LOCAL VIEW –Christmas Dispirit–

As a person brought up as an Unitarian, it was my understanding that all that was referred to as a “miracle” in the Bible had a scientific explanation.  For example, when Moses parted the Red Sea, it likely was that he just happened to be at the right place at the right time; it was explained to me that the sea often withdraws just before the onrush of a tsunami. The Jews crossed a low area at the right time, and when the Egyptians tried to follow, the onrushing tsunami got them.  Easy peasy. All explained.

There were other miracles harder to explain, such as Jesus walking on the water, and these events tended to be brushed away as exaggerations or lore. Or, if that sort of blunt dismissal seemed impolite, the miracles simply were not mentioned.

This attitude tended to be a sort of wet blanket on a lot that seemed wondrous to a child, including Christmas. It was as if some felt it was their duty to stamp out amazement. I recall the words “it’s only” were often used to dismiss the remarkable, as in “it’s only a meteor” or “it’s only northern lights.”

If I had to take a guess at what made this pragmatic dourness so strong an attitude in New England, I’d say that in the mists of the past (the late 1600’s) belief had spun out of control into the realms of hate, resulting in the witch trials New England is infamous for, and no one wanted to go back there again.

Also, because Boston had stood at the forefront of modern medicine for over a century, one nudged against a conflict caused by modern medicine challenging some traditional attitudes towards healing. Healing was formerly a wonder largely in the hands of God, but when “germs” were introduced as a new idea (around 1830) the idea that germs existed seemed to challenge God’s power and authority, (not that cleanliness wasn’t stressed, in the Bible.)  A hundred years later the discovery (actually a rediscovery) of antibiotics completely amazed people, to a point antibiotics were called “miracle” drugs.

Up until that point the prognosis wasn’t hopeful for sufferers of certain bacterial infections such as staff, tuberculosis, or syphilis. Whereas blood poisoning might kill you swiftly, (a president’s son died from a blister on the heel he got playing tennis, in roughly twelve hours), slower bacteria such as tuberculosis often caused a long and miserable death. Syphilis basically rotted the brain, adding madness to the prolonged misery. People nowadays can’t imagine the sudden change brought about by penicillin, especially when it was new and bacteria had no resistance. Hopelessly doomed people became well over night. It was as if Christ walked through a hospital, laying His hands on people and making them instantly well, only rather than a marvelous Man it was a little pill. There was a huge surge of hope and gratitude, and no one even thought of suing the doctors (for a while). Nor did people seem to remember to thank God.

Antibiotics didn’t cure viral infections, or cancer, but it was assumed a new pill would come along and cures were just around the corner. Anything seemed possible. In a sense there was faith, but now the faith was in pills (and vaccines) .

This belief-in-pills reached its most ridiculous levels in the field of psychology,  where belief-in-God was described as a neurosis or fixation, and the agony and ecstasy of spiritual search were explained away as being due to hormones and dopamine levels. Some of the pills handed out to doctors and by doctors as free samples are now known to have had horrific consequences, and are banned, but at the time the cure for a housewife’s depression was “mother’s little helper” and amphetamines, and suburban women walked around with eyes like locomotive headlights.

Children are observant and not as foolish as some think, and I was aware some housewives (including my mother) sometimes behaved a bit oddly, without understanding the connection to pills. But children accept a lot they are told without question, and I did learn to scoff at “non-scientific” beliefs at some early age without even thinking about it. I felt a lot of childish wonder, but it was largely about the latest scientific discoveries. Both the scoffing and the wonder seemed to largely come from my father, who was a surgeon.

Walking in the woods with my father was, for me, an experience in heaven, for he had a tremendous awareness of the interrelations between various plants and animals, (what is now called “ecology”, though no one used that word back then). He saw, or seemed to glimpse, a Whole, a sort of Oneness, and, without ever hearing the word “God” mentioned, I was enchanted and enthralled. (I never said “it’s only nature.”) Unfortunately these walks were few and far between. One reason the suburbs were so insidiously empty was because all the Dad’s were gone, being workaholics elsewhere. This physical divorce between the workplace and the home eventually effected marriages.

When divorces went from being very rare to quite common in the late 1960’s it didn’t make wives happier, and it only made the suburbs worse. It was around this time my mind began to grapple with the possibility something was missing. What was missing was obviously “Dad”, but there was something else, a sort of “spirit”, and it was especially noticeable around Christmas.

It did not occur to me I was on any sort of spiritual search. The very word “spirit” had negative connotations. “Spirit” seemed linked with superstition, and also with being childish, with a belief in a sort of Santa Claus. Instead, when I thought at all, I felt I was scientific, and after something science hadn’t discovered yet. Rather than an unscientific word like “miracle” I preferred the word “coincidence.”  I had noticed a glitch in the data that might suggest an undiscovered element, a sub-atomic particle, an unseen gravity (such as a “black hole”, which was just then being considered as a possible explanation for oddities noticed through telescopes.)

It was a very empty and gray time, as I remember. At age fourteen I spent a lot of time slouching around with a young Jewish pal nicknamed “Skeeter”, mostly grouching about how unjust young females were and how they should smile at us more, but also talking about other topics, including God. I recall talking about a media report “God is dead”, and deciding He couldn’t be dead because God was a concept, and a concept has no pulse or heartbeat, and therefore can’t be alive, and therefore can’t die. Also the media confidently announced scientists had “created life in a test-tube” (actually they had strung together a molecule resembling DNA), and both Skeeter and myself became depressed by that news, because if man could create life then God seemed strangely useless. Why this depressed us I’m not sure, but then, we could be depressed by just about anything at age fourteen, and these sullen moods tended to alternate with zany moods where Skeeter and I  bounded about like deranged gazelles.

When we were in slouch-mode we tended to walk with our hands thrust halfway into the front pockets of our jeans and our shoulders sharp and cynical. I tended to suggest things we might do to make the dull town more interesting, and Skeeter tended to supply the brakes. We did manage to go few places we should not have gone, without being caught, and did get in trouble at times, but those are stories for another evening. For the most part we walked and talked and did nothing. I often would scorn him for doing homework and getting good grades, and regaled him with tales of all the fun I’d had while he worked, and sometimes the tales I told were even true.

One secret crime I can now confess. The statute of limitations is up, after fifty years. There was a mysterious person in town who would sneak into the church, even after they began locking the doors to stop him. This person wildly rang the bell, for from ten to thirty seconds, often in the dusk before the sun was up in the morning. Skeeter could hear the bell, and knew it was me, but Skeeter kept the secret. He was a friend I could trust, and I told him other secrets I held close to my heart, which I told no one else.

As Christmas approached one year I began to ventilate to Skeeter all my mixed feelings about Christmas. As a Unitarian I was amazingly uneducated about what the holiday actually celebrates, because one thing about Unitarians of that time was that they didn’t need to go to church unless they felt like it, and in my parent’s case that was never. Or, to be more accurate, when I was small they did go on Christmas and Easter, and we did say grace before our meals, but they eventually dropped such archaic traditions. (Perhaps it only follows that their divorce manifested soon afterwards.) In any case, the reason-for-the-season was never talked about, and I was therefore learning in the dark. (Come to think of it, I learned about sex the same way. Back then some things were simply not discussed.)

