LOCAL VIEW –The Underground Bugs–

I’ve always been a member of the underground, and the underground bugs people who believe you should be up front and honest, and step forward to be shot at.  About the only time I “came out” in any way, shape or form was in 1969, and that wasn’t really my doing. I was not at all cool in my school, being rather shaggy and unkempt, but suddenly that was in style, and to my amazement people were abruptly looking up to me as some sort of authority on coolness. It didn’t last long. Before I could really settle into the novel experience of being in-fashion, Disco came along, and I was back to being an outcast.

I don’t really see how people find the time to be fashionable. There are much better things to think about, and too little time to think about them. So I have tended to go my own way, disinterested in fashion, and far more interested in this thing called “Truth”.

Many fashionable people don’t want to hear the Truth, preferring  stuff they find snazzier, and therefore Truth gets relegated to their subconscious, and if they want to get at the Truth they have to hire a psuedoscientist psychologist. I had better things to do with my money, (and anyway, back in the 1970’s when I fooled about with such things, I tended to cause psychologists nervous breakdowns by telling them the Truth about psychology).

Years have past, and I’ve become a grouchy old man who wanders an inner world others avoid, and I’ve discovered that this underground bugs people. For example, people say you should be up front and honest, but when I have told the Truth about Global Warming I am told I am a “Denier” and should zip my lip. I don’t. One of the prerogatives of being a grouchy old man is that you don’t have to be as shy and reclusive as a young poet must be, and you are allowed to be a royal pain, and heck if I am going to give up that right.

In any case, it is likely for this reason I identify with underground bugs, especially when they go to the top of a tree and scream at the top of their lungs. We had a bunch of these “come out” yesterday, as little brown crawly things that scrabbled slowly up the sides of trees, and then cracked their backs. Not only did they come out of the dirt and darkness, but they came out of their old selves.

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That bunched-up thing to the side is a wing, and the first order of business for this bug, called a “cicada”, is to pump up that wing so it works.

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The kids at our Farm-childcare were not entirely impressed by this wonder, and some found it pretty gross.Cicada 3 IMG_3562

However I myself found it a wonder, and also a handy symbol; IE:  If you come out of the dirt and darkness into the Truth and Light you discover you have wings.

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This means you have to leave the dirt and darkness and the husk of your old self behind. Unfortunately back in 1969 hippies like myself didn’t get this part quite right. We felt being open and honest meant plunging into lust and drugs and greed, and made a mess of things by remaining with the old husk.

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Not that joy wasn’t involved, and being depraved wasn’t such fun that, if I was young again, I might not be tempted to make the same mistakes all over again. But even insects know enough to leave the husk behind.

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They fly to the tree tops and sing a song that contributes to the sheer sizzle of summer.  And we? What do we have in hand? The mere husk of life?

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Besides the emergence of cicadas being an interesting tidbit of science, the underground bugs also demonstrates how I can take a symbol and run with it. Many psychologists find this unnerving, because they figure they are suppose to be telling you what the symbols mean, but poets (and small children) tend to juggle symbols and fling them about like paper airplanes, while psychologists are still laboriously counting on their thumbs and consulting the manual.

By the way, the cicadas that spend 17 years underground before emerging have red eyes and live further south. Therefore, in the true spirit of Yankee one-upsmanship, I have decided to call our species  “18-year-cicadas” (until I learn otherwise.)

I can feel a sonnet brewing. I’ll add it on to this post later if I get around to writing it, but I think the final line will be, “It’s amazing how long some can live in the dark.”

(PS:  I finally wrote the sonnet on July 31):

Some summer long ago I knew the light,
But fell to earth and came to dwell down deep
In dank tunnels, subsisting on sap. Sight
Became a groping thing, and to creep
Became the norm, until today I got
The crazy urge to quit sucking the sap.
The dark felt suffocating, and I thought
I must go up for air, and left the trap
I’d long embraced. I climbed up, returned
To the dazzle of light, the push of wind.
My crusty skin felt old; my back burned;
And then I split from the husk where I’d been pinned.
I find I’ve grown a set of lacy wings
And can fly to tree tops where romance sings.

LOCAL VIEW –THE BALLET OF A BROOK–

It is Friday night, and after the week I’ve been through I’m ready to tell responsibility to go to hell. I figure that is OK, if I have done “responsibility” all week. It is Monday morning that winds you up in trouble, if you tell responsibility to go to hell..

Last week some of my excellent employees were unavailable for work, so I had to step in and cover for them. Considering they had recently covered for me, as I had a kidney removed, I am not about to whine much. But I will whine just a little bit, because being post-operative reminded me of something I’d nearly forgotten: This world doesn’t need me. I can kick back, and everything doesn’t collapse in a heap. I sort of liked kicking back, but last week I abruptly had to stop it.  My first real vacation in fifteen years was over.

