I think it was Thomas Jefferson who said something along the lines of, “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you simply don’t sit down.” I’ve been enjoying the Memorial Day weekend adopting that philosophy. I can’t work with the manly, maniacal ferocity I once could muster, but I sure can potter.
Of course I have to be civil, and attend family barbecues, but even when laughing at a fine story, half my mind is back in the dirt, planning my next pottering. I’m stiff and sore, but can’t remember ever enjoying my garden the way I’m enjoying it this year.
I’ve adjusted my attitude, (or, to give credit where credit is due, God adjusted my attitude for me), and I simply am not so fired-up and focused on results. Ambiguously, the results are better.
It is difficult to explain. I’ve known for years how desire can spoil things; when young I would meet a nice woman and enjoy engaging conversations, but then desire would creep in, and I soon was not enjoying much of anything. Noon seemed dark as midnight, which seems a bit foolish now, as one woman I anguished over now has only three teeth left and weighs over three hundred pounds.
God knew best. I have pretty much led a life out of control, buffeted this way and that by circumstances, which tends to make you pray more than you pray when things are in control, and also may be a sign God is in control, for spirituality is more about being freed from desires than it is about getting what you desire. Often it is easier to be free from a desire by not getting it, though not getting-what-we-want does tend to make us sulk.
Back when I was devoted to chain-smoking, I never much liked it when I was especially poor and couldn’t afford cigarettes, but I had to admit my health improved. (Also, it is amazing what you can accomplish, if you crave a cigarette. An old commercial once stated, “I’ll walk a mile for a Camel (brand of cigarette)”, but I’d go farther; I’d spread hot asphalt in a desert under a blazing sun all day for the money to buy some, yet it occurred to me that I was doing all these amazing deeds without a cigarette, which suggested I really didn’t “need” them.)
Just as not-getting what you desire can be a good thing, getting what you desire can cause troubles. I don’t suppose I need to give examples; people can usually think up their own. And we all have met people who “have it made” who are miserable, and who make those around them miserable as well. Although many see God as a great Santa who responds to our Wish List, there are times we wish for the wrong things, and if we put such things up on a pedestal we are creating a “false god” and are probably going to get what we deserve. In some cases we are “given to our sin”, which basically means we stew in our own juices and suffer long and hard, and in other cases we experience a swift and surgical removal of what we desire, which is traumatic but often better, because it is over so swiftly.
I’m sure this idea strikes some as if spirituality is an ultimate spoilsport, lurking about to catch us desiring something, and then snatching it away. (At times my life felt that way, and for a while my motto was, “The right thing is never the rewarding thing.”) However Divinity is described as a “Good Shepherd”, and a shepherd doesn’t want miserable sheep, parched and starved and with moth-eaten wool with with bald patches. Rather God wants his sheep led to greener pastures, or, as Jesus stated, “How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.”
In theory we should desire, but desire what God desires, as that will not wind us up hip-deep in the troubles our own more-ignorant desires often land us in. Of course, I haven’t yet heard a deep voice commanding me, “plant turnips; not rutabaga,” Instead I simply roll with the punches better. When I have a seed-bed nicely tilled and raked-up and ready-to-plant, and then a small stampede of children at my Childcare cross the seedbed and pack it as hard as brick, I no longer bulge eyes and burst blood vessels; I just shrug and say, “Well, I’ll be gummed.” And when, as I transplant seedlings in a neat row, I hear a soft noise behind me and turn to see one of my goats eating seedlings in a neat row, I no longer seek to embed a trowel between its eyes as it cavorts away from my screaming onrush, prancing and kicking its heels. Instead I again simply shrug and say, “Well, I’ll be gummed.”
If nothing else, my blood pressure is lower.
Because the results are no longer so screamingly important, I seem to have better results. I’ve heard that meditation makes one more efficient, but I never was big at sitting cross-legged and chanting, “Aumm”. But my current attitude seems to have roughly the same effect, in that I work smarter, not harder. I may even write a book about it. If President Trump could write, “The Art Of The Deal“, then maybe I can write “The Art Of The Potter-Around“.
One thing I have noticed is that, because I spend less time grousing, there is far more time to notice little things, and appreciate them. Where I used to fill silence with a lot of noise, switching my radio from station to station, I now enjoy a quiet garden, with only the wind and the occasional twitter of a bird. I’ve even started to enjoy just laying in bed with insomnia:
The last breeze stirred night’s spring leaves, departing. Then a soft summer silence descended: Frogs gone silent in the cool; crickets not starting. Silence was dark, draped velvet, once rended By the yap of a far fox noting the waning Moon was rising late, but swiftly mended By smooth stitchings of peace. Life was gaining Summer strength in the healing dark. Ended For a time was all bustle and battle; But then, so early it sometimes seems A sort of miracle, before men first rattle And bang, stirring and starting to chase dreams With machinery, in their sleep they’ve heard The glad announcement of dawn’s first bird.
Besides asparagus and rhubarb produced from big roots I planted long ago, this year’s garden has only produced stones and witch-grass, piled at the edge.
As a boy I assumed witch grass got its name because it was a curse in a garden. It sends out long roots, and any broken-off piece of root left behind will shoot up a vigorous new stem of grass. One of the first money-making jobs I ever had as a small boy was to remove witch-grass from a neighbor’s garden, and I recall being appalled how swiftly the work grew tedious, and how long it took an hour to pass so I could collect my 25¢. If anyone had ever suggested I’d ever get pleasure from weeding it I would have called them out of their cotton-pickin’ minds.
Yet I recall only around five-years later, when I was eleven, I started a small garden in the back yard, and our cook-maid-nanny came out to see what I was up to. She was a tough, chain-smoking woman of around forty from a farm up on Prince Edward’s Island, and when she saw me struggling to shake the dirt from a thick turf by hand she abruptly stated, “Here; let me show you how to do that.” I was slightly offended that some mere cook should think she knew more about gardening than my awesome self, but I had to admit it was interesting to watch her. She never touched the turf, instead using a spading fork to toss it about in the air, swiftly reducing it to a dirtless tangle of roots, which she tossed aside. It was obvious she had a lot of practice, in her past. She made quite a vision, wearing an apron and with a cigarette drooping from her lips, but what was most interesting to me was the enjoyment in her eyes. In three or four minutes she’d done the amount of work I’d done in the past hour, at which point she was huffing and puffing. “Guess I’m getting old,” she commented, handing me the fork, “But try it my way. It’s faster.”
What I really learned from her was that one could do such work with enjoyment in their eyes. It was amazing how often I’d remember her, as a gardener dealing with witch-grass over the next fifty years. It turned out there was good money in knowing how to remove witch-grass from a flower bed, as most ladies are not as skilled as that cook was, and the only enjoyment in the eyes of my employers was derived from watching me do the job.
As time passed I learned the weed is called witch-grass because in the past “witch” was the name given to a herbalist. The church often didn’t approve much of people who believed plants could heal, as priests felt God deserved the glory, and there were some bad times when herbalists could be in grave danger (although the danger to herbalists was not as bad as some now describe it, and the real medieval danger-of-execution tended to involve politics, such as being Pro-Catholic or Pro-Protestant.) There were some herbalists who perhaps got too interested in sex and drugs, focusing on herbs that were aphrodisiacs and hallucinogens, and these people may have contributed to the idea of a “wicked witch.” But I honestly believe there were other “white witches” who simply had a God-given gift, when it came to recognizing what plants had what God-given positive effects. (For example, all the benefits of what we call “aspirin” originally came from willow bark.)
And even as a boy I did notice there was something attractive about witch-grass in the spring. Without thinking, we boys would chew it. Also dogs and cats ate it.
Pullets like it as well. When I release the young hens from the fox-proof bunker I’ve constructed for them, first thing in the morning, they charge to the pile of witch-grass I’ve tossed in their pen even before eating their grain.
So, for a pottering fellow like me, I have found a use for the first crop the garden produces. But what to do with the second crop; the piles of stones?
It turns out they are perfect for filling potholes in the Childcare driveway. Of course, I may have to endure a bit of scorn from my oldest son. He thinks it is easier to arrive with an entire dump truck or two of “hard-pack”, and spread it out with a front-end-loader. But if I did that, what would I do with all my stones? Anyway, pottering involves wheelbarrows and rakes, not dump-trucks and front-end-loaders.
Today’s pottering involved moving a big sheet of black plastic I found wadded up in a corner of the barn from one place in the garden, where I spread it last summer, to another place, where I’m spreading it this year. I have the hunch that the black plastic absorbs so much heat from the summer sun that it cooks the weed-seeds in the soil beneath. There was no sign of life in the soil I exposed, (in the foreground in the picture below.) (The plastic sheet is moved to the background.)
The problem with weeds is that they have a crafty strategy, regarding their seeds. Not all seeds sprout the first, second or even third year. Therefore they keep coming up, even if you have done a perfect job weeding for one, two or three years. I myself have never been a perfect weeder for even a week, let alone a year. But I never liked the idea of using a herbicide such as “Roundup”, even before the recent worries about it causing lymphoma surfaced. Therefore I have always utilized various sorts of mulching, hot-water-sprays, and lots of elbow grease. This year I am experimenting with various black “fabrics” that let the rain and air through, but give weeds no light, and also this old sheet of black plastic.
Of course, it may well turn out plastic also has some bad stuff involved, some trace-gas out-vented or some such thing. All sorts of fertilizers and pesticides and herbicides and fungicides have been banned since my family first had a vegetable garden in 1956, (at the time of the Suez Crisis and Hungarian Revolution, when it seemed Atomic War might make food scarce.) The average American is likely loaded with more toxins than you can shake a stick at, and the wonder is we haven’t all grown extra ears and noses. But I figure the cancers started by one toxin are killed off by the cancers started by the next, and through sheer luck we stay in a sort of balance. However it is likely best to grow your own vegetables, and grow them as organically as possible.
After all, Moms have always told us vegetables are good for us, even when they aren’t herbalists. I’ve started looking on line to see what benefits certain plants have, Asparagus surprised me. It turned out it didn’t have one benefit; it had seventeen!
I always am struck by the abruptly early daybreaks of May in a slightly absurd way. I feel I am seeing it for the first time. This is absurd because I am sixty-six years old, and logic tells me I have seen it many times before. But perhaps it is made wonderful because northern winters are so lasting, and their nights are so long, and their sunrises are so late, that one especially appreciates the sun so suddenly arising so early. At northern latitudes days get longer with astonishing speed; one week you are driving to work with your headlights on, and a week later you don’t need to turn them on. The transformation is so abrupt that it is hard to be jaded about it. Even an old codger like myself displays a little bit of the wonder children have every day all year.
If your livelihood has anything to do with vegetation, (formerly this involved farming, but now it tends to involve being a “landscaper” and cutting grass), then, hand in hand with the wonder of the abruptly longer days, one is hit by a frenzy, because the same frenzy is felt by vegetation.
Northern plants are very wise, considering they lack brains. They know the growing season is short, and their growth is explosive. Even a non-native plant, transplanted north, demonstrates explosive growth. I once knew a oil worker who had the whim to grow cabbage on the north slope of Alaska. He scraped together a small square of thawed muck from a section of permafrost, planted some cabbage seeds, and then was astounded by how swiftly he had full heads of cabbages. Cabbage is not native to Alaska, but it apparently does well when the sun shines 24 hours a day.
