I am an idealist and have fairly high standards, but life has had a way of humbling me. Often I fail to live up to my own standards. For example, I feel I should drive a fancy sports car, but in fact drive an old clunker. I feel I should be rich and famous, but in fact am poor and unknown. Not that I am less optimistic. I keep right on plugging ahead, rolling with the punches, and refusing to allow a few piffling set-backs to get me down.
In some senses I suppose this makes me a hypocrite, for I state standards should be high while looking a bit low. Also I seem to have a disconnect from reality, only managing to accomplish 5% of what high standards require, which seems a sure recipe for failure. However I sail through debacles and fiascos I seemingly shouldn’t survive, and through the grace of God emerge unscathed, at times reminding myself of Mr. Magoo.
One characteristic of Mr. Magoo is that he is so near-sighted that he is constantly misinterpreting what he is seeing, and driving the wrong way down one-way roads in any number of ways, but he also possesses blind luck, and miraculously never is killed in headlong collisions, and in fact is often blissfully unaware of the dangers he’s just escaped by the skin of his teeth, (though he is able to take offense at what his poor eyesight sees as a rude gesture from an onlooker, when it is actually an inanimate coat-rack.)
To misinterpret what you are seeing is like a baseball player expecting a fastball when a curve is coming, or a banker expecting a boom just before a bust, or a weatherman predicting sunshine just before an storm. We all experience such failures, and recovering from them is part of life. However I have noticed some fascinating things happen during that period of recovery, which causes me to think the grace of God is involved.
One thing we seldom see coming is particularly bad weather. This makes mincemeat of our high standards, for a thing like three feet of snow makes things we don’t schedule or even think about, such as walking from the front door to our car, suddenly an unexpected task, a thing we didn’t include in Plan A or Plan B, and because we had no contingency plan in effect we are an hour behind, just shoveling our way to our car.
Another thing we seldom see coming is the absence of a crucial employee we count upon. Because we must fill-in, there is other work undone, and we soon are another hour behind.
These hours add up, until one must give up on high standards, because certain deeds cannot be completed, and are either postponed or cancelled outright. Standards start slipping. For example, after a big storm one thing I notice at the local market is that most women are having bad-hair-days.
As soon as standards slip, danger increases. One wants to cover every contingency, but simply lacks the stamina. And it is at this point people start to pray, (albeit under their breath, if they are Atheists). Also at this point many who think they have faith because they attend church regularly discover their faith is weak, and mutter doubts such as, “If God existed he wouldn’t allow it to snow three feet.” In conclusion, three feet of snow tests the faith of Atheists in their Atheism, and Believers in their Belief, for there is nothing like the whiff of danger to peel away the thin skin of our intellectualizing, and expose our hearts.
On a farm, the increasing danger caused by slipping standards is painfully obvious. Crops can wither or rot or be smothered by weeds or consumed by vermin, and animals can be injured or die. Because farmers are not perfect, they are subject to punishment and guilt for every imperfection. They feel waves of anger and pangs of grief over the death of a chicken, (even without the help of animal-rights-activists, who seem primarily concerned about guilt).
My chickens, on the other hand, care little about me. They just want food. They rush me even when I’m on time, and if I’m late their onrush makes it difficult to walk. In fact, rushing me is such a habit that, even if I have just fed and watered them, they rush me on general principles, when I drop by to try to make their coop warmer. Not a single chicken makes my work easier by handing me a hammer, and in fact they tend to make work more difficult by pooping on the hammer’s handle.
The winter-quarters I have built them utterly fails to meet my high standards. I had a Mercedes planned but have flung together a Model-T. I could give a long list of excuses, but in essence I failed to plan for December to pounce upon us early, in late October. Hit by arctic blasts, huddled in their summer quarters, the chickens formed a ball of feathers at night that looked like a single extra-large chicken, made of eight. Therefore I built and moved them to their winter quarters in a frantic rush, planning to make improvements when I had “extra time”, which, due to things like three feet of snow, I never had.
I built them nesting boxes, but the ungrateful birds refused to use them. I could tell by the size of their combs they ought to be starting to lay, but the only egg I saw was a lone one, on the floor in front of the boxes. ( I had no “extra time” to conduct an Easter-egg-hunt.) I lengthened their time of daylight with conventional lighting, and warmed the nesting area by slapping up a heat-lamp, but they seemed completely unwilling to thank me by paying rent with a few eggs.
Instead the ungrateful chickens seemed to feel the heat-lamp wasn’t enough. They needed a bigger fire. One flew up and attempted to sit on the heat lamp (which I confess wasn’t fixed in place according to fire-department codes), and knocked the lamp to the floor. For some reason the bulb didn’t break, and instead shone onto the pine-shavings, making them hotter, and hotter, until they began to smolder. Rather than bursting into flame they formed an expanding area of red coals that ate away at the floor boards and floor joists. Rather than the smoke rising it weirdly was sucked down into the crawl-space and exited to the rear of the stables where no one could see it. Rather than flying out through the goat stalls the culprit chickens remained, perhaps planning to rise from ashes under the delusion they were phoenixes. The expanding pool of red hot coals expanded under the wall of the coop into the straw bedding of the goats, which was powder dry.
And what was I doing? Doing even as the coals expanded outwards, on the verge of bursting into flames and likely consuming the stables in a flash, and probably the adjacent barn as well (because our local fire-department is cruelly called “The Cellar-hole Savers”)?
What was I doing? I was settling down to take what I felt was a well-deserved siesta, patting a swollen paunch loaded with a big bowl of chili with beans.
I hate to admit it, but I was feeling smug. Not that I wasn’t giving glory to God, but one cannot help but feel a bit smug after Mr. Mcgooing through a situation, only doing around 5% of what should be done to uphold high standards, yet coming through it alive. After all, at age 66 I shovel and snow-blow snow in a manner which, compared to how I worked at age 30, is definitely sub-standard. Yet I’d dealt with three feet of snow, and also the fact the snow-blower broke at the height of the storm. I also dug up and split firewood to keep the home-fires burning. And, when the storm was followed by a thaw and deluge, I dealt with a flooding cellar and malfunctioning sump-pump. To top it off, I substituted for missing staff at our Childcare, and hoisted and coddled and romped-with three-year-olds despite the fact my aching body protested. Not that I did 5% as well as the missing staff might have done, and not that a better man would have done a better job of maintaining his snow-blower and sump-pump, but, through the grace of God, I’d made it through the snow and flood. I deserved a brief nap, but just then my cellphone rang.
I learned a storm door was refusing to latch at the Childcare, and was bothering napping children, by slamming in the wind. My immediate response was not texted back. It was, “What about napping old men? Should they be bothered, too?”
Glancing out the window I could see the wind was swiftly dying down. I concluded the problem could wait. I can gain astonishing refreshment from a fifteen-minute “dip”. But some odd intuition hit me. I had a “feeling” I would “dip” better if I dealt with the door first. So, stretching and yawning, I lazily drove over to the Childcare, inspected the latch of the swinging door, jury-rigged some wires to halt the swinging until I found time to fix the latch, and slouched back to my car to head home for my “dip”. But just then another odd intuition hit me, and I wondered if my chickens had laid any eggs.
Just to make such an odd impulse look slightly sane, I should mention I’ve had egg-eater chickens in the past. It had occurred to me one reason I’d found only one egg might be because I had another egg-eater on my hands. One way to become aware of an egg-eater is to check nests more regularly, before egg-eaters have had a chance to eat. So I lazily wandered over to the coop.
The moment I opened the door of the coop my consciousness was hit by a series of jarrings which, because my belly was full of chili and beans and I was feeling soporific and yawning, I cruised through without fully waking up. It took about thirty seconds, but will take far longer to tell.
The first ten seconds involved me hearing the clonk of goat hoofs at the top of the partition that separates the chickens from the goats, and being faced by Lydia, my alpha-female goat, giving me a most-definite “look,”
Now I will have to explain what a “look” is. It is how the alpha-female silently communicates to the alpha-male that he may think he is boss, but her opinions matter. You often see it while herding goats because goats are not “grazers” like cows and sheep that are happy eating grass all day long, but “browzers” like deer that require variety. Often the alpha-male might be perfectly happy munching acorns under oaks, but the alpha-female has decided it is time to move on to munching goldenrod. Rather than just heading to the goldenrod, she starts to give the alpha-male a “look”. She stares at him intently, without wavering, until he notices. He practically jumps when he sees the “look”. Almost immediately, pretending to be casual and that it was his own idea, he leads the flock away from the acorns.
We have not had a male goat around since we gave up on our dairy, (my wife doesn’t like their powerful musk), and therefore Lydia has seemingly decided I am some sort of surrogate alpha-male. I am forever getting the “look” from her. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I inform her I am not a goat and will not be moved, I keep getting the “look”. And, to be honest, it is a bit uncanny how much can be communicated by eyes, without words. Where I have to use a whole slew of words to describe a mere ten seconds, a goat can communicate volumes with a single glance.
The glance I got from Lydia was unlike any I ever saw before. The closest I’ve ever seen was a look my mother gave a brother when he brought home a girl she didn’t approve of: A distillation of worry. If goats had foreheads, Lydia’s would have creased with concern. My soporific consciousness could only manage a nonintellectual, “What the…”
The next ten seconds involved stepping forward, and noticing the red glow of a heat-lamp was not up where it should be, but down low behind the door of the chicken coop. Two more steps and I opened the door, and witnessed what the above picture shows, but with a lot more red and orange. The above picture is a reenactment produced after the fire was out. At the moment I was not thinking of taking pictures. What appears to be a dark hole in the above reenactment was a circle of red coals crossed by a red line which were coals that had once been the floor joist.
Due to the bizarre drafts, the coals reminded me a smoker’s pipe. (Not that I have seen a man smoking tobacco in a pipe in thirty years.) The coals blazed red, and then as the draft slackened smoke would puff up, and then the coals would blaze again as the draft resumed.
I have not heated with wood for decades without developing the ability to discern when a smoldering fire is about to burst into flame. This fire was right at that point, and the closest faucet was over at the Childcare. However my laziness saved me. Because I don’t like going all the way to the Childcare to get water for the chickens, I’d stuck a bucket under the eves to catch rainwater during the deluge.
The third ten seconds involved me leaping to that bucket, bringing it to the fire, and cupping my hands and throwing a couple of handfuls on the coals.
I have not heated with wood for decades without knowing it makes a world of difference to a smoldering fire if you lower your lips to pucker and blow on it, nursing it to life, or throw a single handful of water on it. Talk about a so-called “tipping point”! Five minutes later and the coop and stables might have been blazing to a degree where the entire bucketful of water would have been a laughable attempt to put the fire out, but because I was in time I deeply discouraged the fire with the first flung handful.
I made sure the last coal was out, spending a long time sprinkling handfuls of water and then feeling with my fingers to locate heat I could not see. (Long ago I heard a tale of a man who awoke at night with his house on fire, fought the fire until he thought it was out, and then went back to bed unaware an ember still glowed. The next time he awoke he was in the next world.) It was interesting how the coals ate like worms down tunnels through the old wood and tinder-dry bedding, especially under the partition and into the bedding on the goat’s side. But at long last, after many handfuls, I could find no warmth and see neither steam nor smoke.
But during the process of poking about I did discover more than I ever expected:
At this point my sense of absurdity kicked in. I was feeling a bit ashamed over my stupidity, kicking myself for putting a heat-lamp where a pyro-chicken could knock it to the floor, and figured I deserved to have my stables and barn burned down. Instead I was rewarded with a dozen farm-fresh eggs. Oh Magoo! You’ve done it again!
However, beyond the irrefutable proof of my own absurdity, I felt I had glimpsed God’s grace. After all, it is quite unlike me to postpone a nap, especially when I have worked hard for an old geezer, and think I deserve a nap. What in the world got into me? Why on earth did I listen to some voice in my own head, and delay my nap to go attend to a door slamming in the wind? And what was that voice?
If you use a search engine such as DuckDuckGo and type in “still, small voice”, you may find yourself back in the Old Testament, when Elijah was disagreeing with Jezebel, and found himself in deep do-doo. When hopelessly outnumbered in a debate with her rump-swabs, he infuriated Jezebel by basically trouncing her rump-swabs with Truth, and consequently had to run for his life because Jezebel wanted him dead. Elijah himself wanted to die, but on his own terms and not on Jezebel’s terms, and, while Elijah was deep in this suicidal despondence, exiled in the wilderness, apparently Truth had a talk with him. What is interesting to me is that Truth did not speak in a deep, booming baritone. Instead the encounter is described as follows:
” A great and mighty wind was tearing at the mountains and was shattering cliffs before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was a voice, a soft whisper.”
This makes me wonder about the “soft whisper” that strangely motivated me to act so out of character, and, rather than procrastinating with a nap, made me procrastinate the nap itself.
You cannot deny, as I describe things, that the whisper made a huge difference. Yet it has no obvious substance. It is about as intellectual as the glance I get from a goat.
Why should God concern himself with big things When the small pebbles that cause avalanches Will do? Big Icarus sought big wings And big lights and got clipped, like the branches In vineyards thrown into the fire. The snips Of God’s shears are heard in quiet places: On shaded side streets; humble homes; small ships Netting small fish. And the bright faces Touched by His light are turned away from fame, Which is His shadow. What changes our lives Is often silent. Those who seek acclaim Seek to be stunted. The vineyard that thrives Hears the quiet tread and sees quiet deeds Of One who knows best what the tavern most needs.
In case you young folk want to know where firewood comes from, it comes from “wood mines”.
My rat-hunting dog begs to differ. She claims they are called “woof mines”.
The deep snows make everyday deeds, like getting an armload of wood, difficult. The deep snow-cover also seems to confuse the computer-model used to figure out our forecasts. Temperatures are significantly lower than forecast. The low last night was forecast to be 10F (-12 Celsius) but instead it is getting down towards zero in the dark before dawn. But check out the forecast. Nearly fifty degrees warmer and raining by tomorrow!?
What a mess it could be! Everything will turn to slush and then freeze solid. Great start to winter. But if the snowbanks by the roads freeze solid it will be more difficult to skid off the roads. They become like bobsled runs.
Sometimes my focus is too much upon the oncoming, and I miss what I am surrounded by. I am like the driver of a car, wisely focusing on the road ahead but a bit oblivious of the view beside me. This is all well and good until you become oblivious of the person beside you.
I recently heard a story about an old man and old woman driving together in one of those old pick-up trucks with bench front seats. They sat so far apart that the old lady’s forehead was actually resting against the coolness of the passenger side window. In front of them was a battered pick-up truck of the same year and make, but in it was a young couple obviously very much in love; the young lady’s head was resting on the young man’s shoulder. They were driving so slowly the older couple’s truck caught up, and as they did the old lady looked forward and then she sat up, turned to her husband, and reproachfully said, “We used to drive like that. What happened to us?” The old man glanced at her with a wry smile and said, “I haven’t moved.”
As Thanksgiving approached this year I looked forward to two things that to a degree were in conflict; a reunion of family, including new babies and new partners, and the first big snowstorm of the year, which was a glorified warm front but promised to dump a foot of snow all at once.
