All posts by Jim

El Mocambo

El Mocambo

Elmocambo 13-12-2014 04

 

This has to be one of the (if not THE) most iconic signs in the Toronto entertainment scene.

Last night, on the stage of El Mocambo I read some of my poetry to a fair-sized audience. The event contained several excellent musicians but I was the only poet reading their work.  I felt honoured to be invited to be part of that show. I also felt a little in awe to be performing on the same stage where previously had performed so many greats, including The Stones, Elvis (Presley and Costello), Sting, U2, Muddy Waters, Rush, Leonard Cohen, Stevie-Ray Vaughan, and many, many, MANY more.

Elmocambo 13-12-2014 02

 

Here I’m being introduced by the emcee before my set, which must have been OK as folks came over to me afterwards to tell me how much they enjoyed the poems, some to buy a book.  Some wanted more than one and one person wanted the set of all three. Some for themselves and some thought they’d make great gifts …. ‘Tiz the season after all.

While there I was invited to read at another venue in the New Year. I’ll post the details once I have them.

Thanks to all those who came and liked what they heard. I’m looking forward to more of the similar during 2015.

Angus Donald and the Gale … Part FOUR

This epic sea poem is published in Book 2 of the Wanderings and Sojourns series “On Tropical Islands and Sparkling Seas” and posted here in serial form to celebrate the release of that book.  A new episode of this saga, each comprising 10 verses, will be posted here each day for 12 days. The book is available at the link below and will soon also be available from Amazon and all e-book formats as well as being available to order from almost every bookshop in the world.
 http://www.friesenpress.com/bookstore/title/119734000000426983/Jim-Scott-On-Tropical-Islands-and-Sparkling-Seas

Angus Donald and the Gale

Part FOUR (verses 31 – 40)

31

The father’s strength was ebbing fast and no way could he climb,

Nor could his arms support him anymore.

Adrenaline was all he had to give a little time

Before his lifeless body washed to shore.

But when he was too weak to face just one more breaking sea

He felt another’s body at his side,

And turned to see young Angus braced and working stoically

Until he had the rope about both waists securely tied.

32

They hung together by that line that Angus had secured

To solid rock above them at the peak.

He’d found the strength to clamber down despite all he’d endured,

Though knowing that the odds were more than bleak.

The father had no strength or will to help with the assent.

Now Angus bore the brunt of every wave.

He wondered how much time there’d be before his too was spent

To ultimately die beside the man he’d come to save.

33

Though try with all he found inside he couldn’t bear the weight

Of both of them to lift them from the sea.

The father had accepted what he knew would be his fate

So told the younger man to cast him free.

But Angus was of stronger spirit, born of rock and tide

And raised on storm and hardship.  He’d keep on

Until he knew each hopeless chance was well and truly tried,

And every final ounce of strength was absolutely gone.

34

But when he knew the storm had won he felt the line draw tight.

He looked up but he could not trust his eyes.

For Murdoch’s son was standing there to help him in his fight;

He felt his strength and spirit start to rise.

He let a wave roll by then lifted all that he could take

While Murdoch’s stalwart son took up the strain.

They gained a foot then braced against the next wave that would break.

They let it pass, then climbed once more, then braced and climbed again.

35

Though slow, they made that summit and were hauled to level ground

Beside the mother’s pale and trembling form.

They placed the father at her side.  Though neither made a sound

They hoped each one might keep the other warm.

While both young men regained their strength young Angus asked his friend

Why had he come just when all hope was gone?

His dad had sworn no Murdoch clan would ever condescend

To let another fall alone if they could bear him on.

36

They’d figured it was too long since the second child he bore

So knew the task too tough for only one.

And so they’d driven back to where young Angus leapt ashore

And there young Murdoch leapt as he had done.

He’d climbed the jagged cliff face till he made the storm torn crest,

And fought against the howling wind and rain

Until he saw young Angus start to fail that final test.

Was then he saw the rope and so began to take the strain.

37

The young men looked about them at the couple where they lay

And saw within their eyes rekindled hope.

Young Murdoch helped the woman stand amid the wind and spray,

While Angus helped the man and coiled the rope.

Half carrying, half walking them they moved back to the lee,

Though resting twice to let them find more strength,

Until they reached the shelter where the trawler rode the sea.

