Half-horsepower Persian Snows

A strong west-to-east flow across northern Europe is driving polar Atlantic air deep into Siberia. (Maps below are created by Dr Ryan Maue from GFS initial data, and are among thousands of maps he makes available at the Weatherbell site.) (Click maps to clarify and enlarge.)

Persia 1 gfs_mslp_uv10m_eur_6

This air is actually quite mild for December (although below freezing by the time it gets to Russia. Below freezing appears as pink on the map below.)Persia 2 gfs_t2m_eur_1

To get a feel for how above-normal the air actually is a temperature anomaly map is helpful. The map below shows temperatures are most above normal in Finland.Persia 3 gfs_t2m_anom_eur_1

This surge of relatively mild (but still below freezing air) will extend far across Asia, but does not represent the very cold (-40°C) Siberian air being warmed, but rather replaced. The displaced air is pushed north into the Arctic Sea, or west into the Pacific, or south and then east by a sort of backwash under the west winds. You can see the cold appearing in the lower right of the map above.

What this means is that places like Persia, Lebanon, Syria and Israel are seeing very cold conditions. Even the ordinarily hot and desert dry United Arab Emerites are seeing cold rain and temperatures down near freezing. UAR Cold Rain 3820661127

This is often an unexpected side effect of mild west winds across the Baltic and into Russia. Siberia is a huge place, larger than the USA and Canada put together, and its tundra and taiga create huge amounts of cold air. It is difficult to comprehend the enormity of this reservoir, or how impossible it is to warm this vastness in the dark days of December. It is only when a fringe of this cold comes east as a sort of backwash, and snows fall in the holy land, that one glimpses a hint of how gigantic the area of cold is. It perhaps can be shoved aside by a surge of air from the west, but it doesn’t just vanish, and I was particularly interested in pictures of the snow in Persia (Iran). Persian Snow 151207113212_snow_in_iran_640x360_isna_nocredit

It is a bit stunning to realize that the displaced Siberian air has it colder south of the Caspian Sea than it is way up in Finland. (One thing to realize is that the relatively milder air rushing east past Finland is constantly losing heat, and will be quite cold after a week or so over the deep snows that cover most of Siberia this autumn.) In fact it is so cold over Persia that things are running at half-horsepower.1931874(1)

OK, OK, I admit it is a bad joke, but I actually thought this statue was so cool that it deserved an entire post just to share it. It just goes to show you that you never know what you’ll discover, when you wander the web looking for news.

 

 

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WIND SWINGS IN EUROPE

A low over the Baltic Sea with an extension over Italy are bringing a generally northerly flow Across Norway, Britain, and Spain. This is very different from last year when floods of warmth came up from the Azores high all the way to Finland.  The Azores high is suppressed at the bottom of the map.

UK MET 0201A 22029536

As the Baltic low weakens and is moved east, the Azores high is not able to slide north behind it, and rather a high pressure full of colder air which, though moderated by the Atlantic, is largely from arctic source regions starts to be pumped up south of Iceland. Rather than gales crossing the Atlantic and sliding north of Norway, bringing surges of warmth to Scandinavia, the lows are heading north and crashing into Greenland and Baffin’s Bay, with the warmth streaming towards the pole to feed an Arctic Gale, (mentioned in the prior post.) The best Atlantic storms can do is push a weak low into the Mediterranean via Spain.

UK Met 0201B 22033116

As the Baltic low fades east an new Atlantic gale forms north of Iceland, and a non-Azores high pressure is pumped up and approaching Britain, as the weak low enters the Mediterranean. The northern flow is breaking down over Western Europe. West winds are starting to develop a cross-Atlantic flow northwest of Iceland.

UK Met 0201C 22033624

Friday’s map shows the non-Azores high pressure extending across Europe, and winds from the west to its north. Though this seems to promise a break for Scandinavia from north winds, the Atlantic air is of a colder sort, with no benign Azores kindness. To the south of the high the winds will be east, when are seldom kindly in Europe, with Siberia in that general direction.

The gale south of Svalbard is weakening and is actually an appendage of a larger Gale brewing up over the Pole.