As the storm approached there were certain things I needed to attend to, such as making sure my snow-blower was running correctly after sitting idle all summer, and getting salt and a snow shovel out of storage and putting them on the porch. I noted the snow-blower’s carburetor was a bit fouled, and a sheer-pin on one blade needed replacing, and this necessitated a drive to a hardware store in the next town for a gasoline additive and a sheer-pin. This resulted in a, shall we say, “discussion” with my wife, because it seemed I might miss an hour of our reunion. What was more important, a sheer-pin or our own children? In the end things worked out, for I slipped away from our reunion and was back an hour later in such a manner that the chattering group hardly noticed I was gone, but beforehand it seemed worse than it was. I was not at all looking forward with relish, and anticipated trouble.
It was at this point, when my brains were working themselves into a tizzy, that I decided I needed to stop and smell the roses, though there were no roses to sniff. I was too focused on the oncoming snow and oncoming reunion, and was missing what was in the present tense. And what was that? It was not snow or a reunion. It was the last brown day before the landscape vanished under a blanket of white, perhaps for months; perhaps until April.
It didn’t take any extra time. I just took the time, as I walked from one chore to the next, to scuff through the leaves, and enjoy the rustling.
With holidays I nearly missed the last, Brown day. It wasn’t on my Christmas list: “The last, brown day.” Snow will make it be the past; The white comes fast; the landscape’s kissed By wool on trees and roads, but if a drift Must block my path I wish a pile of leaves To rustle through. The way sounds shift From crisp to sift, from leaves to snow, just grieves My heart, for I know snow is here to stay, And therefore isn’t like the last, brown day. Seize the moment, before it slips away. Seize upon the last, brown day; in a kicking way Rustle through leaves. Make life be play. Rejoice all through the last, brown day.
Sometimes my Childcare work is actually fun, to a degree where I feel a bit guilty for charging people to do it. Such was the case with the carrot crop, this year.
Carrots, like parsnips, are a biennial, and put their energy into forming a big root the first year. If you leave the root in the ground then the second year the carrot puts all the energy stored in the root into producing a beautiful flower (shaped like it’s close cousin, Queen Anne’s lace), and then produces so many carrot seeds that they can become a weed, in certain situations.
Because they are a biennial they handle freezes well, and I tend to harvest them last, for two reasons.
The first is that I have a tendency to procrastinate whenever possible, not because I am particularly lazy, but rather because life is so full of fun things to do that I always over-schedule. Usually I am busy doing one thing, but even when I am busy with one task I am procrastinating in terms of ten or twenty other tasks. This tends to get me in trouble, but also makes me highly skilled when it comes to inventing excuses for procrastinating. The best excuses are those which disguise the procrastination as part of a “plan.” And this brings me to the second reason for harvesting carrots last.
One year, as I was procrastinating in my usual way, I continued my usual habit of pulling a few carrots every day for my wife’s needs, and noticed that as the carrot greens finally browned (and they are one of the final things in the garden to give up on greenness in the autumn) that the carrot roots beneath the greens abruptly grew substantially larger. I suppose the carrot pulls all energy from those greens down into it’s roots. This was a great thing to discover. No longer was I procrastinating, but instead I was being a wise farmer and “ensuring my carrots achieved their optimum size.”
This year I nearly paid the price for this procrastination. The first hard, carrot-browning freeze of winter was not a “Squaw Winter” followed by an “Indian Summer”. (Yes, I know such terms are now politically-incorrect, but it is also politically-incorrect to criticize the traditions of an indigenous people, and, as the Yankee have been squatting here stewards of New England for 399 years, I figure we deserve to be called “indigenous”), (especially by globalists who have no culture nor traditions whatsoever.)
This year the cold came with unusual ferocity, and the first blast was followed in short order by a second, and then a third. The autumn began to remind me of the start to the winter of 1976-1977, where the “Squaw Winter” came without an “Indian Summer”, and turned out to be “Real Winter” and froze our socks off all the way into February.
Usually our temperatures drop steadily through November; our lows bottom out around freezing at the start of the month and sink to around 24° (-4.4° Celsius) by the end of the month. But this November, during the three savage, arctic blasts that hit us, the high temperature was 24°, and the lows set records, around 12° (-11° Celsius) even back at the start of the month.
This led to a problem, when I took the children out to the “carrot harvest” at our Farm-childcare. The ground was frozen hard as iron, and the carrots were stuck in it like rivets. At first I thought I’d need a jackhammer to dig them out, but I managed to jump on my shovel with such zeal I broke through to the unfrozen earth, and then could pry up slabs and plates of brown, frozen earth, roughly three inches thick, with the tapered ends of orange carrots protruding from the bottom. By whacking and smashing these plates the plates could be broken into chunks, and the carrots wrenched free (and they tasted just as good when thawed) but to me it seemed like an awful lot of work, per carrot.
Of course, when you are dealing with children two, three and four years old, they have no idea that this is not how things are always done. Also they find it sort of fun to smash plates, and not get in trouble for it. Prying up the plates had me huffing and puffing, and I would have given the job up, but the kids were having such a blast I continued to pry up frozen slabs of earth even after I was too weary to break them up, and they kept up their smashing and prying-carrots-loose until we had filled a grain bag with some forty pounds, and they also all had small bags holding their “favorite carrots” to bring home with them.
I could not, in good conscience, allow them to think this was a usual carrot-harvest. We had done less than half of the twenty-four foot double-row in twice the time it would usually take to complete the entire harvest. I attempted to get across the idea I had procrastinated too long, but they’d had too much fun to understand Aesop’s fable about The Grasshopper and the Ant, and so I abandoned my moralizing and just told them I was going to try to “soften the soil”, to make the rest of the harvest easier.
Then I found an old, black tarp to cover the rest of the carrots with. I figured the black would absorb sunshine and might even thaw the soil. Most of the children were not the slightest bit interested, but this year I have one small boy who tags along with me and has an owlish interest in everything I do. He even reached out with his small hand and felt the black tarp along with me, noticing the slight warmth it gathered from the low November noon. He then owlishly listened as I reminisced, (like the garrulous old coot I am), about the winter of 1976-1977. There may not have been an Indian Summer that November, but I seemed to recollect the blasts did relent to a degree where temperatures were normal for a while, edging above freezing every noon. Perhaps the soil around our carrots could thaw.
I seem to get a small sidekick like this owlish boy every few years. They are precociously articulate, and what is especially nice is that they are deeply concerned about my well-being. They seem very aware I am hapless and need help, but they own this awareness in a manner that is amazingly respectful. For example, when I am rummaging through the staff’s packs for a missing flashlight (which we need for November’s early-evening darkness), this particular boy will first inquire what I am looking for, and, second, point out a flashlight I’d never notice at the back of a counter on the far side of the room.
If the sidekick is a female, it is like I have the secretary I’ve long yearned-for but could never afford, in the form of a four or five-year old girl. This small boy is like having a butler. He is unnaturally interested in my interests, and unnaturally helpful.
Where the other children forgot all about carrots under the onslaught of other interests, this young fellow popped up the next day, smiling and helpful, and querulously wondering in a piping voice if the soil had started to thaw under the tarp. This was helpful to me, for, under the onslaught of other concerns, I might have forgotten all about carrots myself. We checked the soil daily.
In any case, we lucked out. An Aleutian Low crashed east into Alaska, interrupting the southward delivery of arctic air and allowing us just enough sunshine and thaw to soften the soil under the tarp. (And if you don’t believe me, ask my small butler. Though born in 2014, he will inform you, “This may have happened in 1976 as well,”) (because he asked me.)
Because the soil under the tarp did thaw, the rest of the carrot-harvest was much easier, though at first the other children were less than eager. If you look at the picture at the start of the post, you’ll notice only two children are working, and the rest are standing around. Perhaps they were a bit desultory because there were no “plates” to break, but they soon got over that, which is why there are no further pictures. I was soon too busy “providing child care” to take pictures.
The first problem involved breaking up fights about who would get the shovel next, and be the next to get to dig carrots. I attempted to teach them about “taking turns” and “sharing”, but they were too impatient for that. They skipped off in all directions and returned with more shovels than I knew our Childcare possessed, including tiny shovels ordinarily seen when building sand castles on a beach. One girl couldn’t be bothered with a shovel, and scooped with her hands in a manner that puts badgers to shame.
The second problem was that dirt was flying in all directions, and I had to instruct the young in ditch-digger-protocol, and teach them how to dig without flinging a face-full of dirt at a neighbor. Despite my instructions, I had to pause to attend to eyes weeping muddy tears, but even that tearful, offended face swiftly became riveted on the next carrot.
No two carrots are alike. This seemed to intrigue the small children and make them dig faster. They were constantly exclaiming over how a carrot was especially fat or long or round or small or crooked, and would dissolve into gales of laughter over a carrot that forked like two legs (which made me cringe slightly, for, in prior years, a small, tertiary fork between the two “legs” has resulted in child-like hilarity and frank discussions, which can present problems to child care providers.)
I hardly dug at all, so busy was I with other issues, but I instructed the children to place the gold they dug up in a single pile. The pile looks small, in the picture at the start of this post, but it grew and grew. When I put all the carrots in a second grain bag it amounted to a second forty pounds (minus carrots children took home.)
Forgive me for being a bit smug, but I can’t help myself. We had a great time. Not a child whined all morning that they were bored or that they wanted to go home. Nor did my staff or myself need to concoct a “plan” or belabor a “curriculum”. The “curriculum” was “dig carrots”.
And what did this “curriculum” teach? At the very least it taught where carrots come from. (The first year my wife and I opened our Farm-childcare a small child asked me, “Why do you dig dirty carrots when you could get clean ones in plastic bags at the store?”)
Good things come from dirt. I don’t know why this is such a revelation. But a mother did give me a disapproving look, as she picked up her daughter after our carrot-harvest. She had just washed her daughter’s play pants, and already the knees were brown.
We had our first taste of winter today, with temperatures 15 degrees below normal and reluctant to rise all day and puddles from last night’s rain flat and frozen, and fits of flurries throwing handfuls of white confetti into a stiff breeze, though I saw no reason for confetti. What is there to celebrate? It was a miserable day after yesterday evening’s miserable cold rain.
Last night I faced a night out with good friends, but nearly didn’t go, because, to get to the cheer and the warm hearth of friends, I’d have to venture out into pitch black and pelting, cold rain. It stinks when, in order to have a good time, you must first take a deep breath and run a gauntlet. But that is the definition of winter, in New England.
It is said, “No pain; no gain”, and that is what urges one out, yet at the same time another voice whispers, “No strain; No pain”. And there is much to be said for the second voice. Why risk pneumonia, when you could toast toes by a warm fire?
At some point one is forced to chose between which voice one will listen to. It seems a sort of “tipping point”, or a “fork in the road.” As a writer, often I stay home and am introspective, while others go out. I sometimes stay in even when the weather is balmy. Also as a writer, I often have wound up broke because I stayed home when I should have gone out to work, which later forced me to go out and work lousy jobs in weather others would call insane to work in. Therefore I have a pretty good idea of what both sides of the “tipping point” entail.
In my experience it is almost always better to go out. For example, last night, as I wavered at my front door, there could be no doubt the weather was disagreeable. It was weather best described by Englishmen in London during a North Atlantic gale, when they look out and say, with lordly disapproval, “Simply filthy weather; simply filthy.” Yet two hours later when I stomped back through the same door and hurried to my hearth, I was glad I’d gone. I hadn’t caught pneumonia, and had gained, through the insights of others, an idea I’d never have come up with alone.
One thing that few account for is that the mortal body is capable of ramping up its Adrenalin levels, and altering its entire metabolism, if need be. I noticed my physical frame doing this today. The bitter wind was “lazy” (IE: it cut straight through you, rather than taking the time to go around you) and I was flinching and muttering, “I’m too old for this.” My circulation isn’t as good, and my testosterone levels are lower, than when I was twenty-five. To me that seems a good excuse for staying home by the fire. But, because I’ve been a writer, I’ve worked over a hundred different jobs, and that is no way to earn a pension. So I’m stuck with working when friends have retired. And, because I have to go out when they don’t, I discover what they won’t.
What I saw is that one doesn’t need Viagra to be hot. Apparently something other than testosterone is involved, when the northern body shifts gears in the face of brutal winter. Something in the human frame fights back, when exposed to insults, even when you’re old. It will take science a while to verify this observation, I suppose, but it was undeniable to me: I was warmer after the first nasty blasts of winter hit me than I was when I first saw the forecast.
I didn’t notice how much warmer I was, at first. I walked through my front door after work and pottered about as if it was June, thinking little of it until I went to put wood in the stove. Only then did it occur to me I hadn’t rushed to the fire like a babe to a breast as I came in the house. Contrary as it may sound, bitter breezes made me warmer.
Decades ago I saw the same thing in a different way. A friend complained his wife never got out, and instead stayed at home depressed. In the foolish way that marked my youth, I stuck my nose in the business of others, “to be helpful”. (One friend called me guilty of “dry adultery”: I might not have had sex with friend’s wives, but was prone to emotional meddling.)
My friend was exasperated to a degree where he’d stopped listening to his wife, but I figured that, because I was an artist, I was more sensitive than my pal (who was gruff, tough, and constantly in trouble with the law), and that I would be more able to be sympathetic and empathetic. I believed often that is what emotional people need, in order to escape whatever dilemma they find themselves in.
I was useless. Why? Because it was immediately obvious to me the woman’s problems were primarily caused not by her insensitive, outlaw husband, but by the fact she used him as an excuse to never go out.
Why was it obvious? Hard to explain, but it was like this:
Sometimes your feet are cold because you are sitting too much. What you need to do is stir your blood and get your circulation going. In such a case it does absolutely no good to talk about what caused you to sit, for the longer you talk the longer you stay sitting and the colder your feet become.
Although my friend’s wife very much appreciated the fact I would sit with her and talk with her, she did not like it when I suggested she might benefit if she stopped sitting and talking. In the end I was not “helpful”.
In actual fact the woman helped me far more than I helped her, for she reminded me of myself. Artists often sit and think when they should get up and go. She made me aware a “tipping point” is involved.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to suggest we should outlaw art, because artists sit and think when they should get up and go. (In fact I think too many people get up and go without enough thought.)
Instead I mean to suggest a “tipping point” indicates a balance is involved, and a balance involves two sides. If you succumb to the mentality that takes only one side you are completely out of balance.
At this point we need to define “balance”. In terms of humanity, it is actually a precarious state. Often the people we deem most stable and balanced are knocked completely out of kilter by a feather. For example a bank president may commit suicide when the market crashes. Meanwhile the janitor at the same bank may be the fellow who offers the most help to his fellow employees as the ruined bank closes its doors.
