LOCAL VIEW –First Heat Wave–

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We have swung from dismal and wet to what Joe Bastardi calls, “Suddenly Summer.” No one is complaining, (so far).  If we can reach 90° (32° Celsius) before the cool front sinks south with thunder on Tuesday, we may even fulfill the requirements for an official heat wave, (three straight days above 90°), and that is rare for these hills.

I’ve got a lot of gardening to do, and will have to schedule it for early in the day, before the heat gets too oppressive, but today is Sunday, The Day Of Rest, and I’m just letting the soreness soak out of old muscles.

Warm at dawn, amber beams baste butter
On the young leaves of June, and I recall,
As I always recall, the pangs of utter
Torture of last days of school, and how all
That schoolmarm sniping suddenly would cease,
And I’d awake, see window make bedroom wall
Twelve golden squares, and feel sublime peace
Knowing no tyrant teachers could make skin crawl.

Oh, to have nothing like that once again!
It makes me wonder over how I could be
So rich when poor, so free, so soothed
When my vacation held no itinerary.
Nothing was a wonderful thing to do
And I wish I could do it again, with you.

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LOCAL VIEW –Gloomy June–

This is just a quick post to explain why I haven’t posted in so long.

A.) When I find time to write, I have felt attracted to a longer post, which is taking its sweet time to reach a publishable state.

B.) Considering my wife puts up with me, I figured I should put up a screen-house she has wanted for years, (and not the cheap and flimsy version I’ve bought her, from stores, that blows down in a thunderstorms. I thought it would take me only a couple days, but hammers seem to have gotten a lot heavier, and miss the nails a lot more than they used to, but….the project is done, (except for a lot of trim work and painting.)

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Once I clean up my stuff , we can actually sit outside and not be swarmed by mosquitoes and black-flies.

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But there is one small problem. The weather is horrible. The high temperature today was 47° (8° C) with a thick, cold mist driving in from the northeast. Below 50 degrees mosquitoes and black-flies aren’t even active. So my new porch is useless, and a miserable place to sit.

3.) It has been a remarkably wet and cold spring here. The leaves have finally come out, and we have had a few sunny spells and even a single hot day, but then things revert to early April’s weather.  I know it is June because the day gets light at five, but three hours later cars still have their headlights on.

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But teachers haven’t had to deal with unruly children in sweltering classrooms, which is a problem, because they had planned for unruly children in sweltering classrooms, and thought it clever to schedule outside activities.

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At our Childcare we went outside anyway. Something about a boy’s biorhythms simply know it’s June, and they were wild. I had a hard time keeping up with them on a hike. (It was interesting to watch a eight-year-old who had flown up from Texas heat, romping with the rest; I thought he’d be cold, and eventually he was, but mostly he amazed me by joining right in with the laughter and the rambling through wet underbrush.)

Considering how high the sun is, it is uncanny the noon didn’t warm at all today. It’s worth saving a map of the June nor’easter for future reference (and for arguments with Global Warming Alarmists.)

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4.) This sort of weather always makes me introspective. It was actually good therapy to be building a screen house, keeping from withdrawing too deeply, especially because June 6 always makes me introspective as well, thinking of the man I knew who was on Omaha Beach and took a bullet to his heart, but amazingly survived, and of the many who didn’t.  Last year I worked two weeks on my introspections:

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This year is no different. Before plunging into summer I withdraw into the past, and walk corridors of history. Hopefully a good post will come from it. Or perhaps at least a half-decent sonnet:

Few things are more dismal than drizzle in June
With the wind from the cold North Atlantic.
The music is dripping; no bird sings a tune;
And wet leaves whip silhouettes frantic.
It’s a cold day, yet I strive to thank it.
A driving mist drenches; nothing is dry.
I put wood in my wood stove, and crank it,
And count my blessings, or at least try
But it is distressing a purple sky’s
Pressing the uplift of June into mud.
Water is stinging my upturning eyes.
This weather’s not stirring my blood
But I’ll sing a sonnet. Old men are wise;
They know black but highlights brightening skies.

Indeed the future looks brighter. Next week I may gripe about the heat!

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LOCAL VIEW –Yo-yo Spring–

We get one day of glorious sunshine, and everyone walks about with silly smiles pasted across their faces, and then we get six days of cold rain, whereupon there is a lot of sulking. In other words, it’s your typical New Hampshire Spring, culminating with the appearance of the most affectionate creature known to man: black flies. They absolutely adore humans. Humans are mean, and do not return the love. Or perhaps we are more spiritual, and love what cannot be seen: Namely the wind. (Because the wind blows the blasted black flies away.)

The effect of this is to make people manic-depressive. Oops. Sorry. I forgot that scientific studies have refuted the psuedoscience, and proven there is no such thing as manic-depressive.

The effect of this is to make people bipolar. (Scientific studies of bipolarism are not yet finalized).

Even ancient people understood this, with celebrations beginning with April Fools Day and culminating with traipsing about a May Pole. Of course, now we are more modern and wise, so instead we have military parades celebrating the mass murder of people who work hard, succeed, and become rich, and we throw confetti for communists. (We’ve become so much wiser).

