It is going to be hard to speak these ugly words, however there are some doctors to whom the Hippocratic Oath is the mere mumbling of a meaningless ritual, empty words muttered by rote. At the risk of offending good doctors, I grimly remind all that there are bad doctors, and furthermore that there are also bad customers. Some seek doctors not to heal an elder or child or emotional relative or spouse, but rather to have them drugged, or even removed.
With such ugly truth in mind, I suggest people do some ugly math.
First, how much does it cost to keep a frail elder alive for a year in a state-run institution, especially when that elder is on a state pension? It easily comes to $100,000 a year, if not more.
Second, how much money could be saved if 5000 elders happened to die? Multiplying $100,000 by 5000 gives you a half billion dollars.
Third, why would a governor send infected people into the very eldercare facilities that should have been protected? This mistake was not made once, by a single bumbling official, but in several states, as if the infecting of eldercare facilities was a secret, damnable policy.
Lastly, why were underfunded facilities offered extra money for putting elders onto respirators, often against their will, though respirators can often be the kiss of death and do more harm than good?
We are seeing ugly events occur right before our eyes, and need to take hard looks and ask hard questions.
You are in everyone, Oh my Great God, Even in the most foul and corrupted. Yet they are the ones who think I am odd When I cry out the starving need to be fed. Yet they starve the worst, although they’re fat. They wallow in blubber, although they stuff More food in their maws. They never think that They need different food. They prance and fluff Like parodies of honest dignity. Children playing at being kings and queens Are more noble than the corrupt I see. Must I be kind to a fool who demeans Your Holy Name? Although they are starving It’s hard to be kind, when they’re the ones carving.
I can think of two times when rather than being paid for hard work, one is presented with a bill. The first is when one hires a physical trainer, which is a foolishness I have never been guilty of, and the second is when one does ones taxes. I have to deal with roughly 360 receipts per year, all at one time because I put off dealing with them until I “have the time” (which means “absolutely have to.”) To do all that work and then be billed thousands of dollars tends to crash me into a depression, and this year my funk was worse because I am funding a government which apparently has gone utterly mad. That is my excuse for writing the “Quitter’s Sonnet” I posted earlier. It was three AM and still hot outside and sleep was elusive.
It’s amazing what a couple hours of rich, deep sleep, and a bit of rosy daylight, and a fresh coffee, can do to a man’s mood. I wrote this Restoration Sonnet three hours later,
God is patient with those who chose what’s wrong For the right reasons. Not that the sinner Will escape the penalty, but along With remorse comes humor. The brave grinner Who bears his hangovers, and who laughs at His own stupidity, make’s life’s schooling A tale worth telling, and makes scorn fall flat. The scoffer is a fool who is fooling No one; few like the brags of a vain man, But he who laughs at himself makes all laugh With him, and may make God smile. One can Be rebuked and still see a better half. Though God always points out what is worse, He Gentles the sting with patience and mercy.
Death’s dark seems to be a gladdening shroud, To be preferred to the unceasing sting Of sly lies which goad the maddening crowd. Old salts can’t abide such a slick peppering Of pure truth with political speckles. It is like watching one you love chose wrong; A son chose disgrace. No true heart heckles When witnessing fear cower. I must long For courage I lack, for I flinch away From shame on display. I just cannot stand The lunacy. I am old and I am gray, And death seems better than to see Truth unmanned, Naked on the cross again, once again mocked; But my eyes won’t close. This path must be walked.
In the winter of 1776 those standing against tyranny and the world’s greatest army had shrunk to a few thousand ragtag soldiers, cold and hungry and some bootless and leaving bloody footprints in the snow. In a few days the weary men’s enlistment would be up and they could give up on the lost cause and go home. What hope had Liberty?
The desecration of the statue honoring the 54th Regiment on the Boston Common by Antifa puppets is typical of a Globalist mindset which believes the way to resolve our differences is through destruction. Such resolve is as futile as attempting to turn humanity into identical clones with identical fingerprints; even if such a stark utopia was forced upon humanity, the clones could not all stand in the same place at the same time, and therefore their brains would not hold identical data, and no amount of dogma could prevent the spread of creeping individuality. Differences cannot be destroyed.
Actually such destruction is an affront to the Creator, for He is the one who made us so marvelously different. If you have a problem with the fact we are not all the same, take it up with Him. Not that you will stop talking long enough to listen. For thousands of years He has been telling us that the answer to the problems created by our differences is not destruction, but Love. Yet who has listened?
The chief problem is divisiveness, which draws a distinction between “them” and “us”. Weak minds cannot see beyond such distinctions, and fall prey to a mindset of murder; IE: The way to resolve a difference is to remove the person who differs. Such murder does not need to be physical; it may be as subtle as shunning. But it is not Love.
The problem is not discrimination. We all discriminate. How else are we to judge what is good from what is evil? Martin Luther King asked us to discriminate, but to base our discrimination upon the quality of character and not the color of skin.
This is easy to say but hard to do. It is not easy to understand why people behave the way they do, when we do not share the same background. If you grew up in a trailer full of empty beer-cans you might better understand the mindset of people called “white trash” by the unsympathetic people some call “the elite”. However you didn’t grow up that way. Even if you share the same skin color misunderstandings may arise.
The path past misunderstanding is through respect, rather than tearing others down. This is not to say you can’t fight in self-defense, but that you shouldn’t start a fight based merely on the fact others are not the same. At the start of the Civil War the so called “Abolitionists” didn’t want to abolish individuality, but rather slavery. They drew a distinction and employed discernment, which the mob desecrating the statue to the 54th seemed to fail to do.