“Balance” is often seen as “security”, which can draw people out of balance. For example, “political correctness” draws people into postures they may not be comfortable with, but which they feel are “safer” stances than what their conscience knows to be Truth. Such compromises seem “balanced” up until Truth jars them with a rude awakening, and they become aware “political correctness” has lured them into being led by some sort of despot, such as Stalin or Hitler. Then what seemed like “balance” abruptly shocks people into the awareness they are miles past the “tipping point”, and are plunging into disaster. This sort of shock is like the first blast of winter into New England. When it hits you, nothing that came before matters. Truth has arrived.
Artists, who have (in theory at least) put Truth ahead of “political correctness”, are less perturbed by such abrupt and shocking arrivals of Truth. They tend to respond more like the Bank Janitor than the Bank President. At some point they faced a “fork in the road” and, as the poet Robert Frost stated, the choice they made “has made all the difference.”
Often I find the biographies of artists as interesting as their art. Not that they had easy lives. Often they faced winters. Van Gough is an example of a a man who lived a rough life, yet he painted Truth which millions, perhaps billions, now admire.
One biography that fascinates me is that of an American master of the genre, “short story”, named William Sydney Porter, who took on the pen-name of “O. Henry”.
What intrigues me about Porter is that he seems to have been more like a person who goes out, than a person who sits by the fire, and therefore he seems unlikely to ever become a writer. But he did like to sit in a bar after work and tell a good tale. Then one thing led to another.
Though Porter’s tale-telling can be seen to gradually develop, (as pieces he sent to newspapers, newspapers which he increasingly was interested in and involved with), he was too practical to depend on writing for his livelihood, and supported himself, and later his wife and daughter, by working as a pharmacist, sheep-herder, cowboy, draftsman, clerk, and teller at a bank.
While working as a teller he apparently strayed from doing things by-the-book, using his heart more than his head, for political and perhaps other reasons. He lost one bank-job when a new political party came into power, and was fired from a second when “irregularities” in his bookkeeping were discovered. In disgrace he move from Austin, Texas to Houston, Texas, and then for the first time focused on writing. He was making headway, getting raises and seeing his newspaper-column become more popular, when Federal Auditors snooped into the doings of the bank back in Austin. They didn’t want to hear any excuses for a former employee who used his heart and not his head; $854.08 were unaccounted for and, roughly two years after he had left Austin, Porter faced five years in jail for embezzlement.
Because he was a man of action, the day before his trial Porter fled to Honduras, where he associated with exiles, coined the phrase “Banana Republic”, and did a lot of work on the collection of intertwined short stories called “Of Cabbages and Kings”, (which was as close as he ever came to writing a novel.) He hoped to make money writing and had made plans for his wife and daughter to join him, but then discovered the tuberculosis (which he knew his wife was suffering from, before he married her) was now killing her. At this point he returned to face five years in jail, to be at her side as she died.
She died, and then he went to jail, where he was valued and worked as a pharmacist. However he still had a daughter to support, and became involved in sneaky ways to make money by writing without people knowing the writer was a jailbird. That is when he adopted the name “O. Henry” (Which some suggest is a condensed version of “Ohio Penitentiary”.) (The name first appeared attached to a charming tale about a hobo who becomes a hero but chooses to remain a hobo, called “Whistling Dick’s Christmas Stocking”. In retrospect the hobo’s love-of-freedom is especially poignant because the writer himself was in jail, though of course readers of that time didn’t know that). “O. Henry” became increasingly popular even before Porter was released from prison, (two years early, “for good behavior”).
What I find fascinating about that part of Porter’s life is that he did not intentionally retire to the fireside to write. In essence he was forced to the “fireside” of a jail-cell, after facing the bitter winter of his wife’s death. Largely he was not a retiring man.
After he was released from prison in Ohio he traveled to Pennsylvania to where his daughter was staying with his in-laws. As a widower and ex-con he did not seem all that accepted or happy, and drank too much. He moved to New York City to be near the market for short stories, and basically drowned himself in work. Porter would write in the morning and conduct research after “the sun passed the yardarms”, with the “research” consisting of visiting restaurants and bars where, rather than telling tales, he often got others to tell him tales, late into the night. Then he’d head home and jot some notes, and work on a tale the next morning, often facing a Friday deadline. He produced a total of 371 tales, some masterpieces, in roughly seven years, before his liver gave out. What is interesting to me is that even while writing so much, he didn’t sit by the fire. By noon he was restless, and had to get out.
It likely impossible to state the effect Porter had during the time he was most productive, when my Grandfather was young. There was no radio or TV, and people were avid readers. My Grandfather’s generation awaited the next “O. Henry” story in magazines and newspaper-Sunday-supplements with the same eagerness my own generation awaited the next song by The Beatles, and it is difficult to translate that eagerness across time. I do not belabor my grandchildren with talk about the Beatles, and my Grandfather never told me why he had eight volumes of O. Henry short stories in the bookshelf by his living-room armchair. But I noticed them. Though the tales were panned by critics of that time (and by some fellow writers as well) they are more than a wonderful window to the attitudes and realities of another time; they contain descriptions of human frailty and nobility that are timeless. When I finally got around to reading them I felt like I’d discovered a gold mine.
However that is not the point of this essay. The point of this essay is to suggest that, sometimes, facing the blasts of winter, men do not merely survive, but become downright prolific, as O. Henry did, facing the winter of his life.
Children need contact of many types, and one sad thing is that certain schools-of-thought tend to frown at contact. This is especial true of male Child-care-providers, who are rare and whom children swarm when they appear, like a bunch of mosquitoes to a nudist colony. The frowns are either because people fear some sort of sexual child-abuse may occur, or because people fear some sort of bullying is occurring. There is a “zero tolerance” for rough-and-tumble-play although it is as natural as puppies or kittens rolling about play-fighting, and is play which likely has importance in terms of “learning limits”.
I’ve seen two young men quit the Childcare profession because of crap they took from nervous parents, but I think I get away with more because I’m older. Perhaps an old fossil represents less of a sexual threat, (though I’ve known some disgusting old men in my time.) However being old also is a bit of a liability. I can’t withstand pummeling as well as I once did.
In teaching about “limits” I often joke, “Do I look like some kind of punching bag?” and “My mother didn’t raise me to be a punching bag.” In fact the children have memorized the two statements. But it doesn’t slow them down a bit. When I stoop to tie one child’s shoes, I often am blind-sided by two or three children who see my stooping as an opportunity for “rough and tumble play”. My wife tends to be a bit stern when she witnesses me being mauled in such a manner, but personally I think it keeps me in shape. I have never been the sort who goes to a gym to work out, and might be fat if it weren’t for being constantly attacked by children. However sometimes I wake in the morning and wonder what work I did the day before that left me so stiff and sore, and it takes me a while before I remember wrestling with ten three-year-olds at once, the day before.
A few days ago I was talking with a four-year-old girl who is willful and doesn’t like to follow instructions. I can give her orders, ask her to repeat what I just said, and she seems completely unable to repeat my instructions. This can cause trouble when it comes to feeding farm animals the wrong foods. I can tell her old, buttery corn cobs are bad for the farm dog, but she simply ignores the instructions and does what she pleases. I was wondering if she had some sort of so-called “learning disability”, and decided to give her a sort of test, in terms of her memory skills. One day, when she was the last to leave, I asked her to remember the dance class she attended the prior afternoon. She then not only recalled every detail of the class, (definitely no problem with memory), but instructed me to do all the various motions, including various stretching exercises. In the early darkness of a November evening, as her mother’s headlights swung into the driveway, she spotted an old man prancing about the yard.
The next morning I swung from bed and groaned. Lord, was I ever stiff! I scratched my head, trying to recall some effort such as digging potatoes or cutting wood, but drew a blank. Then I remembered the dancing I’d done the day before.
Of course as soon as the girl saw me that day she wanted to “play dance-class again”. Rather than faux-grumbling, “My mother didn’t raise me to be a ballet dancer”, I grouched, “Old men don’t stand on tiptoes. That’s not what old men do.”
Then I said it again. I liked the way it rolled off my tongue. “Old men don’t stand on tiptoes. That’s not what old men do,” and made a song for the kids. I wondered if I could even make a sonnet from it.
Old men don’t stand on tiptoes. That’s not what Old men do. They’re gruff and tough and all that Stuff that comes from craggy views. Eyes are shut And hearts are closed; they’ll lose their keys and hat, If order you confuse…so why am I on Tiptoes just to sneak a peak at You?
Old men are not romantic. That’s not dawn In their cave. What’s the use of splashing spruce through Whiskers as they shave? Too late to start, With one foot in the grave; old men can’t be Romantic as they haven’t got the heart, That’s not how they behave, yet what I see Is prompting me to pick a final rose And offer it to sky, standing on tiptoes.
Some of the world’s biggest rivers drain north into the Arctic Sea, and are one of the amazing “variables” one needs to wonder about, in order to understand the many reasons arctic sea-ice varies so much.
First, one needs to focus on the fact that the flow of such great rivers, (the Lena into the Laptev Sea, the Ob and Yennisey into the Kara Sea, and the Mackenzie into the Beaufort Sea), varies enormously, for the obvious reason that, in the summer, snow and ice melt, and, (because waters cannot drain downwards and feed a “water table” due to permafrost), they feed the entirety of the thaw into rivers, but then, in the winters, the entirety of that water freezes, and rivers go unfed. In the case of the Lena River, in places the river can rise sixty feet in the spring floods, and as much as 100,000 times as much water is pouring into the sea in June as did in early April.
The infusion of fresh water into a salty sea creates a freshwater “lens” near the deltas, because the waters do not immediately mix. Fresh water is less dense than salt water, so it tends to be at the surface, and fresh water freezes more readily, because it has a higher freezing point. Therefore water by the deltas and close to the shores tends to freeze first.
“But wait”, you may ask, “Is not the water close to shore warmer than water further out to sea?” Yes, but only initially. During June the river water is made less icy by long summer days, however by September the tundra such rivers wander through is swiftly freezing over, not only dramatically reducing the amount of water entering the rivers, but also the temperature of the water within the rivers. Also the water that has already reached the sea is rapidly losing its heat to the darkening sky overhead. This tends to create an updraft over the coastal waters, which allows the colder air over the tundra to flow out to sea to replace the air that has risen. This “land breeze” becomes more likely as the temperature difference between the ocean and the tundra becomes more dramatic. For example, this year October 12 temperatures over the Kara and Laptev and East Siberian Seas hovered close to freezing, while (due to fresh snow-cover and radiational-cooling) temperatures just inland in Siberia were far colder.
The swift refreeze of inshore waters was noted by both whales and whaling ships, who fled such waters in early September, (the whales because they cannot breathe under ice, and the whaling ships because sail-powered boats were lousy ice-breakers and could be stopped by as little as an inch of new ice). However scientists of that time, far from the actual situation, came up with an interesting theory, due to their study of the density of salt water as opposed to the density of fresh water.
Water is wonderful stuff, in that it gets less dense as it freezes. If ice behaved like substances such as iron or gold it would sink as it solidified, and the bottoms of our oceans would gradually fill with sunken iceburgs, likely eventually preventing life from continuing, (or even evolving), on earth. However our ingenious Creator made ice float.
Furthermore the process of water becoming less dense as it chills starts before the water actually freezes, so water at thirty-three degrees Fahrenheit will float above water that is thirty-five, if the water is fresh. But scientists noted that as soon as water gets salty this characteristic is lost, and water at thirty-three degrees will sink below water that is thirty-five.
Therefore it seemed obvious to scientists in the days of whaling ships that, as you moved away from the arctic coast, the process of diffusion would cause the “freshwater lens” atop the sea to become more salty, until the salinity reached the magic point where the coldest water was no longer less dense than slightly warmer water, whereupon the sea could not possibly freeze. Why not? Because, as the saltwater at the surface approached the freezing point, it would sink and be replaced by rising warmer water. It became “settled science” that the sea at the North Pole must be open.
It was believed that the constantly sinking cold water at the Pole drew a branch of the warm Gulf Stream at the surface north from the Atlantic, and also drew north a branch of the warm Kuro-Siwo current from the Pacific, and provided access to the Open Polar Sea. This “settled science” was the basis of the expedition of the Jeannette in 1879, which involved the Jeannette getting stuck in the ice for two years before being crushed by the sea-ice. Although all of the crew successfully evacuated the sinking ship onto the surrounding ice, less than half made it back to civilization alive, whereupon “settled science” received some needed revisions.
“Settled science” continues to need revisions, even to this day. (It would require revision even without the stupidity of a politically predetermined result, arrived-at before data is even gathered, let alone processed, due to the needs of nitwit politicians.) It requires revision because, although the laws of nature do not change, our understanding of how such laws play-out does change, especially in cases where many variables are involved.
For example, it still is somewhat theoretically baffling that vast stretches of open water freeze in the Arctic Ocean in a matter of days and sometimes hours. After all, the laws of nature do not change, and salt water at thirty-two degrees will sink below salt water at thirty-three, and therefore it should be theoretically impossible for the surface water to get cold enough to freeze, especially as the temperature of the water must sink below twenty-nine to freeze, because of the salt involved. Yet the edge of the sea-ice can extend miles during “flash-freezes”, and the entirety of Hudson Bay can skim with ice in a mere week. How does nature defy science with such brazen chutzpah?
When I was a young man I lived on the coast of Maine, and got to watch during the very cold winters of the late 1970’s as sea-ice formed and made life difficult for the fishermen, lobster-men, and clammers, who paid their bills by being able to access open waters.
Such men have to deal with brutal realities, and tend to keep their eyes wide open for “bad omens”, and, (even though they at times forecast incorrectly and are then “false prophets”), they do observe things that indoor people never notice, and they tend to have an uncanny ability to foresee oncoming bad weather even when the Weather Bureau is still oblivious. (For example, a mere glimpse, through low scud from the east, up to high clouds veering to the south, alerts them to the fact “steering currents” are bringing the storm causing the east winds straight up from the south towards them.) From such observant men I learned it was a bad omen when a winter sea took on “that oily look”.
“That oily look” was a bad thing because it often indicated a situation where spray froze on the gunnels and rigging of their boats, and, in a worst case scenario, this would make the top of the boat heavier than the keel, at which point the craft would turn upside down, which made life difficult.
I suppose it is because Climate Scientists do not get out enough, and must labor long hours indoors by hot computers, that I have never heard them describe seawater as “taking on that oily look”. For the most part the refreeze of arctic waters, as they describe it, begins with slushy stuff they call “pancake ice”, which doesn’t address the problem created because, if cold water sinks, the surface water should never get cold enough to freeze and make “pancake ice” in the first place.
The refreeze would be sensible if the ice only extended out from preexisting sea-ice that was already floating, but, as we now watch the yearly refreeze, we will often note “islands” of sea-ice popping up on the maps, far from any other ice. How is this possible, if cold saltwater sinks? How can the water get cold enough to freeze?
My take is that the water gets cold enough to freeze by becoming airborne. Often arctic situations arise where the air rushing above the water is far colder then the water is, and a speck of spray uplifted into such air becomes super-cooled, and will immediately freeze if it hits the rigging of a ship, but, if no ship is available, it falls to the surface of the water, and immediately freezes.
