LOCAL VIEW –Fresh Start–

My resolutions are not a solution
So this year I will not make even one,
For in my solutions are a pollution
That make all the salmon turn tail and run
Back up the river to pools of their birth;
They don’t reach the sea and enjoy the sweet mirth
Of billowing blue that covers the earth
And pounds stones to sand, and gives life it’s worth.

So please do not tell me to get into shape.
I resolved to be square, but got pounded.
Like a pebble that waves will not let escape
My God has made me a man well-rounded.

Your sharp points are blunted; I will not vow
For I already am, and will live in the Now.

One of the many reasons it is better to be sixty than twenty is that you get to skip the business of always feeling you should be being better than you were the year before. Instead the process of biological deterioration is setting in, and you are lucky to even be the same as you were the year before.

Don’t get me wrong. Spiritually we should always be striving to correct our mistakes and improve, but, since when has spirituality mattered a hill of beans, in this material world?  And, in material terms, a man can not run as fast at age sixty as he could at age thirty. Therefore, if you value material things and gauge value with a stop watch, a man grows less and less valuable as he ages.  In material terms, there is no reason to honor elders. They belong in the dumpster.

Fortunately the complete banality that rules the minds of communists and economists and many psychiatrists does not rule the work-place, and there are still  some employers who prefer a spy old man of 80 to a young galoot of 25. Why?  Well, for one thing, the old geezer shows up at work on time, whereas lots of young galoots find that very difficult. And so and so forth. Until, despite all materialistic logic, you arrive at a mass of evidence that demonstrates a geezer of 80 is a better worker than a galoot of 25.

How can this be? It defies physical science.

The answer lies outside what most call materialism, and matter, and what matters to the mindless. It involves a thing beyond the brain, called “The Mind.”

A pure materialist will not accept that we are anything other than brains, but we are more than that. We are minds, and when our brains quit and rot we will continue on as minds.

If my brain fails before the rest of my body does, I’ll be afflicted with various forms of senility that make me look stupid, but my spiritual progress will not stop. My mind will still be working, even if it can’t communicate through normal physical channels. It will continue to grow, even if my brain becomes so hapless I only drool.

But, if my brain remains sharp even as the rest of my body fails, I’ll be better able to communicate. Even if I hobble into work at age 80 with a cane, my employer will note I am on time, and do fifty other incidental things better than the young galoot who comes bounding in two hours late, and does fifty other things worse. Therefore, if push comes to shove at that workplace, guess who the employer will lay off?

I am not just talking through my hat. I have seen many examples of old geezers being desired, while young galoots are not, at workplaces.

The point I wish to make is that, in terms of materialism, this is utterly illogical.

The irony is that many think “employers” are the epitome of materialism.  They think employers think of nothing but money.

Maybe some employers are like that, but the simple fact of the matter is that, if employers prefer a physically inferior 80-year-old to a physically superior 25-year-old,  the employer cares about something that isn’t physical and isn’t material.

The conclusion I wish to draw is that, if you are the sort of person inclined to make New Year’s Resolutions, perhaps you should see it is foolish do push-ups and eat kale so you might better resemble a young galoot.

Instead maybe you should vow to do what it takes to resemble a spry old man of 80.

 

 

LOCAL VIEW –Liberalism Redefined–

Beggar 220px-Twis-05

“Liberal” originally meant “generous”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wrong.

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

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

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

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

TAX-TIME CAT SONNET

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

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

Begging Cat 3525859742_bd86e015c22

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

LOCAL VIEW –THE BALLET OF A BROOK–

It is Friday night, and after the week I’ve been through I’m ready to tell responsibility to go to hell. I figure that is OK, if I have done “responsibility” all week. It is Monday morning that winds you up in trouble, if you tell responsibility to go to hell..

Last week some of my excellent employees were unavailable for work, so I had to step in and cover for them. Considering they had recently covered for me, as I had a kidney removed, I am not about to whine much. But I will whine just a little bit, because being post-operative reminded me of something I’d nearly forgotten: This world doesn’t need me. I can kick back, and everything doesn’t collapse in a heap. I sort of liked kicking back, but last week I abruptly had to stop it.  My first real vacation in fifteen years was over.

Most people seem to need a vacation to recover from a vacation. They have no desire to return to the rat race, because they have fleetingly seen life can be much, much better. The revelation is downright traumatic, which is why they need another vacation. They need to reassess. They need to reevaluate what the hell they are suffering for.

