LOCAL VIEW –Thirst Speaks–

Weather is unfair. Some get rain and some don’t. There is nothing particularly evil about this unfairness. It is just how the Creator made creation. Sometimes you get a bumper crop, and sometimes you are lucky to get a single turnip. The politicians in Washington can legislate all they want, but they aren’t going to alter the fall of raindrops from the clouds. Prayer might work, but legislation doesn’t.

One interesting thing about droughts is that they tend to perpetuate themselves. The dryness creates hotter temperatures which deflect moisture around the periphery of the core. This is quite obvious when the drought is gigantic, as the Dust Bowl was in 1936, but even in the cases of smaller and more local droughts rain has a strange propensity to snub those who need it most.

A current drought afflicts southern Vermont and New Hampshire, along their borders with Massachusetts, and today it was uncanny how the thunderstorms, moving east to west, avoided the lands that thirsted most. There were flash flood warnings blaring from the weather radio, as we dealt with dust. Here is a radar map of rain from this afternoon.

The impressive storms south of Boston and Albany and over Springfield were moving west to east, as were the string of lesser showers to the north approaching Concord. But most irksome to me was the storm right on the Massachusetts-New Hampshire border, approaching the coast. It was a cluster that had looked hopeful as it entered Vermont in the morning, but “dried up” and vanished from the radar as it crossed over me, and only reappeared and blew up to a big thunderstorm as it neared Portsmouth on the coast. Is that fair?

I know, even as I grouse about the extra work I must do watering my plants, that it is fair. The actions and reactions of nature are not only fair, they are beautiful. They are incredible harmony, and the only reason we complain is because we are not in harmony with the harmony. We have our own specific desires that are blind. For example, I transplanted some wet, cucumber seedlings into dusty soil, and failed to immediately water them, and the next day it was too late; they had withered and watering didn’t revive them. Never in my experience have cucumber seedlings needed to be watered so immediately; this June is “A First”. However I didn’t blame the drought; I blamed my inability to adapt to the “sumptuous variety of New England weather”. The weather itself is fair; what is unfair is our responses to it.

Sunday is suppose to be a Day Of Rest, and therefore I suppose working in my garden makes me a sinner, but I tried to lessen the eventual penalty I must pay by making my work into a sort of worship. Rather than cursing the drought I was praising the Creator for the amazing variety that makes my fingerprints different from all others, and also makes every summer unique. Not that I didn’t hope for rain. I hunched my eyebrows to the west, seeking the cumulus that was building.

Storms can build up from innocent-looking cumulus with surprising speed. In fact the vast expenditure needed to create the Doppler Radar produced images which shocked the indoors meteorologists who lobbied for it, which leads me to a bit of a sidetrack.

Back in those days congress didn’t just print money when they needed it, and they told the indoors meteorologists they needed to cut their budget in some areas before they would fund the expensive Doppler Radar. So what the indoor meteorologists did was to fire hundreds of outdoors weather-observers. They figured it was worth it, for they figured Doppler Radar would allow them to track individual thunderstorms in the manner that individual hurricanes were tracked. But what the Doppler Radar revealed was that there is no such thing as “an individual thunderstorm”. A storm was a “complex” of updrafts and down-bursts, forming “cells” of various types, sometimes fighting each other and sometimes assisting each other. The Doppler Radar revealed that, rather than a swirl like a hurricane that could be tracked, a thunder storm was a pulsating blob that made dividing amoebas look dull: breaking in two or into three, or becoming mega-cells, or vanishing, in a manner which was basically impossible to predict, from indoors. What was needed was outdoors observers, but those good people had been fired to save money. It was sort of funny to watch how the indoors meteorologists tried to save face. They made it sound like they were doing the public a favor by enlisting them as “volunteer” observers, called “spotters”. A job taxpayers once payed for is now done for free, but you get what you pay for. Around here a “spotter” caused complete chaos in early June by thinking a shred of cloud was a tornado. I’d take an old-fashioned outdoors observer any day, as some had decades of experience.

A further disrespect towards the old outdoors observers involves indoors meteorologists “correcting” the records they kept. Dr. James Hanson was notorious for such fudging of facts. I think it was done to make modern “Global Warming” look worse than the murderous heat and drought of 1936, but that gets us into politics, and it is unwise to go there.

I’d do the job, if only the indoors meteorologists would get off their high horses and confess Doppler Radar only proved they were ignorant. They closed hundreds of valuable stations, run by valuable outdoor observers, to get a gadget that basically tells you a thunderstorm is bad after it already is bad. An outdoor observer can do the same. But hell if I’ll do it if the people I do the favor for behave as if they are doing me the favor. The fact of the matter is they are not God, they have no control of the weather, and it is far better to be humble in such a situation than puff your ego on a high horse.

Not that I blame them for liking Doppler Radar. It is a cool gadget. Another cool gadget tells you just when lightning bolts hit, and even when you can expect to hear the thunder. I actually like this particular gadget more than Doppler Radar, for it will inform you the moment a ordinary shower becomes a thunder shower. You can even set it to make an audible click, the moment a nearby cloud first makes a bolt. This gadget produced the map below, as the Doppler Radar produced the map above.

This is a wonderful gadget, because, when you focus in on your local area, it not only shows you where the flash you just saw, arriving in your eyes at the speed-of-light, hit he ground, but also shows you a slowly enlarging circle, expanding at the-speed-of-sound, to tell you when to expect to hear the thunder. However even this gadget has its weakness. As an outdoors observer, engrossed with worshipful weeding of my garden on Sunday, I noticed I was hearing thunder this gadget didn’t admit existed.

The reason I could hear such thunder was obvious to me, although I am no Sherlock Holmes. Not all lightning hits the ground, but such lightning makes thunder. A storm can shoot bolts cloud to cloud, ten or even twenty miles from it’s core. Soft, cloud-to-cloud thunder can be heard by outside observers like me, even when gadgets are deaf.

I was in some ways glad it didn’t rain, as I had to weed the beans, and you can’t weed beans in a wet situation because doing so causes problems with a virus attacking the bean’s leaves. (No, it is not the Corona Virus and no, you don’t need to wear a mask. You simply weed when the leaves are dry).

Although drought may be good for beans when you weed them, after weeding they thirst for water. I had to water some flats of seedlings I intend to soon transplant, even as soft thunder muttered from both the north and south. The carrots and tomatoes were crying out for weeding, but I had to water first. It isn’t fair, but is just is how things are. And I eventually did weed some carrots and all the tomatoes, and also the peppers, as daylight faded and you actually could see the lightning to the north and the lightning to the south, which went along with the soft sky thunder. Yet still we remained dry.

As the late day June sun settled and the mosquitoes came out I decided enough worship was enough, and headed to my front stoop to relax with a worshipful beer. And it was then I felt I became a most blessed outdoors observer. I was witnessing stuff Doppler Radar misses.

Some storm to the south was a little closer than the others. The thunder was still soft, but a few flashes of lightning seemed brighter. And then I noticed, against slow moving higher clouds, speeding scud.

There was hardly a draft down where I sat, but the outflow of distant storms produced a wind, around a thousand feet up, of marvelous speed. (I can’t recall ever seeing scud moving so fast, outside of hurricanes). With an imagination like mine it was easy to see an angel on a speeding horse.

What this outflow did was to uplift a local cloud just enough to make it shower. At first it was just a few big drops, platting here or there, but then it became a soft roar in the crisp June foliage of parched trees, at first far away like a whisper, but then edging and sidling closer, until a brief down-burst hit the stoop I hearkened from.

In India they celebrate a monsoon’s first rain. The evening chorus of songbirds hushed at the approach of a downpour in a drought. It began as a sigh on the very edge of hearing, but became an approaching roar. All became giddy in a way only drought knows. My wife came out and stood beside me as the flooding baptism approached, and then began splatting fat, warm droplets down in a way that raised tiny clouds of the dust it pelted. And then all too soon the sigh faded away through the darkening trees. I looked up through parting clouds and saw the high heavens feathered with sunset’s crimson cirrus.

Through parched trees comes the sigh of marching rain,
And even evening birds bow heads, made mute
With gratitude. The drenched do not complain
For it’s been so dry that sunbeams refute
Green growing, and, as first fat drops pelt
The dirt, small puffs of dust are arising,
And now the sigh surrounds. I once felt
This way when a kiss brought a surprising
End to loneliness. But this shower’s brief
And already the soft sigh slides away
Through dimming evening; sweet mercy’s relief
Fades to memory’s grief, and dripping leaves pray
The way men pray when they confess they lack:
“Oh Lord, come back. Come back. Come back.”

************

P.S.

On Monday we got a mini-monsoon. The heat encouraged a general updraft to form a weak low over southern Maine, which sucked cool and moist maritime air inland and then south towards us, where it clashed with muggy air. At first the showers continued to dry up, as radar showed them approaching, but thunder thumped all around, and finally we got a few more showers. Around sixty miles to our south one locale got four inches and suffered wash-outs, but for the most part we dripped in a delightful summer drizzle. Who would ever think I could delight in drizzle?

LOCAL VIEW –Mining Wood–

In case you young folk want to know where firewood comes from, it comes from “wood mines”.

Wood Mine 1 IMG_0108

My rat-hunting dog begs to differ. She claims they are called “woof mines”.

Wood Mine 2 IMG_0111

The deep snows make everyday deeds, like getting an armload of wood, difficult. The deep snow-cover also seems to confuse the computer-model used to figure out our forecasts.  Temperatures are significantly lower than forecast. The low last night was forecast to be 10F (-12 Celsius) but instead it is getting down towards zero in the dark before dawn. But check out the forecast. Nearly fifty degrees warmer and raining by tomorrow!?

Wood Mine 3 IMG_0113

What a mess it could be! Everything will turn to slush and then freeze solid. Great start to winter. But if the snowbanks by the roads freeze solid it will be more difficult to skid off the roads. They become like bobsled runs.

 

ARCTIC SEA-ICE –Cross-polar Switcheroo–UPDATED

In 5 1/2 days the flow of air up at the Pole went from Canada-to-Siberia (November 28, lower left) to Siberia-to-Canada (December 4, lower right.)

 

Personally I prefer Canada to export its cold air to Siberia, for that means there is less left over to freeze my socks off where I live,  south of the Canadian border in the state of New Hampshire. It seems to me that the last thing Canada needs during winter is the import of Siberian air.

I may be a bit prone to ranting about the subject of cold weather at the moment, as we have been at the center of a so-called “lollypop” on snowfall maps, and are dealing with 36 inches. (91 cm). It’s unfair, because the politicians in the capitals of Concord, New Hampshire 35 miles to our northeast, and Boston, Massachusetts 49 miles to our southeast, experienced less than six inches. If there was any justice they’d be the ones digging down three feet to get a stick of firewood, or even to get their mail. 

But maybe its for the best. If they had to deal with three feet of snow they’d likely invent some new tax or fee to deal with it, and never shovel a flake themselves.

I amuse myself by imagining what politicians would come up with. Perhaps they’d concoct a fee to supply every mailman with a snow-shovel to dig down to mailboxes with, but only a nickle of every dollar would reach the mailman, as 95 cents went to “administration”, which would of course involve the politician’s  Aunt Agnes and Cousin Waldo, plus anyone else who contributed to his reelection.  This alone explains why governments are so inefficient when they attempt to do what ordinary people do. When I shovel out my mailbox 100% of my energy goes into the job, but when politicians try to do the same job 95% goes to nepotism and cronyism, and the remaining 5% causes the Postal Workers to go on strike, for currently they refuse to deliver me my mail if my mailbox is under snow,  (even though I pay them to deliver it with my taxes),  and if you supply them with a shovel and tell them to deliver the damn mail even if it involves digging,  you will not only see no digging, but you will see no mail delivered.  In essence the entire tax-dollar is wasted.

