Singing the blues in Langford. Photo by Pete Rockwell.
Along with all the other shit that went down this past month, I got hit with the stomach flu, and that triggered fresh spasms of health problems. I’m on drugs now, but they’re not fun drugs. At least I don’t have to worry about getting fat.
The local paper has publicly labeled the Bear Mountain tree sit crew as tree-spikers, vandals, welfare bums, poachers, and outside agitators. The RCMP and city enforcement officers stepped up their harassment this week after the forest defenders dug a trench and built a barricade across the access road at the site of the new highway bypass.
The campers are in high spirits. Six platforms are now occupied by brave souls who are risking their freedom to protect the Langford Lake Cave, Spencer’s Pond, the wetlands, the screech owls, great horned owls, red-legged frogs and arbutus trees. Supporters and volunteers bring food, blankets, and cash donations. The legal defense fund is swollen with contributions as we brace for the inevitable court battle.
Physical and emotional distress have been keeping me away from the camp for long periods. But Saturday night, I was hanging out in the forest, watching low clouds fly across the face of the nearly-full moon, when the shout came from the road. Three RCMP cruisers pulled up at high speed, the lead car braking too late to avoid plunging partway into the trench at the end of the road. The headlights came straight at us, and then dipped down sharply. I thought, “Oh shit, they’re gonna be pissed.”
They were. I ducked behind the welcome tent as the officers stormed into the camp. “You’re all under arrest,” the biggest one boomed out, shining a high-powered light at the four young men in front of him. I hit the dirt, face down in the wet leaves and low brush right behind the tent.
Shouts, running feet pounding down the trail, and the rest of the crew booked it into the woods. “Don’t move!” barked the officer at the four standing their ground. “Everyone’s under arrest.” To another officer: “Take that crap down.” The second officer grabbed the makeshift tent and began to tear its tarp roof from the log beams. A few feet away, I cowered down closer to the ground, barely breathing. The lights shone back and forth, up and down.
Then my cell phone rang. I scrambled to shut it off. All the beams turned in my direction. “What’s that?” barked the officer. “Go check it out.” I melded with the mud and wet leaves at the base of a scrawny dogwood. The lights came closer. Then a shout from the woods pulled them away again.
I was plotting my chances of escape, so I could call the lawyers and bail the tree people out of jail. But there was no need. The cops held the men for half an hour, took their names and gave a lecture. No camping on the roadway. Then everyone was released.
Now I’m back home in the old farmhouse that I share with three other people and assorted visitors camping out on the living room couches. But there is only one bathroom. I keep a bucket with a tight-fitting lid in the bedroom, since my gut rot won’t let me wait around for a vacancy. The room is lovely, with a high ceiling and bay windows, and right now it stinks of shit and incense.
Thanks to the gastritis, the stomach flu, the stress and everything else, my immune system is shot to hell. My sinuses are oozing bright yellow snot and I’m woozy from fever. I’m broke and in debt.
It was obvious that there would be no Christmas for me this year.
But late last night, I heard a commotion on the porch. My friend Rose Henry was knocking on the door. “Merry Christmas,” she said. The man behind her was lugging a hamper filled with mandarin oranges, cranberry sauce, canned veggies, pasta, stuffing mix, candy, and even toilet paper. I almost cried.
One of the roommates got a turkey, and he’s invited a couple friends over for an orphans’ Christmas tonight. I’m making the stuffing.
It makes me think — even the saddest pagan in the world might find happiness at Christmas.