Northern people who deal with plants are made frenetic because they have to deal with frenetic plants. I call it “Farmers Frenzy”, though I have seen it in rich ladies who want to grow roses. It is a state of mind between ordinary ambition and total panic. The northern sunshine seems to state, “Plant now, or forever hold your peace.”
Back in my days as a drifter I once met a fellow-drifter, an old Kansas farmer who, most of the year, was a garrulous old coot who told great tales but preferred the retirement of being a bum to the hard work of farming.
The old farmer deserves more than this synopsis, and I hope to someday write a longer version of this brief biography: He was a fellow who had paid his dues. He had done so in two ways. First, he grew up during the Dust Bowl, part of a tough, tenacious farming-family that refused to let the bank foreclose on their land. Then, as his brothers all gained glory by going off to fight in World War Two, he got stuck back on the farm in Kansas, growing the food that fed the nation. Somewhat accidentally, he made a fortune, but I think he was a little ashamed of making money as his brothers fought fascism. In any case, once his six children were raised, he lost interest in growing wheat, and became a drifter. Likely he was a cause of concern to his family, but he was a blessing to me, because he told the truth about what the Dust Bowl was like. (The media, in calling our current times “the hottest ever”, obviously never took the time to interview such farmers, or to study the temperature records of the 1930’s.)
I knew the fellow for roughly 40 months, and for the most part he was very disinterested in farming, beyond farming being a subject for his reminiscences. In the present tense, he was interested in his retirement. But I did witness him during three springs, and each spring, against his will (it seemed to me) he was hit by Farmer Frenzy. In a situation where, as a drifter, he had no tractor, no seed, and no land, he paced and fretted midst a peculiar urgency, his eyes roaming over the landscape in a hungering way.
For example, on one occasion I saw the old coot, about five-foot-five, take a bunch of far larger Navajo to task. Quite out of the blue he berated their sloth, like a sergeant jawing privates, and stated they should get off their butts and start plowing up some nearby desert sand and plant wheat. The Navajo laughed at him, stating the sand was so dry it couldn’t grow cactus, but he stated the sand was wetter than the dust his family had raised wheat upon in Kansas, during the Dust Bowl, and he then went on to state some rude things about the industry of the Navajo. I cringed, and judged the Kansas fellow’s life-expectancy would be swiftly shortened, but rather than killing the old farmer, the Navajo found him entertaining.
What I took from this experience is that “Farmer Frenzy” is a very real thing, but a thing which one needs to take pains to tame.
On the other hand, “Farmer Frenzy” can be a good thing. It produced the wheat, during World War Two, that defeated Hitler. Yes, guns were important, and troops were important, but if those troops were not fed the guns would have been useless. Kansas farmers deserve credit. Maybe even a monument.
Now I am the age that old farmer was, when I met him on the roadside in 1985, and I remember him as I see myself now experiencing a touch of Farmer Frenzy.
DOUBLE-SONNET: LONGEST DAYS
The sixty longest days are like treasure Slipping through my fingers. My greed can’t grip These mercies no man’s muscles can measure With his farming, though he resolves to whip Every bean and radish to suck up sunshine, To command corn to bask in every ray, Demand bumpers make reaping a fun time, And stays awake all hours of each long day, And scorns vacations, snubs all thought of leisure, Sternly seeks to seize the moment’s value; To with miser-fingers fondle treasure; To tell the summer, “I’ll corral you”, Too soon it passes, like lovely lasses Getting old, and makes us wind up asses.
But this year I’ll be different. I’ll work As hard in the hot summer days, but I’ll Not be such a crab, nor be such a jerk, And I’ll greet every ache with a smile. I’ll not care so much about the weighed results Nor rue the way time goes scooting by. Even if my harvest is but insults I’ll give my new philosophy a try. You see, it seems to me I’ve been too prone To seeing harvest as a sort of cement. I wished to freeze joy, make her be my own, But then I groaned and wondered where joy went. Now I’m content to watch summer slip by. My days too grow short. Where joy goes, go I.
Winter may be conceding defeat, at long last, (though they are still getting May snows to our west, in Denver and Minnesota). After our bit of sleet here last week, the south finally broke through the veritable wall of chill that always seems to keep New England cold, even when the Mid-Atlantic states swelter, most every April (and, this year, into the first half of May).
The dividing line between summery-warmth and early-spring-chill is often shown on weather maps by a warm front approaching New England from the south. We Yankees watch the approach of this warm front with both hope and cynicism. On rare occasions it flies right past us: I recall one hot spell in the first days of April (in 1990?) when we hit 90ºF, but such events are rare. More often the warm front stalls. Things conspire against it’s progress. The waters south of New England is chilled by winter; mountain ranges to our west allow cold air to crouch low, and to refuse to budge. To our west the warm front may proceed north to Albany, Burlington, Toronto, even Montreal, but it dips south to the east, and can’t cross New England.
The warm front is attached to a storm to our west, and the south winds ahead of that storm are assisted by high pressure to our east, (which is a westward extension of the Azores High, locally known as the Bermuda High). As the storm is deflected to our north by this high, it eventually finds a “weakness” and proceeds east to our north, “over the top” of the high pressure. As the storm passes to our north it drags a cold front south, and the cold front usually passes over us just as the warm front is tantalizingly close, brushing the warm front (and all its warm air) out to sea.
If the cold front is powerful, then clear, crisp weather follows, but if the cold front is feeble, and if the Bermuda High is strong, the cold front becomes stationary just to our south, and dreary weather continues, as the stationary front eventually becomes a warm front as the next storm approaches. Sometimes the front undulates like bumps on a shaken jump-rope, and a series of weak storms pass. But this isn’t all that interesting, unless you are a meteorologist. In fact it irks you, if you are stuck in New England, suffering cold and cloudy weather, craving spring.
By May, to our north, the nights are getting short and the days very long, and there is simply no way the north can generate arctic air, with so much sunshine. Rather than “arctic fronts” the cold fronts start to be called “polar fronts”. Also the boundary between the north and south retreats north, as does the “storm track”. Therefore it is usually May when we finally see some truly summer-like air make it this far north. Hallelujah!
I will post all the interesting maps at the end of this post, but, knowing some are bored by maps (an attitude which I fail to understand, but respect), I’ll simply state what we experienced.
One thing I should mention is that an indicator of clean waters, called by some “the State Bird of Maine”, appears just when the weather gets nice. It is called “the black fly.” It is a reason many who move to New Hampshire depart after a summer or two. If you work outside, as I do, you tend to like cold mornings, as black flies don’t pester until temperatures approach 60ºF, and also you tend to like breezy days, when swarms of insidious insects try like heck to swim upstream and get to you, but fail, just downwind.
One nice thing about this cold and wet spring is that the chill kept the black flies at bay. I got lots of vegetable gardening done. However it was also weather great for growing grass, but not so great for mowing, as the grass was too wet.
At this point I should mention another thing. I draw a distinction between gardening and gardening. Eh? My distinction boils down to this: “Can you eat it?” I spent years, even decades, working as a so-called “landscaper” for charming, rich old ladies, producing a crop you could have stored in a teacup. It wasn’t a total waste, for my work did feed me, my wife, and five children, but it bugged me that no actual food was produced. The old ladies had money, and their pay bought food, but all our work in gardens produced no actual food. Therefore, to this day, I have an almost allergic reaction towards non-productive gardening; (IE: “landscaping”.) I don’t mind growing sunflowers (seeds are high in protein), or roses (rose-hips are high in vitamin C) or day lilies (buds and wilted blooms make a delicious soup) but I very much mind cutting the grass. No one eats the grass. It might be acceptable if the cut grass was fed to livestock, which you could eat, but it isn’t.
In any case, my wife doesn’t want to hear my brilliant arguments. When the grass at our Farm-Childcare gets long, she believes we look more “professional” if it is cut. Because I believe I should chose my battles, I meekly cut the damn stuff. Fortunately it has been so rainy this spring that I haven’t often had the ability to cut the damn grass. But consequently the grass has gotten deep. I have noticed my wife giving me glances of an aggrieved sort. The time has come to act, or face consequences.
Yesterday would have been a perfect day to mow, as it was hot and muggy, and the black flies came swarming out. Back in the day I could keep them away by chain-smoking, as they don’t like smoke or nicotine, but since my lungs told me I had to quit such fly-repellent, I have found an inferior repellent is the exhaust of a mower. But yesterday, just when the grass started to dry out, the humid heat would produce a drenching downpour, and therefore the best use of my time was in the vegetable garden, where I produced future food for humans by planting seeds, and was present-tense food for clouds of hungry black flies.
Today would have been a perfect day to work in the vegetable garden, as the surge of tropical air fed a storm passing to our north, and as it strengthened it brought south a cold front, and then, as the departing storm strengthened further, the winds increased to a point where the average speed approached 20 mph, and a few gusts approached 50. There was not a black fly in sight.
At this point I should mention a final thing. At the northern latitude where I live you had better plant as early as you can. You have a limited “window of opportunity”. The growing season is so short that many crops will fail to mature, if you wait too long. Furthermore the sun is as high in late May as it is in early August. Farmers know that, after early August, the sun gets too low, and growing slows down. If you plant a bean after early August, it may sprout more quickly than it does in May, but then the sun is so low the bean grows in slow motion. If you plant in May you see results fast.
Therefore, on a breezy day in May, without a black fly in sight, the last thing I wanted to do was mow the grass. Yet I had to do it. I approached the mower with a bad attitude. To my own amazement I swiftly felt I was more lucky than I believed possible.
The grass was so long (and my rider-mower has such problems) that I had to creep, and the job took forever. (I exaggerate, but it did take hours.) Yet by the time I was done I felt blessed, for I can think of no other way I could have been forced to sit on my duff outside, and witness how wildly beautiful a windy day in May actually is.
There are times it is good to see what an ass you are. Behind my mower, I left cropped turf, basically a Marine crew-cut, as ahead of my mower I witnessed long grass responding to the wind. Have you ever watched long grasses on a windy day? How they ripple and shimmer? And sink and bound-back? How beautiful grass can be, yet what beauty was I making? Producing cropped turf behind me, that fed none? (Maybe this experience should make me more understanding of those who cut me down, feeding none). In any case, it was amazing that the long grass I detested, when I began, became grass that was my guru:
What a wonderful windy wind it was With gulped air clear from Canada; sky clear As well; green grasses displaying the laws Of brisk breezes; bounding far faster than deer On the run; and shining and shimmering, Rippling in clear sun’s pure white: A cool light So different from yesterday’s simmering Tropical humidity: Sheer delight Whisking away the wetness; sweet sighing Drying the dampness, then deeply roaring To make new-leafed boughs bow, and trying To make grasses bow. But bowing’s boring If you’re hay in the wind. Instead, you prance, And make ups-and-downs be part of your dance.
(To those of more scientific inclinations, I hope to find time to update this post with meteorological maps explaining the situation which led to the above sonnet.)
Here are the promised maps, (from the Weatherbell site, which offers a 7-day free trial subscription, if you love weather maps.)
Yesterday’s map shows a strengthening 995 mb low departing over Nova Scotia, with strong breezes (blue) in its wake, and a cool, Canadian high-pressure pulled down over the Great Lakes to our west. The “Bermuda High” that gave us warm south winds is weakened to a small circle off Florida, partially by a sub-tropical storm (actually given the name “Andrea”) moving through it and out to sea over Bermuda. As “Andrea” fades northeast the Azores High, to the lower right margin, will again extend west and combine with the unusually strong (for southerly latitudes) 990 mb low over Nebraska, which gave Denver snow on its cold side, and which is drawing warm air from the Gulf of Mexico on its warm side (and causing tornadoes where the cold and warm clash), and south winds will surge north again.
