ARCTIC SEA ICE –Sea-ice Madoki–)(Updated)

“Madoki”, as I understand it, means “the same but different” in Japanese, and is used to describe an El Nino that is displaced away from Peru into the central Pacific. I thought I might as well use the same word to describe arctic temperatures this autumn. They are “the same” as 2016 because they are consistently above normal, with spikes. They are “different” because they are consistently cooler than last year. (2016 left; 2017 right.)


My own take on the winter mildness at the Pole (if you can call temperatures far below zero “mild”), is that it is indicative of warmer seas. There is always a lag between when sea-surface temperatures start to be cooled and when they actually drop and effect the temperature of the air above. In fact, though we are a decade into a “Quiet Sun”, we likely are still seeing the effects of an extremely “Noisy Sun” during the last century. In the shorter term, we likely are still seeing the lagged effects of the 2015 “super” El Nino and last summer’s “failed” El Nino. That much is the “same”. What is “different” is that the difference between the warm tropics and cold Pole is fading.

Last year, when the difference was greatest, the flow north seemed to me to be like when it is coldest outside and you have a fire. The “draw” of the chimney is especially good, and the fire doesn’t smoke in the house even when you haven’t bothered have the chimney swept. (It is when it gets warmer outside that the stove starts to smoke, and you have to get out your chimney-sweeper brush.) In fact the “draw” of the Pole was so great last year that it made for fascinating surges of mild air north, and the anomalous low-pressure I dubbed “Ralph” appeared at the Pole. This year is more boring; though there are spikes in the above graph they are nothing likes the amazing spikes in 2016.

The rushes of milder, moist air up from the North Atlantic were so great that sea-ice was pushed north from Svalbard in Barents Sea, and slow to form in Kara Sea, and Alarmists got excited when the extent actually dropped briefly, during its yearly rise. This year we have seen no such excitement. (2016 light blue; 2017 black and red.)

DMI5 1127 osisaf_nh_iceextent_daily_5years_en

When we compare the sea-ice thickness maps, we see that same-but-different in terms of temperature can lead to huge differences in terms of how the ice is reforming. (It tends to always reform over the entirety of the Arctic Sea by March, with the yearly variations only out on the edges, but where it reforms, and whether it reforms early or late, can mean a lot in terms of where the jet-stream is most comfortable setting up, and where arctic outbreaks will afflict people, to the south.) Here are the (new style) NRL maps. (2016 left; 2017 right).



The only place for Alarmist to look, in hope of seeing increased sea-ice melt, is on the Pacific side. Ice has been slower to form in the Sea of Okhotsk (north of Japan) and north of Bering Strait. But this likely is either caused by (or causing) (it is a chicken-or-the-egg situation) a loopy jet stream that can make (at its most extreme) Alaska warmer than Florida. Last year we saw the same sort of extreme when the Atlantic surges made Finland warmer than Turkey. But this year, though there are still Atlantic surges, it is the same-but-different. Last year the North Atlantic lows sometimes traveled straight north to merge with Ralph at the Pole, and the entire north Atlantic had southwest winds that continued on to curve to the Pole itself. This year North Atlantic lows are more well-behaved, and head east to northern Scandinavia, and though much of Europe can be in the southwest winds, the waters north of Europe get northeast winds, which is quite the opposite of last year, resulting in a very different reformation of sea-ice in that area. (2106 left; 2017 right)


Note there is far more ice in the north of Kara Sea, Franz Joseph Land is ice-bound, Svalbard has far more ice to its north east, and sea-ice is surging and forming southwards in Fram Strait. Fram Strait is particularly interesting because a “wrong-way” flow during the summer had less-than-normal ice there. Now Denmark Strait is nearly filled, (which has me holding my breath, for, though it is very rare, sometimes the ice jams up and it is possible to walk from Greenland to Iceland), (though I wouldn’t advise it, because a single North Atlantic storm could wipe out such a bridge in a matter of hours. One December (2014?) a bridge had nearly formed, and then a gale blew up in mere hours, and all the ice crunched against the coast of Greenland in a day. Sea-ice collapses like an accordion, when winds reach hurricane force.)

With jet-stream winds looping north in the Pacific they swoop back south over Hudson Bay, bringing cold air south, and its yearly flash-freeze is ahead of last year’s. (2016 left; 2017 right.)


As I pointed out in my last post, Dr. Susan Crockford stated that residents of Churchill, on the west coast of Hudson Bay, said the reformation of ice there was one of the earliest since 1979, and polar bears were already starting to head out to sea to start their autumn hunt. (For it to be colder-than-normal south of the Pole, when it is warmer-than-normal at the Pole, seems a normal response to loopy jet streams.)

This brings up an interesting sidetrack, involving the fact more sea-ice may be bad for polar bears. Why? Polar bears eat seals, and seals require air holes to breath through, and must pup on top of the ice. If the sea-ice gets too thick, with too few areas of open water, seals (and walruses, not to mention whales and porpoises), must move south or starve, if not suffocate. Dr. Crawford has documented declines in in seal and polar bear populations associated with excessive sea-ice, which tends to shoot Al Gore’s weepy prediction of drowning bears in “An Inconvenient Truth” all full of holes. Since Gore produced that movie plenty of evidence has surfaced showing that less sea-ice actually increases the numbers of seals, and consequently polar bears. (Likely conservationists preventing over-hunting has also helped increase populations, but people who live in the north should be allowed to hunt in a sensible manner, and not prevented from earning a living in a very harsh landscape by sentimental fools to their south insisting non-endangered species “endangered”.) Dr. Crawford is fairly scornful of the unscientific side of Alarmist publicity, calling it “polar bear porn”, and has produced this excellent exposè.

A final area that interests me is the Canadian Archipelago. (2016 left; 2017 right.)


Usually the “Beaufort Gyre” has sea-ice moving as the current high pressure is moving it, clockwise on the Pacific side of the Arctic Basin.

Drift 20171127 Attachment-1

What “Ralph” did over last winter, spring and summer was to slow this flow, and even reverse it to a counterclockwise flow. Apparently this change altered the flow of sea-ice north of the Archipelago, and rather piling up along the coast, it jammed directly into the coast and went squeezing between the larger islands. During the summer it was fascinating to watch thick sea-ice, like toothpaste in a tube, come oozing down the east side of Melville Island, across Parry Channel, and south down McClintock Channel east of Victoria Island. I am wondering if this thicker ice may continue down to Victoria Strait towards the Canadian Mainland, and become a block to people attempting the Northwest Channel next summer.

I had never seen sea-ice move south through the Archipelago like this before, and it was a sort of revelation to me. There are odd events in what arctic explorers describe (or don’t describe, as in the case of the ill-fated Franklin expedition), that may be explained by massive north-to-south flows of sea-ice through the Archipelago.

At the very least this southward movement of sea-ice through the Archipelago should awaken people to how mobile even the thickest sea-ice is. Originally I myself had the preconception sea-ice was fixed and motionless, or at least as slow to move as a glacier. It was only through observation I became aware it moves about with far more speed than some Alarmists give it credit for. In fact, if the Pole were to become largely ice-free, it would be more likely to be due to a massive discharge of sea-ice into the North Atlantic (as apparently happened 1816-1817) than be due to slight variations in temperature and summer melting caused by CO2.

Hopefully I’ll find time to go through the daily maps later. The huge high pressure over the Pole faded, but now is being replaced by another high pressure. “Ralph” is not the character he was, last year.

