Local View –Western Zephyrs–

Perhaps it is due to my recent bout with the ‘flu, but my recovery has involved being in touch with a mystical side of myself I’m not certain my Christian brethren would entirely approve of. I am “communing with nature” more, which suggests there is something I am communing with. This sounds dangerously close to worshiping a false god, when God is the only One worthy of worship. Christians are clear about that. However I think many Christians unknowingly worship money and fame, without being aware they are worshiping a false god, whereas “communing with nature” doesn’t necessarily involve worship. You are just having a chat with an invisible entity. Perhaps having a chat with the invisible is dangerous, if you believe the only invisible thing you should be involved with is God.  However fame is invisible, and money is merely paper, unless you value its invisible component. Unless and until a person completely renounces the value of money, they have no business scolding me for valuing the west wind.

I wasn’t even aware I was valuing the west wind until Joe Bastardi, making a trivial aside during one of his podcasts, mentioned there was something special about the west winds that deserved a name. He said the wind wasn’t a true Chinook, but like a colder Chinook. He called it a something-or-another Chinook, (likely he should have called it a “Chinook Modoki,” to be truly meteorological), but I was aware I was instantly dissatisfied. But why?

It deserved better. There is something amazingly kindly about west winds in January, especially after a period of bitter north winds. Even though west winds remain below freezing (this far north), it isn’t a cold that makes you wince and cringe, and life relaxes a bit. This in turn makes me want to sing some version of “Zippity do dah.” The poet in me just wants to praise the west wind. (Not worship the west wind. Just thank it, as one would thank a friend.)

However as soon as you call an inanimate thing such as the west wind a “friend”, you look a bit loopy. So be it. When no one is looking, I’ll smile and wave at a small dust-devil of leaves swirling across the pasture.

I suppose I have always secretly agreed with the ancient Greeks, who stated that these whirls are actually lesser angels, called “zephyrs”. The whirls have a mind of their own, and can be mischievous. I saw this first when only aged fifteen.

I was just finishing up a leaf-raking job for a rich man with a palatial house that had two wings extending to the northeast and northwest. His lawn stepped down through a series of terraces to a road, and across the road was a pasture, and at the far side of the pasture I saw a dust-devil of leaves start whirling. I immediately muttered, “Don’t you dare”, but the whirl of leaves came steadily across the pasture, growing larger and larger and containing more and more leaves. It crossed the road and came up between the two wings of the house, and then proceeded to promptly die, dumping a rain of around three inches of leaves over the area I had just finished raking. It looked worse than before I had begun. And wouldn’t you know it? My wealthy employer chose just then to come out to see how I was getting along with the job. He shot me the funniest expression.

These zephyrs are not always unhelpful. Fifty years later, just last week, I was struggling to get a twilight campfire going out in a pasture at my Childcare, but freezing rain had coated all my wood with ice and the fire was barely smoldering. I was huffing and puffing, being a human bellows in an attempt to get the fire hot enough to dry the wood in the deepening dusk. Just then a most inconsequential-seeming whirl of leaves came across the pasture. Perhaps because of the fire’s slight updraft, it swerved to the fire and just stopped there for around 45 seconds. It seemed to get bigger due to the fire’s heat, and all the coals glowed cherry red as it whirled its wind around the fire. By the time it moved off the fire was blazing. I tipped my hat and thanked that particular zephyr, as it wandered away into the darkening woods.

There. I have done it: Confessed I am a mad poet. But don’t worry. I keep it to myself, and know how to behave in public.

Nor do I pray to the west wind. I seriously believe there is only One God worthy of worship. However He does employ a lot of angels, which, although in some respects mere robotic automatons of God’s Will, are enchanting because God’s Will is enchanting, loving because God’s Will is loving, and are humorous and mischievous because such joy is not outside of God’s nature. Just because a poet is in some respects a friend of angels doesn’t mean he worships them.  Give me a break, you fellow Christians, who I have noticed praying to a few outside of the One God, (such as the Virgin Mary, and Saint Cuthbert).  Cannot I just rhapsodize a bit, without being accused of some foul heresy?

Anyway, in the end of all ends all the glory rolls back to the Creator. When I adore my wife I am not worshiping a false god, for I recognize Who made her. In like manner one can be in the world, but not of the world. Money is not evil, when used correctly, but love of money is.  When one has the joy of a good friend one should recognize a good friend is a manifestation of God’s glory.

This heavenly mood I’m in seems a typical response I go through, after feeling like hell with the ‘flu. However even when in such moods one should be in the heavens without being of the heavens, because even that enchantment is not the end of ends God has in store for us.

But I wrote this sonnet after standing in the west wind, in a Zippity-do-dah mood.

Wearing feathers plucked from a flaring sunset
God’s angels of the west wind balm the pines,
And though I don’t hope for spring, I have met
Lost memories in this cold’s kinder designs.

What is that music just beyond hearing?
What’s that scent mixed with the sweet balsam fir’s?
Who am I looking for, without fearing,
Who I haven’t yet met? The cruel winter’s
Bitterness knows a pause, and all awaits
Something announced by the golden kindness
Of the west wind. The harsh face of Fate’s
Softened by surprise. A world gone mindless
Is reminded. I see every man stunned
By the swinging doors of banks left abandoned.

In conclusion I should add that being in a heavenly mood does not mean I am allowed to neglect worldly details, and one detail of our long winters is that long thaws in January, with lovely west winds, are often followed by a ferocious February. Therefore my poetic streak has a pragmatic side. The next sonnet will likely involve woodpiles.

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ARCTIC SEA-ICE –Vortex Hubbub–

My favorite long-range forecasters, Josrph D’Aleo, Joe Bastardi and Tom Downs over at Weatherbell, forecast a sort of sandwich winter back in October. That is: Two slices of bitter cold with a thaw in the middle. They have gotten the first two parts, and now I’m adopting a wait-and-see attitude about the third, but I must admit it increasingly looks like they have hit the nail on the head. If the long term forecasts prove true, that team deserves confetti and a parade, or at least some kudos (whatever those are), because predicting a winter the October before it occurs is danged hard.

I don’t usually pay much attention to upper atmosphere stuff, as it is over my head, but I do note the high clouds on days I can see up that far, and know a few old-timer rules concerning the various types of cloud, how fast they are moving, and the direction they are moving in relation to the winds down here on earth. So far I have seen nothing all that alarming, but did order an extra load of firewood, due to this couplet:

The longer and stronger the January thaw
The more that February’s snowstorms will awe.

I figure this is largely common sense. Weather is seldom “normal” or “average”, but rather tends to swing back and forth between warm spells and cold spells, so it is quite pragmatic to expect a colder February after a warmer January. Also, because spring starts in February way down south on the Gulf of Mexico coast, storms can access some warm, juicy air in February, which can feed storms like gasoline into a fire, and brings us people to the north some amazing February and March falls of snow.

But what has this to do with arctic sea-ice?

Largely it is due to the fact the Arctic Ocean is the source of our coldest air. The way winds howl up there influence us, as well as the movement of sea-ice. Also, though it has less influence on sea-ice than winds do, if the arctic is robbed of its coldest air sea-ice will form more slowly and less thickly. (For this reason biased Alarmists tend to focus on times the arctic is above normal, utterly ignoring the not-inconsequential fact we bumpkins down south in New Hampshire are freezing our socks off.)

In any case, one phenomenon that influences both sea-ice and New Hampshire is a strong cross-polar-flow from Siberia across into Canada, and then down to New Hampshire. These winds create polynyas of open water along the Siberian coast, as ice is shifted across the Pole via the Transpolar Drift to smash as impressive pressure ridges against Canada.  At first this lessens the area of sea-ice, but then the polynyas freeze over, and the sea-ice recovers back to what it was, in terms of “area”. But in terms of “volume”, no sea-ice has melted, and the total amount has increased. (You have to pay attention to such details when in discussions with biased Alarmists, due to their tendency to pick and chose only the data that supports their bias.)

So far the winds down at the level of the sea-ice have been mostly gentle, but I do notice when the winds aloft are more vigorous. This is not to say I understand what is going on up that high, but just as old-timers around here notice the antics of high clouds, I’m sure savvy old Eskimos are noticing the high clouds streaming south, and coming to conclusions. Therefore I perked up when Ryan Maue  tweeted about a “vortex”, way, way up at the tropopause, getting whipped across from Siberia all the way down to another “vortex” located over Hudson Bay. I have yet to see any sign of this cross-polar-bullwhip translating down to the surface, but it does make me pause and scratch my jaw a bit.

Also the meteorologist Judah Cohen produced a comparison of the “Vortex” as models forecast it to be on February 3 with how the situation looked during a very cold period back in 2014. (2014 to left, with North America at six o’clock. 2018 forecast to right, with North America displaced to eight o’clock.)


Judging from all this above-my-head stuff, history could repeat itself, and we could see a return to bitter winter. However so far our down-to-earth maps don’t show it.

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Though we are currently getting some north winds from the low developing out to sea, they are nothing like the blasts we got after Christmas. Our current “cold spell” will get down to 17°F (-8° C), but you would be surprised at how kindly such temperatures feel, after your body has acclimatized to windchill of -30°F (-34°C). Not that I don’t hunch my shoulders a bit against the chill, but I have noticed fellows younger and more hotblooded than I sauntering about with their jackets unzipped. And this is a cold spell? If you look west in the map you can see plenty of Pacific air leaking into the flow, diluting and moderating the winter. West winds are so different from north winds, in New England, that I can see why Indians felt different angels in the spiritual hierarchy, (wherein God [or the Great Spirit] is the only One worthy of worship),  were in charge of the west wind. After bitter blasts from the north, west winds, even when not a true Chinook, are downright kindly.

Therefore there is no real short-term reason for alarm. True, the meteorologists who focus on the upper atmosphere have a better record for correct forcasts, but sometimes even they are wrong. In fact I hope they are wrong. I don’t like bitter cold. However when they agree with old-timer’s maxims, I am especially inclined to take heed. And I remember,

The longer and stronger the January thaw
The more that February’s snowstorms will awe.

And for this reason I have made a complete mess of the side lawn of the Childcare.

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The wise old Indians used to say, “if you want to know how bad the winter will be, look at the white man’s woodpile.”

In terms of arctic sea-ice, having the “vortex” move down to Hudson Bay should lead to above-normal temperatures over the Pole as a whole, but we will have wait and see how the cross-polar-flow translates down to the surface. Having very cold air blast from Siberia to Canada will please Alarmists with polynyas along the Siberian coast, but that coastal ice is far thicker than last year, and shifting it across the arctic could lead to far thicker ice in the Central Arctic.

