MEETING BLUSTER WITH BLUSTER

Today we had another taste of winter: Blasting winds that dropped the windchill temperatures ten degrees below what the thermometer actually said. A few lone snowflakes whipped sideways, basically lake-effect snows blown all the way from Buffalo.

I can’t confess to feeling all that fond of such weather any more. Once I associated the growing cold with snow, and with the chance school might be cancelled, but now I run a private school and don’t want it cancelled because taxpayers don’t pay for my sloth.

In fact, if you read back ten years through this blog, you will understand snow doesn’t get me off the hook; it makes me work harder to keep my place open. This does tend to diminish any romantic feelings I might have had towards cold and snow. White Christmas? Be damned.

Add to this the fact my body does not withstand the cold as well as it once did, and one might understand why I am becoming a curmudgeon, regarding the cold. Where I once threw snowballs without mittens, my hands bright crimson, now my hands turn a sorry shade of blue when temperatures are barely cool. I’d rather sit by the fire than go out in the cold, when I can get away with it.

Unfortunately I can’t get away with it. Staff shortages have nipped-in-the-bud all my attempts to delegate work to others, and a nasty attack of bursitis even slowed my active wife, so rather than receiving compassion I must be, at the very least, not a curmudgeon.

At 6:45 AM, when even the sun has the brains not to rise in December, I have to open my Childcare and greet people at 7:00 not with gruffness, but in a cheery manner. Call me a hypocrite if you will, but I do it.

Though I am dishonestly cheerful with others, God hears my true grumpiness as I head off into the twilight of dawn in a howling wind that just about dents your eyeballs, to work. I mutter stuff about how He is a God of miracles, and it would be sort of nice if a relative I never heard of died and left me a place in Florida.

Yet this morning all my griping got to me. God didn’t tell me to shut up. I just got a little tired of all my own whining. Rather than parking as close to the Childcare as possible, and ducking from the relatively warm and windless car into the chilled Childcare to turn up the heat full blast and stand beside the blower, I parked up the hill.

My excuse was that, when the sun got around to rising, it would hit up there first, and melt the frost from my windshield. I’d driven to work peeking through a little hole I’d scraped in my hurry. But something beyond that excuse was involved, for rather than hurry from the hill down to the Childcare, cowed by the blustering wind, I just stood by my car, in the orange twilight and blustering wind, and took the spectacle in, with my jaw thrust out.

If the wind was going to bluster, I could bluster right back.

No longer hot-blooded, I shake my head
Over what a great wuss I have become,
And decide to defy my sense of dread;
To quit my cringing as if long life's sum
Of added years amounts to a mere flinch, 
And instead to spring up from where I quail;
For even quail do not sit, not moving an inch
As the spaniel nears. They burst out and flail
The startled dawn and fearlessly face
The shotgun's blast. So too will I pause 
My flinch from cozy home to warmed workplace
And stand unbowed despite the north wind's claws.
In pumpkin predawn cold my puffing breath
Becomes dragon vapors, flaming at death.

ROLLING WITH THE MOON

,

When we arise on voting day a “blood moon” will be setting in the west, which seems a sort of ominous start to things.

As I recall, a blood moon occurs at the start of “Hamlet”, (or perhaps it is in the scene where Hamlet sees his father’s ghost). I tend to consult Shakespeare more than I consult astrologers, but I thought it would be fun to see what astrologers were saying, so I included the above “chart”.

Not only is a multi-planet opposition occurring, but Saturn, (“discipline”) is “squaring” the opposition. Oppositions and squares tend to be “challenging” in the world of astrology, so there are all sorts of doom and gloom forecasts, floating about. Yawn. I am perfectly able to forecast doom and gloom without any help from experts. What I also notice is Jupiter (“optimism”) is “trining” and “sextling” (harmonious angles) the conflict, but no one is in the mood to be optimistic.

Fortunately, I was traveling through the dusk tonight in a car with a four-year-old and two-year-old grandchild, and they live in a world blissfully free of politics. They were talking about how the moon was traveling through the trees beside us.

Here is a poem they triggered, written (I hope) as Tom O, (who disapproves of many of my sonnets), likes them.

The moon looks strangely jaunty,
Tilting through the trees,
And I've run out of alibies
For why the branches weave.

I have no clue why shadows
Elude my headlight's eyes
Nor why the street is curving,
Nor why the asphalt sighs.

Moon shadows crisscross clapboards
Of churches none attend
And cobalt sky is starless
Without end.

I'm steering towards my pillow
Past the graveyard's willow
Dreary on a moonlit stone,
As rolling right beside me
Golden moon confides we
Go alone.

I find her words consoling
For what child feels alone
When holding the hand
Of a moon that's so big,
So gold, and so grand?

Don’t tell my friend Tom, but the above poem is secretly a sonnet. Can you see the hidden sonnet? (Before looking at the answer below?)

The moon looks strangely jaunty, tilting through
The trees, and I've run out of alibies
For why the branches weave. I have no clue
Why shadows elude my headlight's eyes
Nor why the street is curving, nor why
The asphalt sighs. Moon shadows crisscross clapboards
Of churches none attend, and cobalt sky
Is starless without end. I'm steering towards 
My pillow, past the graveyard's willow
Dreary on a moonlit stone, as rolling
Right beside me golden moon confides we go
Alone. I find her words consoling,
For what child feels alone when holding the hand
Of a moon that's so big, so gold and so grand?

Most sonnets have a certain rhythm hidden in them that casual readers miss. When young I used to become very upset when I heard others read a poem I’d written, and completely mangle it, but now I am more resigned, and even amused. The fact of the matter is that there is beauty all around us, but we tend to be blind. Sometimes I think a person has to be as deaf as Beethoven to hear it.

Either that, or two years old. Remember that, on election day.

FLEDGLINGS

Some of the most constructive time I spend with small children at my Childcare is time that is not “organized”. It has no specific “curriculum” other than “hanging out”. Basically, the kids just tag along as I potter about doing chores in my usual disorganized manner. Sometimes they help me, but usually not.

I tend to be hit by a non-stop stream of questions, and sometimes I answer them seriously, and sometimes with an absurd answer, and sometimes with an answer that becomes so long and elaborate that the children start drifting away.

As I potter about I often stop to pull a few random weeds, and each time a child will ask “What are you doing?” After answering, “pulling a few random weeds” the first hundred times, during the early days of the Childcare over a decade ago, I got a bit fed up, and began answering in a spurious manner, just to entertain myself by watching how the children responded. For example, I might answer, “making a fudge cookie.” Some children would look at me with owlish innocence, while others would think a bit and then a slow smile would spread across their faces and they’d exclaim, “You’re fooling us!”

Rather than slowing the onslaught of dumb questions, giving facetious answers increased the questions, because the kids liked some of the absurd answers I’d come up with. And I confess I rather liked it myself. It could make dull weeding a time of jocular hilarity, if I stated that I pulled a certain weed because it had magic powers and could turn my dog into an elephant. Sometimes we’d even sidetrack over to the dog to see if the herb worked. When it didn’t, I’d scratch my head and say, “That’s odd. Elephants look just like dogs, today.”

Of course, I had to take care to judge the nature of the child. Some children were totally trusting, and I’d need to make sure they knew I was joking, or they’d be misinformed. One time I misinformed a gullible child without intending to, and he came in one morning and folded his arms and greeted me with the challenging statement, “My Dad says there’s no such thing as walking trees.” Other children were simply serious by nature and didn’t like jokes. However, I was usually surprised by the adroit ability children had (and have) to enter into nonsense. The world of make-believe is second nature for many children.

My wife didn’t always approve of my ability to get children “stirred up”, because she felt I was not so good at getting them to be serious again. I disagreed, but she said my way of getting things back under control involved too much growling.

Anyway, after more than a decade just hanging out with the kids, (and getting paid for it), I am very certain children absorb like sponges, when they hang out with pottering old men. They are not merely learning a slew of factoids but are learning social skills such as how to tell a joke, and how to challenge a person who may be pulling their leg. Maybe they learn how to spot a liar, which is unfortunately an important skill to have in this fallen, modern world. Perhaps most important of all, they, by being outside so much with a person who loves the outdoors, learn how complex and amazing nature is. The green things are more than “plants” and the wiggly things are more than “bugs.” “Plants” and “bugs” turn from two nouns to a hundred interacting species, and the kids get to increase their vocabulary by a hundred in a single summer.

Some might say all this could be done by watching videos indoors, but there is no substitute for hands-on experience. Also, there is no predicting how the children will react to the so-called curriculum of a setting, both individually and as a group. Two years ago, I could not keep the kids away from the garden’s patch of edible podded peas; this year the children were relatively indifferent, only occasionally munching a few. In like manner, most kids don’t mind watching me pick the potato bugs from the potatoes, but dislike actually touching the bugs, especially the slimy larvae, and they are in no hurry to help me. Yet there was one particular boy who just loved waging war on potato bugs. He would plead with me to be allowed to do the job. I’d set him to it, and he’d easily spend an happy hour in the sunshine, moving down the long row meticulously removing the bugs.

Some tasks, such as digging the potatoes, are always a hit, and I have to ration the plants to make sure everyone gets a turn experiencing the delight of digging up a treasure:

So, I suppose “digging potatoes” could count as an official “curriculum”, and as something you could put down on paper in the manner bureaucrats prefer, as a scheduled “activity” of the Childcare, but to me that seems more like an exception than a rule.

For example, in the process of seeing the noun “bird” divide into numerous species the kids tend to scrutinize various birds and see things that simply can’t be matched by videos. This is not to say that I might not turn to a YouTube video to let the kids hear a particular birdsong when that particular bird is refusing to sing, but there is nothing like the real thing.

The other day it was very hot and humid, and I sought out the deepest shade I could find with a cluster of grouchy small girls. I had only a short time before they could rush to the pool, and then their petulance would be cured, but sometimes twenty minutes can seem an eternity. It was while we were in the deep shade that I pointed out a catbird. Catbirds are very curious, investigative birds, and, though they always try to always keep a bough or cluster of leaves between you and them, they can come quite close as they investigate what we humans are up to. This bird came close enough to distract the girls from their crabbiness. They exclaimed it was “practically tame”, and then, because I said it was called a catbird because it had a squeaky, scratchy caw something like a cat’s meow, all the girls started meowing to the bird. I said, “Not like that; more like this,” and did my best rendition of a catbird’s meow. All the girls began copying me and then, with perfect timing, the catbird hopped onto a nearby twig and showed us how to meow properly. All the girls looked utterly amazed, looking at each other with eyes round as owls, and then burst into gleeful laughter.

That can’t be matched by a video, though I’ll try:

An even better example involved an eastern phoebe.

Photo Credit: Jill Staake Birds&Blooms

We have several families of phoebes nesting in outbuildings around the farm, and I likely have bored the older boys pointing them out as they hop about in my garden, praising phoebes for eating so many bugs. Phoebe have a very distinctive way of twitching their tails up and down as they sit on a fencepost, and also an interesting way of sometimes fluffing the feathers on top of their heads into a small crest, and I’ve likely bored the boys pointing that out as well.

I had a group of particularly jaded five-, six- and seven-year-old boys around me one hot morning last week. I wasn’t actually “on the schedule”, but I could see that they were giving a member of my staff trouble as she tried to organize the smaller children for a hike. All the children must be swabbed with repellant and sunscreen, and mischievous boys can complicate the process, so I asked them if they’d like to come in the garden and see the first ripe broccoli and cauliflower. They always seem eager to hang out with me (if not to help), so they came over, and a few accepted samples of broccoli, while some announced they hated broccoli. I rambled away in my gravelly voice, saying some people have tastebuds that that taste the bitterness in broccoli, while others don’t, and then telling the old joke about the difference between green broccoli and green boogers being that small children won’t eat broccoli, and then pointed out a phoebe hopping in the dirt down at the end of the row. I was moving on to saying broccoli was in the cabbage family, and I was likely boring the boys by pointing how the nearby cabbage and cauliflower and Brussel sprouts all looked the same, when suddenly the phoebe began flying towards us.

The bird flew clumsily and erratically, bumping into plants on either side. My first thought was that it must be sick, perhaps with the dreaded avian ‘flu, but I had no time to talk, for the bird swooped up and came to an awkward landing directly on top of one of the boy’s baseball cap. Only then did I say, “It is a fledgling. Just learning to fly.”

Meanwhile the fledgling was looking about with a rather alarmed expression. You could almost hear it thinking, “Holy crap! Look where I landed.” Then it bolted, flying straight into the side of an above-ground-pool and crashing to the ground. The boys rushed over and formed a circle around the bird as I said, “Don’t touch it! Let’s see what it will do!”

The bird seemed to be shaking off the effects of a concussion (do birds hear birdies?) and then it looked up at all the faces looking down, and again you could imagine it thinking “Holy Crap!” It panicked and shot straight up around fifteen feet, before it wobbled away to the peak of the roof of a nearby shed. The boys were all laughing and commenting when another phoebe came gracefully flitting over and landed by the first phoebe’s side. Without any prompting from me one of the boys exclaimed, “It’s his mother!” whereupon all the other boys began cheering, “It’s the mother! It’s the mother!” almost like they were spectators at a horse race. Then a staff member called them off to hike, and they rushed away to tell her what they had seen.

I knew I could claim no credit for “showing” the boys anything, and just looked up to the sky and was thankful. It’s amazing what you can see by doing nothing.

