Sometimes I need a break from the absurd politics of Global Warming, and at such times running a Childcare business helps, because a bunch of demanding children have the ability to require roughly 110% of my available attention.

Of course, after twelve hours of children my brains are in such a fragmented mess I need a break from Childcare, and at such times it can be helpful to completely zone out at the computer, becoming involved in the politics of heavy snows in Jerusalem.

However at times I need a break from both Childcare and Global Warming, and at such moments it often helps if I get outside and work at some relatively brainless task.

There is a marvelous healing in the outdoors. It doesn’t require, as some seem to imagine, buying L.L.Bean boots, or backpacks, or expensive vacations in exotic locales. The sky is also beautiful when you’re broke and sleep in your car, I discovered many years ago.

It does help when you have been blessed by the good fortune of living among pines, in a relatively rural setting. Part of the healing that comes from working outside happens when I stop, amidst my griping and grumping and muttering to myself about all the indignities life subjects me to, and hear the sighing wind in the pines. I stop, and notice the sunlight shining off the green needles. I stop, and look up, and remember there is such a thing as the sky. I stop, and suddenly count my blessings.

One wonderful part of my job is to watch this happen to small children, for they also have moods, and don’t always explode off the school bus full of joy over being free. Sometimes they slouch off the bus, hands in pockets and shoulders sharp, like cynical bookies, as if they should have a cigarette drooping from the corners of their mouths. Sometimes you know their reasons, (a divorce at home; a bully at school, an “attention disorder” causing them trouble with tyrant-teachers,) and sometime you haven’t a clue what troubles them. However it is obvious they need a psychologist, and often the best psychologist is a pine tree.

Sometimes the most helpful thing a grown-up can do is to simply shut the heck up, and just allow a child to run free through some pines. The business of “communing with nature” is realer than many dream. Sometimes sunlight does more good than a doctor, and is far cheaper.

And what works for small children also works for me. Of course, I need to justify the time I am spending loafing, so I often make it look like I’m not loafing, by cutting wood or fixing a fence or tending to some outdoor need of our Childcare.

One such task is to build an igloo. Every year we have one. Last year it only lasted a few days, but often it lasts much longer, and goes through various phases of growth and shrinking, expansion and contraction, ambition and discouragement. On cold and snowy years it can become a turret amidst a maze of snow-fort walls, and involve several rooms, and once I built one that had a second story.

The children aren’t very helpful, often tending to destroy faster than I can erect, or attempting to assist in ways that are cute, but unhelpful. If I am using a snow shovel they take the shovel and shovel tiny spoonfuls of snow for me, expecting praise. If I am using my wood-hauling sled to haul snow, they take the sled, initially intending to help me, but becoming involved in pulling their friends about and forgetting to get any snow whatsoever. I have actually found it is better to do my igloo-work when I am off duty, and don’t have any children to watch. However just because I am off duty doesn’t mean that I am not a magnet, and doesn’t mean a swarm of small kids doesn’t surround me, even as the hired staff watches.

I figure this is healthy. In the past children didn’t see fathers leave for work; for fathers worked at home, when home was a farm. Commuting is a sort of modern social illness that robs children of their “male role model,” and the situation is worsened by the fact so many mothers leave home to work as well. In the old days our business of “Childcare” wouldn’t even exist. However reality is reality, we do exist, and 97% of the “role models” are women. As a male, I am a rarity in Childcare, which may explain the swarm of children trashing the igloo I am trying to build, even when I am officially “off duty.”

This year I began our igloo after our first three snows led to a period of arctic blasts: Subzero dawns and children bundled like walking pillows and winds hissing and drifting a total of ten inches of snow until it became packed powder.

I became aware I was building a true igloo, for up where the Eskimos live temperatures are well below zero, and the snow isn’t sticky. Instead of rolling snowballs, as more southern people do when building a snowman, they carve blocks of crisp, dry snow.

I carved my blocks from an area where the snow-blower had created especially packed powder, and began to assemble a circle of blocks. The helpful children felt they had to pat the blocks. I tried to explain that patting is something you do with sticky snow, and it is useless with blocks of packed powder, but they looked at me like I was some sort of idiot. Everyone knows you pat snow. So of course the blocks would crack, after excessive patting. Rather than any reasonable shame for breaking my structure, the children were delighted they had the power to crack blocks. They shrieked “Yeeei-Haw,” and delivered karate chops. Soon, rather than a circle of blocks of packed powder, I had a circle of pulverized powder.

Oh well. I have learned over the years it isn’t worth getting all bent out of shape, when children wreck stuff. “Suffer Ye the little children…” Anyway, they involve you in interesting conversations, as you explain difficult and complex topics, (such as when to pat snow and when not to pat snow.)

Often they display wit you wouldn’t expect from humans under the age of five. For example, I explained the snow wasn’t sticky because there was no “glue” in it to stick it together. The children decided that, because my igloo had no glue, it should be called an “Ig.”

Eventually I did assemble a circle, forming a snow fort with teetering, precariously-balanced walls. When the children whined it had no roof, I explained a roof would likely be a hazard, and collapse on them, after they gave it a few karate chops. More to myself than to the children, I wryly added the State Fire and Safety Inspector was coming by, and wouldn’t approve of a collapsing roof. (They already don’t approve of slides and swing sets, and any playground item over 27 inches high must have a six-inch-deep bed of woodchips beneath, by law.) Then a little girl owlishly asked me if, after our igloo had a roof, it would need smoke detectors. (Not yet, but wait until next year.)

Besides wanting a roof for the igloo, the children wanted sticky snow for snowmen and (illegal) snowball fights, and to better pack the sledding trail to make for faster sledding.

I found myself playing the part of an old Yankee, and explained the start of January is often very cold, because,

“When the days begin to lengthen
Then the cold begins to strengthen.”

However, I continued, the cold is often followed by a January Thaw. So the snow that was dry and squeaky would get wet, slippery and sticky, and we would be able to put a roof on the igloo.

This is exactly what happened. The cold wave ended, the weather warmed, the snow got sticky, and I built a roof to the igloo. The children looked at me with awe, almost as if I was a prophet or even controlled the weather, simply because the weather did what I said it would do.

This pleased me, for often my forecasts are wrong. Of course, forecasting a January thaw isn’t all that hard. It is like saying there will be a heat wave in July. You’d be more surprised if it didn’t happen. However it did make me look very wise, and, as children don’t always make me look all that wise, I enjoyed the sensation.

After work, when I clicked on the computer, I discovered the thaw wasn’t a normal event. Various Alarmists were flipping out, absolutely sure this thaw was due to Global Warming.

I rolled up my sleeves, ready to launch into ferocious history lessons, explaining how normal and natural January thaws are, when a little voice spoke in the back of my mind.

It said, “Why bother? If they want to ruin their weekend with worry, let them. You have been given the glue for your ig, and have used it to build the children a fine house to play in, and they have been given some happiness and some knowledge about this planet they live on. All is well with your soul.”


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