LOCAL VIEW —NO PLACE TO HIDE—

It’s the longest day of the year, and even with the remnants of tropical storm Bill passing over this morning, with a lovely drenching the parched soil craved, there was a sort of thirst in the moist air. The sun beat down on even the purple morning from the highest the sun ever gets, and even the rainy day was bright and warm like winter never is, and yet the thirst still thirsted. When I thought about it, I was uncertain if the thirst was for even more light, or for less.

In one sense there is never enough summer, and never enough light, and it creates a sort of anguish to know that starting tomorrow the days get shorter. It is like seeing the first fine wrinkle on the face of a young beauty, and knowing of mortality.

On the other hand, when the Light is at its most intense one seeks the shade. One gets shy, and hangs back in the shadows. Winter makes it easy to yearn for the Light, for all is dark. In a sense winter is like singing in the shower, far from the spotlight. It is quite a different thing to step out into the Light on the longest day, when the Sun King is ruling.

The longest day has ended now, and a muggy night has fallen, but even in the starry dark there are still flashes of heat lightning on the horizon, and a moth battles against the screen, continuing the theme of an attraction towards, and a repulsion from, brilliance.

The lightning has faded away to the south, but now there are new flashes far to the north in the night.

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I feel surrounded by the Light, even at night, with this lightning creeping around the edges of the sky. It isn’t entirely comforting. The sweet shadows of sleep have fled, and brilliant insomnia stalks the hallways of my mind, restless, thirsty, relentlessly dissatisfied.

I think when I was younger I could simply bury myself in work, and delay the issue into some distant future, when either I would see the Light or I wouldn’t, but heck if it was something I had time to worry about today. Today was the work, the job, the project, the Great American Novel, Chapter One Page One.

But now I’m sixty-two, and my truck is twenty-one, and my rider mower is twenty-five, and during the past ten days all three of us had problems, and it was hard to get anything done. It was hard to bury myself in work when I couldn’t even start to work.

First the clutch pedal of my truck abruptly went to the floor, and I couldn’t shift. Or I could shift, if the engine wasn’t on. I couldn’t shift when the engine was running. So I could shift to neutral, and start the truck, but then I couldn’t shift to first gear. So I turned off the truck, shifted to first gear, and turned the key with the truck in gear, and with a lurch and sputter the truck started down the road. I couldn’t shift to second, so top speed was around 12 mph. Nor could I shift back to neutral, so I would only slow to around 3 mph at stop signs. It was an interesting drive, and I found myself thinking that this was the speed people went, back in the horse and buggy days. And I did make it to the country garage, where I stalled the truck. Then they had to fix it to get it out of the way. (It was the master cylinder for the clutch pedal, and not the clutch itself, which meant they didn’t have to take the engine out.  They actually like working on my truck, as it from the pre-computer days, and hardly has any wires.)

However they had to order the parts, so I was without a truck. However at least I could bury myself in the work of mowing the grass at the farm-childcare, however I hit a huge, round cobble a child had decided to secret in a clump of grass about three minutes into the job. I didn’t wreck the blade or the pulley or belt, but the spindle and bearing, where it goes through the deck, which is beyond my capacity to fix, so all I needed to do is load the mower onto my truck and bring it to…but wait…I don’t have a truck.

So I had to get the guy to come and pick the mower up, but at least I could bury myself in the work of hoeing and tilling and planting in the garden.  However I’m sixty-two, and stuff I once could do in a flash now gets done as slow as molasses.  Rather than a sense of weary satisfaction I wind up wanting to fire myself, and aggravated as hell. I was working as hard as I could, but falling farther and farther behind in my planting.

What I need to do is to sell a hit song, and become a one-hit-wonder. Then I can afford to hire some strong young man, and to wear a white suit like Mark Twain, and sip mint juleps in the shade. However I’m so far behind in my planting I have no time for writing.

I don’t much want to face the real writing, which is on the wall, quite yet, as I fear the writing on the wall will say I “have been measured and found wanting”. So I usually avoid the entire subject by withdrawing into the cooler world of blogging about sea-ice. However June tends to be a particularly boring month at the Pole, so eventually I have to stand and stare into the darkness.

Sooner or later all that this world has to offer fails to distract us any longer, and even if we lack the wisdom, wealth and many wives of Solomon, we wind up seeing the emptiness of Creation, and saying, as he did, “Vanity, Vanity, Vanity.”  And then we either seek a prescription for lots of antidepressants, or we turn from the shadows of creation to the Light of the Creator.

This is actually what religion is suppose to be about, though most modify it to a degree where it is more less unrecognizable, and people become engrossed in blowing each other up, and other loving crusades. If people actually think about the Creator, it is like singing in the shower, and is timid and private, and never steps out into the spotlight and belts out The Song.

The fact of the matter is that most of us know next to nothing about the Light. We know much, much more about the shadows. Yet people talk with great authority about the Light.

For example Christians insist the One Life consists of a single lifetime, and Hindus insist the One life consists of many lifetimes, yet when you cross-examine both, neither can remember much about this lifetime, before age two. In other words, they are talking through their hats. They have no first-hand-experience they can access.

As far as I’m concerned, maybe the Hindus are right, and maybe when we Christians talk about “everlasting death” we are talking about reincarnation, for wouldn’t that involve dying over and over and over and over again? And who the heck wants that? Dying once seems enough for me, so I’ll look for a way to avoid dying twice, if it is a door to Light I dare open.

However we have little first-hand experience of what happens after death, either. When you talk heart-to-heart with believers you discover they may have faint glimpses, glimmers in the dark, that may have occurred to them when people they were very close to passed away, however these experiences are so tenuous most are reluctant to even bring them up, because they are delicate, private, intimate, and a little bit frail, and likely couldn’t withstand the cruel batterings of a ruthless psychiatrist, who would belittle treasured belief away with contrary thought into a mere hallucination.

But death is not a hallucination. It happens, not only to people I love, but to my own body in slow stages and degrees. I may be tough for an old coot, and still have stomach muscles where by pals have flab, but there is no getting around the growing weakness in my efforts. Where I used to carry grain bags two at a time, I now carry them one by one, and huff and puff like I never did before. Even on the longest day of the year there is a lengthening shadow.

Perhaps that is a gift given to the old: The ability to see the things of this world are shadows. For example, even if my writing brought me fame and fortune at this late date in my life, I doubt it would flatter me into making a complete fool of myself, in the manner Hollywood stars and starlets get fooled. It is simply too late. Some things lose their appeal as the drafts of death waft the curtains. One does not brush their teeth on the steps to the noose.

The unnerving thing about shadows becoming more obviously shadows is that the Light becomes more obviously Light. All my life I’ve preferred singing in the shower, and been shy about stepping out into the Light, but as the end approaches there is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.

