LOCAL VIEW –A Little Like A Lizard–

We’re getting a break from the heat and humidity, as Canadian air pushed down and brought us thunder rain. The parched corn drank it up and seemed to grow a foot over night. So did the weeds.

Many years ago a woman accused me of being too positive. She said that even if someone served me a plate with a poop on it, I’d find something good to say about the poop.

Well, if that is a problem, I’ve been working on it. Or maybe not. I avoid work when possible, but life has been chasing me down and working on me. Now I have matured to a point where, besides noticing the corn growing, I notice the weeds.

Besides growing wiser I’ve been growing less hot-blooded. As the refreshing, invigorating Canadian breezes swept in I went from deeming it too hot to deeming it too cold, and moved from shade to the sun, a little like a lizard.

Canada warred Carolina, and a
Refreshing Blessing swept humidity
Out to sea. Where I’d sought shade and planned a
Sloth’s list, and used that flat itinerary
To fan nagging gnats from my face,
I now flee the shade. The dawn is so cool
I seek the sun, and find the one place
On the porch where slanting sunbeams pool
A couch of warmth. All around day sparkles
Where before it slouched: I called it “languid”
When in fact it was flabby. Thus my will’s
Seeking the right seat. I do what I did,
Now in sun, then in shade, speaking of charms,
Ignoring chill’s goose-pimples prickling my arms.

The high July sun swiftly warms us, and all in all Canada redeems itself in July, and is forgiven for how it treats us in January.

Sparkling Day FullSizeRender

It just occurred to me that even a lizard is an optimist, for in moving from the shade to the sun it is seeking the better side of things.

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HOT HAIKU

When the dog won’t budge, and just lays when I’m heading out instead of asking to come along,  then I know I won’t produce much. Nor will I sleep much as night comes on. There should be some saying like “Nothing good happens after midnight” for high humidity. All eyes look west for thunder, and crisp Canadian air, expectant, breathless.

The black night’s too hot
And lightning is too brilliant
And all is silent.

Hot Haiku IMG_6952

The night’s too hot and heat lightning flashes
Too brilliant, and all is waiting silent.
I long for wind’s roar; for thunder’s crashes.
I wonder where the lost breeze’s sigh went.
Not even a cricket chirps. No cat yowls.
I hear no hooting owls. Have I gone deaf?
No, for I hear my hot stomach’s growls
And hear the intake of my own breath.
Now is the time that the red beast comes panting
Through sweating black to torment men.
Draw swords, with night stallions stamping
Silence, night mares screaming silence, and then
More silence. Hot silence way too loud
With unseen lightning illuminating cloud.

AVOIDING CIVIL WAR

This seems to be a time when it is important to stay calm and not to be provoked, for the inhabitants of the so-called “swamp” in Washington D.C. actually have no interest in preserving the peace. Why should they? Peace would involve exposure, for peaceful people have honest discussions, and honesty would expose a lot of corruption, which is how the name “swamp” was earned.

The corrupt have backed themselves into a corner, and therefore many will not do the spiritual thing, which is to publicly confess their wrong-doing. For if they were spiritual they would not have been corrupted in the first place. Therefore many will do the unspiritual thing when cornered, which is to fight like a cornered rat.

The thing that always amazes me is the ability the corrupt have to deny their own corruption. They often are oblivious of the way their greed has led them astray, even when it is blatantly obvious to others. “All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:2)

In the case of communism the greed is justified in three ways. First, the highest spirituality is dismissed as “the opiate of the masses”, and atheism is put forward as being more pragmatic. Second, coveting what others own is justified as “sharing”, in some ways like Christians shared what they owned in the book of Acts, but in other ways by brute force, at the point of a gun, like a bank robber. Third, dishonesty is made to look positive because “the ends justify the means”.

The dishonesty always seemed most vile to me, especially when it involves using others, and laughing at them behind their backs. To use another as a “useful idiot” always seemed like a violation of trust to me. Furthermore the person most likely to be fooled is the person doing the tricking, because procrastination is a way we mortals have of never doing what we promise ourselves we will do “someday.” Therefore “the ends justify the means” is like a person buying cigarettes so he can seriously think about planning to quit; (the person will never quit by smoking, but it placates his uneasy conscience to “plan“.) Lastly, the “means“ get meaner and meaner, because the greed for power gets greater and greater. Stalin may have meant well, but he killed off more and more “partners“, erasing them from public pictures until he alone was pictured, for that was his “means” of effective control, good governance, and order. He was proof that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

Stalin erasing foes Soviet_censorship_with_Stalin2

Our Founding Fathers were well aware of how power corrupts, which is why they were so careful to devise a constitution that shares power between three branches of government, with checks and balances. Some in Washington want to escape the checks and balances, because it seems to obstruct efficient governance. Therefore they speak of the constitution as being an “evolving” document, which is just a way of trying to get around its constraints. They don’t want to be constrained, because they feel they know best, and others are not as wise as they are.

This is how corruption begins. One loses respect for being open and honest and discussing things with others in a respectful manner, and resorts to some form of dishonesty and disrespect. Rather than arriving at a decision based on higher Truth, back-room deals are made, involving bribes of one sort or another. Rather than what is best for all concerned, the focus becomes narrow: “What’s in this for me?”

When such rot sets in our nation is designed to expose it. A free press is suppose to be part of that exposure, but in our current crisis the press was purchased by the elite and all but emasculated. Were it not for the unexpected blooming of the internet in the past twenty years the free press would be dead. As it is the public became aware of how bad the corruption in Washington was becoming in the nick of time, and now a desperate battle has begun.

This is a battle between Truth and deceivers. The deceivers do not want to give up all that deceit has illicitly “earned” them. They think they know how the game is played, when in fact they have broken countless rules. They want to continue to play as they have played, unaware that they have broken so many rules they have created a sort of anarchy, and have undermined their own foundations, and are sawing off the very branch they are perched upon. If they studied history at all they would see that, if they “win”, they are likely to inherit horrors as bad as, or even worse than, the horrors they fear they’ll face if they “lose”, and have to give up all the perks of their corruption.

One attribute of the corrupt, and also of communism, is that there is a movement away from true sharing of power. It involves the mentality of all-or-nothing. Communism allows no other party besides the communist party, and corruption allows no alternative as well. It is a narrowing down of thought, a diminishing of the mind.

Because of this, communism prefers violence to civil discourse. It wants no checks and no balances. In order to eradicate opposition it seeks to “purge” differing views, and dislikes individuality. Individuality is abhorred because it differs, whether it differs as a person, or a family, or a community, or a state, or a nation. Communism seeks a “multiculturalism” that abolishes all nations, and therefore all cultures. All the talk about “respecting diversity” actually disrespects differences, when you look hard at what is actually stated. In the end what is wanted is not a cultured people, but culture-less masses.

A cultured people prefer to use civil procedures, to becoming a rabble that riots. The corrupt prefer a riot, and encourage riotous behavior, because if things get out of hand they may seize power in the name of “restoring order”, whereas civil procedure would expose their corruption and face them with reform.

Therefore it is important to stay calm and not be provoked. When faced by useful idiots chanting nonsense, point out the nonsense quietly. Over and over and over again. For many innocents have not thought all that deeply about what they do, and are largely being loyal to a cause. And one thing about the loyal is this: Once they discover they have been lied to, and are being used, and are laughed at behind their backs, they flip sides with astonishing alacrity.

Lastly, keep your sense of humor even when things look grim.

Cartoon Ban Ice FullSizeRender

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ARCTIC SEA ICE –The AMO Chill–

One of the most exasperating mistakes made by Alarmists is their refusal to study history. Instead they steadfastly insist all is caused by CO2. For example, history teaches us that summer is followed by winter, but, the next time winter comes around, so blinding is their bias that Alarmists will see the next winter as having a new and alarming cause all prior winters lacked. This time it will be caused by CO2. Not only do they insist they know the cause, but they then invent the cause-and-effect out of whole cloth.

Basically Alarmists follow the rule, “If you can’t blind them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.” When confronted by a plaintive voice that asks, “You said there would be Global Warming, so why is it colder?” they put on a white lab coat to look scientific, hold up an index finger, and basically say, “You can’t understand because you haven’t looked hard at the numbers, and haven’t seen they need to be adjusted, and our adjustments show that actually it is warmer”.  Or perhaps, “The increased heat causes more snow in the north, and the increased snow is floating south as bergs, so that the warmer it gets the colder it gets. Understood?” The problem with this ingenious excuse-making is that, when you look back in history, you can see the same thing happened in the past, which begs the question, “What caused it then, and is that cause happening again now?”

Once you study history you become aware of various cycles that influence the weather, (with much debate about how large and how regular the influences are).

