LOCAL VIEW –Final April Foolishness–

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I suppose there was no reason April shouldn’t end as it began, with slush mixed in with the raindrops hitting the windshield between swiping wipers. May will be different. Temperatures are suppose to rise from 37°F (3°C) this morning to 81°F (27°C) Wednesday afternoon. We’ll whiplash from winter to summer with no spring.

No, that is an exaggeration. Hiking with the children at the Childcare there were signs of spring, though they were signs I associate more with the final days of March than with the final day of April. The moss was greening on the boulders by a brook in the woods.

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And a raspberry mist rode the gray twigs of the swamp maples. When you draw close you see it is minute flowers.

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I like to point out such details to the children. Often they are oblivious, and walk on absorbed with whatever fantasy they currently are engrossed by, but once in a while I’ll see a child screech to a halt, set back on their heels by the beauty they’re midst.

Beyond doubt this has been the coldest April I’ve seen in many a year, and there is a sort of egotism that wants to use words like “worst” and “unprecedented”. Sadly I cannot glorify in such vanity, for people such as Joe Bastardi (on his blog at the Weatherbell site), have the time to dig deeply, and inform me we are only in third place in the satellite era, for both 1983 and 1997 were colder. Nor can I use the chill to silence those doom-and-gloom Alarmists who constantly bleat about Global Warming, for despite the chill over North America the planet as a whole is slightly warmer than normal.

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Sometimes I just shed the tension that seems to walk hand in hand with sensationalism, wherein things must always be “best”, “worst” or “most” to deserve attention. Instead I drop the need to be champion. It feels comforting to just relax, and quietly say, “One more April is in the books.”

For in fact there is beauty to see in every April, whether they are hot or cool, and coolness has it’s good side. I can recall years when the heat had everything pass in a rush, with the daffodils blooming and withering almost before you could see they were there. And one of the saddest springs I remember saw all the trees in my boyhood neighborhood turned from reality to memory, because a heavy, wet snow fell after all the leaves were out, and entire trees were broken down. (May 9, 1977). It is not always good to have the leaves rush to unfurl.

*******

Another day is breaking.

Better to take the days as they come. A day can make a difference, for, though the temperature is again 37°F, today every bough is shining as a white sun crests the hills.

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And the daffodils, neither burned by frost nor shriveled by heat, are as perfect as they’d be from a florist’s refrigerator.

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And the invasive lesser celandine unfurls a happy mat where I once had a lawn, petals opening even as I watch.

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And even the unkempt grasses where I do have a lawn are shining.

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I made it! Made it! I made it to May!
And all wintry thinking is fading!
All grayness and gloom is ebbing away
Though the leaves are too small to start shading.
The glades are so full of bright sunshine they smile
And the woods are warmhearted and golden.
I want to go walking for mile after mile
And hear how the bird-songs embolden
My lips to start whistling brand new songs
And my eyes to start dancing with clouds.
Begone all you woes! Begone all you wrongs!
Begone all you Gothic, funeral shrouds
For I’m off to the woods with nothing to say
But I made it! I made it! I made it to May!

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LOCAL VIEW –Awaiting–

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Consider the plight of the bedraggled
Daffodil, native to the sunny slopes of Spain’s
South coast, with the Mediterranean’s sea-gulled
Waters stretched out below, but feeling pains
Known by the north, because northern women
Wanted sunny yellow, and men transplanted
Bulbs far from native soils. Bulbs wake and then
Poke up into chill, a landscape poets ranted
Was unfair in Aprils a millennium
Ago, and still rant is far, far too cruel.
Up comes the daffodil, and we see them
And shake our heads, and call each a fool
But is it their fault? Or have we recanted
Belief in the blooms that we ourselves planted?

Spring continues to tantalize like the apple dangled on a string in front of a recalcitrant donkey, to keep it plodding forward. It lures from the five-day-forecast, but the present sees snow falling from leaden skies.

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I do not control the sunshine. The sense of helplessness is made worse by the fact my daughter is in labor at the moment. I remember how helpless I felt when my wife was giving birth, but at least I was there, and she said she was glad I was there even though I felt useless while “being useful.” Now it seems even worse, as a grandfather. I pace about the house and look out upon a landscape of slush.

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Come on, Old Sol. Burst through the clouds and shine.

