PUNKY WOOD –PART 4– –A MUMMY’S DEATH–

For me driving at night was like walking at night; my mind went unusual places. I liked the conversations I’d have, and had learned to be a good conversationalist by hitchhiking all around the country, starting at age fifteen. But once I bought my first car at age twenty, (which had no radio because I had no credit, paid cash, and could only afford the most stripped-down and cheapest Toyota on the market, a tiny Corolla with a 1200cc engine), I discovered giving up on public transport can be lonely; unless I myself picked up a hitchhiker, I only had my own mind to talk to and sing to.

Often brake lights would flash ahead, and I’d awake to the fact I was paying attention to my driving for the first time in a long time. Other times I arrived at my destination and when I shut off the engine I had the odd sensation that I had paid no attention whatsoever for the entire drive, and an autopilot had driven the car.

As I screamed south on the Maine Tutrnpike in my tinny Toyota, my mind began by sorting through the cast of characters involved in the perpetual and ongoing crisis that Audley Bine called a “commune”. Soon my focus shifted to Audley himself, because, though he pointed at everyone else, he was the core of every crisis.

Because I’d watched him rise from rags to riches over seven years, since I was fourteen, and because I had more recently worked for him as a sort of secretary, I knew too much. I knew he now had payments to make on a flashy BMW, rent to pay on a house in the expensive suburb of Weston, plus mortgages to pay on a large house in Newton, (where his commune was located), and a summer house up in “The Notch” in New Hampshire. Meeting all these payments was a monthly episode of gut wrenching. He managed it by charging people thirty dollars an hour for his time, and waving about his Harvard degree in a manner which kept people from ever reading what his degree was actually a degree in. It was not a degree in medicine or psychiatry, nor a business degree, but rather a degree in music. He was twenty-nine years old.

Fortunately, (for Audley), back in 1975 all you needed to set up shop as a psychologist was to not be a psychiatrist. Because psychiatry was collapsing to a rubble of disrepute after some massive failures, every Tom, Dick and Sally was setting themselves up as a psychologist. Some were pathetic con-artists, but Audley was often quite good, in his often-unprofessional way. He helped people get back on their feet, including some people who had never learned to walk in the first place, by showing them how to do basic things no one had ever bothered to teach them. Basically he was a trainer who trained (some would say “preyed upon”) the untrained.

It seemed to me that, if Audley was looking for trainees whom he would be paid for training, he had found a bountiful harvest in the wealthy suburbs. I’d grown up in such a suburb, and found suburbs hollow and sterile. Suburbs seemed bound to produce effete young men, for there was literally no example to follow of anyone working.

In rural areas one could see examples set by farmers and woodsmen and hunters and fishermen, and in urban areas one could see shopkeepers and restaurants and factories and taxi drivers, but in the emerald suburbs work was something people were escaping from.

Much was freshly built, so there were no builders; the building was largely completed, and in wealthier towns zoning laws were passed to prevent any further building from even beginning. New houses also didn’t require painting or roofing for ten or twenty years, and when I was young there weren’t even landscapers, for everyone bought their own mower and mowed their own lawn. Gardeners like Grubby Douglas were rare and tended to be elderly and to work for the elderly.

Yet perhaps I was given a single example of work, through watching fathers hurry outside to mow lawns, creating a vast suburban droning noise for a couple hours on Saturday mornings, and perhaps their example went into the creation of my first little business as a local handyman. But perhaps my friends stayed inside to watch Saturday morning cartoons, and missed seeing that single example of work. (One thing my father did was to ban television in our house; we didn’t get one until he was gone and I was fourteen.) Perhaps this explains why my classmates created no businesses. They did nothing at all but watch TV, listen to music, and throw around balls (beyond some vandalism). But they eventually faced a dreadful day, called “graduation from high school”, where they were confronted by the fact they knew next to nothing. They were then faced with a bleak choice of either going to college or Vietnam. Both choices involved learning discipline they sorely lacked (though some found colleges where they could continue to do nothing until they faced a second dreadful day, and a second graduation.)

Audley filled a role; he was father-figure. Many young men lacked fathering, first because in the 1960’s dads were too occupied providing money to provide fathering, and second because husbands were too busy making money to provide husbanding, and the divorce rate soared. (It’s hard to get fathering when your dad’s been booted out). Audley was quite good at fathering, and got something fathers don’t get for fathering. He got paid. Unfortunately, when you charge for being loving, it can come with a bad aftertaste, for in some sense being-paid-for-loving makes you a whore. Audley didn’t like hearing me state such a reality. Few psychologists do. Nor would I have ever been so rude as to say such a thing, but Audley pestered me for my withheld views, as he felt repressing your deeply hidden opinions was wrong.

I had learned otherwise. I learned early on that, “When you laugh the world laughs with you; but when you cry you cry alone,” and therefore I kept my opinions to myself. But I was very opinionated, all the same, and needed some outlet, which was what made my discovery of poetry so wonderful. I could gripe and grouse and moan and groan and sing-the-blues all I wanted. Not that many wanted to listen, but self-expression was good for my soul. I did it for gratification and not for attention, but then an English teacher caught me illicitly writing a poem (rather than the essay I was suppose to be writing), and rather than scolding me, after she snatched the paper away, she looked astonished, and asked me if I had any more poems she could look at. She became my first fan.

I wonder. Without her encouragement my habit might have withered away like an un-watered seedling, (in which case she’d get no blame for what followed: More than a half-century of a poet’s poverty and troubles and joy). On the other hand, my habit might not have withered. The gift did not seem to me like a thing that could be killed. The “self” in self-expression seemed like something far bigger than I was. If God is in everyone, perhaps it was as big as God, but I could not claim to be God.

.Hand in hand with the joy I felt when someone liked a poem was a profound reluctance to share poems. A poem was like a sunset, and all I really wanted was someone to stand beside me and share the view. People sharing my view often pointed out beauty I hadn’t seen, but it wasn’t as if I myself was beautiful. The view was ego-less and separate from me. The problems arose when the focus shifted from the view to me. People seemed compelled to “help” me, and that always seemed to involve saying I had some sort of a problem. Even the people who said I was gifted seemed compelled to add that I wasn’t yet famous. But I didn’t write poems to be told I was an “underachiever.” People were totally missing the point.

What was the point? The point was that there is a beauty in life that uplifts. Yes, life holds plenty of problems, but even in the alley’s of a slum there are sunbeams that make the orange of worn brick radiant, and the even among the impoverished Untouchables in India an aura of joy radiates as they laugh together over their one-meal-a-day. Poetry was the process of pointing this beauty out, and was a beneficial solace because in an inexplicable way it supplied answers to the problems of life.

What was the solace? It was hard to say, which was why you needed poems, but it was like going into dark hall to hear a symphony and emerging changed. Of course, problem-solvers tended to become irked when you could not state the specific details of what the change was, but that didn’t make the change less real. It was like going to bed weary and awaking refreshed; what is the change? What is sleep, but to turn off the conscious intellect and bask in a peace greater than we are. What we gain is like a tan, all we need to do is lie down.

This put me completely at odds with the psychiatrists of the 1960’s, who tended to see ugly things inside people, rather than poetry.

