LOCAL VIEW –Northern March Madness–

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LOCAL VIEW –Some Pity, Please–

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some body some body
Ask me to stay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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LOCAL VIEW –Boys and Mud–

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that is how a sonnet began.

LOCAL VIEW –Fresh Start–

My resolutions are not a solution
So this year I will not make even one,
For in my solutions are a pollution
That make all the salmon turn tail and run
Back up the river to pools of their birth;
They don’t reach the sea and enjoy the sweet mirth
Of billowing blue that covers the earth
And pounds stones to sand, and gives life it’s worth.

So please do not tell me to get into shape.
I resolved to be square, but got pounded.
Like a pebble that waves will not let escape
My God has made me a man well-rounded.

Your sharp points are blunted; I will not vow
For I already am, and will live in the Now.

One of the many reasons it is better to be sixty than twenty is that you get to skip the business of always feeling you should be being better than you were the year before. Instead the process of biological deterioration is setting in, and you are lucky to even be the same as you were the year before.

Don’t get me wrong. Spiritually we should always be striving to correct our mistakes and improve, but, since when has spirituality mattered a hill of beans, in this material world?  And, in material terms, a man can not run as fast at age sixty as he could at age thirty. Therefore, if you value material things and gauge value with a stop watch, a man grows less and less valuable as he ages.  In material terms, there is no reason to honor elders. They belong in the dumpster.

Fortunately the complete banality that rules the minds of communists and economists and many psychiatrists does not rule the work-place, and there are still  some employers who prefer a spy old man of 80 to a young galoot of 25. Why?  Well, for one thing, the old geezer shows up at work on time, whereas lots of young galoots find that very difficult. And so and so forth. Until, despite all materialistic logic, you arrive at a mass of evidence that demonstrates a geezer of 80 is a better worker than a galoot of 25.

How can this be? It defies physical science.

The answer lies outside what most call materialism, and matter, and what matters to the mindless. It involves a thing beyond the brain, called “The Mind.”

A pure materialist will not accept that we are anything other than brains, but we are more than that. We are minds, and when our brains quit and rot we will continue on as minds.

If my brain fails before the rest of my body does, I’ll be afflicted with various forms of senility that make me look stupid, but my spiritual progress will not stop. My mind will still be working, even if it can’t communicate through normal physical channels. It will continue to grow, even if my brain becomes so hapless I only drool.

But, if my brain remains sharp even as the rest of my body fails, I’ll be better able to communicate. Even if I hobble into work at age 80 with a cane, my employer will note I am on time, and do fifty other incidental things better than the young galoot who comes bounding in two hours late, and does fifty other things worse. Therefore, if push comes to shove at that workplace, guess who the employer will lay off?

I am not just talking through my hat. I have seen many examples of old geezers being desired, while young galoots are not, at workplaces.

The point I wish to make is that, in terms of materialism, this is utterly illogical.

The irony is that many think “employers” are the epitome of materialism.  They think employers think of nothing but money.

Maybe some employers are like that, but the simple fact of the matter is that, if employers prefer a physically inferior 80-year-old to a physically superior 25-year-old,  the employer cares about something that isn’t physical and isn’t material.

The conclusion I wish to draw is that, if you are the sort of person inclined to make New Year’s Resolutions, perhaps you should see it is foolish do push-ups and eat kale so you might better resemble a young galoot.

Instead maybe you should vow to do what it takes to resemble a spry old man of 80.

 

 

LOCAL VIEW –Smooth Ice–

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LOCAL VIEW –The Delights Of Distraction–

With the election upon us there is good cause to be cautious, and nervous, and paranoid, about the possible consequences of this political cycle.

The Right is usually accused of being more prone to the behavior of a dictator, but this time around I have been dismayed by the Left’s behavior. Most dismaying was the disruption of Trump’s rallies by instigators of violence, apparently with the knowledge of both Hillary Clinton and the President.

Once violence is involved we are departing from civil procedure, and entering the barbaric landscape of despots. I have studied too much history to be naive about the inhumanity enacted in the name of “order”. The most appalling deed was, of course, the Crucifixion of Christ, but hundreds of millions of more ordinary mortals have been innocents slaughtered, and for what? For being honest. In Argentina the gruesome noun “the Disappeared” described college students taken in for questioning by the dictatorship, and never seen again. For the Left to be in any way, shape or form involved in such violence is completely opposed to its stated objectives, one of which was, (according to school systems),  “to reduce bullying”.

