LOCAL VIEW –Northern March Madness–

We hear rumors from the south
Of warm winds in Georgia pines
But we keep our skeptic chins
Down in our scarves,
For we’re hardened by the north
And the way that winter whines
As with Jolly Roger grins
His saber carves.

Our spirit starves
As their rhododendrons bloom.
As they frolic in the sun
We trudge the gloom.
As they rhapsodize and gush
We wade the slush.
Don’t speak to me
Of springtime glee.

Where down south ball players practice
Way up north we just do taxes
With our smiles like battle axes.
Where they sunbathe, our hard fact is
We have plum run out of gladness
And know differing March madness.

If you look at the map below you can see how the warm surge of springtime rushing up the east coast of the USA runs into a sort of wall, and fails to make it into New England. I can’t tell you how typical, and how annoying, this is. Notice the innocuous, little low just south of Nova Scotia, supplying just enough kick-back to keep cold ocean air flowing in from the east.

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What this means is that instead of warm winds from the south, and balmy temperatures that make even crabby people smile, we get temperatures just above or just below freezing. (On the occasions when we do get a southerly blast it is probable it will be swiftly followed by a front and icy northern winds.)

About the only good thing is the fog, which tends to “eat” the snow. I wrote about why it happens in an old post which has been surprisingly popular over the years, especially in March.

https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2013/02/02/why-fog-hates-the-snow/

The exception to this rule is when temperatures hover right at freezing, like they have here the past few days. Then the snow doesn’t seem to melt fast; rather it just turns to slush. The world seems particularly unappealing, and I see no children in the playground when I pick up kindergartners.

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The scenery, as I drive, isn’t at all that inspiring,

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And our own Childcare playground holds little attraction, as it is basically reduced to slush.

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To top it off, my muscles all ache due to the low pressure, and I have a cold, and I could go on and on about all my reasons to feel very different from a gamboling lamb in green, spring pastures.

By the times the older kids got off the school-bus yesterday afternoon I was working on my third degree of sainthood, and then all the boys seemed to be in especially rebellious moods. Only two wanted to go on the scheduled hike, and the rest shoved their hands in their pockets and slouched with sharp shoulders.  They needed only cigarettes dangling from their lips to look like a bunch of bookies. (To be honest, they looked like I felt, which I suppose demonstrates I was only outwardly a saint, and inwardly was a bookie.) I decided to just let them slouch, if that was their desire, and took two for a short hike, and then, as I returned, a slushy snowball whizzed dangerously close to my head.

In the manner of a true saint I patiently explained how snowball fights were against rule #291B,  and then turned to attend to a smaller child, when, Ker-POW!   A slushball hit me squarely in the forehead.

I thought about remaining a saint, and decided against it. Instead I told the boys they had better run, because rule #291B has a sub-clause, 15P, which allows staff to pelt little kids with slushballs, if the staff has a just cause, and getting hit on the forehead is a just cause.

Mind you, I confess there is a schoolmarm who sits invisibly  on my shoulder and advises against rioting. Also I did look over that shoulder to make sure my wife wasn’t watching. Lastly, I am well aware that there is no such thing as an orderly snowball fight, and that any attempts to moderate the fray will be about as successful as they are in professional hockey; sooner or later the fun escalates to a full-fledged fight. In the end I ignored all that stuff, and just did my best to paste youngsters with snowballs in the snoot.

Did they enjoy it? Man Oh man, did they ever! There were only two episodes of tears, (which isn’t half bad, looking back over the years), and in both cases the boys didn’t retire to the sanctuary of the “little kids” (who were watched by the staff further up the hill), but rather soon rejoined the chaos with their tears forgotten.

The odds were twelve to one against me, (after three girls joined the battle because it looked like such fun), and I confess to being mortally wounded on a number of occasions. However I have taken good care of my throwing arm this winter, (after destroying it a couple years back), and I was surprised how much of my old skill returned, once I was properly warmed up. I remembered some of the old tricks, such as lobbing a first snowball in a high arc, and then, while they are still looking up at it waiting for it to come down, throwing a second low-ball in a straight line. (The trick is to have both snowballs arrive at the same moment.)

I remembered the technique of ricocheting a snowball off a tree-trunk, or breaking a snowball into shrapnel in the branches above a target, or the strategy of pretending to ignore someone, and then throwing when they are not looking, or simply looking left and throwing right. I needed all my tricks, outnumbered as I was, with stealthy children creeping up from all sides. When they did nail me, I let loose howls of agony, which they greatly appreciated. When I charged them in feigned retaliatory rage, they fled screaming in sheer delight.

When parents came the kids didn’t want to leave, but eventually it was over. Oddly, I was sweaty but energized. I’d felt old and tired before we began, but felt thirty years younger afterwards. Something that had been withering up in me was cut loose and ran free.

I had a strange sense I had seen this before, many times, and if fact in some ways had seen it every March.

I recalled a half century ago throwing a snowball at a young doctor who was walking home from the market with milk, and how surprised I was that it turned out he had an excellent arm, and could make and throw snowballs at a rate of what seemed like two per second.

I remembered my Dad telling me of an April when the students at MIT were going crazy under the pressure of cramming for exams before Easter break, when there was a late, heavy fall of sticky snow.  Being engineers, they decided to build a wall, and a good place for the wall seemed like across Memorial Drive. (In 1938 there was a far greater lull in the traffic between the morning and evening rush-hour).

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Of course such a fine structure needed to be defended, and when the police arrived they were pelted with snowballs. The police of that time didn’t resort to teargas, and instead replied with snowballs, and apparently were better at battling than the students, who were slowly driven back to their dorms, throwing their final snowballs from upstairs windows. There were no arrests, and afterwards everyone felt wonderfully refreshed.

It is March Madness, and gives the schoolmarm perched on my shoulder something to ponder.

Not all that seems war-like is evil.
Burst free from the landscapes of gray.
Go wild with Dame Springtime and she will
Paint scarlets like dawn breaking day.

