LOCAL VIEW —QUIETUDE—(Updated thrice and summarized.)

Winter has had us up against the ropes, and only needed deliver the single uppercut of a nor’easter to shut down our modern, vehicle-oriented society in a way never before seen, but it has relented. Perhaps prayer does have a power science cannot measure.  In New England even Atheists are now praying the snows will relent,  though of course Atheists would deny they were praying, and state they only were wishing. Same difference. In theory thought has power, (and the pen is more mighty than the sword), and the multitudinous minds of New England are briefly united in thinking enough is enough.

I have seen this happen a number of times, over more than a half century of observing New England’s weather. I confess that at times I have thought it might be a very good thing to see our vehicle-oriented society knocked out, brought to its knees, and fall flat on its face, for a week or two. If people stayed at home they might get to know each other better and this would strengthen community and family values. Due to this (some wouldf call perverse) hope, I have been keenly aware of each and every time New England has been up against the ropes, but not knocked out.

The knock-out simply never happens (so far). The best scientific explanation I have, for why nature never delivers the knock-out punch to New Englanders, involves meteorological theory, which suggests the deep snows over the northeast encourages high pressure to build, and that high pressure then shunts storms south of New England. The only problem with this lovely theory is that the actual facts of history show plenty of exceptions to this rule, when snows were deep but not deep enough to close things down, or when snows were deep but enough time was given between storms to prepare.

Such an exception-to-the-rule nor’easter would knock New England for a loop, right now. It seems somewhat astonishing that it doesn’t happen. Look at this radar shot from two days ago, and you see all the ingredients for trouble, (both a southern-branch feature and a northern-branch feature), bringing snows east. If the advancing snows combine and “phase”, it is an uppercut to the jaw of New England.

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Not only did the two features fail to “phase”, but, despite a very gray day, we actually got through our first day in a week without seeing a flake in the air, on February 26th. The southern feature slid south of us as the northern feature “dried up”.

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This is not good luck. Good luck involves goodness, which a study of New England’s corrupt politics will teach you has seldom been seen around here. Rather, in my opinion, it is dumb luck.

There are times, when a boxer is battered and seeing stars and up against the ropes, that he gets a bit of a breather, but it is only because his opponent is winding up to really nail his jaw.

In the same way, just before  a cat slays a mouse, it may toy with the hapless prey, delaying the mercy of swift death.  The thing of it is, sometimes a cat is unwise to do this, for against all odds the mouse will seize the opportunity, and duck into a crack between boards, and escape. I’ve seen this happen to cats, and the cat’s dejection is extreme, when they lose their toy and dinner at the same time.

In like manner, if the winning boxer winds up too boastfully for his knockout punch, and showboats too much to the admiring throng, he may allow the battered fellow against the ropes to gather just enough wits to doge his knockout punch, and throw a quick returning  jab that lands. Then how astounded the champion looks! Unlike the cat who merely sees the mouse escape, he is facing a mouse that can hits back. He’s stunned.  The winning boxer is faced with the possibility he might lose.

Big storms are like big government and big business.  They are cats that overwhelm the common mouse. They are champions laughing at challengers. But the challenger can survive the battering at the ropes. The mouse can slip into a crack where the cat can’t reach.

That is what this current weather is like  It gives the mouse just enough time to gather its wits.

When the little people finally have time to do things other than clear snow, what do they do? Having dealt with Big Storms, they revert to dealing with Big Government and Big Business. Exactly what these dealings are escapes the vision of the Big Shots, because the poor are forced to be practical, and practicality is something far above the logic of wealth and power.

What I just wrote was profound. Sorry about that. To return to more practical topics, the pattern has been snow-free and, if not warm, not overly cold. We might return to below zero temperatures on Saturday morning, but for the time being things are nice and quiet, and an interlude of quietude.

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UPDATE  —Good Will—

The cold came creeping back last night, and it is -2.9° (-19.4°) this Saturday morning. I don’t feel cold, perhaps because I still feel warmed by a benefit I attended last night.

The benefit was for a couple who I like, and have worked with over the years. I worked with the wife in a local warehouse, packing herbs and spices, and I worked with the husband picking up the furniture of people so wealthy they will pay more to have an old couch reupholstered than most will pay for a brand new couch.  In both cases the work could be grueling, and tedious, and involved petulant customers, but in both cases the work involved a lot of laughter, due to the buoyant spirits of the couple. They were a lot of fun after work as well, and were always volunteering for local events, and making that work brim with laughter as well. They are not the sort who you would think deserved to be hit by catastrophic infirmities at retirement age.

In such situations you learn what all the money you have poured into insurance policies over the years is actually worth. Insurance companies are not focused on good will, but greed, and can be stingy when it comes to benefits.

In such a situation local folk need to hold a benefit. It is a chance to show greedy Big-shots that they are totally missing something far more important than cold gold. Big-shots cannot see there is any benefit in spending decades working hard and being generous and being a warm source of laughter in a community.  It doesn’t show on the bottom line of the annual report. While they may begrudgingly pay out for a lot of a medical bill, they still demand a lot of co-paying and basically leave clients destitute, facing life in a under-heated home and unable to afford small luxuries like a fancy cup of tea.

Such treatment cannot be borne, especially when you look back across decades and remember warmth and generosity and laughter. For example, back in the Great Boston Blizzard of 1978 the traffic came to a standstill on the interstate, with many stranded in their cars, and my friend had pulled off into roadside restaurant’s lot. He was towing two snowmobiles, and spent the next twelve hours zooming up and down the interstate on his snowmobile, plucking people from stranded cars that were running out of gas and getting cold, and bringing them to the warm restaurant.  He didn’t even think of charging anyone; rather it was all great fun, and the gathering at the restaurant was a great party in a swirling storm.

That is the feeling of a good, local benefit. You don’t want the recipients to feel beholden, like beggars holding out a tin cup.  Rather they have made payments of kindness over forty years, into a policy of good will, and are now receiving the benefits of accrued good will, which are the opportunities given to others to show thankfulness and love. I suppose it is a form of charity, but it is the charity of receiving a birthday present. It lacks the stigma and shame of welfare, and is more like an outpouring of something not always seen in mortals: “Divine nature.”

Big shots do not take such considerations into their cold, hard calculations. Because they do not allow for things such as mercy, compassion and generosity, they create for themselves a winter that has no spring. They are rich, but pitiful.

There is such a thing as spring. Out my window a brilliant sun is climbing up into a sky of cloudless blue, and even though the thermometer hasn’t nudged above freezing in weeks, the south-facing snowbanks are starting to slump. Driving up a hill to the Childcare-farm, I’ve watched as the north-facing snowbanks remain towering and ivory white, while on the sunny-side of the street they were turning brown with road-sand and starting to shrink.

So which side of the street ought a fellow walk on?

The forecast still holds much snow and cold, but after attending the benefit last night, and seeing over two hundred people appear out of the woodwork to warm the winter, I feel fairly confident winter can’t last forever.

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It was a dazzling day, with the sunshine flexing its muscles. The temperature only got up to 28.9°,  (-1.7° Celsius), but all the south-facing roofs were dripping. The work cleaning up the towering snowbanks from the last storm has slacked off a little, and I didn’t see anyone shoveling roofs, as perhaps it seems foolish to spend time and money doing that, when the sun may do the job for you. My middle son did go out and shovel away the wall the plows built around our mailbox, and he was working in his shirtsleeves. I was avoiding that task, but he was restless and burning off youthful energy I lack. He also shoveled a new path to our propane tank, and looked a little sunburned.

Earlier in the week you could still see front-end-leaders gouging chunks off towering snowbanks, and moving the snow about to make more room. The snowbanks along Main Street were removed, chunk by chunk. The state plows went along breakdown lane of the state highway with a wing plow at roughly chest level, making an odd shelf in the snowbanks, as they were shoved away from the road. (I think the plows were raised to  avoid hidden things such as guardrails.)  Today I saw none of that.

I was avoiding digging out my mailbox by going up to the post office and picking up my mail there. Perhaps a lot of people have been doing that, and perhaps a lot of people, like me, can’t be bothered go every day, or even every other day, and the office is swamped by heaps of uncollected mail. Every day that mail must go out with the mailman, and then be brought back undelivered. I think maybe my mailman was getting a little fed up, for when I couldn’t be bothered pick up my mail for five days he didn’t bother with my mailbox, and instead swing up to my door to deposit the mail inside on the carpet. I got to see his grumpy expression as he trotted up and down my front steps, for I pulled in behind him as he did  it. I assumed he had seen me, (I was only pulling in before backing into my space), but he hadn’t, and he hopped into his jeep and proceeded to back into me with a solid thump. That made him even more grumpy, and also extreemly  worried, but I told him not to worry. No damage was done. Anyway,  I don’t care how my 20-year-old truck looks, as long as it functions.

That happened on Thursday, and was the last example of a snow-related frustration I can remember. Under the benevolent sunshine life is settling back to this odd thing I can barely remember, called “normal.”

For me that means writing about things other than the snow, and getting back to work on “my book”, and that always spells trouble. My wife has learned to be patient when I suffer these fits of irresponsibility, but only up to a point. She tends to regard me with a reflective look, when my eyes get dreamy and I become absurdly happy, and I myself tend to feel a little guilty.

I didn’t need to worry much about getting a sunburn, but the sun was flooding so much light in the windows I was drawn out to sit on the front stoop, and remember other front stoops on other March mornings, clear back to a morning when I was just a boy, listening to a Red Sox game back when spring training was in Arizona, back when I didn’t fully understand the game and was trying to figure it out by listening to the announcers. (There’s a sonnet in that, I think.)  I most definitely wasn’t in the present tense, and nearly let the fire go out. (It has been burning since October.) That demonstrates the power of the beaming, benevolent sun.

Of course I am perfectly aware we could have snow well into April. These days of perfect blue are a set-up for emotional whip-lash, as they often are followed by a solid week where you never even see the sun. But when the sun returns, it will make you happily foolish all over again, and you’ll sing of the sunny side.

In any case, I’ll have more “teasers” for my novel to post, as I keep a sharp eye on the snow advancing from the west.

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It dropped to 1.4° (-17 Celsius) just before dawn, but the stars were starting to dim in the high overcast, and when the sun rose it was most promicing down by the horizon, and grey grayer as it rose. The winds shifted to the south, and temperatures sprang up into the teens, but without yesterday’s bright sun the south wasn’t bringing much springtime, and the forecast held the dreaded word “snow.”

Sure enough, the dreaded stuff began falling in the afternoon, as temperatures peaked out at 27° (-2.8° Celsius.)

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It is hard to walk on the sunny side of the street when it is snowing. However the Carter Family kept singing about the sunny side, despite all their woes, for thirty years that covered the Great Depression, World War Two, divorce and death.

It is interesting bit of trivia that June Carter eventually did provide some sunshine in John Cash’s life, at a time he was fairly cynical and “Dressed In Black.”

Therefore I suppose I can muster a shred of a sunny attitude, though besides the snow I am facing the prospect of a dreaded Monday.

Back to work, and back to winter.


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/

A break in the weather has allowed me to do something other than fight amazing amounts of snow, and I am seizing the opportunity to try to get work done on this novel.

PREMISE: The characters “Nig” (American) and “Kaff” (South African) have developed a shorthand that allows them to write letters as swiftly as they think. Nig is finishing a long description of his first 24 hours back in the USA, after a year away. He is out of school and deciding what to do with his life. He wants to form a “commune” holding his friends, including his girlfriend Eve, however she does not entirely approve of the party scene his other friends, especially his best buddy “Durf”, enthusiastically subscribe to.

Nig has the use of his parent’s house for over a fortnight before his mother and stepfather, (the “Fossil”), return from Europe, and his friends nearly destroyed the place with a surprise party on his arrival. All but four friends deserted the party when an intruder alarm was accidentally set off,  and at this point Nig is describing the arrival of the police. As he attempts to describe his first 24 hours at home he also describes the constant interruptions he faces as he tries to write. Among the interruptions are the appearances of his older sister Millie, who does not approve of him trashing the house. He arrived home on July 10, and it is now July 16.

July 16

I ‘m up early and full of coffee and in the mood to just finish this damn story. I can only write so long before I get restless and lonely and want to head out, but I got your note of the 14th so I need to write you a quick note back before I finish this letter. You’re damn lucky I’ve got one of those prepaid airmail envelopes cos I’m getting so broke I can’t afford airmail.

There. That’s done. You’ll get that letter before this one, even though this one started before that one. So……where was I? O yeah, the police car pulls into the driveway.

I was relieved to see it was Chief Mayberry.   Mayberry‘s not his real name; we just call him that cos he‘s like a good small town cop on an American TV show.   He’s known some of us since before he was promoted and before we were out of diapers. He’s always been a real good guy, but as soon as kids started smoking pot he was stuck in the position of being the bad guy. I hate it, cos I know he isn’t, but its just how things turned out. Kids who have lived in town all their lives don’t treat him badly, but other kids who are just passing through Weston think he’s the Gestapo. The Lodge Brothers think he taps phones and reports all we do to the CIA.   Maybe there are some cops like that, but Mayberry isn’t one of them.

I told him I’d accidentally set off the alarm opening up the house. He nodded and then looked me up and down and said it appeared Scotland had done me good.   Then he glanced about, sizing up the situation, and I knew he probably had a pretty good idea of what happened.   There’s not much traffic on Sudbury and Concord Roads, so he would have noticed all the cars and motorcycles heading the other way, with all the town’s worst characters all looking as innocent as they could, as they passed him. I could see him taking in the sight of the Cadillac parked in the drive. He would know it belonged to Durf’s father, and would know Durf was there, so I decided not to deny I had company if he asked, but he didn’t ask. Instead we just stood there in the sunset, me talking about Scotland and him about town.

I figure he knows I smoke pot, but I don’t feel comfortable talking about it with him, cos he’d have to arrest me. Instead we somehow wound up talking about booze.   The drinking age is lowered to eighteen here, because someone figured if you were old enough to die in Vietnam you ought be old enough to drink. I think I opened the door to that subject by stating the drinking age in Scotland was eighteen, and I really liked the beer in Scottish pubs. He opened the door to that subject by asking me how it was in Scotland. So we were being open, in a guarded sort of way. I was faking it a bit, trying to look open so I wouldn’t look suspicious and he wouldn’t want to go in the house and wouldn’t smell the pot. So I really wasn’t open, but I felt a lot more comfortable with Mayberry than I feel with most cops.

He said the drinking age would probably go back up to twenty-one, cos kids in the USA couldn’t handle it. He’d been to Europe, and said he knew European kids started drinking younger, and somehow handled it better. He didn’t know why American kids were such vandals. He said it wasn’t the kids going to Vietnam who caused problems, but instead it was the students who weren’t going who did, and he said he suspected mixing pot with booze made it hard to learn to drink socially. He said pot made you forgetful, which proved it messed up your memory, which proved pot made it hard to learn, and that meant you were slow to learn to be mature. I knew he was giving me a lecture without actually pointing at me, and I nodded like I agreed though I don’t.

He then told me there’d been a lot of vandalism at the high school since I graduated. I asked “Like what?”   He told me the bad news.

There was a student smoking lounge I worked so hard to get legal so we wouldn’t have to sneak cigarettes in the boy’s room all the time.   He told me it has been shut down, cos the kids set the couch cushions on fire twice, and the wastepaper baskets caught fire over and over. It would set off the fire alarm, and everyone would go trooping out of the school, so kids started doing it on purpose, when they didn’t want to go to a class because they hadn’t done their homework.

He told me other stuff too. The younger kids, kids I went to school with, wrecked stuff for no reason.   I had to shake my head.   I said it sounded like kids had forgotten all about Peace, Love, and Understanding. Mayberry laughed when I said that, though I was serious. Then a call came in on his radio about three motorcycles on the Town Common, and he told me to stay out of trouble and drove off.

I went back into the house, and found the fellows were really relieved Mayberry had left. They were acting like I was some sort of hero and had tricked him, but I didn’t really feel like a hero. To be anything less than straight with Mayberry always makes me feel a bit like an eel.

We started to clean up the mess, and it turned out the Lesaumille Brothers hadn’t really ditched me. They‘d just ducked into the pines off the patio, and were peering out from behind the trunks to see how things turned out. They would have been there, if I needed reinforcements. And actually I did need reinforcements, when it came to cleaning up the mess, but with so many helping it didn’t take long to get the place straightened out. We found some air freshener, and even some rug shampoo for where the beer had spilled. The only real damage was to a lampshade, but you hardly notice it unless you walk around behind it.

The three oldest Lasaumille brothers had to work the next day, so only Zooks stayed. I had the urge to go down memory lane, and went up to the attic to get the stuff I boxed up before I went to Scotland. The tenant’s kids had broken the locks and trashed things pretty badly up there, but the lock on my trunk must have defeated them. I opened it with my key, took out my Jimi Hendrix albums, a box full of little pink pills I never got around to selling my Senior Summer, and my party papers.

I used to spread out a big sheet on a table at parties, with a bunch of different colored markers, and all the kids at the party would draw little cartoons and write comments and poems. I figured it would help us remember what a great time we had, cos it always seemed we couldn’t remember the next day. It was fun to unfold the sheets and think back about last summer, but I kept having the feeling something was lost. It was sort of like the paper had yellowed.

The pink pills were a cheap speed I was selling last year that I got to hate. We popped some, which was how I managed to stay up all night despite the jet lag.

We talked all night, but I suppose that counts as my second twenty-four hours back in the States, and the story of my first twenty-four hours is over. I’ll just say I kept having the saddest feeling, all night long, and when the sun came up it was like the pink and golden beauty was very far away, and not pressing in close like it was in 1969. I’d have to say the all-night-talk was one of the most depressing talks ever. It was so depressing I don’t want to talk about it.

July 17

It took me all that time to describe my first day back in the States, but stuff keeps happening. There is no way to catch up and describe it all. My brains are only part way through figuring out the last thing when the next thing happens.