If the mob thought at all, they likely disliked the fact the statue portrays a white man up on a horse as the black foot soldiers are on foot. However this is historically accurate. Robert Gould Shaw did ride a horse, and may well have died with his troops, shot from a horse. On the other hand he may have died after dismounting to fight by their side.
But die he did.
At this point full disclosure demands I state my last name is Shaw. Robert Gould Shaw cannot be anyone’s ancestor because he died as a young man, without children. War is the opposite of Darwin’s Theory; those most fit to live are often the ones sacrificed. However I do count him among my ancestors.
I cannot be free of bias, because my own family is involved, but I can pass along some insights that have been passed down to me, that you will not find in Wikipedia.
The Civil War was far more complex than two groups of men dressing in blue and gray and squaring off, and the rivalry between Boston and New York predates baseball’s Red Sox and Yankees. Some of Boston’s elite and many of New York’s actually sided with the Confederacy, for reasons having to do with profit more than anything spiritual. For example, some did not desire to see the price of cotton go up.
For a young idealist like Robert Gould Shaw, who grew up benefiting from inherited wealth he didn’t have to get dirty fighting for, such grubby materialistic concerns were incomprehensible. Therefore his letters confess the “them” against “us” attitude of a young Abolitionist. He definitely was not perfect. If you want to find imperfections to excuse your desire to tear the Boston statue down, look to his letters.
If you want to find evidence of “racism”, look towards his inability to comprehend the Irish. Few could, for few had been through the hell the Irish had endured.
During the Great Famine of 1844-1849 the population of Ireland declined by roughly 20% through starvation, and around a million children died, as, rather than sending help, the English “elite” exported food from Ireland for profit. This heartlessness did not make the Irish expect much from the non-Irish. They expected little in the way of love from their fellow man. If they didn’t put themselves first, no one else would. They left Ireland in droves, penniless and with little but sweat to offer, and were not welcomed arrivals in many lands, unless you were a member of the “elite” and eager to exploit cheap labor.
In the American south the Irish were used for dangerous work that might kill a man. A slave cost the modern equivalent of several thousand dollars, and, if a slave died, it represented a sizable loss, whereas if an Irishman died it cost nothing.
In the north the Irish did receive pay, where southern slaves received none, but southern slaves had to be fed, clothed and sheltered, whereas the Irish had to fend for themselves, living in squalid tenements we can hardly imagine, yet calling themselves better off than in Ireland. They did not like the idea of slaves being freed, for they feared the slaves would come north and take their jobs.
All Robert Gould Shaw saw was the tip of the iceberg, and he had a hard time comprehending why the Irish behaved the way they did. In the privacy of his letters he expressed frustrations which he likely would not speak to an Irishman, face to face, (or would not speak without employing the care of a diplomat.)
In like manner, even as an Abolitionist, Robert’s letters express frustrations he felt about the African Americans who lived in the north as freed slaves, or in some cases as men who had been born free and were well educated, and were themselves exasperated by illiterate Irishmen.
(As an aside I should mention that when I was Robert Gould Shaw’s age, 110 years later, some “elite” quasi-genius (more dense than a half-wit) decided it was wrong for the Irish to have one neighborhood and the African-Americans to have another, in Boston, and the answer was “busing”, which in a sense was to forcibly rip children from safe environments and place them in unsafe areas. It went over like a lead balloon, and I recall experiencing great anguish as a witness, because I liked both neighborhoods and both peoples, yet saw the worst being fomented. I may have written some things at the time I would now rue having published, for frustration creates a fume that does not smell nice, and I basically became angry at three sides: African Americans, Irish, and also the leadership which was banging the two side’s skulls together.)
If you really feel it is a good thing to speak badly of the dead, and crave some evidence they were not perfect, look to old letters, or diaries they kept when they were young, or some traceable record of emails they wrote when drunk but deleted the next morning without ever sending. If you want to find some proof Rembrandt was not a good artist, find some work he did when he was five-years-old, and use that as an excuse to burn his masterpieces. All you are doing is proving you are an absolute snob, incapable of true understanding, true sympathy, and true Love.
The tale of Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Regiment is told in the movie, “Glory”, and is well worth retelling, though perhaps not by me. To put things in context, the battle of Gettysburg was July 1-3, the New York City Draft Riots were July 13-16, the Battle of Grimball’s Landing occurred on July 18, and the ferocious Second Battle of Fort Wagner was fought later the same day. Even Wikipedia will fill in the details, if you desire a broader view.
I bring up the Draft Riots to accent the complexity, and also the irony, involved. The riots occurred because the Irish were told they would be drafted to go fight and die to free slaves who would then later take their jobs, and they didn’t like the prospects, especially as rich people could escape the draft (for roughly $6200 in current dollars) and black people were exempt. In the sweltering heat of pre-airconditioning New York City the “peaceful demonstration” turned ugly, (sound familiar?) and the Irish turned their wrath onto the African Americans of New York City, brutally killing over ten, as over a hundred Irish died when troops, that had to be diverted from pursuing the retreating Confederate Army, were used to”restore order”. The irony is that this riot helped the Confederate Army escape, and therefore prolonged the very draft that was being protested, and also, even as the Irish protested that blacks were not going to be drafted, the 54th was marching south, many to their deaths, led by a white man who was only 25 years old.
At this point I’ll just add some family lore.
First, Robert did not initially want the job. He’d been fighting since the start of the war, had seen the bloodiest battles and twice was wounded, and did not want to desert his comrades. There was some doubt about the ability of black soldiers to face withering gunfire, and he feared he and his troops would be relegated to some behind-the-lines duty. The fact he was chosen was not so much a case of him stepping forward as it was of others stepping back. (It should be added that once he took the job, whatever racist preconceptions he had he shed, doing things such as demanding equal pay for his troops.)