LOCAL VIEW –2017 Boston Blizzard–Winter’s Revenge (With post-storm update)

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In order to fully comprehend the irony adopted by New Englanders, its important to understand the weather has been attempting to play us for chumps, with many signs of an early spring.  A couple February storms had given us a quick three feet of powder snow, but then mild breezes swept north and the snow vanished with amazing speed. Signs of an early spring were everywhere. The pussy willows budded (wearing warm coats, which shows you they, at least, are not fooled by the weather).

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Mosses greened on the forest floor:

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And, of course, we had a hard time keeping coats on the kids, at our Childcare. Even when they sort of kept them on, they seemed to think they served better as sails in the warm gales from the south.

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The sap was running so fast in the maples the sugar-makers furrowed their brows with worry that it would be a bad year, with the run of sap over-and-done in a flash, and I was amazed by how quickly the ice vanished from ponds.

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Usually in late February we are still tromping across the ice, and it is March first when I start to be very careful, because strong spring sunshine has a way of thinning ice even when it is below freezing. (I think the ice may be like the roof of a greenhouse, and warms the water just beneath.) This year I didn’t worry about that, and instead had to keep an eye out for kids falling in at the edge. There is something irresistible about water,  to children in the spring.

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And even if they don’t fall in, children can find ways to get very wet.

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But this was February, and old, cantankerous anachronisms like myself are not fooled. We know March comes in like a lion.

The cold front that came was fascinating to me, for it was very dry on both sides of the front, so there was no line of showers or thunderstorms. However I did notice the sky, which had been perfectly blue, suddenly had a few small cumulus to the north, coming south fairly rapidly. I was herding a small gang of 6-9 year-olds out to the bus stop, and the sky was so fascinating I was unimpressed by a drama occurring between a boy and girl right in front of me.

The “official rules” state one cannot “save” their place in line with a backpack, but one girl was seeing if she could break the rules, and the boy objected. Rather than seeking me (as I am judge and jury) he booted her backpack about fifteen yards away, which breaks another “official rule.” The girl then flopped on the ground and sobbed, achieving a level of decibels that might make a jet airplane cower. The boy folded his arms and sneered at her. Rather than giving the children any attention, I pointed at the sky and exclaimed, “Will you look at that!”

The other seven children were shrugging and rolling their eyes, for the drama was everyday. Perhaps that is why I was giving it so little attention. No matter how much I arbitrate, that boy and that girl always seem to enact the same drama. However the young girl was having none of it. She was bound to get my attention by hook or by crook, and was working herself up into a hysteria, as the boy just tugged the brim of his baseball cap down over his eyebrows and looked all the more ruthless. I pointed off at the horizon. “Look! Entire trees are swaying. Big wind is coming!”

I have a reputation for attempting to deal with some petty squabbles with distractions. (I basically change the subject.) Perhaps this explains why absolutely no one payed any attention, as a roaring noise approached. The thaw had uncovered the unraked leaves in the pasture…

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And suddenly the leaves stirred and then swirled up like a vast dust devil and came charging towards us. “Here it comes!” I shouted, and then we were hit by a blast of wind I would guess was around 70 miles an hour. The seven children who were onlookers all screamed for the sheer joy of screaming, the hysterical girl became owl-eyed and silent for roughly a second, before starting anew, and the tough boy burst into tears, for his favorite baseball cap took off for Europe. Meanwhile a mother was just arriving with her five-year-old, and looked around at all the screaming and sobbing midst swirling leaves with deep concern, as her child looked about with a sleepy expression, and then smiled in approval. I just shrugged and said, “Don’t worry. It goes with the territory”, and then went to retrieve the boy’s hat from across the street, as the bus came lumbering down the road. Roughly fifty seconds later the wind was dying down, and the noise was the bus driver’s problem, and peace returned. However I could feel the difference in the air. By afternoon flurries were dusting the landscape, and the mud I had told the children to stay out of was becoming hard as iron.

March had definitely come in like a lion. The expression that is used in many lands, “If you don’t like the weather wait a minute” is said to have originated in New England (when Mark Twain lived here) but everyone else says it originated in their neighborhood. I don’t want to start any fights, so I’ll just quote what Mark Twain actually wrote:

“I reverently believe that the Maker who made us all makes everything in New England but the weather. I don’t know who makes that, but I think it must be raw apprentices in the weather-clerk’s factory who experiment and learn how, in New England, for board and clothes, and then are promoted to make weather for countries that require a good article, and will take their custom elsewhere if they don’t get it.

There is a sumptuous variety about the New England weather that compels the stranger’s admiration — and regret. The weather is always doing something there; always attending strictly to business; always getting up new designs and trying them on the people to see how they will go. But it gets through more business in spring than in any other season.

In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four-and-twenty hours. It was I that made the fame and fortune of that man that had that marvelous collection of weather on exhibition at the Centennial, that so astounded the foreigners. He was going to travel all over the world and get specimens from all the climes. I said, “Don’t you do it; you come to New England on a favorable spring day.” I told him what we could do in the way of style, variety, and quantity. Well, he came and he made his collection in four days. As to variety, why, he confessed that he got hundreds of kinds of weather that he had never heard of before. And as to quantity — well, after he had picked out and discarded all that was blemished in any way, he not only had weather enough, but weather to spare; weather to hire out; weather to sell; to deposit; weather to invest; weather to give to the poor.”

As an old grouch I began warning people to keep their guard up as soon as this winter had a nice spell in January. Then I looked very smug when we got three feet of snow in early February. Then, when that melted, I pouted only a little while, before I remembered the winter of 1887-1888 was remarkably mild and snowless, before THE blizzard of 1888 struck on March 11, and lasted until the 14th. New York City got four feet.

http://myinwood.net/a-buried-city-the-blizzard-of-1888/

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It is always good to have some history, if you want to be a pessimistic old grouch, and spoil another’s good day. However it is quite another thing to actually predict when such a storm will happen. Here I must be humble and state I bow before the ability of some meteorologists, especially Joe Bastardi and Joe D’Aleo, who gave me a heads-up over a week ago on their Weatherbell Site, when the computer models were still waffling with a wide variety of possible solutions.