LOCAL VIEW —RED FLAG—

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(Note new, dry high pressure over New England, and potential Hurricane Ana off Florida)

It has been another breezy day of warm temperatures, brilliant sunshine, and humidity down around 20 %. Perfect conditions for having a brush fire explode, though perhaps nothing like the conditions they experience out west. Out west it can be dry from the lowest root to the tip top of tall pines, and once a fire gets going entire trees explode into flame. Our drought is only at the lowest level, and doesn’t reach far underground, however our woods are messier than I can ever remember, and there is enough dead wood laying about the average forest floor these days to make a fire more than just burning leaves. However there were no nearby fires today: Just a beautiful day with the trees rapidly greening, and rapidly screening the view through trees with a green mist.

Yesterday branches were silver and bare
And I could watch a flicker wing its way
Through the trees to a far maple, and there
Land and look back sharply, as if to say,
“Mind your own business, you nosy human.”

Today a green fog is growing from twigs.
Golden green mist is swirling, blooming
From branches, hiding the birds that do jigs
and can-can along limbs, happy to be hid.
I spy on their antics with my radar.

If they wished privacy, they’d put a lid
On their joy, but that isn’t how spring birds are.

Are we the same? And is it so wrong
That when no one’s watching we burst into song?

There is something intoxicating about the whole world going golden green under glorious sunshine. It gets under your eyelids and drives the winter darkness from your brain. The only thing that keeps the glory of this time of year from rivaling the glory of peak foliage in October is that the singing birds must be fed, and this involves swarms of biting black flies.

BLACK FLY BLUES

Outside the sun is golden
But I ain’t goin’ out of doors today.
Outside the blue sky’s gorgeous
But inside is the place I’m goin’ t’stay.
I’ll be a couch potato
Til those pesky black flies go away.

I’ve heard God’s love’s in everything
Even in that pesky little fly.
I found this thought impossible,
So I grabbed one, and looked him in the eye.
He said, “Hey man! I love you!”
He’d made a point no woodsman can deny.

They love you head down to your toes.
They also love the inside of your nose.
They even love your armpits
And not too many folk are fond of those.
They’re part of God’s creation
Sort of like the thorns upon a rose.

See that flycatcher winging?
He loves black fly. Black fly he’s glad to see.
Hear that tree swallow singing?
Black fly fuels his springtime rhapsody.
The bitter flies among the sweet.
You can’t have half and own ecology.

Outside the sun is golden.
I guess I’ll budge my butt and face the swarm.
Outside the blue sky’s gorgeous
But I know clouds of black flies make a storm.
If this world was too comfortable
The next world wouldn’t tempt us to reform.

I did get out midst the swarms, to face various messes made by my trying to avoid the bitter and enjoy the sweet. One mess I made involves burning last year’s weeds in the garden even though there was a red flag warning. (It’s no use trying to get a permit, for the idiot bureaucrats will tell you to wait for a rain, when rain makes weeds too wet to burn)

Farmers have burned weeds for at least 250 years around here, as it kills a lot of bugs and bacteria and viruses that can hide out in dead stalks and infect this year’s plants, and also because the ashes fertilize the soil, and lastly because burning is a lot faster and easier than laboriously removing all the old, dead stalks by hand. And I was smart enough to keep the fire from spreading. However it was amazing how swiftly it burned, how hot it burned, and how busy I was kept rushing about keeping things under control. I was so busy I failed to notice that hidden under the weeds were some important garden hoses, until several were melted just enough to be useless.

Oh well, they were very old hoses, and had sprung leaks anyway, so I went and got new hoses. But I also decided to splurge on a “soaker” hose, because that seemed smarter than standing out in a swarm of black flies, watering by hand. And indeed it was wiser, and freed me up for other tasks, and other swarms of black flies, which annoyed me so much I hurried home at the end of the day, glad to get indoors, and forgot to turn off the “soaker” hose. That in turn resulted in just enough of my parched, drought-dried garden being turned into a mud-bog that my rotor tiller got stuck in the mud today, which involved extra effort midst an especially hungry swarm of black flies.

And so it goes. I seek the sweet, but can’t avoid the bitter. I suppose it is “The Law of Unintended Consequences.”  It seems to permeate so much of life that at times progress seems impossible, and I wonder how it is mankind has progressed at all. One gets so discouraged that, at my age, one can become an old grouch and frown at any suggestion of change. Fortunately progress is possible, but only if you face the bitter.

Nothing tastes quite so bitter as confessing a mistake. Engineers know all about mistakes, which may be why they invented “Murphy’s Law.”  Even the most beautiful bridge may turn into a “Galloping Gertie”.

Rather than a red flag going up when we seek an improvement, (because we expect failure),  the red flag should go up when we fail to confess our mistakes. How are we to learn from our mistakes if we don’t dare confess they exist? Engineers actually go out of their way to have their mistakes pointed out, because they’d rather see a mistake before they build, than see the mistake after they build, in the form of a structural collapse. However in other areas of life people are not so wise.

When was the last time you heard a politician confess he made mistakes?  Likely never. Instead he will spend millions on smear advertisements sneering at an opponents mistakes, as if mistakes were degrading rather than human, and worth damnation rather than often being laughable and even lovable.

Today I got to avoid the black flies by being something that likely has made my mother sit up in her grave. I am now officially “Chairman of the Diaconate” of a church. It is a peculiar twist of fate I never expected, and which all who knew me as a young bohemian artist would have said was utterly impossible. It only happened because our church has crumbled from 200 members in 1999 to roughly 40 members today, and no one else wanted to touch the job with a ten foot pole.

In some ways our church has been a “Galloping Gertie,” but no one has wanted to be a true engineer and simply be honest about confessing. Way back when the red flags of the first schism first flew, I was a voice in the wilderness when I said we should have what I called a “forum”.  I was frustrated by a lot of arguments which stated it wasn’t “Christian” to be blunt, open and honest.

Partly it was because the pastor is expected to “honor confidentiality”, as if he followed the pseudoscience of psychiatry and social workers. Partly it was because Christians feel it is wrong to gossip, and when gossip occurs they “turn the other cheek”, and either refuse to listen or, if they listen, refuse to respond in any way other than a very cold shoulder.

None of this furthered communication, in my eyes, but heck, what do I know? I haven’t been to divinity school, and, even though I read the Bible with interest, I am lousy when it comes to memorizing in that way that lets you quote chapter and verse, and it is important to quote chapter and verse when dealing with many Christians. It is no good to say, “Someone said something somewhere, and the gist of it is…”

In any case, despite a lot of efforts to reform, involving various classes about “how to mend the broken” and “how to heal the hurting,” I watched my church continue to crumble like a Galloping Gertie. Our efforts at correction were about as successful as correctional institute’s efforts to reform hardened criminals. It was frustrating and also embarrassing, because Christians are suppose to be good at healing, and aren’t suppose to resemble hardened criminals.

It was especially frustrating to our pastors, who did all this by-the-book stuff that failed to work. Our final pastor, perhaps hurt and bitter, told me just before he resigned, “If I go you will find no other pastor willing to come to this church, because you have such a record of un-Christian quarreling and pastor-smearing, and, without me stopping all you quarreling, the few people still part of this church will be at each other’s throats, and the church will be dead within six months.”