Young Angus took the rope and slowly measured off a length.

38

He told them there was no-one now could catch them when they dropped;

For Murdoch’s son was with them at the wall.

His dad would have to drive the boat to hold her where she’d stopped.

They couldn’t risk an unattended fall.

He said he had to climb back down and try to get on board.

Young Murdoch, so much stronger, must stand fast

To ease them down the cliff face from that windswept ridge toward

The trawlers rising bow just when the highest wave rolled past.

39

The bigger man belayed the rope around a fissured crack

While Angus tied the end round his own chest.

Young Murdoch waved his father in and then took up the slack

As Angus started downward from the crest.

They watched the swells come rolling in ‘till Murdoch made it clear

Upon which one he chose to close the wall.

The bow rose up; the line was loosed as Angus, gripped with fear,

Pushed outward from the cliff to start his fall.

40

Young Murdoch though was trawler bred and handling ropes he knew,

So, skilfully, he gauged his friend’s descent.

Before the deck was hit he whipped an extra turn or two

Just as the trawler’s upward surge was spent.

Though hard, young Angus landed well and swiftly cut the rope,

Then grabbed the rail and headed for the stern

And climbed into the wheelhouse to the kids, now filled with hope,

And told them of their parents, trying to lessen their concern.

 

This epic sea poem is published in Book 2 of the Wanderings and Sojourns series “On Tropical Islands and Sparkling Seas” and posted here in serial form to celebrate the release of that book.  A new episode of this saga, each comprising 10 verses, will be posted here each day for 12 days. The book is available at the link below and will soon also be available from Amazon and all e-book formats as well as being available to order from almost every bookshop in the world.
 http://www.friesenpress.com/bookstore/title/119734000000426983/Jim-Scott-On-Tropical-Islands-and-Sparkling-Seas

Angus Donald and the Gale … Part THREE

This epic sea poem is published in Book 2 of the Wanderings and Sojourns series “On Tropical Islands and Sparkling Seas” and posted here in serial form to celebrate the release of that book.   The book is available at the link below and from Amazon and all e-book formats as well as being available to order from almost every bookshop in the world.
 http://www.friesenpress.com/bookstore/title/119734000000426983/Jim-Scott-On-Tropical-Islands-and-Sparkling-Seas

Angus Donald and the Gale

Part Three (verses 21 – 30)

21

As Murdoch kept the boat on station, sheltered in the lee,

Young Angus scaled that dark foreboding height

Until he’d clambered clear of where the solid sheets of sea

Could drag him from its surface, out of sight.

He made it to the summit, had to brace against the squall

Where wind and spray and rain became as one,

And bent toward his task now knowing he must give his all

And praying too his strength would hold until this job was done.

22

He edged along the ridge to where the yacht was now aground

And being smashed by every pounding wave.

And borne upon the keening wind he heard the fearsome sound

Of screaming from the kids he’d come to save.

He reached the crag above the yacht, uncoiled the length of rope,

And lashed a heavy stone to give it weight.

And running then on nothing but adrenaline and hope

He lowered it down the precipice, but feared he was too late.

23

The father then appeared on deck and took the rope in hand

And looked to where young Angus stood his ground,

And what then passed between them neither man would understand;

He tried to speak but no words could be found.

He reached into the cabin and was passed his frightened son

And tied the rope about his waist and chest.

And told to him as well he could the work that must be done

And lifted him as best he might, and Angus did the rest.

24

He heaved that lad full twenty feet above the breaking sea,

Then coiled the rope and took his shaking hand,

And worked back to the overhang above the sheltered lee

Where Murdoch and his son knew what was planned.

As Angus lowered the youngster down the skipper neared the wall

Just when the biggest wave came boiling through.

And as the bow came up young Angus let the youngster fall

Into young Murdoch’s massive arms who caught him square and true.

25

No time was there to undo knots; the rope was swiftly slashed

As Murdoch quickly worked the boat away.

And Angus coiled the rope again as waves and thunder crashed,

And eyes were stung and blinded by the spray.

He clawed along the ridge once more toward the boat below

And saw the dad and daughter waiting there.

So lowered the rope and watched the father ready her to go.

Inside her life vest he could see a sodden teddy bear.

26

He hauled the child with all his strength and raised her from the wreck

But, seeing her too weak to walk at all,

He cradled her against his chest, her arms about his neck,

And bore her and her bear toward the wall.