To celebrate this madcap  moodiness I was going to write a poem starting, “Spring is like a yo-yo…

Indeed children at our childcare bounce up and down like kangaroos, only they also bounce off walls, which kangaroos avoid as a rule, and therefore I get hopping to move them outside, even if it is pouring. And it has rained a lot. You might think I’d get scolded for cruelty to children, but my wife fortunately subscribes to the old Swedish motto, “There is no such thing as bad weather; only bad clothing”, so I don’t even get in trouble for getting kids out in the mud.

A couple days ago, while watching the human-kangaroos jump dead center into every mud puddle they could find, I began to think the manic moodiness has a reason: It was getting a lot of accumulated poison out of their systems. Likely winter builds up all sorts of crud in bodies, and a good work-out flushes it out of the system. Even the goats, despite their age, were gamboling in the pasture like lambs, and eating lots of greens, which also cleanses the system.

The smaller boys do not gambol; they attack me from every angle, slugging and tackling and head-butting. Or perhaps this too is a gamble, because one of these days I might punch them back, (as a way of enraging the state inspectors and watch-dogs, and consequently getting retired from my childcare business), (Yippie!) but for the time being I just prissily say, “No, no. Naughty, naughty. It is not politically correct to maim your teacher.” I say this to them as they lie looking up at me, stretched-out flat in a puddle. They are in that position because, through there may be laws against belting children, they have not yet made a law against my ducking and dodging, and, when children attack from all angles, I make a Spanish Matador look like a clod. Meanwhile I am thinking of ways to put all their energy to good use.

I had just hit upon the idea of digging a ditch and planting potatoes, and likely was looking up and thanking God for the stroke of genius, which explains why I wasn’t looking down, and got hit by the charging child. The small monster head-butted me at roughly twenty miles an hour just to the left of my solar plexus, (over my operation scar), and I thought it might flush a lot out of my system in a hurry.

But such is spring. Even the flooding creeks, streams and rivers are flushing refuse downstream. I looked at the boy and said nothing, so I can’t be arrested or charged, but the child did look worried, as I decided “Spring is like a yo-yo…” simply wouldn’t do for my poem, and decided upon, “Spring is like a colonoscopy…

You will be thrilled to learn I never got around to writing that poem. I was too exhausted from planting potatoes. I thought we’d only manage to plant three or four, and then the kids would all start whining, “Can’t we stop?”, but they really got into a groove, (or trench). They wanted to dig, dig, dig, and I had to break up fights over who would next hack with the hoe. They were tireless. We planted all the Pontiac Reds (that ripen early for summer potato salads), the Yukon Golds, Kennebecs and Katahdens (for late summer and autumn mashed potatoes), the Burbank Russets (for winter baking), and the Peruvian Purples (for weirdness). By the end I was whining, “Can’t we stop?” but the merciless slave-drivers shouted, “No! Onward! Onward you lazy wimp!”Yo 1 IMG_4782

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I tried to take a break by pointing out meal-worms and millipedes and mites, but the only thing that slowed some them was a bright crimson mite, and even that was merely for a moment.

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Then the other mites drove me on.

So that explains why I am hunched over holding my back in a manner befitting a man of my advanced years. My shuffling manner of walking, on the other hand, involves a hike. I thought hiking with the older children might be safer, as they tend to dawdle. I was wrong.

We headed off to look at a tree the beavers had nearly-but-not-quite gnawed down last summer. It was amazing that the tree didn’t fall over. But perhaps our beavers are under achievers.

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I wanted to see if winter winds had knocked the tree down. When we arrived we saw a snapped-off hemlock’s top had not only flattened the tree, but buried it.

Now, the hemlock may not have been a big hemlock for the west coast, but it was big for the east; I couldn’t get my arms more than halfway around it, yet it was chopped down by little carpenter ants and by a woodpecker who was after those ants.

Now by now you are probably rolling your eyes, and think I must be pulling your leg about beavers that can’t cut down trees, and woodpeckers that can, but I tell you in our neck of the woods our woodpeckers are not those cute little birds that go “tippity-tip-tap” like Broadway dancers. They are a foot and a half tall with wings nearly three feet across, and give a crazy yell like a jungle monkey,  “Kook-Kook-Kook-Kook-Kook-Kook!” If you happen to be climbing a tree and one comes around the trunk and you are eye to eye with it,  you arrive at a swift judgement: “This dude is crazy. He has the eyes of someone who hit his head into a tree sixty thousand times.”

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I tell you our woodpeckers are much tougher than your woodpeckers, and if you don’t believe me take a look at this tree:

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I  was getting a bit tired and figured I could scare the kids into heading back if I told them any woodpecker that could do this sort of damage was likely nine feet tall and ate small children instead of ants. The kids were terrified.Yo 5 IMG_4763

Obviously I needed a different strategy, so I whined, “Can’t we go back?”  But no, they insisted, “No! Onward!  Onward you lazy wimp!”

I tried to discourage them by saying we were going beyond the point where kids from the Childcare had ever ventured before. It didn’t work. There is something about the spring that awakes the Danial Boone in people, and rather than discouraging them I only challenged them. Pioneering became abruptly attractive, even to kids who ordinarily whine about walking six feet to hang up a coat. Without asking permission they went plunging off into the puckerbrush, and I had to follow, because I’m paid to keep an eye on them, but I did have misgivings, because a couple of the kids ordinarily go “eek” at a mouse and “ick” at a mudpuddle, (and Danial Boone hardly ever did that). I knew they might change their minds.