Not the most auspicious benediction, you must admit. And I confess things looked very bleak, as we could no longer afford a pastor to lead us out of the hole we were in. We barely could even afford to heat the church, last winter. Furthermore, much of the deaconate resigned when the pastor did, which left me and another guy in charge of the “spiritual well-being” of the church. Neither of us really wanted to be the “chairman”, so we flipped a coin, and I lost, and became the chairman.

I had no desire to pretend I was a pastor, so I simply said we did have a pastor, and our pastor was the Lord. I figured that was the Truth, but I confess it also got me off the hook, in terms of being responsible.  Then I said what I had been saying all along, which was that we should have a “forum”.

If nothing else, this sparked a lot of discussion about whether forums were Christian, or some heathen Roman concept.   During these discussions I wasn’t able to quote anything chapter and verse, but fortunately my wife is good at that stuff, and could tug at my sleeve and supply me with chapters and verses, (which is sort of like ammunition.)  Also, when I asked her, “Where does someone say something like…” she was able to give me references, and sometimes multiple references.

One thing I remembered the church doing from long ago, which had sort of faded away over the years, was something called “The confession of sin and assurance of pardon.” It turned out this was from 1 John 8-9, and, very loosely translated, says that modern politicians have it totally backwards when they say they are without sin, and then smear their opponents. The actual quote goes, ” If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

I liked the part about being “purified from all unrighteousness”, even if it did seem highly unlikely a church as rowdy, disobedient and fallen as ours could be fixed. So I suggested we give the confession-business a try.

I have been flabbergasted by how things that never worked abruptly began working. Despite my hopes regarding a “forum”, I feared honesty might enflame people and make things worse, but rather than muddying the waters, a clarity descended. I can’t really explain it, but will, at the risk of sounding like a psychologist promoting pseudo-science, describe some stages I’ve seen things go through.

Stage one involves person A saying something to person B that makes B feel troubled. Honesty does little good at this point, because the red flag is only a “feeling”, and even if B is honest with A and says, “Something about what you say troubles me”, he cannot give any specifics.

Stage two involves person B going to what amounts to a support-group. He does not seek out people liable to disagree, finding that prospect disagreeable, but instead seeks people who tend to agree, finding that agreeable. This support-group allows B to explore the feeling and develop an idea, which is often unfavorable towards A.

Stage three-X involves B afraid to confess the idea to A, as it seems rude, and a smear. However A does learn of the idea because someone in the support-group talks to C who talks to D who talks to E who tells A. By then the idea has been embellished and twisted by the game of “telephone”, and A is hurt, and then resentful, and a schism develops.

Stage three-Y involves confession. B is not afraid to go to A and confess the idea, whereupon A may be taken aback, but at least has the chance to respond directly to the idea.

What I saw then happen (and hadn’t happened in years) was something I hoped for, but still it amazed me.

First, as B spoke the idea a sense of humbleness appeared, and to some degree the idea seemed a bit lame. Without the support of the support-group it became more frail and vulnerable to questioning, (like an engineer putting a plan out for peer-review).

Second, as A responded it quite often turned out some degree of misunderstanding was involved, and was cleared up. (This is like an engineer getting his plan corrected by peer review.)

Third, sometimes A experienced a revelation, as they saw something they would never have thought of on their own, and rather than resenting B they thanked B.

That is a very clumsy explanation of what I have seen starting to happen in my devastated and humbled church. I wouldn’t say we are “purified from all unrighteousness”,  but some sort of purity is definitely within the clarity that has mysteriously decended.

The thing that is clear to me is that the red flags our hearts feel are not repressed and ignored. The initial feeling is a red flag, the support-group clarifies the red flag, and then the courage B demonstrates when he goes back to A and confesses brings the red flag to A’s attention. In this manner the bitterness of mistakes are not buried, and instead mistakes are learned from.

For the benefit to manifest, you have to prefer the bitter to the sweet, for a support group is sweet, but having to leave the support group is not so sweet.

I suppose it only works when you bring the red flag in a spirit of confession, rather than a spirit of righteous indignation and accusation. There has to trust. If your red flag turns out to be a false alarm, you need to feel trust that you are not shamed for your honesty, but rather are better off for being honest. If your red flag turns out to be on the mark, the person receiving it must feel benefited, helped, cared for, loved.

In any case, I find it somewhat astonishing to see peace, clarity, trust and even laughter returning to a church that seemed so down and out. Even if we are still a dying church, it is at least a death with dignity.

So that is what I did for a while today.  I preferred the bitter to the sweet, but the result was a sweeter sweetness.  And talking with old friends was definitely sweeter than thinking about what wasn’t spoken, midst a swarm of black flies.

Lastly the above explains why, though I dug the trench for the potatoes today, I won’t get the potatoes actually planted until tomorrow.

LOCAL VIEW —Filthy—

My weekend was basically consumed by removing -bleep- from my system, and this morning no one could say I was “full of it.” I had an colonoscopy done, and the initial  news is good. The polyps are of the “low suspicion” sort, and unless the doctor is surprised by the biopsy results I won’t have to go through this experience again for five years.

Despite the fact I am working hard on becoming a cantankerous anachronism, I don’t want to be one of those old fossils who belabors listeners with details of their bodily decay. Aging may be a fairly interesting phenomenon to witness if it is happening to you, but it bores the daylights out of younger folk, who want to cruise about in their physical bodies without dwelling on the fact that even the finest car eventually needs to be traded in, and even a Lamborghini will someday be a rust bucket in a junk yard. Life is for living, and if you dwell too much on death you are in a sense dwelling on the physical.

One of the Christian saints wrote with a skull on his desk, to remind himself that physical things don’t last and spirit matters, but that is quite different from being morbid. People full of spirit are more alive, and have a real zest for life, and even when losing hair and teeth find things to talk about besides losing hair and teeth. (What animates saints most is the topic of “life eternal”.)

In any case, I found it a real drag to have my entire weekend dragged down to the level of poop. I really do not find my anus all that interesting, but they make you drink an entire gallon of stuff that flushes out your digestive tract, and in the process I had to contemplate my anus much more than I am used to. Being a poet, and prone to making a poem out of everything, I wrote a sonnet about my anus. Would you like to hear it?

I didn’t think so. Most of us don’t want to think about crud, which is why doctors get paid so much to deal with it for us. My Dad was a surgeon who used to say surgery was little more than plumbing, with some sewing thrown in, and he didn’t see why people didn’t save money and take out their own appendixes. He said men should be ashamed for being gutless, even to a degree where they would let their beloved sweetheart die, if there was no surgeon around to do the cesarean.

The fact of the matter is that guts are gross, and we are gutless because we want to be something other than gross. Sewers attract few of us, which may be why plumbers make as much as surgeons these days (once you subtract the huge malpractice insurance doctors pay). We, who want to fly up in the clouds where the birdies tweet, wind up paying a high price for our avoidance.

Therefore I figure I should be congratulated for not avoiding my colonoscopy.  I could have easily put it off for yet another year, but the experiences of a friend convinced me not to, and I lowered myself to sewer stuff.