In like manner, it seems my imagination is wasted, when I spend time on the antics of politicians. It seems far better to spend my imagination on the antics of clouds. Not only has the government not yet found a way to tax us for looking at clouds, (though they have invented a “view tax” to add onto the property taxes of houses on hills), but also clouds are 100% efficient, whether it is the cloud’s job to free the sunshine, or to dump three feet of snow on my mailbox.

One reason I look to the North Pole is because it gives me a heads-up to what my future may hold. It was good news that the cross-polar-flow went from Canada to Siberia, for it promised a break in the arctic outbreaks that afflicted us. But it is bad news that the cross-polar-flow has undergone the switcheroo. Mark my words, after a mild spell to start next week, the (bleep) is going to hit the fan around here, and I may manage very few posts about sea-ice, until spring.

One interesting thing about watching cross-polar-flow is that it doesn’t matter which way the air goes, it warms crossing the Arctic Sea. People tend to see the North Pole as the source of cold, but in actual fact the source is Tundra, and to a lesser extent Taiga.  Over Siberia temperatures can drop to -90 F, which gives us pretty pictures like this:

On Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, Anastasia Gruzdeva poses for a selfie as the temperature dropped to about 58 degrees below zero in Yakutsk, Russia.

However as that air is sucked towards Canada via cross-polar-flow one notes it swiftly warms, right at the surface, and the Central Arctic Basin seldom sees temperatures below -30ºF, very rarely sees temperatures below -40ºF, and never (that I have seen) reaches temperatures below -50ºF.

Meanwhile Alaska and northern Canada, though not as expansive as Siberia, can see temperatures below  -70ºF. When the cross-polar-flow  moves from Canada to Siberia, one again sees the surface temperatures rise.

What does this suggest? First, it suggests that the true sources of arctic cold are Northern Eurasia and Northern North America, and the Arctic Sea is actually a “heat-island” between two very cold places. Second, because the Arctic Sea is a “heat island” and because warm air rises, it must constantly be sucking air north to replace the air that rises.

If the air sucked north is from the Atlantic or Pacific, it is “maritime” air and slows the growth of sea-ice as it is relatively mild (though usually below freezing). But if the air sucked north is from Siberia or Canada it is “continental” and enhances the growth of sea-ice because it is very cold.  In simplistic terms all Alarmists should root for maritime air being sucked north while all Skeptics root for continental air being sucked north.

In actual fact the opposite may  be true. If you study the temperatures of air-masses,  it becomes obvious nothing squanders the planet’s heat as swiftly as a mild air-mass moving to the sunless Pole. In like manner, nothing preserves the planet’s heat as much as it’s coldest air never freezing lower latitudes, and instead being warmed over the Arctic Sea.

Some eloquent arguments  may then arise between those over-focused on sea-ice and those over-focused on air temperatures. Both are “wrong”,  for the situation is complex and involves multiple variables. One reason climate models fail is because they miss certain variables, or fail to give certain “weight” to certain variables, or even to vary the “weight” of variables (which creates varying variables). It is so complex it tends to give me a headache, so what I prefer to do is to make an overly simplistic forecast and then enjoy my failure. Fortunately no one is depending on my forecasts, for it frees me from blame and guilt, and, like a child at play, I think train wrecks are cool.

peter-arno-drawing-board-cartoon-new-yorker-1941-8x6

 

One train wreck in my forecasting has been due to attempting to see a pattern, when the pattern is a switcheroo pattern, which in essence is a lack of a pattern. If you try to base things on a Canada-to-Siberia flow then you get messed up when the pattern goes through a switcheroo and is the exact opposite 5 1/2 days later.

Another train wreck occurred because a pattern did persist even as things all around it were going through a switcheroo. What happened was that an upper air trough in eastern North America combined with a ridge to the west and brought a flow of arctic air persistently south, the first half of November.  Then this flow was interrupted by the Aleutian Low penetrating the ridge in the west, which allowed Pacific air to flood inland in Canada. What this usually means is that our north winds become noticeably milder, because it involves air from a different “source”.  That change was the “switcheroo”, but the arctic air wasn’t entirely banished from the north winds. Way over towards Greenland a thin ribbon of arctic air bled south, sneaking over the east side of Hudson Bay into Quebec. That was the “pattern that persisted”. Perhaps the arctic wasn’t breaking records and sending impressive blobs of high pressure south, (causing Texan ranchers to laconically drawl, “Nothin’ between here and the North Pole but a few strands of barbed wire an’ some cold cows.”) But the arctic flow persisted in the very east of Canada. That resulted in a personal train-wreck forecast, for that cold air was the reason that rather than rain we got three feet of snow.

If one is in the mood to be gloomy, that persistent drain of cold in the east of Canada, even when the west is flooded with Pacific air, does not bode well for the Great Plains and East of the USA. If it effects us even when the cross-polar-flow is Canada-to-Siberia, it will be far worse when the flow is Siberia-to-Canada. Our worst winters see the arctic sweep south down the east side of the Rockies, brew trouble by mixing with tropical air in the Gulf of Mexico, and send snowstorms up the east coast.  This early in the winter the Atlantic retains summer warmth, so the storms often contain rain or are all rain, but as the winter proceeds the big cities of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and even Washington D.C. get clouted, (and politicians get busy dealing with the climate by raising taxes).

Around here the last thing we want right now is rain. When you have three feet of snow on your roof the snow acts like a sponge in the rain, and the weight of all the wet snow can cause buildings to collapse. In fact I’m going to shovel the roof of my goat’s stable over the weekend. (When younger I made some extra money during bleak winters risking my neck in that manner, but now I just do it for survival, which I also call “fun”.)

There seems to be a lag of up to a week between events in Northern Canada and repercussions reaching us down here. A switcheroo up there leads to erratic weather down here. It’s still too early to be certain what the winter pattern will be. One looks for things to “settle down”, but one also is not entirely sure the switcheroo-pattern might not be THE pattern, and chaos will continue non-stop. Stay tuned.

(I’ll ad some graphs and the individual DMI polar isobar and isotherm maps later, when I find time. But now I have to go shovel a roof.)

*******

OK. Heavy rain is now reducing any snow that hasn’t been shoveled from local roofs, allowing me to scrutinize maps.

When I last posted a Aleutian Gale had been deflected north up the Siberian side of Bering Strait, (becoming “Hula Ralph #2”). The southerly gales up through Bering Strait actually pushed the expanding sea-ice backwards, increasing the open water (and warmer surface temperatures) north of Bering Strait. (Nov. 24 to left; Nov, 27 to right).

Sometimes these retreats of sea-ice can cause a dip in the extent graph, but in this example the decrease in the Chukchi Sea was more than matched by increases in the Kara and Greenland Seas and Hudson and Baffin Bay.

By November 29 Hula-Ralph #2 was rapidly weakening north of Alaska, and I was watching the next Aleutian Low to see if would follow the same path. Despite the vast impulse of Pacific air coming north through Bering Strait and across the entirety of Alaska, the Pole itself was still cooling, which was not what I expected. I expected the Pacific “feeder-band” to fuel more of a “Ralph” low north of the New Siberian Islands, but instead an Atlantic low strengthened at the top of Norway.

Over the next two days the Pacific influence continued to dwindle, to my surprise. The influx of pacific air cooled, precipitating very little snow, and the next Aleutian Low faded without coming north, though it did swing a secondary into Alaska. The Canada-to-Siberia cross-polar-flow was falling apart, but I still expected the Atlantic low to fade and high pressure to reassert itself on the Atlantic side, as all the Pacific air would allow low pressure to reassert on the Pacific side, resurrecting the Canada-to-Siberia flow.

The map of December 2 made a train-wreck of my expectations.

First, polar temperatures hit their lowest levels of the year, despite the huge invasion of Pacific air through Bering Strait. To be honest, the invasion seemed a spectacular flop. All the invasion seemed to accomplish was to lose an incalculable amount of heat to the arctic night.

Second, I failed to foresee the expansion of high pressure from Siberia, even as I failed to forecast the low pressure expanding north through Baffin Bay. A month ago a similar low moved right up to the Pole, but I had low confidence the current low could do the same, with the Siberian high advancing from the other side of the Pole. It seemed to me an irresistible force was meeting an immovable object, and I tend to avoid forecasting the outcomes of such affairs. 

The next day saw the two powers both stronger, and still at a stand-off, but the isobars between the two suggested the cross-polar-flow was completely reversed to Siberia-to-Canada.

The next day showed the Siberian high pressure won. Just as the Aleutian Low failed to penetrate north the prior week, and instead was deflected east, now the Baffin Bay low was deflected east into the Atlantic. The cross polar-flow was starting to suck in some milder Atlantic air through Fram Strait, creating a feeder-band north of Greenland.

One day later saw the high weaker, and a massive Atlantic storm strengthening. This storm had sub-950 mb and the power of a super-typhoon, but such beasts get little press, as there are not even shipping lanes that far north. But what does get press is temperatures at the North Pole, and this Icelandic Gale pumped the feeder-band north of Greenland fatter, and warmed the Pole. I found it odd that a feeder-band existed without a “Ralph”, and I was paying undue attention to the very weak low pressure north of the Canadian Archipelago. I dubbed that low “Wimpy-Ralph.”

Maps a half-day later day demonstrated what a wimp that Ralph was. Rather than being fed by the feeder band he was weaker, and pushed east.

A half-day later Wimpy-Ralph had made a train-wreck of my theory feeder-bands feed Ralphs, for he was weaker and getting pushed southwest. However Wimpy-Ralph was, besides crimping my egotism, crimping the cross-polar-flow. It no longer came straight across from Siberia, but now described a backwards “S”, first swinging towards Svalbard to scoop up some Atlantic air, before curving towards Alaska, and only then swinging down to Canada. (At this point it is interesting to think of the cross-polar-flow as a high-pressure-hose laying on a pavement. When it swings over in one direction, what do you expect will follow?)

Only a day later the cross-polar-flow is aiming down the east coast of Greenland, rather than curving around towards Alaska. How could such a dramatic shift occur?

First, the Siberian high pressure, though weakening towards Siberia, expanded greatly towards Canada, pushing Wimpy-Ralph down towards Hudson’s Bay.  In fact while the official center of the high pressure is still over the New Siberian Islands, the body of high pressure is generally moving across the Pole.

Second, if high pressure is moving away, low pressure tends to replace it, especially if other factors support growth, and in the Kara Sea we see growing low pressure from a “kicker” storm ahead of the weakening Icelandic gale now hitting the northwest coast of Norway.

The next day’s map shows the Siberian High and Kara Low performing a sort of Polar Waltz, something remotely like the Fujiwara Effect between adjacent Typhoons.  Let it suffice to say (because I can’t claim to understand it) that the body of the high pressure is dislodged from the coast of Siberia and is moving towards North America.

The following two days show stuff occurring on the Pacific side, associated with the Aleutian Low, and the Atlantic side, associated with the Icelandic Low, which may well be the subject of my next post. However, for this post, simply notice how the dislodged high pressure moves across to Canada.

I may well be laying the tracks for my next train wreck, but to me it seems the cross-polar-passage of an entire high pressure system is more significant than cross-polar-isobars which are here today and gone tomorrow.

For one thing, cross-polar-isobars only suggest winds “can” transport air from Siberia to Canada. The actual transport takes time. How long? You’d have to send up a balloon, and see how long it took to float from Siberia to Canada.

You can be certain the balloon wouldn’t follow the straight path suggested by one map, when following maps first curve the path towards Alaska and then down the east coast of Greenland.