I’m trying to get the old gang together and patch up all the problems but


My big sister Millie came in just then, and we had a big fight. It was because I had a coffee cup in the dining room. Also because I had another coffee cup in the living room, another in my bedroom, and a fresh one out here on the patio. Millie was sort of quivering in rage about stupid coffee cups.   It’s something she’s been hassling me about for days, and I just can’t take her seriously. The more she quivers the more I can’t believe it.   It’s been building up, and I guess it had to erupt, though I can’t think of a stupider volcano.

I told her to just buzz off and let me think. I told her I didn’t see why the crap she had to keep bopping by, anyway. She’s got her own apartment, doesn’t she?   I told her that if she doesn’t like me she ought just be a good little girl and just go home.

I guess I knew I was pushing my luck. Millie’s always trying to prove she’s as good as a man, and to have a snotty little brother, four years younger than her, tell her to go home like a good little girl really got her riled. Her eyebrows shot up and her blue eyes bugged out, and then the truth came out.

She said Mother didn’t trust me and had appointed her official guardian of the house, and I had to obey her. I said O, that explains why she has been such a totally embarrassing asshole, every time I tried to sit down with the guys and have a meeting. She said, “Meeting? Is that what you call burning out your brains?” I said Yes, that was what I called it, and I didn’t care what she called it, and I was sick and tired of her prudish attitude.

Millie likes to think she’s real liberated and revolutionary, and it gets her hopping when you call her a prude. Her blue eyes bugged even more, and I thought she was going to throw those stupid coffee cups she was so all-fired concerned about, but instead she stomped the dumb army boots she always wears, and yelled,   “I don’t care if you are sick and tired, Mom put me in charge!”

I said I didn’t fucking believe it. How could Mother put her in charge?   Mother had never thrown me out of the house for wrecking the marriage of a friend by messing with the friend’s husband. (Millie got thrown out for that when she was eighteen, and it’s pretty much forgiven and forgotten by Mother by now, but the fact is Millie’s never moved back home, and anyway I was just bringing up the past to be mean.) I said she’s one who’s thrown out and I’m not thrown out, and she’s got her own apartment and I don’t, and she doesn’t even live here, so why didn’t she butt out and mind her own fucking business?

Millie got cold as ice then, and her elbows cocked and her hands made fists, and she breathed hissing through her teeth for a bit, and then she said she was going to tell on me to Mom.

I said she’d have a fine old time trying to track Mother down in Scotland. What was she going to do? Call every bloody bed and breakfast place from A to Zed? Anyway, I didn’t care what Mother said. Mother was just the trophy wife of a seventy-year-old fossil.   It was the Fossil’s house and not Mother’s, and the Fossil had put me in charge. Was Millie dense or something? I was in charge of the house, and what’s more, I was in charge of the damn car, and she’d better hand over the bloody keys.

Millie didn’t hand over the keys. In fact she has stomped off in her dumb boots and departed with the car. I bet my Mom wouldn’t’ve much liked how she wasted the rubber on those tires, as she left, either. She left twenty yards of rubber down the road.

I also bet my mother wouldn’t like how Millie slams the vacuum about, when she’s making such a production of cleaning. That must be murder on the legs of the furniture. If she threatens to tattle on me I’ll threaten to tattle about that.

Anyway, she’s gone. Good riddance. But I still feel bloody uneasy about the situation. Fighting with her is always hard on my poor stomach. However it shows you how hard it is for me to just sit down and write, or have a meeting with my friends. But I am going to sit here and write. But first I‘m getting another coffee cup. Screw Millie.

Things just aren’t working out. I looked back to where I started writing today, and saw I wrote “patch up all the problems.” I think it’s just too much for me.

I spent my whole time at Dunrobin looking forward to coming home and getting the gang together, but even at Dunrobin I got letters before the postal strike talking about how everything was falling apart.   Durf says this one line over and over like it’s some sort of Hindu mantra, “You can’t go home again.” I don’t see why not.

This picture from Dunrobin keeps coming into my head. It is of the pub I used to sneak off to down in Golspie, the Ben Bhraggie. I snuck over there on my eighteenth birthday, and, even though it was against Dunrobin rules, beer wasn’t against the law for me any more, and they served me a beer. It was the first beer I actually liked, really creamy. And I just sat there sipping it and thinking what a neat place that pub was. It was like a living room, but not just for one family, but rather for a whole neighborhood. There was everyone, from grandparents to little kids, coming in and going out the door. The feeling was so much like a home, especially compared to Dunrobin, where ten teachers had to watch over a hundred-fifty kids who basically were unwanted and thrown out of their homes.

And now I come home to Weston and get told it isn’t my home. Why not? I’ve lived here since I was two. I know every tree and every brook. Yet people keep telling me I’ve got to go, like it isn’t my land, like I’m some Cherokee and need to walk some Trail-of-tears to Oklahoma.

There’s nothing even remotely like the Ben Bhraggie in Weston. In Golspie you couldn’t walk a half-mile without passing some place where you were welcome. In Weston you can walk mile after mile and there is never a pub.

All I want is to make this house be a place where my friends are welcome, at least for a couple of weeks until my Mother comes back.   Is that such a damn crime?

O shit. Millie’s back with my stepsister Mary. I have asked them very politely if they would mind please waiting until I finish this paragraph. They are standing and watching me.

To be continued.


Well, I actually won the fight. Not that I feel that good about it. To be honest, I feel rotten.

My stepsister Mary is as old as my Mom, which is something that happens when a seventy-year-old fossil marries a forty-four-year-old trophy. But Mary’s a really nice lady, always bright and cheerful, and she did a good job of patching things up between Millie and me.

Millie was putting on airs and treating me like I was a two-years-old, so I felt justified to put on airs right back. I acted all reasonable, like she was the unreasonable one, partly because I knew it would drive Millie wild.

I told Mary that Millie was overly distraught about coffee cups, cos she was anxious to please my mother. I said I would be certain to wash the four cups before my mother returned, yet I feared my sister worried too much that I might forget.   The whole time I talked my sister was shooting me these baleful looks, and when I was done she walked over quivering to some burn-holes in the carpet, and jabbed a finger downwards without a word.

I first noticed the burns after the Wrenchheads all ran away, the night the party ended when the alarm went off, and I think the Wrenchheads might be responsible. But I didn’t lie about it. I just said yes, I had noticed the burn-holes, but had noticed them the first night I was back. Then I went on smooth as silk, saying perhaps my sister had not heard that the tenants who rented the place while my parents were gone had some problems with their kids, and the kids had broken into the locked closets and stolen liquor and the police had been called a couple of times. Did it not occur to my sister that there might be an explanation for the burn-holes, other than the assumption that leapt into her head?   She really ought not worry so much about my housecleaning skills.

Pretty slick, aye? I’ve always been skilled at half-truths, and I think I perfected it, getting hauled into the headmaster’s study so often at Dunrobin. I’m so good at half-truth I’d go to work writing advertisements on Madison Avenue, if being slick didn’t make me feel like such an eel.   But my sister deserved it. She was sort of slumped, but still giving me that baleful look. I could tell she was on the verge of tattling about the marijuana-smoking in the living room, even though she smokes herself, so I figured I’d best keep talking to keep her quiet.

I told Mary I was short-tempered with my sister for taking my stepfather’s car. I informed her I might not have even returned from England, if I had not assumed I would have the use of the car, which the Fossil had assured me I would have.   Of course I didn’t call him the Fossil.   I called him “your father.“

Anyway, I just stressed how rough it was without a car.   How could I look for work? How could I register for the draft? How could I even buy groceries, and eat?

Then Millie snidely said, “And how could you drive around with Eve?”

Millie stepped in it then, cos once you say anything snide you look bad and are at a disadvantage. I stayed silent for a bit, doing my best to look all righteously indignant, and then shook my head with my best attempt at a pitying face.   Then I turned to Mary and said, attempting a charming and frank grin, “Yes, driving with Eve too, though my finances would be stressed by the ferry fare. You see, Mary, Eve’s parents want to free Eve and myself from temptation, and have sent Eve to a tennis camp on Martha’s Vineyard for a fortnight.” Mary laughed, and I continued, attempting to look a bit sad, “If I drove any distance out of town it would be likely in the opposite direction, to see my Dad up in New Hampshire.”

Bringing up the subject of my Dad was the clincher.   It introduced uneasiness, and awkwardness, and a Stinedu everyone wants to shut up about. My sister slumped, and then looked up with a sort of ashamed glower, and she said she was sorry she had over-reacted. She said she’d only asked Mom for the car because her motorcycle had to go into the shop for repairs.   Mom had asked her to make sure I didn’t destroy the place, and she was only trying to do her job, out of gratitude for the loan of the car.

So I not only won the fight, but I got the use of the car, day after tomorrow. Milly and I even hugged. Unfortunately, I feel like an eel.

Nearly midnight

Crap. Again I can’t sleep. Likely it’s all the coffee. It’s not speed. I stepped on the scale and saw I’m down to 174 already, so I’m staying away from that stuff. But coffee’s the same, I suppose.

I don’t eat enough. My Mom gave me some money for food, but I hardly eat. It doesn’t help that Durf eats everything in sight every time he drops by. He dropped by tonight long enough to drink all my milk and get mad at me for not wanting to go out. We didn’t even get high.

Maybe I should have gone out. With Eve at camp I’m as lonely as hell. I’ve got a sort of knot in the pit of my stomach that won’t quit.

The fight with my sister left a bad taste in my mouth.   I keep thinking what a liar I am.   One great thing about the last fortnight at Dunrobin was that all the graduating guys knew they might not see each other ever again, and dared be honest. That was when I blew everyone away by admitting I was a virgin.

You guys all thought I was such a big stud because, after Eve wrote me that letter about going out with someone, I went out and got Ginger for a girlfriend down in Golspie, and was seen snogging with her.   But I never went all the way. I thought I might, which is why I had that Johnny in my wallet, but even then, when I told myself screwing would just be practicing for Eve, it never felt right to pass third. It also never felt right that you guys thought I was so flipping experienced, though I sure didn’t mind it that you guys didn’t hassle me for being a virgin, the way you hassled Pest. But the pretense just seemed a lie, especially when I’d hassle Pest along with everyone else, and I felt more and more like an eel for letting people assume something that wasn’t true, which is why I finally came clean. It felt good to just quit being such a fake.

But now that I’m back in the States and already I’m getting fake. If I’m honest about my sex-life Fred will call me a prude for not being a male slut, and if I’m honest about pot I’ll get arrested by Mayberry, or thrown out of here. You can’t just be yourself.

I started a song tonight about people being like a herd of armadillos. They wear these shells, and if you threaten their tender side they roll up into balls.   In the poem they rolled about with no idea where they’re going. I liked the idea but the poem utterly sucks. All my poetry sucks. I thought I’d write better, once I got away from the pressure of Dunrobin, but now I think I’ll call my next bunch of lyrics, “Freedom’s First Result Is Garbage.”

Bugsy and Stephen were by today, and we had a good but sad talk. They just graduated, but were always good students and were on the student council.   I told them what Mayberry told me about the school, and they said it was true. The younger kids don’t understand how we had to have sit-down-strikes and be punished, and fight, fight, fight, just to get rid of the dumb rules about haircuts and not wearing blue jeans. Instead those kids take all the freedom for granted, and are making things so crazy that the rules will have to come back. Bugsy said the underclassmen were so bad he felt like an old geezer, grumbling about “Kids nowadays.” Stephen said the student council advised that all the rules be brought back, and the freedoms we fought for and had sit-down-strikes for be called “privileges” you could win, but also could lose. Shit and double shit. Doesn’t that sound exactly like Dunrobin?

I just said it was a crying shame. In 1969 it wasn’t necessary. It was like a light came down from heaven, and people wanted to make the world better, and it was obvious how to do it. Now the light has gone out, and people are groping in the dark.   Instead of building a better world they want to tear down what we already have.

That’s what communism is. They want to tear down the rich, and anyone else who stands in their way.

Ham and Franks dropped by really briefly, to see if I wanted to go protest the war at some college. They’ve been talking to a college student who is real big on communism, and wants them to join. (That’s not hard, considering they were already sold.)   They could even get some money. Not much, but enough to mimeograph pamphlets and hand them out.   The money comes from some anti-war group in Sweden, but Russia funds that Swedish group. The Lodges don’t care where the money comes from though, cos their Dad cut them off and for rich kids they’re damn broke.

I told them they’re nuts. I’ve known too many people who ran away from Poland and Hungary and China, to think communism is some utopia. But the Lodges said Weston sure isn’t any utopia.   They said parents think it is, but as soon as you graduate they throw you out, cos utopia doesn’t include the likes of you. I had to agree with that part, and told them my idea about us being like Cherokee being thrown from our homeland out onto a Trail of Tears. Then they said, why get thrown out? Why not throw the parents out? I could only say it didn’t sound much like Peace, Love and Understanding to me.

I can’t figure out all these problems. I wanted to get the gang together and have a commune but it is just too much for my poor brains. I can’t even handle feeding myself and getting groceries. Who am I to talk?

I keep hearing about how Audley Bine tried to start a commune in Weston last winter and how it didn’t work out and how that proves you can’t do it.

I want that light to come back down from heaven.   The pot just doesn’t do it any more.

I just got to get out of here.

July 18

Doing much better, but man O man did I ever crash bad last night. I felt like I couldn’t take one more second, like I’d scream into my pillow. I couldn’t see any hope at all, and just wanted my brain to shut down, but I couldn’t even get close to sleep, and just lay thrashing on my sheets in the heat. Finally I got up yet again and went to the living room and clamped on the earphones and just blasted Hendrix through my brain in the pitch dark. But even that seemed hopeless, cos Jimi died in his vomit.

My head got all full of ugly images from Wilford Owen’s poetry. The poem about the guy drowning in strangling mustard gas in No Man’s Land came back to me. Hendrix drowning in vomit seemed like that; he was like one of those English captains who jumped up from the trenches and shouted, “charge!” but immediately got mowed down by a machine gun. And I’m like the loyal follower down in the trench having second thoughts about charging.

The Lodge Brothers say the CIA had Hendrix and Janis Joplin put away because they were having too much influence on American youth, so now I can’t even listen to Jimi’s music without thinking sad stuff about how some people hate beauty, and if you stand for beauty you get killed.

I was listening to the beautiful song where Hendrix says a angel came down from heaven and stayed just long enough to rescue him. Durf told me that song is just about some groupie who Hendrix got laid by. Durf thinks I’m full of shit to believe Hendrix really did see angels.  It’s all sex, sex, sex with Durf. Nothing beyond the physical.   And thinking that low way makes me want to scream, and I really see why Hendrix was so lonely. No one understood what he was trying to say. I feel like if he had only known me, the loneliness might not have killed him. But the poets are too few and too far between, and my crashy mood had me thinking maybe my turn will come, and I’ll be killed by loneliness.

When I’m lonely and crashing it just seems there is nothing good or high in the world; the world is all KGB and CIA agents busily murdering poets, while blissfully oblivious ordinary people stay blinded by busily money-grubbing and selfishly fucking. It’s so low and gross and horrible I really do want an angel to come down from heaven to rescue me.

I felt so horrible I remembered that time John Keats was in agony and groaned something like, “Man cannot have been created for such suffering,” and I was agreeing and giving the Creator quite a talking-to, like a flea daring an elephant to talk back, but all I got was silence.

I remember lying in the dark pressing my eyeballs in, in that way that makes you see swirling light, but the swirling light would never focus into anything. I wanted some angel, but only could think I was screwing up my optic nerves.   So I stopped doing it, and got up to go back to bed, and then there was this big flash of pink light that lit up the entire living room. Then it was even darker, and I stood there spooked for a while, before I heard the thunder.

I figured that was good enough to count as a sign from above. It didn’t seem likely I’d get anything any better, at any rate, so I went out on the patio and watched the storm roll in. The cool wind felt really good, after the heat wave, and I liked hearing the rain come marching up through the woods. I felt the first drops on my face and then went in to bed, knowing today would be cooler and drier and I’d feel much better. Having even that little hope was much, much better than I felt before.

The last thing I remember is feeling really comfortable, listening to the thunder muttering away into the purpling dusk in the east. Then the first thing I remember is still feeling really comfortable, and hearing really fast Mozart on the piano. Didn’t need to open my eyes to know my brother Halsey was back from England.   What was odd was smelling bacon and eggs. That’s not like Halsey, cos he’s like me and never eats until he has to. Then I heard Millie tell him breakfast was ready. The piano kept on going, and after a while I heard Millie tell him a second time, and then a third time, and a forth, and a fifth.

It made me chuckle in my sleep, cos it’s so typical.   Once Halsey gets playing he gets lost.   And he can’t walk by a piano without being tempted. He could be walking past the piano on his way to answer the phone, and he’d be tempted to play just a chord or two before he answered the phone, and the phone could just go on ringing and ringing for ten minutes. Maybe there is some reason both piano and procrastination begin with “P.”

He drives some people nuts, but I never mind, cos I like his music more than I like most other things. When I was little we used to have a grand piano, back in my real home, and I used to just go sit under it as Halsey practiced. Halsey liked dramatic, fast stuff like Rachmaninoff, and it was really loud under the piano. I thought sitting there was the best seat in the house.

Just laying in bed with my eyes still shut, I could almost believe I was back in my real home, and my mother had never remarried and we’d never moved here. I just had a nice, warm feeling, to start the day. Of course it panged a bit with nostalgia, cos that house got sold and I can never go back, but my mind got to thinking maybe I could buy the place back, or at least get a place like it.

Millie was in her mobilization-mode. She’s pretty good at prying lazy brothers from chairs and getting them rolling, cos she’s had a lifetime of practice. She popped her head in my bedroom and asked me to if I wanted some breakfast and to go swimming. It wasn’t like I had much choice, though she did ask me if I wanted to go, and didn’t totally boss me about. So I threw on some shorts and wandered out past Halsey, who was still playing the piano, into the sunny dining room, where there were four of her and Halsey’s friends. It was a nice relaxed scene, sort of like the commune scene I’ve been wanting to create in this house with my friends, that has never happened.

