LOCAL VIEW –Good-bye Old Cat–

It was meant to be a Manhattan cat, I think. Definitely not an ally cat, nor a country cat. Never got involved in nighttime squalling and brawling, preferring to observe from the porch, when it was warm enough to step outside. If there was any mist, or temperatures dipped below 70°F, it headed in. Therefore I knew there was a problem when I saw it laying on the lawn in a cold drizzle.

My wife brought it in and we laid it by the fire to warm, but it stirred only once to drink from a bowl of water I held up to its mouth, and then slept the Big Sleep.

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Who asked you into my life to steal my heart?
Unwanted cat; unable to make the move
Into no-pet housing, when old owner made new start;
Grossly overfed; never outdoors; in a groove
Of fat habits; unaffectionate;
Looking like a bowling ball with short legs;
Doomed to be destroyed, but then my dim wit
Thought, “My barn could use a cat”. Such wit begs
jeered laughter. You couldn’t outrun a mouse
And you didn’t like barns, and daily would waddle
To mew piteously outside my house.
“Don’t let that cat in! Be tough! Don’t coddle!”
But you worked your way in, grew old, died fat,
And in spite of myself, I miss you, old cat.

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LOCAL VIEW –Liberalism Redefined–

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“Liberal” originally meant “generous”.

Generosity is fine, as long as you are generous with your own money. It is when one starts being generous with my money that I start to steam. And it is when one is generous with my money, and gives it to people I think could be better served by swift kick in the pants, that the steam starts to whistle.

I don’t recommend this, but the best test (of how Liberal a person is) is to yourself be down and out. All your fair-weather-friends flee. Funny thing is: They were so, so Liberal, back when you were buying the beers.

I thank God for the real Liberals, who have really helped me out and who are scarce as hen’s teeth, and almost never advertise how truly Liberal they are, (and who, at times, are Liberal not with money, but with tough love.)

I should confess that I often have been in need of generosity, because money hasn’t been a big priority in my life. I took my retirement early, when I was in my teens and twenties, and now must keep on working, as I witness my more pragmatic friends retire with fat  pensions. True, I lived a life far more interesting life than they did, but now the early and middle parts are over, and what do I have to show for it? (Wisdom, I suppose, but definitely no savings or pension.)

When I was young I justified my sloth by saying I was an artist, and I think I actually was, (though apparently not a very good one).  I worked as little as possible and scribbled as much as I could, and managed this by, (to use a less-than-flattering word), mooching. However I discovered two things. First, when you don’t pay rent you still wind up paying a sort of rent that doesn’t involve money. Second, even the kindest people get fed up with even the nicest moochers. Eventually their generosity shifts from mushy love to tough love. People get tired of a poet looking at clouds and nibbling his pencil’s eraser. Either they show you the unwashed dishes and laundry (which amounts to the non-monetary rent I was talking about), or they show you the door.

I could relate a bunch of episodes describing when I faced this shift in a host’s attitude, but that would become a sidetrack, (though a very funny one.) One of the most amusing aspects of such episodes was how offended I felt, when my hosts revealed they didn’t think much of my art, and preferred that I focus on more more worldly pursuits, such as washing dishes. I was so offended that they almost never needed to throw me out; I’d storm off indignantly seeking someone who appreciated my great art. (In other words, someone new to mooch off.)

Perhaps the most touching (and embarrassing) episode involved a person so kind and so meek they couldn’t throw me out, so they themselves moved out. Abruptly, at age thirty-one, I was responsible for something I amazingly had never faced: “The next month’s rent.”  I had occasionally faced “the next week’s rent” or “my contribution to part of the commune’s rent”, but had never paid a month’s rent in its entirety.

Talk about a crisis!  It was bad enough that I had driven my kind host from his own apartment, but I now had to work a Real Job. I couldn’t drive off and sleep in my tiny car, for it wasn’t functioning just then.

It was right around this time a fellow moocher told me how much money one could make off the generosity of others, simply by asking people for spare change. This was against my psychological make-up. In fact one of the reasons I was in the mess I was in was because I was incredibly shy, and unable to ask for any sort of help, whether it be with getting my “great art” published, or whether it involved asking how to fix my car.