I have been subjected to a lot of bullying in my life, and have developed a number of responses. As an adult I simply speak the Truth to the bully, which usually doesn’t go over too well. I got fired from a lot of jobs. However as a result I have lived a life full of variety and interest, involving the flexibility of working over a hundred different jobs, in all sorts of interesting landscapes with all sorts of interesting people, while the bosses that fired me clung to offices that were little more than self-created dungeons.  I have seen a mansion can be a hell, as a hobo knows heaven.

I have seen a mansion be a man’s hell
Even as a homeless hobo tasted heaven.
(Those who worship money know all too well
Their bread is puffing due to evil levain.)

Blessed are the poor, who do not go in
The skyless places power places men;
Like one who’s never tasted heroin
They’re not dragged back to sin, to sin again.

But cursed is the man who blames the poor
And chains them onto oars of slavery,
Lusting that their lack will bring him more
And there’s no wisdom in men being free.

When power’s based on thieves who have no thanks
They build a ship of state with rotton planks. 

I was lucky, in a sense, to grow up among overly wealthy people, and to see first hand that money cannot buy happiness.  It enabled me to skip a lot of the bother of becoming rich, and seeing the hell of wealth by earning it. Instead I could just enjoy a lesser life, which turns out to be richer, if you measure in ways other than money.  However I have seen enough to know I am one of the people who the worst of the bully’s hate. I know that, if situations soured, I could become one of the “Disappeared.”

This dynamic became obvious over a decade ago, when I first became involved in the Global Warming debate. At first the word “Denier” didn’t appear, and the debate was hot, but conducted in a way that involved relatively reasonable people utilizing civil procedure to discuss the various facets of a complex issue. As time passed the “Alarmists” started to lose more and more arguments,  and began resorting to bullying. That was when, rather than a “Skeptic”, I started to be called a “Denier”. More recently the degradation of my honesty has involved more serious threats, including the suggestion I should lose my right to speak publicly, and even to vote, (only the nuts say I should be shot).

This bullying does make me wonder if I was wise to speak the truth. It adds to my nervousness, regarding the current election cycle. And it also activates a second way I have of dealing with bullies, that I learned when I was much smaller than the bullies were, and (usually) too smart to speak back to them.

What I did was to basically zone out. Teachers were concerned, and called it “withdrawal” and “escapism”, but it was, in a way, to go to church. Not that my family went to church or was religious, but I would flee the hardship of bullying life, and play hooky from Math Class by looking at the clouds out the window. In a hard-to-define manner there is more Truth in a single cloud than in a thousand hours of Algebra. (There is more Truth in a teenaged mother suckling her infant than in a thousand hours of nursing school. And so on and so forth.)

I could go on for a long, long time about how Truth is Beauty, and Truth is Power, and Truth is Wisdom, and Truth is Love, but the short version is this:  Sometimes escapism is good for you. Sometimes you just need to stop on your way home from work, and watch a sunset.

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A smattering of white clouds to the west
Abruptly became a symphony of sunset;
Turned gold and then blossomed roses: The best
Scarlets and crimsons, against a coverlet
Of blue sky…reminding me…reminding
me…reminding me of some lost flavor
Sniffed in the ardor of youth’s hope of finding
A new distance to dream at…new favor
To yearn for…a Savior to please: A lost
Outlook life is robbing me…robbing me…
Robbing me of, until I think of cost
Before hopes, and nothing sets joy’s sobbing free
Unless a sunset sky taps my slumped shoulder
With nursery dreams amidst thoughts far older.

In conclusion, it is important to remember that powerful people in high and mighty places are not in control of the sunset, and any number of other things that are full of beauty. The fact of the matter is, they are likely so busy with budgets they completely miss the sunset. But that is no reason for us to miss it, as well.

It was with amazing audacity that, at some point, certain people in power decided they controlled the weather. The entire Global Warming political-plan is a display of unparalleled arrogance.

It was based on the idea that, concerning a river, we can to a degree control the flow with dams, and can control how much pollution is in the water. However we do not really control the flow of rivers, because we do not control the rain. However, because we are able to be less filthy, and clean the waters of our rivers, and manage our dams in wiser ways that better regulates the water’s flow, and can build fish-ladders that allow shad and herring and salmon to swim up to places they swam before, we feel we are the boss of rivers. Not. Floods occur. Our best engineering is bested. The Mississippi will, sooner or later, change its course and reach the sea a hundred miles west of New Orleans, and New Orleans will become a backwater.  And that only involves the subject of rivers.

