LOCAL VIEW –Boston Bozo’s Bitter Backlash–With Monday Conclusion–

It looks like we are in for some real winter. This morning the thermometer read -3º F (-19ºC) on the sunny side of the house, and the wind in my face just plain hurt. Only my sense of humor calls this weather “a bit brisk”. It is dangerous.

Not that you can’t adapt to it, and take proper precautions, but amazingly few dress correctly. They attempt to dash from heated cars to heated buildings without spoiling their fashionable demeanor with all the woolen stuff that can make a slender woman look like she weighs 200 pounds, and messes up her hair, and makes metrosexual males look like the Pillsbury dough-boy with very skinny ankles. So, instead, they attempt to make it from their parked car to the door dressed like it is April, and practically perish in the wind. Bozos!

Fashionable demeanor? They wind up looking like crippled cats with their tails ablaze, as they painfully limp in super-fast-motion through powder snow above their shoe tops, with wind whistling through skimpy clothing. (It’s called “a lazy wind”, because it can’t be bothered go around you, and short-cuts right through you.)  Bad hair day? If the wind and static electricity doesn’t frizzle, the simple fact heating bone dry air seventy degrees creates indoors humidity around 5% can make the the most starched hairdo look like a mad scientist’s. This sort of cold takes dignity and grinds it under a cruel heel.

I suppose this idiotic behavior proves the Global Warming Alarmists were quite correct when they prophesied, “In the future people will not know what winter is like.” They were not false prophets. They just failed to mention they were not talking about the weather, but rather about the dumbing-down of the public to a point they don’t even know how to dress correctly when it is bitterly cold.

Forgive me if my tone is sardonic. You need to understand I have been taking a drubbing for over ten years, for simply stating the obvious, which is that Global Warming is not a crisis, but a weather cycle that lasts around sixty years, superimposed over a solar cycle that seems to last around 200 years. I have been called things that you wouldn’t believe for being a Skeptic, and have even been told I should be locked up. This does tend to make a man bitter. So does a wind chill of -25ºF.

I looked in the mirror when I came indoors this morning, and looked as bitter as the central character in this Boston Globe cartoon dated 1917.

My sister sent me the cartoon, after it was printed in the current Boston Globe. This actually surprised me. The Globe is infamous for printing only the news that supports the concept of CO2-caused Global Warming, and for utterly ignoring the evidence of the past, which tends to suggest “the only new thing in the world is the history you haven’t studied.” For them to allow even a suggestion we have seen the current weather in the past is highly unusual. They actually have deleted such suggestions from their various websites, in the past.

I wonder. Can the times, they be a-changing?

I wonder. Under a former president, (who I will not honor by naming), vast amounts of money our government does not have was printed, and handed out to any who would further the idea Global Warming was real. Science was degraded, reduced to absurdity. But now President Trump is horrifying people by turning off that faucet of funding. The Globe has written with great zeal how propaganda science cannot survive without billions of dollars being spent. Yet even the Globe must understand that, without funding, certain news is less profitable to be associated with. Not that they will ever admit such news was “very fake news”. But perhaps, slowly but surely, and by small increments, they are changing their “slant” and “spin” to a degree where they can allow evidence from the past to ink their pages.

I wonder. Is it too late? The dumbing-down of the public has been going on at least since Hansen testified before congress in 1986, if not longer. An entire generation of school-children has been brought up to blithely believe Global Warming is a fact. But the current blast of cold isn’t ancient history. It isn’t happening in 1917. It does no good for me to point out the real facts, the real history, the real temperature records from before Hansen wasted such unbelievable amounts of tax-payer money “adjusting” the actual temperatures recorded by actual people. The past doesn’t matter. What matters is the killing blasts coming south. Are we prepared to handle them?

One funny thing is that the only happy people in the above cartoon from 1917 are the plumbers. I met such a plumber yesterday, just inside the front door of my church, down on his knees. He wasn’t praying. He was attempting to thaw the pipes of a radiator. I asked him if he was busy, and he replied “Not yet.” He went on to say our heat was set too low, as are other households, and he expected that, as the arctic outbreak grew worse, he’d be working non-stop.

Sad. People turn down the heat to save money. But plumbers are not cheap.

My main hope is a “pattern flip”.  Old-timers call this a “January Thaw.” Our winter temperatures tend to bottom-out around January 19, but if you scrutinize the local temperature-graph one sees the bottoming-out isn’t a smooth curve. It is a bit like a roller coaster at the bottom of the yearly curve. Despite the fact 125-years of records tends to average-out yearly spikes, there is slight evidence (more obvious at some sites than others) of a slight January Thaw around January 11 and a greater one around January 22. However there is a lot of variability. Some years the thaws are brief and slight. A true “pattern flip” sees a cruel winter give way to a delightfully prolonged thaw. But…there is the worst case scenario to remember, when the thaw is skipped, and the winter just goes on and on and on until you are ready to scream.

I am old enough to remember the winters of the late 1970’s. (1976-1977 started earlier than this one, and went without a lasting thaw until late February). (1978-1979 started late, but amazed even the lobster-men of Maine by breaking some of their weather-rules, and freezing up harbors later than they had ever seen.) At that time the media exclaimed about Global Cooling and A New Ice Age.

I hope we don’t see that. I’m hoping for a “pattern flip”. That will give us enough cold to wake metrosexuals up, like a shot-across-the-bow, without really hurting them.

As it is, it looks bad for two to three weeks. An amazing reservoir of cold air was nudged south from the Arctic Sea and is now heading our way. A second reservoir of very cold air was bumped from Eastern Siberia up over the Pole, and via “cross-polar-flow” will likely follow the first arctic outbreak. After that? Hopefully the pattern will flip, and winds will stream up from the southwest.

For those of you who like maps, here is our current map:

The front down in the Gulf of Mexico and crossing Florida was the first arctic blast, which I suppose some will now call a “polar” front. The “arctic” front, holding a reinforcing shot of colder air, extends from south of us to a low over the Great Lakes called an “Alberta Clipper.” Waxing poetic, (all meteorologists are secretly poets), Joe Bastardi explained, “The emperor of the north likes to lay down a white carpet to announce his arrival, and that is what the clipper shall do.”

I won’t mind a clipper, for that tends to be the sort of snow you can broom away.

What I am more nervous about is the gap between the coming arctic out break and the following one. East coast blizzards can occur in such gaps. (Next Thursday).

We are actually fortunate because the worst cold is coming south to the west of the Great Lakes, and then turning east. It must cross the Great Lakes before getting to us, and those waters are still in the process of freezing. Until they freeze, they warm all air passing over, (and this causes enormous “lake-effect” snows to our west). By the time the cold gets to us it is only -6ºF rather than -30ºF.

If you are interested, here is our local forecast: (Temperatures in Fahrenheit). (Notice warming and snow next Thursday, followed by arctic blast. Storm?)

This will be rough, in terms of heating bills. The poor will get poorer. Some elderly will die in cold houses, and some homeless will freeze on the streets. Those who got rich promoting solar power will not care,  although those who thought they could retire to Florida may face face frost and snow, even there.

In terms of running my Childcare, we will venture out on hikes, but they will be short ones. If it is windless we will build a bright fire and let children play on the farm-pond’s thick ice. But even a slight wind can be very cruel, and I am not such a zealot about the outdoors that I risk frostbite. Legos are an acceptable alternative. Here is the work done by a boy aged four, today:

 It just goes to show you cold can’t stop the children.

(I’ll update this post with end-of-month statistics of what our temperatures actually were. They tend to be lower than forecast.)

Friday Update

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Clouded up before dawn and the temperature rose to -3° F, from a local low of -9°F (-23°C) around three AM. The sun was a brief glow to the east before settling to a light gray smear in the southern sky during the short, gray day. The temperature peaked at around 6°F, (-14°C) with the lightest dust of snow sifting in a light wind. I took a couple of boys out to whack a puck around the pond in the afternoon, not bothering with skates, for by the time they had them on my hands would have been frozen, and they’d want them off. We lasted 20 minutes.

It is interesting how much the forecast for next Thursday has changed.

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That is a shift twelve degrees downwards in 14 hours, and demonstrates the long-term reliability of models.

Here is the evening map. They did not bother draw in any fronts for the weak impulse that passed over and now is south of Nova Scotia. I call such subtle features “ghost fronts” because they persist although invisible. Don’t be surprised to see it reappear north of Nova Scotia tomorrow.  It is a piece of energy tippling along what theoretically is the warm front of the Alberta Clipper bogged down and occluded over the Great Lakes. (The “warm” water of the lakes is creating rising air, causing that stalled feature to persist, rather than fade away.)

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SATURDAY MORNING UPDATE

5:30 AM: Down to -7°F last night, but now up to -4°F as high clouds stream in from the west. Check morning map:

20171230 satsfc

Sure enough, the “ghost front” feature has reappeared north of Nova Scotia. I call these lows “zippers”. They ripple along a warm front when the main low has occluded, and are more obvious in Europe, when a big Atlantic gale stalls and occludes. Our occluded low is a weakling Alberta Clipper malingering over the Great Lake’s updrafts. A new Alberta Clipper is sliding east to its southwest, bringing us high clouds. The snow will likely stay south of us. Behind it is nasty cold. I wouldn’t like to be at the Patriot’s game this Sunday.