It was different for me, because I was craving to get back to work. When the vacation is enforced, due to an operation, you are itching to get back in the saddle. Then, when you are allowed to again do the most simple things, such as sweep a powder of snow from steps, the joy you feel is all out of proportion to the magnitude of the task. Sweeping of the snow is no earth-shaking deed, yet you feel like singing the Hallelujah Chorus.

Yet I too had no desire to return to the rat race. There is something about calling our labor a “rat race” that demeans life. We are missing the point. We are missing the majesty.

When my wife and I started our Farm-childcare nearly a decade ago we hadn’t read “Last Child In The Woods” by Richard Louv or “Simplicity Parenting” by Kim John Payne. But we knew what they knew. Our society is missing the majesty.

It is bad enough when we turn our own lives into a rat race, but when we turn little children’s lives into rat races it is a bridge too far. It violates the sanctity of of an obvious and simple church called “Childhood.” Yet the most loving people do it.  Childhood is suppose to be a sanctuary, but parents and schoolmarms disturb the peace.

Six hundred toys is not peace; it is hectic. It isn’t loving, nor are ballet lessons after organized sports after classes after classes after classes before yoga sessions about serenity. Yet both parents work two jobs, and send innocents to Farm-childcares like mine from 7:00 AM until 6:00 PM, (most of a child’s waking hours), and suffer all this rat-race toil out of a love for those they abuse.

It is a love that is misguided. I am old, and if I am any sort of guide I need to say, “You should put my Farm-childcare out of business. Do you have any idea how much money you could save if you worked less, drove less, prepared your own food, and raised your own kids?”

My wife is usually the one who deals with our customers. I lack tact. But the fact I stay silent sometimes makes me feel like a Caspar Milquetoast.Boss census

Fortunately my wife is as radical as I am, and agrees children are better off being allowed the freedom to be young. If a child wants to spend time by a brook, rather than listening to the insipid prattling of elders about ballet, they may very well learn more about ballet from a brook, and more about beauty from a brook, and certainly receive more healing from a brook than all the king’s doctors and all the king’s psychologists can ever provide.

Brook IMG_1771

You complain God is silent, but heed you
The sweet music of a burbling brook?
Maybe you buy the video, and do
Your best to cure insomnia, and look
To screens to see blue waters play, and guide
Your children to bleak deserts waterless:
Sessions and sessions, all puffing your pride
When in fact you are deaf, or even less.

I tell you God’s not silent, but you must go
To an actual brook, and do a thing
Called “sit still”, unwax your ears, and then know
What children know. Dare you try listening?
Who made this rat-race, so sure to depress?
The silence of God gives you more, asking less.

LOCAL VIEW —An Igloo’s Demise—

I haven’t had to document “The worst winter ever” for the past few days, as we’ve had a wonderful spell of spring-like weather. I know better than to be fooled by it, for we get snows into April this far north, and only in May do we call snows (which do occasionally happen) “freakish”.  However just because I am not fooled by it has been no reason to frown. Frowns have been few and far between, on the winter-weary faces I’ve seen.

Smiles are a good thing to see, as this has always been a time of toughness, in New England. One reason for having Lent when it is, is because, back in the day,  food supplies were getting short. One reason for corn beef and cabbage being a traditional Saint Patrick’s Day meal was that corn beef was the only meat left, and cabbage, carrots and potatoes was all that was left in your root cellar.  Then, midst this general poverty, towns would hold their Town Meeting.

It was a smart time to talk about budgets. People were bound to be more frugal and practical when they were basically broke, then they would be midst the bounty of harvest. Also, during harvest, everyone was busy harvesting. In March there tends to be little to do, as the fields are all slush and muck, if they are not snow covered. Planting began in April.

Town Meetings were also a time to meet people you hadn’t seen during the cold, snowy days when it was hard to get out much. Unfortunately we are are more mobile now, and this makes it even less likely to see neighbors, for everyone tends to work miles from their homes and neighbors. It also makes it hard for people to attend Town Meetings, and sadly our town abandoned that wonderful example of democracy in favor of elections, which allow people to rush in and cast votes on topics they know next to nothing about, and haven’t heard discussed from both the Yea and Nay sides.

A major issue our little town faced was whether or not to slash the school budget. Such discussions can get ugly, because on one hand there are the “it’s for the children” arguments, and on the other hand the economy is bad, and people are on the verge of losing their homes, and one may hear “it’s for the senior citizens” arguments, because soaring taxes hit those on fixed incomes especially hard. I agonized over the choice, but in the end voted against slashing the budget, however my vote was in the minority.