Alarmists tend to pooh-pooh all other influences, calling them inconsequential, which seems rather odd, for at the same time they are saying a giant thing like the sun has no effect they are saying a very tiny change in the number of CO2 molecules, parts-per-million, has an enormous effect. Skeptics do not deny CO2 has an effect; the planet is indeed greener; but they question the denial of all other effects and cycles.

Things would be easier if we didn’t have a variable star, but our sun does have its cycles of sunspots. And things would also be easier if those sunspot cycles were neat and tidy, but they tend to be irregular, with the sun shifting from very active sunspot cycles to times when we see a “Quiet Sun”. The sun’s regularity likely creates oscillations in the world’s weather, even as the sun’s irregularity throws the same oscillations out of whack.

The current Quiet Sun seems to be messing with the oscillations between El Ninos and La Ninas, as the El Ninos seem stronger and the La Ninas weaker than expected. (Not that we are all that great at predicting them.) Also the Pacific oscillation (PDO) swung from warm to cold as expected, roughly a decade ago, but then unexpectedly spiked back to warm, and has been taking its sweet time getting back to cold, (though it may be trending that way this summer). Last but not least, the Atlantic oscillation (AMO) is not expected to turn cold for a few more years, but unexpectedly and dramatically shifted in that direction this summer.

The signature of a “cold” AMO is a backwards “C” of colder-than normal waters in the Atlantic. Recently the back of that “C” was broken by a blob of warmer-than-normal water that drifted east and pressed between England and France, but the rest of the “C” remains evident, repressing the development of hurricanes to a certain degree off western Africa, and most especially evident off the northeast coast of Canada and south of Greenland.

SST 20180712 anomnight.7.12.2018

 

The colder water off Canada and Greenland historically leads to colder weather in Northeast Canada, which they have seen this year, with snows even as we had a heatwave not far to their south, in New England. The ice has been much slower to melt out of Hudson Bay than last year.  (July 13, 2017 to left, July 13, 2018 to right)

It is a bit embarrassing to Alarmists to have this sea-ice sitting around in July, so they are likely busily inventing a theory from whole cloth even as I type. However all you need to do is study history to see the situation is not “Unprecedented”. A ship from Boston, early in Boston’s history, failed to get through the sea-ice into the bay in 1663, but the Nonsuch successfully entered the bay in 1668 and established the first Hudson Bay Trading Post at the mouth of Rupert River (the current town of Washaganish, Quebec.) So what does that give us; 370 years of history?

The trading posts had to be resupplied, and also furs needed to be onloaded, and we know the ships were not icebreakers. Therefore it is sheer foolishness to suggest the Bay was ice-bound in the past, and only recently has become ice-free. An early aerial picture of Fort York shows they were still using sailing ships as late as 1923.

Hudson Bay Company YorkFactoryaerial

However the historical record also shows there were occasional grim years when the posts could not be resupplied. If ice-bound years had been too common the enterprise would have become impractical, and perhaps traders would have starved. For the most part the Bay opened up in the summer; excessive sea-ice in July was the exception to the rule, and was likely caused by a cold AMO, just as we are seeing now.

In like manner, the chill is affecting Greenland. In July Greenland is experiencing the height of its melt, and usually gives Alarmists wonderful opportunities to take truly amazing pictures of  the yearly phenomenon. At the peak of the melt, Greenland loses roughly 4 gigatons of ice to melting every day.  Rivers of melt-water course across the surface of the ice.

Greenland melt 1 55-researchersd In places these torrents plunge down holes called moulins, forming spectacular waterfalls, and then continue on as subterranean rivers.

Greenland melt 2 hqdefaultIce also flows off Greenland as massive glaciers, and during the summer enormous slabs calve off the ends into the sea, with some bergs “half the size of Manhattan”.

Greenland melt 3 NINTCHDBPICT000419182729

And of course all this melting is fodder for Alarmists, and gives the media a chance to write thrillingly sensational stuff about ice melting and seas rising.

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/6739060/greenland-iceberg-melting-video-climate-change/

However I think it’s wiser to not get too caught up in the hoopla, although it is fun, once in a while, to run around in circles waving your hands in a tizzy. It’s good exercise. But once you’re done it pays to calm down and catch your breath. And then ask a question or two. “How much ice usually melts? What is normal?”

The map to the right below shows the normal melt for July 14. You notice right away the melting is all at the edges. That is where all the photographs are taken for the newspapers. In the middle of Greenland the altitude is so high, (over 10,000 feet), that it almost never gets above freezing. Judging from the records of ice cores, only once in every 40 years does it get warm enough, on a windless summer day, to soften the snow a little. Not much; not enough to make rivulets or puddles, but enough to make a crust on the snow, when it refreezes, usually within hours. (When this last happened, in 2012 (I think) the media went completely berserk. They reported so inaccurately that you would have thought torrents, even mighty rivers, were coursing across the icecap. The actuality was that the snow softened for a couple hours. [yawn])

The map to the left shows what happened this year, on July 14. It set a record, but went unreported, for it was a record increase of snow, for the date.

Greenland MB 20180714 todaysmb

What happened was that, likely due the cold AMO, heavy snow punched inland in west-central Greenland, reducing the melt in that area at the same time snow was added. In fact more was added than was subtracted, which means that rather than the icecap losing 4 gigatons, as is normal, it actually gained a little. This shows as the spike in the upper graph below. Notice how the spike moves above the area shaded gray, which shows the historical range, and enters record-setting territory.

Greenland MB 20180714 accumulatedsmb

The lower graph shows, with the blue line, how Greenland’s icecap is failing to melt much this summer. Usually it loses roughly 200 gigatons, and this year it has lost 5, so far. This is a failure on the part of reality to support the Alarmist’s narrative. (Bad reality. Bad! Go to your room.)

Also notice, in the graph above, how, on an average year, (gray line), Greenland gains more than it loses. It ends the year with nearly 400 gigatons more than it started. (A gigaton is a billion metric tons, and a metric ton is 1000 kilograms.) How many Manhattans is that? In any case, for Greenland to stay in “balance” 400 extra gigatons worth of iceburgs must calve off Greenland’s glaciers.

Lastly notice the red line in the graph above. 2011-2012 was a winter and summer that pleased the Alarmists greatly, for it supported their narrative. Nearly all the winter’s increase melted away that summer. There was a gain, but it was small, only around 25 gigatons. It wouldn’t take many calving icebergs the size of Manhattan to arrive at a net loss. And how many gigatons would it take to rise the oceans a milometer?

I can’t do the math, but I did find this after searching the web a bit: “A one mm increase in sea-level requires about 3.618 × 1014 kg = 361.8 Gt of meltwater”.

In other words, while a billion metric tons might seem like a lot, it is a speck of dust, compared to the enormity of the icecap and the oceans. Greenland’s icecap is estimated to be a total of 2,850,000 cubic kilometers of ice. How many gigatons is that? (You do the math for me, please.)

Therefore even a “good” year (for Alarmists) like 2011-2012 really doesn’t amount to a hill of beans, but last year was a “bad” year. Greenland’s icecap actually gained ice, according to NOAA:

https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/greenland-ice-sheets-2017-weigh-suggests-small-increase-ice-mass

Of course, NOAA speaks of the gain as if it is an exception-to-the-rule, but still it is a failure on the part of Mother Nature to support the narrative. And what tactic does an Alarmist use, when something doesn’t support the narrative?

1.) Change the subject. Turn the camera to where the ice is still melting, to dramatic waterfalls pouring into turquoise moulins. Focus the lens on the spectacular sight of a giant berg calving off a towering glacier. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. Don’t look at the summer snowstorms in Labrador, and the summer trout fishing camps struggling to dig free of snow.

Fishing Lodge in June labrador-snow

The only problem is people can only be distracted and deflected so long, in which case it is time for…

2.) Invent a theory out of whole cloth. When people notice northern sandpipers can’t even lay their eggs because the snow hasn’t melted, figure out a way to blame the snow on warming. (Hat tip: Brett Keane)

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/late-snowpack-signals-a-lost-summer-for-greenlands-shorebirds/

Sandpiper on snow 6450EF03-C77C-450D-8080621943C1804F

Here is the money-quote: “Senner fears this nonbreeding year in eastern Greenland could herald an alarming trend. Climate Models predict the Arctic atmosphere will hold more moisture as global temperatures rise, he notes. A wetter atmosphere means more snow in winter and spring, potentially causing late snowmelt to interfere with shorebird reproduction. He says the bird populations should be resilient to a single poor breeding year like 2018 but worries what might happen if this year’s catastrophe becomes standard. “Even though things aren’t normally as extreme as the current situation in Greenland,” he says, “this is the kind of thing that seems to be happening more and more frequently across the Arctic””

Balderdash. First, the increase in winter moisture is in air so cold that you are talking about the difference between air that is only very, very dry, rather than very, very, very dry. Second, the amount of snow that falls from that dry atmosphere is small, only inches, and tundra usually swiftly melts such snows under 24-hour or near-24-hour sunshine that can bring heatwaves to the north. Third, the snow is now falling in the summer. I repeat, the summer. Fourth, temperatures are colder over Greenland and eastern Canada because the AMO is cold, not because the planet is a tenth of a degree warmer overall. Fifth, it is also colder at the Pole itself.