Because that speck of spray is now ice it doesn’t matter that going through the phase-change from liquid to solid released heat. Ice at thirty-two will bob merrily atop colder water, even if the water is twenty-nine. And, as soon as that speck of spray exists as the tiniest iceberg, it can be a sort of seed-crystal for the growth of more molecules of ice. Water chilled by gales in the proximity of the tiny iceberg, rather than sinking, attaches to that microscopic “edge” of floating sea-ice. And it is at this point the water takes on “that oily look”.
In essence “that oily look” is nature’s way around the fact that cold saltwater should sink, and that it should be impossible for the North Pole’s salty waters to freeze in the manner freshwater lakes do. “That oily look” indicates a microscopic layer of slush exists on the surface of the sea. Because the very cold winds persist, it doesn’t take all that long for the layer to become more than microscopic, and for the slush to thicken and for “pancake ice” to form.
Now, before I become too puffed up and swagger about bragging that I have the refreeze all figured out, I have to confess I have witnessed the refreeze occur without the “pancake ice” stage. Not only did I see it from afar, (through the eyes of the wonderful O-buoy cameras), but I witnessed it first hand during a record-setting cold spell at the start of February on the coast of Maine (I think in 1979). The weather made fools of fishermen that year, for they had stated with great authority, “If the hahbah hasn’t fruz up by January 15th it tain’t goin’ t’fruz at all,” and then the harbor promptly did what they said it couldn’t.
The weather was dry with a steady north wind for days, and at one point we experienced something like a week without temperatures getting above five (minus fifteen Celsius), and the sea froze not as lumpy grayish pancake ice, but as black ice, smooth as glass and surprisingly transparent, and with a slight white dust of salt exuded from the ice and drifting across the the black surface. It is completely beyond my ability to explain the physical dynamics of such a flash freeze, but it was not beyond my ability to take advantage of the rarity, and go skating on the smooth sea. In fact my older sister and I skated from the Harraseeket River in South Freeport down to the Royal River in Yarmouth, (primarily over shallow mudflats and only occasionally [and very nervously] across tidal streams). The fishermen’s wives stated we were fools and were risking our lives, but I prefer to modestly think it was a feat never done before nor since. (I should also mention the salt wasn’t too good for my skates.) Lastly, it is this sort of first-hand observation that teaches one that nature has nuances one doesn’t consider, when contemplating natural laws indoors by a warm computer.
One fisherman shared a first-hand observation, (IE: told a tale), describing something I have never myself witnessed. He was motoring slowly through bitter cold, to avoid making any splash that would get ice on his decks. There was no wind and no spray, and the water, though it had “that oily look”, was steaming like a cup of tea, so great was the temperature-difference between the water and air. Fishermen call such steaming “sea smoke”, and it made the day gray. Then it started to snow fat, lazy flakes. These flakes, when they landed on the water, didn’t melt. The water temperature was around twenty-nine, and the melting point of snowflakes was thirty-two. For a while the snow got heavier, and the fisherman stated the snow atop the water continued to accumulate until it was more than an inch deep. He was motoring slowly through white fluff as unsubstantial as froth.
Here again we have the first-hand experience of a man with no scientific training, which might give people sitting by computers an inkling of how ice can form atop the arctic sea even though cold water sinks.
Many such men existed in the 1870’s. They had existed for centuries, because back then the way to get oil was to drill whales rather than bedrock. Whales had grown more scarce due to the growing need for oil, and to find them, more ships ventured into the arctic than currently do. They followed the whales, and noticed no whales ever headed north towards a supposed “open polar sea”, even when the sea-ice was disgorged to the south into the Atlantic (as was the case in 1817) and the waters to the north were wide open. Whalers also knew from experience open waters one year were no guarantee there would be open waters the next, and also that gales from the north could bring crushing sea-ice south, and they had best be ready to turn tail and flee like the whales did, in such situations, or their ships would be crushed. But so great were the profits the risks were deemed worth it, and crushed ships were a supply of firewood for the Eskimos of that time. In 1871 31 ships were trapped and lost all at once, and 1219 people, including some women and children, successfully escaped and eventually made their way to Hawaii.
Considering this vast amount of crushing ice came from the north in 1871, during the time of the sea-ice minimum, a certain amount of skepticism regarding existence of an “open polar sea” likely existed among whalers. Tapping into these first-hand observations might have saved the men aboard the Jeannette a lot of trouble in 1879. Instead, the “authority” of that time was consulted, a mapmaker named August Heinrich Petermann.
The irony of August Heinrich Petermann’s maps was that he did seek out whalers as well as explorers and gleaned as much information as he could. He lived at the end of decades of daring exploration in the arctic, fueled partly because Britain had a 600-ship-navy sitting idle after Napoleon was defeated, and partly because the Arctic passed through a period of low sea-ice extents. Not only was there the phenomenon of the practically-open Arctic Ocean of 1817, due to sea-ice being shifted down into the Atlantic to a degree where it grounded icebergs on the coast of Ireland, but there apparently were low amounts in the Northwest Passage as well. In 1819 William Parry was able to sail further west in the channel that now bears his name than was possible for many years afterwards (and was impossible to do last summer.). The sea-ice then recovered with a vengeance, leading to the doom of the Franklin expedition in 1845, and also leading to a gradual shift towards searching for different routes across the Pole. Seeking a new route was a reason for the complete debacle called the “Polaris Expedition”, 1871-1873, up in Nares Strait between northwest Greenland and the Canadian Archipelago, (wherein the captain was likely poisoned by a jealous rival for a beautiful young woman they’d left behind in New York City). All these expeditions, both the well-run ones and the doomed, (and even the rescue efforts to find the doomed), increased information about coastlines, and August Heinrich Petermann was brilliant when it came to gathering all this coastline-data and producing the world’s best maps. However he was a bit of a dullard when it came to gathering a different sort of data, namely the first-hand observations of whalers who knew the actual nature of the actual sea, and likely should have been consulted, regarding the possibility of an “open polar sea”. Such homespun wisdom was dismissed, because the whalers were not scientists nor cartographers. Instead those who said “polar seas must be open because cold salt water sinks” were consulted, and August Heinrich Petermann’s maps contained an “open polar sea” because…well…because he drew the maps.
Let us be unkind, and rather than calling the maps “mistaken”, let us call them “fraud”, used by Petermann to lobby one of the richest men in the world, James Gordon Bennett Jr., to fund a Jeannette expedition doomed to failure, for it was seeking open water where open water wasn’t. (This noble and tragic adventure is described in great detail by the historian Hampton Sides in “In The Kingdom of Ice“).
One sadness of the Jeannette expedition is that the men hauled the scientific records they had collected back, as they grimly fought their way over ice and open water and frozen tundra, towards the safety of civilization, and those records survived even when many of them didn’t. Therefore Petermann’s thirst for more knowledge was in fact fed, but at a great cost, and it didn’t produce the answers he expected. (An irony was that, though the Jeannette sank, strewn about the hole its sinking left on the sea-ice were items, left behind as the crew headed south, and these items eventually showed the drift of the sea-ice. The items crossed the arctic, atop sea-ice which then flowed down the east coast of Greenland to Cape Farewell at Greenland’s southern tip, and lastly a bit up the west coast of Greenland to near Julianehåb, where the items were flotsam identified as being from the Jeannette, in 1884. This in turn led to Fridtjof Nansen’s marvelous exploits, attempting to drift across the Pole locked in sea-ice aboard the Fram, between 1893 and1896.
Due to the adventures and misadventures of early whalers and explorers, we actually have quite a lot of first-hand observations of where the edge of the ice was and how the sea-ice moved, from the past. Unfortunately there seems to be the same problem today that afflicted August Heinrich Petermann 150 years ago. First-hand observations from the past are ignored because they do not come from Climate Scientists, nor satellites, and instead misleading concepts are put forth because…well… because they affirm the misleading concepts.
Let us continue to be unkind, and rather than calling the misleading concepts “mistaken” let us call them “fraud”. However, rather than using the mistaken beliefs to lobby James Gordon Bennett Jr. for money, modern men now use their mistaken concepts to lobby bloated governments. Worst, rather than sending a mere 33 men aboard the Jeannette into danger, the modern mistaken views may be sending billions of people into unnecessary danger.
It seems to me no one should perpetuate such a fraud if they love their fellow man. First, who willfully lies to those they love? And second, who willfully places those they love in danger?
The closest I have seen to an attempt to look remotely loving, while justifying the perpetuation of mistaken concepts, contains a dismal assumption. The dismal assumption is that mankind is going exhaust its resources, and we are therefore all doomed to begin with. Consequently, considering seven billion are going to die anyway, we might as well “cull” the seven billion in an orderly manner. Hmm. I suppose the death of seven billion is acceptable if it is unavoidable, but is it unavoidable? Or is it merely a product of pessimism?
Such gloomy views have been around at least since Thomas Mathis wrote “An Essay on the Principles of Population” in 1798, and they have constantly been proved incorrect. Sadly, while it is no sin to be incorrect, such cynicism has all too often been an excuse for subjecting others to various forms of slavery and disadvantage, and, when one blithely talks about reducing the world population by seven billion, such gloomy assumptions also seem a thinly veiled justification for massive and unprecedented genocide.
Rather than expressing faith, hope, and love towards fellow man, such gloom demonstrates deep distrust towards man’s ability to solve problems, when in fact one especially lovable quality of free people is their ability to invent gadgets and techniques which do solve the very problems that the gloomy see as absolutely insurmountable.
I have lived long enough to see quite a number of doomsdays come and go, involving not merely the alignments of planets and the prophesies of Daniel and Nostradamus, but concepts such as “peak oil” and “peak population”. It is fascinating to now look back at the published ideas of “The Club of Rome” in 1970, and to see how utterly incorrect some of their assumptions were. Much that was seen as “unsustainable” has been merrily sustained. Third world nations such as India have not devolved into the wastelands-of-mass-starvation which the gloomy so confidently foresaw, but rather are better fed and better off.
What the gloomy failed to foresee was Ingenuity Manifested, within things such as “The Green Revolution”, yet their failures-to-foresee do not cause the gloomy to alter their forecasts, for they see such progress as merely “delaying the inevitable”, and they double-down on their pessimism. At it’s worst, their pessimism actively creates poverty. It is as if they are so irked by troubles not arriving in the manner they foresaw that they make trouble, just to prove themselves correct.
For example, back in the days when I was skating on sea-ice along the coast of Maine, we were supposedly “running out of oil”. Jimmy Carter was president, and appeared on television at the White House wearing an absurd sweater, telling us we needed to all turn down the thermostats in our houses. The “oil producing nations” had demanded higher prices for oil, and the United States was no longer a member of that club. There were long lines at gas stations, and traffic on highways slowed to 55 mph, by law, to save gas. In a “National Geographic” I saw a graph which authoritatively stated “peak oil” would occur in 1980. Because we were “running out of oil” we dutifully did what smart people do, which is to prepare for the inevitable. We put wood stoves into our houses, and, to heat our water, we put solar panels on our roofs (to this day the smartest use of solar power, because a tank of hot water in your basement stores solar energy far more cheaply after sunset than a battery does, especially when it comes to running your hot-water-heater.) But…
…But the simple fact of the matter is that we did not “run out of oil”. This seemed to peeve some people. Prophets of doom dislike being proved false prophets, and drag their feet in the face of progress.
When new oil was discovered, the pessimists did everything they could to make oil-exploration difficult, (with new regulations), and then, when “fracking” made it possible to glean more oil and gas from areas which were assumed to have been largely “exhausted”, they did everything possible to make “fracking” a dirty word. But me? I am amazed such pessimists can gripe. Why? For I am utterly amazed and deeply impressed by the ingenuity displayed over the past forty years. If you had told me, when I skated sea-ice in Maine and Jimmy Carter was president, that, in forty years, the USA would be exporting oil and gas, while an oil-producing OPEC nation like Venezuela would be in a state of ruin, I would have laughed in your face. I was wrong, and am somewhat glad I was wrong, but others seem irate they were wrong.
I am aware I am starting to rave, and seem to be drifting far from the subject of sea-ice, but have no fear. I will revert to sea-ice shortly. However I must discuss “the irate” a bit, because they even enter discussions about sea-ice.
I think “the irate” are those who are sure things are “unsustainable”, and are equally afraid they may be the ones who will eventually suffer, when we run out of food and fuel. Consequently they become ruled by fear, rather than love. They are so sure famine is coming that they see it as frugal common-sense to be misers of food, blind to differences between being sensible and being stingy. Clinging to what they have, they see others as a threat, rather than seeing others as brothers and sisters who we can work together with, to avoid famine.
In actual fact the word “sustainability” involves sustaining all people, not just those who have a selfish viewpoint wherein “sustainability” only sustains their position of privilege.
The fact of the matter is that “sustainability” is one of those tricky words, able to be used to justify evil because it sounds so good. Another such word is “non-violent”. Surely “non-violent” is usually a good word, but a man who stands by and does nothing violent as his mother, wife and daughter are raped by a stranger is not a saint; he is a yellow coward. In like manner, a man who talks about “sustainability” when primarily interested in preserving a status quo wherein he has, even as others are “have-nots,” is not a saint; he is greedy.
One quality of those trapped within such a state-of-mind is that they tend to propose rationing, rather than proposing increase. (Quite often the “rationing” is hypocritical, where “have-nots” need to cut back even as the elite “haves” continue to enjoy lavish lifestyles). The royalty wishes to remain royal and prefers the poor to remain peons.
This seems a bad attitude, like that of a man so concerned about a shortage of potatoes that he hoards them rather than planting any in the spring. It is the antithesis of the attitude of a man like Norman Borlaug, whose work with improving strains of wheat may have saved a billion people from starvation. Instead it is a “bad attitude” which not only failed to help a “Green Revolution” occur, but at times even was a stumbling-block attempting to prevent “the Green Revolution’s” manifestation. It remains a bad attitude that not only fails to help a “Fracking Revolution” manifest, but is a stumbling-block attempting to prevent its manifestation. Tragically, souls with this attitude not only fail to love, but are a stumbling-block that seeks to prevent the beauty of love from manifesting.
What an odd state-of-mind! In the name of “rationing” it allows one to deny others, enslave others, even exterminate others, all in the guise of “becoming sustainable”!
I think I know this selfish state of mind, having experienced it myself as a young man on the coast of Maine. My experience was as follows:
I knew of a small beach which was usually deserted, especially after school let out for the summer, because the secluded cove was owned by a small college. After the college closed in June I took a young woman to the beach with nefarious motives. When we got there another couple was strolling the same beach. I found their presence annoying and even frustrating (perhaps for biological reasons), and noticed my mind became crabby and began producing intellectual discussions about the problems of over-population and crowded beaches. My view was that the world would be a better place if the other couple could be “disappeared”. The young lady I was with was somewhat shocked by my negative attitude towards my fellow man. Instead of being warm towards me, she shot me a look of distaste and walked over to the enemy, involving the other couple in a conversation. Though initially glum about involving myself with anyone besides the young lady, I went along with her, and somewhat to my surprise discovered I had a wonderful time swimming with strangers. (Perhaps the cold water of Maine had the same effect as a cold shower.) The strangers turned out to be fascinating people who broadened my mind, and also told us of a good, nearby snack-bar. So we went and got an excellent lobster roll. It may not have been the roll I wanted, but at least the afternoon was not a total loss.