Most people seem to need a vacation to recover from a vacation. They have no desire to return to the rat race, because they have fleetingly seen life can be much, much better. The revelation is downright traumatic, which is why they need another vacation. They need to reassess. They need to reevaluate what the hell they are suffering for.

It was different for me, because I was craving to get back to work. When the vacation is enforced, due to an operation, you are itching to get back in the saddle. Then, when you are allowed to again do the most simple things, such as sweep a powder of snow from steps, the joy you feel is all out of proportion to the magnitude of the task. Sweeping of the snow is no earth-shaking deed, yet you feel like singing the Hallelujah Chorus.

Yet I too had no desire to return to the rat race. There is something about calling our labor a “rat race” that demeans life. We are missing the point. We are missing the majesty.

When my wife and I started our Farm-childcare nearly a decade ago we hadn’t read “Last Child In The Woods” by Richard Louv or “Simplicity Parenting” by Kim John Payne. But we knew what they knew. Our society is missing the majesty.

It is bad enough when we turn our own lives into a rat race, but when we turn little children’s lives into rat races it is a bridge too far. It violates the sanctity of of an obvious and simple church called “Childhood.” Yet the most loving people do it.  Childhood is suppose to be a sanctuary, but parents and schoolmarms disturb the peace.

Six hundred toys is not peace; it is hectic. It isn’t loving, nor are ballet lessons after organized sports after classes after classes after classes before yoga sessions about serenity. Yet both parents work two jobs, and send innocents to Farm-childcares like mine from 7:00 AM until 6:00 PM, (most of a child’s waking hours), and suffer all this rat-race toil out of a love for those they abuse.

It is a love that is misguided. I am old, and if I am any sort of guide I need to say, “You should put my Farm-childcare out of business. Do you have any idea how much money you could save if you worked less, drove less, prepared your own food, and raised your own kids?”

My wife is usually the one who deals with our customers. I lack tact. But the fact I stay silent sometimes makes me feel like a Caspar Milquetoast.Boss census

Fortunately my wife is as radical as I am, and agrees children are better off being allowed the freedom to be young. If a child wants to spend time by a brook, rather than listening to the insipid prattling of elders about ballet, they may very well learn more about ballet from a brook, and more about beauty from a brook, and certainly receive more healing from a brook than all the king’s doctors and all the king’s psychologists can ever provide.

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You complain God is silent, but heed you
The sweet music of a burbling brook?
Maybe you buy the video, and do
Your best to cure insomnia, and look
To screens to see blue waters play, and guide
Your children to bleak deserts waterless:
Sessions and sessions, all puffing your pride
When in fact you are deaf, or even less.

I tell you God’s not silent, but you must go
To an actual brook, and do a thing
Called “sit still”, unwax your ears, and then know
What children know. Dare you try listening?
Who made this rat-race, so sure to depress?
The silence of God gives you more, asking less.

LOCAL VIEW –I’m A Loser–

January and early February tend to be the hardest times to get through, in New Hampshire, with the holidays past and the bitterest winds blowing. It is bad enough when one is hale and healthy, but when you are under doctor’s orders to keep exertion to a minimum, you feel bed-ridden and can become a real sourpuss, and write morbid sonnets like this one:

It is cruel January, the Mad Moon,
When sanity swings from a slender thread
And brave men whistle a graveyard tune
As tombstones clutch moon shadows of dread.

Attempting smiles, good people bare their teeth.
“Nice try,” I think, but see through the pale mask
To the heavy heart lurking underneath
And the way their life has become a task.

Why did we ever move so very far north?
Eden was warm. You could wear a fig leaf.
Here bitter winds bring bitter words forth
And we bite our tongues, or else cause wives grief.

Life was made for joy, but the cruel Deceiver
Relishes stale air, and our cabin fever.

I’m usually better at making a joke of cabin fever, even when I catch it. Sometimes, rather than fighting it, I go with it, exaggerating it to such a degree it becomes laughable. For example, here is an example of such January humor:

THE CARDINAL SONNET

The east blushes blue. A cardinal tweets,
Insanely loud in the subzero hush.
Jaunty red plumage black against dawn, he greets
Winter’s conquest with counter-claims, a rush
Of twitters, and then, “Tweet! Tweet! Tweet!” he yells:
A winced headache to all with hangovers
And a plague to sleep. “Tweet! Tweet!” It compels
Curses from virgin lips; even pushovers
Push back against the madness of claiming
A white waste of tundra for a dull spouse
Who likely thinks he’s mad, and is shaming
Him by basking in Florida. What house
Can he claim for her when the odds are so low?
”Tweet! Tweet!” screams the cardinal at seven below.

However sometimes even I get serious. Perhaps it is a side effect of having a kidney removed. (Not that I failed to see the humor of paying a surgeon more than I can make in two years to make me feel one hell of a lot worse than I have ever felt in my life.) However it hurt to laugh, so I stopped, and got serious.