DMI5 0715 meanT_2018

I’d like to help Alarmists out, but the simple fact polar temperatures remain so persistently below normal does suggest the Quiet Sun may be supplying less heat. The best I can do is to suggest it may be cloudier at the Pole, due to the low pressure I call “Ralph” reappearing and hanging about. Maybe we can concoct a theory out of whole cloth that explains Ralph is due to Global Warming, and that it is colder at the Pole because it is warmer. That would explain why the the sea-ice, despite having a head-start on other years last winter, is failing to melt as fast as other years.

DMI5 0715 osisaf_nh_iceextent_daily_5years_en

And it also might explain why the ice is thicker than last year, especially along the coasts of Alaska and East Siberia.  (2017 left; 2018 right)

But in the end there is little I can do for the poor Alarmists. It simply is a terrible year for them. All around there are signs of cooling, at least in the short term, but they must continue to genuflect to the emperor of funding, as if he wore clothes when it is increasingly obvious he is butt naked.

Stay tuned.

LOCAL VIEW –Hurricane Heights (and heat)–

I have seen summers in these hills when we never make it above 90°F: Gray, rainy summers where we were hard pressed to ever make it above 80°F,  when east winds off the cold Gulf of Maine could even keep temperatures below 60°F. Such summers always left me feeling cheated, for I grew up down on the flatland’s west of Boston where it was far warmer. A true heatwave of three days topping 90° is rare in these hills, and therefore I was pleasantly surprised to see this forecast for the start of July:

Hurricane Heat 1 IMG_6910

I love hot weather, even though I don’t get to kick back and watch the corn grow as much as I’d like.  Perhaps it just reminds me of being young and spoiled. I can recall laying on my back on a hot day as a boy, holding a Popsicle up in the air and letting it melt drop by drop into my mouth,  and feeling perfectly content. Or, perhaps there was a sort of unrest, but it was the unrest of peace, of listening to a symphony.  There was no to-do list.

I’ve had some heart-to-heart talks with God recently about whether it might not be wise to spoil me in that manner again. How is it I am not worth spoiling, now? Certainly I am as perishable, if not more so.  Yet now, if I tried out laying on my back and letting a Popsicle drip into my mouth, I’d get “the look” from my wife. When I try to watch the corn grow, I see the weeds grow instead. Rather than relaxed, summer becomes hurry-hurry, worry-worry, scurry-scurry.

The ironic aspect to the frenetic pace of running a farm-childcare is that I, in some unspoken ways, seek to spoil the kids. I want them to catch what I caught from being spoiled by my own Depression-era parents, who experienced too much poverty and toil and war, and wanted a better life for me. Therefore I fight my losing battle with weeds so they might munch edible-podded peas at their leisure, and teach them the old maxim, “Plant peas on Patriot’s Day (April 19) and pick ’em on Independence Day (July 4).”

Hurricane Heat 3 IMG_6924

And I struggle with cords and pumps and chemicals and filters, because there’s nothing like splashing in a pool to make a heat-wave bearable. (Our local ponds are OK, as long as you don’t mind leeches.)

Hurrucane Heat 2 IMG_6915

And then there’s the exasperation of fishing, of teaching how to put a worm on, and take a fish off, a hook; of tangle after tangle after tangle after tangle; of casting that is flailing and shoots hooks into shrubbery or another child’s hair or puts my life in danger, all for the dubious honor of seeing a child catch a first fish that isn’t virtual.

Hurricane Heat 4 IMG_6931

And then there’s the modern, liberated, young suffragettes. Back in my day, girls didn’t even want to go fishing, and thought fish and worms were icky, and they certainly didn’t gross out their guide by kissing fish.

Hurricane heat 6 FullSizeRender

Kiss frogs? Maybe, because a frog might turn into a prince. But I don’t want to see what sort of prince a fish turns into, and sure as heck don’t want him hanging around young girls at my Childcare.

But I digress. The point I was making was that all sorts of effort goes into making an idyll, all sorts of hurry-hurry, worry-worry, scurry-scurry, all sorts of exasperation and irritation….and then all is redeemed. A light descends and softens a child’s eyes, and just the way they look around at God’s green creation tells me that they “get it”, and that I have successfully passed the baton I received from Depression-era parents on to a new generation.

Hurricane Heat 5 IMG_6933

The mistake people (including myself) seem to make is to visualize the descent of the Light as being conditional. After all, the Depression-era was a brutal time, yet people who went through it seemed to grasp that Light could be found in small things, even in simply sitting, whereas Baby-Boomers who were spared the brutality and were pampered strangely knew thirst and discontent. The attempt to exclude brutality at times led to exclusiveness, to a sort of gated-community of “the elite” which, rather than an ivory tower, became a vacuum, devoid of the very air that hearts need most.

To me the escape from this conditional exclusiveness seems to be to cultivate the attitude of a little child: Children accept the cards as dealt, while the grown-ups attempt to bully and bribe the dealer. It is the grown-ups who scramble to come up with four hundred dollars a month to pay for an air conditioner. For a child, when it’s hot, it’s hot, and when it’s not, it’s not.

I love the warm mornings, (all too few
This far north), when I can sit on the stoop
And watch the dawn grow last webbed drops of dew
Before the day bakes, and watch last bats loop
And dart, and hear first birds sing, and not put
On a shirt.
                       It’s like I’m a boy again,
Though I’ll confess I wince walking barefoot
Now.
                Once I lost shoes in June, and then, when
I looked again for those shoes, it was fall
And they didn’t fit. I could tread over
Sharp stones and barnacles, and I recall
Broken glass didn’t phase me.
                                                           Now clover
Is what my feet prefer to tread upon,
But still I love the feel of summer dawn. 

One reason I was able to be content as a child was the sense the Depression-era grown-ups were taking care of things. True, there would be occasional shadows, times I intuitively sensed all was not well,  but for the most part I was blissfully ignorant about things such as divorce, mother’s-little-helper pills, and the Vietcong. I was nearly eleven before the assassination of John Kennedy first deeply shook my faith. Before then I had a sort of heedless and thoughtless faith.

Now my faith is more thought-out. Now I am the Baby-Boom-era grown-up, taking care of things. It doesn’t matter how inadequate I feel; it is my turn to be the elder. My faith allows me to  sit back and enjoy warmth that is rare in northern lands, but my contentment is not complete, for I am always on the lookout for trouble. When it’s hot I keep peering west for the purple skies of thunderstorms, and to the high clouds, for hints of a hurricane.

Many of my ancestors were involved with trade and sailing ships, and were  forever scanning the skies. A hurricane could turn a fat profit into a total loss, and therefore they were always on the lookout for “hurricane heights.”

What were “hurricane heights”? I can’t say. A lot of that wisdom was lost with the last captain of the last coastal schooner. All I can say is that they studied the sky in a way we cannot imagine. I know nothing of the nuances they knew, but do know they noticed high clouds don’t move the same direction low clouds move.

Modern meteorologists know about such differences through studying surface maps, which show the direction low clouds move, and comparing them with upper-air maps, which show the direction high clouds move. They have a huge advantage over the captains of coastal schooners, because they not only know how the high clouds are moving far to the west, and far to the east, but at times, when the sky is completely overcast, they know what high clouds are doing directly overhead, which the captains of schooners might not know.

But the captains of schooners had an advantage over modern meteorologists. When modern meteorologists blow a forecast they suffer embarrassment, yet seldom lose their jobs, but when the captains of schooners blew a forecast they lost their lives, or, if they crawled ashore, they had lost their cargo and therefore their livelihood.  Therefore what those old timers knew about high clouds involved an immediacy, urgency, and focus which modern meteorologists can’t imagine.

Also the captains of coastal schooners were not reading tickertape from a distant buoy or squinting at a satellite’s picture; they were right on the interface between sea and sky. They were right there, and there’s no buoy or satellite than can substitute for a man’s skin and hair. I often wonder if the most amazing discoveries concerning insights gleaned from the movements of high clouds were made by captains who died ten minutes later. Those sailing ships were not designed to handle hundred knot winds. Yet amazingly some captains survived hurricanes, in ships completely demasted yet controlled by a storm jib on a bowsprit. And when these crippled ships limped back to port their captains brought weather-data you do not learn in colleges, but can hear echoes of to this day, in taverns by the sea.