Sometimes these surges of cold from the north bring about an equal-but-opposite surge from the south, but the warmth is still milling about in the Gulf of Mexico, and as of now shows no sign of charging north as a storm.

The equal-and-opposite reaction that you can safely predict with a high degree of certainty is the reaction of Alarmists to the bitter cold:

Record Breaking Winter Cold? Don’t Worry, the Climate Explainers Have it Covered

Hansen, who formerly predicted that Manhattan would be awash under rising seas by now, is now predicting the warming he predicted will be hidden by brief mini-ice ages.

Boston Bozo 6 hansen_global_cooling

These fellows seem to just make things up as they go. However, judging from the over-500 largely-sarcastic comments to the WUWT post, people are not buying it any more.

Boston Bozo 7 mckee-cartoon-warmer-colder-winters9:00 AM — Up to 3°F (-16°C) under gray skies. Heat Wave!

The forecast for next Thursday has switched back to snow, with a high of 21°F and low of -6°F. The model my phone is hooked up with (GFS?) must be struggling with a storm it sees going out to sea one run, and coming up the coast the next.

Why Worry? That’s not happening until sometime next year. Today I just need to deal with the gray.

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SUNDAY UPDATE

I thought we might get through a night with temperatures above zero when I awoke at three last night and temperatures were holding at 1°F, but by dawn we had dipped to -3°F, and we have now been below zero five straight nights. Last winter I think we only managed three nights the entire (kind) winter.

Yesterday (Friday) we managed to inch up into double digits, 11°F, but today we only managed 8°F. The occlusion that lay back over the great lakes was swung south by the flow from the north, becoming a ghost cold-front with a ghost-low and even a ghost warm-sector on it. (Not much of a warm-sector, but we’ll take any slight warming we can get, at this point.) One interesting thing about the ghost low is that it in part seems to be a Pacific impulse. If you look back to the start of the post you’ll notice a low crashing into the Pacific northwest. It then undergoes what I call “morphistication” as it transits the heights of the Rocky Mountains. One part of it attempts to reorganize east of the mountains, but higher up in the atmosphere some sort of reflection proceeds merrily across the continent as if the Rocky Mountains didn’t exist. As the Alberta Clipper moves off the coast (after giving us a quarter inch of dusty snow) the ghost low approaches Lake Superior last night:

20171230B satsfc

By this morning the ghost-cold-front (dashed orange line) is settling south to the east, but lifted slightly to the west as the ghost-low moves south of the Great Lakes. (The arctic front is way down to the Gulf of Mexico, and the lower part of the Pacific storm is still entangled in the western mountains.)

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By mid morning someone bothered put a small “L” on the map for the ghost-low.

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This evening the ghost is passing south of us, with little more than high clouds effecting us (this time; another time it might lead to surprises.) The old Alberta Clippers are brewing up towards Labrador, and a sneaky front is wheeling around over its top. Sometimes blobs of Atlantic air get injected into the arctic flow and we get odd, un-forecast flurries coming down from the north. However I think nervous eyes are more likely looking down at the lows rippling along the arctic front in the Gulf of Mexico, or at the lows malingering out in the Rocky Mountains. Me? I’n just hunkering down to endure the next arctic blast, which was held up slightly by the ghost impulse, but now has a free pass to come south.

20171231C satsfc

A quick glance at my cell phone sees the snow is back for next Thursday, for the moment. I suppose the low out by the Rocky Mountains will combine with some Gulf moisture and try to come north, but be shunted out to sea, but not far enough to allow us to escape the northern, snowy edge. And as it bombs-out in the Atlantic the winds behind it will make us even colder than we already are. Two days with zero (-17°C) for a high temperature! (Let’s hope the models are wrong.)

Boston Bozo 10 FullSizeRender This current blast of cold has our local rivers, which are rushing streams people like to kayak on to test themselves, more frozen than we usually see in the very depth of a cold winter, and we’ve barely begun.

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Happy New Year!

MONDAY CONCLUSION

Down to -10°F last night (-23°C), which is the coldest we’ve seen so far. I celebrated a Greenland New Year’s last night (IE I went to bed at nine.) Therefore I could arise early and see the late dawn’s light the frosty windows.

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I promised I’d include some statistics, so here is the Concord, NH weather data. Concord is north of us, up the Merrimac River,  and because its is down in a valley it can be warmer than us on bright sunny days, and colder than us on still, cold nights, but usually it’s temperatures are close to what ours are.

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It’s interesting to look back to December 6, when temperatures touched 53°F (12°C) and December was averaging +4.3 of normal, and the ponds were barely skimmed with ice. Now the month concludes -4.6 of normal, and the ice on ponds is a foot thick. What the heck happened?

One thing that happened is that the winds turned north and stubbornly stayed from the north. Our “warm-ups” involve moderated Chinook air that had crossed an entire continent, and winds just north of west. We haven’t had all that much snow, but it sits and refuses to melt. The last five days of the month have averaged over 20 degrees below normal. That will dent your wallet, when you pay for heat.

Snow is still in the cards for next Thursday, (bitter cold powder, not the sticky stuff children like), followed by another arctic blast, and the long range is now hinting at another storm at the start of next week, followed by another arctic blast.

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The map shows the remarkable magnitude of this arctic blast, with the cold front nearly across the Gulf of Mexico to the Yucatan.  (Also rising air over the “warm” Great Lakes continuing to fuel a weak low all their own.)

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It looks to me like the cold will not hurry to relent. Up at the Pole the flow continues from Siberia to Canada, refueling the source of cold air. However over at the Weatherbell site Thomas E Downs, V posted a very cool analysis of the bitter winter of 1917-1918, (week free trial available). The cold may have caused people back then to stay indoors in close contact, and contributed to the spread and mutation of the so-called “Spanish ‘Flu”, as troops were mobilized and sent overseas. The  pandemic reduced the world population by roughly 5%. Not the nicest winter, or spring. (My Grandfather nearly died of the ‘flu in France.) But one thing Thomas Downs points out is though the cold remained brutal right through January, the pattern-flip in February must have felt like heaven to people in the northeast USA. (Last 10 days of January to right; Mid-February to left.)

 

It also is likely that those who do best in harsh winters are those who avoid skulking indoors, and instead embrace the discomfort, and go out to take pictures, to show to their grandchildren. I’m glad people took pictures in 1918.

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I’m going to post some pictures of our frozen streams and rivers. Stay tuned.

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ARCTIC SEA ICE –Dumping Cold Into Canada–

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. I had a good time, with all sorts of family visiting, and between ten and twenty for dinner day after day, and wonderful food.

The only problem is that I have little time to study sea-ice. When I edge towards to the computer my wife gives me a certain look, and I pretend I was only getting a pen and some scotch tape from the shelf above the computer. I have to be downright sneaky, when it comes to saving maps, and I was so sneaky that I fooled even myself, and three days passed when I thought I was saving maps, but wasn’t. Therefore you are going to have to take my word for it, when I say some neat stuff has happened at the Pole.

When I last posted the high pressure I dubbed the “anti-Ralph” was stubbornly ensconced on the Pacific side of the Arctic Sea, keeping a large amount of arctic air swirling around and around at the Pole, and only allowing a little to escape southwards. This may have thickened the sea-ice, but it failed to deliver the extra arctic air that fuels super-arctic-outbreaks. Not that the tundra of Canada and Siberia are not able to create cold air of their own, with the sun so low. In fact tundra tends to be colder,  as it doesn’t have the relatively “mild” waters of the Arctic Sea (29° F, -1°C) constantly  radiating “heat” upwards into air far colder.  Canadian Tundra can generate temperatures of -50°F  and Siberia generates -70°F, while the Arctic Sea seldom sees temperatures below -30°F, especially early in the winter when the sea-ice is still thin. However both Siberia and Canada can generate larger amounts of bitter air when they are supplied by -30°C air from the Arctic Sea, than when supplied by air that started out at +15°C over the Atlantic or Pacific.

When I last posted I hinted that the selfishness of the anti-Ralph might be about to end, as models suggested a big Hudson Bay gale was going to crash into Greenland, undergo “morfistication” (IE disappear from maps on the west coast, be unapparent, and then reappear on the east coast as a gale abruptly popping “out of nowhere”.) This first step would be followed by the big gale heading north over Svalbard into the Arctic Sea and becoming the first “Ralph” we’ve seen in a while. The models got the first part correct, as the gale did reappear and make it as far as Svalbard, as the anti-Ralph weakened.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By December 18th you can see the Hudson Bay gale entangled with the +10,000 foot icecap of Greenland, suffering the same way Pacific gales suffer hitting the Rocky Mountains in North America, or North Atlantic gales suffer hitting the high mountains of Norway.  How systems transit such obstacles is fascinating and poorly understood, and models have problems with the process. However I did notice some milder air starting to spike toward the Pole from the Atlantic side. What the models didn’t pay enough attention to was the Aleutian Gale slamming up into Bering Strait from the Pacific side.

 

 

 

 

Once “morpistication” is complete gales can explode with stunning speed in the North Atlantic, and December 20th is a fine example. Svalbard saw pressures fall from over 1000 mb to down around 950 mb (lower than many hurricanes) in 24 hours.