One of the most serious things I found to think about, when tapped on the shoulder by my own mortality, was the simple fact that not all of my dreams may come true.

I have tended to use hopes and dreams to lure myself on through life, like a stubborn donkey is lured by a dangling apple on a string just in front of its nose. Deluding myself with hope has worked for decades, but all of a sudden it became outdated. It occurred to me, “Maybe I won’t make a million overnight, solving all my financial woes by writing a silly song that mysteriously becomes a one-hit-wonder.”  (Other people buy lottery tickets, but I write silly songs.)

It was amazing how black life became, when I simply gave up on some hopes. Rather than imagining myself as an eventual “winner”, I accepted the fact I was a “loser”. After all, not all our dreams can come true, and we are often happier because they don’t. For example, when we go to a class reunion we sometimes meet people we long-ago dreamed might marry us, take a hard look, and then thank God that particular dream didn’t come true. However giving up on some of my current hopes made everything look pitch black.

It sure didn’t help that the New England Patriots chose just then to lose the championship game. Then it wasn’t just me; the whole darn town got depressed. It was especially hard because Tom Brady took such a beating, was clobbered and flattened so constantly, yet fought back so bravely to the very verge of tying the game up, only to lose at the end. It was like seeing that you can try, you can be brave, you can be tougher than nails, and still be a loser.

Of course, because I am an a old fossil, the old Beatle’s song, “I’m A Loser”, started drifting through my head. That always seemed like am odd tune for the Beatles to write, considering they were far more than a one-hit-wonder, and were unbelievably successful and rolling in dough when in their twenties. (I sure wasn’t.) If any were winners, it sure seemed they were. How could they write about being losers? But they wrote it, so I decided to take a look at it, through the wonders of the internet.

It seems incredible that they were doing that stuff fifty years ago. Half a century!  What was it that made them so attractive? To me it seems it was the simple fact they dared be honest, dared confess they were human and mortal and not always winners. They took public confession to unheard-of levels, and people simply couldn’t help but like them for their honesty.  However they were not merely honest, they were proud of it.

When I look back at that time, fifty years ago, when I was not quite a teenager yet, one thing I recall is what fakes and phonies all the grown-ups all seemed to be. When a guy saw a pretty woman ahead he’d suck in his gut and walk in a manner that seemed, to me as a mere boy, to be preposterous. I dreaded the idea that someday I’d have to act that way, if I was to grow up. It seemed everyone was trying desperately hard to be better than they were, to be winners and hide the fact they were losers. Then along came the Beatles, and sung, “I’m a loser, and not what I appear to be,” and it was such a relief, and so refreshing. Rather than girls rejecting them for being losers, teenyboppers shrieked shrill adoration. (I was also a loser, but girls sure didn’t shriek adoration over me, but perhaps that was because I wasn’t proud of it, and was always cringing when my true self was revealed. You hardly ever saw the Beatles cringing.)

It is only a step further to arrive at “Nowhere Man”. I wondered what person the Beatles were writing about, when they wrote that song, and was surprised to learn John was writing about himself, and writing a song to himself.

In other words, when you examine the lives of so-called “winners”, what you discover is that they were also losers. They were also mortal, and human, and prone to all the sufferings ordinary people face. Yet they were just a bit less ashamed of it, and were not held back by shame.

Pride doesn’t always come before the fall. When you are proud about being honest, and about confessing, and about being truthful, pride can actually uplift, at least for a little while.

 

 

 

 

LOCAL VIEW —signs and omens—

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There are signs and omens all over the place, if you care for such things. I used to care, but have lost interest over the years, largely because I could see little advantage in glimpsing the future. I never got a glimpse clear enough to tell me what stocks to invest in, I suppose. Rather I’d get a vague sense of whether I was in for tough times or easy times, and there was no way to avoid either. Lastly, when tough times did come, they were never as bad as worry made them out to be beforehand, and actually turned out to be the times I brag the most about surviving, when reminiscing. (When I remember the good times it is often with the wistful sense I blew it, in some manner.)

The one time signs are helpful is when you are very discouraged, and in need of an encouraging word. Our fellow man sometimes can be pathetic, when it comes to encouraging us. Even the people trying to be kind will  propose some ridiculous diet or regime of exercise or ask you to contort yourself into yoga poses, when all you really need is a kindly glance. In such situations helpful friends can be downright depressing, and it is then that some sign, some bluebird landing on a nearby branch and singing, can be like a rope to a drowning swimmer.

Of course, if I became dependent on such signs I’d never get going in the morning. I have enough trouble getting started as it is, and if I needed a good omen before I proceeded I’d likely never get out of bed.

There was actually a time when I was young that I did demand life made sense, before I’d proceed, and I wound up very nearly paralyzed. I was deeply involved in the study of psychology, and at the slightest sign my behavior wasn’t adult I’d stop everything and analyse my every twitch. It was a good way to avoid getting a real job, and also acquainted me with the wonders of the subconscious, however in the end I had to get a real job even if life didn’t make sense.