You might think that by age thirty-one I would have learned to be more forceful, but I had a very strange Karma. The times I had steeled my nerve, and huffed and puffed, and dared ask for help, I always seemed to ask the worst people. (That is ten tales for another evening). Rather than learning how to be outgoing, I became not only shy, but very discouraged.

However my situation was so dire that I felt I should once again muster my nerve, and once again huff and puff, and dare ask in a new way I had never tried before:  “Do you have any spare change?”

I headed out onto the streets, and found it was, for me, like asking a very beautiful woman to dance. I just couldn’t do it. I stood on the sidewalk, looking at passing people in a way that likely made them very uncomfortable, and never dared say a word.

How pathetic can a man get? Fortunately I was addicted to cigarettes, and addiction (or ordinary hunger) can supply motivation which pep-talks and self-psychiatry can’t. By the second day I was gasping for a cigarette, making people even more uncomfortable, as they walked by, and I still wasn’t daring to ask them for spare change, but I was getting close to it.

I was telling myself to be a man, and have some guts, and that it was actually spiritual to beg because Sadhus in India had begging bowls. Then I suddenly saw this gruff-looking guy walking, and he looked a lot like an old, gruff friend from my past, and I blurted, “Spare change?”

The fellow wheeled and absolutely exploded. As I recall his words were something along the lines of, “I am so fucking sick of you fucking, lazy assholes who haven’t got the fucking brains to fucking get a job! I can’t fucking walk down the fucking street without your fucking wheedling! I work fucking hard for my fucking spare change! What fucking gives you the fucking right to fucking ask for it? Huh? What gives you the fucking right?”

I wish I’d had the guts to answer honestly, and tell the guy, “I am desperate for cigarettes, so I can go back to looking at clouds and nibbling my eraser,  and avoid getting a Real Job.”  Instead I just backed away and out of the man’s gale of spittle, and whimpered something lamer, and less honest, such as, “I’m just hungry.”

The truth of the matter is that the fellow’s gale of spittle was a great dose of tough love, for I never, ever dared ask anyone for spare change ever again. If he had given me even a penny he would have encouraged me the wrong way. As it was I was forced, (against my will, I’ll admit), to leave off looking at clouds and to get a Real Job. Things didn’t exactly go uphill after that, for the job I got utterly sucked, but my downhill slant was less perpendicular.

I had a lot of work to do and a lot of suffering to experience, before I had any real sense I was heading uphill. Yet I felt strangely cared for by God. After all, what are the odds of getting such a gale of spittle the very first time you ask for spare change? It was fairly obvious to me that I wasn’t suppose to be a spiritual Sadhu with a begging bowl. And, because I had a spiritual steak, and was insanely optimistic, I figured I must be being guided by God to some better place.

I needed to think up some poetic symbol for the uncomfortable situation I was in, and recall remembering my father telling me about his days as a flight surgeon for test pilots. He’d told me that pilots pulling an airplane out of a dive experienced many “G’s”. The “G’s” increased the more they went from perpendicular to horizontal, and and continued even as the nose of the airplane pulled up; the “G’s” only started to decrease as the airplane started to move perpendicularly upwards.

This seemed a good analogy. If you dislike suffering, you can continue to experience weightlessness as you continue your nosedive to certain death. But if you want to pull out of your nosedive, you have to experience the “G’s” of, first, ordinary gravity, and then worse-than-ordinary gravity, and in the end you avoid not only certain death, but get to soar up to the sky. However the important part of the analogy was that the “G’s” continue even after you have started to pull out of the dive and are headed up. This allowed me to walk cheerfully whistling, and to think I must be heading up, even after my one-and-only attempt at pan-handling was a complete failure that left me misted by spittle.

Whoever that fellow was who cussed me out, over thirty years ago, happened to be, I’d like to thank him for his tough love. He probably is an old man now, feeling guilty about how he lost it and cussed out a poor beggar, back when he was much younger. He likely has no idea of what a good thing he did for me, nor that he may even have been a tool of God.

