In my last post I was being a bit sardonic about the fact I lived too close to Boston, and therefore had to suffer their punishment, which was taking the form of a drought. It was uncanny how rains both from the east and from the north dried up as they approached our area, and I posted radar maps to demonstrate. Then I went to bed. A couple hours later I half-woke, hearing the sound of rain outside.
When I got up in the morning and checked the “timelapse-history” of the weather radar it was even more uncanny. The rain was still drying up as it neared Boston, but now it dried up five miles after it passed over my patched garden.
We only got between a tenth and a quarter inch, but it made all the difference.
The drought made darkness dry, nights dewless,
But last night I heard rain through my dusty dreams
Like an old friend winking from crowds cowed clueless
And blank-eyed by a leader's dulling schemes
To make low be high by pushing men down
And rearing up on his midget tiptoes.
Where dawn broke like cactus, today no frown
Creased my aging face as I arose.
The cool air seemed washed. All the dust was gone,
And purple scud brought the ocean's refreshment
As if a day at the beach was hid in dawn.
I didn't bother ask where the dryness went.
Sometimes it seems not the slightest bit strange
That a few drops of water makes everything change.
I have to hurry off, and just note the strange fact that we got rain and Boston’s western suburbs didn’t. Just a coincidence, but it happened again in the afternoon. As the ocean low departed and wind shifted to the west, afternoon showers and thunderstorm bloomed over New York State, and came cruising east. The ones aimed at Boston past north of Springfield in western Massachusetts, and shrank as they approached Worchester in central Massachusetts, and then utterly vanished from the map, however the ones along the Massachusetts-New Hampshire border, while dwindling, made it to my garden and gave us another tenth of an inch.
Just a coincidence, but if I have time, I’ll update this post by including the radar maps. I’ll also see if my area, just north of the Massachusetts border, gets downgraded from “extreme” drought (red) to “severe” drought (orange) in the next updated drought-monitor-map.
As far as the suburbs west of Boston are concerned, the forecast is for three days of hot temperatures. I hope people are very careful with barbecues this weekend. Some towns don’t want to live up to their names.
We had hopes of a summer rainstorm, as a coastal low did not head out to sea, but instead curved northwest off the tip of Cape Cod and into the Gulf of Maine.
Indeed, the forecast all day was for rain, yet in an uncanny manner it never fell. As the weak low came north some fairly robust rain showers came across Massachusetts Bay from the east, but the moment they hit the shore they vanished from the radar map. We saw purple clouds pass over, but they were flirts, and didn’t give us a kiss. Only when they hit the Berkshires of Massachusetts and the Green Mountains of Vermont did uplift cause them to unleash rains. This was insult to injury for we not only got rains to our east but also to our west.
As the weak storm moved up into the Gulf of Maine our winds shifted to the northeast, and all those showers you can see up in Maine in the above map started to be pushed down towards us. Yet again they dried up as they approached. Only the showers that hugged the coast retained enough moisture to give the south shore of Boston a few sprinkles.
It almost seems that the very dryness of our landscape discourages the uplift that brings about rain. Or perhaps the uplift does occur but is full of bone-dry air that squelches rain. In any case, that is my final attempt to be scientific. For when drought gets this extreme you tend to drift towards superstition, and the desire to burn witches.
Who do I blame? I blame the voters of Boston. They are the ones who brought this punishment from God upon us. Me? I’m an innocent bystander. I just happen to live too close to Boston. Maybe I’m just across an imaginary line, in New Hampshire, but imaginary lines don’t make good walls, when it comes to stopping a drought.
Whew! I’m in a rough situation! The only way to stop this drought, and get some rain for my garden, is to go into Massachusetts and convince those voters to choose differently. I’m not looking forward to such a task, for it is said (not in any scripture I know about) that, “If Democrats listened to reason there would be no Democrats”.
Likely I’m not up to such a task. Likely I should just pray.
Even the weeds are shriveling, and grass
On the lawns is brown, and when walked upon
It crunches. The sun's starting to harass
With its too-friendliness. I look to dawn
Hoping for gloom, but all I get is cheer.
Some lesson's being taught, and I've a hunch
It's to do with when I prayed skies would clear
When sick of rain. Now that the grass goes "crunch"
Dare I complain my prayer saw answer?
I know the danger of drought, how one butt
Dropped careless can release that orange dancer
Who makes her own wind, how both mansion and hut
Become mere ash. Did I pray for this doom?
I only know I'm now praying for gloom.
It has been a very dry summer, and an alarming drought is growing in New England.
When I was young, normalcy bored me, and any weather outside the norm seemed better than Camelot weather. I had a yearning for thunderstorms, and even tornadoes, and was very annoyed hurricanes never seemed to clobber New England anymore. But, if we couldn’t get storms toppling trees, maybe the sunshine could become a hazard, and drought could cause forest fires. Anything seemed better to me, as a young man, than the stultifying oppression of a Boston suburb. (Parents may have intended to create heaven on earth, but emerald suburbs were boring, boring, Bore-Ing.)
But now I am not a young man anymore. I am an old man, and a bit of a wet blanket on such youthful thirst-for-disaster. For one thing, where disaster once meant extra work, which I could profit from, now disaster means extra work I can’t afford paying others for, and must hobble about doing for myself. For another thing, thirsting for disaster nowadays always seems to involve Global Warming, and the politics of taking away people’s liberty and replacing it with a Globalist Big Brother. Heck with that. When I was young, I could thirst for disaster, and it didn’t cost the taxpayers a trillion dollars.
For example, if I wanted to thirst for a hurricane I had only to research the 1938 hurricane. If it happened before, might it not happen again? I had no need to involve men in white coats blaming CO2. In the same way, if I wanted thirst for drought and terrible fires, I had only to research the 1947 drought and the fires that burned nine towns from the map of Maine.
In the above picture the distant pines are likely at least fifty feet tall, so the sheet of flame arising is likely approaching 200 feet tall. Such fires might be ordinary among people in California, but it is completely outside the experience of modern New Englanders.
Oh, how I yearned for such excitement to return! The suburbs of Boston were so dull, dull, Duh-hell! And the trees grew so close together in the richer neighborhoods. A good fire with a southwest breeze of 25 mph would sure liven things up! But Alas! God had mercy and my wicked wishes never occurred, until….maybe….this year. If you look at the above drought map you will see the most tinder-dry forests are those fat-cat suburbs of Boston, where the suburbanites allow trees to grow right beside their houses, which the old Yankee never would allow.
Why not? Because every fifty years or so there might be a forest fire, and you sure didn’t want your house in such a forest as it blazed.
In fact, if you look back up to the picture of 1947 above, you will notice the people are standing by a house which is a heck of a long way from the fire. The house is far from the trees for a reason. People had common sense back then. People in the suburbs of Boston have no such common sense now, and the most expensive homes are midst the thickest trees.
Should the current drought result in a forest fire in the suburbs of Boston, many expensive homes will be involved. Yet will the wisdom of the builders and maintainers be so much as questioned?
No, Global Warming will be the culprit. Global Warming will get the blame. Why? Because of a political agenda which wants to do….. whatever…. but it has nothing to do with common sense.
Common sense just looks to the past to see what can be expected. This shouldn’t be any big deal. However, the past is politically incorrect, when the past does not affirm that the current situation is the “worst ever” and caused by “Global Warming”.
Now that I myself am an old-timer I inherently carry a certain political incorrectness. Why? Because I remember. I know the current drought is not the worst, for I lived through the worst.
The worst drought in New England history was not a single, extended period without rain, but season following season with below-normal rainfall. Slowly but surely it all added up. In some areas it began as early as 1960, but by 1964 it was becoming extreme. The water supply for the city of Boston was threatened. The chief reservoir for this water was the Quabbin, and in 1965 it hit an all-time low.
The above graph shows the severity of the drought, and also that, even when rains returned, the reservoir was slow to recover. Back in those days they could not blame Global Warming to raise taxes, but some politicians were deeply concerned Boston would lack water, and as I recall there were even suggestions that major rivers, such as the Connecticutt and Merrimac, should be diverted to the Quabbin Reservoir, so people in the suburbs of Boston could water their lawns.
Back then it turned out we did not need to divert major rivers. In like manner it may turn out we do not need to destroy our economy with a Green New Deal, when the current drought affects the plush suburbs of Boston.
As I say such things I confess I feel sorry for modern youth, who likely want disaster to liven up their lives, just as I once did. To such youth I say, you do not need Global Warming, to foster hopes of exciting ruination. You can do what I once did, and be a troublemaker.
A drought actually can be fun. I can prove it to you, for I lived through that 1960’s drought. I can show you my old diaries and tell you of the mischief I enacted, involving reservoirs it was illegal to fish and swim in. I managed to experience some exciting stuff at those shrunken reservoirs, despite the fact I lived in a boring suburb. People who know me have heard my tales too many times: The quicksand tale; the run-in-with-the-State-Police tale; the nearly-burn-down-the-neighborhood tale. But you’ve never heard them. Would you like to hear them?
What’s that? Do they conflict with the narrative about Global Warming? Well…maybe…just a bit. They do supply evidence the current drought isn’t the worst ever, and that the current drought may be caused by natural climate cycles, such as a 60-year AMO cycle. After all, the last drought was roughly sixty years ago, which suggests…. what’s that? I need to be censored? My blog should be shadow-banned? I’m a racist? Does that mean you don’t want to hear my three stories?
Oh, all right then. Have it your way. I’d hate to see you lose your nice, taxpayer-funded job, or be unable to afford your nice house midst the crowding trees in the emerald-green suburbs of Boston. But…what’s that I smell? Smoke?
As I begin this post it is Christmas Eve and a warm south wind is picking up. The piles of powder snow are wilting as only the most fluffy snow can wilt.
A few mornings ago the thermometer registered zero at dawn, (-17 degrees Celsius), and the fluffy snow wasn’t wilting a bit. Instead a storm that didn’t even show on weather maps drifted over. The weather map didn’t even show the orange-dashed-line indicative of an upper air disturbance.
As this disturbance passed over it gave us an extra inch of snow lighter than Pablum (before you add the water); fluff so unsubstantial that you could see through an inch of it, to the outline and brown color of a dead oak leaf that landed atop the prior powder before the current fluff fell. Meteorologists would note the snow had a 25:1 ratio, which basically means a bare .04 inches of what would have been rain crystalized into slightly over a inch of snow. Conversely, such snow has so little water-content that a bright sunbeam can turn an inch into .04 of an inch, which is turning something into next to nothing.
However before the sunbeams strike, such snow is not next to nothing. It is snow atop snow, and seems like adding insult to injury. With one’s muscles already aching from removing the prior foot, even a mere inch seems like mountains made of a molehill. Tires spin when one has last minute Christmas shopping to do. The dust of fluff makes one quiver in an un-Christmassy snit. The puff of snow is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. One needs a crow to shake the snow from a hemlock branch into one’s face, hitting one in the chops like a slapstick pie, to give one a change of mood. One needs a miracle.
It is now Christmas Day and the snow is all gone. The snow now is more than next to nothing; it is utterly nothing. The storm that moved north to our west has done a magic trick with south winds and warm rain.
Perhaps that is this year’s Christmas miracle: The snow that had plows out all night long, battling to keep roads open, has been disappeared by a snow-removal which has done far more than men’s plows can (merely shove the white burden to the curbs), and has even removed snow from the hills.
The Alarmists, of course, leapt from old worry to new worry, for the brooks all rose. With the rain combining with the snowmelt, we experienced a Christmas freshet. There were flash-flood warnings, but I didn’t heed them.
I drove about after the morning-unwrapping-of-gifts and before the afternoon-feast, simply admiring the bounding brooks, all at bankful, or just above, flooding a few low parking lots and the lower spaces in riverside campgrounds, but closing no streets. Temperatures were balmy for December, up around sixty (16 Celsius), and I drove with my windows open despite the rain.
In my eyes the freshet was also a Christmas miracle. What the Alarmists forget was how worried they were about drought and low well-levels only a month ago, when our rainfall totals for the year were more than ten inches below normal. I counted it a blessing to have it pouring on Christmas, for wells were being replenished.
The Alarmists were also fretting about possible wind gusts to sixty mph (97 km/hr), and falling tree branches taking down power lines and leaving kitchens cold, just when roasts were sliding into ovens. Never happened. We did get some good gusts that made me feel foolish for driving with my windows open. Sheets of driving rain entered the driver’s side window and exited the passenger side, and I needed wipers on the inside of my windshield. It wasn’t the same as a crow shaking down a dust of snow from a hemlock tree, but made me chuckle all the same.
It is now late evening on Boxing Day, and I’m feeling a bit warm and fuzzy, even with my house in some ways trashed. I’ll be able to heat tomorrow morning without using wood, just by lugging all the wrapping paper strewn about down to the cellar stove and burning it. The ashes will likely contain heavy metals and therefore won’t go into my garden.
In the future, I suppose, Alarmists will have us all wrapping presents in white paper to avoid the hazards of heavy metals, but in the present tense I’m fairly certain the local “recycling center” will not separate wrapping paper from more ordinary paper, excessively worried about heavy metals. In fact one fellow who works at the center confided to me entire truckloads of paper, as well as big bins of plastic and glass, are not recycled at all, when the price drops too low, and instead it is all trucked south to a massive “landfill” in Massachusetts where it is buried by bulldozers in dirt. If this is truly the case, then they likely appreciate that, rather than bringing them twelve huge trash bags of paper and cardboard, I bring them a small sack of ashes which I refuse to use in my garden.
It is amazing to me the heat generated by burning twelve big bags of paper and cardboard in a cellar stove. It only lasts around an hour, but the stove glows cherry red and the wooden floors upstairs become much nicer to walk upon, as the cellar becomes much less dismal and dank. It will not last, unless I add wood to the cellar stove (which I do when temperatures drop below zero [minus 17 Celsius]). But what is most applicable to this essay is the fact such a large amount of paper, literally three trips by car to the recycling center, is reduced to ashes I can carry to the trash in a small sack while whistling Dixie. Just think of all the gasoline I’ve saved by not driving, and the propane saved by generating heat burning paper in my basement. Surely the environmentalists will be pleased…..(not).
At this point, if I was clever, I would compare the huge amount of snow-removal avoided, simply by shifting winds from north to south and changing over an inch of snow to a mere .04 inches of water, with the huge amount of trash-removal avoided by heating your home for an hour with cardboard boxes and wrapping paper. However I have feasted more than is wise, and my paunch is bloated, and therefore my mind is less sharp than usual, so I won’t display such wit.
Later —- Instead I will simply add that life could be far simpler if Alarmists didn’t make everything so difficult. For example, life is much easier if you don’t walk around wearing silly masks which do no good, according to six peer-reviewed articles in the New England Journal Of Medicine and the English medical publication The Lancet. Yet Alarmists insist upon making what should be easy be hard.
Down in Boston, Alarmists became concerned about the salt spread on roads for snow removal, which made some sense for we don’t want salt in our wells and drinking water. However Boston’s streets largely were drained by storm drains which discharged into Boston Harbor, which was salty to begin with. This process was hurried along on snowy winters by front-end-loaders which filled dump trucks which drove to the harbor and dumped the snow into the water, but Alarmists made this illegal, claiming it hurt the ecosystem. Consequently mountains of snow would build up in parking lots and along curbs, clogging drains and causing street-flooding and, in the end, melting in the spring and winding up in the ecosystem anyway. The problem made me roll my eyes. To me it seemed that what should have been done was to determine if the road salts contained any “additives” which were actually harmful, and to ban those “additives”, but instead snow-removal itself was banned, which seemed a typical Alarmist case of overkill. It made life in the city far harder, especially a half decade ago when Boston had four snowstorms in a row. Once again Alarmists were making life harder.
But one thing about humans is that they are endowed with a creativity that finds a way, even in seemingly impossible circumstances, to make life easier. Sometimes life is even made more enjoyable.
For example, over a century ago, when the snow got deep, rather than remove it they brought out massive horse-drawn snow-rollers and pressed the snow flat.
Then people would park their wagons and take out their sleighs, or, if they couldn’t afford sleighs, they’d take the wheels off their wagons and attach runners. Then people glided about, making fond memories and songs about how fun it was, until snow turned to slush and you experienced what was called “rough sledding.” In any case it was ingenuity which made life easier.
The modern example of this ingenuity was a snow-melting-gadget some clever fellow invented which drives about above roaring propane burners, melting all the snow. It uses enormous amounts of propane, and costs something like $5000.00 an hour to rent, but Alarmists couldn’t complain because all the water running into the storm drains had no salt in it. The big-city parking lots treated by this gadget were clean and dry without any piles of snow around them. The bottom line was it was cheaper than plows, plus front-end-loaders, plus dump trucks, plus court battles with environmentalists. In fact it made life easier, and the gadget was, in the eyes of some businessmen, a blessing and even a Christmas Miracle.
One definition of “a Christmas miracle” is a hardship made easy. For example, one is ill, but wakes up well. One is exhausted, but gains a “second wind.” One is hungry, but is fed. One is freezing, but finds a friendly fire. One is oppressed, but is liberated. One is sick of wearing silly masks, and has the audacity to take them off.