At one point, before I got a real job, I was studying my dreams from every angle I could think of, and had a wonderful revelation. When you study dreams you, in a sense, make every action and every object within the dream be a symbol, and thus a sign. For example, if there is a road in the dream, it may symbolize “being-walked-upon”, (and you might even burst into tears when you have the insight that you feel trodden upon). The problem is that, before you get the first dream figured out, you tend to get tired and go to sleep and have another one. Studying all the symbols can get to be exhausting, and there is definitely no time left to look for a real job.

I had managed to arrange my life, as a young poet, in a way that allowed me to study dreams for days on end. Now I cringe, thinking of all the wasted time, but some good did come out of all the study. For one thing, I don’t waste time so much. I also suppose I understand the subconscious to some degree. However the revelation I wish to describe came after I had an overdose of dream-study, and decided I needed some fresh air, and went for a walk.

Because I’d been spending so much time analyzing objects in dreams, I was in the habit, and found myself analyzing the real objects in the real world as if they were symbols in a dream. I wasn’t trying to do it. In fact I was trying to stop. Yet I couldn’t. There wasn’t a leaf that fell that didn’t have some symbolic meaning. Maybe I didn’t know what the meaning was, but the meaning was there, as loud as thunder. I had wanted life to make sense, but now there was too much meaning, in every twig, in every birdsong, in every face in every passing car. It was a glorious and wonderful revelation, but I felt over my head and wanted it to stop. When it wouldn’t I went and bought a six pack of beer and got ossified, not to get high but rather to come back to earth. Then, when I awoke the next morning with a headache, I wondered why I had run away from the revelation. It was largely gone, though enough lingered to reassure me that life does make sense.

Due to that one event, forty years ago, I don’t scoff at people who gaze at stars, seeking astrological sense, or at teas leaves, or at the lines in palms, or at the entrails of goats. God really is in everything, even in the most dark, deplorable, and dismal situations. That is how the poet Wilford Owen was able to write, from the hideous trenches during World War One, “I too have seen God in mud.”

While I don’t scoff at those who seek to read things, I don’t have the time to follow them. Knowing the future doesn’t matter as much as how you behave when it gets here. The only time I adjust my behavior due to someone seeing the future is when I hear a storm may come, in a weather forecast, (and even then the forecast is often wrong. Also, these days, it is often absurdly sensationalized).

Rather than attempting to figure the Creator out, and know what He is up to, I tend to rest assured He knows what He is doing, even if I don’t particularly like it. This seems to open my eyes to beauty I’d otherwise miss. I don’t particularly like cleaning up after a snowstorm, but that doesn’t mean I can’t lean on my shovel and admire the view.

In this manner I’m able to admire the recent eclipse of the full moon, and the current conjunction of Venus, Jupiter and Mars in the morning sky, without getting all worked up and worried about  what it all means. I can watch the leaves change and fall without getting all worked up about the onset of winter, (though I don’t forget to stack the wood).

The glory of what I call “Sugar Autumn” is ending, as we move into the less brilliant but still  beautiful foliage of “Oak Autumn”. In parts of the woods without oaks, it is starting to be “Under-story Autumn,” where the tall maples have lost their leaves, but the young ones beneath are just starting to change.

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It seems that the Creator set up the ecosystem around here in a way that gives the young trees a little time to enjoy the sun free from the shade of their elders. The sapling maples  pop their leaves out a week before the taller ones in the spring, and lose their leaves a week after the taller ones in the fall. I’m sure a scientist can explain the reasons for this happening, but it doesn’t take anything away from the fact it is a wonderful design, and does allow the young time to grow, or at least subsist, until the old decide enough is enough and politely remove themselves from the sky by becoming increasingly rotten and the home of woodpeckers, or perhaps becoming firewood.

That is the sort of thing I contemplate, as I gaze upon Creation, and it seems wiser to me to appreciate beauty in this manner than to become worried, and in a sense to get in a fight with Creation. Too many people spend their entire lives avoiding what may never happen, and isn’t all that bad when it does happen. The reasons people give for the lessening of their lives are many, but it still remain a lessening. Some of the best advice I ever got may be the crudest, “Get over it.” For there are many ways to look at the moon.

And then the moon went on, westward through trees
Now bare of leaves, with a glance back towards me
Inviting. How could I follow? What frees
My feet to walk where the moon walks? What plea
Would it hear? All I could do was stand and yearn.

Once in a dream I walked those pearled highways
But for fool’s reasons felt I should return:
My mundane friends frowned on what disobeys.

Now like a grounded dodo I stand sad
As all wear armor and only in dreams
Does one walk nude in public. This world’s mad
And burdened by leaden get-rich-quick schemes.

But the moon’s not burdened. Midst the mad glow
Of cities it beckons those in its shadow.