That actually is a spiritual thing to do. Not that I did it for spiritual reasons. I did it to avoid colon cancer, and to pamper my totally selfish lust for living. However I accidentally did a spiritual thing, which is to stop preferring the worldly high to the worldly low. I went to a low state, and by sheer coincidence was like Mother Teresa going to the slums of Calcutta, or like Jesus washing the reeking feet of a stinking leper.

You can blame the drugs they gave me if you want, but I honestly felt a lot better afterwards. You can say it was only because in all probability I wont have to do it again for five years,  and I was merely heaving a big sigh of relief, but I honestly feel something else was involved. It was like I’d accidentally walked into a spiritual sunbeam.

We are all yearning for a truly spring-like sunbeam here in New Hampshire, as the weather continues to behave like it is March though the sun is as high as it is in August. Rather than lows moving away from Labrador to afflict England, England gets lovely sunshine as the Labrador lows back up to Nova Scotia.

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The above maps show that the true spring has been pushed all the way south to the cold front in Florida, and the only way we can get any semblance of spring is when cold north winds from the four-feet-deep snow-pack over Quebec is replaced by slightly less cold air from the cold Atlantic around Nova Scotia.

Not that spring can be denied. It is happening, in a painfully slow manner. We will have to mow our lawns soon, as damnable grass grows even when buds wont burst. And I did see a single, lonely forsythia flower was open today, and the wake-robin are pushing up through the leaves in the woods.

But it is far from what we want. We want blue birds and blue skies and bluebells,  not the blues. We want skip about tittering like elves, and not to face days like Mother Theresa facing Calcutta.

I’ve been thinking hard about what it is that old, wrinkled. prune-faced saint-lady could see that I can’t see. Mother Theresa was so full of life she could turn a slum into a church, while I’m having a hard time turning my church into a church. Where Mother Theresa saw Oneness, I have an amazing ability to create schisms.

I have trouble seeing Oneness, as the world is constantly confronting me with opposites. Some situations strike me as blue sky, and some situations strike me as pure poop. I am forever comparing. Communists vs Capitalists. Old vs Young. Rich vs Poor. Educated vs Uneducated. Men vs Woman. Spiritual vs Nonspiritual. Global Warming Alarmists vs Global Warming Skeptics. And on and on and on it goes. I am tired of it all. Where is the peace of oneness, when you always have to take a side?

I once might have renounced this world and retreated to the Himalayas and become a Buddhist,  but even the peaceful Buddhists get no peace these days. The world gives them no rest. In Afghanistan the Islamic militants blow up their huge, beautiful, ancient statues of Buddha, (which is a bit like someone blowing up our Statue of Liberty). When they fled to the high plateau of Tibet, the communists came marching in from China. And when they now flee from Tibet to Nepal, a force 7.9 earthquake flattens their villages. We live in an age when you cannot escape the world. It is after you, and somehow you need to fight back.

As soon as you fight, you are taking sides. It is the end of the peace of Oneness, and makes you hurt in your gut. It is like siding with your mother against your father, or siding with your father against your mother, in a divorce. No matter where you stand, you are failing to honor your parents, and something deep down inside knows what you do is wrong.

It is now nearly 50 years since the answer appeared from, all bizarre things, pop radio: All you need is Love.

However, after nearly 50 years of failure, watching efforts to improve society only plant and breed further and worse schisms, I’m resorting to the second best thing after Love, which is humor.

It does no good to tell others to love if you can’t do it yourself. It does no good to demand others practice Oneness if you yourself are divisive. It is better to be honest, and confess your complete and utter failure. Rather than the blue sky, you are filth. However this is a real drag, unless you reduce pretentiousness to absurdity, and knock St. Paul off his high horse with humor.

Because it was my turn to give a message at my dying church, I figured the best way to point out how absurd Christians are, when they make a schism, where Jesus required Oneness, was to point at myself, and make a joke of myself. However humor is a dangerous thing, and people sometimes don’t laugh. Even though the congregation is tiny, I was sweating a few bullets as I spoke something like this:

“When I think about it, it seems people more often use commandments to resist progress, than they use commandments to push themselves outside of their “comfort zones”. This has led me into an interesting series of sidetracks, as I prepared this message. I began to look around at various objects in my house, and to wonder when they were invented, and to wonder if the inventor got in trouble, and was scolded by people who resist progress.

One of the first things I looked at was soap, which led to some absurd thinking. This happened because, when I came trudging up the front steps after a hard day’s work, all I wanted was to sit down at my computer and zone out, but my wife did not thank me for my hard work and welcome me home. Instead she told me not to track manure all over her clean floors. That didn’t seem very welcoming to me

My wife then not only asked me to take my shoes off on the porch, but also asked me take my jacket off, because it was covered in soot and engine oil. Then I looked down at the knees of my jeans. I saw they were caked with about a quarter inch of dirt from the garden. It seemed I might even be asked to take my pants off, before entering the front door of my own house. This soured my mood, and I became petulant and muttered, “Whoever it was that invented clean floors should be tarred and feathered.”

Then, after a long, hot, and soapy shower, I sat down at my computer and researched the subject of soap. I discovered something very interesting: The ancient Israelites didn’t use soap. Soap… Is…Not…Biblical!

It seems the Israelite’s way of washing was to rinse themselves with water, anoint themselves with oil, and then use a sort of spatula thingy to scrape the oil off their skin. This was also done in ancient Greece and Rome, and the Romans looked down their noses at the barbarians to the north, who used soap. But who invented soap?

It turned out soap was actually a Babylonian invention. Even the saying, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”, is not from the Bible, and actually is a Babylonian proverb. This gave me some good ammunition to use against my wife. The next time she asked me to wipe my feet, I could growl, “Oh don’t be such a Babylonian.” Yup, I could do that….if I dared.

I confess this absurdity to you to demonstrate how ridiculous I can be; when it comes to saying I am Biblical and other people are not. However I’m not the only one who behaves this way.”

I think that says a lot, concerning who is filthy. And to my great delight, my humor didn’t get me tarred and feathered. Everyone laughed at all the right places.

In some ways I wish I could have died right then and there. For one thing, it would have avoided the next step of preparing for my colonoscopy, which involved spending four hours on a toilet, contemplating my anus.   For another thing, it would have avoided having to have the pleasant drugs wear off after the procedure, and face a world that seems determined to have us all live life at its worst, rather than life at its best.

Is there a single type of government that is based on Oneness?  Even democracy, which is best and has God in its guts, has a majority ruling over a minority, which is a schism and creates problems.

Our situation is hopeless. What we need is Oneness Himself to come riding a white horse down like a thunderbolt from the blue sky, to show us how what is blatantly obvious is politically feasible.

People have been waiting and waiting, a long, long time. How long have Jews awaited their Messiah? How long have Christians awaited their Savior? How long has Islam awaited the Rasool?  How long have Hindus and Buddhists awaited the Avatar?

It is not enough to just sit like a bump on a log waiting. If schism, divorce, apartheid and alienation are so obviously negative, and so obviously a sewer of filth, it seems blatantly obvious that love and humor are better.  I don’t care if they are not what bankers approve of. They are worth a try.