LOCAL VIEW –Unsprung Spring–(With Snowy Monday Morning Update)

Spring sprung like the squirrel’s black silhouette
Through the inked claws of naked branches
Against a slate sky overhead. It can’t get
Any colder in April. My spirit blanches
At the breeze, and the poor squirrel flees
My upturned face, though I mean it no harm.
It skitters tree to tree, and all my pleas
That it pause go ignored. I cannot charm
It, nor woo it with prayers. Where’s it going?
Why won’t it stay? Cold winds keep on blowing
And sleet only stops to start the snowing.
Sanity ducks, and my numbed hope’s knowing
A shivering song’s the best I have sung.
I’ll plod many more miles, before this spring’s sprung.

This is one of the coldest springs I can remember. I can remember an April back around 2006 or 2007 that started out bitterly cold and snowy, and was actually colder than the mild January we had that year, but it relented by the middle of the month. This year there is little sign the cold will be relenting.

Not that we don’t get our spells of brilliant sunshine, but it hasn’t fooled the trees. The buds are just barely starting to bulge a bit. However it does fool the children. They explode off the school bus at our Childcare full of an energy I equate with spring, for it is boundless, though they do bound a lot.

I suppose I could plant the peas, but the rototiller  has a fouled carburetor. Anyway, I have to clean up the tree damage caused by roaring winds, because March went out like a lion and April came in like a lion, and I’m not lying. The kids wanted me to leave the tree as a low budget playground toy, but it blocked an important path.

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The locals call this sort of leaning tree a “widow maker”, because they can do unpredictable things as you cut them down. Not that one has ever nailed me, but I have seen them swing or roll, and I cut with care. You need to notch the top and then cut from the underside, or else the slumping log pinches on the saw’s blade and you can’t remove it. This particular tree simply thudded down at the base, with the branches still hung up in other trees, so I was presented with a tree in the same situation, only slanting a little more steeply. I kept cutting and cutting, with sections thudding down and the tree becoming tilted more and more steeply, until the tree was vertical.  Then I cut a final chunk off, and the tree was dangling. Hmm. I cut logs off until what remained of the tree was at chest level, at which point the dangling section of tree didn’t seem likely to crush me, so I tugged at it and brought it down. Nor did I totally ruin the playground toy, for the children like rolling logs down the hill.

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While I had the saw out I cleaned up some birches that were weakened by the goats gnawing off bark a few years ago, and couldn’t withstand the past winter.

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I dragged the boughs over to the goats, who, at this point in an endless winter, appreciate any change in diet.

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Already the sun was dimming, and soon the view changed from April back to February.

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It turned out it was a good thing we’d cut wood, for a campfire was appreciated.

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It’s especially hard to get children to wear hats and gloves in April snows. It is as if they can feel the high sun even through clouds. (I can’t).

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In November such a snow can hang around for days, because the sun is so low, which is annoying if you haven’t finished raking the leaves. In April the high sun can melt such a snow in hours, which is also annoying, if you want an excuse to avoid raking the leaves you didn’t get around to raking in November.

April snows aren’t all that unusual this far north. The locals call them “poor man’s fertilizer” because some sort of reaction puts nitrogen from the air into the snow, and when the ground is unfrozen that nitrogen can penetrate down into the soil. But what was unusual this year was that the cold wouldn’t quit. Unfrozen parts of the reservoir skimmed over with fresh ice, and the children’s sand-pile reverted to “candle ice”.

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Dawns saw dustings of snow.

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Finally, last Friday, a warm surge from the south fought north, and the very edge of it made it to us, before the cold to the north, and the cold waters of the Atlantic, fought back with a back-door-cold-front, and with chilling winds from the northeast. It was over 80°F (27°C) in New York City on Friday, and nudged over 60°F (14°C) here. I made the children wear rain pants due to mud, but their coats were strewn all over the playground, and they relished running in short sleeves. But …..then yesterday (Saturday) saw a mild morning give way to a return to the cold,

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And now the Sunday morning radar map looks like this:

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That really does look like a February map. Oh well. I suppose if we are going to be miserable we might as well try to set a record, but I don’t think I’ll be putting on shorts and running in the Boston Marathon, tomorrow morning.

UPDATE; SUNDAY NIGHT

After a gray day with temperatures never above freezing, (very unusual for mid April), and a freezing drizzle glazing over everything, it has suddenly started snowing just as I was thinking of going to bed. A quick check of the radar shows this:

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The snow over Boston and Hartford is unexpected, as the rain-snow line was suppose to be further north. Also the blob of moisture came straight up from the south, so you’d think it would create rain or freezing rain. But it ran into such a wall of cold air it is creating snow. Let me check the map.

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The map also makes it look like we should be getting south or at least southeast winds, judging from the isobars. But we are getting “cross isobaric winds”, due to that big arctic high pressure over Hudson Bay.  We are getting northeast winds. You’d think there was a storm southeast of Cape Cod, rather than a storm due west, over the Great Lakes. This is nuts.