I actually prefer Christmas miracles of a more stunning and supernatural-seeming kind. For example, as I explained in prior posts, one year I desperately needed five dollars, and then a five-dollar-bill blew across a parking lot and stopped at my feet on Christmas Eve. That was so amazing that to this day I don’t expect anyone to believe it actually happened.
Equally stunning, to my way of viewing life, was that a bum like me could abruptly become the father of three. That was a miracle in and of itself, and I felt asking for more would be ungrateful. Here is a picture of me with my future wife and children, when I was ending my time of sleeping in my car, and beginning my time as the patriarch and provider of a family of five. All who knew me were deeply concerned, for they felt I was about to precipitate a disaster.
Soon afterwards there came a Christmas eve when all three children were crabby and in no mood to help me get them to a Christmas Eve church service, where I had to be on time because I was part of a choir and relatively important, for I had to sing a brief solo. As I ushered the whining, miserable children a bit forcibly out the front door and down the front steps I recall my wry sense of humor kicking in, and rolling my eyes to heaven and saying it was enough of a miracle that a bum like me should have such problems, and I certainly should not expect more. And it was just then I received that year’s Christmas miracle.
I don’t expect anyone to believe it happened, but what happened was this: As I ushered the resentful, fretful children down the steps I think the pompom on my hat bumped against the wind-chimes that hung at the side of that porch, and those chimes played the first notes of a carol so distinctly my jaw dropped. Just guessing, it may have been the first nine notes of “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear.” Whatever it was, it was far too many notes, played too perfectly, to be easily dismissed as “coincidence”, and made me feel warm all over. Under my breath I think I said something like, “Lord, that was utterly awesome, but I think I might have preferred a five-dollar-bill.”
This year I kept my eyes wide open, for I was expecting the supernatural, but, to be honest, all I saw was a foot of snow vanishing between sunset and sunrise, and that is easy to scientifically explain.
I also saw my family expanded by thirty years of living. This too is easy to scientifically explain, and Alarmists will likely complain and worry about “over population.” My immediate family now looks like this:
This picture is from less than two months ago, as my youngest son was married in California. Please notice we wear no masks. Please notice we are not “social distancing.” Especially notice the old geezer in the middle is myself, a fool who smoked for 40 years who now suffers from COPD, who everyone should be avoiding, to keep me from getting the coronavirus, but, lastly, notice I would rather die than be separated from my family by Alarmists.
I’m the one who must die when it is time for me to die, so shouldn’t anyone ask me my opinion? Do I want the schools closed, for me? No. Do I want the churches closed, for me? No. Do I want the small businesses bankrupted, for me? No. Do I want dying elders denied family at their deathbeds, for me? No. So who wants such things?
Alarmists is who. They prefer making things difficult.
Without going into a very long sidetrack explaining Alarmists, I’ll simply point out my life disproves their logic. In some ways it seems the reason for my existence. To get from there to here involves what I personally believe is a miracle, for it involved beauty I cannot take credit for.
Go back to that first picture, when my family only numbered five, and realize how alarmed me and my wife-to-be made Alarmists. We nearly instantly decided we’d marry, but only confessed to each other after ten days, but we knew people would be alarmed if we told them we were going to marry after knowing each other so briefly. So we decided to keep it a secret, until they might be more approving. Yet the absurdity is we decided to keep our secret for a further 21 days. It seemed a very long time, to us, but to Alarmists? Actually, to be honest, I think they would have only have been pleased if we never married. There would never be a picture of a family of five, let alone a picture of a family of seventeen.
Thirty years have passed since I alarmed the Alarmists. If I was allowed the time to go into the details of the struggle my wife and I have seen this post would expand several hundred, or perhaps thousand, pages, but let me leave that for future posts, and simply state I called the Alarmist’s bluff. They stated I couldn’t, but I did.
Not that I did it alone. I relied on faith, on my belief in Christmas Miracles. I knew I was just a bumpkin, but had faith in Something Higher, and look what has happened! One Christmas I’m sleeping in my car as alone as alone can be, and another I’m the patriarch of a rather large and fascinating crowd of seventeen, encompassing three continents.
Alarmists cannot point at such increase as proof of their success. In fact they can only point at decrease. Abortion is only an example. They base decisions on the premise life will be worse if there is more of it. The exact opposite is the Truth.
Audley Bine’s appearance in the sanctity of my home struck me as an imposition, but I also knew it would be futile to protest to my mother. He didn’t have to put on his very-good-student face very much at all to wrap her around his little finger, for he was a man who had graduated from Harvard, and also could speak with a hint of an upper-class accent, and these two things automatically raised a person in my mother’s estimation. It also didn’t hurt that my mother’s grandfather was also a Bine, and she and Audley may have been distantly related. They also may have shared some unspoken common heritage due to the steep decline of the Bine family fortunes. Audley was a go-getter clawing his way out of poverty, and my mother was also a social climber. Though she’d been born poor, I thought my mother saw herself as a sort of Eliza Doolittle. She had cultivated a faux-English accent, and was thrilled at the prospect of moving to England for a year to mingle with the upper classes.
Though facing an unwelcome mandatory retirement from Harvard, my stepfather had accrued sabbatical time which he still could access, and discovered Oxford University didn’t mind that he was over seventy. He was therefore going there as a guest-lecturer, and also to study differences between English and American law. As he, my mother, and my two younger siblings lodged down in England, I was scheduled to be shipped north for a postgraduate year at a boarding school up in the northeast tip of Scotland.
In only six weeks my life as an American suburbanite would come to an abrupt end, and I had a sense there were things I wanted to finish. The last thing I wanted was some old person around the house getting in my way, and Audley struck me as old. Though only twenty-six he struck me as a person-over-thirty who I shouldn’t trust, and perhaps even a “narc”. He wore a sports-coat even in hot weather, which was definitely a bad sign.
I gathered from my mother and oldest brother that Audley needed a no-rent situation to help him through a lean time between his graduation from Harvard and his first paycheck. He had landed a job as a teacher at a boarding school up in New Hampshire. I liked him less for that, for I had an involuntary aversion towards most teachers because, in my opinion, all but a few teachers I’d known in school were unfriendly, unsympathetic, unimaginative, and some were downright nasty. Rather than help me learn teachers seemed an obstruction to my investigations (because much I wanted to investigate was, if not taboo, beyond the bounds of ordinary scholarship.)
It was difficult for me to express exactly what it was I was studying, or what it was I wanted to “finish” before I left for Scotland. Some things were admittedly crude; for example I wanted to “finish” my virginity. But most things were problems I sensed in a largely intuitive manner, involving how my community of suburban teenyboppers might survive in a world that seemingly wanted us extinct.
Suburban towns of that time felt under no compunction to make a place for the children they created. The town expected you to depart, either to college or Vietnam, and the only reason my idea, (that a community of youth might like to remain a community,) was not deemed laughable was because it never crossed most people’s minds.
I felt that such a heartless attitude was part of an old world, but that I was part of a new world which was going to replace such heartlessness with Truth, Love and Understanding. My blithe naivete seems a bit ridiculous, fifty years later, but I honestly believed I was living through a sort of spiritual revolution. Problems might surface, but problems could be solved. One of my favorite occupations was to sit around with my friends and solve all the world’s problems.
One of the world’s problems was pills. Despite my gross ignorance concerning the difference between a drug-high and a natural-high, I had only to look in a mirror to see that pills were not healthy. Admitting this simple fact forced me to admit that the purveyors of pills were liars.
Pushers always gave pills some sort of romantic-sounding nickname such as “strawberry starshine”, and advertised them as being “a real mellow mescaline”, when in fact most often they were amphetamines, barbiturates, or worse: One pill was called “black dot”; it was described as being “peyote”, because it made one vomit (and hallucinate after vomiting); in retrospect I think “black dots” were likely rat poison. Such pills were gobbled by trusting youths at parties, and dealing with the consequences of such indiscriminate trust was part of my life.
Even though I myself very much liked amphetamines, we all knew “speed kills”. We could see how swiftly certain musicians aged from album-cover to album-cover, and I didn’t like seeing similar aging starting to effect my seventeen-year-old face. Around the time Audley moved in I had decided to quit pills, and to stick with smoking leafy herbs, and also to eat more, regain lost weight, and to get back in shape by lifting weights.
A second problem was far more complicated than merely quitting an illegal drug. It was an awareness that sprang out of my enjoyment over hearing others “tell me their story.” I became aware that my community of teenyboppers were predominately from broken homes.
This realization came as something of a shock to me, for when my own parents separated in 1964 divorce was a rarity and I felt ashamed to be from a broken home. That shame became such a part of my life I didn’t notice times changing. In six short years divorce had become so commonplace in wealthy suburbs that less shame was involved. The divorce rate had leapt from 0.5% to nearly 50%, and in some cases divorce was even taken for granted. I heard kids ask other kids, “Your parents divorcing yet?” What was formerly unmentionable could be freely discussed, and being able to talk liberated me from the shackles of shame.
However this is not to say my peers were happy about divorce. Divorce didn’t seem to involve the Peace, Love and Understanding which was our ideal. In a way (which I think few saw) it was our parents who were choosing an “alternative lifestyle” when they renounced traditional marriage, and we supposedly-radical children were actually the reactionary conservatives, in that we wanted to embrace some sort of wholesome fidelity.
Of course the subject was not all that simple. Some, both men and women, very much liked the idea of gaining the pleasures of sex without the responsibility of marriage, while others wanted a love that was true. Some disliked marriage because they saw their parent’s unhappiness as being caused by marriage, while others saw their parent’s unhappiness as being caused by their parent’s failure to behave married. And me? I tended to be wishy-washy, and to see both sides as having their points. To be honest, I was more interested in getting others to “tell me their story” than in standing in judgement.
This landed me in uncomfortable situations, for in “telling their story” people tended to badmouth and backbite others. Then a second person would “tell me their story” and it would involve badmouthing and backbiting the first. I called such situations “triangles”, and they made me very uncomfortable, for I felt a pressure to take sides. Taking sides was not the same thing as the “Understanding” I desired.
In a sense the two sides were like the two sides of an arch, and required the “keystone” called Understanding. Without the keystone the two sides fell to a heap of rubble and made a mess, but with the keystone the two sides held each other up. This was something I could see but could not grasp, yet I was aware that at times I myself could be the keystone, though I wasn’t aware how I did it.
For example, one unpleasant aspect of using drugs was a certain paranoia it involved. This was especially apparent when a person at a party left a room for a while and then returned. There would then be an awkwardness, as if the person had been talked-about-behind-their-back (and fairly often, but not always, they had been.) It was as if a societal ice had formed while they were away, requiring a societal icebreaker. I tended to be the icebreaker, even when I myself was the person who had left the room. Often it involved merely filling the returning person in on what-they-had-missed, thus allowing them to get back into the flow of the conversation, but at the time I had no clue how I did it. I just recognized misunderstanding was occurring, and intuitively ended it.
I also intuitively knew that the strength of a community is based upon building understanding, and felt an urge to strengthen the foundational understanding of my own gang. As the end of the summer approached this urge became akin to desperation, for I knew our teenybopper community would need to be very strong to withstand the challenges presented by a suburb which basically wanted to throw us all out.
Therefore I was pleased to hear my mother and stepfather were leaving for England, to reconnoiter the situation where they’d live and work, in and near Oxford, and after that to tour Scotland. They’d be gone a month, and I was looking forward to being the king of their castle while they were gone. I felt it would be a great opportunity to develop understanding in my community. My mother begged to differ, for where I saw “developing community” she saw “one big party” and envisioned holes burned in her carpets. Therefore she went out of her way to cramp my style.
First, she put her car in the shop and loaned my stepfather’s car to my oldest brother, leaving me without transport. Second, she gave me a list of chores, such as mowing the lawn and packing things away (as the house was to be rented while we were overseas), which seemed unfair to me, as she was burdening me with the chores of a castle while denying me the benefits. She told the live-in maid Margie to keep an eye on me. Lastly, she invited my oldest brother to stay, as well as Audley Bine, which crowded my space.
It did not seem to occur to my mother that I might not be the only one facing a “Senior Summer”, a final time free before plunging into a less-than-appealing future. Audley Bine was also facing an end to liberation, a switch from the company of brilliant minds at Harvard to the company of boring boys at a boarding school. All my mother saw was a very serious-seeming and sensible Audley who nodded at all the right times and only smiled when it was proper. (Where my mother saw great promise in Audley I must admit I didn’t think the fellow looked too promising.)
The first sign my initial impression might be incorrect occurred even before my mother and stepfather left. I’d gone trooping down to my bedroom with a group of my friends late at night, with everyone chattering like a flock of grackles, and once in the room I’d shut the door and opened the windows, to let the songs of summer frogs and owls in, and the smoke out. Just then the person closest to the door made a “hisst!” noise and raised an index finger. There was an instant silence, and then we all heard it: A tapping at the door, as if someone was knocking with a single, pointed finger. Swiftly all illegal substances were removed from view, as I sauntered across the room. After an appraising glance about at my friends all looking guiltily innocent, I opened the door. There stood Audley, wearing his very-good-student smile.
I fully expected some version of, “Could you keep the noise down; I’m trying to sleep”, but what he whispered was, “Could you sell me a nickle bag of Mooner?”
A friend nearest the door laughed, and then turned to explain to the others, “He wants Mooner!” The tension in the air dissolved to palatable relief. Part of 1970 was the experience of seeing many people you thought of as “straight” switching sides and “turning on.” I could hear my friends beginning to exclaim about the phenomenon, and the words, “He wants Mooner”, being repeated, but I was the one who faced going to jail for selling drugs, so I was not so quick to drop my guard. I brusquely asked, “Who said I had Mooner?”
That seemed like a fairly safe recommendation, but I was not about to reveal where I kept my pound hidden (down in a heating duct accessed by removing a grill on the floor). I simply reached in the pocket of my jeans and handed him my personal supply.
Audley looked at the plastic bag. “That’s too much. More like a dime than a nickle. Here. Let me remove some.” He then stepped further into the room and opened the bag on the flat top of a bureau, produced a packet of “Zig-zags” from a pocket of his sports coat, and with impressive speed and deftness rolled three cigarettes, which he handed to me. Having impressed everyone with proof he was no novice, he handed me five wrinkled one-dollar-bills, pocketed the rest of the marijuana, nodded, and left.
Despite this evidence, I still entertained the view that Audley was an intellectual and likely a “dweeb”, (though I deemed a dweeb who smoked pot better than a dweeb who didn’t) but that view also needed to be adjusted, shortly after my parents left for England.
The fact Audley wore a sports-coat in summer weather seemed part of an effort he made to present himself as being more wealthy than he actually was, and put him at odds with my gang. We scoffed at fashion. Around a year later signs began appearing on the doors of restaurants, “No Shirt. No Shoes. No Service,” and I always felt that sign was a personal affront. My view was that feet were far more healthy when bare, and that sunshine and dryness killed athlete’s foot, whereas shoes nourished the fungus. Furthermore we often visited Walden Pond, and the readers in my group liked to quote how Thoreau stated a man only needed two pairs of pants: One to wear and one to wash. Audley’s belief that how you “presented” yourself mattered was in direct conflict with our belief that it was what you were on the inside that mattered. Therefore it was with some relief we noticed Audley drove a battered Volkswagen bus that looked like it cost him fifty dollars.
Fifty years later I’ve noted such buses are nearly always portrayed in movies as a form of hippy-transport painted with flowers and peace symbols. Few actually were. (Many hippies couldn’t afford paint.) Hippies coveted the buses because they were very cheap even when brand new, and much cheaper used; they endured for years and could be repaired with a hairpin, so there were a lot of cheap Volkswagens floating about.
They were not a powerful vehicle. Whenever I saw one slowing down to pick me up hitchhiking I always felt a little guilty, for their air-cooled engines were so pathetic that I always felt the added weight of my body would force the driver to downshift, going up hills. Audley’s was especially ancient, and seeing him drive off in the huffing old wreck in the morning made him seem especially mortal and humble. But one afternoon we heard the far-off approach of a roaring car that squealed around distant curves of our country road, getting louder and louder. It was definitely not a Volkswagen. I was lifting weights outside with my older brothers, and we stopped to listen to the approach with interest.
My stepfather’s house had a circular drive with six apple trees in the middle, and the weights we lifted were in a turnaround off the circle by the garage. Abruptly, flashing bright orange against the green summertime background down at entrance, appeared a Lotus sports-car, which swerved sharply in and came around the circle six times faster than I’d even seen a car go on that circle, and then lurched to a halt in front of us. Audley was in the passenger seat, radiant and beside himself with laughter. The driver, a tall, elegant-looking young man with styled blond curls, swung out of the other side and walked over to my brothers, who were standing apart from me. He talked briefly with them, and they both shook their heads and jutted their thumbs over their shoulders at me. The man looked at me, and I thought I detected a trace of incredulity flicker across his face, before he walked over. “I’ve tried some of your Mooner. Excellent stuff. I’d like a lid.” He offered me a very crisp twenty and a very crisp five.