Considering how serious the implications are, and how many work at the local schools, it was hard to walk into the voting place without feeling guilty as you passed school children with pickets reading, “Save our drama club” and such things. It didn’t matter that I was voting the way they wanted, for there were other signs taking the other view. It is a sort of gauntlet you have to get through, and even though the ballot is secret I always feel as guilty as hell.

But there were nothing but smiles to be seen, in the sunshine, this year. Fifty degrees!  Do you have any idea how long it has been?

There are times our common sense and intellectual nature is overwhelmed. It doesn’t make a lick of sense, but it happens, like when a very attractive person smiles at you.

Then you see, out in the Childcare’s playground, that the igloo the children delight in has collapsed into a pile of slushy snow, and you look at the weather map, and you realize that the pile of slushy snow will turn into rock-like ice tomorrow. What sort of playground is that?

There are times our common sense returns with a rush, as it does when an attractive and smiling person walks away, and we realize our wallet is missing.

I need to give myself a good slap in the face, and repeat over and over, “It isn’t May yet. It isn’t May yet.”

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LOCAL VIEW —Powder’s End—(Updated twice, with summery)

There is the word “rain” in the forecast. True, the forecast is for 4-6 inches of snow, ending as a glaze of freezing rain before we are clobbered by another cold wave, but it seems I haven’t heard that word “rain” for the longest time. It seems impossible, after the shot of cold we just took.

The core of the cold came in around dawn Friday. Temperatures had been plunging all night with squalls of snow, with the the final flakes flying after midnight and preventing Friday from being a “snow free” day, but by the dawn’s twilight the final clouds were hurrying away, purple buffalo galloping against the stripe of orange on the eastern horizon. Temperatures had dropped to around 5°. and were down to 2° when the brilliant sun peeked over the frozen landscape, and then, despite the brilliant sun, continued down. When I dropped the gang-of-six off at the kindergarten the dashboard thermometer read zero. (My thermometer at home, and a few others on my area, read higher, because a big drift covered the bulb.)

We didn’t even try to get the children outside at our farm-daycare.  Our focus may be the outdoors, but there comes a time to surrender to reality, and with the vicious wind whipping snow like stinging sand, surrender seemed wise. The best the thermometer could achieve, despite sunshine that made you squint, was 14° (-10° Celsius).

Meanwhile all eyes turned to the next storm, to our west.

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I had to shovel out the back of my pick-up and hustle off through the cold to pick up some grain and do a few other out of town chores. One involved a visit to a bank I don’t usually use.

I saw a funny incident at that bank. A very old man came doddering in, and a young lady started to hit him with some sort of bureaucratic crap, saying that they had changed their policy and now both he and his wife had to sign a certain check for him to deposit it. It was 9° out with a howling wind and drifting snow, and the old man’s nose was blue despite his extensive scarves, a collar that engulfed his chin, and a furry hat that looked several sizes too large. The young lady was basically telling him to go home through the vicious wind and then come back through the rotten weather a second time. Though the old man’s voice was very reedy and quavering, his eyes got very regal and piercing, and the young lady stopped talking in the middle of a sentence. After looking her up and down, he picked up a pen and wrote his own signature with one hand, and then switched hands and forged his wife’s signature with the other hand. Then he handed her the check, as if daring her to say something. She didn’t dare.

The bank also had a group of young men with checks they’d gotten from people for shoveling roofs. Briefly unemployment  as dipped in this area. One topic I heard discussed was how homeowners have ripped shingles from their roofs, attempting to remove snow with long ice rakes.

I stopped at several places looking for the pucks of calcium chloride you can toss up onto roofs to melt ice-dams. The problem people are having with ice-dams is so serious that everyone was sold out, however an old-timer at a hardware store told me it is cheaper to just buy a big 50 pound bag of calcium chloride, and then, when your wife isn’t looking, you take her nylons and make a tube of calcium chloride, and lay it over the ice-dam at the edge of your roof.

The worst of this arctic shot actually headed south well west of us. Places in Kentucky smashed their all time records, which is all the more noteworthy as it is nearly March. Joe Bastardi, at his blog over at Weatherbell (and some other sites as well), are pointing out that the National Weather Bureau is displaying their political bias, and their eagerness to promote a Global Warming agenda, because they have no problem trumpeting record highs when they occur, but when an all-time-record-low is set they question the thermometers. They disallowed an all-time-record set in Illinois last winter despite the fact the thermometer seemed to work correctly, but couldn’t disallow the new record of -50° set in Maine, when that thermometer was compared to five other thermometers and proved accurate. It will be difficult to ignore the records set in Kentucky because the old records were not broken by a mere degree. They were smashed.