It is really amazing what an ignoramus I was, but one thing about being fourteen was that I didn’t want to admit I didn’t know, and pretended I did know. Often this involved keeping my mouth shut and trying to learn by listening. Not that I always learned much by listening.

Besides my Jewish friend Skeeter I had a Catholic friend nicknamed Baffles. Like Skeeter Baffles was a good student, but he was so good I could never hope to lead him astray in the manner I led Skeeter astray. He wouldn’t go out walking under streetlights after dark with me. He was more moral than I was, and I think I was jealous, and with the weird logic of youth this made me want to make him jealous back.

What I liked to do was horrify Baffles by telling him, each morning at the bus stop, what I’d been up to the night before.  He largely scorned my tales as fabrications (and some were). After all, Baffles had known me since first grade, and could recall me arising for show-and-tell and speaking of the Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton I vividly described finding in the woods behind my house. But he began to doubt less, once Skeeter could vouch for me. I think he didn’t keep my bragging to himself, and people in my neighborhood began to be more careful about drawing their shades, once they knew a couple of Peeping Toms were on the loose, for some of our scientific research did border upon voyeurism. However there were no sex-education classes in school back then, and how else was a fatherless boy to learn? In like manner, how was a boy who never attended Sunday School to learn about God?

One time I told Baffles I’d sneaked into the Catholic Church with my big sister, and we had drunk holy water from a porcelain sink by the entrance. With eyes like saucers Baffles told me I was not only damned, but just plain gross.  Another time Skeeter told Baffles Jesus was a Jew, and there was a terrific argument at the bus stop.

This sort of discussion didn’t seem to be getting me very far forward, in terms of my religious education. At one point I decided to sit down to study the Bible myself. I lasted around five chapters into Genesis, and was defeated by the first “begats”. Yet I did notice some change in mood, when I made the attempt. I liked the highfalutin language, the “thee” and “thou” of King James. Although to me Genesis didn’t make as much intellectual sense as dinosaurs did,  I sensed some change in the atmosphere. I also noticed it when I crept into the church to ring the bell in the pitch dark before dawn. I decided perhaps it was just a superstitious fear, such as the creepy feeling I got when walking by a graveyard after dark, but as a young scientist I parked the observation with the data I labeled “coincidence”.

As soon as you start talking about a “change in mood” and “atmosphere” you are in fact broaching the boundaries of science and entering the landscapes of art, but I hadn’t yet discovered poetry. Instead, when my heart felt unscientific stuff, I tended to express myself by lying. I’d brag about something I hadn’t actually done, and then feel ashamed about my dishonesty. It can be rough, being fourteen, especially when the only prayer you have heard was sung by a rock group called the “Animals.”

I didn’t get much understanding, even from Skeeter. I think that, if I had felt understood, my life would have been different. In the half century since I’ve noticed that after I’ve had a good talk with someone I have less of an urge to write. It is when no one listens that the yearning for fellowship undergoes metamorphosis, and a mere garrulity becomes poetry. In my case the process went through an intermediate stage of fabrications.

I suppose this occurs because, when your heart aches but you lack the ability to find the words, you enter the landscape of the subconscious.  When you have awareness but lack words you are in an ambiguous state, wherein you have awareness yet lack awareness. You have the awareness of a mood but not the awareness of the words, and the mind produces a dream, rich with symbols, which is factually untrue. When one states, “My love is like a red, red rose”, it is a baldfaced lie.

For some reason I don’t understand I was uncomfortable with lying. I didn’t go to church, so there was no religious reason not to lie; perhaps it simply wasn’t scientific to be inaccurate. In the years since I’ve met others who live lives full of lies, and they never seem the slightest bit troubled, but my lies disturbed me. I lied, and didn’t understand why I did what I did.

One time I was midst a self-created anguish over some girl I never had the courage to talk to. I’d gone to a high-school dance and never dared even speak with her, let alone ask her to dance, which begs the question, “Why did you go to dances?” (Good question. I dreaded them beforehand, was miserable during them, and felt humiliated afterwards.) Rather than going home after the dance I went on a long walk in the night, feeling the adolescent ache of one who wants to communicate but hasn’t a clue where to begin. I wanted to be noticed, and invented a story I wanted to impress people with. In my story I was set upon by hoodlums “from the next town” and fought a brave battle, but was knocked down and lay unconscious in the snow. To make my tale seem more true I put a tiny scratch on my face with a rock. Then I went and lay in the snow under the bedroom window of the girl in question, imagining I’d be discovered at dawn and….and then what? Comforted? I think that was my original scheme, but after laying in the snow ten minutes I began to question my own wisdom. After fifteen minutes I scientifically concluded snow is not a good bed-sheet to spend a night upon. I got up and walked home, (leaving an odd angel in the snow), and as I walked I muttered to myself about what a liar I was. (The word used back then was “phony”).

The next time I trudged with Skeeter he heard a lot of talk on my part about how I wasn’t going to be a phony any more. This likely made him wonder. He knew I was a liar, but also that sometimes I did what he didn’t dare, such as ring the church bells at four AM. He didn’t know which things I was saying were complete balderdash, and which were true. He likely should have bluntly inquired, “What were you doing that was phony?” He didn’t, which I appreciated, because that allowed me to be mysterious and keep him guessing.

The problem with strict honesty was that it stifled the urge to speak the unspeakable. The first tender shoots of poetry were stomped upon, as the hyperbole involved wasn’t absolutely true. Also there was no poetic mush involved in the idea of manhood back then. Rather than “coming out of the closet” about any tender feelings, one was suppose to be tough. I felt deep shame about crying at movies, and would spend time after a movie sitting in the dark, composing myself and drying my eyes, rather than revealing to anyone I had blubbered. It did occur to me that I might be being dishonest, denying my emotions in that manner, but when I became determined to be honest my determination made a fist. Pictures of me at the time show an unfriendly face, which I thought was manly. Mush wasn’t anything remotely desirable; and rather than “get in touch with” emotion I tended to feel it was wiser to “get over it.”

This denial wasn’t working very well, and was in some ways like a scab over a volcano, which was one reason I blew off steam pacing through the night with Skeeter. As we discussed how phony some people were and how unjust life seemed, Christmas approached, and puzzled me. Certain things made no sense in a world where toughness was seen as a virtue. One thing was that people who were greedy and selfish 51 weeks a year suddenly were giving. Not that small children weren’t greedy, but older folk (and at age 14 I was becoming one of them) became demented with generosity. What was that all about?

Another thing was the attempt on the part of families who were dysfunctional 51 weeks a year to be functional. This was especially painful to me because I never wanted my parents to separate, and now there was a lot of awkwardness and pain surrounding the holidays, wherein we came together without actually coming together. In my case we walked down to visit with my Dad at the Unitarian minister’s house. It was the first time I’d had anything to do with that minister.