Everyone was at least four years older than me, so I just shut up and went with the flow. Mostly I tried to mind my own business and not get involved, but one of the girls was really hard to ignore, cos she had the most spectacular set of knockers I’ve seen in a long, long time.

I’ve always liked the fashion of girls going braless, cos I figure a breast is what a breast is, and it’s best to go with what God gave you. In that way I agree with Millie, and I’ve always thought it’s dumb for girls to do all the weird things with their knockers that they do. Girls with big ones sometimes try to flatten them like they are Orientals in one of those kimono things, probably cos they’re tired of guys looking at their breasts and not their faces. But then flat girls wear these falsies, cos they’re tired of guys NOT looking at their breasts. And then most girls have normal boobs, but a heck of a lot of them hoist them up like sagging is some sort of sin, and knockers are suppose to defy gravity. Lots of girls crank them up so they point at you like a double-barreled shotgun, and then act all indignant and call you a chauvinist pig if you look at both barrels pointed between your eyes. It’s never made a lick of sense to me.

But this one girl didn’t need a bra to hoist both barrels. They just naturally levitated, and she wore a flimsy summer t-shirt that hid nothing. To make matters worse, she must have been at least part Italian, cos she was a tanned brunette, and sort of talked with her hands, only she didn’t need to use her hands, and instead shifted her shoulders and talked with her knockers. Just the way she said “glad to meet you” when Millie introduced me made me feel like I was being unfaithful to Eve. I felt especially bad cos I walked in there barefoot and wearing nothing but my shorts, and her eyes hardly touched mine before sliding down over my chest in a way like a caress.

I’ve forgotten her name, so I guess I’d better make one up, cos she’s part of the tale. I’ll call her “Miss Brunette,” but every time you see those words,   “Miss Brunette,” you’ve got to think “Miss Boob-net,” cos that’s always a Freudian slip away on my tongue.

I can’t remember her boy friend’s name either, though I should, cos he’s a friend of Halsey and Millie and I’ve been meeting him on and off for years. He’s just that sort. You can’t remember his name. All I remember is that he always looks like he has a headache, so I’ll call him “Wince,” though at breakfast it was the first time I ever saw him looking like he didn’t have a headache. Miss Brunette must have done it to him, cos she was all he looked at.

After a breakfast at noon I got the keys of my stepfather’s sedan, and followed Millie’s, Halsey’s, and Millie’s boyfriend’s motorcycles over to White’s Pond for a swim. I brought Ruth, the girl Halsey was with, cos she wasn’t in the mood to ride behind him, and also brought Miss Brunette and Wince. No one brought a bathing suit.

Everyone pretended to be casual and not be self conscious about skinny dipping, cos it’s natural and only prudes aren’t casual.   Of course, I’m a prude and virgin and am always sneaking peeks and always am a bit worried I might get a hard on.   Not that most of them looked all that good naked, but Miss Brunette did. I decided I’d better get away from her and away from where the shallows were warm, so I swum out into the middle of White‘s Pond. The surface is warm out there, but it’s really cold around three feet down, and shrank a certain subject I didn’t want to expand upon.   Once that was done I just floated on my back, up in the warmer layer. I noticed I float better than last year, when I was all bones.

I just stretched out my arms with the sky very blue above, and the trees like a green fringe all around the edge, and the sun white and spangling in the droplets in my lashes, and I felt more awake than in weeks, and also happy. It seems a while since I have just felt happy. It was like the light was shining down and it was 1969 again. I had this huge feeling of gratitude but didn’t know who to thank.

I had a feeling like the feeling you get from that Keats poem about how good you feel getting out into the country after being “long in city pent.” Then I started to wonder if you have to suffer before you can groove over how lucky you are. Maybe you have to suffer a prison like Dunrobin before you can appreciate being free. It seems dumb to me, because you shouldn’t have to be miserable to see what is gorgeous. You ought to be able to skip the misery. I’m sure Major Ridgeway wouldn’t agree; he’d say you have to endure a grueling row across the Atlantic to appreciate anything. And I know Indians used to eat Jack-in-the-pulpit root and endure agony, cos it was a purifying ordeal, but to me it all seems like hitting your thumb with a hammer because it feels so good when you stop.   People ought to be able to just appreciate the light shining down without needing a whole lot of darkness.

After a while Halsey came swimming out with Ruth. Nobody can figure out whether she’s his girlfriend or not. Sometimes she rides behind him on his motorcycle, but today she came with me in the Fossil’s sedan. They are both too spaced out to bother formalize anything, but their eyes were very clear and in the present as they swam up to me, which is unusual with them, because they both usually have eyes that are somewhere at least a hundred miles away. My sister soon followed with her new boyfriend, both blue-eyed blonds with the water making blue eyes bluer. Then Miss Brunette came out with Wince, with his headache still gone. The only one missing was Eve. At Dunrobin I always used to dream of luring Eve into some summertime, Hippy swim, and here I was, right where I dreamed of, without her.

They started talking about the color of the water, which I hadn’t noticed. It was a bit breezy, and the water wasn’t at all like a mirror. It was broken into all these dabs of color, and they were talking about how the dabs were mostly green like trees, towards the shore, and mixed more and more with blue sky as they got closer to us, until right near us they were all blue mixed with a sort of sandy, sunlit lime-hue of the sandy depths.   Once they pointed the colors out it sort of made me drunk, like the beauty might make me pass out. Instead of water it was like I was swimming in dabs of light.

I felt like I felt last summer, when I hung out with older people, towards the end. My friends sometimes just seem too young. They make all sorts of problems, mostly about stuff they could deal with better if they had a paycheck, but these people had jobs and didn’t worry about that stuff. My friends just don’t seem mature, sometimes. They make it all be dark, and can’t see the light shining down.

I sure could see the light shining down out on White’s Pond today. Even though we didn’t all know each other all that well, I had the feeling we were very close. We were like a lost tribe, outside civilization, free from jobs and clothing and land and gravity. All the dumb rules, like putting five dollars in the coffee can to use the phone at Durf’s commune, were gone.

What I liked most was the purity. I get tired of Durf always pushing me to be free in his free-love way, where you have to seduce every girl you meet. Here I was naked and with others but not thinking like that. I felt free from that pressure, which seems like chains to me, even if it seems like freedom to Durf.   The only thing even like that heaviness was a sort of nervous feeling I got when Wince swam closer to Miss Brunette, and she swam away from him closer to me. But that was probably my immaturity. These people were more mature than me.

I never felt tired, but we sort of treaded water back to the shallows, and got out. I felt a bit nervous again, cos Miss Brunette didn’t seem to be looking at my face much. Not that I could be sure, cos I wasn’t looking at her face all that much either.   Anyway, I put my shorts back on, which was as dressed as I ever got until afternoon.

My sister had brought sandwiches, so we ate late lunch even as the shadows got longer and the beautiful day threatened to not be endless. I had the feeling I’d been on drugs even though I hadn’t. It was what they call a natural high, but the high was wearing off, but I didn’t want to come down.

Then Ruth asked me if I still wrote songs, and I said yes, and she pushed me into singing, so I sung the one I wrote at Dunrobin that you liked, about how sunrises cannot be sold. They clapped when I was done, which pleased me more than I would have thought it would. The clapping made a strange shiver go down my back, cos the echoes of six sets of hands clapping echoed back from various banks of trees across the pond, and it sounded like a lot more than six sets of hands were clapping. It was like an invisible crowd was standing all around the pond.

It put me in an odd mood. When we drove back here, and Halsey went back to the piano and got lost in Beethoven, I started to think about people like Beethoven, and to wonder if I might be one of them.

Some people just get lost in all the darkness, and forget to see the light shining down. They need to be reminded, cos if you build your life in darkness you are a mole, and not a mountain man.

They need to be reminded, and maybe that is what I was born to be: A reminder.

Continued at:  https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/03/02/novels-teaser-part-5/


At this time of year there tends to be an increase of interest in the Sea-ice at the Pole, largely because some believe the Arctic sea-ice is in a “Death Spiral”, and when the ice up north goes the world will lose its ability to reflect sunlight, and we’ll all fry. The people who have this idea seem strangely happy at any sign there is less ice. I should think the end of the world might be depressing, but they are gleeful.

They are likely gleeful now, as there is less ice in the Arctic, as we approach the peak levels of ice in the first weeks of March. (Click all images and pictures to clarify and enlarge)

DMI2 0226  02icecover_current_new

In actual fact the levels of ice this time of year are not indicative of that the levels will be at when the sun is at its highest, and the most sunlight can be reflected. For example, in the above graph, in April, the green line is highest and the red is lowest, but by September their positions are reversed.

But never mind that. Let us play the game, and worry about sunlight being reflected. The word to use is “albedo”. This makes you look scientific, even if you only have a crumb of information.

One reason there is less ice up at the Pole is that during this past winter the winds have been “merdianal”, and air has often assumed a cross-polar-flow across from Siberia, and then down to the USA. This creates what might be called back-eddys, swirling milder air in from both the Atlantic and Pacific sides. One Atlantic eddy formed a little gale on the Pole itself a week ago, and right now a swirl of milder air is forming a storm on the Pacific side. Between the two, a glob of cold Siberian high-pressure is being transplanted to North America.

DMI2 0226 mslp_latest.big

Temperatures on both the Pacific and Atlantic side are milder than normal, though often below the freezing point of salt water.

DMI2 0226 temp_latest.big

The thing to remember is that the sun hasn’t risen at the Pole, and even down by the arctic circle, where it has risen, it is so close to the horizon that it tends to bounce off any open water it strikes. Water, especially when glassy, can reflect the sun as well as ice can, when the sun sits on the horizon.

Another thing to remember is that the cold air also freezes water down south in the USA. In fact the Great Lakes are now frozen at record-setting levels for the date.

Great Lakes Feb 26 glsea_cur

This ice is not included in the above graph of sea-ice extent, but it does reflect sunlight. In fact, because the sun is so much higher in the south, it is reflecting more sunlight than the entire North Pole. This should be added to “albedo” calculations.

Also not included in most graphs of sea-ice extent is the ice forming on the east coast of the USA. The satellite picture below shows ice in Long Island Sound, and off the New Jersey north coast, and down in Delaware Bay,  and even in the upper reaches of Chesapeake Bay.

East Coast Sea Ice b-umfxaciaa2qmm

The sun is high and bright down in Virginia. In 1947 the cherry trees were already budding in Washington, before a bloom in March. The amount of sunlight being reflected is substantial, and it too should be included in “albedo” equations. Boston Harbor and New York Harbor are reflecting heat, rather than absorbing it.

East Coast Sea Ice screenhunter_7348-feb-21-10-512

Boston sea-ice Screen_shot_2015_02_21_at_1_34_06_PM

With all this heat being reflected, should not we start to be alarmed?  I mean, for Pete’s sake, look at Niagara Falls!

Niagra Falls Frozen b-o_1qsxiaa7xn5

It may not be a sight you are longing to see, if you are longing for spring, but I think we can avoid being alarmed and skip talking about some sort of anti-death-spiral.  As is the case with most extreme weather, the media is wrong when they call it “unprecedented”.  For example, here is Niagara Falls in 1911:

Niagra 1911 article-2536278-1A82232200000578-809_964x522

In the same manner I myself get nostalgic when I see current pictures of Lobster boats frozen in, up in the harbors of Maine.

Lobsterboats frozen 6829983_G

What is alarming about the above pictures is what it may suggest will happen to the price of lobsters, and the income of lobstermen.  However back in the late 1970’s I lived up there and walked the ice on those harbors.

The following old post has a couple pictures from that time, and also points out the fun you can have. After all, if believers in the “death spiral” can get glee from the world ending, the rest of us ought be allowed to have some fun when it doesn’t end.

The only thing sure to end is winter, though I’ll admit it looks like it may take its sweet time ending, this year.




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

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

It is indicative of how brutal this winter has been that I planned to have the next installment of this tale ready In a week or so, after I posted the last episode on January 13. It is now nearly March. However the constant interruptions have been much like the time the story is attempting to describe, so perhaps the weather is helping set the mood.

SYNOPSIS:  The character “Nig” is trying to write to his friend “Kaff” in South Africa about a wild first 24 hours he spent, upon first arriving back in the United States, but his tale is constantly interrupted by ongoing life.  Among other things he is torn between the desires of his close friend Durf, who likes the wild life, and his girlfriend Eve, who prefers life more tamed.

July 15

Stuff is happening but I want to finish the first story before starting a second.

So where was I. O yeah. Eve.

Arrrrgh! This will have to wait. My sister Millie is being a total jerk. She’s slamming the vacuum around and shooting me these looks of complete outrage. I don’t even know what she’s doing here so early. And why vacuuming? It’s obvious she’s picking a fight about something, but I don’t want to talk to her. All I want is some peace and quiet, and to think about my first twenty-four hours back in the States. But now the damn doorbell is ringing. God!   Is there no mercy?

Half hour later

Yes! There is mercy! What a hoot!

The person at the door was Duke, one of the Lesaumelle Brothers. I’ll have to explain the Lesaumelle brothers at some point, but for now I’ll just say Duke’s the second oldest, and has always had this thing for Millie, who absolutely can’t stand him.

I’m not sure why, cos he’s a Sir Francis Drake sort of fellow, or Sir Walter Scott, or whoever it was who spread his cloak in the puddle for the lady to walk on. You couldn’t ask for a more courteous dude. I’ve seen him actually bow, before opening a door for my sister, but it just makes Millie shudder. If he opens the door she’d rather climb out the window. Her gagging has something to do with a date they went on back in high school. During the date she realized he’d darkened his mustache with a pencil. In Millie’s book, that makes Duke a total phony, cos Millie won’t darken her eyebrows or wear lipstick. She won’t even shave her legs. Her pubes tuft into her crotch when she wears a bikini bottom, which sort of makes my skin crawl, but it’s a political thing with Millie: She sort of goes out of her way to be ugly. Meanwhile Duke never has a hair out of place, and has the nicest clothes, and first thing in the morning he’s so drenched in after-shave and cologne it makes your eyes water. But the more he grooms the more she shudders. She can’t get over the complete loathing she feels, and Duke only makes it worse by being more and more elegant and courteous. It doesn’t even seem to matter to him that she’s already got a boyfriend.

So I couldn’t have asked for a better person to show up and get Millie off my back. I’m not sure why he dropped by. Judging from his face, he either wanted to sell me some pot, or to ask me if I knew where he could buy some pot. But soon as he saw Millie, over my shoulder, it was sort of like I ceased to be.   His face changed, and got all dreamy, and he sort of pushed by me like I wasn’t there.

Man O man was it ever funny to watch. It was sort of like mime, cos the vacuum made it too loud to hear what they said to each other.

Millie was trying to slam the vacuum about, but couldn’t,  because Duke was so damn polite he was hoisting chairs and coffee tables and even armchairs, to make it easier for her to vacuum. Finally Millie just shut the vacuum off and stomped off, but Duke is so light on his feet that he sprang ahead to open the front door for her as she stormed out. Then he went bounding ahead and opened the door of the Fossil’s sedan, so Millie could swing in, shooting him a savage glare before slamming the door. As she went screeching off he did this little bow towards her dust. Then he went wandering homewards, looking up at the treetops thoughtfully. I reckon he‘d forgotten me completely.

I can‘t tell you how funny it was. My writing stinks. I don‘t even dare think about it, because my guts already hurt from laughing too much. But I tell you, Millie may be pretty good looking, but she sure can get ugly when Duke is kind. I could hardly recognize her face.

I‘m not sure why that‘s so funny. Which reminds me. Eve is beautiful, but may look pretty ugly if I‘m late again the day she leaves for camp. So I‘m off.


I wasn’t late, even though I had to walk the whole two and a half miles. Hitchhiking stinks in Weston, unless you can catch all the Dads leaving for work.   Only three cars passed me the whole way. It was still a bit dewy and cool when I started but muggy by the time I got there, and I didn’t like being all sweaty when I saw Eve.

I was hoping to get Eve alone for a bit, and kiss her. You‘d think that, after a year apart, we’d at least kiss. I especially wanted to kiss because now we‘re going to be apart all over again.   But it didn‘t work out. Eve had to pack and didn’t have time for a walk, and I got the feeling she wasn’t over me being so late yesterday. Of course she didn’t say so, but she was just sort of sullen. So all I did was sit around and talk with Eve‘s mother, and then I lugged Eve’s suitcase down from her room and out to her Dad‘s orange sports car, and then I waved good-bye. Then I had to walk the two and a half miles back here, carrying a gallon of milk I got at the store. By the time I got here my arm felt like it was coming out at the socket.

I’m in a pretty crappy mood. It seems pretty ironic there’s an ocean between Eve and me again. Someone’s playing a joke on me.

Anyway I wanted to be alone so I could write, and now I got what I wanted. There’s not even a clock ticking in this house. I can’t stand it. You can hear the dust fall. I’m going out on the patio, where at least there are birds.

Now I’m on the patio, but still feel crappy. I need a coffee.

Now I have a coffee, but it’s no good. I don’t know how I’m suppose to describe how good it felt to see Eve after a year, when I don’t feel good because I’ve just said good-bye to her.

Hell, I’ll just fake it.

It was really great to see Eve again after so much time, especially as she intercepted me on the way to her door and led me away and didn’t want to share me with her family. I really liked it that she was selfish.

Weston has a really huge town common with horse chestnuts all around the edge, and we walked around it in the shade, trying to find things to talk about, but mostly silent. I felt like I was in a dream.   You know how I used to moon over the picture of Eve on the wall of our study in Dunrobin, month after month, dreaming and dreaming and dreaming. But now I wasn’t dreaming, yet it was more like a dream than a dream.

Durf can never see what I see in Eve, cos she hardly talks. I think she’s quiet cos her mother talks so much that Eve grew up the opposite. Of course Durf also always complains other women talk too much.   I think what really bugs him is that I stick with Eve rather than practicing the free love he’s so all fired up about, but he is right about her not talking much.