 

 

 

And it was at this point that the rot set in, in terms of the models, and in terms of my expectations. I thought the channel of milder air from the Atlantic towards the Pole would serve as a path for the gale, but instead the gale was deflected east, despite the fact the anti-Ralph was weaker. The inflow of milder air from the Atlantic simply chilled and dwindled away in the 24-hour darkness. Meanwhile a flow from the Pacific I never saw coming was starting.

 

 

And it was at this point the relatives arrived. They are not interested is Pacific air clashing with arctic air, preferring other topics. And my wife thinks it is impolite if I don’t talk about other clashes. Not that she practices what she preaches. Do you think my wife has the slightest idea what clashing is going on here?

Steelers steelerspatriotsgrades

In any case, I was a good host and did talk about football. And about fouled carburetors in snow-blowers. (My wife knows next to nothing about carburetors either.) And about tracking deer in snowy woods and shooting them. (ditto). And so on and so forth, with my wife doing what she is amazing at, which is making everyone comfortable and fat. For her “comfort” also involves being a conservation-facilitator, (which is to notice a quiet person at the edge of a conservation and, in a mysterious manner and often to the person’s surprise, to “draw them in” and make them downright gabby.)

Meanwhile I also had to face our local weather, as the arctic began draining south

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This involved the snow removal necessary for running a Childcare business, at the same time I needed to shop and wrap presents.  ‘Tis the season to be hectic.  Sometimes it is hard to find time for sea-ice. I did sneak peeks, and thought I saved the maps. but apparently failed. You are just going to trust me on this.

Low pressure overwhelmed the Eurasian side of the Pole, moving east from the Atlantic and west from the Pacific, and the entire anti-Ralph got squeezed to Canada, along with much of the Pole’s cold air.  To replace that cold air an inflow of Pacific air striped across the Pole. This Pacific-to-Atlantic flow effectively cut the inflow of Arctic air into Canada, but the damage was already done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been expecting Alarmists to raise the usual hue and cry about temperatures +15°F of normal at the Pole, perhaps with the maudlin spin about Santa Claus seeing his house sink in thawing sea-ice, but for some reason they’ve been strangely quiet. Perhaps they know that, when the “polar vortex” gets nudged south, we are going to see temperatures -15°F of normal down in the USA, and they will look like idiots if they preach of how warm it is. I must admit we look like we are in for it, the next week, with even big cities seeing temperatures down near zero. (-17°C). Here is the current anomaly map for North America (Produced by Dr. Ryan Maue and available at the Weatherbell site (week free trial available.))

North America 20171226 gfs_t2m_anom_noram_1

A week of such bitter cold should start to form sea-ice on the east coast of the USA. If this event occurs I’ll post about how such ice is never included in the “extent” graph, but has a big effect in terms of “albedo”. (Stay tuned.) But for the moment we are basically cringing, awaiting the arrival of the arctic.

At the top of the above map you can see the “white heat” in the Arctic Sea, where temperatures are +15° of normal. That sounds mild but in actual fact these temperatures are below freezing. But they do suggest the cold will relent in the future, down where I live, as the supply from the Pole starts to include milder air. Or will it? It is somewhat disconcerting to see how swiftly that heat is lost up there, in these darkest of days. Air that was close to freezing (32°F, 0°C) drops to zero (-17°C) in a few days. Compare the area of above zero air (red and lavender) now, with 72 hours from now, in the arctic north of Bering Strait. (Now to left, 72 hours from now to right.)

 

 

To me the above maps suggest the only place warming will be East Siberia. The models seem to suggest all the cold over Siberia is hopping aboard cross-polar-flow, and will be dumped into Canada. In the eastern USA we may be too busy staying warm to worry about sea-ice much.

The rush of milder air north through Bering Strait did seem to slow the growth of sea-ice in the “extent” graph.

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It also produced the “Christmas spike” in the temperature graph I was expecting.

 

DMI5 1225 meanT_2017

However notice this year’s highs are at the level of last year’s lows. (2016 left; 2017 right)

 

 

In fact, we haven’t reached the high of the 2015 “Christmas spike”, which generated all the media hype about Santa weeping and Rudolph drowning. (2015 left. 2017 right.)

 

 

2015 was when I first began to observe “Ralph”, but now Ralph is no longer apparent. I expected to see him linger, dwindling, and to see less of an anti-Ralph at first, as I forecast we would see the effect of last summer’s failed El Nino the first part of this winter, before the effect of the current La Nina manifested (which I forecast to occur exactly on February 13, as I recall.) The Pole should then become colder and more zonal, with the anti-Ralph again apparent, and the cold corralled up there and few arctic outbreaks coming south. I’ll smile, for by that time I expect to be sick (hopefully not to death) of cold, down here in New Hampshire.

Currently the sea-ice has reached the point where most growth occurs outside the Arctic Sea.  The ice briefly connected Iceland to Greenland, but the last gale shoved all that ice west against the Greenland coast. Hudson Bay is completely frozen.

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The main difference from last year is that this year the sea-ice is shoved north by south winds in Bering Strait, while last year sea-ice was blown north on the Atlantic side. (2016 left; 2017 right)

 

 

Stay tuned.

LOCAL VIEW –Christmas Dispirit–

As a person brought up as an Unitarian, it was my understanding that all that was referred to as a “miracle” in the Bible had a scientific explanation.  For example, when Moses parted the Red Sea, it likely was that he just happened to be at the right place at the right time; it was explained to me that the sea often withdraws just before the onrush of a tsunami. The Jews crossed a low area at the right time, and when the Egyptians tried to follow, the onrushing tsunami got them.  Easy peasy. All explained.

There were other miracles harder to explain, such as Jesus walking on the water, and these events tended to be brushed away as exaggerations or lore. Or, if that sort of blunt dismissal seemed impolite, the miracles simply were not mentioned.

This attitude tended to be a sort of wet blanket on a lot that seemed wondrous to a child, including Christmas. It was as if some felt it was their duty to stamp out amazement. I recall the words “it’s only” were often used to dismiss the remarkable, as in “it’s only a meteor” or “it’s only northern lights.”

If I had to take a guess at what made this pragmatic dourness so strong an attitude in New England, I’d say that in the mists of the past (the late 1600’s) belief had spun out of control into the realms of hate, resulting in the witch trials New England is infamous for, and no one wanted to go back there again.

Also, because Boston had stood at the forefront of modern medicine for over a century, one nudged against a conflict caused by modern medicine challenging some traditional attitudes towards healing. Healing was formerly a wonder largely in the hands of God, but when “germs” were introduced as a new idea (around 1830) the idea that germs existed seemed to challenge God’s power and authority, (not that cleanliness wasn’t stressed, in the Bible.)  A hundred years later the discovery (actually a rediscovery) of antibiotics completely amazed people, to a point antibiotics were called “miracle” drugs.

Up until that point the prognosis wasn’t hopeful for sufferers of certain bacterial infections such as staff, tuberculosis, or syphilis. Whereas blood poisoning might kill you swiftly, (a president’s son died from a blister on the heel he got playing tennis, in roughly twelve hours), slower bacteria such as tuberculosis often caused a long and miserable death. Syphilis basically rotted the brain, adding madness to the prolonged misery. People nowadays can’t imagine the sudden change brought about by penicillin, especially when it was new and bacteria had no resistance. Hopelessly doomed people became well over night. It was as if Christ walked through a hospital, laying His hands on people and making them instantly well, only rather than a marvelous Man it was a little pill. There was a huge surge of hope and gratitude, and no one even thought of suing the doctors (for a while). Nor did people seem to remember to thank God.

Antibiotics didn’t cure viral infections, or cancer, but it was assumed a new pill would come along and cures were just around the corner. Anything seemed possible. In a sense there was faith, but now the faith was in pills (and vaccines) .

This belief-in-pills reached its most ridiculous levels in the field of psychology,  where belief-in-God was described as a neurosis or fixation, and the agony and ecstasy of spiritual search were explained away as being due to hormones and dopamine levels. Some of the pills handed out to doctors and by doctors as free samples are now known to have had horrific consequences, and are banned, but at the time the cure for a housewife’s depression was “mother’s little helper” and amphetamines, and suburban women walked around with eyes like locomotive headlights.

Children are observant and not as foolish as some think, and I was aware some housewives (including my mother) sometimes behaved a bit oddly, without understanding the connection to pills. But children accept a lot they are told without question, and I did learn to scoff at “non-scientific” beliefs at some early age without even thinking about it. I felt a lot of childish wonder, but it was largely about the latest scientific discoveries. Both the scoffing and the wonder seemed to largely come from my father, who was a surgeon.

Walking in the woods with my father was, for me, an experience in heaven, for he had a tremendous awareness of the interrelations between various plants and animals, (what is now called “ecology”, though no one used that word back then). He saw, or seemed to glimpse, a Whole, a sort of Oneness, and, without ever hearing the word “God” mentioned, I was enchanted and enthralled. (I never said “it’s only nature.”) Unfortunately these walks were few and far between. One reason the suburbs were so insidiously empty was because all the Dad’s were gone, being workaholics elsewhere. This physical divorce between the workplace and the home eventually effected marriages.

When divorces went from being very rare to quite common in the late 1960’s it didn’t make wives happier, and it only made the suburbs worse. It was around this time my mind began to grapple with the possibility something was missing. What was missing was obviously “Dad”, but there was something else, a sort of “spirit”, and it was especially noticeable around Christmas.