Also we were venturing into a landscape not even many adults venture into any more, (though in the old days a few might seek native trout in the swampy thickets.) It is a flat area filled in by glacial sand that around nine little brooks brought down steep slopes from a small mountain, in an area where all nine brooks come together like the fingers of a nine-fingered hand. Beavers then built a most amazing series of curving and branching dams, in an attempt to control nine brooks, and dug canals to connect the brooks, and, over the ten-thousand or so year since the glaciers retreated, they collected a deep layer of mud behind their dams. Occasionally the beavers had to leave, after they ate every tree in sight, but the first trees that grew back were the birch and alder and aspen they like, so they’d move back and rebuild their dams.  Currently the area is largely abandoned, with only a couple beavers around, and the water level is lower in most places and trees are starting to grow back. Even though the dams are rotting away they still form walkways through the canals and areas of mire, and the kids had a fine time exploring deeper and deeper into the swamp….

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….but then the rain started to get heavier, and one girl didn’t like it. The other four didn’t mind the rain, but commiserated with their friend, and all turned on me with accusing eyes. “This is all your fault!” they stated.

“My fault!?” I exclaimed. “I wanted to go back! You were the ones who wanted to go out into this quagmire!”

“Yes, but we are young and irresponsible. You are suppose to know better!”

“Ok! Ok! We’ll head back.”

“Then why are we heading forward?”

“Because forward is the shortest way back.”

“But we want to go backwards! Backwards the way back!”

“No, forward is the way back”

“You are talking nonsense! You are trying to drown us all!”

“Look, you are going to have to trust me on this. You just said that you are young and irresponsible, and I know better.”

“Well obviously we were wrong! Help! Mr Shaw is trying to drown us all!”

“Stop yelling! Unless you want to be rescued by a helicopter.”

“Ooooh! That would be fun! Let’s keep yelling! Help! Help!”

I was starting to feel a little embarrassed, imagining what a person outside the swamp might think, hearing the girls scream. Four of the girls were joking, but I was a bit worried about the one who didn’t look like she was joking. Meanwhile the three boys were completely indifferent, and deaf to the girls, seemingly adopting insensitivity as the best policy for dealing with the opposite sex.

The path got tricky towards the edge of the swamp, as the spring floods had washed away most of the old dams. I had to pick my way carefully to find a path that kept water from getting over the tops of their boots. Two boys helped me by plunging ahead and finding the deep places, but they didn’t mind the water in their boots. The smallest boy, aged five, followed me and carefully put his feet where I said, and crossed with his feet dry. All five girls failed to follow instructions, and when water poured into their boots they seemed to have a very good time screaming, and right up until we were three feet from the dry land kept shrieking it was better to head back. (I am convinced some girls simply like to scream for the joy of it.)

Then we had a brief contest, emptying water from boots and declaring the winner of the most-water-in-a-boot contest. Then we left the woods and took a safe road back to the Childcare, with me glancing anxiously at houses abutting the swamp, to see if faces scowled out windows at me. Even now I’m a little amazed no one overheard, and no one dialed 911.

Later parents told me they heard from their children they had been on a wonderful adventure. So it looks like I won’t be reported for child abuse. My retirement is delayed. But not denied. One of these days I’ll get reported, and then, “Free at last! Free at Last! Great God Almighty! Free at last!”

Spring also cannot be denied. During the dark, dank, drizzly spell the woods refused to pause like blooms in a florist’s refrigerator, and a haze of yellow sugar maple blooms spread through the twigs.

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Slowly the grip of cold, dank mist weakened,
And though low cloud oppressed, just as dark,
It was as if a lightness was wakened
or a bright spirit indented its mark,
Not on couch cushions like a creepy ghost,
But in every heart, as a sense of ease.

Light airs swung south, as, from some southern coast,
Kind angels came cruising on a merciful breeze
And every heart lifted, without sun to see,
And clenched buds loosened lacy greenery
Despite dark skies. Smiling invisibly
Fortune changed, and was so kind to me
I laughed aloud, and raised up my eyes
And felt warm glances pierce the cloudy skies.

LOCAL VIEW –Another Boston Snowstorm? Or April Fools? (Updated Saturday Night)

It is difficult to describe how tantalizing spring can be, this far north. It can be a terrible tease. This year the flirt provoked us with an amazingly kind end to February, with even the ponds melting. I was thinking of fishing with the children at our Childcare on the first of March.

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Yet at the end of March things had gone backwards.

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If you zoom in on the picture you can see it was not merely humans who were fooled.

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This is a particularly stupid sub-species of Canada Goose, which we have accidentally bred in our area by having water hazards at our golf courses. They are around two pounds heavier than the natural sort, that migrates up to Canada and down to Chesapeake Bay. This sub-species can’t be bothered to migrate far, and upsets people terribly by dying in droves when winters are particularly harsh, when they hang around warm outflows of power plants or sewage treatment plants, rather than flying south to look for open water. Then certain people feel compassion and feed them, while other people, who want them dead, watch and are irate.

