LOCAL VIEW –In Awe Of Thaw–(updated)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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But the kids appreciated setting a “world record.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

*******

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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LOCAL VIEW –Boston Bozo’s Bitter Backlash–With Monday Conclusion–

It looks like we are in for some real winter. This morning the thermometer read -3º F (-19ºC) on the sunny side of the house, and the wind in my face just plain hurt. Only my sense of humor calls this weather “a bit brisk”. It is dangerous.

Not that you can’t adapt to it, and take proper precautions, but amazingly few dress correctly. They attempt to dash from heated cars to heated buildings without spoiling their fashionable demeanor with all the woolen stuff that can make a slender woman look like she weighs 200 pounds, and messes up her hair, and makes metrosexual males look like the Pillsbury dough-boy with very skinny ankles. So, instead, they attempt to make it from their parked car to the door dressed like it is April, and practically perish in the wind. Bozos!

Fashionable demeanor? They wind up looking like crippled cats with their tails ablaze, as they painfully limp in super-fast-motion through powder snow above their shoe tops, with wind whistling through skimpy clothing. (It’s called “a lazy wind”, because it can’t be bothered go around you, and short-cuts right through you.)  Bad hair day? If the wind and static electricity doesn’t frizzle, the simple fact heating bone dry air seventy degrees creates indoors humidity around 5% can make the the most starched hairdo look like a mad scientist’s. This sort of cold takes dignity and grinds it under a cruel heel.

I suppose this idiotic behavior proves the Global Warming Alarmists were quite correct when they prophesied, “In the future people will not know what winter is like.” They were not false prophets. They just failed to mention they were not talking about the weather, but rather about the dumbing-down of the public to a point they don’t even know how to dress correctly when it is bitterly cold.

Forgive me if my tone is sardonic. You need to understand I have been taking a drubbing for over ten years, for simply stating the obvious, which is that Global Warming is not a crisis, but a weather cycle that lasts around sixty years, superimposed over a solar cycle that seems to last around 200 years. I have been called things that you wouldn’t believe for being a Skeptic, and have even been told I should be locked up. This does tend to make a man bitter. So does a wind chill of -25ºF.

I looked in the mirror when I came indoors this morning, and looked as bitter as the central character in this Boston Globe cartoon dated 1917.

My sister sent me the cartoon, after it was printed in the current Boston Globe. This actually surprised me. The Globe is infamous for printing only the news that supports the concept of CO2-caused Global Warming, and for utterly ignoring the evidence of the past, which tends to suggest “the only new thing in the world is the history you haven’t studied.” For them to allow even a suggestion we have seen the current weather in the past is highly unusual. They actually have deleted such suggestions from their various websites, in the past.

I wonder. Can the times, they be a-changing?

I wonder. Under a former president, (who I will not honor by naming), vast amounts of money our government does not have was printed, and handed out to any who would further the idea Global Warming was real. Science was degraded, reduced to absurdity. But now President Trump is horrifying people by turning off that faucet of funding. The Globe has written with great zeal how propaganda science cannot survive without billions of dollars being spent. Yet even the Globe must understand that, without funding, certain news is less profitable to be associated with. Not that they will ever admit such news was “very fake news”. But perhaps, slowly but surely, and by small increments, they are changing their “slant” and “spin” to a degree where they can allow evidence from the past to ink their pages.

I wonder. Is it too late? The dumbing-down of the public has been going on at least since Hansen testified before congress in 1986, if not longer. An entire generation of school-children has been brought up to blithely believe Global Warming is a fact. But the current blast of cold isn’t ancient history. It isn’t happening in 1917. It does no good for me to point out the real facts, the real history, the real temperature records from before Hansen wasted such unbelievable amounts of tax-payer money “adjusting” the actual temperatures recorded by actual people. The past doesn’t matter. What matters is the killing blasts coming south. Are we prepared to handle them?

One funny thing is that the only happy people in the above cartoon from 1917 are the plumbers. I met such a plumber yesterday, just inside the front door of my church, down on his knees. He wasn’t praying. He was attempting to thaw the pipes of a radiator. I asked him if he was busy, and he replied “Not yet.” He went on to say our heat was set too low, as are other households, and he expected that, as the arctic outbreak grew worse, he’d be working non-stop.

Sad. People turn down the heat to save money. But plumbers are not cheap.

My main hope is a “pattern flip”.  Old-timers call this a “January Thaw.” Our winter temperatures tend to bottom-out around January 19, but if you scrutinize the local temperature-graph one sees the bottoming-out isn’t a smooth curve. It is a bit like a roller coaster at the bottom of the yearly curve. Despite the fact 125-years of records tends to average-out yearly spikes, there is slight evidence (more obvious at some sites than others) of a slight January Thaw around January 11 and a greater one around January 22. However there is a lot of variability. Some years the thaws are brief and slight. A true “pattern flip” sees a cruel winter give way to a delightfully prolonged thaw. But…there is the worst case scenario to remember, when the thaw is skipped, and the winter just goes on and on and on until you are ready to scream.

I am old enough to remember the winters of the late 1970’s. (1976-1977 started earlier than this one, and went without a lasting thaw until late February). (1978-1979 started late, but amazed even the lobster-men of Maine by breaking some of their weather-rules, and freezing up harbors later than they had ever seen.) At that time the media exclaimed about Global Cooling and A New Ice Age.

I hope we don’t see that. I’m hoping for a “pattern flip”. That will give us enough cold to wake metrosexuals up, like a shot-across-the-bow, without really hurting them.

As it is, it looks bad for two to three weeks. An amazing reservoir of cold air was nudged south from the Arctic Sea and is now heading our way. A second reservoir of very cold air was bumped from Eastern Siberia up over the Pole, and via “cross-polar-flow” will likely follow the first arctic outbreak. After that? Hopefully the pattern will flip, and winds will stream up from the southwest.