Second, it was not merely in the North that there was doubt that black soldiers could withstand military discipline. In the south it was felt that, at the first bang of a gun, former-slave’s eyes would get very big, round and white, and they’d bolt. The 54th disproved this belief. Even before the first battle they created a sensation marching through southern streets in close order, radiating discipline, their uniforms impeccable and their buttons gleaming. The African American onlookers were especially impressed, (which the southern aristocrats felt set a bad example). Then in battle they fought without fear, basically rescuing the 10th Connecticut from envelopment early in the day, and gaining the ramparts of Fort Wagner in the afternoon. Although the higher command chose not to send further troops in to exploit this gain, instead ordering a withdrawal, there could be no doubt as to the skill and bravery of the 54th. But the reaction of the rebel troops was not admiration, but rather hatred and loathing, especially towards the commander who led them. Where the body of every other Union officer was returned to the Union side after the battle, the body of Robert Gould Shaw was stripped naked and dumped unceremoniously into a mass grave with his troops.
After the war there was an idea floated that his body might be exhumed and buried in some cemetery with honor, but the Shaw family stated he was proud to have served with his men and would likely be equally proud to be buried with them.
No long afterwards the mass graves were exhumed and the all the decomposing bodies were lain in neat rows with gravestones reading “Unknown”, but the Shaw family only wanted his sword back. Somehow they got it, and it was hauled out to be sentimentally displayed on occasion, until the blade gradually was forgotten and gathered dust in some attic until it wound up in a museum. However the surviving black troops didn’t forget, and were behind the erection of the memorial to the 54th, which was took decades to see brought to fruition; the statue itself was begun in 1884 and unveiled in 1897, and in 2020 took mere moments to desecrate with graffiti.
I often have wondered about the complete contempt displayed by the rebels toward the 54th and Robert Gould Shaw, for there is a contrary logic seen among soldiers wherein they must hate their foe to fight them, yet also feel admiration for the courage they witness in the men they maim and kill. What happened to the admiration in this case? I imagine what happened was that, despite the fact the rebels had defended their fort and won the battle, the 54th whom they had fought was a living proof the South had lost the intellectual war. Why? Because hand in hand with the concept of slavery is a concept like a caste system, which clashes with the idea that all men are created equal. The 54th had proven they were equal.
This leads me to a final anecdote from family lore, involving a similar caste-hierarchy in Boston, and the 54th marching off to war and passing the front of a prestigious club on Becon Street where the Boston Brahman were wont to gather.
By the summer of 1863 it had sunk in that, through the troops sung, “When Johnie Comes Marching Home Again”, many would not be marching home. The death toll was well on its way up to 600,000, which is basically a number the same as how many Americans have died in all other wars added together. Every older graveyard in New England has a crumbling monument to men buried far away, standing as mute testimony to the carnage which a Civil War involves. Therefore a poignancy was involved in the cheering, as the 54th marched by, with people putting on a brave face, and some holding back tears, until the troops marched in front of the club full of Brahmans. Their response? They pulled down the shades in the windows of their prestigious club.
Even 157 years later their snooty, self-imposed blindness is, upon this page, angrily remembered. It demonstrates that even in my own family bitterness is difficult to drop.
Not all memorials are raised to people’s most noble side; bitterness is a stone statue in our hearts, making hearts heavy, burdened. God urges us to love and forgive, but we prefer a poison which we ingest thinking it will harm others, when it harms ourselves and our children, just as the feud between Montegues and Capulets in the end killed Romeo and Juliet.
“The Lord is slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generations.”
My great-grandfather was born in 1850, and that makes me the “fourth generation” since the horrors of the Civil War. I like to think my children are freed from the bitterness, for they are the fifth generation. However to achieve such freedom we must pull down statues, but not those erected externally, but rather the inner ones in our stony hearts.
Pulling down external statues is like pulling down the shades. There is something we do not want to see. But if we do not look at history and learn from it we are doomed to repeat it, as are our children.
‘The fathers eat the sour grapes, But the children’s teeth are set on edge’
If we only see the error of the past, we accent error and fail to see the glory which, if God is everywhere, is in every situation.
For, when you think of it, if your forefathers were completely bad, and all they did was bad, then you should start by pulling down yourself, for you are their creation. However, if you think your forefathers were good to create you, and it is only other forefathers who deserve destruction, then you are on the road to a Brahman racism all your own.
I actually have learned to like the image of the Boston Brahman pulling the blinds as the 54th marched by. It has great poetic value as a symbol. For the fact is this: A parade is marching in front of all of us, and we can either pull the blinds, or see the glory.
To those who can see no noble parade marching by, I say look beyond the blinds. Often what modern technology brings to the forefront is an ugliness in the way of beauty, but the beauty is still there, parading by behind it.
. UNWATCHED PARADE SONNET
I paused my weeding, ceased my looking down And gazed across the pasture to the trees That wavered green; looked up from dirt’s brown Hearing and seeing an invisible breeze Part summer’s locks with a sigh that’s unheard With the radio on. Every green leaf stirred. Every green branch swayed. Far too short a word Is five-lettered “trees”, and it seems quite absurd Such marvelous wind invisibly passes Unseen and unheard, like an unwatched parade, When I fret about news of rioting masses And make myself deaf to music God’s made. God knows how we ache and sends us His balm. Turn off the radio. Heed, and be calm.
Weather is unfair. Some get rain and some don’t. There is nothing particularly evil about this unfairness. It is just how the Creator made creation. Sometimes you get a bumper crop, and sometimes you are lucky to get a single turnip. The politicians in Washington can legislate all they want, but they aren’t going to alter the fall of raindrops from the clouds. Prayer might work, but legislation doesn’t.
