SEARCHING FOR A SILVER LINING IN A DELUGE

20141023 90fbw

(Click map to enlarge and clarify.)

Some glitch in the NOAA satellite has me unable to download the map I like, but the above map shows the situation this morning, as a nor’easter stalled south of New England, and drenched the dickens out of me.  As often is the case, the computer models failed to forecast the heavy rain, instead showing heavy rain up in Maine and down in New Jersey, but only light rain over us.  As is also often the case, Joe Bastardi and Joseph D’Aleo dusted off old-fashioned forecasting tricks, and beat the computers.  (In this case their trick was the idea of “teleconnections,” wherein a digging trough along the jet-stream in one place often results in a sympathetic response elsewhere, and specifically, a trough digging in the Pacific down the west coast of the USA should make one suspicious of flatness in the jet-stream in the east of the USA, and suspect a trough will dig there even if computer models don’t see it.)

However I had a better forecasting tool, and it involved the simple fact we had planned an “open house” at our Childcare. I think we’ve had around twenty such events, at various times of the year, and I am starting to feel hexed.  The weather is never sunny and calm, and, if not bitterly cold and blustery, is often rainy. We haven’t had an earthquake yet, but one wouldn’t surprise me. There hasn’t been a volcano in New England in over a million years, but if one blows, you can bet good money it will be on the day we hold an “open house.”

The purpose of such an event is to show off. We are proud of how kids at our Childcare are not incarcerated in some basement, and only briefly allowed out to play in a playground smaller than that allowed to criminals at the State Penitentiary.  Our kids have pastures and woods and ponds to scamper around, just as I had when I was a child. Under benevolent supervision they scrape knees and cut fingers and get muddy and learn about thorns through first-hand-experience.

It’s amazing how swiftly children learn at ages three to six. I’ve seen city-kids, accustomed to walking on flat sidewalks and incapable of walking in woods without falling down five times in a hundred yards, become country-kids, hopping from rock to rock atop a stone wall, in a mere fortnight.  It is amazing to me,  partly because I’m an old dog and can’t learn new tricks at a speed faster than a snail.

During an “open house” the children get to show their parents the landscape they have become familiar with. They get to lead their parents along the trails to “Lightning Rock” and “Autumn Woods.” Usually the landscape is very beautiful.  However how beautiful can such a landscape be during a drenching nor’easter?

It was with a sense of the inevitable that I watched the weather maps deteriorate, and the nor’easter develop. I know every possible way such a storm can fizzle out, for back when I was a boy I wanted such storms to explode, and cancel school. I wanted school to be cancelled because I also know every possible way a school can have nothing to do with learning and everything to do with incarceration.

My philosophy involving Childcare was encapsulated by Ernest Thompson Seton when he said, “Because I have known the torment of thirst, I would dig a well so others can drink.”

I try to make it clear to parents that, at our Childcare, their children will not be bubble-wrapped,  nor will they expected fit some “curriculum.”  Small children often don’t need our ridiculous tests, for they are constantly testing themselves and their own limits on their own, and if anything they only require our supervision to keep them from conducting some test that defies the law of gravity. (This is not to say an adult shouldn’t notice that the child is displaying signs of a shortcoming or handicap, but rather that a child is able to arrive at such a revelation on their own, under the impulses of their own natural curiosity.)

Some parents are somewhat horrified when I suggest small children should be allowed to be free. They conclude out childcare lacks an “agenda.” and that we don’t teach enough math and computer-science to three-year-old’s.   I shrug and wish them well. They have every right, as parents, to educate their children as they chose, and obviously our Childcare is not for them.

However when a parent does chose our Childcare, it indicates the parent  themselves believes that freedom, and the outdoors, and play, might not be bad things for small children. I approve of such parents, and want to encourage them by allowing them to see how our Childcare works on a sunny day when everything is working correctly. That is what I hope an open house will let them see. But, of course, it always rains.

Yesterday it didn’t just rain. A gentle rain is bearable, but this rain was nasty.  I was pretty sure the parents would veto the first part of our open house, which was to have the children show their parents our trails as the sun set. Under the glowering overcast it was already so dark it was as if the sun had set an hour earlier.