I don’t mind, cos she says a lot with her body language. I can tell if she doesn’t approve because she tenses up, and can tell if she approves because she relaxes.   I sometimes talk non-stop like a jabbering idiot, bouncing all sorts of ideas around, and she basically says nothing.

Eve has never liked my burnout Hippie friends, and in a way I understand why she worries. In February 1969 I had trouble losing enough weight for the 158 pound weight class on the wrestling team. Right after the regional’s were over, and I didn’t have to “make weight,” I went on a eating binge and weighed over 165 in only a week, but then my senior year turned into one big, never-ending party. I had a blast, but at the end of the summer I remember stepping on the bathroom scale after a shower and I weighed 138. I looked in the mirror and was scared, for my skin was all white and dry like paper and I looked like I was thirty and not seventeen. It was all the damn speed I took, I’m pretty sure.   That was why I had that picture of myself looking like death, next to the picture of Eve looking beautiful, in my study at Dunrobin: To remind me I’d better shape up. And I did shape up, and weigh 180 now and it’s all muscle. But looking good seems pointless unless it’s for some good cause, so I talked with Eve a little about what I wanted to do now that I am back in the States.

I don’t really want to get married because my parents showed me marriage was hell. I want to have a commune, and only have Eve stay with me if she wants to. I don’t want her in chains. But when I said this idea, I could see her tense up.   I’m not sure whether it is because she doesn’t want to stay with me, or whether it’s because she thinks marriage is a good thing because her folk always work out their problems after each of their fights. That’s one bad thing about Eve not talking; I’m not always sure what she disapproves of.   If I ask her she usually waffles and doesn’t answer. So I just keep talking and she keeps tensing and un-tensing.

I also talked about how I didn’t want to get a job and wanted to write. She tensed up at that because it doesn’t seem I can make any money, so I talked about people who made millions writing. (She doesn’t have to say there is no money in poetry; I’ve heard it so much from so many people I just hear it in my head and then say the answers, talking about poet-song-writers like Art Garfunkle and Rod McCuin and so on.)

Durf says I shouldn’t tell her everything, but I’d rather be honest, so I confessed about tripping the night before. She got tense about that, but relaxed when I said it was a bit of a drag and I didn’t like some things at Durf’s. I told her about Katy with the hangdog expression, for example, and said I didn’t want stuff like that at my commune. But mostly we just walked, hardly talking at all.   I was pretty tired, and just said Weston seemed very green after Boston and airports, and that she looked very beautiful. She liked that, and said she was scared that I wouldn’t like her now that her teeth are in braces. She also said a few little things about her life, such as taking tennis lessons and a driver’s education course and looking forward to having her license. She may go to art school after she graduates this year. Little things.

When we got back towards her house her brother Iz was just coming out. He was glad to see me, and drove us over here. We stopped downtown so I could get a submarine sandwich and some granola and milk and orange juice. I drank a lot of orange juice, because it cleans out your system after LSD, and we just sat out on the back patio where I’m sitting now, talking a little about the past year. After a while Iz said I looked pretty tired, and I said it might be afternoon here but it was night in England. I was hoping he would go and Eve would stay, but she’s a good girl and he’s a bit of a chaperone, and they both left. I’d told them I was going to take a nap, and maybe talk with them in the evening.

I didn’t take a nap right away, and instead got my notebook and just sat here in the afternoon sun, trying to think of a poem about how I was feeling. It was so much like a year ago, but so different. I was sitting at the same patio table, on the same patio, and, even if the birds and cicadas were a new generation, they sounded the same. Down by the pond the evening shadows were collecting and the night chorus was starting: The big frogs were low cellos and the little ones went “plonk” like breaking guitar strings, just like a year ago. However I felt so different somehow. Durf and Eve were still pulling me two ways, Durf wanting me to party and Eve wanting me to be good, but the me in the middle was changed.

I couldn’t find any words. It bugged me because I wanted so badly at Dunrobin to get away from all the studying and just have time to write, and now I had time but my brains were blank. Or not so much blank as just listening, listening, listening…and then I heard a car door slam.

I went through the house to see who the heck was in the driveway, and saw Durf getting out of his Dad’s Cadillac with a bunch of my old buddies. Durf shouted “Party time!” just like it was last summer. (Last summer we’d figure out whose parent was out, and that was where we’d have the party. Some nights there’d be three or four parties, at houses where I hardly knew what town I was in, which is why I lost so much weight.)

I was a little annoyed at Durf for having a party at my place without telling me, but Durf was always doing that, last summer.   One time he had a party here the day after I left to hitchhike up to Canada, which was a fiasco because all these people showed up and only Mother was home. Everyone was real polite with Mother and didn’t stay too long, once Mother came walking up from her bedroom and found everyone smoking dope in her living room, but Durf made it sound like I’d scheduled the whole thing, (and also like he didn’t smoke dope.) Mother wasn’t too happy with me, and I got an earful when I got back from Canada. (If I did schedule that party, I sure didn’t remember it.) I’m pretty sure it was just Durf being Durf, and now it was a year later and he was still at it, even though I’d made it pretty clear I was all jet-lagged and needed sleep.

Even if I was peeved at Durf I sure was glad to see the other guys. There was Bugsy and Stephan and Elliot, who are brainy fellows you can really rap with.   Last year they were underclassmen but now it’s their turn to have a Senior Summer. I invited them in, thinking we could sit down for a good talk, but we had hardly lit the pipe when the doorbell rang it was the Lesaumelle Brothers: Zeck; Duke; Spook; and Zooks, from up the street. They are four great guys who have lived in town as long as I have, and when I first got to Dunrobin and didn’t know anyone and was so homesick, they were four fellows I missed a ton. I had dreams about them. Just seeing them them troop in, a quartet that just was made to go together, sort of like the Marx Brothers in a movie, made me laugh even as my eyes stung with tears. Yet even before they sat down the doorbell rang again. This time it was Zapper and Needles Kirk from down the street, a couple of super-scientific brothers who are really great at wiring stereos and making fireworks and bombs and crystal meth and stuff like that.   I could see that Fred had called around.

It would have been OK if it stopped there, but the doorbell rang again and it was the Lodge brothers: Ham ‘n‘ Franks. I sort of thought, “Who the hell invited them?” Those two are always at the right anti-war rally, wearing the right L.L.Beane backpacks and boots, and I never like how they talk about politics all the time, (though Franks isn’t so bad if you can ever get him away from Ham.)   Together they are always seeing conspiracy, and if you dare disagree with them they say you work for the CIA, which is a good way to wreck a party. And, after them, the people coming in through the door started being the Wrenchheads.

I’d better explain the Wrenchheads.

Wrenchheads are the sort of guys who like to get greasy and to bloody their knuckles working under cars. They never cared about school much, and it seemed like they were shaving when they were twelve, and working real jobs and joy-riding and drinking beer when they were thirteen, which was when they started to stand out as being different from my other classmates. Meanwhile I was the youngest kid in my class, and when you’re twelve and everyone else is thirteen you can‘t help but be the runt, and Wrenchheads used to shove me about pretty good and call me a twerp and a pain, so I hated them and also hated anything to do with working on cars. But by my senior year I’d grown bigger than them and also they discovered marijuana, and knew I had the best, and all of a sudden they were over at my house and talking to me like I was a human, and like they were humans too. That was a revelation to me: Even Wrenchheads are brothers. That was the feeling of 1969, but by the time I was getting ready to leave for Dunrobin in 1970 it was wearing a bit thin. They liked to guzzle beer, and I wasn’t into that. I didn’t drink at all, but those guys could drink a beer the way I eat a piece of popcorn.

Now they came barging in, and each had a twelve-pack, and they were really pounding them down. Some had already chugged two or three just driving home from work. And the doorbell kept ringing and there was more and more of them, including some I didn’t even know. A couple fellows briefly said hi to me, but most were more glad to see each other, and sort of shouted hellos across the room to other Wrenchheads, without hardly paying attention to me, as I started trying to keep them from wrecking the joint.

It was weird, cos somehow I felt like I had to be polite and be a good host, even though I hadn’t invited them. I was sort of trying to gently tell them not to put feet on the furniture, and stuff like that, and not having much luck. They were all grimy and sweaty from hard work in July, and in no mood to do anything but make themselves at home. As I looked around I noticed not a single girl had shown up, so there was no reason for those guys to behave.

Another thing I noticed was that their beer cans were all sweating drops of water in the heat and humidity, and it was dripping down on the veneer of Mother’s expensive furniture, which is something that drives her nuts. She has masses of these little disks called “coasters” she puts under drinks at her cocktail parties, so I started hustling about sticking the little discs under the beer cans, but it was rough, cos they were opening new cans so fast. They also were lighting joints left and right, so I started hustling about handing out ashtrays.

Somehow I started feeling really dumb, like I was a prissy sissy, running about fussing about fabric and veneer, and practically hysterical when a beer can tipped over. But I couldn’t help myself. More and more of these guys were coming in through the door, and sprawling all over the place, and just doing stuff I’d never dream of doing in the Fossil’s living room. For example, one couch was pretty much full, so three guys sat up on the back of it, with their feet down on the cushions. They were wearing these big grimy work boots, and I just knew you can’t put that kind of boot on cushions in a fat cat’s expensive living room. So I knew I had to say something, even if it made me look like a prissy sissy.

Just then I noticed Curtis come in. For some reason I thought he’d be the perfect Wrenchhead to tell the other Wrenchheads they had to be a bit more fussy, cos he has never really seemed like a Wrenchhead to me.   I’ve known him since first grade, and he’s always been shy and delicate and sensitive and polite and got good grades yet let me copy his homework when I hadn’t done mine. Even when I was a runt he didn’t shove me around. He just doesn’t seem like the sort who can down six beers in an hour and then drive through the center of Weston at sixty, though the speed limit is twenty-five. He actually does stuff like that, but you get the feeling he isn’t really a Wrenchhead, he is just a visiting anthropologist, studying a tribe that interests him. So I actually asked him, back in 1969, how the heck he came to hang out with that bunch, and we had some really neat talks. It turned out his Dad only got rich enough to live in Weston by working his ass off, and he put Curtis under big pressure to work just as hard, and Curtis got tired of being sneered at for every little laziness, and just found a gang that let him be more relaxed and lazy, (though I didn’t see what’s so relaxed about zooming through Weston Center at sixty.)

Having these neat talks back in 1969 let me feel we had a sort of understanding, so I headed towards Curtis feeling I’d found a friend who could help me, but he saw me coming and looked really scared, for some reason. He’s always been shy, but now he was tilting his head back so you could see the whites over his irises.   He was stepping backwards. It’s not what you expect, when you haven’t seen a fellow in a year, and it stopped me in my tracks. I felt like something had happened the year I was away, and wanted to ask Curtis what it was, but what can you say? All could say is, “How’s it going?“ Instead of answering me he just greeted someone across the room and brushed by.

When I turned to let my eyes follow him I could see things were getting out of hand. The Fossil’s living room is pretty huge, with a ceiling two stories tall and two towering paintings over a couple of fireplaces that face each other across the wall-to-wall carpet, but it seemed like it was getting crowded, and suddenly I saw a jet of foam from a shaken beer go arching up, and come down on a bunch of guys who thought it was a damn fine joke. The Fossil’s stereo abruptly turned on blaring, and I heard the needle scratching over a 1930’s record. That’s the Fossil’s music, and no one should have had those records out, let alone be scratching them. Then I saw Duke Lesaumelle telling a story with his typical grandiose sweeping gestures, and he flung out a hand and accidentally gave a lampshade a vicious karate chop, and one of my mother’s lamps went to the floor. The chopped lamp got everyone hooting laughter, and the guys sitting in the couch lurched back in their laughter, and, with three guys sitting up on the back of the couch, it was enough to tip the entire couch over backwards with a tremendous crash.

I knew right then things were out of control.   Maybe I can understand someone accidentally tipping over a chair, but tipping over a couch? However it was just beginning.

I cannot tell you how quickly it happened. One moment I was quietly sitting on the back patio minding my own business, and the next the Fossil’s house was getting trashed.

I was really pissed off at Durf for inviting everyone, and he was glowering at me for being a party-poop, but glowered in a guilty way, as if even he knew things were getting out of hand. And if things weren’t bad enough, I could see Bugsy holding up the phone and yelling at me.   I couldn’t make out his words, over all the noise, and then I lip-read, “Eve.“

All I could think was, “O Shit. I told Eve I was going to take a nap. This is going to be damn hard to explain.” But even as I thought this I looked to the front door, and saw someone I didn’t know was opening it, and letting in these three, huge, fat bikers in black leather, with three ridiculous women in tow.

The group looked so extreme they wouldn’t pass the cutting room floor of a grade B Hollywood movie. I mean, the women had these fishnet stockings and spike heels and black leather shorts and black leather bra-tops. They had huge black eyelashes like jungle spiders. I started laughing, thinking it just had to be a practical joke, but then one of the guys turned to say something to one of the girls, and I read “Hell’s Angels,” across the back of his jacket.

I started to panic, yet still knew the time had come to draw the line. So I went marching to the three, huge, fat dudes to tell them it was my party and they weren’t invited. They had beards and looked mean and weighed well over two hundred each, and the closer I got the bigger they looked and the smaller I felt. I could feel my throat squeezing, and knew that when I spoke my voice wouldn’t be low and manly. It would constrict and be shrill, like a hysterical weenie, but I’d had enough.   Hell’s Angels or not, I had to poop the party.

Just as I got to the three, big, blubbery bastards, I got squeezed from either side. Curtis pushed by to my left and started shaking the three mobster’s hands like they were long lost friends, as Bugsy intruded from the right with the telephone receiver stretched out so far the cord’s coils were a tight line. He handed the receiver to me, and helpfully said,   “It’s Eve.” In a daze I lifted it and said, “Hello?” and my ear heard her voice say, accusingly, “I thought you were going to take a nap.” What could I say?   Nothing. All I could do is hear my mind wailing, “O God!   Get me out of this!”

Just then I noticed Curtis looking curiously up at the top of the inner door-frame. He said, “What does this little button do?”   I yelped, “Don’t!”   It gave Eve a start, at the other end of the phone, but it was too late. Curt pushed the panic button my mother had installed, just in case my Dad ever showed up at the Fossil’s. Suddenly there was this deafening, hooting alarm,   and I turned to Curtis and bellowed,   “You idiot! You just called the police!”

You’d be amazed at how quickly that party was over.   There was a stampede out the door, lots of slamming car-doors and gunning engines and squealing tires, a brief traffic jam of motorcycles and souped-up cars down by the mail box, and then the scene was suddenly deserted. The only way I knew it had really happened was that horrible, hooting alarm, blaring and blaring and blaring. I had to go into the cellar and figure out how to shut it off. Once it was finally quiet I called the police, but they said they had to send a guy out anyway. Then I called Eve, and got her mother, who was a bit freaked out. Apparently if that panic button gets pushed while you are on the phone, the call gets interrupted by a recorded voice, which says an intruder has broken into the residence and the police should be alerted. Because the last thing Eve had heard was me screaming,   “Don’t!“ her Mom had called the police.

I calmed Eve’s Mom down, but in the process she figured out my parents were still over in England. So that blew my chance to get Eve over here un-chaperoned, in a big way.   Eve’s Mom seemed real curious and wanted to keep talking, but I excused myself by telling her I had to talk to the police, and hung up. I never did get to talk to Eve.

One thing about this sort of situation is that you find out who your real friends are. The only real friends, who didn’t bail on me when the alarm went off, were Durf, Stephan, Bugsy, and Elliot. As I walked back into the living room they were waving towels and magazines, trying to blow all the marijuana smoke out the back door of the living room. Out front a police car was pulling in. I looked at my loyal pals, and decided they looked pretty guilty and shifty, with hair down to their shoulders, so I told them to stay out of sight, and walked out to speak with the police.

The next exciting episode of my life will have to wait, because I’ve been writing all afternoon and evening and now it’s dark and the mosquitoes are out and I’m beat.

I’m not sure why I have to write this all down.   I’m only up to hour 22, in this tale of my first 24 hours back in the States, and one thing is pretty obvious:   If it takes me days to describe my first hours, it’ll take me months to describe my first week. It sort of feels like it’ll take forty years to figure out what happened to everyone the year I was gone. But right now I’m thinking, “why bother?”

July 16

I ‘m up early and full of coffee and in the mood to just finish this damn story. I can only write so long before I get restless and lonely and want to head out, but I got your note of the 14th so I need to write you a quick note back before I finish this letter. You’re damn lucky I’ve got one of those prepaid airmail envelopes cos I’m getting so broke I can’t afford airmail.

There. That’s done. You’ll get that letter before this one, even though this one started before that one. So……where was I? O yeah, the police car pulls into the driveway.


Continued at:   https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/02/27/novels-teaser-part-4/

LOCAL VIEW —More Boston Snow—(Updated with Summery)

Another brutal shot of cold air came slugging into New England on Monday. The temperature was still relatively mild just before dawn at 22.8°, but headed down as an arctic front passed through. It was interesting how the flurries became squalls to our north and to our south, but we lucked out and had just a few flakes wandering about. It was enough to make Monday a day-with-snow, but not anything I had to deal with, even with a broom, which was a good thing, as I was stiff and sore from snow-blowing on Sinday, and still had some porches and paths to clear.

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Temperatures had fallen to 15° by noon and were down into the single digits in the afternoon, with a gusty wind whipping up clouds of stinging powder, despite the fact there was just enough moisture in the Sunday morning snow to form the thinnest of crusts. The snow has been amazingly powdery this winter, and we have had no crust atop the snow to speak of. Sunday only gave us a quarter inch of crust, and then there was enough powder after the brief spell of sticky snow to allow the typical wraiths to swirl and twist, dancing wildly across the pasture and then charging away down the street, despite the brilliant sunshine from a February sun climbing up toward the regions it crosses in March.

I did not have to drive my gang-of-six to kindergarten, as the schools have let out for a week of vacation. This is a “Disturbance in the Force” [Star Wars] as it makes chaos of the routine. Traditionally Massachusetts would have its vacation one week, and folk in New hampshire would work like crazy that week because lots of people used the vacation to come north to ski. Then New Hampshire would collapse as Massachusetts went back to work the following week, and have its vacation the week after Massachusetts.

