When I was just a kid, I wondered what I should do when I grew up. Mum had no answers for me but she strongly urged me to clean out the chicken coop before the hens quit laying in protest. Mum pointed out that if we took care of our animals, they in turn would take care of us. Fine, I picked up the pitchfork and slowly dragged my feet towards the coop where the strong odor of ammonia awaited me. The long prairie winter had taken its toll on the cleanliness of the coop so with the hens scratching around in the pen, I set to work.
Chickens are unusual birds with their flat head and bulging eyes. When they examine you with those keen eyes, they turn the head sideways so one eye has a full view of you, then rotate back one hundred and eighty degrees so the other eye can examine you too. One hen did just that to me while I was forking around in the coop, her house, so to speak. I suppose she wanted to go set a spell and drop an egg. But the place wasn’t ready yet so I said shoo, go away. She looked at me again with those crazy eyes and I swear this is what she said to me: booook, book, book. And thus came my inspiration to write.
As I write and edit about this grand adventure for lost treasure, I study books in the library and in book stores. There is certainly some great competition out there. How will my modest effort stack up? What is the average shelf life before a book gets the big discount sticker? I pay particular attention to covers too, that first hook used to grab the reader’s attention. Some covers really don’t seem to work, at least not for me. But how will mine stack up? How can I make mine stand out?
I think that alone is a good reason to self-publish: retain creative control over the entire project. If a writer has a vision for the story, why not have your own vision for the cover as well? Of course I’ll delete this post if I get to that point and the cover proves to be a flop and everyone says so. Yet still, if I have one chance for a book to represent my dream, well damn-it, the dream will encompass the entire project. Meanwhile, I continue to edit and try to improve the read to the point where an editor will appreciate my efforts and make appropriate suggestions. I admit that editing is dull and boring for me and yet so vital. With every ‘next edit’ I think how can I make this better? How can I have the reader experience what I felt through those exciting times of searching the forest on my ultimate treasure hunt? With luck and a good editor, I will try to do my best. And soon, I hope, real soon.
More than two months of unseasonable weather has residents of the Vancouver lower mainland shouting enough. Many of us live here because we retired our snow shovels and sought better, warmer days. But Mother Nature is not pleased with our reckless ways and reminds us who is ultimately in charge. It’s also possible the record hot, dry summers are responsible for the pendulum swing to wetter and more severe winters. Just a few days before the official arrival of spring, daffodils and crocuses can be found to remind us better days lay ahead.
A month ago I had my stomach hernia repaired and am in better condition than I’ve been for years. I’m almost able to eat real food again but promised myself to take better care of my health. As I switched my diet from largely processed food to a more natural diet, I noticed how my garbage contains a larger amount of organic material instead of packaging. How did I get so careless in my choices? I was lazy.
It’s often been said that we spend the first half of our lives trying to shorten the second half. Guilty. Now I spend the second half trying to repair the damage done in my youth. My ten years of tobacco smoking has caught up with me. I better get back to the forest before needing to carry an oxygen bottle with me. Ah sweet days of youth, why have you forsaken me? Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather be old than dead. Springtime in the forest is almost here and I’m looking forward to a return. The quest will continue.
After numerous trips into the target area over the last five years, I can visualize how the area might look today. A heavy blanket of snow of varying depths covers the region. Depending on area winds, the evergreen trees still retain a certain level of snow adding to the picturesque scene. A myriad of animal trails crisscross the terrain as they search for their own survival in the forest. Eat or be eaten. Or more correctly, eat and eventually be eaten. Above all, the silence of the forest in winter is a wonderful thing. In man’s absence, only the call of the raven might be heard as it communicates the aerial view to those on the forest floor. Does the presence of clear winter air give the scent-based animal world a greater sense of the cold difficulties of their winter existence? Compared with spring’s explosion of life beginning anew, the presence of beauty can’t offset the emptiness of their food supply, especially for the herbivores.
While the sound of Rock Creek is substantial through most of the year, for a creek anyways, the volume is far less in winter. A steady build-up of ice-cover muffled the sound eventually sealing most of the gurgle to be released wherever greater turbulence refuses to accept the growth of ice. Droplets attach in the most unusual places as splashes of ice begin to grow on downed branches or tumbled rocks. A few small iced-droplets grow and shape into forest jewelry, the creek showing off her best to those who chance upon the scene at the right moment.
On one particular late-summer visit to the creek, I thought I heard the sound of voices in my target area. MY target area. How dare they invade my territory with their chatter? Go find your own special place to nature-bath. Carefully following the direction of the noise, I found no one yet the sound persisted. I had found the proverbial babbling brook. There were no particular words of any language but from a distance my brain suggested it sounded like particular words. It seemed to me that the low flow of the creek over a certain grouping of creek-bed rock created the sound and I proceeded to record it on my smart phone. For a writer, the single best tool in the forest has to be the smart phone. Sights and sounds were quickly harvested for use at later times.
Recently I reviewed several recordings as I drove into the forest on the trail to Little Fish Lake covered deep in snow. The drive appears dangerous, as I know it could be, but the slow pace of caution and winter chains on a four-wheeled drive truck reduced my dangers, especially after the number of trips I’d made. While the trail and few open meadows were more suited to snowmobiles or quads, I appreciated the peace and quiet of the muffled truck.