During the fit of absurd optimism that always precedes such an event, and which always assumes it will be sunny, (though it never is,) my wife and our staff had prepared a nice wandering path around the grounds, which passed all the children’s favorite landmarks. It was nearly a mile long. If that wasn’t enough, attached to the trunks of trees along the route were blown-up photocopies of pages of what currently is the children’s favorite book. And if that wasn’t enough, the staff also had illustrative props from that favorite story at various points on the path, which would allow the children to show off how well they knew the tale. However the wind was rising, driving a drizzle that swept in shrouds across a landscape growing so dark it would be impossible to read any pages affixed to trees. What parent in their right mind would bring their precious child out in such weather?

I was pretty certain the answer would be, “zero.” I felt sorry for my wife and staff for going through so much trouble. (I have little to do with such an “open house” production, beyond being ordered about, to move furniture, mow lawns, and do other jobs to “spruce up” the grounds.) (My only job during the actual “open house” was to walk with the crowd along the path, and to look like a wise old farmer, and to make sure no one took a wrong turn, and, only if necessary, to speak.)

In a glum mood, dressed in rain-gear that would do a Gloucester Fisherman proud, I was feeding the pigs and goats, who were utterly disgusted by the weather and in no mood to venture from shelter, when I glanced up and, to my astonishment, saw that all the parents were heading out with their small children into the gathering gloom.  I dumped the final food for the beasts and dashed off to play my part.

A favorite saying of my wife is, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing,” and therefore all the kids resembled Hobbit Gloucester Fishermen, however their parents resembled people snatching an hour after work to go to some event held by some school. They were inadequately dressed, though they have all heard my wife’s saying enough for it to become a sort of joke. As I reached the crowd one parent, attempting to hide from the searching mist with an umbrella, had her umbrella ripped into an inverted form by a particularly nasty gust of wind. In an ironic tone I stated, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad umbrellas,” expecting some sort of equally ironic and sarcastic retort.

Instead, to my astonishment, there was cheerful laughter.  And it went on from there. The parents actually seemed to enjoy the discomfiture of being asked to walk through a gloomy woods in a rapidly deepening nor’easter.  The children were having a blast. The only grouch in the entire group was me.  However that was acceptable, for it was quite in character for me to play the part of an old, grouchy farmer.

I can only suppose modern parents are not the wusses and weenies I supposed they were.  I took a quick poll, to see if any had walked in the woods during a rainstorm before, and discovered not one had ever done it before. Therefore their acceptance of the situation had nothing to do with experience, or anything else that could be put down on a resume. Instead their joy seemed to be due to the fact they had never before walked through drenched trees moaning in a gale, and they found the experience refreshing.

(Nor am I talking about particularly fit young parents. Some indeed were hale and vigorous physical specimens, but others were overweight. Some were even overweight grandparents, nearly as old as I am. But all of them had a better attitude about the bad weather than I did, and all of them, to be quite frank, put me to shame.)

I can not describe how wet those woods were. A single example must suffice: The hemlock boughs that usually are ten feet above the trail were weighted down to eye-level by rain in their needles, and drenched walkers when the walkers nudged them, and the boughs sprang upwards scattering droplets. The little children, who were lower down, saw no obstruction in the path ahead, but the poor parents had to press through wet boughs that drenched them. Even as I agonized over my customers getting drenched, they themselves laughed and seemed to think the experience was enchanting.

It was so dark under the trees that the young parents couldn’t read the pages affixed to trees, however the young parents had resources I lacked when I was their age. They took out cellphones and shone them on the pages. They had only to read a few words before they children chanted the rest, because the writing was from one of those stories children get grabbed by, and make you read over and over until you feel your eyeballs might fall out.

In this particular case (and I never know why a story becomes popular with snall children, or why it just as abruptly becomes boring),  the story was “The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid Of Anything.”

In a nutshell, the story describes a lady walking through a dark forest and meeting all the parts of a scarecrow which one by one follow her through the woods, and in the end become a scarecrow that scares crows and not the little old lady. Each part of the scarecrow she meets makes a certain noise, as it follows her. For example, the pants say, “Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle.”

As we walked along the path, we came across the various props my staff had left to illustrate the tale, and eventually came across the pants. They had been hung high up, but the weight of the rain had pulled them down, so the cuffs were on the ground.  The belt was eye-level to a four-year-old. I said, “Wiggle wiggle wiggle.” The four-year-old turned and looked at me, with round eyes that said, “I have heard this story told 197 times, but now I am seeing it first hand, for myself, and IT IS REAL!!!”