Stay tuned.

ARCTIC SEA ICE –Polar Wobbles–

Sometimes it seems important to sit back and stop the business of trying to figure everything out. Just watch.  But then, of course, watching leads to wonder. And, as soon as you start wondering, you start trying to figure things out. But one needs to hold fast to a sort of humbleness, and to be aware you are witnessing the work of the Creator. Do you honestly think you can figure Him out?

The answer is “No”, (in case you are young and think you have enough time to connect all the loose ends.)

A beautiful bit of ancient poetry is the Book of Job, and one of the twists of the plot is when Job gets switched around from demanding answers from God to having God demand answers from him. In terms of this post, it would be as if the Creator abruptly spoke, in a deep, booming voice,  and his first question was, “Where were you when I created the North Pole?”

Not that we shouldn’t wonder. However there is an attribute of wonder that is simple admiration. I don’t think we get in trouble for admiring the work of the Creator. And, just as knowing how difficult it is to play the piano increases your admiration of pianists who can handle what you can’t, knowing even a little about how the atmosphere works increases your admiration of the Creator’s workings you witness.

One thing that dazzles me is the appearance and disappearance of arctic high pressure. In the most simplest sense, cold air is heavier than warm air, so it sinks, and presses down on the surface. That creates high pressure. If it should become less cold it becomes less heavy, and the high pressure associated with that cold air grows less and less the more that air becomes warmer and warmer. But that is too simple, because the high pressure refuses to stay in the same place. First, the Coriolis Effect causes the high pressure to spin clockwise (in the Northern Hemisphere) and second, because the cold air is heavier than the warmer air to the south, it tends to press south beneath the warmer and lighter air.

In essence this amounts to a suicidal impulse on the part of high pressure systems.  They move towards the very warming that will cause their air to stop pressing down and even begin to rise. Also, because they have a clockwise spin, they tend to draw milder air in from milder source regions. Usually the west side draws mild air up from the south as the high sinks south, but in certain situations the milder air can be drawn in from other directions. In many cases the high will completely destroy itself with amazing speed.

One thing I enjoy watching is a high pressure come down from Canada over the USA and then swing towards the east coast. The system is warming and weakening all the while. At first the west side vanishes, as the south winds feed moist warm air north and breed rising air and a trough of low pressure. The east side, getting milder and more moist as it moves across southern lands, then reaches a tipping point, where it can become two quite opposite things.

If the high pressure slides off the coast intact, then suddenly it is over cooler water, and is mild and moist air that is now cooling and sinking, in which case it’s pressure stops decreasing and starts increasing, and it contributes to an extension of the Azores High called the “Bermuda High”. In this case the building of high pressure to the southwest can give New Hampshire dry, mild weather. However if that same high pressure is just a bit slower, it gets so warm and moist that I call it a “sog”. In a twinkling it can turn from a ridge of high pressure into a trough of low pressure. Sinking becomes rising (like a yo-yo). Then, rather than fueling and intensifying the “Bermuda High”, the system becomes an alley for a ferocious storm. I confess that as I watch such high pressure systems start down from Canada (most especially in late October and early November) I have no idea which side of the “tipping point” they will take. You couldn’t ask for more opposite forecasts, however. It is the difference between a balmy spell of “Indian Summer” or a howling “Nor’easter”.  And at times it seems to involve nearly identical high pressure systems. The only difference is that one is off the coast twelve hours earlier, and the other lags twelve hours behind.

I confess that more learnéd meteorologists are better able to tell whether the Bermuda High will strengthen, or a Nor’easter will roar up the coast, through their study of the upper atmosphere. However I am a down to earth fellow, and such wisdom is above my head. Also I have noticed, (most recently just last week), that computer models are pretty bad about seeing the bottom 500 feet of the atmosphere. They correctly predicted temperatures would rise well above freezing, but it only happened 500 feet above our heads. We don’t live up there, and down where we lived the temperatures were well below freezing, and cars were skidding and crashing all over the place, and the learnéd meteorologists looked foolish, while I got to be smug, for I’m just a down to earth fellow who has lived long enough to know cold comes creeping south under even the most impressive southerly flows.

Not that I can forecast as well as learnéd meteorologists. If you compared our forecasts learnèd meteorologists would come out well ahead. However none of us are true masters. Great mystery still surrounds the art of the Creator.

For the most part I watch and wonder. And it has been fun to watch the wobbling of high pressure up at the Pole, for the past fortnight.

When I last posted high pressure was right on top of the Pole, which tends to keep the cold air swirling in a clockwise flow up there, rather than the cold being hurled south upon poor, old mortals like myself. The position of this high, in contrast with a low over towards Bering Strait, arranged isobars into a cross-polar-flow that bled cold air north from Canada in a transfusion to Siberia, which was becoming amazingly cold. However a lot of my attention was grabbed by an amazing gale which had roared between Greenland and Iceland, where no one lives, and therefore got no headlines.

A lot of the energy involved with this gale slammed into Greenland, and my focus was on a spike in the amount of snow Greenland got. However another part of my curiosity knows “what goes up must come down”. A huge gale like that is launching all sorts of air upwards, and when that air comes down it tends to create high pressure (unless it comes down as a Chinook, in which case its warmth may generate a low, which is another “tipping point”, and a discussion for some other time.)

I remember back around 2006 watching the late forecaster Ken Reeves point out various places a “digging” tough might “pump a ridge”, and how each place a ridge might be “pumped” would “teleconnect with” (IE “result in”) a different place a new “trough would dig.” The sheer number of variables he was holding in his head as he scowled at the map sat me backwards in awe, and I conceded I simply didn’t have the time to focus to that degree. I would simply be patient, when a low pressure exploded into a Gale and shot massive amounts of air upwards. I would sit back and look around and wonder where it was going to come down, and when it would come down.

Most recently it seemed to come down over Siberia, as the huge gale by Iceland faded between January 16 and January 19.

During these four days the slow bleeding of air from Canada persisted, until Alaska began to supply some milder air from the north Pacific. But by this point the cold over Siberia was making headlines.

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However at this point the Canada-to-Siberia supply broke down, partly because the Pacific air crossing Alaska rose over the arctic and created a weak Ralph-like low to the Pacific side of the Pole. Although a Canada-to-Siberia flow persisted on the side of that low towards the Pole, on the Pacific side a sort of backwash began to develop, with cold air heading back from Siberia to Alaska.

At this point the amazing cold over Siberia had created an amazing high pressure system, with pressures up around 1070 mb. Bone chilling temperatures poured into China down the west east side, and the south side cycled cold all the way west to Turkey, but the  east west and north side were the “mild side”, and though temperatures were below freezing they were well above-normal as they poured up towards the Pole. Meanwhile the sneaky backwash continued to cross into Alaska from the most eastern parts of Siberia.

Of course Alarmists do not focus on the mind-boggling cold pressing down into Asia, but rather in the air rushing up to the Pole to replace the cold heading south. And it did create an impressive spike in temperatures.

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Though this spike is nearly as high as last winter’s two spikes, it has failed to generate a “Ralph” at the Pole,  nor to shove sea-ice north with the same gales over Barents Sea. And what troubled me, with my selfish focus on my backyard in New Hampshire, was that even though the main body of the high pressure sank down into Asia, new high pressure was getting pumped over towards Bering Strait. As a result Alaska and Canada, rather than being drained of arctic air by cross-polar-flow, looked like they were being replenished and reloaded.  I far prefer to see the arctic aiming at China than aiming at me.


The North Atlantic had been quiet, but finally a new gale approached Iceland on January 22, and it did not behave like last year’s, which moved straight north to become “Ralph” at the Pole. In the following maps you’ll notice the Atlantic low follows a far more usual route, across the top of Norway and into the Kara Sea.  Meanwhile high pressure wobbles over to the Pacific side. The contrast between high pressure towards Bering Strait and low pressure towards the Atlantic creates the worst sort of layout of isobars, if you want cold air to stay out of Canada.

My fear is that the blob of high pressure over Canada will move south in the same manner  the blob of high pressure over Siberia moved south. Rather than reading of records set in Russia, we’ll read of records for cold set where I live. Who needs that?

Of course, one odd thing about focusing on sea-ice is that data about how severe winter may be to the south doesn’t matter. Yes, this is a bit narrow minded, especially when it involves ignoring the sea-ice we actually have in New England. Our sea-ice has actually decreased, during the recent thaw caused by all the cold air draining down to China on the far side of the Pole, but we still have some. And our ice reflects sunshine just the same as ice in the Arctic Sea does. But somehow our sea-ice is never included in the “albedo” calculations, even though we do have sunshine in January, when most of the arctic gets zilch. Be that as it may be, our focus is suppose to be on the arctic and the arctic alone.

Not that the people who care about sea-ice “extent” focus on the arctic, and the arctic alone.

There is less ice, outside the arctic, in the places they bother measure. (Not all bother measure the Baltic Sea. Not all bother measure the Yellow Sea. None measure the east coast of the USA.) In fact it looks like there is significantly less sea-ice, according to the DMI chart, which oddly ceased reporting back on January 23.

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When I try to compare current NRL maps with last year’s maps, I am annoyed to find no record of maps for this date last year. The best I can find is a “forecast” for this date, run on January 13, 2017. But we use what we can get. (2017 to left; 2018 to right.)

The “forecast”map for this date last year likely fails to account for the unexpected “Ralph”-fueling surges we saw roaring north in the Atlantic last January, but even using the “forecast map” it looks like, in the Central Arctic, the ice is thicker this year, both at the Pole and also towards the boundary between the Laptev Sea and East Siberian Sea. Also, the area where ice was formerly below-normal in Bering Strait has seen a swift growth of thin ice, which makes me wonder why the DMI map is not updated to show this swift regrowth (associated with the bleeding of cold air in a sort of backwash that has replenished and reloaded Canada with cold.)

Most of the “missing” ice in the DMI “extent” graph may actually be located in the Sea of Okhotsk, down the east coast of Siberia towards Japan. Not exactly “arctic sea-ice”.  And if you are going to count that “missing” ice, from such a southern locale, you should surely include the sea-ice in the Gulf of Maine, which is above-normal despite our thaw.

The ice out in the fringes likely matters less than the sea-ice in the Central Arctic. The ice in the fringes is melted by July. The ice in the Central Arctic is far more stubborn, and there is simply no getting around the fact it is thicker this January than last year. It is moving in the wrong direction, for Alarmists to achieve their dream of an “ice-free Pole.”

Stay tuned.