However, when an entire high-pressure crosses the Pole, in some ways it is a big balloon, in and of itself. (And I know, I know, some don’t like to call a high-pressure a “thing”, and to say it is but a reflection out outside imbalances, but for the sake of argument allow me to state it has a reality and is an entity.) This balloon is not a hot- air balloon, rising, but is a cold-air balloon, pressing down and making barometers read “high pressure”. (In such a case a high-pressure represents a big blob of cold air, and therefore is a “thing”.)

The power of such Siberian cold can be hidden, for its lowest levels are warmed by the passage over the thin ice of the Arctic Sea. However the surface maps mute the true intensity of the cold. If we could only afford towers, or perhaps drones, to measure temperatures only a hundred feet above the sea-ice, we might see that the warming of Siberian cold passing over the Arctic Sea is superficial. It seems to me that I have seen constant examples of times such air, the moment it moves from the Arctic Sea into Canada, reveals its true nature. It was not truly made into a maritime air-mass by passing over the Arctic Sea, but rather was a Siberian air-mass with its very bottom, as little as six feet thick, turned into a maritime air-mass. How can I claim such a thing? It is because air “above-normal” over the Arctic Sea can become “below-normal” within a half hour of moving inland and over Canadian Tundra. This would be difficult to do, because Tundra’s “normal” is so much colder than the “normal” over sea-ice, but becomes possible when the layer of “warm” air is so very thin it is easy to mix out of existence.

In any case, it will be interesting to watch the high-pressure that has crossed the Pole, and to see if it is a “thing” that causes North America grief.

To conclude this update, I should revert to the subject of sea-ice, and state that neither the invasion of Pacific air through Bering Strait, nor the feeder-band that invaded north of Greenland and fed Wimpy-Ralph, slowed the yearly growth of sea-ice. In fact the growth has been so rapid we are no longer counted among the lowest years.

If you are into headlines, you need to change the September headline “Lowest Extent In Five Years” to “Highest Extent In Five Years.” (No bother, because you’re only changing one word.)DMI 191212 osisaf_nh_iceextent_daily_5years_en

Hudson Bay is in the process of swiftly freezing over. (November 30 to left; December 11 to right.)

We are ahead of the same date in 2016 (left) but behind 2017 (right)

Hudson Bay Dec 10 2016 2017

As soon as the Bay skims over the cold is able to build much more swiftly to my north, and north winds become crueler here.

The only thing Alarmists have to crow about is sea-ice “volume”, which is notoriously hard to determine, but is currently quite low:

Volume 191210 Screenshot_2019-12-11 DMI Modelled ice thickness

I think the low volume is largely due to the open water north of Bering Strait, but that area is rapidly shrinking and Bering Strait is now bridged by sea-ice.

Thickness 191210 Screenshot_2019-12-11 DMI Modelled ice thickness(1).png

Also of interest has been the slow growth of a sort of mountain range of thicker sea-ice all the way from Svalbard to Wrangle Island. This range of ice has largely been created by the transport of ice from the marginal seas along the Eurasian coast. The Laptev Sea is always a great creator and exporter of sea-ice, as cold winds blow north from Siberia, shifting sea-ice away from shore and creating polynyas of open water which swiftly refreeze in the frigid winds. But this year it seems the Kara, East Siberian and even Chukchi Seas are also getting into the act.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

LOCAL VIEW –Carrot Crop–

Sometimes my Childcare work is actually fun, to a degree where I feel a bit guilty for charging people to do it. Such was the case with the carrot crop, this year.

Carrots, like parsnips, are a biennial, and put their energy into forming a big root the first year. If you leave the root in the ground then the second year the carrot puts all the energy stored in the root into producing a beautiful flower (shaped like it’s close cousin, Queen Anne’s lace), and then produces so many carrot seeds that they can become a weed, in certain situations.

Because they are a biennial they handle freezes well, and I tend to harvest them last, for two reasons.

The first is that I have a tendency to procrastinate whenever possible, not because I am particularly lazy, but rather because life is so full of fun things to do that I always over-schedule. Usually I am busy doing one thing, but even when I am busy with one task I am procrastinating in terms of ten or twenty other tasks. This tends to get me in trouble, but also makes me highly skilled when it comes to inventing excuses for procrastinating. The best excuses are those which disguise the procrastination as part of a “plan.” And this brings me to the second reason for harvesting carrots last.

One year, as I was procrastinating in my usual way, I continued my usual habit of pulling a few carrots every day for my wife’s needs, and noticed that as the carrot greens finally browned (and they are one of the final things in the garden to give up on greenness in the autumn) that the carrot roots beneath the greens abruptly grew substantially larger. I suppose the carrot pulls all energy from those greens down into it’s roots. This was a great thing to discover. No longer was I procrastinating, but instead I was being a wise farmer and “ensuring my carrots achieved their optimum size.”

This year I nearly paid the price for this procrastination. The first hard, carrot-browning freeze of winter was not a “Squaw Winter” followed by an “Indian Summer”. (Yes, I know such terms are now politically-incorrect, but it is also politically-incorrect to criticize the traditions of an indigenous people, and, as the Yankee have been squatting here stewards of New England for 399 years, I figure we deserve to be called “indigenous”), (especially by globalists who have no culture nor traditions whatsoever.)

This year the cold came with unusual ferocity, and the first blast was followed in short order by a second, and then a third. The autumn began to remind me of the start to the winter of 1976-1977, where the “Squaw Winter” came without an “Indian Summer”, and turned out to be “Real Winter” and froze our socks off all the way into February.

Usually our temperatures drop steadily through November; our lows bottom out around freezing at the start of the month and sink to around 24° (-4.4° Celsius) by the end of the month. But this November, during the three savage, arctic blasts that hit us, the high temperature was 24°, and the lows set records, around 12° (-11° Celsius) even back at the start of the month.

This led to a problem, when I took the children out to the “carrot harvest” at our Farm-childcare. The ground was frozen hard as iron, and the carrots were stuck in it like rivets. At first I thought I’d need a jackhammer to dig them out, but I managed to jump on my shovel with such zeal I broke through to the unfrozen earth, and then could pry up slabs and plates of brown, frozen earth, roughly three inches thick, with the tapered ends of orange carrots protruding from the bottom. By whacking and smashing these plates the plates could be broken into chunks, and the carrots wrenched free (and they tasted just as good when thawed) but to me it seemed like an awful lot of work, per carrot.

Of course, when you are dealing with children two, three and four years old, they have no idea that this is not how things are always done. Also they find it sort of fun to smash plates, and not get in trouble for it. Prying up the plates had me huffing and puffing, and I would have given the job up, but the kids were having such a blast I continued to pry up frozen slabs of earth even after I was too weary to break them up, and they kept up their smashing and prying-carrots-loose until we had filled a grain bag with some forty pounds, and they also all had small bags holding their “favorite carrots” to bring home with them.

I could not, in good conscience, allow them to think this was a usual carrot-harvest. We had done less than half of the twenty-four foot double-row in twice the time it would usually take to complete the entire harvest. I attempted to get across the idea I had procrastinated too long, but they’d had too much fun to understand Aesop’s fable about The Grasshopper and the Ant, and so I abandoned my moralizing and just told them I was going to try to “soften the soil”, to make the rest of the harvest easier.

Then I found an old, black tarp to cover the rest of the carrots with. I figured the black would absorb sunshine and might even thaw the soil. Most of the children were not the slightest bit interested, but this year I have one small boy who tags along with me and has an owlish interest in everything I do. He even reached out with his small hand and felt the black tarp along with me, noticing the slight warmth it gathered from the low November noon. He then owlishly listened as I reminisced, (like the garrulous old coot I am), about the winter of 1976-1977. There may not have been an Indian Summer that November, but I seemed to recollect the blasts did relent to a degree where temperatures were normal for a while, edging above freezing every noon. Perhaps the soil around our carrots could thaw.

I seem to get a small sidekick like this owlish boy every few years. They are precociously articulate, and what is especially nice is that they are deeply concerned about my well-being. They seem very aware I am hapless and need help, but they own this awareness in a manner that is amazingly respectful. For example, when I am rummaging through the staff’s packs for a missing flashlight (which we need for November’s early-evening darkness), this particular boy will first inquire what I am looking for, and, second, point out a flashlight I’d never notice at the back of a counter on the far side of the room.

If the sidekick is a female, it is like I have the secretary I’ve long yearned-for but could never afford, in the form of a four or five-year old girl. This small boy is like having a butler. He is unnaturally interested in my interests, and unnaturally helpful.

Where the other children forgot all about carrots under the onslaught of other interests, this young fellow popped up the next day, smiling and helpful, and querulously wondering in a piping voice if the soil had started to thaw under the tarp. This was helpful to me, for, under the onslaught of other concerns, I might have forgotten all about carrots myself. We checked the soil daily.

In any case, we lucked out. An Aleutian Low crashed east into Alaska, interrupting the southward delivery of arctic air and allowing us just enough sunshine and thaw to soften the soil under the tarp. (And if you don’t believe me, ask my small butler. Though born in 2014, he will inform you, “This may have happened in 1976 as well,”) (because he asked me.)

Because the soil under the tarp did thaw, the rest of the carrot-harvest was much easier, though at first the other children were less than eager. If you look at the picture at the start of the post, you’ll notice only two children are working, and the rest are standing around. Perhaps they were a bit desultory because there were no “plates” to break, but they soon got over that, which is why there are no further pictures. I was soon too busy “providing child care” to take pictures.

The first problem involved breaking up fights about who would get the shovel next, and be the next to get to dig carrots. I attempted to teach them about “taking turns” and “sharing”, but they were too impatient for that. They skipped off in all directions and returned with more shovels than I knew our Childcare possessed, including tiny shovels ordinarily seen when building sand castles on a beach. One girl couldn’t be bothered with a shovel, and scooped with her hands in a manner that puts badgers to shame.

The second problem was that dirt was flying in all directions, and I had to instruct the young in ditch-digger-protocol, and teach them how to dig without flinging a face-full of dirt at a neighbor. Despite my instructions, I had to pause to attend to eyes weeping muddy tears, but even that tearful, offended face swiftly became riveted on the next carrot.

No two carrots are alike. This seemed to intrigue the small children and make them dig faster. They were constantly exclaiming over how a carrot was especially fat or long or round or small or crooked, and would dissolve into gales of laughter over a carrot that forked like two legs (which made me cringe slightly, for, in prior years, a small, tertiary fork between the two “legs” has resulted in child-like hilarity and frank discussions, which can present problems to child care providers.)

I hardly dug at all, so busy was I with other issues, but I instructed the children to place the gold they dug up in a single pile. The pile looks small, in the picture at the start of this post, but it grew and grew. When I put all the carrots in a second grain bag it amounted to a second forty pounds (minus carrots children took home.)

Forgive me for being a bit smug, but I can’t help myself. We had a great time. Not a child whined all morning that they were bored or that they wanted to go home. Nor did my staff or myself need to concoct a “plan” or belabor a “curriculum”. The “curriculum” was “dig carrots”.

And what did this “curriculum” teach? At the very least it taught where carrots come from. (The first year my wife and I opened our Farm-childcare a small child asked me, “Why do you dig dirty carrots when you could get clean ones in plastic bags at the store?”)

Good things come from dirt. I don’t know why this is such a revelation. But a mother did give me a disapproving look, as she picked up her daughter after our carrot-harvest. She had just washed her daughter’s play pants, and already the knees were brown.