All the children knew the end of the story, and towards the end of the walk discipline broke down and all the kids broke ranks and went stampeding ahead into the deepening dark, and then all began screaming, “Here it is! Here it is!  The scarecrow! The scarecrow!”

I confess I was blushing slightly at that point. I figured the parents would be muttering, “What sort of whack-job institution have I got my kid involved with?”  Instead they seemed pleased their kid was learning a story they were familiar with. (I just goes to show you that a children’s book that wasn’t around when I was young may be a tradition an d institution to a thirty-year-old parent.)

At that point, at the end of the tale, we were southwest of the hot soup and hot apple cider the staff had waiting back at the Childcare. This meant we had to walk northeast into a nor’easter, into the teeth of a growing gale, with gusts above 35 mph. I was the only one complaining, and then I stopped.

I was abruptly really glad I got dragged out of my ordinary way of being. For all my talk about how wonderful the outdoors is, it has been a while since I’ve been outside during a nor’easter that wasn’t nice and white and snowy. When I thought about it I realized a wet nor’easter is something I haven’t experienced, in the woods,  since I was as young as the parents I walked with were, over thirty years ago.

A sense of gratitude crept over me. As we arrived back at the Childcare, and enjoyed the children singing songs while being warmed by hot soup and cider (that the children helped to prepare for their parents), I felt Baby Boomers should learn a new Mantra.

(Though perhaps it is merely a remembering of what we already knew.)

Long, long ago I would say, “Don’t trust anyone over thirty.”

Now I say,  “Much is to be learned from parents under thirty, and children under seven.”

The nor’easter gave us over 4 inches of windswept rain, but it had a silver lining. Or maybe it had more than one, for NOAA has fixed the satellite glitch, and here is a map of that stalled storm, a day after it showered silver on me.

20141023B satsfc

Hurricane Ana to strike Pacific Northwest?

On his excellent blog at Weatherbell, Joe Bastardi pointed out that Hurricane Ana, which cut to the west of Hawaii, could curve northwest and then travel west to hit the Pacific coast of Oregon.   The models are now showing the possibility of such a track.

Anna 2 gefs_CP02_current(1)

Though it is rare for hurricanes to become entrained in Pacific gales in such a manner, Joe pointed out that way back in 1962 Hurricane Freda took such a route.  He included screen-shots of model’s maps that made Ana’s position on the 28th create a map very much like Freda’s in 1962.

Anna 1 Screen_shot_2014_10_22_at_1_35_59_PM  (Joe posts between two and six times a day, and I highly recommend his site.)

The 1962 storm was so wild it resulted in a considerable blow-down of giant trees. Considering I was just walking through amazing glades of Redwoods and Sequoia only two weeks ago, I am hoping the storm falls apart.

The defense those trees have used for centuries, (surviving two thousand years worth of storms in some cases,) is to interlock their roots. The problem is that in many case the nearby trees were “thinned” by lumbermen, back when the supply of such trees seemed limitless. Therefore the roots no longer interlock with neighbors as much or as well. They are less able to withstand high winds.

I hope they don’t need to face high winds for another fifty years, so they can grow more roots and interlock with new neighbors. The inspire such awe that people become quiet and walk softly when in a grove.  Even loudmouths like me are hushed by them. I sure would hate to see anything happen to them, though what a noise they must make when they fall!

ARCTIC SEA-ICE RECOVERY—THE LAPTEV NOTCH

Laptev 1 20141014 Laptev 2 20141021

What I call the “Laptev Notch” is the area of open water which juts up nearest the Pole, from the Laptev Sea on the Siberian coast. The above Russian maps (lifted from the blogger “Brian D’s” comment over at an excellent post at Real Climate http://stevengoddard.wordpress.com/2014/10/21/spectacular-growth-of-arctic-sea-ice-during-nasanoaa-s-hottest-year-ever/#comments ) show how swiftly it is now freezing over. However the notch still remains.