Such experiences were quite common during my misspent youth. My attempts at seduction were a long series of debacles and fiascos, (and explain why I first became a father at age 38, rather than at age 18 as I planned), (and also why I was at times a very crabby young man). I did not get what my ulterior motives desired, but sometimes perhaps we should feel sheepish about our ulterior motives, and count our blessings for what we actually get.
I bring this up to own the fact that, because I did once wish two very fine people could be “disappeared” from a small beach, I should be included with those who wish seven billion very fine people could be “disappeared” from a small planet. However hopefully I was a little different, in that I recognized my logic was ruled by lust’s frustration, and was not exactly the sort of logic that scientists dub “objective.” Others seem sadly less self-aware. They seem ruled by ulterior motives without the awareness they are ulterior.
What is “ulterior”? The definition of the word “ulterior” is “lying beyond that which is evident.” “Ulterior” therefore is that which is undiscovered, and should be of interest to all researchers.
However an interesting thing about human nature is that we often are unaware of the value of things until we are deprived. Subjectivity has its value, for we never value water until it is a hot day and we have none. A person with lots of water could call fighting for a sip of of water “silly behavior”, but only until they themselves were subjected to extreme thirst. Then they discover they too can be “silly”. It is only when confronted by such desperate impulses within the self that one faces truly spiritual dilemmas, regarding how one will respond. Will one punch a small child to gain a sip of water? Or will one suffer, so the child can drink?
For this reason the people who, one way or another, experience great thirst, can be the people who through subjective suffering gain objective wisdom. This is not to say they always make the right choices. They may have even punched a child one time, and faced great chagrin before, the next time, they did better, and allowed the child to drink first. However in the end they have an awareness of thirst which people who have always had water lack. For such people thirst is a reality they understand, while, for those who have never thirsted, thirst remains “ulterior.”
Blessed are the poor and they who suffer, for they are down-to-earth and are aware of essentials. Pity the rich, for they have little idea of the “ulterior” that motivates them. Like a cigarette smoker who has never run out of smokes, the rich are unaware of how crazy they would become if deprived, but such craziness rules them all the same.
The wealthy sometimes become aware that something is missing, and feel depressed despite having everything they could possibly obtain (in material terms). They then can afford to hire very expensive psychiatrists to help them look within for “subconscious” causes for their depression. Basically they are halfheartedly seeking to become more self-aware of “ulterior motives”, but often they don’t really want to see what the psychiatrist attempts to point out, and put up a fight, and the psychiatrist then can become quite rich by prolonging the battle. Psychiatrists use all sorts of fancy words for how people deny the truth, and their clients have all sorts of clever ways of arguing that the fancy words do not apply to them and their particular case, and all of this expensive talking, and talking, and talking, can seem very humorous to the poor, who have managed to become aware of “ulterior motives” without spending a dime.
In the worst cases the wealthy, despite seeking education in fine institutions and colleges, and despite being under the guidance of the best professors and psychiatrists and gurus, have no real reason to call the uneducated “stupid” or “deplorable”, (though too often, in their vanity, they do exactly that.) Why? Because sometimes the poor are far smarter. Why? Because sometimes, in seeking to avoid the pains of life, we avoid the very Truth that teaches. It matters little if you avoid pain with heroin, or by accepting a corrupting bribe, or by marrying a rich person you detest, or by disdaining good advice; if you successfully avoid pain you are possibly ruled by your “ulterior motives”, and are potentially much less likely to become aware of such “ulterior motives”. Meanwhile, in this sort of worst-case-scenario, the poor face pain every day, and become far more aware of “ulterior motives”. Therefore the poor can become far more able to rule such cravings and desires, while their so-called “rulers” are basically addicts ruled by a fear of withdrawal. In such a topsy-turvy society we can sometimes see what seems utterly impossible occur, wherein the underdog abruptly stuns the champion; the small David defeats the huge Goliath. History is full of examples of small nations seemingly appearing out of the blue and rising to a sudden prominence that shakes the mighty. (The Mongols were just a bunch of feuding Hillbillies, and then along came Genghis.)
Yet, although history is replete with such examples, and although the wealthy often adore historical novels, movies and plays, they too often miss the point, the underlying narrative, which is that Truth matters, and is a joy to those who can bear the pricks of pain involved with seeing Truth. Instead some become so lost in avoiding pain that they become comfortably numb, and wander midst an attitude of unawareness.
This “unaware attitude” seems comical, in an ironic way, to the poor and aware. I recall the fishermen of Maine used to joke about the attitude of wealthy people who retired to Maine. The fishermen stated, “The moment them wealthy folk gather up their loot ‘n’ move, from makin’ money in them big cities, t’down east here in poor, old Maine, they want to burn the bridge at Kittery behind them”. (Kittery is at the southern border of Maine).
The “unaware attitude” often seems a sort of selfish, NIMBY attitude that deprives others after satisfying the self, and even a strange and sad proof of Henry Ford’s statement, “If you say ‘I can’, or say ‘I can’t’, you are right.”
Why? Because it is people who love who make a better world, who beget a “Green Revolution” and a “Frakking Revolution”, while it is pessimists who deem love impossible who make the world worse, and who fight progress, and desire deprivation.
One of the pricks of Truth I’ve felt was seeing I too was such a pessimist: If I’d had my way, back when Jimmy Carter was president, a rogue wave would have swept two strangers out to sea just before I arrived at the small beach, and I would have had my way with a young woman. And then? I suppose that, (because the purpose of sex is procreation), I might have become a father far earlier than I actually did. Yet, as a young father, after increasing the “overpopulation” myself, I might have then insisted the population of earth (back then) was too high at 3.5 billion, and, with a flippant disregard for others, claimed that any further “overpopulation” was immoral, and that the 4 to 5 billion conceived since were somehow “unsustainable.” (It was beyond my ken, at that time, that a future increased-population of 4 to 5 billion could possibly be enjoying bigger meals and a longer life-expectancy than had ever before occurred on earth.) (The word “liberal” supposedly means “generous”, but the “liberals” of my youth wished to “ration”. What is so generous about cutting back?)
But I confess I was of that mind-set. I sowed in a negative manner, and reaped negativity in many ways. But, unlike some other liberals, I was honest about my experiment, and my personal motives were not quite as “ulterior” as the motives of others now seem to be. I may have utterly failed when it came to seducing a young woman on a beach in Maine, but I succeeded in discovering there is life after such failure. In like manner, I discovered there is life after the world-population surpassed 4 billion, 5 billion, 6 billion, even 7 billion. Rather than the hell predicted, billions of children were born, enjoyed decent childhoods, and became young adults full of the hopes young adults have.
Let me put it this way: Do you believe in democracy? What chance would my former belief have, in an election today? I claimed that the billions born in my lifetime should not be born, but here they are. Now suppose we vote about whether they should have been born. Who will win that election? Me, or the billions of vibrant young people? And, after the results were tabulated, who should change their views? Me, or them?
The answer was fairly obvious to me, even before the four to five billion were born. Even before Jimmy Carter stopped being president I sensed my so-called “liberal” views were not truly liberal, because they were motivated by greed and not generosity, and lust and and not love. I needed to shed greedy and lustful “ulterior motives”. It was painful not to get what I desired, but in the long run my life was better for putting my desires aside, and accepting the Truth even when it didn’t fit the “script” I had written for myself, about how my life should be. Truth is always better.
How? Well, explaining that would involve explaining how things worked out over the next forty-five years. It would be a long and involved answer, take pages upon pages, and is not the question you should be asking. Instead you should be asking:
What does this have to do with sea-ice? Well, there are two main reasons.
The first is that some involved in the subject of sea-ice seem to have ulterior motives. Their motives are not the simple ulterior motives that August Heinrich Petermann had, when he lobbied for money to discover the “open polar sea”, but are much greater whoppers.
Even though Petermann was deluded, at least he yearned to map the arctic better. Such betterment could be hoped to end his delusion with hard facts. But modern arctic investigators? They own ulterior motives which, when push comes to shove, could care less about any further discovery in the arctic. Therefore there can be no betterment and no end to delusion.
What many modern arctic investigators seemingly care most for is “funding”. Perhaps the funding was originally seen as a way to further research, but at some point the research was neglected, and finding funding became the focus. In some ways money became such an ulterior motive that researchers entered a strange reality wherein the motive became more real than the science, and in order to justify this motivation they went so far as to attempt to replace what is real with what is false.
I don’t think, even in my misspent youth, I was ever quite so absurd as that. I may have had unrealistic dreams, but I could be brought down to earth by a woman’s disapproving glance, and then was forced to recognize the difference between what was hopeful fantasy and what was false. I might be extremely annoyed when my attempt to seduce a young woman on a Maine beach was interrupted by another couple. However, if I had attempted to “replace the reality”, what would I have done? Shoot those two innocent people dead, and then attempted to proceed with my seduction? I was never close to becoming that evil, because such behavior owns an ugliness utterly unlike what my nefarious activities desired. “Disappearing” others was too ugly to be included in my beautiful fantasy of seducing a beautiful babe. However, among certain arctic researchers, “disappearing” the data of other researchers has been acceptable, and even has been tantamount to what they were hired to do.
Going into the dreary details of such destruction of data is depressing, and I don’t want to linger long on such a subject. However it has been widespread. The cause has seemingly been because the poor, or even the not-so-poor, are susceptible to bribes.
For example, when parts of the temperature-record of Iceland was “disappeared” the chief meteorologist of Iceland threw a fit, until he met with those who had lots of money. Then he abruptly was OK with parts of the temperature-record of Iceland being “disappeared”. I fear he was bribed.
I myself have never been the chief meteorologist of Iceland, and therefore have never been subjected to bribes. I’ve never had my “ulterior motives” tempted to such a degree. Therefore I will not criticize a man in whose shoes I haven’t walked. (Maybe he used the money to pay for a friend’s expensive cancer treatments. Who am I to judge?) But I will say that the altered record is bullshit, and arctic record-keeping seems full of such bribery-induced nonsense. So many arctic records are obviously incorrect (if you have studied the subject) that you need to screen the data with the assumption you are dealing with a pack of liars.
For example, just look at the old records and compare them with the modern “adjusted” records. Here is the sea-ice “extent” graph from 1976, when Jimmy Carter was president.
This graph documents very low extents in 1945, 1953 and a record-setting low in 1960. This was followed by an extraordinary “recovery” by the winter of 1962-1963, but then sea-ice again began melting away to far lower levels.
The above graph represents a lot of hard work done by many dedicated scientists, yet is currently spurned. Why? Because they did not have satellites back then, and therefore the hard work of decent men is deemed “inadequate”.
OK, OK, OK. Be that way (though it seems snobby and dismissive to me.) Let us look at only the “satellite record”, as it was graphed in 1980, (beginning in 1973, though we have pictures from the first Nimbus satellite going back to the mid 1960’s).
There are some interesting differences between the early 1970’s in this graph and the prior graph. It would be fascinating to learn the reasons, which would involve looking at the data. However both graphs agree sea-ice was at low levels, in the early 1970’s, much like today’s. Down near 6 million km2. Certainly not up around 8 million km2. Yet look at the modern, “adjusted” graph, for the same period.
How is it possible to “adjust” the sea-ice totals for a very low year upwards roughly 2 million km2? Are such “adjusters” aware what they are saying about the dedicated scientists who worked back at that time? They are in essence calling them idiots, for recording the data they recorded, (even as the past experts often worked in extreme and dangerous arctic conditions).
Before I myself dismiss such scientists who lived in the past I need to see a clear analysis of their data which shows exactly why they were in error. None has been forthcoming. In fact all the analysis of data I myself have done seems to show that the ones in error are the modern “adjusters”. They claim sea-ice was thick in cases where we have first-hand records, and sometimes photographic evidence, that the waters were open. The “adjusters” have no business adjusting the records of honest and decent men who are no longer around, and cannot defend themselves. In fact, if anyone needs adjusting, it is the “adjusters” themselves.
I rest my case: You cannot deal with modern arctic data without sensing you are dealing with liars. You are dealing with people who accept bribes, perhaps because they feel Truth doesn’t make them enough money, and even feel that Truth might be a bad thing, because Truth might put them in jail for forgery.
I do feel a certain pity for such people. Perhaps they spent years studying the arctic in college, burning the midnight oil, and when they graduated they discovered the general public could care less about arctic sea-ice, and no jobs were available, and they faced working an ignoble job in a fast-food restaurant, flipping burgers. Oh, the pain! But just then they got tempted by a bribe. They could skip flipping burgers, if only they conceded to becoming an “adjuster”.
The problem with such pity is that perhaps all people deserve such pity. Few get paid for what they most enjoy.
I too burned the midnight oil, but rather than arctic sea-ice I studied poets. I studied Shakespeare and Milton and Shelly and Chatterton and Keats and Dylan Thomas and Frost and Dr. Seuss. And when I graduated I discovered the general public had no use for my knowledge, and no jobs were available, and I faced working in a fast food restaurant, flipping burgers. Oh, the pain! But in my case no one tempted me with a bribe. So I had to flip burgers.
Flipping burgers wasn’t so bad, nor were the hundred other jobs I had to take that were “beneath me.” In fact, the pricks to my ego were a gateway to the ordinary life of those who are the salt-of-the-earth. In some ways it was an honor to be humbled, because I became part of what makes life possible. Your roof doesn’t leak? Don’t thank experts about poetry or arctic sea-ice. Thank the roofers, and I got to join their ranks for a little while.
Not that I didn’t whine. What poet wants to quit a composition about beautiful clouds because he has to work under a blistering sun, hammering nails on a hot, noontime roof? Only now, many years later, do I feel honored that, (even though many are not thankful for what doesn’t happen), I am why your roof doesn’t leak.
I am also why roofers have nails, because I worked in a nail factory. And when you look at the label on a bottle of wine or ketchup or a can of sardines, understand I have made those labels. When you open the sardines, understand I worked in a cannery. When you ride a high horse, understand I shoveled the stables. I have worked making and lubricating ball bearings large and small, and even computers need ball bearings. And that is only six jobs of a hundred, and each was an insult to my ego, for I felt I should instead be paid for my poetry. Yet each insult made my poetry better, more down-to-earth, more real. In the end I feel my so-called “bad fortune” is far better than the fortune of a so-called “sea-ice expert”, who thinks he is better off accepting bribes to perpetuate propaganda. I wouldn’t like to be in his shoes, when he looks in the mirror.
This brings me to my second point, which is that such negative behavior never results in good. It may seem “right”, but it is the negative side of Henry Ford’s statement, “If you say ‘I can’ or say ‘I can’t’, you are right.” The side-of-the-negative is the side that states, ‘I can’t’. It states “starvation will be widespread by 1980” and denies the “Green Revolution” will happen. It states “the United States will be an oil-importer forever” in 1974, and can’t imagine the United States exporting oil due to the “Fracking Revolution” in 2019. In essence it is a negative shadow, which cannot face the light of Truth.