For those of you who like maps, here is our current map:

The front down in the Gulf of Mexico and crossing Florida was the first arctic blast, which I suppose some will now call a “polar” front. The “arctic” front, holding a reinforcing shot of colder air, extends from south of us to a low over the Great Lakes called an “Alberta Clipper.” Waxing poetic, (all meteorologists are secretly poets), Joe Bastardi explained, “The emperor of the north likes to lay down a white carpet to announce his arrival, and that is what the clipper shall do.”

I won’t mind a clipper, for that tends to be the sort of snow you can broom away.

What I am more nervous about is the gap between the coming arctic out break and the following one. East coast blizzards can occur in such gaps. (Next Thursday).

We are actually fortunate because the worst cold is coming south to the west of the Great Lakes, and then turning east. It must cross the Great Lakes before getting to us, and those waters are still in the process of freezing. Until they freeze, they warm all air passing over, (and this causes enormous “lake-effect” snows to our west). By the time the cold gets to us it is only -6ºF rather than -30ºF.

If you are interested, here is our local forecast: (Temperatures in Fahrenheit). (Notice warming and snow next Thursday, followed by arctic blast. Storm?)

This will be rough, in terms of heating bills. The poor will get poorer. Some elderly will die in cold houses, and some homeless will freeze on the streets. Those who got rich promoting solar power will not care,  although those who thought they could retire to Florida may face face frost and snow, even there.

In terms of running my Childcare, we will venture out on hikes, but they will be short ones. If it is windless we will build a bright fire and let children play on the farm-pond’s thick ice. But even a slight wind can be very cruel, and I am not such a zealot about the outdoors that I risk frostbite. Legos are an acceptable alternative. Here is the work done by a boy aged four, today:

 It just goes to show you cold can’t stop the children.

(I’ll update this post with end-of-month statistics of what our temperatures actually were. They tend to be lower than forecast.)

Friday Update

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Clouded up before dawn and the temperature rose to -3° F, from a local low of -9°F (-23°C) around three AM. The sun was a brief glow to the east before settling to a light gray smear in the southern sky during the short, gray day. The temperature peaked at around 6°F, (-14°C) with the lightest dust of snow sifting in a light wind. I took a couple of boys out to whack a puck around the pond in the afternoon, not bothering with skates, for by the time they had them on my hands would have been frozen, and they’d want them off. We lasted 20 minutes.

It is interesting how much the forecast for next Thursday has changed.

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That is a shift twelve degrees downwards in 14 hours, and demonstrates the long-term reliability of models.

Here is the evening map. They did not bother draw in any fronts for the weak impulse that passed over and now is south of Nova Scotia. I call such subtle features “ghost fronts” because they persist although invisible. Don’t be surprised to see it reappear north of Nova Scotia tomorrow.  It is a piece of energy tippling along what theoretically is the warm front of the Alberta Clipper bogged down and occluded over the Great Lakes. (The “warm” water of the lakes is creating rising air, causing that stalled feature to persist, rather than fade away.)

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SATURDAY MORNING UPDATE

5:30 AM: Down to -7°F last night, but now up to -4°F as high clouds stream in from the west. Check morning map:

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Sure enough, the “ghost front” feature has reappeared north of Nova Scotia. I call these lows “zippers”. They ripple along a warm front when the main low has occluded, and are more obvious in Europe, when a big Atlantic gale stalls and occludes. Our occluded low is a weakling Alberta Clipper malingering over the Great Lake’s updrafts. A new Alberta Clipper is sliding east to its southwest, bringing us high clouds. The snow will likely stay south of us. Behind it is nasty cold. I wouldn’t like to be at the Patriot’s game this Sunday.

Sometimes these surges of cold from the north bring about an equal-but-opposite surge from the south, but the warmth is still milling about in the Gulf of Mexico, and as of now shows no sign of charging north as a storm.

The equal-and-opposite reaction that you can safely predict with a high degree of certainty is the reaction of Alarmists to the bitter cold:

Record Breaking Winter Cold? Don’t Worry, the Climate Explainers Have it Covered

Hansen, who formerly predicted that Manhattan would be awash under rising seas by now, is now predicting the warming he predicted will be hidden by brief mini-ice ages.

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These fellows seem to just make things up as they go. However, judging from the over-500 largely-sarcastic comments to the WUWT post, people are not buying it any more.

Boston Bozo 7 mckee-cartoon-warmer-colder-winters9:00 AM — Up to 3°F (-16°C) under gray skies. Heat Wave!

The forecast for next Thursday has switched back to snow, with a high of 21°F and low of -6°F. The model my phone is hooked up with (GFS?) must be struggling with a storm it sees going out to sea one run, and coming up the coast the next.

Why Worry? That’s not happening until sometime next year. Today I just need to deal with the gray.

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SUNDAY UPDATE

I thought we might get through a night with temperatures above zero when I awoke at three last night and temperatures were holding at 1°F, but by dawn we had dipped to -3°F, and we have now been below zero five straight nights. Last winter I think we only managed three nights the entire (kind) winter.

Yesterday (Friday) we managed to inch up into double digits, 11°F, but today we only managed 8°F. The occlusion that lay back over the great lakes was swung south by the flow from the north, becoming a ghost cold-front with a ghost-low and even a ghost warm-sector on it. (Not much of a warm-sector, but we’ll take any slight warming we can get, at this point.) One interesting thing about the ghost low is that it in part seems to be a Pacific impulse. If you look back to the start of the post you’ll notice a low crashing into the Pacific northwest. It then undergoes what I call “morphistication” as it transits the heights of the Rocky Mountains. One part of it attempts to reorganize east of the mountains, but higher up in the atmosphere some sort of reflection proceeds merrily across the continent as if the Rocky Mountains didn’t exist. As the Alberta Clipper moves off the coast (after giving us a quarter inch of dusty snow) the ghost low approaches Lake Superior last night:

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By this morning the ghost-cold-front (dashed orange line) is settling south to the east, but lifted slightly to the west as the ghost-low moves south of the Great Lakes. (The arctic front is way down to the Gulf of Mexico, and the lower part of the Pacific storm is still entangled in the western mountains.)