Not that it means the world is getting colder. It means the core of an arctic air-mass was flung south with such speed it didn’t have time to warm up.

Our temperatures dropped below zero again soon after sunset, but by then the core of the cold was past, and winds were already starting to swing around to the southwest. Temperatures dipped to -1.1° ( -18.4° Celsius) before midnight,  but now have crept up to +0.3° as I suffer my usual insomnia at 3:40 AM.

The storm is gathering to our west, with more snow in the current radar shot than appeared in the shot at the start of this post.

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I have lots to do to be ready for the next storm, but have to waste half a day taking one of those adult-education courses the State insists Child-care-professionals take. This seems a perfect example of bureaucracy run amuck .  Rather than doing what common sense would have you do, you must fulfill some requirement they dreamed up, because what else have they got to do with their time?

I’ll make the best of it, even though I often know more than my teachers. There is something to be learned from every person you meet, even if it isn’t always what they are teaching. Also I’ve been working so hard, physically, that it may do me some good to just sit for a while.

Unloading feed for my goats in that wind yesterday did make sitting sound awful attractive, especially as the snow is so deep I can’t back my truck very close to the barn.  I’m the one who should be sitting around and dreaming stuff up. I need to write a novel, and make enough money to hire a young fellow to lug grain for me. Of course, I’ve been saying that for nearly fifty years. The whole point of becoming a writer in the first place was to avoid working a real job. However I’m glad that didn’t work out, for what would I have had to write about?

I’ll update about this storms as it happens.

CLASSY CLASS

I was not very happy about having my Saturday stolen, especially having to hurry in the brittle chill of -3.5° daybreak to feed animals and be on the road to the western side of Southern New Hampshire. I like to potter about unhurried on a Saturday. Instead I was being tossed about in a van with my wife and three staff members, because even the more civilized State Highways are starting to be buckled by frost heaves. Furthermore it only got colder. It was below -10° in the low, flat former-farmland that cradles the large town of Keene. As the women in the van cheerfully  chattered I glowered across a landscape that was a queer mix of brilliant blue and brass, as the arctic air gave way to the advance of southern storminess.  The sky was a confusion of high clouds, speaking of warmth far away as the world beneath was frozen solid.

The class was about introducing children to the outdoors. Considering this was the entire premise behind opening our Childcare nearly a decade ago, and considering the crap the State put us through for daring to step outside of the box of institutionalized childcare where children are basically incarcerated in a jail, there is a certain irony in the fact the State now requires I be “educated” about the subject. It was one of those situations where I could say a great deal, however my wife shoots me a certain look that implores that I button my fat lips.

The class was in two parts. We had a class in October where the idea was introduced, and now we were suppose to relay our observations and results, after trying out the amazing idea of allowing children to escape the suffocation of the indoors, and run where the air is fresh and free. I was a bit cynical about what people would say, seeing as how we have had just about the worst weather on record, and childcare-providers were given just about every reason there is to stay indoors.

I was glad I kept my big mouth closed, for it turned out to be very interesting to listen to how amazed the childcare providers were about how positive the experience of allowing the children to play outside was. Duh. But I did not even feel the urge to say “Duh”, because there is something better about people discovering things for themselves than you doing the discovery for them and ramming it down their throats.

One thing I have often seen is that, when a new child comes to our Childcare, they stand around and watch the other children for a bit, before getting drawn into the play. I’d always assumed this was due to shyness, and never considered the fact they might not be used to the outdoors. However as I listened to other childcare providers I heard that the entire group of children stood about, when first faced with the outdoors. In some cases even the staff stood about. It was as if they were all asking, “Now what?” It took a day or two before they even began to run about and enjoy the outdoors. That is how alienated modern society has become from fresh air. However, after only a day or two, a sort of enthusiasm bloomed, and soon parents were remarking that all children would talk about when they got home was how much fun the outdoors was.

This is something my wife and I accepted as a basic premise. Not that we deserve a medal for anything so blatantly obvious, but it nice to see some sort of affirmation: We didn’t invent the Truth; the mystery is why others don’t see it.

Originally the class was suppose to be held outdoors, but the instructor decided against that when she saw the dawn temperature was -15° (-26.1° Celsius) in Keene. However by 10:30 AM temperatures had risen thirty degrees to +15° (-9.4° Celsius). This is still “too cold” for children to be allowed outside at State-run schools, and it was refreshing to hear many state how stupid that ruke was, in a windless calm, for +15° felt warm.

