LOCAL VIEW –Daffodils Drenched–(updated)

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( Photo credit: http://awaytogarden.com/bulb-growing-basics-a-springtime-recap/ )

Glancing through google images I couldn’t find a single picture, among hundreds of daffodils, of one drooping in the rain., so then I plugged in “drooping daffodils” and did a bit better.

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I suppose people are simply less inclined to take pictures of flowers in the rain, when the flowers are getting pounded down. People equate spring with blue skies. However every spring daffodils are in a hurry to spring up before the trees can shade them with leaves, and every year they get drubbed by downpours, and then droop downcast in the drizzle.

We did get drenched by a fairly vigorous southwest flow ahead of a sprawling storm over the Great Lakes, which has kicked a secondary low up the coast. Once again thunder made it north to Boston, but not up to our hills. It never seems quite spring to me until we get a roll of thunder, and the rain did begin as sleet yesterday (and is still sleeting in Northern Maine).

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(I’ll add more later, but have to run to work right now.)

*******

I found out there was thunder last night, but I slept through it.

I also noticed I myself was drooping like the daffodils. Partly it is a continuation of the post-taxes hang-over. It is a sort of “what’s the use of trying” mentality, born of the government’s greed, and its desire to take money and liberty away.

However, when I thought about it, it was an older feeling as well, a feeling I could recall from my youth, though usually it didn’t hit me until May. At first I’d be hit by wild ambition, and only later would the “what’s the use of trying” discouragement set in.

The first stanza of a poem I wrote in 1975 came bouncing through my head, and made me smile, and I added three more stanzas.

In the spring there’s more to do
Than the clock allows you to.
There’s a thousand different things you want to plant.
Although lazy with spring fever
You try working like a beaver
And attempt to keep a schedule you can’t.

Though your garden plans are brilliant
You will wonder where your will went
Once you leave your golden castles in the air.
All too soon your mind’s accosted
By your body’s, “I’m exhausted!”
What you’re growing is depression and despair.

Therefore interrupt your planning.
Cross out freezing. Cross out canning.
Cross out many months of toil for which you’re wishing.
While the garden soil you’re turning
Stoop and pluck the worms there squirming
And plop them in a can and plan some fishing.

Once you plan for some relaxing
You will quit the overtaxing
That can make the crop you grow a bitter harvest.
To avoid the groans you’ve grown
You must plant not bread alone
But also plant the songs and poems that are best.

That is some advice for myself. Now we shall see if I can practice what I preach, and follow my own advice.

LOCAL VIEW –Awaiting the Wet–

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We have a flood watch this morning, which seems slightly absurd as it is so dry I’ve have to risk arrest to burn the dead weeds in my garden. (The trick is to burn small patches, so by the time anyone smells smoke the quick blaze is out, and you are whistling innocently and planting seeds.)

I got 40 feet of spinach planted yesterday. Actually it is 80 feet, as I plant a double row, with the rows around six inches apart. Once the seeds come up I thin the plants so they are four to six inches apart, (using the thinnings in a salad). Then the trick is to make sure the spinach gets lots of water, and lots of nitrogen. I have a nice pile of rotted manure, (which the old-timers called “brown gold”), and top-dress the plants away from the stalks. (If the manure is placed too close to the plants they get overfed and turn yellow.)  What you want is the plants to grow at top speed, before the weather gets hot and they bolt.

After spending around fifty years thinking spinach was loaded with iron, and was good for me, I recently learned it also is loaded with oxalate, which binds with the iron and makes it so your body can’t use it. Therefore I’m simply growing it because I like it.

Anyway, half of the time, when you learn of a new scientific study that shows some nourishing thing isn’t nourishing, you later learn that scientific study was done by someone who benefits if sales of that nourishing thing slump.  Both eggs and milk have spent time on the not-good-for-you list, only to be removed later. It wouldn’t surprise me if the study showing Spinach didn’t supply as much iron as previously thought was done by the Broccoli Growers Association.

One thing that is fairly certain is that the fresher a food is, the more nutritious it is.  You don’t want to pick spinach and leave it in the refrigerator for a couple of days. If possible you want to pick it just before dinner.

I’m also trying to grow some Onions from seed, which I’ve never tried before. Usually I plant little bulbs. I have ten feet of sweet onions and fifteen feet of Spanish onions involved in this experiment.

Usually the soil is muddy in April, but not yesterday. A bit of rain wouldn’t be a bad thing.

One reason for the flood watch is that the rivers and streams are fairly high, despite the drought. This is partly due to the snow-melt, but is also due to something I noticed happens during very cold winters. The level of lakes rises five inches. This occurs simply because the ice gets to be 50 inches thick, and a tenth of an iceberg floats above water, and that lifts the level of the lake a tenth of 50 inches, which is 5 inches. The “top of the water” can be five inches above the level of the outlet, yet not a drop can flow out, as the water is all frozen. As recently as April 1 we were walking on very solid ice on the ponds, but now it has vanished, under sunshine which beats down from the same point in the sky the sun is at in the middle of August. It’s amazing how quickly the ice just fades away, and then the extra five inches of water in the ponds can flow out the outlets, and the creeks and streams and rivers all rise even in a drought.

The snow is gone here, but there is likely more snow left to the north, and up on higher hills, and the weather service wants to cover its butt, when it issues the current flood watch, at a time the soil is getting dry and my seeds could use a bit of rain.

NOVEL’S TEASER –PART 12–

This is a continuation of a story that began at: https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/01/09/teaser-to-a-novel/

Part 2 can be found at:   https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/novels-teaser-part-2/

Part 3 can be found at:  https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/02/25/novels-teaser-part-3/

Part 4 can be found at:  https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/02/27/novels-teaser-part-4/

Part 5 can be found at:   https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/03/02/novels-teaser-part-5/

Part 6 can be found at  https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/03/03/novels-teaser-part-6/

Part 7 can be found at: https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/03/07/novels-teaser-part-7/

Part 8 can be found at https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/03/11/novels-teaser-part-8/

Part 9 can be found at https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/03/21/novels-teaser-part-9/

Part 10 can be found at https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/04/03/9227/

Part 11 can be found at https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/04/11/novels-teaser-part-11/

NOTE:  During the year 1972 I shifted from thinking that marijuana and hallucinogens should be legalized to being zealously opposed to legalization. The change occurred because I made a distinction between drugs such as caffeine, nicotine and alcohol, which effected lower parts of the brain and were “only” harmful physically, emotionally and mentally, and drugs such as marijuana and hallucinogens which also effected higher parts of the brain, and were harmful physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

This distinction is based on the premise that besides a physical brain we have a non-physical mind superimposed over the brain’s flesh, and that certain functions of the physical brain occur at a sort of tangent point between the physical and non-physical, and should not be meddled with.

I have become more gentle towards a new generation that now struggles with drugs, but I still feel cannabis is far more harmful than alcohol. However in writing this work I have to remember the way I thought back when I and my friends naively believed what we were told: Namely, that such harmful drugs were “expanding our consciousness”.

SYNOPSIS  

The American “Nig” has returned after a year abroad at a strict school in Scotland, and is writing the South African “Kaff”, using a shorthand the two teenagers devised which allows them to write with the speed of their frenetic thoughts.

Nig has been dismayed by changes that have occurred in the USA while he was away, and at this point is telling Kaff he has decided to make a lot of money selling lyrics for hit songs, and to buy a plot of land he calls “The Party Woods.” He plans to form a commune of his boyhood friends, but needs to convince his friends the scheme is possible.

What Nig is attempting to do is to figure out how to “get the gang together”, but his friends have gone in different directions, and the unity which the gang once shone with seems lost. Nig is attempting to end this divorce by being an amazing psychiatrist who can solve all problems with a single session. He imagines he makes progress in the magical atmosphere of the “Party Woods”, but that out in the world he faces opposition to the unity of a commune..