Why should anyone want such beautiful geese dead? Well, they eat grass, lots and lots and lots of grass, (they have to eat a lot because grass has less protein than grain or fish), and this means they also produce lots and lots and lots of slimy green droppings. Golfers don’t like this, and people with lawns by the water don’t like it either. But it is illegal to blast them, out of season, and also they are stronger than they look; they can break your arm by beating their wings if you grab one.

In any case, this particular pair arrived on February 28, and cannot understand why the ice has been growing rather than shrinking. Are not the days getting longer, and the sun getting higher and stronger? (I’d show them my weather maps, but they might break my arm.)

I hear the crazy crying of flying geese
And look up through flocking flakes of snow,
And part of me yearns for the yearly release
From the shackles of cold, yet I know
All too well how the Northern Trickster flirts
Worse than the worst girl I knew back in school.

You want to plant seeds so badly it hurts
But if you attempt it you’ll look like a fool
So you wait, and you wait, and wait some more
Until you feel you are losing your mind.

The crazy geese cry in the sky and soar
As bitter flakes sting my weeping eyes blind.
Will Savior Spring ever cut cruel shackles loose
Or will I just wind up an old, silly goose?

One thing I try to remind myself is that I was born here, and am accustomed to the torment. I once worked as a landscaper for a very warmhearted old lady who was born in Virginia, and it drove her half mad not to plant flowers in March. One April, (1989), we had a spell of hot days at the start of the month, and I had to practically tie her down to keep her from planting tomatoes. I think she was on the verge of firing me, when the weather reverted to a bone-chilling rain that had some snow mixed in, followed by clearing and a sharp frost that would have killed tomatoes. I figure if that lady could take that spring,  I can take this one.

Despite the cold breezes the sun is so high that, when it has been out, it has made steady inroads on the nearly two feet of dense snow we got two weeks ago, and again patches of leaves and stone are peeking through on south-facing slopes. It is interesting how some kids gravitate to those places even on gray days.

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Today the bright spring sun in blue skies made further inroads on the snow-pack, and I noticed daffodils poking up in the south-facing garden.

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Yet the forecast is for them to be covered by a foot of snow and sleet by Saturday morning. It seemed impossible. The sun is as high as it is in early September, when most of the leaves are still green. Out of the wind it was warm on my face, and some of the kids got a touch of a sunburn, but then, in the afternoon, abruptly only the sky to the east was blue.

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I figure I might as well document the event with updates, like I did the last storm. I still have the hope it may all change to rain. The evening radar only showed snow way up by the Great Lakes.

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While the weather map shows the storm to the west has a core of summer heat, complete with thunderstorms and tornadoes, it is running up against a Canadian high pressure to our north, which has been pumped up and nudged south by a gale out in the Atlantic (right margin of map) which actually sucked what looked like a tropical storm into its guts. Therefore it will be a battle between winds coming down from Labrador and winds coming up from the Gulf of Mexico.

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Today began with a frosty low of 26°, rose to 45° before the clouds moved in, and has now slumped back to freezing. (It is murder on weathermen to forecast whether precipitation will be rain or snow if temperatures are right at freezing.)  The barometer has crept up to 30.02, but is fairly steady.  See you in the morning.

UPDATE:  6:55 A.M. MARCH 31

Just before sunrise at 6:30 the entire landscape turned a shade of shocking pink, and then faded to an orange glow to the east.

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The first, fat flakes began slowly falling at 6:45.

UPDATE: 10:08 AM 

Temperature 30° Barometer 30.01

All the work the sun has done to bare the ground is being undone by a steady fall of light sneet (halfway between sleet and snow.)

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MORNING MAP AND RADAR  (Notice how as soon as the rain moved into New England, it turns to snow.) (Out west Denver’s getting snow as well.)

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UPDATE:  2:25 PM

Temperature 32° Barometer 29,95  Moderate snow. Light northeast wind. Around an inch and a half of snow in the pasture, but the sun is so powerful it melts the roads even through the clouds. They are merely wet, with some slush under trees. As soon as the sun goes down the roads will worsen. (Rain made it up the coast to South Boston for a bit, but it looks like they’ve gone back to sleet now).

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Joe D’Aleo has some interesting graphs on his blog at Weatherbell, produced by Dr. Ryan Maue. They show the change in temperature in the atmosphere for the next few days. Ground level is to the bottom and the future is to the right.  What is shows is warmer air moving in aloft tonight. What is interesting is that it is above freezing in Worcester, an hour south of here, which will likely bring freezing rain or ice pellets…

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…yet an hour north of here in Concord the warm occlusion is below freezing as it passes over, which should keep the snow as snow.

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As I am half-way between, what I do is flip a coin.

UPDATE: 8:00 P.M.

Temperature 28°, Barometer 29.88.  Changing to sleet. Roughly four inches.

It’s been the typical sort of chaotic day storms generate, with all sorts of extra little chores to do to be ready in case the storm shuts things down. (I have a superstition that a storm never shuts things down unless you forget to do these chores.)

The truck had a dead battery so I used the 1997 Volvo to haul a load of wood for the porch, in case the woodpile gets totally buried.

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And got the snowblower all gassed up and its electric starter plugged in for the clean-up tomorrow morning.