It did not occur to me I was on any sort of spiritual search. The very word “spirit” had negative connotations. “Spirit” seemed linked with superstition, and also with being childish, with a belief in a sort of Santa Claus. Instead, when I thought at all, I felt I was scientific, and after something science hadn’t discovered yet. Rather than an unscientific word like “miracle” I preferred the word “coincidence.”  I had noticed a glitch in the data that might suggest an undiscovered element, a sub-atomic particle, an unseen gravity (such as a “black hole”, which was just then being considered as a possible explanation for oddities noticed through telescopes.)

It was a very empty and gray time, as I remember. At age fourteen I spent a lot of time slouching around with a young Jewish pal nicknamed “Skeeter”, mostly grouching about how unjust young females were and how they should smile at us more, but also talking about other topics, including God. I recall talking about a media report “God is dead”, and deciding He couldn’t be dead because God was a concept, and a concept has no pulse or heartbeat, and therefore can’t be alive, and therefore can’t die. Also the media confidently announced scientists had “created life in a test-tube” (actually they had strung together a molecule resembling DNA), and both Skeeter and myself became depressed by that news, because if man could create life then God seemed strangely useless. Why this depressed us I’m not sure, but then, we could be depressed by just about anything at age fourteen, and these sullen moods tended to alternate with zany moods where Skeeter and I  bounded about like deranged gazelles.

When we were in slouch-mode we tended to walk with our hands thrust halfway into the front pockets of our jeans and our shoulders sharp and cynical. I tended to suggest things we might do to make the dull town more interesting, and Skeeter tended to supply the brakes. We did manage to go few places we should not have gone, without being caught, and did get in trouble at times, but those are stories for another evening. For the most part we walked and talked and did nothing. I often would scorn him for doing homework and getting good grades, and regaled him with tales of all the fun I’d had while he worked, and sometimes the tales I told were even true.

One secret crime I can now confess. The statute of limitations is up, after fifty years. There was a mysterious person in town who would sneak into the church, even after they began locking the doors to stop him. This person wildly rang the bell, for from ten to thirty seconds, often in the dusk before the sun was up in the morning. Skeeter could hear the bell, and knew it was me, but Skeeter kept the secret. He was a friend I could trust, and I told him other secrets I held close to my heart, which I told no one else.

As Christmas approached one year I began to ventilate to Skeeter all my mixed feelings about Christmas. As a Unitarian I was amazingly uneducated about what the holiday actually celebrates, because one thing about Unitarians of that time was that they didn’t need to go to church unless they felt like it, and in my parent’s case that was never. Or, to be more accurate, when I was small they did go on Christmas and Easter, and we did say grace before our meals, but they eventually dropped such archaic traditions. (Perhaps it only follows that their divorce manifested soon afterwards.) In any case, the reason-for-the-season was never talked about, and I was therefore learning in the dark. (Come to think of it, I learned about sex the same way. Back then some things were simply not discussed.)

It is really amazing what an ignoramus I was, but one thing about being fourteen was that I didn’t want to admit I didn’t know, and pretended I did know. Often this involved keeping my mouth shut and trying to learn by listening. Not that I always learned much by listening.

Besides my Jewish friend Skeeter I had a Catholic friend nicknamed Baffles. Like Skeeter Baffles was a good student, but he was so good I could never hope to lead him astray in the manner I led Skeeter astray. He wouldn’t go out walking under streetlights after dark with me. He was more moral than I was, and I think I was jealous, and with the weird logic of youth this made me want to make him jealous back.

What I liked to do was horrify Baffles by telling him, each morning at the bus stop, what I’d been up to the night before.  He largely scorned my tales as fabrications (and some were). After all, Baffles had known me since first grade, and could recall me arising for show-and-tell and speaking of the Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton I vividly described finding in the woods behind my house. But he began to doubt less, once Skeeter could vouch for me. I think he didn’t keep my bragging to himself, and people in my neighborhood began to be more careful about drawing their shades, once they knew a couple of Peeping Toms were on the loose, for some of our scientific research did border upon voyeurism. However there were no sex-education classes in school back then, and how else was a fatherless boy to learn? In like manner, how was a boy who never attended Sunday School to learn about God?

One time I told Baffles I’d sneaked into the Catholic Church with my big sister, and we had drunk holy water from a porcelain sink by the entrance. With eyes like saucers Baffles told me I was not only damned, but just plain gross.  Another time Skeeter told Baffles Jesus was a Jew, and there was a terrific argument at the bus stop.

This sort of discussion didn’t seem to be getting me very far forward, in terms of my religious education. At one point I decided to sit down to study the Bible myself. I lasted around five chapters into Genesis, and was defeated by the first “begats”. Yet I did notice some change in mood, when I made the attempt. I liked the highfalutin language, the “thee” and “thou” of King James. Although to me Genesis didn’t make as much intellectual sense as dinosaurs did,  I sensed some change in the atmosphere. I also noticed it when I crept into the church to ring the bell in the pitch dark before dawn. I decided perhaps it was just a superstitious fear, such as the creepy feeling I got when walking by a graveyard after dark, but as a young scientist I parked the observation with the data I labeled “coincidence”.

As soon as you start talking about a “change in mood” and “atmosphere” you are in fact broaching the boundaries of science and entering the landscapes of art, but I hadn’t yet discovered poetry. Instead, when my heart felt unscientific stuff, I tended to express myself by lying. I’d brag about something I hadn’t actually done, and then feel ashamed about my dishonesty. It can be rough, being fourteen, especially when the only prayer you have heard was sung by a rock group called the “Animals.”

I didn’t get much understanding, even from Skeeter. I think that, if I had felt understood, my life would have been different. In the half century since I’ve noticed that after I’ve had a good talk with someone I have less of an urge to write. It is when no one listens that the yearning for fellowship undergoes metamorphosis, and a mere garrulity becomes poetry. In my case the process went through an intermediate stage of fabrications.

I suppose this occurs because, when your heart aches but you lack the ability to find the words, you enter the landscape of the subconscious.  When you have awareness but lack words you are in an ambiguous state, wherein you have awareness yet lack awareness. You have the awareness of a mood but not the awareness of the words, and the mind produces a dream, rich with symbols, which is factually untrue. When one states, “My love is like a red, red rose”, it is a baldfaced lie.

For some reason I don’t understand I was uncomfortable with lying. I didn’t go to church, so there was no religious reason not to lie; perhaps it simply wasn’t scientific to be inaccurate. In the years since I’ve met others who live lives full of lies, and they never seem the slightest bit troubled, but my lies disturbed me. I lied, and didn’t understand why I did what I did.

One time I was midst a self-created anguish over some girl I never had the courage to talk to. I’d gone to a high-school dance and never dared even speak with her, let alone ask her to dance, which begs the question, “Why did you go to dances?” (Good question. I dreaded them beforehand, was miserable during them, and felt humiliated afterwards.) Rather than going home after the dance I went on a long walk in the night, feeling the adolescent ache of one who wants to communicate but hasn’t a clue where to begin. I wanted to be noticed, and invented a story I wanted to impress people with. In my story I was set upon by hoodlums “from the next town” and fought a brave battle, but was knocked down and lay unconscious in the snow. To make my tale seem more true I put a tiny scratch on my face with a rock. Then I went and lay in the snow under the bedroom window of the girl in question, imagining I’d be discovered at dawn and….and then what? Comforted? I think that was my original scheme, but after laying in the snow ten minutes I began to question my own wisdom. After fifteen minutes I scientifically concluded snow is not a good bed-sheet to spend a night upon. I got up and walked home, (leaving an odd angel in the snow), and as I walked I muttered to myself about what a liar I was. (The word used back then was “phony”).

The next time I trudged with Skeeter he heard a lot of talk on my part about how I wasn’t going to be a phony any more. This likely made him wonder. He knew I was a liar, but also that sometimes I did what he didn’t dare, such as ring the church bells at four AM. He didn’t know which things I was saying were complete balderdash, and which were true. He likely should have bluntly inquired, “What were you doing that was phony?” He didn’t, which I appreciated, because that allowed me to be mysterious and keep him guessing.

The problem with strict honesty was that it stifled the urge to speak the unspeakable. The first tender shoots of poetry were stomped upon, as the hyperbole involved wasn’t absolutely true. Also there was no poetic mush involved in the idea of manhood back then. Rather than “coming out of the closet” about any tender feelings, one was suppose to be tough. I felt deep shame about crying at movies, and would spend time after a movie sitting in the dark, composing myself and drying my eyes, rather than revealing to anyone I had blubbered. It did occur to me that I might be being dishonest, denying my emotions in that manner, but when I became determined to be honest my determination made a fist. Pictures of me at the time show an unfriendly face, which I thought was manly. Mush wasn’t anything remotely desirable; and rather than “get in touch with” emotion I tended to feel it was wiser to “get over it.”

This denial wasn’t working very well, and was in some ways like a scab over a volcano, which was one reason I blew off steam pacing through the night with Skeeter. As we discussed how phony some people were and how unjust life seemed, Christmas approached, and puzzled me. Certain things made no sense in a world where toughness was seen as a virtue. One thing was that people who were greedy and selfish 51 weeks a year suddenly were giving. Not that small children weren’t greedy, but older folk (and at age 14 I was becoming one of them) became demented with generosity. What was that all about?