I hesitated, measuring the man. He wore a golf shirt rather than a sports-coat, but something about him oozed wealth and privilege. I decided a narc wouldn’t be so rich, nodded, took the money, and walked off thinking I was committing robbery, for usually I charged only twenty for an ounce.
I did notice one odd thing about the man’s sports-car as I departed. It seemed to have bits of cornstalks stuck in odd places: Behind the side mirrors, and in the grill, and hanging from both the front and rear bumpers.
As I returned with the contraband Audley was finishing a story that explained how the Lotus wound up in a cornfield. Audley seemed very enthusiastic, and appreciative of good driving where I thought bad driving must be involved. Rather than negative about failing to negotiate a curve Audley was extremely positive about avoiding a stonewall and a tractor. The driver inclined his head modestly, and then they hopped back in the Lotus and roared off.
I decided Audley likely wasn’t a dweeb. Dweebs don’t roar about in an orange Lotus.
The third bit of evidence that Audley wasn’t fitting my preconceptions was actually the start of our friendship, though one would think it was a good beginning to enmity, because it sprang oddly from the fact Audley liked to do yoga in silence in the morning, while I liked to bellow songs at the top of my lungs in the shower. As we passed each other in the hall outside the bathroom, me dripping in a towel and he slightly cross-eyed because his yoga involved trances, there seemed to be a gradual recognition that we went to a similar mental landscape, albeit in highly different ways.
As far as I was concerned yoga was a way to make your joints hurt; if I was going to seek such pain, I’d do stretching exercises before I lifted weights. Yet it was obvious Audley did it to get stoned. Not only were his eyes slightly crossed after he did yoga, but he leaned against the wall of the hallway as he walked. I found this intriguing, because getting stoned in any way, shape or form interested me. (I even tried out sitting cross-legged for five whole minutes, one time.)
What intrigued Audley about me involved the fact I seemed gifted, and could apparently do things without any discipline whatsoever. I’m not sure what first caught his attention; perhaps he overheard me improvising words to a song in the shower; in any case he became interested in my scrawls and doodles, and found them theoretically impossible. I wrote poems without any corrections (often with spelling mistakes) which Audley felt should have required six or seven drafts. To Audley my creativity seemed effortless, a fruitful trance that didn’t involve first sitting cross-legged, or controlling my breathing, or twisting my mind into a repetitive mantra, or any such discomfort.
Actually, after thinking about it for fifty years, I think my so-called “gift” involved huge discomfort, a discomfort greater than the contortions of yoga, a discomfort that went on and on and on for twelve years, a suffering which could make even subjects I delighted in become agonizingly dull, called “public schooling”.
Because my home was full of books I learned to read early, and therefore started grade school early, but being younger than others couldn’t make “Dick and Jane” interesting, or make classmates read any faster. Where the text read, “See Dick. See Dick run. Run, Dick, run!” a classmate would stutter and mumble, “Sss-suh-suh. Eee-eee. See. Duh-duh-ih-ih-kuh. Dick.” By that point I was flipping ahead, and when my turn to read came I had no idea what page we were on, so the teacher assumed I couldn’t read at all, and put me in the slow-group. (I don’t really blame the teacher, who was dealing with baby-boom classes of over twenty-five small children.)
In essence I was on the wrong page on the first day of school, and spent the following twelve years on the wrong page. Rather than gifted I think I was lost, but, whatever I was, it was boring as can be. I had to find some way to keep my brains entertained. Therefore I developed my ability to doodle and scrawl rhymes. It was not effortless, for it took twelve years.
After I graduated it might seem that, without the reason to doodle and rhyme, I would stop doodling and rhyming, but at times life itself became as boring as algebra class, and I felt the same need to keep my brains entertained. To some degree I may have done it to also entertain my friends, in the same way I entertained my back-row buddies (who were as bored as I was by algebra class), but it didn’t really matter if anyone liked it. It was a joy in and of itself, and I did it because the person in need of laughter was myself.
Then Audley would wander by, and perhaps see a notebook on the kitchen counter opened to a page like this:
Such doodles stopped Audley in his tracks. He was fascinated, and whenever I was writing (in various places around the house and yard) he often came drifting up behind me, to look over my shoulder casually, and to ask what I was composing. Depending on my mood (or what drug I was on) I might be unwelcoming, or a chatterbox who volunteered far too much information, but Audley always listened with his very-good-student smile.
One time I was looking over a long poem called, “Exercise In Expressing What Hasn’t Made Itself Clear.” It was a mess, moving down one side of a page, sideways along the bottom, and upside-down back to the top, using up ever bit of available space with either writing or garish illuminations:
I was very dissatisfied with my effort, sneering at the page, but Audley wanted me to read it to him. I made various disparaging statements, but he insisted, so I read the entire thing.
It was actually fun to read to him, for he’d interrupt and ask me what I meant by certain statements, and then ask me to read the passage again. Also he’d exclaim or laugh, sometimes even shouting, and then I’d stop and demand he explain what he was making noise about. After I was done on this occasion he said, “Read part twelve again,” so I read,
Take the time To be together Then cry a little Sigh a little Raise a little hell. It will work in in any weather And in every case I know It works out Well. Take some time for understanding. Give a little reassurance to a friend. Protect yourself but leave him standing. He may be the Alka-Seltzer in the end.
Audley commented, “That actually has a unique meter. Dum-de-dum-dum. Dum-dum-dum-dum. But it seems familiar somehow. How did you come up with it?”
I laughed, “It’s from ‘Deck The Halls’. The Christmas Carol. You know, fa-la-la-la-lah fa-la-la-lah”
He looked astonished. “Why’d you chose that?”
“Oh, I don’t know. The poem just seemed to be getting too down, too heavy. I thought I’d lighten it up a bit.”
Audley chuckled, “So you stuck in the tempo of ‘Deck The Halls’?”
“Yeah. It’s hard to get too serious when you’re going fa-la-lah”
Audley shouted a laugh and shook his head. “You have no idea how fucking amazing that is. Look here.” He jabbed a finger on the page. “You don’t even correct a word. You just write down a complicated meter like it’s a grocery list.”
I scoffed, “It’s not complicated. It’s practically a nursery rhyme”, and Audley looked at me incredulously, shaking his head.
It is a very nice thing to discover, every now and then in life, that someone thinks you are a genius. But I had mixed feelings about Audley’s admiration, for I didn’t feel I was the genius. What I witnessed when high was the genius, whereas I was the incapacity, the one constantly attempting, and constantly failing, to show what I saw.
Despite being young and naive I did suspect some sort of ulterior motives might be involved in Audley’s praise, however Audley wasn’t the sort who sweet-talked when face to face, and badmouthed behind your back. Word leaked back to me he was going around and telling people he had discovered the next Robert Frost.
This was a bit embarrassing. Also I didn’t much like the concept of being “discovered”, when I was the one doing the exploring. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella might be able to say they “discovered” Columbus, for he couldn’t discover America if they didn’t fund his ships, but my discoveries didn’t need ships. Not that I worried all that much about who got credit for what. Occasionally I might feel a passing wave of drug-induced paranoia, and fret about people “stealing” my ideas, and be hit by the urge to copyright everything in sight, but then I’d remember copyrighting would involve bureaucratic paperwork, and I’d be repelled. In my book paper was for poetry. Lastly, there was something absurd about the idea of copyrighting a poetic vision; it would be like attempting to plant a flag in a sunrise and claim the dawn in the name of a mortal king.
But it was difficult to dampen Audley’s enthusiasm. When he was hit by an impulse one tended to be blindsided and carried away.
For example, one day I had a whim of my own and, because I had no car, was planning to hitchhike to the trolley to go into Boston to its dilapidated waterfront to see my sister, who worked as a secretary in a warehouse on a pier that had an old, sunk, wooden fishing boat tied to it, (which I thought was “really cool”), and also to check out “Andre the seal” at the new Aquarium being built as “urban renewal” a couple of piers down the waterfront. It seemed a simple enough schedule, but then Audley stepped in.
Audley first asked me where I was going, and kindly volunteered to drive me to the trolley, but then decided, before we were halfway there, that he might as well drive me all the way in to Harvard Square, and soon afterwards stated that as long as I was in Harvard Square I should meet a Harvard poet he knew. I found the change to my plans bewildering. One moment I was going to see my sister and a harbor seal named “Andre”, and the next I was going to meet a genuine Harvard poet.
I was a little in awe. I’m not sure what I expected; (perhaps an austere old man who wrote with an eagle’s plume).
Audley’s Volkswagen bus puttered up to a seedy old building and jolted to a halt double-parked, and he flew out the van’s door and trotted up two flights of stairs to a stark apartment with almost no furniture, with me taking two stairs at a time to keep up. He barely paused at the door, banging loudly on it three times before bursting in without waiting.
I was very impressed by the poet, though unfortunately he was too occupied to grant me an interview. He was busy suffering, walking about with the back of his hand pressed to his forehead, striding swiftly yet aimlessly from window to window, looking out and up at the sky with an expression of anguish.
Audley instantly forgot all about me, instead trailing the poet, making sympathetic noises. I stood politely waiting in the stark living-room as they passed to and fro, to the far bedroom window and then to the kitchen window, repetitively. After a while standing hat-in-hand grew tiresome, so I looked around. The couch seemed to be the front bench of a car, and the coffee table in front of it was an old steamer trunk with brass trim. On top of it was a pamphlet of poems, so I sat down to scan the pages.
Much of the poetry seemed to employ gimmicks, such as sheets of pink paper, or the word “I” spelled in the lower case, and much seemed written in the tremendously stoned state wherein the inconsequential seems profound; a butter knife seems as amazing as Shakespeare. For example, one poem was the single typed word “stars” with typed asterisks strewn over the rest of the page. There were also some simple ideas made difficult, when I thought poetry was suppose to be the other way around. However there were also some very nice images, and I was intrigued by the word “Avalon” that appeared here and there, used in a loose and unspecific way.
Suddenly I noticed the footsteps had ceased crossing back and forth in front of me, and glanced up to see the poet looking down with his arms folded and a challenging look in his eyes, almost as if he was daring me to be critical of his poems. Instead I innocently inquired, “What is Avalon?”
A brief, smokey look of respect filled the man’s eyes, and he answered, “It is where you are young.” Then a look of anguish began to fill his face, and his eyes lifted to the far wall and looked through it to some distant space. “Everything is green there.” Then he raised the back of his wrist to his forehead and went staggering off.
I excused myself shortly thereafter, but as I took the trolley over the river and then underground to the Boston waterfront I found my mind had become more fertile, due to this meeting with a genuine Harvard poet. The person seated across from me in the subway might have wondered why I kept mouthing the word “Avalon”, but by that evening I was busily doodling. Soon Audley came by, curious about what I had written. It was a poem about yearning for a lost childhood, and began,
Swim on up the river And Avalon is mine. The water’s moving five miles While I do four point nine.
“Perfect!” shouted Audley, making me jump. Then he looked at me innocently and said, “Proceed.” I ventured on, and several stanzas later read a stanza that stated,
I think I was in Avalon Before my memories end. I wonder if my place was saved By some pre-fetus friend.
Audley gave another shout and burst into delighted laughter, pounding his knee.
I felt a little indignant. That stanza was not suppose to be funny. “What are you laughing at?”
“Pre-fetus”, gasped Audley, “Pre-fetus”.
“What’s wrong with “pre-fetus”?
“There is no such word.”
“No, you made it up. You coined it, but it’s perfect, I tell you; it’s fucking perfect,” and with this Audley vented an odd whoopee, like a cowboy.
I regarded him a bit coldly; my poem was about a significant philosophical question, (whether there was life before birth), and here he was getting all sidetracked by a dumb word. However as I watched his enthusiasm I couldn’t help but smile. At times Audley single-handedly seemed like a congregation of about fifty, all shouting “Amen” at a preacher’s every utterance.
Audley and the Harvard poet and Avalon had coalesced into a thought-form my mind played with, yet it was only one of the many thought-forms drifting through my parent’s house while they were away. My oldest brother Halsey had other friends, and though he himself didn’t talk much he often would improvise elaborately at the piano for hours on end in a way strangely like a sermon, creating thought-forms without words; the piano became the background music of that time.
Also my other older brother Hurley appeared out of the blue, about as opposite Audley as possible, for he was in violent reaction to orthodoxy in all its forms. (He’d been the most practical and “square” member of the family, a pillar of strength midst the ruins of my parent’s divorce, but all that ended in a flash when my mother remarried.) He had a black girlfriend Iris, (which shocked many, both black and white, back in those days), and Iris was warmhearted and had a loving laugh and was kind to me. The keystone of Understanding brought Hurley and Iris together despite a vast gulf, and furthermore the two of them got on well with Audley, which made no sense to me, for the yoga Audley followed was orthodox. Hurley was more in the mood to throw all rules and regulations out the window. However the keystone of Understanding brought the two men together, (perhaps because Hurley didn’t entirely reject discipline; he was disciplined about disliking disciplines). I liked to sit back and watch them debate whether rules were wise, or whether rules were merely an invention the wealthy used to control the poor with.
The only person-over-thirty in the household was Margie, a fifty-year-old live-in cleaning lady and cook from Canada my mother had employed for seven years. She had a ne’er-do-well husband with a “bad back” and six grown children, whom she visited in a poorer part of Boston every weekend, but during the week Margie had become part of my family. With my parents gone she felt an unstated responsibility to keep some semblance of control over the household, and if I was sitting on the couch with my girlfriend watching TV I could expect her to be a nuisance, coming through the room with armloads of laundry though it was after dark. She felt it was urgent that she chaperone because she had seen some of her sons forced to marry girls they had gotten pregnant, and she wished to save me from a similar fate. She also wanted to save Hurley and Iris from such a fate, and, when they went arm-in-arm into the woods behind the house with a blanket, Margie promptly trotted to the edge of the woods and began calling Hurley’s name. Hurley tried to ignore her, but when she persisted, calling and calling, on and on and on, he became annoyed and walked out of the woods stark naked and demanded, “What the heck do you want!” Margie ran back into the house as fast as she could.
I felt sorry for Margie and went into the kitchen as she had a cup of tea and four cigarettes. (She actually did this every day at “tea time”.) As we talked the spirit of Understanding walked into the room, and even though she was a person-over-thirty we had an amazing conversation.
Margie was a Catholic, and had a peculiar relationship with my mother, for she had remained faithful to her husband where my mother chose divorce, and she disapproved of birth control and abortion while my mother approved. Before my mother remarried they had been two women attempting to raise their separate families of six children with unhelpful husbands, one in a slum and one in a posh suburb. Neither could have made it without the other. My mother liked to see herself as the charitable one, helping Margie with immigration paperwork, and helping her get false teeth when her entire face swelled up, but there was no way my mother could have worked graveyard shifts as a nurse without Margie watching her children at home.
After four years my mother’s remarriage changed things. My mother had come to dislike Margie, as she became aware Margie didn’t approve of remarrying, and this dislike hardened when she became aware Margie told my Dad what his children were up to, which seemed like “spying” to my mother. As a consequence, at the end of the summer, Margie was going to be out of a job. This gave our chats a certain poignancy. This woman, who had been part of my life since I was ten, was going to vanish.
On this occasion Margie put down her teacup and casually wondered what drug Hurley and Iris were on, and, without anger, began to ask me what being “high” was like. She seemed particularly interested in hallucinations, and I did my best to describe them, whereupon she surprised me by describing similar hallucinations she had experienced without the help of drugs. She took me back to her youth.
She had been living in a London slum in the 1950’s, on a street which still had not been entirely rebuilt after the Blitz, in a house they had to evacuate from time to time as a UEB unit came by looking for an unrecovered and unexploded German bomb under the street. This danger was especially stressful as she had many small children and was pregnant yet again. She was clinging to her faith in her husband’s ability to provide, but he was breaking that faith on a regular basis. Because his back was bad she had signed him up for correspondence courses, but when the lessons came in the mail he scorned them. Finally it hit home to her that her man was not going to step up and be the hero she saw, buried deep inside his bloating beer belly, and that was when the wave of emotions and hallucinations overcame her.
The thing that was surprising to me was that she didn’t find the white walls turning colors and moving particularly unpleasant, nor did she stop caring for her children. Somehow she got the family back home to Canada, where they could at least grow better food than post-war London offered, and then she left her children with relatives and immigrated down to Boston, initially as a green-card worker just for a summer, and then moving her husband and children down when Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” promised better welfare than Canada had. One way or another she “got by”, and now, at long last, even her youngest was grown.
She was going to miss my family, which in a sense was her second set of six kids, but in another way leaving was going to be a relief. She lit another cigarette, and mused that for the first time in many years she’d have some time for herself, cocking her head to listen as Halsey began playing on the piano in the background.
I lit a cigarette of my own, appreciating yet another thought-form drifting through the household, and wondering if there might be a poem in it.