I know just enough about meteorology to know how many things can go wrong with a forecast for a storm. I have suffered considerable agony over such forecasts, for when I was young a storm was a gift from heaven, freeing me from the purgatory of school and allowing the sheer paradise of play. My opinion of the white stuff has considerably altered since then, but I still recall the shamefaced TV weathermen explaining why certain storms of my boyhood failed to manifest. They could veer out to sea, or they could “elongate” and become two or three weak storms rather becoming a single gale, or, worst of all, they could hook inland and turn the snow to pouring rain.

A lot of things have to happen right, but when they happen they can happen fast. I recall reading a description of the blizzard of 1888 from the perspective of fishermen, (I can’t offer a link, because I have never found that article again), and apparently even the sailors were fooled. The sail-powered Long Island fleet was trying to sneak a trip in, on a balmy spring day, and suddenly the sky swiftly grew black and they heard thunder, and it was a battle to get back to shore, and not every boat made it.

This abrupt development of a storm (not a lone thunderstorm but a gale many hundreds of miles across) is dubbed “bombogenesis” by meteorologists, and while the word has not yet been accepted by Webster’s Dictionary, it does express the explosive nature of the development. Joseph D’Aleo is an expert on how it occurs, and to simplify his excellent explanations, (found on his Weatherbell site), what occurs is that a “lid” which has been holding ocean-warmed air down, and keeping it from rising, is abruptly removed as a high pressure’s descending air moves away. Then the uplift is further enhanced by one or two jet-streams.

One fascinating thing about jet streams is that they don’t merely move in a straight line, but corkscrew in a clockwise manner at the front and a counter-clockwise manner to the rear (facing forward.)  Therefore if the back of a departing jet lines up correctly with the front  of an arriving jet, the uplift can be extreme, and storms go from having a lid on them to having every encouragement to explode upwards.

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What amazes me is the ability some meteorologists have to see when this “might” occur, days in advance. I think meteorologists deserve far more credit than they get, for giving us fair warning. Everyone is eager to make them a laughing stock when they are wrong, but they sometimes are right, and when they are right they deserve thanks, because, to be honest, I doubt we’d have a clue these storms were coming without them.

I like to test myself.  I spend a lot of time outside, and like to see if I can tell when a storm is coming, by only using what I can gauge with my own eyes. I saw very little that clued me in this past week. Not even my goats seemed to be wary.  Yesterday morning there was a weak low down in the Gulf of Mexico, and a small storm rolling across the Great Pains, and a “lid” of high pressure off the east coast.20170313 satsfc

The radar showed some snow over the midwest, but no sign of a bomb to the east and only a few sprinkles of rain in the Gulf.20170313 rad_nat_640x480

We’d been experiencing bitter cold:  -2° on Sunday morning and 3° on Monday morning (-19° and -16° Celsius) with Sunday’s bitter winds giving way to Monday’s calm. Rather than falling the pressure kept rising, to 30.17 at noon on Monday. High clouds made the skies gray around noon on Monday, but then it cleared off. I joked it was a gorgeous day, and people were foolish to be rushing about, but they continued. The stores were crowded with people stocking up, though there was no sign of a storm. In fact it was the dull sort of day worthy of one E.B.Webster’s “Life’s Darkest Moments” cartoons.

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I was able to salvage some of the afternoon by allowing the older boys (8 years old) to start a fire on their own, and then showing them tricks to success when they failed.

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However the future still looked dull, though word came school had been cancelled at the public schools, the following day. (Our childcare has never been closed.) Then the evening map showed some signs the northern and southern lows were “phasing”

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And the radar showed the “lid” was coming off at the coast, but it looked like mostly rain.

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Still, the moon was bright, and the barometer was high, only slightly falling, 30.15 at 7:45 PM and 30.11 at midnight.

Then, this morning, the storm had appeared on the coast, with the barometer starting to fall more swiftly to 29.98, and light snow falling outside.

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The rain had changed to snow as it pushed north, and after bottoming out at 17° my thermometer was refusing to rise.  It looks like bombogenesis for certain.

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Update.  Only one boy showed up at the Childcare. Everyone is hunkering down, as the forecast is ominous for the afternoon, with gusts to 60 mph and perhaps some freezing rain briefly mixing in to break branches and perhaps knock out our power, in which case I guess I won’t update, (Ha ha).

Barometer is falling rapidly to 29.65, and temperature has nudged up to 19°. (-7° Celsius)

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Snow is moderate. We have 4 inches. The real heavy stuff is not far to our south.

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Update: 1:41 PM  Heavy snow and windy. — 23° — 29.38 and falling rapidly.

Update 3:30 PM  Heavy snow and windy — 23° — 29.16 and falling rapidly. Snow may slack off as dry slot pushes north from south of us.

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Update: 4:08 —24° — 29.06  Windy but snow slacking off. Now it is fine, sifting flakes penetrating chinks of clothing on a strong wind.  No way am I heading out to clean-up quite yet, but I can take a picture out my front window.Z12 IMG_4447

5:00  –24°–  –28.98 — No snow shows over us on radar, but the fine stuff is still falling. The wind is going to make clean-up problematic, as places will drift back in. In fact, by raising walls of snow either side of a walkway I may merely make a deeper place to drift in. Therefore perhaps its wiser to stay indoors?

6:07 PM  –24°– –28.86– Dry slot over us on radar but steady light snow falling

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9:50 PM Clean-up done at childcare. Snow was not light and fluffy. It was starchy and fairly heavy. Hard to gauge depth, due to drifting. I’d guess 16 inches.  Wind slacked off, with occasional big gusts. Snow was fine and didn’t show on radar, but in the past half hour big flakes began falling, and abruptly appeared on the radar.  Barometer 28.88 and steady. Temperature 23° (-5° Celsius) .

