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Back to main page Me on my boat, the Whimsey

Photo by Barry Pomeroy
Circumnavigating Manihiki
Going Back to Bangkok
How to get to Bangkok
Killing Around the Farm
Life on the Water
Manihiki
The Last Days of Harry the Honda
The Wish to Live Deliberately
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Logbooks and Journals

My original foray into journaling was tentative and tardy. I have no excuse for not keeping a journal in my early life, for pen and paper were easily accessible, and although my writing skills were minimal and I was busy with tasks of hand, I could have made an effort. Likewise, when I first went to university I had many experiences which would be a pleasure and a pain to recall, although having them committed to paper would arouse some interest, at least on my behalf.

Retrospectively, I was to take up the brutal story of "Killing Around the Farm," in which I described the horrid mix of feelings associated with being a foster kid and also the reluctant executioner of farm cats with scarcely less volition than me.

Only the barest ideas of writing had entered my head when I was first overseas, when I spent the summer of 1991 teaching in the Cook Islands and travelling in Fiji. I relied on the many letters I wrote to my then girlfriend to keep track of my scattered mind, but she quickly lost that record and I have only the fuzziness of my remembrances. I record that venture here, as much as that is possible, by looking back over the years to my Circumnavigation of the island of "Manihiki" and a brief anecdote about a ghost.

Likewise, I collapsed my experience of Argentina in the winter of 2002-2003 into a brief piece about the port city Mar de Plata. There I explained the significance of two quite discrete events, and tried to make sense of them in reference to what I called an Argentinean sensibility.

My first real exploration of the possibilities of record keeping came when I built the Whimsey. That, I guessed, was an experience I was unlikely to do again, so I supplemented the photographic record of the construction with a log book, in which I itemized the trivia of shipboard life. True to the chronicles it was meant to emulate, the Whimsey log, in its three incarnations over different summers, details the wind speed and direction, the temperature, and anchorages, as well as my thoughts and feelings. These logs are collected in Life on the Water.

Being reasonably happy with the logbook, I decided to keep a record of my canoe trip down the St. John river in New Brunswick in August of 2004. On New Brunswick day, August third, I dropped my canoe into the swiftly moving stream as it enters the province. In the following three weeks I dutifully wrote in my diary each night (which eventually found a home in Life on the Water) often by flashlight, in an effort to pin down a narrative on a stream that was by times swift and boisterous, and at others calm and reflective.

My next trip journal is the voluminous How to get to Bangkok, my daily journal of my travels to Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Myanmar. Like the travel guides so many backpackers read on the river while floating through the beautiful scenery of the Mekong river, my journal chronicles prices, border problems, infrastructure and conversations with other travellers. As well, that diary explains the vicissitudes of travelling with others, and the joy of meeting many locals along the way.

I went back to Thailand and recorded that return with Going Back to Bangkok, which I wrote as I traveled with my girlfriend around South East Asia in 2011. It can be viewed as the second part to my earlier Thai journal, since we go to some of the same places although both Thailand and I had changed in the five years since I'd been there.

"The Last Days of Harry the Honda" records the various adventures of the car I bought with Jonothan in 1993. I drove Harry across Canada more than thirty-five times, and then finally betrayed him to the junkers in 2004. In this retrospective overview, I have tried to offer a justification to those many people who had come on trips in Harry, to explain why they would never again see the dirt roads of rural Canada through his windows.

When I bought land in the fall of 2007, I decided that I would record the early days of construction, as I slept in my car, woke too frozen to eat, and worked through the day building a shelter. The Wish to Live Deliberately Building a Cabin and its Consequences give voice to what otherwise was back-breaking labour, hauling over two tons of materials a kilometre into the woods so that I might begin the easier task, by comparison, of building a cabin. This record of the day's accomplishments contains more detail than interpretation, although the petty frustrations of faulty equipment, uncooperative weather, and colourful local people add to what otherwise might be a grocery list of labour.

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