The Canadian High suppressed the above-normal warmth (red) to the southeast states, as much of the north and west was below-normal. (Blue, green and purple.) The cold and rain to the west is seriously delaying spring planting in America’s breadbasket.
The warmth is expected to rebound in the east in two days:
And then a ripple of cold again rides “over the top” of the high pressure, perhaps giving us thunder in three days.
The upper-air 500 mb maps have shown a stubborn ridge in the east, and deep trofs to the west that are forced to head north and then ripple up and over the eastern ridge. Yesterday’s map showed above-normal pressures weakened to the east by “Andrea”, (light red) as the trof to the west is impressively below-normal (purple). The last trof, which was impressive out west, is far weaker, as it reaches Maine.
If this pattern persists some places out west might not be able to plant at all, which makes my small, experimental garden a little more meaningful.
I’m getting old. I think I may even be starting to show symptoms of “second childhood”. Despite a return to cold and wet weather I failed to muster the proper attitude of dour, sardonic sarcasm, and instead continued to potter about the Childcare’s garden quite contentedly. Lots went wrong, but it failed to piss me off. Children ran through freshly seeded plots, and I shrugged it off. The radio reported politicians behaving like idiots, and I chuckled rather than raved. What was wrong with me?
When the United States sent an aircraft carrier into the Persian Gulf, and Iran sneered it could take the carrier out with missiles, and I didn’t immediately thrash about in agony over my failures to be prepared for Armageddon, I checked my pulse. I wasn’t dead, so then I wondered if someone drugged my coffee. It just wasn’t like me to remain calm.
You see, according to my original script, by now my Farm-childcare was suppose to be more developed than it is. Using the extra income I’d make from either a best-seller or a hit-song, I’d be able to afford restoring the land to the productivity it achieved around 1860, when it produced enough to feed perhaps a hundred people (and make just enough money to raise a family). That may not be enough to profitably compete with modern agribusiness, but it would be a boon to my community in a wartime situation, when food supplies from far away might be cut off. It is a complete failure on my part that, even after years of effort, the farm at best could feed two or three. Ninety-seven neighbors might starve, because I failed to write a hit song.
Shame. Shame on me. How dare I potter about whistling? I should be cursing my weakness, and the failure of my society to pay me millions for my poems. I should be pacing like a tiger in it’s cage, not happily running like a hamster in its wheel.
What ponders the hamster, watching its wheel And wondering if it should go for a spin? It knows spin goes nowhere; sees that the deal Is non-profit. Does it grin a small grin All the same? And how about my labors? My poems unpublished? My soil’s hilled beans? My good deeds done for nobody-neighbors? I grin a small grin when I think how it means So little compared to what’s Eternity’s, Then think how God may be pleased if I spin My wheel right. Solomon’s futilities Be damned. It simply isn’t a sin To stretch my old limbs in the wheel and get sore When my dance is for God, and not to gain more.
Perhaps part of second childhood is having a decrease of motivating hormones. There are ads on the radio stating “erectile dysfunction” is some sort of serious problem I should seek help for, like a drug addict seeking detox and rehab, (though, looking back, it seems “erectile function” got me in far more trouble than “dysfunction” ever did.) Hormones seemed to fuel desire, and then lots of frustration when desire wasn’t fulfilled, (and some joy but also a strange dissatisfaction when I got what I wanted), yet both sides of that desire-coin can be avoided when you skip the desire altogether. Not that I sought desirelessness like some Yogi in the Himalayas. It just happens when you get older, to some a curse but to others a blessing.
I happened to be in a state of mind where second childhood felt like a blessing even in the rain, and then the sun came out.
With the sun as high as it is in early August, the delayed spring exploded, with buds bursting to unfolding leaves. If you have ever dealt with farmers when “June is busting out all over” you know they enter a state of manic frenzy. But I just couldn’t quite do it. I continued to potter, and failed at farmer-frenzy.
Formerly failure stung like a whip, and like a whip it spurred greater effort, but after fifty years that gets old. A man does his best with his gifts, and beyond that he can do no more.
What I just wrote is more profound than it looks, and young artists should take heed: If you are fated to be a Norman Rockwell then fate will supply you with help, and a Saturday Evening Post will appear to make giving your gift easier. Study the lives of artists who achieved fame and success and you’ll see none made it alone. The coincidental meetings and “lucky breaks” are astounding, and may make young artists jealous that they see no “lucky breaks”, yet such jealousy only occurs because they don’t see fame and success can be a pathway to misery, nor see that it can be very good luck to avoid all that, and instead lead a quiet life with a good spouse, unnoticed and untroubled, and blessed with far more tranquility than fame ever offers.
It has started to occur to me that it is lucky I never became a one-hit-wonder and gained the cash that would allow me to demonstrate how productive my “failed” farm (and hundreds of thousands of other “failed” farms) might be. Such success sounds like ceaseless work of the restless sort, when I prefer work of the pottering, restful sort. I understand I am blessed, (though some might call my luck a blessing in disguise, a sort of silver lining in the gloomy clouds of failure).
One failure many farmers face is that cute, lovable chicks become horrible beasts called “pullets”. They are basically dinosaurs hiding their reptilian nature with feathers. They neither cluck nor lay eggs like hens, and instead are the annoying adolescents of the chicken world. They make the innocent and adorable peeping of chicks into a peeping so annoying you want to kick them. Therefore all the people who were so eager to help me when the birds were cute chicks lose interest when they become gawky, demanding pullets. Therefore you’d think pullets would like me, their only loyal and true friend. But no, the word “thank you” is not in their vocabulary, and if I am at all late they rush to the door of their pen hurling peeping insults at me, crowd about my feet and never thank me for not stepping on them, and then dig into their food without a look backwards in gratitude. (Even dogs at least wag their tails at you while gulping down their dinner.)
Some farmer’s wives, through prolonged patience and kindness, can can eventually civilize these dinosaur pullets to a degree where, as hens, they strut into a farmhouse and hop up into the kind woman’s lap to be petted as she watches TV in the evening. However, as pullets, they are all far from such civilization, and few farmers have the patience and kindness necessary to generate warm and fuzzy feelings towards a dinosaur. Yet something about getting old and gray allows me to like the birds even when they only pause from fighting each other over food to give a glare with all the beaming warmth of a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
If I can feel pleased by even a pullet’s glare, then I can be pleased by other things, more easy and favorable, and less reptilian.
For example, I neglected some things last year, such as my patches of Rhubarb and Asparagus, and therefore I should be punished this year with failed crops. However Rhubarb and Asparagus do not forget the wheelbarrows of manure they were fed in prior years, an overcame the competition of last summer’s weeds, and grew even more prosperous, with root systems becoming even more vigorous. In fact this spring, for every shoot of asparagus I cut, three more spring up.
Here’s another example of how my weakness (being old and lazy) strangely blesses me:
I’ve sadly faced the fact I can’t weed like I once did. Nor can I hire the young and strong to sweat in the sun like I once did, (because I haven’t sold my hit song yet). Therefore I decided to buy a fabric that rich people use around the base of their their roses, to prevent weeds. It costs a pretty penny, but with hourly wages rising the fabric costs much less than a human. Also in theory the fabric is less work; you sweat under the sun laying it but then get to sit back, where old-style weeding was a constant battle. Then I discovered it had a further benefit, besides blocking the growth of weeds. Because it was black, it absorbed the sunlight. Even on a cloudy day (because the sun rides as high as early August) enough radiance penetrated clouds to make the fabric slightly warm, even when rain mixed with sleet, and therefore, because the soil beneath the fabric was made warmer, my peas germinated more swiftly, and are two weeks ahead of friends who planted at the same time without black fabric. Who would believe being lazy could have such a benefit?
In conclusion, the decrepitude of old age is turning out to be more pleasurable than I expected. Who would think failure could be such fun? It makes me stop and think, for it is so contrary to logic. How can an old geezer’s impotency have such potency? How can becoming desireless give me what I desire?
I don’t claim to fathom what I’m glimpsing. But it does seem my second childhood has some of the qualities of the first, and, because I run a Childcare, I have ample opportunity to study children as they get utterly stoned on the narcotic called “Spring”, and then to think about how Jesus stated we must become like such irresponsible little individuals, if we are to ever taste bliss.
How to regain joys barefoot boys heft When they’re walking whistling down summer’s road Freed from school’s failures, from “F” after “F” And all that shame? They have shed such a load Of ignominy. They are free, free, free of it. The final school bell ends a fifteen round fight And they’re the loser, but they don’t care a whit About such unforgiving displays of might, And find forgiveness in summer sunshine. How can they be so certain they’re embraced? They’ve achieved nothing, and yet a divine Compassion is their fate. Surely they’re placed On the level of angels. Their whistling Is praises to God, who smiles, listening.
Some disconcerting statistics are starting to crop up (pun) in the graphs that farmers and people who invest in the “futures markets” attend to. The cold spring, and more importantly the wet spring, has delayed a lot of planting, in some cases to an “unprecedented” degree.
The problem with getting off to a late start is that it makes the planter susceptible to an early frost. In northern lands a growing-season is a limited window-of-opportunity, and there are many crops which are basically useless even if they are 95% grown.
Corn, beans, and squash were basic Native American foodstuffs, and all required warm summers. The point at which summers became too short and too cool was the dividing line between the agricultural Indians that grew the “three sisters”, and the hunter-gatherer Indians to their north. Here in New England there was, when the first Europeans arrived, a noticeable difference between northern and southern tribes, largely revolving around the most practical way to avoid the bother of hunger, called in extreme cases “starvation” or “famine”.
Modern Americans are some of the most spoiled people on earth, when it comes to worrying at all about food. In America the poor and uneducated are strikingly fat, which leads to jokes about the sanity of Americans. People from other lands know what it is like to walk into a grocery store and see no food on the shelves. Americans cannot envision such a state of affairs, and many haven’t a clue where their food even comes from.
This is an amazing downfall from the situation in my grandfather’s childhood in the 1890’s, when over half of all Americans were farmers, and all had to deal with horses because the automobile hadn’t been invented. Americans have been orphaned from Mother Nature, first by entering the indoor reality of the mills and factories, and now by living life gazing into the screens of TV’s and computers.
Fortunately, perhaps because of the agricultural foundations of America, many Americans resist the movement into the indoors, and have a somewhat idealist drive to be outdoors-men, (even when it is obvious they are pretenders.) The original idea of a suburb, (which is in some ways the antithesis of a true farming community), was sold to gullible Americans because people wanted to escape the city and get “back to nature”. Then, when the children of the suburbs realized suburbs were nothing like farms, the children became Hippies who wanted to form “communes” and get “back to nature” in a more genuine manner. Such Hippies tended to bail out from their ideal communes, once they realized how much hard work was involved, and sought a better-paying life in a bank or making a new thing called “computers”. Once they got some of this better-pay, what did they want to do with the money? Move out a bit farther from the city, outside of the sterilized suburbs, and create a little, toy farm and get “back to nature”.
Every ten years America has a census, and one thing the census attempts to determine is people’s “occupation”. The census-taker asks you to fit yourself into a list of categories. One category was always “farmer”. But the category “farmer” will not even exist in the 2020 census. Farmers in some ways no longer matter, they are such a tiny minority. Is it any wonder that, if you bring up Jefferson’s ideas about “Yeoman Farmers”, many respond with a look of complete incomprehension?