LOCAL VIEW —NO PLACE TO HIDE—

It’s the longest day of the year, and even with the remnants of tropical storm Bill passing over this morning, with a lovely drenching the parched soil craved, there was a sort of thirst in the moist air. The sun beat down on even the purple morning from the highest the sun ever gets, and even the rainy day was bright and warm like winter never is, and yet the thirst still thirsted. When I thought about it, I was uncertain if the thirst was for even more light, or for less.

In one sense there is never enough summer, and never enough light, and it creates a sort of anguish to know that starting tomorrow the days get shorter. It is like seeing the first fine wrinkle on the face of a young beauty, and knowing of mortality.

On the other hand, when the Light is at its most intense one seeks the shade. One gets shy, and hangs back in the shadows. Winter makes it easy to yearn for the Light, for all is dark. In a sense winter is like singing in the shower, far from the spotlight. It is quite a different thing to step out into the Light on the longest day, when the Sun King is ruling.

The longest day has ended now, and a muggy night has fallen, but even in the starry dark there are still flashes of heat lightning on the horizon, and a moth battles against the screen, continuing the theme of an attraction towards, and a repulsion from, brilliance.

The lightning has faded away to the south, but now there are new flashes far to the north in the night.

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I feel surrounded by the Light, even at night, with this lightning creeping around the edges of the sky. It isn’t entirely comforting. The sweet shadows of sleep have fled, and brilliant insomnia stalks the hallways of my mind, restless, thirsty, relentlessly dissatisfied.

I think when I was younger I could simply bury myself in work, and delay the issue into some distant future, when either I would see the Light or I wouldn’t, but heck if it was something I had time to worry about today. Today was the work, the job, the project, the Great American Novel, Chapter One Page One.

But now I’m sixty-two, and my truck is twenty-one, and my rider mower is twenty-five, and during the past ten days all three of us had problems, and it was hard to get anything done. It was hard to bury myself in work when I couldn’t even start to work.

First the clutch pedal of my truck abruptly went to the floor, and I couldn’t shift. Or I could shift, if the engine wasn’t on. I couldn’t shift when the engine was running. So I could shift to neutral, and start the truck, but then I couldn’t shift to first gear. So I turned off the truck, shifted to first gear, and turned the key with the truck in gear, and with a lurch and sputter the truck started down the road. I couldn’t shift to second, so top speed was around 12 mph. Nor could I shift back to neutral, so I would only slow to around 3 mph at stop signs. It was an interesting drive, and I found myself thinking that this was the speed people went, back in the horse and buggy days. And I did make it to the country garage, where I stalled the truck. Then they had to fix it to get it out of the way. (It was the master cylinder for the clutch pedal, and not the clutch itself, which meant they didn’t have to take the engine out.  They actually like working on my truck, as it from the pre-computer days, and hardly has any wires.)

However they had to order the parts, so I was without a truck. However at least I could bury myself in the work of mowing the grass at the farm-childcare, however I hit a huge, round cobble a child had decided to secret in a clump of grass about three minutes into the job. I didn’t wreck the blade or the pulley or belt, but the spindle and bearing, where it goes through the deck, which is beyond my capacity to fix, so all I needed to do is load the mower onto my truck and bring it to…but wait…I don’t have a truck.

So I had to get the guy to come and pick the mower up, but at least I could bury myself in the work of hoeing and tilling and planting in the garden.  However I’m sixty-two, and stuff I once could do in a flash now gets done as slow as molasses.  Rather than a sense of weary satisfaction I wind up wanting to fire myself, and aggravated as hell. I was working as hard as I could, but falling farther and farther behind in my planting.

What I need to do is to sell a hit song, and become a one-hit-wonder. Then I can afford to hire some strong young man, and to wear a white suit like Mark Twain, and sip mint juleps in the shade. However I’m so far behind in my planting I have no time for writing.

I don’t much want to face the real writing, which is on the wall, quite yet, as I fear the writing on the wall will say I “have been measured and found wanting”. So I usually avoid the entire subject by withdrawing into the cooler world of blogging about sea-ice. However June tends to be a particularly boring month at the Pole, so eventually I have to stand and stare into the darkness.

Sooner or later all that this world has to offer fails to distract us any longer, and even if we lack the wisdom, wealth and many wives of Solomon, we wind up seeing the emptiness of Creation, and saying, as he did, “Vanity, Vanity, Vanity.”  And then we either seek a prescription for lots of antidepressants, or we turn from the shadows of creation to the Light of the Creator.

This is actually what religion is suppose to be about, though most modify it to a degree where it is more less unrecognizable, and people become engrossed in blowing each other up, and other loving crusades. If people actually think about the Creator, it is like singing in the shower, and is timid and private, and never steps out into the spotlight and belts out The Song.

The fact of the matter is that most of us know next to nothing about the Light. We know much, much more about the shadows. Yet people talk with great authority about the Light.