He struggled through the storm-whipped rain ‘till Murdoch came to view.

He lowered her down to meet him through the spray.

His arms now throbbed, his back was strained, his will though still held true,

Determined not to fail the ones in desperate need that day.

27

On weary legs he bent to face the fury of the gale

As lightening flashed in sheets of blinding light;

Knowing well just one slip and that maelstrom would prevail

And he’d be swept below to endless night.

Again he reached the stricken craft.  Again he lowered the rope

To where the father lashed it to his wife.

He prayed she’d yet be strong enough to climb, for he’d no hope

Of hoisting her alone.  She’d have to help him save her life.

28

The father helped her reach the rock and pushed up from below

As pieces of the yacht were smashed apart.

While Angus hauled she raised one timid leg a foot or so

And found a ledge from which her climb could start.

Crashing waves tried rolling her along that jagged wall.

The shards tore at her flesh; her blood ran free.

But as each trough would pass young Angus braced himself to haul

Until at last she’d climbed above that unforgiving sea.

29

Exhausted there upon the peak she fell, her spirit gone,

Young Angus had no strength to bear her weight.

He left her sobbing helplessly and turned to carry on

Though dreading that he may now be too late.

The yacht was smashed and broken, slipping lower with each wave.

The husband knelt defeated on the deck.

But Angus was determined not to lose a man this brave

Who saw his family first ashore while he stayed with the wreck.

30

This time though when he lowered the rope the sea tore it away

Which cost him all the time he’d left in stock.

And as the wreck slipped quickly down beneath the sea and spray.

The father desperately leaped toward the rock.

Miraculously he landed and was able to hang on

As merciless the waves broke on his back.

Young Angus looked down solemnly, his hope now all but gone,

But still he’d not be beaten, so he planned one last attack.

This epic sea poem is published in Book 2 of the Wanderings and Sojourns series “On Tropical Islands and Sparkling Seas” and posted here in serial form to celebrate the release of that book. The book is available at the link below and from Amazon and all e-book formats as well as being available to order from almost every bookshop in the world.
 http://www.friesenpress.com/bookstore/title/119734000000426983/Jim-Scott-On-Tropical-Islands-and-Sparkling-Seas

Angus Donald and the Gale … Part TWO

This epic sea poem is published in Book 2 of the Wanderings and Sojourns series “On Tropical Islands and Sparkling Seas” and posted here in serial form to celebrate the release of that book.  A new episode of this saga, each comprising 10 verses, will be posted here each day for 12 days. The book is available at the link below and will soon also be available from Amazon and all e-book formats as well as being available to order from almost every bookshop in the world.
 http://www.friesenpress.com/bookstore/title/119734000000426983/Jim-Scott-On-Tropical-Islands-and-Sparkling-Seas

Angus Donald and the Gale

Part Two (verses 11 – 20)

11

Then Fergus saw another flare to guide the rescuers on,

And cautiously he edged toward its light.

But when he saw the turmoil where that stricken boat had gone

He felt the storm had surely won this fight.

The yacht was at the mercy of the gale forced wind and sea,

Its mast and shrouds hung tangled over side.

So close upon the breaking rocks that family seemed to be

He knew to try to reach them would mean more men would have died.

12

He radioed the others there was nothing they could do.

They’d found what they were seeking just too late.

Was then that Murdoch’s trawler through the storm came into view,

Right when old Fergus sealed that family’s fate.

“There’s no way in to save ’em, boys.” The saddened Fergus said.

“I’ll risk no man to try to do so now.”

Was then young Angus saw the rocks and put aside his dread

And said to Murdoch “There’s a way, and I alone know how.”

13

“If you’ll just let me guide you we can pass down to the east

“To where I harvest barnacles and kelp.

“That channel runs much deeper there, those currents run the least.

“I know those folk are not beyond our help.

“We’ll not be windward of those rocks, we’ll come in from behind,

“And use them to provide us with a lee.

“The entrance though is tricky and the corners there are blind.

“You’ll have to forgo caution and just put your faith in me.”

14

And Murdoch looked upon this man who hadn’t half his years

And wondered if these words were brash or wise.

Then looked upon those jagged rocks but overcame his fears.

And said “They never wins that never tries.”