A study in Chicago at that time tested the benefits of psychiatry, comparing the improvement seen in troubled people who talked with old and experienced psychiatrists, young and inexperienced psychiatrists, and a control-group who talked to ordinary folk like bar-tenders, taxi-drivers and hair-dressers. Somewhat to the horror of the researchers the only improvement was seen in those who discussed their problems with ordinary people, while the experienced psychiatrists actually made depressions worse. This failure was what rumbled behind a dissatisfaction among the ranks of Freudian Psychiatrists. Revolutionary new concepts such as Gestalt Psychiatry were proposed by the disciples of Freud; and psychiatry’s failure was also a boon to the illegitimate psychologists.

Not that I knew any of this at age fourteen, when I first met Audley. I only knew my father, a highly trained surgeon, said I should steer clear of psychiatrists, because they prescribed poisonous drugs, fried brains with electricity, were not scientific, wrecked marriages, and destroyed families.

I also was aware that many of my friends were scared to death of psychiatrists; we whispered gossip about peers who had been incarcerated for rebellion, vandalism or masturbation, and either emerged shock-treated and weird, or never were seen again. Also there were whispers about the pills mothers took, and we were forced to read depressing books (which English teachers for some reason felt wouldn’t depress adolescents), like “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” (1962) and “I Never Promised You A Rose Garden” (1964), and lastly we all heeded the Rolling Stones hit, “Mother’s Little Helper” (1966).

Let it suffice to say looking inward in the manner psychiatrists proposed held absolutely no attraction to me, even while day-dreaming held great joy. I avoided saying what inkblots looked like, even at a time when laying on my back in lush, green grass next to a buddy and discussing what the clouds looked like was spontaneous and attractive. Inkblots spelled trouble, while watching clouds was a soothing relaxation, (and, though seemingly inconsequential at the time, cloud-watching was an activity fondly remembered at class reunions, thirty years later).

I first met Audley because he was one of the creepy Harvard students my oldest brother hung around with. My boyish friends unsympathetically dismissed them as “fags”, but I was a little more friendly. My father had gone to Harvard and taught there even when working as a surgeon; my stepfather had gone there and still taught there; and my oldest brother was accepted to Harvard three times (because he dropped out twice.) So maybe I was more accustomed to their weirdness than most. I understood a little (second hand) about the stress they faced (because they did three times as much homework as seemed humanly possible), and I pitied such students, for my own solution to the stress of homework was to never do any. I understood (second hand) such stress was worst as finals approached in late May, when the weather was most beautiful (and when the only way to get a lick of work from me was to threaten me with summer school). At that time Harvard Square was inhabited by students so over-stressed by cramming that they looked like walking corpses, which was what Audley looked like when I first saw him.

It was the first hot day day in June, and I was whipping a football around the front lawn and dashing about, barefoot and shining with sweat and wearing nothing but a bathing suit. Audley was overdressed, wearing some sort of white linen sportscoat, trudging from the car to the house with my brother and some other intellectual who was talking a mile a minute. (Audley may have even been carrying a briefcase, though my imagination may have just added that detail to accent how opposite his state was from mine.) When I glanced at him to size him up he looked guiltily away, almost as if he expected a blow. I glanced over at a pal and quirked an eyebrow, and my buddy laughed back, “A fag for sure. Those creeps always make me feel like I should put on a shirt.” I shrugged and went out for a pass.

For the most part I felt sorry for Harvard students. Their get-up-and go got them in trouble. They got themselves into a state where they could never go where I went, in my mind, which at age fourteen didn’t even include poetry. When I got up and went, I either went places in my imagination, dreaming at clouds, or I got my butt out of the boring suburbs. I “went walkabout”, which is what I understood (through reading) made Australian natives unreliable employees. Aborigines understood get-up-and-go means get up and go, whereas Harvard students stayed in the same place and pressed their nose harder and harder and harder to a grindstone.

I think Audley looked away guiltily not because I was handsome in a way fifty years has now reduced to wrinkles, but because he sensed I had something he had lost. I’m not sure why he felt guilty about wanting it, for it lay at the very core of the music he was supposedly studying, but perhaps it threatened the very foundations of his will to get ahead. He was like a music professor watching Mozart improvise at age seven, seeing a child produce modulations it is suppose to take twenty years to master.

In any case, Audley got over it, and by slow increments I came to see him as one the older people who felt I had some sort of “gift”. Of course, it took time, because at age fourteen the only poetry I wrote was doggerel I wrote to entertain my back-row buddies, poking fun at others, and such poetry tended to get me in trouble (when I became so absorbed I failed to notice the stealthy approach of a teacher, and they were able to snatch the work away, which was especially troublesome when the doggerel (or illustration) was about that particular teacher). However I like to flatter myself by thinking my scribbling was actually “political commentary” in a highly unrefined form, in which case it was too embryonic for Audley. At first he seemed a bit frosty and disapproving when I pestered my elder brother and his Harvard crowd with naive questions, or regaled them with unasked-for, bragging descriptions of my escapades; it was at age fourteen I first began to have escapades (beyond going fishing).

It wasn’t that my buddies were boring; it was that we ran out of things to talk about. Discussing the anatomy of females, and how to go about investigating such anatomy, could only use up so many hours of our days, and then the topic became how boring the town was. I felt we should do more than say there was nothing to do; we should do things. I became what mothers called, “A Bad Influence”.

Initially we crept about after dark and peered in people’s windows, daring ourselves to be outrageous, sometimes alone and sometimes as groups or as couples, snowballing cars after dark, ringing the church-bell at midnight, sneaking into the houses of people on vacation and, without taking anything, poking through all their private belongings, until eventually we got caught going too far in some way, perhaps joyriding in a car we were too young to be borrowing, or perhaps attempting to tie a police officer’s shoe-laces together. Then we faced punishment, but at least we had something to laugh about when we gathered to talk.

One item always interesting to discuss was explosions, and this sparked one of my first ventures into the world of business. I dared go into Boston’s tiny Chinatown, and to at great risk purchase fireworks, and to endanger countless commuters on the trolley back out to the suburbs with my illicit cargo, purchased at an absurdly high price but sold for absurdly higher prices to eager suburbanites. (In my list of jobs, “importer” is one of the first, though I have never noted it down, in the “employment history” section of job applications.)

Although fireworks were illegal in Massachusetts, I noticed adults as well as teenagers were very interested when I mentioned I had some “black-cats” which I’d be willing to part with, for “only” a dollar a pack (back when a pack of cigarettes cost fifty cents and a gallon of gas was thirty-eight.) Although Audley Bine didn’t seem to approve of the noise and stink, I noticed the other Harvard intellectuals my brother hung about with stopped treating me like a boring squirt when I casually mentioned I had a “brick” (144 packs) of black-cats. Some took on the fiendish look of mad scientists as they reached for their wallets, and, while a single black-cat firecracker is quite loud, they used their Harvard genius to devise ways of making the entire pack explode all at once, which gave the quiet suburbs something to talk about.

In any case, the older men found me tolerable at times, and this allowed me to eavesdrop on conversations suburban adolescents don’t often overhear, some of which my mother might have approved of.