LOCAL VIEW –Awful Thaws–

It was around this time of year 44 years ago, while I was enduring a winter displeasing to me (at age 21) because it wasn’t stormy and cold, that I poured through a book by David Ludlum I’d received for Christmas, and came across his own tidbit of research regarding January thaws. Using the data then available (which likely has been altered by 44 following Januaries) the coldest time of year was January 19, but there were bumps on either side, in the yearly temperature graphs of many locations in New England. These bumps, like the two humps on the back of a Bactrian Camel, represented two periods of increased-likelihood-of-thaw in New England. Not that thaws would happen every year, but they happened often enough to keep the bottom of the graph from being a smooth curve down and then back up. One bump was around January 10, and a was the weaker thaw, while the greater thaw occurred around January 22, and was all the more dramatic because it was so near to January 19, the coldest day.

I suppose we tend to make more of our first learning than is always wise, but I devoured the information David Ludlum gave like a thirsty man drinking water in a desert. There was simply not much to go on, back in those days, and David Ludlum was a pioneer in many respects. He was an oasis to the famished weather geeks of that day and age, and the day his monthly magazine, “Weatherwise”, came in my mail always brought a smile to my lips. Statements he made stuck in my head in a manner that would have utterly amazed the schoolteachers of my youth, who deemed me a victim of perpetual amnesia. That is why I can quote his dates for the January thaws like a dedicated priest quoting scripture.

44 years have made me far more skeptical, and far more likely to doubt what people state is the truth. Sadly the dishonesty of TV commercials, and the way that dishonesty invaded the speeches of politicians seeking election, and the way those politicians then corrupted Climate Scientists with government grants tantamount to bribes,  makes it wise to be skeptical. However David Ludlum predates all the foolishness of “Fake News”. Back in his time there were no huge government grants to be gained from being a weather geek. A geek could be trusted, for he obviously was in it for the love, not the money.

Some of the observations those old-timer weather-geeks came up with were surprisingly solid, and have withstood the tests of time. This year we have seen two good January thaws, one around January 10 and a second, current thaw  around January 22. Coincidence?

Well, in some ways, yes. The thaws, as I said, don’t hit every year. Also they vary in their exact date, and the second isn’t always stronger than the first.

I recall one winter (1995-1996?) when the winter began with a ferocity that was definitely alarming. We had over four feet of powder snow by early January, and the bitter cold resulted in amazing icicles building up on the eves of houses. I made extra money shoveling roofs, and smashing the “ice-dams” at the eves of roofs, which could form a foot-tall wall of ice, holding back water melted by warm buildings, and causing leaks in the best shingles. (I sometimes got drenched when I broke such “ice-dams” from the top of a ladder leaning against a house, which was not much fun even when the water was surprisingly warm, for the water froze fast on my garments in the bitter cold.) And then, precisely when expected, around January 10 that winter, a thaw started. But what made that winter especially unusual was that the thaw simply went on and on, without rain or snow, for weeks, until all four feet of snow were gone, and the ground was bare. Not that we got off unscathed. As the thaw proceeded the colossal icicles and ice-dams at the edges of towering roofs broke loose and fell from buildings, sometimes taking gutters with them, and crushing shrubs and hedges beneath and, on one occasion, completely totaling a car.

That thaw was a rescue, but that winter made it clear that some of the weather-lore David Ludlum wrote about, (such as the winter of 1717), was a very real possibility, for I could see what a fix we would have been in, if that winter had proceeded without a thaw.

In any case, there is a wonderful variety in our winters, including our thaws. For that reason any drab, boring rule that actually has any sort of verification stands out, like the two humps of as Bactrian Camel, for it seems so unlikely regularity is even possible, midst such changeability.  But now that I am old and wise and have seen just about everything, I say David Ludlum was right. There is “increased likelihood” of thaws around January 10 and January 22. (Not that I’d bet good money on the exact dates.)

However all thaws are not created equal. Some involve rains, and melt snow and create the floods and ice-jams we call “winter freshets”.  Others, as the one I described above, are sunny and dry. And some shouldn’t even count as thaws, though they make up-spikes in the temperature graph, for it doesn’t even get above freezing.

How is this possible? Well, if our average temperature is 20°F, (-7° C), then we can be an astounding ten degrees above normal, and still only be 30°F, (-1°C). In other words, we can be ten degrees above normal and still get snow. Sometimes snow is even more likely, because when it is very cold the old timers say, “it is too cold for snow,” while some of our deepest snows have fallen with the temperature right at freezing, twelve degrees above normal. In other words, you can’t just look at the temperature graph. Twelve degrees above normal will make a warm-seeming uptick, but could make winter worse.

Our first thaw this year was the real deal. It began like clockwork on January 10 and then we had highs above 50°F (10°C) for three days, with rain and winter freshets and amazing amounts of snow vanishing. Then winter slammed back with fresh snow and temperatures dipping below zero (-17°C) which froze everything up again. And then our second thaw came, but this one was far more tricky. It thawed by day but froze by night. You had to keep your wits about you.

Let me give a couple example.

Yesterday I took a group of small children from my Childcare out to look at a beaver lodge in a swamp. On January 9 this would have been no problem, as the ice was thick and solid, but the January 10 freshet flooded the area, and moving water thins thick ice with speed. Also beaver are not stupid, and are not going to build a lodge where the water is likely to freeze from the surface right to the bottom; they tend to pick places where up-welling springs bring 50°F water up from underground, melting away the 32°F ice from the underwater entrances to their lodges, so they can swim to their stashes of twigs for a snack. They bring the twigs back to their lodge and eat the bark, and the hungry coyote never even see them. Therefore you have to be careful, walking up to such lodges, because the ice is not trustworthy. Not that the water is all that deep. I might fall in to my waist and face an uncomfortable walk home. But waist deep for me is over a small child’s head. Therefore I was stern and strict about walking ahead, demanding the small children stay behind.  If I, at 170 pounds, didn’t fall through, they, at 40 pounds, were safe.

I myself was following the tracks of a big coyote, who likely weighed at least sixty pounds, for I figured he had the brains to avoid falling in. Then, as we walked,  we could see the beaver lodge ahead.

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Now of course small children want to rush ahead, whereupon I have to utilize a certain tone of voice that likely is politically incorrect, but freezes them in their tracks.

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It is fairly obvious from the above picture that in the 72 hours since the coyote blithely trotted ahead (his thawed tracks are to the right) the ice had become more unsafe. Here is a close up, in case you don’t believe me.

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That open water was not made so much by mild temperatures above, as by an up-welling spring below. (Notice the coyote tracks go right over what has become open water,) And what was most fascinating to me is that, though we attempted to approach this lodge from other angles, and from the back, we always found the approach too dangerous. Nor is this lodge in the mainstream of the brook the beaver dam blocks. Instead it is in an area holding factors (likely up-welling springs,) that makes ice less likely to form.

Also interesting to me is that the ability of winter to really freeze water involves temperatures being well below freezing. On January 9 we could have marched right up to that lodge on ice a foot thick. When temperatures are only slightly below freezing, you need to take care, for melting comes from below, not above.

The second example of a situation where you have to take care went the other way. It involved there being ice when you expect thaw to prevent ice from being a possibility. And it sprang from the weather map that went with the above pictures.

20180122 satsfc The above map shows a low pressure system over the center of the USA, and south winds over the east side of that low bringing warm air north. Temperatures over my town were already at freezing. How could they get lower? The forecast was for rain, perhaps with a bit of sleet mixed in at the start. And temperatures were twelve degrees above normal. Definitely a thaw. Correct?

I am old and skeptical, partly because I’ve wanted such warm fronts to come north so many times, over the years, and so many times have seen them fail. In the above map the “spoiler” is the high pressure over Hudson Bay.  It’s isobars make look like it will send its cold air southeast over the Atlantic, but at the lowest level some frigid air sneaks around to the southwest. I think it sneaks under the radar of the computer models, and makes the modeled forecasts an embarrassment, and even dangerous.

The cold air keeps sneaking under the radar, and you notice not only isn’t it warming above 40°F (4°C) by sunset, like they said, but the sleet mixed in with the rain is starting to freeze to twigs, as is the rain. I changed my plans. Although going out to watch a movie with my wife on Monday nights is something I greatly enjoy, I said we should stay home, although they had only shifted their forecast, at that point, to saying the freezing rain would change to rain by ten o’clock, and by dawn it would be over 40°F.

At dawn it was 28°F (-2°C) and an eighth of an inch of ice covered everything. Due to the earlier forecast, nearly everyone was caught by surprise. At that point they were saying it would change to rain in an hour and be 40°F by ten, but the schools announced a “two hour delay”. (This creates complete shambles at our Childcare, for the ten children who should be getting on the bus stay two hours longer, as the twelve younger children arrive.)

For a so-called “thaw” it was a miserable-looking morning.

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It was so slippery my dog fell down the front steps. Getting an armload of firewood involved walking in a ridiculous manner, and carrying the wood with such caution you would have thought it was nitroglycerin.

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After pecking ineffectually at the windshield to remove the ice, I gave up and just ran my car fifteen minutes with the heater on full blast, which gave me enough of a hole in my windshield to see through to drive to the farm, where I spread sand about the skating rink I called a parking lot, thinking to myself that this was one heck of a way to run a thaw.

The sneaky bleeding of cold air under what the computer models deemed possible continued until, by mid morning, I decided it was making a memorial of the botched forecast, with this capture from my cell phone.

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We did creep above freezing in the early afternoon, but the rain was so cold all it did was wash the sand from the slick ice, so I had to spread more sand. This is not something you plan to do much, in the ordinary definition of “thaw.”

Don’t get me wrong. Temperatures are well above what they officially should be, according to one definition of “normal”. They are some twelve degrees “above normal”. At the same time a different definition of “normal”, (David Ludlum’s), states it is normal to be abnormal. But I still insist none of this defining can escape the fact it is one heck of a peculiar thing to call a thaw a thaw, when it involves so much ice.

What is a man to do? There are several answers, the first of which is to spread more sand. The second is to chuckle at the sense of humor displayed on media sites, such as Facebook, about cars in ditches and crashes occurring in parking lots and all sorts of inconveniences people are downright brave to laugh at, when part of them likely wants to weep. Thirdly, one can simply take the time to look at the bleeping nuisance, and make the suffering into what is called “art”. After all, God is in everything, even ice, and if you take the time beauty looks back at you from misery.

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AA13 FullSizeRenderThis is what “warm” looks like, in my neck of the woods. But where has the “cold” gone? Apparently it has swung around to the far side of the North Pole, to Siberia.

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I should be glad that cold is over there, and enjoy my “thaw” while it lasts. Over there the city of Oymyakon had a low temperature if -88.6°F (-67°C). This is how your eyelashes look, when you step outside at that temperature.