This incomprehension strikes me as a bad thing. It is a form of ignorance, and ignorance isn’t good. In my small way I fight against such ignorance by running a Farm-Childcare where children can see what my grandfather took for granted. After ten years of dealing with modern youth I no longer am surprised when children, with innocent honesty, ask questions such as, “Why do you dig carrots from the dirty dirt rather than get clean carrots from the store?” or “Why do you get eggs from that hen’s stinky butt when the supermarket’s eggs are clean?”
My grandfather would have never asked such questions, as a child. He was not divorced from the outdoors to the degree we have achieved.
To some degree we have achieved a good thing, for we are not as cold nor as hungry, but in another way we have become stupid, because we do not have the same desire to work hard to avoid being cold or hungry. Many only experience hunger on purpose, when they diet.
We think food is a given. It most certainly is not. We think we have escaped Mother Nature. Again, we have not.
Even though the American census will no longer ask if people’s occupation is “farmer”, a surprising number of Americans still farm. They may not list it as their “occupation” on the census, but they devote time and money to their “hobby”. They produce tiny crops and sell at local farmer’s markets, yet people will pay double for what they produce.
Why? Because it tastes better. How much better? Well, when you can get eggs for $2.00 a dozen at a supermarket, some will pay $4.00 a dozen for “free range” eggs at a farmer’s market. That is how much better the eggs taste. The yolks are yellower and bulge up from the frying pan, rather than sagging flat, and the whites of each egg are of two consistencies, (thin and watery, and jelly-like), rather than the single, slimy substance which egg-whites turn into, when they sit in commercialized refrigerators for weeks and even months. But most importantly, they taste better. When people taste free range eggs they say, “Oh yes, this is what eggs taste like; I had forgotten.”
This is no big deal, if it is just one fellow selling an extra dozen eggs his six hens lay which he himself can’t eat, a few times a week. But, if it is thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of small fellows selling eggs, it adds up, and threatens a part of American Agribusiness called “Big Chicken”. Like “Big Oil”, they have a lobby in Washington, and seek to to protect their multi-million-dollar investments in non-free-range chickens by concocting complex legislation and thick sheaves of regulations that makes it a total headache for an ordinary bloke to simply sell a dozen eggs.
I personally have yet to deal with Big Chicken, but did experience the threat of Big Milk. Back when I was milking my goats I sold the raw milk (and some cheese we made of that milk), to people who wanted such produce. Then I learned such industry was highly illegal. In California the Federal Government had spent considerable dollars to arrange agents to come down hard on a store selling raw milk, as if they were selling drugs, or involved in child-prostitution. The hippies in a small store in San Francisco were flabbergasted when a veritable SWAT team charged into their New Age shop from all sides with drawn guns.
What was the crime? Apparently, in the entire United States, raw milk had caused seven cases of some serious illness. This was the excuse used to make a farmer selling his own raw milk illegal. Not wishing to face a SWAT team, I then looked into making my industry legal, and discovered regulations involved having hot and cold water taps in three separate rooms with tables and all pails made of stainless steel. I decided the investment, (a year’s income for a poor fellow like me), was not worth selling a little milk, and also decided the children at my Childcare would not benefit from seeing Federal agents (who ought be dealing with drug smugglers) swoop in and lead me off in handcuffs, so I stopped milking my goats, which was exactly what the Big Milk Lobby wanted. Apparently their slim profits were threatened by dangerous outlaws like me.
Jefferson likely was rolling in his grave. It was a perfect example of Big Government (AKA “The Swamp”) oppressing the Yeoman Farmer, which Jefferson detested. But taking things a step further, in terms of Americans feeding fellow Americans, it was suicidal.
You see, there is a thing that doesn’t care a hoot for government regulations, called “The Weather”. And it can reduce a crop to zero, and no lobby in Washington an stop it.
Currently agribusiness is deeply concerned because President Trump is increasing tariffs to China, and China might get mad and retaliate by refusing to buy our soybeans. This would be a sad situation for agribusiness’s soybean-producers, if they actually had any soybeans to sell.
They might not. If you look back to the graph I started this post with, and understand corn can’t be planted because the weather is bad, you should understand soybeans also can’t be planted, if the fields remain a sea of mud in pouring rain. In other words, we might have a very low production of soybeans this year.
In such a case the crafty politician-capitalists of China, thinking they might “leverage” a deal to get lower soybean prices, might be flabbergasted to discover there was no deal to be had, because America had no soybeans to sell.
Just as China assumes American agribusiness is so brilliant it will always produce a huge surplus of soybeans, the American people assume agribusiness will always produce full shelves in supermarkets. But Mother Nature can step in and turn millions of square-miles of farmland into swamps. This is what happened in Europe, when the Medieval Warm Period gave way to the Little Ice Age, and a terrible famine was the result.
However many young Americans are not only divorced from the dirt-poor farms their forefathers worked hard to farm, (and propelled their nation to greatness through farming), and not only do young Americans also fail to study history and see how the plenty of good times can be followed by the poverty of bad times, but they also don’t even know enough to store up extra food in their kitchen shelves for the next day, let alone for a serious famine. Many hardly use their kitchens at all, preferring to buy prepared food.
My grandmother behaved as if famine was right around the corner. She was always canning and pickling and salting the plenty of the present tense, because she knew the plenty of the present might fail. And she actually once saw plenty fail, when the stock market crashed in 1929. My Grandfather had to work without pay to keep his boss’s business from failing, but my Grandmother kept producing dinner on the table, because she had so much canned and salted and pickled.
Sad to say, modern wives are not so prepared. Some live such a day-to-day existence that, in their kitchens, they have not even a can of beans for tomorrow.
My advice is to stock up. It will not cost much. I’m not talking beef in freezers. I’m talking dry stuff, like flour and beans, cornmeal and dried lentils, rice and dried peas.
Throw in a few cans of tuna or chicken, and maybe some tomato sauce and salsa, and it just might be that you are sitting pretty as other Americans riot out on the streets.
And if you have an actual garden, and grow actual food, you may be in for a battle, if this summer continues cold and wet. But fight the good fight. Your small harvest may be far better than that of agribusiness, which I fear has forgotten the reality of honest dirt in favor of the swamp called politics.
I hope my forecast is wrong. But, if one is going to be an Alarmist, it is far cheaper to store up some food in your pantry, than to derange the entire economy by banning fossil fuels and erecting a wind turbine in your pasture and solar panels on your barn. You can’t eat good intentions.
it’s a cold, black night, 37ºF with sleet occasionally tapping the window pane, mixing in with the icy rain. Not the start of an Ice Age, (I hope), for I’ve seen it snow in May before, but definitely not Global Warming. Tomorrow’s high temperature could be twenty-five degrees below “normal”. Not that we are ever really normal, around here.
It’s a good night to look at the bright side. Some springs get off to a fast start with a blast of heat, and daffodils bloom and wither on the same day, but this year they have lasted nearly a fortnight in the cold. Blooms usually don’t last so long even in a florist’s refrigerator.
In one way the chill is a dream-come-true, because there is a part of me that wants to hit the pause-button, every spring. Spring has a habit of leaping past, all too fleeting and intangible, like time through an old man’s fingers. There is something beautiful in springtime which I deeply want to savor, if not grasp.
First green’s gold’s hard to hold in mystic May As all the twigs get lacy, before shade’s Grown the cool, green dark of June. Sunbeams play In the gold glades, where even a shy maid’s Unafraid to pass me walking through woods. The wonder awes. The breeze isn’t hushing Summer’s hush; soft leaves gentle winds; no “shoulds” Or “coulds” or “woulds” list and schedule crushing Madness in my mind. Heavy boots are shed And I walk light-footed and light-hearted Through lime-gold light. Have I died? Am I led To see the bright end of what God’s started? Like dawn after dark, wondrously uplifted By healing from bed, the whole world is gifted.
There. At least I attempted to sketch the fleeting wonder. Robert Frost’s sketch was more succinct:
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
But I disagree with the master, in terms of the grief. There is something in spring that is the exact opposite of grief. I think the grief is due to our desire to capture it, to clutch it in a fist like a brute picking flowers.
I spent a while attempting to capture it, (though hopefully not like a brute), with a camera, but felt hopelessly inadequate. It was like trying to catch a sunbeam with a net.
What I wanted to capture was the way the first shade of spring is so green-golden it can hardly be called “shade.” It is more of a light than a shade, but cameras have a hard time with such subtlety. The sky was too bright, and made the light coming through the leaves look too dark.
The images were actually better looking away from the sun, though that view utterly lacked the enchantment of light coming through leaves.
During our few sunny spells midst weeks of rain I snapped picture after picture, and few came close to the reality I wandered through. It was fairly obvious I would spoil the joy if I persisted in trying to capture it. Rather than joyous I’d be frustrated. But I couldn’t help myself, I suppose because one can’t help but exclaim when one sees something beautiful. Perhaps it is a bit crude, like a teen-aged boy releasing a long, low whistle when he sees a gorgeous girl, but it was what it was.
At some point the desire to grip spring like a strangler gave way to merely traveling through it, like a wayfarer on a road.
I think, in the end, my saving gurus were the small boys at my Childcare. Also my dog. And my goats. They had no desire to be artists and take pictures or write sonnets, and instead they galloped and pranced, without the need to choreograph like artistic dancers, but rather like goats and dogs and boys. They are what they are.
Of course, there is always someone who will object to such undisciplined skipping and gamboling. Bureaucrats might frown to see boys walking by a pond without coast-guard approved life-jackets, but fortunately the closest thing to a bureaucrat around was me. In our case the nearby nags were a bunch of Canada Geese. Apparently we had no business disrespecting the invisible no-trespassing signs they had laid out to keep all in proper order, and came swimming up like a gang of hooligans bugling their baritone-to-falsetto yodeling.
The boys refused to have their joy depressed, and, displaying a complete disregard for fellow species and the ecosystem, told the geese that they refused to allow their joy to be intimidated.
The battle was prolonged and furious, but in the end everyone was happy and no one got hurt. (Six-year-old’s have weak arms, and the geese were too smart to draw closer than twenty yards.) A weakling voice in the back of my mind was feebly telling me the episode was politically incorrect, but another was voice was telling me spring itself is politically incorrect, and instead sung like Julie Andrews:
Tra la, it’s May, the lusty Month of May; That lovely month when everyone goes blissfully astray. Tra la, it’s here: That shocking time of year When tons of wicked little thoughts merrily appear….
Every year I wonder if it can possibly happen again, and every year I am surprised when it actually does happen again: Spring!
My wife left town for a few days to help organize a baby-shower for my daughter-in-law in Maine, and this enabled me to really get into the spirit of spring by playing hooky an entire weekend:
I skipped church on a dull Sunday, and I Immediately heard a sweet choir sing. Though spring lay gray under a charcoal sky Light shone on me. “What the heck’s happening?” I wondered, “Where is my dose of mortal guilt?” All I felt was a bubbling gladness. There was no black burden to make spirits wilt And only a day free of such sadness. I felt like a boy when school has let out For the summer. With sweet spring in my stride I crossed the gray world. My heart yearned to shout “I’m free as a bird” but I hugged it inside And let birds do the singing. God alone knows How I worshiped, as from the dead I arose.