Opposed to this depressing power is, I would like to suggest, a positive power that affirms Truth. Not that Truth needs affirming. Truth remains perfectly true even if every person on earth denies It. In fact reality is the other way around: We do not sustain Truth; Truth sustains us. And it is for this reason that underdogs can display such an ingenuity and prowess and even power, if they honor integrity and honesty, that they unseat the mighty. It is why little David could defeat huge Goliath. In a sense truthfulness taps into the greatest power on earth, Truth itself, releasing benefits which those who cling to power and money don’t believe can ever come about, and therefore don’t include in their financial forecasts, (and all other forecasts as well.)
The difference between Truth and dishonesty is symbolically like the difference between a bud that is grafted to a root, and a bud that isn’t. The first will thrive while the second will wither. The pity is that some see the fruits the bud produces and seek to hoard such produce, (money, power, the admiration of others,) in a manner disconnected from the root. By doing this they in essence seek a byproduct of growth even while cutting themselves off from growth’s nourishing root.
The irony is that we can see the foolishness of such behavior when others do it, but tend to be blind to examples of our own foolishness, (or we excuse our own foolishness as being some sort of “necessary evil”). For example, we’d call it foolish if we saw a farmer who so overvalued a byproduct such as manure that he spent all his money on manure and none on feeding his animals, yet at the same time we might be maxing out our credit cards and running a deficit budget all our own. In like manner Communists see the irresponsibility of Capitalists while Capitalists see the irresponsibility of Communists. All too often both fail to look within to see if they are securely grafted to the root of Truth, or are merely seizing upon byproducts.
One quality that seems associated with those cut off from Love’s root is a sense of impending doom. Madame de Pompadour stated, “Après nous, le déluge,” and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez states “The world is going to end in twelve years.” Often the sense of doom leads to drastic measures, guillotines and purges and genocides, which seem a self-fulfilling prophecy, bringing about the very dooms they seek to avoid. Hitler’s hate of Jews and Slavs did not save Germany from ruin, and Stalin’s hate of farming Kulak did not save Russia from starvation. All of Maurice Strong’s dishonest manipulations to “save the planet” left him an exile, an old man hiding from justice in a Peking apartment. To me all these examples seem proof of the second half of Henry Ford’s statement: If you say “I can’t”, you’re right. The greatest irony is that some basically waste fortunes, pouring money down a rat hole, unaware all their efforts are cutting themselves off from the root that creates fortunes in the first place. In my view George Soros has literally expended billions to say, “I can’t”. (I’ll never understand how he could pour such fabulous amounts down a rat-hole, when he might have spent it on me).
At this point I’d like to suggest the chilling effect of cutting yourself off from the root of Truth is like the chill now descending upon the arctic tundra, freezing things up and shrinking the flow of arctic rivers to a trickle.
(There. I told you I’d get back to the subject of sea-ice, and I’ve done it).
What seems to happen to arctic researchers is that a compromise which initially seemed slight becomes acerbated. They felt a little compromise, perhaps 5% of the time, would result in funding which would allow them to conduct honest research 95% of the time, but such compromise turned out to be like a small spot of cancer which spread. How did it spread? Well, if the honest research discovered a Truth which went against the “Arctic Sea-Ice Death Spiral Theory”, they needed to hush it up or they might offend their patron. And, because the “Death Spiral Theory” was like the “Open Polar Sea Theory”, it was dead wrong, and all research would tend to disprove it. Therefore all research, not 5% but 100% of research, would need to be hushed.
It would be absurd to conduct good research only to crumple up and throw away the honest results. Why bother even fund the research? Why even bother have science or scientists? Yet such absurdity may explain why we now have a sixteen-year-old girl speaking before the United Nations as an authority on sea-ice, as scientists sit on their hands and are mum.
Cynical Sophists seem to resort to such sentimental tactics when the bankruptcy of their belief has been revealed, in all its sophisticated sterility. (When logic fails, resort to emotion.) Surprisingly, such tactics can be effective, primarily because young women do have heart, which many Sophists lack. However, once the heart is involved, there may be consequences Sophists never intended. The heart is closely associated to Truth, and can veer a person’s path from safe topics into political-incorrectness. It can therefore be dangerous to involve a teenage girl in political calculations, for they can be like a loose cannon on board a pitching ship.
In terms of Truth, the hope which young girl’s hearts bring to “the equation” can be like the hope of a sunrise-tundra in the spring: A dark, cold tundra suddenly lit by light: tundra moving towards a time when, under the warmth of 24-hour summer sunshine, the trickle of an arctic river becomes an amazing flood and the water rises 60 feet.
Of course the young woman involved should be careful; (after all, Joan of Arc did wind up burned-at-the-stake); however there is at least a chance the young woman’s appearance is an indication the Sophist Alarmists have quit pretending to be scientists, and scientists will therefore be let alone, and allowed to do what they do best, (study Truth). This may result in a Renascence, a revival of Truth, and a surging flood of beneficial knowledge which the negative, cynical and sour never expected.
Initially there may be some hard times for arctic researchers, and some may even have to flip burgers for a while. Why? Because much funding formerly came from people who prefer propaganda to Truth, and who prefer rationing and deprivation to progress and increase. Such people become peeved when ideas such as “The Arctic Death Spiral” are not supported by hard evidence, and I surmise that may explain why the wonderful arctic cameras we once had bobbing on buoys ceased being funded, even as the cost of creating and maintaining such camera-buoys became less. Such cameras undermined the “narrative.” Also further funding may dry up because pouring money down a rat-hole isn’t productive, and even spiritually unwise people recognize a bad bet is a bad bet. But arctic research will continue, even if not funded.
Why? Because some recognize what a frontier the arctic is, and own a craving to be pioneers. This thirst to penetrate the boundaries of the known, and expand the horizons of knowledge, can cause some to strive even when they are not paid for striving. Just as some work fifty weeks just to blow all their savings spending a two-week-vacation climbing mountains, some work long days flipping burgers, and then, in the evening, study charts and graphs involving arctic sea-ice, just for the fun of it. And the wonders of satellites and the internet allow even someone from the Congo to study sea-ice, if so inclined. Older meteorologist stand amazed, for with a click of a computer we now can gather data that took them six months of grueling field-study to gather, in their youth, followed by six months of analyzing heaps of paper in the lab. Consequently we now have no idea where the next genius will appear, or what next marvel will manifest through the study of Truth. Perhaps the next revolution will be called “The White Revolution”, and involve sea-ice.
The Russians seem to have ideas along those lines, and furthermore do not seem to expect sea-ice to vanish, considering they have built so many billion-dollar icebreakers.
Nor does Russia seem inclined to bow to members of Greenpeace, who seemingly desire that the arctic becomes a vast National Park, preserved for the enjoyment of extremely wealthy cross-country skiers. When Greenpeace activists attempt to protest in a politically-correct manner by “seizing” an arctic oil-rig, they run into Russian political-incorrectness.
Russia apparently insists upon control of its northern coast, (15,000 miles of undulating shoreline north of the Arctic Circle), and horrifies environmentalists by replacing diesel-fumes with smokeless nuclear ice-breakers. They plan on developing a northern sea-route, and upon their northern ports being developed, and upon northern resources being exploited. They even have the audacity to plan to build massive nuclear ice-breakers-with-helipads like the world has never seen, within five years.
Not that Russia cares all that much for Truth, or Freedom of Speech, but at least they have the old-fashioned pragmatism which deals with facts, rather than with unfounded idealism and with fabricated theory such as “The Arctic Death Spiral.” And, because they deal with facts, there is at least a chance they will someday receive the bounty that comes from honoring Truth.
Personally I am more interested in a different bounty, which is the wonderment that comes from looking at sea-ice, (and the associated weather), with eyes unclouded by bias or any need to be politically correct. Not that simply reporting what your eyes witness doesn’t get you in trouble. In certain circles you can cause a deathly silence to fall, simply by stating a truth, such as, “Arctic sea-ice isn’t decreasing. There was more arctic sea-ice this September than in September, 2007.”
In some ways I’m getting tired of offending people with Truth. This is especially true when the people I offend are beautiful women. It hasn’t just occurred when I was a young man in Maine, (and the Truth involved was that the woman was beautiful and I was lustful). It’s been going on since I was knee high to a grasshopper, and the beautiful woman I was offending was a young schoolmarm and I was a young truant. You’d think I would learn, but in some ways I seem worse than Rodney Dangerfield when it comes to getting any respect. This has led me to suspect the problem may not lie entirely in myself.
After all, I know better than to bring up the subject of arctic sea-ice at either a Conservative church supper or a Liberal cocktail party. I don’t go looking for trouble. But, when someone brings up the local bad weather in a most casual manner, and someone else responds, “Yes, this Global Warming is really getting terrible”, Truth always compels me to state, “There was more arctic sea-ice this September than in September, 2007.” And then beautiful women look at me aghast. It’s not fair. The situation even seems a sort of set-up. (WARNING: Rant Alert.)
I feel it is high time for old geezers like myself to stand up and be counted. After all, old geezers have rights too, y’know. “If you prick us, do we not bleed?” It is high time to form some sort of blaring political noise, some loud and objectionable “Codger Power”, able to be equally annoying as everyone else.
Life is cruel to us boys. (Yes, another sidetrack from sea-ice has begun, but it involves why the subject of sea-ice is so side-tracked even among scientists of the arctic; IE: I’m not the one who started this sidetracking from Truth.)
I’ve been involved with raising children for decades as a father, coach, and finally, over the past decade, through running an outdoors-oriented Childcare on a farm, and I have seen various child-rearing fads come and go. For a time “experts” stated discipline stifles a child, but then (when “permissiveness” blew up in their faces), they did an 180 degree swivel and the same “experts” then stated “lack of boundaries” make children feel “unsafe”.
Recently an interesting development has involved a seeming realization that Childcare play-areas are set up in a manner which is preferential to the needs of girls. Apparently most girls focus more on “fine motor skills”, while most boys focus on “gross motor skills”, and most indoor play-areas focus more on sitting than on tumbling. Also most teachers are female, and, if asked to be honest, state they prefer teaching small girls, who tend to be more complacent and obedient, than small boys, who tend to be brats.
When it comes to getting-in-trouble, roughly 80% of all children expelled from Childcare situations are boys, and this causes further damage to boys because small children have a deep need to be included. In essence small boys are placed in a situation hostile to what they require, creating a Tom-Sawyer-vs.-Aunt-Polly dichotomy from day one.
Childcare professionals have been aware of this problem for two hundred years, and in fact the word “kindergarten” comes from “children’s garden”, meaning that it was a garden that “grew” children, but also included the idea children didn’t learn by rote at rows of desks, but in “gardens”, through activity and movement called “play”. The originator, Friedrich Froebel, had bad experiences in school and was expelled from many, but eventually became an academic who attempted to define why “play” was important, identifying first ten, and then twenty, categories of “play”.
Considering Froebel’s German ideas came to the United States before the Civil War, we should know better by now than to think children learn by rote at rows of desks, whether such regimentation is called “a class” or “circle time”. But we haven’t learned. Instead schoolmarms are placed in the position of being wicked witches, banning recess and drugging small boys for being boys. It seems little wonder that boys often hate school. The drop-out levels of boys have increased (along with drug-addiction), and girls now are more likely to seek college than boys are. And yet we are supposed to pity feminists? What about old-codgerists? Shouldn’t old boys like myself get a chance to march about and be irate and offended, too?
When I myself was a boy I detested school but loved learning. I could hardly wait to leave school so I could learn something. One reason I opened my outdoors-oriented Childcare was because I did most of my learning while roaming forests and fields, and wanted to share the joy I felt. Yet, as I watched the children at my Childcare, I became aware they were learning a huge amount without me, simply through hands-on experiences while romping.
Call such learning “field-studies” if you will, but such learning required no thesis to be written, and, in the cases of the youngest, it required no words, as they hadn’t fully learned to talk. They would just point at something, and look at me with their eyes glowing delight. It was obvious they were learning, and also obvious they loved learning. School was not a bitter pill. Wisdom was not a thing to be measured by tests. More was learned during recess than in the classroom.
It seems to me that it is later that small children start to ask “why”, and do it to such an excessive degree that it can drive you bonkers. Even when you answer “I don’t know” they immediately inquire, “Why don’t you know?” Sadly, in some classroom situations asking “why” earns one a look of disapproval from the schoolmarm. Perhaps this is one reason I myself began to look out the classroom window. The answers to my “why” questions were not on the blackboard.
It is interesting to note that among the places I liked to wander, when the final bell rang and I bolted out the school’s door, was a place you would not expect a “bad student” to go. When the whim hit me, I’d stop in at the town Library on my way home from school, and wander about looking for something interesting to poke through. Sometimes I’d find a book and become so engrossed the Librarian would have to tap my shoulder and show me the door, at closing, and I’d be late home for dinner. The next day I’d be “kept-after” school for having failed to do my math homework, but perhaps my homework was undone because I had learned more about the Greenland Vikings than my teacher knew, even when she was five times my age.
Skip ahead three decades, to a time when I had children of my own, and became aware that the teachers were teaching my children things about Greenland Vikings (and arctic sea-ice), (and other things), which I knew to be false. What to do? I went to the teachers to have a chat, and lo and behold! Thirty years made little difference; I got a look of deep disapproval from the schoolmarm.
They taught by-the-book, and what the book said was not to be denied. I politely inquired, “Which book are you referring to? I’ve read many on the subject, and many articles in various magazines.” They then became slightly defensive, for the book they were teaching-by was “the textbook”, which had a single paragraph about Greenland Vikings, and a single paragraph about the danger of the “Arctic Death Spiral”, (and some hundred paragraphs suggesting that man was destroying the planet). A bit of delicate, further inquiry informed me that, back in college, the schoolmarm had never studied either Greenland Vikings or sea-ice. But, rather than humbly admitting I might be older and wiser, the young whippersnappers did what schoolmarms always do to me: They sent me to the principle.
As I sauntered down a hallway to his office (thinking, “This is just like the old days”) I could see this wasn’t like the old days. The hallways seemed to reverberate with a lack of discipline, and the noisy classrooms I passed were largely out of control. One boy grabbed a teacher’s chair, which had little wheels, and rolled it out of a classroom, across the hall, and tumbled it down a staircase, laughing his fool head off. Then the boy saw me. I didn’t say a word, but the boy slumped and stopped laughing, and trudged back into his classroom pouting, and took his seat.
I then had a interesting talk with the principle, who was a seemingly jolly, spineless man who informed me that the problem wasn’t the children; it was the parents. We didn’t talk about Greenland Vikings or sea-ice very much. Instead I agreed parents should be more helpful. I proposed having some parents simply walk up and down the hallways, as it seemed to make boys behave better. Being spineless, he agreed this was a good idea, which led to the formation of CARE ( which was an acronym which stood for “Concerned About Responsible Education”) and for a time I wordlessly walked the halls in shifts with two other fathers. It seemed to have a positive effect. I later learned the principle despised me, and said bad things about me behind my back, though he always spoke to me with sympathetic eyebrows, high in the middle and low outside. He was sympathetic even when I stated I had decided to withdraw my children from his madhouse, and to “home-school”.
