All posts by Jim

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.

Disrespecting Cultures

Unfettered encroachment of the developed population upon traditional lands of  Aboriginal Peoples is endemic wherever Aboriginal Peoples still exist from Indonesia to Botswana; Siberia to Guatemala. South America, where there are yet the greatest number of uncontacted tribes, perhaps boasts the worst record of encroachments and magnitude of disrespect shown these people as the interiors are systematically opened to satisfy the greed and the colonial rape, pillage and plunder mentality the developed world still perpetuates upon the less developed. Even the seemingly innocuous industry of eco-tourism participates in its own way in this insensitive exploitation and cultural genocide.

Disrespecting Cultures

He felt ashamed to be there.

Everything had been so good until then but this was to be the low point of an otherwise great first trip into the Amazon jungle.

They’d flown over the Andes to Iquitos in North-eastern Peru where he was intrigued to see big ocean going cargo ships that had come up from the Atlantic, such was the magnitude of the greatest of all rivers. The boat ride downstream had been fun, stopping at several rickety floating docks on the bank to discharge and load people, luggage, foodstuffs and livestock. Everything was done manually and, to his eye, with a fairly decent level of efficiently in the end even though appearing unorganized at times.

At one such stop he’d translated the international signal flag design on the t-shirt of a cargo handler, a river Indian he was sure had never wandered far from that area. It read “Caneel Bay St John USVI”. He smiled, having gone past that very place on the ferry from Tortola less than two weeks previously, and wondered how it had come to be the property of this fellow who would never have even heard of the place.

The rudimentary lodge in the jungle was sensible for the environment in which they were staying and, given his unease with unnecessary comfort when traveling in natural places, he was very happy with the arrangements his girlfriend had made for them. He’d loved the jungle hikes, the river trip to see the pink dolphins, sightings of sloths, tarantulas, macaws and other indigenous creatures and flora, and enjoyed the antics of the semi tame monkey in the nearby village that seemed to enjoy riding on his shoulder and explaining the events around him by muttering into his ear.

The visit to the Amerindian village was altogether different and, given that he had been keenly looking forward to it, utterly disappointing. They had been taken with a few other “first world” people from the lodge to a settlement of the Yagua indigenous people from whom he had hoped to learn of their culture and, if possible, try to understand a little of their world view from any Elders that may be open to discussion. Instead he had been treated to a ridiculous spectacle of staged dance and a blow pipe show and competition put on purely for the participation of, and photo ops for, the tourists.

There were no translators available through whom to communicate with the villagers and very little authenticity in anything he saw. It was a sham of Aboriginal culture designed to give the paying tourists what they wanted, not what was anthropologically real.

There was no blame to be placed on the Yagua. He reckoned they were just being exploited by tour operators, and that although they probably only received a pittance compared to that which the tour operators charged, this was still a necessary income source for them as they struggled to adapt to the new order brought about by the tragically destructive encroachment of modern society. It would have been made all the more necessary as the advancement of so-called civilization into their territory increasingly diminished their ability to live their traditional ways from which they had little difficulty finding adequate sustenance for centuries.

Ancient wisdom sparkled in the eyes of the Elders. He silently speculated on how they felt about what they witnessed happening to their people. As they strutted back and forth in their grass skirts, their faces painted for the white people, he wondered what longing they must endure for the old life when they could walk with pride through the jungle at ease with their rightful position as one of the alpha predators.

He wept internally for them when he thought of the ignominy of their status in their own land, reduced to little more than a side show for paying spectators. He was angry and indignant for them with each new demeaning spectacle the tour group leader had them perform.

Disgusted he walked away from the group and round the back of one of the thatched huts from which the villagers had emerged. Beyond another such building were some more villagers, young Yagua adults and older teens, only they were wearing jeans and t-shirts, shorts and tank tops. He noticed, with more than a little curiosity, two wore expensive Nike running shoes.