For example Christians insist the One Life consists of a single lifetime, and Hindus insist the One life consists of many lifetimes, yet when you cross-examine both, neither can remember much about this lifetime, before age two. In other words, they are talking through their hats. They have no first-hand-experience they can access.

As far as I’m concerned, maybe the Hindus are right, and maybe when we Christians talk about “everlasting death” we are talking about reincarnation, for wouldn’t that involve dying over and over and over and over again? And who the heck wants that? Dying once seems enough for me, so I’ll look for a way to avoid dying twice, if it is a door to Light I dare open.

However we have little first-hand experience of what happens after death, either. When you talk heart-to-heart with believers you discover they may have faint glimpses, glimmers in the dark, that may have occurred to them when people they were very close to passed away, however these experiences are so tenuous most are reluctant to even bring them up, because they are delicate, private, intimate, and a little bit frail, and likely couldn’t withstand the cruel batterings of a ruthless psychiatrist, who would belittle treasured belief away with contrary thought into a mere hallucination.

But death is not a hallucination. It happens, not only to people I love, but to my own body in slow stages and degrees. I may be tough for an old coot, and still have stomach muscles where by pals have flab, but there is no getting around the growing weakness in my efforts. Where I used to carry grain bags two at a time, I now carry them one by one, and huff and puff like I never did before. Even on the longest day of the year there is a lengthening shadow.

Perhaps that is a gift given to the old: The ability to see the things of this world are shadows. For example, even if my writing brought me fame and fortune at this late date in my life, I doubt it would flatter me into making a complete fool of myself, in the manner Hollywood stars and starlets get fooled. It is simply too late. Some things lose their appeal as the drafts of death waft the curtains. One does not brush their teeth on the steps to the noose.

The unnerving thing about shadows becoming more obviously shadows is that the Light becomes more obviously Light. All my life I’ve preferred singing in the shower, and been shy about stepping out into the Light, but as the end approaches there is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.

LOCAL VIEW —Change in Plans—

The first map shows the snow the GFS computer model was saying we’d get the day before yesterday, and the second map shows they have changed their minds for Southern New Hampshire. We have gone from being in a sort of hole, in terms of snowfall, to getting six inches.

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This is typical of the virtual world of virtual weather. You can’t truly trust the forecasts you get, or use them to make plans. At best you can get a lot of “mights” and “coulds”, but you had best remain on guard. After all, it is winter, and this is New Hampshire, and storms can brew up out of the blue. “Prepare for the worst as you hope for the best.”

I like the way Joseph D’Aleo and Joe Bastardi operate at their Weatherbell site, for they point out the times you ought to be wary, without the pretense of being specific and pretending they can state when a storm will hit, down to the minute. Or, when they do venture out onto the thin ice of such specific forecasts, they make it clear there is a probability of missing out on certain details. After all, a shift of fifty miles in the track of a storm can be the difference between a foot of powder snow and no precipitation at all, or a foot of powder snow and rain. At times hitting such a forecast from several days away is the equivalent of threading a needle from across a room using long chopsticks. (It can be done, but is a huge challenge, especially when you get only one chance.)

I didn’t trust the mess coming out of Texas two days ago, just because I’m a winter-wary Yankee, and it turns out my grumpy and suspicious attitude is more correct than a billion dollar computer, as I awake this morning to a “winter storm watch.”  Even that has a sort of disclaimer, “The storm track is still somewhat uncertain. A track further northwest would bring heavy snow further inland. A track further southeast would bring less snow.” Ummm…I could have told you that two days ago.

The one thing they left out was, “Warmer air could change the snow to rain.”  That is actually something I’m wary of, as the pattern this winter has been for dustings of snow from the northern branch Alberta Clippers, and rains from the southern branch storms that cut west of us.

Below are the maps from two days ago (top) and the maps from this morning (bottom). (Click to enlarge.) You can see the first radar map showing the last clipper’s snow ducking south of us, as the southern feature moves southeast to the Mississippi delta from Texas and brings all sorts of Juicy moisture up from the Gulf of Mexico, seen in the second radar map.

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What puzzled me a little was the failure of the clipper to pull any of the very cold air to our north south, as it passed. As it approached we had a day of streaky-gray skies, with here and there a band of blue sky, and temperatures rising from 16.5° to 29.5° (-8.6° to -1.4° Celsius). The clipper couldn’t seem to get its act together, and decide whether or not to develop a secondary on the coast, (something I’m always wary of,) and passed over us as an indecisive confusion in the late evening. Temperatures fell back to 19.4° during a night that was overcast, but as it cleared yesterday morning there was no blast of arctic air in its wake.  Instead it was a delightfully windless day, with bright sun.  The slightest dust of snow had fallen overnight, so that gray surface of the trampled frozen-slush in the Childcare playground looked lightly salted.