In case I don’t have time to go through the maps I should quickly pop in this current map of the USA which seems to counter many of my assumptions:

20171128 satsfc

With less ice north of Being Strait I’ve been buying extra firewood, expecting Alaska to be warm like it was in the winter of 1976-77, which was the coldest I recall in New England, and saw sea-ice grow right down the east coast of the USA (sea-ice which, by the way, never gets added to the “extent” graphs). However the above map shows a mild surge right up the center of the USA, making a sort of mockery of my analog.

What seems to be happening is that the loopy jet still hasn’t “locked in”, and still is in a state of flux. I’m going to stand my ground, thinking it will “lock in” later. (In 1976-77 it had already locked in, and it seemed the wind was bitter cold and from the north nearly every day from November until February.) I’ve noticed that the computer models are flipping around like a net full of fish. I think every time an upper air trough rambles across the continent they recalculate, first having cold “lock in” on the west coast and then on the east.

One reason I’m not flipping around myself is because the Weatherbell Site isn’t flipping around. Where I just use one analog they utilize over ten, and Joseph D’Aleo has created what he calls his “Pioneer Model” that combines the analogs. It has been showing cold in the northeast of the USA since summer, without all the flip-flopping about the super-computer models do.

In any case, though I may be wrong where the loops “lock in”, I’m thinking the jet will have those loops, allowing influxes of milder air up to the Pole, until exactly February 13, and then the pattern will go zonal and the Pole will get cold. I figure that, if a blind squirrel intends to get a nut, he’d best go way out on a limb.

Stay tuned.


I don’t have free time, but do have insomnia.

My last post ended with an impressive high pressure forming an anti-Ralph at the Pole.




This huge high drifted towards Kara Sea, as an Aleutian Low snuck north and brought warm north through Bering Strait.  The flow in the North Atlantic was opposite last year’s. A low over Hudson Bay began bringing milder air up Baffin’s Bay, to the west of Greenland.





The anti-Ralph was prevented from entering Kara Sea by an Atlantic gale that stalled north of Norway, but kicked ahead a “kicker” low that strengthened south of Kara Sea. In the Pacific Side a new Aleautian low came north.  Mild air began to leak north either side of Greenland, as the anti-Ralph weakened.







As the anti-Ralph collapsed to a ridge, this is the closest I see to a “Ralph” forming, on the Pacific side of the Pole.




Rather than this “Ralph” moving to the Pole, it was displaced towards Siberia as a new high pressure was pumped towards Canada. The Atlantic and Hudson Bay lows weakened as a new Aleutian low crossed East Siberia.



The first Aleutian low retrograded in east Siberia as a new Aleutian low pounded Alaska south of Bering Strait, and mild air came north through the Strait. Things were quieter on the Atlantic and Hudson Bay side, but milder air that came north from the Atlantic earlier formed an interesting swirl on the Pacific side of the Pole, in the temperature map. This swirl was opposite last year’s swirls, clockwise rather than counter-clockwise, but it showed our planet is still sending heat north to be lost to the arctic dark.


The final maps show the next Aleutian low failing to get north of Bering Strait, a new Hudson Bay low, low pressure malingering over Europe, and the new anti-Ralph failing to get as strong as the last one and failing to cross to Asia, but rather falling back as a ridge towards Canada. Most striking is that the isobars suggest a flow from the Pole straight down towards Europe.




This Pole-to-Europe flow ought make things interesting across the Pond.

What is striking is that the Pole-to-Europe flow is so opposite last year’s.  The next north Atlantic gale will not come north with Azores juice, but will likely be that Hudson Bay low on the wrong side of Greenland, undergoing what I call “morphistication” as it transits Greenland’s 10,000 foot icecap.  The Baltic low will crawl east, perhaps producing an interesting secondary on its cold front, as the front reaches the Mediterranean. It looks like low pressures will swirl around Europe, hopefully giving folk a white Christmas and not rain, and high pressure will remain king-of-the-mountain at the Pole. Definitely very different from what produced “Ralph” last winter.

Stay tuned.

LOCAL VIEW –Thanksgiving For The Unrecognized–

Recently my wife and I took a weekend off, and basically turned off our cell phones so we would not need to face the people who demand our time, often without gratitude. Why are they not grateful? I suppose it is because people tend to be a bit egotistical, and feel we should feel privileged to even be dealing with them. For example, think of a little child agonizing about not making a grade school team. From their perspective making-the-team is important, and well worth our attention. If you are not careful, knowing about too many of these “important” issues, and arching your eyebrows in a sympathetic manner for each of them, can completely burn you out, so we took a break. Simply taking a weekend away was a sort of spiritual retreat, but there is a problem with such retreats: They must end. You must go back and face your worldly responsibilities.

I am always reluctant to return to humdrum reality, no matter how restful a spiritual retreat may have been. The simple fact of the matter is that a lot that is “worldly” is also petty. Pettiness is not merely in little children who agonize about things that will not matter, in the long run, but also pettiness is in supposedly adult people, like preachers and politicians, and in supposedly adult institutions, like churches and the U.S. government.

If I had my druthers, I druther would write poetry. When I look back to my school days, I see I was more interested in the clouds out the window than the chalk on the blackboard. The interests of schoolmarms were never as interesting to me as the interests of schoolboys.

Look at it this way:  If heaven is the goal of life, why should our focus be on the non-heavenly things called “the worldly”?

The people in the world who I am most thankful to meet are those who have a certain light in their expressions that suggests they are seeing something heavenly. True, in some cases the light is merely due to them thinking they are seeing an end to pain. For example, a poor person may buy a winning lottery ticket, and their face may then shine, because they think their problems are solved. But soon their eyes cease beaming, as they discover filthy lucre is not an end to problems, and often increases them.

The light I like more, in people’s faces, is more lasting, and is not associated so strongly with worldly desires for wealth, sex, power, popularity, and intellectual achievement. Instead it simply recognizes heaven as a reality that exists even if you are poor, sexually frustrated, powerless, ignoble, and suffering intellectual writer’s-block.

There are simply some people who see a higher Truth, and whose moods are not controlled by the worldly circumstances of their lives. Sometimes they are saints like Mother Teresa in the slums of Calcutta, but sometimes they are people who you might think are entrapped by material success, but can be famous and wealthy without seeming to deny heaven exists.

Back in the early and mid Twentieth Century some of these people made decent livings as commercial artists for magazines. They produced the covers. Although it is true that “you can’t judge a book by its cover”, the editors of books and magazines knew a good picture could interest the general public, and sought artists talented in that respect.

One of the greatest was Norman Rockwell. I’ve praised him often. But another great artist, when it comes to sketching heaven, was Maxfield Parish. Norman Rockwell actually idolized Maxfield Parrish, when young.

Maxfield Parish became rich, simply portraying mortal humans during the most heavenly moments of their lives. (From a box of chocolates:)

Maxfield Parish 1 ap25lgrubyrectfrd1

His pictures were so beautiful that, as a commercial artist, he was an incredible success. At a time when a new house cost $2000, he made $100,000 a year. However all the money the public paid him apparently didn’t make him fond of the public. How can I say such a thing? Because, while his earlier pictures show a fondness for humans and their human nature, about the time he reached my age he stopped painting humans, and focused entirely on the beauty of landscapes. After around 1935 he painted landscapes which, in my humble opinion, have an amazing beauty, (surreal without Dali’s distortion), and yet they portray a world devoid of humanity. He painted right up to his death in 1966 at age 95, but did not seem to think humans were beautiful and worthy of being subjects within heavenly landscapes. He seemed to forget the way he saw when he was fifty years younger, in 1906, and painted “The Lantern Bearers” for Collier’s Magazine.