LOCAL VIEW –For Missus and For Sythia–

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Photo Credit:  http://www.instesre.org/TemperateClimate/TemperateClimate.htm

This past week has seen a reversion to wintry weather, with frost on the windshields and ice in the puddles. The budding trees have hit the brakes, and the ponds have gone nearly silent.

Back when the weather was more kindly, on April 16, I heard the first frogs, which are not the spring peepers but another small frog I’ve heard called “banjo frogs” (perhaps because they make a “Twank” sound,  a bit like a breaking banjo string). (The Australian frog with the same name actually sounds more like a banjo.) I call them “spring quackers” because they also sound a bit like ducks. They are lower and quieter than peepers, and always seem to beat the peepers by a day or two, when it comes to announcing the ponds are coming back to life. They are far less obvious than the peepers are. Where the peepers peep is piercing and shrill, the quackers are more of a low muttering, almost subliminal.

At our childcare I asked a small girl, around age three, if she could hear them, and at first she shook her head. Then her eyes changed, and she tilted her head, and looked off curiously through the trees. I asked her if she’d like to sneak closer, and she nodded. (Most kids like to sneak.) Then we crept through the pines, and it was wonderful to watch the child’s face fill with wonder as we drew closer and the plaintive “twanking” became more obvious. However then my idiot dog came lunging through the underbrush, plunging along the side of the pond to see what we were up to, and the frogs immediately became silent and the water ahead was dimpled with rings of ripples. I told the girl my dog wasn’t very good at sneaking, and she nodded.

By the next day the peepers had started their shrieking, and all the subtlety was lost.  They demand attention, which doesn’t seem a very good survival strategy, until you sneak up on them and understand they confuse predators by being both numerous and deafening. It is hard to locate a single frog by its peep, with so many other peeps coming at you from all angles. And they also become immediately silent, if you move too fast. I find them amazingly difficult to locate. They are also amazingly loud, once you see how small they are.

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(Photo credit: Mike Marchand.)

They also can stand being frozen solid, due to some sort of antifreeze in their blood. This was a good thing, as the promise of spring seemingly became a lie.

Just as the first frogs are tiny, so are the first blooms on the swamp maples, which are the first tree to bud out. The lowlands go from being silvery thickets to being touched by a raspberry mist I have yet to see captured by a photograph, but you have to poke your nose close to see how lovely the individual flowers are.

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(Photo credit: https://piedmontgardener.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/maple-flowers-and-buds.jpg )

Ours are a bit more purple than the the flowers pictured above, and they look a lot worse after they’ve been blasted by frost. I’m going to watch, to see if they make many seeds this year.  We got into a northwest flow on Tuesday that wouldn’t quit, and were still in it on Friday.

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A few flakes were in the roaring wind on Wednesday, and Thursday’s purple clouds kept pelting us with white, Dr. Seuss pompoms of  fluffy hail called “graupel”, and Friday morning began with a whirling flurry that briefly made the view look like January, though it never stuck to the ground. It was not weather conducive to ambition, in the garden, which turned out to be a good thing, for my  wife had other ambitions.

I wound up repairing the fence in front of the house, as the winter’s plows trashed what little was left of the old one. I fear I spend so much time over at the farm that I neglect my home, and the lack of care shows, and annoys my wife. The Memorial Day parade comes down Main Street and passes right in front of our house, and my wife doesn’t believe me when I say all eyes are on the parade and not our house. Consequently I spend time every spring at home, sprucing the place up, right when I feel I should be gardening.

There actually was a parade this morning, but as usual I always forget it, and get a shock. At the start of the baseball season the children are marched from the fire station to the ball field with blaring fire engines and police cars, and every year I think it is a terrorist attack.

After watching my grandson in his first game my ambition was to nap, but my middle son has the ambition to grow pear trees and see if he can start a microbrewery making a sort of pear cider called “perry”.  This is a long-term project, but in the short term involves planting four trees at the childcare, and also involves controlling my goats, so they don’t eat his saplings. This in turn involved repairing the electric fence, so that is what I wound up doing rather than snoozing.  Rather than rested I wound up feeling as you’d expect, after fighting with cold wire in a cold wind.

My ambition is now to simply survive until noon Monday. Sunday will not be a day of rest for me, as I am giving the sermon at our church. We have dwindled to a size so small that, fort the first time in 265 years, we can’t afford a pastor or interim pastor, and instead have “guest speakers” which includes our selves, (as we are cheapest) (IE free). We don’t call our sermons sermons, but rather call them “messages”, but mine will be a sermon all right.

My “message” is liable to be grouchy, as I have to fast on clear fluids, and then later in the day flush out my system and spend a lot of my time on the toilet, as my doctor wants to have a look inside my colon first thing Monday morning. It is hard to be happy about this prospect. A man of my advanced years expects to be treated with more dignity than that, especially right after giving a sermon at church.

It is also hard to see much prospect of Spring busting out.  We need south winds, as we are surrounded by cold in other directions. The Great Lakes still have ice, and there is still an amazing four feet of snow not all that far to our north. (The purple areas in the Dr Ryan Maue map below, from Joseph D’Aleo’s site at Weatherbell.)

Snowdepth to north April 22 ecmwf_snowdepth_conus2_1(1)

It is hard to see much hope in the current map, with the warm rains suppressed so far to the south.

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 However with the sun as high as it is in mid-August, spring is only seemingly denied. This morning, even with a skim of ice on puddles, when a beam of sun pooled in the east-facing shallows of the pond, a single peeper let out a solitary yelp. And I remind myself the ice was still thick enough to walk upon, on April first. Things have melted; spring isn’t denied.

The buds only seem on hold. Trees are very smart, for a being without brains, and they know when to bust out all over. The forsythia is yellower every day, even without blooming, and, even as I stood sulking by my garden yesterday, a bluebird landed on a fence-post nearby. It’s hard to argue with that.

POSTSCRIPT

The “spring quackers” are officially called “wood frogs”, and sound like this:

LOCAL VIEW —Snowy Sunday—

It seems nearly every Sunday this winter it has snowed.  I forgot to mention the snow last Sunday, (March 8), as I was too engrossed in my novel and in church matters, but as we looked out the windows of the church it was as if someone had shaken the snow globe, and the air was full of thick, fat flakes. The day grew dark and purple, and swiftly we had a “coating”, which is something more than a “dusting” but less than an inch. Because I am a true weather geek I had the urge to rush outside to measure the depth, but I felt I should be paying attention to the sermon. By the time church let out the sun had burst free of the clouds, and already the brilliant March sunshine was melting the snow on the streets. I heard the roads were “greasy” briefly, as it snowed heavily, but leaving church the sun made them merely wet.

I’ll have remember to note that down in my list of “snow events” for this winter. It occurred as the warm air fought to come up into New England, prior to out midweek taste of the magic temperature fifty degrees, (10° Celsius), which was promptly counterattacked by roaring cold. Winter has put a lot of work into its snowscape across New England, and is not going to allow some interloper to walk in and melt it all without a fight.