At this point in Nig’s description he has concluded a discussion with Ham and Franks, who are two brothers who have become ardent communists, and another discussion with his boyhood best-friend Durf, who has lost faith in society and practices a sort of self-centered epicureanism at a commune of his own in the city, and Nig is now midst a discussion out in the Party Woods with his depressed friend “Spook” and his brother “Zooks”,  who are two of the four Lasaumille brothers.

*******

Both Spook and Zooks seemed to know without saying that we were going to sit and talk on the vibe-place outcropping where we did so much talking, during my Senior Summer, cos that’s where they went and sat down. I sat beside them, with my legs dangling over the edge, a big old smile pasted across my face cos they looked so much like themselves.

Zooks lay down on the rock as if the scattered spots of pale, green lichen on the dark, bare granite were actually thick moss. He’s just a guy who likes to be comfortable, and I think that guy could get comfortable even if he was laying in thorns. His head was propped up on an elbow, and he launched into some really comfortable recollections, talking about how different the view had become. All the maples below were skinny and around twenty or twenty-five feet tall. That’s around twelve years old, and Zooks is sixteen, so he could remember sitting up on his Dad’s shoulders up on that outcropping, looking down on a meadow that had just been hayed. He could also remember playing in the thick puckerbrush of saplings, as the meadow grew over.

Zooks’ memories were real cozy, and Spook couldn’t really stand for that. He was sitting cross-legged on the stone, sort of hunched forward, with a sarcastic smile, and he began to say Zooks was a big baby to be so sentimental. He pointed out how badly the land had been managed: How the hayfield was lost, and how the new sugar maples grew too densely, so that they were killing each other. He pointed out how a lot of the skinny maples had already died, and stood silver and barkless among their brethren. Their Dad would never like to see his land mismanaged like that; the trees should have been thinned; the dead trees were scarring the living ones when they swayed in gales; if the land wasn’t going to be used for hay the land could have grown some good sugarbush; thinned trees would already have grown twice as big. At the very least their Mom should have all the dead, dry maples cleaned out and cut up; they would make good biscuit-wood for kitchen stoves.

Zooks nodded as Spook said all this pragmatic, Yankee stuff, and then just smiled, and said he liked the noise the maples made in the wind, when they grew too crowded, especially during the winter gales, when they all clacked together.

Spook looked really indignant and asked Zooks how he could be so impractical. Didn’t Zooks know it was really bad for trees to knock together like that?

You would have thought Spook was dead serious, the way his eyes widened with outrage and showed their whites, but the way Zooks just smiled lazily back at him let you see that’s just their way of joshing each other. Anyway, it’s just about impossible to get Zooks arguing back. He just agrees with whatever you are saying, and then has his own opinion all the same. I wish I could be so easy-going. It must be something he learned from having three older brothers bossing him about all the time.

Anyway, I used the crowded maples to switch the subject to talking about Lysenko, cos I like showing off stuff I learned studying economics at Dunrobin, and also I think it’s just a story I like telling, cos Lysenko’s so crazy. Not that most people care a hoot about what I’ve learned, but I knew the Lasaumilles would listen, and of course they did.

I talked about how Lysenko would have said the maples would recognize the other maples as brother communists, and Lysenko would have insisted they wouldn’t compete with each other. Both Zooks and Spook smiled, as if they found the idea pretty funny. As I talked Spook took out a little, tin, cough-drop box, opened it, and started to roll a joint. That seemed just like the old days, and I was really happy.

Spook is no GG, but he is really frugal with his pot. He even licks a finger and tests the wind, so not even a flake of green will be blown from the paper. He’s real thrifty, and meticulous, and rolls these joints that aren’t much thicker than a wooden matchstick. (Of course I was in no position to complain, cos I haven’t had anything to share for a while. When I first got back from Scotland it was like no one would leave me alone, but lately there’s been a DD, (Dope Drought,) and I’ve been pretty straight.)

One thing I really like about the Lasaumilles (and also you) is that they don’t let a joint kill the conversation. With some kids as soon as you take the pot out, that’s all they want to talk about: the pot and the buzz. You could be talking about the meaning of life, but pretty soon they’re just going, “Wow, man. I’m wicked high, man.” It bores the crap out of me. I got so fed up with it last summer I took off hitchhiking up to Canada for a while, just looking for someone who could be more interesting than that. But that was only cos the Lasaumille’s were off visiting their Dad. With the Lasaumilles around you won’t miss a beat as the joint passes; you stay on the subject; if you’re talking about Lysenko you’ll keep talking about Lysenko.

Zooks was chuckling in his slow way, saying he liked Lysenko’s idea of plants talking to each other. He decided they probably did, in some way we couldn’t hear, and he wondered how maples decided which ones would die, when they were over-crowded.

Spook scoffed that maples didn’t agree on anything; it was ruthless competition, and survival was decided by which maple grew the highest twigs, and could shove its leaves in front of the others and grab the sun.

Zooks said that was a stupid idea; who ever heard of a ruthless maple? Maples were sweet. Everyone knew they made sugar. Ruthlessness wasn’t in a maple’s nature; they just grew where they got planted by the wind.

Spook said it was the wind that was ruthless then, cos it planted some maples where the roots got lots of compost and water, while others got nothing but stones.

Zook nodded, but then said they each just took what they got, and did what they could with it. When they were done, well, that was that: time to fall and be compost for the kids. Spook said the kids got nothing but shade, it was some neighboring tree muscling in who got most of the compost. Zook just nodded, as if he saw nothing offensive about the deal, but Spook looked a little indignant as he lit the joint.

Just as he lit it I had a sort of sick feeling come over me. It was a sort of anxious feeling down in the pit of my stomach, and it surprised me, cos I was really happy, just sitting there and dangling my legs and watching the ideas come and go. One second the light was shining down, and the next there was a wave of darkness.

It was one of those Stinedu feelings: It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make a lick of sense, it makes you sit up and take notice, sort of the way you get a feeling someone is looking at you, and can’t help but glance over your shoulder, even if you think there is no such thing as mind-reading. So I looked around, and focused in on Spook. As he sucked in the smoke he was living up to his nickname: He looked spooked.

It hit me that Spook hadn’t always looked spooked. In a flash I remembered being really small, when he and Zooks went to the same nursery school as me. I got invited to Zooks’ third birthday party, back when their barn actually had hay in it. His Mom hadn’t gone stir-crazy yet, and was really trying to be a super-Mom, and instead of being down on her sons she had gone to all sorts of trouble to make a really neat party for them. I remember Zooks walking around with an expression of happy disbelief, and that Spook’s face had a relaxed, friendly look, and his eyes were clear and far-seeing. That’s the Spook I like best, the Spook who isn’t spooked.

It was only after his parents broke up that Spook’s face took on the spooked look. I didn’t understand why he looked that way, until my parents did the same thing. Then I understood. In fact my nickname might have been Spook, but Spook got the nickname first.

One of the only good things about moving from my real home to the Fossil’s house was that Spook lived closer by, so I got to know him better, and we could compare notes, and we found out we both were spooked. It’s good when you don’t feel so alone. In fact it got hard to talk about feeling spooked cos we felt less spooked right away, cos we weren’t alone any more.

When we talked about what had spooked us we decided it was mostly cos divorce was so rare back when our folks did it. Before our parents did it divorce was a bad thing that pretty much only happened in Hollywood, so that, when Spook’s Mom was the first Mom in town to do it, everyone pointed at him, as well as her, and folk all whispered and gossiped.

Having people point at you and whisper is a really scary thing to have happen, when you’re just a kid. It makes you feel alone, and you look spooked. I think it happened to Spook around 1960, and I sort of wondered why the heck he started looking that way. Maybe I even pointed at him and whispered, “Why is that kid acting so spooked?” And someone probably whispered back, “Haven’t you heard? His Mom is Divorced!!!!” I didn’t really understand what that meant, but I probably said something like, “Oh how horrible!” I didn‘t have much pity, until it happened to me, around 1964.

