LOCAL VIEW –Drenching’s Lesson–

There is an old “weather-saw” that states, rather cynically,

When the sky is crystal blue
Rain or snow in a day or two.

(Actually the original version of this saw did not use the word “crystal”, but rather used an old and local word which would require explaining and defining, and that I begin this post with a sidetrack, and, as I was taught back in school to never begin with a sidetrack, and instead to launch directly to the point, I’ll skip telling you what the old and more effective word was.)

(Oh, all right, if you insist, the word was “fectless”. Now, may I get on to my point?)

(What do you mean, there is no such word?  Just because it didn’t make your dictionary doesn’t mean it didn’t make the Yankee weather-saws, that old Yankee farmers used back when I was young.)

(OK, OK, if you insist, I’ll explain the word to you, as I understand it. But I warned you, it will be a sidetrack.)

(Take the second syllable of the word “effect” and you have a new word, which I think was coined by the Scots, which is synonymous with power. If you were a shaper and mover then you were a fellow with “fect.”  [Of course, some dictionaries say there is no noun “shaper”, [for “a person or machine that shapes”], so how can they have the noun “fect”?]  But, to return to the subject, a fellow with “fect” was a person who had an effect, a real doer, and conversely a real do-nothing was a “fectless” person.

Therefore the word “fectless” was different from the word “feckless”, for “feckless” involves a moral judgement. The word “feckless” implies irresponsibility and a lack of character, and avoiding feckless behavior was preached by fellows who didn’t work, but instead pontificated from the pulpit with no calluses on their hands. The fellows who did work and who had hardened palms could care less about moralistic blabber. All they cared about was your production. If you worked and produced you had “fect”, [and if you were creative and inventive as you did so, and could swiftly learn without a teacher, you were “thefty”], [but if you whined a lot you “girned”,] and if you produced nothing you were “fectless.”

Therefore a sky that produced nothing was “fectless.”  It may not be a particularly poetic word for a blue sky, but it isn’t judgmental either. It is a rather matter-of-fact observation, and, like most elements of the “Puritan Work Ethic”, was surprisingly non-judgmental, (unlike most who comment about Puritans and the Puritan Work Ethic, who tend to look at bygone Puritans and to judge like crazy.) (In truth the Calvinist Puritans, if they judged, judged judgement was God’s business.) Anyway and in conclusion, a blue sky was nothing to wax poetic about or to rhapsodize about, but rather was a sky that produced nothing, and therefore the word “fectless” was a superb word to chose, for a practical weather-saw, utilized by practical Yankee farmers.

Sheesh! Do you see how dangerous it is to get me off onto a sidetrack? (And I didn’t even start about how the word “saw” in “weather-saw” is related to the Viking word “saga”.)

Let me start over. Monday the sky was not “crystal blue”, but “fectless blue”, so, allow me to correct myself and be historically accurate, and to put down the proper poem:

When the sky is fectless blue
Rain or snow in a day or two.

The sky was spotless and superb, in its vivid blueness, which immediately put me on guard, due to the old weather-saw. (There are other weather-saws having to do with how slowly the clear weather develops, which foretells how slowly clear weather will depart.) I knew the clarity had come on quickly, and more modern meteorological ideas told me the high pressure was not the sort that was going to stay. At this latitude, and at this time of year, things can move swiftly.

It is a bit odd to look up at a beautiful sky and scowl about it, so I didn’t. I just looked up at a total absence of signs of storm and thought “rain or snow in a day or two.” There is no judgement in that. No scowling. It is merely an acceptance of the cards as they are dealt. (To be honest, there is a fatalistic side to the Puritan Work Ethic more Buddhist than Buddhists, and more Zen than Zen.)

Actually I liked looking at the bright sky, for I had a couple of dark deuces dealt to me to start my week, which I would have avoided if possible. They involved the people many like least to deal with: Doctors and lawyers.

Yesterday, when the skies were blue, I had to go see the young fellow who removed my cancerous kidney last Christmas, and, today, as the weather went downhill to downpours, I had to obey a summons to go to court to testify about a young fellow I pity, but who broke the law. Largely it was a huge waste of my time, spent sitting about with people I’d ordinarily avoid.

If I am going to have anything to do with doctors I’d most like to sit about in a maternity ward, where life is new, and hope is like champagne. It is far less inspiring to sit about with a bunch who all have, (or have had), cancer, where hope is like dishwater.

In like manner, if I am going to have anything to do with lawyers I’d most like to sit about in the company of reformers who seek to reduce legislation [even if it means fewer laws for lawyers to play with], and who seek to create laws that are down to earth and which, (rather than justifying lame excuses), seek deal with practical matters, like the Puritan Work Ethic does. It is far less inspiring to sit about for what feels like forever, watching the legal system as it currently exists.

I really like the young doctor who saved my life, but visiting him was to see him pushed to the limit. The current system drives doctors to see too many patients each hour, and I couldn’t help but feel like a widget passing before the young man on an assembly line. I did slow everything down, by telling him a humorous tale (far shorter than the start of this post). I think it totaled 90 seconds. But he laughed, and I think I improved his Monday.

However the experience, for me, was not so hurried as it was for the doctor. I think “waiting rooms” should be renamed. They should be called “waiting and waiting and waiting rooms”. And the crowd I was waiting midst was not the most optimistic bunch I’ve ever met. It was a chance for me to tell them humorous tales as well, and to improve their Mondays as well, but I flunked that chance at spirituality. All I could pray was, “God, get me the heck out of here.” Rather than caring for the cancerous, like Mother Theresa, all I could think was that I’d rather be out under the fectless sky, for I have better uses for the little time we all have, here on our planet. And there is something about cancer that makes the time seem too brief.

It is not an example of the Puritan Work Ethic to spend an entire morning (when you include the time driving to and from the city) arriving at a diagnosis I could have arrived at on my own: “It is wise to have a yearly chest X-rays.”  I could have done that on my own. The young doctor could have been free to spend more time on his next patient, but some threat of malpractice forced him to see me even though it wasted time, and that threat is a good segway to the following day’s disdain of lawyers and judges, who also waste time.

Tuesday morning the weather was rapidly worsening, but the waste of my precious time was a gloom even worse. I had to obey a summons and show up at a court room to testify, but the prosecution and the defense huddled “off the record”, and the case was “continued” until January 17, due to “new evidence.”  (In other words, the young fellow had broken a few more laws since the last court-date, which muddled up the math involved in the plea-bargaining.)

The fellow I pity-but-must-testify-against was dressed in his cleanest clothing, but never even entered the courtroom for his “day in court”.  Various “cease and desist injunctions” and “restraining orders” did their best to prevent witnesses from meeting the accused, and we were compartmentalized into separate areas, and even left the courthouse at separate times. There was some brief eye-contact, but all I could think was that we spent an entire morning never talking, and never accomplished a blasted thing. The Puritan Work Ethic was rolling in its grave.

The judge and prosecution and defense likely felt they were busy and industrious, huddling and discussing correct procedures, but they reminded me of Union Workers following the principle, “do not kill the job”. Since they get paid for dealing with laws it pays to make more and more of them, until it seems they have so many rules and regulations to juggle that nothing will ever get done.

Of course, (because my stepfather did teach at Harvard Law School), I do have a little pity for lawyers and judges. During the the four hours I sat in the courtroom accomplishing nothing I got to see a slew of other cases: All sorts of other silly domestic altercations, which had escalated absurdly, sometimes due to obstinate and nonspiritual hardheartedness, but mostly due to booze and drugs.

A large case-load was handled by a very haggard and weary-looking judge. He wore a drab, black robe and had impeccably styled hair parted in the middle to curling waves by each graying temple, nearly as fashionable as the white wigs the English judges wear. Among other things, he had to deal with a surprisingly large number of irresponsible people who were so irresponsible they failed to show up. A lot of the work had been done beforehand by the prosecution and defense, and the judge was then merely a harried clerk noting down the pre-agreed-upon sentences. Many long sentences were greatly shortened, provided the culprit avoided getting back into the same trouble during the following weeks, or months, or in one case two years. The judge avoided any sort of editorial comment, besides raising an eyebrow slightly from time to time. To one side a fat man stood quietly, a revolver bulging beneath his coat, and his only job seemed to be saying, “All rise” when the judge entered. A stenographer busily typed at a computer terminal, and answered a few questions the judge asked her about defendant’s “priors”. The entire time there was not a single raised voice, and there were long silences as the judge studied papers, and during these silences the lawyers would whisper with each other, and defendants would look concerned to see their lawyer quietly chuckling with the prosecution.

The only interesting case was a fellow who was led in by a State Trooper. The accused wore steel handcuffs chained to a steel chain around his waist, so he had to stoop to scratch his nose or sign a paper, because he couldn’t raise his hands. This man had been on some sort of wonderfully wild bender, and his case was difficult because he had broken laws in three separate counties in New Hampshire, and he had cases pending in Massachusetts and Vermont as well.  The entire courtroom awoke from its drowsy indifference when the legal difficulties were discussed, but then sank back in disappointment when it became apparent that none of the juicy details were going to be discussed. (I thought the poor fellow looked like he couldn’t remember what a great time he’d had, breaking all those laws.) The case was so complicated, involving so many jurisdictions, that the fellow had already spent over two months in jail as bureaucrats tried to figure out the legalities of exactly where he should be tried first.

For the most part the judge wanted to painstakingly note which of the many sentences, which the man had to serve in the future, that the seventy-one days he’d already served would be applied to, and which sentences would be “concurrent” and which would be “consecutive”, and which jail he’d await his next hearing in, and what county or state that hearing would be held in. Legally every “T” was crossed and every “I” was dotted, with dreary and methodical slowness. I muttered to the person next to me I would have preferred some sort of brawl, for that would have settled things much faster.

Or would I? I’m an old man, and no Clint Eastwood, and think I would come out on the losing end, if the judge told me, and the young-man-I-was-to-testify-against, to go out in the parking lot and settle things man to man. But in some ways I think I might have preferred a black eye and bloody nose, to the idiotic extension of misery that the pedantic laws everlastingly perpetuate. The laws seemed intended to keep lawyers busy, and little else.

Back fifty years ago, when I was young, it was a little less politically-correct to brawl, and I got my nose bloodied and my eye blackened on a few occasions.  The teachers and authorities were horrified, but afterwards me and Bob and Chuck and Dave and Brian were on a first-name basis. If not best-buddies, we were far more respectful towards each other after our brawls than we ever dreamed we could be beforehand. Apparently, with boys at least,  contact is better than separation, and intimacy has value, even it involves fists.

If young teens can be so much smarter than lawyers, when it comes to resolving things, just imagine, if such a thing were possible, how much more swiftly a mastermind like Lord Jesus might resolve things. Theoretically He could solve disputes without everyone wasting so much time. Likely He could heal without so much time being wasted in doctors offices, and so much blasted paperwork.