Off the beaten path long trampled by those
Thirsting for fortune and hungry for fame
I sit by myself and twirl summer's rose
And wonder if being unknown is a shame.
I don't make fame queen, nor the dollar king,
But am like a boy who has escaped school,
And classmate's shaming, and teacher's hollering.
I forget how it feels to feel like a fool.
I just bask in sunshine like it is a bath
Washing away aches of schooling's cruel wrath.
Though I'm just sitting I progress a path
Which adds up to healing. You do the math.
Soon bells will toll, and they'll resume classes
But I'll not be schooled by roomfuls of asses.

GARDEN WAR –Friends and Foes–

As nations such as Shri Lanka run out of money and their people are told they can’t buy fuel or fertilizer, it seems events are teetering towards situations where the blunders of a few elites can bring about the misery of millions.

The government of Shri Lanka was hard hit by the covid fraud, for the cessation of tourism robbed the nation of much of its income, even as it still had to pay its expenses. As a small nation, its income besides tourism was largely “exports”, as its expenses were largely “imports”. The problem it faced is obvious when you see both their top export and top import was “Mineral fuels including oil”. They exported $695.2 million, which seems like a goodly amount, until you see they imported $2.1 billion, or three times as much.

The doings of a distant island caught my attention because I’m interested in organic fertilizers, and their government decided they could balance their budget a little by stopping the import of chemical fertilizers, and instead using locally-produced organic products. Didn’t work. Maybe they merely didn’t do the substitution corectly, but switching to organic fertilizers resulted in reduced crops, reducing the rice crop which feds the people, and also harming two major exports, namely cereal crops, ($241.4 million), and cotton ($232.8 million). In any case the nation wound up flat broke, and so deeply in debt no one would loan them any further funds.

This demonstrates two things.

First, it demonstrates that the well-meaning ideas of the elite can be badly researched and poorly thought-out, whether they be cancelling tourism or shifting to organic fertilizer. Hunger and the inability to buy gasoline, for millions of the unwashed masses, might not bother the elite, but when those millions stormed into the elite palace of the leader, and they swam in his private pool, the millions got the elite’s attention.

Eranga Jayawardena / AP

Second, rioting about a problem does not solve the problem. One prays to God to raise up new leaders who are more able to avoid simplistic solutions and who are more able to face the intricate details of complex issues. In the meantime, millions will continue to face the consequences of allowing simpletons to rule.

In the Netherlands the Dutch elite came up with an idealistic plan to reduce problems caused by the nitrogen in fertilizer by simply banning it. Didn’t work. In fact, it was a step too far, for the farmers (who would be bankrupted) immediately rioted, joined by a surprising number of non-farmers. The seriousness of the situation seems underscored by the fact the elite-ruled mainstream media seems determined to ignore the story, or else to fact-check it away.

Again, we see the consequences of allowing people, who feel they are elite and born to govern, invent rules which are bound to create suffering for millions. The millions rise up and say simpletons can’t be allowed to rule them.

Even the price of chocolate candy bars seems to hint at troubles for farmers in faraway Ghana. A candy bar that cost five cents in my boyhood is up to over two dollars, but the increase has not worked down to the farmers of the cocoa. (In this case the simpletons seem to be greedy middlemen).

As the United States is currently ruled by a simpleton, and as one consequence of his misguided energy policies may be famine, I decided maybe I should be more serious about making my garden productive this year. You’d be surprised at how intricate the details of gardening get, even on the small scale of my garden. I have seen I am just as capable of bad judgement as the leaders of Shri Lanka or the Netherlands.

For example, to fight high energy prices I burned a lot of wood last winter. This produced lots of wood ashes. I had heard wood ashes are good fertilizer, so I spread the ashes in my garden. Mistake. Ashes make the soil alkaline, and if the soil is too alkaline some plants are stunted, with leaves that are yellow rather than green. So, I am now conducting experiments involving turning alkaline soil acidic, (“souring” “sweetened” soil), right in the middle of a growing season. This is work which would be unnecessary if only I had gotten things right in the first place.

Considering I am past my prime, I am not fond of unnecessary work. I’m slow enough just doing the necessary. And what really irks me is when it becomes necessary to do work which I never saw coming.

For example, a drought. Last year was so rainy my potatoes rotted, but this year nearly every rain shower or thunderstorm misses us. (In other words, I never saw this coming because it didn’t come). The drought is particularly aggravating when I must water when I should be weeding, for I am watering the weeds.

Also, I had to divert my already-low levels of energy to building fences, for first my chickens and then my lone goat invaded my garden in unhelpful ways. I hate fences. But then, when I thought I had my own beasts corralled, I nearly turned my goat to goat-burger when I saw hoofprints down a row of beans and carrots, with all the plants neatly clipped to stubs. I swore softly and tried to figure out how the beast was getting past my new fence. But then I noticed that besides the goat-sized hoofprints there was a set of tiny hoofprints. Dawn broke on Marblehead. It wasn’t my goat. It was a doe and her fawn.

Oddy, the sight of those tiny prints quelled my anger. How can you get mad at Bambi? At the same time, I recognized the fact I wasn’t angry was likely because I wasn’t hungry. If I was hungry my tolerance would fade. In besieged cities famished citizens have eaten their children, if history can be believed, so maybe I could eat even a cute little Bambi. And maybe venison would supply more protein than beans and carrots. But I went to work putting up more fences, all the same. They were low and flimsy, but I figured a doe wouldn’t jump over them, if she had to leave her fawn behind.

(I hope you are noticing this situation is becoming more complex than one would imagine, when first planting some carrots and beans. Are you gardening vegetables, or venison?)

My garden also had successes, involving benefits brought by the cool weather, and also the fact watering is a job even an old man can do. I like standing about and spraying with a hose, and the deer and her fawn apparently were not fond of peas and lettuce. Those crops prospered. My crop of edible podded peas was especially bountiful, considering the fact not far away the parched lawn sounded crisp when you walked on the grass.

So, I had far more lettuce and peas than I could use, and I decided a good way to defy the government-created inflation was to lower my prices rather than raising them. I lowered prices to zero and had good fun being a philanthropist, giving away lettuce and crunchy, juicy, sweet edible podded peas for free. (Hopefully this rebellious behavior topples the government, or at least slightly decreases inflation.)

As I fought my little war with weeds and deer and potato bugs and drought and the government, I gained a small victory by allowing a certain small patch of weeds to thrive by my peas. (The weed was lamb’s quarters, which is easier to grow than spinach and tastes better, so it is hard to call it a weed,) however this particular patch was infested with aphids. Aphids are the favorite food of ladybugs. I caught every ladybug, (of at least eight different species), that I saw in my garden and brought them to my weeds. To my delight soon there were ladybug larvae on the lamb’s quarters

And soon afterwards not only were there far fewer aphids on those lamb quarters, but there were also fewer potato bug larvae eating my potatoes. Not that there were thousands of ladybugs swarming my garden, but they were around, and had their effect.

There were also other predators, including some small wasp which apparently likes potato bug larvae. I can’t claim to be intentionally breeding such wasps, but maybe I accidentally did so last year, when I allowed potato bugs to get out of hand. The wasp prospered last year, and that means this year they are all over the place, and a potato bug larva often may shrivel due to eggs the wasp laid in its back. In any case, as I walk down my lush row of well-watered potatoes, I’m surprised by how much less time I must spend picking potato bugs from the leaves. In fact I may even get a decent crop. I also have more time to spend weeding and watering other crops.

I bring this up to show that not all ideas involving being “organic” are stupid. I prefer to label myself a “conservationist” rather than an “environmentalist”. The difference being: I get my hands dirty while environmentalists live in ivory towers far from the dirt. I prefer to suffer and learn from my own mistakes, while their mistakes cause millions to suffer, and they only learn by being chased down the street by a howling mob.

The potato patch may well be a small victory, especially if the supply shrinks and the demand grows, and potatoes are in short supply by December. God wiling, I’ll have some big ones to give away for Christmas.

You can’t win them all, and my popcorn patch is a battle I may lose. Corn needs lots of water and is a heavy feeder, but does not like being fed wood ashes at all. The drought prevented the wood ashes from being diluted, and in places the soil was so caustic it burnt the corn at the base. So besides losing some seedlings to cutworms I killed some with my care. What a dope I can be! However, I won’t go down to complete defeat without a fight.

My counterattack was to replant, making sure to dilute the soil, and even including some dilute vinegar to counteract the wood ashes. This created new problems, for when you focus on watering you neglect weeding, and the weeds loved how I had soured the overly sweetened soil. Not that I neglected weeding right by the corn seedlings, but the rows of corn were like alleys between skyscrapers of weeds.

With the weeds becoming such a problem, I had to shift away from watering, yet as I weeded, I was amazed by the roots of the weeds. They formed a thick mesh just below the surface, rather than diving deep to find water in a drought. The weeds did this because their way to find water in a drought was to exploit my watering, and to grab the water at the surface before it could get down to the roots of my corn. These crafty weeds had to go!

With the help of a member of my childcare staff I not only weeded the corn, but raked up grass after mowing and used it to heavily mulch the row, to prevent new weeds. Take that, you suckers!

But solutions create new problems. As corn and grass are closely related, you might think a mulch of rotting grass would release nutrients that corn needs. Wrong. The exact opposite occurs, for the intermediate step, wherein the clippings rot, requires nitrogen the corn also requires. Therefore, you must fertilize not only the corn but also the clippings with a high nitrogen fertilizer.

At this point my eyes strayed to my chicken coop. Chicken manure is so high in nitrogen that you usually have to let it rot for a year and be rinsed of some of its potency, or it will kill plants with kindness. Also, it usually is a disgusting swill that splashes like brown paint when you clean the coop. This year, due to the drought, it was crumbly powder. For that reason alone, it seemed a good time to clean the coop. Also, it seemed that, if I sprinkled this powder well away from the corn, to avoid burning the corn, I could fertilize both the decomposition of grass and the corn. Lastly, I again watered the mulch-concoction with highly diluted vinegar to sour the sweetened soil.

Hmm. My garden sounds more and more like the test tubes of a mad scientist rather than anything remotely “organic”. Also, it would not surprise me much if my chemistry killed my corn. Yet maybe, just maybe, we will witness a late season rally, and the comeback of an underdog, and I will harvest some popcorn, which is easy to store for the winter, as you need only to convince your wife to make the dried ears a pretty ornament she hangs on her walls as fall decor.

I belabor you with all this to demonstrate how even an old-timer like myself is still learning, and how a garden is not a completed thing but rather a work in progress. I am constantly running up against new problems, and consulting other small gardeners for their ideas, seeking solutions. In like manner, if you want to formulate a sane government policy you need to gather many such minds, so you know of many solutions, and also of many problems that solutions reveal. It is through sifting through many ideas that a government can come up with a route, (or perhaps ten routes) to try, and these routes are only trials. If you want to formulate an insane government policy you walk into a situation certain you already know the answer, and you order wise people, who know better, about.

Oddly, this brings me back to the doe and fawn chowing down in my garden. This is seen as a bad thing by some globalists, for they (in Africa) apparently feel “bush game” allows “indigenous” populations to eat even when their gardens are taken away, when they should be forced to move from their homelands to allow for some monoculture which elitists feel is wise. For example: planting oil palms which are supposed to replace oil wells. Such policy is reminiscent of the clearances of Highlands in Scotland in the early 1800’s, because sheep seemed more profitable than people. In the short-term sheep indeed were more profitable than people, but such policy seemed less smart at the start of the Crimean War, when soldiers were needed. The Highlanders had been the best fighters, yet few were now available, and sheep were a lousy replacement.

It follows that one aspect of a monoculture of oil palms is that it wrecks both the natural and social environment. It not only drives away the “bush game”, it also drives away the “indigenous” people. Yet the elite investors growing square miles of oil palms insist they do so because they love the environment. They destroy an environment that once held five native villages, twenty species of native animals, and 200 native plants, because oil palms are better “for the environment” than fossil fuels. Such madness is why I refuse to call myself an “environmentalist”, and prefer “conservationist”. (It should be noted that some who invested in oil palms only did so to walk away with buckets of money from subsidies, and cared not one hoot about either society or ecology.)

In any case, I figure I’m an “indigenous” sort of fellow. My family has lived in these parts for four hundred years. So that makes the deer munching my carrots and beans my “bush game”. And together we represent riffraff the highly educated elite will wish removed so they can establish a National Park “for the foxes” (IE: because they want to go fox hunting.) (I have noticed the elite never say they do anything “for themselves.” If it isn’t “for the environment” it’s “for the children”. They see themselves as altruistic. That is why they are so puzzled when they’re chased down the street by a howling mob.)

Now, as an “indigenous” person one characteristic I should have is a nigh mystical closeness with nature. Not that I notice it all that much, but I do know the correct facial expressions. I used to hang out with the Navajo, and they showed me how to act when the tourists were about. And that is what elitists are: Tourists on their own planet. However, when no elitists are around, what should I do?

I decided I should have a talk with the deer, and an opportunity presented itself when I weeded late into the twilight, one evening, past the time the deer thought I should have gone home.

When I popped my head up in the corn patch and began talking, the doe did not seem surprised, and just listened to me rant.

I ranted on at great length about how, if the deer persisted on eating my garden, I would feel justified to eat them. After all, if I fed them all summer, they should feed me all winter. The doe did not seem the slightest bit offended, and stood listening. But then I noticed something, and said, “Hey! Where is your fawn?” Only then did the doe turn and walk away.

