LOCAL VIEW –The Thaw Before The Thtorm–

I have just past my sixty-fifth birthday, with no hope of retirement, and what used to be a joke isn’t all that funny any more. The joke? “I took my retirement back when I was young and could enjoy it”. Ha ha ha. Not all that funny, when you have heard it for the ninety-seventh time,  but I’m getting to be one of those old men who gets repetitive.

It’s also not all that funny when most of my friends are down in Florida, retired. In the old fable of the Grasshopper and the Ant, they were the ants, and squandered their youth loyally sticking to a tedious job, as I was free as a bird, because I was the grasshopper, making music as they worked. Now they have pensions and I don’t. Serves me right, I suppose, but that doesn’t mean I’m all that happy about the situation. If you detect a trace of bitterness in my words, it is because poets are suppose to die young; the grasshopper is suppose to be cut down by the first frost. I don’t see many grasshoppers around these parts bouncing about through the deep snows, but me? The snow gets me hopping, because the alternative is not pretty.

The motto of New Hampshire is “Live Free Or Die”, but in the winter sometimes it is more like “Get your Walkways Snow-Free or Die”, especially if your business depends on clean walkways, and the State Inspector will close you down if every fire-escape isn’t shoveled. I am not prone to foul language, but I have shocked myself with some of the choice vocabulary escaping my lips as I deal with the drifts, even while getting texts on my cellphone from friends reclining by sunny pools in Florida. Can it be that I am becoming a jealous and bitter old coot?

Temperatures have recently been above normal, but that isn’t really helpful this far north. Seven degrees above normal is still below freezing, and it is more likely to snow in this area, with temperatures up around freezing.

Last weekend just enough cold air slid south between southerly warm-sectors to give us snow, even though the warm-sectors were attached to storms that passed well to our north, which usually gives us rain. Saturday the forecast was for 1-3 inches, but Sunday morning dawned upon a fall of 7 inches. Rather than Sunday being a scripturally-correct (as opposed to politically-correct) “day of rest”, I had to clear up the parking lot and paths of my workplace, to prepare for Monday morning. It is bad enough I don’t get to retire to Florida; I don’t even get to rest on Sundays. (Bring out the violins, please.)

To be honest, the workweek’s forecast was for such nice, mild temperatures that I did the minimum of snow-clearing. I cleared the front entrance and the parking lot, but left the mild temperatures to clear the fire escapes and back stairs. If the dreaded inspector had leapt from bed early on Monday Morning, (unlikely), he would seen a reason to “write me up”, as the seven inches had only wilted to four.

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However I will  confess that a fall of sticky, wet snow does make running a Childcare easier, in terms of “curriculum”. This is especially true because certain youths do not seem to be born to sit in rows as children, to train them to sit in cubicles as adults, but rather are born to shift heavy weights outside.

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However so strong was the thaw that, despite the production of seven large snowballs, within twenty-four hours the warmth (and destructive older children) left little sign of the efforts.

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However it did allow me to send texts back to my pals lounging in Florida, which may be just a little bit mean. Or maybe not. After all, if they expect me to rejoice over how they are escaping winter, lounging by a pool, then they should rejoice over how the winter they thought they were escaping isn’t happening, and how I am not suffering, right? So today I sent them this:

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But you will notice, though the thaw continues tomorrow, there is a suspicious-looking snowflake on Thursday. After all, this is February, and New Hampshire isn’t Florida.

The sad fact of the matter is that old-timers always fretted when there was an especially warm spell in the middle of the winter. In some ways their worry seemed comical, as if they were dour pessimists who couldn’t enjoy good weather, for “it will have to be paid for.” However they had a method behind their glowering madness. Some of the biggest storms in the history of the east of the USA were preceded by delightful weather. The legendary “Blizzard of 1888” gave New York City four feet of snow with gusts of hurricane force hurtling between the tall building and heaping drifts to second-story windows. Such a storm would shut down the New York City even with modern plows. But it occurred between March 11 and March 14. What was the situation in New York City on March 10?

March 10, 1888 was a lovely early-spring day in New York City, with temperatures well up into the fifties. People had no idea of what was coming.

I have lost the link I once kept, but one wonderful discovery I once made, while wandering the web, was the description of the Blizzard of 1888 from the eyes of a fisherman who fished south of Long Island. Back in those days sailors had no GPS, computer forecasts, or even engines. They were called sailors because they sailed.

This sailor had headed out in delightful early-spring weather. Then the storm “blew up”. The fisherman described the sky becoming as purple as concord grapes with amazing speed, with flashes of lightning. Then he described the amazing battle with sails and sheets in screaming wind and blinding snow he endured just to get to shore alive, without a single fish to sell. Many other sailors didn’t make it. People paid a high price for fish in 1888, especially the fishermen’s wives.

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So I actually should be thankful to even make it to age sixty-five. One-hundred-thirty years ago not all that many made it. Still, I do manage to grouse a fair amount. There are days when sinking at sea seems like heaven to me, when I compare it dealing with a pack of small hellions at a Childcare.

And, in case you wonder, I have been at sea in a small boat in a big storm, and I do know the desperation involved. It is a hugely humbling experience, and little dignity is involved, for a roaring storm cares little about our mortal concept of “dignity”. Yet there is more dignity in that desperate situation than in being a sixty-five year old man dealing with a bunch of little whiny brats children experiencing challenges  to their sense of well-being and self-esteem.  Do modern children respect their elders? I think not.

Often I derive great joy from small children, but Lord Jesus didn’t say “derive great joy” from the little children. He said “suffer the little children”.

And at age sixty-five I confess there are days I roll my eyes to the sky and ask questions that are less than grateful. Is this the culmination of my life? To be a fucking babysitter childcare professional?

There is a story which likely isn’t true, but which makes many smile, involving a children’s-show radio personality called “Uncle Bob” or some such thing, who muttered at the end of a show, when he thought the microphone  was turned off and he was off the air, “That ought to keep the little bastards quiet for another week.” Even if the story is an urban myth, the fact it makes people chuckle (rather than look indignant) seems to suggest children are not all goodness and light, and are things we must “suffer”.

At age sixty-five I’d rather sit by a pool in Florida and study scripture. The fact I chose to take my retirement when I was young and could enjoy it seems like a bad choice to me now. However the choice of fisherman to go out fishing on March 10, 1888 likely seemed like a bad choice to them, on March 11. No matter how we chose to direct the course of our lives, we are bound to sail headlong into storms.

In New Hampshire this happens every cotton-picking year, and is called “winter”. Many retire here, but many don’t last long. Norman Rockwell be damned; pristine snowscapes get old after Christmas, and by February winter gets so old that they shortened the month to 28 days, just to speed up the progress to spring. As March arrives the last thing anyone wants is a huge storm.

However the future does not look tranquil to me. I had hopes that the so-called “arctic vortex” would keep the cold air trapped in a tight circle, whirling at the Pole, but instead that vortex moved south into Canada, and has been making the Canadian Archipelago so cold that even the Eskimos have been staying indoors.

Arctic chill at 85F below zero – So cold, Eskimos advised to stay inside!

My hope was that the cold would wobble back up to the Pole, where it belongs, but that would involve a positive NAO. Instead the exact opposite seems to be developing.

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If the NOA crashes (and I am deeply hoping this forecast is utterly wrong) then the so-called “arctic vortex” becomes deranged, and in layman’s terms this means the cold doesn’t stay north where it belongs. Instead it comes south to bump into the nice, juicy air of our thaw, and all hell can break loose. 1888 can reoccur.

When I look north I can see the amazing cold sitting there up in Canada, in maps Dr Ryan Maue’s hard work makes available at the Weatherbell site.

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The pink in the above map, up in Canada, represents the one temperature where Fahrenheit and Celsius actually agree, -40°. However I wonder to myself, “Is that normal, up there?” Fortunately Dr. Maue also has produced an “anomaly map”, which tells us if temperatures are above-normal or below-normal.

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The second map shows that the temperatures are thirty-degrees-below-normal, even by Canadian standards. To have that air come south and mingle with air that is thirty-degrees-above-normal by the standards of Chicago seems unwise to me. It is like mixing gasoline with a fire.