The idea of nice things like generosity and togetherness are difficult  to accept for people going through a divorce, even when custody, child support, and property are not contested.  In my parent’s case every thing you can think of was contested. Even their individual sanity was contested. It was not a situation conducive to Christmas spirit, and in fact was tantamount to scientific proof Christmas was humbug, a farce, and phony. I had every reason to sneer and be a cynic, but at the same time I felt I was suppose to be tough; I was suppose to walk around smiling as if nothing was wrong.

And then there were all the lights. I had always liked the lights, and as a small boy used to stand close to them and gaze until mesmerized. The bulbs were bigger back then, and I especially liked the green ones. In a way difficult to describe it was as if I was peering into a crystal ball, and saw entire landscapes, but they were made of moods, like Beethoven’s music. But I was young and naive then. Now I was older, and peered at the darkness.

Even in the darkness I couldn’t escape the carols. They were everywhere, and all sung about stuff that made no sense. After all, as a Unitarian, Jesus was seen as a liberal politician, not all that different from Gandhi or Martin Luther King or Robert Kennedy. Jesus had been assassinated like Gandhi, while King and Kennedy were still alive and making speeches, and there was no big fuss made for the Birthdays of Gandhi or King or Kennedy. Why such a fuss for Jesus?

Last but not least was that I had, parked in my file of scientific “coincidences”, data which suggested that unlikely mood-events could occur on Christmas. One had occurred just the year before:

One of my most miserable pre-Christmases occurred in my boyhood, back in 1966.  My parents had separated, but divorce was rare back then, and very difficult even when both parties wanted it.  My father didn’t want it, but had vanished from the household and was fighting to save his marriage from afar, as my mother fought for freedom.  My mother felt I ought be protected from the details of their dispute, but I found it a sort of hell to have my father vanish, and have no explanation given.

This silence concerning the truth had been going on for a year and a half, and had made me a crazy boy,  and now I was thirteen and just starting to also go crazy with hormones. The misery I felt peaked during holidays, because holidays reminded me of better days, back when I was part of a happy, functioning family. During the dark days of December 1966 I found myself in a sort of private war.  It was invisible to others, but very real to me.

We had gone from being very rich to abrupt poverty, (by the standards of a wealthy suburb,) and I had no money, but had decided I would fight back and give presents even though I was broke.  I struggled to make hand-made presents for people, though my carpentry skills were undeveloped and I had no father to instruct me.  My fingers were bleeding and bandaged from my blunders.

One project had me on the verge of tears and rage.  I was endeavoring to make a pair of tiny hearts, as earrings for my mother, out of red cedar wood, but such wood splits very easily, and over and over, just when a small heart was nearly done, it would split in two and I’d have to start over. I only finished on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, and trudged off to a gift shop a mile away to buy the metal fasteners that would turn the wood hearts to earrings.

For several days we’d been in a mild flow from the south, and the snowless landscape was grey under a dull sky.  Life seemed very unfair to me.  Other boys seven hundred miles to the west had a white Christmas, as a modest low swung north to the Great Lakes, but we were on the warm side and the weathermen on all three major Boston channels had said there was no chance of a white Christmas for Boston.  The snowlessness  seemed like insult heaped onto injury to me, and while I didn’t exactly give God a tongue lashing, I was extremely pessimistic about my good deeds ever gaining me any sort of reward.

However my irascible temper lashed out against the darkness by giving gifts, which must have won me a point or two upstairs, because all of a sudden nice things started to happened to me.

When I walked into the gift shop and timidly asked for fasteners, my pout and bandaged fingers must have touched the lady who ran the shop, because she took me under her wing and proceeded to not only sell me two fasteners, but to take me to the back of her shop, (where she repaired jewelry and watches,) and showed me how to glue the fasteners to the wooden hearts, and then got me a tiny box with a cotton square on the bottom to hold my earrings, and even wrapped them for me. I walked out of there in a much better mood, with the bells on the door jingling behind me, and then stopped in my tracks.  Big, fat snowflakes were lazily drifting down from the grey sky.

As I walked home through the snow it seemed absolutely everyone was smiling. The snow was lazy and seemed harmless, but then it grew more steady and swirled, and when I arrived home my poor mother was going through one of her attacks of worry, as my older brothers had gone Christmas shopping in her car. Fortunately I only had to be a thirteen year old male soothing a 42 year old woman for a short while, before my brothers appeared through the snow with her car unscathed, and all was well.

We headed off on foot to Christmas Carols outside a church a half mile away, and for some reason, perhaps due to the snow, rather than the usual thirty people showing up, a hundred-twenty-five showed up to sing in the increasingly heavy snow.  Just as we finished there was a flash of lightning, and long, deep, horizon-to-horizon roll of thunder.

As I turned to walk home, with the thunder still rolling,  a thirteen-year-girl who I secretly adored but whom I had no chance of dating, (as I was not only thirteen, and broke, but also a half-foot shorter than she was,) glanced my way with her face awed by the thunder, and when she saw me watching her,  she smiled an abrupt smile at me that just about knocked me flat on my back in the snow.  And at that point I decided miracles actually could happen, and life might not be so bad, after all.

There was more lightning, and we had around seven inches of snow before it tapered off at midnight. The weathermen were embarrassed, but did give the freak event a name. It was dubbed “The Donner and Blitzen Storm.”  Likely it was a “vort max” that “phased” with a “frontal low,” but, as it wasn’t a huge blizzard and set no records, record books don’t mention it much.  However guys and gals over sixty, who lived between Portland Maine and Philadelphia back in 1966, all seem to remember it.  It was a Christmas miracle,  private and personal, but given to many.

Having this sort of unscientific data in my memory-banks didn’t help me make sense of things. After all, I could dismiss it as “only a mood”. It had occurred back when I was only a kid, a whole year earlier. I’d grown a lot since then; a whole half foot. I was suppose to be beyond such silly, sissy stuff.

Yet as I stomped down streets with Skeeter, our shadows shrinking and lengthening and shrinking again in the pools of streetlight-yellow, on a December night of chilled fog, we muttered about our moods, using a scientific instrument fourteen year old boys own called a moodylator,  (also called a “heart”, by the unscientific). And abruptly I smacked my fist into my palm and said that this year would be different; this year I was going to get to the bottom of a mystery; this year I was going to figure out, for once and for all, what all the fuss about Christmas Spirit was about.

Skeeter then had the unusual experience of being a Jew hearing a Unitarian wonder about what Christmas was all about. As we walked through the foggy night he told me a little he knew about Jesus I didn’t know. (It tells you something about Unitarians, when a Jew knows more about Jesus than they do.) Somehow what he spoke was utterly dissatisfying. I can’t recall what the factoids actually were, but they struck me as being mere trivia, and my moodylator was going berserk, sensing something different.