ARCTIC SEA-ICE –Cross Polar Punch–

I awoke this morning, (before I actually opened my eyes), to the wintry chorus of roaring pines, moving majestically across the distance from my northern window to my southern one, and instinctively visualized where I last saw my warm slippers, and planned a bee-line to the wood-stove. In the predawn twilight it was 12 degrees out (-11 Celsius). When I made it to the wood-stove, and as I nursed my first coffee, I awoke my grumpy laptop and avoided depressing politics by checking out weather sites. In many parts of New England the arctic blast was setting records for the coldest morning, as far back as records go, for the date of November 13. I failed to avoid depressing politics, for many were commenting, “Global Warming? Bah! Humbug!” even as others insisted record-setting cold was proof of Global Warming. So I sought the best escape, which is either the sky itself, or weather maps of what the actual sky is doing, for the sky does what it does and doesn’t care a flying flip about your politics.

Because it was so cold, my eyes gravitated north, to where the cold was coming from. Arctic air leads to arctic research, (and, in this case, a short sea-ice post.)

I immediately noticed a “cross-polar-flow”. On surface maps you could basically follow the 1020 mb isobar from Greece across the North Pole to Canada.

What effect does this cross-polar-flow have? Well, it crumples my brow, for starters. Why? Well, I confess I was looking for some sort of “zonal flow”. A zonal flow traps cold air at the Pole by wrapping winds around and around the Pole. You can’t get more opposite from a zonal flow than a cross-polar-flow. It was time for me to get back to the old drawing board.

One interesting thing about a cross-polar-flow is that it doesn’t merely embarrass the idea of a “zonal” jet stream, but also embarrasses the idea of the apparent opposite idea, which is the “meridienal” (or “loopy”) jet-stream. Both ideas involve the bias of southern people who tend to think in terms of winds going around the planet, and who draw elegant and beautiful schemes of how this occurs.

The problem with this elegant and beautiful idea is this dratted thing called “Truth”. The North Pole simply doesn’t work in the manner that we, with our southern bias, assume it works, and therefore the Pole is constantly splatting a custard pie into the fair face of our beautiful and elegant theories. (Which likely explains why our long-range forecasts stink.) Rather than winds politely obeying the elegant and beautiful theory, (which winds sometimes do), winds become rude, and disobey. One way is by forming howling gales of low pressure (which I call “Ralph”) right where the above illustration shows high pressure at the Pole, and another way is by whipping over the top of the planet rather than around the top, which is called “cross-polar-flow.”

Rather than getting mad at Truth, and calling it “cruel”, I try to take the attitude of the poet John Keats, and rhapsodize “Truth is Beauty”. After all, a bit of custard pie in your face doesn’t taste all that bad, and anyway, any man who marries meteorology has married a wonderful wench who will mash wedding cake into your mug ten minutes after you say “I do”. Get used to it.

One reason cross-polar-flow should be attended to is because it has caused havoc in the the past. Between 1815 and 1817 it dumped an amazing amount of sea-ice south into the Atlantic, which resulted in the following statement in minutes of a British Admiralty meeting:

It will without doubt have come to your Lordship’s knowledge that a considerable change of climate, inexplicable at present to us, must have taken place in the Circumpolar Regions, by which the severity of the cold that has for centuries past enclosed the seas in the high northern latitudes in an impenetrable barrier of ice has been during the last two years, greatly abated...

(This) affords ample proof that new sources of warmth have been opened and give us leave to hope that the Arctic Seas may at this time be more accessible than they have been for centuries past, and that discoveries may now be made in them not only interesting to the advancement of science but also to the future intercourse of mankind and the commerce of distant nations.”
President of the Royal Society, London, to the Admiralty, 20th November, 1817

While the apparent cross-polar-flow of those times may have been good news for those who desired an ice-free arctic to enhance their explorations, it was not good news for those further south, where all that sea-ice went. Ice-bergs were grounding on the beaches of Ireland (which has not been recorded happening since) and the waters of the North Atlantic were chilled to a degree where Western Europe had a horrible growing-season called “The Year Without A Summer.”

It would seem logical to investigate such history, but sadly it seems some see such records as unhelpful to the “cause” of panicking the public about Global Warming. Current low-levels of sea-ice will seem less worrisome if people realize even lower levels were seen in the past.

The person who first dug up the Admiralty Records and brought them to the public’s attention was named John L. Daly. John died in 2004, and when he died a prominent Climate-scientist of that dark time remarked that his death was “in an odd way cheering news”. I was utterly disgusted when I learned of this, (in the “climate-gate emails”), for it was indicative of an attitude that did not look fondly upon Truth, or upon those who work hard to bring Truth forward.

In the 15 years since John L. Daly passed on I have seen little sign that certain Climate Scientists “in charge” are in any way wiser, or are any more likely to work hard to bring Truth forward. In fact there even seems to be an effort to erase the name “John L. Daly” from Climate Science altogether.

What a waste of effort! Life is too short, and there is too little time left over, (after dealing with worldly responsibilities like washing dishes), as it is. We should be spending every little bit of free time we have bringing Truth forward. What a loss it seems to waste that time by spending such slender moments pushing Truth back. I can only assume people who resort to such behavior are addicts. After all, heroin addicts will sell their grandmother’s cane and false teeth for their next fix. Certain Climate-scientists must need a similar fix, when they waste precious hours on earth fighting a man like John L. Daly, even though he has been beyond fighting back for 15 years. (Perhaps the news of John’s death was not so “cheering” after all, because perhaps the Truth which John stood for cannot die, and rises from the grave.)

I’m just glad I’m not addicted to whatever it is they are. I’d rather confess I am backwards than claim “science is settled” and that I stand at some “forefront”, when such a claim is proof even the most educated Climate-scientist is more backward than I.

How can I make such a claim? After all, I am not a Climate-scientist. I’m a mere bumpkin. But I do respect Truth. And this strangely makes me “more educated” then fellows who went to college. Why? I can only suppose it is because some element of their education made them too snobby and sophisticated to listen to some silly blond like Doris Day sing “Que Sera, Sera”. (Whatever will be, will be).

To return to the arctic, when I note cross-polar-flow occurs, I am merely noting, “Whatever will be, will be.” As a bumpkin I am not required to publish a paper with fifty footnotes, or to find funding to pay for others to wash my dishes as I research. I am free of all that.

Though I wonder why the cross-polar-flow happened, I am not required to say why. I merely state the Truth. I continue to wonder, but am not required to prove anything.

I’m glad I don’t have to supply any Truth, for, as I stated earlier, I was expecting a “zonal” flow, and expected the pocket of below-normal air at the Pole to expand. In a manner of speaking the cross-polar-flow brought milder air to the Pole and, as in a game of “king-of-the-mountain”, bumped the cold air off the top and down into Canada and Alaska.

Here is the temperature-anomaly map from November 11, showing the blue pocket of below-normal air at the Pole.

And here is the temperature-anomaly map just three days later on November 14.

Notice, in the second map, the spear of above-normal temperatures moving north through Eastern Europe. It becomes less obvious as it moves out over the Arctic Ocean, (because in November a continental land-breeze is colder than a maritime sea-breeze, on the arctic coast), but it seems fairly obvious the flow is not zonal, and we should see a mild “feeder band” warming the Pole. And sure enough, the DMI polar temperature graph shows a spike of warming.

Instead of seizing upon this spike as being proof of some preconception about Global Warming, I feel it is likely better to sit back and observe, humming “Que Sera, Sera”. There are far more questions than answers.

For example, sometimes you can follow a surge of milder air and see it keep its identity across thousands of miles. I once watched a spear of midwinter warmth surge from the Atlantic inland in Europe and cross the entirety of Russia, fading but still evident as it reached the Pacific. But this cross-polar-flow isn’t like that. Rather various atmospheric-entities were moving every which way like a bunch of baby ducks, and suddenly some mother duck quacked and got all the ducks in a row, called a cross-polar-flow.

Also I am never certain if the south wind bumps the cold off the Pole, or if it is the departure of a cold air mass that creates a vacuum that draws the south-wind north. What came first, the chicken or the egg?

In other words, on some levels my understanding amounts to a goose egg. (There, I worked ducks, chickens and geese into a discussion about the arctic.)

However one does not need to understand the Truth to observe the Truth. In fact Truth is the teacher, and we are just taking notes. Then we should compare notes with others, which is a delightful process, because it is as if we gain additional sets of eyes. What is absurd is to ignore the observations of others, including observers who are not with us any more, such as John L. Daly.

One interesting thing I noticed was that the edge of the sea-ice stopped expanding southwest in the Kara Sea, and even retreated north and northeast, pushed towards the Pole by the cross-polar-flow. (A second feeder band sneaked in through Bering Strait along the Russian coast and pushed sea-ice back a bit in the Chukchi Sea.) However the colder part of the cross-polar-flow completed the refreeze at the mouth of the Mackenzie River, and overall the sea-ice extent continued its yearly expansion.

One thing I’ll be watching to see is how the feeder-bands of milder air behave up at the Pole. If they form a stormy “Ralph” it may break up the sea-ice in places.

As I finish this post it is now the morning of November 14, and outside it 17° (-8° Celsius), with a steely gray overcast as southern air tries to push back north. We may briefly climb to 45° (+7° Celsius) tomorrow, before yet another arctic blast clobbers us. Hopefully that will drain the arctic of its cold, for at least a while. A snowy Thanksgiving only looks good on postcards.

LOCAL VIEW –Beautiful Breezes–

Winter may be conceding defeat, at long last, (though they are still getting May snows to our west, in Denver and Minnesota).  After our bit of sleet here last week, the south finally broke through the veritable wall of chill that always seems to keep New England cold, even when the Mid-Atlantic states swelter, most every April (and, this year, into the first half of May).

The dividing line between summery-warmth and early-spring-chill is often shown on weather maps by a warm front approaching New England from the south. We Yankees watch the approach of this warm front with both hope and cynicism.  On rare occasions it flies right past us: I recall one hot spell in the first days of April (in 1990?) when we hit 90ºF, but such events are rare. More often the warm front stalls. Things conspire against it’s progress. The waters south of New England is chilled by winter; mountain ranges to our west allow cold air to crouch low, and to refuse to budge. To our west the warm front may proceed north to Albany, Burlington, Toronto, even Montreal, but it dips south to the east, and can’t cross New England.

The warm front is attached to a storm to our west, and the south winds ahead of that storm are assisted by high pressure to our east, (which is a westward extension of the Azores High, locally known as the Bermuda High).  As the storm is deflected to our north by this high, it eventually finds a “weakness” and proceeds east to our north, “over the top” of the high pressure. As the storm passes to our north it drags a cold front south, and the cold front usually passes over us just as the warm front is tantalizingly close, brushing the warm front (and all its warm air) out to sea.

If the cold front is powerful, then clear, crisp weather follows, but if the cold front is feeble, and if the Bermuda High is strong, the cold front becomes stationary just to our south, and dreary weather continues, as the stationary front eventually becomes a warm front as the next storm approaches. Sometimes the front undulates like bumps on a shaken jump-rope, and a series of weak storms pass.  But this isn’t all that interesting, unless you are a meteorologist. In fact it irks you, if you are stuck in New England, suffering cold and cloudy weather, craving spring.

By May, to our north, the nights are getting short and the days very long, and there is simply no way the north can generate arctic air, with so much sunshine. Rather than “arctic fronts” the cold fronts start to be called “polar fronts”.  Also the boundary between the north and south retreats north, as does the “storm track”. Therefore it is usually May when we finally see some truly summer-like air make it this far north. Hallelujah!

I will post all the interesting maps at the end of this post, but, knowing some are bored by maps (an attitude which I fail to understand, but respect), I’ll simply state what we experienced.