The notch was created by a strong cross-polar-flow from Siberia to Canada last winter. The Laptev Sea always “exports” a lot of ice, as winds howl north from high pressure in Siberia. At times these winds push so much ice away from shore that open water called a “polynya” is created in the dead of winter close to the coast. As the wind coming off Siberia can be as cold as minus 70, this open water swiftly freezes over, only to again be pushed off shore. The amount this happens can vary, with four times as much ice “exported” north into the Arctic Basin during a productive year as during a less-productive year, though even during a less-productive year a lot of ice heads north. (We are talking about a quarter million km2 during a less productive year, a half million during an average year, and as much as a million during a hugely productive year.

It should be remembered that when you are talking about km2 of “exported” ice you are talking about area, and not thickness.  As too often is the case with arctic ice, the actual volume of ice exported is hideously difficult to measure.  It could be argued that a million km of six-inch-thick ice is less ice than a quarter million km2 of three-feet-thick ice.  The counter-argument, which I think is valid, is that more water freezes when exposed to sub zero winds than is frozen when the water is sheltered by ice.

In any case, last winter a huge amount of ice was transported across the Pole to crush up against the north coast of Greenland and Canada, producing pressure ridges so impressive that one of the adventurers (who swarm out over the Pole in March and April, when the ice is safest,) described it as “crazy ice.” However this surplus on the Canadian side was paid for by a deficit on the Siberian side, where the ice was quite thin as the summer thaw began, resulting in swift melting and an area of open water extending towards the Pole I dubbed “The Laptev Notch.”

It should be noted that, while such open water does absorb more of sunshine’s heat than reflective ice during July and early August, it starts to lose more heat than ice loses from late August on. (When the sun gets down near the horizon open water can reflect more sunshine than ice, especially when the water is glassy.) Once the sun sinks below the horizon the open water loses a huge amount of heat to the atmosphere, which can then lose it to the darkness of space.  Although the open water of the Laptev Notch likely has a lot to do with the air temperatures being warmer than normal this autumn up at the Pole, it is likely the temperature of the water itself is plunging, due to exposure to the air, even as the water is churned, due to exposure to the wind. Here is the DMI graph for polar temperatures:

DMI2 1022 meanT_2014

It is interesting at this point to compare last year’s map (Oct 15; lower left) with this year’s map (Oct 22; lower right.) and see the differences.  Despite the fact last year’s map is from a week earlier, The Laptev Sea is more frozen and the East Siberian Sea is entirely frozen.

Extent map Oct 15 arcticicennowcast (1)Extent 20141022 arcticicennowcast

This year the Laptev Notch remains open, though it is shrinking fast.  It’s open water has (and is) likely losing a huge amount of heat from arctic waters.  Meanwhile the Kara Sea is far more frozen than last year, and the Barent’s Sea, (which remained open deep into last winter), already is frozen to the north coasts of Svalbard and Franz Josef Land. Things are very different.

Last year the Siberian coast froze up in a nice, orderly progression, zipping-up from east to west, with the seas freezing starting with the East Siberian, then the Laptev, then the Kara, and lastly parts of the Barents.  This year the large Laptev Notch has things out of kilter, and the Kara Sea seems likely to freeze first. What this may do to subsurface currents I can’t begin to imagine. I think it demonstrates how many variables are involved with sea-ice, and how people who pretend to understand it are basically talking through their hats.

In a most general sense, the shift in the location of sea-ice once again demonstrates how responsive the ice is to every twitch of the PDO and AMO.  The PDO has spiked “warm” and less ice is on the coast of the East Siberian Sea. The AMO spiked “cold” last summer, and this is remembered by the ice against the north coast of Svalbard and Franz Josef Land.

The Laptev Sea is far from both the Atlantic and Pacific. There is debate about how much water from either sea reaches its coasts, and how regular the flow is, and also about the effects the regular and amazing summer flood of the Lena River has. Just to make things even more complex, I’ll throw in the idea that the Laptev Notch likely effects storm tracks, and perhaps even the upper air circulation, and has a part to play in whether the flow at the Pole is zonal or meridianal.

Currently the flow is more zonal than it has been in a while, as high pressure parks over the Beaufort Gyre.  Earlier this autumn storms went wandering up to and across the Pole, and the flow was more meridianal, however the high pressure and its ridge across Scandinavia has made things zonal for over a week now.

DMI2 1022B mslp_latest.big

Models suggest that high pressure and its ridge will slide south to Siberia, as the Icelandic low attempts to bulge north to the Pole, but then a new area of high pressure slide north from Canada, keeping the zonal flow alive. (As the Icelandic low bulges north Scandinavia could get into a southwest flow of mild, Atlantic air which might even briefly reach the Pole.)

