Posts Tagged books

The Good Book

It is the off-season around here. It is the time of year that is especially frustrating for me as the weather is unforgiving, chilly and unpleasant at least until mid January so getting out for a paddle now and then is less likely. It is called the wet coast for a reason, and tonight it is wet with a hint of winter falling with each drop from the night sky. If it ain’t pouring rain it is blowing everything sideways with gales. Christmas on Salt Spring Island is almost always green instead of white, and well it is usually mud covered. Alas, this is home and though we only experience two seasons, wet and dry I would not want to live anywhere else. This year it is even more bothersome as I have entered the Yukon River Quest in 2016 and need to get into shape, (round is a shape, right). With all that hanging over my head and the rain falling on my cabin roof I can only resign myself to the days that are agreeable and get out running with my head lamp in my pocket just in case, and doing my nightly workout with the resistance band.

It is also that time of year that I read. Reading like cooking relaxes me no end. Catching up on a pile of books both real and of the e-kind that have gathered over the past months with the climax being those rare finds discovered at the island’s annual Big Book Sale. Each year the Farmers Institute building that only a couple of months ago housed flower arrangements, prized tomatoes, baked goods, preserves and other Fall Fair whatnots was filled with tables of books, books and more books last weekend. The timing of the sale is no surprise. Right before the dark gloomy grey days and stormy nights of the west coast wet season when staying in with a good book seems the right thing to do. Each year, I go in with a budget and a short list of titles I hope to find. The budget inevitably fails to that need for the extra one or two or five books over and above the stack I am clutching at the cash desk and needed to survive the winter months.

I have a job and it made me late for the first day of the sale giving me only minutes to browse, hunt, search and destroy before the 4pm closing. After that I was off to the ferry for a weekend in Victoria. This was my only chance to get the damn books. How can anyone be expected to enjoy the experience of book browsing with the clock ticking. So, with the fervour of a game show contestant I ran around the hall. I have the same target zones each year beginning with the cooking section and ending on the opposite side of the building with a long stop in the outdoor adventure and travel bins with a brief stop in classics before I go.

This year it was about finding treasures to give away at Christmas. My own book stacks near toppling and to be honest I could not find a book that caught my attention and even sadder still, all the books available I have already read. Not daunted I went about my mission to find the titles and some I did not even think to find always end up in my pile at the cash counter in the end. I did good this time around and I did manage to find one for myself. My stack will surely topple now with that one added book.

The point of all of this is not complaining about bad weather, my increasingly bigger battle with seasonal affective disorder as the months grow into the deeper regions of winter’s all too long drive to the first  crisp mornings of spring. It is not even about mud, the lack of kayaking time, or all the rain. It is that a book, is a gift. It finds its desired owner. One never lends a book, it has to be given as inevitably you will not get it back once it leaves your hands. Well, not always. I met a man who would eventually become a friend on the day he arrived on the island. He was an acquaintance of a mutual friend and we chatted by the dock in town. His connection to me was through this friend who had leant him a book. He wanted to return it. When he told me the title I laughed and said that I had originally given it to her to read over a year ago. He handed it to me saying then it was officially returned! “Did you like it?” I asked. He did indeed.

Now in a round about way I get to the real point, a story I was told this past weekend about another book and the powers of the universe that must be looked at for what they are. I met, rather randomly a friend when I was wandering the streets of Victoria doing some early Christmas shopping. He is the younger brother of a guy I went to school with and we all grew up on the island. It was nice to bump into him though I noticed we had both begun to go grey. We stood in Value Village, I on the hunt for anything that fit me and he for treasures of another kind. We chatted for a time and he confessed to falling on hard times but taking it with a positive attitude and leaning back on a hobby that could potentially pay the bills. Professional treasure hunting. Finding finds no one would look twice at and only to discover the occasional valuable item misplaced or mistaken for not. He took me through his routine and looking in a small magnifier to take a closer look at inscriptions and stamps on the base of cups. He gave me a short lesson in treasure hunting and as he did so told many stories of lucky finds and one about a book that could have held a different path for him if he had only paid closer attention.

Here’s the thing gang, I am an atheist and a proud one at that. I don’t go for it but at the same measure don’t hold it against anyone who does necessarily. All I ask is that they don’t go overboard with the beliefs and hold true to the higher values and avoid reading anything more into the words. To be honest about it all, to not be trite, hypocritical or maddeningly violent. We see everyday the results of that. I stay clear of it all and those reasons are my own. I lay out his disclaimer of sorts because his story of a book leads immediately to the idea that there was a higher power at work during the experience. I leave it for you to decide.