If he had been liberal with mushy love rather than tough love, he just would have encouraged me to be a pan handler. As it was, he encouraged me to be self-reliant, and eventually the father of five.

Now the five kids have grown up to five fine adults, and I’m facing the fact I’m getting older and weaker, and did not do a very good job of squirreling nuts away for the winter of my life. In the old fable of the grasshopper and the ant, I’ve been the happy grasshopper, bounding from job to job, and sometimes to no job at all. I did have to become more serious while raising five kids, but even then I did things, (such as homeschooling), that were irregular. I simply couldn’t bear the drudgery ants endure, going to the same hole day after day to get a stupid pension. Now they vacation in the warmth of Florida, and I face the winter I’ve earned.

As I sit down to do my taxes this year things look fairly bad. I didn’t budget for having a kidney removed. I absolutely hated doing taxes, even when I knew I’d get a refund back, but this year I’ll probably owe money I don’t have, so I absolutely loathe the paperwork even more than usual. In some ways I feel I’m right back where I was at age thirty-one, in a situation where I may have to ask for help.

I noticed some other websites have “tip jars” at the side, and was thinking of putting one on this site. This goes against my nature, and wounds my fat ego, for one thing I’m proud of is that I’ve never “sold out.”  In fact this is just a way of saying my writing has never made me a cent, but I figured it was better to be proud about my lack of success, than to be ashamed.

Also a “tip jar” is a bit like a “begging bowl.” In fact that is what I will call my “tip jar”, if I ever have the guts to institute one over in the margin of this page. But I likely will lack the guts. After all, that fellow who responded to my first attempt at pan-handling might still be around.

Instead I think I’ll avoid looking at my own problems, (and avoid starting my taxes), by sneering at people who have problems even worse than mine. Isn’t that what we usually do?

Because my taxes are due, I think I’ll start with the politicians in Washington DC.

When they just print the money they don’t actually have, to pay their rent, they are like beggars who don’t even have to pan handle, because they can just print what they crave. Will this pull them out of their nose-dive? No. They need some tough love. They need to stand in a gale of spittle, so let me supply some.

What they need is a dose of common sense. We need a Thomas Paine to write a modern “Common Sense,” for the beggars in Washington. To some degree it is happening on the  web, but we need a Thomas Paine to really slam the point home to those poor, begging imbeciles. Otherwise, because they can print money they don’t have, they think they are rich. We need to nudge them with the reality that they are worse than bankrupt.

I can tell you from personal experience that it is no fun to stand in a gale of spittle, but I also tell you it does you good. Ask any recruit who came out of boot camp a better man, and he will tell you that the sergeant’s gale of spittle did him good. It is a side of Liberalism most liberals now deny, thinking it is better to stay in a nose dive and experience no “G’s” at all. In fact to produce a gale of spittle is deemed “politically incorrect”.

Wrong.

There are times love is not mushy and gushy and sweet. There are times we have to be tough. I happen to dislike such times, especially when I have to be tough on myself, but they are a Truth. Liberals need to be generous with Truth. If they deny tough Truth, then they are no longer generous, and are actually no longer Liberals.

The idiots in Washington think they are Liberals because they can print money they do not have. This is not generosity. It is insanity.  Even I eventually figured out you need to face the music. I had to do it at age thirty-one, and I now have to do it again, at age sixty-three.

This brings me back to my own problems  Berating Washington DC didn’t help a bit, but it does feel good to blow off some steam. Likely it would be more constructive to go out and split some wood. Then face the taxes. And after that, face the finances.

In any case, there may be fewer posts on this blog, as I won’t have time to look at clouds and nibble my eraser. I’ll have to dust off that tiresome old mantra, “When the going gets tough the tough get going,” though I never really figured it applied to me. In fact I think my soul was accidentally put in the wrong body, when I was born, and that I was suppose to be a cat.

TAX-TIME CAT SONNET

Now I need no distractions, and yet now
Is when my old, snarled cat comes complaining.
Once again I don’t punch her. I think how
Small is my patience and restraining
Compared to God’s. To Him we’re all mewing cats
With no regard for the ten trillion tasks
That He must do. That’s His concern, and that’s
His crucifixion.