Me? I’m in awe of both the bygone oldsters and the modern meteorologists. What I know about “hurricane heights” is but crumbs a mouse gathers from a banquet. And what I gather is this:

Hot spells in New England tend to end with thunder, and also with a change in the movement of high clouds. When it was hot high clouds came from the southwest, but after the thunder they come from the northwest. Then it is delightfully cooler, with northwest winds. And upper air maps shows a “trof” (meteorologist spelling) crossing  New England. It is like a the dent a schoolgirl makes in a jump-rope, when lifting it up and down, and will be followed by the bump in the jump-rope, called an upper air  “ridge” (ordinary spelling).

As this upper air ridge approaches the refreshing northwest breezes die, and winds shift to the southwest, and people await the next summer hot spell. However worry-warts like me me get anxious, and start scanning the sunrise sky for hurricane heights.

Joe Bastardi called such ridges, “a ridge over troubled waters,” (a pun on an old Simon and Garfunkle song). Old schooner captains also worried when summer ridges past. They searched south for hurricanes. And true to form, as a hot ridge recently passed over New England, tropical storm Chris formed just off the Carolina coast, to the south.

20180709 satsfc

Such a hurricane shouldn’t trouble me, for they nearly always are steered out to sea by the upper-air “trof” following the upper-air “ridge”. Maybe such storms only concerned the captains of coastal schooners, because they too went “out to sea”, right where the hurricanes went,  and then those captains confronted conditions lubbers can’t imagine. (There was no Cape Cod Canal, and in order for New York City to build its tenements Maine lumber had to be shipped far “out to sea” to get around Cape Cod.)

Even people who stay ashore on the coast face high surf and rip tides, as such hurricanes go “out to sea”. But my farm is inland, up in the hills. Barring an unimaginable earthquake, these hills aren’t going “out to sea” any time soon.  Why should I care?

It is because the upper atmosphere does not always behave like waves going up and down on a schoolgirl’s jump-rope. A school-girl’s jump-rope never breaks off a bump into a circle that gets bigger and bigger and becomes a hurricane, boring from the surface right up into the upper atmosphere.

Once such a circle appears on meteorological maps they become an entity that has a life of its own. Usually they are steered by the steering currents, but they are also an impediment to the flow, like a boulder in a river, and therefore they have an uncanny capacity to alter the steering current. They can even steer the steering current. They impede the steering current to such a degree that upper-air winds are deflected. With a hurricane in the way, rather than aiming northeast the steering currents may be deflected north, or even, on very rare occasions, northwest.

Meteorologists who are wiser than I describe this as a “positively-tilted trof” being replaced by a “negatively tilted trof”, with the result being that a hurricane that ordinarily would go out to sea curves north or, very rarely, northwest.

Even when the hurricanes come north they tend to weaken over the cold shelf waters, and to suck dry air in from land, and have the most intense winds by the “eye-wall” collapse. Also they tend to curve away northeast at the end, which keeps the strongest winds east of my hills. Thus all the storms of my lifetime have been breezy and warm summer rains,  with some branches and rotted trees falling (and perhaps knocking the power out for a few hours). The next day’s news has pictures of surf and banged-up boats down on Cape Cod and in Buzzard’s Bay, and there can be flooding due to torrential rains, but the news  is never as bad as I know it could have been. In a sense I’ve spent a lifetime scanning the skies for hurricane heights I’ve never seen.

And what is this worst case scenario I envision? It is a hurricane that doesn’t dawdle over a colder shelf waters, but rather accelerates up the coast, cutting northwest as it plows inland, putting my hills to the east of the eye-wall. The blow-down of trees would be unimaginable to people now alive.

Actually I can’t say such a storm has never occurred in my lifetime, for Hurricane Carol took that track when I was one year old. I don’t remember it, but do recall being shown the fallen trees in the woods as a boy. They were trunks all laying the same way, on scrubby hillsides, and as we hiked I heard my Dad talk with other grown-ups about the older, mossier trunks being from an earlier hurricane (1938), and my grandfather commenting one summer was wetter (I can’t recall which summer) and that meant one hurricane uprooted trees and the other hurricane snapped them off.

To my boyish mind  it seemed such hurricanes must happen fairly often, but here it is 64 years later and we haven’t seen anything like them since. The scrubby hillside is now reforested with 64-year-old trees, and the fallen trunks have been melted down by rot and are mere green stripes of moss on the forest floor, with peculiar piles of stones at the ends, showing where the ripped-up bottoms once thrust tangles of earth and stones and writhing roots, and my grandfather said I should look for exposed arrowheads. Where the Depression-era elders saw two such storms in sixteen years we have been spared, but perhaps, just as the tree trunks have faded, so has the public’s memory of what can happen.

The sensationalist media is so eager to hurry on to the next headline it seems to have amnesia, like a person with dementia, only a person with dementia at least has some long-term-recall, even when they can’t remember where they put their car keys. The media is worse, with a forgetfulness more like a person who has smoked way, way too much marijuana, who cannot even remeber what car keys are for.

The media doesn’t even seem to fact-check any more, crowing a single day of hundred degrees is a big deal the Great Plains, where it once was over 110°F, day after day after day after burning day, during the nigh-intolerable Dust Bowl summer of 1936. Then, on July 13, 1954, it touched 120°F in Kansas, there were 100 degree temperatures noted in places from the Pacific to the Atlantic, and when you took all the high temperatures from all the station across the USA, north and south and east and west, the average was 95°F. (See post at realclimatescience.com) .

When the media ignores this striking past to sensationalize the more modest present, they not only make people less respectful towards what our forebears endured, but also make people unaware of what might happen again, (because it happened before). I have concluded that, in a strange way, the media generates a discontent where people once knew contentment despite hard times, and fosters a foolishness where people once were wise.

I refuse to be that way, so I sit and scan the summer’s warm dawn skies for hurricane heights, seeking high scarlet feathers and dappled intricacies from the southeast, at peace, but ever watchful.

But still I love the feel of summer dawn
Though I know her ways. She can’t disguise her
Devilish tricks. Her smiling lips won’t stay upon
My smile. She’ll leave. I’m older, wiser,
But still her kisses are reminding me of
A place I hope to return, after death:
The land before birth; a landscape of Love;
A time without time that takes away your breath.
Most have amnesia, and forget the breast
That fed them, and the peace before that time.
The work-a-day world puts all to the test
Like hamsters in wheels, or lemmings that climb
In a terrible rush to get to the top,
When the way to be wise is to stop.

ARCTIC SEA-ICE –The Seventh Storm–

I’ve been keeping an eye on “Ralph” (anomalous low pressure at the Pole).  For a time he sagged south towards Siberia, (though often bulging further north than usual), and things seemed more or less typical, with the Beaufort high pressure establishing itself towards Alaska.

If course, as soon as you say “more or less typical” you tend to drop your guard, especially on the July 4 holiday, and that’s when you get sucker punched in the jaw. During the holiday  the Siberian low shot across the Pole and knocked the Beaufort High right off the map. A second Siberian low formed, with a feeder band of milder air moving up its east side from the sun-baked steppes and tundra of Central Siberia.

A “zipper” formed on the warm front. over the New Siberian Islands on the east side of the Laptev Sea.

Rather than drifting east it curled north, drawing mild air as a feeder band, holding some modified Pacific air.

On the seventh day of the seventh month, it began blowing up, as the seventh summer storm since I began counting, back when we had the storm in the summer of 2012 that got so much attention.

If you remember, the 2012 storm generated all sorts of attention because it melted a lot of ice swiftly. Alarmists were overjoyed. Apparently the water had stratified and there was a slightly warmer layer of water below the “lens” of colder water at the surface. The reason the slightly warmer water didn’t rise was because it was saltier. Then the storm churned the water, and the milder water got into the mix. The speed at which the sea-ice vanished was quite remarkable. However then the  milder water was “used up”, and the stratification ceased to be. This, along with  (perhaps) the cooling of the water because it was initially exposed to arctic blasts the next winter, seemed to make the water so much colder that,  when a similar gale blew up in 2013, what was remarkable was how little of the sea-ice melted. (It was also remarkable how crestfallen certain Alarmists were.)

The 2012 storm was described as “very rare”, and a “top five storm”.  I’m not sure who was keeping the records, but if it was unusual, than the unusual is becoming more usual, for this makes the seventh top five storm we’ve had in seven years. We had two last summer, and this is the second we’ve had already, this summer. Ralph is on the rampage.

 

All eyes will be watching to see what sort of effect this storm will have on the sea-ice. Will it be like 2012 or like 2013?

The sea-ice remains thicker than last year. The “volume” always falls steeply during the peak of the melt, and this year has slipped below 2014, but remains far above last year’s.