His story is this. Years ago he was on the streets, yes another bout of hard times had befallen him. I judge not as that  edge to the abyss it seems we are all only one paycheck away. It was during this time of living rough outside that he found himself outside of the downtown Salvation Army thrift store rummaging through bags of belongings donated after hours and left under the sign stating clearly the hours that donation of goods were accepted. It was after one in the morning as he sifted though boxes and found a big book. A thick, truly heavy and finely leather bound and it was a Bible. See, the what was the first thing that came to your mind at reading that word? Bible, it has a lot of baggage attached making the book even heavier. I admit at this point in the story I thought, oh no here we go. God talk. He swung away from that to continue telling me how he opened what turned out to be a first edition (I quipped that it was written by the man himself) King James Bible.

He was only just learning the treasure game back then but did know what to look for to authenticate the book for what it was and he thought it would be worth a little bit as it was in good shape. He thought about it for a time but in his homeless situation the idea of lugging such a cumbersome object, even for a short time was out of the question. He reluctantly tossed it back into the box from whence it came and when it fell some of the middle pages folded and were permanently creased.

Some time later, he was reading the local paper. Yep, you guessed it. Someone else discovered the find and the Bible sold at auction for a very large sum of money and would have fetched a higher amount if not for the folded pages. In one moment, in that one night his entire situation could have turned around. Even at half the auction price it would have taken him off the streets in one flip of a page. Was something looking out for him? Was the universe giving him a gentle nudge in the right direction. Who is to say. Not me. Random chance, put that Bible in his hands. Laziness took it out of them according to my way of looking at things. Putting the prize in his hands only to watch him toss it away. well if there is a God would that have pissed him off somewhat? Humans, why bother? Is it too late for a second flood? If it keeps raining like this all winter there may be a chance of that.

We live, we learn and sometimes we have to take a second look in that bargain book bin of life before we get it.


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Great Kayaking Books List

Great Kayaking Books List

January for most is a month when there is little kayaking going on. Though the sun is shining brightly today the cold winds are blowing and uninspiring me to put my newly renovated wooden kayak back in the water after many months of sitting in the workshop. Instead, January becomes a month of loafing on the sofa with books. We all have to make time for that activity as it is as rewarding a thing to do as paddling a kayak on a dreamy summer’s day. The reading list as you may have guessed is kayak-related and not all of the books I suggest here are front page news, no hacking off of limbs with pocket knives, no lost at sea epics, no not at all. Just books that tell individual stories of relationships with kayaks, nature and something lost as our connection to nature has become over the centuries, our connection to each other. Two books offer very different directions and experiences in solo paddling the inside passage between Vancouver, British Columbia and Alaska. One male voice and one female voice to make things all the more interesting as comparative reads. Then the other pair of books. One, a book of tales both lovely and astonishingly horrific as described by someone entering the new world of paddling to wilderness beaches on Vancouver Island. The other a book in my collection is a memoir, a coming of age and staying put sort of book set under the glaciers of what the author describes as the “Africa of America.” It should be noted as well that these books were either self-published productions or done by smaller press houses.

This is meIf I were to be inspired to put paddle to the water in the next few days it would be because of Danny Wilks. In the past weeks I have travelled even farther, exploring the Inside Passage from southern BC north to Alaska. I did this trip not just once, but twice in so many weeks. My first journey was with Danny Wilks’s brand new book about his adventures paddling from Vancouver, BC to Alaska. Wilks is a laid-back sort who will tell you his story as if you asked him about his kayaking trip at the pub. Paddling solo with little kayaking experience, a fishing rod, a hammock, the bare essentials, and the will to see if he can do it.

spirited watersHowever, my first outing was as reading companion to author Jennifer Hahn who let me tag along on her journey south from Ketchikan, Alaska all the way to her home in Bellingham, Washington in her book, Spirited Waters. Not an easy task as she had made one critical error in regards to the prevailing wind direction. Most paddlers come from the south with the winds at their backs. Undaunted by the challenges she takes the reader deep into nature and the vast history of the coastal community. Part kayaking trip log of a solo woman paddler, and part tutorial from a naturalists point of view this book is a treat. Though, she does get a little touchy feely here and there, her unfolding of the journey is marked with wit, understanding and depicts the inner self of one paddling alone in the wilds.

day of two sunsetsIf you are wanting a taste of the ‘other’ coastal shore line in BC, that of Vancouver Island then Michael Blades will take you there. His book, Day of Two Sunsets. This is the book that inspired me to put pen to paper about my own kayaking experiences. His introduction to kayaking is one that we all can relate as are his tales of far flung west coast beaches unmarked by human feet, of wolves, bears, capsizes and the sense of freedom that comes with wilderness camping and kayaking.

only kayakA book that I come back too often is Kim Heacox’s love letter to Alaska, The Only Kayak, A journey into the Heart of Alaska. “I live in the sunlight of friends and the shadows of glaciers.” Heacox describes his coming of age memoir set in Glacier Bay with a tenderness and humour that will draw you in and won’t allow you to put the book down. As kayakers we all have the great and fortunate opportunity lost to others in that we are in touch with nature on a pure level. We see our surroundings on a slower, more captivating level as well. We by the simple act of driving a small craft through the ocean gain much more than the busier folk. As a result we see nature in clear vision, and part of that is seeing places that can be lost to us in a mere blink of an eye due to our needs and lusts for resources. Kim Heacox puts you in his seat drifting through the bay of glaciers, bears, old growth forests and we all can relate. This book is more than a book about paddling, it offers the reader a chance to look inwards and ask how we all might live with more purpose, and thankfulness for the wild places we still have.