Maxfield Parish 2 800px-Maxfield_Parrish_The_Lantern_Bearers_1908

It should be noted, as an alternative, that Norman Rockwell did not retire from humanity, even though he too was wealthy in his old age. He did seem to become less romantic, and more concerned with social issues of the time, such as school integration (retaining a hint of Romanticism).

Norman Rockwell Intergration The-problem-we-all-live-with-norman-rockwell

Which brings me around to the topic of myself. Which way will I go, as I approach retirement age?

When I was in my early twenties, and first noticed the difference between what Maxfield Parish and Norman Rockwell painted in their old age, I vowed I’d never become fed up with humanity. I would forever be optimistic, and never fail to see the beauty in my fellow man.

Well, I have failed. The first time I failed I was still in my early twenties, and I confess I have failed on multiple occasions since then. I have looked upon you, my fellow man, and seen nothing but rapscallions and self-serving mongrels posing as pure-blooded priests.  I mean, look hard at yourselves. Are you any reason I should feel especially hopeful about the future of humanity?

And do you know what saves you, more often than not? It is the fact I become aware I am looking in a mirror; I am projecting; the reason I am such an expert in bad behavior is because I practice it.

That isn’t any reason for hope. Rather it diminishes my faith in myself even as I lose faith in the world. What on earth is there left to have faith in? Am I not a complete pessimist? I, the very same man who once vowed to become an eternal optimist! Which brings me to the 1922 Maxfield Parrish cover for “Life” magazine:

Maxfield Parrish Rouge Indeed ori_268_2121346856_1137844_He_is_a_Rogue_Life_Cover

There was a contest to name the picture on the “Life” cover, and the winner was, “He is a rogue indeed who robs life of its ends, fostering doubt.” (Get it? “Life” becomes “If”.)

As a young man first learning this history I wondered if Maxfield Parish had such a trick in mind, as he painted the picture, or whether it was an accident, or perhaps subconscious. In any case, the winning title stuck with me, and any time I find myself becoming excessively pessimistic I think of the rogue in the picture above.

For the fact of the matter is that, even when we botch perfection, and all those we know botch perfection as well, there is a third Thing that you can have faith in, neither our self nor other humans.  Call “It” what you will, “It” saves us from plunging to complete ruin. Without “It” there would be no reason to call foul behavior “inhumane”, because in many cases foul behavior is very human. Whatever “It” is, “It” redeems us.

And how do we recognize “It”? We see “It” in what we call “heavenly”. “It” is in humor that allows us to laugh at our mistakes rather than curse. “It” is in the joy that lets us walk singing in the rain.

Gene Kelly, and Maxfield Parish, and Norman Rockwell, made very nice amounts of money simply hinting at the heavenly. However the people who have really been a great blessing in my life, and at times even have been life-savers, never charge the price of admission. They simply had, and have, joy in their hearts, and made me, and make me, smile on the gloomiest day.

More than money, more than sex, more than power, more than acclaim, more than inspiration, I value the smiles such people begrudge from my grouchy old face. For all the other things come and go, but remembered jests still make me smile even after fifty years. Those jesters, even if long lost,  are joys to remember, and be Thankful for, on Thanksgiving.

In the End of Ends a simple smile will crush the mighty, and defeat death itself.

Owen wrote, “I, too, have seen God in mud”
About the gruesome trenches, when men died
Like flies, (’cause two men, who shared royal blood,
King and Kaiser, saw war as sport, and tried
Out their new toys: Sputtering machine guns
And poison gasses).
                                         How could Wilford Owen
Write such guff? When Chlorine greened the sun’s
Rays and men writhed like sprayed wasps, men
He’d laughed with moments before, how could he
See God?
                    I suppose it was because God
Is everywhere. There is nowhere to flee
In life where Life isn’t. Beneath the sod
We do not know, until we go, but here
We delve no dark mines devoid of men’s cheer.

LOCAL VIEW –Hollywood Goes Prudish–

One odd coincidence my wife and I share is that our best friends were both born on November 21. Her friend is still alive, but mine passed away a decade ago. I always pause to remember him on November 21.

The day I first noticed him I knew he was a force to be reckoned with. It was in fifth grade, and teachers had decided we should be trained at an earlier age to avoid the old-fashioned idea of a “home room”. I’m not sure what was wrong with having a home, but instead some advantage was to be gained from marching from room to room to study different subjects. Not that the teachers were all that more skilled at different subjects. But likely they enjoyed teaching certain subjects more than others, and they thought such joy might infect the students. Wrong.

The simple fact of the matter was that my homeroom teacher was a beautiful young woman who I think was deeply in love (the next year her last name was different, and by June she was very pregnant.) By her very attitude she made learning be a joy. She could have taught a subject she knew nothing about, perhaps automobile mechanics, from an antiquated Model-T textbook, and the students would have been so enchanted they would have learned more than they would have learned from the most skilled automobile mechanic. I had the feeling her classroom was a cloud of love, and don’t think a single student disliked her; most seemed enchanted.

No other teacher stood a chance, and to be ripped from the presence of this joyous young woman, and placed in a classroom taught by a somewhat embittered old lady, who deeply resented that her favorite subject “history” was to be called “social studies”, was a very uncomfortable experience for me, as was the fact I was among students who I didn’t know, but whom were supposedly “at my level.” The old lady did catch my attention when she backslid and taught “history”, but when she attempted “social studies” it was apparent the subject was Pig Latin to her, and the entire classroom was confused, and my attention wandered.

For some reason these radical changes were not enacted at the start of the school year, but in late March or early April, when students are first hit by spring fever. Traditionally school ended at around this time, for children were needed back at the farm for spring planting, and all the wild energy would be put to good use. Instead, at this time, there was an attempt to “channel” the vital energy of youth in some sort of theoretically “socially constructive” manner. Eventually, decades later, they gave up and decided it was better to drug the dickens out of wild children, somehow thinking that frying their brains was better than tanning their hides, but, back when I went to school, education created a time-warp between corporal punishment and drug’s mind-control, when permissiveness and freedom ruled.

At this time my parents were still married, and I was an “untroubled” child, fairly obedient in my way, and making good progress in school. I hadn’t become the outlaw I later became (though I was no saint). As a good boy, I did stay away from the banned part of the playground in early April, where the mud was deep. However, as my attention wandered during Social Studies class, I saw the shoes of a boy who had broken this rule.

The shoes were so muddy they appeared about twice as large as they actually were. It was a most amazing spectacle. The mud was drying in the overheated classroom, and clods and flakes were shedding from the shoes. There was already enough dirt to plant carrots around the feet, and the shoes had only started shedding.

At this point the feet started moving about, as feet do when they are stared at for an overly long period of time. Instinct told me to glance up at the face the feet were attached to, and I met the glaring, challenging eyes of a boy just daring me to call him a pig. I didn’t. The thought didn’t even cross my mind. Instead I thought the eyes were as interesting as the huge feet. And, as I thought this, the eyes changed. When, rather than judgmental, I looked curious, they shifted from anger to surprise.