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By mid morning someone bothered put a small “L” on the map for the ghost-low.

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This evening the ghost is passing south of us, with little more than high clouds effecting us (this time; another time it might lead to surprises.) The old Alberta Clippers are brewing up towards Labrador, and a sneaky front is wheeling around over its top. Sometimes blobs of Atlantic air get injected into the arctic flow and we get odd, un-forecast flurries coming down from the north. However I think nervous eyes are more likely looking down at the lows rippling along the arctic front in the Gulf of Mexico, or at the lows malingering out in the Rocky Mountains. Me? I’n just hunkering down to endure the next arctic blast, which was held up slightly by the ghost impulse, but now has a free pass to come south.

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A quick glance at my cell phone sees the snow is back for next Thursday, for the moment. I suppose the low out by the Rocky Mountains will combine with some Gulf moisture and try to come north, but be shunted out to sea, but not far enough to allow us to escape the northern, snowy edge. And as it bombs-out in the Atlantic the winds behind it will make us even colder than we already are. Two days with zero (-17°C) for a high temperature! (Let’s hope the models are wrong.)

Boston Bozo 10 FullSizeRender This current blast of cold has our local rivers, which are rushing streams people like to kayak on to test themselves, more frozen than we usually see in the very depth of a cold winter, and we’ve barely begun.

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Happy New Year!

MONDAY CONCLUSION

Down to -10°F last night (-23°C), which is the coldest we’ve seen so far. I celebrated a Greenland New Year’s last night (IE I went to bed at nine.) Therefore I could arise early and see the late dawn’s light the frosty windows.

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I promised I’d include some statistics, so here is the Concord, NH weather data. Concord is north of us, up the Merrimac River,  and because its is down in a valley it can be warmer than us on bright sunny days, and colder than us on still, cold nights, but usually it’s temperatures are close to what ours are.

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It’s interesting to look back to December 6, when temperatures touched 53°F (12°C) and December was averaging +4.3 of normal, and the ponds were barely skimmed with ice. Now the month concludes -4.6 of normal, and the ice on ponds is a foot thick. What the heck happened?

One thing that happened is that the winds turned north and stubbornly stayed from the north. Our “warm-ups” involve moderated Chinook air that had crossed an entire continent, and winds just north of west. We haven’t had all that much snow, but it sits and refuses to melt. The last five days of the month have averaged over 20 degrees below normal. That will dent your wallet, when you pay for heat.

Snow is still in the cards for next Thursday, (bitter cold powder, not the sticky stuff children like), followed by another arctic blast, and the long range is now hinting at another storm at the start of next week, followed by another arctic blast.

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The map shows the remarkable magnitude of this arctic blast, with the cold front nearly across the Gulf of Mexico to the Yucatan.  (Also rising air over the “warm” Great Lakes continuing to fuel a weak low all their own.)

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It looks to me like the cold will not hurry to relent. Up at the Pole the flow continues from Siberia to Canada, refueling the source of cold air. However over at the Weatherbell site Thomas E Downs, V posted a very cool analysis of the bitter winter of 1917-1918, (week free trial available). The cold may have caused people back then to stay indoors in close contact, and contributed to the spread and mutation of the so-called “Spanish ‘Flu”, as troops were mobilized and sent overseas. The  pandemic reduced the world population by roughly 5%. Not the nicest winter, or spring. (My Grandfather nearly died of the ‘flu in France.) But one thing Thomas Downs points out is though the cold remained brutal right through January, the pattern-flip in February must have felt like heaven to people in the northeast USA. (Last 10 days of January to right; Mid-February to left.)

 

It also is likely that those who do best in harsh winters are those who avoid skulking indoors, and instead embrace the discomfort, and go out to take pictures, to show to their grandchildren. I’m glad people took pictures in 1918.

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I’m going to post some pictures of our frozen streams and rivers. Stay tuned.

LOCAL VIEW –Empire’s Refuse–

If you are going to rule an empire you had better be prepared to orphan your children. You are simply going to be too busy at work, too busy traveling, too busy burning the midnight oil. For others is the quaint life of a villager, the wholesome connections of family and community, this thing called “roots”. You are different. You are “going places”, and that snips your roots.

This phenomenon is well known by those who have parents who had careers in the military. Friendships were brief, due to constant transfers.  Even if the parent “got out” of the military after “only” twenty years, there was a sort of scar that came along with the pension. However this is the status quo; one does not join the military without knowing sacrifice is involved. True, some only are aware of physical scars from the battlefield, and are naive about the scars of homelessness, at first, but soon they get the advice of those who have had to endure the homelessness longer, and accept the loss as a price they pay for the security of a pension.

In like manner those who sign up to work for a business corporation accept lives where “promotion” often means a new home in a new city. People accept the fact sacrifice is involved to “get ahead”. It goes with the territory. However sometimes a small voice asks them, “Are your own children worth sacrificing?” Sometimes the small voice is not their conscience, but the child itself.

I have noticed this often, reading the biographies of people who dared to be great. In the lives of famous leaders and Hollywood stars and billionaires is the sad refuse of disgruntled offspring. Churchill had a daughter who committed suicide. To be great and a hero is not without a price that can cut to the core of your heart.

Personally, if I have a shred of greatness, it is because I have chosen the opposite. Likely it is because my father was a great surgeon, and was busy at the hospital, and I missed him terribly. Therefore, when faced with a choice of making big money by ditching my family to work in Kuwait, or making peanuts by working in my quaint village, I chose to stay home.  I chose “the wholesome connections of family and community, this thing called ‘roots’ “.

I think it was the right choice, but it had a humorous outcome. I now run a Childcare that promotes the values of an old-fashioned farm, where both the mother and father worked at home. But my customers are young couples who have no “roots”. Believe it or not, some young mothers don’t even entertain the possibility of a mother staying at home with their children. When my wife asks a young mother, weeping about leaving her child with strangers (even though we are nice strangers), “Did you ever consider staying home?” the young mothers look astounded. They never even considered it.