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Update:  1:00 AM  –18°– –28.99–Still some light snow

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7:00 AM 9° — 29.13 —  Blue skies we had about another inch, but lots of drifting.

POST-STORM UPDATE 

11:00 AM  Sunny 19°; Barometer 29.15 and steady. Winds surprisingly light, considering how tight the isobars look on the map. Backlash snows well to our west over New York State.

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I had to do more clean-up due to drifting, and also due to the fact State Law wants all exits clear. (I think it is so Child Care Professionals can escape the building when the kids are about to drive them bonkers, but I could be wrong about that.) There was a two-hour-delay, so the older children got to stay with us longer before the bus came. I tried to look appropriately sad about leaving the din to go out into the gorgeous sunshine, but my frown was upside down.

The snow was stiff and starchy and the snowblower has only five blades working because a rock broke a sheer-pin on the sixth, so the blower crept through the deep snow with exasperating slowness. I’d say it moved at around a yard a minute.

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There were some emergencies that couldn’t wait for a path to be cleared. There was no heat in the childcare, and I assumed the air-inlet was blocked by snow, and that I needed to trudge through the drifts. (Inlet just beyond blocked exit).

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I was able to clean the inlet with my pinkie finger, and saved the day. This is the fourth time I’ve been a hero with a minimum of effort. Ice was starting to skim the upstairs toilet, but I realized the upstairs heat had been accidentally turned off, so I fixed that problem by turning on the heat. Then the water pressure was low, and I became aware a pipe had frozen and burst because a window had blown out in the basement of the old farmhouse, which seemed major, but I fixed the window by picking it up from the floor (it had six panes and not one broke), and jamming it back where it belonged, and then the broken pipe turned out to be a side-line leading to an outdoor spigot, so I simply turned a faucet handle and shut off that line (to be fixed when the weather was warmer), and just like that I’m a hero again.

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Then I could get back to clearing the exits. Unfortunately the blower only clears snow two feet deep, which is only enough for a dog door in some exits.

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I was thinking of telling my wife that in an emergency people could crawl, but after further consideration I broke down and used an old fashioned shovel. I’m still alive.

Now all eyes are looking to the Canadian prairies. An Alberta Clipper is expected to slide down from there over the next few days, and again there may be bombogenesis on the coast.  Never a dull moment.

From Joe Bastardi’s blog at Weatherbell, here is how one model sees the snow this weekend. (Cape Cod gets hammered, and we only get an inch….fine with me.)

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2:30 PM  29.22 and steady. 21°,  and partly cloudy; some high clouds of the “junk” variety, but mostly low cumulus looking suspicious, like we might get some flurries.

10:00 PM –29.41– –14°–Scattered flurries

Thursday, 7:00 AM –29.55– –13°– Partly cloudy (Overnight low 10°)

 

 

LOCAL VIEW –Some Pity, Please–

I didn’t heed financial advisers
So what I now own is my own fault.
I find I envy lonely old misers
Clinking their coins in a lonely old vault.
It’s not their coins I desire, but their quiet.

Quiet’s so rare I cannot conceive it.
In my house women rampage and riot.
Four generations! Can you believe it?

My friends who loved money gained fat pensions
And were without wives. All their cares were shed;
They should have known joy, without tensions.
Instead loneliness swiftly struck them dead.

Me? Don’t ask. I’ve no time to reflect.
I get no quiet. I get no respect.

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One interesting aspect of Rodney Dangerfield’s humor is that it is an appeal for pity, but rather than pity it earns laughter. (“I know I’m ugly. I’ve always been ugly. When I was born the doctor slapped my mother.”)

Within the laughter is a joy that laughs at our sorrows. It is a recognition that, despite all the evidence to the contrary, it is good to be alive. It sees the glimmer of God even in a devil of a day.

All the same, I wouldn’t mind some pity, at times. (Preferably cash.) However I have a bad habit of always comparing my lot to people who are worse off, and that spoils my ability to play the violins. I start out with the violins, and then have this strange urge to insert a tuba.

For example, as a writer I prefer quiet, but despite the fact all my children are grown I never seem to experience the so-called “empty nest.” I have taken to getting up in the middle of the night to write, for that is the only time it is really quiet. Consequently I often lack sleep, (even though I go back to bed, and get to sleep twice a night, whereas others only get to sleep once). When I get up to go to work I feel like death warmed over, and want some pity.

Then I compare myself to a person who actually was the most unfortunate person in the world, for a day. I’m referring to myself 33 years ago. I was spurned and broke and living in a desert campground, and wrote this unhappy song:

I think I am going to die soon.
I see a skull’s face in the full moon
And high in the sky hear a mad loon
Luting a lonely and sad tune.

Why am I staying here grieving?
Who do I think I’m deceiving?
Why am I staying here groaning?
Life’s just a way of postponing.

Some body some body
Ask me to stay.

All I need to do is remember the horrible loneliness of that mournful twilight and all the noise I experience now doesn’t seem so bad. However I figure that shouldn’t disqualify me from pity. Maybe I don’t deserve a whole concerto of violins, but a lone fiddle might be nice, once in a while.

Recently my mother-in-law deserved the pity because she couldn’t go to her warm place in Florida because she was recovering from an operation. I agreed that the sooner she went to Florida the happier everyone would be. Finally she was able to go, provided someone went along to help her open up her house. I was willing to sacrifice the beauty of snow for a bit, however I was too indispensable to my workplace to go. In the end my daughter took on the task, but that meant my wife and I had to watch our granddaughter, who is three.

My sleep was even more disrupted, for the small child had the habit of crawling into bed with my wife and I at all hours of the night. It was cute, the first time, but the little girl kicks a lot in her sleep. Also sometimes she’d wake before me, and seemingly decided my upturned face was a good road to drive her toy cars over. It was a strange thing to wake up to.

However it was a perfect thing, when it came to getting me some pity. When people asked me, “How’s it going?” I didn’t need to respond, “Fine, and you?” Instead I could answer, “Things are not good.”