I’m glad I’m not a weathermen. They are only now moving the “winter weather advisories” south, and still have no mention of snow. Locally it is snowing to beat the band. My thermometer must be malfunctioning. It says it is 24°F (-4°C) out. Let me check nearby official sites.

Nearby it is 25°F in Ringe, New Hampshire. Even if it warms up, it looks like a messy Monday Morning. If it doesn’t warm up….

It seems even more unlikely I’ll be donning shorts and running in the Boston Marathon.

MONDAY MORNING UPDATE

Going Viral:

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Got out of bed and checked weather on cellphone:

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Hmm. More snow on Friday. But next Monday? Sunny and over sixty! Alleluia!

Well, I can dream, can’t I? But today is today. Trudge out to car:

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Arrive at work:

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Back roads are not suppose to be snow-covered in mid-April, but the snow fell during the night, when the sun could have no effect. As soon as the sun gets high in the sky it will penetrate the clouds and the roads will likely catch the rays and turn slushy and wet. Right now they are packed snow and very slippery. I think the road crews were caught off guard. Many trucks already had the plows removed from the fronts and the salters and sanders removed from the back. The roads were actually clearer in January.

Surprisingly, the weather is so absurdly bad people were cheerful, in a definitely ironic way. Hopefully the children haven’t put their snowsuits away, with our playground looking like this:

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Hopefully this snow will be swift to melt away, though it is amazingly sleety and dense. Shoveling two inches feels like hoisting ten. But as this snow lasts, covering all of New Hampshire and much of northern Massachusetts, it may cause an upward blip in the rather amazing snow-cover graph for North America. Ice-age, anyone?

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As a final note, though I know it will deeply disappoint many, I have decided against making an appearance in shorts in the Boston Marathon, today. I’d consider sled dogs, but it has turned to a cold rain down there.

Currently the snow doesn’t show on radar, but it is out there, fine like drizzle, and gusted by a nasty northeast wind. Thunder is heading up our way from down by Philadelphia. If it gets interesting, I may update again.

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LOCAL VIEW –Reason To Hope–

For a while the long range forecast was suggesting south winds would surge this far north, and temperatures would touch 70°F (21°C) this weekend, but now the forecast for Sunday is for snow.

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This sort of crashing disappointment is hard to bear, but I always turn my eyes north to Canada. They suffer worse winters and later springs. Surely they know how to handle such despair.

Yes the answer is to make a joke.

LOCAL VIEW –Grumpy Humor #287–

This appeared on a Facebook page called “Legal Insurrection”, and then on the “Ice Age Now” site. Apparently it is someone’s wry joke that is now going viral. Trump fixes Global Warming 29790811_10156289670494486_177478172852994533_n

So far April in the USA has been 4 1/2 degrees below normal in the USA, which is the coldest April since 1982. Here is a map from Joseph D’Aleo’s blog at the Weatherbell Site showing how much below normal it was yesterday.

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A slug of Gulf of Mexico heat will try to punch north, likely creating big storms and tornadoes down south towards the end of the week, but I doubt it will make it this far north. We just shiver and shudder and wait for May.

LOCAL VIEW –Arctic April–

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers…

                                                        T.S. Eloit

April is a tantalizing month in New Hampshire, for it can hold the heat of summer and then see that warmth followed by snows. At times this leads to crushing disappointment, but I always disagreed with T.S.Eliot, who called April “the cruelest month”. Down deep I knew the “tantalizing” wasn’t like the Greek legend of Tantalus. It wouldn’t go on and on and never end.  After all, it has an expiration date of thirty days, and is followed by a wondrous thing called “May.” But there is no getting around the fact there is a sort of madness in the air. “March madness” is followed by “April Fools.”

I blame the brilliant sunshine. At this latitude the days are getting 3 minutes longer every day, or 21 minutes each week, and the route Old Sol cruises across the sky is noticeably further north, and his brilliance is suddenly as high as it is on the final days at the beach in boyhood summers, however whereas the shortening of days brings the melancholic madness of Halloween, lengthening days brings overriding optimism.

The uplift of mood is quite obvious in the children at our Childcare, and I notice that when they aren’t bounding like spring lambs they have a tendency to sprawl in the sunshine, no matter how bitter cold the winds may be. One moment they are charging ahead on a hike, and the next I look back and see them halted by a patch of checker-berries.

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The temperature swings can be amazing in April. Our record highs tend to be up around 90°F (32°C) while our record lows are down around 5°F (-15°). To our south the land is warming and fruit trees are in bloom, while to the north snows linger.