Another thing was the attempt on the part of families who were dysfunctional 51 weeks a year to be functional. This was especially painful to me because I never wanted my parents to separate, and now there was a lot of awkwardness and pain surrounding the holidays, wherein we came together without actually coming together. In my case we walked down to visit with my Dad at the Unitarian minister’s house. It was the first time I’d had anything to do with that minister.

The idea of nice things like generosity and togetherness are difficult  to accept for people going through a divorce, even when custody, child support, and property are not contested.  In my parent’s case every thing you can think of was contested. Even their individual sanity was contested. It was not a situation conducive to Christmas spirit, and in fact was tantamount to scientific proof Christmas was humbug, a farce, and phony. I had every reason to sneer and be a cynic, but at the same time I felt I was suppose to be tough; I was suppose to walk around smiling as if nothing was wrong.

And then there were all the lights. I had always liked the lights, and as a small boy used to stand close to them and gaze until mesmerized. The bulbs were bigger back then, and I especially liked the green ones. In a way difficult to describe it was as if I was peering into a crystal ball, and saw entire landscapes, but they were made of moods, like Beethoven’s music. But I was young and naive then. Now I was older, and peered at the darkness.

Even in the darkness I couldn’t escape the carols. They were everywhere, and all sung about stuff that made no sense. After all, as a Unitarian, Jesus was seen as a liberal politician, not all that different from Gandhi or Martin Luther King or Robert Kennedy. Jesus had been assassinated like Gandhi, while King and Kennedy were still alive and making speeches, and there was no big fuss made for the Birthdays of Gandhi or King or Kennedy. Why such a fuss for Jesus?

Last but not least was that I had, parked in my file of scientific “coincidences”, data which suggested that unlikely mood-events could occur on Christmas. One had occurred just the year before:

One of my most miserable pre-Christmases occurred in my boyhood, back in 1966.  My parents had separated, but divorce was rare back then, and very difficult even when both parties wanted it.  My father didn’t want it, but had vanished from the household and was fighting to save his marriage from afar, as my mother fought for freedom.  My mother felt I ought be protected from the details of their dispute, but I found it a sort of hell to have my father vanish, and have no explanation given.

This silence concerning the truth had been going on for a year and a half, and had made me a crazy boy,  and now I was thirteen and just starting to also go crazy with hormones. The misery I felt peaked during holidays, because holidays reminded me of better days, back when I was part of a happy, functioning family. During the dark days of December 1966 I found myself in a sort of private war.  It was invisible to others, but very real to me.

We had gone from being very rich to abrupt poverty, (by the standards of a wealthy suburb,) and I had no money, but had decided I would fight back and give presents even though I was broke.  I struggled to make hand-made presents for people, though my carpentry skills were undeveloped and I had no father to instruct me.  My fingers were bleeding and bandaged from my blunders.

One project had me on the verge of tears and rage.  I was endeavoring to make a pair of tiny hearts, as earrings for my mother, out of red cedar wood, but such wood splits very easily, and over and over, just when a small heart was nearly done, it would split in two and I’d have to start over. I only finished on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, and trudged off to a gift shop a mile away to buy the metal fasteners that would turn the wood hearts to earrings.

For several days we’d been in a mild flow from the south, and the snowless landscape was grey under a dull sky.  Life seemed very unfair to me.  Other boys seven hundred miles to the west had a white Christmas, as a modest low swung north to the Great Lakes, but we were on the warm side and the weathermen on all three major Boston channels had said there was no chance of a white Christmas for Boston.  The snowlessness  seemed like insult heaped onto injury to me, and while I didn’t exactly give God a tongue lashing, I was extremely pessimistic about my good deeds ever gaining me any sort of reward.

However my irascible temper lashed out against the darkness by giving gifts, which must have won me a point or two upstairs, because all of a sudden nice things started to happened to me.

When I walked into the gift shop and timidly asked for fasteners, my pout and bandaged fingers must have touched the lady who ran the shop, because she took me under her wing and proceeded to not only sell me two fasteners, but to take me to the back of her shop, (where she repaired jewelry and watches,) and showed me how to glue the fasteners to the wooden hearts, and then got me a tiny box with a cotton square on the bottom to hold my earrings, and even wrapped them for me. I walked out of there in a much better mood, with the bells on the door jingling behind me, and then stopped in my tracks.  Big, fat snowflakes were lazily drifting down from the grey sky.

As I walked home through the snow it seemed absolutely everyone was smiling. The snow was lazy and seemed harmless, but then it grew more steady and swirled, and when I arrived home my poor mother was going through one of her attacks of worry, as my older brothers had gone Christmas shopping in her car. Fortunately I only had to be a thirteen year old male soothing a 42 year old woman for a short while, before my brothers appeared through the snow with her car unscathed, and all was well.

We headed off on foot to Christmas Carols outside a church a half mile away, and for some reason, perhaps due to the snow, rather than the usual thirty people showing up, a hundred-twenty-five showed up to sing in the increasingly heavy snow.  Just as we finished there was a flash of lightning, and long, deep, horizon-to-horizon roll of thunder.

As I turned to walk home, with the thunder still rolling,  a thirteen-year-girl who I secretly adored but whom I had no chance of dating, (as I was not only thirteen, and broke, but also a half-foot shorter than she was,) glanced my way with her face awed by the thunder, and when she saw me watching her,  she smiled an abrupt smile at me that just about knocked me flat on my back in the snow.  And at that point I decided miracles actually could happen, and life might not be so bad, after all.

There was more lightning, and we had around seven inches of snow before it tapered off at midnight. The weathermen were embarrassed, but did give the freak event a name. It was dubbed “The Donner and Blitzen Storm.”  Likely it was a “vort max” that “phased” with a “frontal low,” but, as it wasn’t a huge blizzard and set no records, record books don’t mention it much.  However guys and gals over sixty, who lived between Portland Maine and Philadelphia back in 1966, all seem to remember it.  It was a Christmas miracle,  private and personal, but given to many.

Having this sort of unscientific data in my memory-banks didn’t help me make sense of things. After all, I could dismiss it as “only a mood”. It had occurred back when I was only a kid, a whole year earlier. I’d grown a lot since then; a whole half foot. I was suppose to be beyond such silly, sissy stuff.

Yet as I stomped down streets with Skeeter, our shadows shrinking and lengthening and shrinking again in the pools of streetlight-yellow, on a December night of chilled fog, we muttered about our moods, using a scientific instrument fourteen year old boys own called a moodylator,  (also called a “heart”, by the unscientific). And abruptly I smacked my fist into my palm and said that this year would be different; this year I was going to get to the bottom of a mystery; this year I was going to figure out, for once and for all, what all the fuss about Christmas Spirit was about.

Skeeter then had the unusual experience of being a Jew hearing a Unitarian wonder about what Christmas was all about. As we walked through the foggy night he told me a little he knew about Jesus I didn’t know. (It tells you something about Unitarians, when a Jew knows more about Jesus than they do.) Somehow what he spoke was utterly dissatisfying. I can’t recall what the factoids actually were, but they struck me as being mere trivia, and my moodylator was going berserk, sensing something different.

As Skeeter and I trudged on through the cold fog I began to repetitively mutter, with increasing exasperation, “I just want to know.”  I got louder and louder, until Skeeter got a little alarmed and told me to shut up. I then lost it, and bellowed, “I just want to know!” and then turned away from the street and dashed off into the darkness, down the slope of a snow-covered field. The cold fog rose like a wall of black before me, and behind me I could hear Skeeter’s voice crying, more and more faintly, “Come back! Come back!”

Now it is fifty years later. Sometimes, as I write tales about me and Skeeter and Baffles, I wish I could hop in a time machine and go back to that time and appear in my own story, a sixty-four year old man giving a fourteen year old a bit of advice.

I can’t do that. Only God can be the Creator, appearing in the story He has written. And actually that is the unlikely event that the Christmas Story describes. It is a wonderful tale, even if you don’t believe it is possible, and it amazes me that so many are growing up today and do not know the tale. For some reason some feel telling the tale is politically incorrect, and that Christmas should be celebrated without mentioning what it celebrates.

And what is that? Well, the world was becoming dark, and into the dark there came a Great Light. That is enough to begin with. If you happen to know a fourteen year old who spends a lot of time walking and scowling, do me a favor, and just take the time to tell him the Christmas Story.

https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/12/12/christmas-light-in-darkness/

LOCAL VIEW –Empire’s Refuse–

If you are going to rule an empire you had better be prepared to orphan your children. You are simply going to be too busy at work, too busy traveling, too busy burning the midnight oil. For others is the quaint life of a villager, the wholesome connections of family and community, this thing called “roots”. You are different. You are “going places”, and that snips your roots.

This phenomenon is well known by those who have parents who had careers in the military. Friendships were brief, due to constant transfers.  Even if the parent “got out” of the military after “only” twenty years, there was a sort of scar that came along with the pension. However this is the status quo; one does not join the military without knowing sacrifice is involved. True, some only are aware of physical scars from the battlefield, and are naive about the scars of homelessness, at first, but soon they get the advice of those who have had to endure the homelessness longer, and accept the loss as a price they pay for the security of a pension.