My wife away, I had beer for breakfast, Then got on my knees in the garden to plant. Unshaven, uncombed, I happily messed In mud for hours, and none said, “You can’t.” Dirty and sweaty, I felt palms get gritty And pitied poor bankers sans-dirt-under-nails. Who needs a penthouse atop a loud city? Who needs more money when cash always fails To purchase what toil can give me for free? Busy as Beaver, I find I forget To pity myself, and hum like Sir Bee From flower to flower, and yet, Though small as an ant, under sky too tall, I also am huge, for I’m part of it all.
These are good things to remember, on a stormy night with sleet tapping at the window panes in May. And one odd aspect is the realization that Spring’s joy is not due to having desire fulfilled, nor due to renouncing desire, but simply by skipping desire altogether. It is the ultimate hooky.
We’ve had a few glory days, when the sun bursts out and the world is so abruptly beautiful that you want to skip and sing, but for the most part our spring has been cold and wet. It might even be snowing when I get up tomorrow morning, with temperatures down around 36ºF. And it’s May 14th!
Just because the weather is drab, it doesn’t mean we can’t keep busy. The little fuzz balls that were chicks have graduated and looks like hens, and are too smelly to keep inside, though it’s still too cold at night to completely wean them from the heat lamp inside. So in the morning we move them out to their new pen, and in the evening have to move them back. Ever herd hens? It keeps you busy.
The chickens are at the stage where they are learning to scratch and peck. This becomes their job, once the garden is established and the plants are growing. They prowl about, scratching the soil and pecking, scratching the soil and pecking, occasionally pausing to scrutinize a leaf, cocking their head half-sideways to examine a caterpillar who is desperately attempting to look like something besides a caterpillar, and then deftly jabbing it and wolfing it down. They do a good job of keeping pests at bay, and also discourage some weeds by eating their seeds and cultivating the soil with their incessant scratching and pecking, scratching and pecking.
Now, however, such scratching and pecking is less welcome, as it would break off the tender shoots of sprouting seeds. This is especially true of potatoes. Chickens can’t be allowed in the potato patch until the shoots are around six inches tall. Then they abruptly go from being a foe of potatoes to being a friend, because they hunt potato beetles.
Last year I had no chickens, and because I failed to hunt and squash potato beetles on a daily basis, my crop was poor. You can just leave town for a few days, and a few bunches of innocuous-looking, orange eggs, each egg about the size of a fat period on a page, on the underside of a leaf:
turns into a hundred disgusting, slimey larvae, which grow with amazing speed and can completely defoliate a plant by the time you return to town.
Then these larvae turn into the more attractive adults, which lay lots more eggs.
A generation of beetles takes about a week or two to go through its life cycle, and a few beetles can become a major infestation with surprising speed. I witnessed this last summer. Then, because your crop underground depends a lot on how lush the foliage is above the ground, you shouldn’t expect much when you dig.
The trick with potatoes is to feed them a lot, and make sure they don’t get dry in the days when the sun bakes in July. They are heavy feeders and thirsty plants. For the most part you get most of your potatoes by the seed-potato that you plant, though I have had a little success getting some extra potatoes by hilling them early, and deeply. If you keep them moist and add lots of manure and wood-ash to the soil they grow so quickly they don’t get “scabs” on their sides. (“Scabs” are worst when the soil gets too dry, but one very rainy year the soil basically turned to mud, and my potatoes turned to slime, so I suppose it is also possible to over-water.)
I used to cut up my potatoes, with an eye on each piece, and then dust them with sulfur or fungicide and let the wound dry in bright sunshine, before planting, but more recently I seek the smallest seed potatoes in the bin where I buy them, and skip the bother of cutting them. (I have a theory cutting in some way traumatizes the tubor, and makes bacterial infection more likely, but the truth may be I am more lazy as I get older.) I look for potatoes about the size of an egg. Just because you plant a small potato it doesn’t mean the potatoes you harvest will be small. The potato’s eventual size seems to involve how well fed and watered they are, and how few potato beetles eat the leaves.
As a rule-of-thumb each eye will produce one shoot, and each shoot will produce three potatoes, so a small potato with three eyes can produce nine fat potatoes, if you put in the time and effort. I prefer to sit back and watch my chickens put in the time and effort.
Over the years I have learned small kids at our Childcare are fascinated by planting and later harvesting potatoes. Something about digging them in the late summer and fall is completely engrossing, and the “older” children of four and five spoke with great authority to the younger ones aged three about the massive crop we would harvest in ten weeks (blithely unaware last year’s crop was pathetic,) as we planted them in the cold drizzle.
Perhaps the best thing was that we forgot it was cold, and rainy, and that it had been days since we’d seen the sun.
I have lost a lot of my interest in the arctic, because the nameless “left” has largely retreated from that battle. Not that they have surrendered, and confessed that their “Global Warming” panic was merely a political creation. In the last month one young Democrat running for president (in 2028) has claimed the world will end in 12 years “if we don’t do something” about Global Warming. Not to be outdone, a second Democrat candidate (for 2020) claimed the world would end in only 10 years, “if we don’t do something.” The political posturing gets far more attention than any actual facts about sea-ice, which makes truly interesting science hard to find.
Unfortunately (for such candidates) the public is growing jaded. The situation is like being long ago told, by a commercial, “Buy Now! The sale ends at midnight!” The ploy might have worked the first time, but a lot of midnights have passed since then, and yet the same inane advertisement keeps running. The public has realized the sale really doesn’t end at midnight, and all further exclaiming about such an “end” looks increasingly insincere, if not silly. No one is buying it…….or are they?
I find myself studying the delusion and the deluded more than the actual sea-ice. The arctic sea-ice was suppose to be gone by now. We’ve been hearing the Alarmist guff about an ice-free Pole for at least thirteen years. (I first heard an earlier hippy-version way back in 1971, back when we used to sit around deciding how the world was going to end, so we wouldn’t have to get a Real Job.) This headline’s from 2008:
The only way politicians can continue to repeat such refuted claims, without understanding it makes them look stupid, is because they have been educated that making such refuted claims makes them look wise. Not only have they been spoon-fed untruths, but they have not been taught to analyze and correct. They have “drunk the Kool-aid,” ingesting the poison of false values while blithely thinking it is virtuous to do so. I am turning into an old crank, for while my own children seem to have grown up with brains that function, young politicians make me feel that beyond my walls we have raised a generation of imbeciles.
While I do not like the word “reeducation”, (due to its association with communist atrocities and brutality), it seems to me these brainwashed people need to be awoken to the fact they have been lied to. Not that I advocate any sort of forced “deprogramming”, but mistaken people need to see their mistakes. But such persuasion is never easy, for a number of reasons.
First, the human ego never likes being told it is wrong. Being wrong involves crumpling up neatly-drawn plans and throwing stuff away and going back to the drawing board, which is work. In the game of “snakes and ladders”, facing-a-mistake is a snake, and people prefer ladders. People prefer progress, however, as engineers know, it is far better to face mistakes early, before you build, than to build and then have a building come crashing down. (“Global Warming” may be now be facing a political version of the latter.)
Second, young people have an innocent trust that their teachers know what they are talking about. Some teachers don’t, and only repeat what they see in books, in a robotic manner. It hurts young idealists to have their trust in teachers broken, and to understand some teachers define “teaching” as being more like a parrot, than as being a person who truly understands the subject they are talking about.
Third, people find it hard to believe that their fellow man could lie to their face, willingly and willfully, and with full knowledge they are perpetuating a deceit. One might expect such evil behavior in a “bad guy” with a black hat and twirled mustache who snickers “Nyah-ha-ha” in a movie, but not in someone they feel is a friend. To realize another is treating you as a sucker admits you have been, to some degree, a sucker, (up to that point, at least), and no one likes admitting they’ve been a fool.
The above difficulties are exacerbated when false values include making-money and/or gaining-awards and/or basking-in-the-flattery-of-social-prestige. We tend to prefer employment to being unemployed, financial security to anxiety, acceptance to rejection, and acclaim to being ostracized. Because we cannot get everything we desire, we must at times compromise and, sad to say, some of our compromises are mistakes. For money we compromise when we shouldn’t, for acceptance we compromise when we shouldn’t, for peace we compromise when we shouldn’t, and so on.
In the case of Global Warming the exacerbation was extreme because literally trillions of dollars were involved. In attempting to seek out the origins of the fallacy, one suspects some very rich people had to be at Global Warming’s roots.
For this reason some suspect the very wealthy members of the “Club Of Rome”, (formed over a half century ago in 1968), have been behind much of the Global Warming advocacy. They announced, (in “The Limits To Growth“, published in 1972), that mankind was running out of resources and time. Because they had so much money and power, they seemed to feel God had placed them in the position to save mankind from a disaster, which they felt was sure to come if populations kept increasing as resources ran out. They gloomily foresaw the degradation of the environment to a degree where the entire planet would become an overgrazed, industrial wasteland and desert, (and they based their ideas on computer models, even back when only very rich men could afford computers). In 1970 they foresaw the disaster would be upon us by 1990.
Others pointed out, and continue to point out, that their computer models contained some underlying assumptions that were very pessimistic, and which over the past half-century have proven untrue. Robert Solow, winner of the Noble prize for Economics, described the Club of Rome’s ideas as “amateurish” and “simplistic”. The Club Of Rome in fact didn’t see how innovative humanity can be, when faced with problems. (This has not discouraged the Club Of Rome from continuing to forecast doom, and their computer models continue to foresee the collapse of civilization, now confidently expected to occur in the middle of the 21st century.)
The Club of Rome likely does not stand alone on the pedestal of blame, but they publish their ideas, and therefore are more exposed. After the Soviet Union fell on Christmas, 1991, they didn’t rejoice at the end of the Cold War, but instead worried that mankind would lack an enemy to fight, stating, in The First Global Revolution, “Every state has been so used to classifying its neighbours as friend or foe, that the sudden absence of traditional adversaries has left governments and public opinion with a great void to fill. New enemies have to be identified, new strategies imagined, and new weapons devised.”
Particularly cynical (to me) is the statement by King & Schneider, “In searching for a common enemy against whom we can unite, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like, would fit the bill. In their totality and their interactions these phenomena do constitute a common threat which must be confronted by everyone together. But in designating these dangers as the enemy, we fall into the trap, which we have already warned readers about, namely mistaking symptoms for causes. All these dangers are caused by human intervention in natural processes, and it is only through changed attitudes and behaviour that they can be overcome. The real enemy then is humanity itself.”
This gloomy view of mankind and its future seemed to generate a need to create a scapegoat for man to fight, and furthermore to encourage a sort of “ends-justify-the-means” mentality wherein it was acceptable to lie, in the process of creating the scapegoat humanity could rally around fighting. I don’t know why they didn’t feel they could just tell the truth, but I imagine an element of condescending snobbishness was involved, wherein they felt humanity was just too stupid to be told the truth. In truth they themselves were the stupid ones, for in the end Highest Truth inevitably works its way to the surface, and it is then that liars have egg on their face.
In a sense we are now seeing that Abraham Lincoln spoke truth when he stated, “You cannot fool all of the people all of the time,” but Lincoln began that statement with, “You can fool some of the people all of the time”, and that is what we are now dealing with: A sort of residue of trusting people, brought up to see “carbon” as a scapegoat, and as a foe.
Some describe these trusting people as “sheeple”, which seems a bit snide and condescending to me. I actually find trusting people far easier to work with. But a problem occurs when it dawns on them they can’t trust. An entire range of reactions is then possible, from apathy to panic to fury to humor to a white-hot determination to stand for Truth. History demonstrates that when faced with such duress some nations crumble, while others experience a “Finest Hour”.