As a writer, I likely shouldn’t belittle paperwork. But I do know of its hazards. I fell in love with paperwork to a degree where weeds grew in my garden, because I was too busy scribbling to weed. Consequentially I know all about the ways paperwork can reduce the crop one would expect, if one obeyed the Puritan Work Ethic.  It is only an obvious extension of this first-hand knowledge to state that others, such as doctors and lawyers, who allow paperwork to overrule the common sense of the Puritan Work Ethic, should expect reduced crops as well.

I could go on, but won’t. I think I’ve traced the borders of an idea which larger minds can grasp, and I’ll leave it up to larger minds to fill in the larger gaps.

As for me, I was just a tired old bumpkin who had to deal with his Monday and Tuesday largely wasted. The days are at their shortest now, and if you are stuck indoors during the heart of the day the dark is already growing as you escape, even when the sky is fectless blue. When the rain is drumming down it is dark even at noon, and it is evening before three in the afternoon.

What a difference a day made! Monday the sky was fectless blue, but Tuesday dawned with a rain so cold that ice was on the windshields. Up in Maine the cold brewed snow.

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But fortunately the storm was well west, and that snow could only be driven away by south winds.

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Even though we didn’t get snow, the above map shows the warm front stayed south of us, and we received the coldest rain you can get, without it being snow. Miserable stuff. But the real gloom was a sort of hangover I felt, from being plunged into the worlds of doctors and lawyers. It put a bad taste in the flavor of my own job as a “child care professional”, for I am the police, judge, jury, prosecution, defense, doctor and nurse all rolled into one, as soon as I step in the door. It doesn’t help matters when one has developed a strong sense that such people are all somehow misinformed, when you must promptly join the club. I was in a bad mood as I drove from the courtroom to work through the driving rain.

As the windshield wipers swiped the smearing purple view I wondered if I’m just getting old. The doctors and lawyers are younger than me, and in some cases seem hardly able to shave. I tend to think they are less wise than me, for where I was schooled by old Yankees who dealt with practical jobs, they studied bureaucracy and all its idiocy and paperwork. Where I learned an archaic language, they learned legalese. Where I learned the Puritan Work Ethic they learned how to waste exorbitant amounts of time and taxpayer’s money accomplishing zilch. But does this make me wise, or merely an anachronism?

Because I deal so much with youth, I have to admit there is something fresh and new manifesting. The One who created me young and bursting with new ideas and bundles of energy long ago does not weary, and fresh waves of youth are created by the Creator even as I get old and do get weary.

Some of my ideas are not due to wisdom, but due to weariness. I saw this made clear a week ago when I had to face a task I’d have done in a day, a decade ago, but found I was putting off, at age sixty-three.

A member of my staff had fretted about a big, old, dead paper-birch by a trail. Dead trees do fall in strong winds, but the fact it is highly unlikely they will fall just when a small child is passing did not make the good woman fret less, so, because I valued her heart even if not her worry, I cut the tree down and cut the trunk into a bunch of round logs, the largest as big around as a small car’s tire. Then I let those logs sit there. Operating a chain saw makes me a bit achy, but humping a bunch of big logs into the back of my truck makes me very achy. My choice was dictated by my age.

The children at my Childcare wanted those logs moved 200 yards away, for two old-fashioned reasons.  First, we have a old-fashioned campfire 200 yards away. Second, despite the fact they can barely lift the old-fashioned maul, they delight in the old-fashioned art of splitting logs. (More modern people either use an gasoline-powered, pneumatic woodsplitter, or have a pellet or propane stove, rather than a campfire.)

I was in no mood to please the whining children. If humping big logs into my truck makes my body hurt, supervising boys (and a few girls) wielding a maul to split wood makes my brain hurt. These children are aged three to nine. I have to watch them like a hawk. They do learn and become amazingly proficient in an ancient art, just as children did in the past, but I lose around five pounds of sweat for each child I teach. Therefore I hit upon a way I thought might get the kids to forget about the birch logs 200 yards away. I told them that if they wanted to split logs, I would teach them, but my truck was unavailable, so they would have to roll all the logs to the campfire.

They promptly embarrassed me. Where I looked at those big logs and cringed at the thought of moving them, they all ran off to gleefully roll them. Nor did they merely roll one or two logs. They rolled an entire tree’s worth of logs. It took them less than an hour, and this particularly put me to shame, for I’d managed to make the same job take three months (by putting it off) and hadn’t even started it. What really rubbed the shame in was they were not achy at all, after moving such a load of wood. To be honest, the cluster of kids looked rather invigorated by the exercise. Then they all clamored for chances to split the logs.

The shame. The shame. Old Yankees like me take pride in our ability to work, but I’d been outdone by boys aged five, six and seven. What could I do? I had to watch like a hawk as they attempted to spit the logs. Only a few could actually split a log, (I can still beat them in that respect), but they loved the chance to smash a log, (likely because they usually get in trouble for smashing stuff), and all went home with healthy appetites, likely had no trouble falling asleep, and likely became more muscular.

The benefit to me? Well, of course I do get paid for this stuff. I got the logs moved without paying for it. And parents do praise me because their kids are more mellow when exhausted, and less inclined to smash things at home. However I think the best benefit was that they taught me the young see differently than the old. That should be obvious, but sometimes I need things made blatant.

As I drove from the courthouse to the Childcare, squinting through the windshield at a purple world smeared by swiping wipers,  I took my revelation and applied it to doctors and lawyers. Is it possible that they too have the superabundance of energy youth owns, and all their bureaucratic paperwork is actually a useful thing I am simply too old and worn out to appreciate?

Nah.

First of all, dealing with the extra work created by a dead birch is a different thing from dealing with a bureaucracy’s extra work. The first is physical whilst bureaucracy is mental, and the first creates a useful product (firewood) while the second mostly wastes time. The only similarity is both involve dead wood, which was one reason I was delightfully surprised when the president-elect suggested that a new rule be instituted wherein, from now on,  an old regulation would have to be abolished before a new one could be instituted.

Second, though I am older physically, and jobs that once were invigorating now are painful, I am still mentally sharp, and in fact better at grasping concepts than I was when I was young and easily befuddled.

However I didn’t have time to think deeply about all this stuff, for I was arriving at the Childcare, and had to not only deal with kids cooped up indoors in a driving rain, but also with an overworked staff who had to cover for me as I ditched them to skip off to deal with doctors and lawyers and paperwork galore.  I might not feel I’d had a break, but the staff needed a break from being the police, judge, jury, prosecution, defense, doctor and nurse all rolled into one. And, as soon as I stepped in from the purple day to the bright yellow light of the Childcare, deep thought had to cease. Working with small children involves having around fifteen seconds to think about a problem, before the child chirps up with the next one, (and if you have twelve children you have twelve voices chirruping questions).

After around a half hour of directing young attentions away from havoc towards more constructive play, and arbitrating disputes, I heard the low moaning of an engine approaching out on the street, and looking out the window into the purple day saw a yellow school-bus approaching and slowing to a stop, and start disgorging a small crowd of”older” children, (aged six to ten.) Glancing at the sign-up sheet I understood some of the smaller children, who should have been picked up already, were staying late because parents were delayed by the driving rain and slow traffic down towards Manchester or Boston. We would have more children than usual. I stifled an oath and instead said, “Goodness!” (which is a word that hasn’t yet been prohibited by bureaucrats).

My focus was immediately the boys exiting the bus, because they are completely full of pent up high spirits, and as they get out of school they are a bit like goats released into a spring pasture. They want to bound and skip and frolic.  It is best to immediately assert some command and power, because if you lose control it is hard to get it back, and they would disturb and infect the smaller children with their wild exuberance.

As the boys exited the bus, I ordered them inside, because the weather was so rotten it seemed a kindness. However after six hours having to obey rules at school they were bouncing off the walls, inside. What does “bouncing off the walls” mean? Well, it means I could either get all legalistic, and forbid throwing things no sane person would think of throwing, and forbid running atop furniture no sane person would think of running atop of, or I could skip the whole bother of pretending I was a lawyer and judge of the indoors, and just order them outside. (Actually I obeyed the bureaucrat’s protocol, and asked them if they would “like to” go outside, but I used a certain growl that hints there is no option.) (I also asked the girls, to prove I’m not a sexist, but rather than bouncing off the walls they were huddled together plotting and scribbling, and simply looked at me, and then out at the driving rain, with incredulous expressions that wordlessly stated, “Are you nuts?”

The boys didn’t hesitate, and I had to collar them even to get them to put on raincoats. After all day pent up in classrooms, boys don’t want to stay in. Nor do I, after time spent pent up in doctor’s and lawyer’s offices. So we went out, and lasted around twenty minutes.

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You may think I am exaggerating, but as a so-called “child care professional” I tell you it makes a huge difference if you allow boys a bit of time getting drenched by miserable weather before they decide, on their own volition, that inside is better.

There is something about the “outside” that teaches better than I can. The boys exploded out the door and ran about and got drenched. They had a blast, and then slowed, and seemed to conclude, “this isn’t fun any more.” When they came in they payed quietly with legos, until the girls attacked them.

Now, despite the fact I have noticed there is a difference between the sexes, I attempt to be politically correct. I have mentioned I did offer the girls the chance to go outside with the boys. They had no interest, for, freed from school, they were choosing to bounce off different walls. It caused no trouble at first, because they huddled and plotted and jotted on paper. In fact it seemed harmless, until I got my personal slip of paper. It read:

Top Secret! Private!!!! Mr. Shaw your invited!

Day: Tuesday, Dec 6

Time: 4:07

Where: The farm

Why: Charlotte, Maya, and Brooke invited you!

Please come!

I am old and wise enough to understand that this is not an invitation. It is an order. And it presented me with certain problems. I had a preschooler to deal with just then, and politely said I might be a little late to the party.

When the boys-off-the-bus received their invitations, they made no effort to be polite. Rather than appreciating the invitations they received, they seemed to take offence. Immediately they began turning legos into weaponry. If the girls were going to interrupt their play with invitations, they would counterattack by interrupting the girls’ party with Lego light-sabers, jet airplanes, bazookas and spears. They were very small versions of such weaponry, but they made an amazing amount of noise.

The girls immediately began making a counter din, saying how horrible boys are and bursting into tears and telling me to order the boys to be “polite” and to comply with their orders, and to pretend to sip tea at a party with their pinkies raised. The boys announced they would rather die.

Now I am certain you, as an outsider, know exactly how you would deal with such a rainy-day conflict. You know exactly what to say to girls who invite boys to places they do not want to go. You know what to say to boys who respond to invitations with light sabers. But me? I was just glad that parents half my age started arriving just then, and I didn’t have to deal with it.