I then did what indigenous people do, which is to act as if family and community are real things. The elite, who seemingly know only divorce and abortion, are somewhat mystified by such earthy behavior, but all it boils down to is “comparing notes”. In the process of ordinary chitchat, the subject of deer was raised, and I swiftly learned of two events.

First, an animal lover had, to their own great dismay, struck and killed a fawn with their vehicle on a highway a third of a mile from my farm, two nights before. Second, that same night, and the following night, a lady who lived a half mile away had let her dog out to pee before going to bed, and the dog had walked out into a spotlight-lit lawn and been met by a doe who came out of the woods. The dog was young, skinny, had short, reddish-brown fur, and was roughly the same size as a fawn. As the woman watched amazed the doe and dog pranced and frolicked together for fifteen minutes, before they called it quits, and the dog came in for bed. That this happened one time seemed odd, but the second time it happened made it all the more bizarre. Was the doe in need of a foster child?

Now, if you are of the elite, I’m sure you will recognize the above tale as one of those quaint but fictitious creations regurgitated by primitive peoples. However, if you are afflicted by indigenousness, it is just one of those relationships you notice, like the ladybug’s relationship with healthy plants in the garden. Just as you don’t call the doings of ladybugs fictitious, you don’t call the doings of deer and dogs fictitious either.

Nor does the story stop there. Just as fawns can be struck by cars, leaving does aggrieved, does can be struck by cars, leaving fawns orphaned.

A child arrived at our childcare and described how she had seen two men hoisting “road kill” into the back of their pickup truck only a quarter mile from my garden. (Why waste the meat?) My initial (and unspoken) thought was that the poor doe who had lost her fawn had followed her fawn into death. But later that same day a fawn without a mother startled the children as they hiked, by bolting across their path, at my Childcare.

photo by Riley Bishop

This would suggest that, within the proximity of my garden, was a doe missing a fawn, and a fawn missing a doe. Apparently, this cruel modern world causes broken homes among deer as well as humans. The question then becomes, is there any social worker in nature who can unite the lonely-heart doe with the lonely-heart fawn?

Heck if I know. All I know is that, with all this drama going on, they stayed the heck out of my garden. Not that it will last. The children rushed up to me today with the news they had seen a doe with not one, but two, fawns, just across the pasture from my garden. I sense an imminent threat.

What is the threat? Is it that the doe will bring her two fawns into my garden to browse? Or is that the elite will step in to help?

Judging from prior behavior, the elite response to the situation will favor deer over farmers. They will ban automobiles, for killing a fawn and a doe. They will not ban deer, for wrecking my carrots and beans.

Me? Well, I may work a bit more on my fences, though I hate fences. Putting them up is hard work, and I’m too old for blisters on my palms, but will likely suffer a few more. But a few more blisters before I die seems worth it, if I avoid banning deer and banning automobiles, while getting the job of growing my carrots and beans done.

Elitists? Isn’t it odd how, when they erect their fences, they never get blisters on their palms? All they get is chased down streets by howling mobs.

DON’T MOW THE DAISIES

When I was a small boy in the 1950’s our next-door neighbor was a man who struck me as a bit spooky, likely because he lived a frightening life. He was somehow involved with designing a missile which was supposed to blow up Russian missiles as they approached with an atomic warhead, an antimissile-missile. He therefore knew too much about the doom which superpowers flirted with at that time, and how close we were to war, and the fact his factory was a prime target, and that he himself might be a target of the KGB. Lastly, he was forbidden to talk to anyone about what likely scared him. He had good reason to walk around looking spooked. But, as a merciless child, I just found him creepy.

One habit he had was to walk about his lush, green yard hunched over, a weed digger in hand, peering about like a hawk for dandelions. He was death on dandelions, and his yard was nothing but grass. He would look in dismay over our yard, which held very little grass, and was largely trampled dirt, white clover, and dandelions. His dismay was greatest when our dandelions went to seed, and the seeds became airborne, heading towards his pristine lawn.

In my eyes they looked like little parachutes, but in his eyes, they probably approached like Russian missiles. I felt like, if looks could kill, I’d be dead, though he probably was directing is murderous gaze at our lawn and not at me.

In any case I grew up feeling there was something not quite right about people who fussed too much about dandelions on their lawns, and in the 1960’s, in the emerald suburbs of Boston, I felt I was in a distinct minority. For some reason people bought into the belief a lawn was contaminated if it included anything but grass.

I was not entirely against this belief, for I could make jingling silver dimes and quarters if I rid people’s lawns of weeds such as dandelions, but I also couldn’t muster much loathing towards the dandelions I pulled, due to my father. As a doctor, he was aware many weeds have uses in medicine, and he was always curious about such medicinal benefits. He might pluck a dandelion leaf and say, “This stuff is like bitter lettuce and is loaded with vitamins; folk used to eat it in the spring to recover from a long winter; they say it is good for your guts.”

Or he might look at another disdained weed such as plantain:

And he’d say, “This stuff is loaded with vitamins too, but tastes a bit mushroomy. When I was a kid boys used to chew it and smear the chewed cud on cuts and rashes, saying it made healing faster. I wonder if there’s any truth to that?”

In any case, I had a different attitude towards a weedy lawn than most suburbanites, and in the 1970’s tended to side with the tree-huggers who were violently opposed to pesticides and herbicides, but who also were generally too poor to live in suburbs and have any lawns. The people with lawns kept seeking the perfect lawn, which was a lawn free of any plant but grass. This eventually led to weedkillers such as “Roundup”, which may or may not have caused cancer in gardeners and suburbanites, (and has made many lawyers wealthy).

Rather than exploiting this lucrative longing for the perfect lawn, I, as a landscaper, tended to attempt to convince people to skip the bother of seeking such perfection, claiming Mother Nature knew what to grow and grew it, and it wasn’t wise to mess with Mother Nature.

One time a customer was bothered by moss. I charged her only twenty a week to mow her lawn, for the grassy part was small and the mossy part never really needed mowing, except for now and again because some invasive grass might send up a few strangling strands. But then the customer, who tended to worry too much, began to press me to work more, promising to pay more. When I explained the moss grew because her beautiful shade trees made so much shade it created a habitat more suited for moss than for grass, she worried I might just be lazy and making up excuses to avoid extra work.

I had to then be careful, for it is not good practice to offend a customer. I shrugged and said maybe she was right. I would look into finding a grass that grew well in the shade. If I found one, I could then rip up the most beautiful moss lawn in town and attempt to replace it with an ordinary grass lawn. Lastly, I added it would likely cost hundreds of dollars to do; far more than the twenty per week I ordinarily charged. Then I promised to get back to her. (I had hopes the way I said “the most beautiful moss lawn in town” might make her think twice.) Her response was to say she’d be making inquiries of her own.

When I stopped in to mow her lawn the next week, (far too busy to have done the investigating I had hoped to do for her), she greeted me with a surprisingly broad smile, and told me she had asked a friend about moss in lawns. Much to her surprise she discovered her friend had paid a landscaper to make her front lawn be moss. It had cost her friend ten thousand dollars. I laughed and said my customer’s much-larger lawn must be at least a twenty-thousand-dollar lawn, (which is what we called it, from then on). Rather than being embarrassed by her mossy lawn my customer became proud of it.

This only added to my feeling that all-grass lawns were merely a fad and fashion, fleeting and due to a copycat tendency among suburbanites, wherein somebody somewhere says something is “politically correct”, and everyone else follows without asking why.

Now I’m old and run a Childcare whose playground is thick sod enriched by two hundred years of manure from farm animals. It is likely 50% grass, but much grass is not lawn grass, but rather is rank grass like witch-grass, or seasonal like crabgrass. The rest of the lawn is perhaps 30% white clover, and 20% an assortment of many plants which can withstand mowing. This includes the aforementioned dandelions and plantain, but also many swift wildflowers which can survive mowing, though their flowers can’t.

This brings me to an interesting detail in many old poems, written back in the day when mowing was done by sickles and scythes. Often it is merely a passing mention, an aside, but it adds a certain mood or flavor to the poem. It is that, in the business of cutting grass, the grass-cutter avoids cutting a blooming (or even merely budding) bunch of wildflowers. In “Ode to Autumn” John Keats mentions,

...While thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twinèd flowers...

Now, rather than using a sickle or scythe, I whiz about in a rider mower. I might not be able to write like those old masters, but I can mow better than they, and also, I can spare flowers with the best of them.

This is especially true of daisies. A few years back I noted their foliage is very different from the look of other plants on the lawn, and that, by swerving my mower, I could avoid cutting a patch of two. This led to a patch or two of daisies waving in the wind, for a few weeks, before they became brown and ugly and I mowed them down and the lawn reverted to a lawn in its entirety.

This experiment was such a success I expanded it. This was partially due to the fact the daisies spread, and partially due to the fact I left areas too small to be edged by a big rider mower for edging with a smaller hand mower. Rather than two patches I wound up with many more.

This was wildly successful for two reasons. The first is that it looks very nice, for a couple of weeks, after which it starts to look very ugly, and I mow it all down. During the two weeks it looks nice I receive many compliments for flowers I did not plant.

But the second reason is because the lawn, being the playground of a Childcare, is full of children, and it is fascinating to see them interact with the daisies.

Early on I do teach them not to rip off the buds, explaining they soon will be flowers, but once the flowers are blooming there are so many daisies that I let the children pick all they want. Children seem to like this. They get to pick blooms without being scolded for it.

Also, because the daisies grow in patches, and I use the hand mower to cut pathways between the patches, the children skip up and through and around the daisies inventing all sorts of imaginative scenarios only young minds can envision.

Daisies become a wonderful playground toy, better (and cheaper) than any “education stimulating” plastic object on the market, and good for my teachers as well, for they have only to stand back and watch. The daisies are the curriculum. I also like to just stand back and watch the children in the sun.

What is interesting to me is that rather than something I did, this is due to what I didn’t do. Where I could have mowed, I did not mow.

SERENITY SONNET

What shall my mind dwell upon? Gas hit $5.00/gallon today, more than twice what we paid last year, but also it was a beautiful day with breezes of a perfect temperature, neither too hot nor too cold. Perfect weather for hilling potatoes, as the children at my Childcare were in especially good moods.

This is a sonnet of transition from worry to wonder.

Annoying annoyance will not be halted
By pleading reason, for fools have defaulted
On linkage to reason, to joys exalted.
They suck lips of pain with wounds ever salted. 

Like whining Skilsaws that scream all the night
They insist resting is never quite right.
They spoil even moments of simple delight
Like bad teeth that make you flinch as you bite.

I turn to the skies and sigh, "Father, Please!
Send us some peace! Bless us with Your ease.
Like children content in the shade of the trees
Let us feel filled by the hush of a breeze.

What use are minds when their noise will not cease?
Grant us simplicity steeped in Your peace."

WEEDER NEEDER

Running a Childcare makes me especially aware of what every parent is sadly made conscious of: What strikes an older person as beautiful and worth sharing make strike the young as exceedingly disagreeable. And the young may become disagreeable in response. For example, when the parents of the cartoon character Calvin of “Calvin and Hobbes” take him out to see the pristine beauty of a fresh fall of snow, Calvin doesn’t appreciate it.

At some point I decided it was more enjoyable to garden alone. In 2019 I had my most successful garden ever, simply because I stopped inflicting gardening upon people who have the sane opinion that dirt is dirty. I had more fun, they had more fun, yet at the time of the harvest I had second thoughts, which I go into, in an old, 2019 post:

The long-winded post contained a sonnet which is sneakily revolutionary as it is only 13 lines when they are supposed to have 14.

I wish they were as old-fashioned as I.
Though frost cuts, I heap a heating harvest,
Yet I no longer even bother to try
To get them to sweat, though reaping’s blessed.

Today I hauled a hundred pounds of squash
To my larder. For me that’s four hundred
Meals. But I know they’d, with piggy squeals, quash
All joy from my harvest, whining they’ve bled
And are wounded, because fall’s frost cuts.

Those who don’t plant don’t know why they’re fed.
Their fine complaints are but signs they lack guts.
They think they make sense, while making me groan
For no man likes to reap harvests alone.

To spare you the effort of following my meandering mind down all the rabbit holes of convoluted logic, the post wound up concluding that no man is an island, and I should find a way to avoid gardening alone. It also confessed I saw no foreseeable way of doing so.

This seems especially true of weeding. I like weeding, but many suggests this proves I’ve gone completely bonkers in my old age.

Why do I like it? Perhaps it is because, as you age, the fingers are still nimble, (providing you are spared arthritis), when the rest of you huffs and puffs doing what once was quite ordinary.

I once saw a film showing the pianist Artur Rubinstein at age ninety. Always a bit of an exhibitionist, he allowed the film to begin with him getting out of bed, so ancient and stiff he has trouble getting loose enough to stand up and walk, but then he sits at the piano and loosens up his fingers running through a few scales, and then, with startling swiftness, is able to play flowing rhapsodies of music. Probably it isn’t as good as he could play as a young man of seventy, but still it was utterly amazing, and also proof using your fingers doesn’t make you huff and puff. And weeding is using your fingers. It doesn’t make you huff and puff. Furthermore, if I may be so bold, I am a sort of Artur Rubinstein of weeding.

My problem is I plant too much. If I only planted short rows, it wouldn’t be any challenge, but with his Fraudulency, Biden, seeming out to create a famine, short rows are not long enough. But then, if you plant long rows, you create long rows to weed. And this year I am so serious about planting long rows that the weeds are already springing up while I am still planting the long rows.