It seems plain to me the United States has arrived at such a tipping point. I have no idea how things will turn out, but do know that at such times every voice matters. While it can be difficult and even dangerous to speak the voice of reason among the raging, often such a voice can turn the tide, and has great influence among the silent even if the speaker is shown the door. The “left” has been all too willing to utilize this “voice” in a shrieking and impolite manner, protesting as conservatives attempt to speak, but conservatives must persist, (hopefully in more soothing tones), if the United States is to remain a two-party-system where Freedom, especially Freedom Of Speech, is a way of life.
Therefore, yawning slightly, I will again debunk what has already been debunked. And that is the idea that the sea-ice over the North Pole is in a “Death Spiral”, and also that, if the sea-ice ever did melt completely away, it would have terrible consequences. While debunking I’ll also point out some attributes of the strange mental state called “Alarmism”.
The “Death Spiral” idea is silly because the sea-ice has melted away in the recent past, without terrible consequences, (and in fact likely with pleasant consequences, in many northern lands).
The evidence is there, but there has been an effort to hide it. I know this sounds a bit paranoid and crazy, but in order to create a “narrative” wherein people could become bug-eyed about sea-ice melting, one had to “erase” the fact it has happened before. The most notable incident involved a scientist being told “we have to erase the Medieval Warm Period”. However the effort to “erase” evidence that disproves the so-called “narrative” has been far more widespread and absurd. Because so much money has been involved, it has pulled the strings of weak people who allowed themselves become puppets for the production of propaganda. Meanwhile such manipulation of monies completely baffled the honest scientists, who care far more about science than “propaganda”, even to a degree where they forget to deposit their paychecks at the bank, until the bank (or their wife) complains.
I wish I had the time to entertain you with all the examples of this silliness I have witnessed. The book would be hilarious, were it not for the fact some very decent and honest scientists have abruptly seen their funding denied, because their honesty clashed with the “narrative”.
I don’t have the time, and instead will merely mention the funding dried up, all of a sudden, when it came to placing cameras on the sea-ice on the Arctic Sea. Where we once could see what was going on up there, a sort of iron curtain has fallen. Only four years ago there were, at one point, eight functioning cameras sending us pictures. Now there are none. What happened?
I’ll give you my take, which is that initially the pictures supported the “narrative”, but then slowly such images began to undermine the “narrative”, at which point the pictures were no longer welcome. I know this sounds like a conspiracy theory, but it just seems odd that, even as it became far cheaper to place such cameras, suddenly there was no money available to do so.
Initially the cameras supported the “narrative” because they showed sea-ice melting in the summer. In actual fact, the sea-ice had always melted in the summer, but normal people didn’t know this. (I myself didn’t know this, back when I was normal.)
In fact, the sun never sets for six months, at the Pole. There is no “cool of the evening” because there is no evening. The sun just rides around the horizon, around and around, higher and higher, so of course temperatures rise. Temperatures commonly rise above freezing in May and then, on average, remain above freezing day after day, week after week, all the way to August. So is it any wonder the sea-ice melts?
This has nothing to do with Global Warming. It has been happening for millennium. But the cameras allowed us to see what only a few hundred arctic explorers had ever seen before. It was wonderful! It was beautiful! But I’m afraid it failed to be alarming enough.
Not that they didn’t try. The cameras showed the melt-water pools that form on the sea-ice during the summer, and sensationalist headlines made it sound like such pools were a new thing. But then a cantankerous old coot like myself would point out such pools were described by arctic explorers clear back to Henry Hudson in the 1600’s, and also that, when a crack formed in the ice, the water typically drained down and the pool vanished. This could result in embarrassment for Alarmists. For example, in 2013 they dubbed one such pool “Lake North Pole”, claiming it signified the beginning of The End, but no sooner had they drawn everyone’s attention to that camera’s view, when the pool drained and vanished, and instead the camera showed a view of a midsummer snow on polished sea-ice.
The fact the cameras at times embarrassed Alarmists, showing freezing where Satellites indicated thaw, or snowfalls at the peak of the melt-season, or waters clotted with sea-ice in a location other “official” maps showed open water, made them seem unhelpful, to those most interested in the “narrative”. The cameras, initially supportive to the “narrative”, had become a liability. As a cynical old coot, I feel it is no great wonder that the funding dried up.
Nor is it a great wonder to me that richer Alarmists no longer invested in other arctic endeavors. We used to be able to get pictures from all sorts of crazy dudes who planned to prove how bad Global Warming was by being the first to row to the Pole in a bathtub. Or, well, maybe not a bathtub, but in other inadequate craft.
What amazed me most about such young adventurers was: They always got funded. The money was flowing like rivers, but now it has dried up. I think they tended to show too much sea-ice and not enough melting, and failed to support the “narrative.”
I was sad to see that, for the first time in years, there was no “Barneo” base at the Pole this April. Many tourists were willing to fork out $20,000 to ski at the Pole, but there was apparently not enough extra “science money” to make the truly marvelous event, (which even included a yearly marathon), worth the organizers getting over various political differences.
Officially the 2019 Barneo base didn’t happen because of bickering between Russia and Ukraine, but in the past such bickering was lubricated out of existence by a surging inflow of money. Now the money has dried up. Forgive me if I sound overly suspicious, but I think Barneo was also unhelpful to the “narrative”. There was something about the sight of jets landing on the ice (to unload wealthy tourists) that failed to support the idea the Pole would soon be an open ocean.
To me this seems to demonstrate how, as soon as you agree you must “erase” some element of Truth to promote your “narrative”, you have become compromised. Some idealism has egged-you-on into a predicament where you will wind up with egg-on-your-face.
This is not to say that the people who promoted the “narrative” didn’t mean well. They deemed their lies “white lies”. However when they had money and power they could seduce all sorts of people to do what they wanted, and to be at their beck and call. Sad to say, but many scientists, faced with a choice between working in the field they went to college to study, or flipping burgers in a fast-food joint, will chose to work in the field of science, even if it requires some compromise. Some “white lies.”
Nearly every job I’ve ever worked has involved putting up with stuff I’d rather not put-up-with. Compromise is part of life. But it should not involve too great a disregard of Truth.
I’ve worked for employers who demanded discipline. For example, I worked for a place where you could be fired if you “punched in” one second late. This seemed ridiculous to me, because some people tended to sit around the time-clock shooting the bull and drinking coffee for a half hour after they punched-in, while other got right to work. The Truth was that the time-stamp on the time-clock’s punch-card didn’t indicate how hard a man worked. But the boss didn’t want to hear my debate, so I compromised, for a while, and made sure to never be one second late. Eventually I would refuse to obey such discipline, and got fired, but I knew I deserved it. However I knew I could just go get another job. If I left a job in a factory I could go work in a cannery.
I think it isn’t so easy for scientists. It is harder for them to just go get another job. Albert Einstein did need to flee fascism and Germany, but if he had been driven to get a job running a fork lift, I shudder to think of the complete disaster which might have ensued. (To be honest, I didn’t always do so hot myself, as a poet operating a forklift.) (Cue sound-effect of much breaking glass.)
It seems a bit sad to me that funding is no longer flowing like wine, to study melting-at-the-Pole, because I know there are certain scientists who were hired, and asked to compromise a great deal, to make that subject their specialty. Employers shouldn’t just cut the funding for such faithful slaves. Sadly, whoever is funding the Global Warming idea is now treating some scientists like industrialists once treated coal miners, once the miners got old and were no longer useful. This is unwise. Kipling stated there is no fury like the fury of a woman scorned, but I think the fury of an abandoned slave may be as bad. When you deny a man all income, honor, and dignity, despite loyal service, a mere mouse may become a cornered rat.
Fortunately I don’t need to worry about losing income, honor and dignity, concerning sea-ice, because such study is only my hobby. True, due to some stuff I don’t understand concerning “search-engines”, my old posts about sea-ice used to get me over 700 views, and this post will likely get only 40, but this will not effect my income. Or my honor and dignity. After all, sea-ice is just my frickin’ hobby, and I’ll do it even if nobody “views.” The best things in life are free, but sometimes you are the only viewer. For example: That sunrise you saw, a while back. You might have wished there was someone you could share it with, but there wasn’t, yet it was majestic all the same. It was a joy just for you, and all your own (nor were you truly alone, in a spiritual sense).
Some Alarmists lack such joy, and sadly are lodged in unhappiness. They are unhappy because the sea-ice refuses to obey them. Here is the latest evidence:
The sea-ice “extent” graph seems to show a “recovery”. Rather than the “accelerating decline” predicted by “Death Spiral” theory, we are above the depths reached during the low-ice years in 2007 and 2012. The recent “maximum” was higher than last year’s, and, despite great excitement by Alarmists about a recent dip in “extent”, we are not in any way, shape or form headed towards an ice-free summer, this year.
As I look at the above graph, it with an awareness Alarmists seem to lack, concerning the past. I can only suppose it is because, where they must “erase” for the sake of a “narrative”, I simply accept history as it is.
And even most-recent history shows April cannot predict September’s minimum. In 2006 the extent in April was one of the lowest, in recent history, but by September the 2006 minimum was one of the highest, yet this highness, while making 2007 far higher than 2006 the next April, didn’t keep 2007 from having a September minimum which was the second lowest, in recent memory. Obviously the situation in April means little. If it meant much, 2006’s minimum would be lower than 2007’s, in September. In actual fact 2006 is one of the highest recent September extents, as 2007 is one of the lowest. April’s extent, in and of itself, is a lousy predictor.
Because I know recent history, I had a hard time getting all bent out of shape by a recent dip in the above “extent graph”, which some Alarmists claimed was proof all Capitalists should become Communists. Yes, you heard me right. They did claim such a preposterous thing. Look at the small downward blip in the graph, and imagine the leap of faith required to conclude it had such a huge political significance.
Forgive me, but I didn’t even want to join the discussion.
Such discussion has always repelled me. This is a bit of a side track, but I think my dislike was formed by a mildly traumatic event at the end of my boyhood. Back when I was a grubby little boy some elders felt I might be improved by cleaning up what I wore, or having my hair cut more often, but I always found such fussing annoying. I had better things to do, and preferred hiking and fishing to being neat and tidy.
My slovenliness reached a peak around 1965, when, as youngest in my class, I was the last to show any sign of growing pubic hair, in the showers after gym class. I was the last true boy, and got in trouble with authorities by being grubby and careless, and wearing jeans to school ( illegal, back then) and having hair over the tops of my ears (also illegal) or wearing tattered sneakers, (you were suppose to wear shoes). I didn’t mean to rebel; I simply was neglectful. Meanwhile my pals were hit by hormones and abruptly became insanely interested in fashion and females. They got in different trouble by daring to wear fashionable clothing, which broke certain school dress-codes. Their jet-black pants were too tight and too short; so tight about their ankles they could barely get them over their feet when they put them on, and they wore expensive footwear called “Beatle Boots” which the grown-ups banned because they were boots and not shoes. None of this made a lick of sense to me, for, after all, I was still a boy. What made sense was hiking and fishing.
I think the experience shaped me. Because I was youngest I saw, like the child seeing the Emperor had no clothes, that what was politically correct in 1965 was silly. My mind was impressed, and my thought was shaped in a way which saw the “fashion” others desired was actually repellent.
Therefore, when hormones hit me only a year later, I had no desire the wear pants tight around the ankle and Beatle-boots, because that seemed silly. Rather I would do what was not silly. Quite accidentally I was seeking an “alternative lifestyle”. And what was the alternative? At that time it was to remain a child, a Huckleberry Finn, and to continue hiking and fishing, but to do so with the fever of an adolescent rather than the quietude of a boy. I learned to have a (nearly) complete disregard for fashion and political correctness. I had no idea this made me more adult than many adults. I was merely “thinking for myself”.