                            My cat only asks
Me,a power which could swiftly stomp her dead,
With faith that I won’t…..so I feed the damn thing
Hoping God doesn’t feel, when I’m the mewer fed,
How I hate that cat. “I’ll work on loving
Later”, I say, but feel my heart stirring,
And when I look down on my cat, she’s purring.

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(Photo credit: http://fgacc.com/2014/02/18/send-in-your-pictures/3525859742_bd86e015c22/ )

LOCAL VIEW —A day to skip planting—

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It was 65 yesterday morning, but only 44 this morning, with a raw east wind and drizzle. It is a day where even sixty miles inland you feel like you are on the  cold water on the coast of Maine.  The “back door cold front” that clobbered us will, like the one last week, push all the way down to Washington DC, and only slowly back off.  It is a glorified sea breeze bolstered by the chill imparted to the off shore waters by a nasty winter.  (Here is a Dr. Ryan Maue  map I lifted from Joseph D’Aleo’s blog at the WeatherBELL “Premium Site,” which costs me the price of a cup of coffee each day, and is well worth it, as long as I still get my coffee. [They offer a one week free trial.] )

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(You can click the above map to get a larger, clearer view which can be further enlarged with another click.)

To our north, Hudson Bay is still frozen, and to  are west the Great Lakes are very cold. How would you like to be a life guard at this beach on the shores of Lake Superior?

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All these factors create a slow spring here in New Hampshire, and a situation where only a fool would have a vegetable garden.  I am such a fool, and this post will describe my woe and misery.  I’ll add updates to the bottom of this post, until it gets too long.

MAY 29   —FROST!!!—

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It is practically June, but there it was, on the grass by the garden, white and glistening in the early , slanting sunbeams,: Frost.  Now I smile, remembering the more laid-back old-timers, who said it was never worth the trouble of planting before Memorial Day, which in the old days was always on May 31.  They’d been-there-and-done-that, and seen all the hurry and worry of early planting cut down by a late frost.  Their attitude seemed to be, “Why bother?”

I likely lost a few flats I haven’t planted yet, but I’m so far behind with my planting that there’s nothing tender to lose.  I’d be a lot more upset if I had my tomatoes planted.  (I would have risked planting some early, but my goats ate those flats before I had a chance.)

The sun rose so early and was so brilliant that the wet telephone poles were smoking with steam soon after the sun crested the hills. It’s a glorious day, but cool.

THE MISSING BARN-CAT

Today was like a different planet.  Yesterday it never got much above 45, (7 Celsius,) with drifting drizzle off the cold Gulf of Maine, and when the wind gusted the wind chills were in the high thirties (3 Celsius.) The whole world was grey, but today the sky was cloudless blue, with May’s green leaves vivid and lush, after the watering they got.

What grows best is the grass, which is fine for the goats but lousy for me, for I’ve got to cut it. However, before I suffered the deafening growl of my archaic rider-mower, I just stood in the windless quiet amazed by the sheer beauty.

Our old barn cat vanished during the winter, so I’m expecting an invasion of voles in my garden, and mice in the barn.  (We already have an amazingly brazen chipmunk stealing the goat’s grain.) So I expect I’ll miss the cat, dubbed “Gnarly.”  But not much. He had a nasty habit of arching up to people purring, pressing against their leg, and then, when they reached down to pat him, affectionately biting right down to the bone. I’d only pat him wearing work gloves, and even then he could draw blood. He was not popular among the customers at my Childcare, and “Don’t pat Gnarly” was a strictly enforced rule with the kids. Of course modern children are not well-disciplined, and tend to sneer at the rules of grown-ups. Gnarly, (and also our rooster,) taught the young whippersnappers to listen to me.