But it hasn’t happened yet. It is an amazingly mild night for February in New Hampshire, with temperatures above 50°F (10°C). Tomorrow it might touch 70°F (21°C).

Alfed E Neuman what-me-worry

 

In the warm thaw before the storm I bask
My old bones, like a sailboat sliding
Through slack seas, and try not to glumly ask
What the clouds on high foretell, for deciding
The word on high speaks of a hurricane
Spoils the brief joy of a midwinter day
Which smells like a rose midst the jabbing pain
Of thorns. Roses are brief, but thorns stay
All year. I’ll take flowers when they come,
Well aware that soon enough my loose belt
Will need to be hitched. For a time I’ll strum
My harp; not drum my fingers. I have felt
Cruel sleet before, and know it is best
To face a fierce storm after getting some rest.

*******

P.S.

Thursday’s text to friends in Florida:

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And a map to remember:

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They call it an anal ysis? Hmm…

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LOCAL VIEW –Sickbed Sonnets–

We’ve had the ‘flu passing through our neck of the woods pretty severely this year, to a degree that not even my over-developed sense of humor can take lightly. When a local mother-of-four succumbs, the joking ceases. There is nothing like death to jolt people from their petty concerns. Things that seemed very important two weeks ago are not even remembered.

To a certain degree that was what my sense of humor was always all about. Things that people care deeply about, seen from a different angle, don’t matter a hill of beans. To some it is of paramount importance if Bobby asks Susie to the prom, but when both are too sick with the ‘flu to attend, all the fuss about what clothing matters becomes absurd. My mischief has always been to see the absurdity before the prom is cancelled.

I tend to be a good friend to have when you have been through a rough spell, and have lost the things that status-seekers crave. When you are a winner you have a girl at either elbow, but when you are in a losing streak they vanish, and people avoid you like you have the plauge….or the ‘flu. But I always had a soft spot for losers. Why? Because losers see beyond the superficiality of money and popularity and power, and know a person is still possessed of a heart and all a heart’s needs, even when they are down in the gutter. What really matters is deeper.

To get the ‘flu tends to be a reminder, a tap on the shoulder midst the hectic hubbub of ceaseless pettiness we call “important”. It is a reminder that we are mortal, and that our efforts to deal with death by completely avoiding the subject are going to eventually be in vain.

I think I was made especially aware of how fragile our worldly dreams are because my father suffered the indignity of getting polio at age 34, after going through all the trouble of becoming a surgeon. After college, after graduate school, after internship, he finally “had it made”. Then some stupid virus came and ruined everything. And although he fought his way back to being a top surgeon, he was a cripple. Like an athlete who has made a comeback, he was an investment with small print, like a loaf of bread with an expiration date in the near future.

Local football fans are facing the same expiration-date-inevitability as the heroic local quarterback has passed age forty. (Also he hurt his hand during practice before the “Big Game” this weekend.) Even heroes like Tom Brady face what the rest of us face, though he is doing it in the spotlight, and people speak of “Tom Vs Time”. The rest of us do it in dark moments of our lives, in sickbeds as we face the ‘flu.

For me the redeeming side of being sick was that it reminded me that there is something beyond the superficial stuff we tend to be too engrossed in. What matters when you are incapable of pursuing Money, Popularity and Power? It is what I call Poetry. Or perhaps Heaven.

Actually being sick was not all bad, when I was a boy, because it let me play hooky from school. Once the worst was past, I got to look out the window without getting in trouble for doing so. I got to avoid the schoolmarm-emphasis on worldly stuff, stuff that matters in terms of Money, Popularity and Power, and instead to just be dreamy, and roam the realms of heaven. I did not much like the part of the ‘flu that involved terrible aching and vomiting, but there was something to be said for a fever of 104°F, when it came to opening up vistas of unusual imagination. It was like drugs without the expense or risk of arrest.

Unfortunately my most recent bout of the ‘flu didn’t involve much fever, nor altered consciousness. Basically it was all achy muscles and upper-respiratory congestion,  which reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood and makes you mentally slow. Worst was I was able to get up after a weekend in bed, as my wife stayed in bed a week, and this meant it was up to me to run the business, though I was definitely in an enfeebled state, and not truly recovered.

One thing I noticed about the upper-respiratory congestion is that you cannot produce as much heat.  It is like the damper for your inner fire is closed down. Your metabolism limps. When you stand outside, the cold sinks down between your shoulder blades. Likely the creeping chill could kill you, if you overdid it, so I used every excuse to keep the children at my Childcare indoors. I kept the place open, but we did not live up to our reputation as a place that focuses-upon and rejoices-in the outdoors. Heck, the outdoors is not worth dying for.

Not that it isn’t good to stir your blood, and cough the crud from your lungs, with some vigorous hiking, if you keep it brief.  But I waited until the wind died. Then, once outside, I kept moving even when the kids dawdled, impatiently striding back and forth like a captain on a deck. Also I built blazing campfires whenever possible, (though I suppose the smoke wasn’t good for my lungs). Lastly I fled back indoors as soon as I could. But I did get some photographic evidence that we did fight the ‘flu by stepping out.

The recent thaw resulted in flooding, but then winter froze the flood even as the waters sank back down, leading to ice left high and dry by the flood.

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The kids were fascinated by the formations, and rejoiced that they could shatter the ice without getting in trouble for breaking stuff. The air was filled with the tinkling smashes of what sounded like hundreds of champagne glasses.

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Then they burned off a lot of steam running and sliding

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And plotting ambushes of the the other children and teachers.

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But, to be honest, I did not feel my ordinary delight in watching children bring their heavenly wonder to a hike. The ‘flu had me at low ebb and I was barely able to tolerate the usual and typical misbehavior. Tolerance is a gift, and I was in short supply, and and bad words barely were restrained from blurting from my bitten lips. Tolerance? I could barely tolerate going to work. Someone had to do it, but I didn’t feel I was getting my proper share of pity for being the poor old geezer stuck with the job of pretending he was the the healthy one in a ‘flu epidemic. I had to pity my wife at home, and pity the parents who looked a bit green around their gills as they picked up their pitiful children, who also looked a bit green around the gills. But who pitied me?

In terms of what the government thinks matters, surely a ‘flu epidemic puts a dint in things like “economic recovery”. And for churches who care most about their collection platters,  a ‘flu makes the congregation less “giving” and more needy. In terms of “production”, and Money, Popularity and Power, the ‘flu is ruinous. It’s depressing, and exhausting, and all I did when I got home was open cans of chicken soup, and then collapse in bed.

It’s incredible how much time I’ve spent sleeping. My sleep schedule is all out of whack. When you crawl into bed at seven in the evening and don’t get up until seven in the morning, then there will be times in the wee hours you are staring into the darkness, watching the years pass before your eyes, and not necessarily feeling all that poetic or heavenly about what you witness.

Who needs that? Where was the poetry? Where was the sense of playing hooky from responsibility, and gazing out the window? Out the window was only darkness. So I’d thrash out of bed and stump downstairs and crank up the heat and make my computer screen my window. If I couldn’t manage the poetry, I’d let other poets do the job. I’d hop in my time-machine and travel to the time of the first Queen Elisabeth, and Shakespeare.

One thing that struck me was that, while Shakespeare was operating a theater and making money with his pen, for many poetry was a world outside of the ordinary interests in fame and wealth. There were no million-sellers, but rather manuscripts were copied by hand and handed around between friends. It’s amazing so much was preserved and later printed. Even Shakespeare’s works were on the verge of being lost, before the first folios were printed. The world of art existed in a universe all its own, beyond the control of the elite yet moving even kings and queens.

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Of course, one might say it was only the elite who had the capacity to write, but what fascinates me is the hints that the ordinary man was also interested in the poetry. Shakespeare’s plays were popular among the illiterate, and parts were memorized and recited on the street. People did not need to be literate to delight in doggeral, and there was plenty of criticism of both the Catholic and Protestant sides of the gathering storm in Europe. The common people had minds, and used them, even at a time when lives were short and cheap, and living situations were often squalid.