To be quite honest, there are times that my wife and I are involved in the exact same disagreement. She is inclined to go to a party, when I am more inclined to play with my Legos, (or construct a sonnet,) (basically the same thing.)

How do my wife and I deal with this problem? Well, to be frank, that is our business, and how you deal with this problem is your business. (It does seem to be a rather eternal problem, mentioned in classic literature and even the Bible.) (The Bible suggests that one way of handling it is to turn water into wine, but I must not be a very good Christian, for I haven’t got that part down right…..yet.)

But one thing that does seem unwise is to legislate. Do not make a one-size-fits-all rule, because not only does one size fail to fit all, but bureaucratic legislation spoils the fun of figuring things out for yourself.

Not that you can’t make certain rules that outlaw certain options, such as, “Thou shalt not poke another with any weaponry”,  or even “Legos shall stay in room 1, and teacups in room 2”, but forbidding certain options is not the same thing as prohibiting Freedom itself.

And to conclude this ramble, that is what the children taught me on a gloomy, rainy day.

 

 

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LOCAL VIEW –Leafstrippers and Eagles–

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The storm is up in Canada now, and the winds have died down, but the trees were not so pretty at daybreak today.

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Notice the shutter hanging from the neighbor’s house. We got blasted by a leafstripper.  We moved from summer to winter in a roar.

Friday the wind was mild and southerly,  and the storm was brewing up over the Great Lakes, and for a time it seemed the heavier showers on its east side would move south to north to our west, over Vermont, and never progress east. I went to watch a grandson play a high-school soccer game, and a misty rain ended just before it started and then the entire game was played in various sorts of mild fog, ranging from thick and deep purple, as if thunder was coming, to light and colored like honey, as if the sun was about to break out. I was thinking a storm had to be coming, or else I was coming down with something, as my old bones were aching like crazy. It was foolish to stay out in the damp, but the game was well worth watching, especially as my grandson’s team won 2-1, with a heart-stopping shot by the opponents, in the final seconds, that squirted past our goalie and was dribbling towards the open goal before a frantically dashing defense-man  booted it away inches short of the goal line.

After all that excitement I just wanted to warm up by the fire, and sip some beer, and focus on writing, but the beer didn’t sit well in my stomach, which is not a good sign. I was starting to suspect my aching muscles might not merely indicate storm, though the Friday night sky filled with more pink lightning and sky-thunder than we got all summer. “So maybe it is the weather…” I suggested to my suggestible mind, trying to talk myself into being better.

I was incredibly stiff and sore Saturday morning, but it was my turn to cook at the Church’s men’s breakfast, so I dutifully trudged off and likely infected everyone there. I had no appetite, so I can’t have infected myself. Then I dutifully did dishes and dutifully trudged back home with one thing in mind: Going back to bed. However as I trudged up the stairs my wife’s lilting voice cheerfully reminded me, “We have to go to our CPR and First Aid re-certification class in half an hour. Goodness! I see no need for such language!”

Seldom have I been so dutiful and downright noble as I was, going back out into the rain to go to that class. Especially noble were my smiles at people as I entered the classroom. (Hopefully they weren’t too skullish). Then the minutes seemed like hours as I dragged through learning the same old stuff once again. The only amusement I find is noting where they change things. For example, tourniquets are back in style, after being frowned at for a bit. I suppose they figured the risk of choking off blood to an extremity was worth it, if the person didn’t bleed to death. Also teaching people CPR has been somewhat successful. When people collapsed of a heart attack, 98% of them used to die, but now only 85% do. Heart attack remains our leading cause if death.

The idea one should stop chest thrusts, and breath two puffs into the mouth of the victim, during CPR, is fading, as apparently people were getting brain damage from too much oxygen. This was learned from compating the results in cases where good Samaritans out on the the streets did the formal CPR, with cases where good Samaritans only did the chest thrusts because the idea of meeting lips with the patient seemed too yukky.

Instead in today’s classes  you pound the chest of the dummy twice as fast as you were suppose to in the old days. In the old days you were suppose to do it to the timing of “Another one bites the dust” (but never saying the words aloud) but now you are suppose to pound the chest 120 times a minute, pushing down two inches, which can break ribs, but only makes a little clicker click in the dummy, and also makes an old coot like me feel about ready to keel over, after 360 chest-thrusts or so. I wondered if maybe they’d have to practice CPR on a genuine specimen. All I can conclude is, if anyone’s heart ever quits on my watch, they had better revive in five minutes or we are both goners. However if you do the pounding that fast there is no need to breath into the mouth of someone who may have ingested poison,  as the commotion apparently stirs the air in the lungs enough to keep the blood oxygenated, even if no one in the class can pronounce the word “oxygenated”.

I didn’t get out until after 1:30, and by then the rain was cold and starting to drive. I was cold and wet by the time I got to the car, and as we drove home my wife didn’t much want to hear my opinion about bleepity-bleep state officials in nice warm offices, who never have to perform CPR, mandating others risk pneumonia by going out on a rainy Saturday when they ought to be in bed.

When I got home I couldn’t stop shivering, even under a warm blanket in a warm room, and I didn’t need a thermometer to know I’d got a fever spiking, despite gobbled aspirin. All I could do was set my jaw and prepared myself for the ride, which is never fun for me, as fever causes despairing to dominate my brain. Despite the wet weather, crimson leaves were swirling by my bedroom window and sticking to the glass.

In church we’ve been focusing on how those of faith will soar on new pinions like eagles. It seems a sort of Biblical version of the Phoenix, the mythical bird born again from its own ashes, but I was of so little faith I could only think I was getting the burning-up part right, but not the rest. After all, one of these days we will get sick and go down for the count, and when you are shivering and feeling worse and worse, and there is no improvement in sight, you hope for the best, but maybe part of you prepares for the worst. In any case, if I had to compare myself to a bird right then, it likely would not have been to a soaring eagle, but to a dead duck, blasted from the sky by a hunter.

I kept being woken from strange dreams by leaves spatting the window, and was confused it was daylight, and unsure what day it was…still today or already tomorrow? A long list of Saturday chores was being neglected. Out the window read and orange leaves kept blowing sideways, first one way and then the other, which let me understand the storm was growing into a leafstripper, and also brought Oliver Wendell Holmes’ poem “The Last Leaf In the Tree” traipsing through my head. I memorized it long ago, and now it wouldn’t quit:

I saw him once before,
As he passed by the door,
And again
The pavement stones resound,
As he totters o’er the ground
With his cane.

They say that in his prime,
Ere the pruning-knife of Time
Cut him down,
Not a better man was found
By the Crier on his round
Through the town.

But now he walks the streets,
And he looks at all he meets
Sad and wan,
And he shakes his feeble head,
That it seems as if he said,
“They are gone!”

The mossy marbles rest
On the lips that he has prest
In their bloom,
And the names he loved to hear
Have been carved for many a year
On the tomb.

My grandmamma has said–
Poor old lady, she is dead
Long ago–
That he had a Roman nose,
And his cheek was like a rose
In the snow;

But now his nose is thin,
And it rests upon his chin
Like a staff,
And a crook is in his back,
And a melancholy crack
In his laugh.

I know it is a sin
For me to sit and grin
At him here;
But the old three-cornered hat,
And the breeches, and all that,
Are so queer!

And if I should live to be
The last leaf upon the tree
In the spring,
Let them smile, as I do now,
At the old forsaken bough
Where I cling.

Pretty sad stuff, and the violins of my self-pity might have nursed a few tears down my cheeks, but if I was going to going to cry about anything it was about my goats needing to be fed. That was one chore I couldn’t skip. But one joy of farming is that you get to go outside when others stay in, so I went out into the bluster and saw a few lava-like cracks in cloud-cover to the west, and also put up with a lot of nagging by seven goats who do not approve of late meals. Then I headed home to some hot soup, which I didn’t much feel like eating, and a granddaughter, who I didn’t much feel like watching (and who may have given me the ‘flu), and a movie about a pig I didn’t much feel like watching either, “Babe”. However as I sat I begrudged that I liked the movie, especially as the hero is an odd, old farmer who, in the end, is victorious, soaring on new pinions like eagles, albeit in a rather low-key and nonchalant way.

I was starting to shiver again and knew it was time for more aspirin and more bed, and so I handed off the sleepy granddaughter and took a dive in my pillow. Next thing I knew it was ten hours later. (I never sleep like that.)

I felt a bit better, so I took a long, hot shower and then tottered off to my duties as an elder at a tiny church, (listening with a certain, less-than-faithful cynicism to the stuff in the sermon about soaring on new pinions like eagles), and then tottered home and again dove into my pillow. I knew I had a long list of Saturday chores to catch up on, but if I am a eagle I am a recuperating eagle. Anyway, Sunday is suppose to be a day of rest. I concluded that actually I was spiritual to loaf, as I listened to the wind roar and the leaves, now drying, hush and scour by the window. I knew I’d have to eventually feed the goats, but drifted through dreams about last leaves on the tree, and people of my generation who are leaves who have already left the tree, and other morbid stuff, until I wondered if my life was passing before my eyes, and also was getting a tad fed up. I should be getting better by now. I should be soaring like an eagle by now.

By the time I finally budged I knew I’d get more nagging from my goats, but before I could leave the house my wife mentioned the stove was on the fritz and the oven didn’t work. Another chore. Then, as I headed to the farm I clicked on the radio, and was annoyed that I had forgotten all about the football game. I must be sick or something, to forget that! And even more aggravating was the fact the Patriots were ahead 14-0 when I turned the radio on, but the tide of the game shifted and it was soon 14-7, and then, as I listened at the farm with the heater on and the engine running, it became 14-10. And if that wasn’t annoying enough, I couldn’t even listen to the game in the privacy of my truck without a bunch of goats looking at me indignantly through the glass and nagging at the top of their lungs, until I replied, “All right all right all right ALL RIGHT”. (Animal Rights Activists please note: I did not use a single bad word.)

As I got out and looked around the farm seemed a shambles. Bags of trash were still in their bags, but the entire bags had been lifted clear across the yard and plopped in odd places.  Plywood was flung about and lawn furniture rearranged, but I just didn’t want to deal with that. Feeding the goats was enough for now. If I just rested a little more  I could surely show up for work early on Monday, and face the mountain of chores. As I drove home the Patriots lead shrank to 14-13.

When I was a boy I was ridiculously superstitious about my power to influence sporting events through my actions. My older brothers could drive me wild by switching the Red Sox  game from the AM station to the FM station, and then holding me back from the radio and forcing me to listen to the Red Sox blow another lead and again lose. (They nearly always lost, back then.) I was convinced the Red Sox would have been a first place team, (they always came in 8th or 9th), were it not for my brothers listening on FM.