My own gang of teenyboppers like to come by and hang out, slightly in awe of the “old people” (who, besides Margie, were all under twenty-seven), and I never knew what sort of conversational chemistry might occur. I didn’t even know who might be home when I got home. I only knew that something marvelous was occurring. Our household became like no other home I visited. No one got too stoned or too drunk, nothing was ever stolen or broken, dishes were washed and the lawn even got mowed, and the entire time wonderful conversations were occurring. The Understanding I so deeply craved seemed to have moved in, and I yearned that It would feel welcomed and stay.
Even my girlfriend became involved, which seemed impossible because she was so very “straight”. She came from a solid family where her parents were able to argue without divorce being an option, and in some ways I liked keeping her separate from my hippy friends, as a secret serenity I could go to, to escape the turmoil and wildness of non-stop partying. I could depend on her parents to be strict and keep me from getting her in trouble, but suddenly they slackened the reins, and she shocked me by being less “straight” than I ever expected. For example, though she wouldn’t take drugs, one August afternoon we went swimming at a lake, and to my astonishment (and joy) she swam topless. However what shocked me most was an understanding I witnessed occur, which I had deemed utterly impossible.
My best friend, (one of the Three Musketeers I was part of), did not at all like my girlfriend, and she did not at all like him. They were irreconcilably different, part of a “triangle”. He was a “bad influence” and wanted to be free to take any drug and pursue any lust, and wanted me equally free, but she felt such “freedom” was addiction and slavery and would make me sick. The moment they set eyes on each other their eyes narrowed, and I felt sad and helpless because I liked both of them. When they arrived at the house at the same time in separate cars, I’d squirm. Yet so great was the Understanding flooding through the household that August that they decided that they could both like me without glaring so much. They could agree about something after all. Perhaps it was due to the fact I’d very soon be gone, in exile in Scotland. The sight of me packing perhaps prompted them to drop their differences, but to me it was nothing so simple. There was magic in the air.
Not that there were not differences, even with a persistently agreeable person like Audley. He did things I objected to. One was that I felt he tended to over-improve; Audley didn’t know when something was done.
For example, one time he sat down at the sheet of paper I laid out on the living-room table during parties, picked up some pastels, and with about twenty strokes of the chalks produced a beautiful landscape, in only thirty seconds. It was a rainbow over green hills, but what was most marvelous was how he captured the phenomenon of falling rain made silver by sunlight; it was mostly done by leaving the white paper white. I told him, “Stop right there,” but he insisted upon going on. I told him to stop a few more times, and then gave up in despair as he destroyed the picture with additions. He made funny “ick” and “eww” noises as the drawing grew worse and worse, and finally, when the rainbow was brown, he looked up at me sheepishly and admitted, “I should have stopped.” However he then bellowed laughter. (There was something about the atmosphere of the house that escaped recriminations).
Somehow it felt safe-to-be-open in that house, and one way Audley contributed to that that sense was to counter my self-disparaging remarks with affirmative encouragement. I didn’t always like this, for sometimes the origin of the disparagement was a person I respected. Yet, without the critic present, Audley would leap to my defense, indignant any should be so crushing towards a sensitive poet like myself, and he would verbally demolish the other person’s disparagement.
To be honest, I didn’t entirely mind hearing how those who criticized me were insensitive barbarians, especially when the absent people being rebuked were my sometimes-scornful older brothers, but on the other hand I loved my brothers, and felt put in a “triangle” that lacked understanding. However, for the time being, the understanding I was gaining far outweighed the lack-of-understanding I sensed was also present.
Perhaps the most destructive thing Audley did was to tempt me with drugs when I was trying to quit. Not that it took much persuasion; my spirit was willing but my flesh was weak. I recall at that time I developed a hacking cough, and one day, in disgust, I dramatically shredded a pack of cigarettes in my girlfriend’s back yard, but then, within fifteen minutes, found myself hurrying down the street to buy a fresh pack.
It was easy for Audley to lead me astray; all he needed to do was crook a finger from the doorway of my older sister’s old bedroom, and I’d postpone mowing the lawn. He liked to sit cross-legged on his bed and hold court, as I slouched comfortably in an armchair, looking out through a big picture window at sky and tall white pines reflected in a dark forest frog-pond, only forty yards away.
I recall Audley smoked a water pipe from Nepal that looked like it cost four times as much as his Volkswagen bus. It was made of sterling silver with an ornate, etched design, with inlaid turquoise and red coral. Our conversations went places I greatly enjoyed, no matter what we discussed, and often he would want to see what I’d written that day.
Audley was appreciative of art even when he was straight; when he was stoned he could be downright absurd. For example one time he asked me to read a poem I had decided was far too belaboringly mushy, and was disgusted with. It went like this:
Ah, cry wind. Sigh wind, And people say you blow. And learn, summer sun, To burn someone Before its time to go.
Anger grows, Throws Caution to the wind.
Frustration burns Turns Everything dry.
and we haven’t sinned…..
…Wind sighs Sun fries People catching Butterflies And pinning them down Unsatisfied To have them around. Wanting Control.
The wind cools the sun While the sun Warms The wind.
We haven’t sinned.
Butterflies Beautify Sparkle the land Touch the sky.
Couples lie Blue sky Butterflies Wind sighs Dew cries It’s time for sun to go.
Why is it we want more? When at sea you seek the shore But when on land we yearn for waves again… …Daddy shaves again Removing his animal hair Thinking if it isn’t there No one would dare Ask him to share His world With the wind And sun And he won’t have to run From the natural Animal.
We’d smoked a hefty amount of Mooner before I read the above poem to Audley, and Mooner was strong marijuana (for those days) and Audley was very stoned. He made such a racket as I read the above poem it became ridiculous. I read it slowly, with pauses, and he filled the pauses with yells and whoops, but what seemed like going-too-far to me was that each time I read the word “butterflies” he’d make a cooing noise, all but clasping his hands and prancing about on twinkle toes. I was getting used to his demonstrative behavior, but if I’d had friends around I definitely would have been embarrassed. I blamed the Mooner. (To be honest, Audley wasn’t the only one acting oddly; I was reading with the panache of a rock star on a stage.)
Besides performing poems I also liked to just talk about things, for Audley was a walking encyclopedia of historical trivia, especially when it came to incidents in the lives of famous people. It seemed he hadn’t just read one biography about a man such as Beethoven or Napoleon, but ten about the same man, and therefore he knew scores of factoids about their darkest moments, which made what they overcame all the more thrilling.
I had far less to offer in return, but he seemed fascinated by how my mind worked, how I arrived at conclusions without needing to undergo the bother of researching in any ordinary manner. Audley would ask me questions and get me wondering about things I ordinarily never thought about.
For example, what some called my “creativity” actually seemed a sort of “following”. My mind worked with connections that stated, “If A, and if B, then it ‘follows’ that C will result”. In other words, I was not the creator, I was the follower. This seemed weird, when I thought about it, for what was I following? Something good, or something bad? I had no idea, and if pressed I likely would have been wishy-washy and answered “both”. Sometimes my mind wandered towards hell and I felt queasy in my gut and “heavy”, and then would veer towards heaven and feel uplifted and “high”. But I didn’t feel all that creative, and rather that I was “following” a stream of logic, almost as if I was taking dictation as muses spoke.
Audley would make a great fuss and say what I was doing was impossible, when it seemed like no big deal to me.
For example, Audley would poke fun in a friendly way over how I refused to spell words correctly, even when he told me the correct spelling multiple times. I insisted on spelling “disgust” as “discust”. He got all psychological about it, and stated some bad teacher had stunted my memory-skills, for I was downright mulish when it came to refusing to memorize. I had to agree. I had flunked learning new vocabulary words in French 1 classes for four straight years. Something about learning by rote made my skin crawl. Audley stated I displayed “avoidance” and “resistance” and various other psychological things, due to “trauma”. But a few minutes later I would blow him away with my ability to remember, when I wanted to.
For example, one time we were sitting about on the back patio with my friends, having the sort of wandering, free-association conversation which smoking Mooner generated, and the talk moved from topic to topic until someone burst out laughing, and they wondered how on earth we had begun talking about the cooling power of hats in hot sunshine, and wound up talking about the ability of a Voltswagen bus to climb hills carrying a heavy weight. Everyone was very stoned and suffering amnesia and had no idea, so I explained our progression:
Hats and hot sun had led to the topic of the tops of ears being sunburned, which led to other ear-injuries, which led to deafness, which led to Beethoven, which led to Beethoven playing a piano with all the strings broken, which led to how hard it is to move a piano to a repair shop, which led to describing loading a piano into a Voltswagon bus, which led to describing how an overloaded bus had to downshift to first gear to get over a hill.
After I was done describing our progression I noticed Audley looking at me with his jaw dropped. “How the fuck did you remember all that?” he exclaimed, “You can’t even remember how to spell ‘disgust'”!
I suppose the simple answer is that how to spell ‘disgust’ didn’t interest me, but what-followed-what did. It doesn’t matter if you use the word “follows” or “consequences” or “progressions” or “reaping-what-you-sow” or “Karma”, we are all like meteorologists and want to know what the weather will be tomorrow, and, if possible, we want to control that future. We may not control the weather, but we want to avoid starvation by avoiding planting thistles, if we want to harvest wheat.
Of course it is easy for me to say that now, fifty years after the fact. At the time I was just facing the end of a wonderful summer, and didn’t want it to end. My mind was casting about desperately for ways to keep the teenybopper community and wonderful household I was part of alive.
If you are to have any hope of altering the future, you need to look at “what follows what”. Scientists call this “cause and effect”, and religious people call it “reaping what you sow” or “Karma”, but I just called it “what follows what”. I simply was exploring, seeing where things took me, following some boss called “creativity”. I myself had no idea what might next be produced by my pen, and Audley found my production fascinating, for apparently I was freely accessing subconscious images it was, according to his books, very hard to access. At times the images in my doodles were more interesting than the words, and one time Audley insisted on getting a xerox copy of a illustrated poem containing a surrealistic, quasi-Salvatore-Dali example of “what follows what.”
It made me uncomfortable when Audley desired xerox copies of doodles and became very intense, in his desire to figure me out. He’d want to know why, in my doodles, I had certain things turn into other things, and what my symbolism symbolized, when I had no idea and no answer beyond, “It followed.” However he’d keep questioning, poking and probing with cross-examinations until at times I felt like some sort of laboratory rat. I just wanted to do what I did without thinking about it.
One time an issue involving staying-home-versus-leaving-home was preying on my mind, and I produced a troubled poem which ricocheted around four topics: Staying home; Staying home but preparing to leave; Leaving home intending to bring back a trophy; and Leaving home for keeps to make a new home somewhere else. To me it seemed that no matter what choice you made you would wind up someplace where you had to make the four choices all over again; no home was permanent; no jail could keep you from eventually escaping through the bars by dying, and after death I could see no reason one didn’t face the same four choices all over again in a different sphere, and my poem concluded:
You can never be completely together until you die Because you can’t give up Until you’re completely together.
Audley looked at me with a disbelieving half-smile, and inquired, “Do you really believe that?”
“Um…well…it just seemed to follow…”
“Have you studied any Buddhism?”
“Studied any philosophies involving reincarnation?”
“Um…well…there is that Crosby, Stills and Nash song that goes, ‘We have all been here before.’ What’s it called? Deja Vu?”
Audley laughed. “And that is the extent of your research. And yet here you scribble a poem that traces the concept of Nirvana not being achievable until one gives up on the rounds of dying and dying and dying over and over and over again.”
Sometimes I worried about Audley, and even felt a little guilty about the possibility that my poetry was driving him mad.
However, even when research is aimed at high things, (and Understanding is a high thing), such research can be quelled by a limitation called “time”. And we were running out of time.
Things started to come to a head as the end of August approached and Audley began packing, to head off and teach at the boarding school in New Hampshire. He stopped smoking pot and grew more serious, and even a little sad.
I fought off my own melancholy by planning a final party in the woods, but my gang of teenyboppers all seemed busy shopping for school clothing the day I went out to gather dead branches for the fire, so I spent an August morning in the woods all alone.
It was hot even in the shade, and the paths were dusty and parded by dabs of sunshine. I noticed the dabs moved, though the air was still where I worked, and when I paused and looked up I could hear a slight breeze stirring the treetops. Into my head came the beginning, “Walking through a forest where the wind won’t go…”
It was a beautiful patch of forest, on the divide between the Concord and Charles rivers, and had seen many come and go over the centuries. An old Indian trail crossed the land; Henry Thoreau had hiked the landscape; farmers had made a living there and later failed, and left prehistoric, red-rust-iron tractors with trees as thick as my thigh growing up through their archaic engine blocks, and also left cellar holes and an overgrown corduroy road through a boggy place. All these things seemed part of “my” woods, but when I looked over at our fire-pit I saw dead leaves blown into it, and even a few fresh forest weeds overhanging its edges, and had the sense I too was a fleeting phenomenon, an object to someday be regarded with nostalgia. A louder breeze stirred the treetops, and stirred my creativity, and when I got home I sat on the patio and wrote down what I’d been humming to myself.
When I was done Audley said, “Amazing.” His mouth was around two inches from my right ear, so I jumped a foot. I wasn’t sure how long he’d been watching over my shoulder as I wrote. He continued, “I don’t see how you can do that: Five stanzas with only one correction.”
“Oh, it was pretty much done when I sat down. I wrote it while I was walking.”
“And you remembered it all?”
“But you can’t remember how to spell ‘disgust’.” Audley shook his head, and didn’t give me time to defend myself. “And, by the way, that’s not how you spell ‘corduroy’.”
I responded, “And, by the way, you sound like a teacher at a boarding school.”
He winced, and then replied, “Well, I suppose that is what I now am, or am about to become. And you are about to become a student at a boarding school in Scotland. Are you ready for that?”
“No fucking way. I feel like a coward. I’m only going there because I don’t want to earn a living. What I really need to do is write a hit song. That would earn a living real fast!”
Audley didn’t get much peace and quiet to do his yoga in, the next morning, because I was using up all the hot water writing a hit song in the shower.
If Audley had really wanted to become fabulously wealthy he would have quit his job at the boarding school and dedicated his time to making me fabulously wealthy, as my agent, but instead he lugged his suitcase out to his Volkswagen bus and went puttering off to New Hampshire. Little did I know, but with him went a level of appreciation I have never since received, for my doodles, in fifty years.
Shortly after Audley left Halsey also left, in my stepfather’s car to pick up my parents at Logan Airport. I can’t say I was in a welcoming mood to see them again, though I did my best. After all, it was their house.
I could tell my mother was actually quite pleased to find the house was not only still standing, but quite clean. (We’d used copious amounts of air freshener, and had the windows open all summer, to hide the smell of smoke.) Not only was the lawn mowed, but the first fallen apples of fall were removed before they rotted. However she did not praise, and instead simply had to comment how our weather was inferior to the weather in England, which was weather which was never, ever too hot or too cold.
I found myself quietly grinding my teeth. My mother had a way of saying things in a practiced manner, and I knew she had her comment about the local weather worked out before the jet actually landed and she actually knew what the local weather actually was.
My younger brother and sister arrived home only hours later, after spending a summer at my father’s farm in New Hampshire. My little sister had an uncanny ability to merge into whatever culture she was with, and her accent caused my mother to exclaim, “Whatever has caused you to start speaking in such a ghastly manner?” I writhed, because my sister’s faux-New Hampshire accent was nothing compared to my mother’s faux-English accent.
My mother’s dislike of all things American seemed so extreme that I thought she was something of a traitor. I saw loyalty and patriotism as good things, because Understanding grows through time. The better you know people the more you understand them, but in my mother’s case familiarity seemed to breed contempt. Where I was grieving over the thought of leaving the teenybopper community I’d grown up midst, she was rejoicing over leaving the awful town behind.
Not that I couldn’t understand her wanderlust. I myself had a hunger to hitchhike away from the more sterile aspects of suburbia, but I had also glimpsed a way to end the sterility, with Truth, Love and Understanding. I wanted to stay and work on what I had, but my mother seemed seduced away by people she didn’t even know, but was infatuated into believing were better. Everything English was better, to hear her talk. She was so besotted it seemed useless to even reason with her, and there seemed no way she could understand how I felt about leaving the town I called home.
Therefore I cursed silently when I saw her pausing over my notebook, which I’d foolishly left open on the dining-room table. I had started a new page, and there was nothing but a short poem and some doodles in the upper left-hand corner, but I expected nothing appreciative from her; nothing like Audley’s reactions. When she read my poems there was never any humor over my spelling “disgust” as “discust”, but rather a wincing horror beyond disgust, and she was so troubled by such spelling she never commented on a poem’s passions, even to call them “ghastly”. I was pouting at her as she read, grouchily thinking to myself that no true American ever uses the word “ghastly”, when she utterly astonished me by looking up and stating, “You know, though you spelled ‘evening’ and ‘paradise’ wrong, I rather like the sentiment in this one. This phrase, ‘To be fair to the other side’, is especially good.” As she walked away my jaw hit the floor, and I walked over to the page to remember what the heck I had written.