One thing I’d like to know more about was the thirst on the part of the illiterate to become literate. Where I now see all too much “dumbing down” going on in education, looking through my time-machine I seem to see there was an eager and powerful drive at that time to learn. Little schools popped up in odd places, and when people noticed a child had a mind open to learning, there seemed to be a real zeal towards educating that promising mind.

One way to measure the value people put on learning, and higher forms of thought, is to consider how expensive it was to mail a letter. A penny could buy a loaf of bread, or mail a letter. During times of famine the loaf was small and of low quality, and at the same time the price of a letter might rise up to four pennies, yet still people had a craving to communicate. Writing was so important that the English government even instituted penny postage as a law of the land. Why? What was so important about allowing people to write each other? Likely the wealthy realized promoting commerce would be good for business, and they could become richer. However greed alone was not in control. There were undercurrents of political opposition involved.

Robert Burns was unusual in that he became popular in the late 1700’s, and his death was greatly lamented in 1796 even as he died. Yet he was not stuffy, nor did he write above people’s heads. Here’s his “Epitaph On My Own Friend”.

An honest man here lies at rest,
As e’er God with His image blest:
The friend of man, the friend of truth;
The friend of age, and guide of youth:
Few hearts like his, with virtue warm’d,
Few heads with knowledge so inform’d:
If there’s another world, he lives in bliss;
If there is none, he made the best of this.

One thing interesting to me, as I drifted along in my time-machine, is how much other poetry was anonymous. You can see perhaps only the slightest hint of a Jacobite sentiment in a poem by a Scotsman, but he thought it best to keep his name from being associated with a work. Or perhaps we see only initials, and wonder who the poet was. Yet the poems endure. Who was “R.A.D.”, writing from his sickbed in 1799?

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And who “G.H.D.”, writing around 1815? What made him reluctant to publicize his name? (Perhaps he was toeing some line the official church did not approve of toeing.)

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By the 1840’s the greed of the wealthy Scottish landowners had been made all too obvious by the Clearances and Potato Famine, and a Scottish church existed that refused all donations from the wealthy landowners, so that members would feel free to speak. Still authors kept quiet about their names, as they dared speak what seems fairly orthodox to us today, but was shocking at its time ( or shocking to certain wealthy individuals who deemed themselves above judgement.)

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And out of this soil rose the chronically unwell Robert Lewis Stephenson, long neglected as being a mere writer of children stories like “Treasure Island” and of horror stories like “The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, (in the 1973 2,000-page “Oxford Anthology of English Literature” Stevenson was entirely unmentioned), yet a poet in his own right.

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He wrote his own epitaph for his grave, in Samoa, where he died in 1897,

Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

And so, after this reading,  I’d go back to bed in the dark of night with bits of poetry gleaned from my sickbed time-travel, and a sense a hint of heaven was gloaming the dark outside my window, though true dawn was hours away. And perhaps that is something you need when sick: The idea of a life after death, after ruin, after failure, after being retired against your will and put out to pasture in some meadow uncomfortably close to the glue factory.

I didn’t much feel like rising at dawn. Extra rest seemed a good idea, but, as I said earlier, sometimes you are stuck with running the show. Though I’d rather dream out the window of existential topics, I was stuck with being the pragmatic pillar. Me! Of all people! I can’t tell you how indignant it made me feel. But there did tend to be a brief moment, just when the coffee and aspirin were kicking in, that I thought maybe I could whip off a sonnet. Maybe I could quit the dratted pragmatism just long enough to rhapsodize about other-worldly beauty. But just then my phone would chirp, and I’d be plunged into the banal.

This was particularly aggravating because I had made a New Year’s Resolution to focus more on writing and less on Childcare. In a most pragmatic manner I had inked out the decrease in income I’d endure, hiring more to work for me, and working less myself.  But the ‘flu makes a mockery of worldly plans. And it probably serves me right. Who ever heard of a pragmatic poet?

In any case, I often tell people I took my retirement when I was young and could enjoy it. I even went through a Gothic spell of morbidly contemplating death, which is an activity usually reserved for old men. Therefore I can’t expect to get another retirement, now that I’m doddering, can I? It wouldn’t be fair to those poor fellows who worked hard when young and now collect pensions. Now it is their turn to go through Gothic spells and behave like bohemians. True, they look a bit silly behaving that way at their age, (and it also seems to involve revolting amounts of Viagra), but they earned it, while I have earned the non-retirement I endure. (For all I know they may envy me as much as I envy them, for the grass is always greener on the other fellow’s grave.)

It was while glumly considering my non-retirement during this long, long week, that it suddenly occurred to me that I didn’t need to write a sickbed sonnet. I’d already done it, back in my Gothic period, back when I was a happily retired man of twenty-one in 1974. Not that I wasn’t busy. I was involved in all sorts of unprofitable efforts surrounding a commune, and also running a landscaping business to scrape together just enough to get by on, when I suddenly was clobbered by a late May springtime ‘flu. None of my hippy friends rushed to my aid, as I think all assumed I was merely sulking in my room, and therefore I was abruptly alone for several days, and used the chance to write sixteen sonnets. Or, not exactly sonnets, but 16 stanzas with the rhyme scheme of ABCBADCDCDEFEFGG. Today I went up to the attic to see if I could find the old poem, and, though I couldn’t find the final draft, I did find, to my great delight, among spiderwebs and thick dust, the notebook holding the original draft.

Forgive me for sharing what in some ways is juvenile, but I think in another way the old poem holds the vision of heaven seen most clearly from a sickbed. (Some of the poem was written while having a fever of over a hundred.)

                 FEVER DREAM

10:00 PM
Bedridden, burnt by fever’s blaze,
I toss and turn within a flame
That warps all with wavering light.
Nothing seems to stand the same.
All is twisted to my wild gaze
That sees all routine and plans
Dissolve, as do day and deep night,
Confused to chaos as fever fans
The destruction of what I held
As real, knew was rock firm,
Trusted until mocking madness welled
Into my broiled brain, forced me to squirm
Half-asleep through unmeasured days
And, half-awake, war the night’s blaze.

All I knew to do cannot be done.
I cannot work, nor can I play,
And even thinking’s not the same;
When I wish green my thoughts flow gray
And leap, like thunder from a gun
Of ambush, and distort, forming
Abstracts sickening; somehow lame
Though nothing in my brain’s wild storming
Can be crippled, for nothing’s real
Enough to be believed. I know
Logically these sights are false, but feel
Panic, for they remain, and show
A tumbled world I can’t accept.
The clay conspires where I stepped.

2:00 AM
A tennis shoe has teeth, and grins
At me up from a cloud of red
And flaps his tongue with elegance.
I can’t remember what he said.
A scolding finger shakes, and pins
Me desperate. I can’t recall
And that is bad, and I can sense
It’s angry as it’s growing small.
One pink finger upon the black
Background, very small and terrible
For small it gains and will attack
And overwhelm the weak quibble
Of reason I scratch the black for.
Reason’s old lock fell from the door…

5:00 AM
O Morning’s first cool growth of green
Fills my window with wideness,
Distance and openness that destroys
Fever’s clamps, pinches and hot press.
Liquid birdsong cools the view’s sheen
Of clearness: So clean it wavers,
Flows green, joins the bird’s joyous noise,
Becomes taste a Cezanne savors,
Becomes a hand to cool my brow.
O the arms of wide open morn!
O to be rocked in a lullaby’s bough
And to give up, right now, being torn
By my mad mind. Now’s not too soon
To sink in the calm of a swoon.

7:00 AM
I wake again, and see the sun
An inch or two above the earth.
O I value ny short sweet sleep
Beyond all my measures of worth,
For rested I can face the dry run
Of fever time, of short wry naps,
Short gasps awake, and long times deep
In the world in between. Perhaps
half alseep, but without rest;
Perhaps awake, but without chores
To do or plan or beat breast
About. My fever’s chaining roars
Make be be free on a huge shore.
When was it I felt this way before?

8:00 AM
Three inches high, the sun is white
With a tint of rose, and it slides
Summer soft through my north window,
Slanting to the wall where it rides
Slowly downwards. It’s rose-white light
Slips as slowly as snails explore
When afraid, yet its a great show.
When have I felt this way before?
The light is a square, a pooled sheen
Of rich softness. An apple tree’s
Leafed twig bobs its shadow. I’ve seen
This picture move in a sweet breeze
Like this before, framed on my wall…
I remember now! I was small.