One thing I should mention is that an indicator of clean waters, called by some “the State Bird of Maine”, appears just when the weather gets nice. It is called “the black fly.”  It is a reason many who move to New Hampshire depart after a summer or two. If you work outside, as I do, you tend to like cold mornings, as black flies don’t pester until temperatures approach 60ºF, and also you tend to like breezy days, when swarms of insidious insects try like heck to swim upstream and get to you, but fail, just downwind.

One nice thing about this cold and wet spring is that the chill kept the black flies at bay. I got lots of vegetable gardening done. However it was also weather great for growing grass, but not so great for mowing, as the grass was too wet.

At this point I should mention another thing. I draw a distinction between gardening and gardening. Eh? My distinction boils down to this: “Can you eat it?” I spent years, even decades, working as a so-called “landscaper” for charming, rich old ladies, producing a crop you could have stored in a teacup. It wasn’t a total waste, for my work did feed me, my wife, and five children, but it bugged me that no actual food was produced. The old ladies had money, and their pay bought food, but all our work in gardens produced no actual food. Therefore, to this day, I have an almost allergic reaction towards non-productive gardening; (IE: “landscaping”.) I don’t mind growing sunflowers (seeds are high in protein), or roses (rose-hips are high in vitamin C) or day lilies (buds and wilted blooms make a delicious soup) but I very much mind cutting the grass. No one eats the grass. It might be acceptable if the cut grass was fed to livestock, which you could eat, but it isn’t.

In any case, my wife doesn’t want to hear my brilliant arguments. When the grass at our Farm-Childcare gets long, she believes we look more “professional” if it is cut. Because I believe I should chose my battles, I meekly cut the damn stuff. Fortunately it has been so rainy this spring that I haven’t often had the ability to cut the damn grass. But consequently the grass has gotten deep. I have noticed my wife giving me glances of an aggrieved sort. The time has come to act, or face consequences.

Yesterday would have been a perfect day to mow, as it was hot and muggy, and the black flies came swarming out. Back in the day I could keep them away by chain-smoking, as they don’t like smoke or nicotine, but since my lungs told me I had to quit such fly-repellent, I have found an inferior repellent is the exhaust of a mower. But yesterday, just when the grass started to dry out, the humid heat would produce a drenching downpour, and therefore the best use of my time was in the vegetable garden, where I produced future food for humans by planting seeds, and was present-tense food for clouds of hungry black flies.

Today would have been a perfect day to work in the vegetable garden, as the surge of tropical air fed a storm passing to our north, and as it strengthened it brought south a cold front, and then, as the departing storm strengthened further, the winds increased to a point where the average speed approached 20 mph, and a few gusts approached 50. There was not a black fly in sight.

At this point I should mention a final thing. At the northern latitude where I live you had better plant as early as you can. You have a limited “window of opportunity”. The growing season is so short that many crops will fail to mature, if you wait too long. Furthermore the sun is as high in late May as it is in early August. Farmers know that, after early August, the sun gets too low, and growing slows down. If you plant a bean after early August, it may sprout more quickly than it does in May, but then the sun is so low the bean grows in slow motion. If you plant in May you see results fast.

Therefore, on a breezy day in May, without a black fly in sight, the last thing I wanted to do was mow the grass. Yet I had to do it. I approached the mower with a bad attitude. To my own amazement I swiftly felt I was more lucky than I believed possible.

The grass was so long (and my rider-mower has such problems) that I had to creep, and the job took forever. (I exaggerate, but it did take hours.) Yet by the time I was done I felt blessed, for I can think of no other way I could have been forced to sit on my duff outside, and witness how wildly beautiful a windy day in May actually is.

There are times it is good to see what an ass you are. Behind my mower, I left cropped turf, basically a Marine crew-cut, as ahead of my mower I witnessed long grass responding to the wind. Have you ever watched long grasses on a windy day? How they ripple and shimmer? And sink and bound-back? How beautiful grass can be, yet what beauty was I making? Producing cropped turf behind me, that fed none?  (Maybe this experience should make me more understanding of those who cut me down, feeding none). In any case, it was amazing that the long grass I detested, when I began, became grass that was my guru:

What a wonderful windy wind it was
With gulped air clear from Canada; sky clear
As well; green grasses displaying the laws
Of brisk breezes; bounding far faster than deer
On the run; and shining and shimmering,
Rippling in clear sun’s pure white: A cool light
So different from yesterday’s simmering
Tropical humidity: Sheer delight
Whisking away the wetness; sweet sighing
Drying the dampness, then deeply roaring
To make new-leafed boughs bow, and trying
To make grasses bow. But bowing’s boring
If you’re hay in the wind. Instead, you prance,
And make ups-and-downs be part of your dance.

(To those of more scientific inclinations, I hope to find time to update this post with meteorological maps explaining the situation which led to the above sonnet.)

*******

Here are the promised maps, (from the Weatherbell site, which offers a 7-day free trial subscription, if you love weather maps.)

Yesterday’s map shows a strengthening 995 mb low departing over Nova Scotia, with strong breezes (blue) in its wake, and a cool, Canadian high-pressure pulled down over the Great Lakes to our west. The “Bermuda High” that gave us warm south winds is weakened to a small circle off Florida,  partially by a sub-tropical storm (actually given the name “Andrea”) moving through it and out to sea over Bermuda. As “Andrea” fades northeast the Azores High, to the lower right margin, will again extend west and combine with the unusually strong (for southerly latitudes) 990 mb low over Nebraska, which gave Denver snow on its cold side, and which is drawing warm air from the Gulf of Mexico on its warm side (and causing tornadoes where the cold and warm clash), and south winds will surge north again.

AA1 gfs_mslp_uv10m_conus_1

The Canadian High suppressed the above-normal warmth (red) to the southeast states, as much of the north and west was below-normal. (Blue, green and purple.) The cold and rain to the west is seriously delaying spring planting in America’s breadbasket.

AA2 gfs_t2m_anom_conus_1

The warmth is expected to rebound in the east in two days:

AA3 gfs_t2m_anom_conus_10

And then a ripple of cold again rides “over the top” of the high pressure, perhaps giving us thunder in three days.

AA4 gfs_t2m_anom_conus_12

The upper-air 500 mb maps have shown a stubborn ridge in the east, and deep trofs to the west that are forced to head north and then ripple up and over the eastern ridge.  Yesterday’s map showed above-normal pressures weakened to the east by “Andrea”, (light red) as the trof to the west is impressively below-normal (purple). The last trof, which was impressive out west, is far weaker, as it reaches Maine.

AA5 gfs_z500_sig_conus_1

If this pattern persists some places out west might not be able to plant at all, which makes my small, experimental garden a little more meaningful.

Might Want To Stock Up On Foodstuffs.

Some disconcerting statistics are starting to crop up (pun) in the graphs that farmers and people who invest in the “futures markets” attend to. The cold spring, and more importantly the wet spring, has delayed a lot of planting, in some cases to an “unprecedented” degree.

The problem with getting off to a late start is that it makes the planter susceptible to an early frost. In northern lands a growing-season is a limited window-of-opportunity, and there are many crops which are basically useless even if they are 95% grown.

Corn, beans, and squash were basic Native American foodstuffs, and all required warm summers. The point at which summers became too short and too cool was the dividing line between the agricultural Indians that grew the “three sisters”, and the hunter-gatherer Indians to their north. Here in New England there was, when the first Europeans arrived, a noticeable difference between northern and southern tribes, largely revolving around the most practical way to avoid the bother of hunger, called in extreme cases “starvation” or “famine”.

Modern Americans are some of the most spoiled people on earth, when it comes to worrying at all about food. In America the poor and uneducated are strikingly fat, which leads to jokes about the sanity of Americans. People from other lands know what it is like to walk into a grocery store and see no food on the shelves. Americans cannot envision such a state of affairs, and many haven’t a clue where their food even comes from.

This is an amazing downfall from the situation in my grandfather’s childhood in the 1890’s, when over half of all Americans were farmers, and all had to deal with horses because the automobile hadn’t been invented. Americans have been orphaned from Mother Nature, first by entering the indoor reality of the mills and factories, and now by living life gazing into the screens of TV’s and computers.

Fortunately, perhaps because of the agricultural foundations of America, many Americans resist the movement into the indoors, and have a somewhat idealist drive to be outdoors-men, (even when it is obvious they are pretenders.) The original idea of a suburb, (which is in some ways the antithesis of a true farming community), was sold to gullible Americans because people wanted to escape the city and get “back to nature”. Then, when the children of the suburbs realized suburbs were nothing like farms, the children became Hippies who wanted to form “communes” and get “back to nature” in a more genuine manner. Such Hippies tended to bail out from their ideal communes, once they realized how much hard work was involved, and sought a better-paying life in a bank or making a new thing called “computers”. Once they got some of this better-pay, what did they want to do with the money? Move out a bit farther from the city, outside of the sterilized suburbs, and create a little, toy farm and get “back to nature”.

Every ten years America has a census, and one thing the census attempts to determine is people’s “occupation”. The census-taker asks you to fit yourself into a list of categories.  One category was always “farmer”. But the category “farmer” will not even exist in the 2020 census. Farmers in some ways no longer matter, they are such a tiny minority. Is it any wonder that, if you bring up Jefferson’s ideas about “Yeoman Farmers”, many respond with a look of complete incomprehension?

This incomprehension strikes me as a bad thing. It is a form of ignorance, and ignorance isn’t good. In my small way I fight against such ignorance by running a Farm-Childcare where children can see what my grandfather took for granted. After ten years of dealing with modern youth I no longer am surprised when children, with innocent honesty, ask questions such as, “Why do you dig carrots from the dirty dirt rather than get clean carrots from the store?” or “Why do you get eggs from that hen’s stinky butt when the supermarket’s eggs are clean?”

My grandfather would have never asked such questions, as a child. He was not divorced from the outdoors to the degree we have achieved.

To some degree we have achieved a good thing, for we are not as cold nor as hungry, but in another way we have become stupid, because we do not have the same desire to work hard to avoid being cold or hungry. Many only experience hunger on purpose, when they diet.

We think food is a given. It most certainly is not. We think we have escaped Mother Nature. Again, we have not.

Even though the American census will no longer ask if people’s occupation is “farmer”, a surprising number of Americans still farm. They may not list it as their “occupation” on the census, but they devote time and money to their “hobby”. They produce tiny crops and sell at local farmer’s markets, yet people will pay double for what they produce.

Why? Because it tastes better. How much better? Well, when you can get eggs for $2.00 a dozen at a supermarket, some will pay $4.00 a dozen for “free range” eggs at a farmer’s market. That is how much better the eggs taste. The yolks are yellower and bulge up from the frying pan, rather than sagging flat, and the whites of each egg are of two consistencies, (thin and watery, and jelly-like), rather than the single, slimy substance which egg-whites turn into, when they sit in commercialized refrigerators for weeks and even months. But most importantly, they taste better. When people taste free range eggs they say, “Oh yes, this is what eggs taste like; I had forgotten.”

This is no big deal, if it is just one fellow selling an extra dozen eggs his six hens lay which he himself can’t eat, a few times a week. But, if it is thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of small fellows selling eggs, it adds up, and threatens a part of American Agribusiness called “Big Chicken”. Like “Big Oil”, they have a lobby in Washington, and seek to to protect their multi-million-dollar investments in non-free-range chickens by concocting complex legislation and thick sheaves of regulations that makes it a total headache for an ordinary bloke to simply sell a dozen eggs.

I personally have yet to deal with Big Chicken, but did experience the threat of Big Milk. Back when I was milking my goats I sold the raw milk (and some cheese we made of that milk), to people who wanted such produce. Then I learned such industry was highly illegal. In California the Federal Government had spent considerable dollars to arrange agents to come down hard on a store selling raw milk, as if they were selling drugs, or involved in child-prostitution. The hippies in a small store in San Francisco were flabbergasted when a veritable SWAT team charged into their New Age shop from all sides with drawn guns.