UK Met 0201D 22037814

What follows will be interesting to watch. Some models show the low south of Svalbard dropping back down to the Baltic, and the north winds returning to Norway, Britain and Spain. No winds from the Azores are in sight.

SNOW IN ALGERIA (with update)(Winter of 2014-2015)

Algeria Snow 2210_algeria

I am always interested in snow and cold getting across the warm Mediterranean to North Africa, as my over-active imagination likes to create a blooming Sahara.

This is the second time in two years they’ve had the rare snows down there. I haven’t heard whether it snowed on the pyramids again, (which resulted in a wonderful hoax and Photoshopped picture, last year.)

Apparently there were reports of snowflakes in the air on the island of Malta, right out in the Mediterranean, which would have been a first. The Malta weather bureau couldn’t confirm it.

http://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/world/47963/snow_blankets_sicily_and_northern_africa#.VKmin9LF_kc

This first Siberian blast is pretty much over.  The high pressure which had freezing east winds to its south side had milder west winds bringing Atlantic air east on its north side, and for a while it was warmer in Sweden than in Sicily.  Some good reports are in this post from Watts Up With That:

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/01/03/snow-in-palermo-sicily/

Here’s a brief video of snow in Palermo. For some reason pictures from this video which appeared around the web have vanished. Likely it is some copyright fuss.

http://www.euronews.com/2014/12/31/blanket-of-snow-and-icy-conditions-across-italy-for-new-year/

Even up in Scandinavia, where the milder Atlantic air came in from the west, it was cold enough to cause so much snow they had to plow the slopes to keep skiers from getting caught up in the workings of the lifts and ground into hamburger.

Norway ski plowing utviken_sn%C3%B8

http://www.firda.no/Dette_skisenteret_m__fjerne_sn_-5-15-15714.html

The mild air over Scandinavia brewed up a sizable gale up there, but now that gale is sliding east, and absorbing a lesser storm to its west, and it looks like that, behind the two storms, a northerly flow will come down over Europe tomorrow. What is interesting is that it is almost immediately followed by a southerly flow as the next Atlantic storm moves in from the west.

UK Met 0104A 21358040 UK Met 0104B 21360686 UK Met 0104C 21360964

These back and forth surges of air have been interesting to watch. The computer models can’t seem to handle them very well beyond a few days into the future, for some reason.

What I am  watching to see is if a pattern repeats. If it repeats the mild air will surge up towards the Pole, but then low pressure will collapse down into Siberia, and the north side of that low pressure will bring a new wave of Siberian air west into Europe. However that is a big “if.”

UPDATE —January 6—

Even as milder air has surged up towards northern Norway, and milder Atlantic air has brought above freezing temperatures nearly to the towns in 24-hour-darkness upon Svalbard, what is left of the last European Cold-wave has sagged south and now is bringing snow-warnings to the Holy Land, as Joe Bastardi noted on his blog at Weatherbell today:

Holy Land Snow Screen_Shot_2015_01_06_at_8_10_04_AM

If it does get above freezing in Svalbard, it will be warmer there, well north of the Arctic Circle,  than where Arabs ride camels under date palms.  That just shows you how amazingly topsy-turvy and loopy a “meridianal flow” can get, in Europe and western Asia.

By the way, before babes in Sweden send their muffs and mittens to Palestine, it should be noted that the Canadian model is showing another Siberian invasion hitting Scandinavia in around six days. (See my January 6 post on cross-polar-flow for more details.)

 

ARCTIC SEA-ICE RECOVERY —The usual but different—

Since I last focused on this subject back on November 29, the sea-ice has continued its usual amazing increase, a tripling and even quadrupling which happens every year, and in some ways is ho-hum news.  I only note it because next summer, when the decrease goes the other way, sensationalist headlines may read, “Ice decreases by huge amounts! Only a third of it remains!”  It sells papers. What puzzles me is why they don’t sell even more papers, in December,  with headlines reading, “Ice increases by huge amounts! Extent triples!”

Here are the maps for November 29, (left), and December 12 (right).

DMI2 1129 arcticicennowcast DMI2 1212 arcticicennowcast

The increase in ice is pretty much as to be expected. What I am focused on is slight differences from the norm, that may hint at changes in cycles, whether they be short term weather patterns or longer term 60 year cycles involving the AMO or PDO.