The counterattacks are interesting, for they don’t look possible, if you glance at the map. All winter the next arctic blast has come down east of the Canadian Rockies, bulging south over the vast flat taiga and prairies west of Hudson Bay, but now when you look northwest that pipeline seems brimming with Chinook mildness. However that is no longer “upstream.”  Now our pipeline of cold is from due north, and even the northeast.

If you look at the map below, (click it to enlarge and clarify it, or open it to a new tab),  it sure looks like a warm flow is pushing mild air right up to a warm front over Hudson Bay, and we shouldn’t worry about cold, but the high pressure up over Labrador holds very cold air, and the weak low passing over New England is already sucking some of that cold down. As I headed off to church this morning the drizzle was turning to “snizzle”, which wasn’t sticking to anything, but made me shake my head. My aching joints were telling me the storm was intensifying, and the change to frozen precipitation told me some uplift was occurring. When I glanced up I could see the clouds had already shifted around and were coming from the north, though the isobars on the map told me the winds should be southeast, or perhaps calm.

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By the time I left church the snizzle had turned to wet snow. It wasn’t sticking, but radar showed the precipitation wasn’t coming down from the north as much as it was blooming right over us. I had the hope the mess would move out to sea, before it exploded into too big a storm, but didn’t lower my guard.

In fact it did move out to sea, for the most part, but not without the winds picking up until they were roaring in the hilltops, and we had roughly a half inch of glop, which froze, and then a half inch of powder, which blew about as if it was January, as dark decended. Again winter is not going to give up without a fight.

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The map still shows warm air to our northwest, and a southwest flow to our northwest, but it is interesting how it has such a hard time getting all the way east to we New Englanders who crave it most, after the “worst winter ever”.

Over at their Weatherbell site the excellent long-range forecasters Joe Bastardi and Joseph D’Aleo are suggesting we are not only going to keep seeing these counterattacks from the northeast, but a core of cold is going to bulge down over us and gradually expand west.  Winter will make a comeback until around tax time. Around April 15 the core of cold will be so far west we may see ourselves on the east side of the storm track. Although the pattern is basically the same, it will have shifted far enough west so we slip from the influence of a trough to the north, with storminess and cold winds, to the influence of the Bermuda high. This could be a difference like the difference between night and day, and though the pattern is basically the same, it is called a “pattern snap,” because we abruptly shift from March-like weather to May-like weather.  It is a long wait, but worth waiting for. Perseverance is a virtue.

Something which I suppose is funny happened to me, due to something I said at church last fall, which was taken utterly wrong. I was trying to “exhort” my brothers and sisters to “persevere”, using the approach of a football coach who says, “What are you, mice or men?” and sees the team yell “We’re men!” and go charging out onto the field to prove it. The humor is in a situation when the entire team feels they have been accused of being mice, and becomes so hurt they pout and drag back onto the field in a totally depressed manner.

People were sad because the membership of the church was dwindling. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but it was along the lines of “even if this church is a sinking ship, we should persevere like captains going down with the ship, and avoid being like rats deserting the ship.” I thought it was rather witty, and a superbly crafted mixed-metaphor.

Then I found out a really kind and spiritual woman had heard about my statement. She had left the church to escape sadness and find gladness in solitude and retreat, which I think are good reasons, but now she felt I was calling her a rat.

My initial reaction is to sputter, “Oh don’t be such a hypersensitive numskull!”  However, as a writer, I’ve seen my writing bomb-out enough to know my words don’t always communicate what I intend. Anyway, 1 John Chapter 1 verse 10 states, “If we say we have no sin, we call Jesus Christ a liar”, so I’d figure I better confess I blew it. Not that I much like the word “sin”.  I prefer nice Unitarian words like “shortcoming”, or my favorite, “foible.” However it really is a sin to hurt the feeling of a gentle person, so I’d better go tell her I don’t think she is a rat.

We are a sort of comical bunch of Christians, and I don’t wonder over the fact few want to be members of such a bunch. However, perseverance is a virtue, and winter won’t last forever.

 

LOCAL VIEW —UPS AND DOWNS—

The last oppression of cold crested Saturday, with morning readings down at -1.3°  here (-18.5 Celsius.)  A sneaky arctic high pressure had bulged south behind a weak storm passing to our north, and rather than the warm-up computer models had promised, we had an extra day of cold north winds to endure.

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All day Saturday the chill winds blew from the north, and temperatures never crept out of the high teens, and in the evening temperatures again began falling, and were down to 15° (-9° Celsius) as night fell. Then they halted, as the crest of the high pressure passed over, and the wind died.  Then south winds began to blow and by dawn the temperatures had risen overnight to 25° (-4° Celsius).  As the rising sun faded into a grey smear of cloud temperatures swiftly climbed past freezing, and as church let out at noon and a mist of rain began, they passed 40°. (+5° Celsius.)

It was our first thaw in days, but the ground hadn’t had the chance to thaw, and in fact was still well below freezing. The powdery snows, packed and polished beneath the tread of tires and feet, were instantly glazed by an amazingly slippery sheen of ice.  Even as the rain grew heavier and water flowed over the tar, the layer of greasy ice persisted and even grew, as Facebook, Twitter and Cellphones went wild with reports of skidding cars and road closures.

Typical. We can’t even have a rain without making a winter-event out of it.

I had my driveway nicely covered with both sand and grit from my coal fires, but the glaze covered that so perfectly that simply walking from my parked car to the front steps was nearly impossible. I must have looked absurd, with eyes bugging, and spread palms well out from my hips, and feet far apart, attempting to shuffle up the slightest incline, and only winning briefly before slowly sliding back.  I had to walk through the front garden, where the snow crunched under my feet, to make the front steps.

Ridiculous.  After all, the air temperatures were over forty, and the rain was so warm it didn’t freeze at all on twigs or the windshields of parked cars, yet still the earth remembered the cold.

The air brought messages of hope, but earth
Remembered the cold. Mild rain froze on streets
And made walking a joke, a laughing mirth
Where a man of pompous dignity greets
A snuff-nosed grandmother all waggle-kneed
As she walks clinging to window boxes.
They proceed like drunks, with the cautious speed
Of snails. It’s a good fate for two foxes,
For they have looked at messages of hope
With icy regard. They live for their pensions
Which they endured cold for, and cannot cope
With warm messages. It creates tensions
When into a world that only knows cold
Comes word of worlds that are warm, spoken bold.

 Obviously my response was to write a sonnet, for it was just as obvious being responsible, and doing what was on my “to do” list, would be tantamount to suicide. I had planned to restock the porch with firewood, but to walk with arms full of wood over such a treacherous surface would be unthinkable. So I thought up a sonnet instead.

Soon the rain was heavier, and it was unthinkable to go out in that, but my goats don’t care what I think, so I had to go feed them. I slithered out and headed off. The roads had been heavily salted and were bare in most places, but here and there the rain had washed the salt away and a new glaze had formed, and made my truck act in a way that made my hair stand on end.