This forces people to raise a sympathetic eyebrow, and ask “Oh?”

Then I could say, “I’m terribly run down. This morning I was run over by a cement truck.”

I would then look at them and wait for them to correct me, saying something like, “You mean you felt like you were run over by a cement truck,” but no one ever took the bait. Maybe they know me too well. Instead they tended to look curious, and wait.

So I’d add, “Can you believe it? An actual cement truck ran me over. I took a picture of it with my cell phone, and can prove it to you.  Here. Take a look:”

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LOCAL VIEW –Is there life after Football?–

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(Video credit NFL and Fox News.)

The Monday morning after the Superbowl the parents dropped off their kids at our Farm-childcare looking haggard, and no, I’m not from Atlanta. New England fans were seemingly in a state of serious shock, as not even they expected the come-back they had witnessed. In a dazed way, with stunned expressions, they were replaying the entire game over and over, like the above clip.

In a reply to a friend I gave my view:

“I’ve heard a lot of Monday-morning-quarterbacks say what Atlanta “should have done”, but such 20-20 hindsight is not there, in the heat of the moment. I think a sort of “fog of war” sets in during an actual game, and that is where Belichick is best, because he makes the right choices during crazy-time, when you are not given time to think. Belichick likely would have burned up the clock and run the ball, if in Atlanta’s shoes, but Atlanta was seemingly stuck in the habit of using what had worked before, thinking it would continue to work. It didn’t. They didn’t adjust but Belichick had adjusted. (One of my favorite camera shots was of Belichick jotting notes in a old-fashioned notebook with an old-fashioned pen; [he smashed his newfangled tablet-computer in the middle of a game, two months ago]; he looked as detached as a coach jotting notes in a practice session. Wouldn’t it be fun to get a peek at that notebook?)

Atlanta’s defense was utterly exhausted (or “gassed”, as the player’s say), by the end, as the Patriots had that defense on the field for 40:31 and they were off the field for only 23:27. I don’t think this is an “accident of fate”, because when Belicheck was defensive coordinator of the Giants, and they were up against the high powered offence of Kelly and the Buffalo Bills during the 1990 Superbowl, the Bill’s defense was on the field over 40 minutes. Can it be that Belichick actually plans that, if the opponent is going to score, they will do so swiftly, and their defense will get no rest before it is back on the field?

At the end of the game it looked like Atlanta was still in that “score fast” mode, because it had been easy earlier. They were lured into using the obsolete.

Sort of a strategy similar to “rope-a-dope.”

This sort of post-game analysis, back in my boyhood, was called “the hot stove league”, and was mostly about baseball when there was no baseball to be played due to deep snow, and old geezers were looking forward to the next baseball season, during New England’s interminable winters. Such blather was conducted around hot wood stoves, often in small stores or at the local post office, and likely drove some wive’s mad, as they likely felt husbands could be making better use of their time, (even as some husbands felt their wive’s could cut their phone-calls short.) In any case, since those long-ago days football has stepped in, during December and January at least, and usurped the position of baseball.

The approval or disapproval of spouses does not matter as much as the approval of God, and violent sports like football make me a bit nervous. A person, who I respect greatly, once informed me God really enjoys the sport of cricket. However, once the violence of football is over, I think God likely approves of people sitting about talking about what they have witnessed. Why?

I suppose it is because it is good to appreciate the efforts of others.

I’ve worked well over a hundred different jobs in my time, and you’d be amazed how often the work goes completely unappreciated. For example, next time you hold a bottle of ketchup, look at the label. I was the guy making such labels for ketchup, (and a hundred other bottled things), for all of two weeks one winter. (Yes, I got fired.) It was a horrible, miserable job, for minimum wage, and required a sort of heroism on my part to endure it, (and required heroism on the part of my wife to endure me), but, were there any cheering crowds as I (and my wife) heroically managed to scrape together the funds to feed my children?  Nooooooo….

Look around yourself. You are surrounded by things you take for granted, made possible by people you fail to appreciate. The lights you click on, the toilets you flush, the bread and the butter you eat, all involve toiling people you take for granted. If we had the slightest idea of how beholden we are to others we’d be flush with thankfulness, and far more loving than we actually are. But the thing of it is, we ourselves are too darn busy toiling to appreciate the toil of others, and, if we lift eyes from toil to think at all, it is of how we are the ones who deserves more credit. We are all too often too busy playing the wailing violins of our own self pity. We are as dependent on others as oldsters in  wheelchairs, crabbing that the ride is too rough.

Considering this unflattering portrait is how God likely sees us, I imagine he likes how we become utterly and amazingly different, regarding sports. Suddenly we appreciate the smallest details of other’s efforts. We see the nuances, the quick reactions, and the uncanny element of luck.

The exact same things we obsess about on football fields occur in our own lives. When the cook at our local diner cracks open a bad egg in the middle of the morning rush, it involves all the swift shifts of an athlete in a sporting event. There may be no cheering, and in fact there may be some grousing because orders are temporarily filled more slowly, but the swift recovery rivals the efforts of an athlete. There may be fewer tips, down here in earth, but up in heaven the angels are cheering wildly for the cook.

Remember that, when you next trudge through the drudgery of your day, largely unappreciated. Even if you don’t believe in angels, if you imagine that you are doing your unseen deeds in a stadium, with millions of cheering spectators watching, it has a way of making you, if not feel better, perform better.

As a young artist I used to trick myself in this manner all the time. I might be washing dishes in some slummy dive, but I figured a million were watching me. How?  Well, I figured it was only a matter of weeks before I’d be “discovered”, and my poems would sell a million copies, and all of a sudden many, many fans would want to know about my past life. Therefore, as I washed dishes, a million fans were watching me. And I tell you, few have ever washed dishes as I did, with such flair and pizzazz, flipping plates like pancakes and singing odd opera. (If nothing else, it made a dull job far more fun, and made me a fun fellow to work with.)