I was a boy and school was out
And suddenly I was set free
From all the routine I had known.
My parents did their best for me.
They gave me a room and stayed out.
They gave me books but no lessons.
Life’s painful rules I wasn’t shown.
I wore fine clothes and gobbled tons
Of food, but remained thin and wild
Through racing about the country side
And staying up late: A spoiled child
Reading books with dreamy eyes wide.
With school out my friends were gone.
Society-less, I journeyed on.

What painter touched those far, far clouds
Silver and purple? Who carved curves
And moved them, boomed them, in sky swells?
Who swooned those sweet swallows quick swerves?
When the shy flicker, who through leaf shrouds
And rich woods usually blasts
Wagging away from my slow stealth’s,
Flies sky high above tall trees masts,
Flickering above the valley’s bowl
From hilly wood to hilly wood,
Is it his soul, or my swamped soul,
That swoons? O! If I only could
Burst raves of song for his great flight,
His journey into giant light!

O those feelings! Sometimes at night
Out of nowhere they would appear
So marvelously I’d dash across
The room and in wild, sudden fear
Haul open the windows. My fright
Was so great I’d almost cry out,
But to who? About what? A loss
Overwhelmed me. I’d hold back my shout
And also the next day’s sung praise.
Who understands what fever-mad
Men babble about, or what their gaze
Sees, or knows? Its pitifully sad
For fear’s not squelched; Joy wilts inside
When men are afraid to confide.

Time forces the most dreamy child
To dream less, to repress the far
Flung mental mountains for whats’s real,
Or said to be real but will mar
The beauty of life; the fresh, wild
Spontaneous, child-like beauty
Of life, by clipping with sick zeal
The wide-reaching wings of wild, free
Thought, one wing light and one wing dark
But together beating out of night’s
Ignorance, driven by the heart’s spark
Towards the embrace of a Great Light.
When wings are clipped flight’s work is lost
As is black fear, but O! The cost!

A flock of birds squats by the sea
With every wing clipped, and each
With few fears. A great, sandy bar
Juts far out, protecting the beach,
And no bird has any time free
To do other than gobble food
That thrives beneath each rotting spar
And stone, in sand, and nicely stewed
In muddy low-tide pools. What fools
These gulls are! Their clipped wings
And all their inventions and rules
Are to ensure that they are kings
Of one small beach. For all their squawk
They’ve never heard of the Great Auk.

High in clouds the one Father Gull
Smiles on his fledglings who won’t fly.
He has ways to grow new feathers
On their wings, to patiently pry
Open the rusted lock of dull
Reason and dull rules from the doors
Of their minds. He changes weathers
And sand bars slip away from shores.
Disaster, death and fever strip
Old routines and customs, gripped tight
By the birds, away with one rip.
The wisdoms He gave to soothe fright
And ease growing pains they used to play
Wing-clipping games, so He sweeps them away.

Away! Away! I see wisdom
Scattered among tumbling clouds
And shaken birds rising as one flock
Shattered; wild, white wheeling crowds
Searching screeching upwards, freed from
Their illusion of paradise.
The Wisdom waits, and won’t talk.
Birds must find it with their own eyes
To realize what It’s always said
But logic’s lock is off the door…
Noon
I wake. My fever spins my head.
I’m tied in blankets on the floor.
The window’s light now frames my face.
I’ve drempt a dream I can’t erase.

All that I’ve learnt’s near nothing now.
What I knew as a boy’s now gold.
All my hard developed good habits
Are but good habits. I have told
Myself to do, and will allow
Myself to be pleased that I’ve done
What was needed…sometimes…but rabbits
Bound into the air. Big crows run
With the barreling breeze. Bent back
They still strive on, so I hurl
Quick joy up to the blustering black,
Feel fear, and only know that clouds pearl
Over, rolling slowly to sea,
And that is where I want to be.

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Ah, to be twenty-one again, when even getting sick was invested with such drama it could go on for sixteen stanzas!

LOCAL VIEW –In Awe Of Thaw–(updated)

The first week of January was brutal, blasting, bitter and a blizzard. Often we would only have the children outside for a half hour, for the wind chills were simply too dangerous to allow prolonged exposure. We spent more time dressing and undressing them than we spent outdoors, but it does pass the time, and they do rejoice at having a brief time outside. If they are too cooped up they literally bounce off the walls.

Worst was the wind, which often gusted to gale force.  Simply having the winds calm down made it seem far warmer, and when temperatures rose all the way to 32°F (0°F) the children were eager to hike. So was I. I wanted to see what the winds had done.

In the forest the snow was mixed  with bits of pine needles, as if the needles had become brittle in the cold and broken in the blasts, and there was a drift by each tree trunk, even in the shelter of the trees. The children found the landscape strangely changed, with a place they liked to hide behind a rock completely buried, even as a nearby path was swept down to the level of the dirt. They also found some drifts were packed to a consistency of Styrofoam, and they could walk on them, while other crumbled and they wallowed up to their waists, often requiring rescue. We tended to stick to the trails packed by snowmobiles to play it safe.

The most amazing drift was on the downwind side of the dam at the flood control reservoir. The blasting winds had swept the reservoir largely free of snow, but the downwind side of the dam had a drift that was in places thirty feet deep.

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I was surprised by the cracks forming in the drift, as its sheer bulk pulled it downhill like a glacier.

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I doubted the drift was going to tumble down as a small avalanche, but decided I didn’t want to take the chance. Therefore I warned the kids away from the edge and we only looked at the frozen outlet of the reservoir from afar.

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Instead we hiked down the other, windswept side of the dam.

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The kids were enchanted by the other worldly landscape. More than one paused, looked up at me, and commented in the matter-of-fact manner of the small, “This is really fun.”

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The drifts were crisp and firm, but the underbrush (to left in picture below) would cave in and the kids would find themselves abruptly up to their waists.

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Without the wind, none complained of cold, and the children seemed quite content to loll in the wan sunshine.

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When it was time to go back for lunch there is always one so enchanted they don’t want to leave.

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We only has two days to enjoy such hikes, because the thaw grew stronger, and the snow grew heavy and wet. But this also meant the snow became sticky enough to build forts and snowmen.

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My staff did get a bit carried away with the snowman.

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But the kids appreciated setting a “world record.”

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I couldn’t be as involved as I usually am, as I was dealing with what often seems to come hand in hand with a thaw. Namely the ‘flu. (Though the thaw gets the blame, I think it is the period of close confinement just before the thaw that allows the spread of germs, and after the inoculation it takes a week for the ‘flu to break out. ) In any case you know something is wrong when a lively child abruptly decides to take a nap in the snow.

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I have a sneaky suspicion that, in a few cases, parents can’t afford to miss work, and load up their children in cough syrup before delivering them to us, hoping the kids will make it through the day. The kids were dropping like flies, usually around the time a four hour cough syrup would wear off, though that may just be a coincidence.

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Most parents are pretty good about leaving work to pick their children up. Only a few shut their phones off.

By Friday we only had five of our ordinary twelve all-day children, and I was showing symptoms. Though I wash my hands often, kids vomited on me, and it’s hard to avoid the virus when exposed in that manner. Nor did the ‘flu shot do much good this year, as apparently 70% of the people who got the vaccine still got the ‘flu.

In any case at noon on Friday I took to my bed on my doctor’s orders, and have only left it to limp off, achy and shivering, to feed my goats. My wife is also down, which is highly unusual, as she almost never gets sick.

Therefore I didn’t take pictures of how the snow swiftly vanished under the drumming fingers of a warm rain. There is no snow left in the yard where they made a giant snowman on Thursday.  Maybe I’ll add a picture to this post tomorrow. And a sonnet about rain on the roof.

*******

It was 5°F (-15°C) at dawn so I think we can state THE THAW IS OVER,

As promised, here is a picture of the Childcare playground, so full of sticky snow last Thursday.

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The cold came on so swiftly it froze up the run-off and flooding from the thaw, leading to some tricky situations at intersections. (It is hard to obey the “yield” sign on sheer ice.)