One thing that surprised me was that they found learning intensely exciting. They might not like doing three times as much homework as seemerd humanly possible, but what the homework was about enthralled them, and they talked about intellectual stuff the in the same excited tones that we boys used, when we talked about being chased by a snowballed driver. It reopened my eyes, (which had been closed by the utter monotony and drudgery I made school become), and I sucked up what they had learned like a sponge, (which was especially nice as I didn’t need to do any homework).

For example, although the MOHO expedition occurred in 1959, it took time to carefully process all the cores from the sea-floor, and the results were such a bombshell to the world of geology that the results needed to be painstakingly peer-reviewed to make certain there wasn’t some mistake. Then there even seemed to be a period of stunned silence, but then there was an explosion of realizations all through the world of geology, for the MOHO expedition had discovered the sea-floor was spreading, which meant the continents were drifting apart, which explained countless mysteries. For a while every issue of Scientific American had a new article explaining some new aspect of Continental Drift. Hearing the excitement over this news, and absorbing the news like a sponge, put me in the shoes of being a teenager who knows more than his Geology teacher.

I have written about this episode so many times that I no longer am certain what actually happened, or even whether it happened during class or after class. (I am fairly certain a version I wrote wherein I am oppressed like Galileo is an exaggeration.) However what I clearly recall is the bewildered look on the face of my elderly Geology teacher, only months before her retirement, as she looked at the Scientific American I presented as evidence. It must be odd to see that what you have been teaching for forty years is wrong.

In like manner it must be odd for psychiatrists to see treatment they have been charging their patients for is harmful. It is even odder for the patient, and Audley Bine was such a patient.

Because I had known Audley for years I got to know more about him than he knew about me, which is neither normal nor recommended for psychologists. Before I describe how this came to be I’ll summerize what I gathered.

His family was gentility which had faded badly into a state near paralysis, financially crippled by calamities during the Great Depression and headed by a father emotionally mangled by the Battle of Tarawa in the Pacific in World War Two. On their worst days they could barely get out of bed: His father couldn’t push himself out the door and his mother sometimes only got her lipstick halfway on. The house smelled, and also held a widowed grandmother crippled by painful arthritis who did manage to get her lipstick on neatly, and did manage dress nicely, and did manage to wash herself, who could remember running a house with servants and knew paralysis was not the way to get ahead. She doted on Audley, who was the only sign of what she called “spunk” in the home.

Audley was a tubby little child prone to tantrums, who was bound and determined to escape the quicksand his family was mired in, and to uplift them as well, in the process. He would rage at them to get off their butts, raging in ways that likely should have earned him a spanking, but all he got was sighs, sad looks, and “We will try.” His grandmother urged the little tyrant to be gentler, but also imparted the suggestion that, if he was going to get anywhere in life, it was going to be because he did it on his own. Thus he came to dislike the inactivity of the emotionally paralyzed fiercely, and launched out into the world recoiling from lethargy. He was a go-getter, and certainly had little time for laying about dreaming up at clouds. However the moment he stepped out the front door his face changed, like the mad Mr. Hyde becoming gentle Dr. Jekyll, as he firmly adopted his very-good-student expression.

When the field of psychology had gotten completely out of hand the politicians of Massachusetts belatedly decided to create some regulations, and Audley had to take a class which I took as well, but rather than paying the slightest bit of attention to the teacher I studied Audley’s face, slightly amazed to see how Audley looked as a very-good-student.

Audley didn’t notice my scrutiny because he gave the teacher his complete and undivided attention, pencil poised over notepad. His face wore a slightly deranged smile, with his eyebrows so high I was surprised skin didn’t tear. Every time the teacher made a point he’d nod and scribble. If the teacher spoke of a sadness Audley would pout sadly; if the teacher spoke of injustice Audley would stiffen with a look of fierce indignation, and when the teacher cracked a joke Audley would shake with laugher like it was the funniest thing he ever heard, tilting his head first one way and then another. As I watched I thought to myself, “What a complete and utter ass-kisser.” (Of course I would never be so rude as to say such a thing, but, as I mentioned earlier, Audley felt repressed-thought was wrong, and eventually he pestered me into telling him.)

Audley got straight “A’s”, for besides being an ass-kisser he had a retentive and brilliant mind. However, having given credit to his brain, I will also credit his ass-kissing, for it is quite a different thing from watching a person make such faces at another, to experiencing the full, blasting glory of such nodding and smiling raining upon yourself. Perhaps it is in the nature of flattery and vanity that ass-kissing doesn’t seem so bad when it is your own ass getting kissed. Teachers loved Audley, and gave him extra attention. But such success eventually landed Audley in trouble, when he won acceptance to Harvard.

It is one thing to be the most musically gifted person in a dumpy, working-class community where most don’t care a hoot about musical theory or classical music, but at Harvard Audley abruptly found himself among giants. He was among people who could play piano better than Audley now could, back when they were six-years-old, who had learned to read music before they learned to read writing. Audley went from being at the top of his class to being at the bottom, and in some cases had no idea about subjects others seemed to feel was a mere review. He had to work like crazy, as others breezed, and also had to toil at mundane minimum-wage jobs because he was under financial duress. Worst, perhaps, was the dawning awareness that others were more musically gifted, and that he might have less genius than they, and that he might be merely humdrum in certain respects, rather than the next Beethoven.

Under such relentless pressure Audley began to crack up, which was fairly normal for students at Harvard in the 1960’s, as far as I could tell. Just as men training for the military’s Special Forces are pushed to their absolute physical limits, students at Harvard were pushed to their mental limits, and just as the military didn’t include you in the Special Forces if you couldn’t stand it, at Harvard you didn’t get your degree if you failed.

One consequence was that Harvard students knew a great deal about going nuts. One of the topics I eavesdropped upon, as a young twerp, was chatter about various ways of going nuts, and, (if going nuts bothered you), of various schools of psychology you might study, and of yoga and diets and herbs and mushrooms you might investigate. (No one, that I recall, suggested laying down and looking at clouds.)

Audley’s manner of going nuts involved a symbol. The symbol was of a mummy, all bound up with strips of dirty cloth, and unable to move, with a ghastly face.

Even as I first began seriously writing poetry at age fifteen the interpretation of the mummy-symbol seemed a fairly obvious to me, (for it was how I felt doing any homework at all), and it seemed a particularly good symbol for Harvard Students.

But in Audley’s case the mummy didn’t just appear in a poem or a fantasy or trouble his dreams; it appeared as a hallucination in his waking life: A frightening figure standing in the shadows of a doorway or down a dark alley or in the unlit corner of a room or within the frame of an unlit picture. He saw the apparition as he went about his ordinary life, but didn’t let it stop him; he knew it was a hallucination; and also that if he stopped he’d flunk out of Harvard. But he didn’t like the mummy constantly distracting him as drove himself and was wrapped up in his work. He wanted it gone, and decided to consult a psychiatrist he could ill afford.

Apparently the psychiatrist did no good. In fact the mummy went from lurking in the corner of Audley’s eye to sometimes standing straight ahead, upsetting, vivid. It refused to go away.

I could belabor with my theories of why the treatment made things worse, but let it suffice to say things got worse.