Despite old Fergus’ countermand he steered that youngster’s course

And found that hidden deeper channel’s mouth

And using both the engine then and nature’s furious force

He spun that boat between the rocks and headed to the south.

15

The angry sea broke mightily upon those jagged teeth

That seemed to want to tear that boat apart.

And more than once they felt the hull scrape hard the rocks beneath,

But Murdoch stood his ground with pounding heart.

Young Angus yelled the lay lines that the skipper had to steer

And called each rock and reef and shoal and bar,

Until the channel widened and the yacht they sought was near,

But Murdoch felt no ease because he feared they’d come too far.

16

The sea inside was calmer, though it still ran pretty rough

With breaking crags and banks on every side.

But Angus knew that channel well and Murdoch knew his stuff;

Between them they survived that treacherous ride.

And now they saw the sailboat was to windward of the reef

That gave to them some shelter from the waves.

That she’d yet kept from smashing on the rocks defied belief,

But Murdoch reckoned still they’d all yet find their watery graves.

17

“That boat is lost!”  He yelled above the wind’s relentless wail.

“There’s absolutely nothing we can do.”

And Angus said he knew that when he’d seen her through the gale.

They hadn’t come for her, but for her crew.

“It matters not.”  Yelled Murdoch.  “For their fate is yet the same.

“They’ll all be smashed and broken by the sea.”

But Angus said he knew a way; the reason why he came.

“I brought you safely this far; will you finish this with me?”

18

He pointed to a rocky wall where wind and sea combined

To carve out several ledges over time.

And told of many niches there and fissures he could find

That made it not so hard for him to climb.

Then pointed to an overhang at one end of that bluff

That jutted many feet out from the wall,

And said he thought the trawler could be brought in close enough

To catch someone that’s lowered there if he controlled their fall

19

When Murdoch saw the younger man begin to shed his gear

And coil, then tie a line about his waist.

He told his son to help him, though his heart was filled with fear,

Not knowing what new challenges he faced.

Old Murdoch steered the boat in close then waited for a wave

To give the trawler’s bow some extra height.

Then Angus leapt toward the wall, more foolish there than brave,

To land upon those jagged rocks and hold with all his might.

20

That wave crashed hard upon him as he desperately hung.

He hardly could maintain his tenuous grip.

The next one though was bigger yet, but frantically he clung.

Still Murdoch saw his feet begin to slip.

But as the wave receded he stretched a blood stained arm

And grabbed again, though higher now this time.

And though he was convinced this gallant man would come to harm

Old Murdoch quietly prayed and watched him slowly start to climb.

 

This epic sea poem is published in Book 2 of the Wanderings and Sojourns series “On Tropical Islands and Sparkling Seas” and posted here in serial form to celebrate the release of that book.  A new episode of this saga, each comprising 10 verses, will be posted here each day for 12 days. The book is available at the link below and will soon also be available from Amazon and all e-book formats as well as being available to order from almost every bookshop in the world.
 http://www.friesenpress.com/bookstore/title/119734000000426983/Jim-Scott-On-Tropical-Islands-and-Sparkling-Seas

Angus Donald and the Gale … Part ONE

 This epic sea poem is published in Book 2 of the Wanderings and Sojourns series “On Tropical Islands and Sparkling Seas” and posted here in serial form to celebrate the release of that book.  A new episode of this saga, each comprising 10 verses, will be posted here each day for the next 12 days. The book is available at the link below and will soon also be available from Amazon and all e-book formats as well as being available to order from almost every bookshop in the world.
 http://www.friesenpress.com/bookstore/title/119734000000426983/Jim-Scott-On-Tropical-Islands-and-Sparkling-Seas

Angus Donald and the Gale

Part ONE (verses 1 – 10)

1

They put the word out quickly, soon as they received the news

The family from The Bluff could use a hand.

And all responded to that call regardless of their views,

For such as this they well could understand.

The ones who were in trouble were quite recent to the town

And hadn’t mixed with many up ’til then.

They’d money and position; somehow always seemed to frown

Upon the way the townsfolk lived their lives as fishermen.

2

They’d bought some land atop the cliff and built themselves a place

Ten times the size of any others there.

They’d never joined in anything the locals would embrace

And hardly a “good morning” would they share.

They had this fancy sailing yacht kept tied up at a pier

Away from all the fishing boats and such.