I myself wonder if that high pressure could return, and the zonal flow could persist, without the Laptev Notch’s open water supplying spin to one side. Models tend to do a bad job when it comes to handling the changes caused by open water turning to ice-covered water.

The cold air building under that high pressure is down to minus 25 over the Beufort Gyre.DMI2 1022B temp_latest.big

If that cold air slides south towards Siberia as forecast it will likely swiftly freeze up the remaining open water in the Laptev Notch. This will result in a amazing increase in the extent of sea-ice.  There will be all sorts of talk about the rate-of-increase. For a week or so the rate-if-increase may even approach record levels. However a better measure is to compare the current levels of ice with prior years. Using this measure it can be seen levels are becoming greater than we’ve seen in recent years.

Extent graph 20131022 ssmi1_ice_ext (click to enlarge)

Though this new ice will quiet the waters and allow stratification to begin in the waters beneath, the sea continues to loose a lot of heat through the thin in, until it thickens.

I’ll be watching to see if the flow remains zonal, which will keep the cold locked up at the Pole, or whether it  becomes meridianal as soon as the Laptev Notch is gone, which will allow cold air to charge south and annoy the heck out of us.

SNEAKY COASTAL STORM

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http://www.hpc.ncep.noaa.gov/html/sfcloop/ussatsfc_loopb.html

The above link will give an animation of a low sneaking down from the great lakes to the coast of New England southeast of New York City. If it was a little colder we would be getting an abrupt foot of snow. As it is we are getting a cold, driving mist, making for an utterly disagreeable daybreak. I have to rush off to the farm to open the Childcare, and when I get there I’m sure the rooster will be crowing in the purple light with a voice that expresses displeasure.

I made the pigs a shelter so they wouldn’t be uncomfortable, but they dug out such a wallow under the roof that they turned it into a small, cold pond in shadows;  what they found lovely in the hot weather is now a place they can’t lie. So O’ll have to go out in that muck and rope up some sort of tarp to keep them dry in an uphill corner, and then spread some hay for them to lounge upon.  We can’t have discontented pigs, frowning at me from their pen.

The goats will baa displeasure as well, nagging towards me from the darkness beneath the barn, where they tend to hide when it is wet. They are creatures from arid lands, I  think, for they have no love of wetness.

The children at the Childcare are likely to be a bit downcast as well, and I expect I’ll have to be cheerful and jolly  them.  It doesn’t seem all that fair to me, but when a cold rain falls everyone acts like it is all my fault.

 

FIRST SNEAKY FREEZE

20141021 lrgnamsfcwbg

 

(CLICK TO ENLARGE AN ULTRA DETAILED MAP.)

The storm brewing over the northeast represents a surge of milder air that was too little too late. Before it came north to fuel the falling pressures and my aching bones, cold air slid down behind the last storm, and gave us a sneaky freeze.

It was sneaky because their was no frost. The air was bone dry, and just as there is sometimes no dew in a desert, there was no frost on the pumpkins. However everything withered in the first light of dawn, yesterday.

Perhaps the saddest sight was the demise of the morning glories crawling all over the fence beside the main entrance to our Childcare’s front gate. In a desperate attempt to make seeds, (which I had frustrated by “dead-heading” the blooms before they could make seeds), the vines had produced a lovely mass of blooms the morning before. I often teach the children their numbers by  counting the blooms, but we didn’t even try yesterday. There were about fifty deep purple blooms. Today there is just black and limp ugliness.

The basil in the herb garden was black and limp as well. As long as it was vivid and green some element of summer survived, as I stooped to pluck a leaf to nibble. Abruptly it is gone. I tried a black leaf, but the taste is distinctly wrong.

Usually their is a splendid frost, when growing ceases, and all the world is shimmering. There was something sinister about how sneaky this cold morning was. The powers of death moved invisibly through the weeds, to the pepper plants protected below, and scythed them down. Everywhere you looked summer was dying, without a frost.

 

 

GONZALO TO VISIT BLACK SEA

I find a bit of fun in tracking hurricanes after everyone else stops paying attention. Just for the fun of it, let’s follow what Gonzalo is forecast to do.