I’ve never understood why, as the days start to lengthen, it is far more obvious in terms of the sunsets. The sunsets are already a half hour later, while the sunrises are only five minutes earlier. Yesterday I had the feeling, perhaps illusionary, that the sun was a hair higher, and kinder.

Of course, the pessimism of old Yankees is pounded into my skull, so I always remember the rhyme,

When the days begin to lengthen
Then the cold begins to strengthen.

There is actually wisdom in those old words, for the summer-warmed waters that protected us from arctic blasts in October and November have been chilled, and in the case of Hudson Bay have frozen over. In the case of Lake Erie the water was so chilled that nearly the entire lake froze over during the last arctic blast

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It is for this reason that, though days start getting longer on December 21, the average lowest temperature isn’t reached until around January 19.  Then, because temperatures are so low, lakes tend to go right on freezing and snow cover can go on expanding even as temperatures (on average) first begin to creep back up. Lastly, because ice-cover and snow-cover go on expanding, conditions improve for the attacks of the most murderous cold right into February. It wasn’t until February fifteenth that the old timers would mutter (sometimes right in the middle of a cold wave or snowstorm), “Winter’s back is broken.”

I can recall sub-zero (-17° Celsius) cold waves into March, and roughly a decade ago we even had an arctic attack in early April, with fresh snow cover and temperatures in the single digits.

However there was something about yesterday that tempted one to, if not lower their guard, to at least pause and close their eyes and look towards the sun. It actually got just above freezing briefly, reaching 33.2° (-0.6 Celsius), and there was little wind.   I like the feel of the faint January warmth in the sun on my face, and the orange view seen by shut eyelids.

 I actually think this is a therapeutic thing to do, especially after hearing of psychologists who charge big bucks to treat people with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) by having them look at light bulbs. The old timers called SAD “winter blues” or “cabin fever” ( or “going shacky whacky”), and stated the cure was to get off your butt and go outside, which is a lot cheaper than a psychologist. To find a south-facing wall out of the wind, and simply to bask a bit, facing the sun, is not only cheaper than looking at a shrink’s light-bulb, it is far more pleasant.

I tested it out with the kids at the Childcare, and they agreed. We all went to the south-facing wall of the barn, and looked up to the sun, basked in the warmth, and listened to the birds with our eyes shut. Finches and Chickadees were peeping nearby, and a crow was cawing far off, and the raucous cries of a couple of blue jays came belting across the pasture. It felt better than a light bulb,  and sounded better than a psychologist, too.

Not that I had all that much time for such experiments. My wary and pessimistic side had me squeezing in some time to visit a country garage to purchase some cheap snow tires for my 20-year-old truck, and have them installed. (Usually I don’t bother, as I know how to drive on snow and don’t have all that far to drive to work.)

A country garage is the closest thing left to an old blacksmith shop. People tend to hang around such places, and the conversation tends to be frank, forthright and funny. (There was even an old law, dating from the time of the Vikings, [I think], that one could not be held to anything they said at a smithy, for the ringing of the hammer on hot iron had a hypnotic effect.)

I’m not exactly sure how I managed to be so stupid, but I stood about blabbing too long, and abruptly realized I had to go pick up the children at the kindergarten, and had no vehicle to do so with.

My plan had been to drop off the truck and go for a leisurely walk through the forest to my house, and use my youngest son’s car, (which we are storing for him), to drive to the Childcare, where I’d pick up my wife’s van to go get the six kids. Instead I took off down the road walking like those ladies who walk way too fast, in an attempt to keep their figures slim.

About a third of a mile down the road I cut into the woods, heading down the driveway of a man who likely doesn’t know that his drive is actually part of the original road that crossed this town before it was a town. I think it still is a public way, but I always feel a bit like I am trespassing. Usually he isn’t home, but it was just my luck that he was just leaving, as I came striding down his drive in a absurdly purposeful manner. I gave him a friendly wave, and to my delight, and with a degree of astonishment, I saw him smile and wave back, as he passed.

I have worked long and hard to establish a reputation for being a cantankerous anachronism, but this is the first sign I have seen that I have succeeded, and am the proud owner of the image of being a sort of weirdo, but a harmless one.

About halfway down the drive towards the fellow’s garage the true lost highway veers off to the left, shown by parallel stone walls heading off through the woods. The fact the highway was major is shown by the fact the walls are further apart than most country roads, but the surface between the walls shows little sign of being flattened. It is also now full of trees, though there is a winding path used by snowmobiles, dirt bikes and four-wheelers along it. Some fool had been along it, in a dirt bike, judging from the tracks in the shallow snow, as had deer. However I was in too much of a hurry to tread softly and peer through trunks for the local wildlife. The inch of snow was an incredibly crunchy and starchy crust, and I made such a racket striding along I likely attracted deer and foxes who came to see, from a safe distance, what on earth was making such an ungodly crunching.