The swift freeze of Hudson Bay is ahead of normal, and of concern to me because the open waters of Hudson Bay to New Hampshire’s north is a buffer against the full brunt of arctic discharges. As soon as Hudson Bay freezes we are more susceptible to pure arctic outbreaks from due north. If the Great Lakes freeze we are more susceptible to cold from the Canadian prairie as well.  To my east, even though the Atlantic does not freeze outside of the bays, its waters can be signifigantly cooled by the right conditions.

One such condition involves the discharge of ice from Baffin Bay, which is a great producer and exporter of ice.  Even in the dead of winter when temperatures are down near forty below, open water can appear in the north of Baffin Bay, because so much  ice is exported down the west coast of the bay that a polynya forms in the north. That ice then continues along the coast of Labrador, and icebergs continue down into the entrance of the St Lawrence or even further. The flow is far more complex than you’d think, as currents can dive down beneath milder waters, but in general there is a counter-current to the south hugging the American coast, as the Gulf Stream surges north.

A second discharge of ice comes down through Fram Strait, down the east coast of Greenland towards and past Iceland. The ice in this current cannot dive even when the current’s water does, and therefore ice floats onward and effects the temperature of the North Atlantic. In extreme cases (1815-1817) so much ice is exported that icebergs can ground on the coast of Ireland, and Europe’s summer temperatures can be cooled.

It should be noted that the ice moving down the east coast of Greenland comes from the Arctic Basin, and therefore subtracts from the amount of ice left behind up north for people to fret about next summer. Although their worry about less ice in the arctic focuses on Global Warming, the concern should be cooling. Here is a quote from the year 1817:

“We learn that a vessel is to be fitted out by Government for the purpose of attempting again the north-west passage, the season being considered as peculiarly favourable to such an expedition. Our readers need not be informed that larger masses of ice than ever were before known have this year been seen floating in the Atlantic, and that from their magnitude and solidity, they reached even the fortieth latitude before they were melted into a fluid state. From an examination of the Greenland captains, it has been found that owing to some convulsions of nature , the sea was more open and moré free from compact ice than in any former voyage they ever made: that several ships actually reached the eighty-fourth degree of latitude, in which no ice whatever was found; that for the first time for 400 years, vessels penetrated to the west coast of Greenland, and that they apprehended no obstacle to their even reaching the pole, if it had consisted with their duty to their employers to make the attempt…”

The fact this discharge of ice is concurrent with “The Year Without A Summer” is mentioned in this post,  http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/07/08/1815-1816-and-1817-a-polar-puzzle/  and further information can be found in this treasure trove: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/06/20/historic-variation-in-arctic-ice/

While nothing as dramatic as 1815-1817 has occurred recently, I do like to keep an eye on the discharge of ice, and utilize a layman’s assumption that less discharge may make Europe warmer, while more may make Europe colder, the following summer.

This past autumn the ice-export down the coast of Greenland, and also down the west side of Baffin Bay, were below normal, but recently the extent has increased to near normal.  This represents a surge or pulse of ice that bears watching, IMHO.

On the Pacific side of the Arctic there has been an impressive increase of sea-ice in the Chukchi Sea north of Bering Strait. It is still below normal, but is closer to normal. I like to watch this area for two reasons. First, once it freezes over Siberian air can remain cold when it takes the “short cut” route from Siberia to Alaska, and second, it gives hints about the current nature of the PDO. The PDO has been in a short-term “warm” spike midst a long term “cold” phase, so I would expect ice in the Bering Strait to be below normal, but ice will increase as the short-term “warm” spike ends.

There are past records of “warm” spikes during the “cold” PDO, however this is the first time we’ve been able to watch it with the detail satellites allow us,  so of course I’m watching with great interest.

On the Atlantic side the exact opposite has been occurring. We saw, last spring and summer, a “cold” spike during a “warm” phase of the AMO. Right on cue there was more ice along the north coast of Svalbard, even those it was the warm season and everywhere else the ice was decreasing. Then this “cold” spike ended, and now, even though everywhere else sea-ice is increasing, the northern reaches of Barents Sea have seen a decrease in sea-ice.  (Even more intriguing is the fact there are some signs the AMO may be about to go through a second “cold” spike.)