The first map is last night’s, and shows Gonzalo as an ex-hurricane just east of Newfoundland, being absorbed into a system of fronts beneath a North Atlantic gale. (Keep an eye on the dull-looking front settling down into France.)

Gone 1 19353893

The forecast map for 1200z today sees Gonzalo already halfway across the Atlantic, as a mere southern lobe of a Icelandic gale. (The dull front continues to sink south across France.)

Gone 2 19356822

By 0000z Gonzalo is crashing through Scotland.  Though it is but a lobe of the Icelandic low, it holds a tremendous amount of humid air from the Gulf of Mexico, which covered the entire east of the USA last week, but now is bundled up and largely aloft. (The dull front over France shows the slightest kink, as it feels the approach of Gonzalo.) Gone 3 19357693

By 1200z tomorrow the forecast map shows Gonzalo visiting the blonds of Norway and Denmark. The Icelandic low is no longer kicking it ahead, but instead is starting to drag it back in a sort of Fujiwara dance, however the cross-Atlantic onrush is kicking ahead into France.  I call such an onrush, which can move east even as the low itself occludes and stalls, a “zipper.” (The dull front over France has a definite wave developing in northern Italy.)

Gone 4 19357807

By 0000z on Wednesday some would see Gonzalo as being stalled over Denmark, however my eyes follow the “zipper” which holds the juice and momentum of the storm, and see it crashing into northern Italy and making a ruckus there, with high winds in the Alps.

Gone 5 19357825

By 1200z Wednesday some will see Gonzalo still occluded, its moisture high above Denmark, but I see Gonzalo in the zipper, now north of Greece and approaching the Black Sea.

Gone 6 19357883

By 1200z Thursday Gonzalo is relaxing on the east coast of the Black Sea, after receiving a hefty pay-off from Russians for trashing Bermuda, and forcing people to vacation at Black Sea resorts instead.

Of course more sensible people will have forgotten all about Gonzalo, and will be focused on the Fujiwara dance of twin Icelandic lows. But who ever said fun was sensible?

If you insist on being sensible, look north of Gonzalo and the Black Sea, and see a cold east flow developing and shifting Siberian air back towards the Baltic, which is an ominous thing to see if it becomes “a pattern.” Sensible people might focus on that, and argue whether that east wind, or the southwest wind over Ireland, will dominate West Europe this winter.  (It could be a blend of both, with bitter Siberian cold and north Atlantic gales alternating.)

Gone 7 19363217

GONZALO GONE

20141018 satsfc (3) 20141018B satsfc

The upper map shows Hurricane Gonzalo heading northeast, after clouting Bermuda, towards the middle of the right margin. (If you click these maps you can get a less fuzzy version.)

The second map shows that, in the process of a day, Gonzalo sped right off the upper right corner of the map. That is fine with me. We had a meteorological set-up this year that made me nervous, but we escaped without a hurricane hitting New England.

When I was younger I actually wanted to be hit, as it would have been exciting, and also would have supplied me and my chainsaw with a lot of work, and lots of free firewood.  (Hurricane Bob actually kept my family warm one winter, back when I tended to become broke around Christmas,  because I saw my landscaping work dry up after the last leaves were raked.)

Now I’m older and would rather see the leaves stay on the trees as long as possible. The worst hurricanes around here hit when the leaves are green, and trees tip over like sailboats with too much sail aloft. Later hurricanes strip all the colored leaves off the trees in a matter of hours.  If a hurricane hits now we have few leaves left, and our trees can withstand a blast when their branches are bare, just as a sailboat can avoid capsizing when “running before a gale on poles.”

Oddly, often our worst winds occur in non-hurricane nor’easters, which have winds “of hurricane force.”  Our hurricanes, on the other hand, have often weakened and no longer have winds “of hurricane force.”  It makes me think we should coin the phrase, “winds of nor’easter force.”  If you have sailed the North Atlantic, you understand it holds gales that make hurricanes look small, though such gales shriek in places where few live, and get little press.

Nor’easters only get press on this side of the Atlantic when they fail to zip out to sea. Most do, but occasionally a “blocking pattern” causes to them to “stall” just off Cape Cod, or, even more rarely, even further south.  Hurricane Sandy was actually still a warm-core hurricane as it moved ashore, but to verify its own forecast the Hurricane Center “downgraded” Sandy to a nor’easter. Sandy demonstrated how much respect a nor’easter deserves, though there have been worse. A nor’easter in February 1978 gave Cape Cod winds over 100 mph.