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Looks to me like their cold is as beautiful as our thaw, but I suspect true appreciation of such beauty involves having a warm place to retreat to.

The problem with the dead of winter is that cold is not always willing to retreat, and give you a warm thaw to enjoy. Look at how far yesterday’s warm surge made it, on today’s map.

20180123 satsfc The warm front made it to Boston, sixty miles away, but not to me. Meanwhile that high pressure up over Hudson Bay, responsible for keeping the warm air from coming north ahead of the storm now approaching, is going to swing cold air behind that same storm as it passes, and then we’ll stay below freezing for three days, at least until Saturday.

And you call this thaw? You call this being “on the warm side of the Pole?”

I call it, “The dead of winter.” The January thaw is but a brief respite, an interlude, like the calm in the passing eye of a hurricane. It is but half-time in a football game.

The thaw will end. Winter will return like gangbusters. The cold over Siberia will swing around across the Pacific, and clobber us in February.

The real thaw is spring, but do not even think of spring now. It is a long, long way away. It will come, but if you long for it now you will miss the beauty that already is.

LOCAL VIEW –Sickbed Sonnets–

We’ve had the ‘flu passing through our neck of the woods pretty severely this year, to a degree that not even my over-developed sense of humor can take lightly. When a local mother-of-four succumbs, the joking ceases. There is nothing like death to jolt people from their petty concerns. Things that seemed very important two weeks ago are not even remembered.

To a certain degree that was what my sense of humor was always all about. Things that people care deeply about, seen from a different angle, don’t matter a hill of beans. To some it is of paramount importance if Bobby asks Susie to the prom, but when both are too sick with the ‘flu to attend, all the fuss about what clothing matters becomes absurd. My mischief has always been to see the absurdity before the prom is cancelled.

I tend to be a good friend to have when you have been through a rough spell, and have lost the things that status-seekers crave. When you are a winner you have a girl at either elbow, but when you are in a losing streak they vanish, and people avoid you like you have the plauge….or the ‘flu. But I always had a soft spot for losers. Why? Because losers see beyond the superficiality of money and popularity and power, and know a person is still possessed of a heart and all a heart’s needs, even when they are down in the gutter. What really matters is deeper.

To get the ‘flu tends to be a reminder, a tap on the shoulder midst the hectic hubbub of ceaseless pettiness we call “important”. It is a reminder that we are mortal, and that our efforts to deal with death by completely avoiding the subject are going to eventually be in vain.

I think I was made especially aware of how fragile our worldly dreams are because my father suffered the indignity of getting polio at age 34, after going through all the trouble of becoming a surgeon. After college, after graduate school, after internship, he finally “had it made”. Then some stupid virus came and ruined everything. And although he fought his way back to being a top surgeon, he was a cripple. Like an athlete who has made a comeback, he was an investment with small print, like a loaf of bread with an expiration date in the near future.

Local football fans are facing the same expiration-date-inevitability as the heroic local quarterback has passed age forty. (Also he hurt his hand during practice before the “Big Game” this weekend.) Even heroes like Tom Brady face what the rest of us face, though he is doing it in the spotlight, and people speak of “Tom Vs Time”. The rest of us do it in dark moments of our lives, in sickbeds as we face the ‘flu.

For me the redeeming side of being sick was that it reminded me that there is something beyond the superficial stuff we tend to be too engrossed in. What matters when you are incapable of pursuing Money, Popularity and Power? It is what I call Poetry. Or perhaps Heaven.

Actually being sick was not all bad, when I was a boy, because it let me play hooky from school. Once the worst was past, I got to look out the window without getting in trouble for doing so. I got to avoid the schoolmarm-emphasis on worldly stuff, stuff that matters in terms of Money, Popularity and Power, and instead to just be dreamy, and roam the realms of heaven. I did not much like the part of the ‘flu that involved terrible aching and vomiting, but there was something to be said for a fever of 104°F, when it came to opening up vistas of unusual imagination. It was like drugs without the expense or risk of arrest.

Unfortunately my most recent bout of the ‘flu didn’t involve much fever, nor altered consciousness. Basically it was all achy muscles and upper-respiratory congestion,  which reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood and makes you mentally slow. Worst was I was able to get up after a weekend in bed, as my wife stayed in bed a week, and this meant it was up to me to run the business, though I was definitely in an enfeebled state, and not truly recovered.

One thing I noticed about the upper-respiratory congestion is that you cannot produce as much heat.  It is like the damper for your inner fire is closed down. Your metabolism limps. When you stand outside, the cold sinks down between your shoulder blades. Likely the creeping chill could kill you, if you overdid it, so I used every excuse to keep the children at my Childcare indoors. I kept the place open, but we did not live up to our reputation as a place that focuses-upon and rejoices-in the outdoors. Heck, the outdoors is not worth dying for.

Not that it isn’t good to stir your blood, and cough the crud from your lungs, with some vigorous hiking, if you keep it brief.  But I waited until the wind died. Then, once outside, I kept moving even when the kids dawdled, impatiently striding back and forth like a captain on a deck. Also I built blazing campfires whenever possible, (though I suppose the smoke wasn’t good for my lungs). Lastly I fled back indoors as soon as I could. But I did get some photographic evidence that we did fight the ‘flu by stepping out.

The recent thaw resulted in flooding, but then winter froze the flood even as the waters sank back down, leading to ice left high and dry by the flood.

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The kids were fascinated by the formations, and rejoiced that they could shatter the ice without getting in trouble for breaking stuff. The air was filled with the tinkling smashes of what sounded like hundreds of champagne glasses.

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Then they burned off a lot of steam running and sliding

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And plotting ambushes of the the other children and teachers.

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But, to be honest, I did not feel my ordinary delight in watching children bring their heavenly wonder to a hike. The ‘flu had me at low ebb and I was barely able to tolerate the usual and typical misbehavior. Tolerance is a gift, and I was in short supply, and and bad words barely were restrained from blurting from my bitten lips. Tolerance? I could barely tolerate going to work. Someone had to do it, but I didn’t feel I was getting my proper share of pity for being the poor old geezer stuck with the job of pretending he was the the healthy one in a ‘flu epidemic. I had to pity my wife at home, and pity the parents who looked a bit green around their gills as they picked up their pitiful children, who also looked a bit green around the gills. But who pitied me?

In terms of what the government thinks matters, surely a ‘flu epidemic puts a dint in things like “economic recovery”. And for churches who care most about their collection platters,  a ‘flu makes the congregation less “giving” and more needy. In terms of “production”, and Money, Popularity and Power, the ‘flu is ruinous. It’s depressing, and exhausting, and all I did when I got home was open cans of chicken soup, and then collapse in bed.

It’s incredible how much time I’ve spent sleeping. My sleep schedule is all out of whack. When you crawl into bed at seven in the evening and don’t get up until seven in the morning, then there will be times in the wee hours you are staring into the darkness, watching the years pass before your eyes, and not necessarily feeling all that poetic or heavenly about what you witness.

Who needs that? Where was the poetry? Where was the sense of playing hooky from responsibility, and gazing out the window? Out the window was only darkness. So I’d thrash out of bed and stump downstairs and crank up the heat and make my computer screen my window. If I couldn’t manage the poetry, I’d let other poets do the job. I’d hop in my time-machine and travel to the time of the first Queen Elisabeth, and Shakespeare.

One thing that struck me was that, while Shakespeare was operating a theater and making money with his pen, for many poetry was a world outside of the ordinary interests in fame and wealth. There were no million-sellers, but rather manuscripts were copied by hand and handed around between friends. It’s amazing so much was preserved and later printed. Even Shakespeare’s works were on the verge of being lost, before the first folios were printed. The world of art existed in a universe all its own, beyond the control of the elite yet moving even kings and queens.

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Of course, one might say it was only the elite who had the capacity to write, but what fascinates me is the hints that the ordinary man was also interested in the poetry. Shakespeare’s plays were popular among the illiterate, and parts were memorized and recited on the street. People did not need to be literate to delight in doggeral, and there was plenty of criticism of both the Catholic and Protestant sides of the gathering storm in Europe. The common people had minds, and used them, even at a time when lives were short and cheap, and living situations were often squalid.

One thing I’d like to know more about was the thirst on the part of the illiterate to become literate. Where I now see all too much “dumbing down” going on in education, looking through my time-machine I seem to see there was an eager and powerful drive at that time to learn. Little schools popped up in odd places, and when people noticed a child had a mind open to learning, there seemed to be a real zeal towards educating that promising mind.

One way to measure the value people put on learning, and higher forms of thought, is to consider how expensive it was to mail a letter. A penny could buy a loaf of bread, or mail a letter. During times of famine the loaf was small and of low quality, and at the same time the price of a letter might rise up to four pennies, yet still people had a craving to communicate. Writing was so important that the English government even instituted penny postage as a law of the land. Why? What was so important about allowing people to write each other? Likely the wealthy realized promoting commerce would be good for business, and they could become richer. However greed alone was not in control. There were undercurrents of political opposition involved.

Robert Burns was unusual in that he became popular in the late 1700’s, and his death was greatly lamented in 1796 even as he died. Yet he was not stuffy, nor did he write above people’s heads. Here’s his “Epitaph On My Own Friend”.

An honest man here lies at rest,
As e’er God with His image blest:
The friend of man, the friend of truth;
The friend of age, and guide of youth:
Few hearts like his, with virtue warm’d,
Few heads with knowledge so inform’d:
If there’s another world, he lives in bliss;
If there is none, he made the best of this.

One thing interesting to me, as I drifted along in my time-machine, is how much other poetry was anonymous. You can see perhaps only the slightest hint of a Jacobite sentiment in a poem by a Scotsman, but he thought it best to keep his name from being associated with a work. Or perhaps we see only initials, and wonder who the poet was. Yet the poems endure. Who was “R.A.D.”, writing from his sickbed in 1799?

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And who “G.H.D.”, writing around 1815? What made him reluctant to publicize his name? (Perhaps he was toeing some line the official church did not approve of toeing.)

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By the 1840’s the greed of the wealthy Scottish landowners had been made all too obvious by the Clearances and Potato Famine, and a Scottish church existed that refused all donations from the wealthy landowners, so that members would feel free to speak. Still authors kept quiet about their names, as they dared speak what seems fairly orthodox to us today, but was shocking at its time ( or shocking to certain wealthy individuals who deemed themselves above judgement.)