Most outdoor-cats around here vanish because they are eaten.  Coyotes and Fisher-cats like a meal of cat, and a Great Horned Owl will swoop down to dine at night. However I doubt that was Gnarly’s fate. He was smart, and also very tough. I once watched him deal with a fox out in the pasture.  It was winter and the fox was hungry, and bigger than Gnarly, and stalking him, but Gnarly was faster when he needed to be, and then would slow down and become casual, looking over his shoulder in a way I swear was taunting, for the fox would look offended and try a different approach, and again be evaded.  After each evasion Gnarly would saunter in a most careless, casual and unhurried manner, home to my barn.

If he could outfox a fox I doubt it was a wild animal that robbed him from my barn. I fear that, rather than a wild animal, it was a tame human, and the hint was due to a change in Gnarly’s dreadlocks.

Gnarly was a long-haired orange cat, and was bred to grace some rich woman’s Persian living-room, and never sneak through briers and burrs, but fate gave him to a daughter’s wild boyfriend, and when they went their separate ways somehow Gnarly got left behind, and rather than fluffy fur had dreadlocks. I’d snip the biggest clumps off, (wearing thick canvas gloves,) from time to time, however such grooming only made the cat look worse: Dreadlocks with bald patches. However looks don’t matter to a barn Tomcat, as long as he catches mice. Therefore it was very noticeable when Gnarly returned from one of his three-day courtship journeys looking remarkably groomed.

This new, smooth, tidy, sleek Gnarly visited the barn less and less often, and I could hardly blame him. Why live in a barn when you can live in a Persian living-room? (Even if it is the living-room of a cat-thief.) And last winter was a cold one.  It is little wonder he stopped coming back altogether, though I couldn’t help but feel a bit hurt and rejected, and also that Gnarly turned out to be more of a sissy than I ever dreamed he could be. You’d think a Tomcat would value independence more. I half-expected him to return, once the weather warmed.

He didn’t, nor have the mice, voles, and occasional rat he chowed down on, (so far.) But this morning, as I stood amidst the stunning beauty of blue sky, golden sunshine, and rain-washed May greenery, I suddenly noticed what had returned to our barn.

Barn swallows. What a beautiful bird they are! Few birds fly so adroitly, with such swift swoopings and swerves, with the blue sky shining off their black-blue backs.

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However not even a barn swallow’s back catches the blue of the sky like the back of a bluebird. They were nearly extinct, after a terrible ice-storm in my boyhood, but have made a comeback and we’ve had a few of them around recently, but always far from the barn, and never sitting on near fence posts. Because they were so rare for so long, I can never see one alight near without becoming Norse and feeling it is a good omen.

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Not only that, but a common American Robin hopped across the lawn, cocking its head, listening for worms. They’d never dare that, with Gnarly in the barn. Then an enormous Oh-My-Gosh-Bird (Pileated Woodpecker) swooped down to slam rippingly at the stump of the maple ruined by Hurricane Irene.

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Also a song sparrow, which had sung from the very top of the backyard balsam fir, now sung from a low bough. In fact there seemed to be birds all over the place. A tiny chipping sparrow flitted about the manure pile, and there were titmice and chickadees, goldfinches and warblers, and all seemed to be singing at the top of their lungs, rejoicing that the cruel east wind and drizzle had given away to sunshine and a dead calm.

Softened by the rapture induced by all this beauty, I murmured, “Screw you, Gnarly. Who the heck needs you? You can sit in your Persian living-room and rot, for all I care.”

Of course, I won’t be saying that once the rodents start to proliferate. The bird my barn needs most is a rodent-eating barn owl. Unfortunately such owls are few and far between, because they eat mice and rats that come staggering from barns and out into the open dieing, poisoned by rat poison.  Rat poison kills more owls than even Gnarly could.

Farmers face choices, and given the choice between rat poison and a Tomcat that bites, I’d chose neither, and go for more heart-faced barn owls.

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MAY 30  —The Cold returns—

Not bad in the morning, with temperatures up near seventy, but then a cold front drifted south with a few brief smatterings of rain;  big drops but not all that heavy. Temperatures drifted back down through the sixties. During our entire brief warm-up the clouds never stopped floating down from the north.

Besides the ordinary Childcare duties I got some mowing done and planted nine tomato plants. I’ll never get that garden planted, it seems.