Audley learned to interpret the mummy in Freudian terms, (none of which saw the mummy as a symbol of being too wrapped up in work). When the mummy refused to go away Audley was accused of “denial” and “resistance” and “avoidance”, and, when Audley protested his innocence, many weeks were wasted arguing about whether he was resisting or not. (If I was that mummy I would have started drumming my fingers.) In a sense the cure to too-much-discipline was more discipline, but being scolded for being irrational didn’t diminish the mummy, and in fact made the mummy’s face more anguished. In the end the psychiatrist came to look forward to Audley’s weekly visit, for he was amazed anyone could continue to function with such a gruesome sidekick. However the psychiatrist expected progress to be slow, for it takes eight years of psychoanalysis to arrive at whatever it is Freudians arrive-at.

This was what made the Audley I first met so creepy. I may not have been able to see the mummy, but I could see Audley wasn’t seeing what I was seeing. Where I looked up at clouds and smiled, he looked over his shoulder and swallowed hard.

I tend to see this period of Audley’s life as heroic, though the only thing anyone saw externally was a tubby youth plodding along with a face that looked strangely bruised, as if he shaved with a hammer. He may have eventually completely broken down, but in the nick of time everyone seemed to throw up their hands in revulsion over Harvard’s relentless pressure, and a revolution occurred.

It was fortunate Audley steered clear of LSD, (perhaps because he needed no help hallucinating and was trying to stop,) for while Audley attended Harvard a Harvard psychiatrist decided psychiatry was a complete waste of time and that instead one should “Turn on, tune in, drop out”. Where intense discipline might result in benefits in the military’s Special Forces, or in the study of Law, Geology or Music, in the field of psychiatry intense discipline resulted in patients getting sicker, so Timothy Leary basically trashed much he’d been taught in favor of “experiments” with mushrooms and LSD. He was then booted out of Harvard for failing to teach scheduled classes and leaving the grounds without permission, (but in fact his habit of conducting “experiments” that sometimes involved pressuring young, female students to experience LSD with their clothing removed may have had something to do with his expulsion). He set himself up as a sort of guru, quoting the “Tibetan Book Of The Dead“, (1962), and the rock group Moody Blue wrote a hit song with a wonderful flute solo glorifying him called “Legend Of A Mind”, (1966), and he became so influential that President Nixon called him “The most dangerous man in America”(1970). Literally thousands wound up in mental institutions due to his influence, as he insisted losing control was gaining control. I never met the man, but knew many who had, and I disliked him because I took a dim view of men over forty competing for the beautiful girls my age. Audley avoided him, as Audley felt the way to gain control was to become more controlling.

Rather than abandoning discipline Audley tended to seek further discipline, reading books such as “The Power Of Positive Thinking“, and it was while seeking further discipline he heard about a discipline which the Beatles, and especially George Harrison, popularized, (1966), involving a book by Parahansa Yogananda called, “Autobiography of a Yogi“.

Personally I found this an enchanting book, because it contains a miracle every two or three pages. True, for a miracle to be scientific you must be able to replicate the miracle, and I could never manage that, but I found it wonderful to believe the impossible was possible. Also I didn’t have to actually read the book at first, because it seemed everyone else had read it and talked about the miracles, (some as being established facts, and some as being impossible). The book encouraged many to quit drugs and sex and eating meat, but I wasn’t attracted by such things at age fourteen. (It is hard to be attracted to renouncing sex when you’ve never had any).

Audley heard about the discipline of Yoga due to another thing that likely saved him from being institutionalized, which was the compassion of his fellow students. They would drag him away from his study and his relentless discipline and his yoga for a beer they would pay for, because they greatly enjoyed the very-good-student face he put on when facing superiors. Truly great, young composers liked to hang out with him.

By this time Audley had discovered there was a far kinder word for his very-good-student face than “ass-kissing”, and it was “appreciation”. When he appreciated others, or appreciated music, people liked having him around. This was especially true when he tilted his head first one way, and then the other, and simply laughed. The only one who didn’t seem to like his laughter was his sidekick the mummy, who made himself scarce when Audley was badgered by his buddies to join them for a beer.

Another rescuer in Audley’s life at this time was a merciful old man who somehow knew how hard and how long Audley had worked, and simply said, “It would do you good to take some time off and think”, (though the old man may have used the words “reconciliate your learning” rather than “think”), and then handed Audley enough money to take a sort of sabbatical for six months.

The most significant rescuer was a psychiatrist who had completely rejected Freudian psychiatry in favor of Gestaltian approaches. This boisterous and flamboyant man apparently heard about Audley’s mummy-sidekick, and rather than attempting to help Audley escape the mummy, he advised Audley to “be the mummy”, and to “act it out”, and to approach the very thing Audley wished to flee. Audley somewhat reluctantly pretended to be the mummy, ventured something along the lines of, “I’m all wrapped up. I can’t get free,” and then Audley abruptly burst into tears. It was a “breakthrough”.

Audley then went through a remarkable change, which I could not fail to notice as a casual onlooker. He went from looking scared to looking confident, and from looking frightened to roaring with appreciative laughter. It was his appreciation that was most obvious, as he appreciated the blueness of the sky, the music of the songbirds, and being free from his sidekick the mummy.

Of course, that was 1969, “The Summer of Love”, and it was now 1975. As I drove my Toyota over the wonderful, new, superhighway-bridge from Maine into New Hampshire I was jolted awake from my memories, dazzled by the view of the lights Portsmouth to the left and Pease Air-force Base to the right. The bridge hadn’t existed in 1969, nor had interstate 95; when I had to hitchhike north I took Route One over the Piscataqua River, and when the Navy raised the drawbridge there were incredible traffic jams. Building the new bridge was a great improvement, but, as I drove down into New Hampshire, it occurred to me a lot of bridges had crumbled, since 1969. What happened?

SUNBEAM SONNET





Mid-yawn, I look up, shocked by dawn’s first beam
Touching my cheek like an old friend’s care
On seeing me frown. Through the sunlit steam
Of first coffee I glance at the clock, aware
With a shock I’m early. Days are longer
And dawn’s earlier although I am stuck
In midwinter mode, weaker not stronger
And a stranger to hope. The souring luck
Of a ‘flu was like a rejection slip
To life, and left me stuck steeped in weakness,
Expecting bad weather. I’d lost my grip
On a Father’s warm hand in a mob, I guess,
But now I’m touched by the first sunbeam of spring
And hear my hoarse croaking attempting to sing.

THREE DARK DECEMBER SONNETS

Before celebrating the return of Light and the Candle in a cavern, December holds days when light is least, like starlight glinting in new moon’s midnight icicles.

Don’t ask the Almighty, “Why shouldn’t I?”
He’ll reply, “Do you really want to know?”
If you then nod, you may plunge from the sky
Like bright Lucifer. Then pain helps you grow.

“Why avoid bad girls when they’re so much fun?”
“Do you want to know?” “I want it madly!”
Then fun fades and faith cracks; sad morning sun
Shows fun isn’t fun when the bad treat you badly.

All such suffering is avoided by they
Who heed the advice spoken from on high.
But I could see no good, and wouldn’t obey,
And sought the answer to that hard word, “why”.