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And rushed around getting things done before the slush got too deep on the roads.

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As the snow got deeper trucks began to bog down in the snow.

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So we had to fight back against the sky.

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But the enemy sent in reinforcements

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So the wiser old women retreated indoors to play Bingo in the stables.

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Meanwhile the goats complained it was too muddy in their hideout under the barn.

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So they bashed a new entrance to the stables in the rear, and trashed the place

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And then implored me not to turn them into goat burgers.

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Nothing to be concerned about here, folks. Just your typical day on a hardscrabble farm.

EVENING MAPS AND RADAR

The maps show high pressure remaining stubborn over Maine, forcing the storm to redevelop on the coast of Virginia.

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The radar shows the rain-snow line making no progress to the north, though sleet does seem to be mixing in more outside my front door.

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9:30 PM  29.86  27°

SATURDAY MORNING UPDATE

6:00 AM Temperature 29° Barometer 29.68  Light snow; dust-like flakes — Windy

Dark purple daybreak. I’m glad it is a Saturday, and I don’t have to open the Childcare.

Looks like rain (likely drizzle) has crept up the coast to Boston…

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…as the storm stalls, or only crawls. Looks like a dark day, for April.

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10:00 Temperature 32° Barometer no longer falling 29.72.  Snow picking up again.

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12:00 NOON  –Temperature 32°

EVENING UPDATE

Groan. What a royal pain cleaning up that snow was. It was something like glue mixed with cement, and the augers of my snowblower kept winding up like this:

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It was five inches of wet snow atop two inches of drenched sleet, and packed to something close to ice with little effort, so where the plows passed by on the street a wall was raised that the snowblower quailed at, like a hamster trying to gnaw through granite. I was overjoyed to see my eldest son drive up with his big plow to clear the entrances for me. But some places he cannot go. For example the snow slides off the new barn’s snow-shedder roof…

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…And packs this stuff a plastic snow shovel can’t dent….

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…and makes we want to wait for a warm spell to just melt the stuff.  Unfortunately this door faces north, and won’t melt quickly, so I’ll have to use my pick ax tomorrow.

(This is why people charmed by New England move back south, after a couple of winters.)

Anyway, here’s an “after” picture, to compare with a “before” picture above.

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The barometer is in no hurry to rise, at 29.84, with the temperature at 30° at 10:00 P.M. After 36 hours the snow finally faded away towards sunset, and Radar shows it moving away northeast.

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The map shows the storm didn’t get as big as some do. So there’s something to be thankful for.

The forecast is for temperatures in the high 80’s by the end of the week. April Fools!

Actually that was 1989. Look at the first week:

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I can dream, can’t I? (The reality is we have another storm coming Tuesday, hopefully rain, but with temperatures too close to freezing for comfort.) (Rain will keep me indoors and encourage me to do my taxes.) Currently the next storm is down in Texas.

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LOCAL VIEW –Boys and Mud–

Moths are drawn to light. Boys are drawn to mud.
It really makes me wonder at men’s reasons
For delight. You can sample people’s blood
And study chromosomes, blame the seasons,
Suspect treason, scowl at boy’s hormones
And still you find your logic hits a wall,
For boys find comfort in oozy, brown zones
That are not really comfortable at all.

Don’t I always warn them, “Do not go there”,
But does mischief ever wisely listen?
They sneak to the mire. Mud-balls fill the air.
I shake my head, wondering what I’m missing.

Soon they’re cold and wet, punished for desire,
And must be bathed clean, and warmed by a fire.

I, as a so-called “Child Care Professional”, (AKA “Babysitter”), am suppose to have the patience of a saint, and will never publicly admit I am otherwise. After all, I might lose my customers if I allowed little children to cause me to bust a blood vessel. Instead I smile as if all is sweetness and light. Some parents become downright indignant if they hear their little angel is a little bastard, and the State?  Well, I would lose my licence. Therefore, in public, I am such a saint that I am sometimes surprised I don’t levitate right up into the clouds. But it all a pretense.

When I want to be more honest about my true feelings, I go to church. This surprises some people, who think church itself is a place of pretense. Many people think church-goers are the snooty hypocrites, with holier-than-thou attitudes, but church involves this thing called, “confession of sin.” It springs from the first chapter of the first letter of Saint John, where he states, “If we say that we have no sin, then we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”  John goes on to state that if we pretend we are perfect we are basically calling Jesus Christ a liar, and that is no way to score points and gain benefits, spiritually.

Therefore, if you are doing church right, you are in essence standing before God naked, with all your hidden blemishes glaringly obvious, and that includes the fact that, although Jesus stated we should “suffer the little children”, there is a secret part of me, (if not you), that deems them little bastards and wants to throttle them.

Not that I can match the animosity of WC Fields towards children. He was famous for his line, “Go away kid, Ya bother me”,  (later used by Bugs Bunny), and he must have touched a nerve the public recognized, for the public roared with laughter as he behaved like the worst “Child Care Professional” imaginable. Here is an example of him caring for his nemesis, “Baby Leroy”, when what he really wanted to do was play golf.