They have had less snow in western New Hampshire, only 30 inches lay in the playground as opposed to 60 inches towards the coast. However the snow was deep enough to limit the children at that particular Childcare, when they went out to play. As I watched, the 30 or so women attending the class (I was the lone male) all got busy making paths and building various shapes, as a “surprise” for the children when they came in on Monday. (My favorite was a circle with an inward-facing bench, built of packed powder, which got dubbed “the hot tub”.

I carefully avoided being helpful. My body is so achy from a week’s worth of work making my own playground child-friendly that I figured I needed a break. Instead I just watched, and was glad I kept my big mouth closed.

YAHOO SNOWFALL

Temperatures rose to 21.7° (-5.7° Celsius) as the day dulled to gray. I was Home by 1:30 PM, ate lunch, and snoozed, and the snow was beginning at 3:00 when I finally got myself going. Temperatures promptly dropped to 21.0°, and then stayed within a degree of that as the day slowly darkened and the snow grew heavier.

I had to drive about a bit taking care of minor bits of business before winding up at the farm removing snow from roofs, and couldn’t help but notice the insanity of the young men. They were fishtailing about the roads recklessly, as I crept along carefully in my old truck. The snow fell in bursts, with a half inch in ten minutes, and then a spell of light snow before the next burst. I passed one field where young men were going wild in snow mobiles, and then at the farm, as I worked in the deepening darkness, I could hear the snowmobiles whining like deranged mosquitoes off in the distance.

I used to really hate the noise, the disruption of the peace, caused by snowmobiles. I prefered the quiet where you can hear the sound flakes make as they land.  Oddly, I found my feelings had changed.

The economy has been so bad I heard few snow mobiles, up until a week ago. Then young men were able to find work shoveling off roofs. Apparently, rather than being wise and putting their money in a jar and saving it, they bought gas for their snow mobiles, and are being foolish.  Why does that make me smile?

The radar showed snow decreasing in a more westerly band, and increasing in a band closer to the coast.

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INSOMNIA REPORT

Temperatures have remained level all night, and are at 21.2° at 2:30 AM. The snow seems to be slackening off, and the western edge os approaching. We seem likely to escape with only three inches. Boston continues to have its odd karma, and snow still looks heavy down there.

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The extreme cold looks to be hanging back behind a temporarily stationary front back over the Great Lakes. That front will charge south and have us back below zero on Monday night, but it looks like we’ll get a day of rest this Sunday. It might even get above freezing, which will feel like fifty to the frost-bitten populace of New England. Weekend after weekend we’ve had storms, but it looks like this Sunday we’ll at least manage a church service.

The Great Lakes are freezing up, despite the fact the cold has been centered over us and not them, this winter. Last winter they got the extreme cold, yet we are seeing as much ice as last year, (perhaps because the water was colder to begin with.) This is especially noticeable on Lake Ontario, which is closer to the center of this year’s cold, and which has more ice than last year.  Storms and strong winds have torn at the ice and led to decreases, but still the ice cover increases. This does not bode well for a balmy spring.

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ANOTHER INSOMNIA REPORT

A very weak wave rippled along the front as it pushed by yesterday morning, giving us a final flurry of snow, before the clouds broke and we got a kindly Sunday.

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Even though Boston got heavier snow, it was mixed with enough sleet and freezing rain to reduce amounts to something like an inch and a half. Nonetheless they are nearing an all-time-record for snow-in-a-single-winter, and have completely smashed their record for snow-in-a-single-month, despite the fact February has fewer days. (These records only go back to around 1870, and also I think they didn’t fuss so much measuring a half inch of snow, back in the old days. However they have broken the snow-in-a-single-month record by more than a foot.) Boston Harbor is choked with sea-ice.

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There is sea-ice all the way down to inlets in Virginia. I wonder if they include it in the “sea-ice totals”. Maybe not, as I suppose it doesn’t count as “arctic” and they are measuring arctic sea-ice.” But we certainly have been included in the arctic, the past month.

However yesterday was different. It was a brief break. We managed a church service, and I greatly enjoyed getting out of my grubby farmer clothes, even if I was back in them three hours later and back warring with the snow. To some it may seem quaint, rustic and even primitive to congregate and sing 200-year-old songs praising a Creator some doubt exists, but speaking for myself, it was a relief, and a joy.