This is especially true in the case of carrots. Carrots are good keepers, when winter comes around. Ordinarily I wouldn’t need to plant that many. After all, how many plastic, one-pound bags of carrots does my wife buy at the market for us in the course of a winter? Maybe a pound every two weeks? Even if you call our northern winters 24 weeks long and add another 8 weeks until we can harvest our first carrots next year, that’s only 16 pounds. A double-row of eight feet will do. Easy. (Especially if, God willing, I get some huge, half-pound carrots.) But, if Biden has his way, and we all starve to stop Global Warming, I’ll need some extra, for family and friends and church suppers. Therefore I’m starting with four times what I need; thirty-two feet of double-rowed carrots. (If I have time and space I may add a later crop. But, to start, let us see if the first doesn’t kill me.)

The thing about carrots is that they are tiny seeds that produce the feeblest, hair-like seedlings. Meanwhile the weeds grow boisterously, swiftly twice as high and twice as large. Compare a carrot seeding:

And here are weeds:

And here are carrots and weeds squaring off to do battle.

Actually, they don’t square off like that. The above is actually the edge of the weeded area and the non-weeded area. The carrots are hidden by the weeds, in the non-weeded area. Therefore, you must have fingers like Rubinstein and weed very carefully. After selecting the largest weeds, and pulling them, you start to see the carrots underneath, and can pull the smaller weeds.

If you only planted eight feet of carrots the weeds would never get so far ahead of you, but if your eyes are bigger than your stomach, in a gardener sort of way, this is your plight. The fortunate thing is that, although the carrots are tiny, they have deep tap roots, and only a few get torn up as you uproot the larger weeds. (And that actually thins the carrots, which is a later job. First you must help the carrots survive, before you can even get to the point where you worry about thinning.)

This year has been very dry, so my scarce free time has been usurped by having to do what the clouds should do and do better: Water. It is very important to water the tiny carrots for if they get too dry before their tiny roots shoot downward as tap roots, they just die on you. But even as you save them you are watering the weeds.

Then when it did rain, it was thunder rain, which is somehow loaded with nitrogen by cloud-to-cloud lightning. It is wonderful as it causes all your plants to abruptly leap upwards, but horrible because it has the exact same effect on weeds. The earth which looked so brown and weed-free after rototilling abruptly is lush with a kazillion weeds.

It was obvious I needed help, with so many feet of planted plants all getting weedy at once. My daughter and daughter-in-law have been very helpful, but my daughter is about to get married, and I didn’t live so long by telling women weeding is more important than weddings (even if it is.)

Just about every business in town has a help-wanted sign, so finding help from outside seems unlikely. Therefore, my wife suggested I turn to our Childcare staff. I cringed. I didn’t want to offend them. But, to my astonishment, they responded favorably. (Perhaps controlling weeds is easier than controlling children.)

One thing I never expected was for them to be so gracious, as I instructed them. I expected them to behave as if I was asking them to ingest poison, but instead they behaved as if I was Rubinstein teaching them piano. Even my boring sidetracks (into how this weed is edible and the juice of that weed is good for bug-bites) didn’t cause their eyeball to fall out with boredom, but rather they found me fascinating. (I would say it is the difference between a teenager and an adult, but one was a teenager.) We chattered away and I actually found myself enjoying myself. Then I left them to weed alone, and they worked tirelessly under a blazing sun.

They were slower than me, but more painstaking. I tend to leave the smallest weeds, just attacking the big stuff, but they left the carrot patch utterly weed free, and made great headway down the second patch. I’ve never been so ahead of the weeds, at this point.

And just to show I am not one of those exploitive bosses who sits in some office as others do the work, here is that same row of carrots after I got down on my knees and completed the job. (Please note how I used the pulled weeds as mulch.)

This is only one small skirmish in a larger battle, yet it strikes me strangely as a sort of miracle. The weeding not only got done, but it was fun. The girls actually said they liked it.

I don’t know what I am doing differently. Weeding caused my own children to experience post-traumatic stress and likely will cost them a fortune in therapy, just to recover. But this year my employees behave as if I am doing them a favor. (Maybe I should have paid my kids for feeding them.)

This brings me to the bottom line, grubbier than dirt. How much are these carrots going to cost me? Well, that all depends on the price of carrots next fall. At current prices my carrots are a very bad deal, but, if Biden saves the world from Global Warming by having carrots cost a hundred dollars a pound by November, my little patch will be a gold mine.

GRASSHOPPER HELPS ANT

The “green” agenda of his fraudulency, Biden, is having the consequences which people like me, (people who are dubious [to say the least] about “Global Warming”), have been warning about. We were warning twenty years ago. Ten years ago. Last year.

Basically, we were saying fossil fuels might have a bad side, but they also had a good side. Before we banned them, we should be sure we had a viable alternative, or we would lose the “good side”.

Well, we are losing the “good side”, as Biden does his best to prevent the production of coal, oil and gas. The “good side” was warm houses in winter, cheap fertilizer for our crops, cheap transport of essential goods, mobility of labor at low costs, low costs for the manufacturing of goods, to begin a partial list of benefits, (not mentioning plastics.) Now, with even a small part of that “good side” removed, we are seeing how much more expensive life is.

Is it worth it? At best, using the most biased models, abandoning fossil fuels might decrease the warming of the planet .05 degrees a year. (And there is debate about whether a warmer planet might be a better planet, more like periods of prosperity called “The Medieval Warm Period” and “The Roman Climate Optimum”.)

Now that we are just beginning to feel the pain of Biden’s green agenda, the answer seems to be “this is not worth it.” But, sorry to say, it is too late. Elections have consequences, even if they are rigged, and we now are witnessing the bleep hit the fan. It will get worse before it gets better.

For the trusting individuals who believed Biden was “moderate” I imagine it is a great shock to witness the destruction of the stability Trump had established, and to furthermore realize the destruction reaches levels unseen even in the lifetimes of our great-grandparents. Not that our great-grandparents knew of the modern miracle called “baby formula”; (they used a “wet nurse” instead,) but our great-grandparents never witnessed a government so inept that it manufactured a shortage of wet-nurses. For trusting, suburbanite housewives, (who apparently formed a sold block of Biden voters, women certain Biden was sane,) it is jarring to see he is not.

For trusting people who worked tedious jobs for decades, trusting their pension would mean something, it is a shock to see inflation erode their fixed income. It will be sad if they find it hard to afford heat next winter. It will be sadder if there is no heat to be had, and oil must be rationed.

Me? I lost faith early in life, when it came to authorities, and I had little belief any pension would be worth it. I was certain the bleep would hit the fan decades ago. This freed me from ever needing to stick with a job for the attached pension, for I “knew” the national debt was too high during the time Jimmy Carter was president, and was “certain” the inflation, (which was pretty bad back then), would spiral completely out of control. I was wrong. Some of my friends who had more faith in the system than I did retired at age fifty with fat pensions and have lived comfortable retirements, as I’ve had to go on working, and working, and working.

Now some of those friends, who retired at age fifty, are thinking maybe they need to go back to work at age seventy. That’s how bad the “green energy” inflation is. They look at their bills for lighting their houses and keeping the furnace going, and inflation is 50%. They could handle bills of $500.00, but $1000.00 wreaks their budget, and they consider rejoining the world of a working man. Welcome back.

Me? I’ve gone on working, and working, and working, but never for one boss. I’ve been free. I work for people I like, but, should the rot set in and a boss start to reek, I have always been free to say, “Sorry, Charlie”, and depart. So what if I lost health insurance? I was hale and hearty without it. So what if I lost a potential pension? I was sure the world would never pay the pension when it was due.

Now it seems I was right, after all. Politicians do not respect their elders in the manner scriptures command, and rather look for ways to avoid paying what they promised. Their breaking-of-promises is most ugly when their way of avoiding payments is to exterminate the elderly they promised to pay.

The most obvious and odious example of such filthy behavior was when President Trump made-available hospital ships and convention centers for people stricken with the coronavirus, but Governor Cuomo refused to send the ill to such highly equipped places, and instead sent the ill to ill-equipped old soldier’s homes and senior citizen facilities. This spread the corona virus among the very elders who should have been most protected, and roughly 10,000 died. Yet this in turn saved New York State roughly a billion dollars, because if those elders lived it cost roughly $100,000 per person per year to honor elders. 10,000 dead “saved” a billion. Killing elders may not be honoring them, but modern politicians know little about honor when a billion dollars is involved.

This didn’t surprise me, for, as I stated, I had little trust. I grew up in a rich town and knew how vile and fetid bigwig fat cats can be. I was repelled, and, though my disgust forced me to become downwardly mobile, I discovered the opposite of fetid is the fragrance of freedom. Money was not my master, and the blandishments of insurance and a pension could never seduce me into working for a boss who was not righteous. So what?

So…I lacked insurance and a pension. I’m still working at age 69, and qualify as poor, but I have ten grandchildren, while Bill and Hillary Clinton have zero. (And they are still working, too.)

Considering I’m sixty-nine, some ask me why I don’t apply for social security. Even though I keep working and working and working, friends say I should collect the benefits and then let the government take them back when I pay my taxes. But I find it hard to stomach asking. I have never thought Social Security was secure. I assumed the politicians had itchy fingers and would plunder the funds. The little I knew, investigating Social Security, seemed to affirm my distrust.

When President FDR created Social Security in 1935, he imagined the money collected from workers would go into a fund which the government would care for. The fund would grow, for the hardship of the Great Depression caused the life expectancy of men to sink to 56.6 years, which meant that most men paid into the fund and never collected a cent. They didn’t mind, (much), for Newspapers highlighted the first, prune-faced elders gratefully collecting their Social Security checks, even though they had paid little or nothing into the fund. A working man could feel good he helped elders.

Despite initial subtractions for elders who paid little into the fund, for the most part the fund grew, with more people paying in than collected. The life expectancy of women never surpassed 70 years until 1949, and as recently as 1969 the life expectancy of men was 66.8 years. This meant men collected for less than two years after paying in for forty-five or even fifty years. The fund was bound to grow. Basically, most people who collected in 1969 were widows, stay-at-home Moms who could expect to live to be 74.3 years as their husbands died at 66.8. Social Security was a good deal, a kind deal, a mercy for widows, but a doomed deal, because the fund grew too large.

1969 also marked a huge increase in the amount of people paying into Social Security, as the “Baby Boom” generation began to work, (albeit erratically.) The fund expanded, and politicians felt such an enormous amount of money should be invested wisely, but I think the investments were unwise, for rather than the fund now being more enormous, as it should be after the “Baby Boomers” made payments for a half century, the fund is basically bankrupt. Where did all that money go?

Ask the politicians. It will take a bit of sodium pentothal to get an honest answer.

Basically, to be blunt, they used up the money for bribes. They like to make bribery sound altruistic, “preforming services for constituents”, but, basically, they gave the money to people who had not paid into the fund, and who had no reason to expect benefits. The politicians would always claim they were “helping the poor”, but in truth they were bribing voters to vote for them. And now the money is all gone and the only way to pay the Baby Boomers will be to print money, which causes inflation and makes a Social Security check basically worthless. Where’s the “security” in a check that barely pays for heat and electricity in January, and leaves nothing for food?

I hate to say, “I told you so”, but I told you so. I wish I’d been wrong. In fact, I thought I was wrong, when my friends were retiring twenty years ago with cushy pensions, and I had to keep working and working and working. They had trusted what I didn’t trust, and they were reaping what I didn’t sow. I was the grasshopper, and they were the ants. But now….they face bankruptcy, as I’ve been bankrupt, (or at least hand-to-mouth), all along. Welcome back, fellows! Hope you enjoyed your long vacations, but its time to get back to work.

Just today, besides running my Childcare, I huffed and puffed out in a cold rain in my garden hoeing together thirty hills to plant winter squash in. God willing, each hill will bear three vines and each vine will produce three to ten squashes. Assuming only three per plant, that’s nine squashes per hill, and 30 hills will give me 270 winter squash. Assuming an average weight of 4 pounds, that’s more than half a ton of squash.

I doubt I can eat half a ton of squash next winter. In fact, I’ll have an excess to feed others with. Hopefully they’ll have something to trade in return that I desire, and we can call it “barter”. But if my neighbor is broke, unable to pay for (or find) oil to heat his home, (due to Biden’s policy) and unable to afford squash at the store-with-empty-shelves, because berserk inflation has a squash costing fifty dollars, I’ll not call it “charity”, but “hospitality” to invite him over to my warm wood stove to roast squash seeds on that stove, with some squash soup and squash pie. And hopefully we’ll be able to laugh at the irony of me, an old coot who has no pension, providing for him, an old coot who has one. It is like the grasshopper providing for the ant.

Of course, neighbor will not get off Scot free. He will have to pay a price for my hospitality. Hopefully the cost will not be too much to bear: He will have to listen to me recite some of my poetry, going back sixty years.

Here’s a couple of sonnets from over forty years ago. (1979 or 1980). I think that, despite the fact I was in my twenties when I wrote them, they have aged well. They give me the strange sense that all our lives we’ve sensed the impending crisis. There was just nothing we could do to stop it. Whatever will be will be. My old sonnets are like mouse-squeaks of warning.