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A Kayaking Book, A Volunteer, and a Head Start

only kayak

There is something to be said about a mild winter while the rest of the country and much of the States are being ravaged by the real thing. Out here on the west coast the temperatures have remained in the high single digits or even sneaking into the doubles over the past couple of months. Only one snow day here on the island way back before Christmas when such events seem suitable to the season of joy, while if a flake lands in January it is considered an ill guest. The kayaking weather has been amazing, though my kayak is still in dry dock and I have not been on the water in 2014, however it, the weather that is has been windless and calm.

So fitting it was today as I hiked the short walk to the post box in a wind that cut me to the bones, sliced me and diced me and would have left me for dead if I had stayed out a moment longer. The sun betraying me in the sky giving the illusion of spring with an arctic twist. That twist was the book I had purchased from a seller on Ebay had arrived. The title, The Only Kayak, a Journey to the Heart of the Arctic by Kim Heacox.

This is a lovely book that is not only about kayaking, but about a lifetime spent, friends made and lost under the backdrop of Glacier Bay National Park in the Africa of America. The Only Kayak will remind the reader of Thoreau, or Edward Abbey and will be the subject of another post, indeed! For now, I was happy to run home to get out of the winds and tear open my package to which at first I had hesitated, knowing what it was. I was glad to eventually give in and pulled the book from the envelope. Though used it was in spiffy condition and now I can stop repeatedly drawing it from the local library. I noticed a slip of paper tucked midway in the pages and thinking it an invoice I pulled it out to find it was in fact a note from the seller.

A nice touch. I have done this myself for special one-of-a-kind pieces from my workshop. But for a used book it seemed odd until I read it. It goes as follows and at the bottom of this post I have placed the link to the Ebay page for those of you who might be interested in paying it forward as I am attempting to do here online today.

Dear Valued Customer:

Thank you so much for your purchase of a Kathy’s Miniatures item through eBay. Pay;ment has been received and your item/s are enclosed. Your business means a great deal to me.

Just a note to let you know how your dollars will be used. Arizona has a Back to School program for about 5,000 children each year that have been identified as disadvantaged through Head Start. Each July, families come to Phoenix to get a backpack filled with school supplies, new shoes, socks, and underwear, as well as a new outfit. I volunteer my time to sew for this program. As fabric, zippers, buttons, etc. are costly, I sew doll clothes from the remnants and sell them to finance the Back to School program. Fabrics are new; just not wasted from larger garments. Several items appear in the local paper telling of how the new clothes have helped these children’s self-esteem and ultimately, their success in school. 100% of the monies from Ebay sales go to this cause.


Recent statistics are as follows:

   2011   425 Complete outfits donated plus cash donations from purchased items.

   2012   660 Complete outfits donated plus cash donations from purchased items.

   2013   700 Complete outfits donated plus cash donations from purchased items.

I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your generosity and your help in making a child happy.


On this rather chilled evening with the threat of snowfall by the weekend (this is nothing new for the rest of the world but out here, especially this winter, it is shocking) it warms me up no end to know that I bought a book that I truly enjoy and inadvertently paid it forward to a kid who I will never meet. Perhaps, they will grow up, move north to Alaska to beat the Arizona heat and become a park ranger as the author of The Only Kayak had. Maybe, this kid will write his own book? One can only hope. Thanks Kathy, you made my day!

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Blog to Book, the New Travel Writer?

From a blog a book is born and arrives on the local bookstore shelf. But is it worth the read?

The other evening I clicked ‘download’ from the BC Library online site and in a flash an ebook arrived on my hardrive and then bought a ticket to ride on my Kobo for three weeks. The entire transaction took less than a minute (after the Kobo desktop wasted a few minute doing updates) and I settled in with a book that caught my eye about two young women who drove a Tuk Tuk, one of those three-wheeled carts that clog the streets of India and most of Asia. They were doing this adventure to raise money and awareness for mental health issues and a group in the UK called MIND. A worthy cause as one of the participants suffered from depression and had long-term association with institutions and hospitals.