It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship, though it was a stormy one. The fellow was never ordinary, but perhaps being born on the cusp of a water sign and a fire sign makes for billowing clouds of steam and thunderheads, and I’ve always thought thunderheads are beautiful.

He always tended to be more daring, while I was more prudish. At that time the “frontier” young men challenged involved the dangers of sex and drugs, and he paid a heavy price for being daring. I probably would have followed in his footsteps and paid the same price, had my stepfather not tricked me into attending a school about as far away from sex and drugs as it was then possible to find.  (Dunrobin, in northern Scotland.)

One thing we were always able to share was our minds. It is difficult to say exactly how we did this, other than to say our talks involved a lot of symbols, or images, or gestalts. At times a most rudimentary image would communicate more than you might think possible. We’d be talking about some esoteric topic and he’d say, “You mean, sort of like salsa?” and I’d reply, laughing, “Exactly!” An outsider would have no clue what we were talking about, yet we could talk for hours in a strange sort of complete understanding that also involved vehement disagreement.

Looking back, I think one thing he liked about me was that I could tell him what it was like to do what he had chosen not to do. I could tell him what it was like to be a virgin and still date the-girl-next-door. I could tell him what it was like to be off drugs for months in northern Scotland.

In terms of drugs, I was a prude compared to him. He had a zest for the entire world of hallucinations and unusual perceptions. I did too, but also had the sense we were on dangerously thin ice. But I will say this: If you are foolish enough to take such vile substances, don’t do it with small minds. Don’t do it with people who can say little more than, “Yowza. Am I ever wrecked.” Rather do it with a mind who can describe in great detail the various avenues it is going down. To “trip” with this individual was truly a journey so enjoyable that, were it not for the Grace of God, my brains would have become as fried as his became, because I enjoyed talking and laughing with him more than anything else.

When I went to school in Scotland he went to school in Boston, and, (in those primitive times before the internet), we exchanged two or three letters a week. Mine described a mind off drugs, plunged into the English literature necessary to pass “A” levels, and his blearily traced the wild scene in Boston, involving many women and parties and running a college newspaper even after he stopped attending classes. Then there was a horrible postal strike in England, and we couldn’t communicate.

When we reunited after a year we were able to compare our minds in a way, and on a level, that most people can’t. In a way most people can’t imagine I think he saw I had, by sheer luck, come out ahead.

It seemed unfair. He’d had more guts, was more daring, but wound up damaged, in some mental way difficult to describe. Call it frustration, for that describes it best. My mind was clear and produced answers, while his was muddy and produced frustration. However his honesty expressed where he was at. I liked his amazing poetry, though he produced less and less:

“When you’re in the mud
All you see is mud.”

I think one of the most awful tragedies of my generation was that the better minds were crippled. Hallucinogens were described by one Native American, (who left the Peyote Church), as “a trickster.”  They promise to expand consciousness, but retard it.

I can say this now, at retirement age, because I saw the danger and backed away from that frontier, like a person backing away from a volcano’s crater because he sees the expedition’s leader succumbing to poisonous gasses.  Not that I didn’t inhale and suffer some damage myself. But I survived.

People tell me, “I never quit and I can still do what I could do.” At age sixty-four that seems to me to be a terribly sad statement. It is like Beethoven at the end of his life stating, “I can still write the First Symphony.”  A mind is suppose to grow, and reach a Ninth Symphony.  To stay the same is to stay stuck, and involves a constant frustration, which eventually breeds a subtle antipathy.

I faced that antipathy in my childhood friend, especially when I renounced our adventure into the world of hallucination and turned to God. (And there can be no denying I was a naive pain, when I first sought a different “high”.) Yet we stayed in touch, despite the distance that had grown between us. I suppose, when minds have been as close as ours were, there is always a curiosity about what the other is seeing, and where it is going.

Eventually it became obvious to my friend that drugs indeed were a trickster, but his brains were by then only a shade of what they once were. He then accepted his predicament with class, and even dignity, though to think as a “straight” person was an exercise in frustrating futility. He actually sought to stop thinking, by doing a Yoga that made his mind blank, and it seemed to do him good. Nor did he ever stop believing in the “high” things he’d seen as a mere teenager blitzed on acid, even when he couldn’t see them any more.

He died of cancer of the esophagus, which cut him down in a matter of weeks. One thing I’ll always regret is that we never had a final talk. I hope he didn’t think I’d tell him, “I told you so”, or some such useless thing. Probably not. I think many who die without telling many friends just don’t want to cause others pain. I knew many artists who died of AIDS in the 1980’s who vanished without saying any good-byes.

What would I have liked to talk about, during a final talk with a dying friend? I think it would be the beauty we saw together, even in the process of making the wrong choices. If you focus too much on the wrong choices you only become bitter.

This brings me around to the peculiar agony currently afflicting the so-called “beautiful people” of Hollywood and Washington D.C.  Their raging seems downright demented to me, and a sort of spasm of guilt and a paroxysm of shame, manifesting as disgust and bitterness. Apparently being “beautiful” is not so beautiful, after all.

Harvey Weinstein was seemingly the pebble that started an avalanche.  Behavior which once was seen as “sophisticated” is now called what it always was, “sleazy”.

When I went drifting through California more than thirty years ago I found most people felt the ideas now manifesting were prudish. I know this for I expounded such ideas, and was told I was prudish, wasn’t a realist, wasn’t sophisticated, was naive, didn’t know how the world worked, would never get anywhere, was behind the times, wasn’t hip, and was in fact ugly. I wasn’t one of the “beautiful people.”

What changed things? I think the actual pebble that started the actual avalanche was the election of Donald Trump. Popularity means a lot, (and at times everything), to the Hollywood mindset, and such a mindset is horrified to see popularity shrink in any way, shape or form. To have Hillary Clinton lose,  (despite some glaring voter fraud assisting her), was a message no amount of explanation could deny. What was the message? “You are not popular. You are not seen as beautiful. You are not admired, envied, marketable.”

It is the strangest thing to see the facade crumbling. In some ways it looks like one of those “swings of a social pendulum” you read about, where people run like indecisive lemmings from one cliff to another, basically brainless and merely following the mob. However in other ways it seems like common sense rising up in “flyover country” to inform Hollywood and Washington nobody is really buying their bull.

I think our world has paid a terrible price due to the “trickster” of sex, drugs and greed. It is easy to become bitter, thinking of the pain and the people hurt, like my old best friend. However perhaps it is better to remember that, before the trickster tricked, people were speaking of “Love, Truth and Understanding”, and those things were and are and always will be beautiful things.

What will be interesting to watch is whether people behave like witless lemmings, running from extreme to extreme, or whether they have actually learned anything. For there is such a thing that people develop called “discernment”. I would like to believe that the 48 years since the “Summer Of Love” in 1969 has actually taught the USA a thing or two, and we are moving from producing a First Symphony to producing a Ninth.

In any case, Happy Birthday, to my old friend in heaven.


ARCTIC SEA ICE –An Anti-Ralph–

Even back when we had sea-ice cameras, they tended to go dark this time of year, as did the visual satellite, but even despite that darkness this was (and is) a fascinating time of year at the Pole. The darkness is at its most complete, and we enter sixty days when twilight recedes to the Arctic Circle.