I scratched my head. It seemed the Understanding still lingered in the house, and perhaps my mother had caught just a whiff of it. But then I heard my younger siblings exclaiming in delight. Rather than taking a jet to England they were learning we were going the old fashioned way, by ship, aboard the Queen Elizabeth 2. This made me feel grouchy, as if we were in some way being seduced, and were selling out. I even felt a little ashamed. It was not that Understanding was deserting us; we were deserting Understanding. We were turning our backs on the most beautiful thing, for gaudy glitter and glamor.
Disgruntled, I slouched off to borrow my stepfather’s car to drive to town for some hotdogs, and then headed out to friends and a campfire in the woods.
Only nine came to our final party in the woods, and only four stayed until dawn. It was a somber affair and a chilly night. I had the strange sense the “underground” had seen it’s summer in the sun, but now had to go underground again. I fear I was not much fun to be with, and bewailed the way people had turned their backs on the most beautiful things.
Most of the young woman in my gang had been strictly forbidden from attending such parties, as parties earlier in the summer had become legendary, but there was was one young woman there who may have been as young as fourteen, yet decided I could use a gentle scolding. She suggested I should count my blessings. After all, a trip aboard a luxury liner wasn’t exactly the end of the world. I sighed and thanked her, but it was the end of my world.
The next few days were a blear of packing. Even my notebook of poems-on-graph-paper got packed away and locked in a storeroom. Even when I thought I was done I was asked to help others. I caught a cold and smoked too much tobacco and was miserable, until, on the afternoon before the dawn I was to depart, two cars arrived, one dropping off my girlfriend, and the other driven by my best friend. They’d both come by for a final farewell, which would have been awkward enough with each all alone, but seemed especially awkward with the three of us together. What can you say? All words seemed stilted.
Just then it occurred to me I had something that would spoil if packed away for a year, and asked them if they would help me use it up. It was a birthday present some ill-advised person gave me when I turned seventeen. Wine improves with age, but champagne does not.
They agreed to help me use it up before it went bad, and I snuck the bottle from the house. (Though the drinking-age had been lowered to eighteen because of Vietnam, I was still too young to legally drink.) We casually and innocently walked around behind the house to a steep slope overlooking the frog-pond, and I shot the cork at the frogs.
I actually didn’t approve of alcohol, seeing it as an obsolete drug used by people-over-thirty, which likely explains why the bottle was passed around as if by soldiers, and became empty so inappropriately swiftly. And then it was like the spirit of Understanding came out of the house and down the hillside to us. The triangle gained three keystones. My girlfriend and best friend, who long had been worst enemies, became utterly charmed by the brilliance of each other, and together we three laughed. Lord, did we laugh.
Somewhere up among the bureaucrats of heaven, the angels in charge of keeping records sat up straight. Something unusual was happening on earth. Three teenagers, who had absolutely no reason to laugh, were rejoicing. Why? Because being what they were in that moment in time, brief though it was, was enough.
And then, it was over. My best friend drove off, and I borrowed my stepfather’s car to drive my girl friend home, and we sat in the car in the night outside her house to say good-bye for ten months, at least.
For teenagers, we’d been very pragmatic about the chances of our relationship surviving being an ocean apart. We’d given each other permission to date others, if interesting prospects appeared, but promised to remain “friends”. All that remained for me to do was to say some baritone adios, hopefully more profound than, “Don’t take any wooden nickles”.
I completely blew it, because all that came out of my mouth was unexpected sobbing. Once I started I couldn’t stop, as my girlfriend regarded me in frozen alarm.
Why did I cry? I think it was because deep down I knew that once you turn your back on beauty, it can be a long haul before you see it again. Turn your back on Understanding, and do not expect reason, or for life to make sense. If I’d had more guts at age seventeen I’d have stayed, but I lacked such guts, and I left.
“Bombogenesis” is the word given by weather geeks for the explosive development of a nor’easter into a gale center as it moves up the east coast of the USA. Such storms are not as well understood as some believe, but there are some fairly reliable signs one is on the way. One of the best signs is to go into a grocery store to buy bread and see this:
This sort of spectacle is indicative of great zeal on the part of the weather bureau, provoking panic on the part of the public, and suggests maybe I should check up on the young whippersnappers, and see what in blue blazes the geeks are up to. Likely I’ll see, if it is winter, that they have gotten a bee in their bonnets and have issued an “Armageddon Alarm.” In this particular case I was a little disappointed to see it was merely a “Blizzard Warning”. Ho Hum.
I went outside, and it was about the nicest day we’ve had in a week. The temperature was up above 20°F (-7°C), which doesn’t seem warm unless it has been far colder for a while. It has been so cold that the air hurt your face, and people wore flinching expressions. When you can finally stop flinching, the relief is all out of proportion to the reality. Local folk walk around with big smiles on their faces, at temperatures that make people who have just returned from vacations in Florida shudder and wrap their coats around themselves more tightly.
If you want to spoil things for the folk relishing the improved temperatures, you put on a grouchy face and mutter, “Just a while back folk were speaking the old saw, ‘It’s too cold to snow’, but they’re not saying that any more. It’s warm enough to snow now.” This may not be as liable to provoke panic as a “blizzard warning”, but it does express the grumpy idea that no good can come out of any improvement.
Another pessimism is expressed in the idea that an especially blue sky is a sign of storm, and manifests as the local saw:
When the sky is fekless blue Rain or snow in a day or two.
Still, this lacks the drama of a blizzard warning. It is hardly even ominous. And indeed a nice sunset at 4:20 PM sparked a memory of a more optimistic saw:
Red at night Sailor’s delight.
The only thing slightly threatening about the sunset was the fact the jet contrails were not fading away, and instead were expanding. But old timers didn’t have newfangled things like jet contrails. Such ideas were above their down-to-earth heads, so I decided to check out the surface maps. Surface maps are down-to-earth, and go clear back to the 1860’s, so no one can accuse me of being newfangled if I look at them.
There is really no obvious sign of doom. Two days ago there is just a massive arctic high repressing what was left of a Pacific storm out in the Rocky Mountains to the west, and pushing tropical moisture away to the farthest southern reaches of the map.
Yesterday we saw a new cold front appear across Canada, as even colder air rolled south, and on its east side a weak low like an Alberta Clipper, (which perhaps should be called a Hudson Bay Clipper), exploit the slight uplift caused by slight warmth of water beneath Hudson Bay’s thin sea-ice as an excuse to come nearly due south, towards the slight uplift caused by the Great Lakes. But that low down by Florida? It looked sure to be pushed out to sea by the big arctic high to its northwest. Right?
Wrong. The computer models were stating it would blow up to a big storm off the coast. And a certain (usually younger) species of weather geek have great faith in models, and little faith in their own ability to forecast. If a prankster had the models produce a forecast for showers of obleck mixing with strawberry brandy they would rumple their brows with serious contemplation.
This morning we saw the Hudson Bay Clipper sag to the Great Lakes and grow stronger. The arctic high pressure to its south warmed and stopped pressing down with sinking cold air, and consequently lost its ability to press down high pressure with remarkable speed. The high pressure shrank. The dinky little low over Florida did not zip out to sea, but lingered and strengthened.
By midday the Florida low was showing signs of strengthening, and had created a coastal front to its north.
This evening the Florida low is deepening and moving north along the coastal front. The big arctic high pressure has all but vanished from the map.
Still, there seems little reason to freak out. Yet people are. Schools are canceled for tomorrow. In some cases, near Boston, they are cancelled for Friday as well.
If the Florida low slices out to sea we will get only a dusting, and the weathermen will look like fools.
If the Florida low hooks inland, we will get rain and the weathermen will look like fools.
I bring this up because I am in awe of the risks these fellows take, making a forecast of a blizzard and precipitating a panic. The younger ones have little idea of the dynamics involved in “bombogenesis”, while the old-school can tell you of many of the dynamics involved. The younger ones merely look at a computer print-out, and parrot what computers regurgitate. The older ones understand the concepts that programmed the computers, and that the concepts are far from perfect.
If you put imperfect concepts in, imperfect forecasts will result, but the younger forecasters haven’t learned this yet, and tend to be too trusting of computer models. The older forecasters are more on their toes, waiting and watching for signs of imperfection. They know, “Tomorrow will tell.”
Of course this post will need updates, so we can see what tomorrow tells us. I expect I will continue to be in awe of what weathermen dare to do, even if others scoff because a storm sliced fifty miles east, or hooked fifty miles west, and made parts of their forecast look silly. People forget that they themselves never saw the storm coming two days ago, and are quick to ridicule those who did see it coming, if they miss the storm’s exact track by a matter of miles.
If the storm allows me time to sit and we don’t lose power, I hope to share the little I know about the factors that lead to bombogenesis. Those are the dynamics programmed into computers that make computers look amazing, when they are right.
Those are the factors young meteorologists should study, if they want to be aware of those times computers are wrong.
Here the stars are fading out, and high clouds have stopped the fall of temperatures, which reached a low of 2°F but are now back up to 4°F. This will be the first night we haven’t fallen below zero (-17°C) in a week.
Thursday Morning 6:30 AM
Temperature has risen to 15°F (-9°C) overnight, and pressure is falling to 29.66. Pressure was something the old-timers were savvy to, and they’d be on guard now, keeping an eye on the “glass” (barometer).
The map shows the storm exploding off the coast. At this point everyone should give meteorologists some credit, for foreseeing a storm would even be there.
Temperature is still at 15°F, but the pressure is falling fast, to 29.56. The snow began at around 6:00 and we only had a quarter inch when I went to spread a little sand at the Childcare. (A dust of snow over old, packed-and-polished snow can be amazingly slippery.) By 7:30 three quarters of our customers had cancelled. We will likely have only six children today. (We never close, for some parents have to work even in the snow; some Dads drive plows or are policemen, and some Moms work at hospitals. In ten years the only time we closed was a single day during an ice-storm, when the road was made completely impassable due to fallen limbs and trees.)
The cold snow is amazingly squeaky to walk upon. Tires make a strange growling sound when cars swing slowly into the Childcare’s driveway. I was brooming, as there was too little snow to shovel. There are gale warning for later, but the snow was merely slanting as it fell through the gray quiet. (Warning! Warning! Fit of poetry may attack me.) To my surprise the wind was from the southeast. Likely just a temporary, local effect, but I note it for southeast winds can bring about surprising spikes in temperature and change snow to rain.
Now I’m back home, and waiting for the snow to build up before going back to work. There are some amusing reports from Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, where they are not used to snow. Here’s a picture from Savannah, on the coast of Georgia:
Notice how the snow is not melting on the pavement. That is very rare, that far south. Although I know how to drive on such slick surfaces, no one else has a clue, and you couldn’t pay me to venture out on a southern highway under such circumstances. Its like trying to drive in a pinball game, at times. Up here our snow is so dry and squeaky it actually has traction, and even southern drivers have a chance of staying on the street.
Boston humor going viral:
(Note for foreign viewers: The bottom face is the famous coach of our professional football team.)
The gale is developing an eye like a hurricane. (Picture from Joseph D’Aleo’s blog at Weatherbell)
Like London facing Blitz, Boston musters humor:
Boston Globe reports 700 flights canceled, but subway running well. Go underground. (That’s what groundhogs do, until February 2).
Judging from twitter, no one is heading underground or even indoors just yet and instead folk are out snapping pictures.
Maybe I should do the same.
9:10 AM 18°F 29.50
Storm now officially is a “bomb”. Notice the coastal front forming just east of New England. Cape Cod now forecast to get rain. Folk there will be scorning the weathermen, because yesterday the storm was thought to be heading a bit further off shore, which would have given them a blizzard. They’ll still get winds of storm force, with gusts over hurricane force. Our peak gusts should be around 50, here in the hills, though I’ll bet the hilltops will see higher. (Most old-timers chose to build down in the valleys.)
What now could mess up the forecasts is if the storm drills so deeply into the atmosphere it slows down and even stalls. The Blizzard of 1888’s track described a tight little loop, and New York got two feet blown into towering drifts, as Boston got two inches of slush. But forecasters seem confident this storm won’t stall.
10:12 AM: 20°F 29.44
12:22 PM: 23°F 29.18
Hard to tell with the wind, but I’d say we are already over six inches. I think the snow grew heavy earlier than expected. This is the real deal.
I have photographic proof I did leave this computer and snow-blow the first six inches from the Childcare parking lot.
I couldn’t hear the wind due to the roaring of the engine, but the gusts brought blinding white-outs.
After I was done I decided my goats were smart to just hide out, under the barn.
The meekest one prefers to be fed up where the others can’t harass it.
You need to be wary with these devilish creatures. For example, it is a little known fact goats have the power to hypnotize. This one is saying, “You are getting sleepy…sleepy…very sleepy. You will move your goats to Florida…Florida…to Florida.”
2:11 PM: 23°F 29.02 (High temperature was 25°F)
5:00 PM 21°F 28.88 Around a foot. Snowblower broke. Still snowing hard. Temps dropping.
6:09 PM 19°F 28.91 Pressure finally rising! Ever try to find a person to plow in the middle of a storm? Snow may be slacking off, as wind is not off ocean.
You won’t see a map like this too often:
In places the noon high tides rivaled the 1978 blizzard’s, Here is a video of salt water cascading down the steps of Boston’s “Aquarium” subway station. I guess it wasn’t so safe underground, after all. (Salt water can’t be too good for the third rail.)
9:06 PM 16°F 28.99 Wind still roaring but the snow has stopped. I have done far too much shoveling for a man of my advanced years. I’m just going to stand in the shower until all the hot water’s used up, and then sleep.
5:01 AM Friday Morning 10°F (-12°C) 29.20 Clean-up morning. Too busy to write.
12:30 PM 9°F 29.35
6:30 P.M. -1°F 29.47 Roaring wind. Drifting snow. People walking outdoors have grimacing expressions.
This “dry side” of the storm has been in some ways crueler than the “blizzard.” Fourteen inches of snow is no big deal for tough northerners, and though the gale was by no means “mild” and the snow was powder-snow, temperatures were not all that bad. They were over twenty Fahrenheit, and the mildest in a week. Today the temperatures dropped as the sun rose. The winds grew more bitter and bitter. Nor did they weaken.
Worst was the snow in your face. At first there was some fine backlash snow from deceasing clouds that didn’t show up on radar, but even after that stopped and the sun shone brilliantly in a blue sky there were strange white shapes, dancing and twirling, ghouls of blowing snow, drifting and shifting and sifting into any crack of a barn or chink in my armor of wool. But no matter how you try to hide at least part of a face is exposed, and warm skin melts the fine particles of ice that are whipped into your face, and if there is anything colder than sub-zero wind chills against dry skin, it is sub-zero wind chills against wet skin.
This deserves a post all it’s own, for I doubt many will read through this entire post to hear of the drifting. Just allow me to conclude by saying all the fellows who tried to stay ahead of the snow by shoveling and snow-blowing and plowing yesterday faced places where they had dug pathways last night, made into smooth, flat surfaces of deep snow, by the wind and the all-night drifting, by daybreak today.
I was only able to open my Childcare this morning because my eldest son came sweeping through the parking lot with his plow. It was a good thing, because the local schools had a “two-hour-delay”. This puts parents in a predicament, for they are expected to be at work on time, and, even in the unlikely case their bosses have compassion, many parents are on such tight budgets they can’t afford even two hours cut from their pay. We, as a Childcare, step in to fill the gap, though it creates chaos for us, for the older children are suppose to leave as the younger arrive, and a two-hour-delay creates an overlap, where we have twice the kids, often with some of our staff delayed by blocked driveways. Usually we can do it, but when my snowblower broke yesterday it seemed impossible. I couldn’t ask my oldest son to help, because he has too much plowing to do as it is, and was suffering his own equipment break-downs. So I told my wife, “We’ve only been closed by storms once in ten years, but I think tomorrow will have to be our second day.” She said, “We can’t! They are depending on us!” So I was fighting a battle to just clear twenty feet of the entrance (and a path to the door) with a shovel, so people could pull in, drop off their kids, and back out. It would have been easy at age twenty, but when pushing age sixty-five it was like I was Hercules shoveling King Augeas’ stables, and I am no Hercules. I was muttering nonspiritual vocabulary and thinking the drifting might win, when my sleep-deprived eldest son came by, and saved the day.
There are a time when a pebble, or even a grain of sand, can start an avalanche which brings all to ruin. There also times when a single deed stops ruin from happening. Storms bring such situations to the forefront. It is then that the small deeds of (seemingly) unimportant people are very important.
There is an old rhyme that starts out, “Because of a nail a horseshoe was lost”, and winds up with a kingdom falling “all because of a half-penny nail.” Conversely, there are times a kingdom is saved, because a tired son plowed an extra driveway that allowed his father’s Childcare to stay open which allowed parents to go to work so they could be taxed and allow teachers to take the day off.
Hmm. Something here isn’t adding up. But this post is already too long.
Memo to self: Expand upon this topic.
Memo to self: Try to keep posts on meteorology from straying outside the topic of the meteorology.
9:40 PM -3°F 29.53 Wind still roaring in the pines; snow still sifting by the windows.