The group seemed ill at ease with him being there and seeing them. He realized that tourists were not supposed to witness the reality of their existence. These young people were concerned that the scam would be revealed, the myth that the indigenous lifestyle still thrived would be busted and with it would go the much needed revenue it brought to the village. He tried to wave and smile reassuringly and, not wanting to make them any more uncomfortable, returned to the tour group that he was now starting to despise.

Upon approaching the others he saw that a bartering session was underway between the Elders and the tourists and was amazed to see a good leather belt disappear from the waist of a pair of dockers to be replaced by a length of woven grass that would not hold together for more than a few days. A pair of good sunglasses went for a crude model of a bow and arrow, but the best, to his mind, was when a pair of Nike running shoes was traded for two miniature “shrunken heads” made from he didn’t know or care what, but knew it wasn’t the real thing.

He looked back in the direction of the group of younger villagers now hidden from view again by the thatched huts and nodded his understanding. He then turned back to the Elders and nodded his approval. At least at this level of cultural interaction the Yagua was still the alpha predator and it would seem their gullible prey was in no short supply.

There are over 150 million Tribal People in the world spread between 60 countries. Even today more than 100 tribes are classed as “uncontacted”, which means they have chosen to stay isolated from the modern world. Particularly in Latin America, but also on a general global scale, these Aboriginal cultures living their ancestral lifestyles do not receive anything like the respect they deserve or their people the basic human rights the UN mandates are applicable to all humanity.

In parts of South America while seeking (often illegally) appropriation of Indigenous People’s lands, ranchers and mining companies (oil and ore) regularly terrorize these defenseless people up to and including assassination. Governments like those in Botswana and Indonesia may on paper grant albeit un-enlightened rights to their indigenous peoples, but in reality persecute them and try to force them off their own lands by a number of means varying between intolerable hardship to torture and death. This so their ancestral lands can be exploited for financial gain from which the Natives, who’s land it is, will receive virtually nothing.

Settled and developed countries like The United States, Russia, Canada, Australia, China, and New Zealand also have a great deal to answer for in terms of their present and previous dealings with their own indigenous populations.

The sadness this unjustness, cruelty and less than human behaviour causes me is greatly augmented by the realization that it is among these people, many of whom yet understand the wayto co-exist in balance with our planet, that a good chunk of the salvation of our species’ chance to survive is to be found. If we continue as we are upon our destructive exploitative path, in a few fleeting generations the so called civilized world will have depleted this earth beyond its ability to sustain human life in any but the smallest of numbers, and the outcome thereafter is grizzly at best and utterly alarming.

It is upon taking the ancient and natural wisdom of these tribal peoples, these natural conservationists, these less artificial beings who yet understand the physical and spiritual need and practices to remain in balance with our environment, and combining it with the modern world’s ability to create beneficial (not exploitative) technology, that the long term survival of our species as we know it hinges.

But why should they help us? What have we done to earn their respect sufficient to encourage them to do so? They, those that are left, will no doubt still be able to survive via their traditional life-styles in their natural habitat as it recovers from the wounds inflicted by industrial man long after we have gone. Why should they be bothered to help us survive when all we have done is diminish their existence for so long, as we have everything else that is natural upon this planet?

Mano-a-Mano at Mingo Cay

As they rounded the mark they gybed again putting them on the same point of sail as their arch rival for the start of the windward leg. Both boats tightened up until they were as hard on the wind as they could be. All but the skipper at the helm, and the two trimmers moved to the rail to act as ballast as the boat heeled over driving to windward. Even those three moved as far to the high side as they could while still doing their jobs. The other boat’s bow was almost on their stern but just a little off their downwind quarter and so was eating their dirty air.

“He’s going to want to use the advantage of his larger genny so he’ll want to get out of our dirty wind.” The owner/skipper said quietly. “He’ll throw in a tack quickly, then tack back again once he’s cleared our stern and then try to power through above us and get the upwind advantage. He can do it too if we let him.”

“Then what’s the plan?”

“Going to sit in his face!” The skipper said. Not all of the crew understood that particular term, but the regulars who had the key jobs on board all did. Then he said to the first man on the rail, the fores’l sheet tailer, “Stay looking back at him at all times and let me know as soon as anyone twitches like they’re about to tack. The rest of you stay ready to tack with no notice. And remember, don’t let them know what we’re about to do.”