At first it was really horrible, having folk point at me and whisper, and I went through a spell where I decided everyone sucked and I didn’t want to have anything to do with anyone. But then around 1967 divorce happened to more and more kids, until by 1969 it was sort of like there were more of us than there were of them, so it wasn’t spooky any more. It wasn’t as spooky for us, at least. It might have been spooky, all of a sudden, for the people who used to whisper about us. Not that we pointed at them and whispered back at them in revenge, or anything. But it did seem ironic that Spook and me had to suffer so much for what now was no-big-deal. In fact Spook once scornfully told me he’d heard a kid say to another kid, “Have your parents divorced yet?” like the guy was talking about his family buying a new car. All the humiliation and shame was gone, which didn’t exactly seem fair to Spook and me, after all we’d gone through.

Anyway, I sure was glad to get away from that spooked feeling in 1969, and I figured it was gone for good, but now I was looking at Spook, and it was back. I think that was what made my gut nervous. Why was it back?

I right away had this feeling of pity well up in me, cos I didn’t want Spook to feel spooked. I mean, maybe Spook is always going to be a little spooked, cos he’s Spook, after all, but you don’t want it extreme. A little is good, cos Spook’s always the guy on the lookout, who spots the police car lurking in the bushes off the road spying for speeders. Having Spook be a little paranoid means he’s the guy who keeps you from getting a speeding ticket. But too much is pain, and I never want a friend in pain.

But what the heck can you do? I mean, when you and I invented the word Stinedu we said it stood for, “Shared Thought I Never, Ever Dared Utter.” And, if you don’t dare utter it, how are you supposed to bring it up?

I suppose one of these days I’ll just have the guts to come out and say, “I see darkness pooling all around you, and it makes my heart go out to you, cos I want you in the light.” But for now saying that seems a bit weird and out of place, so I just bite my tongue.

Instead I passed the joint, and sort of tried to steer the conversation. I can’t really say where I am steering it, or why I’m steering the way I steer, except to say it is for the light. It’s like groping in the dark, with the dimmest light coming from somewhere, but you’re not exactly sure what direction the dim light is coming from.

The weird thing is that the sense of darkness grew as we talked, even though our talk was just the sort of talk I like having. Then I heard a muttering in the sky behind us, and looked over my shoulder, and realized a storm was coming up. So it was getting darker because of that, not because of some psychic ability I had. I got a private chuckle about that, but couldn’t shake that other queasiness.

We went from talking about Lysenko, to talking about why some maples live and others die, to Fate, to Karma. That took us from me showing off stuff I learned at Dunrobin, to Spook showing off stuff he learned while trying out that Kundalini Yoga at Audley Bine’s commune.

Of course my ears perked right up, cos I’m interested in that commune.

One thing I learned right off the bat was that Spook has picked up a whole, new slew of jargon. I had to keep asking him what words meant. A lot was Hindu and Buddhist stuff, and the rest was all the shrink-jargon that drives my Dad nuts, (cos Dad says it isn’t science and shouldn’t be called medicine.) It sounded to me like Audley’s commune was a whole slumgullian stew of beliefs, all mixed up together with a dash of hash.

It also didn’t sound to me like Audley’s commune had lifted Spook up into the light, all that much. In fact as he got stoned he used all the jargon to talk himself into a sort of corner, and he got more and more like a guy who can’t move, cos he’s afraid he’ll break something.

It had something to do with some Hindu guru named Jane, which seems a pretty sissy name for a fellow, in my book. This Jane fellow wouldn’t eat meat or even kill plants, and I guess he either fasted or ate fruit, and walked around naked cos he couldn’t use animal skins or the corpses of unwilling plants. That might be OK in India where it’s summer all the time, but it sure wouldn’t work around here. Around here the guru Jane might convert a bunch of hippy-dippy nudists in June, but by October nudism would get old, cos of the first frost, and that Jane fellow’s congregation would dwindle pretty fast. But in India the Jane guy got to be a big guru, with lots of followers, and they even built churches for him the way we build churches for Jesus here, but then he went out of style there, so most of those churches are empty now, but he seemed to have nearly converted one fellow here, and that fellow was Spook.

Spook was looking really closely at a spot of lichen on the granite, and pointed at it, and said, “It is every bit alive as we are. What gives us the right to walk all over it?”

Zooks said, in a squeezed sort of voice cos his lungs were full of smoke, “Maybe lichen likes being walked on.”

Spook said, reaching to take the joint from Zooks, “I’m not talking about the stupid lichen. I’m talking about those tiny mites living in the lichen.”

I wondered what he was talking about, cos I couldn’t see any mites. But Zooks didn’t even bother looking, and just drawled, “How do you know lichen is stupid? Are you bigoted against life that lacks brains?”

Spook couldn’t answer, cos he was inhaling, but his eyes bugged out and he shook his head vehemently at Zooks, and he held up the index finger of one hand, as he passed the joint to me with the other.

I could tell the pot was powerful, because my lips always get numb before my brain does, and my lips were already feeling numb as I took my second hit.

Spook spoke a rush of words, with the smoke spilling around his lips and his voice a strange gargling, cos he was speaking through so much smoke. Behind him there was distant thunder, high up in the sky and not thudding, but also making an odd gargling sound. Spook said, “Don’t be such a big baby! I already told you I’m not talking about the lichen. An elephant could step on lichen, and it probably would survive, unless it was a whole herd of elephants making a path. I’m talking about those mites. They are so small you can’t even pick one up. No matter how hard you try to be gentle, you smush them.”

“Then don‘t pick them up,” said Zooks, with a slow smile, reaching out to take the joint from me. He had to be careful cos it was already getting short, and also cos I wasn‘t paying proper attention, cos my nose was practically pressing on the lichen, as I went cross-eyed trying to see what the heck Spook was talking about.

“I haven’t tried to pick one up in years,” said Spook a little self-righteously. “I was just a kid when I learned how fragile they are.”

“Wow,” I said, even though I hate people who say nothing but “Wow” when they get high. I said “Wow” cos I had suddenly seen the mites, cos the lichen, which I usually think of as being flat, suddenly became 3D and seemed like the top of a forest. Down between the taller boughs were tiny red dots, wandering on the lichen forest-floor. I haven’t a clue if they had eight legs or six legs or legs at all, cos the legs were too small to see. The only reason I could see the mites at all was because they clashed so crimson, against the lichen, which was vividly silver and pistachio green. I sat up and waited for my eyes to come back into focus, and then asked Spook, “How the heck did you ever notice those critters?”

Zooks said, “Oh, he’s always looking for small things to be a big, bleeding-heart baby about.”

Spook protested, “Well, they have every much a right to live as we do, don’t they?”

Zooks nodded, thoughtful and serious, before adding, “And they have the same right we have, to watch out for stomping elephants.”

Spooks shook his head. “They don’t have the time to get away. We just come along and crush them.”

Zooks sighed. Then he said, “It’s not like I get up in the morning and say to myself, ‘I think I’ll go out and murder some innocent mites.’”

Spook looked depressed, and despaired, “We do it all the same. Wherever we walk, we wreck things, destroy things, crush life.”

“So do elephants,” said Zook softly. “Should we put elephants on trial for stepping on ants?”

“We’re suppose to be smarter than elephants,” countered Spook.

Zooks couldn’t think of a reply, and when he simply nodded, with a noncommittal face, Spook smiled, as if he had scored a point.

I didn’t much like feeling guilty for walking, but couldn’t see how to steer the conversation towards any sort of light. Instead of high my brain felt numb and stupid, and I wished to God I could think of some way to change the subject. Then there was a flash of lightning, and an idea popped into my head. I said, “I know an elephant who is wicked careful.” Both Spook and Zooks looked at me curiously, so after a pause I said, “Horton.”

A big smile spread across Zooks’ face, as Spook said, “Who?”

“Horton. You know: That elephant that hatches eggs and hears a Who, in the Dr. Seuss stories. An elephant’s got to be pretty darn careful to sit on an egg, without breaking it, but Horton could manage it.” Spook was looking at me with a disapproving look, as if he thought I was poking fun at him, so I stayed serious. “It makes me wonder about Dr. Seuss. Do you suppose he is a follower of Guru Jane?”