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And out of this soil rose the chronically unwell Robert Lewis Stephenson, long neglected as being a mere writer of children stories like “Treasure Island” and of horror stories like “The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, (in the 1973 2,000-page “Oxford Anthology of English Literature” Stevenson was entirely unmentioned), yet a poet in his own right.

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He wrote his own epitaph for his grave, in Samoa, where he died in 1897,

Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

And so, after this reading,  I’d go back to bed in the dark of night with bits of poetry gleaned from my sickbed time-travel, and a sense a hint of heaven was gloaming the dark outside my window, though true dawn was hours away. And perhaps that is something you need when sick: The idea of a life after death, after ruin, after failure, after being retired against your will and put out to pasture in some meadow uncomfortably close to the glue factory.

I didn’t much feel like rising at dawn. Extra rest seemed a good idea, but, as I said earlier, sometimes you are stuck with running the show. Though I’d rather dream out the window of existential topics, I was stuck with being the pragmatic pillar. Me! Of all people! I can’t tell you how indignant it made me feel. But there did tend to be a brief moment, just when the coffee and aspirin were kicking in, that I thought maybe I could whip off a sonnet. Maybe I could quit the dratted pragmatism just long enough to rhapsodize about other-worldly beauty. But just then my phone would chirp, and I’d be plunged into the banal.

This was particularly aggravating because I had made a New Year’s Resolution to focus more on writing and less on Childcare. In a most pragmatic manner I had inked out the decrease in income I’d endure, hiring more to work for me, and working less myself.  But the ‘flu makes a mockery of worldly plans. And it probably serves me right. Who ever heard of a pragmatic poet?

In any case, I often tell people I took my retirement when I was young and could enjoy it. I even went through a Gothic spell of morbidly contemplating death, which is an activity usually reserved for old men. Therefore I can’t expect to get another retirement, now that I’m doddering, can I? It wouldn’t be fair to those poor fellows who worked hard when young and now collect pensions. Now it is their turn to go through Gothic spells and behave like bohemians. True, they look a bit silly behaving that way at their age, (and it also seems to involve revolting amounts of Viagra), but they earned it, while I have earned the non-retirement I endure. (For all I know they may envy me as much as I envy them, for the grass is always greener on the other fellow’s grave.)

It was while glumly considering my non-retirement during this long, long week, that it suddenly occurred to me that I didn’t need to write a sickbed sonnet. I’d already done it, back in my Gothic period, back when I was a happily retired man of twenty-one in 1974. Not that I wasn’t busy. I was involved in all sorts of unprofitable efforts surrounding a commune, and also running a landscaping business to scrape together just enough to get by on, when I suddenly was clobbered by a late May springtime ‘flu. None of my hippy friends rushed to my aid, as I think all assumed I was merely sulking in my room, and therefore I was abruptly alone for several days, and used the chance to write sixteen sonnets. Or, not exactly sonnets, but 16 stanzas with the rhyme scheme of ABCBADCDCDEFEFGG. Today I went up to the attic to see if I could find the old poem, and, though I couldn’t find the final draft, I did find, to my great delight, among spiderwebs and thick dust, the notebook holding the original draft.

Forgive me for sharing what in some ways is juvenile, but I think in another way the old poem holds the vision of heaven seen most clearly from a sickbed. (Some of the poem was written while having a fever of over a hundred.)

                 FEVER DREAM

10:00 PM
Bedridden, burnt by fever’s blaze,
I toss and turn within a flame
That warps all with wavering light.
Nothing seems to stand the same.
All is twisted to my wild gaze
That sees all routine and plans
Dissolve, as do day and deep night,
Confused to chaos as fever fans
The destruction of what I held
As real, knew was rock firm,
Trusted until mocking madness welled
Into my broiled brain, forced me to squirm
Half-asleep through unmeasured days
And, half-awake, war the night’s blaze.

All I knew to do cannot be done.
I cannot work, nor can I play,
And even thinking’s not the same;
When I wish green my thoughts flow gray
And leap, like thunder from a gun
Of ambush, and distort, forming
Abstracts sickening; somehow lame
Though nothing in my brain’s wild storming
Can be crippled, for nothing’s real
Enough to be believed. I know
Logically these sights are false, but feel
Panic, for they remain, and show
A tumbled world I can’t accept.
The clay conspires where I stepped.

2:00 AM
A tennis shoe has teeth, and grins
At me up from a cloud of red
And flaps his tongue with elegance.
I can’t remember what he said.
A scolding finger shakes, and pins
Me desperate. I can’t recall
And that is bad, and I can sense
It’s angry as it’s growing small.
One pink finger upon the black
Background, very small and terrible
For small it gains and will attack
And overwhelm the weak quibble
Of reason I scratch the black for.
Reason’s old lock fell from the door…

5:00 AM
O Morning’s first cool growth of green
Fills my window with wideness,
Distance and openness that destroys
Fever’s clamps, pinches and hot press.
Liquid birdsong cools the view’s sheen
Of clearness: So clean it wavers,
Flows green, joins the bird’s joyous noise,
Becomes taste a Cezanne savors,
Becomes a hand to cool my brow.
O the arms of wide open morn!
O to be rocked in a lullaby’s bough
And to give up, right now, being torn
By my mad mind. Now’s not too soon
To sink in the calm of a swoon.

7:00 AM
I wake again, and see the sun
An inch or two above the earth.
O I value ny short sweet sleep
Beyond all my measures of worth,
For rested I can face the dry run
Of fever time, of short wry naps,
Short gasps awake, and long times deep
In the world in between. Perhaps
half alseep, but without rest;
Perhaps awake, but without chores
To do or plan or beat breast
About. My fever’s chaining roars
Make be be free on a huge shore.
When was it I felt this way before?

8:00 AM
Three inches high, the sun is white
With a tint of rose, and it slides
Summer soft through my north window,
Slanting to the wall where it rides
Slowly downwards. It’s rose-white light
Slips as slowly as snails explore
When afraid, yet its a great show.
When have I felt this way before?
The light is a square, a pooled sheen
Of rich softness. An apple tree’s
Leafed twig bobs its shadow. I’ve seen
This picture move in a sweet breeze
Like this before, framed on my wall…
I remember now! I was small.

I was a boy and school was out
And suddenly I was set free
From all the routine I had known.
My parents did their best for me.
They gave me a room and stayed out.
They gave me books but no lessons.
Life’s painful rules I wasn’t shown.
I wore fine clothes and gobbled tons
Of food, but remained thin and wild
Through racing about the country side
And staying up late: A spoiled child
Reading books with dreamy eyes wide.
With school out my friends were gone.
Society-less, I journeyed on.

What painter touched those far, far clouds
Silver and purple? Who carved curves
And moved them, boomed them, in sky swells?
Who swooned those sweet swallows quick swerves?
When the shy flicker, who through leaf shrouds
And rich woods usually blasts
Wagging away from my slow stealth’s,
Flies sky high above tall trees masts,
Flickering above the valley’s bowl
From hilly wood to hilly wood,
Is it his soul, or my swamped soul,
That swoons? O! If I only could
Burst raves of song for his great flight,
His journey into giant light!

O those feelings! Sometimes at night
Out of nowhere they would appear
So marvelously I’d dash across
The room and in wild, sudden fear
Haul open the windows. My fright
Was so great I’d almost cry out,
But to who? About what? A loss
Overwhelmed me. I’d hold back my shout
And also the next day’s sung praise.
Who understands what fever-mad
Men babble about, or what their gaze
Sees, or knows? Its pitifully sad
For fear’s not squelched; Joy wilts inside
When men are afraid to confide.

Time forces the most dreamy child
To dream less, to repress the far
Flung mental mountains for whats’s real,
Or said to be real but will mar
The beauty of life; the fresh, wild
Spontaneous, child-like beauty
Of life, by clipping with sick zeal
The wide-reaching wings of wild, free
Thought, one wing light and one wing dark
But together beating out of night’s
Ignorance, driven by the heart’s spark
Towards the embrace of a Great Light.
When wings are clipped flight’s work is lost
As is black fear, but O! The cost!

A flock of birds squats by the sea
With every wing clipped, and each
With few fears. A great, sandy bar
Juts far out, protecting the beach,
And no bird has any time free
To do other than gobble food
That thrives beneath each rotting spar
And stone, in sand, and nicely stewed
In muddy low-tide pools. What fools
These gulls are! Their clipped wings
And all their inventions and rules
Are to ensure that they are kings
Of one small beach. For all their squawk
They’ve never heard of the Great Auk.

High in clouds the one Father Gull
Smiles on his fledglings who won’t fly.
He has ways to grow new feathers
On their wings, to patiently pry
Open the rusted lock of dull
Reason and dull rules from the doors
Of their minds. He changes weathers
And sand bars slip away from shores.
Disaster, death and fever strip
Old routines and customs, gripped tight
By the birds, away with one rip.
The wisdoms He gave to soothe fright
And ease growing pains they used to play
Wing-clipping games, so He sweeps them away.

Away! Away! I see wisdom
Scattered among tumbling clouds
And shaken birds rising as one flock
Shattered; wild, white wheeling crowds
Searching screeching upwards, freed from
Their illusion of paradise.
The Wisdom waits, and won’t talk.
Birds must find it with their own eyes
To realize what It’s always said
But logic’s lock is off the door…
I wake. My fever spins my head.
I’m tied in blankets on the floor.
The window’s light now frames my face.
I’ve drempt a dream I can’t erase.

All that I’ve learnt’s near nothing now.
What I knew as a boy’s now gold.
All my hard developed good habits
Are but good habits. I have told
Myself to do, and will allow
Myself to be pleased that I’ve done
What was needed…sometimes…but rabbits
Bound into the air. Big crows run
With the barreling breeze. Bent back
They still strive on, so I hurl
Quick joy up to the blustering black,
Feel fear, and only know that clouds pearl
Over, rolling slowly to sea,
And that is where I want to be.

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Ah, to be twenty-one again, when even getting sick was invested with such drama it could go on for sixteen stanzas!

ARCTIC SEA ICE –Straining At Gnats And Greenland Gales–(updated)

As all the lower 48 states of the USA are afflicted, those of you who visit my site from overseas will have to forgive me. This post will seem hasty. However the ailment is reaching epidemic proportions, and sometimes one has such a difficult time just connecting the dots of everyday pragmatism that altruistic subjects, (such as arctic sea-ice), get sorely neglected.

And oh yes, by the way, we also have a ‘flu epidemic going on, afflicting all of the lower 48 states.

I’ll just swiftly note an amazing gale, or series of gales, has been doing thunderous deeds out where nobody notices (unless it is the people of Iceland.) When I last posted it was a tight little off-the-charts bomb in the Denmark Strait.