I stopped in at the local market on my way, where a surprising number of people gathered to gossip about how terrible the driving was. It made me scratch my head a little. If the driving was so terrible, why did they do it to go to the market? I didn’t ask, for the answer was obvious. The “Big Game” was approaching, and they were not going to miss the game to drive to the market for cigarettes. (Addiction is a terrible thing, but the things people will do to avoid withdrawal-symptoms can bolster ones belief in the power of the human spirit….If only that power could be channeled towards good.) (Of course, not all were there for cigarettes. Some were there for beer, or snacks, or, in a few cases, the addiction may have been to the market’s gossip, itself.)

I continued from there to the gossip of my goats. They were muttering to themselves, huddled under the barn, trying to figure out what their human is up to.

I’ve stopped giving them hay, because they waste 95% of it. They nose through it, tossing it aside for the stray blackberry leaf. And once the tossed-aside hay has touched the mud, they sneer at it. They are surprisingly fussy, and I’ve known farmers who, after feeding their goats, pick up all the tossed-aside hay and feed it to their cows, who have no problem with it. But I have no cows, so the hay is wasted. And then the goats are so hungry that they, having wasted their hay, bust out to eat the bark off the neighbor’s expensive flowering crab apples, or bust into the barn to eat a rare and valuable 1939 copy of Life Magazine.

I discovered, at the feed store, a hay that snobby people serve to their horses. It is compressed into large pellets, and is a blend of alfalfa and timothy, and my goats eat 95% of it. Though it is, pound for pound, three times as expensive as a bale of hay, I did the math and figured more of this stuff was winding up inside my goats, dollar for dollar.

My goats can’t do the math, and are distrustful of all changes, and are trying to figure out what I am up to. I still give them hay, but it is the stuff they already tossed aside, and I only give it to them so they will have something to toss aside. After all, winter gets boring, if you are a goat, and I don’t want to deprive them of their fun.

However they are extremely suspicious of the delicious green cubes I mix in with their grain. Not that they don’t fight among themselves to eat first, but they regard me with deep suspicion. What am I up to? They know there is no such thing as a free lunch.

Then I headed home. The thaw was starting to sink in, and rather than a glaze over packed powder, in places things were turning to deep slush. As I drove I clicked the truck radio to a sports channel, to hear news of the Big Game, and heard an absurd waste of breath about how the people of New England should respond if the local team, (the “Patriots”), lost. Oddly, it seemed another version of “There is no such thing as a free lunch.”

In my opinion, the people of New England have been served an incredible free lunch. I state this because I, as a boy, suffered through long years when New England’s Baseball, Football and Hockey teams were losers. (The Basketball team was a glorious exception to the rule.) Because I have know the suffering of thirst, I can recognize the past decade-plus as a Garden of Eden.  The football team has been especially good.  It always has winning seasons, nearly always makes the play-offs, has advanced to the semi-finals a record number of times, and now was on the verge of advancing to the American holy grail of the “Superbowl” for a record number of times.

However the group of sports commentators focused not on gratitude, but how ungratefully people should behave if the Patriots failed. (The Patriots didn’t; they clobbered their opponent, but the commentators didn’t know this yet.)

I was so disgusted I shut the radio off. To me it demonstrated how people (who are unable to do what the people they criticize do) demand too much. It doesn’t matter how superb a coach or athlete is,  or how many times they have given you the reflected glory of a championship, the day they lose the Big Game you somehow have the power, the right, and the ingratitude to throw them under the bus.

(And if you are a surgeon who has saved many lives, the day you tire, and fail to save a life, the lawyers, who have never saved a life, descend and…)

Life has its ups and downs just like the weather does. Lawyers are trying to figure out how to sue the weather, but I suspect the weather will always laugh at them.

I got home in time to stock the fires, though it was so warm we hardly needed stoves, and then headed off to see the Big Game at my Oldest Son’s house, (I gave up on paying for TV a couple years ago.) The good guys won, if you are from New England, though they have won to a degree where most of the rest of the nation despises them, preferring the “underdog”.

By Monday morning the surge of warmth was consolidating into a low to our north, which was sweeping colder air our way in its wake, first with a cold front bringing Pacific, Chinook air, but eventually with a second cold front bringing back the arctic.

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Despite the lack of Arctic air, it was still January, and temperatures dipped to 29.7° (-2.3° Celsius) last night, which meant all the slush had turned to stone, and all the rain-washed surfaces were slick ice. So I started today driving to the town garage in twilight and shoveling sand into the back of my truck and then driving to the Childcare and spreading it about the lots. Then I had to deal with getting bags of grain and hay for goats, and lastly with getting bags of coal and splitting wood and stacking it on the porch to get ready for the coming cold.  I ache. So I suppose I could call it a “down” If I so chose, however recently a number of friends have pointed out to me, pointedly, that I am darn lucky to be able to do this stuff at age sixty-one, so I guess I”ll call it an “up”.

As I worked I listened to the sports commentators on the truck radio, with the volume turned up loud so I could hear outside the truck. I had to shake my head. The same fellows who were going on and on about how unforgiving they should be, of the local team lost, were relishing the local team’s victory in a manner that can only be called “gloating.”

I have nothing against appreciating victory, however these fellows had shown their true colors in their pre-game nervousness, when they faced the prospect one always faces when playing a game: The prospect of losing. The prospect of “down”.

These fellows are of the crowd who states “we” won, when the local team wins, but rather than “we” states “they” lost, when the local team loses. What they fail to comprehend is that what makes a great team great is that they stick together. There is no “them” on a good team, among its members. You share the “downs” along with the “ups.”

If the spectacle of grown men running about chasing a silly ball has any meaning, it is because the efforts of the athletes can teach us things that have meaning in our own lives. To me, the meaning comes from the teamwork. It comes from the fact that, in any given play or situation, some are losing and some are winning in the individual battles with opponents. Some are “up” and some are “down”. The adjustment that then is made, the way the stronger help the weaker, the way the individual talents compliment each other, is what can turn a good team to a great team.  That is what I learned to watch for and to admire, back when the idea of the local “Patriots” team winning more than it lost was but a fond dream, and I continue to watch for the same thing today, now that the fond dream has come true.

To put it in another way, if I, as an American, really believe that “United We Stand, Divided We Fall,” then I do not associate myself with winners, calling them “we,”  as I disassociate myself with losers, calling them “they.” Instead I believe we are all in this together, and are all on the same team.

I have a brother-in-law who actually does more than believe this. In the summer he is very busy running two businesses, but in the winter both businesses, (a house-painting business and an ice-cream-stand,) go through times that give him a lot of free time. He therefore joined a group of men who rush to help fellow Americans, after bad weather, such as hurricanes and tornadoes, have clobbered such people with a “down”.

Tornadoes are the most blatant and obvious “downs”, because they can hit with very little warning, and don’t care a hoot if you may have been in the middle of an “up” only minutes before. Their power is something you might want to see on film, but never first hand. (While driving cross-country this fall I passed through a forest north of Little Rock, and every tree was without a branch. It was a forest of trunks.)