It must have been the way I said it, cos a smile started twitching at the corners of Spook’s mouth, and abruptly he cracked up laughing. He laughed and laughed, and then said, “Dr. Seuss is a Jainist. What a hoot!” And laughed some more.

I pretended to be hurt, and turned to Zooks and pouted, “Is he laughing at me?”

Zooks said, “Oh, he’s just a big elephant, trampling your tender heart.”

We were just joking, but for some reason that spooked Spook. His laughter cut short, and he stiffened up and sat up erect, and said, “I’m serious about this stuff.” His face got softer, and he confessed, “I’m a vegetarian.”

I said, “So was Horton.”

For a second Spook stayed serious, but then his lips started twitching and he cracked up again. He could barely take the roach from Zooks, but somehow he managed to take it and affix it to a roach clip he took from his little box. That kept him busy, and gave me some time to talk.

I turned to Zooks and laughed that when I was at Dunrobin I had argued that Horton was as important as Hamlet, cos Dr. Seuss is America’s greatest poet just like Shakespeare is England‘s. I was just steering the conversation away from Spook going on about not being able to walk without killing something, but Zooks looked up with his eyes soft and dilated, wearing a real friendly smile, and maybe he did some steering of his own.

Zooks lay with his head propped up by an elbow. He didn’t cup his chin in his left hand, like most people would do, but instead split his index and middle fingers and held his left ear sort of like you’d hold a cigarette. That tilted his face, and made him look even more relaxed and comfortable than usual. Meanwhile he was using his free right hand to do a sort of doodling with bits of sticks, in a vibe-place indentation in the top of our vibe-place outcropping.

I’m not sure what makes those dents in the first place, probably glaciers or some such thing, but Yankee lore says the Indians used them. Whenever there was a dent in the stone by an Indian trail, they’d use it while on a journey, cos they didn’t grind corn until it was time to cook it. If you search about a bit you sometimes can even find the round stone they used as a mortar. The dent was the pestle. When they were done grinding they’d leave the round stone behind for the next Indian who used the trail. Over the years the dent got worn deeper and deeper.

Spook and Zooks’ Dad had told them this lore, before he got booted off his land, and he also said an Indian trail used to go along the route of the horse trail that ran under the outcropping, ‘cos that land happened to be the high ground that divided the Concord River from the Charles River. Indian trails stuck to the high ground.

Of course, back during my Senior Summer, the rest of us were wicked excited to hear Spook and Zooks tell us this story, about our campsite, and when we found a round stone down in a crack in the outcropping beside the dent, we figured it just had to be an Indian corn-grinding mortar. It made us feel like we might be camping right where the Indians did. Of course, it’s been something like three hundred years since any Indians took that trail, so frost has chipped away at the dent’s smoothness, and the dent is filled with dirt, but it still seems like a special place.

As Zooks talked and listened he reached his long arms down into cracks in the outcropping, and brought up twigs that had fallen in, and broke the twigs into short sections, and played with them, like a doodler plays with a pen on paper when he probably should be taking notes.

At first Zooks only formed boxes and rectangles, but then moved on to making twigs be star shapes, and then built a little teepee of sticks that stood up from the dirt in the dent. Before you knew it he had a little stockade built around the teepee, and log cabins, and further stockades like a maze, and even a lean-two with a funny turret like a steeple. As he talked Zook got this whole little twig-town developing, and I couldn’t help but wonder if he could possibly be listening to me, but he did it all in such a casual way, and kept asking me such sharp questions, that I knew he was listening.

Anyway, I think I was aiming to steer the subject around to what a softy that Horton the Elephant was, always feeling he had to take care of eggs and small Who-planets that it wasn’t really his business to take care of. Then I was going to say making kids read about Horton was a kind of brainwashing that Weston Moms laid on us. They wanted us to take care of all this business it wasn’t really our business to take care of, even as they didn’t take care of our Dads and instead booted Dads out of their homes and out on their ears: Typical Weston-Mom hypocrisy.

Instead Zooks steered me. He got real interested in Dunrobin, and how the heck I got into a situation where I wound up arguing that Dr. Seuss was America’s greatest poet. And I can’t say that I minded. It seemed like the first time since I got back from Scotland that anyone bothered ask me what I’d been through. In fact how I’ve been treated here reminds me of how soldiers like Wilfred Owens got treated, when they came back on leave from the trenches during World War One. They wanted to talk about what they‘d been through, but people assumed they didn’t, and also people just didn’t want to hear about gory trenches.

Of course, you were in the Goat’s class with me, so you saw all my arguing first hand, but it was fun to tell someone else about it, and about the changes I went through.

I told them that when I first got to Dunrobin I just figured the establishment sucked, cos the establishment in Weston is such a bunch of hypocrites. So when the Goat said Shakespeare was good, I just figured that was the establishment talking, and therefore Shakespeare must have been a fuddy-duddy, brown-nose, suck-up square, kissing up to royalty and writing whatever they wanted to hear. And that’s what I argued, in my essays. But the Goat insisted I give examples, in my essays. So I looked for examples, and that forced me to dig deeper, and all of a sudden I got blown away. It was like a brick hit me between the eyes, cos I suddenly saw Shakespeare is a really trippy fellow, really high.

I really needed that, cos I was withdrawing from so many drugs and from cigarettes and was all shaky, and cos withdrawal is so opposite from being high. Poetry got to be like mescaline, without the cost or the paranoia about getting arrested, and so I dove head first into Shakespeare, and also Milton, Chaucer, Keats, Shelly, and all those heaps and heaps of other writers the Goat crammed down our throats. Of course, I wasn’t going to admit to the Goat he was right about anything, and kept right on pointing out Shakespeare never got his head chopped off by insulting the Queen, and I said that showed Shakespeare was a brown-nose, and hadn’t the guts to fight royalty like an American would.

That was when I was sorry I argued so much, cos when I said America was so cool the Goat made me study all these American writers, and asked me to show how they were better than Shakespeare. I didn’t want to do that, partly cos I was too overworked to begin with, and also cos the American writers didn’t get me high. To be honest, compared to the English ones, most of them suck. They are rustic. It’s like comparing Grandma Moses to Rembrandt. I like some of the guys, like Mark Twain, but they write like reporters. There’s no poetry, and I was always gasping for poetry at Dunrobin the same way I was always gasping for a cigarette or a joint or a tab of speed.

So I had to get myself out of that corner, and the way I did it was to quote Dr. Seuss. It was a shortcut, cos I didn’t have to do any reading, cos I’d read the books to my little brother and sister so many times I had them all memorized, and the Goat had never read any Dr. Seuss, and so there was no way for him to check up on my bullshit. I went on and on about how millions of American children had their brains washed by Dr. Seuss the same way English kids have their brains washed by Shakespeare, and how that makes Dr. Seuss America’s greatest poet.

Zooks was laughing as I told this story, but Spook looked really critical as he handed me the roach clip. He got all serious on me, and, in that through-smoke-voice of his, he asked me if I really believed my own bullshit.

I sucked at the roach, and realized I was feeling pretty stoned and in no mood to get all serious, but I tried to think as I handed the clip on to Zooks. It had gone out, and was pretty small, but he lit it with his lighter and took a small hit before handing it back to Spook. It had already gone out a second time, and Spook carefully put the fragment of roach into his little box. That kid throws nothing away.

I exhaled, and noticed how dark it had gotten. The thunder was still muttering far away, and was no closer and even seemed to be happening less, but the growing gloom made me feel I was up against darkness, and sometimes that gets me boxed into a sort of fighting mood, where I want to hurl around light and drive the dark to the shadows. So I said it wasn’t bullshit, for me to say that Dr. Seuss was a great poet.

Then it was just like the old days, as Spook and I did this thing we call “eyebrow fencing,” where we don’t say anything and just move our eyebrows a lot. I bunch mine up like I’m all pugnacious, and am saying, “Do you want to start a fight about it? Got a problem?” Meanwhile Spook’s eyebrows moon up all disarming, as if he is saying, “Do continue. You were saying?” The loser is the guy who speaks first, cos whoever speaks is at a sort of disadvantage, so neither of us speak, and instead stare each other down. It’s a joke we have, that nobody but us gets.