As I ‘tukked’ in for the evening it started to become clear that the book was based on the blog they kept during the journey. Each of them contributing the daily events. This would have been fine if the two had done some basic co-ordination of who would say what, about what and when. Each entry was echoed soon after by the other person to the point that I found myself leap-frogging through the virtual pages skipping sentences and passages with familiar theme. If one told the story of the rain and potholes for 125 miles and stopping for a beer in Laos, the next person would detail it as well. A wonderful trip log became a short read. Only on a few occasions did each divert from telling the same story of the same day. One voice please!

This is one of the dangers of the latest trends open to us all through online book publishing sites such as My Publisher and Thier book was done through other means, however these sites and others offer template allowing simple transfer of your blog to book format. Now anyone can self-publish! I am a self-published author and heartily approve, but editing, proofreading and all the rest of the process must happen too. In the case of this book, worth a read but be prepared for a constant echo two people telling the same story might have been smooth if they had differing views. Chose sections of the trip to speak about or have chosen one person to do the writing. For the most part that did not happen. It was a book made up of short sound bite bursts of one paragraph post card posts on a blog. It read like a blog, sounded like a blog and essentially was only a blog. I needed more. I enjoyed the journey, but not the reading of it.

On the other side of this new way of selling your story is a book that came to my hands via a kayaker who approached me in the local coffee shop with a copy of my recent book, The Hungry Kayaker under his arm. I signed it for him and we chatted about kayaking. A half hour later on the ferry we met again, and it was then that he let slip that he too had a book out. It was available on and was a photo/blog of a trip he and another paddler had done around Vancouver Island. One hand shakes the other so when I got home I ordered a copy of his book. 910206-e734e2b39384ce0907ebc8a884f9f31c

On the arrival in my mailbox I sat down and browsed it. Blurb is good, I have used it too but for photos it is not so great. To get a rich colour plate from the restriction of uploading jpg quality images makes it challenging, however they kept the image size smaller and the crispness was still there. Stunning images. The text was another issue. In this book two travellers telling the same story but had the forethought to break it up between them. Each taking sections of the journey which deleted much of the perils of overlap and repetition. The information was great, the story telling clear, though neither was a writer, it didn’t dull the experience of wandering through the pages.

I don’t write my blog with book in mind. It is a place to talk about my passions for cooking and camping and kayaking, period. A place where i vent, rant and go on. In my world a blog is a blog and a book is a book. To mash one into the other can work. If you are in the process of  doing it right now, great, cool! Go For IT! Just keep the reader in mind especially if you are more than one person telling the same story.

From my own experiences using online publishing sites as with traditional self-publishing, you do get what you put into it. Take your time, polish the book and its pages. Read, edit, read and re-edit. Find form and function and make it work. Tell your story. But, with these online sites while you do have the relative ease of simple to use templates, the cost per book is slightly more than packaged deals from an outfit such as the one I use, Friesenpress in Victoria BC. Colour photos cost more to print no matter what the quality and the online bookstore pricing is tight when you are looking to make a profit. In fact, it will take a lot to make a profit. Self-publishing is tough, it is tough to sell your book without the giant engines of a so called ‘mainstream publisher’. Use your blog to sell your book, get creative, you’ll need to. However, a straight text blog to book is actually comparable to commercial pricing on these sites. If you are looking to publish your blog do some reasearch before transferring data from one place to the next.

As I said before, I doubt I will ever turn this blog into a book. But for those adventerous travellers out there updating followers daily on the trials and joys of taking a wild journey on their blogs it is a way to expand your readership by creating a book about your trip, or passions later on. The world of travel writing is changing. But after sampling two distinctly different approaches to blog to book publishing all I can ask is  that you please resist the urge to copy and paste your life to the pages of a book, unless you are willing to put in the hard work of turning that blog into a readable book.

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How to Have Sex in a Kayak

Spalted Alder driftwood pendant. photo by Dave Barnes for Foundwood Designs on Etsy

Spalted Alder driftwood pendant.
photo by Dave Barnes for Foundwood Designs on Etsy

How to have sex in a kayak!

Now that I have your attention…I thought it was about time for a shameless plug for my woodworking Etsy shop called, Foundwood Designs. I began it a couple of years ago with the foundation of limiting my work to using only found and recycled wood. In that two-year period I have purchased only a couple of dollars worth of dowelling, not bad if I do say so myself. Kayaking gives me access to driftwood and that often gifts me with pleasant surprises inside. It also means I have a new excuse to go kayaking and search the local shoreline for useable bits of slightly rotting wood.

What you will find at Foundwood are wooden pendants, small boxes and whatever else the I can find hiding inside the wood that I gather. You will also find some ceramic pendants from my previous life working in clay and of course my kayaking books. I invite you to take a peek, browse around and if you find something you like here is a special coupon code you can use during the check-out process. Simply type in ‘kayakrogue’ in the box supplied for such things and receive 15% off your purchase.

Cheers and happy paddling!

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