In the case of the Superbowl, there actually are millions watching, and appreciating every move, not only during the event, but afterwards. In some cases the efforts are appreciated decades afterwards. The nuances of fate, uncovered and discovered long afterwards, are all the more fascinating when the internet allows the “hot stove league” to involve a heck of a lot more people than, in the old days, you could fit in a post office or hardware store.

For example, regarding the Superbowl of a few days ago, I heard, during discussion of Belichick in the 1990 Superbowl which pitted the Giants against the Bills, that Belichick was the defensive coordinator, but the offence wide-receiver coach was  Tom Coughlin, who later became the head coach of the New York Giants, and is the only coach to ever defeat Belichick in a Superbowl (twice).

The fact that the coach of that 1990 New York Giants team, Bill Parcells, was able to recognize the genius of two young assistant coaches, could be the subject of a long, long article in a sports-section written by sports fanatics for sports fanatics. Me? I’ll cut things short, and just say Bill Parcells, when at the height of his powers, was able to do the thing this post is about:  Appreciate.

One thing I appreciate about modern times is what I spoke of before: The “hot stove league” has become enormous. One thing I investigated, on my computer, was “fan reaction”. You likely could spend hours just watching video of fans experiencing the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, and in some cases it is hard to tell the difference. New England fans collapse to the floor sobbing in victory, as Altlanta fans go insane with hysterical laughter.

Then you can likely spend days watching the “experts”, both on high-powered network sites and on small-time individual sites, indulge in post-game analysis, reexamining every play in minute detail.

The first is emotion and the second is intellect, but both appreciate.

Me?  I must be getting old, for I don’t care so much about winning as I used to. I’m more interested in the sport than who wins, and also sometimes more interested in the fans than the players.

Because I run a Farm-childcare, some of the fans I deal with are very young. The children who are under five could care less about sports, but around age five kids become fans, in a very unrealistic, dreamy way. For example, they think their Dad could outrun any player in the NFL. There is no cotton-picking way I am going to disillusion them. However they also seem to think I myself am nearly as amazing as their Dad, and that I myself could also play in the NFL, and I need to find some gentle way of disillusioning them.

In the world of Childcare and so-called Childcare Professionals, 97% of the people children meet are women. Therefore, as a male, I need only to walk in the door and I am immediately as welcome as a rock star. Because, even in nature, baby gorillas want to romp with a mean-looking daddy gorilla, if I so much as stoop to tie a child’s shoe I may get blind-sided by a kid who wants to tackle a daddy, for I am a temporary father-figure, and romping with daddy is natural. If I crouch down on creaking 63-year-old knees to help a kid with a puzzle, it is not unusual to immediately feel two or three kids climbing on my back. I feel like a quarterback in a blitz, and Freud would likely be cross-eyed about the physical contact involved. But, because I am hale and hearty for my age, I arise undamaged by the attention, and the children think I am a NFL star.

Over the years I’ve developed a way of entertaining children’s hero-worship, while deflating it with a dose of reality. For example, I may say that Tolkien stated certain trees are “Ents,” and that a maple over there used to stand over here, and that, if they don’t believe me, they should ask their Dad. Then the child returns to tell me, “My Dad says there is no such thing as walking trees!” I figures this teaches them to double check their teachers, and also to go to their fathers for advice.

By the time a child goes to kindergarten at age five they have learned to laugh at some of my tall tales. For example, I tell them, “Me and George Washington used to chop down cherry trees together, and, back when we went to school, school buses hadn’t been invented, and me and George had to ride to school on the back of a yellow dinosaur.” I always add that, if they don’t believe me, they should ask their Mom and Dad. I figure that, if nothing else, parents get a laugh.

It was in this spirit that my most recent tall tale involved Belichick using me, as number 99, on his kick-off team, in the upcoming Superbowl. I told the kids to look for the old 63-year-old guy with the gray beard sticking out from his helmet, running down the field. For some reason not a child doubted this was possible. After all, it is their experience that they can’t tackle me, so how could they know I’d be less in a Superbowl?

I waited expectantly for a laughing parent to tell me his child had asked if I was going to be in the Superbowl, but life got hectic, and it never happened.

After the Superbowl the parents were arriving late, so utterly drained by the unbelievable game they we in no condition to drive, let alone go to work, so I did not bring up the subject of whether or not I played in the Superbowl. But, with the kids, I asked, “So, did you see me?”

I let on that it “might” have been in the third quarter that the genius of Belichick had me out there on the field, gray beard sticking out from my helmet, as a “trick play”, and that I was so upsetting to the Atlanta Falcons that they couldn’t score again, adding, “If you don’t believe me, ask your father.”

I’m still awaiting feedback, with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek. My aim is to make the parents enjoy a good laugh.

On a more serious note, I’d like to remind people that, as incredible and superb as the athletes in the Superbowl are, (and they are superb beyond belief), they are but adults playing a child’s game. The adult game adults play is far more serious, and the players deserve far more appreciation. And if you do not believe me, ask the “Father” who is not your physical father, but the One called the “Truth”.

DELIVERED OF A LONG PAIN

In my work with small children I’ve become aware that they test their limits, and therefore will test the limits of my patience. It is as if children want to see if they can wear you down. My advice to parents is to chose your battles, and then never give in. If you give in then the child learns that wearing-you-down is a good strategy, and does so with increasing frequency. (On the rare occasions when the child is actually right about something, and not merely trying to get their own way, make them wait as you reconsider; pretend to consult an expert on your phone, and so on; and then make it clear that the final decision is yours and not theirs.)

I find the same is true with politicians. They too try to wear you down. They too want to get their own way. Often they employ what is called “The Big Lie.”

 A big lie (German: große Lüge) is a propaganda technique. The expression was coined by Adolf Hitler, when he dictated his 1925 book Mein Kampf, about the use of a lie so “colossal” that no one would believe that someone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.”