It was only a few seconds before the man on the rail quietly said, “They getting ready skip.”

“OK everyone.  Don’t move …… just think ready.”

A few seconds later the man on the rail said, “They going skip! They going!.”

“READY ABOUT!!!!” Yelled the skipper without looking back, and in virtually no time everyone was in their positions shouting “READY!”

“HELM’S A-LEE!” And the boat’s bow started swinging rapidly across the wind, almost in unison with the other boat, as the mains’l trimmer adjusted the traveller to the new tack and the heads’l trimmer yelled his customary “PULL! PULL! PULL!” to the tailer as he released the other sheet before moving swiftly to the other winch, deftly inserting the handle and changing his cry to “TAIL! TAIL! TAIL!” Once the sail was almost completely in he grabbed the sheet from the tailer and said “I got it” and continued his fine adjustment while the tailer climbed up to the rail to add his weight there.

At the end of the exercise they were in pretty much the same position as they were before related to the other boat though now on the other tack. Their rival was still eating their dirty air which negated the advantage of their larger heads’l.

“Great job guys!” The skipper said. “But stay alert. He’ll be doing that again real soon.” He reminded the tailer to keep his eyes on the other boat and sure enough it was not long before he quietly said, “They getting ready again skip.”

“You know what to do guys.” Which everyone realised had replaced the normal “Ready about” command.

“They going skip! THEY GOING!”

“HELM’S A-LEE.”

And another flawless tack ensued allowing them to maintain their advantage right on the other boat’s nose feeding them the turbulent wind off their own well-trimmed sails.

“He’ll try that one more time and if we do a good job he won’t try again on this tack.”

Almost a minute later the other boat threw in another back to back set of tacks but this time there was no warning. The alert tailer reacted at the first sign enabling them to maintain their advantage.

“What makes you sure he won’t go again?” The mains’l trimmer asked.

“He doesn’t have enough room now to get through on the upwind side before we reach the rocks and have to tack away again.”

“So what’s he going to do?”

“Drive us onto the rocks. By so doing he’ll try using our lead to his advantage and force us to tack before we run aground. Then he can tack on the cleaner air higher on our stern and not in the dirtier air on our quarter and then overpower us on the next leg. Once clear of the rocks, if we want to throw in another tack to try to get back our old position of feeding him dirty air he’ll be on starboard and we’ll have to let him through. He held off with his last tack to position us right into the rocks on this tack. He’s clever”

“So what do we do?”

“Sit in his face as long as we dare before we hit the rocks ……. and see who blinks first.”

“….. Shit….”

True enough, the other boat made no further attempts to throw in another tack, but held position about two boat lengths behind. After a while the skipper called to the foredeck man, who was the smallest and lightest of the crew and the most forrard sitting on the high side.

“Watch those rocks up ahead, and when we get to about two hundred feet or so then stand at the mast and start calling the distance to me. Call it by boat lengths not feet, keeping in mind it’s roughly three boat lengths to a hundred feet. And look beneath the surface for the closest point. Not at the water line.”

Intrigued, some worried, glances were exchanged among the crew who were now starting to experience more than the normal rush of adrenaline that comes with a close fought windward leg.

Then the skipper looked at the two trimmers and the tailer and said, “And you guys better look sharp and make no mistakes. This will be close. He means business and he’ll  have two or three boat lengths in reserve that we won’t when we get there. But still don’t let them know when we’re about to go.”

As the rocks raced swiftly closer the foredeck man stood up and held onto the mast on the windward side of the heads’l. “About seven boat lengths!”

“Thank you.”

“Six……….. Five boat lengths ……… four………… three.” He never looked back.

“They getting ready skip.” The tailer quietly said.

“Thank God!” Sighed the heads’l trimmer.

“TWO boat lengths.”

“THEY GOING!”

“READY ABOUT!”

“THEY GONE”

“ONE AND A HALF!”