Zooks has seen it plenty, but can’t stand it. So he told us to stop acting like babies, and then asked me if I was serious about Dr. Seuss.

I said I was, cos I defined poetry differently than most. I said I’d been looking through magazines, to see what sort of poetry was fashionable in America, so I’d know which of my lyrics might sell, and all that I could see was that all the poetry in magazines was morose garbage. The poetry in magazines was all trying to out-Ginsburg Ginsburg, and was like a newspaper reporter reporting their own depravity. The more depraved it got, the more original it was suppose to be. It was all scab-picking, all the-sucking-of-chapped-and-split-lips, and about the sting and taste of your own lip’s blood, as if that was suffering and proved reporters were poets. It had zero to do with real poetry, which is about the light, and about truth and beauty and joy and love. I said that Dr. Seuss at least got the joy part right. Maybe his stuff’s a cartoon, but a cartoon makes you laugh at least.

Spook butted in, saying he didn’t see what was so hot about English poetry. He said that the only Shakespeare he’d been able to force himself to read was MacBeth, and he thought that was a pretty gross and gruesome play, and as black as night. What did that have to do with joy?

I said it still showed the light, cos the bad guys in Shakespeare make a bad choice that takes them away from the light, and you see how horrible being away from the light is. What’s more, the bad guys see it too, and moan and groan poetry about the midnights they’ve gotten themselves into. Even as things get darker and darker, the subject is the still the light. That’s what is so tragic about the tragedy: Macbeth was after joy, cos he thought power would bring joy, but when he murdered Duncan for power he found out there was no joy. Then he was stuck with the consequences of his foul deed, and the play is about his suffering as he found out there was no joy in power. However joy remains the subject.

You know how I can talk this way. The Goat gagged us with so much Shakespeare it oozes out our pores. But Spook looked sort of taken aback to hear me speak like I was some sort of expert. (Spook is way ahead, for an American kid, in that he actually read some Shakespeare. I sure didn’t get taught any, in the Fussybus’s English classes, and most kids only know about Romeo and Juliet cos they saw that American movie that came out in ‘69.)

I liked it that Spook looked taken aback. It was almost like respect. I decided I was on a roll, and went with the flow, talking about how Love is the answer, and poetry should trace a light that already exists, and how no poet makes a sunrise; they just remember every sunrise that has ever existed since the dawn of time. Then Zooks brought me back to earth by asking me if I liked any American poets besides Dr Seuss.

That brought me up short, cos the poetry I like most is all in the lyrics of music, and it’s hard to tell if the lyrics would be any good without the music playing. So I puzzled a bit, and then asked Zooks if he meant poetry outside of the lyrics of music. Zooks said he meant outside of music, and that let me off the hook, not only cos I can’t tell if lyrics would touch me so much without music playing, but also cos Spook has a gigantic collection of record albums, and he’d have a huge advantage over me if the talk went that way.

I said I liked Robert Frost best, cos he was just a guy dealing with the same harsh, Yankee landscape we had to deal with, but he saw poetry in it. What’s more, he actually made poetry out of a pretty grim and dark part of the world. It was a triumph of light, and that was what I liked seeing: Light triumphing. I went on to say that was what we should make our business be: Making light triumph in a dark part of the world.

I was on a roll, and also stoned out of my gourd, but Spook and Zooks like me that way. They were both smiling at me, and I can’t tell you how encouraging that is. Lots of times people make me feel like I’m some sort of crackpot Christian preacher, when I talk of the light, or, even worse, like I’m a deranged Adolph Hitler. I’m just trying to say what is good and beautiful and true, but I feel like Winston Churchill must have felt, when everyone called him a warmonger for saying England ought to make ready to defend itself against Hitler. The difference is, I’m no Winston Churchill, and when everyone tells me to shut up, I do shut up. Churchhill kept right on talking, but I need encouragement, and that was what I was getting from Zooks and Spook’s smiles.

Of course, I right away had to head towards Stinedu territory. It’s like there are these things you need to talk about that are taboo to talk about, and when you open your mouth you put your foot in it. I was so stoned that I did it twice in the same sentence, and both Zooks’s and Spook’s smiles vanished. It seemed to be getting really dark, just then.

Hell if I can remember the sentence, but I offended Zooks by saying that if his Mom could steal this land from his Dad, there must be a way for us to steal it back from her. In the same sentence I managed to offend Spook by bringing up Audley Bine.

I dimly recall the sentence was suppose to be a joke, and joyful. I was just remembering Audley Bine going all gushy and saying my “Wind’s Song” poem about the Party Woods was better than Robert Frost, and suggesting maybe he was right, and maybe my lyrics might make good money, and that maybe we could buy the land back from their Mom and have a commune better than Audley’s, but, how ever the words came out, they were very wrong. Winston Churchhill must’ve been rolling in his grave.

They both looked disappointed in me, and a very bright flash of lightning broke the silence, and a loud thud of thunder thumped about seven seconds away.

Zooks did the polite thing to do, when a stoned friend has stepped over the line and dared utter a Stinedu. He talked about the weather. He said maybe we should go back and make sure we had shut the hood of Spook’s Rambler, before it started pouring, cos he couldn‘t remember if we‘d closed it or not.

I told him to quit being such a big baby. It was obvious the storm was fizzling out. Maybe some storms re-strengthen after falling from the Worchester Hills, when they rise again at the Weston hills, but the humidity was still too dry for that, and the sun had sunk too low for that, and this storm had blown its wad. The thunder was getting less and less frequent, and it was all the cloud-to-cloud stuff that makes soft thunder. That one loud bolt was just a last gasp. We might not even get any rain.

As if to make a liar out of me, a few fat raindrops patted down, but then, as if to redeem me, the pattering stopped. However I got a different cloudburst from Spook, who let me have it with both barrels for being ignorant about what stinking Hitler Audley Bine had been, running his commune.

I’ve wanted to hear about that commune, so I probably should have shut up and nodded a lot, but what Spook’s described was nothing, compared to Dunrobin. The Goat was fifty times more like Hitler than Audley Bine, and the Goat was pretty permissive, by Dunrobin standards. So I said so, and said Audley Bine didn’t sound like a Hitler to me. I said he sounded like a big, fat sissy, or even like a Weston Mom.

That made Spook laugh, but then he came right back at me. He said Dunrobin sounded like a boot camp, and that when he joined the commune he wasn’t enlisting in any stupid army. He said if you join the army you’re asking for it, but they actually pay you for it. Also you are so busy drilling there’s no time to cook or do your own laundry. Someone else does it for you. At Audley’s commune he had to pay rent and cook and do laundry and still do his homework and go to school and work a job.

I said I could see his point. Maybe Dunrobin was like the army, and I got the hell beat out of me compared to anything Spook could even imagine, but I got fed and got my laundry done. Maybe I wasn’t getting paid, but I wasn’t paying for it, either. The Fossil was forking out the tuition. In Spook’s case he was working his butt off and paying, only to get subjected to Audley’s crap. I said I could see the difference.

Spook nodded, pouting in a sort of regal way, until I sort of timidly ventured that a lot of what he described still didn’t sound like Hitler to me. Weren’t Audley’s commands more like helpful suggestions?

Spook vehemently shook his head. He said Audley pretended to be all friendly and understanding, but fucked with your head.

Zooks scorned that Audley wanted to be a guru, with a bunch of obedient disciples, and was trying to form a cult.

Spook said Audley didn’t want to be a guru; he wanted to be a queen. He didn’t like it when girls came over, and he had made Motey wicked uncomfortable.

I said that sounded like Dunrobin. They didn’t want us to have anything to do with girls. Then I laughed and said the army wasn’t big on having girls in the barracks, either.

Spook said the whole reason he’d left home was cos his Mom made such a big stink about him snuggling with Motey out in the barn. She didn’t just embarrass the crap out of him; she also just plain made him mad. A Mom isn’t suppose to be dating, and a son is suppose to be dating, but she had it all backwards, she with her five purses. Spook just couldn’t stand it, and went to get a place where he could snuggle with Motey, but then Audley stuck his big nose in.