As Skeeter and I trudged on through the cold fog I began to repetitively mutter, with increasing exasperation, “I just want to know.”  I got louder and louder, until Skeeter got a little alarmed and told me to shut up. I then lost it, and bellowed, “I just want to know!” and then turned away from the street and dashed off into the darkness, down the slope of a snow-covered field. The cold fog rose like a wall of black before me, and behind me I could hear Skeeter’s voice crying, more and more faintly, “Come back! Come back!”

Now it is fifty years later. Sometimes, as I write tales about me and Skeeter and Baffles, I wish I could hop in a time machine and go back to that time and appear in my own story, a sixty-four year old man giving a fourteen year old a bit of advice.

I can’t do that. Only God can be the Creator, appearing in the story He has written. And actually that is the unlikely event that the Christmas Story describes. It is a wonderful tale, even if you don’t believe it is possible, and it amazes me that so many are growing up today and do not know the tale. For some reason some feel telling the tale is politically incorrect, and that Christmas should be celebrated without mentioning what it celebrates.

And what is that? Well, the world was becoming dark, and into the dark there came a Great Light. That is enough to begin with. If you happen to know a fourteen year old who spends a lot of time walking and scowling, do me a favor, and just take the time to tell him the Christmas Story.

https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/12/12/christmas-light-in-darkness/

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(south of) ARCTIC SEA ICE –Turkish Delight–

One of the more surreal bits of history is the start of World War One, which we now can see, with 20-20 hindsight, was a complete disaster for Europe, especially the Victorian royalty. At the start,  the English and German thrones held two grandsons of Queen Victoria, and the Czar of Russia was married to a granddaughter.  The entire slaughter could have been avoided if the family had been a bit more functional, and had put their foot down on the lesser powers who were starting the war up. However the English royal family referred to the Kaiser of Germany as “that dreadful cousin Willy”, and when push came to shove they seemed to think of war as a sporting event. In September 1914 the public was assured, “It will be over by Christmas”. The first troops marched off on prancing horses in absolutely gorgeous uniforms with feathers and shining helmets, as if they were off to a jousting tournament in medieval times, and not on their way to meet machine guns.

By Christmas many were waking up to the realities of modern warfare, but the leaders, who sent others to die charging machine guns, still seemed to hold the idea that the dying troops were like football players put on “injured reserve”, a sad aspect of a jolly good sport. They decided to hold a Christmas Truce, when they could meet with their fellow officers on the opposing side, toast the holiday with fine bandy, and exchange helmets.

Christmas Truce 1914, as seen by the Illustrated London News. However the troops refused to be left out, and they too fraternized with the enemy, breaking ranks to drink, sing Christmas Carols, and play soccer with their sworn foe.

Armistice Day football match at Dale Barracks between german soldiers and Royal Welsh fusiliers to remember the famous Christmas Day truce between germany and Britain PCH

Armistice Day football match at Dale Barracks between German soldiers and Royal Welsh fusiliers to remember the famous Christmas Day truce between Germany and Britain PCH

You can hardly blame the troops. After all, they had been promised the war would be over by Christmas, and it was Christmas. What’s more, they proved the war could be over, if only the leaders would behave sanely. However the leaders did not. They banned Christmas truces for the rest of the war, by which time the royalty of Germany, Russia, the Austrio-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire had lost their power, and Britain was greatly weakened. In the view of the English poet Wilfred Owen it was as if Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son, and then, when God offered a ram, caught by its horns in a thicket, to be used instead of Isaac (or Ishmael if you’re Muslim), Abraham had refused the substitution, and insisted on killing his son.

PARABLE OF THE OLD MAN AND THE YOUNG

So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
and builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretched forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him. Behold,
A ram, caught in a thicket by its horns;
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.
But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

                                                       Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen was machine-gunned dead a week before the war ended. His mother got the news even as all the church-bells were ringing, rejoicing that the “War To End All Wars”  was at long last over.

So now here we are, 101 years later, and are we any wiser for all the horror we have seen? Sadly, I think not, for we seem on the verge of a new slaughter between the Islamic and the non-Islamic. The royalty on either side may be different, and may not focus so much on their lineage, but they are as brainless.

It seems proof that money cannot buy happiness. Who has had more money than the Arab states, with their oil revenue, but do they use this surplus to make happiness, or to brew hate and war?  And, when you look at the West, has money led to reason, or to greater greed? When you look at Hollywood, has money and fame led to goodness?

The good people, in my humble opinion, continue to be the troops in No Man’s Land, which in modern terms are the slums, and the factories, and fast food restaurants, and rural wastes, and any place the helpless abide. They yearn for leaders, but the leaders are fools. They yearn for guidance, but the guides are lost. They yearn for teachers, but the teachers only parrot nonsense. Who is there that will help them?

Basically, they have to count on themselves. If you want to see kindness and not hate, or generosity and not greed, or purity and not lust and gluttony, you are more liable to see it among the poor, for, while they have the same bad qualities all humans own, they have no where else to turn but to each other, for goodness.

This is a disgrace to all others who claim to represent goodness. Why don’t the poor trust them? Because the poor have seen all Temples, Churches, Mosques, Parliaments, Thrones, and Madison Avenue Agencies be too caught up in their greedy battles for power, wealth, and acclaim (and even mere self-gratification) to be free of the all-pervading perversions that make them liars, and liars can’t represent Truth. The poor can’t turn to them.

Truth doesn’t die, though people ignore it. It whistles in the bitter winter winds the poor endure, as the rich close coal power plants for falsified reasons. It smiles with the sunshine of unexpected thaws. Perhaps this is why so many talk so much about the weather. The weather, at least, is not a liar. It is what it is.

Autumn is ending with kindness for the eastern USA and much of Europe, as mild winds have surged from west to east. It is a Christmas miracle for many poor people, to have heating bills be so low.  Of course, Global Warming fanatics manage to make misery of good news, by suggesting it would be far better if the poor were cold, but the Truth ignores them, and temperatures over most of Europe are far above normal, (as is shown in the anomaly map Dr. Ryan Maue makes possible from GFS data at the Weatherbell site).

20151215 gfs_t2m_anom_eur_1

This warm surge may be followed by a second even stronger surge, and perhaps a third, which is a kindly truth for Europe, at the very start of their winter, although the end of winter may be very different. However a weather pattern that is kindly for the poor of one area may not be so kindly for other areas, and in this case you should look to the bottom right of the above map, where temperatures are below normal in Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

Now, before you get too caught up in the oncoming war between the Islamic and non-Islamic, and snicker “it serves them right”, I should mention cool weather is a cause for celebration in some of those lands. The poor, who cannot afford air conditioning, don’t need it.

However Turkey is too far north, and as the milder air rams east it is like a plow that shoves some Siberian cold north to the Pole, but other Siberian air south, where it is part of a backwash or counter-current that brings amazing snows to Turkey. The poor there can’t be too happy, as hundred of villages are cut off.

http://iceagenow.info/2015/12/17452/#more-17452

Now, when an area is hit and buried by snow, people tend to slip and fall down in the snow. We can chuckle about the situation because, just as the warm sun falls on rich and poor alike, the snow can make a young, strong, healthy and relatively wealthy guy lose his dignity. However suppose the person slipping and falling is a poor and elderly woman. It is not so funny, then. And who will stop to help her? The young, strong, healthy and relatively wealthy guy with lots of dignity? Or a scrawny, little Red Riding Hood?