In like manner those who sign up to work for a business corporation accept lives where “promotion” often means a new home in a new city. People accept the fact sacrifice is involved to “get ahead”. It goes with the territory. However sometimes a small voice asks them, “Are your own children worth sacrificing?” Sometimes the small voice is not their conscience, but the child itself.

I have noticed this often, reading the biographies of people who dared to be great. In the lives of famous leaders and Hollywood stars and billionaires is the sad refuse of disgruntled offspring. Churchill had a daughter who committed suicide. To be great and a hero is not without a price that can cut to the core of your heart.

Personally, if I have a shred of greatness, it is because I have chosen the opposite. Likely it is because my father was a great surgeon, and was busy at the hospital, and I missed him terribly. Therefore, when faced with a choice of making big money by ditching my family to work in Kuwait, or making peanuts by working in my quaint village, I chose to stay home.  I chose “the wholesome connections of family and community, this thing called ‘roots’ “.

I think it was the right choice, but it had a humorous outcome. I now run a Childcare that promotes the values of an old-fashioned farm, where both the mother and father worked at home. But my customers are young couples who have no “roots”. Believe it or not, some young mothers don’t even entertain the possibility of a mother staying at home with their children. When my wife asks a young mother, weeping about leaving her child with strangers (even though we are nice strangers), “Did you ever consider staying home?” the young mothers look astounded. They never even considered it.

The humor lies in the fact we sometimes try to talk our customers out of buying our services. We ask them to simply add up the costs of Childcare, a second car, insurance for that car, gasoline for that car, clothes for a job, and compare that cost to the money made. Is the working wife worth the sacrifice involved?

Often, even though financial loss is involved, it is “worth it” in terms of the mental health of the mother. To  stay at home would involve being ditched all day by her husband, who would have all the rewards of the workplace society, and then to have him come home wanting to sag in an armchair and stay home, when she has been in solitary confinement with a rugrat all day, and simply wants escape. Such living is not conducive to a happy marriage.

In any case, the result is that I get small children plunked in my arms, as the mother beats a hasty retreat. And one thing then becomes quite clear. The little child resents the change. I can coo and soothe all I want, the little one basically tells me to go get stuffed. Their eyes regard me with all the affection of a spitting cat.

In some ways it hurts my feelings. After all, I’m not a bad guy. I am adept at cheering up such miserable children. Eventually they are seduced by my sheer kindness into accepting me as a sort of foster parent. On somewhat embarrassing occasions they refer to me as “Dad”, or, on a few even more embarrassing occasions, “Mom.” Then the Mom or Dad show signs of jealousy, when they arrive to pick up their child after sacrificing more than eight hours away, and see the little one walking hand in hand with me, and giving me a big hug before departing. And this makes me feel guilty. What is worst is that many children save up some particular despair for their Dad, or especially their Mom, and after eight hours happy and healthy, dump a complete melt-down onto their parent, rather than acting glad to see them.

Obviously the situation is unnatural, and is due to people sacrificing their children for something they see as “greatness”. Oddly, it is not famous leaders and Hollywood stars involved, but ordinary folk. How far our world has fallen!

This brings me back to when Britain had a great empire. Believe it or not, it was in my own lifetime, and I got to see a hint of its glory. One aspect of its glory involved what they called a “Public School” (and the USA calls a “Private School”.) Busy parents, often far away in “the colonies” (India or Singapore, Africa or the Caribbean) had their children brought up by surrogates, just the same way I bring up other people’s children as a surrogate. The children tended to be older, but the teachers  faced the same wrath I face.

In my own case the situation arose when I was a senior in highschool, at the young age of sixteen,  and my stepfather, who taught at Harvard, was well aware of the influence Timothy Leary and LSD was having on local youth. He was worried about what a burned-out hippy I was heading towards becoming, and (I think) decided I might be better off away from college, than I’d be going to college. He suggested a “post-graduate” year might be helpful to me, as I was so young. He asked me, showing me this picture, “Would you like to spend a post-graduate year at this school in Scotland?”

Dunrobin-3178

I likely spoke some hip gibberish like, “Far out! Dynamite and out of sight! That place looks groovy, man.” I also likely breathed a big sigh of relief, because I found the entire business of “applying to college” was “a hassle, man. A real bummer.”

I had no idea what I was in for. The school had no interest in “spontaneous improvisation” or in “being mellow”.  They believed in this horrid thing called “discipline”.

The above photograph is from the summer, when the days were twenty hours long,  In December the days were around six hours long . I could not hitchhike home, because the Atlantic Ocean was in the way. There was no place to buy drugs, and I went through a withdrawal without even knowing why I was acting so weird.

The experience likely saved my life. I’d like to write about it, but one thing always stops me. It is this: In order to write about what I went through I’d have to describe a terrible ingratitude.  I, and many of the other boys, saw the teachers (who I hated to call “masters”, though they demanded it), as the “bad guys”. In actual fact they saved my life, but in order to accurately describe how they did so would involve portraying them in an unflattering manner. They were the “conservatives”, and we boys were the “counter-culture”.

I had a friend at that school who (oddly, it seemed to me), was far more appreciative of the clammy castle we found ourselves plunked into. He was from a military family, and was far more used to being transferred hither and yon, in a state of perpetual homelessness. The castle was just one more place, and he appreciated how unique it was, compared to other places.

I was quite different. I knew what “the wholesome connections of family and community, this thing called ‘roots’ ” was, and was angry at my parents for ruining it with divorce, and especially angry at my stepfather for uprooting me and plunking me in a remote castle in the far northeast of Scotland, tricking me by never explaining the discipline such a school involved. It was like I thought I was going on a picnic and discovered I’d joined the Marines.  A lot of the other boys at the school were equally indignant about being uprooted, and equally irreverent towards authority figures. Therefore I cannot tell the tale of Dunrobin School, in Thurso, Scotland, without sounding ungrateful towards the very men who saved my life.

The tale simply has to involve all the ways we boys found to break the rules, and the scorn we had towards the rules. Meanwhile these same rules turned me from a burned out speed-freak of seventeen, weighing 148 pounds, to a hale youth of eighteen weighing 182 pounds. I went from a know-it-all who knew little and thought “Shakespeare is for sissies and snobs” to a youth with a thirst for great writing who passed his English “A-level” in only two terms, and passed his Economics “A-level” as well. It is incredible how much they improved the raw youth they were given, but I didn’t have a clue they were doing what they were doing, and saw them as “oppressive”.

Now, as an old man looking back, I feel ashamed. Perhaps it is because I now know, through running my Childcare, how utterly exhausting it can be to be soundly cursed by youth for treating them well. Recently, when the fire department visited our Childcare to educate little ones about how to behave if ever faced with the reality of a fire, one little chap found the subject utterly horrifying, and wailed on and on, and utterly exhausted me. Someone took a picture that is a little embarrassing, for it shows me understanding that caring for the young isn’t all peaches and cream, and can exhaust you.

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Though the teachers at Dunrobin were younger than I now am, I think at times I must have exhausted them as much. It’s especially embarrassing because I was not two years old. I was seventeen, and should have known better. I didn’t. I treated them like crap, just as the two year old treated me like crap, without the respect I deserve. (Perhaps, as they say, “What goes around comes around.”) Also I could outrun my teachers. A two year old can’t outrun me. I could occasionally even out-think teachers. (So can a two year old.)

This is not to say the indignation of the two year old is not justified. Why is he being exposed to the brutal reality of burning homes, when he could be at home with his mother in a house where the fire stayed in its proper place, on the hearth?

In like manner, my indignation, as a seventeen year old, likely had its justifications. However grim reality steps in, and places parents into circumstances where the best they can do is hand their own flesh and blood off to complete strangers. My stepfather actually made a wise choice, handing me off to Dunrobin. It saved my life, (though I will confess I have never been so close to committing suicide).  (I’ll tell that tale in chapter ten.)

In any case, among the boys at Dunrobin, few appreciated how lucky they were. If I am to tell the tale truthfully I must be honest about the resentment. There is a very beautiful irreverence the boys had towards limitations placed upon their freedom, and the ways they found around discipline are hilarious and brimming with joy. In a sense they restore your faith in the ability of joy to overcome a Gestapo.

However to call the very teachers who saved my life a “Gestapo” is the height of ingratitude.

That is why it is so difficult to write the story of Dunrobin. It has been something I planned to do for years, but I keep putting it off.

I suppose, as a lover of freedom, it is hard to admit freedom isn’t free,  discipline is necessary, a river without banks goes nowhere and becomes a swamp. But perhaps I’ve thought long and hard enough about the subject to be able to describe both the joyous student’s disrespect for discipline, and the less joyous insistence upon discipline, on the part of the teachers.

I just want it clear how good discipline was for me, though I loathed it. I want the few remaining teachers left alive to know I still love freedom, but am grateful for their discipline.

Hopefully this post will be continued, with tales from my youth. I will end this “introduction” with the simple fact Dunrobin looked a lot different from the picture my stepfather had shown me, when I saw it first hand, as I walked down to the front door, from the train station, back in September, 1970.

Dunrobin 3 images

 

 

ARCTIC SEA ICE –Dullsville–

When I last posted a week ago the “anti-Ralph” high pressure on the Siberian side of the Pole was forecast to fade south into Siberia, but it hasn’t obeyed. It refuses to budge, and today’s map looks very much like the map of a week ago. The only excitement has been down in the North Atlantic at the bottom of the maps, where the typical winter gales have roared.