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I would have liked to drive around and look at streams, because I think there may have been some good ice jams, but simply driving a mile to feed my goats at the farm seemed to test my ability. I’m surprised I wasn’t pulled over as a driving drunk. Mostly I stayed in bed, only occasionally venturing down to put wood in the fire or check out maps on my computer. Here is the front surging across us yesterday:

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And here is the arctic high pressure atop of us today, with the front and the thaw’s mild air pushed far out to sea.

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It does not do much good to look backwards in battle or while plowing, and I’m nervous about the future of that Alberta Clipper sliding down to the Great Lakes. I’d better baby myself into shape, because it looks like snow to me. However, just for the record, here are statistics showing the thaw from the weather bureau up in Concord.

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Yesterday’s high of 57°F (14°C) was at midnight, and they’d plummeted by dawn, so it is a bit misleading to call the day +15° of normal. But that is how statistics work, sometimes.

If you don’t like the weather, just wait a while. But if you like it, kiss it good-bye.

No sonnet so far. I googled “Sonnets from a sickbed”, and have been entertained (by works clear back to the 1500’s), rather than have I been the entertainer.

LOCAL VIEW –Annual Frozen Pipes Post–

Even boxers get to sit down between rounds, and enjoy some rest, and also Sunday is the Day of Rest, and therefore my wife and I decided that after church we’d go out and have someone else cook, and have someone else serve, and have someone else do the dishes. We figured we deserved it, after coming through the grueling blizzard we’ve just been through. Monday might be just around the corner, but we’d pamper ourselves on Sunday afternoon.

Not that problems don’t intrude even on our Sundays. The latest attempt to repair our washing machine didn’t work, and we had a huge pile of laundry to do at a Laundromat before we went out to eat. However the machines did big loads in only 22 minutes, and, (because my wife decided we might as well wash all sorts of stuff I didn’t think needed washing, while we were at it,) we walked in with 12 loads, used four huge washers, inserted 76 quarters, soap, and then walked out to sit in the car for 22 minutes. The sun was settling down on a winter horizon and we had stuff to talk about. 22 minutes later we hustled hampers of wet laundry back to the car (because our drier still works at home, and our cellar can use the heat,) and headed off to the restaurant. The sunset was a beautiful gold, and I couldn’t help but notice that it was later; before Christmas it was dark at 4:30 but now it is golden and pink.

Among the many things we talked about in our usual, efficient, and scatter-brained way was this Sunday’s sermon at church, which was about “The Rapture”. Although the word “rapture” is not used in the Bible, there are numerous, somewhat-upsetting references to a time that could happen any day, when believers would be swept up to heaven and non-believers left behind to endure seven highly unattractive years on earth.  (This concept inspired the movie, “Left Behind”.)

Back when Jesus’s disciples were still alive the idea Jesus could return “any day” kept people on their toes, but after 2000 years people are perhaps jaded. If you tell them the Rapture might occur in five minutes, people tend to roll their eyes and say, “Right. I’ve heard that one before.” People are not as impressed by the prophesy as they once were. Today’s sermon simply asked, “But what if it happened? Where would you be? Swept up, or left behind?”

Even though I am a “believer”, and have faith in things people say I’m nuts to have faith in, I confess I’m often far from perfect. I do have a temper. I usually apologize afterwards, but not everyone forgives me. And this got me to thinking about the timing of the Rapture.

If the Rapture occurred when I was repenting, and apologetic, and asking for forgiveness, and accepting the abuse of those who are in no mood to forgive me, then I might pass for saintly, and be swept up. But what if the Rapture occurred right when I was at my worst? What if it occurred at the moment I was pounding my fist on a table and telling someone to stuff an unmentionable thing up an unmentionable orifice?  It seems highly unlikely such a person (me) would be permitted to be swept up, and far more likely that person (me) would be left behind.

I was bringing this up in a humorous way, and perhaps a bit too flippantly, for it stirred up my wife, and she waxed eloquent on how the foibles of those who are believers are different from the foibles of those who don’t believe. Her excellent points are too complicated to repeat at this time. I am just bringing this up because some think that people at laundromats are a bunch of low life retards.  We’re not. We are actually highly intellectual and altruistic thinkers. Perhaps it is those who do laundry at home who are the retards.

But this discussion, about who the retards are, is definitely getting too profound for my humble post. This is often the case when you broach spiritual mysteries. What I meant to say was a more simple thing, namely: I decided that maybe I would try harder than usual to keep my temper in check, just in case the Rapture was imminent.

Actually it was easy to keep my temper in check. Even though it still was very cold, you could feel the mercy of a thaw was in the wings. And even if you were not sensitive to the shift of the wind to the southwest, you could always check your cell phone, and find reasons to rejoice.

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Hallelujah! Cellphones are a wonderful invention. Even if long-term forecasts are a government trick to keep us from despairing during cold winters, it is a trick that works.

This morning it was -13°F (-25°) here, but Wednesday it might be +45°F (+7°C). It will feel like April, after what we’ve undergone. And it does tend to fill me with a benevolence when the outlook is so hopeful. It would be good if the Rapture occurred at such a moment, for I am beaming with generosity.

To further the beaming, I ordered a martini, and sat at the best seat in the restaurant, (because the dinner rush hadn’t started at 4:30), and gazed at the final beams of sunshine slipping from the topmost needles of the white pine across a frozen waterfall.

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There is nothing like looking at hardship through a rear view mirror.  A flat tire isn’t funny when you are jacking the car up in the cold, but when the tire is changed and you are on the road again, you can laugh, and get the joke. And seeing the frozen waterfall was like seeing evidence of the incredible cold we’d been through in the past tense, for the present tense was a warm restaurant, a charming waitress, and a steaming dish of delectable food placed before me. And just then a text came through on my cell phone.

Cell phones are a horrible invention.

To cut the texting short, the situation was this: My pregnant daughter is living briefly above my Childcare as her young husband makes the money for an apartment they have their eyes on in Boston. He’d made a big wad of dough as a Uber driver during blizzard condition in Boston, but only had snatched bits of sleep on a friend’s couch, and now had come home for a hot shower and a sleep in his wife’s arms….but the shower didn’t work. Cross examination discovered the sink and toilets didn’t work, neither upstairs nor downstairs at the the childcare. Pipes had frozen at the source, which was a different building, an old abandoned farm house across the driveway.

Blame the sermon in church, or blame the martini, but I had not the slightest urge to slam the table and rave, “Can’t I even have a single meal in peace?” Or…well…I’ll admit I did say to my wife something along the lines of, “I thought when she married her problems became his, and weren’t mine any more.” But that was more of a quip than a serious statement. There was no way an exhausted young man could figure out the irregularities of a a farm that slowly sprawled over a hundred years, with pipes and wires added in a unplanned manner. I was the only available expert.

I refused to hurry. I could have rushed to the farm in twenty minutes but instead texted, “Be there in an hour.” (Didn’t get a “happy face” reply.)  Then I enjoyed my meal, (though I did talk a little more about peculiar plumbing than I might have). I kept my sense of peace, because the Rapture might happen at any moment, and it it wouldn’t look good if I was cursing and gobbling food and gulping the final third of a martini and putting my jacket on upside down. Instead I was as smooth as silk.

Come to think of it, it was bizarre. I should have lost my temper, but didn’t. We drove home, unloaded laundry, and then I sauntered upstairs to change out of my Sunday outfit into work clothes. I came downstairs, gathered a few tools and some rags, and my wife handed me a big thermos of boiling water. I drove to the farm, located an extension cord and a heater with a blower, talked briefly with my daughter and her husband, and then waded through the drifts to the dark, old farmhouse, and decended into its creepy cellar.

What a switch in scenes! Fifty-five minutes earlier I’d been in the lap of luxury with a lovely wife looking out at a gorgeous view with scrumptious food before me, and now I was in a dingy cave festooned with spiderwebs. You would have thought the martini would have worn off, but, instead of cursing, I laughed. The irony of the scenery-switch would be too absurd for a novel, but life is better than a book.