THE GRASSHOPPER SONNET

When I was young, I was told a fable
About a grasshopper and one good ant.
The good ant gathered grain for its table.
The grasshopper fiddled the following rant:

"Man can't live on bread alone; all need song,
Yes, all need song. Life, without its tune
Is wrong; yes, utterly hopelessly wrong,
wrong, WRONG!"

                              That grasshopper came to ruin
Or at least that is what the fable states.
I guess that means next spring will be silent
Without the sweet chirping a grasshopper makes.
I guess that means all the ways that I went 
Will lead me to death, while you'll never die.
Either that or else all the old fables can lie.
THE ANT SONNET
The poor ants work while the grasshoppers fiddle.
The ant looks up to the sky with trust.
The ant can't see God stands in the middle.
The ant is shocked by the first locust.
The locusts swarm and the fields are stripped.
The ant's outraged, and it seeks its peers.
Army ants march in tight ranks, grim lipped.
Soon the last locust disappears.
Thus there's no fiddling. Thus there's no grain.
Thus we have nothingness. Thus we're insane.
Thus all our efforts breed flourishing pain.
Thus does humanity go down the drain.
Pray for ecology; then there's a chance
That grasshoppers will get along with the ants.

THE STRESS OF AVOIDING STRESS; PART ONE

While being rolled down a hospital corridor in a gurney on a Thursday evening early last February, it occurred to me that sometimes avoiding stress can be a stress in and of itself.

It reminded me of when I was a kid and would try not to think of my tongue. The more I tried not to think of my tongue, the more I noticed it. The more I tried to position my tongue in a place where I wouldn’t feel it, the more I felt it. It would just about drive me mad, and it took a supreme act of distraction to break my mind free.

The same sort of thing can happen at my Childcare, when I get some children’s-song stuck in my head: “Good morning! Good morning! And how do you do? Good morning! Good morning! I’m fine. How are you?” To an advanced poet of vast learning like myself, having such drivel repeating over and over and over again in my brain blotched my sense of dignity. It required a serious antidote. Whisky got expensive, so I tended to resort to a sort of spider-solitaire on my computer that allowed one to reverse moves when losing became apparent, and to attempt a different course of action, and to eventually “win” the game, though on a few occasions I’d have to back up and try over again a hundred times, and “winning” took over a week. The intense concentration involved got my mind off everything. I called it “zoning out” and it had its benefits, but my wife could become exasperated when I “zoned out” too much. Eventually I decided “zoning out” had the traits of an addiction, and was as bad as whisky, and I erased the game from my computer.

Ever since I’ve been in a sort of withdrawal. I work too much. I can’t get my mind off what needs to be done next, and on a farm, especially an old rundown farm, the work is endless. A thing I call “the list” gets stuck in my head, like a song. The struggle then becomes to avoid burnout.

That is the point when “relax” starts to appear on “the list”. However, it is like writing down, “Don’t think of your tongue.” You can’t relax when you are uptight about relaxing.

This issue gets exacerbated by aging. On one hand you can’t work as fast, while on the other you are running out of time. When younger, “running out of time” meant I’d work faster, but when you get older there is no such thing as “faster”. When younger I would drive myself and chain smoke, but now I’m paying the price for all the smoking I did when younger. Due to compromised lungs, it takes little to make me huff-and-puff, and I’m forced to pause. I don’t want to sit down though. Another attribute of aging is that limbs stiffen up swiftly, and if you sit down, you may find it hard to get up again. Therefore, the trick is to “pace yourself”, and to simply stand and wait until you catch your breath, and then work until the huffing-and-puffing begins again. In other words, it is still possible to drive yourself. You’re just a lot slower about it. What this means is that, even when it looks like you are relaxing, you are not.

The thing you have to do, as you reach-your-limit at a point where less work is accomplished, is to do a wonderful thing called “delegate”. I always found delegating hard to do, as I am a do-it-yourself type of person. I found it hard to ask for help, (or even to ask girls to dance, many years ago.) (The only “asking” I managed when young was the now nearly-forgotten art of hitchhiking.) However, over the years I slowly learned how to ask for help, and to reward the good people who helped me, until (with much help from my wife) I became a small businessman with an actual “staff” of helpers.

But then a madness hit our nation, which is in some ways a fierce war everyone is pretending isn’t happening. I see it as a war between Globalists and those who believe in what the United States stands for.

If one bothers to read the Constitution and Bill of Rights, the United States is very clear about what it stands for. Globalists, not so much. But, as best as I can tell, Globalists feel there would be no war if there was only a single government, and even that there would be no disagreement, if there was only a single government. Preposterous, I think. It is like saying marriage wouldn’t have any arguments if there was only a single spouse. It might be intellectually true, but it is stupid all the same.

The stupidity of Globalism strikes me as similar to the stupidity of communism, which has brought great misery to beautiful people and beautiful lands, wherever it has been tried. I’ve studied those disasters, and I notice a great difference between the way the Founding Fathers of the United States and Communists regarded small businessmen like myself. Thomas Jefferson stressed the importance of what he called “independent small farmers and artisans”, while communists loathe such people and deem them a “counter-revolutionary petite bourgeoise” which must be purged to make society healthy.

To me it has seemed that the ridiculous pandemonium called the “coronavirus” has in some ways been aimed at ruining small businesses (as well as small churches and small schools). Nothing about the “lock-downs” made the virus less lethal, but it did bankrupt many businesses (and prevent worship and learning.) The intent of the “lock-downs” increasingly seems malevolent, and people who say so out loud no longer sound so much like crazy people lost in conspiracy theories, (which may be why the censorship of such voices is increasingly desperate).

I like to think I am one of the “small, independent farmers and artisans” that Thomas Jefferson liked, and also one of the “Kulaks” whom Stalin despised. This blog describes one man’s view of enduring (and hopefully surviving) what seems like an effort to irradicate individual effort and replace it with a sort of “collective” mentality. One element of this attack seems to be aimed at making it harder for small businesses to find help.

One frightening attack on the supply of labor is the problem of Fentanyl. Even when the Coronavirus closed churches I was part of a small group which went right on meeting, (sort of under the radar), and the purpose of this group was to be a sort of AA for the addicted, and at one these meetings a young man told me a story that shocked me. He said he had to comfort his mother, because she was upset when she had to attend her first funeral of a classmate, and she, in the blindness of her grief, had moaned, “You don’t know what it is like when the person who has died is not an old-timer but instead is your own age.” He responded, “Mom, I do know what it feels like, for I’ve been to thirty-two funerals for people my age.” This opened my eyes to the fact we are midst an actual war, with our youth actually dying.

Another attack on the supply of labor was to offer coronavirus “benefits” which made it more lucrative to be unemployed than to work. I’m glad such seductions weren’t around when I was young and loved leisure, for I found it hard enough to push myself to work as it was; (asking for a job was as hard as asking a girl to dance.) I don’t blame any young person for taking the higher-paying “job”. Why should a young person work a job that pays $300/week when the government pays $600/week for sloth? In a sense the young were being bribed from the world of “small farmers and artisans” to join the “collective”, and the Swamp could afford such a non-productive strategy by simply printing money, with all the inflationary dangers that entailed.

In any case, right when I needed help, help was harder to find. Right when aging increased my limitations, and I could do less, I had to do more myself. My wife and I, on a regular basis, talked about simply closing our Childcare, but we couldn’t really afford to. Also, I felt like I was in a war, and closing my small business would be letting the bad guys win. I had the desire to go down fighting. And so, during the two years we’ve been fighting the coronavirus war, this blog has inadvertently been a recorded history of how free people respond to tyranny.

For me the response of free people has been to find a way to keep right on doing what free people do, in a way under the radar (and under the table) of new rules and regulations. If school is outlawed, homeschool. If church is outlawed, hold many “small groups”. If church suppers are outlawed, hold smaller suppers. If restaurants are closed, find a way to order special food and tip highly. If choir practice is banned, record an online choir of a hundred, separate, “socially distanced” voices, and use virtual technology to combine all the voices and blast a mighty chorus, bigger and better than before. (Some of these “virtual choirs” are utterly amazing, and also represent a spiritual form of counterattack.)

The war we are within is a bizzarre war. It is an invisible war. It is a war that small businesses like my own may be winning. The communist mentality never expected such a pushback. They expected that when they shut schools, I would close my Childcare. My militant counterattack was to tell them “Go f— yourself” and remain open, without masks or vaccination mandates. I was very warlike, but why? Because I was and am kind to small children. (And they are not.)

However, some do die in a war. It is what makes war be war. Though people sung “When Johnnie comes marching home again” as soldiers marched off to our last Civil War, every graveyard in New England attests to the fact many Johnnies never came marching home. Their bodies are not in the graveyard. Their bodies are buried far away. But monuments covered in lichen attest to their sacrifices. Not only the bad guys die, in a war.

Usually, it is the young who are the cannon fodder, but in this bizarre Civil War it may also be the old. I thought of this when, rather than protecting the elderly, New York’s Governor Cuomo imported coronavirus patients into elderly housing, even when Trump made hospital ships available. The infected victims did not need to enter assisted-living facilities. The elderly should have been protected, but Swamp did the exact opposite of what should have been done.

This stupid choice shortened the lives of tens of thousands of senior citizens who deserved better. Some of these elders may have been senile and might have had little wisdom left to offer, but even these deserved better than they got. Other elders had many years left to live and were as sharp as tacks yet were banned from even seeing their own family. Meanwhile the Swamp saved a lot of money, because treating such goodly elders in the kindly manner (which elders had worked long and hard to pay for [and had in fact earned]) cost the Swamp at least $100,000/year. If you have 10,000 elders die of the coronavirus you therefore have saved the Swamp a billion dollars. When money talks, compassion walks.

Money has never been able to talk to me in that manner. I grew up in a wealthy town and know how hollow the core of wealth can be, and how marrowless is the bone. Not that money is evil, but love of money is evil. It takes the “love of money” to think that killing 10,000 of our smartest citizens (and depriving them contact with their loved ones even as they die), results in any societal “good”. It only “makes” a billion dollars from murder. What could be eviler? What could be more an “act of war”?

It wasn’t merely New York that “accidentally” imported coronavirus into the very places which should have been most protected. Massachusetts made a billion, New Jersy made a billion, and you could go on from there. Call it genocide or senior-ocide, I call it disgusting and an act of war.

What a joke it is that, in such cases, rather than the young being cannon fodder, it is the old geezers like myself who may go down, in this idiotic war. But there have been days I confess I don’t get the joke anymore and fear I myself may become a casualty. I’ll be just one more closed small-business. Just like the little, nearby restaurant run by a grandmother. Another empty store-front, killed by the Swamp. I’ve read that 40% of all restaurants in New England have closed, to prevent the spread of a virus by using a strategy which scientists knew from the start wouldn’t work, as the virus kept right on spreading.

My hope is that, with so many restaurants closing, there must be a lot of waitresses who might be inclined to work at a place like mine. I’ve always liked waitresses because they work for less than minimum wage, with the expectation “tips” will make up the difference. They believe if they are kind others will be kind in return. That is so much nicer than communism, and indeed is more Christian than some Christians I know, though many waitresses profess to being Atheists or at least Agnostics. In any case, I do have hope.

But in the meantime, I have to work with a depleted staff though I’m getting too old to be working so hard. And I confess I may not have what it takes. I do like the idea of dying with my boots on, and if it happens, I figure I’ll just be a battlefield casualty. Just a statistic in this invisible war.

Winters are hard this far north, and the past one tested me a lot with frozen pipes and failing heating systems and gloppy, heavy snows I had to remove from driveways and fire-entrances. With January past and the maples feeling the first stirrings of sap, I felt I’d done a decent job, for an old geezer, and gave myself a pat on the back. As February began, I thought I had, at long last, arrived at a morning where I could sit back and write poetry. All was ordinary at first, until I went to use the toilet and noticed the water in the bowl was not clear, but gray. I questioned my wife, “Why is the water gray?” She said, “I don’t know, but the toilet made a funny sound.”

I was very annoyed, and griped, “What the heck did you do?” As if it was her fault. When I turned on the bathroom sink faucet the water shot out like a firehose and shifted from clear to jet black to clear to jet black again. Foolishly I repeated, “What did you do?”

As I headed to the cellar she got in my way, inquiring “Why must you always blame me?”

I gently removed her from my path, apologizing, and saying “Something’s gone wrong.”

In the basement I brushed the spiderwebs from the pressure dial, and saw it pegged out at 120 psi, when the system is supposed to run between 40 and 60 psi. I hurried to the circuit breaker and shut off the well-pump. Then I went upstairs and ran the faucets until the pressure resumed normal levels. I decided the black water was because the extreme pressure cleaned the inside of the pipes, for it stopped happening when the pressure dropped. Then I went down to the cellar to look at the pressure switch, and saw it was burned out. Fried. Lucky the house didn’t burn down. It had melted into an “open” position, so the well pump didn’t stop pumping, and the pressure kept rising and rising.

Fortunately, pressure switches are easy to replace. You basically disconnect a couple wires, screw out the old switch from the pipe, screw in a new switch, and reconnect the wires. You can call a plumber, who will charge you $360.00 to do a ten-minute job, replacing a $20.00 part. Or you can do it yourself. As much as I would have liked to “delegate” the job to a plumber, it seemed once again I should “do it myself.”

This was not the stress-free morning composing-a-sonnet I had planned, However, as “relax” was on “the list”, I relaxed driving twenty minutes to the hardware store to buy the $20.00-part, relaxed chatting with an old friend at the store, and then relaxed driving twenty minutes back.