What was the crime? Apparently, in the entire United States, raw milk had caused seven cases of some serious illness. This was the excuse used to make a farmer selling his own raw milk illegal.  Not wishing to face a SWAT team, I then looked into making my industry legal, and discovered regulations involved having hot and cold water taps in three separate rooms with tables and all pails made of stainless steel. I decided the investment, (a year’s income for a poor fellow like me), was not worth selling a little milk, and also decided the children at my Childcare would not benefit from seeing Federal agents (who ought be dealing with drug smugglers) swoop in and lead me off in handcuffs, so I stopped milking my goats, which was exactly what the Big Milk Lobby wanted. Apparently their slim profits were threatened by dangerous outlaws like me.

Jefferson likely was rolling in his grave. It was a perfect example of Big Government (AKA “The Swamp”) oppressing the Yeoman Farmer, which Jefferson detested. But taking things a step further, in terms of Americans feeding fellow Americans, it was suicidal.

You see, there is a thing that doesn’t care a hoot for government regulations, called “The Weather”. And it can reduce a crop to zero, and no lobby in Washington an stop it.

Currently agribusiness is deeply concerned because President Trump is increasing tariffs to China, and China might get mad and retaliate by refusing to buy our soybeans. This would be a sad situation for agribusiness’s soybean-producers, if they actually had any soybeans to sell.

They might not. If you look back to the graph I started this post with, and understand corn can’t be planted because the weather is bad, you should understand soybeans also can’t be planted, if the fields remain a sea of mud in pouring rain. In other words, we might have a very low production of soybeans this year.

In such a case the crafty politician-capitalists of China, thinking they might “leverage” a deal to get lower soybean prices, might be flabbergasted to discover there was no deal to be had, because America had no soybeans to sell.

Just as China assumes American agribusiness is so brilliant it will always produce a huge surplus of soybeans, the American people assume agribusiness will always produce full shelves in  supermarkets. But Mother Nature can step in and turn millions of square-miles of farmland into swamps. This is what happened in Europe, when the Medieval Warm Period gave way to the Little Ice Age, and a terrible famine was the result.

However many young Americans are not only divorced from the dirt-poor farms their forefathers worked hard to farm, (and propelled their nation to greatness through farming), and not only do young Americans also fail to study history and see how the plenty of good times can be followed by the poverty of bad times, but they also don’t even know enough to store up extra food in their kitchen shelves for the next day, let alone for a serious famine. Many hardly use their kitchens at all, preferring to buy prepared food.

My grandmother behaved as if famine was right around the corner. She was always canning and pickling and salting the plenty of the present tense, because she knew the plenty of the present might fail. And she actually once saw plenty fail, when the stock market crashed in 1929. My Grandfather had to work without pay to keep his boss’s business from failing, but my Grandmother kept producing dinner on the table, because she had so much canned and salted and pickled.

Sad to say, modern wives are not so prepared. Some live such a day-to-day existence that, in their kitchens, they have not even a can of beans for tomorrow.

My advice is to stock up. It will not cost much. I’m not talking beef in freezers. I’m talking dry stuff, like flour and beans, cornmeal and dried lentils, rice and dried peas.

Throw in a few cans of tuna or chicken, and maybe some tomato sauce and salsa, and it just might be that you are sitting pretty as other Americans riot out on the streets.

And if you have an actual garden, and grow actual food, you may be in for a battle, if this summer continues cold and wet. But fight the good fight. Your small harvest may be far better than that of agribusiness, which I fear has forgotten the reality of honest dirt in favor of the swamp called politics.

I hope my forecast is wrong. But, if one is going to be an Alarmist, it is far cheaper to store up some food in your pantry, than to derange the entire economy by banning fossil fuels and erecting a wind turbine in your pasture and solar panels on your barn. You can’t eat good intentions.

LOCAL VIEW –Her Hardest Hue To Hold–

it’s a cold, black night, 37ºF with sleet occasionally tapping the window pane, mixing in with the icy rain. Not the start of an Ice Age, (I hope), for I’ve seen it snow in May before, but definitely not Global Warming. Tomorrow’s high temperature could be twenty-five degrees below “normal”. Not that we are ever really normal, around here.

It’s a good night to look at the bright side. Some springs get off to a fast start with a blast of heat, and daffodils bloom and wither on the same day, but this year they have lasted nearly a fortnight in the cold. Blooms usually don’t last so long even in a florist’s refrigerator.

In one way the chill is a dream-come-true, because there is a part of me that wants to hit the pause-button, every spring. Spring has a habit of leaping past, all too fleeting and intangible, like time through an old man’s fingers. There is something beautiful in springtime which I deeply want to savor, if not grasp.

First green’s gold’s hard to hold in mystic May
As all the twigs get lacy, before shade’s
Grown the cool, green dark of June. Sunbeams play
In the gold glades, where even a shy maid’s
Unafraid to pass me walking through woods.
The wonder awes. The breeze isn’t hushing
Summer’s hush; soft leaves gentle winds; no “shoulds”
Or “coulds” or “woulds” list and schedule crushing
Madness in my mind. Heavy boots are shed
And I walk light-footed and light-hearted
Through lime-gold light. Have I died? Am I led
To see the bright end of what God’s started?
Like dawn after dark, wondrously uplifted
By healing from bed, the whole world is gifted.

There. At least I attempted to sketch the fleeting wonder. Robert Frost’s sketch was more succinct:

Nature’s first green is gold, 
Her hardest hue to hold. 
Her early leaf’s a flower; 
But only so an hour. 
Then leaf subsides to leaf. 
So Eden sank to grief, 
So dawn goes down to day. 
Nothing gold can stay. 

But I disagree with the master, in terms of the grief. There is something in spring that is the exact opposite of grief. I think the grief is due to our desire to capture it, to clutch it in a fist like a brute picking flowers.

I spent a while attempting to capture it, (though hopefully not like a brute), with a camera, but felt hopelessly inadequate. It was like trying to catch a sunbeam with a net.

What I wanted to capture was the way the first shade of spring is so green-golden it can hardly be called “shade.” It is more of a light than a shade, but cameras have a hard time with such subtlety. The sky was too bright, and made the light coming through the leaves look too dark.

The images were actually better looking away from the sun, though that view utterly lacked the enchantment of light coming through leaves.

During our few sunny spells midst weeks of rain I snapped picture after picture, and few came close to the reality I wandered through. It was fairly obvious I would spoil the joy if I persisted in trying to capture it. Rather than joyous I’d be frustrated. But I couldn’t help myself, I suppose because one can’t help but exclaim when one sees something beautiful. Perhaps it is a bit crude, like a teen-aged boy releasing a long, low whistle when he sees a gorgeous girl, but it was what it was.

At some point the desire to grip spring like a strangler gave way to merely traveling through it, like a wayfarer on a road.

I think, in the end, my saving gurus were the small boys at my Childcare. Also my dog. And my goats. They had no desire to be artists and take pictures or write sonnets, and instead they galloped and pranced, without the need to choreograph like artistic dancers, but rather like goats and dogs and boys. They are what they are.

Of course, there is always someone who will object to such undisciplined skipping and gamboling. Bureaucrats might frown to see boys walking by a pond without coast-guard approved life-jackets, but fortunately the closest thing to a bureaucrat around was me. In our case the nearby nags were a bunch of Canada Geese. Apparently we had no business disrespecting the invisible no-trespassing signs they had laid out to keep all in proper order, and came swimming up like a gang of hooligans bugling their baritone-to-falsetto yodeling.

The boys refused to have their joy depressed, and, displaying a complete disregard for fellow species and the ecosystem, told the geese that they refused to allow their joy to be intimidated.

The battle was prolonged and furious, but in the end everyone was happy and no one got hurt. (Six-year-old’s have weak arms, and the geese were too smart to draw closer than twenty yards.) A weakling voice in the back of my mind was feebly telling me the episode was politically incorrect, but another was voice was telling me spring itself is politically incorrect, and instead sung like Julie Andrews:

Tra la, it’s May, the lusty Month of May;
That lovely month when everyone goes blissfully astray.
Tra la, it’s here: That shocking time of year
When tons of wicked little thoughts merrily appear….

Every year I wonder if it can possibly happen again, and every year I am surprised when it actually does happen again: Spring!

My wife left town for a few days to help organize a baby-shower for my daughter-in-law in Maine, and this enabled me to really get into the spirit of spring by playing hooky an entire weekend:

I skipped church on a dull Sunday, and I
Immediately heard a sweet choir sing.
Though spring lay gray under a charcoal sky
Light shone on me. “What the heck’s happening?”
I wondered, “Where is my dose of mortal guilt?”
All I felt was a bubbling gladness.
There was no black burden to make spirits wilt
And only a day free of such sadness.
I felt like a boy when school has let out
For the summer. With sweet spring in my stride
I crossed the gray world. My heart yearned to shout
“I’m free as a bird” but I hugged it inside
And let birds do the singing. God alone knows
How I worshiped, as from the dead I arose.

************

My wife away, I had beer for breakfast,
Then got on my knees in the garden to plant.
Unshaven, uncombed, I happily messed
In mud for hours, and none said, “You can’t.”
Dirty and sweaty, I felt palms get gritty
And pitied poor bankers sans-dirt-under-nails.
Who needs a penthouse atop a loud city?
Who needs more money when cash always fails
To purchase what toil can give me for free?
Busy as Beaver, I find I forget
To pity myself, and hum like Sir Bee
From flower to flower, and yet,
Though small as an ant, under sky too tall,
I also am huge, for I’m part of it all.

These are good things to remember, on a stormy night with sleet tapping at the window panes in May. And one odd aspect is the realization that Spring’s joy is not due to having desire fulfilled, nor due to renouncing desire, but simply by skipping desire altogether. It is the ultimate hooky.

LOCAL VIEW –Gloom’s Glee–

I am feeling a need to redefine the word “dour”, a word which which tends to fail to include a sort of gallows-humor I often notice in dour people, and instead dismissively defines the dour as “relentlessly severe”.

The simple fact of the matter is that life isn’t all sunshine, especially in northern lands. In fact just a few days ago I was texting with my youngest son, and it was 76ºF in New York City, where he was, while it was 32ºF just a five-hour-drive north, where I was, in New Hampshire. Now I ask you, is that fair?

Life isn’t fair. This is especially true if you are from the north and have blond hair and blue eyes. Certain racists blame us northerners for all the world’s problems. Believe me, we don’t need such gloom. The weather up north is gloomy enough without additional politics. We couldn’t survive, without a sort of gallows humor. Here is a dour sonnet:

The gloom returned, just as I expected.
New Hampshire’s not known for it’s sunshine,
Especially in April. One is led
To believe we’re deceived. A pet peeve of mine
Is that, ‘round here, a true “bolt from the blue”
Is the sun itself, ‘specially in April.
Sunshine’s not expected. Therefore it’s true
That people move here, and then like to thrill
About our Autumn foliage, but by
April they’re fed up. Good-bye ‘n’ good riddance.
If you can’t abide gloom, don’t even try
To live in the north. Instead have some sense
And seek some place full of camels and sand.
You’ve got to be dour to live in this land.

Yesterday we got a “bolt from the blue”, which was a sunny day in April. This usually has nothing to do with south winds. Dry winds come from the cold northwest, yet so powerful is the sun (as high in April as it is in August) that even though thawing ponds refreeze overnight, by noon you take off your coat under the hot sun. The problem is that the dry wind then swings around to the moist southwest, and clouds increase, and that hot sun vanishes. It is then that warm air gets as far north as New York City, but all we get is the chilling clouds.