Then it was back to the battle. I’d say we had 3-4 inches of fluff, very unusual as it came on a south wind, and drifted places (such as porches) that are usually protected from snow. As I cleaned such a porch I had a vivid memory of being a small boy back in the 1950’s, and hearing my mother remark, “This is very unusual. We don’t usually get snow on a south wind.” It gave me the sense we were back to a place we were sixty years ago, in a sixty-year-cycle.

My up-the-hill neighbors are getting a bit desperate, as the oil-delivery-man is a bit of a weeny and will not zoom up their drive like his predecessor did, and turn around in a vast flat area at the top, and instead insists upon creeping up the hill backwards. To be blunt, I am better at backing up than this fellow is, and I am not all that good at it. He veers into snowbanks, and churns the wheels a little, and then gives up in trepidation over the prospect of “getting stuck.” He insisted they widen the drive, so they fought back the snowbanks. Then he insisted they sand the driveway so they sanded it.  Now he apparently is saying the packed powder is too deep, and they must scrape down to the pavement.  (I doubt it will do any good, for even if the pavement was bare and dry, the fellow is pathetic, when it comes to backing-up.) In any case they have now spread hundreds of pounds of salt, which had no effect at first, because salt will not melt snow when temperatures dip below 20 degrees. Then, yesterday, temperatures rose above twenty, and the driveway, which had been paved with a half-foot of packed, squeaky snow it was easy to drive over, turned into six inches of a sort of dry slush, which they were attempting to shovel away. I took off my Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes, put on my grubby-farmer-clothes,  and went out to join them. I likely violated commandments involving Sunday being a day-of-rest, but gleaned a few points for loving-my-neighbor.

Having already broken the commandment about resting on Sunday, I headed over to our farm-childcare to snow-blow the entrances and exits and parking area. The roads were wet, for the salt which formerly had no effect was starting to work all over town, and it gave one the sense we were experiencing a thaw. No such luck. Even in the brightest and sunniest part of the afternoon we couldn’t quite break freezing, only achieving 31.6°. (-0.2 Celsius). However the slush that was created needed to be dealt with, as, if you don’t take care of it, it turns to rock when the cold returns. (I think the salt actually drains away as a sort of brine, leaving a slush behind that is salt-free.)

No one seemed to be taking a day-of-rest. Everyone seemed determined to avoid letting the snow get ahead of them. I saw no signs of the April-attitude, which doesn’t bother with clearing up snow because everyone knows the sun will melt it in a day or two. We are not there yet, and there seems to be an unspoken understanding that everyone needs to keep fighting. We can handle 3-4 inches of snow, but it is like treading water. Everyone knows we cannot handle a big storm. There is simply no place to put the snow.

However it does no good to worry about what might not happen. You deal with the cards you are dealt. As I finished snow-blowing, and sudden silence descended, I looked west to where the orange twilight was draining into the sky, and listened, and heard not even the sound of snowflakes falling. There were no snowmobiles roaring weekend joys, for the weekend was over, and mine was the last snow-blower to quit. All I could hear was the silence of a world smothered by snow.

There was no roaring of oncoming arctic air, though that is in the forecast. In fact even now, as I write this insomnia report, temperatures have only dipped to 21.7°. We are still in the lull before the next onslaught of winter.

The map and radar shows a line of light snow, as the arctic air closes in, but the night is still still, and the stillness suggests a song.

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This sort of arctic front can bring us unexpected snow, as the sun is high enough to add uplift and turn a flurry into a squall, but it isn’t here yet, and I am content to simply listen to the silence, before the pines again begin roaring.

The moonless night feels draped by pearled moonlight.
The once-cold stars now have twinkling eyes.
Something is happening out of my sight;
Something out of my mind now softens sighs.
Under the drifts of deep drowning snows
A simpleness stirs. It’s nothing fancy.
It’s old. It’s what a mother knows
Before the father knows of pregnancy.
It’s the first stirrings of sap down in roots
Before the first drop plinks in a bucket.
It’s an earthquake, but lawyers in sleek suits
Can’t feel it, or else sense and say, “Fuck it.”
Though forecasts are cold, it’s forecasting mirth.
It’s a silence utterly altering earth.

LOCAL VIEW —A Warm Snow—

I was so stiff and sore Friday afternoon I didn’t stock the porch with firewood. I was hoping that by moaning and limping and looking pitiful I might inspire my middle son to stock the porch for me. However he failed to get the hint, as he has his own reasons for moaning and groaning: Despite amassing huge debts gaining a degree in biology the only work he can find is in a coffee shop. After a day’s work he needs to remember who he is, and heads off into the woods to study the local wildlife, rather than stocking a porch with firewood.