There are worse things to be stuck with doing than driving through snowy New England woods. I kept the car radio off, to avoid disturbing news, and instead had a private talk with God, involving some intimate things which are nobody’s business, but some things I feel free to make public. Namely, “Why, Lord, do you make Your creation so beautiful, and winter woods so full of poetic images, and yet never give me time to write poems?”

Back in the cellar, though the PSI gauge read zero, I shut the valve on the pipe leading upstairs to keep water in the pipes from flowing down to the cellar. Only then did I remove the pressure gauge. The instant it was removed a jet of water spurted into my face, and I struggled to screw it back in, which stopped the spurting. Then I had to think how there could be pressure when the well was shut off and no water could flow from upstairs. Coffee time.

My wife looked at me hopefully as I emerged from the dirty old cellar, and her face registered the fact I looked a little like a drowned rat. She wisely said nothing, and I didn’t look at her, because even a hint of a smile at the corner of her lips might have set me off. (Not that I failed to see the humor in the situation. I just wasn’t ready to laugh.)

I slumped morosely by the woodstove and sadly glanced at my open notebook. Not so long ago I’d been starting a sonnet, and at that time could see the entire thing even as I began. It was loaded with internal rhymes, and I had all the rhymes at my fingertips, as well as the rhythm. It began:

Lord, put Your foot down. But just not on me.
I think it is best that You manifest
And halt this world's insanity. Set free
......

You’ll have to trust me. There was more. However, the sonnet now was like Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan”. Coleridge saw the entire poem in a dream and arose to write it, but some bothersome interruption knocked at his front door, and when he extracted himself from the chitchat and returned to his writing, the vision was gone. Utterly. He couldn’t even pretend he could write another line. All we have is the fragment; a great start to a poem which is but a might-have-been. And the above is the start to a great sonnet which is but a might-have-been. Only in my case it was not an unwelcome visitor knocking at my door. It was a malfunctioning pressure valve, and water spurting in my face.

It is hard to concentrate on poetry when you get hit in the face by a jet of water. It is even harder when your wife can’t even use her kitchen sink. It should be obvious why I forgot the rhyme to “manifest.”

In any case, I did enjoy licking the wounds of irony. I’d asked the Almighty to put His foot down. I did request “not on me” but scripture states, “Those God loveth, He abuseth.” Therefore the foot apparently came down on me. Ha ha.

Irony didn’t solve anything. I took a deep breath and focused my mind onto the mundane. How could water spurt from pipes with no pressure? The pressure must come from uphill, where the well was. There was no way to stop water from running downhill, so I would have to devise some plug for the pipe when I removed the pressure switch. After considering how to make a quick plug, (whittling wood seemed like it would take too long), I asked my wife if she had a stub of a used candle. She provided one in a twinkling. I carved a plug of wax, and I headed downstairs to face getting water shot in my face a second time. Lots of water shot in my face, but the plug worked. Then I could work in leisure, but I knew that one final episode of getting water shot into my face lay ahead, when I removed the wax plug and put in the new pressure switch. Sobeit. I put in the new switch and my wife had a kitchen sink again. I was a wet rat crawling ashore, bedraggled and yet victorious.

However, I was seriously behind schedule. Not only did I have to rush off to work a shift at the Childcare, (because the staff has problems of their own, which I won’t go into), but also the forecast was for yet another storm of glop and freezing slush. I had to stock up the woodboxes at home, and also deal with my wife’s anti-Swamp activities.

Where the Swamp seems to want to ban people from visiting elders in old-age-homes, and to ban people from the schooling of their own children, my wife insists on “staying involved”. She is a grandmother who reads stories to grandchildren in Brazil, via computer magic, and who refuses to allow the family’s matriarch (her mother) to enter the hellish “retirement communities” the Swamp offers. And in this particular situation she didn’t want to face the fact the coming storm made travel seem inadvisable. By hook or krook, we were going drive to Maine for a flash-visit of three granddaughters. (A two-year-old and twins-aged-six-months.) But we couldn’t leave until after attending a middle-school-aged grandchild’s quarter-finals basketball game.

At the risk of sounding like a heartless cynic, at times it occurs to me that all this family-stuff does not help me write sonnets. Perhaps that is why many poets live alone. But I have to admit warm and fuzzy family-stuff is a counterattack, in the weird war we are midst. Therefore, I sometimes go along with her sentimental nonsense, figuring her feminine intuition is smarter than my masculine willpower. That is why I might be seen at a grandchild’s basketball game which barely resembles basketball, when I’d much rather be writing a sonnet which does resemble a sonnet.

However, there are times I must draw the line. Driving to Maine is a bad idea if you never arrive. I needed to heed the fine details of the forecast, even while preparing for the storm. But I had no time to sit at my computer to look at the details.

For an old geezer, driving to Maine or even attending a basketball game is stress. It was one more stressful thing on “the list” even though “avoid stress” was on the list. I found myself thinking it might be too much. I might fail to be as tough as I want to be. I might be a battlefield casualty.

My mind slumped into morbidity: Just as the above sonnet is unfinished, much that I have wanted to do in my life will never be done. Life is too short. But this is no different from what happened to my peers in the 1960’s and 1970’s when they became cannon fodder. In the Vietnam war, each young person who died sacrificed their “promise”. Each death was a promise unfulfilled. What might have been would never be. In like manner, the death of every old geezer in the current war is a half-century of wisdom lost, and its promise unfulfilled. War is hell.

As I had these morbid thoughts, I had no time to play my violins of self-pity and compose sorrowful sonnets. I had to gulp down some chili and hurry up and down the front steps, filling the wood boxes. Then I felt a burning in my chest.

I figured it was just heartburn, because I’d hurried to work after gulping chili. I think your suppose to siesta after chili. However, I was pushing myself, carrying a few more logs than was wise, and pulled an obscure muscle I’d never pulled before which must string between the chest and the middle of the back, and likely has to do with lifting shoulders to gasp for breath when the diaphragm isn’t enough. Yet it occurred to me it might be something other than heartburn and a pulled muscle. My heart might be quitting. And as I thought this I was bathed with sweat, which was likely due to collapsing in an armchair by a hot stove to catch my breath, yet such sweating also may be a symptom of a heart attack. Stress.

The stress-relieving thing to do in such a situation is to do what I did in California thirty-eight years ago: Drive to a hospital, explain that you are having chest pains, and have them run a quick ECG. (ElectroCardioGraph). Back in 1984 they’d tell you your heart was fine, and that the chest-pain was due to a binge, you moron, and your stomach was protesting the fact you had drunk something like two cases of beer in two days. In 1984 the diagnosis took thirty minutes and cost $110.00. But hospitals are different now, during this invisible war.

I have a unique perspective, when it comes to hospitals, for my father was a surgeon at the MGH (Massachusetts General Hospital) in Boston back in the 1940’s, 1950’s and early 1960’s, back when doctors actually ran the hospitals, and before lawyers and insurance companies ruined everything. Those were glory days, as antibiotics had just been discovered, people stopped dying of staff infections after operations, and people dying of things like syphilis and tuberculosis were learning they wouldn’t die after all. Doctors and nurses walked with a real spring in their step. (How far we have fallen.)

I figured I was probably being a hypochondriac, but I’ve known good fellows who died because they didn’t want to make a big fuss about why their chest hurt. So I figured I should make sure it wasn’t anything serious. I was 95% sure it was nothing, but 5% is stress, and I wanted to avoid stress. Of course there would be some stress because of the coronavirus nonsense. They might object to the fact I was not vaccinated. But what happened might be interesting. It might make a good blog post.

I put off deciding, choosing to instead go close down the Childcare, thinking maybe the chest pains would ebb and I could forget my worry, but, if anything, they grew sharper. I still was thinking it was a pulled muscle, but the worry was there. I then had to face the stress of telling my wife.

She wanted to call an ambulance and I said by the time an ambulance arrived we could already be at the hospital. She said she couldn’t do CPR while driving and I said she could do CPR on me as I drove. She said she’d drive. As she drove, she called ahead to the emergency entrance using her voice-activated car phone, and she answered a slew of questions including my date-of-birth, and then we continued our discussion alone as we drove through the darkness of late twilight.

I was attempting to remain calm and stress-free, saying I was 95% sure I was just being a worry wart, but, if the 5% was true, then, if I was about to die, a good wife would not want to have the last thing her husband heard be criticism. Criticism could exacerbate stress, which contributed to heart attacks, so likely the best thing was praise. I should be praised for remaining so calm when there was a 5% chance I was about to croak. And then we laughed, which is about the most stress-free thing there is.

We arrived at the emergency entrance, which seemed an unnaturally bright pool of yellow light in the darkness of evening, and I hopped out as my wife drove off to park the car. I walked in and introduced myself as the man who had called ahead with chest pains. The lady told me to put on a mask and asked me my date-of-birth and whether I’d been vaccinated. Obviously, the woman did not deserve to be called a nurse.

I have a unique perspective towards nursing, as my mother was a registered nurse at Children’s Hospital in Boston in the 1940’s, and at Brandais College in the mid-1960’s, and as a hospice nurse in the late-1960’s, and then an EMT in Maine in the late 1970’s, through the 1980’s, into the early 1990’s. My mom could remain cool in the face of blood, and boys in my boyhood neighborhood would go to her with a gory cut, because they knew their own mothers would freak-out and perhaps faint. My mom knew freaking and fainting wasn’t any good, so she would tend to the gore. (If I had a complaint as a child, it was that my mother was too cool and too detached and that she didn’t gush enough.)

The woman I was dealing with was not tending to me, the patient, but rather tending to the paperwork. It was likely a good thing I put on a mask, for it hid my expression, which was likely an odd mix between pity and sheer contempt.

For one thing, it took me about two hours of on-line research right at the start of the coronavirus pandemic to understand cheap masks were a dumb idea. As I recall, there were at least three peer-reviewed studies in the “New England Journal of Medicine”, and two more in the English journal “Lancet”, which stated ordinary masks were more or less useless when it came to preventing the spread of virus. At least one study ventured masks were harmful, because of problems other than the transmission of virus. In other words, “science”, as it was defined before the coronavirus, stated masks (other than expensive ones), were useless. However, “science” acquired a bizarre, new definition, once the war on Truth was declared.

In its new incarnation, “science” became whatever furthers a political goal. It doesn’t matter if the goal is low lusts, greed, and desires for power. Science must bow, must disregard its former affinity to Truth, and must be “politically correct”. In essence, science must agree to be false. It is for some “higher good.”

To me this claptrap is such a complete denial of the original definition of “science” that it cannot be borne. Science is supposed to be a study of Truth, just as poetry is a study of Truth. And, when I have studied history to seek examples of at least a single occasion when lies led to some “higher good”, what I see are examples of times such lies led to societal disasters. The ultimate lies were Lysenko’s, who had the distinction of precipitating terrible famines in both Russia and China, “for their own good.”

To put it mildly, I have thought using masks is a deed of rank stupidity for over two years now. Therefore, when I enter a hospital’s emergency entrance and a lady asks me to put a mask on it strikes me as a sure sign that she is ignorant. I pity her, because I know she is just doing her job, but her job is not a nurse’s, and she cannot claim to be one. She is in fact a bureaucrat in a white uniform.

I have an unspiritual inclination to rear back and give such people an uppercut to the snoot, but that would hardly help matters, even in an invisible war. Pity is better. And, as a man who runs a Childcare, I often watch small children struggle to put together simple puzzles, and know it is often better to allow them to figure things out for themselves. To be simply given an answer often involves no true learning, which may be why God, in His compassion, allows people to bungle along learning things. If people prefer falsehood to Truth for some queer reason, well, they will learn the hard way. Only if one, with all their might and main, seeks Truth midst all the fluff and balderdash, is one likely to see the Light.

I looked away from the bureaucrat clicking away at her keyboard to see if there was anyone else around. The news always makes it sound like hospitals are overcrowded with wheezing and gasping coronavirus patients, but this particular emergency entrance seemed downright serene, and understaffed. Even as I thought this a strong, young man dressed in white walked briskly around a corner and approached me. “Hi!” he said, “Are you the fellow with chest pains?” He held out a palm and we shook hands as I nodded, and then he continued, “My name is Zack and I’m your nurse. Follow me.”

As we walked further into the bright depths of the emergency entrance, I explained I was 95% sure I just pulled a muscle in my chest, and that I was just playing it safe, and Zack agreed it was better to be safe than sorry. I like agreeable people, and I took an immediate liking to him. We chattered away as if it was an everyday thing for me to strip down bare-chested and for him to start sticking small plastic sensors to various parts of my chest. For example, I stated there were a lot more sensors than there were in 1984, and he asked what happened in 1984, and I gave him the short version. When I mentioned the two cases of beer he laughed and stated that he had also learned two cases of beer in two days was not a wise idea, when he was younger.

My cellphone beeped and it was my wife texting. She said the hospital wouldn’t let her wait inside. She wondered if she should wait in the parking lot. I asked Zack how long the ECG would take, and he said besides the EKG there would be blood tests, and it would take at least an hour for the results to come in. I texted my wife it was going to take longer than I thought; over an hour; she texted back she’d wait in the parking lot until I had more news.