The weird thing is that, even as Spook blasted Audley, he used all the words Audley had taught him. For example, rather than saying “The start of it was,” he said, “The psychodrama prime of it was.”

Anyway, Audley made Motey really uncomfortable right off the bat. She’s wicked talkative, (“Motey” is short for “Motor Mouth,”) and Audley would nod and smile as she talked. You wouldn’t think that would make a girl uncomfortable, but Spook said it’s the way Audley does it that makes girls uncomfortable; it’s like he’s a shrink and is figuring them out, looking down a snobby nose. The smiling and nodding is just a front, as he pencils down notes.

What happened next was that, as soon as Motey was uncomfortable, Audley said the discomfort was an “issue.” He said they needed to talk about it, but Motey pretty much told him to go get stuffed. She didn’t want any damn psychoanalysis. Then, after Motey had gone home, Audley would tell Spook she had problems, and was displaying “resistance,” and maybe Spook should face the fact she was immature.

Spook got stuck in a triangle, sort of like the one I’m always in with Durf and Eve, where he was getting pulled in two directions at once. It wasn’t really fair, cos Spook was working so hard to make a place for Motey, but in the end she said she didn’t want to come to the commune any more, and Audley said he didn’t really like her coming. Pretty soon after that Spook and Motey broke up, and not long after that the commune broke up as well, and Spook went home. He didn’t exactly go back to his Mom with his tail between his legs, but he wasn’t very proud about anything, either. The look on his face was pretty bitter as he described things falling apart.

I said it sounded pretty sad, and that I’d always really liked Spook and Motey, as a couple. When I was clutching at straws, trying to keep from going nuts at Dunrobin, I’d imagine a perfect commune, and in the perfect commune I always imagined Spook and Motey were together, like they were last summer. I innocently wondered if there was any way they could patch things up, and got a look from Spook that shut me right up.

The look was really baleful, and he shot it right when a long flicker of lightning went cloud-to-cloud way up high, so his face was lit with grim shadows. Then everything seemed plunged into purple. The lightning was so high up it was around fifteen seconds before I heard the far up thunder, which was sort of soft and hushed, but during those fifteen seconds my stomach felt really bad, cos Spook had looked really mad at me.

Spook sighed and said I didn’t understand what a total drag a commune could be. It starts out really fun, cos you have a place where everyone can hang out, and everyone is your friend. But then it turns out they all just want a warm place where they can get away from their parents, and all are a bunch of lazy moochers, and no one lifts a finger to help.

I wondered if we could avoid all that at our new commune, but having me say that must have somehow rubbed Spook the wrong way, cos all of a sudden he brought up one time a guy named Neil brought Eve to Audley’s commune.

Eve and I have been going steady for a long time, but there were two times we broke up for a while. One time was when her Mom and Dad wouldn‘t let her go out into the Party Woods with me, and I got fed up with her never being allowed to do anything. I hung out in the woods with teeny-boppers who either had parents who didn’t care, or had parents who weren’t watchful and let them sneak, but they didn’t seem as deep as Eve, so I went back to her and we made up. The second time was when I went to Dunrobin, and we agreed a year was a long time to never have any fun, so we said we‘d be honest with each other if we decided to go out with someone. Of course, there was no way for me to go out with anyone at Dunrobin, cos they don‘t let you out. I missed Eve tons and mailed her tons of letters and she never wrote back. Then I got a letter, just before the postal strike, where she was honest and said she‘d gone out with Neil.

Then I got to see how she felt, when she was stuck at home as I romped about the Party Woods with lots of teeny-bopper girls around me. Now I was the guy stuck at home, in a way. It felt really horrible and I went sort of crazy. That was when Bear and Rat showed me how to twist the Dunrobin rules, and sneak down to Golspie, and I made a fool of myself with Ginger, but in the end it taught me a lesson. Then, in the spring, after that never-ending postal strike was finally over, I got a sweet card from Eve, and I saw she wasn’t going out with Neil any more and that she remembered me fondly, and suddenly I was walking on air.

So it wasn’t like Spook surprised me, by talking about Eve going out with Neil. But even after all this time, hearing about Eve visiting Audley Bine’s with Neil awoke a jealousy in me. It seemed odd, cos I hadn’t been feeling jealous, yet it seemed to stab my gut and get worse, the more Spook spoke, and suddenly I looked at him, and the way he looked in the dim light really gave me the creeps, cos I saw Spook was doing it on purpose.

It’s hard to describe how creepy it was. It was like a shadow in him was stirring up a shadow in me, and feeding on it with relish. Spook liked seeing me brought low. And suddenly I was glad I got all that Shakespeare crammed down my throat, cos Spook reminded me of Iago, stirring up the jealousy in Othello.

I never could figure Iago out. Why would hurting a friend make anyone happy? So I just looked at Spook, wondering why the heck he was doing what he was doing, and suddenly his face completely changed. It went from snickering and gloating about getting me all jealous, to a sort of terror, for he could see I saw right through him. It was like he thought I’d walk over and belt him.

Instead I felt really sad. I looked up at the purple sky, and just wished the light would come down. Off through the woods I could hear a sighing like wind, but steadier, and realized rain was falling far away. I sighed too, and turned to Spook and shook my head. Then I confessed hearing about Eve with Neil still got me jealous as hell, even though she’d told me it was just a fling and nothing happened and she liked me more. The jealousy was dumb. I should get over it, but it kept happening.

I’m not sure why that was the right thing to say, but it sure as hell was. Zooks got all jovial, telling me nice stuff, like how he could see Eve thought Neil was a jerk even when she went out with him, but I was looking at Spook, and it was like his fear had popped like a bubble. He was looking to the west, and his face lit up, elated.

Actually the west really was brightening, as the sinking sun started to peek under the lid of the storm. It was still very purple to the east, and the rain came sighing up and leaves began to twitch and jerk as the drops fell, but the sun swiftly burst out bright on the western horizon, and its light came flooding towards us under the clouds, touching the treetops, until the lit leaves were like green gold against the purple east, and between those bright leaves Spook suddenly spotted pieces of a brilliant rainbow. He simply exclaimed, “Rainbow!” Then he looked at Zooks with his eyebrows arching, and Zooks said, “East Outlook?” And then those two just took off.

Man O Man can those guys ever run, especially when it is through woods like a steeplechase, leaping over logs and hopping across boulders. I tried to keep up but faded behind, laughing, cos it felt so good to just be running and quit all the crap about thinking about red mites on green lichen, and the morality of stepping on them. It felt like chains fell off and we were free. Suddenly we were just kids again, running at top speed through rain to a rainbow.

They were already lounging when I got there. The sun was so low it made the rainbow really high, and we just praised it and enthused about all sorts of hopeful stuff. Even though the rain stopped you could still see it falling silver against the purple to the east, and the rainbow just got brighter. It’s hard to be down with a rainbow looking back at you, and I talked again about buying the Party Woods and starting a commune that actually worked, and this time I felt really good about it.

Then the rainbow faded as the sun set, and we headed back. It was still beautiful, with the western twilight putting rouge on the face of the purple east, and the woods still dripping the remembered rain and making a music with the birds, but as it grew darker it was like I could see the shadow coming back to Spook.

*******

LOCAL VIEW –Peas and Patriots–

Edible podded peas bbc7de

(photo credit: http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/fp.php?pid=6688362#b )

Yesterday, with the help of my eldest daughter, we got 75 feet of edible podded peas planted. (I don’t bother with the ordinary peas any more; too long a run for too short a slide.) With God’s grace we should be getting crunchy pea pods to munch around June 15. They are incredibly popular with the kids at the Childcare, often to the amazement of parents who can’t get the same children to eat vegetables at home.