DMI5 0707 CICE_combine_thick_SM_EN_20180707.png

The sea-ice “extent” has not fallen as steeply as last year. All eyes wait to see if the storm causes a downturn.

DMI5 0707 osisaf_nh_iceextent_daily_5years_en

Despite the “feeder bands” of milder air Ralph draws up to the Pole, temperatures remain below normal.

DMI5 0707 meanT_2018

As was the case with the storm in early June, the flip of the pattern has swung the cross-polar-flow completely around, to a flow from the Atlantic to the Pacific. (Dr. Ryan Maue map from Weatherbell)

Seven 1 gfs_mslp_uv10m_arctic_5

This flow prevents the flushing of sea-ice down into the Atlantic, (a major reason for the low sea-ice “extent” in 2007). This inflow from the Atlantic looks likely to persist, as Ralph looks unlikely to surrender the Pole any time soon.

I should mention that, deprived of my addiction to views of sea-ice from floating cameras, I have turned to shipping reports in a sort of desperation. The lone American ice-breaker was down in San Diego. No sea-ice there, yet. However I think they are picking up scientists from Scripps. Hopefully those fellows bring a camera north and plant it on the ice.

The Russians have a whole different attitude. The built the world’s first icebreaker in 1897, and are determined to open the Northeast Passage, and replace the Suez Canal. They are building massive ships, veritable monsters.

AA North route 4 Yamal_2009

How committed are the Russians? They have build forty of these monsters. This June they launched their biggest icebreaker yet. It will be able to smash through ice nine feet thick. Cost? Over a billion dollars!

What a gamble! So far the Russians are only escorting something like fifty ships a year, compared to thousands through the Suez Canal, but if they they can open the new sea-route it will be a change like Henry the Navigator  putting Portugal on the map by exploring the new route to India around Africa.

AA North route 2 tanker-icebreaker-sovcomflot

The hope is that once they bash channels open in the summer, the channels will remain open, and some reinforced boats can travel without escort.

AA North Route 1 tankerlng.christophemargerie-rosmorport11

The gamble is, well, the arctic is the arctic. Ice can thicken and channels crunch shut. But the Russians have been battling the arctic for centuries. They alone have built off-shore rigs in the frozen sea, and had a terrific battle getting their tankers to load up the oil this spring, fighting this year’s thicker ice.

AA North route 3 prirazlomnaya.springice2_gazpromneft

Stay tuned.

A PLACE CALLED HOME

My favorite moments are those when things come together, and life makes sense. All the tests of the past are suddenly seen as preparations for the present. Winston Churchill described such a moment in his own life as “walking with destiny.”

Of course, in order for such moments to be special they can’t happen all the time. What this means is that there must be other times when life makes no sense whatsoever. I’ve had a lot of those. Such times either break, or strengthen, your faith.

In my case it seems I have experienced a little of both breakage and strengthening. If my faith was perfect I would have had no doubt I was cared-for, even in the midst of calamities, and would have whistled cheerfully, but the truth is: I grumbled a lot. In my time I’ve been one of those bums you shy away from, because they are talking to themselves as they shuffle down the street.

Actually in my case I was talking to God. Basically I‘d be saying, “I don‘t get it. Nothing makes sense.” This seems a little audacious, for in a sense it is like a speck of dust folding its arms and tapping its toe and demanding that Infinite God start explaining Himself. But I think God likes it when we draw close. Maybe He’d prefer it if we praised more and grumbled less, but He can handle our grumbling. He isn’t like a mother who shakes a baby unconscious to stop its crying.

In any case, if grumbling is “drawing closer to God”, then I do get points, for I grumbled a lot. One reason I grumbled was because I had a great appreciation of harmony, and could see how beautiful life might be “if only”. Those two words can be the saddest words in the English language: “If only”.

The fact life could get ugly was especially frustrating when it seemed to defy Karma. The Bible states, “You reap what you sow”, but I seemed to experience the opposite. For a long, gloomy time my motto and mantra was, “The right thing is never the rewarding thing”.

I think this tends to be a common experience for all artists of all types. God gives them a gift, and they know they are gifted. Furthermore they know it is wrong to “bury your talents.” The Bible makes it quite clear that the fellow who buries his talents gets punished. So artists do the right thing, which is to sit around being artistic when everyone else goes out to work in the fields. Then, when harvest time comes around, everyone else has a harvest, but what have they earned? It is a bit crushing for young artists to realize they don’t get paid millions, like the Beatles were paid. The Beatles were the exception and not the rule, for if what you sow is songs, then what you reap is music, not money/

It can be exasperating, especially when you are young, to try to achieve a balance between, on one hand, utilizing the unprofitable yet dazzling talents God has given you, and, on the other hand, fulfilling your worldly responsibilities. When I was young I decided good symbols for this dichotomy were Aesop’s “Grasshopper and Ant”. At age 26 I decided each deserved its own sonnet:

 
       THE GRASSHOPPER SONNET

When I was young, I was told a fable
About a grasshopper and one good ant.
The good ant gathered grain for its table.
The grasshopper fiddled the following rant:

“Man can’t live on bread alone; all need song.
Yes, all need song. Life, without its tune,
Is wrong. Yes, utterly, hopelessly wrong,
WRONG, WRONG.”
                                     That grasshopper came to ruin,
Or at least that is what the fable states.
I guess that means next spring will be silent
Without the sweet chirping a grasshopper makes.
I guess that means all the ways that I went
Will lead me to death, while you’ll never die.
Either that or all the old fables can lie.

 

               THE ANT SONNET

The poor ant works while the grasshoppers fiddle.
The ant looks up to the sky with trust.
The ant can’t see God stands in the middle.
The ant is shocked by the first locust.
The locusts swarm and the fields are stripped.
The ant’s outraged and it seeks its peers.
Army ants march in tight ranks, grim lipped.
Soon the last locust disappears.
Thus there’s no fiddling. Thus there’s no grain.
Thus we have nothingness. Thus we’re insane.
Thus all our efforts breed flourishing pain.
Thus does humanity go down the drain.
Pray for ecology. Then there’s a chance
That grasshoppers will get along with the ants.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          (1979)                                                                

“Simple yet eloquent”, I said to myself, writing my own review. Then I sat back to await the accolades. Instead I received the usual rejection slip. Rather than the $1000.00 first prize I was counting on, I had to get a job at a herring cannery.

I think the people at that cannery thought I was too prissy and would never last, for the very first day they gave me the worst job, down in the dungeons in the bowls of the building, where a gargantuan machine groaned and squealed, screening the herring guts from a flood of reeking waste water. God heard me grumble a fair amount, that afternoon.

This brings me to the question, “Did God respond to my muttering?” In some discussions this becomes a debate about God’s nature: “Is God personal or impersonal?”

I tended to argue God was personal, but others would counter I was merely putting a silver lining on clouds, even when they were utterly dark. For example, I came to see my cannery job as a blessing. It toughened me up. I learned I could endure harsh conditions. Also the people working there were a wonderful collection of characters who loved to laugh, and I found myself enjoying myself, even though few cared about poetry. By the time I left, seven months later, I had reversed my thinking, and was sure I wasn’t going to die young like John Keats, (because I had outlived him), and few would have called me “prissy.” Therefore I could say God had been smart to put me in a cannery, rather than give me $1000.00 for sitting on my duff. I believed this,  but more cynical people would growl I was merely trying to polish a turd.

Skip ahead seven years, and I had bounced from job to job, north and south and coast to coast, and perhaps was getting discouraged. I felt farther from being “discovered” than ever, and rather than wiser I seemed more confused. I was usually broke, and lonely. I often wrote because the paper was the only one who would listen.

Said the singer to the song,
“It is for your lips I long;
It is for your sweet embrace
Though I cannot see your face
And I cannot ever kiss my own creation.”

The song came singing back,
“You are everything I lack
And we need each other’s life for celebration.”
                                                                                               (1986)

By the time I passed age thirty-three I was catching on to the fact that art, at its best, is a reward in and of itself. To ask for money lessens it, and can dirty it at times. Inspired art is a matter of the heart, and is beyond the arithmetic of budgets. Trying to materialistically value art is like a husband and wife trying to calculate who owes whom how much, and for what. And this is especially true when art becomes worshipful. When joy wells up, and one bursts out in song, art possesses a spontaneity which makes it different from a paid-for service. (When one employs the services of a dentist, one isn’t looking for spontaneity.)

Not that worship isn’t valuable. It is. The Bible even stipulates that people who are manifesting gifts with great ability should receive a “double portion” so they are freed from other tasks that might divert them from manifesting their gift. However it seemed to me this occurred after they were already successful. It wasn’t what I wanted, which was money before I succeeded, so I might “develop my art” and “have time to write.”