The idea we not only control rivers, but also control the weather, is a bridge too far. It is a puffing of human importance past a popping point. When our president claimed his administration would stop the seas from rising,  he denied the truth King Canute spoke when he (supposedly) said, “Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws.”  (This was after his courtiers praised his power, and he decided to show them how powerful he was by forbidding the tide to rise.)

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The simple fact of the matter is we do not have control over the seas, (unless it is through the power of confessed-powerlessness, called “prayer”.) The slight rise of the sea, mere milometers each year, has neither sped up nor slowed down under the current administration. In like manner, we have no control over the climate, (unless we control the sun, which increasingly seems the controller of climate).

To me it seems that to blame the weather on some small citizen, who is basically minding his own business, is the behavior of a silly bully.  It seems an even worse bullying to bluster at me, when I point out the bullying behavior of Alarmists is ludicrous. At times Alarmists could almost spoil my mood, but that would indicate they had the power to spoil my mood. As a small child I learned they couldn’t even do that. All I needed to do was ignore them, and attend to That which actually does create the sunsets. In other words, to “zone out”.

Just for an example, some are all bent out of shape by the slow growth of Arctic Sea-Ice this autumn. (They fret the slow growth is because of Global Warming, even though it is counter-balanced by above-normal snowfall in Siberia and Canada.)snowcover-2-screen_shot_2016_11_04_at_5_37_48_am1

Now, to zone-out in an appropriate manner, regarding the slow growth of sea-ice, you should go to the south of the world’s largest estuary, called the “Gulf of Ob.”

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This year, as the sea ice started to form in the Gulf of Ob, it formed “pancake ice”, but, due to a series of unusual conditions, the ice got rolled on the sand on the beaches, and formed rarely-seen spheres of ice. This would not have been noticed, were it not for a small community of 2000 people near the beach, called “Nyda”. They put pictures on twitter, which got noticed by:  http://siberiantimes.com/home/

This got noticed by the BBC, and then Iceagenow.info.

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Now, rather than alarm, people seemed to think this unusual event was rather wonderful. Where the balls, ranging from tennis-ball-size to beach-ball-size, packed up against the shore, a dear old Dad did manage to look almost serious.balls-5-_92287276_snowballs2

However the family dog didn’t seem particularly concerned, (and we all have heard how animals are more aware of impending disasters than humans are).

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And the kid thought it was cool

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But it was the young mother who made the event beautiful.

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In the end, I see the slow growth of sea-ice as a beautiful thing. It is but another example of how Truth has more types of loveliness than we can possibly ever see, even if our eyes are open to seeking such beauty.

Pity the ones whose eyes are closed.

LOCAL VIEW –ELECTION OR REVOLUTION?–

I’m trying hard to keep my mind off the election, because it seems bad for my gut to think of it. All I need to do is broach the subject, and I find myself restlessly pacing like a lion in a cage. But what can I do? I am only an old grouch with a single vote. My lone vote will likely  be countered by someone in the “corpses-for-Clinton” category. Instead of a sword all I have is a pen, and it doesn’t feel all that mighty, no matter what Edward Bulwer-Lytton may have hoped to convey with:

“True, This! —
Beneath the rule of men entirely great
The pen is mightier than the sword. Behold
The arch-enchanter’s wand! — itself is nothing! —
But taking sorcery from the master-hand
To paralyze the Caesars, and to strike
The loud earth breathless! — Take away the sword —
States can be saved without it!”

In Hebrews 4:12 it states:

“Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.”

The prophet Mohammed purportedly said,

“The ink of the scholar is holier than the blood of the martyr”

Of course, the power of the pen can work for fools as well as the wise. In his play “Hamlet”, talking about young, ignorant, loud playwrights and actors, Rosencrantz states,

“…But there is, sir, an eyrie of children, little eyases, that cry out on the top of question and are most tyrannically clapped for ’t. These are now the fashion, and so berattle the common stages—so they call them—that many wearing rapiers are afraid of goose quills and dare scarce come thither.”

The power of the pen exists whether one uses goose quills or computer keyboards, and explains why my American Forefathers were so big on Freedom of Speech and the power of a Free Press. It may also explain why the so-called “elite” currently in Washington DC want to have a completely compliant media, that only echoes their opinions like parrots.