The color at the center of the gale indicates it is off the DMI charts. It’s a Yowza storm, with pressures below 950 mb. In terms of a stable atmosphere, it is like a major volcano. Huge amounts of heat are being transported not just to the Tropopause, but even bulge up into the Stratosphere. Some might suggest such striking event deserves a little attention.

But no. No volcano will blast forever, and if you ignore it, it will stop troubling you. Indeed, this super-low did loop-the-loop, caught between the sub-polar westerlies and polar easterlies, crash into the over 10,000 foot icecap of Greenland, and weaken.


At this point the gale looks dead. Right? But the wary know better. The attentive people of Colorado do not drop their guard just because California’s mountains have apparently “killed” a storm. The attentive peoples of the Baltic do not drop their their guard when the mountains of Norway have apparently “killed” a storm. And, (most obviously), when a storm moving east across the USA is thwarted and apparently “killed” by the shallow Appalachian Mountains to the east, attentive people on the east coast are electric with attention, wary of a “coastal development” exploding out of the blue. For the simple fact of the matter is that “killed” storms are like zombies.  They are dangerously undead.

So just observe with me the antics of the “dead” storm we saw crash into the south of Greenland. It looks less “dead” a day later:

Obviously the “dead” low has been revived, (likely due to southern reinforcements), but of especial interest is the low to the north of Baffin Bay. Where did that come from? (Just guessing, I’d surmise you cannot slam and uplift lots of air on the east of Greenland without down-sloping and a Chinook to the west, and when you place milder Chinook air next to some of the coldest air in Canada, something’s bound to whirl.)

Moving ahead a day we see this gale has also crashed into Greenland, rather than toodling across the Atlantic, and a southerly surge streams north towards Svalbard, with strong high pressure over Scandinavia. (Usually we expect high pressure over Greenland and sea-ice pushed south in Fram Strait.) My guess is that the low that was in northern Baffin Bay is transiting northern Greenland.

Twelve hours later the southern low stays over Greenland, but what may be the Baffin Bay low emerges in Fram Strait.

Twelve hours later that Fram Strait storm had become impressive, and, (with my confessed “Ralph” bias), I was expecting to see a surge of mild air to the Pole and a Gale sitting there, like we saw last year. (Perhaps I should have noted that isobars suggested the southerly flow was being deflected east over the top of Scandinavia, but isotherms counter-suggested a surge of mildness north over Svalbard.) I did not expect the map that followed the map below.

The next map dropped my jaw.

What the heck happened to my “Ralph”? The models that saw him rising never saw him wimping out like he did.

And what gives with this absurd low north of Iceland. A sub-940 mb low? That is a volcano of uprising air like Krakatoa!

But I confess, first, to my low interests. I was not concerned with super storms, in the above map. I was noticing the shift of the high pressure to the east in Canada. The shift of that high into the Canadian Archipelago suggested that the flow into Canada of Arctic air would be replaced by a situation where arctic air was sucked out of Canada towards to the Pole. And I say “amen” to that. I am spiritual and generous, when it comes to Canadian air being sucked north from Canada.

But this just reveals my bias. I confess I don’t like freezing, and rejoice when I see Canada aims somewhere other than my neighborhood. Formerly I was feeling like England in 1940, bearing the brunt, all alone. And now I feel the relief of England in the summer of 1941, when Hitler attacked in a different direction, and betrayed his ally Stalin.

If I was more objective than I claim to be it wouldn’t matter how cold my toes get.  I’d notice that huge storm none noticed.

It was a massive event, but it too faded.

As this amazing storm fades, I, as a sea-ice zealot, ask myself,”Did it deliver mild air to the Pole?” Judging from the isotherms of the above maps, apparently not.

But did the huge storm bring Azores air up to Europe, at least?

The map of Europe shows this:

UKMet 20180116 62931933

It seems obvious that, rather than air from the Azores surging up to the Pole, air from Greenland is invading England.

Things are very different from last year, when all the heat rushed directly to the Pole.


Interruption there. Five inches of snow and wife sick and I have to run business, and some other stuff. But don’t worry. My money from Big Oil will come pouring in any day now, and then I can recline and concentrate on sea-ice more, without all these dratted distractions.

Where was I?

Oh yes, that huge Low over the north Atlantic. I was thinking that, judging from the isobars, the winds would slam into Greenland more to the north and run down the spine of the ice cap to Cape Farewell in the south. Therefore any down-sloping “Chinook” would not be up at the top of Baffin Bay, but down at the southern tip, so I checked the DMI mass-balance map, and…….(drum roll)….

Greenland MB 20180116 todaysmb

You see that sliver of pink along the southeast coast of Greenland? That represents one to six milometers less water content in the ice. True, likely it is due to very dry air, and sublimation rather than melting, but it important to throw the Alarmists a bone every now and again; otherwise they may get discouraged and won’t play any more.  (Please don’t mention the thump of blue to the northeast, where it is usually dry in January. This super-storm’s dump of snow on Greenland’s has distressed Alarmists, who were looking forward to festivities planned for when the total mass-balance-increase dipped below-normal for the first time in years. Now it has been put off a fortnight at least.)

Greenland MB 20180116 accumulatedsmb

In actual fact I tend to think we are straining at a gnat when we focus too much on sea-ice extent or the mass-balance of Greenland’s ice-cap. Far more meaningful and, (if you want to worry), even ominous are the huge events we hardly notice in the North Pacific and North Atlantic, yet we do not yet even understand them, especially the transformations they undergo when entangled with mountain ranges and icecaps. There are exchanges between the lower and upper atmosphere that the models surely are not modeling correctly, for otherwise they wouldn’t be so wrong.

These super-storms are massive, amazing and (I think) somewhat incalculable. For one thing heat is lost at the top of the super-storm to outer space, yet for another thing heat is “created” by the phase changes involved as vapor becomes liquid and then ice, and lastly this “created heat”,  descending as a sort of Chinook, can create further uplift simply by being warm in a cold environment.. To try to fathom the energy gain or loss going on with a simple thermometer is a bit like weighing an elephant by holding its tail.

Personally I prefer to watch. observe, and wonder.

Stay tuned.

LOCAL VIEW –In Awe Of Thaw–(updated)

The first week of January was brutal, blasting, bitter and a blizzard. Often we would only have the children outside for a half hour, for the wind chills were simply too dangerous to allow prolonged exposure. We spent more time dressing and undressing them than we spent outdoors, but it does pass the time, and they do rejoice at having a brief time outside. If they are too cooped up they literally bounce off the walls.

Worst was the wind, which often gusted to gale force.  Simply having the winds calm down made it seem far warmer, and when temperatures rose all the way to 32°F (0°F) the children were eager to hike. So was I. I wanted to see what the winds had done.

In the forest the snow was mixed  with bits of pine needles, as if the needles had become brittle in the cold and broken in the blasts, and there was a drift by each tree trunk, even in the shelter of the trees. The children found the landscape strangely changed, with a place they liked to hide behind a rock completely buried, even as a nearby path was swept down to the level of the dirt. They also found some drifts were packed to a consistency of Styrofoam, and they could walk on them, while other crumbled and they wallowed up to their waists, often requiring rescue. We tended to stick to the trails packed by snowmobiles to play it safe.

The most amazing drift was on the downwind side of the dam at the flood control reservoir. The blasting winds had swept the reservoir largely free of snow, but the downwind side of the dam had a drift that was in places thirty feet deep.

Thaw 1 FullSizeRender

I was surprised by the cracks forming in the drift, as its sheer bulk pulled it downhill like a glacier.

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I doubted the drift was going to tumble down as a small avalanche, but decided I didn’t want to take the chance. Therefore I warned the kids away from the edge and we only looked at the frozen outlet of the reservoir from afar.

Thaw 3 FullSizeRender

Instead we hiked down the other, windswept side of the dam.

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The kids were enchanted by the other worldly landscape. More than one paused, looked up at me, and commented in the matter-of-fact manner of the small, “This is really fun.”

Thaw 5 FullSizeRender

The drifts were crisp and firm, but the underbrush (to left in picture below) would cave in and the kids would find themselves abruptly up to their waists.

Thaw 6 FullSizeRender

Without the wind, none complained of cold, and the children seemed quite content to loll in the wan sunshine.

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When it was time to go back for lunch there is always one so enchanted they don’t want to leave.

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We only has two days to enjoy such hikes, because the thaw grew stronger, and the snow grew heavy and wet. But this also meant the snow became sticky enough to build forts and snowmen.

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My staff did get a bit carried away with the snowman.

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But the kids appreciated setting a “world record.”

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I couldn’t be as involved as I usually am, as I was dealing with what often seems to come hand in hand with a thaw. Namely the ‘flu. (Though the thaw gets the blame, I think it is the period of close confinement just before the thaw that allows the spread of germs, and after the inoculation it takes a week for the ‘flu to break out. ) In any case you know something is wrong when a lively child abruptly decides to take a nap in the snow.

Thaw 12 FullSizeRender

I have a sneaky suspicion that, in a few cases, parents can’t afford to miss work, and load up their children in cough syrup before delivering them to us, hoping the kids will make it through the day. The kids were dropping like flies, usually around the time a four hour cough syrup would wear off, though that may just be a coincidence.

Thaw 13 FullSizeRender

Most parents are pretty good about leaving work to pick their children up. Only a few shut their phones off.

By Friday we only had five of our ordinary twelve all-day children, and I was showing symptoms. Though I wash my hands often, kids vomited on me, and it’s hard to avoid the virus when exposed in that manner. Nor did the ‘flu shot do much good this year, as apparently 70% of the people who got the vaccine still got the ‘flu.

In any case at noon on Friday I took to my bed on my doctor’s orders, and have only left it to limp off, achy and shivering, to feed my goats. My wife is also down, which is highly unusual, as she almost never gets sick.

Therefore I didn’t take pictures of how the snow swiftly vanished under the drumming fingers of a warm rain. There is no snow left in the yard where they made a giant snowman on Thursday.  Maybe I’ll add a picture to this post tomorrow. And a sonnet about rain on the roof.


It was 5°F (-15°C) at dawn so I think we can state THE THAW IS OVER,

As promised, here is a picture of the Childcare playground, so full of sticky snow last Thursday.

Thaw 15 FullSizeRender

The cold came on so swiftly it froze up the run-off and flooding from the thaw, leading to some tricky situations at intersections. (It is hard to obey the “yield” sign on sheer ice.)