Now I ask “what” with a sad sort of grin
For I missed seeing “what” might-have-been.

*******

Humbled by time, and facing a cruel world
That has never cared a hoot for the Truth,
I face the Truth. I lift the gauntlet hurled
Down by liars and ask them, “What’s the use
Of fighting your own wavering shadow?
It only fights for as long as you do.”
They do not understand, for they cannot know
The Truth they deny. Beauty that is True
Stands waiting with asking, appealing eyes
But they still scorn it, as they’ve always done.
What is ever-fresh and young they disguise
In decrepitude, crucifying the One
Who heals, and so I lift my wondering eyes
To where the heavens are blue and clear
And ask, “Where on earth do we go from here?”

*******

Why does God create only to then burn?
Why grow vines only to prune and then throw
Into the fire? Men are fools, and fools learn
Through blunders. What can I possibly grow
When my entire life is but a rough draft
Doomed to be crumpled and thrown into the trash?

God knows the answer. The Creator’s craft
Weaves vast vaults of starry skies as a mere sash
For Atlas-shoulders. Creation’s ending
Is beyond creation, for Love needs Love.
Space and time are curved, with all things bending
Back to the beginning. (I’m speaking of
What can’t be spoken.) Though I’m a rough draft
I think I will love the result of God’s craft.

ARCTIC SEA ICE –See Prior Update–

Things have been “interesting” around here. Three feet of snow and temperatures below zero (-17 Celsius) were followed by temperatures above fifty (+10 Celsius) and heavy rain, followed by a flash freeze and three inches of snow, resulting in a car crash, floods in the cellar and a fire in the stables. Handling such interesting stuff leaves little time for posts on sea-ice, but I have managed to update the prior post up to December 10. It can be found here:

https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2019/12/07/arctic-sea-ice-cross-polar-switcheroo/

LOCAL VIEW –Mining Wood–

In case you young folk want to know where firewood comes from, it comes from “wood mines”.

Wood Mine 1 IMG_0108

My rat-hunting dog begs to differ. She claims they are called “woof mines”.

Wood Mine 2 IMG_0111

The deep snows make everyday deeds, like getting an armload of wood, difficult. The deep snow-cover also seems to confuse the computer-model used to figure out our forecasts.  Temperatures are significantly lower than forecast. The low last night was forecast to be 10F (-12 Celsius) but instead it is getting down towards zero in the dark before dawn. But check out the forecast. Nearly fifty degrees warmer and raining by tomorrow!?

Wood Mine 3 IMG_0113

What a mess it could be! Everything will turn to slush and then freeze solid. Great start to winter. But if the snowbanks by the roads freeze solid it will be more difficult to skid off the roads. They become like bobsled runs.

 

ARCTIC SEA-ICE –Cross-polar Switcheroo–UPDATED

In 5 1/2 days the flow of air up at the Pole went from Canada-to-Siberia (November 28, lower left) to Siberia-to-Canada (December 4, lower right.)

 

Personally I prefer Canada to export its cold air to Siberia, for that means there is less left over to freeze my socks off where I live,  south of the Canadian border in the state of New Hampshire. It seems to me that the last thing Canada needs during winter is the import of Siberian air.

I may be a bit prone to ranting about the subject of cold weather at the moment, as we have been at the center of a so-called “lollypop” on snowfall maps, and are dealing with 36 inches. (91 cm). It’s unfair, because the politicians in the capitals of Concord, New Hampshire 35 miles to our northeast, and Boston, Massachusetts 49 miles to our southeast, experienced less than six inches. If there was any justice they’d be the ones digging down three feet to get a stick of firewood, or even to get their mail. 

But maybe its for the best. If they had to deal with three feet of snow they’d likely invent some new tax or fee to deal with it, and never shovel a flake themselves.

I amuse myself by imagining what politicians would come up with. Perhaps they’d concoct a fee to supply every mailman with a snow-shovel to dig down to mailboxes with, but only a nickle of every dollar would reach the mailman, as 95 cents went to “administration”, which would of course involve the politician’s  Aunt Agnes and Cousin Waldo, plus anyone else who contributed to his reelection.  This alone explains why governments are so inefficient when they attempt to do what ordinary people do. When I shovel out my mailbox 100% of my energy goes into the job, but when politicians try to do the same job 95% goes to nepotism and cronyism, and the remaining 5% causes the Postal Workers to go on strike, for currently they refuse to deliver me my mail if my mailbox is under snow,  (even though I pay them to deliver it with my taxes),  and if you supply them with a shovel and tell them to deliver the damn mail even if it involves digging,  you will not only see no digging, but you will see no mail delivered.  In essence the entire tax-dollar is wasted.

In like manner, it seems my imagination is wasted, when I spend time on the antics of politicians. It seems far better to spend my imagination on the antics of clouds. Not only has the government not yet found a way to tax us for looking at clouds, (though they have invented a “view tax” to add onto the property taxes of houses on hills), but also clouds are 100% efficient, whether it is the cloud’s job to free the sunshine, or to dump three feet of snow on my mailbox.

One reason I look to the North Pole is because it gives me a heads-up to what my future may hold. It was good news that the cross-polar-flow went from Canada to Siberia, for it promised a break in the arctic outbreaks that afflicted us. But it is bad news that the cross-polar-flow has undergone the switcheroo. Mark my words, after a mild spell to start next week, the (bleep) is going to hit the fan around here, and I may manage very few posts about sea-ice, until spring.

One interesting thing about watching cross-polar-flow is that it doesn’t matter which way the air goes, it warms crossing the Arctic Sea. People tend to see the North Pole as the source of cold, but in actual fact the source is Tundra, and to a lesser extent Taiga.  Over Siberia temperatures can drop to -90 F, which gives us pretty pictures like this:

On Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, Anastasia Gruzdeva poses for a selfie as the temperature dropped to about 58 degrees below zero in Yakutsk, Russia.

However as that air is sucked towards Canada via cross-polar-flow one notes it swiftly warms, right at the surface, and the Central Arctic Basin seldom sees temperatures below -30ºF, very rarely sees temperatures below -40ºF, and never (that I have seen) reaches temperatures below -50ºF.

Meanwhile Alaska and northern Canada, though not as expansive as Siberia, can see temperatures below  -70ºF. When the cross-polar-flow  moves from Canada to Siberia, one again sees the surface temperatures rise.

What does this suggest? First, it suggests that the true sources of arctic cold are Northern Eurasia and Northern North America, and the Arctic Sea is actually a “heat-island” between two very cold places. Second, because the Arctic Sea is a “heat island” and because warm air rises, it must constantly be sucking air north to replace the air that rises.

If the air sucked north is from the Atlantic or Pacific, it is “maritime” air and slows the growth of sea-ice as it is relatively mild (though usually below freezing). But if the air sucked north is from Siberia or Canada it is “continental” and enhances the growth of sea-ice because it is very cold.  In simplistic terms all Alarmists should root for maritime air being sucked north while all Skeptics root for continental air being sucked north.

In actual fact the opposite may  be true. If you study the temperatures of air-masses,  it becomes obvious nothing squanders the planet’s heat as swiftly as a mild air-mass moving to the sunless Pole. In like manner, nothing preserves the planet’s heat as much as it’s coldest air never freezing lower latitudes, and instead being warmed over the Arctic Sea.