Joseph Goebbels developed the idea a bit further,

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

A person who loves the Truth, and who also recognizes that straying from the Truth leads to no end of needless misery, finds the above statement of Goebbels vile and appalling. One refuses to salute the lie, as a lone man refused in this famous picture.

no-salute-1-152221

It is interesting to focus in on the man, (whose wife was Jewish, and later died in a concentration camp, as did the man, though their child survived), and see the reactions of the men behind him. He was creating a stir, and having an effect.

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It is not comfortable to be in the shoes of such a brave person, yet all who have pointed out  the flaws in the idea of “Global Warming” have stood in those shoes, for nearly thirty years, (if you take, as a “start date”, Hansen’s testimony before Congress, on June 24, 1988.)

http://www.nytimes.com/1988/06/24/us/global-warming-has-begun-expert-tells-senate.html?pagewanted=all

People who have criticized even minor aspects of Global Warming have seldom had the opportunity for adult debate, and rather have been marginalized, ostracized, mocked and derided, falsely accused of being bribed by “Big Oil”,  denied promotions and funding, and this treatment has been a pain that has continued on and on, and grown worse as the “Big Lie” became more and more obvious, as more and more studies had to be hidden because they countered the balderdash, even as an entire generation of children was brought up being fed the lie like pablum.

One false factoid that always has made me wince is the “97% -of-all-scientists-agree-Global-Warming-is-real-and-a-man-made-problem” lie. Even the most precursory look at the various polls involved revealed the subsets they chose to use excluded nearly all possible disagreement.

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/425232/97-percent-solution-ian-tuttle

However the fact the factoid was false didn’t stop, or slow in the slightest, our former president and former secretary of state from hauling out the 97% factoid like a stale joke, raising an index finger, and pronouncing the factoid like almighty gospel.

Their behavior made me cringe, as did the fact many in-the-know politicians were quite aware Global Warming was balderdash, as a serious threat, yet said nothing. When the former president mentioned “Climate Change” in a recent State Of The Union address, there was a palpable murmur of giggles through the audience. It was as if many were in-on-the-secret but going-along-with-it. As a lover-of-Truth, I watched with a sense of repressed horror, because such behavior on the part of public servants seemed a gross betrayal of the trust which the public has (or had) in their leaders.

I also felt pain because so many young school teachers basically teach from-the-book, without doing a great deal of research on their own, and when they were handed a book that stated that 97% of all scientists believed Global Warming was a serious threat, they trusted the book. They taught what they were told to teach, innocently becoming part of a lie.

But what hurt worst was the effect the lie had on a generation of children, especially because it was always stated the lie was “for the children”, until the very phrase “for the children” became synonymous with gross hypocrisy.

Rather than nourishing a love of nature, children feared they were breaking it. As a person who runs a Childcare dedicated to increasing children’s awareness and love of nature, this was especially obvious to me. I had to push past the preconception that walking in the forest would kill the moss you trod upon, and to replace that dread with the sense the Creator created creation because He loved us; creation was for us; it was a wonderful landscape-painting where we could walk through the frame and into the picture, with the Creator holding our hand and saying, “Do you like my painting?” The lie stated otherwise: That we ruined everything we touched, and that we should be banned from all involvement.

And so the years passed, one after another, with the pain going on and on and on. Every time I tried to point out the lie I faced cruel accusations, was called a “denier” and worse, and even read that “deniers” should be locked up, or shot. Added to my pain was an element of increasing fear.

And then, yesterday, a new president walked into the white house, and immediately removed references to Global Warming and Climate Change from the White House web-page.

before-after-wh-climate-before-after

I can’t describe how odd it feels. The pain is gone.

It’s weird how easy it seemingly was. It is like having a headache that goes on and on and on, until you finally take an aspirin, and then, bingo, the pain is gone.  And you think to yourself, “Why didn’t I do that before?”

Please forgive me for grousing just a bit, for we’ve had the aspirin all along. The aspirin is Truth, and I’ve been prescribing it for decades.

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.

wc-fields-baby-leroy-fcfc0477a900f360e085678efe76a48f

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:

mud-1-img_4240

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:

mud-2-img_4241

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 –Logos Vs.Tracking

(Note-In New Hampshire a Child Care Professional like myself is required to continue their education, 16 hours a year, by attending classes. I find this a bit annoying as I study all the time, but prefer to do so in my own way and in my own time. Recently, much to my delight, the powers-that-be decided folk like myself could fulfill six hours of our obligation not by driving a long way and attending a class we can ill afford, but rather by writing up to six papers. Hopefully this post counts as one hour of research.)

tracking

One interesting aspect of watching children grow is how they learn words. There is more mystery involved in this than we like to admit. If you doubt me, google “vocabulary at age three” and see how many different opinions there are of how many words a child has learned, or “should” have learned, by that age. (And then realize Thomas Edison had a vocabulary, until he was nearly four, of zero.) (Modern jargon would have called him a “selective mute”.)

At age two a child ordinarily uses 25-75 words, at age three 200-500 words, at age four over a thousand, and by age six over 2500. But this only includes the words a child can get their mouth around, or their “expressive” vocabulary. Children also have a “receptive” vocabulary, (words they understand but don’t use), and by age six that is an amazing 24,000 words.

The saying, “Little pitchers have big ears” goes back at least to 1546, when a man named John Heywood included it in a book of proverbs.  Shakespeare used a version in “Richard III” a half century later: Good Madam, be not angry with the child. Pitchers have ears.” (The “ear” of a water pitcher was its handle.)  The saying simply recognizes the fact children are absorbing more than we can imagine.

So what are children absorbing, these days? These days the average amount of time a child spends sitting in front of a video screen is far too large, and in fact the “average” for an eight-year-old is nearly a full work day (over seven hours).  While reading a somewhat depressing first paragraph in an article entitled”What Nature Has Taught Us”, found here:

https://www.thesolutionsjournal.com/article/what-studying-nature-has-taught-us/

I came across this tidbit of information:

“…young children can recognize over 1,000 corporate logos, but few can identify more than a handful of local plant or animal species.”