At this point the arctic is pretty much completely frozen over, and my attention turns to how the ice is being pushed around up there.  However there are a couple of areas outside the arctic that freeze over, which are interesting to watch.

The first is the Sea of Okhotsk east of Russia and north of Japan. Extremely cold air has been pouring into the Pacific off Asia, and these waters are starting to freeze over swiftly. (Their refreeze were below-normal, earlier.) I have a hunch the variations in how these waters cool may have something to do with the end of the “warm” spike in the PDO.

The second is the northern reaches of the Baltic Sea, especially the Gulf of Bothnia between Sweden and Finland. Those waters are just plain fascinating to me, because so many fresh water rivers pour into the Baltic Sea that the further north you go the fresher the water becomes, until in the very north of the Gulf of Bothnia fresh water fish can swim in the Sea. Because the water is so much fresher it freezes more easily, and the northern Baltic becomes a hypersensitive measure of Scandinavian cold. When southwest winds and the Atlantic rules, there is little freezing, but when winds shift to the brutal east, the entire Baltic can freeze.

Having discussed the extent maps, I’ll swiftly go over the daily maps. I apologize for not being able to name the individual storms like I did last year. Other areas of my life got too bossy.

One obvious difference from last year has been that storms don’t ride along the arctic coast of Eurasia from Barents Sea, through the Kara and Laptev Seas, all the way to the East Siberian Seas, and meet up with Pacific storms in the Chukchi Sea. Instead they run into a wall, and are bent north to the Pole and even Canada, or south into Russia.

Back on November 29 an Atlantic storm had crashed into the wall and devided, with half heading towards Canada and half down into Russia. In the process it brought a huge surge of Atlantic air north over the Pole. Last year this Atlantic air surged over Europe and kept them relatively warm all winter, but this time that mildness was wasted on sea ice.

DMI2 1129 mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1129 temp_latest.big

At this point something ominous happened, if you live in Scandinavia. My ears perked forward in interest, for it may be a forerunner of what could become a pattern, later in the winter. This time it was quickly rebuffed, but later in the winter ic could “lock in”.

What happened is that as the low pressure was defected south into Russia high pressure extended west to its north, creating a flow of east winds along the arctic coast. Brutally cold Siberian air rolled west (last winter I called it “the snout of Igor”), and Europe chilled, though not to the degree it could have chilled if the east winds had continued.

DMI2 1130B mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1130B temp_latest.bigDMI2 1201 mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1201 temp_latest.big

On December 1 there is a cross-polar-flow from the Atlantic to the Pacific, drawing mild Atlantic air right across the Pole. The flow is about as non-zonal as it can be. If you are into looking for proof of Global Warming, now is the time you point out a spike in temperatures at the Pole, but the exact same spoke can be used as a disproof.

What you need to do is think of how a summer thunderstorm uplifts hot and muggy air and breeds a cooling shower, and use that as an analogy for what is occurring on a far grander scale up at the cap of the planet. Warm air is uplifted, heat is lost, and the air comes down cooler.

Of course, this is a grotesque simplification, but when debating Global Warming, who really cares? (What is actually occurring as the mild air is uplifted up at the Pole is fascinating, and I don’t claim to understand it, but have learned enough to make it a subject for an amusing post I’m working on, and may even submit to WUWT. Rather than supplying any answers, it asked questions that need to be asked.)

Europe was spared the icebox of an arctic outbreak from the east by a series of lows that pushed the high pressure (and its east winds,) north to the Pole.

DMI2 1204 mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1204 temp_latest.big

However rather than this low pressure bumping the high pressure over to Canada and continuing on to the east, the low itself got deflected north as high pressure again built ahead of it. A new cross-polar-flow, this time from Asia to Canada, began to appear, and temperatures at the Pole crashed.

DMI2 1206 mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1206 temp_latest.big

By December 6 the most recent pattern began to manifest, and the final seven maps showing storm after storm failing to get across the Atlantic, and instead curling around north of Norway back towards Greenland. This has created a second invasion of milder Atlantic air to pour north through Scandinavia, on the east side of storms, as frigid winds howl down the east coast of Greenland and make Iceland cold on the west side of storms.