Young artists called this “an advance”, and dreamed of achieving such riches, but age brought wisdom, and a certain cynicism. As years passed, hearing the words “an advance” made some immediately adopt the voice of Wimpy in the old Popeye cartoons, saying, “I would gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today,” while others stated the only advance you were likely to see from an editor was a sexual one. By the age of thirty-three I had glumly concluded money was a matter for the material world, whereas art flourished elsewhere. I tried to have a sense of humor about it, but God heard a lot of grumbling from me.

I have only got a penny
And that isn’t very many
And in fact it can’t by any
FOOD FOR ME!
But as long as I keep living
There is love; there is forgiving;
There is sight, and thought for sieving
And it’s ALL FOR FREE.
                                                 (1987)

In January 1988 I was barely managing eke out a precarious balance between worldly responsibility and art, on the cold, dry and winter-drab streets of Gallup, New Mexico. When the weather had grown cold I had moved into town from a campground where I’d survived at $25.00/week, into a motel unit on Old Route 66 which cost a whopping $60.00/week. Originally I paid for a week at the start of the week, but gradually was later and later with my rent, until I was paying for the week when the week was over, which the landlord didn’t approve of at all.

Minimum wage back then was $3.30/hour, or $26.40 a day, and I needed at least three days of work to pay my rent, and to have a little left over for rice, beans, coffee (and cigarettes, which I could buy very cheaply on nearby reservations.) I preferred to work four days a week, so I could buy gas for my sputtering 1974 Toyota Corolla, and afford to do some laundry at the Laundromat, and splurge on a chicken and a six-pack of beer. I’d work five days a week rarely, and only to buy time to write the following week. I preferred to have three or four days a week to wrack my brains. My writing seemed to be growing steadily worse.

I eat, sleep, work, drink and piss.
There’s just one thing I miss:
One year without a kiss;
Lord, it’s too long.

Lord! It’s too long.
It’s too long, Lord,
Too long! My mind
Can’t afford
Being Bored.
Help me, Lord.

The way I found work was to head up to the local Unemployment Office at the crack of dawn. You had to arrive there early, because an unwritten law stated that the men who arrived first got the first jobs, and, as some days there were only one or two jobs, it tended to be a case where the early bird got the worm. Often I’d arrive at five although the office didn’t open until eight, and I got to know some of the other fellows, (primarily Navajo, with a few Apache and Hispanics), quite well.

Gallup was going through hard times. All sorts of Booms had gone bust. The coal mine had closed. The Uranium mine had closed. The Native American jewelry and tapestry booms had gone bust. The road-building boom had withered with the completion of Interstate 40, and the completion of that interstate basically ruined all the businesses along Old Route Sixty-six. Summer tourism was only a shadow of its former self, and when tourism dried up in the winter the unemployment rate soared above fifty percent. The only sure jobs were to work for the government; for example, at the unemployment office.

It was hard enough merely surviving those winters. Bums like me really had to hustle, and pick up every returnable wine bottle seen on the sidewalk and return it, and sell plasma at a place in downtown Gallup. I had learned to get by, providing everything went well. But then things didn’t go well.

First, my car developed an odd ailment. It would run for only three to five minutes, and then would die. After the engine cooled down it would run again, and then die again. I knew very little about engines, but couldn’t afford a mechanic. I took to visiting bars to pick the brains of people I barely knew. They gave me around fifty wrong answers, but in order to learn the answers were incorrect I had to take their advice. In one case I stressed my budget by going to an auto-parts store and purchasing a new coil for $42.99. It did no good. The car still stopped running after three minutes. I parked it behind a friend’s business, two miles from my motel unit, and began walking a lot.

$42.99 for a coil was more than a day’s work, and I was a little late paying the $60.00 for my motel unit that week. Fortunately I’d earlier helped a Navajo friend raise the money to fix his truck by giving him $50.00 for $50.00’s worth of food-stamps, out at a campground months before, and I still had the food-stamps. I did not give the landlord the food stamps, but he accepted my explanation I’d have to do some adroit swapping, and he had no qualms about grabbing the dollars I produced a day later.

That landlord approached the size of a midget, with a wife who was shorter, and he likely had a grudge against white people, for it was white people who, seeing the writing on the wall, wisely unloaded all the motels along Old Route Sixty-six, as Interstate 40 neared completion, to a whole collection of short people with the distinctive accents of the sub-continent of India.

Little did the small man know, but I had a wonderful time in India in 1974, and was a sort of reverse-racist, in that I was inclined to think the best of people who spoke with that accent. He never thought the best of me. No matter how cheerful and ingratiating I endeavored to be, he never once smiled.

I was getting used to this treatment. A poet is always living in a dream-world above the sleazy concerns of money-grubbers, and he suffers a sort of heartache when the rubber meets the road. There are certain situations that allow shrews to revel over eagles, and landlords enjoy that advantage over poets, when the rent is due.

But I must mention this: I am not a Zuni, and in my adventures with them I was most definitely an outsider, but they were, on certain occasions, splendidly kind to me. The same can be said for other groupings of persons I met in that area. I was an outsider with the Navajo, an outsider with the Hispanics, an outsider with the Chinese-Americans, the Italians, the Mormons, the high mountain Ranchers, the Hopi, the Acoma, the Apache, and I can give examples where they dazzled me with kindness, and made me want to write poems about them.

I wish I could say the same for the diminutive motel-owners along Old Route Sixty-six, but I’d be dishonest if I said so. Surely they are kind to people in their own clique, but I never saw a hint they could be kind to poets. I drifted through Gallup often over the course of four winters, and hit the motel owners with blasts of my charm, and they proved impervious. It gave me the sense I must be getting old and ugly, for in my younger day I was highly skilled at getting invited to dinner.

I grumbled to God about this, as I trudged about without a car. I was tired of being an outsider, always on the wrong side of a windshield, cold while others drove by snug. Rather than life making sense it seemed increasingly senseless. Many of my pet theories were going down in flames. “No good deed goes unrewarded” seemed to be being replaced by, “No good deed goes unpunished.” My idea that people from the sub-continent of India were more spiritual and less materialistic than Westerners was replaced by experiences of money-grubbing meanness. Worst, my sense that God was a compassionate father who listened to me was challenged by a sense God didn’t care a fig about me.

I fought that feeling with might and main, likely because, if I didn’t, I’d vanish under a quicksand of complete despair. I told myself God was teaching me valuable lessons. I was learning to count on self-reliance before charm, and to never be a moocher. I was learning to avoid judging people by their accents. But these arguments weren’t working very well, especially as my health began to fail.

I had to get up when it was dark and walk for a half hour to get to the unemployment office before anyone else, and a couple of mornings I simply felt too ill to do it. Then I did manage it, but there was no work for anyone that day. I only made $52.80 for an entire week, which meant I had to avoid my landlord for a weekend. Fortunately I had a friend who didn’t mind me serving as a sort of “night watchman” at his shop, by sleeping in the back. He liked me being there because Gallup could get rowdy on the weekends, and businesses that didn’t have caged windows often suffered break-ins. Usually my friend slept at his workplace, but he wanted to get away that weekend to see his girlfriend.

I did manage to get work the next Monday, which allowed me to casually hand the landlord $60.00 that evening, apologizing for being late, and excusing myself with the statement, “I’ve been away.” It wasn’t a lie, for I was sleeping roughly two miles away, but the little man looked like he didn’t believe a word of it.

The next week was worse. With Monday’s money used for the prior week, I was starting behind, and only got one other day’s work, for another $26.40. I sold Plasma on Tuesday for $7.00 and again on Thursday for $9.00, plus a bonus of $7.00 (which one received every eighth time one visited.) I turned in $2.60 of aluminum cans I had collected, plus lugged four cases of returnable wine-bottles to the bottling plant, feeling dizzy and exhausted, for $8.00, which gave me a total of $60.00 exactly, but no money for food.

I went to my parked car and searched under the seats, and collected $2.65 in loose change, and also found my G+H green-stamps. (I collected them even when I didn’t shop, for some people didn’t bother with them, and I’d spot them blowing about the parking lot of the grocery store and would pounce.) I walked to the green-stamp “redemption center” and got another $3.60. I then had a whopping $6.25, and felt like a millionaire. I bought a pound of chicken wings for 69 cents; two carrots, an onion, and a potato for 89 cents; a pack of cigarettes for $1.09; and a cheap six-pack for $1.50. Then I went back to my motel unit to make a stew, sip beer, smoke, and write. I had taken care of the worldly-detail side of things, and quite honestly felt a welling-up of self-esteem. But I had forgotten the landlord in my satisfaction. He was pounding on my door even before the water was boiling, scowlingly demanding my rent. I had the $60.00 tucked into an envelope in a book on a shelf, and retrieved it in my most casual manner, as if the money had been there all week. He snatched the envelope from me and suspiciously counted the money, before wheeling and walking away without a good-bye.