The humor lies in the fact we sometimes try to talk our customers out of buying our services. We ask them to simply add up the costs of Childcare, a second car, insurance for that car, gasoline for that car, clothes for a job, and compare that cost to the money made. Is the working wife worth the sacrifice involved?

Often, even though financial loss is involved, it is “worth it” in terms of the mental health of the mother. To  stay at home would involve being ditched all day by her husband, who would have all the rewards of the workplace society, and then to have him come home wanting to sag in an armchair and stay home, when she has been in solitary confinement with a rugrat all day, and simply wants escape. Such living is not conducive to a happy marriage.

In any case, the result is that I get small children plunked in my arms, as the mother beats a hasty retreat. And one thing then becomes quite clear. The little child resents the change. I can coo and soothe all I want, the little one basically tells me to go get stuffed. Their eyes regard me with all the affection of a spitting cat.

In some ways it hurts my feelings. After all, I’m not a bad guy. I am adept at cheering up such miserable children. Eventually they are seduced by my sheer kindness into accepting me as a sort of foster parent. On somewhat embarrassing occasions they refer to me as “Dad”, or, on a few even more embarrassing occasions, “Mom.” Then the Mom or Dad show signs of jealousy, when they arrive to pick up their child after sacrificing more than eight hours away, and see the little one walking hand in hand with me, and giving me a big hug before departing. And this makes me feel guilty. What is worst is that many children save up some particular despair for their Dad, or especially their Mom, and after eight hours happy and healthy, dump a complete melt-down onto their parent, rather than acting glad to see them.

Obviously the situation is unnatural, and is due to people sacrificing their children for something they see as “greatness”. Oddly, it is not famous leaders and Hollywood stars involved, but ordinary folk. How far our world has fallen!

This brings me back to when Britain had a great empire. Believe it or not, it was in my own lifetime, and I got to see a hint of its glory. One aspect of its glory involved what they called a “Public School” (and the USA calls a “Private School”.) Busy parents, often far away in “the colonies” (India or Singapore, Africa or the Caribbean) had their children brought up by surrogates, just the same way I bring up other people’s children as a surrogate. The children tended to be older, but the teachers  faced the same wrath I face.

In my own case the situation arose when I was a senior in highschool, at the young age of sixteen,  and my stepfather, who taught at Harvard, was well aware of the influence Timothy Leary and LSD was having on local youth. He was worried about what a burned-out hippy I was heading towards becoming, and (I think) decided I might be better off away from college, than I’d be going to college. He suggested a “post-graduate” year might be helpful to me, as I was so young. He asked me, showing me this picture, “Would you like to spend a post-graduate year at this school in Scotland?”

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I likely spoke some hip gibberish like, “Far out! Dynamite and out of sight! That place looks groovy, man.” I also likely breathed a big sigh of relief, because I found the entire business of “applying to college” was “a hassle, man. A real bummer.”

I had no idea what I was in for. The school had no interest in “spontaneous improvisation” or in “being mellow”.  They believed in this horrid thing called “discipline”.

The above photograph is from the summer, when the days were twenty hours long,  In December the days were around six hours long . I could not hitchhike home, because the Atlantic Ocean was in the way. There was no place to buy drugs, and I went through a withdrawal without even knowing why I was acting so weird.

The experience likely saved my life. I’d like to write about it, but one thing always stops me. It is this: In order to write about what I went through I’d have to describe a terrible ingratitude.  I, and many of the other boys, saw the teachers (who I hated to call “masters”, though they demanded it), as the “bad guys”. In actual fact they saved my life, but in order to accurately describe how they did so would involve portraying them in an unflattering manner. They were the “conservatives”, and we boys were the “counter-culture”.

I had a friend at that school who (oddly, it seemed to me), was far more appreciative of the clammy castle we found ourselves plunked into. He was from a military family, and was far more used to being transferred hither and yon, in a state of perpetual homelessness. The castle was just one more place, and he appreciated how unique it was, compared to other places.

I was quite different. I knew what “the wholesome connections of family and community, this thing called ‘roots’ ” was, and was angry at my parents for ruining it with divorce, and especially angry at my stepfather for uprooting me and plunking me in a remote castle in the far northeast of Scotland, tricking me by never explaining the discipline such a school involved. It was like I thought I was going on a picnic and discovered I’d joined the Marines.  A lot of the other boys at the school were equally indignant about being uprooted, and equally irreverent towards authority figures. Therefore I cannot tell the tale of Dunrobin School, in Thurso, Scotland, without sounding ungrateful towards the very men who saved my life.

The tale simply has to involve all the ways we boys found to break the rules, and the scorn we had towards the rules. Meanwhile these same rules turned me from a burned out speed-freak of seventeen, weighing 148 pounds, to a hale youth of eighteen weighing 182 pounds. I went from a know-it-all who knew little and thought “Shakespeare is for sissies and snobs” to a youth with a thirst for great writing who passed his English “A-level” in only two terms, and passed his Economics “A-level” as well. It is incredible how much they improved the raw youth they were given, but I didn’t have a clue they were doing what they were doing, and saw them as “oppressive”.

Now, as an old man looking back, I feel ashamed. Perhaps it is because I now know, through running my Childcare, how utterly exhausting it can be to be soundly cursed by youth for treating them well. Recently, when the fire department visited our Childcare to educate little ones about how to behave if ever faced with the reality of a fire, one little chap found the subject utterly horrifying, and wailed on and on, and utterly exhausted me. Someone took a picture that is a little embarrassing, for it shows me understanding that caring for the young isn’t all peaches and cream, and can exhaust you.

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Though the teachers at Dunrobin were younger than I now am, I think at times I must have exhausted them as much. It’s especially embarrassing because I was not two years old. I was seventeen, and should have known better. I didn’t. I treated them like crap, just as the two year old treated me like crap, without the respect I deserve. (Perhaps, as they say, “What goes around comes around.”) Also I could outrun my teachers. A two year old can’t outrun me. I could occasionally even out-think teachers. (So can a two year old.)