One interesting thing about droughts is that they tend to perpetuate themselves. The dryness creates hotter temperatures which deflect moisture around the periphery of the core. This is quite obvious when the drought is gigantic, as the Dust Bowl was in 1936, but even in the cases of smaller and more local droughts rain has a strange propensity to snub those who need it most.
A current drought afflicts southern Vermont and New Hampshire, along their borders with Massachusetts, and today it was uncanny how the thunderstorms, moving east to west, avoided the lands that thirsted most. There were flash flood warnings blaring from the weather radio, as we dealt with dust. Here is a radar map of rain from this afternoon.
The impressive storms south of Boston and Albany and over Springfield were moving west to east, as were the string of lesser showers to the north approaching Concord. But most irksome to me was the storm right on the Massachusetts-New Hampshire border, approaching the coast. It was a cluster that had looked hopeful as it entered Vermont in the morning, but “dried up” and vanished from the radar as it crossed over me, and only reappeared and blew up to a big thunderstorm as it neared Portsmouth on the coast. Is that fair?
I know, even as I grouse about the extra work I must do watering my plants, that it is fair. The actions and reactions of nature are not only fair, they are beautiful. They are incredible harmony, and the only reason we complain is because we are not in harmony with the harmony. We have our own specific desires that are blind. For example, I transplanted some wet, cucumber seedlings into dusty soil, and failed to immediately water them, and the next day it was too late; they had withered and watering didn’t revive them. Never in my experience have cucumber seedlings needed to be watered so immediately; this June is “A First”. However I didn’t blame the drought; I blamed my inability to adapt to the “sumptuous variety of New England weather”. The weather itself is fair; what is unfair is our responses to it.
Sunday is suppose to be a Day Of Rest, and therefore I suppose working in my garden makes me a sinner, but I tried to lessen the eventual penalty I must pay by making my work into a sort of worship. Rather than cursing the drought I was praising the Creator for the amazing variety that makes my fingerprints different from all others, and also makes every summer unique. Not that I didn’t hope for rain. I hunched my eyebrows to the west, seeking the cumulus that was building.
Storms can build up from innocent-looking cumulus with surprising speed. In fact the vast expenditure needed to create the Doppler Radar produced images which shocked the indoors meteorologists who lobbied for it, which leads me to a bit of a sidetrack.
Back in those days congress didn’t just print money when they needed it, and they told the indoors meteorologists they needed to cut their budget in some areas before they would fund the expensive Doppler Radar. So what the indoor meteorologists did was to fire hundreds of outdoors weather-observers. They figured it was worth it, for they figured Doppler Radar would allow them to track individual thunderstorms in the manner that individual hurricanes were tracked. But what the Doppler Radar revealed was that there is no such thing as “an individual thunderstorm”. A storm was a “complex” of updrafts and down-bursts, forming “cells” of various types, sometimes fighting each other and sometimes assisting each other. The Doppler Radar revealed that, rather than a swirl like a hurricane that could be tracked, a thunder storm was a pulsating blob that made dividing amoebas look dull: breaking in two or into three, or becoming mega-cells, or vanishing, in a manner which was basically impossible to predict, from indoors. What was needed was outdoors observers, but those good people had been fired to save money. It was sort of funny to watch how the indoors meteorologists tried to save face. They made it sound like they were doing the public a favor by enlisting them as “volunteer” observers, called “spotters”. A job taxpayers once payed for is now done for free, but you get what you pay for. Around here a “spotter” caused complete chaos in early June by thinking a shred of cloud was a tornado. I’d take an old-fashioned outdoors observer any day, as some had decades of experience.
A further disrespect towards the old outdoors observers involves indoors meteorologists “correcting” the records they kept. Dr. James Hanson was notorious for such fudging of facts. I think it was done to make modern “Global Warming” look worse than the murderous heat and drought of 1936, but that gets us into politics, and it is unwise to go there.
I’d do the job, if only the indoors meteorologists would get off their high horses and confess Doppler Radar only proved they were ignorant. They closed hundreds of valuable stations, run by valuable outdoor observers, to get a gadget that basically tells you a thunderstorm is bad after it already is bad. An outdoor observer can do the same. But hell if I’ll do it if the people I do the favor for behave as if they are doing me the favor. The fact of the matter is they are not God, they have no control of the weather, and it is far better to be humble in such a situation than puff your ego on a high horse.
Not that I blame them for liking Doppler Radar. It is a cool gadget. Another cool gadget tells you just when lightning bolts hit, and even when you can expect to hear the thunder. I actually like this particular gadget more than Doppler Radar, for it will inform you the moment a ordinary shower becomes a thunder shower. You can even set it to make an audible click, the moment a nearby cloud first makes a bolt. This gadget produced the map below, as the Doppler Radar produced the map above.
This is a wonderful gadget, because, when you focus in on your local area, it not only shows you where the flash you just saw, arriving in your eyes at the speed-of-light, hit he ground, but also shows you a slowly enlarging circle, expanding at the-speed-of-sound, to tell you when to expect to hear the thunder. However even this gadget has its weakness. As an outdoors observer, engrossed with worshipful weeding of my garden on Sunday, I noticed I was hearing thunder this gadget didn’t admit existed.
The reason I could hear such thunder was obvious to me, although I am no Sherlock Holmes. Not all lightning hits the ground, but such lightning makes thunder. A storm can shoot bolts cloud to cloud, ten or even twenty miles from it’s core. Soft, cloud-to-cloud thunder can be heard by outside observers like me, even when gadgets are deaf.
I was in some ways glad it didn’t rain, as I had to weed the beans, and you can’t weed beans in a wet situation because doing so causes problems with a virus attacking the bean’s leaves. (No, it is not the Corona Virus and no, you don’t need to wear a mask. You simply weed when the leaves are dry).