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WC Fields might now be arrested for child abuse. Legend states he once grew so frustrated with Baby Leroy throwing tantrums, as they were trying to film, that he put gin in the child’s baby-bottle, (and that the child performed superbly afterwards). I hate to think what would happen to any modern Child Care Professional who tried such a remedy, (though people do currently turn a blind eye, when children get drugged.)

Those were harder times, as may be seen by thinking about the following testimonial to WC Fields by  Leo Rosten in 1939: “The only thing I can say about Mr. W.C. Fields, whom I have admired since the day he advanced upon Baby LeRoy with an icepick, is this: Any man who hates dogs and babies can’t be all bad.

This is complete and utter blasphemy, in the modern world of a Child Care professional. It just goes to show you that Hollywood was back then as it is now, (IE: inhabited by people who will clap and cheer at statements that will make people slightly ill, outside that particular, Hollywood, space and time).

In any case, I do like dogs and babies, which I suppose proves I can’t be all good. However, as is the case with all affection, there are thorns on the roses. Lord Jesus would not have said we should “suffer” the little children if the little angels didn’t sometimes make you want to scream.

For example, just focus on the fence rail in the background of the picture below:

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I replaced that rail today, (you can dimly see the pressure-treated replacement rail on the ground), and I think it is the twentieth rail I have replaced. I made a mistake, when we opened our Farm-Childcare, because I thought the Childcare would be a brief episode in the farm’s history, as we paid our way towards being a farm that focused on organic produce and goat’s milk. Therefore when I built the fence for the playground I bought the cheaper, untreated rails, though I bought pressure-treated posts. It saved me five hundred dollars back then, and would have been a good idea if we only ran the childcare three or four years, but now it is a decade later and a  major problem, because pine that is not treated with chemicals does not stand up well to rot. (The rails are sound except at the place where they join to the post. That is where the rot sets in.)

Now, despite the weakness of the rails, the rails would hang in there a lot longer if children would obey the rules, and not climb them. They have all sorts of climbing toys, and I also let them climb trees out in the woods more than my wife likes, but when it comes to the rails of the fence, I stand like Moses and command in a deep, booming voice, “Thou shalt not climb the rails!”

But there is one young fellow who doesn’t care a hoot about Moses. He has some gene that makes him inclined to climb fence rails, no matter what. He did so, and broke three rails, at age three. He did so, and broke five rails, at age four. Furthermore, for every time he was reprimanded for actually breaking rails, there are countless times when he was sternly reprimanded for climbing rails when they didn’t break.  Let’s call it 207 times, for the sake of this discussion.

After the first hundred times or so I got a bit exasperated, and the young fellow was punished with a “time out”, especially when the rails actually broke. He was undeterred. The young fellow seemed to figure the odds were against the rails breaking, because they only broke 8 times and didn’t break 207 times. The odds were with him, as he played this Russian roulette, until the rail pictured above broke, and he hurtled backwards and slammed his innocent skull on the frozen ground.  Then his wailing woke the bears.

At this point I think one is expected to rush up and say, “Oh deary me, did the itty bitty boy get a boo boo?” But I am more inclined to walk up with a grim face, and to hold the tearful child’s cheeks in my palms, and to check to make sure the pupils are not crossed or unequally dilated, and, once I am certain there is no brain damage, to ask an amazingly politically incorrect question, namely, “How many times have I told you not to climb those rails?”

What I actually said will remain a mystery, for I don’t want any lurking lawyers to see an opportunity for a lawsuit. I figure I’d lose a lawsuit, as a lawyer would insist I was to blame for not having a perfect fence. Such lawyers think they are a benefit to society by making people find remedies to potential hazards, but I think they are a benefit to insurance companies. Life has more hazards than before, because such lawyers are a hazard, and people are poorer after paying liability insurance, and can’t afford to fix fences.

In the real world, I am eye to eye with a young male who is recognizing I am a worthy adversary, who actually teaches there is such a thing as “accountability”.  There is such a thing as reaping-what-you-sow, such a thing as action-and-reaction, and such a thing as slamming your head on the frozen ground if you ignore the advice of tiresome grown-ups.

Many parents do not agree with my ideas about “accountability”. They make babies and hand them to me, because they have no time to raise their own children. Both parents must work long hours to pay for huge houses they seldom inhabit, to purchase wide-screen TV’s they seldom watch, to buy two amazing cars that commute ten thousand miles a year just to pay for the vehicle, and, lastly, to afford downloading their children onto a cantankerous old coot like me, who actually does like children and dogs.

The hypocrisy involved in the above paragraph is, to me at least, beyond surreal. It is downright splendid.

To return to the subject: In the above photograph, besides the busted fence-rail in the background, you may notice some mud in the foreground. That mud happens to be what, year after year, I work to make lawn, and which, year after year, I tell small children not to tread upon, when conditions become muddy, and which, year after year, children turn into a quagmire that kills the turf I have labored long and hard to establish.

Not that I really care all that much about lawns. I’ve made a lot of money caring for other people’s lawns, but have little time to fuss about my own. But this small area, at the entrance to my place of business, is important not only in terms of my image, but also because if it becomes a quagmire all sorts of slop gets tracked indoors, and my staff has to work overtime cleaning.