Home-schooling was my chance to learn what it is like to be a schoolmarm. Although I never wore the clomping, fat-heeled shoes that teachers wore in my youth, I felt I walked in their shoes, and I consequently have far more respect for schoolmarms. (Even your own children can come up with the most fabulous excuses for undone homework.)
One thing I wanted to do was to make school different than I remembered it being. I wanted learning to be joyous, as it was when I learned by hiking through forests and fields (and by browsing libraries and, later, back alleys.) But I was confronted by a harsh reality: Some aspects of learning are not “fun”, namely the stuff old-time teachers called “drill”.
Some things are fairly boring to learn. For example, multiplication tables. Such things are vital to further learning, but I was never very good at learning things unless they were part of some larger logic. For example, I did badly in foreign languages because at the start it was vital to learn a list of meaningless words. However I could manage to learn a phrase or two when it had some sort of value to me: To this day I can say “The woman is very beautiful” and “You are a stupid ignoramus” in Russian (but not much else.)
In like manner I did learn some math, due to good teachers who interested me in figuring out the batting average of baseball players, and how many boards it would take to roof a fort I was building. But I had a hard time learning things that had no personal context or reference point. If I could see no reason, I had a hard time “applying myself”. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “You have a good mind; why, why, why won’t you learn?” and, “You are an underachiever.”
In actual fact I was an overachiever, when it came to being a stubborn donkey and refusing to allow my mind to budge unless I was interested. In many cases the rare teachers who managed to teach me things I wasn’t interested in were the old-fashioned sort, who had no mercy, and who answered my “why” questions with, “Because I said so.”
The weapon such old-fashioned teachers wielded that worked best (on me) was to threaten to keep me from the forests and fields and libraries and alleys I loved, and one Science teacher got me to do an astonishing amount of dull homework because the alternative was to go to school with her all summer. Another old English teacher was more gentle, but simply forced me to do the same paper over and over until I handed in a draft with every word spelled correctly. (No spell-check back then). (Interesting to note I had a big vocabulary for my age, but couldn’t be bothered to learn to spell even simple words correctly.)
One thing that made those old-school teachers different was their emphasis on “completing your work”. It didn’t matter so much if the work was an “A” or a “D”, but that it was done. There was no “participation trophy” for merely showing up, and “trying” wasn’t an excuse for failing to complete an assignment. Even if you did a poor job, the job must be done. Nor did you necessarily earn approval, even when the job was done. You might earn a smile if you did “A” work, but not if it was “D” work. But even the the glower you got for “D” work was better than what you got for “incomplete” work. Looking back, such severity seems an afterglow from some former time, some echo of “The Puritan Work Ethic.”
At the same time there were new ideas and new approaches younger teachers thirsted to try out. I’ll gloss over these efforts, because for the most part they were ineffectual, and allowed me to escape “drill”. “Permissive” teachers allowed me to skip the rigors “Old School” teachers forced me to face, and let me play hooky. It didn’t matter if they called the work “arithmetic” or “new math”, and it didn’t matter if they called the work “history” or “social studies” or even “social science”. If they didn’t crack the whip, I’d prefer forests and fields to “drill”, and all their blathering about what-to-call-what-they-taught didn’t teach me one iota.
But one element of “permissiveness” did seem especially wrong to me, (and to many other schoolboys), and that was the unspoken need permissive teachers had to be popular. Me and my chums actually preferred the Old School teachers who knew we disliked them, for forcing us to “drill”, and we didn’t much like teachers who felt they had to be our best friend. The word “permissive” somehow meant they had to be “cool” and “popular” and “hip”.
Looking back, it seems to me the kids who were “cool” and “popular” and “hip” were a definite minority at my school, and the rest of us were a thing called “not so hip”. (Or perhaps “normal”). Therefore the efforts of some teachers to be popular looked like they were trying to woo a minority.
For the kids like me it seemed fairly obvious that such teachers were not the cream of the crop; they had not been “cool” or “popular” or “hip” when they themselves were our age, if only because they were not remotely handsome or beautiful, or particularly athletic, or all that smart. (That was why they were teachers, and not something better). Yet they had this odd wish to be what they never were, and thirsted to hang out with the “cool” and “popular” and “hip” kids.
Even to a twelve-year-old such behavior seems a bit pathetic, and is a sight that even seems pitiful: A thirty-year-old man or woman seeking acceptance from a minority of thirteen-year-olds who deem themselves classy, even as many of their classmates deem them otherwise.
A reason classmates disliked some peers who excelled (besides envy) was because some who excelled sneered at fellow classmates who didn’t do so well. But this meanness was dealt-with among peers by peers. We had our juvenile ways of separating the wheat from the chaff, the generous from the mean, and the genuinely admirable from those chasing the veneer of status. We may not have had words such as “politically correct” and “virtue signaling”, but we did have the words “real” and “phony.”
In some ways school involved much grouping and regrouping of small gangs, much shifting from superiority to inferiority to equality, as youth figured out where they were comfortable and where their gifts “fit”. Among athletes one might feel puny but five minutes later among Freshmen one might feel like a giant. Moods soared and moods crashed as hormones ran riot and roughshod, yet midst this chaos there was an awareness that some “got too big for their britches” or “took things too far.” Call it intuition if you will, but it was tantamount to detachment among youth you might deem incapable of anything but reactionary moodiness. Often it popped out of someone’s mouth in a way that resulted in gales of laughter, and a bully blushing (and promising to pound the jester later). Status was a precarious perch, like a game of king-of-the-mountain, and the “uppity” could expect a “comeuppance”. Yet for some status was the end-all and be-all of school, far more important than classes. For others the exact same status was proof the possessor was “phony”, and a person to be pitied. (Epaulets do not make the man).
If even youth can see past status symbols, and pity their peers when they crave such status too insanely (and look like shoppers madly fighting over an object at a sale) then youth can become downright horrified when teachers become equally eager to be included among the “cool” and “popular” and “hip”, and teachers act juvenile too. Such antics are hard to forgive or forget.
I recall when I was at my most awkwardly nerdy I was sneered-at by such a teacher. I likely deserved the sarcasm, but the rebuke was not what irked me. What seemed unforgivable was how the teacher turned away smiling towards the “cool” kids as the “cool” kids laughed at me, drinking up their small-minded approval. It was embarrassing. Grown-ups are suppose to be better than that, yet it was what was called “permissive” in 1964, and is called “politically correct” in 2019. Despite all the talk about “zero tolerance” for any form of “bullying”, it is a form of bullying. If you don’t believe such bullying exists, send a child into a classroom with a hidden camera, and have the child tell the teacher “Global Warming is a fraud.”
The pursuit of popularity at the expense of Truth may have a lot to do with the antics seen in Hollywood and among politicians, but it’s a dead end. It is Much Ado About Nothing. It involves the IQ of a bunch of clucking chickens figuring out their pecking-order. It is sad when people have to spend so much time and energy dealing with such nonsense, when what they really want to do is study sea-ice.
Also the pursuit of popularity has little to do with the true challenge of teaching, which involves the glaring difference between “drill” and the joy of learning. “Drill” may be necessary and be good for you, but so is cod-liver-oil. “Drill” is difficult to swallow. Either one must adopt the lantern-jawed mercy of a boot-camp sergeant, or be a sort of Mary Poppins singing about how “a teaspoon of sugar makes medicine go down in a most delightful way”, but in either case there is an acceptance that drill is, by itself, not delightful.
I thought long and hard about this subject while home-schooling my own kids, as they were forever asking me why should they do what they hated. I had no good answer, so I told them, “Because I said so.” However after I put them to bed I’d stay up late, sipping beer and wondering, “Why do I do what I hate?” I wanted an answer better than, “Because I have to.”
The answer I came up with involved seeing “drill” differently. Rather than seeing it as a bitter pill one was forced to gag down, I saw (or attempted to see) “drill” was the result of another’s joy.
A person in the faded past had endured the hardship, the sweat and strain and pricks to the ego, which led to the joy of revelation. And they then handed you all they worked so hard to achieve across the chasms of time, for free.
What such past people offer may be a thing as mundane as the “multiplication tables.” Learning such tables may be as dull as dust, but we should be thankful we don’t have to start from scratch and figure them all out for ourselves.
In like manner, when faced with a long and dull list of vocabulary words, we should be glad we are not faced with the task of coining such words. Most use words without any understanding of the Herculean efforts made by all sorts of word-smiths across the ages to hammer, distort and anneal the word into its current shape and definition.
One unusual aspect of my childhood was that my mother didn’t desire, (as a feminine equivalent of a man’s “den” or “man-cave”), a kitchen and pantry cluttered with cooking paraphernalia, or a sewing room, or a craft room, or a gym, but rather a library. She was a bibliophile, and even had a massive dictionary on an ornate stand in the dining-room. During the best days of my childhood (when my parents still got along) I sometimes was allowed to join the grown-ups during dinners that included foreign dignitaries, to whom English was a second language, and quite often the massive dictionary was consulted to see if a word was “used correctly”. Sometimes these visits to the dictionary were brief, but on other occasions (perhaps because my Dad could mix a powerful “old fashioned”), the conversations digressed in delightful ways into the various shades-of-meaning the same word might have, the origins the word had, how the meaning had changed over the process of time, and how shades-of-meaning could be different in different lands. (For example, in 1959 the word “fantastic” had a positive connotation in the United States but a negative connotation in India.) Even during dinners without company my mother tended to feel the definition of a word was chiseled on stone, while my father tended to look for loopholes, and the dictionary would be consulted. The result of all this was that, for me at least, the “drill” of learning a list of boring vocabulary words was less distasteful than it might have been for other children.
Drill is made distasteful when it becomes divorced from the amazing people who made the dull facts important. This is never more obvious than in the case of History. One is too often forced to memorize dull dates, but not told the full story. It is amazing how much passion and wonder can be lost through the study of dull dates. After such dreary memorization a bored boy is expected to write, on a test, “Valley Forge occurred in 1776”, without any real understanding of what occurred, or even that George Washington was involved. Where David McCullough’s book “1776” devotes chapter after chapter to what fueled that amazing moment in time, the schoolboy is just given a dull place-name and a dull date. Little wonder some rebel, and call history stupid. History is not stupid, but little wonder some think it is.
If you then add the fact some teachers deeply want to be popular, you can even have teachers who nod, and agree history is stupid. Rather than adding the joy-of-learning to the dull “drill” of history, they throw the baby out with the bathwater, and feel history itself is the problem. They then attempt to find a better way, something other than what actually happened.
Such a revision of Truth, of what actually happened, is called by some “revisionist history” and by others “progressive.” I call it “denial of fact”, and think, if you study history, you can see it often leads to a terrible end.
Inherent with thinking that history itself is the problem is the idea “old-fashioned” ideas are a weakness, and can be replaced by “better ideas”. Yet what happened is what happened; it is the Truth. When you attempt to replace Truth with a “better idea” you venture into the quicksand of utter folly.
I do not mean to suggest all attempts at social reform are folly. History shows us examples where attempts to reform society were beneficial, and where they were not. Therefore the measure of social reform should be the crop it reaps. Does the social reform result in the betterment of all, or disaster?
One of the saddest things to see, looking back in history, is how some so-called “progressive” people came to see their fellows, who had stood by their side as they fought “traditionalists” and rose to power, as being “not-progressive-enough”, and as holding them back. Stalin only rose to power due to the helping hands of many “bedfellow” communists, yet he came to see them as too “old-fashioned”, and “purged” them, (idiotically killing his best generals on the eve of World War Two.) In like manner Mao, after his “Great Leap Forward” had proved to be a leap backwards, had to deal with criticism he deserved from his fellow revolutionaries. Rather than humbly accepting what recent history taught, he instituted the “Cultural Revolution” which saw criticism (recent history) as evil (“counterrevolutionary”), and basically attempted to purge not only all of his best friends, but all of China’s best teachers.
The idea behind this sort of hatred towards tradition and history is the concept that tradition is a sort of weed, and that if you remove the weed something beautiful will grow. I honestly believe that both Stalin and Mao believed they were justified to kill, because something beautiful would result. Each morning they hopped out of bed, expecting that killing best friends and schoolmarms would result in roses. It never did. Apparently weeding isn’t enough. You must also plant.
The process of “planting” involves treating best friends and schoolmarms better than Stalin and Mao did, even when they disagree with you. Rather than seeing Truth as a backwardness and an enemy, it accepts the fact that even when Truth hurts, it is better than the alternative.
If you can follow my logic, you may glimpse Truth is not the dry lists of dull facts one grits their teeth to learn during “drill”. Rather Truth is a relationship. Rather than inanimate like stone Truth is alive. A inanimate stone just sits there. It cannot hurt you unless you go out of your way to fall on it head-first. However animate Truth can hurt you, even when you are minding your own business.
At this point I am moving into mystic territory. I don’t want to go there. I just want to lift the veil slightly, and hint at something. (Whether you choose to explore further is your own business). Let it suffice to say that I feel Truth is not a thing. It is a relationship we all are embarked upon, with whatever It is that made us.
I will say this: Our relationship with Truth is contentious. We all are social reformers in one way or another, and do not believe reality is as it should be. Though we may be like specks of dust upon a very small planet by a small sun in a small galaxy in a infinity giant universe, there are days we dare presume to grab the even huger Creator by the scruff of His neck and demand answers. (Confess. You’ve done it.) What amazes me is that, rather than being immediately incinerated by a bolt of lightning, we get answers. “Seek, and ye will find.”
In his long poem “A Lesson For Today”, the poet Robert Frost ends by suggesting he wants the epitaph on his gravestone to read, “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.” In other words, if you seek Truth, do not expect an easy road lined with roses.
What holds true for students of poetry also holds true for students of arctic sea-ice. Truth is no outing for the feeble. Often those who stand by Truth win no earthly popularity, nor wealth, and seem to be proof honesty is for losers who want to wind up crucified, hanging from a cross upside-down like Saint Peter. Yet in the long run, even in earthly terms, who was the loser? In Rome, now, a huge building is called “Peter’s”, while “Caesar” is a name we give to dogs.
I often state “Stand by the Truth and the Truth will stand by you”, but this may not play out in the short term, which at one point in my life had me saying “Righteousness is never rewarding.”
For example, at one point the honest meteorologist Dr. William Gray advised the politically-calculating Vice-president Al Gore that Gore’s ideas about Global Warming were not scientific. Rather than being rewarded for his honesty, Dr. Gray saw his funding cut and was marginalized. Meanwhile Gore received awards and made millions for a movie (that British courts stated could not be used to educate British children with, because it included many falsehoods), ironically titled “The Inconvenient Truth.” In such situations it may seem there is no justice, and that the final Truth is that this world is made exceedingly disagreeable (because otherwise we would not seek a better place). But time will tell. Dr. Gray reached the end of his life with dignity, whereas Gore exudes such a halitosis of corruption one dislikes the thought we breathe the same air. (Not that I expect to be invited to his birthday party and stand in the same room, but we breathe the same air even if I flee to the far side of the planet.)