Zack clipped a thing onto my finger to measure my oxygen levels, and then stood back and regarded a computer display above the bed in satisfaction. It made efficient-sounding beeping noises, and besides a graph of my ECG had around ten other numbers. Then Zack hurried off, and swiftly returned, telling me the doctor said the EKG looked good, but that the doctor wanted to do other tests, including a cat scan. I asked how long it would take, and he said likely at least two hours, and maybe five. I texted my wife my ECG looked good, but there would be other tests, and she probably should wait at home. She sent an emoji of a relieved face.

Zack was swabbing the inside of my elbow, but rather than just drawing blood samples he was inserting an IV with a Y junction to allow saline in as well as to draw blood out. I asked why they had to do other tests if the ECG looked good, and Zack said an EKG wasn’t enough to prevent malpractice suits; if I had a heart attack in the next month the doctor could expect to have his socks sued off. Therefore, insurance companies required a whole slew of tests, to cover the doctor’s butts. I said it was all about money, and that lawyers and insurance companies were driving up prices, and Zack diplomatically shrugged.

From there we moved on and had a chat about why I said ECG and he said EKG. They mean the same thing, and I told him that as a writer I preferred English, and “cardio” began with a “C”. I wondered if EKG meant the machine was made in Germany, and Zack laughed. Then I asked him how long he’d been a nurse.

It turned out he’d worked eight years for a crew laying concrete foundations. The money was better than he made nursing, especially with all the cement-work overtime, but he was getting worn down. I told him cement work was rough on backs, and that I knew cement-workers who’d turned to Fentanyl to escape the pain. He adroitly avoided the subject of Fentanyl, but stated he indeed had worried about his back. I said nurses had to be careful not to hurt their backs as well; some patients could be pretty fat. Zack laughed and said this was true, but cement was heavier.

By this time I was all wired and tubed-up like a person at death’s door, and Zack hurried off to bring a couple blood samples to a lab, and a very tired-looking doctor came trudging in.

I’ll call him Dr. Robe because he struck me as being like a robot. He asked a long string of questions in a monotone yet hurried voice, as if he was asking them by rote and wasn’t interested in many of the answers. The questions seemed very much like the checklist of questions you have to answer on forms as you enter a doctor’s office, questions more aimed at malpractice lawyers than your health, questions that hold the echoes of some past court proceedings: “But did you inquire as to whether the patient was a pathological liar?”

Right off the bat Dr. Robe struck me as the sort of doctor my father would have railed should be disqualified. Doctors were not supposed to look so tired and bored and discouraged; they were supposed to radiate faith and hope and to activate the placebo-effect with their complete confidence. Their confidence was supposed to be reassuring and infectious; Dr. Robe looked infected by gloom; he had no spring in his step; he trudged.

I resisted the urge to rail at him as my father might have done, and instead prodded my slouching sense of pity. (Patients aren’t supposed to pity the doctors; it is supposed to be the other way around; but the weird war we’re within has things upside-down and backwards.)

It occurred to me it must be humiliating to be a doctor these days. Gone is the respect people once had. Where once doctors gave their opinions from a sort of pedestal, now they are told to keep their opinions to themselves. They receive orders from the Swamp, and if they beg to differ, they could lose their jobs. Rather than being treated like professionals they are treated like lackeys and flunkies. All their experience, all that they have learned over the years through actual contact with the hurting, all their success and failure, is disregarded, in favor of some Swamp commandment. Worst is the fact that the Swamp’s new definition of “science” is looking increasingly stupid, as it is confronted by its failures to be like true “science”, and to honor true Truth.

The Swamp is confronted by the failures of its “promises” to come true. Masks were supposed to stop-the-spread but failed. Social distancing was supposed to stop-the-spread but failed. Vaccines were supposed to stop-the-spread but failed. Those who trusted the Swamp, and complied, now can’t help but to increasingly feel disappointed and even betrayed. Me? My faith was trampled very early on, and I’ve been a Skeptic for nearly two years now.

I think what originally set off alarms in my head was my perception the Swamp did not like second opinions. My father was very big on getting second opinions. I could recall that, back in the glory days when doctors ran their own hospitals, doctors were always sharing what they had discovered, or asking if the other doctors had ever come across an unexpected complication they were confronted by. They were well aware every patient is different, “what is good for the goose may be bad for the gander”, and they had open minds that sought the insights of others. As a small boy I liked to hang about the periphery as they talked over drinks after work, for they all seemed excited to hear each other’s latest discovery.

The Swamp now seems utterly different. They seemed to epitomize the Globalist view that there should only be one view. And this sense was verified when the first news about hydroxychloroquine surfaced. To me it seemed very good news, and I was appalled when the doctors who sought to publicize the beneficial possibilities were censored on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. At that time there was no vaccine, so why repress a potentially good treatment?

And so it has continued, through numerous other helpful treatments including ivermectin. Second opinions are not allowed. Only vaccines and masks are allowed, even though they aren’t working. (Who doesn’t know at least one person who wore masks religiously and had both the vaccination and the booster yet still got the coronavirus?)

Despite the censorship of Free Speech, (and even of the last president of the United States), people still do communicate, and the second opinions of those doctors who dare speak out are disseminated from obscure websites across the globe. And sick people always have a propensity to try even the most crackpot cures, when their first doctor fails. And, when the supposedly crackpot cure works, though the Globalists scoff, the word spreads despite Globalists best efforts to quash the word. People simply want to be better, and no amount of malarky can deny that the impulse to be better is a truly good impulse in the mortal soul. If you repress the urge to get better, you are basically a complete jerk.

This returns me to my earlier point that Globalists feel this world would be a better place if there was only one view allowed. I asserted their idea is like saying marriage would involve less disagreement if there was only one spouse. True, but then it wouldn’t be marriage. And the fact of the matter is that the Creator created us different. We share our fingerprints with no other soul among the nearly eight billion currently alive on earth. This might make us feel alone, if it were not for the wonder of understanding.

That is what I remember most from the glory days of medicine. Doctors had no fear of second opinions, because their interest was understanding. They did not see a second opinion as a threatening disagreement, but rather as the wonder of another view. As impossible as it may seem to some, disagreement wasn’t disagreeable. It was the opening of a window to a new sky.

How far we have fallen. When I looked at Dr. Robe I did not see a brave doctor of the sort who would be banned from YouTube and Twitter, but rather a compliant yes-man, subservient to the Swamp. He feared losing his job, craving dollars. Yet as much as he makes, it is never enough. He must pay back three times what I make in a year just to pay for the “insurance”.

Back in the glory days, when doctors ran hospitals, my Dad didn’t worry about being sued. When he saved a fellow’s life, we’d get a “grateful patient” gift from where the fellow reclined in Florida, a big cardboard box filled with oranges, tangerines, and juicy grapefruit. Now? Now doctors spend $150,000 a year for malpractice insurance. You have pay for the “privilege” of saving some goofball’s life. How far we have fallen.

Actually, it isn’t so hard to pity Dr. Robe. For a third of what he pays just to avoid the vengeance of ungrateful patients, I happily subsist. I pay my bills and live a good life with children and grandchildren. I am not rich but feel blessed in many other ways. But maybe I too will face the vengeance. I may face the vengeance of a sort of Stalin, who loathed the Kulak, who I am sort of like.

To be blunt, I feel the Globalists are narrow-minded, and that they find it offensive that so many live outside their myopia. Where they are consumed by a lust for power, the powerless simply get by. The Globalists ask, “What right have the powerless to be happier?” (For indeed we are.)

The answer, (which they don’t want to hear), is that we simple bumpkins deal with Truth, which is Beauty, yet which they seek to deny. They think they have their reasons to deny the Truth about cures for the coronavirus other than their vaccine, but when their vaccine fails and other cures work, the “cure” is something called the Truth. At this point, they can either confess their error, or they can deny Truth.

At which point one wonders what low craving they are blinded by. They must know on some level that their so-called “science” has been made to look foolish. Why do they insist on stating they are not fools when, it is increasingly obvious, they are fools?

There are various theories about what motivates them, ranging from the simple pride of a person who doesn’t want to admit a mistake, to more elaborate conspiracy theories.

One theory states that the profits from vaccines are gigantic, as much as twenty dollars back for each dollar put in, and Globalists are deeply invested, and don’t want to face a crash. Another theory states all sorts of wicked results are the real intent of jabbing every person on earth. Some even state they want to reduce the world population to half a billion.

All I know is that vaccines don’t work. People get vaccinated and still get the corona virus. Back in the old days, this disqualified the jab from being even called a “vaccine.” But the new “science” decrees that the jab results in “milder cases”. How can they compare a case with what never happened? The question should be, “Have vaccinated people died?” Because some have, the vaccination failed to vaccinate. So why push it? And why push it on small children, who almost never suffer complications from the coronavirus? Especially as the vaccination has some side effects which have killed some people. This may be a “small” risk, but why expose a child to such risk at all? Simple question. Just answer the blasted question! Instead, they change the subject. For example, am I a racist?

The effectiveness of various cures are topics which, back in the glory days when doctors ruled their own hospitals, would have been freely and openly discussed after work while sipping an Old-Fashioned. Now you hear cures discussed behind the magazine rack at the local market, or on obscure uncensored sites on the internet. However, as I looked at Dr. Robe, it did not even occur to me to bring up the topic of alternative cures. He was not a brave doctor. He was just a poor man, poorer than me, striving to pay off fabulous college loans and incredible insurance costs, cursing whoever told him that being a doctor would make him respected and rich. Increasingly he is neither. Rather than respected, doctors are increasingly a laughingstock. Surely this must eat away at them. Some pity must be felt, (unless, of course, doctors seek revenge on the public.)

These may seem like odd thoughts to be drifting about my head when I had a 5% chance of meeting my Maker. But they say your whole life flashes before you, as you die, and the downfall of hospitals has been a part of my life. Also, I must say this about Dr. Robe: He did reduce my 5% worry I was dying to around 0.1%, simply by stating my ECG looked normal. This relaxed me greatly, and from then on, I was just going along for the ride, enjoying the views of how hospitals look now, compared to how they looked when I ran about the MGH in Boston as a little boy.

After asking me a robotic checklist of questions Dr. Robe droned that he wanted to be absolutely sure enzymes in my blood didn’t change in three hours, and also to make sure I didn’t have a blood clot in my lungs, by having me go through a cat scan.

I hadn’t seen the bill. ($6,402.77). I hoped insurance covered a lot, but knew somebody somewhere was making money from the nonsense. Should it cost so much to learn nothing is wrong?

In any case, Dr. Robe vanished, and I never saw him again. It was the end of his shift, and hopefully he went home to a nice wife and good backrub. But I could not go home, and texted my wife that things still looked good, but I couldn’t go to the basketball game or Bible study, because it would be at least three hours before they were done checking me over from top to bottom.

Right at this point a tiny, masked woman dressed as a nurse came to roll me off for a cat scan. This struck me as a little absurd, for it seemed a big, strong nurse like Zack should have done the rolling. But back in my boyhood men weren’t nurses. Zack would have been called an “orderly”, which may now be a sexist term. Who knows? All I knew was a tiny woman began detaching plasma bottles and saline bottles I didn’t need from a height she could barely reach on tiptoes and putting the bottles above my head on another rack she also could barely reach, attached to a bed she barely looked strong enough to roll.

Above her mask she looked a little stressed to me, and in a hurry, so I tried to think of some way to relax her. After all, as one approaches age seventy, scrawny young women one wouldn’t have looked twice at, when aged twenty, have a surprising beauty, even when you can only see their eyes and foreheads. And I know life is hard at hospitals, midst this invisible war. I evaluated her.

The little nurse seemed disinterested in conversation, only stating, “I’m taking you for your cat scan” before becoming very efficient, so it was up to me to break the ice. Something impish in me had me state, “I think I am going to like this. Will you mind it much if I squeal, ‘wheeee!’ as you roll me?”

She looked at me with severe surprise above her mask, and said, “Please don’t.”

I laughed and said, “OK I won’t, but, you see, I run a Childcare, and I am forever pulling wagons or dragging sleds full of children, and they say, “wheeee!” as I pull them, but they never pull me. So, this is a new experience for me. I think I will enjoy it very much.”

She met my eye, and the severity of the young face above the mask went through a lovely transformation. She laughed, and said, “I push strollers at home and gurneys at work.”

I replied, “Gosh! You never get a break! Well, I suppose my old age does have its advantages…” Her forehead vanished as she lowered her shoulders to push me, but I did hear a chuckle.

I must admit she pushed well, achieving speeds faster than I thought wise, and she also had an amazing ability to navigate through automatically opening doors even when she had to show some sort of badge to make them open. I didn’t say “wheeee” even once, but did at one point inquire, “National Guard?”

This was because, down from the emergency entrance, we passed the non-emergency entrance, which is not the “main entrance”, (which has been closed a long time due to the coronavirus). The non-emergency entrance is where they take your temperature and ask a slew of questions and make you put on a mask before you go to an appointment about a hangnail. And as we passed through a crossroads and I looked down towards that entrance, I saw not the usual nurses but big men in combat boots and camouflaged uniforms.

The nurse pushing me simply explained, “Yes. We’re understaffed.”

I said, “Those big fellows should be pushing the gurneys. You should be swiping the foreheads.”

“Maybe, but they can’t run the cat scan.”

“You do that too?”

“Yes.”

“You must have to do a lot when you’re understaffed.”

“Yes”

“I know some nurses who quit.”

“So do I.”

“Strange times.” There seemed little else to say about the nurses who quit when ordered to have the vaccine or the booster, (or even other vaccinated nurses, who quit when ordered to order the unvaccinated to vaccinate). It was just part of the war. I suppose, given more time, we might have discussed the various reasons which the media never talks about, but we had arrived at the cat scan, and she had a job to do.