I think by 1967 the fashions of the politically correct became so shameful that many men have zealously burned all evidence, and developed amnesia. It was a fashion called “mod”. Men wore polka dots. I remember it quite clearly: Absurd, brightly colored polka dots. Not just ties, but sport coats. But nearly all evidence has been erased, like the Medieval Warm Period. What man would confess to being such a fool of fashion?
There was no way you were going to get me to dress in polka dots. Sorry, but even the slight chance, (very slight), that I could seduce a babe couldn’t trick me into wearing such peacock buffoonery. I stuck with my dirty jeans, and stuck with neglecting to get my hair cut until my shaggy locks got me rebuked by the school principle, and I stuck with hiking and fishing.
Then, in 1969, to my complete astonishment, dirty jeans and shaggy locks became fashionable and politically correct. As the youngest senior in my class I was abruptly the guy who was ahead of the curve, the guy who saw what was hip before all others, the guru of fashion.
I won’t pretend the flattery didn’t sway me. Every dog has his day. But, as fashion moved on to “disco”, I was like a guru wistfully watching all his disciples rush off to John Travolta.
Forgive me if I am belaboring my point, but it has been the experience of my life that a large part of “political correctness” is superficiality. It has next to nothing to do with the underlying Truth. At best “political correctness” is a dirty reflection through a warped mirror of what is actually occurring in the honest foundations of society, and at worst it is a complete misrepresentation.
There is much in my life I am not proud about, but one thing that makes me smile is that I still walk about in dirty jeans. I am what I am. I have been spared a great deal of bother and nuisance, by skipping fashion (most of the time) and instead focusing on work, and skipping political correctness, and instead focusing on Truth.
The Truth is that we are not threatened by the melting of arctic ice. The Truth also is we would be better off if the sea-ice totally melted. If it melted, we might return to climatic periods described as “Optimums”. If the sea-ice utterly melted northern climates under “arctic regimes” might instead experience “maritime regimes”.
In terms of Greenland, replacing the current “arctic regime” with a “maritime regime” would have a huge benefit. Permafrost would fade away, so you could dig a grave, as the Vikings once did. You could raise fodder, and deliver midwinter water, to 100,000 sheep and goats and 2000 cattle, as the Vikings once did. On good summers you could grow barley for beer, as the Vikings once did.
But some assume such evidence must be erased, along with other proof the Medieval Warm Period was warmer. What perverse ideology can be so stupid? Why erase what actually happened? Why erase actual experience which provides science with data, and which then corrects our past mistakes and furthers our future’s thought?
Who would do this? It is at this point my sense of humor kicks in, and I remember the persons who felt it was so dreadfully important to dress in “mod” fashions in 1967. I always wondered how the minds of such people work. What are you telling yourself when you don a ridiculous polka-dot outfit? For that matter, what was Abraham Lincoln telling himself when he donned his stove-pipe hat? (I like to believe he was muttering curses under his breath, the way I did when my mother made me dress in a suit and go to dancing school, when I’d rather be fishing.)
And why did George Washington wear that silly wig? Oh…wait…..he didn’t wear a wig. That was his natural hair, (though he may have powdered it.) Wigs were for people who went prematurely bald, especially when they went bald as teenagers.
Why should you go bald at such an early age? It was a side-effect of a revenge Native Americans had upon Europeans. (No, not the addiction to tobacco.) The revenge was a sexually transmitted disease which Columbus (or his crew) brought back to Spain, and which swept through Europe as the worst epidemic since the Black Plague. To abruptly go bald (often in a patchy manner) as a teenager became a sign you had not been chaste, and to hide from the shame (made so blatant by the abrupt, patchy baldness), people wore wigs, if they could afford them. (Even a cheap wig cost a week’s wages), (but a side-effect was that wigs helped people avoid the annoyance of lice. They shaved what hair they had left, and if lice got in their wig they could just boil the wig. Problem solved). But, as wigs were expensive, they became status symbols, and the rich bought and wore amazingly tall and curly and flowing wigs, whereupon they were called “bigwigs”.
The irony is, of course, that wearing such a wig would not fool the wise, who would know you wore wear the hairpiece because you had been immoral and contracted a SID which might (before antibiotics) eventually rot your brain and cause tragic insanity.
But, to the simple, a bigwig is impressive. The wigs in the above painting may have costed more than a layman could make in half a year. (Isn’t it odd how people can turn hiding shame into a status symbol)?
In my humble opinion “Global Warming” is a sort of polka-dotted “bigwig” that silly people use to impress other silly people with. Alarmist dogma has little to do with virtue, just as contracting syphilis has little to do with virtue, but the dogma becomes a sort of “bigwig” that intellectually bald people use to hide their intellectual shame. In actual fact they may be as weakened and clipped as Samson was after Delilah was done with him, but, (by virtue signaling), the politically-correct state, “Look at me! I have more hair than Samson had, at his most mighty!”
I wonder if they think they are fooling themselves. After all, at some point men took off their “mod” suits, and they did not put those absurd outfits in the closet, and wait for such bizarre garb to come back into fashion. They threw the polka-dot suits into the rubbish, (or perhaps burned them), to destroy all evidence they had ever been so ridiculous.
In like manner Alarmists are backpedaling from their fashionable statements, regarding the Arctic being in a “Death-Spiral”.
One last-ditch effort to prove there was less ice, even when the “extent” increased, involved stating that, while the “extent” might have increased, the expanding ice was thinner and had become something they dubbed “rotten ice.” What mattered was suddenly not “extent”, but “volume”.
Of course measuring the “volume” was very difficult, and involved variables and margins-of-error much greater than measuring “extent”, (and indeed the best-science involving volume-measurement may be worse than the best-science is regarding what the weather will be ten days from now), but, for what it was worth, the “volume” graph was going down, even as the “extent” went flat and even rose slightly. “Volume” became the new talking-point, and the new proof the “Death-spiral” was ongoing.
But drat! Wouldn’t you just know it? Just as “Lake North Pole” vanished as soon as they got people looking at it, as soon as they got people looking at the “Volume” graph, it shot upwards last winter. Don’t you just hate it, when that happens?
I myself figured the sea-ice volume grew because last year a sort of “Wrong-way-flow” prevented sea-ice from being flushed south through Fram Strait in the more usual manner. At times these wrong-way winds even pushed the ordinarily-piled-up sea-ice away from Greenland’s north coast. ( Sensationalist Headline: “Open Water North Of Greenland Proves Sea-ice Is About To Vanish. Polar Bears Will Drown”). This year has seen the wrong-way winds quit, and lots of sea-ice has been flushed south through Fram Strait to cool the Atlantic. As such sea-ice melts its “volume” drops to zero, and is subtracted from the total, so I expected the “Volume” graph to fall. Surprisingly, it hasn’t (so far):
If you are actually interested in arctic sea-ice, the refusal of “volume” to diminish is a fascinating development. But if you are interested in promoting a “narrative” it is incredibly annoying. This is one heck of a way to run a “Death Spiral”.
In fact, where we formally saw an attempt to “erase the Medieval War Period”, we may now be seeing an attempt to “erase the Death Spiral”.
I can’t say I blame whosoever may be involved. It is darned embarrassing to be predicting a sort of end-to-the-World, (though I reiterate that I think an ice-free Arctic Ocean would be a good thing), but then to, year after year, have your prediction be proven wrong. It seems quite normal and natural to change the subject. In a way it seems like burning an old, “mod” suit with blaring polka dots. Some things are best forgotten.
The problem is, we are not talking about mere silly outfits people chose to wear. We are talking about trillions of tax-dollars, the sweat of hard-working taxpayers, and how such dollars are spent. Are they spent wisely, or are they wasted on polka-dots?
With funding for cameras, and crazy adventurers, and the Barneo blue-ice jetport, all mysteriously vanished, just about the only pictures of sea-ice I can observe come from postings on the small-town websites of little communities in Alaska and Canada, who sit by the sea and have to deal with sea-ice, as it clogs their harbors every winter. Often the ice can keep boats from bringing fresh groceries, and the local people must either hunker down and subsist on stored-up blubber and canned goods, or rely on icebreakers and airlifted goods.
On Labrador Island they rely on icebreakers and ferries with strengthened bows, but there were shortages last winter. There is always a struggle to get supplies across the Strait Of Belle Isle, due to sea-ice.
(First, I should note that, if the “Death Spiral” is real, that ice shouldn’t even be there. Last winter it was described as “the worst in thirty years”. But never mind that.)
Second, with all the advancements in technology, surely last winter should have seen more fresh vegetables than ever, out on the island.
The lady in the picture has been running her market forty years, and she stated last winter was the worst, in terms of getting fresh vegetables.
How is it possible that 40 years ago, way back in 1978, the Canadians who lived back then could do a better job delivering groceries than the modern generation of politically-correct idealists can do?
Attempting to poke into the details, I had to descend into the bizarre world of Canadian politics, which currently involves lots of polka-dots, and not much sanity. Apparently they replaced an old, tired, but adequate ferry called the “Apollo” with a ferry that butchers the English language with the ungrammatical name, “Qajaq”.
As a boy I learned it was very bad luck to ever use the letter “Q” without the letter “U” after it. (After all, look what happened to Iraq). (Also, if I wrote “Q” without “U”, I might be kept after school, which was very bad luck). No good could possibly come of naming a ship “Qajaq”, but for Canadians it has become very stylish to write “Q” without a “U”, as doing so is apparently a sort of virtue-signaling, indicative of “sensitivity” towards “indigenous peoples.” (I’m not sure how sensitive naming a ferry “Qajaq” actually is, for I think in Inuit “qajaq” is the plural of “qyaq”, which is a skinny little kayak; in any case, an odd name for a car-carrying ferry.)
Qajaq lived up to my superstitions. Even with the help of ice-breakers, it could not deliver the groceries, and for weeks couldn’t even leave port. The people who live out on the island, and the truck-drivers dependent on the ferry to earn their living, grew scornful of the politicians who had mismanaged. After around a month the coast guard used ice-breakers to barge a minimum of groceries out to Labrador Island, but the ships were not designed for cargo and many groceries froze solid and had to be returned.
I learned all sorts of bits about the Canadian government, eavesdropping in small town chat-rooms. Apparently a large amount of money was squandered on “cronies” who built a road to the ferry terminal, but not enough money was spent on the ferry itself. Also, although the politicians were very proud of the Qajaq, because it had only half the “carbon footprint” of the Apollo, the local people scornfully stated this goal was achieved only by having a puny engine, merely half as strong as Apollo’s, which meant that, even with a reinforced bow, that the Qajaq couldn’t push through sea-ice the Apollo had once shouldered through.
I bit my tongue, for it is not my place to butt into a neighbor’s business, but I did want to mention that their politicians seemed to spend far too much time being “sensitive” about naming their ships, and far too little time being “sensible” about shipping.