This is not to say the indignation of the two year old is not justified. Why is he being exposed to the brutal reality of burning homes, when he could be at home with his mother in a house where the fire stayed in its proper place, on the hearth?

In like manner, my indignation, as a seventeen year old, likely had its justifications. However grim reality steps in, and places parents into circumstances where the best they can do is hand their own flesh and blood off to complete strangers. My stepfather actually made a wise choice, handing me off to Dunrobin. It saved my life, (though I will confess I have never been so close to committing suicide).  (I’ll tell that tale in chapter ten.)

In any case, among the boys at Dunrobin, few appreciated how lucky they were. If I am to tell the tale truthfully I must be honest about the resentment. There is a very beautiful irreverence the boys had towards limitations placed upon their freedom, and the ways they found around discipline are hilarious and brimming with joy. In a sense they restore your faith in the ability of joy to overcome a Gestapo.

However to call the very teachers who saved my life a “Gestapo” is the height of ingratitude.

That is why it is so difficult to write the story of Dunrobin. It has been something I planned to do for years, but I keep putting it off.

I suppose, as a lover of freedom, it is hard to admit freedom isn’t free,  discipline is necessary, a river without banks goes nowhere and becomes a swamp. But perhaps I’ve thought long and hard enough about the subject to be able to describe both the joyous student’s disrespect for discipline, and the less joyous insistence upon discipline, on the part of the teachers.

I just want it clear how good discipline was for me, though I loathed it. I want the few remaining teachers left alive to know I still love freedom, but am grateful for their discipline.

Hopefully this post will be continued, with tales from my youth. I will end this “introduction” with the simple fact Dunrobin looked a lot different from the picture my stepfather had shown me, when I saw it first hand, as I walked down to the front door, from the train station, back in September, 1970.

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LOCAL VIEW –Winter’s Wolves and a Slinking Mink–

How futile was my dreading. Winter comes
Like clockwork: Shorter days and longer nights,
Neatly ledgered by almanacs.
                                                                Volumes
Of prayers can’t prolong summer: Fall blights
And the north winds preaches, as it bites,
Of a snow-covered wolf pack slinking nearer
Until the bad manners burst. (Impolite’s
Uttering, with a mouth full of flakes.)
                                                                              Mirror
Lakes of new ice are dusted white by gusts
Of arctic malice, as winter wolves howl,
But life goes on.
                                 I abstain from my lusts
For summer-breasted days like a spooked owl,
For, though driving in snow’s straight from hell’s pit,
The unlicensed children aren’t bothered a bit.

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We got four inches Saturday night and four more today (Tuesday). No big deal, except it made a lot of work for me. I like work, when it is writing, and all other forms of work…well…I try to keep them at a minimum.

Running a Childcare involves keeping a parking lot clear of snow, (and clearing the walls of snow the town plows heap into the lot’s entrance and exit). Four inches is usually no big deal, as I have a snow-blower with a thirty-inch mouth, and I bothered to make sure it was running well, before the first storm hit. Usually, especially when the snow is a fluff of powder like the first storm’s was, I can jog behind the contraption with it set in sixth gear. And that is how things started out. But then the contraption spoke a word slowly in a deepening voice, and word was “Below.” After that it refused to run, despite all my mechanical knowledge (which you could fit in a thimble.) I then made a phone call to a local small-engine-repair genius, only to discover he was out of business (thanks to a former president I will not glorify with a name.)

This meant I had to resort to a primitive implement called a “snow shovel.”  Don’t laugh. I know most modern and civilized citizens think such objects are merely a matter of lore, but in my youth I was highly skilled at using them. At age 64 I have discovered knowing is not the same as doing. I get on fairly well, performing the ancient art of shoveling, for a rather short period of time, before I discover shovels are downright comfortable things to lean against, and clouds and stars are well worth observing.

I’d likely have the job done by April, but fortunately a couple of young whippersnappers were around (my youngest son and my son-in-law) and they were in the mood to humiliate elders they ought to honor. For every square foot I cleared in my pottering manner they cleared ten, a bit like tornadoes. In any case, the job was done with surprising speed, and I likely deserve carbon-credits and praise from believers in Global Warming for not utilizing fossil fuel….but don’t hold your breath….because they say I count as a fossil.

And that is just the snow-created work involved in my Childcare’s  parking lot. At my Childcare itself there is also a major change in how you deal with the active minds of children, once snow falls. (Some call this “curriculum”, which seems a bit absurd, when you are talking about four-year-olds.) They had great fun raking leaves and jumping in leaf piles, but the first snow means you have to put away the rakes and take out the sleds. But this means I have to remember where the heck I stuffed the sleds, in the barn, last April.

Lastly there is something called “rescheduling” that snow causes. School gets cancelled, for piddling amounts of snow, but parents still have to work, especially during the “Christmas rush”. Therefore all the parents of school-aged children, who ordinarily are only at my Childcare until the school-bus comes in the morning, and after the bus drops them off in the afternoon, become parents who beg and plead that we allow them to work, by watching their school-aged children all day long. Fortunately, the people who govern the Childcare of New Hampshire allow you break the legal limit, in terms of how many children you are allowed to shelter, in the case of an “emergency”. However this does not make it easier for my staff, who ordinarily see the older children depart before the younger children arrive, and the younger children depart before the older children explode off the school-bus in the afternoon. To have all these children at the same place at the same time is like mixing oil with water and expecting salad dressing.

Over the past decade I, and especially my wife, have gotten good at handling the chaos caused by cancelled school. However it made (and makes) me think. Ordinarily, by law, we each are allowed to handle six children under six-years-old, and, if we are two handling twelve, we are also allowed to handle five more children over six-years-old, for a grand total of seventeen. When school was cancelled we’d handle more, perhaps as many as twenty-five. This makes me think, because in the public school it is quite normal for a lone teacher to be expected to walk into a classroom and handle twenty-six, (not just in an emergency, but on a daily basis).