Therefore I not only lecture small children to take the long-way-around the area, but I erect barriers of stakes and tape to protect those few square feet of turf, but children are children, and “the shortest distance between two points breaks the law”.  I got tired of being upset all the time, and now take it for granted that the turf will be destroyed on a yearly basis.

Usually that happens in Mud-Season, which is in late March or early April, in New Hampshire.  However this year we are experiencing a full-blown “January Thaw”, which creates a short mud-season in the dead of winter.

A full-blown “January Thaw” makes me nervous, because in my long experience it means winter will come roaring back with a vengeance. [As a teen (in the 1960’s) I recall taking my shirt off to sunbathe by a reservoir in late January, while walking home from school, and then, when I got home, complaining to my mother’s “cleaning lady” about the lack of snow. I still recall the way the wise woman turned and spoke with great authority: “This sort of thaw breeds big snows.” And she was right. We got clobbered that February.]

Therefore I should be repairing my snow-blower and moving firewood onto the porch, making ready for feet of snow, and the last thing I want to spend my time doing is to remind little children over and over and over to stay out of the soft turf by the walkway.

But, of course, kids are not as far-sighted as I am.  They see mud as interesting stuff.  I mean, look at it, by the walkway:

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Don’t you just want to dig your hands into it and make a mud-ball?

Probably not, because you are old and stodgy. But, if you were a boy, you would, even if it was forbidden.

The above picture was far darker a day earlier, as the warm air streamed north and the rain poured down. Darkness was already deepening as the children poured off the school bus at my Farm-Childcare. The above mud was wetter, and more oozy.

My job, at that point, was to stand in the screen-porch and intercept certain children, predominantly boys, who should not go indoors. They had already spent far too much time indoors in rows of desks in classrooms, listening to a droning teacher, and could not have possibly withstood it for six hours without being drugged, but now the medication was wearing off.

To take such children indoors is an exercise in insanity, in my humble opinion.  If you attempt it, you see them bounce off the walls and things get broken. Therefore I make them don proper rain-gear, and we go out into the downpour, and they go wonderfully nuts.

Unfortunately there are certain parents who utter limp-wristed statements such as, “I never thought you’d go outside in today’s rain.”  How the heck they can say this, after enrolling their child in an “outdoors oriented” childcare, which uses the old Swedish motto, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing,” is beyond me. In any case, some kids arrive in summer dry-weather clothing, and I have to dress them in “loaner” clothing before we can go out to do the neat stuff we do in rainy weather.

This creates a brief gap between the time the children get off the bus, and the time we head out. During this time I am identifying the children wearing short sleeve shirts, and hustling indoors to find them a “loaner” raincoat.  Each time I leave the children unsupervised is likely grounds for a lawsuit, for they sure as heck are up to mischief.

I zipped indoors to grab a raincoat for a whining boy who complained “I have no jacket”. Upon my return I witnessed an amazing thing you cannot see, in the above picture of the attractive mud by the entrance to my Childcare. What I saw was boys wearing mittens scooping up mud.

I likely blurted some dumb question such as, “Didn’t I say to stay out of that mud?” An eight-year-old who likely will grow up to be a lawyer replied, “You said we could not walk on it, but we are not using our feet.”

I was in a hurry, and didn’t have time to think up a profound response, and merely growled,  “I don’t care. Stay away from the mud!” Then I rushed in to find “loaner” boots for a child who arrived in sneakers.

I swear it was less then a minute before I returned to find the children who obeyed me were plastered by mud thrown by the ones who disobeyed.

This mud-ball fight likely has symbolic significance,  for it shows that those who obey wind up muddy, while those who disobey get the pleasure if hurling mud. I may write a sonnet using that theme. However I had no time for sonnets. Instead I had seven wailing children who all wanted to go in and get washed.

There was no way I was allowing the little slobs in my nice, clean Childcare. Instead we headed away into the purple day, where fog we call “a snow-eater” was streaming above the shrinking snow-pack. I figured that if they kept wailing we’d turn back, but once we got moving the wailing ceased as if a switch was clicked. Wet snowballs began flying. At first the snowballs were a bit brown, but very quickly the weather and play cleaned the mud off the boys.

The only person who seemed at all cold was me. In the woods I had cut some pine boughs, and the boys hauled them about constructing a shelter of sorts, as the day darkened to a purple evening, and then my cellphone began chirping, as the staff texted me that parents were arriving. We all went trooping cheerfully back, washed by the rain, and more mellow than before, now that the pent-up energy was expended.

Of course, when we got back to the mud at the front walkway, one lad just had to impress his young mother by taking a big jump dead center into it, splashing some mud onto the legs of her fashionable pants.  All she did was speak his name in a pained voice, and then turn to me and sigh, “His medication is wearing off.”

I wanted to say, “Mud makes a better medicine.”

Instead I said, “Moths are drawn to light. Boys are drawn to mud.”

And that is how a sonnet began.

LOCAL VIEW –Smooth Ice–

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It didn’t look like we’d get smooth ice this year. A couple of weeks of sub-freezing weather formed a nice black ice, but just when I tested it and deemed it safe we had a couple of inches of snow, just heavy enough to push the ice down far enough for water to seep up through the expansion cracks in the ice. As soon as that water reaches the snow the snow sucks the water up like a sponge, and the ice becomes covered by slush. Even though the ice beneath is still safe I don’t allow the kids out on the slush, because it is too wet, and also the footprints they leave in the slush are fossilized by the next night’s freeze, and then you have very rough ice due to footprints.