This pattern is (I assume) self-destructive, as eventually the North Atlantic (seemingly) will get too mild to its northeast and too cold to its southwest to perpetuate the pattern. Therefore I am watching in great interest to see signs of its demise, and to see what will set up next.

DMI2 1208B mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1208B temp_latest.bigDMI2 1209B mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1209B temp_latest.bigDMI2 1210B mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1210B temp_latest.big DMI2 1211B mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1211B temp_latest.big

DMI2 1212 mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1212 temp_latest.big

DMI2 1212B mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1212B temp_latest.big

DMI2 1214 mslp_latest.bigDMI2 1214 temp_latest.big

As a final interesting tidbit to this post I’ll add the graph of polar temperatures, which shows the big warming spike caused by the initial invasion of Atlantic air, the crash as the Siberian cross-polar-flow developed, and the start of a second spike as the second invasion of Atlantic air begins.

DMI2 1214 meanT_2014

All in all I would say this winter is promising to be another winter when any semblance of a zonal flow is rare, and the sea-ice will be wracked and tortured by storms. It will be interesting to watch.

LOCAL VIEW —UNRELENTING—

20141114b satsfc20141115 satsfc

I included yesterday’s map above today’s to show you how the cold front swinging down around a low parked up over Hudson Bay vanishes from today’s map. It becomes a “ghost front.”  I can still see evidence of it, in the trace of clouds extending northeast from Lake Superior, and the dent in the isobars. Therefore I am expecting a reinforcement to the cold, where others might look at today’s map, see that warm front up towards Hudson Bay, and think the cold would relent.

I can hardly  blame them, for often a huge southward surge of cold is followed by a northward surge of warmth, in a sense like waves surging up  a beach and then sucking back down. Also, some winters that begin very cold have “the pattern snap” and abruptly become warmer. (December 1989 springs to mind, as a winter that began with brutal cold, and then relaxed to rather benign normalcy.) Though such a “pattern snap” is much to be desired, by old geezers like myself with bad circulation, (and also by people who resent cold weather for making the idea of Global Warming look stupid),  the memory of the winter of 1976-1977 has been stimulated by a number of events similar to those that proceeded that brutal winter (such as last summer’s hurricanes up the west coast of Mexico bringing rain to Arizona), and I recall all too clearly that, during that winter 38 years ago, the cold simply did not relent, from November until early February,  (and in February it didn’t really become all that warm, however, after the bitter cold, “normal” felt like a heat wave…but I was still walking on sea-ice in a Maine harbor in early March.)

Considering it is only mid-November, the warmth should come surging back. The north simply has no business invading so far south so soon. In fact a friend of mine has a saying that I haven’t yet seen proved false, “Snow before Thanksgiving will melt away before Thanksgiving.”  And when you look at the map you can see the cold high pressure slipping south of us, and the warm flow to its west side bringing clouds and moisture north. Ordinarily I’d now expect a warm surge and a rain storm to come up behind the arctic invasion (and indeed I still hope for that) but….I notice the cold has been driven right down to the southern tip of Florida. And remember that :”ghost front” coming down from our north? And then check out the current radar shot of the precipitation coming up in the “warm” flow west of the high.

20141115 rad_nat_640x480

I find it a bit disconcerting that there is no green (rain) and it is all blue (snow). Not that warmer air might not get pulled in of the Atlantic, east of here, and give us rain when the disturbance reaches us  However there are things that make me wary.

For example, look towards the Pacific. A true warm-up would have Pacific air pouring over the Rocky Mountains, and Calgary basking in a balmy Chinook and its citizens laughing as we soft southerners shiver.  However Calgary is still cold. The arctic air has also come south west of the Rockies, and has been driven right off the Pacific coast, until even a Pacific gale is having a hard time pushing mildness and moisture back to the California coast.

Also note that the arctic high to our south is followed by two more highs, over Montana and British Columbia, and they are suppressing the ruins of a Pacific storm which has suffered terribly, crossing the Rockies, to the southeast, rather that storm happily riding a southerly surge northeast.