It is difficult to describe how tantalizing spring can be, this far north. It can be a terrible tease. This year the flirt provoked us with an amazingly kind end to February, with even the ponds melting. I was thinking of fishing with the children at our Childcare on the first of March.
Yet at the end of March things had gone backwards.
If you zoom in on the picture you can see it was not merely humans who were fooled.
This is a particularly stupid sub-species of Canada Goose, which we have accidentally bred in our area by having water hazards at our golf courses. They are around two pounds heavier than the natural sort, that migrates up to Canada and down to Chesapeake Bay. This sub-species can’t be bothered to migrate far, and upsets people terribly by dying in droves when winters are particularly harsh, when they hang around warm outflows of power plants or sewage treatment plants, rather than flying south to look for open water. Then certain people feel compassion and feed them, while other people, who want them dead, watch and are irate.
Why should anyone want such beautiful geese dead? Well, they eat grass, lots and lots and lots of grass, (they have to eat a lot because grass has less protein than grain or fish), and this means they also produce lots and lots and lots of slimy green droppings. Golfers don’t like this, and people with lawns by the water don’t like it either. But it is illegal to blast them, out of season, and also they are stronger than they look; they can break your arm by beating their wings if you grab one.
In any case, this particular pair arrived on February 28, and cannot understand why the ice has been growing rather than shrinking. Are not the days getting longer, and the sun getting higher and stronger? (I’d show them my weather maps, but they might break my arm.)
I hear the crazy crying of flying geese And look up through flocking flakes of snow, And part of me yearns for the yearly release From the shackles of cold, yet I know All too well how the Northern Trickster flirts Worse than the worst girl I knew back in school.
You want to plant seeds so badly it hurts But if you attempt it you’ll look like a fool So you wait, and you wait, and wait some more Until you feel you are losing your mind.
The crazy geese cry in the sky and soar As bitter flakes sting my weeping eyes blind. Will Savior Spring ever cut cruel shackles loose Or will I just wind up an old, silly goose?
One thing I try to remind myself is that I was born here, and am accustomed to the torment. I once worked as a landscaper for a very warmhearted old lady who was born in Virginia, and it drove her half mad not to plant flowers in March. One April, (1989), we had a spell of hot days at the start of the month, and I had to practically tie her down to keep her from planting tomatoes. I think she was on the verge of firing me, when the weather reverted to a bone-chilling rain that had some snow mixed in, followed by clearing and a sharp frost that would have killed tomatoes. I figure if that lady could take that spring, I can take this one.
Despite the cold breezes the sun is so high that, when it has been out, it has made steady inroads on the nearly two feet of dense snow we got two weeks ago, and again patches of leaves and stone are peeking through on south-facing slopes. It is interesting how some kids gravitate to those places even on gray days.
Today the bright spring sun in blue skies made further inroads on the snow-pack, and I noticed daffodils poking up in the south-facing garden.
Yet the forecast is for them to be covered by a foot of snow and sleet by Saturday morning. It seemed impossible. The sun is as high as it is in early September, when most of the leaves are still green. Out of the wind it was warm on my face, and some of the kids got a touch of a sunburn, but then, in the afternoon, abruptly only the sky to the east was blue.
I figure I might as well document the event with updates, like I did the last storm. I still have the hope it may all change to rain. The evening radar only showed snow way up by the Great Lakes.
While the weather map shows the storm to the west has a core of summer heat, complete with thunderstorms and tornadoes, it is running up against a Canadian high pressure to our north, which has been pumped up and nudged south by a gale out in the Atlantic (right margin of map) which actually sucked what looked like a tropical storm into its guts. Therefore it will be a battle between winds coming down from Labrador and winds coming up from the Gulf of Mexico.
Today began with a frosty low of 26°, rose to 45° before the clouds moved in, and has now slumped back to freezing. (It is murder on weathermen to forecast whether precipitation will be rain or snow if temperatures are right at freezing.) The barometer has crept up to 30.02, but is fairly steady. See you in the morning.
UPDATE: 6:55 A.M. MARCH 31
Just before sunrise at 6:30 the entire landscape turned a shade of shocking pink, and then faded to an orange glow to the east.
The first, fat flakes began slowly falling at 6:45.
UPDATE: 10:08 AM
Temperature 30° Barometer 30.01
All the work the sun has done to bare the ground is being undone by a steady fall of light sneet (halfway between sleet and snow.)
MORNING MAP AND RADAR (Notice how as soon as the rain moved into New England, it turns to snow.) (Out west Denver’s getting snow as well.)
UPDATE: 2:25 PM
Temperature 32° Barometer 29,95 Moderate snow. Light northeast wind. Around an inch and a half of snow in the pasture, but the sun is so powerful it melts the roads even through the clouds. They are merely wet, with some slush under trees. As soon as the sun goes down the roads will worsen. (Rain made it up the coast to South Boston for a bit, but it looks like they’ve gone back to sleet now).
Joe D’Aleo has some interesting graphs on his blog at Weatherbell, produced by Dr. Ryan Maue. They show the change in temperature in the atmosphere for the next few days. Ground level is to the bottom and the future is to the right. What is shows is warmer air moving in aloft tonight. What is interesting is that it is above freezing in Worcester, an hour south of here, which will likely bring freezing rain or ice pellets…
…yet an hour north of here in Concord the warm occlusion is below freezing as it passes over, which should keep the snow as snow.
As I am half-way between, what I do is flip a coin.
UPDATE: 8:00 P.M.
Temperature 28°, Barometer 29.88. Changing to sleet. Roughly four inches.
It’s been the typical sort of chaotic day storms generate, with all sorts of extra little chores to do to be ready in case the storm shuts things down. (I have a superstition that a storm never shuts things down unless you forget to do these chores.)
The truck had a dead battery so I used the 1997 Volvo to haul a load of wood for the porch, in case the woodpile gets totally buried.
And got the snowblower all gassed up and its electric starter plugged in for the clean-up tomorrow morning.
And rushed around getting things done before the slush got too deep on the roads.
As the snow got deeper trucks began to bog down in the snow.
So we had to fight back against the sky.
But the enemy sent in reinforcements
So the wiser old women retreated indoors to play Bingo in the stables.
Meanwhile the goats complained it was too muddy in their hideout under the barn.
So they bashed a new entrance to the stables in the rear, and trashed the place
And then implored me not to turn them into goat burgers.
Nothing to be concerned about here, folks. Just your typical day on a hardscrabble farm.
EVENING MAPS AND RADAR
The maps show high pressure remaining stubborn over Maine, forcing the storm to redevelop on the coast of Virginia.
The radar shows the rain-snow line making no progress to the north, though sleet does seem to be mixing in more outside my front door.
9:30 PM 29.86 27°
SATURDAY MORNING UPDATE
6:00 AM Temperature 29° Barometer 29.68 Light snow; dust-like flakes — Windy
Dark purple daybreak. I’m glad it is a Saturday, and I don’t have to open the Childcare.
Looks like rain (likely drizzle) has crept up the coast to Boston…
…as the storm stalls, or only crawls. Looks like a dark day, for April.
10:00 Temperature 32° Barometer no longer falling 29.72. Snow picking up again.
12:00 NOON –Temperature 32°
Groan. What a royal pain cleaning up that snow was. It was something like glue mixed with cement, and the augers of my snowblower kept winding up like this:
It was five inches of wet snow atop two inches of drenched sleet, and packed to something close to ice with little effort, so where the plows passed by on the street a wall was raised that the snowblower quailed at, like a hamster trying to gnaw through granite. I was overjoyed to see my eldest son drive up with his big plow to clear the entrances for me. But some places he cannot go. For example the snow slides off the new barn’s snow-shedder roof…
…And packs this stuff a plastic snow shovel can’t dent….
…and makes we want to wait for a warm spell to just melt the stuff. Unfortunately this door faces north, and won’t melt quickly, so I’ll have to use my pick ax tomorrow.
(This is why people charmed by New England move back south, after a couple of winters.)
Anyway, here’s an “after” picture, to compare with a “before” picture above.
The barometer is in no hurry to rise, at 29.84, with the temperature at 30° at 10:00 P.M. After 36 hours the snow finally faded away towards sunset, and Radar shows it moving away northeast.
The map shows the storm didn’t get as big as some do. So there’s something to be thankful for.
The forecast is for temperatures in the high 80’s by the end of the week. April Fools!
Actually that was 1989. Look at the first week:
I can dream, can’t I? (The reality is we have another storm coming Tuesday, hopefully rain, but with temperatures too close to freezing for comfort.) (Rain will keep me indoors and encourage me to do my taxes.) Currently the next storm is down in Texas.
We hear rumors from the south Of warm winds in Georgia pines But we keep our skeptic chins Down in our scarves, For we’re hardened by the north And the way that winter whines As with Jolly Roger grins His saber carves.
Our spirit starves As their rhododendrons bloom. As they frolic in the sun We trudge the gloom. As they rhapsodize and gush We wade the slush. Don’t speak to me Of springtime glee.
Where down south ball players practice Way up north we just do taxes With our smiles like battle axes. Where they sunbathe, our hard fact is We have plum run out of gladness And know differing March madness.
If you look at the map below you can see how the warm surge of springtime rushing up the east coast of the USA runs into a sort of wall, and fails to make it into New England. I can’t tell you how typical, and how annoying, this is. Notice the innocuous, little low just south of Nova Scotia, supplying just enough kick-back to keep cold ocean air flowing in from the east.
What this means is that instead of warm winds from the south, and balmy temperatures that make even crabby people smile, we get temperatures just above or just below freezing. (On the occasions when we do get a southerly blast it is probable it will be swiftly followed by a front and icy northern winds.)
About the only good thing is the fog, which tends to “eat” the snow. I wrote about why it happens in an old post which has been surprisingly popular over the years, especially in March.
The exception to this rule is when temperatures hover right at freezing, like they have here the past few days. Then the snow doesn’t seem to melt fast; rather it just turns to slush. The world seems particularly unappealing, and I see no children in the playground when I pick up kindergartners.
The scenery, as I drive, isn’t at all that inspiring,
And our own Childcare playground holds little attraction, as it is basically reduced to slush.
To top it off, my muscles all ache due to the low pressure, and I have a cold, and I could go on and on about all my reasons to feel very different from a gamboling lamb in green, spring pastures.
By the times the older kids got off the school-bus yesterday afternoon I was working on my third degree of sainthood, and then all the boys seemed to be in especially rebellious moods. Only two wanted to go on the scheduled hike, and the rest shoved their hands in their pockets and slouched with sharp shoulders. They needed only cigarettes dangling from their lips to look like a bunch of bookies. (To be honest, they looked like I felt, which I suppose demonstrates I was only outwardly a saint, and inwardly was a bookie.) I decided to just let them slouch, if that was their desire, and took two for a short hike, and then, as I returned, a slushy snowball whizzed dangerously close to my head.
In the manner of a true saint I patiently explained how snowball fights were against rule #291B, and then turned to attend to a smaller child, when, Ker-POW! A slushball hit me squarely in the forehead.
I thought about remaining a saint, and decided against it. Instead I told the boys they had better run, because rule #291B has a sub-clause, 15P, which allows staff to pelt little kids with slushballs, if the staff has a just cause, and getting hit on the forehead is a just cause.
Mind you, I confess there is a schoolmarm who sits invisibly on my shoulder and advises against rioting. Also I did look over that shoulder to make sure my wife wasn’t watching. Lastly, I am well aware that there is no such thing as an orderly snowball fight, and that any attempts to moderate the fray will be about as successful as they are in professional hockey; sooner or later the fun escalates to a full-fledged fight. In the end I ignored all that stuff, and just did my best to paste youngsters with snowballs in the snoot.
Did they enjoy it? Man Oh man, did they ever! There were only two episodes of tears, (which isn’t half bad, looking back over the years), and in both cases the boys didn’t retire to the sanctuary of the “little kids” (who were watched by the staff further up the hill), but rather soon rejoined the chaos with their tears forgotten.
The odds were twelve to one against me, (after three girls joined the battle because it looked like such fun), and I confess to being mortally wounded on a number of occasions. However I have taken good care of my throwing arm this winter, (after destroying it a couple years back), and I was surprised how much of my old skill returned, once I was properly warmed up. I remembered some of the old tricks, such as lobbing a first snowball in a high arc, and then, while they are still looking up at it waiting for it to come down, throwing a second low-ball in a straight line. (The trick is to have both snowballs arrive at the same moment.)
I remembered the technique of ricocheting a snowball off a tree-trunk, or breaking a snowball into shrapnel in the branches above a target, or the strategy of pretending to ignore someone, and then throwing when they are not looking, or simply looking left and throwing right. I needed all my tricks, outnumbered as I was, with stealthy children creeping up from all sides. When they did nail me, I let loose howls of agony, which they greatly appreciated. When I charged them in feigned retaliatory rage, they fled screaming in sheer delight.
When parents came the kids didn’t want to leave, but eventually it was over. Oddly, I was sweaty but energized. I’d felt old and tired before we began, but felt thirty years younger afterwards. Something that had been withering up in me was cut loose and ran free.
I had a strange sense I had seen this before, many times, and if fact in some ways had seen it every March.
I recalled a half century ago throwing a snowball at a young doctor who was walking home from the market with milk, and how surprised I was that it turned out he had an excellent arm, and could make and throw snowballs at a rate of what seemed like two per second.
I remembered my Dad telling me of an April when the students at MIT were going crazy under the pressure of cramming for exams before Easter break, when there was a late, heavy fall of sticky snow. Being engineers, they decided to build a wall, and a good place for the wall seemed like across Memorial Drive. (In 1938 there was a far greater lull in the traffic between the morning and evening rush-hour).
Of course such a fine structure needed to be defended, and when the police arrived they were pelted with snowballs. The police of that time didn’t resort to teargas, and instead replied with snowballs, and apparently were better at battling than the students, who were slowly driven back to their dorms, throwing their final snowballs from upstairs windows. There were no arrests, and afterwards everyone felt wonderfully refreshed.
It is March Madness, and gives the schoolmarm perched on my shoulder something to ponder.
Not all that seems war-like is evil. Burst free from the landscapes of gray. Go wild with Dame Springtime and she will Paint scarlets like dawn breaking day.
In order to fully comprehend the irony adopted by New Englanders, its important to understand the weather has been attempting to play us for chumps, with many signs of an early spring. A couple February storms had given us a quick three feet of powder snow, but then mild breezes swept north and the snow vanished with amazing speed. Signs of an early spring were everywhere. The pussy willows budded (wearing warm coats, which shows you they, at least, are not fooled by the weather).
Mosses greened on the forest floor:
And, of course, we had a hard time keeping coats on the kids, at our Childcare. Even when they sort of kept them on, they seemed to think they served better as sails in the warm gales from the south.
The sap was running so fast in the maples the sugar-makers furrowed their brows with worry that it would be a bad year, with the run of sap over-and-done in a flash, and I was amazed by how quickly the ice vanished from ponds.
Usually in late February we are still tromping across the ice, and it is March first when I start to be very careful, because strong spring sunshine has a way of thinning ice even when it is below freezing. (I think the ice may be like the roof of a greenhouse, and warms the water just beneath.) This year I didn’t worry about that, and instead had to keep an eye out for kids falling in at the edge. There is something irresistible about water, to children in the spring.
And even if they don’t fall in, children can find ways to get very wet.
But this was February, and old, cantankerous anachronisms like myself are not fooled. We know March comes in like a lion.
The cold front that came was fascinating to me, for it was very dry on both sides of the front, so there was no line of showers or thunderstorms. However I did notice the sky, which had been perfectly blue, suddenly had a few small cumulus to the north, coming south fairly rapidly. I was herding a small gang of 6-9 year-olds out to the bus stop, and the sky was so fascinating I was unimpressed by a drama occurring between a boy and girl right in front of me.
The “official rules” state one cannot “save” their place in line with a backpack, but one girl was seeing if she could break the rules, and the boy objected. Rather than seeking me (as I am judge and jury) he booted her backpack about fifteen yards away, which breaks another “official rule.” The girl then flopped on the ground and sobbed, achieving a level of decibels that might make a jet airplane cower. The boy folded his arms and sneered at her. Rather than giving the children any attention, I pointed at the sky and exclaimed, “Will you look at that!”
The other seven children were shrugging and rolling their eyes, for the drama was everyday. Perhaps that is why I was giving it so little attention. No matter how much I arbitrate, that boy and that girl always seem to enact the same drama. However the young girl was having none of it. She was bound to get my attention by hook or by crook, and was working herself up into a hysteria, as the boy just tugged the brim of his baseball cap down over his eyebrows and looked all the more ruthless. I pointed off at the horizon. “Look! Entire trees are swaying. Big wind is coming!”