Their dock was fenced and gated making sure none ventured near.

So what the townsfolk knew about it wasn’t very much.

3

But on that stormy Sunday when the call went round the street

It seemed that every townsman had stood to.

That’s how they were, those fisher-folk, to everyone they’d meet

Regardless how they lived or what they’d do.

The constable told all who came the facts they’d need to know

In order to determine how to plan,

And when he asked for volunteers to see which ones would go

Despite the fearsome weather heard an “Aye” from every man.

4

Fergus always lead the town’s response to such a call.

He’d captained ships on nigh on every sea.

And Murdoch, with his powerful son, who knew more than them all

Of every rock and eddy, tide and lee.

And Scanlon from The Lookout, and old Baird from Outer Brae,

MacLauchlan, Tavish, Anderson and Cloy.

They all were seasoned sailors you could count upon to stay

Who’d worked and loved and lived upon the waters, man and boy.

5

There too was Angus Donald from The Moorlands to the west;

He’d always been a different kind of lad.

Was far more academic and ambitious than the rest

Though still he’d learned the fishing from his dad.

He’d gone to university and earned there a degree

But never seemed to fit when he returned.

And yet he kept his heritage of working with the sea;

Not fishing though, researching stuff to do with what he’d learned.

6

Since his dad drowned he took the boat where others never went,

And there he’d dredge or net, or sift or dive.

He’d pass so close to reef and rock to further his intent

Some reckoned just his luck kept him alive.

And then he’d take his samples home; his creatures, shells and slime;

And test, dissect and measure them, and write.

So often as he worked he’d seem to lose all track of time

And be there working tirelessly at dawning’s breaking light.

7

Yet still, with all the fishermen, he’d volunteered when asked

To help the folks now stricken by the gale.

But Fergus thought he wasn’t up to what they’d all been tasked

And told him he’d prefer him not to sail.

The family from the cliffs had left their dock the day before

Unknowing of the forecast all had heard,

And when the storm had hit them they’d not made it back to shore.

They’d lost their mast and fouled their prop had been the latest word.

8

Then Murdoch up and said he’d like young Angus in his crew

In case they had to search in near the coast.

He reasoned Angus worked the inshore reefs no others knew

Through channels that were never used by most.

And so it was they put to sea, old Fergus at the head,

With fourteen weathered boats set close astern.

And all in that flotilla were of wind and ocean bred

Each set to fight the storm and praying all would yet return.

9

Old Fergus led them downwind from the last position known

And had them spread out left and right in line,

And spaced them at a cable’s length and set the target zone

Then turned against the pounding sea and brine.

The grim faced skippers held their course; their crews the waters scanned

In hopes to sight their mark amidst the spray.

But after twenty windward miles they swung toward the land

And ran the line downwind, this time in closer to the bay.

10

For thirty miles they searched before they turned that line again,

Which brought them even nearer to the shore.

They hardly saw each other through the driving sea and rain,

And nothing of the yacht they’d come there for.

But then they saw the flare go up close under Craggy Head.

Old Fergus left the line to check it out.

He’d figured early on the sailboat’s radio was dead

So he then launched a flare to show there’s rescue boats about.

 This epic sea poem is published in Book 2 of the Wanderings and Sojourns series “On Tropical Islands and Sparkling Seas” and posted here in serial form to celebrate the release of that book.  A new episode of this saga, each comprising 10 verses, will be posted here each day for the next 12 days. The book is available at the link below and will soon also be available from Amazon and all e-book formats as well as being available to order from almost every bookshop on the world.
 http://www.friesenpress.com/bookstore/title/119734000000426983/Jim-Scott-On-Tropical-Islands-and-Sparkling-Seas

 

Gibraltar Straits

 

Gibraltar Straits

 

Great gateway to Atlantis realm, your pillars stand as sentinels

To guard the final passage to that long lost mystic land.

Beyond world’s end toward the west it lay, archaic legend tells,

Where captains feared to ever test the dread those unsailed seas did then command.

 

Mythology had Hercules your channel forge through rock and earth

To open up the sea toward horizons never seen.

By severing the known domain you gave new dynasties their birth

Where now those cultures yet remain divided by your waters in between.

 

And did Phoenician galleys ply their trade between your facing shores,

And did you watch the Roman navy sail their legions forth?