I blame the fever, but some sort of echo of that nature returned as I shut off the radio in disgust and shivered. I just felt I must be doing something wrong, when nothing went right. I felt this way even though I know the reasonable and mature outlook is to see we live in a time of immediate gratifications, and if people look at the cards they are dealt, and don’t see a royal flush, they tend feel fate is cruel and God is unkind and to start up their violins, and that behavior is downright infantile. However, though I can think mature thoughts, I confess I still have an immature heart.

In any case I hunched out of my truck and went slogging through a profound gloom, stomping up the the front steps dejectedly, and then took a deep breath and prepared a fake smile. At the door I was met by a laughing daughter with a funny tale, a granddaughter hugging a better tackle than the Patriots were doing, a jealous, wagging dog that wanted equal attention, and the sight and smell of a roast chicken. I asked my wife, “How can you roast a chicken with no oven?” She explained her craftiness as we sat down to eat.

I have heard chicken is very good for sick people. It seems to have worked on me. I went back to bed, (after turning on the radio and learning the Patriots did manage to win,) and again slept like a log. But there no way around facing the music of Monday morning, and the fact that one chore I didn’t do was take down the summer awning at the front of the Childcare. 

stripper-2-img_4060

The awning was pivoted completely around on one leg, despite the legs being anchored by pins and bags of stones. One bag of stones was thrown ten feet away. Now that’s some gust!

stripper-3-img_4061

It gave me something to do, and an excuse to avoid going indoors and perhaps spreading residual germs to children. I chased down some missing lawn furniture and tidied up, and then the small boys came out and wanted to throw a football around. (Among six year old’s I’m still a star athlete.) I was huffing and puffing pretty quickly, but the fresh air likely did me good. Then the bus came, nine trooped off into it, and I drove a smaller bunch to kindergarten, marveling at how the wind had changed the landscape.

Fully half the leaves are gone in a single blow, but there’s still some left, and I seemed to see the glass as half-full rather than half-empty, and even to see there were some views I couldn’t see before, that were revealed, now that there were fewer leaves in the way. As I drove back from the kindergarten one view stopped me in my tracks, and I got out of the van to click a quick picture.

stripper-5-img_4064

And then, only because I was out of the van, I saw the big bird powerfully surging along the ridge-line. I was so awed I nearly missed my chance to take a picture.

stripper-6-fullsizerender

It was a bald eagle. Not an old one, with silver hair like mine, but a young one, brown-headed, and strong like no other bird. Their wings are straight out when they soar (Vultures hang from their wings in a “V”) and when they power with their wings they can cut through a gale. I never saw one in New England, until five years ago, and still get a thrill each time I see they are coming back.

Maybe I’m too old to believe in omens, but you have to admit it was a rather nice coincidence to see an eagle, just then.

In any case, I’m back. Did two simple jobs today that gained great kudos. Fixed a plugged toilet at the Childcare, and replaced a fuse that got the oven working at home. I like the jobs that are done in five minutes and gain you acclaim.  But…our world is held together by those who work long and hard unnoticed. They are the true eagles on whose backs the rest of us fly.

 

LOCAL VIEW –I’m A Loser–

January and early February tend to be the hardest times to get through, in New Hampshire, with the holidays past and the bitterest winds blowing. It is bad enough when one is hale and healthy, but when you are under doctor’s orders to keep exertion to a minimum, you feel bed-ridden and can become a real sourpuss, and write morbid sonnets like this one:

It is cruel January, the Mad Moon,
When sanity swings from a slender thread
And brave men whistle a graveyard tune
As tombstones clutch moon shadows of dread.

Attempting smiles, good people bare their teeth.
“Nice try,” I think, but see through the pale mask
To the heavy heart lurking underneath
And the way their life has become a task.

Why did we ever move so very far north?
Eden was warm. You could wear a fig leaf.
Here bitter winds bring bitter words forth
And we bite our tongues, or else cause wives grief.

Life was made for joy, but the cruel Deceiver
Relishes stale air, and our cabin fever.

I’m usually better at making a joke of cabin fever, even when I catch it. Sometimes, rather than fighting it, I go with it, exaggerating it to such a degree it becomes laughable. For example, here is an example of such January humor:

THE CARDINAL SONNET

The east blushes blue. A cardinal tweets,
Insanely loud in the subzero hush.
Jaunty red plumage black against dawn, he greets
Winter’s conquest with counter-claims, a rush
Of twitters, and then, “Tweet! Tweet! Tweet!” he yells:
A winced headache to all with hangovers
And a plague to sleep. “Tweet! Tweet!” It compels
Curses from virgin lips; even pushovers
Push back against the madness of claiming
A white waste of tundra for a dull spouse
Who likely thinks he’s mad, and is shaming
Him by basking in Florida. What house
Can he claim for her when the odds are so low?
”Tweet! Tweet!” screams the cardinal at seven below.

However sometimes even I get serious. Perhaps it is a side effect of having a kidney removed. (Not that I failed to see the humor of paying a surgeon more than I can make in two years to make me feel one hell of a lot worse than I have ever felt in my life.) However it hurt to laugh, so I stopped, and got serious.

One of the most serious things I found to think about, when tapped on the shoulder by my own mortality, was the simple fact that not all of my dreams may come true.

I have tended to use hopes and dreams to lure myself on through life, like a stubborn donkey is lured by a dangling apple on a string just in front of its nose. Deluding myself with hope has worked for decades, but all of a sudden it became outdated. It occurred to me, “Maybe I won’t make a million overnight, solving all my financial woes by writing a silly song that mysteriously becomes a one-hit-wonder.”  (Other people buy lottery tickets, but I write silly songs.)

It was amazing how black life became, when I simply gave up on some hopes. Rather than imagining myself as an eventual “winner”, I accepted the fact I was a “loser”. After all, not all our dreams can come true, and we are often happier because they don’t. For example, when we go to a class reunion we sometimes meet people we long-ago dreamed might marry us, take a hard look, and then thank God that particular dream didn’t come true. However giving up on some of my current hopes made everything look pitch black.

It sure didn’t help that the New England Patriots chose just then to lose the championship game. Then it wasn’t just me; the whole darn town got depressed. It was especially hard because Tom Brady took such a beating, was clobbered and flattened so constantly, yet fought back so bravely to the very verge of tying the game up, only to lose at the end. It was like seeing that you can try, you can be brave, you can be tougher than nails, and still be a loser.

Of course, because I am an a old fossil, the old Beatle’s song, “I’m A Loser”, started drifting through my head. That always seemed like am odd tune for the Beatles to write, considering they were far more than a one-hit-wonder, and were unbelievably successful and rolling in dough when in their twenties. (I sure wasn’t.) If any were winners, it sure seemed they were. How could they write about being losers? But they wrote it, so I decided to take a look at it, through the wonders of the internet.

It seems incredible that they were doing that stuff fifty years ago. Half a century!  What was it that made them so attractive? To me it seems it was the simple fact they dared be honest, dared confess they were human and mortal and not always winners. They took public confession to unheard-of levels, and people simply couldn’t help but like them for their honesty.  However they were not merely honest, they were proud of it.

When I look back at that time, fifty years ago, when I was not quite a teenager yet, one thing I recall is what fakes and phonies all the grown-ups all seemed to be. When a guy saw a pretty woman ahead he’d suck in his gut and walk in a manner that seemed, to me as a mere boy, to be preposterous. I dreaded the idea that someday I’d have to act that way, if I was to grow up. It seemed everyone was trying desperately hard to be better than they were, to be winners and hide the fact they were losers. Then along came the Beatles, and sung, “I’m a loser, and not what I appear to be,” and it was such a relief, and so refreshing. Rather than girls rejecting them for being losers, teenyboppers shrieked shrill adoration. (I was also a loser, but girls sure didn’t shriek adoration over me, but perhaps that was because I wasn’t proud of it, and was always cringing when my true self was revealed. You hardly ever saw the Beatles cringing.)

It is only a step further to arrive at “Nowhere Man”. I wondered what person the Beatles were writing about, when they wrote that song, and was surprised to learn John was writing about himself, and writing a song to himself.

In other words, when you examine the lives of so-called “winners”, what you discover is that they were also losers. They were also mortal, and human, and prone to all the sufferings ordinary people face. Yet they were just a bit less ashamed of it, and were not held back by shame.

Pride doesn’t always come before the fall. When you are proud about being honest, and about confessing, and about being truthful, pride can actually uplift, at least for a little while.

 

 

 

 

LOCAL VIEW –A Beltway Basher–(Updated and Concluded Sunday Morning)

A little low that gave us a couple inches of fluff blew up into a huge gale as it moved off to Labrador, and all day we’ve been shuddering in the howling north winds to its rear.

20160119 satsfc

The really cold air is further west, and is somewhat modified by passing over the Great Lakes, which are starting to freeze but are more open than they were last year. We are getting a shot from Hudson Bay, which is frozen over. Our only hope of moderated air is for the gale over Labrador to swing some Atlantic air around and down from the north, but such air is so greatly modified you can’t really call it warm. As it is the blasts of air we’re getting are bone dry. Dew points are at 0°F (-17°C)as temperatures struggle to reach 20°F (-7°C). It is the sort of day where the cat’s fur crackles with static, and it doesn’t want to be patted. I have a raging case of cabin fever, and don’t much want to be patted either.North America Jan 19 cmc_t2m_noram_3My fellow weather geeks are all excited by a storm that doesn’t exist, except in the imagination of computer models. The weak low over Texas in the above map is the forerunner of an impulse that could explode over the east coast. The American, Canadian and European models are all showing it. It is the sort of situation that once would fill me with excitement, as it would be a formidable foe to be fought, but now it only makes me crabby, as I am under doctor’s orders to avoid any sort of lifting that tenses my stomach muscles, after my operation. It a little like being presented with a beautiful woman or delicious meal when you are young and healthy, and yet told you aren’t allowed to touch or taste. A whirling blizzard of snow could be on its way, but I’m just suppose to sit idly by.

I am allowed to lift paper, which means I’m stuck with producing the slips that show all our customers how much they spent at our Farm-childcare last year. They need it for their taxes, for childcare is a tax-deduction. I don’t see why they can’t just do the job themselves. They should be well aware of what they spent. However the stupid government doesn’t trust them. They want lots and lots of slips of paper. As if this is something I need added to my life. I have to waste my time producing formal forms, handing them to my customers, who then have to waste their time shuffling the forms with other forms into a heap sent to the IRS, who then has to waste their time hunting for errors.  Someday all of us will stand before God, who will ask us how we spent our time on Earth, and we’ll answer, “Shuffling forms.”