Some eloquent arguments  may then arise between those over-focused on sea-ice and those over-focused on air temperatures. Both are “wrong”,  for the situation is complex and involves multiple variables. One reason climate models fail is because they miss certain variables, or fail to give certain “weight” to certain variables, or even to vary the “weight” of variables (which creates varying variables). It is so complex it tends to give me a headache, so what I prefer to do is to make an overly simplistic forecast and then enjoy my failure. Fortunately no one is depending on my forecasts, for it frees me from blame and guilt, and, like a child at play, I think train wrecks are cool.

peter-arno-drawing-board-cartoon-new-yorker-1941-8x6

 

One train wreck in my forecasting has been due to attempting to see a pattern, when the pattern is a switcheroo pattern, which in essence is a lack of a pattern. If you try to base things on a Canada-to-Siberia flow then you get messed up when the pattern goes through a switcheroo and is the exact opposite 5 1/2 days later.

Another train wreck occurred because a pattern did persist even as things all around it were going through a switcheroo. What happened was that an upper air trough in eastern North America combined with a ridge to the west and brought a flow of arctic air persistently south, the first half of November.  Then this flow was interrupted by the Aleutian Low penetrating the ridge in the west, which allowed Pacific air to flood inland in Canada. What this usually means is that our north winds become noticeably milder, because it involves air from a different “source”.  That change was the “switcheroo”, but the arctic air wasn’t entirely banished from the north winds. Way over towards Greenland a thin ribbon of arctic air bled south, sneaking over the east side of Hudson Bay into Quebec. That was the “pattern that persisted”. Perhaps the arctic wasn’t breaking records and sending impressive blobs of high pressure south, (causing Texan ranchers to laconically drawl, “Nothin’ between here and the North Pole but a few strands of barbed wire an’ some cold cows.”) But the arctic flow persisted in the very east of Canada. That resulted in a personal train-wreck forecast, for that cold air was the reason that rather than rain we got three feet of snow.

If one is in the mood to be gloomy, that persistent drain of cold in the east of Canada, even when the west is flooded with Pacific air, does not bode well for the Great Plains and East of the USA. If it effects us even when the cross-polar-flow is Canada-to-Siberia, it will be far worse when the flow is Siberia-to-Canada. Our worst winters see the arctic sweep south down the east side of the Rockies, brew trouble by mixing with tropical air in the Gulf of Mexico, and send snowstorms up the east coast.  This early in the winter the Atlantic retains summer warmth, so the storms often contain rain or are all rain, but as the winter proceeds the big cities of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and even Washington D.C. get clouted, (and politicians get busy dealing with the climate by raising taxes).

Around here the last thing we want right now is rain. When you have three feet of snow on your roof the snow acts like a sponge in the rain, and the weight of all the wet snow can cause buildings to collapse. In fact I’m going to shovel the roof of my goat’s stable over the weekend. (When younger I made some extra money during bleak winters risking my neck in that manner, but now I just do it for survival, which I also call “fun”.)

There seems to be a lag of up to a week between events in Northern Canada and repercussions reaching us down here. A switcheroo up there leads to erratic weather down here. It’s still too early to be certain what the winter pattern will be. One looks for things to “settle down”, but one also is not entirely sure the switcheroo-pattern might not be THE pattern, and chaos will continue non-stop. Stay tuned.

(I’ll ad some graphs and the individual DMI polar isobar and isotherm maps later, when I find time. But now I have to go shovel a roof.)

*******

OK. Heavy rain is now reducing any snow that hasn’t been shoveled from local roofs, allowing me to scrutinize maps.

When I last posted a Aleutian Gale had been deflected north up the Siberian side of Bering Strait, (becoming “Hula Ralph #2”). The southerly gales up through Bering Strait actually pushed the expanding sea-ice backwards, increasing the open water (and warmer surface temperatures) north of Bering Strait. (Nov. 24 to left; Nov, 27 to right).

Sometimes these retreats of sea-ice can cause a dip in the extent graph, but in this example the decrease in the Chukchi Sea was more than matched by increases in the Kara and Greenland Seas and Hudson and Baffin Bay.

By November 29 Hula-Ralph #2 was rapidly weakening north of Alaska, and I was watching the next Aleutian Low to see if would follow the same path. Despite the vast impulse of Pacific air coming north through Bering Strait and across the entirety of Alaska, the Pole itself was still cooling, which was not what I expected. I expected the Pacific “feeder-band” to fuel more of a “Ralph” low north of the New Siberian Islands, but instead an Atlantic low strengthened at the top of Norway.

Over the next two days the Pacific influence continued to dwindle, to my surprise. The influx of pacific air cooled, precipitating very little snow, and the next Aleutian Low faded without coming north, though it did swing a secondary into Alaska. The Canada-to-Siberia cross-polar-flow was falling apart, but I still expected the Atlantic low to fade and high pressure to reassert itself on the Atlantic side, as all the Pacific air would allow low pressure to reassert on the Pacific side, resurrecting the Canada-to-Siberia flow.

The map of December 2 made a train-wreck of my expectations.

First, polar temperatures hit their lowest levels of the year, despite the huge invasion of Pacific air through Bering Strait. To be honest, the invasion seemed a spectacular flop. All the invasion seemed to accomplish was to lose an incalculable amount of heat to the arctic night.

Second, I failed to foresee the expansion of high pressure from Siberia, even as I failed to forecast the low pressure expanding north through Baffin Bay. A month ago a similar low moved right up to the Pole, but I had low confidence the current low could do the same, with the Siberian high advancing from the other side of the Pole. It seemed to me an irresistible force was meeting an immovable object, and I tend to avoid forecasting the outcomes of such affairs. 

The next day saw the two powers both stronger, and still at a stand-off, but the isobars between the two suggested the cross-polar-flow was completely reversed to Siberia-to-Canada.

The next day showed the Siberian high pressure won. Just as the Aleutian Low failed to penetrate north the prior week, and instead was deflected east, now the Baffin Bay low was deflected east into the Atlantic. The cross polar-flow was starting to suck in some milder Atlantic air through Fram Strait, creating a feeder-band north of Greenland.

One day later saw the high weaker, and a massive Atlantic storm strengthening. This storm had sub-950 mb and the power of a super-typhoon, but such beasts get little press, as there are not even shipping lanes that far north. But what does get press is temperatures at the North Pole, and this Icelandic Gale pumped the feeder-band north of Greenland fatter, and warmed the Pole. I found it odd that a feeder-band existed without a “Ralph”, and I was paying undue attention to the very weak low pressure north of the Canadian Archipelago. I dubbed that low “Wimpy-Ralph.”

Maps a half-day later day demonstrated what a wimp that Ralph was. Rather than being fed by the feeder band he was weaker, and pushed east.

A half-day later Wimpy-Ralph had made a train-wreck of my theory feeder-bands feed Ralphs, for he was weaker and getting pushed southwest. However Wimpy-Ralph was, besides crimping my egotism, crimping the cross-polar-flow. It no longer came straight across from Siberia, but now described a backwards “S”, first swinging towards Svalbard to scoop up some Atlantic air, before curving towards Alaska, and only then swinging down to Canada. (At this point it is interesting to think of the cross-polar-flow as a high-pressure-hose laying on a pavement. When it swings over in one direction, what do you expect will follow?)