“HELM’S A-LEE!”

“PULL!  PULL! PULL!”

“ONE!”

“TRIM…TRIM…TRIM.”

“High side everybody!” The skipper reminded them. “Thank you!” He called to the foredeck man.”

“….. Shit! ….” Said the mains’l trimmer as he watched the jagged rocks speed past just a few feet from the rail.

“Settle down.” Said the skipper. “We won’t have to do that again this race. Clear water from here on.” Then with a wry smile at the two trimmers he said, “That’s one advantage of being the owner as well. Don’t have to answer to anyone except the insurance company.”

“What if he hadn’t thrown in that tack when he did?”

“I’d still have tacked when I did. Couldn’t have gone any closer. Only had to make sure he couldn’t get high on our stern on the next course…. Didn’t need to go any closer to the rocks than he could have, just no further away. In fact if I’d know he was going to chicken at four or five boat lengths I’d have tacked sooner.”

The course they were on took them to the windward mark. During that leg the other boat made two further unsuccessful attempts to get the upwind advantage but they rounded the mark pretty much in the same relative positions as before, hoisting their spinnakers and lowering their genoas as they did so.

“D’ya reckon he’s given up trying to get above us?” The heads’l trimmer asked once round.

“No.” The skipper responded. “You don’t get to be North American champion by giving up. He’ll try to get us on the downwind leg. He’ll try smothering our wind from behind, then, as we slow, he’ll try sailing through us. If he makes the next mark before us then he’s got us. It’s a windward finish and his bigger genoa will give him the extra speed on the last leg.”

“What’s the plan now then?”

“Sit in his face.” said the skipper ……..

If I could Change

If I Could Change

If I could change one day it would be this day.

I’d make it the day when we could see the wrongness of our destiny

So we might try to change the course we’ll take.

So we might stop and look behind with eyes that can no more be blind

To all the depredation in our wake.

So, through our blood stained tears of guilt for all the wastelands we have built,

We’ll mourn the wondrous beauty that’s now lost.

And we’ll account our selfish ways of unchecked greed that filled our days

No more in terms of profit, but of cost,

And recognize the debt we now must pay.

 

If I could change one mind it would be my mind.

I’d start to believe that I’d be heard and so would shout out every word

That told of where our attitude was wrong.

I’d start to trust these thoughts I bear that yet, with effort, we’ll repair

The damage we’ve inflicted for so long.

With confidence I’d find anew the strength to share with all of you

This true direction humankind should go.

And, never doubting I might fail, I’d lead toward that Holy Grail

Of balance; though that path I do not know,

But trust, that with your help, we yet will find.

 

If I could change one heart it would be your heart.

I’d open it up to what once was, to love the Elder ways because

There lived the time when man and earth were friends.

When all of nature, all of man, fit well within that master plan

Ordained to satisfy our mutual ends.

Not as we see our world’s now turned where we ignore the lessons learned

From evolutions omnipresent school.

Where we believe we have the right to take all we desire on sight

And shatter every natural golden rule

The universe decreed right from the start.

 

If I could change one dream it would be our dream.

I’d centre our vision toward the day when we might wake to quietly say

We’ve found the new tomorrow at our door.

When we can see we can remain amid The Balance we’ll sustain;

So we can also be sustained once more.

That here’s a place where we can live where, yes, we still can take, but give

Yet more back to the Earth than that we took.

That here no more we tear apart her very soul, her very heart

Upon which all of us depend, but look

Instead with eyes that see how wonderful our lives can be

Unthreatened by our own unsated greed.

Now driven not from want, but basic need;

Allowing earth to heal instead of bleed;

To worship not the harvest, but the seed,

And so from avarice be ever freed

To join once more the Universal scheme

 

If I could change one day it would be this day.

I’d make it the day we’d start to see the rightness of our destiny

The day we changed the course we choose to take.

The day we stopped and looked behind upon the years when we were blind

And smiled that they are now all in our wake.

The day we made the pledge that we are never going to break.

To join once more The Balance, and within it ever stay.