Although drought may be good for beans when you weed them, after weeding they thirst for water. I had to water some flats of seedlings I intend to soon transplant, even as soft thunder muttered from both the north and south. The carrots and tomatoes were crying out for weeding, but I had to water first. It isn’t fair, but is just is how things are. And I eventually did weed some carrots and all the tomatoes, and also the peppers, as daylight faded and you actually could see the lightning to the north and the lightning to the south, which went along with the soft sky thunder. Yet still we remained dry.
As the late day June sun settled and the mosquitoes came out I decided enough worship was enough, and headed to my front stoop to relax with a worshipful beer. And it was then I felt I became a most blessed outdoors observer. I was witnessing stuff Doppler Radar misses.
Some storm to the south was a little closer than the others. The thunder was still soft, but a few flashes of lightning seemed brighter. And then I noticed, against slow moving higher clouds, speeding scud.
There was hardly a draft down where I sat, but the outflow of distant storms produced a wind, around a thousand feet up, of marvelous speed. (I can’t recall ever seeing scud moving so fast, outside of hurricanes). With an imagination like mine it was easy to see an angel on a speeding horse.
What this outflow did was to uplift a local cloud just enough to make it shower. At first it was just a few big drops, platting here or there, but then it became a soft roar in the crisp June foliage of parched trees, at first far away like a whisper, but then edging and sidling closer, until a brief down-burst hit the stoop I hearkened from.
In India they celebrate a monsoon’s first rain. The evening chorus of songbirds hushed at the approach of a downpour in a drought. It began as a sigh on the very edge of hearing, but became an approaching roar. All became giddy in a way only drought knows. My wife came out and stood beside me as the flooding baptism approached, and then began splatting fat, warm droplets down in a way that raised tiny clouds of the dust it pelted. And then all too soon the sigh faded away through the darkening trees. I looked up through parting clouds and saw the high heavens feathered with sunset’s crimson cirrus.
Through parched trees comes the sigh of marching rain, And even evening birds bow heads, made mute With gratitude. The drenched do not complain For it’s been so dry that sunbeams refute Green growing, and, as first fat drops pelt The dirt, small puffs of dust are arising, And now the sigh surrounds. I once felt This way when a kiss brought a surprising End to loneliness. But this shower’s brief And already the soft sigh slides away Through dimming evening; sweet mercy’s relief Fades to memory’s grief, and dripping leaves pray The way men pray when they confess they lack: “Oh Lord, come back. Come back. Come back.”
On Monday we got a mini-monsoon. The heat encouraged a general updraft to form a weak low over southern Maine, which sucked cool and moist maritime air inland and then south towards us, where it clashed with muggy air. At first the showers continued to dry up, as radar showed them approaching, but thunder thumped all around, and finally we got a few more showers. Around sixty miles to our south one locale got four inches and suffered wash-outs, but for the most part we dripped in a delightful summer drizzle. Who would ever think I could delight in drizzle?
Our heat wave continues. We have been hotter than Florida, at times. Also it is dry as a bone. Each day some thunder grumbles in the distance, but they are small showers and miss us.
I am losing some seedlings in the garden, as I can’t devote as much time to watering as I’d like, and the sprinkler only waters a small patch at a time. I think I can recall some years when the soil has been baked this dry by late August, but I can never recall soil being like powder in June before.
It makes me think we are in for a cold winter. It is odd, but often the places most above normal in July are most below normal by the next January, (I have noticed this because Global Warming Alarmists always point out the places most-above-normal, which makes them like sitting ducks for the ruthless counterpoints of Skeptics, who are highly skilled at pointing out when places that “proved the world was warming” in July seemingly “prove a new Ice Age is coming” by the following February,) (It has happened too many times to mention, but the time that stands out in my mind was a few years back, when the Siberian tundra and taiga baked, and fires raged in the conifers and smoldered in the bone dry sod to such a degree that the smoke was visible from outer space, and smoke’s haze gave Moscow very bad visibility, which of course caused Alarmist hoopla, yet the next winter saw the the same tundra and taiga set a new Northern Hemisphere record for the coldest temperature ever recorded. [nearly minus 90 Fahrenheit; minus 68 Celsius.] This whiplash from above to below normal makes me think that, rather than attempting to water my baked garden, I should be cutting firewood!)
Not that I have time for either watering or sawing. I have to do my taxes. Usually they are due by April 15, but due to the Corona Virus the due date was extended to July 15. So I of course put it off. Don’t lecture me. If you had any idea how busy my life is, you would be on my side. And what side is that? It is the side that states bureaucrats should be put in jail for cluttering the lives of active people with the demand that we waste precious time keeping tedious, nitpicking records.
When I do my taxes I basically face a giant heap of receipts and bank statements and credit card bills, in many cases wrinkled and/or faded by a dashboard’s sunshine and/or stained by coffee. Amazingly, I am adept at putting the deplorable disorder into chronological order and in all the proper stacks and columns, but God knows I have better things to do. Children are crying and my goats are nagging and my seedlings are withering and the ducks, chickens and rabbit demand feeding, and my dog sighs deeply, and also I am a poet and need time to write. But lazy bureaucrats with nothing better to do insist, so I comply.
Actually it is fun, in a strange way, to look at all the receipts and remember all the stuff you hardly noticed doing at the time, in your rush. (Or in my rush, at least.) It becomes obvious to me that bureaucrats are cursed not only because they plague the innocent, but also because they miss so much that is rich and beautiful.
It might be fun to some day be audited, and to then watch the face of the IRS auditor as he gradually woke up to the richness of my life, going through my receipts. Where he looks at a drab screen and clicks a dull keyboard day after day, my receipts hint at a wider world. True, a receipt is not the same as the actual event, in the same way seeing a bear in a nature-documentary does not increase your pulse in the same manner as meeting an actual bear in the actual woods. But a documentary can open your eyes.