And did you bear the conquering fleet of Africa’s invading Moors

And watch as every new defeat allowed their empire venture further north.

 

And was the ceaseless ebb and flow of power ‘tween Berber rivals played

For centuries around your coasts and on your restless tide?

And have, as Barbary pirates sailed on every reckless western raid,

Your fierce Levanter winds prevailed to set the course each corsair then would ride?

 

And did, as Europe’s empires grew their realms upon the fate of wars,

You hear the cannons thunderous roar above each blood-soaked fray.

And did you watch each savage fight that raged upon your seas and shores

To see the conqueror re-write the future path of history that day?

 

And did you see the quiet man who left your shores, some years now past,

To venture where his fate would have him endlessly to roam?

And did it ever cross your mind a time for him might come at last

When he’d recall those years behind and dream that one day he could find

The means by which to turn his helm to steer toward your ancient realm,

And bear him back to where he once called home.

Past Readings

  • Weaving Words Story Telling Festival … Sharon, Ontario
  • Bookapalooza … Oshawa Ontario
  • Art Bar … Black Swan Tavern, Toronto, Ontario
  • Holiday Arts Fair … Black Swan Tavern, Toronto, Ontario
  • JustDzrts …
    • Newmarket, Ontario
    • Bolton, Ontario
    • Richmond Hill, Ontario
  • Best Originals … Toronto, Ontario
  • Alton Mills Centre for the Arts … Alton, Ontario
  • El Macombo … Toronto, Ontario
  • Westmount Gallery … Etobicoke, Ontario
  • Arts Society King …
    • Schomberg, Ontario
    • Nobleton, Ontario
    • Pottageville, Ontario
  • Loose Leaf Poets and Writers … Toronto, Ontario
  • Library readings, symposia, lectures, etc. …
    • Sutton, Ontario
    • Newmarket, Ontario
    • Markham, Ontario
    • Bolton, Ontario
    • King City, Ontario
  • Word on the Street … Newmarket, Ontario
  • Whistle Radio … Stouffville
  • Rogers TV … Richmond Hill, Ontario

The Impossible Dream

For the sake of this blog entry, we join the story well over half way through and leave it well before it is ended. The omitted parts tell an incredible tale, but the section included here encapsulates the spirit of the whole story.  Anyone seriously involved with the world of sailing will know about whom this story is written for it is all true, and he is very well known and respected. My part in his story was, and still is, very small, but it was significant enough that when asked to write the cover blurb for the book from which this extract is taken, he had no hesitation to do so. He truly is one of the most inspiring characters I have ever met in my sixty-odd years on this planet.

The Impossible Dream

  ……… That was in 1984. The horribly injured lad was eighteen years old. The infinite possibilities that should have filled his youth had been cruelly stripped from him. Instead of enjoying life to the full, sailing luxury yachts in the Caribbean he was languishing in a hospital bed in the UK, paralysed from the neck down, his body and his dreams broken. His young life now forever changed. But although it became evident that his spinal cord was damaged beyond repair it also became just as evident that his dreams were not.

Close to a quarter of a century later a white-haired man, visiting from Canada, sat at a table in the sunny, open-plan restaurant of a hotel in the British Virgin Islands. He looked out across the sparkling sea to the harbour on the other side of the bay. With him was a family from England; mother, father and young son, also visiting the island. The two men were drinking a beer and talking about sailing. The mother and son were drinking juice.

After a while the mother said she and the lad were going to wander around town and do a bit of shopping leaving the two men to catch up with the goings on in each other’s lives since last they had met.

The older man didn’t have an awful lot to tell, other than he lived in Canada now and had been trying his hand at writing. But the younger man had many adventures, many incredible achievements to speak about. He did so modesty, almost reluctantly. He played down the comments of respect the older man made, but his unassuming manner could not mitigate the magnitude of the life he had lived. The older man knew some aspects of some of the stories already. He had followed them in the media. But he had not had the opportunity to hear them first hand until then.

Before responding to one of the questions, the younger man raised his beer to his lips, holding it awkwardly with misshapen hands and lifting his arm slowly, a little clumsily and with unusual effort. He stopped smiling just long enough to take a good gulp then lowered his beer with equal difficulty before manoeuvring his wheelchair a little to keep himself in the shade from the fierce tropical sun. Smiling broadly once more he continued the conversation.