Actually it is a double row, (and therefore 150 feet,) with the two rows around a foot apart and a four-foot-high fence running between them, for them to climb on. Last year they grew two feet above the top of the fence, and formed a pretty hedge with snowy white blooms, and then began producing more pea pods than we knew what to do with. I became a pea pod philanthropist, and resorted to freezing them in a way I read about on the web where you don’t bother with blanching, (not bad, but the texture was a bit fuzzy when they were thawed and boiled up in February,) and still I had too many. It turns out that picking them just stimulates them to make more. So finally I just set the kids loose to graze on them, despite the fact they tended to rip up some plants by the roots, when picking pods.

There was something about grazing that made munching vegetables much more attractive to even the most fussy child. Some, who absolutely insisted they hated all peas, would start out merely hanging out with the others, and then I’d see them sneak a nibble, when they thought I wasn’t looking. I tried not to rub it in when they joined in with the others, and grazed and munched their way down the row. Others were not officially grazing. They were officially “helping me pick”, but more went into their stomachs than the baskets they carried.

You’d think they’d get sick of eating the same thing. (Actually, come to think of it, one little girl did get sick one afternoon, but it partly was due to failing to chew, and she went right back to munching a couple of days later.) There may have been a few days when interest slacked off, and they were more involved with building forts in the woods, but right to the end of the season, when the heat of July makes the lush plants wither and dry, the children would bring up “pea-picking” as a thing they desired to do.

Not that it will happen again. If children have taught me anything, it is that what works one year may not work the next. However I figured it was worth a try. So, today, my muscles all ache in the way they do, when you put in a garden. When I was younger I would tell myself the ache meant I was getting stronger, and meant I would look more attractive to women at the beach. At age 62 I tell myself it is likely either killing me, or keeping me alive. In any case it is an old, familiar ache that walks hand in hand with Spring.

Less familiar is a sort of post-taxes ache in my brain. I find myself trying to keep books concerning the profit and loss of my pea patch,  and imagine facing a highly suspicious government auditor, who assumes any private business is selfish and greedy, and that only the government has the best interests of children in mind. (The funny thing is that government officials make more, and spend more on themselves, as I make less, and spend more on children.)

I think an ache in your brain is far worse than any ache in the body. It is easier, for me at least, to tune out physical pain. The government is involved in a sort of psychological torture, and it is harder to tune out mental pain, for the tuner itself is involved.

In any case, I find myself muttering to myself, involved in needless justifications of being the being I am, and doing the doings I do. I mean, why should the government care a hoot about a pea patch on a remote farm? Haven’t people got better ways to spend their time than to make me nervous, when I write down “pea patch” as a business expense?

I actually feel the pea patch was a profit, over all, last year, but my measure-of-profit is beyond the ken of needle-nosed bureaucrats who measure with money. When my books show that I spent $5.00 on seed, and didn’t sell any produce, they wonder what happened to the peas I planted. Lord knows what disaster could befall me if they found out I ate some myself. I’d wind up like Al Capone, who could not be arrested for what he did, so they had to get him for “tax evasion”. But what is my crime?

That is the psychological torture, and the cruel and unusual punishment, our government is guilty of. It makes people feel guilty for breathing and being alive.

Or that is what I was muttering to myself today, as I walked about achy. There is so much the government inflicts upon its people that is needless. For example, why shouldn’t I simply pay my employees with cash? Why does my government make me responsible for collecting nine of its ridiculous taxes, and doing all the paperwork? I simply don’t have time for such nonsense, and actually pay a firm called “Paychex” to do all that paperwork for me. It costs me $70.00/week, week after week, and after a year that adds up to $3650.00/year I have to pay, when I could just as well be handing my employees cash, and paying nothing.

The government makes you pay in other ways as well. It adds up, and it isn’t merely taxes. It is tantamount to a sort of endless haranguing that makes a nagging wife seem gentle. It is a psychological torture that either so weakens people that the government sees its people collapse, and has killed the goose that laid the golden egg, or else its people rise up and revolt, being driven mad by the government’s psychological torture, and its people are driven to bizarre behavior, such as dressing up as Indians and throwing tea into a harbor.

Here in New England we celebrate our forefathers going nuts, and throwing perfectly good tea into a harbor, and forcing the authorities to respond, with a holiday we call “Patriot’s Day”. We also have a saying, “Plant your peas by Patriot’s Day”.

Well, I have planted my peas. I also enacted a minor rebellion by burning more weeds in my garden without obtaining the proper burn permit.

There was no wind, and you can only burn weeds when it is dry, but if I had tried to get a burn permit yesterday I know darn well I would have been told I had to wait until it was raining, in which case you cannot burn weeds. The government is idiotic. Farmers have burned weeds in gardens ever since the land was first gardened by Indians, (and likely the woods were burned before that, by the pre-agricultural Indians, to keep the glades open and clear for deer), so I just did what needed to be done without a permit.

The fact of the matter is that the government has created so many laws that the average American commits between two and five felonies each day. (Not misdemeanors; felonies.)The laws are seven stacks of paper, each seven feet tall. No normal person has read them all,  and many laws contradict, (so you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t), and they have reached a sort of tipping point where the Law, which is something we should honor and respect, resembles the raving brays of a jackass.

In the face of the government’s psychological torture, it seems civil disobedience is only natural, however I loathe the violent kind. Blowing up spectators during the Boston Marathon is not my idea of a proper celebration of Patriot’s Day. Rather I prefer the peaceful disobedience of Henry Thoreau, Martin Luther King, and Gandhi. Therefore I burn weeds and plant peas, and have business expenses that put love ahead of profit.

A bit of rain came through this morning and dampened the dust, but by afternoon the sun was back out and the dryness was returning. The radar shows a front passing through, but the government could not bother to put a front on the maps.

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O-BUOY CAMERAS 9 AND 10 SURVIVE WINTER

Here is a picture of Obuoy 9 last August 2, with a narrow lead widening behind it and melt-water pools forming. That lead soon snapped shut, but the far side of the lead did shift back and forth through the rest of the summer. The melt wasn’t impressive, and snows hid all signs of it by September.

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Here is the current view (April 17) from the same camera.

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The milder air over the Pole hasn’t made it to the area north of the Canadian Archipelago where Obuoy 9 drifts. The temperature is at -19° (-2° Fahrenheit) and the winds are whistling by at around 25 mph. It looks like the lead of last summer has sealed up and become dormant, but the pressure ridge behind it may have done some grinding during the darkest days. Of greater concern is the small pressure ridge in the foreground, which wasn’t there last autumn. If it becomes active it may tip over our camera.

The best way to experience the journey’s of these cameras is by watching a movie made up of all the pictures.

Obuoy 10 is located further west, in the Beaufort  Sea north of Alaska. It was of interest last summer as a melt-water pool formed in the foreground, and then repetitively drained, refilled, froze over, was drifted over by blowing snow, and refilled again with rain.  All in all the summer was colder than I’ve usually seen, with more snow and refreezing. Here is a picture of the situation on July 15 after a rain, when things were more ordinary and slushy.

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There was another slushy period around August 25, but early in September snow covered the scene, and by the time the winter darkness fell most of the yellow on the buoy was hidden by deepening snow. Now, in the dawning light of spring, we can see most of the black is covered as well, though snow actually isn’t as deep as it was last year.

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Currently winds are at 13 mph and the temperature is -17° (+1.4 Fahrenheit).

The Army buoy 2013F is “co-located” with this buoy, and shows that the snow is less than last year, but the ice is thicker, at roughly 6 feet thick.

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Most of the melting of sea-ice comes from below, and even when the refreeze has started on the upper surface I’ve seen ice break up due to melting from underneath. Watching this buoy this summer may tell us a lot about how much slightly milder water is surging north through Bering Strait due to the current “warm spike” of the PDO.

We also have two new Obuoys north of Alaska to watch. Obuoy 11 is to the east of Obuoy 10, and, with winds at 11 mph and temperatures of -15° g,  sends us this view:

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Further to the west and south, down closer to Bering Strait (and therefore more likely to see the ice break up) is new Obuoy 12, which unfortunately has its lens covered with snow at the moment. It is missing a stark scene with temperatures down to -25° (-13° Fahrenheit) and winds nearly calm.