I couldn’t locate the problem, but kept my good mood, humming hymns like an old man pottering in a sunny garden, as I brushed aside dirty spiderwebs and checked the usual suspects: The fuse box, the pressure tank, the pressure switch, and even a cellar faucet, which gushed water. Where could a pipe freeze? Couldn’t be the main line. I had a heat lamp baking where the pipes went into the field-stone wall to cross over to the childcare. It couldn’t be there. But then I noticed a loop of pipe sidetracking into a water softener system, just outside of the reach of the heat lamp. Could that be it? Probably not. Surely the heat would travel along that short length of pipe. But, just to cover all bases, I wrapped those pipes in rags and poured boiling-hot water from the thermos onto the rags. Then I looked around and began thinking of getting more chords and setting up more heat lamps and heaters, but just then my phone advised me of an incoming text.

Sometimes cellphones are wonderful things. The text was from my daughter, across the yard:

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Best was the simple fact no frozen pipe was broken.

Then I got the pleasure of sauntering over to my daughter and her husband and seeing their great delight over something we take for granted: Running water. And also there was the delight of a young man who has been craving a long, hot, relaxing shower, and now gets to take one.

But what about me? Wasn’t I craving a long, hot, relaxing meal? Why am I always the one being interrupted?

I didn’t actually think that. I just put it down because I thought of it now. At the time I was all smiles, and enjoying being a hero. I also was enjoying the strange sensation of having not lost my temper, even once. Too bad the Rapture didn’t happen while I was being so saintly, although I suppose, with my luck, if it was going to happen at any given time it would have happened just when I ordered the martini.

In any case we survived a cold wave, and the traditional episode of frozen pipes. Next comes the January thaw, for the map shows the arctic got too greedy and has overreached its limits. There is a bit of a front southwest of Jamaica, showing how far south the blast reached. Down there I suppose they may find the cool breeze delightful. What we will find delightful is the western side of the high, bringing north mildness we haven’t seen in weeks.

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LOCAL VIEW –Shuddering–

And still the winds are roaring this black dawn
When stars stab cold knives and the sift of snow
Hisses by my door, and before the roar’s gone
The next blast rattles the sash. The window
Looks out darkly. I see I should have done
So many things back when weather was warm
But now it is too late. I can blame no one
And can do nothing but endure this storm
Shuddering. Hope is too far away to grasp
And the east dawns no sun, but a cold moon
Instead leers skullish on bent hills. I would clasp
Your warm love and warble the sweetest tune
If only Your smile hove into sight.
It’s in darkest dark I remember the Light.

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Iced dawn spills over the shuddering east
And reveals a white world that has drifted.
The pre-storm chores I shirked are now least
on my list. Priorities have shifted
In a world white as an unwritten page.

Who will write the first words with a trail
Of blue footprints? The house is like a cage.
I’ll bolt and walk a signature as winds wail.
I will pace a poem, although drifts erase
My tracks like shifting sand. My words are like
A small child’s sand castle by the stern face
Of unthinking surf, yet still I will hike
Across a hillside, and my tracks will spell
The magic only poetry can tell.

What a cruel day! Not a true sub-zero day like they have out in the plains, but close enough, with a high of 7°F and winds that wouldn’t have the decency to knock it off.

Added to my Saturday chores of taking the recyclables to the recyclable center (where none of the equipment worked in the cold) and going to the bank, (bad hair days), were added things to do outside in an unkind wind, such as rake the big drifts from a roof before the drifts gained weight with rain and collapsed structures. And get my bulky, broken snowblower up into the back of a pick-up truck to be taken off and repaired. Or face a path I’ve had to shovel three times by hand already, drifted in.

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But when I step back I see that same wind scoured the driveway free of snow.

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All things considered, my neighbor across the street likely had grounds for a lawsuit. Fourteen inches of snow buried my fences to the bottom rail, but the cruel gales stripped all that snow to the ground-level crust of a pre-Christmas snow,  and deposited it all in his drive.

Simply to be out of doors was an ordeal, and surreal. All the faces you met were pained and wincing, and I had the odd sense I was in the dog house, as everyone looked mad at me. Had I done something Friday night I couldn’t remember? No, because I’m not that young anymore. I had no hangover when I awoke, only when I stepped outside.

The buffeting was like the blows of a boxing match. A man who fought Mohammed Ali stated no jab hurt, but after a while you noticed his jabs made you feel a bit dizzy. And Mohammed Ali himself stated that the fifteenth round of a fight was like functioning in a dream and in a circus.  You’ve been knocked for a loop but refuse to go down for the count. Somehow you keep tottering about, still battling.

This probably explains why this post begins with two sonnets. The jabbing wind had punched me into a mental state which some get called “poets” for being in, while others wind up in institutions.

Even as I emphasis how bad it was, it wasn’t near the worst. New England has seen such blasts twenty degrees colder. So I have no real reason to complain, especially as the winds finally died down a bit in the afternoon. At long last the Blizzard was fading away towards Baffin Bay and Labrador.

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The map shows the massive arctic high bringing modified polar air all the way down to Jamaica and Costa Rica. But here it was not modified. Here we got the real deal.

After experiencing “the real deal”, few find New England as attractive as Norman Rockwell made it look.  There will be an upsurge in homes for sale in this area next spring. Quaint has its limits, and the pathways of art are not for all. Where Norman Rockwell produced paintings and I produce sonnets, many turn their backs and skedaddle. Can’t say I really blame them.

*******

SUNDAY MORNING 7:00 AM -12°F (-24 °C) 30.31 and at last the wind has ceased.

 

 

LOCAL VIEW –The Rapids Freeze–

The way to defeat “cabin fever” and to avoid going “shack whacky” is to grit your teeth and go out into the cold, so I decided to practice what I preach and went out to take some pictures of the Souhegan River freezing up, (with the Patriot’s game on my car radio), yesterday. It was well worth the discomfort of getting out of the comfort of my car, from time to time, to take some pictures.

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The Souhegan is basically a brook as it comes north from its headwaters down in Ashburnham, Massachusetts, but it quickly gathers other brooks, and back in the day (when water power was the only power) it fueled a number of small mills in my town.  It was enough, back then, to make my out-of-the-way backwater a center of industry, even though it was up in the hills, as people went where the power was. Later, when railways were invented, my town chose to prevent the railway from expanding because it was thought the railway would “attract the wrong people”, and that was the death knell to many of the local industries, and the town faded to its current backwater status. However one mill survives at “High Bridge”, having transitioned from an age when fabric was for clothing, to making fabric for body armor and dirigibles and even spacecraft landing on Mars.

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And just downstream is where I began freezing my fingers, taking pictures of the freezing stream.

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A few miles downstream lies Greenville, where the mills prospered more, for they did allow the railway in, (though it no longer goes that far.)

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North of there the river is a favorite place for white water kayaking in the spring,

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It was amazing how much of the water was iced over, but I couldn’t stop as the snowbanks and traffic made pulling over too dangerous. Further on, just past the Temple-Wilton line, the river passes beneath an abandoned bridge, (I think built by New Deal workers in the Great Depression).

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On the west side of Wilton another stream tumbles down from Temple Mountain to join the flow.Brook 21 FullSizeRender

The water gurgles and mutters and gargles from holes in the fast-forming ice

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And the old railway still reaches this far.

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Driftwood is frozen in place where water tumbles over the first dam.

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The second Wilton dam’s pond is solid ice

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And I simply had to crunch along the road, despite biting winds and blaring traffic, to see beneath the dam.

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Check out the outlet pipe. (And the graffiti beyond it).

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I wonder what the old water mills did, when it got this cold? (And where do the teenagers now go?)

Then on to Milford, as the river turns east.

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And more hidden artwork from warmer days.

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And onward to the Merrimack River and then southwards to the sea.

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The cold can not stop it. Ice cannot clamp
The water’s yearning for the distant sea
In its vice. Like a happy old tramp
Offered a steady job, it will flee
All restraint but that of its double banks
And the steady tugging of gravity.
So do not cold-shoulder with icy glance
The inevitable progress of the free.
Do not think you can keep children ever young
Or prevent the innocent from finding Truth,
For though arctic winters have come and stung,
Forever fluid is the river called “Youth”,
And though your white may clench from bank to bank
Underground gurgles will sing and will thank.