A further problem is that the single sunny day with bright sunshine makes people crazy, especially if they are not acquainted with the dour truth of northern gloom.

I once worked as a landscaper for a wealthy woman from Virginia, and she became frantic in early April because the weather became downright hot, and we had no tomatoes planted. It took every iota of diplomacy I owned to calm the lady down, and to inform her that to plant tomatoes in early April is a bad idea, in New Hampshire. A week later, as I pruned budless roses in her garden in a snowstorm, she called me in to her warm, glassed-in porch and, with Virginia hospitality which I, as a dirty gardener,  was not accustomed to, served me tea and a delicious “five bean salad”, and also informed me, with a glance out at the falling snow, “You were right about the tomatoes”.

There was something about the begrudging way the good lady said “You were right about the tomatoes” that was very dour, but also makes me want to redefine the word “dour” to include humor. There was something very northern in her glance, as she looked out through her greenhouse’s glass to a world turning white. An extreme irony.

If truth must be known. the moment this gracious lady’s starchy, northern husband died, she vamoosed back to Virginia. Southern Hospitality does not feel at home in the north. But maybe I did teach her a bit about Northern Hospitality, which includes telling people not to plant tomatoes just because a single day in April is sunny.

This is not to say that I myself can’t be infected by April sunshine and be made insanely manic. Just a couple days ago I was guilty of buying a flock of peeping chicks for the children at my Childcare, but then discovering that, when I went out to dig post-holes for their coop, that a rock-hard semi-permafrost made digging difficult, only ten inches down in the dirt.

Who is going to help me, (and those poor chickens), by slamming through permafrost with a bladed crowbar that weighs forty pounds? I’m getting too old for such nonsense. I became dour, as I contemplated my predicament, huffing and puffing.

Life isn’t fair. When that gracious lady from Virginia became manic she had a young, blond man appear to help her out, (me), but, now that I’m as old and gray as she was back then, what do I get when I become manic? I get blamed for all the world’s problems because my skin is too white.

No sooner did that grouchy thought pass through my mind when a very blond boy appeared to help me. (It is hard to blame him for all the world’s problems, as he is only five years old). (Also his ancestors came from Finland, which didn’t enslave anyone that I know about.)

LOCAL VIEW –Facing The Destroyer–

In humanity’s attempt to get it’s puny mind around the infinity of the Creator, humanity is forever subdividing the unity of God into various aspects. At its worst this fragments Oneness into a whole pantheon of lesser gods or saints, who tend to be at war with each other, but at its best it is like a lover listing the beautiful attributes of their Beloved.

One trinity, made out of the inseparable One, is the idea of God as Creator-Sustainer-Destroyer, (or Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva, in Hindu thought).  People (myself included) seem to have trouble with the third part of this trinity, “God the Destroyer.”  Though we know all things in creation are fleeting, “dust-to-dust, ashes-to-ashes”, we object to death.  We want life to be “eternal life”.

Because people object to “God the Destroyer” there have been various attempts to soften this part of the trinity, such as “God the Dissolver,” (as if being dissolved is somehow more acceptable than being destroyed). Amidst the amazing variety of Hindu thought are several sects that redeem Shiva by giving him creative and sustaining attributes.

I suppose God smiles at our attempts to rehabilitate Him. He also likely appreciates our love of life, and our attempts to avoid death.  There is something in the human spirit that rebels at the idea of termination;  we have a hunger for tales to end, “they lived happily ever after”,  though we know the truth is, “until death do we part.”

Even though I am a “childcare professional” (IE: baby-sitter), and dealing with children tends to involve me with God-the-Creator and God-the-Sustainer, I have been dwelling on the morbid topic of God-the-Destroyer lately because it is not merely autumn, but a particularly wet and gloomy autumn. Brooks that usually barely trickle, (or even go dry, some years), have been rushing, and the mossy rocks have been lush.

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There have been small ponds where I’ve never seen them before in the drenched woods, to throw sticks into. This allows boys to practice vandalism, (and to be boy-the-Destroyer), without getting into trouble.

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It was so wet that some trees, especially sugar maples, did not achieve their full glory because leaves rotted even as they turned, and rather than leaves of pure crimson they were crimson blotched by brown and black spots. This dismal situation didn’t seem to diminish the jauntiness of children walking through golden glades of rain-drenched beeches.

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The sheer cheerfulness of children in rainy woods seems a defiance of gloom: A puddle in the path of life is a joy; jump in it!

Meanwhile I am not finding as easy to keep up with them as last year. I can feel the damage caused by all those hundreds of thousands of cigarettes I so foolishly smoked in my past, and I huff and puff walking up hills. The hand of mortality lays on my shoulder, and I see how “the wages of sin are death.”

But then I watch the glee of children, and the thought occurs to me that the wages of sin are children. Men strive to make sex something other than what it is, but it goes right on overpowering men’s will-powers and creating babies, which is the real reason for sex, (though violin-makers see sex as good excuse to sell violins to violinists). Some men then get all gloomy about the wages of sin being child-support, but that is usually because they do not spend enough time with their children, and miss the joy. Many hire an old geezer like me to experience the joy, and pay me for it.

One thing I’ve found remarkable over the years is the relationship children have with creation, as they rollick through the woods and fields. They are not at war with nature. Nature puts up no signs that say, “Fragile ecosystem. Stick to the path.” It is environmentalists who want to ban children from the outdoors, and to instead show children a lot of depressing videos about how man destroys all he touches. If children get the chance, many fall in love with the outdoors, (though some children are more inclined than others, and a few children, I’ll confess, seem born to be indoors.)

Children develop a respect for life out of love for it. In the woods I really don’t have to preach all that much about respecting livings things. Some small ones torture ants and frogs and scar a tree’s bark, but it is usually more out of curiosity and rambunctiousness than out of sadism, and the same children who were the worst offenders at age three tend to tattle on their peers at age five.  I can honestly say I do a minimum of preaching, and nature does the rest.

Not that nature coddles them. New Hampshire is no Polynesian Island, and there are mosquitoes and black flies and ticks, and the weather, especially this year, can cause people who move here to change their minds and move out. But, despite the fact children can become understandably wary of the woods after stepping on a hornet’s nest, few are anything close to becoming permanently scarred and neurotic. Instead they, even at age three, become this remarkable thing called “tough.”

As the autumn passed the lands to our north became snow-covered early, and, on the rare occasions when the rain stopped, we started getting bitter blasts on the back-side of storms, as they blew up into gales over the Maritime Provinces of Canada. One day the north winds howled so fiercely there was spin-drift and whitecaps even on the relatively small flood-control reservoir, as a bitter gale roared from the north.

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With wind-chills below zero Fahrenheit, I suspect most would have chosen to stay in, but I took a group of three boys and two girls out, all under five years old. It included a three-year-old inclined to red-faced tantrums. He was not at all pleased by the idea of a hike in the roaring wind, but he was not pleased with the idea of staying in, either. He thought the entire idea of child-care was a bad idea, wanted to go to work with his mother, and, among other things, I had to gently remind him that the word “fuck” is not a good word. Given the choice of staying indoors or being outside with the small hellion, I chose the environment where the wind could drown out some of his whining, though I had to carry him the first quarter mile because he was flopping to the ground and girning, and as I carried him his voice was particularly penetrating, an inch from my ear.

All five children were especially well dressed. I likely was the coldest person on the hike, due to the fires within me producing less hot blood than in my younger day. My mood was not particularly good, because my current staff is nearly as decrepit as I am, and two were unavailable due to work-related injuries, (a twisted knee, and a sprained wrist.) I had to fill-in, when I had planned to sit in my warm study by my cozy computer and write about Arctic Sea-ice. So I was in the same mood as the squalling three-year-old I carried. But I have been running this child-care enterprise a decade. (We will finish our tenth year this December.) Even when it seems God-the-Destroyer is manifesting, I know what to do.

The first trick I used is one I picked up from the children. It is to rejoice, when the weather is bad, over how very bad it is. The north wind’s gusts burned exposed faces and made us wince and flinch away, but we clambered up to the top of the flood-control dam, where it was worst, and four of the children laughed as the wind shoved them around and all but knocked them down. The fifth child, (who of course was the grumpy three-year-old), made it obvious that he deemed us utterly mad, and folded his arms, and refused to climb up to the top of the dam.

This brought about my second trick, which is to foster wonder. What do you do when the wind is cruel? What do animals do? Where do they go? I turned the wondering into a project: Find a place where the three-year-old would be comfortable. We walked around to a sunny hollow on the downwind side of the dam, and “had snack”. Though the wind still scoured down and moved the tops of the tall, dead weeds we crouched midst, at ground level it was quite tolerable. I explained this was the sort of place deer and my goats hunkered down during cold gales, taking advantage of the low sun as it shone for the first time in days. The children, even the three-year-old, chattered happily as we picnicked.

Actually this simple knowledge (stay in the sun and out of the wind) is knowledge some bank presidents lack. If their private jet ever crash-landed in a winter forest, they might needlessly freeze, while my little children would, in an almost instinctive manner, chose the warmer paths and survive. Even homeless bums know enough to cross to the sunny side of the street, as the supposedly-wiser bankers stoically stick to striding a straight line through the shade. (This may not seem to make much of a difference in a five-minute winter walk between sky-scrapers, but over the course of a day, after your jet crash-lands, all the chilling adds up).

We next sought out the deeper woods in small valleys where the wind won’t go, but the sun shines through the now-leafless trees, and there the kids had a great time, balancing while teetering along fallen logs; throwing sticks into a stream to watch them float with the current; and chatting and quarreling (which is officiously called “developing social skills”).  The three-year-old forgot I was never-to-be-forgiven, and joked with me. Despite the cold we were late heading back for lunch. An entire morning, which many would have called “too cold to go outdoors”, had been spent under the sunny sky, with the tree’s branches clacking in the wind overhead. The day was redeemed.

I often shake my head over how little I actually do, in this redemptive process. Perhaps I get some credit for directing traffic, but I don’t do the driving. Most of the joy radiates from the landscape, and from the children themselves. At times I see a relationship maturing between creation and the created which seems very natural and very beautiful, yet which some (of the environmentalist ilk) strangely mangle. Rather than a love affair between the walker and the woods, some promote a “protective” alienation.

One good thing about getting kids outdoors into the cold is that it burns off a lot of calories, which has positive effects: Children fuss little over their lunches, eating voraciously like small wolves, and then they conk out quickly into deep naps during “quiet time”.  This gives me sweet silence, and time to think more deeply about man’s alienation from creation.

When I was younger I think I was less interested in having a love affair with nature than in wrestling with it. It is interesting to watch my older son,  now entering middle age, as he tests himself against what New Hampshire weather can dish out.

As a landscaper and snow-plowman he spends a lot of time outside, but after growing up in my house, (which was built in the mid 1700’s and is like an icebox in the winter), made him a man who has nothing against the luxury of warmth indoors. He is building a new house behind my house, and I could not help but notice the care and attention he put into having heated concrete floors, (when I thought he should be in more of a hurry to just finish). Warm feet at home at winter is very important to him, and part of his battle with nature,

He thought the weather would remain fair, which of course it never does. Even before the concrete pad was poured a great deal of time was squandered (I felt) in laying an intricate, complicated network of heating, plumbing, sewerage and electric conduits, with various baffles of insulation. The floor is indeed an amazing floor, but when the walls finally started to go up the final fair weather was ending, and the bad weather beginning.

