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Don beside a Redwood along Prairie Creek in California in October 2006.

Today is that day. As of today, it’s been 15 years since Don died and life alone with my dogs began. A couple of weeks from now is our 49th anniversary, so I’ve now spent more than a third of what should have been our time together, living alone. It’s been a pretty strange 15 years of existence. If you haven’t been there, you wouldn’t really get it even if I tried to explain how it feels. Suffice to say that things didn’t turn out anything like what we had hoped and planned for. In spite of the debacle, I’ve tried to make the best of it. I can’t say it’s been easy and, as I get older, I know that life will just become more difficult. However, there’s not much point in dwelling on that reality. I just try to keep on keeping on in the company of my canine tribe.

Anyhowl, it’s sort of customary for me to put down a few words on this anniversary, so this is it.

Due to some computer troubles a few weeks ago, I have had to move photo files around on storage drives. Of course, that got me looking at photos from the past 23 or so years since I went all digital. I’ve also been doing some work on my old blogs — cleaning up broken links and doing a bit of editing here and there. And then I started up this new blog. All of this to say that I’ve had occasion to look at a lot of photos from the past and also read many old blog posts from before and after Don’s death in 2008. It’s been both good and sad by times.

Brown Pelicans along the Pacific coast near the Klamath River estuary.

One thing that came out of all of this is that I’m so glad that Don made the trip out west to spend time with me in the final week of my month long autumn photography travels in 2006. I took him to see all of my very favourite places along the Pacific coast, and in the Redwoods. The Brown Pelicans were migrating along the coast at the time, and it felt like we were part of the crowd as we went from beach to beach, meeting up with them again and again, watching them diving, fishing, and flying in strings, so close to the water that, at times, they would disappear behind the waves.

Brown Pelicans skimming over the waves as they head southward along the Pacific coast.

We went up some of my favourite rivers like the Chetco, the Winchuk, Illinois and the Smith. Spent time camped on shoals or in the redwoods where I prepared some of what, I’ve been told, are my legendary fire-cooked dinners made with fresh California produce. And we spent a couple of days of quality time with our good friends, Paul and his father, Bill.

Don beside the Smith River

Don sitting beside the Illinois River in the Siskiyou region of southwest Oregon.

We visited some of my favourite trees in the Redwoods like the Corkscrew tree, and a particular Redwood along Prairie Creek. Such a tree. So fortunate that it was never felled after having a springboard stuck in its side.

Don with the big Redwood along Prairie Creek.

So, yes, I have been looking at those October 2006 photos and thinking a lot about that autumn trip as well as a number of other autumns spent wandering around in Oregon and California. That part of the continent means a lot to me – it is an integral part of my personal mythology. The 2006 trip seems particularly precious — almost like some last marker point at which all was still normal and good. Within a couple of years, Don became ill and died. Then Bill. Then our dog, Sabrina. Then my mom. Then Sage(1) and Shelby. And then my friend, Paul, died this summer. Other friends as well. All gone.

Don on a beach near Crescent City in northern California.

Well, at least we had that very special time out west. When I left home and began travelling out west with my dogs after Don died, I revisited all of those places – and have done so again a couple of times over the years. It wasn’t easy to return, but it was something I needed to do. Sometimes I feel like going back one more time, but I’m sure it would all feel very different as it’s been quite a few years. Things were already starting to change the last time I was there. Oceanview condos starting to crop up all over. Also, the network of friends that always felt like a series of safe port-of-calls across the continent, is pretty much in tatters now that almost all my friends are gone. I expect that wandering around would feel rather empty and weird.

Well, in any case, I’m very glad that we were able to spend some time together on the Pacific coast visiting my favourite places. I’m sorry that Don didn’t get a chance to do more travelling. I tried to do so for both of us. It’s what he would have wanted me to do.

Me beside the drifted Redwood stump at McVay Beach near Brookings, Oregon

Written by Administrator on September 6th, 2023

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