When the slush freezes it makes the ice thicker and safer, but the surface is rough, like crusty snow. Also, after a blast of bitter cold, down to -4°F  (-20°C),  mild air began pushing back from the south. We promptly got four inches of snow, and the entire process began to repeat itself, with the snow again turning to slush atop the ice.  But the south wind became a surge, and we had some real yo-yo weather,  with temperatures shooting up to 50°F  (+10°C) and pouring rain, before temperatures plunged back down to 7°F (-14°C).  The rain flooded the surface of the pond, and, when it flash-froze, the ice was glassy smooth.

The ice was so smooth that, by holding the rope of a plastic sled and swinging the child around, I could enact a sort of Olympic hammer-throw and send the child spinning and shrieking down the entire length of the pond. Of course, once I did it to one child, I had to do it for all the others. Otherwise I’d face a chorus of, “It’s not fair!”  Over and over I was a sort of amusement park ride, whipping kids around and around and then sending the sled spinning down the pond. Man, are my arms ever sore!  Finally I had to teach them how to fling each other, because I was getting worn out.

It was surprising how swiftly they caught onto the art of something that, as a boy, we called “cracking-the-whip”, wherein a chain of sliding children pivots, with the child at the axis basically standing still, but the child out at the end of the chain going so atrociously fast that they can’t hold on, and are flung away laughing and sliding over the ice.

There is nothing quite like the din made by children playing on the ice. Once I educated them in the art of flinging,  I didn’t have to work any more, and I could simply stand back and listen. It seemed to joyously echo back through time to the time of the Dutch Masters, painting in the Little Ice Age.

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It is amazing how many paintings were painted involving skating on the frozen canals, back then. They may not have had thermometers, but simply by dating their paintings one has ample evidence it was, winter after winter, far colder. Painting was a way to make winter wonderful, and became part of their wonderful lore about wonderful winters.

The tale of “Hans Brinker and The Silver Skates” was based on that lore, although the author Mary Mapes Dodge had never visited Holland. She had Dutch immigrant neighbors who told her much about life and childhoods in the Netherlands, and she also was a student of Dutch history, and published the best-seller in 1865, towards the end of the Little Ice Age. (Within the tale is another famous tale, of the little boy who saves Haarlem by stopping a leak in a Dike with his finger.) (Children were amazingly responsible in her tales.) Besides being popular in the USA, her writing was popular in the Netherlands, and they embraced the tale and adopted it as their own, for it caught the feeling of their love of skating and frozen canals.

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As the Little Ice Age faded away the canals froze less often, (and pollution added warmth to the water as well), and skating became all the more special as it became more rare.  Of course, with the advent of the Global  Warming hysteria, some seized upon the lack of skating as proof mankind was guilty of polluting the planet to such a degree that we all were going to boil. This was reaching a peak in late 2008, (the leaked Climategate emails didn’t expose the fact the public was being badly bamboozled until November 2009). There was even a famous prognosis that “Children will not know what snow is like”, but then at the end of 2008 winter threw a wrench in the works of such hysteria, with bitter cold blasts, and the Dutch got to skate like they had in the past. It made it a bit harder to talk of “Global Warming”, when the pictures were so similar to the 1600’s.

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It became a national craze, complete with traffic jams, and orders for trains to travel slower, as people crossed tracks moving from one canal to the next.

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Of course, as the crowds grow, people get carried away, and sooner or later they start driving vehicles on the ice. Even the Dutch Masters saw this happening, back in the 1600’s.

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I figured I’d nip any such ideas in the bud, and instituted a rule at my Childcare that there should be no trucks driven on the ice. But would the children listen?

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It was obvious to me that this young lady needed a driver, but I was too stiff and sore. It reminded me of the Beatle’s song from their “Rubber Soul” album, “Drive my car”, and I began to hum it to my self. I love the song’s concluding couplet:

I’ve got no car, and it’s breaking my heart,
But I’ve got a driver, and that’s a start!

And as I hummed that part of the song the young lady came by again, and indeed she had found herself a driver.

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As I looked around all I could think was the sound in the air was the sound of joy.

Ice this perfect never lasts. But I am not going to be one of those people who always has to spoil things by foreseeing a bad future. If Global Warming happens, we’ll just find warmer things to be joyous about.

What is it about smooth ice different
From polished marble? The slide is farther.
The joy is greater. The air, heaven sent,
(So different from a funeral parlor),
Sparkles and freezes hair in my old nose
As the children romp, dance, and go mad
With glee at scent so far from summer’s rose
That comparing’s absurd, yet just as glad
Is the human heart on winter’s ice.

Go polish your marble. Your mausoleum
Will never match my pond, though it may suffice
For those whom find more life in a museum
Than in noise from a pond where children mingle,
Glittering sound much like sleigh-bell’s jingle.

LOCAL VIEW –Drenching’s Lesson–

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day: Tuesday, Dec 6

Time: 4:07

Where: The farm

Why: Charlotte, Maya, and Brooke invited you!

Please come!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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