Thaw 16 FullSizeRender

I would have liked to drive around and look at streams, because I think there may have been some good ice jams, but simply driving a mile to feed my goats at the farm seemed to test my ability. I’m surprised I wasn’t pulled over as a driving drunk. Mostly I stayed in bed, only occasionally venturing down to put wood in the fire or check out maps on my computer. Here is the front surging across us yesterday:

20180113 satsfc

And here is the arctic high pressure atop of us today, with the front and the thaw’s mild air pushed far out to sea.

20180114 satsfc

It does not do much good to look backwards in battle or while plowing, and I’m nervous about the future of that Alberta Clipper sliding down to the Great Lakes. I’d better baby myself into shape, because it looks like snow to me. However, just for the record, here are statistics showing the thaw from the weather bureau up in Concord.

Thaw 14 FullSizeRender

Yesterday’s high of 57°F (14°C) was at midnight, and they’d plummeted by dawn, so it is a bit misleading to call the day +15° of normal. But that is how statistics work, sometimes.

If you don’t like the weather, just wait a while. But if you like it, kiss it good-bye.

No sonnet so far. I googled “Sonnets from a sickbed”, and have been entertained (by works clear back to the 1500’s), rather than have I been the entertainer.

ARCTIC SEA ICE –Cross-polar Draining–

It has been hard to report on the sea-ice situation at the Pole, as all sorts of pettifogging details from real life have intruded on what is of paramount importance, namely: what is occurring in the long darkness of the polar night.

For example, I knew I should check the air pressure of my tires when the temperatures sank to -10°F, because the air contracts and the pressure in the tires gets so low the tires can get flat. But who can bother with things like that when one has sea-ice to think about? So I neglected it, and started the New Year by driving off with tire going ker-slam, ker-slam, ker-slam on the street. Not only was it flat, but it was frozen into that shape of flatness. I immediately returned to my parking space, but it doesn’t take many ker-slams to utterly ruin the wall of the tire.

Flat tire FullSizeRender

Oh Great. And what are the odds that the old 2003 Subaru Outback I just bought will actually have a jack in it? To my astonishment it did have a jack, but not a lug-nut wrench. Therefore, rather than focusing on sea-ice, I had to focus how to find a lug-nut wrench I could borrow, on a day with wind-chills of -30°F.

Multiply this annoyance by twenty-five others and you have an idea of why I haven’t posted on sea-ice.  Between blizzards and my staff catching some ‘flu the ‘flu-shot didn’t make people immune to, I’ve had to run around doing a great deal of dithering details a person of my intelligence shouldn’t have to deal with.

I blame Donald Trump. By now he should have redirected all the six-figure salaries from pseudo-scientists like Mann and Hansen to honest airheads like myself. Sigh. Hasn’t happened.

In any case, we have a patch of mild weather, so I am going to seize the opportunity to catch up.

When I last posted just after Christmas the flow of bitter cold air from Siberia to Canada had been interrupted by a ridge of high pressure that was funneling the cold air down into the Atlantic.


I keep an eye on such funneling, for it seems to be reflected in the weather down where I live in New England a week later. When the arctic leans into Canada we see cold come bulging south over us, but when it leans into the Atlantic we can get a break in our cold, and warm air can come north, perhaps fueling a storm for us. Thus even people who are not interested in sea ice should pay attention to where the cross-polar-flows are directed.


By December 28, though some cold still was funneled in the Atlantic, the Siberia to Canada flow was reestablish itself.


Two days later, despite a low moving up into Alaska, the ridge on the Pacific side was persisting, and the delivery of cold air into Canada continued.


As the low pressure on the Atlantic side persisted there were some feeder-bands that aimed to the Pole, and very weak versions of “Ralph” ineffectually tried to become established at the Pole. (Nothing like last year.)






By January 3 the ridge of high pressure across the Pacific side of the Pole, and the flow of cold air into Canada, started to weaken, (which gave me dim hopes of future thaw, far to the south, though all Canada was still loaded with cold.)



As the high pressure shifted east into the Canadian Archipelago, its western side began to actually draw air out of Canada and back up to the Pole.



By January 7 the high pressure slid up to the Pole, briefly giving us a “zonal” situation, which traps the cold at the Pole. Not that the tundra of Siberia and Canada doesn’t create its own cold, but their cold doesn’t receive reinforcements.


By January 8 the high had pumped-up, down towards Canada, while ridging towards Siberia, and again a Siberia-to-Canada flow existed. My take was that the thaw that developed far to the south in my neighborhood would be interrupted.


By January 9 the flow had already broken down, as weak feeder-bands from both the Atlantic and Pacific side fueled a weak “Ralph” at the Pole. An amazing storm between Greenland and Iceland got no news coverage, as no one lives there.



Today it looks like the “Ralph” is being pressed off the Pole by high pressure towards Canada, even as that big low that has been smashing Greenland transits the Greenland ice cap and comes north as a decent storm north of Svalbard. Quite a southerly flow will develop in the Atlantic between that low and the high pressure over Scandinavia. The high over Scandinavia may pull Siberian air west over Europe on its underside, even while tugging at milder air way down over the Azores on its western side. I haven’t a clue how much mild air could be fed up to the Pole, and will zip my lip and simply watch.


No sea-ice post in January can be complete without a mention of Africa and the Sahara  Desert. Last year a dusting of snow fell in Ain El Safra in northern Algeria, and it was reported as “The first snow in nearly forty years.” Rather than waiting forty years to happen again, it only waited thirteen months, and rather than a mere dusting they received as much as ten inches.

Sahara 1 sahara-snow2-2018

Cold Snap Brings Snowfall to the Sahara Desert – for the second winter in a row

In case you are wondering what this has to do with sea-ice, it is because during our discussions we’ve been drawn into excruciating calculations of “albedo”, yet there seems to be a neglect to calculate “albedo” when it is off the surface of the Arctic Sea. For example, the sun went down at the Pole at the September equinox and clear down to the Arctic Circle at the solstice, which renders albedo a mute point in those northern reaches. However the Sahara, at latitude 32°45′ N, is another matter. Even if the snow all melts away in three or four days, more sunlight is bounced back to outer space by the one white blot in the Sahara on the map below than at the entire Pole in December. (Gibraltar hidden by clouds to upper left.)

Sahara 2 sahara-snow

It would be interesting to come up with a number for the heat-loss of such freak events, and compare the number to heat-loss amounts at the Pole in late August. As it is, Alarmists tend to simply say some heat-loss matters and some doesn’t. The actual fact may be that the freak events add up, and are indicative of climate moving towards a cooler state (perhaps due to the “Quiet Sun”).

Currently our Polar temperatures, though still above normal, are roughly five degrees colder than last year’s. It will be interesting to watch the oncoming surge of south winds in the Atlantic, and see if we come close to matching last year’s. (2017 left; 2018 right.)


The total sea-ice extent is quite low, as calculated by the DMI:

DMI5 0110 osisaf_nh_iceextent_daily_5years_en

I expect this to now become the Alarmist focus, though most of the “missing” sea-ice is on the Pacific side outside the Arctic Ocean. They tend to have a focus that is highly selective. The problem is that last year at this time, when “extent” didn’t support their narrative, they tended to pish-tush “extent”, and to say “volume” was important, because the 2017 volume was lower than 2916’s. This year you hear less about “volume” because 2018 is above both 2016 and 2017, (black line at far left of graph).

DMI5 0110 Volume FullSizeRender

To me it seems the “Quiet Sun” chill may be starting to have its effect, despite its counter-intuitive ability to increase warm El Ninos and decrease cool La Ninas. The main thing is that there is no apparent “Death Spiral”. Although sea-ice is at low levels there is no crash in its levels as was predicted. In fact Tony Heller produced a comparison with the thickness of ice on New Year’s 2008 with this New Year’s, and if anything the ice now looks more substantial.

DMI5 0111 Heller Attachment-1

Stay tuned.



I thought that, with that huge gale crashing into southern Greenland, it would be interesting to check the Greenland mass-balance gathered by DMI. It has been relatively cold and dry over the west of Greenland after big storms early in the season, and the mass-balance was trending back towards average, which filled me with dread. Why? Because the moment the mass-balance slips below average the selective focus of Alarmists seizes on the news as verification of their narrative. And this in a way twists my arm and forces me to counter,  explaining the nuances of a loopy jet stream, bringing up things like snows in the Sahara, even though there is little chance they’ll heed. (Mostly I debate for the onlookers on-the-fence.) Any delay in such futile debate is a great relief, and this big gale provided such a delay by dumping a huge amount of snow in southeast Greenland. (Current to left; average to right.)

Greenland MB 20180110 todaysmb

The morphistication (transit) of this storm over Greenland is liable to dump more snow, before it reforms between Greenland and Svalbard and the dry northern winds resume down Greenland’s east coast. This will create a blip in the mass-balance graph, and delay the inevitable hoopla a while.

Greeenland MB 20180110 accumulatedsmb

I count my blessings.

LOCAL VIEW –Annual Frozen Pipes Post–

Even boxers get to sit down between rounds, and enjoy some rest, and also Sunday is the Day of Rest, and therefore my wife and I decided that after church we’d go out and have someone else cook, and have someone else serve, and have someone else do the dishes. We figured we deserved it, after coming through the grueling blizzard we’ve just been through. Monday might be just around the corner, but we’d pamper ourselves on Sunday afternoon.

Not that problems don’t intrude even on our Sundays. The latest attempt to repair our washing machine didn’t work, and we had a huge pile of laundry to do at a Laundromat before we went out to eat. However the machines did big loads in only 22 minutes, and, (because my wife decided we might as well wash all sorts of stuff I didn’t think needed washing, while we were at it,) we walked in with 12 loads, used four huge washers, inserted 76 quarters, soap, and then walked out to sit in the car for 22 minutes. The sun was settling down on a winter horizon and we had stuff to talk about. 22 minutes later we hustled hampers of wet laundry back to the car (because our drier still works at home, and our cellar can use the heat,) and headed off to the restaurant. The sunset was a beautiful gold, and I couldn’t help but notice that it was later; before Christmas it was dark at 4:30 but now it is golden and pink.

Among the many things we talked about in our usual, efficient, and scatter-brained way was this Sunday’s sermon at church, which was about “The Rapture”. Although the word “rapture” is not used in the Bible, there are numerous, somewhat-upsetting references to a time that could happen any day, when believers would be swept up to heaven and non-believers left behind to endure seven highly unattractive years on earth.  (This concept inspired the movie, “Left Behind”.)

Back when Jesus’s disciples were still alive the idea Jesus could return “any day” kept people on their toes, but after 2000 years people are perhaps jaded. If you tell them the Rapture might occur in five minutes, people tend to roll their eyes and say, “Right. I’ve heard that one before.” People are not as impressed by the prophesy as they once were. Today’s sermon simply asked, “But what if it happened? Where would you be? Swept up, or left behind?”