I wouldn’t mind it so much if the government was so careful, and was meticulous about accounting for each penny they spent, but the irresponsible buffoons simply print money whenever they need it. It is complete hypocrisy for them to demand that tax-payers do what they don’t.

Obviously I’m very grumpy. I glance out the window as the wind shudders by, and see the swirling powder snow glittering in the sunshine, and don’t see a lick of beauty. I just feel the drafty house breathing cold air, and want to go out and shovel, to get my blood stirring, but can’t. I am allowed to go out and walk, but there is only so much doddering-about I can do outside before I just feel like a shuffling old man, out on his “constitutional”. I want action that has purpose.

I suppose finding beauty in a grim day is a worthwhile purpose, and I must begrudge that walking about in a howling, shuddering wind does nudge me with a sense that there is grandeur about, but it doesn’t last. As soon as I step back into the house I feel like I’m back in prison. The paperwork rankles. Even when I try to write a sonnet, the cabin fever sits on my head like a helmet of lead. Then the phone rings. It is yet another pollster, wanting to pick my brains about the upcoming New Hampshire Primary.

The pines have been roaring up in the hills
As the furnace is roaring, increasing my bills
And I am now pacing, cursing the shills
That constantly call up to poll “won’ts” and “wills”.

I feel I could rip out the damn telephone
If only those pollsters would leave me alone;
Pretenders, cajolers, they’re fake to the bone,
Part of a problem they pretend to disown.

The winter wind roars and the drifting snow hisses
Yet no one’s aware of what everyone misses.
There’s no warmth in the air, yet all say that this is
How it should be: All make-up and kisses.

It’s amazing the millions that madmen have spent
Creating a winter of my discontent.
The only time I really get out is to go to the hospital to get the bayonet wound in my gut looked at. Then I get a lot of odd flattery, odd because I’m told what great shape I’m in for my age, which is strange because they just took out a cancerous kidney. What kind of “great shape” is that? But apparently the surgeon appreciated not having to cut through any flab, and the nurse practitioner mentioned most guys my age have long lost their six-packs. She was a little concerned about a bump on my scar, which might be scar tissue but might be a tiny hernia, but she said the only reason she can see it at all is because I don’t have a spare tire around my middle. I muttered that I soon will have a spare tire, if I have to sit around not even allowed to to put wood in the fire, and she said I could put a log in, if it was under ten pounds. I suppose that is some progress.

The real thing I like about visiting the hospital is that it gives me a chance to grouse about paperwork. It is something people there are very willing commiserate about, seeing as how they now spend roughly half their time dealing with paper, at the expense of patients.

Considering how Washington seems to want everyone buried under a blizzard of paperwork, it would seem a sort of justice if they themselves got buried under a blizzard of white. Driving home I noticed the possible storm had made the mainstream media, but all the world seemed gray, not white. It was so cold there was no water, only ice and dust and litter  whipping in the wind. Even the low gas prices made me crabby.

I’m under no illusions that the low prices are occurring due to any kindness felt towards the common man.   They are part of a cruel war, and much suffering is resulting among oil workers. The aim is to bankrupt North American oil companies, so the dangers of competition, and of freedom from dependence on Arab oil, can be removed.  Or so I thought, until I heard the car radio mention that my idiot government is helping the non-Arab nation of Iran, which is not at good terms at all with Saudi Arabia, to flood the market with even more oil. This made absolutely no sense, if we care at all about protecting our own oil producers and developing any sort of energy-independence, however it has been so long since my government has made much sense that I can’t say it surprised me.

What did surprise me was the view my middle son held, when he came stamping into the house later. Without me even bringing the subject up, he said the flood of Iranian oil was a plot to absolutely ruin “Big Oil.”  He said so insanely does the government loathe all and any sorts of “fossil fuel” that they will do anything they can to destroy the competition to solar power and wind turbines, and, because solar power and wind turbines can’t possibly compete unless oil prices quadruple, they are resorting to the temporary step of having very low oil prices, as a way to quadruple those prices.

I thought he sounded radical and a bit paranoid. In other words, more like me than himself. Usually I’m the grouch, and he’s the fount of hope. Perhaps the howling wind and drifting snow and crackling static electricity even gets to the young. Or perhaps Washington has even worn down the  eternal optimism of youth. In which case they deserve a blizzard more than ever.

WEDNESDAY MORNING UPDATE

We are still in the northerly flow, but the winds have died down. The initial impulse is nudging through the south, but there is still no sign of the following impulse, which will grow the imaginary monster storm. Perhaps it can be seen in the low pressure sinking south through the Rockies, and the bulge in the sub-tropical jet coming ashore on the Pacific coast of Mexico, but largely it is still all in the realm of imagination.20160120 satsfc

The models are still seeing the big storm, but are nudging it south and out to sea, which is fine with me, for now the Beltway gets blasted, as I only get dusted, at the northern edge of the storm.

I start my day (before hitting the paperwork) with a visit to Weatherbell and a quick glance at Dr. Ryan Maue’s maps of the models, .

First look at the American GFS model maps for Saturday and Sunday.Belter 1 gfs_ptype_slp_noram_13 Belter 2 gfs_ptype_slp_noram_17Next is the European map of the storm slipping out to sea after clouting the mid-Atlantic, on Sunday.Belter 3 ecmwf_slp_precip_conus2_17Lastly, below are two maps showing the Canadian JEM models solutions, for Saturday and Sunday. Again the beltway gets blasted, as I broom the dust from my steps.

Belter 4 cmc_pr6_slp_t850_conus_13 Belter 5 cmc_pr6_slp_t850_conus_17

There is room for lots and lots of hype, the next few days. Interestingly, Joe Bastardi focused, in his video today, not on this imaginary storm, but on an even worse imaginary storm possible a week from tomorrow.

I wish Washington was imaginary, but that grousing will have to wait until future updates.

THURSDAY MORNING UPDATE   -Hoopla! Hoopla! Hoopla!-

The funniest headline about the blizzard I’ve seen so far was from the New York Post, and stated, “This weekend will be WHITER THAN THE OSCARS”.  (Actually there is a chance most of the snow will stay south of NYC.)

In the Beltway, where the worst is suppose to hit, they were so focused on the snow expected to start on Friday that they got blindsided by only an inch of snow that snuck in on Wednesday evening. There were two to three hours before the salt trucks moved out, and the pavements were so cold that the small amount of snow turned the roads to grease, and traffic moved at a crawl with many fender-benders and spin-outs. (Perhaps they were reluctant to use up their salt before the “Big One”.)

http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Crippling-Historic-Snowstorm-Expected-Blizzard-Watch-Issued-18-24-Inches-Possible-365957091.html

Meanwhile, the Big One still doesn’t exist. It is a figment of our imagination. All that the map shows is a weak low over Texas and a bulge on the tropical jet moving up through the Gulf of Mexico.20160121 satsfcThe GFS Model imagines the low over Texas will move to Memphis, Tennessee,  as a secondary bombs out just off the coast of Georgia and takes over, becoming the primary storm on Saturday, off Cape Hatteras. (Last winter these storms formed roughly 500 miles further north, pounding New England and sparing Washington, before kicking out to sea.) Below is the GFS models “solution” to how the storm will redevelop. (I chose five of the 41 maps Dr. Ryan Maue offers at the Weatherbell side, for this one run of the GFS model alone, involving the “surface pressure and precipitation type” features alone.) (The maps go out to 240 hours; I could spend all day looking at maps; but limited myself to the maps from 24, 36, 42, 48 and 54 hours from now.)

Bash 1 gfs_ptype_slp_conus_5Bash 2 gfs_ptype_slp_conus_7Bash 3 gfs_ptype_slp_conus_8Bash 4 gfs_ptype_slp_conus_9Bash 5 gfs_ptype_slp_conus_10The European and Canadian models also see the storm bombing out on the coast Saturday morning.Bash 6 ecmwf_slp_precip_conus2_11Bash 7 cmc_pr6_slp_t850_conus_11Currently all the models see Washington buried under nearly 2 feet of snow.Bash 8 gfs_6hr_snow_acc_east2_16(1)

The thing to remember is that, at this point, all the above maps are showing is imaginary snow, imaginary drifts, and imaginary gales. Washington is very good when it comes to dealing with things that are purely imaginary (like Global Warming). It is likely to be incapable, when dealing with something that actually happens, (as we saw last night, as they dealt with a single inch of snow.)

FRIDAY NOONTIME UPDATE

It is still sunny and calm up here in New Hampshire, as the storm brews up over Washington, D.C..20160122 satsfc 20160122B satsfc20160122B rad_ec_640x480

The NAM computer model is making people up this far north a little nervous, as it shows the snow coming further north than other models.Nam Snow 21050122 hires_snow_ne_61

Nearly all models show Washington getting absolutely clobbered.

FRIDAY EVENING UPDATE

It was odd to watch the press conference down in Washington DC from their “Homeland Security” center, and see they were basically asking the public to go indoors and stay indoors for the next two days, so the roads would be clear for the various people allowed to be outside, (clearing the roads, or attempting to drive ambulances, fire trucks and utility crews to emergencies). It made me wonder a bit if people would obey. After all, it might be one of the biggest storms in a hundred years. Are you not allowed to go outside and experience it?

Up here in New Hampshire there are lots of people who like to go out for a drive during a bad storm. It used to drive me nuts, because I’d try to impress my teenagers with how bad a storm was, but they’d sneak out. I myself preferred walking in the roaring wind, and found it somewhat annoying to cross the road to be on the safe side, as cars came zooming by, lighting up the night with brilliant headlights. However I supposed it was warmer in a car, and modern types are not as tough as us old timers.

What was really annoying to me, in past storms,  was the people who would go too fast, trusting in their all-wheel or four-wheel drive, and then go plowing off the road, winding up out in a pasture. You’d see them there, engines still running, heaters still humming, headlights still brilliant and wipers still slapping, talking on their cell-phones, getting someone to come and rescue them. That’s not a real outdoors man, in my book. However I think New Hampshire people most would still laugh, if asked to stay home in a blizzard.

However perhaps it is different in cities, or perhaps Americans are becoming more like sheep. I thought it was amazing that the public so meekly complied, after the “Marathon Bombing”, when the government commanded that everyone stay in their homes. That wasn’t the rebllious spirit of New England I thought I knew.

In any case, radar shows the heavy stuff has started, down around Washington. 20160122C rad_ec_640x480Even though the storm hasn’t yet redeveloped on the coast. (Those of you used to European maps should note the “storm” currently has a minimum pressure of 1002 mb, which likely would be a sunny day in Norway.  That lack of deep low pressure is largely a matter of latitude. Pressures simply don’t get as low, so far south.)20160122C satsfcMeanwhile up here in New Hampshire we’ve only seen our blue skies gradually fade to gray, as the sun sunk down into a blear.Grtaying sky IMG_1644

SATURDAY EVENING UPDATE  –Our turn to be smug?–

It was a gray day up here in New Hampshire, without a single snowflake to be seen, sixty miles northwest of Boston, (though apparently Boston is now being dusted just a bit). The wind didn’t even pick up much, though one or two lone gusts came through, hinting at the hubbub to the south.