I have a reputation for attempting to deal with some petty squabbles with distractions. (I basically change the subject.) Perhaps this explains why absolutely no one payed any attention, as a roaring noise approached. The thaw had uncovered the unraked leaves in the pasture…
And suddenly the leaves stirred and then swirled up like a vast dust devil and came charging towards us. “Here it comes!” I shouted, and then we were hit by a blast of wind I would guess was around 70 miles an hour. The seven children who were onlookers all screamed for the sheer joy of screaming, the hysterical girl became owl-eyed and silent for roughly a second, before starting anew, and the tough boy burst into tears, for his favorite baseball cap took off for Europe. Meanwhile a mother was just arriving with her five-year-old, and looked around at all the screaming and sobbing midst swirling leaves with deep concern, as her child looked about with a sleepy expression, and then smiled in approval. I just shrugged and said, “Don’t worry. It goes with the territory”, and then went to retrieve the boy’s hat from across the street, as the bus came lumbering down the road. Roughly fifty seconds later the wind was dying down, and the noise was the bus driver’s problem, and peace returned. However I could feel the difference in the air. By afternoon flurries were dusting the landscape, and the mud I had told the children to stay out of was becoming hard as iron.
March had definitely come in like a lion. The expression that is used in many lands, “If you don’t like the weather wait a minute” is said to have originated in New England (when Mark Twain lived here) but everyone else says it originated in their neighborhood. I don’t want to start any fights, so I’ll just quote what Mark Twain actually wrote:
“I reverently believe that the Maker who made us all makes everything in New England but the weather. I don’t know who makes that, but I think it must be raw apprentices in the weather-clerk’s factory who experiment and learn how, in New England, for board and clothes, and then are promoted to make weather for countries that require a good article, and will take their custom elsewhere if they don’t get it.
There is a sumptuous variety about the New England weather that compels the stranger’s admiration — and regret. The weather is always doing something there; always attending strictly to business; always getting up new designs and trying them on the people to see how they will go. But it gets through more business in spring than in any other season.
In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four-and-twenty hours. It was I that made the fame and fortune of that man that had that marvelous collection of weather on exhibition at the Centennial, that so astounded the foreigners. He was going to travel all over the world and get specimens from all the climes. I said, “Don’t you do it; you come to New England on a favorable spring day.” I told him what we could do in the way of style, variety, and quantity. Well, he came and he made his collection in four days. As to variety, why, he confessed that he got hundreds of kinds of weather that he had never heard of before. And as to quantity — well, after he had picked out and discarded all that was blemished in any way, he not only had weather enough, but weather to spare; weather to hire out; weather to sell; to deposit; weather to invest; weather to give to the poor.”
As an old grouch I began warning people to keep their guard up as soon as this winter had a nice spell in January. Then I looked very smug when we got three feet of snow in early February. Then, when that melted, I pouted only a little while, before I remembered the winter of 1887-1888 was remarkably mild and snowless, before THE blizzard of 1888 struck on March 11, and lasted until the 14th. New York City got four feet.
It is always good to have some history, if you want to be a pessimistic old grouch, and spoil another’s good day. However it is quite another thing to actually predict when such a storm will happen. Here I must be humble and state I bow before the ability of some meteorologists, especially Joe Bastardi and Joe D’Aleo, who gave me a heads-up over a week ago on their Weatherbell Site, when the computer models were still waffling with a wide variety of possible solutions.
I know just enough about meteorology to know how many things can go wrong with a forecast for a storm. I have suffered considerable agony over such forecasts, for when I was young a storm was a gift from heaven, freeing me from the purgatory of school and allowing the sheer paradise of play. My opinion of the white stuff has considerably altered since then, but I still recall the shamefaced TV weathermen explaining why certain storms of my boyhood failed to manifest. They could veer out to sea, or they could “elongate” and become two or three weak storms rather becoming a single gale, or, worst of all, they could hook inland and turn the snow to pouring rain.
A lot of things have to happen right, but when they happen they can happen fast. I recall reading a description of the blizzard of 1888 from the perspective of fishermen, (I can’t offer a link, because I have never found that article again), and apparently even the sailors were fooled. The sail-powered Long Island fleet was trying to sneak a trip in, on a balmy spring day, and suddenly the sky swiftly grew black and they heard thunder, and it was a battle to get back to shore, and not every boat made it.
This abrupt development of a storm (not a lone thunderstorm but a gale many hundreds of miles across) is dubbed “bombogenesis” by meteorologists, and while the word has not yet been accepted by Webster’s Dictionary, it does express the explosive nature of the development. Joseph D’Aleo is an expert on how it occurs, and to simplify his excellent explanations, (found on his Weatherbell site), what occurs is that a “lid” which has been holding ocean-warmed air down, and keeping it from rising, is abruptly removed as a high pressure’s descending air moves away. Then the uplift is further enhanced by one or two jet-streams.
One fascinating thing about jet streams is that they don’t merely move in a straight line, but corkscrew in a clockwise manner at the front and a counter-clockwise manner to the rear (facing forward.) Therefore if the back of a departing jet lines up correctly with the front of an arriving jet, the uplift can be extreme, and storms go from having a lid on them to having every encouragement to explode upwards.
What amazes me is the ability some meteorologists have to see when this “might” occur, days in advance. I think meteorologists deserve far more credit than they get, for giving us fair warning. Everyone is eager to make them a laughing stock when they are wrong, but they sometimes are right, and when they are right they deserve thanks, because, to be honest, I doubt we’d have a clue these storms were coming without them.
I like to test myself. I spend a lot of time outside, and like to see if I can tell when a storm is coming, by only using what I can gauge with my own eyes. I saw very little that clued me in this past week. Not even my goats seemed to be wary. Yesterday morning there was a weak low down in the Gulf of Mexico, and a small storm rolling across the Great Pains, and a “lid” of high pressure off the east coast.
The radar showed some snow over the midwest, but no sign of a bomb to the east and only a few sprinkles of rain in the Gulf.
We’d been experiencing bitter cold: -2° on Sunday morning and 3° on Monday morning (-19° and -16° Celsius) with Sunday’s bitter winds giving way to Monday’s calm. Rather than falling the pressure kept rising, to 30.17 at noon on Monday. High clouds made the skies gray around noon on Monday, but then it cleared off. I joked it was a gorgeous day, and people were foolish to be rushing about, but they continued. The stores were crowded with people stocking up, though there was no sign of a storm. In fact it was the dull sort of day worthy of one E.B.Webster’s “Life’s Darkest Moments” cartoons.
I was able to salvage some of the afternoon by allowing the older boys (8 years old) to start a fire on their own, and then showing them tricks to success when they failed.
However the future still looked dull, though word came school had been cancelled at the public schools, the following day. (Our childcare has never been closed.) Then the evening map showed some signs the northern and southern lows were “phasing”
And the radar showed the “lid” was coming off at the coast, but it looked like mostly rain.
Still, the moon was bright, and the barometer was high, only slightly falling, 30.15 at 7:45 PM and 30.11 at midnight.
Then, this morning, the storm had appeared on the coast, with the barometer starting to fall more swiftly to 29.98, and light snow falling outside.
The rain had changed to snow as it pushed north, and after bottoming out at 17° my thermometer was refusing to rise. It looks like bombogenesis for certain.
Update. Only one boy showed up at the Childcare. Everyone is hunkering down, as the forecast is ominous for the afternoon, with gusts to 60 mph and perhaps some freezing rain briefly mixing in to break branches and perhaps knock out our power, in which case I guess I won’t update, (Ha ha).
Barometer is falling rapidly to 29.65, and temperature has nudged up to 19°. (-7° Celsius)
Snow is moderate. We have 4 inches. The real heavy stuff is not far to our south.
Update: 1:41 PM Heavy snow and windy. — 23° — 29.38 and falling rapidly.
Update 3:30 PM Heavy snow and windy — 23° — 29.16 and falling rapidly. Snow may slack off as dry slot pushes north from south of us.
Update: 4:08 —24° — 29.06 Windy but snow slacking off. Now it is fine, sifting flakes penetrating chinks of clothing on a strong wind. No way am I heading out to clean-up quite yet, but I can take a picture out my front window.
5:00 –24°– –28.98 — No snow shows over us on radar, but the fine stuff is still falling. The wind is going to make clean-up problematic, as places will drift back in. In fact, by raising walls of snow either side of a walkway I may merely make a deeper place to drift in. Therefore perhaps its wiser to stay indoors?
6:07 PM –24°– –28.86– Dry slot over us on radar but steady light snow falling
9:50 PM Clean-up done at childcare. Snow was not light and fluffy. It was starchy and fairly heavy. Hard to gauge depth, due to drifting. I’d guess 16 inches. Wind slacked off, with occasional big gusts. Snow was fine and didn’t show on radar, but in the past half hour big flakes began falling, and abruptly appeared on the radar. Barometer 28.88 and steady. Temperature 23° (-5° Celsius) .
Update: 1:00 AM –18°– –28.99–Still some light snow
7:00 AM 9° — 29.13 — Blue skies we had about another inch, but lots of drifting.
11:00 AM Sunny 19°; Barometer 29.15 and steady. Winds surprisingly light, considering how tight the isobars look on the map. Backlash snows well to our west over New York State.
I had to do more clean-up due to drifting, and also due to the fact State Law wants all exits clear. (I think it is so Child Care Professionals can escape the building when the kids are about to drive them bonkers, but I could be wrong about that.) There was a two-hour-delay, so the older children got to stay with us longer before the bus came. I tried to look appropriately sad about leaving the din to go out into the gorgeous sunshine, but my frown was upside down.
The snow was stiff and starchy and the snowblower has only five blades working because a rock broke a sheer-pin on the sixth, so the blower crept through the deep snow with exasperating slowness. I’d say it moved at around a yard a minute.
There were some emergencies that couldn’t wait for a path to be cleared. There was no heat in the childcare, and I assumed the air-inlet was blocked by snow, and that I needed to trudge through the drifts. (Inlet just beyond blocked exit).
I was able to clean the inlet with my pinkie finger, and saved the day. This is the fourth time I’ve been a hero with a minimum of effort. Ice was starting to skim the upstairs toilet, but I realized the upstairs heat had been accidentally turned off, so I fixed that problem by turning on the heat. Then the water pressure was low, and I became aware a pipe had frozen and burst because a window had blown out in the basement of the old farmhouse, which seemed major, but I fixed the window by picking it up from the floor (it had six panes and not one broke), and jamming it back where it belonged, and then the broken pipe turned out to be a side-line leading to an outdoor spigot, so I simply turned a faucet handle and shut off that line (to be fixed when the weather was warmer), and just like that I’m a hero again.
Then I could get back to clearing the exits. Unfortunately the blower only clears snow two feet deep, which is only enough for a dog door in some exits.
I was thinking of telling my wife that in an emergency people could crawl, but after further consideration I broke down and used an old fashioned shovel. I’m still alive.
Now all eyes are looking to the Canadian prairies. An Alberta Clipper is expected to slide down from there over the next few days, and again there may be bombogenesis on the coast. Never a dull moment.
From Joe Bastardi’s blog at Weatherbell, here is how one model sees the snow this weekend. (Cape Cod gets hammered, and we only get an inch….fine with me.)
2:30 PM 29.22 and steady. 21°, and partly cloudy; some high clouds of the “junk” variety, but mostly low cumulus looking suspicious, like we might get some flurries.
10:00 PM –29.41– –14°–Scattered flurries
Thursday, 7:00 AM –29.55– –13°– Partly cloudy (Overnight low 10°)
I saw a child on a playground troubled By his shadow. He cried and he backed off But the shadow, unrelenting, doubled The child’s alarm, for it never slacked off And hounded the child’s feet, until the child backed To the ladder of a slide. The shadow Couldn’t follow up the ladder, and blacked The ground below, as the child felt joy grow, And jeered down, and looked up, and forgot the dark.
In the same way, I’m an old man troubled By lengthening shadows, and seek a spark Like the child’s ladder, though odds seemed doubled.
Faith is a ladder towards lights that strengthen As winter comes closer and shadows all lengthen.
You’ll have to forgive me for waxing poetic to start this post, but I got off into an interesting tangent of thought during the sermon at church last Sunday. This often happens to me. Just as I forgot to pay attention to my teachers at school, and my mind went sailing out windows to clouds blooming in the sky, in church some idea in a sermon sends my eyes to the windows, which are stained glass lit by morning sunshine.
(I think that, if they really expected people to heed the entire sermon, the windows would be painted black. The fact they are stained glass encourages independent thought.)
Among other things, the sermon suggested a “saint” isn’t some person with a long white beard and a halo of shimmering gold, but is just an ordinary person who happens to believe that Truth is a good thing. I sort of like this idea, because it suggests that even a cantankerous anachronism like me could be a “saint”. However I didn’t like the next part of the sermon, which suggested being honest invited persecution. I have enough troubles without “inviting” any.
However, as my mind went drifting off from the sermon into the colors of the stained glass, I had to admit that simply stating the truth about arctic sea-ice has earned me a lot of grief. People I greatly respect, members of my own family and church, have used that silly word “denier” on me, when I simply state a mundane fact about banal stuff called “sea-ice”. It seems more like a knee-jerk reaction on their part, than a deed involving one iota of actual thought.
As I gazed off into the colors of the stained glass it occurred to me that perhaps civilization has made some progress over the last two or three thousand years. Back in the day, the authorities, and especially the Romans, physically tortured people who spoke Truth. Now the authorities only psychologically torture people who speak the Truth.
Hey, it may not be pretty, but it is progress.
If you study Roman times, the brutality of Roman authority stands out. When the Romans marched in, there was no talk about political correctness, it was a case of, “My way or the highway.” They thought nothing of slaughtering all the elders of a town, or all the professors of an university, or all the leaders of a government. In fact they made their slaughter a spectator sport, feeding people to lions at the Colosseum. Physical cruelty was everyday, and Jesus Christ on the cross was no exception.
Nowadays the cruelty is psychological. A modern Christ would be crucified on some sort of psychological cross. Or so I found my mind thinking, as my thinking wandered through the lights of stained glass lit by Sunday morning sunshine. However the next question is, “What would a psychological cross look like?”
The answer that leaped into my my head was, “To begin with, rather than throwing you to the lions, they throw you to the morons.” That made me chuckle aloud, at which point I figured I had better stop daydreaming, and pay attention to the sermon.
Later, however, the thought came back to me, and I found myself wondering what makes a person a moron. I’m not talking about the fellow with an IQ of 60, who maybe drools a little. I’m talking about an otherwise intelligent person, with an IQ well over 100, who feels they somehow deserve the right to be indignant about a subject they have never studied and know nothing about.
As a boy I was a moron, concerning the subject of New York, because I was a Red Sox fan after Ted Williams retired in 1960 and before Carl Yastremski led the Impossible Dream Team in 1967. Every year New York won the pennant and every year the Red Sox came in next-to-last, (which was ninth place back then), and I developed a foaming hatred towards New York. If anyone said anything good about New York I became quite indignant. I was actually surprised I wasn’t immediately mugged when I first visited the city, and astonished that I actually met kind and helpful people. The scales fell from my eyes, and I stopped being such a moron. I also dropped the right to be indignant, which was no great loss, for when I thought about it, being indignant doesn’t feel all that good.
However it seems to me some people really like the feeling. They must, for why else would they spend so much time being indignant about this and indignant about that? And most especially, why would they bother to feel indignant about things they know nothing about? I mean, as a boy I might feel indignant of anyone who said anything nice about New York, though I had never visited the city and my knowledge of New York (beyond the Yankees) was nil, but I was just a boy and didn’t know any better. As you grow up you are suppose to know better.
Some don’t know any better. They simply like to feel offended, I suppose, and I do my best to steer clear of them, the same way I steer clear of my rooster when his neck feathers stick out and he looks at me in an indignant manner.
Fortunately, at this site, we don’t deal with big issues, such as the definition of marriage, or the point at which aborting life becomes murder. All we are concerned with is whether we are moving towards the next Little Ice Age, or the next Medieval Warm Period. Furthermore we have retreated far from the maddening crowd, to a landscape devoid of mankind, or even signs of mankind, except for a stray contrail in the sky, and perhaps a buoy, every five hundred miles.
However I am sad to inform newcomers that, even when you retreat to a point this far from civilization, you may still find yourself a “saint” for simply stating what you see, and may even suffer a sort of psychological crucifixion for being accurate. All you need to do is state a Truth; for example: “The so-called ‘Death Spiral’ did not manifest during the summer of 2015”, and people may become extremely indignant.
They remind me of my rooster, who always is extremely indignant when I come into the stables to get buckets of grain for my pigs and goats. It doesn’t seem to matter that the rooster has a record of 0-524, in his battles with me. He is a bird-brain, which is like a moron. He comes up to strike at me with his spurs, and I have to lower the lid of the grain barrel as a round shield, and there is a loud “plink” as he strikes the metal, and then he gets shoved backwards by the shield, and loses the battle. (In case you are wondering, if a rooster ever successfully strikes you with his spurs it feels like a solid tap on your shin, and you bleed a little trickle, but the next day you are hobbled, as he has penetrated right to the bone and given you a bone bruise. Needless to say, I don’t allow this particular rooster to ever succeed.)
I don’t know why this particular rooster gets so indignant when I enter the stable, especially when you consider the fact I’m the guy who gives him grain and water. However I forgive him because, after all, he has a brain about the size of an aspirin.