The diurnal effect of temperature, rotating clockwise around our arctic maps, for a time all but vanishes. Even at the edges of the circular maps, where the sun does rise, the sun is so low and the days are so brief that the diurnal rise is slight. In fact Siberia and arctic Canada are better at losing heat than the Pole (because the heat of the ocean radiates up through the sea-ice) and are often colder. Even when a zonal flow keeps air “locked up” at the Pole, frigid air masses can be generated independently over Siberia and Canada, and sweep south to catch the unwary off guard.

Because we are free of diurnal temperature we can become fascinated by other diurnal effects, such as tidal or Barometric effects. (Or at least I can.) For example, what happens to the tidal effect of the sun when it is below the horizon? Does the sea-ice rock to the east and west with tides up at the top of Fram Strait as much in the winter as it does in the summer? If it rocks less does it freeze better?

Having the sun never rise makes it easier to see if warm air is invading from the south. You don’t get fooled by sunshine because there is none. (There are not many times in life it is so easy to subtract the influence of such a major effect.)

Last year I called these influxes “feeder bands” because they seemed to fuel the persistent area of low pressure I dubbed “Ralph”. This year is proving different.  I find it somewhat annoying, because all the nice, neat ways I had of viewing things are made a shambles. But I’ll get over it, for change has a better side: It is fascinating.

We recently had a nice influx of milder air up into the areas above 80° north latitude. While it is nowhere near as impressive as last year’s record-setting plumes, it still shows up nicely on the DMI graph.

DMI5 1120 meanT_2017

Therefore, though I am very busy in other areas of my life, I was of course curious to see if “Ralph” would reappear. In theory the mild air, rising, would create low pressure at the surface.

When I last had time to post on November 14 the “feeder band” extended up through Scandinavia and right across the Pole, curving towards Greenland (seen in the temperature map.) A “Ralph” was forming north of Greenland.


Last year (perhaps due to more potent, milder impulses as an after-effect of the 2015 super-El-Nino) Ralph would have bullied the high pressure off the Pole, but this year the high pressure pushed back. Ralph was squashed west across the Canadian Archipelago, as Atlantic Gales were repressed along their usual west-to-east route, and an Aleutian Low came further north than usual and crossed west-to-east from Siberia to Alaska north of Bering Strait (which seemed to be a pattern this autumn.)

By November 17 the feeder band has broken down, and though the milder air is over the Pole it is cooling quickly.

By November 18 Ralph is a pathetic blip on the Canadian side of the Pole, and the high pressure is expanding. The influx of milder air is still clear in the temperature maps, but cloud-cover maps showed fewer clouds than I’d expect, and very clear skies towards Greenland.

By November 19 the clear skies moved towards the Pole, and the high pressure was pumping up. Where last year the Pole likely lost much heat through uplift and latent heat being released as moisture precipitated out as snow, this year clear skies are allowing radiational cooling. The mildness of the “feeder band” is all but gone from the temperature map. The high pressure is so strong that the next west-to-east Pacific low is crossing Bering Strait further south. (Last years such lows sometimes came right north to the Pole, and I dubbed them Hula-Ralphs.)

By the  20th the high pressure at the Pole is one of the strongest I’ve seen. (Blue is above 1050 mb).

And this morning has me shaking my head. This is about as opposite a “Ralph” as you can get. The clockwise winds on the Atlantic side are effectively cutting off all Atlantic moisture from getting to the Pole, and though mild air is coming north through Being Strait, it is being swept east as an easterly flow that likely will cause the next Pacific storm to take a wrong-way route, along the Siberian coast east-to-west rather than west-to-east.

The current situation is fascinating for a number of reasons. Closest to home, when a high pressure like this has a lobe over Greenland it can breed storms on the east coast of the USA. (Those of you who insist upon using old-fashioned maps, that look at the earth sideways, know such high pressures as “blocking highs”.)

Another switch from earlier pattern is that sea-ice will be pushed down the east coast of Greenland, even as ice forms along the coast due to cold winds. Considering such sea-ice is basically leaving the Arctic to enter the Atlantic, any spike in sea-ice extent it causes is artificial, as the ice will melt by June. (However, if enough goes down the coast, it can cool the Atlantic, which I suppose influences sea-ice extent in some future time.) Ice extents remain well above last year’s.

DMI5 1120 osisaf_nh_iceextent_daily_5years_en

It appears that while winds will push ice from around Svalbard and Barent’s Sea southwest into Fram Strait, winds north of the Strait will not be so helpful, and will keep ice from coming south.

A comparison of NRL maps shows much more sea-ice in the north of Barents Sea, and Kara Sea nearly full of sea-ice, which is indicative of the lack of southern surges that made last year so interesting (and pushed so much sea-ice north.) (2016 left; 2017 right)


There continues to be less ice on the Pacific side, but Hudson Bay has started its freeze earlier. It can freeze over with astonishing speed. Susan J. Crockford at reported that the people of Churchill stated the coastal freeze-up was one of the earliest since 1979.

W Hudson Bay freeze-up one of earliest since 1979, not “closer to average”

Lastly, the big high pressure at the Pole will offer me a chance to study the Polar Easterlies, which tend to be ephemeral and elusive, especially when Ralph is around.

Perhaps a good (although simplistic) way to think of the Polar Easterlies is to think of the track of a long lived hurricane. In the tropics it heads east-to-west, in the Trade Winds, but then curves and heads west-to-east in the Westerlies. Usually it transitions to a gale as it comes north, but if that gale gets far enough north it curves back to the west (often preforming a sort of loop-de-loop). That curve back to the west is the Polar Easterlies.

A lot of the time these east winds just seem to be the northern sides of Atlantic or Pacific storms in the Westerlies, but at other times they carry storms along with them (as seen in the case of the very weak version of “Ralph” in the above maps, and also in the Pacific storm which like will move east-to-west on the East Siberian coast this week.)

Also I keep thinking I glimpse some impulse or force moving against the Westerlies at high latitudes. I forget the name I gave it last winter, but I seemed to notice the “feeder bands” that fed Ralph rotated around the Pole in a clockwise manner.

I’m very unsure what I am seeing (or even if it is real) but I am going to keep myself entertained by continuing to scrutinize maps for it, (even if it is a mythical Bigfoot). I think it will be accented by the current Anti-Ralph at the Pole.

(In case you think it foolish to call a high pressure an “Anti-Ralph”, I must confess I have always though it was foolish to call a nice, sunny day an “anticyclone”.  It always seemed sort of like calling sunshine “anti-rain”.)

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, and stay tuned!

LOCAL VIEW –The Color Of Bleak–

There is something very beautiful about this time of year, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. All the gorgeous autumn leaves have been stripped from the trees, and the pristine beauty of a snow-covered landscape is still in the future. The world has gone gray.

The world has gone gray, and sunlight is dim
At noon, and songbirds have fled like traitors.
The ponds haven’t froze; chance-for-skating is slim;
And doubt smiles with teeth like alligator’s.
Now is the time it seems darkness has won.
Witch trials seem possible; madness is seen
In night’s leaping shadow; diminishing sun;
And the crazed holy day, Halloween.
It’s too far from Christmas to hope for light
Returning to redeem us from the dark.
Shadows grow longer and all that’s in sight
Is a cynical newscaster’s remark
Which offers no hope, and yet I see a spark
That can fuel a bright blaze in a landscape gone stark.

Stark FullSizeRender

What the children were looking at was a couple of belated Great Blue Heron’s, pausing on their way south. As we drew nearer they flew to the far side of the far side of the Flood Control Reservoir, and as they did the children exclaimed over the width of the big bird’s wings, at times over six feet.