Lastly, return to the warm front up by Hudson Bay. It isn’t really all that warm, though it does represent a 15 degree temperature rise. The air in front of it is around zero (-17 Celsius) and is causing the west coast of Hudson Bay to start forming sea-ice. The air behind it is a “balmy” 15 ( -9 Celsius). Furthermore, that warm front is making little headway, as the storm it is attached to is not part of a warm flow and heading northeast, but rather is plunging nearly due south in a flow from the North Pole.

All in all, I am not optimistic about the cold relenting. However perhaps it is because my day got off to a bad start.  I like to relax on a Saturday, but today was “church cleanup day.”

Our church is a lovely New England church, surrounded by beautiful maple trees that are glorious hues of crimson and saffron and tangerine, in October, but then proceed to dump tons of dirty-brown leaves on the grounds.

When I was young and unmarried I liked to pitch in, and rake, and lug tarps of leaves over my shoulder like an autumnal Santa, but now I am older and facing another big chill that is unrelenting. In fact I face two. The first is that leaves are heavier than they used to be, because I’m over sixty, and the second is that if your church fails to attract youth then there are no young bachelors to rake the leaves when you are over sixty.

It was darned cold this morning, though the sky was pure blue and the sunshine brilliant. Raking was difficult, because leaves were stuck to the ground in places by a white glue of frost, especially on the north side of the church and parsonage, where Friday morning’s snow hadn’t even melted. However exercise warmed me, and a great deal more warmth came from my fellow geezers, and even though I began raking in the mood to bite the heads off nails, I cheered up. Then I cheered up more, when the Boy Scouts arrived. (They use our church for meetings.)

Its amazing how quickly a job gets done when many hands are making work light. It wasn’t even lunchtime when I headed home to grab a bite and a nap, before heading to the Farm-Childcare to hurry to finish the goat’s winter-quarters before the snow (or hopefully rain) comes tomorrow night.  However then I faced another unrelenting reality.  I’d promised my wife I’d attend an “open house.”

A wife is like a church, in that if you neglect her then someday you’ll be an old geezer without help, but I haven’t neglected my wife, and we have five, beautiful, grown children to offer as proof. (They continue to use our house, like the boy scouts use our church.) In any case, I decided it would be wise to avoid neglecting her, and to go to the “open house.”

The “open house” was at the “Barr Mansion,”  which involves a bit of a sidetrack. I have to go back to the year 1968,  when I was a mere teenager, dragged against my will to a Christmas party at that mansion involving adults and the consumption of alcohol.

As strange as it may sound, many teenagers of my time considered the consumption of alcohol as being a sort of proof a person was “square.” I looked around at the increasing hilarity with the scornful disapproval only a teenager can muster. The adults consisted entirely of Yankee WASPs, who were laughing about people they considered “square,” who they called the “Holy Rollers.”  Unlike me, they were not disapproving, and actually sounded rather fond of the people who let them feel so smug and superior.

The “Holy Rollers” were Lutherans who had sought to escape the Czar and religious persecution in Finland between 1890 and 1910. They had been actively recruited by the Town Fathers, because the farms Yankee were abandoning, as being too cold and too stony, seemed warm to people from Finland, who were used to stony soil and who appreciated the job Yankee had done clearing stones from the fields for 200 years. Even the snobby Yankee didn’t seem that bad to the Finns, compared to the Czar.

The Lutherans were mocked for taking their religion very seriously. TV sets were deemed a bad influence, and they refused to own them, and birth control pills were deemed unacceptable, and they had very large families. They were dead-set against boozing, (and the few Finns who drank tended to prove alcohol was a bad thing.) They read the Bible every day of the week, and often would quote scripture to the Yankee, who also owned Bibles but almost never opened them. The one thing they shared with the Yankee was a northern work-ethic, though the Yankee were straying away from physical labor and starting to prefer offices.

My own experiences with this minority were limited, as I was new to town. I noted that, while the Yankee only seemed to visit our farm because my father was generous with his bourbon, the Holy Rollers dropped by to help my stepmother out because some part of the Bible said something or another about being a good neighbor. I only had scripture quoted to my face one time, and did not like experience one bit.