After fording a small brook on a single plank that some kind person had lugged into the wood, I strode over a final rise and began descending towards town, and there things became interesting. Any downhill dent tends to be used, by the laws of gravity, as a way to remove rainfall, and after thunderstorms this ancient highway becomes a brief brook, an intermittent stream that exists so rarely it doesn’t make any maps. However, during the winter, after the ground freezes and water can no longer sink into the sponging soil, the brief brook comes to life during winter rains, and then, because winter rains are often followed by a cold front and plunging temperatures, this brief brook freezes before it can make it down to town. In other words, it forms a sheet of glare ice on part of the ancient road.

Usually I can walk beside this ice, however, because we have had a fair number of winter rains this year, the brief brook was surprisingly wide. I went from walking like a woman on a diet to walking like a Monty Python spastic, thrashing about but amazingly keeping my balance. At times, when the ice grew steep, I had to speed up and run to keep my balance, and aimed for the next patch of crunchy snow where there was traction enough to slow down. By the time I broke out of the trees in my back yard I had actually broken a sweat, which is difficult to do at my age, as your sweat-glands don’t function the way they did when you were young (and needed to shower and use deodorant twice a day.)

I was last in the line of cars, but not late to the kindergarten, to pick up the children. I had a somewhat smug feeling, and was proud my cardiovascular system hadn’t seized up on me, and may have even muttered, “I still got it”, to myself. (I am careful to keep such news to myself, for if my wife ever finds out she’ll expect more work from me.)

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But that was yesterday, and yesterday’s gone. Today I am understanding why dieting women do all those voluptuous stretching exercises before and after walking in their silly manner, and why they walk on a regular basis, and not one time at age 39 and then again at age 61. Quite a number of my muscles are telling me they haven’t been exercised so strenuously in a long, long time, and are objecting in a manner that has made me walk, today, in manner funnier than any dieting woman.

When I got home from work I thought about stocking up my porch with firewood in a manner appropriate for just-before-a-storm, and decided, “the heck with it”.  The snow isn’t suppose to get heavy until mid-morning. I’ll do it in the morning.

However the “Winter Storm Watch” is now a “Winter Weather Advisory,” and we could get 3-6 inches. I can’t say I much like the slug of moisture shown in the maps. (Click to enlarge.)

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The only good thing is that there is no arctic high parked just north of the storm. It won’t be “blocked”, and ought to move in and move out swiftly.

I feel this is just the beginning, a sort of “warning shot”, and am glad I bothered get snow tires for my truck.

It was down to 11.5° (-11.7 Celsius) as I hobbled about this morning, got up to 29.1° (-1.6° Celsius) as I hobbled about at noon, and has settled back to 19.9° (-6.7° Celsius) as it starts to cloud over this Friday night, and I thankfully remain seated.

LOCAL VIEW —BACKLASH—

This morning’s maps show our latest nor’easter (Storm #9 on my list) has done what  such “bombs” often do, which is to come to a screeching halt and “stall.”

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Once these storms stall they are usually finished “bombing,” and the pressure seems to have hit a bottom of 29.48 here, which isn’t all that low for a “bomb.”  The real monster storms get down below 29.00 inches. (982 mb.) (That might not be low pressure for high latitudes, but for this far south its a big storm.)  Then they sit and spin and occlude and only gradually fade east. The one I remember most fondly from my time as a teenager, (because it freed me from a week of school), was called “The Hundred Hour Snow.” (1969?) It completely closed route 128 (now called I-95) around Boston.

This storm was only around two or three degrees too warm.  The teenagers glumly went to school today, as I was relieved. These storms make my old bones ache even without the heavy work involved, and the prospect of removing two feet of snow doesn’t thrill me like it once did.  Not that I have completely lowered my guard. The radar shows heavy snow reappearing in Vermont and eastern New York, where it looked like the snow had ended.

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The rain-snow line is roughly thirty miles west of here, but liable to shift east, and we could experience a backlash. As it is the main backlash we are experiencing is a backlash to Christmas spirit. It is hard to get in a festive mood in a cold rain.

Winter’s darkness has just barely started
And already I am gasping for spring.
A week of rain, and I’m downhearted.
My smile’s a false veneer; a grimacing.
 
I try to be good, but fool no one.
I pace, and replace a book on the shelf
Unread; the words are clouds without a sun.
I can’t fool my wife, my dog, or myself.
 
Life reeks. It now seems the only zest
Is in how the rain’s drumming on the roof,
So I listen. (Sometimes life’s at its best
Without leaks supplying reason and proof.)
 
In the dark drums of rain I hear brightening.
I must look up to see enlightening.

There. It may not be the most jolly sonnet ever written, but does pull out of a nose dive. This is real nose dive weather, and one has to experience several “G’s” when pulling out of such dives.

If the backlash gets back this far east everything will get dusted with white, and despite the work moods will improve. That I can predict more reliably than the weather.