The main inflow to the Pole has seemed to take a long, convoluted path over Europe and then back around the top of these gales, bringing moisture into the Atlantic side of the Anti-Ralph and creating a feeder-band of milder air north of Greenland, though “milder” is a relative term, for the same gales bring the same air around and down their west sides, whereupon it is colder-than-normal further south, swinging over England and then into mainland Europe. Besides this region of outflow, another has poured south over Hudson Bay, and a third into the Pacific from East Siberia.

The Labrador Low (at “7:00” on most recent map) may be of interest, for some models show it could become the first “Ralph” we’ve seen in some time, and jolt us out of the current pattern. Of course, you can’t really trust models all that far in the future, but the suggestion is that the general area of low pressure will take around five days to battle around the south tip of Greenland, (not as a single storm but as a complex collection of secondary and tertiary lows), and then will drift northeast as a collection of North Atlantic gales until it moves into the Arctic Ocean over Svalbard. We’ll see about that.

The Labrador Low is at the far left of the map of Europe. If it can interrupt the flow from the north in the Atlantic it may be a pattern-changer.UKMet 20171215 61103939 The flow from the north is starting to cool the above-normal SST south of Greenland and Iceland.

SST 20171215 anomnight.12.14.2017

The Labrador low is in the upper right of the map of North America.

20171214 satsfc The arctic air is pouring south down the west side of this low, but hasn’t been able to push west, and North America is only bitter cold in the northeast.

Canada temperature 29171215 gfs_t2m_can_1

As long as the anti-Ralph stays anchored on the Pole the arctic outbreaks will be of the lesser sort. The north is so sunless in December cold can be home-grown over tundra, but to really make headlines the flow can’t be zonal, which is what the anti-Ralph encourages at higher latitudes (even as the flow can be meridional further south.) This is fine with me. The Pole can be selfish and keep its cold, as far as I’m concerned. I’m made nervous that the Atlantic side of the anti-Ralph seems to be slowly and quietly bleeding air from Siberia across to Canada.

Here is a map from Joseph D’Aleo’s site at Weatherbell comparing this years SST with last year’s. It is quite different, though both years had La Nina conditions. Last year’s La Nina was weaker, in a sea of mildness. This year the cold water off the entire west coast of South America is impressive. Also note how this map makes the cold south of Greenland look more intense. (2016 left; 2017 right).

SST Screen_Shot_2017_12_13_at_7_30_30_AM

Hopefully I can update later, but it seems like the entire staff at work is calling in sick, so today the boss (me) can’t sit back and be a fat capitalist.

LOCAL VIEW –Winter’s Wolves and a Slinking Mink–

How futile was my dreading. Winter comes
Like clockwork: Shorter days and longer nights,
Neatly ledgered by almanacs.
                                                                Volumes
Of prayers can’t prolong summer: Fall blights
And the north winds preaches, as it bites,
Of a snow-covered wolf pack slinking nearer
Until the bad manners burst. (Impolite’s
Uttering, with a mouth full of flakes.)
                                                                              Mirror
Lakes of new ice are dusted white by gusts
Of arctic malice, as winter wolves howl,
But life goes on.
                                 I abstain from my lusts
For summer-breasted days like a spooked owl,
For, though driving in snow’s straight from hell’s pit,
The unlicensed children aren’t bothered a bit.

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We got four inches Saturday night and four more today (Tuesday). No big deal, except it made a lot of work for me. I like work, when it is writing, and all other forms of work…well…I try to keep them at a minimum.

Running a Childcare involves keeping a parking lot clear of snow, (and clearing the walls of snow the town plows heap into the lot’s entrance and exit). Four inches is usually no big deal, as I have a snow-blower with a thirty-inch mouth, and I bothered to make sure it was running well, before the first storm hit. Usually, especially when the snow is a fluff of powder like the first storm’s was, I can jog behind the contraption with it set in sixth gear. And that is how things started out. But then the contraption spoke a word slowly in a deepening voice, and word was “Below.” After that it refused to run, despite all my mechanical knowledge (which you could fit in a thimble.) I then made a phone call to a local small-engine-repair genius, only to discover he was out of business (thanks to a former president I will not glorify with a name.)

This meant I had to resort to a primitive implement called a “snow shovel.”  Don’t laugh. I know most modern and civilized citizens think such objects are merely a matter of lore, but in my youth I was highly skilled at using them. At age 64 I have discovered knowing is not the same as doing. I get on fairly well, performing the ancient art of shoveling, for a rather short period of time, before I discover shovels are downright comfortable things to lean against, and clouds and stars are well worth observing.

I’d likely have the job done by April, but fortunately a couple of young whippersnappers were around (my youngest son and my son-in-law) and they were in the mood to humiliate elders they ought to honor. For every square foot I cleared in my pottering manner they cleared ten, a bit like tornadoes. In any case, the job was done with surprising speed, and I likely deserve carbon-credits and praise from believers in Global Warming for not utilizing fossil fuel….but don’t hold your breath….because they say I count as a fossil.

And that is just the snow-created work involved in my Childcare’s  parking lot. At my Childcare itself there is also a major change in how you deal with the active minds of children, once snow falls. (Some call this “curriculum”, which seems a bit absurd, when you are talking about four-year-olds.) They had great fun raking leaves and jumping in leaf piles, but the first snow means you have to put away the rakes and take out the sleds. But this means I have to remember where the heck I stuffed the sleds, in the barn, last April.

Lastly there is something called “rescheduling” that snow causes. School gets cancelled, for piddling amounts of snow, but parents still have to work, especially during the “Christmas rush”. Therefore all the parents of school-aged children, who ordinarily are only at my Childcare until the school-bus comes in the morning, and after the bus drops them off in the afternoon, become parents who beg and plead that we allow them to work, by watching their school-aged children all day long. Fortunately, the people who govern the Childcare of New Hampshire allow you break the legal limit, in terms of how many children you are allowed to shelter, in the case of an “emergency”. However this does not make it easier for my staff, who ordinarily see the older children depart before the younger children arrive, and the younger children depart before the older children explode off the school-bus in the afternoon. To have all these children at the same place at the same time is like mixing oil with water and expecting salad dressing.

Over the past decade I, and especially my wife, have gotten good at handling the chaos caused by cancelled school. However it made (and makes) me think. Ordinarily, by law, we each are allowed to handle six children under six-years-old, and, if we are two handling twelve, we are also allowed to handle five more children over six-years-old, for a grand total of seventeen. When school was cancelled we’d handle more, perhaps as many as twenty-five. This makes me think, because in the public school it is quite normal for a lone teacher to be expected to walk into a classroom and handle twenty-six, (not just in an emergency, but on a daily basis).

Obviously a double-standard is involved. The politicians and “teacher’s union” have enacted laws to keep me from getting rich. If I was allowed to watch 26, and my wife was allowed to watch 26, do you have any idea of how much money my Childcare could make?

We’d also would be dead by now. I have no idea how public school teachers keep their sanity. Furthermore, ex-Public-School-teachers, who have worked at my Childcare, inform me my place is heaven, compared to Public Schools. It is a real joy for them to actually focus on individual children, because they only have six, rather than being asked to govern a stampeding herd of twenty-six.

Former teachers  demonstrate amazing abilities, developed during their time in  Public Schools. Ordinarily, when one child has a “crisis” that demands the attention of a member of my staff, that employee deals with that child, and I am left in charge of the remaining eleven. I am then challenged, and feel tested, keeping control only eleven. But what if a child was having a “melt-down” in a Public school, and I was all alone with twenty six? (I’d be fired the first day, for re-instituting corporeal punishment; that’s what.) When I watch former Public School teachers deal with a group’s escalating enthusiasm at my Childcare, I feel a sense of awe. They seem far less challenged than I am, as if they thought, “Only eleven children? Piece of Cake.”

Don’t take this wrongly. I am in awe of the Public School teachers, not the Public Schools. (And as far as the “teachers union” is concerned, I think they are out to kill teachers, for they have insisted upon the awful working conditions teachers endure.)

In conclusion, snow creates a chaos at my Childcare slightly like the everyday situation at a Public School: IE;  We have what seems like too many children, without a truly clear routine. Where a Public School may welcome the time-off of a snow-day’s cancellation of school, it doesn’t cancel anything for me; it doubles my trouble.

But isn’t that typical, for winter? Winter doubles your trouble. Snow is stuff that just means where you once could walk you now must wade. Snow only means more work…..or does it?

When I look at nature, I seem to see most animals dislike winter. Few animals don’t take steps to avoid the season altogether. Birds and butterflies migrate, or hibernate like bears and woodchucks. The landscape can seem lifeless. But I like to take the children out to look for life in winter.

These are images from the only open water remaining on the flood control reservoir abutting my Childcare. My youngest son, after helping me with shoveling, took these pictures of a mink, fishing by the outlet to that reservoir.  (To get the pictures he crept up and hid behind the concrete outlet, and then poked the camera around the corner without revealing more than his hand.) Mink are less adapted to water than otters, but my son said this mink was only under the ice ten seconds before popping up with the sunfish.

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Winter doesn’t stop life. Life goes on.