My initial response was incredulity; it seemed the figure must be malarkey. I doubt I could think of 1,000 corporate logos. However, the more I thought about it the more it made sense.

It does seem advertising has made insidious inroads into our private spaces, until now even our undergarments are practically billboards. Race cars have so many advertisements on them they surpass billboards, and instead look like classified ads. Very fast classified ads, I will admit, but speed can’t hide the fact they surpass absurdity into the far reaches of bad taste. I wonder what a race-car driver of the past would think, if he could look into the future, and see the clownish outfits now worn.

I still possess an old pair of skates I found, when my feet grew to their current size back in 1966,  in my boyhood basement. They were wonderfully, beautifully made. Where modern skates feel rigid and plastic, like a ski boot, these old skates, from the 1950’s or perhaps even 1940’s, were all leather except for their blades, and while offering some ankle-support they were supple, and putting them on felt like putting on a slipper, compared to modern skates. When I looked to see who made them, I noticed the biggest difference. The maker’s name isn’t emblazoned  in large letters on the product. In fact I can’t find a name at all. (There may be one, somewhere, but I haven’t found it yet.)

In other words, back then a craftsman depended more on his product being well-made than on indenting the public’s psyches with their logo. Modern advertising has utilized a degrading view of humanity that seems to deem us little more than Pavlov’s dogs, made to drool on command. I think the public is increasingly fed up with this sort of belittling treatment, and is steering away from mass produced items towards local markets. I’ve noticed this in foods, in home-knitted garments, and the last few Christmases I’ve increasingly noticed a rebellion in the world of toys, with some toys advertised as being beneficial simply through having no logo whatsoever. Lego’s logo is being challenged by ordinary, old-fashioned blocks, made of wood.

In some ways a logo is just an identification, not much different from animal tracks or the identifying shapes of leaves. Where cave men looked for one sort of shape, when they wanted to eat, we look for the identifying logo of a fast food restaurant.

In other ways, sadly, logos are used to drain parent’s wallets without regard to the possible harm being done to children. Advertisers are well aware of the power whining children can have on a parent in a store, and seek to increase that misery. When Disney puts out a new movie they fully expect to make a heap of extra money selling toys that are based on the characters in the movie, and their primary motive is greed.

Greed? Yes, for advertisers are well aware it has been demonstrated that the toys they sell limit the imaginative development of a child’s mind, and that childhood is better served by less specific toys that can be a wider variety of people, places and things. (For example, a small cardboard box with eye-holes can allow a child imagine they are  a knight from the past or an astronaut of the future, whereas a “Buzz Lightyear” helmet is far more expensive yet restrictive, and only the most imaginative children can put it on and be “Sir Lightyear, knight of the Round Table”.)

Advertisers are under increasing pressure to stop treating the public in the demeaning manner they have found profitable. During recent elections advertisers were widely used by politicians, but the results demonstrated the public is sick of the basically dishonest techniques advertisers employ. Once using the phrase, “For the Children”, with a load of violins playing in the background, could moisten the public’s eyes, but increasingly politicians are getting hit by eggs and tomatoes, and looking back at their advertisers with disapproval.

The primary reason for the success of the little Farm-Childcare my wife and I set up is because we teach no logos to children. We offer no video time whatsoever, and electronic devices are banned. (This is is not to say children don’t surreptitiously sneak them onto our premises, and play electronic games the way I smoked illegal cigarettes behind the barn, as a boy. However, as the gestapo-grown-up, I pounce and seize such contraband, and force the poor kids to sled down hills and make snowmen and snow-forts.) We originally had toys that were based on Micky Mouse or Star Wars, but increasingly we have avoided replacing them, when kids break them (as they break nearly everything), because we have found cardboard boxes serve as well, and a doll made of straw can be an amazing variety of characters, and one of the children’s favorite toys is an object found in every forest, called “a stick.”

Among the activities we stress are all sorts of nature walks, and one thing I’ve noticed which challenges the growing mind of a child is: Tracking footprints in the snow. Recently I started seeing this as learning-to-read-and-write on a very simple and down-to-earth level. I found myself thinking of tracking in terms I hadn’t thought about before. To me it seemed far superior to learning to read a logo. While it is true a fast-food logo does lead you to food, it is always the same food. Footprints in the snow seldom do the same thing twice. They involve a lot more thinking.

If you search, it turns out I am far from the first to have this idea. Back in 2009 Gwen Dewar,  Phd, produced a paper called “The Lost Art of Animal Tracking” that appeared on the Parenting Science site:

http://www.parentingscience.com/animal-tracking-for-kids.html

The more you search the more you find. One common theme seems to be that the grown-ups learn as much, if not more, than the children, simply through tracking footprints.

I can see how tracking might be a challenge (though not impossible) in a Big City, but for people living in the suburbs and especially for people in the country, there is no excuse for not utilizing a resource that doesn’t cost the taxpayers a nickle: The outdoors.

One site I enjoyed visiting was the Rain Or Shine Mamma site. In a good post here:

http://rainorshinemamma.com/animal-tracking-with-child-beginners-guide/

Linda McGurk did an excellent job of putting many ideas I’ve had in a nutshell:

WHY TRACK ANIMALS WITH KIDS?

  • It connects them to nature in a very direct and hands-on way.
  • It teaches them to be aware of their surroundings and the creatures that live there.
  • It gives them a chance to use critical thinking skills and scientific inquiry methods.
  • It gives them a chance to experience nature with both body and mind.
  • It’s an incentive for both you and them to learn about different animal species in your area.
  • It gives kids a chance to lead and problem solve in nature.
  • It’s an incentive to go outside.
  • It’s fun!

I can add little to what she suggests, though I am curious about what is going on, in terms of the development a child’s mind, when they look at tracks and not only see the present tense, but look back at what-came-before, and look ahead to what-came-after. I think big concepts are involved.  (Vocabulary beyond words.) My only possible criticism is that perhaps Linda’s last bullet-point should be the first.