I’m getting too old for such nonsense.  I’m in the autumn of my life, and perhaps, just as leaves turn yellow, I’m getting a little yellow myself.

We did have an early frost on September 19, which, as our last frost of the Spring was on May 29, gave us the shortest frost-free period of summer I can remember. However, because I’m old and had other things to do, I failed to weed my garden in late August, and the weeds protected my plants. The weeds got frosted, as my pepper plants beneath were spared.  Since then we have had a second summer, and I actually picked some fine peppers today, on October 18, a month after our first frost.

This is actually a bad omen. I predict a terrible winter, as kindly autumns often hint at cruelty to come.

I make this prediction because I figure I might cause winter to be mild, by predicting bitter cold. It is sheer superstition, sort of like thinking you can make it rain by washing your car.  However the meteorological set-up exists, just as the set-up existed for New England hurricanes, last June.  I can’t recall if I actually predicted hurricanes last June, but if I did, I hexed them all out to sea, according to my superstition. In the same manner I am attempting to hex an awful winter, which seems all too likely to me, clear across the planet into China.

Then I will get to enjoy a kinder and gentler time.  I have really enjoyed the mildness that followed me across that USA when I was on my trip, moving from weather map to weather map.

When I got home I was confronted with a horrible amount of work for a man my age, as an attempt to avoid work backfired. Rather than cutting wood I ordered $900.00 worth, but because I wasn’t home to oversee, 3 of the 4 cords were dumped where my wife parks her car. I had to move three chord (4 feet by 4 feet by 8 feet makes a chord) by loading the  back of my pick up, driving it 100 feet, and unloading it where it should have been unloaded.  Fortunately my son helped, but it also helped that the weather was mild, which kept my old muscles loose. It was actually 67 degrees at dawn last week, which is thirty degrees above normal.

Also I got to be outside and just look around and enjoy the foliage. People come from all over the world to see New Hampshire’s foliage in the fall. I always try to look picturesque, like a character in a Norman Rockwell painting, when an un-tinted bubble-bus of gawking Asians comes lurching down a country that was never intended to hold huge vehicles, and I always think that, if Norman Rockwell was still alive, he would paint a picture capturing the beautiful humor of how I look at them, and they look at me.

It is truly beautiful to live here, even if I am old and it is a sort of end. I am grateful for a final fall when the leaves are slow to drift down, even if it is but a respite before a terrible winter. Life has quite enough hardship as it is, and we should not feel guilty when a quieter and more lovely time ambles by.

When I was walking through the gorgeous landscape, across the rustling carpet of gold and crimson leaves, vivid against the sunlit grass, I entered a sunlit grove of trees where the forest floor was striped with the long shadows of autumn. Besides the long stripes made by shadows there were also long, straight stripes of moss, with a small pile of stones at the southern end of each stripe, with the moss vivid in the sunshine which now invaded a glade that had been shaded and moist all summer long.

I paused to wonder at these odd stripes of green moss, flat against the brown forest floor.  Briefly I wondered what on earth could have made them. Then the Sherlock Holmes in my skull abruptly understood they were toppled trees, with a root-ball of dirt and stone at their ends, that had lain on the ground and grown mossy, and final rotted away to flatness, with only the moss remaining, and only a flat pile of stones to show where the root ball once was. Because the trees that grew up among these fallen trees were now roughly 60 years old, I judged the prior grove was flattened in 1954. Hurricane Carol must have flattened all those trees, back when I was only one year old.

I looked around and tried to envision how the scene must have looked, when Carol roared through and flattened the forest in thirty minutes.  What a mess! All the trees down, south to north, with jumbles of dirt made by root-balls, and the scent of torn, green leaves a stink in the hot sunshine.

When I was young I bewailed the fact we never seemed to get hurricanes in New England any more. Now I understand that, midst the hardship of my life, in some ways I’ve been blessed by luck.   People who came before me knew no such luck, and had to display a fortitude I know little about, after Carol.

Today I took some time to be thankful for the luck I’ve lived through, and also to pray that, should this coming winter ask me to display some fortitude, I can match the fortitude of those who came before.