The cat scan was a futurist looking plastic donut covered with green lights and digital readouts, and a few red lights, with a table that shifted in and out of the donut. I had to shift my old carcass to the table, which involved rearranging various wires and tubes, and also the nurse had to add a “tracer” in my blood, which involved my answering a whole slew of questions, including my date-of-birth again. (I was patient with this stuff because both my mother and father had told me of outrageous mistakes made by hospitals that weren’t careful, such as amputating the wrong leg, or the right leg from the wrong person.) I did wonder a bit what the “tracer” was, and what side-effects it might have, and why they asked so many questions about allergies. The nurse mentioned I should tell her of various side effects, including heat in my crotch or anus. I was about to ask further questions, in a hopefully disarming voice, but just then I was hit in the face by a jet of water.

In order to inject the tracer, the nurse had to loosen the saline drip, and the little tube had jumped from her fingers. “Oh! I’m so, so sorry!” she exclaimed.

“Don’t worry. I’m getting used to it. It’s the fourth time today I’ve been squirted in the face.”

Her eyebrows raised above her mask as she dabbed my face with a white towel, which I found enjoyable. When was the last time a young woman dabbed my face with a towel? My mother? Sixty years ago? She brought me back to earth by asking, “What squirted you the other times?”

I gave her the short version of replacing the pressure switch in the cellar, and by the time I was done the “tracer” was in me, so I dismissed asking about side effects. Whatever will be will be. The ‘tracer” might cause cancer (or even have been the vaccine), but there are only so many conspiracy theories a man can handle at once, and these days I’m overwhelmed.

The nurse was shifting all the tubes and wires so they wouldn’t get hung up in the donut, and we were ready to roll. I rolled in, and the machine’s robotic voice (feminine) told me to hold a deep breath, and I did, and things clicked and whirred, and the machine said “exhale”, and things whirred and clicked, and then I rolled back, and there were more clicks and whirrs and a beep, without me needing to hold my breath, but then I rolled in again and had to hold my breath again.

As I rolled in and out of this “hole” I chuckled. It occurred to me the situation could have Freudian implications. It had some similarity to sex, or perhaps birth. But that idea was so utterly absurd that it made me think that all the time I spent fifty years ago, studying thought and psychology based on Freud, and even the thought and philosophy of those who rejected Freud by fighting Freud, such as Yung and Pearls (gestalt) and Lang, was a complete waste of my time. Fifty years ago, I thought I was seeking Truth, peering deep into the subconscious, but the fact of the matter is that, when you are rolling in and out of a hole, the Truth is that you are rolling and out of a hole. Psychologists make Truth complex when it is in fact simple.

The way this idea crossed my mind made me chuckle to myself, which made the masked face of the tiny nurse pop up and regard me studiously, even as the cat scan was completed. I’m glad she didn’t ask why I chuckled. It would have taken several hours to explain Freud, Jung, Pearls and Lang, (let alone Timothy Leary). Rather than asking me any questions she (I suppose) looked for “symptoms” and became satisfied my chuckle wasn’t a symptom. After this swift appraisal of my mental state, (especially swift when compared to Freud), the little nurse vanished as she bowed her shoulders and trundled me at great speed back to where I began by the emergency entrance. When we got there, I thanked her for the ride, just as I always thanked drivers who gave me rides when I hitchhiked fifty years ago, and, just as drivers then vanished and I never saw them again, she vanished.

So there I was, back where I started, when I arrived with the simple question, “Am I having a heart attack?” Maybe now they would let me go home? Not so fast.

No sooner had the little nurse completed the task of shifting various tubes and wires from my mobile and rolling situation to my static situation, when the new Doctor came ambling in. In fact, I’ll call him Doctor Amble, because he had the ease of a refreshed man just starting his shift, which was different from Dr. Robe, at the end of his shift. This difference alone should highlight the importance of second opinions. After all, our own opinions shift, from first thing in the morning to when we go to bed weary. However, the difference in opinion between Dr. Robe and Dr. Amble was more than that, and I found it interesting to see it manifest.

Not that Dr. Amble actually said Dr. Robe was wrong. He was in fact just telling me what Dr. Robe had prescribed. Much that was prescribed I already knew, (such as the cat scan), for I had already endured it. Yet, as Dr. Amble spoke of Dr. Robe’s prescriptions, he made telling noises. He never actually said, “Pshaw”, like an old time Yankee, but made odd noises that meant the same thing. For example, he seemed to feel the cat scan was a waste of time, for he made the slightest “puh” noise as he read that prescription. He also seemed to feel a sort of scorn for the first blood test and the second one three hours later. He had a better test. Not that he said a thing to me, but I am a surgeon’s son who grew up in a hospital, and I know a second opinion when I see one. I wondered what his second opinion was, but he just told me I seemed well, but they’d need to make sure with a few more tests. Then Dr. Amble ambled off, likely unaware I was scrutinizing him more carefully than he scrutinized me, and coming up with diagnoses all my own.

For one thing, I sensed his relaxed attitude was an act. An emergency ward is a stressful place to work even during peacetime, and he was working midst an invisible war, where political pressures had doctors forced to bite their tongues and keep their second opinions to themselves. Once again, I felt I, as a patient, should pity the doctor more than the doctor pitied me, especially as I’d already learned I was well.

Apparently Dr. Amble’s second opinion involved his own way of finding out if a chest pain was due to the heart. His way was to have the patient put a tiny pellet of nitroglycerine under their tongue. If the pain vanished, there might be a problem with the heart. If the pain failed to vanish, the problem might be a pulled muscle, or heartburn due to the sort of diet which invites an ulcer.

A nitroglycerine tablet costs less than a dollar, so you can see Dr. Amble’s approach might get him in trouble with those who see medicine as a way to make big money. For example, suppose Dr. Amble’s approach was more effective than a cat scan, which involves a machine which costs hundreds of thousands of dollars and an entire staff of technicians. It might seem obvious a diagnostic tool that cost a dollar would be more attractive than a tool that cost a million, but that is not how the Swamp works.

The male nurse Zack came hurrying back to where I lay, holding a tiny paper cup and a tiny bottle of tiny nitroglycerine tablets. After asking me a few questions including my date-of-birth he very carefully shook a single pill from the bottle to the paper cup and told me to put it under my tongue and allow it to dissolve, and to quickly tell him if I felt any dizziness. I did put the pill under my tongue, and then asked him if it might cause a migraine headache.

Zack looked surprised asked me why I asked that, and I told him I once was watching a crew blast granite in Maine and they told me not to stand downwind of the blast, because even a whiff of nitroglycerine might cause an instant migraine headache. He said he had never seen that, but my blood pressure had already fallen ten points. Then he asked me if my chest still hurt. I shifted about and said, yes, it still hurt the same. He shook out a second tiny pill into the cup, and after I dissolved that one under my tongue, he shook out a third.

I noticed Zack was taking great care not to touch a pill, and asked him why, and he laughed. Still keeping his eyes on the electronic display above my bed, he told me that even without touching the pills his body was absorbing enough nitroglycerine to, if he went to the airport the next day, set off alarms. He would be pulled aside as a suspected terrorist. I said it was amazing airport sensors were that sensitive and Zack agreed. Then he asked me again if the pills lessened my levels of pain, and I said not a jot, and he nodded, and left.

Soon Dr. Amble came sauntering back into the room, shuffling through a sheaf of papers in a scornful sort of way, and he said I was likely fit as a fiddle and right as rain, and that my blood tests showed no unusual enzymes, but they’d have to give me another test in an hour to see if there were any changes, and then he heaved a sigh, as if he himself thought it was a big waste of time. Then he turned and ambled out, but I thought I detected a slight slouching, as if he was under a burden.

Then I had to sit for about for an hour, which can be a little stressful for a person like me. I entertained myself by holding my breath and seeing if I could make my O2 levels drop to where it made a little light blink, but that got old, and then I drummed my fingers and fidgeted. Even though I don’t smoke any more, I’m still addicted to an occasional nicotine lozenge, but they were in my shirt on a chair six feet from the bed. Reaching that chair without unplugging various tubes and wires became an interesting challenge. I thought I had succeeded and was sucking a lozenge and back to making my O2 levels drop, when Zack came hurrying in. I asked him if he came because my O2 levels had dropped, he replied no, he came because I was dead. Apparently, I had disconnected some wire that measured my pulse. After he reconnected me, he stated it was time to take my second blood sample. As he took the tubes of blood, I asked him how long it would take the results to come in, because I wanted to tell my wife when she could pick me up. He said around an hour, so that is what I texted my wife.

Then I had to endure one of those slow hours which remind me of math class in high school. (Math was my last class of the day. Waiting for the minute hand to reach twelve was like seeing time come to a complete halt.)

Actually, it is not a bad thing to have time slow down, at this stage of my life. Usually, it feels like things happen too fast and I can’t keep up with the craziness, and I’m left gasping for time to collect my thoughts. Now I had time. Strange that the place for such peace was an emergency ward.

I made good use of the time, thinking deeply about hospitals, doctors and nurses, and what I’ve seen in sixty years. For some reason my mind kept returning to Dr. Amble, and what I might say to him to uplift him. I had a clever insight I thought I might share, a witty and pithy statement which might be short, like a sonnet, but which he might find worth mulling over afterwards. Sadly, like Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan”, it was not completely delivered.

Not that I didn’t try. The moment Dr. Amble reappeared I lifted an index finger and flashed a witty smile, but he never looked up from the papers he shuffled. He came in one door and ambled in a seemingly relaxed way through the room, and out the other door, shuffling papers all the way and never looking up once. I followed him the entire way with index finger raised and witty smile, but he never noticed.

In conclusion, I heard his conclusions, but he never heard mine. He said I was fine and could go home.

A young woman I’d never seen before entered after him and detached me from all the tubes and wires, I put my shirt back on, and then she looked scandalized when I put on my jacket and was about to leave. “Where is your mask? You can’t leave without your mask!”

I had forgotten all about masks. After searching we found it, crushed on the sheets I’d spent hours laying upon. Once it was back on my face, the nurse seemed very relieved, and I was allowed to walk out to the emergency entrance.

I was uncertain which door to exit by. The same woman who was there when I entered was still there, clicking at the same keyboard, and she was able to tell me what door was acceptable. Then, five hours after I entered, I walked back out into a pattering of raindrops, and towards my wife’s car I could see idling out in the parking lot.

Did this experience lower my level of stress? Yes, in terms of worry about my chest pains. But in terms of my levels of worry about hospitals? I’m not so sure. It’s not that the people who actually work there are bad, but rather that the absentee landlords who oversee hospitals are…. Deranged?

As my wife drove me home though the inky dark, I apologized for the fact my hypochondria had cost us five hours. I said my chest still hurt, and, if I hadn’t been reassured, I likely would have worried all night and all the next day, but at least now I knew I was OK. But it should have taken 45 minutes, like it did in California in 1984. She was very nice about it, simply saying her prayers had been answered. Then she promptly discussed driving to Maine.

This had the potential to immediately increase my level of stress, partially because it involved forecasting New England weather, which is inherently stressful if the outcome matters to you. The potential for being wrong is likely greater in New England than it is for most of the rest of the world. I avoided stress by exhaling slowly and deeply, and also by avoiding making a forecast. Often it is best to simply say, “We will see in the morning.”

The trip to Maine is another story, and this one has gone on long enough. Hopefully the trip to Maine will be “Part Two” of this description of how stressful it can be to avoid stress. However, I think it is good to stop “Part One”, at this point, for it is a sort of happy ending, and I do like happy endings. What can be happier, and more stress-relieving, than to find out your chest pains do not mean you are about to die?

But gosh! It sure can be hard getting that answer! Downright stressful!

NOT A CARE IN THE WORLD

The national and world news seems so bad that at times I find myself gasping for relief, and one relief I find is to take small children at my Childcare on a hike. Partly the relief involves the simple fact small children require constant attention, and I have few braincells left to think about the cost of gasoline or suffering in Ukraine. But another source of relief is more subtle.

Yesterday I had a couple “former students” visit after five years. Brothers, the older was at the threshold of adolescence, and ordinarily in such circumstances I find a strange amnesia has set in. I am looked at across a vast chasm, as if fifty years had passed. However, for some reason no such amnesia affected the brothers, and they regaled me with fond memories they had, including some things I did (and stories I told) which I myself had no recollection of. At one point the older brother looked about the pasture, where small children played in the distance, and folded his arms, smiled, and pronounced, “The Childcare: Where there’s not a care in the world.”

I was touched to be remembered in such a way, but it also made me think, for, when I am hiking with small children, I often feel I’m in a different dimension, utterly alien to the world of adults. It is not merely that war mongers have no use for old men and small children, but also that, old men and small children have no use for war mongers.

I led a gang of three-to-five-year-olds
Into deep woods, where we followed old stone walls
To a slanting, fallen tree with hand-holds
Better than any jungle-gym's. The hallowed halls 
Of looming trunks hushed to hear the laughter,
And silent deer and foxes peered from down
The corridors of trees, seeking after
The joy. No crows croaked; no eagle's frown
Disapproved; no jays cried harshly, "Thief! Thief!"
There was only the sound of children at play,
And perhaps my long sigh of thankful relief.
This poor old world hears news day after day
That tires the heart. It relieves to be free
Of such souring news, and watch kids in a tree.