 

This is not an example of Christmas Spirit, as Turkey is a Muslim nation, and they don’t celebrate Christmas,  but I like to think Jesus would smile at the above pictures. In like manner, I like to think that Mohammad would smile at how I behave, though I do not live in a Muslim nation.

For it is not the prophets who are to blame for hate between peoples. Nor is it the poor.

The ones who bear the blame are obvious. They need not be named. They rule with greed, hate and lust, and attempt to inflame such irrational reasoning in the people they lead. However perhaps the poor are reaching a point where they will simply feel enough is enough, and be sick of it.

CHRISTMAS LIGHT IN DARKNESS

Longfellow MTE5NDg0MDU1MDQ0NTg5MDcx

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow saw his share of darkness during his time on earth, as we all do, and had to fight the battles we all fight to light candles in the darkness. Especially sad was the loss of his first wife, while he was touring Europe with her, when they were still in the blush of first love. He recovered from that to find a second love, and for a time enjoyed a happy marriage with six children, five of whom survived, before tragedy again struck him.

His wife was sealing up a letter with sealing wax, as was usual in 1861, when her dress caught fire, and despite her husband’s desperate efforts she was so badly burned she died the next day.

That was such a blow that Longfellow had not the heart to write any more poetry. A great darkness decended upon his life, made worse by the onset of the civil war. Then into that darkness came news that his eldest son, seventeen-years-old, had run off to join the army.Longfellow son pic

The son, Charles Appleton Longfellow,  was severely wounded in the battle of New Hope Church (irony), with a bullet passing so close to his spine paralysis seemed likely. Longfellow hurried south to see his son, who clung to life despite all the problems with infection in those days before antibiotics, and Longfellow brought the teenager north to try to nurse him back to life.

Perhaps it was having to fight for a son’s life that revived the old man’s poetic powers, but, while facing the darkness of December and a Christmas made black by the ugliness of war, Longfellow produced this poem:

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

The defiance of despair in the face of cruel fate, which manifests in this poem, is one of the most beautiful qualities of the human spirit, and in my humble opinion is proof there is something good in mankind, despite our amazing capacity to make misery when we could make peace.

(The son did survive and walk again, though he did not recover enough to rejoin the army, which he wanted to do.)

This is my favorite version of Longfellow’s poem put to music:

 

LOCAL VIEW —Christmas Homesickness—

December has been snowless so far, and I’m rather enjoying it. Last year we’d already had enough snow to shovel, and I was numbering the storms. Even though a warm wave was in the long range, and it turned out we had a green Christmas (with bluebirds and robins in the yard as the yearly Christmas miracle), it also seemed down in my bones that we were in for a test, and spring would be a long time coming, and I was right.

This year has been kinder, (though I feel the end of the winter may have a lot of snow). I actually am rotor-tilling the spring garden, and we’ve gotten some late house painting done. Considering I work a lot more slowly than I used to, I like having extra days to be ready for the time the snow clamps down and life becomes more limited.

I don’t relish storms the way I once did.
Perhaps this simply goes with aging.
I’m in the driver’s seat, don’t want to skid,
And have burdens enough without raging
Winds and whirling snows. When you’re young the blows
Fall on others, streets are cleaned by magic,
Hot water comes from the shower and flows
Over you, and you need not get tragic
About how you must cut wood to heat it,
Nor even think much about food on the table.
So the ease gets boring, and to defeat it
Youth makes problems, challenges it’s able
To feel vain about conquering, until years
Teach that life’s best without brewing such fears.

One thing I deal with every day, because I run a Childcare, is the problems modern parents have doing something as normal and natural as to have children and raise them. To me family seems more like a “given”, than a “problem”. To call family a problem is like calling the ground we walk upon a problem. Family is simply there, and it is amazing to me the degree some are able to make it not be there.

Often both parents work, and their child is dropped off at Childcare at 7:00 AM and then not picked up until 5:30 PM. To me it seems so much time is spent working to pay for a house that hardly any time is left to make it a home.

The kids seem to get especially homesick during the dark days of December. Perhaps the homesickness happens because the all-pervading, ever-present Christmas music is so suggestively sentimental about home, with songs like “I’ll be home for Christmas”, but I also think it is during the dark days that a warm hearth, and keeping home fires burning, becomes especially meaningful. During the long days of summer the outdoors is welcoming, but during the early dusk of December a warm place by a fire, (hopefully with cookies and cocoa), becomes a solace to the human spirit, especially if you are a little child, in a big and sometimes frightening world.

Parents sometimes seem to spend even less time at home around Christmas, as they work overtime to afford presents, and then go to malls to shop for the presents, seemingly quite unaware that small children can have just as much fun with a cardboard box as what comes in the box, and have a deep craving for the parents themselves.

What the kids seem to need most is the interactions. But parents get fooled. A kid who has been happy for hours may throw a fit as soon as the parent arrives to pick them up. It is as if the child has been saving all sorts of grievances up, and dumps on the parent the moment they appear. The parent is fooled because all they hear are demands for chocolate and dolls and bikes and computer games and what-have-you, but that is not what is really important to the kid. What is important is the interaction. What is important is the parent. Parents need to be told this, because they too often tend to feel their child only cares about stuff, and not them.

I get to see what the parents don’t, which is that sometimes a child is homesick and sulking, and is asking over and over, “When is Mom coming?” or “Is it soon that Dad will be here?”

During these dark days I often build a bright and cheery fire in the pasture, as much as for the light as for the warmth, but today the final kids were not all that cheered by its flames.

Boy by Fire IMG_1511

What I heard from the kids was basically, “I want to go home,” over and over. To a certain degree I could distract them with gathering wood, and making an especially big fire, and stirring the coals and making showers of sparks rise into the purpling sky like fireworks. But, as I thought, watching the kids, I got to thinking about how “I want to go home” is such a powerful part of Christmas, even when one gets old like me.

She was dying but didn’t really know it
And as I visited her the past seemed
More present than the present. She’d show it
By how she saw me as one dimly dreamed
About, while her childhood home’s least detail
Was vivid. It made me think about how
We launch from the nest, yet strangely fail
To ever leave it. Her old, care-worn brow
Had ever fretted over slung arrows
Of worry, and yet now mere memory
Soothed and smoothed it. I wonder what narrows
Our lives, and what it is that sets us free?
For the farther we wander and restlessly roam
The more we are yearning to find a way home.

Of course, I don’t subject small children to my sonnets. (I’d likely get arrested for child abuse.) Instead I decided that, if I couldn’t beat them, I’d join them, and I started to sing songs about wanting to go home. There are a lot of them.

They liked “Sloop John B”, though you would think children couldn’t relate to sailors getting thrown into jail for being too rowdy in Nassau. However kids always surprise me with their ability to regurgitate adult music that you might think was miles over their heads. (I knew one small girl who, at age four, had what was seemingly a photographic memory, when it came to country music she heard on her father’s radio, and, in a sweet, piping voice, would sing about picking up babes at a bar.)