It is very painful to me to see my fellow mankind behave as if they have brains the size of aspirins, and to watch them become absurdly indignant about subjects they know next to nothing about. Even worse is the fact many get such a strange joy out of being indignant that they don’t want to learn more about the subject they know next to nothing about. When you attempt to patiently explain things, they sort of go, “La-la-la I’m not listening.” And that is the modern, psychological crucifixion of people who simply speak the Truth. They get thrown to the morons.
I’m sorry to spend so much time explaining this phenomenon, on a site which for the most part is dedicated to simply watching ice melt, and then watching water freeze. However, if we are going to study the state of affairs, concerning sea-ice, it is important to know you will meet maddening, indignant roosters, for they are included in the state of affairs, concerning sea-ice, and they are also one of the shadows lengthening across our social landscape.
In other matters, the shadows are lengthening, as are the nights, across the Pole. The times of daylight are shorter, and also farther and farther from the Pole, as the Pole itself has already started its six-month-long night (though some always insist on calling it “twilight”). (Some even insist on calculating the microscopic amount of heat that comes from twilight, after the sun has set.)
It remains worth watching, even as the views become fewer and farther between, because you can occationally see some interesting events. One thing I have discussed is how leads can open up and expose open water even when temperatures are well below the melting point of salt water. We saw this happen at O-buoy 8-b. I mentioned that such open leads can also slam shut, and rather than an open lead you see a pressure-ridge. We saw this happen at O-buoy 8-b over the weekend, giving us a picture of how an area of open water or thin ice can become extra-thick ice (as we remember 9/10th of a pressure ridge is under water, as is the case with all bergs.) In a sense we have been privileged to see what usually is hidden by winter darkness, and have a sequence of pictures that would teach well on a textbook.
Of course, having such splendid leads and pressure ridges so close to the camera is a bit like living right next to the San Andreas fault. The camera is at risk.
Today’s picture from O-buoy 8-b indicates some milder air is moving in, but is lifted by the cold air at the surface. Wet, sticky snow is falling, though temperatures remain low, down at -10°C.
The invasion of mild air is much more dramatic over at O-buoy 9 at the north entrance of Fram Strait. Here we are seeing winds of 25-30 mph bringing a flood of Atlantic moisture and mildness north. Also the sea-ice is being pushed back north in Fram Strait, which is unusual this late in the season. Fram Strait is the major exporter of sea-ice from the Arctic Sea, and such export is a major part of low levels of sea-ice.
Now, if you are an Alarmist, and have a major emotional investment in seeing there be less arctic sea-ice, it is hard to know whether the current southerly gales in Fram Strait are good news or bad news. The ice being pushed back to the north is bad news, as it keeps the Arctic Sea loaded with last year’s ice. However the mild temperatures must be good news…or are they? Mildness and moisture makes more snow fall, on the ice, which would be “good” if conditions were calm, for the snow would insulate the ice and keep the ice from freezing. However, as conditions are not likely to be calm, the snow is likely to be blown from the ice into wind-created leads, forming slush which increases the amounts of ice, which is “bad”.
I find it wiser to avoid the value-judgement of calling what happens “good” or “bad”. Whatever will be will be. Furthermore, it is the Truth, and Truth is a good teacher.
They say history repeats itself, but I can never recall seeing such a wrong-way gale in Fram Strait after the solstice. This is a new one, for me, and I think it is wise to sit back and learn.
Someone said that Harry Truman once stated, “The only thing new under the sun is the history you haven’t read.” However we don’t have all that much history to read, concerning the arctic. We are newcomers. And when you have no history book to read, you need to sit back and watch the present tense make history.
Also I doubt Harry Truman ever said that, because he had to handle the atomic bomb, and there was no history book about that topic. When I researched the above quote, it seemed some reporter was putting those words in Harry’s mouth, when Harry might have been talking about Mark Twain, who had a more cynical view about how we are revisionists, concerning history, and may have said something along the lines of, ” The only new thing mew under the sun is the history you haven’t invented.”
While I do believe history repeats itself, and that meteorologists who search the past for analogs can do wonders, I also believe no two snowflakes or fingerprints are alike, and there is something eternally fresh and new in every sunrise and in every weather map. Therefore I watch the current surge in Fram Strait with great interest, fully expecting to see something I’ve never seen before. The view from O-buoy 9, at the moment, is rather dull, gray, and even slushy.
Further north, at Faboo (my name for the North Pole Camera), the surge of mild air has arrived, and melted the hoarfrost off the lens after days of blindness. They haven’t figured out the problems they’ve been having transmitting the official data, so I have had to rely on unofficial data from a co-located Mass Balance Buoy (which lacks a time stamp). The surge was rather dramatic, as we saw temperatures shift from -16.98°C to -0.76°C. We also saw Faboo get as far south as 84.69° latitude, and then be jolted back north to 84.84° latitude. Somewhere the ice must be buckling, but no buckling is apparent in our views (which I am very glad to again have.)
I notice “Lake Faboo” is buried under the new snow, but as is usually the case in the arctic, the snows are not all that deep. In the few places where records are kept, I notice now is the most snowy time of year, but the snow amounts are only an inch or two. At other times the monthly amount is barely a half inch, or even less. The arctic is a desert, in terms of precipitation. When you talk of a half inch of snow per month it is like talking about five hundredth of an inch of rain in an entire month.
You will hear a lot of talk, from various people, about how snow insulates the ice and the water under the ice. It is important to remember we are not talking about snow that you wade hip-deep through, but rather ankle-deep stuff. When the winds howl, often the ice is blown clear of snow.
In order for winds to howl what is called a “meridional flow” is needed. What is called a “zonal flow” is more neat and tidy, and more according to textbooks. Textbooks like to talk about the “Polar Cell”, and place a high pressure at the Pole, with well-behaved lows rotating around it, with the air rising in the lows and sinking in the high pressure centered on the Pole.
This is elegant and tidy, but a meridional flow makes a total mess of it. Floods of warm air surge right up to the Pole, and fuel low pressure right where the textbook states we should have high pressure, and air rises right where the textbook states it should be descending. We are likely to see a splendid example of this, the next week.
When a zonal flow places high pressure over the Pole, conditions tend to be quiet, as calm often occurs under a center of high pressure. However a meridional flow creates storms, and winds smash and crash the sea-ice. Rather than ice and snow sheltering the water, ice splits and leads, sometimes ten or twenty miles across, open up, and the sea is exposed to bitter winds. Not only is the water chilled more, but more ice forms on that open water than would be formed if the water was protected by a yard or two of ice. Air temperatures may be higher, as the open water loses heat to the air, but that heat can only be lost to outer space in 24-hour nighttime. All in all, IMHO, a meridional flow is far more conducive to building the volume of sea-ice.
So let us sit back and watch as the atmosphere does its dance.
In the maps below we see the feature ESib1 has been flung from Bering Strait across northern Alaska to the east side of Hudson Bay, as its Fujiwhara-dance partner FG4 got left behind and whirls north of East Siberia. I should be paying more attention to that, but only have so many brain cells.
What grabs my attention is the ridge of high pressure sliding east across the Atlantic and the low forming off northeast Greenland, which I’ll call “FG5”. Between them is the remarkable “wrong way” flow in Fram Strait, and the warm flood toward the Pole. As that warm air hits the cold air it is bound to fuel a frammerjammer, and the flow in Fram Strait could swing right around for a while. “FG5” looks like it might be an interesting storm, and briefly be king of the mountain, riding high atop the entire planet Earth.
TUESDAY MORNING DMI MAPS
TUESDAY MORNING PICTURE FROM O-BUOY 9 IN FRAM STRAIT
O-BUOY 13 DEPLOYED
The buoiy is roughly at 78.5° N, 141° W, which is south and west of O-buoy 9 in the Arctic Basin. (I’ll call it a Beaufort Buoy because that so obviously irks nitpickers.) Temperatures are around -5°C and winds fairly strong around 25-23 mph.
TUESDAY NIGHT DMI MAPS -A surprise-
The gale exploding south of Svalbard isn’t suppose to be there. Of course, I haven’t been paying proper attention to maps, (as I have to attend to six-year-olds), but the last I knew the development was suppose to occur around that weak low north of Greenland. I did notice it got abruptly colder at O-buoy 9, suggesting that weak low had a cold front, and apparently the gale blew up along that front. It is more like a true North Atlantic gale than a frammerjammer, but I’ll call it “FG5son.”
Considering there was little sign of that gale this morning, the above example is a fine example of what happens when you mix warm and juicy south winds from the Atlantic with bitter cold from the arctic. The isobats suggest the winds are really howling off the coast of Norway, but haven’t picked up in Fram Strait. However this map is actually from noon, and by afternoon the north-moving ice was lurching back to the south, which is more normal for this time of year.
Across the Pole ESib1 is a decent low, adding to the fact that uplift is occurring over much of the arctic, which sure makes a mess of the textbook defination of “The Polar Cell”, as an area of decending air. Yet all this uplift must go somewhere, and the powers-that-be can’t send the air further north as a Ferrel Cell does, as there is no such thing as further north at the North Pole. It is a test to our ordinary thinking, which tends to be zonal, and see weather systems parading around the globe from west to east. At the Pole, I sometimes think, the weather simply goes up and down like a yoyo. When all the uplift has no place to go it just comes crashing back down, turning low pressure into high pressure. And before you laugh at this idea, check out the computer models, and notice that where FG5son is a sub-960 mb low tomorrow the maps show it swiftly fading, and being replaced by a 1040 mb high pressure system. It will be interesting to watch, as will be what happens to the temperatures. Currently it is much milder than it has been.
O-BUOY 9’S FRAM STRAIT REPORT
O-buoy 9 saw the mild temperatures abruptly crash, as the winds slacked off, veered 180°, and increased to the 25-33 mph range of a true gale, which makes for a nasty wind-chill and a swift halt to any thawing that might have been going on.The buoy stopped the wrong-way movement north and lurched south.There is little to see, as the nights are getting long up there, but so far the ice hasn’t broken up despite the strong and shifting winds. (Remember that a month ago O-buoy 9 often drifted in seas relatively free of ice, and much of the ice we look at is new “baby ice” between thicker bergs. It doesn’t take all that much to smash up such baby ice.)
FABOO REPORTS IN
On September 25 Faboo drifted 4.35 miles south east in very light winds to 84.728°N, 8.772°W and saw temperatures fall steadily, crashing to the low of -17.4°C at 1800Z, before rebounding to the period’s high of -10.8°C at 2100Z.
On September 26 Faboo sped up as winds picked to around 10 mph, covering 6.93 miles southeast to 84.683°N, 7.798°W. Temperatures rose to the high of -7.2°C at 1500Z, before falling back to -13.3°C at 2100Z,
On September 27 Faboo reached its most southerly point at 0300Z, at 84.678°N, and its most easterly point at noon, at 7.510°W, before deversing back to the north and west and finishing the day at 84.752°N, 7.542°W, which was 5.03 miles the “wrong way”. Temperatures fell to a low of -18.2°C at 0600Z before recovering to -9.4°C at the end of the period. The breezes grew stronger, up to 15-20 mph range.
On September 28 Faboo again returned to moving east, but continued north to finish at 84.876°N, 6.452°W, which was another 15.76 miles the “wrong way”. Temperatures rose from -9.3°C at midnight to a balmy +1.0°C at 0900Z. After dipping to -1.8°C at 1500Z, a second thaw was experienced at the end of the period, with temperatures at +0.5°C. Winds peaked early, with a steady blow of 27 mph, before slacking off to 15 mph.
Unofficial reports showed we continued north for a while today, but then headed south, as temperatures fell. Unfortunately freezing rain was involved. It is my experience that this stuff is hard to melt from the camera’s lens.
O-BUOY 8 WIDE LEAD OPENS ON DISTANT HORIZON TO THE LEFT
NEW O-BUOY 13 –COLD WITH DRIFTING SNOW—
O-BUOY 15 —WINS PICTURES-OF-THE-DAY AWARD FOR BEAUTY—
WEDNESDAY MORNING DMI MAPS
WEDNESDAY EVENING MAPS
THURSDAY EVENING MAPS
I’ll try to play catch-up later. It is hard to run a decent blog when pulling double shifts.
It is also hard to focus on sea-ice when a hurricane is milling about to your south.
On September 29 Faboo continued northeast as far as 84.904°N at 0600Z before a 180° wind shrift hit, dropping temperatures from +0.5°C to -7.0°C at the next report at 0900Z. Winds picked up from 11 to 17 mph as temperatures fell to -13.2°C as Faboo moved 3.49 miles southeast to finish the period at 84.826°N, 6.363°W.
Yesterday temperatures slowly rose from -13.2°C to -10.2°C as winds climbed to a steady gale-force blasting of 36 mph, grinding the ice 17.6 miles SSE to 84.574°N, 5.923°W.
It is difficult to get your mind around tons upon tons upon tons of ice, covering hundreds of square miles, all moving north twenty miles and then all being snapped back south twenty miles, especially as the shift from north-movement to south-movement does not effect all areas equally at the same time, but rather is a radical change along a front. Somewhere the ice has to buckle and build pressure ridges, while somewhere else it must crack open and expose leads of open water. The frustrating thing is the camera’s lens if frozen over, and we are unlikely to see much more than this:
FRIDAY MORNING DMI MAPS
Quite a mild stream of air has been pulled east over the Siberian Side, as the cold is reduced to a pool north of Canada and Greenland. I expect the cold to expand as the gale weakens and fills.
O-BOUY 9 SHOWS COLD AND WEAKENING WINDS
Temperatures are at -10°C and winds at 4-7 mph. If the recent gale didn’t smash this ice up, nothing will, until it gets further south.
DMI FRIDAY AFTERNOON MAPS
SATURDAY’S DMI MAPS (To be repeated to start the next post)
I apologize for being unable to properly withdraw from life and enjoy the pleasures of escape to the arctic. Sometimes life won’t let you escape.
Time and tide and arctic sea-ice wait for no man, and a lots been going on I haven’t had time to talk about. A veritable flood of milder air came north with low pressure and made the Pole an area of uplift, which drew more air north at the surface. A lot of this “air” was water vapor, which went from taking up a lot of space as vapor to taking up very little space as a drop of water or an ice crystal. Therefore there does not need to be as much outflow aloft as one might expect, with all the inflow.
The vapor also released a lot of heat as it went through the phase changes of gas to liquid and liquid to solid. (There is a phase change the other way when precipitation evaporates of sublimates when falling, but for the most part the recent storm has been releasing more heat than it has been sucking up.)
They say what goes up must come down, but this is not true of the Pole. Water vapor goes up there and does not return, and heat goes up there and is lost to outer space. Once the sun sets the Pole is like a chimney for the planet, and what we have just seen is stuff heading up the chimney.
That being said, when a mild surge heads north for the Pole I often look for an south-bound arctic outbreak somewhere else, and indeed there were two decend surges of cold into eastern and western Siberia, as well as a snowy spell in Alaska that drew notice.
Even as milder air floods the Pole, snow-cover is building on the tundra in Siberia, Alaska and Canada. This will assist the creation of cold air through radiational cooling, and result in the Arctic ocean being frozen by south winds from the tundra.
However one interesting feature is that swath of snow northwest of Hudson Bay, as much of it is well south of the actual coast of the Arctic Sea. This tendency also shows up in a Dr. Ryan Maue map posted on Joseph D’Aleo’s excellent blog, of the the deepening snow in Western Siberia. Much of the snow is well south of the actual coast.
This of course makes one wonder about the maps which show the arctic coasts as well above normal, in terms of water temperature:
(I point out elsewhere that these maps can show water as red even when it is full of floating ice, as was the case in Hudson Bay last summer, which does make one suspect they are estimating on the warm side.)
In conclusion, we have a situation where we have a cold circle of ice atop the globe, surrounded by a larger circle of milder coastal waters, surrounded by an even larger circle of cold tundra. Until the coastal water freezes, the situation is wonderfully unstable.
The current temperature graph for areas north of 80° shows the current surge of mild air past its peak, and about to begin what I suspect will be a steep plunge.
The ice “extent” graph shows the mild surge did slow the refreeze, but couldn’t halt it.
Most of our surviving buoys did show the milder air reaching across the Pole to Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, and the pacific side of the Central Arctic Basin, as the Atlantic and Siberian side haven’t experience the early season cold as much, and continue fairly mild. Yet the temperatures only briefly could thaw, in only a few places, and rather than thawing there was falling snow and freezing rain. Most of the slow-down in the refreeze was due to bottom-melt having a chance to occur without much upper-freezing, and also gale force winds smashing up the new baby-ice.
It is unfortunate that O-buoy 10 got crushed (or perhaps retrieved by an icebreaker) as we have no eye down in the Beaufort Sea “Slot”. The NRL concentration map suggests the southern “reef” of the “lagoon” got dispersed by the gales, though we cannot tell if the water still has ice and slush in it once everything gets wet, as it doesn’t show up well to satellite sensors. If the reef reappears during the refreeze we will know it wasn’t fully dispersed.
I’ll download some pictures from cameras, and catch up on Faboo’s doings, in the morning.