“What a turd,” I thought to myself, closing the door and cracking a beer. “I bet he’ll be sorry, when I’m famous, and put him in a story.”

I tried to settle down and enjoy myself, but felt feverish and restless. The landlord had put me in a bad mood, and I knew better than to attempt to write, because self-expression would likely dissolve into a rave about how all landlords are jerks. Instead I was hoping the chicken soup might cure me. Either that, or the fresh pack of cigarettes. All week I’d been emptying the tobacco from old butts, and re-rolling it as “second generation” tobacco, and few things are more raunchy. It made even an nicotine-addict like me smoke less, but I felt worse.

Being unable to shake my cold, or ’flu, or whatever it was, bothered me, for one thing I’d always been able to count on was my stamina and resiliency. On some work-sites I’d go out after work with the fellows, and everyone would drink far more than was wise, and the next day I’d be the only one who showed up for work. Nothing seemed to weaken me the way it weakened others, and I could get away with things I probably shouldn’t have risked. At worst I might lay low for a few nights, catching up on my sleep, but soon I’d be bounding back to repeat the offences. Yet now things seemed to be catching up with me. Not even the chicken soup helped.

Things had reached the yearly low, in terms of the local economy. Not only was tourism as low as it ever got, but it was the week before the various governments (Federal, State and Tribal,) cut monthly checks, and everyone was barely hanging on, waiting for those checks. Even though I didn’t receive one, I knew I would likely benefit from the flurry of buying and boozing that followed their issuance. I had the feeling that, if I could just hang on one more week, things would improve.

But what followed was a dismal week. Not only were there far fewer wine bottles on the sidewalks, but there were far more people collecting them for the refunds. Never had the streets of Gallup seemed so clean. I sensed I was in trouble even before the week began. Then, though I looked for work every day, not a single spot-labor job appeared up at the unemployment office. A cheerful employee up at that office informed me and my fellow Destitutes that we should have hope, for people would soon be hiring spot labor to make ready for the next tourist season, and a Navajo grunted back, “Easy for you to smile. You’ve got a pay-check, this Friday.” I buttoned my lip, but imagined that my landlord wasn’t going to be very impressed by mere hope.

I couldn’t even hide out, being a “night watchman” at my friend’s, for he had left town early, due to the complete lack of business; Gallup’s streets were so empty he likely didn’t fear his shop would be broken into. His shop was dark and lonesome-looking. I decided there are few sadder sights than a friend who isn’t home when you need a friend.

I had to do something, so I sat in the local public library until it closed, and then in my car until I got cold, and then headed to an all-night coffee shop until it was very late, (getting free refills for my 50 cent cup from a kindly waitress), and only then did I tiptoe back to my motel, and went to bed without even turning on the lights.

Then next morning I crept off early, taking a path that avoided the view from the front office‘s window, and headed off to my final hope, which was my post-office box. You never knew what might come in the mail. My main hope was for my tax refund, which would be around a hundred dollars. I muttered to God a lot as I walked to the post office, and as I opened the box my muttering became fervent prayer, yet when I opened the box it held the ultimate rejection-slip: It was empty.

God may be King of kings and Lord of lords, but I fear I was then less than respectful. Not that I used the wrong words. I said, “Thanks a lot.” But the tone was all wrong, and caused other people in the lobby to jump. I didn’t care. Life had ruined me, and I owed it no good manners.

I knew I should seize the bull by the horns, and walk to my pip-squeak landlord and explain the situation, but the idea made me want to vomit. Instead I wandered about town, meeting my fellow Navajo bums, who knew how I felt, because they too had to face pip-squeak white men who had invaded their land. None of them were better off than I. We all were surprisingly sober for a Saturday, and broke, just hanging on until the economy improved.

By afternoon hunger drove me back to my motel unit, and I snuck back in to cook my remaining food, which was dried rice and dried beans. It wasn’t easy. Because Gallup, though down in a valley, is at an altitude above the highest mountains back east, water boils below 200 degrees Fahrenheit, and also, because the barometric pressure is much lower, water evaporates with amazing speed. Boiling is next to useless, because the rice and/or beans are nearly as hard when you are done boiling as when you begin. I learned this the hard way. However a Hispanic fellow had taught me how to fry rice and fry beans, so that it was already cooked before you boiled it. However I had no oil or butter to fry with, and therefore, displaying scientific ingenuity, I had to roast my rice and beans in a carefully-attended frying pan, before boiling. It took until after dark to produce the gruel I ate, and, although I did hang my spare blue jeans over the window to hide my lights, enough light must have leaked out to alert my landlord to the fact I wasn’t “away”.

One odd event happened, as I ate my gruel, that final night I had a home, before I became homeless. I was praying, asking God for, if not a “sign”, then mercy, when a little mouse appeared from behind the radiator on the far side of the unit and began coming towards me. At first I thought it was cute, and a good “sign”, but quickly I surmised the mouse was very sick. Rather than darting and scurrying it staggered. It labored forwards, tottering to my feet, where it fell over on its side and died. Hmm. Not a good “sign”.

The next morning I crept off with my final fifty cents to get a coffee, and when I returned an odd clam-shell was clamped to my unit’s doorknob. I couldn’t get in to my breakfast of rice-and-beans gruel. Obviously the landlord had had enough.

Just as obviously, this was a situation I needed to think about, before I faced it. I went for a long walk, and the day passed with me muttering to God a lot. I attempted to assess the situation in a pragmatic manner, (which poets only do when driven to it by emergency). How was I going to approach the landlord?

First, I had noticed few of his units were actually occupied. Therefore, as a customer who had always paid his rent, I must have some value, though I had just spent my last fifty cents. He must know I always paid, though I paid late. Perhaps, if I mentioned my coming tax-refund, he could be dissuaded from throwing me out.

Second, though the fellow seemed to have an accent from central India, I gathered he wasn’t a Hindu, primarily because the Navajos who had served in the Army referred to him as an “Aye-rab”. And also I had not spent hours staying warm in public libraries without poking through books. If you investigate you learn the nice-sounding word “partition”, concerning India, was not at all that nice in 1948. Gandhi could talk of love and pacifism to his heart’s content, but millions died, as peoples who had lived together for centuries divorced, and the subcontinent convulsed.

Though my landlord looked too young to have been driven from India in 1948, I surmised that likely his grandparents and parents had been among the millions who fled north to Pakistan. I imagined they didn’t find things any kinder in their new home. Why else would they flee Pakistan to the far side of the planet? There were likely some very sad reasons why the little man never smiled. I should have compassion, and also not expect the worst. Surely the fellow would pause before making me homeless, having once been homeless himself. Surely he would not do unto others what he himself hated, when it was done unto him.

Actually he seemed to rather enjoy it. When I finally dared return to talk to the greedy, little man, he just wanted me to get the heck out. He didn’t want to talk about history, or about compassion. He had not even any interest in my future tax-refund. Perhaps, after being bullied by others for generations, he was relishing the chance to be a bully. He didn’t actually smile, but I thought I detected a sort of satisfaction in the way his nose wrinkled a sneer. He seemed to like being mean, especially because, in my cowboy boots, I was a well over a foot taller than he. I’m not certain if there is a David and Goliath in Islamic literature, but if he was a Jew he definitely would see himself as David, and me as a Goliath.

It was an odd experience for me. I have been accused of many short-comings in my time, but seldom of being a Goliath. Poets are seldom accused of being hulking monsters, but apparently my failure to come up with the rent made me one. When I looked into the man’s eyes I saw nothing remotely approaching sanity. If the measure of a man is determined by his responses, the already-short man grew even shorter.

However I should confess I was not scoring much higher, if you are into measuring men. The only measure I was interested in was the distance between my fist and his chin. I was so tired and so sick that a ripple of rage quivered through my brain. I was close to violating my poetic principles, and the man was close to being unconscious and perhaps dead. But I abstained, thank God. Instead I chose to think in terms of words. What words could I concoct that would punch the greedy little rat in the jaw? The best I could do was to growl, “If you are not interested in money or my tax-refund, just unlock the door. I’ll be out of your life by sunset.”

Rather than devastated, he looked pleased, and he asked, “By sunset?” I nodded. Then I thought of something absolutely devastating I could say. It was proof I was a true word-smith, and made me smile, which changed the little man’s expression towards suspicion as he took the clam shell gadget off the doorknob, but I kept my words to myself. I figured it would be smart to be on my best behavior, until I had my stuff moved out.