I remind all who visit the forest that minimal noise with a minimal footprint will provide the visitor with the greatest experience. Maybe I need an electric motorcycle to improve my experience. Do they come equipped with enough storage? Does Tesla make a truck?
Happy New Year to all treasure hunters whether you search for gold or the best deal on a new pair of shoes. As many collectors often say it’s as much about the thrill of the hunt as it is for the ownership. Gold bars are the great exception. For me, success will be as much about proving I could do it, especially after passing the five-year mark.
By the Numbers, to date;
1 relationship lost due to my determination to succeed while ignoring my spouse
2 metal detectors owned, White’s TDI Pro and Sierra Madre
3 injuries suffered including head trauma, a scratched eye lens and a torn hernia repair
20 thousand dollars spent directly on the search and manuscript production
26 pieces of hardware found directly linked to the gold bar robbery
41 thousand kilometers driven including rental vehicles
60 months since the quest began
67 number of trips to the forest including one by my daughter and her fiancée
78 posts written since beginning this blog
81 countries that have had at least one visit to the blog; Brazil is 2nd, US 3rd
5161 views to the blog, thanks to all for your interest
And what a journey its been. While 2015 brought very limited results, 2016 showed greater promise and direction. This could be the year, should be the year, 121 years after the robbery. I’m pleased with the manuscript thus far and hope to illustrate the book for the best effect I can give to the story. Stay tuned.
What trip will be the magic number? I thought it would happen so long ago so perhaps, and just perhaps, I’m not as sharp as I should be. But without giving clues, I am closer than ever. The quest has gone from an immense area of forest to a very limited size. As the fifth year nears its completion, I think there’s never been a moment when I didn’t believe in a successful completion. Ever the optimist.
On this last trip, the nights were cold in the Hyundai Hostel. The darkness came early, dawn came late. But a good sleeping bag topped with a heavy woolen blanket provided good comfort. The hardest part was getting out of the warm bag but of course every bladder needs to be emptied, mine several times in the night. And thankfully, I could just stretch out completely with the rear seats folded done by laying diagonally. Despite the weather forecast, my quest was rained out. The creek level rose surprisingly by morning.
As I drove from the area on the forestry road, my stomach demanded that I stop, grab the paper towel roll and dash into the forest. In retrospect, my ailment may have been from the black banana I ate or perhaps the warm yogurt. Several hernia’s await repair in our slow motion medical system so I should’ve been more discerning with my diet. But I only had so much food with me and I’m not the forest connoisseur I should be. To make the situation worse, the paper work wasn’t even completed when I heard the telltale sound of an engine, a diesel, I think. They always catch you at the worst times, don’t they? But their slow driving pace and my fast clean up prevented an ugly scene. I’d driven the trail so many times and encountered maybe 5 or 6 vehicles so the encounter was a surprise.
My time back in the forest was still beautiful. Traces of fog lingered in the trees lending a dream-like quality to the scene. Rare moments of sunlight streamed in between the silent trees, the sun low in the distant sky. Golden-coloured spruce needles littered the forest floor and portions of the trail appeared golden. Many needles glistened with raindrops and later floated to the ground like snowflakes. Hunting season had scattered the game far and wide and I saw only deer and bighorn sheep along the highway. Even the usual squirrels were nowhere to be found. Yet I appreciated the beauty.
On my return I detoured through the massive Cabela’s Outdoor store in Abbotsford. With my hunting days now decades passed, I have mixed feelings on the ‘sport’. There was a time when supplying meat for the winter ahead could be seen as necessary. And I can appreciate the mounted animals in the store, the skill of the hunter and the artistry of the taxidermist. But I wonder now if too many hunters vie for too few available animals as mega stores present the sport to the masses. Yet the call of the wild has always been heard and answered. And the freedom of the open countryside should be experienced. Safely and legally.
Time continues to move quicker than I appreciate but as we age, that’s how it seems to be. I had tried to post several times last month and I apologize for my lack of success. But I continue on in the quest although seemingly at a snail’s pace. Winter is on the doorstep and soon the forest will be even more silent under blankets of snow. And I don’t have the strength I used to so winter searching isn’t in my future, at least not in a planned way. I am determined to succeed in this quest.
With only one trip so far this year into the quest area, my concern is for the quick passage of time. I turned sixty-five in late June and wondered how I arrived at this age so quickly. There was a time when I stood on the side of the dance floor where the young guys gathered. But at some point in time, I suddenly realized I had crossed that dance floor of life and now sat with the old guys. Yes, I am some old guy…..
I continue to work at keeping the cash flow moving and writing the book, or mostly editing. At this stage of the quest, I’m also not able to reveal much about immediate or long-range plans for fear of giving out too much information. Perhaps I already have. But I don’t intend to end my search like the treasure hunter in lost in New Mexico six months ago. His body had recently been found and my sympathies go out to his family and friends. But life without risk carries little reward.
Recently I came across a quote from Abraham Lincoln.
“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing.”