There have been all sorts of versions of pen-is-more-mighty-than-the-sword across the mists of time, and likely, before the pen was invented, “the word was more mighty than the club”, (as I have occasionally displayed at bars, while fast-talking my way out of a confrontation with a Neanderthal), but one of my favorites, (as a writer), occurred when Akbar was the great Mogul emperor of India, and a king up to his north (King Abdullah of Bokhara, in what is now Uzbekistan), purportedly said something along the lines of,

“I am more afraid of Abu’l-Fazl’s pen than of Akbar’s sword.”

Akbar was an amazing historical character, and one of the neat tales I’ve heard about him involves when the Portuguese wanted to build trading posts on his coast, and protect their posts with cannons. The tale states Akbar said he would let them do it, as long as he could build trading posts along the coast of Portugal, protected with his cannons.  The Portuguese realized they were not dealing with a fool, and headed further south, and focused their energies on their “trading post” at Goa.

Akbar was not merely brilliant, but attracted other brilliant minds.  Abu’l-Fazl was one of them, and was counted as one of the nine “pearls” of his court.

The current elite of Washington DC like to think of themselves as pearls. (There are far more than nine, and may number a million, though Wikileaks suggests they think they are the pearl, and their contemporaries are not pearls.) but I fear they are increasingly seen as quahogs by the ordinary citizen.

(A quahog is a clam on the coast of New England which almost never has pearls, and, when it does, the pearl is almost always misshapen and worthless. One in a million quahogs contains a pearl of value.) (I should mention I often have opened quahogs with a knife to use the raw innards as bait. When the fishing is really, really bad, I just eat the quahogs instead,  like oysters. The “foot” is chewy while the “stomach” is a gelatinous mass it is best not to look at, as you slurp it from the shell. The jelly-like nature of the quahog “stomach” may explain a bit of Cape Cod slang, which is as follows: When a heavy smoker develops a bad cough and cold, and his cough brings up a particularly gross glob of mucus, the disgusting blob he spits into the sand is called a “quahog.”)

Anyway, as I was saying, the “elite” of Washington DC increasingly resembles quahogs, rather than pearls.

It has been amazing to watch the elite fall into disgrace, and I have had an unique view of their downfall, for though I am poor and humble today, years and years and years ago I was on the periphery of being one of the elite. (I have been very downwardly mobile, since then.)

Back when I was a teen in 1968 my stepfather, (likely fearing for the safety of his home, if I was left home alone), used to drag me whining and sulking to his yearly reunion of the OPA. The OPA was the “Office of Price Administration”, which was Harry Truman’s desperate attempt to control the complete chaos that was unleashed when World War Two ended, and a military that had expanded from 174,000 in 1939 to over 16 million was abruptly asked to disband, or at least reduce its size to a half million.

In fact most of the people in the armed forces were not volunteers, and were chaffing at the bit to be free again.  However the fact of the matter there was not even the housing extant to shelter them, as few homes had been built during the Great Depression, and almost none during the war.

To have 15 million young people abruptly free was a frightening prospect, especially as, after seeing so much death in the war, they had a huge instinct to make babies and have large families. It was a chaos we cannot imagine, especially as we have a current chaos to attend to, that we are having difficulty imagining.

The OPA did well in some respects and less well in others. I’ll leave it to others to argue the finer points. The primary feeling I got at the reunions was that the survivors were amazed things hadn’t turned out far worse. They were Harry Truman democrats, and had a practical, pragmatic side which modern democrats can’t imagine, and I wish I had payed more attention than I did, as they reminisced about their travails. One thing I recall was they sang “OPA songs”, describing political opponents from 1946, laughing as they recalled the battles, though it was 22 years later by 1968. (In fact they were officially part of the “Office Of Economic Stabilization”, but they sang they were the “OPA” rather than “OES”.)

I could have cared less. They were nothing but a bunch of old farts, to me. However it did dawn on me that I was amidst a sort of afterglow of glory. I was in the company of retired kings, who were kings no more. There was something odd in the atmosphere.

The event was held at Chester Bowles’ place in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. No one explained to me Chester was a former Governor of Connecticut, Representative to Congress, twice Ambasador to India, and other stuff. To me he was just an old, shaky goat with Parkinson’s. I completely blew a chance to acquire knowledge, for it was a chance for me to mingle with the “elite” of that time, and I would have none of it. I hung about the edges of conversations and silently scowled, emanating disapproval.

As a teen my disapproval was a mishmash of unformed ideas that, in retrospect, seems very hypocritical. On one hand I could believe in Free Love, while on the other hand I respected fidelity, and frowned on any sort of “cheating”. And so on and so forth. I hadn’t thought things out.