I didn’t need to even think of what I had to do next. Now that I was a street person, I obviously needed a shopping cart. I recollected I’d seen one down in the bottom of a gully beside the nearby supermarket. In a matter of minutes I came squeaking back to the motel unit. The little man had vanished. I unlocked the door and began to load up everything I owned. It didn’t take long. My suitcase slid onto the shelf below the cart’s basket, and books and scribble-filled notebooks and a battered typewriter took up most of the rest of the space, with my coffee cup and a few utensils topping everything off, including my pot holding the last of my gruel. Then I pushed my squeaking load to the front office to return my keys, and to deliver the nasty statement I was treasuring.

The mean midget was looking sort of smug when I walked in, but I could tell my statement hit home by the way his deranged eyes crossed slightly after I spoke. I said about the worst thing I could think of saying to a Muslim. It was, “All you Hindus care about is money.” Then I walked out sniggering to myself, and pushed my squeaking cart off into the sunset.

A single sheet of paper may not weigh much, but that cart weighed a ton. Even on the flat pavement I was huffing and puffing, and then I reached a hill that lay between me and my distant car. It really wasn’t all that steep, but I felt sick and dizzy. Also cowboy boots have no tread, and it was hard to get traction. Halfway up the hill I had to pause to rest, and I ate some gruel. Before I ate I remembered to pray. Maybe it was not heartfelt, and was done by rote, but I figured I deserved a point or two in heaven for making the attempt. I tried to remember I was better off than some folk, who had no food at all, but God saw how I rolled my eyes and heard the irony in my voice.

I continued up the hill and continued my muttering, as the twilight grew and the streetlights came on. I was asking God a lot of tough questions, most revolving around the fact He is suppose to be a God of love, but I was failing to see the compassion in my current state of affairs. At last I reached the top of the long rise, and started down the other side, and immediately knew I’d made a big mistake.

The cart was so heavy it practically pulled my arms from their sockets, and I swiftly discovered I could only slow the cart. I couldn’t stop it. I was sort of skiing along behind it, attempting to dig in the heels of my cowboy boots but not having much luck. I was mostly concerned with steering the thing, but as I looked ahead I exclaimed, “Oh really, God? Really?”

Down the hill, under the reddish glow of a street light, a police car was drawn up to the side of the road. Two officers were crouching behind the street side of the car, looking up onto the the porch of a house. On that porch, under the yellow glow of a porch light, a man was raving at the officers. He was waving a handgun about.

It’s funny what you think in a situation like that. I briefly considered letting go of the cart. So what if I lost my life’s work? Poetry wasn’t seeming very profitable, at that moment. However I hung on, for it occurred to me that, if I let go, the cart would rapidly accelerate to sixty miles an hour, and then, the way my luck was going, it would collide head-on with the police cruiser.

I slid on, closer and closer, and finally emerged from the night and slid right between the cruiser and the porch, giving a little wave to either side as I passed through the brightness. As I re-entered the night I glanced backwards. Both the officers and the man were laughing. Apparently I had relieved the tension and defused the situation. Not that I expected any thanks.

“Really, God? Really?” I kept muttering as the cart slowed at the bottom of the hill, and I pushed it on to my car. I had the strangest sense God had used me to break up a fight, and that perhaps He was a compassionate God after all. Maybe not compassionate to me, but compassionate to others.

Yet I then experienced a remarkable turn in my fortunes. I blundered into two day’s work at a car-wash while an employee recovered from the ‘flu. Not only did it pay an unheard-of five dollars an hour, for ten hour days, but also it held an unexpected windfall. At the end of the carwash was an enormous vacuum cleaner people could use to clean the inside if their cars with, and when I was sent to empty the dirt out of it I discovered that besides sucking dirt from the inner mats it sucked up a surprising amount of spare change. Life was good.

The oddest thing of all involved my health. I figured about the worst thing I could do to my body was to be wet all day in a midwinter car-wash, and then sleep in a cramped Toyota when it was ten degrees below freezing. I confidently looked to the corners of my eyes, awaiting the first symptoms of pneumonia. Instead I was hit by radiant health. It made absolutely no sense to me.

Then I remembered the little mouse that died at my feet in the motel unit. Perhaps there was something poisonous in that air. It was making me sick, and God had to get me out of there. I wouldn’t listen, and stubbornly stayed in a poisonous situation, so God had to get drastic.

Of course, I knew some would say I was just putting a silver lining on a black cloud, but that was their problem. The idea worked for me, and I felt loved more than I deserved, and was happy. I even wrote a long poem, sitting in my Toyota one afternoon, and it flowed out without correction and, when I reread it, seemed rather good, if I do say so myself.

A PLACE CALLED HOME

So in love with child-scarred walls
Was I that I was loathe to leave
That place called home, that beat abode
Which saw me waul and roll and teethe
And then, astounded, rub my chin
And feel the first felt bristles there.

But Real-Estate can never grieve
And For-Sale signs never grin
To see a family stay secure,
And none would heed my aching heart.

I saw them empty every drawer
And watched my childhood bed depart
And, though I then slept on the floor
And listened through the lonely night
To echoes of bygone delight
Go ghosting through the empty halls,
When square dawn roses paned the walls
I had to rise and had to roam
And leave the place I loved, called home.

The smiles and tears and miles and years
I’ve crossed have made a man of me,
And home’s become most anyplace
I rest, and practice poetry.
A tent, or flea-infested pad,
Or barn, or boxcar, boat or bench,
Or millionaire’s mansion, where I’m guest,
Is home enough to make me host
And give what people crave the most
But most have lost for Real-Estate
And For-Sale,
                            For-Sale,
                                                For-Sale
With fingers crossed
And eyes on gain, choosing losing,
Causing pain, never giving what
I give: The poetry; the Gift.
You cannot buy a gift,
And it’s a gift to be the host
And practice the benevolence
Remembered from a place called home.

I have seen that poetry can bring
The beauty back to sitting on the stoop
Looking at the clouds. Sitting doing
Nothing with a friend. Children sitting
Doing nothing in the lush of summer
As the flowers droop for plushness
And the lone narcotic is the drone
Of many bees too drunk on honeydew
To sting. Bees drinking deep, then winging
Through the lucid air and bluer skies
Back to a honeyed place called home.

Upon the tops of boxcars, or thumbing
In the sizzling heat above the soft
Macadam, my home has come along
With me though I am not a turtle
And not burdened like a snail.
Everywhere I go is home
And everywhere I rest I’m host
And puzzle people with the art
Which makes one feel at home.

For they have bought the houses
And they have hoarded land
And they have sold their souls and sought
What seekers know is sand.
Forgetting green needs water
And sun scorches without rain,
Their roses lack all perfume
And they’re driven to complain,
“I’ve the title to this land.
I own the air you breathe.
You have no right to play the host.
I must ask you to leave.”

And so I hit the road again.
Always, as I roam,
I glance back at the place I knew
And briefly made a home.

Sometimes I wonder, as I walk,
If people watch my leaving,
Then glance about an empty house
And muse, without believing,
On how the quiet seems to mourn;
On how the heart feels strangely torn;
On how the house seems strangely lorn
And not the place called home.

For home comes always on with me
And when my old age sets me free
I’ll look behind, and I will see
The body that I used to be
And used to call my home,
And then my gaze will glance ahead
And see what fearful fools have fled.
There is more to life than bread.
With Real-Estate and For-Sale dead
I won’t have lost; love’s always led
Me to a place called home.

 

(AFTERWARD

I likely should tie up some lose ends.

I soon mastered the art of sleeping in my Toyota. All one needs to do is learn to curl up in the proper manner, around the stick-shift on the floor. This freed me from the bother of coming up with any rent, for the rest of the winter.

Once I had a bit of spare money I bought a manual about old Toyotas for around five dollars. This helped me figure out what was making the car stop. It was a tiny, worn O-ring that insulated a wire that entered the side of a carborator. As soon as the engine warmed the wire would short out. A new O-ring cost 89 cents, and I was on the road again.

Before I headed out of town back to the campground, I had a final meeting with my friend the tiny landlord. One day I was walking by the motel on the far side of Old Route Sixty-six, and he came dashing across the street and asked me if I had the money I owed him. I didn’t, so I just spread my palms and said, “I’m sleeping in my car.” He looked suspicious, as always, but also crestfallen. Something about how his shoulders slumped as he walked back across the road pricked my conscience, so, when my tax refund came a few days later, I returned to the tiny front office where he lived with his wife and children. (As usual it smelled of the delicious cooking which I was never offered.) He wasn’t in, but his wife came to the desk. When I explained I was there to pay a debt she snatched the money from my hand and turned away. I noticed she was shaking slightly. It helped me understand they likely were desperately poor.

It also helped me understand there might be worse things than to be a bachelor, able to sleep in a car and then head out to a campground when the weather got warm, free as a bird.)