Stark 2 majestic-great-blue-heron-in-flight

Now, at this point, you likely are thinking this is a typical post, with me bragging about how my Childcare is better than most and I am simply marvelous. In actual fact it is a confession which should convince some parents they ought raise their own children and never, never hire a stranger like me.

In the above picture of the children looking out over the water there are six children, (with one nearly hidden behind the child wearing red). This should be an easy number for a veteran Child Care Professional like myself to account for, but a half mile farther along on this hike I lost one, and didn’t even know it.

It happened like this:

Two of the boys involved were laggards, and made the others wait for them to catch up, over and over. Further along on this hike we were moving along an old stone wall in the woods, and I looked backwards and saw the two boys were again lagging, and told them to hurry up. Meanwhile, to keep the other four interested, I was pointing out the difference between the tiny footprints of deer mice and larger footprints of flying squirrels in a dust of slushy snow along the top of the stone wall. When one of the boys caught up I assumed the other was with him, as the two had been inseparable. We continued a bit further along the wall when I heard an adult voice calling from far away, shouting “I’ve got your kid!”

It turned out the second boy had decided to go back. He could care less about the footprints of deer mice. He was heading back to the farm for a snack. He reached the main trail (we were bush-whacking off the main trail) and came face to face with an adult he didn’t know.

I doubt many parents would approve of this situation.

Fortunately the adult was an old friend, who happened to be out hiking the starkness of November, and knew enough to bellow into the trees to find me. But I confess I was blushing when I retrieved the child I had misplaced.

In my ten years of watching other people’s children there have been many occasions when children have run off, but usually I locate them within thirty seconds. There was only one time when two small brothers decided to “go home” during the first few days they were enrolled.  I had stepped into the underbrush and behind a tree to relieve myself, and when I stepped back out they were gone. Bellowing proved futile.  I nearly had a coronary before my wife informed me she could see them  heading back to the farm. (A benefit of cell phones.)

This is no excuse. If I promise to watch children I should watch them. But I confess I am imperfect. It may not be a sin of commission, but it is a sin of omission. In this example, I neglected to be sure the laggard actually caught up with the rest of us, and instead assumed he had, when in fact he was headed the opposite way. A five-year-old met a total stranger. This is not a good situation.

Now, if I wanted to play the blame-game, I could turn the tables, and blame the parents for not caring for their own children, and instead handing them off to a neglectful old fool like myself.

I could blame colleges for burdening young parents with huge debts to pay off, so that they both must work fingers to the bone and have no time for their children.

I could blame the government for caring more for banks that collect interest on college loans, than for the poor, exploited students.

I could go on. In some ways the world we live in is as stark as November.

Instead I think I’ll skip the blame-game, and instead be thankful. I’m thankful the adult the wayward child met was an old friend of mine, who could just bellow, “I’ve got one of your kids,” and make everything right.

Perhaps that is what defines an “old friend.” They are not particularly interested in the blame-game, and are more interested in making things right.

This in turn suggests we should be more interested in making old friends, than in blaming (which is no way to make a friend.)

The truth of the matter is we are all imperfect. Only God Almighty is perfect. Therefore we will all, at some point, screw up. I confess I did screw up, concerning watching over one small boy’s safety.

As Thanksgiving approaches I have decided to make an effort to tell old friends how thankful I am they exist, and to make this old world be more a world of appreciation and thankfulness, than a world of the blame-game.

ARCTIC SEA ICE –The Bering Baffler–(with Afterward)

One area of the Arctic Sea that has had far less sea-ice in recent years than I’ve seen earlier in my lifetime is in the waters north of the Bering Straits. I think it is an area Alarmists cling to hopefully, thinking it may support their strange belief that if the ice at the Pole all melts then civilization as we know it will crumble, and they won’t have to get a Real Job.

The problem with this fond delusion is that there are some hints in the yellowing pages of the logs of old whaling ships which suggest there were other times, before my lifetime, when those same waters saw less ice. Even the Eskimo, who were the original whalers of the north, could not have been whalers if the waters were not open.

That being said, in my lifetime the waters north of Alaska did formerly have more ice, as can be seen by the records of the bases that were set up on ice in areas that now are open water, late in the summer. True, in prior posts I’ve shown pictures of the ice breaking up beneath the huts of the scientists in 1975, but there is no getting around the fact they at least had ice to have break up. More recently the same areas have seen more open waters.

I’m afraid I annoy Alarmists by suggesting that the primary reason for the fluctuation in the levels of sea-ice north of Alaska is not CO2, but rather a cycle which the Pacific Ocean experiences called the PDO (Pacific Decadal Oscillation). When this cycle is in its “warm” phase warmer water enters Bering Strait and is able to melt sea-ice to the north, and when it is in its “cold” phase the same water is chilled enough to allow sea-ice to form earlier, grow thicker, and be more lasting.

Some say the variations in temperature are too small to have so great an influence, but I must remind them of two things. First, a mere half degree can be the difference between sea-ice melting or freezing. Second, the variations in CO2 are far more tiny.

The PDO was thought to move through a cycle we could count on, over a period of roughly 60 years, but it has proven a bit untrustworthy of late. It moved into its “cold” phase right on schedule, but then unexpectedly shifted back to “warm”. At first I thought this resembled a brief “spike” to warm which occurred during the PDO’s last cycle, but that idea has proven to be incorrect, for the PDO has stubbornly remained warm. I can’t really call it a mere “spike”.  Though it has been dragged back down towards the “cold” area where (according to my theory) it “should” be, it still remains slightly “warm”, and even had the audacity to pop up a bit in September. (The final cross in the graph below.)

Baffle 1 pdo_short

Although the PDO is still “warm”, it is slightly “cooler” than it was last autumn. Therefore one would expect a slight increase in sea-ice north of Bering Strait and Alaska. So let us check, using the “new version” of  NRL maps. (2016 to left; 2017 to right.)

In fact, rather than a slight increase of sea-ice there is a slight decrease of sea-ice north of Bering Strait. This may seem to discount the PDO as a factor, and to Alarmists this will leave CO2 as the only remaining reason for less ice. Wrong. Other factors need to be considered.

One is a jet stream pattern that may be setting up that I greatly enjoyed when young and hot-blooded, back in the bitter winter (in eastern USA) of 1976-77. The same loopy jet that convinced some, back then, that the Climate was cooling, by freezing the socks off the big-wigs in Washington D.C., brought balmy conditions to Alaska back then. My blood is not so hot any more, and I don’t like seeing such a sameness may reoccur. But if it did reoccur mildness would reoccur up towards Alaska, which likely would decrease sea-ice.

A second factor might be the same factor that is knocking the PDO from its (formerly) predictable cycle, and keeping it warm longer than expected. What might that be?

My guess is that it is the “Quiet Sun.” After a recent burst of activity, the sun has again gone spotless:

Baffle 2 latest

A “quiet” (spotless) sun sends less energy to earth, but this decrease in energy is likely to take forms other than that measured by thermometers. I hypothesize it may also be measured by anemometers, and be seen in a slight decrease on Trade Winds. This would encourage El Ninos and discourage La Ninas, causing the Pacific to be generally warmer. In a lagged manner (as shown so well by Bob Tisdale) this extra warmth makes its way north to effect the PDO. In other words, though it seems counter intuitive, a colder sun would make for a warmer Pacific, for a while.