For example, the auditor might note a couple of suspicious receipts for things that seem to have nothing to do with running a Childcare; a tiny aquarium dip-net and an adult book about toads. Then the auditor might make the mistake of asking me to explain, for all that is scrawled on those two receipts is “tadpoles to toads.” I’d then lean back and grin and get garrulous; the audit would take days, if the auditor wasn’t careful.
Tadpoles to toads? Well, in the sweltering heat I had to quit my heap of receipts and do my best to continue a theme of one branch of my so-called “curriculum”. My hard-working staff appreciated having fewer hot-and-bothered children in their groups, as I collected some older and more-inventive rascals to go to the nearby flood-control-reservoir in the oppressive heat and humidity, to check up on the tadpoles.
Small kids have a strange mixture of tenderness and heartlessness towards small creatures, one moment ripping legs off to see how an insect responds, and the next cooing terms of endearment to a crippled “pet”. (Sometimes they kill frogs by hugging them). It is a hard job to teach them to respect life, and to teach a great Truth: Sometimes the way to be loving is to not touch. This is especially true concerning blondes, and also tadpoles.
Wood frog tadpoles look a lot like toad tadpoles, and I bored the kids exceedingly by telling them the difference, during the cooler days back in April when the last ice melted and the amphibians awoke. Both wood frogs and toads spend their lives in the woods away from ponds, but the wood frog’s mating music sounds like a cross between a plucked banjo string and a duck, while the toad has a beautiful, long trill. The frog lays eggs as a mass, while the toad lays long strings. The wood frog lays eggs in vernal pools away from a pond’s predators, while a toad lays eggs in the shallowest water where predators seldom go. The children yawned. As far as they were concerned a tadpole was a tadpole.
When the small children get haughty with me I know I likely deserve it; (children have little time for an old man’s garrulous yammering), but one approach I have is to be just as haughty right back at them. I lay it on thick, slapping my forehead and staggering about exclaiming, “Oh! How could you say such a thing! A tadpole is just a tadpole? Incredible! Simply incredible!” The kids find such antics amusing, and then tend to actually listen.
This year I ranted, “You call these piddling things tadpoles? Now, a bullfrog tadpole, that’s something to see, and takes two years to mature. It’s got to swim like a fish, to live so long. These little pathetic black blobs can barely move with their tiny tails; I’m surprised they don’t drown, but they will be turning to frogs in just a few weeks. Better to just call them pollywogs, not tadpoles.”
Our drought created a crisis for the wood frogs, for the vernal pools began drying up. This brought out the compassion in the children. Where they had been mercilessly poking and tweaking the tadpoles just days earlier, all of a sudden they were faced with a mass of squirming tadpoles facing certain death in the final remaining water of an evaporating puddle, and decided to conduct an emergency evacuation to the nearby flood-control-reservoir. Rushing back and forth with small cups of tadpoles kept them busy for most of a hot morning. I cancelled my hike-and-lecture for that morning, for they obviously were having great fun, and also were displaying kindness (and were quite puffed up about how noble they were being.) One boy made a wailing noise like an ambulance as he rushed the small creatures to the pond. I didn’t spoil their party by mentioning what they were likely doing was feeding the bass.
They put the wood frog tadpoles in the shallow water where the toad tadpoles were just starting to appear, and, as the two species look nearly identical, (like black punctuation marks with tails too skimpy to be commas), there was understandable confusion, and they felt, in the following days, that the toad tadpoles were “their” wood frog tadpoles. I didn’t puncture their illusion, as they had slightly more consideration for the creatures by taking ownership, though they still managed to kill a few by scooping them from the water in cupped hands.
Toad pollywogs crowd the shore in amazingly shallow water, at times seeming beached like miniature whales. This made them easy to catch, and I tried to dissuade the kids from “rescuing” them by pushing the tadpoles out into deeper water. Not only did this compassion accidentally smush some of the tiny creatures, but it put them out where fish lurk, and even though toad tadpoles have the same poison adult toads have in their skin, and can kill some fish, other fish either have iron stomachs, or don’t mind dying. In any case the pollywogs wriggle in the slime of algae by the shore. Not only do they eat algae, but algae grows on their skin, and in some weird way having algae grow on them helps them grow faster. Yet, even as I tell the kids all this interesting trivia, I can see the little cartoon thought-balloons above their heads saying, “Too much information” and “Who cares?”
In yesterday’s heat and humidity they cared less than usual about all my talk about toads. All they wanted was to wade, the deeper the better. I stated they could wade up to their thighs, and they tested that limit constantly, and also squatted down to be immersed to their necks, so I became more of a frowning lifeguard demanding they retreat to shallower waters, than a professor of toadism.
Even though I never had to get wet saving anyone, it is surprisingly cooler right next to water in a hot spell, and eventually the cooled children grew bored of getting wet and started to meander down the shoreline, as I trailed along behind. At one point they came rushing back due to seeing a water snake, but it turned out to be the inner tube of a bicycle, that somehow wound up in a remote spot. I didn’t scold them for being fooled. It takes a professor like myself to spot the difference.
They were fascinated by the sunfish-nests just off shore, sandy areas cleared of all algae and protected by a jealous fish. They were puzzled by how few tadpoles there seemed to be, all of a sudden. Then they were grossed-out by what seemed to be lots of fleas, hopping about the shore. But they were not fleas. They were incredibly small baby toads.