Abruptly a memory came back to me of the first Christmas after my own parents split up, and of how at age eleven I memorized a song miles above my head, that was a hit on the radio at that time, and could belt it out at the top of my lungs. The kids liked it as much as “Sloop John B”.

LOCAL VIEW —Christmas Bluebirds—

We are experiencing a truly kindly spell of late December weather, if you are an old coot like me, and have grown less fond of cold with time.

Not that I can’t remember being young and hot, and walking with a girl I was trying not to fall in love with, (and failing), and being warm through and through, though it was so cold the snow on the road squeaked as we walked over it. Also I can remember being desperate for snow, for I was running a lunch-counter at a cross-country ski area. However those are memories, and the reality is the present, and the Christmas present was mildness for an old coot, this year

What was really remarkable was a finger of warmth that reached the tops of the hills where I lived, but not the valleys. Indeed it was 43° atop Mount Washington, at 6000 feet, and only 40° at sea-level at the coast at Portsmouth. It was 39° in the Merrimack River Valley at Manchester 40 miles to our east, and 38° close to the Connecticut River in Keene 40 miles to our west, while here temperatures spiked up to near 60°. (57° in Jaffrey, 7 miles to our west.)

You can dimly see the finger of warmth in this temperature map, poking up into south-central New Hampshire (and also all the way north to Burlington, Vermont):

Xmas rtma_tmp2m_neus__1_(2)

On Christmas morning the sun came out and the breeze felt like April’s. Because we had the stoves going before the warmth came north, it was actually hot in the old house. I stepped out onto the porch and instantly remembered a Christmas back in my youth (1965?) when it was so mild I was running around outside flying a new toy helicopter barefoot.  I dedcided to stay outside to enjoy the mildness, figuring it wouldn’t last, as a front had come through to bring us our sunshine and clearing.

Temperatures did drop a little, but not much, and I could do my chores without gloves or a jacket.  My middle son was out with bird-watching gear, and announced by cell phone that a small gang of bluebirds, and a male and female cardinal, were by the house. I hurried, but didn’t see them, yet could hear them off in the distance, which seemed very evocative and symbolic of something just beyond my ken. (My son’s pictures:)

IMG_1085

IMG_1087

There was something so summery about bluebirds and cardinals being about on Christmas morning that I decided it must be my Christmas miracle this year, and a auspicious sign.

Then I sat back to wait for the cold to return, as it surely must. A warm wave in the winter is like the water drawing down on a beach; you know the water draws back further for the bigger waves. However though the cold has rushed down to chill western cities like Denver, it is taking its time coming east: (The first map shows our Christmas storm passing well north, with us on the southern mild side, and the second map shows two days later, with the east still spared the arctic air plunging into the west.) (Click to enlarge.)

20141225 satsfc

20141227 satsfc

The radar map shows snow along the battle lines between the cold west and the warm east:

20141227rad_nat_640x480

This battle line could brew up some big storms, as it works its way east, before the cold air eventually engulfs the entire USA. However for the moment we get a pause, a time of peace. The wind has died and the winter sun shines. Bluebirds are about. Obviously it is time for a sonnet.

I awoke to how wonderfully fashioned
Is a winter day, though the low sun is weak.
 
Faintly flavored, as when tea is rationed
And one sips a thin cup, one should not speak
Or one may miss the taste.   The breathless air
Is hushed; the sole birdsong is over a near
Hilltop, and is the scratchy cry of a rare
Christmas bluebird: Very faint; very clear.
 
I tell my noisy brain to be quiet.
I’m tired of its racket, and how it squints
At silence like bats in sunshine.
 
                                                    “Try it,”
Speaks the silence. “See My fingerprints
On every bough; with each breath you draw
See it takes no thought to wander in My awe.”

LOCAL VIEW —Christmas lightning—(In memory of miracles)

It is a wet and foggy Christmas eve here in New Hampshire, with the last of the Thanksgiving snow fading away in the wet, but a Christmas feel to the dark nonetheless.

The promised “Santabomb” storm has failed to develop to the promised magnitude,  but the computer models did at least see the storm tracking nearly straight north up the Mississippi River, as another tracked up the coast, and the one over the Great Lakes is developing to a degree where it is producing a bit of lightning.

20141224 satsfc 20141224 rad_nat_640x480

Ah!  Lightning at Christmas! Some boy up on the coast of Lake Superior is feeling blessed.

I have a soft spot for the entire subject of Christmas miracles, having experienced more than my share, and at the risk of being redundant I’ll repeat a story I told last year:

One of my most miserable pre-Christmases occurred in my boyhood, back in 1966.  My parents had separated, but divorce was rare back then, and very difficult even when both parties wanted it.  My father didn’t want it, but had vanished from the household and was fighting to save his marriage from afar, as my mother fought for freedom.  My mother felt I ought be protected from the details of their dispute, but I found it a sort of hell to have my father vanish, and have no explanation given.

This silence concerning the truth had been going on for a year and a half, and had made me a crazy boy,  and now I was thirteen and just starting to also go crazy with hormones. The misery I felt peaked during holidays, because holidays reminded me of better days, back when I was part of a happy, functioning family. During the dark days of December 1966 I found myself in a sort of private war.  It was invisible to others, but very real to me.

We had gone from being very rich to abrupt poverty, (by the standards of a wealthy suburb,) and I had no money, but had decided I would fight back and give presents even though I was broke.  I struggled to make hand-made presents for people, though my carpentry skills were undeveloped and I had no father to instruct me.  My fingers were bleeding and bandaged from my blunders.

One project had me on the verge of tears and rage.  I was endeavoring to make a pair of tiny hearts, as earrings for my mother, out of red cedar wood, but such wood splits very easily, and over and over, just when a small heart was nearly done, it would split in two and I’d have to start over. I only finished on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, and trudged off to a gift shop a mile away to buy the metal fasteners that would turn the wood hearts to earrings.

For several days we’d been in a mild flow from the south, and the snowless landscape was grey under a dull sky.  Life seemed very unfair to me.  Other boys seven hundred miles to the west had a white Christmas, as a modest low swung north to the Great Lakes, but we were on the warm side and the weathermen on all three major Boston channels had said there was no chance of a white Christmas for Boston.  The snowlessness  seemed like insult heaped onto injury to me, and while I didn’t exactly give God a tongue lashing, I was extremely pessimistic about my good deeds ever gaining me any sort of reward.

However my irascible temper lashed out against the darkness by giving gifts, which must have won me a point or two upstairs, because all of a sudden nice things started to happened to me.

When I walked into the gift shop and timidly asked for fasteners, my pout and bandaged fingers must have touched the lady who ran the shop, because she took me under her wing and proceeded to not only sell me two fasteners, but to take me to the back of her shop, (where she repaired jewelry and watches,) and showed me how to glue the fasteners to the wooden hearts, and then got me a tiny box with a cotton square on the bottom to hold my earrings, and even wrapped them for me. I walked out of there in a much better mood, with the bells on the door jingling behind me, and then stopped in my tracks.  Big, fat snowflakes were lazily drifting down from the grey sky.