MAY 31  —More ocean air—

LV May 31 satsfc (3) (Click to enlarge)

That rogue storm out to sea is creating a northeast wind, so again we have a grey morning with temperatures in the fifties.  However when the sun peeks through the purple it is instantly warmer. It looks like the high up in Labrador is going to press south and give us more sunshine.  I think it’s a pretty sorry state of affairs when your warm weather comes from Labrador.

Can’t plant first thing, as my granddaughter has a gymnastics event. But I’ll get a lot done later.

JUNE 1  —Finally planting—

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Although the high cresting over us has arctic origins up in Labrador, it can’t defeat a June sun. Now that the onshore wind has died temperatures are leaping upwards. When the winds turn south tomorrow it may actually get hot.. Therefore I have no reason to avoid planting, right?  Wrong. It’ is Sunday, and I’m “Deacon On Duty” at Church.

(If the food I grow meant the difference between children living or starving, I’d skip church.)

However I did get a lot done yesterday, even without planting seeds.

I spent $800.00 on a new rototiller, which is in some ways ludicrous as the garden isn’t likely to produce $800.00 worth of food. However, because the Childcare I run is all about teaching children about farming, it is a tax-deductible expense.

I used to rent a monster for $70.00 a day, and had to work like crazy to get all the work done in a single day. The machine was a brute, a sort of merciless beast that just about ripped your arms from their sockets each time you hit a big stone, and the soil in New England is full of big stones.  It doesn’t matter how long you work to remove them; the frost heaves up a new crop every spring, which is why New England has such lovely stone walls. Stones may be our best crop.

My new tiller is smaller, digs deeper, and when it hits a big stone it politely shuts down. You remove the stone, and then the machine politely is easy to restart.  (I’m not used to equipment that is easy to start.)  However what is best is that I don’t have to hurry to be done in a day, to avoid a late fee.  In fact I can actually dawdle.

At age sixty-one, I find dawdling is more like a necessity than a vice. I need to pace myself. However I also need to avoid being like King Theoden, (in Tolkien’s masterpiece,) when he was under the spell of Wormtongue (who was under the spell of Saruman who was under the the spell of Sauren).  Wormtongue was always saying things like, “Oh don’t strain yourself, most venerable one.”  Bah!  I may need to pace myself, but that doesn’t mean I need to cower.

When I was young I could underbid other landscapers by skipping the expense of a rototiller. All I needed was a stout spading fork, (American-made, not one of those cheap forks with tines that bend at the first root). Spading by hand was tiring, but like long distance running: I’d “hit the wall,” but then get a second wind, and then a third and fourth and fifth wind. Furthermore I could do all sorts of things rototillers can’t, stooping to toss aside roots and stones and weeds, so that the garden’s soil was much cleaner when I was done tilling. I’d do an entire garden in a day, perhaps taking longer than a guy with a rototiller, but doing a better job and doing it a little more cheaply.

The next morning would find me stiff and sore, but I’d just think the stiffness and soreness was a sign I was “getting in shape.”

As you get older you get out of shape more swiftly even as it takes longer to get back in shape. However stiffness and soreness is often the same, as sign you are “getting in shape.”  Yet a Wormtongue in the back of the brain does not tell you, “You are getting in shape.”  Instead it says, “You are getting to old for this nonsense.”

In any case, I’m stiff and sore this morning, but glad I got some tilling done yesterday.  I also got some more seedlings in yesterday, including a number that were topped by hungry goats, and may not even survive. Lastly, before I tilled, I dug up a whole bunch of volunteer Sunflower seedlings and transplanted them around the periphery of the Childcare playground, which hopefully will delight my wife in August, when the grounds are surrounded by the flower’s happy faces.  Not bad, for a day I “didn’t plant.any seeds.”

After church today I’ll meet with the young fellow who is helping me become more up-to-date, in terms of my computer, which may lead to a new post in the “Poet’s Plan” series.

After that I’ll plant some corn.  However, as this particular post is about “not planting seeds,” I suppose this post is over.  The continuation of this series can be found at: https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2014/06/02/local-view-planting-corn/