I myself steered clear of most of the news, avoiding the hubbub, and simply watched the weather maps show the progress of the storm, and the radar maps show the northern edge of the snow flirt with New Hampshire, and even snow aloft above me, but with the falling flakes sublimating to nothing as they fell, and never reaching the ground.

20160123 satsfc20160123C satsfc20160123D satsfc20160123 rad_ec_640x48020160123B rad_ec_640x48020160123C rad_ec_640x48020160123D rad_ec_640x480

I wondered at myself, and the way I was so disinterested in the hoop-la from further down south. My indifference didn’t seem very Christian or caring of me, and I wondered if maybe I wasn’t harboring some sort of residual resentment over the fact folk down south couldn’t see what all the fuss and bother was about up north, last year, when we got clobbered and they didn’t. In fact the the first big storm last winter was described as a “bust” even in New York City, as they had all the hubbub of blizzard warnings, and then barely an inch of snow. What they failed to recognize is that even thirty miles away, out on Long Island, people got buried.Last Year 20150125_20150128_2_62Where I live, in the above map, you’ll note there is a so-called “lollypop” of snow, indicating we got more than thirty inches of snow. In fact we got three feet, on the east-facing side of the hill where I live. But there were no breathless reporters producing live reports of how we fared. Could it be I was a bit hurt by the lack of attention? And now I’m thinking turn-about is fair play?

Forty years ago I had a wonderful and faithful dog I had to leave behind at my mother’s, without my personal attention, for two months, as I went on an adventure. When I returned I could see the dog from afar as I drove towards my mother’s house.  As I crested a distant rise the dog recognized (somehow) the sound of my little car, and I could see it jump up and turn on the lawn, and then start to wildly wave its tail. However when I got out of my car the dog suddenly remembered it was really, really pissed off at me, and abruptly stopped waving its tail, and began walking away with a grouchy expression, looking over its a shoulder in a way that said, beyond doubt, “Screw you.” (I ran across the lawn and begged forgiveness, and the cur did forgive me.)

It is funny how these two storms are nearly exactly a year apart, and the people who got the deep snow are so neatly divided. (The lone exception seems to be Long Island, which seemingly has the dubious privilege of getting clouted by both blizzards). It seems a sort of proof that Karma is equal, or at least it is proof that things average out, in the end.

I got to thinking, as I lived through the gray day, of how we should not let simple things like storms divide us.  If we allow snowflakes to divide us, how can we remain united when faced with more substantial things? We should be unswayed by trivial things like snowflakes. However, when I thought about it further, it seemed that was exactly what my fellow writers in the media are asked to do: To be trivial, to focus on short-term differences, in the name of sensationalism. Hmm. Could there be a sonnet in what I was glimpsing?

It was a dreary day under dreary skies,
And I stayed indoors and with bleary eyes
Watched some humdrum news where some dear-me guys
Tried to enthuse all, hiding weary eyes.

Somewhere far away snow is drifting deep.
Somewhere sons are late. Somewhere mothers weep.
Somewhere cars collide. Some are losing sleep
As the newsmen prance, promises to keep.

I thought I glimpsed, in their hyped-up eyes,
How darn tired they were of their tripe and lies
And the way they never get to write of skies
And instead must wear a King’s Fool’s disguise.

Well, that is what you get, when you’re not like me,
And put your paper’s paycheck before poetry.

In any case, I decided I should drop my silly grudge about how, last year, some folk down south said we folk up north were “fussing too much”. After all, if my dog could forgive me all those years ago, I could at least be a little interested in the doings of folk down south.

Almost immediately a picture was sent to my computer from the son of a friend of mine who has moved to Virginia. Because he was so far south the young father had neglected to buy, for his toddler son, a toy that is deemed essential in New England: A small sled. Yet now he was confronted with two feet of snow in Virginia. What could he do?

He got a large box that once had held a bulk-price amount of disposable diapers, did some swift cutting with a paring knife, punched two holes, inserted a rope, and created a sled to pull his little boy through the snow in. His wife took a picture, and I got to see how resourceful people are, when faced with the “storm of the century”…… (and also how they  do not fail to see such storms can be an excuse for joy, sheer joy.)

SUNDAY UPDATE  —All Over—

No snow at all is showing on radar this morning, as the gale slips out to sea. We didn’t even get a dusting here, as NYC got over two feet. There was sledding on Capital Hill. (some say it is the first time it has been allowed in 100 years.) (I notice the capital dome is being worked on. They need to work on the domes of the fellows inside, as well.) Baltimore also got over two feet.Sledding Capital 650x366_01232127_screen-shot-2016-01-23-at-4.26.32-pmI’m glad I’m not facing the clean-up they are facing in New Jersey.New Jersy Drifts 650x366_01240108_carssnowHere’s a final map, and then we can call this storm (and post) over. (However I should mention that the computer models did an amazing job of seeing the storm from five days away, and Joe Bastardi and Joseph D’Aleo did an even better job of seeing it from seven days away (and warning of such storms happening January (and February) back when computer models were saying we’d have a Mild El Nino January like 1998’s, back in December.)20160124 satsfc

 

 

 

LOCAL VIEW —To Heal Or To Hell—

Snowy Road IMG_1614

This is the view I saw as I stepped out Saturday. Lovely, and annoying as hell. See that woodpile to the right of the road? I’m not allowed to touch it, though it is crying out like a wanton woman to be touched. Call it the wanton woodpile, if you will. It likely weighs wanton, if not two tons, and I’m not allowed to lift over five pounds. In revenge I’ll make five puns, and more, a wantan soup of puns, because my brains are in a crazed state, trying to make light of weighty subjects, light of darkness, poetry of pain.

I headed off to to the farm, and right away was confronted by another woodpile.Snowy Woodpile IMG_1622It is surprising how, once you are under doctor’s orders to shuffle about but not lift anything, you want to handle stuff. Look at the steps in the picture. I have a hungry hankering to sweep the snow off, but no, no, no. Not allowed. Once you are not allowed to touch, you want to touch. It awakens the criminal side of human nature, like putting a “wet paint” sign on a fence that isn’t wet, just to see how many passing people look left and right,  and then touch the paint.

Only six days ago I was in a hurry to get as much done as I could before my operation. Then, when I didn’t have to shuffle, I tended to, (if not shuffle), to spend a lot of time using my ax or maul or shovel or broom as a sort of prop, that held me up as I examined the clouds and contemplated uplifting, poetic stuff. Now, because uplifting is banned, little seems as uplifting as handling a piece of firewood, feeling the grit on palms, the visceral stickiness of sap, the ache in shoulders from swinging a maul.

You might think that this would be a perfect time to write poetry. Many have told me that I sure have griped enough, over the years, about never having time to write, and now I have  no excuse to gripe, as I now have time. And there was freshly fallen snow, which surely ought to have gotten some haiku bubbling in my brain. Instead I just felt crabby. It was too easy, perhaps. Perhaps it is cheating to write poetry without being scolded for doing so. You need the resistance. Otherwise it is like trying to shoot an arrow without a bow.

I did have half a sonnet that I started in the hospital. That seemed a challenge: To prove poetry can be found in any situation, no matter how dire or dark. However it was but an unfinished fragment:

I will be stern and sing a sonnet
Here in a hospital and in a pain,
A hole where my kidney was, and on it
Explosions of needles dragging the drain
Of all stamina towards a dull end.
Pain is like fireworks without light.
There’s no reward…

But it was hard to write, especially as I shared a room with an old wizard I called Oz because he was always behind a curtain, and he happened to have the most annoying family on earth. He would explain to them over the phone that he was in pain and exhausted and didn’t want company, and they especially shouldn’t come in if they were so sick with the ‘flu and strep throat and three colds, because he might catch their diseases, and five minutes later they’d all come bustling in and stay four hours haranguing the poor fellow with problems and details a person aged five should have been able to figure out on their own, but that these middle-aged-brats felt compelled to burden a fellow over seventy with. Oz was amazingly patient, but I think it was because he’d figured out how to stay very heavily medicated.

I wasn’t so swift. When a nurse appeared through the blur and asked me to rate my pain I’d say “4” and get a lousy little Tylenol, but Oz would always say “6” and get Oxycodone-Acetaminophen, or “8” and get good old Morphine. Also he would politely ask for other additional stuff I haven’t a clue about,  murmuring “and could I have a Phamphlox and Dweebinal with that,” or some such thing, the result being he was a very patient patient and I was not. As his family fretted endlessly about whether or not to serve fudge or cookies at intermission at the 4th grade school play he would dreamily murmur “I’m sure you will chose wisely and your efforts will be appreciated”, as I was on the verge of ripping aside the curtain and yelling at the family to give the guy some peace and to get the eff out and just what did they think they were doing belaboring a guy fresh from major surgery with hours of stupid, banal, pathetic and utterly useless drivel. I’m not sure a guy has ever been kicked out of a recovery room before, for bad behavior, but I felt I might very well soon be the first. In any case, that was one reason it was hard to finish my sonnet. Also something about my expression may have cued the nurses into the fact my level of psychological pain was around an “11” on a scale of ten, and they increased my “drip” of something or another, and things got warm and fuzzy, and who cares a flying flip about sonnets after that?

The nurses did a fairly good job of waking me up for my sleeping pill and getting me to eat nothing when I wasn’t hungry, and doing this thing called “checking your vitals”,  which I think means “seeing if you are still alive”. They didn’t need to push me to exercise because I wanted to escape Oz’s family, and also my surgeon did a pretty good job of impressing upon me that the faster I got moving the faster my body would get moving. When they put you under for surgery it pretty much shuts down your entire body except for (hopefully) your heart, and if you totter about afterwards pushing a rolling thing holding the tubes going in and the tubes going out, it stirs your blood and your guts start to gurgle again, and they can feed you a little jello and start removing various tubes. (Until then half the nurse’s job is to keep you untangled). In any case, I was a very good patient, when it came to tottering about pushing the rolling thing holding all the tubes and bags.

Tottering about did give me a chance to spy on the crowds of nurses, and see what in the world they did with themselves when they weren’t “checking vitals”. What they seem to do is paperwork. At any one time there were around 8 nurses working full-out at computers at the nursing station. Perhaps someone somewhere thinks that if you document everything there is less chance for malpractice, but I’m inclined to believe that the more you document the more they can find to sue you for. But perhaps that was just the drugs talking.