This is one of those traditions that makes less and less sense as time goes by. No longer is every hill in New Hampshire topped by a rope-tow run by an old Model T engine, which was once all it took to be a “ski-area”. Lawsuits and Insurance have put all the small family-owned ski-areas out of business, and all that is left are the larger resorts, which charge so much for skiing it is actually cheaper for a young family to fly down to Florida and go to Disney World. Also many near the border now commute down to Massachusetts to work, and in the case of teachers they have a vacation at their school a week before their children have vacation in their New Hampshire School.

My wife and I didn’t have the problems of modern parents, as we raised our five kids. We didn’t have to worry about ski-areas or Florida, for we couldn’t afford that, and instead took our kids sledding or skating or ice-fishing, (and I coached a basketball team for my boys that tended to play during vacations, as well). As a landscaper and handyman, winter was a time of little business for me, and I usually had to find some night-shift job at a factory, but this still meant I was around during the day. Meanwhile my wife alternated between being a stay-at-home Mom and the recreation-director of some nearby facility either focused on the first or second childhood. We got by, however the idea of spending a hundred a week on gasoline, or two hundred a week on Childcare, would have struck us as absurd. It defeated the whole reason for getting a job, (using up the money you made), and deprived you of time with your kids as well.

For many modern parents vacation is THE time, the ONLY time, they get to have with their kids, and I can’t blame them for wanting it to be special and involve some fabulous trip to Florida. However in some cases it is the same parents who tell me they can’t afford to pay their Childcare bill on time. Hmm. (Perhaps grandparents in Florida have taken pity, and paid for the airfare, because they want to see their grandchildren.)

In any case it makes a complete shambles of order at our Childcare. Children need wildness, but also have a craving for order and routine, and vacation is disorder. The chemistry of the Childcare’s mini-society is utterly altered, as children who usually go to school stay all day, and others who usually stay all day are in Florida.

Furthermore the winter has been so hard, and involved so many “snow days”, it is not as if the kids have been spending too much time at school. The routine was a shambles to begin with, and vacation is just a shambles on top of a shambles. But never mind that. As this winter has gone on it has seemed more and more like a boxing match, where you have to roll with the punches.

To return to the subject, I did not have to drive my gang-of-six to kindergarten. Therefore I scheduled a yearly physical at my doctor’s office.

To depart from the topic,  the way that doctor’s focus on physical reality annoys me. My father was a surgeon and my mother was a nurse, and perhaps I got an overdose of that focus, and responded by retreating into the landscape of an air-head. After all, of all artists, writers are the most air-headed. Painters at least employ the physical sense of vision, and composers at least employ the physical sense of hearing. Writers employ no sense, yet make sense. (I could describe a lemon and make your mouth water, without a lemon in sight.)

In any case, because I spend so much of my time in a non-physical world, winter really annoys me. It is always hitting me with stinging snow on bitter blasts, and forcing me to deal with boring physical stuff. In the same manner, my doctor wants to force me to deal with even more annoying physical stuff. For some reason he wants to look around inside my colon. This will mean I have to miss two full days of work, one of which I will basically spend sitting on a toilet crapping out diarrhea. All I can say is, doctors sure have a weird idea of what is good for you.

To return to the topic, the winds were howling and the snow was sifting and swirling and the weather bureau was saying frostbite could set in as swiftly as 30 minutes, and the children were lobbying to stay indoors. One bossy little girl had even decided who would stay in and who would go out. I walked in and stated everyone was going out, for at least 29 minutes. The little girl shot me a baleful glance.

In actual fact, dressing to go out is not an annoying task that tries the patience of both children and myself. It is, in and of itself, an “activity” which “promotes learning” and “stimulates the development of self-reliant skills.”  (You learn to talk this jargon, when you work this business.)

Anyway, to go out in barbaric weather involves mental stuff that is more important than physical reality.  Don’t get me wrong, I keep a sharp eye out for the slightest hint of frostbite. I also keep an eye out for the benefits being outside pours upon children, and adults as well, if they only dare step out the door.

Not a single child wanted to go in after 29 minutes. In fact the little girl who shot me the baleful glance about going out was annoyed at her friend, who wanted to go in after 50 minutes.

A member of my staff took the more delicate children in as I stayed out with the hardier ones, but one by one kids headed in, until I was at last out with one little boy who was even more hardy than I was. He was having a blast, sledding down cliffs I usually would forbid children from sledding upon, but which are now quite safe because any crashing plunks the crasher into a vast pillow of deep snow. Despite powdering his face with snow over and over, (the powder melts, and wet skin increases the danger of frostbite), his cheeks remained a cheerful and healthy pink, without the mottled, purplish look that tells me it is time to go in. We only eventually went in because I myself was feeling a bit mottled and purplish.

I might have been shuddering a bit, as we came in, but that particular boy was surprisingly serene, especially when you consider he is often a hellion indoors. To me it is one more example of how people who focus on physical reality, and won’t even allow children outside when temperatures dip below 20°, are completely missing a higher reality.

The physical reality got nasty as night fell and the core of the cold came down. 20150223C satsfc20150223C rad_ec_640x480_12

As the cold suppressed a storm to our south and shunted it out to sea, temperatures dropped to the lowest levels of the winter, reaching -10.8° (-23.8° Celsius) around midnight, before the wind dropped and began shifting more to the west, and temperatures rose slightly to -9° at sunrise.

Today was a cold day, with lots of high clouds in a cold, blue sky, but less wind. I built a fire out in the pasture for the sledding children to warm by, and had to admit it looked downright odd, as it was down in a crater, four feet below the surface of the snow.  I had to to careful kids didn’t fall into the fire, as they decended to warm by it, and carved a sort of staircase in the snow to make their decent less treacherous.

However the oddest thing about today was to hear a buzz of gossip about the city of Boston holding a gathering of ministers from different faiths to pray for help, regarding the problems snow was causing. This shocked me. It sounds more like the mid 1800’s, when Boston was the most prudish city in the nation, and the center of the “Bible Belt” of that time. I had thought Boston had now become too “secular” for such an event. Curiosity had me attempt to learn more.

As far as I can tell, the gossip is based about this video.

While I must admit it is a good thing for clergy to unite, rather than backbite, and for them to speak of neighbors loving neighbors, and brotherhood, and how “We are all in this together,” but….didn’t they forget something?  I mean, um, err, isn’t prayer suppose to involve this fellow called, um, err, “God”???

It seems yet another case where the physical unity of people and peoples ignores something sublimely non-physical. In any case, the prayer didn’t work. An interesting little storm is charging up the coast, and seems, somewhat incredibly, aiming to hit Boston with up to five inches, as I, only seventy miles away,  get a few lone flakes.

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As this snow headed north to teach preachers in Boston to mention God more, when they pray, we got some southerly air, and a flurry of snow at 11:00  PM. (That keeps Tuesday from being a snow-less day.) Temperatures had fallen to 7.9°, but after the flurry arose to 9.4°.  We had a lighter flurry just after midnight (which keeps Wednesday from being a snow-less day) but now the stars are back out and temperatures have slipped back to 8.6°

The map doesn’t look all that threatening, in terms of snow, but it looks like another arctic blast is charging our way,  behind that cold front crossing the Great Lakes.

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Now it is time to quit attending to physical reality, and attend to dream-land instead. I’m only up because my left shoulder is so sore I can’;t sleep on it. That is another “healthy” thing my doctor did to me.

He advised I have a anti-pneumonia vaccine. Actually there is no germ called “pneumonia”, and the vaccine is for various types of staphylococcus bacteria. You used to be able to kill those bugs with antibiotics, but they have grown resistant.  In any case, I don’t have pneumonia, but have one heck of a sore left shoulder.

I’ll try to update this post, with information about how much snow Boston got ( if any ), tomorrow, but I must confess I’m getting tired of physical reality. Rather than update this post I may subject you to my “art”. I have a craving to finish up a chapter of my novel. If I find time, you’ll be faced with that, rather than an update. I apologize in advance.

UPDATE  —Another jab at Boston—

The snow clipped them with another two inches of snow, as we got the barest dusting. The edge of the snow was remarkably sharp.

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It is not as if 2 inches will close down Boston, but it keeps melting at bay. The bright March-like sunshine would melt away 2 inches a day, and the snow banks would gradually shrink, but the snow keeps coming. It is like jab after jab in a boxing match, but what all dread is the uppercut.  That would be a final storm where the features in the southern stream and northern stream “phase” into a big storm.  Rain would cause all sorts of problems, but a big nor’easter would utterly close the city down. I think things would basically grind to a halt until thaw did some major melting.

Actually the best site for seeing Boston’s trauma documented has been Joseph D’Aleo’s site at Weatherbell. It is well worth the price of a cup of coffee a day it costs me each day. One of the most eye-opening features has been this list of Boston’s statistics, updated regularly, and showing them get an amazing 8 feet of snow over the past month. (The red print is what is predicted, but hasn’t happened yet.) (Click to enlarge and clarify.)


The above chart shows they will actually get a thaw down there today, and that I had better get things done in the sun, before bitter blasts return.  Actually I  have a rather easy day, and may actually have time to think and write a little.

In any case, we are starting to look west to the next features in the northern and southern blasts, so I guess this “snow-event” is over. Up here it won’t look all that impressive, though it did give us our coldest temperatures of the winter. All we got was a dusting.

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The radar does show both a southern branch and northern branch feature, but the forecast shows no “phasing”.

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Because writers spend so much time in a non-physical reality they tend to stumble into or through situations which strike some as being slightly “occult”.  Back before the word “telepathy” was invented Mark Twain wrote a couple of works about what he called “Mental Telegraphy”, involving what he called “crossing letters” (among other things). He noticed, over and over, that when he sat down to write someone for the first time in months, and even years, that person would also be sitting down to write, and their letters would cross in the mail. He wondered about controlling this ability, but beyond dabbling a little he tended to feel it was something he could only observe, and not use like people used the newfangled invention called the “telephone”.

I’ve noticed the same coincidences, and it has given me the sense our thoughts do have some sort of power. If this is a truth, then prayer has power, but also wishes have power, and desires have power.  All people are walking about transmitting thoughts which form an incredible jumble in the psychic atmosphere, and make me think that a true psychic would get a headache, for it would be like listening to a radio tuned into hundreds of stations at once. (Or perhaps it would be sheer static).

If all these thoughts do have power, the various powers likely are in conflict. For example during the Superbowl half the fans are praying for one side and half for the other, creating the chaos we watch and enjoy and call “football”.

In like manner, all people’s various wishes may indeed control the weather, but because they are conflicting they create chaos. The Baptists are praying for a sunny church picnic as the Methodists pray for rain on their corn, and the thoughts collide and create a tornado.

The weather would be far better if people could agree, but people don’t. Or that is how I explain the fact it often rains on picnics despite prayers for sun.

It is only the purest Atheists and Saints that arrive at the only solution to this chronic chaos I can envision. In the case of an Atheist there is no belief that prayer has any effect, so they accept reality as it is given. In the case of a Saint they say, “Not my will but Thy will be done,” so they too are accepting the Creation as the Creator created it.

If the general mass of humanity put the Creator first, and prayed for whatever weather He wants, we’d be living in a Garden of Eden, but the Creator didn’t create us that way. He must have a fondness for chaos, or at least be indulgent towards roughly seven billion children running around creating tornadoes out of serenity.

In any case, the people of New England are getting so fed up with winter there may be a slight chance a partial unity is occurring, and the power of all thoughts are deflecting storms south and out to sea. (On the other hand, perhaps the deep snow-cover is creating an increase in the high pressure over New England.)


Actually there isn’t usually much drama in watching sea-ice, especially this time of year when the cameras are shut down and the long arctic night has blacked-out our views for months. Though the first hints of spring twilight are circling around on the Arctic horizon, it isn’t until March that the adventurers start to roam the ice and send back pictures, and the Russians land jets and set up their base. Here is a link to some pictures from last year:


While we wait for human activity to resume, the best we can do is rely on satellite information, and the best site I know of is Anthony Watt’s “Sea Ice Page” http://wattsupwiththat.com/reference-pages/sea-ice-page/

I also like the Danish Meteorological Institute Site: http://ocean.dmi.dk/arctic/index.uk.php

The Danish site gives us this graph: (Click to enlarge)

DMI2 0224 meanT_2015

This graph shows the mean temperatures north of 80 degrees latitude, and gives the correct impression it is warmer than usual up at the Pole this winter. However it is important to keep in mind the “warm” temperatures are at -25° Celsius. At these temperatures not only does any exposed ocean swiftly freeze, but salt is exuded by the freezing sea-water, forming “flowers” on the surface of smooth ice in calm conditions,  and then, when winds howl, being blown around with the snow without any ability to melt the snow. Only in May, when temperatures rise above -10° Celsius, can the salt abruptly turn snow to slush.

However the graph does show “warm” conditions, and this has occurred because much arctic cold has been exported south. In fact, if I want to see arctic sea-ice I have only to drive eighty miles to Boston Harbor.

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I am not sure whether they include Boston Harbor, when they add up the total of arctic sea ice for this graph.

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This graph suggests the extent of ice is on the low side, and is used by some Global Warming Alarmists to suggest the arctic is in a “Death Spiral.” This is largely an illusion.

One can get drawn into quibbling about where there is ice and where there isn’t any ice, however such fluctuations are quite ordinary, and tend to follow a sixty-year-cycle governed by the AMO and PDO. However, if you get sucked into such quibbling, a helpful bit of ammunition is the fact the Great Lakes are not included in sea-ice-data, but represent a large area of water, and the ice-cover on the lakes may set a modern record, this winter

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The fact of the matter is that rather than a “zonal” flow, which steers winds around and around the Pole and keeps the cold locked up there, we are seeing  “meridianal” flow this winter, which involves a jet stream so loopy that at times air from Siberia flows across the Pole, rather than around the Pole, and then heads down to my back yard.  In fact, even as I type, the thermometer on my back porch reads -10.8° Fahrenheit, which is -23.8° Celsius, which means my back porch is colder than the North Pole, where it appears to only be -20° Celsius.

The reason it is warm at the Pole this morning is because, when cold air is exported, warmer air must come north to replace it. Often this imported air comes north aloft and doesn’t show up on surface temperature maps, but when the flow is especially meridianal you can see the plume of mildness curling north, and often breeding a storm as it rises.

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This plume of warmth produced a neat, tight, little gale right at the Pole, which is wandering away towards Canada.

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Alarmists are coming up with various ideas that explain the meridianal flow as being due to warming, but in order to do so they have to turn a blind eye to the fact we have records that show us we have seen this all before. We may not have satellite records, but the Danes in particular kept records of where the edge of the ice was, due to their interests in Greenland and their fishermen. These records show a decrease in ice in the 1920’s and 1930’s was followed by an increase in the 1940’s (though the records become sparse during World War Two, when Nazis occupied Denmark and information about the sea-route to Russia became classified).

The interesting thing is how swiftly and immediately the ice responded to fluctuations in the PDO and AMO. The Pacific, though huge, has less direct imput via ocean water, and mostly effects the levels of ice in the Bering Strait.

One fascinating example of history repeating itself involves the fact that, the last time the Pacific PDO switched from “Warm” to “Cold,” it displayed an interesting glitch in smooth cycling, by reverting to “Warm” during a “spike” in 1958 and 1959. We have seen the exact same thing reoccur the past two years, and have seen the sea-ice in the Bering Strait immediately revert to low levels from high levels.

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I was surprised to see the resemblance be so similar, because all things are not equal,  during these cycle, and outside influences are throwing wrenches into the works and keeping this cycle from being a copycat of the last one. For one thing, the sun is behaving very differently, and is described as a “Quiet Sun,” and even though we are near the high point of the sunspot cycle, the past four days have shown us a “spotless” sun, (though if you magnify you can see some “specks”).

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It seems to me that the current “warm” spike is stronger than the one in 1958 and 1959, and I am expecting a decrease in the ice in Bering Strait. However it is on the Atlantic side that the real drama is taking place.

The AMO is suppose to stay “warm” another five years, but last winter and spring it displayed a short spike into “cold” territory. There was an immediate response in the sea-ice, which grew along the north and east coast of Svalbard at a time of year it was shrinking back everywhere else. Then, when the AMO reverted to “warm”, that same ice shank back at a time of year it was growing everywhere else.

I assumed things had gotten back to  normal, and we could expect the AMO to remain warm, but take a look at this January’s graph.

AMO January amo(2)

This represents a major crash, and suggests we will be seeing some major changes in where the edge of the sea-ice is this summer, on the Atlantic side. From what I could gather looking at the old Danish records, the response is far swifter than one would think it could be.  Will the same thing happen again?

I haven’t a clue about the dynamics involved. To be quite honest, I doubt anyone does. We are witnessing this change for the first time since we developed the wonderful modern tools we can employ from satellites, and developed our modern buoys as well.

It is a time to buy some popcorn, and to sit back and watch. I imagine a lot of people who behave as if they are authorities and already understand everything are going be humbled.

I did offer some ideas for discussion in this “guest essay” at WUWT:   http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/01/09/author-of-its-own-demise-musings-on-the-amo/ and think the comments include some ideas better than my own. One idea I had never even thought about involved the viscosity of water at various temperatures, and how that could influence flow as much as density.

We may be about to see how Nature pulls off one of her magic tricks, and once she shows us how it is done we might shake our heads, and wonder why we couldn’t figure it out before.

LOCAL VIEW —Powder’s End—(Updated twice, with summery)

There is the word “rain” in the forecast. True, the forecast is for 4-6 inches of snow, ending as a glaze of freezing rain before we are clobbered by another cold wave, but it seems I haven’t heard that word “rain” for the longest time. It seems impossible, after the shot of cold we just took.