(Mink photo credits: Israel Shaw)

ARCTIC SEA ICE –Ice Traps Narwhals–

One thing that has fascinated me, in my study of sea-ice, is how swiftly vast areas can freeze over. This is apparent from many sources.

The captains of whaling ships, tempted north by whale’s habit of hunting in the rich ecosystem that exists at the very edge of the ice, sometimes appear like cowards for turning tail and fleeing the refreeze far before the whales chose to depart. (You might think whales would know best when to depart, for they suffocate when trapped under ice). However this choice does not seem so foolish once you understand larger whales could break up through a foot of ice, (with smaller beluga whales following and using the air-holes big whales created), while, without a strong following wind, a sailing craft could be bogged down and halted by a skim of ice only an inch thick. And despite all precautions, the ice formed so swiftly some years that whaling ships, and sometimes entire fleets of ships, were caught by the ice, resulting in some remarkable stories of survival.

The O-buoy cameras captured the refreeze on several occasions, and it always was remarkable how quickly it occurred. One day the buoy would be bobbing in open water, and then suddenly there would be a lot of slush swiftly transformed to solid ice.

The refreeze happens so swiftly I’ve taken to calling it a “flash freeze”.  The phenomenon is particularly striking in the vast but relatively shallow waters of Hudson Bay.  Several times I’ve made Alarmists look silly by drawing them into a sort of a trap, pointing out the open waters of Hudson Bay in late November and getting them to claim the open water is a sign of Global Warming; then the entire bay freezes over even as the discussion continues, (because some debates go on and on and on, for days, at some websites.)

Last year the jet stream resulted in south winds, and the freeze was late on Hudson Bay, but this year sees north winds (caused by the same looping jet that results in less ice in Bering Strait). Below is a comparison of the ice on the two years, with the lilac hue representing ice roughly a foot thick, which is enough for polar bears to walk on. (2016 to left; 2017 to right).

 

To me a change in the first formation of sea-ice by weeks doesn’t mean much. Back in the early history of the fur trade there are records of years when the sea-ice formed very late, followed by years when the Hudson Bay post could not be resupplied, for the ice was so thick and the summer so cold that the sea-ice never melted.  The change of the past two years is merely indicative of natural variation. However for some Alarmists the fact that the ice formed earlier this year causes deep depression, for they feel the change should be in one direction to be a true “Death Spiral”. Instead they see a dead spiral.

Slinky tangled 8532040475_67e4f48a27_b

A depressed human mind clicks into problem-solving mode, which in some cases turns Alarmists into Skeptics, but in other cases causes Alarmists to look further afield to seek verification of their belief.

One “verification” I have heard involved the suggestion that such variations have increased, due to Global Warming, and this is proven by the fact that narwhals, which are adapted to the Arctic, are “now being trapped” by the “changed” formation of ice. I haven’t yet heard the claim this fall, but fully expect it, because the formation of ice in Hudson Bay was “ahead of normal” while the formation of ice in Foxe Basin to its north was “later than normal”. To have waters in escape-routes freeze before waters further north creates the conditions that cause entrapment.

Narwhal 3 hudson-bay-weekly-departure-from-normal-2017-nov-20

In actual fact, the cause of below normal ice-formation to the north is likely not because the ice didn’t form ahead of schedule, but rather because howling north winds blew the newly formed ice away from shore, forming a polynya of open water. It is unlikely whales could even get to such open water, not only because sea-ice lies in the way, but also because they aren’t stupid. (Also polar bears are not endangered by such polynyas; they simply ride the sea-ice, when it blows away from shore, though mothers with cubs are more prone to keep their cubs on shore. Also some older males, who are usually first to move out to sea, perhaps are savvy to gales, and in no hurry to head out when winds howl from the north.)

Whales do become entrapped, despite their natural wisdom, and it usually involves a field of pack-ice that formed in the north moving south across the mouth of a bay.  As Narwhals live to be fifty, likely the older whales know enough to avoid such entrapment, but even they can be trapped by once-every-hundred-year conditions they’ve never seen before. Old reports tell of a thousand narwhals being entrapped in Disko Bay in 1915 (which is too early for Global Warming to be a cause).

All the same, an entrapment of narwhals does tend to excite the Alarmist media, leading to claims Global Warming is to blame. Here is a Canadian article from two summers ago:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/unicorn-of-the-sea-1.3718732

Rather than becoming upset by such blather, I have found it rewarding to simply do the fact-checking that the editors used to do, but now seemingly are too lazy (or politically invested) to do. Often I find myself going on voyages from my armchair, seeing sights I’ve never seen before, and learning wondrous things. The photographs alone can be strikingly beautiful.

Narwhal 4 narwhal

While there is an unspoken insinuation, in the above article, that the narwhals  in the above picture are entrapped, I can find no statement that they actually were. Apparently is was a picture “from files”. Narwhal are superbly adapted to life among ice floes, and there is no indication their populations are endangered. However the researcher in the above study wanted to learn more about the narwhal’s horn. (And who will pay for such study? Not most businessmen. However there are heaps of money spent on Global Warming, as long as you promote its reality.)

The narwhal’s “horn” is actually a single tooth, usually seen only in males, but also in 15 % of females (in a few cases they have two). Like most teeth they have a nerve in the middle. In the narwhal’s case the nerve is highly developed. What is it sensing? Some have suggested it may amount to a sixth sense, able to detect salinity (which increases and decreases as sea-ice freezes and thaws). What is even more interesting is the idea (which could be balderdash) that when male narwhal tap their horns together it has nothing to do with male rivalry, but rather is a way of exchanging information gathered by this sixth sense.

Do you see what I mean about the wondrous ideas you can chance upon from an armchair? I also learned that Vikings could make a fortune by harpooning a narwhal, because, a thousand years ago, the horns were worth more than their weight in gold. (This alone justifies the existence of the Greenland colony, even when the farms became unprofitable. )

To return to the subject of entrapment, they do occur, and are a boon to those who stand to profit. That tends to be polar bears, who can grow so fat from clawing and hauling the whales up onto the ice and gorging on them that their bellies drag on the ground. Also men stand to profit. During the entrapment of 2008 off Pond Inlet, the bureaucrats involved were smart enough to see the whales were doomed and going to die whether they were “harvested” or not, and waived ordinary quotas of around 130 narwals, allowing over 200 extra whales to be harvested from the entrapment. (As the local population of narwhal was 20,000, this did not constitute serious over-hunting.) This boon was shared with others in the Inuit community, (though I imagine some tree-huggers to the south were horrified, and felt an ice-breaker should have been deployed to free the whales), (unless they themselves had to pay for such a rescue).

http://www.nunatsiaqonline.ca/stories/article/Hundreds_trapped_by_ice/

Though such entrapment is awful, if you are a narwhal, they are apparently a fact of life, like car crashes on super-highways are for humans.

Narwhal 6 A_polar_bear_(Ursus_maritimus)_scavenging_a_narwhal_whale_(Monodon_monoceros)_carcass_-_journal.pone.0060797.g001-A

The pity is that Alarmist media cannot seem to educate the public, and doesn’t do a little reading-up on the subject, but rather seems determined to horrify. Horror is not helpful, unless your intent is to herd people with a sort of bullying. To paraphrase FDR, in truth we have nothing to be horrified about but horror itself.

In some cases I don’t blame some scientists for promoting their own area of interest by making it seem more important than it actually is. However when scientists hurt other scientists for bringing up points which suggest their area of interest is not as important as they suggested (as may very well be the case with Global Warming) I think they are stepping over the line, and have left the bounds of civilized behavior.

This was recently the case when a group of scientists attacked Susan J. Crockford, suggesting she had no business talking about polar bears. In actual fact she is a highly qualified zoologist who has long studied and written about arctic wildlife, including polar bears. One scientist who attacked her was Michael Mann, who hasn’t studied polar bears very much at all, beyond their status as a political icon, yet who has himself written papers containing data that caused them to be soundly debunked. He needs to clean up his own work before criticizing others.

A fine example of Susan J. Crockford’s work actually involves the entrapment of narwhals, and can be found here:

Narwhal and beluga ice entrapment is natural – not caused by global warming

One thing I notice about Susan’s posts is how careful she is to give references for every point she makes, and all data she uses. She is a good example of fact-checking which puts me to shame, and should put the media to even greater shame.

Another thing I notice is that in her posts “comments are closed”. I think she doesn’t want to spend time moderating the comments likely to appear, or to deal with internet “trolls”, whom I know, from personal experience, can be nasty, and can draw you into debate that is fairly useless because they have no real interest in what you are saying. (I myself sometimes get a sort of pleasure in battling such trolls, but I can understand anyone who doesn’t have time for it.) Susan gets enough grief from climate scientists, and has no need to seek extra grief from trolls.

A last thing I note is that her posts do have a tab for “tips and notes”, and I know that if I write a polite letter I will get a polite response. (In my case she kindly has pointed out my factual blunders, which I am grateful for.  The pity is that her fellow scientists are not equally grateful for her sterling work.)

In the end it is likely we will not often receive the kindness we crave, from our fellow man. Such kindness is a beautiful rarity on this planet, and if I don’t receive any on a gloomy day I try to give some. Also I find that if I simply go out and study what our Creator has created I see beauty, and that gift is a beautiful kindness I don’t feel I’ve earned, and I accept it with gratitude. There are Christmas gifts all around us.

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