Of course they are not all nurses. Some are technicians, and administrators, and aids, and technical administrative aides, and administrative technicians, and certified nurse’s assistant’s ITs, all clickity-clicking away on their keyboards like blue blazes, as I went doddering by in a nightgown drafty to the rear, pushing a contraption with squeaky wheels, pausing to comment on paintings by Monet on the walls, but largely ignored. You’d think I’d get more attention. What if I was escaping? To me it seemed paperwork had more priority than patients,  and it would do them good if I taught them all a lesson by bolting for the parking lot, but the elevator was so far away, and all uphill, and my bed was nearby and cooing my name. So my escape was not completed, just like my sonnet.

The worst thing was that I got a case of the hiccups, which is not good if you have a hole for a kidney, because each hic is followed by an explosion of pain measuring several megatons. (Likely they are called hick-ouches by true doctors). Fortunately an administrative-technical-assistant’s-IT’s-technical-aide happened to be in my room just then. Also known as “the cleaning lady”, this gruff, good-hearted, old crone, smelling ever-so-slightly of forbidden cigarettes, told me to quit the machismo bullshit and push the stupid call-button by my bed, and tell the nurse I was a “9”,  because “your butt sure is a “9”, heh, heh, heh.” And as the crude,rude, lewd lady departed I thought to myself that her mop-and-brush-holding contraption also had squeaky wheels, like mine did, and that strangely she was more like a nurse than the nurses,  on some down-to-earth level science can’t measure with gauges and tubes.

Then I hit the “call” button, and when a nurse wandered in I said I was quite OK but each hiccup was a “9”, and I must admit a crease of care and concern did appear on her brow, and she injected something into my IV, and nearly instantly I was feeling no pain, and drifted off to sleep. Unfortunately I then discovered I apparently had used up my allotment for deep sleep during my operation, and couldn’t sleep longer than ten minutes. Not that I could fully wake up. But I could note the hands of the clock had moved ten minutes. It was a long night, full of time standing still in ten-minute-increments, and lacking any sort of lines that I could use to complete my sonnet.

It did occur to me that spiritually I was a complete failure, because it hadn’t even occurred to me to hit the call-button to God when the hiccups started exploding needles in my gut. Instead I was like your typical American addict, and I immediately turned to drugs. Far have we fallen from the fortitude of our forefathers, who were given bullets to bite for their pain.

Towards what I supposed was dawn, (though Oz got the window, and the light never changed much on my side of the room),  I started to think of how typical it is of puny mortals to reach for the wrong things. A drowning man does not grasp for God; he grasps for straws.

Hmm. Now that seemed a thought more sonnet-like. And into my head came a perfect couplet, just superb for ending a sonnet with. Of course, like the case of Coleridge and “Kubla Khan,” as soon as I sat up I forgot the darn couplet. That seems to be a problem with anything resembling opium. You may think you’re a genius, but you can’t persuade anyone because you forget where you put the evidence.

It just made me want to get out of the darn hospital, and I did a lot of huffing and puffing around the nurse’s station pushing my squeaky-wheeled thing, trying to get my blood flowing and my guts properly gurgling, as that seems to be what they cared most about. They didn’t seem to care much about whether I’d turned to narcotics rather than God, but were very pleased by how much urine my remaining kidney was producing. I supposed piss was the measure of a man, in their eyes, but I took the haughty view man is made for higher things, and was a bit offended when they kept asking me if I’d passed gas or not. The indignity of it all! I did relent a bit, however, when I discovered that when I passed gas I’d get some jello. The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, they say, and jello provided me with the sublime motivation needed to heal myself, and by evening they were starting to remove all the tubes. But now I figured I was spiritually in deeper trouble, because rather than God I’d turned to jello.

Things were not going so well for Oz behind the curtain, as rather than having tubes removed he was having them reinserted, and his family was taking it hard, by scolding him as a sort of back-slider and hinting he was causing them a lot of inconvenience. The fellow was a complete saint, assuring them it would not trouble him if they went out to dinner without him, and so forth. I found it helpful to be in close proximity to a person who put me to shame with his tolerance and patience. Also I had been given a good book about the Galveston Hurricane (“Isaac’s Storm”) which reminded me what morons we humans can be, in the face of impending disaster and death.

I was starting to get some better ideas about how to finish my sonnet, building upon the idea that we might reach out for straws rather than God when drowning, but sometimes even though we are grasping for straws we feel the grip of a warm hand.  Sometimes, even though we attempt to drown the lifeguard coming out to save us, they clout us on the chin and drag us unconscious to shore. However having my guts come back to life and eating so much jello was causing all sorts of cramps, as was the fact that surgery involved my belly being inflated like a balloon, and deflation left some bubbles lodged between my abdomen and rib-cage, and when I called these various needles of jabbing pain an “8” I was given two Percocet, and all of a sudden sonnets became meaningless. I slept in installments of two hours the second night, inter-spaced with periods of time standing still within a bleak dullness devoid of poetry.

The next day my entire aim was to get the heck out of there, and I succeeded, limping bravely out in the evening and heading home with my wife. I was told I was allowed to eat all the solid food I wanted, and given a bottle of Percocet to use if I wanted to dull the pain, (but I can’t say I trust the stuff much, having known people I loved who became addicts to it.) And that brings me back to Saturday morning, and stepping out gingerly to look at my home frosted with new fallen snow.

Snowy home IMG_1616

The dusting of snow did seem a nice touch, even though it made me crabby because I couldn’t remove any of it. It awoke the boy in me me, who always liked snow (partly because I didn’t have to remove it at home, and I got paid jingling quarters for removing it from the neighbor’s). It even seemed remotely like a good omen, like reaching out for a straw and feeling a warm hand, and an old hymn came into my my mind, and I decided to go indoors and research it.

The hymn was, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”, and I figured I’d find out there was some good story behind the inspiration of the hymn, because there often are good stories behind good hymns. However in this case the fellow just happened to get sick a lot, and spent a lot of time bedridden. He only lasted a year as a preacher, because he got sick then as well, and wound up bedridden. I wasn’t sure this fellow’s story was one I wanted to hear. His name was Thomas Obadiah Chisholm, born in 1866.Chisholm 1_TO

In any case, being in bed so much meant he had plenty of time to write poems, 1200 in all, many which were published in small Christian magazines but none of which made much money. He had a wife and two daughters to support and had to crawl out of bed when he could and scraped by selling insurance, yet somehow just enough money always appeared to get him by, and he was grateful to God for that, and at age 56 wrote one particular poem thanking God for just enough money, (which is actually all any man needs). That poem was in a collection he sent to a friend, who liked the poem so much he wrote a tune for it, and the hymn became popular in one lonely town out west. Somehow, years later, the song was noticed by the singers that accompanied Billy Graham during a tour of England, and the hymn became popular across the Atlantic, just after World War Two,  when he was over seventy and still working selling insurance. In fact he was still working after age eighty, when I was born, and kept right on working until he retired at age 87.  To be honest, the fellow sounds like a bit of a hypochondriac, considering he was bedridden so much yet out-lived just about all his peers, dying at age 94 in 1960, writing poems right to the end. chisholm 2 _thomasI wasn’t sure this was exactly the example of healing I needed just now, because I’m not in the mood to still be selling insurance when I’m eighty-seven.

It also brought me back to the fact I hadn’t finished my sonnet, but I was too crabby to deal with that right away. First I had to deal with the fact that I was not allowed to do any work, not even stick a log into the fire, and didn’t like the sensation of being useless. However then I remembered paperwork, which is something my family seems to loathe completely, from great-grandparents down to first-graders. Unlike bureaucrats, we are sensible people who know paperwork has nothing to do with planting, weeding, hilling, growing, harvesting, cooking and mashing potatoes.  However, just as nurses have to do heaps of paperwork in hospitals though paperwork has nothing to do with healing, our Farm-childcare has to do heaps of paperwork. So there was a job I could do that didn’t involve lifting. I could even feel a bit noble about doing it. However that doesn’t make it even a little bit less detestable.

And perhaps it was the detestable nature of the paperwork that supplied the bow that shoots the arrow. After only an hour of dealing with receipts I was so sick of it I felt the old urge to goof-off stir in me, and from such is poetry born. Even though it is sort of cheating to complete the hospital sonnet when I wasn’t in the hospital any more, I figured I’d give it a try.

I will be stern and sing a sonnet
Here in a hospital and in a pain,
A hole where my kidney was, and on it
Explosions of needles dragging the drain
Of all stamina towards a dull end.
Pain is like fireworks without light.
There’s no reward, no way for brains to fend
Off futility with promised delight.
Faith is a shambles, writhing in its rout.
Shame turns from God and cries, “Give me meds!”
A knife silhouetted snuffs the wick out
And black descends strangely tinted with reds
For Drownder’s fingers know straw-grasping’s neurotic
And the Real Lifeguard is no hell’s narcotic.

However that sonnet seems mostly about what healing isn’t. I am more interested in what healing is. After all, because I am now a so-called “cancer survivor”, healing is now a matter of life or death.

This subject is something I intend to delve deeply upon in future posts, but at this point I can only say, likely appearing horribly ungrateful to the surgeon and nurses who saved my life (at least temporarily), that we should be honest and confess we haven’t a clue what healing involves. We are fools to measure urine and passing gas and call that healing. Somehow that belittles the very majesty of life.

The alternative, of course, is to visualize the Christ, healing with a touch of the hand or even a glance, but that just seems too darned unscientific for some.

However allow me to digress just a little back to when my father was a young surgeon and my mother was a young nurse, and antibiotics were just first being mentioned in medical journals. They had been taught and trained in a world where there was no real cure for staph infections, and TB was a death sentence much like cancer in some ways now is. There were all sorts of ways to slow the progress of TB, and even to cause it to go into a sort of remission, but to many it was a slow, prolonged and particularly horrible death, as were other bacterial infections, including sexually transmitted ones such as syphilis and gonorrhea. Their training included treating many who faced a future that was very bleak, and involved dying by slow stages and degrees.

My father told me one way to prolong the life of a man dying of TB was to remove the lung that was infected worse, as that would allow the healthier lung to no longer have to deal with a sort of spillover of germs from the basically dead lung. He said the operation was particularly bloody and resembled, as he put it, “a cannibal’s barbecue”, and that afterwards the person would be hunched over to one side, but often able to recover to a surprising degree. I can recall one such hunched-over fellow who worked at our local hardware store.

Then, like a miracle, penicillin entered the picture, and rather than that barbaric operation you only needed take a pill, and every TB bacteria in your body dropped dead, just like that.

My mother and father experienced a time when it was like Jesus walked through the hospitals and all sorts of doomed and dying people were healed. Not just people dying the slow strangulation of TB, but people facing the rotting brains of syphilis, were amazingly and abruptly germ-free, cleansed, and faced a future full of unexpected hope. It was a heady time, and absolutely no one thought of suing doctors for their work, because most were filled with joy and gratitude. A healing none had expected had appeared out of the blue.

