because I don’t think they’ll let me take Merry Mary to jail with me and she won’t do well on her own, she isn’t young and she has a gammy hip.

A friend has notified the Sierra Club and someone is trying to get in touch with Western Wilderness Committee. We’re hoping we can get Greenpeace involved and we can prove there are marbled murrelet nests in the old growth in our watershed. We think we can also prove the presence of the Northern Goshawk and some of the more energetic younger men are trying to make a list and maybe even a map of potential spawning channels.

Granted, we don’t know a lot about what there is in our watershed because for years ‘n’ years we’ve left it alone. We don’t have detailed maps or scientifically proven this-or-that because it was a watershed. Be nice if WFP would leave it alone, as well. What in the name of sanity are we doing to ourselves and this battered, beautiful globe which has sustained us for countless generations?  As is so often written on social media: WTF!

WFP has said the logging will start in September. I hope to see you on the blockade. Bring rain gear, there’s a reason it’s called a rainforest.

 

*

Mysteries abound.

People raised total hell when some dentist shot Cecil the Lion but does anyone give the first part of a shyte about the cougars who will be evicted and exiled when the watershed is shaved? We send money to help support the Panda bears in China but the Vancouver Island black bear, a genetically distinct population, is being slaughtered by trophy hunters.

We can get in a froth over the destruction of the Amazon rain forest and the logging trucks run day and night with the bleeding harvest of our own rain forest. Most of the old growth on this Island has been shaved and wasted and that highly-educated Dr. Weaver thinks IPP is a great idea in spite of undeniable evidence it destroys rivers and fish populations.

Right now, on wasteland where the sawmills used to be, a huge blight on our shoreline which has been deemed unfit for human habitation, WFP has allowed some people to build some equipment needed by the “fish farms.” Atlantic salmon in pens in the Pacific Ocean, being fed who knows what and the government ignores the evidence of virus infection, sea lice population explosion, and the deaths of uncounted baby salmon.

And on contaminated ground they’re building some damned thing which will be taken out to …what?  Repair the net pens?  Replace the net pens?  Enlarge the net pens? And what can WE do about it?

Oh, right. Every four years we get to go out and vote.

*

A week ago, my brother died of cancer. He fought that beast of a disease for nearly twenty years, and in one of our last phone conversations he teased me about voting. “It just encourages them,” he said, and we both laughed.  Maybe my little brother was right.

We had an election, and I voted, and now I feel as if this entire province has just failed an IQ test.

Anne Cameron grows pussywillows on the western edge of Vancouver Island. She received the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award for an outstanding literary career in British Columbia in 2010. Her 23 books include Daughters of Copper Woman, the bestselling work of fiction ever written about B.C. and published from within B.C. She has banished herself to Tahsis, a small town not far from Friendly Cove where the shenanigans called British Columbia all began.

 

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