The Obuoys are showing how cold it is on the North American side of the Arctic Ocean, even as a storm sweeps milder air up over the Pole. A tongue of that mildness is actually reaching around and south between Obuoy 9 and Obuoy 10, which is shown by this polar temperature map produced by Dr. Ryan Maue from GFS data over at the Weatherbell site.

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One film worth watching is the adventures of Camera 7, which unfortunately didn’t survive the winter of 2013-2014. The film includes a glimpse of polar bear fur (don’t blink) and the camera very slowly tilting over until it is looking off the the edge of ice into water, and then the camera falls in, bobs about the open sea for a while, before it is engulfed by the refreeze. It is a great way to get your mind around the process of thawing and refreezing that occurs every year. Here it is: http://obuoy.datatransport.org/monitor#buoy7/movie

I am thinking I might start a “Polar Camera Post” during the summer, including the pictures from these Obuoy cameras with the pictures from the North Pole Camera. If I do so I am going to try very hard to avoid all discussion about the so-called “Death Spiral,” as I feel that idea has been thoroughly debunked, and to go over the same arguments seems an exercise in futility.  The real and undeniable beauty of these pictures and the natural processes they reveal gets lost, if you indulge in the itching of politics. Therefore, if I get that itch, I’ll succumb to the exercize in futility in a separate post.

NORTH POLE CAMERA UP AND RUNNING

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DANGER  Looking at these pictures can be addictive. Furthermore, they can lead to arguments about sea-ice with fanatics, and even (gasp) holding the politically incorrect view that there is no “Death Spiral” and the North Pole isn’t going to become ice-free.

On the other hand, looking at these pictures is soothing on hot summer days, a good way to forget pressing issues and to zone out, and can introduce you to interesting people.

The above view is from camera 1, and is a wide angle lens. I’m not sure what the deal is with camera 2 this year, as it seems to have a narrower view.

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The link to these pictures is  http://psc.apl.washington.edu/northpole/index.html .

Currently the camera is at 89.651°N,  38.819°W and is drifting northwest, which is a little unusual, as the camera tends to head south towards Fram Strait. Usually they continue to send pictures into September, but last summer one was knocked over (perhaps by a bear) in late June, and the second was too close to a pressure ridge, which buried it in rubble later in July.

The camera is undergoing a “heat wave”, as a southerly wind has raised temperatures from -15.5°C on at 1730z on April 14 to -2.7°C at 1800z on April 16. (4.1° to 27.1° Fahrenheit)  Winds are quite strong, at a steady 22 mph (gusts aren’t reported.)

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The cameras are deployed from the Barnea Camp. With these winds, it must be rough on the tourists at that camp. (See my post at:  https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/04/13/jets-landing-gear-fails-at-pole/  )

The cameras take a group of three to six pictures, four times a day. One trick I have learned is to open the pictures to a new tab, and then click back and forth between the pictures. This makes slight shifts in the ice, which otherwise would be difficult to notice, jump out at you, but you need to be careful not to be tricked by the shifting shadows. (One thing to keep an eye out for is polar bear tracks. Keep your fingers crossed no bear gets interested in the camera, because those bums have no respect for all the hard work and tax-dollars involved.)

Usually nothing much happens for the first month or so, as things are basically frozen solid, and temperatures seldom get above freezing until June. Once temperatures get above freezing, they can stay above freezing for over a month, as the sun never sets, and the melt-water pools start to form. Of the camera moves south into Fram Strait the final pictures sometimes show a nearing ice breaker, sent to rescue the camera.

I am thinking I might start a “Polar Camera Post”, with views from these cameras, as well as the four “O-buoy” cameras, plus some of my amazingly witty and lucid comments.

An elongated low north of Greenland is causing the winds, and bringing the mild air north.

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LOCAL VIEW —Taxing Taxes Done—

Man Oh Man, has it been a haul, but I came to an end to the drifts of receipts, and added up the numbers in various categories, and felt sick. It seemed I had not “withheld” enough, and owed the government $4000.00 more than I thought I’d owe. I would be hard pressed to come up with the money, and it was with a sense of doom that I approached the lady I pay to spend a half hour going through my numbers, and, with fingers moving like a blur, to punch all the numbers into forms on a computer screen, and finish the job.

This woman worked for the IRS for 35 years, and knows the ropes, concerning tax forms. She knows the legal ways of getting the most from “expenses.” I do not have a clue how some of the forms work. When I read something like, “If line sixteen is more than line eight, write down line five on line seventeen, but if line sixteen is less than line five divide line sixteen by line fifteen, and write down the result on line seventeen”, my reaction is to scream or laugh insanely. This lady simply pauses to look at the ceiling for a second, and then her fingers go back to being a blur.

When she was done I had “withheld” too much, and actually would be getting $700.00 back.

This involved an odd thing called “credits”, which has never made a lick of sense to me, because “credits” do not involve money the government took from you and is giving back, because they took too much. Instead it involves money they government never collected, but is able to hand out, because they have a press that can print money.

I suppose I should be happy, but it troubles me to get money I didn’t earn, even if it has a name like, “earned income credit”. It strikes me as madness, but the lady knows the ins and outs of the forms, and her computer automatically brings up credits I never even knew existed, when she types in my expenses.

Now it is over and done with.  I lift my weary eyes, and see a world that has been transformed.  The snow is gone.

I went out and rototillered part of the garden.  Man oh man was I out of shape. However I have hope of getting back into shape, and getting this blog back on track, over the next few days.

We have actually been in a sort of a drought, which allowed the four feet of snow to slowly fade away without the floods I half expected. The final snow-delay of a long winter was Monday, April 6, with around an inch of sleet and freezing rain, and it was followed by some gloomy weather (which was good for doing taxes in), with temperatures a little above freezing and a small amount of rain.

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Then high pressure built southeast of us, we got into a dry southwest flow, the sun burst out and we had a few glory days, with temperatures getting up near 70° (21° Celsius). You can see the warm fronts, which had been completely unable to penetrate north, pushed past and far up into Quebec. The rains with the next system stayed far to our west and south.

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Everything seemed to dry out coming east.

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A second high pressure has pressed south after the first, and given us cool but bone dry conditions.

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It is so dry that there were “Red Flag Warnings” yesterday. Perhaps due to a reaction setting in after doing my taxes, I felt really annoyed that the government was telling me I couldn’t burn the dead weeds in my own garden. There used to be a rule that stated farmers had brains, and didn’t need to get burn permits to burn weeds on their own farms, and I decided to pretend I didn’t know about the new rules, if some officious volunteer from the fire department showed up as I burned a small triangle of weeds in my rhubarb and asparagus patch, (bounded on two sides by lawn, and on the third side by rototilled soil).

Just as an experiment, I thought I’d see if I could control the fire and only burn a corner of the triangle. I couldn’t. A gust of wind hit, and the fire spread in a wonderfully exciting manner, with me rushing about the edges of the triangle, preventing attempts the fire made to spread outside its bounds. It put out an amazing amount of heat, and a hose hidden under the weeds melted, and a plastic flower pot at the edge caught on fire,  It was a bit disconcerting when the fire began to creep out over the lawn, burning the brown grass between the first sprigs of green, but a bit of dancing over the turf stomped those creepers out. In the end I proved an old farmer could burn weeds without setting the town ablaze, but it did stir the tax-addled molasses of my blood, just a bit.

It was a reminder to me how swiftly fires can spread this time of year. The duff (leaf litter) is not shaded, and the sun is as high and bright as it is in late August, and the top inch or so of the forest floor can become much drier than at any other time. When humidity gets low (it was down around 20% yesterday afternoon) and the wind is gusty, you can get fires that go roaring through the woods, along the ground.

But that didn’t happen on my farm, and the rhubarb patch is now free of dead weeds, with the ashes a nice fertilizer for the plants, which will come bulging up any day now. The daffodils have shot up, and are budding, in a place that was under snow ten days ago.

I’ve survived both winter and taxes.