We had lucked into wandering the shore during the brief period when toads all rush inland together as a minuscule stampede. Not one toad showed the slightest interest in fleeing us back towards the water. They headed inland even when it involved climbing steep slopes and cliffs. They were so numerous the children could hold four or five in the palm of their hands, despite my instruction that baby toads are too fragile to be picked up.
A toad’s metamorphosis must be amazingly fast, for there were still some tadpoles in the water, yet I only saw a single example of a tadpole in an intermediate phase, with both tail and legs. Perhaps my eyes are less keen. Someone should study the subject. But I did have the brains to not start talking about “metamorphosis” with the kids. They seemed entranced, without needing my help.
I felt I was seeing a sort of verification of my personal philosophy involving children and nature, which seems completely opposed to some socialist views. Socialists seem to feel it is best to herd children into indoctrination centers and to badger them with a guilt which suggests that man hurts nature, and they should never hurt nature by treading on its dirt, and therefore the only moral response to nature is to only experience nature in dark auditoriums via videos.
An odd thought occurred to me, and it was this; A socialist would have a hard time with the relationship between toad tadpoles and algae. They would either see the toad as the bad guy, for eating the algae, or see the algae as the bad guy, for growing on the toad and in a sense “eating” the toad. What is hard to intellectually grasp is that both the toad and the algae benefit, (and they even have the audacity to benefit without obtaining permits from bureaucratic socialists).
In like manner a small-minded socialist shudders at the sight of a child ripping the legs off an ant, or accidentally killing a tadpole, and cannot see how nature could benefit from such an experience. However nature does benefit from the interaction, for in the process the child is awakened to the marvel God has created, and falls in love with nature. Watching the children marvel over the tiny toads made me feel they were becoming people far more likely to preserve a woodland than to tear it down.
I also felt that perhaps I was demonstrating to socialists everywhere that sometimes a small business can do what Big Government cannot. A thousand small, independent neighborhood schools is better than a single vast institution. Having a field trip of several thousand kids on the shore of the flood-control-reservoir would have trampled the experience utterly.
In an odd way it seems to me that socialists, with their love of organization and order, are the ones ripping the legs off little ants.
They fail to see the Light, and therefore are enamored of shadow. And that seems worth a sonnet, before I get back to my taxes.
. SHADOW SONNET
What fools these shadows seem, approaching The Light with swords drawn, yet all shrinking The closer they get. The Light’s reproaching Their arrogance, but they go on thinking They’ll snuff the Light, dreaming darkness rules. They think in darkness no one will see Their plots, but darkness makes them the blind fools. Without the Light they will simply cease to be. Without a Creator, the creation can’t Continue. So it goes. As they persist The Light reveals their nature. With each rant They get smaller. With a toddler’s small fist They approach Light shrinking like shadows at noon. Worms under rocks shrink from even the moon.
Our drought and heatwave continues. Not all that hot for Texas, but hot for these hills; ninety ( 32 celsius).
Yesterday it was so hot my dog lay about all day, then took off on me as we walked out to the car in the evening. She was out all night. Smart dog. Definitely not a mad dog or Englishman. She must have had a good time; she had a definite sparkle in her eye this morning. I was just glad she was alive, and I didn’t get fined.
Too hot for politics. I only watched snippets of the Trump rally. Few wore masks. The BLM leftists were blocking the entrances. I was impressed by the restraint on the part of most of the Trump supporters. The left seems to be itching to divide the country, and the hot weather doesn’t help, but things remain hanging by a thread, as if we are midst a domestic cold war. My approach is to limit the news I watch. Worry doesn’t help.
I thought it was a good sign that the first bird to sing in the dusk before dawn this morning was a dove.
This dawn a dove’s first coo beats the thrushes First gushes of song; Mars glares though black haze to the east. Heat’s paused. The cooing hushes A fretful, sleepless child, who at long last lays A hot cheek on the pillow’s cool side, Finding instant sleep. Mars fades as the coos Query the blushing east, a sane aside Midst a heat-wave’s madness; water’s cool blues Midst yellow dust; a momentary pause Midst the riot of thrushes, as if all birds Cocked heads to heed the recital of laws Unbroken midst shattered glass, unspoken words Which make even stars grow modest and fade. The old dove coos from the cool of the shade.
Longest days awaken some memory Which I doubt it is Christian to admit: Some echo from past lives, wherein you see Beyond the everyday. Because of it The pumpkin twilight on the black ridge-line Strangely moves one, after the long, hot day. Like a thoughtless dog, one sniffs a divine Perfume which utterly distracts dismay. Does mood have a scent? The sweet aftershave Of summer’s late twilight allures, enchants, And seduces my mind from the dark cave It dug for itself with self-righteous rants, And though I drive home, I see my heart roams As within I steer towards the highest of homes.
. CRESCENDO SONNET
All worldly bliss must come to an end, though Joy is Grace; only fools would deny it. Symphonies must swell to a crescendo Like birdsong’s explosive summer riot At sunrise. Why sulk that this too will pass? Would it be as lovely if made everyday? And listen beyond the birdsong. Even the grass Hearkens to faintest thunder far away, Thirsty for drenching. Those growls will grow And morning will purple; lightning’s flashes Will mount to a second wild crescendo. Then, as sheets of rain part branch’s thrashes, You’ll change your tune, and you’ll say its OK That crescendos are things that wander away.
. DROUGHT SONNET
My prayers were answered. When I shivered In April’s falling slush I wished hot sun Would beat down. Hot sun is now delivered And I sweat in the shade. I am the one To blame for the soil turning to powder And blooms turning their faces from the sun. All wilts. My wife wishes I allowed her To do my praying, but I am the one Who must stand in the garden, a scarecrow Holding a hose. And I can think of worse Ways to spend my time. My plants barely grow Despite my efforts, but I will not curse. It is more fun to splash than complain, Recalling the shivers of cold April rain.