The way to avoid mismanagement is to hire sensible managers, and the way to be sensible is to take a hard look at facts. It is distinctly unhelpful to “erase” the facts, yet much political-correctness seems aimed at not-allowing certain facts to be faced. Certain subjects must not be broached, certain realities must be avoided, certain sleeping-dogs must not be disturbed even with a ten-foot-pole, until one is reduced to mincing about on eggs, more focused on polka-dots and big-wigs than what really matters. It is only then that politicians cease being helpful and begin to be hazards, more concerned with genuflecting than with making sure groceries are delivered. Even the most garrulous old store-owner knows there comes a time to “stop talking and to start stocking” (the shelves). When a politician can’t see this, and becomes more busy erasing things such as the Medieval Warm Period than with delivering the goods, then troubles arise. It is when shelves are empty that people tend to dust off an old Winston Churchill quote:
“The loyalties which center upon (the leader) are enormous. If he trips he must be sustained. If he makes mistakes they must be covered. If he sleeps he must not be wantonly disturbed. If he is no good he must be pole-axed…”
This was what got Donald Trump elected. People were sick of mismanagement. The politically-correct were horrified, and attempted to pole-ax Trump even before he took office, which demonstrates they did not read the rest of the Churchill quote:
“…But this last extreme process cannot be carried out every day; and certainly not in the days after (the leader) has been chosen.”
The simple fact of the matter is that what matters is not polka-dots, nor how big your wig is, but how you manage the cards dealt out to you. There are people dealt nothing but deuces who amaze all with their success, and there are those who are dealt aces who fall flat on their faces. (Hmm. Might be a poem in that.)
Some people, though seemingly dealt only deuces, Become locomotives and never cabooses. Other elite ones are dealt only aces Yet traipse into trouble and fall on their faces.
It is true that a lot depends on your teammates; a fantastic soccer player will never be a winner if his goal-tender takes his eye off the ball to admire a blond babe in the stands; a great quarterback will have trouble completing a pass if his blockers are spineless and his coach is the moronic relative of a moronic owner. However some, even when dealt the worst hands, still manage to manage. There are ordinary people you meet every day who only manage to be ordinary by defying incredible odds. Conversely, there are pompous bigwigs who think their feces smell better than everyone else’s, utterly oblivious to an impending pole-ax.
The nice thing about a two-party system is that no actual pole-ax is involved. No guillotine is rolled out to chop off your head. There is no “Terror”, no Stalinist purges, no horrible Maoist “Cultural Revolution”, no “Night Of The Long Knives” where Hitler assassinated his best-friend Brown-Shirts although they had lifted him to power. Instead, in a two-party system, you are subjected to what the sports-world calls “being benched.” You are not kicked off the team, but you are told to go sit down and think about how you contributed to the fact the team lost the last game.
A problem arises when one wants so badly to have star-status they cannot abide even the thought of any sort of demotion. Their mother told them they were wonderful, and it hurts them tremendously when they find out they are merely ordinary. They received a trophy in school, (sometimes a “participation trophy” for doing nothing beyond showing up), and they expect life to give them another. They feel “entitled”, and feel they should be quarterback even if not gifted in that regard. Even if they are five-foot-two and can’t throw, they feel some “injustice” is involved if the best way they can help the team is to sell hot-dogs in the stands. They have lost the ability to see the facts a good manager sees, preferring to “erase” certain aspects of Truth, and to live in a rosy dream-world that can only remain rosy if reality doesn’t rear its head with ugly repercussions.
If one erases things such as the “Medieval Warm Period”, one eventually winds up with a so-called “false narrative” one is dependent upon, and then one becomes overly focused on things such as naming a boat, or “carbon emissions”, and the repercussions are empty shelves. Karma then tends to be ruthless. What goes around comes around.
In a way it is amusing, for often a reason some get sidetracked is because they feel “life isn’t fair”, and then, after their sidetrack leads them deep into a forest of buffoonery involving polka-dots and big-wigs and other forms of virtue-signaling political-correctness, they become extremely indignant when it turns out life is fair, after all.
It is difficult to explain the unfairness of life, for God’s Creation involves a vast, intricate complexity beyond the capacity of the human psyche to completely comprehend. Why are some born rich and some born poor, some born beautiful and some born ugly, some born sharp and some born dull? Is it due to the Karma of past lives? Is it due to evil White Men exploiting? Is it due to carbon emissions? Is it due to eating too much beef and not enough kale? Or is it merely a given in life, called “troubles?”
Having spent most of my life attempting to avoid trouble but getting into plenty, I tend to feel troubles are part of life, (and that, in fact, life would be boring without them).
If anyone was going to successfully avoid trouble, I would think it would be a man with super-powers, who could walk on water, and raise the dead, and give sight to the blind, such as Jesus is believed by some to have been. But even Jesus didn’t seem to avoid trouble, nor promise his followers an easy road: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
This is not to say that some elements of truthfully facing-trouble don’t defy basic mathematics:
As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury.He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.“Truly I tell you,”he said,“this poor widow has put in more than all the others.”
To people only focused on the mathematics of money, and not the entirety of Truth, this statement made by Jesus is illogical. Their minds, in over-focusing on money, have “erased” other things that matter.
I seem to see, in history, a rising and falling of people nearly as predictable as the rising and falling of tides. Initially people focus on Truth in its vast and incomprehensible entirety, and are made swiftly aware of their inabilities and mistakes, but are equally swift to respond to Truth’s corrections. People call Truth inanimate, but Truth does give people a swift boot in the posterior if they neglect to factor-in certain elements. Call it “Divine Intervention” or call it “Murphy’s Law”, Truth is swift to correct and discipline those people humble enough to admit their mistakes, and who eagerly learn from them. Because they are swift to learn they rise on a tide of Truth, and often gain prosperity, popularity, and power.
But then the rot sets in. People enjoy prosperity, popularity and power, and these three things are seen as being worthwhile in and of themselves, even to the point where Truth slips from the center of people’s attention. The “erasure” is slight at first, but the addiction is insidious, and slowly makes inroads upon the initial, steadfast focus on Truth. The tide is falling, though the people heading down often think they are richer, more famous, and more powerful than ever. Towards the end they become the butts of jokes, utterly focused on polka-dots and big-wigs, and amazingly blind to the Truth that brought about prosperity, popularity and power in the first place. This downfall is described by some as “being given to sin.”
This realization has been an unexpected side-effect of studying sea-ice. It has occurred because one cannot talk about what the sea-ice is actually doing, in actual terms, without at some point treading upon the vast and duck-like flat-feet of Alarmists, and being exposed to the sputtering bombast of their wrath.
(Pause, if you will, and reflect back upon the painting of the pompous “bigwigs” I portrayed earlier in this post. Better yet, go back and look at the picture, and imagine telling those gentlemen about the real reason they wore their wigs. Do you think they’d be nice, hearing your words?)
In other words, even if you want to talk about sea-ice and sea-ice alone, there are individuals who change the subject. They seem to prefer to distract one’s focus away from the Truth about sea-ice, and instead towards their personal ire. Their logic smells of red herrings. They don’t want Truth to be the center of attention, preferring that they themselves be the center. Have pity on them. They are very needy fellows, because they need help.
As interested as I am in sea-ice, I feel Alarmist’s cries for help must be respected. That is why I go on such long side-tracks, attempting to explain the antics of my fellow man, when sea-ice is often more interesting. To walk heedlessly past a person dressed in polka-dots and big-wigs, when they are crying out for help, is in some ways like walking past a person sinking in quicksand.
Of course, they are unaware they are crying out for help. Part of their derangement is that they think I am treading on their vast toes. Which is why solving their silly problem is taking so much longer than it should.
It is a pity Alarmists are so needy and require so much pampering, because there is actually some interesting stuff going on at the Pole. With the “Death Spiral” now a dogma undergoing what seems to require an erasure much like the “Medieval Warm Period’s”, there are far fewer pictures to look at, so we aren’t able to closely examine the changes we dimly see in other data.
What are the changes?
There was a shift in weather patterns that led to fewer charges of Atlantic air north over the Pole, especially in Fram Strait. But on the Pacific side there was a push of sea-ice north through Being Strait. If I had time I’d love to study this shifting pattern in greater detail, (rather than deal with the denials of those who, for over a decade, have called me “a denier. “)
The air was a little milder than normal over the Pole, when compared against thirty-year-norms, last winter, yet it was far colder than most recent winters.
Notice how the red line actually dipped below the green line twice during the depth of winter, which hasn’t happened since 2015. Also the “peaks” above normal were far more modest. Compare the warm surges last winter (above) with the warm surges the prior winter (below).
If you add up the area of the space between the red lines and green lines you get a rough estimate of the amount of chill the sea-ice was exposed to, which can allow you to make a guess at how much thicker the ice got. However the milder air also tends to lead to more snow, which further insulates the ice from chill, and may further decrease the thickness of the ice. Therefore, because last winter had colder temperatures, and likely less snow, the ice may have thickened more, which may partially explain the failure of volume to decrease, despite more sea-ice being exported south through Fram Strait.
However less snow may have a contrary effect, now that the sun has risen north of the Arctic Circle. The snow has the ability, due to its high albedo, to delay the melting. Less-deep snow may mean an earlier start to the formation of melt-water pools. (And here is where cameras would be such a help.)
Despite the fact temperatures (and likely humidity) have been above normal during recent winters, this has changed, year after year, during the month of May. Often May has seen the first below-normal temperatures in many months, and quite often temperatures have remained more often below-normal than above-normal through much of the following summer. I’ll be interested to see if it happens again this year.
The fact summer temperatures are below-normal tends to suggest the sunshine is weaker. The so-called “Quiet Sun” may be showing its effect. Oddly, the “Quiet Sun” may also be showing its effect even when it doesn’t shine at the Pole, during the winter, and may be causing the warmer winters at the Pole.
This is utterly contrary to ordinary thought. How could a weaker sun make it warmer?
Warming might happen because the sun’s energy does not merely manifest in a way measured by thermometers, but also as energy measured by anemometers. A weaker sun might lead to weaker winds. If those weaker winds happened to be Trade Winds, the result would be less up-welling of cold waters to the west of continents down towards the equator. Less cold water at the equator would allow there to be more warm water (an El Nino rather than a La Nina), and this leads to warmer and more-moist air heading north to the Pole.
The arctic is in many respects a desert, with air that is very cold and very dry. The introduction of even a slight amount of moisture can have a huge effect in terms of temperature. The same amount of evaporated moisture which would result in a very small temperature rise at the equator, (and might even lower temperatures if a thunderstorm resulted), can result in a spike of winter temperatures at the Pole of over twenty degrees, (still below freezing). It is therefore wrong to give arctic temperatures the same “weight” as tropical temperatures.
In fact, if you give arctic temperatures the same “weight” as tropical temperatures, and created an “average” between the two, you might even create a statistical error, wherein the increase at the Pole would have the effect of “masking” a growing decrease elsewhere. A slight amount of mere moisture, at the Pole, could consequently corrupt the “Global Average Temperature”, which some politicians place so much importance upon.
I wish I had time to continue. I have only brought up two lovely variables which thermometers don’t measure, namely Trade Winds and humidity at the Pole. Truth is far more complex and beautiful, and includes far more subtlety than temperature, humidity and wind-speed. It is for the best, if we wish to be good stewards of the gift we call “our planet”, to remain humble, concerning our relationship with Truth. We must be constantly ready to be corrected.
The alternative seems to me to be an arrogant refusal to accept correction, and a behavior which seems basically adolescent. It seems but an immature, audacious certainty that “the science is settled”, and that Truth has nothing more it can teach us. It is the ossified enunciation of paralyzed thinking, addicted to polka-dots and enamored of big-wigs, and the great irony is that, in seeking to avoid correction, it invites more and greater corrections. In the end such Alarmism is simply a way of cruising for a bruising.