People who have experienced having a tornado make absolute mincemeat of all their hopes and dreams tend to be cynical about life having an “up” side. My brother-in-law confesses that one of the nice parts of his volunteering is that the people he helps are in a state of disbelief about his arrival; they are so “down” it is hard to believe anything as “up” as fellow Americans arriving to help can possibly happen. Occasionally he will drive to get donuts for his crew, and a crowd of local people will spot the logo on the side of his truck, and spontaneously start cheering, as if he is the winning team.

However my brother-in-law does experience a lot of the “down” side of weather. The same weather that arrives up here in New Hampshire as a pleasant January Thaw may have brewed tornadoes in Alabama. What is an “up” here may be a horrible “down” there, and I am proud my brother-in-law can rush down to show them we are on the same team.

One of the worst “downs” I heard about involved a tornado that was a sort of meteorological fluke, and the people were unable to get any warning from the weather bureau that it was coming. There was a thunderstorm, and a sudden roaring like a freight train, and people had between fifteen and thirty seconds to react, before their homes were reduced to kindling.

The saddest tale he told me involved a young mother in a mobile home, who had only seconds to react but who did what the authorities advise, which is to flee, babe in arms,  to the bathroom and crouch in the bathtub. Then her home was completely destroyed. The sheet-metal roof was torn to strips like paper, even as wind propelled straws with such velocity they penetrated the sheet metal. Two by fours were twisted to splinters that stabbed the woman’s face. Concrete cinder-blocks were lifted like leaves and then slammed down, smashing the bathtub and the woman’s legs. Worst of all, her baby was sucked from her arms, and vanished into the grinding, roaring darkness.

Talk about a “down.” When they found this woman midst the wreckage she didn’t seem to care about her crushed legs. It was all, “My Baby! Find my baby!”

They did eventually find the baby. It was a half mile away, propped between the forking trunks of two shattered trees. And it was cooing and babbling and, amazingly, completely unharmed.

Talk about an “up”!  And the interesting thing about this “up” is that it had nothing to to do with the efforts of mortal humans after a natural disaster. Rather this “up” was an impossible happening within the “down” of the disaster itself.

Memo to self: Do not rely too much on logic, for “up” is found in unlikely places.

However locally the cold is coming down, We nudged up to 34.3° today, (+1.3 Celsius), but it may be the last time we are above freezing for a good, long while.

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LOCAL VIEW —Fasting—

The wind is roaring up in the pines this morning, but it still hasn’t gotten all that cold. I’ll go get some sand at the Town Garage and spread it at the Childcare in an hour, not because it has frozen but because it soon will freeze.  The map shows the second cold front sweeping down through the Great lakes, and the radar shows the lake-effect snows already blossoming downwind. Temperatures are likely to go down as the sun  comes up. (Click maps, or open to new tabs, to clarify and enlarge.)

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It is a very cold looking map.  Not only are isobars showing a direct discharge of air from just south of Hudson Bay, where temperatures are touching -40°, but the associated high pressure over Nebraska is not a loner, but followed by further high pressures coming down the Canadian Rockies. Cold is likely to make the news this week.

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(Click this Dr. Ryan Maue map from the Weatherbell site to enlarge, and then click again to enlarge further.)

Joe Bastardi and Joseph D’Aleo have been warning this cold was coming, even last week when the computer models were showing last weeks cold fading away and a nice warm-up starting now. Therefore I have been taking no chances, and behaved as if it would be a real job to stay warm this week. I’ve gotten extra wood and a couple bags of coal, and yesterday I behaved as if the slush would soon turn to stone, and stay stone for a long time, and therefore I should remove as much as I could while it was still mobile stuff.

I hinted to my middle son and youngest daughter that it might be nice if they got some exercise by pushing some slush off the drive, but they were too busy being spiritual to help.  Spirituality, this particular Sunday, involved fasting.

I myself don’t see what is so spiritual about fasting. It seems to make people more crabby rather than nicer, and also it makes them too weak to help a dear old Dad push slush.  Nothing, in my opinion of yesterday, is quite so spiritual as pushing slush off a driveway.

Pushing slush is also a good activity if you are in the mood to grumble and grouse. It is a bit like singing the blues, in that you go on and on in a sort of misery, and wind up feeling better.

I had a lot to grumble about, because after church I was informed some people considered me a bully. I was astonished. Me?  A bully? However some felt I had been too hard on our ex-pastor, who dramatically resigned after the Christmas service. I suppose I might have been kinder and gentler with the man about the fact our congregation had dwindled from a hundred down to only forty, however I figured facts are facts and we should face those facts. A lot of the sermons were about a thing called “accountability,” and suggested if we did not hold each other “accountable” we were guilty of a sort of sloth. So I held the pastor accountable. Apparently I wasn’t suppose to look beyond the congregation to the pulpit.

Anyway, as I pushed slush around I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. “Sometimes you can’t win for trying.” If I didn’t speak at church I’d be slothful, and a bit of a coward, but if I did speak I was a bully. Things seemed hopeless, especially when I went over to the childcare and saw the entire lot covered with an inch of slush.  I walked across pushing the shovel, and looked back at a single stripe of wet sand on a vast expanse of yuk, and just about quit on the spot. But I kept on going, back and forth and back and forth, grumbling all the while.

It slowly grew dark as the sun set behind the dismal overcast, yet it didn’t get dark. The nearly full moon was shining above the clouds, and the overcast was lit by a muted glow. After taking all day to nudge above freezing, milder air was finally gusting in, with some puffs surprisingly mild, and the next cold again. Back and forth and back and forth I went.

I wondered if any of the parents would appreciate my work, when they dropped off their kids in the morning. I was doing it for them, so they could walk on sand, and not glare ice, or slush covered with a skim of ice. Probably they’d be in too much of a Monday hurry to notice. That’s how it goes, sometimes. All around us are signs of people caring, but it goes unnoticed.  The very shirt on my back was made by someone in Asia caring. Back and forth and back and forth I went, with my mood slowly improving.

I thought about my kids fasting, and how that theoretically denies the self. Sometimes it in fact gets one very focused on the self, especially the stomach, but in theory it is the spirit refusing to be ruled by the flesh.

Then I thought about pushing slush. In a sense that is putting pleasure aside, and putting the self aside, to focus on making walking easier for others, and therefore is a sort of fasting.

So is speaking the truth, even when people call you a bully for speaking. You put your own comfort aside, and accept a decrease in personal pleasure, to do the honest and truthful thing. It is another form of fasting.

Perhaps that is what spirituality is about. You become forgetful of your self, and busy loving others. You are not doing it for the recognition, and may in fact wind up feeling like Rodney Dangerfield, but there is a glory in it, for suddenly you pause, and look back, and the entire entrance of the Childcare is free of slush. The job is done.

I headed home in a much better mood, seeing the moon start to peek between the hurtling overcast, and the branches toss in the sky over the road and the moon-shadows dance in the street. Pushing slush seemed a great thing, a sort of spiritual therapy or yoga, conducive to revelation.

As I walked into my happy  home I started to tell my wife about my revelation, and after listening a while she said I sounded like the fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah. Curious, I looked it up, and saw exactly what I was glimpsing had already been seen, 2700 years ago.

Some things never change, and, along with human grumbling, one of those things is Truth.