People who want to garden for pleasure should make certain to keep their gardens small. The smaller the better. I recommend a single planter. Otherwise gardening is more like jogging five miles in the morning: When you face the hill at Mile-Three you question your own sanity.
There will be, of course, the exultation. That is what runners call a “second wind”, but, before that “second wind” comes, one sees their mind fill up with quarreling, as if a buck private was screaming back at the screaming sergeant at boot camp, or even like a patient picking up a knife to defend himself from a surgeon approaching with a scalpel. It is such a mental ruckus that its occurrence mystifies all those who have idealized ideas about gardening.
In fact many who begin “gardening for pleasure” in April abandon the enterprise as a bad idea by June, and by July they are getting nagged by bureaucrats on the local zoning board for their patch of towering weeds. Be forewarned.
To me the actual pleasure of a big garden involves a more fundamental and ancient joy, called “avoiding starvation”. It has been 400 years since my first European ancestors stepped onto these shores, and the first 300 years saw most Americans rooted to the soil, living lives that made it very obvious that if you didn’t work, you didn’t eat. There was no real escape; if you went broke you didn’t receive welfare; you went to the “poor farm” and went on working.
Currently our society is going through a period of confusion wherein many think they can, like ticks and leeches, suck off the lifeblood of others. Not merely the poor man on the dole; but the wealthy politician profiting from other’s taxes; the slippery investor on Wall Street; and even the retiree collecting an oversized pension, may be attempting to reap more than they sowed. This is bound to create resentment among those who reap less than they sow. The spectacle of a bloated Union Boss driving a fancy car and wearing pinkie rings, as the worker on the factory floor he represents pays dues and wears pants with frayed cuffs, does not inspire confidence, or even the desire to work harder. If anything it suggests laziness pays, and inspires sloth.
It is good to escape this confusion into the more real world of a vegetable garden. It is a reality which persists even when it is easier and cheaper to buy food at a market. And, if the societal breakdown ever collapses to a degree wherein the shelves are empty in the markets, perhaps the connection to the ancient joy of survival will be less of a mere concept, and more real. Money is worthless if the markets are empty, whereas dirt has value when it holds potatoes.
However, in the rush to finish spring planting in June, the “joy” is most definitely unapparent. It is then one is most like a jogger approaching a steep hill, muttering to himself, “Why do I do this? Jogging is STUPID!”
Perhaps the most difficult moment is arising from bed in the morning. The physical work involved in small-scale gardening made me achy even as a young man, and as I approach age seventy the pain seems more constant; I never seem able to “get in shape”. Also I seem to work in slow motion. I spend far more time leaning on my hoe than actually using it. Not that anyone is going to want to hear the violins of my self pity. They’ll just affirm the voice in my own head: “Why do you garden? Gardening is STUPID”.
Rather than whine to others, I turn to the blues, and try to make sonnets of my grouching:
. FIRST COFFEE SONNET
Who knows if songbirds are ambivalent When they first awake? Who fathoms bird brains? Perhaps they need some bird-equivalent Of coffee, before cascading refrains Of music fill our forests. Perhaps…perhaps… I hate to think of birds as superior To a poet, yet dawn’s a complete collapse Of my morale, and I’m inferior To birds, before my first cup of coffee. I glower at pert birds; call each a twit; Resent their singing. They seem to scoff me As I drag to the pot with zero wit And the only thing I’m able to praise Is the coffee inthis cup I now raise.
. FIRST ASPIRIN SONNET
All I get from gardening is my lame grunts As I rise in the morning. Pathetic! I feel I won’t survive the few hot months Before harvest. Reward? Others will get it. My harvest’s to limp to, (before coffee), My aspirin bottle…and guilt, as before Coffee and pills God should look down and see Me at prayer. I guess, with my limbs sore, I could pray for a morning that’s pain-free; For mercy, and miraculous healings, And dirt with no big rocks as I spade it; Yet I suppose that might hurt God’s feelings. I should thank Him life’s just how He made it: Old men plant saplings, although they won’t see The apples that some day will hang from the tree.
This is not to say that, after aspirin and coffee, old gardeners can’t find joy in new gardens. There is the joy of old efforts from prior years; the rhubarb and asparagus that spring up without my raising a finger, from old roots. And there is the first handful of flat snow peas, small servings at dinner twice as delectable as any store’s, and all the more delectable because I beat other local gardeners by two weeks, and harvested first. And then there’s the faithful old standby, so good for children as it can be harvested in a mere twenty days, the radish.
What could be fresh and new about a radish? Glad you asked. I can recall growing radishes as a rugrat back in the 1950’s, yet in all these years I never knew you could eat the greens. Last night I had a mess of delicious radish greens fried up in olive oil with garlic, which goes to show you every spring hold’s something new, and also that you can teach an old dog new tricks.
For example, strips of black plastic make for less weeding between potatoes during July heatwaves. Black plastic may be ugly, newfangled stuff, and likely screws up the ecology of soil chemistry in some unforeseen way, but old men are allowed to resort to cheap tricks to avoid bending their creaky backs….I think…
I can’t hear the thrush sing, ‘midst hammering Of political nails. Clamoring throngs Demand music from a poor, stammering Singer they drown out. Mobs demand sweet songs From guitars they break; cruel rapists wonder Why there’s no sweet love. Having shouted down Meek poets, Silence is like clear thunder; Quiet knows bullies earn high heaven’s frown. Deep down all hearts recognize that dismay Is not a kind master, and that salted soil Grows no flowers. As fool’s raging destroys Humble hope, ruining works that men toil To make song, not all that’s heard is mere noise, But also the silenced, ostracized meek Who are praying for Silence to thunderously speak.