After these elite elders had a few drinks, they’d open up and discuss the shortcomings of their peers, and even, occasionally, confess their own, (of 22 years earlier). I’d scowl and listen, as they laughed about the time so-and-so got too drunk, the time so-and-so went home with the cook rather than his wife, the time so-and-so promised the same political appointment to two different people, and I was shocked. SHOCKED, to hear of such shenanigans. After all, they were suppose to be old, and of a generation that was repressed by rules, and I was supposedly of the new breed, free to do as I wished. I was the one suppose to be breaking the rules, not them.

I must say this: Although they were indeed backbiting, gossipping, and to some degree bad-mouthing, it was nothing like the stuff Wikileaks demonstrates currently takes place in Washington DC. Rather than contempt there was pity, rather than disgust there was forgiveness, and rather than hate there seemed to even be a sort of love. Even though they  were old and out of power, and facing the resurgence of their dreaded foe and nemesis Richard Nixon, they were not so hateful and threatened as the modern Liberals are by Donald Trump.

Back then I think people had a sort of “boys will be boys” attitude about the shortcomings of politicians. Churchill might smoke fat, stinking cigars,  and publicly state “I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me”, but people forgave his shortcomings, for they felt he was working very hard for them. People might not have known about other shortcomings other politicians had, (or only have heard the shortcomings murmured and whispered), but people back then had the feeling at least half of the government was on their side. Now such feelings seem naive. The trust has been frittered away, and people feel both parties are foes, and in cahoots.

People are increasingly disgusted, and less willing to say “boys will be boys” or “girls will be girls.” As I try to get my mind off the election, my mind keeps gravitating back to the difference I am sensing. What has changed?

Today I found myself wondering if the misbehavior my elders chuckled over, and I was so appalled by, at age fifteen in 1968, was the thin edge of a wedge. It was the beginnings of an infection, a slight redness. It could be laughed at, and dismissed as a “foible”, but it kept getting worse and worse, over the years, until now it is an infection resembling gangrene, and requiring amputation.

Before World War Two the efforts of both the “doves” and the “hawks” sought to avoid war. Churchill was derided, as a war-monger, because he wanted to stop Hitler with power, as others thought they could halt Hitler with appeasement, but all yearned for Peace. Then, at some point, people awoke to the fact Peace might no longer be possible.

I cannot find the text, but at some point Winston’s wife Clementine wrote him a plaintive and sweet cry of anguish, and the words were something along the lines of, “Oh Winnie, are we sliding into a war?”

I have the same sort of feeling, as I pace around today. “Oh America, are we sliding into a revolution?”

But what can I do? I am just an old man
With a pen, who never slept with the editor
And never obeyed the rules they smooched. I ran
Like a timid mouse, though you can be sure
I was a haughty mouse. I would not join
Their catty corruption. And I’ve watched them sink
Lower and lower as they’ve kicked the groin
Of honor. Now they’ve made a sewer, and stink,
And all look at them knowingly, and thank
God they don’t share power, as stink wins new terms
speaking what they call a “policy plank”,
But the plank is of wood so full of worms
That they sail a ship dishonesty sank
As voters raise pens to fill in the blank.

When I tear my mind away from the grim reality of the election, I see life goes on, for ordinary people.  Children still swarm my Childcare as parents hurry to work, and the children quarrel and fight about things, utterly unaware of how they resemble Washington DC, and then silence descends as they troop to the bus.

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And in that silence I hear what the din of humanity usually hides. The sound of drops falling from colored leaves on a misty morning. And I also see things that escaped my sight.

Last spring an ex-employee planted cosmos in a tub by the gate, but so hot and dry was the summer that, despite watering, the cosmos never did well.  Many other plants bloomed, and the employee became my daughter-in-law, but the cosmos only sulked in the tub, as the newlyweds left for their brand new life, far away.

Only in September did the first buds form, and, as frost after frost cut plants down in the garden it seemed impossible the buds could ever bloom. September became October, and the frosts were sharper, but the cosmos plant only made more and more buds, and no blooms. Half of October passed, and a freeze killed even the most sheltered tomatoes, and I became very busy making sauce from the ruins, and then this morning I happened to look towards the tub as the children waited for the bus,  and saw….

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It surprised me that cosmos could survive frosts and freezes even after October 15, and burst into bloom. Perhaps America, the Land Of The Free, is the same, and will burst into riotous bloom after November 8.