The older, while hearing the younger’s words about personal accomplishments most could hardly imagine, studied that unstoppable and contagious smile that seldom left the other’s eyes, projecting a constant air of optimism, positive energy, strength. That smile transported the white-haired man back across a quarter century to a bloodstained hospital bed not many miles to the west of where they now sat. A frightened and confused teenager, badly hurt and in abject pain, stranded in a foreign land was looking up at him. Despite the intensity of the emotional and physical trauma that lad had suffered, the shock, the fear and uncertainty, he was smiling.

The inner light his smile was releasing with such vigour in that restaurant in Tortola was the same as that which had penetrated the darkness and despair all those years ago. He now realised that what he’d witnessed back then was not as he’d thought: a brave endeavour to pretend all was not as grim as it was. It had been the kindling of the potent glow that emanates from an indomitable spirit determined to overcome, no matter how bad the odds may be.

Listening to the stories and recognising that he needed to focus on what was not being told as much as what was, the older man realised how incredibly difficult the journey had been after arriving in England. How long and tormented was the road that had been travelled to rebuild that shattered young life. And just how incredible had been the heights to which that life had been rebuilt.

The irony of that success was that it was largely the very same passions that had caused him to be at Cane Garden Bay on the tragic day of the accident that provided the stimulus that maintained his determination to demolish what for many would have been the insurmountable barriers life had thrown across his path.

 His love of sailing. His love of the sea. His love of adventure.

Not only was he to sail again, he, a quadriplegic, would sail the open seas single-handed. They were small trips at first, in estuaries and staying close inshore. But he would steadily progress until, single-handed, he sailed round the Isle of Wight. He would start to race and eventually, single-handed, would represent his country abroad, as far away as Australia, and return home a medal winner. Twenty-three years after his accident he would embark upon a colossal personal challenge, his personal Everest he called it, and successfully circumnavigate Great Britain ….. single-handed ….. quadriplegic. And while doing so he would dream of sailing single handed across the Atlantic. But as any barnacle encrusted sailor will tell you, such a voyage is just plain impossible for anyone with such disability.

But what he didn’t speak about as they reminisced were the countless numbers of disadvantaged people that had been inspired by his incredible example and helped by the leadership he provided in the field of realising your dreams despite those disadvantages; the lives he changed for the better by not only showing people what could be done, but by establishing the means and encouraging the organisations that allowed them to do so. He had worked with charities and founded others geared toward the disabled and their involvement in sport, especially sailing. He had become an ambassador in that field and for all his work had been honoured many times from many organisations.

From his wheelchair he was accomplishing so much more than most people with no disadvantages would ever think of even attempting.

 Needless to say he had also built a loyal supportive network that had only been too happy to throw their weight behind his initiatives and share some of his dreams in which they too became caught up. This was yet another testament to the depth and breadth of characterand leadership he possessed and the contagious energy he generated. And there was little question in the white haired man’s mind that the greatest of all the supporters who would have facilitated so much of what it took to achieve all that had been accomplished, would have been his wife. But there again, thought the elder man, to have such a wonderful woman so willing to stand by his side during all he had been through was in itself a citation.

 In 2009, a boat named “Impossible Dream” sailed into Cane Garden Bay. It anchored just a little further out from the spot where that eighteen-year-old lad broke his neck ……..

Am I Quixote?

Man has lost the capacity to foresee and foretell. He will end by destroying the earth.               ….. Albert Schweitzer

Am I Quixote? 

 

I read from Don Cervantes of a simple aging soul

Who dared to hold a vision unto which he might stay true.

He rode, though much derided, to fulfil his noble goal

To challenge every tyrant while defending those oppressed

and mend this world before his life was through.

 

My lance tilts so at corporate greed and politician’s lies

That stride across the landscape of the world where I must live.

These windmills that I’m charging and would strive for their demise

Are giants that destroy the earth to take all they might take

with never thought to what they yet might give.

 

Too few the corporations now where selflessness is seen

Too great the selfish influences poured upon our youth.

While governments and bureaucrats and all those in between

Just tell us what serves their agendas, feeds their own desires,

instead of telling us the honest truth.

 

It seems their goals are not providing us with that we need

But that for which their balance sheets would rather we should buy.