Obviously a double-standard is involved. The politicians and “teacher’s union” have enacted laws to keep me from getting rich. If I was allowed to watch 26, and my wife was allowed to watch 26, do you have any idea of how much money my Childcare could make?

We’d also would be dead by now. I have no idea how public school teachers keep their sanity. Furthermore, ex-Public-School-teachers, who have worked at my Childcare, inform me my place is heaven, compared to Public Schools. It is a real joy for them to actually focus on individual children, because they only have six, rather than being asked to govern a stampeding herd of twenty-six.

Former teachers  demonstrate amazing abilities, developed during their time in  Public Schools. Ordinarily, when one child has a “crisis” that demands the attention of a member of my staff, that employee deals with that child, and I am left in charge of the remaining eleven. I am then challenged, and feel tested, keeping control only eleven. But what if a child was having a “melt-down” in a Public school, and I was all alone with twenty six? (I’d be fired the first day, for re-instituting corporeal punishment; that’s what.) When I watch former Public School teachers deal with a group’s escalating enthusiasm at my Childcare, I feel a sense of awe. They seem far less challenged than I am, as if they thought, “Only eleven children? Piece of Cake.”

Don’t take this wrongly. I am in awe of the Public School teachers, not the Public Schools. (And as far as the “teachers union” is concerned, I think they are out to kill teachers, for they have insisted upon the awful working conditions teachers endure.)

In conclusion, snow creates a chaos at my Childcare slightly like the everyday situation at a Public School: IE;  We have what seems like too many children, without a truly clear routine. Where a Public School may welcome the time-off of a snow-day’s cancellation of school, it doesn’t cancel anything for me; it doubles my trouble.

But isn’t that typical, for winter? Winter doubles your trouble. Snow is stuff that just means where you once could walk you now must wade. Snow only means more work…..or does it?

When I look at nature, I seem to see most animals dislike winter. Few animals don’t take steps to avoid the season altogether. Birds and butterflies migrate, or hibernate like bears and woodchucks. The landscape can seem lifeless. But I like to take the children out to look for life in winter.

These are images from the only open water remaining on the flood control reservoir abutting my Childcare. My youngest son, after helping me with shoveling, took these pictures of a mink, fishing by the outlet to that reservoir.  (To get the pictures he crept up and hid behind the concrete outlet, and then poked the camera around the corner without revealing more than his hand.) Mink are less adapted to water than otters, but my son said this mink was only under the ice ten seconds before popping up with the sunfish.

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Winter doesn’t stop life. Life goes on.

(Mink photo credits: Israel Shaw)

LOCAL VIEW –Old Man Winter–

Norman Rockwell 1937-christmas-gramps-in-snow

As I get older I seem to look forward to winter less. I’m not as hot-blooded, and where I once threw snowballs without gloves and saw my hands glow a ruddy red, my hands now turn blue at the slightest excuse. Not that I still don’t hope for a white Christmas; I just hope we get around an inch at daybreak, and it melts away by Christmas afternoon.

It was said, back when I was young, that the Indians called an old man “one who has seen many winters.” I’m not sure how true that statement is, in terms of history, but it says something about how winters tax a man.  Like the taxes of a greedy government, winters sap you, and take so much out of you that you get tired of paying. However, for the poor, there is no escape to Florida, and therefore the mind has to adopt some sort of strategy, in order to endure the coming insult to our physical forms. After all, if you believe in evolution, we are jungle monkeys, at home in a Garden of Eden, and not upon tundra.

Even if you don’t believe in evolution, it has been a long, long time since we dwelt in Eden. Even if you don’t believe in evolution, perhaps we have been bred like dogs into certain breeds. Even if you don’t believe in evolution, it seems obvious that people to the north have whiter skin than people to the south, as sunshine is necessary, to produce Vitamin D,  but you can get too much of a good thing, in which case sunshine causes skin cancer.  God does amazing things to protect His children, and white skin allows people to get enough vitamin D where sunshine is low and weak, while dark skin prevents skin cancer when the sun is high, hot, and burns.

I have started to wonder if there are some other traits which have been imparted to northern people, that help them deal with winter. Because I run a Childcare, it seemed a good place to study the way the young react to the change in seasons, to see if they have any behaviors that seem northern in nature.

My study seemed especially insightful because modern children live lives so insulated from the outdoors, as do their parents. Parents chose our Childcare because they believe the outdoors is good, in theory; in actual fact they work indoors and only a few get out for hikes on the weekends. Therefore the children, who unknowingly were about to become subjects of my highly scientific study, were pure, and not corrupted by earlier experience of the outdoors. I could see responses that were fresh, and showed primal instincts.

One thing that became clear was that “shelter” became abruptly more important, as days swiftly grew shorter.

Not that children don’t build structures in the summer, but these are largely “forts”, and are built for warfare. “Warfare?” you ask? Yes, sad to say, but children do have a less than harmonious side, and build all sorts of forts that display sexism (“girls only” and “boys only”) and ageism (“big-kids-only” and “little-kids-only”) and even status-ism (“cool-crowd-only” and “uncool-crowd-only”), and then they steal sticks from each others forts and then rage about the robberies. You’d be amazed by how much time I have to spend overseeing the ownership of sticks. We have no toy guns at our Childcare, but over and over I hear either, “He keeps aiming his stick at me!” or “He stole my stick!”  Sometimes I can muster the wisdom of Solomon, “I’ll tell you what I’ll do; I’ll break the stick in two and give you each half,” but other times the only escape is to get away from the forts altogether, by going on a hike.

It was on hikes I first noticed the sudden interest in shelter. During summer rains I have a hard time getting children to bother with raincoats, and often wind up carrying raincoats they shed, as they delight in becoming drenched. However, as the sun sank lower in the southern sky at noon, the rain-clouds darkened, and suddenly the children wanted not only raincoats, but umbrellas, though the wind was from the south and rain wasn’t all that colder. As I happened to have seven umbrellas, I handed them out to the children, taking notes, for my highly scientific study, of this sudden interest in shelter.