It pays to practice what you preach, and to walk the walk besides talking the talk. Although I may have appeared a foolish old man, out taking pictures with a cell-phone in a wind that could freeze the bleep off a bleep, heedless of the whizzing vehicles flying past with incredulous onlookers, (or sort of heedless), I had no symptoms of cabin fever as I headed home. In fact I noticed that, once you have spent time trying to find the perfect angle for a picture, and the right views to capture an idea, your eyes seem to become stuck in the habit, and even when you are not taking pictures any more the whole world looks strangely photogenic, and you see beauty you usually overlook.

Last but not least, you never know what you will find, if you just get out and look. I was seeking river ice. Who would dream I would find graffiti?

LOCAL VIEW –Boston Bozo’s Bitter Backlash–With Monday Conclusion–

It looks like we are in for some real winter. This morning the thermometer read -3º F (-19ºC) on the sunny side of the house, and the wind in my face just plain hurt. Only my sense of humor calls this weather “a bit brisk”. It is dangerous.

Not that you can’t adapt to it, and take proper precautions, but amazingly few dress correctly. They attempt to dash from heated cars to heated buildings without spoiling their fashionable demeanor with all the woolen stuff that can make a slender woman look like she weighs 200 pounds, and messes up her hair, and makes metrosexual males look like the Pillsbury dough-boy with very skinny ankles. So, instead, they attempt to make it from their parked car to the door dressed like it is April, and practically perish in the wind. Bozos!

Fashionable demeanor? They wind up looking like crippled cats with their tails ablaze, as they painfully limp in super-fast-motion through powder snow above their shoe tops, with wind whistling through skimpy clothing. (It’s called “a lazy wind”, because it can’t be bothered go around you, and short-cuts right through you.)  Bad hair day? If the wind and static electricity doesn’t frizzle, the simple fact heating bone dry air seventy degrees creates indoors humidity around 5% can make the the most starched hairdo look like a mad scientist’s. This sort of cold takes dignity and grinds it under a cruel heel.

I suppose this idiotic behavior proves the Global Warming Alarmists were quite correct when they prophesied, “In the future people will not know what winter is like.” They were not false prophets. They just failed to mention they were not talking about the weather, but rather about the dumbing-down of the public to a point they don’t even know how to dress correctly when it is bitterly cold.

Forgive me if my tone is sardonic. You need to understand I have been taking a drubbing for over ten years, for simply stating the obvious, which is that Global Warming is not a crisis, but a weather cycle that lasts around sixty years, superimposed over a solar cycle that seems to last around 200 years. I have been called things that you wouldn’t believe for being a Skeptic, and have even been told I should be locked up. This does tend to make a man bitter. So does a wind chill of -25ºF.

I looked in the mirror when I came indoors this morning, and looked as bitter as the central character in this Boston Globe cartoon dated 1917.

My sister sent me the cartoon, after it was printed in the current Boston Globe. This actually surprised me. The Globe is infamous for printing only the news that supports the concept of CO2-caused Global Warming, and for utterly ignoring the evidence of the past, which tends to suggest “the only new thing in the world is the history you haven’t studied.” For them to allow even a suggestion we have seen the current weather in the past is highly unusual. They actually have deleted such suggestions from their various websites, in the past.

I wonder. Can the times, they be a-changing?

I wonder. Under a former president, (who I will not honor by naming), vast amounts of money our government does not have was printed, and handed out to any who would further the idea Global Warming was real. Science was degraded, reduced to absurdity. But now President Trump is horrifying people by turning off that faucet of funding. The Globe has written with great zeal how propaganda science cannot survive without billions of dollars being spent. Yet even the Globe must understand that, without funding, certain news is less profitable to be associated with. Not that they will ever admit such news was “very fake news”. But perhaps, slowly but surely, and by small increments, they are changing their “slant” and “spin” to a degree where they can allow evidence from the past to ink their pages.

I wonder. Is it too late? The dumbing-down of the public has been going on at least since Hansen testified before congress in 1986, if not longer. An entire generation of school-children has been brought up to blithely believe Global Warming is a fact. But the current blast of cold isn’t ancient history. It isn’t happening in 1917. It does no good for me to point out the real facts, the real history, the real temperature records from before Hansen wasted such unbelievable amounts of tax-payer money “adjusting” the actual temperatures recorded by actual people. The past doesn’t matter. What matters is the killing blasts coming south. Are we prepared to handle them?

One funny thing is that the only happy people in the above cartoon from 1917 are the plumbers. I met such a plumber yesterday, just inside the front door of my church, down on his knees. He wasn’t praying. He was attempting to thaw the pipes of a radiator. I asked him if he was busy, and he replied “Not yet.” He went on to say our heat was set too low, as are other households, and he expected that, as the arctic outbreak grew worse, he’d be working non-stop.

Sad. People turn down the heat to save money. But plumbers are not cheap.

My main hope is a “pattern flip”.  Old-timers call this a “January Thaw.” Our winter temperatures tend to bottom-out around January 19, but if you scrutinize the local temperature-graph one sees the bottoming-out isn’t a smooth curve. It is a bit like a roller coaster at the bottom of the yearly curve. Despite the fact 125-years of records tends to average-out yearly spikes, there is slight evidence (more obvious at some sites than others) of a slight January Thaw around January 11 and a greater one around January 22. However there is a lot of variability. Some years the thaws are brief and slight. A true “pattern flip” sees a cruel winter give way to a delightfully prolonged thaw. But…there is the worst case scenario to remember, when the thaw is skipped, and the winter just goes on and on and on until you are ready to scream.

I am old enough to remember the winters of the late 1970’s. (1976-1977 started earlier than this one, and went without a lasting thaw until late February). (1978-1979 started late, but amazed even the lobster-men of Maine by breaking some of their weather-rules, and freezing up harbors later than they had ever seen.) At that time the media exclaimed about Global Cooling and A New Ice Age.

I hope we don’t see that. I’m hoping for a “pattern flip”. That will give us enough cold to wake metrosexuals up, like a shot-across-the-bow, without really hurting them.

As it is, it looks bad for two to three weeks. An amazing reservoir of cold air was nudged south from the Arctic Sea and is now heading our way. A second reservoir of very cold air was bumped from Eastern Siberia up over the Pole, and via “cross-polar-flow” will likely follow the first arctic outbreak. After that? Hopefully the pattern will flip, and winds will stream up from the southwest.

For those of you who like maps, here is our current map:

The front down in the Gulf of Mexico and crossing Florida was the first arctic blast, which I suppose some will now call a “polar” front. The “arctic” front, holding a reinforcing shot of colder air, extends from south of us to a low over the Great Lakes called an “Alberta Clipper.” Waxing poetic, (all meteorologists are secretly poets), Joe Bastardi explained, “The emperor of the north likes to lay down a white carpet to announce his arrival, and that is what the clipper shall do.”

I won’t mind a clipper, for that tends to be the sort of snow you can broom away.

What I am more nervous about is the gap between the coming arctic out break and the following one. East coast blizzards can occur in such gaps. (Next Thursday).

We are actually fortunate because the worst cold is coming south to the west of the Great Lakes, and then turning east. It must cross the Great Lakes before getting to us, and those waters are still in the process of freezing. Until they freeze, they warm all air passing over, (and this causes enormous “lake-effect” snows to our west). By the time the cold gets to us it is only -6ºF rather than -30ºF.

If you are interested, here is our local forecast: (Temperatures in Fahrenheit). (Notice warming and snow next Thursday, followed by arctic blast. Storm?)

This will be rough, in terms of heating bills. The poor will get poorer. Some elderly will die in cold houses, and some homeless will freeze on the streets. Those who got rich promoting solar power will not care,  although those who thought they could retire to Florida may face face frost and snow, even there.

In terms of running my Childcare, we will venture out on hikes, but they will be short ones. If it is windless we will build a bright fire and let children play on the farm-pond’s thick ice. But even a slight wind can be very cruel, and I am not such a zealot about the outdoors that I risk frostbite. Legos are an acceptable alternative. Here is the work done by a boy aged four, today:

 It just goes to show you cold can’t stop the children.