The core of the cold came in around dawn Friday. Temperatures had been plunging all night with squalls of snow, with the the final flakes flying after midnight and preventing Friday from being a “snow free” day, but by the dawn’s twilight the final clouds were hurrying away, purple buffalo galloping against the stripe of orange on the eastern horizon. Temperatures had dropped to around 5°. and were down to 2° when the brilliant sun peeked over the frozen landscape, and then, despite the brilliant sun, continued down. When I dropped the gang-of-six off at the kindergarten the dashboard thermometer read zero. (My thermometer at home, and a few others on my area, read higher, because a big drift covered the bulb.)

We didn’t even try to get the children outside at our farm-daycare.  Our focus may be the outdoors, but there comes a time to surrender to reality, and with the vicious wind whipping snow like stinging sand, surrender seemed wise. The best the thermometer could achieve, despite sunshine that made you squint, was 14° (-10° Celsius).

Meanwhile all eyes turned to the next storm, to our west.

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I had to shovel out the back of my pick-up and hustle off through the cold to pick up some grain and do a few other out of town chores. One involved a visit to a bank I don’t usually use.

I saw a funny incident at that bank. A very old man came doddering in, and a young lady started to hit him with some sort of bureaucratic crap, saying that they had changed their policy and now both he and his wife had to sign a certain check for him to deposit it. It was 9° out with a howling wind and drifting snow, and the old man’s nose was blue despite his extensive scarves, a collar that engulfed his chin, and a furry hat that looked several sizes too large. The young lady was basically telling him to go home through the vicious wind and then come back through the rotten weather a second time. Though the old man’s voice was very reedy and quavering, his eyes got very regal and piercing, and the young lady stopped talking in the middle of a sentence. After looking her up and down, he picked up a pen and wrote his own signature with one hand, and then switched hands and forged his wife’s signature with the other hand. Then he handed her the check, as if daring her to say something. She didn’t dare.

The bank also had a group of young men with checks they’d gotten from people for shoveling roofs. Briefly unemployment  as dipped in this area. One topic I heard discussed was how homeowners have ripped shingles from their roofs, attempting to remove snow with long ice rakes.

I stopped at several places looking for the pucks of calcium chloride you can toss up onto roofs to melt ice-dams. The problem people are having with ice-dams is so serious that everyone was sold out, however an old-timer at a hardware store told me it is cheaper to just buy a big 50 pound bag of calcium chloride, and then, when your wife isn’t looking, you take her nylons and make a tube of calcium chloride, and lay it over the ice-dam at the edge of your roof.

The worst of this arctic shot actually headed south well west of us. Places in Kentucky smashed their all time records, which is all the more noteworthy as it is nearly March. Joe Bastardi, at his blog over at Weatherbell (and some other sites as well), are pointing out that the National Weather Bureau is displaying their political bias, and their eagerness to promote a Global Warming agenda, because they have no problem trumpeting record highs when they occur, but when an all-time-record-low is set they question the thermometers. They disallowed an all-time-record set in Illinois last winter despite the fact the thermometer seemed to work correctly, but couldn’t disallow the new record of -50° set in Maine, when that thermometer was compared to five other thermometers and proved accurate. It will be difficult to ignore the records set in Kentucky because the old records were not broken by a mere degree. They were smashed.

Not that it means the world is getting colder. It means the core of an arctic air-mass was flung south with such speed it didn’t have time to warm up.

Our temperatures dropped below zero again soon after sunset, but by then the core of the cold was past, and winds were already starting to swing around to the southwest. Temperatures dipped to -1.1° ( -18.4° Celsius) before midnight,  but now have crept up to +0.3° as I suffer my usual insomnia at 3:40 AM.

The storm is gathering to our west, with more snow in the current radar shot than appeared in the shot at the start of this post.

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I have lots to do to be ready for the next storm, but have to waste half a day taking one of those adult-education courses the State insists Child-care-professionals take. This seems a perfect example of bureaucracy run amuck .  Rather than doing what common sense would have you do, you must fulfill some requirement they dreamed up, because what else have they got to do with their time?

I’ll make the best of it, even though I often know more than my teachers. There is something to be learned from every person you meet, even if it isn’t always what they are teaching. Also I’ve been working so hard, physically, that it may do me some good to just sit for a while.

Unloading feed for my goats in that wind yesterday did make sitting sound awful attractive, especially as the snow is so deep I can’t back my truck very close to the barn.  I’m the one who should be sitting around and dreaming stuff up. I need to write a novel, and make enough money to hire a young fellow to lug grain for me. Of course, I’ve been saying that for nearly fifty years. The whole point of becoming a writer in the first place was to avoid working a real job. However I’m glad that didn’t work out, for what would I have had to write about?

I’ll update about this storms as it happens.


I was not very happy about having my Saturday stolen, especially having to hurry in the brittle chill of -3.5° daybreak to feed animals and be on the road to the western side of Southern New Hampshire. I like to potter about unhurried on a Saturday. Instead I was being tossed about in a van with my wife and three staff members, because even the more civilized State Highways are starting to be buckled by frost heaves. Furthermore it only got colder. It was below -10° in the low, flat former-farmland that cradles the large town of Keene. As the women in the van cheerfully  chattered I glowered across a landscape that was a queer mix of brilliant blue and brass, as the arctic air gave way to the advance of southern storminess.  The sky was a confusion of high clouds, speaking of warmth far away as the world beneath was frozen solid.

The class was about introducing children to the outdoors. Considering this was the entire premise behind opening our Childcare nearly a decade ago, and considering the crap the State put us through for daring to step outside of the box of institutionalized childcare where children are basically incarcerated in a jail, there is a certain irony in the fact the State now requires I be “educated” about the subject. It was one of those situations where I could say a great deal, however my wife shoots me a certain look that implores that I button my fat lips.

The class was in two parts. We had a class in October where the idea was introduced, and now we were suppose to relay our observations and results, after trying out the amazing idea of allowing children to escape the suffocation of the indoors, and run where the air is fresh and free. I was a bit cynical about what people would say, seeing as how we have had just about the worst weather on record, and childcare-providers were given just about every reason there is to stay indoors.

I was glad I kept my big mouth closed, for it turned out to be very interesting to listen to how amazed the childcare providers were about how positive the experience of allowing the children to play outside was. Duh. But I did not even feel the urge to say “Duh”, because there is something better about people discovering things for themselves than you doing the discovery for them and ramming it down their throats.

One thing I have often seen is that, when a new child comes to our Childcare, they stand around and watch the other children for a bit, before getting drawn into the play. I’d always assumed this was due to shyness, and never considered the fact they might not be used to the outdoors. However as I listened to other childcare providers I heard that the entire group of children stood about, when first faced with the outdoors. In some cases even the staff stood about. It was as if they were all asking, “Now what?” It took a day or two before they even began to run about and enjoy the outdoors. That is how alienated modern society has become from fresh air. However, after only a day or two, a sort of enthusiasm bloomed, and soon parents were remarking that all children would talk about when they got home was how much fun the outdoors was.

This is something my wife and I accepted as a basic premise. Not that we deserve a medal for anything so blatantly obvious, but it nice to see some sort of affirmation: We didn’t invent the Truth; the mystery is why others don’t see it.

Originally the class was suppose to be held outdoors, but the instructor decided against that when she saw the dawn temperature was -15° (-26.1° Celsius) in Keene. However by 10:30 AM temperatures had risen thirty degrees to +15° (-9.4° Celsius). This is still “too cold” for children to be allowed outside at State-run schools, and it was refreshing to hear many state how stupid that ruke was, in a windless calm, for +15° felt warm.

They have had less snow in western New Hampshire, only 30 inches lay in the playground as opposed to 60 inches towards the coast. However the snow was deep enough to limit the children at that particular Childcare, when they went out to play. As I watched, the 30 or so women attending the class (I was the lone male) all got busy making paths and building various shapes, as a “surprise” for the children when they came in on Monday. (My favorite was a circle with an inward-facing bench, built of packed powder, which got dubbed “the hot tub”.

I carefully avoided being helpful. My body is so achy from a week’s worth of work making my own playground child-friendly that I figured I needed a break. Instead I just watched, and was glad I kept my big mouth closed.


Temperatures rose to 21.7° (-5.7° Celsius) as the day dulled to gray. I was Home by 1:30 PM, ate lunch, and snoozed, and the snow was beginning at 3:00 when I finally got myself going. Temperatures promptly dropped to 21.0°, and then stayed within a degree of that as the day slowly darkened and the snow grew heavier.

I had to drive about a bit taking care of minor bits of business before winding up at the farm removing snow from roofs, and couldn’t help but notice the insanity of the young men. They were fishtailing about the roads recklessly, as I crept along carefully in my old truck. The snow fell in bursts, with a half inch in ten minutes, and then a spell of light snow before the next burst. I passed one field where young men were going wild in snow mobiles, and then at the farm, as I worked in the deepening darkness, I could hear the snowmobiles whining like deranged mosquitoes off in the distance.

I used to really hate the noise, the disruption of the peace, caused by snowmobiles. I prefered the quiet where you can hear the sound flakes make as they land.  Oddly, I found my feelings had changed.

The economy has been so bad I heard few snow mobiles, up until a week ago. Then young men were able to find work shoveling off roofs. Apparently, rather than being wise and putting their money in a jar and saving it, they bought gas for their snow mobiles, and are being foolish.  Why does that make me smile?

The radar showed snow decreasing in a more westerly band, and increasing in a band closer to the coast.

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Temperatures have remained level all night, and are at 21.2° at 2:30 AM. The snow seems to be slackening off, and the western edge os approaching. We seem likely to escape with only three inches. Boston continues to have its odd karma, and snow still looks heavy down there.

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The extreme cold looks to be hanging back behind a temporarily stationary front back over the Great Lakes. That front will charge south and have us back below zero on Monday night, but it looks like we’ll get a day of rest this Sunday. It might even get above freezing, which will feel like fifty to the frost-bitten populace of New England. Weekend after weekend we’ve had storms, but it looks like this Sunday we’ll at least manage a church service.

The Great Lakes are freezing up, despite the fact the cold has been centered over us and not them, this winter. Last winter they got the extreme cold, yet we are seeing as much ice as last year, (perhaps because the water was colder to begin with.) This is especially noticeable on Lake Ontario, which is closer to the center of this year’s cold, and which has more ice than last year.  Storms and strong winds have torn at the ice and led to decreases, but still the ice cover increases. This does not bode well for a balmy spring.

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A very weak wave rippled along the front as it pushed by yesterday morning, giving us a final flurry of snow, before the clouds broke and we got a kindly Sunday.

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Even though Boston got heavier snow, it was mixed with enough sleet and freezing rain to reduce amounts to something like an inch and a half. Nonetheless they are nearing an all-time-record for snow-in-a-single-winter, and have completely smashed their record for snow-in-a-single-month, despite the fact February has fewer days. (These records only go back to around 1870, and also I think they didn’t fuss so much measuring a half inch of snow, back in the old days. However they have broken the snow-in-a-single-month record by more than a foot.) Boston Harbor is choked with sea-ice.

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There is sea-ice all the way down to inlets in Virginia. I wonder if they include it in the “sea-ice totals”. Maybe not, as I suppose it doesn’t count as “arctic” and they are measuring arctic sea-ice.” But we certainly have been included in the arctic, the past month.

However yesterday was different. It was a brief break. We managed a church service, and I greatly enjoyed getting out of my grubby farmer clothes, even if I was back in them three hours later and back warring with the snow. To some it may seem quaint, rustic and even primitive to congregate and sing 200-year-old songs praising a Creator some doubt exists, but speaking for myself, it was a relief, and a joy.

Then it was back to the battle. I’d say we had 3-4 inches of fluff, very unusual as it came on a south wind, and drifted places (such as porches) that are usually protected from snow. As I cleaned such a porch I had a vivid memory of being a small boy back in the 1950’s, and hearing my mother remark, “This is very unusual. We don’t usually get snow on a south wind.” It gave me the sense we were back to a place we were sixty years ago, in a sixty-year-cycle.

My up-the-hill neighbors are getting a bit desperate, as the oil-delivery-man is a bit of a weeny and will not zoom up their drive like his predecessor did, and turn around in a vast flat area at the top, and instead insists upon creeping up the hill backwards. To be blunt, I am better at backing up than this fellow is, and I am not all that good at it. He veers into snowbanks, and churns the wheels a little, and then gives up in trepidation over the prospect of “getting stuck.” He insisted they widen the drive, so they fought back the snowbanks. Then he insisted they sand the driveway so they sanded it.  Now he apparently is saying the packed powder is too deep, and they must scrape down to the pavement.  (I doubt it will do any good, for even if the pavement was bare and dry, the fellow is pathetic, when it comes to backing-up.) In any case they have now spread hundreds of pounds of salt, which had no effect at first, because salt will not melt snow when temperatures dip below 20 degrees. Then, yesterday, temperatures rose above twenty, and the driveway, which had been paved with a half-foot of packed, squeaky snow it was easy to drive over, turned into six inches of a sort of dry slush, which they were attempting to shovel away. I took off my Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes, put on my grubby-farmer-clothes,  and went out to join them. I likely violated commandments involving Sunday being a day-of-rest, but gleaned a few points for loving-my-neighbor.

Having already broken the commandment about resting on Sunday, I headed over to our farm-childcare to snow-blow the entrances and exits and parking area. The roads were wet, for the salt which formerly had no effect was starting to work all over town, and it gave one the sense we were experiencing a thaw. No such luck. Even in the brightest and sunniest part of the afternoon we couldn’t quite break freezing, only achieving 31.6°. (-0.2 Celsius). However the slush that was created needed to be dealt with, as, if you don’t take care of it, it turns to rock when the cold returns. (I think the salt actually drains away as a sort of brine, leaving a slush behind that is salt-free.)

No one seemed to be taking a day-of-rest. Everyone seemed determined to avoid letting the snow get ahead of them. I saw no signs of the April-attitude, which doesn’t bother with clearing up snow because everyone knows the sun will melt it in a day or two. We are not there yet, and there seems to be an unspoken understanding that everyone needs to keep fighting. We can handle 3-4 inches of snow, but it is like treading water. Everyone knows we cannot handle a big storm. There is simply no place to put the snow.

However it does no good to worry about what might not happen. You deal with the cards you are dealt. As I finished snow-blowing, and sudden silence descended, I looked west to where the orange twilight was draining into the sky, and listened, and heard not even the sound of snowflakes falling. There were no snowmobiles roaring weekend joys, for the weekend was over, and mine was the last snow-blower to quit. All I could hear was the silence of a world smothered by snow.

There was no roaring of oncoming arctic air, though that is in the forecast. In fact even now, as I write this insomnia report, temperatures have only dipped to 21.7°. We are still in the lull before the next onslaught of winter.

The map and radar shows a line of light snow, as the arctic air closes in, but the night is still still, and the stillness suggests a song.

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This sort of arctic front can bring us unexpected snow, as the sun is high enough to add uplift and turn a flurry into a squall, but it isn’t here yet, and I am content to simply listen to the silence, before the pines again begin roaring.

The moonless night feels draped by pearled moonlight.
The once-cold stars now have twinkling eyes.
Something is happening out of my sight;
Something out of my mind now softens sighs.
Under the drifts of deep drowning snows
A simpleness stirs. It’s nothing fancy.
It’s old. It’s what a mother knows
Before the father knows of pregnancy.
It’s the first stirrings of sap down in roots
Before the first drop plinks in a bucket.
It’s an earthquake, but lawyers in sleek suits
Can’t feel it, or else sense and say, “Fuck it.”
Though forecasts are cold, it’s forecasting mirth.
It’s a silence utterly altering earth.

LOCAL VIEW —Fighting the Crab—

This is our third straight day with snow, and I think it is starting to get to people. There is a crab that resides in even the most sophisticated and the most serene, and a hard winter has a way of bringing it out.

Not that we have that much to complain about. On Tuesday we only got a dust of snow, as the southern-track feature slipped out to sea. Behind it temperatures sank under clear skies to -6.5° (-21.4° Celsius)  on Wednesday morning, however they swiftly rebounded as the weak high pressure crested over us, and were up to 8° an hour after the sun rose. Looking west at the snow associated with the northern-track feature, one could hope the snow would get wrung out by the mountains, and we might get a snow-free day. 20150218 satsfc

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By afternoon I was starting to have doubts, as the light winds shifted around to the south, and I could see tiny spots of cumulus in the sky were rapidly expanding. Still, it seemed mild, with temperatures up to 21.2° (-6.0° Celsius), especially with the February sun beaming. I thought to myself that though the wind might bring up some ocean air, it is hard to have bad feelings about south winds. However the forecast was for colder weather, so I was out by the woodpile, spitting fat logs to four or six thin logs, as small wood burns faster and puts out more heat in a hurry, which is what you want when it is below zero.

I spent a lot of time just leaning on my maul and admiring the sky, and noticing how the sun was still fairly high when it would have been settling into the trees in December, and was aiming to settle more to the west than southwest. There was plenty to feel glad about, except the cumulus kept expanding, and to the south I could see they were getting thick.  Then the flakes started drifting down, as an area of snow appeared out of the blue, right above us on the radar, far ahead of the line of snow associated with the northern-track feature’s cold front.

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This area of snow expanded south even as radar showed it moving north, and another one appeared further east to powder poor Boston. I didn’t have time to figure out the causes, but I could tell the weather bureau was nervous. The fat flakes seemed to be tapering off after a half inch, as I went to bed early, but in the dead of night the alarm on my weather radio went off and, when I bothered wander from bed to check on my way to the bathroom, there was this cheery message:

Heavy snow likely across parts of the area tonight through thursday … .a trough of low pressure will extend inland overnight. This feature will be the focus for heavy snowfall which will continue into thursday. The heaviest snows will be localized… However widespread 5 to 10 inches is expected across most of the area.