I had long hair, which, as strange as it may sound, consisted of hair that barely covered the tops of my ears, and a father-of-five (who I think was 25 years old) abruptly turned to me and said, “Young man, St. Paul says long hair is the glory of woman.”  I was speechless, but my father said, “What about Samson?”

Now skip ahead 21 years to 1989, and I’ve returned to town to help out my Dad and stepmother, who are both deeply depressed. Things have not gone well for the Yankee, and the town has lost a lot of its original flavor. Many of the Yankee children have left, and many who stayed are burned out hippies. There has been an influx of people who might once have had Yankee roots, but who seem a generic, post-cultural race-of-no-roots. However the Finns have thrived, and comprise nearly half the population.

After roughing it  for years on the road, often sleeping in my car (and often feeling fortunate to work a day for minimum wage) ($26.40), I am feeling hugely fortunate to be making $80.00 a day raking leaves at the Barr Mansion, and having the guarantee of five solid days of work because the grounds were so huge.  All around me others do not consider such wages good, and feel very unlucky, because “The Massachusetts Miracle” is crashing, and the $400/week I consider great wages is not the $1600/week they had been getting, and they can’t pay their $1600/month mortgages.

Therefore I was the lone dude happy and whistling as I worked, as other fellows were losing their homes and in deep despair. Given the choice between happy and gloomy, most old ladies preferred me, as a landscaper,   and soon I had a sort of harem of old ladies, and a decent business (until winter came).

One such old lady lived within the huge Barr Mansion, along with an obnoxious corgi. She was doubly wealthy, as she had not only inherited wealth, but also a sizable pension gleaned by working for IBM for over thirty years. Well over seventy, she never aged a day as I continued to be her gardener for ten years.  Part of my job was to have tea and crumpets with her, when I presented her with my hand-written bill on Fridays. We would talk about inherited wealth and IBM, (two subjects I knew absolutely nothing about), and also about poetry and Shakespeare, (where I could hold my own).  For the most part she was smarter than I, but I did know she should cut the trees and shrubbery back from her house, or the roof and clapboards would rot, but she loved the trees too much to listen.

After I moved on to less lovely jobs, she kept right on seeming ageless until she was over ninety, when she began to slow down and stoop more. By then the trees were practically inside her house, and the Barr Mansion was showing signs of serious decay. Finally she passed on, and for a time the mansion seemed a rotting hulk none would buy.

Which brings us to today, when the new owner of the Barr Mansion held an open house, so people could see the work that has been done.

There was a great deal of disapproval, as there always is when any sort of change comes to a small town. Lovely old trees were cut down, crumbling walls were removed, and even the gravel driveway was rerouted and paved with black asphalt. However the rot was dealt with, the roof was repaired, and the old Mansion looked like it was brought back from the dead.  When I went inside I was even more impressed. The slightly scary, old oil-paintings of Puritan ancestors no longer frowned disapprovingly downwards from the walls,  and the dingy paint, yellowed windows, faded ceiling, and archaic lighting had all been replaced by brightness and vitality, (despite the strangely low ceilings.)  I wandered about amazed by the work that had been done, and by the old beauty that had been preserved. Even the damp, cavernous cellar, (which always held spiders and seemed straight from an Alfred Hitchcock movie,) had been waterproofed, painted light colors, re-electrified, and was bright and airy.

Finally I stood in the same room I stood in, back when I was a teenager in 1968 listening to the Yankee scorn the Holy Rollers, and it was there I turned to meet the new owner who had done all the work. You guessed it, it was the grandson of one of those scorned Holy Roller Finns.

It didn’t seem the slightest bit ironic to me. Instead it seemed to prove the old Yankee values were solid. Hard work and decency pay off, in the long run.

The fellow, who I have known for decades, looked a little anxious, as I met his eye. I knew he had faced some disapproval for daring to change an old landmark, and thought he might like to be reassured he had done well, so I shook his hand and told him that I thought the old owners of the house would be very glad he had saved the place from rot and ruin, and that I also was glad, and very impressed as well.  A wide grin spread across his face.

Not all things that are unrelenting are bad. Change is one of them.