Or that which earns them votes from satisfying wanton greed

With scarce a thought to what will happen once the land is bled

and waterways and oceans left to die.

 

The air’s now rank with toxic fume. The sea with plastic filled.

The rivers flow with fertilizers spread on barren lands.

The lakes are turned to tailing ponds. The forests all but killed.

While industry churns ever onward multiplying its guilt

yet showing us its bleached and sterile hands.

 

Too few are we who stand to challenge; muted yet our voice

That’s smothered by these tyrants’ falsehoods, drowned by those in power.

Too ignorant the ones oppressed, not knowing of the choice

They need to make to save tomorrow, save our future’s hope

that fades within my vision by the hour.

 

But who am I to ride against these giant flailing mills

That vandalize my world with no containment or concern?

And who am I to match my mind ‘gainst governmental wills?

An errant knight in rusted armour ‘pon a scrawny horse

that few would miss should never he return?

 

So should I put away this armour, shed this lance and shield

And wait, like all the others, ‘til the sun dies in the west?

Or should I charge and charge again with all that I can wield

To fight these corporate monsters so to honour what I see

as such a crucial, such a noble quest?

So I at least can say I tried to mend the world before I died,

and didn’t acquiesce like all the rest.

An End to Freedom

An End to Freedom

 There upon the snow I see it spattered.

Thin red trail of life about to fade.

Paw prints in the powdered snow,the only other mark to show

Where this once noble creature quietly laid.

Though my life and dreams have now been shattered,

Still I must conclude this cruel deed.

Following that bloody spoor, I pray I’ll find him well before

His spirit goes to where it can’t be freed.

  

We’d survived alone with few possessions.

Me my bow, and him his stealth and speed.

Both had years of hard earned skill, but neither one would ever kill

The more than we could carry, eat or need.

Sometimes I would see his paw’s impressions.

Often he would catch my wind-borne scent.

Once or twice I caught his eye.  We’d watch as brothers, passing by,

But never go the way the other went.

  

Then the settlers came upon these ranges.

Bringing foreign beasts and different ways.

We’d been living high and free.  The land was shared by him and me

While spirits watched us from the ancient days.

Soon we saw the first of many changes.

Trees were felled and streams were damned and filled.

Game was mercilessly shot, and left, most often, there to rot

Upon the blood stained land where it was killed.

  

Soon there was so little food for killing.

That first winter left us nearly dead.

He and I both quietly knew the land would no more carry two

Both needing to be regularly fed.

First we shared, as brothers, true and willing.

Each would leave some kill to feed his friend.

Then the railway pushing west dispersed the herds, and killed the rest,

We knew our time was coming to an end.

  

Late at night a Manitou would find me.

Speak the ancient words I knew were true.

Steady came the quiet voice to tell me I must make the choice

To live as then and die, or start anew.

Waking dreams kept trying to remind me

I must help my brother stay alive.

With him now my spirit ran, but there within the time of man

I knew he was too gentle to survive.

  

So I left my hills and spirit brother,

Hoping without me he’d find more food.

That was all I had to give.  My freedom, so that he might live.

My noble past to join this savage brood.

There I tried to live as someone other.

Learn their selfish ways my soul decried.

‘Till my spirit screamed aloud to tell my heart, once strong, once proud

How fast my soul had strangled there, and died.

  

That was when I walked back to the ranges.

Bow upon my back and knife to hand.

That was when I heard the gun and saw my brother fall, then run.

And that was when I came to understand.

There are some who’ll never live with changes.

There are some who’s freedom they can’t give.

Him and me, our souls must fly forever ‘tween the grass and sky

Where savagery of man could never live.

 

Passing then the two who shot my brother,

Hearing then their mocking of my friend,

Boasting he would die in pain, no more to kill a calf again.

I gave to them a fast and peaceful end.

May they find forgiveness from Our Mother,

May their haunted spirits lie at rest.

One with eye’s yet open wide, his throat now slit from side to side,

The other with my arrow in his chest.

  

Now upon the snow I see them spattered.

All my brother’s hopes before they died.

Paw prints in the powdered snow, the only other mark to show

Where this once noble creature quietly cried.

Now with my hope destitute and shattered,

I must let my brother’s spirit free.

Following that bloody spoor, I have to free his soul before

I turn the knife and do the same to me.