As I walked home through the snow it seemed absolutely everyone was smiling. The snow was lazy and seemed harmless, but then it grew more steady and swirled, and when I arrived home my poor mother was going through one of her attacks of worry, as my older brothers had gone Christmas shopping in her car. Fortunately I only had to be a thirteen year old male soothing a 42 year old woman for a short while, before my brothers appeared through the snow with her car un-dented, and all was well.

We headed off on foot to Christmas Carols outside a church a half mile away, and for some reason, perhaps due to the snow, rather than the usual thirty people showing up a hundred-twenty-five showed up to sing in the increasingly heavy snow.  Just as we finished there was a flash of lightning, and long, deep, horizon-to-horizon roll of thunder.

As I turned to walk home, with the thunder still rolling,  a thirteen-year-girl who I secretly adored but whom I had no chance of dating, (as I was not only thirteen, and broke, but a foot shorter than she was,) glanced my way with her face awed by the thunder, and when she saw me watching her,  she smiled an abrupt smile at me that just about knocked me flat on my back in the snow.  And at that point I decided miracles actually could happen, and life might not be so bad, after all.

There was more lightning, and we had around seven inches of snow before it tapered off at midnight. The weathermen were embarrassed, but did give the freak event a name. It was dubbed “The Donner and Blitzen Storm.”  Likely it was a “vort max” that “phased” with a “frontal low,” but, as it wasn’t a huge blizzard and set no records, record books don’t mention it much.  However guys and gals over sixty, who lived between Portland Maine and Philadelphia back in 1966, all seem to remember it.  It was a Christmas miracle,  private and personal, but given to many.

http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00431672.1967.9932756?journalCode=vwws20#.Urpsp9JDvkc

Christmas is a miracle, in that people give rather than grab, and even when this hard old world makes guys like me cynical, there tends to be something or another that strikes me as a miracle, each and every year.  Most of these miriacles are so personal and private that I doubt they would mean much to anyone else, but a few are worth recounting.

This year is the 100th aniversary of one that I didn’t see, but effected me because I happened to like the poetry of Wilford Owen, and studied the First World War to understand the roots of his poems.

World War One was a war that makes millions of European youths seems as suicidal as Kamikaze pilots, and, (for any youth who has the poetic temperament and desires to leave the beaten path,) to be part of a lemming-like stampede toward certain death by machine-gun fire offered ample opportunity for those youths to question the routes taken by the politically correct. Wilford Own was such a youth.

However on Christmas, 1914, the war spontaneously stopped, as there was a complete breakdown of military discipline, and the English and Germans began singing Christmas Carols together. At first it was from afar, but then they walked out into No Man’s Land and shook hands and drank together and told jokes and gave their leaders proof war is unnecessary.

However the leaders were such idiots they insisted the men return to their trenches and go back to killing each other, and the youth begrudgingly obeyed, and it continued for nearly four more years, by which time nearly every youth who was part of that Christmas Party in 1914 was dead or maimed.

It is the leaders who state Christmas miracles are impossible, and who obey a tedious and money-grubby logic that tallies all up onto Scrooge’s balance-sheet, and with Grinch-like eyes regard Christmas in terms of sales and profits, gained from the gift-giving of the generous, who they deem dupes and suckers.

I never could stand that sort of thinking, and likely that explains why I never have been rich in terms of filthy lucre, though I am fabulously wealthy in terms of the intangible stuff that makes poetry and Christmas like lights in the dark.

Unfortunately that lovely landscape is not a world you are likely to learn much about if you go to college to study poetry, for the sad fact is that most of the professors who teach poetry have sold out on poetry. They preferred things called “paychecks” and “tenure” and “a pension” and “health insurance” to freedom.

Not that I blame them. Poetry involves hardship, and hardship is hardest on the softhearted, and you need a soft heart to write poems. Midst your suffering you are always wishing some millionaire would make things easier for you. Unfortunately most millionaires are politically correct, and the politically correct never offer money without strings attached, and if you take their money the strings make you their marionette.

Most college professors therefore are sort of anti-Pinocchioes, for where Pinocchio began as wood and wound up a real boy, they began as real boys and wound up as puppets. They dare not offend their patrons, and it is hard to write about purity when you are basically a gigolo, and without purity poetry is false and is basically intellectualized doggerel.

Considering I have this attitude, it should be pretty obvious why I didn’t thrill college professors, or any other fatcats who try to seduce poets with money. It should be obvious why editors and publishers wanted zero to do with me, and why I wound up sleeping in my car so much. However, in retrospect, it was a blast, and I’d take sleeping in a car over sleeping in a palace any day.

I eventually got good at roughing it. This leads into a Christmas-eve-miracle that occurred towards the end of my bachelor days, when I was thrity-five and drifting through Gallup New Mexico. During the winter the unemployment rate in that area must have touched 50% at that time, but I was good at hanging around at the unemployment office to pick up spot labor, as well as collecting returnable bottles and aluminum cans, and scouring the Albertson’s parking lot for discarded green-stamps, and had a few other tricks for squeezing blood from cold stones, and could usually come up with the sixty dollars necessary to sleep in a motel unit for a week, in the winter.  However on this particular Christmas eve I only had fifty-five dollars, and rent was due.

I had already offended the owner of the motel by assuming he was a Hindu from India, when he actually was a Muslim from Pakistan. (A very funny example of foot-in-mouth-disease I won’t go into.) Then I made things worse by wishing him a “Merry Christmas,” which offends those who don’t celebrate.  Offending the man was unwise, considering he already had a reputation for giving no leeway to anyone under any condition for late rent. I did not like the prospect of telling him I was five dollars short. To be quite honest, I was fairly certain he would take great glee in proving he had nothing to do with the Christian humbug called Christmas by evicting me from my unit on Christmas Eve.

I paced back and forth outside his tiny office, looking in at the five-foot-one gentleman as he read a paper in a bright yellow picture window, thinking how humiliating it was going to be. I’d say I only had fifty-five, and attempt to ruffle the filthy lucre seductively, while stating fifty-five was better than nothing. Then he would throw a fit.  He’d demand I depart, attempting to loom and look powerful, though I was eleven inches taller. I’d likely want to put my fist through his face, but that would be an unseemly act for spiritual person like myself to do, on Christmas Eve, so I’d be meek and acquiesce instead, and move my meager belongings to my car.

“Oh well,” I thought to myself, “It is best I get this over with.”  However just then I heard a crisp noise as the wind rose, and turned to see a small ball of wadded green paper rolling across the parking lot midst a little cloud of the nosebleed dust only December deserts can gust. I already knew what the wadded paper must be, and watched in disbelief as it stopped directly in front of me. I reached down, filled with the wild hope it was a hundred, but of course it was only a five dollar bill, and exactly what I needed. (Though we may want lemonade, we get what we need, which is water.)