Even though I am a “believer”, and have faith in things people say I’m nuts to have faith in, I confess I’m often far from perfect. I do have a temper. I usually apologize afterwards, but not everyone forgives me. And this got me to thinking about the timing of the Rapture.

If the Rapture occurred when I was repenting, and apologetic, and asking for forgiveness, and accepting the abuse of those who are in no mood to forgive me, then I might pass for saintly, and be swept up. But what if the Rapture occurred right when I was at my worst? What if it occurred at the moment I was pounding my fist on a table and telling someone to stuff an unmentionable thing up an unmentionable orifice?  It seems highly unlikely such a person (me) would be permitted to be swept up, and far more likely that person (me) would be left behind.

I was bringing this up in a humorous way, and perhaps a bit too flippantly, for it stirred up my wife, and she waxed eloquent on how the foibles of those who are believers are different from the foibles of those who don’t believe. Her excellent points are too complicated to repeat at this time. I am just bringing this up because some think that people at laundromats are a bunch of low life retards.  We’re not. We are actually highly intellectual and altruistic thinkers. Perhaps it is those who do laundry at home who are the retards.

But this discussion, about who the retards are, is definitely getting too profound for my humble post. This is often the case when you broach spiritual mysteries. What I meant to say was a more simple thing, namely: I decided that maybe I would try harder than usual to keep my temper in check, just in case the Rapture was imminent.

Actually it was easy to keep my temper in check. Even though it still was very cold, you could feel the mercy of a thaw was in the wings. And even if you were not sensitive to the shift of the wind to the southwest, you could always check your cell phone, and find reasons to rejoice.

Pipes 1 FullSizeRender

Hallelujah! Cellphones are a wonderful invention. Even if long-term forecasts are a government trick to keep us from despairing during cold winters, it is a trick that works.

This morning it was -13°F (-25°) here, but Wednesday it might be +45°F (+7°C). It will feel like April, after what we’ve undergone. And it does tend to fill me with a benevolence when the outlook is so hopeful. It would be good if the Rapture occurred at such a moment, for I am beaming with generosity.

To further the beaming, I ordered a martini, and sat at the best seat in the restaurant, (because the dinner rush hadn’t started at 4:30), and gazed at the final beams of sunshine slipping from the topmost needles of the white pine across a frozen waterfall.

Pipes 2 FullSizeRender

There is nothing like looking at hardship through a rear view mirror.  A flat tire isn’t funny when you are jacking the car up in the cold, but when the tire is changed and you are on the road again, you can laugh, and get the joke. And seeing the frozen waterfall was like seeing evidence of the incredible cold we’d been through in the past tense, for the present tense was a warm restaurant, a charming waitress, and a steaming dish of delectable food placed before me. And just then a text came through on my cell phone.

Cell phones are a horrible invention.

To cut the texting short, the situation was this: My pregnant daughter is living briefly above my Childcare as her young husband makes the money for an apartment they have their eyes on in Boston. He’d made a big wad of dough as a Uber driver during blizzard condition in Boston, but only had snatched bits of sleep on a friend’s couch, and now had come home for a hot shower and a sleep in his wife’s arms….but the shower didn’t work. Cross examination discovered the sink and toilets didn’t work, neither upstairs nor downstairs at the the childcare. Pipes had frozen at the source, which was a different building, an old abandoned farm house across the driveway.

Blame the sermon in church, or blame the martini, but I had not the slightest urge to slam the table and rave, “Can’t I even have a single meal in peace?” Or…well…I’ll admit I did say to my wife something along the lines of, “I thought when she married her problems became his, and weren’t mine any more.” But that was more of a quip than a serious statement. There was no way an exhausted young man could figure out the irregularities of a a farm that slowly sprawled over a hundred years, with pipes and wires added in a unplanned manner. I was the only available expert.

I refused to hurry. I could have rushed to the farm in twenty minutes but instead texted, “Be there in an hour.” (Didn’t get a “happy face” reply.)  Then I enjoyed my meal, (though I did talk a little more about peculiar plumbing than I might have). I kept my sense of peace, because the Rapture might happen at any moment, and it it wouldn’t look good if I was cursing and gobbling food and gulping the final third of a martini and putting my jacket on upside down. Instead I was as smooth as silk.

Come to think of it, it was bizarre. I should have lost my temper, but didn’t. We drove home, unloaded laundry, and then I sauntered upstairs to change out of my Sunday outfit into work clothes. I came downstairs, gathered a few tools and some rags, and my wife handed me a big thermos of boiling water. I drove to the farm, located an extension cord and a heater with a blower, talked briefly with my daughter and her husband, and then waded through the drifts to the dark, old farmhouse, and decended into its creepy cellar.

What a switch in scenes! Fifty-five minutes earlier I’d been in the lap of luxury with a lovely wife looking out at a gorgeous view with scrumptious food before me, and now I was in a dingy cave festooned with spiderwebs. You would have thought the martini would have worn off, but, instead of cursing, I laughed. The irony of the scenery-switch would be too absurd for a novel, but life is better than a book.

I couldn’t locate the problem, but kept my good mood, humming hymns like an old man pottering in a sunny garden, as I brushed aside dirty spiderwebs and checked the usual suspects: The fuse box, the pressure tank, the pressure switch, and even a cellar faucet, which gushed water. Where could a pipe freeze? Couldn’t be the main line. I had a heat lamp baking where the pipes went into the field-stone wall to cross over to the childcare. It couldn’t be there. But then I noticed a loop of pipe sidetracking into a water softener system, just outside of the reach of the heat lamp. Could that be it? Probably not. Surely the heat would travel along that short length of pipe. But, just to cover all bases, I wrapped those pipes in rags and poured boiling-hot water from the thermos onto the rags. Then I looked around and began thinking of getting more chords and setting up more heat lamps and heaters, but just then my phone advised me of an incoming text.

Sometimes cellphones are wonderful things. The text was from my daughter, across the yard:

Pipes 3 FullSizeRender


Best was the simple fact no frozen pipe was broken.

Then I got the pleasure of sauntering over to my daughter and her husband and seeing their great delight over something we take for granted: Running water. And also there was the delight of a young man who has been craving a long, hot, relaxing shower, and now gets to take one.

But what about me? Wasn’t I craving a long, hot, relaxing meal? Why am I always the one being interrupted?

I didn’t actually think that. I just put it down because I thought of it now. At the time I was all smiles, and enjoying being a hero. I also was enjoying the strange sensation of having not lost my temper, even once. Too bad the Rapture didn’t happen while I was being so saintly, although I suppose, with my luck, if it was going to happen at any given time it would have happened just when I ordered the martini.

In any case we survived a cold wave, and the traditional episode of frozen pipes. Next comes the January thaw, for the map shows the arctic got too greedy and has overreached its limits. There is a bit of a front southwest of Jamaica, showing how far south the blast reached. Down there I suppose they may find the cool breeze delightful. What we will find delightful is the western side of the high, bringing north mildness we haven’t seen in weeks.

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LOCAL VIEW –Shuddering–

And still the winds are roaring this black dawn
When stars stab cold knives and the sift of snow
Hisses by my door, and before the roar’s gone
The next blast rattles the sash. The window
Looks out darkly. I see I should have done
So many things back when weather was warm
But now it is too late. I can blame no one
And can do nothing but endure this storm
Shuddering. Hope is too far away to grasp
And the east dawns no sun, but a cold moon
Instead leers skullish on bent hills. I would clasp
Your warm love and warble the sweetest tune
If only Your smile hove into sight.
It’s in darkest dark I remember the Light.

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Iced dawn spills over the shuddering east
And reveals a white world that has drifted.
The pre-storm chores I shirked are now least
on my list. Priorities have shifted
In a world white as an unwritten page.

Who will write the first words with a trail
Of blue footprints? The house is like a cage.
I’ll bolt and walk a signature as winds wail.
I will pace a poem, although drifts erase
My tracks like shifting sand. My words are like
A small child’s sand castle by the stern face
Of unthinking surf, yet still I will hike
Across a hillside, and my tracks will spell
The magic only poetry can tell.

What a cruel day! Not a true sub-zero day like they have out in the plains, but close enough, with a high of 7°F and winds that wouldn’t have the decency to knock it off.

Added to my Saturday chores of taking the recyclables to the recyclable center (where none of the equipment worked in the cold) and going to the bank, (bad hair days), were added things to do outside in an unkind wind, such as rake the big drifts from a roof before the drifts gained weight with rain and collapsed structures. And get my bulky, broken snowblower up into the back of a pick-up truck to be taken off and repaired. Or face a path I’ve had to shovel three times by hand already, drifted in.

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But when I step back I see that same wind scoured the driveway free of snow.

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All things considered, my neighbor across the street likely had grounds for a lawsuit. Fourteen inches of snow buried my fences to the bottom rail, but the cruel gales stripped all that snow to the ground-level crust of a pre-Christmas snow,  and deposited it all in his drive.

Simply to be out of doors was an ordeal, and surreal. All the faces you met were pained and wincing, and I had the odd sense I was in the dog house, as everyone looked mad at me. Had I done something Friday night I couldn’t remember? No, because I’m not that young anymore. I had no hangover when I awoke, only when I stepped outside.

The buffeting was like the blows of a boxing match. A man who fought Mohammed Ali stated no jab hurt, but after a while you noticed his jabs made you feel a bit dizzy. And Mohammed Ali himself stated that the fifteenth round of a fight was like functioning in a dream and in a circus.  You’ve been knocked for a loop but refuse to go down for the count. Somehow you keep tottering about, still battling.

This probably explains why this post begins with two sonnets. The jabbing wind had punched me into a mental state which some get called “poets” for being in, while others wind up in institutions.

Even as I emphasis how bad it was, it wasn’t near the worst. New England has seen such blasts twenty degrees colder. So I have no real reason to complain, especially as the winds finally died down a bit in the afternoon. At long last the Blizzard was fading away towards Baffin Bay and Labrador.

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The map shows the massive arctic high bringing modified polar air all the way down to Jamaica and Costa Rica. But here it was not modified. Here we got the real deal.

After experiencing “the real deal”, few find New England as attractive as Norman Rockwell made it look.  There will be an upsurge in homes for sale in this area next spring. Quaint has its limits, and the pathways of art are not for all. Where Norman Rockwell produced paintings and I produce sonnets, many turn their backs and skedaddle. Can’t say I really blame them.


SUNDAY MORNING 7:00 AM -12°F (-24 °C) 30.31 and at last the wind has ceased.