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The rain then stopped, and you might think I’d then wind up carrying seven umbrellas. In actual fact I only wound up carrying five, because some sort of greed kicked in, and two umbrellas became some sort of status symbol. I had to break up fights, and teach “sharing”, and have them “take turns”. However it was when we entered the forest and were beneath the shelter of trees that I got a surprise. They all demanded their umbrellas back. It wasn’t because the rain had started again. It was because they wanted to build a shelter. I took a picture, for my highly scientific study.

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When we returned from our hike and I collected the umbrellas, (slightly the worse for wear), I became aware of a second attribute seen in northern children, which seems unlikely and only was revealed due to a mistake I made when I first opened the Childcare ten years ago. Back then I thought kids might be interested in old fashioned stuff, which is basically Neanderthal by modern standards: I showed them how to split wood with an ax and lay a campfire.

Big mistake. There is nothing more exhausting than having to oversee children swinging axes, and children by a campfire is nearly as bad. However the activity was incredibly popular, and the older children infected the younger with the desire to wave axes and feed fires. Any hope the interest would die away as the older children moved on from Childcare to more formal schooling, and I ceased to actively promote the activity, was dashed by the children who remembered the year before, and pleaded, “Please, please, Puh-leese can we chop wood and have a fire?”

To some degree it is gratifying to watch a boy grow from barely being able to lift an ax to becoming proficient at reducing a fat log to kindling. At times I think the Neanderthal were on to something. Rather than Ritalin they gave boys axes, and rather than drugged faces they saw faces that shone with pride:

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But there is no getting around the fact I have to work pretty hard to teach a boy to split wood with a Neanderthal implement. Some might say it is easier to just send them off to fight Arabs, so we can be lazy and just spin the dial of a thermostat, heating our homes with Arab oil. Never mind that the back yards of some homes are forests full of dead trees and fallen wood, (which is great for the local populations of woodpeckers, but represents an increasing forest fire danger during droughts).

Never mind that. That is a loaded subject for some future post. Instead let us face the fire-danger wood-stoves present us with. The poorer people in this area are still Neanderthal, and still burn wood, and fires do escape stoves, and houses do burn down, which means the fire department needs to educate children about what to do in a fire.

One thing that upsets children is that a fully dressed fireman looks, and even sounds, like the evil Darth Vader of Star Wars movies. Firemen entering homes to save children have seen them take one look at their rescuer and run the other way. Therefore they come to my Childcare and show that they are smiling, nice people,  before they dress in scary-looking gear. Even though the children have seen the nice people put the gear on, they still tend to be scared once it is on.

Shelter 4 FullSizeRender To be accurate, as a reporter, I should add it is somewhat amazing I was even able to take the above picture, because the Darth Vader appearance of the firemen completely freaked-out a two-year-old, who was wailing in my arms. He wouldn’t let go, even when they took off the costumes and let the other children experience the sublime joy of sitting in a firetruck.

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Perhaps what the two-year-old was trying to tell me was that, no matter how amazingly nice firemen and fire-women may be, something scary is involved in the subject.

For that matter, something scary is involved in the subject of fire, and even in the subject of winter. Both freezing and burning are scary.

Children are not as stupid as some seem to believe. (For that matter, neither are adults.) It is futile to gloss over reality with an insipid belief we can be spared a very real thing: Old Man Winter is coming, and will turn turf into tundra, and unless you befriend the dangerous realities of fuel and fire, you will die.

Some seem to believe children should be buffered in over-heated classrooms, with nature only seen on video screens, and spared knowing of the bitter winds that bluster and buffet outside. It likely a heresy for me to say this, but I think such mollycoddling harms, for the results of my highly scientific study suggests children are happier, healthier, and smarter when allowed to learn what their northern, Neanderthal genes already yearn to learn about, which is not the subjects of grammar, “social studies”, and algebra, but rather the subjects of shelter, fuel, and fire.

The sun is low at noon, and by four o’clock
The west is aflame: the sun is a fire
In the boughs of pines that bitter winds rock,
And their trunks send long shadows across mire
Turned to stone tundra. It’s north we’re heading.
The farm pond skims with ice too thin to tread;
There is no skating, no snow for sledding;
But the west grows dark with approaching dread
And the children aren’t fools. They want a fire.
I have solar lights that cast blue firefly
Dimness, but they want orange to inspire
Dancing and warm mirth. Should I not try
To teach fire is something other than danger?
Winter’s too cold when fire’s a stranger.

LOCAL VIEW –The Color Of Bleak–

There is something very beautiful about this time of year, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. All the gorgeous autumn leaves have been stripped from the trees, and the pristine beauty of a snow-covered landscape is still in the future. The world has gone gray.

The world has gone gray, and sunlight is dim
At noon, and songbirds have fled like traitors.
The ponds haven’t froze; chance-for-skating is slim;
And doubt smiles with teeth like alligator’s.
Now is the time it seems darkness has won.
Witch trials seem possible; madness is seen
In night’s leaping shadow; diminishing sun;
And the crazed holy day, Halloween.
It’s too far from Christmas to hope for light
Returning to redeem us from the dark.
Shadows grow longer and all that’s in sight
Is a cynical newscaster’s remark
Which offers no hope, and yet I see a spark
That can fuel a bright blaze in a landscape gone stark.

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What the children were looking at was a couple of belated Great Blue Heron’s, pausing on their way south. As we drew nearer they flew to the far side of the far side of the Flood Control Reservoir, and as they did the children exclaimed over the width of the big bird’s wings, at times over six feet.

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Now, at this point, you likely are thinking this is a typical post, with me bragging about how my Childcare is better than most and I am simply marvelous. In actual fact it is a confession which should convince some parents they ought raise their own children and never, never hire a stranger like me.

In the above picture of the children looking out over the water there are six children, (with one nearly hidden behind the child wearing red). This should be an easy number for a veteran Child Care Professional like myself to account for, but a half mile farther along on this hike I lost one, and didn’t even know it.