To a degree I expected that, but knew that the snow wasn’t suppose to start until mid-morning yesterday, and figured I could limp out and get it done early. However I confess I half-expected the snow to start early, as the upper air trough was positively tilted and the storm was wasting no time coming north.

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Temperatures, which had dipped to the upper teens in the evening, rose into the twenties over night as the clouds rolled in, and by the first light of dawn it was snowing. It was fluffy stuff, and atop the iron ice underneath it was like dry sawdust on a polished floor, and treacherously slippery. As my middle son ate waffles and studied the internet, I dressed in my woolly hat and scarf, and with a deep sigh headed out to work with great care, moving wood by wheelbarrow to the porch, and laboring up the porch’s stairs. Soon I forgot to feel sorry for myself, for it was quite beautiful out, and so warm I didn’t feel a bit chilled in a world that resembled a shaken snow globe.  (One thing I can’t understand is how, when a storm is zooming past, there can be no wind.)

Soon my son came bounding out, hardly dressed for winter at  all, and began rushing to and fro carrying wood by the armload, making me feel a bit old as I wheelbarrowed in slow motion, but also a bit wise as he went flying on the slick ice and crash-landed in a manner that would have put me in a hospital. He hopped right up with a laugh and continued.

It was fairly obvious he had other things to do, and wanted to quit as soon as the pile was knee-deep on the porch. I myself was originally thinking I’d quit when I achieved that minimum, but now that I had companionship I continued, despite the slight look of pain on my son’s face I went for the next load, again and again, and the pile on the porch passed waist-deep and headed towards chest-deep.

Besides hauling we did a bit of splitting, as the fellow who delivered the wood last fall was in such a hurry to keep up with orders he didn’t always spit the logs down to a sensible size. We talked about trees and the grain of wood, and I learned things I didn’t know, as I lack a degree in biology, but also had the satisfaction of answering a question. A song much like a tree frog sounded from the tree tops near us, and my son quirked his head and asked, “What’s that?”  I could answer, “A woodpecker,” though I had to confess I never had figured out if it was a hairy or a downy.

All in all it was fun, to my surprise, and it felt good to go stamping back inside past a porch stacked to neck-level. The snow already seemed to be slacking off, as I pottered on, doing the Saturday chores, and enjoying my first snow tires in years, though I will confess they took all the challenge out of going up hills.

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By the time I headed off to feed the goats and chickens and rabbit, and snow-blow the drives and lots at the Childcare, it seemed the snow was done. As I drove I passed many who were just finishing up cleaning off their drives with looks of satisfaction on their faces, but everyone was in for a surprise, as a little following-wave developed and messed up all the neat and tidy jobs with an extra inch. Again the snow-globe was shaken as I worked, in a windless mildness that topped off with temperatures of 29.5° (-1.4° Celsius).

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The second wave of snow was already tapering off as the dark descended. All in all we had around four inches of fluff, though it settled some. I feel a bit foolish for dreading the prospect of snow so much, for this has to have been one of the nicest and warmest snows I can remember since I was young, back when all snows were warm.

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However even as this snow moves off over Nova Scotia, a little Alberta Clipper is diving south, to the southwest of Lake Superior.

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That little clipper is forecast to give us an amazing two feet of powder snow, with winds gusting over 40 mph and temperatures in the teens, this coming Tuesday. I’m not sure I fully believe that forecast, yet, but confess I haven’t learned my lesson, for I am once again cringing at the prospect of snow.

LOCAL VIEW —I thought I saw a thaw—

In the winter, with warmth comes clouds, and with the clouds came a brief spell of snow this morning. It was just enough to make a mess, and totally confuse things for everyone, as the superintendent of schools, (who I think has a deep fear of lawsuits), announced a two hour delay in the opening of school, for a pathetic inch and a half of snow.

Personally, I think the superintendent should be fined for each delay. It might make him more cognizant of the total chaos he is causing the local economy.  When both parents work, to abruptly have to figure out what to do with the children for two hours causes a sort of panic. Someone needs to step in to save the day, and that someone tends to be the guy running the Childcare facility, namely me.

I am grumpy enough about having to add “snow removal” to my schedule, even if it is only brooming off the front walk and scattering some salt, and running to and fro pushing the snow off the part of the parking lot where parents actually disembark with their kids (to keep them from tracking amazing amounts of snow inside). To also have to deal with a bunch of parental pleading is not what I need, as the superintendent himself sits back and sips a coffee in some plush office.