Gore is no different than the rest of us; he too has a relationship with Truth. In the harsh light of hangovers his eyes must seek their corners, amazed over how far he has fallen to become bloated with power and wealth. Yet none of us compare all that well with Perfection. In our relationships with Truth we all receive pricks to our fat egos, but none has fallen so far as to be beyond redemption; (it is said the thief on the cross next to Jesus walked the avenues of paradise only hours later).
In our relationship with Truth we are always teetering, with our hearts and heads never quite in balance: Our heads tend to be too dry and intellectual even as our hearts are too emotional and impulsive. That is why we need Truth to lend us a hand. We need something better than we are, to refer to. The amazing thing is that Truth is always there, offering.
Lastly allow me to repeat myself and state Truth is bountiful. One may not get the money they desire or the fame they desire or the power they desire, (or the beautiful girl on a Maine beach they desire), but in the end they get the best thing, which is Truth. In our constant and sometimes ludicrous efforts to reform society and change the world, Truth is our constant companion and lodestone, offering us feedback in the form of the harvests we reap, which can defy all odds and amaze us. (For example, Jonah felt preaching about Love to the merciless Assyrians was an exercise in futility and complete waste of time and might even get him killed, yet, (when he finally got around to giving being-an-advisor a shot), he saw, to his amazement, the entire bloodthirsty Assyrian nation repented and reformed [and postponed their eventual downfall by some fifty years.])
Truth has power we can’t imagine, which gives us every reason to study it. Under its beneficent sunshine rivers that barely trickle can rise sixty feet.
In terms of arctic sea-ice we need to stop the silliness of “adjusting” the Truth in a way that denies what we already know, and get back to studying what is actually occurring up there. Even a rank amateur like myself can see hints of mysterious powers, atmospheric waves that move the wrong way or cross the Pole, and these ill-defined shapes may be far more than the swirling aftereffects of storms to the south. I like to toy with the idea they may be hinges capable of pivoting vast atmospheric rivers, trapping cold air in the north with a “zonal” pattern or unleashing arctic outbreaks far to the south with a “meridional” pattern. Such changes make a huge difference to farmers, and understanding such changes would be an advantage to all people, for if farmers in Iowa knew a cold year was coming that would kill their corn, they could plant winter wheat instead. In like manner history informs us that massive shifts can occur to the currents of the North Atlantic, making rich fishing grounds sterile and barren seas bountiful. At the very least fishermen could save a lot of gas used searching for the fish, if they knew such a shift was coming and the fish would be moving.
Considering such drastic changes to the ecology of the Atlantic occurred even before light bulbs were invented, it seems silly to now blame such changes on incandescent bulbs, and to imagine we can move the seas by buying curly ones. Rather than thinking we control the weather we should be more humble and see the weather controls us, and seek to understand it. And such understanding does not come by seeking to replace Truth with adjustments, but rather by studying what actually is occurring, irregardless of whether it is politically correct or whether it confirms some preconceived bias. Arctic research deserves greater funding not because it benefits some political party, but rather because Truth benefits all mankind.
In any case, here we sit, having wasted decades preparing for Global Warming that shows no real sign of manifesting. Billions have been squandered attempting to prove something that isn’t true, deranging our energy infrastructure in the process, and leaving us ill-prepared for the onslaughts of winter. And winter is coming.
The “warming” seen on various charts and graphs is largely due to adjustments, but some warming is genuine and cannot be denied. However it may well be due to a completely counter-intuitive cause: Less energy, due to the so-called “Quiet Sun”, may initially have a warming effect.
Ever since I first began paying attention Alarmists have been pish-tushing solar variations, stating they’re incapable of having much effect. They often point out the variations in TSI (Total Solar Irradience) is roughly only a tenth of 1%. Or one part of a thousand. Yet then these same Alarmists turn right around and and say one part in a million can have a huge effect, when it involves the composition of the atmosphere. They can’t have it both ways.
My own take is that a change of only a tenth of 1% in the amount of sunshine striking the earth may seem small, but is actually a stupendous amount. After all, the sun is no small thing, even though you can cover it with your thumbnail as it crosses the sky. Here’s some trivia from “Cool Cosmos”:
“Compared to Earth, the Sun is enormous! It contains 99.86% of all of the mass of the entire Solar System. The Sun is 864,400 miles (1,391,000 kilometers) across. This is about 109 times the diameter of Earth. The Sun weighs about 333,000 times as much as Earth. It is so large that about 1,300,000 planet Earths can fit inside of it. Earth is about the size of an average sunspot!”
Currently the sun has become more quiet than at any time since the Dalton Minimum (roughly 1790-1830). At times the TSI has sunk to “unprecedented” levels.
The problem I run into, when dealing with the TSI, is that there are variations from graph to graph, and discussions involving things above my head, such as brief drops involving sunspots rotating around and facing the earth (which makes me think a spotless “Quiet Sun” should have a higher rather than lower TSI) and also arguments concerning the sensors used and “adjustments” made to the sensors used in the past. In the end I tend to fall back onto the observations from the Dalton Minimum, before the TSI was measured.
While the start of the Dalton Minimum was fairly quiet, after a decade things became “interesting”: Two of the largest volcanic eruptions of the past millennium occurred in 1810 and 1815, parts of the subtropics experienced summer snows and frosts, and there were extreme variations in the location and amounts of sea-ice, (including the amazing phenomenon of icebergs grounding on the coast of Ireland, that I mentioned earlier.) It seems a “Quiet Sun” had a significant effect, even if we haven’t been able to figure out the practical plumbing of its causes and effects.
One current observation that seems counter-intiuitive to me is that the SST (sea surface temperatures) have become warmer even as the sun has become less energetic. Though the southern hemisphere may now be hinting at some cooling, the northern hemisphere continues well above normal. (Below is the current anomaly map, not showing actual temperatures but rather whether temperatures are above or below normal.)
How could a less energetic sun cause warmer seas? After brooding a bit, it occurred to me that, besides measuring energy with thermometers, we could focus on the energy measured by anemometers. If a less-energetic sun slacked winds, especially Trade Winds, there would be less up-welling of cold water from the sea’s icy depths, resulting in warmer water at the surface, warmer and moister air above the seas, and consequently warmer and moister air working its way to the Pole (where only a small change in moisture jolts temperatures upwards to a far greater degree than the same amount of moisture alters temperatures in the tropics.) This would explain why winter temperatures have been warmer at the Pole, (and much of the slight “Global Warming” we see in honest statistics has been due to winter-warming at the Pole). However in the summer, when above-freezing temperatures at the Pole make slight rises in humidity less influential, the summertime Pole has actually trended cooler than normal by a small degree, which could be caused by slightly decreased sunshine 24-hours-a-day.
The idea that a slight thing like a decrease in TSI could warm the entire Northern Hemisphere may seem a bit preposterous, but if you think of it there are plenty of examples in life of small things having big consequences. Kingdoms can be lost “all because of a horseshoe nail”, a gain of sand can start an avalanche. In terms of meteorology the phrase “tipping point” is often used, (both correctly and incorrectly), and in some cases a hair can make a huge difference. It is like a marble rolling slower and slower up to the peak of a rise, at which point it can either fail to crest the rise and roll backwards, or crest the rise and accelerate forwards. In terms of a computer model and a weather forecast, this can be the difference between a ridge of high pressure being pumped and pleasant weather, or a trough digging and a gale. (Just as an example, there is currently some concern here in southern New Hampshire about winter snows getting off to an early start, and Joseph D’Aleo discussed the topic on his site at Weatherbell, and in the process he looked at fifty “runs” of the European Model, describing how much snow we might get over the next two weeks. Here are 25 of the runs:
Basically what the “runs” state is that we might get two feet of snow or might get none. Not much of a forecast. I suppose it does show storms will be whizzing by, maybe out to sea or maybe to our north or maybe hitting us, (but, because this is November in New England, we already knew that). However what I wanted to emphasize was how small things can make big differences. The reasons the “runs” of the model are so different are caused by quite minor tweaks to the initial data. A “butterfly flapping its wing” can totally ruin a superb forecast.
This is especially true concerning whether the Pacific will generate an El Nino or La Nina. Some sort of “tipping point” is involved, but no meteorologist seems able to pinpoint what it is, for the forecasting is persistently poor. Yet the difference between an El Nino and a La Nina is huge, and has worldwide consequences.
In a La Nina the warm water is “piled up” towards Australia and cold water upwells towards South America, and the world tends to be colder and drier, while in an El Nino the warm water spreads out and cold water sinks, and the world tends to be milder and moister. The Trade Winds are involved, and it is a case where less-is-more. Less winds creates more heat.
In like manner, I suspect a lower TSI might create a less-is-more situation where less heat from the sun initially makes the planet milder. But I stress that word “initially”.
To me it seems that spreading out the heat over a larger area could cause the heat to be lost more efficiently. It would be like your tea being too hot, so you pour it in the saucer to cool it. (Not that I’ve ever done this, but as a boy I asked an old lady what saucers were for.)
(It may not merely be fishermen who own first-hand-experiences that certain Climate-scientists should attend to; old ladies drinking tea may know a thing or two Climate-scientists don’t, as well.)
The spreading-out of milder water not only loses heat to the atmosphere (which then loses heat to outer space), it also moves north to the northern reaches of the Atlantic and Pacific, and melts sea-ice. Alarmists felt the resultant open water in the Arctic Sea would absorb sunlight and cause the “Arctic Death Spiral”, but the open water largely does not appear while the sun is high, but rather appears when the sun is getting low in late August and setting in September. In such situations the open water is not absorbing sunshine, but losing heat to the arctic night. Heat is not merely lost directly, but through the latent heat released during the phase-change from water back to sea-ice, which is far greater during years like this one, which saw more open water, and has already seen much open water swiftly refreeze.
Where some Alarmists suggest that the recent rise in the planet’s temperatures by a few tenths of a degree is a sort of irreversible one-way trend, I tend to see it as an action which will result in an equal and opposite reaction. For example, if you put a small pea on a balance, first it will swing down but then swing back up, as it gradually gets back to a state of poise.
It seems to me our planet is constantly attempting to achieve a state of poise, but constantly subjected to peas that make the balance swing. Even the yearly shift in summertime sunshine from the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern Hemisphere and back north again knocks things out of whack to some degree, but the planet keeps working to bring things back into balance. Because the swings have a certain regularity to them, the balancing-work tends to develop a regularity of sorts, and we speak of “cycles”, whether they be the cycles of seasons, or sunspot cycles, or the supposed 60-year-cycles of the AMO and PDO. But these cycles can also get knocked out of whack by things such as especially explosive volcano eruptions, or even asteroids (not to mention things I know little about, involving an “electric universe”, or the 12,000 year cycle of “magnetic excursions” mentioned on the “Ice Age Now” site, or in scary videos such as this one:
One constant, while considering the blows our planet has received in the past and may receive in the future, is our planet’s toughness and resiliency. It is like a boxer who can be pounded but cannot be knocked out. The idea of a “tipping point” being triggered that turns the planet into a hothouse like Venus is patently absurd, (but the idea of a society being triggered into absurdity is perhaps not so absurd), (and may be happening.) There is a tremendous power dragging the earth back towards equilibrium.
At times I think the swings back towards equilibrium manifest in ways that strike us as anything but peaceful. For example, a summer thunderstorm may not seem peaceful, but gets rid of excessive heat and brings things back into balance. In like manner, when some volcano reduces the amount of heat arriving on the planet’s surface, a “zonal” pattern may shift to a “meridional” pattern with the jet-stream contorting into fabulous loops, yet this may just be the planet’s way of redistributing the heat to get things back in balance.
I think this is what we should be watching for, and may already be seeing, in terms of the “Quiet Sun”. But one thing we need to be wary of may be glimpsed to the old (and now “adjusted”) records I showed earlier, which showed a dramatic increase in sea-ice between a record low in 1960 and a high during the winter of 1962-1963. It was a rapid increase of 1.5 million km of ice. Here is that illustration again:
It seems to me that a reappraisal of Vinnikov’s data would be fascinating. What was he witnessing, and what were the causes, and what were the effects? There does seem to be evidence that the world saw quite a dramatic period of cooling at that time, resulting in the “Ice Age Scare” which is so well documented by Tony Hellar’s collection of old Newspaper articles from that time.
The question I ask myself is, “Could we be on the verge of seeing history repeat?” Personally I loath the prospect, as my circulation is not fond of cold winters. I’m not the hot blooded dude I was in Maine, back when Jimmy Carter was president. However whatever will be will be, and it pays to keep an eye to the north in November.
Currently things look a bit ominous. Three weeks ago (October 11) the waters north of Siberia were wide open and snowcover was just starting to expand in Canada.
Now (November 4) the waters north of Siberia have swiftly skimmed with ice, Canada is largely snow-covered, and many of the smaller lakes in Canada have frozen (blue above but yellow below).
I’m now watching for the large Canadian Lakes and Hudson Bay to flash-freeze. As long as they are open they moderate arctic air, creating a sort of landlocked “maritime effect”, but as soon as they freeze, bitter cold can build. Also the pattern is worrisome due to a persistent ridge up the west coast of North America. That may bring warmth to western Alaska (note less snow there) but it tends to drain cold air into the heartland of USA and eventually effects our east coast. During the worst winters it drags frigid air from Siberia across the Arctic Sea, so I’m watching for the waters north of Bering Strait to flash-freeze as well. During the winter of 1976-1977, back when Jimmy Carter was president, we got stuck in such a pattern from November all the way into February. So I’m keeping my finger’s crossed that the west-coast-ridge breaks down, for now that I’m an old geezer I’m more of a wimp. (However if you’re young and like snow it is something to hope for).
If you are an Alarmist, and are stoically hanging on to the “Arctic Death Spiral” theory, what you should likely do is shift to sea-ice “volume” graphs. The DMI graph currently shows surprisingly low “volume”.
The low “volume” is likely reflecting the low overall extent of the past summer and the fact the new ice is still thin, though it may be indicative of a surge of sea-ice exiting south through Fram Strait (which will be interesting to watch as it approaches Iceland in December.) Also it may have something to do with fewer arctic gales piling up fewer pressure-ridges of ice. Whatever the cause, it helps the cause of Alarmists, especially the young whippersnappers who are looking for a good reason to avoid getting a Real Job flipping burgers to pay off giant loans to a Federal Government that printed money to pay colleges that printed worthless degrees. Who would want to face that? I don’t blame some young people for preferring that the world end in twelve years.
As for the rest of us, who pay the taxes and elect the individuals who perpetuate such shenanigans, we expect the unexpected. Just about the only thing safe thing to forecast is that Alarmist forecasts will prove incorrect, for they involve so much that is not Truth. The best we can do is focus on Truth, and have faith that it can produce some wonderful surprises. The climate can change, and dry gulches can fill with living waters, and deserts can bloom.
Stay Tuned…….And stand by the Truth and the Truth will stand by you.