But only for a while. It is a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul. Eventually cooler can’t continue to make things warmer. It simply makes no sense, in the long run. Sooner or later, through processes I certainly don’t understand, cooling will result in cooling.

We may not be there yet, but I have a sense that, if one factor delays the inevitable, the inevitable gains a sort if strength through being delayed. A flood may be delayed by dams upstream, but, if the flood gathers strength behind such dams, and such dams crumble, the flood may have unexpected power when unleashed.

The fact the Pacific switched from a developing El Nino to a sudden La Nina last summer. in a manner unforeseen by models, seems to suggest the models are facing a power they never expected. But there the La Nina power sits, obvious in the anomaly maps:

Baffle 3 anomnight.11.13.2017

It sure looks like the Trade Winds recovered, to produce a spear of blue heading west from Peru. Also cold water upwelled and headed west off South Africa, and even to a lesser degree west of Australia. But the North Pacific only shows a slight hint of the “cold” PDO reappearing, with a little chill on the west coast of Canada. Of greater significance is the new “warm blob” south of Alaska. It may form the warm core of a “cold” PDO.

How does this effect sea-ice? Very little, so far. It takes time for such changes to work their way north. In fact, if you look at the above map you see Bering Strait is above normal, and appears to be experiencing symptoms of a “warm” PDO.

This makes me nervous. It resembles the winter of 1976-77. Anomaly maps shows heat in Alaska, and bitter cold spearing southeast towards eastern USA.

Baffle 4 Screen_Shot_2017_11_12_at_8_23_41_AM

When the jet-stream chooses to go loopy in this manner, Alarmists look silly, for the cold slices south to where they live. Record cold temperatures were set in intellectual locals such as New York City and Boston. A bit inland, in fly-over places like Lebanon, Pennsylvania, cold temperature records were broken by an amazing six degrees. And me? I was taking some time off on the coast of Maine, and my wife strolled the sand in what was more like a burka than a bikini.

Beach 1 IMG_5745

The -17 Celsius wind ripped at the water, utterly altering the “sea surface temperaure” charts consulted by geeks who consult computers before consulting the sea. While intellectuals awaited “updates” the bird-brained gulls and sandpipers were wiser.

Beach 5 FullSizeRender

If this loopy jet stream “locks in”, as it did in 1976-77, there may be more sea-ice in Chesapeake Bay than in Alaska. The coastline of Washington D.C. itself may be frozen by Christmas, but do you think the politicians there would look out the window?

Likely not. Many would simply bleat some dogmatic propaganda about an “Arctic Death Spiral”,  never bothering to study the subject. Let’s be honest. The typical politician knows less about arctic-sea-ice than I, a mere simpleton, possess in my little finger. Yet they strut and bray.

They are embarrassing. Even if one ignored all the subtlety of how the Creator made creation, you would think they could see their dogma looked dopey. For example, the idea of a “Death Spiral” involves an acceleration in the decrease of sea-ice, yet we have seen an increase from last year:

DMI5 1113 osisaf_nh_iceextent_daily_5years_en

Politicians never ask themselves, “How can there be more ice, if there is less north of Being Strait and Alaska?”

I might suggest an answer, but they never ask.


OK. I can’t resist answering. Lets look to see where the ice is forming.

Thickness 20171113 Attachment-1

One place the ice has been swift to reform this year is along the north coast of Russia. In a chicken-or-the-egg manner this may be influencing weather patterns, or it may be a result of weather patterns. What I’ve seen is that low pressure hasn’t traveled from east to west along the north coast of Russia, as it has other years, and one reason for this may be that there is no open water to fuel such storms with evaporation. Instead Atlantic gales tend to stall and fade north of Norway, and far to the west Pacific gales have seemed to be attracted north by the open water north of Bering Strait; the so-called Aleutian Low has left its ordinary home and crossed East Siberia and then crossed the Chukchi Sea to the Beaufort Sea and then faded into Alaska. Between the two areas of general low pressure high pressure has existed where I noted the low pressure “Ralph” set up shop last winter. Currently the low has faded on the Pacific side, but a new visitor is forecast to come north. Most obvious is the high pressure bridging the Pole.

So far the closest thing to a “Ralph” reestablishing low pressure at the Pole has been the feeder-band of milder temperatures aiming north of Greenland, but so far, where such plumes of mildness had an uncanny ability to generate low pressure last year, this year they have failed. Also neither Atlantic nor Pacific gales have faded northwards towards the Pole. Things are changing.

Patterns tend to be in a state of flux during the autumn, and it’s likely wisest to sit back and watch. The pattern that first drew my attention to “Ralph” didn’t become very apparent until Christmas 2015, and I suppose the same thing could happen again this year. However that was following a powerful El Nino and this year we are following a feeble and failed El Nino, with a more vigorous La Nina forming (so far.) Things seem very different to me. Though the Pole continues above normal, it is far colder than last year. (2016 to left; 2017 to right).


In late November the waters north of Bering Strait usually flash freeze in a big hurry (on years when waters are open). It will be an area to watch; also watch to see if Pacific storms stop coming north of Bering Strait, once the open water is gone. (Also watch how swiftly the open water of Hudson Bay flash freezes.) My hunch is that the winter will start out with a loopy jet making Alaska warm and the east coast of USA frigid,  but the pattern will switch to a more zonal pattern and the second half of the winter will see cold staying at the Pole. (In a tongue-in-cheek way I have stated the exact date for the switch will be February 13.) If the cold stays at the Pole the sea-ice will likely be thicker and less broken up by storms, when the sun peeks above the horizon next spring.

It will be fascinating to watch, but as always I think CO2 has only a microscopic influence on what is going on. The real shakers and movers are the weather patterns and the oceanic cycles, which are likely nudged by cycles of the sun. The trigger that will likely bring high sea-ice amounts back to the Pole will be when both the PDO and AMO swing to “cold” phases at the same time, but such a match seems still well in the future (though when it happens it may be abrupt.) The AMO is going through what may be the last hurrah of its “warm” cycle, which likely will make the North Atlantic interesting this winter:

Baffle 5 amo_short

In fact having the AMO leap up like that may completely trash my forecast for a zonal pattern during the second half of winter. At the very least I may change my date for the switch occurring to February 14, if the AMO doesn’t calm down.

Stay tuned.

Monday Music

You cannot keep the sunrise from coming
So do not hog the blankets in bed
Nor call back the dreams that were numbing
The clarion calls in your head.
Drenching sleep has its reason for being
But weekends always come to an end.
Be free after rest does its freeing.
Be friendly after meeting a friend.

Kiss FullSizeRender

LOCAL VIEW –Cold Comfort–

Beach 4 FullSizeRender

The  Atlantic was so hot today that islands in the distance seemed to float over the shimmer of a mirage, like you see shimmering over a hot highway in July. The difference was the Atlantic really wasn’t hot as a highway; it was cool, but the air was frigid.

A gale was blowing straight from the north, and the surf grew manes like charging horses.

Beach 2 FullSizeRender

I dressed in my warmest clothes, with my warmest long underwear, for a beach is beautiful in all weathers, except perhaps for women. Personally I prefer bikinis to burkas.

Beach 1 IMG_5745

Somewhere under that bundling was my wife, and her voice was warm, and that really is the main thing that matters.