What a gift was given, and what a joy it was to work at hospitals at that time! But what was the marvelous healing? Just some mold you can find growing blue on an orange. Just a little pill. At the time it was a wonder, but people slowly came to take healing for granted, and the wonder has faded away, until now we are brought back to the original question: What is healing? And we are brought to the original answer: We really don’t know.

What we know is the joy we feel when it occurs, and the misery we suffer when it doesn’t.

Medicine struggles to grope through the darkness of ignorance, striving to bring us joy, even as malpractice lawyers hinder them more than they help, but the true essence of joy seems a subject as much in the realm of art as it is of science. Many who suffer do not go to a doctor, but rather go to a Beethoven symphony, and are healed by what a deaf man heard.

So perhaps sonnets do have a part to play in hospitals, after all. Some pseudoscience and psychology just barely seems to suggest as much, but unfortunately they are big on drugs, and most couldn’t write a sonnet if their life depended on it. As far as I’m concerned, sonnets hold the part of healing we are completely missing, and drugs don’t.

We tend to have too much wax in our ears, which is why it took a deaf guy like Beethoven to teach us so much about joy in music. I feel we are equally deaf about what brings the joy of healing, and I want to study it more.

I confess my ignorance, but will say this much: Part of healing involves care, and family can be full of that. Though I’m allowed to eat any food I want, my guts are taking their sweet time to get over the insult they have been subjected to, and one of my daughters is concerned and making sure I get enough roughage in my diet, and therefore I am touched when I come cramping down the stairs in the dim light before dawn and see this still-life on the kitchen counter. Snowy still-life IMG_1632

Where some might see clutter, I smell a stew and sense caring, and hear a sonnet of healing. In like manner, I have a little granddaughter, who wonders why she can’t leap onto my lap:Snowy Jace IMG_1625

And this reminds me an important part of healing is that you must want to get better.

And for the time being, I figure I’ve said enough on this subject.

LOCAL VIEW —ROUGH SLEDDING—

Some Rough Sledding IMG_1607

I didn’t much want to be a drag over Christmas, nor be one of those tiresome old men (and women) who bore your eyeballs out by talking tediously about the slow decay of their bodies, as if they were play-by-play announcers at a sporting event called “Increasing Decrepitude”.. So I kept my bad health to myself, which is pretty darn melodramatic. It’s a bit like that old Crosby, Stills and Nash song, “Almost Cut My Hair.”

I almost cut my hair
‘Twas just the other day
It was gettin’ kinda long
I could-a said, it was in my way
But I didn’t and I wonder why
I want to let my freak flag fly
And I feel like I owe it to someone

Must be because I had the flu for Christmas
And I’m not feelin’ up to par
It increases my paranoia
Like lookin’ at my mirror and seein’ a lit up police car
But I’m not givin’ in an inch to fear
I promised myself this year
I feel like I owe it to someone

When I finally get myself together
Get down in some sunny southern weather
Find a place inside to laugh
Separate the wheat from the chaff
‘Cause I feel like I owe it to someone.

And to be honest, I’ve always been pretty good at melodrama. For years I was sure every cold was lung cancer, (likely due to some internalized guilt I felt over the huge enjoyment I got from cigarettes). At age seventeen I was sure I was going to die at age seventeen like the poet John Chatterton. At age 26 I was going to die at 26 like Keats. Then I was going to die at 29 like Shelley, and then at 36 like Byron, and then at 39 like Dylan Thomas. However by then it was starting to get a bit old. One can only flop around like a dying fish for so long before people stop taking you seriously.

This is not to say I myself wasn’t still serious. Life is never quite so beautiful as it is when it is tenuous, and slipping away through your fingers. And anyone who knows anything about all the crud I’ve been through over the years has to admit it is a miracle I’m still alive.  However, for the most part I’ve quit the melodrama of flopping about like a fish. For one thing, I’m too old to die young. Where’s the glamour of dying at 62?

Though I privately view each dawn as a bit of a surprise, (as I don’t expect to still be here), and though privately I may view each new liver-spot on the back of my hand as melanoma, publicly I now deem it best to avoid anything that looks like complaining. I have no business complaining, as I can still wield a maul and spit wood at age sixty-two, as my pals get their knees replaced. However I did complain to my doctor. (I think, in some ways, that may be what doctors are for.)

Over the past six months I felt like my get-up-and-go got up and went. I might have shrugged that off as aging, but also I seemed to lose a quarter pound every week, despite eating well. It triggered my old habit of assuming I had lung cancer, especially as I seemed to catch every cold the kids had at our Farm-childcare, whereas for years I’d seemed totally immune despite being slimed constantly by their runny noses. When the most recent cold led to congestion in my lungs I decided to pester my doctor. Imagination isn’t always a poet’s friend, and it is good sometimes to get the smack-down of, “You are perfectly healthy. Stop being such a fool and worrying so much!”

Unfortunately he didn’t say I was perfectly healthy this time. I had chest X-rays, and they showed a “shadow.” So he scheduled a Cat-scan, which gave me a week or so to worry, before the Cat Scan was analyzed and my lungs looked OK. Then I was on cloud nine, but later my doctor called me back, because way down at the bottom of the Cat Scan he’d noticed a bulge on my left kidney. There was a second Cat Scan, and then a biopsy of my kidney, and cancer was discovered. Part, or all, of the kidney has to come out. Merry Christmas.

Oh well. I figured it was a sort of Christmas miracle that the cancer was discovered, when I had absolutely no complaints about my kidneys, and wasn’t looking in that direction in the slightest. Still, it was hard to bite my tongue and muster the proper cheer for Christmas.

I didn’t even tell my wife, at first, but there’s no fooling her, as she tends to read me like a book and can see phony cheerfulness in me even when I have myself fooled. And also I am part of a bunch of old coots at my church, and we pray together and are honest about our heartaches. And one of those fellows turned around and prayed with his family, and his son happens to know one of my sons, so that son soon knew, and before you could shake a stick everyone knew. A small town is proof that the only secrets that stay secret are those that are known by one person alone.

It wasn’t so bad. Some people did get awkward, and some did behave as if cancer is contagious, but I’m old and expect no better from my fellow mortals. What I didn’t expect was people I hardly know, and didn’t think of as prayerful people, to come up to me and tell me they would be praying for me. I am not always the most courteous of people, and can be a bit brutal with the Truth, and if I expect any sort of prayers it might be the prayer that I get hit by a truck. It was really touching to receive unexpected expressions of caring.

For the most part I just went on dealing with details, which will be a bit harder as I am not suppose to do any heavy lifting for five weeks after the operation. This will involve some serious adjustments to the routine of the Farm-childcare, not only because a farm involves grunt-work, but small children like to be hoisted, and like to take flying leaps and land on your stomach without warning, when you are reading a story on the couch.  I’ll likely have to hire people and take a hit to my profits, right when I need to come up with six-grand (as that is the “deductible” in my insurance.)  An operation doesn’t mean you do less, it seems.

It would be nice if insurance companies would go out of there way to make things easier for the client, but apparently they need to make all sorts of extra work to justify their existence. When my father first started work as a surgeon in 1946 he had a single secretary, and many country doctors wrote out their own bills. Much of the increase in medical costs has nothing to do with medicine, and everything to do with parasitic lawyers, and countless layers of bureaucratic confetti. Rather than cathedrals, our cities tallest towers are built to the false god of insurance, which I tend to grumble only ensures we are more miserable than necessary.

Of course I had to go through my own gauntlet, which all too many are quite familiar with. Here is part of an email I sent to friends:

The surgery was all set to go on January 5 when Obamacare stepped in, and I had to deal with a series of insurance-company-voices on the telephone that would have made me angry, but the bureaucrats sounded so much like characters on “Saturday Night Live” that my sense of humor kicked in. Basically they were telling me that due to clause 20446B (or something) of my policy I couldn’t use Catholic Medical Center, where my surgeon does 95% of his operations, and instead I had to wait until he could do the exact same operation at a different hospital, which might not be until February. I stressed this might not be a good idea, as the cancer could spread farther during that time. I was assured it was a good idea as it would keep rates lower, (and so forth).
 
The discussion was made all the more difficult by the fact I never could get the same person on the phone twice, and had to go over everything from the start again and again. But this did allow me to make my story better and better. Maybe I even started exaggerating a bit, which I assume the Lord will forgive me for, given the circumstances. I didn’t say it was a fact that the cancer would spread, but implied that if the surgery wasn’t done on January 5 it might cost the insurance company a heck of a lot more. The mention of money did seem to impress them, and I got sent to other people, who sent me to other people, (with long intervals spent listening to bad music on “hold”,) until I finally talked to someone who did mention there was such a thing as a “waiver”, which might allow me to use Catholic Medical Center. All I needed was fifteen forms filled out by my Family Doctor’s office, and for Doc himself to find time in his busy schedule to personally call them and grovel a bit.
 
At this point they were wearing me down, and I was deciding maybe it was God’s Will to put things off until February, but I did mention the situation when I was up at Doc’s office, and this is where a “God-sighting” occurred. At Doc’s office H—- (who he has had to hire to deal with insurance and nothing but insurance) was none too pleased to hear I had learned about the “waiver”, for she had been on the phone herself, but hadn’t been able to get anyone at the insurance company to release this secret information. Now she abruptly had a full head of steam, and went charging into the Obamacare bureaucracy like an NFL fullback.
 

In the old days it was the men who wore the shining armor and were the heroes, saving the maidens in distress, but times change, and in a hopeless bureaucracy perhaps it is the women who are the heroes, and save distressed old geezers like me. My Oh my! How the fur did fly! It would take too long to go into all the funny details, but in the end H—–, and a woman named D—– at the surgeon’s office, took on all the Saturday-night-live-voices at the insurance company and basically left them in an exhausted heap. I was filled with gratitude, because we had run out of time, and everything had to be done in four hours to still have a chance to do the surgery on January 5, and there was no way I could make all the phone-calls myself. It was simply a case of a rescue coming right out of the blue, when I never expected it, and I thank God for working through H—– and D—–, (and have thanked both of them profusely).

(In case you are wondering, a “God-sighting” is when, in a loveless world where most people seem out to make life more difficult, you run across an unexpected example of love and kindness and generosity or (sometimes) sheer good luck that makes what you expect to be difficult far easier.)

In any case, this is just my long-winded way of explaining why I won’t be posting much for a while. If all goes well I may be going nuts in a couple weeks, suffering cabin fever and itching to do stuff like shovel snow (that I used to complain about) but all I will be able to do is go for walks, and post too many posts. So let’s hope all goes well.