Anyway, my Christmas miracle that year was to be spared the scene with the landlord, and simply to pay my rent in a most nonchalant manner and walk to my tiny unit and lie down on my bed.  I would like to say I was disappointed that I lost the chance to sleep in my car on Christmas Eve, (which would have looked good on my poet’s resume), but actually I was rather relieved. If you are going to play the violins of self pity about being alone on Christmas Eve, you might as well do it snug on a warm bed.

Just then there was a banging on my door, and when I opened it a friend insisted it was wrong for me to be alone. I tried to tell him poets need time alone to be maudlin, but he absolutely insisted I come with him north to a noisy Navajo household up in Window Rock. What could I do?  I figured complying was my Christmas Present to him.  And it wasn’t so bad, once I got over the shock.

I don’t expect you to believe this story. To this day it does seem a fabrication even to me, to say a five-dollar-bill blew up to the toes of my cowboy boots just when I needed it.  It is too absurd to include in a novel.

However it also seems a fabrication to say the young soldiers in a war stopped fighting for just a day, to sing carols together, before going back to making each other extinct, back in 1914.

I myself don’t think we should need these Christmas miracles to know certain behavior is stupid, even if idiots call it “politically correct.” Life itself is the miracle. The sounds and colors of the sea are miracle enough; I don’t need the sea parted. Creation is beautiful poetry just as it is, and needs no extra adornment.

However perhaps we mortals need a tap on our shoulder every now and again to remind us that besides Creation, there is a Creator. We are like are readers who are so amazed by a novel we forget the novelist, even when he walks by, and instead sit with our noses buried in the book. We forget the novelist wrote to express himself, and therefore would like himself to get some attention.

What Christmas is about is the novelist deciding to enter his book and walk about with the characters he created. This is so bizarre that it strikes even poets as miraculous. To the politically correct it is absolutely and utterly impossible and incorrect. Like the Grinch, they would try to keep Christmas from coming, but, like the Grinch, every year they see it came.

Bad news for them, but great news for us!  Merry Christmas!!!

LOCAL VIEW —Santabomb Storm—three versions—(updated)

Storm #10 gave us a backlash of snow first thing this morning, which eases my conscience about calling it a winter storm when it was mostly drizzle. It was a miserable drizzle, only a couple degrees above freezing, but if nothing freezes it just seems like cheating to tell people in the future, in a bragging sort of way, “We had the most snows since the 1600’s, and The Little Ice Age”.   There was a winter in the 1600’s when they had 26 snows, so that is what I’m aiming at.

The snow was a trickster, for when I looked out at 5:00 AM there was only light rain to see, so I relaxed, thinking I had no sidewalks to clean at the Childcare, but as I got ready to head to the farm at 6:15 I looked out at a whirl of white. So I shifted from slow and lackadaisical to fast and muttering blue blazes. It was a wet slush, and soon faded to scattered flakes, but was enough to sweep, in a slushy sort of say, and then forsed me to scatter some sodium cloride upon the thin sheen of slush the broom left behind. As I headed down the sidewalk I heard clucking behind me, and turned to see a couple hens pecking away at the grains of sodium chloride.

Suicidal hens are a sure sign of a hard winter. Not only are they suicidal to eat sodium chloride (which hasn’t shown any sign of killing them, yet) but those chickens are also suicidal to break out of their pens this time of year, for usually it is a sure fire way of getting snatched up by a local red fox. That  fox must have been slacking off, this morning.

The upper radar shot (below) shows the backlash hitting us, and the second shows it has moved up to Maine, but a second impulse of snow is moving through the Ohio valley.

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For a while the European models were turning that second impulse into a storm off our coast on Saturday, but now it looks likely to zip out to sea as several separate impulses, far south of us.

20141218 satsfc

Therefore weather geeks are looking to a midweek event which has been dubbed the “Santabomb.” However the weather models, which were unusually agreeing yesterday, and placing a storm over the great lakes, have now reverted to form, and disagree hugely.

The American model sees two features, but has the leading feature sucked back to a Santabomb over the Great Lakes.

The Canadian Model sees the leading feature retaining individuality, and has a bizarre, peanut-shaped storm over the Great lakes and the coast.

The European  Model sees the leading feature becoming more dominate, and crawling up the coast and moving inland in Maine.

I’ll add more later, but need to hustle a bit. We’ve used a surprising amount of wood already, (especially with my kids returning to the nest,) and I figure I’d better cut up a couple dead trees out in the woods before the snows get deep.

UPDATE

Once again Joseph D’Aleo is way ahead of me. I will steal three maps from his Weatherbell blog to illustrate the three versions of virtual reality available this morning from Dr’ Ryan Maue maps at the Weatherbell site. I figure they won’t sue me for theft, if I make it very clear how much better their site is than this site.

Also these maps are already outdated, for the computer models are already changing their minds. They are allowed to be fickle and never have to sign contracts. If you really want to stay updated you should be a true weather geek, and constantly check the latest “model runs”, or else lurk at the Weatherbell “forum”, where a bunch of somewhat obnoxious dweebs yak away about what idiots everyone else is, to not subscribe to the model run they do, until the next model run comes out. In some ways they need to get a life, and if they really want to see an idiot they should look in a mirror, however their redeeming quality is that they are up-to-date, when it comes to the computer model runs. They seem to have a desire to be the first, and even to believe that people think they are smarter than the true experts such as Joe Bastardi or Joseph D’Aleo, simply because they are commenting before the experts comment.

I don’t need to get a life, because I  already have one. In fact I’m working on two other posts, besides this one, involving things outside of my writing. In fact I have to struggle to even find the time to write.

In some ways I envy dweebs and weather geeks. It must be nice to have all that time to waste.

Here is this mornings outdated GFS map of a Great Lakes storm on Christmas day: The trailing low has absorbed the front-running low.

S-bomb 1 gfs_pr3_slp_t850_east_57

Here is the Canadian model’s view, where the front-running low keeps its identity.

S-bomb 2 cmc_pr6_slp_t850_conus_34

And lastly here is the European view, where the front-runner absorbs the trailing storm.

S-bomb 3 ecmwf_slp_precip_east_30

If you have nothing better to do, it is great fun to lurk, and watch the weather geeks argue about which computer is correct, and then conveniently forget what they stated with great authority, when all three computers turn out to be wrong. I’d advise against joining the discussions, however, for you can wind up being shrieked at, for nearly anything. You are dealing with people with too much time on their hands, and I know, from personal experience, that can cause one to become a bit unhinged.

However the older I get the less time I have left, and therefore I am more careful about how I waste my time. Tonight I’d rather waste time discussing obscure details about differences between poplar trees, as I’ve been chainsawing wood today.

I only spend time focusing on three versions of Christmas to demonstrate to those who don’t yet know it that spending a billion on a computer doesn’t automatically give you a correct answer. In fact spending a billion three times, on three computers, may not give you the correct answer, because all three may be wrong.

At the very least, it should breed a bit of humbleness.  And at best, it can whip up some wonder.