It sounded to me like a Norlun Trough, which are notoriously difficult to figure out. Or maybe it was a “vort max” arriving with the front. At 1:00 AM in the morning I was in no position (or condition) to find out. I was just glad I wasn’t some poor intern stuck with the graveyard shift at the weather bureau, wired on way too much coffee, with the responsibility of making the forecast. I imagine the boss would not be too happy if he was consulted at 1:00 AM, but would also be displeased if the forecast was blown. It was not a happy position for a rookie to be in. Or so  I imagined, yawning on my way back to bed, and conceding I had no idea what actually was going on behind the scenes. In any case, a forecast was a forecast, so I girded my loins and went back to bed preparing to do battle in the morning.

I heard a plow pass in the morning, and dressed without bothering to awake. I can practically snow-blow-the-Childcare-before-opening in my sleep, I’ve done it so often this winter. As I grabbed my portable weather radio and sleep-walked out the door I expected a cold blast to awake me, but it had only dropped to 17.4° (-8.1° Celsius), which is actually warmer than a lot of our recent daytime highs. What did awake me was the fact the snow I scuffed through on my way to my truck through did not seem deep at all. It was around two inches of pablum fluff. Then, as I listened to my weather radio on my one-mile-drive to the farm, all the alarms and warnings seemed to have been “disappeared”. Heading down the dark road the farm, I did find myself behind a plow, and I wondered if he too had been torn from a warm bed by alerts and warnings which had disappeared.

The plow did little but push the snow up the banks at the side, only to have the snow slide back down again after its passage. Until it came to a driveway. Then the snow had space to go, and surged into the nicely cleaned entry. I suspected a lot of homeowners were going to be crabby when they arose. I wasn’t, because it made my getting up early have more meaning. I would not have bothered to snow-blow only two inches of pablum, but cleaning the entry and exits of a foot of packed-powder-rubble is a bother that must be attended to, for some of the parents arrive to drop off their children in tiny cars with around four inches of clearance, and can be halted by small amounts of snow.

Once I had the entrance and exit cleared I could have shifted the snow-blower into sixth gear, but that would have involved striding too fast, and waking up all the way. So I sauntered in third gear, so well dressed against cold that it didn’t wake me a bit to gradually be powdered white by drifting snow. In fact I sort of liked it, as when I’m covered in snow the beautiful young mothers look upon me with a mixture of awe, pity, and tender sympathy, as I greet their children with icicles hanging from the ends of my mustache.  I look like the hard working owner, suffering to ensure the customer doesn’t suffer, so please don’t inform them that after years of this nonsense I have made darn sure I wear incredibly warm clothing, and am as snug as a bug in a rug, and am so comfortable I am having trouble staying awake.

One man was back from a three week trip to Idaho, where he is working hard to open a new branch of his business, and he was looking around with a sort of disbelief at the towering snowbanks, and the deep paths cut so children can run in the playground, which have appeared in less than a month.  When he left we only had two inches.

I gathered from him  they have had a lot of Chinooks out in Idaho, and it has been a kindly winter without the deep snows that used to trap pioneers and cause cannibalism. The last thing he expected was to come home and discover the jet-stream has swung the Rocky Mountain Snows to to New Hampshire Hills and Boston Streets. (We haven’t resorted to cannibalism yet, but some are becoming extremely crabby.)

As the fellow looked around in disbelief he didn’t seem the slightest bit crabby. I awoke slightly, because I saw wonder in his face. Sometimes you forget, when you are living midst a legend, that there is wonder involved. Rather than thinking anything is wonderful you just get crabby.

The only wonder I felt was a wondering about where the arctic air was. The wind was still south, and it felt mild out. It had cleared off, and all the branches were heaped with fluff in the morning calm, and when the first south winds stirred, veils of powder came sifting down through the golden sunshine. After I’d delivered my gang-of-six to kindergarten I stopped in to check the maps at home. It looked like the cold front’s snows were moving off through Maine, and the front was south of us, but the air felt so unnaturally kindly I could not help but suspect they’d left the true arctic front off the map.

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The fact the map had no arctic front got me wondering about how it is fronts can appear and then get “disappeared”, in the same way weather alerts and warnings can appear in the dead of night and then be “disappeared” at dawn. I entertained myself by imagining various scenarios at the weather bureau this morning. One scenario had the boss charging in and threatening to fire everyone, and another scenario had the boss rushing in to placate a bunch of crabby empoyees before they all quit the graveyard shift to become Climate Scientists, because Climate Scientists never have to work graveyard shifts, get to go to meetings in Bali, and will be dead before anyone figures out their forecasts are wrong.

I don’t know why my mind goes off on these junkets. I suppose I’m not awake yet. I certainly have enough crabby scenarios right before my eyes, and don’t need to go so far afield.

The fellows who have to deliver mail and propane and fuel oil in this landscape of gigantic snowbanks are starting to lose it. Their sense of humor is starting to quit. I don’t care how big, tough and strong they may ordinarily be, they have developed the whine and petulant attitude of a spoiled three-year-old. I get quite enough of that at my Daycare, and sure don’t need it when I go out to stand by my mailbox when the mailman arrives.

My wife, myself, and my middle son have worked long and hard to carve away a huge snowbank to a degree where you can see the mailbox, but the snippy, infantile mailman (who is usually quite different) stated our lilac bushes were pressed down and might scratch his car. If we didn’t cut them back he wouldn’t deliver our mail.

I was going to tell him lilacs are a symbol of spring and of hope, and if he thought I was going to hack away at beautiful bushes so he could be lazy, then he could take his government job and…but my wife suggested I just cut a few branches. I suggested she do it, as the thin slips we rooted a quarter century ago now have trunks as thick as my arm, and the branches the postman wanted clipped can’t be snipped with a clipper, but require bulky shears, and my shears got left out in the rain and are rusted solid. After some further discussion I found myself wasting my precious time looking for where the heck I put my penetrating oil. Then I had to loosen up the rusted shears. Then at last I clipped off some big branches. I avoided becoming crabby by thinking the mailman would be happy, my wife would be happy, and it might be a cool thing to do if I forced some lilac branches to bloom in a vase. Just then I saw the oil delivery man attempting to back up the driveway that I share with a neighbor up the hill.

I’d thought it was odd, yesterday, when I saw my neighbor-up-the-hill out snow-blowing when we hadn’t had any snow. He explained he had to widen his driveway or the oil wouldn’t be delivered. Now the deliveryman made a most desultory effort, and when his tires spun a little, he gave it up. My neighbor-up-the-hill came down, but the deliveryman was adamant. He was not going to back up a drive that was six inches of packed powder. It had to be scraped down closer to the pavement.

I was going to tell the guy he was wimp, and rather than timidly backing up he ought just go gunning up the hill forward, because there was a nice space at the top where he could turn around. This time I did not need my wife to tell me to reconsider.

The simple fact of the matter is that these guys have been working seven-days-a-week for a month now. When the fellow came to deliver propane at my house last week he was amazingly grateful I had actually shoveled a path to the tank. Usually they have to wallow their way through snow up to their waists. They always back their trucks into situations, because if they run into problems with traction it can be next to impossible to back out, and they’d rather be facing foreward as they retreat.

With temperatures averaging a good ten degrees below normal,  many of their customers are freaking out about running out of fuel, but some people freak out and demand tanks be refilled when they are only a little less than halfway empty. The fellow who delivered propane to my house recounted that, after backing his truck as far as he dared up a steep drive, he could barely reach the tank by dragging the truck’s hose out as far as it would go through deep snow, and then he discovered the tank was at 45%.

Furthermore, they are not government employees, like the mailman. They have no fat pension paid-for-and-guaranteed-by-taxpayers to look forward to. Rather they were working for the now, salivating over overtime pay. I myself may avoid paying my staff overtime like the plague, but I do understand working for the now.

In any case, the oil delivery man whined like a three-year-old, and did not deliver to my neighbor-up-the-hill, and left him and his partner shoveling away at the  PPP (packed-powder-pavement) which the snow-blower wouldn’t touch. They were talking about spreading lots of sand and salt and Calcium Chloride, as I headed indoors to slurp my wife’s wonderful soup and perhaps relax by sitting at this computer a bit before my shift at the Childcare. I got the wonderful soup (actually more of a stew) into my system, but as I sat down the phone rang. It was another neighbor, alarmed by cracks in her ceiling, and afraid her roof was overloaded with snow.  I told her I’d look at the cracks on my way to work, and, with a sigh, left my chair.

As I entered her house I was surprised to see her husband lounging by the TV, which had a screen so large it made me feel like a midget. He explained she had been watching the Weather Channel, which, in the true spirit of sensationalism, was making it sound like half the structures in New England would collapse due to overloaded roofs. Then he went back to watching a show about fishing for tarpon in Florida. It looked so nice and warm I was tempted to sit beside him, but his wife said I should forgive him because he was zoning out before work. (I wondered if it occurred to her I might need to do the same.) I wound up scrutinizing a thin crack atop the junction of a a doorway’s wooden header and the horsehair plaster of an old-fashioned wall.  With the authority vested to me as a non-husband male, I suggested it was likely due to the expansion and contraction caused by heating and cooling, and not snow on the roof. She was ever so relieved, though I was talking through my hat.

In fact it is not merely the Weather Channel freaking out about snow on roofs. Insurance companies are freaking out about paying for collapsed buildings, and in a strange desperation, (wherein they actually pay rather than collect), are offering homeowners $500.00 to have their roofs freed of snow. They have to do this because people are hurting and will not even pay the $100.00 some guys will charge to risk life and limb shoveling up where sane people don’t go. (I used to do it for $50.00, but that was 1995.)

Our local economy includes highly skilled construction workers, but they have been hurt by whatever Washington DC calls our current economic state. Even if it was a mild winter, this statistic called “housing starts” would depress lots of locals, and with temperatures near record lows and four feet of snow on the ground, the idea of starting a house is absurd. Just imagine digging a basement. Lots of guys just depart for warmer places, and those who stay look for any work they can find, even if it is shoveling a roof for a hundred.

The five hundred offered by insurance companies is quite an economic boom, unless you are a home owner who has no insurance, in which case you abruptly can find no one who will shovel your roof for a reasonable fee. ($20.00/hour.)

The insurance companies are basically offering people $100.00/hour to shovel off a roof. My middle son took a day off from his job at a coffee shop to make far more by helping my oldest son shovel roofs. Neither has offered to shovel my roofs, for free, out of the goodness of their hearts, for some odd reason.

This is just more wonder, as far as I’m concerned, and is part of a wonderful winter. I see no reason to get all crabby. If need be, I’ll shovel my own roofs. I’m waiting to see if the possibility of rain next Sunday has any basis in fact, especially as the same computer-forecast suggests it might be -15° (-23.1 Celsius) on Saturday.

What I am most concerned about is my business,  which is Childcare, and that involves keeping kids happy. Today this difficult endeavor involved sledding. Sledding is great, as it keeps children warm in cold weather, but sledding is difficult in four feet of powder snow, as the sled just sinks, and fails to head downhill, even on a steep slope.  For this reason I trudged about in snowshoes, packing the powder on the slopes. This afternoon we tried out my packed-powder trails, and while sledding was still too slow to be any fun on the shallow slopes, the children lined up to try out the new death-defying triple-black-diamond slope, (over the jagged teeth of rocks two feet tall, nicely buried under four feet of snow.) It was not entirely a success, as the slope was too steep and the children tended to wipe out. However they had a blast even if they didn’t make it all the way to the bottom, so the experiment was a success, in terms of children getting the fresh air of the outdoors, and gaining laughter, and staying warm even though the temperature was below freezing.

By this point I had woken up. For one thing, the smaller children insisted I had to sled with them, so they sat in my lap as I went screaming down a short, steep, triple-black-diamond slope. I doubt it was good for my spine, but it did wake me up.

As I woke I became aware the bright sun was fading in an odd yellow haze, and then abruptly we were in a snow squall. The children were so absorbed in sledding they hardly seemed to notice, but I noticed visibility was less than a quarter mile, winds were over 30 mph, and temperatures were definitely sinking below the day’s high of 23.7° (-4.6° Celsius). In fact we were, at times, experiencing “blizzard conditions”, which might have concerned people who watch the Weather Channel, but not a little boy on his third birthday. He’d rather keep sledding.

As the supposedly responsible adult in this situation, I kept a sharp eye out for any signs of hypothermia or frost-bite, and sent the frailer children one by one back to the member of my staff who was back at the Childcare, supposedly scrubbing and disinfecting the place for tomorrow, but increasingly dealing with wet clothing and boisterous youth.

Even as the squalls faded to light snow the wind was so gusty that great clouds of whirling white swirled and stung faces, and before the sallow sun sunk I decided the remaining sledders ought head back, and we all trooped indoors, even as the parking lot filled with a traffic jam of arriving parents. After an amazingly chaotic half hour,  quiet descended, as the final few children drew and colored at a table, my employee vacuumed, and I wondered why anyone should be crabby about bad weather.

Day after day we get hit, over and over, by stuff that makes a legend be legendary. It is like a boxer being hit by jab after jab. It doesn’t take a single knock-out punch to get your eyes starting to cross. Still, I see no reason to get crabby.

The forecast is now for bitter cold. Indeed temperatures are sinking through the teens this evening. The maps shows the squalls departing and the cold arriving. (Notice how the squalls, uplifting and departing out to sea, do not fail to give poor Boston a solid jab,)

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I am certain that, if a person is determined to be crabby, they can find numerous reasons. You can not see it, in the above map, but there is a surge from the south behind the huge, extremely cold arctic high pressure in the center of the USA which is threatening to freeze orange groves in Florida. The counter attack behind this cold wave could give us, in this landscape of powder snow, a thing called “rain”, on Sunday.

Rather than worry about “roof collapse”, what I am thinking is that this might be the turning point. The snow might start shrinking, from now on, until a day in May when all we are so crabby about now simply ceases to exist. In which case, rather than being crabby, we should be taking pictures, to document how amazingly deep the snow, once upon a time, actually got. Rather than crabby,we should be filled with wonder about the legend we have the privilege to witness.

(Not that the snow might not get even deeper. I think it will. But, even if it doesn’t, we ought be filled with wonder.)

I doubt I can adequately say what I’m glimpsing. It is something the boxer Cassius Clay (Mohammed Ali) described, when telling of the beauty a staggered boxer experiences when still on his feet after getting an uppercut to the jaw, when he is still sensible despite seeing stars and hearing birdies. There is a beauty in battle. It is a non-modern thing Vikings enthused about, when they spoke of war as being what heaven must be like. It is contrary to the sissified concepts inherent in “political correctness”, which thinks happiness is dependent on weather like a day in May. Such a joy is weak and limited, however real Joy cannot be contained.

White snow stole sky’s azure, west of the bright
Predawn twilight. The pasture stretched out pale blue
Until the sun peeked through trees, and its light
Shot out long stripes that draped a salmon hue.
A man could have stood and seen his blue shadow
Reach across snows to the pasture’s far side
But no man stood out there. I alone know
The swift streaks of pink sun and blue shade I spied.
Then it was gone. It had lasted only
As long as half of the sun was risen.
Do I sing this sonnet because I’m lonely
And must share or else feel my heart wizen?
No, I’m not alone, for sooner or later
All hearts sing applause to daybreak’s Creator.


We did have a flurry before dawn this Friday morning, so today can’t be called snow-free, but the daylight might be snow-free, as the last shreds of cloud faded away with the sunrise. However the wind is roaring and it is amazingly cold, as temperatures fell all night and even after the sun rose, dipping a hair below zero just before 8:00. They have limped back up to 5.9° (-14.5° Celsius) at 10:00 AM. This blast of cold will set records, so the legend continues. However this particular “snow-event” is over, though the wind is drifting snow into the roads. We await the next “snow event”, which will come tomorrow and may change to rain on Sunday. That will be my next post.

This snow-event stretched over four days and involved a southern branch feature and northern branch feature that never “phased”.  All together it gave us only around three inches of snow, but it was one more jab to the chin of a poor boxer starting to get cross-eyed.

The final map and radar shows the old storm does appear to finally be “phasing” way up in Labrador, which is giving us our vicious winds, and also shows our next snow-event starting to get its act together far to our west.

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LOCAL VIEW —Of Mice and Messes—(updated)

The arctic blast after the last blizzard faded away last night, and temperatures started to plunge towards zero in the starry calm, but even at sunset the smudge of high clouds could be seen streaming up from the southwest, and as they crept overheard, snuffing out the stars one by one, temperatures stopped falling at 0.5° (-17.5 Celsius) at around ten o’clock, sparing us the indignity of another subzero night. Though the forecast was only for a dusting this far north, there was a general cynicism about the weather bureau’s ability, and nervousness about the southern-branch storm “phasing”  with the next Alberta clipper in the northern-branch. After all, the last blizzard exploded out of a northern branch feature wirhout any help from the southern branch, but this time the south was offering up lots of juicy help.

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Daybreak saw temperatures had edged past 2.7° (at 5:00 AM) and a gray sky, but the southern-branch storm was sliding away out to sea safely to our south, as the northern-branch feature dawdled behind over Lake Superior, refusing to “phase”.

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This does not mean we are off the hook yet, as that northern-branch clipper could brew up some hefty squalls coming through, but for the time being we can breathe a sigh of relief and get on with cleaning up the mess from the last storm without the mess being compounded by the next one.

Of course, I’ll be too busy cleaning up to write before this evening. However when I do write I intend to describe aspects of the mess, one of which is a population explosion of field mice, who have been having a grand old time under all the snow, buffered, as it were, from the snooping noses and toothy grins of foxes, the talons of owls,  and even the slinking of ermines.

The temperature is up past 10° and the bright February sun is fighting to burn its way through the gray smudge to the south, at 10:00 AM.


For a time this morning the clouds all seemed to be heading off to the east, gray to the south but a high and silvery mackerel-sky edge overhead, with the sky blue to the north, and it seemed we’d get clearing and more of the bright February sun everyone seems to crave.

Not that people haven’t adapted astonishingly to winter. It was by no means warm this morning, but because the wind had ceased parents were far less bundled than you’d expect for 5°, as they dropped of children at our Childcare. The exception was one young mother who was completely wrapped up and still shuddering, because she’d just come back from the Bahamas and, while a trip there may be a beautiful break to winter blahs, the body’s metabolism slacks off in the warmth,  and it takes at least a couple days to get it back in gear. However that is the price one pays for escapism. Every form of refuge has its price.