It has been too long since the summer of love
When it all seemed obvious and simple.
The Woodstock dream was a beckoning dove
That made young maid’s cheeks beautifully dimple
But now those cheeks are like leather and creased
And the beauty is kept sheltered within.
The maid’s lovely smile has now sadly ceased
For she shows missing teeth with her grin.
Time’s tax has robbed those who do not look deep
And see that time improves wives as it does wine.
The superficial fall fast asleep
As others trim lamps for a Guest divine.
As winter draws near in the gathering storm
Be glad when you walk with a voice that is warm.

It is amazing how quickly the mind shifts gears, if you give it half a chance. I suppose that is why some spend so much to seek ski slopes. Being a bit more stingy, (call it frugal), and less able to withstand the terrible crashes which I, as a bad and reckless skier, once amazed (or horrified) all on the slopes with, I find a beach a better place to be when winds get bitter. But the effect is the same.  Senses are sharpened. And it is far cheaper, with off-season rates.

The streets are strangely deserted. You half expect to see a tumbleweed blowing down the ghost-town avenues, but instead must be satisfied with a windblown newspaper. (Rare enough; who reads those things any more?) Not only have tens of thousands of tourists left, but most of the workers who waitress tables and change sheets have fled as well. All that remains is a remnant of humanity, a little like you are in some sort of “Mad Max” movie about Earth after Armageddon. Vast eateries with huge parking lots are completely closed, and only smaller joints remain. And you had best be careful walking into such places. Some are where fellows go when they are unemployed from September to May, and you don’t want to bring a wife there. More upscale, but strangely even more adolescent, are restaurants where men connive how to rip off the public next June, (and I identify such places because all the cars outside have Florida and New Jersey plates, and the men inside wear shiny suits no one on vacation wears, and don’t drink from mugs.)

To eat well, go to a local grocery store. If you insist upon eating out, ask the people at the grocery store. The cashier will tell you she can’t afford to eat out, so my wife asked her where her parents ate out. Or ask the person running the place where you are staying.

To be honest, this research is far more fun than the recreation summer visitors find at night clubs or upon roller coasters or at miniature golf courses. Meeting people is far more fun than mere distractions.

And, if you are fed up with people and really do need a distraction, walk the beach and talk to the gulls. This is actually what drew people to the beach in the first place, though the purpose is defeated when you are elbow to elbow with ten thousand others on towels.  A beach is hardly a beach in the summer. The sands reverts to how a beach should be when the wind chill dips to zero (-17º Celsius).

The gulls are easier to talk to, because they are largely disgruntled. They were overfed during the summer, stealing people’s french fries and hot dogs, and do not approve of the changed circumstances. The sad fact of the matter is that plenty created an overpopulation, and many will not make it to spring. The healthier birds wheel and screech and fight over the sea-clams and dead crabs exposed by the retreating tide, in the acceptably un-spiritual manner of gulls, but many others crouch in the sand, sulking in the gale. The don’t want to fly in the wild wind, and even seem reluctant to waddle out of your way,  for that involves turning their tails to the wind, and the gale then plucks at their feathers, ruffling them like a hand rubbing a cat’s fur the wrong way.  Only with the most uncomplimentary glances your way will they open their wings and be whipped down the beach against the harsh glitter and glare of the wintry sun.

Beach 3 IMG_5756

Even as the lumbering gull is torn downwind, one notices tiny dots skittering to and fro below it, at the water’s edge. I suppose they are some sort of sandpiper. But what seems most incredible to me is that they are even able to survive in the cold.  Plucked they would amount to little more than a couple of tablespoons of hot blood,  and in the windchill two tablespoons should freeze solid in two minutes. Yet they seem utterly untroubled by the cold.  Compared to the gulls they seem downright cheerful. What sort of crazy metabolism burns in them? And what the heck are they pecking at in the sand that fuels such tiny engines?

Whatever it is, I want some.

Beach 5 FullSizeRender

When gales dent my eyeballs and wires are singing
And ruffled gulls sulk, before bending downwind,
What sort of fires are sandpipers bringing
To beaches abandoned, where summer once grinned?
They skitter away from the water’s onrush,
Then scamper close to its sizzling retreat,
Untroubled by growling surf’s thump and hush
And running on amazingly unfrozen feet.
My fingers, far fatter, are bitten by frost,
Yet God keeps birds wonderfully warm.
Perhaps they’re a symbol, made for the lost
Who can’t see how they will live through a storm.
We shouldn’t be sure cold can chill to the bone
When Paul wrote great things from the sewers of Rome.

LOCAL VIEW –First Snow–

I recall reading a poem where the poet wistfully stated that someday perhaps we could again contemplate falling snow in the manner of Japanese poets of yore, and not be distracted by all our modern concerns about road conditions and whether we remembered to put on snow tires,  and what we will do if school is cancelled. For there is something to be said for the beauty of falling snow, especially the first flakes, falling when the final leaves are still on the trees.

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Sadly, I find I can’t sit back and contemplate much.  While the kale in the garden is improved by frost, the celery can’t withstand much freezing, and I have a good crop.

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But how am I to find time for the celery, when my wife isn’t too happy about my great harvest of hot peppers, gathered last week after our first freeze and still scattered about her kitchen?

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And how am I to find time for peppers with a business to run? Every day I write a list, but emergencies emerge, especially when you run a Childcare. Early childhood is actually one long emergency, as children are emerging into a world full of dangers and disasters. So that which is on my list doesn’t get done until it itself becomes an emergency. For example, I should check out the wood stoves when weather is warm, but I never get around to it until we start our first fire and the house fills with smoke. Then I have to frantically replace a stove pipe (40 years old and crumbling with corrosion) and sweep a chimney. Who has time to string up peppers?First Snow 4 FullSizeRender

The good side is that little children at our Childcare get to see a man work. Most Childcares give children the impression men evaporate at sunrise and materialize at sunset. At my place they get to feel the stiff wire bristles of a chimney brush, and see black flakes of creosote, and learn smoke can condense like steam can, and see me huff about with a long ladder over my shoulder, and understand men do work.

The bad part is that at my advanced age I’m not suppose to be huffing and puffing about. I’m suppose to wear a white suit and give orders like a fellow who owns a plantation.

How am I suppose to wear a white suit if I’m cleaning chimneys? Soot would spoil the fabric. As would dirt from the garden, and sap and sawdust from lugging firewood would be just as bad.  About the only good thing about snow is that I could wear a white suit in it and not get it dirty, but white linen is not made for cold climates and shoveling snow.

I actually feel a bit like a rat in a wheel, and have to steal time to write, but when my wife sees me sneaking off to my word processor she sometimes gives me the feeling that a man’s main aim in life is to avoid chores, whereupon I tell her a woman’s main aim in life is to create them.

Then our eyes meet, and we know it is time for a break. With a three day weekend coming up, we need a day at the beach. So let’s check the forecast.

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For those of you who like less precise temperatures, 16º Fahrenheit equals -9º Celsius. Winds will be from the north, gusting to thirty mph.

We will have the beach all to ourselves! Yippie!

Last spring I watched the final flakes falling
With the petals of an apple tree’s blooms
And wondered if I’d see the appalling,
Appealing white again. For our dooms
Are hidden from us. We can never guess
If tomorrow will come. In my mad case
It seems that the answer’s definitely, “yes.”
God’s willing I run a lap of the race
And feel snow in my face. On I will roam
With my beachcomber’s pension,with wild skies
and thudding surf a most beautiful poem
Even if I never ink the words that my eyes
See written by cirrus and hear in surf’s sighs.
The Timeless is peeking through time’s thin disguise.