Only a day later the cross-polar-flow is aiming down the east coast of Greenland, rather than curving around towards Alaska. How could such a dramatic shift occur?

First, the Siberian high pressure, though weakening towards Siberia, expanded greatly towards Canada, pushing Wimpy-Ralph down towards Hudson’s Bay.  In fact while the official center of the high pressure is still over the New Siberian Islands, the body of high pressure is generally moving across the Pole.

Second, if high pressure is moving away, low pressure tends to replace it, especially if other factors support growth, and in the Kara Sea we see growing low pressure from a “kicker” storm ahead of the weakening Icelandic gale now hitting the northwest coast of Norway.

The next day’s map shows the Siberian High and Kara Low performing a sort of Polar Waltz, something remotely like the Fujiwara Effect between adjacent Typhoons.  Let it suffice to say (because I can’t claim to understand it) that the body of the high pressure is dislodged from the coast of Siberia and is moving towards North America.

The following two days show stuff occurring on the Pacific side, associated with the Aleutian Low, and the Atlantic side, associated with the Icelandic Low, which may well be the subject of my next post. However, for this post, simply notice how the dislodged high pressure moves across to Canada.

I may well be laying the tracks for my next train wreck, but to me it seems the cross-polar-passage of an entire high pressure system is more significant than cross-polar-isobars which are here today and gone tomorrow.

For one thing, cross-polar-isobars only suggest winds “can” transport air from Siberia to Canada. The actual transport takes time. How long? You’d have to send up a balloon, and see how long it took to float from Siberia to Canada.

You can be certain the balloon wouldn’t follow the straight path suggested by one map, when following maps first curve the path towards Alaska and then down the east coast of Greenland.

However, when an entire high-pressure crosses the Pole, in some ways it is a big balloon, in and of itself. (And I know, I know, some don’t like to call a high-pressure a “thing”, and to say it is but a reflection out outside imbalances, but for the sake of argument allow me to state it has a reality and is an entity.) This balloon is not a hot- air balloon, rising, but is a cold-air balloon, pressing down and making barometers read “high pressure”. (In such a case a high-pressure represents a big blob of cold air, and therefore is a “thing”.)

The power of such Siberian cold can be hidden, for its lowest levels are warmed by the passage over the thin ice of the Arctic Sea. However the surface maps mute the true intensity of the cold. If we could only afford towers, or perhaps drones, to measure temperatures only a hundred feet above the sea-ice, we might see that the warming of Siberian cold passing over the Arctic Sea is superficial. It seems to me that I have seen constant examples of times such air, the moment it moves from the Arctic Sea into Canada, reveals its true nature. It was not truly made into a maritime air-mass by passing over the Arctic Sea, but rather was a Siberian air-mass with its very bottom, as little as six feet thick, turned into a maritime air-mass. How can I claim such a thing? It is because air “above-normal” over the Arctic Sea can become “below-normal” within a half hour of moving inland and over Canadian Tundra. This would be difficult to do, because Tundra’s “normal” is so much colder than the “normal” over sea-ice, but becomes possible when the layer of “warm” air is so very thin it is easy to mix out of existence.

In any case, it will be interesting to watch the high-pressure that has crossed the Pole, and to see if it is a “thing” that causes North America grief.

To conclude this update, I should revert to the subject of sea-ice, and state that neither the invasion of Pacific air through Bering Strait, nor the feeder-band that invaded north of Greenland and fed Wimpy-Ralph, slowed the yearly growth of sea-ice. In fact the growth has been so rapid we are no longer counted among the lowest years.

If you are into headlines, you need to change the September headline “Lowest Extent In Five Years” to “Highest Extent In Five Years.” (No bother, because you’re only changing one word.)DMI 191212 osisaf_nh_iceextent_daily_5years_en

Hudson Bay is in the process of swiftly freezing over. (November 30 to left; December 11 to right.)

We are ahead of the same date in 2016 (left) but behind 2017 (right)

Hudson Bay Dec 10 2016 2017

As soon as the Bay skims over the cold is able to build much more swiftly to my north, and north winds become crueler here.

The only thing Alarmists have to crow about is sea-ice “volume”, which is notoriously hard to determine, but is currently quite low:

Volume 191210 Screenshot_2019-12-11 DMI Modelled ice thickness

I think the low volume is largely due to the open water north of Bering Strait, but that area is rapidly shrinking and Bering Strait is now bridged by sea-ice.

Thickness 191210 Screenshot_2019-12-11 DMI Modelled ice thickness(1).png

Also of interest has been the slow growth of a sort of mountain range of thicker sea-ice all the way from Svalbard to Wrangle Island. This range of ice has largely been created by the transport of ice from the marginal seas along the Eurasian coast. The Laptev Sea is always a great creator and exporter of sea-ice, as cold winds blow north from Siberia, shifting sea-ice away from shore and creating polynyas of open water which swiftly refreeze in the frigid winds. But this year it seems the Kara, East Siberian and even Chukchi Seas are also getting into the act.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

LOCAL VIEW –We are # 1!–

The final New Ipswich storm total was 36 inches. Picture of my cozy home:

We actually were struck by two storms. The first was a surge of mild air ahead of both the upper air trough and the surface low, that I would call “a warm front”, but I understand is now called “warm air advection”. The upper air jet zooming around the bottom of the upper air trough spread out as it moved away, which created suction aloft that helped the warm air, which wants to rise anyway, rise faster. This stuff, called “divergence” and “diffluence”, is all very fascinating, but doesn’t necessarily translate into a good forecast.

They were predicting 4-6 inches by the morning of December 2 here, but I was wary, using my old fashioned concepts of warm fronts. I know that warm fronts give us southeast winds which run up against our east-facing hills and increase uplift, which means we can get more rain or snow than folk down on the flatlands. Also air cools as it rises, so we can see the snow change to rain far later than the warm front changes things, at the coast in Boston. If temperatures begin cold enough, the snow may never change to rain or sleet at all. As it was 13 ° (-11.5 Cesius) at dawn on December 1, when the high clouds first started moving in, I knew we had the available cold. Last but not least, over on his blog at Weatherbell, Joseph D’Aleo was focusing on some of the computer models that showed the warm front could dump a stripe of deep snow over southern New Hampshire. So I was forewarned, even if the weather bureau slipped up, and we got more than the 4-6 inches they predicted. I just wasn’t forewarned enough.

Even 4 inches (10 cm) means I have to arise early to snow-blow the Farm-Childcare driveway, and in the pitch dark of December 2 the first thing I glanced at was the weather radar. It was clear the front was clobbering us and wasn’t going to change to rain.

Turning on the porch light I saw the steps made smooth by snow, and guessed we’d had ten inches, (25 cm), but as I stepped off the lower step and had snow pour into my boots I realized we had 18 (46 cm). It was the start of a long ordeal, as the snowblower had to crawl along at its slowest to deal with that depth, but even though I was late clearing the Childcare’s entry and lot, the few customers who made it through the snow were also late. The snow-removal crews (besides myself) seemed also taken by surprise; they were late to start plowing and had a hard time catching up, even working all night, because the snow fell with such intensity.