The rest of us, who rather than tanned golden are green with envy, derive a certain amount of smug satisfaction watching the returnees shudder, but we don’t walk around with our jackets open to rub it in. We are simply so mugged by all the extra work that winter clobbers us with that we can’t find the time to button our coats unless we absolutely have to.

Today my extra work was to snow-blow the paths back through the playground. It was not a matter of blowing a foot of snow that had fallen into the bottom of the paths, which I’d cut through three feet of snow. For the most part the roaring wind had filled all the cuts to the brim, and the playground looked flat, though the edges of the earlier cuts could be dimly traced in the surface in a few places, where the wind had scoured the fresh foot of snow entirely away.

The wind was so strong it littered all the streets with dead twigs and small branches. Also many beeches and some oaks don’t shed their leaves even though they are dead and brown. (I’ve never figured out what ecological advantage is involved in clinging to dead leaves, and it is particularly baffling because trees of the same species sometimes hold on to dead leaves and sometimes don’t, and occasionally even different branches of the same tree chose differently.) In any case they shed many of their browned leaves in the gale, and they swirled incongruously with the drifting snow, as if October got mixed up with January.  However odder was what appeared to be little stems of green grass poking up through the top of the snow, as if we’d only had an inch and I’d neglected to mow a final time, last fall. However grass would be brown by now, and the flat surface of the playground was benearh three and four feet of powder. What the green things were was the individual needles of White Pine, (usually attached in grouping of five to a bunch, to twigs,) which the howling winds had plucked from pines and carried hundred of yards downwind.

I was not entirely happy to be facing the job I faced. After all, only a month ago kids could run about that 130 by 100 foot playground without me needing to snow-blow at all. However when the snow is deeper than the kids are tall, a new job is created. And it is not easy, because the blower is designed to drive across a pavement of asphalt, not powder snow packed by little feet, and it is built to handle at most two feet of snow, not four. Rather than walking behind a self-propelled machine I had to push it, as it kept churning its wheels into powder pavement and bogging  down. I had to fight with it and wrestle with it until my arms felt like noodles, and even then I’d only recreated 80% of the maze I blithely criss-crossed the playground with back when the snow was only a couple of feet deep. I didn’t even attempt the path out to the sledding hill in the pasture.

For that I strapped on a pair of snow shoes. I needed to tramp down some trails, because the powder is so powdery sleds just sink and go nowhere, in it.

Usually we would at least have a day or two above freezing, with the thaws creating a crust on the snow, by February. Amazingly, this year we’ve just had powder on powder on powder. My snowshoes sunk ten inches,  as I walked to and fro, tramping down trails. Soon my legs felt like noodles.

I thought the children would run about in the maze I created in the playground as I did my boring chore, but for some reason a bunch trooped along behind me. They were able to walk in my snowshoe tracks without sinking. Perhaps they enjoyed getting further than a hundred-thirty feet away from a house. They were quite vocal about how I should walk faster, and had all sorts of ideas about sledding trails I should stamp down.

One idea I accepted was to put in a triple black diamond sled trail. My wife may veto it, when she sees it. Ordinarily it is littered with large stones and small boulders, as farmers for 250 years used it as a place to dump rocks they removed from the tiny pasture further uphill, however four feet of snow has turned it into a smooth and very steep slope.  Walking up and down it a couple times had me leaning over with my hands on my thighs, huffing and puffing.

You might think that was enough exercise for an old geezer like me, but I put together a fifteen foot long snow-rake yesterday, to rake four feet snow from roofs before the snow collapses structures.  Some of the roofs are “snow-shedding” roofs, designed to spare me this trouble, but when the snow is powder on powder on powder, such roofs don’t work.

I didn’t get very far. Those roof-rakes employ muscles I never knew existed. Raking and hoeing in a spring garden often makes me ache, for the muscles that pull-towards-you get little use the rest of the year. However a garden’s rake and hoe are only five feet long, not fifteen, and you are only lifting them slightly above ground level, not way up high to a roof.  In fact I felt like a wimp, I tired so swiftly. Not that I’ll pay some bum $500.00 to do the job for me, but I will procrastinate a trifle.

The thing about all this work is that it isn’t necessary. It is all a big bonus you get when you live in the pristine landscapes of Currier and Ives, and Norman Rockwell. It looks lovely to people who come north to ski, and they get this bizarre fixation that it is easy to live here. The locals warn them, “It’s a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live here”, but they cannot be dissuaded, and buy a shack for three times what it is worth. The local folk can’t afford to buy a house, until after a winter like this one. Then there are plenty of places going darn cheap.

After a winter like this the local folk are glad to see the first black flies, but, to a newcomer, stepping outside when the snow finally fades in May, and immediately being swarmed by a hoard of biting bugs, drops the sales price of their “chalet”  (IE “shack”) another 10%.

Local folk like a winter like this one, because it means they might be able to afford a home, but it is a long haul until spring, and in the mean time you have to work, work, work, as it snows, snows, snows.

Which brings me to the subject of this nasty critter:

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Photo Credit: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/202310208235192486/

Yes, yes, they are cuter than a button. And, if you are camping like a hermit in the woods, it is a salve to your loneliness to befriend a single mouse, and feed it some crumbs. However, in a winter like this one, protected from predators by four feet of snow, they don’t breed like rabbits. They are faster. Soon there are so many they exhaust their natural food supplies, and pop up all over the place, which is very good news for foxes, who haven’t been able to find many with four feet of snow in the way, and are gaunt and starving. The hungry owls can fly away south, but the foxes are stuck here.

Ordinarily the foxes take care of all the stupid members of each mouse generation, but four feet of snow have allowed lots of stupid mice to breed stupider mice, and if a fox can avoid starving to death until mid February, all of a sudden he or she is midst a cornucopia with stupid mice popping up all over the place.

The smarter mice all head for human abodes. They find the smallest hole in your foundation and move in where it is nice and warm, and there are all sorts of snacks on shelves in your kitchen. It is such a nice place that they swiftly raise a few generations, and abruptly you start to notice mouse-droppings, (little black grains like a grain of rice, but half the size), on counters, shelves, and perhaps beside your toothbrush on the bathroom sink. Mice suddenly are not cute any more.

We were spared this problem at our Childcare because, rather than mice, an ermine moved in.  My wife got quite a shock when she stepped into the back shed with some trash for the trash can, and saw the little white weasel looking at her with a critical expression, but I did not mind at all having that creature scuffling about behind our walls.

The only better predator would be a tiny shrew. Half the size of a field mouse, they have to eat like crazy to fuel their fierce metabolism. They need a mouse a day to keep going, which is like a human eating an entire pig every day.

Unfortunately no shrew moved in after the ermine moved on, and our Childcare abruptly is facing an invasion of field mice. For some reason I am to blame, and I am expected to be the one who solves this problem.

This has gotten me thinking. I am a manly man who has to do all the rough, tough physical stuff, like wrestling snow-blowers across playgrounds, tramping sledding rails with snowshoes, and raking snow off roofs. Is it not reasonable to expect more delicate deeds would be handled by womanly women?

Apparently not. Take changing diapers, for example. If I say changing diapers is not the work of a manly man, it apparently proves I am some sort of male chauvinist pig.  I could argue, but don’t, because a man has to chose his battles, and it is easier to change a gross, stinking diaper than to pick a fight.

You might think that women, in the same spirit, would set a mousetrap and remove the dead, brained mouse, even though it is as gross as a diaper. Nope.

I am the one who has to kill the cute, adorable creatures. I am the one who has to face the horror of seeing the dramatic posture mice always seem to theatrically assume, when the trap snaps, with the blood trickling from the wee mouth, that only wanted to taste a little bit of peanut butter, and with the wide open eyes looking at me,  somehow accusingly though dead. Somehow it is a man’s job to face the GUILT.

This is the sort of thing that eats away at a man, and makes him mean. I don’t deserve to be treated like this!  And it starts to expand into a theory about how I am splendid and everyone else is an asshole. And when you start to see that sort of thought you know the winter is getting to you; you are suffering Cabin Fever, and showing the psychological symptoms of becoming Shacky Whacky.

The only remedy is to turn to weather maps and become absorbed in isobars.

Though the silver edge of the storm was heading awy to the east, out to sea, up against the blue sky high above my head, a few shreds of gray cumulus scud passed over, coming up from the southeast. Even when these shreds were only 5% of the overcast, tiny flakes began falling. The scud kept increasing, until even the blue skies to our north filled with gray, and the bright promise of a February sun faded into a smear. The mist of snow continued, though it didn’t show on radar, though to our south a new band of snow did show on radar.

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The day turned into a gray one, with a constant snow that never amounted to more that dust on surfaces. Temperatures climbed to 22.8° (-5.1° Celsius) which seemed downright bally after what we’ve been through. I think a very weak Norlun Trough was occurring.


As the long day ended temperatures fell back into the teens as darkness fell. The southern-branch feature slipped out to sea, and the flakes grew large briefly before ceasing.

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You will notice that though we escaped the snow, Boston didn’t escape. However though we escaped the measurable snow, we didn’t escape winter.


When I awoke this morning it was snowing like crazy and the barometer was down to 29.37, with temperature at 12.7°. Radar showed the snow backing west from the ocean over us, as the map showed the storm rapidly deepening off Cape Cod.

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Now, at 9:00 AM, the radar shows the storm has shifted its snow south, with even Boston getting a bit of a break, and no fresh snows heading in over land from the ocean. Out the window the snow is slacking off. The pines are roaring up in the hilltops, but the wind isn’t bad down in this hollow. The pressure is starting to rise at 29.47, and the temperature is 13.6°, though I likely have to go out and make sure my thermometer is not in a drift.

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It looks like this “blizzard” gave us a quick 8 inches, to go with the 4 inches we got yesterday. Another foot. A foot of snow is no big deal up in these hills, but a foot here and a foot there, and it starts to add up. Even with settling I’d say we have four feet on the level, however that is much less than Boston, which has received an amazing seven feet over the past 24 days.

Those poor flatlanders simply can’t handle it. They are a commuter society, and if you take away their commute, what can they do?

In order to answer this deep and pressing question I think I’ll make a couple phone-calls to my unpaid correspondents down in those hinterlands. I’ll report back later. In fact this post will be more about people reeling about, in the aftermath of too much snow, than it will be about the snow-event itself, which appears to largely over.


We, here at the center of the universe, have no idea how primitive and backwards the people are in hinterlands such as Boston and Cambridge, however my fearless corespondents dare walk those fearsome streets. Or, actually, my sister didn’t feel like going outside, but she looked out her window and saw a neighbor tossing snow up eight feet, while clearing his driveway, which slants down slightly from the street. My youngest son reported the Charles River is frozen over, with snow swirling and whipping across it, and a few people venturing out onto the ice despite the fact some of the inflow into the basin is unnaturally warm.

Some sort of snow-melting gizmo was driven up from New York City, though no Bostonian is quite sure how it works. All sorts of outlandish explanations are being invented by the drugged savages who inhabit places called “colleges”,  with many of these explanations contradicting each other, but as best as I can tell the gizmo is a truck with a heated bed which may or may not be positioned over a city drain. As fast as it is loaded with snow the snow melts and drains out the bottom. This is an advancement to the old approach, which was to load dump trucks with snow, and drive them to the harbor, and dump the load of snow (with a fair number of trash cans and transients) into the water, like a modern Boston tea party.

Gradually they are gnawing canyons through the snow.  In places there are sheer-sided streets, next to a sheer-sided bike lane, next to a sheer-sided sidewalk, but the cars, bikes and pedestrians cannot see each other, as they are separated by sheer-sided walls that are eight feet tall. In some places the walls are thin, and there is a general nervousness about what might happen if one of these walls falls over. I myself wonder what sort of idiot bicycles in the dead of winter in -20° windchill, however I suppose I need to be more patient and tolerant about the strange beliefs and religious rituals of savages in the hinterland.

The view up here in our hills, at the center of the universe.

Temperatures only made it up to 14.2° (-9.9° Celsius), despite the fact the sun began to shine through a bleary overcast of cirrus and cirro-stratus. Winds gradually picked up during the afternoon as the storm grew out to sea, but it wasn’t positioned correctly to surge moisture inland, and in fact blew all the snow down south of Cape Cod.

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As the bleary sun came out I had to attend to clearing the snow at the Childcare, and feeding the animals. The snow was as dry as sand and as light as dust, and starting to whirl about in the wind as it rose, but the driving wasn’t bad, for the snow was squeaky rather than slippery. When I came to the three foot tall wall of snow that plows had built at the entrance to the farm, my truck plowed right through it like a pile of feathers.

For some peculiar reason the snow-blower started right up, at my first try. Perhaps nearly constant usage makes it run cleaner. I settled in to trudging behind it, aiming the arch of snow towards places where the piles were lowest. The clouds faded away and the sun grew brighter even as it sank towards the trees, and the wind kept rising. At times gusts caught the entire arch of billowing snow and tore it into a wraith of white, billowing away downwind. Other times it blew back into my face like burning sand.

It was twilight when I was done, and temperatures were down in the single digits. I headed off to a prayer and praise meeting, feeling dulled, but as usual singing lofted my spirits. A sort of stupidity settles in, dumbing you down, as the winter goes on and on, and you have to fight it. The winds were so strong the walls of the old church creaked.

I turned in early, noting it was already -2° before 9:00. When I awoke at 1:00 AM to restock the fires it was down to -8.0° (-22.2° Celsius), but then a little ocean air must have been mixed into the northern blasts by the storm, for the temperature has nudged up to -6.5° when I was next up at 5:00 AM, though it sank back to -7.6° at sunrise.

The winds were still blustery, as the storm bombed out to or northeast.

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However eyes were already looking towards the next storm to the southwest. The main hope is that the storm to the northeast will shunt the storm to the southwest to our south.

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It was a dazzling day, and, if you could find any place out of the blustery wind, the sun felt warm on your face, and south-facing streets actually melted a little, but such mercy was rare and only around noon. Elsewhere the wraiths of snow swirled, or sizzled over the snow, turning its surface to a shifting, flowing whiteness. The temperature made it up to 14.5° (-9.7 Celsius), but with winds gusting over thirty mph much of the morning, and up around 25 mph through the afternoon, we again didn’t let the children outside at our Childcare. I might have taken the tougher kids out for a spell, but I was too busy dealing with problems the weather’s slapping me with.

In the old days when propane heaters were only around 40% efficient you needed a chimney to vent away the exhaust and wasted heat from the roaring furnace, but modern heaters are around 85% efficient, and purr rather than roar, and the exhaust vents out through the side wall, with the warm outflow in a central pipe that warms the inflow in a larger pipe surrounding the central pipe.

The only problem with this arrangement is that, when snow gets deep, it blocks the outlet. Rather than asphyxiating the people within, the heater promptly shuts down. In the case of our Childcare, this would cause children to cry, staff to quit, pipes to freeze, and would generally defeat the purpose of having a heater in the first place. Therefore I watch the outlet like a hawk, especially as our structure has a snow-shedding roof, and can dump amazing amounts of snow at the base very quickly. I am on the ball on my toes, and you aren’t going to catch this old geezer off guard, No sirree.

Unless, of course, the snow is so light and fluffy it doesn’t have the weight (and there isn’t enough melting) to get the glacier moving and to slide the snow off a snow-shedding roof. In such a case beautiful drifts form amazing shapes up on the roof, and the upstairs exhaust outlet for the upstairs heater can get drifted over. In this case even a crafty old geezer like me can get caught off guard, and ice can form in the upstairs toilet bowl, and icicles hang from the upstairs sink faucets (if they drip), and, because the bizarre plumbing of this old farm out-building goes through the upstairs before it goes to the downstairs, there is no water for the Childcare, even if it warm down there, (and if you think you can run a Childcare without a toilet that flushes you are probably right, but the State inspectors will frown and call you wrong.)

Before the water arrives upstairs, at this strangely designed complex of buildings, it must first come from the well via the old farm house, which is in a dilapidated state and unheated, except for the part of the cellar where the pump, pressure tank, and water softener reside. The pressure in the pressure tank is governed by a gizmo which apparently doesn’t like it when pipes freeze in a distant out-building, for it chose this morning to start behaving in a balky manner, allowing the pressure tank to have no pressure.

What this did was to add an interesting complexity to the solution I was seeking to find. Was water failing to come out of faucets because pipes were frozen?  Yes. But would water come from the pipes when they were thawed? No.

I am pretty proud that I had the pipes thawed and waded through 4 feet of snow to the old farmhouse and got the balky gizmo in the cellar working before 11:00 AM. My goats, however, were indignant. They thought they should come first, even before the business that buys their grain and hay. Rather than thanking me for keeping the business running so they could get grain and hay, they demanded grain and hay. One even ventured out from under the barn to plunge through snow up to her chest to nag me. And goats do nag, when they are pissed off. Anyone who says they go “baa” has never pissed a goat off. The expression on the face of this goat was priceless. Her neck and head stuck up from the deep snow like a sort of demented swan, as she said, “Where the fuck is breakfast!” I was very understanding, as I was thinking the same thing. Proof of my highly spiritual nature lies in the fact I fed the goats (and chickens and rabbit) before I fed myself.

I only bring this trivial incident up to demonstrate how triviality, brought on by a hard winter, can take up more and more of your time. The first thing on my list today was, “Go to the bank”. I never made it to the bank until after I had breakfast at lunchtime. Then, as I looked around, at the bank, I saw a lot of fellow townsfolk in the same shoes. It seemed just about everyone was having a bad hair day.

Looking at the map and radar, it seems we will be hard pressed to shunt the next storm south of us, tomorrow.

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Believe me, there are things I’d rather be writing about than “Local Views.” I want to write about arctic sea-ice, amazing weather in Europe, and the next chapter of a cool novel involving my boyhood buddy “Durf.” But a hard winter grinds you down. It tells you that dinky little snowflakes have more power than your almighty personal ambition.

And I hate to say this, but sometimes winter is right.