(I’ll update this post with end-of-month statistics of what our temperatures actually were. They tend to be lower than forecast.)

Friday Update

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Clouded up before dawn and the temperature rose to -3° F, from a local low of -9°F (-23°C) around three AM. The sun was a brief glow to the east before settling to a light gray smear in the southern sky during the short, gray day. The temperature peaked at around 6°F, (-14°C) with the lightest dust of snow sifting in a light wind. I took a couple of boys out to whack a puck around the pond in the afternoon, not bothering with skates, for by the time they had them on my hands would have been frozen, and they’d want them off. We lasted 20 minutes.

It is interesting how much the forecast for next Thursday has changed.

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That is a shift twelve degrees downwards in 14 hours, and demonstrates the long-term reliability of models.

Here is the evening map. They did not bother draw in any fronts for the weak impulse that passed over and now is south of Nova Scotia. I call such subtle features “ghost fronts” because they persist although invisible. Don’t be surprised to see it reappear north of Nova Scotia tomorrow.  It is a piece of energy tippling along what theoretically is the warm front of the Alberta Clipper bogged down and occluded over the Great Lakes. (The “warm” water of the lakes is creating rising air, causing that stalled feature to persist, rather than fade away.)

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SATURDAY MORNING UPDATE

5:30 AM: Down to -7°F last night, but now up to -4°F as high clouds stream in from the west. Check morning map:

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Sure enough, the “ghost front” feature has reappeared north of Nova Scotia. I call these lows “zippers”. They ripple along a warm front when the main low has occluded, and are more obvious in Europe, when a big Atlantic gale stalls and occludes. Our occluded low is a weakling Alberta Clipper malingering over the Great Lake’s updrafts. A new Alberta Clipper is sliding east to its southwest, bringing us high clouds. The snow will likely stay south of us. Behind it is nasty cold. I wouldn’t like to be at the Patriot’s game this Sunday.

Sometimes these surges of cold from the north bring about an equal-but-opposite surge from the south, but the warmth is still milling about in the Gulf of Mexico, and as of now shows no sign of charging north as a storm.

The equal-and-opposite reaction that you can safely predict with a high degree of certainty is the reaction of Alarmists to the bitter cold:

Record Breaking Winter Cold? Don’t Worry, the Climate Explainers Have it Covered

Hansen, who formerly predicted that Manhattan would be awash under rising seas by now, is now predicting the warming he predicted will be hidden by brief mini-ice ages.

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These fellows seem to just make things up as they go. However, judging from the over-500 largely-sarcastic comments to the WUWT post, people are not buying it any more.

Boston Bozo 7 mckee-cartoon-warmer-colder-winters9:00 AM — Up to 3°F (-16°C) under gray skies. Heat Wave!

The forecast for next Thursday has switched back to snow, with a high of 21°F and low of -6°F. The model my phone is hooked up with (GFS?) must be struggling with a storm it sees going out to sea one run, and coming up the coast the next.

Why Worry? That’s not happening until sometime next year. Today I just need to deal with the gray.

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SUNDAY UPDATE

I thought we might get through a night with temperatures above zero when I awoke at three last night and temperatures were holding at 1°F, but by dawn we had dipped to -3°F, and we have now been below zero five straight nights. Last winter I think we only managed three nights the entire (kind) winter.

Yesterday (Friday) we managed to inch up into double digits, 11°F, but today we only managed 8°F. The occlusion that lay back over the great lakes was swung south by the flow from the north, becoming a ghost cold-front with a ghost-low and even a ghost warm-sector on it. (Not much of a warm-sector, but we’ll take any slight warming we can get, at this point.) One interesting thing about the ghost low is that it in part seems to be a Pacific impulse. If you look back to the start of the post you’ll notice a low crashing into the Pacific northwest. It then undergoes what I call “morphistication” as it transits the heights of the Rocky Mountains. One part of it attempts to reorganize east of the mountains, but higher up in the atmosphere some sort of reflection proceeds merrily across the continent as if the Rocky Mountains didn’t exist. As the Alberta Clipper moves off the coast (after giving us a quarter inch of dusty snow) the ghost low approaches Lake Superior last night:

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By this morning the ghost-cold-front (dashed orange line) is settling south to the east, but lifted slightly to the west as the ghost-low moves south of the Great Lakes. (The arctic front is way down to the Gulf of Mexico, and the lower part of the Pacific storm is still entangled in the western mountains.)

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By mid morning someone bothered put a small “L” on the map for the ghost-low.

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This evening the ghost is passing south of us, with little more than high clouds effecting us (this time; another time it might lead to surprises.) The old Alberta Clippers are brewing up towards Labrador, and a sneaky front is wheeling around over its top. Sometimes blobs of Atlantic air get injected into the arctic flow and we get odd, un-forecast flurries coming down from the north. However I think nervous eyes are more likely looking down at the lows rippling along the arctic front in the Gulf of Mexico, or at the lows malingering out in the Rocky Mountains. Me? I’n just hunkering down to endure the next arctic blast, which was held up slightly by the ghost impulse, but now has a free pass to come south.

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A quick glance at my cell phone sees the snow is back for next Thursday, for the moment. I suppose the low out by the Rocky Mountains will combine with some Gulf moisture and try to come north, but be shunted out to sea, but not far enough to allow us to escape the northern, snowy edge. And as it bombs-out in the Atlantic the winds behind it will make us even colder than we already are. Two days with zero (-17°C) for a high temperature! (Let’s hope the models are wrong.)

Boston Bozo 10 FullSizeRender This current blast of cold has our local rivers, which are rushing streams people like to kayak on to test themselves, more frozen than we usually see in the very depth of a cold winter, and we’ve barely begun.

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Happy New Year!

MONDAY CONCLUSION

Down to -10°F last night (-23°C), which is the coldest we’ve seen so far. I celebrated a Greenland New Year’s last night (IE I went to bed at nine.) Therefore I could arise early and see the late dawn’s light the frosty windows.

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I promised I’d include some statistics, so here is the Concord, NH weather data. Concord is north of us, up the Merrimac River,  and because its is down in a valley it can be warmer than us on bright sunny days, and colder than us on still, cold nights, but usually it’s temperatures are close to what ours are.

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It’s interesting to look back to December 6, when temperatures touched 53°F (12°C) and December was averaging +4.3 of normal, and the ponds were barely skimmed with ice. Now the month concludes -4.6 of normal, and the ice on ponds is a foot thick. What the heck happened?

One thing that happened is that the winds turned north and stubbornly stayed from the north. Our “warm-ups” involve moderated Chinook air that had crossed an entire continent, and winds just north of west. We haven’t had all that much snow, but it sits and refuses to melt. The last five days of the month have averaged over 20 degrees below normal. That will dent your wallet, when you pay for heat.

Snow is still in the cards for next Thursday, (bitter cold powder, not the sticky stuff children like), followed by another arctic blast, and the long range is now hinting at another storm at the start of next week, followed by another arctic blast.

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The map shows the remarkable magnitude of this arctic blast, with the cold front nearly across the Gulf of Mexico to the Yucatan.  (Also rising air over the “warm” Great Lakes continuing to fuel a weak low all their own.)

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It looks to me like the cold will not hurry to relent. Up at the Pole the flow continues from Siberia to Canada, refueling the source of cold air. However over at the Weatherbell site Thomas E Downs, V posted a very cool analysis of the bitter winter of 1917-1918, (week free trial available). The cold may have caused people back then to stay indoors in close contact, and contributed to the spread and mutation of the so-called “Spanish ‘Flu”, as troops were mobilized and sent overseas. The  pandemic reduced the world population by roughly 5%. Not the nicest winter, or spring. (My Grandfather nearly died of the ‘flu in France.) But one thing Thomas Downs points out is though the cold remained brutal right through January, the pattern-flip in February must have felt like heaven to people in the northeast USA. (Last 10 days of January to right; Mid-February to left.)

 

It also is likely that those who do best in harsh winters are those who avoid skulking indoors, and instead embrace the discomfort, and go out to take pictures, to show to their grandchildren. I’m glad people took pictures in 1918.

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I’m going to post some pictures of our frozen streams and rivers. Stay tuned.