The retreat of the snow to the north is accompanied by the reverse of what you see as snows advance south in the fall. Where temperatures are abruptly colder as soon as the ground is snow-covered, temperature are abruptly warmer as soon as landscapes are are snow-free. Where a white landscape reflects the sunshine a brown landscape absorbs it, and during the shorter nights the thawing turf remembers the days warmth, but white snows still provide an excellent base for radiational cooling.

In October north winds have less power despite the far longer nights, for the northern lakes haven’t frozen and their waters radiate heat remembered from the summer. Lakes steam like soup in the chill of dawn. Now the situation is reversed, for the same lakes are ice-covered, and the ice remembers the cold. People who have measured the temperature of lake’s ice (and arctic sea-ice) have discovered the thick ice on northern lakes can be colder than both the water beneath and the air above. The ice remembers the winter, and until it is gone it has the power to resist the onslaught of spring.

Some years the ice vanishes more swiftly than others, but this year the snow is slow to go.

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This is not good news if you are thirsting for spring, and also if you are thirsting for proof the planet is warming. If anything, it can be used as an indication of a coming ice-age. The longer the snows last to the north, the longer the landscape reflects the sun’s heat, and the shorter the arctic summer will be. An ice-age begins when the prior year’s snow fails to melt before the following year’s begins falling.

I don’t even want to think of such a possibility, for I’m craving warmth. And, to be quite honest, in the records available in Concord, New Hampshire, going back to the late 1860’s, I tend to see we have always had extreme variety in our Aprils. The temperatures have been recorded in three or four different locals in Concord, over the past 150 years, so the precision of the records isn’t perfect, but the record-highs and record-lows neither prove the world is warming nor that it is chilling. For example, on April 7 the record high is from 2010 (87 °F) yet the record low is also recent, from 2003 (8 °F). But then the very next day you see the record high is from 1871 (92 °F) and the record low is from 1888 (15 °F).

I know some like to torture and tease these statistics to prove temperatures have risen a few tenths of a degree, or fallen a few tenths of a degree, but my mother always told me it was rude to tease. Anyway, what’s a few tenths of a degree when the weather is wild and temperatures can soar and plunge over seventy?

I have to deal with blunter realities, watching other people’s children, and one thing I have to watch is that the little ones stay off the ice. If there is any greenhouse effect around here, it is that the ice on a pond is like a roof of a greenhouse over the water beneath, heating the water beneath so that the ice thins, even when the temperatures stay below freezing. Children, and even adults, can’t comprehend under brilliant sunshine, ice that was safe on Monday becomes unsafe on Tuesday, even when north winds blow bitter and cold.

The brilliance of the sun is intense, and I have to watch out for sunburns even when children wear mittens and hats. The soil thaws even when it is below freezing, which is quite the opposite from November, when days are four hours shorter, and under the low sun a crust of frozen soil refuses to thaw (when you want to dig the last potatoes) even when south winds warm.

And, of course, as soon as the soil thaws a primitive urge to plant awakes, and absolutely everyone wants to start digging.

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I tend to resist the spring-feverish urge to plant, for I’m an old grouch and have been embittered by years of having many volunteers in April, urging ambition, and then seeing them all mysteriously vanish when the weather gets hot in June, and weeds display an ambition all their own.

Also I remember many April warm spells that were followed by snows.  As a landscaper I had to develop a tactful way of reining back my elderly customers (that my wife called “my harem”) because they were possessed by a sort of panic when the weather got hot, and the tomatoes were not planted. When I couldn’t dissuade them either the tomato plants were killed by late frosts, or they turned a strange hue of purple in cold rains, and then sulked a long time, refusing to prosper even when other tomatoes, planted later, swiftly grew.

In other words, I’ve developed a whole slew of excuses that help me to avoid hard work. In actual fact the old Yankee farmers worked the soil the first chance they got, and planted things like peas, that do not mind the cold. They burned 4000 calories a day, using every hour of daylight to eek a hardscrabble livelihood from a stony northern landscape. Woe unto us, if the survivalists are right, and we are thrown backwards into such subsistence,  for I have become modern in my old age. I prefer getting my peas at the grocery store, and anyway, I doubt I have 4000 calories a day to burn, at age sixty-five.

If I did farm, I’d have to wear a white suit with a black string-tie like a southern plantation-owner, and order others about. I’ve paid my dues, when it comes to planting peas in mud with red hands as wet snow flies. Now I prefer sitting back on the first warm day of April and being the voice of doom and gloom, saying, “It’s going to snow again,” and then smirking when the entire north of the USA sees snow, like it does this morning.

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The problem is that, though I get better and better at avoiding work, work seems to like me. It tags along like a puppy and won’t go away.