The snow became light after sunrise, but all eyes were on the heavy precipitation down around New York City, in the above map. There was an idea a secondary would form and roll towards Cape Cod and then up into the Gulf of Maine, and some forecasts stated we could get six more inches as it rolled past. Fortunately we only got a dusting all day, for around town a lot of equipment was breaking down. My snowblower snapped a cable controlling the transmission, and I worked with unfeeling fingers jury-rigging a repair made of electrical wire, before finishing the drive to the barn and various paths to fire-escapes. I didn’t get to study maps as much as I like, but could utilize my cell phone to check the radar, on guard for heavier snow driven inland from the Gulf of Maine. But no storm appeared there. In fact the swath of heavy snow and rain associated with the warm front took off to the northeast with (to me) astonishing speed. I had the sense that a lot of energy that might have gone into a secondary low was being “robbed” by a low developing up past Nova Scotia. I’ve seen such “robbery” occur many times in the past, turning forecast storms into non-events, and it seemed to be happening again. The forecast six inches never materialized, and we got about a quarter inch. This gave me time to attend to the edges and corners I neglected in my first frantic attempts to open my Childcare, and also attend to my chickens, who had never seen snow before and were severely traumatized by 18 inches. (My older and wiser goats just hunkered down under the barn.) The recovery seemed to be going well until I noticed, in the afternoon, the light, falling snow seemed to stop getting lighter and lighter, and the sky stopped getting brighter and brighter as well. Slightly nervous, I checked the animated weather-radar, and noticed an ominous (and also very-cool) thing:

Even though the winds had been southeast, on the radar-map precipitation had been tracking southwest to northeast, as if in a hurry to follow the warm front up towards Labrador, but now it was all slowing, and out to sea was turning around and moving east-to-west. Was a secondary developing after all? To top it off, one mother picking up her child had heard a forecast different from the other mothers. Most opined we’d have flurries over night, but one stated she’d heard we’d get four inches.

This troubled me, for it suggested I might have to snow-blow the whole danged place all over again. So I was in a hurry to get home to my computer, but at the door I was met by the dog, who informed me with a pained expression she had been severely neglected, so I took her out.

Some state dogs can warn you in advance about events such as earthquakes. My dog ran about barking at snowflakes to an absurd degree, which is exactly how she behaved the night before. This should have alerted me. Instead I judged my dog insane, and after she had annoyed the neighbors for a period I decided might stress the limits of their tolerance, I dragged her in, fed her, and hurried to my computer, to seek the “weather updates” of every nearby station I could access.

The forecasters who were using old copy, or who had recorded their forecasts early to hurry off to watch Monday Night Football, were still predicting barely a dusting overnight, but the more active and animated forecasters were forecasting 4 inches (10 cm) [Hmm…where have I heard that before?] The most accurate forecast turned out to be in the old blog posting by Joseph D’Aleo, which should have been like day-old-bread. In his assessment of possibilities he described exactly what happened.

In the far-above radar shot you can see the circulation associated with the upper air low far to the west, moving from Indiana to Ohio. It was so far west it could delay the development of the coastal low, turning a single event into two events.

I kept shining a flashlight out the window during dinner, only slightly annoying my wife, who, though she wished my full attention, understands I’m like our dog, and on occasion have accurately predicted earthquakes. I could see that, although the snow was only intermittently moderate, we already had an inch on our steps, and the forecasters watching Monday Night Football were going to be embarrassed in the morning. I was convinced I was going to have to get up early and snow-blow four inches, and retired to bed early and glum.

When I got up I turned on the porch light even before I checked the radar. My jaw dropped. Once again the front steps were smooth. Wading out to my car I estimated we’d had a little over a foot. Those who the TV stations consult stated we’d had 14 inches (35.6 cm) which gave us a total of 32 inches (81 cm).

It took me 45 minutes just to shovel a short path to the street in darkness, so I could drive to the Childcare to snow-blow the entrance and lot, so customers could come. But I did it. Only six children showed up, and all were late.

Radar showed the storm indeed did develop and move up into the Gulf of Maine, giving us “backlash” snows.

It was a case of perfect positioning and alignment. Quite often such storms cycle the precipitation into the White Mountains, and the air is robbed of moisture and is down-sloping by the time it gets around to us, so we get only flurries. But this time the radar showed the precipitation come straight in from the ocean and then take a sharp left just inland of Portland, and then move south-southeast east of Concord, largely over coastal plains, so the air stayed juicy and then was uplifted when it hit our hills. This created a “perfect storm” scenario, and is why our storm totals were so high when Concord only got six inches.

In Atlanta life may grind to a halt when there is 3 inches of snow, but up here we can’t get away with that. Maybe we would if we could, but we can’t. If we let a little snow stop us, we’d all be unemployed from November to April, and likely would starve in the process.

It is like a fifteen-round-fight to keep roads open, when snowfall is over a foot, and after such a battle the warriors desire rest. Very seldom does a second snowfall-over-a-foot happen the very next day. Around here the warriors just faced the music, and without rest fought a second fifteen-round-fight. The roads stayed open, as did my Childcare. (After all, someone must care for the children of the men who clear the roads, as their wives work in hospitals caring for those who slip off the snowy roads).

One redeeming thing about having to go out in such weather is the views one sees. There are times you don’t even want to clean up the snow, because it will spoil the view. For example, who left the back, screen-porch-door open after thanksgiving dinner?

There was very little wind with this storm. Check out the railing at my home’s front entrance:

A new state-law insists you can’t drive with heaps of snow on your car roof, and my wife is law-abiding. Yet she is reluctant to clear 32 inches off her car and have it fall in her own parking place. So she backs her car to where the person who plows our short, private road will have to plow it.

The reason my wife can do such a thing is because our eldest son plows the small, private road, but the reason I had to shovel my way out earlier was because he hadn’t been able to get to our road, despite working without sleep. Nor would he find time before afternoon. But what if an ambulance had to head up that road? Because I was busy cleaning snow from the Childcare, he turned to his father-in-law, who showed up in a small pick-up and cleared just enough and no more.

By afternoon the snow at long last stopped, the low sun peeked out, the copious amounts of salt state crews sprinkled on the highway in front of our street began to melt the tar from white to black, my sleepless son appeared and made our small road look better, and we had once again demonstrated there is one thing we don’t entirely do when faced with a winter storm.

To conclude, I cannot resist a political dig at certain Alarmists who call me a “denier”. The comment below is for them.

I am well aware you Alarmists are attempting to switch the goal posts, and make the term “Global Warming” politically incorrect while stressing that the term “Climate Change” is the only term now allowed, but I must remind you what you insisted, fifteen years ago. Your so-called “climate experts” announced, “Our children are not going to know what snow is.” You did not dare disagree, but my grandson (and his buddy) would dare disagree and beg to differ with you.

So is my grandson a “denier”, or is it you?

The most amazing (and perhaps disconcerting) thing about this snowy situation is that winter hasn’t even started yet. The solstice is still more than two weeks away.