It happened like this:

Two of the boys involved were laggards, and made the others wait for them to catch up, over and over. Further along on this hike we were moving along an old stone wall in the woods, and I looked backwards and saw the two boys were again lagging, and told them to hurry up. Meanwhile, to keep the other four interested, I was pointing out the difference between the tiny footprints of deer mice and larger footprints of flying squirrels in a dust of slushy snow along the top of the stone wall. When one of the boys caught up I assumed the other was with him, as the two had been inseparable. We continued a bit further along the wall when I heard an adult voice calling from far away, shouting “I’ve got your kid!”

It turned out the second boy had decided to go back. He could care less about the footprints of deer mice. He was heading back to the farm for a snack. He reached the main trail (we were bush-whacking off the main trail) and came face to face with an adult he didn’t know.

I doubt many parents would approve of this situation.

Fortunately the adult was an old friend, who happened to be out hiking the starkness of November, and knew enough to bellow into the trees to find me. But I confess I was blushing when I retrieved the child I had misplaced.

In my ten years of watching other people’s children there have been many occasions when children have run off, but usually I locate them within thirty seconds. There was only one time when two small brothers decided to “go home” during the first few days they were enrolled.  I had stepped into the underbrush and behind a tree to relieve myself, and when I stepped back out they were gone. Bellowing proved futile.  I nearly had a coronary before my wife informed me she could see them  heading back to the farm. (A benefit of cell phones.)

This is no excuse. If I promise to watch children I should watch them. But I confess I am imperfect. It may not be a sin of commission, but it is a sin of omission. In this example, I neglected to be sure the laggard actually caught up with the rest of us, and instead assumed he had, when in fact he was headed the opposite way. A five-year-old met a total stranger. This is not a good situation.

Now, if I wanted to play the blame-game, I could turn the tables, and blame the parents for not caring for their own children, and instead handing them off to a neglectful old fool like myself.

I could blame colleges for burdening young parents with huge debts to pay off, so that they both must work fingers to the bone and have no time for their children.

I could blame the government for caring more for banks that collect interest on college loans, than for the poor, exploited students.

I could go on. In some ways the world we live in is as stark as November.

Instead I think I’ll skip the blame-game, and instead be thankful. I’m thankful the adult the wayward child met was an old friend of mine, who could just bellow, “I’ve got one of your kids,” and make everything right.

Perhaps that is what defines an “old friend.” They are not particularly interested in the blame-game, and are more interested in making things right.

This in turn suggests we should be more interested in making old friends, than in blaming (which is no way to make a friend.)

The truth of the matter is we are all imperfect. Only God Almighty is perfect. Therefore we will all, at some point, screw up. I confess I did screw up, concerning watching over one small boy’s safety.

As Thanksgiving approaches I have decided to make an effort to tell old friends how thankful I am they exist, and to make this old world be more a world of appreciation and thankfulness, than a world of the blame-game.

LOCAL VIEW –First Snow–

I recall reading a poem where the poet wistfully stated that someday perhaps we could again contemplate falling snow in the manner of Japanese poets of yore, and not be distracted by all our modern concerns about road conditions and whether we remembered to put on snow tires,  and what we will do if school is cancelled. For there is something to be said for the beauty of falling snow, especially the first flakes, falling when the final leaves are still on the trees.

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Sadly, I find I can’t sit back and contemplate much.  While the kale in the garden is improved by frost, the celery can’t withstand much freezing, and I have a good crop.

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But how am I to find time for the celery, when my wife isn’t too happy about my great harvest of hot peppers, gathered last week after our first freeze and still scattered about her kitchen?

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And how am I to find time for peppers with a business to run? Every day I write a list, but emergencies emerge, especially when you run a Childcare. Early childhood is actually one long emergency, as children are emerging into a world full of dangers and disasters. So that which is on my list doesn’t get done until it itself becomes an emergency. For example, I should check out the wood stoves when weather is warm, but I never get around to it until we start our first fire and the house fills with smoke. Then I have to frantically replace a stove pipe (40 years old and crumbling with corrosion) and sweep a chimney. Who has time to string up peppers?First Snow 4 FullSizeRender

The good side is that little children at our Childcare get to see a man work. Most Childcares give children the impression men evaporate at sunrise and materialize at sunset. At my place they get to feel the stiff wire bristles of a chimney brush, and see black flakes of creosote, and learn smoke can condense like steam can, and see me huff about with a long ladder over my shoulder, and understand men do work.

The bad part is that at my advanced age I’m not suppose to be huffing and puffing about. I’m suppose to wear a white suit and give orders like a fellow who owns a plantation.

How am I suppose to wear a white suit if I’m cleaning chimneys? Soot would spoil the fabric. As would dirt from the garden, and sap and sawdust from lugging firewood would be just as bad.  About the only good thing about snow is that I could wear a white suit in it and not get it dirty, but white linen is not made for cold climates and shoveling snow.

I actually feel a bit like a rat in a wheel, and have to steal time to write, but when my wife sees me sneaking off to my word processor she sometimes gives me the feeling that a man’s main aim in life is to avoid chores, whereupon I tell her a woman’s main aim in life is to create them.

Then our eyes meet, and we know it is time for a break. With a three day weekend coming up, we need a day at the beach. So let’s check the forecast.

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For those of you who like less precise temperatures, 16º Fahrenheit equals -9º Celsius. Winds will be from the north, gusting to thirty mph.

We will have the beach all to ourselves! Yippie!

Last spring I watched the final flakes falling
With the petals of an apple tree’s blooms
And wondered if I’d see the appalling,
Appealing white again. For our dooms
Are hidden from us. We can never guess
If tomorrow will come. In my mad case
It seems that the answer’s definitely, “yes.”
God’s willing I run a lap of the race
And feel snow in my face. On I will roam
With my beachcomber’s pension,with wild skies
and thudding surf a most beautiful poem
Even if I never ink the words that my eyes
See written by cirrus and hear in surf’s sighs.
The Timeless is peeking through time’s thin disguise.