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.
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”.
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.
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.
UPDATE —SUPER SUNNY SATURDAY—
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.
SUMMERY OF A SUNDAY GOING GRAY
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.)
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.