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Since then it has poured every weekend, which is when he finds time to work beyond his ordinary work. Downpours constantly fouled up his plans. Over the years he has helped many other local fellows build their houses, and the fellows want to return the favor, but it is not the easiest thing to assemble the crews needed, when they all have other jobs. After all the work of making the arrangements, it would again pour. He fell behind schedule, and then the onset of winter was particularly early, with eight inches of snow. Perhaps he was pushing his luck a bit, but one Saturday my breakfast was interrupted by a crash outside, and my daughter yelling that my oldest son had rolled his truck. We dashed out to see, fearing the worst.

The truck hadn’t actually rolled…

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….but things didn’t look good. As the truck skidded backwards down the slippery slope my son made the split-second decision to ram the stone wall rather than risk skidding across the street and plunging down into the neighbor’s house.

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At this point there was little talk about a love affair between man and nature, and the walker and the woods. God-the-Destroyer in the form of snow seems to be battling God-the-Creator, in the form of my son. However I silently philosophized that this conflict forms a necessary tension, a friction which creates traction in creation.

A preacher at a nearby church refers to the above as “a rich man’s problem”. People in Africa would love to have a truck, or even a bicycle, to have problems with.  We should be thankful to have such problems, but I didn’t mention this to my son. Instead I said I was thankful he was all right.

He seemed, if anything, invigorated by the challenge. Like a jaunty child walking with swinging arms in the rain, my son set about surmounting yet another difficulty. He brought a rented “lull”, (used to lift shingles up to the roof), down the hill, lifted the truck while pulling with a chain, and the truck came off the wall with a loud squawking noise as it settled back onto its frame.  Amazingly, very little was wrong with the truck.

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For the most part I watch the battle between man and nature, (or God-the-Creator and God-the-Destroyer), (or friction vs. the slippery slope), as an interested observer. There may have once been a day when I could out-hustle others on a construction site as the brawny “gopher”, (go-for), but those days are past. Back then I could make up in brawn for what I lacked in knowledge, but now I am largely in-the-way. The little knowledge I have is antiquated. For example, back in the day we lugged heavy bundles of shingles up ladders; I did not even know what a “lull” was. Secondly, I’ve slowed; if I did lug a bundle up a ladder, just to show I can still do it, I’d be in everyone’s way as I caught my breath at the top.

Compared to what I once was, I’m puny. I’m increasingly a weakling. God-the-destroyer is having His way with my physical frame. Though this is normal and natural and part of the so-called “circle of life” I don’t like it one bit. I grump it would have been easier if I was puny to begin with and had little to lose. It is a lot harder because I once was very strong. (I was also incredibly good-looking and amazingly smart, no matter what my siblings may tell you.) But I can give such things up, because I have watched amazing athletes be forced to retire at the young age of forty, and seen some of them move on to being brilliant coaches.

It is far harder to give up dreams. This was brought home to me as my favorite goat, “Muffie”, died unexpectedly.

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I doubt I can do justice to how deeply I was troubled by the death of what many may see as a mere dumb goat. However Muffie was a friend, and also the last of a blood-line. I once dreamed Muffie would be the first of a whole herd. Nine years ago, as Muffie was bottle-fed by children at my Childcare because her mother died while giving birth, I had ambitions. Now I am tired, and the dreams are dyeing.

The death of a dream is in some ways a ridiculous thing to be troubled by, for a dream is a dream. It may not ever have come true, and this means you are grieving something that never existed in reality, a bit like Lieutenant Kéje in Prokofiev’s suite.

However a dream has power. It is like the apple dangled in front of a reluctant mule, prompting it to plod on even when it wants to quit. Even though the apple is never reached, the mule may plod on and achieve other goals.

A dream is the conception of an idea. The time between conception and the fruition of the dream may be called a sort of pregnancy.  When the dream comes true it has many of the wonders of childbirth, but when a dream doesn’t come true it has much of the ugliness of stillbirth or abortion.

When you hit age sixty-five you are not like a baseball-player switching from the role of player to the role of manager or coach. Rather you are giving up the game itself.  It is a totally different sacrifice, and far harder to bear.

When I was young, it was far easier to sing that “for everything, there is a season”.

But now I have reached the age when it is the season to give up on dreams.  There is a part deep down in me that just can’t do it.  As death approaches I just can’t give up on life.

This brings me back to the start of this essay, where I spoke of how we dislike the idea of “God-the-Destroyer.” We disliked the idea from the start.  It was a seventeen-year-old girl, Laura Nyro, who in 1967 wrote, “And when I die, and when I’m gone, there’ll be one child born in this world to carry on; to carry on.” After a version was recorded by her, and then by  Peter, Paul and Mary, a bunch of young white hippies, attempting to sound black and gospel, had a smash hit  in 1969:

But it is all well and good to defy death when you are young and vigorous. It is not so easy when you are faced with the increasing feebleness of age, and are suppose to be “aging gracefully.” How can one be graceful when one sees no grace?

Anyone who has seen the beauty of God-the-Creator and God-the-Sustainer tends to fight death, and to, like Dylan Thomas, “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

But, if you rage against what the Creator made a definite part of creation, namely death itself, are you not telling God he is wrong?

You’d be surprised at the dark storm-clouds which the death of Muffie sent my mind drifting up and into.

Fortunately my wife smacks me back down to earth, so I don’t forget my worldly responsibilities, but even as I shoveled the snow from the walkways of our Childcare my mind drifted elsewhere, miles and miles away.

I arrived at an odd conclusion, which may get me pitched head over heels out of many Christian churches. It was that the end of creation is death, and God-the-Destroyer.  Therefore creation itself is the “everlasting death” that Christianity warns against. And, in a strange manner, that makes Christians like Hindus.  Yikes!  How can I make such a claim?

It involves some convoluted thinking that I know will get me in trouble, but basically suggests creation is the process and not the Goal, the road and not the Destination, the creation and not the Creator.  If we have “life”, then life can be a thing we have in creation, and also be the Goal of creation. If we are tricked into identifying “life” too much with the material things and the dreams of creation, then we see life turn to death. But if we see life (and most especially love), as more important than creation, then we escape the death that always ends life in creation, and instead triumphantly arrive the goal, which is everlasting life beside the throne of the Creator.

Now supposing I, (as seems likely the case), am too concerned with the creation and neglect the One who made it. I am doomed to face God-the-Destroyer, rather than the embrace of God-who-is-love, at His throne. If my worldly tendencies make me too focused on creation it will not matter that I complain, “But I was loving my neighbor”, because it will be obvious that I cared more for the creation than the One who made it, Who is the Reason and the Goal. Big mistake. Rather than eternal life, I get everlasting death.

Then what?  This thought occurred to me even when I was a very small boy. I have no idea who told me about everlasting hell. I simply recall fleeing the grown-ups to an alcove in the attic, by a tiny window, and imagining myself punished in everlasting hell,  and pouting, and growling in a puppy-voice how I’d never, never surrender to such a mean bully.

Then what? What happens when you have failed to live up to the standards of the Christ, and have blown it big time?  Is it all over forever?

What happens when you laughed at Noah for building his ark , and sneered at him for believing in what made no pragmatic sense to you?  What happened when it then rained and rained and rained, and his absurd ark in a middle of a dry desert floated safely away, as you treaded water until you couldn’t tread, and drowned?  Did God have no mercy on you for being the sensible one, and caring for sensible things, and maybe even caring for family and neighbors as Noah ignored such things,  instead seemingly wasting scarce resources by building a gigantic, silly structure out in the middle of nowhere. Why the hell should you get hell, as the nincompoop Noah gets blessed?

The Bible actually states the sinners of Noah’s time were not forever cursed. According to Saint Peter, between the time Jesus was crucified and the time he rose from the dead, he went to hell to visit the sinners of Noah’s time. Why?  To preach.

This creates a big problem for Christians.  Why? Because if I was sitting in hell I would not call myself “forever cursed” if Jesus himself appeared and took the time to “preach” to me.

I assume that Jesus would not take the time to preach unless some hope, healing and good could come of it.  Why would he preach to the damned if damnation was forever? What purpose would it serve? To go, “Nyah, nyah, neener-neener-neener. You’re damned and I’m not”???  That doesn’t sound like the Lord of Love to me.

This incongruity in scripture may have resulted in the idea of “purgatory”, which many Christians call “Non-Scriptural.”  But me?  I simply think God’s love is more than I can fathom.

This leads me on to the completely Anti-Christian idea of reincarnation, which seems bound to hopelessly divide Christians from Hindus until the end of time.

According to the Hindu, when most die they do not escape creation, but remain trapped. They, after a time contemplating the mistakes and/or joys of their past life,  are born into a new body, with a new brain that cannot hold any memory of the past life.  They are born again, but usually it is only to die again. They die over and over and over, this time rich, this time poor, this time black, this time white, this time healthy, this time sickly, this time male, this time female.  But, whether king or peon, the result is always the same: death.

It occurred to me that reincarnation is the same thing as everlasting death.  There may not be the gulf between Hindus and Christians that they each believe. They both believe that, unless you escape time (to the eternal) you are trapped in time (the everlasting.)

After all, what is the use of being born again, if it is only to die again?  If it turns out the Hindu are correct, and I am born again in a physical body, it likely will mean I will have to take math classes again. Who in their right mind wants that?

Both Hindu and Christians speak of an escape from “everlasting death”, which is an escape from the very-real part of creation we call God-the-Destroyer.  Both state we must put the Creator ahead of creation.

Yes, they waste time quibbling about the details. Is the one life a single incarnation or many?  Did the Christ come once as Jesus or more than once as Vishnu, the Avatar?

To be honest, I lack the experience and wits to weigh in on such matters. I can wonder all I want, but it is only wonder. In the end I have to confess my incapacity. In doing so, I recognize I need the help of a Master.  There is no cotton-picking way I’m going to Seventh heaven without a Savior, and it matters not a hill of beans whether you call that Rescuer the Savior, Avatar, Messiah, Rasool, Vishnu, or Christ.  All that matters is that you recognize love has a Source, and the nature of the Source is Love, which Christians believe took on mortal flesh and walked (and walks) among us as Jesus.

As my life enters the phase where I deal more with God-the-Destroyer than with the Creator or Sustainer, it occurs to me I am blessed to be a mere baby-sitter, dealing with children just entering creation. Not that I always feel blessed. It is not seen as “manly” to be a baby-sitter. Among the politically correct, being a baby-sitter earns me few kudos. But I am blessed all the same, because simply dealing with the very-young exposes me to something utterly different from God-the-Destroyer.

For one thing, the very-young are more wise than they have any right to be. Even though they have brand-new brains, they are not un-programmed computers we are adding data to.  They already know stuff they have no business knowing. How can they know? The secular blame “genetics” and the Hindu blame “past lives” and the Christians blame “God’s gifts.”  Me?  I really don’t know, but can’t help but smile even when I’m gloomy. Why?

I suppose it is because the trust children enter life with (which is so sad to see harmed in any way) holds a joy which, in and of itself, seems to prove that the reason we are born is not to die.  After all, if they were only born to die, why would children laugh?

I may now be facing death, as we must all do when we can no longer call ourselves “middle aged”, but that does not mean death, or “God the Destroyer”,  is the net result of living.  There is another reason for life.

I can’t fully explain what I’m attempting to say, but I hear it in the cries of children.  At times it is hard to hear when they are in your face. I hear it best when they are far away, and sound like a glitter sledding down a distant hill.

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Like glitter on a distant winter hill
I hear the children sledding once again,
And once again I feel the ancient thrill
That drenches deja-vu on all that big men
Construct and think is mighty; all that kings
Claim they can control, and all that we mourn
And think that we are losing. Of all things
We want to grasp, the most fleeting, least lorn
Is the eternal song of children at play.
On the hill an ancient oak has hearkened
Since before the Pilgrim’s children had their day
When the children were Indian’s. No end
Is there to the Truth in the distant mirth,
And that is all ye need to know on earth.