It occurred to me this morning that we could save a lot of tax dollars if we rented his office to some business that actually contributes to the economy, and actually pays taxes, and moved the superintendent himself from that plush office to my goat barn. After all, it has an electrical outlet. I could supply a table and chair.

Besides the parents working real jobs, desperate to find care for their children, there are of course the parents who teach at the school, who come lollygagging in with their children two hours late without telling us they will be late. They have no idea of the staffing problems we are facing with extra children, or of various state laws that demand we have a set number of adults for a set number of children. If they’d have the consideration to call us and inform us they’d be late, then we might…….

Oh, what’s the use!  It is scheduling chaos, and that is all there is to it. And to have this chaos caused by a fall of snow we’d hardly notice, back when I was a kid, does make me even more grumpy than I usually am.

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The irony was that the two hour delay allowed milder air to come north, and raise temperatures from 25° to 34° (-4° to +1° Celsius). This turned the roads from snow-covered, (and if you don’t know how to drive on snow-covered roads you shouldn’t live in New Hampshire), to slush-covered, which turns roads into a sort of treacherous grease, especially when the tar beneath has been chilled by sub-zero cold.

To top it all off, I had a dentist appointment scheduled twenty miles away, at a time things have usually settled down, but now was the time the delayed bus would be arriving, (driven by a bus driver in a bad mood, because drivers usually need a second job in the middle of the day to make ends meet, but the superintendent doesn’t think of the cut drivers are going to take in their mid-day pay, with each two-hour-delay.)

The dentist was going to do a root canal. Come to think of it, anticipation of this procedure might have added a little extra to my grumpiness.

To cut a long story short, kids wound up where kids were suppose to be, I slithered twenty miles, and settled down in the comfortable chair of a dentist who has the redeeming quality of never stinting on the Novocaine.  Around lunchtime I left, planning to skip lunch, because if I had eaten there would have been absolutely no way of knowing whether I was chewing my meal or the left side of my face.

To sit a long time in a chair with my mouth open might not seem like an activity that uses a lot of energy, but I always wind up feeling like I’ve been exercising. I’m stiff and sore. At the same time I feel like I’ve been producing a lot of adrenaline and not using it. I feel sort of like zoning-out listlessly for around a week, but have learned it is better to do some exercise, and get my blood stirring. So I trudged outdoors to stock up the depleted porch with firewood.

Some of our wood was delivered with the logs too fat, so I swung a maul and split the bigger logs to two or three smaller ones. Gradually I began to feel human again.

It was misty, with the temperature stalled barely above freezing, and then starting down again, sinking below freezing around nightfall.  We were in a sort of dry-slot between snow to our north and rain to our south.

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I doubt we will get much snow as the next cold high pressure pushes down over us. That snow to our north looks in a big hurry to slide away up to the northeast. By morning we might have a dusting, atop slush that will all be frozen as hard as iron.

If you look at the weather map you can see the southern-branch moisture and energy is still dawdling down in Florida. When the energy stays spread out like that we fail to get a big storm.

To our northwest you can see the next big arctic high coming. At the very top of the map you can see a cold front way up in Canada, which indicates yet another high pressure will follow.

Between each of the high pressures is low pressure holding the chance of a becoming the “Big One.”  Each slot of low pressure will have a northern-branch and southern-branch feature. Sometimes they will fail to “phase”, as was the case with the current two low-pressures, but the current pattern reminds me of the patterns of my youth, and back then the really big storms waited until February, or even March. That is what I feel in my bones we will see again, this year.

When that happens it does get milder between the arctic high pressures, but the storms tend to make snow even when rain seems likely. The pressure is falling so rapidly, and precipitation also falls so rapidly that, due to some process I don’t fully understand, “cold air gets dragged to the surface.”  It can be a degree or two above freezing, yet the snow dumps down at rates up to three inches an hour.

Our Childcare has never been closed by a storm, but on one occasion only a single small girl showed up. I think we could see that happen again, this winter.

In the mean time we are passing through the more easy time of the winter, when snow-removal only involves a broom. If the superintendent can freak out over this weather, I expect there will be no school at all, this February.

Even though these are the easy times, I can’t help but notice our landscape has changed from brown to white, and I have to brush the snow from the logs out at the woodpile, now. However that is much better than needing to dig down to find the logs. A brief thaw is better than no thaw at all, and two inches of snow better than two feet.

However even better is to retreat to the year 1971, and work on my novel.