As the warmth comes north and fights the arctic, and the arctic fights back, we can get some wonderful winds. The trees roar and sunshine flashes between sliding clouds. A million pine needles each individually glitter threads of blinding white in the dawn, doubling the dazzle, and then, as the wind roars to a crescendo, you hear a crack and crash from the woods.

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Trail is blocked. Sigh. Time to get out the chainsaw.

Hmm. Maybe April is the cruelest month, after all.

LOCAL VIEW –APRIL MOPES–

I generally try to keep an upbeat attitude, or at least muster a wry irony and sarcasm, and to avoid moping. However after the sweetness of a false spring, the return of winter’s final spurning is hard to take. One has been wooed, and then cheated upon, or so it feels.

Here’s this morning’s weather map and radar. (Click to enlarge, if you really want to focus on misery.)

 

I try to see the bright side. For example, the sun is so high the snow didn’t stick to the roads, so there was no shoveling or plowing. (Please ignore the wheelbarrow behind the car, indicating I had to rush to get firewood in before it snowed. Oh, my aching back….but forget I said that. I’m fortunate to have wood, and a back to ache.)

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And there is the positive side to think about. I don’t have to mow the grass, do I?

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And, considering I have displayed such goodness and virtue, with my positive attitude, surely I will be rewarded by sunshine and tweeting birds. Right? So lets check out this evening’s map and radar. (Do not click to enlarge, unless you are feeling masochistic .)

 

What’s this?  The maps show that the first storm blew up into a howling gale in the Gulf of Maine, giving us a bitter Sunday afternoon with snow flurries, and then, no sooner do those winds die down, then another ripple of low pressure brings further arctic snows our way, to make a miserable Monday morning more miserable than Mondays already are.

What kind of reward is this? After all, I’m a sensitive poet. I need to be pampered. This sort of bullshit gets the violins of my self-pity wailing so badly strings start breaking, and my poetry might be blighted into beastly doggeral.

God forgive me, but April snows do tempt one to question the entire concept of a compassionate God. I mean, what sort of God would allow daffodils to be wooed upwards by warmth to the point of blooming:

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And then, rather than applauding the first blooms, hit them with this:

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If even the flowers mope, should not I?

But here is where it gets interesting. Our forefathers went through a real downer of a time called The Great Depression, and had every reason to bitch and complain. But when you investigate the past,  you discover that even this depressing-looking bunch didn’t do that.

You have to understand that in 1929 people saw the stock-market-crash snarl at them, and completely wipe out everything they had worked their entire lives for. For that reason I actually like the intense irony in this early version of the “Sunny Side Of The Street”.

However there can be little doubt that we Americans got better and better at making music of our misery, and this version of “Sunny Side Of The Street” is downright joyous.

To me this bizarre, cheerful  behavior of humans, when they have every reason to roll over and stick their arms and legs in the air like a dead cow, is a real miracle. Who needs to walk on water, or see the sea parted?  The sight of ordinary nobility seems so moving to me that I actually avoid it, because I’m a tough old dude and don’t much like it when my wife hands me a Kleenex. I tend to drag my heels when my wife wants to go out and see a chick-flick, because when I watch a tearjerker I wind up biting my lip, and then doing those weird inhalations one does just before a sob, and wind up shedding twice as many tears as my wife does.

Who needs that? I am basically a pragmatic Yankee, and I intellectually believe that when the going gets tough the tough get going. It does no intellectual good to bawl like a baby.

But maybe it does some emotional good, especially when you are powerless against some illness like cancer, or some financial factor like the Great Depression, or some political monster like Hitler. There are times we are faced with the fact we are not as big and tough as we like to believe.

In any case, my wife and I went to see a tearjerker called “Miracles From Heaven.” It’s about a family with a child who has an incurable illness. I know that subject sounds damn depressing, but I still recommend this movie.

After all, when we watch the news these days it sure does look like our whole planet has an incurable illness.

But perhaps we foolish humans need to be brought to our knees, before we learn how to sing.

Spring lied to me, and now daffodils mope
Weighted by snow, and hunched songbirds pout
From evergreen caves. I feel like a dope
For ever allowing my dreams to come out.
Like a young girl seduced by an old rake
Or a congregation robbed by a priest
Trust lies in ruins. Kindness seems to forsake
The kind, and the deserving get the least
As the crooked run off to long laugh last.

Why, then, is this strange smiling tickling lips?
Why, then, is this odd music standing fast?
What is this faith which, with white-knuckle-grips,
Uplifts like cream sails on clipper ships masts?
Is it the last who laugh the laugh that lasts?